Monday, December 31, 2007

Resolutions II

Sorry... can't help it. It's the last day of the year and I simply must reflect It certainly doesn't help that I am again stuck at my desk, one of only 50 people in the whole universe, I suspect.

Anyway, aside from making one or two pseudo-resolutions, another thing I've done instead of setting myself up by making lists of things I know I won't accomplish is to have a New Year's Eve Burning Ceremony. I picked this one up from a church I attended and it's kind of a nice way to commemorate the hanging of the new wall calendar.

You set up your fire -- fireplace, woodstove, candle in a nice ceramic/metal bowl, grill*, kitchen stove and a pan, match and a concrete step or bare patch of earth or whatever -- then you write on small pieces of paper, in just a few words, things that you want to be free from in the new year. Emotional things you've been stuck on, relationships (or aspects of them) you're ready to be done with, habits you're oh-so-more-than-ready to quit; anything you want out of your physical, emotional, or spiritual space.

Then you light the freakin' things on fire and cackle with glee as they burst into flames and are released to the universe! Bwah-ha-ha-haaa!

Actually it can be very therapeutic, even for those of us who aren't excessively spiritual.

The whole New Year's thing has typically been a tough time for me. First, it's in the middle of hibernation season, plus I somehow picked up the notion early on that it was supposed to be Meaningful-with-an-M. It rarely ever was, leaving me feeling a little let down and hollow somehow. But this silly simple little ceremony seems to help. It gives me something to do -- gives some direction to my thoughts -- rather than drink, which I really can't do much of any more anyway. At different times in my life it's been a relaxing celebration, a quiet reflection, and an intensely emotional process. And always it surprises me how Meaningful it seems.

So burn, baby, burn! Just don't burn down the house, 'k?

*Charcoal or gas, your choice, but outside please!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Scrapyard Lullaby

Well, I'm pissed yet again. I forgot to bring my new CDs to work for the third day in a row! I really wanted to listen to my latest Chris Whitley CD, Dislocation Blues.Instead, here's a video from Dirt Floor,the Chris Whitley CD I bought last month.

Scrapyard Lullaby, Chris Whitley, Dirt Floor

Rock that Friday, sweet and mellow. Ah, yes.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


I'm making one and only one resolution for 2008:
No matter what it takes, I will have enough vacation time on the books to take off Dec. 26th

Unless we get it off anyway.

Coming into work yesterday sucked and blew. Plus I forgot to bring my new CDs so I didn't even get to listen to my new music. And I forgot them today too. Grrr.

Seriously, I've worked hard to get out of the resolution business. I think it's pretty natural to look backward and forward at the end of the year and think about how things would'a/could'a/should'a been different. I know I'm lucky that I don't have any major addictions or issues that require a drastic lifestyle change*; if there's something like that going on, the New Year is as good a time as any to make radical change. However, I used to resolve to change the same piddly things year after year. I finally realized that that sounded suspiciously like a pattern or cycle that would probably continue regardless of what I did or didn't say.

For example, every year I used to resolve with all good intention that as soon as I pulled out of my winter hibernation, I would lose the same 10 lbs I lost (almost) every year. After a couple of decades of that, I did a reality check: I'm going to gain it and I'm going to lose it, again, and again, and again. Why treat myself to an extra helping of failure by promising myself that this year will be different? I can take steps to not let it get any worse, but as long as I live in the Land of the Short Winter Days, my mammalian heritage will run true and my size will fluctuate from my fat pants to my slightly-less-fat pants.

So in an attempt to stop "should-ing" all over myself, I'm looking back and appreciating the changes I've made over the past year.
  • I bought a stand-up desk for my office at work a few months back. I figure that each minute I spend off of my ass can only help in my endless quest to become more physically active.
  • I stopped buying water in plastic bottles. It saves $$ and generates less trash, to boot.
  • I stopped stocking soda at my house. Again, more cash, less trash.
  • I cut way back on artificial sweeteners**.
  • I tried to bring home fewer plastic grocery bags.
  • I recycled more of my household trash.
  • This Christmas, I bought a living tree in a pot to keep as an outside pet -- like a giant bonsai -- with the goal of using it for a few more Christmases until it retires to Mr. B's yard.

Yeah, all little things, but I feel like I'm staying true to my long-term goal of doing the best that I can at the time. Hey, now that's a totally generic, low-pressure, practically failure-proof resolution!

*Not that I know of....

**Prediction: In The Future, it will be determined that artificial sweeteners provide minimal net advantage over regular sugar, honey, or other "natural" sweeteners. I'm convinced that overuse of the low-calorie substitutes affects the body's insulin in a way that pretty much counteracts the reduced calorie intake. Betcha a nickel!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Oh yeah, I'm bad

I've been deemed inappropriate!

Here I was, being all crabby about having to work today, when I get this in an email from Evil Twin.

All of a sudden things don't seem quite so bleak.

Watch out, Tony Bourdain... I'm a badass too. Just ask the Department of the Interior.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Holiday edition

Lack of sunlight, be damned; it's still Friday and we still must Rock!

If you've ever sung in a group, especially a cappella, I'm predicting that you'll get a kick out of this one.

And they're from... Indiana! :)

The time for frantic last-minute holiday preps is coming to an end. My holiday wish is that you will soon be able to settle in, kick back, and enjoy the fun part of the season.

I ran out of vacation time months ago so I'll be back at work (and, therefore, blogging) next Wednesday.


We've reached bottom.

Here what we're dealing with in the top left corner of the country:

Friday 21 December 2007 Pacific Standard Time

Sunrise 7:56 a.m.
Sun transit 12:09 p.m.
Sunset 4:21 p.m.

Ugh. That's a whopping 8 hrs and 25 mins of daylight, people. Happy Winter Solstice. Watch out, better get out the sunscreen!

Sun over the post office (barely) @ 12:09pm PST, 12/21/07

Compare that to Tampa, where my sister lives:

Friday 21 December 2007 Eastern Standard Time

Sunrise 7:17 a.m.
Sun transit 12:28 p.m.
Sunset 5:39 p.m.

Yes, they're enjoying a full 10 hrs 22 mins*.

Be forewarned: I will brook no whining from anyone receiving more than 10 hours of sunlight today unless the temp outside is below freezing.

*Wish I had thought to have her get a shot of the sun at her house @ 12:28pm EST.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

And the correct answer is...

...It's a No-shitter! Strange but true. My Evil Twin Back East received a gen-yoo-wine holiday letter from the wife of a former co-worker containing that very excerpt*. It was an unbelievably explicit and unintentionally hilarious yet pathetic month-by-month listing of what must be every single event from their 2007 calendar.

Even better, these letters have been going out for some time. As Evil Twin explained in her initial email, "I'm not sure If her dad died -- actually he's not mentioned in the letter, and I just threw the last two years away, so he may have. He had been enjoying ill health for many years.

I can only imagine.

I like Mr. B's summary the best. "Not only is [her] glass less than half full, it's suffering evaporative losses and could tip over in the upcoming earthquake."

You're thinking, Then what should a proper holiday letter look like, Miss Smarty-pants? I'm glad you asked. This one, IMHO, is perfection.
Let's see. Found DS in bed with his girlfriend, DD has worked 36 days out of the last 365, I've gained even more weight, the dog got out twice, I had my colonoscopy, we went to Chincoteague, DH didn't play as much golf as he wanted to, DS worked at the local golf course, BIL died. Both kids graduated, we got a new stove and dishwasher, and had a tree taken down. The paint is peeling off the top of the blue Caravan (yes, we still have it!) and I got another knee. DH got shit-faced at the big football game, and had to be carried into the house by his buddies, much to the joy of his children. DS ran into the house with the Camry. DD has a real nice fungus thing between her toes.

