Monday, April 30, 2007

Everybody Loves PowerPoint

Most of the past week at work was spent putting together a PowerPoint presentation on the ins and outs of the bureaucratic process that governs an administrative function of the state highway system. Our office receives and researches requests from local entities, circulates them internally, then puts together the documentation to present to a higher body, which closely reviews the materials in order to arrive at a careful and well-thought-out decision.

Putting together this presentation is probably the most fun I've had yet at work. I've worked with PowerPoint before, but had no idea you could do so much with it. You could practically make a feature-length film! Though it's pretty cumbersome, and once you have multiple animated elements all depending on one another's timing, it's much too easy to mess up.

I know my presentation will probably have to be toned down a little before I'm allowed to give it to a real audience, but I'm pushing for the original version. The bureaucratic process isn't really known for its excitement factor. A few explosions and the odd flying farm animal can only help.

They might make me redo my closing slide.

But that's okay. From now on, if you ever come across an official-looking document with "WHATEVER" stamped across it backwards, you'll know that PowerPoint, and I, were involved.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

It's Mostly About the Beer

You know those winsome, leggy, skimpily clad, impersonally flirtatious girls that beer companies hire to walk around restaurants handing out free samples?

They don't put up with any shit.

My face-painting gig at Eeyore's was amazingly successful. I only made one little kid cry; and to be perfectly fair, she seemed as if she were about to cry before she sat down, and the whole time she was having her face painted, too. So I don't think it was really my fault, though I felt awful. Fortunately, everyone else seemed really happy with their paint job.

The best was a redheaded kid who knew exactly what he wanted - a red dragon and a black dragon, one on each cheek, facing one another, breathing great gouts of flame that united at the bridge of his nose and flowed up onto his forehead. I probably spent about a quarter of my two-hour shift on that one kid, and it turned out absolutely awesome, so I hope he doesn't wash his face for at least a week. One onlooker told me she wanted me to remember that design when she came back later in the afternoon. At another point, someone actually referred to me as an artist. It's wonderful what high-quality, independent, locally-brewed beer goggles can do.

We hung out for a few hours afterwards, listening to the bands and the drum circle, and just watching some of the freakiest, most beautiful, happiest people and dogs in the freakiest, most beautiful, happiest city on Earth pass by on the trail. It was a perfect day.

Later, Kevin, Robbie and I ended up at Hill's Cafe on South Congress, a fine example of retro-trendified nouveau-vieux, for a little apr├Ęs-Eeyore's gnosh, and met someone really passionate about her job.

Two girls were making the rounds of the place, pouring cups of Miller Chill (rhymes with "swill"), which I didn't try, but which Robbie and Kevin didn't care for, seeing as how we'd spent the day sampling a lot of really good beers. Fair enough, but unfortunately, a few minutes after pouring the samples, the girls stopped by again to ask if we liked it.

We all smiled and nodded politely. "Not really," said Robbie.

The girls laughed, but one didn't want to let that go by. "What didn't you like about it?" she asked.

"Well, it tastes like Miller," Kevin pointed out, reasonably enough I thought.

"Well, it's a whole different recipe," the girl said, still laughing, but with an edge to her voice. "I've never heard that one before."

"Well, now you have," Robbie responded.

The next logical step was for her to break a Miller Chill bottle on the edge of the table and go for his throat, but fortunately, they gave up and moved on, which is good, because by then I had a monster headache from all the sun, all the squinting at small children's faces, all the beer, and most of all the live country band playing at Hill's, which probably was not, in clear violation of the principle of truth-in-advertising, called "Quaver McWobbly and His Amazing Vibrato Squad."

Headache aside, it was a great time all around. I'm looking forward to volunteering again next year, and here's a tip for you if you ever sign up to do face-painting: Don't set your drink down on the table right next to your paintbrush water. You might as well just drink Miller Swill and be done with it.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Why Genius Never Sleeps

I'm always misplacing items - aren't you? You know, things like the key to my bike lock, a DVD case, the stereo remote, Anna's hairbrush, my phone, my earrings, the magazine I was planning to sit down and read, the shoes I wanted to wear today, etc. They turn up, but not until you've ransacked the house, pulled apart the sofa cushions, rudely disturbed the new life forms that had established a largely peaceful civilization under Katie's bed, and scandalized the cats. And it's tiresome, and these things are generally missing right when you're in a big hurry for them.

So wouldn't it be nice if these objects were redesigned to be a little easier to find? All these items should be equipped with flashing LEDs so you can spot them easily. And in case they're covered up with clothes or under the furniture, they should also be able to emit a loud beep.

But if you had a remote paging device to turn them on and off at will, that would also get lost in no time flat. So the LEDs should flash and the items should beep constantly at all times, and they'd all have to be extremely bright and extremely loud so you could see and hear them over all the other flashing and beeping things, you know?

