Thursday, November 29, 2007

Is There a Duck in the House?

Nothng against doctors, really, but unless something is fairly seriously the matter with you, they won't tell you anything you didn't already know.

Drink plenty of fluids and get some rest. Eat sensibly. Get up off your ass and exercise every once in a while. A little fresh air won't kill you.

If you're feeling really lousy, your doctor might prescribe an antibiotic. Theoretically, this is just because (1) it can't hurt, and (2) it makes the patient feel better to take something. But lately I'm coming to wonder if the medical profession, in addition to corporate interests such as Lysol and Dial, is actually run by some master race of superintelligent bacteria as part of a breeding program so that they can take over the world.

Or maybe not, because strictly speaking, I think bacteria probably already do own the world, and creating more drug-resistant varieties only works towards wiping out some of their more successful hosts - not really in the bacteria's best interests, not that I know a lot about these things. Still, I don't think it makes sense in the long run. Perhaps the bacteria are Republicans.

Anyway, I went to the doctor this morning to have a look at my left calf muscle, which - only during chilly weather - sometimes sort of snaps when I spring up off my toes, say, to jump over a puddle, or to dodge traffic on Riverside. If I do it hard enough, it hurts like a mofo and I'm limping for a month. It did that thing again Monday, and since this is the third winter in a row it's happened, I figured what the hell, I'll go get a professional opinion on it.

It's been a while since I sat around in a doctor's waiting room. They never have any magazines I want to look at, so I sit and look out the window, or just stare at the walls. There was a row of paintings opposite me, in different styles, all apparently by different artists.

One depicted a woman sitting in a chair, her legs crossed. Another displayed a seated figure. A third, very abstract one apparently was of a chair and human occupant, and - hey! The waiting room was decorated entirely with paintings of people waiting!

I meant to ask the doctor about that when he came into the examining room, but all he wanted to talk about was my leg. He looked kind of like William H. Macy. He asked a whole bunch of questions about my exercise routine, family history, medications, etc. and then felt my leg up and down for several minutes asking if it hurt (it didn't). Finally he told me I should just stretch before I go walking.

So that's it: a $20 co-pay, and I get my leg felt up and told to stretch. The second one I could figure out, and the first I could probably have found somebody to do for free.

But at least he didn't prescribe antibiotics.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Employee Suggestion Box

Dear Employees' Advisory Council,

It's come to my attention that it might be a good idea to install a partition in the men's room on the east side of the second floor. Its door directly faces the stairwell, so if things time out just right, and one gentleman is availing himself of the facilities exactly as a second gentleman is opening the door and a lady is emerging from the stairwell, the lady might inadvertently discover slightly more about the first gentleman than she really wanted to know.

Of course I've only been with the agency a little under two years, so I might be lacking context here. Perhaps some bygone employee suggested the vulnerable placement of the men's room under the assumption that it would help employees understand one another better, thus improving working relations. For heaven's sake! No wonder Bob is always such an asshole in staff meetings: just look at the poor fellow! Or, alternately, whoa. Sam's about due for a promotion, there, don't you think?

Still, I think there should be a partition. At least put a warning sign on the inside of the stairwell door ("Beware of the" - well, I don't know, you figure it out, you're the Employees' Advisory Council, not me.)


A Concerned Employee

Nah, I'm just kidding; but this scenario sprang to mind when I walked out of the stairwell yesterday just as the men's room door directly across from me was being opened. I did catch a glimpse of someone within, but crane my neck as I might, I wasn't able to see anything I didn't want to see.

Well, tomorrow's another day.


Monday, November 26, 2007

I Brought Doughnuts

Hope you're hungry!


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Cold-Weather Friends

The other cats are hanging out on the dryer, but Anna is softer.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

How's That Again?

Going out to eat should not make you feel like a dumbass.

You know those restaurants where they have a big board posted by the door that says "How It Works" and then when you get to the front of the line, the staffer asks you, "Have you ever been here before?"

On the other hand you have your traditional types of places, where nobody has to explain anything. You sit down and a waiter takes your order; or it's a buffet, or cafeteria style, or fast food. These are better because, no matter how friendly and patient the staffer is whose task is to explain the rules to you at a non-traditional-format restaurant, you can't help seeing it from his perspective. Oh look, it's Faceless Customer. He comes in here all the time. But he still just... never... gets it. Geez. What the hell is wrong with this guy?!

