Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Nectar of the Gods

No, this post is not about Ambrosia, but for some reason I thought Ambrosia was the favorite drink of Greek gods.  After some brief research, I read that ambrosia was food eaten by the gods and they drank nectar.  Ambrosia and nectar were supposed to be honey-flavored.  Eating ambrosia is what made the gods immortal.  Humans who ate ambrosia became stronger and more beautiful.  It’s no surprise to me that the Gods would be feasting on something sweet; they were really much like children and children love their sweets.  (So do old people…I’ve noticed that when folks get into their 80s, they choose sweets over vegetables when given options).


   
It’s highly doubtful that my nectar, in this case, hot tea, makes me more beautiful or stronger.  Indeed, that any drink or food might improve my looks in any noticeable way is entirely ludicrous.  Tea has a tiny bit of caffeine - and trust me, I need all the kick I can get my hands on, especially when sitting at a desk...which is about all I do these days.  Some people are very sensitive to caffeine; sadly, I am not.  If not the caffeine, then what is it about hot tea that enhances my life?
 
Drinking a cup of hot tea produces some sort of mental change, for me anyway.  It’s like some kind of assurance that all is right and normal in the world.  Does that make it a comfort food?  Hot tea might just be my true comfort food.  Better tea than chocolate or macaroni and cheese (these are common comforts to some people).
 
I’m not picky about my tea either.  Whether the water is boiled on the stove or zapped in a microwave doesn’t matter.  Styrofoam cup, ceramic mug, porcelain cup – I don’t care.  Whether the tea bag is a Wal-Mart el-cheapo brand or Bigelow foil-wrapped doesn’t matter as much, although fancy tea can be fun, interesting, or disappointing (which is usually my experience with exotic tea).  Somebody brought in a box of tea bags and set them in the kitchen at work last week – it must be something he or she tried and didn’t particularly like.  The box has a big, colorful tiger and jungle plants on it.  I haven’t tried it, but the bags smell a bit like cinnamon, not unpleasant, but unusual.  The last time I tried weird tea bags left in the kitchen, they were delightful to smell but the tea was completely nasty.  Caramel vanilla tea: like drinking a strongly scented candle.




Old KyLady likes her tea.  She’s not one to lounge around in pajamas.  I can’t count how  many times I’ve heard people say that if they didn’t have to get up and go to work, they’d never get dressed…meaning they imagine if they worked from home (like I intend to be doing here within the next few months), they’d live in their slippers and PJs.  Not this lady!  I know me well enough to know that I can’t function until I’ve showered and dressed in real clothes.  Even the times I’ve gone camping, if shower facilities are not available, I am not myself after the first 24 hours.  No shower, no me, and no amount of hot tea can fix that.  And now a word of gratitude…thank you God for electricity and water so that we can have hot showers and hot tea.  

Monday, January 25, 2016

teeth of winter

We are now, sadly, fully in the teeth of Old Man Winter…at least here in Kentucky, it’s hard-core winter now.  We got our first troublesome snow early last week, and then come Friday - all hell broke loose.  By the accumulation on our deck railing, I’m guessing nearly a foot of snow dropped on us in 24 hours’ time.  Universities and schools called off Friday and weekend classes.  I left my office at 10 AM on Friday and drove home to work from there for the rest of the day.  Fortunately, my job is one that can be done from anywhere that has Internet access, and fortunately, my supervisor is agreeable to let me work from home when weather becomes an issue.

Snow is melting today.  Bring spring, please.  

    
We refer to winter as Old Man Winter, but no other seasons are personified (as far as I know).  If spring were a person, I’m certain she would be female – a beautiful, youngish, energetic, motherly sort with long, flowing hair.  Spring is a time of rebirth – green grass, flowers, new leaves, and baby birds.  Mother Spring is happy and hums to herself while she stays busy tending to growing things and bringing life back to the world.  Old Man Winter is sour and cranky.  I’m pretty sure he has a nagging cough, squinty eyes, and the stench of something rotten on his breath.  Instead of singing, he grumbles to himself (much like one of my co-workers, years ago).  In defense of this man I used to work with, I honestly believe he had no awareness that he was talking to himself as much as he did.   A few times when we were sitting across from each other and his mumbling got on my nerves, I’d ask him if he was talking to me, knowing full well he was entirely at work in his own world.  He’d look up at me with a look of total surprise, or perhaps he thought I was hearing things.
 
