Friday, December 31, 2004

During the pregame warmup before last Wednesday night's Phantoms game, my fellow goalie-junkie Phantoms fan, whom I dubbed "K" in my post about Maxime Ouellet and Neil Little, came over when she saw Mark and me arrive.

"Nick is down there", she said, and pointed into the bench area. Now, I'd met Neil's son about five years ago, back when he was still small. He comes in to visit Neil during the Christmas holidays -- I've seen him, without having the opportunity to speak to him, the past few years, too.

Well, my having seen him in prior years was doing me no earthly good in IDing him now. All I saw were the backs of a bunch of guys' heads, and the only people among them that I recognized were our regular equipment guys.

I finally asked K (while keeping my eyes trained on the people on the bench), "What color is he wearing?"

"Keep looking. You'll see him as soon as he turns around".

On cue, Nick did turn and face someone behind him. That's when I realized that he's as tall as some of the grown men who work behind our bench -- culture shock! Man, what a growth spurt he's had in a year! I also was reminded that this kid is the absolute IMAGE of his father. I blurted out, "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!" on seeing the resemblance between Nick and his dad, much to K's amusement.

I should email K the image I scanned of Neil, from a midget AA tournament he took part in when he was 17. I got the program on eBay a few weeks ago, and there's a shot of Neil with his team, the Medicine Hat Cablevision Tigers. (Their other goaltender is Chris Osgood, BTW -- they're still good friends to this day.) Because the resemblance between the then-17-year-old Neil and his now-14-year-old son is even more striking.

It was nice to see that Neil actually got the start on Wednesday, too. He's had nearly all road games so far this year, and I'm guessing that he got the nod at least in part because of Nick's presence. To make a long story very short, Neil was the only Phantom who came to play. The rest of the team was absolutely flat, and the only reason we lost 2-1 in overtime is because Neil stood on his ear to keep us in the game. Frankly, other than Neil, the team didn't even deserve the point we got for an overtime loss. As Al phrased it at the end of the game, "Little stole them a point". He was named the second star of the game, but it seemed to me he was WAY reluctant to even skate out for the acknowledgement. The guys who are stars of the game get a T-shirt to throw into the crowd, but he tossed it to the kids who sit next to the tunnel before he even went out on the ice to get acknowledged. Fans were calling compliments into the tunnel from the time he got stopped on his way back to the locker room, but I wonder if he heard any of them. But IMO, the star was well-deserved. Anyone who stops 46 out of 48 shots on goal, with NO help in front of him for the first 40 minutes of the game, deserves one of the stars of the game in my book.

And if that's how he's going to play when Nick is in the house, I think we should ask that lad to move to Philly and attend ALL our games, home and away. ;o)

Thursday, December 30, 2004

The first headline I saw this morning announced that the death toll
from the tsunami had surpassed 114,000. But that was on Yahoo... CNN
tends to have even higher numbers, and THEIR headline states that the
total so far is 116,000.


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Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The death toll from the tsunami has risen to 76,700 and counting.
They're thinking that the casualties might surpass the 100,000 mark by
the time they're finished tallying. :o(

I almost hate to hit "refresh" on my homepage (, because
every time it updates the numbers, the total has climbed by a few
thousand. And even when the homepage hasn't updated its total,
sometimes clicking on the "News" link will present a list of headlines
including a casualty total that's higher than whatever the Yahoo
homepage is listing at the moment.

One distraught resort owner viewed the ruins of his year-old hotel, and
thought of the casualties among his staff and the guests, and said,
"This is worse than 9/11". I can't argue with the man on that point.
Certainly the devastation is more widespread and the number of victims
far surpasses the horror of what 9/11 brought.

The one aspect of 9/11 that's worse than this calamity is this: 9/11
was caused by people's hatred and malice; it was an act of mass murder.
This tsunami had no evil attached to it. It just WAS, and it bore no
ill-will toward any living creatures that happened to be in its path at
the time. Just as other natural events like hurricanes, tornadoes,
earthquakes, etc have no evil intent... they just ARE. They happen
because they're part of what planets DO. The earth's crust, its
atmosphere, its oceans, all act and react as they've done since the
planet was formed in the first place. And they do so without taking
into account whether living creatures are present at a particular time
and place.