This is going to make everyone's life so much easier.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Will Paint Unidentifiable Objects on Your Child's Face for Free Beer and a T-Shirt

So Diane, Robbie and I go to the Wednesday night volunteers' meeting, at the Dog and Duck, for Eeyore's 44th Birthday this upcoming Saturday. What a totally happy, Austin experience! There's nary a non-weird person to be seen; and everyone is filled with such an excess of goodwill that female strangers cheerfully take turns guarding the men's bathroom for each other. (What? There's a long line for the ladies' room, and there are plenty of trees on the patio.)

The main volunteer slots open are for face painters, which is kind of sad if you think of the children. Look: Just have your kids ask for something easy, okay? Rainbows, flowers, butterflies, things like that. Spiderman in full web-swinging action? Hell, it's your $3.

12-2, y'all, if you want to come out and get your face painted. I believe the Complaints Department is at the other end of the park.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Elizabeth 2.0: Now Without...

The hiring process is under way for the enviable position of Elizabeth 2.0. My not-yet-detemped coworkers are interviewing for it later this week.

But our boss interviewed two outside candidates today. Both are older, male, retired military. One flew down from Dallas this morning. They wore suits. Word is that both of them did extremely well - so well, in fact, that our boss is nervous she might not be able to hire one of the internal applicants.

This leads to three inescapable conclusions: One, the forces of nature are obviously conspiring against the 3-Martini Break Group, because these guys don't sound nearly silly enough to be admitted. Two, if some dude with a buzzcut and no sense of humor ends up as Me 2.0? I'm going to be pissed.

Three, we'll get to see Jason in a suit Thursday.

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Housesitting

Margie is housesitting at her ex-boyfriend's place.

It is, oh my God, y'all, SO totally cool. It's on Holly Street, and is an art-house do-over of one of the modest little 1920s bungalows there, all of two minutes away from downtown. Some dense shrubbery conceals most of the front, so all you can see is a glimpse of a small, ordinary house with a nice front porch. Margie leads me through the front yard, past the facade, when I arrive, through an attractive garden at the side of the property.

The original house is on a gigantic lot, easily a full acre or more. It's been divided into a duplex, front and back, with a common laundry room and bathroom between. Behind is another two-story structure - Margie's ex's place, a loft apartment with stained concrete and mosaic floors and a Mediterranean, mirror-tiled stairway leading to the second story balcony. A fountain plays outside.

Across the courtyard from this and the original house is the building housing the common kitchen, with an immense covered patio at the back. The faint gas smell and lofty ceilings inside remind me of the coop where I lived in college. Renters take turns maintaining the yard, cooking, and cleaning, and their cats and dogs have free play of the property, none seeming to mind each other; though Margie's ex's dog has a few loudly vocal altercations with either some raccoons in the woods, or perhaps a familly of laryngitic banshees. It's hard to tell.

Behind that is a yard with a fireplace, lawn chairs, and cement-block benches. Further back still is what Margie tells me is a "guest trailer," plus another small building serving as a communal restroom, and a further area, screened off by bamboo, with some more structures where she tells me other people live, so we don't venture there. Another building in the back houses a garage and studio space. I can't see it very well in the dark.

Margie and I talk about anything and everything, It leads around eventually to Mom, and how I dream about her frequently and about how in my dreams I always know she is dead, and even talk to her about this, yet never really seem to resolve anything. Margie says she dreams about Mom every single night, but often they are fighting. By the end of this part of the conversation we are both in tears.

We talk about men, and about life, and about all the other things that generally plague human beings (specificailly women) on this planet. We look at some pictures of David Bowie. We hug. Margie is the closest person to me on the face of this earth.

Let's have a party before her ex comes home!

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Dating

When's the last time you asked somebody for a date?

It is, of course, an unbearably awkward experience. There's the phone number scrawled on a yellow sticky-note, under the name of a relative stranger with whom you know you have at least a few things in common. I dread the phone anyway, so that makes the whole ordeal that much worse.

But if you gotta, you gotta, right? So I pick up the phone and call. The person on the other end appears to be very glad to hear from me, but is on the other line with work right now, and will call back tomorrow. Fine with me! I'm just glad to get off the phone. Oh, but wait. Don't you need my number?

"The number you're calling from? Actually, it's on my phone."

Huh huh, oh yeah, I guess it is, I'm such an idiot. Is any of this actually worth it?

And it is, of course, because I get off the phone and tell Anna, "Okay, I set up your play date with your friend for Saturday," and she shouts "Hooray!" and hugs me tight, and bounces joyfully around the room for about seven minutes.

What can I say, I'll do anything for love...

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Yellow Rose of Texas, C'est Moi

I'll teach Emily Dickinson a thing or two about optimism.

Pigs are the things with feathers
That might fly out my butt,
And squeal in perfect harmony,
And don't stop, no matter what,

And heartbreak ease, and PMS;
And tight must be the rope
That could hogtie the little swine
That helped so many cope.

