Saturday, March 31, 2007

Synchronized Cats

Mr. Bingo Kitten has a dirty nosey.

Friday, March 30, 2007

A Shot in the Dark

Interesting article.

As an avid cloth-diapering mom, I fell in closely with the alternative-parenting community, which embraces many concepts I agree with completely:

Attachment parenting in general, which replaces the neo-mod 50s ideal that pregnancy is socially unacceptable; babies, and kids, are accessories to be tended at one's convenience; and instead recognizes the fact that, for all our scientific advances, we are still mammals who are evolved to cuddle and love our young;

Breast-feeding as opposed to bottle-feeding, which is a large part of what I like to call "detachment parenting:" not that I have a huge philosophical objection to bottle-feeding in and of itself, except that, unless there is a medical or work-related reason, it's just less efficient and more impractical and does not foster the natural attachment between mother and baby;

Co-sleeping as opposed to the crib, which serves to make more immediate and abrupt the separation between mother and infant, who are designed by evolution to remain almost as close as during pregnancy, growing apart gradually rather than experiencing an abrupt end to their previous unified state;

Cry-It-Out vs. Comfort-On-Demand, a conflict between the early imposition of artificial schedules on a particularly tiny and helpless personage who doesn't understand what the hell the problem is, as opposed to the mother doing what she feels like doing when her little one is screaming (pick it up and give it love, or alternately go outside where she cannot hear it - for you new moms, this is also okay to do, as mother and baby will each come to understand and accept the needs of the other);

Natural Childbirth vs. Give Me The Fucking Drugs Already You Asshole: Well, this one is pretty subjective. I'm personally on the side of natural, and have done it myself three times. However, I am prepared to accept, without judgment, that those less perfect (i.e. amply endorphine-riddled and hippy) than myself might like to have a spot of epidural. We all get something and lose something to compensate. I personally have 20/2400 vision without contacts. Charles Darwin would kick my ass over that one. Also, my teeth were crooked.


Now listen. I haven't been an active member of the online parenting community for a few years, but when I was, the divide between vaccinating and non-vaccinating was huge. It split pretty neatly along party lines, too. Cloth-diapering, baby-wearing, breast-feeding, natural-birthing, attachment-parenting moms were also overwhelmingly anti-vaccination. And this really always bothered me, because I do, and did vaccinate my kids, and believe passionately in doing so. There are so many ridiculous, needless diseases that have been almost completely wiped out by modern medicine. To think of some of those diseases making a comeback because some of my ilk have been seduced by the Germy Side is more than I really like to think of.

Free-thinking parents should be, you know, free-thinking, and be doing their own research. I'm hoping that the anti-vaccination pendulum is well-begun on its swing in the other direction.

How stupid, on top of everything else horrible, would you feel if your child died of measles??


Thursday, March 29, 2007

If Only

I wish Volkswagen made a sedan called a Huff. I'd own one, about 15 years old, with fading paint and shredded upholstery and a leaky windshield and a radio that only worked on the third Tuesday of months that end in a Y. And then, whenever anything happened to trouble me or piss me off or hurt my feelings, I could leave in it.

I guess I'd settle for a Snit (hatchback) or a State of High Dudgeon (SUV), but mostly I'd like a Huff. Has to be a VW though.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Who Loves Ya, Baby?

Several years ago I took a Seven Habits of Highly Effective People class through work. I was only twenty-three at the time, so did not really recognize it as a specimen of that loathsome beast that's become so prevalent in the workplace now: that bastard spawn from the unholy liaison between corporate motivational productivity-boosting tripe, and feel-good self-help pop psychological garbage. However, I'm proud to state that nonetheless I got a laugh from my classmates by making an off-the-cuff remark that Stephen Covey was just like Kojak with sensitivity training. I stand by that assessment to this day.

One of the creepier concepts covered was that of the Emotional Bank Account, which is something that determines how other people feel about you. You maintain relationships by maintaining a positive balance in the Emotional Bank Account of everybody you have a relationship with. So if you make a withdrawal, say by forgetting a birthday, or not showing for a lunch date, you have to restore the balance as far as possible with an apology. (Sincerity is helpful but not necessary, as long as you're convincing enough.)

You keep the account in the black with regular deposits: compliments, confidences, acts of friendship, being generally dependable. And that way, if you need a withdrawal in the form of a favor, you have the balance available to cover it.

I think that chapter was called either "Friendship 101 for Inept Sociopaths" or "Manipulating Others for Fun and Profit."

Anyway, I'll grudgingly admit that the metaphor has some validity. If you hold up someone's Emotional Bank at gunpoint, take all the tellers hostage, massacre the security guards, and finally set the place on fire on your way out, you'll never be able to pay off all the fees. No matter how many deposits you try to make in the future.

