What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Storage options. Fifteen years later and Jeep still hasn’t designed a good place to stow a cell phone that’s both accessible and not prone to sending your device flying in a random direction when you hit a rough patch or tighten up in a turn. You’d really thinking that during those intervening years that kind of thing would have come up. I mean it’s not like people are toting around fewer electronic devices now than we did way back in the mists of time.

2. National polls. Can you please for the love of God stop citing national polls in talking about which candidate is up and which is down? National polls are worth less than the paper they’re printed on. Since we’re a federal republic consisting of 50 sovereign states, a district, and a handful of territories who are all responsible for holding their own elections, we don’t have a “national election” so much as we have 50+ smaller regional elections for national offices. Those are the results that matter. If you want a sense of who’s up or down, tell me what the breakdown of the states looks like. Otherwise I’ve got a solid recommendation for where you can stick your poll.

3. Kitten energy. It’s been a little more than eight years now since I’ve lived with a young critter in the house. The intervening years have left me with many pictures that remind me how utterly adorable they can be, but somehow my memory blocked out just how much energy they have… and the fact that they want to burn off all of it between midnight and 5AM. Even with two infinitely understanding dogs taking the brunt of it, the wake up calls as 12:30, 2:00, 3:15, and 4:15 are something of a struggle. It’s an awfully good thing the little bastards are so cute, because no one would tolerate them otherwise.

The game of telephone…

“You’re going to be able to keep you current phone number,” might just prove to be as much of a joke as “You’re going to be able to keep your doctor.” After seven days of not having a phone at work, I now possess the capability to have voice conversations with people who are too far away for a good strong yell to be effective. That’s a plus. I didn’t realize how many times a day I used the damned thing until I suddenly didn’t have it. That’s the good news.

The bad news, because there’s always bad news, is that the number people have to dial to reach me is not the old number that “I get to keep.” That, it seems, is a “phase two” of this particular project. Given the sloth-like speed at which phase one has been carried out, I expect to still be waiting for my actual phone line to be assigned sometime when I get back from my Christmas vacation.

In the meantime, the telecommunications gurus have come up with a work around by which apparently every telephone in the universe is forwarded to a different number, somehow magic happens, and calls to our original number end up ringing through at our new location. It’s safe to say that I lack faith in this particular arrangement to be anything more than one of Uncle’s standard cluster fucks. Clausewitz tells us that in war even the simplest things are hard to do. It’s no less true in peacetime as it turns out.

I should have long ago given up on the idea that anything might just work as advertised, but God it would be nice to be pleasantly surprised just this once.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. No phone. While I don’t consider myself an “addict”, most of my life is tied up on my iPhone – names, numbers, calendars, messaging apps, and basically all the things that one uses to keep track of the modern world. Finding myself without it ranges from a minor annoyance to utterly intolerable depending on what I happen to be trying to do at any given moment. If anyone needs me I’ll be spending the next few days trying to replace the capabilities of my iPhone using an archaic and problem-prone laptop with a connection to the internet that’s suspect at best. Might as well be living in 1989 like some kind of barbarian.

2. The plight of the tenants. Washington Post article about the sad story of tenants who are evicted… after “only” not paying some part of the rent, doing it, repeatedly, or committing other violations of the lease agreement. That’s well and good, and my heart bleeds for them, but for the love of pete, when a few paragraphs later I read that 98% of one of these people’s rent was being subsidized and they couldn’t come up with the remaining 2% I’m kind of out of sympathy. Rentals don’t maintain themselves. Tenants cause fair wear and tear in addition to often more wanton destruction. It all takes money to correct and restore to rentable condition. It strikes me that the people who are most often taken in by these sad tales of renter woe have never had the experience of being a landlord with their own bills to cover.

3. Anti-punctuality. When I tell you I’m going to cal at three o’clock, that’s exactly when I’m going to call. It won’t be “around 3:00,” or “three-ish.” It will be three o’clock. For good or bad my mind puts a premium on punctuality. It’s important if for no other reason than to demonstrate that you are taking the other person seriously. Lack of it, especially in a situation where I am going to be spending thousands of dollars with your company, makes me question your professionalism and the future of our potential business relationship.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. People who can’t end a meeting on time. I’m perfectly fine admitting that in consideration for your money, I am perfectly willing to sell you eight hours of my time. It’s a done deal. However, I feel an increasing need to make it clear that level of payment does not include any extras. I know that everyone is busy – and that we’re forced to live within an artificially constrained manpower allowance. All that means is there’s likely to be more work than people available to do it in the time you have purchased from us. As this is not a circumstance I created, it’s therefore important to know that if you want more of my time over and above that agreed to in the basic service package, well, the meter is going to have to start running. Or you can just start ending meetings on time. Either way.