See? The proper amount of oversharing presented succinctly can be a beautiful thing. I love it, but I have to admit that it's kind of a cheat. It was a No-shitter from Evil Twin and it truly depicts her household goings-on this year, but it's also kind of a Bullshitter because she was mocking her husband's request that she write a holiday letter. Her real one was only slightly sanitized.

As Peter so kindly pointed out in his comment yesterday, I've already shared plenty this year so I'll cut y'all some slack and spare you my efforts. But if I get my hands on any more juicy ones, I promise to share.

*I did remove the proper nouns, but otherwise it's verbatim. I shit you not.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

'Tis the season...

...for Ho-ho-oversharing!

It's that time. Time for the Annual Receipt of the Letters of Obscene Oversharing*.

Letters from people with whom I enjoy a current relationship can be sweet, sometimes poignant glimpses of the ups and downs of their day-to-day lives. But, unfortunately, that's the exception to the rule. Most times I'm bemused and a little embarrassed by what former co-workers, neighbors from three moves ago, and other shirt-tail acquaintances reveal under the guise of a holiday greeting.

Hey, that gives me an idea! Let's play No-shitter or Bullshitter. Is this prime example of holiday oversharing real or bogus?
In April, DH and I met with the funeral guy to discuss our plans. On our anniversary - I got sick! Mom had to have a barium swallow test done. Then mom started to have severe pains in her side and back and couldn't get any relief from it - so we spent 6 hours in the ER - they weren't sure what it was either. Mom then saw Dr. E - she sent us to the hospital for an x-ray. Then the next day - we spent another 6 hours in the ER - this doctor seemed to think that mom had passed a kidney stone but we never had any confirmation on that. They did give mom some powerful drugs for the pain - I wouldn't have minded some for me! It took almost 2 whole weeks before mom did not have any more pain from this stuff. Oh - I got a call on my 2 scopes that I had in March: the endoscopy - they removed several polyps from my stomach - they were benign BUT the colonoscopy - they removed 1 polyp that was cancerous. So now I have to have another colonoscopy done in 3 years vs. 5 years. YES cancer does run on both sides of my family.

OK, what do you think? While I wait for the phones to ring, I'll try to invent/scavenge some entries for future rounds.

*Known also as X-treme TMI

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Holiday Greetings from Poland

Here's the tail end of an email exchange I had yesterday with a university professor in Poland:
Dear Liz,

Thank you very much for the e-mails.

I installed the software with no problems and now I'm happy since all works OK. Your software is outstanding!

In the beauty of the season, In the joy of Christmas Day, May you find a special meaning that brings!


You know, sometimes this tech support gig ain't so bad.

Monday, December 17, 2007


Do I or don't I make the cookies?

I love cookie recipes; collecting them, comparing them, carefully selecting my first round and second round (and maybe even third round) draft picks, figuring out my game plan, and sometimes actually making them. Making them is a heluva lot of work, but if you forge on through the hassle and the stress, you have cookies! Yay, cookies!

This year I have the golden opportunity to re-imagineer my holiday traditions. I get to decide, with pretty much no external pressure, yea or nay. And there lies the dilemma.

Although I'm guessing that Mr. B, Young Son, and Lovely Daughter would be willing to eat the products of my endeavors, none of them will be at my house full-time over the next couple of weeks. That does not bode well for my already-stressed fat pants. I'm short on time; shorter still on mental energy. And there are still lots boxes to unpack. There seem to be ample reasons to not.

Fat pants be damned! Do I want to spend Christmas Eve with Chips Ahoys and Oreos*? Wouldn't the pre-holiday weekend be preternaturally sterile without the sounds and smells of me banging around bowls and implements, swearing, and making a huge mess in my new kitchen? Isn't that what the holiday season is all about?

OK, maybe I'll make just a couple of different kinds.

It's funny how lots of naggy, negative reasons to not do can be swept aside in a heartbeat by one single, shiny reason to do.


*Not that there's anything wrong with that. Evil corporate cookies, perhaps, but they are delicious!

Friday, December 14, 2007

First dance

Yeah, yeah, I know; it's internet humor. But it had me doing the happy dance around my office, officially qualifying it as a Class I Friday Rocker.

Baby Got Back,Sir Mix A Lot, Mack Daddy

Isn't this just the cutest thing? You can tell they worked so hard to put this together. That guy is such a good sport.

I do dig the song, even though I should know better. Hope it rocks your Friday too.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I make things

We've been together long enough now that I feel it's safe to reveal this very intimate and quirky aspect of my personality.

Ummm... I make things. I mean, I make things. Lots of them. Or to be precise (and I must), I try things.

I've been making things for a long time. I first recognized this might be a personality quirk as a young teen in the early 70s. I was rummaging around behind the garage looking for a nice piece of firewood upon which to Modge Podge a crude approximation of Holly Hobbie that I had drawn. Even at the time, I thought "How odd, that I feel compelled to do this." But do it, I did. And I was pleased.

Other projects from that era that come to mind are some avocado green melamine salad plates I painted (can't remember what though) and a carved Plaster-of-Paris plaque of the cover art from my copy of The Two Towers. That last one was pretty cool, actually. I poured the Plaster-of-Paris into a disposable aluminum pie tin, carved the image using my mom's manicure tools, and sealed it with nail polish.

I took a really cool class called Craft Design my freshman year in high school. We got to carve wood, hammer brass bowls, and other neat projects. Sheer heaven! I wish I still had some of those early efforts. But since I was a science geek at heart, I abandoned my crafting classes in favor of more science-y things.

I'd learned to knit and crochet as a young child at my Mema's knee and I gravitated back to it later in high school. Pushing past some horrible memories from junior high Home Ec*, I even took up sewing when my husband bought me a sewing machine the first Christmas we lived together**. I must've been all of 19.

Over the next two decades or so, things got quite out of hand. Cross stitch, crewel embroidery, needlepoint, calligraphy, knitting, pottery, ceramics, basketry, quilting, mathematics, grad school, breadmaking, knitting, piano, computers, weaving, and spinning. Knitting's in there a lot. I did a lot of knitting.

As you probably noticed, mixed in there are some things that don't actually produce things. That's when I started forming the notion that I might be trying things, ideas, concepts; not just making things.

Somewhere in there came the soapmaking. Which, of course, led to making other bath & body products. Which, of course, necessitated the launching of a small business*** to sell stuff to get $$ and free up space to make more. Unfortunately, the conceiving of and creating small businesses with the obligatory websites, brochures, and logos took on a life of its own. Another thing to try.

Took about a decade to burn that out of my system. Along the way I managed to try a few more things: Wood carving, running, family blogging, wire jewelry, keeping chickens, singing (choral and lessons), baking, chocolate work, and cake decorating.

Now as I approach what must be the 35-year-point in my career of trying things, I think I've run out of normal things to try because it's starting to get a little weird. My most recent projects include exploring the possibilities of plarn and making clocks out of old CDs. And writing this thing. I mean really! Can it get any more random than that?

For a long time I felt bad about confusing my spouse, spending bucks on books and supplies (half the fun, you know), and then not sticking with things. I thought that there must be something wrong with me. However, lately I've come to realize that while some interests do "stick", it's really the process of learning and understanding -- grokking, if you will -- that I thrive on. A meta-hobby, perhaps?

