Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lies Our Parents Tell Us

I just finished reading an article entitled "The Truth is that Parents Lie: Fibs are used as tool to manipulate children."

Ya think?

The article sites a study done by psychologists from the University of California San Diego, and discusses two types of "white lies"--lies that aren't intended to hurt.

The first type is the Santa Claus-variety, which I never had a problem with...I don't remember a time when I was too young to think about the impossibility of one man flying around the world in one night, even after you eliminate all non-Christians. I also grew up in a house with a chimney. I knew I'd have a hard time fitting inside, so it was always out of the question that a fat man could. Besides, we'd be more than willing to let him in the front door. Fortunately for me, I was never exposed to the trauma of "finding out" Santa didn't exist.

Additionally, in my house, we would perpetuate other Santa-related tales. Once, when I was in high school, a young neighbor came over and saw that we already had presents under our tree. He immediately thought that maybe he and his brothers and sisters had been bad that year and Santa had already skipped over them. My mother kindly told the boy that Santa called her up and asked if he could stop by early because he was so busy on Christmas Eve, and he knew that my sister and I were well enough behaved to leave the presents alone for a few days. The young boy felt better and even conceded that his family would just tear into the gifts if they came early. If this boy even remembers this event, I doubt he looks back and thinks my mother lied to him, as much as she found a nice way to reassure him that he was loved and would get some gifts on Christmas morning.

Finally, I should disclose that Harry Potter probably falls somewhere under the Santa Claus-variety lie. I insist that he's real, and my husband insists that he's a brilliant work of fiction. I insist that he saved us all from Voldemort. At this point, my husband will just laugh and pat me on the head. It's a good thing I married a man with a sense of humor!

The second type of lie discussed by the article is the common get-your-kids-to-behave-lie. We were told that if we ate our vegetables, our hair would grow in curly (apparently "big and strong" isn't a good reason to eat veggies if you're a girl). I know some kids who were told things like if they weren't in bed on time the bed bugs would come out and nibble on their toes. I remember some kid at school telling me that the sandman came by every night and put a grain of sand in our eye, and in the morning that's why we had those eye-bugger things. THIS horrified me. I had spent enough time at the beach as a kid to know that I did NOT want sand in my eye. My mother told me it was just a song, and then said, "How would he get in, anyway?" Apparently this was enough to appease me.

Kids, in my experience (and for the record, I don't have any of my own), have pretty creative imaginations. There's always two ways you can explain something to someone: the way that makes sense to you, or the way that makes sense to them. Parents who come up with creative stories to get their kids to behave have simply come up with something that makes sense to kids. I don't think there's much harm in that.

The harm, in my opinion, comes from the other lies our parents tell us. The ones that the article, conveniently, I might add, didn't address. You know exactly what I'm talking about: the if-you-work-hard-and-do-well-in-school-you-will-be-happy type. A number of my friends and I have discussed how much this type of lie has hurt us. And how guilty it's made us feel. And how bad about ourselves we've felt. And what we've done to handle it/get over it/move on with our lives.

I remember Amy Tan once saying something along the lines that she really started writing because therapy wasn't working for her. (If you read "The Opposite of Fate," you'll learn that she had some pretty traumatic experiences in her life). I also remember listening to an NPR interview with another female author, who's name escapes me at the moment, who, when asked what her family felt about her writing about them in such detail said that if her family didn't want her to write about them, then they shouldn't have treated her the way they did. The comments of both of these women resonated with me.

I am all for, 100% behind finishing high school, going to college, or getting some other sort of training. I cannot figure out what people who, say, work in video stores, live on. How do they manage? At the same time, I guarantee that being smart, hard-working, and college-educated is not a recipe for happiness. It is, however, a good recipe for being employable, which, at least for me, is a step towards happiness. And I LOVE working. Not all the time, and not every day, but on the whole, I would drive myself batty if I didn't work.

A good friend from college said once told me that if she went too long without doing something creative/artsy, that she stopped feeling like herself and started being miserable. Even if everything else in her live was going reasonably well. This, too, makes sense to me.

