Monday, March 30, 2009

How the rest of us are feeling, Mr. DeSantis

Last week the New York Times published a letter from Jake DeSantis, an executive vice president for A.I.G.

It was a pretty slick move. He's a honorable employee rat resigning leaving a sinking ship and donating his bonus to charity trying to make himself look good to potential employers.

Anyhow, this guy, Matt Tabbi, wrote a response that captures how us regular Americans are feeling.

Money quote:

"Only a person with a habitually overinflated sense of self-worth could think he deserves a $700,000 retention bonus, even if it has to be paid by taxpayers, when in reality no one "deserves" that much money. It may be that some people do get paid that much, but most people who make that much money have enough sense to realize their cushy lifestyles are an accident of fate, of birth, of class, not something that is "supported" by some unwritten natural law of compensation.

Hey Jake, it's not like you were curing cancer. You were a fucking commodities trader. Thanks to a completely insane, horribly skewed set of societal values that puts a premium on greed and severely undervalues selflessness, communal spirit and intellectualism -- values that make millionaires out of people like you and leave teachers and nurses, the people who raise your kids and clean your parents' bedpans, comparatively penniless -- you made a lot of money."

I am listening to: The news
I am reading: It again, it's that good
And I am: Glad someone said it

Friday, March 27, 2009

No phone no pool no pets

“Just say no?” asks Mom.

“Yes,” I say. “Oops, I mean NO.”

“Really. Okay. Will you learn to cook?”


“Will you drive to Michigan to see me tonight?”


“Will you call yourself a Christian?”

This week’s assignment: Just say no.

Saying no ain’t easy.

So we say yes to avoid conflict or hurt feelings and we end up resentful and stressed.

I used to be more of a yes person.

No shit, Hedy, we’ve heard the stories.


Now I’m slowly getting more comfortable with no. It’s still a bit of a struggle for me because I like helping people – it’s one of the main reasons I enjoy my job so much.

But I’ve learned that saying yes all the time gets me into trouble because there are only so many hours in the day and if I say yes to everyone and everything, chances are something’s gonna slip.
We tend to soften our no’s. Do you do this?

“I’d love to, but I’ve got this thing…”

“No I can’t today, but maybe we could…”

When they’re truthful, these excuses are okay. The danger is when we tell Big Whopping Lies to avoid saying no.

No by itself. No without excuses. No without qualifiers.

The Power of No is enough.
The other unexpected bonus of learning about the Power of No is that I’m learning to accept hearing it as well.

I’m not taking no personally.

I can let myself feel disappointed but it’s not wrecking my day like I’m some two year old throwing a tantrum.
The other part of the assignment was the Silent No. Someone might not ask you out right for help, but they’re telling you a story with the goal of getting you to offer.

I like this version of no better than saying it. But it's sneakier and less powerful.
Okay, the fact is, I’m struggling with this assignment.

Mostly because the majority of people who ask me for stuff are at work and it’s my job to do things for them.

I almost said no yesterday. I punted.

A sales rep stopped by my desk to pick my brain about a big client meeting she’s got next week and I was in the middle of customizing a PowerPoint deck for another sales rep who’s got an equally big client meeting next week.

“We should talk about the BI work we’ve done in healthcare and see if it’s enough to fill a slide, whaddaya think?”

I already know it’s not enough; it’s why we don’t have one yet.

I could feel the tension rise from my shoulders into my neck and finally settle in directly behind my eyeballs.

It was a perfect opportunity to say “NO!”

“Sounds good,” I say. “But can we talk about this tomorrow or Monday? I’m jammed right now with Adri’s thing for _____.”

