What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Login.gov. The main platform for applying for work with the federal government, USAjobs.com, has introduced 2-factor authentication. In order to log into you account you now have to enter you user name and password and a six digit number provided to you via phone. That’s fine, except that in order to set up this new fancy ID with the 3rd party service, login.gov, you need the original phone number you used to set up your USAjobs account – which is a desk number I had more than 10 years ago. Without that one little bit of information you find you can’t log in to your old account, you can’t set up you new account, and there’s no way to fix A without fixing B witch requires you to fix A. It’s one of the most magnificent do loops I’ve seen the government foist on us in recent years. In discussion with the “help” desk it turns out I can’t even delete my old account and try again unless I can somehow transport back in time and answer a phone at a desk I haven’t sat at in over ten years.

2. Lawn Sprinklers. I have no philosophical issue with anyone piping water to their yard when weeks without rain threaten to bake it into oblivion. Sure, we’re all on wells and probably drawing from the same aquifer, but after three years of reliable water, I’ve got at least a small degree of comfort that we’re not going to run the damn thing dry. My problem comes when, after almost a week of nearly unremitting rain, when rainfall records are dropping like flies across the region, these same lawn sprinklers are running full tilt in the middle of a torrential downpour. I know it’s a relatively minor thing, but in my mind that also makes it one of those that’s easy to correct. I’m tickled pink to come from the land of plenty. I’m thrilled that the rain has turned my own lawn from wilting embarrassment to lush green carpet again. Although it’s completely outside the scope of what I usually care about, I’d really appreciate it if the house down the street could just stop making it rain for these few days while nature is providing the service gratis. I’m sure there will be plenty of days in August when they can show off their new toy to the neighborhood.

3. HVAC. Heating and cooling systems can be complex even at the residential level. Scale that into a multi-floor office building with a warren of offices, conference rooms, and open space, and I don’t even want to speculate on what mathematics may be involved in trying to make the place comfortable. First, I don’t want to speculate on that because I hate doing the maths. Second, I won’t speculate because I honestly don’t care. I just want the system to work. I want it to spit out cold air in the summer and warm air in the winter. Beyond that it can do whatever it wants. All I know is that somehow we’ve managed to make the lobby with 40 foot ceilings nicely chilled even in the heat of the day, but haven’t found a way to get any of that cool refreshing air down the hall to the back of the building. The first safety officer who comes down here bitching about too many fans plugged in is going to get kicked in the junk.

Stepford…

I can’t speak for anything beyond the field of view that stretches a couple of hundred yards on either side of my own driveway, but from all outward appearances the county has done a respectable job at getting things scrapped down to pavement. The fine exurbanites in the neighborhood have been diligently blowing, plowing, shoveling, and salting for the last three days. The whole place looks about as much like Stepford as anyone could ever want.

Being the hermit I am, hanging out at the house for the last two and a half days hasn’t exactly felt like a burden. It hasn’t actually felt like much more than a normal weekend, really. Now there’s an impromptu three-day weekend and curiosity is getting the better of me. The two winding back roads leading out of my little slice of Americana roll past farms and fields and a few sections of deep woods. In fair weather there’s a decided charm to it.

In the current other-than-fair environment somehow I doubt that they’re quite as inviting. I can think of two or three places on both routes where things are probably still sitting over the side or in the ditch from sometime yesterday. The whole county can’t be Stepford. I forget that sometimes. Maybe this afternoon I’ll fire up the four-wheel drive and have a look at what the rest of this mess looks like from outside the warm and toasty.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Neighbors. Tuesday night, one of the strong storms passing through the area cleaved several large branches off a tree in the neighbor’s yard. Two of those large limbs landed squarely in my yard, so after work I got out the saw, cut them up and piled them neatly for burning once they’ve hand a few weeks to dry out. The third of the limbs to come down fell in the neighbor’s yard, but landed in such a way that it snapped one of my fence posts and buckled several rails. Two days later, I’m still looking at that downed limb lying across a crumpled fence from my kitchen window. The neighbors have been home. I’ve seen the kids playing in the yard and I’ve seen their vehicles come and go, but neither of them has broached the subject of the limb, or the fence. We’re now engaged in a great game of seeing how long it takes the neighbor takes to do some basic yard work and if they’ve got the personal integrity to at least offer to take care of the repairs. Given my observation over the last four years, I won’t be holding my breath waiting for either of those things to happen. If the shoe were on the other foot, I’d have addressed the issue already… and therein clearly lies the problem of holding others to the standards to which I hold myself.

2. Standing corrected. I hereby retract that mean things I said about my credit union yesterday. I discovered today that the fault was all mine for making a boneheaded mistake writing out the damned check. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa.

3. Attempted guilting. Since the office is now officially down to four, there’s apparently going to be a self-appointed chief of attempting to make everyone feel guilty about taking time off, “because then everyone else is sooooooo busy.” Maybe if I were a better person, I would feel guilty. Then I remember that I didn’t create the staff shortage and that I’ve earned every hour of leave I’ve banked over the last eleven years, so I’m going to go ahead and schedule it when I need it rather than when it’s convenient for someone else. I’ve got problems enough of my own without giving in to attempted guilting. Nice try, though.

Neighborly observation…

I watch people. I don’t mean that so much in the Creepy McCreeperson kind of way, but for as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated in watching people and trying to figure them out. Most of the time, it’s pretty easy to read them. It helps that most people are pretty dumb and almost all of us are predictable on some level. I’ve had a few weeks to watch the family next door now. It’s surprising what you can see when you don’t have a six foot privacy fence between you and the rest of the planet, but I digress.

The thing I’ve noticed most often is how tired the guy who lives next door looks. 6:30 in the morning leaving for work, he looks tired. Cutting the grass in the evening, he looks tired. We all work, pay bills, and keep up with the endless list of things that need done to keep our houses from falling in around our ears. We all get tired. The difference I’ve noticed is that even when I’m tired, I go to bed, sleep for a few hours, and wake up refreshed. All you’ve got to do is look in this guy’s eyes and you can tell there’s no waking up rested going on there. He’s a nice enough guy to say hello to, but he’s got that vacant 1000 yard stare that speaks of being completely exhausted. It’s that look of exhaustion that really made me think.

We never really know what’s going on in other people’s lives, but I always look askance at couples who claim they can’t get everything done. Seriously? There are two of you doing what one of me does. That would be cleaning the house, doing the laundry, cooking, yard work, washing the car, grocery shopping, running errands, making the money, and generally managing life. The difference between us is that I’m doing it with half the manpower you have available. Without knowing the intricacies of your life, it seems that if one of me can manage to get it all done, two of you should be able to at least keep up.

Homeowners Confederation…

It seems that there are now enough lots in the subdivision sold to warrant the handover of the homeowner’s association from the builder to the actual homeowners. Actually, it’s not the builder… Two of them went bankrupt trying to build the place out, so we’re actually dealing with the a holding company who probably can’t get the place handed over fast enough.

Usually I wouldn’t bother with these meetings, but in the interests of trying to hold the usual extremists at bay, I figure showing up is the least I can do. Given the level of neighborly involvement here, I fully expect this to be a homeowner’s confederation rather than an actual rule-making or enforcement body. Once I’ve assured myself that the couple of activists aren’t going to run away with things, I plan on going back to ignoring 99% of what goes on here.