Tuesday, June 30, 2009

On irrigation systems, face plants and moles…

Hi. I'm a mole. What's up?

They started putting in our new sprinkler system yesterday, which means my yard is currently a series of trenches and dirt mounds. A fact that has not been lost on my neighbors. Last night alone, on three completely separate occasions, people walking past my house commented that it looked like I had one hell of a mole problem.

Oh, ha, ha.

The dogs are having a hard time adjusting – especially (surprise, surprise) Haskell. He has a difficult remembering that a trench exists on the far side of any dirt mound. The result? Several doggie face plants that easily could have ended with broken or sprained front legs, but (thank goodness) have only concluded with a snout full of mud, several hearty sneezes, and a (very) bruised ego.

Stupid dog.

Haskell has now started to over-jump all dirt mounds to avoid such embarrassing face plants in front of his sisters. It is like watching a four-legged long jump at a track and field meet at every “potty break”. I can only hope, for Haskell’s sake, that the work finishes soon.

This is not a picture of my backyard, just Haskell jumping.
Don't worry - we generally mow our grass before it gets THIS long!

Monday, June 29, 2009

On telemarketers...

My stepfather played this for me yesterday afternoon, and I thought I’d share it with you. If only I was creative enough to have this much fun with telemarketers! Sigh…I’m generally the type that tries – repeatedly – to get off the phone without being rude. I hung up on one once, and I still feel guilty about it. Not sure what that says about my personality, but it is probably the driving reason behind my constant screening of the landline at home. Better to let the machine pick up than to risk insulting a telemarketer who I’ll never meet, and only exists to annoy me.

Yep. I’m pretty hopeless.

Anyway, enjoy:

Friday, June 26, 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

On impulse buys and relaxing water features…

Our new fountain has been delivered…just in time for it to be officially too hot to sit outside and enjoy it.


Why do I live in Texas again? And why are we already breaking the century mark in June? This does not bode well for August.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The next installment of "The City That Works"...

My latest attempt to help raise awareness about the City of Dallas’ proposed budget comes from in the form of an email plea from a fellow art/cultural provider:

From: M. W. Conley
Sent: Wednesday, June 24, 2009 2:29 PM
Subject: Last City Budget Forum

The last of four budget forums will be held tomorrow at 6:30 Thursday at Winfrey point -- I strongly encourage you and everyone you can muster to attend. The City Manager's office is proposing doing away with the Office of Cultural Affairs and slotting the function under Libraries -- that on top of roughly a 40% cut in budget (they will say about 30% - but just learned today that that number already factors the $2M taken from WRR's fund - so in truth it's more like 40%), more than any other department as far as we can find out -- This in the year that our Arts District is finally coming on line. This is a remarkable slap in the face to the art's community in Dallas.

We knew cuts were coming and were prepared for it - we've been working with our groups since last year to prepare - but this is an outrage. 60% of the city budget is sacrosanct, "Public Safety", and will not be cut -- but other than police and fire, what does it contain? I defy you to parse the details in the briefing http://www.dallascityhall.com/council_briefings/index.html.

Without raising taxes, the plan is to lay off about 1,000 city employees, gut health and human services, cultural offerings and cultural and community centers, libraries and educational enhancements, after-school and summer programs that target our youth. I tell you, that's a recipe for needing those extra 200 police if I ever heard one.

If they charged every person in Dallas $154.10 - that would make up the $190M deficit. Of course, I know we can't do it like that - but simply as a reference point.

Art's and Cultural Organizations have a huge economic impact on this city. What happens now? Please help and let your voice be heard.

Thank you

You can read my previous attempts to raise awareness about this subject HERE and HERE.

Copperhead bites Zeus and Foxy!

The Idiots who took on a copperhead!
Foxy and Zeus, Snake Hunters...(sort of)

This is why I’m glad I live in the city. Don’t get me wrong – I love the country. And Gypsy Kitty, Alley Cat and Haskell are all current on their snake bite vaccines for trips to the ranch or mountains. It’s just that my dogs are accident prone, and if we lived in the country stuff like this would probably happen to me on a monthly (if not weekly or daily) basis.

Plus, one of the reasons we bought a house without an elevated deck in the backyard was because one of our dogs is famous for falling off of them while scratching his ear. We have enough problems without having to deal with the constant fear of snake bites.

From: Grammy Pammy
Sent: Wednesday, June 24, 2009 9:40 AM
To: Deals; Trevor; The Lazy Gnome; Turd
Subject: Copperhead bites Zeus and Foxy!

Hi, Ya'll--

Late last night-about 11:30-- Michael and I were just getting ready to turn in when all the dogs started barking and running off the patio into the dark yard...then one of them yelped...Michael grabbed the flashlight and I called the dogs back to me and herded them towards the back door...Foxy ran ahead of me, through the kitchen and hid under the guest room bed...Zeus stayed under my feet, but started whining and crying.

Michael called me back to the yard where he found the snake just off the patio's edge and was preparing to shoot it. I told him I thought at least one of the dogs had been struck.

