Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Resolutions: 2011

I'm not sure "resolutions" is quite the word I'm looking for, since I'm not sure I'm planning on resolving things as much as just trying to do them. But using the word "goals" seems a little too MBA-y for what I want to accomplish. And sometimes, there are things you just want to be able to do, but not necessarily keep doing. Like a triathlon. Currently, I don't want to do any, but I sort of feel like one might be enough. Sometimes there are resolutions/goals that are just a little embarrassing to admit to, because they serve no real purpose whatsoever. My first resolution/goal fits that description. But then, I think, I'd be unlikely to knock down someone else's goal, unless it was, say, to become a meth head or something, so whatever. If you don't like my goals, go make your own!

1. To do the splits. Yes, this is totally silly, but I once could do this, and I already have a crazy post-run stretching routine, so I figured, let's just add something else to it!

2. Write a novel. Novels have typically, what 300-400 pages. At a page a day, this should be doable. I'm not looking to write a good novel necessarily, just one. I'll work on good later.

3. Read the books on my reading list. This includes the books currently on my goodreads "currently reading" list, as well as these:
  • The Mummy Case
  • Feeling Good
  • The Battle of the Labyrinth
  • Lion in the Valley
  • The Last Olympian
  • The Deeds of the Disturber
  • Loving Edith
  • The Feast of Roses
  • The Last Camel Died at Noon
  • Easy Keeper
  • Shadow Princess
  • The Snake, the Crocodile and the Dog
  • Second Sight
  • The Demigod Files
  • The Hippopotamus Pool
  • After Roy
  • The Time Traveler's Wife
  • The Guns of August
  • The Blind Side
  • The Great Gatsby
  • A Perfect Mess
  • The Complete Chronicles of Narnia (again)
That might seem like a lot, but it works out to something like three books a month, which I think should be totally doable.

4. Pay off my car. This is the easy one. I'll make my last payment in October, so I'm sure this one will get done!

5. Complete my three-part marathon training plan. The first part is to run the Carlsbad half in January. I signed up to run this one for a couple of reasons. First, halfs are fun distances. They're less than half the training of a full marathon, but you still get to eat! Second, I was hoping to prevent any weight gain during the holiday season by running a ton. And third, I needed to remember how to go about actually training for a race.

The second part is to run the Rock'n'Roll half in June (although various parties are trying to convince me to do the Triple Crown or run the RNR full or both). During training for this race, I'm actually going to pay attention to my diet. In general, during training for a race, you'll be unlikely to lose weight (assuming you're reasonably normal to begin with), because you're training, so you'll be hungrier than normal. Or at least hungrier than you are when you aren't training for an endurance event. But, people who do actually manage to eat a healthy diet during training can lose weight. I'm going to try this out. The big problem is that I already have a pretty fast metabolism, so I get raging-lion hungry, and even though I love fruit, there's only so much of it you can eat before you start to feel like, okay, but I need real food now.

The third part is to actually run the Portland Marathon in October. And then I'll be ready to conquer the world! Bwah-ha-ha-ha! (That's supposed to sound like evil maniacal laughter.)

6. This might actually fall under resolution 5, part b, but each month in 2010 I'm going to change/improve my diet. I figure, only having to do something for a month will make it feel less impossible than saying forever, and I'll be able to determine if the change is something I'll be able to handle long term. For example, in January, I'm going to give up eating candy. The one exception I'm going to make to this rule is Twizzlers while watching movies. Because giving that up would just be tragically sad in my world, and I see no reason to change your diet just to make yourself sad.

7. Find a writing job.  It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog that I don't love accounting, but I do love reading.  Except it's very rare to get hired to read things.  Even proofreaders and editors do more than just read.  I did get my first editing job a little while ago, but the employer and I didn't really see eye to eye as to what was a reasonable wage, or what was a reasonable amount of work for the wage being offered, so needless to say, that's over.  This is also separate from my write a novel goal, since a writing job will pay me and writing a novel will probably not.  At least not the first one.

