I just set my alarm clock for the last time…

I mean I’ve set it to my new workday wakeup time of 6:30 a.m. instead of the 5:30 intrusion that has alarmed me for most of the past two years.

Gone are the days of being startled awake at such a ridiculous hour. Because tomorrow I start my next career adventure…

After a really difficult decision that forced me to choose between two very different job offers, I chose the path most people would not. Are you surprised?

Mind you, the first step in the process of choosing either one was to decide whether I could leave full-time contracting for the first time in nine years. After being my own boss (more or less) under my dba, FineLines, for as long as any single full-time job I’ve ever had, it’s huge to think of giving up that independence.
It’s also “great” to ponder giving up paying for my own health insurance…

It’s hard to think about not having those breaks of time off between contracts.
It’s equally difficult to imagine actually being paid when you take time off…

Given that my 90-year-old mother will be moving to live near me soon, it would be nice, I reasoned, to have a constant job schedule for a change, so my care giving also can be predictable. Having a steady income in the countdown years to Social Security benefits is another point in favor of going full-time, right?

One significant drawback of taking a full-time job is that it would make it kinda difficult (but not impossible) to cling to my unemployment shtick/persona. This blog would never have been started without the recurring theme of joblessness throughout my career. I have so much material yet to blog about!

But with all this and other factors, I have almost convinced myself that becoming a captive again is the best choice right now. Actually, I was hoping to make this my last job choice ever before retirement (which is still not going to be in this decade), but I’m not quite ready to say there might not be other possibilities to consider at some point.

Good then. My brain is tricked into thinking that this decision doesn’t have to be forever. Ah, that feels a little less scary.

Now to consider which opportunity to embrace, which path to take? The two could not be more different.

There’s the corporate job with big industry, the type of job that years ago, I would have expected and wanted to end up in. I’ve been contracting for this company the better part of two years, and so it would almost be like just a continuation of what I’m used to… such as getting up at 5:30 in the morning? Ooh, no, thanks.

But it’s actually a pretty exciting program to work on, one that has international significance and requires a SECRET security clearance. OMG! How cool would that be?

The other opportunity is with a non-profit. Right away you know that spells less money, right? Yep, it’s true. But I have an established work relationship with this organization, too. I’ve been doing work for them on a freelance basis for more than a year. And doggonit, but I enjoy the type of work I’ve been doing. I love the work they do, which is equally engaging if not yet international in impact. And I’d be working from home. Throw the annoying alarm clock out the window!

Still, I owed it to myself to consider all aspects–or as many as I could think of–of both, pros and cons, tradeoffs and negotiations, which I mulled over and fretted over, lost sleep over. But the more I compared them, the less different they seemed. On the subject of employee benefits, I was surprised to discover that they seemed to be on a par. When time ran out, I had to just make a decision. Turn one down; accept the other.

Here’s the serendipitous if not ironic part: the big industry enterprise is a corporate sponsor of the little non-profit.

When I walked out of the office of big industry on Thursday, I still didn’t know if I’d made the right choice. Who in their right mind turns them down? Why, me of course.

So tomorrow I start my latest career adventure working right here in my home office. You see, this way, my brain will be tricked into thinking that I’m still an independent. We can ease into the realization of this full-time employee thing later. Much later than 5:30 a.m.  …

I thought this was MY birthday?

I am already cursed by having a birthday when everybody else but me gets flowers and other sweet overtures. But I was awakened to this year’s birth day by the mother of my birth, who after offering the initial birthday greeting, went on to dump on me her frustrations with her obstinate husband of the day before. OK, that’s no different from any other time we talk… But this is my birthday! After going on a bit about that, her parting sentiment was about how one of my sisters is going back to work Monday after being on leave, and she’s sure she’s going to be fired.

Happy Birthday, Paula.

Later I had lunch with that same sister. I have to give her major points for arranging several days in advance of today to buy me lunch. I am entirely grateful for her thoughtfulness in this gesture, knowing that her finances don’t really allow for such an extravagance.

