Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Word Problem

Every job's going to cause a certain amount of grief (g) - that's just the nature of the beast. Some jobs cause more grief than others. Grief is counterbalanced by your satisfaction (s) in the work you do. And then, of course, you get a paycheck (P), which can be used to buy cute shoes (and also exciting underwear; but since we're talking about the workplace here, I'll limit the discussion to shoes for the purposes of this argument) to make up for any deficit between the amount of satisfaction you get and the amount of grief you have to put up with.

In the most simplistic terms, this concept can be mathematically expressed thus:

x = Shoes + (s - g)

where x represents how advisable it is to hang onto your current job, a negative value indicating you might want to think about looking around. The lower the value, of course, the less likely you are to have a whole lot of choice in the matter anyway.

Of course, "Shoes" is also a big variable in that different people have different levels of disposable (aka shoe-purchasing) income. If you have other family members (m), not only is your cost of living (c) higher, but other family members may have other priorities (wtf) for the disposal of said disposable income.


Shoes = P - [(c*m) + (wtf*m)]

So here's your assignment.

For my regular students (aka ordinary folks): Given a supervisory structure whose only concept of management is to get on employees' cases about their attendance and break times, with neither regard to nor particular interest in the quality of work performed; and given job duties that range from mildly interesting but fairly pointless at best to downright insulting at worst; calculate how quickly a mother of three with a three-pair-a-month Payless habit will start looking for another job.

For my advanced students (aka major employers): Discuss how much you are willing to pay said mother of three to, using only her sharp intellect, engaging personality, cute shoes, and exciting underwear, boost morale and improve productivity in your workplace.

Resume and references available upon request!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Feet of Chocolate

It's quiet and far away, but you can hear the train from here, sounding its horn as it crosses Oltorf just east of Lamar. I love the sound. It's lonely and nostalgic. When you think about it, it seems kind of funny that we still have trains, doesn't it? They are a relic of the past that's remained largely unchanged. I remember not that long ago when they still had cabooses, too. Or should that be "cabeese"? Whatever. I thought it was sad when those went away.

The sound is evocative of escape, and far-away places. You can imagine what it would be like to climb onto an empty boxcar and just see where you'd end up. You can pretend it wouldn't be a railyard in, say, Nebraska with a bunch of hoboes, which would actually not be all that pleasant. It's just a nice idea.

My favorite magnetic poem of the week is by Eric:

I want chocolate feet
to put on a
summer sausage
like in the pictures

together they are cool

I guess he spends more time browsing YouTube than I do.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

There's More To Life than Duct Tape

You remember those detachable-face car radios, right? It was supposed to be a great theft deterrent that you could pop the face off and put it in a little pouch and carry it with you whenever you left the car. I knew maybe two or three people who actually did that. Everybody else just left it in place until the radio got stolen or (much more likely) the spring-loaded clamps that held the face on got loose or broken, so the radio no longer worked, and they had to go out and buy another one.

I have a detachable-face radio in my '92 VW Golf. When I bought it, you couldn't get a radio without that feature, which was a real pisser because my previous radio had one, and before I'd had it very long it got loose and turned itself off whenever you drove over a bump. So I asked the salesman at Best Buy if they didn't have maybe just one piece-of-shit, cheap-ass car radio without a detachable face? They did not. But the salesman assured me, over my protests, that the problem with my old radio must have been a fluke, because the faces never come loose and stop working.

Well, guess what? It did. In your face, Best Buy salesman!!! Who's laughing now??

Oh yeah.

Anyway, in preparation for a weekend trip to Houston, which did not happen because the sister temporarily in Houston (who lives in Connecticut now) never called me back, and the sister in Austin could not bother waking up for the trip anyway, I went out and Krazy-Glued the face onto my radio. And you know what? It works now! I rock. Didn't I tell you I rock? I am so resourceful!

Watch it be stolen by tomorrow morning.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, February 23, 2007

Exciting Things

I know you're bummed about missing the World of Concrete 2007 conference in Las Vegas last month. But hey: there's still time to register for World of Asphalt, coming in April to Atlanta!

Today I learned this and several other fascinating tidbits of information, including the fact that there's a brand of concrete pourer called a Putzmeister. And here I was thinking, after a year where I work, I knew everything there was to know about putzmeisters. Turns out I need to spend a little more time reading industry magazines.

