Friday, December 19, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 653: When the gravy comes




With SH now living the life of Riley, he has assumed many of the household responsibilities. We even agreed that he would take over cleaning the bathroom, which is something he has not done since we bought our house. He claims that a bathtub does not need to be cleaned every week and I maintain that it does, although I am willing to put up with a not so clean tub if I am not the one who has to clean it.

But he was at his mom and dad's and that always puts him in a funk so I guess he thought he might as well be more miserable. I did all the heavy cleaning while he was gone - washed and changed the sheets, cleaned the tub, washed the kitchen floor, and cooked, cooked cooked.

It is so lovely to cook with SH hovering. SH does not really understand the process of how gravy happens. He think it just comes.

But there is a lot of chopping and getting dishes dirty and maybe even spilling things on the floor in the process of cooking.

This weekend, I made

  • Ricotta gnocchi with brown butter sage sauce
  • Tortilla
  • Two batches of these brownies, one for us and one for the neighbors across the street who just had a baby
  • A batch of black walnut shortbread, from the black walnuts given me a year ago by a friend. I made it and then SH said he doesn't like black walnuts and I sure don't need two sticks' worth of butter on my butt, but our bachelor friend K likes almost anything I cook or bake and he was thrilled to have the cookies
  • Charro beans
  • Goat cheese mac and cheese with fresh bread crumbs from the freezer. We have a ton. We did not intend to have fresh bread crumbs. We intended to give a leftover six-pack of hamburger buns to the youth group at church but I turned my back for a few minutes and when I looked at the top of the stove where I had placed the hamburger buns, in a plastic bag, inside a grocery plastic bag, the corner had been chewed off and half a bun eaten. Laverne is  not starving. She is getting fat. She is also very naughty and if we had a time-out cage, she would go into it.

 In the process of making all these goodies, sure, there was a mess made. And then there was a mess cleaned up. If SH had been around, the drama would have been at 11. SH thinks the function of a kitchen is to stay spotless and unused at all times.

But, as I mentioned, he has assumed a lot of the household chores. At work the other day, he messaged me the question, "How do I get mildew off a shower curtain?" and I thought, OK, there is some compensation for having a husband who does not have a job right now.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 23: The economics of scarcity and demand

 



Remember when you first met your significant other and you couldn't keep your hands off each other? Even my mom, who reads this blog, which means I need to keep this PG, and my dad spent their first date necking in the driveway of my grandfather's farm. Actually, it wasn't a date - they had met at the bar at the bowling alley in town and my dad gave my mom a ride home. This was a super small town so everyone knew who everyone was. My parents had not met before, but they knew of each other.

My dad drove my mom home. They necked in the driveway and then my dad's car got stuck in the snow so they had to wake my grandfather up - who was going to have to get up in just three hours to milk the cows, so was unhappy for many reasons - to pull the car out with the tractor.

Romantic, huh?

When I met SH the first time, I thought he played for the other team, so there was no necking going on. On our first sort-of date - he took a long layover in Memphis and we went out to lunch and HE DID NOT PAY because, he says, "You had a boyfriend at the time so I didn't think it was a date" and I say, "Would I have agreed to take an afternoon off work, pick you up at the airport, and drive you around town if it weren't a date? I don't do that for Just Friends."

And the boyfriend was the Moroccan Millionaire, Gomez, who turned out to be a despicable human being. So I was close to being done with him anyhow.

SH and I didn't have our first kiss until our third date, the second time he took a long layover in Memphis. And then we were all, "Oh this is fun! Let's do this some more!"

And initial years of dating, etc, etc.

You know.

So now - after six years of marriage and nine years of knowing each other. Now, in the dead of winter - yes, already, winter. Now, when I have to get up at 6 a.m. to drive to work in the snow and cold. Now, that I have seen the secrets of a long-term relationship, which include farting, something that did not happen while we were dating. Now, that sometimes, we both just say, "Forget it. It's the weekend. We're not going anywhere. We're tired. It's cold. No showers this weekend."

Now, there is not such a sense of urgency. Now, other things take priority. Sleep. Food. Season three of Rizzoli and Isles.

