Friday, January 25, 2008

Cheap Entertainment

My new favorite for free entertainment on the web: The Wikipedia 'Random Article' Button

HOURS, even DAYS of useless (sometimes uncited or unreliable) trivia. Beware, though, I think the thing has a mind of it's own. One day, nearly 1/3 of my random articles were Judaica related, including on entry on a band that specializes in Hasidic Jazz fusion recordings of traditional dances like the Hora.

Not. Kidding.

Along the way, I've learned a TON and laughed often. Example: Frank's Mom

Tonight, it's Lithuanian History. Man, we're a duplicitous bunch!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Last Weinerschnitzel - The Sequel

The holidays loomed large in my future; I didn't worry over much about my job prospects as I played with my family at Christmas. My regular supervisor had worked with the sup P, from the other department in the past. In fact most of my current management team came from that department. Jen sent P a friendly recommendation for me. He responded that he planned to schedule interviews the second week of January.

As I waited, I worked hard to keep disappointment from affecting my attitude at work, telling myself what I'd learned over and over: everything happens for a reason. I hadn't gotten what I wanted but the Universe has a funny way of knowing what you need and sending it your way regardless of what you want. If you can be patient, things usually turn out OK. If you can be patient.

Sure as sunrise and taxes, the invite arrived the afternoon of the 7Th, dated for Wednesday. I took it as a good sign that the supervisor seemed to be as punctual as I try to be. I made myself take ten breaths before sending an acceptance... and squealing quietly to myself. Behaving like a St Bernard puppy might be endearing in a friend but it's not terribly professional; I'm trying to learn restraint.

I met my prospective management team; strong handshakes and direct looks into my eyes. Kind eyes, but very direct. A tiny voice in my head said "Forget the coaching, the articles, the advice. Tell them what you feel, really. Tell them what you know, truly. Tell them what you'd do, honestly." It didn't sound like that tiny voice that told me there are no calories if you eat a brownie standing up. It sounded rational and wise.

I took a chance. Within the first minute, I'd broken the cardinal rule of job interviews: they knew I have children and they knew how many. By the time it was over, I'd told them about the biggest mistakes of my career with this company, then how I recovered from it and ensured it wouldn't happen again. By the time it was over they were saying "when you start" as opposed to "if you come to work for us."

One last leap, I asked, 'has this been a good interview?'

'This has been the most surprisingly, unconventional interview I've ever had,' said T(that's not a typo, the manager's name is T, the sup is P). 'It's also been one of the best. When you get back to your office, you need to find out the first possible day you can come to us.'

Jen called me at home the next morning: 'they're asking for your salary information and release date. This looks good, Christy.' I wasn't even scheduled to be in for two hours.

Dan and P were engaged in er... vigorous negotiation over that date. Dan has a ton of projects going right now, my timing was bad. Still, he acknowledged I only did what he told me to do. Would have been nice if I'd waited, but he didn't tell me to wait. I was flogging myself even so; I hate thinking I let anybody down. He assured me I hadn't at all. That was the whole problem.

The day wore on and so did the battle. Turns out that Dan and P are more alike than I thought. They went back and forth, P wanted sooner, D couldn't possibly think of it till later. I felt like the last Weinershnitzel at Oktoberfest; a nice change! Instead of left over and forgotten, I was a hot commodity, a valuable asset. Knowing a bit about the two personalities involved, I thought it might have been more appropriate if they'd have a light saber duel in the parking lot, but also thought it might not be a great career move to suggest it. Finally, they came to a compromise. Still felt like a Weinerschnitzel: but one cut in half and without an offer letter.

Friday, I was entirely useless and single minded like a kid on Christmas Eve: WHERE THE HECK IS MY OFFER LETTER? People don't argue over the release dates of employees they aren't going to hire!

The offer came in the late afternoon and a thousand years later. I did a happy dance and embarrassed Debbie. A fair offer, a small raise, a real position, not Interim. Jen and Debbie pulled me away from the desk before I could reply "Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes." They were right, I needed to take a few minutes and calm down so I didn't gush. I called Cowboy and let him know it was safe to celebrate. I secluded myself in a conference room and celebrated myself.

Ten minutes later and much more appropriate I sent something bland, professional, upbeat but still affirmative. A round of congratulations from Dan, Jen, Debbie and others, then discussion of who could be brought in to take my place until the position is phased out.

Dan doesn't doesn't offer false praise and doesn't compliment lightly. When he remarks "oh, and good job!" upon receipt of a completed project, that is high praise indeed. As life returned to normal and I started my usual Friday evening duties, I asked, as I always ask him when I leave his desk: is there anything else I can do for you?

Yes. You can build a cloning machine and make a copy of yourself. Give the copy to them and then stay here so I can have the original.

Weinerschnitzels don't cry, but this one almost did.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

And Now for Something Completely Different

Before I go 'on with the Weinerschnitzel', I stopped by Caffeinated Librarian's blog this morning because I am up ridiculously early and I haven't read her pages in a coon's age. If you've never read her, please go do so now; she is exactly what she advertises herself as but better!

