Saturday, July 28, 2007

Fridays @ Work: Philosophy of Motivation

And now we return to our regularly scheduled programming, Fridays @ Work, with your host Rion. I'm not ready to share my given name with my hordes of readers, to protect the innocent (and my job).

Today's topic is: Motivation.

First, let's talk about what doesn't motivate me.

What about posters that advertise "Persistence", "Excellence", "Character", and "Opportunity"? Not only are the accompanying images lame stock photos of airbrushed mountains and streams, but the text is rife with cliche. Not only am I baffled by those who appreciate such muck, I am embarrassed for our company. These posters just reek of a lack of individualism, and a false front of some kind of higher moral ground. Now I know that we are not perfect, but we are individuals, with our own tastes, skills, and ways of interacting. Diluting us into categories and anesthetizing us with platitudes...doesn't fly (with me, at least). "Arrogance" poster is courtesy of http://www.demotivators.com/.

Another demotivator is the constant encouragement of others to the expense of everyone else in the company. There are a few admins at my work who go above and beyond. So they are publicly praised for doing a good job at almost every all-staff meeting. But is this praise in lieu of adequate compensation? Somehow it makes the rest of us look like schmucks. But maybe we are simply expected to overachieve? Public praise is great, don't get me wrong, but when it is the same few people being praised every week? It gets old. Fast.

So what does motivate me?

Respect. I appreciate the respect of older and wiser collegues. I like it when my emails are responded to (not summarily). I like it when my ideas are carefully considered (and not trashed immediately for being too new or having been tried before...in '93!). I like it when I am given tasks that can showcase my talents and not my shortcomings. To my company's credit, I am going to be given the assignment to write another white paper. If you're not familiar with white papers, they are extremely subtle advertising. White papers communicate knowledge about a topic, just like an academic essay, with the underlying assumption that this knowledge makes the producing company's products more informed by market forces, good design, business necessity, and careful research. So, being asked to write something more complex, thoughtful, and conceptual draws on my strengths more than having to troubleshoot partially-developed hardware and software. This shows respect for my skills, and my weaknesses.

Also motivating? Money. Yes, it seems gauche, but the more money I'm paid per hour, the more sophisticated I feel. The harder I work. The more responsibility I feel. Now perhaps this is a juvenile perspective, but it is my truth. Although I worked my butt off as a temp secretary many years ago, I would not fight for the overall good of the company. That is for people who really feel invested in the company's outcomes. Slightly demotivating, personally, is the fact that I am paid less than the average technical writer in my area. Bah humbug. I am also not an engineer, so I suppose that impacts my saleability, even with a Master's.

What motivates you at work? Come on folks, throw me a bone. :-)
What demotivates you? Now that's fun to talk about, if only to let off steam.

You can call me Flower if you want to

Ah, the joys of encountering Mother Nature's creatures, especially the Skunk.

Our newly-resident skunk sprayed for the first time, and we believed, in succession, that there was
a) an electrical fire
b) a chemical reaction to the stuff in our pipes and Liquid Plumber in the clogged tub drain
c) a gas leak
d) a chemical spill nearby

Instead, it was our friendly skunk. However, instead of thinking about skunks, I allowed my little pups to run outside without leashes soon after. My poor Salvador Doggie paid the price with a full-on spray to the face. This stuff is nasty, yellow, unguent, ewww. Definitely not the skunky smell you get from scratch-n-sniff stickers, or certain coffees.

It was chaos as I tried to avoid throwing up, while herding my little disobedient doggies into the sunroom and yelling for PJ. We mixed up a potion of hydrogen peroxide and dish soap, but could not find the baking soda. And I, being the valiant Mommy, shampooed both doggies. Macchi was not really sprayed, but Salvador...well, he was rank. The smell hung in the house like a pall.

