Thanks for the tips…

Last week, much like this week, has been a bit of a broiler in the mid-Atlantic. As a result, my local electric utility sent out a bulk email with some “helpful” tips for dealing with the heat.

Tip #1: On hot days, use your grill to cook so you’re not adding heat to your house. Yeah, that’s a pass. It’s 95 degrees outside with 80% humidity and you want me to stand over and open flame flipping chicken or burgers instead of standing in the 70 degree kitchen where I can control the temperature to within a degree or two with a flick of my thumb.

Tip #2: Do laundry and run the dishwasher at night. Fun fact, night is when I sleep. I’m not staying up until the small hours to do laundry to save a fractional percentage cost of doing it during normal hours. Doing these chores during the non-peak hours you’ve designated doesn’t actually use less electricity, it just makes using the electricity I need to complete these tasks more inconvenient.

Tip #3: Close your blinds to reduce passive solar heating. Here’s the thing… I’m awake during the day, I like being able to see outside while I’m awake. I know I’m just weird like that. These big ass windows and the view they offer are part of the reason I bought the house in the first place. Otherwise I’d just stay up all night with no view doing laundry in the small hours of the morning like you so helpfully suggested.

All I see when a utility offers “helpful” tips such as these is a company that has opted to develop a network that they’re worried might not be up to meeting peak demand. With so much of my monthly bill being service fees rather than the actual cost of the electricity itself, I have very little sympathy in their desire to offload their problems onto the consumer rather than admitting they failed to design or maintain a sufficiently robust system to meet actual requirements.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The CDC. I know the CDC has an obligation to follow the science and make recommendations based on data. Even so, rolling out a recommendation that everyone should wear two masks just makes me want to smack someone over there. The previous administration dropped the ball in failing to convince a sizable portion of the people that they needed to wear one mask… and that’s not even counting the ones who technically have a mast on but can’t manage to wear it covering both their nose and mouth simultaneously. Maybe I’m reading the room wrong, but it seems to me that we might be better served to use the PR campaign to convince the rest of the people to wear just one mask before we spend a lot of time and effort hectoring everyone to double up. 

2. Snow. We seem to be in a cycle where every third day it drops a few inches of snow on us. It’s rarely enough to shutter or delay anything, but it’s certainly enough to be obnoxious and need clearing off the driveway and sidewalks lest the freeze-thaw cycle leave me with sheet ice on every side for the next month. I like winter well enough, but if it’s going to snow, it should come in increments measured in feet and not inches.

3. A poll released this week showed that 33% of Republicans would join a new political party if it were formed by Donald Trump. Another 37% said they’d consider joining such a new party. As a long time conservative and someone who has been a registered Republican for most of his adult life, I welcome and encourage their departure from the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, and Reagan just as quickly as their little legs can carry them. If you can unabashedly continue to support a former president who used his last days in office to call his supports to insurrection against our Constitution and laws, I’m not sure you’re really tracking with the historical principles of Republican Party. I’d rather see the GOP go down in defeat in every election for a generation than throw my lot in with seditionists and wanna be tough guys.

Business decisions are not violations of your rights. Usually…

Most of the Second Amendment advocates on social media are up in arms – no pun intended – about Walmart’s decision to deeply scale back its sales of ammunition. Now, it would be easy enough to pillory Walmart’s press release. “Short barrel rifle ammunition” and “large capacity clips” aren’t really a thing, after all, but getting details right is less important than getting the proper spin on your public relations story.

The short version of what I’m sure will be my unpopular take is that Walmart is, first and foremost, a business. It exists as a money making machine for its shareholders. The end. Somewhere in an Arkansas-based executive suite, they made a business decision that they could afford to lose some percentage of their sales by getting out of a segment of the retail ammunition business. Unless Walmart is being run by certified morons, it was a dispassionate decision made based on dollars and cents… and no, before someone asks, Walmart isn’t infringing on your Second Amendment rights.

