Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Silly Weekendness

This weekend, my husband and I partook in silly online personality and intelligence tests. We've now, with complete scientific certainty, determined that I am:
- Afflicted with fewer personality disorders than my husband
- Clinton, while he is Einstein
- Smarter than he is
- Christian, while my husband is Buddhist

Anyway, one of the tests we took was a measure of fluid intelligence: the ability to recognize patterns in a set of shapes. I felt like I was back in elementary school taking IQ tests. Conveniently, I've always tested well. And, apparently, I can find patterns.

This proved very helpful when I went to the grocery store. A little background on this: I buy gift cards from my church for my grocery shopping, and then my church gets 2% back on that. It doesn't cost me anything, so it's certainly worth it. My most recent card had $17.64 left on it. So, when I went to the store tonight, I knew that was my limit (it's the end of the month, and there's no money left for fun stuff like food). At the checkout stand, my total came to $16.74. Whew! But, my card was declined. So we tried it again. Declined. Apparently I only have 90 cents left on my card. Wait...that's how much there would be if they'd actually charged the $16.74. So I argued. And pulled out my last receipt that shows how much was left on the card. And they found a manager and fixed everything. And now I really do have 90 cents left on my card.

Good thing I can do math in my head. Otherwise, I'd be poorer than necessary.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Happy Chinese New Year!

Today is New Year's Day, in the Chinese zodiac calendar. We mark the change from the year of the Rooster to the year of the Dog. Woof!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Being a Manager

Being a manager is great when everything is humming along swimmingly. Things aren't so great when someone who works for you isn't doing the bang-up job you'd hoped for. Performance issues are some of the hardest things to deal with. You have a responsibility to the company and the rest of the employees to address the issue, but when you're as afraid of conflict as I tend to be, it's downright terrifying. I've had several issues I've had to deal with in my career, and the hardest are the ones with people that really want to do the work, and be good at it, but they just aren't getting there.

This most recent issue has been one of those times.

Bruce* has a great attitude, and really wants to be at the company. He tries hard, and wants to do a great job in the position, but he's just not picking things up. I have explained things differently, and over again, and again, and again. I have had other people explain the concepts to him (thinking a different approach might be all he needs). I have adjusted my expectations, knowing that I am a hard boss and it can be difficult to meet my very high expectations for those who work for me. I've gone back and forth over and over about what I didn't do right -- what I didn't teach him, what I might have expected him to pick up on on his own, etc. Believe me, if people who used to work for me at other companies didn't ask me on a regular basis if they could come work for me again, I would take these times hard and assume I was a terrible manager. However, at some point I have to say he isn't the right fit for this job. That is what I finally had to do, and proceeded to have a heart-to-heart with Bruce. Nice guy that he is, he made my job a little easier, and decided to quit. He's finishing out the week, and then it's on to other things.

I would love to never have these kinds of situations come up again. Invariably, though (unless I start working somewhere where the only employee is me), it will. As my mentor told me when I had my very first situation like this come up when I was in my first management role, "If this gets easy, it's time to stop managing people." I've taken that to heart, and I hope I've been kind to Bruce. In time I hope he even sees that this leads to some sort of positive change in his life.

Good luck to you, Bruce. I truly mean that.

* Name changed to protect privacy.

Monday, January 23, 2006

My 2006 Resolutions

So far, the resolutions I had made for myself have been working. I can't say I've been perfect at the changes I set out for myself, but I have done better than normal. It helps that some of these goals my husband and I set as things we both want to do. Here is a summary of where I am at this point in the year.

1. No TV. We watch movies in the theater and from our NetFlix queue, but no actual broadcast television. I've made one exception when I went to a party to watch the UT/USC National Championship game, but that's it. And I can rationalize that one.

2. Lose 10 pounds. I know, I know, everyone puts something like this on their list. I am doing it by having sub-goals, and that makes it more manageable for me:
  • Eating better when I go out. I eat more vegetables, less fried stuff, and always get a salad (they take up space in the stomach).

  • Not going out nearly as much. I have a limit of 2 lunches a week, and 2 dinners a week, which I have been adhering to religiously. I have been cooking 3-4 times a week, and eating leftovers most of the other nights and lunches. It's much less sodium, and as an added bonus, it's generally cheaper (though don't look too closely at how much my salmon dinner cost me to make last night).

  • Limiting my coke consumption to 2 per week. I've actually slipped on this one a bit this weekend, but in general I've been sticking to this well. And getting less and less interested in the taste of them as a result.

I am pleased to report that at last weigh-in I have lost 4 pounds so far this year, and my clothes are feeling looser. That is really the motivation. See, I'm cheap, and I refuse to go out and buy new clothes. Especially new bras -- do you know how expensive those darn things get?

