Anhydrous Wit

Are you pondering what I'm pondering?

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Have a Mental Donut

Words to live by, said by the character of Stephanie Plum in Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich.

Earlier this week, I attended an alcohol/drug awareness class for supervisors. During the class, the instructor recommended walking for half an hour, three times a week -- not for the exercise, but because it releases endorphins, which some people take drugs to simulate.

I can relate. I recently joked to a gym employee that exercising after work wakes me up enough that I don’t fall asleep before dinner. I have known for over a year that I actually like exercising now, if only because it’s frequently better than a day at work. Sometimes, I even look forward to working out! Then, on Wednesday, I was changing into my gym togs when I realized that just being at the gym, not even having put on my sneakers yet, had relieved my stress.

Now, if only I could settle for mental donuts for dessert, rather than ice cream or cookies or chocolate.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Dream a Little Dream of Me

Do I have strange dreams? I know they're odd, but sometimes I wonder if everyone dreams as unusually as I do.

Just yesterday morning, I dreamt that I was at a square table. My father sat to my right, one of my brothers sat across from me, and my mother was to my left. I was trying to form a picture of Humpty Dumpty out of very thinly sliced Munchie cheese* on my plate. I also had a sheet of little, black cut-outs to use for the eyes, mouth, arms and legs, etc. As I constructed, the others began dishing up dinner, including on my plate. The cheese began melting (not to mention obscured by the other food), and I became very disturbed. I showed my father the book in which I had found the instructions (accompanied with four rather old-timey children's book illustrations) and the cut-outs, and he grunted, "Very nice," but seemed quite insincere. My brother said, "So what?", which, in the dream, didn't surprise me. (It wouldn't surprise me in real life, either.) My mother seemed to ignore me. Unfortunately, the alarm clock woke me before the dream could progress.

I'm fairly certain I can interpret this dream as me being disappointed that my efforts are not appreciated. I'm leaning toward this occurring at work, even though my immediate family was in the dream. I can't pinpoint any particular example, though. Maybe it was my subconscious reminding me that it was Monday, the day of our weekly staff meeting, in which I am habitually ignored. Do I even want to consider Boss in the place of my mother? I do wonder, if that's the case, then which of the other two people would Ob be: my brother or my father? No, let's not go there. It's the words and feelings that are important, not the bodies. Maybe all three of them represented Boss.

Wow -- just had a thought. Artistic things, such as constructing a fairy tale character out of cheese, are not easy for me. That is why I was so disappointed in the dream that my efforts were "melted" and disregarded. Particularly galling was knowing that I was over halfway through my endeavor when it was interrupted. This definitely happened to me at work, just this past Wednesday. (See my 9/20/06 entry.) I feel that this interpretation is right. (So much for not pinpointing any particular example.)

A couple of weeks ago, I dreamt I was at a wooded, interstate rest area. Across a grassy area from where I parked was another parking lot. In that section of the lot, a couple had just abandoned their 13-year-old son. I was going to offer him a lift, when I saw a bear cub emerge from the stuff in my trunk and begin gnawing at the rubber gasket that lines the trunk enclosure. That's a dream I really wanted to continue, but the dratted alarm clock woke me up again.

There's a woman at work who has studied dream interpretation, so I consider her my resident "expert". She says that dreams mean different things to different people, so I have to think about what they mean until I'm satisfied I found an explanation that fits. I don't have her notes handy, but I do remember that she said both the age of the boy and the bear being a cub indicate something in development, and the species of animal and the fact it was chewing on something could mean potential danger or risk. She avoided using any obvious words like "emotional baggage" to represent what I had brought in the car with me. (Yet I have room to fit a 13-year-old in addition to all that?) I told her I definitely know that I do not feel abandoned by my own parents, so she asked if I felt as if I had abandoned myself. (Wow, that's deep!) This dream definitely will take some thought.

