But the lightbulb has to want to change…

In the midst of a holiday weekend adventure, i’m out of town with a couple of friends.  Studley McRocklegs – not only an accomplished cyclist, but an ace pilot as well – flew us to the Carolina woods to spend the weekend with an old friend of mine, the brilliant and delicious Professor AB.

Having gotten her PhD in Engineering from a top-notch school by the time she was 25 years old, AB is a rock star in our profession.  While out and about farting around this morning, we attended a large outdoor charity fundraiser.  Mid-way through the morning, Professor noted that i had been working the crowd.  Commenting on this or that, asking them questions about stuff, and generally mixing it up with the random collection of strangers we encountered.

Back in the car, headed out for more farting around, we discussed the differences.

Professor AB:  I just don’t like people, until they give me a reason to.  You seem to really like everyone.

daisyfae:  Until they give me a reason not to like them, yeah, i kinda do…

Studley:  I’m an introvert, but I work at being extroverted, because I kinda like people.  And it helps if you are trying to get laid to be able to talk to people you don’t know.

Pic found here.  And by the way, solid state lighting is a bit of technological magic… compact fluorescents?  Well intentioned, but a little toxic…

* We are Ambassadors of Farting Around.  Flying out-of-town, on short notice, to hang out with a friend and teach her the art of farting around.  Which replaced her plan to teach herself the more esoteric details of Mathematica this holiday weekend….

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Trailer Park: Catching up

It’s my thought avoidance mechanism habit to stay pretty busy.  Lately, with a stream of business trips, home improvement projects, summer holiday planning – oh, and a lot of drinkin’ and whorin’ entertainment – it’s been even worse than usual.  i’ve been delinquent in a couple of updates regarding my trailer park people…
 
Hurricane T:  My sister, T, and her partner, TK, have come through the meltdown.  T has found stability, accepted the “new normal”, and is looking forward to finishing the renovation of their new home – despite the necessary move into a small condo until it’s completed. 
 
Moving day was particularly stressful, and i was pricing tickets in case TK needed on-scene support – TK hadn’t asked directly, and i hadn’t offered. Just being prepared.  i finally realized it’s not my game.  If they are to have a long and happy life together, they need to learn how to do this.  In the end?  Their relationship is about as strong as any i’ve ever known.  Made stronger by this experience, no doubt.
 
The turning point for my sister?  T continued to rage about TK screwing her over, about TK caring more about the boat and the new house than anything else.  Ranting that she’d been forced to sell her beloved home against her will, claiming “homeless” status.  While laying all this on her therapist, the therapist simply asked “If your home was on fire, and TK was on fire, which would you put out first?” 
 
Apparently this was answered with silence – the first silence T had managed for weeks.  And it was pretty much over.  Just like that.
 
The Trailer Park:  While inhaling fine California wines during a business trip out west a couple of weeks ago, i got a text from my niece, DQ.  “Next month marks the 2 year anniversary of Granny being in my living room.  I wanted to let you know that today I moved DQ, III out of her bedroom, and I’m moving Granny into her own room.  BJ is still making progress next door, but I just needed to make some changes until we’re ready to move”.
 
i about fell off my stool.
 
Since Mom moved in, i’ve been aggravated that the 3-year-old and 15-year-old each had their own bedrooms, while Mom stayed on display like a crotchety zoo animal in the middle of the living room. 
 
Every time i’d ask Mom if she wanted me to bring it up?  She’d say “I don’t want any trouble.  Besides, the only motivation they have to finish the work on my house is that I’m in their living room.  If they pack me off to a back bedroom, they can just forget about me and let me rot…”
 
My mother.  Pure genius.  She has been orchestrating a Trailer Park Mexican Standoff.  Who am i to intervene?
 
The first time i talked to Mom after the move, i asked how she liked it.  “It’s cold.”  i suggested that perhaps blankets would help, and asked if she enjoyed having a little privacy.  “Well, I can at least hear the TV…”
 
So it goes…


 brilliant pic found here

The Sad Tale of Lasagna Boy

Last Thursday and Friday, i hosted a meeting.  Continuous presentations, for an audience composed primarily of scientists and engineers.  Most of these folks are “knowns”, but we’d opened up the meeting to a broader audience, and as a result, there were a few folks there i’d not met before.

