Friday, December 30, 2011

Time Is On My Side (eh, not so much)...

   Every year, my company gives its salaried employees (of which I am one) a paid holiday break around Christmas time. My last day of work for this year was Wednesday the 21st, and I'm off until January 3. As my last day of work approached, I made big plans for being productive during my time off, and getting caught up on some things I had neglected. I wanted to get some work done around the house, work on some music and try to learn the ins and outs of my new keyboard, get back into a workout routine, break out this yoga DVD I ordered months ago but never watched, and go out a time or two to get some bowling practice, and of course write at least one blog entry a day. The first few days would be filled with last minute shopping, choir rehearsals, and a Christmas Eve concert; then after Christmas dinner, I'd spend a day relaxing with my three girlfriends (that would be my laptop, my cell phone and my remote control) on Monday, and then get to work  on all of my plans for the rest of the week.

   So how's that worked out for me? Well, the Monday after Christmas went about as expected, as I spent the day in bed with the three aforementioned girlfriends watching television and movies, getting up only to eat, go to the bathroom, or put another DVD in the player. Then came Tuesday...and Wednesday...and Thursday -- and now Friday -- and it was like "Groundhog Day", just replaying the same inactivity from Monday all over again. Well, now wait, that's not entirely true: I played around on the keyboard for about 15-20 minutes on Tuesday, took a shower and went out to buy a few groceries on Wednesday, did some pushups and crunches yesterday morning and this morning (I even looked for the yoga DVD yesterday, but gave up after 10 minutes and got back in bed). Aside from that, however, it's been a week spent in bed, lollygagging with my three electronic girlfriends.

   I'm still off until Tuesday, so I have a few days yet to try to accomplish something. In the meantime, I've got my Friday night bowling league, so that will mark my second time leaving the house this week. I guess I should take another shower before I go...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Angry Nerd Family Christmas Dinners

   Christmas dinner in the Angry Nerd family is, like with many families, a time-honored tradition. Growing up, we used to have dinner at Grandma's, with plenty of down-home meals, music, and occasionally a lively spat as entertainment. After I got married and had kids, my new family would rotate where we ate Christmas dinners; the plan was always to eat dinner with one family, and then just stop by to see the other. The invariable annual consequence to this plan, however, was tension over how much time we spent at each place. At some point, we solved this problem by hosting both sides of our family at our house for dinner - which freed us up to have other things to argue about...

   Nowadays, Christmas dinner is much more harmonious. For the last several years we have gathered at my sister and brother-in-law's place, and without my babymama's combative, slightly crazy family dynamic in the mix, things go much more smoothly (not that we don't have some of our elements of craziness and combativeness in our midst, but, for those folks in was an in-bred thing, kind of like with Native Americans and the alcoholism gene).

   Actually, for us, Christmas begins at Thanksgiving. Several years ago, we decided that the adults in the family would do a Secret Santa-thingy so that we would only need buy a gift for one other adult in the family. My mother is in charge of this whole operation, and with her, it is a matter a national importance that those names get drawn out of the hat post-Thanksgiving meal. Remember Rev. Harold Camping, the nut that predicted not one, but two incorrect dates for the end of the world this year? Well, I knew he had it wrong all along; the end of the world will come the day after someone in the family leaves Thanksgiving dinner without picking a name for Secret that doesn't mean that we won't try to leave without picking a name - or at least pretend to, mainly since getting my mother annoyed and flustered is a favorite pasttime for my siblings and I (and to be honest, it's kind of a cheap thrill, since she's so easy to fluster and so prone to falling for the same stuff no matter how many times we try it).

