So today I found out that I have performance goals for 2002 here at the Big R. This fact, in and of itself, is not surprising; we are generally given a set of goals every year at our annual review, which is in April.
This year, however, we never received our list of goals. We were asked to submit our ideas for what our goals should be shortly after our last review, and we did so; El Jefe passed along our suggestions to our VP, and they were supposed to get together and review them, come up with a list, and present them to us formally. Weeks, then months, passed by without us hearing a thing more about it... until our weekly interrogation this morning. Why didn’t I ask when we were going to see them? Well, a couple of reasons. First of all, I was feeling bitter over the lack of raises, and honestly didn’t care a whit what their expectations were at that point. Also, had I asked, I’m fairly certain the response would have been that “they’re still in review” – basically, our VP was sitting on them, and Jefe wasn’t about to press him on the issue. Lastly, I figured that if we got all the way to the next review period without getting goals, then any demerits I got for not meeting a goal could be disputed by the simple fact that I wasn’t aware of its existence. All very passive-aggressive, I guess... but such is life at the Big R.
Anyway, now I am aware that I was supposed to have been designing a Purchasing webpage for our Intranet, and that it’s supposed to be done by the end of the year. This project was among my suggestions for myself – but I had not heard one peep that anyone even thought it was a good idea, let alone that I was expected to actually be developing it all this time. Hi there! However, Jefe generously extended my completion period to the end of February, so at least I’ll have some time to think it through. I’m enthused about the project, don’t get me wrong – it just would have been nice to know that I was authorized to begin work on it.
Also, we found out that our negotiated cost savings goals have gone up by another 12% or so from last year, even though our actual volume of purchasing (hense, opportunities for savings) has decreased significantly compared to last year, due to the general slump in business both for us and the industry in general. Paul and I compared our actual savings charts for the year, and were interested to note that the peaks and dips were very similar, reinforcing the perception each of us had about how the volume of business affected our negotiation opportunities during given months. You gotta spend big to save big, y’know? Luckily, we have some capital and test equipment buys coming up that will give us a chance to recoup our numbers... but it really irritates me that we’re being given arbitrary goals that don’t reflect the reality of our situation. The first few years I was here, our savings goal was of “5% average negotiated savings vs. total dollars spent”; while flawed in itself, this target at least took into account the variable nature of our purchasing requirements and more accurately reflected performance compared to opportunity, instead of simply being a “let’s set the goal higher than last year so it looks like we’re continuously improving!” number.
Anyway, I couldn’t help the look of surprise and mild consternation that I gave the list when it was presented to me along with Jefe’s comments about my progress in meeting my phantom goals. I actually did ask him if we had gone through them in some meeting that I’d forgotten we had; his response was vague and kind of defensive – something along the lines of “Yeah, they’re the goals you suggested for yourself” – he finally did sort of allude to the fact that the list had been sent down by our VP because it’s the time for mid-year progress reports, and that it was the first time he was seeing it too. He was being evasive in the familiar way he adopts when he knows he’s handing you a raw deal but doesn’t want to admit to it – a mixture of false joviality and dismissiveness, with an edge of “if you call me on this I’m going to get irate, so leave it alone”. Over the past 5-1/2 years I’ve learned to read the shifting sands of his moods and ride them accordingly, and I knew better than to push any further – so I signed my copy like a good soldier; at least now I know in which ways I will fall short come Spring. Provided I’m still around for reviews at that point...
It takes so little to make me happy… A new set of shelves in the bedroom closet did the trick yesterday. Wee constructed, I painted, and now we have twice the shelf space in there, which will cut down the cluttered-nightmare factor immensely. Happy day!
I have this strong urge to nest and get the house in order before we leave for England. I guess part of the motivation is just that it's so nice to come back from a long trip to a clean, tidy house - the last thing you want to think when you walk in all jet-lagged and exhausted is, "Well, home sweet home is certainly a shithole". Also, I had the strange morbid thought that, should anything happen to us, I don't want our family coming into the house to clean it out and having to deal with it being all disorganized and nasty on top of things. Now isn't that a pleasant scene to envision when one is planning a trip - weeping relatives picking through your dirty laundry?
