***my photos of the march***

28 October
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This morning, I was so impressed with myself. I got up a bit before 6:30 and was exercised, showered, dried and pressed by 7:15 or so. I almost never rise before 7 in the morning. I'm a 9-to-6 workday kind of girl.

So I think to myself. 6:30! So exciting! I'm up early! And I'm shockingly alert!

And as I pull into the office parking lot a big before 8, I realize. Sunday was daylight saving time.

My earliness? Entirely unremarkable. Compared to last week, I was actually up late.


19 August
focus groups
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I've clearly been tagged as someone who will attend focus groups at the office.

It's a little like junk mail, but more productive. One person gets your name and invites you to a focus group. You say hey, sure. You go. And then I think they start selling your name to other focus-group starters all over the company.

How can we make the way you work better?
What information would you like to hear from us?
How can we...?
What do you think about...?

Sometimes, they even just send me requests to "attend a focus group". Not even any information about what it is. Currently I'm cranky enough about my job that anything unrelated is enough to prompt me to accept a meeting invitation, but how do they know that?

I can only include that certain people get branded as "likely focus group attendees", and the focus group gurus know this, and presume the LFGA's don't even need to know why or what - they just want to provide feedback. Suckers.


25 July
the cafeteria
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I work in a building. Nay, a campus. That includes a cafeteria. It's actually a reasonably good cafeteria that serves interesting food, albeit much with chicken [I have this thing against chicken and the very specific cruelty of industrial chicken farms; admittedly, I do occasionally lapse for particularly good food containing chicken, but generally, no. You can order just about any chicken dish at the cafe chickenless, so that works out alright.].

I eat lunch at the cafeteria a couple of days at least every week. But not actually at the cafe; I pick up and take back to my desk, where I work 9-10 hours a day. I consider this reasonable, given the demands on my time and making allowances for unproductive time.

I rarely lunch out. If I had time, few of my colleagues would. They're all picking up and eating out of styrofoam containers at their desks, just like me.

But this week I've been in another building, taking a class. This building has no cafeteria, barring a small place to buy drinks and snacks. And at lunch, all of these people clear out of the building. They don't even pick up; they just flat eat out. And they seem to leave earlier than we do.

I doubt these people have so much more work than we.

In fact, I think the cafeteria is a particularly insidious brand of forced productivity. If you can pickup and eat at your desk, some people will, until everyone eventually feels obliged. If you're that tied to your desk and meetings, you will come to feel you can't leave. You'll stay later. Come earlier.

And it's all the cafeteria's fault.


18 July
diet culture
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I think I've finally seen weight prejudice at work in my office.

The Atkins diet trend is belatedly hitting most of the management team around me. Working lunches are now meat salads (which, alright, I'm okay with) and diet Coke (which is, just admit it, disgusting) for these guys.

And they talk about it, pretty much any time food is in front of them. It's strange, watching these otherwise confident middle-aged men and women enumerating what they can and can't eat and confessing their biscuit lapses. Not just strange. Uncomfortable.

Is the implication of managers doing this en masse that one must be fixated on food and thinness in order to manage? To be promoted? Well, I guess not. But it does feel a little like hostile-environment-ness, from a harassment law perspective.

Then again, I guess being fat or the existence of candy in the office could be construed as creating a hostile environment for the dieters.

Still. I wonder that it's considered perfectly appropriate to talk about one's diet in mixed (dieting/not dieting) work company, but not appropriate to talk about things like politics.

And while I'm slightly discomfited, I haven't the slightest clue how to get people to stop talking about their infernally boring diets. If they were my friends and not my coworkers or people who are in some slight way the boss of me, I'd either tell them all about my diet, constantly, or just flat out insist they shut up.

And they would. I have that effect on people.

For something slightly related, check out the commentary on BFB's Atkins post.


18 April
the work crush
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I've been reading (see the little picture to your right and down the page a bit) a book about the lives, particularly the working lives, of working class women. I like Johnson's goal - to look at the real experience of gray and pink collar workers apart from the standard organizational behavior survey questions.

The women she interviewed talk a lot about autonomy in the sense of not being penalized for being 5 or 10 minutes late, and being able to dictate when you go to lunch. And their tendency to report on job satisfaction has a lot to do with hygiene factors (coworker relationships, level of supervision, cleanliness of work, etc.), less so with the softer things like fulfillment and personal growth. Not that they don't think about these things; what Johnson's book is slowly revealing is that a lot of what we think about workers' satisfaction is heavily influenced by varying worker expectations.