2. People who use my desk as a phone booth. I don’t have any earthly care if someone needs to take a personal call at the office. Life happens and often it happens during weekdays. Please, go take that call if you need to, but for the love of Christ the Almighty Redeemer, can you please take it back to your own desk, or out in the hallway, or anywhere other than hovering three feet away from me while you’re doing it? I know these calls are very important, but I don’t have any need or desire to listen in on one half of the discussion about your latest trip to the doctor, what a shit day your significant other is having, or the baby’s last bowel movement. As it turns out, the concept of privacy doesn’t just protect you, but it also protects me from thinking you’re an enormous asshat.

3. Seeing the cashier. Generally when I pull up to the gas pump it’s because I want to top off the tank and be back on the road in as expeditious a manner as possible. What I don’t want to experience is card #1 being rejected, card #2 being rejected, and then hearing a tinny voice over the intercom letting me know that I need to come inside to pay. No, I don’t. That’s especially true because we’re not living in 1985. If the 20 credit card readers you have outside aren’t working, what on earth would make me think one of the two you have inside would be up and running? Walking inside and then standing in a line fifteen people deep to find “we’re only taking cash” would pretty much just add insult to already wasted time. So no, if you’re not going to make it easy for me to give you my money, I’ll happily drive next door and give it to your competition.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Meeting prep. It’s bad enough when someone wants me to sit in a meeting on a topic way outside my general area of expertise. If they could at least do a little prep work first, though, that would be terrific. Maybe get me the slides an hour or two in advance so I can speak on the topic like I have some semblance of a clue what’s going on. It doesn’t feel like that’s too much to ask before someone shows up asking a lot of questions about material I haven’t ever seen before. But if past experience is any kind of guide, it’s at least as hopeless as asking one of the dogs for the winning Powerball numbers.

2. Bridging the gap. I have to pass through one of those sleepy one stop light kind of towns on my way to and from work every day. The main route is bottlenecked by a bridge that has been in urgent need of repair for at least the last five years. Now that the state has finally gotten around to doing something with it, we’re met by the usual bane of construction everywhere. Before work started, the bridge was going to be open for the duration of the project. Shortly thereafter it was declared “worse than we thought” and promptly taken out of service – expected restoration time 4 weeks. Tomorrow is the end of the 4th week and the latest word is “wait two more weeks”. Then, maybe, we’ll be able to press one lane back into service for gods know how long. The detours, the improvised 4-way stops, the drivers who don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground; those things would all be OK if in two weeks we had a good working bridge. Of course what we’re going to have instead is the end of the “preparation” for construction phase of the project and a bridge that will be open or closed on a completely unpredictable schedule for the foreseeable future. I get the distinct impression that I could be stuck in detours for the rest of my natural life.

3. Unknown callers. I’ve been receiving a call from an “unknown” number once or twice a night for the last three or four days. Is there someone out there who sees a number is unknown and answers anyway? I don’t. Hell, I don’t even bother to answer calls when a number comes up that isn’t associated with someone in my address book. Usually those are a one-time occurrence. No message. No repeat calls. Wrong number. It happens. But the unknowns, yeah, they just keep on calling. I’m sure they just want to sell me something so they could save themselves a whole lot of time by just leaving a message and then knocking it off. Messages I’ll at least listen to eventually. Spamming my phone with missed and rejected calls, though, that’s not going to get you anywhere. Sadly, I’m sure they only do it because some reasonably significant percentage of people they dial take the call and give these asshats the time of day. That makes those people just as guilty as the tools who are instigating the calls in the first place.

First impressions of iPhone 6…

A few of your have been (more or less) patiently waiting for my first impressions of iPhone 6. I don’t know if this morning’s post is going to exactly reward that patience, but it will at least give you a snapshot of what I’ve found after living with the new phone for the first 36 hours. Do bear in mind that these observations are in no way scientific, have not been approved by Apple, and reflect only my own thoughts.

Screen: I didn’t really think having an additional .7 inches of usable space on the screen would make much difference. I was wrong. The 4.7 screen feels like you’re dealing with acreage compare to the old 4-inch standard. Resolution is crystal clear and the depth of colors displayed exceeded my expectations.

Speed: As expected, speed is improved to have less lag between clicking an app and it opening. Switching between open apps is also largely improved. Performance overall feels snappier – as it should on a brand new device.

iOS 8: No surprises. The new operating system is essentially an incremental improvement from last year. Lots of goodness here that I still need to play with.

