The trouble with Washington’s Birthday…

Look, I’m as big a fan of federal holidays as anyone in the country. There’s a problem with Washington’s Birthday, though. Well, technically it’s not a problem with the day itself. It’s more of a problem with what comes after it… which is a long, monotonous, fifteen week slog through spring to the next officially recognized holiday.

Fifteen five day work weeks in a row. Hell might be other people, but that long stretch between holidays gives it a yearly run for its money as far as I’m concerned.

There’s nothing to be done about it, of course, except remember that I have a small mountain of annual leave I have to burn off before the end of the year that I can tap into if things get dire. I’ll do it if I have to, but those days never feel quite as good as the freebies.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Overestimation. As much as I appreciate your belief that a good word from me is a powerful totem for overcoming organizational obstacles, I regretfully must inform you that you have profoundly overestimated my ability to command change in a chaotic world. I appreciate your vote of confidence, but if my serving as the voice of reason is your last best hope, I think it’s best for all of us if you plan now on crushing disappointment. Rest assured that my pleas fall on the same deaf ears as yours.

2. New (old) routine. It took me exactly three days to fall into a new routine of doing whatever I wanted to do whenever I wanted to do it. Landing back in the office after almost a week of that kind of decadent behavior has proven to be a hard pill to swallow. Sure, it’s just the old routine back again, but after a brief hint of freedom I can’t help but resent the confining structure just a little bit more than usual. Fortunately it will only take a few weeks of grinding monotony to reset my expectations based on this new (old) routine.

3. Pollen. The weather these last two days has been ideal for top down driving. The airborne pollen that hits you like a physical wall, however, makes it prohibitively agonizing to avail myself of the opportunity. Sure, some people who are more strongly constituted or may just be willing to endure scratchy, bloodshot eyes and the inability to breath through their nose, are out there soaking up the sun. Me? Not so much. Real summer will be here soon-ish. Then I can really enjoy the ride. Sadly, though, I want to be topless now.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Late breaking winter. I had a passing thought that I might get through this winter unscathed in the landscaping department. It would have been the first winter since buying the place that was the case. Clearly that’s the kind of thing that’s a homeowner pipe dream. In the bright light of afternoon – and now that a lot of yesterday’s snow has melted off, I can see at least three boxwoods that appear to be broken at the stem, several other shrubs that may have been bent and twisted beyond recovery, and a reasonably good sized maple limb that landed squarely on top of a forsythia that was just starting to take off. Some people love nature for what it is. Me? Aside from the adorableness of the fuzzy animals, I find nature to be something to be pushed back against at every opportunity. Seems like I’ll have reason to break out the chainsaw after all.

2. Six hour days. I use to enjoy two hour delays. That’s until I ran into a short day that felt like it lasted at least 2,476 hours instead of just the six that the “clock” says passed.

3. Congress (again). These asshats literally only have a handful of things specifically named in the Constitution as part and parcel of their responsibilities as elected representatives. The fact that they fail so spectacularly to get those few things done even when one party controls all the levers of government speaks to both their uselessness and our stupidity for continuing to elect 90% plus of the same 535 people time after time after time. Truly democracy has given us the kind of governance we so richly deserve.


With temperatures creeping up out of the 50s on a regular basis, it seems it’s the time of year when a boy’s thoughts turn to finding just the right accessories for his fancy new Jeep. At least that’s the kind of thing that catches this boy’s attention. I know my priorities can be a little jenky, but I just go with it. It’s easier that way.

To tell you I’m ready to strip off the top, unbolt the doors, and recapture a bit of the olden days is a rank understatement. I’ve been ready to do that pretty much since the day I sold the old Jeep, so it’s been a long time coming. And yes, before anyone asks, in all likelihood I’ll be the dumbass that has to wear a winter coat on the morning commute for the privilege of enjoying open tub driving on those first good warm spring afternoons. Mercifully I’ve never let fear of looking like a dufus stand in the way of doing what I wanted to do.

