Thursday, May 31, 2007

It's Begun

Last day of work for that company...

and its begun already. My mother says that she'd rather that I didn't look for another job, since I made the mistake of telling her that the one I'm looking at would involve some travel. "We want you here", she said -- which I'm sure is true, but which almost triggered the observation that if we didn't pay several thousand dollars a year for her one - day - a - week companion, I might be willing to just chuck it and stay home. (We're not going to tell her -- truth to tell, I doubt she has a clue what it costs. And we're doing it as much for us as for her. ) If this job doesn't work out, we'll still likely keep the companion, but we might go to a lesser schedule. And even with that, if I'm home, I know what that'll mean in terms of 'can you come look at this', and 'since you're going out, can you go to the grocery store for me'. I don't mind it, but I don't want to appear as the 'always available gofer'.

My daughter came home and said 'I'm home!' (as she usually does) and today's my dad's last day of work!' I asked her if this made her happy or sad, and she shrugged. Not a big deal to her. She's already opined that in the summer, she might not care if I'm gone on occasion, but in the fall -- might be a different story. We talked a little about her day. She told me that she likes the people she's teamed with for a project, because each of them is a hard worker, and they do what they say they'll do, and they have complementary skills. She told me she tries to keep in touch with what each is doing, and I told her that in my opinion, that's one of her mother's strengths -- not necessarily being the smartest or the most experienced, but being very good at keeping in touch, keeping things moving, helping out as necessary. She said she thought she had that skill, and I said that I would rather have that than be handsome -- to which she replied 'But you're not handsome!' What a great kid....

The office folks did take me out to lunch, at which there was discussion about the project thats resulting in all of these layoffs. The conclusion is that its going to implode at some point, because its just barely working now, and they're adding stress to it. In fact, one woman who is involved with it turned to me at lunch and said 'Take me with you' -- and she wasn't entirely kidding.

On to the next challenge....

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Here's The Door

I learned this morning, in a Washington Post article, that the layoff crew is busy again at my company. As before, they're laying off about 1500 people; as before, they characterize it as a good thing, and part of the normal part of doing business; as before, they're not making any annoucements internally -- you have to find out through the grapevine.

Have to admit that it makes me angry, all over again. I don't care at any but a superficial level what happens to this company -- I have very little emotionally invested in it. Yet this kind of shabby treatment of people who do have a lot invested -- some approaching thirty years -- angers me. When are the people who design these tactics held accountable? When do they show that they in fact had no other, preferable alternative? When do they demonstrate the good faith that they demand from the people who work in the organization?

Never, would be my guess.

Midday

By this time tomorrow, I'll be out of here.

The plan is that I will come in around 1030, sign the paper, hand in the various pieces of physical material, and go out to lunch. I won't come back here afterward, other than to pick up my car.

I must admit to feeling a little bit melancholy about it all, and a little apprehensive. Melancholy, because I hear things going on around me, and they don't involve me. Apprehensive, because -- well, I don't know whats going to happen. Will they, actually, offer me a job? And if so, will I want it? What if not -- what then? Can we really survive comfortably without me working? What if my wife loses her job -- what then?

Intellectually, I think we'll be fine. Emotionally -- well, I'm a bit of a worrier.

Presidential Picks

According to the folks at SelectSmart, here's how the people currently running line up against my attitudes. Not too much surprise, but a little, yes --

Joseph Biden (67%)
Hillary Clinton (66%)
Dennis Kucinich (65%)
Barack Obama (62%)
John Edwards (62%)
Al Gore (60%)
Christopher Dodd (58%)
Wesley Clark (56%)
Bill Richardson (49%)
John McCain (42%)
Mike Gravel (42%)
Ron Paul (41%)
Tommy Thompson (39%)
Mike Huckabee (38%)
Rudolph Giuliani (38%)
Chuck Hagel (32%)
Tom Tancredo (30%)
Elaine Brown (28%)
Kent McManigal (28%)
Mitt Romney (28%)
Sam Brownback (28%)
Jim Gilmore (27%)
Fred Thompson (27%)
Duncan Hunter (26%)
Newt Gingrich (23%)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sheehan

I see where Cindy Sheehan has left the antiwar movement to others.

I'm sorry to see her go. She had -- and has -- more guts than most people; certainly more than our thin-skinned light-brained President. To quote from a movie -- Bush should stick to politics, because Cindy Sheehan is way out of his league.

I wish her well.

Engine

I heard a joke some years ago that went something like this:

A woman goes to a mechanic and says 'When I buy pistachio ice cream, my car won't start'. As you might expect, the mechanic is dumbfounded. "Say what?" She tells him that she's in the habit of going to a local store after dinner to buy some of their freshly made ice cream. If she gets chocolate, or vanilla, the car starts just fine. But if she gets pistachio -- He just gives her The Look, and she says 'Tell you what. Next couple of times I go, I'll stop by here and pick you up. You'll see.' And she does. They go to the store, she goes in, comes right back out with vanilla, car starts right up. Next time she goes in, gets chocolate, car starts right up. Third time she goes in, comes out with pistachio -- and the car won't start. They sit there for a few moments, and she says 'okay, now it will start'. And it does.

What?

You buy ice cream in the summer. It's hot in the summer. She would go into the store, grab one of the popular flavors, chocolate or vanilla, already packaged, and be out quickly. Pistachio wasn't so popular, so she would have to wait for them to package it. And in that extra time, in the heat, the car would develop -- a vapor lock. And until the lock evaporated, the car would get no fuel, and it wouldn't start.

I have a vapor lock happening with this laptop, and I am sure that if I tell a Knowledgeable Person, I'll get the same reaction. One of those things you'd rather live with than have to explain to someone.

Every so often, the search in Google goes whacky. I can ask it to find pages with Truck on them, and it'll return a list. And when I click on one of the entries that clearly says TRUCK -- the page is iTunes. Every time. If I look for an image, all of the images are that hash character you get when it can't display the image. And its not just Google -- Yahoo and Alta Vista, same thing. The only thing I know is that its somehow Firefox's fault -- because if I do the same search on Internet Exploder, while Firefox is having the problem, it works.

I turn the PC off and on, and its all fine again.

What?

Canada, Missiles, A Volvo, and The Lone Ranger




Compulsions

This is kind of weird. I am within three days of leaving this company. I really just want to go, at this point. My feeling is You don't want me? Fine, I'm gone.

Yet I'm still applying for jobs within the company, because its what I think I ought to do.

Sometimes I think I don't know my own mind very well.

Video

This is a very brief but curiously gratifying video.

Tuesday Already?

Strange start to the day.

Took more insulin last night; this morning's reading is way UP. What the hell?

Made waffles using the normal amount of liquid; the batter turned out way thick. What the hell?

And I didn't get to do the bike -- though I intend to. Not sure what's going on, but I think I need to keep a close eye on what I can control, for a while.....

Monday, May 28, 2007

Now I Just Need the Saccharine Comic

Bush makes solemn pilgrimage to US war cemetery

By Steve Holland. WASHINGTON, May 28 (Reuters) -

President George W. Bush made a solemn pilgrimage on Monday to the graveyard of US war dead and rejected "fatalists or cynics" who doubt the wisdom of pursuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Notes

After we screwed in the bathroom, she and I discussed money.

Which is to say: after we put up the new window shade in the bathroom, my wife and I retired to the kitchen, where we went over the separation packet that my about-to-be-former company gave me, telling me what I can expect from them, doing so in classic leaden lawyer language. Not a particularly user friendly document, but it had some good points, most notable of which was that they'll pay a sum toward 'retraining' expenses. Now, I don't plan on getting retrained on anything, because I don't want to change careers. Whether I come to an agreement for employment or not with this other company, that'll probably be it. I won't be looking. Oh, I'll send out the occasional resume, but I don't plan on 'pounding the pavement', as my wife put it. Sending out the resume will just be to see what happens.

My wife suggested that I take the 'transition coach company' up on aptitude training, just to see what they say; I said I would, but I don't expect to get anything out of it. But the idea of retraining catches my eye because it occurs to me that there are training programs for bakers, and there are training programs for professional photographers. While I don't plan to start a business doing either, I'd like to be better at both, and this might be a way to learn interesting things without having to pay for the experience.

And who knows? Maybe it will turn into a job. Could be worse!

Four Days

Employment:
In four days, I won't work for this company. I'm a little sad about that, though my insight extends to realizing that its not so much the company being a paradise on earth -- its actions here show that that's not the case -- as that I simply don't like change, let alone change forced upon me. In about ten days, I'll go out to Saint Louis to meet with people from the company I'm talking to about a job. Assuming no surprises about the nature of the job, I'm thinking that its about 55% likely I will not accept it, and 45% that I will. The pivotal point will be travel. I doubt they can pay me enough to accept any level of travel; as I'm thinking of working a maximum of five years, and most likely considerably less, that wouldn't make an overwhelming change in our net worth. (A change, yes, and a welcome one -- just not enough to swing the balance.) I'm willing to travel about half the time, whether that works out to Monday out/Friday back for two weeks of the month, or some collection of shorter trips. I told my wife (not sure if I should mention this to them) that if they wanted me to travel overseas, or to places I'd like to see, such as Canada, I'd be a little more amenable to traveling (Bill, want to go to northern England for a while? Greece? Australia? Well....OK.) I doubt that will happen, though. I think this job includes the possibility of that kind of travel, but not lots of it. We'll see.