They might even call in Kojak to investigate the crime.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Putting the "Pro" in "Inappropriate"

It's official, I've signed the acceptance letter and everything. I am now an echt employee of the State of Texas.


Poor Robbie got a "thanks for your interest, maybe next time" letter, signed by our supervisor. He showed it to me. It was spattered with tearstains, although the bottle of water in his other hand made me a little suspicious. And the fact that he was smirking. Also the highly amusing, smart-assed, animated clip-art congratulatory piece he made to show me exactly what I have to look forward to in my career. That bastard!

So I used the magnetic letters on my cabinet to spell out "BILL 2.0."

After a few minutes' thought I added "NEW IMPROVED" above it.

But then I had to restrain myself from adding "NOW WITH TITS" and just closed down and left for the day.

I just got the job, and already I'm going to have to work from home!

HR Explained, Slowly and Patiently

You know, if you don't pull your head out of your ass every once in a while, you won't be able to breathe. If you can't breathe, you won't get enough oxygen. Lack of oxygen causes brain damage.

Think about it.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

The Big Puddle

Do you remember clear plastic bubble umbrellas? Weren't those cool? How about those shiny red rubber boots you put on over your shoes so you could jump in all the puddles?

I wish I had those now. I walked home in the rain today with my normal umbrella, which did succeed in preventing me from getting soaked completely beyond hope of recovery, and my tennis shoes. My sockies got all wet.

If I go to New York City next weekend, a ticket for this will be waiting for me at the box office. Should I go?

I've never been to NYC. It looks a little overwhelming. I saw Harlem through a car window when I was 13 and we were on the way from Princeton to Cape Cod. And a couple of years ago, I changed planes in Newark, and was able to make the first-hand observation that New York City is a scoche on the largish side. So how about that.

I've seen dozens of episodes of both Seinfeld and Taxi, and watched a handful of Woody Allen movies. But somehow these strike me as being, perhaps, a little inadequate to prepare me for immersion in an urban jungle of such staggering size. I'd be scared to go alone.

But I do have a cousin in Brooklyn. Adventure and excitement and really wild things! I might just go. Hopefully it won't be raining.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Complete Chaos, Outdoors and In

Lately I seem to want to write a lot of sappy, tender, sentimental stuff. Maybe it's those PMS mints Billy sent me. I'll spare you, and post some photos instead - you can thank me later.

Romeo knows he's not supposed to be on the table, forget about in a shoe box. He's cold busted!

I took this picture about 5pm today in the backyard. About half an hour earlier there was a sudden, abrupt drumming of rain on the tin roof, and afterwards I was admiring the way the budding trees stood out against the cloudy sky. The photo doesn't capture it but I do like the way it almost looks as if I'd taken it in black and white.

In fact I've been trying to figure out what to do with this backyard. It's wild and foresty, and I like it much better than I would a neatly clipped carpet of grass. The wild onions have little white blossoms at the top, and something else is small and lacy and profuse and pink. There are also, maybe morning glories? They had little pale purple blossoms on them this morning but don't now. They have broad overlapping grassy leaf blades. There's a small, but wonderfully twisty live oak right in the center of the backyard. There's also a low, decayed, completely overgrown stone wall running along the center, the width of the backyard, dividing off the uphill from the downhill half. It crosses the fence and closes off a part of the neighbor's yard, as well. Some long-ago gardener must have had a perfect profusion of shrubs and flowers on the uphill half, perhaps with a small lawn on the lower part. What was once a large patio is now the addition of the master bedroom, leaving only a narrow hallway to the outdoors by way of a porch.

It probably helps if you squint.

I've been studying Annie in Austin's beautiful gardening blog particularly closely lately, trying to get inspiration, but it's kind of like reading the Kama Sutra when you haven't hit puberty yet.

Or kind of like grasping the concept that tables are not for sleeping on, no matter how many shoeboxes and grocery bags your idiot humans have left lying around on top of them. Maybe the cats have a point after all.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

I Am Hiding

You cannot see me.

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Salma Hayak's Not the Only One

What bizarre creatures people are, so often ignoring the opportunities before them in favor of wishing for something safely out of reach. Ugh! Humans! I don't understand them.

If that doesn't qualify me for a job in HR, I'd like to know what does.

It was Sara's last day today. We had a going-away happy hour for her, and because I completely failed to take even one picture of the event, here instead is a picture of raccoon footprints on top of the refrigerator.

That's pretty much how the happy hour was, only without the raccoon or the cat food. Or the fridge. And in a bar, rather than, you know, my kitchen. Also there were some people there. But otherwise, pretty much just like that.

