Monday, November 30, 2009

Focusing on the Good Stuff

I'm blogging early again. This means that my negative attitude was merely a sign of foresight. For, indeed, my new cubicle is as wide open as the prairies of yore with no privacy at all.

Don't get me wrong; my new cubicle is quite lovely. At least it is according to all the nice people who came through to puruse our new workspace. Of course, they all have nice, private offices so forgive me if I feel just a teensy bit bitter towards their niceties.

Truth-be-told, our new office building is definitely a spiffy building. It's an expensive building, one that has taken time, money and effort to turn from a dull, generic office building into a state-of-the-art little company. It's nice. I can't complain except for the fact that I have absolutely no privacy.

I'm finding that the problem is really that one of the only reasons I was able to go to work and do my mind-numbingly dull job before was because I had little outlets. I could surf the web, take a cell-phone break to talk to a friend, talk to my coworker across my cubicles. Unfortunately, now I'm in Cubicle City, none of these things are permitted. I'm terrified. I'm not quite sure how I'm going to continue to go to work and not feel like I'm climbing the walls of my cubicle because my job is just not that exciting. In fact, even when I try to do the job I'm supposed to do, the job I'm nagged at daily because I haven't had chance to complete it, I'm told by my boss that it's unimportant and I 'need more projects'. Since I have, in fact, now sat in his office twice and told him this same thing, you'd think more projects would finally be on the table. Sadly, they're not...there's just the talk of them.
Nevertheless, talk of them is better than nothing. Thus, rather than beat my head repeatedly against the walls of my cubicle, I shall try to embrace change. At the very least, I shall embrace the paycheck and try not to complain for fear of being fired.

It does help, however, that my job is not my life. In fact, aside from the job, life has actually been rather nice lately.

I'm pleased to report that I did manage to 'win' the National Novel Writing Month Project. This merely means I have a certificate to print out that states I did, in fact, write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Given that November has been a busy month, I'm actually surprised I made the deadline but I'm also rather pleased that I did. The novel I wrote, The Reluctant Demon, has been one of the most fun things I've ever written. It's of absolutely no literary significance whatsoever other than that it's meant to entertain. It does, however, have far more significance to me because, at long last, I'm over my stupid writing wall that sprung up after a series of too many harsh rejections in too little time.

Thus, I have to salute National Novel Writing Month or NaNaWriMo as it calls itself. It's managed to pick me up, dust me off and make me start all over again and every bit of it has been fun. I confess, while I completed the NaNaWriMo challenge, I still haven't quite finished the novel. There are still a few chapters left to finish up how my demon faces his job hatred just as my heroine comes to terms with the fact that she's a little more attracted to her demon than she should be.

As I said, it's silly.'s fun in the way that books are meant to be fun. I want my readers to have been pleasantly diverted while they read it, to be glad they spent the time with my demon and my heroine. I want them to laugh while they're reading it. When they're done, I just want them to look on the book with fondness but not take it seriously. That's it. I don't think that's too much to ask.

But the best part of the whole thing is that I feel this tremendous sense of triumph. I managed to assist a friend on a thesis, stay current with TV, go out on a few dates and write a novel all in a 30 day period. I also managed to go to work and not run away screaming. I think, for a month's work, that's not bad going.

Now we're onto December. My Christmas tree is up already, I have gingerbread ready to bake in the fridge and a stack of Christmas movies to watch. This is my favourite time of the year. We're even supposed to have snow this week. These are all some of my favourite things. I think if I focus on that, it won't seem so bad at work.

After's just a job, right?

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Black Friday, Thanksgiving and No Complaining Allowed!

I'm actually writing an early blog today rather than wait until tomorrow morning. This is because tomorrow is the Big Day at work in which we leave our cosy, familiar office building and move into our more "professional" corporate style offices. From all reports of the new office space, our particular division of the company has now been given new cubicles rather than the nice offices that the rest of the company has. In addition, our cubicles are designed so that our monitors face outwards rather than give us any privacy. As previously mentioned, I, for one, am slightly jumpy. Also, while I try not to abuse the freedom I've had at work to surf the internet, there are times when the mind-numbing dullness of my job drives me to escape to the world of Facebook once in a while. Thus, I'm slightly concerned that I may end up going a little crazy because I have absolutely no freedom.

However, we are all assured that our new offices are absolutely spectacular. Also, if we complain, we'll get fired.

Sadly, this is not an exaggeration. I believe the exact words were, "if you complain, consider it your last day at [insert company name here]."

Now, while I am not an ungrateful brat, I do understand that great expense and time was spent on our office and I'm sure it's splendid. I'm sure it's the best office that ever existed.

I just have to admit, I don't particularly care for the fact that we are, essentially, being threatened if we dare use that dastardly right to freedom of speech and express even the slightest negativity.

Of course, I would never do such a thing. Ever. Since my boss made a slight reference to the fact that he knew I had a blog, I'm wondering if that whole complaining thing applies here. If so...I'm doomed. Doomed, I say.

Unless, of course, I do what I'm doing now and write when I'm NOT in the office and thus can complain as much as I like.

As you can see, I'm already feeling a little negative towards the whole situation. I simply don't like being threatened. Also, I like to have a little freedom while I work instead of feeling like I'm being carefully monitored.

Still, I'm lucky enough to have had an entire week away from the office due to the fact that were were moving and, also, there was that lovely Thanksgiving holiday.

I enjoyed my holiday immensely. Even the actual Thanksgiving dinner turned out rather well thanks to some rather absurdly organized scheduling. I believe I can officially say that I watch too much Food Network. By the end of Thanksgiving Eve, I had managed to plot out the time table for prepping the food, cooking the food and plating the food.

My mother and I cooked the meal. All together, it took about five hours of prepping, roasting, sauteeing and roasting. It took approximately 20 minutes for the family to eat it.

I suppose that's the point. It's just that when you are actually the one who helps cook it, it's a little painful to watch those stuffing balls that took quite a long time to prepare, cook, cool, shape and roast disappear quite so quickly. It's also just a wee bit painful because you just want to hold onto the food for a while and admire the fact that it all got cooked with only one teensy little incident with roasted root vegetables and an electric skillet and one minor over-boiling of the mashed potatoes.

Still, it was a good holiday and any excuse to make roast turkey is ok by me.

Of course, cooking Thanksgiving dinner for 14 people is nothing compared to the chaos of the day that follows it.

Yes, once again, my sister and I were among the insane folk who were waiting at Walmart at 4:30 a.m. for Black Friday to begin.

Once again, I got to witness the chaos of a segment of the population who were going to get that 32 inch big screen LCD TV for $249.

Fortunately, neither my sister or I did not need a TV. We focused on the smaller items. Unfortunately, some of them were in the same aisle as the TV so there were so near misses with crazy people. Let me just say that being hit in the thigh with a shopping cart hurts a bit. Nevertheless, by 5:30 a.m. we were on our way to our next stop.

In the end, we spent 13 hours shopping. We saw humanity at its finest and most bizarre. For the record, if there is no parking spot in parking lot that's within reasonable walking distance, it is NOT ok to park on the sidewalk outside a store. Also, it is not smart to just abandon your mini-van wherever you want to because, chances are, there's a reason no one else was parked there.

Nevertheless, I have to confess, I love Black Friday. I love the chaos of Walmart at 5 a.m. and I love being done with shopping around noon. I also love having the freedom to continue shopping for a few hours after lunch, even though you've already been at it a very long time.

It was a good weekend. Not only did I get to spend time with my family but I got to catch up with friends and see "New Moon."

Yes. I confess. I willingly saw "New Moon." Regular readers know how I feel about the Twilight saga. I think it's asinine and dumb. I think Bella Swan needs to be tied up and yelled at for being such a pathetic role model for women. Also, I think any man named Edward is never going to be particularly masculine and tough no matter how much he sparkles in the sunshine. So why did I see the movie? Well, for all the reasons above. I have decided to embrace the fact that the movies are terrible. I am fortunate enough to have a friend with whom I can see the movies who understands why, sometimes, it's good to see a movie purely because it's going to be so silly, it's delicious. Thus, rather than write tomes regarding the creepiness of a shapeshifter (formerly known as a werewolf) who falls for an infant and the ickiness of a vampire who chews through his wife's placenta to deliver said infant, I'm just going to embrace the daftness. Also, sometimes, you just need to mock and "New Moon" was perfect for this. I don't quite think the Twi-hards in the theatre appreciate my friend's and my own snickers at the melodramatic dialogue and need for Kristin Stewart once again to play second fiddle to her hair but I, personally, had a great time. Isn't that really the point of movies?

Anyway, now it's Sunday night. Tomorrow morning begins a new era at work. It may mean I will have to be a good little Monkeypants and not blog quite so much from work. However, I will continue to blog regularly because I have to have an outlet of some kind. Also, because it's fun. Also, because I'm not permitted to speak my mind at work. Not that I think there'd be any reason to complain because it's perfectly natural for a company president to send a warning email like that...right?

Of course, the way my mind works, it's kind of like having someone who looks a little unusual and being told NOT to stare...the first thing you want to do is stare. Or being told that it's a serious occasion and you are NOT to laugh...yes....I'm the one that's trying to stifle giggles because the mere act of not being allowed to laugh suddenly seems funny. Not being allowed to complain means...I might be in trouble.