Logistics for these events can be a bit tough.  You need to feed people, but underwriting the cost of breakfast, lunch, and snacks for over fifty people is not something i choose to do.  So we have people do a “pay-as-you-eat” thing.  We charged $15/day for attendees, providing continental breakfast, buffet lunch and afternoon snacks. 

Reasonable.  Especially when you consider that most folks attending are being paid a travel stipend for food which is substantially higher than that.

Amongst the attendees was an “unknown”.  i watched him, trying to figure out his affiliation.  Finally determined that he was from our western office.  Oddly, not sitting with the other three guys attending from the same shop.  Hmmm.  i also noticed him disappear at lunch Thursday.  He returned after we re-started meetings with a full roast chicken, bag of carrot sticks, and a few packs of cheese crackers.

This meant he’d chosen not to pay for the meal.  No worries.  Perhaps food allergies, issues with diet, and not wanting to leave it to chance.

We wrapped things up a little early on Friday, and i worked with my junior engineers to clean things up so we could call it a week.  Tons of food left over, we decided to haul it up to the break room, and send out an e-mail saying “FREE FOOD”.  This generally causes a stampede, but incurs the goodwill of the troops.

During my meeting wrap-up, i mentioned the massive piles of leftover cookies – suggesting folks take some home, or take them to the airport for sustenance.  The unknown gent had taken me up on the offer, and loaded a napkin with cookies.  Even though this guy hadn’t paid, it wasn’t a big deal to send him on his way with some cookies.

We were packing things up and he asked “What about the lasagna?”, eyeing the full pan of vegetarian lasagna left over from lunch. 

daisyfae:  Ummm… sure, i guess you can grab a plate for the road.

My junior folks and i were very busy at this point, packing up coolers, throwing out trash, clearing the giant coffee urns.  But i noticed this guy grab the entire tray and head for the door…

daisyfae:  Excuse me, but i thought you were going to take a plate.  Not the full pan.

He explained that there were no plates.  i pointed out the plates, suggested he fill one, and went back to breaking down empty soda boxes.  Unable to find something to scoop the lasagna, he tapped me on the shoulder as i was stuffing cardboard into a trashcan.  “Do you have a spoon or something?”

daisyfae [with increasing annoyance]: Look, just use one of the other plates!  We’re trying to get this area cleared so we can get out of here…

Lasagna Boy filled a small plastic plate.  We were hauling stuff from the table to a cart, schlepping coolers, dragging unused bags of ice outside, and generally ignored him.  Seeing that the rest of the lasagna on the cart, i asked my junior folks if they need any more help – and they assured me they had it.

i headed to the elevator, but Lasagna Boy was not quite done with me, and asked about the garlic bread.  i glare at him and say “It’s already been packed up!  Have a nice weekend!” and headed to my office.

Catching my breath for the first time in two days at my desk, i cleared a couple e-mails, accept my meeting request from my new Div Chief (4:00pm on a Friday?  suckmydick, fella).  Nagging thoughts popped into my brain – “that asshole is still down there, bugging my folks for free food…”.  So i headed to the lobby one more time…

Yep.  He was still there.  Annoying the visitor control people, he asked about getting access to our IT department for some piece of hardware needed for the weekend.  They were not amused, but trapped.  My folks were done packing, and hauling the carts to the elevator.

i went back upstairs.  A few minutes later, i hear my young ‘un, AE, outside my office.  Poking my head out, i ask “Is the free-loader gone?”

AE:  We came up, but he cornered JT in the lobby, asking her about borrowing computer parts for the weekend.  And he was talking to her, while taking bites of lasagna directly from the plate!  He’s really weird…

JT is my boss.  And she is a saint.  And i knew she was trapped.  Another run to the lobby to rescue her was in order.

Arriving at the front desk, i asked “Hey, has that freaky lasagna dude left?”  The attendant said “Yep.  He just left with JT.  I think she was taking him to the computer support desk.”

