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Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Rudeness Trap

Thursday evening is one of the two evenings per week that I have class this semester.  For various reasons, I've had a longer than usual stretch of time today between leaving work and starting class.  I decided to hole up in the student union and work on a statement of purpose for a grad school application.

I was deep in thought, staring at my laptop screen when two people who appeared to be undergraduates approached me.  After a lead-up of them telling me their names, asking me my name, telling me how random their approaching me was, and admitting that they didn't know whether I was spiritual or not, they cut to the chase and invited me to join them at a meeting of their bible study group.  I had an ironclad excuse not to go:

"Oh," I told them.  "I'll actually be in class when your meeting starts."

But then--and here comes the trap--one of them asked me if I would have been interested in attending if I hadn't had class.

To be clear, I have no objection whatsoever to religious group meetings of any kind.  But it's not really my thing.  I prefer to keep my religious/spiritual beliefs private, and shared spiritual beliefs are not what draws me to other people.  I didn't explain any of this.

"Ummm...." I said.  "Probably not.  But thank you very much for inviting me."

I won't lose sleep over this encounter, but I am sort of wondering what one does in that sort of situation.  Is it a thing now for people to approach strangers and invite them to meetings?  Was there a more tactful way I could have answered the question?  Should we all just be brutally direct in responses to such questions?

Maybe I should just try to look really mean while I'm working in public places.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

What We Eat When Nobody Is Watching

This may be wishful thinking on my part, but I think everyone must like a particular food, or combination of foods, that other people find odd.  The food combinations I like for which I've received the most grief commentary are bananas with cheddar cheese and peanut butter with dill pickles.

I never thought bananas with cheddar cheese was such an odd combination, but my roommates my freshman year in college set me straight on that when they saw me eating it.  And, truthfully, even though it's a delicious combination, I don't know of other people who eat it.

Peanut butter with dill pickles is a slightly different matter, since I know I am not alone in eating it.  My dad eats peanut butter with dill pickles.  I think I had some commentary about that when I was a kid, but it eventually occurred to me that maybe he was eating peanut butter and dill pickle sandwiches because they tasted good.  I was convinced when I first tried a bite.  I also saw an article about peanut butter and pickle sandwiches a few years ago, so I know there are people outside my family who eat them, too!

My latest odd inspired combination, which I finally tried yesterday after wondering about for a while, was peanut butter with Sriracha sauce.  I had it on a rice cake, and the flavor was somewhat reminiscent of Thai food, while being quick enough to put together to provide instant gratification.  Scott witnessed this, and promises he'll try the combination...sometime.  I'm now trying to decide which other unsuspecting friends and family members I should try to bring on board for this strangely delicious snack.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

And Then There Were Tomatoes

I wrote this summer about my (mis)adventures in balcony gardening.  Even though it's technically fall now, balcony gardening season has continued, courtesy of the unseasonably warm weather we've been having.  In my opinion, this is really the only upside to the weather at this point.  This summer was a challenging time for me, and I'm anxious to put it completely behind me and move on to fall.

However, the upside of continued balcony gardening has its own very specific upside.  I finally have tomatoes!  After a string of cherry tomato plants inexplicably died over the summer, I tried a beefsteak tomato plant.  It stayed alive, but it took a while before it did anything else, like grow taller or blossom.  However, now it's huge and full of green tomatoes!  Just in time for a first frost (if the weather were a little more fall-like)! 

Eventually, three of them ripened, so I'm happy that we got to enjoy at least a few tomatoes from our plant.  At this point, I'll either be stuck with an extra long summer that refuses to move on (but plenty of ripe tomatoes!), or I'll get my wish for fall weather and learn to embrace fried green tomatoes.

Friday, September 29, 2017

In Which I Struggle NOT To Tell The Truth

I'll get the good news out of the way first:  I'm employed full-time again!  The employer which laid me off in June asked me to return, so I'm back at the same place!  I'm just hoping not to repeat the layoff experience again in a few months!

Since there was about three months between receiving my layoff notice and returning to my office, I have some thoughts on the job-search process.  Chief among those right now is that interviews are the pits.  Of course, when you're looking for work, you want to have them.  But really, they're bad on both sides.  If you're the one being interviewed, you're going to feel anxious and awkward, and then you're going to second guess everything you said as soon as the interview is done.  If you're doing the interviewing, you're trying desperately to fill a position with someone both competent and tolerable, and you have very limited means of determining whether your applicants are either of those. 

Unfortunately, the very limited means of trying to learn about an applicant often mean asking questions that are nearly impossible for the applicant to answer truthfully.

I'm going to purposely leave out a lot of details here, but I had an interview for a position for which I felt qualified, but was different in many ways from other positions I had had.  I was surprised when I was contacted for an interview.  During the interview, one person asked me how this position fit into my career goals.  An honest response would have been something like this:

"I applied for this position shortly after being laid off with no warning.  At that time, my goal of having income and benefits overrode any loftier career goals I might have had.  As a plus, this position seemed like it might be pleasant, and the office is close enough to where I take evening classes that work shouldn't interfere too much with my studies.  Otherwise, though, this position has very little to do with my current career field, and probably even less to do with my planned future career."