Mr. B calls it "collecting competencies", which I like even though I can't claim I've always achieved competency along the way. And even better, Mr. B shares my susceptibility to random and severe attacks of Shiny! As in "Ooooh, look! Shiny!". I find that very comforting. And yeah, I'll confess: It is kind of fun to watch someone else succumb.

As for future projects? Future blogfodder!

p.s. Free knitting patterns here!

*Orange and purple plaid pants. I shit you not. Hey, it was the 70's.

**Poor Ex. He thought that would domesticate me. I liked making things with it but never did catch the homemaking bug. Just the first in a long series of disappointments for him, I'm afraid.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


We are closed today in observance of a random Mental Health Holiday.

We will reopen tomorrow when we get a chance.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tech support no-shitter

Probably about eight years ago, I had to call Comcast to help troubleshoot my brandy-new broadband internet connection.

I wound my way through the automated answering system hell and I finally got a tech on the line. He started reading The Script. Had I cycled power on the modem? Affirmative. Then he asked if had I unplugged the power cord from the wall or from the back of the modem. I thought it was kind of an odd question, but I answered the latter.

All stop. There was a just-slightly-too-long silence on the other end of the phone. Uh oh... my brain frantically replayed the conversation so far. What did I say?

Then, with all the authority that a tech can wield when you and he both know that he can and will refuse to help you if you do not follow his script, he told me, in all seriousness, that I had to do it again. And this time I had to unplug the power cord from the wall, because that was different than unplugging it from the modem.

I shit you not.

I was dumbstruck. I was so stunned that I couldn't even form a sentence. He was so insistent about it that I started to doubt my sense of reality. Could it possibly be true? Nah. No way. Maybe? Can't be. Can it?

In the end, I told him yes, I did it again, just the way he told me to. But I didn't.

You know, after all this time, it's still one of my all-time favorite tech support stories. He was just so absolutely sure that it mattered, he had all the power, and he damned well was going to ensure that I did it according to his script. And he probably hung up the phone feeling like he and his script had saved the day.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Snick... snick... snick...

How can the distinctive sound of someone clipping their nails in the privacy of their own office be so unbelievably gross?

Ugh. I'm hoping it's fingernails.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Once more, with feeling

Score! I found the video to the Mike Doughty song I mentioned earlier this week. Just in time to Rock my Friday!

Looking At The World From The Bottom Of A Well,Mike Doughty, Haughty Melodic

I wonder how hard it is to play guitar lying flat on your back on pavement....

p.s. I'm feeling better.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Looking at the world...

...from the bottom of a well. Yes, it's both a cool song by Mike Doughty and an accurate reflection of my mood this week.

So what's up? And what do I have to complain about anyway? I just moved into my own house; I'm warm, dry, well-fed (!), and employed. The chorus of Presbyterian ancestors in my brain just started in with their favorite chant: Suck it up! It's just a flesh wound -- walk it off! Rub some dirt in it! Stop feeling sorry for yourself! Quit being such a pussy! OK, maybe not that last one.

As far as I can tell, this is where brain chemicals come in; or more precisely, my low reserves of them. I usually hold up pretty well when the pressure is on, but if it stays on just a little too long, however long that is, I crash as soon as things approach normal. It's almost more a physical thing than a mental thing although the mental and emotional functions are what suffer.

I can get through the day by sheer force of habit but I have no mental energy left for anything other than the bare essentials*. Given a choice, I'd curl up on the couch with the remote and check out for a week-long pity party.

The saving grace is that over the past three decades of dealing with these episodes, I've uncovered a few basic truths that nearly always hold. It is what it is. It will eventually pass. Falling into the pit doesn't mean my life sucks. Listening to The Ancestors does no good; beating myself up over it doesn't make it go away any faster. Although medication does. Or it would, if I were currently taking my meds....

Uh, wait a minute. What was that last thing, again?

Crap. I think I just told myself the right answer. Which is better than someone else telling me the right answer, I suppose. I just wish it didn't take so long for me to communicate with myself.

*As is evidenced by this really lame blog entry. Sorry.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Gloom & doom

Well, that sucked!

We were visited with a significant (for us) load of wet snow over the weekend followed by a butt-ton of rain, over 8" in 24 hours. Two things saved our bacon: it didn't freeze, and the wind didn't get as freakishly bad as predicted.

There wasn't a lot of major damage in my immediate stomping grounds, but outlying areas are enjoying washed-out roads and bridges and, of course, landslides.

You know, they say that as that climate warms up, this kind of increasingly severe chaotic weather is what we can look forward to in my corner of the globe.


Friday, November 30, 2007

Things is always better'n they seem....

I love this song. I always do a little happy dance when I hear it.

Don't pay no nevermind to the video. It's a fanvid put together by a fan of the show Supernatural, which I've never seen. It's the only video I could find for the song.

Handcuffed To A Fence In Mississippi,Jim White, No Such Place

Don't know anything about Jim White, the artist, although I will after I get done looking at his website that I just found for y'all.

Regardless, this song is rockin' my Friday.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Don't let this happen to you!

Got this in an email fwd from my sister. She asked, in as horrified a tone as possible in an email, if this could really happen. Since I spent a year as a grocery store cake decorator, she hoped that I might be able to calm her fears.

The original note said:
We had a 'going away' party yesterday for a lady at our [redacted] office. One of the supervisors called a [redacted] store and ordered the cake. He told them to write: 'Best Wishes Suzanne' and underneath that write 'We will miss you'. As the picture shows, it didn't quite turn out right. It was too funny not to keep it though!

Unfortunately, yes, Virginia. This can really happen. As is evidenced by the fact that it really did... happen.

The real tragedy is that the poor decorator didn't even spell "underneath" properly. That would have been really funny. The roses look great though.

I worked once with a very sweet girl who misspelled "birthday" on a cake. To be fair, she wasn't a cake decorator. She was a bakery clerk who occasionally was called upon to write a message on a pre-decorated cake when the decorator wasn't available*.

Remember that the cake decorators at most chain grocery store bakeries, while generally fairly skilled, are usually not tested for IQ, spelling, or grammar. And this could be a potential problem depending on the quality of your local school system. So approve those school funding levies, people!

If you are the anxious sort that would positively freak out if there was the slightest error with your $11.99 sheet cake, do not place your order over the phone. Go into the store, make eye contact with the order taker (who might well not be a cake decorator**), and ask to look over the order form before you go.

If you are the super-hyper-anal sort who is considering asking the minimum-wage-earning cake decorator in the chain grocery store bakery to design from scratch and execute freehand a complicated design not in The Book on your $11.99 sheet cake, and is expecting it to look just like the picture in the latest issue of your favorite lifestyle magazine for those above a, ahem, certain income bracket, STOP.

Unless you know for a fact that the cake decorator at the chain grocery store bakery is an amazing artist***, you should proceed immediately to a custom bakery or freelance decorator and pay whatever amount of money they ask.

I'm serious! It is possible you might get something similar to what you want from the chain grocery store bakery, but it is more probable that you will get stuck with the efforts of someone like me who can copy a design from The Book passably fair but cannot draw a decent stick figure freehand.

Why, you may ask, are you so adamant about this?

Well, when I was working the front lines, I had this very experience. Are you surprised?

I was filling in at a chain grocery store bakery in a higher-income area for a decorator who had just quit. She had been there for years and had an amazing reputation.

