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The most important management secret you'll ever need [Aug. 31st, 2016|10:02 pm]

I've spent my whole life managing people. I'm really, really good at it. (And modest, too. Ha, no, who the hell am I kidding? I mean, I can't walk through a room without getting a bruise or knocking something over, but I do have my strengths. Mastering gravity is not one of them. Mastering people, a little more so.)

Anyway, here's the great sadness: I was a mediocre manager for most of my career. No, wait, I've worked for a lot of really shitty managers, and I'm excluding the actual sociopaths from that list, so let's call me above average, let's give me that. But that's really it.

The problem, the reason why we have so many shitty managers, the reason why your boss may well be the very thing that keeps you from maximum performance, is that our corporate culture takes someone who's good at doing a thing, then calls them manager and puts them in charge of other people who are doing the thing. As though managing people doing the thing is the same as doing the thing. Newsflash, poppets, it is most decidedly NOT. Oh, you have insight into the work that your subordinates are doing, but calling you a manager and expected that you'll suddenly know how to manage is well, asinine.

I mean, for pity's sake. You're familiar with ducks, right? Swim around in the pond, quack, lay eggs, eat breadbits, waddle. So, if I decide one day to call you a duck, you're ready, right? No, of course, not. There's no way you're going to be good at being a duck. You probably don't even have a corkscrew penis or vagina for starters. Wait, you didn't know that about ducks?

See what I mean? Calling you a duck, or a manager, does NOT suddenly gift you with all of the stuff you need to know to be a good duck or a good manager. And that makes me really mad. Because you're being set up to fail. And there is no excuse for that beyond that's the way we've always done it, we don't have time to do it righ,t and all of the other lame-ass excuses that lead to fucknutty poor performance.

So, is there really one "trick" to being a good manager? Christ on a cracker, do you actually think I'm going to clickbait you like that? No, not a trick. But a philosophy. One that will put you yards ahead of your colleagues. Also, make you seem like much less of a prick as a manager.

Here's the thing: start addressing behavior, not the person. While I will admit that there are certainly some bad people, on the whole, honestly, mostly people are good, want to be good...they just behave badly sometimes. And the big, ginormous mistake most managers do is to take aim at the essence of someone's being. When really all they want is to fix behavior.

Want to get the best out of your employees? Stop attacking them. Oh, go ahead and deny it -- but when you say "you need to be on time" or "you need to clean that up" or "you need to get that report to me as soon as possible" -- what you are saying to that person is "there is something wrong with you that you need to correct, something sub par".

So here it is, drum roll...Just try saying "I need you to" instead of "you need to". Sounds small?...insignificant...mote-like...a gnat on the ass of the universe? Well, no offense, but you're fucking wrong about that. It's huge.

Because when you say "you need to be on time" there is an undercurrent. A message that either the person screwed up or is just a screw up in general. It's actually a personal attack. A micro aggression, if you will. But we are soooo used to it that we barely hear it. Until someone changes it around...and that manager becomes the person that you actually tolerate, if not enjoy, working for.

Because when you say "I need you to be on time" (Or the team needs you to be on time, or we need you to be on time) what you're telling them is "here is a thing to fix, a thing to solve". There's nothing wrong with you as a human being, just a behavior or a thing you need to do. It's a tiny, tiny thing, this language change, it really is -- at least in the saying of it. But it can have a profound effect on the person you direct it at.

Seriously, try it. "I need that report from you by Friday. Is that possible?" Here's what happens: you've given them a chance to be hero. To help you. You've told them that they have a chance to be, if not a hero, at least the one who saves your bacon. Everyone wants to help save their boss's bacon.

Or, go ahead, tell them "Get that report done by Friday." Or "you need to get that report done by Friday" Or any of the other douchebaggy things that managers say to you. That make you feel like you're in trouble, on the verge of screwing up, the thing that is keeping your company or boss from being successful. Oh, you'll probably do it. But you're likely going to feel resentful.

Seriously, just try it "I need you to"...

Because that not only effects the person you're talking to, but also you. It makes you realize that your job is not just telling people what to do. Your job as a manager is to accomplish a thing -- run a profitable business, deliver projects on time, solve problems for clients. And the people who work for you? They are the resources that will help you accomplish that thing. They are your resources, my friend...not your fucking flunkies.
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In which I talk about jealousy [Aug. 30th, 2016|11:48 am]
When people find out that I’m poly, the first thing they ask is “oh, I could never do that, I’d be too jealous, no way.”
Ha! Who am I kidding! The first thing they say is “I don’t even know what that means.” And then as I tell them, a look of horror, disgust or curiosity comes over their faces.

So, the first thing a curious person asks about/mentions is jealousy. The rest of them make a funny face and in the future get twitchy whenever I mention the words boyfriend, girlfriend or partner. (Right now some of you are going "wait, what?" We'll wait for you.)