Old Man Winter bared his nasty fangs with this last snowstorm.   After the snow, the temperature became bitterly cold.  It was so cold Saturday, in fact, that I got up in the wee hours to get another blanket.  Someone can’t sleep with anything covering him other than he always puts a pillow over his head.  If I’m the least little bit chilly, I can’t sleep at all.  So while he laid there on top of the comforter, dead to the world  in a short-sleeved tee-shirt and shorts, I slid out from my cocoon (sheet, blanket, and heavy comforter) wearing fleecy warm pajamas to retrieve another blanket to put overtop my side of the bed.  Once, settled back into my place, Molly curled up on one side of me and Gracie on the other (between me and Someone).  It was very cozy with my furry bed warmers and the extra blanket.
   
Here I sit at work writing a blog post…again.  It’s not like I’m doing nothing productive though.  A conference call is droning on (and on) and probably will go on for another hour.  Young people (all men, of course) insist I listen in on their debate regarding what to do about a particular situation.  As the subject matter expert (SME) on the topic, I gave them six options: two options are not great but the other four are decent.  The best option is going to cost money but will be easy and fast to deploy (that’s why it’s best).  But no, they want to DISCUSS the options (even the bad ones) in agonizing detail.  While they are dragging their feet with meetings and discussions and endless emails, the people in the field are suffering.  Productivity is suffering, and the consequences could be dire if we get some bad circumstances before this is resolved.  But I am only the old SME with a dead career; they each hope to distinguish themselves at all costs and at the expense of the poor workers in the trenches of this company. 



Not only this lovely conference call, but also I’ve written and kicked off a massive batch script this afternoon.  The script is doing work in one afternoon that would take me a month to do with my hands and eyeballs.  In a nutshell, it’s crawling through folders of a massive shared drive looking to see if any of 365,000+ specific files are missing.  It’s a QA effort that needs to be done.  I’m productive as hell today; they’re f***ing lucky I haven’t retired yet. 
  
Speaking of leaving, I’ve made time to apply to a few more universities this month.  There are several more I want to apply to as soon as I can make time.  If I could just pick up that third adjunct job, I would plan a precise date for my exit.  As it is now, I’m just going to work until my vacation runs out (perhaps mid-July???).
 
Teaching is going well this session (at least so far).  The face-to-face classes (at University #1) are different this session as compared to the last (which was my first face-to-face teaching experience).  It just seems easier now and it’s even fun, believe it or not.  Perhaps it’s having more experience that is making the difference.  Class time goes by very quickly.  It’s nothing like my real job…thank heavens!!


 

My classes at University #2 are all online.  The current session ends in seven days.   If there is a break before the next session starts (I may get one if enrollment is low), that’ll give me time to get more applications out.  Rust never sleeps, and neither should I, but I’m tired of working all the time.  Too much work and not enough play gets tiresome.     

Friday, January 15, 2016

funny money

Someone bought two lottery tickets for the drawing this week…seeing’s how the amount got up to over a billion dollars…even Erin bought a ticket.  At least Someone came out ahead – one of his tickets had three numbers which makes it worth $7 (net gain for him = $3).
 
I can remember well when three dollars was a lot of money.  That’s one of the sad things about the lottery.  People who really can’t afford to spend $2 on a ticket will go buy tickets just for that one in a gazillion chance that they might win.  They buy a chance on a new life while their kids go hungry or go without medicine they need.  You could say they are buying hope.  Hope is a good thing, but perhaps I’m just too much of a realist to see hope in buying a lottery ticket.  I used to buy them regularly in my younger days…perhaps hope meant more to me then, or perhaps it’s more likely that repeated losing finally convinced me that instant wealth is not in my cards.
 