I was... competent.

A patron fitting the above profile requested that I design a paintball-themed scene on her $11.99 sheet cake, including figures of two kids shooting paintball guns, for her twin sons' birthday.

Huh? I don't play paintball and have no idea what such a thing should look like. I can barely execute a proper stick figure with its arms sticking straight out. Forget depicting anything that could resemble a gun.

After a major freak out, I came up with a decent looking cake****, IMHO, that resembled a concrete wall spattered with paintball-ish-looking blobs with the message written in a passable imitation of graffiti-script.

Luckily I wasn't there when she picked it up. She refused it. Refused it! She refused my effort on an $11.99 sheet cake. That's harsh. I talked to her on the phone and she wanted TWO FIGURES SHOOTING GUNS. I told her I was not able to do that. She insisted I was. Then the truth came out: the other decorator always did special cakes for her.

Ooohh... kaaaayyy.... Sorry, but that doesn't make me any more competent.

Anyway, I ended up producing something that fit her criteria. I was so embarrassed by it I didn't even take a picture. Young Son does better stick figures. She was pleased. I was horrified. And yes, I did give it my best effort.

FWIW, the customers at the chain grocery store in the high-income area were some of the most inconsiderate, rude people I'd ever dealt with. And most of the kids were terribly spoiled brats. Oops... is my bias showing?

*BTW, this practice is not uncommon in a grocery store bakery.

**See the above note.

***Or unless it's an arrangement of flowers. Most of us can kick ass on flowers.

****I think I have a photo somewhere. If I find it, I'll post it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Question of protocol

How long does one keep the baby teeth?

I discovered last week that I still have most of Lovely Daughter's baby teeth.

She is 24.5 years old.

At some point in the past 18 years, while quietly aging in my secondary jewelry box, the teeth have transitioned from sentimental mementos to icky discarded body parts.

But can I just throw them away? And should I just throw away Young Son's as I go? Or do I need to archive them for an appropriate amount of time to meet some unbeknownst-to-me Sentimental Mom Protocol?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I get it. I usually recognize the correct answer when I see it.

But can I at least keep the first ones? After all, I gotta leave something behind to gross out the kids as they fight over my meager possessions.

They should be grateful that I misplaced the stump of Lovely Daughter's umbilical cord those many years ago.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Gittin'er done (aka Support Secrets)

I had to call Comcast yesterday to clarify a couple of things about my new services. I saw a few things in my notes (read: illegible scribbles on little wads of stuck-together sticky notes) from when I ordered the services that didn't match what the tech told me upon installation. So I girded my loins for battle and called.

Over the years of giving and receiving customer support I've learned some techniques which I feel increase the odds of 1.) getting helped and B.) actually getting the correct help. As most of us know, those can be two completely different things indeed.

As with any endeavor, preparation is crucial. Know what you're asking for and have any information handy that you or they might need. Old statements, order forms, account numbers, bank statements, whatever. Find it before you dial.

Once you are ready to engage, start off nicely. Approach the situation with the best of intentions. Most support folks will respond well if you are polite.

OK, here's the big secret; the Magic Phrase that can at least partially unlock the door to customer service satisfaction:
"I've noticed this problem, I'm not sure what to do about it, and I'm hoping that you [of all the nameless, faceless cogs in your big, clueless organization] can help me".

In most cases, this harmless trick plays to their ego just a wee bit and offers them a chance to show off how clever they are and maybe even be a hero by solving your problem.

Don't be in a hurry. It's going to take as long as it takes to get put through to the right person and have them do whatever they need to do. Be sure you have attended to bathroom needs, pets, and small children. Stock up on beverages and snacks. This is no time for an attack of low blood sugar or puddles of bodily fluids* at your feet.

Oh yeah, and don't forget to take notes**!

If you're dealing with a somewhat responsible organization, these tips will get you most of the way there most of the time.

Anyway, when I talked to the first Comcast rep who recognized that my question was outside of his purview and sent me on to the second rep, who then sent me on to the third rep, I didn't get annoyed. I stayed polite, had my facts (at least those I could read) in order, and after about 15 minutes I was told that my issues were resolved.

Which segues neatly to Follow-through. Watch for that next bill or statement (or two) and verify that it reflects what you were told. No matter how nicely the conversation went or how competent the rep on the other end of the phone sounded, there is a 50/50 chance that whatever they did didn't "work". Or some final critical step was left undone. So you'll have to call again.
Painful personal example: I spent a year wrestling with Qwest. Long story short, there was a billing issue that, I kid you not, took me a whole year to get resolved. Every month or two I would call back and the new rep would tell me that the previous rep, who was obviously not nearly as competent or clever as the current rep, had left some small yet critical detail undone which caused the whole process to unravel. And this process was repeated ad nauseum for a full year. Painful? Extremely. Tedious? Zzzz.... Crazy-making? Oh, yeah. But eventually it was resolved.

But occasionally, even if you've stayed nice and positive and rational, you may need to Swing the Hammer. As you might suspect, there are some tricks to that as well.

When it becomes clear that you are getting jerked around or you have called about the SAME ISSUE A MILLION TIMES, it's appropriate to let that brittle edge of irritation and dissatisfaction creep into your tone.

CAUTION: Whatever you do, don't launch into a rant against the rep or the company. Avoid like the plague the words "always" and "never", as in "You people always..." and "Qwest never..." Because once you tip the conversation over the fence into Crazy-land, you have given them permission to slap the Loony label on your forehead and tune you out.

Trust me, getting slapped with the Loony label will never aid you in your quest to achieve customer service satisfaction.

Probably the best part of my Comcast call was when I had to put the rep on hold to take an incoming support call. I knew I was taking a chance and that I might have to start all over, but I had to answer that call. And even though it just took a minute I was surprised she was still there when I returned. I apologized and explained that I, too, was in tech support and made some lame comment about feeling her pain. We had a brief moment of kinship and she got my issue wrapped up*** shortly thereafter.

I tell you, putting a customer service rep on hold was almost as much fun as making the doctor wait for an appointment. Although that's still just a dream...

*Yours or anyone/thing else's.

**I'm not kidding. Read the Qwest story. Again! Document, document, document, people!

***I hope... I'll find out in about 4 weeks.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Ah, yes. The Seven Ps.

Stated in positive a light:

Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

Or, more realistically (in my experience, anyway):

Piss Poor Prior Planning Precedes Poor Performance.

That pretty much sums up how my move went last week. Not sure what happened, exactly, but let's just say that if I received a grade for my management of this project, I would have been grateful for a Pity "C".

I am shamed. Any experienced military spouse, current or former, would be well within her/his rights to regard me with scorn and even mock me heartily.

But derision aside, the actual moving portion of the program is more or less over. (Almost) everything is contained within the 1800 sqft cube that I call my own. I got the main hub of my media/entertainment system set up last night, including my wireless network. Maybe tonight I'll get around to unpacking our clothes. A girl has to have her priorities, you know.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Shining, Shooting Stars

Here's a little edu-tainment to keep you occupied while I'm away today, most likely standing pale and slack-jawed, slowly turning in circles.

Awwww... isn't it romantic? I heart science!

And those of us of a certain age can't think about that without thinking about this:

Puts it in a whole 'nother light, don't it?

Monday, November 19, 2007


I am embarrassed to admit that I am suffering from a severe case of Moving Paralysis.

