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

Monday, December 13, 2010

For the second time in 6 months ... "first day on the new job".

It went well. They were prepared for me - had a nice office, already a login on the computer on my desk and email set up. Everyone was pleasant and I was welcomed over and over. So I think this is going to work out.


I want to talk just a bit about the scripture passage I put up yesterday because I had been thinking about it.

It irritates me a little bit when people read a whole bunch of stuff into a Bible story, that they can't really support. But I can't help speculating about this one. The man in the story had been to Jerusalem to worship. Either he was a Jew, or a person who was drawn to Judaism, or maybe just a spiritual person doing a survey of world religions, we don't know. But we do know that he would not have been allowed into the Temple to worship as another man might have been; because he was identified in the story as a eunuch, this would somehow have been obvious to the observer, and per Deuteronomy 23:1, "No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the LORD."

So am I wrong in seeing a bit of frustration in his response to Philip, "How can I understand unless someone explains it to me?" He may have gotten the complete brush-off and it still stung a little. But he was still drawn and wanted to learn, hence his asking Philip to explain what he was reading.

And he was reading about a man who was humiliated, deprived of justice, and would have no descendents. As chief treasurer to the queen of a wealthy nation, able apparently to travel freely, and not on foot, one wouldn't think humiliation and injustice would resonate with him, unless as previously speculated, he had been turned away rudely in Jerusalem. He certainly would have no descendents. So when he asked Philip who the prophet was talking about, himself or someone else, he possibly hoped that he was reading about someone he could identify with, who would have been sympathetic to him and whose religion would be accessible to him. And of course he was.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Third Sunday in Advent

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

“How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”

The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

-Acts 8

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Second Sunday in Advent

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I ’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

-Emily Dickenson

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Okay, so, update. And yes, Ma, I am dizzy.

When I was at the previously mentioned conference for environmental professionals, I received a call while my phone was turned off. A message had been left for me by a head hunter, about a job I'd applied for in early 2009. I didn't call him back because I had a job.

But the next week my boss sent a couple of financial spreadsheets, and when I'd looked at them, I did call that head hunter back. A couple of interviews ensued, and my references were checked, and then I got an offer letter on the very same day that the company purchasing the lab had taken a good look and said they couldn't support me after all.

I told R I felt like a teacher's pet. Whose? he asked. God's.

I mean, wow.

So we're going to talk to the landlord on Sunday about buying this house AFTER ALL.

The new job is at a blending facility. You might think lab work is lab work, but going from a biodiesel manufacturer and glycerin refinery to a commercial lab was a big change. Way more external customers to deal with, and the whole dimension of what happens to the data after it goes out from me, using it to tweak the system and make decisions, was gone.

(Yes, I know the word "data" is plural. I'm trying not to be compulsive.)

Everybody except me is either laid off or switched to the new employer. The Memphis folks have expressed disappointment that I am not going back there, but they are keeping me on the payroll till the last second, probably; and if they don't the new folks want to pay me a daily rate to stick around till the new job starts. So once again I won't get a break but I AM NOT COMPLAINING. OH GOOD LORD, NO.

R is being kept by the new employers in some kind of function. Because he can fix equipment and do other things - he installed an eyewash station shortly after I started and was appalled by what we had, for instance - they wanted to keep him kind of part-time/on call; but it's already looking like working into more than that.

So. We're going to haul off and buy a Christmas tree today and be a little less tentative as we look around this house and think about things we want to change.

My coworkers are sad to see me leave. I am the best boss ever, evidently. Damini, who has loaded me down with bangles over the last six months (maybe I don't look girly enough to suit her), says she will go wherever I go. Life is just a series of meetings and partings, I reckon.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

First Sunday in Advent

How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I hope everyone has had a good Thanksgiving.

We went to F's apartment today, where I reheated a rotisserie chicken from Publix in her oven while cooking corn-on-the-cob and then squash, zucchini, and onion in her microwave. We had cornbread muffins too. I realize all of this is cheating b/c I was supposed to spend the whole day slaving in the kitchen, but we had a very nice meal together. I was mildly distressed to realize that I hadn't thought to get cranberry sauce to go with the chicken, but F produced a jar of guava jelly and that was a surprisingly good substitute.

It's been an interesting week or so.

Tuesday last week, of course, I had the task of telling everyone at work that they were shutting us down, and beginning to call clients. R and I went to Applebee's that night and unusually for me, I ordered a margarita. It turned out to be two-for-one margarita night at Applebee's and I drank them both.

On Thursday I met with a competitor lab a couple of hours away who'd heard that we were closing and wanted to talk about possibly employing me. Probably nothing will come of that but I enjoyed the visit, seeing their laboratories and talking to people.

Had previously bought tickets to see Harry Potter at the new IMAX in town, for F and her dad, for Saturday night; and for Sunday night, for F and me to see Elton John in concert. She was supposed to blow in on Saturday after getting her brakes done. But Saturday morning, R was taken ill suddenly with a stomach virus. He was so sick, in fact, that not only did I have to get him to ER, I had to call an ambulance b/c he was unable to walk at all. Unlike me, R never gets these viruses. I don't know whether he got so sick because it was a particularly nasty one or whether his immune system simply didn't know what to do with it. We were in the ER all day while they gave him IVs to rehydrate him, and very strong anti-spasmodic drugs every few hours. By late evening it was probably over, but they kept him overnight to make sure.

F did come into town, and my dear friend whose entire family had seen HP the previous day picked her up, brought her to the hospital so I could give her the tix (and she could give me my jeans; things had happened very fast and I was still wearing shorts from the early AM) and then took her to dinner; and she and my friend's daughter watched HP together. My friend's daughter wore her HP scarf, which F had knitted for her last year or the year before. She graciously enjoyed the opportunity to see the movie again, and of course F loved it.

Sunday morning R was able to come home. Of course he slept all day, but he felt enough recovered that F and I were able to go out a little bit in the afternoon, and then to our concert in the evening. Elton John is quite a performer. He's been doing these songs for decades, and it was a small venue though absolutely sold out, but he clearly gave the impression that he was enjoying singing his songs; tore up the piano; and seemed to have a good time. We did too.

F spent the night and went straight in to work in the morning. I had a job interview here in town ... more on that later, I don't want to jinx it ... and then came home at lunchtime before going in to work. R got up, put on his underwear, jeans, socks and shoes, and that was it for the day. Tuesday he came in to work with me in the AM but I had to take him home at lunchtime. Wednesday he worked all day and was really exhausted by late afternoon. I guess it's going to take a while for him to get his strength back. Kind of scary that he got so sick so fast. He's feeling better every day, though.

As for me, I am living in interesting times. Another competitor lab is apparently buying our facility. I don't know if they've totally finished their talks, but I was instructed by our corporate office to send out letters to our customers already. They would like me to stay, which is much appreciated. I am reviewing my options.

What a roller coaster.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Well, you probably won't believe this.

I don't think I believe it.

I had to tell my coworkers today that they are closing the business.


This is the seventh job in a row that I have had crumble out from under me. I'm beginning to feel like Typhoid Mary.

Have some possibilities, though. The parent company wants me back in Memphis. Maybe there's something doing around here.

Once again ... I cannot stand the suspense.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Back to the memoirs.

I had a little business in Palm Beach Gardens last week, a conference for environmental professionals. It's always a pleasure to connect with other nerds.

I brought my Toshiba netbook and used OneNote for taking notes - I really like it.

The fun part was that we finished at lunch time on Friday, and having no particular place I had to be at any particular time, I took the scenic route coming home. It was about a 3-hour drive going down on Tuesday, with only a brief pause for supper, but coming back I just drifted along the coast. Didn't worry about staying on the highway. I kept the sun more or less on my left and stopped four or five times at various public beach access spots, and got a nice sunburn on my shoulders from my boat-neck blouse. Rolled my pants up so I could walk in the edge of the water, and of course they got wet above my knees because I can't stay out of the ocean! I got to Melbourne about 5:00 or so, called F in Kissimmee, and met her for dinner at about 6:30, and eventually came on home. What a relaxing afternoon that was. There's actually no reason why we can't do that sort of thing on any weekend. And I have to go back anyway, to get F's picture with the sign at this beach before "On Stranger Tides" comes out.

