Jan 30, 2009

Be still my beating heart


I love Liam Neeson. No, scratch that. I LOVE Liam Neeson. My love for Mr. Neeson started with Rob Roy which at the time of its release was overshadowed by a very similar Braveheart. Now Braveheart was a good movie and I certainly know that at the time Mr. Gibson was adored by many women. But Mel is no Liam. Never has been and never will be. Not to mention that the more I’ve learned about Mr. Gibson over the years the less use I have for him, can’t abide bigots or chauvinists.

I could watch Rob Roy over and over again. I think it has something to do with Liam’s accent and that boyish smile. He’s ruggedly handsome and nobody has ever made a kilt look so good.

Two of his most recent films were also genres that I particularly love: Star Wars Episode 1 – science fiction and Kingdom of Heaven – historical drama. Seeing that Liam was starring in both of them got me to the box office on or near opening day. I was disappointed at both of them since he was killed off very early in both films. Heart-breaking and false advertising to boot. Don’t give him headline billing if you’re just going to kill him off.

But today Mr. Neeson has a premier. In "Taken" he is “the” star so I doubt he will be killed off. My husband doesn’t know it yet but we will be going to the theater tonight so I can get a Liam fix, sigh.

Jan 27, 2009

The Last Straw


My routine in the morning is to drag myself out of bed, let the dogs out the back door, start the coffee, turn on the local news, let the dogs back in and lay down on the couch for another half an hour. I am a night person so my entry into the waking world at 6am is a slow process, even after all these years.

I turn the TV onto the local news not because I like it but because it is usually annoying enough to keep me from falling asleep again. How can anybody be so fricking cheerful so early in the morning?

One particular segment that drives me crazy is their “Gas Prices to Drive For”. This little public service is a daily spot where they give you the name and location of a gas station that is selling gas for about $0.05 less per gallon than average. Let’s do the math. If you have a 14 gallon tank then you will be saving a whopping 70 cents. At $2.00 a gallon this is about 35% of one gallon. At fuel economy of 26 mpg you are gaining an extra 9 miles. When gas was $4.00 a gallon this drops down to 4.5 miles. You better not be driving too far for these “Gas Prices to Drive For” or you will actually be losing money. So, whatever, if they think they are doing us some service with this little segment, good for them.

Every Friday I watch them ooh and aah over puppies and kittens brought in by local animal shelter people. They report on stores that are having shoe clearances and the women newscasters giggle like schoolgirls. Yesterday they actually did a 2 minute segment, complete with camera panning, about how the traffic lady and the anchor lady both were wearing red suits with beige knee high boots. To call any of this news is blatantly ridiculous. This is useless fluff.

But this morning they went too far. They were reporting on a new set of octuplets that were born yesterday. Just to make sure we understood what octuplets meant, the reporter was actually holding eight dolls. She then proceeded to pass them around to the other “news” people. They looked like idiots, pretending to cradle their dolls. I am now forced to find an alternative station because what I saw this morning has convinced me that these newscasters have no dignity. There is no end to the ridiculous things they will do. Much like a car wreck, at some point you just have to turn away.

Jan 25, 2009

Blah!


I added a Hello Kitty picture to this post just because she makes me happy. I can't explain why, she just does. The winter doldrums have hit. That's the time right after Christmas when we have a good 2 1/2 to 3 months of winter left. Even those with naturally sunny and optimistic dispositions start to grumble and frown. I think it is especially bad this year because the economy sucks. Not only are you stuck in your house, you're stuck in a house that has lost 25-40% of its value in the last two years.

I'm also crabby because I took a pretty bad fall on Friday. It was in the parking lot at work. My epic clumsiness was witnessed by four of my co-workers who, to their credit, were extremely helpful and understanding as they waited for me to catch my breath. With their assistance I was able to scrape myself up off the ground. Well the pain got worse and worse until I finally went to the clinic. I would have bet money that I had broken a rib but X-rays showed that I had not. Diagnosis is bruised ribs and sprained sternum.

