Saturday, October 29, 2011

Madden NFL Breast Cancer Awareness Mode

I overheard my sons tonight, as they discussed which Madden game they were going to load.

"Do you want to play Superbowl or Breast Cancer Awareness?" asked P (my 12 year old) to L (my 9 year old). They decided on Breast Cancer Awareness. 

My, how times have changed.

At first, it didn't even register that my boys were throwing around the word "breast" so unaffectedly.  But then it occurred to me.  These are boys who are using a word that I never dared utter without blushing when I was their age.  And sure, I was raised Catholic, so that may play into the modesty that seems to be a part of my core.  But even still, kids just didn't say certain words back in my day.  Words that now are so accepted that they're no longer taboo.

I love it.

And as I type this, I can hear the Madden announcer give a plug about the importance of regular screenings...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Cube With A View

Did you ever hear that myth about cold cereal being devised to keep unruly children under control?  The thinking was that, by giving them bland food for breakfast, it would leave them so numb they would be perfect angels for at least the first half of the day.  Or maybe it was to defeat the Russians.  I'm a little fuzzy on the details (possibly because I made them up entirely), but the moral is that "something" was devised to keep "someone" down.  Throughout history, we've seen this happen over and over again.  It's so commonplace, we often don't even notice that it happens anymore.  So let me remind you with some of the more obvious ones.

Math was devised to keep girls down.

Wheat was devised to keep celiacs down.

Zantac was designed to keep acid down.

I can see I'm starting to wander here, so I'll reign it back in.

I want to talk cubicles.  Cubicles?  Yes, the grown-up equivalent of a big bowl of mind-numbing cold cereal.  If you are among the lucky few who spend their days confined to beigy-gray views, you know what I'm talking about.  Cubicle walls are what you get when a think tank comes together to answer these hard hitting questions:
  • What is the optimal color (or non-color) to promote resigned defeat, without inciting homocidal rage?
  • Can a pattern be incorporated in such a way as to mask or camouflage stains, ranging from bodily fluids to sweet and sour chicken glaze?
  • What thread count would be needed to support the weight of a phone being thrown at it, full force, from a distance of 32 inches?
 The result is a complete array of the most nondescript fabrics ever to grace the workplace.  Gray and beige tend to be the most popular colors, and the mental image alone is enough to send me into a functional coma.  Is there such a thing as a functional coma?  I don't know, but I tell you, I fall into one every day of the week, Mon-Fri, about 8am to oh, let's say 5pm.  Completely functional, I am productive, yet still manage to feel absolutely comatose.

Or that's the way I used to feel, until the day I discovered that my walls could actually entertain me.  Turns out some clever designer at the cubicle wall textile shop decided to pay us all a little favor by designing a pattern that could only be described as interpretive.  Behold my cubicle wall:


 At first glance, you're probably not impressed.  But let me tell you this:  listen in on a boring conference call long enough, and you will begin to see what I'm talking about.  These are some of the images I've been able to detect in this wall of mine:
  • a gnome
  • a chinese dragon head
  • a lady's face
  • an owl
  • a row boat
I'm not unconvinced that my cubicle is hiding one big 3D image in it.  I wonder what it could be.  I haven't cracked it yet.  Have you seen those tricky 3D pictures?  My cube could easily be hiding something mind-blowing, if only I could loosen up my eyes enough.  Here's an example that actually does have a 3D image in it.

I've given myself a headache from all this staring, so I'll have to end this post soon.  But for the record, I don't do drugs at work.  Or anywhere else, for that matter.  I just have an active imagination.  A very active imagination.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Food Day 2011

I fell for it again.  Curse you, Food and Wine photographer, for making every dish look delicious and oh-so-attainable.  I'm talking about November's Meat Loaf with Creamy Onion Gravy.  I don't know what I was thinking.  The kids have never liked my experiments, let alone ones swimming in creamy onion gravy.  But it sounded so good.  Onions, celery, garlic, and carrots, softly cooked and stirred into a ketchup, worcestershire, and dijon sauce, before hand-mixing into a mix of meats and bread crumbs.  And the secret ingredient:  Monterey Jack cheese cubes!

But wait, I don't really like mustard.  And will the family be receptive to gooey cheese pockets inside their meatloaf?  There's also the onion sauce that I'll need to sell them on.  But it looked so good in the picture.  So I threw caution to the wind and made 6 pounds of meatloaf for my unsuspecting family.

As I began mixing the worcestershire/ketchup/dijon sauce, the smell that floated up was slightly repulsive, and I had to hold my breath.  But there was no turning back, the money had been spent.  And if you know anything about me, you know that I'm cheap; so this meal was going to happen, whether we wanted it to or not.  I forged ahead, hoping the baking process would magically transform the stink into aroma.  And it did.  About 40 minutes into my bake time, the house started smelling divine, almost Christmas-like.  I began having fantasies about re-engerineering this recipe into turkey stuffing.  How decadent and completely genius.  I could hear the raves now.

