What Annoys Jeff this Week?

In a time of global pandemic, impending financial doom, and the collapse of civilization, you might be tempted to think I wouldn’t find any day-to-day petty grievances to air. You, of course, would be exactly wrong. It may be the end of the world as we know it, but it’s far from the end of me being agitated. With that said, let’s get into it…

1. The news. The minute by minute drumbeat of the news is impossible to miss. Crisis, contagion, collapse… It can absorb you if you let it, and I, unfortunately, was letting it for the last few days. The trouble with being monopolized by the news is that it was getting in the way of my reading. So I’ll be making a conscious effort to step back and start ignoring it again. Beyond don’t leave the house unless you need to, I’m not sure what the news is going to tell me at this point that I might find personally useful. I mean if the apocalypse really comes, someone will beep me, right?

2. Bailouts. I’m increasingly uncomfortable with the various vast bailout proposals being kicked around with what fees like very little discussion or analysis other than politicians wish to be seen doing something immediately. Then again I didn’t support what eventually became the sweeping bank bailouts in 2007, government backed loans to the auto industry, or home mortgage “forgiveness.” I’d never be so bold to claim that government doesn’t have a role to play in shoring up the economy, particularly for those businesses shuttered and employees thrown out of work by executive fiat. My concern is mostly that everything I’m seeing reported on the news this week reeks of “lets throw money at it and hope it goes away” being the primary planning principle. A trillion dollars is a shit ton of money, I hope you’ll forgive me for thinking that maybe spending it should involve a bit more analysis than we’ve seen thus far.

3. Planning. Way back in 2005-ish I was involved in some preliminary “pandemic flu” planning. The end result was a plan and supporting documentation, the density of which would stun a team of oxen in their tracks. Pandemics aren’t something new. History could certainly be a guide here even if there wasn’t an actual plan. Everything I’ve seen thus far makes me wonder if anyone even bothered to read or even just dust off the damned thing from way back when.

The vine and fig…

It occurs to me that part of the reason weekends are so much better than weekdays is I pay virtually no attention to the news on Saturday or Sunday. Of course I catch bits in dribs and drabs from Facebook posts, whatever is trending on Twitter, or what the BBC pushes out in alerts, but I don’t make a conscious effort to seek out news during those 48 hours blocks.

Maybe some would say it makes me a bad citizen, but it makes me a more sane human being. It’s probably worth the trade off. I think I’ll continue trying to keep the shitshow of events entirely outside my own sphere of influence confined to the 5 days of the week that are already dicked up by other factors. Two days of willful disengagement out of seven days in a week don’t feel like an outrageously big ask. 

I’m left to wonder if we might not all be better off if everyone spent more time tending to the things that are within their own span of control and less tuned in to Big Events over which no one has any real control. It’s a pipe dream, of course. There are too many people too tied in who seem like they might just get off on soaking in the drama. 

As for me and mine, we’ll double down and take a page from General Washington to increasingly strive to be the kind of man who seeks mainly to  “sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. My diminished abilities. When I was a kid, I can remember devouring whole plates of food at Sunday dinner. In high school we’d show up for lunch and demolish entire pizza buffets. Now, after a semi-full plate and a slice of pie, I feel like I’ve just tried to ingest the entire pantry. It turns out I’m not the glutton I once was. I just can’t eat like I use to… and lord, don’t even get me started on how my metabolism is determined not to even bother trying to burn off what I do eat. It’s a hell of a thing to contend with on the holiday celebrating mass consumption and gluttony.

2. Leftovers. The only real challenge of being the guest at Thanksgiving is that even when they send you home with leftovers, you don’t have an endless supply of turkey sandwiches or the makings of a solid turkey-broth based soup. Now, I’m not in any way saying I want to be in charge of Thanksgiving dinner next year… but there’s a pretty good chance that I’ll be roasting a turkey breast this weekend for the express purpose of having sandwiches for days.

3. A million ways to die in America. One a single screen of The Washington Post, I can see three articles covering sensational ways that people died or been seriously injured over the last few days. You can take you pick… feral hog attack, tape worms laced hotpot, and bacteria laced dog licks. I’m sure if you’re the person lying in bed dying from any one of those things, it’s a very serious matter. With the sheer volume of people in the United States who don’t die of those things, though, I have to think that they’re pretty statistically aberrant ways to get killed. They’re interesting enough stories if you’re looking for filler, but mainline ink on the front page of a news site feels like something of a stretch.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Three things at once. At several points during the day I found myself trying to do three things at once – something on the right screen, something, on the left screen, and something on a paper copy between the two. Technically it might have even been four things if you count attempting to vaguely pay attention to the conversations swirling around the room or to the occasional person asking me a direct question. I won’t testify to the quality of any of the things I did, but I’m quite certain none of them were getting the kind of attention they probably should have received. My powers of multi-tasking are just fine as long as no one is expecting any level of attention to detail.

2. Roadwork at rush hour. Seriously, there’s nothing you can do to that goddamned overhead sign at 4pm on a Thursday that couldn’t have been done at a time when people were less apt to need to use the road. One might be forgiven for speculating that the State Highway Administration didn’t put a lick of academic rigor into their planning process. 

3a. Information. Ok, look. My general hatred of the 21st century is public knowledge, but it does have a single redeeming quality – the availaity it original source information which one could use form imreasonably informed opinions. So please, before you fake news this or impeach that can you please take a few minutes and read the source documents. They might just be more informative that the interpretation you’re getting processed through your favored news outlet.

