Jul 30, 2009

A Micro-study of human nature.

I’ve been traveling over the last few days. I believe in travel karma, both good and bad. This trip had mostly bad karma. I won’t go into all the details but I will say it involved hotel room downgrades, defective air conditioners & alarm clocks, lost reservations and missed flights. It all ended well though. I received a $300 travel voucher and an upgrade to first class for the cross-country return flight just for agreeing to be bumped to a flight that was 2 hours later. I have a trip next summer to Norway to pay for. That voucher will come in handy.

I will, however, tell you about the security line at LAX. I think this line was worthy of consideration by Mr. Guinness for inclusion in his Book of World Records. In any case, it was certainly the longest security line I have ever stood in. I was in that line for over an hour. It started in the building with the normal roped off, conga line and then moved across the hall, outside the building and down the entire length of the terminal.

It was like a line for a brand new roller coaster at an amusement park. Except that at the end of this line, instead of a fun filled thrill ride you got to walk through a metal detector and risk getting frisked by an underpaid, over worked TSA employee. Although, I guess if frisking is your cup of tea you could consider that a thrill.

So what was so note-worthy about standing in this line, you ask. Well, for the most part it was pretty mundane. However, one small section of this line was very interesting. It was the section where people walked out of the building to the sidewalk and for the first time realized the enormity of the line. It was so much fun to watch their reactions. The most common were:

Zombie like disbelief – These people had an initial subtle reaction, eyes widening, head shaking, etc., but then immediately accepted their fate and silently moved to the end of the line with a dazed look on their face.

Expletive blurting – The most commonly uttered phrase was “Oh my God!” but there were quite a few “Holy Shit”s and “Jesus H. Christ”s thrown in there too. Does the H stand for Holy? Does anybody know. I’ve always assumed it does but who knows, maybe Jesus’ middle name is Henry.

Chuckling accepters – These were the fatalistic, Murphy’s law people. Just life handing you another crappy situation so you may as well just accept it. (That’s me)

Commiseraters – These people wanted to bond with the others in line. “Wow, I don’t believe this”. “How long did it take you to get this far?”

And then there was the lady with the Luis Vuitton bag who walked up to us and asked “Are all of you people in the line for security?” No lady, we’re in line for the Starbucks, got to have my mocha latte, don’t you know. She defies classification.

I could have stood in that spot a while longer, I was having so much fun people watching. Of course it was easy to be smug after already having stood in line for 40 minutes. “Yeah, end of the line buddy. Keep moving.”

Jul 23, 2009

Free at Last

I’m mad at Jon Gosselin. I know lots of people have been mad at him for a lot of different things but up until now I’ve been sort of “eh… whatever” about the whole divorce thing. Many people go into marriage thinking that if it doesn’t work, they can easily get out of it. That attitude is like starting a race with one of your shoelaces untied in my opinion. Sad to be sure, but I have learned to accept the fact that marriage and family are viewed as fluid conditions by lots of folks.

Over the past few years, I’ve caught a few episodes of J&K+8. I found it entertaining in a kind of “Are these people f’ing crazy?” kind of way. I have always thought Kate was a demanding bitch. One of the twins is following in her mother’s footsteps too. That little girl obviously missed some well needed swats on the behind, but that’s a whole other post. But I always liked Jon. He just seemed to be a nice guy that went along with the flow.

I couldn’t bring myself to watch this season as they trotted out their private struggles for the world to see. I think they made the wrong decision to keep going with the show but it’s far from being abusive to the children, as some critics are saying.

Over the past two days, everywhere I look I see Jon cavorting around the French Riviera with his new girlfriend, a mere 20 days after the divorce announcement. By the way, not the same young thing he messed around with while his wife was off hawking her book.

So, why am I mad at Jon? Well, it’s sort of a gut response as a wife witnessing a man dump his wife for some young chippy. It’s the sisterhood thing. Sort of the opposite of the wistful, admiration some men feel for the guy in this situation. That woman bore him eight children. This is the thanks she gets? He flaunts his new found “freedom” in her face at every opportunity.

It seems as if Jon’s inner turmoil has been about getting a little “strange”. All the whining about not being able to find himself was just a bunch of hooey he thought would garner him some sympathy. What's really going on is the wife and kids are cramping his style. Day late and a dollar short buddy. You will be tied to Kate for the rest of your life and you are responsible for eight young ones, like it or not.