But, I do remember once the joy of instant wealth.  As an undergraduate college student living in little Nowheresville, Kentucky, money was a constant worry.  I managed to find enough low paying waitress jobs to keep myself in school, but a very lean lifestyle is stressful for anyone.  The campus in Nowheresville was mostly deserted on weekends and holidays…it was known as a suitcase college because most students went home when they had no classes.  It’s still a suitcase college, but perhaps not as much now as then.  In the 90s, the county finally voted wet so the town now has some restaurants that serve alcohol and even a Wal-Mart.  That’s major progress!

campus in Nowheresville

It was early evening, cold and windy.  Walking back to my dorm after work, few were out on the town streets – it was as quiet and deserted as campus that evening.  I was trudging up the last hill, looking down, and feeling sorry for myself – alone for the Thanksgiving holiday, broke with payday not for another week, and my food supply was very low.  As I stepped off the curb to cross the street – Behold!!   A wad of bills rolling along the curb, being blown by the wind...I could not believe my eyes.  I scooped them up and looked around to see who had dropped them.  Nobody.  Not a soul in sight.  I stood there for a minute, just waiting for somebody to come and claim the cash, like surely somebody would be searching for his dropped money.  I unrolled the wad and found six one–dollar bills.  Wow.  I looked around again and there was nobody.  The magic money was completely unattended.  I pushed the cash into my pocket and went home feeling guilty and elated.  

The money wasn’t mine.  I suppose there is still some residual guilt from when I kept it and spent it, but in defense of myself, I did watch the lost and found boards in dorm lobbies in my area for the rest of the semester.  Nobody reported lost money.



Six dollars was instant wealth in those days.  It was a windfall and completely changed the holiday for me.  It’s not that I went right out next day and spent it (that was not my style), but just having extra cash made me hopeful and even cheerful.  Having money gives a person some amount of control, or maybe it’s just a feeling of control, or maybe that’s what it does for me and nobody else gets that from having money in his pocket. 

I know it’s ridiculous to associate money with control.  None of us can control anything in this world, that’s the real bottom line.  All of us who are breathing at this instant are alive because nothing bad has happened yet.  In time, it will.  The most valuable commodity in this life should be time, not money.  Then again, time without money is stressful.  I prefer time and money.   

   

Friday, January 8, 2016

tasting the future

Today is Friday.  Sadly, the week is coming to a close.  I don’t even want to think about next week.  This week, I was off on vacation for 5 straight days following the 3-day holiday with New Years’ Day last Friday.  That’s ten days off in a row counting the rest of this weekend – HALLELUJAH!!  It has been fantastic not to go into the office.  Instead, I’ve been working 14 hours a day (except for one day, which was more like 10 hours) getting ready to open classes next week.  The online courses are now built and ready to open for business Sunday night.  What’s left is for me is to prepare activities for the first week, like notes for what we’re going to talk about and plans for what we’re going to actually do.  That will be taken care of Saturday and Sunday.

This week has been a taste of what I can imagine might be my life as a full-time online adjunct instructor.  First thing every morning (after the shower and morning routine…which must happen before KYLady can function in this world), I got up and filled the bird feeder outside my window.  As I sat at my desk, there was a steady stream of woodpeckers, blue jays, cardinals, nuthatches, and even a few robins.  My favorite visitors, though, were the squirrels.  As many as six at a time fighting for access to the birdfeeder, all the while the birds scolding them for being so greedy.  Once I retire, I will miss the view overlooking the lake from my office, but the bird feeder which is much more up-close and lively, will be plenty nice.

It might be that I’ve become a plant hoarder.  We really don’t have space for all that are growing now, and I want to bring home the plants in my office before leaving it for good.  The kitchen is the only room in the house that gets sun.  Where will I put them all?  My Christmas cactus has beautiful blooms right now – it’s been such a pleasant thing to look at for about a month now.  But most exciting, today I noticed that my yucca has new sprouts!!  Take a look at the photos.  This plant (which is now two plants and used to be just one) has exceeded all my expectations. 

