Friday, June 30, 2006

Worms for Dinner

Home, and Hornsby's, on a Friday afternoon, after skipping out on work (ssssh!) fifteen minutes early... what could be nicer?

Well, for one I could really do without this PMS, and I figured, what the hell, I'll write about it. Maybe it'll get some things off my chest without making nasty snipes at people.

It's a weird thing. In Corpus I was abjectly miserable and yet never had PMS to speak of; or perhaps it was just as much of a bitch then, but didn't stand out from my overall condition enough to be noticeable.

Still it's strange here. I've been, obviously, really happy. I have an easy and completely undemanding job, I have a fun group of work friends who seem to really like me (that's just because they don't know you well enough yet, whispers the PMS), I am in Austin. I love Austin.

But it's more than that. My whole social position in life seems to have drastically shifted. I think it's because I'm among young, fun-loving, friendly people; also because my time in a marketing company (much as I hated the work) kind of forced me out of my shell; my personality kind of changed up when Mom died; and then since escaping the miserable situation in Corpus I've been, well, triumphant really, absolutely glowingly joyful. Every day has been an "on" day. The practical upshot of all this is that, for the first time in my life, I seem to be one of the popular kids.

Enter PMS! You can't play so unaccustomed a role without harboring a niggling feeling that you just don't deserve this. You don't deserve to prosper, says my little inner voice to myself. You don't deserve to be liked. You're a phony; you're not really that smart, not really that attractive, not really that funny. You do not deserve happiness. It was never meant for the likes of your sorry ass.

It is, as I said last night, absolutely eating my lunch. I am feeling unlovely and unlovable, petulant, whiny, underhanded, nasty, snippy, stupid, useless, self-loathing. And I can't seem to get a grip on my behavior. I snapped at one coworker today and made a spiteful dig at another. Everything anyone says to me, every action, is taken in the worst possible light. And I'm weepy! Ugh! Yuck! I don't want to be like this!

Thank God for long holiday weekends. Maybe I'll be a normal human being (relatively speaking) by Wednesday, and maybe I'll come back and delete this before anybody actually reads it. But this month is much worse than the last, which was worse than the one before. I'm perfectly fine most of the time! Why can't I handle this??

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Gag Reflex

Tonight, I'm afraid I'll have to ask you to take my word for it that I have all kinds of insightful, touching, and hilarious things to say on the following topics:

1. Friendship
2. Work
3. Living in Austin
4. The fact that my 5-year-old is currently playing Sims naked
5. The fact that my 13-year-old just very kindly gave me a foot massage
6. Despite #5, the fact that PMS is currently kicking my ass and taking my name, eating my lunch, knocking my hat off and kicking it away when I bend over to pick it up. And I don't even wear a hat.

You'll have to use your imagination. I just don't really have it in me right now.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

By Popular Request

Here it is. Can we have a round of applause for my model, who wishes to remain anonymous? She had a few reservations about appearing in this outfit.

I have to confess, I've never seen it actually on an actual person. It's as unflattering as it is tasteless! I'm now convinced that it was not made by the woman I got it from. I think it was made by her archnemesis.

I just wish my digital camera were better. The suit is so much more vibrant than it appears in the photo.

Edited to add: Thanks B.R. for fixing up the photo to bring out the colors! I'm sure everyone else reading this is just super grateful, too, and will tell you so as soon as they get done scouring their corneas with steel wool.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Fashion (Beep Beep)

Several years ago, a woman I worked with cleaned out her closet and filled her car trunk with things for Goodwill. Many of the items were brand new, and several were quite expensive - she was an older woman, and fairly well-to-do. Before she dropped the whole trunkload off, she invited her coworkers down to the parking lot to go through the clothes and pick out anything that caught their eye.

Well, her taste and mine did not, unsurprisingly, coincide in any particular. She was older, of the moneyed-socialite-matronly type, and I am - hell, I probably don't have to tell my readers what I am. I was a lot younger then, too.

But there was something in her trunk I absolutely had to have.

I have never worn it. It's not the sort of thing I think any sane human being would possibly wear (not that I have any business laying claim to sanity). But oh. Oh. It is a thing of beauty and a joy forever.

The outfit was apparently meant to be worn while traveling. The cotton print top features an exuberantly-, perhaps even aggressively-, colored print of swimsuits and suitcases, binoculars and cameras, tennis rackets and beach towels on a bright royal blue background. The cuffs and lapels are taxicab yellow with bright blue, green and red pinstripes. No detail was neglected: the buttons are tiny brass steering wheels.

The matching trousers are the same shade of royal blue as the top, with the same brilliantly-colored pinstripes as the cuffs and lapels of the top.

But the most uplifting, heartbreaking, maddening, breathtaking thing about this outfit is that, flawlessly made as it is, it has no label, no serging, no industrial machine finishing whatsoever. This was sold in no store. Someone made this. Perhaps the woman from whom I got it; or perhaps it was lovingly gifted to her by someone else - a person of infinite patience and skill, a person who wouldn't know good taste if it walked up to her, said "Hey baby, I'm David Bowie" and stuck its tongue down her throat.

Robbie wants me to wear it to work. I hope you will all understand that I can't. I feel it would be disrespectful to the sacred spirit of the suit.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

One Stupid Cat

My cat Peachy has taken to sleeping under the bed in order to avoid harrassment from Anna, who loves her. A lot.