Last night I dreamt that a friend and I went to grab a quick breakfast taco at some place with a weird system. There was a long line snaking out the door, but we walked right up to the counter and placed an order and paid. This upset a few of the people in line and a fight nearly broke out; the staffer behind the counter explained - a bit huffily, too - that this was the way it was supposed to work, but the people waiting were still not at all happy. Novices. So it's probably not a good idea to come up with a concept for a new restaurant in your sleep.

But next time you go to Freebird's and the guy behind the counter asks you if you've ever been there before, furrow your brow, say, "Yes, I come in here all the time, but it's still not quite making sense to me. Could you run over the rules again?" You'll be a big hit.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

The Travel Blog (sorta)

It's always hard to sleep in a hotel. Perhaps that's why they water down the coffee so much, in hopes that the first sip will send you instantly off to blissful dreamland.

They also try to help you sleep by thoughtfully ensuring that the free wi-fi doesn't actually work in the room, so you won't be tempted to sit up surfing the internet all night. I think this is a good strategy, and I've noticed a few hotels that employ it: the La Quinta in Alabama where Cheryl's Bitch and I got cozy the night before my high school reunion, for one, as well as the Bayfront Plaza in Corpus, where you actually could get internet in your actual room, just as long as you sat pressed right up against the door.

But with all its irritations, stresses and privations, I actually adore traveling. Even just to San Antonio, though after my car got broken into night before last I'm anxious about leaving the house unattended. We swept the glass out of the street and moved my poor little happy fun car into the carport. Who would break into a car with flowers on it?? At least they didn't steal the martini glasses.

Now I'm in the lobby of the Howard Johnson's at I-10 and the road I believed for years was, inexplicably, called Days of Allah. What a weird name for a street in a largely Catholic town, I always thought. Eric, Katie and Anna are sleeping back up in the room - finally. Eric's laptop's wireless card is a bit stronger than mine, so even though he kept getting bumped off and it was very slow, he still spent much of the night clicking away, and refused to allow Katie on to "check" her MySpace (though to be fair, this is a process that usually takes several hours), so the aura of resentment emanating from her, even in her sleep, was enough to keep the room fairly warm. Those two have been sworn enemies ever since they were, oh, about two and a half and zero, respectively. Do not stand between them. You will get hurt.

Anna falls asleep with cuddles and kisses, then kicks and punches all night. Still, she's basically a force for good.

I like staying in hotels, too, or at least the concept of it, so I'm glad my in-laws don't have quite enough room at their house to put up all of us, or put up with all of us, as the case may be. I love this section of Lileks' website with all the hotel signs - oooh, or check out this one. Someday I hope to meet someone who will take me there.

(And probably shouldn't hold my breath, seeing as how it's been demolished.)

I always wanted to check out the St.-El-Mo-Tel at Congress and St. Elmo: also recently demolished, though apparently the sign is (hooray! I love Austin!!!) being preserved. You probably wouldn't really want to stay there, but it would almost be worth the price of a night's stay just to go in and look around, maybe take a few pictures. Actually, during its later years you could probably get rooms by the hour. Probably the trendification of South Congress ultimately killed it.

Anyway, the main reason I was so bummed about my Lufkin trip getting cancelled was that I really, really, really wanted to check this one out. I could have found out if they still had the sign. I could have taken a picture for James, whose political views I find personally troubling but whose site has given me many hours of amusement during such long sleepless nights as have not been passed in hotels that advertise free wi-fi.

Hope y'all had a good Thanksgiving!

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Here's a Tip

If your driver's-side window (which works) is worth more than your old, superglued-together AM/FM cassette deck (which doesn't)?

Don't lock your car!!



Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"Sleigh Ride" Makes the Baby Jesus Cry

When you have four cats, it's usually not a good idea to go home emptyhanded.

So on my way home, I stopped at what we affectionately term the Kwik-E-Mart in the parking lot adjoining work. I live pretty close by, so I could almost hear the hungry wailing of ravenous beasts. But it turned out to be just a Christmas jingle.

Never mind that Thanksgiving is tomorrow. Would it kill these people to wait just one more day? If I were wealthy and powerful, I'd lobby Congress to pass legislation forbidding the wanton display of any Christmas paraphernalia until after dusk, Thanksgiving Day.

