Anhydrous Wit

Are you pondering what I'm pondering?

Friday, December 21, 2007


Each morning when I arrive at work, the printer has the daily report of work orders and the next day's timesheets ready for me. This is an automatic process set up by our crack computer staff (note: not to be confused with a crackhead computer staff). I pondered if the timesheets for the holiday week would await me this morning. They were, but not quite as I expected. Here is the order in which they printed out.

Mon. 12/24
Sun. 12/30
Sat. 12/22
Thu. 12/27
Mon. 12/31
Sun. 12/23
Fri. 12/28
Wed. 1/2
Tue. 12/25
Sat. 12/29
Wed. 12/26
Tue. 1/1

Wabbit Season

Alas, the ducks were still too wary of us. We got them near the corral, but they still wouldn't enter. Then, we tried to lure them into a building entrance, so we could confine them, but that didn't work, either. I think the mere presence of four strangers with the Duck Lady was enough to make them distrustful.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Duck, Duck, Goose

I spent two and one half hours this morning watching ducks -- and I got paid for it.

The USDA wants to sample our population of ducks at Alumni Pond on the NMSU campus and test them for avian flu. I hooked them up with the local citizen volunteer who monitors the duck population. My job was to help out if needed, and, I guess, to be the official university representative in case anyone thought we were messing with the ducks.

I did a lot of standing around. The ducks were attracted by the cracked corn, but as soon as the blanket net was raised a foot, they skedaddled back to the pond. Then they tried a pole net over individuals foraging for insects in the rosemary; that didn't work, either. Next was the pole net over the two sleeping (we thought) just at the edge of the water, but they were too alert still. The makeshift corral we set up was far too menacing; even the dismembered bagels inside it weren't tempting enough.

We left the corral by the pond, with the bagels and corn inside, hoping that the ducks would check it out after we departed and not be afraid of it when we try to use it again tomorrow. We'll be back at 6:00 a.m., a cold, dark time to be failing at trapping ducks, but we're going to use Iams MiniChunks, which are, apparently, irresistible to ducks. Maybe we'll get lucky and I'll find out how to test a duck for avian flu (although I'm not too keen on the thought of sticking swabs or something into duck orifices).

Incidentally, in case you're interested, the following species (or breeds) were on the pond this morning.
Northern Shoveler
Blue Swedish
American Coot
Ross's Goose

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

And the beat goes on...

Our new administrative assistant is continuing the irksome tradition set by her predecessor -- namely, listening to the voice mail at full volume. I don't mind that she accesses it on speakerphone. In fact, it seems quite handy to be able to write with one hand, hold the paper steady with the other, and not have to juggle the phone receiver nor break your neck trying to hold it between your head and shoulder (a feat in which I am far from adept). Why, though, must it be so loud that people up to two rooms away can hear and understand the messages perfectly? You know, that almost ruined some perfectly good goofing off I was doing.

Incidentally, I thought of online names for our full-time and part-time administrative assistants this morning. I think you'll be pleased. I've added them to the end of this list, which I post to inform new readers or update repeat visitors of my code names for people from my life.

Betty - the actual name of a friend from high school, my date to the senior prom, an occasional visitor to holiday meals, sometimes called my "Satanic Sister from Hell" because of how alike we are, a.k.a. the daughter my mother never had. (No anonymity here because she uses her real name on her own blog.)

Robomarkov - semi-real name of a friend from college, for whom I served as best man (ten years ago, already!), and an expert on all things computerish or otherwise technical. (Also has his own blog.)

Gimpy - another friend from college, so nick-named because he walks with crutches. This is barely anonymous because, if you've ever met him, you know exactly to whom I refer, but his other nicknames are what various people call him in real life, so I can't really use those to identify him. (Only his family use his birth name.)

Boss - my boss, and the only boss I've ever actually called "Boss".

Sub - my co-assistant manager, whose blog name I chose because he is below Boss in the ranks and because his build suggests that he has eaten far too many submarine sandwiches in his lifetime.

Ob - the bane of my working existence, the recycling manager who doesn't recycle in his personal life, one of the (hopefully) few people on the planet that can talk for three hours without ceasing or needing a drink of water or to go to the bathroom (or, indeed, making any sense). I took his blog name from a Will and Grace quote, "He puts the 'noxious' in 'obnoxious'. Come to think of it, he puts the 'ob' in it, too."

Worker Bee - the office manager/safety coordinator who is very similar in age to me and who is just as vexed by Boss's and Sub's and Ob's antics, but whom I seem to piss off royally every time I ask him any question about a computer.

Thing One - the just-introduced blog name of our full-time administrative assistant. This name will stay with the position, regardless of the person to whom I'm referring. (For example, I might still refer to our former Thing One, who left for another job.)

Thing Two - ditto (except Former Thing Two retired).