What makes me happy? Baking cookies...baking pies...baking in general, laughing with friends, and watching goofy movies, to name a few. But nothing makes me feel more like myself that spending some time with a good book. I hope that everyone who's ever been miserable trying to figure out why they weren't happy with their "good" job and "nice" things, or whatever their lie is, is able to work through their pain and figure out what makes them happy. Life really is much better this way.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Better Vision through Dental?

I'm not sure if everyone's heard of this tooth-in-eye procedure, or if it only caught my attention because of it's freaky-weird nature. Sharron Thornton, who was blind for nearly a decade, now has 20/70 vision because of this procedure, called osteo-odonto-keratoprosthesis, which has actually been around for decades.

I tried to do some research on this procedure, which involves a lot of steps, including building a tooth-lens combination, and having it implanted in the shoulder for it to heal, before it can be put in the eye.

I also tried to do some research on Benedetto Strampelli, the Italian doctor who came up with the procedure in the 1960s, but I couldn't even find a wikipedia article on him.

I am not a doctor; I am not even a scientist, but what I really want to know is, why use a tooth? I mean, then don't they have to replace the tooth (ok, I realize the technology to do this has been around forever), but why can't part of your hip bone, for instance, be used?

Don't get me wrong! I'm very glad this tooth-in-eye process has been successful for Ms. Thornton. I've been wearing bifocals since I was 22, so while I would never say that my situation is as extreme as hers was, I completely understand how detrimental losing one's vision can be. I'm all in favor of all procedures that improve vision. I just don't understand the tooth bit. How does one go about thinking up that? If anyone knows, or has any ideas about it, please let me know!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

It's the Economy, Stupid!

Here's something fun I discovered while I was trying to get organized about this posting: magazines don't publish the articles they've recently published in their actual, physical, magazines on their website. Or, if they do, they hide them too well for me to find. I receive an actual subscription to Fortune magazine (full disclosure: it's a free subscription that I received when I joined the business school honor society, Beta Gamma Sigma...I am a total dork). I'm a little behind on my magazine readings (in case you hadn't noticed, I've been a little busy buying a house and attending a bagillion weddings this summer). In any case, I just finished reading the May 25, 2009 Fortune magazine. Stanley Bing wrote an article called "Lessons We'll Forget: The economy has made us sadder, for sure. But wiser?" Basically, it's an article that pokes fun at some of our current economic problems, because hello?, we've seen them all before, but we all apparently get too high off the economy when it's doing really, really well to remember how much the hangover at the other end of the cycle sucks.

I generally consider myself a realist more than a pessimist or an optimist. I totally believe in capitalism, not because it's a perfect economic state, but because it's the best we've come up with so far. I also think that Newton was on to something with his whole apple scenario, and that ultimately, we're all moving towards entropy (and that the increasingly obese American is probably moving there faster than the rest of the world, but that probably deserves its own rant). So what does this have to do with the economy and Stanley Bing? Everything!

Here are the main points of Mr. Bing's article:
  1. Economics is a bunch of bushwa.
  2. Wherever there's money around, there will be crooks.
  3. The law is a ass.
  4. In God we trust. All others pay cash.
  5. The rich are not like other people, i.e., you.
  6. The press is the running dog of the ruling class.
  7. Nothing lasts forever.
  8. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
  9. We just forgot all this stuff.

I'm not sure I agree with point 1; however, it is true that economists are behind the curve. The ones I've known actually admit it. They can't declare it a recession until something like three consecutive periods of negative growth, or some such formula. There are actually rules for declaring a recession, and it's not just as simple as my company just went under, or my home suddenly lost a lot of value. Maybe you're an idiot and you've been making VCRs while everyone else on the planet has moved into the 21st century, and maybe you bought a ridiculously overpriced dump of a house. Economics is a science, and sciences aren't perfect. I mean, most people get a vaccine and then don't get sick, but maybe you're that oddity who gets the shot and gets sick. It sucks, but it happens. Economists also make forecasts, presumably based on a whole bunch of data and trends and formulas, but forecasts, by their very nature, can't be 100% accurate.

Of course, where's there's money, there's crooks. And of course, a lot of times they are very intelligent people. Otherwise they'd just be pickpockets.