Check out these new shoots.
Some plants in the kitchen

More plants in the kitchen.


Come Monday morning, I have to stand in front of two classes of students and "teach".  These courses are hybrid; we meet F2F one day per week and the rest is online.  Honestly, I’d prefer just online, but these particular students are not self-motivated enough to succeed on their own, so I was told.  Perhaps, it’s more that they are not confident with technology and they want the comfort of a living/breathing/in-their-face human to help them should they begin to struggle.  Some will struggle, no doubt.  I’ve had some of them before in my classes.  Professor KYLady will take on the role of cheerleader and coach Monday morning…unfortunately for them and me, an 8 AM class.  Then it’s a 9:15 class, then it’s back to the office (the real world) for me.  Monday is going to be hell.  

                  

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

silence is golden

I haven’t had much to say lately, which is pretty typical for me.  I’m not known to be a chatterbox. 

Someone tends to talk incessantly, which at times gets annoying.  We were out on a hike with Gracie a few days ago.  It was unseasonably warm but very wet from all the rain.  For the most part, we had the entire park to ourselves which is a marvelous thing because wildlife tends to be out in the open when people aren’t around.  So there we were, walking along the trail, and I was hoping to see some deer, or turkeys, or something…or at least listen to the birds and especially the woodpeckers…I love woodpeckers.  But no, Someone yickety-yacked the whole time.  We were hiking around the lake and of course, all sound echoes off the water and hills.  Someone even remarked that it was amazing that we hadn’t seen any deer yet.  I suggested “we” were making too much noise.  He didn’t get the hint.  So I just quit answering him.  It’s OK – after 21 years of marriage (er…well…maybe it’s already 22…I forget)…he’s used to me ignoring him.  But, that didn’t work either.  He began talking to poor Gracie, and singing, and humming, and whistling.  GEEZ!  What makes a person want to listen to himself non-stop like that?

So today, I’m getting a new chair delivered for my “home office”.  I ordered it off Amazon based on customer reviews and Amazon’s suggestion…by the way, this behavior is brought to us compliments of Big Data and Web 3.0 services – we can’t hide from Intelligent Web – it will find us no matter where we are and entice us to buy things.  I don’t really have a home office…yet.  It’s more like an unused, junked-up dining room with my desk in the corner.  A goal for 2016 is to eliminate the giant table and junk from the room, have a real door installed, find a nice colorful rug for the floor, buy some more shelves, and claim my territory.  MINE!  It would be easier to take the spare bedroom upstairs, but the dining room has two windows where I can sit and stare outside…just as I do now from my office at work.  We have a bird\squirrel feeder in the tree right outside the window.  It’s perfect for me!



The girls survived their wisdom teeth surgery and are healing well from it.  They went back to the oral surgeon this morning for a follow up.  Emily’s teeth were impacted in bone and the surgery was more extensive; consequently the holes are deeper and her stitches did not come out on their own.  The doctor removed them for her today which was no picnic for Emily given her dreaded fear of anyone poking around in her mouth.  Erin’s visit was much easier – her teeth were impacted but just in her gums; he took a quick look and declared all was well.  It’s all over now other than they still have to use the nasty rinse until the holes fill in, and they aren’t supposed to eat anything crunchy for a while longer.  I texted the girls after their appointments to ask how it went.  Emily’s reply made me smile…



It seems that winter is finally coming in.  The sky is clearing and the wind is turning cold.  No complaints from me.  We’ve had some bitterly cold Decembers, but not this one.  I’ve played golf once this month and had my kayak out; for that, I’m grateful.  

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Hallelujah

Dear World,

My life is changing significantly in 2016.  FINALLY!   I will be retiring from the job that has been my primary income for almost 33 years.  Money will be tighter, but time…I can only imagine what it will be like to have time – unplanned, unscheduled, “free” time.  Does free time really exist for anyone?  Nothing in this world is free; can time really be free?  I don’t think so.  Just like money, surely time has an opportunity cost.



