Anhydrous Wit

Are you pondering what I'm pondering?

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Speaking of mistresses, I have started reading Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence (he of Lawrence of Arabia fame).

Actually, since she is married, she is not a mistress, but it seemed like a natural link to the previous post. Her husband was wounded in World War I and is subsequently unable to perform that particular husbandly duty. Ergo, she seeks physical companionship elsewhere.

I've read just the first chapter so far. I find it interesting because of the characterization, and the exposition Lawrence uses is complete yet not wordy. Actually, the book itself is quite thin.

All I knew about the book was that it was supposed to be "naughty", so it's not something you'd likely read in high school English class or discuss at the dinner table (not if you had my parents). I always pictured Lady Chatterley as a wife in her 40's or 50's whose husband no longer satisfies her. I was surprised to learn that she is in her early 20's, and her husband is just in his late 20's.

The book was written in 1924 or 1925, which also surprised me. I always thought of it as a Victorian novel, but it is quite modern. (Anything during my grandparents' lifetimes is "modern".) Still, I am sure that the topic itself, if not the language in addition to it, was quite daring for its time. Lawrence is not explicit in his vocabulary (not for the U.S. in 2007 A.D.), but he did use the word "orgasm", which I can guess caused quite a bit of consternation in the 1920's. Let's see what that just did to my G rating.

"Who needs a hobby like tennis or philately?
I've got a hobby: rereading Lady Chattlerley."
("Smut" by Tom Lehrer)

Everyone Else's Mistress

Grab some cheese. I'm about to serve up a big glass of whine.

The favorite word of Boss and Ob and Ob's Counterpart is "communication". Unfortunately, none of them seems to know what it means.

What They Say "Communication is a two-way street."

What They Mean "You have to report to me everything you do, but I don't have to tell you anything."

One example is that today's weekly meeting was again cancelled, and I again was not told. (Sorry, Betty. Last Monday's result seemed so promising.) This time, as a novelty, Worker Bee wasn't informed, either. Later, I heard Boss tell someone, "We were all too busy." Oh yeah. I was busy sitting in the office for half an hour, waiting to see if we were having a meeting or not, rather than inspecting the student apartments, as I could have been doing.

There must be a way to quantify this: it seems that meetings are cancelled only on days when I have a list of things to announce or for which I need input. Then I e-mail everyone and wait a week, twiddling my thumbs until the next meeting, to ask them why they didn't reply to my e-mail. On days I have nothing pending, the meetings are held as scheduled. (At this point, it strikes me that I should be grateful to be paid for sitting in an air conditioned office, taxing neither my body nor my mind.)

They weren't too busy later in the day, when they discussed things in Boss's office for nearly an hour. In the meantime, I ran the daily supervisors' meeting and processed the timesheets, since I wasn't "too busy" at the same time they were this morning. (How do they get busy when they know we have a meeting at the same hour on the same day we have had it for five years? Or am I just stupidly insistent on hurting my brain by wondering this?)

Don't bother asking me why I don't just hit boss with my questions as soon as he walks in the door. Boss has perfected a variation on postponing important business: he almost never comes to the office. I can wait for him all day, to present him with vital information he phoned me and said he needed "right away" -- four hours ago. I can even stand by his doorway, with a memo threatening us with losing funding if we don't fill the vacancy that Boss has been sitting on for almost four months, waiting for Ob to shut up (which, it seems, he is physically in capable of doing) and get out of Boss's office, and they see me, but nothing happens. However, if Boss deigns to bless the office with his presence for a few minutes, and he hollers during my lunch break, I am expected to appear by his desk with alacrity.

Here's another example. Boss told me three weeks ago that he was going to send me to an account in Texas to measure the acreage. (One, it was already done by the person who performed the site survey. Two, Boss himself went there later but couldn't be bothered to do it himself.) I intended to speak with Boss on Fri. 7/20 and schedule the trip for Thu. 7/26 and Fri. 7/27. Boss was "out of the office" that Fri. and in ABQ on the following Mon. I had a chance to set the groundwork on Tue. (leaving me less time than I was comfortable with to plan the trip, but it could still be done), but Ob phoned and interrupted our conversation, which I am still waiting to resume, a week later. (I guess I'm not going last Thu., am I?) The day I had intended to go, I overheard a discussion about sending our irrigation consultant to the account to repair or install irrigation for them. Maybe he could measure while he's there, and save me a trip and the company money? Maybe he needs the measurements before he goes? I don't know; I'm still waiting for Boss to speak to me.

