Optics

Nov. 4th, 2013 02:41 pm
xylie: (Default)
An old friend reminded me of our previous bosses oblique comments on working culture. Today's total distortion of the English language is, optics.

The art of seeming to do a lot and showing well...when you aren't.

My boss at the time came from an extremely political organization that never quite achieved greatness as our competition. Not because they couldn't have crushed us like a bug, but because they spent most of their time denigrating anyone they stole from us and eventually firing them. So when he came to take over our company it was a very interesting insight into the black world of "the competition".

Optics.
xylie: (Default)
Dishwasher repair $318. Taunted a second time by dishwasher repairman, priceless.

With 3 kids, our dishwasher takes a beating. We use it a lot more than most working families in the Bay Area as Jim and I have an abhorrence of ready-made meals. What we prepare isn't exotic, but it is constant and the dishwasher pays the price. Our 3 year old dishwasher lost the front panel interface buttons and the exposed metal was doing interesting things during a sanitizing cycle.

So, the repairman was summoned. Typically Sears is on-time within the window they give, but he was an hour beyond even their latest estimation. And then he couldn't work without the serial number, which the last Sears tech had peeled off and stuck to the paperwork. I couldn't find the paperwork.

After much arguing about the manual and possible model numbers, he cleaned the dishwasher and replaced the panel. All the time complaining about how I abused the machine. Bets on him having children or cooking? "You are not doing it properly," he wailed at one point, "there is no other explanation for this." Then he saw our water. Complaints ceased.

The upside is that the film is not caused by bad filters. It is caused by extremely hard water. Several vinegar rinses later, happiness. Rises free of charge. New panel not so much. Not exactly something I wanted to pay $300 for, but still cheaper than a new dishwasher.

At some point things will improve. Stuff will stop breaking. I will feel like rising and not reaching for my passport and the next plane to another country. Work is challenging. Kids are great. Jim is definitely aware of the volume issue. Cats are purring. Halloween tomorrow.

Um

Oct. 30th, 2013 08:56 am
xylie: (Default)
The Blight House continues to amuse me. This morning I drove past to discover that there was an old school Honda Civic, black with two bald guys and a younger girl madly cleaning it out. Considering that 1) I have never seen this car at the house 2) I have rarely seen folks there clean anything, bets on it being hot? That or my neighbors have befriended some very OCD folks.

Mom, who seems to have been watching more Sons of Anarchy than I have, suggested that perhaps they murdered someone and were cleaning out the car. But for that I think the driveway and even more cleaning. If I hadn't been driving I would have photographed the plates just to give SJPD something to do. County is watching the house, as is the DEA.

This means that some of my neighbors who are just plain lazy about picking up their kids from the bus have had deputies ask them what they are doing...and why they aren't waiting at the bus. Not exactly the environment I want to see, but also fun that at least someone asks them why they can't get out of their car and off the smart phones for a few minutes.

Reunion

Oct. 29th, 2013 09:22 am
xylie: (Default)
Probably not going to make the CHP reunion. The Saturday before Thanksgiving promises to be a killer week. Really bummed to miss the 25th anniversary reunion of an organization I like so much. Jim has been working most Saturdays and I have been dealing with a department on life support for so long. Our usual excursions to Yosemite in Oct were quashed by both the wildfires and the workload. The next planned trip to SoCal is December 20-27. But I want something in-between. Hard to figure out what would work in terms of just getting away from here.

References

Oct. 28th, 2013 02:26 pm
xylie: (SleepTight)
Lately we've been hiring to replace the department which imploded out from underneath me when I got to this position. One guy started last week and he's fairly laconic but a diligent writer. In Nov, my next hire joins us from Eclipse and I have great hopes of him getting on with his team. He has the right personality and good judgement. That leaves one position open and I'm still looking for the right technical writer to fill it.

While I do that I keep pondering on the nature of job applications in general. Jane Eyre is a personal favorite book (Austen serves well too, but has less to do with the topic at hand) and from it, I can always draw something new. This time I focused on Jane's process of obtaining first an invitation to Thornfield and then the rather arduous process of approvals she needs to leave her teaching position at Gateshead:

1) She speaks to her supervisor about her desire to leave for a position double her current salary.
2) The supervisor thus approving, speaks to the board on her behalf.
3) The board approves, but Mr. Brocklehurst insist that they apply to her Aunt Reed for permission.
4) Aunt Reed's icy reply of "Do what you want" suffices.