For the record, the "a" in point 3 is Mr. Bing's, not mine. Here's the deal: nobody wants to regulate the economy while it's growing. That's like making it to the championship and then not playing for fear of getting injured. And with the economy, generally, a rising tide lifts all boats. So nobody's losing on an upswing.

Mr. Bing follows up point 4 by saying "Every panic in history has been precipitated by the same stupid series of events." This actually suggests that the economists in point 1 should have been able to predict this recession, and they probably secretly did, but who wants to go around being all gloomy saying, yeah, yeah things are really good now, but watch out, we're gonna fall. Hard. And fast. Banks lend money. It's how they make money. Sooner or later they're going to lend some money that doesn't pay up. It's a gamble. Investing always is.

Here's the deal with point 5. It's a helluva lot easier to stay rich than to get rich. Earlier I said that I'm a fan of capitalism. Capitalism doesn't say that everyone will become rich. In fact, it doesn't say that anyone will become rich. Capitalism says that people will find the fairest price. Not the lowest price, but the fairest. I like Warren Buffett. I think he's a smart man who's made a lot of money in a thoughtful way (as in, I think he was thinking). Buffett's investment strategy is pretty simple, when you get down to it. He says find a company you like (here's a hint, if you can't figure out how they're making money, it's a bad one). Figure out what you think a fair price is for their stock. If it's currently selling for less than that, buy. If not, wait. It's that simple. So here's where my capitalism, Newton's law, and entropy all tie together. Eventually, I think, in capitalism, the price of a stock will be fair. Unfortunately, I think the time span may be longer than we want to wait. What goes up will come down, as in the case of overinflated housing prices. And eventually, everything will even out.

Point 6 is a little confusing, but it basically says the same thing Gladiator said: the heart of Rome is the mob. People like simple things. The economy is anything but simple. People also like drama. This is why there are so many "reality" TV shows. In this age of virtually limitless media, people hear/see/read one simple, dramatic thing about the economy and believe it for the 3.7 seconds it sits in their brain (am I being generous?) until the next media sound byte hits. And since reporters are losing their jobs, too, the amount of quality data, if there ever was any, is shrinking. Which means, we're all obligated to think harder, because the people who might actually understand what's going on and be able to explain it in layman's terms don't have that opportunity anymore.

Points 7 and 8 are more or less universal truths that I'm not going to go into.

And as far as point 9 goes, once we get through something, it's a whole lot easier to look at it through rose colored glasses and forget how bad it was at the time.

I'm not going to try to predict the end of the recession (I'm not an economist, for one). But things will get better. In the mean time, I do have a bit of financial/investment advise. First, I'm going to paraphrase Mr. Weasley, of Harry Potter fame. He told his kids to never trust anything that can think for itself if you can't see its brain (all in all, pretty sound advise, if you ask me). The same thing applies to investments. If you can't figure out how a company is going to make money, what they're selling, or who will want to buy it, don't invest! This isn't rocket science. For example, Coca-Cola makes...what?...drinks. Who buys drinks? Thirsty people, or basically everybody. Poof! We've just established that Coca-Cola is a company that could be considered for your investment portfolio (I'm not saying go out and buy it...I have no idea if it's fairly priced right now...I'm just saying, when it comes down to it, we can figure out their plan--this is a good step 1).

Second, and everyone says this, and no one seems to listen, but if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

And finally, if your gut is telling you not to buy something, listen to it! When all else fails, your stomach will tell you if things are ok or not.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

How to make a Banana Cream Pie

Last week, I made a banana cream pie for my boss's birthday. I really like to bake, but my husband and I would never fit into our pants if we were the only ones eating the goodies.

While I am not an expert, I have a few tips on how to make a good banana cream pie. First, you have to make it, as in bake the crust and make the cream--vanilla jello pudding will not suffice. And second, you have to stir. A LOT.

I use a Virginia-modified Joy of Cooking recipe. I love that cookbook. It has everything you could possibly ever need to cook in it. What it does not have are lists of ingredients at the beginning of the recipe or estimates on how long it will actually take to make the recipe. And I have no idea how long it takes me to make banana cream pie, so I can't help you out there.