I'm not a sissy. I don't complain or usually even discuss my health with others. My high tolerance for pain allowed me to deliver my two children by natural childbirth. I come from good German stock. We are tough. But, man oh man this hurts like hell and now I have some nice muscle spasms to go along with the pain. Number one on my list of things to be thankful for when I get back to normal is going to be my health.

So, I am focusing on the things I have to look forward to, which include: 1) This pain going away. 2) Springtime, which usually starts out being wet, cold and smelling like worms but it's a sign that summer is coming. 3) My trip to Vegas in February with my cousins, aunt and sister. We get together every year or two and the towns we visit are usually never the same once we leave. Vegas may have met its match with us.

Jan 23, 2009

Sing it sweetheart!



A lot of ground has been lost over the last eight years in our relations with other free nations of the world. When I say ground I mean leadership, respect, confidence and even just basic collaboration. Good old George wasn’t going to let anybody and I mean anybody, tell him what to do. (Except for maybe Cheney and Rumsfeld.)

Makes you stand up a little straighter as you watch the President re-establishing the rule of law in our country. He stood before the State Department diplomats and declared that cowboy diplomacy is over. The following excerpt is from an article I posted a few days ago which shows what the Bush administration thought about partnerships.

Joschka Fischer, German foreign minister and vice-chancellor: During the Kosovo war we had developed a format which was, I think, one of the cheapest models for policy coordinating in the interests of the U.S. [Secretary of State] Madeleine Albright was in the driver’s seat, and the four European foreign ministers discussed with her on a daily basis how the war develops and so on. This was U.K., France, Italy, and Germany, together with the U.S., on the phone. We continued after the war, not every day, but this was the format, to discuss problems and understand the positions. And suddenly it stopped. We had very, very few—I don’t know, two or three times. Only for a very short period when Colin came in, and then it stopped, because the new administration was not interested any longer in a multilateral coordination. (Published in Vanity Fair)


We are taking our first steps down the road to earning back a little bit of the respect we have lost over the years. So I offer up Ms. Aretha Franklin, Detroit Native and hat-wearer extraordinaire in the hopes that the United States of America can once again earn “just a little respect”.

Jan 21, 2009

Save a tree, read a screen.


The amount of paper on my desk at work is astounding. The whole notion of anything being “paperless” is a farce. I actually think that the digital age has created more papers. Documents used to be first dictated, then typed up, proofread, retyped, edited, retyped, copied and distributed. This was quite a lengthy and involved process. Distribution lists were considered with some care since creating and then distributing the document was at least a little bit labor intensive.

What it takes to create a document today is much less cumbersome than it used to be. Everybody types things up themselves and proofreading is done as you go with handy little red and green squigglies underneath your typos. For instance, I now know that squigglies is not spelled correctly according to MS Word but unexplainably squiggly is recognized as correct. Try it… squigglies gets the red squiggly and squiggly does not. Isn’t squiggly a noun? If it’s a noun shouldn’t you be able it make it plural? Is it squigglys? Nope that got the red squiggly too. Well, I’m off on a tangent now. Let me get back to my point. The computer checks my work to some degree which is a time saver. But does it save paper?

No it doesn't save any paper. I ususally e-mail my document to somebody to check it over. What do they do with it? They print it out, mark it up, scan their marked up copy and send it back to me. I print the edited version out to read and put in my files. No paper saving going on here.

Now it's time to distribute my final document so I attach it to an email and with the click of a button send it to interested and uninterested parties alike. Seems like a paper saver but most interested parties will print the document out. (The uninterested ones think to themselves, "Why in the hell did they send this to me?" and then keep it just in case.) Why, if I wanted to I could easily send my document to the thousands of people who work for my company across the globe. Imagine the paper wasted if even just a small portion of them print it out.

Other paper wasters include printer errors which for some mysterious reason turn a 5 page document into a 1,967 page document that you don't discover until you have printed 37 pages of gibberish And countless pages of paper are wasted because somebody forgot to clear the copy quanity on the photocopier and your single copy turns into five.

