Friday, August 31, 2007

A Better Place

Robbie and I visited the third floor of our building today. I never have, but he's been there several times before; there's a special, "secret" restroom, whose mysteries were revealed to him by 3 Martini Break Group alumni Justin and Tony. Nobody else on our floor, the second floor, the "middle" floor, seems to be familiar with it.

Come to think of it, apparently nobody on the third floor is either, which is what gives the place its special allure. It's a haven of peace and tranquility for your most secret activities, boys!

I stayed outside, myself.

I was sorry there were no fountains, trees, flowers, or chirping birds up there. The overhead light fixtures did contain a fairly alarming concentration of dead crickets, but I think that's just because the cleaning staff haven't yet been tipped off to the third floor's existence.

Moreover, I think it was pretty natural to assume that the third floor would be entirely populated by tuxedo- and evening-gown-clad socialites wearing top hats and monocles and opera-length gloves. Yet the whole time I was up there, I saw one guy in business casual and a couple of women in jeans. However, I did see a nondescript door labeled "Authorized Personnel Only - Roof Access," which was locked. Oh, as if that weren't a complete giveaway! Obviously, the hoi polloi are all up there making witty banter over Dom Perignon in the roof garden. You know there's not a one of them wearing white shoes after Labor Day, either.

So anyway, that was one great adventure for the day. For the second, I made an attempt - which I know will particularly please Billy, and Justin, and Sara - to recruit a break group member from the new hires in Mapping. I'd seen these guys around for a while. Today I bumped into one in the kitchen, so I introduced myself, and breathlessly explained that, even though his work group and my work group are sworn enemies, we secretly go on break together twice a day at 9:45 and 2:45 down at the picnic tables, so it was really important that he and his fellow new hires come down sometime.

He seemed unconvinced, possibly even a little alarmed. So, just to clarify things, when I got back to my desk I emailed him the 3 Martini Break Group Official Application Form.

Amazingly, there was no response from him by the end of the day. Who would dare turn down an invitation to join the 3 Martini Break Group?! Inconceivable!! I was slightly piqued. So I considered following up by firing him with Tony's WTF citation form, but it occurred to me that (1) having no idea who I was, he might come to think I was really just indescribably weird, and (2) since he hadn't mentioned his last name when he introduced himself, it was possible I was sending these emails to some random stranger, in which case firing the guy would hardly improve matters.

I need to be more careful at work. If I go around terrifying the new hires and issuing threats to complete strangers, I'll never get invited to the cool party on the roof garden.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Glimpse Within

I bet I have more magnetic fridge letters in my cubicle than any other employee where I work.

Maybe more than any employee in any workplace.

Perhaps I've set a new world's record!

Perhaps you would like to see what my subconscious is thinking of at work?

Perhaps I'm going to tell you anyway.

GQ duck ROX UR bRA








I am flowery


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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Question for the Day

Where are my car keys?

I figure, this is the internet, so somebody's got to know the answer.

Edited to add: Why on earth didn't I think of trying this earlier? They were under the bed. Duhhh!


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Little Voices

This started out as an email to a friend, but got much too convoluted, and decided it had better be a blog post instead. Well, my friend will read it...

I went in this evening for an audition for the Austin Lyric Opera Chorus, right? And I was in for just long enough to sing my two arias (actually, a Schubert art song and an aria from the Bach Magnificat in D) and be told thank you, we'll be sending emails to everyone who auditioned on September 12, and go on my way. Feeling awful - do not feel bad about this, okay? Because it's fine, that's just how I felt as I was leaving - and I was completely, 100% sure that I sucked. With a capital S and hey, what the hell, a capital UCKED thrown in for good measure. Perhaps I even bit. Nibbled, if you will.

And it's got me to thinking about how impossible it is to judge yourself. Not only in this. Tonight I have chemicals coursing through my brain - all natural, biological ones, I'll have you know - but don't think you can't get royally fucked up on adrenaline and endorphines and I don't know what all else goes rampaging through your system when you've really built something up into a big deal. Do you know, I've dreamed of being an opera singer all my life, and like many other things I've desperately wanted, I've avoided pursuing it because to try and fail is such a shattering prospect. Longing for something unattainable, from afar, is easy.

Mind you, I never intended to be some low-ranking singer, some chorister, some foot soldier. I was going to be the real thing, a prima donna, a grande dame, a diva! All, in short, or nothing at all. So the idea of trying out for a third-tier (sorry Austin, you know I love you) opera company's chorus, and not being good enough, kind of shakes to the foundations of the foundations, everything I ever wanted to believe about myself, ever since infancy, really. I coulda been somebody. I coulda been a contender! Or not.