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Secret Santa

I drew Boss's name in the office's gift exchange. Our limit is $10.00. I know he likes golfing, the Minnesota Vikings, Jack Daniels, and building houses. What he needs is a prescription for Ritalin, but I don't think I can afford that.

Update (1:00 p.m.) -- I no longer have Boss's name. It turns out that one other employee drew his own name, so now I have to buy for him instead. This is worse because I know absolutely nothing about his likes, dislikes, or tastes. I suppose I could go the easy route and get him a Wal-Mart gift card, something from the NMSU bookstore, or a Hickory Farms gift basket.

Meeting the franchise owners

Many people talk about "exercising their franchise" around election time (me included). Last night, I got to meet some of the newly elected officials.

There was a forum with our new councilman (elected), new mayor (elected), and city manager (appointed). First, I was amazed that I was nearly the youngest person in the room -- but perhaps people my age are busy with their families and can't make it to meetings like this. Then I was amazed by how many people asked the "Why can't we get a stoplight here?" or "When is this improvement, which has been promised then pushed back for seven or eight years, finally going to happen?" types of questions -- but maybe, even with their interest in city government, they don't know that public works, codes enforcement, etc. would be better suited to provide answers than people who were elected just a month ago. (I was also amazed by how many people asked questions about traffic volume on a particular street, which I can't write here because I had never heard of it before, even though it seems to be a busy street, so I don't know how to spell it.)

I was one of the few people that asked about a broader, public-good issue. I asked about an issue that was raised during the campaigns: the lack of zoning regulations which would require developers to reserve a certain percent of their land for schools, parks, open space, etc.

When I took an introductory planning class at NMSU, about 17 years ago, the textbook described basic planning methods, such as "x" number of schools for "y" acres of development. I (wrongly) assumed that was a principle that every municipality applied. That is why we get acres and acres (or miles and miles) of houses but nothing to do near them in Las Cruces. (If any of you come to visit, ask me to show you where everyone is building houses and where the closest grocery store is.)

Well, first I addressed a concern raised by the young woman before me (one of the few constituents younger than I), informing her that the Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities Advisory Committee (of which I am a member) would love to hear from her, and that our next meeting happens to be next Tuesday, December 18 at 5:00 p.m. at the new county complex. Then I asked my question.

The mayor responded, in a humorous way, that I must be a shill planted in the audience to bring up this topic because the city council had just, that afternoon, set a "work session" for March to work on nothing but the zoning issue.

I hope it will be set at a time I can attend. At the very least, I'm going to follow up with an e-mail to my councilman (twelve years younger than I).

A week and a half

When I woke up this morning, I realized that the song from my last dream was from a week and a half ago. (I can pinpoint it because it was performed on A Prairie Home Companion, and it's the only time in my life I ever heard the song.) My previous record for something appearing in my dreams (and still the average) is two to three days.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Here's Your Sign

"Taking a constitutional" was too many words to put on the sign. If the sign is in England and anyone was pushing a baby in a stroller, they'd be "perambulating".

Apropos of Nothing

The song "Yakety Sax" (used as the theme to The Benny Hill Show) was stuck in my head most of yesterday. I found it a refreshing change from the Christmas carols and annoying songs which my coworkers sing or whistle.

Just thought you'd like to know.

Monday, December 10, 2007

But it doesn't do windows.

We have a new copier in the office. The picture doesn't do it justice because ours is on a wheeled stand, so it is much taller and mobile. It is taller than R2-D2 but shorter than a Dalek.

This copier can do much more than our old one. It can copy. It can fax. It can take a single-sided original and turn it into a two-sided copy. Or, if you prefer, it can do exactly the opposite. It can even fax a two-sided original as two one-sided pages. Plus, it can take two or four originals and tile them onto a single, one-sided copy. It might even sing and dance for all I know.

I'm starting to communicate fairly well with it, even though we don't speak the same language. I was pondering if the copier is more versatile than R2-D2, but I don't speak R2's language. I need someone who can translate between robot and human languages. I'm tall enough to be C3PO, and I'm certainly proper enough, but I don't know enough languages. Any volunteers?

Friday, December 07, 2007

What in the name of Christmas is that?

A coworker brought in three boxes of donuts to share this morning. They came from a major discount retailer which most Americans either love or hate. (Me, I'm neutral.) They are a mixture, meaning they have decorations and flavors I think donuts aren't meant to have. Two of them are decorated for Christmas. I haven't seen a green like that since St. Patrick's Day! That is not a color food should be. (A word of warning: the donuts are terrible, and so are the cakes and frosting this store sells.)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Phone-y Information

I paid my local and long-distance phone bills last night. Naturally, I check them first to make sure the charges are accurate. They are, but I tend to wonder how much the phone companies are getting away with.

My local phone company charges a "Federal Universal Service Fund" fee, which it claims "helps keep local phone rates affordable for all Americans". Hmm, sounds a bit socialistic for our capitalistic country, but it also sounds like we do nice things for poor people, so that one squeaks by.

