What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Eye strain. My eyes aren’t getting worse, the doc tells me. My prescription hasn’t changed now in three years. In response to my complaint about not being able to read deep into the night like I used to, “Your eyes are just getting old,” he says with a grin and the hint of a chuckle. Apparently looking at a computer all day and trying to read all night, is just straining the hell out of them, which is what’s making the world go all blurry after 8 PM every night. The fix, maybe, is to add a set of reading glasses to my current bifocal order. Theoretically, that will mean when I’m reading in the evenings, I won’t have to keep looking down through the bottom third of my lenses. If that doesn’t do it, we’ll order a set that really magnifies instead of just adjusting the focus for my crummy vision. I’d pretend to be indignant, but at this point I’m willing to try most anything to get the situation corrected or even just improved.

2. Autumn. We’ll see the first few hours of autumn today. I don’t particularly mind the onset of cooler weather, but I resent the hell out of the days getting shorter. If feels like losing a lot more than we’re gaining for the trouble. This time of year always comes along with a certain nagging black dog. History tells me he’ll be around for the next 10 or 12 weeks. I’ll perk up a bit at the solstice, when we’ve gone over the hump and days lengthen instead of grow shorter – with its promise of gaining something rather than losing it. Until then, I’ll simply go through the day with a slightly increased baseline level of aggravation. It’s probably not so much that anyone would notice, but I’ll damned well know it.

3. People. Donald Trump is easy to mock. He’s a twice impeached reality television star-in-chief who spent his final days in office plotting the undoing of our republican form of government and when caught red handed begged his followers not to believe the evidence seen by their own lying eyes. As we’ve learned over the last seven years of his candidacy, his term of office, and his post-presidential career, that’s just Donald being Donald. The really troublesome bit is the people, who despite all evidence – or perhaps because of it – still rally to the call of this disgraced carnival barker. Make no mistake, there’s still enough of them, added to critical mass of those who are simply ambivalent, that it’s entirely possible he’ll be on the ballot two years from now. You can’t blame the former host of The Celebrity Apprentice for that part. It’s only a possibility because people are gullible, too invested in the narrative to be open to new information, or too stuck on their pride to admit they’ve been misled and find another way ahead.  

That was predictable…

Back at the beginning of the Great Plague many animal shelters and rescues couldn’t meet the demand of people wanting to bring a dog, cart, or other small animal into their homes. That’s a great problem to have if you’re in the business of trying to get animals off the street or out of hoarding situations. Even as it was happening, I imagined what the inevitable downstream consequences would look like. Based on a couple of online reports I’ve read, we have now arrived “downstream.”

The animals adopted en mass over the last few years are now being abandoned to shelters at growing rate. It was perfectly predictable if you operate from the assumption that human beings are the literal worst. Sure, people will want to blame going back to their in-person jobs and not having time. Others will blame inflation. Others will dream up whatever excuse allows them to sleep better at night after abandoning a creature that was entirely dependent on them for food, shelter, and protection.

Look, no one knows better than I do that situations change. Eleven years ago, I was hurtling towards Maryland one day ahead of my belongings with two dogs in the back seat and no housing locked in because most landlords didn’t want to rent to someone with pets. It was damned stressful, but putting Maggie and Winston out on the side of the road was never going to be an option. If that meant I had to drive further or pay more, that was just the price of doing business. 

I’m damned if I’m going to be lectured by anyone about vet bills being expensive. More than once I had to take out a loan to pay for treatment I couldn’t afford out of pocket. Conservatively, I’d estimate I’ve paid out $30,000 in vet bills and medication over the last decade. That’s before even figuring in the day-to-day costs like food, toys, and treats. I didn’t always pay the bill with a song in my heart, but I found a way to get it done even if that mean sacrificing other things I wanted or needed. 

I struggle mightily to think of a situation where I’d hand over one of these animals or where I wouldn’t go without or change my living situation if that’s what it took to make sure I was able to look after them. Hell, if I drop dead tomorrow there are provisions in place to make sure Jorah, Hershel, and George can live out their days in comfort and get whatever care they need for the rest of their natural lives. That’s the unspoken compact I made with them when I brought them home.

If you’re the kind of person who would just dump them off on the local shelter or rescue, hope someone else will do the hard work for you, and then wash your hands of the whole sorry state of affairs, well then Jesus… I don’t even want to know you.

The joy of nothing…

It’s rare to get through from the time I post Friday night’s blog all the way to a Monday evening without having at least one idea jump out at me as being at least nominally worthy of writing up a few lines. It does happen, of course, but it’s rare enough to be noticeable – or at least it is for me. 