I got a picture of her in her little hiding spot earlier today, and thought I'd share. Isn't she a cutie? Look carefully - she's a little hard to spot.

Hey Baby

Last night I went to a party at a friend of Margie's in San Marcos. I wish I'd brought Katie and Anna (Eric's at his grandma's for the weekend) - they really would have had a lot of fun. There were a lot of kids there. And babies.

Babies are fairly appealing creatures in my book, although I don't tend to get all gooey over them (except of course my own, but that's different). But last night I met a baby who I thought was pretty much the embodiment of everything a baby should be - except that she was wearing a disposable diaper. Yuck! But otherwise, perfect.

She was tiny, but walking well. Her mom said the baby was almost 13 months old. None of mine walked that early - and Anna at 13 months was probably about half again as big, too - so I'm not really used to seeing extremely small people zooming about in an upright position. I had sat down on the grass, watching my sister & Grady playing on his backyard stage (he has the coolest house ever), when I felt a tiny hand on my shoulder and found myself face to face with this adorable little creature smiling shyly at me. So I smiled back, and talked to her for a minute, and she toddled off to explore something else.

Then a few moments later I looked up to see her, beaming at me, arms outstretched, barrelling towards me at a high rate of speed. I didn't have time to move my wineglass out of the way, so she knocked it into my lap and landed on top of it, giggling. I've never enjoyed having wine spilled on me so much before.

For the next fifteen minutes or so she kept doing this: she'd wander off, then dive-bomb me from several feet away, landing in my lap, putting her head down on my shoulder, hugging me, giving me little baby kisses. I was completely besotted.

She was a pretty fearless and inquisitive little creature, wandering around the house and backyard freely, though when she saw the chickens on stage (it was the kind of party where fat happy chickens have the run of the place - you know, one of those) she got a little nervous. Those chickens were about as big as she was. Still, her mom remarked that it wasn't like her to be quite as affectionate with strangers as she was being with me, so I was terribly flattered. Then again, the baby's a nursling, and I was wearing a very low-cut top; so I probably looked something like Thanksgiving dinner from her perspective.

Later, when I was in the kitchen pouring myself another glass of wine, some fellow partygoers complimented me on her. "Your baby is so cute," they said.

"That is not my baby," I replied.

"Oh - are you a relative, a friend of the family?" they asked me.

"I swear, I've never seen that baby before in my life."

And there was plenty of live music, and some interesting conversations, and a friendly orange cat, and a powdered miniature doughnut fight (those things make excellent ammo, but I don't recommend eating them), and a couple of turns on stage singing with Margie and Lauren, but the baby was definitely the highlight of the evening. She had arrived in a bike trailer pulled by her mom; shortly before I left I saw the little one sacked out, sleeping soundly in her little cart. "And she's portable, too!" I said to Margie.

My babies are still sleeping, the lazy bums. I should go wake them up, perhaps by lobbing doughnuts at them.


Today I am sitting at my desk with, as usual, perhaps not quite as much work to occupy me as I might like, when my telephone rings (which never happens). It is our section director. "We're having a corporate consultant come in to give a couple of classes next month!" she exclaims brightly. "We have time management and stress management. Are you interested in signing up for one of these?"

I freeze. Is this some kind of a trap? "Um, I guess I'd like to sign up for time management," I reply timidly. "I'm not actually particularly stressed."

"Yeah, it's not a terribly stressful work environment," she says. "I'll go ahead and sign you up for time management. Byeeeee!"

Later she makes the rounds to get enrollments, in person, from everyone she wasn't able to reach on the phone, including my cube neighbor A. After talking to A. she pops her head into my cube. And for perhaps the first time, I see my workspace from a managerial perspective,

Outside my cubicle is a whiteboard with the "word for the day" (echolalia) and a drawing and written description of a peach tree being plowed down by a bulldozer. Inside it's more lively. Among an embarrassment of knick-knacks, I have a ninja-painted, duck-topped jewelry box, a photo of myself and two female former coworkers draped provocatively over Omar, and a great deal of my own and others' doodle art. There's a sticky note on my computer monitor that says "Laggard." Robbie has given me a lot of magazine clip-art, as well as a floating head he clipped from a poster honoring someone's retirement. The retiree is making an "ok" sign with her fingers and chowing down on something from a Johnny Romano's ad, provided by Jason. My cabinet is covered with magnetic letters from Justin, in which Robbie has helpfully spelled out the word "Biatch."

The section director glances briefly around my cube, says "Oh, Elizabeth. I already got you," and bustles off.

I got your non-stressful work environment right here, biATCH!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Getting Out Alive

You know that highly formulaic device at the end of movies where the good guys have defeated the bad guys and now all that's left is a race to escape as the fortress of evil collapses perilously around them?

It just occurred to me that's what my old employer is like - at least from my perspective, having gotten away intact. It probably appears somewhat differently to the people who are still there, many of whom lead an existence that doesn't center entirely around me, and a few of whom may not even know who I am.

What a bunch of losers.

But that's not what my current job is like, so I'm really bummed that a second member of our ultra-cool break group gave his notice today. This better not be a trend. But I've noticed a faint tang of dissatisfaction in the air lately. Apparently some people feel that numerous, extended breaks don't constitute everything they'd hoped for from a career. It's equally obvious that these deranged people are in entirely the wrong line of work.