3b. Impeachment. It’s not a synonym for removal from office no matter how many news sites use it that way. Read the Constitution. It’s the damned owners manual. When it comes down to a fist fight between the political branches of the government, knowing what the words mean would serve us all well.

On losing the patience to argue…

I was going to write a bit today about guns and violence or maybe about the Dow taking a 700-ish point stumble. I’ve covered it all before. It’s well trod ground and I’m not sure I have any particularly new insights to offer up for the discussion.

Then again, I don’t suppose having new information or insight is what having an opinion on the internet is about. It seems too be about determining who can shout the loudest and gin up the most favorable ratio. Mercifully I was born into a world where I don’t rise and fall based on my ratio and it’s not what drives my positions. If it were, God knows, I’d tighten up the focus around here instead of letting it just be a free flowing blast of whatever’s knocking around my head four afternoons each week.

I have friends on nearly every side of every policy position. As hard as some might find this to believe, I’m a bit like Switzerland. When it comes to who I choose to be friends with, I’m the soul of indifference about their politics, who else is in their circle of friends, or most any other discriminator that people use to decide who they want to spend time with. It’s historically also why I would never even consider putting more than about three of my friends in the same room at the same time. It feels like a brawl would be just about inevitable.

So here I sit, comfortable in my on positions, but always willing to entertain new evidence and adjust as needed – without feeling any need to jump up and down, screaming about whatever the new issue of the day is. As I’ve gotten older, the need to convince other people of my rightness or their wrongness has diminished considerably. It’s not so much that I’m not passionate about certain issues as it is not being interested in expending the energy necessary to cover the same ground three or four dozen times.

It turns out, in my advancing middle age, I rarely have the patience to argue… but don’t let that fool you into believing I’ve changed my spots or that I won’t rise like a sleeping giant in defense of my principles if needed.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Listening to US news outlets talk about UK elections. This past Monday Boris Johnson was elected leader of the Conservative Party. He was not, as every cable news program I watched was want to tell me, elected the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Now in every likelihood as the newly installed leader of the majority, he will become the next PM, but that won’t happen until he’s formally invited by Her Majesty to form a government in the Queen’s name. Pedantic? Yes. A technicality? Yes. But details matter when your stated aim is to inform the public about the news of the day… or at least they should.

2. The common cold. It’s the 13th day of dealing with the immediate or after effects of having my latest round of summer crud. I’m fortunate that whatever bug it is usually only catches up with me every couple of years. Even so, I’m left to wonder how the hell, fifty years after we landed men on the moon, we don’t have a better curative for the common cold than rest and drink plenty of water. If I’m paying $15 for ten days worth of decongestants and $9 for cough syrup, it feels like someone could reasonably charge five times as much for a product that actually made you feel better… although at this point, I’d cheerfully pay ten times as much.

3. Hydration. This bit is really a corollary to this week’s second annoyance, but one that feels like it deserves it’s own space. Since “drink plenty of fluids” is part of the generically accepted treatment for the common cold, I’ve been doing my best to follow that guidance. I’ve been drinking easily two or three times my usual daily amount of water (and substituting with something like Gatorade when one more glass of water sounds like the most disgusting and repulsive idea ever). The problem is that drinking plenty of fluids is only the input. For every extra ounce of liquid taken onboard, there is a corresponding increase in the amount of “output” once the body has processed it… which creates a need to get up two or three times through the night to take a damned leak. My position is that the guidance to drink lots of fluids directly contravenes the commonly accompanying requirement to get plenty of rest. Doing the former guarantees that I will not be able to do the latter.

Taking care of business…

I read an article this morning that indicated “studies report” a massive uptick in the number of people who are seeking mental health treatment because of issues ranging from “the world is spinning out of control” to “climate change is going to kill us all in the next 50 years.” These and similar Big Fears are apparently incapacitating an entire generation of people by filling them with existential dread.

Look, we live in interesting times, I get it. I’ve also studied enough history to know that everyone always thinks the world is ending. When the Soviet Union parked missiles in Cuba, the world was ending. When the German army marched on Paris in 1940, the world was ending. When the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire was killed in 1914 and the Europe descended into war, the world was coming to an end.

The point is, we’re hardly the first generation to think the world is spinning off its axis. Although past performance isn’t a guarantee of future results, something tells me that we won’t be the last one to think that either. To our credit, I suspect humanity is far harder to kill off than we we’ve been led to believe.

I’m not going to blow sunshine up your ass and tell you every little thing is going to be alright, though. There’s more then enough shitshow to go around. The trick is, you’ve got to turn the news off occasionally. They’re telling the worst stories of the day because that’s what puts eyes on screens. I won’t claim to be immune to the news of the day… but I spend most of my effort looking at the small bits of it I might be able to influence in some way. Put another way, I take care of my business, keep my nose clean, and make sure me and mine are as able to ride out the inevitable storms as well as we can with the resources available.

You’ll find no end to problems in this old world of ours if you insist on looking for them. My advice is to try just focusing in on the ones where you can make a difference instead of the ones that almost seem designed to inflame and distract. Who knows, you might just save yourself a few sleepless night and tens of thousands of dollars in bills from the local head shrinker, so it’s a bit of a two-fer.