Wordless and Wacked Out Thursday

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Much, much going on during what most describe as the busiest week of the year for my company.

I’ve been pulled right into the fray, which is a good sign. They trust me to get in there.

But I’m learning to run this fast again and the joints ache, if I may use such a metaphor.

And so, I didn’t want to let another day go by without a post.

I went to Flickr and pulled one of the first images I saw because it seems to sum up my week.

The photo I chose is below. This is a really, really stunning photograph. Actually, if you have time, visit the entire photostream, amazing photographic work.

Enjoy! This image is pretty symbolic of my day. A carnival! (without the cotton candy or corn dogs).

Image by Photography by Omerell on Flickr.

The Universal Tech Support Answer

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Today, I reached my wits end with my desk phone at work.

I am on conference calls at least half of the working hours of every day on calls with the UK, South America, Hong Kong, and Australia, and many points in between.

My phone decided, in the midst of an already trying day, to act up. I’d push the number 4, it would show onscreen that I’d inputted 4444.

I’d hit speakerphone button just once and it would come on, go off, come on, go off, come on, go off, etc.

This creates a bit of trouble when one is dialing an overseas number.

For example, to call Britain, one must dial 011 then 44 and then the person’s phone number.

So with this buy-one-get-four free plan my phone seems to favor, I would not even be to the actual person’s number, and my phone would think I had punched in

000111111144444

Gah!

And yet again I say GAH!

I tried a number of different creative ways to get my numbers dialed. I tried mashing the buttons really hard. Nope. I tried hitting them very lightly. Sort of success.

I found that using a pen to dial and hitting the numbers very fast seemed to work. At least enough to get into scheduled conference calls (though it would take five or six tries).

But come ON here people! This is no way to conduct business!

So when I had a gap in meetings, I went online and raised an IT trouble ticket.

I expected it would take a week to hear back as one person’s desk phone crying in the dark isn’t enough to rouse the passions of the IT department.

Imagine my surprise when I got a call some four hours later from an actual person with actual knowledge of the issue.

Yes! Hello good sir! What can be done!?

His recommended fix? Power cycle the phone.

That’s it. Unplug it. Plug it back in. Should be fine.

I then applied a smack to my own forehead. Of course! I should have thought of that first.

The Universal IT fix for whatever ails you. Power off, power on.

What the systems administrators in my old team used to call “bouncing the machine”

So I bounced the phone. It’s back on line and working fine. We’re back to a one for one button press to digit input value.

Now if I could only get my nerves to be as docile.

Gah!

And a mental note to self: Always try bouncing the machine first.

Carbo Loading The Muse

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This past weekend, I competed in round two of the NYCMidnight Flash Fiction Challenge.

It goes like this: They give you a genre, a location and an object. You get 48 hours to write a one thousand word story incorporating all of that.

I *love* participating in this contest. It is my third year and it challenges me and stretches me and causes me to come at my writing from different angles.

Until this contest I’d never written anything that could be remotely labeled science fiction, fantasy or historical fiction. But guess what, I’ve done them all, and in the case of historical fiction, twice.

My first jab at historical fiction was a well researched story about Babe Ruth. It remains one of my most favored stories of all that I’ve written.

It scored very low with the judges, however.

This weekend I pondered all the angles of a comedy set in a tunnel with a gold watch. (A little bit like Clue…Colonel Mustard in the library with a candlestick.)

As I threw around story ideas, I got the brilliant Good Man involved in brainstorming. He looks at the world in a way very different from me and is a good source of inspiration. While brainstomring, he uttered one of those pearls of wisdom that will stay with me all my days as a writer.

The conversation went like this:

Me: “What’s funny about a tunnel? Is there a tunnel that could be funny? What about a sewer? Is that funny?”

TGM: “Well, anything with poop in it has potential.”

There it is, folks. Write that down. Embroider that on a dish towel. Just remember you heard it here first!

But he’s right. Bodily functions are usually funny. Except when they are not.

I chose to avoid a sewer tunnel for my story, choosing something a bit more metaphysical instead.

All of this yammering on is to say, my brain is exhausted. My Muse is weary. She gave it her all for forty-eight hours and informed me this morning that she didn’t *feel* like coming up with a brilliant blog post idea today.

So instead, I chose to follow well-heeded wisdom when it comes to writer’s block…

Write through it.

So here I am, writing through the block. Suddenly words are forming into paragraphs and the page is filling up. It’s not brilliant words of prose, but it’s working.

And here I am at about 400 words. Plenty enough for a blog post! So ok! I did it!

The Muse didn’t even have to work that hard.

Though I think if I hope to get another blog post tomorrow, I’d better treat her to some baked goods. She does tend to run better on sweets.

I’ve Become That Grownup

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Last month when I visited New Mexico and stayed with my best friend, I made it a point to spend time visiting one-on-one with each of my two goddaughters.

They are ten and eight now, fully formed people, and their challenges go well beyond walking and eating and sleeping. The so-called “real world” has decided to come roost in their lives, and it is extraordinarily hard for me to adapt as quickly as they have.

