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


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.

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.  


Tuesday, December 1, 2015


Today is Day 2 after a 4-day holiday weekend.  Thanksgiving has become completely bastardized by modern American society, unfortunately.  What started out as a humble feast among settlers and Indians to celebrate a bountiful harvest of enough food to last them through the winter has turned into a free-for-all of gluttony and consumerism.  To be honest, I really don’t know what the first Thanksgiving was really like (I wasn’t there).  My perspective is based on various artists’ renditions that show Pilgrims and Indians sitting together outside at a large table…except the women aren’t sitting – they are cooking and serving, and no doubt they did all the clean up afterwards…just like modern times.

I can't identify the artist who painted this one :(

Anyway, I’m thankful today.
#1:  Thankful that yesterday and today were completely rainy, dismal, and gloomy days.  Mondays suck.  Mondays after a 4-day holiday suck even more.  Tuesday after a 4-day holiday feels the same as Monday.  The dreariness coordinates well with my mood.
#2:  Thankful that my brand new crockpot was delivered today.  My old one cracked and began leaking after at least 25 years of faithful service.  I thought it best to donate it to the landfill and get a new one before something catches fire.  The new one is bigger – 7 quarts – and is digital (although it’s not wifi-enabled).  That feature was overkill and too pricey, in my opinion.

#3:  Thankful and grateful to whoever nominated me for a teaching excellence award.  Somebody nominated me.  Now I must reply by the end of the week whether or not I accept the nomination, but it’s not so simple just to reply “Hell yes, I accept!”  I must submit evidence that demonstrates my teaching prowess.  Dear God, I barely know what I’m doing and they want evidence from me to prove my brilliance.  To make matters worse, I have to submit it in only a few weeks.  Somehow I doubt my score on RateMyProfessor.com is going to cut it.
#4:  Thankful that I got to see all my children over the holiday.  Erin and Emily came home, and Erin and I drove over and visited Sarah at her house.

#5:  Thankful that Sarah and Thomas finally launched their new CD to the world.  It's been a long time coming, and there's nothing I like more than popping in a CD and listening to my sweet daughter sing and make music whenever I miss her.

The time is drawing near for me to talk to my boss about working part time or retiring.  I was going to wait until the middle of the month, but I’ve decided to pop the question this Friday.  We (boss and me) have a meeting scheduled and unless it gets postponed, there will only be the two of us on the call.  He does not have authority to make the decision; it will fall on his boss who doesn’t know me or know anything about what I do.  For that matter, my boss doesn’t know much about what I do.  It’s OK.  If he says no (and I predict he will say no), I will retire in early January.  I’m scheduled to teach 8 classes in January (although one of these will most likely be cancelled for low enrollment).  It’s too much work to do with my real job.  I can be Wonder Woman sometimes, but not for that long.

meeting of the minds?