Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The devil drives Audi

I found myself in an uncomfortable position this week. My boss wanted to take a coworker and myself on a field trip to another organization. On the surface, at least, her intentions may have seemed magnanimous. However, her motivations are never that clear.

Let me go on record as saying that I think my boss, lets call her "J", is very bright. She cultivates loads of contacts in our field and is highly respected by those outside our organization. She even engenders a certain level of respect within our organization. Unfortunately, J is a VERY unpredictable personality. Ultimately, she is more interested in bolstering her own image than doing what is right for the end user or the organization at large. Many people are afraid of her or simply dislike dealing with her. I have found her delussional, paranoid, and easily riled.

Over the last several weeks, I have been tertiarily promoting a project that she has come out against and has tried to fight in subtle ways (after spending months trying to keep it from coming to fruition at all). There are a lot of political machinations going on surrounding her department and her position in our organization. While she is highly valued for past contributions and her standing in the field, it is finally being clearly recognized that she does not work and play well with others, and that she cannot be left as manager of our department.

My personal discomfort level rose to new heights when she invited us on this field trip. I do not trust her and I really don't want to spend any time with her. Yesterday, when the trip was initially scheduled, my coworker would have made the trip over to the other organization with us, but would have headed off on her own afterwards. This would have left me alone in the car with J for the 40 minute trip back to our office. I could not bear this thought, so much so, that I made myself physically ill with stress.

The good news, I guess, was that the trip was postponed until today. My coworker would be making both legs of the trip with us then. So, while my stomach rebeled a bit, I successfully endured the trip. We were out of the office together for about three hours.

During the trip, we made lots of small talk around personal topics. Unfortunately, she managed to bring up the current contenuous project while we were at the other site. Apparently, some of the disputed software is in use there and has not had an unblemished incumbency. This clearly interested her as she stored information for use in her arsenal against the software that my fellows have been trying to bring into our organization (to replace another more egregiously broken package, which she introduced and has a vested interest in maintaining for purely egocentric reasons).

There is no denouement to this story. I survived. She is still my boss. The struggle will continue.

"Gird your loins"

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Lucky duck

This is an amazing story to me.

So, a hunter's wife opens the refridgerator door and one of her husband's 'dead ducks' lifts its head to look at her. So, what does the family do with the duck? They take it to the vet.


What amazes ME about this story isn't that the duck lived. It isn't that the duck coded during surgery and they brought it back to life again. No. It's that the HUNTER's family went to all this trouble to revive a duck that they intentionally shot and assumed was dead.

Don't get me wrong. I am VERY happy for Perky the Duck. I just don't get the HUNTER's family. Why didn't the wife just cut the grievously injurred duck's throat when she saw that it was still alive? Her husband shot the duck. They were going to clean it and eat it.

I guess they were overwhelmed with the miracle of the duck's tenacity. Perhaps they were so impressed or amazed with the duck's ability to live through being shot and shut up in a refridgerator for two days that they decided that it deserved to live.

On the other hand, I hope the duck lives someplace other than the hunter's house while he recuperates. If I were him, I wouldn't want to hang out someplace where I could have been dinner, and where (I'm sure) some of his fellows still will be dinner.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Winter finally came

After a very mild December, New England finally got hit with Winter this week. We had several days of single digit temperatures. Last night we even had an inch, or so, of snow.

Our family moved to New England to escape the crowds and muggy summers of the Mid Atlantic. None of us are huge fans of cold weather. However, our driving philosophy was this:
"When it's cold, you can always put more clothing on and/or start a fire to stay warm. When it's hot, if you don't have electricity to power your AC, you cannot take your skin off to cool down."

As I jack up our heat, and shiver with a chill that I cannot seem to get rid of, I repeat the mantra.

Note to self: Buy firewood for fireplace.

While fireplaces are not as effective at heating a room as a wood stove, there is some heating benefit. Plus, there is something comforting in watching and tending to a fire when it's cold out.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

An ounce of nickels is worth a pound of...

Apparently, the U.S. Mint is considering revaluing pennies as five cent pieces. The value of the metal in nickels has made them the target of metal speculators. To keep enough five cent pieces, and due to the decreased value put on pennies by most Americans, including me, the mint is considering doing away with the one cent piece altogether, and revaluing them all as five cent pieces.