3. Train to complete the Danskin triathlon in 90 minutes. My best time has been 111 minutes, so this is a bit of a stretch goal, but it would get me into the appropriate bracket with my age group. I've also sucked my whole family into doing it with me this year, and it would be just terrible if they finished faster than me. My current estimation is that the swim will take me 20 minutes and the run will take me 30 minutes. So, I have 40 minutes to do the bike. That will be tough (around 19 miles per hour, with tons of hilliness). Plus, I'll need to fit in about 5 minutes for the two transitions. Maybe I can shave a few minutes off my swim, and a few more off my run......

4. Train to be ready to run the Freescale marathon in February, 2007. This is a huge thing for me. I'm not much of an endurance athlete, but I'm as stubborn as they come, and I know lots of people that can give me training tips. I've never run more than 6 miles without stopping, so I have quite a bit of training to do to be ready. Conveniently, Austin has tons of races to lead up to the big one, and if I train properly I should be able to do it. Mmmmmmarathon.

So, that's what I'm working on. I hope your resolutions have led to positive experiences for you, too.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Different Strokes

On my way home from work tonight, I was driving along, paying attention to the cars in front of me. I was almost home, when I saw a car on the side street looking like it was going to turn right onto my street. Meanwhile, a car in the middle lane was inching over to change lanes into that same right lane.

And they both did what they were looking like they were going to do. And they collided.

And then both kept driving. One continued on straight up the street in the middle lane, and the other turned right at the next street.

I just don't understand that behavior. I would have pulled off into one of several parking lots, made sure everyone was okay, and exchanged information (of course, I'm quite the rules follower). Even as a bystander, I was prepared to follow the two cars, and offer my services as a witness. But they, apparently, wouldn't have wanted them anyway.

I know that my area of the city is poorer, and there are probably quite a few folks without insurance. I also know there are pockets of illegal immigrants in the area. I'm sure neither group would be interested in any kind of car-related mishaps, but I guess it surprised me that these two cars held folks that seemed to be in one category or the other.

Are there other reasons not to stop if you've been involved in a car accident?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Plasticman and Elastigirl

When I was growing up, Plasticman was always my favorite superhero. Not Superman or Batman or any of those mainstream guys. I liked Aquaman, too, but that's a story for another time.

Anyway, Plasticman always seemed cool to me in the way he could stretch out and grab someone, or make himself flat and slide under a door. It just seemed to me to be such a versatile gift. But as I got older, I forgot about him, as teenagers (who are way too cool for that sort of thing) are wont to do.

And then The Incredibles came out. I enjoyed the movie, but I absolutely adored Elastigirl. Again, with the amazing versatility, and I loved the irony of her being the mother of three kids.

So I was reminded of Plasticman, and this attraction I have to these heroes of flexibility. I suppose that says something about what I value in life, but I doubt it's that clear or simple. So, I just thought I'd throw it out there, and let you all figure it out for me.


Monday, January 16, 2006

Wanting a Dog

It's been two years since our greyhound, Geiger, died. She was the sweetest dog, if not real smart. She was old, and it was time for her to go, but it was still hard. Now that I'm traveling less for work, and my husband is done with school, it seemed like a good time to get another dog. We combed the internet, that ready source of all, um, knowledge, to try to figure out the perfect dog breed for our lifestyle. You can do that with dogs, you know. Not with kids, but with dogs. Apparently, the perfect dog for us is the Hungarian Visla. Ever heard of one? The closest place we can get one is Dallas.

I personally would like to go back to fostering greyhounds until we find the one with the temperament that fits us, and adopt it. Greyhounds are such sweet dogs, and fulfill my desire for a cat (please leave your comments about crazy cat ladies down the street at home). They have very short hair and a penchant for cleaning themselves that means you only have to bathe them every month or two. They "take retirement very seriously", meaning you don't have to walk them very often either. By the time Geiger was 10, she not only did not require a walk (not that she required more than 10-15 minutes before that), if you wanted to go for a longer walk than around the block, she would lay down in the grass and refuse to go any further. So, they are low maintenance. But, you also get all the great things about a dog -- the way they are so excited to see you when you come home, even if you're just coming back in from getting the mail. They want to be around you, and tend to get into things, which is endearing.

Fostering would be so hard, you say? No, no, it's not. We've fostered 3 so far, and I've been happy to see them find homes. The great thing about fostering a rescued greyhound is that you get to know them, to characterize them, and help them find a good loving home. Then there are more greyhound evangelists out there. Did you know they can find homes for 20-25,000 dogs each year that are discharged from the racetrack system? However, there are easily twice that many that are killed each year and never given the opportunity to laze around on a soft bed and bounce around happily when their owners come home.