Still, international relations being what they are, taking an overseas trip makes you think a little about the potential of encountering trouble. There's a little more risk going to London than, say, Norwich where my family lives. London is obviously on the short list of potential metropolitan targets for terrorists, especially with the UK's support of the US positions on Afghanistan and Iraq. Just within the past week, the BBC reported that three men were arrested for planning a nerve gas attack on the Tube. At least the IRA hasn't been feeling its oats lately (what's up with them these days, anyway? I obviously need to brush up on my Irish current affairs - better read this, I guess...). I feel a wee bit wary about being an American in a major international city. If anyone asks, I'm quite tempted to claim that I'm Canadian. That being said, though, I'm not actively worried about our welfare over there. Odds are that, should we have any sort of trouble there, it's far more likely to be a garden-variety mugging than a terrorist attack. Anyway, all we can really do is keep our eyes open, our wallets and passports secured, and our focus set on the very important business of having an excellent time. Visiting museums and cathedrals, finding the best pub lunch, shopping for Christmas gifts, finding the best pub dinner, seeing a play, finding the best pub nightcap... Screw world politics; we're going to have a blast!
We're hoping to take a laptop with us this time, so that we can upload digital pics, keep a travel journal, possibly even get on the Web and do daily MG updates... The hotel apparently has ISDN lines in the rooms, so we'll definitely be looking into it.
As I commented on Wee's last post... first it's wildly fluctuating climate controls, then ants, and now it's a PC that's gone schizo. I think the Big R (aka my place of work) is trying to drive me mad one tiny indignity at a time.
OK, I confess that I may have partial culpability on this one. I made the mistake of installing a Win98 update pack yesterday on my work PC (seemed like a prudent thing to do, right? Get the latest security updates, bug fixes, etc... the Microsoft site audits your PC - scary in itself, but there it is - and tells you which files you should install, so it's not like I chose the wrong ones), and now it seems that there's something corrupted in Explorer. It freezes when I try to open certain types of files - not all files, mind you... just .xls and .dwg so far. I can open those files via other means (using FastLook for .dwg files works, and I can open Excel files that are in my "history" list at the bottom of the File drop-down menu - just not when I try to select them using the "open" command...). I tried running a defrag, too, on the off chance that the hard disk just needed a reorganization... but defrag won't run. My keyboard then randomly decided to turn hot keys on without my consent, so I lost the ability to use e, r, d, f, etc... Those came back when I rebooted, but I fear I will still have to let the IT chimps take a look at the machine. I suspect their verdict will be - as usual with anything complicated enough that I can't figure it out myself, which usually means they won't be able to either - to reinstall Windows, and for once I can't disagree. Nuts.
It would be nice if they'd just give me a new PC, considering that I've had this one for about 4 years, and it runs at a blazing 333 MHz. But I'm not an engineer or a drafter, so whyever would I need a better processor? I'm surprised I don't still have the 486 box I had when I started here... that's something, at least. What's vexing is that I'm the computer buyer for our division, so I get to see what the anointed are getting these days - 1.7 GB P4's with half a gig of RAM. It's like working in a fine restaurant serving filet mignon all day, and going back in the breakroom and eating PB&J for your own dinner...
But hey, at least I have a window cube. Knock on wood that they don't decide to paint them over...
So it appears that there's a notify list available for TessNews - I had no idea, actually, but somehow one clever little monkey has made his way onto it. (You know who you are). Anyway, if anyone wants to be added to it, I believe I can make that happen. I know how you all (all four or five of you, anyway) hang on my every word, and don't want to wait any longer than you have to to get your fill of Gumbo goodness. Right? Ahem. At any rate, it's an option... just let me know.
So I was searching for a clever link for the section in the previous post about ants... So I typed in the term "crazy ants"... and discovered that there is, in fact, an official such thing as a crazy ant.
I just thought that was cool, OK? Lordy Mercy, you people are hard to please...