While that might be initially confusing, it will make all those people who have hoarded piles and piles of pennies suddenly more wealthy. Now, where DID I burry those ammo boxes full of pennies last year?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

It's not about the answer, it's about the question

Looking over my last few posts, I noticed that all the titles were posed as questions. I wondered why that was. Maybe it is easier to creatively respond when answering a question. I don't really feel like I have answers to most of the questions that absorb my mind. However, I do feel like I grow as a person every time I think on a question and all the possible answers. It may seem trite. And, this post title was meant to elude to an idea that has become somewhat trite, but that I believe still has value: It's about the journey, not about the destination.

On a related note, I saw a bumper sticker today that made me smirk: "Jesus is the answer". My initial thought was, I didn't know I was asking a question. Then I mused a bit on all the questions that "Jesus" would be a very silly answer for.

  • How many angels would fit on the head of a pin?
  • How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck would chuck wood?
  • How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop?
  • Who shot J.R.?
  • When will Susan Lucci win a Daytime Emmy?
  • Is it wrong to wear white after Labor Day?
  • Is there intelligent life in the universe, including planet Earth?
  • Does bread usually fall butter side down? (actually, Myth Busters tried to answer this)
  • Was that the guy-at-the-gym's real hair?
  • Is fertility inversely proportional to IQ?

I really do believe that life is about asking questions, about making the journey. So, anyone who is willing to accept a prepackaged answer is devaluing their life.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Brain-dead nation?

I have a confession. My family and I love ONE reality-based TV show: "Beauty and the Geek". I am ashamed. Truly.

However, I am more ashamed that this nation as a whole seems addicted to reality-based TV. This horrid fact was brought home to me as I caught the following headline: Did Anybody Not Watch American Idol?

Apparently 15% of the entire nation (no, not just the entire viewing population, but the entire nation) watched the season premiere of this show this week. Say it isn't so! (I have even heard it said that more people participated in last season's final contestant voting than in our last Presidential election.)

What does this say about the human race if this is how 41 MILLION members of "The Greatest Nation On Earth" chose to spend their Tuesday evening? Explains alot if you ask me.

Beam me up, Scotty???

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

What do I want to be when I grow up?

In the last year, I have had a number of discussions with my son regarding his future. He's only thirteen years old, but he has been thinking ahead. His current career goal is 'chef'. He and I watch a lot of Food TV. He does like to cook. On the other hand, he's kind of a picky eater. I have encouraged him in his interest, but I have also introduced that element of his personal reality into the discussion. I have suggested that perhaps restaurant management might be a good choice for him. He can be very organized in his thinking, if the topic is of interest to him. He has mulled over this suggestion a bit and is currently thinking that taking some business-oriented course work in high school might broaden his options a bit when college time rolls around.

His second career choice, at this point, is social studies teacher. While he is pretty good at math, he really does seem to enjoy social studies. That may be in large part to a pretty cool teacher that he had last year (who moved up to the eighth grade this year too). Even so, prior to his experience with this teacher, he did previously express an interest in being a teacher. He's also shown great aptitude for interacting with younger children. (He's done some babysitting and assistant camp counseling.) All in all, teaching would also be a good choice for him.

I do realize that we've got another four years before he hits college, so all this may, and probably will, change. But, it is interesting to discuss the options with him.

On the other hand, here I am in my mid forties and I still struggle with what I want to be when I grow up. I really had no direction when I was in high school. I just knew that I wanted to go to college. I wanted to take interesting classes that were mine for the choosing. My high school had pretty limited options.

I kind of fell into my college major. And, while History really interests me, there really aren't many jobs for folks with a B.A. in the subject. So, I went to graduate school to get a pseudo library science degree, mixed with computers. I worked in libraries for a while. But, technology was king, so I leveraged the computer end of my degree into some pretty cool technology jobs. Then the Dot Bomb happened.

I still like working with technology, but years of high stress jobs have burned me out on a lot of it. Part of me would like to stay with technology, but perhaps with a new slant (maybe health care). Another part of me would love to go back to working in the library field. I really do enjoy hooking people up with the right information. Unfortunately, I have grown quite accustomed to a technologist's salary. Librarian types don't earn nearly the same scratch.

The truth is, most days, I really am bored silly with all my career options. Even if I could get off my lazy butt and write for a living, not many people make a decent living playing the writing game. Plus, I'm sure I'd get bored with that too eventually,

What wouldn't bore me? See my previous post If I had a million dollars.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Who's killing the English language?

