Anhydrous Wit

Are you pondering what I'm pondering?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

I Told Him So!

Actually, I didn’t have the chance, as he told me months ago to "butt out" or "don’t stick your nose in", only in more polite terms (which he, unfortunately for me and my crew, can not do very often). The "he" and "him" to whom I refer is a coworker whom I will hereafter call "Ob", described in my 7/18/06 post as "obnoxious". (Adapted from Will & Grace: "He puts the ‘noxious’ in ‘obnoxious’. Come to think of it, he puts the ‘ob’ in it, too.)

Ob came up with a "brilliant" idea to put five more trash dumpsters on campus and eliminate the polycarts (wheeled, curbside, 96-gallon containers emptied by a side-lift, automatic truck). Right away, I thought of several possible concerns with his idea, but as he and I don’t see eye-to-eye, I decided not to tell him right away, or else I might seem antagonistic. Plus, as I am not supposed to stick my nose in, why should I bother? I’ll just let him screw things up himself. Following are the possible problems.

1) The custodians already resist carrying trash to dumpsters at other sites on campus. I don’t foresee them embracing this idea.

2) Ob’s intent is to save money on trash collection and disposal costs for academic buildings. 2a) What about the auxiliary (non-academic) sites? 2b) Will adding dumpsters counteract the savings of eliminating polycarts?

3) Where are the dumpsters to be located? Ob told me (verbally) the names of the nearest buildings, but he did not describe the actual locations adequately, nor did he show me on a campus map (in preparation for problem #4, below). Note: I offered to print him maps of each building area, so he could point to exactly where he wanted to put the dumpsters, if he would e-mail me the building names (instead of rattling on in his typically loquacious manner, making it to a third topic by the time I can finish writing the first name).

4) Will we need to move or remove any plants or irrigation? (He never did move that dumpster which crushed half of a shrub and which balances precariously on a curb between said shrub bed and the parking lot. You know, the one he said wasn’t where I saw it with my own eyes, the one that is still there, next to the surviving half of a shrub.)

5) Did he ask the parking department if they’re okay with losing two parking spaces per dumpster?

6) Are these five dumpster sites adequate to handle the trash coming from approximately twenty buildings with polycarts?

I thought this was just an idea of Ob’s, until I heard some things this week that revealed that he already implemented his "brilliant" plan.

A) A phone call from the more-than-curious parking dept., asking why dumpsters suddenly appeared in their parking lots.

B) A phone call from an irate faculty member, asking why a dumpster now blocks the space he always parks in.

C) My boss saying, "You are not going to put a dumpster in place of that planter!"

Oh, if only I were able to say I told him so! Still, I am gleeful (practically joyous) that I was right. (It’s not that I derive any pleasure about being right; it’s because I am right and Ob wasn’t.)

A coworker tried to defend Ob, saying, "We didn’t think of that." Hmm. It seems to me that "we" were not consulted. "We" were told to butt out. Otherwise, "we" would have forecast said problems. (Technically, "we" did, but "we" were not encouraged to verbalize them.)

Other than that, Ob never sent me the e-mail list of sites. Such a simple request, don’t you think? The reason I want the e-mail is so I have written (as it were) proof of the route changes. Why do I need written proof? Because I’m the one who receives the invoice each month, and I need to explain why the bill suddenly changed. Because the spreadsheet I created (which has worked well for the past four years) to bill the various departments now has to be changed. Because I now need to tell the accountant why my estimate for the year, the one I approved just last month, will vary significantly from the actual charges. Couldn’t Ob have come up with this idea, oh say, five months ago, when I drafted the new fiscal year estimate? Three months ago, when I adjusted it for the annual C.P.I. (Consumer Price Index) increase? How about even last month, before we submitted the estimate to the purchasing office and had the official purchase order approved? No, wait. That would make sense.

Other, relatively minor, irks remaining are these. I still don’t know where the dumpsters are to go (or were put, as the case may be). Since Ob won’t verify his anticipated savings with actual numbers, I’d like to calculate the estimate myself and prepare my explanation for the accountant -- that is, if Ob would only tell me what size dumpsters they will be and how often they will be emptied. What about the auxiliary polycart sites? What do the custodians (or at least their manager) think? Can twenty sites adequately be replaced by five? (If so, you’d think that his predecessor or I would have thought of it already.)

