Showing posts from March, 2010

If the skirt fits

Text conversation with R. in the middle of the day today:

R:  During passing period, I asked Ms X [student teacher] if she was wearing a skirt or a kilt, and she took 5 points off my participation grade.

Me:  Oh, R.  Next time, could you just assume it's a skirt?  [I say this because I know how important it is to him that we use language precisely.   He's not just being a smart ass, language really does matter to him.]

R:  Easier said than done, Mom.  The item is plaid.

The Office

If you're new to this story, it might make more sense if you read these first:
Something fishy
Work work work work work
If I were any happier, I'd need medication
Weird out
Yesterday, I decided to pretend I work in a Toyota factory, where we’re all about teamwork, and if I have a problem, I go directly to management, who fixes things right away.

I was trying to print stuff out in color because it was a bunch of maps that really need color to be useful. As usual, the computer took 10 minutes to send the stuff, and then 15 minutes after that, I started getting the vague error message, “Failed to print”, but it pops up 15 times, because that’s how many things I’d sent, interrupting everything else I was trying to do. So I walk over to the printer, and notice it’s turned off. I move to turn it on, and someone stops me, oh no. Don’t touch that.

But it’s the only color printer in the building.


I go to my boss in the Toyota factory. “S., production has stopped. We need a color pri…

Dog party

A friend was mildly complaining about, or maybe a more accurate word would be commenting on, a birthday party that her pre-school children were invited to, and seeking ways to get out of it that wouldn't hurt anyone's feelings.  This, because the mother of the birthday girl is friends with the owner of a pet cemetery, and the party will be held at the cemetery.  But that's not all.  There's also a dog therapy pool; party guests are asked to bring their own dogs, and the children and pets will all swim together in the dog therapy pool.

I can totally understand why the prospect of plopping her not-strong-swimmer 3 and 5 year-old children into a pool with large dogs, urine of all varieties, dog hair, and whatever else, isn't her favorite idea.

"But think of the blog," I pleaded. 

After a tiny bit of discussion, she finagled an invitation for me, and told the hostess we would drop by briefly, pay respects to the dead and living animals and the birthday girl, …

Waterboarding before burger

There's an article in the NYT this morning about slaughterhouses, which I find interesting because we're trying to permit one right now, and it's complicated.  Government is good at dealing with routine stuff,  but if you propose something unique, like a bed and breakfast where the sleeping will occur in a series of treehouses, or a mobile slaughter house, where a truck will drive around and kill animals at their own pasture, government stumbles, because it takes a while to figure out what the impacts and safety issues are, and how these one-off things fit under the regulations.

The article is about how the demand for local meat has increased, but the shortage of slaughterhouses makes it difficult to meet.  (Aren't you glad I stopped myself from saying, 'difficult to meat?  I know.)  What struck me is this sentence about the situation in Vermont:  "Two slaughterhouses recently closed, one destroyed by fire, and the other shuttered because of animal cruelty cha…

Art Show

Some art from the W'ville art show.

Fish, by the lovely S.U.,

and yoyo art by my own little R. who isn't so little.

The animals, bald eagle and some sort of feline were created by preschoolers that I don't know, and I just really liked them.

guns and roses

I try to do my job and not think too much about all of the material it generates, but there are points during the day when I want to just ask if its okay if I take some notes, or use a tape recorder so I get it right.  Because the truth is stranger, and sometimes a little bit sadder than fiction.

I visited side-arm man the other day, the guy whose parcel has a pop-up attached to it, “Do not visit without police escort!” because he’s threatened to shoot County staff who come onto his property.  We didn’t bring the police, but there were three of us, a goofy engineer, an oddball grading reviewer, and me. 

The man seemed like one of the sadder, lonelier examples of the species.  Maybe a hard-living 65, or a more typical 75, hard to tell for sure.  His problem, well, one of his problems, is that he brought many truckloads of fill and several shipping containers onto his property; it’s all in the floodplain and the stream buffer. Floodplain stuff is always the hardest, because people ofte…

Worry, me?

Going to visit this guy today.  "He probably won't bring the sidearm out with you," is what I am thinking about this morning.

weird out

I walk in the door after work yesterday to the usual, “what’s for dinner?”

“It’s your night to cook, R.”

“Oh, I HATE that!  And the question stands, what’s for dinner?”

“What do you want to make?”

“I dunno.”

“How about taco salad?”

“Sounds good.  Do we have the stuff for it?”

“Um, no.”