Dental:
On the plus side, my jaw feels better -- I actually ate a mayo on rye sandwich (one of my favorites from when I was a kid), which I couldn't do about a week ago. On the other, I keep getting this weird taste somewhere in the back of my throat/nostrils, on the same side as where the jaw's been aching. I know I'm a bit of a hypochondriac; as I said to my wife, phrases like 'post-operative infection due to a damaged sinus coincident to a bungled extraction' comes to mind. When she pointed out that I didn't have a fever, I said 'sub-mucal blood loss due to nicked sinus, resulting in intermittent blood pressure drop'. She just looked at me.

So we went for a drive (in the van, not the Prius, or as we've taken to calling it, the golf cart; I wanted comfort), and stopped at a fairly high end cooking supplies store not too far from here. I always enjoy poking around in there, where my reaction to most of the tools is 'who the heck would use that?" and my reaction to the foodstocks is usually 'Yum!'

Domingo

Sunday morning.

Downstairs, the washer is running. It partially masks the occasional burst of sound from my mother's living room, where she is watching yet another religious program. All Mass, All The Time is what I call her television fare. I know that its customary for older people to be fascinated with religion, and my mother's always been one of The Faithful. She gets about twenty to thirty letters each month from various religion-oriented organizations, from ones I recognize to Father Bobs Home For Unwed Angolan Refugees and Music Camp. I am particularly exercised by one that my mother gets where every single envelope is marked Urgent! At least she now accepts that when they send some trinket, or enclose a bright shiny nickel, she can keep them without having to send them money. She doesn't give money to most of them, actually, but apparently you only need to do it once to get on their list for many years. I used to think that when the time came I would at least be able to buy a rubber stamp that said DECEASED; RETURN TO SENDER, then it occurred to me that this would simply mean that in addition to this stuff, I would begin to get letters offering various religion-based incentives to enshrine her memory. The enshrining part would be okay; the sending money, not. I don't tend to give money to organizations more than once or twice; most get the hint, some -- like Doctors Without Borders -- seem to believe in Give Once, Get Mail Forever.

Tomorrow is Memorial Day, which means two things without fail: the president of these united states will get to make a speech which he may or may not garble, sounding like a pompous jackass while sweating to push the message that the only way to recognize the sacrifice of those who have died is to send more to die in the defense of a country that doesn't particularly want us there. (He likely won't mention that last part.) And cartoons will have a saccharine moment of humbleness before getting back to badly drawn and plotted humor.

In a while we'll have breakfast. I wonder if I'll be able to chew any of it?

FedUp

This column, about the vicissitudes of dealing with FedEx, is interesting -- and some of the comments are seriously funny.

PS

I'm looking through the feeds in FeedDemon. One of them is from Post Secret.

There's always a guilty pleasure in reading some of the posts on that site -- OMG, they did WHAT? -- but there's a sense of catharsis, too. Geez, other people go through those feelings? And they learn to live with them?

Its not exactly 'enabling', but its in the ballpark.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Later That Day

I just went to retrieve my daughter from her friend's house, where she'd spent the afternoon swimming. I really don't want a pool, but admit that times like that, I think passingly of how nice it'd be. The Plan, such as it is, is that if we ever build a house, we'll have an indoor pool, possibly one of those motorized ones that are about twenty feet long and ten feet wide. Not sure about that.

The afternoon has been placid. We went to the store for groceries, and I picked up some flicks at Blockbuster. I find that exercise is way easier if there is guy-type video on, so one of the ones I picked was the most recent Casino Royale. But then I had to go sit down for a while, because I was feeling a little dizzy. I've been having a problem on occasion where my blood pressure drops -- it was about 95/50 when I'd checked it before going out -- and I have to walk slowly and take deep breaths. Makes me feel old, I can tell you -- in fact, I went to sit down in the grocery store, and the bench was in use by an elderly woman with a walker. Not quite there yet. I think its partially because I've eatten so little today -- I tried a piece of sausage this morning, and that went very poorly -- five hours later, my jaw still ached! -- and I'd not had lunch. So when we got home, my wife made me something to eat, and then I more or less collapsed into bed and snoozed for about an hour. I just looked, and now its about 99/60, which is better, diastolically, anyway.

I'm well into that Donna Leon novel. She really has a wonderfully evocative style -- one reviewer said that Venetians (most of her novels are set in Venice) have a private, personal style that they don't share with others, let alone tourists, and these novels make you feel as if you're privy to some of that style. The books are not, as a rule, shoot-em-ups, but languid and careful novels about police investigations (I think that the style is called 'procedural'). I normally like faster paced fare, but for these, I'll make an exception.

MDW Saturday

Rough morning.

I had a heck of a time getting to sleep last night -- finally dozed off around 2AM. Every time I'd drift off, I would dream of something strange -- like the last time I saw my friend who died of cancer a few years ago. It was fairly stressful. Of course, the evening didn't help -- we'd planned to go to a local used book store, and then out for pizza; the bookstore, inexplicably, was closed (forever? hope not), and the pizza was fine -- for those who can chew worth a damn, which I still cannot.

Lets hope today is better.

Friday, May 25, 2007

AC OK

When I visited my friends in Texas, on my epic trek down from South Dakota and back up to New York, I used to delight in walking in from the heat and humidity of Fort Worth (Fut Wuth, to the natives) and into the coolness of their home. Truth to tell, it was never quite as cool as I'd like -- someone would slither out in the middle of the night and kick the thermostat down a notch or two -- but it was delightful nonetheless.

We're at that stage here, now -- and the summer hasn't even officially begun. We came back from the bookstore (where I got two Donna Leon novels; the Inspector Brunetti series, almost uniformly good), and as soon as I opened the door into the storage room from the garage, coolness flowed over me.

Bliss.

Complexity

I'm not a math guy. I'm familiar with a couple of concepts, though, and one of them is complexity, which is the idea that complex systems and phenomena can be deconstructed into a zillion simple actions. (I'm pretty sure 'zillion' isn't a math term.)

I was thinking about this idea this morning when I came across a Fast Company article about a company called DayJet, which intends to build an on-demand air taxi service. The magic is what lurks behind that 'on demand'. They promise that their web site will tell you, within about five seconds, what they'll charge you to bring you from Point A to Point B. That charge varies by location, number of seats, and time of day, and what drives that ability is a series of simulations done over years that show what the best fit is between the capabilities of the company (how many planes, how many passengers, where to where) and the buying public. In a sense, they're like the NetJet idea, in that you're buying the services of an aircraft only as you need it, but its more fractional and demand driven.

The article was agog over the use of complexity science to deconstruct the range of possibilities -- locations, planes, passengers, fares -- to come up with what the company calls a 'fitness landscape'. Perhaps they were right to be so; to me, its pretty obvious stuff, even though I could not do it myself. Its an old managerial theorem: anything you don't have to personally do is pretty simple, coupled with the Heinlein quote: any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

I liked it. And now I'm going to go read a little about complexity, and see how many pages I can go through before my brain melts down.

Making Announcements

One of these actually appears as a headline on the Harvard University Gazette web site. Which sounds better?

In a first, scientists develop tiny implantable biocomputers.

Researchers at Harvard and Princeton universities have taken a crucial step toward building biological computers, which, if successful, could eventually revolutionize how drugs are delivered within the human body

I'm going to guess that the first one sounds better. Its sexy, its energetic. It makes you think of androids and sensory augmentation and The Borg and The Six Million Dollar Man. Wow!

But the second, which is a rewrite of that site's first paragraph, is a more nuanced view. It says that the implantable biocomputer doesn't actually exist yet, but that steps have been taken which might eventually make that possible -- and if it does happen, then it might well affect how we deliver therapies and drugs within the body.

Even Harvard, it appears, wants it all, right now.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Um...Yeah

I just got a giggly phone call from my wife's sister, announcing that she'd been promoted in her federal bureaucrat organization.

I'm thinking: one week from today.....

Trying to be positive... or at least neutral.


Not working.

======================
After a couple of hours moping around and feeling sorry for myself, I'm a little better now. Still sulking, but not as much. I have to remember that there are a couple of significant differences that partially account for the difference in results. One is, my sister in law is a very competitive, hard-driving person. She says she isn't, but she is. Presidential Intern, for example. And she's smart. Possibly smarter than me; certainly, better at handing organizational politics than me. I shouldn't compare the two results. Its the timing, more than anything.

But I do think we'll present it as 'Bill got tired of working there, is going to pursue other options, including retirement.'

