“Hello Gorby? It’s Me, Ronnie.”

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One of my all time favorite series of posts on this little blog has been the “Office Archeology” series of scenes from my former employer.

From the first week I worked at the new employer, I’ve kept my eye out for potential Office Archeology items to continue the series. So far, no luck. This place is kept spotless. There are no weird wrappers on the stairs, no lockless keys on the hallway cabinets, and no abandoned staplers laying about. Nope.

I mean, that’s good, right? But almost a little weird too. Every office seems to have that bit of junk that everyone ignores. But not this place.

That said, I have managed to fine one item that, while not junk, absolutely confounds me. Here’s a poor quality iPhone photo:




This piece of historic telephony is located in the break room, right above the trash/recycling/compost bins. In fact, off to the left is the chart that provides helpful suggestions about where to toss your trash.

At first I sort of noticed it, but ignored it. My company has occupied this building for over twenty years, and I figured it was a remnant of the past. A leftover.

But over time, I became more and more fascinated by the red telephone.

Why red? Why in the breakroom? Is there a conspiracy happening?

If I pick up the red phone, do I talk directly to Gorbachev?

Look, for a child of the Cold War era, the red telephone means something!

Remember the days when Ronald Reagan sat in the Oval Office with his finger on the button and the red phone at his side? It was a staring contest to see who would blink first. Gah! THE RED PHONE!

Soon enough, my obsessive compulsiveness kicked in. I couldn’t ignore the red phone any longer. It wasn’t just something in the background but this THING that was there in my environment taunting me!

My need to be “the good girl’ and follow the rules (meaning, if it’s not yours, leave it alone) and my intense curiosity began to collide.

I must pick it up! I can’t pick it up! I must pick it up! I can’t pick it up!

I asked someone who’s worked here a while about the red phone. I hoped that answers would help ease my OCD.

“Um, I don’t know, I never really thought about it,” she replied, when asked.

This is what normal people do. They don’t obsess about a red phone.

Finally, when the days and nights of curiosity and agony were too much too take, and I found myself alone in the break room, I quickly looked left, I looked right, then lifted the red receiver from the red base, and held it to my ear.

I could hear nothing. “Hello,” I said in sotto voce, eyebrows knit together waiting for all to be revealed.

“Hello?” I said again to the silence.

Then I tap-tap-tapped at the hanging up lever.

Nothing. The phone is dead. I was right, it’s a leftover.

Not satisfied, a week later I sat in a meeting with a few members of our IT team, including the voice engineer guy. At the end of the meeting, I cornered him and asked about the red phone.

“Oh, that’s for disaster recovery. Since we all use VOIP lines on our desks and cell phones, we have to keep one wired line on every floor in case of emergency.”

Ah ha. Well that makes sense.

“Did you know that the phone doesn’t work?” I asked.

He shrugged and said, “Oh well!” and walked away.

Fabulous. The emergency backup phone doesn’t work. Now I have a whole new thing to obsess about.


From Nature Made to Man Made

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Going to jump tracks a bit from yesterday’s purple mountains majesty to marvels of human engineering.

A couple days after my return from New Mexico, I had to drive up to Sacramento for work stuff.

On the journey over highway 80, there are two major bridges to cross, the Bay Bridge, and the Carquinez Bridge.

Both are, in my mind, very Jekyll and Hyde. Both beautiful and ugly at the same time.

When riding over these bridges, I always have to wonder what the bridge builders around here have got against the east side of a perfectly nice bridge?

Here, let me show you.

This is the eastbound section of the Carquinez, headed toward Sacramento:



It’s got sort of an Erector Set toy feel about it, no? (assuming you are old enough to remember Erector Sets)

It’s very utilitarian and functional and not very aesthetically pleasing.

And then, for comparison, here’s the westbound section of the same bridge (headed toward San Francisco).



Lovely! Clean lines and very modern and stylish.

You can even see the less attractive side of the bridge off to the left.

I’d like to think that this two opposite halves approach is an anomaly to only the Carquinez, but no.

Let’s talk the Bay Bridge. It’s split into two sections, the eastern span (east of Treasure Island) and the Western Span (west of Treasure Island).

These photos are from the top deck, headed west, but look at the vast difference in the two halves of the bridge.

Eastern span:



Again with the construction by Erector Set! So not pretty. Utilitarian.

And then the elegant, iconic western span:



Rumor has it that they are doing new construction on the eastern span and when complete, it will be a much more attractive suspension bridge like the western span.

But given the pace of the Department of Transportation and CalTrans, I wonder if I’ll see it in my lifetime.



All photographs taken with an iPhone4 by Karen Fayeth and subject to the creative commons license as seen in the far right column of this page.


Your Definition and My Definition Differ Greatly

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So every once in a while, I’ll read something in the daily news that grabs my attention.

Occasionally, something really makes my eyes open wide.

And then every once in a while, I’ll read something that makes my eyes open wide, leap out of my head, fall down on the floor and roll around a while.

The following headline in yesterday’s news had just this effect on me.

El Paso named safest US city

Uhhh.

Errr.

“…El Paso has taken the top spot for having the lowest crime rate among cities of more than 500,000 population in the annual rankings by CQ Press, a publishing firm based in Washington, D.C.”

So, yeah, I’m gonna guess that those people at CQ Press haven’t paid a personal visit to El Paso lately.

Look, I’m not going to bag on El Paso. It is the birth place of my best friend, and that itself recommends it highly.

It’s also the birthplace of Sam Donaldson and Gene Roddenbury. So ok. Some decent talent comes from the town that Texas forgot.

Having spent a lot of time in El Paso, I could use a lot of adjectives to describe the city. I’m not sure that the word “safe” would burble up to the top ten.

I’ll be fair here. I’ll even take out the obvious concerns about El Paso sharing a border with arguably the most dangerous city in Mexico.