Sara sent out a farewell email to several friends and coworkers thanking everyone and saying what a pleasure it's been to work with everyone; you know, standard fare for such emails, except that her closing was "Live fully." And I sat there at my desk and thought about that and felt very sad for a while.

But the great cycle continues unbroken, as evidenced by the exciting news that fellow breaker J will be bringing a new little breakling into the world. No wonder she hasn't been drinking her martinis!

So here's to taking advantage of the opportunities before you, and to new beginnings. I think I'll go to bed.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Things You Didn't Know

... Or did you?

Today I learned that those concrete median barrier things they put up on highways when they're doing construction - you know, those tallish skinnyish things that are just about the right height to scrape your side mirrors clean off, if you drift out of the center of your lane even the tiniest bit? I always get white-knuckled when I'm driving next to those. Anyway, today I found out that they weigh 639 pounds per linear foot.

So much for the idea of hopping out of the car and scootching them surreptitiously a little onto the other side of the road.

A few other things of which you may or may not be aware:

- Middle school orchestra concerts are really not that enjoyable, no matter how closely related you are to some of the participants.
- Shopping at IKEA is an excellent way to make religious observances on Good Friday, April 6th, and I think I might feel a bit of a sore throat coming on.
- The Bitching Smoker quit smoking. She also knowingly refrained from running over a couple of jaywalking coworkers as she pulled into the parking lot this morning. I'm kind of worried she might start dressing in orange robes and handing out flowers.
- Dominican Joe's, at the corner of South Congress and Riverside, has such excellent coffee that I expect them at any minute to be sued by the bereaved families of employees at the neighboring state agency, who have been run over and killed while jaywalking.
- Biking to and from work every day feels really good. I'm even getting used to the hills! But my hiney is sore.
- Happy hour at Gingerman tomorrow!

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Shooting the Breeze

The problem with conversations about the weather is how quickly they can head south.

At morning break today, a remark on the ominous rain clouds gathered overhead led to the subject of tornado drills. We have only the two kinds of drills at work, you know: fire, for which you're supposed to go outside, mill about aimlessly in the parking lot, and possibly get in your car and leave - and tornado, for which you're supposed to line up in an interior hallway, or possibly step outdoors for a quick smoke break. But what, asked Robbie, if the building caught on fire during a tornado warning?

It's not all that unlikely when you think about it. Somebody could be making microwave popcorn - somebody generally is - and the klaxon would sound, and they'd beat a hasty retreat to the safe hallway, and the popcorn would burn, and the microwave would catch fire, and the whole place would go up like the Hindenburg.

So we'd go outside, said Thomas reasonably. A tornado warning is just a warning.

But what, persisted Robbie, if the tornado were right outside the door? Bill helpfully added that it might be lying in wait in the parking lot, crouched behind a car, ready to suck up the unwary. And there could be lightning strikes.

Moreover, continued Robbie, warming to his subject, what if a sniper were stationed on the rooftop of the next building over, picking off people as they tried to escape? This isn't implausible either.* We have a special security guard stationed in the hallway right outside our division for a reason, and it's not to keep people from burning popcorn.

The conversation then briefly touched on the ethical implications of using smokers as human shields, but at about that point, Thomas said Robbie sounded just like Justin (who hardly ever blogs, by the way**) and changed the subject.

So, nice weather we've been having lately, isn't it?

*I'm still waiting for the phrase "going transportational" to catch on.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Top Ten Things That'll Kill You

10. Tequila. Well, duh!

9. Have I mentioned that Travis Heights is hilly? Well, the bike ride to work is mostly towards Riverside - you know, downhill. The ride back home? Will kill you.

8. A raccoon I've taken to calling "Dave."

7. Drunken clubgoers who make incoherent, but alarmingly insistent passes at you in the Hobby Building parking garage.

6. Bosses who sneak up behind you when you're innocently minding your own business and scare the living bejeesus out of you.

5. Lack of sleep.

4. Lack of sex.

3. Children who really, really, really, really, really want to dye their hair, come on Mom PLEASE, come on why not, all the other kids' moms are letting them get their eyeballs pierced and I just want to dye my hair black MmmmmOOOOOOOMMMMMMMM!!!

2. Pork Tartare.

And the number one thing that will definitely kill you, if none of the above does you in:

1. Everything else.

Monday, March 19, 2007


My very dear friend Billy is wise enough to move 1100 miles away before making certain jokes in my direction.

But he is unwise enough to have given me his return address, and do you know what? Now that I've worked in such a GIS-intensive job for over a year, I've gained just about all the expertise I need to use that information to be able to mapquest him! Ha!

