~~~ please HOVER on the photos for captions ~~~

shrimp and clown

January 29th, 2007

Never shoot a messenger, or you will end up knitting them at least one silly hat.

On Friday, not just Casual Day but the day our receptionist will take individual orders for take-out food and have it delivered, I signed up for a spring roll and some shrimp tempura.  Salivating all morning, I heard the announcement that the food had arrived and waited impatiently for my self-imposed lunchtime (an hour later).  But OMG, when I arrived in the kitchenette, the shrimp was gone!

I ransacked the fridge and both counters, and I double-checked the order page, which had been rewritten – but the only items left from the Chinese restaurant order were my spring roll and someone else’s unidentifiable entrée.  A friend overheard me muttering epithets and suggested that I call the receptionist, but I don’t know Becky’s extension :> so I hightailed it to the front desk.

Unfortunately, Becky took my snit personally.  I really thought I’d made it clear that the restaurant was at fault, but because I was on the 14th minute of my quarter-hour lunch break, I could only report the glitch, not philosophize about circumstances and culpability.

About an hour later, Becky swooped through our office, hardly breaking stride to deposit a paper bag on my desk.  I was talking to a customer at the time, and she was gone by the time I hung up, so I finally caught up to her at the cloakroom, at the end of her day.  Of course I thanked her for the replacement order and apologized in case her feelings had been hurt – and she accepted that gracefully.  But she went on to say that it was unfair, because she’s not allowed to call out.  (Say what? How does she place the orders?)

And, she said she doesn’t appreciate being “talked-down to”.  Now I felt really terrible.  She must’ve been bummed-out all afternoon, and I didn’t know that I’d come across that way.

On the way home I struck on a plan.  I needed to give her a gift of some kind, but a plate of cookies didn’t seem to cut it… what did I have at home that I could make into a present?  Yarn.  Thursday and Friday, the outside temperature had hovered around 10°, and the wind chill had pushed it to subzero.  A hat!  I could make Becky a hat.  A… shrimp-colored hat!  (Yes, apparently subzero temperatures affect cognitive function.)

Surprisingly, I did have shrimp-colored yarn in my stash, but there were two problems.  First, it was only one skein, lacking a ball band, so I didn’t know its fiber content or yardage.  Second, when I was halfway through, Jef opined that Becky might think a shrimp hat was poking fun at her :-\

I ran out of yarn when the crown was half finished, so I closed up the top and called it a toddler hat:

the cuff is loose, though

The plan had been to sew 2 beads where each cable narrows at the top, and then do two I-cord antennae for each shrimp.  Now that it’s downsized for a toddler, I’ll probably embroider shrimp-eyes, and I think I have some cotton yarn in the right color for antennae.

But this leaves us, and by us I mean me, back at square one.

In the same yarn stash, dumped on given to me by Mom (who got it from a neighbor in her apartment building), I found a skein and a half of Jiffy.  I’m not the biggest fan of variegated yarn, so I thought it was a decent candidate for “paying it forward”:

working without a net: impromptu design

I did my beloved deep cuff (which is part of the reason I ran out of yarn on the shrimp hat), and when I switched to stockinette I figured I should do something to add interest.  So I put in a row of bobbles.  It didn’t seem enough to have just one row, so I went nuts with it :>

bird's-eye view

What do you think? Is Becky now going to think I’m calling her a clown??


January 14th, 2007

click for 1000 pixels wide

I’ve let it slip here and there that I’ve nailed down gainful employment, but it’s high time I let you guys see the BEAUT, VY WELL MAINT (INT IMMAC) job site, in its woodsy glory.

I work for a magazine!  Of course they call it a “book”, but it’s a weekly, in newsprint.  Residents of New England will recognize it immediately, but in view of my policy not to disturb unduly certain corporate websurfers (viz. Big Why PR Department), I’m choosing not to use the company name.  Before you celebrate/lament the idea of my creative writing having finally found a venue, I should state that the magazine is comprised entirely of want ads!  Oh, and it has standard ads too, in the form of commercial advertising for auto dealers, boat shows, real estate offices, etc.

The incredible thing about this particular weekly listing of ads is… that it operates on the honor system!  And it’s working, for 50 years now.  (I’m sure the corporate guys have the intellectual property angle covered, so I would venture a guess that using the same business model in another region is probably possible but would involve some red tape.)  I remember when the magazine was the size of TV Guide, and it was pretty much a standard fixture in everyone’s bathroom :>  Everything was (and is) in there, including kitchen sinks; even if you’re not in the market for anything, reading the ads is a real hoot.

