Sunday, September 30, 2007

Silly Me. Wikipedia Knows Everything!

The mystery of New York State's reference marker system, solved

They still clearly have way too much money.

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Mixed Feelings

Coming home ought to be a happier experience. Can I go back now? Not that I really want to. I still love Austin.

The kids are fine. The cats are fine. This is the important part. My plants don't look so good; I may take the worst-looking one to work, where I hope I can nurse it back to health. Did I take that much active care of them during the week? I guess I must have. But I haven't had the invalid for long; chances are it just doesn't have much tolerance for heat. It'll probably be happier in a cool, fluorescent-lighted environment, if it survives.

The real bummer is that my bike got stolen. Eric used it for school while I was gone, and it's possible he may have left it unlocked, but I wouldn't accuse him of it; all I had was a cable lock and you can get through those easily enough with a pair of bolt-cutters. Whenever I get a replacement, I'll keep it in back, where you can't see it from the street. Still, I'm kind of down about it. They're just things, but they add up: iPod, cell phone, bike. And I get to feeling like I can't have anything nice that won't be taken away. Which is just petulant: apparently I need to be more careful, huh?

I don't know when it happened: no one noticed it missing till I was getting out of the car yesterday, coming back from the airport, and said, "Hey - where's my bike?!"

And the saddest part - though I feel like a pig for making a big deal of it - is that nobody here was all that happy to see me. No, I lie: Anna really did miss me. Katie is glad to see me. (Eric's at his grandma's.) That should be enough, shouldn't it? I'm just greedy. But it seems hard to leave a place of peace, serenity, and order, where I feel so cherished, where some of the people I love most in the world are really sorry to see me go, and come home to a noisy, chaotic mess where I don't really feel all that welcome. That's life, I guess, but does it have to be?

I'll be glad to go back to work tomorrow. How sad is that?!


Saturday, September 29, 2007


Austin take note: the Syracuse airport has free wi-fi.

I'm at the gate and the plane should be boarding before too long. Being dropped off by my dad (who does not drop me off at the terminal, but parks and walks inside with me while I get checked in) brings back memories of all those tearful partings when I was a little girl. When was the first time I hugged him goodbye without crying? I guess it's been a while, but it's still sad.

It's been a wonderful visit. Last night my stepbrother and his wife and stepsister and her boyfriend took me out to Buffalo's, in Baldwinsville - or B'ville, as the locals seem to call it. Driving there from Syracuse is roughly equivalent to driving to Pflugerville from South Austin. So I thought it was funny when I asked a guy I was talking to if all his sisters and brother also lived here, and he responded that most of them do, but one lives out of state and another one lives in Syracuse.

Lots of little bitty towns close together in upstate NY, and they seem to adhere to this strong localized mentality. Which I suppose is natural if you stay where you were born and grew up. My stepbrother and stepsister ran into several people last night that they'd gone to high school with in B'ville; the guy I was talking to was one of them.

When I was little, well, you could put a little girl on a plane by herself. You could also go through security and accompany her to the gate and wait for her plane with her, which my dad always used to do. He always met me at the gate, too, when I came to visit. I'd come out of the jetway and he'd be there waiting. What a lovely thing that always was...

I wish I had deeper roots. I love Austin. It's home; and the houses and buildings and accents and landscape and flora and fauna of other places - beautiful though they may be - are a bit alien. Austin looks right; they do everything the way it ought to be done; it's home. But my people are so far away (sigh).

And the Austin airport doesn't have free wi-fi. I hope they'll look into that.

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Friday, September 28, 2007

I Has To Go Home?

Not that I would particularly like to live in, say, Oswego, right on the shores of Lake Ontario. The city appears to have seen better days.

But canals are so cool, don't you think? This is a shot of the Oswego Canal, running alongside (and, oh, 10-12 feet higher than) the Oswego River, just before it empties out into the lake.

Yesterday we went to visit the Safe Haven Museum in Oswego. This was a camp that housed European refugees during WWII, in not very much comfort, apparently. Our local (actually, he's from downstate - the accent is different) guide informed us that there was some lack of foresight involved in housing refugees from the south of Europe in uninsulated military barracks right on the shore of Lake Ontario. "Sure, when they got here in August, they thought it was great!" he remarked.

Sarcasm is an essential phonological element of downstate speech patterns.

My dad, stepmother and I drove out - maybe a 45-minute drive - only to discover that the museum days and hours of operation posted on the locked door did not match those posted on the website. But as it turns out, this is okay, because Fort Ontario (on the grounds of which the museum is housed) was open, and it's, omigod, you guys. SO cool!

It's a strategic point, where the river empties into Lake Ontario, and there's been a fort there since pre-Revolutionary times; but the buildings there now date from around the time of the Civil War. The Union feared British and Canadian interference on behalf of the Confederacy. The Canadian dollar was much weaker back then, so the US$4 admission to the fort was a lot more prohibitive than it is nowadays.

The buildings are amazing (there are pictures in my album), but the best part was climbing up onto the high earthen ramparts to discover a door and stone steps leading down into the darkness. (Well - they did put up some lights.) You can descend these into the casemates, where there would once have been cannons poised to fire through slits in the heavy stone walls on any intrepid Canadians daring to venture up from the shores of the lake, waving fistfuls of devalued currency. It looks like medieval catacombs down there, or at least that's what I thought; to be perfectly honest, I'm not really a medieval catacombs expert.

