Friday, September 30, 2005

Minutes from the Annual Staff Meeting

Yesterday, the staff of our company had what we lovingly refer to as an "off-campus meeting". We had to meet in the auditorium of another organization for this meeting, the importance of which is still totally unclear to me.
It was held ten blocks downtown from our office, which would normally be a lovely walk except that it was raining and windy and I had no umbrella and was wearing flip-flops and had to latch onto Phil and Ilana and beg them to be my umbrella buddies.
I think everyone in the company was a little surly to begin with because we were deliberately told to meet there after lunch so they wouldn't have to feed us. Our department arrives and goes through the metal detectors (un-named place where we were meeting is religious and high-security) and right away I beep. They take me aside and run the hand-scanner-gun-item over me and it beeps at my crotch. "Got anything in there?" the man asks. Let's pause there for just a second. Got anything in my crotch?? Really? And if I did, would I tell him?
We go into the auditorium and I'm sort of surprised because our staff meetings are usually in these big halls with all of us at round tables, and this is more like a screening room with a podium on stage in front of the screen. We're early, but already the last seven-eight rows are full so we take seats in the first open row and the place fills up with a few more rows of people. So at this point, there are about twelve rows in the back full of people and the ten rows in front are COMPLETELY empty. The woman from HR gets up and asks if people will please move to the front. No response. The executive director then gets up and makes the same request. Nothing. He then asks specifically for the last five rows of people to get up and move. Still nothing. At this point it's pretty embarrassing and feels like I'm at a high school assembly. He is so surprised that no one is reacting that he asks if we can hear him. We can. Then he makes a joke about it being too bad that no one moved because those who did would have been given half a day off. Not ONE laugh! It was awesome.
To understand the next part of what happened at the meeting, I have to explain that there's this woman who works in another department and makes a crazy throat-clearing noise that can be heard many, many cubicles away. Picture "AH HUH HUH" but low and loud. As the director starts speaking, she immediately starts: AH HUH HUH! This is a sound that we enjoy imitating so much that it never fails to make us lose our shit. We weren't the only department who was fighting not to lose it, lemme tell ya.
The first speaker was there to talk about sexual harassment, discrimination, etc. Two hundred people are staring blankly at him, so much so that he makes a joke about "dying up here". He then reads the handbook out loud and uses lot of lines like: "Sexual jokes. Funny? Perhaps. But not in the workplace." He turned out to be the most entertaining part of the next three hours, where the director and CEO took turns giving random power-point presentations. I totally felt like I was in some sort of office comedy where they read aloud the handbook and actually used phrases like "a cohesive macro approach".
Afterwards, Phil and I went out for drinks to dull the pain. AH HUH HUH!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Maine, my heart bleeds for you

That's the title of the song I'm writing about Maine, one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. It goes something like:
"Maine, Maine, my heart bleeds for you,
you are so beautiful,
Maine Maine Maine."
It's a work in progress.
Anyway, Miriam Elizabeth and I drove up to Maine this weekend to attend the Common Ground Country Fair, this cool festival in Unity, Maine. Elizabeth is from Maine so she didn't really get why Mir and I were so excited about it, but we couldn't wait. It was really cool, with all kinds of exhibits and demonstrations of organic farming techniques. There were people spinning wool, milking goats, showing chickens and gorgeous vegetables, many of which I'd never seen before. There was TONS of organic food with plenty of vegetarian options, including whole wheat fried dough, veggie pasta, lobster rolls, fried clams, french fries and lots more. I also stopped at the Midwives of Maine table and got some buttons "stop the spread of birthfright"(!) and a tote bag (of course) that says "peaceful birth peaceful earth".
Elizabeth invited us to stay in her family's camp in Poland, Maine (as in Poland Springs!), right on Thompson lake, which was still warm enough to wade into. It was so beautiful there that I said it was "making my heart bleed", a statement that I had to explain was a good thing.
Here are some pictures from the weekend:

sunset over thompson lake, jen's favorite time of day

throwing a stick into the lake for the dog to fetch

I LOVED the Maine/ New England accent and did an amazing job of butchering it all weekend. My usual level of eavesdropping was only heightened by this. Mir ordered a garden salad and was asked, "gaHden?" and she said "yes, gaRden". It was great.
Also, did you know that businesses in Maine love to play with the word "mainly" as in, "Maine-ly Lobster Soup" or Maine-ly nutritious"? Me neither.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Secret Confession #1

Kelly just asked me a question that prompts this secret confession. Do you have a particular ear you use when talking on the phone? And if so, what happens when you use the other ear? Discuss.
I use my left ear exclusively. If I use my right ear, especially when using a phone headset, I feel like I can't hear as well or even understand what the person is saying sometimes. I never talked about this because I though that maybe I was going deaf in one ear, and that's embarassing. Kelly said she has the same situation, though, and she feels like she's going crazy if she tries the other ear.
What about the rest of you?

Lunch Club Chili

We have a lunch club here at work. There are three of us in it and we take turns making lunch for the group once a week. So I only really have to deal with lunch three times a week: once for the three of us and twice just for me. This makes life a lot easier because we've pretty much exhausted the food options in the neighborhood. Today was my turn to make lunch, so I made chili last night. I read a bunch of recipes and sort of threw it together, keeping the ingredients I liked and trying to use up some pantry stuff. I had some canned beans that had been staring at me for a while and I also wanted to use one of the leftover mirasol chilies that I bought to make Heidi's Salsa of the Year.