I'm glad it's Friday. It hasn't been a fun week. But I bought a pair of really cute shoes at lunchtime, so it's all better now.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Having a Craptacular Time! Wish You Were Here!

How come people who are on vacation are expected to send picture postcards to their friends, innocently going about their daily routine at work? This only serves to foster envy and resentment, don't you think? Why don't people at work send postcards to their vacationing friends? I think this would make a lot more sense. At least, that's a thought that was occurring to me right as I was racing down the stairs to morning break, and came very near tripping and being killed in a freak stairwell accident.

The rubber treads in the east stairwell are cracked and peeling, and chunks of them are missing. Several months ago, everyone in our building received an email notification that they would be replaced. (The stair treads, I mean, not everyone in the building, though that's also a rather intriguing idea.) This hasn't happened. But today some workmen came and ripped out a perfectly good wall on the south stairwell, taking care to turn off the adjacent elevator first. I don't know how the smokers made it to their cigarette breaks. They might have had to dive out the window, which I think is slightly more probable than their walking all the way to the opposite end of the building to use the other elevators.

We, the break group, suspect these were the workmen who were supposed to replace the stair treads, but that the project is being overseen by the infamous director of the administrative section: he who coordinated our division's move with such staggering incompetence that what should have taken two weeks, at the outside, ended up taking almost two years; he who opens and reads all division employees' mail; he whose brainchild our Big Broth^H^H^H^H^H^H^H Scotland Yard software is, which pretty much everybody except our (new) manager's group seems to find some excuse to get out of using; he who was supposed to order Bitching Smoker a replacement ergonomic keyboard for her new computer, but whose underlings finally informed our boss, non-apologetically, after sitting on the request for five months, that the paperwork appeared to have been misplaced and would need to be resubmitted; he who sends out urgent, division-wide emails telling people not to burn microwave popcorn or take paper towels from the bathroom to use in the kitchen (they are purchased from a different budget, so this is a huge deal, you know) but will never respond to repeated emails asking for actual information pertaining to his actual job function; he whose name has become so universally synonymous with the term "great vast blithering idiot" that if you so much as mention him to anybody in our division - I am not exaggerating, this is totally true - they will immediately say "ugh" and roll their eyes. Seriously. They can't help it, it's reflex.

In our staff meeting yesterday, our supervisor had apparently been instructed by someone - senior to herself - to stress to us all that we have to, have to, have to be sure to keep our Scotland Yard updated. We've been told over and over and over again that it's only a tool to let anyone looking for us know where to find us. It is not a time clock. But in our meeting yesterday, our supervisor once more stated that, while it is definitely not a time clock, and she is definitely not trying to micromanage us, we really need to be sure to keep it updated for our own good. You know, so that when the people who are snooping around on us come to her to tell her that we're a bunch of lazy, no-good, do-nothing slackers who come in late all the time, she'll be able to pull up reports from Scotland Yard to demonstrate that we in fact have signed in right on time every single day, and therefore defend us. To whoever it is that's attacking us. She didn't say.

We took extra-long breaks yesterday, and I spit on my resume a few times, and shined it up a little bit with my sleeve. The thing is, the one thing this rather silly job has going for it is that it's been entirely stress-free. I'm a little cheesed at the attempts to address this and only this aspect of working for the state.

Want to see the picture on my postcard?

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I Heart IKEA

Who would not love that store?

Yesterday I went there with Robbie. I frugally purchased only a clock for the kitchen wall, a rug to go under the kitchen sink, a second rug for the bedroom which has that nasty-ass brown flecked linoleum tile, you understand, a full-length mirror so I can better admire what a delectably stylish girl I am, a couple of powerstrips, and a lovely soft poofy pair of house slippers (I'm not used to uncarpeted floors) and escaped for just under $42 - my favorite number, naturally. I love that store!

Robbie bought everything else they had.

After our trip we went back to his place to assemble some furniture, and I suppose I could claim we've taken our friendship to the next level in that we made up his bed together. It might have been advisable not to have done so whilst drinking strawberry margaritas; but we did, with the result that we broke off a chunk of it, I sliced my finger, he hurt his toe, I showed him how to make hospital corners, and within half an hour of being completed, the bed completely collapsed.