At least 4 perhaps 10 people determine that Jane can leave her poorly-paid charity job to be a governess for a high family. Not one of them asks after the family itself or the child/children Jane will teach, but all have a say in her future.

It is strange to say the least. Perhaps no different than if Jane were a foster child today, but still odd that so many people could have kept her from advancing further with her life and yet so few cared about her personally and sent her off to a house with a crazed arsonist only a few floor above.
xylie: (SleepTight)
Had a good time last weekend at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Jake went for school one year and prior to that we went with Bev, George and Bridget for fun. This time we went with friends who have an 18-month old. Both James and baby Roan had a good time running about and exclaiming over fish, sea otters, and penguins.

The problem was the people. Everywhere I turned...people. I have certainly been to more densely populated areas, but I'm used to attacking the aquarium in March when there's less competition for space. Getting shots of the baby Loggerhead sea turtle, for instance, was quite the feat with people cramming in everywhere.

The boys have one more week to before going to school. Bridget is coming up to take them off on an adventure. Jakob's school sent us a flier requesting his presence for August 13...today. Sorry chums, you start school Aug 19, he gets a vacation. I'll go pick up the paperwork, but I think the schedule creep due to STAR testing is ridiculous. School gets out now two weeks after STAR finishes and starts waaaay too early in August...when most schools do not have the budget for AC.

The only upside is that this has been a relatively cool summer. The September sneak attack is coming, I'm sure, but nothing has been as awful as that one week in June promised. Overall, it's been a survivable summer.
xylie: (SleepTight)
Dad made it out of surgery okay by 10AM. He spent most of the day in recovery because as the nurse explained, "We have a bed for you, there's just someone in it." This means that he didn't get to eat anything but a banana mom had in her purse until about 7PM. Not ideal given both his stomach condition and the diabetes. I seriously question the concept of patient care sometimes, I do.

Anyway Dad now has a room. May go visit him on my lunch hour.

Waiting

Jul. 23rd, 2013 07:49 am
xylie: (Default)
Today is Dad's shoulder replacement surgery. Should be done by 9. I know I'm worried because I left my phone in the car. Forgetting things is something I only do under extreme stress. For fun, start and earthquake and try and get me to find my keys.

Hopefully it all goes well. Dad is a rare blood type (A-) and diabetic so I fuss a bit about him having surgery.

Vancouver

Jul. 16th, 2013 08:35 am
xylie: (Default)
My visit to the 51st state provided a lot of professional insight and some great recommendations for tools and books. It's always good to have someone besides Amazon suggest a reading list. The Content Strategy Workshop was held this year at UBC Robson in Vancouver, directly downtown. The hotel I stayed at, The Sutton Place Hotel, was very close to campus and afforded me the chance to walk around downtown Vancouver and visit various shops along the way.

All in all a wonderful opportunity that gave me a chance to do what I like best, attend lectures, apply theories, and met energetic professionals and talk about their fields. One woman I met handles the structured XML for the Olympics. Apparently since a snafu in the 1990s, the IOC insists that the cities handling the Olympics put their text into XML and provide structured information to the various countries, news agencies, and local groups that require it. It's an exhausting job and she spent a year in London most recently.

Where she joined the society of bell ringers as a way to blow off steam. Not having many bells on the west coast, she counted herself fortunate in being able to ring bells in both Vancouver and Seattle.

Another woman handles User Experience (UX) for universities, trying to help them understand how students navigate the labyrinth of applications, registration, and course evaluation for various audiences. She used to give walking tours of Paris in a previous life and sometimes misses the out of doors experience.

There were many more fascinating people, but it's back to the grind.
xylie: (SleepTight)
Leaving San Jose this morning to head off to the Content Wrangler Workshop in Vancouver. This is my first time visiting Canada, which is strange having been to other countries much further from home. The hope is to come away with several ideas on what we can do to improve the docs set at work and to give myself some time to figure out how I want to structure the content and thereby the team. There is a serious need to master the material and provide a professional look and feel.