For SH, the Folding of the Clothes.

Yes, you read that properly. The man who used to drive 500 miles just to see me now won't get into bed until every single item of his clothing is perfectly folded and stacked in the "Too Dirty To Put Away In The Closet Or The Drawer But Not Dirty Enough To Put In The Laundry" stack on top of his dresser.

Including socks.

SH folds his socks and carefully places them on the Stack before getting into bed.

Because - marriage and [wxyz] do not necessarily enhance each other.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 762: Reading is fundamental

 

SH and I were packing for our trip to Austin for my brother's birthday. My sister had organized everything from afar. Don't be surprised. Organizing a big bash from a distance while she saves preemie babies is just an appetizer for my sister. She gets stuff done. Gets it from my mom, who has, to date, organized I think six - eight? - trans-oceanic moves, although the one to Saudi does not count so much because they didn't take their furniture with them. Still, the furniture had to be dealt with, so yeah - eight. Eight trans-oceanic moves.

My mom rocks and my sister rocks.

It was Jenny's idea to throw a party for Greg for his 50th birthday. It has been a tough 18 months for my brother. He had his own business for over ten years, but had to close up shop when he had some serious health problems start two years ago. But he is healthy now and has a great new job at UT. It's in the basement, but it is a job and he likes the work and he likes the people and someone else is doing the running the business part of the business so Greg can do just the computer part, which is the part he likes. 

By the way, if you guys don't know about this site already, you need to go to Ask A Manager for your job hunting advice. I would not have gotten the interviews and jobs I have gotten without Alison's great advice on cover letters and I was able to share that advice with my brother and I think it helped him get his job.

So anyway. SH and I were very happy to be going to Austin. We had not been since right after we met, in 2006, when we made a trip there so he could meet my friends and my brother. I miss Texas and I am not happy with the early winter we are having. I don't even like winter when it happens at the normal time. And I miss Texas. A lot.

SH has quit his job to search for a new path. I think I mentioned that. Anyhow, he has. We talked about it for two years and I got myself into a better job with slightly better pay so we could afford for him to quit and quit he did.

Which meant that he did not need to take a computer on this trip.

I have known this man for nine years and we have never taken a trip, including vacations, where he did not take his work computer with him. The realities of working now - sure, you're on vacation, but nobody is doing your job while you are gone, so if you don't keep up with the emails, it's just going to be worse when you return.

SH's dad does not understand this. His dad was a college professor who did not do research, so when school was out, his dad was not working. When SH visits his parents, they get annoyed that he works. They think he is a failure because he never got an advanced degree and then he works? all the time? and he doesn't even have a pension? What is that about?

But SH no longer even has his work computer. And he was not going to take a computer on the trip.

And yet- he has to carry a computer bag.

Because, "I have to take something! I have to have room to carry a book!" he said.

"So just carry a book," I suggested.

"No! I need a book and I need the sections of the newspaper that I've been saving to read* and I need some magazines. I need different reading material for different reading times."



* There is a stack of newspapers 18" high on our kitchen table. On SH's half of the kitchen table. Because it's still news two months later and there is no way ever to see that information online.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 764: Double Indemnity

  • Last night
    SH: Look at my thumb. It's cracked! It hurts!
    Me: That does look bad.

    SH: It hurts! And it's not healing! And it's hard to keep a bandaid here.

    Me: Why don't you paint some fingernail polish on it?

    SH: WHAT?!

    Me: I do that all the time. Or I glue the wound.

    SH: That's crazy!

    Me: No it's not. Ilene [my friend the Bodacious Red-Headed Pediatrician, who, unfortunately, no longer blogs] said it's OK. She said surgeons use superglue. But suit yourself.


    Today, via facebook
     
    SH
    I have a bandage on my finger (and went to bed with one last night). It is helping, but I hate wearing bandages on my fingers.
  • Me
    Maybe try the nail polish?
  • SH
    Not now.
    You want me to put toxic chemicals inside a cut!
  • Me
    I have glued my cuts before
    and used nail polish
    and YET I LIVE
  • SH
    You want to poison me.
    Maybe you have headaches because you poisoned yourself.
  • Me
    not now
    you don't have enough insurance
  • SH
    Nope.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 145: The unexamined life

Did you guys know that SH is taking a break from work? We agreed that he would get a year to find something else. He has been doing the same kind of work for over 25 years and has been at the same company for 15 years.