So not quite a complete failure at the whole no thing. But it’s a start.
Mini good thing list:

Scottie came through surgery just fine (albeit with staples in his gourd); he called yesterday sounding rested and happy.
The biggest blessing of my life - my Mom - was born 63 years ago yesterday.
A house I have been coveting since 1992 is for sale in Geneva.
The meditation workshop in the office this week was lovely.
A really nice voice mail from Da on Tuesday.
The new BIG Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, try ‘em.
Not one, but TWO birthday cakes.
Discovering the best thing about Facebook: EVERYONE knows it’s your birthday.
Jim is home and cooking healthy meals for me.
This class -- it's nothing short of a miracle and is bringing me even closer to the people I love most.
Singing Good Morning, Good Morning with Mom this morning.
When the bus comes early.
Being the first person in the office and turning on the lights.
Getting this quote in my in box today: “We should not expect others to be like us, because life becomes really boring when we have to live with our own shadows. We should learn to respect the uniqueness in every human.
I am listening to: King of the Road – Roger Miller
I am reading: Nothing
And I am: Feeling the Friday kind of joyful

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

5 Reasons Why Numbered Lists Suck Ass

You know what I’m talking about.

The top 100 movies of all time! The top 10 sexiest beaches! The 7 best-kept secrets to a happier marriage!

Numbered lists. They’re everywhere. They’re addictive.

And they are perpetually disappointing.

I blame Casey Kasem. It’s his fault.

As a kid, I looked forward to listening to his Top 40 list all week.

And then invariably, #1 would be some lame-ass song like All Out of Love by Air Supply.
In middle school, DewMama and me would go to Musicland at Lakeside Mall and flip through 45s, adding ‘between the sheets’ after the titles.

“OHMYGOD! Do That To Me One More Time between the SHEETS!”

All Night Long between the SHEETS!”

Upside Down between the SHEETS!”

Okay, we get it, Hedy. You were an irritating pervert even back then.

Pretty much.

I recall peeing in my Calvins just a little over The Biggest Part of Me by Ambrosia. It still makes me giggle.

And yes I had to look up the Ambrosia part. I’m not that twisted.
The fact is, these lists aren’t created to actually provide five great ways to save your job life marriage money home ass – they’re designed to suck you in so that some marketing chooch can charge more for advertising.

Note to self: Create list of 5 Biggest Bullshit Marketing Tactics of All Time.
So here it is.

Five Reasons Why Numbered Lists Suck Ass

1) The Film Strip Effect – Nothing is more irritating than web sites that publish loooong lists on individual pages, forcing you to click forward to read the next item. There’ll be no skipping ahead or scanning for what’s interesting. Nope. It’s as if I’m trapped back in BEEP Mrs. Langren’s class BEEP at Atwood Elementary BEEP trying to stay awake through BEEP another monotonous film strip BEEP regarding the migratory habits of BEEP unladen African swallows.

2) The TMI Effect – There are some things about childhood that should remain sacred. And there is definitely such a thing as Too Much Information. Because of this list – 9 Corporate Attempts at Edgy that Failed Hilariously – Barbi’s emasculated arm-candy boyfriend is now Cock Ring Ken. And you may not remember this, but I sure do: KEN DOESN’T EVEN HAVE A COCK.

3) They’re Always Wrong – There's a list out there on the Internet that ranks The Simpsons as the best TV show ever. Yep. Forget All in the Family. Or M*A*S*H. Only in America could a cartoon get best TV show. And this site says the #1 movie of all time is Citizen Kane – the biggest bullshit waste of time movie I’ve ever seen in my life and that’s saying a lot since I sat through Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skullfuck last summer. Jim and I were bored one night and watched VH1’s Top 100 Hard Rock songs. Who in their right mind ranks anything by Guns N Roses over anything by Led Zeppelin, Metallica, or Black Sabbath? C’mon! He’s Ozzy-fucking-Osbourne for Christ’s sake.

4) They Just Don’t Know When to Quit – To be honest, right now I’m fresh out of ideas for 4 and 5. Yet 5 is a nice round number. And I’m committed. So this is the part where I pull something outta my ass and you start to get frustrated. See? Isn’t it amazing how that works? Every fucking time.

5) The Last Thing on the List Always Contradicts The First Thing on the List
How to get a man in 5 easy steps: #1: Tell the truth!...#5: Be Yourself!