It's also obvious that at this rate, we're in danger of running out of fun people to go on break with, and that will never do. I'd have to get a real job, or perhaps take up supervillainy. Too bad they don't build fortresses of evil like they used to.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Sociopathic Mental Noise

"Why on earth," I thought suddenly and clearly to myself, while lying down half-dozing after work, "would anyone want lettuce for breakfast?"

Remind me to cover my head with aluminum foil before napping.

This odd thought popped into the midst of somewhat more rational ponderings on the fragility of human feelings, a topic brought up by a minor incident at work this afternoon. Have you ever noticed how predictable people are? It takes longer to pick up on the patterns in some people's behavior than others' - some people are fairly open; some we can relate to more closely than others; sometimes we have personal reasons to resist acknowledging what motivates someone else, which can throw off our judgment - but people are usually not too surprising overall.

Not in retrospect, anyway.

You also start to notice, as you get older (and I am speaking with the voice of Miss Marple here, so you have to imagine me patting your hand, calling you "sonny," and offering you a nice cup of tea) that there are broad categories of behavioral patterns that most people fall into. In other words, with of course a reasonable degree of individual variation, you run into the same people again, and again, and again. I have one coworker I have a really hard time not addressing as "Louis" because he reminds me so intensely of someone else I once knew.*

I think most of us like to feel we have a very private and sacrosanct core, something deep within that no one else can understand unless we privilege them with a closer look. But none of us really does, except in the general sense that the universe does not center around us, so everybody else isn't constantly analyzing our behavior and trying to figure out what makes us tick.** But essentially, we're all pretty transparent (unless of course we're barking mad and nobody can figure us out because we're so random). Still, I really think one of the most heartless things one person can do to another is make it clear that they genuinely understand them. It's the ultimate violation of personal space.

So you tiptoe around the people you know; but the better you know them, the more you get to drop the pretenses and acknowledge the uncomfortable intimacy of understanding, which is okay because you operate on a mutually-assured-destruction clause of shared vulnerability. I think this is a fairly automatic social behavior; like language, it's innate, and most people have learned how to avoid giving offense, how to get along smoothly in society from a fairly early age,*** without necessarily having to be able to quantify what you are doing.

I could go on and on (do ya think?!) but this post can probably be summed up in three points:
1. I'm really anxious to be considered one of the smart kids;
2. Still I will lament being surrounded by men who are only interested in me for my mind;
3. None of this really means anything. I personally am completely befuddled by my lack of abililty to relate to others and by my own wishes and fears, not to mention lettuce-eating alien space rays.

*His name was "Louis."
**Except for me.
***Government employees excepted, apparently.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Phantom Unmasked

"I think when you guys get back to the office, you need to look up the word 'Phantom,'" remarked a coworker at break today. "I don't think you actually know what that word means."

It turns out nobody was much surprised by Robbie's revelation of the identity of the Phantom Pharter. As apparently everybody besides Robbie and me already knows, this guy is the official department ass-ripper (every workplace has one!), and several of our break group had amusing or cautionary tales to tell about encounters with him. This lessens Robbie's triumph considerably.

As for me, I sashayed myself, post haste, to the kitchen to photograph the new sponge some blessed anonymous benefactor had brought; but I arrived to see the Phantom in place by the sink, leaning over, his back to me.

I backed out slowly, as quietly as I could.

Later I returned and was able to capture this image of our new bounty.

Ain't it purty? Can't you just smell the, um, detergent?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Back from Downtown (WAY the hell TMI)

Over the last several months, I've handed out the URL for my blog to many coworkers. Don't get me wrong! Every last one of them is really cool; I wouldn't give my blog out to some loser. Still, in the past I've been accustomed to posting somewhat personal stuff - in a humorous vein, of course - safe in the knowledge that only my parents, Omar, a few snopesters, and random Internet perverts would read it.

This has changed.

I just want to blog about the stuff that goes on in my day-to-day existence and not have to worry about getting slapped with a sexual harassment complaint. Deal? Read on, then (or don't!).

So I bit the bullet and went to my OB/GYN appointment today. Glory be! I still have a working hoo-hah. This is a relief. Moreover, I'm pleased to announce that my IUD has not slipped loose and ended up lodged in my tonsils; and we'll all be happy to know that the girls upstairs are free of any suspicious lumps. "Nah, they feel great," Buzz says.

Damn straight! Unfortunately, I have to go get a mammogram anyway. Shit.

Still, for a doctor's visit it was quite warm and fuzzy, if you'll pardon the expression. I haven't been there in five years - actually my last visit was my six-week postpartum after Anna was born. Well, Ros, the nurse, comes to the waiting room to call me in and says, "Hey there, long time no see! Where have you been?"

"I've been to hell and back," say I.

"Do you hear that, Buzz?" says Ros. "Elizabeth's been in hell!"

"Well, Corpus Christi," I add, for clarification; and I'm so gratified when Buzz says, "Corpus Crispy?" because that's what I always liked to call the residents! (Corpus Crispies, that is, or else Corpuscles. They themselves prefer to be called Corpus Christians. What a bunch of wankers.)