I probably will mention Ob again, as he frequently gets under my skin. I have refrained mightily from griping about him in this medium earlier, as I don’t want to bore you with complaints. However, as I couldn’t very well do the dance of joy at work when I heard about the fallout, I had to release my energy in some way.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Op Art

I finally hung the picture in my kitchen, the one I had held off on until my blinds were installed. I hung it at the same level as the other picture, and it’s in the same size frame as the other picture, but it looks funky. I now have an optical illusion in my kitchen. The problem is that the arch windows on the north wall are shorter and wider than those on the east wall.

I hung the first picture on the east wall and lined it up with the top of the rectangular blinds (now the bottom of the arch blinds). I can not do that with the picture on the north wall because the windows (being wider) are too close together, so there isn’t enough room for the picture. Second, because the windows are shorter, the top of the rectangular blinds also is lower.

I decided to hang the second picture at the same height as the first. I measured from the top of the wall to the base of the east picture frame. I then marked the north wall at the same level and held the second picture to the wall to compare. They looked completely off. I remeasured and checked again. It still looked wrong. Perhaps, because I live in a "vintage" house, the walls settled differently? I stood next to the east picture and noted a part of my body (just above my chin) where the bottom of the picture was, so I could compare the distance from the floor. It still measured the same.

I then checked the distance from the top of the east picture to the ceiling, verified that the picture frames are indeed the same size, and checked the distance from the second picture to the north ceiling. Again, the distances matched. Huh. Funny that. My brain is saying that the measurements are identical, so it must be right, but my eyes are telling me no. Trusting numbers and logic over observation, I hung the picture on the north wall at the same height as the one on the east wall.

I invite you to my kitchen, to observe for yourself. The windows are two different widths. The windows are two different heights. The rectangular blinds are hung at two different heights. The pictures, of identical size, are hung at identical heights -- but it just looks wrong.

Speaking of things that make your eyes pop out of your head, I nearly caused a scene at the supermarket on my way home from work this afternoon. (Note: this story is not about the man in line in front of me, who tried to pay with two different forms of plastic, neither of which worked, then went to his car to get his checkbook, but he didn’t have his driver’s license with him, so they asked for his Social Security number, which the cashier punched in by hand five or six times before it worked and accepted his check. Yeah, it’s about me, not him.)

Not too long ago, this grocery store installed automatic coin dispensers when customers are to receive change. I have seen them at other stores for a number of years, and I still think they are pretty keen. Today, after numerous times of seeing them operate, one of them gave me incorrect change. In fact, it gave me two pennies too many. Naturally (if you know me at all, this will not surprise you), I returned the extra two cents to the cashier and told her that I had received too much change. The old dear in line behind me gasped and smiled because I was honest. The cashier (and some of you, too, I am certain) probably are thinking I’m a nut for worrying about two cents.

As for the customer, that shouldn’t surprise you, either. Everyone’s parents trust me. Elderly women absolutely adore me (that, and they use me to get items off the top shelf). It’s just the cross I have to bear. It could be worse.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

I'd Rather be in Philadelphia

I recently acquired some propaganda -- I mean brochures -- for Las Cruces, to entice tourists or retirees. It’s quite interesting to learn little things about the town where I have lived for most of 15 years (including college).

For example, we’re being touted as "The Crossroads" of the Southwest. The most frequently cited history of our town used to say it was the place where three people were buried, hence why the city symbol is three crosses. Recently, though, people have gotten up in arms about the symbol, and even the town’s name, alleging that they are expressions of religion and in violation of the First Amendment. We can’t help what our predecessors did. If the people had been Jewish, our town’s symbol could have been a Magen David. Does it really matter?

Perhaps we should entertain the idea of changing the name of the town. After all, Hot Springs, just about an hour north of here, became Truth or Consequences. Why shouldn’t we choose a game show, as well? Given that so many people are moving here because it’s cheaper than where they currently live, why not The Price is Right, NM?

The Convention & Visitors Bureau brochure has a section called "Area Facts". First, they state that we are in the "Time Zone: Mountain standard". Gee, I hate to quibble (not really), but I thought we were in Daylight Savings Time at the moment. On the next page, they show average temperatures by season then by month. It claims the average winter temperature is 65 degrees (Fahrenheit). Then, in the table, it shows 63 degrees for February (the highest temp. listed for a winter month). Which is correct, if either? (For the record, in NM Agricultural Experiment Station Research Report 682, "Climatic Guide, Las Cruces, 1892-1991, 100 Years of Weather Records", a university publication containing hard data, the official February high temp. average is 62.5 degrees.)

Continuing on, I learned that alcohol can not be served on Election Day. They didn’t mention the blue law that you can’t buy it between 12:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. on Sundays. (No law against drinking it on either of those days, though.)