While I thought the chili was delicious, getting the ingredients for it ruined my experiment of trying to shop exclusively at my corner bodega. This place is really incredible. The owners are friendly, and they have everything, including obscure ingredients for the random shit that pops into my head and I then need to make IMMEDIATELY. And you gotta love a place that only stocks free-range eggs. I made sesame noodles a couple of weeks ago and was so impressed with the fact that they had all the ingredients I needed (including sesame oil and fresh ginger) that I decided to see how long I could go without going to the regular grocery store. I should note that the grocery store is only a little bit further away than the bodega, so this wasn't for the sake of convenience but rather information gathering. I haven't lost confidence in it yet, but I thought they probably wouldn't have fake meat or chocolate chips (necessary for dessert). And it turned out the butter was on sale at the big store, so you can't really argue with that. So experiment over. It was fun while it lasted.

Lunch Club Chili

3 small yellow onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 green pepper
1 dried mirasol chile
2 tbs. chili powder (I like Penzey's)
1 tsp. oregano
1 can kidney beans, rinsed
1 can black beans, rinsed
2 cups frozen corn
4-6 cups vegetable broth
1 box Pomi crushed tomatoes (or the equivalent)
1 box of Morningstar Farms sausage patties, defrosted and crumbled
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

grated extra sharp cheddar
sour cream

Saute the onion, peppers and garlic in a heavy-bottomed pot (dutch oven if you have one). Chop the dried pepper, removing the stem, seeds, and ribs, and add it to the pot as well. Saute until onion and peppers are soft. Add the sausage and frozen corn and and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Then add all the rest of the ingredients except the vegetable broth and stir. Cook the chili over medium heat, adding vegetable broth if it looks too thick. The longer you cook it the better it tastes, and it's even better the next day. Serve it with cheese and sour cream. Serves about 6 people.

UPDATE: Last night I couldn't sleep because I remembered that I had left out an ingredient: 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate! Carry on.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Flushing

Listen, I know that there are a lot of crazies where I work. I won't risk getting specific on who I'm talking about it, but let it just be said that these people are NUTS. I have a feeling there are going to be lots of stories about them, so I'll just give them code names: heretofore the loony Almodovar fan will be known as Pepe and the soda-witholding secretary to the CEO will be called Butch.
You should also know, before I continue this story, that there is A LOT of drama involving our bathroom here at work, whether it's unidentifiable tems (read: gore) spotted on the floors, or freakishly large cockroaches waiting to lunge when I sneak in after hours to use the bathroom. There's also a problem with people "camping out" in there, but anyway.
I just went in and was followed by both Pepe and Butch, who were having some sort of insane conversation. Pepe and Butch each entered a stall and immediately flushed the toilets before sitting down (or perhaps squatting? who knows with those two).
Can anyone way in on this? What could possibly be the purpose of flushing before they even begin the elimination process? And don't say that there was something in the toilet, because there wasn't. It's PEPE and BUTCH we're talking about here, people.

Oprah and Jen

So, I was babysitting the other night. NYC babysitting = tons of money for sitting on someone's couch eating their food and watching TV. Which is how babysitting is everywhere, I guess, without the beaucoup bucks. Yes, I did just use the term beaucoup bucks, but let's move on.
I hadn't sat for these people in a while and so was pleasantly surprised to see that they had gotten some sort of TiVo contraption since the last time I'd been there. I figured out how to see the list of shows they taped, and immediately went for the Oprah. It was an interview with Jennifer Aniston, (and also there was something about puppies? but that might have been a different episode) and so I just had to go for it. See, Miriam usually gives me my daily Oprah summary, especially if it's something she thinks I need to know, and luckily for me this particular episode was one which Miriam had already told me all about. So partly I watched to see how accurate Miriam's Oprah summaries really are, and partly I watched to see the pain in Jennifer's eyes. Which was there, and made me cry, because who hasn't had their heart broken?? But I digress.

So Oprah's interviewing Jennifer and she's asking her about coping, and dating, and blah blah blah and then Oprah gets to the really tough, hard-hitting, nail-biting questions:

O: What's your favorite time of day?
J: Sunset.

O: What's your favorite pig-out food?
J: Mexican

Now, I honestly didn't realize when watching this interview how much it would come to disturb me over the next few days. I just couldn't stop thinking about it. Let me try and break down why that is exactly.

1. Do we really live in a world where SOMEONE cares what SOMEONE ELSE'S favorite time of day is? Not someone you're in love with, or answering a fourth-grade questionnaire about entitled "My Hero". No, a totally random person who happens to act and the world (because you know THE WORLD watches Oprah) needs to know her favorite time of day???

2. Jennifer answered "sunset" without batting an eye! If someone asked me what my favorite time of day was, I'd have to think about it , at least for a second! And I'd probably make some sort of exclamations about what an excellent question that was. When we came back from the fair on Saturday and Elizabeth's brother asked what my favorite part of the fair was, I couldn't believe what a great question that was! And you can damn well be sure that I thought long and hard before answering a question like that. So what we are to understand from this exchange is that Jennifer was asked to prepare an answer for this question well in advance of the interview. Somebody faxed or emailed Jen a list of questions and she was readied to answer WHAT HER FAVORITE TIME OF DAY AND FAVORITE PIG-OUT FOOD ARE.

Does that not disturb you? So all weekend I tortured poor Miriam and Elizabeth by asking them OVER AND OVER, "what's your favorite time of day?" And they, bless their hearts, never failed to answer "sunset".


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