No, that's a lie. If I were wealthy and powerful I'd move to a Greek island and hire a large number* of attractive male personal assistants. For, you know, errands.

Unfortunately, this particular piece of Christmas music was "Sleigh Ride," by Leroy Anderson, and for as long as I can remember this has been perhaps my least favorite piece of music in the known universe. I do have a pretty solid basis for comparison. I happen to own - and proud of it, too! - a Liberace Christmas CD I once received as a white elephant gift at an office holiday party. It's an awe-inspiring thing. It sounds kind of like the head Blue Meanie from Yellow Submarine dressed up in a sequined Santa suit and OD'd on Valium, managing in the process to lose bowel control all over a powder-blue baby grand. To add to the overall effect, it's very poorly remastered, so sometimes the pitch sort of slides away a bit and you end up having to tilt your head to the side while you listen to it. It hurts. It makes you feel tainted - yet kind of sparkly, somehow.

It beats the pants off "Sleigh Ride."

So this is not the most promising start to the holiday season, though I still have hopes. I only wish people wouldn't keep pushing to get started earlier and earlier, because that just means everybody gets sick of it and takes everything down when Christmas proper isn't even over, and I'm the only person I know who leaves up the lights and decorations until Twelfth Night, and I absolutely will not take them down a moment sooner.

And if the neighbors give me dirty looks for it, I'll sic my cats on them.

*It's important to have several, because this increases the odds that one or two of them might turn out to be straight.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Christmas Is Cancelled

Well, maybe not, but the Lufkin trip is definitely off. Also we're now undergoing a hiring freeze. "If somebody leaves," said our section director in an emergency staff meeting Friday, "for the time being, that just means everybody else's workload gets a bit heavier."

Um, what if, say, four people leave? Within a month or so of each other? No reason. Just curious.

I really did want to go to Lufkin, though, so that's a bit of a bummer. Instead, my boss wants to send me to a class (presumably here in Austin) on how to conduct training via videoconference.

This does not sound like nearly as much fun.

What the section director did not know on Friday is whether we still get to hire a replacement for Robbie, since his vacant job was already posted, and closed the day the hiring freeze was announced. Do we just not get to post any new requisitions, or are the existing ones cancelled?

I asked this question in our staff meeting, and of course what I was really wanting to get at was, what happens to the four internal job postings I've applied for in the last few weeks? I thought it might be better not to ask this directly. But, continuing that train of thought, does a hiring freeze mean you can't post any new jobs at all, or can you just not bring new people into the agency? I mean, if they want to encourage people to be happy in their work, they can't tell them (can they?) that the only possible way up is out? Until whatever indefinite date that the hiring freeze is over? Shouldn't you still be able to hire internally?

If the only way up is out, then only people who can't get up stay in.

Oh wait. I think maybe that already happened.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Marshmallows: No

I just read this Yahoo feature on Thanksgiving side dishes.

All right, fess up: who likes marshmallows?

I don't have too much problem with most other foods, using that term loosely. I think Wonder Bread is gross, but I don't care if you eat it. Cheez Whiz? Ick! Don't eat it when I'm around, and I'll pretend not to know. Cilantro sets off my gag reflex. You like it? Please, buy it all! Cool Whip? What's wrong with you?! Eat whipped cream fer crissakes! Why would you schlep a big glob of trans-fat on - oh, fine, do whatever you want. Eggplant is eh: not inedible, but given a choice, I'd rather eat Kraft mac-and-cheese, sorry. And you all know my fond, irrational feelings on candy corn.

But marshmallows are an abomination.

How can you eat these things? Not to say that they have no purpose. You can take them camping. You can poke them on the ends of sharp sticks and set fire to them. You can watch, mesmerized, as they dissolve gradually into blue and pink and lavender flames;* I don't think iceberg lettuce would do that, though you can always give it a try.

And why would you contaminate a perfectly good Thanksgiving side dish with the gelatinous little bastards? Sweet potatoes are yummy. You can chop them up and bake them in brown sugar syrup. You can mash them. I suppose you could even sautee them. They're good with turkey, gravy and stuffing, if (to be perfectly honest) a little redundant with the mashed potatoes. But if you can't have redundancy at an orgiastic holiday feast, when can you? Grandma always made up for this by also serving soybeans. Eat your soybeans! You never know when you might suffer from a wax shortage.

