Wednesday, November 30, 2005

this is getting rather ridiculous

After 1:30 AM and not anywhere closer to dropping off than I was when I went to bed around 11, I finally decided to just get up. I feel like a ghost that has been wandering around my apartment at night lately.

Maybe I'll just do some work. Or something.

(sidebar: wow, it is really pouring down rain outside)

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Still No Sleep

Saturday Night/Sunday Morning: Up until 5 AM
Sunday Night/Monday Morning: Up until 3:30/4:00 AM
Monday Night/Tuesday Morning: Up until 2:30/3:00 AM

At least I'm headed in the right direction. By the end of the week I should almost be getting a normal nights sleep. I wonder if I should call my doctor and try to get a prescription to Ambien or something. Sheesh!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Unbelievably Hot

Okay, it's the butt-end of November and it's about 70 degrees in NYC tonight. I'm about ready to burst into flames!

and the stress starts again

Coming to the close of my week off and the stress of work is starting to build in my brain again. Last night I was up all night. Literally until 5 AM, thinking about all the work currently loaded on my plate. During my week off I received numerous emails from various different people in my group requesting my involvement in various unrelated projects. It's gotten to the point now where I almost feel like I'm reporting to about eight different people. Now that I'm due back to work tomorrow morning after a week off, I am anxious about all this stuff I now am responsible for. The list seems to grow with each day. Hopefully, I'll at least be able to sleep some tonight.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Mission Accomplished

The finished product. Don't know how it tastes yet, but it sure does smell great.

A Precious Commodity

So I told Carolina that I would bake an apple pie for Thanksgiving. I'm actually cheating and using that pre-made, uncooked, pie dough that you just have to unroll. I used to make my own crust many years ago. My mother loved to cook, and she was a particularly fine baker. I think this came from the influence of her Scottish grandmother. So I grew up enjoying home-baked from scratch apple pies. I was never much of a fan of cakes, but any kind of apple pastry has always been a weakness for me. So, I learned to make my own crust and used to bake a pie now and again, but that was all many years ago. This year I'm cheating, my mother would frown, but what can you do?

Anyway, I went to the store today to pick up most of the ingredients that I would need and once again I was confronted with a spice section in the grocery store with no nutmeg to be found anywhere.

I ended up at check-out and I happened to mention to the cashier, "You guys don't carry nutmeg?" English wasn't her first language, so it took me a couple of tries before she really understood what I was asking for. I finally said, "Nutmeg. It's a kind of spice." She then opens the drawer under her register and pulls out a tiny container of nutmeg and says, "You mean, like this?" DOH!!! "Exactly!!!"

So, they're hiding the nutmeg under the cash register like it's some precious commodity that is going to walk out of the store. Well, come to think of it, this tiny thing cost $5, so maybe it would after all. But, SHEESH!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Rant of the Day

People who litter.

Crossing the street in front of my apartment building this afternoon, there are two teenage boys in front of me. One throws an empty plastic juice bottle into the street. There is a trash can about five feet to their left and a dumpster a few feet in front of them. I am so mad, my blood practically boils.

Me: "Do you have throw trash in the street???!!!"
Punk Teenager: "What difference does it make?"
(Is he kidding? What difference does it make???)
Me: "What do you mean, what difference does it make? All this trash makes this a terrible place to live! Besides, there is a trash can right in front of you!" (how lazy can you possibly be?)
Punk Teenager: "So? there's already garbage on the street!"
Me: "so? You've got to add to it???"

Teenage punks go on grumbling about "who cares?" etc. I pick up discarded plastic bottle and toss it into the dumpster.

Punk Teenager: "Why don't you pick up the rest of the garbage around then? What are you, a Park Ranger?"
Me: "Damn lazy punks" (assholes).

These are among the same assholes who stand around on the street outside my apartment all the time whooping and yelling and playing bad, loud music that the entire neighborhood is forced to endure.