They've cheered me in my darkest hour
When hope would be insane;
Asking nothing but to wallow
In the muddle of my brain.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Name That Sketch

I've asked many of you this question in person. I just posted it on Yahoo! Answers, though, and not gotten an answer yet; so hey! What the hell. Bear in mind that this post is being written by a very immature and silly mid-to-late thirties white woman whose almost-six-year-old daughter is currently singing along to Brian Eno. Really! In tune, too.

When Eric and Katie were little, around 1992 or so, there was a sketch that played on Sesame Street that I loved. It was live-action, with no spoken dialogue. All characters appeared to be in their early-to-mid twenties. It went more or less as follows:

A white-bread, 1950s-looking guy in a gray suit, glasses and hat arrives at a bus stop. He puts down a small boom box he's been carrying and pushes the start button on the, yes, cassette player. (Remember those?) Hip-hop strains waft forth, and the guy bounces awkwardly in time to the music.

It won't do, because there are two extremely cool guys already waiting at the bus stop: one is Black and one is Hispanic, and both are in very brightly-colored, MC Hammeresque business suits. (Remember MC Hammer? If I recall correctly, he blew his entire fortune on solid gold bathroom fixtures.) First one, then the other, stops Father Knows Best from dancing with a tap on the shoulder and a shake of the head, then proceeds to demonstrate how a real 90s hipster dances. But the whitebread guy just doesn't get it.

Finally the two other guys each take one of Mr. Whitebread's hands and start making him do the wave. They move from there into some better dance moves, and finally he catches on, and the three of them are all dancing together. At about this point the bus arrives; but the three of them wave it away, and go dancing off together down the street in interracial hipster harmony.

I can't possibly be the only person who remembers this, can I?

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One Lump or Two?

I haven't been to Sun Harvest in a long time, but they used to have a wide selection, on the herb aisle, of cutesily-named, pre-blended herbal tinctures that were supposed to be good for all sorts of ailments and conditions. The naming convention was inconsistent, though. For instance, SereniTea was supposed to help you feel serene; but MaterniTea, I would assume, was not actually supposed to knock you up.

At least not when ingested in the normal fashion.

I was just thinking how nice it would be if anything that ailed you that ended in -ty could be cured by a readily available herbal tincture. InsecuriTea, UnintelligibiliTea, the InabiliTea to quit writing blog posts even when I have nothing to say...

The last one may be my fault, but it's your problem, isn't it? Maybe you should head out to Sun Harvest and see if they've got something that would help.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

A True Story

All the departments in our division have been going through a process documentation procedure. This is a normal bane of workplace existence - and necessary; I'll allow, for this one, that in principle it is not excessively silly.

The process I'm part of, the one we've been documenting for just the last week or so, is pretty simple. The flow-chart for it has no cross-references or dead-ends, and almost no infinitely regressive loops. It's probably the cleanest flow-chart I've ever seen. Of course, I've only worked for the state a year and a half.

But, sitting down with a member of the Automation department to put down all the details, we were forced to admit it's not entirely perfect. "We distribute copies of the official packet, but the number of copies we have to make changes frequently," my coworker confessed. "Sometimes one office decides not to file a copy anymore, or another office decides they want one."

The Automation staff member stopped writing, put down his pen, let out a profound exhalation, and opened his soda can. He took a prolonged drag of it and set it down heavily with a loud sigh. "Some tequila sure would go well with this Fresca," he said.

I can't remember if he was in my Stress Management class several months ago, but I sure hope so.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

And There Was Much Rejoicing

It's about time, after our division has been bleeding bright, talented people for so long, that we should get rid of someone incompetent and useless. And we're in luck! Late yesterday afternoon, a memo was sent out to let everyone know our division administration manager is retiring!

Of course we'll have to have a going-away happy hour for him, just like for everybody else. But unlike the ones we have for everyone else, I think we'll dispense with the minor detail of inviting the guest of honor.

This is the guy who opens and reads all mail sent to anyone in the division; who supervises a full-time staff dedicated to poring over all our internet activity records to make sure no one else is wasting taxpayer money; who would never respond to repeated emails from a friend of mine requesting some files my friend needed for a project, but was never too busy to send plenty of division-wide nastygrams to scold people for burning microwave popcorn or pilfering paper towels from the bathroom to use in the kitchen. This is the guy who took two years to reshuffle the seating arrangements for about 30 people on our floor, to the point where I suspect several employees retired or quit out of sheer exasperation.

This guy is, in short, a complete and utter git.

From the memo announcing his retirement:
For twelve years Complete Git was a revenue agent with the Internal Revenue Service and a special agent for the U.S. Treasury's Criminal Investigation Division. For ten years he ran his own investigative business.

