Tuesday, June 27, 2006


My company has been forced to accept certain degrees of telecommuting over the years. You'd think we were based in Sibera with all the trouble we have finding qualified candidates. To mitigate this, we have hired people from other states to work remotely or retained people after they have moved away for whatever reason.

One of my peers decided to move to California in search of better weather (better than DC with our standard 92 degrees with 98% humidity? What a dreamer.). He's an interesting guy. He's married yet I've had extensive discussions with him about sewing curtains, keeping petunias safe from backyard bunnies, and the saturated fat content of olive oil. I think its called being a metrosexual now. Anyway. He wasn’t online today, which around here means you have been abducted by aliens or are possibly dead. We are all online, all the time. I sent him an email to probe.

I said: "Where are you? You're not online."

He said: "I'm either:
1) Moving again.
2) Having my toes done.
3) Watching American Movie Classics all day.
4) Drifting in and out of consciousness in my chair."

I'm totally unsure which one to pick.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

PiMPing it up

A few weeks ago, I became a PiMP. Technically, my certification is "Project Management Professional (PMP)" but everyone I mentioned this to said, "what's a pimp?". Can you believe this is the best name they could come up with? Not only is the acronym bad, but the full title is a little dorky too. Why not "certified project manager" or something? I suggest we charter a project to clean up this mess.

It’s hard to believe that the PMP is the new "hot credential" and is what the CPA is to Accounting for Project Management; except the CPA exam is about 10 times harder. Everyone is trying to get their PMP. I will give it to the Project Management Institute (PMI); they have managed to transform themselves from a somewhat obscure association to a highly sought after credentialing body. Back when I was doing full time project management, this certification didn’t exist or at least was never ever discussed. Having been in management for a while now, I've seen a huge upswing in this credential over the last couple years and when the remaining few project managers on my staff decided to get certified, I decided to go along for the ride. I figured I should probably have this credential if my staff did, and I assumed I could breeze through it with my over 10 years of complex project management experience.

So I signed up and then I looked at the materials. To my absolute horror, the materials didn’t relate to "the real world". They were obscure, academic, and focused on a single process methodology, not widely adopted. I think people who had never managed a project would probably have an advantage on this exam since they would lack any context. I sought in vain for a way to back out of this. I definitely had not anticipated having to "study" for this stupid test and was hugely annoyed that I had gotten myself into this situation, voluntarily no less. Having found no way to exit left, I sucked it up, studied the materials and took the exam. At first I thought I had the wrong exam. The exam didn’t reflect the study materials and it didn’t reflect real-life either. I couldn’t believe I was conned into memorizing all of PMI’s processes and nuances and then the test didn’t even cover most of them. Instead, I was stuck in some sort of PMI parallel universe designed to torture people with strange, "out of the blue" questions. But I passed. Maybe strange becomes me.

My parents couldn’t wait to tell everyone that I had become a Pimp. They conveniently leave out that it was a legitimate credential and abruptly stop the conversation after saying that I'm a pimp in Virginia and doing well. Gotta go!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Dont mind me, I'm insane

You know those women who freak out when they realize they are beginning to sound like their mothers? I should only be so lucky. The things I say in response to my two year old’s antics make me sound like a lunatic.

My son has this ride on truck that he loves. The seat flips up and he stores all his treasured possessions in there. His match box cars, his cheese its, a sippy cup of juice, rocks he found. If it’s important, it’s in the truck.

Earlier today, he had a little baggie of graham crackers I prepared for our walk. He took his sippy cup of juice/water and was trying to shove it into the baggie and obviously it wouldn’t fit. He was getting frustrated. I was also getting frustrated because he was holding up things. I said, exasperated, “Jack, stop trying to put your juice in that bag and put it in your truck where it belongs!”.

Then I stopped, thinking “In the truck where it belongs?” Oh yeah sister, get a grip, you are just barely hanging on here.

I have also recently found myself advising on why we should not put parmesan cheese on ice cream, what mr. peepee diaper had to say, and that if there was another single can of mushrooms stacked on the kitchen table, he was going to the naughty step, mister.