There are plenty of topics I could write about this evening. I was having trouble choosing, actually, until I popped over to the web site for one of our local newspapers.

No, I don't really want to discuss a hot news item, though there are many worthwhile topics right now. What I would like to talk about is the general decline of the state of the written word.

While I do not claim to be an authority on the proper grammar, spelling, and usage of the English language, it appalls me to be assaulted by improper usage by the media.

When I was in grade school, we were told to follow the standard for written language as set by our nation's newspapers. It was pointed out that, not only were most of the writers of the news highly educated professionals, but that their copy was scrupulously edited before being set to print.

What the heck has happened to those standards? Just because copy is going on a web site instead of on a printed page is no reason to get sloppy!

Time and time again I find typographical and spelling errors on the homepages of New Hampshire newspapers. But, I will admit, today's affront was a bit trickier. I had to double-check it myself before I dove headlong into my cauldron of righteous indignation. Here is the headline that caught my attention:

"NH Guardsmen on duty along U.S.-Mexican border to curtain illegal crossings"

Are the Guardsmen going to hang draperies along the border so that no one will see the crossings? Probably not. Would communication have been better served if the author of the headline had used the word "curtail" instead of "curtain"? Probably.

What was the author thinking? I will wager that the author believed he was invoking a word that is pronounced kur-tane. I have heard this word used in conversation hundreds of times. I am pretty sure that I have even used it myself.

Guess what? It does NOT exist, at least not as C-U-R-T-A-I-N. (If the word does exist, and you have a proper spelling for it, I will gladly get off my high horse in favor of a short donkey.)

How can we expect our children to develop decent communication and language skills when they are constantly exposed to poor usage by the media? It's one thing to dismiss poor spelling and usage in IM and e-mail as mere informal communication. It's another thing all together when supposedly reputable publishers no longer exemplify the standard of language to strive for.

Maybe it really is just The Union Leader and The Telegraph. I believe that I will have to start visiting some of the bigger New England newspaper sites to see how often they trip over their keyboards. I'll be sure to let you all know if I see that there really is a trend beyond the literate backwaters of New Hampshire.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Are more U.S. troops the answer in Iraq?

I try to steer clear of touchy political issues, but I can't leave this one alone. President Bush is about to unveil his new strategy for the war in Iraq. Most pundits believe that the plan will recommend that we initially send between ten and thirty thousand more troops to Iraq.

No amount of American lives will buy stability in Iraq. It is time to admit that we made a mistake by bringing down a stable, albeit extremist and totalitarian, government. Or, at the very least, admit that we cannot and should not attempt to quell hostilities between peoples who agree on nothing other than their universal desire for us to leave their country.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Law of the Dead, Complete With Squeaky Toy

From the annals of "You Can't Make This Crap Up", the title of this post is an actual quote from a toy description on Amazon. My husband got me a plush Cthulu wearing a Santa hat, as a joke, for Christmas. We decided to see if Amazon carried the toy. When we went searching for it, low and behold, we found Necronomicon Plush Book (pre-school edition). The title alone stopped us dead in our tracks and had us roaring with laughter. But it got better when we read the description:

  • The law of the dead complete with squeaky toy! This faithful plush adaptation of the Necronomicon is modified for a slightly younger audience. (hrm ... how does that work? Slightly less carnage? The things in the wall sing nursery rhymes?)
  • It features a squeaker and a gloved hand for rolling human bones! (That's right folks, you don't want the kiddies thinking that its o.k. to touch the bones with bare hands.)
  • This extreme high quality, collectible plush 'book,' has detailed and interactive features on 6 different pages, 4 inside plus the front and back covers. (INTERACTIVE? What? Do grasping tentacles reach out from the book and try to pull your child in?)

Unfortunately, there is no picture on Amazon. However, I was able to find one on another site. Thank you Entertainment Earth

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Challenge met

I had until the end of the week to weigh in for the gym's "Maintain Don't Gain" challenge. A week before Thanksgiving, every participant put up $10 and weighed in. The goal was to not gain more than three pounds by the end of this week. To keep us motivated and on track, we weighed in every week. If you gained more than three pounds by the end of this week, you lost your $10. If you didn't gain more than that, you got your original $10 back. If you ended up being the biggest loser, you got the pot of money forfeited by other people.