Ask any poly person and if they’ve been at it for any length of time, they’re going to have advice or strategies for dealing with jealousy. Ask ME about anything and I have advice and strategies for dealing with it, so pull out your Surprise Faces, children, because I’ve got this covered.

“I’m monogamous, so I don’t need to read any further” you may be thinking. (Again with the kidding…you’ll totally keep reading because I might invent a new phrase you want to steal, teach you a new vocabulary word or otherwise enrich your life that 15 minutes of pawing through Facebook will NEVER do.) Personally, I think there are some nuggets here for you on working through things, thinking your way through them and developing a stronger self. I may be biased. But seriously, you will.

Y'all, this is going to be long; I've put a lot of brain against it. Read more...Collapse )
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Of two minds about it, like everything [Aug. 27th, 2016|09:12 am]
So today is the first time in nearly 10 years that I haven't been at the Maryland Renaissance Faire, where I have been support for a pirate band. (Which meant setting up and maintaining a green room for the bands playing on a tavern stage that from the outside looked like a pirate encampment and gave the performers someplace to hang out, store instruments and personal belongings. Also providing food, beverage, first aid, anger management, mediation, negotiation, babysitting, consolation, advice, hugs, advice, etc. Also, providing for the audience, a costumed character that would tell them where the bands were playing, when, where the toilets were, the vendor that sold the thing, where the exit was, etc.)

It was hard. The setting up before the season started, but also the shopping each week for supplies, schlepping everything out there, a nearly twelve hour day, plus some additional shopping each morning...then schlepping everything home, washing, cleaning, rinse and repeat for 9 weekends in a row. That's nine weekends of working seven days a week. And boy, that took a toll.

And O! The needy people! The drama! The fans who could chew the ears off a field of corn. The sheer weight of being surrounded all day by people who might genuinely need your help as well as people who, it sometimes felt, really wanted a bit of your soul to take home and put on their autograph shelf. People that I enjoyed seeing but there were so MANY. The sadness I would sometimes feel when meeting someone for whom these nine weekends were their only social outlet, the only time they felt accepted and part of a social group, which made me mad as hell at the rest of society.

And the weather. Hot as balls, with the humidity that the mid-Atlantic delivers so well, and you in your fine renaissance era fashion...you know, back when England was having a mini-ice age, in your boots and wool hat and multiple layers, all drenched with so much sweat that sometimes the dye would bleed out and you'd have an imprint of your costume left on you at the end of the day. Or so dusty that you'd blow your nose at the end of the day and realize you'd smuggled out your own plot of land. Or so wet and muddy that your boots would get pulled off your feet. What happens at the Renaissance Faire when it rains, people would ask me. You get wet. Super soggy, weighed down by wet cloaks and wet socks. And cold. Trying to haul around instruments and keep your cloak from falling off or getting caught under someone else's boots.

On the other hand, there were lovely days -- perfect temperature, or just chilly enough to need gloves or a light cloak and a hot beverage. There was a sense of camaraderie and belonging that's uncommon in today's society. All of us doing this weird, fun thing. Making special moments for people who'd never been to a renaissance faire before and were near stunned that you can have fun without technology. That an in person performance is so much more powerful, entertaining and enthralling than seeing something on a screen. Making personal connections. I've described it as the best bar in the world -- you can grab a mug of something, see shows, do some shopping, see friends, or just hang out and watch the panoply go by. You like people watching? There is no better place for that.

And the long hours, the hardships? For starters, it makes everything else you do the rest of the year seem easy. There is kinship born of hardships, friendships that last way beyond those nine weekends. Jokes that are sidesplittingly funny only because you've spent the last nine hours being rained on. The fatalism that comes from knowing that there's a possible tornado headed your way and you're in the middle of a field filled with pointy objects and no shelter to be had. Plus there's an audience waiting to be entertained. That sanguine will stay with you and make the rest of the year's fears dim.

But the band broke up and the green room's been disbanded. So, I will miss it. I will need to figure out a new way of enjoying it when I go back in a week or two as a patron. I'm not sure what the fun will look like then -- I'm a person who feels best, most comfortable, when I have a job to do. A responsibility. Just having fun without having made it, shaped it, been responsible for some aspect of it...is not really in my nature. But I'll try.

I've mourned a bit...but am also keenly aware that I got to sleep in today. I didn't have to spend the week frantically shopping, packing, setting up. I won't be exhausted tonight, or Sunday night. It's going to be 91 degrees out there today and I'll be riding around in an air conditioned car, going to air conditioned places, in shorts and a t-shirt. My favorite distillery is issuing a special batch today and I get to go. I also get to go to the farmer's market -- during prime apple season! That's new. I'll be able to go to faire and come home when I want to, or not go on Sundays if I don't want to. I'll be able to take weekends off and do the things that other people do in the fall. (I'm not sure what that is yet...but I seem to remember being sad at missing things that other people got to do. Which is sort of the story of my life.) Knowing me, I'm going to suck up all of the extra time making props for Halloween.