I just. don't. get. it. Any time I call someone on littering, they are always completely incredulous that anyone would even care. I can see catching someone in the act, and they then acting guilty or defensive about it, but everyone I've ever spoken up to around here has seemed to be completely convinced that they've done nothing at all wrong. What are the parents teaching these kids? Both of these punks were wearing nice, new and fashionable coats. Obviously someone is looking after them. So they're well-dressed, but are the parents nearly as concerned with their morals and their futures? Between the litter thing, the complete disregard for community and the fact that all these kids are regularly out on the street after 11 PM, regardless of the day of the week, I would think that the priorities are somehow screwed up.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Why is it?

Why is it that I always have a good hair day on a day that is basically spent at home? For some reason I had a terrific hair day today, not that I've encountered anyone to admire it in all it's glory. Except my dog, that is, not that she would notice (or care).

and I don't even mind doing a little work on Sundays...

I had a few things that I had to finish up for work this evening before I can enjoy my week off, but I don't even mind it really, not when I can sit here enjoying the music I've got playing on my iTunes, with a friendly pug snuffling around at my feet. There is something relaxing and satisfying about being able to work away in my own environment, playing my music and being able to get up and stretch, take a minute to pet the pug or even take a walk outside, if I need to.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Are They Kidding Me?

Stopped in the store on the corner tonight and they had a stereo in there blasting "Frosty the Snowman" and "Jingle Bell Rock". I mean, it's not even Thanksgiving yet! Every year the holiday season just becomes more & more annoying to me. Sheesh!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

It's not a very comforting sight... come home from work and find the street next to your building closed off to traffic while some guys jack hammer into the middle of the road next to a truck that declares they are from the "New York City Department of Environmental Protection". At least there weren't a bunch of guys in those EPA suits (that look like giant condoms) milling about. Now that would be a cause for concern.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Something Else...

Oh, I forgot to add this to yesterdays post...

Yesterday a colleague in my office was interviewing this guy for an open programming position in my group. Anyway, I guess after he had asked all the pertinent programming-related questions, the interview went this way:

Colleague: "so, let's say you've finished up with your current work, what do you do then?"
Job Applicant: "try to look busy in case your manager happens to walk by. er, I mean, because you really wouldn't want him to catch you playing games, etc. at your desk."

I thought that perhaps he was joking, but apparently he was serious. Can you imagine? And he comes up with this in an interview, no less? I guess there are all kinds of idiots out there these days. Mark my words, we'll probably end up hiring this guy...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

bits & pieces

First, a picture of The Necklace:

Gawd, I just had the craziest day today. Yesterday most of my day was tied up with meetings and presentations (funny how I don't really get nearly as nervous when I'm presenting my own work), so today was a real mad scramble to get some actual work done. Most of my morning and part of my afternoon was spent assisting the director of my department with this reporting project for one of our regional sales managers. Actually, I did all of the actual work and she most of the liaisoning, but who wants to split hairs? Anyway, this all set me back for the day and made my afternoon a bit frantic to get the stuff done for today that I had wanted to get done. A little bit stressful, but it all worked out in the end.

Was speaking to my former-currently-temporary-maybe-permanent manager this afternoon and he kept going on & on about what a great job I'm doing. That's a great compliment, I guess, but I don't feel like I'm working any harder or better than I ever did before, it's just being noticed somewhat more because of a few factors:

A) A bunch of my projects have reached critical phases where they've graduated to the stage where higher-ups are more involved and the projects have thus become higher profile and I (as a result) have also become higher profile. Higher-ups are pretty quick to express their pleasure (or displeasure) to people who matter. And their input is taken more seriously too.

B) With the situation with Lou as it is, there is very little buffer between directors in my department and myself and my willingness to chip in and help out anywhere and everywhere (while it's always been there) is more noticeable because it is desperately needed, now more than ever.