I hope that this is the impetus to set up a tsunami warning system. I
don't think EVERYone could have been saved from this disaster, but
definitely there are people who could have been evacuated if there had
been advance notice that this series of waves was on the way. At the
very least, beaches could have been closed to tourists, and buildings
closest to the water could have been cleared of occupants.

Then we wouldn't have had things happen like I saw in the video online
that I really regret watching. There was a tourist using his video
camera from his hotel room. He filmed a beach full of people, which was
visible from his vantage point. Then a few seconds later, the wave,
looking like a huge wall of water, swept through everything. It came
crashing in and its progress took it WELL beyond the beach area... it
HAD to have hit all those people full-force. There's no way anyone
shown on that tape could have gotten out of the tsunami's path in such
a short time. I can't help but wonder if any of them survived. :o( I
hope at least some of them did.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The casualties from the tsunami continue to be tallied. I just saw that
the death toll has reached 44,000, and it's sure to continue climbing.

And I thought that the total I listed YESTERDAY was appallingly high.
Sigh. Unfortunately, I think that by the time the true scope of this
disaster is known, we'll be looking back and wishing that there were
"only" 44,000 victims. How horrifying of a concept is that?

I can only stand to read an article or two at a time. The stories of
what some people have experienced are just too heart-rending. Photos
and video have been posted online, too, and some of them have to be
seen to be believed. I'll see if I can compile some links and post them later.

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I've come to the conclusion that we humans need to have a human version
of a screen-saver.

You know how it is when a computer has sat idle for a while and the
screen saver kicks in? How it takes a moment between the time the user
moves the mouse/hits a key/etc until the computer "wakes up" and is
ready to go?

Well, it would be nice if humans had our own "screen savers". That way,
when we're engrossed in what we're doing, or are otherwise Deep In
Thought for whatever reason, when another person speaks to us
unexpectedly, they'd be able to SEE that we need a moment to detach our
attention from what we were doing/thinking and focus on them.

We can add that to my list of suggested new features for Humans 2.0.
Among my other ideas for the upgrade is a zipper for the mouth, to make
it harder for us to blurt out words that we'll later regret. Another
pair of hands would be convenient, as any of the interpreter/guides at
the deaf-blind conventions will attest, and several of the side effects
from a certain ladies-only biological process really need to go out of
existence. Oh, and allergies are welcome to stop existing, too.

And these are just MY ideas of what would make life easier, after
having spent four decades living in a human body. If anyone else has
any suggestions, fire away. ;o)

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Monday, December 27, 2004

Just as I predicted... I was in the kitchen with my mother-in-law and
sister-in-law, helping to deal with the dishes that'd been cleared from
the dinner table, when my keychain started sounding. The "this pet is
about to expire" tones are long, high-pitched, and occur in pairs. It
sounds like a pager, except for the fact that the tones descend the
musical scale. (Well, it isn't exactly Do Ti La So Fa Mi Re Do, but it
does descend in pitch for at least half a dozen tones.) As the tones
sound, the graphic of the pet flattens lower and lower. When the final,
low-pitched pair of tones ends, the angel icon appears.

Since there's no interrupting this process once it's begun, and since
the keychain was beeping away long enough that it was impossible not to
notice it, I didn't have much choice but to explain what the sound
effects were about. One of my nephews, in particular, got a kick out of
it. He's got two Tamagotchi devices, himself -- one of which is in mint
condition and unused, and which he hopes will increase in value, the
other of which has been used. I told him about the discussion groups
online that are available for people who collect these things, and
suggested he check eBay if he wants to have an idea of how much the
unopened device he has might be worth. I didn't mention that there are
some fans that not only collect the devices, but keep several of them
operating at any given time. (Having several digipets running
simultaneously is more than I'd be willing to take on; I'm challenged
enough keeping track of ONE digipet's care, not to mention trying to
avoid having it create a beepfest at an inconvenient time/place.)

