Wednesday, December 17, 2014

ending well

I’ve not written much lately.  There’s been nothing to say, or perhaps it’s more that I’ve not been in the mood to say anything.  With Christmas little more than a week away and so much to do, reflecting on all that’s going on in the world is too much effort. 

However…yesterday was a shitful day.  A bad day can just slap you across the face, like “HEY!!  Wake up!!”  Yesterday pretty much did that to me.  It started off with me oversleeping and racing out the door only to find my car with a flat tire.  No time to deal with that, so I was going to drive the old van to work, but the keys weren’t in the expected place.  After 20 minutes of frantic searching, I found both sets keys buried on Someone’s dresser under a pile of papers.   Later that evening, Someone denied that he left the keys there, even though clearly he was the last one who drove the van.  His argument was completely untenable given that children NEVER drive the van and are mostly never home anymore, and I guaran-damn-tee I would never put anything on or near his messy dresser.   Evidently, elves hid the keys from me. 

Fast-forward to 4:30 PM, and I realized I forgot to order birthday cakes for Erin and Emily.  Yes, I could bake cakes but bakery cakes are so much prettier and more convenient.  Don’t judge me.  I wanted to place the order in person because I couldn’t remember what size to order and I wanted to see some before making a decision.  To beat closing time, I left work early in a rush, sped to the bakery, and ordered two cakes just in time.  Whew!  So finally heading for home, I realized the van was running on fumes.  Great!  Someone ran out all the gas.  I stopped for gas which is no chump-change for a mini-van.  Gas prices are low right now, but it still cost me $50+ to fill up.    

Alright, so I got home and the car in the driveway reminded me there was a flat tire to deal with.  By then it’s dark, sleeting, and blustery cold.  Also, UPS delivered a package that afternoon and it was 
nowhere to be found.  I checked the garage and all around the porch.  I checked with neighbors and then blamed Gracie.  She has been known to take packages off the porch to chew up in the nether regions of the yard.  I got a flashlight and slogged around the entire yard: no package or remains of a package.  Then I start thinking a thief may have taken it.  Totally bummed out!!  The package contained a birthday present for the girls and some Christmas gifts.  Anyway, my next step was to drag out a little portable battery jumper\air compressor and re-inflate the tire so I could take it to the tire-place today.  It took about 30 minutes, but it worked!  That was definitely a blessing because I was not looking forward to jacking the car up and taking the tire off in the cold miserable darkness.  (As it turned out, they found two screws and a nail in the tire today at the repair place.  Three plugs for $21 and it’s back on the road…but now I wonder if the other tires have hardware in them that hasn’t caused a problem yet). 

So last night, by the time the tire was unflat and the compressor put away, I was frozen and wet.  My socks and shoes were sopping and my feet were numb from cold.  I came in and changed into warm, fuzzy pajamas, fixed a cup of hot tea, and went to my desk to do some work.  Behold!!!  There was the missing package laying in my chair.  Emily had stopped by, picked it up off the porch, and placed it in my chair which is usually the first place I go when I come home from work.  No doubt she knew I'd find it there.  All’s well that ends well, and so it was yesterday.

Happy birthday to my youngest ladies.  Today they are 19 years old.  Their boyfriends came over to celebrate with us.  All in all, it's been a very quiet evening after a good day.  

Erin is 32 minutes older than Emily.

Gracie almost got Erin's cake while we were taking this photo.


Friday, December 5, 2014

just keep swimming

My blog is collecting dust, it seems.  No new words from the author lately.  She has been preoccupied with work.  Work.  WORK.  Today I learned that a colleague is going part-time starting January 1, and they want me to pick up some of her work.  Um well, OK.  My backlog is currently 41 months, and it’s only going to get worse if they give me more to do.  But it really is OK, because maybe I’ll be retiring next year if things fall into place for me.  Also, I worked her area of the business before (15+ years ago), and it’s interesting work – laboratory quality control.   