We are thinking hard about buying the house we are currently renting. The floor plan is kind of different but we've gotten used to it. The cats like it. The swimming pool both terrifies and fascinates them. The previous owner's relatives kind of cleaned it out after she died, including whatever light fixture was over the dining area; they left the chain and wiring dangling from the ceiling, which looked kind of stark. We finally took care of that this past weekend, with this whimsical thing (Home Depot had it for less). We've talked a bit about other plans, should we buy the place - there are only two bedrooms with carpet and I'd like to pull all of it out. The master bedroom has doors that open directly onto the pool deck, so it's stupid to have carpet in there. Well, we'll see what happens.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It is my last day to be in my forties.

Assuming that I will live to be 100, I have hit the halfway point.

My birthday weekend is expected to feature a dinner at the local steakhouse, and a trip to Clearwater.


One of the plant operators came by the other day. They've laid off everybody but two people who are finishing the shutdown and closeout operation. The guys did get their severance checks.

The operator said that when "they" came to serve the subpoenas, everyone was told to park on the office side of the parking lot so that "they" would not realize the lab side was part of the company. And that after that was over, a u-haul was backed up and all of the lab contents packed into it - instruments, glassware, computers - and it all went away. He said it would make me sick to see it now. I find that incomprehensibly distressing. I didn't expect to go back there really, but wow. I had previously been told, when I asked if my current employer could purchase some of the lab equipment, that nothing could leave the place because the assets had been frozen. Oh well.


Went to Kissimmee on Sunday. F wanted to visit a church; she'd been putting it off b/c she didn't want to go by herself, but she was going to screw her courage to the sticking place and get on with it, and then I volunteered to go to see her in time to go with. It was a nice church that she picked out, with very friendly people; the choir was small but surprisingly good, the pastor was conscious and alert, and the sermon was reasonable. She expects to go back. Afterward we had lunch and then went shopping (of course) and then back to her place for just a bit. Now that her former roommate has gotten the rest of her stuff out, F's had some time to get her place in order for just herself and the cats. She might not have been comfortable striking out on her own in a strange city last year, but she's cool with it now. And I'm enjoying being the mother of an independent, functional, happy adult. When F was small, sometimes she would ask what I wanted for my birthday, and I would say, "You to be a good girl." It would frustrate her and make her mad, but that really was what I wanted. Now I can look at her ability to get on with her life and feel pretty satisfied at my 50th.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Okay, events of the last two months.

There's too much to sum up in the usual narrative way, so I'll try to do this in outline form.

I Housing
A We intended to come here in 2007, rent for a year while we looked around, and then buy a house. But we never bought.
1 My job immediately became unstable and never really settled down.
2 Indications were that housing prices were still falling. I think they still are.
B We were OK renting where we were, but then it turned out that the landlords had been taking our rent money and not paying their note, so the house is being foreclosed on. There's some other stuff that I'm not talking about here but it's pretty irritating.
C Not much luck finding a place to move to, still wanting to rent a bit longer - R says "I don't want to be one of those people" - but then it turned out that the house right next door to us was available for month-to-month rent while the people who bought it (another foreclosure) at auction got the legal stuff straightened out so they could sell. So we moved next door.
D The new house has some different features. Useful to change the landscape now and then so you don't collect stuff you don't need without realizing it. One of the features is a swimming pool. Yes, we have taken advantage and will continue to.

II Job
A Not going to say too much about the current job, except that it's a bit stressful, long hours, and I haven't regretted taking it for even a nanosecond. That's partly because
B The previous place is closing down next week. I actually went in on Saturday to produce certificates of analysis for two last railcars of REFINED GLYCERIN (now it can be told) so the guys will hopefully get a last check. It beats me how people ... well, never mind.

Visited us this weekend. She enjoyed the pool. We enjoyed having her. I'd put brilliant pink towels in the guest bathroom, which she thought were pretty, and then she turned around and saw the BRILLIANT pink shower curtain I'd bought, with rows of flamingos marching back and forth. OMG. She's 23 and I can still surprise her. I put some catfish and buttered rice and fried okra in her a little while ago and sent her back on her way.

Is doing OK. He actually has come to work for us. I am his boss now. So far it's going all right.

V The cats

I reckon that's about it. Long hours, as I've said. Hopefully this will ease up before long. Anyway, am still gainfully employed and that's the main thing.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Wow, it's been a while.

Lots of work. The new job is the challenge I thought it would be.

I went back to the old one one Saturday in May, and again yesterday, because the hapless person they hired to replace me isn't really up to the task of figuring out what he's supposed to do. Now it's true that he wasn't there for me to train during my notice period, and that's neither my fault nor his. But it's also true that I scrupulously documented lots and lots of procedures, and they're very clear, so that a person with decent lab experience ought to be OK.

I spent a little over four hours on that Saturday back in June, and because I was invited to invoice them and the things I found that they were having trouble with were stupid no-brainers (not on the new guy's part, he had only started the Friday before) I did invoice them. Just $50/hour, which is ridiculously low, but what the heck.

Have not been paid, which doesn't surprise me - one of the reasons I wanted to leave was that they were not paying vendors.

The new person asked me to come in last weekend and help him and I declined. He emailed me this week - please - said he'd pay me out of his pocket. Well, I'm a sucker so I told him I'd give him a 50% discount off my usual rate, and went in. Of course, when I got there he told me that the boss had told him not to pay me, they'd pay me, so that's probably more unpaid weekend work. They now owe me $465. I am holding my breath, y'all.

Also found out that they are paying him through that families back to work thing, where the gov't places a person in a job and then pays his salary. I don't know how that could work, since he is a replacement for me and they were paying me. Did they say they had laid me off? Don't feel right about my tax dollars going to keep a business from having to pay necessary personnel their paycheck.

Other than that, I am just really tired. Will try to get back to blogging, maybe about some happy stuff.

I will say this:

When I was a kid, we had World Book Encyclopedia. My parents still have that set. I particularly loved the "B" encyclopedia - it was the Bird Book and I studied those color plates of various birds until I had them memorized. Seriously, I can call them up in my mind's eye.

R and I were returning home from somewhere the other day. It was twilight and rainy, he was driving, and I was looking out the window. We passed a spot where water was running over a shallow thing into a ditch, and there were fisher birds taking advantage of that spot to get their dinner. Storks, herons, egrets ... and then I said STOP! GO BACK!

R did, and we got out of the car to go and look. Here's what I saw:

Here's a closeup:

This is a roseate spoonbill, and it was, like, my very favorite bird in that whole encyclopedia. I remember being a little bitty girl and studying the picture of that bird, and wishing I could see one. Well, there it is.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

I went in to work for a bit yesterday, to have some think time without people telling me things or asking me to do things. This will probably continue until I feel that I have stuff under control. It's actually stress-relieving for me, though I do have to have down time as well.

Today we went to Clearwater Beach for a while. I don't know how much longer we have to do that, or how bad it will get. The water and the sand were pristine as always, but every now and then when the wind was strong out of the gulf we caught a faint but unpleasant hydrocarbon smell. Maybe it was from somebody's boat somehow. Have never smelled it there before, though. I looked at little kids enjoying themselves as they always do. The thought that they may be my age before the beach and the ocean are returned to their current state - well, it's hard not to feel helpless rage and almost overwhelming grief. Maybe, MAYBE it won't be as bad as all that - but it will be miraculous if it is not.

And the rage part comes from the fact that this environmental disaster is 100% man-made. The stories that are coming out about fighting between groups on that rig, no clear line of command, corruption in what was supposed to be the governmental oversight agency, safety rules being arbitrarily set aside because they were behind schedule, are - well, I'd say unbelievable, but I know better. You can have the best safety program in the world, and it all comes down to personalities: whether the human beings in charge at the time actually care, what their priorities are, how likely they are to engage in magical thinking when they're under financial pressure, whether the right people are stong enough to push their point until it sticks; and that kind of thing is almost random, I'm sorry to say. I've seen corporate people who were excruciatingly careful about keeping their standards of integrity front and center at all times, and I've seen corporate people who didn't have a clue about integrity, let alone prioritize it.