Some are sad: WEDDING ITEMS (pretty much a complete setup for the reception), which wouldn’t be so bad unless you noticed that the same phone number is listed for ENGAGEMENT RING.  (Somebody done her wrong.)

And then there’s “1987 OLDS CUTLASS.  Looks 85% restored.”  That’s what matters, right?

Here’s what I get to do: I call customers and ask whether their items have sold, and if not, I ask whether they’d like us to run their ads for 3 more weeks.  Virtually all of them are happy–nay, grateful–that I called, and almost everyone renews, because it’s no additional charge.  When the item sells, they pay us.  And they really do!

I get to enter new ads occasionally.  Once out of training, one of my first was for a Harley Night Rider.  Aside from having to scramble to find the “Motorcycles, H-D” category, I had to ask the guy to repeat one phrase several times: I was hearing it as “8 hangers”….  He didn’t elaborate, and I was too embarrassed to admit that once again it wasn’t making sense to me – so after he hung up, I checked out previous issues.  Ape hangers (those tall handlebars that make the rider look like an ape)!

I was afraid that the ambience of outbound calling might remind me of a high school language lab setup, but the ergonomics are totally smokin’.  It’s true that my weight fluctuates, but that is not me, below – my desk is off to the right, out of frame.  (And I, of course, am behind the camera.)

banners, crepe paper & balloons optional

The chairs are comfy and huge, and we each have plenty of space, great lighting, a file drawer and padded cube walls (family snapshots are almost a requirement :> ).  AND, free coffee.  With actual (free!) cream in the fridge!  {{{swoon}}}

See how woodsy it is?  Here, across from the main entrance, is the path to hidden (but a stone’s throw) additional parking lots.  Notice the hitchin’ post.

some of the pines are twice as tall as what shows

As you might imagine, I often hitch myself to it.

those aren't my ashes, though.

Here’s the base.  I don’t know why I get such a kick out of it, but I’ve never seen this model before, and it works really well.  I absolutely love the name – for once, not an admonishment to cease smoking, but a SmokyBearesque reminder to prevent forest fires.

There's a hatch in the base for emptying it

I get to commune with nature :-}

quirky configuration, for a white pine

This company reminds me of a baby Digital [Equipment Corporation].  There are corporate trappings, of course (a time clock), but the whole vibe is honor system.  No “Mother may I” about bio breaks, and there are generous rewards for those lucky enough to be voted – by their peers, not by management – employee of the quarter or year.  Aside from a cash prize, and their photograph mounted on a plaque in the reception area, winners get a perk carried over from the company’s old location.

you can even see the lot I use, above the Employee of the Year sign

At their old digs, the parking lot extended away from the building, so it was pretty kewl to get a space up front for the tenure of your award.  Here, the parking lots surround the building, cleverly tucked away in the pines, so there really aren’t any bad spaces.

Yuki even has a parking buddy!

'Does yours ride the clutch?' 'No, but she's stingy with the antifreeze'

today’s color is chartreuse

January 6th, 2007

deadly beauty

Just because you guys haven’t been getting enough bad news from me, here’s the latest: Yuki is a coolant-aholic.  Apparently there’s a leak in either the radiator (oh NOOOOOO) or one of the hoses, which we discovered when she suddenly redlined on New Year’s Eve day.

Luckily, Jef was with me, and we were able to pull into a supermarket parking lot.  Equally fortuitous were the facts that the Price Chopper was open and that it actually carried antifreeze!  I was driving Jef to work, because his car has been refusing to start, and this unscheduled pit stop made us only ten minutes late.

the view as I returned with a gallon of antifreeze

Sunday’s shift was only four hours long, so the consensus was that I hang out in the store until quittin’ time.  This gave me ample opportunity to devise and fulfill a photographic challenge!  I’ve always thought that, no matter what the setting, there’s at least one good photograph hiding somewhere.  I went out back and tried to get artsy with the urban landscape.

First on the agenda was actually someone else’s art.  The music store where Jef works is right next door to a Worcester landmark of kitsch: Coney Island Hot Dogs (this makes it easy for the guys to give directions to Union Music).  I’m not a big fan of tube steak, but I find it hilarious that CIHD is two states away from the original Coney Island; plus, the word on the street is that their hot dogs RULE.  I might even be persuaded to sample their fare, since they actually use a grill rather than vats of dingy water.  Until I do break down and try one, though, Coney Island’s main attraction for me is the mural on the back of its building.  The cream-washed architectural details knock me out, as well as the turquoise door :-)

I love the peach glow from Union Music's wall

I’ll say it before you do: camera shake, and also: fuzzy focus.  This is the Florentine tower on Worcester City Hall.  I like the foreground rooftops, and I love the surprise of finding a seagull on the right of the frame: Worcester is about 30 miles from the coast!

