Some of you may be familiar with my disappearances from the blogosphere once a quarter.  Ok, let’s face it, recent disappearances have been far more frequent than once a quarter.  But in the past, when I was actually posting one or more times a day, the one to two week absences were more disturbing and unusual.  Usually such hiatuses (hiati?) were due the periods of intense work stress I came under due to quarterly reporting to our governing trustees.  There is a big meeting that I did much of the logistics work for, plus the proofing and assembly of 350-400 page meeting material books.  While I would not consider quarterly reports the pinnacle of my literary achievement (more on that later.  and by later, I mean in a different post, possibly on some other day), I am generally proud of the work I do on them.  I am a good editor, and this is one of the few times I get to use a skill of my own that I enjoy for something that I know is important to the functioning of the office.

And now, that important feeling for me is coming to a close.  For those of you who don’t know, I’ll be moving to Portland to start law school this fall.  No longer will I be a lowly Administrative Assistant at the ‘Glove, but will instead be a legal jargonese pirate somewhere to the far West.  This is my last period of headless chicken running around at the office, and it’s made me somewhat nostalgic and a little sad.  True, this being the last book has also considerably relieved my usual stress.  If I really mess up on the book itself, or the scheduling, or accidentally come to work naked by mistake, I never have to see any of the Board members ever again.  I’m free from some of the stress of making my edits ‘perfect’, because in another little while, people will forget I ever even worked on these things.  I sit here, a few hours early, with everything complete and in order, and I’m not even tempted to take a final look-through for mistakes.

Three hours later….

Ok, ok, I’m a perfectionist.  I couldn’t help but look.  And there were errors.  But now, finally, and at last, I’ve turned in the final version to the printer and I will never do another Board Book in my life.  Oh.  Wait.  Let’s just change where I said ‘final version’ back there to ‘version three’ so I can make two more corrections.  Ehum.  I think I’m having a minor heart attack.

Back from the dead – for Alex

My coffee machine has returned from the dead. this ‘wondrous modern marvel’ is back on-line, bringing over-caffeination and binge-consumption of liquids to my veritable fingertips. For this reason (and because Alex made the foolish mistake of telling me not to), I have a new name for that beloved machine of the morning – Lazarus. We all feel the power. Oh yes.

Whistle whilst you work, Tibetan-style.

Some time ago I mentioned my own visit to Tibet and some of the wonderful things I saw there.  Most of these things were not tourist sites or anything extraordinary, but were the wonderous moments of every day life.  Two of them happened to me at the Potala Palace, but that was inconsequential to the events themselves. I will share them with you as they came to mind when I was looking over some of my old pictures for good images to decorate my new (adult) room with.  Somehow, looking at serious photos makes you appreciate your delight in the simple (and perhaps not serious) sides of life more.

The first was my favorite pit toilet of all time which was basically in a cave.  Potala is built on a rather large hill, and evidently some of the caves below are still largely open to sunlight.  Hence, this particular trough of a toilet was open to the sun from below.  It was a little scary, but the crack was really too narrow to fall through.  Still, the image of urine arching downwards into multiple rays of sunshine has stayed with me.  Not to be vulgar, but as a woman I rarely get to watch my urine arch anywhere.

The second (of which I have recently rediscovered video records) was a song-and-dance group of the unintentional kind.  While we were walking around the Palace, I could hear music drifting outside – beautiful, top-of-the-lungs filling and joyous music.  It didn’t really sounds like monks chanting, and there were female voices included as well (I had yet to see any nuns at Potala).  So I thought it was some sort of special performance.  After all, the voices were singing in unison and on key – anyone who’s ever been to a Chinese church knows that carrying a tune is not a skill the majority of the population possesses.  However, when we eventually wound around to the ‘performers’, they were in reality the roof repair crew.  I’ll give you a little electronic sampling of thier stylings:

It’s only about 5 seconds long, because I was afraid to embarass them by taking a picture while they worked.  Below is a bit more, with a woman pouring the plaster.  Sorry about the sideways image.

I don’t know why they were beating the plaster into the existing roof, or why they felt the need to sing.  Still, it was a moment of joy and goodness in a potentially bland and sometimes opressive world.  Despite everything, we still grow.  We still sing.  We still dance, in step with a neighbor or two, under the sun.

Stress sonnet – Let’s go Petrarchan.

I like to think I work to better man.

I like to think my impact could be great,

Yet somehow fetid boredom is my state

Despite my challenge to myself to stand.

I am not free of work or work’s demand.

I am not free to choose my daily fate.

My greater purpose I have yet to sate,

So still I wonder if my future’s bland.

But why still wonder if my soul is true?

And why anticipate what’s yet to be?

My heart, if strong, will know how passions grew

and how, in turn, regrets must number few.

One step I want to take but cannot see

so sideways steps may be all I can do.


The experts continue to say we don’t get enough sleep.  They also say we need between 6-10 hours (depending on which ones you talk to).  They also say that regular sleep is imperative to health, and that napping can be a boost to mood and mind.  They say that people are dozing off more frequently at work and in meetings, which I can attest to personally.  Everyone laughs at my lion-roar yawns at Monday morning meetings, despite the fact ath I’ve not yet actually dozed off.

For the most part, I believe the experts.  Especially when they encourage me to take naps at work, and  encourage my boss to have a nap room.  Without one, I’m forced to take over one of the conference rooms (or his office, when he’s away) and conk out on the floor.  At best, I get facial skin wrinkle from laying on my own sleeves.  At worst, it’s rug face (or rug face burn).  How much better would it be with a couch or cot?  Or if space is an issue, what about stowable hammocks in one of the conference rooms?  We’re the dominant predator, we don’t look up – we won’t notice hooks in a conference room ceiling.

