Thursday, January 31, 2008

Job Security

Almost two weeks ago, I got some unsettling news. "They" were "reorganizing" the "company."

It was difficult to hear my boss telling us what was happening. She talks quietly and sometimes it seems like the timbre of her voice blends with the beautiful white noise the "company" pumps into our office space. Sometimes I really appreciate the white noise, other times, like when we're being told borderline bad news, it's infuriating.

She delivered the news. Everyone stood there. "What is she saying?" We were all thinking. Our job descriptions were changing, we were all being bumped up, would be earning salaries instead of hourly wages, we'd do less copyediting and more farming out. "So, we're not being laid off?" I asked. I could tell everyone was kinda sorta wondering the same thing. I also asked if some other employees in our office would stay where they were. They would. And those employees were also wondering the same thing. I'm a mind-reader.

But two of us would be moved to another department. Everyone was thinking the same thing: it would be me and the other employee who was hired about the same time as I was. Last in, first to go. So we prepped ourselves for the move. We heard nothing else about it, except that the change needed to be completed by February. We had two weeks to adapt to the news.

The following Tuesday morning, just as I walked in, a coworker asked me if I'd heard that it was me that would be leaving. I hate mornings, and though it's been on the books for many years that I'm waiting to become a morning person, I especially loathe Monday mornings. I even feel snarly on Tuesday mornings masquerading as Monday mornings. This was one of those. So I wasn't in the mood to deal with emotional upheaval first thing Tuesday morning. My co-worker -- there were two of them actually -- asked me if I had heard the new news. I said "no."

"You're the one who's leaving," they said.
"Just me?" I asked.
"Just you," they said, nodding.

I sat down, trying to hide from their eager faces. I couldn't tell if they were glad or what, exactly. They seemed excited, but it wasn't clear whether they were excited that it wasn't them (or the person who was hired two weeks after me -- that person is, admittedly, better than me at what we do. Older. More experience), or if they were just putting on a happy face about it for me. I felt a little let down. It was one thing to be shuffled around along with a coworker, a peer. Another to be the only one picked out of the litter to be carted off.

A senior coworker asked if I wanted to go see where I was moving to. I said maybe later. Then, literally a few minutes later, after I'd been stewing over my irritation that the "company" had lied to me, that it was only me leaving and not two of us like they'd said, the senior coworker popped into my cubicle with my future boss, and insisted on introducing us. They led me back to the new cubicle.

Two flat panel computer monitors. A Mac G5. Oh how those sweetened the somewhat bitter deal. Yes, I can be placated by better technology (for a time). Because I love technology.

And the raise isn't so bad, either.

But I ask myself, over and over again: is all this worth my life? My life is the time I sit here in this cubicle, fulfilling the dreams of other people. This isn't my dream. How many of us sat through high school classes, elementary school classes, and dreamt of a far off cubicle decorated with pictures of loved ones and other reminders of why we endure the bourgeoisie torment? There are worse things, but in this society where we are buffered from physical suffering and other oppressions, isn't this numbness exactly what we fear?

Or maybe I'm just spoiled. I know I am. When the news came that one of us would be going, first I was thankful that we weren't being laid off (though deep inside I felt skeptical, wondering if this was some sort of preliminary song and dance before they cut us off completely), and second I felt bitter that they could bandy me about like an object, a resource sans feelings and opinions (I wasn't ever really asked if I wanted to go). Sure they can placate me with the promise of more money, but what have they taken in exchange for that?

We exchange our dreams, I guess, for the security of a promised income and the benefits to patch the wounds we cultivate from sitting motionless in our cubicles. Some of us break away and become the owners of the "company," and they know just what we'll sacrifice for those feelings of security, because once they were one of us.

I am a slave to the feeling of security. Will I ever achieve my outlandish dreams while sitting in a cubicle? Or do I have to up the ante by putting myself in harm's way first, by losing the benefits and the steady income? Who knows.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Inherent Flaw of "Original Idea"

So last night as I was falling asleep, this brilliant idea struck me. It electrified me and I couldn't sleep. It was for a website, and I was so sure it would be the thing that made me rich. It would revolutionize a bunch of stuff, it would rake in the dough and then someday I'd sell it to Google for billions of dollars. I'd split the money up between my investors and co-designers, because obviously I don't know the first thing about programming or design.

The idea wouldn't let me sleep. My mind was buzzing with possibilities and ideas and how I would do it. I was networking with friends in my head already, planning on who I'd involve and who I'd ask for help. I was coming up with clever stuff. I felt like giggling. I was hysterical over this idea.