So similarly to the days when I was up-to-my-eyeballs in my dissertation, I come home from WORK, sit down at my desk, and start my second job – online adjunct professing-to-know-something (aka teaching).  It’s too much sitting for me all the time – two desk jobs.  Unless I explicitly schedule time to take Gracie for a walk or do something else for fun, it just never happens.  I need a wife – someone who can be responsible for keeping the house clean and stuff maintained, the bills paid, the laundry caught up, etc.  Next semester, I’m teaching two classes.  It’s only going to be worse than now.  Being the house-servant (aka wife) is really another job for me.  Someone is damn lucky to be married to me (at least, sometimes…sometimes, not so much).

Sarah came home to visit us over Thanksgiving holiday.  It was fun to have all three girls home together; it doesn’t happen often.  It’s wonderful to hear them talk and laugh together, and maybe they really do enjoy (or at least appreciate) each other’s company more now that they are all living in separate towns.   Hopefully we can take a vacation together next summer.  It’s never a dull moment when these three quirky-birds get together.  I tried to take a decent photo of them together but they had to be goofy.   




The Walking Dead is in mid-season break until February.  I miss it already.  Now there will be a great two-hour void in my life.  And this, folks, is why my blog is so…what?  Nothing.  My blog is shit because the highlight of my typical week is watching a TV show.

Perhaps I’ll finish the book I’m reading, Deliver Us from Evil (authored by Ralph Sarchie).  It really has given me a new perspective on evil and religion…especially evil, but also the potential for a whole new plane of existence.  The author tells first-person stories with such conviction and detail that he is believable, even though the content seems impossible.  I’ve oftentimes watched Long Island Medium and wondered how much of the show is staged and how much is real.  If her ability to communicate with the spirit world is anything like we are led to believe in the show, then surely Ralph Sarchie’s stories should be believed.  It’s mind-boggling stuff.


Anyway, tomorrow I do some Christmas decorating and perhaps some shopping.  Also, I’ll be doing some grading and work to prepare my classrooms for the upcoming spring semester.  There is much to be done…always.       

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Intra-organizational politics

I was in Texas all last week for my job.  The organizer called it a workshop, but it was more like a political rally.  A project to replace an existing enterprise-wide software application was the topic of the whole shebang.  About 30 people traveled to the workshop from all over the country because they thought the purpose was Agenda A, when in fact, Agenda B was the purpose.  I knew the real agenda, but didn’t think it wise to tell anyone (even my most trusted clients) the real low-down, lest it leak out that “KYLady said….”.  That would lead to accusations from the project team that I’m NOT a team player.  Well, I’m not a team player, but I do know when to keep my mouth shut most of the time.   


Understand, our corporation is divided into two factions: Business and IT (IT is information technology employees, for those readers who might not be familiar).  “Business” includes all employees supported by IT (which is really anyone not in IT).  Business does not trust IT because we are the evil demons who are always plotting to upset their world (when we’re not actually upsetting their world).  It’s true.  Change never stops.  They need us to make them and help them change, but hate us most of the time unless we are helping instead of confounding or impeding, which sadly, we do a lot of (even to ourselves).     



My presence at the workshop was important because I provide a critical link from the past to the future.  I am the sole IT support for an application that will be replaced by the project which was the topic of the workshop.  My role was to be an on-site bystander; to be there for moral support, to provide a sense of stability for Business, and to answer questions about anything regarding the present application or processes.  For the whole first day (13 hours of it, no kidding), Business people at the workshop were confused and full of questions.  Like politicians do, the project leaders answered all the questions in vague generalities and speculative answers.  I was amazed at how Business folks were willing to accept these non-answers to their valid concerns and questions. 

By the second day, everyone had had a chance to think about things and discuss among themselves what they’d heard and seen on the first day.  Some Business people were getting angry because it was all confusing to them.  The project managers were contradicting themselves with answers veiled in incomplete truths.  In the first morning break, a couple of Business people cornered me and began asking questions.  I advised them that perhaps they were not asking the right questions, that they needed to be very specific with their questions, and to reject answers they were hearing if the responses didn’t answer their questions.  In my own way, I gifted them with a strategy that proved helpful without giving too much away.  

