I will be removing all my posts relating to my job. However, the Internet works by “streaming packets” (little tiny bits of information) from a server to your computer. Although I will remove this post shortly from the wordpress server, there are little packets all over your monitor. Chew them up–everyone–and swallow them all.

Actually, the server probably has copies of its own and is giving them to its kittens to play with.

If I get a chance, I will tell some stories from the distant past. Although the details differ, they will reveal a spirit and attitude that lives on.

As a foreshadow, I will mention that I have always detested bullies and bullying, and I get very upset when I see people bullied and treated disrespectfully. However, apparently it’s out of my job classification to attend to such matters.

Swallow this message now, please.

Chihuahuas Are Good, Too

February 27, 2008

Pete once asked me to write stories about pets, especially dogs.

When I wrote some stories about chihuahuas, he was a little disappointed, though I eventually did post some better stories, I think.

But let’s give chihuahuas their due. Though this one is a little overdue, I’m afraid.

Get your hands off me!

Ferry Cross the Mercy

February 27, 2008


Welcome to the state ferry system. As the regular riders know, we start each trip with a little recorded announcement of information we hope you find useful, and if you don’t, what is the matter with you, anyway?

Most of these messages are recorded by various media figures such as news broadcasters, sports announcers, and the like. Today we are trying something a little different. Today’s broadcast is live and presented by a passenger picked at random. In fact, my name is Random Name and I am sitting in one of the seats in the passenger section, talking on a wireless mike at this very moment. If you are trying to identify or locate me I will give you a hint. I am the guy with the sullen, sulky look on his face; though, I may also be the guy who is obviously asleep.

My helpful message will be a little different. If nothing else, you will be glad the next time you hear one of the boring regular messages, believe me.

I’ll talk a little bit about the typical Emergency Procedures part of the message. What usually happens is that the announcer tells you what to do in case of a shipboard emergency and you usually pay no attention whatsoever. In the case of a real shipboard emergency, you would probably follow the procedure of, When in fear or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout. If you survive the disaster, you will sue the ferry system, claiming that no one told you what to do. If you don’t survive the disaster, your relatives will sue the ferry system, claiming that no one told you what to do. So I will tell you what to do in case a disaster such as a hurricane or tsunami strikes your ferry:

The emergency procedures discussion is followed by the security warning that usually runs something like this:

Please do not leave packages, backpacks and other personal items unattended.

I have improved this caution as follows:

If we find unattended items, we will toss them into the water. If you return in search of your unattended item, we will toss you into the water (where you can seek to retrieve them if you wish).

You may notice I have placed little tent cards on tables to divide the passenger deck into four sections. While each section is glassed in, each section has easy access to an open deck. This is handy for reasons I will explain shortly.

Section 1, the section where I am seated, is marked Sullen Silence. As it is 5:30 am on a cold, rainy morning I fail to understand why anyone would sit in any other section.

However, I have marked out three other sections. Section 2 is the Convivial Chat also marked as the Gag Me with a Spoon section where you sit and converse and gossip with fellow workers, friends, or spouses. Generally your conversation will center on fellow workers, friends, or spouses, whichever groups are not present in your discussion. Your discussion dwells on their faults, flaws, and amazingly irritating characteristics. Generally you prefer to sit next to me where I am sulking in morose silence and carry on this discussion in a loud voice. I have plenty of irritating fellow workers, friends, and spouses in my own life. It is difficult for me to express how much I do not want to hear a discussion about the ones in your lives and I have no idea why you think it is necessary for me to hear this discussion or broaden my acquaintance (if only virtually) to additional members of these species.

Section 3 is marked Sell Your Cell Phone. This is very similar to Section 2, except in this section passengers are talking loudly on their cell phones to fellow workers, friends, or spouses (as well as to people they are having affairs with or in the process of divorcing). In half the cases they are having fights; in the other half of the cases they are gossiping and complaining as in Section 2. In any case, words fail me in expressing how passionately I do not want to hear your conversation.