So, off I go, onto this new adventure of sort of being a normal person! Studiously ignoring the fact that for 11 weeks in the spring I'm bound to the Virginia Renaissance Faire.
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You might just be... [Aug. 20th, 2016|02:15 pm]
It amuses me that certain people use "social justice warrior" as an insult. By god, yes, I will take up a mother-expletive spear if that's what it takes to make sure that people don't get discriminated against for bullexpletive reasons, like their gender, lack thereof, skin color, religion, disabilities, etc. If I had a motherexpletive elephant army, I'd roust them too. If you think that wanting life to be as fair as possible for everyone is something to be ridiculed, then I'm really not interested in your opinion of me or my character.

Personally, I think there's way too much ridicule going on, in general. But that's a whole 'nother post! (And warning...I'm feeling very fierce right now, so from here on, there be actual expletives.

I wanted to riff off a friend's social media post in which he was upset that people who'd termed themselves feminists were body shaming someone else, leading him to wonder whether feminism was only to benefit those that feminists liked. And in this case, he was right to be upset, absolutely. But to me, the important thing to remember is that those people were not practicing feminism...they were being assholes.

And we are all assholes from time to time. And for some people, it's not just time to time. Hell, there are Muslims who are assholes, there are Christians that are assholes, there are atheists that are assholes. (Looking at you, ISIS, Westboro Baptist Church, and you MRA/MGTOW godless).

Here's the thing: no group is without its assholes. (Even the Buddhists are plagued with monks dealing drugs, living lavish lifestyles. Even the BUDDHISTS, people. Which means there's no hope for the rest of us.) But you need to differentiate -- I mean, some people are just down to the core, down to the bone, going to be assholes the rest of their lives. The sociopath gene brush hit them too hard, they were indoctrinated in assholery in their youth and don't have the mental capacity to work themselves out of it. They are so filled with fear, so soaked in feelings of inadequacy, they can't help but compulsively create outgroups on which they can project their fears.

(Hey, if right now, you're thinking I'm talking politics, I'm really not. If you've been a little hypnotized by biased media on either side, then I think I can see how you might assume that. But trust me, there are liberal assholes and conservative assholes, republican assholes, democrat assholes, libertarian assholes, green party assholes, anarchist assholes and communist assholes. If you read that and thought I just reaffirmed your belief that the other group is full of assholes...you're probably one of the assholes in your group, actually. I sort of wanted to mimic Jeff Foxworthy there with "you might be an asshole if.... But that's too equivocal, my friend. Pretty sure you're an asshole.)

Anyway. We ALL can be assholes from time to time. And about certain things. And even if you think of yourself as pretty socially conscious, don't ever, ever doubt that you've got shit to work on. I hung on for the longest time to using the word "retarded". I grew up with it as a term of general contempt -- "that's pretty retarded". Also grew up with "gay" as a pejorative term -- when something was not like other things, not approved by the microcosm of middle school society, it was "gay". I'm not a hundred percent sure we even knew what "gay" was.

But then I got older and some of my friends came out of the closet and gay had meaning and it was pretty fucking rude to keep using as a pejorative. But for some reason, retarded hung on in my vocabulary, I'm ashamed to say. In my head, I'd rationalized that I only used it to refer to people who were born with full capabilities but then refused to use them. That they earned a special kind of contempt for which I reserved that word. That I'd NEVER use that term to refer to people who were differently abled. And I wish I could point to a Saul on the road to Damascus moment when the curtain was lifted and...it just occurred to me one day that it didn't fucking matter how CONVENIENT that word was...it was hurtful. That simply by using it, I could make someone feel awful, sad or hurt. Someone who already, quite frankly, had the deck stacked a bit against them.

And it was just stupid, lazy and meanspirited of me to keep using it. Why not just use a different word and hurt only the people I meant to hurt? Idiot, box of rocks, the brains god gave beets, moron, twatwaffle, etc. Now, some of these are terms that used to be actually used in diagnosing/categorizing differently abled people and I'm ready to abandon them if it seems to be bothering anyone -- but language is fabulously flexible through history, so what was a hurtful term then or a hurtful term now, can gain or lose power over time, and within a societal context.

Because that's what makes you not an asshole anymore -- the ability to see that you're being hurtful, feel shame, and correct yourself going forward. Now, you will still have moments of assholery left in you, absolutely! Simply by virtue of being born a specific gender, skin color, being raised or keeping a certain faith, by being tall or short or redheaded or...our primitive brains are driven to create outgroups, to fear what's different, to want to be solid with those that are like us. Thankfully most people have the cognitive ability to understand that there's great value in diversity, that it's not helpful or fair to discriminate, to hurt others. To correct their own behavior when it's pointed out to them -- instead of countering with "you're too sensitive" or the dreaded "I was only joking" (because you weren't. You get that right? You really weren't. You were, at best, being careless and thoughtless).