But she, too, used our time together to dump on me about her problems. Dredging up her hurts from a past marriage, from her childhood!, and from her present-day work situation (that she thinks she’s going to be fired from).

Happy Birthday, Paula.

She didn’t ask me anything about what’s going on with me since we last talked (and we don’t talk often due to constraints on her end). I had to interject a thing or two from my own frustrations. But it seemed pointless. My problems don’t come close to hers (thank God).

Surely, this is not what I get for MY birthday?! I want do-overs!

When I got home, I found that the mail brought no birthday greetings at all. However, I noticed that a flower pot on the porch had been moved. Hm, I know I didn’t do that…

Upon investigating, I saw the reason. The pot had been moved to help camouflage a greeting card and protect it from blowing away or being otherwise vanished from my porch.

With good reason. The card was from my step-brother, who had gone out of his way to stop by on MY birthday, and it included a $100 bill.

I haven’t heard from the other two siblings (yet?). But the contrast among the various things I was “given” by my family today is striking! There are too many inferences, implications, and analyses rife to go off on here…

But all that aside, it’s my birthday, and I rather prefer the gift that came with no burdens attached. I would have preferred it, even if it came with no money at all. On My birthday.

It’s only one day. It’s supposed to be mine.

Recycling My Last Post

I’m told that my last post, Time to Recycle the English Language, did not come across at all as I intended. Indeed, the complete lack of response was telling. It was a joke, people! But I guess I did a lousy job of making that obvious, and I’ve been so embarrassed at my failure that I haven’t dared to opine to this tough audience again. Until now.

Because I discovered something that makes me think maybe it wasn’t a joking matter after all. Merriam-Webster has confessed that they do remove words from the dictionary! My idea wasn’t so far-fetched.

If you use m-w.com to look up words, then you’re familiar with the annoying if not informative talking head editors in the video clips called “Ask the Editor.” (You know – the ones that make the page take so long to load…) In each of these spots, one of Merriam-Webster’s editors expounds on some topic related to words, their usage, their history, and all sorts of obscure facts about them.

Recently, I caught Peter Sokolowski, M-W Editor-at-Large, in a piece titled, “Why Words Get Cut from the Dictionary.” What was that? You mean, uh, I was right? He began by saying, “What happened to snollygoster, hodad, frutescent, and more?” and went on to say, “To make room for new words, some obsolete words need to be removed.” (I told you we were running out of space in the English vocabulary!)

He gave the following reasons for “cutting” a word: “the thing a word names has long ceased to be used” (especially in the case of nouns) “or the word itself has become dated.” (Didn’t I tell you that “thrice” was useless?)

He continued, “Most words that are dropped are scientific or technical terms.” (Hm, scientists have been known to make up a new word for the original made-up term.) “Terms made up of two or more words are especially vulnerable.” (keypunch?)

But “thee and thou remain because Shakespeare and the Bible are still a part of our current linguistic culture.” Sigh. I guess that means thrice has also been saved from the editor’s sword. Well, snollygoster!

 

P.S. It appears that M-W has also removed, cut, deleted, archived the video upon which I sought to save face here. I promise, I did not make this up! But now, you probably think this post is the real joke…

Time to Recycle the English Language

According to a May 19, 2014 article in Time magazine, Merriam-Webster “revealed 150 new words that will be added to its collegiate dictionary this year, ranging from ‘hashtag’ and ‘catfish’ to ‘dubstep’ and ‘crowdfunding,’ most of which speak to some intersection of pop culture, technology and the Internet.”

Never mind my personal opinion as to the usefulness of these new words, I wonder, can our collective vocabulary handle any more “new” words? Do we really need more words?! Do we not have enough already with which to express ourselves? Can we not communicate clearly and intelligently with all the words we already have?

I fear that our English language vocabulary is the ultimate representation of text bloat. It conjures up images of “The Blob” that never stops growing and consumes all of us in its insidious infiltration of our culture. We cannot stop it nor run from it.

Yeah, I guess we don’t have any choice about the constant ooze of new words into our language given that “pop culture, technology, and the Internet” will continue to intersect and branch and morph. So what’s to be done? How are we to cope without being overrun by our own verbosity?