BlipOps

In the television series Max Headroom, the television network which inadvertantly spawned him would show very fast, intensely focused advertisements for various products. They called these BlipVerts (my guess at spelling). I think that with people's attention span dropping, there's a market for the equivilent on Opinion pieces. Call them BlipOps.

For example: I was reading this piece this morning, on the differences between Muslims and the rest of the world. Its something that I like to think about, for various reasons. I thought the piece did a good job of laying out the various points. Its not terribly long, either -- yet I found myself thinking Get to the Point! I wasn't even looking for a point that supported my side (non-Muslim) as being right; I'm willing to believe that we're in the wrong, too. I just wanted to get a concentrated dose of information, right here, right now, and be done with it.

A BlipOp.

Pre-Departure

When I was a missile launch officer, we had to attend a briefing prior to departing the base for our far-flung destinations. This was called the pre-departure briefing. The individual squadron commanders would usually hold their own briefings before that, and those came to be known as 'pre-pre'. Sometimes, you would have to check in with various admin people, too, and those were sometimes called 'pre pre pre' -- though usually it was just recognized by a grimace. We had no use for admin people, mostly because they got to come in at 8AM and go home at 5, while we were stuck out on alert. They also worried about things like records that we didn't want to be bothered with. One of the advantages of the military is that they can MAKE you want to be bothered with them.

In terms of my departure from my company, I'm in the pre-pre stage. They have a lengthy checklist of things that they want you to do upon departure. Some of them are things that make sense -- for example, they're not going to gift me with this laptop, which doesn't surprise me, but it'd be nice -- and some are a pain -- they want me to ensure that every id that I have on every system is deleted, whereas I feel that this is a stupid triviality. Being a big, hidebound, rules-driven organization, though, much like the military, they have ways of making you want to be bothered -- say, by refusing to send you that check for a severance package until they have the little check mark that says you've fulfilled all of their requirements. So I'll go through the list today and do what I can. Next week, I plan to keep the laptop up and running until Wednesday, but at some point on that day I'll package it up and send it back, somewhat grudgingly. Thursday I'll come in late, hand in whatever remaining stuff I have -- id card, keys, etc -- and that'll be it. Sometimes people come back a few weeks later, just to say hi, but I won't do that. Its always awkward, particularly when the person didn't particularly want to go, but even when they did. The only person I've ever known who pulled it off was someone had retired gleefully, planning to work at a local garden store, and, as he delighted in saying, making (when he combined his retirement funds with what they'd pay) more than he was making then. As it turned out, the job didn't pan out, so he had lots of spare time, and he would occasionally show up and roost on various people's desks. He was someone who was skilled at schmoozing all day, even when he was working there (I never did understand what his job actually was), and that ability carried forth to his retired years. Fortunately, he didn't feel the need to gift me with his presence, as a rule.

I did tell people that after I leave, they can call if they have questions. I doubt they will, and I recognize that this is partially because I don't want people to feel screwed by my departure, but also its a way of continuing to feel needed. First time they call at 5AM, though, I imagine I'll feel differently.

This morning was on the rocky side. I got up early to do the bike, and I did it, but I never quite got into the swing of the morning. I made some breakfast for my wife and daughter, but then I went back to bed because I was just 'out of it'. As I dozed, it occurred to me that that was what it'd be like to be retired. Not terribly unappealing, even if the idea of not having something specific to do -- let alone, be paid for it -- is a little unnerving. One thing's that's become obvious to me is that retirement doesn't have to mean stopping activity, and it shouldn't, but that activity has to be contemplated in advance. What are you going to do? And for some of it, it has to be rooted in skills gained during employment. Even for people who want to change jobs, they have to be able to present skills that they got during employment. What makes that particularly tough, aside from the strong reluctance that most people have to change anything about their life, is that sometimes those skills are neither part of what they do now nor accessible to them via training -- because the company isn't training people. I'm disagreeably amazed by how often I've found job postings looking for people with excellent or broad-based skills that they could not possibly have gotten in their jobs. I don't expect -- would like, but don't expect -- the company to look out for its people (look out for the CEO, etc, oh, yes, but not the rank and file, oh no) -- but when they post jobs that most people aren't qualified to even try, I'd think that suggests a problem. Which is when I think "Gee, Bill, if you were smart, you'd figure out a way to resolve that issue, and maybe make some money at it."

Told my mother I'd be leaving this company at the end of next week, and that I might get another job, or not. She seems delighted. I would imagine being here every day with no company except one day a week can get very old.

I went to see the oral surgeon this morning, and he seemed pleased with how the incisions are healing. I have an initial appointment with the plastic surgeon in about three weeks, and with him in six, both to set things up for the bone graft. I'm a little nervous about that, because if it doesn't work, I'll most likely be wearing this denture for the rest of my life. So, think good thoughts, as they say.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

ORilly?

Its hard to believe Bush's latest assertions, recently unveiled at the Coast Guard's graduation ceremonies, that Iraq was the staging ground for the AQ terrorists. At this point, Bush could assert that the sun rose in the east, and I'd want to check. His track record of confident assertions doesn't breed confidence in me -- it breeds contempt for a floundering politician.

Do I think he's lying? No. I think that he is doing what he thinks is right, but what he thinks is right is filtered so tightly, through such an ideological sieve, that he likely doesn't see or hear anything not aligned with his existing world view. Of course, not everything in the world does line up, and he could be excused for not listening to every possibility -- some of them possibly say that it was Elvis who attacked up, on orders from Jimmy Hoffa. But his track record is that he only believes what he already believes -- and at this point, thats a tattered rag. You can only say 'believe in me' so long... and that milestone was passed for me several months ago.

Give us proof, Bush. Or get off the pot.

Playing in Traffic

I've mentioned on occasion how fascinating I find traffic engineering. Not the nuts and bolts, about which I know almost nothing, but the concepts.

Turns out, there's this game......

Wheeling

I did the bike this morning.

Normally, that'd almost be a non-issue -- of course I do the bike in the morning ! --but I skipped yesterday. I was incredibly tired -- went to bed early the night before and still got up somewhat late the next day. I think its this enforced diet that my jaw's been forcing on me -- a week and a half later, and one part is still tender to the touch. I went to McDougle's yesterday to pick up a couple of burgers -- which is an indicator of how hungry I was, as I really don't like that place, and haven't for years -- and when I got back, I could only eat three bites before my jaw started saying Okay, you can stop now, really. Or we're going to start bleeding on you. We're not kidding. By the time I got home, I was in a seriously bad mood, which wasn't helped by getting stuck in a massive traffic jam, with the gas gauge on E, or perhaps slightly below (Where's the damn Prius when I need it? Come on, electric car!!!). I was, shall we say, on the seriously surly side by the time I got home.

I'm pretty much okay, now, though, and actually was by later last night. I just needed food -- RBP, yum, and no chewing! -- and then I was okay. This morning I got up a tad later than I wanted, but I did the bike.

Can I go back to sleep now?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Dark Side

....isn't always a bad thing.


Going

In case anyone wonders why I have such a high opinion of Australia -- can you see the United States doing this?

Shock and Awe

I've gotten the impression from some people at work that they're surprised to see me generally in a good humour, given whats about to happen to me and my job. Yesterday, on a teleconference, I referred to myself as 'Dead Man Walking', and nobody laughed. I guess they think that I ought to be weeping and raging about the sheer injustice of it all. Anyone who routinely reads this blog knows that I do feel angry and betrayed, but I just don't show it. It's not that I'm made of particularly stout stuff -- except, perhaps, for my belt size -- but that I have a couple of robust backups, either of which is enough to keep us going with little impact. When I say that I feel more for the people who don't have such backups, I am not being coy; I really do feel for them. Which is ironic, I think; I don't think of myself as a particularly empathic person, yet I know that I can be touched with sympathy, given the right conditions. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen.

I have always been reluctant to share myself with other people. I don't like relying on someone else, and I don't like telling anyone else of my fears and worries, because I know that many of them are trivial, and I don't want to look like a fool. My wife is the only person that I trust enough to be able to tell her, because I know she won't laugh at me. This general unwillingness to reach out (to use a phrase I actually don't like) to other people is likely why I don't easily make friends. I have known people who've had friends for decades, and I am just amazed by that. I could likely count on the thumbs of two hands how many people like that I know. And one of them died two years ago.

But when I hear of people who are in emotional pain, I always wonder, briefly, if there is anything that I can do. I usually don't, but I wonder. I am not sure if thats an indication of my basic shallowness, or a prudent caution. Mother Theresa has no competition in me, thats for sure.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Mangia!

Actually, it's Manga, which my daughter tells me is pronounced MANGah -- Japanese graphic novels. She's adopted them wholeheartedly, and as for me -- well, I say, gritting my teeth, at least she's reading. We just made a dash up to the bookstore because I needed something lightweight to read, having read all of Executive Orders, in fits and spurts -- surprising how much I liked it, given that I thought the books between Hunt for Red October and this one, excepting Red Storm Rising, weren't all that great -- and I needed something else as light fare.