"...the Emergency Farm Labor Program... brought more than 900 German and Italian POW’s to New Mexico to help farmers battle the labor shortage." I think they all returned home after the war, though. Just try finding a decent Italian restaurant in this town!

We have several musea in town (yes, that’s the correct plural in Latin; look it up). I’m always tickled by the location of the Museum of Natural History: inside the mall. I guess it helps them attract more visitors than if they were in a free-standing building.

One of the golf courses allegedly has "fairways and greens that blend seamlessly with the desert landscape". Wanna bet?

There are seven art galleries listed at the Downtown Mall alone. That is where I walk for exercise each weekend, and I sure don’t see them. In fact, the city is trying to revitalize the Downtown Mall because there are barely seven stores there!

I wonder how many other towns print visitor information like this, and if those brochures aren’t quite accurate, as well.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Talking Dirt-y

Last night was the third in the city’s xeriscape series (the second one I attended). The topic was soil, mulch, and composting, and the guest expert was my favorite soils professor. (That says something about majoring in horticulture: that I took enough classes about "dirt" to have a favorite professor.) He started off with some "wow" figures that I’d like to share with you.

If you take one acre of typical Mesilla Valley soil to a depth of 6" and with an organic matter (O.M.) content of 1%, the dry weight of the soil is 2,000,000 lbs. (The O.M. weight would be 20,000 lbs.)

Twenty-four hours after irrigating (to allow "free" water to drain), there will be 600,000 lbs. of water in that same acre of soil. Before irrigating, there can be as much as 300,000 lbs. of water in the soil, yet plants still will wilt. In other words, half of the water is bound to the soil such that plants can not use it.

A typical "uplands desert" soil (the sandier type, such as in the foothills) has no more than 0.5% O.M. A typical "valley" soil (a clay loam, in the river’s floodplain) has 0.75% - 1.5% O.M. In contrast, soils in the eastern Great Plains (such as Iowa or Minnesota) have 6% - 8% O.M.!

Burning summers, little water, difficult soils -- is it any wonder people tell me if I can grow plants here, I can grow them anywhere?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

An -ous Week

Notorious -- Last Wednesday, I had just gotten home from the gym when I got a call from a former employee who asked if I wanted to do a presentation. "About what?" and "When?" were, naturally, my first questions. The program was to start in an hour. No problem, I just had to shower, eat dinner, come up with something relevant to say, and find my way to the building with directions no more explicit than the street name. Who couldn't do that? Actually, it was kind of fun. The city's new water conservation officer is presenting a series of lectures on xeriscaping. The guy was looking for an expert on xeriscape planning and design. Somehow, he got a hold of my former employee, who phoned me. Gee, now I'm an expert! (Not like I'm dismissing my journal article nor my NMSU tree guide. Ahem.) I was struck again by how much easier it is to teach someone who is there voluntarily. When I was in grad. school, I co-taught an introductory horticulture lab. Most of the students were there because they had to be, not because they were hort. majors. I had better (and more enjoyable) things to do than be ignored. Last Wed., not only did every one look at me, but they actually asked relevant, nteresting questions! It was so much more satisfying.

Momentous -- Last Tuesday, my blinds were installed. Yay! Now I can be secretive and anti-social (not that I'm not already). Although I do appreciate the polite and prompt service, I do have some things wrong with them. The French door blinds, for example, have cords that dangle and can be stepped on or caught in a closing door. I had asked for continuous cords to avoid this. That must be changed. The arch blinds are attractive, but what good are they, considering that three of the four have gaps around the sides large enough to see through? If I had wanted that, I would have done without, thank you. They must be changed, too. (I have been playing phone tag with the service employee tasked with the follow-up phone calls. Here's a hint: have someone with a different work schedule than mine call me, so I can be home when s/he does.) The material color is slightly different than my existing blinds -- different enough to make you wonder if it's different, but not different enough to convince you for sure. Then again, maybe I notice only because 1) I'm sort of picky and 2) I've been looking at the blinds nearly every day for the last (yikes!) ten months (already?).

Loquacious -- The following is a verbatim conversation I had with one of my gym’s employees on Monday.
- Me: "Is that guy [gesturing] a new member?"
- He: "No. Was he naked?"
- Me: "Not this time."
The man in question has a foreign dialect (perhaps eastern European or Russian), is extremely talkative, and has absolutely no modesty. The first time I encountered him (about two weeks previous), he walked out of the shower, engaged me in conversation ("How tall are you?"), and proceeded to dry off, all while keeping himself on display, as it were. This time, he was clothed, but I could see that the poor man he was talking to was hurriedly lacing his sneakers, so he could get out of the locker room quickly. According to the employee, they have had "several complaints" about this man already. I believe most of it could be chalked up to a difference in cultural upbringing. In the U.S., we are less open, even in locker rooms. (With my modesty, you can imagine me banging off the walls, trying to get out of there the first time.)