The next day, another shampoo, this time with the prescribed baking soda, did not completely deodorize Salvador. In fact, he is still a little stinky in the muzzle area. It is too bad, because I love to smell my doggies. What a weird thing, huh? Anyway, we've been told that Massengil(l?) douche is good for skunk scent removal. At least, the doggies could then walk on the beach with that feeling of freshness like a Summer's Eve. I don't know. I'm skeptical.

Apparently there are skunk banes that we could sprinkle around the yard. But until I get that in place I will be walking the dogs, on leashes, out front.

I like learning things, but this lesson was very stinky. Pew.

Psychic at a Family Reunion

Ho-lee Crap!
I survived. I credit my psychic training. Seriously.

So, the trip to New York state (Sherburne, if you're from central New York) was a whirlwind of physical, emotional, and psychic stressors. There was hard labor, including carrying huge bags and boxes of crap from the attic, from crawl spaces, from the barn loft. There was tedium, including spending 4 hours shredding my grandparents home repair bills and medical statements (yeah, right, identity thieves care about the repair to the garage in '87). There was excitement, including being bequeathed my Uncle Mike's old teak bong. And there was hillarity, including a family gathering on an asphalt driveway around a fire pit.

Perhaps more detail is funny to include for the fire pit. Discussion got very rapid-fire. There were zingers singeing the air. Cousin pitted against cousin, child ragging on parent. We talked sex, drugs, and rock and roll while the kids' ears burned. Somehow I've entered a time in my life where I don't feel ill when my parents and relatives admit to being human beings with sex drives, mistakes, and crazy adventures. Boy, was that fun. PJ even made a joke that included sausages in the Biblical sense. I can't recall exactly what he said, but I think even my father had to blush, just a little bit. A few people had a little too much wine to drink. My Dad put a vinyl and aluminum lawn chair into the fire. We talked about pranking poor Uncle Dick, who was holed away in Aunt Margaret's house with a bad shoulder and a little grumpiness due to age. Thank goodness that never happened.

Speaking of stress, my Mom was under a lot of it, as she was cleaning out her Mom's stuff. Every minute we were reminded that Grandma is not the woman she used to be. She is no longer the wisecracking, sweet, practical, and generous woman that she used to be. She is now living at the assisted living facility, repeating herself, forgetting all our names, and has an addiction to small fluffy animals. It has always been hard for me to see my Mom get upset. She is usually pretty circumspect, also practical, caring, but not gushy. She is not phlegmatic or hysterical. Let's just say I would vote for my Mother, hands down, over any politician or CEO, in any election. She is brilliant, put-together, also generous, hard-working almost to a fault. So when she starts to crack, even a little, it is hard not to follow suit. You know the emotion must be overwhelming.

PJ was a rock. He moved furniture and big boxes like a pro. He was very social, which is hard for a natural introvert. He was charming and got the seal of approval from Aunt Sandy and Uncle Mike.

Adding to the stress were subterranean (potential) squabbles about who got what, what should be kept/sold, and hard feelings about missing items. In general, it was amazing to see what Grandma has collected over the years, but it caused a lot of work.

-2 scythes
-2 chamber pots
-6 "Fearless Flyer" style sleds
-many toasters, blenders, fondue pots, paper napkins
-4000 cookbooks (okay, here I'm exaggerating)
-50 glass vases from flower arrangements
-broken heaters, fans, vacuums
-beaded purses, party gloves, vintage clothing
-polyester knit sweaters
-6 boxes of pictures, some of unidentifiable relatives
-teak bong
-saddles
-metal sculptures from my Dad's welding-art days

That's only a small sampling of the wonders we found in the house. The amazing thing to me is that she (and Grandpa) used, displayed, and generally interacted with all the crappy stuff. They did not use the "good" dishes. They did not use the "good" sweaters. They never wore the "good" jewelry. The didn't even drink the "good" liquor. This Depression-era mentality caused them to live a spartan lifestyle, when they had much nicer things. I remember my Grandma complaining about her feet and wearing $10 shoes. With bunions and other foot problems. I had to work hard to convince her to treat herself. But I guess it never mattered. The good stuff for my grandparents was the family. The items didn't really matter.