One of the posts on Libby's blog had a link to a political quiz and since it's that time of year, I thought I'd take it and post my results as well. The last political thing I posted was a very short fun-quiz type of dealy that showed me as the bleeding heart liberal. Other than that, I've avoided discussing politics here whenever possible. My reasons: I am a hopelessly poor debater and take the issues personally, and the responses from people who disagree with me very personally. My family and friends are the only people who know the details about my views, though, as in everything, I'm fairly transparent.

There are lots of old sayings but the warning about mixing religion and politics into casual conversation works for me. Blogs that talk about both can get big followings. There can also be big firefights in the comments section. I'd sure love more attention, but not that kind. If you want your blog to run that way, I say, go you. I don't, so I generally don't bring that stuff up.

On the other hand, several big things happened in my politics world this week. The primary results were interesting, but it's a couple much smaller items that stayed with me. They may be why I'm thinking about this stuff.

  • Governor Bill Richardson stepped out of the race for president. I have been following Richardson and quietly talking him up since 2005. Anytime one of my latino friends brought up their concerns about this race, I'd throw Bill's name out as someone to watch. Every time someone I'm close to would express concern about Darfur, I'd mention Mr. Richardson and his work in the region. I like the man as a person, for his background and outlook, and as a politician for his diplomacy skills and bravery. It's too bad that he didn't have the sort of money machine backing him that the big candidates do. I hold out a strong hope that he will find his way into a Democratic White House; I think he'd be a great VP or.. maybe better, a Secretary of State.
  • The best thing Hillary could have done for herself was to get just a bit choked up in front of a crowd this week. She looked more human than she ever has, and this is coming from someone who respects her a great deal. Now I wouldn't be the one to give advice on when to show emotions to anybody. I generally show far too much emotion and it has cost me dearly in my life. However, people need to know that the issues touch you, that it all means something to you. As a woman, that's an incredibly delicate balance. Hillary was terribly maligned when Bill was president. I felt it was almost criminal of him to let her be his scapegoat on unpopular subjects. That said, she often comes off as more mechanical than personable, so I applaud what others might be criticising at this moment. If Dan Rather can cry on TV girly, you can get a lump in your throat!

So that's it. That was my week in politics. Below are the results of my quiz, which tell me I need to read up on some folks:

85% John Edwards
84% Chris Dodd
84% Joe Biden
84% Barack Obama
81% Bill Richardson
80% Hillary Clinton
79% Mike Gravel
76% Dennis Kucinich
36% Rudy Giuliani
30% Tom Tancredo
29% John McCain
26% Mike Huckabee
24% Mitt Romney
19% Ron Paul
17% Fred Thompson

2008 Presidential Candidate Matching Quiz

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Last Weinerschnitzel, Part One

I am Interim.

I really hate that term. It didn't used to bother me; everybody was Interim. I was simply more Interim, just hanging out to learn everything I could and fill in where I was needed. Unfortunately, Interim-ly-ess-ness will grate on you eventually and I am not the most thick-skinned of folks. By the middle of December, if Interim were fabric, it would have been wet burlap and I'd have been wearing it for pants.

Maybe you don't understand what I've been doing for the last nine months-- no more than 27 people on the planet really understand what I've been doing for nine months. I'll give you a BRIEF (yes, brief.. even I can be brief) overview:

We manage the traffic for three call centers. We decide what percentage of the calls each center will take at any given time with a goal of getting 80% of our calls answered in under 20 seconds. Very often, we make changes on the fly because what seems fairly predictable (a given number of agents ought to be able to take a given percentage of the calls) isn't. We assist management in scheduling overtime, meetings, training sessions and events in such a way that the 80/20 goal is met. That is job Number One.

Job Number Two is reporting on every possible number or statistic about those calls: how many, how fast, how many people left, how they scored on QA, how long they waited, how long they were in meetings, who is calling and what they want when they call. We then assist Dan to predict how many calls we'll get from where for what when we do this all again.

Job Number Three. Since we already monitor agent activity, we are often the first to notice inappropriate behavior. We are often required to investigate and provide evidence for disciplinary action. This earns us the reputation of being bullies, babysitters and big meanyheads. I have an opinion about this, but I said brief.

I love what I'm doing. Job Number One is tedious but rewarding when you get it right. Job Number Three is depressing but a fact of life. Job Number Two is what I live for. I am Mistress of the Minutiae and I like spinning these numbers all over the place and then making good guesses about what happens next.
But that's not why I love what I am doing. I love it because I get to work with the two D's: Dan, the Jedi Master, who has been my mentor and friend since I started at Sprint, and Debbie, who has a Black Belt in data management and is one of the most kind, giving and under appreciated people I've ever met. Dan and Debbie do not hoard knowledge; they are happy to work with others and share what they know. If you're an adult, you know what a rare quality that is and why, when you find two such people in one place, you make every second count.


