Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Casual business

Every year we have Breast Cancer Awareness week at work (although it boggles my mind that anyone can be UNaware these days). In recent years, this fund raising event has been dubbed "Denim Day" because we get to wear denim if we donate $5 to the cause. (Fortunately, the money does not go toward breast cancer awareness but to your choice of a research fund or a mobile mammogram unit; more about that later.)

This year the subject line of the memo announcing the event was "Denim Days start Sep. 29" and the memo ended with "Contributors are encouraged to celebrate Denim Days and Breast Cancer Awareness Month by wearing jeans, along with something pink, on Monday, October 5."

Well, I misinterpreted the subject line and the last sentence of the memo to mean, starting Sep. 29, we were to wear denim, and on Oct. 5, also wear something pink. Guess who the only person in the building wearing jeans today was? Well, not the only person. I saw one other who must have the same reading comprehension abilities as I have.

Re the mobile mammogram unit, I took advantage of its presence in our parking lot a year (or two?) ago. That will probably be my last mammogram. The technician managed to twist my right breast before applying tectonic pressure with the plates, and it was excruciating. It made me cry. My breast ached for a week. It seems counter-intuitive that treating breasts like this is a good thing. Plus I read (in a book the name of which I cannot remember) that, anecdotally, mammograms save lives, but statistically, NOT. For now, I will take my chances.

Almost two weeks and still no news on the position I interviewed for. I'm guessing that I am not their first choice, but if they can't find anyone better, they might give me a chance. Or they are negotiating with my boss for my release. Or they have made a decision but no one has bothered to tell me what it is. Or (fill in the blank)....

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Secret Life of Words

A quiet film, "The Secret Life of Words" starts by introducing Hanna. Deaf, she works in a factory and lives in isolation, exhibiting some OC behavior. Her boss forces her to take a holiday, which she dutifully does by traveling to Ireland. There, she overhears a phone conversation and, revealing that she is a nurse, offers to tend an injured man on an oil rig.

Hanna has suffered a monstrous tragedy in her past, which is slowly revealed. Likewise, the fire on the oil rig that killed one man and injured another, carries its own tragedy, which is also slowly revealed. The sick bay, an island within the island of the oil rig, provides a safe place for both Hanna and her charge to reveal their injured selves, both physical and emotional.

The oil rig is populated by a small crew of "quirky alones". The men are drawn to Hanna despite her initial aloofness, and her interaction with them allows her to emerge from her self-imposed shell.

The movie is sad, but there is an undercurrent of joy (partially provided by the sound track) that illustrates how the human spirit can carry forward despite unspeakable horrors.

The movie is driven by dialog, hence played well on my small TV. Highly recommended.

Friday, September 25, 2009

That was quick

Shortly after our current governor took office, the BMV system became horribly broken. Not only did the online system roll belly up, we stopped receiving renewal notices; the state said it was our responsibility to magically know what we owed and to pay up or else. At the same time, wait times at the BMV offices ballooned, and the state's response was to remove the wall clocks (because, hey, we are too stoopid to carry watches or cell phones). Also, no food or drink allowed PLUS no using the restrooms, no matter how many hours it took. Equipment broke down regularly and computer data was garbled. The only bit of sunshine throughout this ordeal was the employees, who remained mysteriously upbeat despite the glitches and flaring tempers.

For several years, I gave up trying to renew my plates online because the plates would not arrive until after the old ones expired, and the police said it did not matter if you had a receipt proving you had purchased your new plates WEEKS ago, an expired plate was an expired plate. I never heard of anyone actually being cited for expired plates, but it still made me nervous.

A couple of years ago, things started to improve. The state lured people back to using the online system by offering $5 off the fees. Even though wait times had improved at my local office, I risked renewing online. And it worked!

This year I needed to renew my driver's license, which has to be done in person. There are new rules coming down the pike regarding proof of identity, but they don't go into effect until the first of the year. While double checking this info online, I noticed I could schedule an appointment at my local BMV to renew my license. Huh. So I did. But you know what? I did not need it. Either I picked the best time on the best day of the month to renew or else the BMV finally got their shit together. I was in and out of there in less than twenty minutes; the longest part of the wait was the developing of my pink (?!?) license. Even the photo looks halfway decent. And since I don't have to renew my license for six years, maybe they will have the additional identification requirements ironed out by then.

While waiting for my license, I overheard part of a conversation between two local small businessmen. In general, my state is RED but it turned BLUE in the last presidential election, probably from lack of oxygen. And these two gentlemen sounded red to me. But while they were wary of the new health care proposals, one of them stated loud and clear that he thought he would never vote for a Republican again. So while President Obama's approval ratings may be slipping, I'm guessing there is not going to be a corresponding rise in the popularity of the GOP. Yet.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Whatever happened to the four-day work week?