If no nap room, don’t blame me for yawning in meetings trying to keep awake.  Don’t blame me for a rumpled face or a dazed expression.  After all, who sleeps at night anyway?

Long-weekend crankies

I spent an enjoyable three-day weekend in Saint Louis this past weekend, only to have THE MONDAYS +++ when i got back.  Of course there was a meeting at 9 am that we are suddenly hosting that no one bothered to tell me about until 8:55, and of course our receptionist is out this morning and therefore unable to help me prepare.  Of course while I’m running around getting ready with water glasses and other beverage offerings, I spill in the hallway and manage to shatter a glass (at least this time it was only one – last time I broke up two).  Of course I have ten bazillion things that should’ve been done yesterday and my co-workers just want to chat and hang out while my head slowly implodes.  Add into the mix that I haven’t had time yet for breakfast, coffee, or to breath, and you have a pretty cranky admin.  The thing I really don’t get is how people want to know all the small talk about how your trip WAS.  I’ll tell you haw it IS – it’s over.  The fun times are gone, and I’m once again back in the working world, a fact I would prefer not to think about.

More profoundly, why is this a pattern?  Why do we feel such drudgery when we come back even from a small vacation, even when we love our jobs?  Are vacations supposed to renew and refresh us?  I can understand how a slam-packed, activity-based vacation could make you more tired when you return than when you started out, but that wasn’t the case for me this time.  I spent three days with college friends just hanging out.  And eating a lot.  So why am I so tired and annoyed now?  Is it just the loss of my freedom and mobility?  Is it the fact that, even though I know I’m getting paid for the hours I put in at my job, there is not a visual, direct exchange of money for services and time rendered?  If it’s not frustration with the people I work with or the work I do, what am I actually cranky about?  And how do I keep the day-back-from-vacation for turning into an annoyance and duty?

Please, do not make me hurt you.

There are a number of annoyances that people must put up with at work.  As Joe vs. the Volcano exemplifies, there’s the lights, there’s the disgusting coffee, and there’s the totally depressing and pointless job environment.  There’s also co-workers who talk on the phone too loud, and the people who never, ever clean up after themselves.

My own personal pet peeves from the working world come from the inability of others to do things for themselves.  Half the time I have to print a document, the printer is out of paper – all four trays.  Thanks, guys.  Or the water cooler, which always seems to be out of water when I need a drink.  I mean, I know I’m a strong woman and all, but I’m also a klutz.  Leaving me with a whole 5 gallons of water is bound to end with wall-splashing.

But the absolute worst, the one that makes me crazy enough to want to hurt small puppies, has to do with filing.  Specifically the inability of others to use alphabetical or chronological order when returning documents and files to the file room.  I mean, really.  It’s the alphabet.  I can guarantee that even if you never finished elementary school and don’t know how to read, that you are at least somewhat familiar with the alphabet.  Also, if you already managed to locate the file you want, you’ve already used that same alphabet to find the file.  so it’s strictly a matter of putting the file back in the same place.

Now, I know some of us are extremely lazy.  I  know I certainly don’t want to spend all day every day filing (or reorganizing others’ misplaced files).  But really, if your expending almost the exact same amount of energy to get up and go to the file room, the least you could do is watch what your doing and put the silly thing in the right place.

Otherwise, all that misplaced paper may come get you.  Just look at what happened to Robert De Niro in Brazil.

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.

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.

Renewed Winter Wonderland

Today is the first day of the second snowstorm in Boston this winter season, the first of the new year. I, in my infinite wisdom, am sitting cozily at work rather than cozily at home. Why did I drag my sorry self out of bed, through the snow, and into the office? I don’t know. My boss isn’t here. In fact, the major percentage of the office isn’t here. Who is here? Myself, the other admin in my area, the intern, and our newest employee, just out of grad school. Oh, and the part-time HR lady. So that shows you where the real dedication to our office lies. Or the real naiveté. Or maybe just the people who still live within reach of public transportation. Anyway, I’m looking at a long day of doing not much.

True, there are some benefits to coming into work today. I don’t have to take care of my sick boyfriend, who is also working from home – instead I have no responsibilities. I get to spend more lovely time writing online with all of you. I may be able to find something profitable for myself to do. And I did get to go outside into the sunshine for awhile, get icy snow particles up my nose, and avoid snowblindness. So that’s good.Outside the office window

And to be honest, it is quite beautiful outside. The world is silent, and almost a little misty with blown snow obscuring visibility. There are no birds, and few people. Corina was remarking how Harvard Square was like the aftermath of a nuclear bomb-just no one and nothing visible, which is very rare. I wish I could show you what I was seeing on my way to work today, but as usual, I forgot my camera, so you’ll just have to imagine a bit and make do with these shots from my cell phone.

Snow obscures the landscape and the sky, yes, making driving more difficult. But it also blankets the world in loveliness, softening the jagged edges and covering the dirt and grime of our typical city existence. It redefines shapes with low contours – the sidewalks, the protruding eaves of buildings, the lettering of signs. It beautifies the tops of tree branches, giving the bare exposed limbs new winter life with little snowy flowerets. It silences the world, muting the everyday noises but filling your hearing with swirls of wind, numbing your ears. It makes my life difficult, yes, but for its strangeness, for its break in the monotony of my winter life, and for its beauty, I am grateful for it, and grateful to have been out in it today.

Tree ‘reflowering’