I remember best the dreams I'm having just before the alarm clock goes off in the morning. (I usually don't have time to write them down right away, so I keep them in my head until I get to work then e-mail them to myself, so I won't forget them.) I tend to integrate images or thoughts from real life only for a day or two after experiencing them. (The interstate dream was a rarity, as it was two weeks after I had stopped at similar rest areas. Plus, the Humpty Dumpty dream was five days after the event it probably represented. Maybe I'm holding on to things longer -- but 13 years?) Often, I dream that I am back in my former house in New Jersey (or, once, at my church). I am almost always in my dreams, viewing everything through my own eyes, although I could be portraying someone else. (I once was Hercule Poirot's sidekick, but I couldn't figure out if I was Captain Hastings or myself.) It is not unusual for the other characters in my dreams to be one person even though they look like someone else. The theme music in my dream tends to stick with me most of the morning. (Yes, it's quite annoying.) All of my dreams are in color.

Another rarity -- in fact, it had never happened before this year -- was a recurring theme. (Otherwise, all my dreams are unique.) It isn't the same dream over and over, just the context. Three times in the past year, I have dreamt that I was in public and couldn't find a place to go to the bathroom. The first two times, I actually had to go when I woke up. The last time, I didn't. This is enough to worry me. I've decided that, if I have this kind of dream two more times, I might go to see a counselor.

Does anyone else have dreams as weird as mine, or do you all dream about flying or going toward the light, or what have you? Do your family members or friends appear in the dreams? Familiar places? Repeating dreams? Music? Color?

* I'm not sure of the spelling. Nothing like it was listed on (Ain't it great to live in a world where you can go to a webpage dedicated to cheese? I almost feel as giddy as Pinky.) The mind boggles at what bra cheese is. I don't entirely trust the webmaster's expertise, though. S/he misspelled Muenster. (Without the "e" is the name of a TV family.)

Monday, September 25, 2006

Equal Time

The August issue of Playboy magazine had two interesting articles. (Yeah, I know. You’re wondering why it has taken me so long to get to my August magazines.)

The first was about the place of "radicals" in politics. The article (though it might also be considered an opinion piece) discussed characteristics of authoritarian leaders of the past and present, and gave a little time to the characteristics of their followers, as well.

Later in the magazine, 16 people offered their thoughts about the U.S. presence in Iraq. They included U.S. legislators, media personalities, researchers, and even Joe Truckdriver. Positions appeared to be split equally for and against. I’ll admit, though, that what I enjoyed the most was being able to read and think without being bullied by a slant one way or another, which is all too popular with radio and TV media. (Print media aren’t as bad because I don’t have to endure anyone shouting into a microphone, and I can turn the page or skip to the next article as I see fit.)

For the record, neither article changed my opinion of anything.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Boys Don't Make Passes at Girls who Wear Glasses

... and vice versa.

A Las Cruces eyeglass store advertises name-brand (i.e. expensive) designer glasses. Glasses nowadays come in all sorts of colors, shapes, and materials. When I was growing up in the 70's and 80's, all we had was "birth control glasses", which were dark brown, plastic, huge, and blocky, and assured you that you would not receive any personal advances... from anyone... ever.

Another feature of today’s glasses is the "slimmer" lenses. For someone with my prescription strength, I say it’s about darn time. I can finally get away from lenses thick enough to have their own gravitational field. There’s a catch, though. (There always has to be.) If I want slimmer lenses with my prescription, I have to put them in huge and blocky frames. If I want smaller, less noticeable, and (dare I hope?) cool frames, I have to go with thicker lenses.

My prescription thwarts me in another way. Back in the late 80's/early 90's, eyeglass stores began advertising "glasses in an hour." Now it’s "in about an hour". See how the guarantee softened? That’s my fault (well, and other people with difficult prescriptions). I was home from college for one weekend, and I needed new glasses. My parents took me to a "one hour" place so I could receive my glasses while I was in Albuquerque and not worry about arranging another ride home in two weeks to pick them up. We returned to the store in an hour and was told not only that my glasses weren’t ready but that it would be another two hours before they would be, because I have a "difficult" prescription. You’d think that, after hundreds of years and with technological improvements, something like eyeglasses would be a piece of cake. "Nothing simple is ever easy" (Plucky Duck).

