Showing posts from January, 2010

Cats cats cats

Dear N'3lvra,
Advise me on the cat litter issue you expounded on in a previous advice column. I am in a quandary. I had no clue that the creation and disposal of cat litter was such an anti-green activity. Let's see, what is the opposite of green on the color wheel? Red. So it's a red activity. Ugh. We have a cat, but she is indoors only, so at least she isn't killing songbirds. But we are litter-ing. What do we do? Sequester it somehow? Mix it with concrete? Take it to household hazardous waste day?

Emerald Shamrock

Dear Emmie,

Remember in the 70's when being green meant having your own little place in the country with a garden and a few chickens? And now, that's the worst thing you can do. Sprawl sprawl sprawl.

The same thing is going on with cats. It used to be the best thing ever to save a cat from a shelter, but not any more. The whole litter topic has been handled most excellently by the incredible Umbra Fisk, but I'll recap h…

Workin' for the man

I’m about to take you on another little voyage into the dysfunctional work place, which I hope will allow you to appreciate your own employment situation, whatever it is. And, on a more selfish note, it allows me to appreciate that my job provides a lot of good material…

The other day at our staff meeting, The Boss handed out copies our mission, vision, and values statement, as a preface to asking us to come up with some new efficiency measures. It’s probably like all the other M, V & V statements in the world, declaring that we take pride in what we do, and it’s a great place to work. Our boss is smart and beloved for being a very decent, kind person, but we were all thinking, wtf? Is he joking? We started making suggestions like, we could get rid of two thirds of the geologists, and let the remaining one do all the work. Oh wait, we did that already. I know, we could eliminate four ecologists and have the remaining 7 absorb their work. Oh wait, we did that already. I kn…

In which R. lands in a ditch and nearly finds god

The other day, R and I went to the zoo, which was a bit of an escape for both of us; I think there’s a rule that if your 16 yo son wants to go anywhere with you, you should drop whatever you’re doing and just go, and especially if what you’re dropping is work, and what he’s skipping is school. 

R. commented that he was the only non-adult over the age of about 3 at the zoo, which was pretty accurate; watching all of the parents with toddlers reminded me of how much easier it is to go around with people who can walk and manage their own toileting needs.  We had an excellent time, and got home in time for R. to drive himself to band practice at a friends’ house. 

A few hours later, I got the call that every parent dreads:  “Mom, I’ve been in a car accident.”  Luckily, no one was hurt, and no one else was involved – he hit a slick patch and spun out, landing in a ditch.

He ended up right in front of a small church, which happened to be occupied by a small youth group meeting.  It’s the …

pious and thrifty

Dear Quortknee:

Is it wrong to make change out of the offering basket when it comes around at church? My friend says it’s wrong. In fact, she didn’t even hesitate when I asked. But what if all I have is a single large bill? I’d like to contribute something, but I’m not sure how much my salvation should cost. And maybe I’d like a little lunch later, you know?

I’ve also heard that old Texas saying, “The higher the hair, the closer to God.” Is that true? Instead of donating to church, maybe I should be spending my money on a higher hairdo, like maybe a really tall, spiky Mohawk. I’m so confused, can you provide some guidance?

On a related note, is it wrong Tweet in church? Seriously, what if I have an app for that? And what if something really moves me at church? Shouldn’t I share that with all my cyber-friends immediately? What if I forget to do it later?

Excuse me,
- Pious and Thrifty

Dear Pious,
I don't know where you got that bad information about the change. It's perfectly …

The rat race

At last week’s staff meeting, one of my co-workers declared that the level of dysfunction in our organization is so profound that it eludes words, which I took as a personal challenge. Game on.

The reason this comment about dysfunction was brought up is because, at that particular staff meeting, all of the Mucky Mucks attended so that they could give out service awards.  When you work at some companies for 20 years, you might get stock options, but when you work for the government for 10 years, you get a 3 x 3 tinted glass tile that has the agency logo on it, and when you work there for 15 years, the tile is 4” x 4”, and, at 20 years, a 6 x 6 tile.  I guess if you work there long enough you could create a shower stall or something. I’d like to point out that the surface area of tile increases rather steeply, which must have meaning.

But one of the reasons that this was such an unusual presentation is that the biggest mucky muck of all had been fired (oops, I mean she resigned to sp…

What's happening?