It's those IKEA instructions, you know. They're designed not to be language-dependent, so they consist entirely of drawings. The drawings of the furniture and its composite pieces are not particularly humorous, but the drawings of what IKEA apparently thinks you look like when putting together a table are rather humbling. Did you know that when you are hurt or confused, your mouth is a big down-turning wobbly line, and giant question marks radiate from your head? You idiot.

One page showed a picture of the bed rail we were installing next to a prominently displayed bleeding finger. We laughed at the silly picture, and were still giggling when I felt underneath for a screw hole and suddenly yelled, "Ouch!" Lesson learned: Do not mock IKEA. Because IKEA will cut you, bitch.

So now I want to get a wrought-iron bed frame and two wine-red couches, but I think I'd better use some protection this time.

Labels: , , , ,

The Party's Over

Sheesh, take a week off from work and the whole place falls apart!

Well, maybe not the whole place. But this morning I came in to find that the conference table where people gather for lunch has been removed, and two empty cubicles set up in its place. This makes me sad. I have such happy memories of that table, where I could liven up a rather monotonous diet of soup with conversation and comics, crosswords and sudoku. I used to look forward to lunch there every day, so I kind of fail to see how a couple of empty cubicles are an improvement.

This is true even though, I have to say, sudoku does get a little old after a while. Once you've figured out the basic pattern of how they work, actually doing the puzzles is more time-consuming than challenging. I mentioned that to my dad, and he said he'd arrived at the same conclusion, so amused himself by writing a little program that solves them instead.

That's my dad!

Last time I took a week off from work was also to visit with him and my stepmother, when I flew up to Syracuse in September '05. But then, I was working for that miserable marketing hellhole in Corpus. So although I used a week of vacation, I still had to bring my laptop and spend a couple of hours every day checking email, IMing with coworkers (some of whom were unaware I was supposed to be on vacation at all), and working on buildout of a client website that had gone way, way past deadline. I have a fine appreciation for how wonderful it is to have spent a whole week without thinking about work, to come back to a small handful of non-urgent emails, and to have nothing more on my plate than a couple of meetings and an appointment at the blood drive.

In fact, I kind of need something to do. Maybe I'll organize a fruitless campaign to get our lunch table back.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Dramatis Personae

Today, for some reason I don't particularly remember, I was showing the shelf full of language books to my parents. German, Italian, Arabic, Spanish, HTML, French... "Oh!" I exclaimed, taking out the "Review of Basic French" and handing it to my dad, "I was supposed to return this to you."

He seemed only barely to remember. "Oh yes," he said, "when did you borrow this?"

"I think it was my senior year of high school?"

Fortunately, my dad doesn't impose fines.

Here for your viewing pleasure is my family, photographed on the last evening of my parents' visit. They're getting on a plane unspeakably early tomorrow, so I need to have them at the airport by 5:30am. They offered to take a taxi, but that would have meant having to say goodbye tonight. I consider getting up before the crack of dawn a small price to pay for putting that off as long as possible.

But they'll be back next year!

Eric, my teenaged son: Very artistic, and destined for great things
Beth: Disorganized, but usually friendly. Fond of cats
Anna, my newborn baby: Will never be a model despite great personal beauty, because she finds posing for pictures to be unutterably boring. A singularly strong-willed genius
Jim, my husband: A man of strong and well-thought-out opinions, who I really hope did not make this face for my parents' camera
Joyce, my stepmother: Without exaggeration, the kindest, warmest, sweetest, loveliest person you will ever meet as long as you live
Tosca, a singer: A passionate and volatile diva, who both took and gave life for her lover and her art
Katie, my teenaged daughter: Funny and smart, queen of all she surveys
Margie, my sister: A beautiful cellist and artiste, the member of the family most likely to get into a bar brawl
Duane, my dad: Unquestionably perfect in every possible way

Happy Birthday to my stepfather, who isn't here, but talks of retiring in Austin - soon, I hope! Here's to family! I love you all.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Robert Burns Explained

When you live in an idyllic agrarian society, populated largely by comely shepherds and shepherdesses, and your words for cattle, sheep, and meadows all rhyme, it's practically impossible not to be a poet.

Yesterday I had KUT on in the car, and on Eklektikos, John Aielli played a favorite Scottish song of mine. The singer had redone the lyrics slightly and altered the overall meaning. As she performed it, it's about a young woman who fell in love and married and moved away, and now longs, homesick, for the life she left behind. It's beautifully plaintive and wistful.