I was fortunate to get a few of my accessories early as Christmas presents or thanks to post-Christmas sales. I ordered a few more today – including a good set of bolt-on mirrors so I can stay on the right side of Johnny Law here in the Democratic People’s Republic of Maryland. Mostly it’s now a matter of waiting on the arrival of consistent weather to “summerize” my ride for the year.

There are still plenty of bits I want to add… a stereo capable of overpowering the wind noise without distorting everything to hell and back, some secure storage for those times when you can’t avoid leaving things behind, bigger tires and a touch of a lift to make it a proper mall crawler. Like most of my other lists, this one is just about endless… and for once that isn’t a complaint.

Editorial blues…

I’m editing. That is all. As essential as I know it is to putting out a good, readable product, it’s the part that I hate the most. I know it’s at the very center of the creative process, but there’s something about recovering the same ground two, five, a dozen times that, to me, makes it feel like the most non-productive thing I could spend my time doing.

Add to my generalized hatred of editing the fact that at the moment, I’m trying to do it on a beautiful, blue-skyed, spring day and I hope you can start to see why at this very moment, my heart just isn’t in it. Not to take anything away from the work in progress, but on days like this sitting inside and doing the work is damned hard. I know it’s only going to get harder as the weather gets nicer, though. It’s going to get harder right up to the point I realize it’s 93 degrees and I’m sweating my balls off. Then there’s no place I’ll rather be than in front of the air conditioner getting some long overdue work done.

In this part of the country there isn’t always a long time between frozen tundra and baking asphalt. I’m doing my best to keep the momentum up, but I’m giving up all promises not to get distracted for these few weeks while the weather is nice enough to enjoy.


The arrival of spring has created plenty of angst and gnashing of teeth here at Rental Casa de Jeff. The biggest change, of course, is that instead of staying holed up avoiding the sub-zero temperatures of the polar vortex, there’s outdoor maintenance to do. Now, I’d much rather be working in the yard than scrubbing the kitchen, but there’s a problem this year that that I haven’t dealt with before – for the last month, there hasn’t been any real indoor cleaning because pushing the vacuum or bending over with a dust pan sent near-blinding pain rocketing up my back. It’s better now than it was, but bending is still something to be avoided if at all possible. With that said, it basically means the inside of this joint is “grubby” to put it politely.

With the rain and warm weather the past two weeks, the grass and weeds are growing, the shrubbery needs cut back, and the whole yard needs a good going over to get it looking a little less like a foreclosure waiting to happen. Of course, the yard is also a victim of the same problem that plagues the inside – anything that requires me to bend more than 15 degrees off vertical is a fiesta of pain.

I think the compromise is going to be getting the yard cut as best I can with the tractor and trying to hit the most unsightly bits with the weed eater this afternoon. Next week, if the weather holds, I’ll lay down a coating of suppressive fire with weed killer along all the other edges. I hate the idea of things looking less than manicured, but that seems to be the only middle ground between letting the whole damed thing go to seed and well and truly crippling myself getting to 100%. As with all manner of compromise, I find it deeply, deeply unsatisfying.

A simple request…

It was 60 degrees yesterday. I had the windows open taking advantage of a long awaited chance to air the place out – because face it, no matter how often you clean, living with two dogs and a tortoise is going to generate a certain amount of airborne funk no amount of spray cleaners and elbow grease will quite get rid of. Even today, with temperatures in the 40s, it’s a kind reminder than winter can’t maintain it’s grip on the Mid-Altlantic indefinitely.

Then, of course there’s the low rumblings I’ve heard that the cold weather may have a punch or two left in it this year. I’m studiously ignoring every television forecaster and website that’s trying to hype a mid-week winter storm. I don’t care whether it’s a full blown blizzard or just a glancing blow from something hitting New England. It quite simply needs to go away. I’ll be griping and complaining about the heat soon enough, but right now I really just need to feel temperatures in the 60s, hear the weekend hum of lawn equipment, and be able to leave the house in fewer than three layers. I’m a simple man and I don’t think that’s too much to ask from March.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The long slog to summer. Now that we’ve tipped the hat to the father of our country, we start the long, hard march to Memorial Day. For those of you not keeping track, that’s 13 straight weeks without a federally approved long holiday weekend in the mix. It feels like a very, very long time between breaks. Of course I’ll probably throw a few days of my own leave at this problem to keep from having a complete break from reality. That’ll stave off the worst effects, but it clearly no substitute for legitimate long weekends. Others will disagree, but for me, this slog from mid-February to late May is the worst part of the year.