It is SUCH a Monday 'round here at the CubeFarm… The first call I got this morning was from my most prolific printed circuit board supplier, and it was in regard to the hottest order I have with them, which is the hottest order I have pending in general, which is for our most critical military customer program - the one where the customer is threatening to pull out of a multi-million dollar contract because we are not meeting their insane lead time demands. The call was to inform me that the (very expensive) material I had sent to them from which to make these parts was allegedly not the material needed for the order and they have had to scrap the parts and need replacement material from us. Everything on our side tells us that we did in fact provide the correct material… We also provided material from the same lot to a different supplier for a different job - a much more complex and expensive one with a longer lead time - but thank the Gods, they said the stuff they got was fine. So I'm baffled, and suspicious. However, playing the blame game doesn't get our parts to us any faster, so I'm having to send them some more and may have to eat the cost of the prior lot if we can't find a way to prove that they somehow mixed up the material we sent them with other material from their stock. In the mean time, I don't get my parts for another three days, and the program slips further into peril. Joy!
To top off the ecstasy that is my morning, our department has ants. Hundreds of ants, launching a campaign along the front line of our windowsills and making inroads to my bookshelf. Luckily they haven't hit food yet, and I've thrown away anything unpackaged and vulnerable to attack, but you never know... My coworker Paul and I have not discounted the notion that this bold infiltration of a defense subcontractor facility represents a threat to national security. An examination of their tiny heads for turbans or bushy facial hair came up short; however, knowing the wiles of the enemy mind, we intend to alert the proper authorities just to be safe. (What's that terrorist hotline number, again?) One of the housekeepers came in and sprayed a canful of insecticide on the windows, and now our department is suffused with the miasma of arthropodic chemical warfare. One squad of the things is still alive but trapped on a sill that got missed - surrounded and cut off from their supply chain, they're now entrenched like the 101st Airborne at Bastogne. I sympathize with their plight and realize that per the Geneva convention I should be throwing them flies and hooking them up with a green plastic barn and windmill or something... But screw 'em. War is hell.
A silver lining to this cloud of ant-poison is that the stuff used is "children and pet safe"... although, as Paul dryly remarked, technically none of us fits either definition (albeit that our Boss may not agree). Anyway, another plus of sorts is that the spray smells mostly like Ben-Gay, which is to say a hell of a lot better than most insecticides. Yet the relative appeal of sitting at a cubicle that stinks of Ben-Gay instead of one that stinks of Raid is marginal at best. I still have a headache, and will probably dream tonight of being pursued by a limping horde of angry arthritic giant ants.
Meanwhile, adding insult to injury, I am picturing Bill probably still napping in our bed at this moment, blissful in the fact that he got today off for Veteran's Day while I had to drag ass in for the war effort. I suppose I'm supporting the concept of veterans in my own way - by helping provide parts for hardware that will be used by military personnel to blow up Iraqis, and thus become veterans themselves… however, I'm not sure if that's a roster whose ranks anyone other than those employed by the VFW and VA (or, well, the Bush Administration) is eager to see swell. *shrug*
In sum, I badly need one vacation, size EXTRA-LARGE, required delivery REAL DAMNED SOON! 12 days to go… 12 days to go…
It's raining here today. The silvery wet sky and and the leaves flying off the big maple trees in the cul-de-sac outside of my office remind me of Oregon, and that makes me happy. This morning, standing at my kitchen window watching the rain sifting down through our eucalyptus trees, I was yearning to call in sick and spend the day sitting on my couch with a cup of cocoa, a book, some Billie Holiday on the stereo, and a view of my backyard. Sadly, Fridays are the worst day for me to not be at work; this is the day we buyers have our weekly interrogation - I mean, status meeting - with the Boss, and our TPS reports - I mean, our workload indicators - are due. Today was particularly non-negotiable in that I agreed to give aforementioned Boss a lift after work to pick up his Jeep at the garage. So I resigned myself to being here, but a part of me hopes tomorrow is exactly like today so I can still follow through on my lazy scheme.