Zeus was acting hurt and I finally found a little blood on his forehead...I couldn't find any wounds on Foxy, but I could tell she wasn't feeling good...so, after making sure none of the other dogs were hurt or acting strange, we loaded up Foxy and Zeus and headed for the emergency clinic in Arlington.

By the time we got there, both dogs were very painful to the touch and their heads were beginning to swell...Both were examined and both were found to have been struck on the head. They were started on morphine for pain and an IV plasma exchange to prevent the hemo-toxin in the snake venom from clotting their blood and were given an antibiotic. (Snake bites are dirty bites)

This morning they are doing OK--both ate their breakfast--we're waiting for the plasma exchange to finish--they will stay in the hospital until at least this afternoon...we may be able to then transfer them to our vet here in Cedar Hill, but all depends on how the dogs are doing...

Anyway, hopefully, the snake-bite vaccines they just completed last Saturday will help them through this...

When we got home about 2:30 am, we measured the snake and took some pictures...I've attached two...the snake measured 30 inches...looked well fed, too!

Will keep you posted....life in the country ...Ugh! (Can't wait to see the bill for this one!)


From: Deals
Date: Wed, 24 Jun 2009 09:54:33 -0500
To: Grammy Pammy; Trevor; The Lazy Gnome; Turd
Subject: RE: Copperhead bites Zeus and Foxy!

OMG! This explains the emergency text message I got from Schnitzel early, early this morning about wanting to move back to the city.

I am so glad that they are doing okay (or are at least feeling well enough to eat)! Poor Zeus E. Pott and Foxy Fu! I like how two of your smallest, most fluffy pups tried to take on a snake!

Keep me up-to-date on their progress. I’ll have Gypsy pray for them when I see her at 1:30.


P.S. Does the fact that Zeus took on a snake give him back his “man card” in Michael’s eyes?

Here are the pictures of the snake. He was an aggressive little bugger. Although, to be fair, I’d probably strike too if I was being attacked by two overgrown puff balls. Too bad it didn’t have the foresight to slither back into the woods before Michael found his shotgun.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

They grow up so fast...

Today is Haskell’s 4th birthday (or 3rd anniversary of me finding him).

I had dinner plans tonight with family, but convinced my aunt to come over afterwards to sing to her “God Dog”. Bert was also lured over – but only because I had something she needs for a project at work. This sounds super, sneaky-secretive until I reveal that she’s collecting Victoria Secret and JCrew catalogs. Bert is a graphic designer, and her new job requires her to keep abreast of the latest advertising trends. No matter my address, I always receive a steady stream of both. I think both Vicky S and JCrew have me tagged with a GPS, I swear. But one person’s (recyclable) trash is another’s treasure. I’m just glad I could help out.

Anyway, neither Bert nor Mimi could stay longer than it took to sing Happy Birthday and watch the dogs eat their individual serving of Frosty Paw ice cream, so I decided to immortalize the moment on YouTube.

You’re thrilled, aren’t you? Glad to hear it…

Tragically, my movie editing software (Windows Movie Maker...I need a Mac, like, yesterday) is on the fritz, so all I have is the rough birthday footage. No cute music or director’s commentary for you. Sigh…I know you are disappointed.

Haskell doesn't care, though. He's just happy the "party" involved him getting an ice cream. And any extra birthday "cookies" Auntie Bertie snuck him when I wasn't looking.

Confessions of a mad woman...

June 11th, 2009 was quite the day.


Well, for one, it was Trevor and my last “dating” anniversary. Who knew we’d last seven years? And, more importantly, who knew we’d both forget about it?

To be fair, there was a lot going on that day with THE FLOOD and all. And it isn’t like we didn’t eventually remember (although, it was a good day or two before Trevor turned to me and said, “Hey, I think we forgot our anniversary!”).

Of course, I still managed to give Trevor something on our anniversary, and quite by accident, too. No, no. It was nothing dirty (get your heads out of the gutter!).

Let me set the stage:

I had just had the morning from Hell. I had been soaked to the bone, hailed on, nearly hit by a falling tree, and had returned home only to discover a leak in my new ceiling. I was – literally – at my wit’s end. And Trevor was, conveniently, nowhere to be found. I left several messages on his cell phone including the one below:

“I’m dealing with things beyond my maturity level at the moment! I need you to call me!”

Trevor found this particular message to be hilarious, and has insisted on keeping it stored in his voicemail. He also feels moved to quote the message at dinner parties, weddings and various social occasions – always at my expense. Apparently, any time used to embarrass his fiancĂ© is time well spent.

So, I am embracing my panicked voice message, and taking ownership of the situation by posting it on my blog.

Not that there are many people left on the planet that Trevor hasn’t already told, but still. I’m taking control. Or, at least, owning up to my inability to deal (well) with certain (extraordinary) situations.

I can again hold my head high.

Or up, at any rate...

Monday, June 22, 2009

And to think I used to love working in Excel...

Wedding lists are the bane of my existence.


I hate them. And they are driving me insane, which is obvious from the email thread below:

From: Trevor
Sent: Monday, June 22, 2009 12:23 PM
To: Deals
Subject: Rehearsal Dinner

Do we also need to get a list together for the rehearsal dinner???