[Case in point - in the job I just left, I was asked to draft a quality statement for the owner to sign. I refused to do it. That statement has to originate with the owner or it is utterly worthless. "That's our quality department over there" or "that's our safety department" or "that's our corporate ethics department" - that kind of thing is the kiss of death. Why we have to discover this over and over is beyond me.]

So I'm left with memories of one more beautiful afternoon at beautiful Clearwater Beach, and weird streaky sunburns because my spray-on sunscreen had less in the bottle than it had led me to believe; and I don't know how many more of these we'll get, or what the future holds. The beach isn't all there is to Florida, of course, but tourism is going to take a tremendous hit. That has already started. And the local economy, so heavily based on tourism, is about to get slammed.

I wish I thought that we'd learn something from this.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Okay, well, I'm really tired, but I know that the ENTIRE UNIVERSE is wondering how my first week on the new job went.

It actually was about what I expected.

I am managing a small environmental lab. I have a good group of techs but they have not been managed the way I would have done it, so there will be some changes made. Better document control, so that the current revisions of all of the procedures are readily available and the old ones are disappeared. The docs themselves need updating, which will be tedious but will pay off. The docs will be used for training, even on analyses the techs have been doing for years, because their previous training wasn't very in-depth and some details are being skipped over. Two of the techs expressed to me today that they are very happy I'm there.

I'm also going to give attention to customer service: answering questions, working on turnaround times.

Been hearing some unhappy things from the company I just left. I feel for my friends there.

Friday, May 14, 2010

...So, Florida it is.

R and F are thrilled. The cats would be if they knew what was going on. I suppose I am, but I'm still just very tired.

The Iowa people graciously asked me to let them know if I change my mind, ever.

I resigned this morning, via email, and have not heard back yet from the corporate boss. Perhaps he hasn't seen it, ha ha. The plant manager knows. I kept him abreast of developments. He said it would be a race to see who got out the door first. Unless he just doesn't give notice, I win.

So I start the Tuesday after Labor Day Memorial Day. No break at all. Since the next paycheck may not happen, that's probably a good thing. (I said this didn't come a moment too soon.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It's been a crazy couple of weeks.

As I said, I got a call from a recruiter about a job in Iowa, for a company I used to work for at the Memphis location. Then, an email about a job at a location right here in town, for a completely different company I used to work for in Memphis. Phone interviews for both jobs ensued. On-site interviews were scheduled, first in Memphis last week, then in Iowa this week.

On Wednesday morning last week, the HR person for the Iowa people called to tell me that I'd be starting that interview with a presentation. Only about 20 minutes, she said. (Only!) What am I presenting on?! Anything you want, she said. My work history? What I can contribute to the company? Whatever, she said. I left at lunchtime that day to drive to the Tampa airport and fly to Memphis so I had to shove that to the back of my mind.

The Memphis former boss - and by "former" I mean fully 20 years ago - picked me up at the airport. We stopped to get coffee and start the discussion. Didn't get to my hotel till after midnight Florida time. Interviewed on-site with the corporate folk all day Thursday, flew back here, got home around 1:00 AM, and had a very full day at work the next day. Was too tired to even think about a presentation until Saturday, and I was scheduled to fly out to Iowa mid-day on Sunday.

I asked F what I should present about. She offered to send me her powerpoint presentation about dinosaurs. Now, as I recall, this was a ppt that she had got up for her evolutionary biology class. The paleontologists, or whoever, had measured the distances between dinosaur footprints, and made some other measurements, and compared these to the footprints made by modern land animals like cheetahs, to draw inferences about the dinosaurs' speed and musculature. I'm sure this would have been a very interesting presentation, probably more interesting than anything I could have come up with, but I felt that it was not extremely relevant to the purpose at hand; so while I was grateful for her support, I had to decline the offer.

I tried to write about my work history but I could not stand the thought of talking about MYSELF, with slides already, for 20 minutes. BORING.

What I ended up with, out of desperation, was a series of slides about things I'd learned from people I'd worked with; about integrity, and courtesy and respect, and mercy, and so forth. When I gave that presentation on Monday morning, I used exactly 20 minutes and it was very well received. The rest of the interviews went just fine.

What didn't go fine was coming back home. The flight out of that airport was canceled due to mechanical failure that, happily, didn't wait till we were airborne to manifest itself. The airline put us canceled folks up in a hotel, so that was OK, but whether it was a virus, or the (free) chocolate martini I had with my dinner, I was sick that night. Had to be at the airport at 6:00 the next morning for my flight, with a comfortable layover in Minneapolis and then a very short one in Memphis (had to run for my gate, b/c it was only 35 minutes to start with and then we were late leaving Minneapolis), retrieved my car in Orlando and got home about 12 hours after I'd set out. That day is kind of a blur. I really couldn't eat anything all day and was so tired when I got home I barely spoke to R before I fell across the bed fully clothed and slept like the dead.

And another long day at work today.

Tomorrow I'll meet the Memphis corporate folks at the lab here.

The Iowa folks have let me know that they plan to make me an offer. The Memphis folks plan to as well. So by the end of the week I expect to have made a decision, to stay here in a new job or uproot me and R and relocate to the land of snow and corn; and judging by what happened at my job while I was gone, this is happening none too soon.

I feel like I have had that Chinese curse.

Actually, I feel like I am being looked out for and I am very grateful.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

For in the last year she had found that her hostesses expected her to take a place at the card-table. It was one of the taxes she had to pay for their prolonged hospitality, and for the dresses and trinkets which occasionally replenished her insufficient wardrobe. And since she had played regularly the passion had grown on her. Once or twice of late she had won a large sum, and instead of keeping it against future losses, had spent it in dress or jewelry; and the desire to atone for this imprudence, combined with the increasing exhilaration of the game, drove her to risk higher stakes at each fresh venture. She tried to excuse herself on the plea that, in the Trenor set, if one played at all one must either play high or be set down as priggish or stingy; but she knew that the gambling passion was upon her, and that in her present surroundings there was small hope of resisting it.

Tonight the luck had been persistently bad, and the little gold purse which hung among her trinkets was almost empty when she returned to her room. She unlocked the wardrobe, and taking out her jewel-case, looked under the tray for the roll of bills from which she had replenished the purse before going down to dinner. Only twenty dollars were left: the discovery was so startling that for a moment she fancied she must have been robbed. Then she took paper and pencil, and seating herself at the writing-table, tried to reckon up what she had spent during the day. Her head was throbbing with fatigue, and she had to go over the figures again and again; but at last it became clear to her that she had lost three hundred dollars at cards. She took out her cheque-book to see if her balance was larger than she remembered, but found she had erred in the other direction. Then she returned to her calculations; but figure as she would, she could not conjure back the vanished three hundred dollars. It was the sum she had set aside to pacify her dress-maker—unless she should decide to use it as a sop to the jeweller. At any rate, she had so many uses for it that its very insufficiency had caused her to play high in the hope of doubling it. But of course she had lost—she who needed every penny, while Bertha Dorset, whose husband showered money on her, must have pocketed at least five hundred, and Judy Trenor, who could have afforded to lose a thousand a night, had left the table clutching such a heap of bills that she had been unable to shake hands with her guests when they bade her good night.

...Don't you hate when that happens?

House of Mirth

Friday, April 23, 2010

What a world, what a world.


So I haven't posted about my job lately because no one would believe the things I would have to say. I've been looking and looking for another job for months, had a couple of interviews, no dice. There are so many good people out there right now, as I learned last year when I put an ad on Craigslist for a tech and was depressed by the response.

I had a call from a recruiter about an opening with a company I used to work for. The opening is in the Midwest. I entertained the prospect, he talked to them, and they apparently are excited about the possibility of my going to work there. They're still in discussion and have not made me an offer - I am not counting my chickens yet - and of course I don't know what kind of offer it will be. But as much as R and I hate the idea of leaving Florida, hate the idea of snow and ice, and HATE the idea of leaving F here, I think if it's any kind of decent offer I'll have to take it.