Aries (3/21 – 4/19):  Did you hear about that woman who got the lasik eye surgery for reasons of convenience and vanity, but it harmed her eyes and now she has to wear moisture-generating goggles all day?  The problem that started out as, "I don't look so great in glasses" became, "Now I always look like a fish in a foggy terrarium."  That seems wrong, but I just wanted to point out that there are weird problems out there that don’t belong to you.  Enjoy that, for a change.

Taurus (4/20 – 5/20):  Does it bother you to realize that you’re only the figment of someone else’s imagination, and lately, they haven’t been thinking about you much?  I can see how that would be disturbing.  This week, though, try to make a break for it, and capture your own life.  (Don’t. Tell. Her.)  

Gemini (5/21 – 6/21):  Johnny Depp did not die, if that’s what you’re worried about.  So this week, fill up that dumpster, metaphoric or actual, and get rid of stuff that’s dragging you down…


Hi Cort-nee,

I've had something on my mind now for several days and it finally occurred to me that my troubles would be solved if I wrote you for advice! The problem is that I was defriended on Facebook and I don't know why. 

I've actually been defriended many times but it's usually people I'm not really in touch with any more and was going to defriend myself anyhow, but this time it's different. This person is a current co-worker, sits just down the hall and I actually thought we were  friends, in that coworker kind of way... 

If he had defriended all coworkers I could understand that, but he's still friends with others, even people he had told me personally drive him crazy! So I'm trying to figure out if I've done something really awful and don't remember or didn't realize was so offensive. One more thing...I thought it might be a mistake so I tried 'refriending' him with a little note joking about how I must have really ticked him o…

What's my problem, N'3lvra?

Dear N’3lvra

I have a lot of problems, but what I’m writing to you about today is this: I have written a long, boring, political diatribe to an advice column on a blog that isn’t about that. I pretend I’m writing for advice, but in fact, I discover that I’ve written a 4,459 word diatribe about proposed legislation that doesn’t even affect me, because I don’t even live in that state. I know! Count the words, I am not exaggerating. The problem, I guess, is that I write as if I have a question, when in fact, I just want a platform for my political views. What should I do?

Lonestar N.

Dear Lonestar,

Thankfully, you reined yourself in, sparing me the unpleasant task of taking a long political message and reforming it into an actual question. (Oh wait, you didn’t do that? Sheesh. Did it this time, Lonestar, but that’s the last time.)

Maybe you’ve never read an actual advice column before, but here’s how it goes: people write with their own personal problems, like, “I have a…

blog roll

When the kids were little, I went camping with another family somewhere on the other side of the mountains where it isn’t supposed to rain much, but it rained the whole time. As we stood around our campfire in the drizzle, a boy from a different campsite came and stood at our fire, not really saying anything. It was pretty awkward, like, um, does he know that we all know each other, and if he walks up and stands here, he should probably say something?

I felt sorry for him because any time we were around, he showed up and stood there, not talking much, and his name was bad, like Marvin or something. You just knew this kid was teased at school. That name wasn’t gonna help, and neither were his parents, who were the drunken yelling sort of people. I really didn’t mind feeding him and stuff, but he wasn’t the sort of kid who’s fun to have around, which clearly wasn’t his fault, but still.

At any rate, finding blogs to link to makes me feel a little like Marvin. There I am, following …

new cop in town?

The other day my hippy teenager, M., was on her way home and got pulled over for speeding on C.V. Road, which I can’t really comment on because I’ve been known to do the same thing -- the speeding part, not the getting caught part. But in her case, the cop pulled her over and detained her for an hour.

She passed the Breathalyzer test, walked the line, and answered many questions:

“Where are you coming from?”

“A Tilth meeting in the Valley.”

“What’s that?”

“A meeting of farmers to exchange information.”

“Are you for or against farming?”

When she was telling the story to R. and me, R. stopped her at this point to suggest an answer she could have used: “I’m anti-farming. I just dress this way because I’m trying to infiltrate the movement.”

The cop asked her whether she had a knife or any other weapons in her car. (Is it illegal, btw, to carry a knife in your car? I have never been asked that in a routine traffic stop.) She confessed to having a leatherman in her glovebox, one tha…


Dear Khortnee,

My friend Claire has got no cats.

This is a tragic situation that she clearly needs to remedy. Cats are an essential part of life, after all. An unpurred upon lap is a very lonely lap indeed.

The question is how should she go about acquiring said feline.

Especially when there is rumored to be some cataphobics in the house who might consider the corralling of a cat to be a cataclysmic catastrophy of clearly colossal consequences.

