Wednesday, August 30, 2006

No Really, I'll Read Something Else Someday

It's just that my mother has sent me the collected works of Kathy Reichs, so I'm having a gluttonous attack of read-rage and working my way headlong through them. Reichs was just on NPR last week, and it's wonderful to be able to follow up an interview like that by reading her work from one end to the other. I may take a brief vacation or two, because maggotty bodies and knife marks and disembowelments could get a bit glum after a while. But they really are very good.

I also, on the recommendation of a friend, read Jeffrey Deaver's The Twelfth Card. It wasn't bad. I have to say the fake-out (we solved the mystery--oh, wait, no we didn't) loses some of its edge when you know there are still 150 pages left of the book--the author is sort of forced to tip his hand a little. But the characters were interesting, the story moved quickly (despite its length), and it was a fun read. The only thing that's missing, for me, is the eager desire to read more. I finished the Deaver book feeling satisfied, but I greatly prefer the rare "instant convert" sensation--the feeling that a book was so good I'd like to read every word the author's ever put on paper. That's the greedy addiction that keeps me reading--I'm always looking for that high.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Flattery Will Get You Anywhere

I had to get up at 3:00 yesterday to catch my 6:00 flight to California (just to make sure I could get through security in time--although actually, at 5 a.m. the line was moving along pretty swiftly). For someone who used to wake up at 4 every morning to work out before work, I didn't handle the 3 a.m. wake-up call very well.

I duly caffeinated myself and even brought a giant sweatshirt (the leading cause of grouchy Katies on airplanes is that they're cold), but I was pretty sure I was fighting a losing battle.

But then the universe smiled on me.

First, an airport security guard told me I had a nice smile. This was clearly a lie, because even with caffeine, I'm not a very chipper human early in the morning. Still, I appreciate the effort. It's not like he has an ongoing relationship with me. If he feels moved, he can lie to me if he wants.

Then I got to California, and I got a cabdriver who felt compelled to flirt with me the whole way to the office. He said only 1% of the women in the United States were as nice as I was. His opinion was based on the following facts, gleaned during our brief acquaintance:

1. I rarely drink.
2. I don't smoke.
3. I talk to taxi drivers named Ahmed.

It's nice to know I come up to someone's expectations. A rave review from Ahmed the taxi driver (his real name, or at least, the one on his card) may not get me a raise, but on a day when you've gotten up at 3 a.m., it's surprisingly comforting.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Continuing Story...

My HOA sent me two nastygrams this week. One said, "Weeds have been noted on your property." I looked around for a while and finally found a teeny row of crabgrass (seriously--I should publish a picture--my patio is paved, so weeds are not really an issue) growing directly inside my back gate. Fair enough. The other said, "Items are being stored on your property."

Now, I have a townhouse. It's not like I can have a car on blocks on my front lawn. This one took me a while, and in the end it was only a guess. Because if you call, I've learned from experience, they have NO idea what they meant. (As an ex-employee of a property management company, I'd advise them to invest in a camera--you'll have a record if someone's confused, and you can use it as evidence if you take legal action. Except, of course, that any judge would look at most of the things they complain about and, mindful of the massive check he writes to his own HOA every month, dismiss the case without further ado.)

After twenty minutes of investigation I concluded that they either meant my garbage and recycling containers (stored out of view behind my high wall, just the way 99.9% of the other people in my complex store theirs--everyone but those nuts who keep them in the garage) or a lawn chair on my downstairs patio that I don't often use and which was gathering dust. I threw the lawn chair away, as a sacrifice to the mysterious but demanding HOA gods. Wish me luck.

Meanwhile on Thursday I "weeded" (i.e., threw out the row of crab grass and the lawn chair) and also trimmed back my hedges in the front, and then I wheeled my garbage bin out to the curb. This is an event for me. I can only wheel the garbage to the curb if I'm working from home on Thursday, because if your garbage is out there after "dusk" (the sun doesn't even have to be down) I get a nastygram--a different kind of nastygram that threatens me with a fine. So generally, I don't even bother to put the garbage out when I go to work, because the stress of making sure I'm back before dusk isn't worth it, and as a single person who doesn't cook my garbage doesn't need to go out every week anyway. I was feeling mighty productive when all of this was done by 6:30, but I was really stoked about being able to get the garbage picked up.