My advice was taken.  Finally, Business began asking the right questions and the project managers squirmed, tap-danced around the truth, and finally admitted they were trying to demonstrate a prototype that will be pushed out (in the most aggressive of ways) just as soon as it’s developed…maybe piloted as early as the middle of next year.  Honestly, I doubt it can happen that quickly with everything else going on, but who knows what can happen if enough money is thrown at it.  Business was led to believe (before the workshop) that it was all ready to go and the purpose of the workshop was to give the project managers input on how things should be configured and scheduled for implementation.  Um…no.  If Business knew the truth up front, very few would have attended.  The purpose was to gain support for the project before the project managers asked for financial support next month.  

On the third day, there was no more nice-guy facade from the project managers and no more playing games.  Business could see all the handwriting on the wall and were angry that they came to the workshop under false pretenses.  I would call the workshop a failure.  It’s too bad.  The application really does need to be replaced in the worst way, and if they can at least get started on the implementation before I retire, it will be easier for everyone.  As a consequence, Business completely distrusts the project team.



On a happier and more personal note, my classes for next semester have enough students in them that they shouldn't be cancelled.  I will be teaching two sections of the same course starting January.  In February 2015, I'll begin Phase 2 of my career change - looking for a full time teaching position to commence fall term, 2015.  As soon as I can get something lined up, I'll begin making serious exit plans from a career that has carried me through 34 years.  
    

Monday, November 3, 2014

incompetency


Someone and I visited Erin in Louisville last weekend.  She has no car with her at college so we made the drive not only to visit with her, but also to take her to a grocery store and to take her to a Laundromat.  The laundry facilities at her dorm are woefully inadequate – one washer and one dryer for every 150 students.  Ridiculous!  After the chores were done, we took her and her boyfriend to Old Spaghetti Factory, one of our favorite restaurants in Louisville, and also the place where we celebrated after my graduation last year.  As we were waiting for the waiter to take our order, I remarked about how nice it was having dinner there that day with all the people who came to see me graduate.  Even my own parents came from far away.  My girls all came as did some friends and Someone’s parents.  It was really just a very nice day having everyone there sitting together at a table.  Dinner with Erin and her friend was also very nice. 

We got home late that evening after the Louisville trip and I slept like the dead, except I had a nightmare that night.  In my dream, I was rushing around trying to get things ready and organized before my first face-to-face class was to start.  I was in the classroom and students started walking in and taking their seats.  My agenda and notes were buried in my briefcase; I was pulling stacks of paper out and in a panic because I couldn’t find them.  Then, Someone’s parents walked in, sat down in the back and smiled at me.  As if that weren’t enough, the department head walked in and announced she was just going to stand in the back and observe for a bit.  I noticed everyone was getting restless and that we were now past the class starting time.  I was thinking about what a bad impression I was making.  Then, to top it all off, I realized I had forgot to change clothes and put shoes on.  I was standing there in front of everyone in shorts, a South Park tee-shirt, and socks.  That was like the last straw, so I just woke up. 
 
Silly dream, but it reminds me I need to start preparing myself for next semester.  I think the course will be better for students to have some face-to-face time with an instructor (me).  For my current online class, I put important things in announcements for my students such as due dates and hints that will help them perform better with our course work, but it’s obvious that most don’t read the announcements.  Some of them just don’t follow instructions well, and some can only barely function with the online platform.   There are just lots of learning opportunities for them. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

paradise is real

What started out as a typical Monday became much better than typical.  I always feel like a caged animal at work, especially Mondays, but yesterday (Sunday) was beyond splendid.   Today, I’ve been on a high (happy?) all day.  It’s like living in an entirely different world.    

In sort of an impromptu decision, I took off on vacation this afternoon and left work two hours early.  Someone left work early too because he has a holiday tomorrow for some reason.  His boss always lets everyone leave early the day before a holiday.  It was sunny and 80 degrees today; how could I possibly waste the whole day at work?   Someone and I met up at the golf course which miraculously was practically deserted.  We pretty much played the entire 18 holes with nobody in front and nobody behind.  It was divine!!  I played well for me too which always makes golf more fun.       

