The grass we planted died. We're trying again.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Earlier this year, I got a letter from the IRS questioning my taxes from 2007. Once I got up off the floor, I spent a couple of days wringing my hands and quoting my favorite bear, Winnie-the-Pooh. "Oh dear."
Eventually, I managed to contact a lawyer who was covered by my prepaid legal services plan. His office manager arranged for an appointment, and he took care of me with panache and flair. And not the kind of "flair" from Office Space, either. He even did much of the work from his hospital bed while recovering from surgery to remove a tumor.
When everything was taken care of, I sent this.
123 Country Road
Small Town, MW 65432
August 19, 2009
J. D. Lawyerman
7654 Oak Lakes Blvd
Next Town Over, MW 65421
Dear Mr. Lawyerman,:
Thank you for your excellent work on my recent IRS audit issue. The IRS sent me a letter indicating that the matter was closed to their satisfaction. As far as I am concerned, the matter is also closed to my satisfaction. I am duly impressed that you were able to do all this while experiencing all of the wonders of modern medical care, too. You are my new favorite lawyer, and in that list of potential favorites, I include that hilarious guy, Ron Kuby, from The Smoking Gun Presents: The World’s Dumbest [Whatever], and my partner’s brother-in-law.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Son starts ninth grade today. We had a good chat last night. He is worried about, in no particular order...
- What if I doesn't know anyone with whom to sit at lunch?
- What if one of my teachers is really mean?
- What if I'm late to class? I mean, like 10 minutes late?
- What if someone tries to get in a fight with me?
He has his lunch. He has his clothes. At the end of the day, he will always have his family. We can get past issues with the school.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
Sunday, August 23, 2009
WARNING: Kinda gross...
I had a dream the other night where I was walking along the street in a small town. A woman came out of a shed and asked me for some help. I agreed to help her, and asked her what she needed. She pointed to the bandages on her arm and asked if I could help change the dressing.
I told her I was no doctor, but that if she really needed it, I could give it my best. As I pulled off the tape, there were a lot of butterfly bandages holding a wound together. The bandages started to fall off, and her whole arm just fell apart.
She didn't find it to be painful, but I was kind of squicked out.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Below is an e-mail exchange from yesterday. The other fellow is RS.
To: RS, KC, TC
Here are the swimlane diagrams. I've also included a pair of trunks if you want to jump in.
Thanks for everyone's hard work and creative approaches to streamlining the process.
And to think that some people have accused me of being odd...
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
The other day, on a long drive, I was listening to a podcast of This American Life. The specific episode, "Heretics," was about Bishop Carlton Pearson, who was a protégé of Oral Roberts, and who later renounced the concept of Hell. His new doctrine was called the Gospel of Inclusion, and the change from the traditional Fire 'n' Brimstone preaching he had grown up with cost him most of his parishioners.
I googled the phrase "gospel of inclusion" and clicked on one of the links that came up. I've highlighted the interesting parts of what popped up on the first search result. Enjoy the hilarity.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I rode my motorcycle to work yesterday after not having ridden it for about two years. Since I was flitting back and forth betwixt two buildings, I was carrying my helmet quite a bit. Several people saw my helmet and said, in sort of wondering voices, "I didn't know you rode a motorcycle."
I guess I'm hard to figure out sometimes.
One thing I've noticed about my motorcycle experience is related to the helmet. The helmet I have, a Shoei doohickey that looks something like an older version of this, is apparently magic. Whenever I pass by strong smells, the helmet captures the smells for me. The beneficent magic part is that bad smells (roadkill, diesel exhaust, water treatment, etc.) go in and out, whereas good smells (fields of clover, bakery smell, other flowers) linger far longer than the time I am next to them. I haven't figured out that effect yet. It could be that the bad smells are very localized, and the good ones are more spread out. It would be cooler to have a magic helmet.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Brother 1 once sent me a drawing of how he might look in The Future. He indicated that all of his research, which involved bad Saturday afternoon science fiction movies, led him to the conclusion that all people in The Future would wear silver jumpsuits.
