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I May Have to Quit You, FB

The bloom is definitely off the rose. Damn I am really starting to hate Facebook, rather than merely find it exasperating.

The first couple years I was on it, say 2008 to 2011, it was a pretty fun place to be, believe it or not.  Reconnecting with people you lost track of since high school or college was a rewarding experience.  And seeing what the folks in my home town were up to (since I could only go up there 4 or 5 times a year there myself) made me feel less left out. The feelings of social isolation I had been plagued with for the previous decade ebbed away.

Then it slowly turned sour.

As more and more people joined, my own contributions were ironically less read and commented on – people stopped going to the pages of others, and instead relied exclusively on the “newsfeed”, where my content quickly become buried, submerged in a sea of increasing mediocrity and irrelevance.  Then the ads appeared, and inevitably began taking up more of the screen.  Then there were other things that were not ads per se, but “suggested” posts – still, they were like ads in that they were not created by anyone you knew. Then there was the FB messenger app you needed to get to send/read texts from your phone (in ADDITION to the FB app itself).  Then there is the increasing censorship, which is a matter of record, along with the sinister spying and sifting of our content (remember my post last week about the casino?  I cross-posted the same thing on FB and the next day there were ads for poker games in my feed.)

And then there is just the tiresome cacophony due to simple human banality.  The incessant crap in my newsfeed is currently inescapable:  people “liking” or commenting to other people that I don’t know, will never meet, and don’t give a shit about, photo after photo of kids playing sportsball (“look, that red speck over there is Bobby in right field!”), the “shares” of “inspiring wisdom”, the self-righteous pronouncements, the humble-bragging, fuglies deluding each other by saying how gorgeous everyone is and how everyone’s kids are adorable (when they look like annoying little shits or homely losers to me), the moms talking about how BUSY they are, the passive-aggressive “vaguebooking” hinting at familial/relationship drama, the snarky one-sided political posturing, the repugnant virtue signaling, and so forth.  I genuinely work to be creative and witty, to provide actual CONTENT that my friends might find informative or entertaining. Is it too much to ask others to do the same?

At least half of my time on FB is now spent hiding people, sites and apps I don’t want to see.  I once naively thought that after I blocked like, 2,000 people (friends of friends) and the pointless emanations from 1,000 apps I might finally have a feed where I care about most of the stuff I scroll by, but NO.

Why is it so damn impossible for me to just have a feed that shows what I want it to show, and nothing else? Is that too much to ask?  Would it really be so injurious to FB’s bottom line?

Now we have the latest source of clutter: “Suggested because it’s popular on Facebook”, AKA, a lot of other ignoramuses liked this crap, so surely you will, too!  I resent being constantly prodded to augment some contrived positive feedback loop.  The purpose of Facebook is more or less completely corrupted, its original vision hopelessly compromised.  Only social inertia is keeping this insensible behemoth aloft amidst the swirling maelstrom of the internet.

Stranger in a Strange Land

Last night I was dragged to our local State-sanctioned gambling establishment because one of the Wife's friends was having dinner there for her birthday.  Never been to a casino before - they're not really my "scene."  (Gambling holds absolutely no appeal for me whatsoever.)

After arriving, I decided to conduct a perimeter sweep, which I generally try to do whenever I go somewhere for the first time, just to get the "lay of the land." Here is a photo of the middle of the floor, where there were hints (more pronounced elsewhere) of Art Deco. The picture gives absolutely no indication of the endemic unrelenting cacophony that was saturating my very being.

The second (and LAST) photo was taken just as security caught up with me.

Apparently visitors are not permitted to take pictures (that's a thing in all casinos, I guess?).  Judging from the reaction, one would have thought I was caught spying for Russia, or had just whipped out my member and started urinating on a priceless artwork. Often it seems I am a menace wherever I go...



The spirea japonica finally gets its chance to shine.

Arbeitsfotos VII - I Am Superman Edition

So yesterday I prevented a building from collapsing.