Stoker woke up to roll over and he muttered something to me, something about loving me I think, and then I started telling him my idea. He was coherent enough to ask me one question. I launched into my answer and was waiting for some positive feedback when I noticed he was snoring already. It irked me. I mean, just because he worked a 16 hour day, he's tired? Yeah right. And just because he worked a 14 hour day yesterday. . . he always pretends to be so worn out . . .

But the idea kept going. I couldn't sleep. I felt exultant over my ingenuity. Of course, when I had tried to tell Stoker about it, it sounded ridiculous . . . yet I knew in my heart of hearts that it was truly brilliant.

Then the dread hit. I had been afraid to even utter my idea, knowing that ideas attack in blitzkreig fashion and that somewhere, someone else might be having the same idea . . . or someone had already HAD the idea.

I was tempted to get out of bed and check online, to see if anyone had already done it. I didn't. But I went to meet the problem anyway, advanced worry, if you will (it's the way I am). I felt an ulcer forming in my stomach, a new one, a companion for the old ulcer, which began when I first discovered that I'm not the center of the universe (two years ago). A wave of nausea swept through me. The thought rang through my brain, echoing, "I'm not original."

This morning I checked. Every address I typed in has been used for websites of a similar nature.

I can feel another ulcer forming.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Save the Wolves

I have a free wolf calendar in my cubicle. I accidentally let it get to me and I went to their web site to adopt a wolf and maybe a snowy owl. I sent a letter to the governor of Alaska about aerial hunting . . . I'm pretty much a sucker. But can you blame me?

Take action online at

I couldn't help myself. I'm an animal lover and all that. I made sure to let the Governor know that I support the rights of Americans to bear arms and to hunt for subsistence. But I'm violently against trophy hunting. And I'm sure she'll read the letter, just like I'm sure it will all make a difference . . . but one has to try, right?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Tough Women of WWII Era

I was fooling around on the Library of Congress' page and found these excellent photographs from Salt Lake City during the Great Depression. These women are training to operate buses and taxicabs. I guess it was one of those initiatives, the WPA or something. This woman looks like she could handle anything. I want to say she's thinking: "Ya got somethin' to say? Alright then. Don't mess with me, that's all I'm sayin'." In a Brooklyn accent. But this was Salt Lake City. People didn't have Brooklyn accents.

In this image you can almost hear the photographer giving them directions, "Now lean in a little so I can get you both in the shot. That's right, that's right. Now you, Fred, put your hand out and point at something, like you're telling her how to drive the bus. Good, good. Freeze that action! Now hold it right there while I snap the picture . . ."

"Mom? I'm a bus driver now! Can you believe it? I know, I know. It's weird. Little old me driving one of those huge buses. I still can't believe it's happening. Yeah, I even have a hat with a badge on it, like I'm all official and everything."

See? That's why I love these photos so much. I look at them and I see an entire drama/sitcom unfolding.

Honestly, though? These women are my heroes.

I'd like to thank the Library of Congress for making this post possible. And the internet, for giving me access to the Library of Congress from 700 miles away. And I'd also like to thank Dr. Pepper, for being the drink that is, for loving me like it does, and for always being there for me when I'm thirsty, when I'm down, when I just need a little sugar rush, and for being available even though it's not part of a huge corporate conglomerate like Coke or Pepsi.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Daily Hilarity

One of the funniest posts I've read recently: some HILARITY.

Email to a Company with a Crappy Ad

Have you seen the internet ads with the dancing woman? I was trying to read the weather on and there were three of them! I could hardly concentrate on what I was looking for -- some kind of link about weather and health, which I read about in a article.

The ads were strategically placed in three different locations all over the page. The top, the middle, and the bottom. So almost anywhere I scrolled on the page there was a dancing woman taunting me. No, they're not nude or anything. It's not like that. It's like the moving thing draws your attention.

So I emailed the company behind the dancing woman ad:

Your internet ads are an embarrassment. And they're annoying. I will never ever never ever never never never ever never use your service. I can't believe you're affiliated with Experian. You bring shame to the Experian name. Maybe you haven't realized that a company CAN display class when running banner ads. Your ads simply scream low-class, sleeziness. If I DID need help lowering my bills, I certainly would not click on an ad running an obnoxious dancing woman. I would think there's more to the psychology of the human than simply appealing to the irritant reflex. Sure, the ad makes me want to destroy the movement, in the same way I want to slap a mosquito buzzing around my face. But you must have forgotten about the refresh key. I'll click that before I click one of your hideous ads.

Think about it. I'm more likely to click on a tightly designed Nike ad with beautiful graphics touting a sale or something. Even an AT&T ad or a Verizon ad. Their ads are enticing while yours are repulsive. I don't even like AT&T but they understand the power of color. Your ads are so irritating that I'd rather write an email than use your services. I'd rather go to the pawn shop or use my car title to get a loan than use your services. That's how crappy your advertising is.