So, I don't know whether to be complimented or insulted, so I'm a little bit of both. Mostly complimented though (but a small part of me can't help but be the tiniest bit peeved). I'm not one to honk my own horn at work, I really hate all that phony crap, so I guess it's nice that some of my honest good work is finally being recognized a bit without me having to jump up & down about it all. Former-currently-temporary-maybe-permanent manager told me this afternoon that they want to send me to our yearly User's Conference Summit thingie next year. I've always wanted to go and it is a bit of a perk, but not a fantastic one. You have to share a room and work all the time and proctor labs and since I've written all the business intelligence for the app that runs the event, I will mostly have to be on-site to trouble-shoot, do adhoc reporting and other last minute work as it comes up during the event. Frankly, I hope this is not my "reward" in lieu of a raise or something. Sheesh.

Unrelated comment: if someone "compliments" you by telling you, you look like Elizabeth Taylor, it's not really a compliment at all, but "nice" way of telling you that you look fat. Of course, it could be worse, I've been compared to A) Rosie O'Donnell and B) Roseanne in the past. But Whatever.

Lastly: I order an iPod today!

(Lola, staring at a cookie)

Friday, November 11, 2005

It Happens Once a Year

(Lori & my father in front of the restaurant last night)

Had my annual "Birthday" dinner with my father & Lori (his wife) last night (my birthday isn't actually until tomorrow, so there's still time to shop! heh!). This was the second year in a row that we've gone to this restaurant. Last year we were impressed with the food, service and the charming little place (and the fact that it's not a huge hardship for me to get there from work and back again to the train) that we decided to go again. So, I had my annual ration of Escargots and Duck ala Orange, which are some of my favorite things (all so rich and decadent, but oh so delicious).

Things were a little screwy, however, as my father & Lori were about an hour and fifteen minutes late. One. Hour. And. Fifteen. Minutes. As I sat there alone at the table reading (thank GOD I had a book) by candlelight and drinking glass after glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. But it all turned out okay in the end (except I could have done without the getting home at 11 PM on a "school" night part, but at least it's Friday now).

Additionally, the biggest surprise of all was that they gave me an actual gift. A beautiful silver & opal & aquamarine necklace (I just love necklaces), usually I just get a scarf, or something for Lola. It actually scares me a little bit to consider that they could have been reading my blog! My father also gave me a check (which he always does), with which I am going to buy THIS! Finally! heh.

Anyway, for once I had a meal with my father where I didn't feel like I was on a job interview. Maybe the four glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon had something to do with that.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Harriet Runs the New York Marathon (11.06.05)

Harriet has an affiliation with the Achilles Track Club (although I don't think she technically qualifies as an Achilles athlete) and was thus able to take the limited early start on Marathon Day. This allowed her to run next to the elite women for a brief few seconds when they passed her on the course a couple of hours later. Luckily someone had a camera.

Congratulations to Harriet and all the NYCM runners!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Other Side

Well, I'm on the other side of the presentation that had my panties all in a twist and it went pretty well. I feel much better now. I think I'll have a beer...

Monday, November 07, 2005

Work Rant

(this is a picture of my office building that I took this afternoon).

So, I've been really busy at work lately. Lots of project work, and more & more various and sundry stuff to come my way, whether it be a real project, debugging and fixing stuff, helping someone out, it pretty much runs the gamut. And I'm happy to do it, especially if it means exposure to an area that haven't previously been involved in, or if I am a contributing member of team or someone honestly needs my help. What I do resent however, is having work foisted off on me by people who just don't feel like doing something.

There is this guy I work with, let's just call him J. He is senior to me, he's been with the company in general and my department in particular for something like 20 years. He built many of the old, legacy mainframe applications that we still, to some extent, deal with today. Additionally, he heads a number of business intelligence projects. Our work overlaps quite bit, I am basically the lead contact for our main company Sales d/b and apps, an application that he was the architect of. Many of the business intelligence projects that I've worked on have been sister projects to some of his. I am basically the expert in my various areas and he is the uber-last-say expert (if I ever have a doubt or a question, I come to him for clarification). So he is essentially senior to me, but he is not my boss. I generally get along with him very well. Nice easy-going guy, very approachable, I always come away from a meeting with him completely enlightened, etc.

