Monday, September 23, 2013

What's Been Going on in My Life Lately

1.  Salaries and Responsibilities.  At work, we have done a bit of reorganizing, and the person who used to be my supervisor now has another person between him and the Person at the Top, so he has (in theory) moved down a notch on the org chart, although most of his responsibilities have remained the same, he has the same title, and he has the same salary.  I now report directly to the Person at the Top, so I have (in theory) moved up a notch on the org chart, and I now have a nifty new title and (thanks to a move down the hall) a bigger office.  What I do not have, however, is a larger salary.  I make about 50% less than my former supervisor but, on a typical week, work about 50% more.  Well, maybe not 50% more lately. He seems to be working harder these days.  But in the past couple of years, the feeling of unfairness that he works a lot less but makes a lot more money has grown and grown in me, and recently I broke down and talked to the Person at the Top about it.  He seemed to understand my position and thought it was a bit unfair himself, but due to the budget situation (which is not dire but leaves absolutely no room for anything that isn't necessary), there wasn't room to give me a raise.  What came out of the meeting was that we would start having twice monthly project review meetings, which should make parts of my job easier (since I can get input from different departments in a meeting they have to attend instead of harassing them on a regular basis until they finally agree to tell me what I need to know for a particular project to go forward).  He also arranged it so that I would chair the committee, which gives me a certain amount of additional authority, but also means more work.  And then today, the Person at the Top told me that starting in October, I would start supervising someone who now reports to my former supervisor.  So I will have additional responsibilities that will help me grow as a professional (which I appreciate) but will also take up more of my time, for which I will still receive no raise.  Dang it.

2.  Serving on Non-Profit Boards.  I'm on the board of our local historical society.  We're a small organization and just recently got started, so on the one hand, being on the board doesn't take up much time.  But on the other hand, because we just recently got started, there's so much that needs to be done, set up, decided upon.  Board terms are up in October, and I was so happy, thinking, 'Hurray, I don't have to have an officer position anymore! I can help out in a less responsibility-laden way, and it will be fun.' And then at our board meeting last week, since no one had expressed interest in being chair next time, they nominated me.  Daaaaaang iiiiiit.

3. The Benefit of a Bad Memory.  At work today, I received an email from JLR with links to pants I liked that were on sale.  Score!  I made a mental note to see if the pants were still available when I got home from work, and then, realizing a mental note for me is next to useless, I forwarded JLR's email to my personal email account, hoping the message would serve as a reminder to check on the pants this evening.  This evening, when I checked my email, I saw a message from myself with the subject heading 'Fwd: Pants," and I thought, 'Well, that sounds interesting; I wonder what it's about!' And so you see, having a bad memory can make the little things in life seem so much more exciting.

4.  Email Calendars.  Three years ago, I worked on a project that involved coordinating meetings with several grad students who did not have job-based email calendars or similar set-ups that would allow us to send meeting requests to each other.  So we all set it up through the school email system, since they attended the same grad school I had attended, and I still had an active school email account.  To help us determine when to meet, the student managing the project set up notes in the calendar of when I had regularly scheduled meetings.  So we would get notices saying, 'so-and-so NOT available on September 23,' etc.  It was quite handy at the time, but unfortunately, after the project was over, the notices kept coming.  I've made several attempts to turn off the notification system, but I cannot figure it out.  So every month or so, I get another message telling me I am NOT available because I have a regularly scheduled meeting that I already know to factor into my schedule planning because it is a regularly scheduled meeting, and I have had the same dadgum meetings twice a month for four years, so I know not to schedule anything else for that time.

That is all for now.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Incident Report, 7-5-2013

I work for a city, and from time to time, I am charged with researching and writing tidbits of the city's history, since I am the person on staff known to have worked for a historical organization in the past, to maintain an interest in history, to have the research abilities to ensure that whatever I write is actually true, and to have the writing skills to put together something vaguely understandable.  Also, I am fairly low down on the org chart.

