Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Corporate Shuttle

I'm beginning to think that my social life would be worlds better if I traveled more for work. Every time I'm on the corporate shuttle, I meet someone fascinating. Last time, I even got a treadmill out of the deal.

This time, I sat next to a guy who was the only other person on the plane paying attention during the safety demonstration (we almost knocked heads trying to confirm the location of the exit in row 9--I get very superstitious if I fly when I have dirty dishes in the sink). After that spectacularly nerdy introduction, there was only one way to proceed, and that was to settle down into our nerdiness with the comfort of folks who recognized each other.

He opened by inquiring about my book (the biggest book I've read in ages, Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson, which I was alternately soldiering through and falling asleep over). From there we had a lovely, free-ranging, footnoted conversation that covered WWII history, science fiction, the partition of India, Irish fiddling, New York, neurology, and (try not to fall over from surprise) politics. I learned that his wife is from Taiwan and that his father died tragically while they were on a tour of Ecuador. He also turned out to be from Iowa (where I went to college at a school chosen by many of his family members) and to have worked in New Mexico (where I was born).

Sometimes I can't wait to move to a job where I work with fewer engineers, but on days like this I can't help but think that engineers are right up there with Freddie Mercury and Eddie Izzard, making the world an infinitely strange and interesting place.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

There's a Phone Sex Joke Here Somewhere

Absent men are just so unattractive. In this case, the phone guy. I've just spent 9 1/2 hours waiting for a man to come and install my friend's phone. I have to say, the day wasn't a total loss. Observe. In the 9 1/2 hours that I've been here, locked inside his apartment, I have met two men. Yes, you heard me. Two men. They came and literally knocked on my door. What do you think the catch is?

Well, first, obviously, neither of them was there to hook up the phone.

Secondly, remember what I told you about my friend? That's right. He's in the gay neighborhood of Phoenix (insofar as such a thing exists), one block away from the local gay country & western bar. So the two men who came to the door? Yeah, not so much looking for me. They were his next-door neighbors, and they were there because they were intensely curious about his linoleum. (For the record, my friend would never forgive me if I failed to tell you that he hates linoleum, is totally against it, and will be replacing it with wood-look laminate as soon as humanly possible.)

My guess? The phone man is heterosexual, and was therefore repelled from the apartment, perhaps with an attendant sizzling effect normally seen in vampires on sunny days. He probably didn't even make it within 40 feet of the door. And it's not like he could call to alert me to his predicament.

I'd be upset about giving up my Saturday for nothing, but the truth is that I spent it happily entering one of my periodical comas where I catch up on all my weekly journals. I also spent some quality time with a New York guidebook. Check it out--Chip's guidebook in "On the Town" is evidence of time travel--the guidebook is written in 1905, but recommends that he see the Woolworth Tower. I'm assuming that this is the Woolworth Building (renamed, presumably, because it rhymes with "power"), which wasn't built until 1913.

And that, my friends, explains why I spent my Saturday in a gay man's apartment. What else do you do with a woman who reads a New York guidebook and immediately notes errata in the lyrics of a 1949 musical?

On the Town

In preparation for my upcoming trip to New York, I had my Tivo record "On the Town," the 1949 movie Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen shot on location. It is one freaky picture. I'm not sure what I like best. Ann Miller makes a very sexy anthropologist ("My father thought if I studied men objectively, I'd be able to control myself." "And has it worked?" "Almost completely.") and is almost certainly the reason I took dance classes as a child. Betty Garrett is definitely the cutest woman cab driver ever, and it is absolutely hysterical watching her relentless pursuit of the weirdly miscast Frank Sinatra. Sinatra gives the role of nerdy Chip (with his outdated 1905 guidebook, instructing him to see New York in all its beauty and its power from the city's highest spot atop the famous Woolworth Tower) quite the college try, achieving a sweetness that's almost creepy if you've seen him in anything else.

Athletic Gene Kelly seems to end up with the dud. I love Vera-Ellen, but to me she'll always be Danny Kaye's girl, and watching her with Gene Kelly is just wrong somehow. They seem mismatched on every level--flawless dancers whose style is all wrong for each other. And Kelly has even more trouble than Sinatra pulling off his role of the gullible hick from Meadowville (forcing Vera-Ellen's Miss Turnstiles to admit that she's only a "cooch dancer"--love that moment of ersatz drama).