Fortunately, I'll have nice fresh breath when I do.

P.S. Sugar, Corn Syrup Solids, Natural Flavors, and Calcium Stearate?! I'm surprised at you!

SXSW: Two Perspectives

My fourteen-year-old daughter had her first taste of SXSW this year. She went to see a whole bunch of bands I've never heard of and tried her hand - well, her whole body, actually - at moshing. She fell down in the mosh pit and had her hair stepped on. Some big guy with a smelly butt lost his balance and landed on her face. She puked. She got punched and scratched. She got kissed. She got ground on, but refrained from giving the grinder a knee to the nads because he had just helped her up out of the mud. She came home, wearing a favorite top of mine she had "borrowed" ("Well, you haven't worn it in forever!"), covered in mud and band autographs, laughing and breathless and declaring she'd never had so much fun before in her whole entire life.

I, on the other hand. went to the SXSW screening of Weaving World, a thought-provoking film about the systematic economic exploitation of Navajo rug makers.

Maybe next year we'll switch.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Great Outdoors

It's lovely to have a house with a yard again, but there are a few disadvantages.

There are the squirrels in the roof, of course. I don't know if they're actually hurting anything, or if perhaps they are actually beneficial: their large, fluffy tails will provide added insulation; and their presence does serve as an ongoing reproach to the cats, who frankly could use a little more shame as part of their emotional makeup. Complacent bastards!

The raccoons are a bit out of hand. At least one comes in through the cat door at night and helps itself to the cat food. If there's no cat food, he sometimes eats the paper plate I give the cats their canned slop on. Something needs to be done about this. Then again, given the size of the cat door, I suppose I should just be grateful my house hasn't become infested with linebackers.

And night noises in the yard are always scary. We're right by the park and the creek, and taste in this neighborhood runs much more to shrubbery and yard art than to manicured suburban lawns (thank God!), so who knows what sort of creatures are traipsing through the yard at night: raccoons and possums; armadillos and hippies; probably the odd bass player, seeing as how it's SXSW. It's hard to sleep.

The houses on either side are currently vacant. Whenever people move in, they might take issue with the cats pooping in their yard. That'll be awkward.

And I really, really, really need to buy a lawnmower. And learn to garden. I won't edge, but maybe if I put up enough yard art, no one will notice.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

It's a Fact!

Did you know...

...that Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale is almost as appetizing as the name implies?

...that, if I am locked out of my house, I can crawl in through the cat door?

...that St. Patrick's Day commemorates the driving out of Ireland of all the snakes by St. Patrick?

...that this in turn symbolizes the driving out of the indigenous pagan religions and the conversion of the country to Christianity, and that therefore I tend to take the snakes' side, and if you pinch me for not wearing green, you will be in terrible peril?

...that falling in love is one of the sillier things an otherwise rational person can do?

...that Anna has a wet butt because she went wading in the creek and fell down?

...that bicycle helmets, no matter how stylishly designed, brightly colored, and diligently worn by safety-minded cyclists, are nonetheless irretrievably uncool?

...that today is such a spectacularly nice day that the Dogfish Head, sipped on the back patio, tastes almost bearable?

Well, now you do.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

How to Freak Out Your Boss

This is by no means an official announcement, but two events over the past two days strongly indicate that I have been chosen as Bill 2.0.

My glass of Merlot and I have somewhat mixed feelings about this.

Before we moved offices, Robbie - the best friend you could hope to have, and my only competition in the "Be the Next Bill" contest - whiled away some of the slower moments by decorating the underside of his cubicle cabinet with Post-It notes, on which he had written such sentiments as "This job sucks," "I hate this place," and "Please - Kill me now!"

The underside of the cabinet, he told me, was pretty well completely covered by the time we moved.

After we moved, Robbie realized it might be a good idea to go back and retrieve his cabinet - all the furniture, of course, is modular - from his old cubicle. But it was gone. Someone else had already taken it! Who?! Robbie asked around for it. He asked our friend and fellow three-martini breaker, Bryan, who now sits in the cube next to the one across from Robbie's old one. But Bryan had not seen it.

"Wow," remarked the partly dead old-timer in the cubicle across from Bryan's. "You sure do want that cabinet, don't you?"

Robbie sure does, inasmuch as he thinks he might have signed and dated a few of his creations.

But unfortunately, it's never turned up. He worried about it for a while. But it's been several weeks now, and nothing's come back to bite him in the ass. My personal pet theory is that it's ended up in our boss's office, where she's simply continued to add to it with Post-It notes of her own, without ever missing a beat. Gawdonly knows she feels free to joke around in every single staff meeting about how anxious she is to find another position.