Click to embiggen. Enjoy.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Thursday, August 13, 2009
I went to Suzy's funeral this afternoon. There were a lot of people there I hadn't seen in years, and many that I see every day and don't really know all that much. If I ever die (I'm hoping that I'll get zapped by the aliens or something and skip the whole death thing.), I can only hope that half the number of people will visit my casket as visited Suzy's.
On the way home, I found myself thinking, "I need to tell Suzy that I finally met her kids." Oh wait. I can't tell her that any more.
We forget as we remember. Then we remember. Then we forget. Then, eventually, we are forgotten. Live it. You only have one.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Last week, we had another Town Hall meeting last week. Again, I was given a comic relief assignment, even though I am no longer in management. Weird.
They asked me to put together an icebreaker and a team building exercise. My thought is that people can only take so much icebreaking and teambuilding, so I tried to keep them short and sweet. At the end of these meetings, we draw tickets out of a hat and hand out prizes, like $20 gift cards for local restaurants and such.
Each table will have a sealed envelope with instructions and a simple map of the world with Capital City marked. There will also be a ruler. (OPTIONAL: Managers will disperse to the other tables for this part of the exercise.) VP will make his way to the center of the room.
- Start with the person at the table who is closest to VP at that point.
- Tell everyone the name of the town where you were born. Mark it on the map.
- Next, tell everyone the place where you took your most recent vacation. Mark it on the map.
- Tell an interesting fact about either 2 or 3.
- The person to the left of the speaker now repeats steps 2 through 5 until the last person has gone.
- The facilitator will now ask the participants to find the dot on the map that is farthest away from the Capital City dot. Because of the way maps work, it may not actually be completely accurate. Measure to the nearest eighth inch.
- Quickly gather the numbers from each table.
- The table with the longest line segment wins an extra drawing ticket for each person.
Team Building Exercise
Put 12 long (uninflated) balloons on each table. Attendees have 10 minutes to build the tallest freestanding structure they can. The table with the tallest structure gets an extra ticket per person.
Objective: create a team, identify roles quickly, work together toward a goal.
Benefits: “Tallest” is easy to measure.
Drawbacks: Some people may not like balloons.
As it turns out, those long balloons are REALLY hard to blow up. Next time you see one of those people who makes balloon animals, give him or her a little credit. Or cash.
Also, my ulterior motive for the ice breaker was to make some of the people who were born outside of the USA into minor heroes for helping their tables win. I've noticed that language and culture differences sometimes create cliques that this exercise was supposed to break down, just a little.
So far, we've had a lot of people say they liked it, and a few that didn't care for the balloons.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
The other day, Son and I were talking about video games, and I mentioned that the concept of "leveling up" in video games really wasn't in vogue until sometime in the mid-to-late 80s, but that I would have to research and cite sources. Son was amazed that it was so recent, and he marveled that so much of what he takes for granted is actually so new. I applaud him for considering <15 years before his birth to be recent, because at his age, anything prior to August, 1970, when I was born, was prehistory.
In any case, I told him that my dad had never had a computer in his house until my parents bought one for me when I was between seventh and eighth grade, and that we didn't have a DOS-based machine until I was just out of high school. Son was astounded.
It makes me really appreciate why my grandparents never wanted me to touch their television set until I was in my thirties.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
One of my managers at MegaCorporation One was a woman named Suzanne. She was a petite, very young-looking woman who was universally adored. I can't think of anyone who has ever said a bad thing about Suzy, except possibly her ex-husband, whom I have never met.
I actually reported to her twice. Once when I was first a manager, then later when a reorg moved me around to report to her again. The second time was challenging, because the VP we had at the time was universally loathed, and the job in which I found myself was about as bad a fit as one could fear to find. Suzy helped me find another position a couple of months in, so I was able to land in a job that fit my talents much more closely.