Inside the storehouse of the fort is a gift shop, where you can purchase, among other items, a complete Alamo action figure set. It was $26, or else I'd have bought it and brought it home as a souvenir.

It's been a great visit. Today we're going to have some local delicacies for lunch, so I'll be sure and get some pictures of that, for Jason; up till this point I have not yet photographed any food.

I'll be back tomorrow evening. Y'all sure you don't want to all move up here instead?

Here's the link to the album again, so you don't have to scroll down. Pictures are in chronological order.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

For Your Reference

You can't tell me this makes any sense.

I need to quit checking my work email.

I am not working. But Robbie has no other way to talk to me during the day! What am I supposed to do?! And then I see the subject lines of the other emails waiting in my inbox, but I do not read them, because then the senders would be able to see that I had.

Except the snake guy. He doesn't work for us, so like the entire rest of the world besides my agency, he is not using Novell GroupWise, and I can look at his email without him knowing it.

Only it's an email I really need to answer, so I do. I have to apologize to him for the difficulties we are experiencing in scheduling him (and his amazing snakes!!) to present at our December safety training. He's going to describe how not to be bitten by snakes. He's a pro and it's perfectly safe and should be no problem at all, but someone in my department likes to make a big fuss about how scared she (or he) is of snakes, so a few hoops have been generated for me to jump through.

Yesterday evening, as my dad and I were walking along the pretty, if amply horse-poop-bedecked, trail that wends up the hill just a (careful) hop, (careful!!) skip and a (Jesus, watch where the hell you're putting your foot!!!) jump from my parents' house, a teeny tiny little itty bitty baby snakie-pie wriggled across the path right in front of us. I wanted to catch it and bring it back, and let it live a happy little life among the plants in my cubicle, but it disappeared into the underbrush before I could quite finish working out the logistics of transporting it safely and comfortably in my luggage. I emailed Robbie about this, but he said he'd prefer something larger.

There are other emails in my inbox with subject lines that tempt me to open them. Intriguingly, there's one entitled "Go paperless" which was sent today from, um, somebody who's extremely frightened of snakes, or at least wants everybody else to think that he (or she) is. But I can't see who the message is addressed to without opening it, so I don't know if I was the only one who received it. Maybe so. Maybe she (or he) is peremptorily ordering me to get rid of all the paper files in my office, on the grounds that they are likely to harbor snakes.

It would make about as much sense as anything else.

Anyway, today we went to Onondaga Lake Park, walked approximately 82 miles, and got a lot of pretty pictures of the lake, fall foliage, some boats, some wildlife, and more. Don't feel like you have to look at them. I don't want to be one of those people who sits you down in front of a slide projector (remember those, kids?) and subjects you to hours of vacation slides from a place you were never particularly curious about.

I promise that the reference marker is the only work-related photo I took.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Thought for the Day

Don't wear flip-flops to hike on a trail used by horseback riders.

Well, somewhat more to the point, used by their horses.

But I'm glad to be able to tell you that this is an abstract, rather than an object lesson; I only had to pay a little more attention to my footing than to the scenery. The above picture (and, if you click through on it, the others with it - or click on yesterday's link; I've just been adding photos to that album as I take them) was taken from a trail under some powerlines that march up over the hill near my parents' house. Their subdivision sits in a small valley, and was very recently farmland. There are still a few old farmhouses and barns scattered about.

It was an unseasonably warm day, with a high somewhere around 90; very unusual for this time of year. It's enough to make me forget that, come winter, there are likely to be several yards of snow covering pretty much every surface. You might not even be able to go outdoors in shorts!

We went to Thornton Park, to survey Syracuse spread out beneath us from the city's highest vantage point:

We visited the rose garden:

And coming back, we drove up to Tipperary Hill. To give you a very brief, probably wildly inaccurate outsider's description of the story there, Tipp Hill is an old Irish neighborhood, and boasts the *mumble's* only upside-down stoplight. The Irish residents took umbrage at the old red-on-top stoplight because it reminded them of the English, or perhaps because they were drunk; so they threw stones at it and kept knocking it out. And finally they got not only their very own, special, green-on-top traffic signal, but also a rather naffy bronze statue commemorating the event.

That just goes to show you what fierce, alcohol-fueled nationalism can do. Not that there's anything wrong with that: I'm approximately 1/8 Irish myself, and quite fond of wine.

Driving back, we passed so many beautiful old houses, I think the three-martini break group should all move up here and go to work for NYDOT, which probably has a massive budget because they get all of Texas' hard-earned gas tax money and squander it on incomprehensible, very frequently-placed reference markers, of which I have not yet been able to get a clear picture due to the fact that my father insists on driving past them at speeds that won't cause a 15-car pileup.

Some people need to work a little bit harder on their priorities.

Two or three of these adorable places would easily house us all. And if the NYDOT thing didn't work out, we'd have a sitcom just waiting to be filmed. Can't you hear the theme music now?

Every episode would have to end with one of us stepping hilariously into a fresh pile of horse dooky.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Urban Exploration, Part Whatever

The spectacularly breathtaking Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. building in downtown Syracuse.

Why yes, that is 100% chrome trim!

Last time I was in town we didn't visit downtown Syracuse, and I was only vaguely aware that there was such a place. But there is, and it's really pretty amazing.

