Saturday, September 01, 2007

1461 Vacation or Not?

Saturday, September 1, 2007

A friend and past coworker pointer me to an article about The Company, and its relaxed attitude toward vacation and time off. The reporter makes it sound good, but the friend and I are both suspicious.

Back in the 90s and earlier, when we all worked in offices in the labs, there were always problems about vacations. Workloads, schedules, and due dates never took vacations into consideration. It was very difficult to actually take more than one or two consecutive days off. If you wanted a whole week for a trip or something, you had to work enormous amounts of overtime before and after the vacation to get everything done, and that was more stress than no vacation at all.

They allowed you to carry over vacation into subsequent years, but only up to a certain number of accrued weeks, and then you'd start losing it. So they'd pressure people to take time off, which could put you in a bad position - take vacation and miss a deadline, or don't take vacation and have HR coming down on your manager? In our last position, one of our coworkers hadn't taken any vacation in like five years. He wanted to, but with overlapping projects, there just wasn't time. Believe it or not, a management suggestion was to take every Friday off, and work two hours overtime every day he came in. Viola! Vacation taken, projects covered. Everybody happy, right?

We were all "professional", which meant we were paid a flat salary, not by the hour, and we didn't have to punch a timeclock. However, we still had to fill out a timecard every Friday. We'd just write the total number of hours across the face. It had to be a minimum of 40 hours. If less, the missing time had to be coded as vacation, illness, personal business, or comp time. Comp time needed permission, which was rarely given, since it was taken for granted that you'd work a minimum of 10% uncompensated overtime per month.

There was a state law that you couldn't work unpaid overtime for more than a certain number of weeks at a time. I think it was something like five or six weeks. I often had managers call me in and tell me that I was over the limit, and I should stop writing more than 40 hours on my time card. Most people just shrugged and wrote 40 hours no matter how much time they put in. I stood firm. I told them that the timecard was a legal document, and I would not lie on it. They could either pay me for the extra time (called "project pay"), give me comp time off (I think it was something like one hour off for every four overtime), or accept a slipped schedule.

They usually gave me the extra project pay and begged me not to tell anyone I was getting it.

It was the usual practice to assign fewer people to projects than even the best estimates required. A manager once told me that 15% overtime was planned in.

And you know what really got me? The people who took on extra projects, and who worked overtime constantly, and who made it known that they were putting in enormous amounts of overtime, thinking they were demonstrating team spirit, loyalty, and dedication, were downgraded on appraisals for "poor time management". People who lied on their timecards were seen as "efficient".


So, now they're not tracking vacation time? People can work from home, even from a beach, eh? Well, that takes care of that pesky state law, doesn't it. I wouldn't be surprised if 30% OT is planned in now. And with everyone working at home or otherwise "in secret", a worker who feels pressured to get up from the dinner table and go back to the PC won't even realize that it isn't just him. That The Company has found a way to get all employees to work almost constantly! All day every day. Even on vacation. Which they aren't tracking. Heh heh. Nice tradeoff.

Most people never follow the links. Hint: If you follow this one, you'll find out who "The Company" is. Not that it ever was such a huge secret....

1460 Shadows

I used to do shadow puppets for Daughter when she was little. This is pretty good.


Friday, August 31, 2007

1459 Spider Nightmare

Friday, August 31, 2007

I mentioned to Piper at lunch today that spiders always move into my house in the fall, and that they seem to be arriving early this year, even though it's still warm out.

I read in bed or work crossword puzzles before falling asleep, and if I see a spider run across the top of the mattress, I get very little sleep that night. It's happened three nights this week! Those hairy square muscular-looking wolf spiders.

Yesterday morning, a spider ran across the laptop keyboard, and without thinking, I picked up a notepad and stomped it. When I lifted the notepad, there were two bits of spider leg sticking out from the top and bottom of the "D" key. I don't know where the rest of the spider is. I don't want to think about where the rest of the spider is

Then I found this:

The stuff of nightmares! The web is at Lake Tawakoni State Park, Wills Point, Hunt Co., Texas.
It was discovered in early August, is slowly expanding, and continues through the trees and along the ground down a park nature trail for 200+ yards. Story at
The park rangers say that there are so many mosquitos caught in the web, that the web buzzes. Probably disappointing to the spiders. I suspect they're after bigger game - like ME!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

1458 Rumor V. News

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Rumor:

"Didja hear about the chase through town last night?" Much excitement yesterday in the quiet little village.

The story I was told by four people was that a woman was chased by police through the middle of the village at speeds exceeding 80 to 100 mph. That she was driving on three wheels, that one tire was flat. (Now, the only way she could go through the village that fast is if it was after 10 pm, since it's route 9, and before 10 even an ambulance can't get through the one traffic light on one cycle, and there's too much traffic to make left turns. Therefore I assumed without asking that it was late night, and the people telling me said "last night".)