I’m going to attribute this weekend’s lack of anything particularly interesting to a combination of reasons. The first of them being that the only time I Ieft the house between 5PM last Tuesday and now, was for about 45 minutes on Saturday. That’s just long enough to get out for the weekly supply run and get home. It generally happens before most people have even properly started their Saturday – and that’s absolutely done with intention. 

It might have started as a pandemic-induced way to avoid standing in line and needlessly exposing myself to whatever bugs people are toting around in their respiratory system, but it turns out even absent a plague, it’s just a great way to avoid people, their small talk, their general bad behavior, and any need to interact with them en mass. Plus, two and a half years in and I’ve still managed to avoid COVID, so that’s a perk. I thought maybe I’d miss restaurants or going places, but it turns out I really don’t. The incentive to leave the house has to be pretty overwhelming. It happens, but it’s a rarity. 

Another reason there doesn’t feel like much to report is, I expect, due to having dialed back a lot of unnecessary spending. Between continuing inflationary pressure, general economic uncertainly, and home maintenance projects both scheduled and unscheduled, a lot of “fun” spending got either reallocated either directly towards covering other expenses or into various holding accounts to be banked against further unexpected requirements. Between shepherding cash, avoiding people/plague carriers, and generally being content to hang out at home with the animals, the number of things worth writing about – or at least the number that anyone other than me might be interested in, sometimes gets a bit limited.

I have no doubt I could gin up a few attention-grabbing posts if I went over and wandering around the local Walmart for an hour or two. You can understand, I hope, why that doesn’t sound like a particularly worthwhile trade off. Much as I enjoy writing, I’m not in any rush to put myself back in a position of having unlimited topics presenting themselves on any given day. 

For today at least, I’ll luxuriate in the joy of having nothing to say.

The good neighbor policy…

I’ve organized my life in such a way as to be reasonably unobtrusive and minimize the impact my day-to-day activities have on others. It’s probably reasonable to say I actively go out of my way to avoid people in anything but necessary interactions. Much as I’d love it to be otherwise, there are still times when people are unavoidable if you’re not an entirely self-sufficient operation. In those cases, I try to be polite, professional, and end the engagement quickly as possible so we can all get on with our day. In essence, I have a policy of trying to be exactly the kind of neighbor I want to have. Do unto others and all that.

I don’t let the dog stand at the edge of the fence line and bark at all hours of the day and night. I don’t have live bands on the patio well past 11 PM. I don’t light off a barrage of fireworks in celebration of July 27th. I don’t encourage any resident or guest to wander the property screeching and screaming at top volume for hours on end. The loudest, most intrusive thing I do is run the mowers, trimmers, and blowers that keep the yard neat and tidy once a week. All in, it takes about 45 minutes and with very few exceptions it takes place during a time when one or more of my neighbors are doing the same thing.

I suspect it’s our setting, being surrounded by woods, that gives people the illusion of privacy and distance from their neighbors. At the height of summer with trees in full leaf and thick undergrowth on three sides, perhaps it’s easy to forget that the next guy can be as close as 30 or 40 yards away. Then again, it also feels entirely possible that people are just legitimately the worst animal and do what they do without even a thought behind their glazed over, soulless eyes. As much as I’d like to believe it’s the former, the latter is likely more the case.

I won’t cast aspersions on all neighbors, of course. Some are obviously better than others. The best of the bunch are the ones who throw a wave when you drive past or speak and keep walking when picking up their mail. I’m lucky to count most of my immediate neighbors as falling into this good category. Sadly, it doesn’t take more than one of the other kind to disturb the tranquility of the place overall.

Without investing in thousands of acres, I don’t imagine you can ever completely control for how other people behave or what they choose to do for entertainment. The big ranch in Montana probably isn’t in the cards for me, though. I can certainly keep muddling along with how things are, but I’m definitely of the opinion that I’ll need more seclusion from the general population than 1 or 2 acre lots provides when I settle in for my last act.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Footboard. I’m officially not a fan of beds with footboards. Maybe it’s the kind of thing you don’t notice until you’ve already got a sore foot. I’ve always been a bit of a roller and thrasher while asleep, so as a result of my transition to the guest bedroom, I’ve been bashing my feet into the footboard for three and a half weeks now. How was this ever a popular bed design? It certainly couldn’t have taken into account anyone who might accidentally exceed six feet in height. Having a footboard was a non-issue when the bed in question was almost purely decorative. The number of guests I’d encourage to stay overnight is, obviously, incredibly limited, but let me just say that I’m officially apologizing in advance to anyone who might happen to visit in the future.