Austin has some really cool historic downtown buildings from the late nineteenth century, but none of them are very big. Syracuse was a fairly major port along the Erie Canal and so its older downtown buildings are quite large, including several turn-of-the-century skyscrapers. Sadly, the Oswego Canal came to bypass the city in the early 1900s; and while you'd think the original location of the Erie Canal would simply have been redesignated as a business route,* it was actually filled in and is now Erie Blvd.

The weighlock, a tollbooth by the side of the canal where boats were weighed and taxed based on the amount of cargo they were carrying, now serves as a museum, so my dad and I went there today. Then we wandered around downtown for a while.

Here are some pictures!

*hellllp meeeeeeeeee

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Surprise Delivery

This is looking down the hill towards my parents' neighborhood from a little ways up the road.

This afternoon, after a morning spent adventuring with my stepsister-in-law Linda, we arrived at my folks' house with the cake Linda had made (she does beautiful work, and bakes and decorates them professionally as a sideline), presents, and a bouquet of balloons. Kris and Linda went on in, and I hung back in the car for a couple of minutes before bringing the balloons to the doorstep and ringing the doorbell.

My dad was surprised.

So here I am, and it's just as beautiful as I remember from last time, even if the local major grocery chain is called Wegman's, which is a pretty silly name for a grocery store, if you ask me. Also, the highway reference markers make no sense at all. I'll be sure to get a picture of one of those too. The weather is cool, it's breezy and bright, and the cake was delicious, or at least as much of it as we were able to consume; Linda appears to have been expecting 30 or 40 more people than actually exist in my parents' immediate family. But leftovers never hurt anybody.

My parents are very bad influences. My seventeen-year-old step-niece, Taylor, brought a Jehovah's Witness friend. He might not have been supposed to be at a birthday party. He kept insisting he wasn't going to get into any trouble, but when his mom called to check up on him we all tried to be very quiet, just in case. Grandparents these days!

I plan to take a lot more pictures once we get out and about; but for now I'm just very relieved the sneaking-around-and-surprising part is over. I was terribly nervous. I had to apologize to my dad for the shock. But he seems so pleased that he hasn't even hinted at wanting to send me back home, so I think this is going to be a good visit.

He did inform me, though, having a little better memory of the events of 1969 than I do, that my porn name is actually Sambo Sandstone.


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So this morning I saw that the TSA had opened and inspected my luggage, right? They left that little note in there. I don't mind that so much. They didn't rifle it or mess anything up or rumple my unmentionables.

But apparently they opened my dad's present, which I wrapped before I left. And they sealed it back up and it looks okay, and I don't mind SO much, but...

When they sealed it back up, they stamped "INSPECTED" across the wrapping paper. Hand to God. What the fuck. Have these people never heard of a Post-It note?

It's not that huge a deal and I'm still at my stepbrother's and they have wrapping paper and I'll just re-wrap it, but sheesh! Wankers.

Why, I might not even vote Republican in the next election.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

I'm Here!

I suppose the reason flight attendants just give you peanuts these days is that airline food met too many of the criteria for biological weapons.

I am here, safe and sound, at my stepbrother and his wife's house. The flight up was not bad, although I have to say JFK did not meet my expectations.

Okay. JFK is a f***ing huge airport. We probably taxied for fifteen minutes after we landed just to get to the gate. They should have had commuter flight service from the runway. So far, so good. But where the hell is New York? I thought I would get to see some spectacular cityscape from the sky. Not so. When I flew into Newark a couple of years ago, I even got to see the Statue of Liberty. JFK is apparently in BFE, though; I guess maybe I saw, I don't know, the Hamptons?

Next stop: Google Maps.

Also very disappointing was the General Tso's Chicken I had there, at a Wok-n-Roll, an airport restaurant Jason emphatically recommended that I try.

Am I missing something, or isn't General Tso's Chicken supposed to be spicy? If the General ever tasted this stuff, he'd be pissed. This was more along the lines of Corporal Wimpy's Orange Kool-Aid Delite. So much for my recently acquired delusion that Jason knows from food, okay? No: he is an eater of oatmeal, and that's all there is to it. I know it's the airport and all, but that was the first meal I've ever eaten in the most happening city in the world (with the possible exception of Bangkok), and it was just not the world-class experience I feel I had the right to expect.

The second leg of the trip, from JFK to Syracuse, was on a little 40-seater commuter jet. This was fun because we actually got to walk across the tarmac and climb the steps to get on, just like in old film noir, except with a maniacally enthusiastic flight attendant who slowed down the boarding process considerably by asking everyone if they were going to Orange City.

Syracuse played a football game against Louisville today, and won. They wear orange. Approximately two of the people getting on the plane had any idea what the guy was talking about.

But it's okay, because he was really very nice and joked around the whole time, and did not even hold it against me when I was eventually forced to confess (I'm telling you, he was very chatty) that I was actually born in Louisville.

He even gave me an extra bag of peanuts!

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Get Packing

What do you bring on a trip? And how long does it take you to pack?

I pride myself on traveling pretty light, for a girl anyway. One week in Syracuse with my parents means I'm bringing one small-to-medium wheeled suitcase and my backpack. My backpack has purse-y things and my iBook in it; the suitcase will have a few pairs of jeans, a couple of skirts, a few tops, the requisite unmentionables, and a toothbrush and eyeball supplies and cosmetics, my camera, my dad's birthday gift, and such.