O the broom, the bonny bonny broom,
The broom o' the Cowdenknowes,
Fain would I be in my ain country,
Tending my father's yowes.

We got back to the house halfway through the song, but sat to listen to the rest of it, and on the last verse, sitting next to my dad in the car, I found my eyes brimming over. For what, I don't know. My ain country is currently under several feet of snow, and anyway I never lived there. And my dad doesn't even own sheep. I'd have no idea how to herd them if he did.

I guess nobody ever said poetry had to make sense.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Scenes From a Visit

Grandma Joyce and Anna share a story:

My favorite guitar!

My dad and stepmother, posing with Stevie. This time, no rubber fish were involved.

We capped off the day by - oh yes, yes we really did - joining my friends for afternoon break. And whyever not? I'm really proud of my parents and anxious to show them off to my friends, and vice versa.

Tomorrow: Lunch in Gruene!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Capitol Day

Q. How can you tell if a politician's not lying?
A. He's not there.

There you go, I've taken an old joke, with only a slight limp, and made it totally lame! My parents and I visited the State Capitol today, and found our experience much pleasanter for the fact that the Lege was nowhere to be seen. I thought they were supposed to be in session right now. Probably all out ice-fishing.

We made a leisurely traverse of the ground floor, a quick trip to the second, and a jaunt to the underground annex (still, in my opinion, about the coolest place ever - even more so in the dead of night when no one else is around and you keep expecting somebody to come and kick you out) before heading over to the Capitol Visitors' Center, where I'd never been before. It's housed in the old General Land Office building; and because William Sydney Porter (O. Henry) once briefly worked there, they have a room dedicated to information about and pictures of him, as well as (I guess) his old desk. Did you know he had a terribly tragic life and died at only 47? His only son died just a few days after birth. Both his wives and his only daughter died of tuberculosis. So think of that next time you go to the pun-off.

There's a Texas Travel Information Center there. It was staffed by employees of my agency, of course; and it was a shock to see them - only one head apiece, and the same number of eyes and appendages that normal people have; and they were speaking clearly and articulately and being friendly, sociable, and funny!

"Oh my God," I said to my parents as we were walking back to the car, "I think Travel Division people might be normal!"

That job I applied for (not my own job, I mean, but the other one) is in the Travel Division. I really hope they call me. I wonder what it would feel like, being normal?

We also had lunch at Fran's, and drove past a few of the 10-foot guitars, variously decorated by local artists, distributed throughout the city. Sam Hurt's is on 2nd Street, in front of the Austin Children's Museum. I haven't seen any I didn't like, but my favorite so far is on the hike-and-bike by Auditorium Shores. You are the guitar, looking out. You see hands poised to chord and strum, then a cord leading to an amp, then the edge of the stage, then a crowd of happy grooving people, then beyond them the Austin skyline on a brilliant sunny day. Everything is painted at the angle at which a guitar would be held. I love that one.

I'd like to take my parents to see that one, and of course Stevie, tomorrow afternoon. It's supposed to be much warmer, so I guess the ice-fishing idea will have to wait till another day.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Illusion of Control

Now is the winter of our discontent, or at least of wishing this house were somewhat better insulated. A pier-and-beam foundation? And hard floors? And an original central heating system dating from the late 17th century? (I don't know, I guess the developer just found it here in the forest and decided to build a house around it. They were always doing crazy things like that in the 20s and 30s, you know.) These mean the house is just going to be very, very chilly once the outside temperature drops below 40.

But my parents, again, think it's positively balmy here.

We have climate control issues at work, too. Our division resides in a single ginormous room divided into standard-issue beige cubicles, right? Well, the air conditioning really only works in the interior of the room, and works extremely well. I kept a space heater at my desk. But at the periphery of the room, close to the windows, the temperature may run into the mid-80s, so that even our cheap-ass agency is willing to spring for fans. If you have enough employees perish from heat prostration, you can get the skivvies sued right off of you, and I'm sure that isn't in the budget. And you know, I never thought of this before, but our climate control problems might be the reason why Coworker-You-Idiot always wears the zip-off pants. Perhaps he receives official in-building weather forecasts on that little set of headphones with the antenna that he wears around everywhere, and which you can see, from anywhere in the division, bobbing along over the tops of the cubicle walls.