Phone calls are a perfect example of both hypocrisy and my coworkers' misinterpretation of "communication". Boss decreed ages ago that we should all shut off our cell phones during the (supposedly) weekly Monday meetings. 1) He doesn't. 2) He answers his calls, which usually involve his personal, non-job-related, homebuilding business, during these meetings. 3) Ob and Friend have taken to imitating Boss, by answering their own phones during this meeting. 4) Worker Bee and I will sit there, waiting and wondering why we are there.

Why don't I just phone Boss and ask him for the input I need? Well, duh, he's already on the phone with everyone else. (One day, he replied to my voice mail after five p.m. and left a three-minute message that meant "yes" -- but I had already turned in my estimate, hours before his response.)

Conundrum: "Why are you coming to me with this? You can make this decision on your own." and "Why did you make that decision? Why didn't you come to me first?" I love my job... I love my job... I love my job...

Heck, since I've turned this post into a gripe about work, I might as well add this one about these soon-to-be-infamous weekly "team" meetings. 1) I am almost always ignored. Every so often, I'll open my mouth then ask myself why I bothered, since I already know better. 2) Frequently, Boss will dictate, orate, and pontificate, adjourn the meeting, then say (already halfway out of his chair), "Nobody else has anything, do they?" That's not a "meeting", Boss, that's called a "lecture".

Ob's constant companion, my co-assistant manager, is better at screwing up communication, rather than just misusing it. He involved himself in a project that I thought was mine (the third one, by the way), set up a meeting that I wasn't told about but was expected to attend (during my lunch break), and sent out a flurry of e-mails trying to find out who would pay for it, all without bothering to gather information first. The result was three work orders (charging maybe the same or maybe different accounts, for different dollar figures, for maybe the same or maybe different work, opened by maybe two or maybe three people), one pissed-off construction manager (not me, I'm just an peeved, overpaid underling), and a meeting needing four people (and Ob) to straighten it out. I will take that as a sign that it's not my project any more, and I should be glad that it isn't.

I also have an issue with Boss wasting both this limited (I think) and confused (definitely) project budget and my time, but I don't want to get into that now.

My coworkers seem to be enamored of "Ms. Communication" and are in her company most of the time. What I can't figure out is, if she's mistress to all of them, why am I the one getting screwed?

Monday, July 30, 2007

A Weighty Issue

Yesterday evening, while waiting for a friend at a convenience store, I saw a rotund woman with an equally rotund 10-year-old boy. That brought to mind a newspaper or magazine article I read some time ago (probably several years) that stated New Mexicans, on average, are the thinnest U.S. citizens.

Wow! If that's true, I feel sorry for the rest of the country. I see plenty of overweight people in New Mexico. Obviously, the mother and son aren't going hungry. Nor am I, for that matter, but I am far from round, and I am working to slim down. (I wonder what Alaskans eat.)

The son in particular is an excellent example of the increasing occurrence of childhood obesity in the U.S. When I was a child, there was no more than one "fat kid" in the grade. Now there are a lot of overweight kids, or at least the media say so.

I see three contributing factors. 1) Parents indulge their children's wishes. 2) There are snack machines in schools. 3) Children sit and play video games rather than go outside to play kickball, Wiffle ball, or touch football (the three most popular games in my neighborhood) with their friends.

Here are my explanations.
1) Parents spoil their children by purchasing what their offspring see on commercials, and also by allowing the children to consume in excess, or by being absent and not monitoring the child's behavior (latchkey kids).
2) When I was growing up, the only snack machines in schools were the ice cream dispensers in the high school cafeteria, and teenagers ate the ice cream only for dessert after lunch. Then, when I entered high school, there was commotion about the proposed drink vending machine. The concession (pun!) was that it was stocked with only Hi-C (supposedly nutritious, and not soda), and it was locked in an office and made accessible only before and after school hours. (Since my bus didn't drop me off at school until minutes before homeroom, and after school I had to scramble not to miss the bus or to get to band practice, I didn't understand how other kids had the time to buy a Hi-C in the first place.)
3) Granted, home video games just came out in my youth (Pong, then the Atari 2600), so one could argue that we ran around because we had to, but just because video games exist doesn't mean that you have to buy them. (Plenty of people don't buy books, and they've been around for centuries.)