From: Deals
Sent: Monday, June 22, 2009 3:07 PM
To: Trevor
Subject: RE: Rehearsal Dinner

Shut up.

I mean, “yes, dear”.

I hate you.

Errrr…I mean, “I love you.”

From: Trevor
Sent: Monday, June 22, 2009 3:14 PM
To: Deals
Subject: RE: Rehearsal Dinner


Yep. I’m handling with my usual grace and maturity.

Trevor is one lucky man, let me tell you.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tweet, tweet, tweet…

I was just reading through an email from my mother, and discovered that the woman is on Twitter.

What?! Really?! I’m not even on Twitter.

Here is Grammy Pammy’s explanation in a forwarded email conversation between her and my cousin, Rusty:
“And, BTW, thanks for wanting to follow me on Twitter...I am still trying to figure that one out, though. I joined (on a lark) to follow the local weatherman -- don't hear from him, but I am hearing from other people...!! Kinda weird...don't know why anyone would want to follow me, --oh, well...”

Love. It.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I'm guessing this means a pipe is in my future?

You know things aren’t going well when a small parade of construction workers walk past your office, open a closet door and says, “No good. No good at all.”

Then, twenty seconds later, three burly looking men sporting hard hats and orange vests appear in your doorway and mumble something about needing to run a pipe through the middle of your office. When you look concerned, one of the construction workers tries to ease your fears by assuring you that putting the pipe through the middle of your office is a physical impossibility.

After mumbling something sarcastic to each other, the three men exit as suddenly as they arrived.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Who came up with this anyway?

This morning I had to go to my annual AP training workshop for the museum. This is something I do every year, and rarely look forward to – mainly because I always manage to choose the one workshop with at least three or four individuals who’ve never turned on a computer before, much less entered TEKS into an online database.


Anyway, the workshop is generally held in a museum computer lab near my office, but none of those workshops fit in with my schedule this year. So, I had to go to the main AP office. We were each assigned a laptop with a sticker on the top with the computer’s “name” on it. All the computers were named after various countries. Mine was “Iran”.

I should have known from the get-go that this would set the mood for my entire workshop experience.

Needless to say, Iran was in a pissy mood this morning. No one – not even the onsite computer experts – could figure out what was wrong with it. Of course, there were no extra computers for me to use instead. So, I spent two hours negotiating with the machine until the workshop finally ended and I got to leave.

Next year, I’m requesting “Estonia”.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Crazy is as crazy does...

Apparently, I am like a magnet for crazy people.

Really. I'm surrounded.

And then I remember one of my favorite Albert Einstein quotations, and get a little worried:

"A question that sometimes drives me hazy:
am I or are the others crazy?"

Fortunately, I'm not the only one who thinks the crazies really are...well, crazy. So, for the moment, I'm sort of secure in the fact that it is not just me.


Hey, Einstein wasn’t sure, either.

Friday, June 12, 2009

On song lyrics...

Is it just me, or does anyone else hear Lady Gaga declare, “Gotta doo-doo!” in the chorus of her song Just Dance?

Because I do. And I refer to it as the Doo-Doo song.

And while I am on the subject of music, my mother and sister literally had to spell out the meaning of the new Britney Spears’ song, If You Seek Amy, for me. I thought it was a reference to some sort of drug use, but – yeah…it’s not. Britany’s gotten dirty.

And for the record, I get song lyrics wrong with an alarming frequency. Here are some of my more famous blunders:

  • Twisted Root’s song, Send Me On My Way. I thought they were singing about Semi the Whale. I always imagined (and sometimes still do) a cartoon version of Shamu swimming happily around the ocean with a big, stupid grin on his face.

  • Hinder’s song, Better Than Me.

    Real Lyrics: “What it feels like beside you…”

    What I Thought: “But it feels like Poseidon…”

  • Aerosmith’s song, Dream On.

    Real Lyrics: “Sing with me, sing for the years/Sing for the laughter, sing for the tears…”

    What I Thought: “Sing women, sing from over here/Sing from the left, sing Mama Tia…”

There are more, of course, but I’ll leave those for another post on another day.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Water, water everywhere...

Apparently, I wasn’t supposed to leave the house this morning.

The day started out uneventfully enough. I woke up early and headed to the gym. It was raining hard, but I made it there and back with no problems.

Once back home, I quickly showered, dressed and headed out to meet Jean at my aunt’s house in the Lakewood area of East Dallas. This little side trip was on my way to work, and had the added benefit of being able to drop Alley off at Trevor’s apartment.

It was still raining when I left my house, but I didn’t think very much of it. It had been raining more or less nonstop since 7 PM last night, and the morning news hinted that the rain would be with us for most of the morning.

When I turned south on Abrams, however, the weather got little more interesting. The wind and rain picked up, and it started to hail. The storm drains were bubbling over with all the excess water, and the street started to flood right in front of me. I continued on, though, thinking the cell would quickly pass. I honestly wasn’t concerned. Until, that is, I encountered a particularly hilly section of Abrams near St. Thomas Aquinas. There is a creek at a low point just south of the school, and the water rushing downhill off of Abrams suddenly looked like a raging river. Just below the point where the street and creek met, a giant whirlpool had formed – complete with churning rapids. Not wanting to dawdle at this dangerous spot – especially with the rapidly rising water - I gunned my Envoy back up the far side of the hill. The force of the water flowing downhill in the opposite direction, though, temporarily caused my SUV to fishtail a bit. That definitely got my attention.

