She’s Baaack

My friend S who suffered a head injury is recovering well. In fact I spoke to her today and she is back to work and sounding like her old (well she did just turn 40) self. 

There is such a fine line between disaster and a temporary inconvenience. I always wonder why it goes well for some and not for others. S will have a great story to tell the rest of her life but it could have been different. There are hoards of people happy that this one went her way.

The Onion:Tears of Joy

onions.jpgOne of the great side benefits of going to Austin was reconnecting with The Onion. The print version provides the front end of a free paper that also includes local culture and entertainment listings.

I forgot how enjoyable well written, biting satire can be. The writers are outstanding. The hits are uproarious and the misses few. My fav title from the two issues I read was “Even CEO Can’t Figure Out How Radioshack Still In Business”. The article brought more tears than chopping a Vidalia ever did.

Sometimes satire can hit close to home. An article titled “Area Woman’s Day Ruined By Bangs” brought a smile to my wife even as she recognized a bit of herself in the story. Before I could rub it in she pointed out “If Someone Wanted To Publish My Blog Entries For Money, I Wouldn’t Say No”. Ouch.

Whether in print, online or in podcast, check in on The Onion from time to time. I should only become so clever– then maybe someone would pay me to do this.

 PS For those of you who want to better understand why chopping onions brings tears, this is from Wikipedia

“As onions are sliced, cells are broken, allowing enzymes called alliinases to break down sulfides and generate sulfenic acids (amino acid sulfoxides). Sulphenic acids are unstable and decompose into a volatile gas called syn-propanethial-S-oxide. The gas dissipates through the air and eventually reaches the eye, where it reacts with the water to form a dilute solution of sulfuric acid. This acid irritates the nerve endings in the eye, making them sting. Tear glands produce tears to dilute and flush out the irritant.

I was a Living Dilbert Cartoon

dilbert-04.jpgTwice this week. First, I was told I had to write a proposal for a piece of work we could not win. This has been a 4 man day effort so far and will eat up more time next week. The sales guy agrees with my logic that we cannot win since in this one niche area we are far less qualified than other companies.

Yet… how can we not, says he. This is a big important company. The story goes on and on over several days. The sales guy gets other people to agree with him. None of these people are going to be putting in any time writing this thing. So now, if I refuse I am branded as uncooperative and will be shut off from other sales opportunities. Several days of my life will be spent being unproductive when I have actual revenue generating work to do instead.

The very next day even more fun ensued. The Admin Assistant that reports to me (lets call her Madame X) transfers to another department. Mind you she is not my AA but since she had to report to someone, she was assigned to me. It becomes my job to find new AA support for the eight people who used to use Madame X. There are 5 other AAs in the department and my boss tells me 3 have some capacity.

So how many senior people does it take to screw in a light bulb? Being the silly and naive guy I am, I think I should go to the AAs and ask them what their capacity is and find out who they might be able to take on. To avoid politics, so I thought, I copied their managers on a memo asking if I could meet with each AA individually and discuss what they might be able to do. Apparently I was the only one who thought that women between the ages of 40-60 should be treated as adults.

Within minutes 6 emails appear on my computer insisting that it is folly, folly I say, to have AAs make these decisions. We the managers must meet to make such important decisions. Two of these emails came from people with global responsibilities and one with regional responsibilities. Only one of the six voiced confidence that a 25 year veteran– meaning me– and the AAs could work this out. The thought that seven high level people who should be paying attention to customers needed to meet about this threw me into a fury. What BS. Fortunately before I went postal, my boss came by to ask if she could take this task off my hands.

I have worked my entire career for large companies. I expect some amount of bureaucracy. Mostly though I expect some Corporate type to make some decision that makes the life of the people in the field miserable. When it happens with others in the “family” it is beyond my comprehension.

Does Scott Adams take ideas for the strip?

Head Exploding

explosion.jpgWell not yet but it seems as if it may happen any moment. Three times this week I have been so angry that a nuclear explosion became the very next step. CSI would have had to scrape grey matter off surfaces for miles in all directions.

I seem to have no safety valve or relaxation technique that works for me. I surmise that this is because for much of my life I had a calm soul.  My body and mind  never built the coping mechanisms others have.  If I am in a position to leave the source of the irritation, I will go walk it off. However, this requires walking for several miles until exhaustion sets in. Not always an alternative.

I am open to suggestions though drugs, legal or not, will not be considered. Alcohol maybe, but up to now I have not been much of a drinker. I have tried deep breaths and yoga to no avail. Surely someone has a solution.

TIME OFF ROCKS

Ok, maybe the all caps is overkill. But with the exception of the last week of 2006 when I was sick as a dog I have not taken time since last June. Way too long ago.