I certainly hope the new girlfriend likes children. She is about to dive head first into the deep end of the kiddie pool. Honestly, I don’t give this one much of a shot. She’s sort of like the Corvette that a middle aged guy buys until he realizes he needs something more practical. A twenty-two year old doesn't have a tinker's chance in hell of managing the Goseeelin brood, even for a short visit.

I wonder what will happen the first time she serves hot dogs to the kids. Macro-biotic chef Kate’s not going to like that. Should make for good TV (rolls eyes).

Jul 20, 2009

Twirling for the Joy of It

It’s important for one to know one’s limitations. There is something to be said for perseverance but at some point perseverance becomes an exercise in futility. You end up pounding your head against a door that will never open to you. My grandmother introduced me to this concept at a very young age.

When I was eight I wanted to be a ballerina. I thought I was the best spinner in the world. Of course, socks and a shiny, slick linoleum floor helped augment my natural, God given abilities. My grandmother saw me spinning one day and asked me what I was doing. I told her I was practicing my pirouettes because I wanted to join the NYC Ballet. She unsuccessfully stifled a chuckle. I come from a long line of pragmatists, both sides of the family. They may appear cold hearted but they really do have your best interest at heart.

Even at eight years of age it was probably clear that I was going to be very tall and anything but petite. My grandmother could have let me live the dream a little longer, but she chose to clue me in. She calmly informed me that I probably was not the right body type to be a ballerina. You may think it was mean of her to tell me that but it really didn’t faze me that much. I still pirouetted, but just for the joy of it. From that day forward I harbored no illusions about my ability to become a ballerina.

It's important to know what you can and can't do. I know and accept the following limitations and weaknesses:

I can not dance. I know we covered that above but I’m talking about any kind of dancing. It takes an extreme amount of alcohol to get me up on a dance floor. You’ve seen Elaine dancing on Seinfeld? Not quite that bad, but awfully close.

I do not have a green thumb. Any plant brought into my house is doomed. Some have lasted quite some time, years even, but in the end I manage to kill them all. It doesn’t stop me though. Buying plants becomes sort of like a risk/benefit analysis. How long will it live vs. how much does it cost?

I am a procrastinator. I put things off until the last possible minute. It’s almost like I need that extra pressure of a looming deadline to motivate me into action. I do my best work in the eleventh hour.

I am a know-it-all. This was a result of being the oldest kid in an extended family and always trying to get the adult’s attention. They liked precociousness and jokes. But what plays well to a room full of adults doesn’t work nearly as well with your peers. As I grew I learned to tone this down but it makes me an obnoxious Trivial Pursuit and Scrabble player. I will, however, kick your ass. See, I’m insufferable.

The benefits of knowing the above (and many other things I didn’t list) are two fold. I can adjust and compensate where necessary. I can concentrate on areas that are my strengths. Oh, I know all about the success stories but, truth be told, they are few and far between. Rudy did play for Notre Dame but for about one minute. Maybe Rudy missed out on the opportunity to be part of the marching band or the debate team because he was so busy chasing after that football dream. I think finding a match between your strengths and your desires makes for a much easier road. Does that sound cynical? Fatalistic? Well, I always reserve the right to feel completely different about the whole thing tomorrow.

Jul 17, 2009

What's not to love?

This beautiful creature was dumped at my workplace this week. A couple pulls into our parking lot, looks guiltily around, opens the car door, boots the dog out of the car and then drives off at breakneck speed. Who does that? Maybe he was more than they could handle, either financially or behaviourally. But there are options. There are any number of organizations that take in animals and try to find them homes. To just dump his irresponsible. The poor guy could have been hit by a car and killed.

I've toyed with the idea of a third dog for quite some time, so I decided to give it a go. It's not working out so well. Our current alpha dog (not counting my husband, of course) is our 11 year old lab mix, Chance. He has earned his spot as top dog. Along comes this young punk dog that is intent, and seemingly quite capable, of usurping the throne.

I just can't bring myself to put Chance in that position. We are actively looking for a new home for this guy. Awesome dog with a lot of potential.

Jul 15, 2009

Let's add a little spice.