Or maybe he's just weird.

Anyway, it's late, and I'm tired, and I'm very very cold (but personality isn't everything, right?), and I guess I'll just go crawl into a nice warm bed with my nice warm punching kicking Anna, and hope it's sunny enough tomorrow that I can bear to go outside.

And I'm thinking Friday, weather permitting, I might bring my parents to afternoon break.

Another One

Have you been noticing a lot of odd coincidences lately? I have. It's enough to put me in mind of the cosmic spheres coming into alignment, except I was kind of under the impression that the Age of Aquarius already done dawned, yo.

This morning, putting on earrings, I picked one out of my jewelry box I hadn't worn in a long time, probably not since we left Corpus. It's a teardrop-shaped crystal earring, not one of my favorites (obviously), but pretty. But I couldn't find its mate. I dumped out my whole jewelry box and looked through all the contents, but the second earring definitely wasn't there. I hate losing my things! I sighed and picked out another pair and went to work.

When I got home, I had an email from the really cool woman who bought all my bins of diaper fabric off me a couple of weeks ago. She's interested in buying my snap press, too. She also wanted to let me know she'd found a teardrop crystal earring in one of the bins.

My parents are here, after a pretty rough day of travel. They left subzero temperatures early this morning, then got stuck for four hours at Dulles getting de-iced. Originally supposed to arrive at 2:56pm, they didn't end up getting in until after 8.

They are philosophical, though. They find it highly amusing that several people here - a lady at the airport, a couple of check-in clerks at their hotel, their very own daughter - have been tossing variants of "Cold enough for ya?" at them ever since they arrived. As we were walking in my front door, a frigid, arctic blast of wind took my breath away. "What a refreshing breeze," remarked my dad.

There's nothing coincidental about that, of course, seeing as how I believe he's wearing at least three pairs of long underwear.

Maybe tomorrow we'll go ice-fishing in Town Lake, assuming I can find an appropriate pair of earrings.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Wisdom of Magnetic Poetry

Maybe once a week or so I'll feature the good (or at least interesting) things that emerge from the magnetic words on the fridge. This one seems appropriate for Valentine's Day:

do not ask for love
it will only hit you on the head
with an enormous pole
and then chain you to the bed by the hair
when you cry for mother
Id say no if I were you

Not that there's ever any use in warning anyone.

I'm home in the middle of the day, in the nice clean house, by myself, with actual music playing on the stereo! My parents should be arriving at Austin-Bergstrom in a little under two hours, and will be here for just about a week. I haven't seen them since September '05 in Syracuse, so I'm really excited. I was hoping the weather here would be juuuuuuust a little bit nicer for their visit; but I guess it's a big enough improvement over 47 feet of snow that I don't need to worry too much about it.

Actually I have some errands I need to go run before I pick them up, but it's so nice here, I might just sit around and play with the magnetic poetry set instead.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Institutional Logic

Here, wrap your brain around this, and see if it makes sense, would you?

Just over a year ago, Robbie, Jason and I were hired on as 2-94's. Now, in local parlance, what this means is that we are on a two-year temporary assignment. Our positions do exist and are covered in the budget - we're not stranded in eternal temporary limbo, which I have been in the past, and it's not much fun. But our old supervisor had three positions he needed to fill in a big hurry; the regular posting-and-hiring process is lo-o-o-o-o-ong an convoluted; and the 2-94 process is pretty quick.

We get full pay and benefits, but when the two years are up, our assignment is over. Naturally the positions will still exist and will need to be filled; naturally, the logical people to fill those positions will be us. But the jobs cannot be posted for hiring until they're vacant. And the regular posting-and-hiring process - I may have mentioned this - is lo-o-o-o-o-ong and convoluted. We'd be out of work for a while.

But one of our coworkers left for another job a few months ago. His job has been posted, the regular way, and the posting closes today. So this morning, in something of a panic, our supervisor raced around breathlessly telling us 2-94 riffraff that we needed to apply for it.

How is this going to work? Well, I guess, we all submit our applications, and (assuming they pass muster with HR, by no means a given) she interviews us, and hires her #1 favorite. (My money's on Jason!) Then Jason becomes Bill 2.0 and we have an opening for Jason 2.0, right? So Robbie and I submit applications and our supervisor picks, let's say, Robbie. This leaves an opening for Robbie 2.0 and I apply for it and what do you know?! By gosh! I get the job, because I'm qualified for the position I will have been in, by that time, for at least a year and a half, probably longer.

