Sunday, December 28, 2008


The RAVENS DID IT! WE are going to the PLAYOFFS!!!! I thought we might win 4 games this season, 6 games at the outside. Instead we are 11-5 and playoff-bound.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

what recession??

I went to Towson Town Center today to return a few xmas items. It took 20 minutes to find a parking space. Then I tried to go to Abercrombie & Fitch to return a pair of pants for my son. According to the folks at the end of the line, the wait was going to be over an hour. I have never seen so many bored teenagers in one place before (outside of school, of course). I decided I'd try some other time, and headed over to Macy's. I went up to the housewares dept, figuring that I would return my gifts and then buy something for the kitchen. I had gift receipts, so I figured this would be a no brainer. Except that the incredibly snippy man at the counter wouldn't take my return. I said I wanted to shop housewares, so it made sense to do my return where I wanted to shop. "At least take it down to the right floor!" he snapped. So I stomped down to the first floor, and made my returns. Which had to be processed as two separate transactions, despite the gift receipts, because the upc code was missing on two of the items. Then I had to supply my driver's license. And then my change of address card. For a return! I felt like I was being treated like a criminal, not a customer.

Finally though, I had success -- two macy's gift cards in place of merchandise I didn't want. Of course, I used up all the free time I had, so I will have to go back later to redeem them.

The mall was insanely crowded. Every store, the food court, the parking lot. Tons of people carrying lots and lots of packages. Every kiosk was packed with people. The phone stalls were even crazier -- I guess phones were a popular gift this year.

And the people working in these stores were clearly overwhelmed, and understandably, fraying around the edges. Still, in a year when retail sales were slow, you would think that every single person at the mall would be trying to provide stellar service to encourage people to shop. I didn't feel like anyone was trying to encourage me to shop -- rather the reverse.

Don't people know there is a recession going on?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men

In the spirit of the holidays, I wish you all

joy, peace, prosperity, serenity

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 22, 2008

define "good"

A recent poll shows that 34% of Americans thing Dick Cheney is a good vice president. And 1% think he is the best VP. Who ARE these people? How do they define "good"?

Dick Cheney is the anti-christ. He is the worst vice president ever. He is both intelligent and evil, a potent combination. And yes, I really mean it. He is an EVIL man. He has sold this country for his own profit and that of his friends. He is a war profiteer who first manufactured the war he then profited from. This is the man who said torture was ok. And when asked about it again last week, he said, yup, its still okay in his book.

34%? What planet do these folks live on?

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Ho, Ho, Ho -- I'm done the Christmas shopping!!! I am DONE, and with 3 days to spare.

We topped off our final shopping trip with a visit to the Miracle on 34th Street. For those of you not from Bawlmer, this is a street in the city that really does up Christmas. Every rowhouse on the street is smothered in decorations and lights. They string lights across the street from the rooftops on both sides. There are revolving lights, inflatable snow globes, all sorts of moving displays. There is a Christmas tree made entirely out of hubcaps (!). There are lots of pink flamingos. Christmas trees, candy canes, christmas music piped out onto the streets. The residents pay for all of this themselves, and they don't/won't take donations to help defray the costs of running this light show. They turn on the lights the day after Thanksgiving and they run until January 1st.

I love it, and it always puts me in a holiday mood. This year we both walked the block, and then drove through. Totally different experience. The walk through let us see the little details we never catch in the car. The drive through gives you the full impact of the whole street as one display. Awesome!

Friday, December 19, 2008

RIP, Majel Barrett

Majel Barrett Roddenberry passed away yesterday. Somehow she seemed to be a "forever" sort of person, always been there, always will be.

Makes me sad.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

office rituals

Our office has a lot of rituals, particularly at the holidays. Today we had the annual holiday breakfast. We have breakfast together. It used to be cooked by the accounting staff, and me. We have 40 people in the office now, and we have outgrown a meal cooked on-site without a kitchen. We now have a catered spread. The desserts/sweets table is still filled by the office staff. Everyone brings in something, and then we eat the leftover cookies and cakes for a few days.

The big event of the breakfast is the white elephant game. Each person who wants to participate buys a gift in the $20-$25 range. You wrap it, bring it in and put it on the white elephant table. Then we draw numbers to determine the order of play. The first person opens a gift from the table. The next person can either take the gift from the first person, or unwrap a new one from the table. If your gift is "stolen" you get to pick another one, from the table, or from another person's open gift. The next person can "steal" from any of the people with gifts already opened, or open a new one. A gift that changes hands twice is deemed safe and can't be taken again. So there is some strategy, a lot of laughter, and occasionally you end up with something you really like as your gift.

What's funny to me are the unwritten rules of the game. For instance, you don't pick your own gift from the table, or steal it when its your turn. Even if no one knows you bought it, you don't pick it. And while "stealing" from each other is part of the game, and encouraged, you have to do it a certain way. There can't be anything personal to it, and it has to be good-natured. So how do the rules get communicated? We all know them, but how do new staff learn them?

It's like knowing what's a "good" gift for the table. You can tell gifts bought by new staff, because they don't fit in. So how do we all know that votive candle holders are good, but ear muffs are not? That a bottle of fancy booze with a nice glass in a gift box is perfect, but a case of beer would not be.