So last Friday, I went to the big neighboring city downtown to visit the county archives to do some research on the history of the city. I don't have any history assignments at the moment, but I wanted to see what was available in case something crops up in the future.  On my way to the archives, I mixed up which exit to take (despite having driven this same way to get to downtown many, many, many times before) and found myself on a different freeway instead of on the surface street I was expecting to see.  I'd left in plenty of time to drive there, even with a mix-up like this, but I was worried about the Parking Situation.  Plenty of spaces in the garage = on time!  Limit spaces available = lots of circling = late. And late will not make a good impression on the archivist.  As I exited the Wrong Freeway and circled back to go in the other direction, I may, dear readers, I may have said a bad word.  You weren't there, so you can't prove it, but I can't tell you it didn't happen.

I needn't have worried though.  It was the Friday after a holiday, and the usual crowd in the garage had decided to stay home.  Lots of parking spaces!  (Or, as an economic development expert I know would say, there were "plenty of parks."  If you catch me referring to parking spaces as "parks," remind me that I asked you to tell me not to use that word except to refer to places of outdoor recreation and respite.)

Now, I had called a few weeks before to let the archivist know I would be popping in for a visit and had even emailed her a list of the items I wanted to see.  But when I arrived, she had no record of my appointment.  In fact, she didn't seem to have any recollection of me or my phone call to her.  It was Awkward.  But fortunately, she was nice and immediately started digging around for the first item on my list.  And as it turns out, she couldn't find it.

"That's the first time this has happened," she said.  I said, "Oh, really?" but thought to myself, 'Of course,'  since it is common for me to be a source of something going wrong with someone else.  "That's okay, I said.  Could I see these maps instead?" and handed her a list.  No, my friends, I could not see the other maps instead.  Though listed on this archive's finding aids on this archive's website, the maps were held in another building by another county agency.  But not to worry, she'd call over there and let them know I was coming.  I heard her call the agency, but I don't know who she spoke to, because when I arrived at that agency, the person who was supposed to help me was not expecting me and had no idea who I was or why I was there.  Fortunately, he was nice, and immediately starting digging around for the first map on my list.  But he couldn't find it.  Then he searched for the second item on my list and couldn't find it, either.  As it turns out, the finding aid posted online hadn't been updated in years, or maybe it's that the map files themselves haven't been checked to see if the maps or there, but for whatever reason, there was no telling how long it was going to take him to find the maps.  Considering how things were going that morning, I thought it best not to wait for the situation to improve.  The situation would *not* improve, of this I was certain.  I gave him my card, told him to call me if he ever found the maps, and left.

As I drove to the office, I couldn't find my coffee cup and became convinced I had driven away from downtown with the cup on top of my car.  When I arrived at the office, though, I found it safely nestled inside a shopping bag.  So that was one thing that went right.

And that was my day.  Mishaps in archives followed by coffee cup dismay followed by stomach ache.  How was your day-after-July 4th?

Monday, June 17, 2013

And then there was March

Remember when I had the flu in...when was it, January? February?  Well, in March, I came down with something that felt like the flu, again.  After a few days of feeling sick, and feeling worse every day, I went to my primary care doctor.  The sign on the door said, "Let the staff know if you have flu-like symptoms: cough, fever, aching, sore throat."  Check, check, check, check.

Although I felt silly doing it, I told the front desk about my symptoms, and she gave me a look like she couldn't believe I was wasting her time and then handed me a mask.  And when I saw the doctor and told him my symptoms, he seemed to think it was just a cold and not worth worrying about.  I said, "Okay, well, just to be on the safe side, since I felt just the same way when I had the flu, are there any signs I should look out for in case it turns into the flu?"  He seemed as though he was trying not to laugh at me, this stupid overly-worried patient, and assured me it wasn't the flu.

The next day, I felt even worse.  JLR talked me into going to a clinic.  The doc there thought it might be the flu after all and gave me a flu test.  The result was negative, but since I had been sick for several days, it might show a negative result even if I had the flu. She told me to stay home from work until my fever went away.  It certainly was nice to have a member of the medical profession seem concerned about my well-being and not blow me off.

Two days later, I felt even worse and was coughing up a storm.  JLR talked me into going to yet another clinic, and this time, I got the right diagnosis. As it turns out, I had walking pneumonia.  Only took a week to figure it out.

And that's about the most exciting thing that's happened to me since the last time I posted anything.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Great Backyard Bird Count

Isn't this little bird cute?!?  Tufted Titmouse, photo by Laura Perlick of the US Fish & Wildlife Service

Howdy!  It's time for the annual Great Backyard Bird Count!  Actually, it's been time for the GBBC since Friday, but I'm a bit behind in posting.