Don't get me wrong -- some people ARE too sensitive. Some people WILL take offense at anything. It can be very hard, when you're trying to be an ally to an outgroup, to hear that you're screwing up. That you're mansplaining, for example. And you know what, there ARE people who are using that phrase poorly, who are throwing it around like beads at Mardi Gras. But. It's also a thing. And if you're male, you probably have no idea how often it happens. How hurtful and frustrating it is. So, how do you know when you're being called out and it's justified?

First, start in your own head -- call yourself on it. Do you think the other person could possibly be right? If you have any kind of doubt about it, they're right. No? Okay, next is to look at the person who's calling you on it. If you know them, do they usually blow things out of proportion? If not, they're right. If so, get more data. Talk to them about it more, think about it yourself more, check with other people if you have a friendbase in that given outgroup. When in doubt, assume they're right. That's usually the case. If you're going to err...assuming you were being an asshole is the way to err, my friend.

I don't know if a week goes by without me saying something and then thinking "ah, that was sort of a dickish thing to say" and then, if I can, apologizing. It's easy to get carried away, with a group of female workfriends and say something that's sort of misandrist. There are people who think that women cope with so much misogyny that it's okay to exercise a little payback. Nope, you're then just being an asshole.

In case you were thinking I must be this politically correct, careful and thoughtful speaker, let me assure you, I am not. But I try to reserve being offensive for when I'm around people who will call me on it if I'm failing to punch upwards, if I'm crossing a line that becomes hurtful, if I'm wielding my privilege instead of ridiculing it. And that's a work in progress at best.

Brace yourself to be rejected. If you think being an ally is all warm fuzzies and never being called on your shit, you are WRONG. And sometimes you get called on shit you didn't deserve. I once passed a black man on my street, walking his dog and I gave him a great big smile and he said "You're only smiling at me because I'm black.". Actually, I was smiling at him because I'd been having a great day and he was a good-looking guy walking this beautiful brindle dog and I love brindles. Now your immediate reaction might want to be "fuck you, I was just being happy and nice". But that's where you have to stop yourself. You want to be an ally? You have to remember that this other person likely gets shit on all of the time. Sure it sucks to be generalized - but if you stack the number of times your life has sucked because someone made an assumption about you against the number of times that other person's life has sucked because someone made an assumption about them? Your pile is paltry in comparison. (That's privilege, by the way.) And if you've got privilege, you've got to cut other people some slack. It's highly likely that that poor man DOES get smiled at all the time by privileged white women who are thinking "oh, I'm going to smile at this man, look how enlightened I am" or "maybe if I smile he won't hurt me" or some other bullshit he's got to catch.

You want to be an ally, you gotta take some bruises. it's the least you can do. It doesn't mean you get to be mad because the other person wasn't grateful enough that you were making an effort. You check that thought -- they don't owe you ANYTHING. If you think they should be grateful that you're making an effort to be an ally...you might just be an asshole.
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Buy the world you want: I'm being bossy and prescriptive again. Surprise! [Aug. 10th, 2016|05:04 pm]
Have you seen Ghostbusters yet? Do it. Actually, I don't care if you watch it or not. If you can fit it in your budget, buy a damn ticket and go do something else, I don't care.

Here's the thing: we can talk about elections and politics all we want. And yes, they're important, and they shape the world we live in. But you know what else does? Where you put your dollars. When you buy the thing, you make it worthwhile for someone to keep making things like that. I buy local produce at my farmers market because I want to live in a place where farming is still a thing. If a local farmer can't make money, they're going to pack it up, sell the farm and do something more lucrative. I don't buy organic because I think it's better for me (except for strawberries...I don't know if you've noticed, but conventional strawberries don't get moldy in your refrigerator anymore...they just shrivel up and dehydrate. So, yeah, I'll pay double for organic to cut back on my fungicide intake). I buy organic (and humane, cage-free, grassfed, etc.) because if it's profitable, they'll keep doing it.

Oh, the Simply Enjoy jams at Giant/Stop & Shop are the bomb? I'm going to tell everyone I know about them, in the hopes that this will continue to be a line of products. Polar Seltzer's seasonal flavors? Yes, I proselytize and also buy cartloads of them. I'm going to do my best to drive demand for the things I like so that I can continue to get them.

I kickstart stuff because I think it should exist -- Gaming figurines of women dressed realistically as you would for an adventure -- not in boob armor and high heeled boots? YES. I haven't gamed in years, but by god, the girls starting to play D&D and Pathfinder and all of those other games should be able to have them. I also probably didn't need a feathered, fully articulated dinosaur figure, but yes, it should exist for all of those dino-crazy kids growing up now. I had to grow up with the image of lumbering, static stiff dinos -- so, yeah, maybe I needed the figure...

(Please note, I understand that I'm also exercising the privilege of having disposable income. Not everyone can do that. But I'm fortunate, finally, at this stage in my life to have a little extra...and also to have relatively cheap hobbies and obsessions. If you have a houseful of mouths to feed, you need to take care of that first, before you worry about someone else making a living.)