Things I learned from the film:

Being a "cooch dancer" involves dressing like Jeannie and doing back bends. Outdated guidebooks are the work of the devil (did I mention that my parents always bought used guidebooks to save money?). If you go to New York you'll probably meet someone from your home town. And guys in drag are always funny (I think Gene Kelly makes the hottest girl, but tall and goofy Jules Munshin has the best moves).

Friday, May 26, 2006

Too-Technical Bitching and Moaning

I'm sorry to do this, but what's the point of a blog if you can't alert people to the very, VERY foolish things that happen at your job, thereby making them feel less suicidal about the very, VERY foolish things that happen to them at their own jobs?

Two months ago, I opened a ticket on a report that our organization provided us that doesn't do what it's supposed to do. This is all normal, and it's fine.

The technical elves who fix these things (who are sort of like the elves in Santa's workshop who really want to be dentists) duly started working on it. Over the past couple of months there have been biweekly assurances that progress is being made, couched in the kind of tech-elvish that specializes in obfuscation. "Your higgledy-piggledy table is pulling from the wrong data warehouse gzornonplatt." Fair enough. I came to them 'cos I can't fix it, so who am I to argue?

This week I received an e-mail from an elf saying that she had lost the DTO file on the ticket. DTO stands for data tie-out, and it's a 1 MB file that I had to spend about an hour assembling in order to prove to the elves that the report was broken. I have learned to include explicit instructions for reproducing the DTO file, with bright colors and happy fonts and arrows saying, "Here is the incorrect data," and "Here is the data I expected to see." The fact that they've just now discovered that the file is missing makes me sad.

How did the elf lose the file? It was in her INBOX. I don't know how your company uses your e-mail program, but our company archives inbox items after a month. "Archive" sounds safe and happy, but actually you need tech elf assistance to get the things back, and sometimes it's not possible. And here's the thing, it's one of those very elves who lost the file. When I asked if maybe there was a better place to keep important files, she said that it was her "system" to keep things in the inbox.

I think both of us need a new system.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Treadmill Blues

OK, Alaska zoo people, this is how it's done.

Step 1: Get the elephant addicted to television. The kind of thing where the commercial breaks make you want to throw something at the wall. House is good. Lost is another good one.

Step 2: Tivo the elephant's favorite programs.

Step 3: Only let the elephant watch the programs while it's walking on the treadmill.

Well, that's what I do.

Have I mentioned that I live in fear of rerun season?

The Move, Part II

Not content with merely hiding condoms from my friend's mother, we naturally decided that it would be a good idea to get her drunk. This is a proud tradition that goes back to a wonderful Chinese restaurant in Albuquerque. My friend and I loved this Chinese restaurant and its special chicken. Even after my ex-husband found a cricket in his soda at this restaurant, we continued to eat there. (We knew the owners, and we had seen the kitchen. The cricket was definitely an anomaly, possibly brought about by my ex-husband's karma. He's an okay guy, but I think he may have had a cricket coming to him.)

Sometime long after I was 21, I went with my friend and his family to this restaurant, and his mother and I got smashed on less than a glass of plum wine. (One glass. Collectively. We are very cheap dates.) Allow me to be clear--his mother and I already liked each other a lot. But never before had we found ourselves so outrageously amusing, so full of cross-generational goodwill. I'm not entirely sure what Dad thought about the whole thing (I think I know, but I choose not to ponder this issue much), but Mom and I had the time of our lives.

Over the years, on rare occasions, the experience has been repeated. Some very nice holidays and very fancy dinners have been brightened considerably by our conviction that we are girlish and charming. So when, after a day of 104 degree weather when she'd been working like a tartar helping my friend move, I pointed out that bellinis were fruity and frozen, it was the beginning of a night of uncharted alcoholism.

We each drank two (2) bellinis. Remember, please, that we are talking about women who get drunk sniffing the cork from a bottle of wine. We were hammered, and it was truly delightful. There are not many people I'd get drunk with, and only one of those people is like a mother to me. And I'm very, very proud to have sent her home with a hangover.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Management Apologizes

I hereby apologize for my recent slacking, especially since I know for a fact that I had just acquired a couple of fabulously active readers. I was just all down last week, and I have no idea why, but I felt that I didn't have anything interesting to say. This is a pity, since I had a week that provided what should have been fascinating material.