I almost took a "mental health" day today (not that such things are sanctioned where I work) because I suffered through two lousy nights sleep in a row, but since I was neither shaky nor weepy, decided to tough it out. And I'm glad I did because I made an attitude adjustment that enabled me to label myself a troublemaker instead of a victim. And I mean "troublemaker" in a good way, because in the end, the users of the app I support were well served. No awards were given, but I felt good.

Somebody else did give me an award, though: flurrious.

Not only do my readers (all two of them) of my FIVE blogs (this one, one for knitting, one for home and garden, one for the neighborhood association, and one for a non-profit) rarely comment, I have a hard time getting co-workers to respond to my emails. But even that improved today. Must be some kind of harmonic convergence.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Friday was one of those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days.

The interview Thursday started out well, but I fell down during the second half when a lot of specific and technical questions were asked about Oracle. I've never had any formal training, so I don't know the actual terminology or definitions of all things SQL, but I have always been able to figure out what needed to be done or found the information in books or online or from co-workers. I tried to stress that in the interview, but I'm not sure how it went over.

So I was already feeling a bit battered when someone did not just press my buttons on Friday but leaned on them, heavily. I won't bore you with the details, but my head exploded. I don't think I showed how upset I was, but when everyone left for lunch, I found myself pacing my 9'x9' cubicle and just had to get outside. Fortunately, it was a beautiful day. I walked around the construction site and the pond until the feeling returned to my extremities and I could breathe again. When I returned to my desk, I was calm enough to deal with the situation.

Friday night, though, the whole upset came flooding back when I tried to go to sleep. I spent half the night chewing on my work situation, plus the yoga class thing, plus several other problems in my life. And I did come up with some strategies, so the insomnia was not a total waste of time. Sometimes we are awake at 2AM for a reason.

On a separate note, I performed a little blog cleanup in the sidebar today. Despite my IT background, sometimes I am a little slow to adopt new technology. I just recently switched from IE to Chrome for my browser, and consequently to Google Reader for my blog feeds. Blogger has a "Blog List" gadget that can be populated directly from Google Reader. Easy peasy!

Friday, September 18, 2009

To sleep, perchance to sleep

A couple of months ago, I went shopping for a new mattress. Since I have a waterbed frame, I needed a waterbed insert, i.e. an odd-sized mattress, no foundation, that will fit in the frame. This limits my selection, so I did not expect to have to make much of a decision between models except for price and comfort. But at one store I was told I could get a Tempurpedic. I laid down on one and just about drifted off to sleep right then and there. So what if it is a petroleum product?

I did not make a decision right away because 1) Tempurpedics are more expensive, 2) Tempurpedics are really heavy and awkward, and 3) I was not convinced I would like it in the long run. So I did what I usually do when I can't make up my mind about something: I waited. I also talked to myself, saying things like, "You spend at least one-third of your life in bed, shouldn't you be comfortable, price be damned?"

Then I also did a little online research and found a significant number of complaints about Tempurpedics, complaints like the 20-year-warranty is about 15 years too long because the mattresses wear out early on and the manufacturer won't honor the warranty, etc. I know some people with Tempurpedics, and while they love theirs, none of them have owned them for more than four years. So I decided to get a conventional mattress, which will probably need to be replaced in 10 years. At that time, I will revisit the Tempurpedic question.

The new mattress was delivered last Saturday morning. Good-bye, saggy pillow top, hello Therapedic New Castle! Already my back feels better. I also can sleep on my left side without feeling like my lungs are being compressed, something I have not done for quite some time now; I blamed my scoliosis but I guess it was just the mattress.

But one thing bothers me: When I signed the receipt, the delivery guy made a point of telling me to put it in a safe place, like under the mattress, so I would know where it was. Ever slow on the uptake, it was about 24 hours later that I wondered WHY I would be needing that receipt. Is my new mattress going to wear out prematurely? I hope not, because now that the new mattress smell has dissipated, I am liking it. A lot.

I tried researching the Therapedic online, but other than complaints about their memory foam model, could not find much. So maybe everything will be okay. Hope I don't lose sleep over that.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The conference room accepted my invitation

My interview is tomorrow. It's a telephone interview. Since I work in a cube, in order to achieve more than a pretense of privacy, the interview will take place in a conference room (on a speaker phone - real private). Reserving the conference room involves "inviting" the conference room to a meeting, a meeting that is occurring at the exact same time as my interview. Fortunately, the conference room is free even though I am not.

The parking lot outside the office is now a big pile of broken asphalt and a small mountain of gravel. We have to park on the other side of the building. The guys here are suffering from Bobcat envy. I can't wait for the trees to lose their leaves - they block the view of the construction site from the second floor. A new building! It's kind of exciting.

I skipped yoga last night. Or rather, I skipped yoga class. I practiced at home instead. There I could decide which poses to do and how long to hold them. I also did some extras that my lower back really needs but that have been missing from class. And an inversion! The Tuesday night instructor is relatively new, but I thought she would have a clue by now. She seems afraid we won't like her if she makes us work and acts apologetic for putting us through a sun salutation. I have actually lost strength from her class, but hers is the only one offered by the studio that suits my weeknight schedule. What to do, what to do. Maybe it's time for a change.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sign of the times

We received notice at work that our pensions are being frozen. Actually, new hires have not had the option of participating in the pension plan for some time now. Instead, they get an extra company contribution to their 401k. Now we all will get that, plus those with frozen pensions will get an additional transitional amount. I actually like this method better, because the calculations for one's pension always seemed a bit, well, mysterious.