While the turkey meatloaf baked, I got started on the onion gravy.  It was about this time when my better half came downstairs and said to me, "I'm not feeling too good, and the smell is making me want to throw up."

I cut him some slack, since, in all fairness, he was nauseous before I started cooking.  Unfortunately, this now meant that it was me against the 3 kids in what was sure to be a dinner battle.  And then it happened.  I blew it on the very last step:  Season with salt and black pepper.  Why couldn't they just give a measurement?  I don't want to season to my taste, I want to season to the way it was intended to taste.  So, of course, I over-salted the onion gravy.  Why, oh why did I have such a heavy hand?  I knew that gravy had been one step away from spectacular until I screwed it up.  Again, why couldn't they have just provided a measurement?  I work best with numbers!

Resigned, I called the kids to the table.  Here are their initial reactions to what they saw on the plate.

L:  Do you know what that looks like?
M:  I'm not eating that.
P:  Mom, I can't do it.  Can I just eat the green beans?

My kids are really good about eating their food, so after some mild threatening, I gave them fresh servings, sans creamy onion gravy.  Surprisingly,  L went back for seconds, and M ate his entire serving.  P, well, he still had to choke it down.

And here's where I wish the story could end.  But it can't, because I have over four pounds of meatloaf left to consume.  Curse that Food and Wine photographer...

Princessa Leia

I love me some Halloween. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hello HAL. Do You Read Me, HAL?

Last week, I experienced what can only be described as The Perfect Storm (minus the water and George Clooney).  It happened when, after being away from my desk, I returned to discover that Windows had decided to call it a day.  I noticed that there was a message on the screen, but I gave it no thought as I shut down my computer.  I'm clearly no computer genius, but I know enough to reboot, reboot, reboot.  When in doubt, REBOOT.

Well, rebooting didn't work.  Instead, things got worse.  So I broke down and called I.T.  Now calling IT is usually a lesson in humility for me, because, more often than not, they need to pull out their plain folk manual to walk me though something as basic as looking up my IP address.  And since I had completely disregarded the warning message that was displayed on my monitor when I so cavalierly shut down, I knew I was about to be schooled.  It's common knowledge that IT helpdesks everywhere think us users are the time I'm done with them, I've firmly cemented that belief.  This call was certainly going to be no different, but I had to get back onto the network stat, so I forged ahead and dialed that 888 number.

As usual, the guy was very nice and professional as he grilled me with questions.  Questions that, of course, I didn't know the answer to.  Stuff like, "and what did the message on your screen say?", "when did it happen?", and "do you know if anyone else is having the same trouble?"  Why couldn't he just ask me for my IP address and take control of my computer to see what was wrong?  I wanted to suggest he do just that, but I was afraid that doing so might open doors to other questions I wasn't prepared to answer.  So I waited patiently, hoping he'd stop asking and start doing.  I guess I answered enough questions correctly, because he soon wrapped up our phone call with, "I am going to escalate this ticket to an onsite technician.  Can I please have a phone number where you can reached?"

And with just those words, I felt like I had achieved SOMETHING.  As if it proved that it wasn't just "error above the keyboard."  I had been escalated.  Knowing an onsite technician was coming to the rescue incites those same feelings that being in a hospital brings.  You may die, but you've got a better chance of surviving here than anywhere else.  The best kind of help was on the way.

So I waited until that special phone call.  "Hello, this is Steven with technical services, I've received your ticket...." spoken in that emotionless, monotone voice that we all know.  That noncommittal, completely uninterested voice is exactly the one you want to hear at times like these.  It's the voice that tells me, "I'm here to clean up your mess, you idiot.  And I welcomed that voice.  Steven made his way over to my area, and I met him half way, determined to keep him from getting sidetracked by any other idiots who might waylay him.

Steven turned out to be perfectly delightful.  He was friendly, helpful, and most importantly, he was a problem solver.  Which leads me to my perfect storm.  After all was said and done, I am happy to report that I played only a supporting part in the mess that became of my computer.  Here's what happened:

Someone in the computer room accidentally turned off my port, causing me to lose connectivity to the network.  By the time I arrived at my desk to see that things had gone awry, a software push had been kicked off, causing my computer to slow down.  Those two things together, made me think I needed to shut down, but the problem is, you can't just shut down during a software push.  And that's when things got really messed up.  Coincidentally, my password chose just that moment to expire.  Not the beginning of the day, when I logged in, but that precise moment, when my port was switched off, the push was in progress, and I shut down.  Yes, that's right.  THREE things went wrong at exactly the right moment.

A couple of hours later, and I was back in business, with a new friend to say hi to in the hallway.  Ah Steven, my I.T. buddy, I'll never forget what you've done for me.  Or where you sit.  For the next time.

I still get a strange error message pop up every once in a while, but Steven has a plan to fix that one day.  Until then, whenever I get that message, I just reboot.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Don't Hate the Player

I was going through my son’s cell phone the other day (this only sounds invasive to those who don’t have kids), when I came across some texts that had to be documented, for posterity’s sake.  It seems a friend of his needed help wooing the ladies, and he came to my boy for advice.  Ah, the glimpses into my son’s mind are priceless.  As I followed along the string of ridiculous texts, I was entertained by the wisdom of my 12 year old, who doled out these golden nuggets:

“Don’t ask to hold her hand, that would make things awkward.”