It's rather humiliating since I've moved a whole bunch of times in the past 30 years. I've had lots of experience managing household moves and consider myself somewhat skilled at it.

Over the past three decades, I've thrown black plastic garbage bags filled with my earthly possessions into the back of a pickup truck for a drive halfway across the country. I've endured the onslaught of professional packers piling stuff into boxes willy-nilly*. I've watched movers throw my goods into a BFT (Big F'n Truck, of course) and drive away to another time zone, leaving me to wonder if I'd ever see them again. I've imposed on friends, family, their good natures, and their vehicles to haul my crap across town.**

I've done it and survived it and even managed to get most of it unpacked before the next move. Which is no mean feat, considering that I can only make so many decisions per 24-hour period*** before my brain seizes up and I'm left pale and slack-jawed, turning in slow circles in the middle of the room.

But for some reason, this time I am flailing around like a moving rookie.

I've bought the house. I'm finally old enough and smart enough to hire movers even though it's "only a local move". I've transferred every known service and utility, and updated every conceivable account.

But the movers are coming in less than 48 hours and it is time for me to stand tall and declare that I. Am. Not. Ready. Boxes are still unpacked. Dressers are not emptied. Toys, papers, and knick-knacks litter every visible horizontal surface. I do have a whole lot of boxes of books, though. I can pack a box of books like nobody's business.

The bright (?) side is that regardless of what I do or don't do, the furniture and boxes will be moved out of the apartment tomorrow. At this point, all I have control over is how much stuff is left over for Mr. Bicycle and me to deal with, car-full by miserable car-full.

Tuesday will be a Very Late Night, Wednesday will be a Death March, and then I'll have the rest of the T-Day weekend to pick up the pieces.

Needless to say, you probably won't hear much from me until after the dust settles.

*My favorite was the time the packers opened up a box of baby clothes that I had packed and topped off the box with Hubby's tools from the garage. Thanks,
guys. I was thrilled to discover that the oily, grimy tools were adequately padded.

**That's how you know you're pushing mid-life. The prospect of moving your friend's sofa bed down two flights of stairs loses its allure. Even the promise of a case of beer isn't enough lipstick for that pig.

***Can't tell you what that number is, but it seems to be generated via some ill-defined formula involving blood sugar, caffeine levels, available mental energy, and exhaustion.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Where It's At

For some unknown reason, it turns out this week is Beck week. I've fancied a couple of his songs over the years and this week I finally downloaded mp3s of my three favorites. This being one of them.

Where It's At,Beck, Odelay

Is it weird that I, at the ripe old age of 47 years and 11 months, even have favorite Beck songs?

I suppose it's no big surprise. One time, when I was about 10, my mom gave me some 45s. The two I remember were The Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin) and Tears of a Clown (Smokey Robinson). As I recall, at the time my mom was into Broadway, opera, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (here's an audio clip that takes me back!), and Tom Jones.

So the argument could be made that my tendency toward a diverse musical palate is genetic.

Speaking of Tom Jones, looks like he's still at it, bless his heart!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Magical Moments in the Dark

Setting: Driving home at 5:09 pm. It's dark. It's cold. It's raining. I'm stressed; Ex is out of town so I have to pick up Young Son before the daycare closes at 5:30 pm or he will be turned into a pumpkin or some such shit. And I'm freaked out because I'm moving in a week and I'm way behind.


All of a sudden the realization dawns that the windshield wipers are keeping the beat of the song* on the radio. I always like it when that happens. Usually, though, the timing is just that much off so the synchronicity lasts just a moment or two.

This time, however, the beat stayed rock steady for the duration. Truly magical.


*Porcelain, by Moby

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

News from afar: Back East

The other day, one of my oldest and dearest pals -- a federal civil service employee -- was attending CPR training at work. Here's a note she dashed off during her break:
So, the Michael Scott-like supervisor selected the young, attractive Ms. J. as his partner.

She rolls her eyes.

During the Heimlich maneuver, he has his arms around her, fists in place, when he starts to giggle.

She ignores it as best she can, but he giggles again.

"What?" she says

He says, "I'm so embarrassed!"

"What?" (OMIGOD, she thinks.)

He giggles again. "Did you feel that? I am so-o-o sorry!"

"EWWW!" she says, and breaks away.

Apparently, he had his cell phone in his pocket, set to vibrate, and it went off.

I am so-o-o grateful that I work for a company of introverts.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Straight from the Boss's Mouth

This is another genuine no-shitter: an excerpt from an article written by my boss for a journal of conference proceedings.

"In the past, [our] users had a hard time if they wanted to change or add a style. The advice of our tech support staff has been:
  • You don't want to do that.
  • You shouldn't do that.
  • You can use [redacted] to do that.
  • You can rewrite the [redacted] file.

We no longer give the first two responses...."

Crap! I really liked the first two responses.

But I do treasure the knowledge that my boss has a sense of humor.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Ferry Follies

We're enjoying a lovely stormy day today, which reminded me of these startling pix from our last storm

No, they're not mine -- they're the work of professional photographer Ross Fotheringham*.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Washington State Ferry System, these boats are huge! This was the M/V Cathamet which can hold up to 124 cars, 26 commercial vehicles, and 1200 passengers. It takes an amazing amount of force to move these babies like that.

If you look closely at the first photo, you can see outlines of vehicles on the outer lip of the car deck. In the last photo, poof! They're gone. Not washed overboard; probably shoved forward toward the center of the car deck. That's going to leave a mark.

I've only once been on a ferry that's even come close to moving like that. The passenger cabin is so big, it's like being in a building that's rocking and rolling. Urp!

*If you copy and use these pix, please leave them un-cropped, retain the copyright notice in the upper right corner, and include a link to the photographer's website

Friday, November 9, 2007

Treat Yo Mama

Since I am Such The Mom, I figured this would be the perfect entry for this week's Fridays Rock! Because it is Friday and this shit does indeed rock. Yes, yes, yes.

Please set aside 10 minutes, with an adult beverage if possible, to enjoy this righteous jam: The John Butler Trio busking in Fremantle WA (Western Australia) last year.

Treat Yo Mama (Live),John Butler Trio, Sunrise Over Sea

The drum solo (time -3:33) makes me weak in the knees. I am a life-long frustrated percussionist wanna-be. I tried to get Lovely Daughter interested in percussion with little success. But now with Young Son I have another chance! Bwah-ha-ha-haaa!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Such The Mom

I am Such The Mom.

I'm not the best mom, nor the mom with the most kids, and I'm certainly no Soccer Mom or Supermom. But even being the minimally effective yet lazy mom that I am, I am Such The Mom through and through.

Young Son and Lovely Daughter, my two "onlies" ("only-es"??), were born 16 years apart. Young Son is in 2nd grade. Yes, I have been mom-ing for a long time and I still have a fair amount ahead of me. After such an extended soak, the salty yet slightly sweet brine of mom-ness has permeated my very core.

Now that I am in A Relationship with Mr. Bicycle -- a person who has never reproduced -- I am, for the first time, becoming acutely aware of the effects this extended state of mom-hood has had on my personality.

I am hyper-aware of other people's business. Now granted, some of this comes from being married for just under 60% of my life, but I think the mom marinade has had a profound deepening effect. Other people's shit left undone can drive me to distraction; indeed, even more so than my own shit. It doesn't have to be important shit, nor does it have to have anything at all to do with me. But if I am aware that someone in my inner circle has an uncompleted action item, I cannot rip that mental sticky note from the inside of my skull until I have verification* that the task has been completed.

