Friday, November 21, 2014

The working life with engineers: Having my cake and eating it too

Have I told you guys I have a new job? Well I do and oh man it is like night and day from the old job. Until you have worked with either a really bad boss or with a horrible CEO, you have no idea. I expect it's like people who have horrible in-laws but nobody believes the stories because their own in-laws are so nice. "Nobody has in-laws that get drunk every single day and call their own son a 'Bad Son!'" they chuckle. "That's not how people act."

But then your best friend, whom you have known for years and whose judgment you trust completely, tells you that her in-laws are crazy drunks and you have to re-think things.

Same thing with the job. If you have never had a bad boss or a bad CEO - and I don't mean just incompetent, I mean vindictive, mean, sarcastic, vicious - then you have no idea. None.

I didn't. Not until my most recent job. I have had moderately incompetent bosses before but they were always nice. They were always people whom I would be happy to have as next-door neighbors. They just were not good bosses. I would probably be a crummy boss. I hate dealing with people issues. I would be a good boss of good people, but I would be a crummy boss of bad people because I hate dealing with other people's incompetence.

So I had never had a truly bad boss until my most recent job and then I learned how awful work can be. I learned that you can dread going to work and that you spend every minute of free time looking for a new job and that you apply for over 100 jobs in a few months just to get three phone interviews, two in-person interviews, and, finally, one job offer.

It is hard work indeed to look for a job and I don't wish that task on anyone. Almost anyone. There are a few nasty people I have known who deserve that kind of stress, but only two or three. I won't name names because - well, because it doesn't seem like a good idea.

So I got a new job and I have been there a little while and can I tell you it is sooooo great. I mean, I don't take the bus to work any more and I hate that part. I hate driving and I especially hate driving after dark because glare gives me a headache.  I wonder what has happened with Goth Girl and Goth Boy. Did they find happy ever after? We will never know because I will probably never see them again.

And I don't like my new workspace. I used to have a window office overlooking the river downtown, but that was going to go away because the awful CEO had decided that people work better on open plan and he remodeled the offices so that nobody has a private office any more except him because of course a CEO cannot possibly work better in open plan. So even if I had stayed, I would now be in an awful workspace.

What I like the most about my new job is that I have a good boss whom I respect because he is not incompetent and I work with smart people. I work with almost all engineers who are, kind of by definition, smart.

They are smart and they are logical and there are no games and there is no drama.

They are smart and logical and when there is a potluck, they do it right.

There was a potluck last week. I took Julie's marzipan polenta cake, which is one of the few non-chocolate desserts SH doesn't heave deep, disappointed sighs about. It is delicious. He wanted to cut a slice of it before I took it to work.

I was appalled. "I can't take a partial cake to a work potluck!" I said.

"But why not?" he asked. "You'll bring some home to me if there are leftovers, right?"

"Yes," I admitted.

"This is just making sure there are leftovers."

I shook my head. "It's tacky."

He disagreed, so I put the question to facebook and of course everyone agreed with me.

Well. I went back and checked. Two of my friends agreed; a third said, "Aren't the coworkers engineers? They'd appreciate the efficiency of polenta cake separation."

I took the whole cake to the potluck, as was proper. But I was curious to get an engineer's perspective on the question - a disinterested engineer. So I asked. I asked several engineers. What would they have thought about an incomplete cake at a potluck?

They all shrugged. They all wanted to know why it would have been a big deal. An incomplete cake would not have bothered them, they said.

And then one of the few female engineers said, "I would rather keep my husband happy than keep my co-workers happy."


Monday, November 17, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 764: The scales of justice

We have an electric scale that is frighteningly accurate. I do not need this level of accuracy in a scale. I don't need to know how close I am to That Number, the number that I suspect many of us have, the number that means that the rest of the day and until The Number goes down, I will feel not so great.

I try not to write about this stuff because

1. talking about weight is boring
2. talking about weight is self indulgent
3. talking about weight is pointless

I do not want to hear about other people's diets. I don't want to hear about what they weigh. It is not what I care about with other people and I certainly hope it's not what they care about with me.

