Tuesday, November 24, 2009

On Maintaining a Sense of Humor at Work

I was having an IM conversation with my former boss (at what point will I just start to say "coworker"?) about some fun testing I'm doing at work. Let me just clarify: I am not being tested. Every time I tell my husband I'm doing testing at work he says "Don't you know how to do your job all ready?"

When we figure out a better or smarter way of doing something, or when we figure out how to automate something, we have to write what is called an LCR, or Lifecycle Request. I do not come up with these names. Blah blah blah, it gets approved, IT does their magic, and then we have to test it to make sure what we actually want to happen happens.

I'm going to try to describe what I'm testing in very vague terms because I'm really not sure what is proprietary (if anything) and what is not. We've all taken advantage of buy-one-get-one deals, or spend $100, get $25 off or whatever. If you stop and think about it (which I don't recommend--it WILL make you insane), you know the company isn't really giving away something for free, and if you've ever thought about accounting or bookkeeping, you'll know that they have to explain what they're doing somehow. Because you know that that free or discounted item does actually cost the company something, and you know that they mark up their stuff, you must know that they have to figure out what it really cost, and if they really made a profit, and the like.

In service industries, it becomes even more fun because it's stretched over a time frame. That free month of HBO deal actually costs Comcast something the entire time you're using it, but if you've signed up in the middle of the month, some of the freeness happens in the next month. And maybe it's a free three months if you sign up today, so some of the freeness is also in the next month and the one after that. And now you can begin to imagine the good times accountants have trying to figure out how to accurately and legally account for this sort of thing (it's a good thing marketing comes up with this stuff--left to their own devices, accountants probably come up with deals such as "if you sign up today, we'll send you a bill." Yup. That's gonna attract a lot of customers.)

So in a nutshell, that's what I'm testing. If we offer something to someone for free, it's only free to them, so what in the world should my company do with that amount? I'm going to call this product SWAG, as in Stuff We All Get. Technically, we don't all get it, but many of our customers do, so it's close enough. I was going to call it WTHDWGSAFF, as in Why The Hell Do We Give Stuff Away For Free, but that's really quite a mouthful. (Although Miss Piggy once threatened to SYFFITF to Kermy, as in Stomp Your Froggy Face Into The Floor, and I'm pretty sure he never forgot that acronym. I didn't anyway, although no one else ever knows what I'm talking about).

And here is the IM conversation about this (I've changed the names to protect the innocent):

5:47 PM Virginia
can I pick your brain for a sec?
5:48 PM A
5:48 PM Virginia
do you remember what causes someone to show up on the R2 report?
SWAG prorated
5:48 PM A
they were not able to match the adjustment code date with the purchase date
5:49 PM Virginia
5:49 PM A
that's it?
5:49 PM Virginia
yes...I'm testing SWAG credit
and I thought it was that we didn't know the equip price,
but we do, sometimes, so that didn't work
and D [the really handy IT man] taught me that in fun-report-logic-language NVL means that if there's no value for that criteria, use 0. so now I'm qualified to do his job...if only I could figure out SWAG!
5:51 PM A
you should start a company blog
5:52 PM Virginia
i actually have a blog.
i think i have all of two followers, including my mother
5:52 PM A
do you write about work?
send it to me
i wanna read it

Ok, so maybe it's not that funny if you don't actually know what we're talking about, or who D is (in case you missed the heavy amounts of sarcasm, I am in NO WAY qualified to do his job. I don't even know what his job is. All I know is that whenever I have a problem, there he is, Super-D, able to solve it! I'm pretty sure he doesn't get to sleep EVER) (however, I do see it as an open invitation to blog about work) but more to the point is that it never hurts, and frequently helps, to find humor in the most aggravating of circumstances.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Things I didn't know about Car Insurance in California

Way back at the end of October I was in a very minor car accident on my way to tutor my learner. The irony is that when I called my learner to tell her I'd be late due to said accident, she suggested that we just reschedule. If I hadn't been driving to meet her, I wouldn't have been on that road at all. Curses! Gods of Irony!

Shortly after the accident I was discussing (read: complaining) about the whole situation with a friend of mine, who commented that I had a rant all set up and ready to go. But I was waiting to write about it until everything was taken care of and I had my car fixed and back. And now I'm too worn out to rant about it. Because I was driving a POS rental while my car was in the shop for 10 days. (Although that's not nearly as bad as another friend of mine who recently posted this on his facebook page: If your car has ever been hit while parked, by a drunk driver, then stayed in the shop for 31 days, only to be returned one day after your rental car coverage expires, on a friday night, before the weekend, when the rental car agency isn't open for you to return the car anyway, then been charged for four extra days as a result, I totally feel you.) I have never been so happy to drive a corolla before in my entire life. And I am so glad to be DONE calling people making sure they're doing their jobs because their client hit me. Really? I have to do all of the work? I was the one who was rear-ended!