I haven't hit "reset" yet. Since the devices seem to last about 6 days,
and expire about 8-9 hours after they hit the "6 day" age mark, I'm
trying to figure out when would be a relatively convenient time to
schedule the pet to start. They tend to wake up at 8 AM and go to sleep
at 10 PM, also. Knowing that this coming weekend includes New Year's
Eve and New Year's day, I decided NOT to start the new pet at a time
that would cause it to expire on either of those days. I should be
pretty safe to start it sometime today or tomorrow. Then it won't flip
out in beep mode when I'm in the middle of plans on Friday, Saturday,
or Sunday.

Meanwhile, today is a day that I'm almost afraid to look at news
headlines. There was an undersea earthquake that resulted in enormous
tsunamis hitting several countries including India, Sri Lanka,
Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, and others. Horrendous destruction and
casualties were left in the wake of the huge waves. Every time I see an
updated online news brief, the death toll has climbed to an even more
appalling figure. It's up to 23,000 deaths now, and they're nowhere
near done tallying the loss of life. It's an ominous sign, IMO, that
there are several hard-hit populous regions from which NO report at all
has come yet. Unfortunately, the total is sure to be a lot higher by
the time they finish counting. :o( I just pray that there are a lot of
people who survived unscathed, too. What a tragedy.

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Thursday, December 23, 2004

Musings on the last workday morning before Christmas...

WSNI has been playing Christmas music since the middle of November. On
my way in to work this morning, I caught "Mr. Grinch". I noticed, once
again, that there's something odd about the song... there's no "bridge"
or "middle eight", which is unusual for a song with that many verses.

Hymns don't usually have a middle eight -- they usually have a pattern
of verse/refrain/verse/refrain, or verse/verse/verse. But popular songs
are another matter. If they're long enough, they usually have a bridge,
the eight measures' worth of music in the middle that are different
from the rest of the song. For example, in the Christmas Song, think of
the lines that begin with, "They know that Santa's on his way...". Or
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: "Then one foggy Christmas Eve...". It's
unusual for a song with as many verses as "Mr. Grinch" to not have
anything to break up the pattern -- no bridge and if my memory serves,
no key change either. (I arrived at work and had to turn off the radio
before the end of the song, or I'd be more certain of whether the key
remains the same or not.)

Phuzz, the current digicat, moved up to "senior" stage in the wee hours
of the morning. Unlike the previous virtual cat, her strength SEEMS to
be holding steady. So far, anyway. The graphic image of the cat changes
from one life stage to the next, and this one LOOKS more mopey in the
senior stage than the previous one (Berny) did. I wonder if she'll
survive any longer in this stage than her predecessor did. I'm doing
the mental math to try and gauge the amount of time between the
previous cat's transition to "senior" and her passing on to the Pet's
Paradise in the sky. And wouldn't you know it... if Phuzz follows the
same pattern as Berny, she'll probably start beeping her "This is the
big one, Elizabeth!" serenade while I'm at my in-laws' house on
Christmas Eve. Just what I need -- the entire family to be within
earshot when my keychain-kitty uses up the last of her nine virtual
lives. Like they really need any more reminders that I'm insane. ;o)

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Monday, December 20, 2004

Fascinating. The creators of this virtual pet device did an even better
job than I expected.

The new cat looks different, in multiple aspects, from the previous
pet. Her face, ears, and whiskers are different. She has a bow on her
head, unlike the previous pet which was bareheaded. The little
"prancing" pattern, when she's dancing around the screen during the
times when she's awake, is different. Her sleep posture is different.
Even the little ZZZs that appear above her head when she's asleep are
different -- they're backward. Which leads me to believe that this
kitty's graphic is a mirror-image of another graphic that might appear
for some future pet, one in which the ZZZs are facing in the correct

And what makes the device even more realistic, as well as more
challenging to work with, is that it seems that the way she responds to
treatment is slightly different, as well. I could select the Exercise
option to keep the previous pet, Berny, at the maximum on the Strength
index. The current pet, Phuzz, doesn't seem to reach the top of that
index unless there's a combo of vitamins and exercise doled out.