Friday I was summoned out to a jobsite to answer some pressing contractor questions.  It’s the last thing I wanted to do and I really had no time for this, but I didn’t have any choice in the matter and they were encountering conditions we couldn’t have known about that required my input.  It’s a renovation project for a beach house at a nearby state park abutting a major reservoir.  It’s a square building built around 1980 with a roof about 49 feet on each side with large overhanging eaves. These large 4x10 rafters sit on these wooden louvers that then sit on these flimsy unreinforced masonry walls.  As part of the project scope there was a coiling door – like a garage door, about 12’x 12’, that was removed and we were going to fill the opening in with new masonry.  I guess to help knit the new and existing walls together they were demolishing every other masonry unit at the end of the existing wall.  But they seemed to be completely unaware that the roof framing was being held up by a little post made of nailed together 1x4’s – and that this post was only halfway sitting on the wall and half unsupported.  I pointed this out to the coworker that brought me out there and who was responsible for construction management. He winced once he comprehended the situation.  “At least they left this last block up here at the top of the wall,” I said, “otherwise that brick would just peel off, and the post would fall and the lintel and all the framing would come down with it.”  I then snapped a few photos.  Here they are:
Over view of the overall opening.

Close up view of the remaining wall.  See that last 4” thick concrete block near the top?  Like the keystone of an arch, everything depends on it…

So we’re standing inside, speaking with the job superintendent around ten minutes later about something totally unrelated.  Perhaps subconsciously I have positioned us as far from the offending area as possible (I’m paranoid that way).  While we are talking, a worker carries over a ladder, climbs up it, and starts hitting that last block at the top as hard as he can with a hammer. He’s just wailing away on this thing, and the first thought that pops into my head is: “Am I really seeing what I think I’m seeing?  This incredible act of stupidity isn’t actually happening, is it?”  Then a pause.  “Yes, yes it is.  Does anyone else realize how bad this is?  No?  I better say something - now.”  I begin to speak – “hey, your guy there is destroying the only thing holding up the framing over there.  Make him stop.“  I can now actually see cracks appearing in the face of the block.  The superintendent is squinting at the scene; the contrast in light makes it hard to see. “Make him stop. Like right NOW.  HEY!”

The contractor finally gets it. “Knock it off!  Stop right now!  Come back down the ladder!”  The worker complies.  He sighs heavily and closes his eyes for a second. “Everyone take five – get off the site.”

I tell him he needs to shore that lintel ASAP; I don’t know how long it will last in its current condition.  He agrees, although he never thanks me.  In fact, by the end of our meeting he was pretty much being a dick. But my coworker regarded me with wonderment. “That was some real superman shit you did back there,” he said approvingly as we drove away.

Typically I never go to construction sites.  They are either too far away, or there isn’t the budget for me to go, or I’m just too busy.  But if I hadn’t been there, on that day, and furthermore looking at that worker at that moment in time, I have no doubt that a sizeable portion of the roof would have fallen in and that at least one person would be gravely injured (or possibly killed).  The building would probably not even be worth repairing at that point.

I returned that afternoon to the office.  I feel edgy and restless, I have this need to tell someone, and to have them get it. I eventually corner our division head and coerce him into listening to me.  I think he maybe initially thought I was exaggerating but once I showed him the photos and he put together in his head how everything was arranged, his face turned bright red and his eyes got real big.  This was a great relief to me somehow…perhaps a variation on the adage “misery loves company”?

The Streak Is Broken

I did not do ANY work yesterday, so the streak is broken at last. I am back in the office today, however, often catching myself wistfully gazing out the window at the herd of puffy clouds ambling low across the sky.... I did finally made time to go to my favorite nursery though, where I bought a climbing rose for the arbor in my front yard (which now has plentiful sunshine, since I had the maple tree cut down last fall).  I've never had roses before - sure, they grow around here, but they always seem fussy and my older brother, who is quite the gardener, always inveighs against them and tries to discourage me from including them in my yard.  Still, I've always wanted a climbing rose, trained to grow up a trellis or fence - it just adds the perfect "cottagy" touch. 'Twould be the piece de resistance.

Naturally, planting it was more difficult than I had envisioned.  One would think a 245 pound man jumping on a sharp garden spade would supply sufficient force to dig a hole, but when tree roots the thickness of your wrists are involved, then one would be sorely mistaken.  So out came all manner of implements, including a hatchet and axe.  Soon I was sweating profusely despite the  50 degree temperature.  Using an axe instead of a shovel is rough going - the posture for chopping is wrong and I had to be very careful not to hit the arbor, which was pretty well fixed in its location.  Plus somewhere down there is a pipe that conveys the water from the downspout to the curb, so I didn't want to destroy that by mistake.   The exertions were strenuous, probably proving that I am rather out of shape.  I ceased hostilities after an hour, having gotten to a depth of only 7 inches!  I don't want to say that I failed - just that I have not yet succeeded.  This isn't over!