Rain is a novelty here. It's also, I imagine, a source of dread for police, fire and EMT workers, because the rate of accidents goes up exponentially. Californians lose their shit when it comes to having to drive in the rain. I'll grant that precipitation causes problems on the roads - because it's so infrequent, the roads become slicker than snot when the rainwater soaks in and loosens up months' worth of accumulated oil and dirt. Caution is definitely in order. The real danger, though, comes out of the interaction between nervous drivers who overcompensate and plod along like half-blind narcoleptic grandmothers, and impatient drivers who get aggravated by the slow-movers and careen aggressively between lanes trying to get around the slow boats. Mishaps inevitably ensue. The worst offenders, predictably, tend to be folks in SUV's who get all cocky thinking that their all-wheel drive and big knobby tires somehow exempt them from the laws of physics as they apply to slick surfaces. My CR-V has something called "real-time 4-wheel drive", which essentially means there's a computer monitoring the amount of traction the tires are getting and automatically switching the tranny into all-wheel drive whenever it seems necessary - I don't have to do anything; in fact, I have no say in the matter one way or the other, but that doesn't bother me - the car's brain knows what it needs better than I do. It's reassuring… but I'm still reasonably wary on days like this.
Anyway, on tonight's itinerary are a log in the fireplace, warm cider with a jigger of rum, a good movie to watch, and later on a dip in the hot tub. Yes, thanks - I do feel pretty damned lucky.
* A Wee quote; ask him about it if you're curious.
So I've gone ahead and picked the worst possible time to embark upon another weight loss effort. My cube is positioned right next to the coffee area where my coworkers have deposited a massive pile of post-Halloween candy leftovers, which mock me with their slutty chocolately charms every time I go to and from my desk. “Honey, check out what we all about! You know you want us, sugar! Take two – we be small and shit!” It's all a slippery slope of temptation from here - in three weeks I'll be on vacation in the Gravy and Custard Capital of the World, and I'll return only to plunge headfirst into the myriad temptations of the Christmas season. Candy canes! Fudge! Christmas cookies! 5-pound boxes of See's candy and buckets of cheese popcorn from pandering vendors!
I still find myself fighting a sense of denial over my current proportions. My mental image of myself, who I really am, is stuck at size 8 and refuses to admit that I haven't been that size in, oh, going on 8 years now. I just never thought I would have any problem with weight control, and I guess a part of me has always clung to the notion that my excess plushiness is a temporary thing, which will just magically melt away someday without my having to make the kind of lifestyle changes that I know, deep down, I need to adopt in order to get back to where I want to be. I have always scorned women who get obsessed with diets and exercise, to whom the phrase "minute on the lips, lifetime on the hips" takes on mantra-like proportions as they righteously choke down half a side salad and a Diet Coke for lunch and declare themselves full. I love food. I loooooove food. I try hard to deny my love, but it's like the tides, relentless and eternal. And I loathe most forms of exercise. Bad combo.
The nail in my particular adiposal coffin came when I stopped living in places where I did a lot of walking - in college I walked everywhere, then afterward I moved to Corvallis, where both work and downtown shopping were a mile or two away from my house; even in Tucson, we lived a block off the U of A campus, so again everything was proximal by foot. Then we moved to California, where the Auto reigns supreme. I began eating fast food for lunch every day, and failing to make myself get out after work and take a walk instead of collapsing mindlessly in front of the TV or the computer. At the same time, my metabolism had begun to cool down from the blazing forge it was in my youth. Yet I lived with Bill, whose body still burns calories like a bonfire burns paper, and somehow thought I could eat the same way he did and have the same results - metabolism by proxy, I guess. So I got lazy, and I got plump, and yet I couldn't move myself to fight the proverbial Battle of the Bulge.
