Sunday, December 30, 2012

I Survived Vacation 2012

Notable things from the vacation:

- K-poo asked for engineering-related Christmas puns to amuse her coworkers, then shot down my first three attempts. Is it my fault that mechanical engineers don't study stability and keeping the poles on the left side of the plane? Also, I still think my Santa yelling "Mho Mho Mho!" (For the non-EE crowd: an mho is a unit equal to 1/ohm) joke was worth some consideration.

- Why did it take 6 hours to drive south, and eight hours to return? Okay, part of the problem was the accidental detour onto the 580 which I've never done before. I was so entranced by the synchronized blinking of the red windmill lights (except for one of them which was out of phase) that I didn't stop to wonder why I was even seeing the windmills.

- I got to drive through snow for the first time going through the grapevine. Okay, there wasn't actually any snow on the road but it was starting to build up on the areas of my windshield the wipers didn't touch. However, the only real danger was from all of the idiots stopping on the side of the freeway to get out and experience it snowing.

- Note to self: never stop in Kettleman again.

- Unlike last year, the big dog seemed to recognize me when I picked her up at the kennel. Then she spent the first ten minutes at home racing up and down the hallway like she'd never seen the house before.

- Scooter the Wonder Cat spent the last two days hiding from the pet sitter, then sat next to my head and stared at me all night long last night. If he were a teenager I'd think drugs were involved.

- I think I'm done leaving the house for the next year. This could impact my work performance. Or maybe not.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

How to Plan a Vacation

In order to ensure an easy stress-free vacation, it is essential to plan ahead. Therefore, I suggest you do exactly the opposite of what I do:

1) Vacillate on both the leaving and returning dates, thus making it impossible to book any travel arrangements.
2) Finally make a decision on dates, then call to arrange boarding for the dogs, only to find that other people like to travel during the holiday season as well. This has the side effect of changing the travel dates slightly because there is no room at the inn.
3) Armed with these new dates and four days advance notice, contact your pet sitter to arrange for care for the cats and birds. Or try to. Leave a message on the new answering machine with no outgoing message (hmm...). A day later dig around in your backpack until you find the other card with her home number and call that only to learn that the line has been disconnected. Search the online obituary archives to find out if she died or just moved away to avoid you.
4) Start calling random pet sitters to see if anyone can take care of the herd.
5) Fantasize about a vacation at home.
6) Eventually get a call back from one person who agrees to take care of the animals.
7) The night before you are supposed to leave, remember that you never actually reserved a room at the hotel.
8) Give up on cleaning the house and go to bed.

Anyhow, Merry Christmas and all that crap.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Couch is Dead, Long Live the Couch!

While I was at Home Depot last week buying everything except the one thing that I specifically went there to get (something to put up my new wall hanging, and I searched the store for an hour and never found it), I picked up a new utility knife.

Let me tell you, if you ever need to tear apart your own couch it's a lot easier with a sharp knife than with really dull scissors.

Anyhow, I finally finished breaking up the couch into bite-sized pieces that will fit in my trash bin. I'm sure my neighbors are happy about this, although I still maintain this is all their fault for not rushing forward to take it to the dump themselves.

So now the question is: do I continue just serially destroying my existing furniture (entertainment center, I'm looking at you!), or do I buy a replacement couch first?

I guess it would be kind of nice to have someplace to stretch out in the living room, but on the other hand, I kind of like the spartan look that I've got going.

More importantly, what would impress the pet sitter more?

In other news, I finally closed up the house and turned on the heat last night. Then I got to listen to the big dog wandering around for an hour trying to figure out how to get through the closed door to the cat porch. Not the brightest bulb that one...

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Musical Review

Yesterday was Woodland's 48th annual holiday parade, and just like every other year, I've been excited to see it coming. Not because I actually go to the parade. Let's face it, I'm not really a big-crowds-and-standing-around-to-watch-things-drive-by-slowly type of person. No, I'm excited that the parade is here because it means the students at the middle school in the next block are done practicing for it and I will not have to hear their medley of Christmas music until next year.

The middle school marching band is the perfect storm of a bunch of things I can't stand, namely:

- Children
- Christmas music
- Marching bands
- Music played very badly
- Loud music played in the street in front of my house while I'm trying to sleep

First the disclaimer: These are middle school kids. They only get two weeks (at most, depending on the weather) to learn how to march and play at the same time. I know it's really not their fault, but holy crap, if I have to listen to that four song Christmas medley again any time before next December, there will be hell to pay.

So here's the review of this year's band:

First off, the marching:

I initially thought the band instructor was just getting his yayas when he was still yelling "left...left...left, right, left" well into the second week, but then I saw the kids outside when I was walking the dogs. Turns out there was a reason he was reminding them. Perhaps he should have clued in the guy on the front left corner as to which foot was his left foot. Maybe that would have helped.

Then there was the kid that is either a musical genius who will go on to write complicated jazz music, or a musical moron who will be the worst dancer in the history of white people. Somehow this kid was managing to play the music and stroll to a completely different beat. I dare you to try that sometime. It's a lot harder than it looks. In general though, I have to say that it's fine to move to the beat of your own drum, but not when there is an actual drum section three feet behind you.

And then there was the saxophone player... While technically stepping in time with the music, he looked like he was imitating Snoop Dogg (er, I mean, Snoop Lion now I guess) walking up to receive an award. Not because he was black (because he wasn't), but because he managed to make each step about eight different moves with knee dips and hip pops. Also, if I really wanted to find some weed amongst that group, I'd probably start with the sax case. Just sayin'.

The music:

It's a medley of Christmas music. There's a lot of really, really crappy Christmas music and anything that didn't start out that way gets moved to the crappy pile after I've heard it for the five thousandth time. Which is to say that there is no good Christmas music and I have been known to avoid all stores from Thanksgiving to the end of December just to get away from it all.

Note to the band director: giving a run of sixteenth notes to the brass section while everyone else cuts out is pretty gutsy. Especially when your brass section consists of two consistently out of tune trumpets, a beginning trombone, and a baritone. It's hard to get crisp notes out of the brass section during the best of times, and this was definitely the worst of times. Next year just pick one of the notes and have them stick with it and maybe it won't sound like a cow falling down a flight of stairs.

The woodwinds (by which I mean about fifteen clarinets and a couple of flutes) weren't bad, but since you can't actually hear the clarinets in a band, it doesn't really matter. (I say this as someone who played clarinet in a marching band. You know all this bitterness had to come from somewhere, right?)

I was pretty excited this year about the percussion section as I lay in my bed at seven in the morning. In years past they've given the musical Forest Gumps of the world the bass drum and cymbals (because that way they don't have to read music or try to play in tune), but that's been a disaster because those are the two instruments you can hear from half a mile away, and the Forest Gumps of the world can't keep time.

This year I noticed early on that the percussion section sounded much, much better than in years past. It took me two days to notice that it was because they just had a snare drum and xylophone and didn't have either a bass drum or cymbals. Sadly, two days before the parade they flushed out two extra members and once again we had the crashing of cymbals at random moments during the songs. The bass drummer still wasn't as impaired as the one two years ago (a kid who seemed to be playing in time to a drunkard's walk), so at least it wasn't all bad.

Anyhow, there you have it. Not as bad as some years, but I'd still donate money if they'd start practicing somewhere else.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Couch Strikes Back

It's time to do all of the official December stuff:

- Rake up all of the leaves from all those damn trees that I don't own.

- Remember that I really should have gotten the roof fixed or redone over the summer because I can't sleep when there is water dripping in my bedroom.

- Clean up the house for my pet sitter.

- Consider getting a maid service so I don't have to clean up for my pet sitter.

- Remember that I'd have to clean up in order to hire a maid service so I don't have to clean up for my pet sitter.

- Neglect to put up holiday decorations again.

In other news, the couch on the patio is steadily getting smaller. Had a slight setback today when my hand slipped and I whacked the knuckle into a board with some staples sticking out. I'm not sure whether the pain is from hitting the board or hitting the staples, but my hand looks like I was bit by a small snake which is kind of cool, so maybe it's worth it.

Now if I could just remember exactly when I got my last tetanus vaccine...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Things to be thankful for:

- Pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, and stuffing. Or, put more simply, carbs, carbs, and more carbs.