When you make a banana cream pie, you bake the pie crust empty. The Joy of Cooking will tell you to prick the crust with a fork a bunch so that it doesn't puff up in the cooking. Mine usually puffs a bit anyway, but I suppose it would puff a lot more if I didn't prick, and besides, pricking is fun. That's all I'm going to say about that. Assuming you've baked your crust, here's what you need to do to make a good banana cream pie:

First, dump 2/3 a cup sugar, 1/4 a cup cornstarch, 1/4 a teaspoon salt, and 2 1/2 cups milk into a pot. You will read recipes that call for cream, or half-and-half, or whole milk. I usually buy the smallest container of cream or half-and-half that I can find and then just dump in whatever else we have in the house that's milky. The only think I wouldn't do is use 2 1/2 cups skim milk because that just doesn't have enough fat to make cream.

Heat this concoction over medium heat and whisk in 5 egg yolks. Make sure you whisk a lot--you want the egg yolks fully blended. Keep cooking this until it starts to thicken (Joy says simmer, but it's really too thick to simmer). What'll happen is, you'll stir and stir and stir and then all of a sudden it'll start to be thick and sort of lumpy, and it'll look an awful lot like vanilla pudding. At this point, take it off the heat, and stir the crap out of it.

This is the part of the recipe that gets silly, but I'd hate to ruin a cream pie by eliminating the next step, so I do it. If you're a more adventurous cook than I, feel free to skip this, because the next thing you do (after cooking it and then taking it off the heat and stirring the life out of it until it's nice and smooth) is put it back on the heat for one minute and continue to stir. Why? I don't know.

Then you take it back off the heat and dump in 2 tablespoons butter (I know this sounds gross, and like I said, I'm not adventurous, so I haven't tried eliminating this...let me know what happens if you do!) and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla (does anyone else find it weird that you're not supposed to cook vanilla on the stove, but it's totally ok to bake it in the oven?). Stir the butter and vanilla and then cover the bottom of the pie crust with this cream (if you taste it first and then eat the entire pot, well, I don't blame you. It is sooo gooood). Layer in some sliced bananas. Cover the bananas with more cream and then wrap the whole thing tightly in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. Ta da! You're done!

Suggested Serving: Three Cups

I recently finished reading "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. The difficult thing about this book, for me, is that I really don't think it was as well written as it could have been. Usually this alone would be reason enough for me to not recommend a book. However, I think the topic and content of the book are significant enough to stand on their own.

For those out there who aren't familiar with the story, the very short version is that it's about this American who tries to build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Obviously, it isn't as simple as that, but you really should read the book to find out more.

I have spent the better part of two years reading the blog of a dear friend who was living in Egypt. Many of the topics of her blog were similar to many of the challenges Mortenson faced in Pakistan. I therefore felt that I could vicariously relate to Mortenson's predicaments. However, the big difference was in the telling of the events. My friend was able to find humor is her situations, while Mortenson's story feels more like drudgery. For example, at one point, Mortenson is on a flight to Afghanistan. Seven of the eight Afghan commercial planes were bombed in the aftermath of 9/11, so on Mortenson's flight, the eight pilots took turns of about 15 minute increments so they could all log flying time. In my head, I'm imagining some sort of relay-race-cum-musical-chairs for turns in the pilot seat. It could really be quite amusing, especially with the appropriate music and a lot of gesticulating. However, the book basically says exactly what I said two sentences ago. I realize the book isn't supposed to be a comedy, but there were a number of situations that really could have been quite comedic and instead they were dully written. I'm not sure if that is a lack of skill on the part of the author, or if Mortenson really didn't find the same things funny as I did, and so they were not portrayed humorously in his retelling.