Imagine my horror when, after a late meeting and a subsequent leisurely dinner with a glass of wine, I sauntered out to get the mail and discovered that I had forgotten to take my garbage bin back to its hidey hole. Normally I go straight out after I hear the truck, but yesterday I was in a phone meeting, so I didn't want to step away. I know it's my fault, and I know I forgot. But really, this doesn't strike me as reckless behavior that's injuring others in my community (we all forget--a lot--when I went out there were six other wheelie bins at the curb on my way to the mailbox). I'm not implying that the HOA has it out for me--they're nothing if not fair. But it seems like an odd thing to focus on, and it seems like an ureasonable deadline.

Yeah, that's gonna cost me.

And in response to the person who suggested I attend a meeting, let me say that I took you up on your suggestion. I went to a meeting. The other residents who showed up there were crazy--no, really, like "I wear a foil hat to ward off alien mind rays" crazy. I kind of wonder if they were crazy when they moved here. Although I will admit that probably makes the HOA's life difficult, I won't hesitate to point out that I work with plenty of crazy people, too. I just never thought of arbitrarily fining them.

Hmmmmm. Now there's an idea.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Because it is AWESOME

You must visit this blog right away, because it's hysterical. Or maybe just to former English majors? No, surely not.

In other news, I fell down in the parking lot at my building yesterday. No, really. Because, you know, your day isn't really bad until you've skinned a palm in front of coworkers.

For those who are less clutzy than I, let me inform you that there are different kinds of falling down (while sober--the types of falling while drunk are too numerous to explore here).

Falling Down in Private
This is where you fall in, say, the privacy of your own home. You know, like when you forget how many steps there are in the flight of stairs you use every single day and somehow manage to fall down the stairs in your very own house. This is bad, but at least you have control over how embarrassing it is.

Falling Down in Public--Mild
Mild, you ask? As in, no broken bones? Ah, no. I can tell you're a coordinated person. Uncoordinated people know what I'm talking about. I'm talking about falling down in front of strangers. It's bad, and they giggle and whisper, but you will probably never see them again. And even if they remember you for the rest of their lives, they probably won't be able to pick you out of a lineup. It could be worse. To wit:

Falling Down in Public--Severe
I'm talking falling down in front of people you know. Not friends. Not people you might leave something to if you died. Not them. The other people. Like, say, coworkers. People you have to see all the time, but whom you haven't seen drunk. Yeah. Good times.

Bodily injury only factors in as an exacerbating condition. And then you get extra points as follows.

- Add 5 bonus humiliation points for bodily injury which rends clothing.

- Add 10 bonus humiliation points for bodily injury which requires local medical attention (e.g., from a school nurse).

- Add 20 bonus points for bodily injury which requires transport to a medical facility.

- Add 100 bonus points for bodily injury which requires transport to a medical facility and where you have to explain to a medical professional that you fell under "X" humiliating circumstances, while not intoxicated.

- Add 300 bonus points if your medical professional cheers and says he won the pool.

Until you get a severe public fall with 300 bonus points, don't mess with me. No, seriously. Sometimes the ER has a pool for dumbest injury. It can evidently be quite profitable.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Hey, Orange Juice Has Vitamins!

I'm aware that it may be...unconventional, say, to pour yourself a mimosa and call it dinner. Breakfast, sure, but dinner, well, that requires an explanation. To wit:

1. I have a meeting that begins at 10:00.
2. It was 7:00 and I'd been working for 12 hours.
3. Somehow the Italian leftovers in my fridge weren't calling to me.
4. I opened the champagne on Saturday morning. This is pretty much its last day.

The only decent thing to do is to get at least one more glass of champagne out of that bottle. But I have a meeting, so I can't just drink myself into a coma (which takes less alcohol than you might think). Plus I'm still hungry, and I really do need something of nutritional value.

