What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Garbage equipment. To be fair, the equipment might not be complete garbage when it’s new in the box, but as soon as we open ‘er up and layer on security software and forbid users to have even basic administrative abilities on the machine, we’ve got equipment that behaves as if it’s old and slow and generally garbage. I know I don’t need the most current performance model for what I do, but it would be awfully convenient to have a computer that didn’t require a thirty minute start, restart, restart cycle at least once a week. The alternative is to stop asking for finished products or any information at all for at least the first half hour of any given weekday.

2. Random sickness. I labor under no delusions of being what anyone might describe as a “healthy person.” I’m fat. My blood pressure is high. I enjoy red meat and liquor. Knowing all that, there are some sicknesses that quite frankly come with the territory. It’s the ones that sneak in from nowhere, pummel your ass for 12-48 hours and then disappear that really piss me off. Setting in before a guy has time to plan for them and then disappearing before they can justify taking a sick day feels like being cheated somehow.

3. Common sense. I’m not convinced that the person who originated the phrase “common sense” ever spent any time actually interacting with the average human being. If they had, they’d have known that there is absolutely nothing common about people following even the most basic patterns of logic or decency. I’d be willing to go so far as to say that in general, people aren’t capable of either identifying or following their own self interest let alone applying some basic rules for living in civil society. Implying otherwise is something between farce and an outright lie perpetrated n the English language.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Ghosting. If you thought dating at 18 was an exercise in the absurd, you should really try dating at 38. I don’t do it often, which is a testament more to my incredible shrinking tolerance to people than it is the number of opportunities available. As obnoxious as I find most human interaction, I think the thing that bothers me most are the ones that just disappear. You plug along being your normal charming self, go on a few dates, and *poof* suddenly they disappear from social media and stop answering texts. It’s one of those times when having generally low expectations of people is such a valuable trait. If you had any kind of decent personality I’ll probably spend a day or two wondering if you ended up in a ditch somewhere, but after that I’ll file you under T-for-twatwaffle and move on with my day. In retrospect maybe I shouldn’t be annoyed and just appreciate that I’ve been saved from discovering that factoid six months down the line after I’ve invested more than a few hours and a couple of meals into figuring out if you are a total asshat.

2. EpiPen. I’m always a little perplexed when people seem to be surprised that it costs money to keep yourself alive if you’re not in perfect physical health. As I pointed out to a colleague, a hundred years ago, people who needed EpiPens or really any significant medical intervention to save them from the earth’s flora and fauna just kind of dropped dead. While I’m not endorsing that as the ideal solution for people with allergies, but when death is the consequence, spending a few hundred bucks to stay alive doesn’t feel like too stiff a price to pay. Somewhere along the lines in this country we’ve developed the idea that more and more “essentials” should just come at no cost to us. I have no idea where that kind of mindset comes from. There’s a cost for everything in life, the only real question is whether it comes out of our pocket in the retail line when we decide it’s a necessity or at the point of a gun when government decides the next installment of our tax bill is due. We can give the government enough power to feed us all, to house us all, to clothe us all, and to medicate us all… and on the day that happens we’ll all be well and truly slaves.

3. Accountability. I’m bombarded multiple times a year with reminders to fulfill approximately 178 yearly training requirements. Among them are such classics as ethics and cyber security. Let me not check those boxes on time and there’s hell to pay. Let me violate one of the rules, policies, or laws they cover and there’s a good chance I’ll end up seeing the inside of a courtroom if not the inside of a federal minimum security prison. I’m smart enough to know that the rules are always somewhat different for the rich and powerful, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. It certainly doesn’t mean I have to give my vote to a candidate who doesn’t feel in any way constrained by the rules and requirements that have a tendency to make the job such a pain in the ass for the rest of us. Just once I’d love to see a little accountability and a story of a senior official caught in a web of misconduct that resulted in more than solemn-faced apology or blanket denial.

False…

It’s late. I’m laying in bed. Dozing. The closing credits of whatever 1940s vintage movie was playing on one of the old movie channels were scrolling. Something trips the security system and the sirens start screaming.

I’m by God awake now, listening for anything I might be able to hear over the screeching. Nothing. Now add the constant nagging of the phone ringing – the monitoring company doing their thing. Time for them later.

What you’re left with then is two snarling dogs and a bald, fat, nearly naked, adrenaline filled, and very, very angry man storming down the hall racking a 12 gauge 00 buckshot shell into the chamber, and letting off what I can only imagine was a passible approximation of the Rebel yell.

I’d like to think that under the circumstances even the most determined tweeker would take that opportunity to beat a hasty retreat.

The good news, of course, is that instead of being the classic home invasion, what I seem to have experienced last night is the more typical bad sensor triggering a false alarm. The homestead was buttoned up tight as a drum, though the alarm panel insisted that one of the doors was open. Getting that sorted out, as you can imagine, has immediately jumped ahead of a number of projects planned for this beautiful Sunday morning.