I'm also surprised to find how little enthusiasm I have for work these days. Its probably a good thing that they don't have too much for me to do -- vanishingly little, in fact -- because its taking me forever to get motivated in the morning, and in the afternoon, twice now, I've just up and booked halfway through the afternoon. I care less and less each day. In fact, I told my wife that if they came up with a last minute job offer there, I'd have to think about it. Oh, I'd take it -- but I'd feel like Man!

I told my wife that if I do retire, I'll probably start going through some of the recipes we've collected and try making them for dinner. She seems to think thats a good idea, even with my warning that there would be times when we tasted and said 'Now what in the hell is this supposed to be?' I think it'd be fun, actually. Dangerous talk from someone who inadvertently mixed chili with spaghetti sauce just this evening, actually. (Wasn't half bad...)

Still doing the bike. Down about 11 pounds. The bike's starting to get old, though. I might restart the Netflix sub to have things to watch. I find that the time flies when theres an action sequence on, things blowing up -- typical guy fare. No soliloquies or tender moments, please. Distract me!

Lunes

Monday morning, with all of the angst that that suggests. Nothing terribly wrong, but a general feeling of dread -- the kind of thing that I picked up that sedative for (thats probably not the right word), but which, after that one experience, I likely won't have again. My wife says that part of what I'm feeling is still the idea of having to leave this job, and thats true; another is the dental stuff, which is an ongoing irritation -- and not just metaphorically; this temporary upper denture they have me pokes my jaw when I try to chew, and even little things like rubbing my face can be awkward. I do believe it'll be over in a year -- bone graft in about a month, healing for about four months, implants, healing for about five months. At least, thats the plan. Dentists have a way of stretching things out, I've noticed.

Daughter just left for school. She likes to get out of the house around 7:30 or a little after, stopping next door to walk down to the bus with a neighbor's daughter. Next year, she won't be able to do that, as the high school kids have a bus that comes at 7AM -- and then the year after that, it'll be her turn to start navigating the high school swirl. I know that parents are supposed to be astonished by this -- what's my little girl doing in high school already? -- but I'm pretty confident in her, and in her ability to handle it. We just need to keep talking. This morning she came into the dining room and I asked her to hit the light switch on her way in, which she did, then she walked to the other door and said 'be right back' and flicked the other switch off, grinning. Cute kid.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

And the Beat Goes On

From the Google news scoop:

Gunman Kills Officer in Idaho Courthouse
New York Times - 39 minutes ago
By BILL LOFTUS. MOSCOW, Idaho, May 20 -
A gunman went on a shooting rampage in this quiet college town late Saturday night, killing a police officer and wounding a sheriff’s deputy and a civilian before taking refuge in a church.


Chief Duke said the gunman used an assault rifle, which was found with four empty magazines near his body.


Assault rifle. From Wikipedia:

In a strict definition, a firearm must have all of the following five characteristics to qualify as an assault rifle:
  • Is a carbine sized individual weapon with provision to be fired from a shouldered position.
  • Barrel length is usually 400 mm to 500 mm (16” to 20”)
  • Is capable of selective fire.
  • Fires from a locked breech.
  • Utilizes an intermediate powered-cartridge.
  • Ammunition is supplied from a large capacity detachable box magazine.

Those damn deer -- if they wouldn't shoot back, this kind of thing wouldn't be needed.

Wachovia, The Scum of the Ocean?

According to a lengthy article in today's New York Times, if you, or more likely, your elderly relative, finds that you're dealing with Wachovia Bank, directly or indirectly, grab your money and run.

The reason is that Wachovia (whose name, to me, reeks of Lutheran probity and correctness) is pretty friendly to schemes that allow checks to be written on the accounts of other banks without the checks having to be signed. The method, which is legal, is used by organizations that have been authorized to bill bank accounts directly for recurring fees -- gym memberships, for example, or association dues. The scam is that these charges aren't authorized by the person whose account is getting drained. In many cases, the charge is noticed, the person's bank is notified, and Wachovia refunds the money, but in many cases, it isn't -- and, either way, Wachovia doesn't try to identify the accounts that are the source of these bogus charges, and shut them down. They seem to like making the money that processing the checks makes them much more than they care about protecting customers of other banks -- who, as it turns out, are frequently the very old, or the addled, who aren't always sure that they didn't authorize the charge, anyway.

Scum, all of them.

Blawggin

I started to write this about fifteen minutes ago. At the time, I just wanted to say something about -- something, I don't remember which -- but I noticed that the posting screen in Blogger was smaller than normal -- since I've been using the Greasemonkey script Blogger Large Post Editor, the posting area is about 95% of the width of one screen, and about 70% of the height. This was back to the original constrained value of about three quarters of that.

I fiddled around, and finally thought I'd delete and reinstall the script. After the delete, I realized that Greasemonkey was not enabled, so the script wasn't being invoked. I reenabled it (its really easy to disable, so I'm sure that I did it inadvertantly), and went to download the script again. Took me four tries. On the first three, it insisted on showing me the script itself. Finally, it downloaded (I swear I didn't do anything different -- the classic users annoucement), but the screen was the same. I opened Tools/Greasemonkey again -- and there were NO scripts there. Not BLPE, not Platypus, nothing. I closed the screen, perplexed -- and suddenly the posting screen was the full width again.

This has been a bit of a rocky day for me, and I think that someone's telling me to chill.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Serial Thoughts

For the last couple of days, I've had cereal for breakfast. Normally, I have something more substantial, but with the difficulty in chewing -- which pops up at the dammedest times -- I was looking for something that would require very little of it. As it happens, I had picked up some Special K, and that's what I've been having. We tend to rotate between four or five kinds of cereal -- Rice Krispies are popular, as are Cheerios (I like the Honey Nut ones), or the organic Cascadian Valley Honey Flakes (I think thats what they're called). I really like Honey Ohs, which have nuts in them, but with their high crunch factor, they're off the menu for a bit. My daughter will eat any of them, though she prefers the Ohs, which she can eat by the handful. What is it about food that you can crunch that is so emotionally satisfying? I remember reading the sci-fi novels about how people would one day get their sustenance from pills.... but I think that day is going to be a long time coming.

A cardinal just landed on the deck, part of which wraps around so that we can see it from the dining room. The window here reflects the light, so birds that alight on the railing don't realize that we're in here. Usually, its just robins, sometimes a golden finch (whose name I would not know except that my wife does) or a crow, but every so often.... We're seeing more cardinals this year, which is nice.

I've mentioned how much I enjoy reading Fine Homebuilding magazine; I think of it as a architectural porn, since it shows lovely things that I almost certainly will never have. From the current issue's back cover: "A beach house with a giant clamshell above the front door easily could be a tacky idea. But with an ample budget and a team of talented artisans, it is possible to carry out a tenuous notion with tremendous success." And if my aunt had wheels, she'd have been a wagon. Still like it, though. Their article about paneled passageways is awesome.

On a blog I like to read, the woman writing it said that she was asked where a specific address could be found. It was an abortion clinic. She's opposed to abortion. She refused to tell them, though she knew. Was that ethically right? I think so, but I'm not sure.

I think that using Photoshop is cheating. I come on PS tutorials on the web, and I read them; what I end up feeling is that minor tweaks -- adjusting the lighting, realigning the image, that sort of thing -- are okay, but major alterations -- removing a blemish or wrinkles, smoothing an image edge -- that feels like cheating to me. The picture's not real any more. It feels like something that we actually did once -- we bought a professionally made photo postcard when we were in San Francisco, and we ended up framing it. If I wanted glossy pictures, I'll clip them from the magazines. I know that seriously dates me.

I think this is awesome.

Week and a half till I lose my job. I think I'm okay with that. (Like that matters! ) Then they send me a check for three months pay (which apparently will not include tax withholding, so even though I wouldn't go ballistic with it, I really have to be sure not to do so), and I get medical coverage for six months. Then thats it for me and them. Speaking of the job, I'm given to understanding that the 'resource action', to use our bloodless phrase, is considered Wave III of an ongoing series, and Wave IV is already planned. I shudder at the thought.

Got to get dressed, go to the store, this that and t'other. But what I'll likely do is keep dithering till this laptop's battery dies...

Friday, May 18, 2007

Um, Google?

I don't like the new placement of the menu bar.

Drugs

Had a weird experience the other night. I don't know if it was real, though (which I suppose is a good reason for calling it weird).

I had asked for a prescription for a very mild tranquilizer to address some of the stress that I'd been feeling, and the local people gave me something called Lexapro. I looked at some pages that described its effects, and it sounded right -- but it also said that when you first took it, the effect could be to actually increase the level of nervousness and irritability. I decided to hold off on it.

Last night, I took one. About two hours later, I noticed that I was jumpy. This morning, I got up to DTB, but instead I just sat out here, feeling edgy and slightly apprehensive.

On the one hand, I do know that I have a mild tendency toward psychosomatic illnesses -- where you don't really have something wrong, but you interpret something normal or unthreatening as meaning that you do. On the other -- well, something made me feel a little off.