Consequently, when I reached the crest of the next hill and saw the cars stalled out in the water below, I decided to turn off Abrams and wait for the storm to, you know, blow itself out a bit before continuing on. I wasn’t about to press my luck with high water for a second time. I’m not known for being excessively lucky, after all.

There was a car in front of me that also had pulled off Abrams to wait the storm out, and pulled up behind him on the curb to park. And that’s when I watched a tree limb fall in between my car and the SUV in front of me. How it managed to not hit us both is beyond me.

Lucky twice.

I maneuvered my way around the downed limb and parked my car along a section of curb void of trees. Thinking I should call and let people know that I was running late due to the weather, I pull my cell phone from my purse. At first, I couldn’t get a cell phone signal. I guess the weather was too bad. Once the rain started to ebb a little, though, I was able to call into work to let them know I was running late. Apparently, I wasn’t the only staffer experiencing trouble, however, and my boss told me to be careful and take my time.

I also phoned my aunt and asked her to call Jean. I was worried that she might already be at my aunt’s house, and I didn’t want anyone to worry about me being stuck out in the storm. Turned out that I didn’t need to worry. Jean was also running behind.

Finally, the rain let up enough for me to feel comfortable driving again. I wound my way through the neighborhoods just northeast of Lakewood. There was more than one time that I drove through water that was probably “too deep”, but none of these incidences compared to the one I had at the creek near St. Thomas Aquinas. And after a few minutes of turning this way and that, I managed to skirt the flooded low section on Abrams and come out at an intersection on higher ground.

From there, I continued south on Abrams until I hit Lakewood. It was obvious that Lakewood had no power, and it always baffles me how many people do not know proper procedure when encountering a dark traffic light. Grumble, grumble.

The intersection of Abrams and La Vista in Lakewood.

I was particularly shocked when I saw the intersection of Abrams and La Vista. All of the southbound lanes were completely submerged. Brookside was more of the same. The Lakewood Golf Course looked like an extension of White Rock lake. Huge trees had fallen in the roadway, and power lines dangled precariously from above. I carefully navigated around all the debris and managed to drop Alley off at Trevor’s apartment without incident. I then proceeded on to my aunt’s house.

Brookside. If you expand the image, you can clearly see downed powerlines tangled in the branches of the limb on the street.

Brookside heading east.

I arrived safely, but noticed immediately that Jean was nowhere to be seen. She had been trying to reach me, however. I realized that I must have missed her call when I was taking Alley into Trevor’s apartment.

Jean had apparently tried to drive through high water at the intersection of Skillman and Richmond in her brand-new, white Mercedes, and stalled. The water – still rising – started to flow under the car doors and flooded the interior. Her voice was audibly shaky, and I told her I’d come right over to help.

It took me less than three minutes to reach Jean from my aunt's house. The intersection of Skillman and Richmond was quite the sight. Huge trees had fallen over, debris was everywhere and the water was deep and still rising. In the middle of it all was Jean, still sitting in her car surrounded by what looked like a large pond.

Near where Jean's car was submerged.

In my effort to help her, I got absolutely soaked. Finally, however, the fire department (with press following behind) arrived and the water started to subside enough for Jean to be able to exit her car and make it to the sidewalk. We stood there for a few minutes while Jean called her husband and arranged for a tow truck. Then, we got into my car and just kind of hung out for a few minutes until she got every thing in order and under control.

Around 10:15, Jean told me that the tow truck was coming and I should go home, change clothes and get to work. I offered to wait with her until the tow truck arrived, but – seeing me shiver – Jean ordered me on. I was cold, and didn’t put up much of a fight.

The drive back home was a real eye opener. Everywhere I looked there were downed trees and power lines. I passed three trees on Skillman alone that were the recent charred victims of lightening strikes. One was still smoldering.

Downed trees on Skillman looking south from Richmond.

I made it home just before another cell hit. From my bedroom window, I could see wind wildly whipping the trees around and it started to appear like it was raining sideways.

Concerned about encountering more high water on my second attempt to get to work, I decided to call the office and explain what had happened to Jean, her car and my clothes. I told them I was at home changing into something dry and that I’d be on my way as soon as the current storm subsided. I asked one of my coworkers to look up the weather, and she told me that I should plan on sitting tight until noon. The weather looked like it might clear up by then, and I could make it to the office without having to drive through all the heavy rain, hail, thunder and lightening.

After hanging up the phone, I finished getting dried off and redressed. I was hanging my completely saturated clothes up in the bathroom when I heard a loud “drip”. At first, I ignored it. I figured I was hearing it from somewhere outside. It was pouring, after all. But when I heard it for a second and third time, I started looking around the house for the noise’s source.

I found it in the hall closet directly behind the fire place in the den.