Because I am unbelievably anal-retentive about this sort of thing (namely when someone else tries to beat up something of mine), I have a log of all of the phone calls regarding this situation.

10/29/09--I was rear-ended on I-805 South, somewhere south of I-8 and north of National City (I wasn't really paying attention, but when I tried to explain this vague location to my claims adjuster the following day, he pointed out to me that I couldn't have been going south on I-8, and that I-8 isn't in National City. No shit! This is me: I was going SOUTH. On 805. I KNOW I was SOUTH of the 8 interchange. My adjuster, who's name is Paul: I-8 runs east and west. Me: Yes, I know, I was SOUTH of it. On 805. Paul: So you weren't on the 8 at all. Me: No, I had already driven OVER the 8, ON 805, going SOUTH. Paul: So you were in National City? Me: NO. I was on 805 SOUTH. I hadn't gotten to National City yet. Paul: So you were going to National City? (OK. What the F does it matter where I was going? I'm allowed to drive my car. On the interstate) Me: NO. I was going to BONITA. But I was on 805 SOUTH somewhere between the 8 and National City.)

Ok, so clearly I'm not worn out enough not to rant. And back to what happened on Thursday, October 29. I called my insurance, AAA, and spoke to a very nice woman named Teresa who wasn't mad at all that I hadn't called the police, or gotten the driver's licence from the girl who hit me (because she didn't have it with her). And thus far, I learned:

1. The police are not likely to come to an accident at rush hour on a major free way and block traffic further unless someone was hurt or the vehicles weren't drivable.

2. The most they would have done is given the girl a citation and let her drive away (much to my husbands annoyance, who wanted to ship her to TJ from where she probably came anyway)

3. The most important piece of information you can get is the licence plate number, which I did.

10/30/09--Paul, my adjuster for AAA called me, and we had the brilliant conversation I outlined above. Just imagine me speaking very s l o w l y, as if to someone very dumb, because clearly I had had a lobotomy instead of just being rear-ended. While I was on the phone with Paul, we called Wawanesa (the other party's insurance, which I thought was strange protocol--that I was on the phone while we were doing this, but no one else thought this was weird.) We spoke with Tina who gave us a claim number and then transferred us to Darin who told us that an adjuster had not yet been assigned on Wawanesa's side. Here's where I learned what I didn't know about car insurance in California:

4. You are only required to cover liability of $5,000. So if you hit someone and do more than $5k worth of damage, well, it's just their problem. Umm? How is this fair, or even reasonable? This sounds like an open invitation to lower your liability to $5k, drive a beater, and then just ram right in to the drivers who are pissing you off because they didn't seem to think about where they were trying to go when they pulled out into traffic...or whatever their problem is. Oh right. Then my insurance rates would go up. Because you're not supposed to hit other people's cars when they piss you off; in fact you're not supposed to hit other people's cars at all, which is why you have to have liability in the first place, which gets me back to the whole bit about, really? You only have to have $5k worth of coverage? And back to Curses! Gods of Irony!

5. Here's some more fun. If you're like me, and don't have renters coverage on your insurance (because I have no plans to hit a car, and I was operating under this misconception that if I were hit, the other insurance would sort of have to cover me), and the damage on the car is more than $5k, the other party's insurance won't cover a rental. They will only cover up to $5k, and you can dice it any way you want between the repairs and the rental). Again, I owned a working car. Your client rendered in un-working. And now it's up to me to get myself a car while mine is being fixed? Yup. That makes perfect sense.

11/2/09--I take my car into this place called Balboa Autobody to have them do an estimate for the damage, which comes out to $1,001. Great! I can get my car fixed and drive a rental! Just what I always wanted! Looks like Christmas came early!