- Everything ended up cooked at about the same time despite the absence of a Gantt chart.  (However, Patrick had a pretty impressive Gantt chart for his four burners at his Thanksgiving dinner. Understandably, K-poo was on the hook for bringing bread. I'm sure she slaved away all afternoon baking it. Or not...)

- Jeff didn't end up in jail or on some CPS list when he pulled down his crying 8-year-old son's pants in a public park to check the damage after a scooter accident.

- Eric had just enough chairs for everyone to sit in. I'd make comments about the lack of furniture in his house, but that would be beyond the pot calling the kettle black.

- Eric gets the "Tacky Neighbors Award" for the people next door who put up three inflatable Christmas lawn ornaments on Friday.

- The cheap table that my parents bought forty-eight years ago in El Paso (because there weren't any furniture stores in Alamogordo) is still around to hold a giant turkey and a bunch of side dishes.

- Did I mention carbs?

Mmm, carbs...

Monday, November 19, 2012

Spice Up Your Life

You know how you have those things you do that you swear that you'll never do again and yet you do them over and over again?

In this case I'm not talking about eating raw cookie dough, even though that applies. (Yes, it says in big bold print on the package that you're not supposed to eat it raw, but who are they fooling? Nobody actually buys that stuff to bake cookies with.)

No, I'm talking about doing something that you know you won't understand later and not documenting it. In this case, I'm talking about my spice rack.

I have one of those pre-labeled spice racks. It's great and I've had it for probably close to twenty years. I've depleted and refilled most of the spice jars multiple times (although not every six months as the charlatan television chefs would have you believe to be necessary).

However, over the years I've occasionally needed a jar for something else and had an empty one available, so I've used it. And every time I've thought "I should change the label" and then I think "No need -- of course I'll remember that the bottle labeled ginger really contains coriander."

So now every time I make a new recipe it's a bit of a crap-shoot as to whether I'm really adding coriander or maybe a spice blend with allspice and cloves that I made for that one Ethiopian curry two years ago. Usually I can tell based on the smell, but sometimes...

The spice of life? In my kitchen you may never know the truth...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

In Android training nobody can hear you scream...

For those keeping score at home, here's how the Android training went last week:

Day 1:

- Up at 4:15! Probably should apologize to the neighbors for turning up the music and lights before dawn.

- Took the dogs for a walk in the dark. Remembered too late that I should have brought a flashlight, leading to me finding poop in the wet grass by braille. (I had a bag over my hand, okay?)

- Left the house before 6am and was tailgated by at least five different people during the commute. Really people, if the car in front of me is going the same speed I am, sitting five feet behind my bumper actually won't make me go any faster. All it will do is make me squirt rancid windshield wiper fluid over my car and onto yours.

- Got to work at 7:15. That's just crazy.

- In a place labeled a "tech park", the conference room used for training twenty people (who are all required to have computers to work on) has three outlets that can be reached, located on the wall at the end of the tables. Within twenty minutes there are power strips daisy-chained all over the room. Between that and the ethernet cables (sockets located next to the power outlets) strung all around (because we don't have wi-fi, naturally, at a freaking wireless company), everyone is required to leap over multiple cords in order to get between the door and their seats. Both OSHA and the fire department would have evacuated the building on the spot if they'd dropped by.

- The instructor gets the class started by asking everyone to briefly state their experience and what they hope to get out of the course. This is normally a five day course being crammed into two days and he's trying to make sure that everyone has a solid understanding of java so he can completely skip those parts. Of course half the people in attendance take this as an opportunity to recite everything they've ever done in the last twenty years. Also, they keep starting out with "I'm so-and-so and I work for manager-so-and-so." Do we care? No.

- That one woman finally winds to a close on all of her accomplishments since Eisenhower was president and we get started. In the meantime it has become obvious that the thermostat is set to penguin comfort level. I'm wearing a sweatshirt and I'm starting to lose feeling in my fingers. I feel a little sorry for the guys in the front row who are wearing short sleeves. On the other hand, what kind of idiot goes anywhere in our building without a jacket? Oh, I see, they're from Texas. Maybe the A/C isn't so schizophrenic out there.

- Instead of following instructions and labeling the app button "Update", Jeff labels his "Fart". Just so we're clear, he's three years older than I am.

- In between lessons I try to figure out how to change the path in Windows. I'm a Linux user. I normally only use the laptop to log into my Linux workstation remotely. Turns out that you have to be an admin to change the path in Windows. How is this even an operating system? I don't have time to log out (5 minutes), log in to the other account which has admin privileges (10 minutes), change the path in a window that only shows ten characters at a time (20 seconds), log back out (5 minutes, or maybe 20 minutes if it hangs and I have to power cycle it to get logged out), and log back in under the original account (10 minutes). I decide this will have to wait until the day is over.

- At lunch time I go back to my desk and grab my parka. People make fun of me but I can tell they are secretly envious.

- After lunch the second set of thermostats, which seem to actually have some control over the room, is discovered.

- We work on an app that acts like a twitter client.

- At 5pm we stop for the day. At 6:15 I drive home. I almost make the mistake of getting in the HOV lane (open to anyone after 7pm) because my car clock is still one hour ahead. Stupid time changes.

Day 2:

- Up at 4:15 again. Definitely ought to apologize to the neighbors.

- Rinse off the Tinkle Turf in the backyard in the dark.

- Remember to bring the flashlight when walking the dogs. Naturally neither dog poops on the walk.

- Again, made it to work by 7:15. Took the extra time to change the path on the laptop.

- Question session at the beginning of class. The woman who won't stop talking keeps asking the same question (about cross-platform development and testing) over and over. The instructor keeps answering it. Eventually I want to stand up and say "YES. YOU MUST TEST IT ON EVERY DEVICE." but I don't because I am busy rick-rolling people using the twitter app from the day before. Eric keeps putting in Shakespeare quotations because, well, he had to memorize it so he might as well use it.

- By the end of the day my brain feels like it is leaking out of my ears.

So, anyhow, the instructor was excellent and the material was interesting. Unfortunately I don't work on anything where I'll actually need to use it, but no knowledge is wasted. Or something like that.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Those aren't the Android's you're looking for...

So I broke down and spent a bunch of money in the last couple of weeks. I'm claiming the iPad as a birthday present to myself, but the rest of it was clothing, and I refuse to call that a birthday present. Actually, if I could find a pair of sweat pants just like the ones that I have that are disintegrating and have no identifying tag, I would claim that as a birthday and Christmas present, but that's looking unlikely.

Anyhow, as a computer professional I could probably come up with some malarkey about how the iPad is work-related, but really it's just a toy and I'm not going to pretend otherwise. So far I've used it to watch television in bed and to list a recipe in the kitchen (vegetarian chili from in case you're curious). Other than the fact that it kept going to sleep while I was cooking, it worked really well. I'm guessing there's some setting to keep it from going to sleep -- if I were really a professional I'd figure it out. Maybe next time.

In a further test of professionalism, I have two days of Android training (whatever the heck that is) coming up this week. Aside from the fact that we have a deadline on Friday for some features that have yet to be started, the big problem is that the training starts at 8am and we all know how I feel about getting to work four hours early. Grumpiness might be evident. I realize that many of those people who work with me are asking themselves how, exactly, that might be different from normal.

Ha ha. Trust me. You'll find out.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Potted Luck

As I've gotten older, my views on a few things have evolved.

I now realize that it's my duty as a citizen to vote just to cancel out one vote cast by someone who's stupider than I am.

Also, I now consider the fact that maybe my big dog isn't as stupid as she appears and that she's really doing everything she does just to mess with me.

And most importantly, I now know that work potlucks are a great place to cement a reputation as someone who is just odd enough that she should be avoided by everyone without going overboard and being escorted out by security.

For this year's Halloween potluck, I've decided to forgo recipes completely and just make sure the colors are what I want. I figure as long as I don't actually poison anyone it's all good. And if I do poison someone accidentally, they'll never figure out what dish it was anyhow. That's the beauty of potlucks.

So yeah, if you're in building eight this Wednesday, think twice before taking a large serving of the orange and purple food.

And don't forget to vote.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

King of the Castle

In our annual tradition, Jeff and I made a "cake" for Liam's birthday (number eight and he learned how to tie his shoes just in time!).