So, yeah, that's why Ghostbusters. The reboot, the one that a bunch of whiny manchildren downvoted and trashed before it even came out, trying to discourage people from going to see it because...sight unseen, it sucked because not only was it a reboot, but, gasp! also featured women. A bunch of them. Not making sandwiches or pining for a real man to sweep them off their feet but like, actually doing stuff.

Is it a great movie? No. It's fun. I was entertained for two hours. I lusted after Holtzman and after Kevin. It wasn't really until later that I realized: it wasn't just a bunch of women doing stuff. It was a bunch of MIDDLE AGED women. For two hours, they didn't talk about romantic relationships...they didn't fight over a guy...they had genuine friendships...they ate pizza and no one complained about calories or fitting into an article of clothing or dieting. They did superhero stuff in clothes that weren't skin tight, didn't involve cleavage or high heels.

I'm a 50+ year old woman and I have NEVER seen this before. NEVER. Not a single movie could possibly tick off all of those boxes. NOT ONE. In my entire lifetime. It sort of makes me tear up -- both pretty expletive outraged that it's taken this long and pretty excited for the girls and boys who saw this movie and (hopefully) will grow up thinking this is normal.

Don't get me wrong, I've got issues with it -- I'm sort of mad that once again, the role for the black woman was the sassy, undereducated, non-professional. I mean, it's an awesome character and I loved the way Jones played it and she did wind up being a strong and equal partner...but seriously, if we're blowing away paradigms, that would have been a good one to throw in the trash as well.

And, I've got mixed emotions about Kevin, and the reverse sexism of making him a dumb blonde. Those two things are problematic for me. But still -- progress, moving toward a world where women can have roles similar to what men get, hopefully without invoking reverse sexism, and featuring people of color in the same kinds of roles that white people get. I'll take progress - but I'm staring at you, Hollywood, squinting, tapping my foot and expecting you to do continue to do better.

But, they spent a ton of money making this movie and they're not going to recoup it. I think, I hope, that Hollywood realizes that it was stupid budgeting and keeps going. They're working on Ocean's 8, a reboot with all women, which would be awesome. Maybe some day they'll just do an original film with an ensemble cast of mostly women.

In the meantime, though, go see the movie. Buy a ticket and give it to someone who can't afford to go themselves or just as a treat. Buy the merchandise from the movie. Donate it this Christmas to a toy drive or drop it off at a battered women's shelter or homeless shelter so the kids have good role model toys to play with.

Send a message: WE WANT MORE OF THIS.
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Check it out! (That's a library pun.) [Aug. 8th, 2016|11:46 am]
Seriously, I sometimes feel as if I'm the only one in my social circle...which is pretty darn big...who has a library card anymore. Or at least the only one who uses it.

When I say to a co-worker, oh, on our way to lunch do you mind if we swing by the library so I can return my books, they look at me as if to say "oh, old woman are you telling your before-time stories again, of faxes and punch cards and libraries?"

Yeah, books, I read them. More than many people -- about 50 - 55 a year (thank you, Goodreads, for that helpful stat). And I have friends who read; most of them less than I do, but still. And they're all "oh, I have my Kindle" or "oh, I like to buy books because it takes me so long to read them" or "I can't be bothered to go to the library" or "wait, what, you can just go in and borrow books?".

Oh, children, I still remember the day I got my first library card in First Grade. It was enormously empowering. Taking home that stack of picture books brings an involuntary smile to my face just remembering it. As if finally, I was a fully participating member of society. And that smell! The musty smell of opportunity -- of more knowledge than I could possibly consume -- although I'd come close, in our small town library, also remembering the day that the children's librarian took my mother aside and said "No, really, she really has read all of them. I know she's really young and we can supervise her choices, but we really need to let her into the adult section."

(In case you think I was some kind of reading machine -- let's all remember that I didn't have many friends when I was younger and decades away from developing the social skills that now make me fun at parties. I had PLENTY of time to read.)

Sadly, most libraries don't smell of old, musty books anymore...the card catalog is no more. But on the other hand, oh my goodness, what a wonderful resource your library is still!

Oh, you like to buy your books -- yeah, me too. But at 50 plus books a year, even if I could get them all for $10...that's $500. And not all of them are going to be worth paying for. And then, you have to store them or give them away or...it's a responsibility you don't need to bear. Just take them back to the library. And get more. Let them store them for you. And pass them along. And recycle them, when it's time.

Did you know -- you can probably get online, get into your library's catalog, find a book you were looking for, reserve it if it's out already or...oh, it's not in your local branch? They will transfer it in for you. Boom.

Oh, but you'll never get them back in time and then the fines, how much are the fines? Yeah, so in my county, you can take them out for 3 weeks at a time. And then they send you an e-mail when they're due. And you can renew online -- several times, if no one's waiting for the book. You can take over two months to read that book. And you'll get a reminder of when you have to bring them back. And you can probably bring them back to any library in your county.