The cab driver who picked me up was very cheerful. He told me that he misses Addis Ababa, not so much in practice, but in the sounds of home. As a kid he used to hear the lions roar in the royal zoo, which is a far more beautiful sound than the 17 freeway. Jim is always quick to point out that nostalgia was once a diagnosable condition. A longing for home as it was.

At this point in the morning, I long for my bed as it was. Hopefully I can sleep on the flight to Portland and then the one to Vancouver. Lately with James getting the last of his molars, no one has been getting a surfeit of sleep in our household.
xylie: (Default)
Got to meet up with Jennie at the Platfora booth, which was nice. It's fun to have old colleagues in a new industry. On the downside her manager was trying to poach in our waters in terms of writers. I think this will be a growing concern as Big Data develops. There are writers strong in DB, but Big Data is both huge and highly flexible. A lot of the structure that made stars in the industry may lionize the same folks for not being open to the Agile world.

On that note, I am still working on how to make Agile work. The greatest success was with a writer who was close to her team. Not physically, as she was in North Carolina, but just in terms of contact.
xylie: (SleepTight)
Today was the last day of school. This ends Jake's career in elementary school and now we look forward to middle school in the fall. Oy. At least he had an enjoyable field day at Castlemont. He managed to get both a spider tattoo on his arm and a glorious red mustache so that he could commit evil schemes.

It was also Sean's last day of first grade, bringing to a close all that drama and leaving us with more drama to come in 2nd grade. He also brought home a slip inviting me to his open house...yesterday. He was happy and shining, though. Glorying in a summer to come.

Clara's 5th birthday party was this evening from 5 to 7. Yahoo Maps! sent us in true Mapquest fashion, to the right address, wrong side of the road. This gave us time to drive past what used to be Logicon, sight of Jim's first job, but now is 150 condos and a Fresh and Easy. WEIRD.

Pump It Up Junior is very cute and the boys had a blast. There was a toy car for James to play in while the older kids watched a safety video. Then there were several slide and climbs to play on in the facility. 90 minutes later, pizza, cake and then we were shown the door. All in all it was fun, there were balloons, and everyone went home happy.

We did not, though, have time to open presents. Clara packed them home, and after a short interval we came by and helped Cathy unload the car. Clara opened her presents in state. Jake, Rory and Sean got bored and started playing toys.

If there's anything that this change of jobs has taught me it's that I gave MontaVista too much of myself and that there was very little I had left of me. I like having neighbors to visit. I like seeing the kids at school. I like being conscious at 11 PM without a call to India. Work is fun and a necessity at this point, but it isn't everything. And it certainly shouldn't crowd out life.
xylie: (SleepTight)
On the list of things to finish before I return to work is my Netflix queue. I have had Minorty Report as a disc for two years. I kept waiting to watch it when I found the time. Yep. It wasn't bad. There were parts where I sped it up. Phillip K Dick is depressing, but wild. Films have a harder time with that. They need soft endings with hope and happiness in America. They also need to completely re-image main characters so that they look appealing. So yeah, enjoyed it but ragged on Spielberg mercilessly. Especially when in one scene matched an Indiana Jones fight a tad too closely. Down to the John Williams music.
xylie: (SleepTight)
Weekend was mind-numbingly social.

Friday Alex came over for a swim with us at the local pool. He doesn't like that one kid either so that's four votes for Kid X having issues. Then Cathy told me she knows Mrs. X from her old Mom's Group and she's friendly but also given to the sorts of weird outbursts that make you back away and cock your head.

Saturday morning we met Cathy and Rory and Clara up to show off the cabana club to them and see if they wanted to join. Cathy being an Aussie would prefer a cabana club that serves wine. For $500 a season, my cabana club isn't it. Kids still had a great time. I hope Mrs. X isn't the real reason Cathy doesn't want to join.

At one we went to Rami's birthday party. 20 kids with water guns 14 of them screaming in Arabic, things I knew not what but seemed to be "Let's hit the defenseless moms when their backs are turned." I let my boys get out the pool guns and have at it. They shoot 30 feet. Rami's mother is a buyer for a major store and currently does BCBG Max Aria. This did not stop her from wearing her elegant Channel glasses and dress to Oak Meadow park. So much for brand loyalty, eh? I was definitely under dressed even with my new necklace on. However, I got to meet one of Rami's various aunties who loves Nutella as much as I do! We traded recipes. She's moving from the food industry into working for Rami's mom. Should be better hours for her to start a family. Nate's parents were also there and I had a blast catching up with Leona and Dan (Nate had similar complaints to what Sean was saying about 1st grade being boring and miserable). I invited Nate to come to Sean's party.