This year he wanted a castle, so with a combination of fake Rice Krispies and "Coco Dyno Bytes" (fake Coco-puffs), we made stone walls. Never let the two of us loose in the kitchen -- what inevitably occurs is that we start talking about something while we're stirring marshmallows, and the next thing you know half of the ingredients end up without the proper food coloring. But really, it allowed for some contrast between the walls and the towers, so I'm claiming it's not really a mistake.

Anyhow, I think this year's version can be considered a success, especially compared to the tank we made last year.

Of course, when we finished Liam asked where the actual castle was...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Gentlewoman of Verbena

(The title is supposed to be a Shakespeare reference, for those of you who didn't make it past the sex scene in the movie version of "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter"...)

Over a year ago I got a sprig of lemon verbena in my veggie box. I'm still not sure what you're supposed to do with it in the kitchen, but it smells great to me -- a bit like Lemonheads candy. (I know it's a little weird that I think a plant smells like some processed sugar snack. I'm probably supposed to think that Lemonheads smell like lemon verbena. So sue me.)

Anyhow, I've been trying to find a lemon verbena plant in the store so I could have my own growing Lemonheads-scent factory, but I haven't had much luck despite the fact that my neighbors had a plant growing in their backyard that they ripped out because it had gotten bigger than they wanted in the spot they had it planted.

I finally gave up looking for it locally and ordered it on-line. And because I had to put a number in the box to indicate how many I wanted, I ordered ten of them. That sounds like a lot, sure, but to put it in perspective, I accidentally planted twenty brussel sprout seedlings a few weeks ago, all of which are still alive and thriving.

So I spent the weekend planting twigs of lemon verbena in my back yard. Hopefully at least one of them will live.

I also ripped apart the back of the couch on my patio, and tried to find additional artificial turf for the dogs to pee on so I don't have to spend a bunch of money on another "Tinkle Turf" to put in the other spot they like to pee.

Actually, it's not so much the money as it is the gigantic box with the words "Tinkle Turf" on the outside being delivered to my door.

Maybe I can get them to gift wrap it before delivery.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Unmaking

Well, my neighbors failed to take the bait, so I'm taking the couch apart, and it's actually pretty interesting.

I'd always assumed that couches were made of... well, I'd never actually thought about it, but I guess I was expecting something more expensive, or at least durable.

What I found was a thin layer of foam, another thin layer of stuffing, and then cardboard.

I'd also assumed that it was mass-produced in some way. But on the back of the cardboard it looked like hand-drawn schematics.

And then there were the calculations:

So I'm thinking now that it was a one-of-a-kind couch, an artisanal thing. Maybe I shouldn't have destroyed it. Maybe it was worth something.

But I still didn't want it in my living room.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

So Long, Farewell...

Once upon a time, this couch was reasonably comfortably to sit on and great for stretching out and napping. That was about twenty years ago. It wasn't even too bad when I first got it, but that was about fifteen years and countless cats and a couple of elderly dogs ago.

Today we said goodbye. Or at least, today I moved it out of the living room onto the patio where hopefully the house elves will magically take it away. Alternatively, my neighbors (who have have a trailer and have offered to make runs to the dump in the past) might offer to get rid of it for me. Since they can see it from their bedroom window, I suspect that door number two is the safer bet. And if that doesn't work, I'll throw it out piece by piece.

Now my living room sort of looks like I'm in the process of moving in, but that's probably still better than this:

Finally, due to popular demand, a picture of Guido:

I think while I was taking this picture he was reading my email. There's a reason why he's considered the evil genius of the household. (Mostly it's just in comparison to the dogs, but he's also the one that opens the doors and gets into closed drawers.)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Couching Tiger, Skeet-shooting Dragon

I was going to celebrate the successful conclusion of the Couch to 5K program by taking my sofa outside and hacking it apart with my sawz-all, but one of the cats was sleeping on it, so I took a nap instead.

So now the question is: what next? I mean, clearly I have mastered jogging. I could use a little work on my falling on concrete technique, but as far as I know that's not an Olympic sport (although it's just stupid enough that it might have been added as one...).

I'm thinking maybe mountain climbing. Small, small mountains. Nothing over about eight feet. And I'll need a well-cushioned surface below.

If that doesn't work out, maybe I'll go with skeet shooting. I can say "pull" or whatever it is that you're supposed to yell. (I might need to look up a few details first.) I should probably warn my neighbors before I start shooting, but they've been really understanding in the past.

Or maybe I'll just try to extend my jogging distance a bit...

Monday, September 17, 2012


The penultimate week of the Couch to 5k experiment suffered a slight setback when I tripped and fell flat on the sidewalk, tenderizing my knees in the process. The good news is that there were no witnesses (one of the advantages of running at night) and I was already back on my feet and walking again by the time the police car drove by a couple of minutes later. For the record I would like to state that doing a pendulum swing straight down onto the sidewalk causes much pain. I was forced to consume a lot of ice cream to get over it.

Anyhow, Jojo the Enforcer was in town this weekend along with her daughter, Mary-Kate Olsen. (I don't really understand how the genetics worked out in this situation...) My parents also drove up for the weekend, so there was a partial family reunion, and my little niece only ended up with a slight bruise when she tripped and slammed her cheek into the coffee table. (See, we're related.)

Jeff managed to not light the propane grill on fire this time, so the entertainment wasn't quite as good, but other than that it was a pleasant weekend.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Thoughts of the Day

Here are some random thoughts from today:

- It's amazing how many days start with me saying out loud "What did I just step in?"

- I love my dogs, but why do I often wish the dogs were a little more like the cats, but I never wish the cats were more like the dogs?

- I send a lot of email to my boss consisting of forwarded messages where I've just added "La la la la la" because I can't deal with the stupidity of it all.

- I've officially named my dogs in aggregate the "stalkerazzi". They need to learn how to nap or something.

- Based on how much time it took me to clean up the back yard today, I'm feeding the stalkerazzi entirely too much food.

- Why does my work computer hang for ten minutes when I lose the VPN connection? Is this really the best they could come up with? I'd reboot it, but that usually takes about fifteen minutes. I guess slowing everything down is one way to make everything secure -- I'd certainly never steal that thing.

- Why does the VPN connection always go down when I have about two minutes of work left to do?

- If I throw the laptop through the window, can I write the repairs off as a business expense? Does that require a special form?

- Apparently manually ending Outlook to try to speed up re-establishing the VPN connection is not a good idea. Now I get to reboot after waiting ten minutes in the first place.

- Can I get the two minutes of work that I need to do finished within one hour? It's looking doubtful.

- Listening to podcasts while running works well as long as it's something that I find interesting enough to grab my attention. The podcast from The New Yorker about the ethics of using confidential informants worked well.The podcast about stranded prepositions not so much.

- If I ever have episodes of syncope and you need to raise my blood pressure, showing me the Windows XP logo will probably take care of the problem without any additional pharmaceutical intervention.

I think I'll go watch another episode of The Closer while I wait for the laptop to boot...

Monday, September 3, 2012

Simply Dashing

Now that I've made it to the part of the "Couch to 5k" program where I'm not supposed to be taking walking breaks anymore, I finally put the sensor in my shoe and hooked up the iPod to see how close I am getting to the recommended distance.

See, you can either run a set distance or run a set time. Theoretically they should be close. In this case, a 25 minute jog was supposed to be about 2.5 miles. I know that's actually not that fast, but I had my doubts that I was even hitting that mark.

So imagine my surprise when my iPod reported that in 25 minutes 7 seconds I had traveled 3.77 miles for a pace of 6.39 minutes/mile. I mean, if I'm going that fast when I feel like I'm plodding along, maybe I should really train and blow everyone else out of the water during a real race.

Or maybe I should follow the directions in the calibration section of the user manual.

Anyhow, twenty-five minutes is a long time to think about things, and you might expect that I would come up with some real insight during that time, but here's a pretty good approximation of my thoughts as I make three laps around my section of the neighborhood:

- "If I lost another ten pounds this would be easier and probably better for my knees."

- "Hah, I avoided that branch at eye level that I always run into."

- "Ugh, it's probably only been about two minutes."

- "Why did I eat all that junk food an hour ago? That was a mistake."

- "Hm... bread. I love bread. Maybe I should bake some bread when I get home. I deserve it."

- "Seriously, how long have I been running? This is taking forever."