Oh, but your Kindle is so much more...yeah, yeah, I use my Kindle as well. Although it makes me sad that when I enjoy a book but now I can't lend it to you. But still, an e-reader is convenient as all get out. Surprise! Your library probably also loans out e-books. Oh, you only have time to listen to books in the car? You know where this going, right? Yes, my toadlings, they'll hook you up with audiobooks. (Free...it's all expletive free.)

Your computer died, your internet or electricity's down? They'll let you get online there. You'd like to host a monthly (insert hobby/interest) gathering to discuss the thing, but don't want to have it or strangers in your house? They've got space you can use.

And then the information! There are people sitting at a desk, waiting for you to call...like Google but with a brain that won't serve you up twelve resources that are actually all of the same thing. People who will help you find stuff; people who are better at it than you are, likely. And online resources -- libraries often have insane amounts of online resources that are pre-vetted for you and are free. I'm using Rosetta Stone to brush up on my French -- FREE, my tender bitches, with my library card.

Now your library may not have all this much (my county is one of the most expensive to live in, tax-wise, which sucks in many ways, but we do have some boss resources)...but even the library in my hometown of only 5,000 people has got most of this stuff -- and discount passes to area attractions, which is a pretty cool feature. So, if you haven't been there, or even if you do have a library card and you just show up to get books, I'm guessing that you have NO IDEA what's available. Seriously, your tax dollars are paying for all of this cool stuff and you're not using it. That's like paying for cable every month and not turning your television on. Go to your local library's website...check it out!
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What's it worth to me? [Jul. 16th, 2016|10:05 am]
I do most of my grocery shopping at a particular store because they have handheld scanners so that I can scan each item as I take it off the shelf, put in the bag or box and then just use the register to pay as I leave. I was so happy when they put self-checkout in - finally bags packed the way I want them! No conversation, no silently fuming because I told them the code for English peas is 4674, but they don't believe me, so I have to endure watching them scroll through the PLU list. And then watch them ring them up as snow peas.

But the problem with self-checkout is that not everyone's good at it. And it's painful to be behind someone who's using the checkout for the first time. Who has no idea how multi-directional scanners work, no idea that the PLU code is often right there on the sticker, doesn't know that bananas are 4011, red bell peppers 4088, scallions 4068. I mean, okay, as a personal chef I went to the grocery store every single day, so I was pretty damn good at a quick checkout. And, there were plenty of times where I'd just tell the person struggling "hey, why don't you go down there and bag your stuff, I'll scan it for you. No, seriously, it's in my best interest to get you the hell out of my way, happy to do it."

But the handheld scanners? Frabjous Joy! No more having to wait behind people who don't know what they're doing...or decide that now, with eight people in line behind them, that they're going to teach their five year old how to scan groceries.

But the move now is to have us use our phones to scan the items. And to that I say "Expletive you, I will go back to waiting in line for a human to do it for me." I am NOT installing an app on my phone that gives the godforsaken grocery store access to my GPS data. Because now they want to track where I go in there store, where I spend time and what do I get in return? Nothing. The grocery store gets data, saves money by not having to have handhelds, fewer cashiers and I get...a drained battery, a broken phone (seriously, I drop those scanners all of the time...at least they're bulky and will get caught in the cart. You know that I will have an uncanny ability to drop my phone squarely between the wires of the cart directly to the floor) even more smudges, even more wasted time as I realize that my phone has timed out and now I'm holding a package of raw chicken in one hand and have to now do my password before I can scan, and having been in the grocery industry, not a lot of trust that you'll stop accessing my GPS when I leave the store.

Ignoring the possibly injury to my phone and myself (as I frantically try to catch said phone as it's flipping down into the refrigerator case right toward a sludgy pile of spilled milk), you may ask why I'm balking at sharing that data. After all, Google can pretty much access all of my stuff, all of the time, right? I bought right into that. And expletive Zuckerberg's all up in my business as well. But I'm going to say no to Giant, Safeway, Whole Foods, whomever?

Damn skippy! Because Faceborg makes it easy for me to stay in touch with relatives and friends, do event invites, share pictures and "socialize". (And also, to know which of my friends hold some views I find abhorrent, making it easier to avoid those topics at parties and bars.) And Google...Google will find my phone for me. Show me on a map where I left it, make it ring for five minutes so I can find it. By just typing "find my phone" in the search bar. For that alone, I am willing to open up all my data. It's WORTH it.

But Amazon, Yelp, Open Table, yada yada, want me to review the thing? What am I getting? Nothing? Then screw you, I'm not providing content for free. (For the record, if you do reviews for Amazon, you may well be contacted by companies that want you to look at similar products, and you may even qualify for Amazon's program...but I don't want random stuff for free. I want the thing I want for free or less. I serve on a review panel for a clothing company and they send me a $25 thank you coupon every year for answering a couple of surveys. Now that's worth it.)

