Monday, July 31, 2006

Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work Day

Do we ever have some fun activities lined up for my girls this Thursday!

(My daughters, that is - usually when I say "my girls" I'm referring to a portion of my anatomy; but nothing fun seems very likely to happen to them any time in the foreseeable future, particularly not on a Thursday.)

The list of presentations and activities for the kids was sent out this afternoon. I have to say that some of them appear more likely to engage the attention of little ones than others: the "Puppet Show about bicycle safety, buckling up, street signs, etc.," for instance, will probably draw a somewhat more enthusiastic crowd than "Introduction to Construction and Maintenance Contract Qualification, Bidding and Contract Award."

Then again, as Bill remarked, my kids may come home with a working knowledge of how to broker under-the-table deals - always a useful skill.

Several of the entries appear as if no one bothered to spell-check them, or indeed gain more than a rudimentary grasp of English before writing them. "Description of how to bridge a built and DVD on spaghetti bridge building," for one, while not entirely comprehensible, should make you think twice about driving on grade-separated intersections for a while.

(That particular presentation is actually being put on by Human Resources, from whom illiteracy can be expected as a matter of course.* Still, my engineer friend Heather once remarked casually as we drove over the bifurcation between the eastbound and westbound flyovers from I-35 to Hwy. 71 - a project in which she had been involved - that she had never quite figured out exactly what was holding the structure up.)

There's a "Roll Over Convincer demo," described as intended to "Educate public of dangers of not buckling up," being held in the parking lot. Robbie thought maybe the kids should wear helmets for that one.

And there's also one on how to become a car dealer in Texas, which is just great. As if our children's future weren't bleak enough without the prospect of them becoming car salesmen.

Conspicuous by their absence are presentations on chain-smoking, fending off unwelcome attention from creepy guys, snazzy fashion tips for creepy guys (bright colors are your friend!), working with obsolete technology, and going on break. Without these, the kids will never get a real feel for what it's like to be a state employee.

Once the official activities are over, I'll bring Katie and Anna along on break. See, girls? This is what Mommy does all day.

*Except of course for Greg's wife, and any HR personnel who may stumble across this and consider Dooce-ing me. You guys are the greatest! Remind me to buy you a drink sometime!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Cry Me a Volcano

From an article on Pilot Knob in The (University of Texas) Walter Geology Library:

As volcanic activity diminished, beaches developed around the ash mound. One such beach deposit, now lithified and resistant to erosion, extends several miles to the north of the volcano. It crops out along Onion Creek, where it is responsible for both Upper and Lower McKinney Falls.

Well, with any luck, Robbie will have completely forgotten the argument by Monday. So nobody tell him.

It's still not lava. I did say it wasn't lava.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Prima Donna

When you are brought up an opera buff, your love of music and of languages are very closely interconnected.

From as early as I can remember, I wanted to be an opera singer. Could anything be more dreamy? You sing beautifully; you are surrounded by magnificent music all the time; you have all the drama of the stage; you get to be as much of a shrill ho-biatch as you want and nobody can touch you (as long as you don't pull a Kathleen Battle and lose it completely).

On the minus side, you have to elbow tenors in the nose on a regular basis to keep them from nipping your ass during choral interludes. Why, why, why are tenors always the romantic leads in operas? Basses are so much more divinely dishy, and generally quite a bit taller as well. And they often have beards! swoon

But oh, the life! You can be glamorous, gorgeous, tragic, pathetic; you can have men crawling at your feet and empires collapsing around you; you can be a queen or a goddess; you can die at the top of your lungs of tuberculosis, or being buried alive, or smothered by a jealous husband, or some other unspeakably romantic affliction. My two most coveted roles would be Tosca (jumps off a tall building) and Carmen (stabbed by a stalker).

As an added bonus, my adoration for opera from an early age fostered a knack for European languages that will always stand me in good stead. Sure, I'll be at a bit of a loss if it comes to ordering lunch, asking for the restroom, or hailing a cab. But, by God! I can call an eternal curse down upon the house of your fathers in any nation in Europe.

Now fetch me a latte, damn it.

Well THAT Was a Dumbass Thing To Do

Walking home from work, I have to cross this parking lot driveway that a lot of cars use to make a U-turn from the opposite direction on Riverside. Today there was a silver Mustang, in the center turn lane, with its left turn signal on, waiting to turn into the driveway; but there was also a police car in the driveway, waiting to turn right onto the street.