“Mom, are we gonna go through all of these imaginary choices and end up at burritos?  Because we could just skip to that part.”

“Ok, let’s.” 

“Are you sure you don’t want to cook tonight?  This seems complicated.”

“Yep, I’m sure.”

"How was your day?"

"The yooj.  Angry crazy people all day.  Yelling."


"Everyone just seems particularly crazy.  The guy who planted the trees is getting a restraining order on his neighbor because she was in the stream, shoveling it out trying to get more water go on her side of the island."

“Is that allowed?”

“And he has 8 webcams that were formerly trained on the entrances to his enormous house aimed towards the stream now.”


Congratulations, House

I liked it best when Obama said, "We are not bound to succeed, but we are bound to let whatever light we have shine."
Yeah, what he said.

I am not just making this stuff up.

Aries (3/21 – 4/19): Grief is like that.  At first, the earthquake flattens you, and you think you’ll never stand up again.  But you do, and you think, hey, not so bad, I can do this.  But the first aftershock comes and you can’t imagine carrying on, you want to curl up in the fetal position. But you don’t.  And then the tsunami hits you, and you just start to feel pissed off.  But over time, the distance between the giant waves of pain increases, and the amplitude of the waves get a little bit smaller, and amazingly, you learn how to swim through it all, even when the waves come.   You look around and realize, oh my god, everyone out here is dealing with their own pile of suffering, and we’re all bobbing around out here together, and you feel this incredible tenderness for your fellow people.  Keep that, and carry it with you wherever you go.

Taurus (4/20 – 5/20)
: Isn't it annoying when you're always taking the high road, and it seems like the low-roaders are having more fun …

Pen pals

Dear N'3lvra,

Remember that question I asked you about forking somebody in the forehead during a board meeting? Well, I consulted my lawyer (his name is Brian and I've copied him on this e-mail) and he says I can go for it!

Will you still write to me when I'm in jail?


One sanctimonious bitch per board is plenty thank you very much*

Dear One,

Oh, at first I got all panicky when you said you'd consulted your lawyer, because letters that start that way usually don't go anywhere I want to go. But of course I'll write to you in jail.

I hope they have a high speed connection wherever you end up, because if my tiny but loyal readership starts getting hauled off to jail I'm doomed.

Board Meeting Ettiquette

Dear N',

I often find myself at board meetings with an overwhelming desire to jab somebody in the forehead with a fork. Are there any states in which it is legal to do so? Does it matter if it is a salad fork or a full sized dinner fork? What if I were to use a plastic spork? These people REALLY deserve it. It would really be in their best interest if I could help them in this way and the thunk would be so gratifying to me personally. It is truly a win-win situation.


Dear C,

You should use the outermost fork for the first agenda item, and work your way in as the meeting progresses. If there are no conflicts during the first topic, you may bypass the salad fork and move right to the dinner fork. When you've completed the gratifying thunk, gently place the fork at the 20-past-four position, to indicate that you're through.

Unfortunately, I've been forbidden to offer legal advice since this debacle. Someday, maybe the whole story of why N'3lvra lives alone on th…

If I were any happier, I'd need medication...

The other day I was in my boss’s office, and we quickly got on to planning my funeral. I don’t remember exactly why that came up, but since we were on the subject, I made my wishes known (cremation, ashes spread anywhere that comes to mind, weeding party to continue eliminating the Lamiastrum angustifolium, etc.). I think it came up because everyone is so angry with me these days, and we were discussing the odds that one of these people would actually kill me.

The guy who planted the trees, he’s furious because I won’t make his neighbor take down her bird houses, which are in the stream buffer. Yup, that would be super popular, to start requiring permits to put up bird houses. He calls my boss daily and threatens to sue us, and reminds us of his connections with the Council. I think he considers me to be a total slacker because I haven’t done anything about bird houses, which he perceives as harassment, in the same way that his neighbor thinks planting the trees are harassment.

More about the whole pants area

Dear N'3lvra,

One day recently, while I was minding my own business in my office cubicle, surfing the web looking for photos of Sarah Palin wearing a particularly goofy facial expressions, a pair of cat-pee-infused leather pants arrived in the mail.

My first thought was to mail them back to the sender, but there was no return address. Then I thought of throwing them away, but I decided that might be bad luck. Then I toyed with the idea of giving them to Goodwill, but I decided the Goodwill people have more important things to do than trying to clean cat-pee-infused leather pants. Then I seized on the idea of anonymously mailing them to a friend, but I’m sure he would quickly figure out where cat-pee-infused leather pants came from.