2. Busybodies. Have we always been a nation of busybodies? I don’t really do “social history,” so the question is a bit out of scope for me. Starting off early with the whole witch trial in Salem, though, kind of points towards yes. I don’t know how people have the mental energy required to care what other people are up to. As long as it’s not taking food out of my mouth or money out of my pocket, I have no idea why I’d care how people want to live their personal lives, who they want to fuck, what god they want to praise, or any of the other things that so many people seem to be so up in arms over. I can only assume that their lives are so boring they have no choice but to try living everyone else’s for them.

3. Failure to communicate. I’ve been playing a lot of telephone this week. I call the prime contractor, they call the sub, the sub calls the county, and then the chain may or may not ring in reverse. All I’m trying to do is get a straight answer on why getting reinspected is taking more than a week after the incredibly minor fix was made. Add in the fact that my prime changed field supervisors mid-project and it hasn’t been the recipe for clear and effective communication during this interminable two week stretch. I acknowledge that it’s possible that my background as a project manager and planner makes me a bit to sensitive to things like this, but it’ll absolutely be making the list as a “needs improved” on the after action report.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. My right foot. Last Thursday I noticed a little catch in my foot, especially if I were standing still for too long. By Tuesday I was walking with an undisguised limp. Here, now, on Thursday leaving my foot flat on the floor is an agony… and let’s just say I won’t be releasing film of me gimping my way around the house. I don’t mind being injured when I know what dumbass thing I’ve done to cause it. When it comes flying out of nowhere and for no apparent reason, though, well, that’s cause for severe agitation in addition to the baseline level of pain. Thanks to the internet, I know the general advice is to stay off the offending foot and give it plenty of rest. That’s probably a decent enough recommendation, but there’s critters to feed and a household to run, so the actual utility of that advice is marginal at best. It’ll either ease off or it won’t. If we’re still here this time next week, it’ll probably be time for professional intervention.

2. Hearings. In the summer of 1987, Congress held televised hearings about the Iran-Contra affair that featured then Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North. I remember the hearings in part because they were a daily afternoon fixture on the television as I passed regularly from the pool to the kitchen at my aunt and uncle’s house in Fairhaven, where we were visiting at the time. It’s funny the things that stick in the mind of a nine-year-old. In any case, we’re about to be treated to another round of televised Congressional hearings. This time, they’ll focus on something far more insidious than anything LtCol North dreamed up. After eighteen months, much of the nation’s attention has shifted away from the insurrection and treason that took place on and leading up to January 6th, 2021. In my heart of hearts, I hope that these hearings are a forum to both shed light on and hand down consequences for those who engaged in, supported, or passively acquiesced to the attempted violent overthrow of the legislative branch. I fear, however, that it will all be used for hour after hour of prime-time grandstanding by everyone involved.

3. People. OK, admittedly, I’ve never been a fan. With rare exceptions I’ve found that people are more trouble than their worth. Over the years, I’ve developed a pretty reliable sense for those who make the extra effort worthwhile. That sense, as was proven this week, is not foolproof. In fact, that trust in my own intuition lulled me into a sense of complacency. In that complacency, I missed warning lights that should have been wildly obvious. From any other direction, when evaluating any other person, they would have been. It’s been a good long time since I’ve so badly misjudged someone… and I’ll be bloody well sure it’s even longer before another one slips past the goalie the same way.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. As I was sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, I couldn’t help but observe one of my fellow patients, a full gown adult woman, who had kicked off her shoes and was “sitting” with her feet all over the damned chair. Maybe it shouldn’t have filled me with absolute burning rage, but it did. I don’t appear out in the world very often so I can’t exactly pinpoint when adult humans completely lost the thread about how to behave in public, but I’m sure this small incident was just a symptom of a broader problem both with the individual and with the wider society. I’m trying to imagine a situation where I’d be comfortable taking off my shoes and putting my feet all over God knows what. Maybe I should just be happy she managed to change out of her pajamas before she left her house. I’d question whether I could set the bar for decent behavior any lower, but we all know there’s obviously no lower limit to what people will do if they have no personal sense of dignity, decorum nor propriety and there are no obvious consequences for shit behavior.

2. Spam texts. My phone is currently being overrun with spam text messages. I’m getting a dozen or more of them a day. Is it the Russians trying to do a bit of fundraising? Don’t know. Don’t care. The first person to devise a way to get it to stop and keep it stopped should get $1 Billion tax free and the chance to sleep with the damned prom queen.