Yesterday, I drove to Flemingsburg to visit Sarah.  The trees on the hillsides are becoming peak color now – the hills were blazing with drifts of red, orange, and yellow.  On a clear, sunny day like yesterday when the leaves are so colorful and the sky so brilliantly blue, it just gets no prettier than that in Kentucky.    

Sarah, her friend, and I drove over to Maysville for some lunch and a bit of shopping.  On a whim, we stopped at a house that has been for sale for awhile.  Sarah and her friend had seen it before and told me it was just spectacular up close (it sets far back off the road).  It’s a very old house, built in the 1800s in a very grand style.  Coincidentally, some people pulled into the driveway right behind us; people who Sarah and her friend knew; people who are archeological experts who had also come to tour the house and had access to the inside.  What fantastic luck!!!  They let us walk through the house with them.  



gingerbread trim and lovely attic window
The house became larger and larger as we drove up the winding driveway.  There are two gigantic trees in front of the house, even taller than the house.  The one on the right is the most fantastic, gigantic ginko tree that I’ve ever seen in my life.  It is wider than my arms stretched out from fingertip to fingertip.  Its leaves had only barely started to turn yellow.  We decided it must be a male tree because it didn’t have any of those stinky balls (technically, those things are called fruit) hanging on it or on the ground around it.  If you have no idea about the odor of those ginko fruit ball-things, they reek.  Imagine a women’s restroom where the trash is in dire need of emptying.   Multiply that level of gross by 10,000 and you’ll get an idea of what a small ginko tree smells like when its fruit starts to rot.  This ginko is like 100 times bigger (at least) than any ginko tree I’ve ever seen. 

Magnificent ginko


Larch on the left, ginko on the right
   

To the left of the house is a tree I’d never seen before.  One of the experts told me it is a larch.  Oh splendid!!  I love something new, and this is definitely something new for me.  This tree is an Eastern Larch, Larix Laricina, also known as a Tamarack.  One source said they are small to medium sized trees, but another source said they can become very tall (120 feet).  This one is very tall.  They look like evergreen trees because they have needle-like leaves.  They are, in fact, deciduous.  They have small pink blooms that transform into cones.  The bark is thin and light brown tinged with pink.  The wood is very hard, waterproof, and knot-free according to one source.  It is prized for use in construction.  That fact should appeal to Sarah's friend who is very-skilled in all areas of construction.    

How did it happen that this rare larch tree has come to be and survived so long in Mason County, Kentucky?  They prefer cold climates farther north, but apparently they are found in wetlands in the mountains of West Virginia and western Maryland.  One source said that they are fairly common around Lake Erie.  Perhaps long ago, somebody brought a sapling as a gift down the Erie Canal.  It was a popular transportation route between the Great Lakes and the Ohio River at Portsmouth starting around the time of the 1820s.  Maybe somebody brought it from West Virginia, or perhaps a bird innocently dropped a seed and there it grew. 

One source I read said that in Europe, the larch is a symbol of fertility.  Childless women sleep under it at night in hopes that its magic will help them conceive.  I believe trees have magical powers.  I think it can only be by magic that the ginko and larch in front of that house have survived for 200 years.


The house itself has beautiful hardwood floors and lots of stairs with curved banisters.  Indeed, lots of stairs are needed to connect the floors because the ceilings are 16 feet tall.  The doors and windows are proportionately tall.  It’s funny that I walked around the outside of the house  for 15 minutes, but it wasn’t until one of the men opened the door and stepped out onto the porch that I realized just how big those doors and windows really are.  It truly is a marvelous, beautiful place.    

The man in the doorway is not short!
Look where the doorknob is on this door.  That's a very tall door!
Sarah beside an upstairs bedroom window

The attic is unfinished, but the view is spectacular through arched windows
Beautiful maple trees in the back yard overlooking acres of cornfields.  This is Paradise.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

looking up

Writing a respectable blog post has been impossible lately.  I tried several times, but failed miserably after committing a single thought to a sentence or two.  Life in the deep rut of routine is shitty feedstock for blog post ideas.  Life is easiest in the deep rut of routine, but alas, it’s not very interesting.