Robbie and I sat today and discussed how best he should handle the news, assuming that's the news there will be, that I have been the first one chosen to go permanent. He says he can cry on demand. I think we should take it up a notch further, and when our supervisor calls me into her office, we'll both show up wearing sashes saying "Miss/Mister TRM Analyst 2007" and I will scream with excitement and my hands will shake in front of my face and my mascara will run and I will turn and hug Robbie and he will give me a fake hug with little pats on the back and and air-kisses.

I better get a tiara.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007


Once a week we have to meet to discuss the status of IT’s big project to get several buttloads (metric) of irrelevant, obsolete traffic data entered from old report printouts into the database. These meetings are scheduled for an hour each, but thank God, they rarely go longer than twenty minutes, unless somebody senior to the project lead is there, or unless some foolhardy soul asks a question.

If someone senior to the project lead is there, he – that’s Coworker-You-Idiot, for those of you keeping score at home – drags the meeting out, presumably on the theory if a productive meeting is a long meeting, so by extension must a long meeting be a productive one. That’s called logic! Fortunately, people senior to C-Y-I never seem to attend more than once.

Then there’s the one guy who always asks questions when he comes to the meetings. It doesn’t make any difference what he asks: C-Y-I invariably answers with several minutes’ worth of explanation of why data in a digital format is better than data on paper. I don’t think most of us need to have this explained to us. Actually, I don’t think any of us need to have this explained to us. C-Y-I just goes ahead and explains it anyway, I guess because he’s so proud of having managed to grasp the concept himself – probably something of a rare sensation for him.

In fact, I also suspect C-Y-I cherishes the notion that Question Guy may actually be stupider than himself – also probably not an experience with which he is overly familiar. On the day I showed C-Y-I and Question Guy how to set up formulas in Excel (did I mention these guys work in IT?), C-Y-I asked me to sit with Question Guy for a morning and train him on how to 10-key. You could tell Question Guy was stung.

Whether you want to see them or not, here are sample minutes from a typical meeting.

Standard Report Conversion Project Meeting
10:30 – 11:30am
Conference Room A

Attendees: C-Y-I, Question Guy, One of the Three IT Employees Who Actually Know How to Use a Computer, Jason, Elizabeth

• Elizabeth has finished entering 1958 data and will work on 1954 next.
-----o C-Y-I has set up a template in Excel for Elizabeth to type numbers into

• Jason is currently working on 1953
-----o No hurry

• As we move further back in time, much of the data is incomplete, especially during the war years
-----o Question Guy asks what happened to the missing data
------------ C-Y-I takes several minutes to explain the benefits of having the data in electronic format
------------------• Elizabeth wonders if part of her skirt can be torn off to form a makeshift gag

• 1940s and 1930s data does not follow a standard format, so nobody will be able to create a template. It will have to be typed straight into Excel.
-----o If anybody wants to experiment with setting up a template anyway, they can. There’s no time constraint
-----o C-Y-I takes a few minutes to reiterate that 10-keying is faster and more accurate than optical recognition software
------------ Nobody ever said it wasn’t

• C-Y-I and OTITEWAKHUC are still doing QC, and will continue to do so until project is completed. No rush

• Traffic data was not broken up into Rural vs. Urban until 1969
-----o Elizabeth suggests that perhaps this is because Texas was comprised entirely of ranches prior to 1969
------------ C-Y-I takes several minutes to set this misconception straight
------------------• Elizabeth needs to learn to keep her damn mouth shut

• No rush, because we’ve already finished entering all the critical data for all the critical years (“critical” here meaning “having any possible relevance whatsoever”) months ago, and the rest of this is just stupid busywork which will be ongoing for years

• This meeting has been entirely pointless

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Assembly Instructions for Life, Other Things

Anna's home! I've missed her awfully. She has been in San Antonio with her daddy; only for two days, but two days is a long time not to have a waist-high person come up and tackle-hug you, then demand to be fed lunchmeat straight from the fridge. I bet you wish you had someone like that! Unless of course you're the parent of a small child, in which case you already do.

This is how we look at work, around 9:30am and 2:30pm, when break time draws near. Sara came by my cube this afternoon and made exactly this face. Who could say no? Though oddly, you know, we spend very little of our break time actually hugging.