Dr. B chided me humorously for not keeping up with my appointments (I never went, in Corpus), was really sorry to hear of the loss of my mother, stressed the importance of keeping a close watch on the time-bombs I'm carrying around under my dress, and hugged me goodbye when I left. I've been going to him for about thirteen and a half years now, minus the 5-year-gap, so I'm so glad to be back, and genuinely touched to be remembered, missed, and welcomed.

Next I need to make the appointment for a mammogram; and if anyone's wondering, my arm will probably not take a whole lot of twisting to make me skip it. ("Barton Springs? I can't because I have this appWhat time should I be there?") So I'll be sure to post when it is. Meanwhile, hopefully my warning above will have frightened off any particularly sensitive cow orkers; and I'll report back on how many visits I get from people googling on "TMI," "hoo-hah," "IUD," "OB/GYN," and all the other wildly sexy metas I've embedded in this post.

I know what boys like.

Oh My God the Pain

You know, I'm all for spending the whole day in bed with something wicked. But a headache? What was I thinking?

I think I had my very first migraine yesterday. How unpleasant. Remind me not to do that again.

My very first boyfriend in high school, we'll call him Paul*, had a headache. It was a real doozy, too. He had it the whole time we were dating (and also, lest the peanut gallery get any crazy ideas, before we ever met). It was a regular topic of conversation between us. He'd describe the horrible throbbing pain and I'd make sympathetic noises and stroke his temples and timidly suggest that he might want to see a doctor about it. Years later, when I bumped into him at my 10-year high school reunion, I couldn't help noticing that he had not died of a brain tumor. I think he might have been faking.

Well, it's Emancipation Day, so I'm off from work (ha ha, suckaz!) and get to make up for the Sunday I lost - cleaning house, doing laundry, and going to the doctor who is going to do terrible awful horrible things to me. I'm still thinking of putting that one off... not today, Buzz, I have a headache.

*Because that was his name.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Ask a Silly Question

With whom does one go to see I Love My Dead Gay Son: The Musical! stage adaptation of the film Heathers?

With one's good friend Heather, of course. Duhhh!

It was great fun; very silly, over-the-top, energetic, and much, much, much raunchier than the original. Also substantially gayer. The two things that struck me most about the production were the fact that the title song had a kick line AND jazz hands (sweet!) and, on a more sinister note, the chief Heather character looked, sounded, and acted exactly like Tiffany, the president of my former employer.


(Why it never occurred to anyone to lace Tiffany's Diet Dr. Pepper with Drano, I'm not quite sure; on the other hand, maybe people have been doing it for years and she's just built up a tolerance for it.)

I highly recommend the show, running through July 1; especially if you like the movie but never felt it was quite twisted enough. (And Wynona Ryder is pretty annoying.)

So next, I have a very tempting offer to spend Emancipation Day at Barton Springs. On the one hand, I'd have to blow off my appointment with Buzz, whom I haven't seen in five years. On the other hand, that bastard's sure to schedule me for a mammogram.

Should I just go swimming?

Organized Cri^H^H^H Religion

It's hard to listen to, say, Brahms' "Ein Deutsches Requiem" and feel that religion is all bad.

This piece has particular meaning for me; Brahms wrote it upon his mother's death, and it expresses a lot of the emotions I've experienced on losing my mom, from despair to anger to defiance to wistfulness and at least a partial resignation; all with a haunting, dreamy quality. It's completely, achingly beautiful. I was in the Austin Civic Chorus when we performed this piece several years ago, before Mom died, and even then I had a hard time getting through parts of it without choking up.

I've been puzzling over all the beautiful and transcendent and good things that people have done while inspired by religion and wondering what it is, exactly, that's so powerful and compelling about it. And of course, for all the art and music and good works that have come out of religion, there are also the worst crimes against humanity: war, persecution, intolerance; the destruction of competing religions' cultural and historical artifacts and the revisionism of our own history; and such annoyances as not being able to go to the damn store anywhere near midwinter without being accosted by Salvation Army workers in cheap-ass Santa suits.

Which also brings up the point that "good works" are relative; and in the Church's case, often self-referential. My in-laws are devout Catholics who devote a great deal of time, energy, and money to their church. But most of the efforts in which they are involved seem to entail recruiting more members so that the church can get still more money and more workers and expand its influence.

And of course the goodness of the other "good works" in which they are involved is highly questionable: making sure that expectant mothers can't wantonly go around aborting their unborn babies on a whim (as they are so wont to do); protecting marriage by denying its sanction to committed couples if their sexual orientation happens to squick out bigots; defending religion against those who attack it just by trying not to let its practitioners shove it down everybody else's throats.

Even a culturally embraced icon of "goodness" like Mother Teresa is a pretty grim figure if you realize that she campaigned vigorously against the use of birth control among the poor and diseased people whose deaths she considered it her mission to ease, not to prevent. Suffering is beautiful in the eyes of the Lord.

I lead a privileged and comfortable life: I get to take it pretty much for granted that I and my children will live to die of old age; I barely have to work at all to support my family in comfort; I never have to worry about where the next meal is coming from; my life is filled to brimming with luxuries, so it's easy to sit here and contemplate what's wrong with the world and wonder why people need something like religion to take solace in. I can understand the appeal of believing that this world isn't all there is, and that we'll someday be reunited with the loved ones we've lost; but I can't understand being able to base what you believe on what you want to be true. I know that the fact that the worst thing that's ever, ever happened to me is the loss of my 62-year-old mother - with whom I had a close and loving relationship, and of whom I have almost exclusively happy memories - makes me a hell of a lot better off than most people in the world. Philosophy is a luxury.