- "I'm not buying any more cookie dough. I don't need stuff like that."

- "Hm... cookie dough. I wonder if I have any left in the refrigerator..."

- "Dammit, that branch is going to put my eye out someday. I should bring some gardening shears with me next time."

- "Only one more lap. Thank god."

- "Is this section uphill? I've never noticed that before."

- "Hm... cheese. I love cheese. Cheese and bread together. Maybe with some cookie dough."

- "Ouch! My eye!"

- "Yay, I made it."

Deep thoughts. Yep.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Grand Tour

This week Mike and the Albinos came up to the Bay Area to visit.

They did the whole San Francisco Pier whatever-the-number-is sightseeing, along with the tour of the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield. Apparently there were a lot of obese people touring the candy factory. Go figure.

Jeff (along with Mike) barbequed some chickens with beer, only temporarily lighting the entire propane grill on fire in the process. They claimed that the non-charred part of the chickens was excellent. My veggie burgers were just fine.

They even built a tree house, although it's more like a tree deck with two support pillars that go down to the ground. I'm a little worried that the support pillars, which are sitting on a foundation of two bricks stacked on the dirt, will be a little unsteady after the next rain, but I suppose that even if the whole thing sags it's unlikely anyone will be seriously hurt since the platform is only a little over five feet off the ground.

K-Poo even made it back from China for the occasion and was remarkably coherent for someone who had just flown across the earth and hadn't slept for 48 hours.

Unfortunately the whole weekend was completely ruined when Mike confirmed that he also remembers the movie theater (there was only one theater) in Rolla, Missouri showing Silent Running as part of the children's summer movie series. Apparently I'm the only one who thinks that's crazy. The children's summer movie series was a weekly event where they showed things like Don Knotts movies (a la the Apple Dumpling Gang series) and the old Batman films during the day.

Silent Running is not a film I would show to a child. Okay, actually I wouldn't show it to anyone since it was made in the 70s and was pretty terrible. But I would especially never show it specifically to children. It's a dystopian nightmare, and people are being killed off throughout the whole film. By the end everyone is dead with the exception of one robot. Why would they think that belonged in the series?

Mostly what I remember about the film (aside from the scene where one of the robots is killed) is that the people whose whole purpose in life was to keep a bunch of plants alive couldn't figure out that the plants were dying because they weren't getting enough light. Even as a seven year old I knew that was stupid. I guess the movies being made today really aren't any worse than they used to be.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

It Pains Me To Say This

I had to bump my running plans by a day on Friday because I was having these weird sharp pains just under the left rib cage and it hurt to walk so I figured that running was out of the question.

I realize that normal people probably don't get irritated by pain just because it throws off their exercise program. Normal people probably actually take these things seriously and consult medical professionals. I never claimed to be normal.

My diagnostic plan (for pretty much everything) is to wait and see what happens. If I drop dead from it (outcome #1), well, at least I haven't spent long suffering, and hopefully someone will notice before my animals die of starvation. If it gets better (outcome #2, which has been how it's worked out so far) I haven't wasted any time being poked and prodded by people I don't know. And if it stays the same (outcome #3) then I know that I probably won't drop dead from it any time soon and the diagnostic approach continues.

Yes, yes, I'm aware that there are a few logical flaws in my plan, but at least I'm not clogging the emergency room with my visits.

Anyhow, it was better for a while on Saturday and then the pain showed up again the minute I started the five minute warm up walk. I decided that I'd ignore it and keep going as long as I could, which turned out to be a great idea. It's easier to ignore the general discomfort of running and lack of oxygen when you're thinking about sharp intermittent abdominal pain. It was my best run ever.

So against my better judgement I googled my symptoms today. We all know that's a bad idea and yet everyone does it. I've decided that I probably don't have pericarditis or a dissecting aortic aneurysm (see diagnostic outcome number 1). I think my legitimate rule-outs would include heartburn, gas in the colon (which mentions that the treatment is to "sit in a chair to rid the colon of the trapped air"), or stomach ulcers.

Whatever. If you need me I'll be sitting in my chair...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Just a Gigolo...

Couch to 5k continues, and the couch is certainly beckoning loudly. I may have to go apologize to the people on my route who lived near the spot where I realized my walking time was up and I had to go back to jogging. I might have said something mildly profane in an outside voice...

Anyhow, yesterday I actually left my house and went to a barbeque. Is the world ending?

Ngoc made some really excellent food for 80 people. Technically there were only six of us plus her family, but I heroically ate at least ten servings. It was only polite, after all.

My ex-cubicle-neighbor Jon was there, acting as the sous chef. He also brought his world-renowned deviled eggs (because, you know, there might have been a shortage of food otherwise) and I heroically ate some of those as well.

(It's possible that my definition of the word "heroically" needs some work. I realize this.)

Speaking of Jon, we were discussing his status now that he's not getting paid to sit next to me and come up with terrible puns all day. Jeff was going with "on sabbatical" or "retired". Jon might also be termed a "house husband". I say that since his wife is now the only one earning a paycheck that he's really a gigolo. It's not often I get to use that word. The good news is that Jon has a sense of humor about this sort of thing. Also, he could probably find a job in about five minutes if he wanted to since he has what the kids might call "mad skillz".

Anyhow, I eventually rolled out to my car at the end of the day and drove home, secure in the knowledge that I would never need to eat again.

Then I got up this morning and ate ice cream.

Yep, I'm an adult. I promise...

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Baby, we weren't born to run...

You know how you see some people out pseudo-jogging and it looks like they're running in place because they're just sort of swaying from foot to foot and you think "Why do you even bother?"...

Yeah, that's kind of me. Except I'm also gasping for breath at the same time.

Clearly I'm still closer to the couch than the 5k, which is really sad if you've seen my couch. And next week (i.e., Friday) I graduate to week four of the program which has five minute stretches of running. Maybe I really should bring my phone along with me so I can call a taxi to get back home.

A few quick unrelated rants:

- Do you know what's more boring than actually swimming? Yes, it's watching someone else swim, and I say this as someone who spent her formative years with green hair. Or worse, listening to other people talk about watching someone else swim. I think the Olympics need to be rescheduled to once every ten years. Or possibly discontinued completely.

- Why do they sell pet beds that can't be washed?

- How is it possible for me to sweep up one bag of dog hair off the floor, then brush another two bags off the dog and have her look exactly the same afterwards? She's like one of those Play-Doh toys where you press down on the lever and a bunch of strands come out. Or maybe like the hair cutting doll my sister had where you cut the hair and then pulled it out to make it longer. I think my next dog will be a Standard Poodle.

- Who am I kidding? My next dog is never a planned thing.

Right, well, I need to go "jogging" now. Wish me luck.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

So Far, So Good

Maybe I should buy myself some gold stars...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Master of the Obvious

Now that I've managed to get my weight into the "normal" BMI range (*) (**), it's time to bump up the cardio exercise just a bit. And really, I do mean just a bit. Because I pretty much don't like to break a sweat. I'm lazy; I'll admit it.

Anyhow, since I used to like running when I was a kid and I hate going to gyms, I decided to ease into things with the Couch-to-5K Running Plan. It's straightforward and starts off pretty slowly, both of which I need.

So far I've done the first workout of the first week. It wasn't too painful, but I did learn something:

Don't eat an ice cream Drumstick washed down with 12 ounces of Diet Coke in the ten minutes before running.

Really. That's what I've learned.

We'll see if I can remember that...

(*) When I say I'm in the "normal"  BMI range, I really mean solidly in the middle of the normal range. I don't look waifish. (Side note: Firefox wants me to correct "waifish" to "dwarfish" which is something that I suppose I do actually resemble.) I still have a gut. And despite all this, someone told me that I needed to put on a few pounds.

(**) If you want my secret, here it is: stop eating so much. That's it. I could spin it out into a few hundred pages, but that's really all it is. Luckily I don't get paid by the word.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Random Pictures

In the past ten years I think I've tried to grow sunflowers in my garden at least five times, and out of the hundreds of seeds I have planted, none ever sprouted. I finally decided that continuing to plant sunflower seeds fit the definition of insanity (i.e., doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result) and stopped.

Naturally, this came up on its own this year. It's about seven feet tall. I don't even water that patch of dirt.