At one point I was down two pounds from the start. I decided to do my final weigh in today. I knew I was up a bit, but I also knew that I was within the three pound limit. I'd given up on being the biggest loser weeks ago as I gave in to the ocassional holiday treat and even baked some treats myself.

The final tally: up by 1.6 pounds since the beginning of the challenge. However, I'm still down just over 50 pounds since a year ago yesterday. While I wish it were more, I have kept the weight off for many months at this point without creeping back up. In my mind that means: I WIN!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Random poetry

I was in the mood for poetry this evening when I stumbled on eDork Poetry. Looks like he's got a Mad Libs like engine that generates poems based on parts of speech. Not bad. I kept generating until I got one that I kind of liked.

science balances pollution
volcano groans
river leads except arm runs
morning reanimates also wife fumigates
black light propels onto toxic acid

Profound? No. Fun? Yes.

The 'poem' does contain a few words that I really like: volcano and fumigate. Some of my other favorite words include: oblivion, obfuscate, and onomatopoeia. Funny, I just realized that many of my favorite words begin with the letter "O".

"O" my! (grin)

Monday, January 01, 2007

Most recruiters are moronic slime

Let me state, up front, that I am not actively looking to leave my current position. However, if something worthwhile presented itself that would allow me to significantly shorten the two hours I spend on the road each day going back and forth to work, I'd consider it.

Last week, a recruiter emailed me and wanted to talk to me about a position. Since it is difficult for me to have such conversations during my work day, and I am not about to inconvenience myself without some inkling if it is worth my time, I replied to the email asking some questions and stating my minimum requirements for considering a move. Here they are in summary (details sent to the recruiter, who we will henceforth refer to as Moron):

  1. position must be full time with benefits (since that's what I currently have)
  2. position must not lengthen my commute
  3. position must not reduce my salary

After receiving my first email, Moron called my house and asked me to call him back, making no mention of my email. So, I emailed him a second time offering to set up a time to talk if he would reply that the position met my minimum restated requirements. Two days later, he called my house again and left another non-specific message to call him back. I decided to ignore this call. Then, on New Year's Day, he called my house again. My husband told him that the best way to communicate with my was via email. Moron stated that he had sent me an email and was just waiting for me to reply!

I was unavailable when Moron called. But, I called him back less than ten minutes later. I got his voice mail. So, I forwarded him my last email again, with the following new note:

I am sorry that I missed your call. I called you back ten minutes later and got your voice mail.

As you can tell, I am VERY difficult to reach. It would be MOST efficient and effective if you would reply to this email. Email truly is my preferred means of communication.

This will be the third time that I have sent you an email since you initially contacted me. You keep trying to reach me by phone, but you have not responded to my emails. The messages I have received make it sound as if my emails are not reaching you.

If this email reaches you, feel free to call my cell phone at xxx-xxx-xxxx. If you do not reach me, please leave a message letting me know if the position you are trying to fill meets my minimum requirements.

This was a test. I wanted to see if he called my cell phone, but yet still refused to acknowledge the vital information that I was seeking before I would expend any time talking on the phone to him.

I have dealt with a number of recruiters who employee slick hard-sell tactics to try to get me to agree to interview for positions that I am a poor fit for in any number of ways. I do not understand why they work this way. Do they think it makes them look like better recruiters to employers if they can parade a high number of candidates around for each position, even if those candidates are either unqualified or uninterested in the position?

Well, Moron finally replied to my last email. And here is absolute proof of his IQ level. See his response:
I rcvd your email thanks.

The position is located in Downtown Boston.

It is temp (2-3 months) to Perm position.

Please advise so can schedule you for interview.

Duh! Fails minimum requirements #1 & #2. So, while I usually hate to burn bridges with people, I could not let this supreme example of incompetence and wasting of my time slide. Besides, I seriously doubt that I will ever need such a loser in a job hunt in the future. With his obvious skill at his job, I also doubt that he will be in the field much longer. Here is what I sent back to him:
As I stated in several emails, I am not interested in contract positions. I am not interested in positions located south of Burlington, which was also previously stated.

Best of luck in your future success in filling positions. You will need it with your communication skills.

I am sure that there are skilled reputable technology recruiters out there. I just haven't encountered one in the last six years.

Happy New Year, even to Moron!