Section 4 is the Children’s Section. This is the section where your small children (who are up at 5:30 am and riding on a ferry for unknown reasons) can run, scream, whine, crawl on the floor, and engage in other wholesome and constructive childhood activities. However, if children wander into one of the other areas, we will toss the children into the sea. (We hope your children are up-to-date on their swimming lessons.) If you come in pursuit of your children, we will toss you into the water as well, so you can pursue your children in the water. For variety, you can assist passengers pursuing their tossed packages and bundles, and they can assist you in pursuing your children.

At the end of the trip, those remaining on board are required to disembark the vessel. We hope you have enjoyed your trip, or at least made my trip less obnoxious. We hope to see you again. Maybe.

6K Henriette Loses Something

February 24, 2008

I suspect that my relatives, especially my father’s three sisters, believe that if they follow the correct procedures—that is, procedures involving alternative health practices, they can live forever.

Evidently, this began with my grandfather Harry, who figured out from what he had learned from Dr. Kellogg that colonic therapy (giving enemas to “clean out ‘toxins’ from one’s system”) will ensure if not eternal life at least a very long one. Although no one in my family still practices “hydrotherapy” (as it is also called)—perhaps because my grandfather died a long time ago—it is still widely practiced in our society. For example, in the small unincorporated town five miles from where we live in the woods on an island, I see a clinic with a sign advertising hydrotherapy. This advertisement from Arizona gives an idea of how slickly (so to speak) this therapy is marketed today.

This practice persists despite the fact that most conventional medical authorities—such as the National Council Against Health Fraud—consider hydrotherapy not only NOT beneficial—but downright dangerous.

Given the suspicion about conventional medical practices in much of our society, it is probably not surprising. For example, when I was 30 years old, I suffered from a duodenal ulcer. Not known then (but realized now) most ulcers are caused by bacterial infection. So there is plenty of reason to be suspicious of conventional medical practice as well as alternative medical care. Nothing but witch doctors for me from now on.

After Harry died, Grandmother Agnes left Chicago to live with my Aunt Naomi in Fullerton, California. By then my family’s alternative health care focus had switched to fresh carrot juice. The grinder ran day and night grinding carrots to make juice for Agnes, who died of cancer anyway.

When my millionaire cousin Joanna (who became wealthy by learning Chinese) developed breast cancer, she could afford the best treatment in the world. Her father, my uncle-in-law Donald (who had switched from being an engineer to being a chiropractor), her mother, Aunt Naomi, and her sister, Valerie (who also became a chiropractor), scoured the world for the best conventional medical treatment (which they decided could be found at a clinic in Colorado) and the best “alternative” medical treatment (which they decided could be found at a clinic in Germany) and took Joanna to both those locations for treatment.

Joanna died anyway, perhaps confirming the superstition that if you become too fortunate in one area of life—in her case, becoming a millionaire—the gods will balance the scale in some other area of life—in her case, dying of breast cancer (which spread to her brain) about the age of 50 and leaving behind two young daughters who now combine an ethnic heritage of Taiwanese Chinese and Eastern European Jewish ancestries.

Grandmother Agnes and her three daughters Diana—who married a conventional doctor in rebellion against her enema-applying father, Naomi—who became a ballet dancer and pursued relentless self-improvement all her life and is now a cripple in Australia, and Henriette—who married Morton in defiance of her family because he said he could coach her to be an opera star for the Met—were women of enormous will and determination.

Diana’s children told me that their mother had “broken” their father the doctor. Naomi’s husband Donald—from a cowboy family in the California high desert—was a match for Naomi, and their daughters displayed hybrid vigor.

Toward the end of his life, Henriette’s husband Morton developed cancer.

Henriette became irritated with him because he became apathetic and lost interest in living. She was determined to save him through alternative health care. As Henriette had worked as a waitress while she practiced her opera singing for the call by the Met that never came and supported Morton because opera coaching was so demanding, they did not have much money. As I had suspected, her sister Naomi had used some of Joanna’s money to support Henriette and Morton until Naomi needed the money for her own ailments.

As I was her first nephew, and because her son Carl fled across the country in a desperate search to find a life and identity of his own, Henriette has fixated on me as the one relative she can depend on for assistance and help in times of stress. She called me when her computer confused her and she called me when she wanted to sell art works of dubious provenance on eBay to raise money to get alternative health care for Morton to save him in spite of his fatalistic apathy.