There's worse things. Right?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Here's another bit from The Custom of the Country.

Her gloom was not lightened by finding Ralph Marvell's card on the drawing-room table. She thought it unflattering and almost impolite of him to call without making an appointment: it seemed to show that he did not wish to continue their acquaintance. But as she tossed the card aside her mother said: "He was real sorry not to see you. Undine--he sat here nearly an hour."

Undine's attention was roused. "Sat here--all alone? Didn't you tell him I was out?"

"Yes--but he came up all the same. He asked for me."

"Asked for YOU?"

The social order seemed to be falling in ruins at Undine's feet. A visitor who asked for a girl's mother!--she stared at Mrs. Spragg with cold incredulity. "What makes you think he did?"

"Why, they told me so. I telephoned down that you were out, and they said he'd asked for me." Mrs. Spragg let the fact speak for itself--it was too much out of the range of her experience to admit of even a hypothetical explanation.

Undine shrugged her shoulders. "It was a mistake, of course. Why on earth did you let him come up?"

"I thought maybe he had a message for you, Undie."

This plea struck her daughter as not without weight. "Well, did he?" she asked, drawing out her hat-pins and tossing down her hat on the onyx table.

"Why, no--he just conversed. He was lovely to me, but I couldn't make out what he was after," Mrs. Spragg was obliged to own.

Her daughter looked at her with a kind of chill commiseration. "You never CAN," she murmured, turning away.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Time to update this thing, I guess.

My back is much better. The doc was right about needing the heavy drugs. I had a minor setback on the Saturday after Good Friday, when it seemed appropriate to add a stomach bug to the back spasms so the drugs had to pause, but got past that, and am now pain-free and walking normally, although still taking care not to twist or wrench or lift anything heavy.

Apart from that, am doing some (light) spring cleaning, at home and at work.

Oh, and we went to Kennedy Space Center last weekend. F wanted to do breakfast with the Apollo 13 astronauts. We didn't get tickets to that, but she did; so R and I wandered around the rocket garden while she was in there, (she had a blast,) then the three of us spent most of the rest of the day looking at the exhibits.

A lot of money and a huge long-term commitment had to be made for the space program to get going. It was known that there would be a lot of false starts, because pen-and-paper physics and engineering will only get you so far. And they were very patient, and just kept plugging and stayed with the vision. I suppose that without the Cold War and the motive of not letting the Soviets get the upper hand, it wouldn't have been possible. Would it be possible now? Don't know. Obama wants to scrap the space program, and put all the money into airplanes and climate research, as if NASA hadn't demonstrated its inability to separate politics from science there, so that it is basically worthless. I don't think there's anything else he has done that's bummed me out quite so much.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Funny post for today on Zooborns.

I broke down and went to the doctor today, because it's day six of this back thing, it's not getting better at all, I'm tired of walking like a turtle and "I haven't got time for the pain" for those of us old enough to remember that commercial. Evidently I have palpable spasms all up and down both sides of my back. X-ray showed no disk problem or anything, so that's all it is. I told her that I've done this before, but it's always started loosening up after two or three days. Well, you know, (she said,) as we age it takes longer to heal.

WHOOPPEEE. Yay for age.

I am reminded of my MIL (who I sometimes am surprised to remember is dead) complaining that she would go to the doctor about anything and he would start out, "Well, at your age..." She got so tired of that. Forget my age. Fix the problem.

So I've got some real strong pain killers, strong enough to put me in a stupor over the long weekend, and maybe this will do it. And then I'll start doing those back-strengthening exercises I know I'm spose to do, and I will do them every. single. day. for. the. entire. rest. of. my. life.

...Here's a little Wharton, since I missed her yesterday.

...[I]t was now openly recognised that, as a member of the Lunch Club, Mrs. Roby was a failure. "It all comes," as Miss Van Vluyck put it, "of accepting a woman on a man's estimation." Mrs. Roby, returning to Hillbridge from a prolonged sojourn in exotic lands—the other ladies no longer took the trouble to remember where—had been heralded by the distinguished biologist, Professor Foreland, as the most agreeable woman he had ever met; and the members of the Lunch Club, impressed by an encomium that carried the weight of a diploma, and rashly assuming that the Professor's social sympathies would follow the line of his professional bent, had seized the chance of annexing a biological member. Their disillusionment was complete. At Miss Van Vluyck's first off-hand mention of the pterodactyl Mrs. Roby had confusedly murmured: "I know so little about metres—" and after that painful betrayal of incompetence she had prudently withdrawn from farther participation in the mental gymnastics of the club.

"I suppose she flattered him," Miss Van Vluyck summed up—"or else it's the way she does her hair."

Funny story. Read it here.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Happy Birthday, little girl.

...Twenty-three years old today.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

...And one more thing, while I'm sitting here with my back hurting.

I thought about this again yesterday when I hobbled to the store (they were having a sale) to buy some jeans and what not.

A thing you see on the internet is men expressing distress when a woman asks if an outfit makes her butt look big. What's he supposed to say? they ask. What's she asking? They don't get it. Or they indicate that they snarkily answer, "No, your big butt makes your butt look big."

I see this a lot, although it seems immediately obvious to me what she's asking and why, and how the man ought to answer.

But I'll spell it out here so I can refer to it in future.

Anyone surely knows that a woman who is busty can have a very different appearance depending on what she wears. Imagine such a woman wearing a simply tailored, nicely fitting navy jacket with a deep v-neck and a white top underneath. Maybe there's some detail around the bottom of the jacket. Contrast this outfit with a bright international orange top, tightly fitting, with frilly crap around the low-cut neckline, and showing a lot of cleavage. Same woman, same body, but the second outfit will draw the eye to her bosom and give you the impression that she has a lot of it, in a way that the first does not. Right?

Well, this is the kind of thing we women can see for ourselves when we look in the mirror. But it's hard to twist around and look at the back of yourself unless you have front-and-back mirrors like a dressing room does.

So what she's asking is - does this outfit draw attention to my butt and make it look prominent unnecessarily or in a way that the other things I wear do not? All you have to do is look at it and apply a little analysis. If the pants or skirt is neither pulled tight nor bunchy, the waist is not visibly dragged down, and the color, cut and style don't draw the eye to that spot, then the correct and truthful answer is no, the outfit does not make her butt look big. If these things are not the case, then you should say so: you can either explain that, for instance, the pleats look roomier than they have to (don't compare her to a circus clown, it's hurtful and not value-added communication) or just say that it does not appear as flattering as some of her other outfits, the blue pants or whatever. It's a straightforward question, and should get a straightforward answer.

Of course, if she responds huffily to anything other than a flattering response, you should tell her not to ask questions if she doesn't want an answer.
Staying close to home today. I hurt my back AGAIN. This time, sweeping the kitchen floor. I am going to have to do something about this, because it's getting ridiculous. Thank goodness for my leftover Soma from two years ago.

So I'll follow up to my post about women looking ticked, to talk about what to do when you feel angry.

And it's important to think about this. Some people, because of either the culture they were raised in or their own characters, have trouble confronting others when they're mad. Perhaps they ascribe to other people the feelings they would have if called out about X, when actually the other person wouldn't give a damn. Or they elevate the importance of the other person's feelings being hurt over the importance of their own internal serenity. That's bad because (a) you internalize this stuff and it can make you resentful and even sick, and poison the relationship, and (b) it's tempting to wait until you are mad enough to let your anger deal with the situation for you, which is uncontrolled and frequently destructive to the relationship. We will pause for a word from William Blake:

I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I waterd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears:
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night.
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.

And into my garden stole,
When the night had veild the pole;
In the morning glad I see;
My foe outstretchd beneath the tree.

- Blake, "A Poison Tree"

I think we can all relate to this.

So here are my suggestions for when you find yourself angry at someone.

First, someone you don't know and with whom you will have only limited dealings. My daughter called me from school one day, crying in anger because the man at the post office had been unbelievably rude to her. She told me exactly what she'd said, and what he'd said, and it was unmistakable, unnecessary, and shocking. What I said to her:

1 - Happy people don't act that way. He must be a miserable person.
2 - You were exposed to him for five minutes. He has to live with his misery 24/7.
3 - Would you want to trade places with him, and be the one who is miserable enough to act that way, rather than being on the receiving end able to walk away afterward? No?
4 - Then can you feel sorry for him, that he's such a wretch? And feeling sorry for him, can you forgive him? Say a little prayer for him, and put it aside?