My boss said that I can’t work part time, but I can retire and come back as a contractor after at least three months off.  After three months off, I can’t imagine wanting to come back to work.  It’s hard enough coming back after a 3-day weekend.

When is my last day?  I don’t know.  I’ve scheduled vacation for the first week of the year to give me “time” to prepare online classrooms and prepare activities for the start of semester.  I’m on schedule to teach three face-to-face classes (five online) – it’s so much effort to prepare in-class entertainment (something to show students; something for them to do in class).  Technology has to be hands on to be meaningful.  The text books are wretched.  Nobody wants to read a technology text book (not even me).  Then I will begin burning vacation – a few days per week until I run out.  Then it’s adios amigos.  I will begin cleaning out my office in February.

I’m taking my plants home when I retire.  I considered leaving them, but I’m kind of possessive and selfish about them…especially my corn plant (the tall one in the photo).  When we moved into the office building where we are now, there were several corn plants that had once thrived in the lobby of the old building that were left behind.  When they began looking ratty, a janitor moved them to a closet to finish dying.  I went over and selected one of the few that wasn’t completely dead, and moved it to my office.  I’ve tended it for 15 years now, and it has grown from less than four feet to at least seven feet tall.  Moving it will be a chore.  It really needs to be repotted, but I will wait until I get it home.  It’s going to be a messy job.  I love all my plants.  They would be sad without me, and nobody will take care of them the way they should be cared for.

Corn plant (dracaena fragrans) and other plants that like the window

Erin and Emily had their 20th birthdays last week.  It’s hard to wrap my brain around the fact that 20 years has passed by since that day in the hospital when they exited me and entered the world.  It does not seem so long ago that I was changing their diapers.  On the day after their birthday, both had four wisdom teeth cut out.  Poor dears!  What a miserable thing to go through.  It has been four days now, and the swelling is finally going down a bit and they are easing up on the pain drugs.  I know they are relieved to have the surgery over (so am I). 

My girls with their men - celebrating birthdays - last supper (before wisdom teeth)

Christmas is in a few days.  We finally have a Christmas tree up, but there is more decorating to do.  Amazon is supposed to deliver gifts by Christmas Eve (hopefully), and I will perhaps make a quick shopping trip on Christmas Eve if Amazon or UPS lets me down.  Then there will be wrapping gifts and making food to take to Someone’s parents’ house for the big family Christmas dinner get-together.  All of that to do while keeping up with five classes in Week 2 of an 8-week term, but at least I get two days off for Christmas from my main job.  I love Christmas season – all the lights and parties and music – but I never have time to enjoy it.  We were invited to three parties and I missed every one of them.  Maybe next year will be different.                

Friday, December 4, 2015

performance appraisal hell

This was written yesterday morning:

Oh my F’ing….no….I won’t write it.  If anyone deserves to be struck by lightning, it’s me.  No doubt God already knows I thought it, but maybe there’s some wee chance that when I get to those Golden Gates, God will say, “Good for you.  There was one day when you kept your blasphemy in your head and didn’t spew it into the world.”  So, now I wonder if putting words in God’s mouth is bad thing too?  Probably.
  
It’s performance appraisal time.  F’ing AGAIN.  Every damn year, we go through this same bullshit.  I’m sure all the poor peon dredges of corporate America must suffer through this same torture.  I’m trying to do my appraisal this morning.  I got up for my third cup of water (obviously drinking water is my procrastination strategy this morning, besides writing a blog post).  In the break room, there stood Tim, waiting for coffee to brew (I presume…he was just standing there staring at the coffee machine).  I asked him how it was going.  He glared at me, “Writing that cock-suckin’ performance shit today.  I’d rather they just punch me in the face and kick my balls.”  I couldn’t help laugh at him.  He really is one of the more religious people in this office; to hear his language was completely inspiring.

