What my job needs.

So, I was browsing online today and came across this.  Now, I was a big fan of the idea behind the “eats, shoots, and leaves” book (even though I never read it) and this seems in line with that whole idea.  So I’m excited about that, and about possibly getting to the library.  I had heard of the book before, but now I’ve been completely sucked in by the endorsements.

And then I thought, ‘You know, everyone in my office could use this book.  In fact, you might as well call us ‘Comma Splice City’ and be done with it.’  But endorsements can on occasion be wrong, so I’d better read the whole thing first myself.  Then I only have to convince my supa-cool boss man that everyone in the office needs one.  Here’s my argument: not only will they be funny (because they are), but they will also be educational.  And guess what?  We work at an educational institution! It will increase worker productivity too.  Really.  Especially my productivity if people actually use it and I don’t have to correct them every five minutes.

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Childhood mint.

I checked out sweetleaves blog after she left some instructive tea comments for me on one of my posts, and was glad to find this nice little summation about mint.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I love mint.  I love the way it cools your throat and opens up your lungs as you breathe it in.  I love it in tea, or in food in small quantities.  Most of all I love the smell of it drying, turning from that springy cool greenness to something more crackly and somehow warming and cooling at the same time.

I can remember drying it every year in my childhood.  We had a ‘small’ patch of the stuff under our dining room window, which looked out over the driveway.  Every year my mom would rip the stuff up by the roots, hang it on he back porch, and let it dry.  Every year it came back on its own, despite drought, flood, or any other potential natural disasters.  Some years it grew up past the dining room windowsill, and we could see it waving there gleefully, very much alive.  But the time we moved out of that house, we had coffee tin upon coffee tin of the dried stuff.

I never got tired of it.  True, my mother was always grateful that it only grew in that one patch of soil surrounded by driveway.  Of course, it completely dominated that patch, but couldn’t seem to cross the asphalt barrier around it.   I wanted to transplant some to the little bit of garden next to our front walk – who doesn’t like more mint? – but my mother wouldn’t let me.  It seems desirable to me still, that frantic growth and tenacity.  Honestly it’s probably not good for the balance of the environment – I think of the bamboo taking over parts of the national forest, or kudzu – but I still love the idea of something green and growing just not letting go.

What’s a Champ Car?

I come from Indiana, specifically Indianapolis.  That comes with certain connotations.  Boring is one.  Depending on who you’re talking to and what year it is is, that may bring to mind certain sports teams:  the Pacers, the Colts.  If you’re of a more literary bent, people like James Whitcomb Riley or Gene Stratton Porter might come to mind (why do they all have three names?).  But internationally Indianapolis is perceived as a big racetrack in the middle of the fields.

Despite the fact that I lived within hearing range of the track growing up, I have spent most of my life completely innocent of racing.  I know there are days you don’t want to be anywhere near the Speedway, but other than that, I don’t pay much attention.  I was pleasantly surprised to find a blog post that started out with some of the open faith discussion that I genuinely enjoy.  Of course, it then went on to talk about racing in general, and I lost most of my interest, but there was still a core of truth there that intrigued me – speaking out of affectionate difference, rather than isolationist bunkerism.  I’d like a little bit more of that affection and tolerance in my life.

Sedgehammer?

I feel the need to comment on google’s search terms again. I also feel the need for speed, but that’s a different story that we won’t talk about right now.

As some of you know from this post, WordPress allows me to track the various search terms that ‘people’ enter into search engines to get to my blog. How this all works is some sort of high-tech magic that I understand on a general concept level. A search engine posts a list of links and summaries matching certain search terms. Those links, when a ‘person’ clicks on one of them, go to the site but also carry origination information with them. That means when wordpress tracks the visit to the site, it reads the associated search terms if they are tagged on the end of the search engine site (i.e., google.com/cheese+monkey+herders, though please note this is an example only and not the way the address would actually look). Pretty cool.

What’s even cooler is that in the past three days, someone has used the term ‘sedgehammer’ to find my blog on two separate occasions. It is not the first time this has happened.  This can mean one of three things. First, my inevitable fame is growing! Not likely. Second, that the general English-writing public is losing even basic spelling abilities as we speak (aka, it’s a an herby plant, not a sledge). Third, someone has forgotten how to get to my blog again and starts typing in random things with ‘sedge’ in them. Dad – is this you?

Slightly-more-than-average Stacey

I have noticed today that people are more likely to make certain comments on a Monday at work, in particular a Monday morning.  There’s the normal, friendly how-are-you greeting which somehow wears a little thin as the week progresses.  You can’t really ask how someone is if you’ve just seen them that morning, or the day before and the day before that.  It falls a little flat – how were they the last time you made eye contact on your way to the bathroom?