They proceeded to tell me all of the obnoxious things he’d been doing to them for the past two days.  A lengthy tale that ended with “I never knew how loud someone could chew gum!” 

We saw JT and Lasagna Boy coming across the lawn to the front doors.  i looked at the clock and said “Watch this!  i’m going to extract her, and ditch him…”  Racing out to the doors i said urgently “JT!  We’ve got to move!  DivChief has moved the 4:00 meeting to 3:30.” as i shepherded her inside. 

The guys at the desk laughed out loud, smiled and gave me “thumbs up” as we walked by, leaving Lasagna Boy standing outside.  JT, however, was a bit confused “Huh?  What the hell is DivChief’s problem now?”  Explained it all to her in the elevator.

JT:  I tell you what, I don’t know what they’re feeding those boys out in the Western office, but I think we need to send ’em some cash.  What a freak…

image from here.  and no, i haven’t seen it.  would only stress me out…

Rick Rolling* – Geek Style

Another travel week.  A group of eight “friendlies” at my business conference had congealed on my hotel patio Monday evening for bourbon, beer and bullshit. 

It was a mixed crew – people i’ve encountered in various working venues.  A few known “fun” folks, and one relative unknown – call sign Sven since he was born in Sweden… a very bright, appropriately snarky engineer from my old organization.

This kind of impromptu party doesn’t always work, and since i really didn’t know Sven, i was taking moderate social risk of offending him, or annoying the “known” collective. 

We sat and talked smack.  We commiserated about the annoyance of this particular annual “group grope” event – an apparently necessary evil we must all endure, and make the best of…  We started telling tales of the ridiculous, stupid people tricks and, of course, drunken debauchery from prior travels.

Alcohol may have been a factor.

JG shared a story from his days as a young military officer – attempting to look sharp in his uniform, he wore his sock garters through the airport metal detector, setting off a body search that scarred him for life. 

After being accused of being a cougar, i defended myself, saying “i don’t date younger men, since they still have dreams and want to “do” something with their lives!  Who cares about your dreams, kid?  Shut up, and put the ball gag back on…”

KT, while heading inside to the bathroom, managed to walk into a screen door – which led to endless abuse about how much wine she really had that evening. 

We continued our rants and tales, and Sven was hanging tough.  He seemed to be enjoying himself, and was pretty relaxed.  He was the first to leave, however, as he had to give a presentation in the morning. 

As he was saying his goodbyes, i challenged him – “I’ll buy you dinner if you can work the words ‘screen door’, ‘sock garters’ and ‘ball gag’ into your briefing tomorrow!  OK, ‘ball gag’ might be tough, so just the words ‘ball’ and ‘gag’ will suffice.  But you’ll get bonus points if you can keep them adjacent – a really nice meal!”

Looking a bit shell-shocked, he thanked us for a lovely evening and went off across the lawn to his room.  We weren’t sure if he took it seriously, but all agreed that he seemed to have a good time. 

His was the third presentation this morning.  Somewhere at the beginning he said something about “…follow the bouncing ball…” as he played the laser pointer across the screen, showing a process chart.  It was there, but we still weren’t sure he was playing.

The group of us from the night before were scattered across the meeting room, and generally not paying much attention, until we heard Sven say “….now, try not to gag on this process chart.”  We perked up.  Exchanged looks across the room.  It was on.  He was definitely playing…

The next two would be tough.  “We hope to make these old technologies as obsolete as sock garters.”  Nice.  Subtle.  Direct.

As he wrapped up his presentation, he said “That would be like walking head first into a screen door” – bonus for directly ragging on KT for her misfire from the previous evening .  

Since we were back on the patio Tuesday evening, we had to lay out new challenges for Wednesday presentations.  GS got “weasel”, KT got “bondage” and LD got “domination”.  And because i hate the word “moist” that was a bonus word for anyone.

GS stated up front he was going to “weasel out” of presenting one of the compulsory charts.  KT talked about “bondage” required to hold materials together, tossed in a “domination” and a “weasel” for good measure.  But LD was the overall champ.