Still, I envy the naturally slim.

So we have this super accurate scale that takes batteries.

I know.

It was SH's idea, not mine. I do not need that level of accuracy. I have jeans. I know.

The problem with battery-operated items is that eventually, the batteries run out.

This causes multiple problems:

1. The batteries have to be replaced
2. The scale does not work while it does not have batteries.

That is only two items, which I guess is technically "multiple"  but I wonder.

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

When I lived alone and had dead batteries, I had new batteries within a day or two.

Then I married an engineer and ceded control of anything using other than human-made power (ie, anything that did not involve human hands, such as scrubbing, chopping, and washing) to him. Usually, this does not bother me as I do not have any ego invested in maintaining a car or a computer. I am happy to delegate all this work to someone else.

But when it comes to batteries and lightbulbs, I would rather they be replaced sooner rather than later.

SH does not operate on that philosophy.

SH operates on the philosophy that it's not enough to complete a task. The task must also be completed perfectly. He must optimize all things, LPC.  (Lisa has worked with engineers. She knows.)

And for batteries, optimization means paying the lowest price possible for the best battery possible.

We are talking about batteries. We are not talking about shoes. We are not talking about purses.

We are talking about SH seeing the battery he needed - he knew it was the proper one because he had taken the dead battery out of the scale and left it in the car in the little pocket created around the gear shift so he would have it if he happened to go by a battery-selling establishment - and not buying it because it cost seven dollars.

"It should not cost more than four dollars!" he said indignantly when he came home battery-less.

"So you think it's worth driving to some other store just to save three dollars?" I asked.

"Yes!" He was surprised I had to ask.

I presented the question to my boss and co-workers, engineers all. They had just discussed the dentist who was paying ten dollars a pound for Halloween candy and what would be the most they would pay for post-Halloween on-sale candy to redeem at the dentist. My boss mused that he could get candy for under five dollars a pound and decided that the returns of selling to the dentist would be worth it.

I asked them about the battery. "Shouldn't my husband just have bought the battery?" I asked. "It was right there. He was already at the store. He could have crossed that task off his list and been done with it. Now, we still don't have a battery and he will have to make a special trip to find it."

We live in a great neighborhood - we can walk to restaurants and the library and the grocery store and city hall - but there is no place within walking distance of our house to buy batteries unless you can get them at Walgreen's and I think this is a special kind of battery not carried by Walgreen's. So this battery expedition would require driving.

My boss and co-workers were shocked. "No! He needs to get a better price!" On principle, they supported SH completely. It is better to spend a lot of time procuring an object than to overpay for it. Even when that overpayment is only three dollars, which is 0.75 beer units.

It was another week before SH got the battery. He got it at Menards, the store he loves to hate. Menards did not treat my uncle well when my uncle worked there. John Menard, the owner, is apparently quite the jerk. SH does not like John Menard for his own sake and now, after we learned about what Menard did to my uncle, we don't like him even more.

Yet he went to the store. I can't remember why. He misses Menards. It's a love/hate relationship. It's a little like SH's dad's relationship with Wal-Mart, except SH does not proclaim loudly how evil  Menards is and condemn the people who shop there and mock them but then shop there on a regular basis himself without any shame. No, SH has not been to Menards in a couple of years. I don't know why he fell off the wagon. But he did - and he returned home with a four-pack of batteries. They cost four dollars. He was so proud of the bargain.

He replaced the dead battery. The scale works frighteningly well again.

And when I was cleaning out the junk drawer, I found a pack of the scale batteries in the back.

Marrriage 701, Lecture 674: The marriage bed

I am in bed, under the covers, minding my own business, reading a book. SH decides to come to bed with me, which almost never happens, as our greatest area of incompatibility is not religion or politics but bedtime. He stays up late and I have to get up for work and even when I wasn't working, I would get up to go to the gym. Even if I am not going to the gym or working, I wake once it is light because that is what the human body is designed to do. As much as I would like to just sleep, sleep, sleep all day on Saturday, my body will not let me.