With all the excitement, stress, and physical strain, it is amazing that I didn't even tear up once. Usually I'd have to had retreated at least a few times due to hearing fat jokes, too much work, not getting my way (reverting to childhood). However, I was strong, grounded, and helpful. I guess I could give just a little credit to my new antidepressant, Cymbalta, but I'm not sure. I think my emotional landscape is changing so that I can deal better with the energies of others, even under stress. And, boy howdy, that's a good thing (misquoting Martha).

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Eye Oh Ewe

(AKA: I owe you an ewwww)

Dear Blog,

You have sat here and whiled away while I had a busy week of work. Many entertaining things happened, including my calling the gas company about skunk smell and the subsequent skunk bombing of my impetuous Chihuahua, Salvador Doggie. And yet, I did not write.

I did not write about my fascinating weekend meditating on internal organs, hormones, and blood vessels to promote health (truly more cosmic than it sounds). I did not write about being brave and swimming in a weedy, yet refreshing, lake. I did not write about my sweet co-worker using the "devil's number" as a sample identification number in a video (apparently, it is a very lucky number in China).

I did not write about needing to travel to upstate New York to clean out my Grandma's house for purposes of sale, leaving early tomorrow, and not having one clean pair of panties, one clean pair of socks (even mismatched), or any clean and appropriate clothing for my 95-year-old Aunt Margaret's birthday celebration.

So IOU. I owe you some reaking descriptions of skunky action. I owe you some Fantastic Inner Body Adventures. And you're not even getting a "Fridays @ Work" column.

With regrets, I leave you, but I am to return next Friday.

Much love,

Rion

Friday, July 13, 2007

Memeaphilia: Eight Things You Hate About Me


The rules are simple…Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.



Mine are all Habits, but you can also cite Facts.


  1. I repeat myself, all the time, because I like the sound of my own voice. Also, I think better while talking.

  2. I have a tendency to give away plot details (spoilers) from movies, without meaning to.

  3. I scratch my head constantly while in the car.

  4. I ask waitstaff to change at least one item in every meal (Please add chocolate chips to my pancakes. Please remove the onions from the hash browns. Please bring the water with lemon. Exchange the Swiss for cheddar.) Also, I MUST HAVE the booth, if one is available.

  5. I say "That would be a good name for a band/song" on a truly regular basis.

  6. I finish people's sentences (trying really hard not to do that) or give them words they're looking for. I'm usually accurate, but still...

  7. I have a mental block that causes me to never be able to transfer a phone call properly. Thank goodness it happens rarely.

  8. I can be unintentionally mean, since I think people want to hear the truths about themselves and friends (they might should, but they rarely wish to hear these things).

Tag goes out to: Imteaz, Jennifer, Carrie, Michael Woodhead, FranIAm, DigitalCowgirl, LongWayAround, and one more as yet unnamed.

Drill a Man

"When God wants to drill a man,and thrill a man,and skill a man"

If you would like to read the rest of this fascinating poem, fraught with irony and a touch of sexual tension, please read: http://seansco.blogspot.com/2007/05/how-he-ruthlessly-perfects.html. I really think it is quite good, but the humor does not escape me. It is a little "Hildegard Van Bingen" in its semi-sexual tones.

Enjoy!

Fridays @ Work: Change or Stay the Same?


Let me posit a hypothetical.

In this hypothetical workplace, Employee R is an innovative thinker. She is always looking to add efficiency, creativity, and design excellence to everything her company does. However, she is thwarted regularly by management types who say that change in certain areas is impossible because the inefficient behavior comes from On High.

Now, Ms. R can be practical. Rome wasn't built in a day, and various aphorisms. However, in this case the management seems to her to be becoming apologists for bad behavior On High. Is it dangerous politically for her to buck the system? Would it be better to put up, shut up, and move on when the time is right?