Oh dear.

Happy Monday and thanks, as always, for reading.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lightbulb Fights in the Office....

It's day two of working from home and I'm liking it rather a lot. I have to admit, I'm being a brat about it and rolling out of bed ten minutes before work and mock-chiding myself, telling myself I'm going to be late if I don't get a move on. I know, I know, it's probably childish but it's just nice to be able to get work done like this. I admit, yesterday I actually probably got more work done in the morning than I usually get done all day.

Of course, it does seem that people are just as chatty online as they are in the office in the mornings. I've only been logged on for just over 30 minutes and I've already had two coworkers drop in for an electronic chat. Not that I mind but when I am actually trying to get my browsers ready to work, it's a little interruptive to have that chat window pop up.

Nevertheless, I have some work to do today which is rather nice. It shouldn't be too challenging but it's the type of work that's perfect to do like this. It sounds sad but I don't have to leave the house today at all and I'm actually excited about that. Last night, I actually had a date which not only involves leaving the house but also involves actually getting ready and trying to look nice. When you've spent the entire day at your computer wearing sweatpants and a sweatshirt, this is actually somewhat of a task. Still, it was a nice date and worth getting a little dressed up for it.

Today, though, I'm hoping not to be summoned to the new office. I did tell my boss that, being local, I'd be around if he needed physical labour. Apparently, he decided not to harass me and called another coworker in who lives much further away. To that, I merely sigh. What else can I do, honestly? As an invisible employee, I really shouldn't expect anything else. Being invisible has its advantages; it means I can come and go without too much hassle.

Still, there are times when I'm oddly not invisible. Friday in the office for example. Being that it was the last day, it was a little weird. After we finished our final testing on the software we were releasing that day, there really wasn't much to do so my coworkers and I sat and tried to look busy.

Then, mid afternoon, our boss sent one of the programmers to get beer. We all got to drink beer at our desks. To me, this is a good Friday. I mean, who doesn't want to drink beer at work?

After this, our president came downstairs to check our storage closet and he found some fluorescent lightbulbs. Now, to you and me, that'd be sort of like an "Oh, nice. Can we take those with us?" Not to my boss. He picked them up with a look of glee on his face and he looked at me and my two other coworkers. "Know what I'm thinking?" he said. Inwardly, I groan. He's a man. He's one of those men that is sometimes like a adolescent-grown-up. I can see where this is going. My coworkers look at him with puzzlement. I, however, don't. He says, "40 Year Old Virgin." I knew he was going to go with that or Star Wars. Star Wars would have been better...safer. He sees me shaking my head and says "Monkeypants" (naturally, he uses my real name but I prefer Monkeypants here), "You in?" I say, "No, but I'll watch." He squints at me. "You're in," he announces.

He goes away and I think he's forgotten about it. Then I get summoned outside. I get handed a lightbulb. My president has recruited another employee to join in. They hold long, skinny lightbulbs. Mine is a short, stubby one.

We go outside to the car park. I watch as the two men idiotically hit each other very hard on the back of the legs with the lightbulbs, which proceed to shatter with the blow. Then they turn to me. "I'm not hitting you with this!" I say in horror. They close in on me. I show them my lightbulb. There is no way it's going to shatter with one blow because it really is twice as thick as their's. Also, it's shorter which means it's far more likely to shatter in my hands causing a nasty injury than it is on their legs. Finally they give up and tell me I have to break it against the dumpster. That, I do. I admit, there was something satisfying about that and I didn't hurt anyone or hurt myself. I think the men were disappointed that I was a chicken but, at the same time, I'm the one that did not have a giant welt across the back of my knees for the rest of the day. Thus, there is something to be said for being a chicken though I prefer "Intelligent One."

So, that was my last day of work in the old office. It was, obviously, a little surreal. It was also sort of fun. It's not everyday you see your company president whacking someone with a lightbulb. Ironically, he doesn't even drink beer so that wasn't a factor.

I don't expect life in the new office will be quite like that. We're actually going to be surrounded by other companies in our office park so I'm not sure lightbulb fights will be sanctioned. Nevertheless it was one of those most fun, if strangest days at work I'd had in a while so I wouldn't be opposed to it. As long as I didn't have to be whacked.

Today, it's quiet at home. I don't forsee me having the desire to go break another lightbulb. Besides, I only have the normal screw-in kinds and that's just not the same. Also, there's glass. Glass makes a mess. It made a huge mess by the dumpster in the car park on Friday but our president didn't seem to mind.

No, instead, I think I'll focus on getting my work done in a decent time frame so that I can stop and do domestic-y things. Yesterday, for example, I baked a quiche. That was quite fun. Today, I'm not sure what I'll do but I'm sure I'll find something. I'm heading to my parents tomorrow morning having decided to take Wednesday off from work and use one of my precious PTO days so, at the very least, I can figure out what I need to pack.

Thus, since I'll be driving when I'm normally blogging tomorrow, this may be my last blog for the week. And thus, I shall wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope it's a time filled with gratitude (since it is THANKSgiving), family (without drama) and good food. I thank you for reading, you make blogging fun and I appreciate the time you spend with me when you do read.

Happy Tuesday and Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Finally, a Good Monday Morning!

I would like to begin this Monday morning blog by NOT complaining that it's Monday and that I didn't want to get out of bed. That is a rare, rare statement and one I had to log for posterity's sake.

I'm late blogging today. I find this rather ironic since I'm actually at home, working from my personal computer. You'd think this would mean I'd be able to get my blog out as soon as I was logged on.

Sadly, this is not the case. For the most part, I've become accustomed to my computer booting up, given me a strange flicker of relief at knowing I have an open window to the virtual world as soon as I bring up an internet browser only to laugh at me and present me with one of Microsoft's infamous Blue Screens of Death (BSOD).

For the most part, I have narrowed down my BSOD issue to the fact that I have a hardware conflict, specifically with my wireless router or my sound card. Since, currently, it usually restarts and lets me in eventually, I am working around it, being sure to save whatever work I'm doing.

So, I've already had one of those this morning. Also, it's important to be online on our office Instant Messenger system so people know I'm actually logged in, ready to work. That way I can't be accused of being a giant slacker even if, in fact, I am abandoning my computer for a few minutes to put a load of laundry in. I've even done a little bit of work which, I know, is shocking.

That's the thing about working at home. I have a cup of tea in my favourite Harry Potter mug, my iTunes is blaring and I'm wearing old sweat trousers because my jeans are in the laundry. This is my type of workday.

I know, I know, I'm rubbing it in for all you folks that have to work in an office. Believe me, this is a huge treat for me and one that's not likely to happen again in the near future. Thus, I'm intent on enjoying it as much as possible.

Even though I do have the luxury of working at home for two days this week, I do still feel like my weekend flew by. To be honest, I'm not even sure where it went. I know I did a lot. I mean, I got my car serviced, I wrote...I cleaned. I did manage to get my Christmas lights up outside. I had planned on hanging those icicle lights on the roof. I bought these nifty hooks and bought two sets of lights. Then it occured to me that those two sets would only cover 16 feet. So I got another set. Then I realized that even three sets was not going to be enough. To top things off, I climbed up to the roof on my rickety ladder only to discover that the hooks I had bought weren't going to work since I didn't appear to have a normal overhang and there was really no good place to hook them. Thus, I ended up returning the icicle lights and just using regular mini multicoloured lights on my juniper bushes instead.

Of course, it turns out that I'm allergic to juniper bushes. As I boldly wound the light strings around the prickly bushes, my hands began to sting. I thought it was just because the needles were scratchy. By the time I had finished winding the lights, my hands were rather sore. When I got inside, I realized I'd developed a rash that stings when you wash your hands. On the plus side, I've finally realized why, if I've been working outside, my hands sometimes sting when I wash them. Next time, I'll wear gloves.

My yard looks quite nice though. I used my timer to test my lights last night and I got to look at them in the dark. I quickly turned them off. Given how much I've complained about people decorating early for Christmas, I don't want to be a hypocrite. I just wanted to get them up before the weather turns cold.

It's supposed to get cold this week, just in time for Thanksgiving. I've even heard my favourite "s" word I'm supposed to call it now. This superstition my family and friends have of my doing the snow dance or even just saying "Snow, Sausage!" and then having it snow seems to be a little silly. Still, I fully intend on doing the snow dance and trying to make Sausage join in when I'm home for Thanksgiving. I think I've been very patient. This time last year, we'd already had several snow instances and I'd probably started my blogging obsession with the stuff. This year, I've enjoyed the Indian summer but now I'm ready for snow. I want to break out my Cocoa Latte machine and make my first steaming mug of Williams Sonoma peppermint hot chocolate. I want to build my very first snowman in my own backyard.

Of course, I'm not expecting that amount of snow...yet. I'll wait until December.

I love the holidays. I know that as a Singleton, the holidays are traditionally supposed to be hard. I won't admit that it's not a lonely time but it doesn't mean I don't enjoy everything that goes along with Christmas. In some ways, I think I am a little lucky to have so much freedom. I mean, I can watch "Elf" and "Love Actually" as often as I like without anyone throwing a pillow at my head. It's a trade off, I suppose; being alone and having freedom or having to compromise but have someone to share the holidays with.