For one thing, my friend moved into a new place. This meant that his mother was in town, and also that everything he had was essentially open to her scrutiny. To his credit, he must be very dull, because only one thing ended up at my house, away from her prying eyes. That thing was a bag FULL of condoms.

My friend is gay, and he'd recently been to a clinic for his oh-so-responsible HIV test (negative, not that there was any particular reason for us to believe it wouldn't be). And the lady at the clinic gave him all kinds of condoms. A lunch sack full of condoms of every variety. I flatter myself that I'm reasonably educated about gay sex, but I learned something from the contents of this bag. I will be immensely proud of him if he manages to use them all before their expiration dates. Heck, I'll be impressed if he goes through everything but the banana flavored condoms. (It's not that I don't appreciate the pun, it's just that once the pun has been savored, the banana flavoring isn't likely to be.)

And now that I've been magnanimous (there's a magnum brand joke here, but I'm not quite back on my game) I have one, small, bitter observation. Straight people are, pardon me for saying it, getting shafted. I'm not aware of anybody who's giving out chocolate flavored condoms to lonely straight people. I've recently been tested for HIV and I wasn't offered even ONE free condom (despite the fact that giving me one condom would be the equivalent of giving an active gay man a lunch sack full of condoms).

Also, what do you suppose my friend did with all his porn? Not that I wanted it to live at my house for a week. I'm just curious...

Saturday, May 13, 2006


I recently got a different job at the same company, and for the last two years part of my job has been to answer random questions and solve random problems dealing with the complex and vaguely incestuous relationship between our business processes and our software. As part of my job this month, I've been asked to "document my tribal knowledge," which basically means they want me to write down everything I know.

This is, of course, futile in so many ways that I don't know where to start listing them. You can't write down everything you know--everyone forgets the most boneheadedly obvious thing when they try, like the exercise where you teach an alien how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and fail to tell the alien to take the bread out of the bag first. (This, incidentally, should be a compulsive exercise for everyone who writes instructions--furniture assembly folks, I'm talkin' to you.) Even if I do write it down, the odds are good no one will ever consult the resulting document. They already have a 250-page document that they fail to consult.

The other day I got a question and after I answered it, I reminded the woman that the answer was in said 250-page document. I said this partly because she's supposed to try using the document before she calls me, and partly because I won't be around to provide her with customized screen shots in the future. (Remember "Harvey," where the encyclopedia definition of a "pooka" talks to Mr. Wilson? That's the level of instruction this woman requires from a reference book.) Do you know what she said? She said she couldn't read 250 pages every time she wanted to answer a question.

This, no doubt, explains why I'm such a crappy cook. I didn't realize that you were supposed to read the whole Betty Crocker cookbook from cover to cover every time you want to make an omelet.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Shoe Addiction

Is there treatment for shoe addiction? Because I will enroll post-haste if someone alerts me to a program. It just can't cost a whole lot of money, because that would cut into my shoe-buying.

I can tell I'm an addict because I'm in total denial. I own a LOT of shoes. I probably shouldn't publish this, just in case a potential employer reads it and decides to calculate the potential cost in therapy, benefits, and employee absence of my shoe addiction, but I own something like 30 pairs of shoes. And these aren't cute little sassy shoes, either, which are a socially acceptable addiction. Most of them are "sensible" or even clompy shoes.

I have no idea why I'm a shoe addict. I like my feet, despite their arbitrarily long toes and their tendency to form bizarre gestures (e.g., the Vulcan live-long-and-prosper sign), as though they're trying to communicate independently. But that's not it, because a lot these shoes expressly hide my feet (not that I don't have sexy strappy black sandals, funky beaded sandals, flashy heeled sandals, plain brown sandals, and embroidered purple flip-flops). I have Chuck Taylors (not the new ones made in sweat shops, but the old ones made in America by cute little old ladies). I have Merrells. I have Eccos.

I have a walk (extra loud, eminently unladylike, and heavy on the left foot, as though I have a clubfoot or an iron shoe) that should dismiss me instantly from any shoe department in disgrace. In "Young Frankenstein," when Igor asks Victor to "Walk this way," I have to suppress the urge to cheer. In heels, I sound like nothing so much as a lopsided horse. But none of that seems to slow me down.