These questions bring up the deeper issue of the constant struggle between the Old Guard and the Younglings. For the Old Guard, it may be nice to change with the times and benefit from leaps in technology, but it is hard for some to give up WordPerfect 3.0 for which you know the key combos so well, triplicate forms, and broken design cycles. For Younglings, it may be great to innovate, but you have to live with the consequences of your good idea. The effort of forcing people to change can be exhausting, and can cause ill will.

The only truth here is this: changing or remaining the same are both active pursuits. They both have consequences. The balance of how much remains the same and how much changes should be a conscious decision, and our emotional attachments to certain behaviors (whether it is always to use the old way, or to always use the new way) should be out in the open and considered. There is value to every way, but the approach can make or break the solution.

I can't wait until Younglings drive me crazy with their incessant pleading to change from physical keyboards to holographic ones. This is my challenge to the future.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Michigan Radio: My NPR Station, Liberabliss

I never thought that I could be
quite so educatedly nerdy
As when I was bit by the NPR bug
And now I wonder how I got around
As stupid as a bathroom rug

Before, it was DJs pranking calls
Mimicking farts and old person falls
Mildly racist jokes and bad music
Mornings with Sam and Jack, or Todd and Dick "with Bimbo!"
Were enough to make this fallen intellectual sick

But from the heavens (or at least Ann Arbor)
Came the holiest Enpea Arr
And suddenly I began to know my ass
From the seat of my sensible car

Environmental reverie, and the dulcet tones of the World
The Story, and BBC
Suddenly I get an African American perspective with News and Notes, and dig on Diane Rhem
Good grief, now I can actually make a good argument

Okay, the rhyming began to wear on me, but:
I
HEART
http://www.michiganradio.org/

Monday, July 9, 2007

Eight Things You Don't Know About Me*

*Thanks for the tag from FranIAm at http://festinalente.blogspot.com

  1. I have always enjoyed reading dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other great listings. I don't read them like novels, of course, but like many sudden fictions strung together. "Sudden Fiction" is a term I learned at Bard College from my collegiate mentor, poet Robert Kelly. He was the one that urged me to go to Paris and become a poet. Sometimes I regret that I didn't go.
  2. I feel being from an agricultural valley in Alaska, the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, has crafted my psyche in a way that being from Des Moines, Iowa could never have. I generally despise television shows set in Alaska (Northern Exposure, Men in Trees) because they portray a picture that is so unlike Alaska as to be in turns comical and slanderous.
  3. I like smelling things. Everything I pick up in the grocery store, clothing left on my couch, glasses of water, my own hair, my fingernails for errant traces of tuna salad sandwich or raw onion from cooking, books at used bookstores, cell phones, bottled iced tea before drinking. For some reason, my smeller is like my seal of authenticity or purity or status. Without a sniff you never know. I smell detergent in water and food and won't eat or drink from receptacles not entirely free from cleaning products (that most can't detect).
  4. I dream about killing people or running away from people all the time. I promise, I am not psychologically disturbed, and I can't hurt a spider without apologizing first. However, I dream of hacking up zombies and other bad guys on a regular basis. Maybe I watch too much CSI.
  5. I am a fraternal twin. I suppose fellow bloggers wouldn't know this. My twin lives in Madison, WI. Being a twin has been a remarkable influence. Maybe we are sororietal twins, since we are two sisters but not identical?
  6. I have the worst sense of direction known to man or woman. I have a friend I've known since high school, whose parents' house I went to on a number of occasions-- I could not recognize or locate her house without directions. When I finally got my GPS, it was like I saw streams of glory from the firmament. No more getting irretrievably lost. One time I was 1 hour late to an interview, then I got lost getting home for 2 hours. In fact, in my current position I was 1/2 hour late to the interview (due to traffic, then getting lost).
  7. I have a special fondness for trees, rocks, acorns, and squirrels.
  8. I believe everything is improved with peanut butter. I have had rice, spaghetti, Grape Nuts, yogurt, green beans, and so on, with peanut butter.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Interviewed

1. You are very snarky and funny in your posts. Have you always been this way? How has that served you in life? (2 parts to one question!)

