Just in case…

If you live long enough you’re sure to noice there are moments where you repeat habits and patterns of past generations. Resist as much as you want and there are some elements of your parent’s personality that are sure to come through lound and clear despite all protestations to the contrary. As much as the big story today should be that Fortress Jeff is now manufacturing hot air six percent more efficiently than I was when the day started that is, in fact, not the big story… even if the projected savings on electrical and propane changes alone would have rated a mention here.

I’m writing here tonight not to sing the glory of high efficiency HVAC systems, but because I caught myself squarely in the midst of following my father’s footsteps. You see, when I walked through to the kitchen to brew up another coffee, I noticed the demolished remains of the old furnace laying on the driveway. Next to the shredded metal carcass of the furnace was a stack of 3-inch PVC pipe, the former intake and exhaust, that had been cut into neat eight foot lengths ready for disposal. Being my father’s son, of course, I couldn’t let perfectly good PVC pipe get thrown away.

Despite the fact that I have never in almost 40 years had a situation where I though, damn I wish I had a 16 foot length of 3-inch PVC pipe handy, I went out to the driveway and toted the two lengths that were clean cut and without joints back into the garage and leaned them in the corner. I laid them up “just in case,” against a day that when I need just exactly 8 or 16 feet of pipe to take on some project here at the house.

These lengths of pipe join sections of trex and 1×2 that came off the access ramp that use to be in the garage, several coffee cans of mismatched screws, nails, bolts, and nuts, a few smallish squares of drywall, and some leftover tile that matches my kitchen floor. All of it is material in waiting – most likely for a project or requirement that will never come – but ready just in case.

Sex Ed: 2015 Edition

Every year, my employer requires me to attend several classes, the message of which seems to consist solely of “Rape Bad.” Now we could go in to the somewhat faulty logic of believing I didn’t know rape was bad until sometime during the 247 times I’ve sat through the training, but that’s an old story.

The only redeeming quality this training really has is that I get to sit in an auditorium with a large group of my peers and watch them get very, very uncomfortable every time any word even remotely adjacent to sex is mentioned. It never fails to entertain me to see how many middle age adults, who have all presumably had sex at one point or another, are utterly flustered by the topic.

This year’s version of the training consisted of two presenters whose variation of the content was a little more racy than usual. Parts of their schtick included having the group yell out words we use for a woman who has a lot of sex. You can probably guess most of what ended up on the list. Then we repeated the exercise by listing out the names we use for oversexed men. Likewise, the list was predictable. That wasn’t the best part, though.

The very best thing was perfectly unexpected and came about while the assembled group was listing off all the euphemisms for “having sex.” Hooking up, bumping uglies, doing it, greasing the weasel; it was a reasonable list. Then one of the younger people in the crowd – one of the few, I should note – shouted out the inevitable “Netflix and chill.”

And that’s when time stopped for a moment and a room full of middle age folks looked vaguely perplexed and then, slowly, some of the looks became decidedly horrified. Knowing the average age of the crowd, I can only presume that look of abject horror came on because many of them would have children in the age range where Netflix and chill is a phrase in common usage – and perhaps one that’s been slid past them when they ask little Johnny or Suzy what they’re doing on date night.

It made an awfully large group of people awfully uncomfortable… and that made me laugh. This mandatory sex ed stuff isn’t so bad if you just come to it in the right frame of mind. The more you know, indeed.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Begging. Tonight’s the night when all you parents out there send your children mixed messages by encouraging them off to talk to strangers for candy. Fortunately the houses in my neighborhood are far enough apart that it’s not particularly lucrative bit of ground to cover, so there aren’t typically herds of children wandering around looking for a handout. It’s not so much that I mind the giving away of candy, but like the 4th of July, it’s one of those nights that threatens to send one or both of the dogs over the edge every time they hear the gate close or someone knocking on the door. Then again there’s the unmitigated glee when I open the door so parent and child are faced with a surly looking bald man with two barking dogs at his back… so at least there’s that.

2. Getting Close. Earlier this month it looked like jeffreytharp.com was well on its way to having its best month ever in terms of unique views. WordPress was regularly reporting daily views of 50 or 60 people. On October 3rd, the site posted its biggest single day. Since this past Sunday the number of views per day have plummeted for reasons I haven’t been able to identify just yet. At the rate they’re hitting now, I’ll be lucky to bring in 50 or 60 views this week. Alas, such are the vagaries of the internet. As October draws to a close, I’ll have to content myself with having the 2nd best month in the blog’s short history… and start worrying about how to keep November from ending up recorded as the 2nd worst.

3. Indecision. You can accuse me of a lot of things, but being indecisive is generally not one of them. Right, wrong, or otherwise, when confronted with possible courses of action I’ll pick one based on the best information I have available at the time and move out smartly. I’ll never claim to make the right decision all the time, but I’ll by God make one instead of just sitting around waiting for something to happen. Whether it’s where to have lunch or which program to throw over the side, I wish the populace at large would just stop pussyfooting around and figure out what they want to happen. Walking through life having other people’s bad decisions foist upon you is simply piss poor planning. As far as I’m concerned, any decision made on the spot is better than a great decision made ten minutes too late.