Sonia Sotomayor is being grilled about her ability to impartially apply the law in cases that will be brought before her. The “concerned” Republicans are worried she may be “racist” because she made a comment about being a wise Latina and how that might just give her an advantage in reaching sound decisions.

As usual, the Republicans fail to apply any test of basic logic to their "outrage" before they trot it out for the press. First, I'm not really sure they understand what racism means .... and isn't that telling. Awareness, and discussion, of the fact that some races are treated differently is not racism. The first step in eradicating the affects of racism is identification of the inequities. Racism is not the awareness of, or discussion about the existence of different “races”. Embracing differences, (to use an oft quoted catch-phrase) requires acknowledging differences. Differences are good, not taboo subjects. A person is racist when they believe that racial differences mean one race should be treated differently than another.

Another flaw in their argument is the way they simplify the judicial process. Laws need interpretation because they are applied to real life situations involving real people. That’s what judges do. If you think the human element doesn’t enter into it, you are sadly mistaken. The reason for the judiciary system is that application of law is not a cookie cutter process. People are subjective, situational creatures. We constantly change our minds and are known to disagree with each other, you know, dissenting opinions and such. Otherwise we would just build a computer to apply justice.

Ironically right next to the Sotomayor confirmation article on MSN was an article titled, “Who’s getting hit most by layoffs?” The answer to that question depends on your age, race and gender. I'll give you one guess as to who is affected the least. But first let me explain an anomaly with the results. It seems women are affected less than men. The reason is women are paid less than men and they are in the lower paid professions that are not being hit as hard, like health care. Removing gender as a consideration and only considering ethnicity, the results are predictable. I don't even have to write them here, you know what they are.

This, my Republican friends, is why we need this wise Latina's valuable and unique perspective on our highest court. Sotomayor's comment sounded like ethnic pride to me and a tongue in cheek poke at the established power base. (Here’s a secret ---- it’s still mostly middle aged, white men.) The more perspectives we can add the better off we'll be in dispensing even handed justice for all.

Jul 14, 2009

Now that's a WorldPerk!

I fly several times a year, usually cross country. Being in Detroit the default airline is Northwest Airlines, or Northworst as they are, not so affectionately, known around here. They are in the middle of a merger with Delta Airlines.

I took a Delta flight recently. Compared to NWA it was like living in the lap of luxury. We had pillows and blankets, big seats and TV. They gave us peanuts. If I’m lying, I’m dying…. honest to goodness peanuts. I am very happy about this merger, so long as I don’t get screwed out of any of my frequent flyer miles.

NWA gave up free peanuts ages ago. You can however, purchase snacks for the flight. Your choices are cheese & fruit plate - $2; Mini-can of Pringles - $2; bag of M&M’s -$2 and for those who like the element of surprise in their snacking, the “Snack Box” - $5.

NWA also recently eliminated pillows and blankets, cheap bastards. They have small, cramped seats which gives the phrase “know thy neighbor” a whole new meaning. Don’t get me started on how they charge for checked luggage. This stupid policy encourages carry-on luggage, which brings the security and boarding process to a crawl. Before news of this merger, I fully expected to hear about them installing coin slots on the airplane lavatories.

Of course, NWA is not nearly as bad as Southwest Airlines. There are no assigned seats on SW flights. First come, first served. I took one flight with them. After being elbowed and shoved by my fellow passengers in their desperate attempt to get an aisle seat, I vowed never to fly with them again. Although I hear they are adding sunroofs to their planes now….. sounds intriguing. Maybe I’ll re-think my boycott.

SIDENOTE: Did you notice more commas in this post? Commas mystify me. Other than in lists of things, I just can't seem to place them properly. So, I decided that ,overuse of the comma is better, than underuse.

Jul 10, 2009

"THE" Day Approacheth

This week the Wedding Planning Committee (daughter < --------- the bride, me, sister, and my two nieces < ----------- bridesmaids) went to the bridal shop. Mission, order two bridesmaid dresses and try on mother-of-the-bride (MOB) dresses.

We MOBs have our own section in these shops. If it’s not very clearly marked you can easily find it by looking for matronly, bag like dresses covered in lace, sequins and feathers. Below are the three dresses that made the cut.

PLUS: Makes me look thin. OK, thinner.
MINUS: Only comes in navy blue - wedding colors are brown & autumn colors.

