Wednesday, May 30, 2007


I’m trapped in a “project management” class this week. That means that I get to sit in class all day and then do my regular work in the evenings. It’s also cutting into my customary lunch time blog surfing, and I’m not happy about that either. I just know everyone is missing my witty comments. Is that wailing I hear??

The class is interesting, but only in a hypothetical kind of way. In my experience, the topics we are studying will only be applicable in some imaginary world where no one does any work until after they are presented with a “project charter” and a “statement of work.” Out here in the real world, we sling code first and ask questions later. And we always create the project schedule after all the work is done. That way we don’t have to keep revising the schedule when everything is late. It’s way more efficient that way.

Anywho, on another class-related topic, I’ve got some advice for all you project management course instructors out there in the world: It’s important for you to always remember that your chosen profession requires that a room full of people gaze at you all day long and attempt to absorb the information that you’re spewing. If you happen to be a middle-aged man who is going gray, and you can’t face it and are dying your hair back to the dark blond you had twenty years ago, please get your roots touched up before each new class begins. Otherwise, your students will be so distracted by your hair that they won’t be able to concentrate on what’s coming out of your mouth. And that’s just a waste of everyone’s time, isn’t it? Thank you.

Friday, May 25, 2007


As I mentioned earlier, Slag and I have been coping as best we can with real life of late. It’s not really accurate to say that real life hasn’t been going our way. That implies a sort of unlucky randomness to the bad things that are happening. No, this feels more planned and deliberate. It feels like real life has been giving us a big ol’ finger.

(Before I get started I should say that I know that there are far worse things that could be happening to us right now. Far worse things are happening to other people even as we speak. I know this. No one has died or been seriously injured here. We aren’t about to divorce (that I know of). Contrary to my earlier predictions, our house hasn’t burned down. But I need to bitch, so humor me, will ya?)

So anyway, lots of crap has been going wrong. Ergo, we are grumpy.

Since most of these things fall into categories of things that Slag feels more responsibility for (e.g. home maintenance, auto repair, his own body), he is grumpier than I am. I’m not complaining about the grumpiness. He would be entitled to be grumpy if any one of these things happened. Having all of them happen at once, along with having a back that makes it impossible for him to sit in a chair for more than five minutes gives him carte blanche to be grumpy for the next year as far as I’m concerned. I’ve taken to trying to soothe him with foot massages and tequila, with minimal success.

As for me, I’m mostly feeling guilty.

The majority of the stress is related to the piss-poor customer support and appallingly bad repair facilities of the company that manufactured and sold the computer that Slag bought a couple of months ago. He’s spent hours and hours on the phone talking with people on the other side of the globe. He’s been lied to, stood up, put on hold and hung up on, transferred and hung up on, and generally subjected to lines of bullshit so preposterous that I couldn’t believe my own ears. I’m talking bad customer support on an epic scale. Complete incompetence. BALD FACE LYING.

After said computer returned to us from the repair shop for the THIRD time, it would not boot. As in, nothing happened when you pressed the power button. WOULD. NOT. BOOT. And the case was bent. And there was a ball bearing rolling around loose inside the case (which may explain why it wouldn’t boot). After much cajoling, the company graciously agreed to take back the steaming pile of crap they sold him and sent him back 85% of the price he paid for the computer, not including the tax of course. The net result is we’re out a little less than $500 and have……nothing. Not one thing to show for it. Except some serious resentment.

So why would I feel guilty about any of this? Why, because I am an EMPLOYEE of the company that sold him this defective computer. That’s right. I work for them. I am a cog in the big corporate machine that has made our lives miserable for the last two months. Dear lord, I am not part of the solution. I must be part of the problem! FUCK.

Turns out all that corporate crap they feed us about quality and customers being our top priority is just that, crap. Not one person we dealt with in all this was interested in whether or not we were happy or had been treated fairly or had a computer that worked. Not one. Not even the special “customer advocate” who was assigned to Slag’s case after I submitted a customer case on an exclusive, “unavailable to the outside world” website for employees only. No, on the rare occasions that we could actually get this “customer advocate” on the phone, all we got from her was attitude and long explanations about why our problems were not that serious.

I’m appalled, dumb-founded. I’m humiliated. I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around the last couple of months. And it isn’t lost on me that this company pays my freaking mortgage. And, even more, it really pisses me off that I’m feeling apprehensive about even posting this, because this company does, after all, give me a paycheck every two weeks. But, hey, the truth is the truth. Plus, I think I’m still anonymous enough that no one would be able to identify me, even if they wanted to. (Yeah, I’m naïve like that.)

So Slag is in the process of buying another computer from my employer’s biggest competitor. And I am looking for a hole to crawl into and hide, where I plan to spend most of my time sucking my thumb while I rock back and forth in the fetal position.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The New Tree

The new tree is finally here.

(Sorry Cheesy, I didn’t get any “before” shots. Just picture three enormous "cedar" trees (OK, so they're not really cedar trees, but everybody calls them that here) instead of this one little tree. )

The new tree was installed yesterday and is everything we had hoped it would be, i.e. alive. I’d like to say that it was installed without incident, but that wouldn’t be the real world, would it? No, there were plenty of incidents.