But marshmallows? No. They are not tasty and they are not good for you. They make hot chocolate slimy and undrinkable; they convert S'mores into S'Lesses. Rice Krispie treats? Whatever. Just try to tell me those have any nutritional value whatsoever. You might as well eat spray insulation.

Under attack next week: football. What is with you people?!?

*Food rule #1: If it turns pastel when you set fire to it, it isn't food.

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Better Than...

Better than an apple pie without sour cream in the filling. Perhaps better than one or two other things you could name, as well. Via the Austin Chronicle, here's a recipe for the best apple pie I've ever had.

Pennsylvania Dutch Sour Cream Apple Pie


1.5 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbs sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut in chunks
2-4 Tbs ice cold apple juice to bind

Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and cut in the cold butter chunks with a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles pea gravel. Carefully add the apple juice a little at a time until the dough comes together in a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour before rolling. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and place in a deep 10-inch pie pan, crimping the edges in a decorative pattern. Chill the pie shell while filling is assembled.


1 1/4 cup sour cream
1 large egg
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
7 Granny Smith (or other crisp, tart apples) peeled, cored, and sliced

Preheat oven to 400deg. F. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the sour cream and the egg. Combine the sugar and flour and whisk into the liquid mixture. Add the salt and vanilla. Place the apple slices in the custard as they are sliced. Pour the apple custard into the prepared pie shell, place on a cookie sheet, and bake for 10 minutes at 400deg. F to set the crust. Lower the heat to 350deg. F and bake for 40 minutes more. While pie is baking, prepare topping.


1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
a dash of salt
1 cup walnut pieces
6 Tbs melted butter (approx)

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and carefully add melted butter, working with hands to form a crumbly topping. When the pie has baked 40 minutes, remove from oven, completely cover the apples with topping and return to oven for 10 minutes more at 350deg. F. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. This pie must be stored in the refrigerator but it tastes best at room temperature or warmed just a bit. It will serve 10 people and there are rarely any leftovers.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

I Don't Get Paid to Write This

Okay, my virtual friends, I need some help here.

My coworkers and I planned the October and November safety meetings with great success. In October we did rail safety. We had someone from the Federal Railroad Administration come in and do a presentation on how to stay off the railroad tracks, you dumbass, don't you know there's a train coming?!

Then he gave us all key rings.

In November we did weather hazards. Jim Spencer from KXAN Weather did a presentation how not to get sucked up by tornadoes, struck by lightning, or drowned in floodwaters. One of my coworkers knows him, and he very generously agreed to come and speak for us - at the ungodly hour of 8am, too. Wasn't that nice of him?

All that's left to do is December, and for December I was going to have the snake guy. To recap quickly, the snake guy was going to be really cool, but my supervisor freaked out a little bit and managed to get the Legal Department to refuse to tell us in writing that his presentation (which he gives for elementary schools by the way) didn't constitute a workplace hazard, so we couldn't go ahead with it and now I have nothing. December was supposed to be the best one, too.

I tentatively have "holiday safety" set as the topic. But I'm drawing a blank. I have no one lined up and no ideas here. I'm supposed to have all the information for the official memo to go out by Monday. What do I do?!? Help!!!

I'm so stressed out about it, I had to call in sick.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hit the Road

Fasten your seatbelts, folks: we're going to Lufkin!

I love having a job where I get to travel. Wander the beautiful Piney Woods of East Texas! Admire the noble mosquito! Dine on the exotic mudbug! Meet friendly locals, some of whom have almost a full complement of teeth!

Actually, I've never been there, and I love roadtrips, so I really am looking forward to it. The week after next, one of the new hires and I are going on a training mission, deep into the swampland near the Louisiana border, to bring our amazing mainframe-based technology to the natives. It'll be great fun. No, I don't hear banjo music off in the distance - why do you ask?

Lufkin may not be a major metropolitan hub, but they do boast an official tourism site. Granted, the home page is dedicated to promoting an event that apparently took place five months ago; or maybe they're planning for next summer, I don't know. Note the "Things to Do" crawl on the left side of the screen. I guess there are six things to do in Lufkin. One of them is watching a video.