Here are my solutions.
1) Buy your children everything they need, but only some of what they want. Then stick around to teach them proper habits and to oversee those habits.
2) Take the machines out of the schools, period. School systems (or food service contractors) have been providing nutritious, well-balanced lunches for decades. Don't screw that up.
3) Balance your child's time between work and play, and balance the types of play (exercise, reading, board games, video games, etc.).

Who am I, a single man with no children, to tell others what to do? I am an independent, unbiased, dispassionate observer. I can see and analyze multiple viewpoints -- exactly because I have no children. (Although, if my friend who is a high school principal, and has been an elementary and jr. high school principal as well, sees this, I'd love for him to contribute the educator's perspective.)

Let's save solving the rest of our country's problems for another day.

Fun for Children of All Ages

Mingle2 - New York Singles

Gee, when I first took this quiz a month ago, I was rated "PG" for using the words "breast" and "death". I'll bet this quiz searches just the posts shown on the home page and doesn't search previous ones.


On one of my weekend walks, I was wondering...

If one of my employees gets sick and spreads a disease amongst his/her coworkers, would you call it a staff infection?

If someone is fired because s/he is gay, would that person be a canned fruit?

The following items appeared in Reader's Digest.

"My trainer at the gym advised me to wear loose clothes," says comic Michele Balan. "Hey, if I had loose clothes, why would I join a gym?"

A gnome auditioned to conduct an orchestra. "We're sorry, but you don't have what it takes to be a conductor," the head judge said. Undeterred, the gnome bought some clothes and cool shoes and got a new haircut. He even bought a swank loft in the hottest neighborhood in the city. Then he auditioned again and was hired on the spot. Why? Because now he's a metro gnome.

On a long journey, the very thirsty Sirs Lancelot and Galahad stopped at a roadside lemonade stand. The owner served Galahad but refused to give Lancelot a glass. "What's the problem?" demanded Lancelot. "Why won't you serve me?" "Sorry," the owner replied. "This is just a one-knight stand."

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Nine Months

Have you ever seen a movie named Chances Are? It's about the soul of a man who dies and is in so much of a hurry to return to earth that he doesn't get the injection to make him forget about the life he just had. His soul enters a newborn who grows up to fall in love with the dead man's daughter. Said daughter takes boyfriend home to meet mother, and confusion ensues. Now let's play "What if?"

What if it were true that souls were "reused"? What if they were placed into humans at birth rather than at conception? What if souls are kept together to promote bonding on earth (whether they remember each other or not)? What might happen?

A friend and his wife just had a baby boy. Can you imagine if my father's soul were put into my friend's son, for the purposes of grouping souls known to each other? Would I have a responsibility to be a mentor to this child, doing for him what my father did for me? (I don't think I could teach the boy even half of what he knew when he was my father.)

Then I start to wonder whose souls my other friends have, and whose I have. My paternal grandfather died two months before I was born. Maybe it was a natural for me to be given his soul. (In that case, I'm My Own Grandpa.)

This is the sort of trouble I get myself into when I have nothing else to do.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Let's Get Lost

Nearly everyone has heard that you can determine which way is north by looking for moss on a tree. (I presume that it would be the reverse if you are in the southern hemisphere.)

Don't get lost at NMSU then. In the park I was mowing this morning, there was moss on the north, east, and south sides of the trees!

This Stuff is Addictive

Here's another quiz for you. What do you think of my results?

You're the 20th Century Limited!

Fast, sleek, and stylish, you are considered to be one of the most
important people around. Despite having a flashy exterior and very rich friends,
you see your main role in life as relatively routine and even mundane. When you
hang out with others, you want to spend the whole day with them and rarely stop
along the way. If you were a color of carpet, it would be red.

Take the Trains and Railroads Quiz
at RMI Miniature Railroads.

Those Were the Days

I mowed the park next to student family housing this morning. I had an audience. An elderly couple (somewhat surprising but not prohibited from being students and campus residents) sat in front of their house and watched me as they ate breakfast. It appears that I am early morning entertainment for Archie & Edith.