I went in tonight, and I sang. I did not do nearly as badly as I should have, either, for as little preparation as I did. My voice didn't crack on the high notes (it did, in practice). I sang two pieces today with accompaniment for the first time, from memory, without looking at the music, and I made only one slip in the second aria - picked up quickly enough, and went on. Stage presence I emphatically did NOT have, and they are looking for that. I was extremely and obviously nervous. My voice is not unpretty, but I bet there are a lot of not-unpretty voices auditioning for Chorus spots. Austin isn't at all short on musical talent. (Does that make up for the third-tier remark?)

I don't really know how I did. Probably not as badly as I thought I did. Or maybe not as well. It's a bit shocking how little position I'm in to be able to say. But it doesn't matter - I wouldn't have done this at all, except that a friend strongly encouraged me to, and even if I did indeed suck as badly as I'm scared I might have, my friend has done something that's brought my perceptions and actions a little more closely in line with whatever reality might happen to be.

This is actually not an insignificant gift. It's just that if I didn't suck as much as I think I may have, the wrapping is prettier.

But actually I feel pretty good about the whole thing, now, either way. Maybe it's the wine I'm sipping on. Helps out the endorphines.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Scandinavian Goodness

I love IKEA. They sell plants. But they don't sell cats.

I also love my friend "Nice Tits" Tony. He speaks Swedish!

We had Swedish meatballs for lunch.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Light 'Em Up

If you don't look at bra catalogues, you should. It will tell you more about what's wrong with Western culture than any other type of literature.

For starters, it will tell you that there are two basic types of bras. One type is for women whose breasts aren't overly large. These bras are very, very cute. Maybe a little... too cute. They come in lots of pretty colors and shapes, and have underwire and satin and lace and padding to enhance your figure and your cleavage, and make you look like you don't have such tiny little unwomanly tits.

Then there's the other type of bra. These are industrial strength bras, and make no attempt at prettiness, aside from the occasional bow at the deepest point of the neckline, which comes across more as a sneer than anything else. They come in white or beige, and have vast stretchy cups with minimizer panels and wide straps. They are designed to cover you up and smoosh you down and make you look like you don't have such nasty big un-girlish tits.

Nursing bras are just beginning to be available in styles that aren't completely utilitarian, and it's about damn time. Even when Anna was born, just over six years ago, it was practically impossible to find something that wasn't of the white, heavy-duty variety. Apparently a few clever marketing types have recently noticed that there's a certain connection between having sex and having babies, and begun selling attractive bras accordingly.

But it's too little (so to speak), too late, and I still have way too much trouble finding cute bras that I don't fall out of if I bend over quickly. I've had it. Let's burn them all!

(Isaac Asimov, that raunchy old darling, once insisted that Women's LIB stood for "Let's Ignite Bras." Why quibble?)

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Thursday, August 23, 2007


If you think giving blood is scary, try doing it right after finishing a six-hour first aid/CPR class, complete with full-color, magnificently photographed images of how bits of the insides of people's bodies look. Maybe even yours.

I'm sorry, but if God had meant you to see what your eyeball looks like with a screwdriver sticking out of it, He wouldn't have created humans in the first place, because obviously He must hate them.

Giving blood frightens me, even though I've done it on a regular basis for a few years now. I get all jittery walking over to the donation center. I hate the needle going into my arm. I hate the initial finger stick even more, even though I've had it done 80 kajillion times and it never hurts at all. I get all cotton-mouthed right beforehand, and tense up and cringe. I hate it.

I don't mind the actual donation, lying there on the bed with my lifeblood serenely draining away. It's kind of peaceful. Well, except that phlebotomists, like hair stylists, are apparently trained to relax their victims by making small talk at them. That's just so awkward.

Also awkward is the list of questions they read to you in a monotone, so quickly that you don't really have time to understand what they're asking. The correct answer is almost always "no." They occasionally throw in a "yes" question just to mess with you, though. The reason they do this is so that when they ask you, "Have you taken money or drugs for sex at any time since 1977?" you will have to pause briefly to think about it before answering, and then they can snicker at you.

There are about twenty more crack-whore-themed questions after that, one after another, that begin with "In the last 12 months, have you had sexual contact with..." and after four or five of those I kind of want to snap at them. Can we skip those? Please?! Because, if the question contains the phrases "in the last twelve months" and "sexual contact," all you're doing is making me depressed.