In Corpus, my job used to be to look at websites just like this and tell the clients how to give them some pop, some pizzazz, some zing - and, it goes without saying, a Call To Action. Then again, our most successful clients were destinations like Miami and Palm Springs and Hilton Head. We didn't do so well with, say, Waco. That client was never very happy with us. None of the consultants could think of any particular reason anyone might want to go there.

But there are advantages to a less-frequented destination, too. We'll be there the week after Thanksgiving. Think of all the crowd-free Christmas shopping we'll be able to get in! And in the cold season, you know, all the alligators have migrated south for the winter. They're drinking mojitos and eating their fill of perfectly-oiled sunbathers in Miami.

So it's a good thing we'll be safely in Lufkin!

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Top Ten Signs You Need a New Job

10. While working, you overhear your cube neighbor improvising cheery little ditties about suicide.

9. Your plants appear have eaten your pencil sharpener. They are still hungry.

8. Your manager asks anxiously that you please not plan to be sick anywhere near the holidays.

7. Phlirting with the phlebotomist at the blood drive is the high point of your month.

6. Four hours' solid work in the mainframe database application leaves you with an unusual sense of accomplishment.

5. You no longer have the heart to put together humorous, animated PowerPoint presentations about your surroundings.

4. Of the five trial-size packets of personal lubricant you left in the basket in the ladies' room on Thursday, only one remains, which means that everyone else apparently had a much more interesting weekend than you did. You have seen these women. You are dismayed and alarmed.

3. You find yourself overwhelmed with self-righteous rage if anyone suggests you might take shorter than a 30-minute break.

2. Even the most die-hard skeptics in your office are forced to admit that Scott Adams walks secretly among you.

And the straw to snap the spine of the most stalwart dromedary:

1. It's the end of the day. You're standing at the sink in the office kitchenette, washing out your coffee cup. When you've finished, you turn around and discover someone standing barely eighteen inches behind you. You do your best to convert your involuntary yip of alarm into a "hi!"

It wakes him up.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Not Just Me

We all have days like this from time to time.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007


I had the nicest email today from someone I used to work with in Corpus. She isn't someone I knew all that well, but I liked her; she was clearly overqualified for her job, but still friendly and easygoing, pleasant to deal with, and always on the ball with her work.

So naturally they fired her.

We haven't been in touch, so she sent me a recap of the past two years. She had a baby shortly before I left and has been doing the at-home momtrepreneurial thing - Avon, in her case, though she said she really doesn't feel she's much of a saleswoman. And she asked how I was, if I was happier than I had been in Corpus, and if my new job was going well.

What a nice email to answer while sitting on the front porch of my comfortable (if not very clean) house, smack-dab in the center of my favorite city in the world. "I have lots of good friends at work here," I told her, "only they keep quitting." Which is such a shame, you know. Some people have just never acquired any real sense of how nice it is not to be employed by sociopaths.

The sun is low, almost setting: so early! but it's too beautiful out not to feel lucky to be here: warts, panicmongers/obfusc8rs, silly internet use policies, weekly status reports, and all.

Let's just hope I can refrain from buying any Avon.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Office Bathroom

Leaving work to ride my bike home in the afternoons, I duck into the bathroom with my backpack for a quick change from work clothes into a T-shirt and shorts.

On the counter in the office ladies' room is a small decorative basket someone has thoughtfully provided, stocked with little bottles of perfume and lotion. "For everyone's use," reads a small sign taped to the side of the basket.

At the Gay Pride Parade several months ago, smiling parade-goers riding on floats were tossing out beads, mints, and other little favors to the crowd, including ziploc baggies containing several individual samples of personal lubricants: a few different flavors, in warming and cooling varieties. I've been carrying the baggie of lubricants in my backpack ever since, partly because I thought it was kind of funny, but mostly because I'm really bad about throwing stuff out.

Today while I was changing, the baggie fell out of my backpack onto the floor. I picked it up. I started to put it back in my backpack. My eye fell on the pretty little basket.

Well, I really didn't need them.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Election Day Nooner

“You never mention me in your blog anymore,” remarked Robbie over “lunch” today.