I knew he was a dick!
Upon retirement, Git plans to spend more time with his family in the Dallas area and pursue new opportunities in the private sector. Please join me in wishing Git the very best in his future endeavors.

It's almost enough to make you feel sorry for the private sector. Too bad Git's family isn't in the Corpus area. I know a company there that could really use a man of his talents.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Lucky

I'm on a roll,
I'm on a roll this time,
I feel my luck could change...


That's actually a photo of a cardinal, perched in the live oak in the backyard on Sunday. For some reason I always think cardinals are really good luck, so I followed it around for several minutes taking pictures, and this is the best one I was able to get; which might give the lie to my theory.

Today seemed like an excellent day to stay home and pamper the bum leg. They say to ice muscle sprains, which just seems sadistic. Hasn't my poor leg been through enough? I've been putting a heat pad on it and it feels wonderful, though I keep having to fight the cats for it (the heat pad, not my leg). I'll go back to work tomorrow, but I guess I'm driving, for a little while, at least.

Anna made me a birthday card. It says,
Deear mommy
Happy
birthday i love
you so much
you to yes you do
so much yes
yes yes as
much as
a hipo

She's a nice baby. I might actually love her even more than a hippo.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Design Flaws

It would have been a good day to call in sick. (1) It was raining, and (2) I was scheduled for three meetings. If that's not an excellent reason to stay home, nestled in bed with a good book and a couple of fair-to-middling cats, I'd like to know what is.

The early meeting was held in our department's library-cum-conference room, which (despite what I just called it) is not a very exciting room to be in. The meeting wasn't particularly interesting either; plus I was there just to observe, so it was more than usually dull, to the point where after a while I seriously considered leafing through the proceedings from the US Army Corps of Engineers 1991 Dredging Conference, just to help pass the time.

I wonder how far dredging technology has advanced since then?

Then this afternoon, our department was on the receiving end of a presentation by our Automation guys to show us a new software application they'd designed to streamline a process we share with them.

Automation exists to automate processes, hence the name. I don't think they do any evaluation, though. Therefore, the main function of their existence seems to be that of wrapping the latest, cutting-edge technology they can get their budget on, around the most preposterously antiquated processes the agency has to offer.

This particular application is a web-based one, designed to streamline a process that exists, unchanged, from before the Internet was so much as a glint in ARPA's eye. It's a process our department has the good fortune to share with Automation, so they wrote it to make things easier on them, without it apparently occurring to them that others might be involved. The end result saves them a small amount of running around, while adding several steps to what we do.

The web-based application has database functionality, and accommodates multiple users making updates at once. However, each user transaction requires a unique key, which has to be manually set by the user. So what if two (or more) users are online at the same time, and set the same unique key?

"Oh, just refresh your screen right before you save your transaction," the presenter said blithely. "Or after you save it, just go back in to make sure you didn't create a duplicate number, and if you did, just edit it and make a new one."

Well, that seems so easy, one feels rather petty for complaining; but wouldn't it be simpler, one couldn't help but ask, to have an automatically-generated unique index key that wouldn't allow for duplications?

There was a pause. "That's probably a good idea for an added feature in the next version!"

Another advantage of the new system is that it's supposed to eliminate a lot of unnecessary emails. You see, currently an Automation staff member has to compose an email and send it out every time someone sends them a transaction, notifying the recipient that the transaction has been received and processed, and whether it has any errors. The new system will automate all this.

Of course, it does so by sending an auto-generated notification to whoever has alerts turned on, not just the one person who may have sent a particular transaction. So you'll get alerts every single time any transaction, sent by anyone, has been received.

"Well, just turn off alerts if you don't like to get a whole bunch of emails," the presenter said, trying hard to remain patient.

But what (we are a difficult group) if you have transactions being worked on, but don't want to get all the notifications about everybody else's as well? Moreover, what if you'd kind of prefer that all the details about your transactions - such as your error record - not get sent to all your coworkers, God, and everybody?

The Automation presenter was getting rather testy at this point. "Look," she said. "What do you always do when you get a lot of extra emails? Just delete them! You know how to use the Delete key!"

The meeting went on, and on, and eventually it was explained to Automation that multiple people in our department will always be sending lots of transactions at once. It is, in fact, kind of, not to put too fine a point on it, our whole entire job, which they might have known if anyone in Automation had bothered checking with us before writing up the application. So they grudgingly agreed this particular aspect of the software might need a little work in the next version.

So help me God, if anybody calls any meetings tomorrow, I'm going home sick. Oh! my leg!

Let's Get Metaphysical

I don't know about you, but I'm fed up with this mortal shit.* I've decided, upon careful reflection, that I'd rather be a never-ending pulse of disembodied glowing energy. Who's with me?

Well, you have to come with me. Being immortal wouldn't be any fun at all if you had to watch everyone you love die. You have to put up with too much of that being mortal; if you lived forever it would be completely unbearable.