Perhaps some significant other or three should select a cat or two or three and present them to her...

A. nonymous

Dear A. Nonymous,

Keep up, A. Laps are for laptops. Cats are the worst thing ever: kitty litter mined from open pits in Wyoming. Used for a week, then dumped into landfills, which are as bad as strip mines only worse, because of the toxic leachate. And in between, they lurk around the house like they're better than you, pretending they can talk but just don't feel like it because you're not very interesting. AND,…


The other day while in the field with the lovely R. (not to be confused with the teenage R.), we started playing the game, “name three things you’d be willing to do with [name a coworker] that don’t involve drinking”. The point being that there are people in the world that are distinctly more pleasant to be around while medicated.

But it morphed into a rather fun game of identifying peoples’ quirks that wasn’t nearly as unkind as it sounds, and it distracted R. from how annoyed she gets when I use the navigator on my phone rather than rely on her. She always brings up the point that perhaps I should look at the fact that I get along best with electronic devices and don’t mind outsourcing one of her important roles to a gadget, right in front of her, for goddsakes, which gives me a chance to say, “well, if you would say things like, ‘prepare to turn right in point two miles,’ rather than ‘Oh, I think that was it’, maybe I’d turn off the phone.”

We were also distracting ourselves f…


Dear Khortnee,

I need your help with holiday card etiquette. If I send a card out and it is returned "undeliverable, no forwarding address", I immediately want to delete that person from my list. After all, if they're not considerate enough to notify me that they moved sometime during the previous year, then they certainly don't deserve a picture of my adorable children.

My husband thinks differently. He thinks just because they're his relatives and are going through a nasty divorce or got put in a nursing home that we should give them some leniency. Could you help me to explain to him exactly why he is so very very wrong?



Dear Claire,
Of course he's wrong. Undeliverable means undeliverable. What part of that is so confusing to the father of those adorable children?

I think it's reasonable to assume that these "friends", and yes, I'm doing the motion that goes with those quotation marks, have traded in the opportunity to…

Mistaken identity

Someone I know has created a fake facebook profile, selected a college and year of graduation for this phony person, and sent friend requests to other graduates of that school. In two days, this phony person, whom I’ll call Bob, has acquired 145 friends. I know, that’s way more friends than I have, and I’m an actual person. It's best if I don't think too hard about that.

When Bob posts a status update, it’s generic, like, “Long day today,” and some of his FB friends click, “like.” Of the 145 friends, five asked the question, “do I know you?” before approving the friend request. To which “Bob” answered, “Um, yeah, didn’t we have a class together with that whacky professor?” In each case, that was enough to recover the person’s memory, and they’d invariably respond with something like, “Oh, right! Professor L.! Yes, I was the T.A. for that, remember?” Every comment of Bobs is generic and ridiculously obvious. For example, one friend posted a picture of a knife. Bob co…

Don't worry about the sidearm

Yesterday one of the people at my office who is on the “lifeboat”, which is what they call it when you’ll probably be laid off in 2 weeks, but maybe not and nobody’s giving you any information, came into my cubicle. 

“Have you heard of ________,” he asks.  He’s in typical form:  talking in a low mutter, leaning in close, using a rapid mumble so that words tumble out of his mouth as if they’re anxious to get out and need to hurry before he catches on.  It wouldn’t require too much acting for him to be in a mafia movie.

“Nope,” I reply.

“Well, you’ll be getting that project.  When you see the comments about needing a sheriff accompaniment to visit the site, ignore it.  He’s threatened County employees with a sidearm, but you’ll be fine.”

“Um, okay.”  In addition to the people who have already lost their jobs, which is especially sad because these jobs are not coming back anytime soon, and people have spent their career developing a freaky little specialty that doesn’t apply anywhere el…


Hi Kohrtnee,

(Somehow your name reminds of the word chortle. It's late and I'm rummy, maybe that's why...)

I have two questions:

1. There is a certain relative of mine who needs to find a new place to live. Do ya think suggesting he/she plop one of thesenearby would be the right encouragement? Heck, I wouldn't mind living in one of these if the location was right. It kinda says funk/eco more than trailer park. (Oops, was that a gaffe?) This relative isn't living with me, by the way, but is making those who have to live with him/her rather miserable. So just how kosher is it to say 'um, hey, relative, it's time you moved out and left your relations alone!'? (Gender disguised to protect the not-so-innocent.)