Just as I began to cross the driveway, the driver of the Mustang saw her opening and swooped in, causing me to leap backwards onto the sidewalk. But the police car, not realizing the Mustang was making a yooey rather than just turning left into the parking lot, also pulled forward to take advantage of the same opening and make his right turn. Both slammed on their brakes and a nose-on collision nearly ensued.

I stood and waited and laughed (but politely refrained from pointing) as the Mustang hurriedly straightened out and completed the U-turn.

And did the cop turn on his lights and go after her? No. Apparently making a reckless and illegal U-turn, nearly mowing down a pedestrian and then topping it off by almost ramming a police car are not ticketable offenses.

I should have pointed.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Life Imitates Humor

When you get right down to it, life usually does.

In case I hadn't mentioned it before, my coworkers and I enjoy break time tremendously. It's a very fun, relaxing time and we have lots of laughs. It is the - dare I say it? - spiritual center of our day. We always joke that even if one of us calls in sick or takes a day off, we'd still come in for break.

Today is my husband's 35th birthday, so I took the afternoon off from work to do some panicked, last-minute shopping and to tidy up the place* in preparation for some of his family to drop by. I got home from shopping and discovered that he had taken the kids out to a movie and locked the apartment with our only key. The manager was out.

(I know, we've lived here since January, so you might think that at some point during the last six months, we'd have gotten around to having a second key made. But no. To be perfectly honest, we are not really getting-around-to-things kind of people.)

So I checked the clock and saw that it was about time for afternoon break, which runs, roughly, from about 2:40-3:30, or longer on a good day. And after all, I only live about half a mile from work.

And by the time I got home from break, the movie was over and my family was back. Isn't that perfect? I love it!**

*"Tidying up the place:" sort of the equivalent of patting halfheartedly at Lake Superior with a hand towel.

**It might take me a few days to get all that out of my system. Sorry!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Motivational Poster Child

Profitable, high-powered organizations often like to bring in a corporate consultant to impart to employees the skills they need to survive in a busy, stressful environment. Good time management is such a skill, but my employer is not such an organization.

This did not stop our section director from bringing in an instructor from Fred Pryor Seminars to give a class in "Managing Multiple Priorities" today.

The consultant is perky and enthusiastic and delighted by class participation. The words, "Perfect! Absolutely! I love it! Oh that's too funny! That's so true! Thank you for sharing that!" flow abundantly from her lips. She cites Oprah twice and Dr. Phil once.

I've had several months' lovely reprieve from corporatespeak, so it was a bit of a nasty shock to find myself up to my skivvies in it today. The consultant (whose name was Tiffany!) seemed like a nice enough person, but had the kind of sales-and-marketing mindset that makes honest citizens cringe. For example, when going over the class material this morning, she mentioned that we'd be covering delegation as a time management technique. "But I don't like to call it delegation," she said. "I like to call it empowerment."

You - you - you can't just do that! Words mean things. You don't just get to pick one you like better!

Tiffany poses the question: How do you determine if you have the power to delegate tasks?
The correct answer: Try it on somebody and see if they tell you to fuck off.

Apparently quite a number of the Ready-Set-Retire crowd, the ones who have been working for the state for upwards of 20 years, do believe that they have a heavy, stressful workload, and really need a class like this to help them cope. They'd be melted down for their oil content within 15 minutes in the private sector.

Tiffany poses the question: What do you do when you find yourself overwhelmed with conflicting job priorities?
The correct answer: Quit your job and go work for the state!

My friend b.r. noted that, although Tiffany stressed several times in the morning that life can't be fit into a box, she then kept giving us boxes to fit life into. There's the old urgent-important, urgent-not-important, not-urgent-important, not-urgent-not-important quad that many of us have the misfortune to be familiar with. There were a couple of different matrices for weighting and scoring the priority level of the tasks before you. And then, because the Myers-Briggs and other pop-crap corporate personality tests don't do an adequate job of generalizing human beings into an incredibly limited range of types, there is the results-oriented-fast, results-oriented-slow, people-oriented-fast, people-oriented-slow quadrant into which all human personalities can be neatly sorted.