Or am I? The job requirements were written with little regard to the actual job functions. I believe HR may have been involved. Perhaps I will have to face the unpleasant realization that I am not qualified to perform the trained monkey work I've been yawning over for a year. I suppose that would be a bit of a blow.

But say it all goes off without a hitch: our supervisor will have managed to convert all three of us 2-94 scumbags into actual, legitimate employees some months ahead of schedule, and we might actually be able to hire Elizabeth 2.0 - and thereby fill the shortage left by Bill - only a year after the position first became vacant!

What could possibly be more logical?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

I Picked the Wrong Time of Year To Be a Feminist

"Women are mysterious," begins a radio ad that's been running lately, "especially when it comes to Valentine's Day!"

Silly radio ad. It's based on the premise that women are not really mysterious at all, because everybody knows that all women want tender, romantic gestures that will eventually lead to commitment and marriage and children. Men don't get it, because they just want to watch sports and pornos and belch and scratch themselves. What's to understand? Men, of course, are pretty stupid when it comes to relationships.

"Have your gift delivered to her at work," the ad goes on, "so she can talk, talk, talk about you to her friends!"

Hahaha! Women sure do like to talk, don't they? Can't shut the bitch up.

Another ad features one woman telling a second woman that her boyfriend wants to get serious, but she's not really sure. The second woman immediately deduces that the first woman has something wrong with her. Maybe it's her diet. Anyway, the ad concludes happily with the first woman announcing that her boyfriend just proposed and she said yes! Squealing ensues.

If I weren't a lady, I swear, I'd pull an Elvis on the damn radio.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Dressing the Part

Some months ago, as we were milling around aimlessly at work (as is our wont), one of my friends commented, "I'm not afraid of dying. I'm afraid of growing old, though, because old men always wear those pants that come way up to your chest."

"You wouldn't have to do that," I said.

"Oh yes, I would."

The lady who lived in this house before us was older and quite respectable, which is a shame because it means that I don't get any good clothing catalogs in the mail. The combination marketed towards older women is a bit befuddling: the clothes are simultaneously butt-ugly and much more expensive than anything I would ever consider buying. Trousers are high-waisted and loose-fitting. Well, every item in the catalog is loose-fitting, except of course for the (ahem) foundation garments, which were still called girdles when I was a young lass. The colors are vivid and jarring, there are lots of busy fripperies like ruffles and beading and fringe and embroidery, and there's not a peep of cleavage to be seen. These clothes are not designed to draw attention to your best features - they're designed to hide and distract from as much of you as possible.

The models in the pictures are not older women, and do not seem to be particularly in need of girdles. You can see in their eyes that they're only dressing like this because they're getting paid.

At the other extreme, the previous resident in our apartment was apparently a gay man, which was great because I got International Male catalogs for a while. There's nothing else like looking at pictures of well-oiled, tightly-muscled men clad only in leopard-print spandex thongs and the occasional mesh tee - and, unless you're really good at suspending disbelief, a few pairs of rolled-up socks - to give you a fine appreciation for the nuances of fashion. But for some reason I don't think I noticed what the prices were.

My friend recently left the agency for a job in the private sector. I'm not sure if that will hasten or slow down the aging process. You'd think working for the state might preserve youth - sort of like being in suspended animation - although, looking around, I have to admit it doesn't seem to have had that effect on some of the old-timers.

I can't say much for their fashion sense, either.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, February 09, 2007


I have an item for the employee suggestion box at work.

Dear Employees' Advisory Council,*

Recently, I applied internally for a position in another division. HR mailed me a form letter to acknowledge receipt of my application and let me know it was being processed.

Unfortunately, someone in HR mistyped my address, so the letter was returned to the agency, then routed through the mailroom to be delivered to me at work. Per standard procedure for any piece of U.S. mail addressed to any employee in my division, the envelope (with a return address from the Employment Office, and "CONFIDENTIAL" stamped across it in big red letters), was opened and read in the administrative office, then given to my supervisor to pass on to me.

Nicely done! Thanks, guys.