Now I understand what the instructions meant when they referred to the
device as selecting DNA for the pet. (It was referring to the instance
where the pets from two different devices married and produced
offspring.) It seems like there are multiple traits that the device has
to choose from, when it creates a pet at the start of the game. Based
on that, if there are enough options for each trait, it could easily
result in a unique combination of tendencies every time a new digital
pet is "born". Which, of course, corresponds pretty well to how it is
with Real Life pets. There are some needs which they all have in
common, but there are other aspects of each individual pet which make
it unique.

I tip my cap to whoever designed this device. Every time I discover a
new aspect of working with the digicat, my opinion of the job they did
goes up.

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Saturday, December 18, 2004

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. My money was on "sooner" once it became impossible to raise Berny the digicat's Strength index past zero. Sure enough, at 3 AM (would've been 3 PM if the clock had been set properly), the keychain started to emit a series of long, high-pitched beeps. I woke up in time to see the icon displayed on the keychain transform into an angel. In other words, game over. Berny's lifespan, from baby through senior kitty, lasted about six days.

This morning, I decided to start over with a correctly-set clock, to see how the cat fares when it and I are awake at the same hours. Hence, I now have a new digicat, a female named Phuzz. The "baby" stage lasted for about three hours; now she has matured into a youngster and she's taking a nap.

Today is an official Good Day in Phantoms-land. It's the birthday of two of my favorite people. I can't say enough good things about, or wish enough good things for, Neil Little and Ben Stafford on their respective birthdays today. :o)

And speaking of birthdays, tonight we're going to surprise my mom. Her 65th birthday was last Wednesday, and she THINKS that tonight, we're going to have a nice little dinner with her and my dad and Mark and me. She was insistent that we NOT do anything big to celebrate her birthday. So of course, my dad has planned a surprise and invited my aunts, uncles, and cousins from both sides of the family. :o) Now I know where I get my listening skills from. ;o) But my dad's right, IMO -- people only get one 65th birthday, and it's something that should be celebrated, not ignored. Dad said that she can't kill him once she gets there and everyone's already AT the restaurant. :o) Yep, this is definitely where I get my "listen carefully to instructions and then do things my way" streak, hee hee.

Friday, December 17, 2004

I've come to the conclusion that whoever designed these digital pets
really did their homework.

When the digikitty moved up to the "senior" life stage, the changes
that took place mirror some of the experiences I've had with a REAL
older kitty. For example, the cat loses weight. They eat less. Their
strength goes down -- I can't get that darn Strength index to go past
the halfway mark, which is 3 out of 6, no matter what I do. In fact,
I'm lucky to even get the darn index to go THAT high. It's been
hovering at 2 or even 1 since the cat awoke from her nightly snooze

Whereas before, the normal cat image on the screen showed her sitting
or standing (prancing around, actually), now she alternates between
sitting and lying down. Sometimes her facial expression is alert,
sometimes her eyes are half-closed. Her tail, which used to wave high,
droops down.

And sometimes, even when the hunger index is not at the top (meaning
that the cat's hunger is sated), she won't eat. Boy, does THAT ever
remind me of what I went through with Harmony a few weeks ago!

Her personality has changed a bit, also. Now the cat sometimes
complains (via beeping noises) when she feels sick. She did that during
the baby/youngster stage, but not as an adult.

Each time the digi-critter moved from one life stage to the next (baby
to youngster, youngster to adult, adult to senior), the keychain played
some music. The next time I hear that music, it's gonna mean "This is
the big one, Elizabeth!", because the stage after this is the "moved on
to Pet's Paradise in the sky" stage. None of the other stages continued
for more than a day or two, so I'm kind of expecting that serenade to
happen sometime today or tomorrow. We'll see what happens.

Interestingly, I find myself feeling sorry for the digipet when she
starts to look mopey. Especially since the things that USED to perk her
back up in previous life stages don't seem to have as much effect
anymore. It's frustrating, especially coming on the heels of my
real-life experience to that effect. However, if these toys were
originally designed to give kids an inkling of what it's like to have a
pet, KUDOS. Whoever did the design work really hit the mark.

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Thursday, December 16, 2004

A moment ago, I was suddenly in possession of a pocketful of music, as
my keychain started warbling away. I withdrew it from my pocket in time
to see the screen cycling through a plain black pattern.

Then it went back to the sleeping-cat graphic.