Right now, though, the holiday that lies in front of us is Thanksgiving, not Christmas. Though, I confess, I have plans to be up at 4 a.m. with my sister on Friday morning to go Christmas shopping. I don't actually need to buy that many gifts but, as insane as I am, I actually rather enjoy that pandemonium. It's the thrill of the hunt. I love to be out and about but be home by 1 p.m. and have had a full day of shopping. I'm strange like that. For as much as I complain about getting up in the mornings, once I'm up, I'm up. I love to do things in the morning. I'm much more productive. Then I can spend the rest of the day being lazy if I'm so inclined.

For now, though, being that it's morning, I suppose I should be productive at work. This silly work ethic of mine is getting in the way of a perfectly good potential day of slacking off. Perhaps if I get everything done, I won't feel quite so lazy. We'll see.

Happy Monday!

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Art of Adaptation

It's my last day in last day in this building today. This means it was also my last commute. People in the office keep telling me how lucky I am that my house is only ten minutes from the new building. I agree, to some extent although I do prefer to think of it as strategic planning, rather than luck.

Also, I'm actually no longer opposed to a commute. I was when I first moved back to Ohio because commuting in Los Angeles is enough to kill the joy of driving for anyone. Seriously, the mere fifteen miles of distance from my apartment to my job could take up to an hour and a half on a bad days. Thus, moving back and living in the same town as where I worked was quite a novelty. Then I moved and the office didn't and I was back to a commute.

Yet, this time, the commute was steady. It rarely differs in time at all. It's a straight 45 minute shot and it's about 26 miles from home to this office. That's not a bad drive. Also, it's pretty. Part of the drive is an interstate. Then my exit takes me to a two lane highway that eventually slims down to a one lane highway. It's primarily rural so, especially at this time of year, the scenery is beautiful with all the trees, leaves, greenness and quiet.

Since I've been listening to audiobooks, the commute is something I almost look forward to because it's like my own private time to 'read' and relax.

That time has reached its end for now. I don't mind because for someone who complains about getting out of my warm cocoon of a bed as frequently as I do in this blog, a ten minute commute is rather a luxury.

I think, more than anything, it proves you can get used to anything if you do it enough. I think that's why they call it adaptation. We can all adapt, even when we least expect it. For example, my aversion to a commute has gently become an enjoyment. I think there are a lot of things in life like that, when you stop to think about it.

It's like cooking, for me. Until recent years, I viewed cooking as something that was necessary to do unless I wanted to eat out all the time. I never counted microwaving as cooking. Yet my cooking was basic, usually involving something pre-packaged. Then, slowly, thanks to Iron Chef America, I began to be interested in food. Now, I cook. I get excited about kitchen gadgets and I love to try new recipes. I've even implemented an 'unusual vegetable of the week' routine. Generally, I go to the grocery store or a market and buy something I haven't cooked with much. Then I attempt to find a recipe that incorporates it. Recently, I've tried things such as rapini (broccoli rabe), escarole, swiss chard, fennel, turnips and spaghetti squash. Some of the recipes work out, some don't. Yet it's making me try new recipes and since I adore vegetables, it's a fun way to make something healthy as well as occasionally delicious. I have a great swiss chard recipe, if anyone's interested.

Anyway, my point is, I got used to actually cooking instead of the semblance of such. I started to care about my knives. I started to use prep bowls and zesters. I think now I've finally reached the point where I'm almost snobbish. Take garlic for example: I used to buy those jars of minced garlic. It was still fairly fresh and it was easy to measure. Then, I bought a fresh garlic and learned how to push down on it gently with my knife to make it easy to peel. Then I began to chop it myself. Now, I can't use any other type of garlic. I still have a little jar of the minced but even when I'm in a hurry, I end up chopping my own. I love the way my fingers smell afterward. I love the slight stickiness it leaves on my fingers. It just feels wonderful to make a dish in which everything is fresh.

Yet, if I'd have written this a year and a half ago, I would have thought I was out of my mind. At that time, I still used garlic powder as a substitute. I thought there was no difference between fresh herbs and those dried ones.

I've come a long way. Cooking has become part of my life. I adapted.

So, you see, I think it's about perspective. My commute once seemed an evil prospect. Now I'm saying goodbye to it, I'm a little sad. I liked that time to decompress after work. It was a good time to call my mother and let a little steam off about my workday. I can still do that stuff but I'm going to have to find a new way to do it. Perhaps I can finally start exercising again because I'll have extra time in the evening.

I'm not fond of exercising, particularly in the winter. It's hard to come home when it's cold outside, peel off my layers of warmth and then strip down to change into workout clothes when all I really want to do is ladle out a bowl of beef stew and sit in front of the TV. Yet, if I do it enough, perhaps I'll get used to exercising again. After all, as I've said, it's really just a matter of perspective. If I start to like it, maybe I'll keep it up. I just have to adapt to the idea, that's all.

But, for today, I have one more commute left: The commute home.

I don't think that's such a bad thing though, do you?

Happy Friday and have a good weekend!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Strange Happenings in the Office...

It's gloomy out there today. I have been assured, however, that the grey skies are going to clear up and the sun will soon be out...sometime. It might be today, it might be tomorrow but the sun will shine again.

I'm thinking maybe a career change to being a weather woman might be quite easy. I know there's supposed to be some education involved but, really, to us layfolk, it seems awfully easy to sit there and spout things like, "We may see some rain today but it might pass us by," and "The sun will shine again sometime in the next few days!"

I know, I know...there's probably some meteorological school involved or something. I just don't really see how that works when, really, with all the Doppler 5000 technology, it just involves reading the weather off a computer.

Still, for now, the sun is not shining and the greyness of the day is pressing inwards. Our president fired someone yesterday. One minute she was here, the next minute the news is flying around the company, urgently whispered as so to keep it covert. Naturally, we all knew within five minutes although we still don't really know why. She was a fairly new hire and it's likely, we'll never know the reasons she was fired. I know she reminded me of one of my old bosses, someone for whom I had so much trouble working, I finally threw in the towel and found another job. Yet, since I didn't know this woman that well, I can only guess what her crimes were.

Of course, it has sent a fear into all of us. Even the most secure of employees here has to realize that being fired is a simple process: One day you come into work like usual and the next thing you know, you're carrying a banker's box of possessions out the door and being asked to submit your computer passwords. In the days when we worked with the university, it was harder. Being fired from a university is a long, tedious process and it takes months, even years unless there is a good, obvious reason like, say, you kill your manager or something.

I'd like to think that if I were in trouble, I'd at least know ahead of time. I think usually, a firing is preceded by closed door meetings in which bad behaviour is discussed. If the bad behaviour doesn't stop, a firing happens. It's abrupt, it's quick and all we employees ever know is what comes in the standard email: "Effective immediately [Name of fired employeed] no longer works for [our company name] Please direct all questions to [Name of President] or [Name of HR Manager]." That's it. We have the gossip chain, of course. We all have our suspicions, our own anecdotes of how the fired employee misbehaved but we never get anything more official than that email.

The thing I find amusing is that if we have questions, we're supposed to ask the president or HR manager. Yet, if someone asks "Why?", they're told, "I'm afraid we can't discuss it." That pretty much says it all. The only thing we all want to know is "Why"? but that's the one question they won't answer.

I know they can't say why for legal reasons. This is a litigious society we live in. Anything that we're told could be admissible if a lawsuit is filed by the employee if he/she feels it is a wrongful termination.

Yet, the why of the situation would be good for all of us. It would ease some of the self-doubt that is swimming around everyone's minds: What did she do that was so bad and am I doing it too? What sort of thing could we get fired for? Was it because she was always watching videos on her computer at work? I do that too! Am I going to get fired?

You get the idea. Sometimes the cold, hard truth is better than the speculative worry that floods the atmosphere when people's thoughts are left to stew.

So, today, this morning, everyone seems to be walking around, a little stunned. We can't discuss it because our company President is upstairs, ensconced in his office, a deterrent to gossip because he hates gossip. We can exchange surreptitious comments, raised eyebrows but we can't talk about it at work.

It means we're all on our toes, worried about our own job security. I'm not too worried...yet. I haven't been summoned to my boss's office. I do get my work done, even if I don't do it with beams of joy and sunshine flooding off me. I never fail to meet my deadlines. I hope this means I'm safe never know. And I know I'm not the only one thinking this.

I suspect the quiet in the office will last all day while we tiptoe around. It makes for a productive work environment, even if it is a little tense.

As for me, I think I'll keep a low profile, do the odd chair dance and, if things get really bad, do a mental dance around the teapot.

I'll just make sure no one sees. Just in case.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Joy of Googling....

Today, it is foggy, rainy and the greyest day we've had in a while. We had rain last night and this morning, the weather can't seem to decide if it wants to rain or it just wants to lurk and threaten. On the way to work, I went through foggy patches so thick that all I could see was the damp road and the lights of the car ahead and behind me. Then I'd go through a rainy patch and the fog would vanish, replaced by pounding raindrops that lastest about a minute.