So SH is coming to bed with me.

I am under the covers on the right side of the bed. I am not that side specific but SH is adamant that the only side he can sleep on is the left side. Fine. Whatever. I don't know why it should make a difference.

I have left plenty of slack in the covers to my left so that once SH is in the bed, he will not move the covers from me. He does not turn properly. When he turns over in bed, he takes the covers with him, instead of just rolling under the covers and leaving them stationary. That is the proper way to do it. With SH's method, given repeated turns to the right and to the left, holding the covers each time, one would end the night with all the covers bunched up around him.

So I have left slack because I do not want to end up coverless.

And yet - SH is getting into bed and all of a sudden, the covers over me are lifted. I feel cold air on my hitherto almost-warm body. I have just lost 20 minutes of warming time because SH has raised the covers.

"HEY!" I say. "What are you doing?"

He has raised the covers in the middle of the bed rather than the covers on the left side of the bed, which is the logical, normal way of getting under the covers. Who gets into bed by climbing into the middle of the bed and lifting the covers IN THE MIDDLE?

Not anyone who is doing it right.

"You are letting in all the cold air! What is wrong with you?"

He gestures to the lower left side of the bed, where Shirley is curled up. "I don't want to disturb Shirley."

The honeymoon is definitely over.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 234: That takes the cake

Me: Should I make two of Julie's polenta cake?

 SH: Why would you make two?

Me: Because I am taking one to work for the potluck.

SH: Why don't you just take part of the cake to work?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The working life: The Home T's shirts are not well made

It's not just me, right? This piece was cut seriously off grain.

That's The Home T, people. Do not buy.

Marriage 701, Lecture 124: I can see clearly now

SH: If we didn't have cats, the house would be a lot cleaner. No cat hair. No cat vomit.

Me: No cat snot on the windows.

SH: I don't care about clean windows.

Me: What?

SH: I want the blinds closed most of the time anyhow.

Me: But clean windows are nice!

SH: I don't care.

Me: Didn't you have clean windows when you were a kid?

SH: I guess.

Me: Didn't your mom keep a clean house?

SH: My mother is a very good housekeeper! Was a very good housekeeper.

Me: Uh huh.

SH: She made me help her with vacuuming. That's why I am so good at vacuuming now.

Me: Didn't she make you do other chores?

SH: No.

Me: So you never cleaned windows when you were a kid?

SH: No. She did all the dusting, too.

Me: Wait. She had two children yet she did all the work? That's the main reason to have kids - so you have someone to delegate to. Your  mother did not do it right.

SH: Yes she did.

Me: If I were dying and confined to my bed, would you clean the windows for me, inside and out?

SH: Well sure. In the bedroom. Where you could see them.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The working life: A customer who will complain to you rather than to her friends is your best friend as a business

Did I tell you guys about the t-shirts here?

Photo: It's insanely soft and has a V that's just right. The Home T V-neck. Get yours,

Well, forget anything nice I said. The Home T looks good, but is poorly made. I ordered two - one for me, one for my sister. When they arrived, I discovered that the back piece was cut way off grain. I sent a photo to the company and they sent me two new shirts.

The two new shirts also were cut off grain.

I wrote again and explained that the problem persisted.

They responded, "Please note that we can't always control how each shirt is sewn."

Which was when my manufacturing hackles rose.

What did they mean, they could not control how their own product was made? I know my company sure controls how the product is made. We do not want to ship bad product. We want to ship high-quality product. First, because we take pride in what we do and want to be known as the best. Second, because you don't keep old customers or get new ones when you produce crappy product.

I returned all four shirts and asked for a refund of the purchase price and of the shipping costs. They refunded the purchase price and told me that the shirts were not bad, that I was wrong, and that they had already paid to ship the second batch of shirts to me, so too bad.

The "too bad" and the "I was wrong" parts are implied.

But yes. I am not happy at all. They sent out bad product and then were not interested in making it right. I know how to sew. I used to sew all my own clothes. I know how to lay a pattern on fabric. I know that you do not cut a t-shirt on the bias. They did not do it right and what's worse, they did not care about doing it right.