I turned to my brother B—who owns a crafts business and has sold items on eBay—and only lives a couple of states away from Henriette in New York City instead of across the country as I do—for assistance. He said in polite scorn (as did several other people I consulted)—that Henriette was very unlikely to make much money in this fashion (as I had suspected).

I called Henriette to tell her that I was not able to help her. She told me that it no longer mattered. The day before she had tried with the help of a neighbor to carry Morton down the stairs of her New York City apartment—he was now too weak to walk by himself—to take him to an alternative health practitioner.

“He died in my arms as we went down the stairs,” she told me.

I was stunned and shocked by this news, as I was a bit shocked by the rather cool and detached manner in which Henriette delivered it to me.

“He didn’t want to live any more, anyway,” she told me. Henriette is still vigorous in her 80s, and it is clear that she still is very determined to keep on living, even if her now ex-husband had decided to drop out.

A while back I wrote a post about an adventure at a Shell gas station. I often stop at this station on my way home. The card readers asked me to remove my card quickly. However, I have learned from the store clerks at this station that this particular cluster of card readers prefer that I remove my card slowly.I suppose I could make comments of an improper nature on this topic, but I am refraining. If you imagination is not refraining, I suggest you have a serious conversation with your imagination and tell it to straighten up and fly right.Today, after the unsatisfactory green eggs and ham conversation, I stopped at a Shell station a few miles up the road on the opposite side of the highway. Up to now, the card readers at station #1 have been much more amiable and accommodating when I remove my card. I suspect these card readers smoke a cigarette after I drive away.Today, however, the card reader at station #1 displayed a message that said, panic mode 0012.(I am not making this up. The message is exactly what the display displayed to me.)
I thought about running into the street as fast as I could in a panic mode. However, there is a large (private) airport across the street and a large jet plane was at that moment taking off about a hundred yards away With so much going on,. I was entirely confused about what panic mode to enter.

Instead I entered the Shell station market and asked the clerk what to do. The clerk (whom I suspect is the owner) appears to me to be of Indian or Pakistani descent. He shrugged and asked in an unperturbed manner if I wanted a fill-up. I assented, and he directed me to fill my tank and then return to pay him. The pump cheerfully filled my gas tank with no card insertion at all.

When I returned to the clerk (possibly owner), I mentioned my experience at station #2. He laughed merrily about slow and rapid card withdrawals.. My impression is that he is well-acquainted with the variable moods and temperaments of gas tank readers, and it would take a great deal to shock him in that regard.

Junior Archetype Corps

February 20, 2008


I stopped in a thrift store and browsed through the children’s books. I bought a copy of Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham for Random Granddaughter for a dollar. Probably most of my readers know this classic story, but as a refresher for those who need refreshment and an introduction for those who need an introduction: The little helpful pest Sam I am wants to serve the narrator green eggs and ham. The narrator does not want green eggs and ham.

At the risk of sounding immensely pretentious, this strikes me as the basis for an archetype for Random Granddaughter. (I see no reason why a four year old child can’t have her own archetype.)

My scheme (which enjoys no support from either Mrs. Random or our daughter) is to serve green eggs and ham for breakfast one day when the Barely Extended Family is visiting us on the island. Everyone will get ham and eggs colored green with food coloring, except for Random Granddaughter, who will get egg colored eggs and ham colored ham.

Later, I will explain to her: You already think everyone is crazy but you. I just wanted to provide a little supporting evidence.

She will not be amused.

It may be too late for this to work. David seems to have had a giant breakthrough. So I just offer this post as a historical curiousity.

Besides trying to help David find a compatible significant other (in which case he will owe me a “woo ware” payment), I am trying to find him a good job/career (in which case he will owe me a job placement fee). [All fees are voluntary and the amount is set by the client.]

I have suggested Culture Coach. This option is still in play. The problem is how to find someone who will pay him for providing this valuable service. The Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) has several announcers who provide such a service in their broadcasts. I don’t know if they will hire an American, or how one gets hired by them, but it’s a clue.

However, I have another suggestion: Professional Psychotherapy Patient

David would be hired by an educational institution that trains therapists.

As the students approach the end of their training, their adviser/mentor/professors would say:

Here is your final exam. His name is David. He has a few problems. Please help him fix them.