Results-oriented-fast people are the Enterprisers, decisive and quick to act. People-oriented-fast people are Motivators, who are great at firing up enthusiasm for a project, but not so good with logistics or follow-through. (Every single person in senior management at my old company was one of these, incidentally; so maybe there is something to this grid after all. Then again, it may only apply to salespeople, who don't really have personalities to speak of.) Results-oriented-slow people are Analyzers, who really work through a problem to its logical conclusion. People-oriented-slow people are relationship-builders, who primarily value Togetherness. All four of these types are needed.

Tiffany triumphantly wraps up this chapter by pointing out that these four initials spell the word "TEAM!"
Beth, caught unawares in mid-sip, shoots soda out her nose.
Robbie jots down "MEAT" on his notepad.

Spirituality, Tiffany is convinced, is a vital element in taking care of yourself so you can function at your best, "whatever God you believe in!" She also uses a recent lesson from her Bible class as an illustration of the lesson of delegating. "Moses delegated and empowered his people!" she enthuses. "And God said, 'Perfect! I love it!'"* Later she adds, with somewhat less conviction, that "even if you don't believe in Jesus Christ, it's important to have some kind of spiritual connection."

At the end of the day, Tiffany goes over the class objectives the group had specified in the morning to make sure she's covered everything. One of the objectives given, and the only one I felt applied to me, at least, was "to find a way to keep busy." But as she reviews the list, Tiffany laughs. "Of course we don't really need to worry about this one," she says, marking it off.

Think It, Ink It!** says Tiffany again and again, stressing to the class the importance of writing things down in order to retain what they've learned.
So here it is.

*That is a direct quote, folks. I wrote it down.

**If it sounds catchy and fits on a bumper sticker, it must be true!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

How To Have Fun

I want to say a big thank you to my good friend Silhavy for giving me his whole evening yesterday. I hope his other friends weren't too upset! And just remember, on the dance floor, the rules do not apply. Whatever doesn't actually get you arrested is all good.

We started out the evening at L_M_N_L on E. 5th Street, where my sister Margie and her friends Lauren, Bill, and Lance had - had - well, I'm not sure what to call it. An "art show" implies something static that you stand around and look at, but a "kegger" doesn't sound very artistic. Think of it as something encompassing both, only with a surveillance camera and corresponding viewing room, a mystery box to stick your hand into and get artistically molested (I didn't), an alarmingly steep playground slide (I did*), a changing room, ladders, platforms, bedding, bubble wrap, and an artist in the shower, for starters. It was great fun!

Then we met up with our friend Tony to drink more and go dancing with all the pretty people. Hooray for a night out! I really need to do that more often.

Well, somewhat more often, anyway. Oh, my head...

*In fact, going down the slide in a skirt may well have fulfilled my MySpace prophecy from Friday.

Friday, July 21, 2006

MySpace Case

Remind me why I'm on MySpace again? Two of my Blogger friends have defected and moved operations over there entirely. I don't understand it, because MySpace contains things like this:



Great. So tomorrow some hot guy's going to turn me upside down and lift my tail to determine if I'm a boy or a girl. Doesn't sound much like the best day of my life to me. As for the relationship problem, I don't suppose one more will make too much of a difference; but haven't I read that sentence in a fortune cookie at some point?

"Break it u will have relationship problem for the next ten years - IN BED!!!!!!"

I sure hope this counts as having reposted it.

Aghast from the Past

Yesterday afternoon I got to have a couple of drinks and catch up with my old sort-of-boss at the Hell place, Lance, who evidently leads a very sheltered nightlife. We met at the Cedar Door, and when I arrived, Lance said, "Wow, you didn't mention this place was a dive - a real hole in the wall! I like it!"

I guess it's just as well I didn't suggest we meet at, say, Hole in the Wall.

We had a great time chatting and exchanging gossip, gossip, gossip. Lance had heard that Suzi, the senior consultant who originally hired me, had left the company and moved off to California, which if true would be like Tiffany losing her left nut. He also heard that the husband of Ursula, the seahag CEO, talked to Svengali recently (the company co-founder and former president) and told him that things really weren't going so well.