8. Floss daily.  This is pretty self-explanatory, but suffice it to say, I don't enjoy flossing.  And I don't enjoy sitting in the dentist's chair for hours on end having root canals, even though my dentist is great.  But I do like to check things off a checklist, and this will probably be easier to do than #9, so I'll feel good about accomplishing this.  For the record, I do brush at least twice a day.  Captain America would probably leave me for a toothless cannibal before he'd sleep in the same bed with someone who never brushed. 

9. Tackle a nagging task.  This I actually stole from Gretchen Rubin over at The Happiness Project, mostly because it's a good one.  Sometimes the biggest trouble with a nagging task is just starting it.  And I have a big list of things that need to happen at some point.  Like I need to find an eye doctor. 

10. Blog regularly.  I now have two blogs, this one and 52 Saturday Nights, which you should go check out, and follow!  So I look cool! 

In the spirit of being a super-organizational-freak, I stole the idea of a resolution chart from The Happiness Project. And so I have a lovely checklist for all of the things I'm going to be accomplishing this year.  Or until January 7 when I get bored.  Which reminds me, you should check out this blog:

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Treating your employees like your customer base

It was recently mentioned to me that one of the problems with my company may be that leadership communicates with the corporate employees as if we were their customer base.  This idea has me thinking, because I certainly do not fall into the demographic my company targets. 

The demographic my company targets are people who make less than $50K a year.  I'm not sure if that's on an individual basis, in which case it would probably be $100K per household, or if it's $50K per household, but either way, that's not me. 

I feel like leadership frequently communicates with corporate employees as if we were naughty children, and the only way to get us to behave is to be forceful and demanding, much like saying you WILL sit still at dinner, rather than saying, if you sit still at dinner we'll know you're grown up enough to eat in a nice restaurant.  Not that I'm advocating bribing children to behave well, but the second way makes it the child's choice, offers a semblance of a compliment, and lets the child know that good behavior will not go unnoticed.  And of course, with children, you need to explain what you're looking for, and model the behavior.  It's just dumb to yell at them the first time they don't do what you want if you haven't told them what it is they're expected to do. 

So, this got me to wondering if my company was making a series of assumptions about both their customer base and their employees.  For one thing, a salary of less than $50K in California may indicate that you're less educated, but elsewhere in the country it might be quite normal.  Additionally, if you assume that people who make less than $50K are less educated, but you treat them like naughty children, then you're confusing the issue.  Not being rich does not equal being dumb. 

Sometimes I feel substantially underpaid at my job.  San Diego suffers from this confusion about the cost of living.  In other expensive places in the country, like New York, generally the salary is increased to adjust for the cost of living.  But in San Diego, we pay the "sunshine tax." Our salaries are not increased to compensate for the high cost of living.  If my company knows they're underpaying employees, does that make them think they can walk all over us in other ways, and we won't complain?  It's like taking advantage of someone because you think you can.

And if our corporate leadership treats the employees as if we were the customers, and this is how they treat the employees, does it stand to reason that they're treating the customers poorly, too.  Does the correlation go both ways? 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

(One of) The problems with my job

I'm not sure if you think I complain about my job a lot or not, but I really don't like my job. I'm stuck in what Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project calls drift, when you wish something would happen to change your situation but you're not actively doing anything to help change your situation.

And I have excuses. It's December, so I'm busy with a million holiday-related activities. I can't quit my job because we need the money. I don't have time to look for a new job because I'm too busy working at the job I have. And, I have to regroup: I'm not sure I want to stick with accounting.

Accounting is one of those fields that really isn't all that interesting, ever, but if you're working with a good team at a decent company and have a reasonable boss, it's really quite fine. I know that may sound like an impossible combination, but, really, I've had that job. I just don't now.

And I am totally grateful that I have a job. Lots of people don't, and I'm making a decent salary and have benefits. Really, it's fine.

Except, also, really, it's not fine.

Here's the trouble. I have four bosses, none of whom are particularly good at management--neither managing people, or managing time, or managing projects.

That's not entirely fair. Probably my most skilled boss wanted a lesser job so she'd have a better work/life balance (yeah, right!), so she's totally underutilized, and also frustrated because she'd make better decisions if she was properly utilized, but since she sort of picked to put herself in the position she's in, I'm still holding her accountable.