The next thing that bugged me about the book is that I am always surprised by the gall some people have! At the start of Mortenson's decision to build schools, he plans on building just one, and he figures he can do it for about $12,000. That's really not a lot of money to raise, and he writes 580 letters to various people, including senators, news anchors, and anyone else he can think of who might be interested in this project. He gets one response with a check for $100. While I admire that this doesn't deter him, I was a bit annoyed by how he treated this enormous rejection, as if everyone else were wrong and he was the only one who was right. On the one hand, I'm pretty sure that all successful nonprofits are driven by people who are absolutely convinced that their cause is the most important cause. This is part of the reason I've had so much trouble picking a cause to support: I haven't decided which one is the most important to me. On the other hand, it really pisses me off when organizations get mad that I don't want to donate to their issue. I actually had a phone call from some cancer organization where the woman said to me "Don't you care about helping children?" She actually said it as I was guilty of murdering babies by not giving to this organization. So, of course, I said, "no, I don't care," and hung up. It's not that I don't care, but I wasn't interested in being treated poorly by an organization asking for my money. Hello? It's my money and I worked hard for it. I'll do with it what I damn well please. For the record, I volunteer to tutor adults, I participated in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, I made a donation to help rebuild a local family's home, and I'm volunteering with my company to help relandscape a community organization in October. So it's not exactly like I'm a stingy miser.

On the positive side, I am mature enough to understand that my personal complaints really aren't a good reason to not read this book and pass on it's message.

Mortenson did finally get funding for his first school (and many subsequent schools), and he created an organization called the Central Asia Institute (CAI). This is the organization that handles the funds that enables Mortenson to continue to build schools in impoverished central Asia. Mortenson insists that his schools allow girls, as he believes educating girls is the secret to a peaceful society.

I took a class called "Peace through Commerce" as part of my MBA program, and one of the topics covered was microfinance. Without going into a lot of detail, microfinance is exactly what it sounds like--really small loans to people. For example, if you give a $15 loan to a cheese maker in a third world country, they can buy a special kind of thermometer and make better cheeses, which they can then sell at higher prices, and make more money, and improve the standard of living for their families. Microfinance organizations have found making loans to women, rather than men, to be more successful. Successful in two senses: women are more likely to pay back the loan, and women are more likely to use the extra income they earned as a result of whatever they did with the loan money to better the lives of their family, specifically their children, usually by sending them to school.

Additionally, it has been discovered that educating girls, specifically, to the fifth-grade level does all sorts of wonderful things for a society, including decreasing infant mortality, decreasing domestic abuse, decreasing violence, and creating a more productive society. Between what I know about microfinance and what I've learned about the importance of educating girls, I am really beginning to think that Mortenson might be on to something!

Here's where my personal irony comes in to play: after fifth grade, I HATED going to school. I COULD NOT think of a worse fate than having to go to school for the rest of my life (I realize that sounds rather melodramatic, but you're about 10 in fifth grade, and if you consider that you're about 22 when you graduate from college, those 12 years really do seem like the rest of your life when you're looking at it from the perspective of a 10-year-old). At the same time, I realized that I was way better off being a girl in America than I would have been in many other places in the world. And I did go to college, although I really, really didn't want to. It was easier for me to go to college and hate it for four years than to not go and have to spend the rest of my life explaining to people why I didn't go.

Those are two luxuries I think all girls should have: the luxury of having the option to HATE school, and the luxury of going to school being an easier choice than not going.

So while I won't say that Mortenson's cause is the most important one, or that "Three Cups of Tea" is the best book I've ever read, I will say that his cause is worth pondering and that his book is worth reading. All in all, I think that's fair praise.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Note from my Mother

My mother has been a faithful reader of my blog since day one. She's also had some trouble "commenting" on the blog. Ever resourceful, and ever interested in telling me what she thinks about everything, she dutifully emails me about every blog posting. While this is mildly annoying (my mother may insist that "mildly annoying" is an upgrade from when I was a teenager), there are a few positives:
  1. I know that at least someone cares what I think
  2. I'll be sure to know when I post something truly inappropriate, and I'll be able to take it down before the rest of the world (am I really an optimist?) sees it
  3. I'm sure I'll come up with a third eventually

Unfortunately, by not using the comments, the world is going to miss out on this English lesson (prior to retiring, my mother was a teacher and a librarian for a million years), as well as all of the other things my mother has to say (Mom! I'm giving you a global platform here!)

