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Lessons Learned
Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want
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24th-Feb-2014 11:50 am - joys of ownership
I'd finished the roof, deck, and all but the last ten feet of driveway when the leaf blower ran out of gas. It seemed easier to put it away and get out a broom to finish up so there I was on a beautiful Sunday early afternoon with the virtually spotless house and pavement, looking like I'd diligently swept the whole thing. Despite the pleasant background murmur of the running creek, it was still possible to hear the hiss of approaching bicycle tires on the road and the squeaking of their brakes from up the road.

I paused my sweeping as the first one passed the mailbox and rolled down along the length of our frontage. About halfway along he waved to his following companion to direct her attention at the house, then saw me down by the garage leaning on my broom and called, "Love your house!"

There was time before the two of them had sped down past our place as far as the little bridge to yell back, "Thank you! So do we!"

Scouring the last bits of tree duff off the remaining area was surprisingly enjoyable.
6th-Jan-2014 09:10 am - Can I get an "Amen!"?
Here at Surfer Dude, Inc., staff meetings are like going to church. Not the entertaining kind with happy singing, miracle healing and snake handling, no, it's like one of those interminable Wisconsin Synod Lutheran horrors that so blighted my youth. The only person who seems enthused about being there is the guy up front demanding our attention; everybody else is there either because they were told they had to come or a social climber who thinks it gets them extra credit to be seen there. It's an over-long, boring waste of time that accomplishes nothing, wherein the participants are told all sorts of lies they don't believe but have to pretend to be happy to hear despite the number of times they've heard the same crap before. There are promises of a bright future that never seems to materialize and exhortations to be grateful to some distant, supposedly benevolent authority figure that never has cared enough about the group to actually show up. Everybody fidgets and squirms and checks the time repeatedly hoping the pointless rituals get over soon so real life can resume, but there is a final round of call-and-response required before we are released to pile quickly out the door, only the most obsequious suck-ups remaining behind to assure the conductor what a great meeting it was.

Thank ghod this month's was canceled.
17th-Dec-2013 09:52 am - I got you a present
Those few of you with whom I still exchange Christmas gifts know that I am always late and sadly haphazard in my shopping and shipping. Let's change it up this year and save ourselves the anxiety of knowing that what we can afford to buy and mail isn't worthy to express our mutual regard. I've taken the lead and spent far more on you than usual, in order to demonstrate my true affection. My gift-giving budget this year has been sent to two places which I am quite sure you will approve of.

Animal Shelter Relief is a small, all-volunteer group that takes cats from local shelters when they reach capacity and must begin euthanizing adoptable animals. Placed into foster care, the cats are treated for medical issues and kept in loving homes until a forever family can be found. At present, there are two special-needs kitties with the group: Sammy, who has dental problems that require extensive work, and Parker, a kitten with glaucoma who needs intervention to prevent some very bad complications. Your gift has been split evenly between these two deserving puddies.

The Exotic Feline Rescue Center is one of the few truly reputable, long-term facilities saving and caring for large cats retrieved from the terrible situations they are found in when idiots who think it would be cool to have a wild animal for a pet are unable to provide livable conditions for them. Sadly, there are more and more of them as the expanding global trade in wild animals brings these undomesticated cats into the country. This center does an amazing job of taking in, treating, and supporting these big, gorgeous puddies, and helping to inform the public about them through tours, outreach, and education.

In addition to these fine gifts, you also have a standing welcome to spend a free stay in our well-appointed guest room with en-suite bath in a quiet, spectacular mountain lodge only half an hour from the ocean and within driving distance of at least three major tourist destination cities. Continental breakfast, free parking and/or airport shuttle service, and resident friendly cats all included for no additional fee.

Now, isn't all that better than another of my thoughtless, last-minute tchochkes? I knew you'd agree.
2nd-Dec-2013 04:33 pm(no subject)
Now that I live twice as far from work as I used to, the commute has become more of an issue. After years of bicycling to work I had hoped to be able to continue pedaling in after the move but that's really not feasible. It's not just the distance and enhanced elevation changes, I think I could get fit enough to actually tackle those challenges regularly even if I never would learn to enjoy it. The real problem is the roads: twisty, narrow, two-lane mountain roads with no shoulder at all, a lot of blind corners, and a horde of local residents who know the route well enough to be blatting along at highway speeds well above the posted maximum. Riding a bicycle on the gravelly margin, when it exists, and in the actual lane when it doesn't, would be a recipe for messy suicide no matter how well lit up and visible you were, especially as the commute rush peaks during twilight or sun-smack-in-your-eyes dawn for the majority of the year.