Her angry sobbing quieted. I think it helped.

(Amazing how a short but sincere prayer for that provoking person can help one's feelings. This has caused me to formulate a tentative definition for "forgiveness". It's when you no longer accuse that person before God. He may have to answer for what he did - thinking of really egregious things like concentration camp guards here - but God can be trusted to meter out justice without you continuing to point the finger. It can be a liberating thing. And it does not preclude seeking earthly justice. I read somewhere about a prosecutor who was a devout Christian. When perps would say to her, "I found Jesus!" she would say, "Congratulations, you're going to heaven! But first, you're going to jail.")

Second, someone with whom you will continue to have more or less intimate dealings. This could be a coworker, spouse, family member, or close friend.

Start with questions for yourself.

1 - Is this misplaced anger? Maybe you're only slightly irritated at the person in front of you but you're really angry at your boss, you can't address that as you'd like b/c you need your job, so you lash out at a safe person - your spouse, child, etc. Or you're frustrated at your life conditions right now, underemployment, health problems, and so on, and you can't fix that but you can holler at a person. This is not fair and not productive, and is a relationship destroyer.

2 - Could you be hungry, tired, getting sick, or premenstrual? We women dislike being asked if we have PMS when we get angry. The assumption is that we're being accused of irrationality. But it's a valid question, and one that we should be OK with asking ourselves. Solve those peripheral issues, or wait a couple of days if it could be PMS*, and if you're still angry, then it's time to take the next step.

3 - Exactly what is bothering me? And exactly what outcome do I want? This second question is one of the most important because throughout your confrontation, if you have one, you have to keep that in front of you to stay on track. You don't want to use the confrontation to hurt the other person's feelings - to assert your dominance - to bring up unrelated and unresolved crap; you want to solve the problem, period. So if the problem is that your spouse doesn't do as he promised and wash the dishes when you have cooked, the outcome should be not that your spouse understands how he is immature and lazy, and never does what he says, and you are doing more than your share of the housework all the time, etc., but that the dishes get washed without making you ask and nag. Period, full stop. This is bolstered if you address issues as they come up rather than letting them pile up until you're good and steamed.

4 - Be sure that there's not some reason you haven't thought of, why the person is doing whatever ticked you off. Suppose your kid told you a couple of times that he's out of notebook paper. Before you tear into him for not doing his homework, it should probably occur to you that he can't do it without notebook paper, he told you he needed it, and he doesn't have a driver license and can't go to the store and get it for himself. You can avoid not only confrontations, but looking like an idiot, this way.**

If you do have a confrontation, after you've assured yourself that you have a legit issue and are not tired, etc., and the other person doesn't have an obvious reason to be unreceptive, be effective, brief, and fair.

1 - Ask yourself: How can I get what I want? I mentioned before about the DISC personality test. "I" stands for "influencing" and it means using your charm and personality to get people to do what you want. I score rock-bottom on that one. The person who facilitated that test the first time I took it was kind enough to tell me that my score was due to my desire to deal with people from a position of sincerity, and the things that would have caused me to score higher, I would have viewed as manipulative. That's cool, but it means I have to make a conscious effort to think about dealing with people to get what I want from them. And you can read a lot of this stuff in just about any women's magazine: Don't jump on somebody when he's just walked in the door. Don't buttonhole him when he's hungry, tired, or doesn't feel well. Couch what you say in positive terms as much as possible: "I appreciate you taking the trash to the street. We probably need to make a point of taking out the kitchen trash when you do that, to keep it from getting smelly." As opposed to "How come you didn't take the kitchen garbage out?" This may be intended as an entirely neutral and fact-seeking question, but it comes across as an accusation.

2 - State exactly what the issue is, and don't overstate the effect on you. If something is mildly irritating, it isn't driving you crazy.

3 - Preserve the relationship, and the other person's feelings, by not deviating from rules of polite conversation. If you want the other person to have tender feelings for you, you have to protect that by not forcing him to develop defenses because you verbally hurt him. This means not attacking his character or his upbringing, but only the specific behavior that bothers you; and not bringing up other things to try to show a pattern of failure. This also means not taking opportunities to ambush innocent things he says by using that as a jumping-off place to air your grievances.

4 - Remaining polite and sticking to the point has the added benefit - a very important one - of not giving the other person anything to respond to except the thing you want him to respond to. If you assert that he doesn't wash the dishes because his mother spoiled him, he can now react to the fact that you attacked his mother. You've left the path.

5 - Be brief. The longer these things go, the greater the chance that things will be said that shouldn't be.

Understand that some issues will not be resolved. You may think your spouse should do X, he doesn't think so, and either X won't happen, or it will and he may resent having to do it. Hopefully he will not do X but make you pay for it in other ways, or if he simply won't do X, the end, you will not continue to punish him for that. Either it can be tolerated, or it's a dealbreaker; there should be no middle ground. Do, however, give people a chance to mature, if you are going to stick it out. If your spouse used to do something that angered you, but he has thought better and doesn't do it anymore, then let it go and move on with him.

Finally, mature people understand that they can't and they shouldn't get their way all the time. If you can't see yourself ever saying "you're right" and backing off your position, then you should not be in a relationship.

*Going back to what I said before about PMS pheromones affecting men: It's entirely possible that someone will irritate you, you'll realize that you are premenstrual, and you will decide to wait until you are not and he does it again, to decide then whether and how to act on it; only to realize that you go through this over and over because he only does it when you are premenstrual. I have had this happen. What you have to do then is gird your loins, exercise superhuman self-control so that your PMS doesn't harsh your cool, and then calmly address the issue. And then go have that rum-and-coke.

** To further this thought: Rather than saying "you better start your homework right now or you are grounded for life," you can say something calm and neutral, like "I see that you are not doing your homework." That way when your kid says "I don't have any paper, I told you" it doesn't put you on the defensive and start a bunch of back-and-forth crap. You can just say "that's right, you did," and ask exactly what kind he needs as you pick up your car keys, and offer to let him come along so he can pick it out.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday night music


Thursday, March 25, 2010

I've seen some stuff on the internet for a while, wherein men express confusion about women who appear to be angry but won't say why. So I feel moved to produce a public service announcement.

What to do if your woman looks ticked.

Here are the possibilities.

1 – She isn’t; her head hurts or she just has “a look on her face”.

2 – She is, but not at you. Something happened at work, or during the drive home, or she had a set-to with her mother or best friend over the phone. In that case,

A – you may be able to help her think through next steps, or let her vent. If you do let her vent, that can’t get to be a longlasting thing, or a frequent thing, b/c it’s unhealthy for her (she’s not solving her problem) and unpleasant for you. Or

B – you really can’t do anything about it except leave her alone until she gets over it. Possibly she can be distracted by a nice gesture - if you cook dinner when it's not your turn, or make a special trip to the store for her favorite candy bar - but you shouldn't get offended if she's not.

In neither case is it about you. But you can make it about you if you pick at her until she blows up – see “PMS” below.

3 – She is, and it is about you.

A – You know why she’s mad and you don’t intend to change your ways. In that case, keep your lip zipped. You don’t have to do everything someone else wants, but you don’t have the right to insist that they not mind when you don’t. BTW, a relationship can probably stand a handful of issues like this over the course of time, but too many signal incompatibility.

B – You know why she’s mad and you regret whatever-it-is. A brief “I’m sorry” is probably in order, but the most important thing is not to repeat the offense.

C – She’s ticked at you, but you have no idea why. She may not either, or she may suspect she’s being unreasonable but can’t help it - see “PMS” below. You can’t assume that she’s mad at you unless she says so, and you don’t want to see her unhappy or endure a bunch of sulking, so probably best to say something like “If you’re mad at me I assume you’ll tell me why” and then SHUT UP. Once again – you can’t police the other person’s feelings or the look on her face. But DON’T do this if you really know why she’s angry but you have no intention of complying with what she wants, unless you just want to pick a fight – and this is very bad for the relationship.

