Sunday, June 29, 2008

Learned Behavior

Every morning when I make coffee, the cats gather around in anticipation. The smell of the coffee and the gurgling of the coffeemaker are what call them, but what they're actually waiting for is the saucer of half-and-half I always pour for them when I'm getting my coffee ready.

Similarly, they're learning to hide whenever they see Katie anywhere in the vicinity of any cleaning products. Katie is not the tidiest person on Earth - in fact, on a scale of one to ten, with ten being my mother-in-law, and one being, well, me - Katie is about a -367,485,946.2.

But every so often she gets a major cleaning bug up her butt and scrubs sinks, tubs and toilets, washes the car, does the dishes, does laundry, wipes down the countertops, sweeps and vacuums the floors, and generally makes a complete angel out of herself. You can't beg, threaten, or bribe her to do this. But if she's in the zone, she'll clean the hell out of the place, which is awesome.

The next day, she's back to stashing banana peels under the sofa.

Unfortunately for them, when she's in this mood, her eye invariably falls on the cats. "Romeo's fur looks a little messy," she'll say in a speculative tone, and from that point it's all over. They get bathed. Romeo complains loudly, but endures it the best he can; Bingo struggles madly to escape; Peachy - sweet, cute, adorable, fluffy, good-natured, fat little Peachy - bares teeth and claws and goes straight for the jugular; and Slappy White, who may after all be the brightest of the bunch, is nowhere to be found.

At least they have a nice clean floor to lie on while they lick all the nasty water off. And Katie gave them a nice dish of cream.

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Saturday, June 28, 2008


And you thought you had to go to Fredericksburg to get good peaches!

Robbie gets the wanderlust occasionally, which is fun because it means he'll swoop down and carry me off on a spur-of-the-moment road trip. Over lunch at Hickory Street, I suggested jumping around in the water jets at the park again, and I think that's what we were on the way to do, but we ended up taking the long way. And by the time we got to Ben White, Robbie idly wondered how far we'd have to drive to get Fredericksburg peaches.

Of course, there's only one way to find out.

We also realized en route that we had only the vaguest idea what a bushel is. I mean, I know it's an amount, and measured in container volume, I think, and it has to be a round basket, about, you know, yea big. Apples come in bushels, and peaches of course, and probably vegetables, I don't know. We decided we were on a sacred quest to find out what a bushel is.

So we headed out 290 in a general westerly direction, and passed through Dripping Springs with nary a bushel, peach, or any other such mythological creature in sight. We did see some very nice flex base, though, where they're preparing to widen the roadbed. We hit 281 and headed north (after a brief insistence on my part that Fredericksburg is actually south, in the direction of San Antonio, which Robbie fortunately overruled*), and in Johnson City, where you turn left to stay on 281, I spotted a peach stand at 3 o'clock.** So Robbie made a hard right into the parking lot straight from the left-turn lane and there we were!

The man running the stand was elderly and kind, but apparently mildly deranged, and Robbie had a little difficulty actually leaving with his purchase after it was bagged; but adversities were overcome, misunderstandings were cleared up, peaches were procured, and the peach-seller helpfully answered all my bushel-related questions.

A bushel is really big, you guys. You think it's about this big, and it's not. It's like four times that.

So we turned around and headed back to Austin. As we were passing by William Cannon we noticed a peach stand by the side of the road. "D'oh!" we said.

We sat under a tree in Stacy Park to eat peaches. I have to admit I was a little disappointed, because you always hear about Fredericksburg peaches, and these really were not all that great. They were crunchy, which peaches should never be if they can help it. It seems like I've read somewhere that you should put them in a brown paper bag in a dark, cool place, but I can't remember if that's how you ripen peaches or if it's a step in some arcane love spell.

Maybe you're supposed to put them through a couple of cycles in the dryer. Soften 'em right up.


*Early in our career at the agency, Robbie and I were once stopped in the hall by an older guy in our division, who inexplicably wanted us to tell him the exact date a particular volcano had last erupted. Aside from our general disorientation at being thus accosted by someone we didn't know, we had no idea, which seemed to annoy him a great deal. "And you call yourselves geographers?!" he demanded, and marched off.

Which was somewhat surreal in that no, we never had; but to this day, that question pops into my head whenever anyone displays ignorance in any form.

**It was actually about 12:30

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Gianni the Be-Gagger

There's a motivational video one of our staff members is interested in showing at a training session this October.