How do we waste time in this company?  Performance appraisals.  Supervisors already had meetings in September to determine what our raises will be in 2016.  Well of course – they have to – salaries go into the budget and the budget for 2016 is set by October 1.  Duh!  So come December, employees have to pretend that we have some say into what our “merit” raises will be for 2016.  We have to write up pages about all our successes and failures through the year, and then organize them into categories and rank them, so it all comes down to a number, 1 through 5.  If you’re a 1 or 2, you’re eligible for promotion.  If you are a 3, you do your job.  If you are a 4 or 5, you suck.
   
Understand, all of us are located here because when our company was acquired, we accepted positions with the new company on condition that we did not have to move to corporate mecca (headquarters), which is about 5 hours north of here.  Those of us who were retained (because we were critical to the acquisition for one reason or another) got to remain in the same building of our previous employer.  Lovely, but there was a catch – a penalty for not embracing mecca and all it has to offer.  Nobody new will ever be hired to work here, and nobody will ever be promoted.  It’s been about 15 years now.  We’re all getting older and our numbers are declining as people retire.  At every retirement celebration, we speculate who will be left to turn the lights off.


 
Why didn’t we move?  There’s a HUGE culture difference – H U G E!!  Kentucky is like a third-world country to people in that part of the country.  In truth, I may have at least considered moving but it would have caused lots of problems.  I was divorced and Sarah’s dad lived here – that would have been a huge problem for visitation.  I had an excellent babysitter here, and I was helping to take care of my grandparents who lived not too far from here.  Also, Someone would have never agreed to move away from his family who are all here, unless I was transferring to Myrtle Beach.
   
The point is, we already know we have to be a 3 because we can’t be promoted.  A few of the younger people always try to get by with a 2, but then they are told to revise.  The thing is, the number relates directly to the percentage of pay increase.  What that means is, not only can we never be promoted, we can never get the pay increase our accomplishments warrant.  The way a boss explained it to me was that they will not be put into a position to have to justify any of us being eligible for promotion and not getting one.


 
I’ve learned to be very careful so that I don’t have to write the stupid thing over.  I always rate myself a 3, but several times I’ve had to rewrite sections because my quantified accomplishments and client reviews were too favorable for the final rating of 3.  The last time that happened, after the second rewrite (and before the third), I told my supervisor, “Why don’t you just write this yourself or tell me exactly what you want to see on it?  Obviously the facts don’t matter and I can’t read your mind!”  That didn’t go over well.
 
The moral of this long, boring story is, suck it up and get it done.  Begin with the end in mind.  Assume my clients are going to rate me high (they always do), and whatever I write, focus on the failures rather than the successes.  The good news is that this may be the last time I ever have to write one.  Part-time employees don’t do them at all (and neither do retirees).
 
Tomorrow at 2:30, I’m going to pull the trigger after our usual project review meeting.  After we’re done, he always says, “Is there anything else?”  I always say, “Nope.  I’m good,” but tomorrow will go differently.  I’m smiling just thinking about it…and now I hear Tim bitching to the guy next door about “this fucking thing”…which reminds me I’d better get  back to work on mine.


     
UPDATE!!!
News from today.



My supevisor and I had the meeting today at 3:45.  He rescheduled twice and I thought for sure he’d wind up cancelling completely, but be didn’t.  After we discussed business, before he could hang up, I dropped the bomb.  It’s part-time beginning January or I leave in early January (probably just before spring term starts).  He will give me an answer by next Friday, he promised.  I can almost smell light at the end of this long tunnel.

I finished the F’ing performance appraisal today, a little more than 5 hours ahead of the 11:59 PM deadline.  Thank the Lord!  It’s over. 


In other exciting news, University #2 invited me to apply for a full-time job opening.  It’s an exciting prospect, but I’m not sure I want the job.  I need to learn more about it, but basically it’s not a teaching job, but more of an administrative job – supervising other faculty, resolving disputes with students, scheduling students and faculty into classes, writing reports.  Hmmmm…sounds a bit like work.