Obviously, there was no part of this I could have shared with my interviewers.

I don't even remember how I answered the question, but I doubt I was either convincing or credible.  They say practice makes perfect, though, so for any future interviews for positions that are not obvious career fits for me, I'll have to be sure to get my lies straight ahead of time.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Case Of The Missing Mouse

Our resident mouse lover
I've written before about common ground between humans and cats, but I've discovered another similarity!  Much like human children, cats become very attached to certain toys.  And, when said toys go missing, the entire household looks for them.

Before we brought Laila home, I purchased a variety of cat toys including a pair of catnip mice.  These mice were identical, aside from one being beige and the other being gray.  Laila took a liking to these mice, but always seemed to like the gray one better.  (Why?  I thought cats didn't see colors very well).  Her preference for the gray one seemed to grow over time.  The gray one was the one she would pick up in her mouth and meow around when she wanted attention.  It was also the one we would find outside our bedroom door some mornings, when she evidently thought we had slept in too late, and came to meow at us through the door.

When last seen, the gray mouse's feather ears had long been chewed off.  Its fur had developed a coarse texture from repeatedly being held in a cat's mouth and chewed on.  The beige mouse looks quite pristine, by comparison.

However, yesterday afternoon, I realized I hadn't seen the gray mouse in a while.  Laila considers the couch her home, and usually, the gray mouse is right there with her, except when she's playing with it.  I noticed Laila walking around, looking up on the couch, and meowing, so I think she was looking for it.  I figured it had just gotten stuck in the couch cushions, but I've looked pretty carefully and haven't found it.  We've been trying to think of more places to look, but it's hard to imagine where it could have gone.  And we're in an apartment, so there's a limited area to search.  I feel pretty bad about it, considering that it's a well-loved gross cat toy we're talking about.

I'm kind of assuming at this point that it will turn up somewhere, but I'm curious where that will be.  I'm also curious how Laila will react to it.  Will it be a joyous reunion, or will she have moved on to one of the other of her many toy mice in the meantime?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

I Didn't Have Enough Bad Odors In My Life...

So I visited a corpse flower in bloom!  Corpse flowers are native to Sumatra, but we didn't have to travel that far since the United States Botanic Garden has three of them!  They don't bloom frequently, and it always makes the news here when they do.  I had been regretting the fact that while I've been to the US Botanic Garden several times, I had never been while the corpse flowers were blooming.  This time around, I decided to seize the opportunity.  They didn't all bloom at once, but you can see one in bloom (with the other two waiting to bloom) here.

The experience was somewhat different than I had expected.  With a name like "corpse flower," I expected the smell to be much more dramatic, the sort that hits you like a ton of bricks as soon as you walk in the door.  It turned out that the rotting meat smell was both faint and intermittent.  One of the employees explained that it is energy intensive for the plant to produce this stench, so it doesn't produce it constantly.  She also helpfully pointed out to everyone when it was emitting the stench, and where we could get a good whiff since--let's face it--people come to exhibits like this in part to be a little grossed out.  But, they are attractive plants, even if a little smelly.

Speaking of things that are at once gross and beautiful, we saw this tree on a walk we took later.

I love how the leaves look like lace or filigree.  However, I'm pretty sure they got that way by being chewed up by bugs, which kind of creeps me out.

On a different note, we saw the Hive exhibit at the National Building Museum on Sunday.  Very impressive structures, especially considering they were made with paper tubes!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Remote Work Mysteries

I've recently started a part-time job, working remotely for an employer in another state.  Most of the other employees work onsite.  I'd never really thought about this, but when you work in the same space as other people, you share a lot of experiences with them, good and bad.  You see colleagues and bosses come and go, you partake in office parties, you complain together about the flickering light in the conference room.  Sometimes, you even get a group layoff experience!  When you work remotely, you don't have these same points of reference.  Messages were circulating recently about a goodbye party for departing colleagues; I never met any of them in person, and I didn't get to eat any of the food.

But the weirdest thing is that in the few weeks I've been doing this job, there have already been two(!) emails about the restrooms.  I don't recall receiving any emails about the restrooms at my previous job, which I held for over a year before being laid off, so two messages in a just a few weeks seems noteworthy somehow.

The first message was to advise us that only employees and authorized visitors were allowed to use the restrooms.  Evidently, random people from the parking lot had been trying to come inside the building to use the restrooms.  (Why?  Are the restrooms in this building really nice, or are they just the only restrooms around for miles?  I need details!).  All of us employees were supposed to somehow fend these people off, and if they persisted, we were supposed to notify the sender of this email so he could deal with them.  (How?  I'm picturing parking lot fist fights that I'll never actually get to see.)

The second message mentioned that the restrooms had been left in "disarray," and that if we needed further clarification on what that meant, we should stop by the sender's office to ask.  I'm so curious about this email, but yet, so glad I don't know what the sender was talking about.  The "disarray" must have been pretty bad to warrant any sort of mention, and the fact that the sender would only elaborate on it in person makes me think it was fairly lurid.

But, since I can neither visit these restrooms nor stop by anyone's office for clarification, the exact nature of the "disarray" will forever remain a mystery to me.

A blurry photo of my distinguished office mate, Laila.