These women's thoughts on job satisfaction have prompted me to reflect on the things I value at work. I expect near-complete autonomy. I haven't worked at a job that required attendance from a certain hour to a certain hour just because since I graduated from college. My schedule is constrained by meetings, my customers and my personal preference (generally in that order), but I don't consider that level of autonomy as a factor that makes one job I consider better than another. I just expect it.

What makes me happy or not at work is what I call the work crush. It's the hot new thing - be it a coworker, a project, a new technology or idea - that makes me feel all middle school ready to get up and go in the morning, thinking today I get to work with X [where X is object of crush]. I need it to be satisfied with my job.

but wait! there's more


07 March
office, streets of paris - same difference
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I walked into work today with Colm Wilkinson singing in my head.

one day more!
another day, another destiny.

You know you're a tad overworked when Friday takes on the drama of revolution. Ah.

And when you think about it, a lot of my job (serving as a sort of ombudsman) is all about hearing the people sing, singing the songs of angry men. My coworkers and our customers will not be slaves again.


15 January
invest in healthcare companies
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Because I just realized that my yearly raise (small, based on me not having worked long at my company) combined with increased health insurance premiums means that I'll make less this year than I did last year.

And unlike car and house insurance, which allow you to choose to be more or less insured (say, my old car is only insured for anything it runs into), in most situations you can either choose to be insured or not. Take whatever the cost is, or take nothing - no exceptions if you only go to the doctor once a year.

I know that the healthcare companies in which my old mutual fund invested some of my contributions are the only ones from that fund posting anything vaguely resembling profits, but I'm still peeved.

So now I understand why my small company changed insurance providers every year - we always got new customer discounts, so I never paid anything out of pocket for the privilege of being insured. Now I'm paying stupid money for myself and my partner, and he doesn't even use his health insurance. We should have kept him on his cheaper, less comprehensive coverage. It was stupid to think big company provided health insurance would be a good idea.

[Of course, I have to add - later, feeling less miffed - that I make perfectly fine money to begin with, and that things could be much worse.

I mean, I could be poor. I could be working three minimum wage jobs (same thing, right?) Or I could have had ten percent of my salary taken away and converted to "incentive" pay.

Also, I saw a woman wearing cow-printed fleece booties at the office yesterday evening.]


08 December
christmas is christian
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I got a nice taste of being in the majority the other day when a woman at work asked us to not do anything Santa Claus-related for our holiday outing.

See, she's Jewish. While Santa Claus seems completely non-Christian to me, he is an icon associated with christmas, and christmas is undoubtedly Christian. It seems fine to me to enjoy the whole Santa Claus concept, because, even though I am not Christian, I see the pagan side of Santa.

And, more importantly - I am not Christian, which is a much different perspective from non-Christian. I can comfortably reject Christianity and not be offended by the many ways in which it is the state religion in America, but I seriously doubt I could do that if I followed a non-Christian religion. Secularized Christian holidays (valentines, candy eggs, yule trees) are part of my secular upbringing. No big deal.

But. Just as the slimness of everyone on television tells fat people they're not really part of society, the institutionalization of Christian holidays is a firm reminder to everyone else in America that they are minorities. There may be giant menorahs at the gas stations, but people still get christmas day off automatically at work.

The nice thing about this exchange (for me) was its departure from my usual role. For once, I was the one in the noncommittal majority (I don't believe in the religious mythology of christmas, but I still basically celebrate the secular holiday) instead of the one pointing out the offense. It was a nice lesson. A reminder that people rarely offend intentionally, and that education is really what we need.


11 November
butterfly wings
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I got an email from a news service run by one of my old team members in which the word "hoser" appears.

This is funny primarily because, on a certain project, I covertly referred to one of the people on our client's team as "The Hoser". The retro-eightiesness of it led to great amusement on the part of - and the eventual adoption by - the team.

So now thousands of people are seeing the word hoser again, all because of me.


23 October
i'll take "things you might watch from the beach" for a hundred
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I'm delighted to hear that "sunset" is now a verb.

Not merely a verb, no - a transitive verb. It is one of a string of gentle corporate euphemisms for "dispose of". I found myself in something of a quandary today when I not only discovered this unusual part of speech, but was forced to come up with a past participle.

What is it? I went with the obvious answer, "sunset", but I think a case could be made for "sunsetted", even. That's the glory of the corporate lexicon.

And it's not even the figurative half of it. No, I have also seen people who bear no resemblance to Shel Silverstein use "gold watch" in a similar construction.

It does seem very polite to "gold watch" an old application, rather than "retire" it. Very dignified.