I have a solution, radical though it may be. I propose that we declare the ~1.5 million entries now contained in Merriam-Webster Unabridged as critical mass. That should be adequate, don’t you think?

But because the populace—not just the word nerds among us—will not be happy if they are no longer allowed to make up words because they don’t know how to use the ones they already have, my plan is this. For every batch of new words that M-W gives credence to, they must reduce the lexicon by the same number of words.

Think about it. We must contain the blob. But we will use a measured, systematic approach. Just as M-W accepts for consideration submissions of new words from the masses (“user-submitted words”), M-W will also accept nominations for words to be removed from the dictionary. I mean, can’t you think of a number of words that you haven’t thought of in years? When was the last time you used or heard the word “thrice” for example? Indeed it seems pretty useless these days. I’ll go first. I nominate “thrice” for deletion!

But sure as the word disappears silently, someone will go looking for it and raise a stink because they can’t find it. So in my plan, I propose an interim phase before words are collectively forgotten for good. Let’s archive them first. We move the nominated and M-W approved words subject to deletion to an Archive folder for a specified period while we get used to the idea of speaking, writing, and composing poetry without them. In Blob terms, we put them on ice, which proved to be the only way to stop the menace. This also provides saving grace just in case we change our minds about a particular word we just can’t part with. However, everyone knows that once you put something in Archive, you can never find it again anyway.

So as agreed, when the archive period is up, the words will be unceremoniously swept into the Recycle Bin by a process that runs during the night. I’m guessing we won’t miss them at all. We’ll just make up new ones.

Nuts!

Conscientious consumer that I am, after having a surprisingly uncharacteristic experience with a particular product recently, I felt compelled to bring it to the attention of the company. I wrote the following letter in hopes that they would tell me I really wasn’t nuts.

Dear Nut People:

I write to you regarding a recent purchase of your Emerald Sweet & Salty Mixed Nuts (9 oz).

I am sorry to say that I was disappointed in the product, which was not up to your usual standards. Although I really like the taste of um, the product purported to be within the plastic container (aka your nuts), I am not overly fond of the taste nor texture of the plastic container itself.

Enclosed please find the product label as proof of purchase, along with the unexpected sample of the plastic container material, which I am no doubt fortunate to have not ingested! Indeed my delicate palate recognized it immediately as a manufacturing process faux pas. It was totally lacking in flavor and its texture resembled nothing nut-like at all!

Please forgive me if I have gone nuts over this, but I’m thinking the traumatic surprise I endured entitles me at the least to a lifetime supply of Emerald nuts! Despite the trauma and mental anguish this has caused me, I am nonetheless capable of being completely reasonable so as to allow you to determine the type(s) of nuts and the frequency/quantity in which I find myself nuts.

As stated, I included the product label and the actual offending bit of green plastic (same as the container material) as enclosures. Visual and tactile aids never go out of style.

My goal of course was to score some free nuts! and to have some fun in the process.

My efforts were rewarded promptly, if not in the same spirit of fun. Within two person-weeks or something like less than 10 business days, I received the following response by mail:

Thank you for your recent letter concerning Emerald Sweet and Salty Original Blend.

Diamond Foods is proud of its reputation for high-quality food products. Our strict quality-control standards, special processing equipment and continual quality checks help to ensure a product that is free from any undesirable material. Therefore, we are at a loss to explain the foreign matter you found. We have notified both our Quality Control and Production Departments of your experience.

We apologize for the quality problem you encountered and any inconvenience you experienced. We appreciate you bringing this to our attention. Enclosed is a refund. We hope you will replace your product and continue to enjoy our Diamond Foods products.

Encl. Emerald Snack Product Coupon 2

Score! The “Emerald Snack Product Coupon 2” enclosure was actually three coupons – two for free products and a third for $1.00 off.

Sigh… These nut people chose to acknowledge my complaint but not my creativity. I suppose you could say, what do you expect from a company of nuts?