If it happens often that she's angry at you and you don't know why until you ask, there are two possibilities here.

i - She is not communicating effectively. Expecting you to just magically know what she wants. That's kind of immature but people do it. If that's the case you'll have to politely point out that you are not a mindreader.

ii - She is communicating but you are not listening. That is your problem and you have to solve it. I personally do not nag, at home or at work; I'll say something a couple of times and then I'll shut up, because if I'm not getting compliance, I never think that adding to the noise level the person I'm talking to is dealing with will get it for me. Women who do nag say they do it because their men are not listening. You can train a woman to do that (unless she's like me and refuses to) or cause her to feel angry and resentful by tuning her out. (Nagging, of course, trains a man or a child to ignore the first fourteen times the nagger says something and that increases unpleasantness for everyone.) I realize we women talk a lot sometimes and it's hard to extract the kernel of relevant information; news flash - y'all do that too. So make an effort. : )


A word about PMS. Okay, several.

If you’ve never had it, imagine that about once a month a person injects you with a psychoactive drug. It may make you cry about trivial things, or it may make you obsess about things that don’t really matter. You may even wake up in the night fretting about something that another time wouldn’t bother you at all, and you can’t turn it off. Or it may cause you to have free-floating anger that settles on the nearest target.

You have no control over the person who injects you; or what drug you get, how much, how long it lasts.

And you don't even know when he's doing it, you have to figure it out from your symptoms.

The most you can do is try to anticipate when it might happen, and then try very hard not to share your inevitable misery with the people around you.

I never understand when a man acts like a woman’s PMS is a personal affront to him. Like having it is not enough of a burden for her, without him giving her a hard time about it as well. Men, we are not having PMS at you, I promise. If we could skip it, God knows we would.

And we’re not making things up like our clothes not fitting. I have pants that I cannot wear those few days, as well as certain underwear. It’s not convenient and it’s not fun. Chocolate craving – that’s real too. When I have been off the pill, my cycle has been so irregular as to leave me totally guessing when to expect my visitor. Most of the time it’s about 3 weeks, but sometimes as long as 5. Frequently the first warning I get is that the idea of Hershey’s chocolate pops into my head and I have to get some. The brain-altering chemicals in it are very calming. Rum-and-cokes help tremendously too, I’ve found.

But here is the kicker. I have a theory and I can back it up with anecdotal evidence: women who are premenstrual emit pheromones that cause the men around them to act like total jackasses when they would not at any other time. (So maybe we are having PMS at you, but not the way you think.) It seems to be satisfying to a man at times, to pick at a woman who has PMS until he touches off a big ol’ fight. That’s happened to me (at work) even when I’ve known I was premenstrual and was trying very hard not to get provoked, and once again, the man doing it was usually a nice person. What happens then is that he goes away with some kind of catharsis, and feeling superior about how she’s just a crazy chick, leaving her totally unnerved and possibly in tears. DON’T DO THAT. That is a relationship killer. If you have any reason to believe that a woman is premenstrual, and she has a look on her face, and she tells you “nothing” or "I'm just in a bad mood" when you ask what’s wrong, find enough self control to take that at face value and stay out of her path until her body chemistry settles down. Especially if that woman is your true-love. It may not be as much fun as picking at her until she explodes, but it’s the kindest thing you can do.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Here's a bit from the very end of Ethan Frome.

SPOILER ALERT! Don't read this if you haven't read EF but you're going to!

Mrs. Hale paused a moment, and I remained silent, plunged in the vision of what her words evoked. "It's horrible for them all," I murmured.

"Yes: it's pretty bad. And they ain't any of 'em easy people either. Mattie was, before the accident; I never knew a sweeter nature. But she's suffered too much - that's what I always say when folks tell me how she's soured. And Zeena, she was always cranky. Not but what she bears with Mattie wonderful - I've seen that myself. But sometimes the two of them get going at each other, and then Ethan's face'd break your heart... When I see that, I think it's him that suffers most... anyhow it ain't Zeena, because she ain't got the time... It's a pity, though," Mrs. Hale ended, sighing, "that they're all shut up there'n that one kitchen. In the summertime, on pleasant days, they move Mattie into the parlour, or out in the door-yard, and that makes it easier... but winters there's the fires to be thought of; and there ain't a dime to spare up at the Fromes'."

Mrs. Hale drew a deep breath, as though her memory were eased of its long burden, and she had no more to say; but suddenly an impulse of complete avowal seized her.

She took off her spectacles again, leaned toward me across the bead-work table-cover, and went on with lowered voice: "There was one day, about a week after the accident, when they all thought Mattie couldn't live. Well, I say it's a pity she did. I said it right out to our minister once, and he was shocked at me. Only he wasn't with me that morning when she first came to... And I say, if she'd ha' died, Ethan might ha' lived; and the way they are now, I don't see's there's much difference between the Fromes up at the farm and the Fromes down in the graveyard; 'cept that down there they're all quiet, and the women have got to hold their tongues."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

If it's Wednesday, this must be Wharton.

Here is a bit from The House of Mirth.

"You're perfectly beautiful now, Lily: your eyes are shining, and your cheeks have grown so pink all of a sudden - "

"Ah, they were pale, then - ghastly pale, when I came in? Why don't you tell me frankly that I'm a wreck? My eyes are bright now because I'm so nervous - but in the mornings they look like lead. And I can see the lines coming in my face - the lines of worry and disappointment and failure! Every sleepless night leaves a new one - and how can I sleep, when I have such dreadful things to think about?"

"Dreadful things - what things?" asked Gerty, gently detaching her wrists from her friend's feverish fingers. "What things? Well, poverty, for one - and I don't know any that's more dreadful." Lily turned away and sank with sudden weariness into the easy-chair near the tea-table. "You asked me just now if I could understand why Ned Silverton spent so much money. Of course I understand - he spends it on living with the rich. You think we live on the rich, rather than with them: and so we do, in a sense - but it's a privilege we have to pay for! We eat their dinners, and drink their wine, and smoke their cigarettes, and use their carriages and their opera-boxes and their private cars - yes, but there's a tax to pay on every one of those luxuries. The man pays it by big tips to the servants, by playing cards beyond his means, by flowers and presents - and - and - lots of other things that cost; the girl pays it by tips and cards too - oh, yes, I've had to take up bridge again - and by going to the best dress-makers, and having just the right dress for every occasion, and always keeping herself fresh and exquisite and amusing!"

She leaned back for a moment, closing her eyes, and as she sat there, her pale lips slightly parted, and the lids dropped above her fagged brilliant gaze, Gerty had a startled perception of the change in her face - of the way in which an ashen daylight seemed suddenly to extinguish its artificial brightness. She looked up, and the vision vanished.

"It doesn't sound very amusing, does it? And it isn't - I'm sick to death of it! And yet the thought of giving it all up nearly kills me - it's what keeps me awake at night, and makes me so crazy for your strong tea. For I can't go on in this way much longer, you know - I'm nearly at the end of my tether. And then what can I do - how on earth am I to keep myself alive? I see myself reduced to the fate of that poor Silverton woman - slinking about to employment agencies, and trying to sell painted blotting-pads to Women's Exchanges! And there are thousands and thousands of women trying to do the same thing already, and not one of the number who has less idea how to earn a dollar than I have!"

Monday, March 15, 2010

A few quick thoughts.

1 - If you are reading a news article about something someone has said or done, and you find yourself saying, "I don't understand why...", frequently you should stop right there. That is a pause-and-reflect moment, or possibly a red flag that you're about to say something insensitive or even downright stupid. An extreme example of this is a comment that I remember a man making about poor little Megan Meier: "If being on MySpace was upsetting her, I don't understand why she didn't just log off and stay off." Well, because she was a thirteen-year-old girl, not a grown man. She probably wouldn't have understood why the commenter doesn't dot his i's with little hearts and wear pink underwear, so they're even. Which leads me to...

