To read about F's and my London trip, start here and click "newer post" to continue the story.

Monday, July 31, 2006

It happened again.

I was at work today, well actually I was standing around in the front office. A man came in to deliver something from a competitor lab, where I worked until December of 1986, and when he saw me he broke into a smile and said, "Hi, Laura! It's been a long time!" I was and am stunned. I don't remember him at all, neither his name nor his face. That was TWENTY YEARS AGO. He sez I have not changed.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Baaaaackkk to the vet today. Somehow our indoor Bonnie got fleas and she speedily transferred them to the other cats. We have tried three different flea treatments that we bought at Petco with only slight success. F has been telling me that the tomcat's tail is in bad shape b/c he keeps licking it. R and I trimmed some fur away and took a look last night - holy cow. I know flea bites can drive them nuts, but I didn't feel comfortable assuming that that was his skin problem. Turns out that was his problem, so he got a steroid shot, a dose of Frontline (and we bought enough for the girls, plus another set for next month) and we went on and got his rabies shot so he won't have to go back soon.

I hate to tell you what this cost. Damn cats.

R went with. Normally F and I take them to the vet, one at a time of course, the girls on their harness and leash, and Himself in a solvent box. But R said he'd carry him. The cat is 15 years old but he is wiry and strong. I would not have attempted it. He did fine with R carrying him, though. R is his buddy. He was much less stressed than he usually is, with R there, but even so there was growling and hissing and even a bite or two. Poor kitty. (I always think it's funny when I'm sitting in a chair reading or something, and he grimly and arthritically clambers into my lap, displaces my book, and settles himself where he can stare into my face. "Aren't you supposed to be aloof?" I ask.)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A construction worker in Ireland found a very old artifact:

Ireland Worker Finds Ancient Psalms in Bog

Irish archaeologists Tuesday heralded the discovery of an ancient book of psalms by a construction worker who spotted something while driving the shovel of his backhoe into a bog.

The approximately 20-page book has been dated to the years 800-1000. Trinity College manuscripts expert Bernard Meehan said it was the first discovery of an Irish early medieval document in two centuries.

"This is really a miracle find," said Pat Wallace, director of the National Museum of Ireland, which has the book stored in refrigeration and facing years of painstaking analysis before being put on public display.

"There's two sets of odds that make this discovery really way out. First of all, it's unlikely that something this fragile could survive buried in a bog at all, and then for it to be unearthed and spotted before it was destroyed is incalculably more amazing."


The book was found open to a page describing, in Latin script, Psalm 83, in which God hears complaints of other nations' attempts to wipe out the name of Israel.

And here is Psalm 83:

1 Keep not thou silence, O God: hold not thy peace, and be not still, O God.

2 For, lo, thine enemies make a tumult: and they that hate thee have lifted up the head.

3 They have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and consulted against thy hidden ones.

4 They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.

5 For they have consulted together with one consent: they are confederate against thee:

6 The tabernacles of Edom, and the Ishmaelites; of Moab, and the Hagarenes;

7 Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; the Philistines with the inhabitants of Tyre;

8 Assur also is joined with them: they have holpen the children of Lot. Selah.

9 Do unto them as unto the Midianites; as to Sisera, as to Jabin, at the brook of Kison:

10 Which perished at Endor: they became as dung for the earth.

11 Make their nobles like Oreb, and like Zeeb: yea, all their princes as Zebah, and as Zalmunna:

12 Who said, Let us take to ourselves the houses of God in possession.

13 O my God, make them like a wheel; as the stubble before the wind.

14 As the fire burneth a wood, and as the flame setteth the mountains on fire;

15 So persecute them with thy tempest, and make them afraid with thy storm.

16 Fill their faces with shame; that they may seek thy name, O LORD.

17 Let them be confounded and troubled for ever; yea, let them be put to shame, and perish:

18 That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth.

How timely.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

I am feeling kind of negative these days, and I don't want to post negatively. So I will probably be a bit terse until my mood rights itself.

But I will talk about the word "nausea". The spelling of this word apparently is a stumbling-block to some. You can easily remember how to spell this word if you realize that it has a Greek root: "naus", meaning "ship". "Nautical" has its root in that word. Jason, if you'll remember, had a ship called the Argos, and his crew were the Argonauts. An astronaut is a star-sailor. To be nauseated literally is to be seasick, but the term means any kind of queasiness or feeling that you might toss your cookies. A related term is "nauseous", which people use to mean that they are nauseated, but which actually describes something that invokes nausea.