Regarding my post, Where to begin?, my mother offers this:

Virginia, I agree with you that when authors use italics I also often wonder what they are emphasizing. To add to your literary knowledge of italics I remember some standard usages of italics 1. as you stated to emphasize a words or passages 2. titles of books, magazines, or newspapers 3 names of ships, airplanes, that sort of stuff4 in referring to classifiers, like the g in align is silent. the g would be in italics, and I think the word align also 5. foreign words 6 latin names for medicines, plants, etc
That's all I can think of now. English lesson is over,,, get back to work Love Mom

Go for Gold!

In August, my company moved the corporate office out of what was essentially a warehouse with cubes to a beautiful, new, LEED Gold Certified building. I think most of the employees would have been happy with just the new building bit, but the certification is pretty cool, too.

I'm not exactly sure what all goes into making the building Gold, but here are some of the things that my company did:
  • the carpet is made up of panels, which is easier to replace than traditional carpeting
  • every employee received a plastic glass and mug, as there are no longer paper cups in the break rooms
  • the vending machines are Energy Star rated
  • the toilets are low-flow
  • the A/C is programed to only be on when people are actually in the building
  • the cubes are made of post-consumer waste of some sort
  • the offices are that really cool easy-to-disassemble-non-permanent wall stuff
  • there's a TON of natural light
  • there are way fewer printers
  • there are no plastic utensils, paper plates, etc. in the break rooms
  • there's a gym, and it's actually pretty decent
  • there are wellness rooms, where, I kid you not, we were told we were allowed to nap, as long as our nap time didn't exceed our normal break or lunch time
  • we all received these really cool color-coded power strips--the strip knows that when whatever's in the red box is turned off, it's ok to turn off everything else. This works well in an office, as all of our docking stations are in the red box...if we're not using our docking station, we're probably going home!
  • we have a parking garage (here in SoCal this is nice, because before my car was baking in the sun all day) with priority parking for carpoolers/hybrids/and other low emissions vehicles
  • and my new favorite feature, the walk station. It's a treadmill with a table where you can walk really slowly while you work. It's not really a substitute for an exercise program, but it is a nice alternative to sitting at your desk all day.

Now if only the building came with a view of the ocean and not the freeway!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mexico's Latest Drug Policy

I think it's fairly safe to say that the decisions the Mexican government makes often affect the United States. The reverse is, of course, true, too. I never really realized how symbiotic this relationship could be until I moved to SoCal. I say "could be" because I really don't think it's symbiotic at all. At least from my perspective, it's whatever the opposite of symbiotic is. Parasitic? Is that too harsh?

Tijuana, TJ, or, my favorite euphemism, "our neighbor to the south," has its fair share of problems, including poverty, violence, and drug cartels. And these problems definitely affect US relations. Likewise, attempts to resolve these problems affect the US.

My new favorite Mexican resolution plan? Decriminalizing drug possession for people carrying a small number of doses. Doses? I'll admit it, I'm rather naive when it comes to drug lingo, but I didn't realized illegal drugs had doses. Isn't that kind of like saying, "you're really not supposed to be doing this, but here's the amount that won't kill you, or turn you into a crazed maniac today." And doesn't "dose" sort of imply "not enough to turn you into an addict?"

So the idea is that the police/jails/courts now won't waste their time with people who are basically recreational users and can go after the people actually dealing and trafficking drugs. Portugal apparently has a similar law regarding cocaine; however in the Portuguese system, it only applies to residents--it is still illegal for foreigners to have any amount of the drug on their person. This caveat reduces the likelihood of Portugal becoming a destination for drug-based tourism.

The Mexican law, on the other hand, does not distinguish between residents and tourists. Does anyone else see where this might lead? Right. TJ is already a party destination for many Americans, specifically college-aged kids because the legal drinking age is 18. Now having drugs is legal, too? Does this sound like a train wreck waiting to happen to anyone else?

I'm not sure how publicized this new law is, and I'm not really certain that more college kids are going to head to TJ now than before (I mean, you're probably into that kind of partying or you're not, right?), but I do worry that this will increase, not decrease, the violence at the border, and I do worry that this will increase the amount of drug smuggling coming into the country. The problems this law may create will affect me. I just hope the people penning this policy have a better understanding of the repercussions than I do.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Free Dishwasher!