Thanks, have a nice day.

Was I too harsh? Probably. But you have to be firm to get through to people.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Hillary Clinton Is No Margaret Thatcher

I look at Hillary Clinton and something about her face reminds me of my mother. They're nothing alike really. It's suggested in her careworn features. The picture of a middle-aged woman. She appeals to my heart, like my mother does.

And then she opens her mouth and I cringe in shame. I think about what she's doing and I'm embarrassed. The contradiction. The complete rejection of who she is as a woman. The power couple, Bill and Hillary. Where is their daughter?

It's sad to me that Hillary has put herself out there to be hated. I guess I'm just a traditionalist. Women should be protected. They're the heart of the home. I'm fiercely protective of MY mother, if anyone even comes close to slighting her in any way, the hackles rise up on the back of my neck. I would take them down. I see Hillary and I instinctively want to save her from this, but she's a sad moron and has brought it on herself.

She was a senator, fine. She was mainly beyond the scrutiny of the entire country. But now she's out there, in the midst of wolves. I don't want her to be president. She tries to convince us that she loves this country, that she's doing this because she has a dream and is following her heart, she's doing it for the children. To me that rings of hypocrisy. Her own daughter has seemed neglected at the expense of her career. It's a terrible thing to say, but was Chelsea simply a token?

I know it takes all kinds, we're a diverse bunch. Not all women want to have children, not all men want to be fathers. But when that's the story, I wonder what happened in a person's past to make him or her feel that way. Our biological instinct is to propagate. We naturally fear being forgotten, being left behind, being wiped out. So I think it is against our nature to not want to have children of our own. I think the absence of that desire is a result of an environment. An upbringing. An incident in one's past.

Hillary embarrasses me. I believe a woman could be president, yes. Hell yeah. But I also think a woman should conduct herself with grace and class. She should be above reproach.

My parents and I discussed this. They feel what I feel, that there's something missing about Hillary. Something distinctly unwomanly. Unmotherly. They brought up Margaret Thatcher. I'm too young to remember her, but my parents LOVED her. They said she was brilliant and good and smart and feminine and she conducted herself with dignity.

It strikes me that Hillary thinks being motherly, womanly, is to suggest that government should solve all our problems. Socialized healthcare, socialized higher education, socialized everything. A good mother understands that her children cannot be given everything or else they never learn to do anything for themselves. Remember the story of the kid with the butterfly chrysalis? You can't help the butterfly out or it won't have the strength to fly.

It's not necessarily that Hillary is a Democrat. It's that she violates everything I believe a woman should be. Mothers know better. That's what was great about Margaret Thatcher. She had real strength while demonstrating that she understood humanity:

"I think we've been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it's the government's job to cope with it. 'I have a problem, I'll get a grant.' 'I'm homeless, the government must house me.' They're casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first."*

*Interview for Woman's Own ("no such thing as society") with journalist Douglas Keay (September 23, 1987), "Aids, education and the year 2000!", Margaret Thatcher Foundation.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Reader's Digest Is Like Rain in the Desert After a Day Here

I've got to vent.

My job….if it had a neck, I would throttle it. Punch its face, if it had one. Kick its shins. Smack it. And I'm not even a violent person. I'm not. Really.

Somehow I landed the unenviable position of copy editor. I'm surrounded by words all day long, and I love them. I do, honestly. I enjoy the way they sound, the ways they can be fitted together to make a sentence, their precision, and the possibilities. I love struggling to find the right words. There is a right word for everything. There are those who are skilled at finding them. And there are those who are not.

And it's irritating when a writer is one of those who is not. It's also irritating to read books all day long written by people who aren't in love with language. They're writing to make money (not much, usually . . . but there's always the chance that this, THIS could be a surprise best-seller), to prove a point, to gain recognition in their circle of colleagues, to be able to say, "My book is actually about this very subject we're discussing . . ." or even, "I've arrived, yes, this is my thirtieth book . . ."

Editing someone else's work isn't easy. I enjoy it on many levels, but it also makes me apprehensive. Will the author be offended by what I've changed? I wrestle with myself, knowing I could have said that sentence better. I leave the sentences as they are, unless they're totally confusing. Then I try to clear it up with just a few changes. I only change what I must, so the work reflects our house style, which usually follows the Chicago Manual of Style. And I correct to fix grammar errors.

But you get prissy authors. Princesses who can't stand to have their work altered. They feel it, somewhat understandably, like a slap to their face. It stings their pride. They revolt. You should see the wars they wage. If you were sitting in this desk and you were me, you would have probably already asked your evil, mad scientist sister to train her death ray on them.