Yeah, ugh already, but it's worse than that. At work today, I watched a short video "inspired" by the actual video, which will cost you about 900 smackeroos on DVD - that's without the workbooks, profound moral extractions, and other training materials that are supposed to come with it. And actually the training materials only add another hundred bucks or so. Doesn't this imply that the makers of the video are afraid you'll figure it out for yourself? Even given the extremely high likelihood that you work in HR?! So you have to shell out a small fortune for it. You can also rent it for somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 bucks.

Okay, so I didn't watch the actual video, but I did sit and watch the awful, treacle-drenched, feel-good swill that was "inspired" by it. You can, too!

Maybe the questions raised by this short film are answered in the full version, but if you're like me, you'll probably have some trouble not blurting out "bullshit!" at several points during the movie. To name just a couple, I find it unlikely that grocery store executives shell out for high-profile motivational speakers to come in and energize their largely teenaged, part-time floor staff. And what are these little "quotes" that Gianni is giving out to his customers? Are we supposed to believe they're simultaneously inspirational and meaningful to everyone who receives them, without ever being offensive to anyone? Do they all work with the phrase "in bed" tacked onto the end? Also, the premise that customers will give up hours out of their day to stand in a longer line, and even make extra, unnecessary trips to the grocery store, just in order to get a slip of paper with some ill-thought-out cliche scrawled across it strikes me as a motivational speaker's masturbation fantasy. The notion that corporate management offices are encouraging their most temporary personnel to "be creative" and add their own "signature" to the way they do their jobs is perhaps the most far-fetched of all, but I'm not sure; it's got some pretty stiff competition (so to speak).

Well, we have until October to figure it out. As Voltaire says, "By appreciation, we make excellence in others our own property." In bed!

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

So, How Was It?

There's nothing else quite like an audition to make you realize you just aren't any good at anything at all and will only make an ass of yourself by trying.

My voice is scrackish and out of control and I can't sight-read my way out of a paper bag anymore. But the worst thing I've done to myself in the last two auditions is the incessant cringing. Apologizing a lot and saying "ouch" does not help! WTF is wrong with me?!?

I think I will give up music. Also, writing. Men don't seem to have worked out too well for me either, come to think of it. Plus I leave a few things to be desired as a mom. Perhaps I will join a tone-deaf, illiterate order of nuns, whose good works in the world consist solely of helping others feel more adequate by comparison.

Ooh, and they should do the Holy Grail thing of thwacking themselves over the head with boards in between humming tuneless verses. That I could manage. My Latin pronunciation is pretty good.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008


My boss broke her pinky toe this weekend. Well, more to the point, her dog broke it for her, tripping her up with its leash.

You see why I'm a cat person?

So she was hobbling around yesterday, moving slowly; her toe was a little bit swollen and discolored, and she was thinking of going to the doctor. My cube neighbor and I, both proud graduates of our agency's first aid training class, were suggesting she should RICE it. You know what that stands for, right?

If you do, could you let me know?

We need some kind of mnemonic device to remind us what the letters in RICE stand for. The first thing that popped into my head was "Relax, Invigorate, Chill and Enjoy" and I don't think that's right. Or perhaps you're meant to Ridicule the afflicted part, Isolate it from other body parts so they won't be corrupted, Chastise it for being so Careless, and finally Eject it from your body altogether, just to teach it a lesson. More kindly, perhaps it's Rinse, Idolize, Caress and Educate. Or maybe you'd be better off just sticking a bag of rice on the injured part. Or administering CPR. I remember how to do that!

I don't think I'm getting a merit raise any time soon.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Party on Wheels

Katie will be sixteen years old on October 10, and for months now, she's been full of plans for the occasion. She wants to rent out the roller rink and have them play her iPod loaded with Seventies music over the sound system. Everyone is to dress in Seventies best: Magnums for the boys and Daisy Dukes, lip gloss, and glittery eye shadow for the girls; and plenty of feathered hair, terrycloth headbands and wristbands, tight T-shirts, and tall striped socks for everyone.

I wish I had been that cool when I was sixteen.

She was planning it for Sunday, October 12, but my cousin is getting married that day and I hope to be in Maryland for the occasion. I hate to miss Katie's party. I may never have been the stylish creature she is - especially during the Seventies - but I wasn't a bad skater.