Lance is in town to see Svengali, in fact; at the industry tradeshow, Svengali has a booth directly across from my former employer's. Svengali asked Lance to put in an appearance with him just to piss off Tiffany and Ursula. I don't quite understand that level of bitterness, though of course I wasn't lied to and falsely promised to and fired; nor did I co-found the company only to be fired for not being Ursula's niece. This particular form of confrontation still strikes me as a little odd, though. I'm thinking it'll end in a dance-off.

But something odd just came to mind, that I forgot to mention to Lance yesterday. He was fired by the COO, who is the husband of the sister of the husband of the CEO. Ursula and Tiffany make him do the dirty work. We'll call him Dick.

What? It's a perfectly good name.

The company Christmas party was on a Thursday this past year, coincidentally the night before I drove up to Austin to interview for my current position. I was standing at the bar near Dick, who suddenly turned and leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. Then he pulled back and gazed at me wordlessly for a few moments, leaned in and kissed me again, and walked away.

I never knew if he was hitting on me or if I was receiving the Kiss of Death - or possibly both - but in any case it didn't matter since I gave my notice less than a week later. I'm sure I would have been fired if I'd stayed much longer, though.

Anyway, yesterday afternoon was a blast and I'm so happy to have seen my old war buddy. For all the awful things that ridiculous company put so many of us through, I do owe them for some lasting friendships.

I also owe someone there a quarter.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Sneak Preview

So today I'm on phone duty at work, because the section director's admin is on vacation and everyone in the department is taking turns covering the department phone.

It only rang three times, but one of them was the new boss! The magical mystical new boss! She didn't show up today, but she called to speak to the section manager and I was the one who answered!

Afterwards, all my coworkers surrounded me, buzzing excitedly (they had heard me repeat her name on the phone when taking down the message). "So what did she say? What did she sound like? Did she say what she was calling about? Did she sound nice?"

(She said, "This is *******. May I speak with ******* please?")

I am the only person in our group who has met the boss.

I'm special!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Remember When It Wasn't 800 Billion Degrees Out?

It's days like today that I wish I'd stuck with my idea to move up to Syracuse to live near my dad and stepmother. I just went for a walk around the neighborhood in the cool of the evening, but "cool" here is a relative term - the temperature at 8:52pm was 92 degrees.

So let's visit my grandparents' house outside Lockport, New York, just a mile or so down a country road from the Erie Canal, shall we? That'll be nice and cool.

My grandparents lived in an old farmhouse surrounded by orchards and cornfields - later just cornfields - with a big red barn, complete with brick silo, in the back. The barn and the fields had at one time belonged to the house, but my grandparents owned just the house and garage and a large yard and garden. The landowner did not maintain the barn, which my cousins and I played in when we were small; so over the years as we were growing up, it gradually fell down - rather a bone of contention for my grandparents, as they didn't care to have something so hazardous - and so attractive to kids - pretty much right on their property.

A little further away down the hill were a well and some one-room shacks in which seasonal farm help once lived. The shacks still contained decaying furnishings, appliances, bedding, and a few personal items and food containers. Another one of the farm outbuildings contained a rusting old washing machine, the kind with the hand-cranked wringer on the top.

The house had a musty-smelling attic full of strange and ancient treasures, with steep, dusty steps; and a cool cellar complete with cistern. My grandfather processed honey in the cellar from the beehives he kept behind the barn, and sold the honey to passerby who saw the small sign out front and came up to the front door. There were apple trees between the house and the barn, and the apples harvested in the fall kept fresh in the cellar all winter. In summer, there was ear after ear after ear after ear of sweet, freshly-harvested corn from the garden; so much of it that tempers began to run a little short at the dinner table when Grandma passed the platter for the seventeenth time. Please. Please. No more corn.

I didn't much care for winter, which was rather on the chilly side. I didn't enjoy putting on long underwear and pants and shirts and a sweater and a snowsuit and two pairs of socks and sneakers and rubber boots and a scarf and a hat and a hood and gloves and my aunt's mittens, just to venture outside for three minutes, then come back inside because I couldn't feel my nose. Snow, I thought as a child, was lovely to look at, but I never wanted to play in it very long. It always got in and drenched the underlayers. Probably I just wasn't adequately sealed.