I believe the biggest paper waster of the electronic age is e-mail. Which is ironic because the whole purpose of e-mail is .... electronic mail.... not paper mail. But what happens is an e-mail is created, everybody and their brother is carbon copied. Then the e-mail gets forwarded and responses fly back and forth and before you know it your e-mail chain is the length of "War and Peace" when you print it out. Oh and make no mistake about it, you'll print a good number of them out. Just to be safe, or to cover your butt or to include in the project file so you can keep your e-mail box manageable.

I think this aversion to the pixelated word is the same reason it's taken so long for electronic books to take off. Great idea, but personally, each good book is like a gem to me. After I finish reading them I put them up on my shelf and then take pleasure in scanning them over to remind myself of all the things I learned and the places I visited by reading them. How am I going to do that with a book reading "device"?

I hope for the sake of all the trees out there this is all just a generational thing. Maybe the younger generations raised completely during the digital age will be more willing to let go of the paper in favor of the screen.

Jan 19, 2009

Good Riddance

Happy Day Before Inauguration Day.

The link below is an article in Vanity Fair about the Bush presidency. It is based on multiple interviews. I warn you that it is pretty long but well worth the time if you are looking for even more reasons to be happy about tomorrow.

Farewell to All That: An Oral History of the Bush White House

The ironic thing is Bush truly believes he is a man of ideals who governed by his priciples. He mistook decisiveness and stubbornness for conviction and purpose. He surrounded himself with ambitious and manipulative people who used his idealism against him and ultimately us.

I continue to be astounded that he was re-elected in 2004. This is the saddest and scariest part for me. We didn't boot him out or elect him out of office. He is a two term President who never should have been seated in the first place and that is the fault of the American public. Those who voted for him truly did get what they deserved over the last eight years.

Oh and Happy MLK Day. He was truly a man of conviction. A man with determination that saw a future much different than his reality and did something about it. With a sense of purpose and self sacrifice that should be an example to all.

Jan 16, 2009

They did what to that sandwich?


Went out to dinner tonight and my husband ordered a Monte Cristo sandwich. Have you ever had a Monte Cristo sandwich? Well let me tell you about them in case you haven't. It is a turkey, ham and cheese sandwich on wheat bread. Sounds good huh? But do you know what they do to that sandwich? They dip it in batter and then deep fry it. It's sprinkled with powdered sugar and comes with raspberry sauce for dipping. Seriously.

Now my husband tends from light to medium meals. He eats a lot of fish, pasta and sandwiches. He's a little persnickety about his food. I blame his mother. So he orders his MCSW sans powdered sugar and raspberry sauce. I think my jaw must have dropped because after the waitress leaves the following conversation ensues:

Him: "What?"
Me: "Have you ever eaten a MCSW?"
Him: "No"
Me: "Well it's kind of like a cross between a waffle and a sandwich" (I described it in detail for him)
Him: "It said wheat bread"
Me: "Oh, there's wheat bread in there, somewhere. Didn't you wonder why it came with powdered sugar and raspberry sauce?"
Him: "Yeah kinda, but deep fried, really? Maybe I should cancel it."
Me: "Who knows, maybe you'll like it." (I admit to giving it about 20/80 odds in my head).

Now there is a dispute as to how that last statement he made was punctuated. He claims that last sentence had a question mark after it. Like he was seeking my counsel on whether to cancel his order. I distinctly heard a period at the end of that sentence. Either way, he doesn't listen to me half the time anyway so the blame for this one lies squarely at his doorstep.

He didn't like it at all. He scraped the deep fried breading off and ate half an oil soaked turkey and ham sandwich. It was very funny and now the dogs have a treat coming their way today.

Damn, it's cold outside.