   Back to Christmas dinner - it's always a fun affair when the Angry Nerd clan gets together, especially at Christmas time. Plenty of laughter, teasing, eating, drinking (mostly non-alcoholic stuff), sports watching (with plenty of debates and trash-talking about the action), and the like. My brother, the camera buff, takes plenty of pictures - the more embarassing the better. At some point after dinner, someone will let out a rip-roaring, mouth-uncovered belch. Half of the other people will be grossed out by this; the other half will express their admiration, and hand out grades for the belch, prompting both indignation from the grossed-out crew, and attempts (on the sly) from the admiring crew to try to work up their own monster belches in an effort to beat the original monster belch (note: this activity does NOT apply to farting. You gotta fart, take it to the bathroom or an unoccupied room - or in the case of my brother - all the way outside the house).
   Video games are a must, especially now that there are the dance games are popular. They're a particularly effective tool for working up a sweat and for making fools of oneself! Then there's also the annual "Battle of the Sexes" game of spades featuring my sister-in-law and cousin versus my nephew and myself. Most years it works out pretty much according to script: a lot of woofing initiated by my nephew, responded to with some caterwauling from the ladies (I, of course, maintain a modicum of restraint and good sportsmanship). Then, once the game begins, the ladies employ their tortoise and hare strategy, where they place safe, wussy bids throughout, while the two of us knuckleheads inevitably do ourselves in with a series of testosterone-induced overbidding, leading to such spectacular self-destruction that the ladies barely have to break a sweat...sigh...getting trash-talked by a couple of persistent women is a hurtful thing...

   But spades humiliation aside, there's nothing quite like the Angry Nerd family Christmas dinners. They are truly what makes Christmas for me. Well, time to go; I hear my nephew woofing about spades. Hope you all are having a great Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Two Days Before Christmas

'Twas two days before Christmas and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring (well...maybe a mouse)
The 23rd of December, and I hadn't done a thing,
Had put up no tree, had done no shop-ping. 

The Christmas decor was still packed out of sight;
The wreath and the tinsel, every bulb, every light.
The garlands, the ornaments, the Santa Claus clock;
The fake tree was still all apart in a box.

I just didn't feel like unpacking that mess;
Putting that stuff up was just extra stress.
What did it matter? There's no one but me.
And I couldn't care less about watching some tree.

(For my grandson the tree would be a nice surprise;
When he came for a visit, it would light up his eyes.
No doubt, the decorations would warm his little heart;
But no doubt, his little hands would take them apart.)

That morning I dragged myself out of bed,
Tried to summon up courage for that thing that I dread:
The malls at the holiday season, I hate.
But I had to go, dammit, it was almost too late!

I thought that Christmas time was about joy, peace, and love,
But the malls are about where push comes to shove.
Rudeness and selfishness replace peace and joy,
The warmth comes from snatching a coveted toy.

Rampant consumerism is the order of the day,
Crass materialism is what really holds sway.
There are gift lists to tend to, there’s stuff to be bought,
Someone grabs what you want, then there’s a fight to be fought.

So go spend, spend, spend, spend; gotta have only the best stuff.
It’s Christmastime; too much is never enough.
And you better be careful in the parking lot;
‘Cause you just never know if your ass might get shot.

I wandered around in this chaos, this display of pure lust.
I felt a mixture of sadness, depression, and disgust.
(While the ladies in tight outfits were a welcome distraction,
Even the booties and boobies could not bring satisfaction.)

So back home I went, with not that much stuff.
My Christmas funk deepened; had I really done enough?
Christmas seemed to have lost some meaning for me;
There’s got to be more than some presents and a tree.

But then I thought, Christmas is in two days.
Tomorrow I will be in church to sing and to praise
To direct my choirs as we sing of Christ’s birth,
Of how he came down from heaven to save mankind on earth.

Then on Christmas my family will all come together,
A tradition I wouldn’t miss, no matter what the weather.
I’ll live, laugh, love, eat, maybe get slightly drunk;
And by then there’s no doubt, I’ll be rid of this funk.

