Endangered species…

I’m almost universally indifferent to rules, regulations, and policies about people. Mostly I’ve grown up with and still believe that in the absence of special situations or circumstances, most grown adults should be able to tend to their own needs. It’s one of the defining characteristics of being a fully fledged adult across all the vast animal kingdom. Put another way, when bad things happen to people, you’ll rarely find me batting an eye.

There are easy ways to gin up my ire, though. This morning, the Department of the Interior managed it in spades when announcing rollbacks of key provisions of the Endangered Species Act.

Taking a hatchet to the regulations emplaned to protect our most threatened species and their habitat is one of those issues that will get my attention every time. It should get yours too. It should be hard to delist a species. It should be hard to encroach into protected areas. Determining what species and geography are protected and to what degree that protection extends should be an act of science, not an administrative policy decision carried out with little oversight and even less understanding of its consequences. As a professional bureaucrat, I can tell you from hard experience letting the scientists have a say is going to be better.

I want to say this one time, loud and clear, so there is absolutely no doubt about my position: If you are making decisions based on “left” policy dreams or “right” policy desires, you’re a bloody idiot. Make the decisions based on the best science we have available… and when, somewhere down the road, we have a better scientific understanding of the world, change again.

The cattle industry supports this deregulation effort. There are ways to protect critical habitat that won’t undermine the beef industry. The oil industry also supports reducing the effect of the Endangered Species Act. Here too there are ways to regulate that allows the United States to reap the benefit of it’s underground treasure without relegating species to museum pieces. I don’t oppose all regulation on spec, but I do oppose stupid, one size fits all regulation – just as much as a oppose stupid, once size fits none deregulation.

The best approaches are almost never an all or nothing proposition. Pretending that we can’t protect the environment and grow this economy makes you sound like a damned fool. Arguing that we can’t build another house for fear of killing every animal alive makes you sound like a hippy lunatic. There’s a middle way and we can find it.

My credentials as a meat eating, 4×4 driving, gun toting, flag waving Republican are beyond reproach. It’s why I have no compunction about splitting with the party on individual issues. My pro choice stance already makes me anathema in some fair number of Conservative circles, so standing apart on one more issue is hardly a deal breaker for me

I’ll fully endorse any legislative effort to “tighten” up the language of the Endangered Species Act to roll back these new policy changes and to make such changes harder to publish in the future… though I don’t hold out much hope of the current dysfunctional collection of representatives to get that job done any time soon.

Optimal control…

We were back to the vet this past Friday with Maggie. She has to stick around with them for a few hours for a bit of follow-up testing for her Cushing’s. There’s no remission or recovering from it, but symptoms are treatable, so finding the best course of treatment for her is important to me.

This last test shows that we have the meds dialed in to the point of “optimal control” for her ACTH levels – meaning we’re able to hold her cortisol levels more or less where they need to be to reduce the laundry list of Cushing’s symptoms. Under the circumstances, it’s just about the best possible outcome available.

It was a long six months in getting here – with three or four visits to the regular vet for testing, schlepping across Pennsylvania for an ultrasound, and several variations on the medication of choice to get things under control. It hasn’t been an inexpensive proposition, though I refuse to do the math on either the amount of time or money expended. I know I’m incredibly fortunate that neither one of those factors drive the train when deciding what’s best for my sweet, lazy chocolate lab.

The fact is, Maggie is an old dog. She’s coming up on her 11th birthday in October. I’m under no delusions about how this ends – for her, for me, or for any of us. For now I’ll appreciate that I, through the marvel of modern veterinary medicine, was able to buy her some more quality time. Beyond that, everything else is background noise.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

Well, it seems like the question really answers itself at this point, doesn’t it? But since I know nobody is going to let me get away with a simple “it’s self explanatory,” here we go…

1. The common cold. We have machines that can scan the human brain. We can replace human heart valves with pork parts. We can perform knee replacement surgery on dogs. But do you know what we can’t do? We can’t cure the common goddamned cold. Are you effing serious? Through the miracle of modern science, the best we can do is dope someone up on decongestants, antihistamines, and nasal sprays so that they’re too stoned to care how bad they feel. WTF, science? What have you been doing for the last 400 years? I think it’s amazing that you can cure a disease that one person in 100 million will actually contract, but it would be even better if you could track down a cure for the thing that 5 billion of us will catch once or twice a year.

2. Daytime TV. After two and a half days of not doing much of anything besides sitting in front of the television, I can say with some authority that TV pretty much sucks between the hours of 8AM and 8PM. I’m sure there are some people out there watching, but I can’t understand why they would think there wasn’t something better to do with their time… like sleeping, or possibly gouging out their eyes with sharp sticks. I’m thanking the old gods and the new that we live in an age of Hulu and Apple TV.

3. Being “medicated.” I despise the feeling of being medicated – that feeling you get when you’re taking lots of meds that make your head feel like it’s full of cotton and not necessarily attached to your body. Maybe I’m not describing it right, but regardless, I don’t like it. I’m not a billionaire, I’m not an athlete, and I have no practical skills like welding to fall back on. My brain is what I’ve got going for me and what keeps me from living in an overpass-adjacent cardboard box. When it’s not firing at full speed, well, I’m sure it’s bad… I just can’t quite articulate why at the moment. Stupid brain.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Lip syncing. If I were to make an eight hour recording of me sitting at the keyboard banging away at what I’m sure is some very important memo or PowerPoint briefing, and then push the play button on that recording every morning when I sat down at my desk and claim that I’m working, it’s fair to say that my boss would call me an idiot and tell me to get back to work. My argument that the performance was recorded “live to tape” probably wouldn’t be sufficient to convince him that a recording was a good enough substitute to actually doing the work live and in person. Not being a professional audio engineer, I don’t know whether Beyonce performed live, live to tape, or whatever. I’m not sure I really care all that much, but it strikes me that if your occupation is “singer,” it’s probably a good idea to show up and, you know, actually sing.

