Thursday, January 31, 2008


People who don't like cats often say it's because cats make them feel inferior. Cats are uppity, you know - always thinking they're smarter and better, more refined, much cooler, more graceful and elegant, less oafish than humans. Right?

This has been a public service announcement for humankind.


Monday, January 28, 2008

Not for Kids

Happy 50th Birthday, Legos!

My parents, not being masochists, never bought me Legos. They do hurt pretty badly to step on with bare feet. Not as badly as old-fashioned wooden building blocks do, but they wreak worse havoc with the vacuum cleaner.

It's a shame, because I've always loved Legos. Or at least I always thought they were cool, but I really fell in love with them when my cousin Gretchen (who picked up after herself) introduced me to the single-wide ones. My interest in them was always primarily architectural - I never really cared about the specialized kits for building bulldozers or spaceships. With the long single-wide ones and a few big flat base pieces, you can make a kick-ass house. And if you've designed it right, you'll also build interior walls and make furniture to scale inside: kitchen and bathroom fittings, sofas and tables, chairs and beds, pianos, stereo equipment, TVs, you name it. The Lego company also makes nice windows, but the doors are a disgrace. A Lego person walking upright couldn't fit through one. What the hell's up with that? Anyway, you want to use clear bricks in the bathroom walls instead of windows, for privacy, you know.

Remember how awful it was when you realized you were just one brick short of being able to get the color scheme you had in mind? Of course you do.

I had Tinkertoys, but never liked them as much. On the other hand, I once went over to someone's house to play who had a set of giant Tinkertoys in the rec room, large enough to build structures we could crawl and walk through. That was awesome! I couldn't tell you how old my friend was or whether it was a boy or a girl. But I'll never forget the giant Tinkertoys.

Once my ex-husband and I came across a big moving box full of a hundred million Legos at a garage sale. It was great. We played with those things for years. Eventually my kids got old enough to be interested and play with them and leave them scattered everywhere, so I finally packed them up and gave them away. I'm not a masochist.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Remain Calm

I don't want to alarm you, but felt you ought to know that Ferrante & Teicher once recorded a scintillating two-piano rendition of Macarthur Park that will leave you wanting to leave more than just a cake out in the rain, if you know what I mean, and it's available from iTunes and LimeWire, just to name a couple of otherwise mostly legitimate online services.

Yeah, I don't think I'll be sleeping tonight either.


Professional Muse

About this job I interviewed for yesterday: I'm actually wondering if it's really a good idea.

I do think it went very well. There were even a couple of tests, one of them being to proof and edit a mock press release. Of the five applicants interviewed, who do you think is most likely to know the difference between "compliment" and "complement"? Huh? Who's your mama??

The main thing that's hanging me up is the fact that it's a step back into an administrative field. My job position right now is - well, nominally more technical. The one I interviewed for would do meeting planning, organization, customer service, some writing and editing, and even - this is a bit scary - answer phones to the general public, from time to time.

Phones! The general public! Eewww!

But I'm trying to figure out how much of my resistance to this is just that I perceive administrative work as being lower status than technical work. It's "soft" - women's work, you know? Yet I've always been best at this type of work, and arguably happiest, too, if you dismiss the fluffy image concerns.

I've been with the agency two years and am eligible for tuition reimbursement, if the current budgetary environment will allow it. I'm, oh, say two years away from my bachelor's. This newfangled internet thingummy will probably make it a lot easier for me to go back to school, and finish up, than it would have been ten years ago. But of course the agency would want me to get a degree relevant - nominally - to my work functions. So in my current position, my best bet would probably be computer science or GIS. If I were offered and accepted the other job, I could probably swing something more like public relations or maybe even journalism, which I think I'd enjoy a lot more, and would probably be able to finish much more quickly.

When I had my review this week, my supervisor said a grade promotion was in the works. Systems Analyst III doesn't sound bad - but then again, it doesn't really mean much outside of my immediate work area, and certainly not outside the agency. I couldn't be hired as a systems analyst at a real company. Why, I couldn't analyze a system if it came running up and kissed me on the ass! Also, it feels unfair to me that I'm treated as well as I am when others I work with really kind of get the shaft. I do a really good job with my particular duties, which are somewhat specialized - and administrative! - but I really think they're a bit lighter and more pleasant than what everybody else is doing.

I can also think, off the top of my head, of one or two people who are at the same grade I am who deserve a grade promotion - in this particular classification - way, hay, hay the hell before I do.

I guess it's silly to start agonizing when there's no guarantee the offer will even be made, but how else can I avoid getting started on that sink full of dishes?