Further, I heard that she'd hit a truck down by the stone church, and the police pulled her from her car, and she fought them like a demon, and then she screamed and fell down and died, right on the spot. There were four guys telling me this, and one of them claimed to have "been there".

The Newspaper Report:

"[...] was driving a 2000 Ford Focus when she became involved in a minor accident with another car in [the village], police said.

Police then received reports of an erratic driver on Route 9. State police said [she] continued driving after the accident in [the village], which caused minor damage. About 6:30 p.m., she struck a 1997 GMC pickup truck near [the stone church]. [She] kept driving until her car stopped running, police said.

She then got out of her car, stumbled to a nearby lawn and collapsed. [An eyewitness] said, "She was trying to keep the car under control." [The witness] said the car was traveling uncontrollably and at a high rate of speed. Police are waiting for autopsy results.

There's a further note that according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a recall was issued for 2000 Ford Focus cars regarding speed control cables. "A speed control cable could have a core wire that is long enough to catch on the sleeve at the throttle body end of the cable during wide-open throttle acceleration," the recall's summary said. "A throttle that does not return to idle could result in reduced vehicle control and, potentially, a vehicle crash."

The Lesson:

Interesting differences in the two stories, no? Gossip is always so much more exciting.


1457 I Like Bars

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I like bars. Not all bars, indiscriminately. I like the bars that feel relaxed and friendly, like they should have a potbelly stove in the middle, and pipe smoke. And perfection would be a faint whiff of manure from the soles of farmers' boots.

The Hurley Mountain Inn used to be like that, back before they redecorated and deemphasized the dart board and pool table, and got rid of all the taxidermy. Now it's too sterile. You feel like you have to wear go-to-meetin' clothes in there now.

No matter how long I'm in a bar, I rarely have more than one alcoholic drink. I can nurse a glass of wine for three hours. Mostly I drink iced tea or juice. I'm not there to drink. I'm there to listen.

Comfy bars are one of the few places where you can get some of the most amazing conversations going among total strangers, on the widest range of topics. You'd think coffee houses would work that way, too, they seem to have a reputation for it, but not in my experience. There's a kind of snootiness in a coffee house that you don't find in a country or neighborhood bar. Almost like conversation in a coffe house is of the showing off variety.

I think it has something to do with sitting at an actual bar, too, as opposed to tables. You're all together, no separation. Even better if the bar is "L" or "U" shaped.

"Sitting" is used loosely. I noticed that the two men I've spent the most time with in bars lately never actually sit on a bar stool. They lay claim to one, but then they stand next to or behind it, or rest one cheek against it, but they almost never sit. Every other guy at the bar is sitting, but they always stand. I wonder why? And why is it always the guy I'm with? I wonder if it's related to the "attracts bugs" thing (that all the men I've been most attracted to in my life were also excessively attractive to mosquitoes, blackflies, and gnats).

No, it's NOT the manure on their boots!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

1456 Can She Find South Carolina?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

For your enlightenment, I present Miss Teen South Carolina:


I feel sorry for her. They are given several questions ahead of time, any one of which they will be asked. Seems to me that she rehearsed answers to all of them, and then when faced with bright lights, microphone, and pressure, she forgot the question and tried to answer all of them at once.

She'd make a good TV news reporter! Same amount of non-info, but amusingly delivered.

1455 Calling 911

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Every morning I start up the broadband connection, so at least once a day I am treated to the message "Please wait while configuring your device." I find that message very annoying. It's not so much the message itself. It's that it's obvious that no one, during the coding, testing, or reviewing of this product LOOKED at the message or thought about it. Bang it out and ship it out and who cares.

Would it have been so hard to change it to "Please wait while we configure your device", or "Please wait while your device is configured"?


I've called 911 only once, when Jay had his first seizure, and I thought it was a stroke. I have a pretty firm opinion of what 911 is for. I have a friend who doesn't share my criteria.

She called 911 when she had a flat tire in Kingston one evening. I was there. I said we could change the tire ourselves, but she didn't want the mess. The cops changed her tire for her.

Recently she went to a party south of Kingston, and leaving the party, got lost in the south Kingston/Port Ewen area, off route 213. If you get off onto a side road in that area, you won't go far before you hit the river, the creek, a numbered route, or a village you'd recognize. This woman is a Mensan. She should have been able to figure it out. Nope. As soon as she realized she wasn't sure where she was, she called 911, and a cop led her back to Kingston.

She's proud of her resourcefulness. I am annoyed. I think people who abuse 911 like that should get a bill for the service provided.

I just hope I'm not being robbed the next time she gets lost.

Monday, August 27, 2007

1454 What Is It With Breast Cancer?

Monday, August 27, 2007

I know a few women who'd had a breast cancer diagnosis, and I've been aware of many more. And something I'd noticed that made we wonder - almost all of them ended long term relationships within three years of the diagnosis. Most sooner.