How to do your taxes without getting audited: #1: Tell the truth!....#5: It really doesn’t matter if you tell the truth, you will be audited by those IRS fuckwads, it’s only a matter of time.

The 7 best-kept secrets to a happier marriage: #1 Tell the truth!....#7: It really doesn’t matter if you tell the truth, you will end up divorced and alone, it’s only a matter of time.

See? There ya go. Another disappointing list.

Now I'm off to work on 5 Ways to Avoid Getting Sucked Into Reading Numbered Lists.
I am listening to: 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover – Paul Simon
I am reading: Neil Steinberg in the Chicago Sun-Times
And I am: On the bus, Gus

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Why I love Jim reason #9021

"I downloaded an iPhone application to track my periods."


We're back to regularly scheduled programming tomorrow, kiddies. Have a great day.
I am listening to: True Faith - New Order
I am reading: The Shack
And I am: Relaxed

Friday, March 20, 2009

Meeting Craig Ferguson

"Let's do a quick recon mission, there's time," I say to Jim, walking up to the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan.

"Grumble, grumble, blah blah," he replies.


My friend Wesley - who holds the distinction of being my third favorite Scotsman behind Craig Ferguson and Sean Connery - told me how he stayed after one of Craig's shows in Milwaukee a while back and scored an autograph. He also talked with Craig about some odd Scottish breakfast thing called Chinese eggs which sound delicious even though I don't get the Chinese part of it since it's eggs and toast and a bit of milk all jumbled up in a cup. Anyhoo.

"This must be the Back Stage Door," I say, brilliantly pointing to the door with the hand-lettered sign that reads 'Back Stage Door.'
Our seats are nothing short of spectacular. Second row. Center.

However, because these lovely, lovely tickets are a birthday gift from Jim, I decide it will be inappropriate to throw myself and/or various undergarments on the stage.
The show is just great; my face hurts from laughing.

Craig is brilliant and funny and larger than life on stage. Everything I imagined and more.

When it's over, we dart around back and wait near a black stretch limo at the Back Stage Door. We're first. There are nearly 20 of us by the time Craig appears - looking rather tired and small and shut-down for the evening.

Yes. Tired and small and shut-down. And I immediately feel awful for keeping him beyond the show.

Here's the deal. I'm not a nervous person typically. Especially meeting new people. I can be shy, but can usually manage a friendly smile and good eye contact with a firm handshake in social situations. But I also pick up on the energy of other people quickly and tend to mirror it - it's something I can't control.

So I approach him with my head down, no smile.

"Will you have time for signing?" I ask, holding out my sweat-soaked copy of his book Between the Bridge and the River.

He doesn't smile either. He sort of scans the crowd, then nods and moves toward the limo to drop off his backpack. When he returns I say something more gruff/stupid as he signs my book, and barely manage a thank you. Then we leave.

It was one of the more disheartening moments of my life. I felt like crying.

It's silly, I know.

But he worked really hard to make us laugh that night and there were so many things that I could've said like "What a great show!" or "Thank you for making me laugh every night; the only other person to accomplish that so consistently is my husband" or "I really loved your book."

I said none of these things.

It was like letting down a really great friend. And I'm sorry.
Another thing. I like Craig more when he's smiling at me from my TV set than in person.

Not because he isn't wonderful to see in person.

But because it just seems safer and more real. Does that make sense?

With some folks it's best if they're left up there on that pedestal looking fresh and happy and funny, rather than tired and quiet and spent after a really great show.
I am listening to: Four Weddings and a Funeral
I am reading: The Shack by William P. Young
And I am: Still kinda bummed about the whole thing

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The OH NO dudes

So we met with this tech firm the other day to talk about 'partnership' opportunities.

It's been happening a lot lately - with mixed results. With some of them, you just know it's not going anywhere. Some show actual promise.

And then Monday, the OH NO dudes came to visit. Nice people. Sharp. I am still coveting their sublimely elegant PowerPoint deck.

They had me.

Then they explained their company name.

And they lost me.

"The letters on each end represent the cyclical nature of what we do, see?"