Would you give up all the gorgeous and magnificent things in the world if it meant all the bad things would go away?

Friday, June 16, 2006

What's Said at Cici's...

...Gets posted on my blog!

No, wait, wait, that's not it. It stays at Cici's; not least because rather a lot of the dirt is on me.

We did figure out today that part of the reason stalking seems to be such a recurrent problem where I work is the whole office-workers-metamorphosing-into-office-equipment phenomenon. This has been going on for ages, so when someone like my cute cube neighbor A. and I get hired on, we encounter a work environment where many of the older guys have not seen a squidgy, girl-shaped object in decades.

It's kind of like Oz.

Well, I invoke the CiCi's rule and won't give specifics, but I'd like to make a few salient points:

1) Today is the second in a row I've taken a two-hour lunch. I don't think anyone noticed - that is, aside from a coworker who came up to me this afternoon and silently handed me a sticky note with the word "laggard" on it - but I really shouldn't make a habit of this. (I have the sticky note on my computer monitor now, but may find a more creative location for it next week. It will be the first in what I plan to be a long series.)

2) Hooray for more magnetic letters! Yesterday all I had was "Yo, did we ramp up the drivel" and today I was able to make the far superior "near to the madding crowd, simply divine!" Ha ha, there aren't enough magnetic letters for anyone else to come along and argue with me. C'est magnifique!

3) I'll be damned, looks like we are spongeworthy after all. I don't know who our sponge fairy benefactor is, but I took a picture - then forgot my camera at work. D'oh!

4) We now know the true identity of the mysterious Thursday kitchen Phantom Pharter. Check Robbie's blog for an update!

5) How do you get Kermit the Frog's undivided attention?

6) Change sucks sometimes. I wish good friends never had to part. Moochas Smooches and best of luck to you in College Station, and don't forget to eat nasty pizza. We'll all be there for the Housewarming Party Crawl, so be sure and have plenty of beer on hand.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

My Stepfather's Kick-Ass Speakers

My stepfather is a serious audiophile. When I was a child, he always had the newest and best stereo equipment, covered with incomprehensible levers and dials and, eventually, even digital readouts.

The speakers were exotic and magnificent creatures: Quads, Freds, I-don't-know-what-all; speakers that I was not allowed to touch, breathe upon, or look too hard at; speakers that may have been capable of interplanetary travel. The arrangement of furniture in the living room was entirely dependent upon the placement of the speakers. It was of vital importance to have the seating centered exactly in the "sweet spot."

He read books and subscribed to magazines about stereo equipment, always had the newest and best, yet constantly coveted the newer and better. The owner of the local hi-fi specialty shop became my stepfather's closest friend. He and his wife would come over frequently, and they'd listen to music, taking turns in the sweet spot: to historical or modern recordings of great opera, or to a bombastic Shostakovich symphony, or a Prokofiev piano concerto, or pretty much anything that causes the conductor to sweat profusely and drop two tuxedo sizes during the course of the performance.

My stepfather isn't particularly into Mozart. Not enough dynamic range, you see. It doesn't really showcase the speakers.

It's just one of those things, something I once took for granted as a normal part of life, but which I haven't really thought about in years; until just a few minutes ago when my stepfather emailed me a picture of his new speakers, and all the memories in the world came flooding back.

He says these blow the Quads completely out of the water.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A Ways to Go

LONDON (Reuters) - A British government worker has been fired and another demoted following allegations they were involved in serious misconduct, including leaping naked from filing cabinets and having sex in office lavatories.

Wow. My work group only talks about leaping naked from small enclosed spaces,* and I'm not sure if any of our filing cabinets are even empty enough to contain a naked person.

Guess there's just one way to find out.

*It comes up more frequently than you might expect.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Let Us Eat Cake

My theory is that government employees never die, or quit or retire, for that matter. They just gradually metamorphose into obsolete office equipment. That old phone I'm using, the one with no call waiting, caller ID, or even a hold button? Was once a vibrant and ambitious young state worker.

Likewise, when my time comes, in 30 or 35 years, I won't be so cutting-edge myself. I'll have turned into a piece of equipment that was the ultimate in high-tech in 2006; and all the fresh young new hires will be highly annoyed that they have to make do with a device that can't teleport you instantaneously to Yoakum, or even conduct a delay-free videoconference, fer crissakes.

Today our section director gathered everyone together for a little party to celebrate the fact that, for the first time in recorded history, our department met a deadline.

No, I'm serious, this is true! I shit you not. She brought cake and everything.

The only problem was that someone was conducting an interview in a neighboring conference room, so all of us had to be very, very quiet; this put a little bit of a damper on the air of festivity our boss had hoped to create. We all strained to hear as she softly announced the names of several people who had played a pivotal role in meeting this deadline, and then we'd all murmur appreciatively and tap our hands together while she shushed us.