The tree was originally scheduled to be installed on Friday. We made the appointment two weeks in advance and made sure to have all the old trees removed before Friday. We paid the extra $200 for the air hammer that would be needed to dig a hole big enough to plant the new tree. We paid the $50 delivery surcharge for fuel. We told them repeatedly that there was stump in the exact spot where we wanted the tree planted. They repeatedly said “No problem, we’ll have an air hammer.” We did everything we were supposed to do, but that wasn’t enough. It never is, is it?

The tree people called on Thursday afternoon to tell us that the air hammer was broken and could we reschedule the planting? After some negotiating (i.e. Slag telling them to take our $200 and go rent a freaking air hammer and them calling back on Friday morning to say that the delivery truck was now broken down as well and there was no way they could bring the tree that day), they agreed to install the tree on Saturday morning.

They actually did show up on Saturday morning. I was stunned. The doorbell rang about 10am and Slag went out to supervise the installation. I stayed in the house and piddled around with this and that, not paying much attention to what was going on outside. I was enjoying that giddy feeling brought on by someone, ANYONE actually showing up when promised and doing what they said they would do. We haven’t seen much of that around here lately and I wanted to savor it. I heard some chopping sounds now and then, but, strangely, nothing that sounded like an air hammer.

So when I finally mustered the interest to actually look out the window, what did I see? I saw my husband. You know, the one with the bulging disk in his back? The one who is two injections into a series of three steroid injections into his SPINE? That one? Why, I saw him whacking at the stump with his axe, the stump which was supposed to be removed with an air hammer. Then I saw him use his small electric chainsaw to cut at the roots of the stump. Then he showed one of the guys who came to plant the tree how to use the 75 pound digging bar that he pulled out of his shop.

Instead of the tree company sending the power equipment we paid extra for, my husband had raided his tool shed for anything that might be useful and was helping them remove the stump and miscellaneous boulders from the spot where the tree was going to go. Yes, I watched my husband equip and assist the people who work for the company which had charged us $625 to deliver and plant one tree. And that’s not including the cost of the tree itself.

I found out later that the tree company, the one that specializes in selling and planting trees here in central Texas where there is frequently less than a foot of rocky soil on top of solid limestone bedrock, the one that we gave an extra $200 for the use of the rumored air hammer, the one that called and cancelled earlier because that same air hammer was broken, THAT company sent two guys to our house to plant a 16ft. tall tree with the following tools: two shovels. TWO. SHOVELS. One for each of them. At least they didn’t have to share. That would have been REALLY inefficient.

So I checked back periodically, getting little mental snapshots of the saga. There was progress, but it was slow. After about an hour and a half, the stump had been extracted from the ground, but the hole was still way too small for the tree’s root ball. Another half hour of digging and the hole was bigger and the tree was lying on the ground next to the hole. There were several rocks bigger than my head littering the ground around the hole. Another 20 minutes and the tree was upright in the hole and they were wheel barrowing in loads of dirt to spread in the hole around the tree. Fifteen more minutes and the tree was mulched and staked and watered.

Amazingly, the tree was eventually planted right where we wanted it, with the whole process only taking about three times longer than expected. I just knew Slag was going to be in a pissy mood after whole ordeal, but that afternoon he was in the best mood I’ve seen in weeks. He said it felt really good to actually do some physical work instead of taking it easy because of his back. He also got to practice his Spanish, because neither of the tree guys spoke much English. And they taught him some new words in Spanish, like the words for “stump” and “trunk” and “root.” Apparently these are very useful words to have in your repertoire.

Plus, after all that, he claims his back is fine. Color me surprised. If removing a cedar stump with hand tools while learning some Spanish gardening words is all it takes to make my man happy, who am I to stand in the way? Maybe next weekend I’ll drive him into orgasmic fits of ecstasy by demanding that he dig the trenches for that sprinkler system we’ve been talking about with a butter knife and a spatula. I don’t speak Spanish, but I don’t mind reading to him from a Spanish/English dictionary while he digs. See? Nobody can accuse me of not being a team player.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Three Weird Things

I encountered some weird things on my morning walk through the neighborhood today. Here they are, in order of increasing weirdness (to me).

- All the newspapers I saw lying in driveways this morning had single-serving sized boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios™ tucked into their little plastic bags.

- All the fireplugs I saw were covered in large plastic bags secured with generous amounts of duct tape. All of them. For the life of me, I cannot think of any logical reason for the plastic bags. Does it mean they’re out-of-order? What if there’s a fire?? If anyone else can provide an explanation, please let me know. It will take a great weight off my mind to know.

- I passed a house where a long row of little knee-high shrubs had been planted between the sidewalk and the curb. Two (apparently) able-bodied men were removing said shrubs by attaching one end of an industrial-sized chain to a shrub, attaching the other end to a hitch on the back of an SUV and driving the SUV far enough down the street to pull the shrub out the ground. I’ll agree it was clever, but the whole process seemed a little over-engineered to me.