Not, mind you, that I particularly wanted to sell my body to a heroin-addicted bisexual Albanian drug smuggler with mad cow disease and hepatitis B. It's just the principle of the thing.

But once again I conquered my fears, and managed to do some miniscule bit of good in the world, and went back to my office proudly wearing the Hot Pink Bandage of Courage. And if you suffer from a heart attack or a stroke or get electrocuted or fall off a ladder, I'll be able to help you out there, too!

But if you've got a screwdriver sticking out of your eye, you can go find yourself another sucker. I don't even want to see that shit.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

She's Not Here

Telephones, as it turns out, have ringers for a reason. Who knew?!

My phone at work rang four times today, which may be a new record. I don't only tell you this so you'll be consumed with jealousy, though let's be honest: you are. No, I tell you this in order to illustrate a particular fact about the phone at my "new" job; namely, that it hardly ever rings.


I get calls once a week or so. About half of them are from my boss, the panicmongering supervisor, who - lovely and talented though she is - has stated on more than one occasion that she hates typing. Doesn't like email, doesn't like documentation, doesn't like, oh, you know, anything that might involve typing. Or the computer in general. Or walking fifty feet to where her employees sit. Whatever.

Of the remaining phone calls I receive, maybe 1/3 are from friends and 1/3 are from actual work-related contacts who might have actual work-related questions they hope to ask me, and - as if that weren't ambitious enough - hope to receive answers. Answers! Who do they think I am, God???

I mean, useful answers.

Well, leaving such crackpots aside, we're still left with 1/3 of the non-boss-related calls, which means 1/3 of 1/2, or, um, 1/6. It's been a while since I took a math class. Let me tell you about 1/6 of the calls I receive.

1/6 of the calls I receive are actually for the woman who had the number before I did. She retired before I started working there. Kind of a while, actually; come to think of it, she might have retired during the Reagan administration. But that's not important. What's important is that she still gets a fair number of phone calls on a regular, if not daily, basis; and that these phone calls do not appear to be work-related.

These are robocalls. I answer them, and there's a long pause and some clicking. Someone with a flat, vaguely hostile voice comes on the other end and asks to speak with a woman whose last name he (or she) cannot pronounce properly. Bet you a dollar they're collection agents.

And you can hire them to collect that dollar, because damned if I have a clue how to get them to stop calling. Whenever they ask for her I explain - and politely, because I'm like that - that she actually retired some years ago. And many of them are instantly and humbly apologetic. "Oh! Is this a business number? I'm so sorry to bother you!" Then they hang up, quickly, presumably laboring under the delusion that I will discern their identity from my handy-dandy caller ID and dispatch Legal on their ass.

Apparently my predecessor never mentioned who she was working for.

(Slightly ironic note: Above picture was taken with my cell phone)

Wisely, too, because I can't imagine she'd have gotten much in the way of loans if she'd been clear on this issue. I expect that now she's living off in the Cayman Islands somewhere, laughing through champagne bubbles at the image (if ever it occurs to her) of some faceless government shill forced to play receptionist to her never-ending scams.

More power to her. I'll buy the panicmonger a nice set of semaphore flags for Christmas and call it quits.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Elegance and Etymology

You know the conversation's going downhill when you find yourself having to explain who David Niven is.

Not to be confused with Larry Niven, who is (as far as I know) rather a better science fiction writer than David, but is not as likely to wear a cutaway and kid gloves in public.

David Niven played James Bond in Casino Royale. You know - the real one, with the Bacharach theme music. I consider him to belong to the same breed as James Mason, with an impeccable, yet unstudied and wholly good-natured elegance. He's a little more polished than Mason, though. And here's an interesting bit of trivia for you: Audrey Hepburn once glanced at him over the rim of her champagne glass and hiccupped, and that's how the word "debonair" came into existence. Look it up if you don't believe me!

Nonetheless, it pains me to tell you that one of the very best friends I've ever had did not know who David Niven is. I can't reveal the details of the conversation that led to this, but I can tell you it nose-dived pretty quickly, with my friend finally offering to have me whacked by the transportational stalker who lost his job over my former cube neighbor Audrey.

Not to be confused with Miss Hepburn.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

No One Can Hear You Scream

Someone appears to have been axe-murdered in one of the fifth-floor practice rooms of the UT Music Building.