But I was suspicious that something had occurred. I took a look through
the index menu, and sure enough -- Ms. Digicat is now in the "senior"

Geesh, it only took four days ("pet years") to reach "senior". I wonder
how long this stage will last?

All her indices are still at full capacity, EXCEPT the Strength one.
That index is still stuck at two notches below capacity. We'll have to
see what can be done about that once she wakes up.

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Hmm. How odd.

No matter what I do, I can't seem to get the digicat's "strength" index
to go all the way to the top. She is refusing vitamins, and exercise
has only brought her to within two notches of the top of the index.

I wonder if it's because she got over-vitamined earlier in the day?
(Too much food or vitamins results in the sick-kitty icon and a need
for digital meds.) Maybe she needs some recovery time from that. Or
maybe I hit the 'exercise' option a few too many times in the past day
or so. In real life, overtraining doesn't provide extra benefit -- you
max out after a certain point. It'd be easy to build that sort of
feature into a program for a device like this. Or could it be that
she's heading into a "senior kitty" stage of life soon? She's 4 pet
years old, but this is my first go-round with a digicat, so I'm not
sure how old a pet needs to be to qualify as a senior instead of an

She just went to sleep. We'll see what her strength index looks like
after she wakes up this evening. The rest of her indices (food,
happiness, discipline, and energy) are all fine. This strength one has
got me puzzled.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Ms. Digicat appears to age one pet year every 24 hours. It seems to be
reasonably easy to keep her in good health, so I'm curious how long
it'll take before she reaches the "senior" stage. And how long a
digicat remains a senior kitty before it "passes on to pet's paradise
in the sky".

The device played a little tune when the digicat moved from the "baby"
to "youngster" stage, and again when it moved to the "adult" stage. I
presume there'll be musical accompaniment announcing her advancement to
the next two stages, as well.

One benefit of the digicat's being an adult is that she doesn't seem to
beep for attention at unexpected times. During the kitten stage (baby
and younster), if there was a digital dropping that needed to be
cleaned up, or if the pet got sick, the keychain would start beeping.
She'd also complain if it was her bedtime and the "light" was still on
in her digital environment. I haven't had that problem occur since I
figured out her bedtime (10 PM -- translating to 10 AM for me since I
have the clock set wrong) and started turning the light off a few
minutes prior to that. (This action produces a little icon of a
darkened light bulb in the upper right hand corner of the screen.)

She's making little digital ZZZs now. Barring any sickness episodes or
"need some droppings cleaned" moments, she'll stay that way until
sometime this evening. Good kitty. :o)

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Last night, I was making sure the digicat had her daily exercise, and I
discovered something to AVOID doing.

Girl digipets' exercise consists of skipping rope. (Boy pets go
swimming . Gender is chosen randomly by the device when the pet is
created.) You choose the option cycle through the menu until you get to
the exercise, then hitting the 'enter' button. The digital kitty then
proceeds to exercise for a few seconds.

Take my word: DON'T accidentally hit the 'enter' button again *while*
the digikitty is skipping rope. She'll fall down and cry, and the
device will emit LOUD distressed beeps. Yikes! THAT little feature
isn't mentioned anywhere in the instructions. I guess this is the sort
of stuff that you're supposed to learn for yourself as you go along.

Note to self: never distract a cat who is busy exercising. It causes
accidents, and startles you (and everyone else within earshot) half to death.

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Monday, December 13, 2004

Good heavens. They grow up SO fast!

Sometime last night, Berny changed from the "youngster" cat drawing to
the adult cat drawing. Her age is now listed as "1" in pet years -- so
I guess that makes sense. Cats DO grow to adulthood in their first
year, after all.

Gee. It seems like only yesterday that she was a newborn kitten... um,
wait a minute. It WAS only yesterday. :o)

At 10 AM promptly (would've been 10 PM if I'd set the clock properly),
off she went to sleep. And beeped for me to turn out the "light" in her
keychain universe, thank you very much.

I suspect I'm going to be in custody of a snoozing digicat all day.
This is not a bad thing. Kitties who sleep during the workday are
well-behaved in my book. ;o)

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Sunday, December 12, 2004

They're so cute when they're sleeping, aren't they?