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Fake It Till You Make It

Everybody calls in sick for the "wrong" reasons* every now and again. We all know how to sound sick over the phone, but do you know how to avoid giving yourself away when you get back to the office? I mean, sure, you could carry a red ink-stained handkerchief balled up in your hand, and cough into it during your staff meeting; or you could keep a nice aromatic bucket of live bait hidden in your cubicle.

In fact, I'm not entirely sure some people in my division aren't already doing this.

But you don't really need to go to such great lengths. All you really have to do is be a little discreet. Here are some common reasons for calling in sick, and the telltale signs to avoid for each.

The exercise class: Well, make sure your breathing has slowed to more or less normal before you come in. And try not to look so damn healthy.

The job interview: Change clothes for the office, but don't overcompensate and show up in cutoffs and flip-flops. Just bring something that you would normally wear to work. If you park in a visible spot, make sure your jacket and tie aren't hanging up in full sight on the passenger side.

The shopping trip: I'm sure I don't need to tell you that your purchases should stay out in your car. If they're perishable, you'll just have to drop them off at home. The thing to look out for is stuffing the receipts into your wallet when you're checking out, because those things can flutter away at importune moments, and they are time-stamped.

The tryst: Towel off as much of the Axe body spray as you can, along with any other substance you may have been sprayed with. Comb your hair, fix your makeup, and make sure your clothes are all right-side out. Try not to look smug.

The weather: Why yes, sometimes it is just too nice out to go to work, and you need to spend the day at the lake, the beach, the park. Or it's ghastly out and you want to stay home in bed with cats and coffee, or watch football in a topless bar all day. Try to avoid going anywhere that your legitimately vacationing coworkers might hang out, and wear plenty of sunscreen. And do a little creative research; I'm sure that glittery skin must be a symptom of something life-threatening.

Lunch: Often not at all your fault, you finally pay your tab and glance at your watch and realize that, due to the crowding of the restaurant and/or the ineptitude of the server, you've now been away from your desk for three full hours. Just claim food poisoning and go home, because trying to explain the truth isn't worth it. You should try to look a little pale and drained when you come in the next day. (Scratch this one if you're at lunch with the boss, but keep in mind that s/he's more likely to pick up the check if you manage to convey a little gastrointestinal distress.)

Then there's the I'm-just-so-plain-sick-of-work-I-can't-face-it-this-morning day, but I cover this last because you don't have to worry too much about looking suspiciously smug, happy or refreshed when you go back in. If you find yourself taking so many of these that your sick time is going down faster than you can accumulate it, you should probably call in sick and go job-hunting.

*Special note for public employees: If it's near the end of the month and you've already submitted your timesheet, your death constitutes government fraud and can actually get you in a lot of trouble, so you should probably avoid it.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Tell-Tale, Um, Heart

My interview is tomorrow morning; and, horribly, Robbie has reminded me that I have a certain obligation - sort of a debt of honor, if you will. When he interviewed for his current position, a woman we know told him she'd pay him $5 if he called in with the shits.

He earned that $5.

So at some point I laughingly promised to make a tradition of it, and do the same, if I ever got an interview. Hell, I'd never gotten one yet. I never thought it would really happen!

Okay. The terms of the deal don't say I have to be graphic. But I do have to do it. I'm more nervous about this than the interview, frankly.

Oh, and I've been suffering huge whomping glups of guilt all day. I just got a really good review. And one of the top-level division bigwigs, who has to sign off on it, sent me such a nice email telling me that upper management (with whom, unlike most of the others in my area, I often work directly) are very happy with the work I've been doing. He said they also like my sense of humor. I got all misty.

The panicmonger was obviously excited to be able to do something good for me. She said I needed to bring in doughnuts to celebrate my time there. Meanwhile, the staffing situation in our area isn't getting any better: Bitching Bubbly Nonsmoker has no-called and no-showed for two days running, which can't be good. The candidate to whom the PM offered Robbie's old job backed out, so she has to start the whole interminable hiring process over, even assuming she can get the posting approved again. The three newbies - well, frankly I'm kind of surprised they're still there (hello! what is with you people??); but I'm sure one of these days I'll turn around and they'll be gone.

Frankly, I feel like shit for even thinking about another job. But I suppose that feeling will come in handy when I call in tomorrow.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I Finally Found the Right Breath Mint!!!

20 points for the reference.

At lunch with a friend today, I was lamenting the fact that I put in* for other agency jobs all the time, and never get interviews. How is this fair? I'm really smart! I'm ever such a good worker, really I am, if only I have stuff to do! I'm gosh-darned nice to work with. Bosses always love me.** Why doesn't anybody want to hire me?