Come to think of it, my backpack still holds a little sample baggie of flavored lubricants that was tossed to me at the Gay Pride parade a few months ago. I suppose I might not want to bring that. Then again, they ARE all still in the Ziploc baggie that they were distributed in, so it'd make it through security. Perhaps it might brighten their day a little! Only I wouldn't, because that's sort of the girl equivalent of being known to carry a bottle of Viagra, and I don't want anybody thinking I need that, because I don't, thankyouverymuch.

Once my stepfather gave my sister Margie a mortar shell he'd acquired through work at some point. It was, of course, hollow; but she had to leave it behind. You can't exactly carry a 5-foot-tall, olive drab, oblong metal bomb-shaped thing on the plane. Or at least that's what she assumed. I'm sorry to report she didn't actually try. I, being of a somewhat more practical bent, am giving my dad a book.

For tonight, it's laundry and white wine. Tomorrow I fly!

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In Summary

Yesterday I got a visit from a Google search on the phrase "stalking coworkers tits." And I'm really quite pleased, because I think if I had to summarize my whole blog in just three words, that would be it.

Every Friday afternoon I summarize my whole week in a couple of hundred words when I do my weekly status report. Then, once a month, I do a monthly status report. The panicmonger is eagerly implementing some new tracking software for us to log all our phone calls, emails, tasks, and other activities. One of the benefits of doing this, she points out, is that we can refer back to our logs and this will make it easier to do our status reports.

Today for the first time I put "Wrote my status report" on my status report. I also put down "Celebrated Talk Like a Pirate Day," which the panicmonger will probably find slightly bewildering. But I spent the entire day Wednesday writing that poem, so I felt it was important to include it.

I bet I write the best status reports of anybody in my department. Everybody else just does all the work. Why am I not in management?

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Write Poetry Like a Pirate Day

Well - if pirates wrote poetry.

Song of the Three-Grog Marauding Group
(known as the Three-Martini Break Group the other 364 days out of the year)

Long ago, at home upon the sea,
A pirate band ruled all that they could see;
But, one by one, they fell away,
Alas! ‘til sadly now, today,
The jolly group but numbers two or three, arrr!

Tan Justin was the first old salt to go;
We watched his passin’ wi’ much grief and woe;
Shovin’ a litterbug down the plank,
He fell into the drink, and sank;
The first o’ many, little did we know, arrr!

The Bitch o’ Cheryl stuck fast his wooden leg
Sightin’ a ship from ‘top the powder keg.
We witnessed, horrified, his lot:
Alas! Th’ enemy cannon shot
Into the cask, and blew him off his peg, arrr!

Dread Pirate Roberts, sober and austere,
Was ta’en by angels to a higher sphere.
But for the pirate wench whose heart
He stole, he will not yet depart,
And twice a day his spirit haunts us here, arrr!

B.Rrrrrrrrr, he was a brave and salty dog!
Storm downed a mast, and brained him with a log;
His memory we cheer: three cheers!
And toast the noble buccaneer
Wi’ locally produced, organic grog, arrr!

Rummy Greg, he vanished without trace,
One morn we woke to find his empty place;
Betimes some claim to catch a sight
Of Greg, when it be dark at night,
But by day he never shows his face, arrr!

Andrew the Bloody fought, and lost his life
Just as he lived: in never-ending strife,
For though he touched not milk nor meat,
And for Polly always had a treat,
He kept his fellow man at point o’ knife, arrr!

Bold Sara ruled the sea, and should rule yet;
Gold-haired, the fairest lass ye ever met;
But derring-do she, daring, did
And got grabbed by a hungry squid,
Diving from the crow’s-nest on a bet, arrr!

Bryan Redbeard sailed the ocean wide,
And took a pirate maid to be his bride;
They honeymooned in far Siam
And took ill from eating gingered ham,
And wi’ him, aye, our fair hopes sank and died, arrr!

Mad Thomas buckled on a dashing swash,
No man feared he, nor storm waves’ crash and slosh,
But brought down by a tiny foe,
A fire ant bit him on the toe,
Wi’ pain gone mad, he dove into the wash, arrr!

And so we saddened pirates must sail on,
Through choppy, shark-infested seas alone;
Pass me the rum: I’ll drink to ye,
And to the day when all will be
Together once again and all be one, arrr!

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Don't Answer the Phone!

My phone at work is supposed to be safe. It better be, since it doesn't have caller ID; so if it's subject to hostile calls, I expect to collect hazard pay. As I've mentioned before, it rings only when my supervisor wants something (the less said about that today, the better), when it's time for break, when one of my district contacts needs a project worked on, or when the former holder's collection agents get hungry.

Also, sometimes Tony calls and tries to prank me, or at least I hope that's him. "Yes, I need some information on -" the caller will begin, and I immediately yell, "No you don't! Shut up!!!"

Fortunately my boss has never happened to be in earshot for this.

But today, unless Tony got someone with a non-goofy voice involved, the most terrifying thing in the world happened: I got an actual phone call from John Q. Public himself.

John had a specific question about the particular function I've recently been tapped to specialize in, so I sat on the phone with him for five or six minutes, trying to help him find the information he needed on our website. Fortunately he was pretty forgiving. This was the very first time I've ever interacted with the public as the representative of a giant faceless bureaucracy, so I was terribly nervous.