The shirts are very attractive - I liked the Texas shirt a lot. But unless you think $30 is a fair price for a t-shirt that is not made properly, do not bother to do business with these people.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 743: Housework is exhausting

SH: I am worn out.

Me: Why?

SH: Because I did the laundry and I cleaned the bathrooms and I made the bed in the guest room and I did the dishes and I went to the grocery store.

Me: Wow. That's a lot.

SH: I had to do all the housework! I had deadlines! I didn't want to feel taken for granted!

Me: I appreciate it.

SH: It was a lot bigger than what I just do every day.

Me: Thank you.

SH: It was a big deal!

Me: Thank you.

SH: I want to be validated!

Me: Thank you.

SH: It was a lot of work.

Me: You mean like I have been doing since we got married?

SH: Yes.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 254: An engineer does laundry wrong

Me: Hey! You didn't do it right!

SH: What are you talking about?

Me: You sorted the laundry but you just threw my underwear in with the darks.

SH: I know. You put the underwear in the mesh  bags when you are putting things in the washer.

Me: No you don't.

SH: Yes you do.

Me: No. You sort it as you are removing items from the laundry chute.

SH: That's what I did.

Me: No. You sort and bag the underwear as you are removing items from the laundry chute.

SH: But there are only three baskets. One for whites, one for darks that get dried in the dryer*, one for your gym clothes.

Me: Yeah but you still sort the underwear during the initial sort.

SH: No! As you put things in the washer.

Me: But you are adding another sort to the process. You are creating extra work.

SH: But I can't bag the underwear as I am sorting the clothes.

Me: Sure you can.

SH: How?

Me: Just toss the underwear on the floor.


Me: So? So are the clothes.

* Because SH will not hang clothes out on the line.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 875: Walk softly and carry a rolling pin

Things I did not do right tonight while I was making goat cheese pesto pizza:

1. The eggs [hard boiled - not related to the pizza] started to boil! And I wasn't watching!

2. The mushrooms were cut too thick.

3. The pesto was not spread properly. It has to go to the edges.

4. I ate apple pie from the container.

5. That sandwich would taste better warmed. [Nah, I wasn't really hungry by the time the pizza was done.]

SH: And [next thing that someone who has not spent a lifetime cooking yet has very strong opinions about how it should be done]...

Me: Have you noticed that I am holding a rolling pin?

SH: Yes.

Me: And that I have knives within easy reach?

SH: Yes.

Me: Then knock it off.

SH [laughs]

Monday, November 03, 2014

The working life with engineers: Am I old?

I was minding my own business, walking down the hall at work, squinting at the person approaching me in case it was one of the very few people at work I have met. It's always awkward to be greeted by someone I can't see and not be able to return the greeting - indeed, not even know about the greeting - until I am only two feet away from him. I could wear glasses all the time, but really, there isn't that much that I want to see and I can't use my distance glasses for working on the computer so I would just be switching glasses out and that's a pain in the neck. It's easier just to be blind.

Where was I?

So I was walking down the hall when, even in my state of blindness, I saw a man approaching me carrying a huge potted palm.

Of course you know what I had to say.

Of course you do.

You do, right?

I asked him if he was bringing me a shrubbery.

He just said, "Hi!" and continued walking.

He did not stop in amazement at my amazement-causing wit.He did not tell me to run away! run away! He did not say, in a bad French accent, that he farted in my general direction.

What is the world coming to that in a place where I regularly hear men talking about role-playing games that someone had no idea what I was talking about?

I sighed, went into the bathroom, and looked in the mirror for wrinkles. Not a lot of wrinkles - sagging, yes, wrinkles, no. Sunblock gets you only so far.

Then I thought, "It is not I! I had the bad luck to run into another immigrant engineer, like my boss, who grew up in another culture and does not understand this very specific Anglo-American reference!"

I walked down the hall and stuck my head in Dave's office. "Dave," I said, says I, "if I asked you - while you were carrying a huge potted plant if you were bringing me a shrubbery, what would you say?"