For in the end, God and Family are what make Christmas Day;
All the material gifts, well, they’re only for play.
But the love of Jesus, and of family, will make your minds and heart light,
So Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Friday, December 16, 2011

You Might Be an Asshole...1st Edition

  • If you are ordering a sub at a very busy Subway, and the sandwich maker has to say everything to you 2 or 3 times because you refuse to take out your earbuds or turn down your iPod -- you might be an asshole...
  • If you're standing at crowded bus stop bitching loudly to anyone within earshot about how long the bus is taking, then when it comes you rush and push your way to the head of the line to board first, and only when you board does it occur to you to start scrounging around in your purse to come up with $3.50 worth of change for a day pass while everyone else wanting to board the bus stands there waiting for you -- you might be an asshole...
  • If you're in Wal-Mart paying for an $800 television by counting from a stack of 5 and 10 dollar bills -- you might be an asshole...
  • If you're a grown ass, able-bodied man sitting in your car at a gas station while your girl is pumping the gas -- you might be an asshole...
  • If you are a grown ass woman with a toddler, and you are fast-walking down the street and leaving the poor kid behind, then every so often stopping to backtrack to where the child is so you can yell and cuss at her for not keeping up -- you might be an asshole...


Some People, episode 2

To read episode 1, click here

   So I'm standing on a corner at a busy intersection in downtown Baltimore, and I see a panhandler staggering up the street making his rounds. Oh boy, here we go...

He comes up to me and asks if I have any change. I reach in my pockets, jungle the change around, say, "Yup", and re-focus my attention towards trying to get across the street.

After several seconds, he says, "Well?"
  "Well what?"
"I thought you were going to spare me some change?"
"You asked me if I had any change," I replied. "You didn't say anything about giving you any..."
"Well, can I get some?"
"Nope," I replied as the light changed and I started across the street.

And he had the nerve to call me a dirty name. I tell you, some people...

Friday, December 9, 2011

Diva? Please...

A diva (English pronunciation: /ˈdiːvə/, Italian: [ˈdiːva]) is a celebrated female singer. The term is used to describe a woman of outstanding talent in the world of opera, and, by extension, in theatre, cinema and popular music. The meaning of diva is closely related to that of "prima donna".

There seems to be a lot of women running around these days wanting to call themselves divas. Really? Why?
Divas, by definition, possess some outstanding, widely recognized, talents and performance capabilities - almost always oversized personalities to go with that talent - and have large, popular followings and critical acclaim.

The Queen of Soul

"Lady Day"



Leontyne Price



Celine Dion


Now THOSE are some examples of divas.

As much as so many of you want to proclaim yourselves as divas, the truth is, not everyone can be one. If every woman were a diva, then no one would be.  There'd be no distinctions, and divas, quite frankly, are those that been recognized and acclaimed as artists at the top of their professions. Those pictures above are all of ladies that are true divas. They all have three things in common: one, they are all immensely talented, have huge followings, and know how to treat their fans to a show. Two, they have strong, demanding, difficult personalities befitting their status and fame. And three, I'm pretty sure none of them ever had to label themselves as divas; their talent, popularity, cultural significance, and personalities led others to identify them as such. If you have to go around calling yourself a diva...then, really, you aren't one...

And if all you have to show for being a so-called diva is a pain-in-the-ass personna, or as the Urban Dictionary defines it, "a bitchy woman that must have her way exactly, or no way at all. often rude and belittles people, believes that everyone is beneath her and thinks that she is so much more loved than what she really is. selfish, spoiled, and overly dramatic.", then there are other terms which might suit just as well...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

You Know You're Getting Older When...

Episode 2: "What Did I Come Here to Buy?"

(To read episode 1, click here )

  So I'm wandering around the neighborhood CVS trying to remember what I came to get, just a few minutes after coming to the store specifically to get one thing. During the course of my wandering (in hopes that something would rouse my short-term memory), I pick up some laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid, deodorant, lotion, milk (my grandson was coming over later), ice cream (my grandson was coming over later; I'll guess I'll let him have a little of it), a couple 2-Liter bottles of Diet Pepsi that were on sale (you know, to go along with the ice cream), and a few other odds and ends that brought the bill up to around 25 bucks or so.
   A few hours later I'm in the bathroom, doing my business, and then when I'm done, I reach for the...

aaaaargh, I was supposed to be buying TOILET PAPER!!!

Workplace Drama - "Mind your emails!"