What is the GBBC, you ask?

Good question.  Here's the answer from the GBBC website.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are.
Beginning in 2013, GBBC checklists will be accepted from anywhere in the world!
Everyone is welcome--from beginning bird watchers to experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes on one day, or you can count for as long as you like each day of the event. It’s free, fun, and easy—and it helps the birds. 
Participants tally the number of individual birds of each species they see during their count period. They enter these numbers on the GBBC website.

 This event can be enjoyable even for folks who aren't good at birding.  Trust me; I'm terrible at bird-watching, or rather, at bird-identifying.  But last year I did the GBBC with my mom at a big park, and we spent half of it sitting on a bench chatting (read: scaring away birds).  It gave us a chance to spend time together with just the two of us, something we don't often have a chance to do, and it gave us a sense of accomplishment, too.  We contributed to science!

So even if you're not much of a birder, but you're vaguely interested in finding out what birds live in your neighborhood, give the GBBC a try.  You don't even have to leave your house to do it!

And if you're in the United States or Canada, and you don't know how to start figuring out what birds you're seeing, GBBC provides a checklist of birds commonly found in your area.

So get and there and go birding!  (or stay inside and bird from your window)

Saturday, February 09, 2013

It Wasn't a Sinus Infection

Do you remember recently when JLR said she was sick, and we thought it was a cold?  It wasn't a cold after all, as it turns out.  As it turns out, it was the flu.  Neither of us expected to catch the flu, since we both had flu shots this year, and yet it was the flu for both of us.  I don't why she had to get it, but as for me, well, I guess that will teach me not to eat directly out of the peanut butter jar, especially if someone else (in this case, a flu-carrying JLR) is also eating directly out of the peanut butter jar.  Oh, wait.  Did that again today.  Dang it.  When will I learn?  I hope she hasn't been hanging out with sick people again.

Anyhow, we should have known it was the flu.  I have never in my life felt that bad in a "caught a cold" sort of way.  In a vomitty way, yes.  But not in the "feels sort of like a cold only not as wonderful and relaxing as a cold, comparatively speaking" way.  Everyone I know who's ever had the flu has talked about how exhausted and generally awful they felt, and I believed them, but I never knew how they felt.  Now I do.  So when my co-worker last week thought she might have caught the flu but was only out of work for one day, I felt fairly confident in telling her that she did not have the flu.  Maybe she had a rare, 24-hour version of it, but it seems unlikely.  Come to think of it, though, she is rather fit and eats well.  Maybe healthy people only get the flu for 24 hours.  Yet another reason for me to eat right and work out, instead of sitting around all day, eating a cupcake, half a candy bar, a bit of ice cream, and a large amount of peanut butter, which is how I spent today.  Hey, I got my car's oil changed, and I really don't like messing with an oil change.  Plus, I tried to drop off my old headboard and footboard at Goodwill, and they wouldn't take it, and I have been trying to get rid of this thing for quite some time so I don't have to be wasteful and throw it out, and no one will take it.  (Sorry about that long sentence.  Whiny = long-winded.)  Also, Wally was sick several times today and won't eat his food, which is cause for concern in an old cat.  Making sure I feel poorly tomorrow was my reward for things not going well today.  I'm sure tomorrow I won't regret my choices today.  Yeah.

But on the plus side, I did find some cheap (read: old) German-brand coffee beans at the store. 
Maybe they won't be as good as the beans I buy at the local hipster coffee shop (where I don't fit in because I don't have tattoos or a handlebar mustache, and I most definitely do not wear old-timey-looking hipster youth suspenders, but where I go despite feeling uncomfortable every moment I'm there because the coffee is oh-so-tasty), but they will taste like saving money.  And that's just about my favorite flavor.

The cheap stuff won't taste as good as the fancy stuff, but it won't make feel old and inferior, either.

Here's hoping all is well with the rest of you and that you are doing better sticking to your budget and your diet than I am.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

SketchUp: my new nemesis

Meet my many dormer windows.