He cocked his head to the side and furrowed his forehead. "What?" he asked politely.

"A shrubbery!" I said. "If you were bringing me a shrubbery!"

He smiled politely, the smile you give to crazy people who work in a cubicle and aren't even engineers. "Sorry," he said. "I'm not sure what you are getting at."

"Monty Python!" I said in frustration.

"Oh! Yeah, I think I saw one of their movies a long time ago." He shook his head and returned to his computer.

I wanted to scream. Who were these engineers and who was responsible for their complete and total lack of education?

I went back into the bathroom.

This time, I found wrinkles.


Friday, October 31, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 762: To sleep, to dream

SH: You don't care about togetherness!

Me: I just want to go to sleep.

SH: But you don't care if I come to bed with you or not.

Me: Nope.

SH: But why? It's togetherness!

Me: If we're just going to sleep, why does it matter if we are together in bed?

SH: But when you are married, you are supposed to lie sometimes and say you want to be together!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The working life with engineers: My new wardrobe plan

Texas Home T

I wrote recently that the engineers I work with do not notice what I wear. At first, I was a little bit bothered by this because why bother to shower and dress and put on minimal makeup if nobody is going to notice? Why bother to do it if there are almost no other women around and you have nobody to compare yourself to? Why bother to do it if you have to keep your coat on all day anyhow because even though it might be a rare 70-degree day in Wisconsin, your building is ice cold?

But now I realize I have been given a great gift. I no longer have to care about what I wear to work. Not that I am going to become a slob, but - I am going to stop shopping. I am not going to spend money on new clothes. Or consignment store clothes. I have enough. Nobody at work notices if I wear the same thing week after week - which is what I have been doing. I used to think I had to have a lot of variety in my wardrobe, but now I realize that I do not. I can wear my brown skirt and orange sweater every Tuesday for the next year and my blue and white dress every Thursday and nobody would bat an eye. Nobody would notice. They would not notice because

1. They would not see what I am wearing in the first place because they do not look
2. They would not remember from week to week or even day to day what I wear.*

I am free. I am free from spending money and shopping and worrying. I just need to be covered from the neck to the knees and I will be fine.

The only exception I am making is for this t-shirt. I have ordered it. Actually, my sister is getting it for me for my birthday - I am ordering one for me and one for her and she will write me a check.

I bet if I looked like the model, my co-workers would remember what I wore. But this is reality.

* Except SH, who has a phenomenal, almost photographic memory for triviality, but does not seem to remember that he promised to clean his junk out of the basement six years ago before we even moved into the house. I believe that is called selective memory.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Marriage 601, Lecture 12: A man shall leave his father


Me: Stop picking at me. [As we argue about how the silverware is stacked in the drawer.]

SH: I'm not picking at you. This isn't real criticism. I'm trying to take you from good to better. Isn't that noble?

Me: No.

SH: I am trying to do the right thing.

Me: You're not.

SH: I was raised on criticism.

Me: I know.

SH: It's amazing I didn't turn out to be a real jerk.* When I first got to college, people didn't like me. I thought being right was really important and that I was superior.

Me: What changed your mind?

SH: I decided I wanted to be better liked. I liked people and they didn't like it when I was critical.

* It really is. His father is a flaming jerk. I mean, so much on fire that an ocean could not put him out. So flaming that I would not cross the street to - well, you know. So it is truly amazing that SH is not more like his father, who has no friends. Except SH actually realized that he was being a jerk and took steps to stop being a jerk, whereas his father, at the age of 80, remains convinced of his superiority and has no interest in changing.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Wisconsin 101: The best sister in the world

I had a birthday. It was a lovely birthday - I got to spend a lot of time with friends. I saw my Peace Corps boss, who lives in Chile. She was in Chicago for work and I took the train down and we spent the day together. SH did all the housework, including preparing the guest bedroom and bath for Bonnie and Gary.