The rainy season had begun and Mr. Bicycle hadn't yet stowed his new electric lawnmower in the garage. It haunted me. Why? Is it my lawnmower? No. Do I have to buy the replacement next spring when he drags it out from under (half-under) the back steps only to find it's a moldering heap of rust and moss? No. Did it bother me? Immensely.

What did I do? I eventually moved it into his garage. After asking his permission, of course. Yes, I am Such The Mom, but see? I did manage to remember that he's Not My Kid.

Also, there are some key phrases that I have at times repeated daily that some people never utter even once in their life.
  • Leave your penis** alone.
  • Don't eat your boogers.
  • Do you have to pee?
  • Eat it. It'll keep your poopy soft.***

Mr. Bicycle informed me that he has never once said any of these things. Not even once. I advised him that they might spice up conversations with his coworkers. There's something about lobbing a flaming bag of poo like that into the middle of a conference table that just makes my day. Which segues neatly into...

The last -- and to me, the most telling -- indication of how deeply this state of mom-itude has affected my being is that my delight in embarrassing my children has morphed over the decades into a complete willingness to embarrass myself and anyone within a 10 foot radius for a laugh, regardless of how cheap.

Comedian Josh Sneed advises that, when faced with a choice of actions, one should "Do what makes for a better story." Amen, brother! This tendency of mine can launch Mr. Bicycle directly into a severe attack of jaw-clenching, hyperventilating mortification. Which is pretty entertaining in its own right.

Yes, indeed. It's good to be Such The Mom.

*Yes, there must be verification. Trust but Verify is my Mom Mantra.

**Or pants, if talking to the female child, or if in public with the male child. But since Lovely Daughter in in her mid-20's now and living on the opposite coast, I rarely have to say it to her anymore.

***With Young Son, however, I've adopted the minimally more sophisticated "It's good for your colon!" But of course I have to say it in my really loud Wanda the Fairly Oddparent voice.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


A couple of years ago, Young Son comes home from school and blurts out excitedly
"Hey Mom! You know the guys with no backbones? We learned about where they live."

I'm thinking, like, what in the hell could he possibly be talking about?!? After a moment of frantic kidslation, it occurred to me that they had been learning about invertebrates.
Kidslation: "Mother, today we studied the habitats of invertebrates."

There was a time several years ago when the family unit was playing Balderdash, where you invent definitions to unusual words to bluff the other players. Lovely Daughter was about 10, I think.
The word: 'ophecleide.'

Her definition: "A snail that lives off of SweetTarts."

We laughed ourselves silly and the poor kid just couldn't figure out how we guessed hers was not the real definition.

Here's a Lovely Daughter Classic Moment from a few years earlier: One night, she was drowsily telling me about her evening with the babysitter.
"Mom, you know that talking hand on TV? We ate it's food...."

After several moments of total befuddlement, I got it! The babysitter served Hamburger Helper.

Then there's my other most (read: least) favorite game of all time: the Instant Momslation Game. As in "Mom, what's a ______?" That phrase strikes terror in my heart. It's usually played in lightening round fashion, often in public.

Lovely Daughter Classic Moment: LD and pal, age 12 or so, are sitting in the back seat of the car. We pull into the gas station and Hubby jumps out. The girls immediately lean forward. Lovely Daughter whispers:
"Mom! What's a dildo??"

GAK! I actually though my heart had stopped. Slowly, as my field of vision cleared, it dawned on me that I only had to answer the freakin' question, not explain the care and feeding usage of the thing. The answer popped into my mind like the single clear tone of a silver bell.
"It's a plastic penis."

Case closed. That's all they wanted to know.

Young Son is just now starting to ask those questions about babies and eggs and external genitalia and such. I really think I'm getting too old for this. I think this time I'm going to go buy a book.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

It's Tuesday! Time for a Tech Support Nugget.

I just remembered another George story. This is a no-shitter excerpt from one of George's weekly status reports* a few months back.
Mr. K__, who asks lots of questions (about 30 messages in the last 30 days), reported an error.

A search of the code finds the comment,
"// display a message that the user is a dickhead."
Figured out a more polite way to solve his problem.
OK, maybe so it's no so much strictly a George story as a cautionary tale of how completely bored and frustrated programmers can get. Yeah, I've left my fair share of snide comments in code over the years. But nothing as glorious as this!

Way to go, Long-since-lost-to-history Code Monkey Guy!

And way to go, George! I can only aspire to such chutzpah.

*Disseminated to the whole company, btw. All 25 of us!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Monday mini-moment

Setting: Driving to work... 5 mins late already... almost there... barely conscious... I spy this bumper sticker on the car in front of me:

I'm no longer with stupid.


Friday, November 2, 2007

Hot Pockets

On this edition of Fridays Rock!, I'm going to taunt you with the knowledge that my guy (aka Mr. Bicycle) & I have tickets to see Jim Gaffigan tomorrow night. Nyah, nyah!

Beyond the Pale,Jim Gaffigan

And, best of all, Jim's a Hoosier, just like me*!

If this doesn't get your mind right for the weekend, you might need to check your meds.

*You know, that explains a lot. David Letterman is a Hoosier, as is/was Kurt Vonnegut.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Biking fish

So we've all heard this one, right?

A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle
-Irina Dunn*, 1970

This phrase has been a part of my consciousness for a long, long time. For me, it distills the essence of the late 60s-early 70's, when female-kind first started down the path from "Gotta Get Me a Man" to "F--k All Y'all" to "Chrissakes, Aren't We There Yet?!?"

Believe it or not, back in the day the whole notion was novel, intriguing, and subversive -- especially to young girls (I was 10 in 1970) -- this radical concept that we could be good enough and strong enough all on our own. X-treme, in fact, for girls raised on Cinderella, Snow White, and the original Mystery Date.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Nice history lesson, Grandma. But so what?

Today I stumbled across this lovely blog. Lovely writing, and c'mon, who can resist that logo? But it was her "About Me" that got me thinking.

What about my fish**? My fish likes bicycles. I don't think my fish needs a bicycle. Does it follow that my fish should feel guilty for wanting a bicycle? Should my fish never have a bicycle ever ever again?


On the one hand, my fish relied pretty heavily -- more than I would consider optimal -- on a nice, sturdy bike for a long, long time. And even enjoyed it some of the time. It was a perfectly fine bike although it never did fit quite right***.

On the other hand, my fish was then presented the opportunity to learn to live happily sans bicyclette for the first time ever. Fantastic opportunity, that. Nothing to sneeze at.

But... all of a sudden (poof!) there appeared this really nice, shiny, high-tech bicycle. My fish liked it a lot and couldn't resist the chance to give it a go.

Well, let me tell you. It's not easy to learn to handle a new bicycle after riding the same bike for nearly 30 years. Lots of work, some spills, fair amount of fear and uncertainty, and always in the back of the fish's very small brain there's this annoying, thin little reedy, whiny voice going 'But, but, you said you didn't need a bike! I don't think this is a good idea....'

You know what? My fish really likes the bicycle enough to take the risk, even though it's scary and frustrating to learn to ride again, and it definitely would be easier not to have to deal with the new, super-complicated operating instructions.

And who knows? With the passage of time, this particular fish might end up needing this particular bicycle after all.

*I learned a new thing today! Here's the origin of the phrase. Who knew?