It’s been a long time since Walmart was just a simple chain of southern variety stores, but they are still big business in rural communities across the country. They sell a metric shit ton of hunting equipment, outdoor supplies, and yes, ammunition and firearms. Because of their ubiquity in the marketplace, avoiding their reach completely feels unlikely… but a simple check of my last year’s expenses shows me that if I simply change where I get my canned goods, dry foods, and basic groceries, I can deprive them of upwards of $5,000 a year – a bit more if you figure in other household incidentals.

One person’s changed buying habits won’t make a lick of difference to Walmart, of course, but it will funnel money into other businesses, that are, perhaps, less willing to sell out a core demographic element of their business model. A few hundred or a few thousand people determined to do the same can make a tremendous difference in throwing cash towards businesses that support, or at the very least aren’t antagonistic towards their values and priorities.

Walmart has their own business calculus and so do I.

On the importance of crafting your message…

It’s been a lot of years since my undergraduate communications course, but I remember a few tidbits from that long ago class. The most important of those would seem to be that communication, no matter its form involves both the person “sending” the message and the person or people “receiving” the message. In the absence of the sender, you’re just someone listening to dead air. In the absence of a receiver you’re just talking to yourself.

In the mad dash of social media to tell us who’s standing and who’s kneeling, it’s been pointed out by more than one of the people in my feed that the “intended message” of the players to choose to kneel is being largely ignored or misinterpreted . Therein lines nearly every problem with communication. While original intent is important what’s more important is crafting and delivering your message in such a way that it is “heard” by the receiver in a way that matches what you intended them to hear.

Any halfway decent public relations firm could have told the knee takers that a protest centered around the national anthem would draw attention to the cause – but not the kind of attention the sender might want. Despite the old saw, I’ve never been of the opinion that all press is good press. No matter how well intentioned (and I’m not personally willing to even concede that point), kneeling during the national anthem was bound only to attract controversy. Once it did that, the actual intended messages became entirely academic because it was buried under the weight of those rejecting the message because of how it was delivered / how it was received.

My advice? If you’re making millions of dollars a year and are bound and determined to have your voice heard, spend a little money with your favorite public relations professional. Let them help you craft the message and the delivery vehicle. Laying out a few dollars up front so you can shape the dialog instead of inflaming a substantial percentage of your fan base seems like it would have been money well spent in this case.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. CVS. They’re getting great acclaim for making the decision to stop selling cigarettes. It’s their business, I say God bless if that’s what they want to do. I’m left wondering if they’re also planning to stop selling Coke, Doritos, Snickers bars, and all the other items on their shelves that have been identified as cancer causing, bad for you, or just socially “inappropriate.” Let’s be honest with ourselves at least. CVS is a drug store. Their whole raison d’être is selling medications, many of which themselves can cause untold amounts of harm even when taken as directed. Call me cynical, but I don’t see them taking a principled stand in the name of public health so much as I see them making a public relations and marketing move.

2. Bugs. No, not the kind of creepy crawlies that sneak into the house and needs dispatched with the closest available newspaper, magazine, or shoe. I’m more agitated by the kind that live in apps and cause mysterious and damned near impossible to track down battery drain on my phone. Thanks to these gremlins, I get to spend a few hours backing up everything I have on my phone, tricking the thing into believing it’s once again fresh out of the box, and then reinstalling each app one by one so I don’t accidentally reintroduce whatever power hungry gremlin resided in the old version. For a device that “just works,” I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time poking around under the hood to keep things humming along without the need to recharge it every four hours.

3. Passwords. It took me five attempts to log into my own damned website today. That’s mostly because two days ago the site forced me to create a new one. It couldn’t be any old password, of course, but one that was at least eight characters included upper case letters, lower case letters, numbers, special characters, hieroglyphics, quadratic equations, and the square root of pi rounded to the nearest non-repeating decimal. I get it. Internet security is important. It’s so important that apparently the best way we can manage not to lose all our secrets to the Chinese, or the Russians, or the NSA is creating the illusion of a random string of characters. If security is as important as the internet thinks it is, can someone please explain to me why we’re not using retina scanners, fingerprint readers, blood samples, or something, anything that would be more convenient than needing to remember a new 742 character password every third day?