As anyone who has been reading this blog, or listening to me rant about how busy I've been all summer, or someone willing to do both (does such a person exist?), knows, my husband and I bought our first home this summer.

This home came with an extra, apparently functional, dishwasher that we can't give away! For free!

Here's how all of this came about.

When we were still in the initial phases of looking at our (now) home and making offers, etc., there was a bunch of stuff in the garage covered with sheets and tarps. For those of you who haven't just spent the last six months looking for a house, this is fairly normal. Usually, before a house is actually put on the market, the homeowners do things to make it more sellable, like paint the walls white, do minor repairs and upgrades, and move out extra stuff that just makes the place look cluttered and unfriendly. So we didn't really think anything of the stuff in the garage.

We made an offer, after some negotiating it was accepted, blah, blah, blah, and the seller had a garage sale. And we went out of town to celebrate our anniversary. We didn't think anything of the dishwasher in the corner of the garage covered with a brown towel.

Now, I'm not sure if the seller forgot about the dishwasher in the corner of the garage covered in the brown towel, or if it simply didn't sell in the garage sale, but we, I should say "I" didn't think anything of it when we returned to do our final walk-through after the garage sale, and perhaps my husband didn't either, because there were still a few random odds and ends in the house that were due to be picked up by the seller. Presumably the dishwasher fell into this category? Ahhh, but it didn't.

The seller wrote us a nice little letter about how she enjoyed growing up in the house...yadda yadda yadda...and that she hoped we enjoyed it as much as she had, and that the dishwasher in the garage worked and matched the oven.


My first idea was that, as the washer and dryer were already in the garage, why don't we just hook the dishwasher up, too? That way we'd have two dishwashers, and wouldn't that be great for all of the parties that I'm planning to throw now that we actually have space in which to party? This notion quickly made it onto my husband's list of "Why my Wife is a Nutjob," although I think two dishwashers is perfectly reasonable if you have a lot of dishes, which we do.

So the next step was Father Joe's Villages, which, if you're not familiar with them, is basically an organization that takes stuff you don't need and gives it to the needy, or auctions it off and uses the funds to help the needy. I'm sure you could dig a little deeper into their website and find out that I'm probably a bit off, but for my purposes, for a $10 donation per trip, they'll come and pick up the stuff you don't want. The $10 donation is to cover the cost of fuel, and is a more than fair price, in my mind, to get rid of stuff that I don't want, and to possibly help someone else in the process. Yes, they take dishwashers. No, they won't take ours because ours doesn't have wheels.

This alone is not enough to deter us from trying to give away a purportedly working dishwasher. We posted it on freecycle, the yahoo group which aims to keep otherwise good stuff (like our dishwasher) out of landfills. We received a number of responses, none of which panned out, mostly because our dishwasher is not white. Riiight...did we say it's FREE!

Next on our list was Goodwill, which informed me that they don't take dishwashers. Then we tried Habitat for Humanity, which may or may not take our dishwasher, as it has to be a model from the last five years. I can't even ballpark how old it is, so this might take some legwork. My husband was going to post it on Craig's list, so maybe that'll work out. If no one comes and takes it by the time my husband heads over to the landfill with the remains of a mysterious shrub-cum-tree plant thingy residing in the corner of the yard to which he plans on taking a chainsaw (despite it's pretty purple flowers, of which there are exactly two), then the perfectly good, presumably working dishwasher is going with them.

So if anyone out there knows anyone who could use a dishwasher, please let me know! I have a FREE one!

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Most Annoying Company Decision. EVER.

I work in the corporate office of a cellular phone company. In accounting. And today is September 4. Which means we are right in the middle of closing the books on August. A week ago, my company moved us out of a dingy warehouse into a beautiful, new, gold-certified LEED building.

Today, from 11-12, my company is broadcasting call center recordings. Apparently, this is going to go on every Friday. Here's what my company has to say about it: "You will be able to hear real customers and call center representatives discuss some of the issues that our customers have. Hopefully this will give you a fresh perspective on our business and may prompt an idea that can improve the (company) experience for our customers."


Over and over and over and over and over...