**It is all about me (and my fish). Just ask my pal Peggy.

***Ouch! That's going to leave a mark.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Halloween Humor

Setting: Mom & Young Son are driving home at the end of a long day. Mom is whupped, flying on autopilot.
YS: Mom, can I say ...unintelligible...? Just for a minute?

M: (slowly gaining awareness of her surroundings) Uh... huh?

YS: Can I say... (drops to a stage whisper) 'drunk'?

M: (Is 'drunk' a bad word? Should it be? Where could this possibly go?) Sure...

YS: OK! How do you get a ghost drunk?

M: I dunno, how?

YS: Give him BOO-ze!

Of course there was uproarious laughter all around. I'm pretty sure he made that up himself, which is somehow simultaneously cool and mortifying.

Young Son has been saying that he wants to be a stand-up comedian* when he grows up. No big, you say?

Well, when his big sister, Lovely Daughter, would declare oh those many years ago that she was 'going to be a star', we'd smile condescendingly and pat her on the head.

She's now finishing up a Master's in acting at a major drama school.

I take those bold statements of intent a little more seriously than I used to.

*He also wants to be a Lego builder, and a submariner like his dad. When he was 5 he wanted to be a professional clown. As long as he doesn't go into politics, it's all good by me!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Mmmm... Spam!

Here at Tech Support Central we get tons of spam every day. Some are outright obscene (I try not to gawk), but the majority are simply stupid or are displayed in a non-Western character set. Happily, both those categories are easy to ignore.

But the German spam... ah, the German spam. The ones we get all seem to indicate... uh... sources of male enhancement products. (What's going on over there, anyway, Germany? Is there something you need to tell me?)

Here are what I can only assume are the super-effective* ones, based on how frequently they appear in our already-bulging spam folder:

From what I remember, ihren means their; Ihr means your. Fer chrissake, don't rag on me if I'm wrong. I'm recalling high school German from over 30 years ago!
Energy fur ihren Schwanz!
I doubt this is proper Deutsch, but it gets the point across, so to speak.

Doping fur Ihr bestes Stuck!
Probably only slightly more correct, but still, we get it.

Man lebt nur einmal....
Man (or One?) lives only once....
Now that's a nice way to frame it.

Potenzprobleme? Ab jetzt nicht mehr.
Power problems? From now on, no more.
Power of positive thinking, that's the ticket!

Ficken wie ein Weltmeister!
(Do it) like a world champion!
A nice, encouraging sentiment. Direct. Sets a clear goal.

Jetzt bestellen und ein blaues Wunder erleben
Now order and a blue miracle experience
Pure poetry! I think it's my favorite.

Why, oh why the fixation on German spam? I took just enough German in high school so that I must involuntarily attempt to pronounce every German word I encounter. Even though I no longer have any comprehension whatsoever, my brain just latches on to it.

Props to my German teacher, Mr. Schultz, for attempting to drill it into our thick little Hoosier skulls. Thanks. Really.

*The ads, not the products.

Additional rough translations courtesy of

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Scenes from a life: Young Son

Setting: Young Son's room, 2004. Young Son, age 4, and Mom are having a heated discussion.
M: I need you to start picking up your toys now.

YS: (whining) I don't want to pick them up. I want you to do it.

M: (confident that logic will prevail) If I pick up your toys, I'm going to put them away in my closet for a week and you won't be able to play with them.

YS: (with a slow grin) That's OK. You do it. I only want this one toy.

M: (sotto voce) crap....

Friday, October 26, 2007

Fridays Rock!

Just a little something to get your mind right for the weekend.

Click on one of the images below to view a Chris Whitley video.

WARNING: Not all images may be suitable for family viewing. No outright obscenity, but some mature themes nonetheless.

The ones where his hair is longer are from his first album, back in 1991. Music is great; videos sometimes seem a little silly. Especially once you get familiar with his later stuff.

The two later ones (Automatic, O God My Heart...) are my favorites.

Check out his music on Amazon .There's lots of his stuff on YouTube, too.

p.s. Be forewarned: I am currently obsessed with his music. I'll be raving about him again. :)

Ha ha! Joke's on me.

OK, ok, okokok.... ...titter titter... Here's one for you. You're gonna love this one!
What do you get ...heeheeheee... when you have, like, two middle-aged adults working on a new relationship? Yaknow?


They are both subject to, like, ...snort,tee-hee... fluctuating levels of certain neurotransmitters?

this is the best part!

They are both dicking around with their meds ...get this!!


This is priceless! gigglegigglegiggle...
Phew! Gotta catch my breath... sorry!
Wait for it...

Sometimes it, like, yaknow, kinda sucks.

Say what I might (read: have) about my Ex; about how incompatible we were on so many levels*, I gotta give him this: the guy is emotionally goddamned rock solid normal.

And, say, if one has been subject to fairly regular episodes of dysthymia -- perhaps cyclothymia? -- since adolescence, the argument could be made that there might be benefits to having a spouse that simply is what he is, day after day. Same as it ever was. But, unfortunately, in the long run the cost-benefit analysis didn't prove out. But I digress.

What does one do when one meets a person that is so much more compatible on so many levels, but also (coincidentally? hmmmm?) happens to share similar irregularities in brain chemistry? And both parties happen to experience those irregularities simultaneously? Because they're cutting back their meds?** Without supervision?!?***

One fastens one's seat belt and hopes for the best. It's not nearly as much fun as it sounds, trust me.

One also finds oneself praying fervently, even though one is an atheist, that one is strong enough to stand steady until the seas calm.

And, yeah, one kind of wishes one was still drinking.

*Don't get me started. Really.

**I thank the universe for the miracles of modern pharmacology. Better living through chemistry! Yeah, baby!

***You know, seeing that in black & white makes me want to slap myself upside the head and scream "Duh!"



Thursday, October 25, 2007

News from afar: Tampa

I love my sister. We have similar tastes in humor and we are both suckers for a well-turned phrase. Here's an excerpt from a recent email:

We're going to a Halloween party this Saturday, so I finally dragged Hubby to the cheapie costume store. Being the sex-deprived, testosterone-laden guy he is, he immediately gravitated to the "adult" section and the Slutty Female Costumes Wall of Shame (nurse, cheerleader, French maid, blah, blah, blah).

I explained that despite (or maybe because of) a near-20 lb weight loss, I'm flatter-chested than a 10-yr old boy, which tends to kill the whole French Maid vibe.

I finally settled on a fun, non-form-fitting Lucy Ricardo costume (after all, it's one of our favorite shows on TV Land, and he's stated many times that he thinks Lucille Ball was a comedic genius). I showed it to Hubby, and he started whining in protest.

I said, "But I thought you liked Lucy..."

To which he replied - at full volume with a dozen children within earshot -

"I LOVE Lucy! But I don't wanna F*%K Lucy!!!"

Message received. Happy Halloween, indeed.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Internet humor

I absolutely adore Internet humor. OK, let me qualify that. The heartwarming cutesy ones interspersed with those little cartoon animals/hearts/angels/babies about how wonderful it is to be a mom getting older with your bestest gal pals... not so much. And as a MAWF* with a lot of MAWF friends, I get a lot of those. Love ya, sistahs, but puh-leez....

But seriously, consider for just a moment the absolute treasure trove of humor we now have at our fingertips. Things we might never have seen or heard if it weren't for this miraculous WWW-thingy. Thank you, Al Gore.

YouTube? The best ev-er! Where else can you find scenes from Monty Python's Holy Grail done entirely in Legos? Not to mention Terry Tate, Office Linebacker. C'mon people, I don't care who you are, that's some funny shit.