Week 1

Student: David is very intelligent and interesting. I think this will be an interesting project.

Professor: Hmm…

Week 10:

Custodian: Sir, another student has committed suicide. Should I dispose of the cadaver in the usual fashion?

Professor: Yes, add it to the faculty compost pile.

Custodian: Excuse me, sir, do any of the students actually pass the final exam?

Professor: Yes, about one in four.

Custodian: How do they pass? What is the correct answer to the final exam?

Professor: To get a “B” they learn that not everybody can be “cured.” To get an “A” they learn that the pain never” goes away”; one just learns to live with it and deal with it. Ah, here’s the next student.

Hello, let me introduce you to David. He has a few problems. Please help him fix them…



However, after reading David’s latest blog post, I realize it may be too late for him to embark on this interesting career. Oh, well.

When I was young, my performance in school was quite erratic. Sometimes I did well; other times I seemed to be out to lunch .

Readers of my blog probably have noticed my inability to focus. I will start a train of posts and then drift into another topic. For example, I have never finished my tale of my Aunt Henriette and her calendars. (Note to self–return Aunt Henriette’s voice mail message.)

A few years ago, I read an article in the newspaper about ADHD: Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. With some excitement, I told my wife about the article. “I think I’ve found out my problem!” I said to my wife and started to read the article to her.

My wife interrupted me. “Oh, you don’t pay attention and you don’t concentrate” she said with some scorn. “I knew that a long time ago. I’m glad you have a big fancy name for it, though.

Now, where was I?


February 17, 2008

Heather Armstrong, known online as “dooce,” probably provides the most famous example of a blogger fired for writing about her employer.

I have a year or so to go until I retire. I know people who were “laid off” their jobs a year before being “vested” in their employer’s pension plan. However, I am not sure what the Guinness world record is for being fired for “cause” in the shortest period of time before scheduled retirement. I hope not to find out, but I put my odds at 50% if achieving that record.

For the most part, I avoid discussing my job in my blog. If I explained why I have anxieties and concerns about my job, I might cause the situation I am trying to avoid, or I might have to eliminate you with “extreme prejudice,” as they used to say in the James Bond books. As you seem like a nice person I would rather not.

Recently my bosses selected, transferred, and promoted a new employee, “A.” There is a tangled story behind this course of events I will not discuss, though it involves nothing scandalous or scary.

In the course of our duties, I will be training A and we will be collaborating on several projects.

When my supervisors hired A, they praised her highly to me. This made me nervous. When I met her, she made a positive initial impression on me. This led to a mental state known as “cognitive dissonance.”

A is much younger than I am (28 to my 64), so she is something like a niece. (For purposes of calibration, I will note that my daughter is 41.)

I had a reason to drive to a remote location with A to prepare her for an upcoming assignment. This provided a chance for me to talk to her out of cubicle land, where little is private.

As she drove a company car, we chatted to get to know each other. I told her how I live on an island, how I have been married 42 years even though my wife and I are incompatible, how my daughter went to college in Ohio, dropped out of graduate school from Cornell, and now is going back to graduate school. A told me that she is from Ohio and had gone to (a different college) there.

In my usual rude fashion (I have no manners) I said to A, “You don’t have a ring, so you probably aren’t married—have you ever been married?

She replied. “I will never get married.”

I had an idea where she was going.

She continued, a little cautiously, “Actually, I am gay.” (My employer is very PC, so it’s not a touchy issue for an employee to be a homosexual My boss two supervisors back on this job was gay.)

When I asked A what brought her to the west coast, she said she had been visiting a friend, liked the area, and then fell in love with a woman she met out here.

“That’s interesting,” I said. “Let me tell you about my granddaughter and her Mama and her Mommy…”

We returned to HQ. I left to take care of some other tasks and came back just as A was about to leave at the end of the workday. “Let me introduce you to M, my partner,” she said to me. “I was showing M around my new work location.”

M is a very attractive young woman. She shook hands with me. Many women shake hands in a dainty fashion, especially when introduced to a man. M shook hands firmly and vigorously.

“I am glad to meet you,” I said. “When you get home tonight, A can tell you about my granddaughter and her Mama and Mommy.