11/2/09--I hear from Cord, my adjuster on Wawanesa's side, who tells me that we may have a limit issue, if they find additional damage when they take the bumper off. Yes. I did that math myself. This is also when I found out that I don't just get to give my claims number to the doctor's office (I had some mild back pain that I wanted to get looked at). (I was rear-ended once in Oregon, and as best as I can remember it, I just told the chiropractor I was in a car accident, gave them the claims number and was adjusted. I'm sure there was some paperwork involved, but there was no out of pocket on my part). So here are my California options: to pay all of the medical bills myself and then wait for Wawanesa to decide if the claims are valid, and then wait for them to reimburse me, or to sign a release of medical liability and get $1,000. I took the cash. At this point, I had had enough of the stupid California rules.

Here's something else that's fun: when I got the release, because I'm married, my husband had to sign it, too, and we needed a witness! That ended up being no big deal because hubby had to pick some friends up at the airport that night, and they were more than willing to bear witness, but if that hadn't been the case, my plan was just to sign for my sister and tell her about it. My family has a mildly open policy about signing our names...as in, for example, if we're in a restaurant and my mother pays the bill, but can't find her glasses to read the bill, Sis or I will read and sign for her.

11/3/09--I spoke with Cord again and he said that Balboa Autobody said worst case: $1,500-$2,000 of damage, so I could get a rental car! Yipee!

11/5/09--After doing some Yelping on the repair places AAA suggested to me, I called All American Paint and Body because they had the best hours and the best Yelp reviews. As this was Thursday (I'm an accountant. I was very busy. You know, doing things like, oh, making sure my company had REVENUE in October. So yes, it took me a while to carve out the 30 minutes I needed to look at repair shops. Again: why am I doing all of the work?)...like I was saying, as this was Thursday, and even though All American is open on Saturdays, it seemed like the likelihood of them getting much done on my car in those few days was pretty low, so I waited until Monday to drop off my car, figuring they'd have all week to fix it and I'd have it back by the weekend. Apparently I operate under the misconception that everyone is as efficient as I am. Or maybe it's just that my life is more of a priority for me than for other people. What is the world coming to? However, I did also get my Enterprise reservation all set up.

11/9/09--I took my car to All American, who were very nice. The Enterprise people were very nice, too. The car was a POS because I only wanted what the insurance would cover. And honestly, the worst part of the car, for me, was that the dome light and the zapper didn't work. Apparently those things are very important to me.

11/11/09--I called All American to find out when my car would be ready and they told me someone (presumably the guy actually doing the work) would call me back. But they didn't.

11/12/09--I called All American again and they told me that they found additional damages once they took off the bumper (which was to be expected) and that they were having someone from Wawanesa come out and look at the vehicle in order to approve the additional amount. And they told me that the car would probably be ready the following Wednesday. In my head I was pitching a royal fit, but the guy laid out the timeline, and between my repair guy getting a weekend, and needing to repaint the bumper, well, next Wednesday it was. I guess repairmen deserve days off, and it's not All American's fault that they have to wait for Wawanesa's approval to do the work, and Wawanesa is in no hurry to get this done because they don't give a rat's ass about me or the fact that none of this is my fault! And it's making me sound like a whiny teenager. But mom! It's not my fault the teacher hates me! Ok. I'm pretty sure I've never uttered those last two sentences in my entire life, but I'm also pretty sure that my mother would have found it totally amusing if I had.

11/13/09--Good news! Cord called again and told me that he received my release of medical liability and he was sending me $1,000. The check arrived 11/18, and I wasted no time depositing it.

11/17/09--I call All American again, hoping that the car repair gods will smile upon me and have my car done a day early because Wednesday was already looking like a very busy day, but alas, they did not. All American said they'd call me when my car was ready.

11/18/09--All American called and told me to come get it after 4. Yay! I have my car back, and $1,000, but guess what? Wawanesa only approved my rental through 11/15, so there's still a possibility that I'll have to argue with them about the extra days. I'm going to keep my fingers crossed that Cord is reasonable enough to know that I wouldn't keep a rental longer than I needed to--not if I had the option of driving my own car!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Christmas Wrapping Paper

When I thought up this rant, I was just going to discuss Christmas wrapping paper, but as I'm listening to the dialogue in my head, I realize I have a lot more to say. So the Twitter-length rant is: I'm not buying any more wrapping paper. So all of you readers with the attention span of a gnat can just stop right here. That's all you need to know.

For everyone else still paying attention, I have long debated with myself about buying Christmas wrapping paper. I think wrapping paper is a huge waste of paper, and ink, and plastic wrapping, and well, just a huge waste of resources. And this is from someone who actually appreciates wrapping paper (ask my sister! She actually wrote an essay on the agony of watching me slowly and carefully unwrap my Christmas presents. If someone's going to take the time to cut the paper and tie on ribbons, I'm going to appreciate it, dammit!). And thus the internal tug of war: I don't want to waste a huge amount of resources, and I don't want people to think I didn't care enough about them to use fancy gift wrap.