PLUS: Busty bosoms, not bad for an old broad.
MINUS: Jacket feels weird.

PLUS: Seems closest to my style.
MINUS: They all said it looked like a nightgown.

This is in the "You've got to be kidding" category.

Our saleslady was one mean b*tch. If I had to speculate why, I would guess it involved either a failed marriage or being left at the altar. Whatever the cause, she clearly did not like brides.... or maybe she just didn't like us. Stark contrast to other bridal shop we've been to where the staff have perkiness practically bubbling out of their pores and never fail to "LOVE" everything you try on.

Surly bridal shop girl was the type that pretends she doesn’t understand what you are asking so that you have to rephrase it and then she clicks her tongue and answers as if you have just asked the stupidest question in the world. Here’s an example:

Daughter: If they want to exchange their dresses for a different size, closer to the wedding they can, can’t they?

Surly Bridal Shop Girl: Uh huh.

Daughter: How long does that take?

Surly Bridal Shop Girl: What do you mean? You just come into the shop and if we have the size here, exchange it.

Me: No, she means how long will it take to order it if you don’t have it in the shop? We can't be sure you will have their size.

Surly Bridal Shop Girl: Oh, (tongue click) well in that case it would take 40 days.

How can you be a bridal shop girl and not understand that every female wedding participant on the planet expects to lose two dress sizes between now and the time of the wedding? We’ve seen your racks, you don’t have every size in every style so quit playing stupid.

Note to the men reading this. Stay out of our bridal shops. You are not welcome. It's bad enough that you come into our beauty salons like you own them. Can we please keep this last bastion of female solitude and sanctity? We don't need to be sucking in our guts, hiding the zipper that won't close or wondering if our bra straps are showing.

What are you doing here anyway? Either your girlfriend dragged you here trying to give you a hint (wake up sucker, she is hoping you can picture her in these beautiful gowns) or you are here on your own (ewwww).

Ended the excursion by picking up a pizza (yeah, yeah, I know.... that's no way to lose two dress sizes) and going back to the house to discuss other wedding topics.... favors, decorations etc. Three months left til the big day.

Jul 7, 2009

My (facebook update) day!

First cup of coffee (can you inject that intravenously please) and then it’s off to work! (God, is it really only Tuesday?)

Beautiful, sunny skies on my commute to work this morning! (too bad I didn’t notice much of it, thanks to the aggressive drivers I had to keep out of my lane… You’re not getting in here, buddy.)

Gossip is bad and only small minded people talk about others!(and I’m a pea-brain, so spill your guts.)

HR is all about being there for people! (who want to whine and complain to somebody about how unappreciated and underpaid they are.)

I just love it when teams mesh and really accomplish things! (this team, however, needs a lot of help, borderline suck.)

Driving by the gym on the way home! (here it comes …… zoom …… and there it goes.)

The dogs look like they need a walk (maybe tomorrow guys) and I need to do the laundry (at least some underwear, I put on the last clean pair this morning.)

I raised the best, most awesome kids in the world! (and now it's time for them to go out there on their own and pay their own bills. Good luck guys.)

Cooking dinner, (Hamburger Helper, shit I forgot to get milk) then a nice relaxing evening with the hubby (him in his office surfing the net or playing guitar and me on my computer playing WOW…. it’s a raid night.)

Looking forward to spending quality time (at the bar, having more than a few) with friends and family this weekend.

Good night facebook friends (aren’t you jealous of the perfect life you think I lead?)

Jul 6, 2009

Did you just spit on me?

I’ve done quite a bit of interviewing. I was responsible for staffing offices that were growing rapidly in my first two professional positions. I have probably hired over 300 people. You figure, with an average of four candidates for each position, that’s over 1200 interviews over the last 20 years. I’ve learned from experience what interviewers like and what they don’t like (well at least me anyway). I thought I would offer some tips based on my experience.

By the way, I left out the obvious pointers -----> Try not to spit on anybody. Don’t bring along your mother/brother/child/spouse. Don’t wear shorts or halter tops. Don’t’ swear. Don’t go to the interview drunk or high. Yes, I have seen all of the above and no, none of them got the job.

I know everybody has heard how important the handshake is. That’s because it is. A weak handshake makes me think the person is passive. Alternatively, a bone crushing handshake from a man makes me think he is too aggressive and from a woman, it always seems as if she is trying to prove something. Remember, if nerves allow, have dry hands. Also, never let a handshake go on too long… that’s just creepy.