We also have secret santa for a week. If you play, you draw a name, and buy that person a tiny gift a day for 5 days, and then a $20 gift to deliver at the breakfast. You have to keep it secret, and if you know someone's secret, you can't tell. And you are supposed to leave a note on your mailbox, thanking your secret santa (even if you didn't like the gifts)... and you should try to make sure your person can't guess you. And you should try to find out what they like, and personalize the gifts...

It's office lore, and office ritual. And we all learn it somehow, and participate in it, and reinforce it. ? Is it because the office is almost all women? do offices full of men have the same kind of thing? Are we more of a group because we share this stuff?

Monday, December 15, 2008


I would like to see us, as a people, stop using legalese. Why do we say "arguably" before we say something is the best, or the worst? Why is every criminal "alleged" even if they were caught red-handed? Why do I need a disclaimer on my pop-tart?

The fear of being sued is everywhere. It is why kids don't play dodge ball in school. It is why we say "Happy Holidays" instead of "merry christmas". I have to sign waivers so my child can go on field trips. It is why I can no longer give a real job reference; I can verify dates of employment and salary, but cannot say the employee was wonderful, or is somebody I wouldn't hire again under any circumstances.

I receive 50 or 60 emails a day with a disclaimer at the bottom, saying the person's opinions are their own. Who else's would they be??

How did we get to this point? and how do we make it stop??

Friday, December 12, 2008

end of year, out of steam

It's that time of year again. I ran out of steam before I ran out of days. Burned out. Rudderless. Unable to summon up the mental energy to tackle anything really substantial.

Today I couldn't remember who created the Chthulhu mythos. HP LOVECRAFT for gods sakes. I couldn't remember Lovecraft. I let the dog out and forgot he was out there. He didn't mind, but still... I forgot like six different things today. I made pancakes for dinner. Whole Wheat pancakes. Which my family doesn't like, but I forgot that part.

I am so glad the holidays are coming and I can get a few days of non-work. Not really rest, because you know how the holidays are. It's fun, but busy.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

a good thing

WRNR, alternative radio out of Annapolis, is organizing its music library. So for as long as it takes, starting December 1st, they are playing the entire library in alphabetical order by song title. This is the most awesome treat! The sheer oddity and musical whiplash is wonderful enough, but to hear music you had forgotten and loved, or had never heard and wish you had, is just sweet. This morning we heard Mexicali Blues,by Bob Weir, followed by Mexican Radio, by Wall of Voodoo. How great is that?

There have been bizarre clunkers, but all in all, this has been delightful. I wish I could listen to radio all day long. Unfortunately we have a strict no-streaming policy at the office, and are in a radio-dead zone. No reception and no way around it.

It does make the drive time sweeter.

Monday, December 08, 2008

now that's hitting below the belt

I could handle the concept of the US having only the big-two automakers. I could handle the idea that some stockbrokers were out of work. I could handle the idea of bailing out banks.

BUT this -- this is hitting below the belt! Archway Cookies went belly up. I cannot believe how personally I am taking this. No one bailed out Archway. I *loved* those cookies. The apple filled ones, especially.

and no, I am not joking. The idea of a world without Archway hits me much more deeply than a world without GM or AIG....

Friday, December 05, 2008

silver lining moments

A few silver lining moments in a tough stretch:

mortgate rates are dropping, so we will be able to re-finance and save some money

we bought GM stock at $3.50 a share, and it's worth more than that, even if they go belly up

our families understand when we say we are cutting back this Christmas

prices are dropping on all kinds of things we do buy

The Palin campaign spent EVEN MORE money than they admitted to earlier on clothes, hair and make-up for Sarah

Thursday, December 04, 2008

school daze

We are in one of those periods where the scales are all tipped toward school. I have a term-paper due on Monday. 15-18 pages on Chretien de Troyes' Erec et Enide. I should make the deadline, but I won't really know until Monday.

This Monday, our son had a shadow day at Towson Catholic. The kids were nice, the staff was nice, but the school really wasn't for him. He felt his current school was much better and academically stronger. He wanted to apply to another local school, Friends School. So I contacted them, and they do have openings for 10th grade in the fall. But we would have to jump into application mode quickly. So, we did the online application, signed him up to take the ISEE exams in January, and got our transcript and reference request to his current school.

In the meantime, we had to apply for financial aid for the fall for the current school, in case he doesn't get into Friends. So more paperwork, all with time deadlines. W-2s for last year, last year's taxes, online stuff. Ugh!

Then we got a notice that parent-teacher conferences are next week. So I ended up with an appt for Monday afternoon. So I will have to leave work, attend the conference, go pick up the dog, go home and eat, and rush off to my last class of the semester.


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

back to it

I am back to work today, after a really nice stretch of 5 days off. It is always hard to adjust to being back in work mode after a break. I had tons of email waiting to be answered, phone messages, an assistant who called in sick (and really is sick, so maybe no help tomorrow either), and just a ton of STUFF to deal with. What I wanted was to be needed, but in a less obvious way.