flag at half-staff: Gerald Ford

This phenomenon stopped me in my tracks.  Hope springs eternal!  I’m sure that’s not a resurrection of the former tree but some opportunistic urban fungus which will eventually take over the world.  Still: green stuff fighting for life, with snow on the ground!  I like the splashes of coral, but we won’t dwell on the nature of those accents.

I tell myself it's seagull barf

Here we enter the semi-abstract realm. Coney/Union’s “back yard” has been visited by some very creative electricians over the years, in my opinion, and I just love the loopy craziness.  (You don’t wanna know how many Eccentric Wire Abstracts I’ve captured.)

an atypical color palette, for me

Okay, one more.

Honey, does this switch do anything?  How about now?

I saw this pigeon fly into the triangular cubby where, apparently, her innumerable chicks were conducting an all-out war.  She emerged to take a break from the kids, and I had to make a try for the shot.  Bad photography, but I love it anyway.

I swear she's posing for me!

Urban bleakness with a certain beauty.

can you tell I love shadows?

My memory card approached max, the sun finally went down, and we filled the radiator one more time for the trek home.  The bizarre thing is that the coolant reservoir remains full, and the heat gauge stays at a happy medium for up to 15 miles.  Once I turn her off, though, she waits five seconds and morphs into a dragon.

Mmmm, the sweet smell of gaseous antifreeze on New Year's Eve....

to be continued

December 24th, 2006

The motherboard, she is insane.  I know how tiresome these BSoD posts are for (both of) my readers, but yup!  It happened again!  (And again, and….)  Our assumption had been that my hard drive had some inscrutable damage or virus, and we kept carving out new partitions from its vast unused space to use as a new C drive, after each crash.  I became an exemplary user, running NOD32 antivirus, defragging every day, avoiding unknown sites, refusing to install plug-ins, etc., but there would always come a day when the PC “couldn’t find” the hard disk  :-\

This time, we installed a previous hard disk and it ran for 4 boots before it “couldn’t be found”.  We had suspicions about that one, so Jef installed a known good hard drive – and the PC couldn’t find it either.

I got the 1999 laptop out of retirement, gave it a long-overdue defrag, and it rolled over and died!  That one’s understandable.  But we’ve finally come to the conclusion that the PC’s motherboard has been lying to us all this time, and if we’re right, I’m relieved as well as annoyed.  I have CD backups of most of my photos, but for now I can’t download or post any new ones (I don’t want to install software on Jef’s computer).  The killer is that just before the crash I made an Excel sheet identifying all the shots on the CDs – and didn’t print it.  Soooo many non-blog documents I really want/need to access, too, but if the hard drive’s okay, they’re not lost forever.

Happy holidays, everyone :> and I’ll keep you posted.  Not reading blogs now as I really don’t want to hog Jef’s computer time.  A bientôt….

the Big Why one-armed bandit, and other random pix

December 10th, 2006

Before the PR department spends another 4 hours investigating my Big Why photojournalism, I hereby state that this time I asked permission from the cashier (Christina, apparently) to take the picture, and she gave it freely.  (She asked if it was my first win, and I confessed, “No, but it’s the first win when I had a camera hanging around my neck.”)

the streaky whiteness is totally not my Canon's fault

What This Tells Us About Yez:

  • I am the winnah-winnah!*
  • I’m self-indulgent (four, count ’em, four, chocolate items), yet
  • I buy local products
    • NECCO: New England Confectionery COmpany
    • Jingle in New England: “Brown eggs/are local eggs/and local eggs are fresh!”
  • I’m wide-awake – or will be, when I get home and brew that Valu Time coffee.  34.5 ounces!  I’m thinking they can afford to sell it for that because they excised the unneeded E.
  • I can spot a baaahgin (saved over 25%!)
  • Also, I am clean.

It’s really a one-finger bandit.  Once your Big Why card has been scanned, you may use the touch screen to satisfy that gambling addiction, although it’s not gambling, since it’s a free game, and the payoff is a plastic coin:

the face says 'thanks for your loyalty' :-}

So it’s not really a bandit either.  Whatev.

Stuff I see when I’m mo’orin’ in my cah:

in Greenfield, MA, though the sign must be the work of a New Bri'ain, CT native

I saw this bumper sticker today when I stopped for… yeah.  Cigarettes.

so light up and CHILL, people!

Words To Live By Dept.:



*Only Alex will get this on first sight – one day we were listening to a radio contest, and when a woman won, she exclaimed to the deejay, “I AM the winnah-winnah?”  An instant household buzz phrase was born.