In the past year, approximately 50,000 additional troops were located to Fort Bliss, an army installation in El Paso. Those 50,000 include both returning troops and soldiers left after bases closed in other states. That 50,000 is soldiers only. Add in spouses, kids, other family and the number of new residents rises.

Then add in the high number of people who are fleeing the violence in Juarez and the numbers climb even higher.

Put it together and you’ll find a city bursting at the seams. You can feel it when you visit, the town is growing so fast that infrastructure is having a hard time keeping pace.

That means busy police, fire and emt forces are being overextended during a period of economic downturn and government cost cutting. Sure, all of the new city residents will pay taxes into the economy which will help shore up infrastructure, but that kind of growth takes time.

And then let’s talk about the ongoing immigration flow through a border town like El Paso. My best friend’s folks live within visual distance of the border highway’s Zaragoza bridge. They have bars on their windows. In their some forty years of living there, they’ve found desperate illegals hiding in their yard. Neighbors have been robbed. Violence occurs (but isn’t often reported). I’ve been sitting in the back yard and heard shots fired.

El Paso is a fine town with a rich history. There is a lot to offer the residents who live in that city. Reasonable real estate costs. The Franklin Mountains are beautiful. UTEP is a fine university. Great weather. Even lots of job opportunities. It may even be a relatively safe city. But safest in the US? I have to question that assertion.

Evidently, I’m not the only one.

Some Call El Paso’s Safest City Ranking ‘Bogus’

The Delicious Eagle Has Landed

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So there I am, sitting on a Southwest Airlines flight, headed for El Paso.

As we haven’t yet cleared 10,000 feet, I can’t use my Kindle, so I’m idly flipping through the pages of the Spirit in flight magazine.

And what to my wondering eyes should appear, but an ad for the beautimous Hatch green chile.

The copy claims that this precious commodity will be for sale in many grocery chains near me!

Look!

I unceremoniously tore the ad out of the mag. I had to clutch it to my heart!

I showed the ad to my friends there in the southern part of New Mexico, and they told me that due to NAFTA, the local farmers are getting beat out on selling their beautiful crops.

The New Mexico Department of Agriculture is putting on a marketing drive to try to stir up some sales.

The tagline? “Get Your Fix.”

Why yes, I think I will. Thankyouverymuch.

So I was in my local Whole Foods store, perusing the fresh produce, when my peripheral vision locked on the word, “Hatch.”

There, in my very store, shiny green peppers stacked high.

I RAN over to the display.

But my brain said, “hoooooold on a minute.”

I looked a little closer at the sign.

Can you read the sign in this image?

It says, “Hatch peppers” and just above that it says, “Grown in California.”

What the @#*$%@&*^%$!!!!

No.

Just no.

This is not right.

This is NOT correct.

This is definitely not ok.

So I laid the waxy green vegetable back on the pile and walked away.

This was not the treasure I sought.

Over this Labor Day weekend, I wrote a terse email to the NMDA asking them if the word “Hatch” can be applied to California grown chiles, or if this sign is in error.

I await their reply.

Yesterday, during my lunch hour, I ran to the Nob Hill Foods (also known as Raley’s) near where I work to pick up a couple things. I never shop at Nob Hill, but it was the closest grocer near work.

Once again, my “Hatch” radar picked up something at the periphery.

I fear I couldn’t get excited.

I slowly walked toward the word “Hatch” and sniffed the air near the display.

And I looked closely at the sign. They spelled “chile” wrong.

But still…could it be? Have I found the good stuff? Did I just accidentally stumble upon The Precious?

Yes. Yes I did.

I filled a produce bag to bursting and made them mine. Those beautiful chiles sat in the backseat of my car all afternoon, and they made the inside of my car smell heavenly.

This year, The Good Man finally gets to know what the smell of roasting green chile (and the smell of Autumn) is truly about, because it will permeate the corners our home.

Aw. Yeah.

And We Haven’t Piped Down Since

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Today, August 18, 2010, marks ninety years since the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified.

In case you are a little shy on your constitutional amendments, here is some of the actual text:

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

That right. On August 19, 1920, women got the right to vote.

It took Tennessee’s legislature to pass the proposed amendment by one little vote for (the 36th state to ratify) to cause the 19th Amendment to become a part of the United States Constitution.

(I’m pleased to note that California was 18th and New Mexico was 32nd. Nice early adoption from my two home states.)

The 19th Amendment gave women a voice. An official voice.

This meant that a woman didn’t have to defer to a man to make her choices about how this country should be run.

My folks were married almost fifty years. My old man was an old fashioned guy. In their early years, he used to tell his wife how to vote. Many years later, my mom admitted to me that she’d go to the polls and vote the exact opposite way.

The 19th Amendment gave her that right!

Recently, over a family dinner, for no reason I could fathom, my eleven-year-old sister-in-law broke out and asked, “did you vote for Al Gore?”

I replied, “No, I didn’t vote for Al Gore. I also didn’t vote for George Bush. I think I voted for Ralph Nader that year. I believe it’s essential to cast a vote, even if it is a dissenting vote.”

I’m allowed to do that. You know why? The 19th Amendment to the Constitution!

Heck, I can cast my vote willy-nilly all over the place! And I don’t have to have a nilly ol’ willy to do so!

(This juncture is SO ripe for a “pull the lever” pun, but I’ll refrain.)

I’ve voted in every Presidential election since I turned eighteen and I’ve voted in most of the minor elections too.

This November, on behalf of my residency in the State of California and my Suffragette sisters from the past, I will cast a vote for some random person for Governor, because I sure as hell am not voting for either Jerry Brown or Meg Whitman.

But I’m gonna vote.

I’m making my voice heard for Susan B!

Watch me now, heh!