Let's Give This a Shot

Thanks to coaching by Betty, I think I'm ready to enter the exciting (and possibly annoying) world of linking to online quizzes. Naturally, I'm going to ste... borrow a lot I see on her blog, but for my first attempt, I shall link to one I haven't seen her post yet. (Betty, I hope you like it.)

Drum roll, please....

Announcing "The Book Quiz"!

You're To Kill a Mockingbird!

by Harper Lee

Perceived as a revolutionary and groundbreaking person, you have
changed the minds of many people. While questioning the authority around you, you've
also taken a significant amount of flack. But you've had the admirable guts to
persevere. There's a weird guy in the neighborhood using dubious means to protect you,
but you're pretty sure it's worth it in the end. In the end, it remains unclear to you
whether finches and mockingbirds get along in real life.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I Scream; You Scream

When someone finally snaps and slaughters his or her (although it's usually his) coworkers, it is called "going postal" because overtaxed mailmen used to be the prevalent offenders. I always thought that, if anyone should take out as many innocent bystanders as possible before offing himself, it should be the ice cream man.

I could sing for you right now the tune played by Mr. Softee trucks, and I haven't seen one of them since I left New Jersey. That's how ingrained the song is in my psyche. Once, Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion did a bit where his road-trip sound effects man, Fred Newman, whistled the Mr. Softee tune. I was rolling, but I bet a good part of the listeners were going, "Huh?"

The tune used by ice cream trucks in Las Cruces is "Turkey in the Straw". It is a catchy tune often used in cartoons, and even if you aren't familiar with the name, you're sure to recognize the melody. When my irrigation class was installing the landscape at a Habitat for Humanity site this spring, we were in the neighborhood twice a week for three weeks at the same time as the ice cream truck. My classmates and I were aggravated to no end as the ice cream man drove around and around the neighborhood -- but never down the street where we were working. Then again, if he had, he might have ended up with a shovel through his windshield.

Do ice cream men get tested when they apply for the job? "Okay, sir, the next part of your interview involves you sitting in a chair, listening to ‘Turkey in the Straw' for six hours." If he survives, he's hired. Sure, the Mr. Softee tune was catchy, but that's because he drove through our neighborhood for a few minutes then left. I didn't have to hear it repeated all afternoon and evening. If I were driving the truck, I'd go bananas, maybe even crash into a telephone pole -- on purpose.

Elmo Got New Shoes

A friend in college frequently said that, and she got rather irritating after a while.

Anyway, I saw a woman at the gym yesterday with quite... er... "interesting" footwear. They were shaped like clogs but appeared to be made of plastic and had holes in them. They also were multicolored. That, in a nutshell, is the state of women's fashions today.

Sadly, she managed to assemble a workout wardrobe that complemented them.

When she walked by my workout station and I got to see them up close, I observed that the multicolors were all swirled together. "Those things could even go well with an oil spill," I realized.

Weekend Update

During my walk on Saturday, a driver (with two vehicles accompanying him) asked me directions to I-10. This guy just broke my average of one lost motorist per year. Maybe I should carry a map with me each time I go for a walk. I wonder if someone has been reversing the arrows on key signs to I-10 to make drivers head for downtown Las Cruces instead.

And, since my average was already surpassed, why not make it a Daily Double? A few minutes later, a man on a bicycle asked for directions to the federal courthouse. That naturally begs the question, "Why is someone on a bicycle looking for the courthouse at 5:30 a.m. on a Saturday?"

Monday, July 23, 2007

How long does it take an Aggie to change a light bulb?

We have two fluorescent fixtures in my/our office. Each one holds two bulbs. Each bulb is eight feet long. On Thursday, one of the bulbs burned out. Because of the peculiarity of fluorescent fixtures, that meant the entire fixture turned off, and we were half in the dark (literally, not just figuratively). Today (Monday), I finally had the time to replace them.

I asked Worker Bee if the warehouse was where he had obtained bulbs previously, and he said we had a box of bulbs "in the back". I looked in the storage room and didn't see any 8' long boxes. I checked with Worker Bee again to make sure I was searching in the correct room. Somewhat snippily, he replied that I was.