Creative, bright people get tired of doing the same thing over and over, even if they are being paid well to do it.

Their wives do not get tired of it. Their wives do not get tired of their husbands being well paid.

But the wives and the husbands make a spreadsheet of their expenses and of their savings and assets. They make a budget. They look at how they spend and identify places to cut back.

(Wine.)

(Not purses.)

They discuss and discuss and discuss and finally, they agree to a year. The wife is reassured by the news that a co-worker of the husband's announces she is taking a year off work to stay home with her kids but will be back and the company is OK with that. The husband's employer tells him how much they like him and yes, he is always welcome back. The wife thinks, If he doesn't resolve his midlife crisis (why doesn't he just have an affair or buy a car?), then he can probably go back to work for the same company.

So the husband quits his job and the wife is totally stressed out and hyperventilating but she survives. And she appreciates that the husband has taken over the laundry and the yardwork and the vacuuming. She appreciates that he has finally, after three years, consolidated all the bad swirly lightbulbs to take them to the hardware store for disposal. She appreciates that he has replaced the broken doorstop. That he is going to grout the bathtub.

What she does not appreciate is his complaining when she gets home from work - remember, she is the only one with a job now - that the medicine cabinet - actually, a bin under the bathroom sink - is disorganized.

As she never has any problems finding what she wants, she does not understand what the issue is.

But the husband had to look through the bin and then look in the bathroom drawers to find the bacitracin and apparently, he had something better to do with his time.

Looking for bacitracin does not come with dental.

Monday, December 08, 2014

The working life: Hitting the AARP level only not being retired - seriously, who retires at 50 who is an ordinary person?




I had to go to a three-day training session in Chicago for work. It was good training - this was the engineer/marketing training.

On Thursday, SH took the train down to meet me and we at at Eataly, which does indeed have a Nutella shrine.

The guy sitting next to me in class was an Indian who lives in London. He had been in Chicago all week. Didn't really know anyone there. Was traveling by himself. Seemed a little lonely. I asked if he wanted to join SH and me for dinner.

Yes! He did! Thank you!

He met us there and it was nice and then he discovered that SH had quit his job.

Indian engineer: Aren't you scared of not being able to find another job?

SH: Maybe.

IE: Is it scary to be your age at work?

Me: Oh yes.

IE: Because you are too young to retire, right?

Me: Oh yes.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 753: Boiling point

Scene: SH has been trying a new, local coffee roaster. It has taken only a few years for us to go from non-coffee drinkers to full-fledged coffee snobs. We started with the gateway coffee of Starbucks mocha, which is coffee-flavored hot chocolate with extra fat, and moved to ground coffee from the store and then from Costco to coffee beans and our own grinder to the glass beaker thingy and water heated in a special water heater. We got the beaker thing at a church youth group fundraiser, right about when our microwave started to die (and no, we have not dealt with that issue - we are working around it - people got along just fine for millennia without a microwave and we can do it for a year or two), so SH stopped in at Goodwill and picked up one of those plug-in water heaters. Not the immersion kind, but more of a plug-in teakettle, only not for brewing.

So he mastered the art of grinding the coffee while the water was heating and then carefully pouring the hot water over the grounds.

But then he tried this new coffee roaster and this new bean and the coffee was way too tannic so he tried different things - all kinds of stuff except just taking the bag of beans back to the store and telling them it was too tannic.

SH: How's the coffee been?

Me: OK, I guess. I haven't been paying attention.

SH: I've adjusted the grind.

Me: OK.

SH: And tomorrow, I'll have my new water heater.

Me: What? You think money grows on trees?

SH: It goes to 190 degrees.

Me: So?

SH: I can't get the old one past 180.

Me: So? Just use a kettle and put it on the stove.

SH: No! Boiling is too hot!


Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The working life with engineers: Not the smartest kid in the class

Here is what I am thankful for:

I am not the smartest person in the office.