Lately I have been cultivating an appreciation for iconic, non-language-dependent instructional art. I bought two citronella candles for the backyard from IKEA yesterday. They have a few hieroglyphic instructions printed on the side, which I would interpret as follows:
1. On our planet, we have 60-hour days.
2. If you sit in a rocking chair, your candle will exist. If you don't... not so much.
3. Children should not bury their faces in your candle, nor should dogs bark at it, especially spaniels.
4. Place candles 7cm apart. (Silly IKEA! Who speaks metric?!)
5. Candles and tastefully coordinated window dressings don't mix.
6. Never place a blowing book near your candle in the wind, my friend.
7. If you run a space heater on a sunny day, your candle will bend over and get all noodly.
8. Light the wick, not the wax part. You dumbass!
9. Never allow a pair of scissors to get anywhere closer than 1cm (that's 3/8", for you non-metric-speaking troglodytes) to your candle, or your wick will fly off.
10. If you yawn next to your candle, it will immediately be snuffed out. I didn't know the IKEA people had met Slappy White!

Gotta go; it's time to go feed Anna again, or at least give her a hug.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Charlton Heston on a Bike

It's hills! Hills!!! Travis Heights is made of hills!!!!!

*shakes fist in air*

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Bargain Hunting

Who on earth would donate a framed family portrait to Goodwill? Presumably the donor was at least reasonably well acquainted with the subjects of the picture. But why would they imagine that anyone else would be interested?

Why would a Goodwill staffer assign this family photo a price of $1.99? And on what criteria did they base this pricing? I suppose the quality of the frame has a certain value. Would they have charged more if the family were larger? Or if they were better-dressed or more attractive?* What if there were a baby in the portrait? How about a dog?

And finally, what kind of twisted, sick, demented weirdo would actually purchase a framed photo of some complete stranger's family??

*Not that they aren't a perfectly lovely family, especially by 1988 standards.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

My New Wheels

They say you never forget how... But we'll see. It's been ages.

I haven't ridden a bike in a long time, either. Ba-dum-pum!

I gave up on the used-bike idea and bought this Schwinn from Wal-Mart today. Maybe the virtuous act of giving up driving in favor of riding a bike for my daily commute will erase the sin of shopping at the Evil Empire.

Last time I bought a bike, I was nineteen, and had fallen deeply under the influence of a 6'10" hardcore biking maniac named Chalo. We went to Freewheeling and got me a Miyata TripleCross hybrid (whatever happened to hybrids?) which Chalo paid for a large part of, then customized by adding a longer seat post and handlebar stem to compensate for my short torso. He himself rode a very large purple Cannondale mountain bike with, I don't know, special wheels with a whole bunch of extra spokes in them for added strength, and special custom shifters, and a special saddle, and all kinds of fancy extra doodads I once could have told you about in gruesome detail. He also wore a Bell helmet with a plastic daisy bobbing cheerfully on a wire from the top. He was so cool, he had once totaled his dad's Delorean. Who do you know that can make that claim?

Alas, very shortly after Chalo and I broke up, my Miyata disappeared one night from my living room. One perhaps wonders about that. But even now, though I'm clearly a piss-poor excuse for a biker, I feel a little dirty buying a bike from Wal-Mart - with (shudders delicately) a kickstand. And forget about the clipless pedal system, it doesn't even have toe clips!

But at least I didn't get a Huffy.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

A Magic Trick

Anna comes to me and holds up a handful of playing cards, fanned out with their backs to me. "Pick a card, any card!" she says.

I take one, but she stops me before I can see what it is. "No, no, don't look at it!" she says. "Put it back." So I do.

"Now, close your eyes," she commands, then shuffles the cards together and fans them out again. "Open your eyes now," she says, and selects a card and shows it to me. "Is this your card?"

"Honestly, I have no idea," I say.

"I win!" shouts Anna, laughing.

Now you try it!

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Reading Too Much Into the Question

Today's iTunes purchase is by Chicago:
As I was walking down the street one day
A man came up to me and asked me what the time was that was
on my watch, yeah
And I said
Does anybody really know what time it is
Does anybody really care
If so I can't imagine why
We've all got time enough to cry

It turns out this is not a Tom Jones song. Why?

Sick of Work

Jobs are just like men, I wailed to my friend b.r. today. You can never get the one you want, while the ones you don't want are slobbering on your neck and trying to get a hand up your skirt.

Since updating my resume on a couple of weeks ago, I think I need to get a restraining order against the insurance sales industry.

Sara's off, she who's wearing the John Deere cap in yesterday's clip-art masterpiece. She gave notice by presenting her boss with a sheet cake decorated with a map of Colorado, a flag with her initials indicating the location of her new home. Isn't that magnificent? I think that officially outclasses all you "I'll-give-notice-in-the-form-of-a-clever-haiku-no-just-kidding-not-really" LOOOOOO-sers! The cake might make a bit of a mess, filed with her exit paperwork; but the gesture is as good-humored as it is grand. We'll miss Sara.