Our mechanic had to show me where the box is. It's on the floor... below the shelves... in the darkest part of the room... with items stored in front of it... and you have to lean on top of very dusty items on the lowest shelf, reach over the shelf, and down below, you will find the box. Wouldn't you know it, there was just one bulb left?

For some reason, I thought that fluorescent bulbs had to be replaced in pairs, like batteries. That meant I had to go to the warehouse after all. (Thank you, Worker Bee. :b) The warehouse desk was staffed by three students, each of whom was amazed that there are eight foot long light bulbs. (Actually, I am, too.) Naturally, they sent the shortest student to go fetch the one I requested.

Maneuver said 8' bulb through a door, the vestibule, then another door. Carry bulb to shop. Maneuver bulb through screen door (held open with foot) and very heavy front door (held open with unencumbered hand). Learn how to remove existing bulbs (twisting doesn't work). Remove burned out bulb from safety sleeve. Figure out where to keep burned out bulbs separate from new ones. Observe that new bulb has different end pieces, so it won't fit in fixture... naturally. Return bulb to warehouse (proceeding through doors in reverse order), obtain replacement, and take replacement back to shop (doors, as before).

After replacing the burned out one (obviously charred inside at one end), I pondered if I could get away with putting the other old one back in. Ta-da! It worked! Of course, that meant the bulb I acquired at the warehouse (and all the effort I put in to do so) was superfluous, but at least I had a spare bulb for next time.

Take new bulb to storage room (climbing over lower shelf and getting dusty again). Take old bulb (through those darn doors again) to roll-off for disposal. Return to shop and wash hands.

ANSWER: 35 minutes.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Revolting Development

About a year ago, Ob torqued me off during a meeting by clipping his fingernails. I asked him to stop. (Personal grooming should not enter the office, save for checking one's hair in the restroom mirror.) He queried, "Oh, does this bother you?" and proceeded to finish trimming his nails.

The day someone blatantly disrespects me is the day I dislike him.

Yesterday, Ob topped himself. He was flossing his teeth during a meeting. I was disgusted, but I can't do a thing about it. The man is a boor.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Donkey Blankets

This morning, two men from two different university safety offices walked in my office and said that they can't proceed with a project that Ob is (supposed to be) supervising because Ob never opened a work order (WO). Thanks to my silver tongue (snicker) and brilliant adaptability (har-har), we opened a temporary WO. I also left a voice mail for Ob, asking him to call me to "coordinate" (i.e. so I could tell him what I did to save his job and so he could tell me what he was supposed to do).

Side note: One of the safety officers told me that Ob was at a dental appt. It would have been nice if Ob had informed his fellow employees.

When Ob phoned me back, he gave me the WO# he opened this morning (not yesterday, as he had claimed, and certainly not a week ago, when he was supposed to). It was written very specifically for one shop, so no wonder it didn't get to everyone it needed to. I went to the WO desk and opened Ob's WO to the proper shops and closed the substitute WO, so that charges won't be misapplied. (I ought to charge Ob's account for the time I spent fixing his screw-up.)

Another project I'm putting more time than I should into is the demolition of Alumni Avenue, one of our residence halls. The architect knows only part of the project. The project manager knows only part of the project. Naturally, my irrigation crew needs to know both parts, so we'll know when and where to shut off the sprinklers. I discovered that the architect and the project manager have not spoken with each other about this project, even though they work for the same supervisor. (Don't bother suggesting that I tell their supervisor because he's just as incompetent as they are.) They even met with me separately. Now they won't respond to my numerous voice mails (on office phones and cell phones) and e-mails. In the meantime, the project is going ahead. I found out today (Thursday) that the demolition is scheduled to start on Monday, and I have yet to see a WO for utility locates. Maybe they need to break an irrigation line or get a heavy truck stuck in wet turf before they realize how important it is to call me back.

I fixed the office's air conditioning this morning, too. The thermostat is not user-friendly. There are several buttons, none of which tells you how to set the time or temperature. That doesn't keep people from messing with it (and screwing it up), though. The owner's manual wasn't in the file cabinet (naturally), so I went online and printed a new one from the manufacturer's web page. (That's the first thing that no one else is capable of thinking of.) I then read said owner's manual (the second thing). I then knew which buttons to push and in which order (the third thing), so I was able to fix the time and desired temperature (although, oddly enough, the day was correct), not to mention program it so it would conserve energy when the office is unoccupied.