Meanwhile, the bitchin' smoker (or should that be smokin' bitch?) who makes my poor coworker Robbie's life a tobacco-scented, sarcastic-comment-peppered hell, was in particularly grouchy form. When the boss announced that she'd brought cake in order to celebrate, SB pointedly remarked, "Oh, so you'll let us eat cake?"

A few of us exchanged quizzical glances.

As the section director went on to praise the people who'd made this wonderment a reality, SB made several more jabs at her, picking up the director's own jokes about locking people in conference rooms till they got the job done and making them cry, and throwing them back at her. Those of us standing in SB's immediate vicinity edged slowly away. Nobody wanted to get scorched if lightning happened to strike.

Actually, I have to confess, I quite like SB, though I'm a little intimidated by her (and unlike Robbie, I don't sit next to her). I appreciate her dry (very dry) wit; and have to respect the fact that, unlike many people, she obviously isn't spooked by the boss.

But she knows she won't get fired, because they don't fire state employees.

No, the worst thing SB has to look forwaqrd to is turning into a state-of-the-art Zenith with a 12-inch monitor and an 8-inch floppy drive, a transformation which will probably be complete in about seven or eight years.

Monday, June 12, 2006

A Favorite Song

Oh, listen, listen, listen, listen:

The Dining Rooms

I can't link directly to the song, but click on "Listen," then select the first square under "Tre" and play the song "Tunnel."

The internet radio station I used to listen to at my old job had this on their playlist, and it always made me cry - of course, in those days, it didn't take much. Hell, TV commercials would set me off. For that matter, my alarm clock going off in the morning generally did the trick...

Now I just think it's beautiful, and it makes me smile. And I think it would be the sweetest thing in the world if someone else could listen to this song and feel the same way it makes me feel. Isn't it gorgeous?


Everybody's somebody's bitch (didn't Frank Sinatra sing that one?).

One of my district coordinators (from Corpus, no less) does keep me hopping. I am Danny's bitch. Apologies to my readers for Saturday's misleading post.

Yargh. I just walked home. It's too hot to blog.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Um, I Don't Think So?

So last week my 16-year-old son is riding his bike to summer school. He has to cross at an intersection; when the light turns green, he begins to cross, which causes a a car waiting to turn right at the light to have to stop and wait for him.

A second car, behind the one waiting to turn right, doesn't see that she's stopped until too late and rear-ends her.

The woman's car didn't suffer any damage, but apparently the second car did. So the guy in the second car tells my son that he (my son) is at fault for the accident and that his parents need to pay for the damage. The guy gives my son his business card, with instructions that I need to call him so I can make arrangements for payment.

Would you even call the guy, or just "file" the card? Or maybe call the police to report the accident? Actually I wouldn't worry about it at all if my son didn't have to ride the same route every weekday throughout June and July, the little slacker.

According to the guy's card, he's the VP of some contracting firm. Amazing how far you can get in life without learning to take responsibility for your own mistakes, innit?

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Nobody's Bitch

This is my favorite photo from the happy hour Thursday:

*Slaps Silhavy, and Robbie for good measure*

Okay, that out of the way, I wanted to announce that my former office mate, the smart-as-a-whip, sweet, funny, beautiful, outrageously sexy Denisey, who quit our miserable former employer with nothing else lined up a few weeks ago, has an awesome new job: a position of responsibility and respect, which from her description is very well suited to her abilities and intelligence.

I am so happy! Hooray for justice in the world! They had damn well better appreciate what they've got, or I'll go down there and kick some ass.

At one time, Denise and I were both "account managers" at the ol' hellhole. The title sounds fine but doesn't very well represent the actual position, which should really have been called "Everybody's Bitch." Our job was nominally to coordinate client services; but our real function was to run around futilely in circles, and to put together presentations and other sales materials for the higher-ups, who got all the money and freely dispensed all the blame.

A similar thing happened to my friend Trent: he was hired as a "Project Manager" and instead found he was, oh no! Everybody's bitch! He quit and is now running the internet department at the Corpus paper. He deserved so much better than what he got at our old employer. As did Denise, and Anita, and Lesli/ees, and my sweet crazy crackhead Jimmy, and Stephen, and me, and too many others to name; and as do one or two or three or four or five other people I still can't name since they haven't gotten out yet.

I hang onto the memories, although really at this point, Corpus Christi and the old job both seem vaguely unreal, like a bad dream. But I need to keep the contrast in order to appreciate my current job.

What I love and hate about my new job are the same things. There's no pressure, no deadlines, no urgency. I'm nobody's bitch - but what am I good for? Nothing I do seems to matter very much. Of course, as is pretty obvious, I have amazingly wonderful friends and a tremendous amount of fun. But I would like to have work to do - and work that actually matters, in some slighly larger picture, would be an added bonus.

Still: never, never, never underestimate the importance of being nobody's bitch. I have to hold onto that.

I'm envious of Denise's new position, and the responsibilities that she has, and the fact that her work has direct positive influence (she is working for a children's hospital).

But oh, I'm happy for her. She deserves everything good in the world.

It's a beautiful thing, being nobody's bitch. Now get your damn hand off my ass!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Break Time!

Ah, break: a brief moment of happiness in the otherwise bleak existence of a government employee.

To be fair, it's actually rather a lot of moments, none of which is particularly brief. We have to keep pace with the chain-smokers, after all, and there are a lot of those. A lot. So as a matter of principle, we spend a good deal of time on break.