Re the new position I applied for at work: I had an interview scheduled for this afternoon, but "they" cancelled it at the last minute, due to a meeting conflict. I find this a bit odd, because we have software for scheduling meetings that detects such conflicts. A co-worker who is also applying for one of the open positions had his interview today, though, and from the kind of questions they asked him, I am less hopeful that I will get the job. Another co-worker questioned whether I really wanted the job, which further wobbled my leaky craft. At any rate, I don't have to worry about it again until next week, so I won't.

On a positive note, construction on the new building should start soon. Or at least, the parking lot will be carved up into construction and non-construction territories this weekend. Baby steps.

Friday, September 04, 2009


Tired of listening to myself whine about my job, I finally did something about it: applied for an open position within the company. It's an IT position, but in a business department instead of IT proper. And it is right here, in this building, on the same floor even, with people I already know. The work, however, would be something new, at least, and maybe interesting. I don't think it could be worse than my current plight. The application process is online on our intranet, so I am hoping that I have better luck than I have had with other online processes lately. We shall see, come next week.

Why the sudden motivation? Maybe it has something to do with waking up each morning, chanting "F*ck, f*ck, f*ck, F*CK!" Maybe it has something to do with the insomnia, which already seems to have become resistant to the caffeine reduction program. Maybe it's the stomach churning in the middle of the night. I need to hang in for at least another 2.5 years, but I don't think I'll make it if my stomach hurts and I can't sleep and my language skills continue to deteriorate.

And maybe some of the motivation comes from the blogs I read. Jane changed jobs a while back, and is happier than ever. Laurie decided to move and just like that, it was done. Noelle has been floundering a bit lately, but is on a new course of self-discovery that I greatly admire. If they dare, so can I.

Gee, I feel better already.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Oh. Hello, there

I didn't announce it, but somehow I took a summer hiatus from this blog. I'm not alone in this phenomenon, so we'll skip the guilts and just carry on like nothing ever happened. Because nothing did.

When we last saw our heroine, she was battling insomnia, trying to lose weight, beginning her summer reading, watching movies, whining about work, and otherwise engaged in mindless shitshat chitchat.

On the insomnia front, I am achieving some success with the caffeine reduction plan. Since I always make it a point to stop drinking coffee by 2pm, I did not think the beverage of champions was contributing to my insomnia. But then one day it occurred to me that I have lost my tolerance of alcohol and developed a sensitivity to artificial sweeteners and started farting more and otherwise been experiencing a variety of complaints related to aging, maybe I should cut back on the joe, just to see what happens. And guess what? I am sleeping better. Not perfectly, but better. I still have a couple of cups of coffee in the morning and one after lunch, but that's it. The trick is not to get sucked back into overconsumption after a bad night. Like last night.

Re weight loss, while I had some success with the Flat Belly Diet, the weight loss appeared to be limited to about seven pounds. I kept that off, until vacation, when I gained a pound, and until my post-vacation funk, when I gained two more pounds. Now I am back into my work-home rut, so I can return to my dieting rut as well. (Note: on vacation, we attended a celebration of my dad's 90th birthday. I dressed in my most slimming black slacks and top. Between that and the yoga, I looked pretty good, if I do say so myself. All to impress my sisters-in-law. I'm pathetic.)

The summer reading has been fun, if sporadic. Michael Connelly's The Scarecrow is not one of his best, but still a page turner. Not Becoming my Mother by Ruth Reichl is short and sweet. At first, it seemed a bit depressing because Mom at 70 was still wondering who she was. Fortunately, she later became herself, so there is hope for all of us, if we just live long enough. Still working on Insomniac - it is not only long, but densely packed. Almost gave up on Hello, Goodbye by Emily Chenoweth but I'm glad I finished it. Ready to start The Art of Travel because I like Alain de Botton's ironic insights (and he doesn't beat you over the head with them) and lately I have had the urge to visit Paris.

I don't know why I continue my subscription to Netflix. Right now there is a DVD sitting on top of the TV and I don't even know what it is. I find it difficult to sit still to watch a video (but not to knit or read - go figure), so the last video I watched, "Craft in America", was perfect. It's actually a 3-part PBS special, so I could watch one part at a time. A one hour commitment is do-able. Previously, I watched "Revolutionary Road" (excruciatingly depressing) and "The Reader". I think I'll go back to foreign films.

What can I say about work? I don't like to blog about work, so let's just say I have always found corporate politics to be baffling, it amazes me that any company is profitable, and if HR showed up at my cubicle door with a pink slip, I would take my severance and RUN.

How was your summer?