Whether there was a lumpectomy or mastectomy didn't seem to matter. How long the couple had been together, or whether there were children or not didn't seem to matter. It doesn't even matter whether the relationship was still sexual or not. Sometimes it was the woman who opted out, but more often it was the man.

The same thing doesn't seem to apply for other cancers.

What's the deal? Why?

In the 70s, when I first got into Mid-Eastern dance, in Washington, D.C., it was not unusual for a woman to leave her husband within three years of starting dancing. Ibrahim Farrah spoke at a hafla in 1979 or '80, and he asked how many women in the audience had divorced or broken a relationship shortly after beginning lessons, and almost every hand in the room went up. It was amazing. He said that the dance changed women. That it gave them confidence, improved their self-image, made them stronger, and made them want more from life. Marriages made after dancing a while, when the women knew what they wanted, tended to last.

I don't know if the dance has the same effect now, because young women today start out stronger and with higher expectations for themselves and from life. In the 70s we were still second-class citizens.

So I'm sort of wondering if breast cancer changes a woman in a similar way. Does it make her look differently at her life as a woman? Does it change her expectations and interactions such that her husband doesn't know her any more?

What's the deal?

What brought this up is friends. The relationship is ten years old. The diagnosis was four or five months ago. They are splitting up. I don't believe it. He says it's him, he "decided it's time", but he says she agrees, and it's mutual. They'd been looking forward to a European vacation coming up in two weeks, and they've cancelled it.

I don't understand.

1453 Monday Walk

Monday, August 27, 2007

Beautiful day today. It was in the low eighties, but didn't feel that warm. Dry. Strong sun, cloudless sky. I decided it's time to start walking again. I've still got several pounds to lose and it's good for my back, so I headed for the village, planning to do a few miles around blocks.

I saw Piper's car outside his office, so I stopped by. Tomorrow is his birthday, and I wanted to find out if he had plans for tomorrow, and if not I'd treat him to lunch. (Ooo, that reminds me, I should go buy a card before the CVS closes.)

As is becoming usual lately, I found him with his cronies in the pub. I had an iced tea, then Vinnie came in, and we three had a late (3 pm) lunch, on Piper. They walked me to my car, and I was driving out of the village when I remembered I hadn't walked. I turned around and parked, and then walked for an hour. Some of the older (colonial, even!) houses on the back streets are very nice. Nice gardens. Smell of freshly mowed grass.

I passed a group of children at a lemonade stand, pink lemonade for $.50 a cup. I bought two, then a third when the sisters wouldn't let the little brother have one, so I treated him.

That felt nice. Not treating the little boy - FINDING a real wobbly-table kid-run lemonade stand on a shady street under big old trees among graceful colonial and Victorian houses.

I love late summer.

P.S. - the word being whispered on Wall Street is "recession". Time to entrench.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

1452a Missing Feeds

Sunday, August 25, 2007

Oops. I recently edited several posts, and didn't want them showing up as changed in Bloglines, so I temporarily turned off pings and feeds, and then forgot to turn them back on. So if anyone is following this in Bloglines, you missed a few posts. Sorry.

1452 I Don't Understand

We have peek, peak, and pique.

It seems that anyone would have a 33.3% chance of choosing the correct word.

So why is it that in 80% of the instances I have come across lately, the wrong word has been used?

Same with cite, site, and sight. And losing and loosing. I am sick of reading what was written, being confused, and having to interpret what was meant. "My interest was peaked by the site of her losing her long flowing hair into the wind." AAAAAAGGGGHHHH!!!

1451 Saturday and Sunday

Sunday, August 26, 2007

FW's birthday party was yesterday. It went well, a lot tamer and quieter than I'd expected, especially after FW had spent the past several days putting together mix disks consisting mainly of Rolling Stones and Funk. She was planning on a lot of dancing, and I went geared up for dancing, but --- there wasn't any. They didn't look like a dancing crowd. It was all sitting and conversation. I may have been the only one who noticed and appreciated the music.

She made me the official photographer, so I had something to do (I'm very shy and quiet around strangers).

I got asked out by one of her male friends, a guy she'd met on an online dating site. Incidentally, another nudist. I didn't exactly say no, but I did tell him I'm involved and not available. (But it really is actually a "No".) He responded that FW has my number, so he'd check again sometime. But FW insulted him badly at the end of the evening, so I may be safe. I can't put FW on the spot by asking her not to give him my number, but now it's unlikely he'll be calling her anyway.

Another guy asked if I was a nudist, too. FW laughed and said no way! My eyebrows shot up, and I said that I don't even ever expose my legs. I wear yoga pants with my bathing suit. That surprised FW, but it's true.

I stayed late and helped clean up. Got home around 10 pm, found a phone message from Roman who wanted to know how it went. Called him. We talked about sites for photo storage -the conversation got rather frustrating. Not unusual with him.

Nothing much else. I'm just taking today to recover from the past four days of activity. "Down time."

Oh, and even though it LOOKS like I talked about people here, there's a lot of observations I didn't divulge! I'm being very good. Really.