2. CBO Reports. The Congressional Budget Office is the non-partisan doer of research on behalf of the feckless officials we elect to Congress. Their reports are spun by both sides equally, but on balance the reports themselves are as close to fair and balanced as we’re likely to see from any large bureaucratic organization. I forced a laugh when I saw their latest report on the impact of the proposed minimum wage hike. It’s the classic Washington good news, bad news story. The good news is raising minimum wage could lift as many as a million people above the poverty line. The bad news is it could also simultaneously throw as many as half a million people out of work. A report like that gives both sides plenty of ammunition and seems to increase the likelihood that we’ll stay true to form and opt to do nothing at all. Based on the CBO’s report, it seems that a radical increase in the minimum wage is a devil’s bargain at best… great if you keep your job and get your raise, but a spectacularly craptastic deal if you’re one of the 500,000 extraneous employees who are thanked for playing and invited to go on back to the house.

3. Dreaming while you sleep. It’s very rare for me to remember dreams I have once I wake up. Sometimes they’ll stick as a vague recollection, but usually they’re gone by the time my eyes are fully open. Except the one I had last night that featured a former boss of mine. Somehow he showed up in my current office with glowing red eyes, tore up a couple of cubicles and then hurled a potted plant at my head. The odd thing might not be that I remembered this little episode once I woke up, but that it didn’t actually feel very surprising. Make of that what you will.

Fooling myself…

After a day of working in the yard, doing laundry, running errands, and making a passing effort at starting dinner, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that we’ve entered that time of year where some activities are going to have to get thrown over the side. I’ve talked before about some of the unique challenges of being a one man show, but the simple fact is if there isn’t enough time to get to everything, the stuff I don’t particularly like doing is going to be put off indefinitely – I’m looking at you here vacuuming, mopping, and dusting. Frankly, I never much liked you anyway and since you’re in head-to-head competition with working in the yard, you never really stood a chance.

It’s one of those times I wish I wasn’t quite so OCD about things being “just so,” but I’ve pretty much given up on ever letting things slide with being good enough. So what’s really going to happen for the next five months is a cycle of ignoring the interior dust and dirt until I get twitchy, launching an all-day cleaning binge about once a month, and repeating as necessary until the grass stops growing in the fall. Sure, I could hire it out… but then I have to deal with the awkwardness of having strange people wandering around in the house. I’m sure you can guess how anxious I am for that to happen. So in the spirit of spring, here I sit trying my best to ignore every rug that needs vacuumed, every stray bit of dust and dog hair, and don’t even get me started on the wood floors that need mopped.

OK, so I could have probably spot cleaned the kitchen in the time it took me to tap this out, but let’s face it, writing isn’t one of those things that I’m very likely to give up in favor of cleaning now is it?

That special time of year…

It’s the special time of year when the pollen count starts to reach into the stratosphere. I know this because for the last week my eyes have been itchy, I’ve been sneezing my damned fool head off, and the back of my throat has felt like I’ve been playing a game of swallow the razor blade. Between Claritin and ibuprofen, I’m holding it at bay, buy I really do wish it would be a regular case of sick so it could hit, be unpleasant for a few days, and then go the hell away until next time.

Like many of the bad things over the last half decade or so, I mostly blame Memphis. I didn’t have any allergies as an adult until I moved to the south and experienced spring with a new mix of flora and fauna. Apparently while my system learning how to deal with that, it was simultaneously forgetting how to handle the plants of my native land. On the bright side, by June I should be just fine. Super.

Mark that up as reason #6,273 why I never need to leave the Mid-Atlantic ever, ever again.