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


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


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:

Game of Thrones
Downton Abbey
Orange is the New Black
American Horror Story
House of Cards
Bates Motel
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?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

blue skies

October sky in the Ohio River valley, especially these past two weeks, has been nothing short of spectacular.  The humidity has been low lately – it makes the blue sky just vibrant.  When I was 18, I traveled out west for a vacation with my mother and her family.  We drove all the way to California and back.  I don’t remember much about the vacation, but I do remember that the sky over the desert was so blue it was purple in comparison to Ohio River sky.  I do hope to visit the Rocky Mountains and go visit more of the west again someday.  Someday…

oak tree has turned yellow - outside my office window

Texas is in the west, but it doesn’t count in my fantasy “out west” vacation.  To be honest, I’d love to visit San Antonio again, but every other place I’ve been to in Texas is no place I want to return to.  Unfortunately, it looks like I will be going to southern Texas again next month on business.  Bummer.

I’m on the schedule to teach two courses for spring semester; hopefully enough students will enroll.  These both will be the same course I’m teaching this semester.  One will be online and the other will be hybrid (meaning face-to-face one day a week).  It should be manageable.  The experience of f2f teaching will be good, but teaching online is where my interest is.  It’s what I really want to do most of all…full time if I could find a job doing it.   

Last night, a person was in my dream who I’ve never met in real life.  This person is a friend on Facebook and I really know very little about him on a personal level.  In the dream, we bumped into each other at an outdoor dinner party.  He asked me to leave the party and go to a dance with him.  He was dressed up in a suit and I was wearing a giant, pale blue Cinderella-style formal dress (just like the one in the Disney movie).  It made perfect sense for us to go to a dance because we were already dressed for it.  I told him to wait for me by the lamp post while I went to find my cell phone.  Of course, I couldn’t find the damn phone after looking everywhere…it was one of those dreams.  When I went back to tell him I needed more time, he was gone.  Probably just as well since I’m married.  Cinderella falls in love and I was wearing her dress.  Who knows what might have happened?

Cinderella dress (but mine was much fluffier)

My African violet has been dormant for several years...meaning it hasn't bloomed or even put out a new leaf.  It was on clearance when I first bought it.  It was large and healthy, and had one withered bloom.  It seemed like a good bet since it was thriving and cheap, so I adopted it.  After all this time of waiting and watching, it has finally bloomed.  It's just very special!  Violets are among my favorite flowers - African or wild, I'm not picky.  

African violet

Monday, September 22, 2014


The weekend was magnificent.  We had beautiful fall-like weather with very-low humidity, a few fluffy clouds in the sky, a light breeze, and temperature around 75 degrees.  Perfect golf weather!  Someone and I went to our usual golf course, Sandy Creek.  The course is nothing to rave about, but it’s convenient (20 minutes from home).  There are not many decent golf courses nearby.  My favorites are at least an hour drive. 

It was a fun round of golf for me Saturday, fun because I was playing well for me in comparison to how I’ve been playing all summer.  I had 4 birdies in one round of golf which is very rare, and two of them were back-to-back.  Sheer luck!  Maybe 90% luck and 10% skill. 

The #5 hole is a short par 4.  The tee is on top of a tall hill; the fairway is very narrow with big maple trees all along the left side.  The right side is a steep hill that is partly very rough tall grass at the lower section along the cart path, and woods on the upper section.  If a right-hander hits a slice or push, chances are good that the ball will hit a tree, bounce out and get swallowed up in the tall grass on the slope.  The green is guarded in the front by three mounds of tall grass.  It’s a tricky hole.  So anyway, Saturday, I hit my drive really sweet.  The ball sailed out over the middle and faded right which was a blessing, otherwise it would have buried in a mound for sure.  Because of the fade, the ball landed squarely onto the concrete cart path.  It took one big bounce and landed on the green rolling up 15 feet from the pin.  WooHoo!!  My putt for eagle was short, but I tapped in for birdie.  That was fun!   

From the front of the tee box, Sandy Creek #5, photo taken 09/2012

The #6 hole is a very short (about 115 yards) par 3.  It’s another narrow fairway with big pine trees on the left and out-of-bounds on the right.  The tee is elevated.  The green is also elevated and unwatered, so it’s hard as brick…meaning it rarely holds (which means if you land the ball on it, chances are good it will roll off).  My tee shot hit on the front fringe and rolled all the way across to the back fringe.  The pin was on the front, so it was a long putt…maybe 35 feet, with a slope to make it even more tricky.  The green condition was very poor; not much grass, lots of ball marks and twigs laying around everywhere.  In those kind of conditions, there’s little hope of making a long putt.  My hope was to finish the ball somewhere within a 5-foot circle around the hole.  I lined up, gave the ball a good rap, and watched it bounce and roll down the hill, all the way, and drop into the cup.  Someone looked at me and said, “You asshole.”  I’m a tough act to follow…sometimes.

Someone and I can have fun together playing golf. I suppose it’s a good thing that married people have something they can do together for fun.  Honestly, I’d rather play golf with women; it’s more fun.  To a pack of women, golf (at the amateur level anyway) is a social game.  To men, no matter how bad they are, golf is a competition or even a test of manhood sometimes.  Someone and I can play, but as soon as another man joins us, the game changes.  I have never seen a woman intentionally break or throw a club, but men do it all the time.  It’s senseless to get so bent out of shape over a game played for leisure.  Anyway, my worst day of golf beats my best day at work.