Bodies are just a mess. Things go wrong, they fall apart; and frankly I'm starting to suspect sabotage. How can such a fundamentally friendly, nurturing creature as a female breast, for instance, suddenly go haywire and kill you? (You, here, referring to the person it's attached to - I'm thinking of cancer, not suggesting that breasts routinely go off on transportational killing sprees, though technically I suppose mine could smother people if they really wanted to. But no. They are friendly.)

(For now.)

It's an infinitesimally small thing on any grand scale, or a tiny scale for that matter, but there's something wrong with the calf muscle of my left leg. I had trouble with it last year, too, but it got better and I forgot about it. But today after work, as I was hurrying across Riverside, something suddenly went SNAP like a rubber band being pulled across a peg and it hurts like a sonofabitch and just for the moment I can't walk.

So basically I've just had it with bodies. What are they good for? I haven't had any serious fun with mine in ages anyway. Can't we all just become everlasting orbs of celestial light already? Like, yesterday?

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*That sounds familiar. Isn't that the first line of some famous Shakespeare soliloquy?

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Grandmother

My stepfather called on my cell phone just as I was leaving work today to tell me that my Grandmother Hoskins, my mom's mom, has just been diagnosed with lung cancer... she is not a smoker; so apparently it's the less aggressive type of lung cancer; plus it was caught early; but she'll be in chemotherapy for I don't know how long; she's 84 years old, you know. She's in very good health otherwise, though, and the prognosis doesn't seem to be, you know, BAD bad.

My grandfather's obviously taken it very hard. I haven't talked to them yet - my stepfather is talking to them and my aunt to see if a family visit (we'd stay in a hotel nearby) sometime soon would be nice, or if it would just be too draining. My grandfather is much more frail and a little older and this must be, really, just as hard on him.

So, I don't really know what the purpose is of posting this since I don't really believe in the power of general prayers, good vibes, good wishes, etc., but maybe you would read this post from my visit last October and get to know my grandmother a little bit and what a warm and intelligent and fun person she is. I wish I'd written down more stories. I suppose I should maybe at least I send a thank-you for the Christmas present.

If my grandma reads that she'll laugh.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Fun With Synonyms

Menudo reforming for MTV reality series


The first thought that springs to mind is, they're going to reform - for MTV?? WTF?!?

Then you realize, the article doesn't mean mean reforming, as in giving up booze and smutty books and loose women, and accepting Jesus Christ as your One True Lord and Savior. They just mean re-forming, as in getting the, for lack of a better word, band, together again.

On behalf of loose women everywhere, let me just add: Menudo? I think I can do better.

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State of Confusion, Population: Everybody

One time, sitting around a campfire with some people, we got to talking about the underpinnings of social interaction, and what motivates people to behave the way they do.

You know, one of those conversations.

Somebody posited a guy walking around with just one thought looping endlessly around and around and around in his head for his whole life: "Don't... be... an ass! Don't... be... an ass!" adding, ''Man, wouldn't that suck?"

Everybody laughed until I said, "Wait a minute. That's me!!"

Everyone else agreed, upon reflection, that it was also them.

So my question for today is, if we're all walking around constantly telling ourselves not to be an ass, how come we do it all the time anyway?!

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

My Very First Time

Parents and coworkers, just move along. Nothing to see here.

Have you ever been to a porn shop? This is probably a silly question. Who hasn't? Aside from me, of course. I've reached the age of nearly 38 and never so much as darkened the door of such an establishment; which is odd, you know, because on the whole, I'm not particularly maiden-auntish.

But after Bryan's happy hour last night, over strawberry margaritas and a chile relleno at Baby A's, Robbie said, "Hey. Want to go to the Adult Video Megaplexxx?"

I shrugged. "What the hell," I said.

In college, I had a housemate who worked for Pleasureland Video for a while, just down the street from our co-op. He worked at the counter, but one of his job duties was general tidying up, including the viewing rooms. He quit after about a week and a half, and that's about all I really know about porn shops. So this one was rather surprising.

The customers didn't look right at all. I've always assumed these places were frequented by furtive, mustachioed men in trenchcoats and dark glasses. But the clientele - minus one or two guys you'd immediately peg as major-league pervs - looked so normal. There were several couples, both gay and straight. There was your obligatory Friday-night bachelorette party. Overall, there were a lot of healthy, cheerful, regular-looking folks, most of them college-age or slightly older, almost none of them waggling their eyebrows or wheezing lasciviously.

The clerk carded us at the door, and laughed when she saw my ID. "You're beautiful," she said.

Nothing I saw in there was really all that much of a surprise, except I didn't know they made dildos quite that big. (Welcome to all my new Google visitors, by the way!) And oh my God. The things people will put in their butts! I was shocked.