Not only did she nail “bondage”, “domination”, and “weasel”, she closed her presentation with “And my eyes get a little moist when I think about this being my last meeting”.  The piece de resistance, however was when she looked at the Senior Dinosaur, in charge of the event, and said “Bob, I never want to let you down…”. 

Yes.  She got in the lyrics* If you dont’ know what “Rick Rolled” is, there’s a good description here.  It’s pretty much a dead internet meme, though, having peaked a few years back.  This, however, makes it even more annoying when you do it to someone.  My most favorite one – the Oregon state congress, in a bi-partisan show of collaboration – managed to Rick Roll during a legislative session.  Video highlights here.  Magic.

Pavlov’s Bedroom

The Boy was home for Mother’s Day.  It’s been about a month or more since he’s made the trek, as he’s been swamped with school and work.  He hadn’t seen the new furniture, and some of the changes i’ve made since his last trip home.

Giving him a tour of my bedroom, i proudly pointed out my monument to sloth, the coffee bar, just a few steps from my bed.  i awaken, start a cup, take a leak, and return to fresh brewed coffee.  Because i am very lazy.

The Boy:  This place looks like a hotel room, right down to the fake plant sticks in the vase behind the coffee maker…

It hadn’t hit me until that moment — but he’s absolutely right.  For the past couple years, as i’ve built my ideal “bubble”, it has evolved into a hotel room.

Five years ago, i upgraded my mattress and springs.  What did i buy?  The exact set that i’d fallen in love with a few years prior – replicating The Westin Heavenly Bed.   The first time i encountered this fluffy cloud of ecstasy, i was hooked.  Had to have it.  i had never had such a perfect night’s sleep.  i didn’t buy it from the website, mind you, just did some research and replicated it.  And i still love it.

At the time i bought it, i was sleeping with a brown dog – and have since added an orange cat – and i couldn’t go so far as to get all those frou-frou white linens, but i have the fluffy feather pillows and goose down comforter, with the high thread count sheets.  In shades that sort-of kinda almost mask the critter fur.

It’s a hotel bed.

The Ikea dresser and end tables?  Black.  Squared off.  Glass tops.  Simple.  It’s hotel furniture.

My leather comfy chair?  Would look at home in any Hilton room.  Just needs a room service tray on the footstool.

Talking with friends while on the road this week, i was reminded of the old George Carlin schtick on “Stuff”.  How we like it around us.  Even when we travel, we bring our “Stuff” so we feel at home.  Also how the hotel chains are further encouraging brand loyalty by keeping all rooms fairly similar in style, furnishings and layout – because we feel comfortable in familiar surroundings.

Reckon with all my time on the road these past few years, i’m working it backwards.  i made my “Stuff” look like the road.

“You had a choice”

As is tradition, i got quite a Mother’s Day card this year.  They always come up with something a bit off beat.  Since The Girl is still in London, it was all on The Boy to create one this year.  As he presented it to me, with a lovely bottle of 12-year old single malt scotch, he expressed some concern.

The Boy:  Usually The Girl is my ‘checks and balances’, making sure it’s not too far over the top.  I really wasn’t sure if this one was.  I was a little toasty when I did it.  Hope you’re not mad…

On the inside:

Here’s the text, in  case you can’t read this:

Dear Mom,

I feel like now is an appropriate time to thank you for a number of things that have previously been left unsaid.  One: Thank you for giving the UPS driver a second chance.*  Two: thanks for not taking the easy way out (i.e. back alley abortion, leaving me in a hot car with the windows rolled up, or the more obvious throwing me in a dumpster.  Tres:  That’s three in Spanish!  Four: Thanks for tricking “Dad” into raising two illegitimate “kids”.  You both have been great “parents”.

Love,

The Boy

Nope.  Just the right amount of “over-the-top”.  As in “WAAAAAAY!”  But that’s how us three crazy bastards roll.

We had a grand day out.  He fixed me an omelette for breakfast, scavenged from the few remaining items in the fridge and pantry.  Then it was off to a parking lot carnival – which happens every year.  Seemed a lot smaller this year, so i beat him at a quasi-skilled game, and we headed out for Bad Juan margaritas.  Stopped at the driving range first, and bashed a bucket of balls on the way there.