My friend explained that at the agency where we both work, HR is staffed by the sort of people who need detailed written instructions (which they move their lips while reading) on how to scratch their butts. I nodded a little impatiently. I knew that; that's HR pretty much anywhere.

"But you have to completely change the way you think about this," he went on. "You must remember that the hiring process is not intended to find the best person for the job. It's intended to keep the agency from being sued. Any other consideration is secondary."

Valuable advice, then, from a valued friend.

I turned in another application today, this one for a job at another campus in a different part of town, maybe a bit beyond the reach of my bike, or at least its sorry excuse for an engine. Still, I'm a little antsy to get out. My boss, who already demands monthly and weekly status reports, recently suggested it would be a good idea for us to start documenting our time by the half-hour each day, as this would be helpful in determining where we could be more efficient. "It would be for your own reference, just so you could see where improvement is needed," she hastened to add, "not for you to show me."

Oh whatever. Like I haven't been around long enough to know where this is headed.

The HR representative who received my application wanted to know why I was submitting a printed paper one, rather than using the online form. I explained that I had heard from reliable sources that the online application did not always come through successfully, sometimes blanking out fields which are required for the application to be considered.

"That couldn't happen," he said huffily. "If we gave applications with blank fields to the hiring supervisor, they'd be calling us to know what was going on."

Which is why any such application is immediately discarded by HR during the pre-screening process. But I didn't want to argue. I just wanted to turn in my application and smile and nod and go back to my desk and not incur the mountainous, paper-rattling wrath of the HR flunky. You know how bureaucracy works, right? You do not want to piss these people off.

I have three other active applications out: a love-to-have, a like-to-have, and an eh-I-guess-I'll-take-it-if-it's-the-only-thing-going. The first two I submitted on paper - and fortunately a different, non-bitching HR flunky was on duty when I did. The third I submitted online, because, you know. Eh.

And today, late this afternoon, too late in fact for me to bounce around squealing at any of my friends because they all go home by 4:30 (you slackers!!!) the love-to-have called! I have an interview! Next week! Details tomorrow morning.

Hallelujah! Could it be? Am I possibly not a complete loser after all?

Tomorrow, an interview. Next week, the state!

*As opposed to putting out. Why! The very idea!
**Except for that company in Corpus, but everybody knows they were batshit insane.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

You Can't Always Get What You Want

“What would you like to order?” Anna asks me, proffering an alarmingly-colored cheeseburger made of modeling clay.

Eric got the clay for Christmas, and the only reason we still have any is because our house isn’t carpeted. It’s not easy to grind modeling clay into a hardwood floor. Don’t think my kids haven’t tried.

“Mmm-hmm,” I murmur, because I’m sort of engrossed in a computer game. But she’s insistent. “How many plops of mustard do you want on your hot dog?”

“Um. Two,” I tell her, distractedly, because the Snoods are about to turn into a bunch of skulls and crush me.

“I think I’ll give you three,” she says. “Here you go!” She hands me a mottled yellow, vaguely hot-dog-shaped object. I miss my shot and lose my game. “What would you like to order now?” she asks.

“Honestly, Anna!” I exclaim. “I’d just like to be left alone.”

She doesn’t miss a beat. “I’m sorry,” she says politely. “We don’t offer that here.”

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Story Idea: The Hollywood Pitch

So there's this long-married couple who have grown to hate one another. She henpecks; he seethes. He has disappointed her by not fulfilling his potential and making the kind of life for them that she had always hoped for. Both seek temporary solace in the arms of others, and blame the other for infidelity. She is constantly and cripplingly critical; he is sarcastic and uncoopertive. But, for financial and other reasons - they have a school-age child - they don't feel they can divorce.

Drowning his troubles in alcohol, the husband meets a man in a bar who offers to "take care" of his problems - for a fee. Drunk and desolate, he pays handsomely to have his wife removed permanently from his life. Later that night, taking in a movie on his own while the booze wears off, before the horror of what he has done kicks in, the husband is murdered in the dark by stranger. His throat is slit from behind. And, the guilt of his terrible deed on his soul, he plummets to meet his final judgment in Hell.

Imagine his surprise in finding his wife already there, the hitman he hired in the bar having just murdered her. Awk-ward! She is particularly distressed that both of them have left Earth and orphaned their child. He feels terrible about this, and makes some attempts to comfort her.