And if you take those letters away, you've got 'ONO' in the middle, which sounds an awful lot like OH NO, which is pretty much the last thing you want to hear some high-priced consultant say at the beginning, middle, or end of your IT project.

There's clever and then there's c'mon, get a grip.
I am listening to: The frogs in the pond
I am reading: My assignment for this week
And I am: More of an oh yes type of girl

Monday, March 16, 2009

What would Scottie do?

I could make what’s happening all about me.

In fact, like a selfish idiot, I did. Numbing myself all weekend with silly mindless movies and chips and French onion dip and shoe shopping and margaritas.

But now it’s Monday and today it’s all about WWSD.

What would Scottie do?

When things take a turn for the worse (like they did late last Thursday), Scottie doesn’t drink or eat too much or check out with books and movies.

He works. His ass off.

It’s his refuge. It’s how he hangs on to what’s left of normal when life takes him far from it.

For example, when skin cancer and pneumonia nearly killed him a few years ago – and he spent weeks in and out of the hospital – Scottie still had his best sales quarter ever.

It’s what he does.

So it’s what I’m doing this week.

While he’s soaking up precious time with his wife and two young sons and ‘getting his affairs in order’ and doing what you do to prepare for brain surgery to remove a cancerous lesion the Gamma knife didn’t get, I’ll be working my ass off.

Because it’s what my good friend Scottie would do.
I am listening to: Nothing
I am reading: Nothing
And I am: Hanging on to normal

Friday, March 13, 2009

It is Friday after all

So if I was going to piss and moan, this would be the week.

Jim's on the other side of the planet again (South Korea then Australia) and I've had various events/activities in the city every single night. No train, so no posts. Sorry, kiddies.

Anyhow. It is Friday after all, so I'll dispense with the p&m and focus on the good stuff:

On this day 66 years ago, my Da was born.
He got another clean bill of health from the doctor - everything benign and wonderful.
Bridget Jones' Diary - Renee looks so much happier as a chubby girl.
Snagged the spot with the broken meter right out front of my office yesterday.
Gromit does this yodeling thing when he's happy to see me.
"Why don't you go shopping this weekend?"
The refrigerator is working again.
Three up days for the Dow.
Re-connecting with more old classmates on Facebook.
The refrigerator is squeaky clean, too.
Meeting Craig Ferguson and getting his autograph (I couldn't speak; it was very embarrassing + depressing but that's a story for a non-Friday).
Clean house heading into the weekend
Billy Squier - Rock Me Tonite
Jim's new mobile takes international calls
I can burn all the lavender incense I want this week without giving Jim an asthmatic fit.
I threw together a last-minute PowerPoint deck that rocked
'Mr. Darcy'
Really really really working on a screenplay/story finally (maybe that's why no posts, too).
I'm reading over this out loud with a British accent
C'mon, do it -- throw on your best Monty Python and read aloud with me
Bowling a 52 and not winning the prize for worst bowler
I am listening to: Bridget Jones' Diary
I am reading: Nothing at the moment
And I am: 'Going to Bedfordshire'

Friday, March 06, 2009

Hippy Skippy Friday

“Are you excited?” asks Jim.

“I’m nervous. I love him. What if he’s an asshole?”

“It’ll make you appreciate me that much more, won’t it?”
Topping off this week’s list of good things:

We’re going to see my boyfriend Craig Ferguson at the Genesee Theater in Waukegan tonight. Wesley from the Train inspired me to bring a copy of Craig’s book and a Sharpie in hopes of catching an autograph. And perhaps a photo. Confession: I really hope he grabs my ass.

Other good things from the week:

Suze and me had a fabulous time on Longboat Key. I’m still giggling over the sight of her sipping a small leftover bottle of Riesling out of her sweatshirt as we’re heading to the airport with the top down.

I’m a hippy today for less than $20: I am wearing a $3 mood ring and a $12 shiny silver peace necklace from a shop in St. Armand’s Circle.

The necklace came with earrings - I can’t wear ‘em – and they looked great on Suze.