Then we headed back to meet up with Regan and Ty. It was great to see Regan again, even though she looked a bit beat from her whirlwind trip to Canada. Ty was so huge! I haven't seen him in over a year so it was great to watch him play with James or attempt to. James morphed from happy child to possessive freakout toddler in 0 to 60. He didn't want to share his car or his house or his slide...but especially his car! So, we turned on the music upstairs and the two hung out and danced and all was mostly well. We took Regan to Tia Juanna's for dinner as it was in Sunnyvale and a bit less toddler exciting than Dish Dash on a Saturday night. Ty and James had fun riding the mechanical animals, but you could tell Ty was beat. We missed out on seeing David, but he was gaming with friends in Los Altos. Something evoked much sympathy with Jim.

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday. Sean missed out on his Cub Scout Hike at Pinnacles due to our wonderful bout with Noro Virus. So Sunday morning was the last "make-up hike" at Belgatos park. One of the Moms loves to hike there and assured us the trials were easy. Seeing as she's 12 weeks pregnant and hiked with a 3 year old in an Ergo, I debated her definition of easy. But Kim's one of those lovely people who just makes you feel happy and at ease. It was just her, our den dad and the boys. We had a great time. Until Kim asked me for a mobile for the baby's room. I like glass projects but circles of glass for a baby? And drilling to hang or metal working to put in hooks? Aiyee. I'll have to ask Kristin for some lab space. I don't know how I would do it with the tools I have.

Sean did not like hiking at first and midway up the hill told us all he was too tired to go on. Before we could talk him out of it, he saw the other boys were ahead of him. He ran uphill faster than the wind, without tripping. And stayed at the front the whole hike. Oh yes, track for this one track and field.

On my return Jim was dazed from a long night of night shift and then playing Skyrim because he "wasn't sleepy". Ahem. My plans to continue working furiously on the party were washed up. I took Jake to riding and packed James in the car while Jim and Sean waited out for Jim's parents. Apparently after Sean's blunt remarks about the previous gift, they wanted to take him shopping for this gift. I manage to figure this stuff out without taking Sean, but then I'm not Asperger's either.

Jake did well riding Pinto. She's just a beautiful horse. Smaller than Montana, but definitely spirited. She won first place in the dressage competition last Sunday, but Jake was not as impressed. One of these days I'll have to show him what Pinto does in her "Free Time" at these shows. As it is, he just likes that she goes really fast. He does not like her failure to weave around the barrels without an argument. My eldest is at last learning to direct the horse, but still hates it.

We jetted back to the house, loaded up the car and ran to the park. Poor James missed out on lunch entirely and so had to make do with chips and milk until the pizza arrived. We managed to score a place in the shade and the kids had a good time with balloons and bubbles and playing on the playground. The adults sat in the shade and talked. Mellow.

We wound down. Headed home. And then we remembered Jakob's South Dakota Report. AHHHHHH! Typing fun, researching fun. Here are some fun facts about South Dakota:

1) It had three separate flags in its history. Originally the Flag had two sides, making it expensive to make. It was also called The Sunshine State. The first change was to give the flag only one face. The second change was to the Motto. Florida skunked them on The Sunshine State, so they picked something only South Dakota has, Mt. Rushmore.

2) South Dakota has a non-native bird as its official bird, the ring-necked pheasant.

3) Everyone from the Lakota to the German settlers loves the state flower. Because it meant the beginning of spring and the end of cursed winter. It is the only state flower with a motto and that motto is "I lead."

All the other facts are less fun, but I taught them to Jakob as well, such as the discovery of gold in the Black Hills and the War of 1876. Not to mention General George Custer, horrible warning to the rest of us to not violate treaties. And Seth Bullock, wonderful example of don't let someone get you down. If it burns to the ground, rebuild.
xylie: (Default)
My neighbors growing up, the Phillipses, were really fun and fascinating. In addition to their property in Humboldt, they had a home in San Diego, one in BC, one in South Africa and a place in London. Wendy was a PhD in English and Bob was an actuary for an insurance company, one of the best. They traveled the world, but they liked the Pacific Coast more than anywhere else. They had three sons and yet some how managed to have fabulous Christmas parties.