Should I try to get them professionally cleaned? Use them as the centerpiece of a shrine to cats? Keep them in the car (with the windows open) to ward off evil spirits? Send them to Glenn Beck?

Miserable in Maine

Dear Miserable,

work work work work work*

It's a pity I can't write too much about my work, because if I could, I'd talk about how the guy who insisted on planting the trees after first cutting them down, has saved, in his McMansion, a box of debris that he supposedly cleaned out of the stream, as evidence.  Yes, evidence.  He sat us down at his huge mahogany table in his enormous house, and then ran up to the attic, yes, I said attic, to get this box full of random stuff that could possibly have been grabbed from a garbage can, or a construction site, or the attic.

When my sister and I were little, like 8 and 10, we were completely obsessed with Harriet the Spy, and wanted to be her.  At least the her when she was sneaking around in dumbwaiters, happily spying on people, not the her at the end, when Ole Golly moved away and all her friends hated her because she kept notebooks about them.

At any rate, that's the kind of stuff I would do at, I repeat, age 8.  Collect a box of "evidence" of completely …

Should she stay or should she go?

N'3lvra (a.k.a. Khortnee) is threatening to quit because no one writes to her, and she thinks she could find work elsewhere.  I dunno, I don't like to negotiate with terrorists, but I would like to keep her around in case something comes up.  Should I just let her go and be done with the madness?

She's annoyed because I make her show up every day and sit at her desk until quitting time, right there next to the noisy internets, on the off-chance someone needs advice, which hasn't happened in a while.  She heard about the person I work with who packed up her cubicle and disappeared but still gets paid, and wants to do that herself.  I do provide hearing protection, in addition to room and board, which she calls room and bored.  I could assign her to the horoscopes, but she's so sketchy and irritable these days, I hesitate to let her have any control over your future...

Monday came around again

Can hardly wait to re-visit these people today.  One threatens to bring the council-person who was arrested for drunk driving, and the other includes the council-person who feels that it's okay for rural residents to greet county staff at the door in the buff, carrying a shotgun, because its all part of the rural culture.

Mars is finally out of retrograde

Aries (3/21 – 4/19):  You hire someone to replace all your windows, and it's supposed to take one day, which seems amazing, but you assume  they know what they’re doing.  But when they show up, something seems really off; it seems more like your girlfriends with no carpentry skills whatsoever came over and started randomly breaking windows and not installing the new ones in any predictable order.  Yeah, those guys are with the DEA.  I think they're watching that neighbor guy.  I don't think it's normal to drive a horse trailer.  I really don't.

Taurus (4/20 – 5/20):  Did you hear about that vampire who was taken into custody the other day because he said he needed breakfast and what he eats is human blood?  I hate that.  Speaking of which, the PS Blood Center has called me, and I am not exaggerating, 36 times this month, but no one is taking those guys into custody.   Oh, wait, this is your horoscope, forgive me, I ramble.  (There was no metaphor in that vampire th…

Second chance

I took Virtual Partner on another run yesterday, and I’m not sure it’s gonna work out. After VP ended it so abruptly on our very first run together, I'll admit, my feelings were hurt, but after thinking about it, I could sort of see it from his side, like maybe the people at Amazon suggested I was faster or younger or ran more or something; maybe it was disappointing to be a mail order VP and end up here.  I felt a little sorry for him, so I decided to give it a second chance.

I turned off all of the alerts except VP, which I thought was courteous, showing him that he had my undivided attention. About a half mile into our run, a little pop-up appeared: “Are you inside a building?”

I wanted to say, sheesh, pay attention, VP, we’re on a run in the woods, I thought this what you wanted? If it were up to me, I'd be taking a nap right now, but I'm not, I'm out here running with you.  I don't say any of that, because I'm trying to be flexible and understanding, so…

Follow up and Errata

My mom sent me a little note about this post, and it turns out I had the story a bit wrong, and as usual, the truth is better than my version, so I thought I'd mention it here.  After she visited a church during her church-shopping spree, a minister visited her at her home, un-invited.  She took the opportunity to ask whether he thought actions or belief were more important.  He said belief, which was a big turn-off, and she has been a Unitarian ever since.  (Thanks for reading, Mom.  :-)

The smelly pants, I know you've all been wondering about them.   Shortly after that post, I moved my cubicle (or stall, as we call them to demonstrate our connection with the ag community) to an area distant from the pants.  The next day, the supervisor spoke to the person about the cat-pee-infused leather pants, asking her if she could please store them in a locker on a different floor.  The owner of the pants stormed out, packed up her stuff, and neither she or the pants have been heard fro…

Something fishy*

Last week, I visited a site with a typical Hatfield/McCoy story, but like a lot of these, I can’t tell what to think, because I listen to one person and they seem pretty reasonable for a while, and they make the other person sound crazy, but my views switch when I talk to the other one.