2 - ...People are different from each other. And that's cool. That's the real message of diversity: Don't expect other people to be like you. Don't wonder why they don't act as you do. And for pete's sake, where other people's actions and attitudes deviate from yours, don't consider this to be an area where they are flawed. It may be - if they deviate from you in that they lie where you are honest, etc., - but it isn't a foregone conclusion in every case. When I was at Pittcon I attended a little talk sponsored by Lab Manager Magazine. The speaker talked about personality types - DISC: Dominating, Influencing, Steady, Conscientious - and how people who fall into these catagories act, and how to deal with them. He made a point of saying that we all are any of these at different times, and that one is not better than another. Well, one may be better for a specific job function. But one is not morally superior to another, or more worthy of a human. I've been through a little bit of personality testing, and I think it's been worthwhile to get some insight into how I tick (e.g., why I get angry when the reason is not immediately obvious) as well as how other people might differ and how they need to be interacted with, which may be different from they way I would interact with them if I don't put some thought to it.

3 - Finally, if a person who is a member of a group of which you are not a member, talks about a problem of that group - racism, sexism, etc. - you don't have to accept everything they say without critical thought at all, but your first reaction should probably be to remind yourself that they are more likely to know what they are talking about than you are. You might ask yourself: if this is a legitimate problem, would it be a problem for me? And if the answer is "no" then be a little slow to dismiss their concern. Even if you think they have totally misunderstood the situation and the problem simply isn't there, if you start with "I can see that this looks really bad. If I were you I wouldn't like it either," you'll get a more positive response than "Oh, you're just seeing something that's not there. Quit looking for ways to get offended."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Here's an excerpt from a ghost story originally published in 1902. Yes, alert reader, I've written about it before.

"Now, Hartley," Mrs. Railton said, in that cheery way that always made me feel things must be going to take a turn for the better -- "now understand me; it's not a cheerful place I'm sending you to. The house is big and gloomy; my niece is nervous, vaporish; her husband -- well, he's generally away; and the two children are dead. A year ago, I would as soon have thought of shutting a rosy active girl like you into a vault; but you're not particularly brisk yourself just now, are you? and a quiet place, with country air and wholesome food and early hours, ought to be the very thing for you. Don't mistake me," she added, for I suppose I looked a trifle downcast; "you may find it dull, but you won't be unhappy. My niece is an angel. Her former maid, who died last spring, had been with her twenty years and worshipped the ground she walked on. She's a kind mistress to all, and where the mistress is kind, as you know, the servants are generally good-humored, so you'll probably get on well enough with the rest of the household. And you're the very woman I want for my niece: quiet, well-mannered, and educated above your station. You read aloud well, I think? That's a good thing; my niece likes to be read to. She wants a maid that can be something of a companion: her last was, and I can't say how she misses her. It's a lonely life . . . Well, have you decided?"

"Why, ma'am," I said, "I'm not afraid of solitude."

"Well, then, go; my niece will take you on my recommendation. I'll telegraph her at once and you can take the afternoon train. She has no one to wait on her at present, and I don't want you to lose any time."

I was ready enough to start, yet something in me hung back; and to gain time I asked, "And the gentleman, ma'am?"

"The gentleman's almost always away, I tell you," said Mrs. Ralston, quick-like -- "and when he's there," says she suddenly, "you've only to keep out of his way."

Thursday, March 04, 2010

I missed my Wharton Wednesday yesterday. I happened to be at Pittcon until it closed at 5:00, and then spent the evening with F in Kissimmee getting various things done.

Was at Pittcon Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday. I had a good time talking to the instrument vendors, a few of whom I knew, and seeing what's out there. There's some cool stuff.

F and I worked on one of her costumes for MegaCon (are we seeing a theme here?), ate catfish and fried okra and tomatoes that I cooked in her little kitchen, and did her taxes.

Here's a bit from The Custom of the Country again.

"Ralph don't make a living out of the law, you say? No, it didn't strike me he'd be likely to, from the talks I've had with him. Fact is, the law's a business that wants--" Mr. Spragg broke off, checked by a protest from Mr. Dagonet. "Oh, a PROFESSION, you call it? It ain't a business?" His smile grew more indulgent as this novel distinction dawned on him. "Why, I guess that's the whole trouble with Ralph. Nobody expects to make money in a PROFESSION; and if you've taught him to regard the law that way, he'd better go right into cooking-stoves and done with it."

Mr. Dagonet, within a narrower range, had his own play of humour; and it met Mr. Spragg's with a leap. "It's because I knew he would manage to make cooking-stoves as unremunerative as a profession that I saved him from so glaring a failure by putting him into the law."

The retort drew a grunt of amusement from Mr. Spragg; and the eyes of the two men met in unexpected understanding.

"That so? What can he do, then?" the future father-in-law enquired.

"He can write poetry--at least he tells me he can." Mr. Dagonet hesitated, as if aware of the inadequacy of the alternative, and then added: "And he can count on three thousand a year from me."

Mr. Spragg tilted himself farther back without disturbing his subtly-calculated relation to the scrap basket.

"Does it cost anything like that to print his poetry?"

Mr. Dagonet smiled again: he was clearly enjoying his visit. "Dear, no--he doesn't go in for 'luxe' editions. And now and then he gets ten dollars from a magazine."

Mr. Spragg mused. "Wasn't he ever TAUGHT to work?"

"No; I really couldn't have afforded that."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wednesday with Wharton. This bit is from The Age of Innocence.

The question was: who was Beaufort? He passed for an Englishman, was agreeable, handsome, ill-tempered, hospitable and witty. He had come to America with letters of recommendation from old Mrs. Manson Mingott's English son-in-law, the banker, and had speedily made himself an important position in the world of affairs; but his habits were dissipated, his tongue was bitter, his antecedents were mysterious; and when Medora Manson announced her cousin's engagement to him it was felt to be one more act of folly in poor Medora's long record of imprudences.

But folly is as often justified of her children as wisdom, and two years after young Mrs. Beaufort's marriage it was admitted that she had the most distinguished house in New York. No one knew exactly how the miracle was accomplished. She was indolent, passive, the caustic even called her dull; but dressed like an idol, hung with pearls, growing younger and blonder and more beautiful each year, she throned in Mr. Beaufort's heavy brown-stone palace, and drew all the world there without lifting her jewelled little finger. The knowing people said it was Beaufort himself who trained the servants, taught the chef new dishes, told the gardeners what hot-house flowers to grow for the dinner-table and the drawing-rooms, selected the guests, brewed the after-dinner punch and dictated the little notes his wife wrote to her friends. If he did, these domestic activities were privately performed, and he presented to the world the appearance of a careless and hospitable millionaire strolling into his own drawing-room with the detachment of an invited guest, and saying: "My wife's gloxinias are a marvel, aren't they? I believe she gets them out from Kew."

...I previously posted a blurb from this book, about the Beauforts, back when the Madoff thing was happening. Here.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

This is the Weekend to Get Outside
Published: Saturday, February 20, 2010 at 8:25 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 20, 2010 at 8:25 a.m.

If you've been waiting for the weekend to get outside, today is the day.

There's only a 10 percent chance of showers and the temperatures may even hit the low 70s. Not what the average for this time of year is - 72 to 74 - but better than the 30s Polk County had earlier this week.

Sunday is good, too, according to Bay News 9 forecasters but all good things come to an end.

There's a 60 percent chance of rain on Monday and another cold front headed this way.

The birds read the newspaper Saturday.

This bird has the most delicate feathery veil that extends past the more sturdy tail feathers. As with all of these, you can click to enlarge.

The pelicans get bumps on their beaks during breeding season, apparently.

Sometimes we just like to stand around on one leg.

In the background, you can see the black swan nesting. In the foreground, you can see the mate shooing us away.

It's hard to see here (I didn't want to get closer and disturb them) but two of these storks are sitting on the ground with their knees bent and their feet stuck straight out in front. I have not seen this before.

Turtles were loving the sun.

This really doesn't look like an urban lake, does it? But it's right downtown.

Gratuitous swan pic, with cygnet in the background.

Another gratuitous swan pic

Then today (well, yesterday now) we went to Clearwater. It was a bit cooler than Saturday, but lots of people at the beach.