Well, I’m writing, so something exciting has happened recently.  In fact, several exciting things have happened.  Until recently, I used to think I was one of most unlucky people who walked the planet.  Truly, I could not even win a coin toss.  This was demonstrated to me time and again throughout my life.  It was not so much a matter of bad luck, just no good luck.

About a month ago, I attended a conference for my teaching job.  At the end of the day, they had a drawing for a boatload of door prizes.  By the time they were ready to give away prizes, most people had left.  There were maybe 80-90 people left.  Anyway, they began drawing names and handing out gift bags.  Name after name was called.  People all around me were winning cool stuff and not so great stuff – tee shirts, books, umbrellas, mugs, software, satchels, etc.  After a while, it looked like everyone was going to walk out with something except me.  In fact, all the gift bags were gone and I was only one of a handful of people who had won nothing.  Then they brought out a small bag and announced they would draw for the grand prize.  I won!!!  It was a Kindle Fire HD.  Awesome!!!



This week has almost generated a whole paradigm shift in my feeble brain.  In fact, I’ve had so much good luck that I’m starting to worry.  Surely all this good luck is going to cause something terrible to happen.  No one person is going to have this many good things happen without paying some kind of penalty!

First, I won a $100 gift card (one of three) for completing a survey months ago.  Then, I was notified by ProQuest that they owe me royalties because my dissertation has sold enough copies.  How much?  I still don’t know, but they don’t cut checks for less than $25. I have a tax form to fill out and return L Next, I learned I was nominated for executive vice-chair for a professional organization I belong to.  Apparently I’m running unopposed, so I’ve pretty much won the election unless “bad luck” kicks in to interfere.   Last night, I learned I was nominated to be included in another honorary (sort of…it seems to be) professional organization.  They are reviewing my credentials and will let me know if I’m inducted. 


All of these things happened in the first three days this week.  I’m just so incredibly lucky lately…maybe I should buy a lottery ticket, or get me to the race track.  Maybe Lady Luck is my new girlfriend.    

            

Sunday, October 12, 2014

intervention

It’s Sunday night; nothing to do now but watch The Walking Dead and write a blog post about how I pissed away the whole weekend.  As soon as I close my eyes tonight, it will be tomorrow and time to return to work for another five days of hell.  Did I mention how much I hate my job?  Sad, but true.  Whine, whine, whine.  The paycheck is wonderful, the people are OK, the work itself is…I can’t even make myself define an adjective for it.  It Sucks with a capital S.    

Friday night, I sat up late (into the wee hours of the morning) working through a project that my students were having trouble with.  I struggled with two of the things they were struggling with.  The problem is that we use a simulator to grade the project files and the simulator expects things to be done a particular way.  The end result might look the same, but if you didn’t get the result using the expected process or method, you don’t get credit for that part of the project.  Anyway, after multiple attempts with different methods and much research, I still can’t get credit from the simulator for those two items.  I’m not giving up!  This stuff isn’t rocket science.   

So Saturday, I slept in until 11 AM.  After a long, hot shower, I settled in to watch an episode of Breaking Bad on NetFlix.  One episode turned into another, then another, then another…until I finished the series around 10 PM.  Somebody should have taken the remote away from me, but nobody did an intervention.  Someone was upstairs feeding his own TV addiction on ESPN channels watching football games and golf.  My unusual Saturday afternoon of hours-on-end TV is Someone’s usual habit.  How does he do that?  

Breaking Bad

It was kind of depressing finishing the last season of Breaking Bad.  The ending of the series was definitely more satisfying than the end of Dexter.  Now what?  All I have is The Walking Dead and South Park.  I was thinking to do more reading, but Sarah gave me a list of TV series she likes.  Actually, I already had a short list of my own, but now with Sarah’s recommendations, I’ll have to decide where to begin.  In no particular order, these are:

Weeds
Game of Thrones
Downton Abbey
Orange is the New Black
American Horror Story
Outlander
House of Cards
Hannibal
Bates Motel
Homeland
Six Feet Under (first two seasons)

I may never read another book.  To watch endless hours of TV with no commercial interruptions is a wonderful mindless thing.      

herd created from too much TV?