"This is my motto:  don't b romantic unless u hav 2"


“Think like a player.  You’ve gotta ask yourself, ‘what would P do?’”

Hugely entertained by the advice he was giving, part of me hoped he wasn’t really serious.  Knowing what a goof-off my boy is, combined with him being one of the youngest AND smallest kids in 7th grade, I felt pretty confident that he was speaking about something he had no experience with.  But to be sure, I had to ask him.  I waited until that night, as he finished his homework. 

Me:  P, how many girls have you held hands with?

P:  One

Me:  And how many girls have you kissed?

P:  None.  Well, one, if I count you.

Me:  So what makes Kevin want to come to YOU for advice with the ladies?

P (smile spreading across his face):  I don’t KNOWWW.  But I went with it, and told him all kinds of stuff.  (smiling even wider) I told him to think like a player and that he needed to ask himself ‘what would P do’ (breaking into laughter).

We had a good laugh, while P reveled in his own cleverness.  He’s a fun kid, when he’s not driving me nuts.

Fortunately, Kevin didn't take P's advice.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pitbull Is Teaching Me Spanish

I have a few fears.  One of them is Alzheimer's.  My dad's dad had Alzheimer's when he died, as did a few others on that side of the family.  It may be true that I'm basing my fears on faulty logic, but I figure if alopecia is an inherited trait from your father's side, Alzheimer's could be too.  And for that reason, combined with the feeling that I am constantly losing my mind, I have done some research on the subject.  The articles and papers themselves are too boring to post, so I'll paraphrase:

Eat healthy, exercise, have an active, social lifestyle, and keep your mind challenged; and then MAYBE you'll hold onto your brain until you die.  Oh yeah, and be blessed with good genes.  

It probably boils down to good genes, but seeing as how I'm not blessed in that way, I'm going to have to cross my fingers and hope that my lifestyle can make up the difference.  So I started zumba in January (that requires a whole separate post), I feel guilty every time I eat junk food, and I've started taking Spanish lessons.  From Pitbull.

Who's Pitbull?  He's a Cuban-American rapper who is hugely popular these days.  He's been around for a while and is known for his utterly inappropriate lyrics and completely danceable tracks.  Did I say his lyrics are inappropriate?  It bears repeating.  Despite that, I cannot keep myself away from his music.  It's a totally illicit, guilty pleasure.

I was going to paste a video for you to experience his music for yourself, but I couldn't besmirch this lovely blog with such filth.  Pity.  Shake Senora is genius.

Fortunately for me, Pitbull is helping me stave off Alzheimer's in more than one way.  I'm keeping fit (he's a zumba favorite) and I'm learning Spanish at the same time.  I've learned so much already, it really is an effective way to pick up a language.

Unfortunately, most of it I can't repeat.

And now I sound like a Cuban rapper when I speak to my grandma.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Making Gatorade Out of Gators

Disappointment is an inevitable fact of life.  We're human, we feel emotions.  And because we're imperfect souls with free will, we are bound to come across conflict and disappointment in our lifetime.  Depending on your state of mind at the time, that feeling can be hard to overcome.  It can be the straw that breaks the camel's back.  Other times, it can roll right off your shoulders, with little more than a mental shake.

It's the "last straw" variety I've been thinking about lately.  No different than anyone else, I've had times when I felt as if I'd been given a raw deal.  I've sat around, feeling sorry for myself, wondering "why me?"  Eventually, I'd pick myself up, wipe my tears, and move on.  I think pity parties are good and appropriate, when thrown in moderation.  Sometimes it's good to just let go and wallow for a moment.  And being the self-centered creatures we're inclined towards being, a pity party is the easiest kind to throw.  It's the picking ourselves up and moving on that we seem to have trouble with.

Which leads me to today's original thought.  I've got an idea that the key to managing life's disappointments is Control.  It seems like the most successful individuals--those who have triumphed despite life's disappointments--are those who have faced their challenges with an arsenal of coping skills.  Skills that allow them to take control of their disappointment and transform it into something productive or meaningful.  Without any sense of control, life's disappointments can become magnified and debilitating.  It is Control that allows us to rebound from life's curve balls.  Control allows us to feel empowered.  It creates a calm purpose, as well as a sense of hope.  And it motivates us to move forward.

But how do you transform those negative feelings?  I don't know.  Sometimes life gets so overwhelming that knowing what you need to do isn't enough.  Emotions are such weird things.  They can work for you and they can work against you.  How easy life would be if we could turn them up and down, like we do the bass and treble on our car stereo.  Then we could adjust ourselves to give us just enough kick in the pants needed to keep us moving forward. 

I like the expression "making gatorade out of gators."  My challenges feel more like alligators than lemons.  And since we're speaking metaphorically, Gatorade is also more replenishing than lemonade.  Now if only I knew the recipe...