I still bike, but now there's a lot less pedalingCollapse )
23rd-Oct-2013 04:30 pm - Seriously?
This morning, Jack, the head of environmental programs stuck his head in my office and asked if I would be holding down the fort Thursday and Friday. I shrugged, not having heard that anything was going on, and replied that I expect to be here as usual. He proceeded to explain that since PHB was going to be out those two days (which I hadn't been told, but that's normal), and he and his two minions were also going away through next Wednesday, as the next most senior manager I would be the default adult in the office for at least the rest of this week.

Then I found out where they're going, and it puts my status as an adult in serious jeopardy. If I were really mature, would it bother me so much that PHB denied me approval to attend the two-day company safety meeting in downtown Oakland, but somehow found it necessary to support our business processes to send three non-lawyers to a week-long law conference at a fabulous historical resort hotel in a national park? It's true that just yesterday I broke a mousing device when frustration over using the current version of Powerpoint reached unbearable levels of violence, so it's not like I was on really firm ground to start with. Still, even the most removed of observers ought to agree that my assessment of PHB's management skills was overly optimistic.

On the bright side, I'm thinking there are some pretty long lunches in my immediate future.
15th-Oct-2013 01:29 pm - The Power of Stupid
Sadly, it has transpired that New Boss Guy turns out to be a clueless and incompetent manager of colossal ineptitude. His method for managing the department is to give the whiny, dysfunctional, useless people everything they want on the theory that they will then become happy, satisfied and productive workers. The employees who were doing a good job and not complaining don't get anything at all except for the occasional screwing-over because they're getting along fine and don't need coddling. You can probably guess what this has done to the morale of the better sorts, at least those who still work here. If there were a standard operating procedure on how to turn a high-achieving, self-motivated employee into a disaffected, angry slacker, it would look like what he does.

He also has no conception of what my program covers and, more dangerously, that there is anything I do that he might not fully understand. His abysmal failure to grasp the scope of my responsibility areas has resulted in a lot of bad decisions on his part, sadly with few of them resulting in consequences as satisfyingly retributive as the post-potluck punishment. Consequently, he has earned the sobriquet Pointy Haired Boss (PHB) or, more commonly, "that fucking idiot."

then there's the other guyCollapse )
Most people have some idea of what they want. The longer you think about something you don't have, the longer the list of required features seems to get, which helps explain why I am still single at my advanced age. Finding a guy who looks as good as the hunk of the year, with a voice like my favorite singer, a romantic temperament suitable to a Wilkie Collins hero, Tony Stark's fortune and genius, Penn Jillette's political outlook, and a sense of humor that doesn't piss me off, has proven to be challenging. Given that I've been primarily looking within the confines of my living room, the odds are not in favor of a strong candidate emerging any time soon.

maybe I should get out moreCollapse )
10th-Jun-2013 05:16 pm - Dreams can contain truths
I used to want a Corvette more than anything else. Periodically I'd get temporarily sidetracked by Ferraris or Vipers or other flashy sporty things, but my first and deepest realization that a car could be something more than a box on wheels was noticing that white Corvette Bill Bixby was driving in The Magician. That was when I knew I wanted one, and always would. It took about forty years before I had enough money to make that dream come true, and of course dad told me it wouldn't be as good as I imagined. You know what? He was totally WRONG. It was even better than I had thought. Driving it still makes me happy, ten-plus years later when it's my daily commute car. I go swooshing down the road and it's like driving the Batmobile from those newer movies, where it's low and wide and corners like it's on rails. All the looks and comments from casual passers-by are fun too; I've met some very nice people who stopped to admire and chat. It's been my passport to a lot of good times.