   Some of you probably know I have spent my career working in the chemical industry. Currently I work in R&D (Research & Development) for a Mining / Metallurgical / Chemical Manufacturing company that has a facility here in Baltimore. One of the more important areas of any company of this type is its Quality Assurance (QA) / Analytical Department. QA is responsible for testing everything from raw materials to production samples to finished goods samples, as well as samples from R&D people like myself. As you might imagine, doing fast and accurate work, and communicating the results of that work ASAP are critical for the success of the QA department, and the plant as a whole.
   The way that most QA Departments (ours included) report their test results to those who need to know them is through some form of Laboratory Information Managment System (LIMS) database. After people drop their samples off to them, and they finish analyzing them, someone from QA will post the result in LIMS, and then whoever needs to see those results can go into the database and see them. Nothing to it. There is one catch, though: QA techs can't enter new results into LIMS if someone else in the plant has LIMS open. When that happens, the solution is easy enough: the tech who needs to enter data will send out an email (or occasionally announce over the intercom system) requesting that whoever is using LIMS log out so that new test results can be posted. Considerate techs will also send out a second email when they are done, so that interested parties can log back in, continue what they were doing, and check out any new results. For the most part, everyone is cooperative and the whole process works out just fine. For the most part.

   For the last year or so, we've had a QA tech here for who cooperation seems to be a foreign concept. Although she is very good at what she does, she also is very much a pain in the ass to deal with.

(at this point, I should make a Public Service Announcement: I'm sure many of you like watching TV shows that involve pretty, witty people doing laboratory work. Let me tell you, what you see on those shows is far from reality. In 25 years of doing lab work, I have yet to encounter any woman that looks remotely as good as the actors portraying lab techs or chemists on television. What's more, although many are genuinely nice and helpful people, just as many of the female techs I've worked with are cranky, bitchy pains in the ass. Perhaps that's because they are a minority in a male-dominated profession, perhaps it's a function of their physical unattractiveness, maybe it's because they know they can get away with it: see, in addition to us chemistry dudes never being mistaken as candidates for People magazine's "Sexiest Man of the Year" award, we also tend to bend over backwards these days to accomodate and be non-confrontational towards our bitchy female co-workers. I think they can smell the fear...)

The whole concept of giving a friendly notice to people that she needs to have access to LIMS is especially troubling for her. From the outset, she seemed to be pissed off that the rest of us didn't have some form of  ESP that allowed us to know when she was about to add data to LIMS, and her emails to ask people to allow her access typically had what always seemed to be an annoyed tone, as if it was an insult to have to do so. But although there some grumbling among the rest of us about her mails (and her refusal to let people know when she was finished), the grumbling never led to any action, which seemed to have to effect of empowering her and making her emails (and any interaction with her) increasingly unpleasant.

   Then finally, she crossed a line.  "Get out of LIMS now if you want your data", she wrote an sent out on a plant-wide email. Even from her, this was pretty ballsy, but as usual, there was grumbling but no action (that I knew of). Then the next day, she sent out the exact same message again. This time, I decided to do something. I had just gotten into LIMS to check for some results I needed, but I logged out, then went back to the offending email and hit "Reply All":

"I've asked this before, and I'll ask it again: can you do us the common courtesy of letting us know when you're done? Other people besides you need to use LIMS." Then I went to go check on a couple of things in the lab.

   When I came back to the office, my office mate asked me, "Did you mean to "Reply All" on that email?"
"I sure did", I responded. "I've gone to her nicely about this, and she's blown me off. And now emailing people to 'get out of LIMS'? I think she's forgetting that the people who rely of LIMS are essentially her customers. She's not putting data in there for her own use."

   The other tech nodded in agreement, as a couple other people passed by the office and offers congrats for my response. Just about then, a heard the tone on my computer indicating I had a new email. I opened it up, and it was a response from Ms. Congeniality:

"I shall no longer send the emails to request "whomever" is in LIMS to vacate so data can be entered.
If LIMS is tied up, NO data will be entered. The plant and R&D data will come to a stand still."