About my team: I work with fantastic individuals. We all get along really well (we even hang out outside of work). We're all smart and funny, and we appreciate each other's differences. And we work together really well. We help each other if we have a lag in our own responsibilities, or even when we don't have a lag. We trade off jobs to get things done more efficiently. We talk to each other when we find a problem that we think affects more than one of us. We ask each other for help when we're not sure of something, or to talk through problem solving. We're really great. Great enough that my company should be working really hard to keep all of us.

We're so great that under normal circumstances we don't need a manager. Left to our own devices, we'll get everything done accurately and on time.

Unfortunately, nothing in my industry is operating under "normal circumstances" right now, and our inept managers feel the need to micro-manage so we're not left to our own devices.

We still all get along and help each other, etc, but none of us actually likes our job anymore.

And, when a team really needs a manager who can manage is when things aren't normal. Just like it's easy to like my sister when she's in a good mood, being nice and generally agreeable, and/or sleeping, you don't need a skilled manager when you've got a good team and things are going well.

But just like it's really hard to like my sister when she's grumpy, a bad manager does nothing useful when things are chaotic.

One of my managers has, so far, done not a thing related to me. She's a "floating manager" (whatever that might mean), and I'm not sure what she's doing with my department, but frankly, since it's not annoying me, as far as I'm concerned, she can keep doing it.

The manager directly above me, who's title is actually manager, who's the consultant, does the reviews of our work. Except her decisions are frequently being overruled by the manager above her, with the title supervisor. And the manager doesn't get a lot of say in what goes on, even though she has the most experience.

The supervisor has a very good knowledge of the industry we're in, our company, and accounting, but has terrible people skills. She doesn't seem to think it's important to tell us what's going on, so, for example, today, we discovered that someone on another team booked $100K to one of my accounts, and that $100K should not be recognized as revenue (go with me here). Recognizing this amount as revenue means we'd overstate revenue, by, you guessed it, $100K. After a long and tedious afternoon of trying to explain to her that I knew what I needed to make happen, but that the trouble was I had no place useful to put this $100K, she came up with some sort of calculation that would overstate revenue by $350K. At this point, I'm feeling a lot of, whatever--anything to move on with this so I can go get something useful done. She's in the point of saving this entry, and I say, is this what you want me to book? She says, Yes, unless you see something wrong with it. (You can see how we're in a financial crisis. What does it matter if I think about my job if I get paid to do something entirely differently?) I pointed out that revenue was being terribly overstated and, thankfully, she agrees, so we're back to the part where I know what needs to happen, but still need to get there.

So, I have a number of suggestions for supervisor boss, and since I actually like her and think that she really is trying to do a good job, she's just not really good at it, I've gone to her boss, or my 4th boss, the director, and explain the situation, saying supervisor knows the accounting, blah, blah, blah, but that she could really benefit from a mentor and some managerial training because here are the things that she's doing that make her really difficult to work for.

And director nods and smiles and says I'm not the only one with these concerns, and yes, she understands that supervisor is new at the role and needs some help, and NOTHING HAPPENS.

So, I have one manager who does nothing relating to me, one who's underutilized, one who can't manage, and one who doesn't do anything helpful.

Can I please be in charge?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

52 Saturday Nights

I've started a second blog.  I never thought I'd be the kind of person with more than one blogs, but alas, I have.  Virginia's Rants is somewhat unfocused (what? you hadn't noticed?), and my second blog, 52 Saturday Nights, is going to be a laser-beam of focus on what Captain America and I do on the weekends.  Or something like that.  I think.  You can actually follow that link and read all about it.  Or at least three paragraphs about it. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

We R drilling doing steamed want from bond

Translation: We are still running errands, and do you want anything from Vons?

Amazingly, my sister responded: No thx, Im good, and dont let mom do the texting.

Even more interestingly, is that my mother managed to type all of that as a picture message, and then it didn't actually go through to my sister. Maybe Sister just has a universal response to all texts that make absolutely no sense!

I wonder if I can apply that idea to IMs from my boss that make no sense?

I send email

No thanks, I'm good

Did you talk to K about the sku change. I think it's not immaterial so we'll need extra reporting. I didn't see email. Can you resend and check?