Additionally, I try really, really hard to do a thoughtful job of gift shopping. Would (fill in name here) like this? Would they use/read/play with this? Am I buying them this because I think they would like it or because I feel obligated to get them something? Don't get me wrong. There are many times when I draw a huge blank on what to get people. I try to do my Christmas shopping when I see something I think someone will like, no matter what time of year it is. Unfortunately, I've had a totally uninspired year this year. So right now, Dad, you're the only one with a gift. It is only November, though. And Sis, yes, I found something I think you'll like. It's environmentally friendly, is packaged WITHOUT plastic, and is nearly, but not quite, as boring as dirt. But you'll probably use it weekly and it will make you feel good about your choices, so you're getting it. Even though there is no way you could even fake enthusiasm about it.

I do own some wrapping paper. Mostly because I buy it at Costco, so I could probably wallpaper my house with it. Also, I've been saving the Sunday comics, because, well I love getting gifts wrapped in the funnies. It's like a bonus: a present and the comics! I even re-use "lightly-worn" gift wrap from prior years. Finally, my environmental bents really aren't aimed at driving my hubby batty (although he might argue otherwise!), so it's entirely possible (albeit unlikely) that hubby will go out and buy you wrapping paper and try his hand at the whole ribbon-tying thing.

So if you're getting a gift, I've thought about you. If' you're getting a card, I've thought about you. If you don't get a card or a gift, either you're off the list, or I don't have your address. And that's all there is to it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Room With a View

It is official: Cabrillo National Monument has the Best Public Bathroom with a View.

This past weekend, my in-laws were in town. Ambitiously, my father-in-law and his partner wanted to see as much of San Diego as possible in two days. My husband and I obliged (I am nothing, if not ambitious, in my efforts as tour guide). Thus, we found ourselves watching the sunset from Cabrillo on Point Loma.

Point Loma is, well, a point. At the far southern end there is a lighthouse. West of the lighthouse, on the cliff, is the restroom. West of the restroom is the Pacific Ocean. This conveniently means that the westernmost stall can have a window. Overlooking the ocean. Yes, the view is better from the top of the hill, but if you're having a bathroom emergency, or have just been dancing in place like a 10-year-old for the last hour because the other bathroom was closed, well, you could do much worse than the western stall.

And gents, my father-in-law confirmed that the western most urinal had a lovely view as well. I would just be a tad concerned with the whole aiming-in-one-direction-while-looking-in-another thing.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Arts and Crafts in Virginia's House

I confess: for a female, I'm a terrible multi-tasker. I've somehow managed to hide this fact behind my amazing ability to plan. As in, no, I can't get several things done at one time, but yes, I can tell you how long it will take me to get several things done, usually to within five minutes. For example, one time, during my MBA program, at 7:47 am, I looked at my clock and knew I'd be five minutes late for a group meeting. I actually thought about calling my groupmates at that exact moment to tell them, but then I realized that our meeting was scheduled for 3:30 pm, and in the off-chance that they were up, they would just be furthered in their belief that I'm a bit out of my mind. Then I was uninspired at the gym, cut 10 minutes from my work-out, and showed up, you guessed it, 5 minutes early.

What does this have to do with arts and crafts?

Well, people who know me know that at any given time, I'll have a number of projects going on at one time. Right now, there are currently three projects sitting on the dining room table (I grew up in a house where the dining room was frequently the quilting room, the library, the study, the diorama planning center...you get the picture). I also have a project hiding in the office (don't tell my husband), and a number that are still just on the to-do list.

Back to the three projects sitting on the dining room table (by the way, did I mention that my father-in-law is coming to visit this weekend, so we'll probably need to use the dining room table for dining. This the actual problem with the projects, and the tie in to my planning. None of the projects will be done before he arrives. I could time-line for my husband exactly when to expect each to be finished, but he would just think that was silly, since I'd have to spend my time making a time-line rather than just completing the projects. And no, I have not lost sight of the fact that instead of completing the projects, I'm blogging about them). The first project is an apron that is waiting my mother's arrival in December to finish. Normally, to clear the table, I would just put the apron on the guest bed (my mother can always find her to-do list on the guest bed--this way she doesn't get bored *haha like that could ever happen** and I don't forget anything that I'd like her to do). However, I can't put the apron on the guest bed, because my father-in-law will be using it (the bed, not the apron), and I'm pretty sure he's not planning on breaking out the sewing machine while he's here.

