What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Squeakers. The level of noise in my house is probably more subdued than most. There aren’t kids screeching or multiple adults knocking around. The television or a webcast is usually running in the background just to provide some ambient sound. Maybe that’s why the sudden onset of every imaginable style of squeaky toy for dogs has left me slightly twitchy. Even with that said, I’m prepared to declare that dog toys with squeakers in them are absolutely tools of the devil, conceived in Hell itself and delivered by Amazon. If they can make whistles that only dogs can hear why can’t they rig toys to squeak in the same range? If feels like a wholly undeserved slice of the large and growing pet toy market.

2. Home Depot. Amazon has me trained, I suppose. I put in an order and two days later it ends up on my porch. Home Depot has a lot to learn from that model. I ordered something last Friday and it’s still sitting at the “order received.” A call to their customer service line gave me the stock answer that items usually ship in between 7 and 10 business days. I did, however, arrive home to find the item sitting on my front porch… even while a day later the tracking still says it’s just an “order received.” Hey, I’m happy to have it so I can get it installed over the weekend, but how the actual fuck is that an acceptable model of fulfillment in the internet age?

3. Lighting. I’ve gotten on board with some aspects of an automated home. I love my Nest thermostat. I love my security system – and it’s various environmental sensors that keep an eye out for smoke, carbon monoxide, and unexpected water in the basement. I’ve toe touched into the broader world of automated lighting – mostly using individual programmable switches and timers for various outlets and fixtures. It’s a system that works well enough given my somewhat fanatical adherence to routine. Still, there are some things I’d like to automate that are a little more involved and others I’d like to have a finer level of remote control over. This has led me down a deep and growing rabbit hole of home automation tools and systems… and into a growing awareness that doing what I want to do is going to be a not inexpensive effort. There’s more than a small part of me that wonders if the old mode of “flip switch, light turns on” isn’t really good enough. Of course then there’s the other, larger part that wants to exert detailed control over my environment that’s almost surely going to win the day. In this case, I suspect lighting is just the catalyst for a much larger and deep rooted annoyance.

Overthinking childhood, or Body by Barbie…

I noted with passing interest last week that apparently now Barbie will come in many shapes, colors, and flavors. That’s well and good, I suppose. What Mattel does with their flagship product is really of very little interest to me personally aside from the fact that the “news” report of this “dramatic change to a beloved toy” triggered a bit of a wander down memory lane.

Growing up as a boy in the early 1980s, I didn’t play with dolls, but I did play with an inordinate number of what some marketing executive cleverly labeled “action figures.” For their diminutive size, my GI Joes were all basically caricatures of Charles Atlas. Sure their plastic molded hair and facial features were all a bit different, but there they were, these 4-inch tall super men with their outsized biceps and chiseled good looks. I had a shoebox full of the things and yet somehow even as a child it didn’t occur to me that in order to be a successful adult that I’d need to look like a damned GI Joe.

Maybe it was a function of the time in which we lived, but I don’t remember spending any part of my childhood enamored with the cult of body image. It simply didn’t matter that my toys didn’t look much like me – or much like anyone else for that matter – because, well, they were toys. We played with them without benefit of (or need for) deep psychological consultation and analysis. The fact that it’s even a discussion today leads me to wonder if it’s the kids who are troubled by their toys or if they’re just reflecting back the fear and loathing of their parents own insecurities.

To listen to the media, we live in an age that’s apparently driven by body image. The modern man, right along with his female counterpart, is even beset by eating disorders and longing to cut just that one more pound to be “perfect.” I seem to have missed the boat on that. As a kid it just wasn’t something I thought about. As an adult I’d frankly rather be fat and happy than thin and miserable.

We were a generation of kids who were allowed/encouraged to play with pointy sticks and rocks and we all (mostly) turned out to be reasonably self-assured and productive members of society. I’m not a fancy big city psychiatrist and I’m certainly not a brilliant advertising executive, but it feels a bit like maybe we’re overthinking this whole childhood thing just a little. Fortunately I get to leave that fight for others and focus on the important things bulldog skin conditions and the endless pursuit of a better dog food.


I grew up in a generation that still played with toys rather than electronics. For a large part of my childhood, my toys of choice were cars. Matchbox, Hotwheels, Micro Machines, you name a brand of toy car in the early to mid-1980s and I probably had it. Come to think of it, I probably still have most of them packed away somewhere. While matchbox cars made great toys, what they don’t make is great transportation for a full grown human man.

How do I know this to be a universal truism? Well, for the last two mornings, I’ve jammed my 6’2”, 300# frame into a Hyundai Elantra. Since I’m use to driving the automotive equivalent of an aircraft carrier, I feels a little disingenuous to proclaim my powder blue rental the worst car in all of human history. I’m sure for those who are more slight of build and a foot shorter they’re probably just fine. Sadly, all I see is what it’s lacking; minor things like power, and handling, and storage, and a driver’s seat that doesn’t feel like sheet steel. It does, however, have satellite radio, came iPhone ready, and doesn’t swallow a quarter tank of gasoline in a day’s commute, so I’ll give credit where it’s due.

But even with those good points, it’s basically a matchbox car… and I can’t wait to get out of it. Or maybe I just can’t wait to get my Tundra back in the driveway where it belongs. I can already feel the neighborhood judging me because of the adult go-cart sitting out front and I’d like to get this dark chapter behind me as quickly as possible.

I learned it from watching you…

If the story I just saw run across the local news channel is to be believed, apparently one of the most insidious challenges facing young girls this year will be a new Barbie doll that has *gasp* tattoos. Apparently this 7 inch tall bit of plastic is causing an uproar among parents who have nothing better to do with their day than complain about plastic dolls. If you’re worried about her dolly turning your little princess into a pink haired, spike heel wearing skank, here’s some advice from kindly Uncle Jeff: don’t buy your kid the $50 doll with the tattoos. It really is that easy. I mean it’s not like the toy companies are part of an international conspiracy to lure your children into the clutches of the world’s tattoo artists. Or are they?

Take it from me, mom and dad, no amount of parental fretting over tattoos are going to keep your little darling from getting one once they’ve decided to do it. And I’m pretty comfortable in saying they won’t be doing it because of a doll they saw when they were five years old. If they’re like just about every other 18 year old with fresh ink, they’re doing it because they know it will make you crazy. So here’s a thought… try not making such a big deal out of the little stuff and maybe you can head off the worst of that teenaged rebellious streak you’re doing your best to create.