Water was seeping in from…well, somewhere, and the drywall in the corner of the ceiling was swollen and starting to drip. Without thinking, I ran in to the kitchen, dumped everything out of a plastic, purple trashcan, grabbed a butter knife and returned to the closet. Once there, I put the trashcan on the floor, and stabbed the bulge with the butter knife. Water instantly started to pour down from the ceiling. I then ran to the attic stairs, pulled them down and turned on the light – looking desperately for the water’s source. And nothing. No dripping. No wet insulation. Nothing. Not even on the attic portion of the chimney.

Confused, I ran back down to the hall closet. Water continued to pour out of the ceiling and into the trashcan. And when I took a step closer to further assess the situation, I stepped in a puddle.

In my head, I wondered why I puddle had formed. That is, until I saw the problem: The d@mn trashcan had a hole in the bottom.

Screaming aloud in frustrated anger, I sprinted to the garage, found a plastic bin (still full of stuff from the move), dumped the contents out all over the floor and brought the bin inside to replace the busted trashcan.

The hole in the trashcan was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. I was dealing with things way beyond my maturity level – especially after the emotionally and physically exhausting morning I’d already had. Amazingly, I held it together long enough to call work and take a Personal Day. The thought of leaving my new house in a thunderstorm with a leaky ceiling was just more than I could bear.

Then, I did what anybody would do under the circumstances: I called my mommy and broke down in tears.

Trevor contacted a roofing company, and a roof guy was able to swing by around three this afternoon. A thorough inspection of the attic revealed exactly what I had found earlier: Nothing. That’s right, no wet insulation, no wet beams – not even any wet bricks around the chimney. He even stuck a long wire through the hole I made with the butter knife, and inspected all around the area. Again, nothing.

Knowing a problem existed somewhere, he went up on the roof and filled every crack, crevices and tiny gap he could find. There were no damaged or missing roof tiles (I thought the leak might be a result of wind or hail damage during the storms), and he could see nothing that suggested where or why water was getting inside. When I told him that the leak started after I noticed it raining sideways, though, he guessed that it could have been part of the reason behind the “mystery leak”. But really, no one knows for sure.

Doing all he could possibly do, the roofer left. He asked that we leave the plastic bin in place under the hole just incase the problem isn’t fixed, and call if we experience any more problems. Since it looks like it might rain again tonight or tomorrow, we may be testing his quick fix very soon. Keep your fingers crossed!

All in all, I guess this has been the luckiest unlucky day ever. Several near misses driving around in stormy weather, being close enough to help a friend in need – even having to go home to change clothes in time to catch what easily could have been a devastating leak. Not only could the leak - undetected – cause hundreds of dollars of damage to the drywall and wood floors, but Trevor and I have been temporarily storing most of our artwork in the hall closet while we get settled in the new house.

Maybe I am lucky after all?

Really, though, I’m just exhausted and I am looking forward to hitting the sack early tonight. Whew. What a day…

The calm after the storm:
Mammary Clouds
(a.k.a. "Booby Clouds"):

Update: I just found out the museum I work for did not fair well. Apparently, roof repairs coupled with a torrential 15 hour downpour can really screw things up. Tragically, it sounds like some of the 73 year old ceilings took the brunt of the damage. And, whereas past floods have been confined to the basement, this one was upstairs. Not good. Not good at all.

Deep sigh...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

This would be a bigger issue if I actually knew how to cook...

The appliances at the new house? Yeah. I'm not smart enough to use them. It took me 15 minutes to figure out how to use my new microwave. We won’t discuss what happened when I tried to preheat the oven.

Trevor thinks this is hilarious.

Unsupportive ba$tard.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

I’d be lying if I said I was surprised…

As previously mentioned, the City of Dallas is spending $11.7 million on restoring the fountains up and down the esplanade at Fair Park. The fountains will waltz to music much like the ones at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.

However, the most optimistic of city budget proposals for 2009-2010 does not have enough money to actually run the fountains. At all.

And I’m sure having the fountains sit idle for (at least) one year won’t adversely affect them, right?


Thursday, June 04, 2009

Thoughts and random “tails”…

On Under Bites...
  • Today at 1 PM, I am going to my orthodontist for a splint fitting. Nothing really exciting about that. I’ve been wearing a splint every night since I was twelve or thirteen years old. My lower jaw continued to grow after my upper jaw stopped, so I have a slight under bite. I say “slight” because it isn’t like my lower jaw sticks way out past where my upper jaw stops. They are actually flush with one another – resulting in my inability to adequately close my mouth (my front teeth hit). And, just incase you were wondering, I’ve heard ALL the jokes about me not being able to close my mouth. Oh, ha-ha-ha. You are SO funny…

    Anyway, I have to wear the splint when I sleep because – when unconscious – I desperately try to shove my mouth closed. Of course, this doesn’t work since I…well, can’t. And since I don’t want to accidentally break or wear down my teeth in the process, I religiously wear my splint every night.

    I was fitted for my first splint back in the early 90s. That splint lasted over 10 years, but finally broke right around the same time I started working for the museum.

    So, I spent $700 and bought a new one. This one lasted about 2.5 years.