The second project on the dining room table is really just a pre-project for when my mother arrives. I had blue curtains in the office of my apartment in Oregon, which were then put in the bedroom of my apartment in California; now that I own a house, and the curtains don't really have a viable place to hang. However, all in all, the fabric is still in pretty good condition (somehow the California sun hasn't faded them as much as it's been fading my hair...ugh), so I thought I'd turn them into napkins (which goes back to my random attempts to save the world and become a hippie). The project really needs to wait for my mother's arrival because I don't actually know how to use my sewing machine. My mother taught me once, but as anyone who teaches knows, once is usually not enough, especially when combined with that wonderful mother-daughter factor in which at some point we either digress, or risk digressing, into some traumatic childhood woe that would have been completely avoided if only I had a pony, or a fabulous white communion dress (we're not Catholic, a fact that completely did not explain why I couldn't have a beautiful white dress when I was seven. However, I did have a beautiful dress at my wedding so I guess we're nearly even. Nearly.) Nevertheless, back in the land of making napkins out of curtains, I figure that I can at least cut the fabric into squares before my mother arrives. Which may actually be a risky assumption because cutting fabric in straight lines is actually harder than it seems. But I think I am well equipped! I have one of those nice green cutting mats, a big solid ruler, and one of those round cutters that resemble pizza cutters. And just in case this all goes horribly wrong, I plan on doing the actual cutting on the kitchen table, which is already scratched, and which is on tile and not carpet, in case of accidental amputation.

Wow! I just realized I'm about 7,000 words into this post before I even got to the project that prompted this rant. All through my childhood, my mother didn't have a Christmas stocking. I always thought that was very sad, but I never went and bought her one because everyone else had a handmade stocking, and I always thought that this was the way Christmas stockings were meant to be (I still think this is true). Then, when I was, ooh, 23 or 24, I went to a Christmas ball. Yes, I've actually been to a ball. Yes, it was very glamorous. And I wore a fabulous red velvet dress. Normally I don't like velvet, because the cheaper qualities don't brush well in both directions, which I just think is horrible. But this dress brushed very well. And then I never wore it again. And it was the perfect shade of red for making a Christmas stocking. It's not a true red, it's more like a maroon/wine colored red. So I made my mother a Christmas stocking. I even lined it. I hand sewed it (because, like I said, I don't actually know how to use my sewing machine).

The stocking actually turned out very well, until I tried to decorate it. Apparently my fabric-based imagination is more grand than my actual skill set. My aim was to use beads to make it appear to be snowing on the stocking. Instead, I just made a mess. My mother, good-humouredly, went along with it (I also happen to be pretty good at filling stockings, which probably helped...and my mother knows that I put a lot of effort into it...she's very good at being appreciative like that...she's always appreciative when I make dinner, although I'm only marginally better at cooking than sewing). So, a few weeks ago, while my husband was watching a football game, I sat on the living room floor and diligently cut off all of the silly beads. Now I am left with a blank slate of a stocking, and I have found that my imagination still far exceeds my skills. However, I feel like this time the results will be better, as I have at least learned that I should practice on something other than the stocking before sewing there. And I brought home some nice grid-lined paper from work, so I should at least be able to sew "Mom" in a straight line this time. And, as a back up plan, I'll be sure to fill whatever I come up with with Snickers and Oreos, and I'll probably be forgiven.

In the mean time, I need to figure out where to put it while my father-in-law is visiting.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

My Thoughts, Exactly!

The dear friend of mine who suggested that I start a blog recently posted an entry on her own blog called On Glancing Backward. Basically it's an excerpt from Edith Wharton's memoir, A Backward Glance. I actually had to google Edith Wharton, and now I have a whole bunch of new books to add to my never-ending reading list. Thanks, Voracious T!

However, the excerpt eloquently says what I have long thought. I am SO glad to hear that someone else finally said what I have been trying to for so long, but have been unable to articulate well. (I especially like "though the years are sad, the days have a way of being jubilant") I have always thought that life, if not really sucky most of the time, was a lot of aggravation and hard work with very little reward. There are definite rays of sunshine and moments of brilliance, but I am not convinced that these jubilant days actually balance out the sad years. Which I consider unfortunate. However, I feel slightly better, after reading a few sentences of Wharton's, knowing that at least I'm not the only one who feels this way.