A very good day.  He’s doing great.  i’m one happy mother.  i had a choice.  Indeed.

~~~~~~~~~~~

* Long running family joke, started by his Dad, is that The Boy was the product of frequent visits from the UPS driver.  You see, after The Girl was born, i grew to absolutely detest going shopping, and discovered internet shopping, free shipping, and spending the day in my underwear.  There were always packages arriving, if you know what i mean…

Re-tales

Local Market:  Went with my market buddy, Studly McRocklegs, for brunch and adventure.  Wandered the stalls, looking for fresh veggies, oogling luscious lemon cake made by “Mom”, and settled in for a shared savory crepe.  Practiced bad French across the counter with Mme. Grand, who manages the creperie.  We watched people as we bashed a delicious fresh crepe loaded with bleu cheese, black forest ham and spinach. 

We made our way to The Cheese Lady.  She is the purveyor of artisan cheese, and i was hankering for her soft and sharp aged cheese to toss onto my fresh asparagus.  There was a line, which is not unusual on a Saturday morning.  i got my cheese* and we headed to the car – today, skipping The Pasta Lesbians and Chef Ron’s Bakery.  Onward to the next stop…

The Warehouse Club:  My dog weighs 100 pounds.  The cat has grown to be about a quarter that size.  i buy chow in bulk.  Never mind kitty litter and 40 pound bags of salt for the water softener. i dread going on Saturday morning, as they have the Food Product Sample People** causing traffic jams.  There are people who eat an entire meal by wandering slowly from one sample stand to the next…  blocking aisles with their giant asses and carts. 

Today?  It wasn’t bad.  i still got aggravated, and jumpy, and my dinosaur brain reminded me that i hate shopping because it kinda makes me a little stabby, so we finished up and headed out quickly.  Dropped Studley at his place… and went home to unload the metric ton of crap weighing down my Honda.  From there…

The Mega-Mondo-Garden Center:  Well, technically, i can’t count this as a retail experience.  i drove by it.  Today is the first non-monsoon Saturday of the season – the place was a madhouse.  i decided to try my luck buying annuals at the K-Mart down the street.  They’re just plants that are going to die in a few months.  i don’t think quality matters all that much….

K-Mart:  Petunias, mums and marigolds.  Some cheap potting soil.  A few other punky looking spiked foliage thingies for the containers on my front porch…  The outside garden area was pleasant.  Prices were good.  The hanging baskets looked pretty mangy, though, so i decided to pick one up at the Mondo-Mega-Garden center on the way back.   Inside to the registers to check out…

Zoicks!  There were large lines of large people at the two open registers.  So i waited.  And forgot that i needed to buy a new garden hose.  Waited some more.  And forgot that i needed to buy some long planters for my basil.  And i waited.  Patiently.  The clerks seemed to be moving in slow motion.  Eventually, i escaped the checkout and drove toward home, to see if the Mega-Mondo-Garden Center was less packed…

Mega-Mondo-Garden Center:  Nope.  A zoo.  i’m sure the hanging baskets are lovely.  i’ll probably never see them myself.  i decided to continue on to the teeny little garden center down the street from me, where the prices are generally high, and i have no idea how they stay in business…

The Garden Lady:  There were no other cars in the lot as i pulled in.  The hanging baskets were spectacular, and the owner was wandering around with a hose, wetting them down.  “i am looking for a basket that likes sun, and has red and yellow flowers.  i have these ugly rose bushes amongst my landscaping that force me to stick with the reds…”  She takes me to exactly what i am looking for.  It’s perfect.

We get to yakking about other varieties that might work.  She has suggestions for my containers, too.  We wander inside, talking about my beloved hibiscus, which i have not yet killed.  An older gent walks in as she’s ringing me up, and she asks what he’s looking for.  “Something to kill tent worms”.  She replies “Are you organic?”  He looked a bit confused – so i said “You just wanna kill ’em, don’t you?”  He laughed and nodded his head.  They both laughed when i suggested a flame thrower.

As we were having that conversation, a leather-encrusted biker dude arrived.  He waited for a break in the conversation, then asked “Excuse me, but can you help me find an address?”  We learned that his brother-in-law is getting married, and is really awful at giving directions, and even though he used to live up this way, he moved south about fifteen years ago… and that it all looks different now. 