    My third splint lasted eighteen months.

    And this year? Yeah, I’m being fitted today for my third splint in less than twelve months.

    Either I’m exceptionally stressed or they aren’t making splints like they used to. I’m guessing it is a combination of both.

On Cell Phone Etiquette...
  • Yesterday, I had lunch with a friend. After we finished eating, I headed to the restroom. There were four stalls - two of which were already occupied. I walked into the nearest of the two vacant ones, closed the stall door, and…well, proceeded to do my business. About midstream, the lady in the stall next to mine answered her cell phone. Both me and the other woman in the third stall stopped peeing. Because, really? Who wants to be heard peeing on the other end of a stranger’s phone? But the idiot on her cell phone kept talking. And talking. And talking. Finally, I could not wait any longer and I finished my business and (gasp!) flushed the toilet.

    There was a pause in the phone conversation in the middle stall followed by:

    Bathroom Talker: “Oh, yeah! I’m totally in the bathroom at Blue Mesa! What? Yeah, I’ve been in here the whole time. No. Just peeing. That wasn’t me. It was some other lady that flushed. I know! How RUDE!”

    I walked out irritated that I hadn’t flushed sooner.

    Who talks on the phone in the bathroom anyway? Especially in a PUBLIC restroom? While peeing? And why was I supposed to follow some sort of secret public-bathroom-phone-talking etiquette?

    I swear! Some people!

Won't you play with me?
  • Last week when we went to Indiana, we boarded the three dogs at PetSmart. Bert had offered to house and dog sit, but after Alley CHEWED on the new house we decided to go ahead and spring for four days and three nights of doggie boarding, all day play and three exit baths. Expensive? Yes. But oh-so much cheaper than repairing a chewed on house.

    When we arrived on Thursday morning with the three “kids”, the PetSmart employee took one look at Alley and asked if we knew whether or not she had Pit Bull in her. We told them him that we weren’t really sure what went into the making of an Alley, but we guessed that somewhere back in her doggie ancestry, a Lab and some sort of Terrier had been involved.

    We were then told that – even though we weren’t certain about Alley’s heritage – that the “expert” behind the counter thought he saw some Pit Bull in her.

    Trevor: “Um. Okay. Again, we don’t really know. And her vet and I have even joked about all the different types of dogs we see in her.”

    PetSmart guy: “Well, if she has Pitt in her, she might not be able to play with the other dogs.”

    Trevor: “What? Why? She’s boarded and played here many, many times in the past, and there has never been any kind of incident. She loves to play and is well socialized.”

    PetSmart guy: “But she might have Pitt in her.”

    Trevor: “And?”

    Long story short: Alley was racially (species-ally?) profiled as a Pitt Bull, and nearly segregated from the other dogs at PetSmart – even Gypsy Kitty and Haskell! Luckily, we were able to convince said PetSmart “experts” to give her a chance and allow her to prove her playtime worth. She passed. And just to show what a good doggie she was, when Alley was finally permitted into the main play area, she proceeded to make-out with every single dog there.

    That’s our girl.

    I know that Pitt Bulls have a reputation as being bullies, but I really feel that every one deserves a chance at a normal doggie existence before being so rudely discriminated against. Plus, generally speaking, it is people that make a dog mean. They aren’t hardwired to be so. That is a learned behavior. Maybe PetSmart should start screening the owners.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Fun (grumble, grumble)...

As previously mentioned, I got a new boss three weeks ago yesterday. My old boss, however, is still working two or three days a week. This is mainly to make the transition run a little smoother and to help prepare for our annual audit which gets underway next month.

Oh, and for whatever reason, old boss is still in charge of vacation and comp time.

Now, as a museum educator, it is normal for me to rack up comp time in the spring. Late January – June is the busiest part of my year (with the possible exception of the State Fair of Texas). As always, I keep a tally of any extra hours worked and turn it into my boss. This is how I acquire comp time – the only catch being that I have to take the time within two pay periods or forfeit it completely. This has never made much sense to me because, during the busiest times of my year, I generally don’t have time to take the comp time I’ve earned because, well, I’m busy. Luckily, most of the time (not all, but most), I’ve had bosses that have worked with me, and made exceptions. In fact, last week’s trip to Indiana was taken using comp time that I earned in April. It all balances out. Most of the time.

Keep in mind, I’ve had six bosses in five years. With each change in leadership has come the inevitable change in policy. Or, at least, a slightly different interpretation of policy. To say there hasn’t been confusion along the way would be a lie. But I feel that I’ve been patient and flexible. Again, most of the time.

Today, old boss decided to tally up used vacation and comp time for each employee for the new boss. Since I’m one of the few people that earns or takes comp time with any regularity, this has resulted in no less than six phone calls that old boss has made to me in the last hour alone (I’m supposed to be at lunch, but she asked me to wait. Hence, I’m blogging.).

Please keep in mind that before I am allowed to use any comp time, I must first submit a form detailing my hours and the reason why any overtime was worked (i.e. an event, tour, etc.). My boss then reviews everything and either signs off on it or doesn’t.