The visit was both educational and fun, and probably good for about a month of working from home. But since none of my coworkers have read this post, nobody will understand why.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Share and Share Alike

This morning, as I was parking my bike in the stairwell, I met Coworker-You-Idiot coming down. He's the one who's spearheading the 10-keying project, you know - "spearheading," in this case, meaning "getting some files out of filing cabinets and giving them to other people to 10-key in, then putting the files back when they have finished."

That entire project has been put on indefinite hold because C-Y-I has to scan in some old paper maps for the time being, and is therefore too busy to do any spearheading.

He brightened. "Biking to work?" he asked. "You've got some nice weather for it!"

C-Y-I gets in his truck and drives to the other side of the parking lot to go to a different building on campus or to the convenience store. He once mentioned that he finds the parking situation at work to be very stressful; I assume because, while there are far more parking spaces than we actually need, spots within 50 feet of a doorway are in shamefully short supply. Talk about a design flaw!

I said some chirpy thing or other acknowledging that the weather is quite pleasant, and started up the stairs; but he turned around at the bottom and said, "You know, there's a locker room on the other side of the building."

And of course there's nothing wrong with him telling me this, in case I didn't know and might find the information useful, so I just smiled and said "Okay" and went on my way up to my desk.

But no. Not two minutes later he appeared in the doorway to my cubicle. "The locker rooms are really very nice," he told me. "Have you ever been in there?"

"Yes, I have," I said.

"They have nice showers," he informed me. "Sometimes, when I'm feeling stressed out during the day, I just go down there and take a shower. It's very relaxing."

Look, if I can carry this information around in my brain all day, you can deal with it, too.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

In the Air

If I'd timed things better, I'd be making this, my four hundred-twentieth post, on April 20, which would be sort of marginally cool but really pretty stupid, especially seeing as how my parents probably have no idea what I'm talking about.

So forget I said anything.

But 80-degree temperatures out at almost 10 at night mean that spring has officially sprung, I think. It's a time of new beginnings: Bryan's out in two more days; Thomas gave official notice today; the trees are leafy and green; the grackles are in full courtship mode, which is always annoying.

Today we saw a female doing the courtship dance, which surprised Robbie. Normally the females stand around looking bored while the males puff up their neck feathers and race around screeching, those suave bastards. But this one was putting the moves on in her own right. You go, girl! It's good to see grackle liberation. And what else is a girl supposed to do if she likes a boy who's much too shy to make the first move on her? You gotta dance.

Unlike the rest of us in our department, Thomas has some fairly specialized job duties. I suppose he's what you'd call a Government Official. I've been tapped to take those on, and it really makes you wonder: can it be truly fulfilling to hold a position of unique importance, playing a role that's vital to your organization's function, if your overall organization is kind of silly and pointless in the grander scheme of things?

Thomas apparently didn't think so. Then again, it's not a bad metaphor for life on earth in general.

It's much too nice out now to be glum about these things, especially if someone would shut the damn grackles up already.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Break Time!

It sounds so simple: twice a day for fifteen minutes or so, a few friendly and more or less like-minded coworkers get together to hang out and enjoy the nice weather, or else take shelter somewhere against the cold and rain. They make chitchat, they blow off a little steam about work, they keep casually up-to-date with one another's lives. No biggie, necessarily, but they're friends.

An email exchange with my friend b.r. today, and today's news that three-martini breaker emeritus Thomas has now received a job offer elsewhere that he's been anxiously awaiting, have me pondering sadly on how much more than that a simple fifteen-minute break can be. Bryan's last day is Friday, so with Thomas' departure there will be three of us regulars left. There are also two others who participate now and again, but aren't really quite as into the whole break experience as I feel they could be.

I've never worked anywhere before where I hit it off so completely and so comfortably with such a number of other people. Do you remember what it was like in school, when the people you talked to in your classes, your roommates and dorm neighbors, and other campus regulars just sort of automatically became your lifelong friends, without even trying? It's like that. Break was something magical. Even this diminished in number, you know, it still is. It frustrates me hugely when something happens - some ill-timed meeting or work project - to preclude break. I brought my parents to afternoon break when they came to Austin to visit. It's that important!

Break at its best is more fun than just about anything. Everybody there is incredibly smart, wildly funny, friendly, and good-natured. We all have great chemistry: we can easily take turns making the jokes and being the audience; one idea leads to another leads to another; we all seem to bring out the best in each other. Seriously. If you haven't been there, you don't know how much fun it can be. I'd come in from break wiping mascara from the corners of my eyes and feeling like I actually was important to a whole bunch of the coolest people I knew; and I assume, I hope, that's about the way everybody felt - minus, in some cases, the mascara.

And of course there are often lulls in the conversation; it's not like it's a non-stop laugh riot. We have off days too. But this is also okay. We're pretty comfortable just hanging out.

I want everybody to find the perfect place and be fulfilled, but I wish break never had to end.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Resolved: That Strangers Should Be Shot On Sight

Why will complete strangers be so obsessed with whether or not you're smiling? At lunchtime on the hike-and-bike today I crossed paths with some guy who remarked, "You're always smiling!"