Today we bid Silhavy a tearful adieu (oh, but he'll be around) as he goes back to exciting College Station, Texas to work on a master's in urban planning.

Urban planning! Woohoo! (Here I and a couple of my readers high-five one another.)

I'm pleased to say we have sent Silhavy off in style, or at least I think we have. We had, not one, but two going away lunches, at the first of which his boss chose the venue and yet totally failed to pay for his meal:

...and at the second of which S. got to pick the place and my homegirl A. picked up his tab.

But best of all was last night's "Happy Hour," or happy several hours as the case may be. I only wish we'd chosen a bar that obeys city ordinances on indoor smoking, because the place we picked immediately drove away our friend b.r., a central figure in our government-worker break scene, whom everyone loves dearly even if he is high-maintenance and gassy.

We ended up at Barflies on Airport, a fine establishment where all of us bonded so strongly that even complete strangers ended up in our group (blonde, second from left; name unknown but she's clearly very cool).

We discovered that all of us are about equally good at pool; in other words, if you see one of our group with a cue stick, I highly recommend you just run. Maybe even buy an airline ticket. Just get out of range, for God's sake!

And at about 1:30am we wended our way home, then went on about another Friday at work. Another set of construction plans to gaze at blankly. Another example of the fact that as much taxpayer money as we can spend on pointless and self-referential projects, there are certain items for which the government staunchly refuses to stick the public with the bill:

And another break, just to carry us through the day.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Four Mosquitoes of the Apocalypse

Terrible things happened to me on this most inauspicious of days.

The set of highway construction plans I'm working on doesn't seem to contain any horizontal alignment data. The plans spell out precisely where each point of curvature and point of tangency is; but nowhere can I find the delta, degree, tangent or length of these curves; and on several of them it doesn't even bother mentioning the new baseline bearing after the point of tangency. I'm thinking of tracking down the P.E. whose seal appears on the plans and giving him a good whap upside the head. The engineering firm who drew up these plans is a subsidiary of Halliburton, incidentally; and if Dick Cheney isn't the Antichrist, I'd like to know who is.

Also, today I discovered that my coworker doesn't have enough magnetic "P"s for me to spell out "We put the 'Pro' in 'Inappropriate'" on his cabinet.

And finally, while I was sitting by the creek this evening, listening to the iPod with my knees hugged up to my chest, several mosquitoes bit me in places I cannot scratch in polite company.

So how was your day?

Monday, June 05, 2006

Nero's Coming To Get You!

For anyone concerned about getting trampled by the Four Horsemen tomorrow, I suggest you stay home and pass a quiet day with a copy of Hermann Hesse's Demian.

It's a bit of a dull book (in my opinion) but you have to admit he did originate the concept of the MILF.

"Neron Caesar," written in Hebrew letters, numerically totals up to 666, although in his fascinating and scholarly Guide to the Bible, Isaac Asimov suggests that the Number of the Beast is more likely to have been an oblique reference to Domitian, on the throne and persecuting merrily away at the time Revelations was written.

In fact, if I were you I'd toss the copy of "Demian" and read some Asimov instead; The Sensuous Dirty Old Man would be an excellent choice.

Asimov knew a thing or two about MILFs too.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Why, Some of My Best Friends Are Perverts

Today I got my first site visit from someone searching on the term "speculum."

I hope it's understood that I'm not in any way passing judgment on these people. Let your freak flag fly, baby! Not a damn thing wrong with whatever you're into,* just as long as I get to point and laugh.

Otherwise it's been a pretty quiet weekend. I haven't heard from Margie, probably because she owes me money. So it's just been a matter of walking around Travis Heights with the iPod on and waiting for Katie to give me my computer back.

Now here I am blogging with nothing in particular to say; not that there's anything too unusual there. And I've already told the McTavish joke. I'd tell the clown joke (Best Joke Ever) except it really won't work in writing. We're planning on a going-away happy hour for silhavy next week, so perhaps I'll get a chance to tell it then.

You have to be kind of perverted to appreciate the joke. I think it'll go over well.

*Standard disclaimers apply.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Things Little Kids Know

[5-year-old] Anna's playing "Harvest Moon" on the crappy old PC. There's a stork character that dances - rather doofily, as it happens. She insists that the animal is called a "dork."

You cannot correct her. "Stork," you tell her. "It's called a stork."

"No!" she says. "It's a dork!"

When Eric was four years old or so, he had a toy monster truck with the word "Predator" stenciled on the side. He used to drive it around making vroom-vroom noises and shouting, "Creditor's coming to get you!!"

Katie didn't talk much when she was little, poor baby, what with all her elders constantly yakking away. Pretty much all the cute stories I have to tell on her just show up what a bad mom I am. I'm still laughing at the Tagged! profile she set up a few months ago with a sultry little picture of her and the tagline, "I know I'm sluty."

I was much more outraged that a child of mine can't even spell "slutty" properly than at the message inherent in her page. I'm assuming she's corrected it. Still, the word "sluty" has now entered our family lexicon. You have to admit, it is a pretty good word.

Anna's the only one who's fully inherited my taste for the surreal, I think. A few weeks ago she walked into the living room with her inflatable tube for the pool around her waist and announced, "Dressing like a giant doughnut sure is confident!"