Under the Gun

I have been meaning to post a quick update for a few weeks now, and it just hasn’t happened.  The last 5 weeks I have been more busy at work than at any point in the last DECADE. I am looking at the calendar and a quick tally tells me that I have now worked for the last 20 days in a row – and I am looking at another 6 or 7 added to that before the streak is broken.  Somehow I am juggling all these balls, serving multiple masters - and satisfying none of them.

It’s insane how fast I am working, and all the corners I am cutting.  Items I would normally check I am just looking at them for one or two judicious moments and then going, “yeah, that’ll probably work”, which I suppose constitutes the renowned “engineering judgement”.

Last week I woke up in a panic at four in the morning. Spent 45 minutes trying to get back to sleep and failed, so I concentrated on merely slowly down and managing my breathing, which I was moderately successful at.

After prolonged lobbying over the last year we got approval to hire an additional drafter, as it has taken up to six weeks for my CAD word to be done, which is totally ridiculous.  Unfortunately I have been asked to assist with the hiring process, because….all of a sudden I’m management or something? No, that’s not it!  I have to look through resumes and make recommendations, attend all the interviews and fill out “applicant rating forms” afterwards.  Like I have time for THAT.  The irony is, by the time the person is hired, all three of my projects will be concluded and I won’t have any work for the new hire!

I have asked for help repeatedly, but the “help” being given is spotty.   Here’s a representative example: so I go to my supervisor and say “here’s a task someone can do: I have three buildings of similar size and construction and I need lintels designed for all the window, door and louver openings. Should be about two day’s work.” So he sends me a guy on Friday, a week before the next submittal is due; I have a meeting with him for an hour and explain everything I need done and how to do it, he goes away and an hour later he comes back and says, “Oh, I forgot to tell you – I am going on vacation and will be gone all next week, but I’ll get as much done today as I can.”  WTF??!  Fourteen people in our group and you send me the one going on vacation?  So I ended up with a task half done, which makes it real hard to give to someone else. And my submittal went out without any lintels being shown on the plans, because I just didn’t have the fucking time to do it.

I am beginning to resent the circumstances in which I find myself.  Aside from October, this is my favorite time of year, and the closest I came to being outdoors is making the time to cut the grass once a week – which is what I am going to do now.  The last two weekends I have wanted to go to a nursery and by a single climbing rose for the arbor that straddles the front walk - but I can't take the couple hours to do even that. Sad.

Through a Child's Eyes

There's a FB site I follow that posts photos from the past of my home town, where various residents (and many more ex-residents) take the opportunity to comment and wax nostalgic for presumably better times.  I am not immune from this but have always been inclined to take a stroll down Memory Lane, as they say.

Here is a photo of some derelict entry gates at an intersection near the edge of town.  They were demolished some years ago when the roads were widened - a common and occasionally controversial practice there.  Maybe six lanes will be enough this time.

As a child, whenever we drove by these mysterious pylons (which wasn't too often) my imagination would run wild, conjuring up notions of lost cities, haunted ruins, an overgrown estate of a Spanish conquistador, grandoise schemes of thwarted would-be robber barons and the like. Somehow I could never convince my mom to pull the car over so that I could clamber out and venture deep into those woods so that I could uncover whatever secrets they doubtlessly concealed.  The world held so much magic for me back then; or perhaps my yearning for history, legend and myth was so strong that I felt compelled to fill in the mundane spaces of daily life with high-flying fancy, much like Nathaniel Hawthorne, who often lamented America's newness.

Back then the abandoned state of these structures was such a tantalizing puzzle - who owned them?  Perhaps they were ownerless? What were they for?  Did some great tragedy transpire to suppress the mark of man from this land, leaving only these remnants as a half-forgotten cautionary tale? Years later I found out that a developer in the 1920's had intended to build a housing development there, had purchased the land and built them at the intended entrance to the development.  But the Great Depression had put a definitive halt to his plans.  Further up the road on the left I believe there remains the house he initially built for himself, a rambling Spanish-style affair with the same buff stucco, red clay tiles and wrought iron of the pictured gates, which was decidedly exotic in northern Ohio.   If his house was any indication, the realized dream of the nameless fellow would have been all the more picturesque for its strangeness - as if a slice of Old California had been uprooted, whisked over the Rockies and Great Plains and settled at last in the humble soil of the Midwest, a sort of reverse of Dorthy Gale's Oklahoma farmhouse.  It would have been grand, I think.