05 September
acronym hell
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I just read something that included the phrase "become the SME" (pronounced smee).

This strikes me as so funny I think everyone needs to hear it. Doesn't it sound like science fiction?

Before you can use the force, you must become the Smee...

I must pass these challenges so I can achieve enlightenment and become the Smee...

Maybe it's just me. In any case, it's just corporate jargon for "subject matter expert", meaning "to know something very well".

Sometimes corporate speak approaches true beauty. It's like illuminated manuscripts. So abstract, so distant from plain language.


23 August
friday five (career)
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I apologize for using the Friday Five on you guys, but I thought this one was interesting.

1. What is your current occupation? Is this what you chose to be doing at this point in your life? Why or why not?

I'm a project manager, though my role is more like a project management helpdesk. Yes, of course this is what I chose to be doing. Other than being forcibly unemployed, how could it not be? I can't say enough that even an unappetizing choice is still a choice you made. Dur. I suspect the meaning of the question is more - is this what you want most to be doing? Still yes; I like the variety of work and the sense of ordered control.

2. If time/talent/money were no object, what would your dream occupation be?

I'd like to run a feminist foundation. Give people grants and such. Organize opportunities for people to engage in discussion.

3. What did/do your parents do for a living? Has this had any influence on your career choices?

My father is enlisted Navy. My mother is a human services manager/consultant/whatever she is now. And while their personalities and things they taught me certainly influenced my career path, their own careers didn't really.

4. Have you ever had to choose between having a career and having a family?

I have a family. I've never wanted to have children, so that's not much of an issue for me. I may eventually have to choose between continuing on my current career path and following the boy when he goes to school - in which case (this is assuming I have no upward/lateral new job options whereever he goes) I'd choose my career. Of course, it's more complicated than that: we're planning to end up on the east coast anyhow, and he would like to come back here over summers. So there are positives to either approach.

5. In your opinion, what is the easiest job in the world? What is the hardest? Why?

I would find any involvement in television news difficult. I'd just have a problem dealing with the alarmist nature of that medium on a regular basis. And the easiest? Maybe the people who drive around in the little golf carts cleaning up country clubs. I don't know; there are perks and challenges to nearly any job I can think of.


14 August
as if you didn't already know
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Microsoft is evil.

I know this because, every time I approach MS Access thinking hey, I'll be bored, but surely I'll at least get that feeling of accomplishment this time, it bores me into that limp-eyed stare. You know the one. The one you wear around the office until you finally step outside or trip and fall into the collective toilet. That one.

This is a bad day for this. Maybe a bad week for this. There is nothing quite so likely to suck out your soul as arriving back from a vacation in which you read a load of progressive propaganda to spend some quality time with Access.

I'm regretting Michael Moore's book like a warm shrimp salad sandwich. Really. Nothing like being told by an alarmist, funny-in-a-way-he-thinks-is-revolutionary [and also in a way that sometimes I think is sexist] guy telling you you've sold out and hate your job to put you in a mood for an occasionally dull work day. This should in no way be taken to mean that I dislike either Michael Moore or my job, by the way.

No. It's all Microsoft's fault.


30 July
working women / working class
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My first thought on reading Trinity's We Have Brains question this week [which is, by the way To be better feminists, must we be better consumers?] was that I'd already answered it recently. And that, of course, better consumption was key.

But that's just one take on "good consumers" - that good consumerism equals responsible buying. Voting with your dollar, so to speak.

The other question, the one she was actually asking, is whether buying power equals power. And how important participation in the working world is to feminism. I don't think it's important at all - meaning, I don't think a woman's career choices or the amount of money she earns should have any impact on her acceptance as a feminist. You don't have to be successful at anything to be a feminist - be it mothering, sex, work. It shouldn't matter.

That said. Because feminism is still frequently a middle-class movement, because there is still a gap between the "working woman" (implying successful career) and the "working class" (implying, essentially, working poor), because what a woman does for money still isn't one hundred percent her choice - because of all these things, I think career choices are still very much an issue for feminism.

The "better consumer" [the woman with more buying power] is only one of these choices. But economic freedom [ultimately, buying power] is one thing that enables making choices, particularly for women with children. A "working class" job, or mothering as a primary job, can mean dependence on a man. Fine, if you decide to go that route deliberately. But there are also women for whom educational and economic limitations dictate dependence; the reason working as a grocery store clerk seems boring and demeaning to some women is that it's not a job that seems like a choice, just as working outside the home wasn't a matter of feminist empowerment for many early factory-working women (it was a matter of feeding a family, particularly for immigrants who owned no land).