Hell is not an easy place to be, and both husband and wife have gained some new perspective: death is, after all, kind of a life-changing experience. They support one another the best they can in these horrific environs. And, eventually, dare we believe it? they find that they have come not only to help, not only to befriend, but even to love one another.

Finally he can lie to his beloved wife no more. He must confess that the fault that brought her to Hell is his. He had her murdered. She is shocked and horrified, but admits that the murderer who slit her husband's throat in the movie theater was hired by her!

And it turns out that the hitman who murdered the husband, and the hitman who murdered the wife, were one and the same hitman! It was in fact an angel, sent by God! The angels in heaven could not stand by and watch a once happy marriage descend into misery and madness. This was the solution, and the reconciled couple are given a second chance. They return to Earth at the moment of their leaving it, with no memory of what has transpired, but still blessed by the love they now feel for one another.

And it's Christmas!

It's sort of The War of the Roses meets The Godfather meets It's a Wonderful Life. So what do you think?

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Critters in the Attic

Actually he's just in the space between the ceiling and the roof in the utility room, which was a later addition to the house. I've walked around outside trying to spot an opening in the eaves, but can't see one large enough to admit Dave. Nonetheless, he's definitely up there.

You can hear him scrabbling about, directly above me as I fold laundry out of the dryer. Bingo's perched next to me on the washing machine, staring crazily at the ceiling, his ears and tail twitching. He doesn't know it's Dave making all those tantalizing noises. Dave would kick his ass.

I like the purposeful sound of Dave's movements. I can just imagine him following the same Sunday morning routine I'm going about myself: putting away raccoon dishes, folding raccoon laundry, having a nice cup of raccoon coffee, casually glancing over the Raccoon Yahoo! headlines, perhaps checking up on his friends' raccoon blogs to see what everybody's up to this weekend. Of course, this would mean he's stealing our wi-fi; but what do you expect? He is a raccoon.

I've gotten kind of attached to Dave. I hope he's warm enough up there.


Saturday, January 19, 2008


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

Everybody should have a sex checklist they could compare on a first date. Wouldn't that simplify everything?

It could be divided into sections: I love; I don't mind; I hate; I've never tried but might like to; I've never tried and don't want to; That's just gross; plus a list of the sexual positions that you like, that are okay, that you don't care for, or that (due to personal taste or individual physiology) just won't work for you.

This gives you some wiggle room (sorry) when evaluating a potential sex partner. If you have something on your "I love" that's on their "That's just gross," you know it probably won't work out; but if it's just on your "I've never tried but might like to," you could still be fine.

And there are probably a few things that should have a scale of, say, 0-5 on the checklist, like S&M or bondage. Spanking would be about a 1 on the S&M scale, whereas whipping or otherwise drawing blood would be a 5. And for bondage, being tied up with ribbons might be a 1, and handcuffs you can slip out of, but not without some effort, would be around a 3. People who are more than 2 points apart on these scales might not want to get involved.

Of course, some things you just have to work with. One common practice is on a lot of guys' "I love," whereas it tends to be on many women's "I hate," "I've never tried and don't want to," or "That's just gross" list. And the compromise is not really ideal: the guy doesn't get to do it, but the woman feels like a vanilla sex partner, especially if the guy then pipes up with, "Well, the chick in that porno liked it a lot, why don't you?" Still, having it all spelled out beforehand would have to help, wouldn't it? It would at least avoid unpleasant surprises for both sides. Um, so to speak.

Oh, and maybe there should be an "At-A-Glance" section for certain key points, like so:

Orgasmic: Yes
Diseases: No
Will participate in three-way: Yes
Back door: Exit only
Barnyard animals: No

I'm warming to the idea the more I write about it. I think it should be a required section in social networking site profiles. I know I'd find MySpace a lot more interesting.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

It's a Belgian Thing

While I was out walking with a friend today, he remarked that the cough I’ve had since before Christmas is sounding much better.

“It is better,” I agreed, grimacing, “but I’ve still got a little phlegm.”

“Eww,” he said.

“I know,” I said, “but it’s better than having a little Walloon!”

Nobody understands me.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I See Dumb People

...But not if they see me first!

Oh, wait.

This morning the panicmonger gave me a call. Yesterday evening I had sent her and Robert an email attaching some documentation for them to approve. The email began in the standard way: "Attached for your review, please find..."

Robert sent a reply to both of us this morning that he had reviewed the documentation and it looked good.

Then my phone rang.

"Where is the documentation?" inquired the panicmonger.

"Um. You mean the file attached to the email I sent?" I asked, confused.

"Yes, where is it?" she asked.

She must be asking me where the original is saved, I reasoned. "It's on my hard drive," I told her.