Arbeitsfotos VI (Ladder Edition)

I don't really have a problem with heights.  I have stood at the apex of an unfinished 11 story building near the edge of the roof with only a loose rope to prevent me from pitching overboard and been perfectly unperturbed.   There's something about ladders, though, that I dislike.  Though often unquestionably necessary, I can't shake a deep aversion to using them - in particular the portable extension ladders that you have no choice but to place in uneven soil with no way to tie them off securely...

Anyway, here are some recent ladder configurations I've been forced to use while conducting an inspection.

This is the first time I've ever brought a ladder on site that was TOO LONG!  This rec center has a walk-out basement, and I needed to inspect the rust damage to the steel framing above - and the only way to do it was to arrange for the ladder to go through the open door to the inside, where it rested at quite the acute angle to the concrete floor.  My assistant had to brace the bottom with his weight so the ladder didn't just slide off and crash back onto the ground, and there was barely enough clearance to squeeze beneath the top of the door, but in the end, it worked.  The only negative consequence was the sweat of dread that soaked me afterwards.

Here we have an owner's solution to getting access to a roof: a warped, failing flimsy aluminum ladder and a sloppily welded steel ladder, both being supported by a crumbling, mostly demolished thin slab that cantilevers past a wall, that serves as a crude landing and could give way at any time.  But that's the thing about government entities: they totally get to flout the codes and safety regulations that the rest of us peasants have to scrupulously adhere to (or face heavy fines).  Safety first (Not)!!


Conference Call

In less than an hour my "Outlook Calendar" informs me I have to participate in a conference call with my supervisor and three project managers about the "best way to use my time" over the next few months, since one of them just agreed to give his client an early foundation and structural package, effectively depriving me of 4 to 6 weeks of time I desperately needed to complete the project (or indeed, actually get serious about designing it).  These f**kers have been vacillating and dicking around with major design decisions for three months at the front end, and now are compressing the schedule on the back end!

Part of me thinks this exercise is somewhat degrading, having these managerial types negotiate over the allocation of my labor ("we can't have him picking cotton when the tobacco harvest is right around the corner!").  Another part of me is amused at this demonstration of how valuable a commodity I am.  I don't think this happens with other employees at my firm.

Ascribing Depth to Sadness

If we are happy we don't adapt, because we feel no need.  We don't improve, and I'm never arrogant enough to believe I am at the pinnacle of my development; in short, there is always room for betterment.  Sadness sends us on a quest: to understand, to adjust, to recalibrate ourselves as we interact with others and our environment, as we grapple with our illusions and expectations of Life, and the wretched circumstances that have led to our discontent.

When I was younger I considered the act of suffering to have a certain nobility, a condition that, while inevitable, was also akin to a forge where impurities could be purged and from which would emerge a tempered man replete with sagacity and grace. There were opportunities to be had, if one was sufficiently resolute to take advantage of them. Probably read too much Herman Hesse back then.

In effect, suffering was an opportunity to build character, and my love of Norse (and Greek) mythology meant that I romanticized struggle - the doomed hero nonetheless striving to overcome what the Fates had decreed, however in vain his efforts might be. The defiant fist held aloft to the heavens one last time as everything comes crashing to an end... Since just about everything was purposeless, the struggle itself, and the suffering endured while it persisted, became almost a desirable end in and of itself. And I took a certain grim satisfaction from that fatalistic outlook.

With time, that outlook has subsided in prevalence.  I no longer regard pain and sadness as superior (i.e., more "worthwhile") to happiness.  I want an easier, more comfortable, angst-free existence and also am more willing to "go along to get along" - provided no ethical lines are crossed.  Perhaps I've grown soft, or become dulled and too worn with overuse to supply the intense caring required to maintain the Weltanschauung of the more youthful me.  On the other hand, a more balanced perspective could be yielding unto me the equanimity that previously proved so elusive.