Between Garden Lady, Older Gent and i, we got him pointed in the right direction.

Heading back to my car, i was surprised to see about a half-dozen cars now in the lot, along with a nice Harley, and a few people wandering around amongst the plants.  As i loaded my plants into the back seat, the Biker brought over his handwritten directions, and i was able to give him specific landmarks so he could navigate to the wedding without trouble.

It’s not that i don’t like shopping.  i’m pretty sure i just don’t like crowds of stupid people.  Pick the little guy whenever you can…  and be sure to fart around while you’re out there. 

both photos found here

* not a euphemism.

** i don’t know what to call the people who hand out free samples of hot food or cold stuff in the little paper cups in the grocery store.  other than annoying…

Unloading inventory

During a long weekend visit with me last year, Mom brought a list of the items she keeps in her two safe deposit boxes. She asked me to type them up for better record keeping. Amongst the items were 649 half-dollar coins, dating from 1966 to 1979. 

As we sat in the living room, and i typed away on the laptop, she proceeded to tell me how much those Kennedy half-dollars could be worth.

daisyfae: Well, hell, i can look up estimated values for them. Let’s see what they’re going for!

Much to her disappointment, they are barely worth more than face value. Quick surf showed that the only ones NOT going for face value were the ’66-’69 coins, getting maybe $3 each.  Total estimate?  About $525 for the lot.  This reminded me of my adventures in selling her Avon collection a couple of years before…

During an early round of excavations at her home, we unearthed a monstrous amount of Avon items. Boxes in closets, under beds, stashed in rodent-chewed boxes in the outdoor shed. Most of the boxes were unopened, in the original packaging. During the 70’s and 80’s, Mom had an Avon dealer who had convinced her that “These things are going to be worth a lot of money someday”.

In order to get Mom to turn this stuff loose, i offered to document her collection in a spreadsheet, then do some research to find out what the items were worth. Even figure out where to sell them. In the end, i carted about 20 good-sized boxes of this crap back to my home.

Purchasing “The Avon Collectors Bible”, i set to work identifying each item, estimating the condition, and tallying up the results.

This. Took. Months. 

Many. Fucking. Months.

At the end of a tedious slog through smelly stacks of mildew-encrusted boxes, my spreadsheet estimated the value to be about $1,800. For the period of time i was immersed in this shit – i was an expert on the alleged value for a variety of glassware and decorative items that are essentially very, very ugly.

It was a nicely organized spreadsheet. i set about advertising the collection. Various bulletin boards, Avon collectible websites, as well as a cursory look at eBay….

Nope. Nothing. Not even a nibble. The mice in the shed had demonstrated far more interest in this crap.

It turns out the United States of America is awash in Avon collectibles. Middle-aged children of packrat mothers who bought the lie of the product pushers are all trying to unload truckloads of this shit. This junk was sold to housewives who had no other prospects for retirement income. They believed it was going to give them a nice nest egg for their golden years.

A nice nest for mouse turds, is more like it…

Keeping Mom apprised of the status of my efforts, she was frustrated with my lack of success. She believed they had value. She would not accept that thousands of my father’s hard-earned dollars had been wasted on kitschy glass bottles full of shitty cologne.

When i had the garage sale, i made my last attempt at moving some of them for cash. The Collectors Plates, which Mom had purchased for $25-$35 back in the 1970’s were allegedly worth $30-$40 each. And she had 30 of them….

Trying one last time, i couldn’t even unload the blasted things for $1 each. It all went to Goodwill for recycling. i lied to my Mom, however, telling her i found a buyer. Wrote her a check for $500. From my own bank account.

Mom: That’s all? It was worth a lot more than that. Can’t believe you couldn’t get more for all that…

Pretty sure i’m not going to offer to unload all of those half-dollar coins for her…