It's another one of those days where the idea of getting out of bed seems almost offensive. The urge to hibernate and burrow down into the blanket kicks in and I feel that perhaps Sausage and I are more alike than I'd like to admit. I think if I had someone at home who tried to stir me from my bed besides myself, I might even take to growling at them on days like this. I like my cocoon of blankets wrapped around me as the greyest sliver of dawn peeks in the window and proves that it's not going to come to fruition much more than it already is.

Still, since it's a bit silly to growl at myself, I did manage to rouse myself and get up. So I drove through the miserable weather and came into the office. Because that's what I do. Things here aren't so bad lately. The scent of change has injected a little energy into the place and everyone seems to be a little more excited. Next week, as a work at home week, is going to be nice and relaxing and, sadly, more productive than my days in the office, I'm sure. I get so much more done in the privacy of my home because it's comfy. Then, we'll be in a new place and I know everyone can't wait to see how that goes.

And you might be happy to know the benefits enrollment meeting was relatively painless yesterday. After I wrote about the doughnuts yesterday, it did occur to me that it's a bit of an ironic sort of food to bring to a health benefits enrollment meeting, isn't it? Still, everyone was excited about the doughnuts. Since they actually had selected one lone doughnut that happens to be my favourite and the only type I really like, I did partake in the doughnut ritual but I waited until I got to my desk. My favourite doughnut is the elusive jam doughnut with real sugar, not that powdered crap. Too often, you tell people you like jam doughnuts and they bring you one. Except it's rarely a jam doughnut. It's usually one covered with powdered sugar and filled with pie filling. I hate pie filling in my doughnuts. It's an imposter. Jam doughnuts must have seeds in the filling. Otherwise, it is either a jelly doughnut or a pie filling doughnut. Also, I take offense to the fact that it's called pie filling and it's in a doughnut.

By the way, just in case you're wondering, the difference between jam and jelly is that jam is usually made from whole fruit, usually one single type of fruit and includes all part of the fruit such as seeds and peel as well as the fruit. Jelly, on the other hand, is usually made from a blend of fruits and uses juice as well as the fruit. It does not contain seeds. I googled it yesterday because my coworkers couldn't figure out what the difference was.

That's something my two coworkers and I do fairly often: We google things. For example, last week, my coworker had a bag of gummi neon worms. She read the ingredients off and they included all kinds of colours like Blue #3 and Yellow #5 so I asked what the difference was between Blue #3 and, say, Blue #4. It turns out that those colours are rather scientific. For example, one of the yellows is the same one used in Mountain Dew. It apparently has an effect on a male's, uh, ability to perform. So, ladies, if your man drinks a lot of Mountain Dew, watch out.

Of course, our information did come from Wikipeda. As much as I adore the resource because it provides instant gratification to a research junkie like me, I'm also smart enough to know that it's not always accurate. That's what you get for allowing the public to edit entries. I think overall, it's a great resource but occasionally, people tend to get a bit wacked out on there especially when it involves trying to out-fact each other. So maybe the Mountain Dew thing should be taken with a grain of salt.

I'm going to miss our 'google' sessions. Since our little team of three is being divided in the new space, they'll be less opportunity to be silly. One of my coworkers gets an office; myself and another coworker is being relegated to a cube farm with the other development staff.

I'd rather have an office, obviously. However, I've resigned myself to the idea of being in a 'bullpen' with the other programmers. It's going to be quiet because they're not chatters. On the plus side, this means my overly chatty coworker will have to tone it down a little. On the negative side, it means that there will be far less opportunity to have our morning water cooler discussions about the TV shows we've watched the night before. Also, my coworker tends to have friends in other departments who will have offices so I foresee her pulling even more disappearing acts than she does not. For the most part, to be fair, she does talk about work because, unlike me, she's actually scarily passionate about the software she work with. I've tried that but it's awfully hard to get excited about testing for bugs with my product because I just don't love it. However, the problem with her disappearing acts is she does them frequently and conveniently at times when she's supposed to be working with me on a joint product we share.

No, my only problem with my cubicle is privacy. I'm rather picky about where my monitor is stationed. For example, in my last job, I marked a line on the floor as to where the display of my monitor became visible to visitors.

Yes, I'm a control-freak but that's been established.

It's not even that it's because I do anything really bad on my computer. It's just that there are times when the tedium of work becomes too much and I simply need to take a Wikipedia break. I usually find some random thing to look up and learn about it for the day. Or, sometimes, I want to read a recap of a TV show. Sometimes, I need to look up the price of something. You get the idea. It's just that, at these moments, it's Murphy's Law that you'll get caught, even if you spend 98% of the day working and only 2% slacking off. It's the 2% that gets you.

So, I like to hide my monitor. I like to be the only one who knows what's on it unless I grant permission. To me, anyway, a computer is a personal thing, even if it belongs to the office. I spend so much time on a computer at work and then in the evenings when I write that they become extensions of me. They show what I'm fascinated with at the time from my search history. For the record, I'm a sad rebel: I don't look at bad stuff at work so there's no porn to be found unless, say, it's an accident like when I'm shopping for a doll for my mother since she collects them. Do you know how many porn sites use doll in the title? And they're not always labeled as porn. Usually, if I accidentally click on a bad site, I go beet red and immediately try to iradicate my browser history. I know it's still accessible if you know how to get to it but it makes me feel better.

But I don't do that much non-work surfing in the office. It's just that I like to be able to do it when I have the urge. I like the freedom of being able to take mini-breaks to chase away the ennui of working too hard. Thus, my Monitor Control Methods.

I'm desperately hoping I can control where my monitor is. The idea of having my monitor face outwards so that my back is towards all my cubicle visitors fills me with dread. Besides, I've seen the Godfather movies: I know how dangerous it is to have your back exposed to the world.

Ok, so maybe no mafia members are going to be stealing into our building to shoot me in the back but in my imagination, they could and so I try not to expose my back unless I have no choice.

Also, I'm, uh, jumpy. Thus, if I'm engrossed in my work and someone comes up behind me without my knowing, I tend to overreact by jumping ten feet in my chair and squealing a little. Since I'm going to be sharing office space with about ten other people, all of us in our cubicles, I'm thinking squealing is going to be a little disruptive. Thus, I'm thinking I can't be the only one who's jumpy. Thus, some freedom in our workspace has to be granted...right?

The only thing I can do is find out. It's too bad I can't google it.

Happy Wednesday...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

No Point Crying Over Spilled Tea....

I'm hoping today isn't going to be one of those days. I've already spilled my tea while I was driving down my nice newish white sweater I put on this morning. I've used soap and water to get rid of the worst of it but there are still yellowish patches that I'm hoping won't be too visible unless people know they're there.

Also, I had a bad moment while driving and I don't think it was my fault. It was a four-way stop and it was one of those slightly awkward moments when you get there almost the same time as another car. There's a moment of waiting while you both figure out who's going to go. Since it wasn't terribly light out there, it wasn't possible to do the universal wave of 'you go ahead' and have the other driver see it. So, deciding to take the lead, I started to go. Then, the other driver started to go. As we both moved, I thought, "oh, he's going straight, anyway" because there was no turn signal. Since I was also going straight, it didn't seem to really matter who went first. Except it seems that the other driver wasn't going straight, he was going to turn. Only as he pulled forward to the middle of the intersection did he put on his turn signal and then proceed to honk and give me the finger. I'm very sorry but where I learned to drive, the turn signal is intended to indicate that you're turning. If it's not on, how am I supposed to know where another driver is going? Since I'm sadly not psychic, I can't predict these things.

Then, when I get in, I see there are doughnuts in the conference room. I have a feeling this is to accompany our benefits enrollment session that's scheduled bright and early at 9 a.m. today. I wish I was a doughnut person but I'm not. I just don't get excited about doughnuts. My taste buds tend to veer towards savory and salty, not so much the sweet. Also, I find, if I do partake in the morning doughnut ritual, I end up wishing I hadn't because even though I was hungry, that's an awful lot of fat and calories that I just wasted on something I don't like that much anyway.

Still, I do appreciate the effort of our president to sweeten up the enrollments session. I'm not big on these. Working for a small company is very different from working in a the large university environment because it's harder to find affordable benefit packages. So far, this year, I've paid a lot of out-of-pocket costs because our insurance had a fairly high deductible. We were told yesterday that the deductible for the new plan would be a little higher. I'm trying to be excited and hope that it has better coverage but the idea of a higher deductible is a little worrisome.

Yesterday, during our benefits meeting, we also got a very nice pep talk from our CEO about our fantastic new office space to which we'll be moving next week. Maybe. No one quite knows when we'll actually be able to move in; at the very latest, it'll be the Monday following Thanksgiving. I didn't mind this until I found out yesterday that my plans for what I do when I had to work at home were foiled because they're going to be taking down the servers on which I access almost 98% of my workload. So, now I have to find out what, actually, I should be doing when I work from home since I adamently refuse to waste any of my precious remaining PTO days because my company forgot to tell me that they hadn't planned very well.

Still, according to our CEO, our new building is going to be spectacular. She's spared no expense. We will have a colour scheme matching our product suite which, for your information, is purple, a turquoise blue, a butterscotch yellow and red. The mental picture of that colour combination is probably much harsher in my mind than it'll be in reality....right? Even our countertops in our kitchen are speckled with those colours.