I laughed a little laugh and went on my way, but I was concerned. How the hell would he know? Who was that guy?!?

Actually I'm worried that he might be the same guy who ordered me to "Smile!" on the trail several months ago. And if that's the case, there are a few hideous possibilities:

1. He's been watching me!
2. He thinks I'm happy all the time because of his positive influence;
3. No one has shot him yet.

Maybe all of the above!

The kind of people who order complete strangers to "Smile!" are also the sort of people who automatically deduce, upon learning my name, that I am just dying to be addressed as "Liz." And it's hard to correct them without sounding like a curmudgeon, because they always do it so heartily, and you don't want to embarrass them; and you end up letting it go a second time because you let it go the first time; then you've let it go for so long that it's much too late to do anything about it without sounding, not only grouchy, but a little bit stupid. "Well, why on earth didn't you say so right away?" they will probably demand. Bastards.

There's a guy at work who calls me "Liz." He has some hardcore right-wing shit in his cubicle: a certificate (signed by whom?!?) stating that he's a "True American;" some bumper stickers about supporting prayer in schools; supporting the NRA; supporting the shooting up of American troops and the liberal commie scum who fail to support them; that sort of thing. And there's a lovely glossy photo of Laura and George W. Bush, smiling and waving.

Over Easter weekend, somebody (I swear, it wasn't me) printed this up and pinned it to a wall in the hallway:

It's just down the hall from the right wing guy's cube. In fact, if you stand facing the bunny picture, then turn around 180 degrees, you are looking straight at the Laura & George photo.

I cannot even tell you how profoundly, intensely, passionately I ache to cut out the speech bubbles from the bunnies and paste them over Laura & W.'s heads.

But the other members of the break group assure me that this would probably get me shot. After all, Dick Cheney is almost certainly this guy's greatest hero. So I guess I'll restrain myself the best I can, because it's really hard to smile when you've been shot in the face.

We wouldn't want to disappoint Mr. Hike-and-Bike!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

So Much for Global Warming

It was chilly out today, so therefore global warming must be a myth. Ipso facto: It's a fact!

Any pointy-headed science nerd will tell you that warm air rises, and unlike Bingo I can't leap effortlessly to the top of the bookshelf, so my feeties are cold.


And you know what? I can't subside into a blissful slumber with my ankles in my face, either.

So much for the theory of evolution!

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Surprise!

I found some Erasure in the CD player! Chorus, to be precise. I had totally forgotten I had it because I'm not allowed to listen to it when anyone else is home, which is always.

So apparently I am actually a gay dude. I don't know about you, but I think that explains everything.

It's cranked up now. Way up.

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Spooked

How freaked out would you be if you had just spent the night all alone in your house for the very first time and when you got up in the morning to use the restroom there was pee in the toilet?

And you knew it wasn't yours, of course. I was brought up to flush, thankyouverymuch.

I was a little freaked, but I'm pretty sure it was Romeo, who always appears slightly disgruntled at not getting to be a human, though I've tried explaining to him that being human is overrated. It's been a few years, but I've "caught" him peeing in the toilet before. I never got a chance to encourage him because he thought he was in terrible trouble and dashed off. I've caught him going in his water dish, too. I think he used the toilet last night because it's cold and rainy and he didn't want to go outside.

Of course, now he's on the bed right next to me, back legs splayed in the air, making enthusiastic schnorking noises as he cleans his nether regions. See, Romeo? I'm telling you, humans can't do that.

My mom was easily freaked out by strange sounds and other odd little things and I inherited that trait from her. She told a story about lying in bed in the dark as a child, petrified with fear, because there appeared to be a burglar smoking a cigarette in her bedroom. (It turned out to be a firefly.) And I remember one afternoon when she had gone out to run errands and I was in the house by myself, I heard a rustling of papers and a low groaning noise from the living room, then footsteps coming towards the room where I was. I ran and hid behind a door and grabbed a broom to whack the intruder with, and it's fortunate that I didn't; because it turned out to be my mom, who had gotten home without my hearing her, and sat down at the desk in the living room to pay bills.

Mom... This morning I woke up from a dream about her. I was in my old apartment, by myself, when the landlord came in to tell my my mother was there to see me. I thought he must mean my stepmother, my mother-in-law, something like that. But it really was Mom, and when I ran to her crying, she hugged me and stroked my hair and told me she loved me and everything was okay.

I don't know if I love those dreams or hate them.

It's cold outside, and rainy and gray. How lovely to have no one to answer to and nothing in particular to do today. Romeo's finished his morning ablutions and fallen asleep. It's a perfect day to stay home and help him hold down the bed.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Lost and Found

We have this 400-CD changer that you use a keyboard to input the names of all the discs, right? Well, last month there was a power outage and it lost all the info. Of course the thing has gone through probably 50 power outages since we bought it almost six years ago, and this has never been a problem before. I'm thinking it's a wiring issue with the house.