My oldest goddaughter is incredibly intelligent and incredibly obstinate too (*coff*herfather*coff*). Her problem is that she is so smart and world savvy that she’s knows when someone is pulling a fast one or isn’t acting in the smartest way.

But she’s only ten going on eleven, so her powers to right the wrongs of this world are slim. So far, anyway.

She told me about how her new teacher this year is teaching the students a new approach to spelling. “I know how to spell, this is so dumb!”

And her teacher is making the students learn long division. By last year she had long division down cold. “Why do I have to do this all again!? It’s such a waste of time!”

You know what? She’s right. She’s absolutely right.

So what do I do as the adult she’s looking to for advice?

Do I do the usual grown up thing and tell her that the grown ups are right and she should just mind what they say?

Because I can’t do that.

Do I tell her fight?! Fight to the end for justice!

No, that’s not good guidance either.

So I dug deep into my own experiences and came up with just this:

“Pick your battles.”

It was advice that was handed to me in my first year of work. Like my goddaughter, I was willing to take on every challenge, rail against the inefficiencies of the bureaucracy, fight the good fight for every injustice.

The mentor assigned to me, a very easy-going sort of fellow who was revered by the leadership of that company was the first to sit me down and tell me this lesson.

Pick your battles.

Figure out the fights that one, you think you can win and two are worth putting all the energy into. If it meets both criteria, then go for it.

And fight for the ones you can’t win if it really, really matters. But remember you can’t fight them all if you want to win any.

So I found myself sitting in the cooling evening breeze in the backyard of a Las Cruces home, imparting this same knowledge to a ten year old.

“Do you honestly expect the teacher is going to look at you and say, ‘wow, you are right, I was teaching it wrong. Let’s do it your way!'”

Her eyes went wide and she shook her head.

“So what are you trying to get to? What do you expect?”

She wants to be challenged. Ah, ok. There’s something we can work with.

I told my girl that life is going to be pretty tough if every day is spent digging in her heels.

And so all of that best answers the question posed by the idea generator today:

“If you could pass on a piece of advice that meant a lot to you when you received it, what would it be?”

Pick your battles.

I might be qualified to impart that wisdom from my position in the long and deep trenches I carry behind me, heels worn down to the nub.

Customer Service Has Not Died

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Despite all appearances to the contrary, customer service has not died.

Nope, there is still a small patch of wonderful service to be found in Southern New Mexico.

You’ll recall a week ago, I wrote of my joy and my subsequent despair regarding buying actual New Mexico grown chiles here in Northern California.

In that blog post last week, I mentioned that I wrote a rather terse letter to the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, complete with photographs, about my sorrow.

In fact, I’ll let you in on the text of my actual letter, sent to Mr. David Lucero at the NMDA:

_____

Dear Mr. Lucero – I found your email address from the www.nmda.nmsu.edu
webpage, though I’m unsure if you are the right person to contact.

I am a native New Mexican now living in Northern California and while on
a Southwest Airlines flight, I was happy to see an ad in their inflight
magazine for Hatch Green Chile coming to a long list of supermarkets in
my area.

My husband and I plan to buy a lot as we enjoy our green chile
throughout the year by finding kind friends back home to bring us the
good stuff.

While at Whole Foods recently in (town name redacted), California, I saw a sign for “Hatch peppers” and I was very happy (Whole Foods was on the list of stores that would carry the product).

As I picked a few from the pile, I looked closer at the sign and I
noticed it said “grown in California.” (see photo attached)

Now, I’m confused. Is this the “real thing” as advertised by the NMDA
and just mislabeled? Or has someone appropriated the Hatch name for
not-Hatch peppers?

I chose not to buy any that day as I’m unsure.

Hence why I’m coming to you for advice and guidance.

Are Hatch chiles going to be available in the Northern California Bay
Area? Also, is someone perpetrating a terrible fraud by selling
California grown peppers under the branded Hatch name?

On behalf of my family, we thank you and appreciate any guidance you
would provide.

All my best,

Karen Fayeth

_____

Honestly…I expected no reply.

Imagine my surprise when not only did I receive a VERY nice email from Mr. Lucero thanking me for providing this information, he also told me that he’s taken up the issue with his national Whole Foods buyer (who was cc’d on the email) and also with his shipper, Seco Spice (also cc’d on the email).

Then, and here’s where my mind gets blown, Mr. Lucero indicated that a Mr. Ogaz from Seco Spice would be happy to send me along a box of roasted and peeled chile if I’d be willing to pay shipping.

Holy jumping jehoshaphat!

So I’m currently getting shipping costs from the very kind Mr. Ogaz.

That’s amazing.

I want to publicly thank both Mr. Lucero and Mr. Ogaz for helping a poor New Mexico expat find her way home via the ol’ dinner plate.

By the by, I checked with my friends down in the greater Las Cruces and Anthony metropolitan areas and they know the Ogaz family and Seco Spice and can vouch that they are top notch people and growers.

So here’s a HUGE public thank you and a plug for the good people over at Seco Spice and the NMDA.

: sniffle : It makes me very proud to be a New Mexican.