I'm trying to learn Google Sketchup, since I think it will help me with my work.  I figured that with lots of practice, then given in about 6 months, I should be able to do basic illustrations for proposed projects at work.  I signed up for an online SketchUp class and was feeling pretty optimistic about my abilities to learn and master this new tool (with lots of practice, of course), almost all the way through the first lesson.  Then, at about 80% through the lesson, the instructor demonstrated how to create a component--in this case, a dormer window--and add it to a house we had already created earlier in the lesson.  We created a window, made it a component, and then (basically) pasted the window onto the other side of the house.  Well, of course, since it was created on the other side, when we paste it, it faces the wrong way, and we needed to rotate the windows so they faced out instead of in.  My windows wouldn't rotate properly, to start with.  It took me about an hour to figure out how to rotate objects.  To be clear, I can see what I'm supposed to be doing, but I can't seem to do it, and I know it's operator error, which is very frustrating.  I finally got the window facing the right way, but when I add it to the roof, it just sinks right into the building.  I've tried changing the axes, I've tried creating a new version of the component that will glue to any surface, I've read several different help pages and watched a video from a different instructor, and still no luck.  And even if you don't know anything about Sketchup and don't know what all these terms mean, let me break it down for you:  there's a task in a drawing/modeling program that is supposed to be very simple, and everyone else on the planet seems to be able to do it, and I can't figure it out, and I feel like an idiot.  But I will triumph.  It might just take me a liiiiiitttle bit longer than I'd planned.  Maybe about 8 years.

Anyone have any ideas how to make my windows work?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Anipang-motivated Gift-Giving

Some years ago, when I lived near Deals, I expressed an interest in taking up running (again).  Deals seemed excited about the idea.  I’m not sure if it was because she would have someone to run with or because I was finally going to stop talking about exercising and really do something, but in either case, she wanted to eliminate any obstacles in my path to physical fitness.  So when I put off buying running shoes because of the expense, she threatened, er, offered, to buy me a pair shoes.  Deals seemed rather serious about buying them, so I went out and bought some, toute de suite, just to keep her from buying them.  Not to be deterred from spending her hard-earned money on someone who didn’t deserve it, she bought me an Ipod shuffle instead.

That shuffle has had a lot of use over the years, and although very little of it has involved playing music while I work out, thanks to Deals, it was at least an option.  It was so kind of Deals to help me out in my efforts to get in shape, and I was really touched by her thoughtfulness. 

I told you that story as an introduction to another one about friends being kind and giving me things, this time involving not exercise, but games.  M.J. recently sent a link to JLR and me for a mobile phone version of a game called Anipang.  You may have heard of Anipang; if you haven’t, you probably soon will, because it is one of those things that spreads.  JLR had already heard of Anipang before M.J. sent us the link to download it, and what she had heard is that this game—like many mobile phone games, apparently—is rather addictive.  And as it turns out, what she had heard was correct.  JLR now plays it frequently.   

This is the kind of thing that leads stories about government workers being unproductive.

As it also turns out, my mobile phone won’t play Anipang, the phone being too old to handle the latest gaming opportunities.  When I mentioned this to M.J., she immediately said she would send me her old cell phone, since it might be able to work.  I said that was so sweet of her, but why not take some time to think about it before sending away her backup cell phone.  No, she said, she has a working cell phone, and that’s all she needs, and as soon as she downloads all the pictures, she would mail it to me.

Now, this is not like when I worked swing shift in the job I had right after college, and I drove home from work at 10 or 11 at night, so my mom gave me her old cell phone for safety reasons, so I wouldn’t be phone-less if my car broke down.  No, M.J. is sending me her old cell phone so I can play a game.  And it’s not even like I’m comfortable playing Anipang, since the permissions you have to give them basically let them track everything you do on your cell phone.  So I should have told her “no, but thank you” on her offer, but I didn’t.  Because, you see, I have played Anipang, and I would like to play more, and I don't want to be dependent on JLR letting me use up some of her pangs or hearts or whatever it is (I don't even understand it, and I can't stop playing it!).  Come to think of it, I understand now why M.J. wants me to have that phone.  Once a person is addicted to something, she wants everyone else to be addicted to it, too, right?  So that you all suffer together?

And on that note, here's a song for you:

Yes, that video is what you think it is.  