Or perhaps some hapless singer tried applying a long-unused, slightly scratchy throat and a mezzo range* to a bit of light Schubert, and her lungs forcibly ejected themselves against the wall in protest. Stranger things have happened. Or the music-college legend about razor blades planted between the keys might have played out in real life. Or someone was practicing the bombarde with such gusto that the piano student in the next cubicle had no choice but to slice him to death with his own sheet music, which I think is perfectly understandable, and if you've ever heard anyone play the bombarde you will probably agree.

Whatever made it, it's a little unnerving to sit in a tiny, airtight, soundproofed room, in a mostly empty building, with a gigantic rust-colored splattery stain on the wall. You never know who or what could be hiding in the piano.

At least it was an upright.

*My voice has a very nice bottom, but it's a bitch trying to find art songs that fit.

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Small Austin!

Last night, on my way to the wastelands of the north to check in on Robbie's kitten, I got a call from my sister Margie, who had locked herself out of the house where she's temporarily staying. "It's off North Loop, near Guadalupe," she told me.

I know the area well. I lived in a little house right off North Loop many years ago, and then my then-future-now-ex-husband and I moved to the house on North Loop where our son was born in 1990. We drove past it on the way to pick up Margie. "Look!" I said to Eric. "That's it, right there. You were born in that house."

"That one?" he said. "Eeugggh."


It was a really cute little house: two bedrooms, one bath, a nice-enough-sized living room and a big open kitchen. It didn't have central air, just one large window unit in the living room, which we ran as little as possible because of the expense. The only phone jack was at the end of the short hallway, which had a little alcove with a shelf for the phone. Below the phone shelf was another one for the phone book, which wouldn't fit because it was too thick.

The yard was huge and really nice, except that every ten minutes or so, an airplane would scream thundering overhead, momentarily blacking out the whole sky, so close you felt like you could reach up and touch its belly. The noise was absolutely deafening. You got used to it. The rent was $350 a month.

After picking up Margie we passed the other house where I had lived, before, a three-bedroom I had shared with two roommates. "I lived there when I met my ex-husband," I remarked.

"Oh, wow, I'm friends with the girl who lives there now!" said Margie. "One of her roommates is moving out. I've been thinking about moving in there."

Funny, isn't it, what a small town Austin can be sometimes? The airport's gone, the area is now considered to be central, and I expect rents have gone up a smidge. But the neighborhood still looks pretty much the same as I remember. Many of the houses still sport window units. And it's still cute.

Eric piped up from the backseat. "Just try not to marry my dad," he told Margie.


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Thursday, August 16, 2007

It's All About Kinky Sex

Sometimes I get to thinking. Look out!!!

Sometimes I get to thinking about how much I've poured out into this blog over the last not-quite-two years: all about friends, family, and day-to-day-life; principles and beliefs, life and death; love, sex, anxiety, hope, and heartbreak; art, music, and fashion; work and play; dreams and wishes and jokes and stories and absurdities and anything else that may be on my mind.

But I guess you have to read between the lines to get any of that, because about 90% of my traffic comes from people googling on "b*ttl*ckers."

Isn't this odd? I am often surprised by the things people like to do. I mean, more power to you, you know, whatever floats your boat. Let your freak flag fly, baby! But the fact that there are so many people who are into this makes me wonder if I'm hopelessly behind the times. I wouldn't call myself a prude, or even particularly vanilla (I prefer mocha with Heath bar bits mixed in) - but you know what? I have realized that I will not, in fact, "try anything once."

Sorry for disappointing 90% of you. Tell you what, if it'll make you feel better, you can tie me up.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

How To Meow So Your Kitten Will Listen (and Listen So Your Kitten Won't Devour You in Your Sleep)

You know, I may not be a genius or a great beauty. I also may not know the first thing about how to properly bring up a kitten. But if you leave me the key to your apartment and ask me to check in on your cat a few times while you're out of town, by God, you can at least be sure I won't rifle through your underwear drawer. And that's saying something!


I'm over at Robbie's looking in on Bullock, and I have to say I'm really impressed. He left me a list of things to do when watching her. "If she's messed up the rugs or the plants, she gets a 'BAD KITTY' and no treat," he told me. "If she's gotten into the stereo wires, it's 'VERY BAD KITTY' and she goes in time out for five minutes. If everything's in order and she hasn't done anything bad, you can say 'GOOD KITTY' to her in a baby voice and she gets a scooby snack."

I haven't seen Bullock in about four weeks, because my car's been out of commission and I haven't come up here to hang out. But I have to say his method seems to be working, because the place is still tidy, the rugs and blinds and furniture are all intact, and, while she clearly would love to shred me (in a friendly way, of course), you can really tell she's exercising restraint.