I wanted to be like them more than I ever let on. In some ways I am, but in many I am never going to be as witty or glittering or as able to hold my liquor at Christmas. But with a conference this July in Vancouver, I feel like I will expand into their world just a bit more.

It's a professional writing conference on content strategies for two days. I fly in on Wednesday, have a bit of time to explore and then two days of strategizing before flying home Friday afternoon. Hopefully this isn't too much time away from the new job, but it is also necessary to the new job to explore different methods for getting the job done.

Sometimes I think back to how stupid I was to pick the senior thesis adviser that I did. I should have gone with Silver who got her PhD with Wendy and not Georgiana. Someone who would have spelled the issues out clearly for me instead of being annoyed that I wasn't quite mature enough to take down the bastards at Cornell in one fell prodigy-like swoop.

But we are the choices we make and I don't regret earning enough money contracting to see this conference on my own dime. Whatever I have lost in scholarship, I certainly gained in self-respect and confidence.

And besides, I can see Vancouver from more than just X-Files and Continuum. That should be fun too.
xylie: (Default)
Yesterday was the day of County Response to me. I guess they'd finally recovered from an extended Memorial Day weekend or perhaps were out on enforced furloughs. Each office from Weed Abatement to Code enforcement was confused that the property owner did not contact them regarding notices they'd MAILED or LEFT ON THE FRONT DOOR.

This tells me that they did not read the brief but detailed case notes I left them so I reiterated the "snuck out in the middle of the night" and "property is abandoned" parts of this narrative. Only to meet with the county officials sounding sad and despairing. Legally they can't come onto the property until there has been a hearing. For a hearing, you need folks to attend. To hold the hearing without them...takes several more hearings.

Apparently there's a great process when someone responds. When there's on one to attend their hearings the paperwork increases.

This is all too bloody late for the bus stop. The kids get out next week. Having spent two months with an abandoned house with weeds as tall as they are and a car in front of the lawn as their stop. FIRE HAZARD. Stupid reckless hazard too.

Nothing seems to move quickly around here. But as I said earlier this episode of CSI just keeps writing itself. One police raid just wasn't enough for the City. Maybe we can shoot for two.
xylie: (Spyro)
Whew. Got an offer. Start date June 17th!

Commute sucks. People seem great.

Wheee.

Hope I pass the background check. In my darker moments I worry that someone took my ID and went on a crime spree around all of Gotham City.

Yes. I know. It borders on the ridiculous, but I SOOOOO want to go to this place and they have Macs. Macs! And customers! Customers!

It's a startup in the sense that it is dangerously disorganized in its approach to Docs. That is why they've called in me. The challenge is super scary, but also fun. Organization I can do. Vision, let's make the vision meet customer needs. As much as we can.

Oh boy!

May. 14th, 2013 10:13 pm
xylie: (SleepTight)
Got a second interview to schedule. Yay! It's the folks I liked too. Now will just have to see how it will all go down over the next few weeks.

This was a much needed boost after dealing with current company's woes and frustrations. I left work so upset I wandered to the mall to shop. This is not something I casually indulge in, but since my mother gave me money to leave the safety of the Internet and buy something in a brick and mortar store, I made the effort. This worked great doing clearance at Ann Taylor. This did not work so well doing shoe shopping at Clark's.

Most stores in the Bay Area have a limited selection due to price of a square foot. You can have a great display or a great inventory, but not both. Many stores compromise, but Clark's seemed to lean heavily on the "we can order that for you" theory, resulting in a gorgeous display of shoes they didn't have. Perhaps Zappos has brought them to this, but if I can't try the shoe on...why aren't I on Zappos? Sociability?

That would depend on my fellow patrons and the clerks. The patrons were experiencing the same sort of responses I was, and feeling just as frustrated. One woman lamented to me that she wouldn't be here if her new puppy hadn't eaten her previous pair of Clarks. Apparently Hurricane Katy the Jack Russel terrier had driven her back out into the mall. Other patrons were far less coherent. One was arguing with a seven year old and trying on shoes with as much success as possible. The poor clerk was trying to make out when she was speaking to him and when she was reprimanding the child. It was a good comedy routine.