Ya know how when you hurt your back and at first it is killer but you accomodate the pain so you can get through the day and it goes on for a long time but at some time it goes heals and the pain is gone. Ya know that feeling when you remember what it was like to be pain free and how much more you can do and what a joy it is that it doesn’t hurt any more. Ya know that feeling. That was how I felt for 4 1/2 days.

Away from work–mostly– and away from the stresses of everyday living.  Being able to stay out late because you can sleep late the next morning. Rushing only when you want to and savoring slow, quiet moments when you choose. Hanging out with your wife when the hard choices are what fun thing do next or do we just lay around for awhile. Amazing barely captures the sentiment.

Note to self. More time off. More often. Go more places. Should I forget, someone out there please remind me.

The Austin Music Scene

I estimate that there are more musicians per capita in Austin than any other major city. Sure there are a large number of clubs to go to with music of all genres on a particular night. Beyond that though the place is like being in a musical; you’re never sure where or when  a song will break  out.

For example, we went to a place for bar-b-que that was recommended by several people. The food ended up being awful. Everything from the meats to the side dishes were a disaster. The evening was saved by singer/songwriter Abi  Tapia and her band. Abi has a strong voice and some great tunes. She played for an hour, for tips.

Sunday around noon we went to our new favorite coffee place, Austin Java.  They have a small outdoor patio where we read the Sunday paper and listened to a very good jazz trio consisting of a metallophone (a xylophone with metal bars), drum and electric bass.

The clubs were filled with great music.  Friday night we spent at the Broken Spoke which has a forty plus year tradition of hosting country music. We know that because the original owner came to the stage, gave us the story and then sang for the crowd. The performer for the night was Dale Watson, a successful second tier country singer with a strong, smooth baritone voice. His five piece band played traditional country for at least the three hours we stayed (one 15 minute break).  He was great but people watching was even better.

The Broken Spoke has a large dance floor in the middle of the building leading right up to the stage. Tables for eating and drinking were on either side of the dance floor. There were some fine 3 steppers on the floor. My favorites included the older (60 +) gent who asked every single young woman to dance. They all seemed happy to be dancing with a talented dancer. There was the young Asian woman who was asked to dance by several guys until the one who seemed to be her boyfriend stepped up and kept her busy the rest of the night. There was a 50ish couple that elegantly glided across the floor and the early thirties couple that needed to do major twirls every other step. I think the kids thought they were cool but the Elegants out-classed them by far. My absolute favorite was the guy, several inches over 6 foot, with the top knot (think John Belushi doing his samurai character) and blue jeans covered by black leather chaps. It was quite the crowd!

Our last night of music consisted of a double header.  Elana James and the Continental Two followed by the Mother Truckers.  Western swing is probably the best categorization of Elana James’ music. The trio consisted of Elana on lead vocals and fiddle, a phenomenal guitar player in the Django Reinhardt mode and a stand up bass player that could not have been older than 21. (In fact I am sure I saw his mom come to take him home).  All three of them had some of the fastest hands ever gifted to mortals. The music was fast and fun.

Two hours later we were treated to the country rock of the Mother Truckers. They rocked the house but we were tired and only stayed for a few songs.  I think my spouse got her fill of country music.  (I have to admit my embarrassment of not getting the joke in the band’s title for the first 30 minutes or so. The double entendre part of my brain is on the fritz.)

Our last night in Austin we were considering taking in the well known venue of Antones. However, none of the Fly Wheel, Kill Hannah or Sick Puppies seemed a draw for us. Good thing about Austin though is that all types of music are there for the finding.

Austin: First Impressions

Austin is My Kind of Town (imagine Sinatra singing this song in the background but with a modest country twang). It has music,  natural beauty–on the edge of Texas hill country–good city structure, museums, great parks, a major university–go Longhorns– and the state capital.

The rhythm of Austin is that of a good country ballad. People are casual, friendly and low key. The locals talk about this in part being due to the continuing hippie influence. Sure enough there were ponytails on men from young to old. People were patient. No honking at cars or people, pedestrians and cyclists given the right of way. Every one we asked was happy to help with suggestions on restaurants, places to see and music venues. After an intense week within a  fairly intense existence, this easy going nature of the place was reinvigorating.

I could hang out here a lot. Several place we went had bands playing including the outdoor section of a restaurant at dinner time and the coffee place on Sunday at noon. (BTW, Austin Java’s latte’s were vastly superior to Starbuck’s and they seve real food and the occasional live music.)  Having a slow, casual breakfast with live music and then finding good hiking 15 minutes away is a somewhat unique combination.

If for no other reason I need to go back to test my biking legs on those rolling hills. So much to do…so little time.