You're supposed to have, I'm pretty sure, a flat, nasal, uninterested voice. But I'm still a bit perky from my marketing days. I believe the top priority for a government employee, fielding a phone call from a member of the public, is to get said member off the phone as soon as possible, with minimal impact to one's vitally important smoke break schedule; and minus the actual smoking, I find myself in complete agreement with this philosophy.

But I really hate it, I really do, if I can't help someone, or if I can't help someone as much as I should be able to. And we don't really have the tools to answer John's questions in the most straightforward and sensible way. And God only knows, far greater beings than myself have tried to bring these tools to my agency, and failed, or died horribly, in the trying.

Nobody told me, when I agreed to take these duties on, that the actual public might find me and call me and that I might actually have to speak to them. I don't remember ever signing on for this. I wonder if I can get the agency to hire Tony as my personal secretary so he can field all my calls?

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Monday, September 17, 2007


3MBGer Jason returned to work today after a three-week European vacation. His (clean) oatmeal bowl is still soaking in the sink, but I don't think he's noticed it just yet.

He brought in his flash drive with a couple hundred pictures from the trip. Many of them were of magnificent cathedrals and castles in Prague, Warsaw, Krakow; but the things he photographed most plentifully and with the most gusto were meals: from breakfast with a Heineken on a Berlin-Warsaw flight (because it was 2am according to his internal clock), to wurst and kraut and schnitzel and kochen and lots of other things I wasn't able to identify, but which looked pretty yummy nonetheless.

"Oh, look, look at this one," Jason said, showing us several shots of a cream-cheese-and-raspberry-bedecked pastry. "This is the best crepe I ever tasted!"

"I guess it was," I laughed, "you only took four pictures of it!"

"Five," corrected 3MBG newbie Ernest, standing in the cubicle behind me, as Jason clicked on.

"Six," he added.

Now I'm all hungry. I have to say, though. Who would have figured someone who eats that much oatmeal for an epicure?

I don't think it would occur to me, if I were traveling overseas, to take very many photographs of food. This is not to say that it isn't a good idea; it's just something I probably wouldn't do. Jason did have pictures of some other things, too, though; he had a great many cathedrals, many of which he clicked past somewhat impatiently, with little comment. "You saw a lot of cathedrals in Europe," remarked Ernest.

"Yeah," said Jason. "Too many."

In one cathedral in Prague, he took a beautiful photograph of the magnificent pipe organ, and I was reminded of someone else's European pictures: an old boyfriend of mine from college, a professional church organist who had studied in Prague and Vienna. "I think I've seen that one!" I exclaimed. "I used to date a guy who probably played on it. See, you went around taking a bunch of pictures of what you ate. But he only liked to take pictures of his organ!"

The others backed away from me slightly.

If I ever get to go to Europe, won't you be interested to see what catches my eye?

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Robbie and the Forty Pussies

Naming your children for professional success isn't enough. Sure, go ahead and pick a name that doesn't sound stupid with the suffix "Ph.D." after it (this means no naming your daughter "Tiffany," people). Sure, pick something traditional and elegant, yet unique, not generic. But have you given any thought to what your future child's porn name will be???

Remember the standard formula: the name of your first pet, plus the name of the first street you lived on, is your porn name. If you, like me, come from a family that moved around a lot, you might not know the first street name, so go with the first one you can remember.

Hi. I'm Buffy Bridgewater!

Meet my children: Spiff North Loop, Jacko Sunnyvale, and Romeo Onion Crossing. Here you see I totally screwed up. I thought I did well by picking out dignified and timeless names for my kids. Maybe not so much. Then again, I suppose porn stars are known neither for dignity nor timelessness. Still, Spiff North Loop?! And that's my son!!!

Anyway, this afternoon, I got to go with Robbie to his friends' ranch in Georgetown to cat/dog-sit. His friends are out of town. They have a largish herd of feral cats, and a few dogs and assorted other creatures: in porn terms, 40 pussies, two bitches, a wiener, and some fish.

You may know Robbie better as Shadow Little Eagle.

One of the feral cats is a teeny tiny little baby thing and just about the cutest little bitty thing you ever saw! I put him/her (obviously, I am not good at this kind of assessment) on top of my - um, that is to say, under my chin, and petted him, or her, and he or she purred very loudly. Robbie suspected me of trying to smuggle him (or her) out in my bra, but actually there's not a lot of spare room in there, sorry.

And speaking of Spare Oom, we watched The Chronicles of Narnia at Robbie's place afterwards. Have you ever seen this movie? Have you ever seen Epic Movie? Okay, watch Chronicles first. Trust me on this. Otherwise it will never work.

And for God's sake, if you live on 45 1/2th Street and you have a pet named Scratchy, try to hold off on having kids.


Hope Springs Eternal

Rumor has it - ah, the joys of gossip! - that the panicmonger got chewed out by her boss last week for micromanaging her people into the ground, not letting them just do their jobs, and being generally difficult to deal with. Rumor has it that she's stated she's going to make serious efforts to find another position.

I understand a little bit about how the panicmonger thinks. I think that people who are naturally stress-prone tend to assume that relaxed, calm, laid-back people just don't care. If you're not freaking out, you must be a slacker. So she redoubles her efforts, again and again and again, to put more pressure on everyone, to make sure she knows exactly what everyone is doing all the time, to drive everyone else into the kind of panicked frenzy that she herself feels is the appropriate reaction to whatever situation is at hand.