This is Michigan, we expect cold temperatures in the winter…. we bitch about it but we do expect it. But this….. this is cold beyond your imagination. This is cold that is so cold it hurts to breath. As my niece puts it, this is cold that freezes the boogers in your nose. This is cold that has your dogs whimpering at the door within 30 seconds of being let out to go do their business. This is cold that freezes your windshield washer fluid even though one of its major ingredients is anti-freeze. This is cold that shuts down every school in the State. This is cold you don't mess around with.

There is some consolation in the fact that when it gets this cold the skies are usually clear and so the sun shines and the snow sparkles. So my plans this weekend will most definitely include curling up on the couch with a comforter, getting the fireplace going and watching a movie or two. This is also perfect weather for a nice batch of chili with cornbread on the side…. Mmm. Should be a good three-day weekend.

Jan 14, 2009

Going Public


When you start writing a blog you have to make a few key decisions very early on. The most important one is who will you let know about your blog. It’s a battle between losing readers and losing material. I can’t very well write about how “so and so” does “such and such” that drives me bonkers when I know that they read my blog. The printed word is much more dangerous than the spoken word. Many of the social cues that soften things are missing from the written word, like body language. I have learned this the hard way with a few e-mails I wish I never would have sent.

I opted for readership over material. For me blogging is not just a journaling exercise. If it were I would just buy one of those pretty books with blank pages and start writing. Blogging is a way for me to throw things out into the world… to say “Hey, this is me and my experience.” My blog is public and searchable. I have told everybody and their brother about my blog with the exception of people at work. Being an HR manager I have to maintain a certain mystique. It makes it easier to do some of the tough things I have to do.

If you make your blog public then you have to decide how much of your personal information you will reveal. First names, places and events written about in your blog can all easily lead someone to figure out exactly who you are. I’m somewhere in the middle. I’m not stupid about what I reveal but I’m not paranoid either. I figure I’m not really stalker worthy.

Building a good profile is also important. Recently I have been struggling with whether to replace my clever little avatar with a real picture of myself in my profile. I’m not sure why I keep going back and forth on it. Part of it is that I love my avatar. She’s got attitude and makes a statement for me. “Yeah, I got curlers in my hair. You want to make something of it?” It’s how I like to think of myself… I don’t really care what you think. But then when I change to my real picture I am faced with the reality that I really do care. Then I think… OMG you are over-thinking this. Nobody really cares or gives it a second thought except you. Man it’s tough to be me sometimes.

You have to be careful about stories where friends and family play a leading role. It's important to get their permission before hand. My daughter recently told me about something she was upset about. We talked about it and at the end of our conversation I joked that I was going to blog about it. She emailed me the next day to ask if I had been serious. I assured her that I hadn’t been serious. After that I realized I need to be a little less flippant about using real life situations as material for my blog.

I have learned from my blogging experience, both reading and writing, that there is so much more that connects people than separates them. That leads me to believe my philosophy of “the more the merrier” is a good one, at least for me.

Jan 11, 2009

Mario

video

Our crazy dog LOVES to chase snow as you shovel. He will do it endlessly. But then who am I kidding? He's a border collie and they do everything a little bit obsessively.

Jan 10, 2009

Regrets?


There have been two people that I intentionally cut out of my life (not counting old boyfriends because that just goes without saying).

My aunt was married to my father's identical twin. As twins my dad and uncle spent their entire lives never living more than 5 miles apart. They fought like mad but had that weird unspoken twin thing too. Many people couldn't tell them apart but it was easy. My uncle always had this far away whimsical kind of a look. My father is the more practical one of the two. Somehow this translated to their faces.

My uncle married a crazy lady. That's him in the picture above and that's her peeking into the picture from the side. As I came to be an adult I realized that she was a pathological liar and a narcissistic one to boot. But we all loved my uncle so she kind of came along with the package. I think part of the reason he hung onto her was she put up with the alcoholism he struggled with his whole life.

Tragedy struck their family in 1983. One of their two sons and two of his buddies took the family car out in the middle of the night for a joyride. They hit a patch of ice and slammed into a tree. Two of them were killed, one of them being my cousin. He was 15 when he died. It devastated our family, but nobody more than my uncle. He was never the same after that.