Battery: Solid performance under heavy use the last day and a half. It’s probably still going to need a pick-me-up charge towards late afternoon, but it’s miles ahead of needing to plug in at lunch time as I did with the old model under regular daily use. It’s very respectable performance considering it lasts longer while driving a more powerful processor and larger screen.

Camera: Appreciable improvement, especially in low light settings. There is considerably less lag between pushing the button and taking the picture. This is good when you have two dogs who aren’t particularly adept at sitting still for photos.

Form and Fit: Thinner is good. Though it is very slightly heavier than the 5S, it feels lighter in hand because that weight is spread out across a larger area. Build quality is solid, with nothing feeling loose or in danger of falling apart any time soon. The rounded edges are much more comfortable in hand than the hard edges of past models – and echoes back to the original rounded iPhone designs. It’s a very, very pretty phone, but it’s a slick little thing that has tried to jump out of my hand twice already. Dropping a “naked” phone is a concern, even though I’m not particularly accident prone with electronics. Some of that concern will probably be resolved by adding a case to give it a little more “grip-ability,” although sadly that will also hide a really well designed phone.

Overall: If you’re an Apple fan, it’s obviously a winner. Android fans? Eh, I won’t even speculate on what you may think. For me, it’s slightly too large to use in one handed operation for many tasks. I think iPhone has really hit a sweet spot somewhere between too small and phablet – and I know some 6+ fans out there are going to disagree with that assessment. The iPhone 6 does everything I’ve asked of it and is loaded with capabilities I haven’t begun to use. I fear we have reached a point where the phones are finally outstripping my ability to keep up and use them to their maximum ability.

Not surprisingly, my assessment is that this is the best phone Apple has ever offered. If you’re looking to upgrade, I don’t think you’ll find any disappointment here.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Strike 3. With the USPS fighting for it’s life, one of the simple issues they could work on is get things from Point A to Point B when they say they will. The last three items I ordered online that were shipped through USPS all encountered inexplicable delays. Maybe I’m just finicky, but when I pay for second day arrival, I generally expect to get my items two days after I ordered them. It doesn’t feel like that’s an unreasonable expectation. I know it’s a trifle, but logging in to a website a day or two after the “guaranteed arrival date” and still wondering where the hell my package is is just infuriating and just one of the many reasons I don’t use USPS when I have an option. On time and to standard; that’s the way to build a happy customer based. What USPS is doing is pretty much just telling me that they’ve given up.

2. Mission: Impossible. When the assigned mission is to give a 3 minute presentation about what you’re working on, that’s what you should do. Actually, you should wrap it up in two minutes, thirty seconds to allow a moment for questions, but that’s not the point. What you shouldn’t do is ramble all over the damned world while everyone’s eyes glaze over in benign indifference. Remember, it’s called a “brief” for a reason.

3. Dropped calls. Cell phones drop calls. Since they’re magically connecting to far away towers without the benefit of wires, I’ve learned to accept that limitation. When using a land line to connect to another land line, there’s just no justification for dropping the call not once, not twice, not thrice, but four effing times in the span of 35 minutes. After attempt four failed to take hold for more than three minutes, I officially lost interest in whatever was being said. If it appeared to anyone that I had thrown my hands in the air like I just don’t care, well, there’s a good reason it looked like that.

Millions and millions sold…

Everyone expects “revolutionary” from Apple. The truth is they only really do revolutionary once or twice in a decade. Once they set the market it’s all about making evolutionary changes. Evolutionary is precisely how I’d describe the iPhone 5s. It feels exactly the same in hand as the 5. Aside from the new color options, you’d probably never know it was a new device until you fired it up and saw what was “under the hood.”

The 5s, not surprisingly runs iOS7 like a champion. It’s a very snappy performer at every task I’ve thrown at it in four days. The new camera is the real game changer for me. I think they’ve finally improved it to the point where I won’t even be tempted to drag along a stand alone point and shoot camera when I go somewhere. For you photogs, it’s obviously not SLR quality, but hey, it’s a phone and not a $1000 camera, so there’s that. The OS itself is starting to grow on me. It still feels a little too colorful for me, but I have to admit the interface is very slick once you get use to it. There are plenty of toggles and options to control how iPhone behaves, but at the end of the day you’re still in Apple’s walled garden so some options are limited. Fortunately, most of us don’t by iOS or Apple products because we want to tinker with the innards.