Still there was nothing else quite like waking up late at night on Christmas Eve to find the moon shining blue-white on a blanket of freshly fallen snow, and trying unsuccessfully to wake up my cousin Gretchen to share the moment (damn, that girl could sleep). And, drenched skivvies or no, running down the hill into chest-high snowdrifts until you collapsed because your legs didn't work in that much snow was insanely fun. In the summer you could jump from hay bales in the hayloft and play castle in the barn (until it fell into too much disrepair), climb the enormous weeping birch tree out front, practice archery, have doll tea parties, defoliate Grandma's rose bushes to scatter the petals, and pluck her petunias and turn them upside down to make gorgeously-gowned flower dolls, which would hold glorious dances on the back patio. Grandma never seemed to mind this. Maybe she figured it was just karmic punishment for all the corn she foisted off on us.

I miss those times. And I miss Daddy and Joyce. Hey, can I come spend the rest of the summer with you guys? I promise won't impose for too long. Just till October or so.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Stalking My Readers

Hands up, all you bloggers who closely follow your web visitor statistics! As someone who used to work in internet marketing, I find them particularly interesting. I have a small enough readership that I often recognize my regulars. I hope that doesn't give y'all a complex or anything. I'm always so happy to see you! Are you comfortable? Are you having a good time? Is the material interesting? Can I get you anything?

On the subject of internet marketing, I have a story for one of you in particular.

You know I used to work for this hellish, abusive company in Corpus, right? You might actually know who it is, although of course I've never published the company's actual name, nor the actual names of any of its principals, on my blog. They all have pseudonyms. The nasty owner/CEO is called Ursula after the "unscrupulous seahag" from The Little Mermaid.

When I first started there one of my duties was to coordinate the incredibly busy travel schedules of the VP and sales consultants. But we didn't have any calendaring software, so everything was written in dry-erase marker on a big laminated calendar on the wall outside my office, then copied into everyone's day planner. Anyone not physically in the office, due to travel or telecommuting, had to call me to find out who was where and when; and because trips were constantly being scheduled, rescheduled, and cancelled, merely keeping all the calendars up-to-date was a logistical nightmare. For a company that billed itself as being on the leading edge of internet technology, this was fairly stupid.

"All show and no go," disgruntled clients used to say about us; and the calendar issue was a case in point. Eventually Ursula broke down and sprang for an Outlook Exchange server, but she wasn't happy about it.

So I set up a Yahoo group for us, so that we could use the calendar function, and signed the VP and sales consultants up as group members. It worked great for about a week, after which Ursula put the kibosh on the whole thing. Yahoo, she said, was one of our top competitors. If we used Yahoo groups and the calendaring function, they'd be able to track our every move! They'd know which potential clients we were traveling to visit, which tradeshows we were attending, etc. I deleted our group and went back to the stone-age calendar on the wall, grumbling under my breath. I was pretty sure Ursula had delusions of grandeur. I thought it unlikely that Yahoo was aware of our existence.

Seeing the regular visits on my stat counter from someone at Yahoo/Inktomi has me wondering, though. Are you here for business or pleasure? I can't divulge any company secrets (aside from the fact that I very, very, very much doubt my former employer knows anything about their business that Yahoo doesn't know a hell of a lot better) but if you're contemplating buying them out, do please screw over Ursula for me, will you? And give the employees a raise, poor things. Every single person on staff is salaried, and with the hours they often put in, some of them are effectively making under minimum wage.

(Ursula knew how to hold down the grumbling. "When I see you here until 8 or 9 o'clock at night, that doesn't tell me you're dedicated. It tells me you don't know how to manage your time," she said sternly during a staff meeting once when morale was particularly low - and oddly, did not seem to improve following her remark, though people did stop complaining openly about the long hours.)

And all of you guys, if there's anything in particular you want me to write about, don't be shy! Life has been fairly placid and happy lately and I don't have much to gripe about, so I'd welcome suggestions.

Y'all come back now!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Cognitive Dissonance?!

All day I've had a word on the tip of my brain, and have been so exceedingly distressed by my inability to remember exactly what it was, that I haven't been able to get anything done. I knew it was a word I had read on Steve Burns' web site; but he's updated the site and it no longer appears there.

Hooray for the Wayback Machine!

Yet I'm strangely disappointed. I expected to see the word and know it instantly, with a big, wonderful, joyous, thrilling "OH YEAH!" And instead it's actually a two-word phrase; and I just knew I had at one point used the word in my blog, but apparently never did; and there's no brilliant flash of recognition; and for heaven's sake, no wonder I couldn't find the word in my next-door-cube-neighbor friend's thesaurus.