[I'm sick, and not feeling particularly plucky, so I'll ask you all to imagine a very inspiring rant about the need to increase the minimum wage to a living wage, and to at least revert the welfare system back to the education rules from a year ago.]

There's another issue that Trinity touched on in her post (which was such a rich question): the two incomes required to support families. Not just the working poor ones (who often need three, even four minimum wage jobs for two people to support themselves and children), but the middle class. The people who could have the option to spend less money and more time. Many people have talked about rampant consumerism as a societal sickness.

I'm not so sure about that. Yes, we buy more than we need. More importantly, we think we need more than we need. But I think the drive to work in middle class America is never as simple as that.

Work is important. Work can be very satisfying. Even work that seems detached from a real product or meaning still uses your mind and/or body. Money, and the things that come with it, are a tangible representation of the value of your work and your time. Consumerism can be relevant to feminism in this way, too. Work doesn't just give you buying power, it also provides one component of your self.

Yes, there is also a puritanical spirit (in America) that tells us we're supposed to think of work as a chore, but the truth is that working can be incredibly self-indulgent. And working for a paycheck that provides you everything you really need, as well as some of the things you think you need - well, yes, that can feel very powerful.

[This entry has been brought to you by We Have Brains and my white-collar job that I like ninety percent of the time. I have a biased perspective on work.]


13 June
eat like you're at work
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I've noticed something that seems completely contrary to what we think about women and food in public. Women [gasp] eating in public.

Apparently, the office in no way counts as public. All diets appear to be voided at the office. You may bring (and eat) a lunch packed with Slim Fasty evil, but you will still eat the cake from someone's birthday party, the free bagel, the left over from a lunch meeting chips, and the stashed on someone's desk chocolate kisses. We eat remarkably well [heartily, but not unhealthily] at my office.

I have yet to encounter a woman (or man) who doesn't eat like this at work. I've imagined all sorts of complicated explanations. It's a man's world [the office], so eat like a man. Or, it's the polite thing to do. But the office hasn't been a man's world in at least a decade, and rushing to the kitchen to grab that last piece of cake is far from polite.

So why do people eat like this at work? Because they're hungry.

Lunch is the most critical meal, and humans have a natural inclination to daytime grazing. When we munch at work, we're just being good little animals.

Eat like you're at work - all the time. [And don't forget to drink plenty of water. Those late afternoon drowsies and headaches are a common sign of dehydration.]


16 May
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I dreamt last night that I had to go to a ridiculous meeting with this fluffy marketing company. And for some reason this company was in DC (which I'm pretty sure it isn't). Everyone was desperately stupid, probably blinded by the brightly colored furniture. And the fluffy marketing company was insisting that we (an entity which remained quite undefined) needed to build this product all in Flash 50. It was absolutely critical, despite the fact that no one had Flash 50 installed on their computers except the people at the fluffy marketing company who were, at least, all using macs.

I, realise of course, that there is no such thing as Flash 50. Which was the point, I suppose. I think the point was something to the effect of "marketing companies are frighteningly pretentious". The dream was some sort of cobbled cautionary tale. Perhaps.

And then it rained. I went outside and was drizzled on and lost, then finally found myself outside a strip of fascinating vegetarian restaurants, where I cowered under an awning until the rain finally just poured down and the sky was solid water.

All of this apparently (as the end of the dream would have you believe) was part of some elaborate Southeast Asian vacation. Because at the end of the dream, the boy and I were in an astoundingly gorgeous bamboo-walled hotel room that was basically the biggest loft space I've ever seen.

I opened the bay window, which was like a garage door made of soundproof rice, to see if it was still raining. And the rain came in like the sound of a roller coaster rushing by you. This turned into drums, and the boy danced a happy dance, picking his knees up to his ears.

It was an unusual dream, the first time I've really gotten enough sleep in nearly a week.


13 May
new job
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I've been quiet for a bit because I've been insanely busy at work, so not very enthusiastic and/or pensive at the end of the day.

However, I do have one bit of good news to report: I've been offered a new(ish, for those of you in the know) job. It's really my same job, which has grown on me quite a bit [a fact which I'm sure will be augmented by the rather substantial raise that came with the offer].


06 May
working, learning, and playing in the band.
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We saw Mike Daly & Caitlin Cary in Arlington on Saturday. [That sentence had so many capitalized words; it felt almost German to type.] They're the cooler, less poignant and famous, portion of Whiskeytown, for those of you unwashed enough not to know that.

There was a girl playing the accordion. I want to play the accordion. How do I learn?