She laughed a little. "Well, how am I supposed to review it, then?"

I wondered if this were a trick question. "Um. It's... attached to the email?"

I heard her clicking around on the other end. "Oh, I see it," she said.

Somebody should buy her a bottle of peroxide, because the drapes don't match what's on the other side of the window.

I also got e-yelled at (bold type, not all caps, which the clueless sometimes innocently employ even in these enlightened times) by a client contact today. I didn't really fault him, because I am, after all, a faceless bureaucrat. I try not to be good at it. The client objected strenuously to providing some necessary paperwork I'd asked for, and copied the head of my division on his angry email to me.

So copying the same people, I wrote back apologizing for the frustration, explaining the necessity of what I had asked for, and offering to provide any help I could; but he did not appear to be mollified. The division head stopped by my cube a little later.

"That guy is an idiot," he told me, "in case you hadn't noticed. He also has a thing for yelling at women. We like to call him Shit-for-Brains, so don't let him get to you. I thought I shouldn't tell you this in an email."

I don't know why not. What does he think I'm going to do, publish it on the internet?

But really, as long as he doesn't yell at me in person, I'm fine. The sociopath in me enjoys the challenge of winning over a really tough customer. In this case, anyway, I can't give in - if I did, the work I'm preparing on his behalf simply wouldn't be approved by people who have a lot more authority than I do - but he didn't upset me.

The third dumbass in this post is me, for recounting two stories I've already told in person or via email to pretty much my entire readership already.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Diamonds Are a Ho's Best Friend

There's this really offensive ad that shows up sometimes on the header of my stat counter's page, and I'd be happy to note that I haven't looked at it closely enough to see the name of the company that placed it, except that it clearly isn't aimed at me.

It's for some diamond distributor, and - aside from the sparkly bits - every single image they show is of attractive women's faces in the throes of passion, up close, a man's face also nearby. The message is pretty clear. Buy your girl a diamond. She'll put out!

If this ad appeals to you, it's time to do a serious cost-benefit analysis.

Your average titty dancer is pretty happy with a few twenties tucked into her T-back, though depending on the establishment, that might not get you more than a couple of hours' lightly flirtatious chit-chat. A straight-up hooker on whatever street has supplanted South Congress since it became SoCo will set you back even less. Do you like a girl with a full set of teeth? That costs extra.

We've all heard that marriage is the ultimate form of prostitution, only nobody ever thinks so when they go into it - and, indeed, these days, now that women are mercifully capable of supporting themselves, it's lost a great deal of that character. But society's dating and courtship rituals retain a lot of the commercial aspect, and one doesn't quite like to see it pointed out so blatantly by a load of soulless marketing scum, does one?

I'm living proof that it doesn't have to be that way. I've been given one diamond in my entire life, and I have three kids. Do the math, people! Do the math.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Top 20 Things To Do Before You Die

20. Dance like no one is watching.

19. Sing like nobody is listening.

18. Live like there is no tomorrow, though I should warn you, this can be self-fulfilling if you're not careful.

17. Get into a lengthy argument about minimalism with an escaped mental patient who thinks he's Louis XIV.

16. Lead a singlong of "Kumbaya" at a biker bar.

15. Eat lutefisk. Or maybe fugu. Or a nice salmon steak, that would be tasty.

14. Make a drunken spectacle of yourself at the wedding of someone you've never met.

13. Have every possible combination of three-way, preferably all during the course of one evening. (If you play your cards right, this could come about as a natural result of #14.)

12. Start to save someone's life, then change your mind and let them die.

11. Host a PBS special.

10. Heckle the keynote speaker at a management seminar.

9. Have a venereal disease named after you.

8. Found a religion.

7. Skinnydip in candiru-infested waters.

6. Multiple orgasms. You might want to do this one a few times, and probably before you do #7.

5. Attend an Ivy League university.

4. Get kicked out of a Gwar concert for disorderly behavior.

3. Urinate on something/someone famous. (See #6)

2. Ether.

And the number one thing to do before you die...

1. Invent immortality.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Differing Points of View

If you're walking through Stacy Park, and you see a guy with a backpack sitting on a bench a ways ahead of you on the trail, writing in a notebook, and as you get closer you notice that he's also writing on a piece of cardboard, and as you are passing by you see out of the corner of your eye that his left hand and arm are likewise covered with writing, and he speaks up, saying, "Hey, do you want to hear something interesting?"

You might want to just keep walking.