So get a dog already!!! But then we started down this remodeling path, and now doesn't seem like such a perfect time for a dog. We'll have a kitchen that's a mess and potentially dangerous construction materials everywhere. So, I guess we'll have to wait. But I know my dog is out there, just waiting for me.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Slow Modifications

The two people who come to this blog (one of them being myself) may have noticed that this blog is on a very slow train to transformation. I started with a nice stock blog template, and am slowly changing it to better match my tastes and desires for this page. Unfortunately for you, I am not doing this quickly. Rather, it is like Chinese water torture: one drip of change here, and another drip there. It's likely to take me a good decade to change this page into the page I have envisioned in my head. I understand HTML, but I don't write enough of it to be very good at it. Meanwhile, I want to apologize to you for the mismatched colors in the meantime. I hope to keep it from gouging out your eyes, but I can't guarantee that.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Kitchen Remodeling

During our drive back from holiday family visiting, we discussed plans for remodeling our kitchen. Well, not so much remodeling as completely gutting and replacing. We live in an old house (built in 1960) with a kitchen that was "updated" in 1992. I think that means they put in new appliances, countertops, and linoleum then. It has been functional, but it's so small that it's hard and unsatisfying to use. Right next to the kitchen is an enourmous dining room that has a lot of wasted space. So, you see where this is going.

We've applied for and received a home equity loan, so we're off to the races! We've had the doors measured so we can replace the old sliding glass door with French doors. We've identified most of the appliances that we want to use, and those dimensions will drive the final touches on the layout of the kitchen. Then we start tearing things out and building new cabinets, etc. It's very exciting!

Sunday, January 08, 2006


Today is Epiphany Sunday. In the church calendar, it's the day we celebrate the magi coming to visit the baby Jesus and present Him with gifts. But the word "epiphany" has another, completely nonreligious meaning. I thought it might be nice to recap some of the epiphanies I can remember having over my, albeit short so far, lifetime.

Anything I can come up with has been thought of before.

Racism is not a one-way thing.

Marriage is hard.

No one is lovable all the time.

My parents did the best they knew how with the tools they'd developed in their lives.

When I tell myself that I won't let something affect me, it invariably does.

I guess I've learned some stuff in life, but just not as much as I probably should have. These represent those biggest "aha" moments in my life. What kinds of things have you realized?


I went to my first Aggie basketball game of the season last night. Texas Tech and Bobby Knight came to College Station, and in the first half, they were red-hot. The Aggies couldn't hit anything, couldn't even get in the paint, and had more team fouls than points for about the first 10 minutes of the game. We went into halftime down by 9. Coach Gillespie did something good during that half-time pep talk, while we enjoyed frisbee-catching dogs. When they came out in the second half, they were playing better defense, hitting their shots better, and just playing more like a team than five individuals. It took a bit to make up the deficit, but the second half was very exciting, and the crowd was into it and very loud. By the end, we had managed a 63-55 win.

It feels great to be back into another season of conference play.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Being an Aggie in Austin

For those of you who don't follow football or championship games or watch the news, you may not realize that the University of Texas beat the University of Southern California last night in the Rose Bowl. Good for them. It was a very exciting game to watch, and they can be proud of themselves.

That being said, while I live in Austin, I am not a Longhorn fan. I know, I know -- shocking. My husband and I both went to Texas A&M (and regardless of the fact that he's spent the last 7.5 years gettin' ejicated at UT, he still calls himself an Aggie). I am a very proud Aggie. I'm also aware that if it was the Aggies that just won the National Championship (don't stop me with trivialities like our 5-6 season this year -- this is just for illustrative purposes), I would be ecstatic. I would want everyone to know, and be happy for us.

That's just harder to do when the team that wants that from you is your biggest rival.

So, I am putting on my game face today. I will do my dead-level-best to be truly happy for them. Just please don't push it. I have a limited amount of happy-for-UT available.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Bed Improvements

Beds have issues. They are just not designed for people to sleep in them. Well, maybe they are, but they aren't designed for people who sleep on their sides. If you sleep on your back or stomach, which I do sometimes, then they seem to work. If you sleep on your side, which I do most of the time, then you are constantly having to figure out what to do with the arm on the bottom. The shoulder is in the way, so I try a thicker pillow, but then I get a crick in my neck. It's important to use the shoulder for stability, but then what do I do with my arm? Putting it above my shoulder under my head, my shoulder nerves get pinched, and the arm falls asleep. If I put it behind myself, again with the sleeping appendage result. If I put it underneath myself, there is so much weight on the arm that it falls asleep again. So, I usually have to put it in front of myself, and that doesn't always work either. Mattress manufacturers should figure out a way to accommodate the extraneous arm to prevent the pins and needle thing.

Meanwhile, I've encountered very few couples that require the same temperature to sleep. One partner is always too cold and the other is sweating. I know there are electric heating blankets that are modular, but there are dangers to those things, too. They already make mattresses that allow each sleeping person to set their own firmness. Why can't they make ones that are heated or cooled for each sleeper?

I just want the mattress people to make more money. Really!