I gave her a scooby snack.

Either his kitten-rearing techniques are working really well, or he's just swapped her out for another cat, which doesn't seem entirely impossible. This kitten does not look quite like the one I remember. She's half again as big, for one. And this one's fur is all black and sleek and shiny. The other one's was kind of fuzzy and silly-looking. This one is (relatively) demure and well-behaved. The other one was a small, cuddly demon from the pits of eternal Hell.

But I'd better get back to her, because she's evidently excited to have a visitor and is making chirping noises and getting into stuff. And I'll be damned if Robbie's place is going to get all torn up on my watch!

I have to wonder, though. Boxers or briefs?

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The "Third Floor"

I work on the second floor of my building, but there is in fact a third floor.

You look shocked. But it's true! There really is!

The elevators in the middle of the building, and the stairwell on the east side, go up to 3. The other stairwells and the other elevator do not. I don't know anyone who works on this so-called "third floor," if that is indeed its real name.

It's not, perhaps, a complete mystery, in that the third floor is where Robbie once encountered (while hidden, trembling with suppressed hilarity, in a bathroom stall) the "Menomena" urinal whistler who was able to break wind in perfect time*; though I have to admit, this probably raises more questions than it answers. (Such as, "Is that really how you're supposed to spell Menomena?" YouTube users seem to be in some disagreement regarding this issue.)

Rarely you see someone coming down from the third floor. They seem normal enough, which right there puts them several rungs higher on the evolutionary ladder than many of the people who work on my floor. But what's up there? What can it possibly be like??

It's ridiculous that I've worked in this building for over a year and a half and have no idea. I think it's time to do some corporate exploration. Unfortunately Robbie is currently off studying local bathroom behavior in the uncharted wilds of Florida, so I'll probably have to go on my own.

I hope the natives are friendly.

*To this day I have my suspicions.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Microwave Popcorn : Cornflakes :: __________ : Denver Omelet

Cubiclelanders should not be allowed to make microwave popcorn for breakfast.

There are three very good reasons for this. One, the secondhand trans-fat vapor probably increases everyone's risk of heart disease. Two, anyone who puts back that much imitation butter is prone to emit certain other odors on a frequent basis, if you know what I mean. Three, when you consider that this person consumes an entire bag of microwave popcorn in the same manner that you might enjoy a nice bowl of cornflakes, you get to wondering what he orders at IHOP when he wants something really filling.

Try not to think about it, because that way lies madness.

Speaking of lunacy, there's been a spot of controversy surrounding a certain "Project X" at work. So, several months ago, everyone in our division was instructed to create a special folder for any email we might receive containing any reference to Project X, as well as an automatic rule to drop such emails directly into that folder for the legal staff to review.

Recently, being bored, I happened to peep into the folder, though like most people there I'd never had anything to do with Project X, so I didn't expect to find anything. But I did! The folder held the last several months' issues of our employee newsletter, which I have to admit I had not even missed. The newsletters triggered the automatic rule because they had blurbs telling everybody not to worry about that silly old controversy, because Project X is going great!

I'd conclude this post by proving this is all the fault of the Phantom Pharter and his out-of-control popcorn fumes*, but the smell is dissolving my brain.

*A bit cumbersome, but that's a band name there.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

You've Got the Look

Do you have a Look? I saw someone in the hall at work today with one. He was wearing a Western-style denim shirt, boot-cut jeans, a leather belt with silver studs and a big silver buckle, turquoise jewelry, a bolo tie, and cowboy boots. I even noticed that his wallet, poking out from the top of a back pocket, was embossed with a silver medallion.

But no spurs. Maybe they violate the edged-weapons prohibition at work.

Most of us, I think, prefer not to have a preset Themed Look, though it does at least take the guesswork out of what to wear every day. The major drawback is that it’s inflexible. That guy couldn’t possibly swap out the boots for a pair of flip-flops. He’d look ridiculous!

Well – you know what I mean.

So it occurred to me that what we need is a mix-and-match matrix to tell you what sort of Look you should have. Determine your basic personal style, then figure in the setting and the level of formality, and you’re ready to go!

Personal Style
Strictly Business
Let Yourself Go
Don't give a damn

At work
Running errands
Around the house
Date/evening out

Formality Level
Trying to look like you don’t give a damn

Note that “trying to look like you don’t give a damn” falls under the formality column, whereas “don't give a damn” is a personal style. “Trying” implies defiance, and means that you care about making an impression based on the setting in which you find yourself. So you might opt to wear cutoffs to a formal occasion, or - if you’re really hardcore - white tie and tails to a pool party. Actually not giving a damn probably just means you have hygiene issues.