Homonyms present a great stumbling block to some people. Homonyms are words that you pronounce the same, but have different meanings and may have different spellings. "There" is a location, like "over there". "Their" is the possessive of "they", which if English was a logical language, would actually be "they's". "They played with their dog." "They're" is the contraction of "they are". "They're playing with their dog."

I, me, myself. "I" is the nominative case. "Me" is the objective case. The object of a to-be verb takes the nominative case. It is I. This is she. The objects of other verbs take the objective case. Let me do that. She spoke to Harvey and me. "Myself" is reflexive. I hit myself in the eye. I'm going to sit right down and write myself a letter. If "I" is the subject, "myself" is the object; otherwise, not. "She spoke to Harvey and myself" is WRONG. Do not be afraid of the word "me".

A NY Times article complains that on average, the performance on standardized tests of both publicly and privately schooled children is mediocre. What the heck else would it be? The whole country can't be Lake Wobegon. And one should be careful about drawing conclusions about test scores being below average. Some test scores are going to be below average, and some above. That's what "average" means. A related issue is rank: for instance, the fact that some state ranks 50th in per-pupil spending. If the states don't all have the same per-pupil spending, and you rank them, some state will rank last. It's inevitable.

Sometimes I read stuff like this and it bothers me, and I feel that I am hyper-critical. Other times I gloss over things that are incorrect or illogical and I worry that eventually they will seem right to me. My spoken grammar has definitely suffered in this way.

Okay, well, I am going to put my headache to bed. Things will look up this week. They'll have to. I will make them.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A man introduced himself to me today. He has started attending our church and recognized me in the choir. Apparently we were coworkers in 1989. I do not remember him AT ALL. Still don't. Not his name, not his face. So much for wondering why other people don't remember their work history.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

I may get a j. i. next week. Haven't ruled out Kalamazoo, but options must be considered. But I have to get over this bronchitis so I'm not coughing myself silly or stoned from the codeine. Yes, my nice doctor prescribed codeine for me yesterday because the tessalon perles he prescribed Monday just aren't doing the job. Codeine knocks out the cough, but it knocks me out too. But maybe this weekend I can just sleep.

Why bronchitis all of a sudden? "Something's blooming," he helpfully said.

I dreamed the other night about a big coffee can that had a lot of tools in it: a hammer, a pencil, a 12-inch ruler, etc. In my dream I was taking these tools out one at a time, looking at them, and putting them back in. It was a happy dream. I think I was dreaming about my skill set, as outlined on my resume and on the three-page cover letter I sent to a headhunter last week. (He liked it.)

I had to miss the brown bag lunch yesterday b/c when I got through with the doctor at 11:30 I was so tired I just called in and went to bed. But I told them that I might not come back and that they were to go on without me.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

We expect a low of 79 tonight. A LOW of 79. Dang.

Monday, July 10, 2006

I frequently check the Mystery Worshipper site for interest, and because my church expects to be visited this year. We'll probably get written up for the choir talking during the prelude! But I hope we are as friendly to our Mystery Worshipper as we usually are to guests. Here is a very nice description of a worship service in London to commemorate the first anniversary of the 7/7 terrorism. This kind of thing gives me hope.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

We have primary elections coming up on August 3. These will be more interesting than most primaries, because of the recent scandals involving longtime incumbents who won't be running, and because of the shenanigans at one of the precincts for which criminal charges are being pressed. I think some people don't realize that voting, and running a precinct, aren't patty-cake. There are serious laws about it, and there have to be, because without rule of law where voting is concerned, a nation like ours would cease to exist. On a local level, that's how you get graft and corruption and political machines and wasted tax dollars and stupid decisions that bring about FBI investigations.

At primary election time I always remember a funny thing that happened at an election I worked at years ago. It was one of those with a Republican primary, a Democratic primary, and a general, all together. We have voting machines that you can enable for either primary plus the general, or the general only. This was back when Sundquist, a (supposed) Republican, was running for the primary the year he was subsequently elected Governor, and our current governor, Bredesen, was running in the Dem. primary. A voter came over to me, very upset, and said that he couldn't seem to vote for Bredesen. I told the machine operator that he must have enabled the Republican primary by mistake, and that the voter wanted the Democratic primary. No, the voter said, he wanted the Republican primary.

"Then you can't vote for Bredesen," I said.

"Why not?"

"Because he isn't running in the Republican primary."

"I've voted in this precinct for 24 years, and I've always voted for the man of my choice, regardless of party!"