My job is going away. Not today or tomorrow, but in the next three to six months. The center is going to a system which will eliminate the need for Job Number One, the primary reason for our existence. Dan feels that he won't need three people for Jobs Number Two and Three. In a few months, when it's mostly reporting and a tiny bit of investigating, my spot will be expensive and redundant.

I knew this was coming; I had lots of warning. However, I believe in fairies, magic beans and managerial miracles. I hoped. I hoped if I learned enough and was bright enough, helpful enough, enthusiastic enough, they'd decide to keep me.

They didn't. In December it was announced that there were two and only two people becoming Actual instead of Interim. I was the last Weinerschnitzel; cold and greasy, destined to be thrown away and forgotten.

Dan let me cry, which is completely unprofessional, and rant, which isn't much better, then put my problems right back in my lap. You know this was coming, he rightfully said, and no one made you volunteer to do what you've been doing. You could have stayed back, but you wanted to learn and I let you, with no promises attached and a clear expecation of the future. Now, what you knew was happening has happened, what are you going to do about it? Don't sit here and cry, get up and help yourself.

There was a job in another department very similar to what I'm doing and it's not Interim. Go apply, he said. Then he gave his own very precious time and helped me polish my resume and cover letter for submission as he has done for me on three other occasions. I sent off the packet, then got word that they would be calling for interviews the second week in January.

The Weinerschnitzel waited.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Smile, Darn Ya!

A friend of mine sent another friend (hope I can call her a friend) a sheet of scratch n sniff smiley face stickers inside a Christmas card.

This is what she did with those stickers. Warning: uncontrollable smiling ahead.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Nerd Search 2008

If you didn't read my MSN Blog, you might not be familiar with Nerd Searches. I haven't posted one in a while, so maybe an explanation is in order. After this, I'll begin to put them off to the side and you can check them out if you feel like it.

I come across weird things that trip my interest in everyday life, I'm sure you do too. For me, I must then go find out as much about them as possible. I read an article on MSN recently about a certain kind of whale that is believed to live up to 200 years. Off to Google I go, plugging in "Whales" and I end up spending three hours reading everything from Wikipedia to the National Cetacean Institute's website.

Today, I am reading (or re-reading as an adult, not under Mom's duress) The Once and Future King. I run across this phrase at the end of Chapter Six of "The Queen of Air and Darkness:"

(Plot Summary) Arthur has just announced that he intends to make Might work for Right by introducing a code of chivalry, making it popular to be good in hopes of winning over his detractors and uniting his country.

The magician stood up as straight as a pillar, stretched out his arms in both directions, looked at the ceiling and said the first few words of the Nunc Dimittis.

A new Nerd Search is begun: What is 'Nunc Dimittis?'

Inspiration from the Radio

Fridays I don't have to be at work until 10:30AM so I generally run a few errands before toddling off. It's been a gloomy couple of weeks but finally the sun is out. I left off my sunglasses and let it shine through eyelashes; a cheap and most effective cure for wintertime blues.

Big Yellow Taxi: it's really hard to screw up this song, no matter who sings it. Joni knows how to spin her words and chords. Shelley and I sang out loud together as we came home from the store.

Fire and Rain: JT never fails to cheer me up but especially those super hits. Did you know that his Greatest Hits album is one of the most continuously well sold of all time? More singing out loud as I drove to work.

If You Leave: I'm a product of the 80s. I can't hear OMD without bopping, singing and thinking of Molly Ringwald.

Combine sunshine, first thing in the morning productivity, these great songs and the newest from Starbucks: Skinny Mocha Lattes and my morning started off great!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Find a Reason

Apparently, I don't have my normal high-pro glow. People are concerned that I'm unhappy.. but I'm not. Really. It never hurts to think of reasons to be happy anyway.

Things that are making me happy today:
  • It's Wednesday, I didn't have to be at work until 9AM.
  • The children are still on Holiday break, I got to sleep in because they didn't have to be up for school.
  • Traffic was super light; I got to work 45 minutes early, which means I get to leave 30 minutes early tonight.
  • Smoked pork roast for dinner in my lunch bag.
  • I accomplished my entire 1st of the year to-do list before 2:00PM today.
  • New socks
  • Triple Grande Non-Fat, Sugar Free Cinnamon Dolce lattes that taste almost as good as the fatty sugary one.
  • Aynde made it to Owensboro safe and sound and she has a phone, at last!
  • The Mary Engelbreit desk calander I got for Christmas.. so pretty and I can frame the pictures or scrap book with them when I'm done
  • Working with D, someone who I 'get' and who 'gets' me, and with whom I get a LOT accomplished (nothing to make you happy like productivity!)
  • A fabulous note to Shelley from my grandfather, encouraging her to reach for her dream and touching her so much she actually cried.

Life is good.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Mama Christy Has a Project

There was a reason I asked Santa for a digital camera.

The one resolution I made this year was to participate in Project 365. Announcing:

Consider yourselves guinea pigs, by the way; I'm learning as I go.