So here are the obvious problems I see with this:
2. I'm an accountant, not a customer service rep. It's my job to CLOSE THE BOOKS, which I can't do because I can't hear myself think! It is not my job to help out our customers with their random problems. I'm not even nice enough to be a customer service rep. That's why I'm an accountant. I just want to sit in my cube and work through my close and come up with some good and valid numbers.
4. I can't actually UNDERSTAND what's being discussed, so I'm certainly not going to be gaining a "fresh perspective" and the best idea I've come up with so far is that if I'm going to have to sit through this, I really need a drink in my hand. A strong one. Very strong.
6. I'm not really motivated to think about improving the experience of our customers while my experience is being so thoroughly and exponentially diminished (yes, yes, I KNOW that we totally depend on our customers to make our business happen, blah, blah, blah, still, improving their experience shouldn't be at the expense of the employees' experience).
8. And even if we do somehow come up with some great ideas from this cacophony of squawking insanity that's being projected into our workspace, we haven't been given a means of presenting these ideas to people who could implement them.


Like I said. The most annoying company decision. EVER

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Where to begin?

While I seriously doubt that I'm the busiest person on the planet, it sometimes feels that way!

First, a note on using italics. I just finished reading "The 8th Confession" by James Patterson. It was my first JP book, and I must say, I was not all that impressed. I think the older I get, the more...snobby might not be the right word...particular, perhaps?...the older I get, the more particular I become about what I read. JP used italics a lot, and while I always thought they were for emphasis, I couldn't always figure out what he was emphasizing. Although, perhaps I was too hung up on all of the incomplete sentences to fully understand the nuances of his writing! Regardless, English teachers everywhere must be cringing!

Right. Back to what's really been keeping me busy...

A few weekends ago, I attended the wedding of some friends up in Oregon. It was a wonderful affair, I had a fabulous time, and, of course, I left totally exhausted. My husband and I had been invited to eight weddings this year (we're not going to manage to attend all of fact we're done attending weddings for the year). We're really, really happy that all of our friends keep falling in love and being blissfully happy. We just wish they'd spread the celebrations out over the next 10 or 20 years. Of course, this doesn't look promising...we already have 4 weddings next year...and we're not running out of friends, either! Of course, next summer we're not planning on buying a house, which brings me to busyness point 2...

Among the other adventures on which we've embarked this summer, we bought our first home. Yay us! We literally signed the paper work, handed over a HUGE check, and drove to the airport to catch a flight to Oregon (for the first wedding of the season, back in June). This was after months of looking, making offers, and being rejected, all on the heels of me graduating from my MBA program, starting a new job, and taking a fabulous trip to Egypt, but I digress.

So we bought a home, which prompted a more-or-less month of painting before we moved in (the "more-or-less month" bit being that we weren't actually in California the entire month). Our idea was that it would be easier to paint before we filled the place up with stuff. Sounds reasonable, right? Well, it's easier to paint, if you have time to paint. The first weekend in July (which was the first time I went to the house after we bought it), my husband spent painting, and I spent cleaning. We bought the house from the children of the original owner...cue ominous music...the owner died in the house. DunDunDunnn!

Ok, so a potentially haunted house isn't nearly as scary to me as the fact that the house, which was built in 1958, has 51 years of someone else's dirt in it. YUCK! So, like I said, my husband and I spent the first weekend in July, after buying said house at the end of June, painting and cleaning, respectively.

The second weekend in July we attended my cousin's wedding, which was in Southern California, but not quite SoCal enough for it to not take up the entire weekend. The third weekend in July, my husband attended a wedding solo (I'm pretty sure he had more fun that way) while I, meanwhile, continued to clean. As for the fourth weekend in July? Well, we had to move in because we had only paid rent on our apartment until July 31. Meanwhile, after work, my husband continued painting the place.

Well, now we're in August, which more or less catches us up with the start of the blog, but in short, two more weddings were attended, a week was spent based in NJ, with excursions to elsewhere on the Eastern Seaboard, and my father graciously drove down from his home in northern California to continue the painting adventure and install wainscoting in our kitchen.

Whew! Well, I'm due for a nap before I regale you with tales of September.