Mar 31, 2010

Go Ahead. Make My Day.

My son called me today to tell me a story.  This is how he started it, "Um I guess you should know I got attacked by two hobos." 

What?  When? Where?  Are you OK?

Seems last Saturday he was returning to his apartment on foot at 3 am after a late night "study session".   He was alone and decided to take a shortcut under a bridge.  Two homeless guys, (a guess on my part, I mean who hangs out under a bridge at 3 am besides somebody homeless? Although I guess they could have been trolls. Anyway...) they surround him and try to corner him.    He picked up a brick and beaned one of them in the head.  The other one, figuring the benefit to risk ratio had just dramatically tipped, took off running.  The guy who took the brick to the head was busy nursing his wounds and my son made a hasty retreat while the getting was good.

My son has promised not to walk home alone again and preferrably not to walk at all.  I think he was just following my strict instructions not to drive after a late night "study session".  The world is fraught with danger.  Glad to know he can take care of himself.

Mar 25, 2010

I'm Made of Rubber, You're Made of Glue

It’s like a mind bending puzzle. I can’t keep up.

A Republican congressman is saying that a bullet was fired through the window of his campaign office. He also says he has received threatening phone calls but won’t release them because he doesn’t want to incite further violence. You’ll just have to imagine for yourselves how nasty the threat was.

The CNN article reads:   He also accused Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine and Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland -- a member of the Democratic House leadership -- of "fanning the flames" of violence by using threats that have been made against Democratic members "as political weapons." "Enough is enough," Cantor said. "It has to stop."

Let me get this straight, you report that somebody is terrorizing you and then you say it’s the Dems’ fault because their complaints about violent threats against them are fueling the violence flames. Do I have this right?

It’s time for a time-out for the lot of you. I’d like to call for a 48 hour respite from the lunacy. All members of Congress must leave WDC and go home for the next 48 hours and during that time no media coverage of anything to do with anything political will be allowed. Please, I’m begging you.

Mar 23, 2010

And that's a bad thing?

If it weren't so scary it would be fun to see all the Republicans running around bemoaning the health care reform bill and predicting the end of the world. I heard one of them talking about how we are on our way to becoming like a European country.  He thinks that's a bad thing?  Considering that Europeans are way ahead of us on so many issues I had to go back and re-read his letter to make sure it said R and not D.  I don't know about you but I don't find that notion scary, I find it encouraging.

In European countries when you get sick you don't have to worry about how you will pay for it. How comforting that must be, to concentrate on healing and recovery instead of fighting with insurance companies or wondering how much of your life savings will be eaten up because you were unlucky enough to have an accident or God forbid a serious illness. European countries have true universal healthcare.  Not this cobbled togehter half ass attempt the Democrats are so proud of.  Don't get me wrong, I'll take it.  It's a step in the right direction and who knows maybe once people see that their lives won't end we can actually do this thing right.  

European countries figured out long before we did that global warming and environmental issues jeapordize our future.  They understood that real action was necessary and they took it.  Too bad we're so late to that party. Actually sort of shameful since we are the second biggest producers of CO2 emissions in the world.  We just can't seem to inconvenience ourselves by changing our lifestyles.  

In Europe they know that family and leisure time is what makes life worth living, not the endless pursuit of the mighty dollar or the latest and greatest gadget. Statutory minimum leave from work (otherwise known as vacation) is commonplace in Europe, typically 4 - 6 weeks.  You know how much we have here? NONE, as in ZERO. Hell, even Japan beats us, they have 18 days mandatory vacation and those crazy workaholics actually have a word for when someone works themselves to death.  Paid parental leaves are common, sometimes up to a year.

Go ahead and turn us into a European country. I dare you.

I always liked Jimmy Carter.  I thought he was a man of integrity.  I cast my first vote for him in 1980 at the age of 18.  I'd do it again.  In a 1979 speech about the energy crisis he said the following.

"One is a path I've warned about tonight, the path that leads to fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others. That path would be one of constant conflict between narrow interests ending in chaos and immobility. It is a certain route to failure."

Looks like a prophetic genius now doesn't he?   Alas, we weren't ready to hear his message of self sacrifice and his forward thinking ideas of alternative sources of energy.  He lost the 1980 election to Reagan and we got eight more years of "give me mine, you go get your own".  About time we started getting our priorities straight if you ask me before I'm forced to move to Germany.

Mar 19, 2010

You obviously didn't get a rule book.

So, here I am at Sam's Club. (Yes, I love Sam's Club despite my loathing of WalMart.) So, I decide to buy this really nice North Face jacket for my daughter. Because that's the kind of Mom I am. The color and styling suited her. Plus all the "young kids" these days seem to really like the North Face stuff.

Up walks my husband. "Hey, I'm gonna get this for Miss Erica." I say.

Thinking in his head... (Hmmmm, looks to be about $30.) "OK" says he.

I pick up a book, a few magazines and head to the checkout as non-chalantly as possible. The jacket is a little more than $30 but it's so much simpler if he just thinks what he thinks about the price.

Checkout lady is an older woman, mid 50's is my guess. Certainly old enough to know better than to utter the following phrase to a woman standing there with her husband.... "Wow, pretty pricey for a spring jacket".

Hello??? I think as I mentally knock my knuckles against her forehead trying to see if anybody is home. What the hell are you thinking? OK, maybe he didn't hear her.

No such luck. "What? How much is it?"