All of this was while I was trying to get my own work done. It has been one of those days where I want to add "Does everyone else's job" to my resume. Thus came the inspiration for the title of this post: I'm often called upon to cover someone else's ass.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Don't be an Idiom

An idiom is an expression unique to a particular language or culture. Literally translated, they often don't make sense in a different country or region. (An example often forwarded by e-mail is the translation of American movie titles into Japanese, Chinese, Indian, or other Asian languages.)

I learned one in Alabama that still tickles me: tore up. It usually refers to the rending of garments or manual division of a piece of paper, but I never heard an Alabaman use it that way. It has two other meanings. I learned the first when an employee told me that his lawn mower was "tore up". This guy didn't look like he could tear metal apart with his bare hands, so I was quite confused until a kind coworker explained to me that the mower was "broken". The second meaning came up when one of my employees was arrested. I heard that his mother was "real tore up" about it. In this case, it means she was "upset".

I was reminded of another idiom this morning that might be particular to New Mexico. I have heard it used by just two people, both of whom were born and raised in this state. (If you know of any other people who have used this idiom, I'd love to hear about it.) One of my college room mates apologized to me and said he dropped my towel on the ground. "What were you doing with it outside?" I wondered. "I wasn't. I was in the bathroom." Color me puzzled. This morning, I heard an employee ask about a broken branch, "Is it hanging, or is it on the floor?" Oh yes, not only did it break off the tree (or was it torn?), it dragged itself into a nearby building. Apparently, some people either confuse "floor" and "ground" or consider them to be interchangeable.

While reviewing yesterday's timesheets a moment ago, I saw that one employee had completed the following work order. "Clean up queso spilled in parking lot." For those of you unfamiliar with Spanish, queso means "cheese". It also is the shortened form of chile con queso, a spicy cheese dip commonly offered as an appetizer in Mexican (and New Mexican, for those who make a distinction) restaurants. I've heard of "cutting the cheese" (farting) and "tossing one's cookies" (vomiting), but I've never heard of anyone "spilling the cheese". Even if we are supposed to read that literally, what's someone doing with cheese (or cheese dip) in the parking lot in the first place?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The More Things Change...

...the more they stay the same.

My company includes a job search engine on their web page. In order to use it, you must register and log in as a new or returning user and as an existing employee or outside viewer. On top of this web page is the notice, "Our login process has changed."

They don't specify when the change occurred. All I know is that it hasn't changed a bit in the past six years.

Monday, July 16, 2007


Boss just called me. He wanted to let me know that our weekly 9:00 meeting has been postponed until 9:30.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Potholes and Loopholes

They're tearing out an intersection on campus to replace the asphalt with concrete, which supposedly will wear better. Here's the notice.

In order to re-build the intersection of Stewart Street and Breland Drive, it is necessary to remove the old asphalt and base and replace it with new base and concrete. Access to Zuhl, Student Health and Corbett Center will be limited from Breland Drive. Two-way traffic on Stewart Street will be maintained during construction. The appropriate signs will be in place to direct drivers.

Yesterday was the first time I tried to use that intersection. First, I couldn't get onto Stewart Street because it was barricaded to eastbound traffic but open for westbound traffic. I followed the detour signs, which looped me around the pedestrian mall and brought me to the intersection in question. More than half the intersection was torn out, with one lane remaining. That lane was for westbound traffic only. Too bad I wanted to head east.

This didn't sound very conducive to the "two-way traffic" I remembered reading about, so I read the announcement again. Notice that it promises that two-way traffic will remain on Stewart Street -- just not in that intersection nor that block.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

It's not Easy being Green

I read the following item on a daily recycling e-mail.

Survey: Hotel guests abandon green practices
July 11 -- Most frequent travelers say they leave their green habits at home when they stay at hotels.
A new survey commissioned by Element Hotels, a brand owned by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., indicates that 59 percent of frequent travelers are not as environmentally conscious while on the road. Some 63 percent say they are more likely to leave a light on when they leave a hotel room than when they leave home, the survey indicated.
The new hotel operation, which will open in 2008, said it will take a new approach to "sustainable hoteling" including having recycling containers and low-flow bathroom fixtures in hotel rooms.