So I have the house to myself this weekend, and I'm thinking, there's a weekend project for me. Listen to every. Single. CD. In the player. For about 8 seconds, you know, till I can identify it and type in the label, then go on to the next one, unless of course it's something I really feel like listening to. That should keep me busy, right?

But the keyboard that's plugged into it absolutely sucks. It always did - it was a $10 special from Office Max six years ago, and it's been sitting around collecting dust since then. Even when it was new, you usually ended up with far more than the requisite number of, for instance, the letter A. Now? It's completely hopeless. I've been wondering if throwing it repeatedly against the wall might make it decide to work better. I just entered "NIN PrettY h8 mCHINE" (it apparently used up all its As when it was new) and am beginning to think I'll just end up cataloguing my entire CD collection in l33tsp33k. LOL!

On the other hand, Pretty Hate Machine has been missing for several months and I'd just assumed it got taken out and lost somewhere. Turns out it was just in the wrong slot. Who knows what other treasures will turn up this weekend?

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

My Ride: Officially Pimped

My Flying Spaghetti Monster emblem arrived in the mail today!

If my car were any cooler, you could store a side of raw beef in it for a year.

Alternately, you wouldn't need to fix the air conditioning, which, to be perfectly honest, does not, strictly speaking, work. But who needs it? Isn't my car awesome?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A Sense of Humor Is Important

You need to be able to laugh at yourself. Because if you can't, you'll be the only person not in on the joke.

That would suck.

Not in yet, hopefully, on the news that 3-martini breaker Bryan has found another job, is Dreamboat: aka Fireball, aka Hairball, aka Ron Burgundy Greg, aka a few other monikers that I can't tell you (or indeed even remember) because I'm much too refined and ladylike. It's vitally important that he be the last to know, so nobody tell him.

On reflection, he's not all that bad: cantankerous, sure; nasty, not a little; stubborn, absolutely; difficult to work with, of course. But he seems at least to have a personality and a pulse, which is more than can be said for many agency employees. And if he snores, he has the decency to do so in the privacy of his own home.

The break group dwindles apace. Today when we went out to afternoon break we actually found our boss sitting in the designated 3-martini-break spot! Other things also make me frustrated, sad, and/or tired. I am not very happy, just at the moment.

But at least I know I'm ridiculous.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

What Do You Do?

Yesterday Katie had a friend over. They went to Big Stacy together and hung out around the house. This morning I found my iPod missing. Its little sock is there, on top of the bookcase in my room where I left it, but the iPod is gone. Combed the house. Didn't find it. And Katie mentioned yesterday that her friend just got a new iPod. What would you do??

The job posting for Elizabeth 2.0 is now online. It's slightly different from the one I got: mine stipulated that strong proficiency in GIS analysis was required, which is pretty damn ridiculous. But the new posting goes on to state that the applicant should be creative and flexible, ready to work with new technology and innovative ideas.

This is the point where the applicant turns around to see if the computer is talking to someone behind him.

The funny thing is, our supervisor has to go through this process at least two more times. Once she hires Elizabeth 2.0, she'll have to hire the third newbie to fill that position; and then she'll have to hire, finally, a new person from outside to get the group fully staffed at last. I have to tell you, I'm on the edge of my seat to find out what requirements she'll come up with next. Must be able to time-travel? Walk on water?? Squeeze gold ingots out of your butt??? And why does she seem to be hiring specifically for the qualities that ensure people will leave as quickly as possible?!?

Last I checked, my job consisted primarily of sitting around staring at construction plans and 10-keying all damn day. And I don't think I can stand it without an iPod.

ETA: Talked to Katie about it and she's seen her friend's new iPod, which is apparently a different style than mine. Hopefully I'm just an idiot and dropped it out of its sockie at some point without noticing... hey, I am a real state employee...

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Stuff To Do On April Fools' Day

- Avoid all contact with anyone mischievous. I'll see you tomorrow, when it's safer.

- Send a birthday e-card to my cousin Irene!

- Finally get around to ordering a Flying Spaghetti Monster emblem for my car, thereby completing its utter coolness.

- Don't go to Spamarama. I'm totally going to Eeyore's Birthday Party this year, though.

- Wonder if it was a good idea to mulch the poison ivy plants in with the grass while mowing.

- Congratulate self for finally managing to purchase and install the correct pedals on my son's bike, after only two weeks of not having the use of my own, one trip to Bicycle Sport Shop and two trips to Wal-Mart.

- Enjoy a renewed sense of what an excellent bowler I'm not. (The ultimate question: What is an unusually high bowling score for Beth?)

- Sit outside in the sun, under a canopy of spring green leaves and an impossibly blue sky, and feel as happy as a fool.

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