Also, we're going to have a workout room with a Wii, a Foosball table and bathrooms with nice showers. Also, the bathroom stalls are floor-to-ceiling for privacy. We may even get a yoga instructor to come and teach classes!

Now, I want to be a bright glow of sunshiny excitement about this. However, one thing I've learned from my company is if you're in the office, you need to be working. If you take time out to do something like, oh, go to lunch, you make up the time by working later. So, I'm having a hard time believing that our President is going to completely change and let us go play a rousing game of Foosball during work hours on a regular basis or that he's going to let us go take a break to run on the treadmill and shower. No, I think it's more likely that we're going to have to stay late to make up any fun time we spend at work.

Now, call me crazy and I know this is because I'm not experiencing 100% job satisfaction but, at the end of the day, I want to go home. I do not want to go play Wii with my coworkers. I do not want to do yoga with them. I want to go home. It's not that I don't like my coworkers. I do. It's just that I'd rather be home, doing something I actually want to do like writing, watching TV, making dinner. We're a company with about 22 employees who actually work in the office and not working remotely. By any standards, that's small. Our new building is the type of place you'd expect from Google, Microsoft....big companies that can afford to rotate work breaks and let people decompress at work. We're too small to really be able to do that.

I'm being negative and I know this. I, for one, like the idea of having a meeting while playing Foosball or running on the treadmill. Yet that means you have to find someone else who is capable of talking work while doing something else: Multitasking. Not everyone likes to do that. Still, on bad days, a game of Foosball is quite therapeutic. I like to play dirty.

Now that I'm thinking about it, maybe it's not such a good idea to have meetings while playing Foosball.

Still, I can't wait to see the new building. It's something to see, according to our CEO. She likes it so much, she's literally getting them to build her an apartment on the first floor so that when she comes in to visit (she's based in California), she has somewhere to stay. You might remember that my CEO likes some, uh, noisy extracurricular activities, things that involve a little spanking and squealing. I can't help but wonder if she's going to invite her boyfriend to her new place during work hours. That might be...entertaining.

I work in an odd place. I am incredibly lucky to work for a company that is trying so hard to make us happy and I really, really wish I could stop seeing the glass as half-empty. I try to be a half-full person mostly but there are times when that pesky sense of rational reality kicks in and says, do we really need custom-made bathroom dividers? Can't we, you know, use that money to increase the wages of the people who are going to paying a lot more to get to work because they now have to commute?

But, for now, I have our benefits enrollment to look forward to and the doughnuts that lie ahead. As long as I don't spill the doughnut on my shirt, if I decide to eat one, my day will already be better. Again, it's the small things in life., right?

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Joys of Dancing Around a Teapot

There's something to be said for donning a tiara, some princess jewelry and dancing around a musical teapot.

It's something that can instantly make you forget the worries of the world and realize that the smaller moments, the sillier moments in life are the ones that make it worthwhile.

In my case, it came down to the musical teapot. The tiara was never optional.

Now it's a Monday morning and though the tiara is gone and the musical teapot far away, in my mind, I can still dance around the teapot and plan to do so anytime I want to be far away from my job. I'd do it for real and not just mentally but given that the teapot belongs to my niece, I don't think she'd appreciate her Auntie Monkeypants taking it to work and she'd adamantly tell me know if I asked.

That's the thing about my niece, already at the age of three, she knows what she likes. For example, she very much likes to dress like a princess and has the clothes to prove it. She also likes to have tea parties. She likes to call their dog, Lillie, by the name of "Baby Ho." And she likes to use her imagination. I like to help her with that part, mostly because I still like to use my own imagination as much as possible.

So it was, yesterday, when I found myself being asked to dance around the musical plastic teapot and wearing my niece's tiara. How could I say no to that? It's not every day that you get that sort of invitation. So, I gave it my all and had a little dance. Baby Ho...I mean, Lillie the Chihuahua, joined us at one point.

I have to say, it was quite a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon. I also got to catch up with my sister in between tea parties and dancing around the teapot. In addition, I got to sit inside my niece's Hello Kitty tent which is really quite small and claustrophobic, especially when you're sharing it with a large tinsel, arched-back Halloween cat named "Kitten" and a small musical keyboard.

Hanging out with my niece is always a lot of fun. Three-year-old's are completely open-minded and don't understand why someone wouldn't want to dance around a musical teapot. It's just fun to let loose and be silly once in a while.

Some weekends are just meant to spent like that, I think. I always have stuff to be doing around my house but sometimes, I think it does us good to ignore productivity and spend it having fun instead.

My weekend was fun. In fact, it was very fun. I got to spend Saturday with my parents. They were looking for a new sofa and wanted me to help them figure out which one to get. So, a portion of Saturday was spent wandering around Ashley Furniture and sitting on couches. Personally, I find that rather fun. In the end my parent's picked a compromise between the one my mother liked and the one my dad liked. I also got to look at furniture ideas for my own place. One thing I do want to know after spending time in Ashley Furniture is do people really decorate like that? I don't know how familiar you are with furniture stores but they tend to set up their displays like a real room so there are rugs and accessories all over the place.

It's the accessories that have me curious. They have the strangest things in their setups. I saw wrought-iron giant frogs, urn-like vases, strange baskets of wicker balls, giant hands cupping....nothing. It was most peculiar. I'm not sure if you're even supposed to look at the accessories but I do find them fascinating.

As well as the couch shopping, my parents and I saw a movie: "Pirate Radio." I have to say, it was one of the most fun movies I've seen in a while. It's a movie that is written and directed by Richard Curtis who also made one of my all time favourite movies: "Love Actually." It's set in the sixties during a time in Britain when rock music was not played on the radio for more than an hour or so a week in favour of news and radio dramas. Enter the pirate radio stations: Large boats that broadcasted off the coast of Britain and played rock music all day and all night.

The movie focuses on the motley group of DJ's who live on the Radio Rock boat, the most popular of the stations. It is viewed primarily through the eyes of an eighteen year-old boy who is sent to the boat by his mother after he's expelled from school. The cast features Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rhys Ivans, Kenneth Branaugh, Bill Nighy, Nick Frost and a lot of other hilarious actors who make the whole film feel like you're taking a holiday from life. The British government want the pirate radio stations to stop because of the corruption of the youth that they're supposedly causing and because of the lost revenue by advertisers. Kenneth Branaugh plays a politician who makes it his mission to take down Radio Rock.

The thing about the movie is that it focuses on the music and the effect it has on Britain. Half of the population tunes into the pirate station but it's still going to be shut down because the government holds the reigns. The DJ's are celebrities because of the delicious seeds of rebellion they sow in their listeners. The music is hardcore '60's rock and the DJ's live to play it.

Don't get me wrong, the film is rather silly. Yet it's the kind of silly that makes you just want to jump on board and watch more closely. It makes you want to take Kenneth Branaugh's character and slap him until he wakes up and realizes, as the DJ's do, that you can stop the radio but you can't stop the music. When the government finally passes an act that prohibits pirate radio from broadcasting because their signal can potentially block distress signals of other craft in the area, it looks like it's the end of Radio Rock.

And, in a way, it is but the movie finds a way to show us that it never really died and the fact that there are over 6 million radio stations in the world that are now free to play whatever they want means that pirate radio did its job.

I had a great time at the movies. It's been a while since I got to do that with my parents and I have a feeling they enjoyed it as much as I did. In the end, it turned out to be the kind of day that was truly an escape from the weekday, just as real weekends should be.

Now it's Monday and it's the last one we'll have in this office before we move next week. There's a lot on my plate to get done over the next week but I think I can manage. There's not much that doesn't seem better when I close your eyes, imagine a tiara on my head and hear the tinkling sound of a teapot nearby. Let the dancing begin.

Happy Monday!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Just One of the "Chicks"....

This has felt like a rather long week, work-wise, at least. This is my second to last Friday in this office since, a week from Monday, we'll be moving to our new location. During the week that we are moving, we're all supposed to work from home until we're given the 'all clear' to go ahead and go into the new building. We have been told that is likely to be the Tuesday or Wednesday of the week before Thanksgiving. I'm not quite sure that works, whether it'll be a 'summons' to go to the office but I'm interested to see how it goes.

I've worked at home a couple of times although never for a full day. Usually it's because I've had a doctor's appointment in the middle of the day and since it's closer to home than work, I've been permitted the break from driving back to the office as long as I work at home.

Our office is strange about employees working from home. Often, our managers decide they're doing that for the day. At the risk of sounding slightly bitter, our office is actually rather sexist about it. For the most part, only men are allowed to work from home. I know because I have a female coworker who would like nothing more than to save a day of commuting every week and work from her home office. However, because she has a young child, she's been told that the child would be a 'distraction' and working from home is not an option for her. I'm not exaggerating this. What is even more ridiculous is that she would have someone at home to babysit for her son while she works. The matters stands firm, though. She's even asked to just try it and been denied.

Now, the more interesting part of this is that the men in the office also have young children. Sometimes, they'll send an email saying their kid's sick and they need to work from home. There's no angry summons for them to find care for their kid and come to work anyway and there's no cold shoulder treatment the next day. It's an interesting contrast, particularly since they're staying home primarily to take care of their child because their spouse has to work.