Book Review: And You Know You Should Be Glad by Bob Greene

The last two days I read “And You Know You Should Be Glad” by Bob Greene. I saw it reviewed in the paper and I guess the fact that it was about Bob’s best friend from Kindergarten hit home since my husband is unnaturally attached to his best friend he met in First grade. They talk almost every day. I am a huge supporter of this relationship; having such a close friendship is rare for men, and his friend lives out of town, so it’s no skin off my back.

Anyway, Bob’s books is good, but here’s the deal- a lot of it is walking down memory lane, which for me, never having been a little boy in the 1950’s, wasn’t such a thrill ride. You would be tempted to skip over these parts entirely, except Bob would occasionally come back with some, if not profound, searingly accurate observations. For example, Bob writes:

“It was the first time we had experienced something like that. Later, in the adult world of business and gnawing ambition, we- all of us, everyone who is thrust into that larger and colder world- would go through it time and time again; seeing someone move ahead of us, seeing someone achieve something or be given something that the rest of us can only yearn for. You feel it in your stomach, you feel the sands shifting. Someone has moved beyond you and you are witness. Someone has become something different- something better- than what he or you had been before. And all you can do is watch it happen.”

Ouch. That one hurt a little. I think I’d been chalking some of that up to the Old Boys Club or whatever else. But still, I like recognizing real life in books, so it prompted me to mostly read the entire book. I seem to be getting lazy in my old age, this is the second book I publicly have admitted to skipping parts of.

Anyway, as for the present day story, it’s a tear jerker. I was crying for the last two pages and I don’t even know these guys. Sigh. I always feel so stupid when that happens; completely unsure of how I would explain what exactly I was doing (and why) if someone walked in. Then again, I challenge you *not* to cry, lets see how tough *you* are.

I wish I could find more happy books. These sad stories are like car accidents you can’t not look at. True, it was a story of a beautiful friendship and it made me think about how much I treasure my friends. But it also made me think of all of them dying. Not such a pretty picture. It was a good book. I wish I hadn’t read it.

Book Review: The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult

Last weekend, I read The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read Picoult’s other books, I think I liked them, they are similar to all others in that genre. I started reading the book on a Sunday morning and after sneaking pages in all day in between running after Jack, I was still reading it at 1:00am Monday morning. It was suspenseful and I was reading it like it was crack. I knew I would really regret this in the morning when I had to get up for work, but I couldn’t go to sleep without finishing it. While, despite skimming through a late story line at the end, I did. It was a bit of a “quick finish” where an author tries to tie up 30 loose strings in five pages, but it was done. I went to sleep satisfied.

The next day, I remembered my pledge to start contributing to those forums I visit a lot, like Amazon.com ratings or Allrecipes.com. Damn. Why did I have to pledge to be so consciousnesses? Anyway, feeling guilty, I did go and write a review, giving the book a good review based on how compelling I found it that I read it all in one day.

The next day, I woke up with a major “book hangover”. The more I thought about The Tenth Circle, the more I felt like I had been wearing beer goggles and hooked up with an ugly guy, who had temporarily appeared cute. In retrospect, I don’t think I actually know what the result of the main story line was. What kind of person writes a book where you get to the end and still don’t know what happened? Argh! And geez, that thing on the bridge towards the end, what was THAT about? How unrealistic can you get?!

So I think I have changed my mind. The Tenth Circle is like Chinese food- you’ll be hungry one the soy sauce high wears off. That said, I’m always impressed that anyone has the focus to sit down and write a book from beginning to end, so good for you Jodi. At least you wrote it so armchair critics like me could have something to complain about!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Women are Frigid (and not just if you forget your anniversary)

It is sweltering out. The temperature is in the high 90's. You can see the humidity in the air, lurking; waiting to envelope you as soon as you venture outside. It will jump into your hair molecules to make them stick out in every direction like tiny electrical wires, while ironically, at the same time infusing lackluster limpness. The streets in the distance shimmer with the heat like a mirage. The sun sears the clouds, until there is nothing left but an expanse of empty blue sky. There will be no reprieve from the sun today.