Have you ever looked at the models chosen by eyeglass stores, I mean really looked? First off, they’re wearing fake glasses. The lenses are so thin that they’re either just plain plastic, or the prescription is so light that you wonder why they need glasses at all. Second, the models are very attractive, with or without glasses. Where were these models when birth control glasses were around?

A new TV show this season is called Ugly Betty. I know nothing about this show, but I never intend to watch it. First, I am insulted on behalf of my very good friend Betty. (Admittedly, I wouldn’t be as upset if I didn’t actually know anyone named Betty, but it’s still insulting to anyone named Betty.) Second, ads for the program show a girl with dark brown, huge, blocky glasses, and braces. Thank you, Hollywood, for perpetuating the stereotype that people who wear glasses (or braces) are unattractive.

While I’m on the subject, there are other stereotypes I’m sick of (having been subjected to them for years by my peers). Here’s a snippet by Joel Perry from the August 2006 issue of Instinct magazine, which I find applicable.

Playing sports is stupid because... well, because... oh, okay, you got me. But participating is something else altogether. Even I have to admit that getting off my doughy ass and getting the blood moving actually feels pretty great.

The key here is "participating", not badgering, belittling, or winning-at-any-cost. That’s what turned "jock" into a dirty word for us so-called "sissies" in the first place.

For those of us who grew up being called sissy, the word was ugly and hurtful. We were the last to be picked by jock captains for teams we didn’t want to join in the first place, and the taunting bullies taught us to loathe sports. That’s why many of us are so disdainful of jocks -- we carry bully damage from being abused by them.

Frankly, it’s baggage we could well lose. It’s time to reclaim "sissy" and take on the jocks -- not with bats and lacrosse sticks, but with our own unique weapons: Wit! Sarcasm! Gerunds!

I don’t recall if I was ever called "sissy", but I probably was. I was called every other name in the book because I wore glasses... was taller than everyone else (even my teachers, starting in sixth grade)... preferred reading over sports... had acne... outgrew my clothes... put on weight. Sigmund Freud had the right concept, that childhood experiences shape the adult. The problems I have accepting myself today stem from all the verbal abuse I received from my peer group growing up, and it appears that (stylish, attractive, glasses-wearing models notwithstanding) society has a long way to go in breaking down stereotypes.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Plus, if You Act Now!

One thing that peeves me is announcers who say "oh" instead of "zero" when providing phone numbers on radio or TV commercials. (The commercials that end by giving the toll-free number three times in rapid succession take me beyond peeved.) I want to call the companies and say that, the next time they record a commercial, they should state the number properly, but if I dial six for "oh" instead of "zero", I won’t get through to them. ;)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Gas Attack

I made another observation today regarding my hypothesis that hypocrisy is a gas (8/17/06). The fumes are just as irritating if the hypocrisy is spoken by a carrier (i.e. a messenger repeating what the generator said).

Through my co-asst. mgr. (I really have to come up with a decent nickname for him, if I’m going to keep mentioning him), Boss wondered why I had designed a proposed landscape the way I did. Well, duh, it’s because Boss himself told me how he wanted it to look, right down to the species of trees. I remember this distinctly because I had pointed out to Boss that there were numerous underground utilities, including high voltage electricity, at the site and that I didn’t think we should plant any trees at all. Today, Boss changed his mind on both the design and the species of tree.

I gasped, I sputtered, and then I fumed, and poor co-asst. mgr. got the brunt of my frustration. (So much for not killing the messenger.) I wish there was a way to turn the gas back on the hypocrite. Naturally, I would start with Boss and Ob.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'

Aggie Memorial Stadium has special seating areas where wheelchair patrons and their guests may sit to watch games, concerts, etc. They are painted "handicap blue", to discourage any shnooks from loitering there, wasting useful space. The spaces also are labeled, in white paint, "WC". Maybe it’s all my trips to Britain talking, but whenever I see that designation, I think "water closet", rather than "wheelchair".