We get up to two hours off work to vote, which is good. Last year management required us to show our “I Voted” stickers to get the time off. I needed it all; that election included the gubernatorial race, and the line wrapped all the way around the parking lot of the church where my precinct voted. Today’s election just had a bunch of propositions – improper or otherwise, I couldn’t say. I don’t have any opinions, and had already recycled last week’s Chronicle, so I wasn’t very well prepared.

Driving to Georgetown takes 40 minutes, one way. That’s from downtown Austin with very little traffic.

Afterwards I stopped by the precinct where I should be, but am not, registered. I moved last February. I’ve updated my driver’s license, and filled out my new address with the post office and the bank, so I assumed I had renewed my voter’s registration in there somewhere, too. But I had not.

“I can’t find my voter’s registration card,” I told the volunteer election clerk, in the lobby of Anna’s elementary school. The lobby was empty, except for the election workers, a row of voting booths, and a group of bright-eyed second-graders catching their first glimpse of the democratic process. “Look!” the teacher whispered excitedly to her charges, “there’s someone getting ready to cast her vote!”

“We can go by your driver’s license,” the election worker said.

“Actually, I’m not sure I ever updated my registration,” I told him.

“Well, let me look,” he told me, taking my license and leafing through his book. “Nope – you’re not in here. I’m afraid you’ll have to vote at the old precinct. I’m sorry about that!”

“Nonono, that’s okay, thanks!” I told him. “Only I don’t really have time. Can I have a sticker anyway?”

Fortunately I did have just enough time to run home and freshen up a little, because you can’t go straight back to work after a nooner: you’re sweaty, your hair is mussed, you’re all flushed; and if you happen to be, physiologically speaking, a girl, well, what with gravity, and – well, you just need to freshen up a bit.

I love democracy, don’t you?

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Monday, November 05, 2007

We Have Problems

Do you labor under delusions of adequacy? Is your self-esteem too robust? Are you plagued by an overabundance of disposable income? Get thee to a bike shop!

My old bike, secured with only a cable lock, got stolen out of the carport. So I’ve been parking the new one in Katie’s room. It’s messy enough in there that I didn’t think she’d really notice. Possibly she hasn’t, but this morning I found some of her unmentionables draped across it; so I went shopping for a good solid U-lock today.

I walked into the bike shop, declined the assistance of a few very polite, but distressingly lithe employees, and located a U-lock. So far so good. But I also wanted new pedals, because the ones that came on my bike don’t have any holes in them, so you can’t mount toe clips. I mean, you could. You’d just need a working power drill, which I don’t have. I figured it was easier just to get a new pair.

That was my first mistake.

Ten minutes browsing the shop and not seeing anything should have told me, right there, to just purchase my lock and leave quietly. Oh, sure, they had pedals. They had clipless, lightweight, racing-caliber pedals, lots of different kinds of them, starting out around $75 a pair. Alongside these were shoes, cleat systems, cleat mounts, cleat covers, a full range of sleek biking apparel, and bicycle helmets that looked like they might actually be flattering.

Mine just makes me look like a well-ventilated mushroom.

Finally, shyly, I asked one of the godlike beings for help. “Do you have any, you know, just regular pedals?” I asked. “The ones that came on my bike won’t accept toe clips.”

“Well, we don’t actually sell toe clips here,” he said. Of course not. Toe clips probably add at least three ounces to the weight of your bike!

“I already have the clips,” I went on. “It’s just that the pedals on my bike don’t take them, or I’d have to drill holes.”

“Hmm. Okay,” he replied, “I think we might have some here, somewhere; let me look around,” and vanished in a blur of brightly-colored Lycra.

He circled the shop for a minute or two, then went outside, and spent another few minutes actually removing a pair of pedals from a bike chained on display in front. He brought them in. “We have this pair,” he told me; “they keep getting put on some of the bikes for test rides. They’re flat so you can slide your feet into the clips, and have special tabs for the straps to mount. They’re $30.”

I took the pedals in my hand. If I’d been browsing, and found these on the shelf, I’d have looked at the price and put them back down. Not that they aren’t worth the money: strong, but extremely lightweight, slim and efficiently designed. But I don’t need that. I’m not worried about minimizing weight. My bike has a kickstand, which I use, and like. Do you have any idea how these people feel about kickstands??