I am wearing a fuzzy white turtleneck sweater. With thick socks and boots. I am almost certain to stroke out from heat exhaustion before reaching my car. Why am I dressed so inappropriately? Simple: I'm going to work. Where no matter the month or the temperature, rain or shine, it's always Antarctica.

I really hate being cold. There is something just very wrong with wearing a sweater in June and still having your arms turn into gooseflesh as soon as you walk through the door. I regularly complain to HR about this "hostile environment" where my nose runs all day and I get back aches from contorting around my space heater trying to starve off frostnip. They insist the thermostat reads 68 degrees for my office. It feels more like 48 degrees.

"Why don’t you get one of those ratty office sweaters like Sally over in Operations?" one of my direct reports suggested. Um yeah. I'm desperate but not crazy. Leave it to a man to suggest such a thing. Men are never cold. Every time I ask my male staff members to come to my office they complain that they become immediately incapacitated by their eyes drying out from my space heater.

Meanwhile, my only female direct report has an identical space heater in her office. I was offsite a few weeks ago for the entire week and she sent me an email: "I took your space heater while you’re gone, I hope you don’t mind. Two is SO much better than one".

At lunch, I race out to my car's black leather interior, which has been super-heated to 800 degrees from the sun. I jump in and shut the door, trapping all the heat as I try to coax my core body temperature to return to at least 90 degrees. Unfortunately, the nirvana point doesn’t last long and once the chill has been chased away, my turtleneck starts to feel a little thick. Then I have to throw operations into full reverse and open the windows and blast the A/C.

Thankfully I only go into the office 3 days a week. If I had to be there everyday, I might seriously consider one of those ratty office sweaters.

Monday, June 05, 2006

A Flash of Brilliance

I am a mostly theoretical inventor. My countless product ideas seeming to hit a snag sometime during execution that prevents them from reaching completion (AKA: “what am I supposed to do next with this thing?”) thus they are all still “theoretical”. Until which time someone else brings them to market 5 years later and I seethe and complain bitterly to my husband about people stealing “my ideas”.

Inspiration usually isn’t my problem; sometimes I wish I could make it through the day without thinking of 15 new lines of business. However, I am always interested in another viewpoint, so I eagerly anticipated my son, Jack, beginning to talk. Based on the clever quips I have read in the back of Parenting Magazine, Children say the darndest things. I had a theory that out of their lack of preconceived notions, and in their precious innocence, they would unknowingly toss out a great product idea. And I fully expected to catch that toss and retire on it.

So after much prodding, my son finally began to talk. The first 6 months were pretty much a waste (I think “turtle” has been done), but finally at 2 he began to string sentences together. I went on high alert, waiting for that flash of brilliance, willing it, vowing that whatever it was, I would do it. I had faith in my boy.

Around this same time, Jack picked up a habit of wanting to relate everything in books or songs, etc. to real objects. If we are reading a book about cars, he races over and dumps all his cars in my lap. If the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” comes on, he runs to get his plastic spider. You get the idea. (and beware of reading those “First Words” books during these phases, you end up buried alive under a heap of representative objects).

So the other day, Jack was watching ESPN (how did that get on?) and some golf show started. I wasn’t really paying attention, but suddenly Jack was running around yelling “Egg! Egg!“. He ran over to the kitchen and came back with an egg from the refrigerator (recall, he is already around 11 feet tall), and kept repeating “Egg!”. I thought, “What the heck is he talking about?” Then I turned around and saw it. Jack was holding an Egg up to the TV where, against the dark green grass, little golf balls looked strikingly similar to, well, yes, eggs.

He looked at me, his angelic face looking for his usual confirmation, “Yes Jack, that is a ____ just like in the book/picture/song/etc”. Except this time Jack thinks that you play golf with Eggs. Then I realized the moment had arrived. Playing golf with eggs is definitely a new product. Sunny Side Golf Course. Add 10% for hard-boiled play. I’d have to buy some chickens…

Then again, I'm not really an early bird, nor do I have a background in livestock. I might need to give this one some more thought. Maybe this was a warm-up idea.