Where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain…

I’ve never been to Oklahoma, but if it’s anything like my perception of it, things have been boring there for a long time. If I had to put a date on it, I’d certainly say it’s been boring at least since we closed the frontier in the 1880s or at the latest during the oil booms of the early 20th century. The Old West and boom towns are full of stories about people being gunned down – for cheating at cards, rustling cattle, robbing banks, running liquor, and sleeping with the wrong man’s wife. What the old timey stories aren’t full of are examples of ass clowns who decided to shoot the place up because they were bored.

Seriously? They. Were. Bored. When I was a teenager back in the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth I’m not sure any of us would have even had the passing thought of running outside and shooting whoever happened to jog past the house. We had plenty of guns between us – and even used them to entertain ourselves by plinking bottles and aluminum cans – but gunning down someone for just wandering past never figured into the plan. Mostly, we entertained ourselves riding four wheelers, shooting pool, swimming, listening to music, exploring the just-born internet, playing the original game consoles, or what we generally called “hanging out.”

I’m already reading about how the shooting of Christopher Lane is a failure of society, about how these three turd burglars had difficult childhoods, and the hundred and one other excuses people have when their kids turn out to be assholes. Sorry mom. Sorry dad. You failed your kids, not me, not the government, not society, but you. Maybe if you had put a book in your kids’ hands at some point or sent them to music lessons or gotten them involved in sports they’d have turned out differently. Now you get to live with the consequences of your kids gunning an innocent in cold blood. Their actions are the result of your collective failure as parents.

It’s going to be up to the good people of Oklahoma to hand down the appropriate justice. I seem to recall them being the last bastion of the old fashioned firing squad in these United States. Let’s hope they put that tried and true method of sweeping the scum from the earth to good use.

This post is the third installment of “You Ask, I write.” Want an opinion on the news of the day? Feel free to leave a comment and I will opine.

Sunday drama…

As we all know by now, I’m a creature of habit. In the spring one of those habits is enjoying Game of Thrones as each new episode airs on Sunday nights. Sunday night dramas have been part of the routine since The Soprano’s was the highest rated show on HBO, so let’s just go with the assumption that the 9PM timeslot on Sundays is a very well established and sacrosanct part of my weekly schedule – the parting shot signaling the end of the weekend.

Game-of-Thrones-2011-wallpaper-Iron-ThroneNow anyone who has seen the show or read the books knows that when they sit down to watch an episode they’re signing up for 54 minutes of greed, sex, violence, and dragons. Given the show’s ratings, it seems to be a pretty popular Sunday night pastime for a great many people. As I learned this past weekend, my mother is most decidedly not among that legion of devoted fans.

Rather than watch last weekend’s episode, I mostly cringed through it under a barrage of commentary ranging from “I don’t know why anyone would watch this” to “this is stupid” to silent painfully obvious eye rolling. I’d say it was probably a demographic problem, but there’s the tricky fact that George R.R. Martin is himself part of mom’s age group. It’s more likely just a case of widely divergent opinions on what constitutes great television… and possibly a leading reason why I need to seriously consider adding a second cable box to the household and avoid the awkward Sunday drama.

I don’t think mom will be running out to get a subscription to HBO any time in the near future… but maybe she’ll change her mind when she sees Boardwalk Empire this summer.

Just me?

At just shy of the 35 year mark I’m starting to wonder if there’s ever a time when you can sit down in the house where you grew up and not be crammed into the 16-year-old-who-just-got-his-license role. Being pretty well along in life and having done ok in the job and education lottery, it makes for some tense moments and awkward silences. Or maybe it’s just me.

Beware of Dog…

Once upon a time, my opinions were sought out on such issues as organizational efficiencies and streamlining processes and procedures. I like to think that I had some good ideas that ended up saving a decent amount of time and money for my employer. Since that kind of thing is no longer part of my operational portfolio, I have to make do with dispensing these little pearls of wisdom to whomever happens to be in earshot at any given time (i.e. anyone who happens to wander across this page in the hope of finding something new or informative to read). Suckers.

It’s with that in mind that my thoughts turn to Halloween and trick-or-treating. That magical time of year when for one dark, dark night, it’s perfectly acceptable for your children to brazenly approach strangers and accept candy from them. If I sat at the park offering the same candy on a random weekday evening in June, I’d be locked up for sure. Like most other pegan-based holidays, I’m sure the roots of Halloween are originally a good time for everyone. In a day and age when you have to drive little Bobby and Suzy from door to door so they can learn the only socially accepted form of begging in the civilized world, I’m not sure that it continues to serve a useful purpose. That said, this is my proposal: Instead of spending a lot of money on a costume, running out gas getting too and from the neighborhood of your choice, and generally spending several hours out in the cold, why doesn’t every parent just go to the nearest Walmart, Giant, Kroger, or local convenience store, spend five dollars on candy for their own kid, and call it a day. We’d collectively save a mountain of cash by following this simple plan. I wouldn’t spend the night worried that someone is going to slip, fall, and sue me. And the dogs wouldn’t launch into a barking fit every time they hear someone walking across the deck. So come on, help me help you.

Now if you’ll excuse me it’s time to go hang up the Beware of Dog signs and make sure today’s troubled youth stay off my lawn.