The garden has been a bit neglected in general this year, but that doesn't seem to have bothered it one bit. I've never had any luck with annuals reseeding (other than weeds), but the marigolds came through for me. (I planted the basil behind it. Getting that to reseed would be too much to ask for.)

Speaking of ongoing attempts, Ripley the cat has spent the last two years desensitizing the dogs to his presence. I'm not sure Molly notices him at all though. In another ten years or so they might start sleeping together. (I think I need to get Ripley his own puppy.)

 And finally, in the interests of fairness, a picture of Ginger. Maybe I really should have gone with the pink camouflage bed...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Out in the Hood

I had one of those "this town is going to hell in a handbasket" moments recently when for the third time in one week I saw a car not move over into the passing lane to make room for someone merging onto highway 113.

A little background here: highway 113 (between Davis and Woodland anyhow) is two lanes in either direction with about twenty feet of grass between. It's very flat (except for one spot where it goes over the railroad tracks), straight, and has two spots where the CHP likes to radar people. Every once in a while during the summer the grass catches fire and causes a few cars to back up while waiting for the smoke to clear, but mostly the agreed-upon speed is sixty-five in the slow lane, and seventy-five in the passing lane. In late summer the on-ramps smell like rotting tomatoes because the Romas roll off the trucks when they go around corners. There is not that much traffic, and people tend to be more polite -- possibly because there's a reasonably good chance that if you make a rude gesture to someone it will turn out to be someone you know.

The Woodland on-ramps are almost half a mile long and very gently curved, and even in my Civic I can easily get up to 70 mph so that I could merge onto the highway even if there were traffic in the slow lane. But -- and this is different from busy freeways -- everyone, but everyone, moves over to make room. It's the little things.

So after seeing the third person not move over this week (new people!), I was reassured to see proper behavior by the next few cars. It's one of the things I like about Woodland.

Things like that remind me of a conversation I had with Jeff and Rvan a few months ago. I was ranting about people who feel the need to carry cell phones everywhere. They were surprised that I didn't carry mine with me to walk the dogs. (The furthest I ever get from home with the dogs on a walk is about four blocks.) I was surprised in turn to find out that they both carry not only their cell phones but their wallets and keys with them if they walk around the neighborhood.

Keys? Why would they need their keys?

Turns out they lock up their houses when they walk around the neighborhood.

Who does that?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Hell Attempts To Freeze Over, Is Foiled By Global Warming

My cubicle neighbor Jon had his last day at work on Thursday. In lieu of going out to a real restaurant for his going away lunch, we all went to the "Tenant Appreciation Lunch" put on by the property management. In order to make vegetarian lasagna, they replaced the meat with equal amounts of garlic. We all know how I feel about garlic (the food of the devil), so you can imagine how much I liked the lasagna.

Yes, I am complaining about free food.

Even better, when I went to get a cookie there was a crowd of at least fifteen people around the dessert table and the catering employee singles me out and says "Only one per person, please." Seriously. I was still five feet away from the table, so it's not like I was making a stack of desserts on my plate or anything. I can't even...

Jon actually ducked out of the Tenant Appreciation Lunch, so he didn't even make it to his going away lunch. (Okay, he had a good reason -- his daughter had just given birth a few hours before, so he was going to visit his new grandson. I'll give him a pass on that one.) But that was okay because part two of his going away was at a bar.

Yes. I went into a bar this week. A sports bar no less.

Full disclosure: I didn't actually drink any alcohol at the bar. Do I still get points for going? I did try to get alcohol, but they didn't have Blackthorn cider, so I stuck with Diet Coke. I ate a bunch of really, really greasy appetizers and I tried to ignore the surrounding televisions with pretty good success. If I were a dog, I'd have pancreatitis about now, but luckily I've trained my gall bladder well and I can eat a pound of oil without consequences. Other than feeling like I've eaten a pound of oil.

So there you have it. I went to a bar this week.

And people say that I never do anything...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Subversive "Art", part 2

It's a good thing I don't have to take reading comprehension tests any more, because things would just not go well.

I had the following list of Tory quotes:

"Penguins wings row water."
"Penguins fly little bit?"
"Frogs swim under water; swim round and round."
"Bunnies walk paws."
"Ladybugs no shoes, walk legs."
"Tree no legs, tree up high in the sky, float, wind."  

You'll notice that the first one has penguins rowing and the third one has frogs swimming.

So after a few days of not reading, I came up with:

Yep. And I didn't notice until I was actually writing the title (involving frogs and swimming) at the bottom.

Whatever. It still looks better than what's on the wall now.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Making the World a Better Place -- Four Square Feet at a Time

So I currently (at this moment in time) work in a large office complex where everything is about as bland as you can make it. The walls are beige, the carpet is... actually, I don't know what color the carpet is. I think it's some sort of grey/black pattern that comes in squares, but it's so boring I can't even remember what it looks like. The cubicles are beige on beige, and the ceiling is white. There is colorful artwork on the walls, but it's all prints of stuff that I think is specifically produced not to offend anyone. They all sort of look like someone swiped the test paper at the Home Depot paint aisle and put a frame around it, but I know nothing about art.

At least, that's what the art looks like everywhere except the wall right next to my cubicle. On that wall are three prints that are supposed to be some three-dimensional representation of the output of one of our programs overlaid on the geography of Rome. To say that it looks bad is an understatement. It sure as heck doesn't make the program look impressive. The only thing those pictures have going for them is that it's really difficult to see them because that corridor is somewhat narrow, so unless you stop to stare at the wall, you'll really just get a blur of blue and green out of the corner of your eye as you walk by.

It's a pixilated mess, and for once the problem is not my photography.

Jon and I got to talking and we decided that pretty much anything would be better than that. So I decided to fix the problem. Jon's leaving at the end of the month (unless someone comes to their senses first) -- I figure if there's a problem, I'll just blame it on him.

Since I wanted to just swap out the image, I had to make something that was about the same size. Two feet by two feet is huge, by my standards anyhow. I don't have any paper that big. In fact, all I have that size is a roll of plastic plotter paper that was going to get thrown out after the large plotter was retired. And since I was using that, I had to switch from watercolors to enamels.

Let me tell you -- enamels are perfect for people with short attention spans. This is the first painting I've ever done that I didn't accidentally smudge because one section wasn't dry when I thought it should be. (Not that the smudges ever changed the quality of the previous artwork, but still.) In fact, enamels dry so quickly that if you, say, need to stop to go remove the sheet of plastic that one of the cats is gnawing on, the paints might almost be dry before you get back.

This is the first replacement painting:

"Penguins Fly Little Bit?"

The title is from something that Rvan's kid Tory said. I don't think this is quite what she had in mind, but you never know.

The old "art" is just flipped around in the frame, so if anyone in building management ever notices, we can always restore it to the previous picture. However, the new picture has been in the frame for two days and absolutely nobody has even noticed.

I'm trying to start a betting pool for:
1) The first time someone who wasn't involved in the switch notices the change, and
2) The first time someone disparages the painting in my hearing (since it's not visibly signed).

(About the second point -- I realize this isn't museum-quality art. It's meant to be interesting and funny, nothing more. My feelings won't be hurt when someone points out that it looks like something a second grader would do.)

I still have the other two to do. Tory's mother suggested that I go with another quotation from this week:

"Boogie come out my nostril."

I think maybe I'd better hold off on that one...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Waiting For Something...

I actually have friends who enjoy literature. Not just the Hunger Games series (and that third book was a steaming pile if you ask me), but real lit-rah-ture. In fact, my vet school classmate Jill (aka, Jillypants, for reasons unknown to me) has a blog in which she and a high school friend are re-reading all of the stuff they read in high school English.

Then there's the rest of us. Here's a sample:

It started out innocently enough -- I was having a conversation with Eric (and I think it might have even been work-related) and I said it was like waiting for Godot, it never happened.

Then I had to admit that I'd never read "Waiting For Godot" and that all I really knew about it was that (** Spoiler Alert **) Godot never does show up.

Then Eric said "Waiting For Godot" was something that nobody actually read, but people just bought to display on their bookshelves to seem educated. We looked it up on wikipedia and it turns out it is a) a play, and b) written by Samuel Beckett. Then we read the one line summary and both of us admitted we would never go to see something like that.