"You've never voted for a Democrat in the Republican primary."

Ooh, he was mad then. I tried to explain that he would have the opportunity to vote for the man of his choice in the general, but he hollered at me that I didn't have to explain to him how elections worked, he understood it very well. I bit back "evidently not" while he stormed out, and I had to fill out a report on why we had one more person signed up than we had votes cast.

Another voter wanted a paper ballot. There's just a whole lot of extra stuff you have to do if anybody wants a paper ballot, so I asked him why. So he could vote in both primaries, he said.

"You can't vote in both primaries."

"Really? Are they going to do something about that?"

Uh, no.

I explained to F probably when she was in elementary school, that the primary is the party's opportunity to pick who gets to say they are the Republican nominee or the Democratic nominee, and the general is the election that decides who is actually going to get into office. She understood right away. What is the big deal, really?
Took an online job match test and they want me to be an architect or a graphic designer. Good grief.

I did get an email following my online resume posting, from a headhunter with a couple of jobs that pay well and that I am very well qualified for. Trouble is, they are in San Jose, CA. That's even further away than Kalamazoo.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Also yesterday F got her room assignment. They did put her in the honors college dorm, which she was not sure about because the room application didn't have anywhere to put "honors college" or dorm or anything like that on it, and she got the roommate of her choice. Her renewable scholarships renewed, too, so she is set. She moves back to school on August 13. It feels different this year than last year - a lot easier for her and for us. We need to pick up the pace now on the math we're reviewing over the summer. F doesn't feel that she had a good math preparation in high school. I think the teachers rely far too much on graphing calculators - I've gone on about that before, I think. If I haven't, I will. But I found my own old pre-cal textbook from college, before the days that the calculators were supposed to understand and do all your work for you, and we've made a start at going through that. F took pre-cal in high school and had a decent grade but she wants to go through it again and nail it down. I think it's a good idea. You don't want to skim over this stuff just to check it off your list, you want to make sure you get it.
Another brown-bag job-search lunch yesterday. One of my coworkers asked how long we are going to have these - "Until everybody has a job?" I thought, until I have a job, but I said "yes". I still might end up going to Michigan and if that's the case I'll be there for several months. And of course they can go on without me. I asked the branch manager to talk about resume formats, what to put and what not to put on there, and so forth. People still have the idea that there are RULES. "I can't get everything on one page." I don't think anybody over the age of 35 ought to have a one-page resume. It looks like you haven't done anything. I used to have a boss who questioned "ten years of experience" - is that ten years, or one year of experience ten times? So even if you've worked at the same place since you were a baby, hopefully you didn't do the exact same thing all that time. Unless you did. But still you ought to be able to flesh that out a little bit. One coworker fretted that if she only goes back 10 years in any detail, that leaves out her human resources experience, which would be relevant if she wants an HR job. Put it in, we told her. Put in whatever you want (as long as it's true). You could have a resume for applying for HR jobs that's different from your other resumes.

There are jobs out there but most seem to want biology lab experience. This is a big change from a few years ago, when labs I worked in hired biology majors because they couldn't find work except in a chemistry lab. I could do quality. That would mean cGMP stuff, writing IQs and OQs and PQs and other kinds of protocols, charting things and writing investigations and so forth. This irritates me in my current job, but I think maybe that's because I'm wearing too many hats. If I'm doing quality I'm not supervising in the department and things start going to heck, and if I'm taking care of things in the department then the quality tasks pile up. I don't ever feel like I'm taking care of anything the way it deserves. At the lab in Michigan they split the supervisory functions so that there are quality supervisors and people supervisors. That makes much more sense.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

If you can think of the word "aphasia", does that mean you don't have it?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

So I ran across this poem yesterday:

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast.

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.

-- William Carlos Williams

F says it has been in every literature book she has ever had, which possibly is hyperbole. But the poem is sort of expressive of her experiences in the last week or two: twice I bought cottage cheese and blueberries and ate them up before she got any. Not all at once, you understand, but over 2 or 3 days. I didn't mean to, honestly. You cannot look at a partial container of cottage cheese and tell if someone else has gotten any after the last time you did. It kind of settles and rearranges itself. Besides, cottage cheese and blueberries just taste so good to me and I'm not going to leave them languishing in the refrigerator. If this sounds self-justifying and defensive, that's because it is. The third time I bought them I told her that I WOULD be eating them and that if she expected to get any she'd better dive in. And she has.