Apple issued a press release today that cited over 9 million iPhone 5s and 5c variants sold over this past weekend. I have no doubt that’s how many were ordered since early Friday morning, but there’s no way that’s how many phones they put in hands over the last three days. The buying experience has really been the only blemish on what I otherwise consider a pretty remarkable phone. Whether you blame rolling out in too many countries, over estimating demand of the 5c models, or manufacturing challenges with the fingerprint reader, Apple had far fewer “flagship” models available in their retail stores than they have in past years. My best estimate is that they had no more than 400-500 on hand at Christiana Mall on Friday at launch. Of course that only matters if you’re committed to getting your hands on a phone on day one. Fortunately for me, Best Buy stepped in and filled the gap left in Apple’s own retail supply chain.

The bottom line? It’s a great phone, a solid performer, and absolutely the best phone I have ever owned. I have no regrets upgrading from the 5 to the 5s. If you’re sitting on a 4s, it’s probably a “must have” upgrade.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Drivers who think they can, but really can’t. Look, I like speed. I have the tickets and warnings to prove it. Generally I feel as safe with my own driving at 85 as I do at 25. Sadly, I can’t say I have the same level of confidence in everyone else on the road… especially the wannabe rice racer who cut the turn just a little to wide this morning and earned himself some first hand experience in how understeering is every bit as bad as oversteering . He should probably be allowed to get some kind of refund from his driving instructor. On the other hand, I have now personally seen the look of abject horror someone in a Honda Civic gets on their face when they find themselves unexpectedly traveling in the wrong lane with a Tundra bearing down on them. Hopefully he didn’t spend too long in the ditch, because that’s where he was headed when I rounded the next turn and rolled on with my morning commute.

2. Breaking my own rules. I think we all know that I hate speakerphones in an open-bay office setting. It really serves no purpose other than ratcheting up the noise level in a room that already has the acoustics of a train station. I was forced into a position of breaking my own rules today by participating in part of a call using a speakerphone in a “wide open” room. I was mortified, but it happened so fast that I couldn’t stop it. I have no other excuses. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

3. Too much of a bad thing. I know I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: I don’t think I’ve ever attended a meeting that I didn’t want to escape from within five minutes of it starting. Sadly, my opinion doesn’t seem to carry much weight when such decisions are made. Which is how you end up with so many meetings scheduled between now and the end of the month that the “September Meeting to Discuss Issue X” has to be moved into October. You might think that means the “October Meeting to Discuss Issue X” would get cancelled. You would be wrong, because what it really means is that we should just go ahead and have two “Meetings to Discuss Issue X” in October. So as soon as the ten pre-meeting meetings for the October “September Meeting” are finished, we get to immediately start on pre-meetings for the October “October Meeting.” Clearly common sense, logic, and reason have no place here.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Bank of America (I believe this entry represents their 2nd oak leaf cluster for the year to date). I totally understand you wanting proof that my condo is covered under a master insurance policy that secures the entire building and not just the walls of my unit. Due diligence is a good thing. I’m happy to send you whatever information you need. I’m going to be less enthused the second time I send you the Bank-Of-America-Logo-1same information. When you ask me for the third time to provide you with exactly the same information I’ve sent you twice already, well, I’m going to start questioning whether I can really trust you to hold my mortgage at all since you can’t seem to keep track of something as simple as the name and phone number of an insurance agent.

2. Waiting until the last minute. All rumors to the contrary, I’m actually a fan of procedures. I like knowing that there is a way to do things and that if I follow the instructions step-by-step I’ll get a predictable result. When, after following all the required steps and procedures, I find that I’ve been bumped in favor of something that’s being thrown together at the last minute without going through the same wickets, it makes me wonder if in the future it might not be better to go ahead and wait to the last minute, declare an emergency, and then do whatever the hell I want. If flying by the seat of your pants gets the same result in the end and takes 1/10th the planning time, tell me again why I should follow the actual procedures?

3. Voicemail. Yes, thanks to the wonder of modern technology you can leave a message for me on my phone that I can listen to at my convenience. You see, though, the thing is that checking voicemail is never really convenient. I see that you called. If it’s a number I recognize, I’ll call you back as soon as I can, no message needed. If it’s a number I don’t recognize, you’re going to voicemail because I don’t want to talk to you so leaving a message doesn’t really do much beyond antagonize me. More often than not I’m going to delete your message without listening to it anyway, so why not save us all some time and effort? And if you do need to hear my voice immediately and I’m not picking up, chose one of the plethora of text-based communication tools available on your phone and send a quick “need to talk ASAP.” Even when I don’t have the time or interest to drop everything else to focus on just one conversation, there’s a pretty good chance I’m keeping an eye on text messages and email and will get back to you just as fast as my two little thumbs will carry me.