That There is a Winner!

As the Holiday season draws to a close, just two days now until “The Big Day” those of us at work come together for our annual “What Did You Get From The Suppliers?” comparison event.

As I started my career working for the government, I rather enjoy being in private industry where we can accept small tokens from the companies we work with.

Now let me just say, I’m usually the big loser in these competitions because I work with the telco commodity. Those companies are as cheap as the day is long.

I thought I had a pretty good entry this year for Worst Present. I got this tacky plexiglass picture frame that sits in a weird base and when I put the plastic part into the base, it immediately broke.

And then, I got ANOTHER one in the mail the next day. Their sales team clearly didn’t coordinate.

So I brought that out and declared it the worst gift of 2011.

But I got trumped and trumped hard.

“Oh NO!” I heard from the corner. “I can beat that.”

Beat that, she did.


Now, it helps to know that the recipient of this present is a very classy, stylish girl from the City. She’s quite Coco Chanel and Jimmy Choo.

To make this gift even more charming, it was handed to my coworker while still wrapped in the plastic shopping bag from the Dallas airport.

Obviously I had to concede the race. I reboxed my broken plexiglass frame in defeat.

By the way, the lady with the worst gift is also the winner of the most and best gifts too. She works in temporary staffing. Those suppliers fall all over themselves to give stuff away at the holidays.

I need to consider working in a new group. This annual defeat, even in the worst category, is gosh darn humbling.

And for as ungrateful as I may seem, I really do enjoy the little trinkets our suppliers send.
Especially when it is a box of See’s candy.

Oh, November

Masochism! It’s what’s for Thanksgiving dinner!

Yup. November means it’s National Novel Writing Month, a fun event where writers around the world challenge themselves to write a 50,000 word novel in just thirty days.

And after taking last year off, I’m back, baybee!

This will be my sixth year through the meat word grinder.

Along with blogging every weekday. And holding down a full time job. And having some semblance of a life.

Apparently I like the pain. 1667 words a day, here I come.

A Dead Language

When I was a pre-teen and earning a few extra bucks as a babysitter, I sat for a family who had two young, rambunctious boys. They were a good family but those boys were a nightmare to babysit.

Since the parents would usually be out late, the mom liked for me to write up a little note before I left for the evening so that in the morning she could review what the boys ate, when they went to bed, how they behaved, etc.

Those little creeps knew they were hellions, and so when it came time for me to write up the note, they always were at each elbow to try and see what I was writing so they could get ahead of it with their folks.

Well…I fixed their wagon. I started writing the note in cursive. They were both too young to have learned cursive in school and it drove them *bonkers*.

Under the steely gaze of their dad, the older boy generally denied anything and everything and the younger boy sang like a canary. It was awesome.

Personally, I don’t generally use cursive writing in my day to day life anymore. I don’t know why, but somewhere along the line I stopped. My handwriting is so sloppy anyway that the addition of cursive made it damn near unreadable.

About the only place I still both to use cursive writing is when I write a check, and then only on the line where you have to spell out the amount and my signature.

And who writes checks anymore anyway?

Still, I’m a bit sad to hear all the talk lately of schools opting not to teach cursive writing to school kids anymore. I guess with computers, iPhones and iPads, it’s become, well, a dead language. Known only to the elders of our little (6 billion strong) tribe.

I love to look at old letters from my parents, grandparents and even great grandparents. My paternal grandmother had an often difficult to read tight scroll. My maternal grandmother’s hand was a bit more open and looping.

A letter from them was easily identifiable by their handwriting. It was like a thumbprint.

Within just a few years, kids won’t be able to read these old letters, or as the blog MoxieQ notes, the original US Constitution or even the original Declaration of Independence.

Original US Constitution, in cursive

Declaration of Independance

If kids see these documents while on a field trip or in a book, it will simply look like a foreign language.

That seems….wrong.

I get that the times, they are a changin’ and the call for cursive writing is less and less, abandoned in favor of teaching touch typing earlier in school (I had it in mid-school but by early grade school, kids need to know how to interact with a computer).

But still, cursive writing is a basic foundation of our culture, not just being able to express oneself in written form, but as its own language. It was a rite of passage to learn to write in cursive. Suddenly my mom’s shopping list went from being a bunch of scribbles to making perfect sense (except when she wrote it in stenographer’s shorthand, another dead written language).

I guess the rite of passage now is when a kid gets their first cell phone or iPad. I suppose in the end it’s ok, as long as we keep finding ways to express ourselves.

I’m still a little sad about the change, though….

Sometimes, Ya Just Gotta Ask: “Why?”

My friends over at Theme Thursday have had some upheaval in the past week, and the Theme Thursday fun hasn’t been, well, fun. I’m happy to see there is new management. We’re back on track!.

And that leads me to today’s theme for this faboo Thursday: Fish

As usual, I started with a Google search to see what’s what, and I stumbled across the latest fad in China and Singapore: Tattooed fish

Wait. What?

Yes indeed. Tattooed fish.

From my knowledge of Chinese culture, I do know that fish are seen as a symbol of good luck and also symbolize wealth, so to capitalize on this belief, someone has figured out how to laser dyed characters and symbols onto the side of parrot fish.

These tattooed fish are called “Fortune Fish” and are said to bring good fortune and happiness to their owners.