And that's why I'm having a mimosa and watching "The Closer" before I go back to my spreadsheet of a thousand cells. Hey, that makes it a 13-hour day instead of a 14-hour one.

A Meeting of Many Meetings

Today I went to a meeting where one faction of a project wanted another faction of the project to modify their work habits so that the first faction wouldn't have to go crazy or, you know, read minds.

The project manager offered to have a sort of summit meeting between the two groups and draft an agreement. This is the standard solution in my organization. You draft an agreement. Nothing changes, but at least wronged parties have a piece of paper they can wave dramatically when they're whinging about how wretched their lives are.

In this case, the wronged party said she frankly couldn't stand seeing another meeting for this project on her calendar.

The project manager suggested that maybe they could meet to talk about the excessive meetings.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Many Apologies...

For the fact that I haven't written. I know no one cares, but I have this obsessive personality, so I feel guilty anyway.

Suffice it to say that it's been a very bad week. (And now you say, "How bad was it?")

It was SO bad that I am sitting on my sofa on a Friday night watching George Hamilton and Mariella Frostrup on "The Kumars at No. 42." I love this show anyway--I love Sanjeev Bhaskar, and I love the gentle dysfunction of the Kumars. But tonight I'm watching with the aid of (non-prescription, non-acetaminophen) painkillers and red wine, and I think I even love George Hamilton.

There may be some inebriated text messaging later this evening for which I cannot be held morally responsible. Or, you know, I may just pass out. Either way, my neck, which was so painful earlier today that I lay on the sofa fighting the impulse to sob every time I had to draw breath, is feeling much, much better.

More later, including further description of my malady (it's G-rated, honest).

But I won't write now, because if I did, my topics would include:

A comprehensive criticism of Blockbuster Video's shelving system, including the reasons why Psycho is not a "drama" if you also have a "horror" section, at least, not if the horror section includes other non-supernatural horror films, e.g., "The Boston Strangler."

Praise for my local Italian restaurant, which gave me lasagna in TEN MINUTES because I was in pain and they felt sorry for me. (Allow me to assure you that this was before the wine.)

Praise for peanut butter M&M's which may be the best M&M's on the planet, and which don't get nearly enough recognition.

Commentary on blogger's spellchecker, which doesn't know a lot of the words I want to use but which can spell acetaminophen without any difficulty. (It doesn't know the word "blog," but really, I think its vocabulary is only about 800 words, so that's hardly surprising. But acetaminophen? Really?)

Yeah, see? That's why I'm not writing. So adieu until I recover enough to engage some sort of filter.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Ah, Satisfaction

Well, first of all, I re-read Armistead Maupin's The Night Listener, the better to see the "subtle" differences between the book and the film. It was a fun read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I need not have bothered, because the differences between the movie and its source material are pretty much WRIT LARGE. I dragged a friend to the movie and we were, I kid you not, half the audience. I was puzzled by the thriller angle--I'm astonished that the travesty of misleading thousands of people isn't drama enough to fill a movie, but whatever. It wasn't at all what I expected. (New York???? I know Maupin has every right to leave San Francisco, but I find it dislocating. And of course, all humor had to go to make it a thriller... I missed it desperately.) But it was fine.

I also read a mystery that I really enjoyed. I've been resisting reading Kathy Reichs forever now. I watch "Bones," and I'm not ashamed to admit it. It's funny, the characters are all charming, and it's a good show. And everyone keeps telling me, oh, you'd love the books. Well, that makes me want to run for the hills. You have all this pressure to love the books, and people always tell you you're going to love things and you're just stunned sometimes by the things people recommend. As Holly Golightly says about the earrings men give her, "the mind reels." Someone told me that I would love Candace Bushnell, and her work occasionally gives me the dry heaves. So, I was skeptical.

I also retain more than a little skepticism about the mystery genre. I enjoy mysteries on television and in film, but the novels often leave me cold. Apart from Val McDermid's books, which I'd read if they were illegal, no detective has really lit my fire since Inspector Morse. Character development so often follows predictable marching orders (oh, the detective, so conflicted, so alone, so prone to post-traumatic stress disorder, so traditionally in the throes of addiction). Not that I'm slamming tradition--most of the time when you look at something good, you can see its roots going back at least a century--but I just find that most mysteries feel lifeless. If I want that kind of mental exercise, I'll go do a puzzle. Half of a good mystery is a good character, so either fork one over or send me to Web Sudoku.