No thanks, I'm good

-Check with K because his arpu is different and includes the y codes. you need to include the y codes.
-the y codes are automatically included
-but you need to back them out of the f codes
-but the f codes are BB
-but they're being included in the disconnect flux

No thanks, I'm good.

And I give up!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sizzling Sixteen

Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum, #16)Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich

Janet Evanovich writes very formulaic, ridiculous books. If you find her style amusing, they are immensely amusing; if you find her style sophomoric, these books are annoying. Her last couple of Stephanie Plum books were closer to the sophomoric, immature side of the scale for me, so Sizzling was a nice return to all that made Stephanie Plum enjoyable bubblegum reading. However, all of the characters are still one dimensional, so I don't think this series has much more life to it.

View all my reviews

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday reading update...The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

I'm still working on everything I was working on the last time I posted about what I was reading. I feel like this is a recurring theme. Mostly I've been reading The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson.

There are a couple of problems with Larsson's writing, which is unfortunate because he tells captivating tales.

First, his books are really, really long. This alone isn't a problem, but there's all sorts of stuff that seems very pointless, and it feels like he does a lot of name-dropping, so to speak, as if that builds credibility. For example, Lisbeth has a sister. The only plot-moving-forward thing this sister has contributed, as far as I can tell, is to get in a fight with Lisbeth when they are 17, which causes Lisbeth to get arrested or institutionalized again, and even that doesn't really matter. As I understand it, this was supposed to be a series of 10 books, but of course Larsson dropped dead, and now we're left hanging on this sister thing with three, maybe four books.

As for the name dropping, this book mentions a bunch of people that I'm sure I'd know something about if I lived in Sweden, which I don't, but that's not actually what I'm talking about, since the book provides brief biographical info on these people at the back. Larsson talks a lot about different computers and their capabilities, as well as a lot about the roads. I'm pretty sure he could have just said Lisbeth found working on a hand-held devise frustrating, compared with her full sized iBook, or whatever, and we all would have understood. And instead of saying, Blomkvist took Hantverkargatan to Slussen to Katarina to Mosebacke to Fiskargatan, he could have just said, Blomkvist took a circuitous route back to his apartment to avoid being followed.

It seems to me that all of these problems would have been solved if they had hired me as their editor, although I would have had to check on the punctuation convention of including an IM conversation as dialogue.

The second problem is that the story is told from a number of different perspectives, but the pacing is a little awkward, and sometimes it can get confusing, since everyone has similar names. For example, at the Millennium, there's a Malim and a Malm. I think one's a first name and one's a last name, but that just gets even more confusing because sometimes the one that's the first name is referred to by their last name. I'm pretty good at tuning all of this out, since these aren't the main characters, but they do pop up enough for this to be annoying.

Along these lines, books that flow smoothly have far fewer characters than the main ones would have known in real life, and conversations are far less confusing. Unlike in real life at Thanksgiving, where there are several conversations going on at once, in books there's only one. Or, probably more accurately, there's only one worth telling in the story. Also, a number of authors make their characters only children, unless having siblings is in some way useful, because otherwise they just clutter up the writing.

I think Larsson's books have far too many characters with similar names and jobs for it to be reasonable to keep track of. This obviously isn't preventing me from reading his work, but it would be even more enjoyable if he cleaned it up a bit.

A couple of other things that would improve the writing, although are secondary to the above:
  • The characters are all really one-dimensional. And unemotional. All of them. That's a little unbelievable.

  • The language is not particularly attractive. I don't mean the swearing, either. Larsson hardly paints a picture with his words as much as fires them at the reader. In his defense, these aren't the sort of books one reads for the beautiful imagery, but nonetheless, his word choices are very stark.

  • The titles of the other two made sense, but neither the title nor the cover art of this one works for me. So far there has been no hornet's nest (I understand there is a figurative hornet's nest, but considering the other two titles literally worked and Larsson doesn't use a lot of figurative speech, this is random). And the cover of this book reminds me of the winter/Christmas, which works for the movie which is set in the winter, but the book is set in the summer.
All in all, I'm having a fine time reading this book, but part of the reason it's taken me so long is that I had to take breaks in the middle where the plot was just not moving as well as it could have been if I were in charge!