I have always been…honest. What started out as a liability has become more of an asset. For example, I was that kid who pointed out spelling errors on signs in the grocery store. I thrive on attention, so when I discovered I could get a good laugh out of people one time out of ten (if I could also handle the groan nine times out of ten) I went with it.

Blogging has been interesting, because the potential (if only the merest potential) of an actual audience seems to make me funnier.


2. Can you say a few words other than what we have read on your blog, about your interest in being psychic and your ability to be so?

I have always had a sense of familiarity with the paranormal. I enjoy what is beneath the surface. Frequently I have picked people’s thoughts right out of the air and finished their sentences. This can be an annoying habit for others, so I try to keep my mouth shut. Also, this doesn’t work all the time, I just open my mouth and it pops out. This doesn’t work on command.

Right now I have the ability to find lost items (sometimes, if I concentrate), the ability to read auras, an ability to help people heal, and a gift for channeling guides or other energies. However, this is all somewhat untrained. It is important for me not to develop an ego around my gifts. I enjoy reading my own aura and stuck energies, as well, because often I get past life glimpses, and so on.

I have recently learned that it is very important to control one’s ability to be psychic, especially if one is gifted. It can be a little dangerous being able to feel others’ energy. For example, just walking around and getting the sense that someone is a child abuser is not pleasant. Nor is it provable. So, there is this information you can’t always do something with, and that can be frustrating. I get accused of being judgmental, but people always come out the way I had pegged them.

So, I suppose the straightforward answer is that being psychic is the given, and being able to safely use my intuition is akin to knowing a lot of words and wanting to use good grammar. Without control of the language, I cannot effectively use the tool and could get myself into a lot of trouble.


3. American Idol - yes or no. Please explain why.

No. I never got into American Idol. I don’t like that people seem to pick songs that we’ve all heard a million times. I would rather the Idols got their street cred the way everyone else gets it—singing in small clubs, taking voice lessons, practicing, learning to play the piano, and so on.


4. How are things at MOMP's porch?

Ah, the porch is still not done. I hope it will be done in the next month. I feel the vacation was sent to us so that we could see how we react to adversity as a couple. Also, it gave me a window into PJ’s childhood. I cannot imagine that force of negativity always lording over me like a storm cloud. Good grief, no wonder he’s a little wacky sometimes.


5.You have won the Powerball Megamillions lottery - about 250 million. What will you do?

Thank you for asking this question. Dreaming of spending my millions is one of my favorite games. Here’s my strategy.

· First, I pay off all car/house/education/credit card loans for myself and all of my family and close friends. I start a trust fund that would pay out for illness, education, and old age.

· Then, I get a whole new wardrobe, and get help finishing the house and cleaning it up.

· Next, I start a private school and safe house for LGBT teens and youth. I would develop an experiential curriculum and get the advice of my remarkable mother, who has been an educator all her life. I would hire instructors and interns from the LGBT community. The school would get a big chunk of money, they they’d eventually have to be self sustaining.

· Next, I would buy the cottage Up North from my MOMP, for PJ. That way, the whole inheritance question would be solved (4 kids, not all want the cottage).

· Now it’s time for a trip to the British Isles. I’d probably go on a Goddess tour with PJ. Then we could go anywhere he wants to go.

· Back at home, I would get a personal trainer and yogini, and together we’d practice and develop a yoga studio for plus sized men and women.

· Attached to the studio would be a new age shop with all sorts of cool items. I would not supply cheesy items, though.

· Then I’d go back to school and get my MFA in creative writing, do a lot of traveling, and do a lot of mediation and writing.

· Eventually I’d teach psychic development and do psychic healings and readings for others.

· I’d learn about trees and start a sacred grove of trees, with one tree at all the cardinal directions.