Friday, May 11, 2007


Slag and I have bought ourselves a tree. We didn’t start out planning to buy a tree. No, initially, we only wanted to remove the one dead peach tree. The peach tree finally went belly-up after suffering through alternating seasons of total neglect and over-enthusiastic pruning. Last year there were still a few signs of life on the very ends of the recently pruned branches. It looked sort of like a “Dr. Seuss” tree: long, skinny, bare branches with little fluffy balls of green foliage on the ends. This year there’s nothing, not one green leaf, not a single blossom. It’s dead as a doornail. Whatever. We’re strictly Darwinian horticulturists around here. There are no hand-holding, pampering, attentive ministerings in our yard. If it can’t survive on its own, it’s going to die. End of story. (Except for Slag’s tomatoes, of course. If he could bring them in the house on stormy nights and tuck them into bed with little blankets to keep them warm, I know he would.)

So the dead tree needs to be removed. It’s pretty ugly. Plus if we allow it to stay, it will only become a home for insects, and the insects have enough homes around here as it is. But then we thought we should be efficient and practical. If we’re going to have somebody out here cutting down a tree, we may as well have them take out that one cedar tree too. The one that’s hanging too far over the studio and is one good thunderstorm away from falling on the roof. And while we’re at it, why don’t we just get rid of all the cedar trees? We don’t like them anyway, and we’ve talked about getting rid of them before. We may as well kill all the birds with one stone, so to speak. Why not?? Let’s just denude the entire back yard! What an excellent idea! We are smart! Yay for us!

The “yard denuding” is scheduled for next week. We checked with the homeowners association and the city, making sure it was OK for us to cut down all those trees. Nobody has a problem with it. They’re cedar trees after all, and nobody worries about preserving them. They’re everywhere. But we have one neighbor who’s going to totally freak. I just know it. He doesn’t believe in cutting anything, ever. He prefers that his house be surrounded by as much plant life as possible. OK, he does cut the grass. Twice a year. Whether it needs it or not.

I usually trim the shrubs on one side of his house when they grow so large and so far into our yard that WE can’t get past them. Everything else just goes wild. That plus the fact that this same neighbor doesn’t believe in window treatments gives his house that “abandoned” look. A pizza delivery guy once asked me if anyone lived there. Trust me, dude, it’s occupied. If nobody lived there, I would mow the yard myself, just so I wouldn’t have to look at it anymore.

So anyway, to get back to my original point, we have bought one hardwood tree to replace all the cedar trees we’re taking out, a Monterrey oak. It’s scheduled to be delivered and installed a couple of days after the other trees are removed. We shopped around and found a great-looking, semi-large tree from a place that specializes in trees. Selling and installing trees is all they do, so I have high hopes that they know what they’re doing. Their trees also come with a “one year guarantee.” If the tree dies within one year, they will replace it for free! Perfect. How can we go wrong?

But then, after we got home, I took a closer look at the sales receipt, and noticed a whole list of exceptions to the guarantee. Exceptions that were, of course, not mentioned by the salesman. The guarantee doesn’t cover any of the following:

- Failure to water adequately
- Insect infestation
- Damage caused by any animal
- Damage caused by any weather event, including but not limited to lightning, high winds, hail, or flooding.
- Any type of accident

So what exactly is being guaranteed here? I can’t really think of much else that would cause a tree to die. Are they guaranteeing that the tree won’t commit suicide? Is a meteorite considered an accident or a weather event? Gunshot wounds? What about Armageddon, the Second Coming, or the Rapture? They don’t mention poisoning, so I guess they’ll replace the tree if I accidentally dump a gallon of Round-Up on it. No wait, that would be an accident. OK, if I intentionally dump a gallon of Round-Up on it, then they’ll replace the tree?

I’m not sure that anything is covered, but I’m definitely calling them if that tree starts looking depressed.

Monday, May 07, 2007

I'm Baaaaaaaack

In my new old office. That's right. Part of me didn't believe it would happen, but I'm back in my old office with the lovely view of the air conditioning units. To prove it, here's an unauthorized photo of my view:

To celebrate, I bought a couple off new office toys. Here we have Pink Panther. He's bendy like a Gumbie, only cooler. And pinker.

And here's an obnoxious squeezable "stress reliever":

And here's a shot of me relieving stress:

Boy, do I feel better now.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Ill Fortune

So Slag and I been away from the net for a few days. We've been busy dealing with real life. Real life has not been going our way.

Major appliances have malfunctioned. Trees are dying. Computer hardware has failed. Various customer support representatives have lied to us, stood us up and hung up on us. Automotive clear coat finishes have been scratched. Slag’s spine has been injected with steroids again. I have been presented with a prescription for bifocals by my opthamologist. I fully expect a meteorite to land on our house tonight, just to put a cherry on top of our week.

If you see a fireball on the horizon in the direction of Texas, that would be us being reduced to our constituent elements by a flaming extraterrestrial object. It might be an improvement.