I am not sure I ever was, but I can tell you for absolute positive sure that I am NOT the smartest one at my new job, because I work with a bunch of really, really smart people. And they all want to do cool things and do a good job and it is a joy to work there.

Except for the lack of windows and the location - out in the burbs with no sidewalks.

But besides that, it is a great place to work. I like working with smart people. I like being around smart people. It makes me feel smarter just to absorb all that smart energy.

How do I know I am around smart people?

Here are some of the things I have not had to explain to my current group of co-workers or boss. Actually, let me be more specific. These are things I have not had to explain to my boss. Blesshisheart.

1. Slovakia and Slovenia are not the same country. They're not. Look it up if you don't believe me.

2. I know it is illegal to do business in sanctioned countries and I know it is illegal to do business in South Sudan and it is not my fault that the Cairo office signed a contract with South Sudan. I know I am in charge of the Cairo office, but you, my dear boss, signed the deal with the Cairo office and we explained to them in writing in which countries they were to operate. South Sudan was not on that list. I did not think that it was necessary to explain to them that they were NOT TO OPERATE OUTSIDE OF THE CONTRACT.

3. It is illegal to recognize revenue for official accounting reports until the service or product has been delivered. What this means, boss, and OK fine, get someone from accounting to come over and confirm what I am telling you but I tell you the truth, is that even if a customer gives us $100,000 two days before the end of the fiscal year for a series of classes that do not start until after the fiscal year, we cannot show that $100,000 in this year's earnings. I mean, you can if you want to, but it will be your signature on that financial report and you will be the one going to the big house. I will put it in writing up and down the reporting chain that I warned you not to do it.

4.  What is social media. I have not had to explain to anyone at my current job what social media is. I have not had anyone at my current job ask me two days before a big conference to put together a huge communications plan for the Cairo office - communicating what, I am not sure, then sit in his office, along with the communications director, who wrote most of the plan, explain exactly what we plan to do with facebook, twitter, and LinkedIn, only to arrive at the end of the report and be asked, "But what about that social media? Are you doing anything with that?"

Monday, December 01, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 12: In which there is some spontaneous you know what

A few weeks ago, SH and his friends moved our dining room table for a video they were making. (The friend was running for a local office and SH was helping on the campaign. They shot the video at our house because the friend has a baby at home, etc, etc.)

They moved the table against the wall so they could set up the shoot.

They promised they would move everything back.

They didn't.

Probably because SH was hyperventilating when they first moved it and didn't trust them to move it back, plus now that he is in charge of vacuuming, he decided he should vacuum the rug.

So for a few weeks, the dining room has been all askew and it has bugged me and I have been suggesting to SH that we move the table back and he has been telling me he is too busy.

Tonight, as SH was walking up the stairs with a handful of chocolate covered coffee beans and as I was closing down my work computer - I worked from home today because I had oral surgery in the morning and it's probably not a good idea to drive with two valiums and half a vicodin in your system, even though valium does not relax me and I was completely aware that Dr S was cutting a piece of flesh from the roof of my mouth, I sprang to my feet, ran to the hall, and said, "Let's move the table!"

"I'm busy!" he protested.

"It will take one minute," I said.

"But we need to plan for this!"

"No we don't. All we are doing is moving the table. It's not that complicated."

"But you should have warned me!"

"Why? If I had said something earlier, you would have said you were busy then and to ask you again when you weren't busy. Then, if I would ask you again, you would say I was nagging."

He laughed. "No I wouldn't."

I rolled my eyes. "Yes. You would. Because you do that all the time."

"But I'm busy now!"

I shook my head. "No. Come on. This won't even take a minute. Look - I've already moved the chairs."

I stepped around between the wall and the table.

"No!" he said. "No! You can't do that side!"

[Do you see why I am exhausted most of the time? There is way too much drama in this house. Honestly. The growing up that SH must have had that every single little thing had to be scrutinized and criticized and analyzed and criticized again. The main activity of his dad is assigning blame and criticizing.]

I sighed and moved to the other side. I was not emotionally invested in a side. I just wanted to move the darn table.