Historically he has come to me for quite a lot too. Whenever there is an enhancement needed for the Sales app, some data to be fixed or a reporting project that he is not going to have time to do, I am his first choice. Fine, I am happy to do it. I drop stuff all the time to help him whenever I can. But, what drives me crazy is that it is never reciprocated. A couple of examples:

* Every month/quarter there are always some tricky scenarios with commission points that need to fixed and re-loaded into our points d/b. 9 times out of 10 it is a relatively simple data fix, but you have to know what you're doing because you're changing Sales data and also deleting bad commission records. Sometimes it takes more debugging work to really figure out what is going on, so all-in-all, it's generally not work that just anyone can do. Anyway, I get a lot of this work and he is pretty much the only other person who can do it. One day not too long ago I was taking some vacation time, but being at home, I always check my email anyway. So I see I have an email from the marketing staff about a commissions problem that needs to be fixed. So, I forward the call to our help desk and J and ask if someone can help this person out, to please get back to her either way (I mean, we're talking commissions here) and if J can't fix the problem, then I will do it the following Monday. Lo and Behold I come back in on the Monday and contact the user. User says the help desk contacted her initially, but never heard anything back from J (yay or nay) that he could work on it, or anything about the issue from him. While I am in this conversation with the user, J forwards the original email to me with the note, "sorry, I didn't have time to do this". First of all, it would have taken him a total of 15 minutes. TOPS. Secondly, you don't get back to the user and say, hey can this wait til Monday when Debbie will be back??? At the very least, he could have responded right away to ME and I would have followed up from HOME. But no, he waits until X amount of days when he knows I'm back in the office. It just pissed me off because this would have been nothing for him to fix and I am always dropping stuff to help him out with far more involved stuff.

* We had a call about a week ago about a Sales exception report that needed some product category changes. The note was sent to our help desk and J and I was cc:ed. It was J's report. Help desk tries to assign it to J, J tells them to assign it to me. Because he didn't *feel* like doing it. Without even checking with me first to see what my workload is, or even just sending me an email, nothing. Normally it's not a huge deal, but A) it's not my report, so it takes some more debugging on my part to become familiar with it, and B) he really hit me on a day that I was completely swamped. Anyway So, I make all the fixes, but things are not sorting out the way expected. I end up spending additional time debugging to finally determine that a database value actually also needs to be changed. A fact that (I'm sure) J was aware of (but never mentioned). Whatever.

* I do this monthly/quarterly sales rep new hire training demo on how to use the various web reports and other apps my department has designed to help the field people both service their customers and prospect for new business. It's a little harrowing for me because I end up having to present on a lot of stuff I haven't worked on, or been involved with, in addition to the stuff that I have (I always feel a bit insecure about the stuff I haven't actually written). Anyway, J is just finishing up on this big project to build these role-based dashboards that will load default templates onto each rep's homepage. So, they want to present this to the new hire reps instead of my traditional demo. Great. So, rather than presenting his own project himself and letting me observe so that I can have the salient points for the next time this comes up, he decides that he just doesn't want to do it, so it's going to be completely my responsibility. Even though I had not even SEEN this thing before this past Friday. And the demo is TOMORROW. Of course I'll do the best job I possibly can, but seriously. Wouldn't you think he would want to present his own work in the best possible light? Particularly when it's (basically) for the first time to this community? I mean, really. So, it pisses me off.

I have no problem taking on more work and responsibilities, pitching in, helping someone who is over-loaded, or who isn't making progress on something. What angers me is when I feel that someone is just trying to take advantage. Surprisingly, I have a really, really great working relationship with J. I am always pleasant and willing to do whatever. And I'm (as I said before) always his first choice for any tricky problem or issue. But still, GAH! Anyway, nice that I have this blog on which to rant, so I won't explode at work -- ha!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Lola Likes TV

These pictures are a few months old, but they illustrate how Lola likes to watch TV.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

This is just wrong!