2. Why is there an Ask N'3lvra blog with the most recent post being a stale February, 2005?

Sign me,

Confused Chortler

Dear Confused,

I watched the video and almost got seasick.  So I watched it again and again and pretended I was on an oceanic cr…

Hey Frankie, you're not my bro

I get an e-mail about once a week from someone named Frank Fenimore.  He seems to think he's my brother.  He says stuff like, "did you get that puzzle I sent you? When can I come over and work on it with you? Love from your brother."

I don't have any brothers (that I know of), and it seems more than a little odd. It's been going on for a while.  Maybe  years. There are local references, like, "shall we meet at Coho's in Monroe for a drink?" What has tipped me over the edge is this weeks' note:

Happy New Year
 How is that new cat?

 Your Cat free brother

Yes, he uses that enormous blue font.  Why does everyone think I have a cat? 

R. thinks I'm a douchebag (his word) for not replying and saying, Hey Frankie, we aren't bros. (R. claims he's a pro at using the word douchebag, a word that I find rather vulgar, because one time he was required by a teacher to write a little essay on what the word meant.  I'll let you im…


Dear Kalamazoo-
What do you have to say to a person whose job is to be part of a tech team and she can't figure out how to answer your alter-ego's (are we talking Three faces Of Eve?) hilarious blog?

And what would you have to say about a person who threw away the handmade soap her college roommate sent them for Christmas because the smell of it immediately transported her to a restroom of a Phillips 66 gas station, like in Redding or Bakersfield, CA. I'm suddenly filled with self loathing and here it is the 1st day of a brand new year.
                                                                       Vila Enviler

My Dear Vila,
Khortnee doesn't get many christmas cards or gifts, but when she does, she immediately pitches them in the trash or recycling (I guess you'd need to put them in the haz mat receptacle?) Or, more awkwardly, she donates them to the garage sales of the people who…

The 'scopes

Aries (3/21 – 4/19): You should watch that movie about the guy who digs up a stump, varnishes it, presents it to his wife as a baby, and the wife nurses it until it comes alive and eats the postman. Oh, you’ve seen that one? Of course! Maybe you’ll like this? (That’s what Netflix says, anyway.) This will seem like a long week, but make the best of it. Turn up the music and dance.

Taurus (4/20 – 5/20):  Expect a proposition of some sort this week. Hopefully better than the one I got last week, “hey, you should take a few pieces of firewood on your way out.” Um, hello, you think my price for not calling it a stream is a tenth of a BTU?

Gemini (5/21 – 6/21): If you’re honest, you’ll admit that you too are afraid of air travel, and a drink or two does take the edge off. But keep your wits about you and your id handy. Watch Harold and Maude again, fer chrissakes!  Once is not enough.

Cancer 6/22 – 7/21: Do you think people use the word, “paradigm” in order to seem smart? I read t…


Dear N‘3lvra

Ok, it took me a while to write you, but there is no way around it. I seem to have been severely traumatized by losses in my life and now I seem to find myself increasingly putting up with nonsense because I don’t want to lose people as a consequence of my possible not-putting-up-with-sh…tuff.

For example, I have been thinking about breaking up with my counselor. I felt that we have lived apart and may not have too much in common; also the fire has cooled down in the bedroom … oh wait – wrong relationship. Anyway – you know, when you feel like they don’t really see you but only their reflection in you and then the part about not really listening (or taking notes for what it’s worth). So I talked to my friends and all agreed that it’s time to break up and I was determined to do so.

I didn’t want to do it in email, or a text message because I know what it feels like to be dumped that way. I thought about calling at a time when I could be sure to reach the answering machine…

Pants Mission

Yesterday I took R. shopping for pants, which is both rather a huge deal and makes it seem like this blog is all about the pants area, which it’s not.

Since 2007 he has only worn shorts, and I suggested that he might be more successful in his job hunt with pants on. I didn’t go into the part about how when it’s 40 degrees and raining, wearing shorts could potentially, and I’m not saying I do this, but could lead one to assume you have poor decision making skills or something. Would someone wearing shorts in the cold rainy winter know that the lettuce doesn’t go at the bottom of the bag?

We went to a bunch of stores and he tried on, oh, maybe 83 pairs of pants, and none really worked, so we finally went to the Gap, which undoubtedly takes advantage of children in far-away lands to make fashionable pants for first world hipsters, as is probably the case for every store we went in.

But I’m kind of proud of The Gap because the American Family Association is boycotting them. The AFA is pi…