Then I accused him of owning a copy of "Waiting For Godot", which he promptly denied and followed up with a denial of owning any literature with the exception of A Tale of Two Cities which he claims is a great book and the only one in four years of high school English worth reading.

I promptly started trash-talking Charles Dickens. I've read The Pickwick Papers (bloated and clearly written by someone being paid by the word) and you just can't get away from A Christmas Carol (which, like all things related to Christmas, is cloyingly sweet and should never again see the light of day). I did finally admit to not hating A Tale of Two Cities when I was in high school, because, compared to everything else we read, it was interesting.

So then we started trying to remember what else we did read. And it turns out that there was not a lot of knowledge transfer going on during our teenage years, because we came up with one book in common. In fact, I was able to name more books that the non-honors classes read (and I didn't) than I was able to come up with for the classes I was in.

Anyhow, we both remembered reading The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Or, more accurately, I remember reading the book, and Eric remembers watching the movie in class after they'd read the book.

Here is what I remember: The main character is a deaf guy and the book was really depressing, and I sort of have the feeling that he might have committed suicide in the end, although I won't swear to that.

Here is what Eric remembers: There was a sex scene in the movie.

So there you have it. Honors English clearly enriched our lives and made us better people.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Never Forget the Elephants

Way back in the dawn of time (aka, May 1981, I think but possibly 1980 or even 1979 -- my knowledge of my little sister's birthday is a little fuzzy, so sue me...) I was the cake decorator of the family. At the time I thought it was an honor, but in the ensuing years I've realized how much my mother hates being in the kitchen, so I'm thinking it was more of a Tom Sawyer-esque con job, but whatever. There are six kids in my family, and five of those have birthdays within a two month span, so I got a fair amount of practice. However, this was in the days before fondant and the internet. Also, it was in the days when the late Seventies were still holding sway, so style and taste were in short supply. Mostly I made a bunch of poorly-frosted, poorly-decorated cakes using every color of icing  available. I still claim this is far superior to serving store-bought cake though.

Anyhow, the year K-poo turned one I decided to make the following cake:

[Jojo the Enforcer tracked this down -- since my mom purged her recipe boxes a few years ago (as part of her twelve-step program of never voluntarily entering the kitchen again), I had to steal the image from this blog. Go show that blog some love.]

I was twelve (or possibly not, depending on which year it actually was) and I'd previously only made the cakes from boxed mixes. I hadn't done much baking at all at that point, whatever year it was. I missed a rather crucial ingredient and didn't have the experience to know that there was a problem until it was halfway through baking and looked like a toxic waste site with a layer of oil on the top and a bubbling dark layer of sludge underneath. Just so you know, flour is a really important ingredient when baking pretty much anything. See, I learned something. (Mostly what I learned is why I had always used boxed mixes up to that point.)

The second (post-tantrum) try went better, and here is the final product:

 This picture is full of win on so many levels it's almost unbearable. K-poo in a dirndl-like dress! Wood paneling! That high-chair tray! The cake that looks exactly (cough, cough) like the picture in the recipe! I'm pretty sure those are my arms and I'm wearing a velour shirt. (I had at least three of them...)

Good times, good times...

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Photographic Truth

This is the tree that knows its picture is being taken:

This is the tree three seconds later when it lets out the breath it has been holding:

And this is the William-Shatner-post-corset-removal tree:

I think that pretty much covers it...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Consume More!

There's a commercial that's currently playing on Hulu that epitomizes pretty much everything that is wrong with the world today. It's a cell phone ad that brags about how long the battery life is by showing two boys in a tent with their dad, watching videos on the phone. Isn't it great? They can sit inside the tent in the woods and watch a four inch screen all day and the battery will last that long!

It makes me want to throw things.

Ironically, I work for the company that funds that ad. Even worse, I am now getting that exact phone because they've come up with some idiotic rule that says everyone needs to have carry a company phone at all times and that company phone number needs to be listed in the email directory that every employee has access to.

That seems a little bit like... oh, say, being on-call 24-7. And we've already established that I'm not an on-call sort of person. I don't work in support. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to have my phone number aside from my boss and friends and family. I don't answer my phone unless I recognize the number, and I sure as heck don't carry my phone with me all the time. And guess what? The world doesn't end when I walk the dogs without my phone. I don't need to be able to look up things online when I'm not in front of a computer. I'd rather just be in the place where I am at the moment.

So basically some poor kid in China is being abused so that more of the earth's resources can be used to create a phone that I don't need, don't want, and don't intend to do anything with other than turn off and put it in a locked drawer somewhere so that it doesn't get stolen.

Yeah, that makes sense.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Suspicious Subject

So last week was the users' conference, during which a whole bunch of people got together in a hotel in some other state and did demos and training of a whole bunch of projects, including the one I work on. I had a great time, mostly because I didn't go, but also because a whole lot of people were at the conference and thus unavailable to bug me.

Even better, of the three remaining developers who were theoretically at work with me, one was sick and going on vacation, one was merely sick, and the third is so quiet I honestly had to stand up and look to see if he was even there. (He was.) Taken all together, that led to some fairly productive time, and I finally found the source of a problem in our product that has been plaguing me for months.

Naturally I sent Rvan email at about 9pm with the subject "The users should go away more often..." and then followed it with information about the bug and what was triggering it. I wasn't even thinking about the fact that Rvan would be projecting the contents of his laptop screen during his presentations the next day.

Luckily (or maybe unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), Rvan thinks about these sorts of things, and replied saying he was glad that I found it, but that he was going to delete that email so he didn't have that subject line presented to a few hundred of our users. The thing is, he didn't change the subject of the email when he replied, so when I got in the next morning and replied to his email telling him he was a spoilsport, I came really close to sending mail with the exact same subject. And that might have been a problem because Microsoft Outlook (ptui!) has a feature where it pops up a small window with the subject of newly-receive email.

I did happen to notice the subject before I sent it, and changed it to "RE: Great job Rvan!". Because, you know, sometimes I try to be nice.

Sadly, he had disabled the notification popup during his talks, so I wasn't able to use all of the rest of the subject lines I spent the rest of the afternoon coming up with.

Maybe next time...

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Neighborhood Watch (Me Not Do Anything)

Here's the problem with my neighborhood: my neighbors work too hard on the weekend. Sure, the fact that they keep up their yards and don't park their cars on the lawn are good things that keep the housing prices up (sort of) and keep the riffraff out. (Yes, I might be one of the riffraff...)

On the other hand, it's hard to really enjoy being slothful on the weekends when you can hear people working hard on the other side of the fence. While I'm lying on the futon out on the cat porch with the big dog snoring on the ground next to me, contemplating eventually getting a broom and knocking down the cobwebs that I've been staring at for the last two hours (or maybe just leaving them there for another week -- no rush), I can hear one neighbor using his leaf blower, and the other neighbor raking. It makes me feel, I don't know, lazy or something.

I don't think my neighbors realize how much they're hurting my feelings by making me feel this way.

Oh well. Whatever.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Just a Drive By

At some point soon I'll need to get a new car. Decision-making not really being my thing, this has been dragging on for quite a while.

The biggest problem is that I can't decide what I care about. Buying a house was relatively easy -- I had (X) dollars and my only real requirement was that it not have a pool. My realtor then showed me a bunch of houses that cost (X + $30,000) because that's what realtors do, and I bought one of them. (I occasionally, like last weekend, regret that pool requirement, but then I think about the likelihood that my pool would either be drained or full of green slimy water when I wanted to use it and realize that I made the right decision.)

The car requirements, though, change depending on my mood. Here is the list of number one requirements going back a few months:
  • Low cost
  • Good stereo with a way to connect my iPod
  • Little road noise
  • Great highway gas mileage
  • Not white
  • Four doors
  • Okay, at least three doors
  • Not a wagon
  • Fun to drive (high-torque, baby!)
  • Cheap
Unfortunately, depending on how you select from that list either no cars apply or a whole bunch of cars apply. It really didn't help things when Rvan told my the BMW 335d was "too much car" for me this week. Okay, sure, I'd probably end up in a ditch in less than a week, but still.

Anyhow, what will likely happen is that I'll just keep driving my Civic until it suffers from some catastrophic break down, at which point I'll walk to the nearest car dealership and buy the first thing I see.