I was 20 at the time and had started to figure people out pretty well. I watched as my aunt turned her son's funeral into a spectacle. I know people handle grief in different ways but I tell you her sole purpose seemed to be how much sympathy she could garner. It made me sick at the time and makes me sick now, remembering it.

But we loved my uncle so what are you gonna do? Then in 2000 my uncle was diagnosed with leukemia. He battled it for over a year but eventually it proved to be too much for him and he was sent home to die peacefully. My aunt turned his deathbed into a circus. For three days we were subjected to her controlling who could and could not be with my uncle as he lay dying. The funeral was another show.

The last time anybody in my family saw my aunt was in April of 2001, at my uncle's funeral. I don't miss her but have wondered over the years if I was too harsh. Wouldn't my uncle want us to be there for her? Who am I to judge people so harshly? These feelings and doubts are pretty strong for me right now because my sister ran into her the other day. My aunt didn't have much to say and made it pretty obvious that she was angry.

The beauty of a blog is that writing about stuff helps you to sort it out. It really has all come back to me about why I don't want her in my life. I am sorry for her, that she is no longer a part of our family and has no idea why really. But that doesn't mean I have to include such a mean, selfish and destructive person in my life.

Jan 8, 2009

Don't you have somewhere to be?


As part of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2009, I will be starting a cake decorating class tonight with my daughter and my sister. My specific resolution is to “Get off your lazy a** and go do something new.” Not to be confused with the “empty nest syndrome.”

I have always wanted to have the ability to transform flour, butter, sugar and eggs into a thing of beauty. Now I will have my chance. Near future, birthday cakes….. in the not so distant future perhaps a wedding cake. Not saying who, just saying it could happen.

Step two in my “anti-potato” campaign is to join a book club. I am now reading “Madonnas of Leningrad” by Debra Dean and will be visiting the local library on the “third Wednesday” of this month to “discuss this contemporary work of fiction”. Gosh, I hope I can come up with more than “Yeah, I really like it.” before then because that’s all I’ve got so far.

Possible future activities include, finding a Scrabble club (‘cuz I rock at Scrabble), going to local museums and a yet to be determined volunteer activity. I’m currently trying to decide between Meals on Wheels and fostering homeless dogs. Shhh.... don't tell my husband about the dog fostering idea. These things have to be broken to him with finesse. Fortunately, I have years of practice.

Jan 6, 2009

I don't believe winning the lottery ruins your life.


There is a direct correlation between how happy I am at my job and how many lottery tickets I buy. Not hard to figure out why. The more miserable I am at work the more I dream about calling in and saying… “Um yeah, I won’t be coming in (dramatic pause) EVER!” Click.

Many, many years ago I dreamt that I won the lottery. When I woke up I remembered the numbers clearly. These numbers became my lucky lotto numbers. I will gladly share them with you now but please remember me when you hit with them and send me a nice little finder’s fee or a fruit basket or something.

7-8-11-23-33-42

Lost fans will notice that three of these numbers are shared by the mysterious numbers found all over the island 8-23-42. Coincidence? I think not! Hurley won the lottery with those numbers.

When the Michigan lottery changed and they added the bonus ball it really messed me up. My lucky lotto number now had to be played six ways for me to win the big jackpot.

At my last job I had reached the point where I managed the monthly company lottery pool, made up of all the discontented and disillusioned employees. When the HR person leads that group it is time to move on and I did. It was a hard decision because I tend to feel some sense of ownership at the workplace plus I really miss all the people there.

It was the right decision to leave though. You know how I know? I left that job 15 months ago and have not purchased one single lottery ticket since. Not even a scratch-off. So, good luck to you if you use my lucky lotto number. But if you are hoping to win those multi-millions to change your life my advice is just go ahead and change it yourself.

P.S. Another way I know I made the right decision is that I no longer suffer from the Sunday night sense of foreboding because Monday morning is approaching.

Jan 3, 2009

It's all a matter of perspective.