Remember the House Of My Dreams? How fabulous it was and how much I wanted it? And then, against all odds, somehow it worked out and we got it? Yeah, we have been suffering a particularly heavy infestation of contractors, what with the roof repairs, the window replacements, the bathroom rebuilding, and a bunch of other projects from fixing the hot tub to improving the drainage. Is it as good as I thought it would be? Hell, yeah! And then some. When I look around, no matter where on the property I am, I feel an involuntary smile starting to form. It makes me deeply, fundamentally happy just being there. Most times when you move to a new place, there's a couple days where everything feels just a little weird, like you're in a hotel or someone else's home, before the experience normalizes and you forget you weren't totally used to the place. I never had that with this house. From the moment I first saw it through moving in and settling down, it was like returning to my real original home. I didn't feel this comfortable, safe, or content in the house I grew up in for twenty years.

My point? It may look like "neener neener" but that's really not my intention. One of the things I hung on the wall when we moved in was a saying from Babylon 5. I originally bought the framed graphic because J. M. Straczynski signed it personally but now it's hanging next to the front door because it's the best and truest thing I've learned. "Never Surrender Dreams"
10th-May-2013 12:10 pm - More barf!
It takes so little to make an office drama. DW has been going around claiming that he spoke to a county epidemiologist who told him there's an outbreak of stomach flu going around, so it wasn't Bernie who poisoned the lunch. Stomach flu? Seriously? (Hint: there's no such thing) I'll have to ask which of the nurses he talked to, since I know all the county public health investigators myself. Hmm, except that would mean I'd actually have to talk to him. Scratch that, I know he's lying. It wouldn't even be worth it to hear him attempt to explain how the two guys from the woodshop who came over to join the party just coincidentally happened to get sick on the exact same schedule. Since the two groups don't share restrooms, I guess that means it had to be something in the air!
8th-May-2013 04:41 pm - You Gonna Eat That?
About a year ago, I complained about the likely quality of a potluck at the office. Nobody got ill and life went on. Since then we've had two temporary bosses fill in for the retired one and are just now adjusting to our official leader, whom I shall refer to as New Boss Guy for the present. Naturally, DW and the rest of the dysfunctional crew are doing their best to impress, and the annual Cinco de Drinko potluck was part of the package of inclusive welcoming activities.

Since the nearest work day was Monday, Bernie didn't have to phone in an excuse to stay home the day before to make her carnitas and beans this time. But when I got to work Monday morning, I found the crockpots of potentially hazardous food sitting on the breakroom counter with a note that she was out sick but we should all enjoy the fruits of her labor without her. What temperature was it and how long had it been there? No way to tell. Well, I could have stuck my professional grade thermometer in it but since I wouldn't eat it on a bet no matter what, I didn't make the effort to do that. I suppose I figured if anyone thought eating it was a good idea, they deserved what they got. Which, in light of last year's results, was most likely nothing more than a free lunch with some disagreeable company.

There was a nice long luncheon party, the leftovers sat on the counter all afternoon, then were dragged out the next day and eaten for lunch. I did warn the new boss Monday after work that I had some concerns about the temperature abuse I had observed and the advisability of shoving the crock of pork back in the fridge and continuing to nosh on it, but he said it seemed fine to him. He does that a lot when I point out that something isn't really quite right and could lead to undesired results. I've been reduced from valued professional and program manager to office nag, so far as I can tell by the respect I've gotten lately. There's no option for me left but to shrug and tell him he gets paid the big bucks to make those decisions, I'm just the hired help with the technical expertise to advise him on why it's a bad idea. Eventually he'll either start listening to me, or he'll get indicted for something he shouldn't have decided to do against my advice. I'm OK with it either way.

Today, we're a little short-staffed. A couple people, including New Boss Guy, are home with exactly the symptoms you'd expect and a strong, vocal suspicion it was the carnitas that did them in. New Boss Guy even quoted my warning in his email to the office about being away today, leading one of my minions (once she was able to control her laughter) to perform a full obeisance to my wisdom. I have to admit to chortling myself because I'm just not a good person. I'm also not a generally optimistic one so I actually doubt my advice will be any more highly valued than it was before, but from now on, every time my input is shunted aside I will imagine the sound of someone being violently sick and I will meekly accept my dismissal from consideration with a small, sinister smile.
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