The very nadir of my shoe addiction (and the epitome of my addiction denial) is that I told myself on Sunday that it was okay to buy two new pairs of shoes as long as I got rid of two pairs of shoes. I disposed of an unworn pair of Skechers (we had creative differences--they're moving on to better things) and my much-beloved Supergirl sneakers from Payless, which have now served twice their mandatory one-summer term. And as I threw the Supergirl sneakers away, I had this twinge of horror, and I thought, "if I washed them with colorsafe bleach, maybe I could get away with another summer."

Goodbye, Supergirl sneakers. I miss you already, but I hereby promise, in the presence of the internet, not to fish you out of the dumpster and resurrect you.

Monday, May 08, 2006

More Lost Reading

The TV show "Lost" continues to encourage reading, although I gotta say, I'm a lot less impressed with this than I was with their promotion of "The Third Policeman."

Stick It

Friday night I went with friends to see "Stick It," a movie which starred breathtaking young women and Jeff Bridges. (Nice going, Jeff--sweet gig.)

My friend and I were, perhaps, overzealous about this movie because a couple of weeks ago we went to see "Take the Lead," that ballroom dance movie starring Antonio Banderas. I've always kind of felt that Antonio Banderas was a joke, but as soon as I saw the previews for this movie I thought, "Hey, someone finally told him." So now Antonio knows he's funny, and we can all laugh with him rather than at him. And I haven't laughed that hard in a long time.

So having had such success with an age-inappropriate and potentially crappy comedy, we were emboldened to try "Stick It." I have to admit, it was entertaining. And I give extra credit to any enterprise that includes a pop-culture reference that will be missed by most people who aren't on furlough from the local nursing home. "Stick It" contains, I kid you not, an homage to Busby Berkeley. (I'm 34, but you should no doubt return me to the home immediately.) It morphs swiftly into a Gap-Ad with leotards, but it was infinitely more entertaining than the usual sports montage.

But the real treasure was seeing the movie with an audience full of teeny boppers. The gasps of disbelief, the boos for the various villains, and the general atmosphere of exuberance fueled by WAY too much energy was intoxicating. And, as we all know, a little intoxication makes any movie more entertaining.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Walking for Beginners

Is there some kind of mall time warp that I don't know about? Because it seems to me that people walk slower in malls. It also seems like if you go into a mall, your IQ drops precipitously in inverse proportion to your age. Here, for the beginner, are some remedial instructions on walking at the mall.

If there are two or more people in your party, you should arrange yourselves in such a way that others who don't want to walk at the incredibly slow and stupid pace you set can get around you. Do not link arms and walk in a big line, trapping people behind you (unless you're actually staging a protest). Two people can walk abreast. Three if they're skinny and gossiping close together. Any more than that, and you need to move in a compact clump, or I won't be responsible for your welfare.

If you are walking with someone and you know him or her, there is absolutely no need for you to take more than eighteen inches of personal space between you when you're walking. When the government gave that whole "three feet apart" guideline, they meant at work during a flu pandemic, not at the mall with someone you brought with you. Eighteen inches is the max. Twelve would be better. You came here to spend time together. Get to it. Alternatively, walk far enough apart that people may, without social or physical discomfort, pass between you.

If you need to stop, for God's sake, pull over. Do not execute an emergency stop in a space where others are walking. Ever. Not even if the emergency is a really cute shirt.

If you must perform some other activity while walking, such as eating, talking on a cell phone, or chewing gum, you are obligated to arm everyone else in the area with a regulation, executive-retreat caliber paint gun, so that we can take you down if you get in the way. If you're a vegetarian, you can arm us all with tranquilizer darts instead.

If you are so stupid that walking into a mall drops your IQ below zero, you should wear identification, visible from at least 5 yards away. Acceptable stupidity identification might be a really large pointy hat, or a sign that says "I'm with stupid" but points to yourself. Or one of those purses that's entirely covered in reflective gold sequins the size of a quarter. (These are especially recommended for night stupidity.)

Random zig-zaggy movements are not appreciated. Unless you're trying to elude sniper fire (perhaps because someone got tired of you text messaging while walking), zig-zagging is just forbidden.