But I also ran across this poem:

Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams

I chopped down the house that you had been saving to live in next summer.
I am sorry, but it was morning, and I had nothing to do
and its wooden beams were so inviting.

We laughed at the hollyhocks together
and then I sprayed them with lye.
Forgive me. I simply do not know what I am doing.

I gave away the money that you had been saving to live on for the next ten years.
The man who asked for it was shabby
and the firm March wind on the porch was so juicy and cold.

Last evening we went dancing and I broke your leg.
Forgive me. I was clumsy and
I wanted you here in the wards, where I am the doctor!

-- Kenneth Koch

Isn't that a hoot?

Monday, July 03, 2006

Sunday, July 02, 2006

INTJ - "Mastermind". Introverted intellectual with a preference for finding certainty. A builder of systems and the applier of theoretical models. 2.1% of total population.
Free Jung Word Choice Test (similar to MBTI)
personality tests by

This is F's result. Funny thing is that I took this test long ago in management training, and I am INTJ too.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

We had our second job-search brown bag lunch yesterday. I'd hoped to talk about resume formats, but a whole lot of people were out (taking a very long weekend) so we did more sentences and then practiced nutshell autobiographies.

There are differing schools of thought as to what a person should answer to the interviewer's prompt of "tell me about yourself". My boss thinks you should stick to "X years of HPLC experience" and so on. My thinking is that they don't ask that just to hear your resume read out to them. I know that's not what I want when I ask that question. But since she says that, and presumably that's what she wants, there must be interviewers who view it that way.

Which leads me to mention that there are no laws about resumes or cover letters or job interviews. The resume police will not take you away because you didn't have bullet points. People say "you aren't supposed to" this and that, and sometimes that's true, but it's nothing to panic about and there is no one right way to do any of this stuff.

What we practiced yesterday was giving just a brief overview of personal history starting with college. If possible you want to account for your time so that there aren't large gaps leaving the interviewer to wonder if you did jail time for embezzlement or couldn't work because you were being treated for murderous psychosis or something. If you do have gaps for unattractive reasons you need to give some thought to how you are going to explain or get around having to explain those things. For instance, you wouldn't want to say that you quit a job and moved back home because you were allergic to work, but eventually your parents kicked you out so you were forced to find something to do. Also you want to bring out positive things that you wouldn't put on your resume or that people don't want to ask. For instance, I married right after graduation, so R and I are approaching our 24th anniversary. Interviewers that I've talked to have reacted positively to this b/c it makes me look steady and possible to get along with, and without complicating drama in my life. One coworker worries because she was out of the workforce for a few years when her daughter was born; she wanted to be a SAHM. We assured her that this should not hurt her at all in job interviews. Besides, who would want to work for a person who viewed this as a reason not to hire her?

But it was surprising to me that many people could not remember what they had done in any kind of chronological order. Really. Some were younger than me, even. How could you not know where you have worked and what you have done in your life? After all, you were there. One person left out two very important things that he had done; I knew about them because he had mentioned random experiences over the months I've known him. Others could not remember the names of companies they had worked for. They act like they have just stepped into a life that someone else has lived up until now. This is very puzzling to me. In my post about the meaning of success I mentioned the importance of taking stock periodically to see if I'm on track. To do that I have to think about what I've done and how that relates to where I am now. Am I really that much more introspective than other people?

So we are all to take a walk down memory lane this weekend, at some point when we can have some time alone, and try to think about all these things. Some folks are going to consult tax records and so forth to try to reconstruct their job histories. We're going to practice some more "tell me about yourself"s. No one likes the stress of knowing that their job they thought they could count on forever is ending. But really if you have any sense you already knew you couldn't count on your job forever, or anything else for that matter. Maybe this will end up being a positive thing for some folks, jolting them out of their ruts and helping them take charge of their lives again.

I have to say that some people are reluctant to take that walk down memory lane because of trauma that they have endured. I'm pretty sure of that in at least one case. It's understandable that people who have been through really bad times in their personal life would forget details about their jobs too. I don't have any training in counseling. I have to try to be discreet about pushing people to remember things they may have very good reason for forgetting. Some people who have been through some very bad things are able to look back on them with a certain amount of objectivity, realizing that all the experiences they have had have shaped them into the person they are today. (Bad sentence, sorry.) I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings comes to mind. To be that way you have to be a strong person and you have to like yourself. You have to think you turned out OK. I do try to affirm people and tell them they have a lot to offer. Beyond that I am fairly squeamish about probing too much.