3. Gutters. I have them cleaned religiously every year. I have leaf guards installed. I’ve even had the pitch corrected on a couple of sections. Somehow, they continue to clog on what I can only call a regular basis. Two or three times a year I can count on water shooting off the roof and cascading down the outside of the house. It happens almost invariable after spending hundreds of dollars doing spring prep and therefore has the added perk of washing out some significant section of fresh mulch. Short of hiring someone to clean the gutters as often as some people hire people to clean their homes, I’m quickly running out of good ideas to mitigate this particular joy of home ownership.

Comfortably at home…

Once upon a time, a three-day weekend invariably triggered a round of book hunting. I’d slip out to shops from the Philly burbs all the way down to Rockville.

Here in the 3rd plague year, I’m just having trouble finding that level of motivation. It’s not that I like the books any less, but that I hate people all the more. Obnoxious behavior in public seems to be the rule rather than the exception. It’s impossible to be out and avoid the Karens and Kens insisting common sense, decency, and decorum aren’t things they need. Decent behavior is, obviously, just for other people and not for these self-important twatwaffles.

Most of the mask “mandates,” to the extent that they were ever really enforced, have fallen, but good sense along with both my personal physician and RN sister still strongly recommend them. I’ll defer to their knowledge of best practices over taking unsolicited advice from the average American politician. I’ll also fully admit, though, hours of browsing for books fully masked with glasses periodically steamed over, frankly, just isn’t fun. 

I miss spending a good part of these long weekends picking through endless stacks. I’ve gotten out a few times since cold weather set in, but not often – and those trips rarely resulted in real treasures, even if they coughed up plenty of good basic reading material. As a former boss of mine was overly fond of saying, the juice simply isn’t worth the squeeze. 

Someday I’m sure it will be again, but just now I’m perfectly willing to rely on the internet to let me get my book fix either until the browsing environment gets more fun or I recover some lost motivation. It’s hard to say which of those things may happen first. Between the general fuckery of people as a group and the persistent low-level threat of plague, assuming it happens at all, could be out of order on its face. There are way worse ways to spend three days than comfortably at home.

Ignorance…

Statistically, I’ve already lived a little more than half my life. I like to think that in that time, I’ve tried very hard to not stop learning. I have an inquisitive nature. There’s a certain joy in knowing how things work, seeing the uniqueness of the world and the universe beyond, and in trying to gain an understanding of how history has led us to the present.

I think often these days about Isaac Asimov, who said, “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”

You’re welcome to your ignorance, I suppose. Even in a world where the sum total of human knowledge is available through a device we all carry around in our pockets, no one can force you to take advantage of it. We can make information available, but there’s not a force on earth capable of making someone learn or develop a broader understanding of what exists outside their own limited experience, beliefs, or understanding. Some even seem determined to avoid any knowledge at all.

Here’s the thing, though… I don’t have any moral or ethical requirement to give ignorance equivalency with knowledge.

In the real world – and especially in the online one – I increasingly subscribe to a philosophy that suffers no fools. In whatever proportion of this life I have left to me, I don’t have a moment to spare to argue with ignorance, or worse, those who should be intellectually capable of knowing better than whatever batshit crazy position they’ve allowed to become their entire personality.

I can only promise that my mind remains open to new thoughts and ideas, but it will never be so open that my damned brain falls out.

Cubicles aren’t the problem…

Even back in spring 2020, in the early days when the Great Plague raged unchecked, some of us were still coming to the office. Often it wasn’t many – and certainly some came more than others, but on the average day there may have been five or six people spread out in a room built out to hold around thirty. For good, bad, or otherwise, those who make decisions were determined that the place was going to have at least the loose appearance of conducting business as usual. They were determined to keep the lights on.

I only mention it, because I had a bit of a unique career experience today. For most of this day before Thanksgiving, I was the last man standing… or maybe the only one without the foresight to drop a leave request for today and Friday. In any case, I spent most of the day with the place entirely to myself. The only time I’ve had an even similar experience was a million years ago when I was a fresh, young GS-7 working in DC who wasn’t banking enough vacation time to be extravagant about taking the Friday after Thanksgiving. Even then, there were a few other people knocking around the far reaches of the GAO Building’s 3rd floor, so I wasn’t completely on my own there.

Today was a real Time Enough at Last moment, which is to say it was kind of ideal. As it turns out, just being stuck in a room full of cubicles and awful fluorescents for the day isn’t necessarily the problem with the modern office. It wasn’t quite as good as a day working from home, but without all the people, I mean it didn’t particularly suck.

It looks like I’ve learned my one new thing for today, so I’m feeling pretty good about that.