Relatively speaking, I'm not seriously obese; but I definitely have to dig toward the back half of the rack at Old Navy, and have given the whole Lycra-babydoll-shirt and lowrider pants trend a complete pass. Stores like Bebe and Charlotte Russe piss me off beyond reason, with the size 0 ass-grabbing rib-clinging handkerchiefs they call fashion. In a sense, I admire girls who don't feel shame over their Rubenesque proportions and will shop there anyway, readily wrapping their bulgy bits in tight shirts and hot pants, and to hell with anyone who doesn't like it if Baby got back. Carmen, a middle-aged spitfire of a Puerto-Rican mamacita who used to work with me, was always berating me for not wearing more fitted, womanly clothes. She herself has a marvelous sense of herself as a sexy woman no matter what size she is. As for me, I am the queen of subterfuge with my loose sweaters and relaxed-fit jeans. Sometimes these clothes probably make me look bigger than I actually am (reference those overalls I wore at the Halloween party); but there's room for doubt under there, and that's what I bank on. Besides, I have never liked form-fitting clothes, even when I was thinner - I get annoyed and claustrophobic when clothes cling to me. And there are things about me that I don't think are so bad - my cleavage has never been better. heh . But I miss my jawline and my waist; whereas my ass has definitely outworn its welcome.
Still, how I look is not who I am, and it bothers me to think that I am subject to assumptions or dismissals by people who judge me by my excess pudge - or to gossip and tongue-clicking by well-meaning relatives and friends who remember my skinnier days and fret when they consider the delta between then and now. So far no one's said anything much to me outright; but I know all too well that I have not been exempt from the type of scrutiny that I have observed (and shamefully participated in) regarding others in my situation. I've heard the wary laughs and weak protestations when I've made jokes about my own gain. I've noted the excessive enthusiasm put into compliments when I have visibly lost some pounds - like, "finally, she's doing something about it!". I get angry when I hear mockery of someone with weight problems from some person who I know does absolutely nothing to deserve their own slenderness; simply winning the genetic lottery gives one no right to be smug. I grit the enamel off my teeth as I suffer through one of my petite mother’s obsessive rants about having put on – gasp – 10 pounds in the wake of her double whammy of quitting smoking and having a hysterectomy… even though most women who’d done both concurrently would probably thank the gods that that’s all they gained. (If ever I wondered where these flourishing insecurities of mine were germinated…heh) On the other hand, I have the extraordinary luck to be happily married to someone who loves me unconditionally… Yet pure vanity still makes me wilt at the principle of being a woman that mens' eyes glance at and dismiss in a bar instead of fixing on hopefully; I hate the feeling of being a contender, but not making the cut for Varsity Cute. The crux of all this is, my outside does not match my inside, and I'm tired, so tired of the discrepancy between the two.
Yet all the weeping and whining in the world will not correct this situation… so I’m back on the horse, power-walking every day at lunch, ignoring the siren call of the fun-size Snickers in the candy bowl, drinking water like I've just swallowed a lit firecracker, making my peace with salads and Aspartame. I see the gaping maw of the holidays beckoning, but I am grabbing my fork and facing it with the steely eye of resolve. Wish me luck.
So Casa Del Tessenwee successfully weathered another party this weekend... Todd and Wy requested that we provide the forum for a combo Halloween/birthday bash, and we gladly obliged.
Deciding that we wanted to bring something different to the social table this time, we came up with the idea of digging out the DLP projector we had in the attic and showing movies on the back deck. Bill, along with plucky assistant Toddler, constructed an eight-foot square screen out of plywood and canvas drop cloth (Indy and Wy shown for scale, heh):
The other cool thing we did was turn the hot tub into a spooky (albeit square) cauldron, by means of glow sticks and dry ice. Turns out you can buy dry ice from Baskin-Robbins - very handy, that. Although the vapor didn't tend to last terribly long, when it was in full flow the effect was pretty damned cool:
Anyway, we had a faboo time and really enjoyed the company of everyone who showed up (especially those intrepid souls who chose to wear costumes!). Check out scenes of the tomfoolery here (oh, and I was just holding that clove for someone... Honest!). If Bill and I were profoundly hurting units the day after… well, such are the wages of excess. Our livers were not only battered, but then deep-fried and served with cocktail sauce… yet they have survived to fight another day. Salud!