Open door policy…

The news channels are abuzz this weekend with the decision to allow as many as 10,000 Syrian nationals into the United States. Aside from the logistical issues of bring them a third of the away around the world. Aside from the national security implications of allowing 10,000 lightly vetted people into the country from a part of the world who still seems to think we’re the great Satan. Aside from the issues of international law, common sense, and domestic politics. Aside from all those things I think the whole idea stinks to high heaven.

For the last thirty years, the world has loved to take a swing at America the Punching Bag. We’re everyone’s favorite bad neighbor. We’re the country they absolutely love to hate. And they do hate us… right up to the point where the shit hits the fan and they need someone big enough and strong enough to save the world one more time. We’ll do everything they ask and more and when the crisis has passed we’ll be collectively criticized for not doing enough or not doing it right or not doing it faster. There’s never a nod of thanks or a word of appreciation. With the turning of the news cycle everyone will be right back to cheering “death to America.”

Before we announce an open door policy for tens or hundreds of thousands of people, I think ought to ask a simple question: How many of the countries demanding that America do “something” would let a hundred thousand American citizens just show up in their country with the expectation that they would then be responsible for these people’s health and welfare? How many of these wanna-be great powers would lift a hand to help if our house were on fire? I can think of one or maybe two, but even their offer would certainly have strings attached. I shudder to think what price countries who aren’t our closest allies would demand if suddenly America were on her knees.

I’ll never win humanitarian prizes for my foreign policy. That’s ok. Want to bring in 10,000 people? That’s fine too, but can someone please promise me that these people won’t be free to roam about the country until we’re sure someone over there isn’t smart enough to use a humanitarian crisis as an convenient cover for getting as many terrorists into the country as possible. There are potentially millions of people on the move. If you think our enemies aren’t pondering on ways to use that to their advantage you’ve clearly underestimated them. If we’re bringing people here, we owe it to ourselves to get it 100% right, because the bad guys only have to get it right one time to exact a terribly price for our hospitality.

Email…

Without going into the politics of it all, let me just say that if I, as a low level functionary in the great machine, decided to start conducting all of my day-to-day official work using the email server associated with jeffreytharp.com, I may or may not last out the week before someone at echelons higher than reality noticed and took one of the following actions: 1) terminated me with prejudice for violating security protocols and network standards; 2) Disciplined me to within an inch of my life ensuring that my career was effectively, if not officially, at an end; or 3) Turned me over to the local constabulary for prosecution. The likely outcome is some combination of the three.

The chances of my ever being named Secretary of Anything is precisely the same as the chances of my sprouting wings from my back and flying down to South America for the weekend. Still, with all that said I like to think if I were nominated and confirmed for such an august position within the government, I’d find some way to work within the system and still get my email set up exactly the way I like it.

In the rank and file, there are few things more demoralizing than seeing the great and the good blatantly walking around the rules they expect the rest of us to operate under. Even if it weren’t demoralizing it would cost you any shred of credibility you might have ever had in my eyes… and when it comes to working politicians, there’s precious little of that in the bank to begin with.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Banker’s Hours. Let me start off by saying I general like my credit union, except for one little thing. When they upgraded their website a few weeks ago they required everyone to create about a dozen “challenge” question/answer combinations for security purposes. Fine. Good. Whatever. The problem, of course, is that I apparently don’t have a clue what the answer to at least one of those questions is. And that’s the one I got on Sunday morning when I logged in to pay the week’s bills. Instead of asking me an alternate question from the list, the site promptly locks me out and tells me to call customer support. Which is also fine. Except there is no customer support at 7AM Sunday morning (or any other time on Sunday for that matter). I appreciate network security, but it would be nice if it weren’t so secure that I can’t get into my own account. Like the universe, it’s my fondest hope that they will find a way to seek balance.

2. Scheduling. I get that schedules are hectic. The higher you get on the food chain, the more hectic they are. If I can offer any bit of unsolicited advice, it’s that out of respect for the host of people gathered together awaiting your presence rescheduling a meeting thrice before settling in a final-ish time is just bad form. If your schedule is so jam packed with very important things to do, maybe you could go ahead and delegate to an underling or just put it in a concisely worded memo. When you make it impossible for anyone else to schedule something because of inevitable changes, where you could have looked knowing and decisive, you look like a tool. Don’t look like a tool.

3. Going overboard. I set a lot of posts about car seats, the armada of safety gear that today’s kids are expected to wear out in public, and generally how fragile small humans apparently have become in the second decade of the new millennium. In that spirit, I’d urge all of us to remember that we grew up in a simpler time. For me, riding in the open bed of a pickup truck was a rite of summer. I clocked more time behind the wheel on the back roads at age 13 than most kids do today by the time they’re eligible for the draft. None of us wore bike helmets, knee pads, or “safety gear” thicker than denim. It wasn’t uncommon for us to run unsupervised through the woods using pointy sticks as guns and rocks as grenades. I broke my arm three times and still have the scrapes and scars of childhood to mark the memories. I survived. So did we all… and in a world that surrounded it’s children in far less bubble wrap.

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?