"Can you answer this question about a product you bought?" Seriously, Amazon, that's consulting and I charge hourly for that. How about you offer to knock a few points off my Prime membership and then I'd be happy to. Until then? Screw you, I just PAID you for the thing, I'm not going to now work for you for free!

That's the thing we all need to keep in mind -- your data, your privacy: they're WORTH something to someone else. They're going to monetize it. So, don't give it away for free - unless you're getting something that makes it worthwhile giving up. Make those expletives work for it!
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None of our apples fell very far from the tree [Jul. 9th, 2016|08:16 am]
Oh, nothing like a long weekend spent with my parents, brother and his family to get me thinking about genetics, nature and nurture!

Growing up, my brother and I couldn't escape our family resemblance -- my parents were active participants in our small town, and my brother and I looked enough alike, and enough like our father, that there was no flying under the radar. Although if you look at pictures, while you'll say that we look more like my father than we do our mother...we don't necessarily look like the spitting image of our Dad. Yet people always said we did. I think it's because I do look a lot like him -- I've got the LastNameRedacted squinty eyed smirk, that's for certain. My brother looks a bit more like my mother, getting the tall gene, damn him, but still looks enough like me, and apparently acts enough like me that people in town would say "oh, look, there's one of the LastNameRedacted kids".

I was the brainy, bookworm one, the born safety patrol and nerdish to the bone. My brother was the social one, always surrounded by a gang of friends, always the center of attention, the entertaining one. Except. When I think about it, he was the one always organizing the thing - whether it was a trip to the beach, or finding a group of friends who thought it was fun to show up at our house and do my brother's chores for him. And when I meet up again with people I haven't seen since high school, they always talk about how funny I was. (Okay, and also opinionated and bossy) I don't remember being funny, at all. But apparently I was. I also thought of myself as being on the fringe of the social circle, but then remember that "the fun" was always happening at my house. That I was usually the one driving the car to "the thing".
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It's funny how we remember things but then if you really look and analyze, it can actually be quite a bit different -- like taking off Instagram filters.

Now, I said we looked like my father mostly, and phenotype (how your body looks) is definitely mostly genetic. But when it comes to behavior, my mother got her hand in, that's for sure. There are things my brother and I say, things we do - hosting the thing, running the thing, a lifetime of being relentlessly social (Mom) and then regretting it (Dad). The thing I never noticed, though...

Our attitude to be sick. Here, my brother, my mother, myself...we might as well be identical twins. Oh, you can call it nurture all you want -- and we were raised to believe that when you were sick, if you had a fever, you should lay down until it was over, eating saltines, chicken broth and flat gingerale. Some aspirin to help with the fever. I think we got over illnesses quickly because we got hungry and craved carbonation. Anything else? Here's an aspirin, now go walk it off. We were raised to be tough, raised to keep going. Which all three of us do, sometimes to our detriment. (I will confess that I'm not sure I really believe that, but that's what people keep telling me.)

But I also think there's a strong genetic component there, as well. After all, it's a bit uncanny to hear the things you've said to other people, the very thoughts in your head "lying down and taking it easy doesn't seem to shorten any illness I've ever had, it just wastes time I could have been using to do something else" or "It goes away in two weeks whether I see a doctor or not, why bother" and "If you give in to it, it just gets worse"...to hear those same words coming out of both my mother and my brother was uncanny.

I mean, it's not like we've ever really talked about being sick before and had time to cement each other's beliefs. Another family characteristic: we don't talk about illness, it's inherently boring. But here I was, up visiting my mother who was recovering from pneumonia, something unknown and a ten day hospital stay under her belt, finally back home, and my brother, in the middle of a bout of bronchitis. And we set off this crazy daisy chain: I'd tell my brother to not be ridiculous, he should stay home and rest and he'd say he was fine and I'd tell my mother that she should go rest, take it easy, put that oxygen tube back on and she'd say Oh, I'm fine. And then the next day, they'd both be exhausted and weary, each of them telling me that the OTHER one shouldn't have overdone it like that, completely oblivious to what they'd done to themselves and me hollering "What the hell is wrong with the two of you, you BOTH need to rest and take it easy, why won't anyone in this family just slow down and take care of themselves?"

At which point, The Consort looks at me, raising his incredibly expressive eyebrows and says "Now you know what it feels like to be me."

At the time, I was only able to sputter, helplessly. Now, after thinking on it...nah, no revelation here. It's in our genes. If I give in against whatever this mystery bullexpletive thing that's wrong with me, that makes it hurt just to move, just to exist, if I lay down when it tells me I need to just lay down, expletive it, it wins. I've already scaled back what I try to accomplish in a day - THAT'S ENOUGH. That's all it's getting.