Going Downtown

Another great thing about being back in Austin is that I have a gynecologist called "Buzz."

Seriously, I love Dr. Bushart, who's been my doctor for the past thirteen years or so - minus a 5-year gap since Anna was born and I quit my job and didn't have insurance, then moved to Corpus and was too heartbroken (or lazy) to bother finding another doctor while I was there. I just made an appointment for a check-up since I have insurance again.

Buzz is a great doctor: he's informative and respectful and kind and extremely good-natured and funny. He's also absolutely dishy - although contrary to what SNL skits featuring Alec Baldwin would have you believe, most women aren't looking for that in a coochie doctor. We like to be sexy around the men we find attractive, and let's face it: a buttless cotton shift and a pair of stirrups aren't sexy. Having your hoo-hah jacked open with a cold metal speculum isn't sexy. I mean, I guess it might be for some people - and those people are about to start googling their way to my blog in droves - but I am not one of them.

You'd think I've made it a personal mission to disappoint perverts. Well, if I'm not having any fun, I don't see why you should either, you sickos!

So anyway, I'm actually kind of dreading this upcoming visit because Buzz told me, when Mom was first diagnosed with breast cancer, that I should start having mammograms at 35 instead of 40. I haven't had one yet, so presumably he's going to schedule my first. I cannot even tell you how much I don't want to do this.

Can't I just get a preventative double radical mastectomy instead?

But I'll be glad to see Buzz again; and hopefully everything's still in working order downstairs.

Oh, and I almost forgot: this post is probably a little TMI for some, so you might want to stop reading now.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Smoke and Mirrors

About a year or so ago, my daughter Katie attended a birthday slumber party at the Radisson Hotel on North Beach in Corpus Christi. This is where several work acquaintances of mine stayed this week while attending a planning conference at the Omni Bayfront, which was full up.

It was Melissa's 13th birthday, so her parents made a pretty big deal of it. They had around 20 girls camping out in the hotel room, which it turns out is a slight violation of maximum occupancy policy. Additionally, local preteen heartthrob celebrity Baby Bash was staying in the room two doors down, so the girls were excited to the point of extreme squeakiness (I can't speak for Mr. Bash).

Lucky Melissa received a smoke machine for her birthday, and much excitement ensued. Naturally, the girls couldn't wait to fire that sucker up and fill the hotel room with thick, aromatic fumes. Which promptly set off the smoke detector.

This caused a bit of a disturbance and brought the manager running. Well, since the hotel room was only supposed to sleep 4, about 16 girls crowded out onto the balcony to hide from him while he questioned Melissa and her mom about what had set off the smoke detector. Katie informs me that Baby Bash was also annoyed by the disturbance.

The manager discovered the huddle on the balcony (it would probably have been difficult not to, what with all the squeaking), but was apparently very good-natured about the whole thing; so the slumber party continued as planned, and I didn't hear about any of this until I picked up Katie the next morning.

The valuable lesson I took away from this episode was: Never set off a smoke machine in a hotel room.

I told this story to some coworkers at lunch today, but they didn't seem fully to appreciate how cool smoke machines are. I wish I had a small portable one of my own, that I could strap onto my back underneath my blouse, so I could have an aura of perfumed smoke everywhere I went. Wouldn't that be so awesome? It would be kind of like having your own personal backup band to follow you around playing your theme song, except, you know, subtle. Everyone would know there was something, just something about me, but nobody would be able to put their finger on quite what, exactly, that something is.

Don't you wish your girlfriend was a freak like me?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

And You Thought You Had Problems

Scenario: A woman goes to lunch with three male coworkers. The food is good and the conversation pleasant. Being government employees, the group drinks nothing stronger than water and iced tea. However, before the meal is finished, all three males are making passes at the tablecloth.

Select one:
a. Something is seriously wrong with the woman.
b. Something is seriously wrong with the three guys.
c. That is one hell of a sexy tablecloth.
d. You probably had to be there.
e. All of the above.

Keep the Workplace Weird

One of my coworkers writes random little messages on sticky notes and puts them up here and there around the department. I only noticed this for the first time the other day, but he said he's been doing it for a while.

("Love, care, tender chicken!" says the note I spotted on the door to my area. "Chicken," thought I to myself. "Huh.")

I love that someone will do something like this, as our employer is a fairly staid and sober agency, and many of the older set have been in the same position for decades. Maybe literally; seriously, I'm not entirely certain if some of these people can still walk.

It's got me to thinking about the importance of playfulness to maintain mental health, both emotional and intelligent. A lot of the older people at work are in a serious rut, performing the same duties in the same ways, devoid of innovation and fearful of change, for years upon years, counting down to retirement (to give you an idea of the overall attitude, there was a seminar offered a couple of weeks ago called "Ready - Set - Retire!"). It makes some of us newer hires anxious: is that what we'll become? But I'm closer to that age than any of the others of the newer-hire set, so it doesn't worry me as much. I figure if I were going to become staid and boring it would have started to kick in by now.

Which it hasn't.

So I'm really sad that this friend is leaving; he's going back to Aggieland to get his master's degree, and there will be no more sticky notes unless someone else takes up the tradition; and I guess I'll have to get a set of magnetic letters for my own cube.

Oops - gotta run, I'm going to be late. But hey - strike a blow for mental health. Do something crazy at work today!