It's November 5th and it's 70 degrees in NYC. It just ain't right.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Things are Crazy Here...

Since I haven't had any time at all to really blog and since I just wrote Lou a letter, I thought I would post that instead of a traditional blog post.

ETCFBR = Edited to clarify for blog readers

Friday, November 4, 2005

Dear Lou,

I’ve been meaning and meaning to write you a letter and have been extremely remiss. A few years ago I probably would have had a ton of gossip to tell you (since my life outside of work was so much more active than it is now), but these days things are pretty dull. Still, I think a letter might be more entertaining to you than a simple “Get Well” card.

Let me start first by saying that everyone here is pulling for your recovery. Carolina and I have been talking about trying to come visit you, but at the moment visitors are being dissuaded. Certainly, once we get the okay, we’ll have Janos drive us over. In the meantime Carol (ETCFBR: Director of our deparment) has been sending periodic updates about you to people in our group and I have been forwarding information on as I have it to Carolina, Chrissy, Paul, Luminita, Julian, Chris O*, Lares, Sandra and Craig B*. All are concerned for your speedy recovery.

Carol had John (ETCFBR: work colleague) & me laughing this morning with stories of a roommate you had (or maybe still have) in the hospital. Some old guy who wanted to throw himself out the window? I said, “Wow, I’ll bet Spiro (ETCFBR: former colleague) isn’t looking so bad as a roomie right now, naked ironing and all”. Apparently Carol and your dad get along very well too, she keeps telling us about what a character he is.

Nothing major is new here at work. Things are incredibly busy for me at the moment, but mostly in a good way. TJ (ETCFBR: Consultant, sometimes from Hell, with whom I've been working on this crazy project for far too long), for the most part has been “behaving” and there has been some very good and continued communication with the Education people, so that’s all working out well. Of course, sometimes the communication is too good – yesterday I got stuck in a two-hour meeting in Bob D*’s office while Bob & Maria argued about how branches were being defined. This was all while TJ and I just sat there and looked at each other helplessly. It was like a surreal version of “Who’s On First”. I’ve had a lot of other work come my way recently and it’s all good. The project with Tim (ETCFBR: VP of our division) finally got kicked off, so I’ve been working with him on that as we move forward. Event Marketing is also a project that has been heating up, but it’s all good stuff and I’ve been enjoying the work. Also, now that Maitri (ETCFBR: The Giggler) is on maternity leave (btw, she had a boy the other day), I’ve been asked to pick up some of the Cosmos reporting effort, which I gladly said that I would do. Carol sent me a note the other day that said that she wants me to know that she really appreciates my level of effort, that I’ve been doing a good job and that she has noticed. Dare I hope for a raise this year? We’ll see.

What else is new around here? Scott is the same, harried and running around like usual, you know how he is. I think he’s been trying to monitor your stuff as much as possible and has been helping Will (ETCFBR: Lou manages Will, who also dispatches our Help Desk) figure out how to distribute the work. Poor Will I feel is (between you & I) a little lost without you around. I’ve been trying to help him out as much as I can and I know Fanny does as well, but I’m sure it’s not the same for him.

At home I’ve made a project for myself to try and clean up and organize my apartment somewhat. Painting it has really lit a fire under my behind to make my space as serene as possible. I’ve gotten rid of boxes of crap and old clothes, bought a shredder and have been getting rid of old papers, I had a poster that had been rolling around under my sofa for the past three years framed (finally) and hung that on the wall. I’ve got a couple more to do, but things are getting there. I find that it really does make a difference to come home to a nice space. It helps take away some of the stress. Once I have some money saved (when that will be, I have no idea), I plan to replace my bed with a low, platform-style one. Since I live in a studio, I feel that it will streamline things a bit. Isn’t this just The. Most. Exciting. News. EVER??? Sheesh! This is how boring my life is.