Monday, December 6, 2010


One of the tenants of being environmentally friendly is the "reuse, reduce, recycle" mantra that we've all known since grade school. I am really good at the recycle bit, and not so much at the other parts. I don't like to have stuff around that doesn't have a purpose (I know, I know, my house is full of stuff), so generally, if I decide something is no longer useful, I throw it away or donate it (depending on what it is, it's condition, etc). I don't normally store it to reuse it.

And "reduce" is just really hard to measure. I mean, I really like all of those adorable mugs that you can find in nearly every coffee shop everywhere. There's something really cheery about drinking a nice hot beverage out of a cute cup. But I don't buy them. Because my mug cabinet is already full. Is this reducing? I am reducing my random consumerism. But I never used to buy them, so I haven't actually changed anything.

I guess I'm willing to reduce where it's easy. I've stopped taking two showers a day, but a lot of that is how time-consuming it is to wash my hair twice a day, combined with how expensive water is in California. I contemplate reducing my consumption of meat, but since I never measured it in the past, I really have no barometer. But I'm really not willing to reduce where the reduction would make my life less enjoyable to me. What's the point of saving the planet when you're not enjoying yourself? Especially when you can't really measure what your impact is.

This week, I managed a "reuse" that I'm quite proud of. I have been searching for a photo box. You know, one of those sturdy cardboard boxes with the little metal frame for the label, that are usually covered in some sort of floral design, that are used to store photos and other mementos? Well, I can't find one. And I'm tired of looking. I used to see them all the time when I wasn't looking for one.

So, I came home and thought, what else can I use? And then I remembered that I once collected postcards. Over the years, I've decided it's silly to hold onto a collection of things that I'm not doing anything with, and that's just being stored in a drawer (see the first paragraph above), but postcards are about the perfect size for making lists. So I've actually been using them.

I stored my postcards in empty card boxes. I still buy cards, so I'm not sure why I'm not acquiring more card boxes, but whatever. I figured that perhaps some of these card boxes weren't quite full and I could consolidate them. Voila! Photo box! Mission accomplished! And bonus environmental gold star for Virginia!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Household emergencies

Did I blog about the time the shower broke in my hand and I ran around the yard in my robe while my father-in-law instructed me not to stick my hands in dark empty holes that may or may not contain black widow spiders?

I feel like the answer is no, but I honestly can't remember.

I looked through my blog archives, and it seems I did not.

So let me back up a little.

A while ago, I was about to step into the shower, when I turned it on and heard the plastic handle crack and then I couldn't turn the water off. Believe it or not, I'm not a total idiot when it comes to household stuff, but like I've said repeatedly before, I don't like to get my hands dirty.

Unfortunately, Captain America wasn't due home from work for about an hour, and I had a faucet that wouldn't turn off, and water is really expensive in California, not to mention the fact that this was really wasteful.

So I did what any resourceful girl would do and called my dad. Who didn't answer the phone. Then I called Uncle Chef, who also didn't answer the phone. Then I called my father-in-law. The reason I held off so long on my father-in-law is that I'm pretty sure he considers me completely useless around the house, and I really didn't want to further that image. But he's also a really nice, patient man, who is surely aware of my other, more redeeming qualities, although I can't think of any examples right now.

[As an aside, "father-in-law" is a lot to type out, but I really hate the abbreviation FIL, and "Captain America's Dad" is even longer, so I'm just going to refer to my father-in-law as Dad for the rest of this post, since my own dad won't come up again in this story.]

So I called up Dad, and explained the situation, telling him that I knew there was a water shut off valve somewhere, but I didn't have any idea what I was looking for.

He patiently explained to me all of the possible locations for such a thing, including the spot out by the street that is covered by a small cement block. He remembered to tell me to get gloves because I'd be reaching my hand into a dark hole that most likely housed a family of black widow spiders. And then, gloves on, nerves steeled for the task, I heaved the cement block out of the way, squatted down to reach into the abyss, only to find that there wasn't actually anything to turn in the hole. There were lots of spots that looked like they should have a handle, or whatever, but none actually had handles.