Okay, so what’s your personal style? If you have bleached-blond hair, a fake tan, and would wear a thong to a public pool, you are skanky. Daisy Dukes or their male equivalent, Magnums, may also be a regular part of your wardrobe. You’ll show your midriff at a funeral, and you might get drunk and try to make out with the groom at a wedding. Hey, it works for you. Go for it!

I don’t have to tell you what alternative means. It's a bit of a catchall category. You’re emo or goth, and have tats, and/or multiple piercings, and/or a brightly colored hairstyle, or dreads, or some such thing. The cool thing about this style is that you can wear fishnets on any occasion without actually looking skanky.

Sexy/sophisticated: Without belaboring the obvious, you tend to have one thing on your mind most of the time, and it isn't necessarily fashion. So you dress to show off your, um, assets, but subtly. Skirts are above the knee but below mid-thigh, if you’re a woman; if you’re a man, clothes are very well tailored and expensive. The word "metrosexual" was coined for the likes of you. But be careful, because if your nipples are visible through the fabric of your top, you’re teetering on the brink of skankdom. That's right, I said teetering. You heard me!

Strictly business: This is the default setting for straight men, cute or not. Your clothes don’t generally inspire any remarks, even if the body inside them might. If you’re a woman, you lean towards pantsuits on the more formal end of the scale, Bermuda shorts for casual wear. You shop at L.L. Bean. Your hair is neat and practical, and if you wear jewelry, it’s kind of boring, sorry.

You’ve let yourself go if you own two or more muumuus. (The first one might be a mistake.) Guys, if you wear big shorts with knee socks, you’re gone. Have you ever gone to the grocery store in bedroom slippers, ladies? Don’t think I haven’t seen you. In a wife-beater, guys? Those are sold as undershirts for a reason. Oh, you’ll vary your dress according to the situation, so it’s not that you just don’t give a damn. But you really should give a little bit more of one.

Whatever your Look, you should do something a little bit different every once in a while – partly to keep yourself from falling into a rut, and partly just to keep your friends on their toes.

I think I might get me a nice shiny pair of spurs.


Saturday, August 11, 2007


I expect this post will contain a certain amount of rampant sexism, and not even be funny, to boot.

There's just something about female friends. I haven't had a close female friend in a long time, not since leaving Corpus and Denise behind. Generally I get along better with guys - not that I don't get along with other women, but for some reason the "click" of close, comfortable friendship seems to be a lot harder to achieve with my own sex.

But when it does happen, it's something special. There's this automatic common ground, shared experiences, shared perspectives, shared context. When it does happen, the flow of ideas and support and confidences is much more natural than it is with guy friends.

Maybe it's that, even though a girl can confide in her male friends, the conversation tends to go one way. My best male friends will happily lend an ear or a shoulder, but they almost never tell me the sort of things about themselves that I'll tell them about me, or at least not as much. It's generalizing, but I think it's true to a certain extent that men just don't connect in the same fashion that women do. They also just don't get certain things about my feelings or behavior that another woman, immediately and intuitively, can grasp. So, conversely, if a close guy friend has been giving me a certain piece of advice for months and months, and I haven't been willing to listen to him, a close female friend can give me the same piece of advice and seal the deal. It must be so. A woman would know.

Not in any way to endorse that stupid "men are from Mars" crap. Last time I was at Planet K I bought a button for my backpack, which says:

"Giving your heart to a man is like giving a computer to a dog."

I should also have bought another one I liked just as well, although the message might be contradictory:

"Men are from Earth. Women are from Earth. Get over it."

But I only had a buck-fifty on me.

We're all people, we all struggle with the same issues from time to time; we all have feelings; we all get hurt. Sometimes very badly. We deal with it in different ways and show it in different ways, and - I've always assumed primarily for social reasons - women tend to deal with it similarly, which makes it a lot easier sometimes to understand and be understood by a good girlfriend.

And if all the above weren't reason enough to have at least one close girlfriend, it's a lot easier to have hilarious conversations about penis size.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Scott Adams Is Hiding in My Bra

Our panicmongering supervisor sat us all down in a staff meeting today. "Just a reminder," she said in a hushed, serious tone. "Breaks are 15 minutes long."

We glanced around the room at one another, surprised. They are?! Is her watch broken??!