"We'll have it the weekend before, then!" says Katie easily. Yay! I'm popular!

Flashback to my sixteenth birthday: it was not all that dissimilar to Molly Ringwald's in Sixteen Candles, with three notable exceptions: (1) nobody in my family was getting married, (2) I didn't have lovelorn geeks dropping at my feet, and (3) I didn't end up with a hunk at the end of the movie. However, I did wear a hat to school that day.

MTV used to play music videos. They didn't have My Super Sweet Sixteen back then.

I'm excited about it, though. She's making all the plans and arrangements, and (assuming she manages to get a job she doesn't get fired from after the first shift) paying for everything herself. And I have to say it's a tremendously cool and fun idea. If I'd had her sense of retro coolness at her age, my super sweet sixteen party would have been a sock hop at the VFW hall; and none of my friends would have come anyway because they were all much too busy playing Dungeons & Dragons.

I wonder if my roller skates are still in storage at my dad's house?

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Friday, June 20, 2008


You've read the book, of course, right? Or seen the Hitchcock movie, or a BBC-TV adaptation or two?

If you're a boy, probably not so much. So I'll give you a quick recap: Rebecca (spoilers!) is the classic, if a bit swoony, Daphne du Maurier novel about a young, plain, awkward mouse of a girl who meets and is swept off her feet by a brooding older man with a mysterious past. He marries her and takes her back to Manderley, his estate, where she is completely overshadowed by the lingering memories of his dead first wife, a queen of society, the beautiful, polished, charming, brilliant Rebecca. The second Mrs. deWinter is the main character of the book and it's written in first person from her perspective, but to emphasize how utterly effaced she is by the glamour of Rebecca, we are never even told her given name.

At work, my desk is still stacked with files left behind by my predecessor, who retired last November. The drawers are full of her office supplies, correspondence on the shared drive bears her name (Theresa, actually), and whenever I meet someone new I am introduced to them as "Theresa's replacement."

This is actually pretty much where the resemblance to the novel ends; the few pictures of Theresa I've found show an extremely pleasant-looking person with a sweet smile, but as far as sheer female charm and bedazzlement go, I think I have a bit of a leg up on her. Also, as a decades-long state agency employee, she did tend to do things the old way.

"Now, go ahead and look through the files to get a feel for how everything works," my new bosses and coworkers keep telling me, "but this is your job now, so feel free to change things up to the way you like them."

"Okay, thank you," I smile, nodding politely; but they always add, with peculiar emphasis, "No, I mean it. Really. Feel free."

Actually it's not at all bad, coming in, early in my career (well, maybe about midway now), to a position which was left by someone at the very end of hers. I do have a lot of different experience and new ideas and talents that she - without any disrespect to her; she seems to have been dedicated, competent and thorough, and done her job very well - just didn't possess.

Thank God for that, because, as the second Mrs. deWinter came to learn the hard way, hotness ain't everything.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Flunking Out of the School of Hard Knocks

HR sent out a blanket email today, telling us employees to beware of scams by fraudulent institutes of higher learning. They sent a link to an incredibly long list (which I sure hope we were allowed to visit during work hours; I wouldn't put it past HR to send a web link in a mass email, then slap you on the hand for clicking on it - your average HR employee holds a Bachelor's of Applied Idiocy from the University of Up Your Ass, Head) of colleges whose degrees are not honored in this state, or indeed anywhere else in our great nation. Not even those states where people don't express enthusiasm by exuberantly propelling themselves eighteen inches off the ground with repeated pistol fire. (Barbarians!)

I was curious, since I'm always seeing those University of Phoenix ads all over the internet, and have some rather pointed intentions, myself, of finally finishing my damn bachelor's already. I'm fully eligible for tuition reimbursement! So I must know: which are these "illegal" universities? And how do you know which ones to avoid?

It turns out you should avoid institutions that offer to sell you a degree for money without you having to do any coursework. Really? Amazing!! Who knew??

Oh, wait. EVERYBODY.

Well, I suppose it might come as a bit of a shock to HR.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Don't Panic

The panicmonger has at long last been forced out - unless you want to believe the official story, which is that she resigned voluntarily, suddenly, without any notice, and without another job lined up.

I suspect the former.