Obnoxious -- I have a coworker who is extremely talkative, as well. He doesn’t realize it, either. Even when he is told to shut up (in more polite terms), he won’t. Shortly after he was hired, he wanted me to go with him in his truck "just for five minutes". We didn’t get back to the office for an hour. (I’ve never made that mistake again.) Yesterday, I absolutely had to ask him a question when he stopped by the office; there was no other way to get the information. It turned into an hour and fifteen minute monologue. (Come to think of it, I had a professor like that, too.) There are a lot of other factors that contribute to him being obnoxious rather than loquacious #2, but I’ll save those for another time.

Fallacious -- My boss told a coworker and me to pick up some plants from a vendor I don’t like to use. (Long story short: poor quality, high prices, bad attitude, and speaks nicely to only my boss.) My boss said we were getting them in different colors. On the way, my coworker decides that we should take the gold ones first, because he has thought of places to plant them. We pull up to the business and see a row of plants with pink flowers out front. "Those aren’t ours, are they?" I ask. We go in and find out that they are indeed. My coworker asks if we can take the gold ones first. "What gold ones?" the vendor asks. It turns out that all the plants we are getting are pink. The vendor told my boss they were "a different color", not "different colors", and by that he meant "pink". Any normal human being would have said "pink". Add this to the list of why we shouldn’t buy from this vendor.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


It’s not like I took off early today for fun. Sure, I had personal business (my blinds were to be installed), but it wasn’t water skiing or hiking or anything like vacation. Still, it was time off of work, and somebody somewhere decided I owed them for it.

It started when I was still at work. I had to pick up some small trees from a nursery we don’t use very often. Hence, I took the wrong road. Thankfully, my compatriot phoned for the proper directions, and he was raised in the area, so he knew the shortcut to get there, avoiding a return trip all the way to town.

I got back to work, dropped off the trees, tidied up my desk, and hightailed it to my car. I had just enough time to get home -- if not for the road construction. Actually, the construction wasn’t the problem, it was the drivers who didn’t see or ignored the large, orange "Right Lane Closed Ahead" signs and then expected us to be nice and let them at the last second. Of course, when I did leave a break to let in a car, some crazy woman came up from my left side, barely squeezed between me and the car patiently waiting in the median to turn left, and took the opening. (At the intersection, some of these same drivers completely ignored the no right turn arrow.)

Officially late for the blinds installers, I pulled into my parking lot and saw several cars that don’t belong there, all parked on "my" side of the lot. Two, apparently, belonged to the grounds maintenance business, and the one (with out-of-state plates) actually in my parking space is a guest at the inn next door. (Yet another person who can’t read or ignores the signs telling them where to go.) No sign of the blinds installers’ vehicle, though. "Great," I thought, "they’ve already left a nasty message on my machine and left."

Well, I was home, and that was a good thing at any rate. Then I reached my hand into my pocket and found a bunch of air. My house keys were missing. The wrong road, stupid drivers, inconsiderate parkers, the blinds guys had been and gone, and now I couldn’t even get inside. Could this day get any worse? (Just wait.)

I had borrowed a coworker’s truck to pick up the trees, and he has half the keys in the world on his keychain, so I wisely figured that my keys got snagged and then fell off when I was removing his keys from my pocket. I phoned work: no keys in the office, nor in the truck. I phoned the nursery: there they were (ten miles south of town)! I phoned work again and asked someone to go get them. In the meantime, I borrowed my spare from the condo. board president. (Remember: I couldn’t go for them myself because I was expecting the blinds installers.)

Sure enough, one of the new messages on my answering machine was the blinds guy, who said he had misplaced his appointment book and couldn’t remember if he was supposed to be here at noon or twelve-thirty. Wrong! It was one o’clock, thank you very much. I phoned him, left a voice mail, and went to fix a late lunch.

I decided to have dinner instead, so I popped a TV dinner in the oven and started fixing my salad. On the way from the refrigerator to the counter, the cottage cheese decided it was time to test Newton’s Theory of Gravity. Don’t worry; the container wasn’t full. (It was full yesterday.) Oh well, I was planning on washing the floor after the blinds guys left anyway, and did I really need all that cottage cheese in the first place?

Apparently not, because, on the way back to the fridge, guess who jumped ship again? That’s right, and now I have 1/4 the cottage cheese I started with. (Silver lining: the garbage disposal works fine.) Maybe it wasn’t my fault. Maybe the magnetic polarity of the earth changes during the day, especially around my giant, non-magnetic, stainless steel fridge, and I’m normally not home that time of day to experience it.