It wouldn't be the first thing. Even though our entire division (you might think the entire agency, but let's not go crazy, here) is networked, everyone's computer tells a slightly different time. We don't have administrative access to our own machines (that's GOT to be a euphemism for something), so we can't synch 'em. But whoever does have administrative access has apparently figured that three, four, five minutes, here or there, plus or minus, is eh. No big deal. And it isn't, except that we never show up at quite the same time for staff meetings.

She also went on to say that negative energy is a bad thing, and we should try not to emanate it if at all possible. If we are not happy with our job, or her management style, or anything else in any way, we should go and find another job and she'll be happy to help us out by giving a good reference.

I need more Dilberts. She'll want something to read to keep her occupied when everyone else is gone.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Enough Already

If I were God, or some reasonable technological equivalent thereof, all humans would have to wear word counters. You'd have a daily quota, and once you'd used up all your words you wouldn't get to say anything else until the next morning.

Writing doesn't count, in case you were about to make any smart-assed remarks. With the possible exception of ninth-grade English students, nobody is ever a captive audience to the written word; and it's not like Joseph Conrad could possibly have known that Lord Jim would someday find its way onto high school required-reading lists.* So as long as they're spelled properly, you can spout all the written words you like. But if you, deliberately and with malice aforethought, insert an apostrophe into the possessive "its," I'll send so much electricity through your computer keyboard you'll never have a good hair day again, as I am My witness.

I'm God, so I don't have to put up with any shit.

Allowances will of course be made for extenuating circumstances. Maybe you have to give a speech. Maybe several. Or hell, maybe you're just rattling on and on because you're nervous; and I'm not without mercy. So, tell you what, I'll make the quotas flexible: you can carry your words over, and store them up for when you need them. I'm sure this scenario will be the best thing for everyone concerned.

But, quota or no quota: if I ever catch you droning on and on and on, with total disregard for the glazed look in your audience's eyes and their futile attempts at polite escape, you better believe I'll smite the living bejeezus out of you.

Don't make Me come down there.

*How could he? I certainly can't understand it - and I'm God!


Monday, August 06, 2007


You know your workplace safety meeting has been a rampaging success when someone knocks his iced tea over onto the floor, scattering ice cubes everywhere, while getting up to receive an award. This, in turn, set off a chain reaction wherein I almost slipped and fell in the ice, Robbie nearly brained himself on the monitor hanging low from the ceiling above his chair, and one poor overwhelmed soul set off the alarm trying to get out the emergency exit. Safety first!

3-Martini Break Group alumni Andrew and Bryan now work at the campus where the morning meeting was held, so Robbie and I popped in for a visit afterwards. Bryan's cubicle neighbor had brought in a five-inch-long centipede he'd captured in his bathroom over the weekend. It was confined to a pint-sized terrarium on his desk, and it was Not Amused. It squirmed about restlessly inside, rattling its claws, poking its long, segmented feelers out the air holes on the top, and chittering in arthropodic fury.

Andrew and Bryan seemed uneasy, and I don't blame them. I'm not generally afraid of creepy-crawlies, but the sight of that thing triggered a deep-seated, primal urge to squish it as flat as possible, preferably using somebody else's shoe.

I'm also frightened of the enormous flying cockroaches that buzz around my kitchen late at night, serene in their undisputed dominion. Whacking those bastards with a shoe - anyone's shoe - only stuns them temporarily. I'm sorry, but that's just showing off. If you're able to weather a nuclear holocaust, at least have the courtesy to go "squelch" when you take a size 13 upside the thorax.

And they don't confine their activities to the kitchen, either. Last week one landed on me in bed just as I was nodding off. I don't know how many more times my heart can handle jumping from 65 to 300 beats per minute in the space of .005 seconds, but I'd really rather not find out.

Later Robbie and I had lunch with another 3MBG alum, Thomas, and discovered that the centipede is actually intended for him. For his wife, rather, who's an entomologist, and therefore much less of a weenie than I am. She works as a consultant for a pest-control company, so I was able to get a few pointers on how to deal with my enormous flying cockroach problem.

I think I can pretty much wipe them out by presenting one of them with a safety award.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Not As Much As Meets the Eye

Robbie and I saw Transformers the other night.

You've seen the cartoon, right? My first boyfriend in high school was totally into it. He was, in fact, so into it that I once noticed him furtively watching it while he really, really, really should have been paying attention to something else, if you catch my drift.

That's why you should never date 16-year-old boys. Well - that, and the fact that you'll get arrested, you lousy pervert. What the hell is the matter with you people?! Sheesh!