Honestly I think that system is about as good as anything else...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Poor Imposture

I realized this week that the main thing wrong with the world is that it matters more whether you can get the job than whether you can actually do the job. It's such a pain to hire or fire someone, that as long as a person isn't waving a gun around and threatening to shoot someone, it's easier just to say "Eh, maybe he'll get better, and the next one could be worse" than it is to find someone else. (If a person actually is waving a gun around, that's probably not the right time to fire him either...)

Anyhow, I spent a large portion of the last week revising documentation for the product I've been working on for the past two years. Apparently we paid some vendor to write user guides less than a year ago, but things have been changed in the past six months. Since we've been pretty bad at documenting what changed, I'm pretty much the only person who really can update the user guide.

We've already established that I like to make fun of other people's spelling and grammar, but I went into this whole thing thinking "hey, it was written by a professional -- all I'll need to do is change the sections where we've changed the product."

Then I read the existing guide.

Here's a condensed version of what the hundreds of pages of professionally-produced user guides look like:

Table of Contents

Flow of Control
Task 1
Task 2
Task 3
Task 4

This user guide is meant to be used by the users.

Flow of Control
(Diagram that was superseded two years ago here.)

Task 1
The first task is done by the RF Engineer when they enter a Date and then click on the Submit button. Then you're done until you get to Task 2.

Task 2
After the first task, Task 2 should be done by the Regulatory user. They need to click on the approve button.

And on it goes. Seriously, if you write technical documentation for a living, shouldn't it just be second nature to format everything the same way? If you're going to capitalize and underline the button names, then capitalize and underline all of the button names. And we aren't speaking German, so random nouns shouldn't be capitalized, no matter how important you think they are. And I know there isn't a good gender-neutral pronoun, but one RF engineer is not a "they". That's just wrong. Also, if I'm the one who has to go through and figure out how to fix all of the MS Word styles in the document so the table of contents doesn't look like it was done by a schizophrenic, something is wrong.

Sometimes you just want to demand your money back.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Taxpayer #2 Strikes Again

I've got this tax thing down now -- it took me less than two hours to incorrectly fill out my federal and state taxes online this year. After I submitted the federal forms I even got the standard "Dear Free File Taxpayer #2" email.

Then I got the rejection notice about five minutes later.

Automatic rejection is apparently my new superpower. I'm never playing the lottery online.

Anyhow, I went back and clicked the radio button that I forgot to click the first time.

Then I got the second rejection email.

And I went back and clicked the same radio button again and submitted it again.

The third time was the charm for the whimsical binary gods, which is good since I don't think Rvan has any pull with the IRS.

I'm trying to figure out how to turn my new superpower into something useful or even lucrative, but I'm really having a hard time here...

Sunday, April 8, 2012

It's Easter...

Today was Easter which, in practical terms for the non-observant amongst us, really just means that parts of Woodland were closed all day and other parts of Woodland were open most of the day but closed early. I walked my dogs downtown, but there was no Easter parade for us to impress people at.

Anyhow, Easter for me means that I didn't get to buy groceries for the week because Nugget closed at 8 instead of 10, so I was one of the four people trying to walk through the non-opening automatic doors at 9. It's not the end of the world -- sure, I could have used some yogurt for my falafel, but I probably won't starve to death in the next week because I'm eating lunch at restaurants every weekday now.

One problem with going in to work every day is the lunch choices. Now instead of the regular Monday (Chinese), Wednesday (sushi), and Thursday (cafe) schedule, there are a whole two new days to fill. There just aren't another two restaurants near work that have food worth looking forward to every week, so that means that we'll actually have to make decisions at lunch time.

But really, if this is the biggest complaint I have in my life (and I'm not saying that it's not a super-important thing...), I probably have it pretty good.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


Well, congratulations are certainly in order for myself because I managed to get to work on Monday well before 7:45, so rest assured, the fate of East Germany does not lie in wait for my new company. Probably.

Naturally the training didn't start until at least 8:30, by which time I had almost gone back to sleep again. It would have been a little less painful if I had, because I was locked in a room for the morning with two young HR reps, three new salespeople who didn't look old enough to drive, and one adult manager in sales.

For four hours we talked about how to be successful. Frankly I consider it a success if I'm gainfully employed and don't hate to go to work in the morning, but apparently if you're in human resources or sales, you must have a plan about where you want to be in five years, and five years after that. Sadly, audience participation was required, and "I don't care, can I go do my work now?" wasn't considered a valid response.

I got to see a Powerpoint presentation with the pictures and descriptions of all of the West area sales management. I don't remember any of them.

By the end I was somewhat delirious from the lack of sleep and caffeine, so the part where we joined hands and sang Kumbayah around a campfire made of the laminated company credo may have been a dream. At least I hope it was.

In the afternoon we got to learn how easy it is to offend everyone and what to do about it. We were joined by one extra person, so it was the three teenagers on one side of the table and three "seasoned" people on the other side of the table. The little kids got every question wrong because they were thinking about the questions as any nice, innocent people would. My side of the table got every question right because we've been around long enough to know that the correct answer in these sorts of training is always "rat everyone out as soon as possible so the company doesn't get sued". The only tricky part is coming up with a reason that doesn't sound like that. If someone were keeping score, we would have crushed the kids.

Then I went back to my cubicle and did some actual work.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


After nearly four months (or four years, or possibly eighteen years depending on how you calculate things) I will be an official employee as of tomorrow.

Yes, I managed to pee in a cup not once, but twice (or even three times if you count the time almost four years ago), and pass the background check again (and actually that also was the third time in four years). There were also interviews with four different people. All for a job which I've been doing successfully enough this whole time that they opened the position in order to hire me (or someone at least as capable) in the first place.

So... if you're wondering why your cell phone bill is so high, now you know.

Anyhow, tomorrow I receive my secret decoder ring and learn the company handshake. At least, I think that's what is supposed to happen. It must be really important stuff because I'm supposed to be there at 7:45 in the morning. Without admitting too much, we'll just say that is multiple hours before I normally get to work in the morning. Adding in the additional commute time during rush hour, I do the math and come up with the fact that I need to get up really, really early. As in, a time that is closer to when I normally go to bed than when I normally get up in the morning.

This could actually be a problem. This might be the highest length of time spent getting a job to having a job in the entire history of the world. After all, I missed a trip to East Germany in 1988 because I overslept. And look what happen to East Germany.

Not that I'm saying my being late for my first day of work after eighteen years of working there would bring down the company or anything.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

You also can't make an omelet if you drop the eggs on the floor...

All I was looking for today was a good excuse to get out of mowing the lawn.

It all started out well -- I managed to stay in bed until almost 10am, which is something of a miracle in itself. By the time everyone was fed and everything was cleaned up it was time for lunch.

Then I talked to my parents on the phone until the dark clouds rolled in, so everything was looking very promising.

However, as dark as the clouds were, they refused to dump rain so I was forced to go outside, drag the mower out of the garage, and plug it in.

Halfway through the front lawn the power went out in the neighborhood. Naturally the long half of the lawn was still uncut.

I spent the downtime checking out my neighbors' new kitchen-in-progress (Hotter was working on the wainscoting, whatever that is, at the time) and then I got the entire egg production of four chickens for the past three days. What I was going to do with nine eggs we'll never know, because while I was out walking the dogs later, the cats knocked over the container and four of them landed on the floor. Four raw eggs on the floor don't make a mess or anything...

Anyhow, the power came back on after half an hour so I had no further excuse to put off finishing the lawn.

So there we have it. Another perfectly good Sunday gone.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A defensive move...

This is what I do in the morning:

  1. Turn off the alarm that I set for 6:30 just so I can be happy I don't have to get up at 6:30.
  2. Go back to sleep.
  3. Turn off the alarm that I set for 7:00 just so I can enjoy not getting up at 7:00.
  4. Go back to sleep.
  5. Throw the bitey cat off the bed a few times.
  6. Get up.
  7. Stagger to the kitchen. Feed the cats.
  8. Stagger outside with the dogs and sit on the concrete in the backyard while they do their thing (because if I don't go outside with them, they run out the door, do a u-turn and come back inside, and then have accidents in the house).
  9. Come back inside with the dogs and feed them.
  10. Slowly wake up.
  11. Get dressed and walk the dogs.
  12. Take a shower and get ready for work.