I think that maybe I won't take any more of these jewels.
=====================
Later:
Okay, maybe it was that, and maybe it was hunger. I haven't been eating as much as normal, this week, due to the tenderness of my upper jaw. I normally have sausage and waffles, something like that, both of which involve active chewing, and are therefore off the agenda for a while. But I just had a bowl of cereal, and now I feel somewhat better. There is a side benefit to not being able to eat as normal -- since my absolute peak weight, I've lost ten pounds. I do not expect it to stay there -- I expect to gain some of it back -- but if I continue exercising, I do expect the general trend to continue downward, which is a good thing.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Solutions

I'm always surprised when solutions are way more complex than I thought they'd be. Even when I knew that they couldn't possibly be simple, I'm surprised when I find just how complex they are. And thats just the top level.

In this case, I was just looking at a series of documents put out by my company outlining how they intend to deliver services. That last phrase is deceptively misleading, because it means every service that we sell, deliver, or cause to occur, on any kind of hardware platform that we support, in any kind of customer environment, running any software, anywhere in the world. And just because one customer looks totally like another doesn't mean that the final answer to that statement is going to be the same, or even close. That's the goal, but you know what they say about goals: thats where you aren't, yet.

The company is going through some major changes in pursuit of a standard answer to that question, though. In this company, we like standards. Standard answers can be leveraged (yo, Jack ! Pull out standard solution 32-Q!), we know how to do them, we know that they work. This is all goodness, but its all very difficult to do. Plus, no one really likes being the recipient of a Standard Solution, because we're all unique, dammit.... just like everyone else. In practice, we probably aren't all that unique, and the Standard Solution would work just fine, but we don't like being reminded of it.

So we've got this Standard Architecture that is trying to outline all of this as a coherent methodology that can be used anywhere. And I got (along with ten thousand other people) an email saying how terribly important it was that we understand this approach; here's a web page that talks about it. The page has a nice big chart with five single word descriptions -- what's being sold, how is it being sold, by whom is it being implemented, and so on -- and then each of those clicks-through to a hyperdense chart that expands upon that one concept. For example, the one I'm looking at breaks out the 'whats being sold' into three major categories, which break out into ten sub-categories, which have about seventy or so detail categories -- and thats just this one section.

How in the world can anyone keep track of something of that complexity? My thought is, they must just use a rule of thumb - don't drill down past the second chart, and make sure that the second level chart is never contradicted by anything beneath it. Because otherwise, how the heck would you know all of whats important?

I really do like thinking about this kind of thing, but I have to say that looking at this makes me think that maybe I'm not as smart as I think.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Cupcakes

I don't make cupcakes very often. I'd like to, but it doesn't seem to work out.

But when I do, these are what I make.

Yeah, right. But maybe someday....

Educational Standards

Boy, doesn't that sound imposing?

I bugged my daughter to talk to the three teachers in whose classes she wasn't doing well (and I realize that I'm overreacting a little bit, but I think its only a little); after a day, I also wrote each this letter (essentially the same one to each):

We were surprised to see our daughter's most recent grading period results from your class. We've told her that she needs to put forth greater effort, and that she needs to talk with you to determine if there is anything additional she ought to be doing, either generally (things she isn't doing, or doing poorly) or specifically as added-credit opportunities. If you have any suggestions or recommendations, we would welcome them.

And these are the responses -

From the class where she got a C -

Thank you for contacting me regarding her grade in English. We have had a few grades since the interim reports were printed, and she currently has an 82%. She has been performing decently this marking period – her grade was dropped a bit with her English/History persuasive essay. For some reason, I didn’t get her essay until more than a week after it was due. I have no doubt that she had it done on time, but she told me she forgot to turn it in. I had numerous students with this same issue and I was clear that if I didn’t have it on time, for whatever reason, points would be deducted.

As for the remainder of this quarter, she will have the opportunity to bring her grade up and I feel that she is very capable of doing so. We will have one vocabulary quiz and two tests for our drama unit (we’re reading "Brian’s Song"), as well as at least one more journal entry (due this Friday). As long as she continues to do her work and performs well on the tests and quiz, she should have no trouble bringing her grade up.

From one of the two B's –

She currently has a 90%. We have several assessments remaining that could raise her grade to an A. If she does her part in a Renaissance project that we are beginning today and finishes strong on her Explorers Timeline she should be able to climb into the A range.

And from the other --

Thank you for contacting me. She did struggle on the unit test, but has done really well on her other assignments. I did offer the opportunity to make corrections to the unit test and I will be updating students on their grades later this week. She has another large test on May 31st. I’ve talked with students on how to organize and prepare to study for these large unit exams. I’d be more than happy to work with her if she needs assistance- encourage her to come to see me during Period 9 on Days 1, 3 & 4. In addition, she has a daily journal in which I ask them ‘sample’ test questions, she could ask you to quiz her a few times a week to see if she really is prepared.

So, our feeling is that she has a pretty good shot at raising the two Bs to A's, and the C to a B, though possibly not an A. I was pleased by all of the responses, and particularly by the last one, which sounded to me as if the instructor is almost bending over backwards to give her the opportunity to get back up into the range where she normally performs.

Why the focus on the grades? Well, both her mother and I think that its pretty important for her to do well in school. We think that its important for her to have what I'll call a 'habit of success' -- to know that she
can do well, and that doing so makes life better for her -- that later classes are easier because she worked hard now, and that post-school successes and opportunities are more likely to occur if she does well now.

We say, and we mean, that if she does poorly, but has tried hard, we will not be seriously disappointed. We will be unhappy, but her effort counts for a lot with us. In these cases -- in particular the C -- we felt that the grade drop was (probably) a de facto proof that she was not trying as hard as she could; hence, our response.


At the same time, we know that its easy for us to say 'well, you're not trying hard enough'. I know from my own miserable performance in school that that sort of comment doesn't really help. Sometimes the kid is slacking off, but sometimes, like an engine running without being in gear, they
are trying -- but the effort is not focused, because they don't know where or how to do it. (Should they? Sure. Do they? Not always.) So we see it as our task to give her a lot of support and encouragement, and when she does well, to praise her. When she has problems, we want to know, and we want to help her get back on track.

I hope we're not asking too much of her, but I don't think we are. I would be interested to know if anyone thinks differently.

Oddness

I had an odd experience this morning.

I was informed of another job in this company that I might want to apply for, and I did -- but for the first time, I found myself thinking 'You know what? I don't care if I get this or not. These people are not worth it.'

Which isn't really true. Its mostly because I'm watching a local goat rodeo as they panic over responding to some auditors, reminding me of what I really don't like about this place. So I'm thinking "You want me gone? Fine, I'm gone."

Course, having a strong possibility of a job offer as a backup does help with the independent turn of mind. They called this afternoon and said they really wanted to get moving on this -- so would I be willing to accept a four day all expenses paid trip to St. Louis to attend their annual conference?

Would I?

Weary Wednesday

Actually, its not that bad. I did the bike again -- I kidded my wife that its just that old thing, but the truth is that I'm still pleased with myself for doing it. And still getting results -- I appear to have lost about five pounds, which is goodness. Not being able to eat all that well helps, too!

This morning we have that meeting. Should be fun. I will not withhold any information, nor will I fail to mention something that they may forget to ask, if its important -- but I'm not going to strain every muscle to remember every stray bit of information, for two reasons: first, its been my experience that in meetings like this, people only remember the major stuff anyway, and second, these guys feel its a badge of honor for them to Figure It Out Themselves. I do feel a little bit of regret, though, but I am getting used to the idea that I have two weeks left from today. And given the information I got yesterday, about the possible future plans, this is likely a good time to go. In fact, if I knew of someone in my position -- leaving, with three months pay with which to loll away the summer if I wished, plus a solid interview for a new job, and the chance to simply stay home, if thats what I want -- I'd be pretty envious. I won't mention the negatives, or the upcoming surgeries -- why ruin their fantasy?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

DeGrumper

I am in a slightly grumpy mood, because I am handing over stuff that I do for the Great Job Termination, which is the Professional Way To Handle These Things, even though what I want to do is say Hey, Figure It Out Yourself, You Boobs, Since You Obviously Think You Can Do Without Me!

So I am going to point to this picture, which I've seen multiple times, and which always makes me smile.

Movers and Shakers....

Or perhaps it should be 'Moved and Shaken'. I got an email from a friend today to the effect that my company is contemplating making substantial cuts in the managerial ranks, not to mention, shaking up the structure of the company to, presumably, need fewer manager drones. I have no idea if its true, but its certainly plausible. I like to say that the corporate culture there is 'we want innovators, but get your manager's approval first'.

The thing is, very few people actually have innovative thoughts, let alone ones that will pan out. I suspect it can be trained in, but I don't know that from experience -- its just a guess. And now that I've seen what I consider to be a significant flaw in my new Toyota (which I still like a lot; this hasn't changed that), I find myself being a little skeptical of how well the culture of innovation is actually working over there.