I offer that it's not just the patrons forgetting to save the planet.

How many of you have travelled in the summer, checked into a hotel or motel, and found that the air conditioner is set to a frosty 60 degrees? Not only is that a waste of energy, you have to huddle under the blanket all night, and maybe by the time you wake up, the room might have warmed to a reasonable temperature.

Some establishments I have visited require the housekeeping staff to "leave the light on for you", even if they finish cleaning the room by 10 a.m. and you don't check in until 6 p.m. Here's a hint: natural daylight is free, so open the drapes.

Some hotels/motels have a placard in the bathroom, stating that they will wash the towels only if you leave them on the floor. If they're hanging on the rack or shower curtain, you want to reuse them. This is intended to conserve water. Regardless of this notice, my towels have been replaced daily. Hint #2: Train your staff and enforce your policies.

Every time she travels and stays in a motel for more than one night at a time, my mother makes her own bed then puts a sign on it, asking the housekeeper not to bother changing the sheets. That method does seem to work.

One hotel chain (with various brand names) puts a copy of U.S.A. Today outside guest room doors. When I stay at one of their franchises, I always speak to the front desk clerk and tell them I don't want a paper. The day clerk will leave a note for the night staff, or I'll speak to the night staff myself. Invariably, the paper shows up, and I have to carry it with me the rest of my trip, or until I find a place where I know it will be recycled.

The problem with hotel chains is that they require their staves to conform to a standard, or they consider themselves a quality brand with lots of little perks they think their patrons want. That's when individual requests (like not receiving a newspaper) are ignored because any deviation from the standard is considered a failure. It will be interesting to see if Element/Starwood is successful with "sustainable hoteling".

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

I don't know what I did on Tuesday, but it put me out like a light.

I woke up Wednesday morning with the vague feeling that something was wrong. I rolled over to look at my clock and, even without my glasses on, saw the time was blinking. The power must have gone out. I checked my cell phone and saw that I had overslept by 35 minutes.

What's even odder than the point of this post is that not all of my clocks reset when the power went out. My bedroom clock went out, but the one in my study did not. My VCR and answering machine were fine, but the clock in my phone was affected. Even odder, the phone and answering machine are plugged into the same outlet, but only one of them reset. My thermostat appears to be all right, too.

By talking to people throughout the day, I discovered two things. 1) I was the only employee who lost power. 2) There was a tremendous storm from about 9:30 - 10:00 p.m. Tuesday night (which concurs with the time my power went out). There was so much lightning, and the thunder was so loud, that people I spoke with either were awakened or could not get to sleep.

Where was I during all of this? Oh yeah, I was slumbering peacefully.

This is different than last week, when the city's fireworks display kept me awake. I think that's because I hadn't fallen asleep yet.

This isn't the first time I've done something like this. My sophomore year in college, the fire alarm went off in my dorm, sometime in the night. I didn't hear it. It was right outside my door, yet I didn't hear it. My RA, who was searching the rooms to make sure everyone evacuated (it ended up being either a false alarm or a fire drill), had to physically shake me awake. "Don't you hear the alarm?" he asked. I gave it a few moments for my brain to approach awake mode, and I said, "Oh yeah. Now I do." (That's when I learned the alarm was right outside my door.) The poor guy probably thought I had something wrong with me.

I'm fairly certain I inherited this condition from my father. One time, during a business trip to southern California, he slept through an earthquake, a fairly sizable one that even the natives noticed. He said he asked the front desk why the lobby was such a mess in the morning, and that's when he found out about the earthquake.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Don't Poke the Bear

I concentrate better when it is quiet. Therefore, I am amazed that I get any work done at all some days.

I share my office with 1.5 coworkers, the network printer, the copier, and the fax machine. My office also happens to be the entrance to Boss's office. That means it is impossible for me to shut the door because there is always someone who needs access to something in the room. Naturally, the more important or timely my task, the more distractions there are behind me (or the louder they are). On my more stressful days, I want to stick a sign on the back of my chair that reads, "Don't poke the bear."

On Monday, I poked back -- and I think I got away with it.