Trying to soothe her, and telling her everything is under control, only reinforces her belief that she's the only one making any effort, and the poor woman - who is not necessarily unfriendly by nature - really can't understand why everyone is turning against her. And I really do feel bad for her.

All that said, boo-frickin'-hoo. I hope the door doesn't hit her in the ass on the way out.

Anyway, this was encouraging news for a Friday, even if it didn't end so well; but a good night's sleep makes pretty much everything look better, and damn I have some really sweet friends, and it's a beautiful morning. Chirping birds and everything! And my honeysuckle is still not quite dead!

This morning I sent an email to the music director of TEMP. Let me in... let me iiinnnnnnnnnnn!!!

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Sneezing Party

Conversations with Anna can start out as a knock-knock joke and end up as a roomful of naked Muppets with severe sinus congestion.

Apparently not all of my genes are recessive.

"Knock, knock," said Anna.

"Who's there?" I asked.

"Aaahhtch," she said.

"Aaahhtch who?" I asked.

Anna had to stop and think about this for a while. "What's the word?" she asked me.

"Gesundheit?" I suggested helpfully.

"Yeah! That one! Welcome to the sneezing party!" laughed Anna.

"That," I could not help observing, "does not sound like a very fun party."

"There are lots of flowers around!" she went on. "And everybody's allergic to them! So everybody is sneezing! All the time! Sneezing into all the food and all the drinks! Like this!" She demonstrates with her hands, puppetlike, sneezing repeatedly.

"Remind me," I said, "not to go to this party."

"Too late!" says Anna. "You're already there!"

Story of my life, I tell you what.

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Let me be just a little down for just a little bit. I usually try not to show it when I am, so hey! Let's publish it on the internet for a change.

I just got home to an email from the director of the ALO Chorus that I didn't get in, and actually I am really very grateful for receiving an email and not being left hanging. The wording is kind, but presumably standard: many auditioners, limited space, thank you and we encourage you to try out again next season.

It's what I expected and I'm okay with it, only I just got home from a happy hour to which nobody else showed up. I waited about an hour and a half, drinking a margarita and eating queso, because for some odd reason El Arroyo doesn't have worms on the menu.

I'm crawling off for a little cry now.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Homeward Bound

... Sort of.

My stepmother is flying me up to Syracuse week after next as a surprise for my dad's 65th birthday and I get to stay a whole entire week!

I'll bring my camera. I'll take lots of pictures. I did last time I was up there, two years ago - in fact I was there for my dad's 63rd birthday:

Syracuse 2005 pictures

My stepmother may well be the most completely sweet person I've ever known. She doesn't have the tiniest scrap of spite in her. One of the things I love about visiting is that being around them brings out something better in me. My dad is rational and measured and calm and ordered and serene; kind, but not particularly demonstrative; Joyce is sweet and bubbly and warm. It makes me happy to see them together because they complement one another so perfectly and love each other so much.

Joyce often amuses herself cooking up happy little schemes where I move up there and we spend lots of time together. My stepsister and her kids, and stepbrother and his wife, live in Syracuse and they're always dropping by for coffee or having dinner together. I'm really envious. It was my own choice, but since I moved away to go to school I've never lived near any of my family, and holidays have always been spent with someone else's. Joyce is pretty closely involved with her daughter's kids, who are Eric's and Katie's ages, and it makes me sad to think how much I screwed myself out of that kind of support by moving across the country from my mom as soon as I was old enough.

Of course, my ex-mother-in-law is always more than happy to step in.

Tonight Joyce called to set up details. I arrive on a Saturday and my dad's birthday is on Sunday, so she's actually going to have me stay the night elsewhere, the first night, so I can arrive at his party with my stepsister or stepbrother.

This brings back memories of my fifth birthday, in Austin, when we lived on Bridgewater Cove. Mom had taken me to pick out a pinata, all the kids were assembled, and Mom told me to go out on the front patio because there was a surprise for me. And it was my dad, come down from Philadelphia for my party!

And Joyce told me that, when walking this afternoon, she passed a cute house for rent in her neighborhood and thought, "Oh, that would be so perfect for Beth and the kids!" And the thought is almost enough to make me want to brave 11 feet of snow. I'm so happy there. Everybody there is so nice. I'm sure I'll at least browse through the job listings over cereal in the mornings...

I've moved away from Austin three or four times since moving here, and I always regret it when I do. I adore this city. When I'm away, I get homesick. Daddy and Joyce can't live here, because she has MS and can't handle extended periods of hot weather.

But the visit's going to be wonderful.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Karmic Sob Story

"The maid quit," reads the sign taped to the cabinets in the office kitchenette, "and your mother doesn't work here! Please wash your dishes promptly and do not soak."

A semi-regular member of our Three-Martini Break Group has been in Europe for three weeks; he comes back tomorrow. He is, I'm pretty sure, the sole reason that sign appeared just a couple of weeks after he, Robbie and I started working there. He is also probably the only person in our area who has never noticed it.

He's just a little absent-minded, is all.

Jason eats oatmeal for breakfast every day. When he's finished he puts his bowl and spoon in the sink to soak. He leaves them there all day, every day; and the next morning, when he's ready to eat again, he washes them out and reuses them. On a couple of occasions, to his annoyance, they've disappeared.

Three weeks ago Jason made his rounds, at the end of the day, and said his goodbyes before heading off to Ye Olde Worlde. An hour or so after he left, I went into the kitchen to wash my coffee cup, and there, behold! was his oatmeal bowl, soaking peacefully in the sink, patiently awaiting his eventual return.