Ernest, who is almost unbelievably still working there, came over this afternoon to give me the scoop. The group has been divvied up, the spoils of office politics, between the two rival managers in the section. I wouldn't want to work for either of those guys, especially the cheese-ass used-car salesman who runs the IT branch for the division. Ernest will be working for that massive tool now. He's excited about the change, which I suppose is a fair indicator of how bad things had gotten.

So I told Ernest a story today. I told him of the genesis of the Three-Martini Break Group.

When I started in that division, I told Ernest, our branch was deeply invested in a particular project. However, due to unforeseen technical issues (which really, really, really should not have been unforeseen), the project was on hold. We couldn't work on other projects, because that would entail updating data which would then be overwritten by data from the first project, when/if it ever got going again. So we were at. A. Complete. Standstill.

This is a bit of a hardship when you work for an agency that allows zero personal use of the internet.

So I learned about all kinds of things going on in the agency, or at least whatever was published on the agency website. Also, we're allowed to look at I learned a lot about the weather. My coworkers - all intelligent, and terribly underemployed; all young, healthy, and funny; all energetic and all just marking time until they could make something better happen - my coworkers took the simple, 15-minute, twice-daily break and developed it into an elaborate art form. You know - kind of like a Japanese tea ritual, only with a lot more sexual innuendo.

Things weren't so bad for me. I was still shellshocked from the vicious day-to-day machinations of a small, family-run marketing company unexpectedly headquartered in Imperial Rome. A little boredom was not a bad thing; besides, pretty much all my new coworkers were young, male, and cute. Life could be a lot worse. A LOT worse.

We were dead in the water for months, so our boss - the panicmonger's predecessor - under increasing and hostile pressure from HIS boss, tried desperately to fill all that empty time with meetings, cross-training, and documentation on documentation on documentation. Nothing was enough. The project we were all waiting on was eventually scrapped altogether, and we all had to start actually working again. Not too hard, though. Every break was still an epic event. But 3MBG members began dropping like flies from sheer boredom. Still, I have to think those first few months after I started, when I had nothing whatsoever to do but spend hours every day hanging out with a bunch of bright, funny, dishy men, were some pretty darn good times.

And what do I have to show for all that now? Nothing, that's what. Well, except for a couple of years of happy memories, several ongoing and deeply rewarding friendships, and a busy, fun, challenging, but not stressful job among pleasant people.

Call it an object lesson on the pitfalls of ambition. The panicmonger doesn't even have anybody to go on break with.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Garden Quite Contrary

"Oh, Lamb's Ear is easy!" breezed the chick at Great Outdoors. "It's impossible to kill! Absolutely! Buy the lamb's ear!"

This plant is not merely dying. This plant is staggering theatrically around the room, clutching at its chest and uttering heart-rending cries of distress, pausing only occasionally to cast a reproachful glance in my direction, just to make sure I'm paying attention. But God help me, I've tried everything.

Why is it that the plants I've inherited, found, been given, dug out of a crack in Corpus, or started from clippings always grow like crazy, but if it cost money, it almost immediately dies?

Plants! Can't live with 'em, can't survive in a carbon-dioxide rich atmosphere.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Straight but Proud Anyway

Robbie and Nicole were with a couple of other friends at Pride Fest today when I headed out to meet them, only stopping briefly by the office first, to pick up the Evasive Buddha of Questsionable Wisdom (he normally lives on my desk). But by the time I got to Auditorium Shores, they were bored and very hot, and had walked across Riverside to the park with the observation hill and the water jets. I had parked my car at work and walked down the trail. The heat was pounding, incredible.

There were an awful lot of motorcycles, I couldn't help noticing, parked around the festival grounds. The ROT Rally is also in town this weekend. People have questioned the timing in years past, but I think there's actually a fair degree of crossover.

All of us were fully clothed - Robbie in a T-shirt, overshirt, and shorts; Nicole in a halter top and jeans, and me in a tank top and silk skirt. But when it's 100 degrees out, what does that matter? We stood in the ascending jets of water and splashed one another and laughed. There's nothing else like playing outside in the merciless sun, giggling like a bunch of six-year-olds and getting goosebumps just to spite the blistering heat. My true love, the man of my dreams, is someone who won't think twice before splashing around in the water with all his clothes on. You heard it here first, folks: jump into a fountain fully dressed, and try to be straight, if you possibly can. You might win my heart!*