Sigh. At least The Consort has got my father and sister-in-law to commiserate with.
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That moment... [Apr. 20th, 2016|10:02 am]
There comes that moment in every person's life, as they age, when they realize that they really ARE old, and try as they might, there will be no more surfing the edge of culture and technology. That their attempts to catch up, stay current, stay hip, stay fluent are, well, better than not trying at all, but not going to be effective. That the best you can hope for is to not be completely in the dark. Your role now, when it comes to culture and technology is to be that old person that says "hmm, I don't understand, can you explain it/show me how?"

Which is ten thousand times better than some of your peers who are just rejecting new ideas, new forms of communication, new language, new fashion, new technology out of hand because the new stuff is different. I mean, I've pledged to myself that before I reject or criticize something that "the kids" are doing/into, I'll make sure it's because I have a really good reason, not because it's new, different or something I don't think you should be doing because in my day...

(For the record: pants hanging off your ass is just stupid. It's uncomfortable to have your crotch between your knees, plus also bears. How the hell can you run from a bear if your pants are like that? Also, Twitter. Expletive that. I don't have a 140 character story in me. Twitter all you want, but I'm okay with never really being able to parse out the hashtag thing. And nose rings. I just...I find them ugly. I mean, if you like the way you look in them, fine, go for it, but I'm always going to make that little eye-squinting, mouth-tightening thing when I first see you. If you ask me, I'll tell you nope, I don't think it's a good look for you...or anyone. But only if you ask me. Otherwise...not my body, not my business.)

But here was my watershed "I'm now a geezer moment". When I read this: "The eggplant and peach emoji are standard code for racy thoughts these days..." Wait, what?

I thought "okay, from here forward in texts and other communication that use emoji, I will always be evidently a geezer, trying and failing to keep up. I mean I was already getting confused with the little emoji that -- to me -- looks like it's happy and loving with its little pink cheeks and happy smile.

Until I used it and someone said "Oh, you don't have to be embarrassed." Oh, that's the embarrased emoji? And now I'm trying to remember who the hell I've sent the eggplant and peach emoji to. Here, I'm all happy fruits of the season and they're all OMG, is she hitting on me?

Doomed, I'm doomed.

At least I'm already comfortable wearing the "rock the awkward" mantle. I guess I should stop considering that a special use garment and just plan on putting that on every day from here on out.
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Fleeting [Apr. 1st, 2016|07:12 pm]
I work really hard to cultivate and enjoy fleeting pleasures. I'm fairly vigilant about buying produce when it's in season. I just don't eat apples in the summer. Stuff myself with peas in the springtime, eat citrus in the winter. Sure, I bend the rules from time to time, but asparagus is for spring, butternut squash for winter. When they're in season, I practically poison myself with blueberries.

Oh. sure, some of it comes from wanting to support local, some of it from knowing that produce tends to taste better when it's in season and hasn't had to get a plan and go through customs to get to me.

But that all may well be rationalization.

Truth is, I get a lot of joy from temporary pleasures. They demand that you throw yourself all in, submerge yourself -- because they're by nature ephemeral. It's a constant reminder to stop and smell the roses. Or, in this case, the viburnum. I have two, and they're both blooming now, which means my yard smells heavenly. They'll only last two weeks at best. (I can't go on vacation then, that's when the viburnum bloom!)

A few weeks ago, it was the crocus, then the forsythia, soon will be the lemony smell and complicated blooms of the iris. Right now, the pink of the burgeoning grape leaves entertwined with the new pale green of the clematis vines is stunning.

I'm stealing a precious few moments before the rain starts, sitting out on the deck, unseasonably warm, thus leading up to an imminent thunderstorm -- but oh, what a joy to be out here enjoying all of this beauty, knowing that tomorrow will be cold and rainy.

Sure, part of me wants it to be like this all of the time. I dread the upcoming DC metro area humidity and heat. But it forces me to get out today, right now, and revel in the moment. To stop, take time, and enjoy.

If I lived someplace where it was pleasant all of the time, if I had enough money and devil-may-care to have what I wanted imported to me year round...I don't know that I'd have the discipline to force myself to take time to enjoy the fleeting things. I fear I would become complacent - oh, it's San Diego, of course it's lovely, it's almost always lovely! And ten years later I would have put off so much because...oh, tomorrow will be nice too.

I'm a curmudgeon, a misanthrope, I'm a burster of balloons, a rainer on parades, the person who always thinks of what could go wrong, a planner for the worse eventuality.

And yet - I'm a very happy person. I can ignore a fuckton of evidence that tells me why I should be unhappy: my job, my bank account, my moneypit of a house, my health. Bloody hell, it's a wonder I can get out of bed in the morning.

Except...there are so many small joys...so many crocuses, so many brand new pea plants poking up out of the ground, the fizzy, funky taste of the cider you hunted down, the hours you spend with a partner/lover that are never as much as you want, the approaching tang and damp and lightning flash of that storm that's going to send you inside, but Not. Just. Yet.

If you weighed it on the scale that we seem to measure things on -- the scale of commerce --it wouldn't amount to much. But it can be the world, my friend, the world. Train yourself to embrace it. It could save you.
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