Sunday, September 17, 2006

In the Wee, Small Hours of the Morning

I am picking up trash while the rest of you slumber. In fact, considering it’s Sunday, I probably got home from work before most of you woke up. I can see why you think I’m insane.

I get up at 4:30 each morning, so I can be at work by 5:30 and start the crews at 6:00. This last time is probably the earliest most of you consider waking during the week. (Betty, you frequently work the night shift, so you and I will argue which of us is more abnormal until doomsday.) The crews leave at 2:30 p.m., and sometimes I actually get to leave then, too. It is quite refreshing to have the afternoon to go to the gym, run errands, or just sit on the sofa and read.

Of course, that also means I go to bed early: 9:00 p.m., in fact. By 7:30 or 8:00, my body is slowing down, and my brain is wondering if it’s too early to go to bed. While most of you are thinking of two more hours of primetime TV, I’m thinking that a pillow sandwich would feel pretty darn good about then.

I must confess, that’s my summer schedule. At the end of this month, we’ll switch to a 7:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. work schedule, so I’ll return to a more "reasonable" 5:30 a.m. alarm clock and 10:00 p.m. bedtime.

On weekends, I get up at my usual time and go for a walk, rather than sleep in. (That in itself is the clinching point in your arguments that I’m insane.) I like getting my exercise done early, and I still have the rest of the day to clean, go shopping, etc. Football weekends, like today, we work until the job is done. Thankfully, there wasn’t much litter on the tailgate fields this morning, and we were done by 7:30 a.m. Now, what to do for the rest of the day?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Rain, Rain Go Away

Each afternoon, the other asst. mgr. and I have a meeting with the crew sup.’s near the end of the work day, to review projects, routine maintenance, etc. We had just finished yesterday’s meeting when the phone rang in the next room. Since our admin. asst. wasn’t in the office at the moment, I answered.

The call was the university’s automated emergency notification system, announcing that a tornado warning had been declared because of two storm cells west of town, heading due east. I held the phone to my ear with one hand and waved my other arm like a windmill. You’d think, of all the guys in that room, one of them would have seen me. I knocked on the window between the offices. You’d think one of them would have looked up at least. No, all I got was a sarcastic, "Come in." Finally, exasperated, I shouted the asst. mgr.’s name. Ah, that seemed to work. I beckoned madly for him to come over. By the time he sauntered into the room (yes, sauntered), the call was nearly over. I shouted, "Don’t let anyone leave yet!" and finished listening to the call.

When I announced the tornado warning to the supervisors and said that any employees that live west of town were recommended to stay on campus, I was greeted with deafening indifference. No one seemed to care that a tornado, the chance for which is extremely rare in this part of the country, could bear down on us at any second. So much for being helpful. Okay, die for all I care.

Everyone except the mechanic, the admin., the ofc. mgr., and I went home. We did not get a tornado. However, we did experience strong winds, rain, and hail. (Side note: my car was undamaged.) The doors on the west side of our shop began leaking. This has never happened before. As the mechanic and I set sandbags in the doorways (and got pelted by very cold rain), his shop, at the opposite end of the building, started flooding. This has happened before, but never so quickly.

I phoned the on-call supervisor and asked him to return to campus after the hail ended and it was safe to travel. "What hail?" he asked. Meanwhile, the ofc. mgr. and I started filling sandbags. (He just happened to be on his way back from the hardware store with more bags when the storm hit.) The admin. started taking phone calls from flooded buildings on campus, and I told her, after the umpteenth phone call interrupted us as we were trying to fill bags as quickly as we could, while it was still raining, that we’d just get to them in order. The ofc. mgr. and I headed onto campus with our filled bags just as the on-call sup. arrived. We told him to keep filling and we’d be back. (That’ll teach those buildings who gave us work orders to remove the sandbags a couple of weeks ago.)

Long story shorter: I phoned asst. sup. X, whom we thought we had seen still on campus, and asked him to come back and help us. He said he was going to pick up his wife from work but would be back after that. Ofc. mgr. phoned sup. Y, whom we also thought we saw. He said he would not come back to help because he wasn’t on-call and because it wasn’t an emergency. Excuse me? If a tornado warning, hailstorm, fallen limbs, and flooded buildings don’t constitute an emergency, what, pray tell, does?