We walked to Bennigan's, which gave our clothes a chance to dry out, except for two conspicuous triangles on my skirt, front and back, where my underwear were keeping it damp. Nice! Next time I'll skip the skivvies, I think. And from Bennigan's we drove to Chuy's to meet up with Robbie and Nicole's other friends. I can't eat anything at Chuy's because every goddamn thing on the menu is chock full of cilantro. I think even the margaritas are made with it. Look, I don't know why I'm cilantro-intolerant, but I am, okay? It isn't that I don't like it. I don't like eggplant. I can eat eggplant nonetheless; I just won't particularly enjoy it. But the flavor of cilantro - or even the smell of a nearby fresh bunch of it - triggers a violent and uncontrollable gag reflex. I spit it out into my napkin and gasp for water. It tastes like horrible hellish death. I could not possibly make myself eat it to save my life, not even to be polite. It. Tastes. So. Bad.

So I just ordered a Dos Equis at Chuy's, and the waitress carded me! How flattering is that?! But she was probably just disoriented by the profusion of hubcaps on the ceiling, and maybe a bit woozy from cilantro fumes.

Of course the grand event was the Gay Pride Parade. We parked in the wonderful magical parking garage downtown where they charge you $7, but it's a state office building, so state employees don't have to pay. Flash your badge and you're in, baby! Then we sat on the curb just outside, only a couple of blocks past the start of the parade route.

Last year I went with Cheryl's Bitch, and I think our spot - still fairly early on the parade route, but a good bit further down - was probably a better one. The marchers weren't tired yet, but they were good and warmed up. If you catch them too early, you're essentially their practice audience. Still, there was plenty of cheering and hooting and shouting and laughing, lots of beads and other freebies tossed out to the happy mob. Before the parade started, a few bikers and pedicabs cycled past the happy, eager, waiting crowd. Everyone cheered and clapped for them, laughing, and they waved back.

I'm afraid I did shout "Corporate coffee sucks!!!!!!" at the people carrying a Starbucks banner, but I'm pretty sure I waited until they were out of earshot. It was for the benefit of my fellow parade-goers (except for Nicole, who works there; but anyone in my position is well aware that we all have to make a living somehow). I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.

We cheered rousingly for the picture-perfect drag queens, for the firemen (ooh, firemen!!!), and for our own APD, who represented in one of their new shiny black-and-white Hummers, probably consuming enough gas along the parade route alone to keep my little-used VW Ribbit fueled for about 18 months. And the Chronicle! Was that Stephen MacMillan Moser lounging on the back of a Caddy and waving langorously to the crowd? Darling, you're fabulous!

I love this town, I do, I do, I do.

*Some restrictions apply.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

I Swear Vengeance Upon - ooh, look at the pretty lights!

After the movie last night, Robbie and I were on the way to Dominican Joe for coffee when he got distracted by the colored lights of the skyline and had to pull over at the park so we could look at them.

This is one of the reasons we get along so well.

We sat at the top of that little conical hill next to the Palmer Events Center and watched the top of the Monarch change colors, and speculated as to what it would be like to live in a unit directly underneath the big underlit concrete wings. Especially if your penthouse apartment had skylights! Wouldn't it suck if you'd blown every last penny you had on the downpayment for the condo (this assumes you're from Austin, not California), and you couldn't afford drapes? You might even be tempted to go steal that big "Click It or Ticket" banner from downstairs, thereby causing all the residents there who paid a little less than you did, only to find themselves gazing at the reverse image of an enormous seatbelt, to kiss you for a little longer than you're entirely comfortable with and promise to name their first child after you. Do not believe them.

Then it occurred to us that, if the City of Austin were so smart, they'd use all these new condo developments as deadly bait. Californians, hungry to snap up the $250K lofts (so cheap!!) popping up here, there, and everywhere in our fair city, would swarm to our shores - as, not to put too fine a point on it, they indeed have. The lights! The pretty colors! Then, with deadly accuracy, the new edifices would fire laser beams from their futuristic peaks. Every Starbucks-swilling California transplant to Austin would evaporate in a puff of expensive skin-care product fumes.