Meet my digital pet, a Power Palz cat.

The digital cat keychains must be pretty popular, judging by the fact that this was the last feline one the store had. (They also have dog and dinosaur digital pets to choose from.)

When Melody died, I bought a Furby that was on sale. Which drove Mark bananas, lol. This time, it was the digital pets on sale, and I sprang for one.

And proceeded to goof up setting the time... I thought it was going to give me the option of AM or PM. So the upshot is that when I thought I was setting the device for 6:30 PM, it was getting set for 6:30 AM instead. And once the pet is "born", you can't reset the clock on the device.

So I figured, what the heck. I'll just let this digipet live out its life span as it is. Maybe it'll sleep all day while I'm at work. Considering that when it's awake, every now and then it beeps for attention, that might not be a bad thing.

Once you set the clock, and the pet is born, you choose a name. There are 5 characters to choose from, so in honor of Bernie Parent, I named the digital cat "Berny". Interestingly enough, the program randomly chooses the pet's gender AFTER you pick the name. So now I have a girl digital cat named Berny whose birthday is December 11.

The pet actually changes appearance as it moves through different stages of life. It goes from baby (yesterday) to youngster (a few hours after birth), which is the stage it's in now. It will also have an adult stage, a senior stage, and eventually, as per the instructions, it will "leave you and go on to pet's paradise in the sky" (at which point the icon looks like a little winged angel).

In the meantime, when the pet is awake you have to check its status and, as needed, issue commands to give it food, water, or vitamins, play with it, exercise it, train it, or clean up after it. (And yes, there is a little droppings-shaped icon that appears when the pet has messed and must be picked up after.) There are also options for medicating the pet if it gets sick.

Which, unfortunately, is what I woke up to this morning. Due to my setting the clock wrong, the pet is nocturnal and it made a digital mess overnight. If digital messes aren't cleaned up promptly, the pet gets sick. So first thing this morning, I wound up cleaning up after and then pilling my little digital cat. Good thing that digital pets don't object to being medicated, lol.

And now Berny is sleeping. They're so cute when they sleep. :o)

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Let's just say that if ONE more body part of mine goes into a state
of rebellion, I'm going to have a breakdown. Seriously.

I'd rather not go into the specifics of this latest situation, for
which I'm sure the squeamish among us will thank me. Except to say that
for the past week, I've been in enough pain that I can't get the song
title Feel Like I'm Fixing to Die Rag out of my head.

Let's just say that the appelation "Pain in the nether end" has the
potential to be a much nastier insult than I ever imagined. ;o)

Thank GOD, within the past day or so, I've started to feel more like a
normal human being again. I now have one more item to add to my "I
wouldn't wish *this* on anybody!" list.

In other news... it's been exactly a month since I've heard a purr. I
clearly remember the last time I heard Harmony purring, and it was the
day after my birthday. A few hours after we got home from the vet's,
Harmony forgave me for taking her to that nasty place and then pilling
her into the bargain, and she went into Velcro-Kitty mode. She parked
next to me on the sofa and purred her little fuzzy head off, complete
with that chirpy sound she made when she was totally blissing out. :o)

It was a good, long purr and dote session, which we both thoroughly
enjoyed, and which I'll always remember.

Unfortunately, her gradual downward progression continued, and over the
course of the next ten days, she just wasn't inclined to purr. AT ALL.
So as of now, that mega-purr event on November 9 was the last time that
I heard a purr.

Sigh. I miss the sound of kitty motors.

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Saturday, December 04, 2004

OK, let's discuss sleigh rides.

You can't turn on the TV or the radio, and you DEFINITELY can't walk through any store that has piped-in music, without hearing about them.

"Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh", right?

Or how about, "Come on, it's lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you".

It is? How do they know? Where in heck can a person get a sleigh ride these days?

Maybe those farms that offer Hay Rides in the fall can open up during the winter with Sleigh Rides. Of course, this could involve their needing to borrow some of the snow-making machines that the ski resorts use to enhance Mother Nature's output, but hey. It's a small price to pay to show people what a ride in a one-horse open sleigh really is like. Or the ability to hear actual sleigh bells ringing from something other than a soundtrack or a Christmas decoration.