Anyway, the movie was way better than the cartoon. The plot revolves around a device - this isn't a spoiler - which converts any technological objects that are exposed to its energy into transformers. And of course Robbie and I reduced one another to tears afterwards trying to imagine what sort of havoc this device would wreak if it came to the government agency where we work.

NOAAtron would have to be the transformer overlord, of course. Created from the technology behind the only external website that employees of our agency are allowed to visit, he would mastermind the new creatures' strategy. At first we theorized that he would do this merely by watching the radar and advising when a battle should be called off due to the danger of rust. But then we realized that he'll actually control the weather. The government already does that anyway, right?

I swear, the crickets were an accident.

The second-in-command would be created from the mainframe that holds most of our data. Unfortunately, it's in another city, and although you'd feel the ground shaking from its lumbering tread, it wouldn't get to Austin in time to be in the movie.

And all the foot soldiers would be made from the technology lying around our offices, most of which is unfortunately about 30 years old, and as I've speculated before probably was transformed from old government employees to begin with. I think they would look something like this.

Being government employees, the vast majority of them wouldn't have much energy for doing battle, and would probably spend most of the time taking smoke breaks or nodding off in the elevator or burning microwave popcorn. NOAAtron would find this very frustrating, and could hardly be blamed for occasionally hitting some of his own troops with a stray weather-control laser. "Oops," he would boom.

They would all communicate via Novell Send Message.

Obsolete technology or no, the fracas that would ensue would be spectacular, and high school boys all over town would stop whatever they were doing to watch. Coming soon to a government agency near you!

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Truth Hurts

There's a reason you usually have happy hours for people who are leaving a job, rather than starting one. It's because employers tend to frown on a new employee asking to work from home after only two days.

My cheeks are still tingling from the smack Robbie gave me last night, and he didn't slap me in the face. And Tony! Who'd have thought the guy had so many hands?! Come to think of it, maybe I'm the one who needs to be working from home.

True friends are the people who tell you what you don't want to hear, but need to face, and who wipe up your tears afterwards. And if they then get you falling-down drunk, tenderly minister to the resultant injuries, and cap the evening by dirty-dancing with you, well, what more could a girl ask for?

I was going to post a picture of what I did to my knee last night, but it's really gross. My toe is all bloody, too. That's nothing compared to how barked up my heart is, and oh, this morning, my head... But time, friends, sleep, Tylenol, coffee, extensive therapy, and Neosporin heal most wounds.

Hopefully Tony will show up to work Monday.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

More New Guises

There was a flurry of activity today, with two new people starting in our group. One was assigned to shadow me, but I consider myself to have failed as a trainer in that she didn't go on break with us. Maybe tomorrow, though. She does seem like a pretty cool person. "What's the panicmonger really like?" she asked me in hushed tones as I was walking her through a set of costruction plans, only of course she didn't actually refer to the boss as "the panicmonger," or else she wouldn't have had to ask, would she?

"She gets a bit anxious about things sometimes," I said, carefully, "but she's a nice person."

Perhaps the extensive collection of Dilberts pinned to my cube wall gave her a hint. Or the "This is a No Kitten Zone" sign. (But where would kittens be coming from? Who would be producing litter upon litter of - oh.)

The other new guy also seems interesting and funny, though he was too tied up with paperwork all day to come to break. Guess what? He's an experienced sysadmin.

We're having a happy hour Friday, and I really hope he shows up, because then it can double as his going-away. Assuming he's still here Friday, of course.

And of course with new people coming in, our IT contact is bustling about, getting computers and phones and software access set up, a process that generally takes about a month, because for some mysterious reason I've never completely understood, there appears to be no standard procedure for this. It's like a big surprise every time. "Wait - new employees?! Whaaaaa?!?" Not as big a surprise, perhaps, as some of the things the IT contact finds on the computers of employees who have left. "You wouldn't believe the kinds of pictures people keep on their work computers!" he told me, laughing.

I blushed. "I was young," I said. "I needed the money."

Maybe tomorrow we can incorporate the two new people into break and see if they fit in, only I forgot to mention, it's not technically break anymore. We are now the Three-Martini Union, and what we're doing for 30-45 minutes plus, twice a day, is going on strike. We can't get in trouble for that, and as a side benefit, I'm pretty sure we're permitted by applicable state law to employ hired goons to rough up the smokers and other non-union members who try to muscle in on our territory. Maybe even required. I should probably check into that a little further before proceeding, though, just to be on the safe side.

Maybe I can assign one of the new people to do some online research on the topic for me tomorrow.

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