I own one cat and two dogs. I don't like cats nearly as much as I used to. Our cat is named Tinkerbell. Yeah, yeah, I know... Tinkerbell is a lame name for a cat but in my defense my daughter named her. She was six years old at the time and had a fascination with all things Disney. Tinkerbell is now 16 and much more trouble than she is worth in my opinion. Just kidding........, well, not really.

My daughter will be taking her with her when she moves out on her own (timetable still fuzzy). We will not be getting another cat. Unless of course I am seduced by some adorable little kitten and completely forget that they grow into cats. Kind of like how you forget the pain of childbirth.

Below are two diary entries I ran across. They illustrate perfectly why it takes a special person to love a cat.

Excerpts from a Dog's Daily Diary......

8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 pm - Lunch! My favorite thing!
1:00 pm - Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 pm - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 pm - Milk Bones! My favorite thing!
7:00 pm - Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
8:00 pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 pm - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!


Excerpts from a Cat's Daily Diary...

Day 983 of my captivity...

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets.

Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength.

The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet.

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a 'good little hunter' I am.

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of 'allergies.' I must learn what this means and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow -- but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released - and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded.

The bird has got to be an informant. I observe him communicating with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now ...

Jan 2, 2009

Free Choice? Really?


Ask anybody who knows me whether I voted for Obama and you will get a resounding yes. I agree in principle with nearly 100% of his positions. But there is one stance he has taken on an important piece of legislation that I can not agree on. I disagree with him so strongly that during his campaign I sent him an e-mail expressing my concerns. I got a nice automated response back thanking me for my input and requesting a donation, but I felt better having sent the email.

The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) would change the rules governing unionization of the workplace. The current system works like this:

* Union organizers get employees to sign “Authorization Cards” where they express their desire for union representation. The requirement is 30% but most unions will not proceed unless they have over 50% because campaigns are costly.

* Companies can, and usually do, decline to recognize the union and then the union petitions the NLRB for an election.

* During the 30-60 day wait the company and union have the opportunity to present their cases to the workers.

* A federally supervised secret ballot election is conducted. If a majority of the workers elect union representation the company must recognize the union as the worker’s bargaining agent.

Now, I was raised in a union household. I have actually walked a few picket lines with my father. One of my father’s proudest moments was when he was dragged away by the police while picketing on the Detroit Free Press strike line. I believe that most, if not all, of the workplace regulations and reforms would not have been implemented if it were not for the labor movement in this country.

The EFCA would eliminate the NLRA election process. All the union would need is “Check Cards” from a majority of the bargaining unit choosing union representation and the company would be forced to recognize the union. This goes too far in my opinion.

Here are my issues with this proposed change. The company would have no chance to make its case against union representation. The argument that the unions make is that employers lie and misrepresent the unions when they meet with employees. They also claim that companies fire employees who support the union during this period. Actually, there are very strict rules about what companies can say and do during the election period. Violations come with hefty penalties, as they should.

On the flip side of this, I have seen some of the literature produced by unions during an organizing effort and they stretch the truth and take things out of context. They also do not communicate any of the negatives that come along with union representation. The company should be allowed the opportunity to address the allegations made during the campaign. Check cards would leave the door wide open for unions to pressure, intimidate and coerce worker’s to sign the cards.

The fact is that the unionized workforce has decreased for an all time high of 35% in the 40’s to about 12% currently, with a majority of them being public/government employees. With the improvements in working conditions and safety regulations the benefits of union membership have diminished. The EFCA is a way for unions to bolster their numbers (READ DUES).

Bottom line is that under the current system bad employers lose union elections and good employers win them because the workers step behind the curtain and vote the way they really feel. Secret ballots are good enough for our general elections and they ought to be good enough for union elections.

Obama has voiced strong support for this bill. It won in the House a few years ago but didn't get by the Senate. The buzz in the papers is that it probably won't be high on the agenda because of all the more pressing issues that will be facing Obama when he takes office. But, the unions won't let it die and will be pushing for it in the next year or so.