The most productive thing I've done today is go to Goodwill to get a bike, but they were all out. Instead I picked up a cat condo - you know, one of those carpet-covered plywood things with all the little platforms and cubbyholes. I figured the cats needed an outlet for all that excess energy.

Cats don't need a job to be sick of work. They're born that way.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Friends, Texans, Coworkers...

I sent this to 3-martini-break alumnus Justin and he promptly posted it on his blog, so I guess I might as well too, especially if it's just going to be sharing cyberspace with neck testicles anyway.

These are my peeps, as conceived by ClipArtist Extraordinaire Robbie (next to the Indy car). See how lucky I am to have such fun friends? They're actually a lot better-looking in real life, but you know, clip art.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

At Least I'm Not in Corpus!

On Friday, my homegirl A sent an email up the chain of command. "I would like to request permission to use the internet to look up some photos and graphics for our July conference materials," she wrote, following her request with a list of websites that might have pertinent information.

Similarly, a few months ago, I was supposed to go on a business trip to Corpus with a coworker. She emailed me the information on the hotel she'd reserved, and suggested I call them to make my reservations as soon as possible. "Why don't I just make my reservations online?" I asked, since I have kind of a Thing about the phone. My coworker slightly cringed. "You'd have to spend so much time documenting and explaining yourself to Administration, I really think it would be much simpler if you just call," she said.

So why do we have internet access, then? The policy against any personal use whatsoever is so strongly and repeatedly emphasized, and so draconically enforced, that everybody shies away from using it for anything at all. Well, except for applying for other jobs within the agency, and of course (as I've mentioned before) checking the weather again, and again, and again, and again.

I was cc'd on A's email, so I forwarded it along, adding my own note at the top. "I would like to request permission to wipe my own butt," I wrote. But I only sent that to Robbie. I'd never send that to senior management, because I'm sure it would be denied.

Yet at my old job, the problem was much too much of the opposite. I was held completely responsible for wiping everybody else's butt, reading their minds, managing their schedules, looking out for every possible contingency, following up with everyone to make sure they were doing their job, got on their flights, had exactly the content they wanted in their PowerPoints (with no guidance whatsoever as to what message they wanted to convey), didn't forget any important dates, and so on and so on and so on to the point where I was a quivering wreck who lay awake every night with deep, churning anxiety knotting up my intestines.

So where's a middle ground? Database work, I know from experience, always requires a lot more intelligence than it can possibly keep amused. That's why we need the three-martini breaks. Unfortunately our division is actively hemorrhaging break group members, and I really don't want to be left alone all by myself. Going on break with a giant group of new hires would feel kind of like being the creepy old guy whose presence is only tolerated by the high school kids because he buys them Pabst.

Robbie and I are interviewing for the permanent incarnation of our job later this week. We've been bouncing around ideas for how to handle the interview: each of us goes in and praises the other one to the skies, while decrying our own laziness and stupidity; each of us dresses up as the other and shows up for the other one's time slot; we both wear a short skirt (well, a kilt for Robbie) and pull a Basic Instinct; we invite our (strictly vegetarian) supervisor to lunch at a steakhouse and chow down on a side of beef in front of her; and so on. But at this point I'm thinking maybe I'll just walk into her office, offer her a shot of whiskey, put one back myself, then lay my head on her desk and sob.

Except that would probably get me the job.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Road Trip

Robbie and I wanted to go to Corpus this weekend, just to get away from the city where our job and the nonsense surrounding it reside, but it didn't work out. Actually, we really wanted to go to San Francisco with Tony, but that really didn't work out.

Hell, if we're dreaming anyway, I think I'd have enjoyed a nice weekend in the south of France. Or maybe the Bahamas. I'm not picky.

But, you know, there's always Lockhart, which is only about 25 minutes away, has an adorable downtown, a magnificent county courthouse, and what most reasonable people will agree is the best barbecue in the world. We had lunch at Smitty's Market, where you can eat Meat! Meat! Meat! Also, Meat! (apologies to James Lileks):

The pork ribs are delectable, but remind me never to order them on a first date. They are very messy and unladylike. There's nothing like chowing down on a long, meaty, sauce-covered bone to leave your dining partners with very little doubt as to what you are able and willing to do with your mouth.

On second thought, maybe ribs are an excellent choice for a date. But if you're dining with a coworker, he gets to work from home for at least a week. And you might get in enough trouble that they won't even consider you for the permanent opening for your own job that you've applied for. Gosh - that'd be awful.

Then we had ice cream and walked around the square taking pictures - of the courthouse:

Robbie wants this car:

Then we got back on US 183 headed south, to Luling. Let me tell you, you have not lived until you've smelled Luling. You may not want to live afterwards. To be perfectly frank, I believe the smell of crude oil being extracted from the ground is probably the most final argument for alternative fuels there could possibly be, because nothing that smells that profoundly, hideously, vilely nasty can possibly be right.