If there's a girl fight, you should tell me. Because those look like a way better spectator sport than tennis, and I'd like to check it out.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Dr. Empathy

A couple of months ago, I had the misfortune to experience a type of pain that I recognized. I won't go into the details, but the last time I had this pain it was followed (none too swiftly or surely) by painful surgery that totally failed to take care of the underlying problem, leaving it dormant under my skin, like the villain that's not quite dead enough ten minutes from the end of a horror movie. I know it's never going to kill me or even make me sick, but it does hurt, and I also know we'll never really kick its ass.

Clearly I needed to take a trip to the doctor, and knowing that in my anxiety I would probably fail to make my point (which was, loosely, "fix it this time you bastards or I'll sue you"), I rehearsed my little speech a few times before I went into the office. I walked into the office, confronted the doctor, delivered my speech, and promptly burst into hysterical sobs.

The doctor, fortunately, is that rare wonder of modern medicine, Dr. Empathy. She totally understood my fear of unnecessary and ineffective surgery, and she gave me lots of Kleenex. She's also a gifted comedienne. I know I read somewhere that doctors are less likely to be sued if they exhibit human emotion, even if they are demonstrably at fault, and boy, this lady essentially has a get-out-of-malpractice-free card. She indulged my concerns, made sure she understood them, and prescribed a treatment plan that she thought would get me better without surgery.

The treatment plan is fine, really, but two days ago the pain was back, and today I went back to see Dr. Empathy again. She sat down and said, "You look really familiar. Let me just pull your records up on the computer and then I'll remember what's going on." I joked, "Oh, I'm surprised I'm not more memorable. Do you want a hint? I'm the one who cried hysterically the last time I was here." That did it. Not only did she remember the whole situation, but she insisted that she was to blame for the fact that I cried the last time. "Watch this. I'll do it again. I just look at you like this, and then I say, `Are you okay?'" And damned if she wasn't right--there were tears in my eyes instantly, like some kind of post-hypnotic suggestion.

Three things occurred to me in rapid succession.

One: How is she doing that? Is she a witch? Is there some course they send doctors on? (Empathy 101 for Physicians, maybe?)

Two: Do I really want to trust a doctor who can make me cry at will? (Hell yes--I want her on my side, where I can keep an eye on her.)

Three: How do I acquire this skill and use it for my own nefarious purposes?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Tivo Thinks I'm Gay

Okay, well, that's not news. My Tivo has been recording gay-themed entertainment for me for a while now. And Tivo doesn't care who I sleep with--it really doesn't care whether I'm gay or just gay-friendly. So I'm okay with that.

But recently, Tivo got a service update which "improved" its ability to offer suggestions. Like all the Tivo improvements, it's striking me as a wee bit judgmental. Tivo thinks I am made of time. It somehow thinks that in addition to all the stuff I normally watch, I'm going to watch movies. Lots of 'em. I admit it, I like movies. I'm happy it recorded "Young Frankenstein" (one of my favorite movies--good Tivo). And I'm glad it somehow figured I might like "Hoop Dreams," which I've been meaning to watch ever since Ebert and Siskel recommended it in 1994. And who's going to argue with "The Maltese Falcon?" I mean, Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre? Now that's a good movie.

But seriously, Tivo, this is not a balanced diet. Where are "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" or "Star Trek" or "The Dick Van Dyke Show?" I don't open the Tivo Suggestions folder because I have two hours to kill. Usually I'm just looking to kill the first twenty minutes of my program so that I don't have to sit through the commercials. And, to misquote Harry, somewhere between twenty minutes and two hours is our problem.

With this new improvement, Tivo has become even more like my mother. My mother combs through every publication that crosses her doorstep, scouring it for articles on or even obscure references to things I like or have ever liked at any point during my 34-year history on this planet. Sometimes she has to highlight the specific word in the article when she sends it to me, which says, in effect, "I think of you EVERY SECOND. Even if I never told you I loved you, you would be able to infer my love from the sheer heft of the envelopes that arrive in your mailbox." And sometimes in with all the love, I see something that says, "You're fiscally irresponsible" or "You'll never be a grownup."

So maybe that's what's happening to my Tivo. Now, in among the messages that say, "I know you love Gene Wilder," or "I saw this Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn movie and I thought of you," I get the message that says, "Your ass is kind of wide--I bet it's all the movies you watch."

Oh, it's so exciting. My Tivo loves me! Excuse me--I have to go buy it a card.