Perhaps at this moment I should pause to state that, unlike my very dear friend Tony, I don't really mind Californians, or at least not on a personal level. An economic situation has arisen, over the past several years, which makes it particularly desirable, smart even, for people from more expensive markets to migrate to Austin. What will eventually happen is that wages here will catch up with the real estate boom and everything will equalize. But in the meantime, selling a modest $750,000 suburban three-bedroom home in, say, Santa Cruz, moving here to a better job market, paying cash for an exuberantly taste-free McMansion, and having enough money left over to keep you swimming in Starbucks until your arteries explode - not knowing or understanding, of course, the nature of the neighborhood or town you are moving to - makes too much sense really to fault the individual people who take advantage of such an opportunity. Don't you think? Sure, we're wonderful, weird, tasteful, aristofunkratic Austinites (I personally arrived here in 1986), and they're a bunch of SUV-driving, mainstream-movie-watching, nouveau-riche troglodytes who are pricing us out of our own beloved city. A certain degree of resentment is natural. Especially with the way those people never wave after they cut you off in traffic. Assholes.

But these are natural forces we're talking about, it's not really anybody in particular's fault (except possibly Bill O'Reilly's, that sorry sack of shit), and in the end, you have to admit that one of the things that makes Austin what it is, in comparison to the rest of Texas, is its unique ability to embrace and assimilate and grow along the lines of different cultures. What, you wanted to live in Vidor? I didn't think so.

But I digress.

The other two problems with new condo towers firing lasers at Californians are (1) they'd be killing off their best customers, and (2) I can't remember what number two is, because it's something I thought about before embarking on the earlier part of this rant. It might have had something to do with the inviolable sanctity of human life. But I doubt it.

Anyway, I made a highly sensitive PowerPoint presentation about the whole issue, which is available upon request.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Good News

I don't have the plague!


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Meeting Notes

We have monthly staff meetings at my new job, for our section of 6 people. We're fairly close-knit, so at first I was shocked and horrified by the amount of time allotted to each one: 3 hours, in fact, were given over to the first one I attended.

Hey, remember the panicmonger? I do, sort of. The panicmonger held staff meetings every other week. God help me! how I dreaded them. It got worse after Robbie left, because he and I used to sit next to each other, barely (or not) containing the occasional snicker or smart-ass remark, and greatly bolstering one another's courage. After he was gone, the "pointless fish meetings," as Robbie christened them (for reasons I don't have time to go into right now (but they are excellent reasons)) became much more depressing. Perhaps the worst part of all was that, in addition to hating the meetings and the lavish displays of negativity and mistrust therein, one had also to feel terribly sorry for the poor panicmonger, who, it was agonizingly obvious by this time, just had never figured out something very, very, very fundamental about how to be.

On the bright side, I hear she's pretty much given up staff meetings at this point. But I digress.

Staff meetings at the new job are not agonizing at all, for two important reasons: (1) nobody is looking to blame anybody for anything, and (2) nobody is admonishing anyone for the eight hundred thousand million billion bajillionth time to send time-off requests only via GroupWise reminder notes, NOT calendar appointments, because the panicmonger didn't want her calendar blocked, although she could simply accept an appointment and select the "not busy" option, of which I suspect she is probably unaware; but no, they have to be reminder notes, and be sure to copy your lead worker, and put the time you'll be leaving, the amount of time you'll be out, the kind of leave you're taking, and your name in the subject line, but DON'T use your whole name because it makes the subject line too long and the whole thing won't show up in the panicmonger's calendar when she mouses over it and it will confuse her, so if you have a long name just use your initials, unless you have the same initials as someone else which will also confuse her, in which case you should find some understandable but concise way to shorten your name for her convenience, oh and don't forget to log all your activities in the tracking program and send in a weekly status report and send in a monthly status report and also be sure to sign in and out of Scotland Yard.

Hey, remember Scotland Yard? I don't.

Anyway, staff meetings at the new job do run a bit long, but the reason for this is that they're extremely chatty - a luxury for which everyone is generally too busy unless they've specifically set aside some guilt-free time away from their desks. So our section director gives us an update on what's going on "upstairs" - a real update, too, intelligent and analytical and confidential and, frankly, a little gossipy - and then we take turns going around the table and talking about what we're working on, what kind of issues we've run into, what we're feeling good about, and what we find frankly so boneheaded that we need to spend ten minutes rolling our eyes and groaning in a most satisfying and convivial fashion.

And since we're all in it together, maybe in the next month or two I'll be able to convince them that these otherwise very agreeable staff meetings must be timed not to interfere with my rightful three-martini break. Because they may not snore while walking or have three heads apiece or need information carefully fed to them on a very, very, very, very tiny spoon, but they're still state employees, by God.