We’re second row center for Craig. It will take every tattered remnant of my self-control to keep from throwing my bra/undies/self on the stage. Really.

I am learning about the wondrous power of keeping silent.

There are specks of sand trapped in my phone case.

I was in Florida the same time as Molly and Pos. Even though we didn’t have the opportunity to connect, it felt good having them so close.

It’s sunny and warm here today and I’m wearing favorite spring jacket.

Dave over at Rather Than Working wrote a lovely piece about the gay marriage madness in California. Please read it.

Mrs. You Know Who made dinner for us Wednesday after our visit with the Taxman. It was wonderful as always.

You Know Who came through knee surgery just fine and was a veritable hoot, whacked out on red wine and Vicodin.

Apparently the surgery made his ‘dong longer and thicker’ – which is a real blessing for Mrs. YKW, who has suffered long enough.

Jim made spicy grilled chicken tacos last night and they were outstanding.

The 11 bus was waiting for me twice this week.

We are starting to plan my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday in October.

I did not work out this week but Suze and me did a fast walk on the beach for 45 minutes each morning.

Laughing so hard we got bellyaches over neckties for dogs at Wet Nose in St. Armand’s.

Knowing that a former friend is still at the same phone number and doing GREAT.
I am listening to: Keep Me in Your Heart - Jorge Calderon
I am reading: Content for a new commerce site
And I am: Yippy Hippy Skippy

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Our taxman is taxing

Editor's Note: This entry has been updated for accuracy. I'm not really an atheist, although I am a 'non-believer' of sorts. Definitely more of a benign pagan. Apologies for the error.

“Now I remember why I hate coming here every year,” I say to Jim as we’re leaving the office of our Tax Guy last night.

“Tithing,” says Jim, knowingly.
“No church for you two again this year?”

This is how it starts.

Our Tax Guy gets to the part where we’re sorting through last year’s charitable donations and he always always always brings up church.

“You ever hear of tithing?” he asks with a smirk.

What I’m thinking: “Listen, Mr. Christian. I’m an atheist pagan and Jim thinks Jesus was a space alien. Find The Church of Latter Day Pagan Ufologists and we'll gladly start tithing. Otherwise, do us a favor and shut the fuck up.”

What I say: Nothing.

“Moo-fon?” I ask.

“Yes. MUFON. The Mutual UFO Network. That’s where we should be sending 10% of our income,” says Jim.
Why even bother with a taxman, Hedy? Ever heard of TurboTax?

I know. It makes sense.

But it’s a family thing with our Tax Guy.

Jim’s parents went to him. When we got married, we started going to him, and now there’s this history and if for some reason we didn’t show up one year, we’d be dishonoring our proud tax-paying heritage. Or something.
“Well maybe he’s just trying to encourage you to give more so you have more of a write-off,” says You Know Who last night.

That might make sense. But it’s always about church.

We give to charities. Just not to church.
Underneath all of it, here are my issues:

It’s okay for our Tax Guy to tell us we should be giving more if he thinks we could benefit – that’s his job – but it’s none of his fucking business where we’re giving.

More importantly, I’ve always had a problem with giving to charity just to get it back as a write-off.

You don’t give to a charity so you can benefit, you give so that others can benefit.

And in the end, it's nobody's business to whom you're giving or why. Right?
I am listening to: Keep Me in Your Heart - Warren Zevon
I am reading: Neil Steinberg at the Sun-Times
And I am: Taxed

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Save the Syllables!

We have a grim crisis here in the United States, folks.


I’m not talking about the silly economy. Or the silly environment.

I’m talking about syllables.

People are wasting syllables EVERY DAY. It’s tragic.

They’re using up big words as if the syllable fairy comes each night to bring more. Ahem.

This sign, parked on all the tables at Portillo's, was the last straw. It's why I’m launching Save the Syllables.

Not People for the Ethical Treatment of Syllables. Not the Society for the Conservation of Syllables.

Too many syllables.

Just Save the Syllables.
Let’s dissect this lovely bit of lunacy, shall we?