I still feel like it was something else, something more, but I know now that it never was. And I grieve for the lost wonder of discovery.

Can we have a moment of silence here?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

In This Best of All Possible Worlds

Bernstein vs. Voltaire

Katie has put on one of her favorite DVDs, the production of Leonard Bernstein's Candide I got for my birthday a couple of years ago. So my stepfather and I are chatting on AIM and debating whether or not Bernstein adequately captured Voltaire's message. I say no.

Bernstein concludes, in what I think is one of his most beautiful and stirring passages:

We're neither pure, nor wise, nor good -
We'll do the best we know;
We'll build our house, and chop our wood,
And make our garden grow.

I don't have a copy of Candide in front of me, so I can't quote exactly what Voltaire concludes; but as I recall, Cunegonde ended up shrewish, ill-tempered, and ugly; Candide world-weary, resigned and joyless. Quite a bit darker than the passionate finale of the opera/musical, in my opinion anyway. My stepfather, on the other hand, feels that Voltaire's take was sunnier than I am interpreting it to be, and points out that Bernstein's treatment is distinctly sarcastic.

He is reminding me that Voltaire's Candide is still happy to end up with Cunegonde, even if she has become a half-assed old whore; and I am responding that in the musical, she's still cute, perky, blonde, pink, and friendly-like. Voltaire's Candide discovers that even when you eventually get your heart's desire, what you've gone through to attain it has ruined it.

Next we should cover the religious message of Leonard Bernstein's Mass. Oh my god. Do you know what I'd give to see that done live?

Nonono, I don't just want to see it. In the best of all possible worlds, I get to be in it.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Brains Are Weird

Or maybe I should just speak for myself.

While I was out walking tonight, I passed within about 18 inches of a big white pickup truck parked at the curb. Just as I was even with the front bumper, I guess somebody inside the house hit the clicker, because the truck's lights flashed and it honked, and I damn near peed myself.

But then came the weird part: Suddenly I had this incredibly vivid memory of how terrified I was of car grilles when I was little. Terrified, even being fully aware they weren't really going to suck me in and devour me; but I could just picture it. I can remember giving a very wide berth to parked cars when I was small because their front ends were so incredibly menacing. And they growled - radiator fans, I suppose. Horrible!

As I walked on, reassembling my skin and trying to get my heartrate back out of the sudden-cardiac-arrest danger zone, I could vividly feel that terror all over again - something I haven't thought about it in ages, and would certainly have assumed was gone without trace.

Ah well. Nothing a few years of therapy won't fix right up.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Space Invasion

My in-laws are coming to visit.

If marriage were outlawed, you know, only outlaws would have in-laws. Why has no one ever seriously suggested this solution to the gay marriage issue? It's unquestionably wrong, unfair, and ridiculous to deny marriage rights to gay people yet allow them to Hollywood spouse-hoppers and reality TV participants. I think we should ban marriage altogether. There would be an awful lot of children born out of wedlock, which would upset the social conservatives; but hey! No more divorce!

My in-laws are not face-leeching, shrieking alien monsters. In fact, they're rather nice people. The only problem with them coming to Austin to visit is that they will very likely expect to be allowed into our apartment.

How clean isn't my apartment, would you like to know? Well, suffice it to say I take after my mother where housekeeping skills are concerned. Mom routinely had the dishes stacked so high in the kitchen sink that you couldn't see the faucet. Mom generated new forms of alien life in the back of the fridge. When I had to do a high school science project where I carefully cultivated mold on a moistened piece of bread stored in a warm, damp, dark place for a week, I ended up turning in a slice from the loaf in the pantry instead because it was much more luxuriantly shaggy.

When my parents moved to their townhouse outside DC, Mom unpacked the boxes in the entryway and put items away from there. She unpacked the shower curtain, but the townhouse had glass shower doors on all the bathtubs. The shower curtain sat, wadded up, in the middle of the entrance hall floor for months. After the first couple of weeks you didn't really notice it anymore.

"You really need to clean your apartment," urges one of my best friends back in Corpus, who has a beautifully appointed, tastefully decorated, spotlessly clean home. What he doesn't have is a teenaged daughter who is so staggeringly untidy that I once found crushed eggshells in one of her dresser drawers. I wonder if he'd like one? She does give backrubs and foot massages, and she likes a lot of the same TV shows he does.