Here’s an example:

Image from People’s Daily Online

Evidently, a normal, unmodified parrot fish costs about 10 Yuan (about $1.50 USD) but a tattooed fish costs about 25 Yuan (roughly $4 USD), so this is a bit of a money maker. If you want your fish with a customized personal tattoo, it’ll run ya more like 100 Yuan ($15 USD).

The tattoo is applied using a “low intensity” laser to apply dye which, it’s claimed, doesn’t cause the fish any pain. *ahem* Sure. Ask the fish, I’ll bet he’s got a different story.

Capitalizing on superstition is nothing new, but this one seems pretty gosh darn wrong to me.

What’s next! Tattooed pigs!?!?!

Oh wait. Nevermind. (<- also found in China, I might add).

Dear World –

An online idea suggester came up with the idea that I should write a letter to the world. At first I said “bah!” and clicked away to look at something mildly funny on YouTube. Or maybe I played a nonsensical flash game. Can’t remember.

Turns out this idea kind of stuck to one of the many folds of my wrinkly brain, and I’ve been thinking on it a lot lately.

Maybe it’s a good idea. Maybe it’s time we talked.

First of all, I should say, I’m a big fan of you, World. I mean…you’re so worldly. In a single moment you create life, bring death, facilitate anger, joy, sadness, depression, hunger and toothache. Inside your wide waistline, you encompass the tippy top of the Rocky Mountains, the endless blue bottom of the Mariana Trench. And cheeseburgers.

You’re a wonder. No doubt.

But it’s not just the continents and water; there are all of these people. ALL of these people. Whew. 6.7 billion of us little parasites are wandering around, riding this cosmic whirlygig hoping to have a good night’s sleep and enough money to feed our families and maybe a reason to smile once or twice day.

Lately it seems hard. Just the nature of living and standing with two feet on a planet spinning around 1,000 mph right at this very moment seems like it takes a whole lot of effort.

It feels better when it seems like we’re all in it together, but more and more I feel like we’re not all in it together. I mean, not that I’d expect we’d all get along famously and never squabble, but it seems like sometimes we’re a bit less interconnected and a bit more inconsiderate every day.

Take the news that my local area is all abuzz about: the rampant fights, brutal beatings and a shooting at a football stadium. A game! And people were shot fer crissakes! Which means people were packing heat to go to a goddamn football game to watch overly large men run around and bash into each other. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? (<-- to borrow a phrase from Penn Jillette)

My friends in the UK tell me that hooliganism is a part of their favorite sport as well, and laugh at my naïveté. I’m sure the people in Lybia would look at me like was a cross eyed dodo bird for even contemplating this. They’d probably be happy if their daily dose of violence was limited to a sports stadium.

So maybe it’s just that I’ve been spoiled. Maybe I need to toughen up? Maybe my mom is right when she says I’m too sensitive. I mean, hell, I whimper when I have blood drawn.

I just don’t like that it has to be this way. I’ve seen communities where no one locks their house or car because there’s no need. Where if someone gets hurt, it’s a reason for the community to pull together not get blown apart with finger pointing and more anger.

Perhaps I long for something that can no longer exist when 6.7 billion of us are crawling around on top of each other trying to find the best wifi signal so we can flame someone on Facebook and snipe the last bid on eBay.

Don’t know what’s got me so melancholy. I did go see “Breakfast at Tiffanys” on the big screen this weekend. Maybe seeing something set in a more refined time seems better by comparison. Then again, was it so good? Women were still disregarded and the Civil Rights movement was well underway, but by no means resolved.

That’s the thing about nostalgia. It’s rarely accurate.

So maybe 1961 wasn’t any better than 2011. Which depresses me more. 50 years later and the problems are all different and all the same. There’s more of us. We’re meaner to each other. And in some ways we’re better too.

As M. Scott Peck wrote in the first line of the book The Road Less Traveled, “Life is difficult.”

I’ve always bridled at that notion. Why? Why does life have to be difficult?

A wise mentor asked me to read that book and asked me to embrace the concept that life is difficult. It was suggested I learn to find a way to flow with it and not try so hard to swim against it. Maybe life would actually be easier if I just accepted that life is and always will be difficult.

But swim, I still do. Maybe my sense of values and honor compass has gone all screwy, like a dolphin swimming too close to a submarine. I think I’m going the right way while in reality I’m getting ever more lost.

I don’t think it’s that much to ask that we could all live a life that was peaceful and full of joy. That we didn’t all have to worry about the stock market and random acts of violence, and countries either falling or failing.

I had a boss for a brief amount of time who, when I would present her with some work related issue that was worrying me, she’d simply tell me to “rise above it,” which was never very helpful. She was a terrible boss.

But maybe there is some wisdom there.

I don’t know. Really. I just don’t know.

And sometimes that scares me.

Oh dear, my friend World, I think my letter has wandered off into the deep weeds. I hope I don’t encounter a rattle snake out here. Is that the road over there? I can’t recall. I think I have some lemonade in the Jeep. Want some?

Well, anyhow. I guess I’m grateful that you’ve given me all these years of riding on your back and you’ve given me enough matter in my brain bucket to have the luxury of thinking about such things.

There are some things I’d change if I was in charge. But mostly, I guess we do ok.

I am going to keep shaking my fists at people who steal parking spots and continue lamenting the jacked up state of healthcare. Some things are just too ingrained to pass up.

Thanks for listening. Let’s do this again soon, yeah?

Your pal,


Image from PlayPennies.