Make eye contact with your interviewers. Even if it’s a group interview and there are lots of them. Take time to look each of them in the eye. Eye contact communicates confidence. Also, speak to the person asking the question. Often when I ask a question the interviewee directs their answers to a different interviewer. This usually happens when a man directs all his answers to another man, instead of me. Makes me wonder how well he will work with women. Luckily, this phenomenon has been on the downturn, as the workforce becomes more enlightened. I saw it quite a bit in the early days.

Answer the questions that are asked of you. Don’t turn your answer into a long circuitous journey that always leads mysteriously back to what you think is your strong suit. If you do happen to wander off topic, say so and acknowledge that you are getting back to the question.

Don’t make something up if you don’t know the answer to a question or don't have experience with something the interviewer is asking about. It makes you look foolish and desperate. “I don’t know” or “I have never done that before” are the preferred answers. Nobody is expected to know or, to have done, everything. I personally like to see some humility, lets me know somebody is flexible and able to learn.

When given the opportunity to ask questions, do so. Come prepared with a few but also come up with a few based on what was discussed in the interview. It lets us know you were paying attention and that you have an interest in our company and the job. Don’t make all your questions related to pay and benefits. Too much focus on these issues leads us to believe that is the only thing you are interested in. Better yet, hold those questions for the second interview. Make sure we are interested in hiring you first.

Don’t talk badly about your current or former employer, even if your boss is a psychotic, discriminating SOB. Find a diplomatic way to communicate what your issues are or were. Don’t tell stories to illustrate your gross mistreatment at the hands of the evil company YOU chose to work for. Makes you look like a crybaby.

The most important advice I can give is, be sure you really want the position and that you really want to work for the company you are interviewing with. If not, you're wasting every body's time and will either find yourself on the market again or, more likely in today's economy, be a miserable sad sack dragging themselves to work every day.

Jul 2, 2009

Brother, can you spare a CAT Scan?

Alternative title: Will work for Meds.

I’m constantly amazed at how we tout ourselves as the greatest nation on earth, (debatable) and yet are so divided on the concept that we should be providing adequate, affordable health care to all of our citizens. A Great Nation takes care of its people….. all of its people.

For all the talk, we never really get to the heart of the debate. It’s not over HOW we will provide health care for all our people. It is really about WHETHER we should. But Republicans can’t say that. They are politicians after all and the uninsured vote counts the same as an insured vote.

The right wing believes in the fundamental principle that everybody should “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps”. In their minds the uninsured, and the under insured, are getting exactly what they deserve for not bettering themselves. They reason that if someone wants good health care, it’s there for the getting. Just get yourself a good job, like they did.

The arguments they make are laughable.

“Access to health care providers will become difficult.”. Unnecessary tests and over prescribed medications are symptoms of a system where those with coverage get a disproportionate share of the care. Will you have to wait a little longer to get that MRI? Maybe, but shouldn’t you have to if the reason you need it is not life threatening. What has made it available to you at a moment’s notice is that those without access aren’t in line. Again, this argument assumes that somehow the insured have earned the right to be at the head of the line.

“This will be the first step to socialized medicine”. There’s that scary “s” word. Truth be told, we already have socialism. No, really, I’m serious. You see the basic concept of socialism is that you collect from the few to benefit the many. Ever hear of taxes? Do you think you directly benefit from everything your tax dollars go towards? You don’t. Welcome to socialism. But somewhere along the line we decided that certain things were a collective obligation on our part. I think health care for all qualifies.

“We can’t afford it”. Actually we can’t afford not to do something about it. The health care industry has become a victim of the greed culture that has prevailed in this country over the last twenty years. The US pays more for health care than any other country in the world. Is our care significantly better than these other modern nations? No. We have turned health care into a profit making machine that has grown out of control. We are an aging nation with high unemployment. Doing nothing about this problem will cost us more in the long run.

45 million Americans are uninsured. Another 25 million are considered under-insured. So many of us are one job loss and one major health catastrophe away from losing everything. If you're not, then you're lucky, or a member of Congress. By virtue of serving as our legislators they are guaranteed health care now and after they leave office. Must be nice. Also explains why so many of them are so out of touch.