I thought about how lucky I am to have had good bosses most of my life. MariCarmen was my boss and now she is my friend. Gary was SH's boss and now he is our friend. When SH and I went to Memphis last year, we had coffee with Joe, another  boss. I stay in touch with most of my former bosses but I will not stay in touch with my two most recent bosses - or penultimate boss and most recent CEO. All I can say is they made me appreciate how good I have had it.

My friends greeted me on facebook. SH got me a great birthday card. My mom called. She had been too busy with some unfortunate recent events to get me a card but I know my mother loves me and I do not take the lack of a card as a sign that there is trouble.

And then I noticed that my sister was in Las Vegas and was tagging the heck out of everyone, including our cousin Laurie. She had invited Laurie to go and had not invited me to go.

She had invited someone related to us who was not me - she invited someone who is not her sister - to go on a girls' weekend with her.

Photo after photo on facebook. Lots of tags of Laurie and Jenny's friends.

But not me.

Then she posted someone on my facebook wall. My sister loves me. I love her. She gets me.

October 22 at 12:35pm · Enterprise, NV · 
Happy birthday Class Factotum. In celebration of your birthday I enjoyed a weekend in Vegas. And the good part was, you didn't even have to come with me. .
LikeLike ·  · 

  • Class Factotum Ha! I looked at your posts and thought, "She didn't even ASK if I wanted to go!" And then I remembered it's because you love me.
  • Jennifer  I didn't have to ask, I knew.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Marriage 601, Lecture 875: Who are all the incompetents in SH's past?

The furnace repair guy showed up two days early - this is Wisconsin, people here get up early - to do the annual maintenance on the furnace. Which meant that with 30 minutes notice - they called first, I had to tear through the house and make sure that it was in a condition that wouldn't shame me to the world. Although I have to say that I am a decent housekeeper even when I don't expect company. I was shocked at the condition of some of the houses I saw when we were buying a house. People knew that a potential buyer was coming in and yet the house had a stack of laundry six feet high in the corner and reeked of wet dog.

The furnace guy did whatever it is that he does - it involved noisy equipment, so Shirley was happy. She sat on the bench near the furnace and watched and let the noise roll over her. She loved the roto-rooter guys, too. She likes the vacuum cleaner.

Shirley is one weird cat.

SH was on the phone, his weekly conference call with his boss.

The furnace guy came upstairs to tell me what he had done and what needed to be done.

"You need a new air filter."

"I think my husband changes those. He's on the phone, so I can't ask him. Maybe it's worth it just to have you do it, though. How much do you charge?"

"It's $36, which includes the filter."

I shook my head. "Nope. I know he's done it before and I'm pretty sure there are some spare filters somewhere in the basement. If not, I'll go to Home Depot. What else?"

He explained that there was something wrong with the lmnkr and the wstwd was also bad. "It's OK, though," he said. "The lmnkr is warranted by the manufacturer, so it won't cost you anything to replace it. The wstwd will cost you about $150 for the parts. We can do that with the lmnkr labor, so there would be no additional labor."

"So my net cost would be $150?"


"That sounds good, but I'll have to talk to my husband. I know he'll probably want to talk to you first. He won't think I gave him enough information."

"OK," he said. "Have him give me a call. Or anyone in the office can talk to him. Just let us know."

Before the furnace guy could walk out the door, SH came flying down the stairs, phone in hand, mouthpiece on his head.

"What are you doing!" he asked. "Don't buy anything! Don't sign anything!"

I looked at him and rolled my eyes. "What? I'm not. Don't worry." I turned to the furnace guy. "See what I mean?"

He smiled, took his clipboard, and left.

An hour later, SH finished with his call and came back downstairs.

"Why were you panicking?" I asked.

"I didn't want you to let him install the air filter? I can do that!"

"I know," I said. "I already told him."

"But what if you had let him? And he had charged us?"

"Did you really think I would authorize him to do work without asking how much it cost? You know what a skinflint I am. Besides, I USED TO OWN MY OWN HOUSE! I know how to talk to repairmen!"

Sometimes I want to bop SH over the head with all the files I accumulated from when I owned my own house in Memphis. A big bop.