By the way, this man is officially off my list. He has pulled stuff like this far too often, but we can’t do anything about it because he’s one of Boss’s favored employees (not "favorite" but "favored"). Fine, then, I’ll never call him for help again, and he can just sit at home and rot while everyone else gets the overtime pay. Oh, you should have heard me yesterday, while I was filling sandbags. I was actually swearing!

We didn’t leave campus until 7:15 p.m., which meant that I worked nearly thirteen hours (including lunch). The bummer is that the area we pumped dry after sandbagging got filled again overnight, from a later storm pouring off the roof.

The other major damage was to two greenhouses on campus. Some of my crew, the ofc. mgr. (also our shop safety coordinator), and I helped pick up broken glass and moved plants out of the greenhouses today, once space in other greenhouses had been found. We’re hoping that the research projects weren’t ruined.

I am sick and tired of the rain we have been having. It’s not a gentle, enriching rain. It’s always a downpour, as if Odin and Thor and a few other Norse gods are punishing us for living where saying, "Fjord!" is an anomaly (humorous though it may be). I thought searing heat was the only negative weather in the Southwest. I guess I’ll just have to hunker down and wait it out ("wade" it out?) until hurricane season ends in November.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I'm a Travelin' Man

Everybody sing!

"I’ve made a lot of stops
From here to Detroit...."

Okay, so I won’t give up my day job.

I was on vacation for two weeks, which is why I didn’t post here for so long. Unfortunately, I have no excuse for not updating last week, other than downright laziness.

I accompanied my parents to Dayton, OH to visit a family friend, to the Detroit, MI area to attend a cousin’s wedding, and to the Chicago, IL area to visit other relatives and friends. Then, immediately upon my return, a friend from Tucson, AZ came to visit me for the Labor Day weekend. I was so relaxed that I didn’t mind returning to work.

We drove, rather than flying, which gave us more flexibility for arrival and departure times -- not to mention it was a lot cheaper. Speaking of which, I observed something very interesting during our journey through the country. There was a 60 cent gap in gasoline prices. From Albuquerque (which is cheaper than Las Cruces) through Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana to Ohio, the price per gallon of regular unleaded steadily dropped 40 cents. It went up a little in Michigan and was highest (20 cents more per gallon than Las Cruces) in Chicagoland.

Since returning home, gas is now 21 cents per gallon cheaper in Las Cruces than it was upon my departure three weeks ago. I have heard tell that politicians intend to drop gas prices another 70 or so cents per gallon within the next two months (conveniently in time for the national election). What I want to know is, if our elected representatives plead innocent of involvement when people squawk about rising prices, how can they promise to lower them?

Another thing I observed on the trip was rain: lots of it. When I left Las Cruces, we had already experienced over a month of higher than normal rainfall. The morning we left Albuquerque, it rained. The next morning, after staying overnight in Edmond, OK, it rained. Weather was fine for the overnight stops in Effingham, IL and Dayton, but it rained our second day in Detroit (just in time for the wedding). The next day, it absolutely teemed with rain from Detroit to Chicago, and there was road construction most of the way, and the road was filled with drivers, and I haven’t been that close to white-knuckling the steering wheel since I learned to drive. For the two days in Chicago, it rained. Fortunately, the drive back to Albuquerque was sunny and not too warm. Unfortunately, then it rained in Las Cruces for another week after I returned. I am so spoiled to live in a state where we normally don’t see that much precipitation -- in a year, let alone two months. I could not bear to live in Seattle, WA.

The third striking observation was that Missouri seems to have more relaxed smoking laws than New Mexico or other states. Both the truck stop on the way out and the restaurant on the way back (two different towns) had designated smoking areas. Las Cruces, Albuquerque, and many other towns, I’m sure, prohibit smoking entirely within restaurants. My father smokes, so I do not object to allowing smokers to mingle with non-smokers, but it is amazing how accustomed I am to not having the choice of, "Smoking or non?" when entering a restaurant.