Luling residents try to put the best face on it by putting whimsical decorations on their pumpjacks:

But head back north, and take a quick jaunt up FM 671, and you'll head through Stairtown, which smells even worse. Stairtown appears, as far as I can tell, to consist entirely of a few sad, run-down mobile homes in the middle of a short brushy wood peppered thickly with pumpjacks. The smell will bring tears to your eyes. God knows how anybody manages to live there. Of course, the owners of the wells don't - they're safely ensconced in big, air-freshened houses in The Woodlands or somewhere.

Robbie and I were grateful to turn back to Austin, away from the stench, and said goodbye (till Monday, unless he's working from home) at my driveway. But for some reason he insisted on making me a present of the remains of his barbecue sausage:

I'm sorry, but I just don't see how that isn't very, very suggestive. I think I'm going to have to work from home. Robbie's going to get in so much trou - D'OH!!!!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Flirting with Disaster

When I went to lunch with former coworkers yesterday, I tagged along with a current one, J. She's cool, but I've never really gotten to know her that well. She's sort of an on-and-off member of the three-martini break group - she often doesn't come to break; and when she does, she hardly ever finishes her third martini.

On the drive to the restaurant, we got to talking about stalkers, of all things. Don't ask me how we got on that subject. She was telling me about one she used to have a few years ago; and of course shortly after I started there, my cube neighbor A had a huge incident with some poor crazy bastard who became convinced that they had a tacit, but serious relationship, just because she once asked him conversationally if he weren't cold without a jacket on. A's stalker pushed things a lot farther than J's, who apparently backed off not too long after he should have; A's lost it completely and got fired, and to this day we have a security guard stationed in our hallway, every single day except the second Tuesday and last Friday in odd-numbered months that contain the letter E. (Or something like that. I have not yet actually figured out the pattern; but then, I'm not much of a stalker.)

"Damn," I said to J in the car. "It seems like, where we work, every girl gets a stalker. Where's mine???"

She laughed, but looked at me a little oddly. Nobody understands me.

She had to stop on the way and get stamps, and from the post office parking lot I got my first glimpse of the newly demolished Intel Shell. I stepped out of the car to snap a picture with my phone.

It looks pretty messed up, but not, perhaps, quite as thoroughly demolished as I'd expected.

The demolition charges went off this past Sunday, early in the morning, and I heard the booms from my house. Being mostly asleep and not remembering that the demolition was scheduled for that morning, I didn't know what they were. They didn't sound like anything I could identify - sort of like very loud thunder, but without the rumbly dying-away bit. The house that backs up to ours is steeply uphill, and they have a huge, somewhat rickety-looking addition that comes right up to the fence, looming over our backyard. We keep thinking that one of these days, it's just going to give way and slide right down the hill and crush us. I thought perhaps Sunday was that day.

But it wasn't, so I'm still here, and will still be going back to work on Monday, more's the pity. Perhaps I'll see about posting a job requisition for my very own personal stalker. My division is rife with likely candidates. Must have skin.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Did I Say Confederate Heroes' Day?

I meant Texas Independence Day. Whatever.

Today was skeleton crew, and hardly anyone was in, so it was officially the Most Boring Day Ever at work. I did get to go have lunch with a couple of recent departees from our division, which was nice. But they have their minds on more worldly things, now, and we had little to talk about. I'm pretty sure one of them actually sneered at me.

I spent the afternoon feeling lonely and sorry for myself. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to express such emotions as loss and sorrow, aimlessness and ennui in brightly colored magnetic plastic letters? Really, they aren't quite the ideal medium.

I've been feeling a little down. It's not really that bad. I'm just whining. I bet Confederate Heroes' Day is gonna rock.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

And We're Off!

Well, one of us three "new" hires has now been eliminated from consideration for our own job. HR deemed this person not qualified.

It doesn't mean the person will be let go or anything, of course. It only means that, after hiring one of the remaining two newbies, and then posting a requisition for the opening that creates, our supervisor will have to tweak the job requirements a little to make sure everybody gets "permed."

But I just don't understand how the rules can possibly be this stringent. If I were to judge based solely on the caliber of people I see working around me, I'd assume the complete job application looks something like this:

1. Do you have skin? Y_____ N_____

Signature / Date

Not that I've really looked all that closely at a lot of them. And you wouldn't either, if a significant number of your coworkers looked like this:

Artwork by Robbie, because one picture is worth a thousand grunts.

Happy Confederate Heroes' Day!

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