Of course I thought this was hilarious, and so typical of him. He didn't mean to leave it there. He just forgot; and as far as I'm concerned it's no big deal; then again, you should see my house. If I ever invited her over (which, quite frankly, I wouldn't), the panicmonger would fire me on the spot.

So I washed his bowl and spoon, giggling, and dried them, and put them away in the cabinet. But as I told the other 3MBGers about it, of course everyone felt it would be highly amusing to put the bowl and spoon back in the sink, the night before his return, with the nastiest, grimiest, foulest-looking substance we could find soaking in them, as if (of course) they had sat there untouched and festering the entire time he was gone.

We bounced around various ideas: slime, silly putty, fake vomit. I even thought about filling the bowl with dirt and planting a few clippings from my ivy. But then I forgot about it until late this afternoon, when it was certainly too late to go out and buy something. So I looked through the kitchen cabinets and improvised.

I found an old, dusty green foam florist's block, pulled it to pieces, and mixed the shreds with that nasty, flaky brown stuff that many state employees seem to believe is coffee. I moistened the resultant mix with some of the cold leftover brew and finished off the sludge with a dusting of black pepper. It basically smelled like coffee, but it looked as if a yak with alarming health issues had suddenly found itself unable to get to the toilet in time.

And I was pleased with myself, and I went into the bathroom to change for the bike ride home. And as I was changing, I thought about how if we did this to a lot of the guys, they'd get a huge kick out of it, but Jason would probably be thrown way off balance because we're not as close, and how it would probably make him feel picked on and really hurt his feelings, because I'm the same way and getting pranked just makes me feel stupid and hurt and embarrassed. And finally I couldn't take it anymore, and I went back into the kitchenette and poured the sludge down the sink and washed out the bowl.

Do you know what green florist's foam doesn't do? It doesn't dissolve. The sink was still backed up when I left. Tomorrow someone will probably have to call in a plumber.

I'll leave it to the others to convince Jason his oatmeal created the clog.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Too Much Money

One of the cool things about living in Travis Heights is that Robert Redford shows up in your mailbox and tries to sell you $55,000 vintage motorcycles.

No, really!

I hope somebody does buy this stuff, otherwise it's kind of sad for Robert Redford to have given up a successful film career (well - if you don't count 'An Indecent Proposal') just to write overwrought copy and look intense on the inside front cover. After all, anybody can do that. Why, even I can write overwrought copy and look intense! See?

I enjoy receiving catalogs full of products whose most spectacular feature is the price tag. I got another one last week, from Calico Corners, who deal largely in upholstery, and who cheerfully list fabrics that cost upwards of $75/yard as if this were no big deal.

And the furniture! How about an ottoman for $632? That's probably more than my car is worth.

On the other hand, if I bought the Indian motorcycle, I wouldn't have to worry about my wheels being outpriced by some frigging footstool anymore. If I can parlay my writing into a successful film career, I'll be able to afford it.

Or maybe I'll just sleep with Robert Redford and become indecently rich.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Corpus Pictures!

We went to Corpus in May, didn't we, guys? And now I have photographic proof that we had a good time. This is important. If you don't have photographic proof, it might not even have happened. So:

1. Read the backstory, if you haven't already

2. Check out the photo essay

3. Be amazed

Friday, September 07, 2007

I Can Has Coffee?

I'm sick of work, I can't keep going on,
Not a lick of work, if I stay, will get done,
So I must go home, or nowhere,
'Cause I'm sick of work...

I've locked my desk, I'll keep my printouts there,
I have stocked my desk with data dictionaire,
And I'll leave it there till Monday,
'Cause I'm sick of work.

The panicked boss, why must she be crazed?
Don't have profit/loss, and no deadlines ablaze;
I'm feeling stymied, and I need a raise,
Not endless freaking and shrieking from her.

Goodbye, my cube, and all its beige decor,
I won't train the n00bs on mainframe anymore,
And I'm out the door for the day,
'Cause I'm sick of work,
Yeah, baby, I'm sick of work.

There's never a white baby grand around when you need one.

The panicmonger boss told Robbie today that from now on she wants us all to stagger our breaks, and not go as a group. She wants to cut off the flow of martinis.

What. Ev. Er!

We had a celebration for the September birthdays this morning, organized by one of the three new people, and chipped in for by most of the group. There were balloons and cards and gift certificates and food. We've never done this before. To be perfectly honest, I really don't care for office potluck-type things, but that's beside the point. It was pleasant; the woman who put it together is a sweet, sociable, organize-y type and clearly enjoys doing nice things for people. The panicmonger has been talking for months about how she wanted to do a monthly birthday celebration, but everybody was always kind of lukewarm about it. The point is that the panicmonger has always wanted this, and she finally has someone who's happy to do it.

The panicmonger walked into the organizer's office this afternoon and doled out criticism and some suggestions for how to do a better job of it next time. She forgot to say, oh gosh I don't know, how about something like "thank you, our group has not done this before and it was really nice of you to volunteer to take this on, and incidentally the spice cake is delicious."

The panicmonger did something else particularly shitty that I'm not at liberty to go into; it wasn't done to me. I had the good sense to go home sick at 10:30. I hadn't had my coffee.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Lost Berliner

Most people's kids bring home an abandoned baby bird or puppy or squirrel at some point. Leave it to Eric to bring home a German.