I think if this were a different company, the issue wouldn't exist; there would be someone willing to be more pushy about the discrepancy between the men and women here. I haven't really tested my bounderies; I have a strong feeling that, provided I didn't do it regularly, if I wanted to work from home as a single, childless employee, the response from my boss would be, 'uh, ok.'

My boss is very low-key about things. He's also very much a 'guy'. This is a generalization but having worked for him for a while now, I can safely say that he definitely relates far more to his male employees than us females. It's nothing for him to grab a couple of his male employees and grab lunch but if the girls are going to be included, it has to be a group thing where it's all the employees who work for him, not just the girls. The president of our company is the same. He mentions quite regularly that there's a big difference between the 'chicks' and the 'guys'. He jokes about it but, on occasion, as a chick, it's rather annoying to be ignored because it's a 'no chicks' lunch. We have our own 'girls only' lunches on occasion although usually there are men that join in and we don't not let them. I'm trying to get used to it because I know the only solution, if I don't like it, is to leave and work somewhere else. This isn't the kind of company where you can threaten discrimination. From what I've been told, former employees has become ruffled at the president for his reference to 'chicks'. Those employees are no longer here; the president is. That pretty much says it all. Also, since the president tends to say that valid complaints are 'whining', it doesn't really encourage confrontation. He respects us and values us, that I know. Yet I also know that his philosophy is that if someone isn't happy here, he'll be sad to see us go but reminds us that we're all 'replaceable'. Truth be told, he does have a point, especially in a bad economy.

Yet it's not all bad here, sexism aside. For example, back to my original topic: We all get to work from home for three days which is not such a bad thing. I'm not sure how it works- whether I have to be online and ready to work at the same 8 a.m. time as usual. All I know that is my alarm, technically, doesn't have to go off until 7:55 a.m. and I'll have the shortest commute ever from my bed to my office. I like that idea. Also, I can do the quintessential 'work in my pajamas' thing that seems such a treat when you work from. Unfortunately, I'm not good at staying in my pajamas past 9 a.m. For some reason, as soon as it gets to be a certain time in the morning, I instantly feel that it's time to put real clothes on. I'm not sure why. I love pajamas. I just don't like sitting around in them for long periods of time during the day.

But our move isn't for at least a week. I have one more week of commuting before I start being able to set my alarm later, drive for a lot less time and still be at work by 8 a.m. Of course, as is always the case, my reward is someone else's punishment. The complaints from the current 'locals' are becoming louder because now they're the commuters and those of us that live near our new building are the new 'locals'.

I can't blame them for their complaints. My favourite coworker is a single mother who has three kids. Not only does she now have to pay for extra gas on a weekly basis but she also doesn't have any way to get home quickly in case something happens and her kids need her. I can understand this. After all, it's the reason that Sausage and I have not yet been united in my house. I didn't want to go off and leave him all alone. Now I can think about it because I'll be ten minutes away. The other coworkers are annoyed because they specifically settled in this town to avoid commuting and, for the most part, I understand their complaint too. It is a lot easier for me, as a Singleton, to go with the flow. I didn't have to check with anyone, uproot any kids from their schools in order to move. I could just do it.

We still have a week. People have started to repack the boxes that we packed on our last 'clean-up day' and unpacked between now and then because they needed to use the stuff they'd packed. I actually didn't both to pack much because I knew I'd need it. Now it's getting to be time when I actually do need to pack. Fortunately, we've hired movers. I've been told that they'll move everything but our computers which we'll take ourselves. In my mind, I'm hoping it'll be like in Harry Potter where, when the kids get off the Hogwart's Express train in Hogsmeade, their trunks are magically escorted up to the castle and the next time the kid's see them, they're waiting at the foot of their bed. That'd be lovely if I get to my office and my boxes are there. I know it'll be a moving company that did it but I shall imagine magic because that's

For today, however, it's a Friday. It's also a Friday the 13th, I've just realized. That doesn't tend to mean that much since bad luck is bad luck and it doesn't tend to just fall on one day. The same goes for good luck. I've always wondered if that we have Friday the 13th to represent 'bad luck days', what's the converse for 'good luck days'? Why don't we have a Friday the 1st or something as well?

Nevertheless, I know I, for one, don't care about the date. It's a Friday and that means that the weekend lies ahead, promising and open. I don't think there's anything unlucky about that.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Hierarchy of Cute Stories in the Workplace

I'm a little later starting with my blog today. This is due to the fact that it's very hard to blog while two slightly random coworkers decide to use your doorway as a conversation area. As I've mentioned before, I sit just left of the staircase that leads upstairs. This is the only staircase people use. Thus, there's a lot of traffic. It's quite a narrow staircase so and only one person can go up or down at a time. Thus, my small space becomes a 'waiting room' while someone comes down and someone else is waiting to go up. Occasionally, like this morning, it becomes a conversation area.

I know my coworkers don't mean to be rude and they do try to incorporate me into the conversation but it's quite hard to work- or blog- while they're chatting. This morning, in particular, it was hard because they were discussing a newborn baby and they kept saying things like, "passing the mucus plug" and "afterbirth." I'm generally not squeamish but as a Monkeypants who has never gone through the birthing process, there are certain things that I can choose to pretend don't exist. I'm sure when and if I ever do have a baby, these things might become relevant but when I'm just thinking about eating my banana for breakfast, the last thing I want to hear are the words, 'mucus plug.'

As I've mentioned, I have a vivid imagination. I also have this thing for words. Thus, for the most part, I tend to visualize a word and picture the spelling in my head. Sometimes, the visual image that the words provoke overrules my attempt to spell the word and look at the letters in my mind. For example: Mucus plug.

It probably doesn't help that I laid my question from yesterday regarding how a baby giraffe fits inside its mother with all that neck in front of one of my friends who never minds when I ask odd questions. In response, she sent me a video of a mother giraffe casually giving birth. When I say casually, I mean...casually. Let's just say the mother giraffe was walking around, all "dee dee dee, what a nice day. Look at the sun. It's pretty!" while she was actually delivering a baby which, upon its arrival, plonked unceremoniously onto the ground. That's quite a fall. The baby giraffe was fine. The video was disturbing and somewhat fascinating.

So, anyway, with that on my mind combined with the overly graphic discussion from my coworkers this morning, you can see why I might have been a bit delayed in starting my blog.

I often overhear interesting discussions from my little corner of the world. Often, it's sports. We have some big sports fans in our office. More often, it's about babies or children. I'd be as bold as to say that 95% of our office has children. The ones that don't are the young 'un's who are fairly recently married but, for the most, are already planning their families. There are, I think, only three of us single folk in the office. Thus, there's a great deal of discussion about children.

For the most part, I don't mind. It's interesting to hear because the age ranges of the children are from as young as eleven months to as old as twenty-five or even older. Occasionally, there is someone whose child is the best and brightest of them all and you're subjected to stories about his or her brilliance. Even these I don't mind until they keep going and going and going. And that does happen on occasion; you get a proud parent talking about their little genius and that's pretty much an hour gone, right there.

This is not to say I'm anti-child because I'm not. I have this little pack of nephew's and nieces that I love. Kids are funny. I like hanging out with them because they like silly things and their Auntie Monkeypants can be quite silly. But one thing I've noticed is that as an auntie, my short, amusing tales are my nieces and nephews are trumped by parent tales. Apparently, because the kids don't belong to me, my stories will only be allowed if no parent has a tale to tell. I'm actually not bitter about this; it's actually sort of a study in anthropology more than anything.

Of course, as well as the kid stories, there are pet stories. Pet stories fall between parent stories and nephew/niece/grandchildren stories. If your cat does something cute, it's ok to talk about. People would rather hear about Sausage than my adorable little niece. I find this slightly peculiar. If I mention that I've been home to visit my family and I got to hang out with my sister and my niece, the first question by coworker asks is "How is Sausage?"

Now, call me strange, but I find that weird. Generally, the Monday morning conversation will go something like this:

Coworker 1: How was your weekend?
Me: Great. How was yours?
Coworker 1: Good, thank you. Did you do anything exciting?"
Me: I went to my parents' and hung out with my sister and her niece.
Coworker 1: And how is Sausage?
Coworker 2: Sausage! I love Sausage!

I'm not kidding. You should also know that coworker #2 has never really met Sausage. I think they exchanged suspicious glances at one another in the parking lot when Sausage came to stay that one time and I still lived in the same apartment complex as my coworker. But they didn't really meet, per se.

Yet, the fact remains, I mention my family and they want to hear about the dog. It's probably my fault. I do tend to tell rather exaggerated accounts of Sausage. I mean, he is cute.

But my niece is cute too. I mean, she's adorable. I'm allowed to gush; I'm her auntie. She's got a great imagination too which makes it fun to play with her. Granted, she doesn't sit on my parent's couch, with a sweater wrapped around her head like Osama Bin Sausage but she still makes for some good stories.

Yet, the hierarchy is in place. Cute niece stories are not as interesting as cute Sausage stories and definitely not as good as cute kid stories. Even the kid stories are told in a hierarchical fashion. Babies trump grown up kids by a long shot. Babies trump toddlers but only by a small margin. Toddlers trump kids in that age group of 8-15 unless there's an exceedingly cute, funny or clever story about a little kid but usually those have to fall into the age 5 to 10 year old range.