I also get charged a "New Mexico Universal Service Charge", which "helps keep basic exchange rates affordable". Now I'm suspicious. In order to "keep... rates affordable", they need to charge me more (twice)?

Side note: with all these "universal service" charges, why am I limited to talking to people on this planet? (Betty, are these fees what enables the Doctor to give a magic cell phone to Rose and Martha?)

My long distance provider has me on a "plan" which charges a fee to provide me with a given rate per minute. I calculated the difference between the fee and how much I would pay for a full rate, and it does show me paying less for the fee. Still, I'm going to go to their web page and see if there's anything better for me.

There is a charge on this bill called a "Monthly usage minimum amount". I have no idea what it means. It is for $4.17. Well, my long distance use was $17.40, over four times the minimum, so do they need to charge me? I want to investigate that one, but of course they don't make it easy for me.

For the "Universal connectivity charge", the long-distance provider gives a phone number and URL "for an explanation of this charge". They do the same for the "In-state connection fee" and the "Carrier cost recovery fee" (note: a different phone number for each). However, the one fee for which they don't give a phone number nor a URL is the one I want to question. Naturally.

Side note #2: I'm charged the "universal service charge" on both bills. That means I'm getting hit a total of three times to make phone service more "affordable".

The lesson here is, even if you always read the fine print, you might get stuck with a raw deal anyway. I'm tempted to send this to Andy Rooney.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Get Real

Continuing on the theme of frivolous TV programs, why are "reality" shows so popular? They're not even real, for goodness sake. First, participants must audition; randomness goes out the window. Second, the producers then select particular people from the applicants, further reducing any chance of spontaneity. Maybe even everything they then put on the air is scripted to heighten perceived tension. (I wouldn't know, as I don't watch any of those programs.)

If I recall correctly, this phenomenon started with an MTV program called "The Real World", which selected college age students then shoved them into one house. If they wanted "real" in college, they should have just stuck cameras into any dorm in the country. Watch what happens when two people, truly randomly selected, are stuck in a 12' x 12' room and told that they have to live together for eight or nine months.

If you want even more conflict, mount a camera to capture what happens when 40 college guys have to share one bathroom. I had thought that the women's bathroom would generate far more interest, but we'd have to limit the broadcast to the Playboy channel or pay-per-view (or censor it for Spike TV), decreasing the audience size. Plus, I suspect that the carnage of young women fighting over makeup, hairspray, a spot in front of the very few mirrors, and which boy should belong to which girl would be far too vivid for most people to witness.

Now I know how 'American Gladiators' stays on the air.

Over on Betty's blog, occasional discussion has taken place about the television writers' strike in the U.S.A. I consider the past decade of TV a landfill (with occasional items worth recycling mixed in there), so I was pleased to see this humorous essay about recycling shows to create "fused" programs.

Talk to the Hands

When I got to thinking about it, I did a lot of manual things this past few days. On Saturday, I learned about basic plumbing. On Sunday, I put out my farolitos. Yesterday, I checked all the fluids in a truck I was borrowing (and needed help only to find the brake fluid) and then tied down a load of empty 5-gal. pots in the back.

I thought I did an admirable job, too, but Worker Bee suggested we simply put a tarp over them, and attach that with bungee cords. Twenty miles down the road, he realized that the tarp was sliding back because of wind and pondered aloud that we probably should have just left the pots tied as I had done. (It's a bit hollow, but it's a victory for me nonetheless.)

With all that manual labor, I should have cracked open a cheap beer to celebrate after I got home from work -- if I had any cheap beer, that is.

Monday, December 03, 2007


Or maybe I should call this dessert, since it could be considered a follow up to my 8/17/07 post, "Bloody Vikings", about e-mail spam. How about leftovers, like the sandwiches I'll be making with the turkey in my freezer?

An open note to the world's spammers: get your acts together! For years, you have been bugging me to try your various penis enlargement techniques, pills, or whatever. Now you're telling me to "watch the inches come off". Or does that refer to when the Viagra you're pushing, too, wears off?

Let it what?

I put out my farolitos yesterday. While doing that, I pondered how inaccurate many Christmas carols are for those of us in warmer parts of the country. It does snow here in Las Cruces (average of once per year), but there are other places where it doesn't snow at all.

I used to joke that, whenever my parents had out-of-state visitors, it would snow in Albuquerque. I might have to amend that. It snowed when I was home last Christmas (and got stuck in town an extra day because they don't seem to know what a snowplow is) and again this Thanksgiving just passed (but that melted the next morning).

And, since I'm talking about inaccuracies, I'd like to point out that the lyrics to "Sleigh Ride", "Let it Snow", and "Jingle Bells" don't mention Christmas at all, so why do radio stations play them only in December? I ought to call in with a request in February, just to see what the D.J. would say.