A management team meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. every Monday. This Monday, no one showed up, so I assumed it was cancelled. At 9:30, Ob and his equally bad half walked in, but I didn't think anything of it, as they come and go all the time. At some point, Worker Bee also arrived, but I didn't notice because he's generally quiet. At 9:45, Boss, his usual, boisterous self, sat down and told me that what I was working on wasn't important and that I should listen to him.

"Oh, are we having a meeting?" I asked. (I was already irritated by the noise and Boss's attitude, so I decided to play with them.) "Yes. It's 9:30.... Well, it's 9:45. Didn't anyone tell you?" Of course not. Four managers in the room with me, and they all knew the meeting had been postponed, but could one of them bother to inform me, the final member of the "team"?

Boss couldn't argue with my simple and clear-cut "no", so he tried another route. "Well, didn't you think we were having a meeting since everyone's here?" I replied, "No, because people walk in and out of here, holding conversations, all the time."

Suitably cowed, Boss informed me that he was about to start the meeting and would like me involved.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Land of the Lost

Saturday morning, I was hailed by a driver during my walk. He and his wife (and I think a child in the back seat) needed directions to Interstate 10. Man, were they in the wrong place.

Last year, a female driver and her passengers were looking for a particular motel. They, too, were nowhere near where they wanted to be.

This map (if the link works) shows downtown Las Cruces. (Note: the map is accurate as far as the roads go, but the features aren't. The city library is not shown at the SE corner of Main and Picacho, and what the map says is the "Mesilla Park Elementary School" is actually the parking lot for a bank and a Peter Piper Pizza.) The arrows on Church and Water streets indicate one-way traffic, which makes a loop around downtown. First, I have to get the drivers to negotiate the loop, then they can get the real directions to where they want to go.

I wonder if they ever found their destinations. I picture that scene from National Lampoon's European Vacation, where Chevy Chase is caught in that traffic circle. (And those of you who have ever attempted, or even accomplished, negotiating traffic circles know that they are the mortal equivalent of Sisyphus pushing that boulder uphill.)

Sure, I'm curious how many wrong turns they made to be so far off course that they ended up downtown. The better question, though, is why they so badly need to be someplace else at five a.m. Man, those must have been some parties they were coming from!

Do Your Share

My walking route takes me by the city's municipal courthouse. Even though it is dark when I pass by, I could see some large weeds and numerous small ones growing through the rock mulch. I wondered if anyone cared about the appearance enough to pull the weeds. It wouldn't take much effort. So little effort in fact, that if every court employee were to pull just one weed, the job would be done in five minutes. Couldn't everyone take just a few seconds on their way into the building to pull one weed?

I remember that it took my dad five minutes for a cigarette. Rather than have a bunch of employees standing around idle for five minutes, why not have them pull weeds while they're outside? It certainly seems appropriate for someone sucking carcinogens and particulates into his/her lungs to get just five minutes worth of exercise.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Out, Out, Damned Song!

A while ago, a friend posted on her blog some songs that came to her mind within a period of time. Naturally, one of them got stuck in my head for a good part of the day. I just read an obituary for an American TV show music composer, and there were a plethora of songs from which I could choose. Naturally, the one which stuck in my head first was the most annoying, although I'm sure they all could be after five hours.

MILWAUKEE (AP)—Will H. Schaefer, a composer whose music accompanied hit television shows such as "I Dream of Jeannie" and "The Flintstones," has died. He was 78.

Schaefer died Saturday of cancer in a nursing home in Cathedral City near Palm Springs, Calif., said Danny Flahive, a family friend.

The Wisconsin-native wrote background music, which is different from theme songs, for such TV shows as "The Flying Nun," "Hogan's Heroes," "The AristoCats," "The Jetsons," "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie" and "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson.

He composed and recorded music for more than 700 commercials, including ads for companies such as Ford, Chevrolet and Pillsbury. He also reworked the song "It's a Small World" for Disney to give it an international flavor corresponding to different rooms in the theme park ride.

His professional accolades included three Clio Awards for his work on commercials. He also was nominated for an Emmy Award for his score to the Walt Disney TV movie "The Skytrap," and for a Pulitzer Prize for his concert piece "The Sound of America," commissioned for the 1976 bicentennial celebration.

Which TV show theme is stuck in your head?