To our guests.

Clue: We’re all guests. Except employees. And they should damn well know better.

And frankly, I have a problem with guests. We weren’t invited. It sure as shit ain’t free. We’re customers, dammit.

Please help us keep our costs down…

1) I’m a customer and I’m supposed to help you? With anything? No. I’m always right and I will do as I damn well please. Now maybe if I happened to be a ‘guest’ and the meal happened to be free, I’d feel obligated to help you. Maybe.
2) Help us keep our…okay, if we did go along with the whole customers-helping-Portillo’s thing, it would have to be ‘Help us keep YOUR costs down’. Right?
3) Better still, let’s ditch the extra pronoun and adjective. Why can’t it be: Help keep costs down?
4) Fuck that. The whole sentence goes.

Here’s where it starts getting good:

By discarding all paper items…

Discarding? Paper items? All of them? Are you sure?

How about: Throw out your trash.

It’s simple. It’s direct. Perhaps not as elegant as discarding your paper items, but this ain’t Britain. We’re Americans and we have trash.

Furthermore, what if I’m not done with all of my paper items? Does it make me a bad guest if I leave with a napkin for blowing my nose later?

Also: What should be done with non-paper items? Styrofoam isn’t paper. It’s a mysterious combination of styro and, well, foam. Do we discard that, too, or just leave it on the fucking table with the plastic forks and ketchup packets?
In the appropriate garbage units…

Where are the inappropriate garbage units? Are they particularly trashy? (I know – lame – I couldn’t resist.)

Now I’ve got all this anxiety about discarding my paper items in the appropriate garbage unit. Serious anxiety. Is this the right one? Or maybe it’s this one? Stress.

And what the fuck is a garbage unit?

Unit: an individual thing or person regarded as single and complete, esp. for purposes of calculation : the family unit.
• each of the individuals or collocations into which a complex whole may be divided : large areas of land made up of smaller units | the sentence as a unit of grammar.
• a device that has a specified function, esp. one forming part of a complex mechanism : the gearbox and transmission unit.

Nope. No mention of garbage-related units.
In case you're thinking Portillo's cares about the environment and offers multiple garbage units with which to sort your paper and non-paper related items, no. Nope. No.
Shall we continue?

Located in the dining area…

Ahhhh. So the inappropriate garbage units are not located in the dining area? Maybe.

Why do they need to be located anywhere?

Why can’t they just be? These units. Of garbage.
Who are these signs for, exactly?

The folks who clean up after ourselves don’t need a sign. We just do it.

And the morons who need to be told to clean up after themselves probably aren’t going to pay attention to a poorly phrased plastic placard. You could slap them on the forehead with a hot dog and it wouldn’t matter – they’d still leave their shit behind.

Yes, I know that first sentence wasn’t exactly grammatically correct. Shaddap or I'll smack you on the forehead with a hot dog.
Please throw away your trash.

Thank you!

Doesn’t that just feel better?

It’s less stressful. And it shouldn’t take an advanced degree to figure out what to do with your hot dog wrapper.
The only thing that’s missing from Portillo's grammatical abortion of a sign is ‘utilize’.

I hate utilize.

Hate it.

Please use 'use'. Utilize is complicated and showy. Use is simple. Three syllables versus one.

In these tough times, please folks, let’s save our syllables. We just might need them later.
I am listening to: One - U2
I am reading: Notes for the first entry of my eCommerce project blog (yay!)
And I am: Fine

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


After a long day of shopping and drinking and drinking and shopping, Suze and me approach the kindly old lady working checkout at the Longboat Key CVS and plop our evening meal on the counter.

Appetizer: One large bag of Tostitos plus a jar of medium queso.
Main course: Pepperoni Hot Pockets.
Dessert: Pepperidge Farm Double Chocolate Milano cookies.

"You must have teenagers," she says.
I am listening to: The ocean
I am reading: Riding Lessons by Sara Gruen (don't read it, it is unbelievably sucky)
And we are: Still giggling like teenagers