But there's no time. My in-laws will be here tomorrow, and at this point I'd be humiliated for my apartment to be seen by vandals. The toilets are so filthy that the cats won't drink out of them. And I'm certain there are a few new life-forms taking shape in the back of the refrigerator.

I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

What a Piece of Work Is Man

This hilarious post by Bainwen must be the reason behind my dream last night.

I dreamt that I took a road trip to Tyler in a wheelchair. It was nighttime, and at some point I took a wrong turn, and had to navigate several steep flights of steps. It struck me as slightly odd that a state highway would have stairs. Normally, you know, they don't.

I also had to strap my cat Bingo to the footrest because he didn't feel like walking the whole way. Lazy little bastard!

When I got back I had to cheer up a depressed friend by singing the Hamlet-lyriced song from Hair:

What a piece of work is man
How noble in reason
How infinite in faculties
In form and moving how express and admirable,
In action how like an angel,
In apprehension how like a god;
The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals!

I have of late - but wherefore I know not - lost all my mirth,
This goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory,
This most excellent canopy, the air, look you:
This brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof
Fretted with golden fire,
Why, it appears no other thing to me
Than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.

What a piece of work is man,
How noble in reason!

Perhaps tonight the alligators will make an appearance.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Shameless Yoinking

To "yoink" something, of course, is to grab it and run off with it without permission.

Whatever did you think it meant?!?

Shamelessly yoinked, then, from Tony's MySpace page, are two photos taken with his camera from happy hour last night.

Because 1) hell yes I'm vain, and 2) I don't normally photograph nearly this well. I suspect it's due to the close proximity of such a dishy guy. He speaks Swedish too. I know all you biatches are jealous.

Old School

This shift key thing is going to drive me absolutely nuts! I popped off the key and blew on the contact, but it didn't help.

I learned to type, ever so many years ago, on a super-fancy IBM Selectric, which I thought was about the coolest thing ever since it had that little typing ball with all the letters on it instead of the individual letters on arms that always ended up jamming together if you typed too fast. Remember those? Anyone??

Where did all these damn crickets come from?

Actually, I'm sure many of my cow orkers at the State can remember these things, and if anything I'm just amazed that we aren't using them still. We do have computers. Glory be!

Check out my phone, though. Ooh, and remind me to get a picture of an Improved Hummer. I bet I could make a fortune swiping one of those things and selling it on eBay.

How To Lose Friends and Alienate People

yesterday morning i went into katie's room looking for my ibook and discovered it halfway under her sleeping face. now my left shift key doesn't work. i think she drooled on it. it's no loss to her; all she does on my computer is chat, which doesn't require capital letters. for me, however - well, as you see. i do obviously have another shift key, but i hit the hard return by mistake almost every time i use the damn thing. interesting that i type 80wpm and yet apparently never use the right shift key, which i'm sure isn't how they teach you to do it in typing class.

another one bit the dust yesterday. one of the mapping guys shuffled off this government-agency coil and is on to bigger and better things; a happy development for him - and at least, unlike silhavy, he'll still be in town and close enough to stop by twice a day for break.

but it's very depressing to see friends leave; more so when you know that the reason they're going applies to you as well. yet i have been happier at this job than at any other - but just because of the friends.

i seem to have lost an awful lot of friends lately, and more are on the way out, i think. the problem with having people close to you is that then they know what's wrong with you.

not happy thoughts, but then, look at the time. here's a happy picture to make us all smile. tony on the right is our departing sweetie; and as for robbie - damn he's a nasty boy!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

How To Win Friends and Influence People

Confidence is everything.

This morning, as six or seven of us trooped back across the parking lot from our extended morning break at the campus cafeteria, we passed an energetic man who gestured to us and called out, "Hey - look at that! I've been wondering where all our soda's going!"

He pointed to a woman across the parking lot who was unloading a couple of crates of bottled water from the back of her car.

Looking at this incident, on the surface, it makes no sense, right? None of us recognized this guy. Besides, all our sodas are sold out of vending machines. And this woman was unloading, not loading, bottled water, not soda.