But on Monday morning, everything is fair game.  You’ve had the whole weekend to build up possible angst or joy without the knowledge of your coworkers.  You may, in fact, have won the lottery or discovered you’re dying of cancer.  Quite a bit can happen in a 48+ period.  Still, I find myself almost angry at the questioners.   How do you answer, anyway?  It’s foolish small talk designed to keep people from awkward silences or noticing the hum of the HVAC.

Previously I’d had a few ready-made actions to stave off conversation, in particular awkward and dumb small talk questions.  The first one is easy and not too freakish – the hall wave.  Once you see someone coming towards you, give them a friendly-looking wave.  Then duck immediately around the next available corner.  If you’re in certain buildings, you may have to duck into an office, bathroom, or broom closet and pretend you were going there for … something.   Even knocking on a closed door while someone passes is enough to keep you from being drawn into conversation.  That way, you’ve satisfied the ‘communication’ obligation without having the hear someone else talk.  I like to change up the wave with finger-pointing, winks, and distance high-fives, just to spice things up.

Another solution is the preemptive question.   Ask about something completely not mundane (Do you know the chemical formula for Chap Stick? What’s the capital of Tadjikistan?), or if you’re really at a loss, ask about some specific work-related question.  It doesn’t matter if the person you’re addressing knows the answer, if they work in the same department as you, or if they even know who you are.  It’s more likely to be effective if they don’t know the answer.  If you’re bilingual or fluent, asking in another language might be best.

Personally I prefer to take more direct and aggressive action.  My personal favorite is to look at the questioner as if they had two heads and then answer in a nonsensical fashion, a la Time Bandits:

Robin Hood:  And you’re a robber, are you?  Jolly good!  How long have you been robbing?

Figit: Four foot one.

Robin Hood: Four foot one?  That is a long time!

My new response to the how are you question is going to be ‘slightly more than average’.  That way, I almost sound reasonable enough for the work place.  It’s not as obvious as saying ‘slightly larger than average’ or ‘twopence’, but still discernible to people who are really listening.  All in all, it’s a good way to get rid of the Mondays without violence.  Your annoying fax machine thanks you.

TEAL at last!

I was perusing Facebook today (as I do when bored at work and I have nothing to write on my blog) when I became aware of a most fabulous occurrence – TEAL is now online!  I am officially calling this a ‘Wonder of the Web’.  Soon there will be the early stories, the early travails of typo eradication, but I am expecting only a happy ending.  Jeff, do not disappoint me.

For those of you who do not know, a teal is a type of duck.  Hence, a teal is the mascot of the group.  I’m excited, but as of yet, there’s not much to report…

My new favorite friend: Wergle Flomp

I get an online publication about small markets (meaning little magazines and small circulation and small pay places that want to publish your stuff).  It helps keep me abreast of what’s out there in the writing world, and gives me ideas for places I might want to submit stuff.  They also compile info on various competitions, as well as small markets, and usually it’s pretty reasonable stuff.  I read the new one today and was tickled by the name of the first contest:  WERGLE FLOMP HUMOR POETRY CONTEST.  I decided to check it out on the basis of name alone.  It had to be funny, right?

And it was!  Basically, it’s a contest aimed at making fun of the vanity press contests many of us participated in as school-age children.  You make a really bad, but funny-in-a-parody-way poem.  Then submit it to a vanity press contest that will accept  anything so that they can sell more books.  Then, submit it here.  Finally, have a good chuckle at other’s expense.  Ahh, silly vanity presses!  I now love this contest.  I am thinking of submitting something….

‘You know, the national suicide rate goes down in times of war.’

Some of you may know my love of the movie Harold and Maude, arguably the greatest film of all time. Be that as it may, I did find this article genuinely interesting. So we’ve been at war for years, and not only is the suicide rate in the armed forces on the rise, but the national rate of suicide seems to be holding steady.  I couldn’t find the place where the article got its statistics from, but my online sources told me that rate was about 11 per 100,000, while the article lists 20.  This may be due to the fact that the Army numbers were from 2006, and my statistics were from 2005 at the latest.

True, the title quote is meant to be funny – all the people who want to die get killed by opposing forces, yay!  But  what does it say that those Americans who have participated in the war have much higher suicide rates than during other wars?  What does it mean if that 20 per 100,000 number is correct, and our national suicide rate has doubled in the past year, while it had remained mostly steady from 1995-2005?