I joke. But seriously. I'm not saying my writing inspires awe or anything like that. I'm saying there are rules and I can't argue with every author who thinks they know better than the Chicago Manual of Style. They think their book is the only book I'm working on. They think they're God. They think their book exists in a vacuum, that it is THE book to set all standards, that all rules about grammar, common sense, punctuation, spelling, SHOULD FLOW FROM IT.

It's exhausting. I've written SO MANY e-mails, trying to salve their stupid wounds, explain our house style, explain WHY their sentence is unclear (I can't be the first to have read this . . . can I?). I'm not diplomatic by nature. I just want to tell them, "Listen, you sucked right here. This sentence? I had absolutely no idea what the hell you were saying. Fix it, or be embarrassed when it hits shelves. Thanks."

If only.

New Addiction: Guild Wars

The ol' younger sister, Cassi, gave me Guild Wars for Christmas. She gave it to the two of us, Stoker and me, but let's be honest. She really meant it for me. She lives in Omaha and I live in Nashville, and yet we can play the game together. I'm a child of the 80s, so I'm used to the computer, virtual world (remember VR.5? That was a cool show. I wish it had lasted), but still, WHAT the hell?

I'm probably the only one still reeling from the fact that Cas and I can meet up in a completely virtual game world and chat and adventure together. I log in, my guy is standing there (my first character, a ranger, Kail Pinefox -- yeah, I made that up. Stupid? Probably), I check to see if Cas is online, she is, I whisper to her something like, "Hey," and the next thing I know, her mesmer (a character, like a ranger) is running up to me with his little mask and guild cape on. It KILLS me. Then we talk and the conversation floats above our heads in balloons.

"What should we do?"

"I don't know, whatever."

It's just like real life.

"Well, I still need some more ranger skills before we advance out of Ascalon city."

"Ok. Let's go find some. I know where to go."

Of course she does. She's been playing for 8 months.

Anyway, I'm still in love with Morrowind. And I'm also in love with those (ridiculous) books about the vampires, Twilight and New Moon, etc. I admit it. I'm a fool for pop culture these days.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Random Email to Dani: Epiphany #132 -- Happiness*

Today I had the same epiphany I've been having over and over again all my life, only this time I wasn't smoking weed. Just kidding, I never have ever never smoked weed.

I realized that for some reason, I'm waiting for something to make me happy. To arrive at some point, to finally have no problems, to be comfortable in my own skin. Then I slapped myself. Because violence is my way. Just kidding.

But why do I do that to myself? Be unhappy, I mean. It's not that I'm necessarily UNhappy, it's just that I'm not happy. And by that I mean, I'm not content with what I have. I'm still waiting to be satisfied with the house we bought, like, to feel like it's good enough as it is, that I don't have to keep making improvements. And the house is a metaphor for my own mental/emotional condition, or rather, my life.

Of course, the epiphany seems more profound when it strikes and now it just sounds like the same old crap everyone is always saying, like in books like All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, by the beloved Robert Fulghum (I had this teacher who loved to say his name and quote that book and so it's an inside joke with myself to say his name in relation to beloved). And it's one of those things that doesn't mean a dang thing unless you figure it out for yourself. I'm lucky because I keep realizing it. Over and over, at different times in my life because I forget it really quick, like the proverbial goldfish.

See, what happened is Christy Baugh said she saw a movie called Juno and said I need to see it and said that M____ saw it and told Christy that the girl in it reminded M____ of me (Nicole). Christy said she agreed, and said she thought it was a great compliment. Then I was thinking to myself later on, after I'd read the synopsis of the movie ("A whip-smart high school girl finds out she's pregnant and deals with it blah blah blah" -- I presume the whip-smart aspect is what reminds them of me -- which, who can blame them?) that it's sad, really. I remember being a young whip-smart girl, in junior high and high school and even in college, a girl who unintentionally offended people by saying what was on her mind, who was probably a bit spunky and all that, but who now can't get away with baring that part of personality because she's older and hyperaware of how she offends others, and is hypersensitive herself and thus would NEVER intentionally make someone feel bad.

It's gauche for me to be like that, but not adorable like it is on a young girl (like it used to be on me. Am I delusional? :)). So then I realized that I've been walking around feeling like I'm crippled by my personality, afraid to be that whip-smart girl because I'm not in high school anymore. "This isn't high school, Nikki." Is that a quote from a movie? If it's not, it should be. It would be too funny.

That's when it hit me that I'm waiting for something to happen to make me feel like I've arrived at happiness. But see, happiness isn't a destination. We're the happiness. We're the destination. Happiness should be inside us.

Hmmm. I had such high hopes for that. I thought it could be turned into a proverb or something. It fell kind of flat.

*A slightly edited version of this post appeared in an email to the author's sister, Dani.