Monday, January 14, 2013

Personality Profiles at Work

Today, our HR department sent out a link to Myers Briggs tests we were supposed to take today so we can discuss the results in our department head meeting tomorrow.  It's been years since I first took a Myers Briggs test, and I used to think it was a nifty way of figuring out people and how to communicate with each other.  Recently, though, I've read about how unreliable and unproven they are, and how they shouldn't really be used in hiring or career-placement decisions.  The Powers That Be at my office are not likely to use personality profiles as a basis for employee advancement and retention, so I'm not really worried about their finding out I'm an introvert trying to make do in an extrovert's job.  They probably know all about my being an introvert already, just like They already know about my keen ability to say the wrong thing at the wrong time ("This one is not destined for a lengthy career in public service," They must say to each other).  What I'm worried about is that They might figure out just how much, really, I am unsuited for my job.  Even if Myers Briggs is generally inaccurate (and I have no way of knowing if it is), the results from my taking their test did hone in on a few key characteristics.

(1)  I'm not deadline-oriented. 
(2)  I'm not detail-oriented.  I hate worrying about details, and I often miss little things with major importance.
(3)  I'm an introvert (as mentioned above).
(4)  I like to spend my time coming up with new ways of doing things, or ways to improve existing processes, and then leave the implementaiton of those new ideas to someone else.  [Question: who *wouldn't* prefer to come up with the ideas and leave implementation to someone else?  Isn't coming up with ideas the fun part of any project?]
(5)  I don't like conflict.

Here are a few characteristics about my job:
(1)  Deadlines are very, very important.  By law, I have to put notices in newspapers, send out letters, post agendas, and post signs on a regular basis, all by very strict deadlines, or we can't move forward with a project when we're supposed to do so.  We have had to cancel public hearings because I've missed these deadlines.
(2)  Details are very, very important.  Accidentally leave out one important detail in the aforementioned notices, letters, agendas, etc., and we can't move forward with a project when we're supposed to do so.
(3)  Introverts lose energy by spending a lot of time around a lot of people, and I work in the public sector.  People drop by unexpectedly, my phone rings and I'm supposed to answer it, and other things that drain my energy because they involve dealing with people are part of my job on a day-to-day basis.
(4)  My boss hires consultants to do the creative part of my job and leaves me to do the implementation, with all the details and deadlines included.
(5)  Conflict?  I work for local government.  My work involves telling people what they can and cannot do with their property.  My work involves reviewing cases for natural gas permits.  My work involves telling people why part their property is being taken for right-of-way for a new road that someone else decided we needed, but I happened to be the person they could find, so I'm the one who gets an earfull.  Conflict is a regular part of work in local government.  No matter what decision we make, someone is going to be unhappy, and some of these people are at the come-down-to-the-office-and-yell-at-someone level of unhappiness.

Fortunately, I've restructured my life to fit my job--everything, every little task goes into a To Do list program, everything gets broken down into mini-tasks with due dates, everything gets a calendar reminder and a checklist.  Everything goes by the rules.  So when I took the Myers Briggs test, it spat back at me the personality description that does fit my job, except for the introvert part.  Now that I think about it, maybe I don't have to worry about the discussion after all.  I may be completely unsuited for my job, but no one needs to know...unless I open my big mouth and say the wrong thing at the wrong time.  But They're used to that.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Absolutely Nothing to Report

This is one of those days when I wish I used my blog like an old-fashioned journal, where one simply wrote entries like, "Sunny today, warmer.  Went to grocery store with JLR.  New soup recipe for lunch, not bad."  And so on.

You see, I have absolutely nothing interesting to report.  Not even any incidents.  I must not be as clumsy or as socially awkward as I used to be...on second thought, it must just be that I don't remember the clumsiness or awkwardness.  Surely I would notice if I had become more graceful?  Anyhow, I don't have any incidents to report, unless having a horribly dirty car counts.  I tried to get a gas station car wash the other day, but the pay-with-credit-card option was broken, and I didn't want to go into the store to pay for it, as lately it has been quite cold and, okay, the real reason is because I'm lazy.  I don't have the heart to take my car to a fancy car wash because the old thing looks so terrible these days. The paint is fading, and the head liner is starting to tear and sag, but the car still runs so well, I don't have the heart to buy a new one.  Plus, I like not having a car note.  Makes me feel more organized and thrifty and financially responsible (I am none of those things).

So my car is horribly, horribly dirty.

In other news, my nose is peeling, which is as unattractive as it sounds.  But on the plus side, peeling, irritated noses are a normal sight for winter, so I don't think people will stare and point.

That's it for me for now.

Happy New Year!