So, imagine my surprise when old boss tells me that my interpretation of the HR handbook is different than hers, and I’ve been keeping track of my hours improperly all spring.

I’ve been keeping track of my hours the same way for five years, but whatever.

Despite the fact that she reviewed my hours and requests for comp time this spring and personally signed off on all of them, I was just told that – because I have apparently been tracking my hours “incorrectly” – I am being stripped of some of my comp time that I have accumulated. Oh, and the best part: this is retroactive and includes all comp time earned since January 1st, 2009.

That’s right: this will effect comp time I’ve already earned and SPENT.

Why? It apparently all comes down to her interpretation of the HR manual versus mine. She claims for something to count as "comp time", one has to work at least two consecutive overtime hours. So, for example, back in February, I worked ten comp hours for a Saturday event. Those all count, according to her, because they were all hours earned consecutively. But the 1.5 hours I worked Thursday night and the 1.5 hours I worked Friday night PREPARING for the Saturday event do not count because I (according to her) have to work at least two consecutive hours before any overtime can count as comp time. This is a difference of three hours that - according to her new interpretation of policy - are no longer owed to me as comp time.

I wouldn’t have a problem with this policy if I had been notified of it BEFOREHAND, but this is the first I’ve heard of it. Previous interpretations have always been that you had to work at least two hours of overtime to qualify for comp time within a pay period. According to this interpretation, the 3 overtime hours I worked over Thursday and Friday in preparation for the Saturday event DO count.

But what really gets me is: if old boss had a different interpretation of this policy, why didn’t she voice it before now?

As for the HR manual, this is the language found there:

Necessary work beyond normal business hours may be considered “Comp Time” under certain guidelines. It may be necessary for employees to work at [blah, blah, blah] events outside of the normal work day. In this case the Executive Director should be notified and approve any work prior to it being done. Comp Time should be taken within the two pay periods following the pay period in which the extra necessary work was performed and should be scheduled and approved in advance with the Executive Director. The following schedule should be followed for Comp Time:

Comp Time Schedule:

Time Worked / Comp Time Earned
0 – 2 hours / 0 hours
2.5 – 6 hours / 4 hours (1/2 day)
6.5 – 8 hours / 8 hours (1 day)

Comp Time should be taken in a minimum of 4 hour increments. Comp Time can not be carried over into a new fiscal year.

Granted, the description of comp time in the HR manual never says if the time must be earned consecutively or within the pay period. That part has always been up to the interpretation of the Executive Director. That said, old boss is the first person to interpret it in consecutive hours instead of within the pay period. And, of course, she is just now making that interpretation TODAY and threatening to retroactively apply that interpretation to comp time earned since January 1st.

It is times like these that I wish I had gone to law school. I wish I knew how to successfully argue my case! Blah. Instead, I am at the whim of a small army of Executive Directors that do as they please when they please. And it’s is almost never to my benefit.


*** UPDATE ***

All is settled and right with the world. Somehow I managed to successfully argue my point, and will not be paying with the sudden loss of my allotted vacation days for this year.

I need a Valium.

Incident Report...

Since early this morning (note that it isn’t even 11 AM, yet) the following has occurred:

  • Tripped and nearly fell off the treadmill while running.

  • Hit self in head with bar while lifting.

  • Managed to clothesline myself while doing another exercise.

  • Slammed funny bone down on shelf while attempting to liberate my purse from the cabinet at the gym.

  • Squirted hand sanitizer all over myself.

  • Got feet tangled while walking and hit the previously insulted funny bone on side of my car in an effort to catch myself.

  • Was lectured by my wedding florist about the importance of planning ahead (note: my wedding is in less than 100 days) in the gym parking lot.

  • Temporarily “misplaced” my keys. They were in my hand the entire time.

  • Haskell accidentally peed on my foot.

  • Smacked funny bone into stairwell while trying to lead three dogs back up to Trevor’s apartment. Three dogs which had just seen a beagle AND a squirrel.

  • Opened apartment door to leave for work. While descending the staircase, a clap of lightening thundered overhead and the sky opened up into a torrential downpour. Got completely soaked (my umbrella and raincoat are still presumably packed…somewhere…over at the new house).

  • Upon arriving at the museum, ran through rain to employee entrance. Within moments of reaching the door, however, the rain tapered off and the sun came out.

  • Choked on coffee.

  • Choked on small piece of animal cracker.

  • Collided with glass door that I thought was already opened.

It is obviously shaping up to be a GREAT day. If I live through it, there might be an update later on.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Back on my soapbox...

KERA: Dallas Budget Shortfall Clouds Fair Park's Future (2009-05-29)

Dallas Budget Shortfall Clouds Fair Park's Future
BJ Austin, KERA News

Plans to save Fair Park may be swept away in a flood of "red ink". KERA's BJ Austin says 7 million dollars -- all of Fair Park's funding -- has been cut from next year's Dallas budget.

This September, DART trains will bring passengers to the 2009 State Fair. There are two stations; one at the front gates; the other near Martin Luther King Boulevard. Last week, DART, Fair Park officials, and Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, predicted light rail service to Fair Park would be a catalyst for new activities year-round. Two days later, every bit of Fair Park's annual funding was cut in the proposed city budget for next year. Councilmember Vonceil Jones Hill says no one is safe from the budget axe - as City Hall looks at ways to make up a 190 MILLION dollar shortfall.