As was being waited on. The main shoe clerk was professional and a good salesperson. She was however backed up by an earnest young gentleman that I had to train in such concepts as "measure both feet" and "wide widths only please". While Clark's are comfy, they are not going to miraculously remove my little toe. At least I hope they have not advanced that far.

Needless to say, the comfortable yet stylish shoe search was discontinued. I still have a pair of killer heels from Sofft, which I love. Sofft is more feminine than Clark's general faire, but it does sacrifice a bit for the sake of comfort. I can do about six hours in those heels before I am wandering the halls barefoot. Not something I can do if I switch jobs. Flats or low heels would most certainly be welcome.

AHHHHHHH

May. 10th, 2013 09:47 am
xylie: (SleepTight)
1) Refi continues to drag along. Got a call from Wells yesterday trying to upgrade my account and insisting it was necessary. Talked to Bob and it was not necessary as we have our mortgage with them. Really tired of all of this.

2) Business account. My sole proprietorship now requires a business account. Went to Chase first as they have been "my" bank as opposed to Wells (which is more "our" bank), but Chase wanted a minimum of $7500 in the account at all times or else $15/month. As I have no idea if I will continue to take contracting money. I said no. Went over to Wells and used my existing account status (IRA+mortgage+investments) to set one up without such restrictions. Isn't it fun to know that the more money you have the less money you are charged. Nice "boot strapping" system we have isn't it?

3) Interviews continue. Have to find something new. Latest interview was in an old Informatica building, which was just weird. Liked the folks, hope things turn out. If they don't there are other jobs. At least the economy doesn't suck, but expectations of Mary Poppins seem to abound. Why do people want me to kick ass and smile and have bluebirds sing around my head? Surely no one ever asked this of Sarah Connors or Snow White. But that could make a great Buddy Cop movie now that I think about it.

4) Finished Eureka, and feeling down because of it. The finale episode crammed in an entire season's worth of possibilities and resolved them at the same time. It felt rushed and weird. I agree with Wil Wheaton's take that SyFy doesn't know what they're doing. Period. At least there is Warehouse 13 to watch on Hulu.

5) Network problems continue with the Wii. I've even manually set the Wifi connection. No DICE. Taken down the firewall. Still no dice. WTF, Mate? And that means I'm watching Hulu on Jim's computer, which gives him fits. Because. I am. Touching. The Computer. Touch. Touch. (I swear I don't yank his chain all that much, but this one is all too easy.)

6) Have been informed by Sean that I shouldn't swear. He is right. But when Jim says he needs a laptop for his Mt. Tam talk and then chews me out because I suggest one that won't play Everquest (it is in our budget, and I could use it for my business) I tend to get, well...heated and colorful. Have to watch that. But honestly who throws a fork and stamps their foot like a little kid at 300 pounds? It's just inviting a tirade about how one will behave at the dinner table and not d*ck with me about unnecessary expenses before we decide what to do about the car.

7) Trying my best to help Seanie finish up his Tiger badge. Last night we dragged his pet poster to Tiger cubs. And I showed up at the wrong park. It was okay. We missed 20 minutes but came in on game time. Sean played, made a puppet and had a blast. And presented on how cats drink water, not milk.

8) Got to help in a small way with Jake's science report. I love his teacher's ability to get him to do the work himself, but his data was a mess. Had to explain that saying "4 M&Ms melted at 60 seconds" was useless when there are 5 categories of centers. Spent awhile piecing the data together. Also not happy that he was allowed to just guess a hypothesis and not forced to back it up by anything. However, there will be other science fairs. One day, I'd like to take one of them to state. Having had three projects that qualified and always having Dad in my way (he went to USC, didn't want me there) pissed me off more than I realized. Still bothers me into my twilight 30s so yeah. Definitely want to help one of the kids get there, but if not Jake, that's okay. Just need to get the data recorded properly!
xylie: (Default)
Apparently the land is county not city, so City (who gives a crap) can't help me. County isn't answering the phone and trying to make it look like they still care. It turns out the back gate is open because the police raided the place on Friday.

Um. Yeah.
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