We moved it. Was it centered under the chandelier? Did we want it centered there? We couldn't remember where it used to be.

But it looked fine where it ---

"No!" SH said. "Look. Here are the marks from where it used to be. We need to move it back two inches."

We did.

From start to finish, including the arguing, it took us 97 seconds.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 134: Pot, meet kettle


 





Did I mention that SH joined me in Chicago when I was there for the conference? A paid hotel room - why not?

Did I mention how good the food was at the conference? And that my company allows only $35 for dinner? Which is not enough to get more than fast food in downtown Chicago? Or not enough to get more than just a bare minimum entree? No soup, no salad, no drink, no dessert? Not that I spend that much money on eating out in Milwaukee (BTW, $35 is not enough to get all that in Milwaukee, either), but when I am away from home and have to eat out, I like to do something nice.

What this means is that I was compelled to save yogurt and hard-boiled eggs and chocolate croissants (I would have saved chocolate croissants even if I had an unlimited allowance for dinner) so I would have something to eat in the evenings. I could have gone out to eat, but I would have been stressed about staying under the limit - sure, I could spend more, but that would have been my money - and annoyed at not being able to eat someplace good.

Besides, I don't really like eating out by myself. I barely like eating out with other people because it usually takes way too long and I would usually rather be alone unless I am with someone I really like. SH takes forever to eat. There is a reason we do not eat together at home. The main one is that he doesn't want to eat until after I want to be in bed, but the secondary reason is that it takes him 20 times as long to eat as it takes me and it is boring to sit at a table waiting for someone else to finish eating.

The other thing is that the $35 is a per diem, so if I don't spend it on dinner, I get to keep it.

A perfect storm:

1. I don't like eating out by myself
2. I don't like fast food
3. After a day at a conference, the last thing I want is to be around more people
4. If I eat a couple of eggs and some yogurt in my hotel room, I get to be by myself and I get to pocket $35. And I get to do this while watching three straight hours of Big Bang Theory.

I was at the conference all week. SH joined me on Thursday. Friday night, we had dinner with our friends Lenore and Rob, which was fun and not stressful because I have known Lenore for almost 30 years and it is very easy to be with her. Plus we were eating tapas and what's not to like about eating tapas?

On Saturday morning, as we were packing, SH called me a little old bag lady because I still had hard-boiled eggs and yogurt and chocolate croissants.

In addition, I had grabbed a few of those cute little jams.

Here is a question to consider: if someone else orders room service and then doesn't keep or open the little jams and then leaves them on a cart in the hallway, is it stealing to take the little jams? They have been paid for.

I don't understand why someone wouldn't keep them. The little jars are perfect for other things once you have eaten the jam. That's where I keep my migraine painkillers. Imitrex and relpax come packaged in these horrible blisterpacks that are very difficult to open. The last thing a person needs when she has a headache, especially in the middle of the night, is a blisterpack that takes several steps - and possibly scissors - to open.

So I open six of them at a time and store them in a little jam jar. I also usually only take half a pill at a time, so it is good to have an easy way to store the second half of the pill.

So maybe I saw some unopened little jams on a tray on a cart in the hallway and maybe I said, "Oh! Little jams!" And maybe I grabbed them and stuck them in my pocket and then put them in my suitcase next to the eggs and the yogurts and the chocolate croissants - because we had gone out to eat on Thursday and on Friday - and next to the little Nutellas because maybe I had saved two of them from the lounge at the Drake, which is where we stayed on Friday night with SH's hotel points that are about to expire.




And maybe SH called me a little old bag lady.

And maybe when we got home and we were unpacking, I saw that SOMEONE had also packed the little Lavazza coffee pods from the hotel room.

And maybe it wasn't ME, Little Old Bag Man.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The working life with engineers: Packing for a conference


 

Remember how I was at a conference with all engineers except for the one other person who was a liberal arts major? Bless their hearts, engineers are fabulous, but they don't like the abstractions involved in marketing. We did these exercises about customer needs and talked about understanding the market. The instructor showed examples of how to do these kinds of analyses and the engineers wanted to know how many lines the forms should have. Engineers do not like ambiguity, which is great for product design. I want a phone and a computer that work all the time, not just some of the time.  I want precision and accuracy and predictability in my electronics.