On the other hand, I suspect that they privately enjoyed what they politically correctly ignored. And so my work here is done.

 

 

I don’t even know what to call this

“T is for Thursday”? “T is for Turtle”? “The last Thing I could have Thought of that I’d have to deal with Tonight”?

Help me out here. My Thoughts are all over the place from a quite unexpected event this evening, and I can’t seem to hone in on what it “means” or what I think about it. Yet, I’m pretty sure there’s a blog post here somewhere. So without too many interruptions (of which there have been a couple), I just want to throw this experience out there to you while it’s immediate post-real-time.

Today is my “Friday” this week, because I’m off tomorrow. I came home with little intention for this evening, except to gear up for the “other” work I need to accomplish this three-day weekend and perhaps get some rest in advance, because I seem to have come down with a cold.

So I’m putzing around – you know – the little stuff you need to accomplish, but which serves the important purpose of helping you avoid doing the big stuff you really need to do. I unlocked the back gate so I could transport recyclables from my garage to the recycle bin in the backyard. I had made three or four trips to the backyard, when upon my return to the garage, I was greeted by a complete surprise. A most unusual visitor. An incredulous creature, the likes of which I have never seen around here in my 20+ years of residence.

A huge turtle was sitting in front of my garage opening as if he/she had come to call. When I say “huge,” I mean about 10 inches long and 7 inches wide. It gave me a start! Where could it have come from? I’m guessing that someone’s pet has escaped? I went next door to get my neighbor to attest to the fact that I was not hallucinating.

But what am I to do? I don’t want it to come to harm. We agreed that I should call Animal Control. Upon which the turtle crawled on over the threshold of my garage and under my car.

I’m thinking this was the smartest move on the part of the Turtle. I had no plans to go out again tonight, so the fact that it stopped squarely under the path of my tires is not an issue to me. Indeed, it was a brilliant move by my new friend, the Turtle, who by now is confident in my intentions toward him, my desire to shield him from harm, but just in case, this “check” move eliminates any revision of my travel plans for the evening.

I waited on hold to speak with Fort Worth Animal Control for some time after placing the call. In the interim, I was able to check on my friend to see if he had perhaps changed course. Nope, I was happy to see that he was still sitting in the same safe spot under my car. When someone finally answered, she shared my amazement at the probability of my Thursday Turtle Tourist visit. As she wrote up a dispatch order for Animal Control, I asked whether I should close my garage door so as to keep Turtle from venturing out from the safety of my intentions. She agreed that I should, because she was reporting that I had the animal “contained.”

I am now not only a shelter in the storm, a friend in time of need, a chosen refuge from whatever Turtle came from, but also I am an officer responsible for the legal protection and restraint of wildlife!

For how long, I did not know. Good thing that “I came home with little intention for this evening.”

When my phone rang, I also saw the Code Compliance truck in front of my house. First, I opened the kitchen door into the garage to check on my captive. In the meantime, he had moved and was practically sitting on the doorstep to enter my house! While this startled me yet again, I was gratified that he still seemed to trust and seek my intentions for his care.

I yelled to the Code Compliance officer that I would open the garage door where he could easily find and apprehend the Turtle. The officer was able to walk right in and pick up my friend, upon which he noticed blood on one of his front legs. My Thursday Turtle had been injured!

Now I know why Turtle sought me out, right? Its Turtle-tuition led him to me at a rare moment when I would find him, and find compassion on him.

So that’s my Thursday Turtle Story. I’m pretty sure there’s a blog post here somewhere, but I need your help to make sense of it… or not.

 

To Lynn on Her Birthday

Dear Sweet Friend:

For this birthday, you will be getting the gift of life in a brand new body. The physical health and restoration your time on earth does not allow, you will receive in divine style. For what compensation your employers have long withheld, you are being promoted over their heads!

And yet, this is not the way you planned or expected things to go. It’s not what I expected for you either. And I’m selfishly disappointed that I won’t get to see you triumph over your many challenges in this life. But triumph you will in the next.

I just have one request. Will you write to me and let me know how you’re doing over there?

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