Whew! What an exciting life I have. Thanks for asking!

These questions are courtesy of FranIAm: http://festinalente-franiam.blogspot.com/

Thanks for the interview. Now it is time for me to ask you interview questions. Just post here to ask for an interview. This is FUN! I hope I can come up with questions as interesting as Fran’s!

ZE RULES:

Interview rules: 1. Leave me a comment saying "Interview me."

2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.

3. You will update your blog with a post containing your answers to the questions.

4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.

5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Fridays @ Work: Get Smart

My generation is caught in the crux between Generation "i" and the boomers, and we experience this change in the workplace. We can no longer trust our positions, our stability, our health care. We actually feel a little entitled to the stability of Olde. Both of my parents are drawing on retirement funds, something unheard of these days. I'm not sure even the government offers these kinds of benefits any more.

The younger generation never played a cassette tape, or sent out 100s of resumes on cotton-laid paper. This group doesn't expect any stability at work. They are made of modeling clay-- so flexible.

What do we all do make this new age work? Well, its all about being a free agent. Even though I am affiliated with my workplace, I'm proud of our products, and I'm developing a relationship with the management-- I still think every day about how I can groom myself for the next gig Just In Case. Tom Peters has the right idea in The Brand You 50. Although the writing style is a little (okay, a lot) stilted and tries a little too hard to be hip, the message is clear: be excellent, because you're not going to be taken care of by the world or by any organization. Be amazing, to differentiate yourself from all the other worker bees.

It has taken me a long time to get to the point, and its just this: LEARN. Learn to blog. Learn to use Photoshop. Learn basic accounting. Learn basketweaving. Exercise those synapses. At least, that's the cheer of my internal cheerleader. Be great. Be indispensable. Be not afraid.

What should we be learning? Tell me the few essentials in your job that should be universal knowledge. You'll learn from the exercise.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Habitat for Insanity

This long weekend my partner and I were challenged by trying to replace a huge portion of my MOMP's (Mother of My Partner) cottage's porch Up North in Oscoda, Michigan. It was quite comical, kind of a "swallowed the spider to catch the fly" event.

We tore up one section of the porch, only to find the other section needed doing, as well.
We bought only a small amount of lumber, hoping to reuse the old planks, since the lumber was "too expensive". Good grief. $100 worth of lumber would have saved us six hours!
We ran out of 8d, 3in deck nails (they are spiral on the end, for some reason), and could find no supplier in town. For those interested, the "d" is the diameter in millimeters, the "in" is length in inches.
We needed new metal fixtures for the structure (underneath, the beams are attached using metal devices), that seem to not be purchasable.
We were berated twice for being late for dinner(trying to conserve sunlight).

MOMP was in rare form. She tried to hand me a dog poo because my doggie produced it, even through she was three feet from the trash. She flipped PJ in the forehead like he was Moe and she was Curly. She hollered about us being late for dinner, even though we said we wouldn't be ready until late (working on a project for her). She surveilled parts of the construction process, making me so nervous I hit myself in the breast with a crowbar-- removing an attractive chunk of missing flesh. She made herself sick because we got fresh mustard potato salad from the case instead of getting the same brand and type, prepackaged. Interesting how lactose intolerance goes away for ice cream and pizza, but comes back when you don't want to eat anywhere but Burger King. Okay, one more-- she was piqued that I didn't try her method of eating sweet corn, which entails slashing each row of kernels down the center, so as to extract only the sweet insides of each and leave the skin of each kernel.

Anyhow, enough ranting. We are worried that she is starting to deterioriate into her old catty self, the mom he knew as a child. It is strange that someone so interesting could also be so wenchy, for no reason. My problem is how she makes him feel. In the long run, I guess I don't really care about her approval, but I really don't want her torturing PJ. He is a wonderful, helpful person who deserves her thanks, not her venom.

The best part about the trip was the view (we never made it down to the beach) and the sweet corn. Oh, and the return home. (Maintaining my amusement! :-)