Since the confidentiality of the letter, the error that caused it to be returned, and the policy that allowed it to be opened and given to my manager all originated with HR, one can only conclude that at our agency, the left hand has no idea what the left hand is doing. If a gentle hint would be of any assistance, I might mention that one or more thumbs appear to be pretty firmly lodged up your ass.

This still doesn't even begin to address the matter of routinely opening, reading, and then filtering through the supervisor any correspondence addressed to any division employee - a practice which strikes me as more appropriate for dealing with prison inmates than adult professionals, though I have to admit it's at least consistent with a few other ways the agency treats its people. Policies regarding internet and email use, personal time off, and other management issues make it clear that our agency expects its employees to be incompetent, untrustworthy, and dishonest. Anyone with the most rudimentary understanding of human nature should know that such expectations tend to be self-fulfilling.

But I'm being unfair. I do recognize that having the most rudimentary understanding of human nature pretty much disqualifies anyone from working in HR.

I don't expect to effect any real change in the way our agency conducts its business, but wanted to express my displeasure and annoyance with this particularly flagrant example of boneheaded administrative policy. I look forward to seeing my input dismissed in next quarter's EAC newsletter.

But of course, I can't really submit that. HR wouldn't understand most of it, and my supervisor would know who wrote it right away.

*A fully-owned and operated subsidiary of the HR Division, dba Dipshits "R" Us

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Better Than Sex

Well, maybe not. But I can do laundry whenever I damn well please!

And with all the quarters I don't have to use at the laundromat, maybe I can go out and pick me up a cute guy.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A House Is Not a Home...

... without a magnetic Leslie set and poetry set on the fridge.

Well, a proper Travis Heights house, anyway.

I'm still trying to get unpacked, and probably will be for weeks. There's nothing else quite like moving to make you aware of how much unnecessary crap you've accumulated over the years. You have no place to put it away; you don't know when you'll ever use it. But how can you possibly throw it away? Even the most humdrum of objects have such history attached to them. Here's a slightly hideous ceramic knick-knack with unicorns (horns all long since broken off) and a big empty ring in the middle which once held a mirror. It's useless and stupid-looking, but it was a present (the last one, as it turns out) to Katie from my mother. Here's a vase we got as a wedding present from some friendly neighbors who later came to hate us because I can't edge a lawn in a straight line. Here's a handmade corner table I got at a garage sale 15 years ago for only $4. It wasn't pretty, but it was sturdy, until a moving mishap left it with one leg nailed on at an unlikely angle. (So it turns out I am not a natural carpenter, okay?) There isn't room for it in the new living room; but I've had it for so long! And it was only $4! And here's a very nice microwave, which I'd love to plug in and use, but the idiot manufacturer appears to have put too many prongs on the plug.

Then there are the cats, which, decorative as they may sometimes be, are almost never useful.

Leslie and magnetic poetry, on the other hand, are a must-have for any well-appointed kitchen.

Monday, February 05, 2007


I'm against it!

Haha, just kidding. I have no objection to other people's being into sports. I never have been, probably due to the intense aversion therapy my stepfather subjected me to as a child. Have you never noticed how echoingly lonely the sound of a TV set blaring cheering crowds is, day after day? And you're little, bored, wandering from room to room, looking for something to do. But the TV is forever set to football, baseball, basketball, boxing, curling, whatever. All these strike me as things it might well be great fun to do, but not all that interesting to watch.

So I felt unusually with-it last night when I actually looked up the Superbowl score on Yahoo! Sports, not once, not twice, but at least three times during the game; and when I felt a distinct sense of pleasure in the Colts' victory. "Oh good!" I said to myself. "[My good friend] Robbie will be so happy!"

But it turns out it takes more than that to be a real sports fan.

There's a great deal of pretension in this attitude, of course. No, it's genuinely true that I've never gotten into sports. But past a certain point, one's refusal to get all wrapped up in something - something everybody else one knows is all gung-ho about - becomes a way to deal with an underlying inferiority complex. I'm deliberately being snobbish and elitist. It's a badge of distinction. "Oh, you may enjoy your football games," I might as well say, with my nose in the air. "I personally prefer a quiet evening with a volume of T.S. Eliot."

Or an episode of that fine old intellectual vintage television show, Match Game PM. Whatever. (Hey, Charles Nelson Reilly smoked a pipe. If that isn't intellectual, I'd like to know what is? Also, they were drunk.)