But he’d gone to all that trouble, and I was much too embarrassed to say I wanted something cheaper, which would entail confessing that I’m really not a very serious biker. So I bought them.

Problem solved!

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Tending Life

I think playing in the dirt is very therapeutic. Cats generally think so, too, though for somewhat more immediate physical reasons.

Slappy White intrudes, here, on what was supposed to be a portrait of Spikey, the crack weed from Corpus, who's been making babies like mad. A couple of weeks ago the top of him broke off, so I stuck it back in the dirt. It resumed growing, and the bottom half took off in a new direction from the break. I guess if you can make it in a driveway crack in Corpus, you can make it anywhere.

So this weekend I got a new bag of soil and a few pots, repotted some rootbound plants, and finally got around to planting these clippings from Margie's birthday present, which have been rooting frenetically in a bottle of water at my desk for a month and a half. They don't seem to know quite what to think of being suddenly earthbound. I hope they'll survive.

I'm concerned about this guy:

He was a birthday present to me, two and a half years ago, from a client. Did great in my office in Corpus, did okay in the apartment, but here at the house he does not seem to be content either inside or out. I thought maybe he was rootbound, and repotted him, and this morning he looked a lot perkier. But now he's all droopy again. What's it take?? What does a girl have to do to make you happy?!?

Cats are easier to please than plants. All they ever really want is just to be on the other side of the nearest door.

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Inbox of Doom

They just don't make spam like they used to.

I mean, for the time being. But have you noticed that lately all the subject lines are telling you you've won something? Like a gift card for a department store, or an airline ticket, or a free laptop, or a $500 shopping spree at Nordstrom's, which based on what I've seen of that particular store would get you maybe one skirt, and not a very attractive one either.

A few months ago the subject lines all appeared to have been culled at random, and sometimes they were pretty intriguing. Five or six of them lined up in your inbox might form sort of a poem. But if you opened one, they were just something stupid and prosaic, like stock prices.

Months before that, all the subject lines related to the inadequacy of your penis. I thought that was a little harsh.

But speaking of inadequate penises,* what got me thinking of all this is that I got an eVite invitation yesterday from the 11-day wonder, the guy who accepted a job in my department, made a couple of attempts to sell us all Amway, and quit. He got my email address because he asked for my phone number, and I appear to be congenitally incapable of saying "no." I even felt guilty the first time I deleted an email from him, unanswered.

It's unflattering to have been singled out as a likely target, like trying on a pair of jeans in front of the mirror and suddenly catching yourself from a particularly unfavorable angle. Sure, I didn't even open the eVite - I think he could have seen, if I had - but the implications still sting. I hope there's a special circle in hell for the people who make their way in this world by taking advantage of the better impulses of others: not stupidity or gullibility, but gentleness, and kindness, and the reluctance to hurt anybody's feelings or create ill-will. Because when you use those impulses against someone, s/he knows it; it makes that person feel stupid for being that way; it's a step towards making the world a colder and unfriendlier place.

So it's a good thing I've just won a $1000 gift card to Victoria's Secret. Exciting underwear make everything better!

*Just a guess

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Friday, November 02, 2007

So Much for Being Taken Seriously

Playing with the magnetic letters on my cubicle cabinets today, I arrived at a decision.

The panicmonger is no longer to be referred to as “the panicmonger.” She is heretofore to be known as “DA OBFUSC8R.” Effective immediately.

And speaking of magnetic letters, if you have a job where you never get client visits, the last thing you need is a client stopping by to ask you a few questions.

An internal agency client of mine, who is usually safely located in Odessa, turned up in my cubicle today and introduced himself. He was just passing through.

I always think it’s great fun to meet someone I’ve only dealt with by email or over the phone, but I don’t really have the kind of workspace where people who don’t know me can safely drop in. Especially people from West Texas. “OMG!” proclaims my cabinet, “BILL GATES IS KICKING MY OS.” Below that is what really ought to be my work section’s official motto:


Add to this the fact that it’s Friday, which is Watering Day, and I have several incontinent plants, so the client was having a hard time finding a dry spot on my desk to spread out his papers; and that the map of Texas pinned to my wall, which he was attempting to use to point out a project location, is largely obscured by a big pop-up flower made of paper panties.

Well, I guess if he’s working from home, I don’t have to worry about him barging in unannounced anymore.

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