And Tempe Brennan is conflicted and a recovering addict (named Temperance, naturally). She doesn't appear traumatized in the book (on "Bones" she does have a past trauma that she's handily sublimated into superachievement) and she's definitely not alone. Again, I find her working relationships far more erotic than the alleged eroticism I found in the vampire genre. I was also pleased to see that the book doesn't want anything to do with her television character's annoying ignorance of pop culture.

As for addiction, I'm now addicted to Kathy Reichs. I guess I'll have to pay my library fine, because I can't afford to pay for all her books, and I probably can't wait until I find them all for fifty cents.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A Woman and Her Shoes

This article answered a lot of questions I've had for a long time about women and shoes. Like, how many shoes does the average woman have? Exactly how freakish am I? Apparently I'm common (50% of women in the survey have more than 30 pairs of shoes) as opposed to freakish (only 8% have more than 100).

Of course, I'm still a freak, because most of my shoes do not have any "Cinderella" factor. At least a third of my shoes are tennis shoes, and probably half of those are Chuck Taylors. Another third are sensible flats (what my friend calls "sturdy brown shoes") and only a third are heels (most only 1-2 inches).

I do not think that I would EVER let a man CARRY me because I couldn't walk in my shoes. I mean, I just can't imagine letting that happen. Unless I got caught out having to walk a mile or two after a fancy night out due to some kind of public transportation shutdown/hostage situation, I'm generally wearing shoes that don't cripple me.

According to this article, 55% of men have had to carry a woman because her shoes hurt her widdle feet. I want more data. Do the men like this? Does it make them feel like knights in shining armor, or are they just thinking women are kinda stupid? How many times has it happened? Does any man let it happen more than once? Because that's either some serious patience or a disorder. Do they size up a girl's shoes when they ask her out, and if so, do they look for teetery heels or for a girl who can get home from dinner on her own two feet?

Ultimately, I think it would be sexier if the girl wears the tall heels and can still walk (and preferably run or kick your ass) in them. But then again, I never thought foot-binding was sexy, either. What do I know?

I was recently explaining to someone that I used to wear 3-inch heels. I did this partly because I'm short, and partly because my then-husband was tall. But even the comfy Aerosoles hurt eventually, so when I got home I'd take them off while I deactivated the burglar alarm--and not move them. After about four months of tripping over the shoes on his way in the door, the man took one and hurled it at my favorite picture, breaking the glass. He then cried and said that he was a horrible person.

So when I look at a 3" heel, I don't really see a Cinderella-style affirmation of the feminine mystique. I sort of think of them as uncomfortable little homewreckers. It's just me, isn't it? Yeah, I thought so.

Ain't No Paradigm Shift Wide Enough

Naturally, during my meeting, I IM'd a buddy at work to tell him about the rooster crashing our phone meeting. He asked me whose rooster it was, and I theorized that it might belong to (or at least live near) the lady phoning in from the Philippines. I said that now my mental note card for the Philippines reads, "Contains giant spiders, some people obsessed with racecar driving, and possibly roosters."

He knows I've refused to go camping on the grounds that there are bugs out there in nature, so he advised me to hie myself off to the Philippines, there to conquer my fear of insects by communing with their giant spiders. (Later I shared his theory with some of the other women in the meeting, and we engaged in a lively debate over whether the spiders would eat the roosters or the roosters would eat the spiders--my money is on the spiders, personally.) My colleague's assertion was that it would be a paradigm shift that would alter my life for the better (possibly enabling me to go camping).

Let me tell you right now, ain't no paradigm shift wide enough to make a dinner-plate-sized spider okay with me.

But the rooster--he's all right. I hope he comes to more of our meetings in the future.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I Want One

So I'm in my third phone meeting of the day (my tenth hour of meetings), and this woman is giving a presentation, and there is a rooster crowing in the background. Repeatedly.