One time, we had rescheduled a status meeting enough times that we both decided we needed to get together outside of work to talk through the issues. She had a hair appointment that night, but she said she could meet me close to the salon, and just have them call her when they were ready. There was a Hooters next to the salon, so we went in. The waitresses really had no idea how to deal with a straight woman and a gay man who were having a business meeting. We thought it was hilarious.
As a thank-you gift for being such a great manager, when I left that area, I got her a bottle of vodka and a Silly Straw. I wrapped it up really nicely. She loved it.
About two years ago, she went into the hospital with pneumonia. The doctors cleared her lungs and got her past the acute problems, but she found out that she had cancer. It had metastasized, and she soon went into chemotherapy and radiation, and whatever else modern medicine has to offer. Her two kids helped her through it a lot, and there were a number of friends at work who shouldered some of the burden to help her out. MegaCorporation One's management moved some of her duties around so that she could continue to work as she was able.
Last week, she went into hospice care. She passed away, I hear surrounded by family, last night. I don't know exactly how old she was, but I don't think she could have been older than 43 or so. Sic transit gloria mundi.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Friday, August 7, 2009
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Some combination of nieces and nephews will be down between this afternoon and Friday to visit. Usually, the good thing about nieces and nephews is that you can zoom in, play games with them to get them really active, then leave. That's not the plan this week.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Monday, August 3, 2009
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Saturday, August 1, 2009
On June 27, 2003, according to the absolutely accurate reporting of Wikipedia, the Do Not Call registry opened up for registration in the USA. That was the day I signed up my home number.
A couple of days ago, my phone rang. I answered, and a woman with a heavy accent identified herself as "Nikki." I have my doubts that this is her real name, but I would be willing to bet that there's an impression in sleazy telemarketing circles that we bumpkins here in rural-ish Midwest State would be less likely to talk to Madhu or Lakshmi than we would be to talk to Rachel, Jennifer, or, in this case, Nikki. You know, I think I'm going to make myself a t-shirt with an arrow pointing to my head with a caption that says, "Bumpkin."
She told me that she was calling, OK, to represent Home State Insurance (name changed to obfuscate the issue slightly). OK, did I realize that if I had an accident, OK, that some insurers would cancel my insurance, OK, but that Home State Insurance had a policy to forgive some accidents, OK, and that I could save up to 396%, OK, on my premiums, OK?
"Home State Insurance, you say?" I scrambled to grab a pen and a piece of paper.
"Yes. OK, can I connect you to one of our consultants?"
"And what was your name again?" Apparently, she was either new or too ethical to be good at this job.
"Thank you Nikki. You see, I'm on the National Do Not Call list, and what you're doing is a cold call." There was silence, and I could hear shuffling of papers for a moment. Then there was silence. Weirdly, I didn't even hear the clichéd CLICK. *69.
"[BZZT] The call-back number is unavailable at this time. [BZZT]"
Hmmm.... I wonder if the GOOG will help me out here. I searched for Home State Insurance, and lo and behold, there was a local insurance agency with that name not five miles from my home. And their web site listed the phone number.
Boop-be-beep boop-beep-beep-boop. RINGGGG. RINGGGG. RINGGG.
Al: This is Al.
GDad: Al, hi. Is this Home State Insurance?
GDad: Al, do you hire people to cold call people to drum up new business?
Al: Uh... yes.
GDad: Al, I'm on the Do Not Call list, and I just got a call from someone representing your firm, and...
Al: Oh! Which one was it?
Al: This will never happen again. I've TOLD them that they're supposed to check that list. I'll take care of it.
GDad: OK. Bye.
Hmmm... Where were the magic words? "I'm sorry" goes a long way.
Well, I have a name, a phone number, acknowledgement of the issue, a time, a date, and an internet connection live in front of me. Do Not Call's web site makes it very easy to file a complaint. Besides that, Al sells insurance from a provider that directly competes with the company that several of my friends work for, so I feel all corporately espionagey. Interestingly, "espionagey" does not get red squiggles in my spellchecker. Nor does "corporately."