Though if you do, you'll miss out on a great deal of information. Electrical utility boxes, did you know, are full of nitrogen, because this can be used to bring up the groundwater and throw off a perc test, which is performed up north prior to construction to determine if a basement will be prone to flooding. Also, there is apparently a conspiracy of realtors to accelerate sales by poisoning all the trees to bring down housing values. Did you know that for each tree that dies on a piece of property, the value of that property goes down by $10-20K? So if a $250,000 house has five trees on its lot, and you sneak up and kill off those trees, you may end up actually being able to buy that house for $150,000; or presumably you could get a $100,000 house for free. "Look at that house across the street, there, being remodeled," he said, pointing to a larval McMansion on Eastside Drive, cocooned in Tyvek. "See how all the trees in the yard are dead? I'm seeing trees like that all over town!"

I wasn't asking a lot of questions, and I also didn't know if it would be a good idea to point out, as he went on at great length about how many dead trees seem to be about lately, that it's winter.

Various aspects of his speech brought him to the subject of the airport; of Watertown, New York; of downtown Austin and Treaty Oak; of the water quality here; of leaning telephone poles; of the crack-dealing and money-laundering operations of police officers (or possibly realtors - I wasn't quite clear on this) in South Austin; of churches and gas stations; of geology; of the racial segregation of neighborhoods; and of the Del Valle schools. At Travis High, you see, the school sits in the midst of businesses, so the students are able to learn about commerce and enterprise. But Del Valle High School has been moved - ostensibly due to the airport, but they're still in the flightpath! They're still in the flightpath! - way out in the middle of nowhere, and there are no businesses nearby, so the kids will never learn about the real world, and what's more important, anyway - the life of a child, just starting out, or the life of some FedEx employee?

Here he stopped and pressed for an actual answer, so I stammered that I didn't feel I could really assign a comparative value to the lives of complete strangers. "Exactly!" he said, very pleased. Apparently I had just made his point for him.

Finally it became clear that he was going to keep on talking just as long as I kept on standing there, and my iPod had already cycled through "Rock the Casbah" twice, so I said, "I really have to go..."

"Take it easy," he said, immediately sitting down and resuming writing in his notebook. I felt kind of silly. I could have walked away twenty minutes earlier.

I was really only out to try and send a picture from my cell phone, which doesn't work very well at my house (probably a realtors' conspiracy of some kind). At my brother-in-law's Elvis' birthday party last night, we got a very cute picture of the newly blonde Katie and me, and I want to send it to people. I haven't been able to figure any way to get it out of my phone, because attempting to send it as a message keeps failing. So I walked up Travis Heights Blvd. to the highest point and stood there, holding my phone aloft and turning slowly in circles, right there in the street, trying to get a good signal, but accomplished nothing.

Nothing except for all the neighbors to glance out their windows, witness this bizarre behavior, and go and lock their doors. Look out! There's a crazy person loose in Travis Heights!

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Show Business

Baby Jeffy is coming to town tonight and we're going to make a movie!!!

Not that kind of movie.

We're making a five-minute spoof for an Alamo Drafthouse competition. I get to be the character who points out all the plot holes. I'm very psyched! We used to do stuff like this all the time, but haven't for years. Presumably it'll go on YouTube when it's done, so I'll post a link.

It'll be fun to pad my acting resume, which includes such classic films as The Seton Connection; Mr. Beethoven, You Have Syphilis; Beethoven II: The Relapse; Little Johnny, Don't Do It; Buttsville o' Mabry; Dr. Isosceles Did It; New Improved 22; and more! Or maybe that's it. That's all I can think of off the top of my head, anyway.

I bet Julia Roberts doesn't have to spend all day tidying up the set before a shoot.


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

I Lead a Charmed Existence

Unless you’re brutal with the delete key, your email inbox fills up pretty fast. Especially if I’m one of your friends!

At least all my material is original.

The problem is that, even among legitimate work emails, many defy categorization. I tend to keep anything dealing with work in progress sitting in my inbox, but there are also things that just don’t fit in any of the myriad different email folders I have set up. You could create a different folder for every single email you get, but that would sort of defeat the purpose.

Every so often, though, you get an email that demands a folder of its very own. I received such an email today.

At USDM in Corpus, Annette once wrote an email to Tricia and me, firmly instructing us to be very precise in composing a particular sales proposal. The prospective client was a government agency, so the requirements had to be individually and specifically addressed. So Annette told us to go over everything with a fine-toothed comb and pay very, very, very careful attention to every detail. But Tricia had to forward the email to me, because Annette had absent-mindedly addressed it to her twice, and left me off.