Obviously, I've given this hierarchy some thought. It's hard not to, really. It's a culture change. In L.A., people my age are just thinking about kids. Here, in Ohio, people my age have already got a couple of kids. Some of them are quite old.

I'm currently listening to a cute kid story that falls in the 8 year old range. Cousins are being mentioned but since they're tied to an actual work-related offspring, it's acceptable. Normally, this is where I plug in my iPod and smile nicely and dive into work.

Unfortunately, I forgot my iPod today. That's what I get for boogie-ing along to the Glee soundtrack while I cook dinner. I left it on my table. I miss it already. It's good for drowning out the kid stories. I've heard enough for one day now and I've been her just over an hour. Eek.

Happy Thursday.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lots of Nature-y Things....

We're at the halfway point to the week today. Many people have the day off to salute Veteran's Day. Sadly, I do not. Still, I am here, bound and determined to get through my day without too many complications. Yesterday, I was told I needed to start working on something urgent, only to discover that the 'urgent' thing that I had to work with was...broken. Since the person who could fix the broken thing was out for the day, there wasn't much to be done. I spent the rest of the day getting everything ready so that when the problem was fixed, I could go straight in and do my part.

Well, now I just discovered that yesterday's work was a waste of time because they'd changed their minds about something without telling me.

Now, I could get annoyed by this. Honestly, I already have been. Today, however, I'm planning on smiling through it. What else can I do? I'm looking on the bright side- I'm earning my paycheck even if what I'm doing ends up being a bit of a waste of time.

Besides, there are far more interesting things to think about than work. For example, there's this whole H1N1 thing going around. I think it was easier when we called it Swine Flu but it sounds much more official with the H1N1 moniker. Every morning, on the news, they report where the day's vaccine clinics will be. They also list who is permitted to get the vaccine. Yesterday, it was babies under 6 months and children aged five to fifteen who have risk factors. I wondered how they determined that the children between 7 months and four years, eleven months, were not allowed to have the vaccine. Sadly, my coworker's little son who is just about to be a year old was actually admitted to the hospital with a suspected case of H1N1 just the other night. He's doing ok but it's still a little scary.

Also, pregnant ladies and people with underlying medical conditions are usually allowed to get the vaccine as well as the elderly. What I'm finding interesting is that around these parts, there have been several deaths from H1N1. Many of the deaths are younger people in their late 20's or early 30's who have had no medical issues prior to the flu.

I find this fascinating. These are the demographic who are supposed to be the non-risk group and yet they're the ones succumbing to the disease. It's a strange paradox. This is not me trying to be political or to take a stand against vaccination policies. It's actually me just being surprised that no matter what we do, there are some things we just can't control: Nature runs its course and though we try to shape it to our will, it still has a life of its own.

That sounds heavy and deep and I actually don't mean it to be. It's more just an observation. I find it fascinating and slightly frightening how we try to control nature and often end up failing.
It's like hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and all that. It's like nature's way of saying: You're too comfortable, let me shake things up for you.

All I know is that I hope that we can control the H1N1 flu enough that it stops being such a worry that as soon as people say, "I think I might be coming down with the flu," people don't jump back with that scared expression in their eyes that quietly says, "what if it's H1N1?"

I heard all that on the news this morning. I did hear good things though. A man caught a 40 lb catfish. He put it back in the lake from where he caught it. I thought that was nice of him although, more likely, he may have had to. It was a whopper fish and it took two men to hold it. I was quite surprised. Also, I learned that almost every mammal stops growing soon after it was born. Recently, a baby giraffe was born at the Fort Wayne Children's zoo. It was cute. The thing was, it was already rather tall and large. I was a little curious how that works. I mean, when a mother giraffe gets pregnant, where does all that neck go? I know I'm wrong but I have this mental picture of a baby giraffe nesting inside its mother like one of those Russian sets of dolls, you know which ones I mean?

I'm probably disturbing you with that image. I suppose it's the same with all big animals. They are born and are huge. Even puppies and kittens surprise me when they're born. We once had this Afghan Hound when I was a child. It got pregnant and had thirteen puppies. I'm not kidding. I think I must have been nine or ten at the time. I got to see them being born. It was horrific and yet...intriguing. They just kept coming out and we couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe that our dog had 13 puppies inside her. Also, the whole birthing thing was a bit disgusting. I think my parents were horrified for other reasons, not just as the whole birth process. I mean, even if you end up selling them/giving them away, thirteen puppies is an awful lot to take care of until they're old enough to leave their mother.

Our Afghan Hound days were quite interesting. I think it all started when I said I wanted a dog. My dad, being my dad, took the matter into his own hands and decided that he'd always fancied an Afghan so we got one of those. I think the first one we had was Eliot. Eliot was a grown-up Afghan. Eliot...could run. I don't know if you've ever seen an Afghan Hound run but, like greyhounds, they're fast. Eliot would like to escape from our garden and my brother and dad would spend hours chasing the dog around the neighbourhood. By the time we had the puppies, our back yard was something resembling Fort Knox with fence panels, fence wire and gates blocking in every inch of the yard. We also had a dog pen. That worked nicely. It didn't quite stop them from escaping once in a while and people around our neighbourhood grew used to my older brother running like the wind trying to catch the tall, wiry dogs as they raced around without regard for people's property. Still, it made for some interesting reflections of my childhood.

Nowadays, here in the U.S., my parents have small dogs, Chihuahua's and Yorkies. I think that's a subconscious psychological response to the trauma of the Afghans. You don't get more opposite than a Chihuahua and an Afghan hound. Trust me on that.

Apparently, I felt like blogging about nature today. I apologize for the digressions. Thanks for bearing with me on that. Thanks, actually, for reading.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Un-Awkward Bagel Days...

It's a gloomy day out there again today. I think our Indian summer is coming to an end and Autumn is, again, attempting to take control. It's not cold yet but the temperatures are supposed to slowly decrease as the week goes on.

Some days feel more like Autumn than others, despite the air temperature outside. Today, for example. The leaves seem to keep coming down regardless of the obsessive attempts of my neighbours to stop them from collecting in the yard, diligently raking on a daily basis, trying to keep their lawn leaf-free. To them, I say...Give it up! I know that it looks messy with the leaves on the grass but the trees aren't bare yet. Until the leaves have finished falling, it's a fruitless job. At the end of the day, their lawns are covered again. They're fighting a losing battle.

My neighbours, who I am officially naming "The Griswolds," are still putting up Christmas decorations. I suspected they might. They started the day after Halloween and, no joking, every day since then, something new has been added. Since they haven't started to turn them on at night, I'm thinking they're pacing themselves so that they can do one, giant, grand unveiling. In addition to the giant plastic Christmas lights, they have candy canes, a pile of soggy-looking presents, a plastic, several lighted plastic Christmas trees, a caroler, a snowman, a row of snowflake lights and a row of just normal lights. This is all just in the yard. I can't wait to see if they start putting lights up on their house. While I mock them, I still await to see how much they will add, how far they will go.

And, as I suspected, their Christmas fever is catching. When I drove down the street on Saturday, several other families looked to be preparing their own festive displays. To me, an Indian summer meant sitting outside in the sunshine or finishing up my backyard to prepare it for winter. For clearly means it's time to deck the halls. To each his own, I suppose.
I'm starting to see more decorations creep up in gardens, in stores, all over the place. I admit, I'm avoiding the Christmas sections of stores mostly because I am easily swayed by cute snowmen, glitter and holiday candles. It all starts somewhere and the minute I replace my pumpkin pie candle for a candy-cane one, I know I'm doomed. I'll have caught Christmas.

In the meantime, our office is still devouring the leftover Halloween sweets that everyone bought in. Whereas I ran out of trick or treat candy about one hour and fifteen minutes into it, everyone else, apparently, had a shortage of trick or treaters. I think they all came to my neighbourhood instead. This means we have chocolate eyeballs, zombie fingers made out of chocolate, Charleston chews and Butterfingers galore in the office. This morning, we also have bagels. Fortunately, this will not mean an Awkward Bagel Day because the bagels are in our break area and it's pretty much a 'grab one and take it back to your desk' type of situation. Someone brought them in for his birthday. Around here, you bring in your own treats for your birthday.

To be honest, I'm not quite sure I really understand that logic. To me, that's sort of like saying, "Office, in honour of the fact that I was born and you are graced with my presence, I give you......


Granted, people like bagels and never turn down a free one. Generally, people don't bring in bagels though, usually it's one of those packages of cookies that you get from a store bakery. Last year, I baked cookies because I was too cheap to buy a package and I already had the ingredients. The problem with that is that cookies for others are supposed to be baked with love. I admit, my cookies were baked with something like resentment because I didn't think it was quite right to have to buy or bake my own cookies on my birthday.

I know, I know...I sound a little bitter but, keep in mind, I come with a vast background of past jobs since I was trying to find my purpose in life and all. Even at the jobs I disliked most, the office would band together and get a cake or treat of some sort. I never minded contributing a few dollars to a birthday fund. The larger of the companies I worked for would do a 'group cake' once a month, celebrating all the birthdays in a department/company that fell in that month, the smaller would collect a few dollars from everyone and they'd pitch in and get something for someone's birthday.