Anybody got an idea as to where a curious person can get a real, live sleigh ride? Preferably in a one-horse open sleigh? Let me know.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


I missed two work days last week. Thanks to the company's closing early
tomorrow, I am about to miss two and a half days THIS week (since the
company is closing at noon on Wednesday).

Now I find that they won't even LET me bring home that paperwork to do
over the weekends, the way that person from the other department
sometimes takes work from our department home so she can get OT.

It really burns my biscuits. I wouldn't even GET overtime if I brought
stuff home this weekend -- it'd be clocked at my normal rate because of
the 2.5 days off.

This economy, and all the attendant indignities that go with it, is why
I'm on two prescriptions right now, and it's probably the reason for
the third one (for back spasms) as well. I need to be in a stable work
situation PRONTO and then maybe I'll be able to get off ALL the
prescriptions, or at least take less of them.

Argh. Like I didn't already feel sick today. I really didn't need this.

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Monday, November 22, 2004

My first thought, when I woke up this morning, was, "I have to check
and see if Harmony ate anything". :o(

Of course, that's not the first time I had an, "I have to get used to
the fact that she's not here" moment. That award goes to the moment
when I emptied her water dish yesterday, and reflexively prepared to
fill it with fresh water.

Her food and water dishes are now washed and clean... in the dish rack
in the KITCHEN, which is a strange sight to my eyes. Normally, I washed
her daily-use food dishes in the basement, rather than bringing them up
the steps.

Then there was the moment when Mark and I had the Eagles game on TV
yesterday afternoon. When the camera panned through the crowd, Mark
pointed out a fan wearing an Eagles hat with a battery-operated,
flapping eagle attached to the top. "I'd like to have THAT hat", he

I caught myself right before replying, "Harmony would LOVE that hat".
Then I thought for a moment, and told him what I'd been about to say.
"But it's true, you know. She WOULD have loved that hat."

Kitty TV is off the air -- the miniblinds are closed. And the bird
feeder, Harmony's favorite Kitty TV program, is empty for the moment.

It's so odd to have her not there. I keep expecting to have her hop up
on the sofa next to me, or give me a drive-by purr on my shins when I'm
sitting at the computer.

For 28 of my 41 years, I've had at least one cat. Being catless just
doesn't feel right.

I miss my little fuzzball.

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Sunday, November 21, 2004

Not long after I posted, I fell asleep on the sofa. I was reading posts from a message board, lying on my back with the PDA propped on my tummy. Every now and then, I'd pause to give Harmony a pet on the side, complete with reminding her how beautiful she is and how much I love her. If not for the fact that she was in the cat bed, it'd have been like a million other times when she and I relaxed next to one another on the sofa, in exactly these places, doing just these things.

But sleep, when it arrives, happens abruptly for me since I started taking the prescription a couple years ago. So at some point after midnight, I zonked out right in the middle of reading.

Which I realized some time after 4 AM, when I awoke and realized that I was still reclining on the sofa, with the PDA still logged in and still situated just as I'd left it.

I went to give Harmony a pat. That's when I realized that, sometime while I was sleeping, she passed peacefully in the night.

In the end, the only medicine I could give her was my company.

I'm still in shock that everything happened so fast. But even though it's hard on me, it was easier on her and I'll have to keep reminding myself of that.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

When Mark and I got home from visiting Joe M & Aunt Phyllis (along with Karla, Al, and Joey D), I checked on Harmony.

I thought for a few appalled moments that we'd lost her. She was in her cat bed, where I'd left her, but her head was drooping over the side just about upside-down.

I went to pick her up, and she meowed weakly. This poor cat. I sat on the floor for a while with her in my lap, and it was like having a rag doll or a beanbag -- she was completely limp, not moving at all.

Except her tail. I couldn't help but grin at the sight of her tail moving normally. Tail movements are cats' answer to humans' mood rings, and hers was moving in that slow, relaxed way. Just by watching her tail, no one could guess how sick the cat it's attached to has gotten.

I eventually put her back in the cat bed, since I was concerned that my lap was proving to be an uncomfortable place for her in that limp state.