I created an email folder called “Irony.” It was actually pretty full by the time I left.

Today we had a meeting about a project a subset of my group is working on. I’m involved, but only on the side, helping out when other duties allow; for the others in this sub-group, this project is the primary focus. Meetings with the panicmonger are one of the less uplifting aspects of my job. I wouldn’t really call her a particularly upbeat person. I wouldn't call Genghis Khan a pacifist, either.

She sent out an email after the meeting to everyone else on the project, cc’ing me, with the subject line “Lets start daily meetings from tomorrow” and assigning everyone else on the project, except me, a fifteen-minute block of time to meet with her, one on one, every day, every day, to go over project status.

Everybody else. Except me.

I created a special folder for it in my email. Guess what it’s called?

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Pearls Before Swine

All the sacrifices we make for beauty, I thought this weekend as I was carefully repainting a chipped pedicure that had never seen the light of day, that men don't even notice. What ungrateful bastards!

Pedicures being a case in point. We do realize that a man, casting his gaze lingeringly downward along our body, usually doesn't make it quite all the way to the toes. Yet a perfect pedicure is vitally important. If our polish is chipped, our nails are uneven, or our skin is callused, we can't radiate the kind of confident sexiness that tells a guy we fancy, in no uncertain terms, that he needs to be ogling whatever part of us he happens to like better than toes. Pretty toenails help us stand up straight and tilt our hips and throw back our shoulders and smile, you see? You do notice a pedicure, realize it or not.

Date-shaved legs are another detail that usually goes unnoticed by the intended beneficiary. A little very, very, very short stubble doesn't show up under a skirt unless someone is examining terribly closely; and again, the legs, from the knee down, don't generally capture that kind of attention from any but the most, um, discriminating* guy. But if we have a big date, we're shaving immediately before - not that morning, and certainly not a day or two earlier. The razor is barely hung up to dry before we're out the door.

Exciting underthings are very important, whether or not you are ever granted the privilege of seeing them. If God forbid I should ever put on granny panties - and not even Bill Gates can induce me to do so - I wouldn't be able to look an attractive man in the eye. We do not wear cotton, and are confounded as to why there appears to be so much of it on the market these days. We wear little frilly things made of satin and lace, stockings instead of pantyhose, and we always match. Don't you?

Guys do notice, usually without being consciously aware of it, such details as makeup and hair. Makeup should be subtle, even though a lot of guys don't realize if it isn't. The transportational stalker guy who once went after my old cube neighbor told her - with no apparent sense of irony - that he didn't care for women who wore makeup because he considered it deceitful; one can only assume he honestly believed that nature had given her bright blue, sparkly eyelids. Granted, he was batshit insane. Hair should be full and long, if possible, and shouldn't look like you might put an eye out on it, so it's a mercy that the 80s have passed.

Look at us: goddesses, or geishas, beautifying ourselves to the most painstaking detail just to please you. And all you have to do in return, to win our admiration, adoration and respect, to command our undying devotion, to make us see you as Casanova and Don Juan and Rudolph Valentino and David Bowie all rolled into one worshipful object, is not fart.

So quit complaining.

*Not to say fetishist

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Son of Nyuk-Nyuk

by Dumas and Magda Silhavy

You may remember that last May, my brothers Edwin, Dumas, and myself made the long journey from our adopted hometown of Barrow, Alaska, to Corpus Christi, Texas. We were on our way to Mexico to scatter the ashes of our beloved father, who was killed by a moose at the tender age of 97, while our family was crossing the Bering Strait from his native Russia.

It was a lot easier back when there was a land bridge.

Our mother, who came to our father as a mail-order bride from Las Vegas, halfheartedly raised us alone before abandoning us to our own devices; she shacked up with some loser in Nome, and the three of us, practically orphans, struggled to make a life for ourselves. And of course we ultimately did, becoming successful whale marketers. And having established ourselves as prominent citizens of Barrow – I myself plan to become mayor one day – we decided the time had come to lay our father to his final rest in Mexico, where he can forever after enjoy the strains of mariachi music. Ah, how Father loved mariachi music!

Unfortunately, Dumas left Dad’s ashes on the baggage carousel in Seattle.

We’re planning another trip, and this time, we plan to bring help in the form of a brilliant young attorney named Ik-Ik, though you may know him as Tony, or perhaps even Cheryl’s Bitch. Ik-Ik is the only son of our maid (or butler), Nyuk-Nyuk, of whose gender we have never been certain. But surely, surely, his (or her) very own son can tell us. We’ve always wondered!

Ik-Ik claims attorney-client privilege, and isn’t talking.