In this case, Neighbor A reported that Neighbor B had cleared trees along a salmon stream years ago.  By the time I visited the site last week to bless the location of the plants that the one guy was required to install, they had established a long history of name-calling and general nastiness.

What happened this week is that the complainant who was upset about the clearing is now furious about the planting. 

To make this even weirder, the stream has a tiny island in it, and the shared property line goes right down the middle of the island.  The woman who didn’t want the planting hopped out to the island and plunked down her own potted plants, and paced up and down on her side of the imaginary line, w…


The trouble with insomnia is that all of those ideas that come to me all night long seem either really stupid or like way too much work for my tired self in the morning.  The blog suffers.

Imaginary Friends

The day I got my new GPS/heart rate monitor in the mail,  I was excited to go for a run, but it needed to charge for three hours, using up every last drop of daylight, so I charged it and just walked around the neighborhood after dark to test it.

I was the epitome of a dork, wearing my giant wrist watch unit, carrying a flashlight so I could look at it, and, as usual, wearing my digital thermometer around my neck so I could see what the lake temp is (46F).  (I know.  And people wonder why I’m single.)  I kept finding myself veering off into the roadside ditch and falling down, or bumping into parked cars because I was so focused on the not-so-little wrist unit and what it was telling me.  Fortunately, my neighborhood has other people stumbling around for their own reasons, so I don’t think I stood out too much. 

Friday, I was able to go for my regular run in the woods.  I’ve been curious for a while how long it is, and how fast (or, in my case, slow) I travel.  Rather than reading th…

From Rags to Ridiculous

I’m reasonably proud to be a 2nd generation Unitarian, especially because my mom, who was raised in a mainstream Christian religion, went church shopping when we were little, and was planning to be Presbyterian or something, but told the pastor she didn’t believe the Nicene Creed when he came to visit her. He said he didn’t really believe it either, and she could still belong and say it along with everyone. She was disgusted with the hypocrisy, and sought out the Unitarian church, where she never had to say stuff she didn’t believe, and has been a member ever since.

I’m pretty active in my Unitarian church, because I believe what Unitarians believe: that every person has worth and dignity, and that it’s our responsibility to work towards making the world a better place, and that there’s mystery and wonder in the world but we don’t have to call that god, and that we should focus on being decent and thoughtful in this life, rather than worrying about the next life, which I, for one, …



If you were to read the editorials in yesterday's Seattle newspaper, you'd see something about how a poor farmer tried to pave a driveway, was told it would cost $22,000 in permit fees, got an attorney, and had it knocked down to $10,000.

You'd also read that he tried to use a few mobile homes as sheds, but wasn't allowed to do so because he didn't have a drainfield.  Too bad he didn't explain how he was  given the option to remove the plumbing and keep them as sheds, but said that wouldn't work because he needs the plumbing, so the County said he needed a drainfield, and around and around it went.

Too bad the columnist didn't do any fact-checking.  The farming activity described as "paving a driveway" was actually constructing a completely new road up a steep slope, within a landslide hazard area, to access a new lot that he was developing.

I'm not defending a $22,000 cost, and surely, there's a story there, but it is irritating…

Da new guy

Met the new boss.  Two of the head guys walked him around, introducing everyone, and saying nice things about each of us, which was unusual, and also a little sad and sweet, because we all pretty much feel like we're on the chopping block.

First the managers came around and warned us, "At 2:00, he'll be coming by to meet you."  Meaning, comb your hair, and don't be just standing around.  So I did, I actually did comb my hair, and we even turned off the music (Tone Loc, thanks for the idea, P.).  When the small but powerful entourage got to me, R. said, "Betsy's really..." and I finished the sentence for him, "a star."  And J. and R. were all, "Yes, she really is."  Which was kind of awkward, because it was one of the first complements I've gotten, and, well, I gave it to myself, which makes me think I should have started doing that years ago.  I brought my hands to heart center and bowed a little bit, and they moved on to th…