Great! Woman, you are either so spiteful and mean that you did that on purpose or you've never been married.

Now, it really wasn't that big of a deal. I work, I can afford to buy my daughter a jacket if I'm so inclined. Things just go much smoother when I don't have to explain the whole "North Face" thing making the jacket a little more expensive than your ordinary run of the mill jacket. He's the practical, frugal one. I'm the splurger. We each know that. It's part of the spice of our marriage.

So now we engage in some grumbling which moves into witty banter and all is good in the end. But that's not the point. The point is nobody clued this woman in on the rules.  You don't sell a sister out like that.   Just ring my shit up and keep your commentary about my spending habits to yourself.

Mar 16, 2010

The Written Word Shouldn't Vanish

I really want one of those electronic book gadgets. They seem so cool and futuristic. On top of the nerdy, Star Trek appeal, there are some very practical reasons I want one.

I am running out of room for my books. I could buy more bookshelves but that would just be one more piece of furniture to dust. I only re-read my favorites so there really is no reason for me to keep stacks and stacks of books around.

Think of all the trees being saved by these electronic books. Libraries are even using them with download stations for you to update your reader with a “borrowed” electronic book.

I’ll be able to switch back and forth between books without carrying them around with me everywhere.  I'll save money because I won't be buying books until I'm ready to read them and I think that you can return a book within a certain timeframe if you don't like it.  I've bought so many books that ended up being duds.

My reasons for not getting one are all emotional.

The electronic page has no substance, no heft, it doesn’t feel like it’s really there. I like the feel of books, the smell of them. I like it when the publisher chooses a really good paper and font.   I like to hold the really good ones in my hands for a minute or two after finishing the last page.  Satisfied but sad that it's over.

I like seeing a book lying around the house in different spots as it’s being read. I like the pressure my unread book stack puts on me. I like to gaze at old favorites on the bookshelf and remember how the story made me feel.

No more sharing. Part of the fun of a good book is passing it along to someone else. I won’t be able to loan my reader out so it will be harder to create that bond that gets formed when you and somebody else both read a really good book.

How is an electronic device going to manage all that?

Mar 11, 2010

Bonnie's Hat

You be the judge.

She just threw this one in to confuse me.

I think it looks great.  And you're right Bonnie - I do want it.

Mar 5, 2010

I still have time.

It's performance review time.  All the tell-tale signs are there.  Employees who think way too highly of themselves are threatening to leave unless they get what they think they deserve.  This year its a little more of a restless grumble, what with Michigan being in such serious financial straits, but threats nonetheless.  

Another sign, borderline employees have turned it up a notch in hopes that this last month of acceptable performance will wipe out the so-so performance that preceeded it.  If they knew how transparent it is they wouldn't bother.  

I'm not talking about the big goal achievement push during the last quarter.  That's usually just time slipping away from people.  I'm talking about people who knowingly put in mediocre effort and then step it up in hopes of getting some sort of merit increase.

You hear things like... "Just keeping you informed like you asked me to do.".  Or, "Let me summarize that and send it in an email."  You can just picture them pulling out their mid-year reviews.  Reading the advice they were given to do just those things.  Smacking their foreheads and saying "Oh shit!".   You know they haven't looked at that review in the six months since they met with their manager.  They've also ignored the verbal reminders in between.  But now this review is going to get a number on it.   A very important number. 

Performance reviews are about measuring performance against expectations and working to maximize their performance.  It's a win-win with challenging work asisgnments, promotions, bonuses and raises for employees and good results for the company.  Which in turn allows them to reward and recognize their valuable employees.  It's like the business version of the Circle of Life.  Everybody is happy.

Some of them don't get it though.  They think performance review is a process intended solely to spit out a number that gets them either a good or bad raise.  They don't see the connection between their actions all year long and that number.  These are the ones that put in the eleventh hour effort. 

Oh those people in the background you see?  The ones continuing on with their hard work and dedication while the moaners and complainers moan and complain?  Those are the good employees.  The ones that give the same performance level all twelve months of the year.  They take pride in their work and naturally seek to learn, grow and contribute.  Good companies see, recognize and reward that.  They aren't intimidated by the whiners and they aren't fooled by the last minute Marthas.

Mar 2, 2010

Breaking News

I got multiple, excited, text messages from my cousin Bonnie last night.  She has, after years and years of searching, found a hat that looks good on her.  This may seem trivial to all of you but let me tell you that it was something we all thought would never happen.   Watching Bonnie try on hats is one of the highlights of any trip to the mall.  She just can't pull it off.  It's really sort of sad.  It's the shape of her head or something. 

So, what was this hat?  A wide brimmed straw hat?  A beret?  A cap?  No, no and no.  She reports that it's a German mountaineering hat, complete with pheasant plumes.  Hahahahahaha.   I'll believe it when I see it.

In other news....  Went out to dinner with the husband and son.  As we were driving back I got three phone calls to my cell, listing my home number on the caller ID.  Nobody was home!  We were all in the car.  Every time I picked the phone up all I heard was silence.   It was freaking me out.  Who was in my house and why were they calling me?

Finally my sister called me.  She had been making the calls from her house using an IPhone app on her daughter's phone called "Bluff my Call".  You change your caller ID number to any one you want.  I have tried and tried to think of a constructive, useful purpose for this app.  All I can come up with are evil and devious uses. 

And finally this. The sun has indeed returned to Michigan. Can good moods and fresh perspectives be far behind?