Ik-Ik is the executor of our father’s estate, so it falls to his lot to oversee the arrangements for disposition of our father’s remains which were spelled out in his will. We’ll enjoy the chance to make the trip with him, and I personally feel that, after a couple of mojitos, and maybe a brownie or two, Ik-Ik will spill the beans on his mother’s (or father’s) gender.

Dumas disagrees.

No one in Barrow knows, Dumas points out, whether it was Nyuk-Nyuk or his (or her) spouse, Chris, who was pregnant. Both of them had been seriously overweight, and had cut out whale blubber in an effort to trim down; both of them had then lost about 100 pounds each, and it was during this time that Ik-Ik was born. Nor was Ik-Ik delivered in a hospital, or even under the careful eye of a midwife: eschewing even such assistance as is embraced by many Alaskan natives, Chris and Nyuk-Nyuk delivered their son alone, in the isolation of their own igloo.

Ik-Ik himself, remarks Dumas, addresses both his parents as “Baba,” so even he may not know which is which. And if he were uncertain, he could hardly have asked. To inquire of one’s parents what their gender may be is the lowest form of rudeness in Alaskan culture. It's unthinkable. It's even worse than wearing white mukluks after Labor Day.

Whatever mysteries Nyuk-Nyuk’s indomitable parka may conceal, we expect to have another enlightening and meaningful trip to Corpus this year. Especially if Dumas remembers to pick up Dad’s ashes.

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Ode to Nyquil

O azure-hued elixir of the damned,
How like a wad of wool you've made my brain;
And set my heart to flutter in my breast,
Its palpitations shattering my rest;
My head with visions of disquiet crammed,
My body weak as cardboard in the rain.

How like a zombie from an open grave
I stumbled toward your lying boasts of might!
And, measuring with care the little cup,
I drank the nasty-tasting fluid up.
But, sleep then craving, even more I crave
This morning, after such a restless night

That "Death warmed over" sounds a decent meal
Compared to how I climbed out of my bed:
Death taken from the fridge, and slopped
Into a pan, then someone stopped
And left Death therein to congeal
And, sensibly, had cold pizza instead.

I pour the noisome remnants in the sink;
I'll trust myself to time's all-healing force;
For blue and icky is the nasty swill
That sickens further the already ill;
I'll back to bed, and broth and water drink;
The cold will pass: let nature run its course.


I'll never get a job writing ad copy.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

Robbie, if you're hung over, don't look at the picture.

Our hostess commented a few times on how there weren't enough people at her party, which she said she got roped into having by some very persuasive people from her gym, who had shown up for five minutes before heading out to go somewhere livelier. But the party was just the right speed as far as I was concerned: a very pleasant mix of people I did and did not know, quiet enough for conversation, and plenty of champagne for everyone. Also there were brownies. "I've had three!" the hostess announced, giggling, when we arrived. "I think I need a drink."

She had the TV on playing dance music, which started an interesting conversation among those of us in the living room who noticed that it seemed to have been playing the same song for about 45 minutes. "Dance music doesn't make ideal background music for sitting around talking," someone remarked.

I started describing an idea I once had - I think I may have written about it before - to come out with a CD of party background noises. There would be a cocktail party track, with some light jazz piano, the clink of glasses, and well-modulated voices discussing things like art and literature and the theater. And there would be a frat kegger track, with a bad garage band, shouting and laughing, and the occasional sounds of retching, scuffle, and breakage. Or any other kind of party you can think of. The idea, I explained, is that your party guests will unconsciously adjust their behavior to fit whatever kind of background sounds are playing. It's called psychology, you see.

"People would hate that," said a friend of mine, "they would think it was really weird and stupid and they would leave."

"They couldn't," I retorted. "The party would be in a sealed room. No one would be allowed to come in or go out."

"Well, what about the people who are already there?" he asked.

Some people are so literal-minded!

He did come up with a couple of good ideas, though, like having a track with people saying "This party blows" and "I'm really bored," if you enjoy feeling bad about yourself, and - much more importantly - a "party's over" ending to each party track that you could put on when you're tired and want everyone to go home, with people yawning and saying things like, "Gosh, look at the time!"

Or, for a quick wrap-up of the festivities, you could play the "Oh shit, it's the cops!" track, though that might make for a bit of an odd ending to, say, afternoon tea in the garden.

We counted down to midnight and Tony kissed me soundly. I hugged him tight. I love him so much! "What, no tongue?" I demanded.

Have a blessed, peaceful and very happy 2008! Muchas smooches! Now go eat some black-eyed peas.

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