When I first got to this job, I was a wee bit astounded when I found out the celebratee of the birthday bought their own treats. I asked, timidly..."Why do we do that?" and I was told that it was the way it had been done for a while because it wasn't fair that someone would have to be responsible for it, that the same people always had to pay for it and it got to the point where it was too much. Thus, instead of spending the money on someone else's birthday, we spend it on our own. Now me, being the crazy Monkeypants I am, would, in that case, rather go home and spend the money on a nice bottle of wine or a big Kit-Kat and eat it all by myself. Generally, I think of myself as quite generous but my birthday is the one day of the year when it's all about ME.

Now, to be fair, I think the initial problem was the same people would always have to bring in the treats and pay for them out of pocket without getting reimbursed. Now that isn't right and I understand that. At the few companies where we didn't have a birthday fund, dare I mention that our managers would take care of it? Now, knowing my manager here and knowing that he would NEVER remember, I'd expect him to delegate someone else to remember these things and to set them up to bring in bagels or something. I know, I'm being mean by expecting the managers to pay for a cake/bagels/cookies out of pocket but I also happen to know that my manager earns, literally, almost triple my salary so....yes, call me a selfish little Monkeypants, but if anyone has to treat, maybe it should be the manager.

I've also been told we don't HAVE to bring in treats yet I know this is frowned upon a little. If everyone else brings in treats, I should too. So, I did last year and I probably will again because there are some compromises in life that just aren't worth fighting. Also, since I'm eating a bagel as I write this, it's only fair that, when my birthday comes, I should repay the bagel favour by saying, "it's my birthday. Celebrate me and my fantastic presence on this earth! Have a bagel!"

I should probably make sure I don't sound quite that sarcastic. I have time to work on that, fortunately.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Indian Summer Market Type of Days....

It's another Monday morning and this one comes after an amazing weekend. It's never easy to come back to work after a weekend but it's even harder when the weekend turns out to be so beautiful and goes by so quickly.

And it was a beautiful weekend. We finally got our Indian summer. It was, simply put, amazing weather out there. We had two balmy 70 degree days, full of sunshine and just enough of a wind to make the leaves dance merrily around.

I had a near-perfect Saturday. I woke up earlier than I usually do on weekends, around 7 a.m. Normally, my body-clock goes off between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. on Saturdays. I think it must still be adjusting to daylight savings time. Still, I was awake and I lazed around, watching snippets of movies on HBO while I got up and ready and then I decided to try my luck down at Findlay Market again.

Since it wasn't yet 9 a.m. when I left, I hoped that my usual trick of getting to busy places early would pay off and I wouldn't struggle so much to find a parking space. This time, I was lucky. While the main car park was full to the brim, there was ample parking around the corner in the overflow carpark. I merrily parked my car and walked down the street to the market.

It was a perfect day for an open-air market. There were already street performers playing and everyone seemed to be in a good mood. I filled my canvas bag to the brim with fresh fruit and vegetables and then stopped at the meat market for some sausages. I love the Kroeger Meat stall down there. They have a whole counter of different types of sausage including camel sausage. I wasn't bold enough to try that but I did buy two Vidalia Onion sausages to try along with my current favourite- Swedish potato. When I was done, I bought a cup of coffee and fresh croissant and sat outside at one of the little tables and just enjoyed the sunshine. It felt just like old times in L.A. when I'd first moved out and I discovered the earlier-morning temptations of the city such as the Santa Monica Farmer's Market. The only difference was that there, I would stop into the Tudor House tea room for a cup of tea and a scone for breakfast or, if I needed something heartier, I'd treat myself to the Queen's breakfast the Ye Olde King's Head Tavern across the road.

Still, though I lacked my British breakfast comforts, I still greatly enjoyed my morning at Findlay Market. There is nothing to be scoffed at in enjoying a freshly brewed cup of coffee and a buttery croissant. It was nice to be in the middle of a bustling place; It was great to be back in the city.

I followed up my market morning by stopping by Trader Joe's on the way home. I haven't been in a Trader Joe's since I left California but I felt like it was time. I felt at home as soon as I got inside; a Trader Joe's is a Trader Joe's regardless of where it's located. The only major difference I found was in the price of wine. In L.A., the "Two Buck Chuck" is....$1.99, hence the name "Two Buck Chuck." In Ohio, "Two Buck Chuck" becomes....$3.79 Chuck. That's rather a large difference when it comes to cheap wine. I was never a huge fan of the stuff; there were a few blends that were quite nice and when I'm broke and in the mood for wine, $1.99 is a perfect satiate. However, as I got a wee bit more snobbish, I reserved the $1.99 wine for mulling around the holidays. I love mulled wine; it's a perfect warming treat on a cold night. It doesn't matter how cheap the wine is for mulling because the spices instantly lift it up and beyond it's mediocrity.

Still, given that I can go to Jungle Jim's and buy much more decent wine for $3.99 or, sometimes, when they're having a great sale, $3.33 a bottle, I didn't cave to my nostalgia and I left the Two Buck Chuck alone. One thing I've learned that when you live in a state that's famous for its wine like California, you get spoiled at the lower cost of wine. Here, in Ohio, where the majority is shipped in from other regions, there's quite an inflated cost involved.

Nevertheless, I still managed to enjoy my Trader Joe's experience. Since I was clearly in the mood to shop and had a few shopping list items from my family, I ended my Tour D'Grocery at Jungle Jim's where I had a lovely couple of hours looking at the interesting stuff they had. They had a cow's head for sale on Saturday along with lots of duck-heads. I'm fascinated by their head collection. You never know what type of eyes will be staring up at you from the strange meat counter.

When I finished my shopping, it was still fairly early so I spent the rest of the day in the garden, trimming the bushes back, raking up the thickest areas of the fallen leaves and putting them over the more fragile of the bushes to act as a layer of mulch. I also discovered a remedy to the neighbour's yappy dogs: I put my iPod on and crank it up. Problem solved! I don't crank it to the point that I have a ringing in my ears even after the music stops but it is just loud enough that the perfect Indian summer day has a fun soundtrack and the sound of high-pitched, yapping rat terriers is merely a silent inconvenience as I move around my yard. The only problem I had was that I was listening to the Glee Volume 1. soundtrack and it's got a few songs that just make you want to dance. I found myself dancing as I raked the leaves which wasn't a problem until I realized that the neighbour on the other side of the yapping dogs was out in his garden and was staring over at me with some amusement. Instead of getting embarrassed, I gave him a wave and then continued to rake.

My Sunday was much like my Saturday but instead of my Grocery Shopping Marathon, I wrote instead. I think I mentioned that I was working on my novel for National Novel Writing Month. I've had several people ask me what I get if I win. I should probably clarify. It's not a contest. Instead, it's basically just a little like a sponsored walk or run, except you don't HAVE to get sponsored. Just like with one of those where you make a pledge to run or walk a certain distance in a time frame, National Novel Writer's Month is a pledge for writers to say they will write a 50K word novel in 30 days. There's no prize other than the accomplishment of finishing. You can get sponsored and donate the profits. You don't have to.

For me, it's a way to jump start my writing again. I wrote 8 novels in about 6 years. That's quite a lot. Then...I stopped. I shouldn't have but my last effort, not only shadowed by my horrible Amazon/Publisher's Weekly experience, was a lot of work to write. I had to force it. I couldn't talk to my characters the way I was used to doing and it didn't feel quite right. Since then, I haven't been able to really settle down on anything.

Thus, I made my pledge to National Novel Writing Month (NaNaWriMo) to write a novel. And I'm doing it. I've been a bit lax and only really spent about 7 hours in total on it since November 1st but I already have almost 13K words and I'm having fun. It's a silly novel that starts out a bit like a creepy horror story about a demon whose haunting a young lady but it turns out that his demon-heart isn't quite in it and he actually doesn't like being a demon. While my slightly dark and twisty nature thought about making a terrifying horror story, I didn't want to do that and I thought it might be interesting to tell the story as a lighter comedy. My plucky little heroine just bought her first house and now she's got a demon living with it. When it takes away her access to the Food Network right before she finds out who the Next Iron Chef is going to be, she stops being afraid of her demon and confronts it, thus beginning a somewhat interesting relationship with a creature that's supposed to be evil but doens't quite have its heart in it.

It's silly. It's light. It's fun to write. I think that's really the whole point in writing, really. It's not supposed to be hard work and it never has been before for me. When it became work, it stopped being fun. Thus, I'm attempting to remind myself that it's not about trying to get published or find an agent but about laughing aloud when something surprises me. I mean, who knew my demon was going to sound decidedly like Eeyore when it finally spoke?

I'm hoping I meet my self-imposed deadline for NaNaWriMo. I have a feeling I will. It's never been the word count that's been a problem, more the flow of the writing. So far, so good.

All in all, with markets, working outside, writing and the absolutely amazing weather, this was an amazing weekend. Today is also supposed to be a beautiful day but, alas, I'm trapped inside my basement dwelling. I'm thinking I might escape at lunch to take a walk, however. It seems a shame to waste a perfectly beautiful day on work.

Happy Monday!