This poor kid is an exchange student at Eric and Katie's school, and today was his first day. He's in Eric's Algebra II class. There was some miscommunication with his host mother, so he tried to find a bus home, but of course he's in an unfamiliar city and an unfamiliar country. So he walked here with Eric and Katie, who couldn't find a bus either (they're transfer students).

It's not an unmanageable walk, but it's not short. "How far is that, anyway?" I asked Eric. "About four miles?"

"Maybe two," he said.

"Oh, I'm sure it's more than that," I insisted. "It's got to be nearly four, anyway."

"I don't think it's more than three," he said.

"Three and a half," I told him, "and that's my final offer."

We shook on it.

Anyway, three and a half miles, in Texas late summer heat, can't be pleasant for an uninitiated Northern European, so of course I offered to drive the kid the rest of the way home. He wasn't sure where the house is - he just got here two days ago - but remembered the address, so we google-mapped it, and good grief, it's halfway to Dripping Springs. I'm not sure why he's going to my kids' school at all.

Traffic's always a bitch, so I didn't get the poor guy home until nearly seven. His host mother came running out of the house, out of breath. "He should never have tried to get on a bus," she said. "He doesn't have my phone number. He doesn't have anybody's phone number. The police are on their way. - I mean, thank you. But he is in so much trouble!"

Her dog, concerned with matters of more immediate material interest, calmly jumped into my car.

I hope the kid gets a break. I remember how huge Austin was when I first moved here in 1986 to go to UT - at the age Eric is now, actually - and it's a hell of a lot huger now. I came here from Madison, Alabama; whether this is more or less of a foreign country than Germany is probably open for debate.

At least everyone is now safely back where they belong, because I did not, in fact, bring the dog home.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Today my boss walked in on me filling out an internal job application, but that's okay. HR will probably accidentally send my receipt letter directly to her again, anyway.

Oooh, but wish me luck on this one, my little electronic friends! I actually applied for it about a week and a half ago, but then realized I had left off some particularly relevant job experience - or at least some job experience HR would consider to be particularly relevant. And I want this one. So I submitted a new application, on paper, in person, and specified that today's application supersedes the one I submitted online last week.

Let's hope somebody there will know what that word means.

It's primarily a writing job. Wouldn't that be perfect? The tricky part is demonstrating to the brainiacs in HR that I possess written communication skills. Upon careful consideration, I decided that giving them the link to my blog would probably not be a good idea. Which is a great pity, isn't it? It's sort of like applying for a job as an L.L. Bean model when your portfolio consists entirely of naughty pictures from your days as an exotic dancer.

Hypothetically speaking, of course.

Anyway, I really do have my fingers crossed for this job. I want it! It involves not only writing, but project management, travel, and that new-fangled internet thingummy, you may have heard of it. I'd be perfect!

If I get picked for an interview, I sure hope my boss will pass on the message.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Keep Going

I love this video. It reminds me of work!

I can't believe I just said that.

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Anna's Hypothetical Situation Game

Anna wants to play a game. "I'll say a question," she tells me, "and you say the answer."

And it goes something like this:

Anna: "If cats wore shoes..."

Beth: "Their feet would hurt."

Anna: "Good answer! Now it's your turn!"

Beth: "If cats didn't have fur..."

Anna: "Not all cats do have fur!"

Beth: "That's right!"

Anna: "If cats live in a box..."

Beth: "They try to open it up so they can escape!"

Anna: "Wrong answer! They would die."

Beth: "Oh no! Okay, if cats want to go outside..."

Anna: "They would want to go back inside later."

Beth: "Very good! Dingdingding!"

Anna: "If a dog eats a moose..."

Beth: "It would be so full it wouldn't even want to eat a mint afterwards."

Anna: "Wrong! It would want to sleep, because it would have a tummyache, and it would want to sleep so that later it could poop. Poop the whole thing out at once!"

Beth: "D'oh! If snakes were on a plane..."

Anna: "People would get eaten!"

Beth: "And then what would happen?"

Anna: "Then they would die."

Beth: "Would there be a movie?"

Anna: "Yes!!! If dogs could talk..."

Beth: "They would say 'Bark! Bark! Bark bark bark!'"

Anna: "No. They would say, 'Hi. Hi. Hi hi hi.' I meant talking like people."

Beth: "If garden slugs were delicious..."

Anna: "Everybody would want to eat them!"

Beth: "But what if they still looked like big boogers and left slime trails everywhere?"

Anna: "Maybe they were just crawling around there and lost their trail and then it was crawling around a tomato and it tasted like tomato! Then they would eat it. Yum yum! Remember, they wouldn't live if someboedy was 'Ung-a. Ung-a. Unga. Unga.' They wouldn't live if somebody was chomping with their teeth."

(You've got to admit, she has a point there.)

Anna: "Mkay. Three more left to do. If dirt tasted like chocolate..."

Beth: "Would it have lots of calories?"

Anna: "No, it tasted like dark chocolate, and the dirt would be made out of chocolate. Ooh! The dirt would be made out of dark chocolate!"

Beth: "Ummm... Would it have bugs in it?"

Anna: "No. No bugs. Only bugs made out of candy would be in the chocolate dirt."

Beth: "Well, I'd eat it!"

Anna: "Whee!" (jumps on bed)

I like games where everybody wins.

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