I’ve decided to take Thanksgiving Week off, even though I have no plans at all. I figure that it’s a great way to have a block of time off, without the investment of a lot of vacation days (more bang for the buck, if you will). Three vacation days for nine days away from here, what’s not to love? I’ve never looked forward so much to doing absolutely nothing in my life. My father and his wife plan to be out in Oregon at my sister’s, so I’ll be going to Carolina’s for T-day. Just happy not to have to travel.

Carolina & Janos brought their kid (Roland, he’s two) over to my place on Halloween. He was dressed as a purple dragon and it was absolutely hysterical. He spent the half-hour or so that he was there chasing Lola around. At one point they were both running around and around my round coffee table so fast that I couldn’t even tell who was chasing whom. I was laughing so hard, I was crying. Lola basically collapsed once they left (need to have that Roland over more often),

My father closed on this stupid, dilapidated farm house in Wyckoff (I know I told you about this, not sure if you’ll remember). Why a 75 yro man wants this falling down piece of crap is beyond me, but I ran around in the weeks before his closing to make sure he had all the notarized signatures he needed from me to make it happen anyway (he needed this because I am the trustee of the estate). Anyway, his wife is so ditzy, I called the day before the closing to make sure that he had everything from me that he needed for the next day. He was not home, but his wife (Lori) answered. This is how the conversation went:

Me: “Oh, hi Lori. It’s Debbie”
Lori: “Betty? Oh, hi Betty!!!”
Me: “No, Debbie!”
Lori: “BETTY???”
Me: “No, Debbie!!! DEBBIE!!!”
Lori: “Oh, dddddddeeeeeeebbbbbbbbiiiiiieeeeeee!!!”


I’m supposed to have dinner with them in Manhattan one night next week for my birthday. I wonder if there is some why I can get out of it.

The NYC Marathon is this weekend and last night I had my annual gathering of running friends for our Wings & Beer Night at Blondies on West 79th Street. It was a lot of fun, but I was out far too late and am just not used to that kind of drinking anymore. I was also a bit sad listening to all the running war stories and everyone’s speculation of their race expectations for this Sunday. I really miss having running a part of my life. I’ve just found it so much harder to keep up with it in Kew Gardens. When I lived in Manhattan I was close to Central Park. In KG I have Forest Park, but it’s not safe after dark. Additionally, I recently gave up my gym membership because I really just can’t afford it at the moment. It’s frustrating, I’m so tired every night that I end up just sitting on the couch watching whatever I have T-Fauxed, but then I stay up too late reading or putzing around that I just can’t get up early enough to work out before work. This lifestyle is making me old and I need to shake it off somehow, find a balance. With me it always seems like I am either kicking ass at work, or I’m kicking ass working out (running, whatever), but both worlds just don’t seem to be able to coexist in my life. I need to figure this out.

Anyway, I’ll just bet you’re SO happy that I wrote you this long-ass letter all about all this bullshit in my life. Aren’t you glad I did??? Hahahahaha! I just wish I had more interesting stuff to tell you. Maybe for the next time I’ll make some shit up, just to make it more entertaining.

Listen, if there is anything at all you want or need, please let me know. I would be happy to get it for you. Carolina & I were talking about maybe putting together a care package or something for you, maybe with magazines, cross-word puzzles, that sort of thing. Just get word to me – someone in you family can call me or whatever. In case you don’t remember offhand, my extension here at -my company- is xMyExtension (MyWorkPhoneNumber xMyExtension), or anyone can call me at home: MyHomePhoneNumber or email me: I am happy to help in any way I can.

I want you to know that I am thinking of you constantly and hope (I’m not really the praying type) for your return to good health. Please let me know if there is anything at all I can do for you or for your family.

With Best Wishes,