I thanked Dad, telling him I was now going to call the water company (I figured that since the water company is so busy telling us ways to conserve water, they might be willing to help me stop such a blatant waste of it), and that I'd call him back later if I still needed his help, or to let him know that the crisis had been resolved.

I spoke to a very pleasant lady named Molly, and she contacted a workman or something to come to my house. The caveat was, they shut off all of the water, because their responsibility ends at my house. That was fine, I said, thinking, well, we can shower at the gym, and I'll just go fill up some water bottles and pots so we can brush our teeth, etc, and it'll just be inconvenient until we can get a plumber here. See how reasonable I can be?

In the meantime, Molly walked me through basically the same thing that Dad had, suggesting various location where the water shut off valve at my house might be (as opposed to the one in the scary whole with the spiders that her workman was going to use), and finally, I decided, screw it, I'm going to turn this valve labeled gas at the front of the house, that seems like it should be connected to our water, but is clearly labeled gas. Generally, I don't mess around with our gas, or anything electrical, but I figured, what's the worst that could happen? I could blow up the house, but no one's in it right now, since I'm still running around the yard in my robe, so that would suck. But probably no one would die, or even lose an eye.

So I turned the valve, and the water shut off. Who was the genius who labeled the water valve gas?

I thanked Molly, she cancelled the workman, I called Dad, told him that some idiot labeled the valve gas, but at least I knew where it was, and then Captain America came home, unscrewed the shower thing, took his pliers, turned off the faucet. We turned the water back on, showered in the other bathroom and lived happily ever after.

Until earlier this week when I blew a fuse by having the heater, the space heater, and the Christmas lights all on at one time. This time, I happened to be in the shower, and my first thought was that the entire neighborhood had lost power, but then I looked out of my shower and saw the lights on in the kitchen, and I realized it was just the fuse. I finished my shower, since the water heater was still working, and I don't actually ever see my hair when I'm washing it anyway, and then I went to deal with this.

Captain America finds it mildly amusing that all of my household emergencies originate in the shower. Although to be fair, our shower can't possibly be blamed for this one, since it is decidedly not electrically powered.

So I towel off, put on my pajamas, and walk outside to the fuse box. I flip the fuse. Nothing happens. I unplug the space heater and the Christmas lights and flip the fuse. Nothing happens. I flip all of the fuses. Nothing happens. I call Captain America to give him the heads up. He instructs me to flip the fuses. And unplug stuff.

Remembering back to this water issue and friendly Molly, I decide to call SDG&E. Maybe there's something more that needs to be done, since fuse-flipping clearly isn't working.

I don't know who I spoke with because the person at SDG&E didn't seem to speak English. She had to ask me three times for my address before I worked out that that's what she was asking me. I explained the problem, telling her I had flipped all of the fuses and nothing happened.

"But you have lights on in other parts of your house?" she clarified.

Yes, I explained, but not in the bedroom, and the furnace wasn't working anymore.

(I know, I know, normally no furnace isn't a big deal in San Diego, but earlier this week it was actually in the 30s at night, which, as far as I'm concerned, is cold.)

"Well," mystery-woman-who-doesn't-speak-English said, "SDG&E is only responsible up to your fuse box. You'll have to call and electrician."

That was it. But I persisted, because I have this strange notion that the people who are supposed to be able to help you probably can, and if they're not willing to help you, it's just because they don't want to, or are too lazy, and they don't know who they're dealing with. I can totally outlast your stubbornness with my own stubbornness and impeccable logic and reasoning, since I've already figured out why you're the person who can solve my problem.

"There's nothing you can do for me?" I asked. No, I was told. "Do you have any suggestions for what I should do until the electrician shows up?" No, again. "Do you have a recommended electrician I can call?" No. Great, I thought, anther completely worthless person. Don't we have enough of those?

Captain America came home to me holding my head in my hands, with a lone candle lit on the coffee table as a heat source, tromped around the house a little, accused me of using the microwave, too, which doesn't make any sense, since that's on a different fuse, turned off all of the lights, flipped all of the fuses again, and poof! We had electricity again, and lived happily ever after, until I took anther shower.

So, the score is, the people at the water company: 3, for being friendly, and helpful, and nice, SDG&E: 0, for being totally useless.