And then there's the ubiquitous email forward. It's a slippery slope. I mean, geez, you get on just one casual acquaintance's fwd list and you could be facing a never-ending stream of crrrrrrap. I know, I know. You're thinking, like, There's got to be a pony in here somewhere, right? And I'm saying, like, No, Virginia, sometimes the pony dies and you're left with piles of shit. Not to mention that whole dead pony thing.**

But everyone once in awhile, if you pick your friends properly, you get rewarded with the occasional beauteous nugget in your Inbox.
Ed. Note: BTW, picking your friends is much, much different and generally more hygienic than picking your friend's. If you don't understand the distinction, look here.

I figured this topic was well worth its own category. So when I absolutely can't think of a single thing to write about, I'll drop one of those rare gleaming treasures on you. I hoard them like a dragon hoards gems. My stash is large enough to keep us entertained for quite awhile.

*That's Middle-Aged White Female, potty brain.

**Sorry, sometimes my inside voices come out. I'm working on it, really.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Those wacky customers...

People who work in customer support (or any service industry, really) have their own brand of gallows humor, usually evoking a combination of affection and disgust for the customer/client/guest/whatever we're calling them these days. This is especially true those of us in the computer industry. Doubly especially so for those of us who have the joy of supporting products that run on the W#nd*ws platform. Uh oh. I feel a whine coming on!
Not only do we get to help users navigate our own products, but we get to attempt, on a daily basis, to explain and apologize for M*soft's stupid decisions. Don't even get me started on Vista! OK, I have a love/hate relationship with M*soft. I used to be a temp there. But I digress....

Keeping with the long-standing tradition of the best gallows humor, the jokes can sound kind of harsh. But in truth, those of us with fairly stable brain chemistry don't hold any real animosity towards our customers; mostly we laugh simply to keep from bursting into tears or just plain hanging up mid-phone call after being utterly overcome by futility and despair.

Here's a little gem of Internet humor that recently hit my Inbox:

Old George

I was having trouble with my computer. So I called George the computer guy to come over. George clicked a couple of buttons and solved the problem.

He gave me a bill for a minimum service call. As he was walking away, I called after him, "So, what was wrong?"

He replied, "It was an
ID Ten T error."

I didn't want to appear stupid, but nonetheless inquired, "An
ID Ten T error? What's that? In case I need to fix it again."

George grinned. "Haven't you ever heard of an
ID Ten T error before?"

"No," I replied.

"Write it down," he said, "and I think you'll figure it out."

So I wrote down:
I D 1 0 T

I used to like George.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Remembering Phillip

Remember in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the scene near the end where the mothership lands? There's a guy in a white shirt standing at the keyboard playing the 5 tones.

Well, that guy is Phillip, my dear friend's brother-in-law. He just recently passed away from colon cancer. He was only 56 years old.

He wasn't an actor. He was installing the synthesizer for the movie when Steven Spielberg tapped him to play the part of Jean Claude.

I'd met Phillip a few times when I visited my friend in Annapolis. He was a really cool guy. Next time you get a chance, watch Close Encounters and raise a glass in Phillip's honor. I did this weekend and although it's always been one of my favorite movies, I don't think I'll be able to watch it again without choking up at the end.

Here's the link to the scene on YouTube for those with short attention spans.

And if you're over 50, pleasepleaseplease get your colonoscopy, dammit!

Friday, October 19, 2007

This just in!

I work at a small software company doing front-line tech support, meaning that I answer the easy questions and act as receptionist for the two guys who answer the hard questions.

This is an actual email sent out today by one of my coworkers in response to a customer query:
(The color is mine)
----- Original Message -----
From: Support
Sent: Friday, October 19, 2007 9:37 AM
Subject: Re: (no subject) [convert to RTF]

The short answer is no.

There is not a one-to-one correspondence between our objects and RTF objects. The conversion is doing the best job that can be done. Typically there will be some manual clean up after the conversion.


[redacted] Software, Inc.


This made me laugh out loud at my desk. "The short answer is no." How cool is that?!?

I called George to tell him how great it was and that I wanted to make it my sig line. I think that puzzled him a little.

This has got to be one of the best tech support responses ever. It ranks right up there with "Well, it works for me."

Pitch Freakin' Black

We had a windstorm yesterday.

That's what we get here in the upper-left corner of the continental US of A. We don't get lightning and thunderstorms, or hurricanes, or tornadoes. We get rain with occasional flooding and landslides, and straight-line windstorms. The latter usually results in power outages of varying size and duration.

Well this time it was my turn. The power had been flickering at work all afternoon and when I got home, sure enough, the apartment was dead calm and dark. But the wind had died down quite a bit by bedtime. Surely the power would be back on by morning....

Nope. It was pitch freakin' black this morning when I awoke. Not a pleasing way to start the day.

I made a few calls and determined that there was power at work so I would be expected to show up. I could bring Young Son with me if the school was closed.

What to do, what to do.... Shower? Nope. Coffee? Nope. Hate the thought of going to work un-showered and undercaffeinated. Grrr.

Finally dragged myself out of the bunk and into the kitchen to at least rinse out my hair in the sink. If I could create the illusion of freshness, I might be able to pass as bathed. I had just finished rinsing out my hair in goddamned *cold* water when the power came on - yippee!

Rushed Young Son through our morning routine, dropped him at school, stopped to get my daily dose, and made it to work just half an hour late.

No one else in the office lost power last night. The office servers didn't even reboot. Somehow it all feels a little anti-climactic. I bought myself chocolate-covered graham crackers in recompense.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Sometimes, like right now, I suddenly sit bolt upright, shake my head, and scream (in my own head)

WTF am I doing?!?

Who in their right mind would fall willingly into a new romantic relationship with an old friend just a few months after the end of a 28-year marriage?

Am I insane?

This relationship thing is going really well, but for some reason, sometimes I have an out-of-body experience and get a glimpse at my situation from the outside. Freaks me out every time. It's kind of like when all of a sudden the word "that" looks like it's not spelled right. You're positive it is, but it just looks weird.

As for the answers:
- I have no idea.
- No one.
- Yes.

But I'm thinking that's not going to slow me down. Much.

p.s. I'm guessing "WTF" is a fairly standard acronym, but since most of my adult life was influenced by the Navy, I can't be sure. Is it just a sailor thing?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


I got divorced recently after being married just shy of 28 years. The disruption was fairly sudden and somewhat traumatic. I had long given up hope of obtaining the "Get Out of Marriage Free" card I secretly longed for, so it didn't take me long to bounce back once I got it.

Oh, tt wasn't easy -- I had to slog through the swamp to redeem that goddamned card -- but I made it through in one piece, more or less. And I've managed to salvage a decent relationship with my ex, which is important since we have one young child still at home whom we're trying to not scar for life.

Just a scant couple of months after the ink was dry on the dissolution, I met up with an acquaintance from a job I had over 20 years ago. We hung out and did some stuff together, and it only took a month or so before we realized that we had officially started "dating". It took even less time than that to discover that we were in love.

So now I am pushing 50, newly divorced, mother of a twenty-something and a grade-schooler, and head-over-heels in a new relationship after I swore up and down that I wasn't going to get involved with anyone for a long, long time, if ever.

Lesson learned: Never say never.

Anyway, I was just thinking that it would be fun to put some of my thoughts out to the universe from time to time.

So here I am. Welcome aboard. This could be fun!