By the way, maybe my dad or one of my more technically minded friends can tell me the answer to this. (It sounds like physics.) Why is it that, the less cottage cheese there is to spill, the farther it goes?

The blinds guys arrived just as I removed my TV dinner from the oven, but that was just coincidence, not another snarl. They are still here as I type this, and everything is fine so far, but I’ll wait until they’re done before I post this, just to make sure.

I brushed my teeth right after eating, so I wouldn’t want dessert, but I think I’ll treat myself to a Dr. Pepper this afternoon. After the day I’ve had, I deserve it.

Postscript - It took a little over two hours for them to finish. (The arches are a lot more complicated to install than the regular, rectangular up-and-down blinds.) Whoever cut the arches didn’t follow the patterns exactly, though. They fit perfectly up at the top, but there are gaps on each side large enough to see through. I guess I’ll have to take that up with the store. Plus, the door blind cords were supposed to be continuous, not hanging, so now I have to be careful not to catch the cords in the doors when I close them. Still, I now can go to bed without worrying about freaks looking through the front doors at my feet, and I can eat in the kitchen without the B&B patrons seeing me. I am so happy, I do the dance of joy!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Sleeping Beauty

I woke up this morning with a sore muscle in my upper back, just inside my left shoulder blade. I know I’ve always been an active sleeper, but what on earth could I have done to injure myself while asleep? On Sunday, my left knee was bothering me when I got up; for a few minutes, it hurt whenever I bent my knee. Thankfully, it felt better shortly thereafter, so I could still go for my walk. A few months ago, I had a sore shoulder in the morning. I’m too young to feel old!

I’ve known since I was very young that I move around a lot when I sleep. When I was four, I fell off the bed during an afternoon nap. Also about that age, my mother asked me, "What did you win?" as soon as I entered the kitchen for breakfast. According to her, she checked on me the previous night, and I had told her, "Mommy, I won! I won!" I don’t remember speaking to her at all. None of my college room mates ever said I talked in my sleep (although two of them did).

A couple of months ago, I woke up and discovered that one of my pillows (not the one I had been using) was on the floor. Easy: I just pushed it off the bed. Right? Wrong! 1) It was on the floor at the foot of my bed, not the head. 2) It was on the opposite side of the bed from where it had been. 3) It was neatly lined up, off to the side, and parallel to the foot of the bed. 4) I never woke up that night, and I don’t remember moving the pillow.

The oddest thing that ever happened to me while sleeping is this. While I was still in elementary school, I woke up one morning and felt that something wasn’t quite right on my way to the bathroom. When I looked in the mirror, I realized my pajama bottoms were on backwards! To do that, I would have had to take them off completely, all while asleep. How’s that for weird?

Sunday, July 09, 2006


(pronounced as Dick Martin did on Laugh In)

I got a couple of positive strokes last week, and as I am supposed to avoid negative thinking, I’d like to share them with you. First, the exercise specialist at my gym was watching me to my triceps exercises. (He walks around, checking on everyone, but for some reason, my triceps always seem to interest him.) When I finished a set, he said, "I can see you triceps working through your shirt." Second, I went to buy my monthly supply protein bars, and the employee who routinely serves me (and who is very strong looking) said, "You’re getting thinner." If I get enough of those comments, it might start erasing twelve years of gym class memories! (Come to think of it, a guy with whom I occasionally worked out in college commented about my triceps, too.)

I visited my parents for a long, Independence Day weekend (courtesy of the university’s energy saving efforts). My dad taught me how to repair a leaky toilet. It seems simple in concept, but getting my hands to work in synch with my brain is another matter. Now that I know how to do it, it still doesn’t mean that I want the toilet to break in the first place.

There’s a guy at work who does nothing but complain or pick on other employees’ habits. Friday, he walked into my office and said, "You guys forgot to plug the ice machine back in. All the ice will be gone by Monday." That was irritating enough, but when I went to refill my cup at the water fountain, I saw that the ice machine was still unplugged! Wouldn’t it have been easier, faster, and far less annoying (to me) if he plugged it in himself?

We’ve had rain about every other day this week. This is highly atypical. First, it’s rather early for monsoon season. Second, it doesn’t usually rain that often, even in monsoon season. Third, it rained in the morning on Wednesday and Saturday. (Monsoon rains usually fall in later afternoon.) El Paso and Cd. Juarez really got whomped Thursday afternoon, but all we got was clouds and wind.