2. Dress codes. On days when the temperature falls below, say, 20 degrees, I think office dress code requirements should automatically be relaxed to allow for jeans, boots of sufficient size to account for wool socks, flannel shirts, and possibly hats with ear flaps. I don’t exactly know who came up with the idea that a shirt and tie equate to professional conduct, but I think it’s safe to say that can get just as many memos written while wearing Levis and Doc Martens as I can while wearing slacks and wingtips. I’ve managed to slowly ease out of wearing a tie, but sadly, my struggle for greater clothing equality against oppressive government rules continues unabated.

3. Medical science. I’ve got my next regular check up with my favorite should-have-been-a-Prussian-Field-Marshal general practitioner tomorrow. This will be the first of two visits this year where he tells me to exercise more, eat less, stop having fun, and that way maybe I’ll live a long and boring life. That’s fine. It’s his job and he seems to be good at it. Hopkins tends not to hire people that aren’t good at it, which is one of the reasons I’m willing to drive so far out of my way for a basic checkup. Still, what I really need him, and the broader medical community to do is come up with a pill or procedure that fixes whatever damage I manage to inflict on my body without needing to change my lifestyle and habits in any meaningful way. God knows I don’t have a death wish, but I’m not sure a world without perfectly grilled steak, penne pasta with vodka sauce, and the humble potato in its many pleasing forms is worth living in… and let’s not even get started on how many more productive and entertaining things I could do if it weren’t for spending time on a bike to nowhere every evening. Science just needs to get off its hump and come up with a way to keep us from getting dead with a minimal amount of effort from the patient.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Parking Lot Etiquette. You might know that I’m a creature of habit. I’ve even parked in the same spot just about every word day for the last 14 months. Or I did until wild haired old biddy with a hooptie started parking in my spot. I like to think I’ve shown admirable self control in not dropping the truck into 4-lo and pushing her beat to hell Buick out of the way. And then I remember that normal people would probably just shrug it off and find a different spot instead of developing intricate plans to show up earlier each day until they discover when the biddy in question arrives so they can start showing up a few minutes ahead of her to get their coveted parking spot. Not that I would ever do that, of course.

2. Science. I’m not all that old and so far I can remember eggs being good, then bad, then good again, then bad again, then good, and currently they’re apparently “as bad as smoking.” Seriously, science, is this really something worth studying repeatedly and changing our collective minds about every couple of years? People have been eating eggs for pretty much as long as there have been people. As a species, we like eggs and we’re probably going to keep eating them indefinitely into the future… So instead of telling us how bad (or good) eggs are, how about getting busy doing something productive like developing a more effective drugs to counteract the effects of the eggs that we all know we’re going to eat regardless of how “bad” we know they are for us?

3. Things that are Self-Explanatory. The older I get, the more I realize that almost nothing is actually self-explanatory… especially concepts that are so easy a caged monkey can be taught how to do them with the right combination of banana slides and electroshock. I guess that’s not surprising, really. The older I get, the fewer expectations I tend to have about people and how they behave as a group. Still, if you’re well into advanced middle age and I need to write a memo explaining that you should always remember to answer the question someone asks you instead of giving them everything other than the answer, something has gone horrifically wrong with civilization as a whole and we are probably doomed.

And since the week can’t be completely full of annoyances, if you’re at all curious about what doesn’t annoy Jeff this week, that would be the fact that it’s a three day weekend. Those make me happy.

Curiosity…

They say in America you can grow up to be anything. We all know that’s not exactly true, but believing that is something that is as much a part of our national narrative as apple pie. I, for instance, could never have grown up to be an engineer. My math skills just aren’t that strong and my level of interest in slogging through massive equations hovers just slightly above 0.00%. I just don’t have any business operating in a world that demands tolerances with hundredths and thousandths of an centimeter. It’s important to know your personal limitations.

Of course there’s a price to pay for basically ignoring math and science education. While I’ve been keeping myself busy with endless PowerPoint and unlimited supply of memoranda, the guys at the Jet Propulsion Lab were guzzling Red Bull, piling up over time and night differential, and landing a Volkswagen on Mars. You’ve got to admit, that’s a pretty damned cool resume line. It’s fair to say that a history degree and an MBA aren’t likely to get me assigned to one of those projects. Maybe if I’d have just paid a little more attention in Cosmic Concepts back in 1996 things would have been different…

Quack…

Medical science isn’t likely to find a bigger cheerleader than me… most of the time. When the chips are down, I can almost always count on them to come up with some chemical concoction the in some way improves my quality of life. Except this week, of course. I’m not in any way disputing the official medical diagnosis of “it looks like you have some fluid behind your eardrum,” but I am, however, disputing the “keep doing what you’re doing and give it another week” advice. It’s not like I’m in there asking for uppers, downers, or even leeches. All I’m asking for is something better than the standard little red pill that I’ve been taking every time I get sick since I was a kid. After two weeks, I don’t think asking for something with a little more horsepower is an unreasonable kind of thing.

Medical science? Meh. Quackery. You failed me. Next time, I’ll just got to Walgreens, buy them out of NyQuil, and sleep til I’m better.