Hill: I expect there will be extensive conversation about that particular item, as well as all others. But it is indicative of the fact that we've got to look closely at all of the services that we're providing.

At the front gates of the fairgrounds, Erroll McKoy, President of the State Fair chooses to remain optimistic. He believes Fair Park will have a summer theme park - with two dozen amusement park rides on the Midway in 2012.

McKoy: We want to be to Six Flags what Rough Rider Park is to the Texas Rangers. We will be a smaller, more bite-sized version. It'll be an economical visit. The price will be about half that of Six Flags, but it's still going to be jam packed, full of good things to do.

Dallas Attorney, longtime Fair Park supporter, Darrell Jordan says this is no time to douse new plans for Fair Park. The opera is leaving the Music Hall for the performing arts center downtown. The major museum exhibits are leaving for the Perot Museum of Science and Nature in the West End. The train museum is leaving for Frisco. The New Year's Cotton Bowl Classic is leaving for the new Cowboys stadium in Arlington. Jordan says Fair Park needs to step up its game. He hopes a proposed "think-tank" session this fall lead by Dallas Summer Musicals will chart a new future. Jordan would like to see the Park take a cue from Disney and its Epcot Center.

Jordan: where large, civic minded corporate sponsors have what would amount to exhibits - not a museum setting, but in an interactive, interesting setting where parents, and kids, and visitors would come to the park - that would be a great thing also.

Councilman Dave Neumann says Fair Park is not likely to be shuttered but it may have to operate differently.

Neumann: I'm confident that several of these proposed reductions in services will be restored. But there's going to be give and take. Clearly, we're all going to have to tighten our belts. A lot of things we've become accustomed to we may not have in this next budget cycle.

Council colleague Jerry Allen is a little more optimistic about Fair Park.

Allen: Obviously Fair Park is a jewel. So there will be ways to figure out how to trim it. It's a jewel that we've got, especially in light of the DART line opening up. So, that's a big deal.

A Fair Park official tells KERA that jewel needs to be shining in 2011 because Fair Park has just been chosen as the site of a HUGE Super Bowl party. The official NFC party could draw upwards of 100 thousand people to Fair Park.

Email BJ Austin

© Copyright 2009, KERA

Why?! Why would you do this? Why would you even think of doing this? Especially after spending $11.7 million on the Esplanade Fountain renovation and $57 million on the Cotton Bowl upgrades in the last year alone? And don't forget the costly renovations to city buildings like the Texas Hall of State, Texas Discovery Gardens and the Dallas Aquarium at Fair Park that are currently underway.

And WHY would you consider doing it now that DART's debut at Fair Park is weeks away? Do you want Fair Park to fail? Or is it just more fun to spend millions of dollars to get everyone excited about Fair Park's impending revitalization and then yank the rug out from underneath all those who love and believe in it?

“The City of Dallas: A Great Work of Art” my a$$! It would be if the City took care of what it had, but this is the second year in a row that Dallas has proposed major budget cuts to art and culture. Fair Park is a National Historic Landmark – mainly because it is the only intact and unaltered pre-1950s world fair site remaining in the United States (with an extraordinary collection of 1930s art and architecture to boot). There are only three sites in Dallas County that qualify as such, and Fair Park’s Centennial Buildings were the FIRST to be designated on the NHL list in September 1986. The Dealey Plaza Historic District was second (NHL spells it D-E-A-L-Y, but that is another rant for another day), and the Highland Park Shopping Village (which isn’t even IN the City of Dallas) third. Why, for the love of Pete, would you cut – or consider cutting - funding to something so important and historically significant? It is just irresponsible!

Plus, Fair Park serves 7 million people on average a year. Wonderful programs like Fair Park in Lights, the Dog Bowl and the State Fair of Texas – just to name a few - all happen down at the Fairgrounds. Not to mention the seven museums, Dallas Summer Musicals, the Wind Symphony, WRR and all the other organizations that call Fair Park home. No wonder groups like the Dallas Opera and the Museum of Nature and Science are planning on leaving - if the City doesn't believe in Fair Park, who will?

Fair Park should not be held responsible for the City of Dallas’ inability to hire a competent accounting staff. Where did the $100 million go? And why does Fair Park, one of the City's greatest artistic and cultural assets, have to be punished so severely for your budget shortfall?

And to think there was talk of the City of Dallas taking over DISD! Between the two of you, almost $300 million has gone astray in the last nine months alone. Who is running Dallas anyway? A bunch of crickets? Because I definitely hear a lot of chirping.

I’m assuming the Michael Hinojosa’s of City Hall will still be gainfully employed despite the budget shortfall. Just like DISD teachers (and, ultimately, DISD students) who took the fall for DISD’s accounting shortfall last year, I’m sure the same will be true of the City of Dallas. Just fire all the competent workers and creative minds that work for the City, and keep the dumba$$es in charge.

Stupid City...