Note that at no time before step 10 is there anything like "Brush my hair" or "Become presentable". That's because I live alone in a house and I have a fence surrounding my backyard, so nobody has to know that I just got up a 9am, or that I'm looking like the creature from the black lagoon when I take the dogs outside.

However, this week my neighbors were having their roof redone. So step 8 1/2 was: "Wave to the roofers as I take the dogs back inside."

Clearly I need a higher fence.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Rich Inner Life. Really.

I was finishing my weekly trip to the best supermarket ever, and the checker asked me if I did anything fun this weekend.

So I tried to remember what I did for the past two days, and the first thing that came to mind was that I mowed the lawn. And while I was mowing the lawn, I was trying to track down the source of the "la la la" song that was stuck on repeat in my head.

About two mower-widths into the lawn, I realized that it was the song that the Smurfs sang as they went about doing whatever it was that Smurfs did. (Jojo the Enforcer watched the Smurfs when she was little -- I saw a lot of the episodes because I was nearby.)

Then I thought about Gargamel for a while and wondered what exactly it was that he did. I think he was an evil sorcerer or something. (Imagine that interview: "Describe a problem you faced and what you did to solve it." Given the number of episodes where Papa Smurf outwitted Gargamel, I can only imagine that Gargamel would have a hard time answering that question.)

Then I tried to figure out what exactly the Smurfs actually did, other than get into trouble. I could do that job. Except I'm not blue. But wouldn't that be discrimination?

And these thoughts carried me through mowing and edging the lawn.

So all this was going through my head as I was standing at the checkout counter and I finally told her I didn't do anything all weekend...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Great Job

Because I know how much everyone loves the ongoing saga (and also so everyone is in the loop when I become unemployed for such a long time that I need to move in with someone), I offer you all the latest in my attempt to get my current job:

After a suitable pause to allow everyone in the entire chain of command to laugh about the automatically rejected application, I was told to fill out the on-line application again. But first, SomeGuyWhoWon'tBeNamed had to reopen the job since HR had already closed it. Then I had to create another login since you can only apply for a specific job once. And then I had to answer all the questions again.

When you answer the question "Are you willing to relocate?" with "No" (since there was no "Hell no" option), why would it then force you to answer "What is your first choice of location?" and also "What is your second choice of location?"? It wouldn't even let me make the same choice for both.

So, there we have it, everything was all submitted. Again.

And then it was automatically rejected. Again.

However, it turns out that SomeGuyWhoWon'tBeNamed was able to unreject the rejection somehow. So then we had the interview. We'll just say that between the attention-deficit challenged pair of us, half of the questions asking about my current boss, SomeGuyWhoWon'tBeNamed needing to write down every answer at the speed of a cold tortoise, me having no idea how to answer any of the questions, and SomeGuyWhoWon'tBeNamed telling me every time that I did come up with an answer that there was a better answer, the interview just confirmed my feelings that I am unemployable.

The technical part went better, which is funny because that's where I really don't know anything unless I can google it.

Anyhow, as I was lying in bed on Friday morning, the HR person called to set up the screening interview. Because why would we do anything in the proper order? Unfortunately, the cats took the phone ringing as a sign that it was time to loudly complain about the lack of food. It's always very professional to have multiple cats howling in the background as you answer the phone.

So, yeah, I have the screening interview tomorrow.

I'm pretty sure I can retire on my savings if I move to Nepal.

(Edited to hide the pseudonym of SomeGuyWhoWon'tBeNamed who "values his lifelong position here".)

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Every once in a while I realize that I missed some important class in becoming an adult. For instance, I've lived in this house almost ten years, and for ten years I've been meaning to buy a kitchen table. I still don't have a kitchen table.

I have a picture in my head of the type of table I want (rectangular, all wood, one solid piece, square legs), but as to how to find that sort of thing, I have no idea. So I just don't have a kitchen table.

I have a couch that is pretty much the definition of a bio-hazard. It was mostly okay when I got it (from my brother) but it was already at least ten years old at that point. I've had it another ten years, and a few of those years the couch served as the dog bed for the blind, occasionally-incontinent wonder dog. Scooter has also had his way with that couch. I don't sit on that couch. It's just taking up space in the living room. But buying a new couch and getting rid of the old one requires a level of planning that I just don't possess. That was in the Becoming An Adult 101 class as well.

I have a television that I haven't plugged in for three years. I never bought a digital converter box, so even if I wanted to use it I couldn't. I'd throw it out or take it to e-waste, but I can't lift it, so it will sit in the (unused) entertainment center with the (unused) DVD player and (unused) stack of CDs until either the house burns down or someone else moves in.

Is this why people get married?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

I Love 'em Like Brothers

Rvan and Jeff were in Texas at some management meeting earlier in the week (I know, the fact that they sent Jeff to one of these things is funny all by itself), which gave Rvan and his boss and her boss yet another chance to giggle about the fact that HR rejected my application.

Jeff won his own heavy glass weapon award for complaining the most. Or maybe it was for outstanding leadership. We'll just say it's for something I'll never be qualified for.

One of the highlights of Jeff's trip was spending too much time in the hot tub and then realizing the next morning that he didn't know where his (only pair of) shoes were. Luckily the hotel staff kept better track of his stuff than he did.

In the meantime, Eric has been trying to tell me the joys of the Korean soap operas dramas that he's been watching lately. Apparently it's just bad luck to be a cute, non-obnoxious child in a Korean drama. Also, the suitable male doctor in the love triangle ("and there's always a love triangle") never gets the girl.

Eric told his Korean friend what he was watching and her response was "You should come to Korea and watch the dramas with the rest of the grandmothers."

You have to love stuff like this.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

It may not be a coincidence...

I spent about five hours implementing a Rube Goldberg-esque solution to the problem of Microsoft Outlook lacking features developed in the 80s, so while my brain was relaxing I noticed something interesting on Facebook...

In the right sidebar (which I usually don't even look at), it has two pages recommended, the first of which is "Dancing". Now I'm not really sure why I would "like" a page for something so generic as dancing, but apparently almost 12,000,000 people have. Whatever, I thought, some people will "like" anything.

Directly below it was the "Sponsored" section with an ad from Starbucks, home of the "nothing under five hundred calories" drink. I haven't been to a Starbucks in probably about two years -- I don't really drink coffee and I found everything they sold to be overpriced (okay, fine) and too sweet. It was that latter bit that really blows my mind. I've had three boxes of Good & Plentys in the last week, so clearly a little processed sugar doesn't bother me, but every time I've had food from Starbucks I've taken a few bites and thought "wow, this is too sweet even for me". (And then, I'll be honest, I've finished it anyhow because that's what I do, but still.)

Anyhow, over 28 million people have "liked" Starbucks.

That pretty much explains a lot of things...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Soon the CEO will be calling...

In case I didn't believe that the whole world was conspiring to laugh at me already:

Today my boss (Rvan) got to chuckle with his boss' boss about the fact that my application to be hired for the job I already do was rejected by HR.

Paranoid? Me?


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Mamma Mia Suck-a

Okay, so I make fun of Jeff not being able to get out the door with everything he needs to ride home every day, and yet every time I feel like watching a movie I can't remember the name of any movie that I thought might be good to see. I watch fewer than ten movies a year, and I know more than that come out every year where I see the trailer and thing "Hm, maybe I'll watch that when it comes out on iTunes." However, my hash table is essentially one direction, so I can't get information when I want to get a list of movies that I had that thought for.

Anyhow, while browsing through stuff on iTunes yesterday I saw Mamma Mia, The Movie. I'm not a huge fan of musicals, but this movie had a cast full of people I've liked in other roles (Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth) and while it's a tad embarrassing to admit, I sort of like some ABBA songs.

Wow. That's the first time I've gotten through a movie with a run time of 1:48:36 in less than an hour. After about twenty minutes I started skipping forward to see if it got any better. It didn't. The actors all seemed vaguely ashamed. The scenery wasn't that great. Even the extras seemed to realize how bad this thing was.

I don't know. Maybe I'm not the target audience. Maybe it worked out better as a stage production. Maybe they should have made Colin Firth lose some weight and his shirt. Anything would have improved this clunker. I swear some of my friends have recommended this movie in the past.

This is why I watch bad action films instead. At least I know what I'm getting into before I waste two hours of my life.