I am typing with my eyes drifting closed. I did not sleep well last night. I've never had to take the powerful drugs more than once before after a major dental procedure, and last night I did it twice, full dose, plus some ibuprofen. Glah.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Natural Highs

This is from the Office Spam humour web site.

Natural Highs

1. Falling in love.
2. Laughing so hard your face hurts.
3. A hot shower.
4. No lines at the supermarket.
5. A special glance.
6. Getting mail.
7. Taking a drive on a pretty road.
8. Hearing your favorite song on the radio.
9. Lying in bed listening to the rain outside.
10. Hot towels fresh out of the dryer.
11. Chocolate milkshake (vanilla or strawberry).
12. A bubble bath.
13. Giggling.
14. A good conversation.
15. The beach.
16. Finding a 20 dollar bill in your coat from last winter.
17. Laughing at yourself.
18. Looking into their eyes and knowing they love you
19. Midnight phone calls that last for hours.
20. Running through sprinklers.
21. Laughing for absolutely no reason at all.
22. Having someone tell you that you're beautiful.
23. Laughing at an inside joke with FRIENDS
25. Accidentally overhearing someone say something nice about you.
26. Waking up and realizing you still have a few hours left to sleep.
27. Your first kiss (either the very first or with a new partner).
28. Making new friends or spending time with old ones.
29. Playing with a new puppy.
30. Having someone play with your hair.
31. Sweet dreams.
32. Hot chocolate.
33. Road trips with friends.
34. Swinging on swings.
35. Making eye contact with a cute stranger.
36. Making chocolate chip cookies.
37. Having your friends send you homemade cookies.
38. Holding hands with someone you care about.
39. Running into an old friend and realizing that some things (good or bad) never change.
40. Watching the _expression on someone's face as they open a much desired present from you.
41. Watching the sunrise.
42. Getting out of bed every morning and being grateful for another beautiful day.
43. Knowing that somebody misses you.
44. Getting a hug from someone you care about deeply.
45 Knowing you've done the right thing, no matter what other people think.

Later That Day...

Things are slowly getting better. I still have aches. I won't go into gory details, but I will say that they are better than three hours ago. To those wonderful people who gave me their best wishes and prayers, thank you. I am confident that they helped.

Next step: meeting with the plastic surgeon who will do the bone graft -- but that initial visit isn't for three weeks, which is, of course, an eternity.

Tonight my daughter is in a school concert. I won't be going -- I do like it, but I don't like it three hours worth, and this provides a valid reason for staying home. She'll know its certainly not so that I can eat -- my meals today have been a liquid nutrition shake and a popsicle -- which latter turned out not to be a great idea, as you normally bite a popsicle, but I can't really bite too easily at the moment. Fortunately for me, I have a relatively high threshhold of pain, and so I hope to be able to eat soft foods for breakfast tomorrow.

I continue to look for employment within my company, and as for results -- well, lets just say that I'm consistant!

Things I've Discovered

Anesthesiologists aren't comfortable with people who are joking about the process of being drugged, or who know what an SSRI is.

Dentists don't appreciate being reminded to wash their hands.

And now I think I'll try to get some sleep before the drugs wear off.

Rolling

I don't make very many changes to the blog listing I have on the left. They are all sites that I found over time, whose writing style I find to be congenial. I was delighted to discover (this is not a hint) that a couple of them had my site listed on their page. Gee, I thought, you really like me! Well, okay, it sounded better when Sally Fields said it. But still... So I was surprised at my reaction when I noticed that one of the sites no longer had my name. I don't think it was just me; the site was redesigned, and the blog roll was much fewer people.

Still surprised me, though. Wassamatter, you don't like me any more?

Thinking

What I'm trying not to do at the moment is think about eating. Persuant to the surgery today, I haven't eatten since about 10 last night. Consequently, I'm getting a little hungry...and I still have over an hour to go. I'm sure that once I'm actually there, I won't feel hungry in the slightest... now I just feel like I want it done and gone. I realized a while ago that the reason that I feel apprehensive is not because I'm nervous about this particular procedure; I accept that the likelihood of success of this step is very good. What scares me is that this commits me to the follow-on steps, and those, the likelihood of success isn't as great. I think they're pretty good, but there is the possibility that they won't work, and then I'm stuck. I hate being stuck.

I also realized the other day that I'm angry about getting kicked out of this company. I wouldn't do anything to stay, but I'd do a lot -- but they didn't ask. They just jerked their corporate thumb and said 'Out you go'. Is that any way to treat people? I was reading a book recently where the author said that she briefly had a job where a coworker told her that if she had to miss work due to a medical event, she should just 'bring a doctors note' when she came back. Her thought was that if that was the level of trust in the company, perhaps she ought not to be there. This company does that if you're out more than three days. I've never been at that point, but I promised myself that if I ever was, I'd skip the note. Sue me. Of course, thats a moot point now.

I put a magnet on the refrigerator that I got at the New York Public Library. It's a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt saying that you should do something every day that frightens you. I think doing it once a month might be past me.

Bragging

I don't often brag -- at least, not intentionally -- so forgive me for it, just this once.
This is a chart of readings I've taken over the last two months. The red lines are where I'd like the associated reading to be, or below.
Not bad. And its all due to using the exercise bike every damn day.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

FreakOut In Progress

I have started the pre-dental-work freakout.

Just about exactly one year ago, I bit down on a piece of crisp bacon on Memorial Day, and felt my partial dental bridge snap. It being a holiday weekend, no one was around to fix it -- not that it could fixed, since it had actually snapped in half. This is when I discovered that those things have a life expectancy. I thought they lasted forever.

By the time I saw the dentist, the still-attached part had pulled off, snapping half a tooth in the process. This was, somehow, my fault. The dental surgeon removed the two anchor teeth, and I got a temporary upper central plate. The plan was to start the implant process that August.

August was when I broke my arm.

Tomorrow at about 10:30, they do the extraction. And then there's no turning back. Bone graft. Hope to hell it takes. Then implants (if it did) or god-knows-what if it doesn't. I tell myself that it will all probably work. It probably will. I'd feel better if every time I talk to the surgeon, he doesn't spend about a third of the time looking very thoughtful as he gazes at Xrays. I know he's conservative, and I like that. But I could use a little unalloyed optimism right about now.

I do truly love being backed into a corner, particularly when the condition is partially my fault.

Arghh.....

Earmarked

One of the reasons that I think of myself as a liberal Republican, rather than a conservative Democrat (which I think of as two sides of the same coin) is because I favor fiscal solvency. Thats a religion that Democrats hadn't adhered to, much, though in the last two years, they've discovered that as a drawing point. (I'd like to think they discovered it because it was right, not because it was politically expedient.) A distinguishing mark of the fiscal proficacy that brought on the Democratic victory in the last election is the dramatically expanded use of 'earmarks', where money is specifically allocated to projects favored by a politician. The concept's probably not automatically bad, though I've never heard of an earmark that is aimed at, say, getting decent shoes on kids in the winter, and I've heard of lots aimed at, say, building bridges to nowhere and putting politicians names in prominent places.

I'm a Catholic, by the way. That's relevant to this.

So I was not surprised to read, in today's New York Times, that a politician had earmarked funds to go a specific function in Pennsylvania. But I was surprised, and more than a little irritated, to find that the specific function was rebuilding a state road that fed the campus of a Catholic college. As a result of an earmark by a senior Democratic representative, the college got four million dollars of federal money to fix up the road.

I don't like it. Money was steered to a specific recipient because that recipient had political pull -- not because it was justifiable (though it was), not because it was the best use of the money (and it probably wasn't), but because of who they knew -- in this case, they hired a professional lobbyist, who got them the money.

I wish I was on the mailing list of that college, just so I could refuse to give them money. Because what they did was wrong -- not illegal, not even terribly unethical, but wrong.

Prius

I discovered something amazing, and more than that, distressing about the Prius this morning.

The car has a nifty feature in that you can leave your key (actually, just a fob) in your pocket. As long at you're very near the car (within about three inches, which of course includes being inside it), the car will start. There's a slot on the dash where you can put the fob, and if you do, it locks in place while the car is on, but you don't have to.

This morning we took that car to church. When I got out, it wouldn't lock. Usually, that means a door is open; sometimes, it means the lights are on. (The car has but one chime for any problem.Bad design, Toyota. ) Hell with this, I said, after trying two or three things, I'll leave it open.

When we came out, I got in, and looked down. Why is the dashboard lit up? I thought. It only does that when the car is....

OMG. I had gotten out and walked away, and the car was still on. Not using the gas engine, so it was completely silent, but -- on.

Would a passerby have been able to drive it away?

We just did a test. I sat in the passenger seat with the fob in my pocket; my wife, in the drivers seat. She started it. I got out and walked about fifteen feet away. The car beeped three times as I walked away with the fob. She then put it in reverse, drove down the driveway, and back in again.