Seriously, I want to play the accordion. I think of things all the time that I only passingly want to do, but this I might earnestly pursue. I'd like to take lessons.

I'd just like to take lessons in something. I'd like to learn in a formal, structured way now and then.

And I feel so ineffective at playing my own instrument of choice. I know I want to go back to it, but I've been away so long; it's like a fantasy story now. Maybe a new instrument will pull me back through the wardrobe.

I'm also seriously considering making a project plan for my impending move. We're moving out of the city and into a lovely 3-floor townhouse in a development that screams 1976 so loudly it's almost not even kitschy and ironic anymore. And there are so many intersecting little factors and tasks to accomplish; it wants a plan.

Speaking of my work (and yet not). Here's a lesson for today: in developing any project, gathering and documenting your requirements is key. Don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise. I've encountered pain and sorrow on at least three different fronts (and two entirely different contexts, as far as my life goes) today; both came down to that. Unless only one person is doing the work, requirements are critical.


22 April
the nicest thing
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The nicest thing about the internet is how you can meet all these heroes.

Not heroes in a famous people sense, though sometimes you can (especially if your idea of heroes involves the cast of any Star Trek series). But, you know, real live amazing people. I meet them all the time. People who leave their fascinating insides out for the world to read like that. And just amazing people.

I was just thinking about that. Also, I passed a rather important test related to my job today. There was math. It wasn't pretty. Lots of people don't pass.

Not to say I'm not good at math. I'm actually pretty balanced between mathematical and verbal skills, but that still doesn't mean I want to take math tests on my Monday morning.


05 March
adventures in footwear
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I have to say, I can't believe anyone would choose to wear trouser socks instead of, well, socks.

They're deeply disturbing. I wore, for the first time in my life I believe, trouser socks yesterday. On account of I was wearing trousers. [There's no attractive word for that article of clothing, is there? Pants. Slacks. Trousers. No wonder I so rarely don them.] I wore these so-called socks thinking they'd be not unlike knee socks, which I like. But thinner, and therefore more comfortable. This was my hypothesis.

But no. They have a habit of making your calves feel, not like you're wearing something over them, but like they're encased. Little calf sausages.

Today I'm not doing much better. I got an adorable pair of mary janes while visiting the family last weekend. Given my choice, I'd wear these barelegged or with knee socks (or even those little white lace-edged socks I made the actresses in my play wear once, the ones we dripped fake blood on), but it's cold, and I work in a corporate office, so neither of those options works. Instead, I wore neutral hose. [Again, something there is no attractive word to describe. Maybe there's a lesson in this?]

I don't buy these often, but I recall liking the control top ones, just as I like control top tights. They stay up better, aren't prone to that rolling down your tummy effect. But these hose. These are extra-strong control top, which appears to mean they have a stubborn streak. They clearly would prefer to roll not only down my tummy but right off my body entirely.

The things we'll wear. You have to wonder why.


27 February
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there's been grumbling over the number of h1-b visa holders in the us recently, specifically the idea that they're taking tech jobs away from citizens by being willing to work for less money. it seems to me, though, that the secret to foreign workers's getting jobs is not their willingness to work for less (though i suppose that's a factor), but the specificity of their skills. most of the programmers i know who are here on visas are either extreme specialists (ie they know one technology amazingly well) or generalists who are also early adopters of everything. and none of the americans i know who also fit into those categories have had a hard time finding jobs.

in other work news, yesterday i ate my lunch with a spoon because i couldn't find a fork. i'm a little paranoid; non-replenished stocks of utensils and other kitchen supplies have come to be equated in my mind with the last days.

also, i wish the guy with the hershey kisses wouldn't keep them right on the end of his desk like that. i keep grabbing one, or three, when i go to the bathroom. and i drink a lot of water. it's not good for me to eat this much sugar. if i am what i eat, today i'm chocolate syrup.


11 February
being a cog gets complicated
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let's just say. this girl on hold with the investment company wishes she had one of those jazzy little headsets, even if they do hurt ears and muss hair.

because this is long. and here's why:

  1. my company messed up my social security number some time last year.
  2. my 401K has been consistently losing money.
  3. ergo, i do not read info from the investment group in much detail (the amount of money i lose is a little depressing, but i do think it's important to contribute to my "good conscience" fund, so the money sits there getting smaller and bigger at the same time).
  4. my 401K has been based on the wrong ssn for some time now.
  5. this makes it somewhat difficult to do things like file my taxes.

so i'm on hold. and not really getting anywhere. this is overly complicated.


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