Here's a pirate ship.

You can't see here how pretty the colors of the sea and the sky were.

And we saw dolphins, for the first time. I first saw something big come out of the water and go back down, and told R and pointed. We watched until it happened again - there were two or three of them surfacing together. Subsequently we saw them a few times, mostly in the wake of a boat. It seems they like to follow boats around; the wake feels good to them or something. If you maximize this video and look real hard, at about 26 or 27 seconds you can see one.

Pretty good weekend. Now back to earth.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday night music.

Excessively cool.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tribalism. It's what happens when people turn their brains off. That's my opinion, anyway.

I find that I baffle people from time to time when I don't fit myself into a pigeonhole. Several months ago somebody turned up on the Volokh Conspiracy and left a comment that included the word "Oduma". I remarked that when I ran across that word I put everything else that person said on automatic scroll-by, and he subsequently referred to me as a liberal. Whereupon one of the regulars with whom I'd butted heads a few times said, "if Laura is a liberal, then, geez, I must be somewhere to the left of a hippie in a Che t-shirt playing hacky sack at a 'save the whales' rally."

But I can't find a pigeonhole I'm comfortable with. I'd be a libertarian, except that the way that plays out, it seems that the strong and powerful people are able to bully everybody else, and they reject thought-experiments in which government intervention is ever needed to keep other people from being run right over. Privilege is one thing, I guess, and total disregard for the fact that one is privileged in ways that others aren't is something else again. It's either a lack of respect for people not like them, or a lack of imagination -> lack of empathy, or both.

OTOH, I don't trust the government to do any more micro-managing than absolutely necessary. I think we need regulating bodies like OSHA and FDA and EPA. We don't need paternalistic meddling that leads to learned helplessness. One problem I see with the point of view I'll call left-wing, for lack of a better word, is that as long as one's motives are pure, the outcome must be good. It's a heart-over-head approach and it can lead to tragedy. See, for instance, this awful story; or closer to home, the war on poverty's no-man-in-the-home rule that probably contributed substantially to the breakdown of the family. There is most definitely something to be said for "first do no harm".

Anyway, one of the problems with tribalism is that it causes people to excuse things on their own side that they'd never tolerate in the other. And that interferes with those people being held accountable. It also causes people to be overly optimistic about politicians on their side. I read about people expressing frustration about President Obama not ending DADT, and I understand their distress. But there are those who are disappointed that he hasn't done anything about same-sex marriage, totally ignoring the fact that he specifically said he favored a one-man-one-woman definition of marriage; or stating that they assumed, when he said that, he was only placating the troglodytes. It's the same kind of confirmation bias that has led the climate "scientists" into the sloppy habits and wrong conclusions that are now coming to light.

Another problem with tribalism is that people are hypercritical of those they perceive as being on the other side. I think it's counterproductive to be so polarized that we reject allies on issue A b/c we differ with those same people on issues P and Q. It doesn't promote the kind of unity I think most of us would like to have - where we have diversity of thought and ideology (so that we don't go over a cliff on left or right) but we also have common goals and can work toward them together, generally wish each other well, and have an atmosphere of civility and respect.

I wrote here about different kinds of political moderation, and here about a deliberate attempt I made to set aside my bias when I read the text of one of President Obama's speeches. I think it's also important to be aware of the bias of people who report that public figure X said this or that. To look for transcripts of speeches instead of relying on second-hand reports, summaries, or characterizations, especially when the speaker is a person we are predisposed to disapprove of. I actually avoid reading some news sites that I think are biased the way I already think because I don't want to be confirmed in my own biases.

And bias shouldn't be another word for conviction. I've written before, a few times, about how I came to be pro-life. That is a conviction I came to after thinking about the issue of abortion, and that I've confirmed for myself by revisiting my thought processes a few times over the years and finding them still valid. There are pro-lifers among the Democrats, of course, and pro-choicers among the Republicans, and I assume that these are people who also thought through the issue and came to their own conclusion. But I fear that there are people who pick their opinions like the old-fashioned voting booths set up for illiterate people, where you could just select the donkey or the elephant at the top of the list of candidates, and go on. Brain turned off.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Well, a week has passed since I last posted, and once again I have stuff going on that I don't want to blog about - work, mostly. Again. It's probably a good thing that I've started doing Wharton Wednesdays b/c otherwise this poor blog might get a bit neglected.

Well, I did call my dad this evening to wish him a happy birthday - his 78th, which is quite respectable.

Here is a bit from The Glimpses of the Moon. Wharton had a thing about the children of the rich being physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually neglected; and perhaps overly aware of material things.

When she woke the next morning the sun was pouring in between her curtains of old brocade, and its refraction from the ripples of the Canal was drawing a network of golden scales across the vaulted ceiling. The maid had just placed a tray on a slim marquetry table near the bed, and over the edge of the tray Susy discovered the small serious face of Clarissa Vanderlyn. At the sight of the little girl all her dormant qualms awoke.

Clarissa was just eight, and small for her age: her little round chin was barely on a level with the tea-service, and her clear brown eyes gazed at Susy between the ribs of the toast- rack and the single tea-rose in an old Murano glass. Susy had not seen her for two years, and she seemed, in the interval, to have passed from a thoughtful infancy to complete ripeness of feminine experience. She was looking with approval at her mother's guest.

"I'm so glad you've come," she said in a small sweet voice. "I like you so very much. I know I'm not to be often with you; but at least you'll have an eye on me, won't you?"

"An eye on you! I shall never want to have it off you, if you say such nice things to me!" Susy laughed, leaning from her pillows to draw the little girl up to her side.

Clarissa smiled and settled herself down comfortably on the silken bedspread. "Oh, I know I'm not to be always about, because you're just married; but could you see to it that I have my meals regularly?"

"Why, you poor darling! Don't you always?"

"Not when mother's away on these cures. The servants don't always obey me: you see I'm so little for my age. In a few years, of course, they'll have to--even if I don't grow much," she added judiciously. She put out her hand and touched the string of pearls about Susy's throat. "They're small, but they're very good. I suppose you don't take the others when you travel?"

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Volokh Conspiracy has a feature called Saturdays with Stendhal.

I've not read any Stendhal.

But I thought I might take a leaf from their book, and have Wednesdays with Wharton.

Here's a bit from The Custom of the Country.

Mrs. Spragg, once reconciled--or at least resigned--to the mysterious necessity of having to "entertain" a friend of Undine's, had yielded to the first touch on the weak springs of her garrulity. She had not seen Mrs. Heeny for two days, and this friendly young man with the gentle manner was almost as easy to talk to as the masseuse. And then she could tell him things that Mrs. Heeny already knew, and Mrs. Spragg liked to repeat her stories. To do so gave her almost her sole sense of permanence among the shifting scenes of life. So that, after she had lengthily deplored the untoward accident of Undine's absence, and her visitor, with a smile, and echoes of divers et ondoyant in his brain, had repeated her daughter's name after her, saying: "It's a wonderful find--how could you tell it would be such a fit?"--it came to her quite easily to answer: "Why, we called her after a hair-waver father put on the market the week she was born--" and then to explain, as he remained struck and silent: "It's from undoolay, you know, the French for crimping; father always thought the name made it take...."

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

I took some pictures of F's cats when they were with us last week.

Turtle had arranged herself on a cushion that happened to be on a chair I happened to want to sit on, so I moved both cushion and cat to the floor.

Perhaps Turtle's coloring could be a bit more felicitously arranged.

Tomato, on the other hand, is gorgeous. I couldn't really get a pic of her b/c she would not be deterred from trying to catch the cord dangling from the camera.

For a while there, Turtle was a very cuddly kitty but Tomato would bite you if you looked at her. F paraphrased Elizabeth Bennett to say that one cat had all the goodness, and the other all the appearance of it. But Tomato has mellowed upon maturity.

F worked part of the day Monday, all day Tuesday, and missed today. Her boss wants to put her on desk work only for a while. I wish there was some way to know how long it will take her to get her strength back. One of her coworkers told her that when he had mono his doctor told him to double up on the vitamins. I told her that certainly would not hurt. (She takes Flintstones with iron.)