Yup. A passerby could have stolen the car. Effectively, the 'keys were still in the ignition, and the engine was running' -- even though they weren't, and it wasn't.

Very bad design, Toyota.

But the play was good. And so was the hot dog.

Yesterday's trip was... well, a trip.

We had gotten an email saying to be at a local shopping plaza at 7:30 to meet the bus. Ever paranoid, we were there at 7:15, and saw a couple of other cars obviously waiting. Okay, good. We saw a Trailways bus motor by, but it was going the wrong way, and it was too early. But by 7:25...no bus. We queried one of the other cars and found that they were not waiting for a Girl Scout troop. We decided to drive around to the likely staging areas... nothing. By ten to eight, we thought well, hell. We went home, telling the daughteroid that it appeared that she would be able to attend her friend's birthday party after all.

My wife called the woman who was organizing it. She's gone, the husband said. Predictable conversation ensues. Two minutes later, the phone rings. They're at the school... and they're waiting for you. WHAT??? We grab the kiddo and leap into the car. Yep, theres the bus... and it isn't fully loaded yet. Turns out that the bus's handicapped lift didn't work, and as the trip was organized by a woman who's daughter is in a wheelchair, that was kind of key. They sent out another bus, and it had arrived about five minutes before we got there. So about half an hour late, we leave.

Along the way we pull into a roadside stop so that the driver can take a smoke break. He then has to take five minutes to fiddle with the rubber weatherstripping on the door so it will seal right.

The driver makes it to the Lincoln Tunnel okay. In the tunnel, he shouts 'What building?' What? Turns out he means 'Where are we going?' You got all this way and NOW you ask? But okay, we tell him, he finds the spot. The kiddo is still sulking because she wanted to go to the party. We walk down Fifth Avenue, get something to eat, and by forty-second she's in a relatively good mood. I ask if she'd like to see the interior of the main branch of the library, and she says not really. We walk up to the plaza in front of the main branch, and she asks if we can go inside. Why, sure! And it turns out she really likes it in there. Okay.

So we walk around some more, I get a hot dog (I do dearly love New York hot dogs), and we get to the theater on time. Nose bleed seats, but the play isn't bad, and she likes it. Now we're supposed to go as a group to the restaurant which is really close, here's a map from Mapquest.

Numero uno: There are thirteen million bazillion people milling around outside the theater . The group, such as it is, is almost immediately dissolved.

Numero dos: Mapquest maps are tickety-boo BUT THEY ASSUME YOU'RE DRIVING!!! So the go this way, that way, round the block is meaningless. Plus, the picture has the theater marked, and the restaurant...not. But its okay, we know the building number, how hard can this be. Answer: when you start out by walking the wrong direction, twice...and decide to go around the blcck to avoid the crowds...and the blocks are way freakin' long.... and every damn girl and/or girl scout mother (aka 'responsible adults') think it would be just peachy to stop at every street vendor selling purses.... pretty damn hard. So I say look, I'm going ahead, I'll find the the restaurant.

Numero tres: I find the building, no problem. Well, if you don't count that I don't actually see the restaurant, and I wonder if its inside the building (is it Sixteen Thirty Three? Or did she said Fifteen Thirty Three?) and, oh good, I don't have my phone. But I ask the helpful Times Square Alliance guide (who seems to think that this is very funny), and he points to the depressed plaza so that you can't actually see the restaurant from the street.

But we finally have dinner, and now its time for the bus, and, it actually comes. Oh, look, here come the girls. Oh, look, street vendors!!! At this point, I turn to my wife and say 'There are only three people who I care if they make it onto that bus.' But we finally do get on the bus, and the bus driver discovers the joy, the absolute freaking joy, that is Saturday evening traffic in the theater district. I think he's going to go apoplectic. But we get through the tunnel and onto the highway and we're moving and the rubber weatherstripping on the door pulls off and starts to make a whistling sound. So he stops to fix it.

On the bridge. On the side. Right next to the edge.
We can look right the hell down into the water.

But he gets it fixed to his liking and we're moving again and this is good right until he stops. To wash the windshield. But after about ten minutes we're moving again and this is good until he stops for a smoke break. And then has to fix the door again. But then we get going and finally we're on the damn highway and wait a minute, why are we going over a bridge, we didn't go over a bridge coming in.

Oh. He missed the turn for the highway we want, so he's taking the turnpike. Hey, its only half an hour longer.

Not counting the smoke break at the rest plaza.. Hell with this, I think, I'm getting off and getting something to drink. Um, no I'm not, he appears to have locked the door. Oh, I can open that, my daughter says, reaching for the dashboard, I saw him do it.

Don't touch that!!!!!

He comes back, the door actually seals on the first try, and we're on the way, and it starts to rain. He seems to be driving awfully fast, but at this point, we really don't care. We finally get back to the school around an hour late.

But the play was good. And so was the hot dog.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Week - End Blend

Its been an interesting couple of days, as Arthur Dent might say.

Last night we discovered that our daughter hasn't been doing well in two classes, based on the most recent period marking report. She actually got a C in one class, and B in two others. I was stunned, and shortly thereafter, so was she. She protested that when she got a C in midterms for one class last year, I didn't go ballistic. I think I probably did. Whatever, I told her that that was a midterm, and she had half a year to make it up. This is very close to the end, and she has one period. She not only has to do well, she has to make extra effort.

Guess what this does to my thoughts about working away from home?

My wife and I spent some time talking about this possible job. She mentioned in passing that she always sleeps better when I am here, and that she is feeling just a little stressed at the idea of me being away half the time. Not overwhelmingly so, but just a little.

Guess what this does to my thoughts about working away from home?

Today we go to New York to attend a stage production. One of the classics: Tarzan. Eight hours on a bus. Oh, boy. Still, maybe I'll be able to get an egg cream.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Concepts

I was just reading the second of two articles about the problems that my company is having.

What amazes me particularly is that now that I've read them, I feel that I have a better sense of whats going on in that company than I have gotten from anything generated within it. The fellow who wrote them is someone I've always regarded as a sensationalist, looking for the cheap shots and the tawdry. That may be true -- but he came out with a clear, coherent article that details problems in a major corporation, and actions that they're taking to address them. Nothing of the sort has been visible within the company, and, where he quotes a response from the company to his first article, its simply bland niceties and legalisms. For example --

"We said when we released 1Q results we would be putting in place a series of actions to address cost issues in our U.S. strategic outsourcing business. We have undertaken efforts toward that, and recently implemented a focused resource reduction in the U.S. While any such reduction is difficult for those employees affected, these actions are well within the scope of our ongoing workforce rebalancing efforts."

If your 'ongoing efforts' are designed to include firing people, then of course the actions are within the scope. That doesn't explain why its necessary,other than the casual mention of 'cost issues'. By contrast, the fellow's article says that the company is losing money, and that they are drastically trimming the place where they're losing the most. Thats painful, but it's believable.

Why can't companies say that?

Coo-coo-kachoo

There must be things about Canada that aren't cool. But it does seem that whenever I learn something new about Canada, it's interesting stuff.

Today I learned about The Walrus.

Taking the Picture

I'm not a big fan of Mother's Day, and I don't have sons.

Other than that, I can really identify with this.

Proof

If anyone needed proof that I am not a deep thinker, this occurred to me this morning:

Its easy for us to look at people who are richer, thinner, more accomplished, more - anything - than us, and envy them.

Its difficult for us to look at people who are poorer, fatter, less able, less - anything - than us, and feel grateful.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Richardson, Huh?

I never even heard of this guy before....but he makes an interesting case.

School Thoughts

I am home at the moment -- I came home at noon so that I could bring my mother to an arthritis treatment program in the afternoon. The program is a combination exercise and new-age program; it shows stretches and limberness exercises, and it ends with the classic new-age concepts: soft music, and instructions to breathe in...feel the air move in your lungs...feel the warmth of your heart. The program is held in what up to two years ago was a bustling one story school with about ten classrooms, a small auditorium, and a library. Now the entire building, or portions thereof, are available for event rental. Because the music was still going on when I got there, I wandered the halls a bit, looking into the barren classrooms, still with their Kindergarten and such signs, thinking about what it must have been like when the kids thronged through it. When you're a kid, those places always seem so big and mysterious; when you're older, you find yourself wondering why it was so awe-inspiring. I liked walking around in there, but it was also a little unsettling. Buildings like that are supposed to be populated.

It put me in mind of a phrase I heard some time ago, which I may have mentioned on occasion, to the effect that people yearn for eternal life who don't know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon. I'm facing the likelihood that in three weeks, my job at this company will be over. I've already psychologicially withdrawn from it; not that it was all that captivating, but I find myself listening to discussions with the distanced attention that you give when you aren't affected by the discussion. I find that I get just a little irritated when I hear people making the usual jokes and worrying about the usual things. Hey, I'm losing my job here, I want to say, and I think, a little shame-facedly, of how I've reacted to hearing that other people were losing their jobs over the years. I was sorry for them, but in much the same abstracted way that I now listen to discussions. I've said, and its true, that I am in a very good position when it comes to having to leave; I (we) have a goodly amount of money saved, we have plans to maintain our financial future, and I have the strong likelihood of being offered a roughly equivilent job doing things I like to do. I do firmly believe that most people are not so fortunate, and though in my heart I grieve for myself, I try hard to think about them, too.