Some things shouldn't change.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

First Vibrators, Now This

You're minding your own business, peacefully shopping for mascara and flip-flops at Walgreen's with your teenaged daughter on a lazy Saturday afternoon, when you suddenly stumble across something so wrong, so terrifying, that the only possible explanation is that demons have broken through into our dimension and replaced the pleasant, friendly, mundane reality we all knew and loved (more or less) with

The clerk gave me a funny look when she came across me taking this picture with my cell phone, but come on. You're stocking the shelves with these, and I'm the one with the problem?!? I don't think so.

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Friday, June 06, 2008

Mano a Mano

So there's been an absolutely outrageous amount of coverage - to which I know I'm now adding, sorry, but that's okay because only about fifteen people will read this - about the fact that Barack and Michelle Obama good-humoredly pound-dogged each other Tuesday night when he claimed the Democratic nomination.

Personally, I think the pound-dog (the mainstream media seem to prefer the term "fist bump") is a little passé, a little 2003. But the mainstream media appear hardly to have heard of the gesture before. At best, stories in the New York Times and other legitimate media outlets are abuzz because they suggest this explains why today's hip youngsters/young hipsters (take your pick) are particularly able to relate to Barack Obama. At the worst, surprise surprise, Fox "Earth?? Where?!?!?" News has taken out-of-touchedness to a whole new level, pandering to the fist-shaking-old-codger demographic by suggesting that the gesture could be a secret al-Qaida signal: a "terrorist fist jab," in their shrill terms. (Not that they actually said that it was. They just said that's what a lot of people were thinking it might be. Riiiiiiiiiiight.)

Am I missing something here? I know Austin is an unusually hip place. But, you know, I don't get out all that much, and I'm in my late thirties, and still the "pound dog" is something I've been exposed to for years and years, here and there: on the hike-and-bike trail, on Comedy Central, on network TV, fer crissakes. And here's a thought for you interwebz: Just because Oprah Winfrey would look awkward and out-of-place doing something, does not mean it is not a perfectly natural and unremarkable thing to do.

She looks pretty awkward and out-of-place running a book club, come to think of it. Who reads that tripe? But I digress.

Anyway, I'm just pitching in, exactly like the people who reply-to-all to some idiot who has just replied-to-all on a companywide email, telling the idiot in question not to reply-to-all, to say, hello? Been to Earth lately? (I'm not asking Fox News, we already know about them.) What the hell's the big deal?

Meanwhile, here are a few better things for you fist-shaking-old-codger types to do with your clenched fingers.

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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Not Remotely Interested in "Sex and the City," but...

Just out of idle curiosity, how totally psyched are you that a new Get Smart movie is coming out in a few weeks? I, for one, can't wait. But how do you feel about the casting?

Steve Carell is always good and a perfect choice for Maxwell Smart. But Anne Hathaway as 99? Anne Hathaway?!?!?

Maybe she'll be okay, but that actress really gets up my nose. Mostly this is because, as the mother of a now-15-year-old girl, I have seen The Princess Diaries approximately 5,748 times more than I actually wanted to, which is 0. I wanted to like her: she has the same name, you know, as Shakespeare's wife. And to be fair, she isn't nearly as annoying as Julia Roberts (shudder). Or Winona Ryder, who was good in Beetle Juice and Heathers, and nothing else.

I'm not sure who I would cast in that role. Barbara Feldon is a well-nigh impossible act to follow. I had a substantial girl-crush on her when I was a kid. Who wouldn't? Isn't Agent 99 everything a young girl dreams of growing up to be? She's crisply professional and intelligent; she's cool, chic, and effortlessly poised; and she's, omigod, y'all: SMOKIN' hot.

Maybe part of the problem is that Agent 99 was a product of the mid-to-late sixties, when it was still possible to be simultaneously prim, proper, and drop-dead sexy; and little white gloves, a 3/4-sleeve tailored suit, and a pillbox hat by day might easily imply a filmy negligee by night - especially in those shoes. The promise of raunchy, uninhibited, joyful, earthshaking sex was communicated perfectly well by a secretive smile. Why, back in my day, sonny, we didn't need to shave our hoo-hahs and climb out of a limousine with our legs open! Also, we tied an onion to our belts, which was the fashion at the time.

Still, I'm planning to go see the movie. I hope the special effects are awesome!

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