I know I'm supposed to be culturally sophisticated and that it's not supposed to be funny. But I am laughing SO hard.

IM's are flying among people who are listening to the presentation. We all want our very own crowing rooster.

Friday, August 04, 2006

When Helicopters Are a Good Thing

I fell asleep early this morning to the sound of helicopters circling overhead, and I was pretty sure that I'd wake up to a news story about another shooting. But as it turns out, they think they have the shooters. One down, one to go. Way to go, law enforcement! You guys can wake me up at one in the morning with a helicopter any time.

Manhunt in the Neighborhood

Lest anyone should think I was just joking about the serial killers, there's been a helicopter circling my house with a spotlight for about half an hour now. It woke me up. I can only imagine what I'm going to see in the paper tomorrow.

Virtual Reality

So, mostly for reasons I won't go into, this has not been my favorite week at work. It hasn't been my worst week, not by a long shot. It just hasn't been very good.

I know I mentioned before that I don't actually work near a lot of the people that I collaborate with. Some of them are in other offices, lots are in different states, and still others are in different countries. This leads to a certain amount of innovation when it comes to things that co-located coworkers take for granted. We use software called NetMeeting a lot, which, as I mentioned earlier, allows us to see live changes to a document we're working on. One friend used to tell me that he didn't ever close NetMeeting. "I don't call my grandma without NetMeeting. You want to know how I'm doing, Grandma? Here's a spreadsheet. See?"

Tonight a friend and I had one of the rarer remote collaboration experiences. We held a virtual happy hour. You see, her week has been particularly crappy too, for many of the same reasons mine has been crappy plus a few ultra-crappy extras. And we were both working from home. At 5 she announced that she was getting herself a glass of wine. I got myself a beer and we had ourselves a nice four-hour chat ranging over our project, our boss, marriage, divorce, religion and literature. (She likes Edith Wharton. I think I'll recommend the Rebecca Goldstein to her and see if my theory is correct.)

It was really refreshing. All virtual collaboration should go so smoothly. Yo, remote colleague! Cheers!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Advantages of Working from Home

Well, it finally happened. My mother, who does not live in Phoenix, finally heard about our serial rapist, the Baseline Killer. Every time something like this happens in my area, I hold my breath and hope it doesn't make the national news, but the last time she phoned me, my mother let me know how worried she was.

I told her I'm safe because I often work from home. The Baseline Killer (police tell us) seems to be an opportunist. But people who work from home provide relatively few opportunities--when you're hooked up to a phone and typing on a computer for ten hours a day, the stats are on your side. You're not walking to your car late at night. You're not stopping at a dimly lit business on your way home. You're just pulling off your headset, saving your last Excel spreadsheet, and then walking to the fridge for a beer.

Working from home is big in our company, particularly in departments where no two people occupy the same office. Our meetings tend to start with the question "Who's in the office today?" followed by a long silence. The only reason it matters who's in the office is that we use software to share documents and watch someone "drive," that is, have the document open on their screen and modify the file according to the work we do in the meeting. The software gets cranky if the "host" (who can be different from the driver) is working from home.

I know a lot of people who wouldn't work from home even if they could, but I have to be honest, I dig it. For one thing, if you're working ten hours a day, you can get an hour of your personal life back by not commuting. You also save a lot of time and money on things like lunch--you can have a healthy salad, and it costs you less and you don't have to stand in line or keep it in an office refrigerator or buy it a special tupperware container. For another thing, you save money on gas--a trivial savings in the past, but lately it's adding up. And I also get to delete a lot of the messages the state sends out about pollution advisories--I'm already doing everything I can by not driving.

Plus I can wear pajamas. I love my pajamas.

On the downside, you tend to get a little behind socially. No one ever just grabs you for an unplanned lunch outing when you're at home (although if you're on the ten-hour-phone-meeting plan, there's precious little chance of that happening anyway). You're never going to meet your true love at work (I'll pause to let my unarticulated skepticism wash over you). Also I wear out my slippers a lot faster than I used to. Yeah. Not much of a down side, really.