When I think about 'what am I going to do', I am little overwhelmed by the possibility of not working, possibly ever again. (I don't call being the greeter at WalMart, the magazine-wagon pusher at the hospital, or anything like that 'working'.) What will I do with myself all that time? I know that 'retired' (I have difficulty seeing myself that way) people occasionally complain that for all the time they have, they still don't have enough to do all that they want to. I think I know why that is, but even if I don't, I suspect that finding things to do won't be too much of a problem. Finding substantive things to do -- things that matter, things that are worth it, emotionally if not financially -- that may be more difficult. I've never thought of myself as 'defined' by what I do, but maybe, a little, I am. If so, then I think that my future happiness is going to be seriously affected by how I view what 'me' really is. Not a programmer, not even if I do some programming. A father, a husband, certainly. What else? Because there needs to be something else, I think, maybe even many other somethings, to keep me from going sterile and dull.

And thats what I thought about in school today.

Noteworthy

Today makes just over three weeks that I've been doing the bike, every single morning. I am not doing anything remarkable from the perspective of those people you see on the street in their custom-fit racing togs and ultra-lightweight bikes, but for me, it's pretty amazing. I find myself (almost) effortlessly getting up between 4:45 (any earlier, and I go back to sleep) and 5:30, trudging downstairs, turning on the VCR (this morning it was Top Gun; the last few days its been The American President), and pedaling for sixteen minutes. That's a psychological barrier; the timer on the bike is a series of LEDs, sixteen of them, so 'naturally' thats an exercise increment. I contemplated going longer or harder, this morning, and I picked harder -- intensity four instead of three. Again, this is nothing remarkable, but for me, yes, somewhat. In fact, I am now at the point where, when I finally have to skip a day, maybe because I am staying at a motel that does not have an exercise bike (let alone a recumbent one), I think its going to irritate me. I want to start thinking about what to do in that case so that I don't lose the momentum. I know myself well enough that I can't afford to cut myself slack unless there really was no other choice. And since I am not an exerciser, the idea of 'well, just walk five miles' or ' just do thiry minutes of (fill in the blank)' doesn't appeal to me.

I am getting a prescription for a mild tranquilizer from the local doc. I don't know what it is; she told me, but after I rattled off what SSRI stood for, she apparently thought that I'd know the chemical name for what she was writing up, and I totally don't. I do know that its very mild -- she said its nowhere near as strong as Valium, which sounded right to me. She asked if I felt tense, and I said yes, somewhat; then she asked if I felt depressed, and I said 'not from a clinical perspective'. I have taken this kind of drug once before, and remember thinking 'gee, this stuff isn't working' before realizing much later that I hadn't felt tense for a while. I didn't feel giddy, which was what I expected (cheerful all the time). I think thats what Valium does. Anyway, I pick it up today, in time for the first phase of the dental surgery, which occurs on Monday.

I'm glad that we sold the car so easily. It feels a little odd not to have it -- I saw an electric blue Regal the other day, and thought hey, there's my wife -- but it was the right thing to do. And we sold my company stock, too. I don't really think it'll go up (though I hear that the prevailing opinion of those bloodless ghouls on Wall Street is that firing thousand is a wonderful idea, lets bid up the stock), but it doesn't matter. It was more a psychological separation. I shall not miss this company.... much.

Tea Leaves

I'm not all that good as a reader of tea leaves, but I find myself wondering if the statements lately by the the Bushster and Dickman are intended to lay the groundwork for later saying that of course this thing in Iraq is going to take years, if not longer; everyone knows that, we've been saying it forever. And of course its not possible to have a time table, because that would imply that we control that environment, whereas everyone knows we're just there as advisors. And cannon fodder.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Peanut Butter Utter


This JIF Peanut Butter & Honey is pretty good stuff. Smooth, creamy, nice honey taste.


Reading

I have never read Sun Tzu's The Art of War all the way through. I've read explanations of the concepts, and I've read interpretations, but I've never read the whole thing. I suspect that a fairly decent college or adult-ed could be put together based on an examination and amplification of the concepts in that thin book. Whats ironic to me is that insofar as the book speaks tightly about situations and how to handle them, through recognition of the situation as belonging to a certain archetype, its exactly the kind of book I like -- short and sweet, with a tight focus on the essentials. But I've never read it.

Similarly, I've never read Machiavelli's The Prince, and my chagrin about that is about equal to not having read TAOW. I can, however, say that I intend to, as when I was at the bookstore last week, and picked up a couple of cut-price science fiction collections, I saw a whole slew of The Prince reprints in thin binding, and I picked one up. Once I get through the first scifi novel, I intend to read that.

What brings this all to mind is a review I read of a book called The Four Hour Workweek, which apparently (I haven't read it) makes the point that much of what makes life delightful is in fact achievable if you're willing to give it some serious thought -- not as part of a 'oh wouldn't it be nice if we could do that some day' daydream, such as we all have, but a serious 'damn, but I'd like to fly in a glider -- how could I make that happen?' Its much the same message as The Number gave -- happiness doesn't necessarily require a lot of money; sometimes yes, but sometimes no -- you just have to think about it, and focus on it.

Which reminds me: that guy hasn't given me The Number back yet, that I loaned him. Have to talk to him -- I want to reread part of it.

Cool Morning

Its just before breakfast time. Running a little late -- the laptop didn't want to start, and the email server was (and still is) down. That wouldn't be a big deal but that I was planning to send that company a note to acknowledge their invitation, and to set up travel arrangements. Guess I'll be doing this by phone.

Still not sure about the job, though. More accurately: the circumstances of the job. The job itself sounds like a lot of fun. A lot of work, but a lot of fun. The travel thing, though... I don't have a problem with travel; I have a problem with frequent travel -- by which I mean, weeks in a row. Occasionally, sure. Routinely, no. I don't want to be away from home that much. I like it here. I like it even more than I'd like earning more money, and thats a big deal to me. Were I one of these power negotiators that you see in Fast Company or wherever, I could likely arrange it in a slick manner... but as I'm not, I'll just be honest with them, tell them I'd like to work for them, but I have some restrictions. If they can handle it, good. If they say sorry, no dice -- well, okay.

Best I can do.

=====================
Apparently, these guys are serious. They asked to delay bringing me out there until the CEO is back, so that I can meet him.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Decision

Tomorrow I call them and arrange to come out to their offices on Friday. Assuming they offer me the job, I will

  • ask for a salary in the low to mid eighties, negotiable down to high seventies
  • if salary is negotiated, ask for four to six weeks unpaid leave each year; otherwise, ask for two weeks unpaid leave
  • insist on travel in the roughly fifty percent per month range
  • ask for a week at home between each week away, negotiable if the distance is far

...and may the force be with me.

Take It...

Well, things are moving along. I just got a phone message from the people I'm talking to, telling me that they'd like me to fly out to their corporate headquarters to chat. They want to 'take it to the next level'.

Why am I nervous? Um.... because I think that there is no way in the world they'll pay me what I'd like, and even if they did, I won't like being away as often as they'd want?

What a wimp!

Custom Cleaners Defense Fund

This site is accepting donations to the defense fund for a cleaners in Washington DC which is being sued by a Washington judge for an obscene amount of money because they lost his pants. How much?

Sixty five million dollars.


(I'll pause while you pick up whatever you dropped.)


The site accepts PayPay and other donation media.

Quik Thts

I was just out in the kitchen, and the following thoughts occured to me.

-- If I am offered and take this job, much of it would be doing things that I almost certainly can do, but not all of it. And I don't have the breadth of knowledge those other guys do. On the other hand, I've been up front about that.

-- It would certainly be a job outside of my comfort zone, in just about every possible way. Thats not necessarily a bad thing.

-- It would likely pay well. Not extremely well, but I'm guessing half again what I earn now. That would be nice, both for repaying the dental work, and for giving my wife some breathing room if things go south at her job. In fact, if this job worked out, she could actually bail entirely from there. (Some major assumptions in there, of course.)


My inclination is to take it. These kinds of decisions ought to be more black and white, though.

Speaking of which: at the DMV, the clerk told me and the guy who was buying our old car that we could not just transfer the plates -- only inside-the-family transfers could do that. (Makes no sense to me.) I pointed to the guy buying it and said 'But we're clearly related!' He's black. I'm white. The clerk almost lost it, she was laughing so hard.

=============

Update: No, it doesn't necessarily pay all that well. Apparently, the fellow who started the company is quite tight with a buck. I was advised to ask for what I want, and then some, because they will begrudge any raises afterward. Fortunately, I don't need this job.... I'd just like it. So, I can ask for whatever I want. Worst case, they fall off the chair laughing.