UH just did a "Reply All" on a Plant-wide email that you are not going to do your job, or at least the part of the job that a lot of people higher up than you on the plant's food chain care about the most...hmmm, let me know how that works out for ya...I have a feeling it won't be the way you think it will...I predict there will be someone coming to have a little "chat" with you. 

Less than a half hour later, as I was doing some work in the lab, I looked up to see Ms. Congeniality's boss and an HR rep walking through our lab on the way back to the QA lab.

Awww right awww right awww right! You gon' learn today!

Shortly thereafter, Ms. Congeniality was embarking on an (unpaid) 3-day vacation...

So what have we learned today, boys and girls?
1. Everyone has some particular aspect of their jobs that they don't like doing
2. If your dislike for said task(s) is that strong, then maybe you think about another line of work
3. Under no circumstances do you send an email (especially not a "Reply All" and / or a company-wide one) proclaiming your refusal to do said task(s); otherwise, you may well be on your way to the company's getting the ball rolling towards you seeking another line of work...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"The Dating Game", episode 4 - "Minnie the Moocher" (continued)

To read the first part of episode 4, click here

   A few months after the birthday fiasco, I get a's Minnie the Moocher. Damn, she got a nerve calling me! She must want something. I let the phone ring without answering, only to have her redial me twice more. Finally, against my better judgment, but also out of some curiosity, I answered.
   The Moocher had called to apologize for how things went down. She admitted to be selfish, spoiled and high-maintenance, and tried to explain it away by saying that couldn't help it because everyone from her parents to friends to past boyfriends to lusty male co-workers had always done practically everything for her, so it had become rather routine to be pampered and waited on hand and foot, to the point that she didn't know any other way (or appreciate it). People did stuff for her; she didn't do stuff for people. But now, she said, she really missed me, and wanted a chance to make things up to me and show that she was trying to change. I told I wasn't sure, but I'd think about it and let her know...

   The next day,  I got a text from her asking if I'd thought about it.
"A little," I said, "But things have been busy and I hadn't really thought about it a whole lot yet."
"Well, I've got a surprise for you: I ordered some dinner, and I'm about to go and pick it up and come see you, so we can talk about it."
"You're paying for dinner and coming to see me? Well I guess I can't turn that down."
"Come one, don't be like that, I'm trying to make it up to you. I'll see you in a little bit."

  A half an hour later, there she was, at my door. She looked as good as ever, dressed as provocatively as one can imagine someone dressing to come and visit someone to eat and watch TV, our normal date. She was also carrying a bag with something smelling very good in it, so she had followed through on picking up dinner. Clearly, she had baited the hook; the question was whether I was going to bite.

   "Can we eat in the living room," she asked. "I want to get cozy."
   "Sure, why not?" I replied. She headed for the sofa, I went to grab the TV trays to put the food on, and then joined her in the living room, only to see her remove one dinner from the bag.
   "You bought one dinner? How is that making things up to me?"
   "Well, you didn't have to cook for me."
   "If I didn't have to cook for you, then that means I also didn't cook for me. And since you didn't bring me anything to eat, that know what, never mind, it doesn't even matter. This" - I said, closing my eyes so as not to look down again at the big brown eyes and pouty lips (formed into a sad expression for effect), and the overflowing cleavage (squeezed together and rising and falling with deep breaths, also for effect) - "is not going to work."

   So off she - and her dinner - went to go eat somewhere else...don't go away mad, I thought, looking away from that bootylicious stride as she headed back to her car,  just go away...

Some Angry Nerd Rules

  1. Being right about something does not carry a requirement to behave like an asshole about it...
  2. Having knowledge about a subject does not carry a requirement to constantly shoot your mouth off about it...
  3. Being passionate about something doesn't automatically make you an expert on it. And if somehow by chance you are both passionate and an expert on a particular subject, well then, refer to rule #2...
  4. If you don't want to know the answer, don't ask the question...
  5. If you're bragging about helping other people, or throwing the fact that you helped someone in his/her face, then whatever you did for them was likely more for your own benefit than for theirs; the benefits those people received from your actions was secondary to whatever you got out of it...
That is all for now...