But marketing, unfortunately, does not have that level of precision. You don't know if things work. You don't know if they will work. You just have to test and make assumptions and even when you have success, you don't always know why.

This is maddening for English majors and must be horrible for engineers.

So I was at this conference with a bunch of engineers and I made a big mistake. You would think that after working for a while in an engineering company, I would know better, but apparently, I am a slow learner.

I overpacked.

I took the train to Chicago and then walked the mile to the hotel. I pulled my very full suitcase behind me.

I had packed an outfit for each day. I had packed not one but two pairs of gym shorts. As if anyone ever really exercises while she is on a business trip. I had tennies and work shoes. Another pair of jeans. Not one but three books.

I forgot I was going to be at a conference with engineers. One of the things I like best about my new job is that it doesn't matter what I wear. I mean, I can't be a total slob, but nobody notices what I wear. NOBODY. I could wear the same thing every day and nobody would notice.

I have decided to use that fact for good and am on a mission not to buy any new clothes for a year.

During the conference, one of the presenters asked, "Is there anyone here from the fashion industry?"

I looked around and almost laughed out loud.

"Clearly not!" I said. Unfortunately, I said it out loud and that was rude.

"Speaking for myself," I added quickly. Honestly. There are times when I think it might be a good idea for me to sew my lips shut.

Why did I feel compelled to pack an outfit a day for an engineering conference?

I did not do it right.

I did not exercise every day as planned.

I did not wear every outfit.

I had extra things to take home - books, chocolate croissants - and still had to drag those behind me on the mile walk to the train station.

I did not do it right.

I will not make this mistake again.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The working life with engineers: Not every blank has to be completed




I went to this conference for work. It was about marketing stuff and there were a few breakout sessions where we talked about marketing strategies.

It was an engineering conference. An engineering conference with some marketing stuff.

Based on the questions people asked, I think I was one of two non-engineers in attendance.

We had this breakout session about how to understand the customer.  We did an exercise where we were supposed to identify the problems facing the VP of sales. The only information we had was the job title. We had a worksheet containing spaces for the VP's age, industry, boss's title, job duties, and major problems.

The bottom half of the sheet was devoted to major problems.

Most of the top half was for the job duties.

There were lines for age, industry, and boss's title.

We had half an hour to do the exercise.

Remember, the point of the exercise was to understand the customer's issues. What are the problems the customer faces? Once you understand the customer problems, you can figure out if your product solves any of those problems.

The major point of the exercise was to get people to understand that you do not succeed in sales by listing all your product features - it is by understanding what your customer needs and by addressing those needs.

The first thing we were supposed to do was appoint a spokesperson for the group. One of the other women said, "CF likes to talk. She can be our spokesperson."

Ouch. I had actually been trying to keep my mouth shut. Apparently, I had not been successful.

So I tried very hard not to talk a lot during this exercise. I did not want to dominate or be considered bossy or overbearing. I bit my lip and said nothing.

But after five minutes of listening to people discuss just what industry should the VP be in - and what stage - startup? mature? - I had to speak.

Very carefully, I said, "I suspect that the problems that a VP of sales faces are pretty common across industries. They are all concerned about whether customers and prospects can reach them. They are all concerned about the CEO asking what sales are about to close and will they make plan this quarter. They are all concerned about knowing if there is anything in the pipeline."

A few heads nodded in agreement.

I continued. "Perhaps we don't really need to be that specific about the industry. Perhaps we can put down anything and just focus on brainstorming about the problems." I wanted to add, in all caps, "BECAUSE THAT IS THE POINT OF THIS EXERCISE!"

But I didn't. That would have been really rude.

Another person on the team said, "OK. How about manufacturing as the industry?"

Everyone agreed.

Then one person asked, "But manufacturing what?"

Lord have mercy.

Another person sighed. "Widgets. They are manufacturing widgets."

The Italian guy with the jaunty scarf and the graceful hand movements that accompanied every word that came out of his mouth asked, "What is wiz-EET?"

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."

Amen.


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.