But I'm a bit at a loss in a conversation where everybody's talking about the game last night: who fumbled what ball, during what inning or down or whatever; how many runs somebody made; or why the Chicago Bears, who were good enough to make it to the Superbowl, apparently have the NFL Least Valuable Player for a quarterback. I have to sit there in silence. I have nothing to contribute to that conversation.

Hey! Anybody read any good Molière lately? *Lookit me! I'm smart!*

Sunday, February 04, 2007


Feng Phooey

The kitchen and the living room here are so immensely livable. They're all sunny and cozy and cute and homey. This is the sort of kitchen you hang out in, sitting around the table not just to eat, but to talk, or meditate, or blog, for that matter. A hearth would make it complete. But I guess that's a project for another weekend.

Still, this is the awkward phase of moving where pretty much all the stuff has been transferred over, but I have not yet figured out quite where everything goes. During this phase, you have to edge around everywhere sideways, stepping carefully over boxes and pieces of disassembled furniture. Horizontal surfaces are piled with knick-knacks and CDs and utensils and toys and measuring cups and photos and books and hairbrushes and candles and other odds and ends.

The trick is to get everything cleaned up and put away before the initial enthusiasm wears off and inertia sets in.

This house is just so ridiculously cute. It's got flowering vines clambering up the outside by the front door and a big, shady live oak right in the center of the front yard. I can't post pictures, because I haven't found the box containing the cord to hook up my digital camera.


Friday, February 02, 2007

Internet! Also, IKEA.

*lies prone on the cyberfloor, gulping the sweet, sweet cyberair in great cybergasps*

That was a rough couple of days. Well, okay, one day.

I'm actually mooching off of a neighbor's wireless signal. Time Warner came out and set up our cable, internet, and phone at the new house this afternoon, so needless to say they don't work. We're way over on our cell phone minutes, so we couldn't stay on hold long enough to notify them about the problem and have them come out to fix it.

The landline, you know, doesn't work. But these are some of the hazards of moving; some of the lesser ones, I might add. I'm speaking as someone who did indeed break two nails, not to mention totally ruining my manicure! And we're not done. This weekend won't be fun. Does anybody know how to get an oven all clean without, you know, actually touching it? Or putting on (shudder) rubber gloves? Eeewwww.

Today at four, my friend Robbie came into my cube, which I've been cleaning out today. (We're moving at work, too!) "Come to IKEA with me!" he said winningly.

"I can't, I'm here till 5," I told him.

"Our boss snuck out early," he pointed out.

"Let me get my purse," I said.

Let me tell you, I was absolutely thrilled that Austin was finally getting an IKEA of our very own. That was before I actually went there for the first time today. I think the one in Houston might actually be closer. But I was delighted to see that a certain item of furniture on the showroom floor was correctly labeled a chaise longue. So much for the silly notion that they don't read my blog!

The couch I'm sitting on right now is from IKEA, as is its twin across the room. So are the coffee table, the entertainment center, and the two bookcases that flank it. The sofa table and the dining room table and chairs are from IKEA. The posters on the wall are in IKEA frames. My dresser and nightstands and Eric's bed frame are from IKEA. My silverware and many kitchen utensils are from IKEA.

These were acquired over the course of many years, by the way - I didn't go all crazy and buy all this stuff on my trip with Robbie today! I know they flat-pack all their furniture, but come on, he drives a Mitsubishi. I bought curtains for the living room.

The best part of the trip was that we went through the self-checkout, and Robbie discovered that a vase he had picked up did not have a bar code on it. There was no way in hell we were wandering back into the maze to try to find another one like it. The attendant, who was friendly and helpful and apologetic, spent ages trying to find the code to punch in for it, and called over three other employees to help. Meanwhile, every 60 seconds or so, the autoteller would inquire, "Do you wish to continue with your purchase?" After the seventh or eighth time we were picking up a distinct edge to her voice. "Hey, asshole, why are you just standing there like a moron?" we expected her to say.

But she didn't. Maybe another five minutes would have done it. Fortunately, the checkout attendant finally found the code, punched it in, and sent us on our way.

Thank God, because I was dying to get home and see if I could find some internet. Maybe tomorrow I can finally post a picture of the house. I bought yellow-and-blue double-A batteries for the camera at IKEA.