But such was his air of conviction that all of us smiled back at him and laughed knowingly in acknowledgement when he called out to us; walked past, and carefully waited until we were well out of earshot before exchanging puzzled looks and saying "...Who the hell was that?!?!" to each other.

We should've kicked his ass.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

America: Love It or Leave It You Pinko Commie Scum

Be kind to your web-footed friends,
For that duck may be somebody's mother. . .

That, and the theme music to Monty Python's Flying Circus, are really about all John Philip Sousa is good for, if you ask me. Bah Humbug! I feel like a subversive midsummer Scrooge.

I've never really been much into the Fourth of July. Even when I was a child it seemed alarmingly jingoistic (of course, I grew up during an era when people would say "Better Dead than Red!" and mean it). Fireworks are all right, but not that exciting, except for the big loud ones which give me heart palpitations; and I'm not all that crazy about big picnics. The breeze keeps blowing your hair into your food, there are ants and bees and flies and warmish canned beer, and people keep trying to feed you watermelon, which in my opinion comes just below Belgian waffles as far as pointless, vaguely food-related substances go. At least you don't have to spit out the waffle seeds.

New Year's Eve, now, that's a holiday I can really sink my teeth into. You have all the cool symbolism of new beginnings, plus you get to dress up all sparkly, dance, drink champagne, and kiss people. Why can't Fourth of July be more like that?

I had to come back and edit this to add that the 78704th of July Parade, down East Side Drive in Travis Heights, included a Flying Spaghetti Monster surrounded by an entourage of pirates. How awesome is that? Hurrah for the red, white and blue!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Artistic License: REVOKED

July third is not a holiday for state employees.

However, most everybody is taking tomorrow off. Only two other members of the break set will be there, so it's hardly worth it even going to break; and break is after all the focal point of my job.

Hey. There aren't any taxpayers reading this, are there? No? Thank God.

So I am torn, deeply torn as to whether to call in tomorrow and tell the most senior person in the office, who is one of my fellow three-martini breakers, that I'm not coming in. But my apartment could really stand to be cleaned, and I sure as hell don't want to do that. I'm torn.

To work or not to work: That is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The construction plans of outrageous highways,
Or to call in against a sea of boredom,
And by opposing end it. To stay home, to slack off -
Not work - and by slacking off to say we end
The dullness, and the thousand phone calls from Corpus
That work is heir to! 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To call in, to slack off -
To slack off - perchance to clean the house: ay, there's the rub,
For in that staying home what cleaning up may come
When we have shuffled off this office coil,
Must give us pause. There's the respect
That makes calamity of working every day:
For who would bear the workplace with no break,
The district coordinator's call, the email from the boss,
The endless beige decor, the phantom fart,
The snoring, and the office smoker's barbs
The patient merit of th' unworthy takes
When she herself might her quietus make
With a single phone call? Who would these burdens bear,
To slave all day over a hot mainframe,
But that the dread of something at home,
Where untold dishes, laundry, toilets wait,
And one must clean, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear the ills at work,
Than fly to others that we know too well?
Thus laziness makes cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is weakened with this sickly shade of doubt,
And decisions of such grave import are not made,
With this confusion my resolve turns awry,
To lose the name of action. -Soft you now!
The fair reader! -Sweet, in your perusal
Be all my breaks remembered.

I write all this confident in the knowledge that rotten tomatoes cannot be transmitted electronically.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

For Every Problem, a Solution

Anna walked into the bedroom today and attacked poor innocent Peachy, who was only trying to get some sleep. In the middle of the floor. Anna bent over her on hands and knees and kissed her soundly on her little pink nosey, causing Peach to sneeze, then go into a fit of licking herself.

"Peachy looks jealous," remarked Anna.

"Jealous?" I said. "Why would Peachy be jealous?"

"Because I kissed her!" replied Anna.

"I don't think you know what that word means," I said.

"Yes I do!" retorted Anna. "It means mad!"

So I sat there for a few minutes trying to explain the concept of jealousy to a five-year-old, which isn't really that easy a task. Finally I came up with an example I thought she could relate to. "Peachy's probably jealous of Romeo right now," I told Anna, "because you aren't kissing his nose."

Anna thought about this for a moment and brightened. She ran out of the room.

A minute or two later she came running back in. "Mommy!" she said. "Where's Romeo?"