Then I took her upstairs to the living room. Cat bed and all. One of her favorite nap spots is the extended foot of the recliner on my end of the sofa, particularly if I'm lying down on the sofa. So I put the recliner back, put the cat bed on it, and am now sitting next to her as I type.

I can't do much beyond give her my presence at this point. Every little while I reach over and give her a few pets and talk to her. Oh, and I have a recording of her purring saved on my cell phone. I played that back for her, too.

I had it in the back of my mind since I first brought her to the vet that until we know what's wrong, there are no guarantees that whatever the problem is can be treated. But I never expected her to deteriorate this fast. Between yesterday and today, it's like having two different cats -- and I was extremely concerned about how poorly she was doing *yesterday*.

Now I'm reduced to keeping her, with her cat bed, nearby so she knows that Meowmy is right here and dotes on her.

Why, but why, is that vet's office closed on Sundays? :o( I'm going to have to track down the address of University of PA's emergency vet clinic, just in case of crisis. By which I mean... well, given how far down she's gone, I guess I mean that a crisis is a bout of pain that I can't find a way to alleviate for her. This is unbearable enough to witness, and she's just weak and (apparently) fading. But she doesn't appear to be suffering. As long as she's resting and seems to be comfortable, I'll sit with her.
Sigh. The good news is that I got a full feeding into Harmony last
night once I got home from the Phantoms game. Then I stayed down in the
basement with her, petting her for a long while.

She drooled a bit, which can be a sign of nausea, but I figured that
the anti-nausea med mixed in with the cat food should help rectify

The bad news is that when I went downstairs this morning, so I could
give her the sub-Q fluids, I realized that she was drenched. So was her
cat bed.

She must have drooled all freaking night, or darn near close to it, to
be that wet. Yikes.

She was also so weak this morning that she could barely stand up for
more than a couple of moments. I felt TERRIBLE for her. She was crying
this morning, not indignantly nor in a complaining way, but because of
feeling ill, as far as I could tell.

I can't find any particular place that's causing actual PAIN in her,
though. I've been checking.

I got the fluids into her. I had to hang the IV in the kitchen to do it
-- one of the nails that normally supports the spice rack is at a good
height for me to be able to see how much fluid's come out of the IV
bag, and stil reach the cat with the IV line. Mark helped, though -- he
read the bag as I sat on the floor and administered the IV.

I had SO wanted to get food into her today, but she's so weak and ill
that I figured I'd best tread cautiously on that score.

So, a few hours after the IV, I went downstairs with a syringe bearing
JUST about a teaspoon of food, with meds mixed in. She complained
piteously, but she took it. And drooled afterward.

A couple hours after that, I made up half a syringe of food. She took
THAT, too. And drooled some more.

I have a towel in the cat bed with her, in the hopes that it'll absorb
more of any drooling. I also have dragged out the extra cat bed that we
used to have for her in the computer room. I set them up side by side,
just in case one needs to go in the wash (as the drooled-on one did
today). Then she'll always have at least one cat bed available to sleep

Multiple mini-feedings might be the way to go, for now.

The vet left a message on our voice mail while Mark was on the phone.
The blood tests show that Harmony was dehydrated (no shock there and
the fluids should take care of that problem) and her white blood cell
count is WORSE. Unfortunately, the vet also told me that I could call
back until 4 PM, but when I returned the call at 3:30 PM, I discovered
that both vets had gone home early.

The receptionist asked me to provide the number of my pharmacist, so
the vet can call in a prescription. I gave it. They want to put Harmony
on a different antibiotic. We'll see if I get hold of any of this new
antibiotic over the weekend... if not, then I'll just keep using the
one I've been using until I can speak to a vet on Monday.

GOD please help this poor cat. I feel like I'm watching her slip away,
right before my eyes, even though I'm doing everything the vets said to

I'm GLAD I didn't do the invasive procedure and have her hospitalized.
If her nine lives are about to run out, and if there's nothing we can
do to prevent that, then she should be able to begin her journey to the Rainbow Bridge
from her home, with the people she loves nearby.

The one medicine I CAN give her, that even the vets can't, is the
knowledge that her Meowmy is right here and loves her. Everything else
that the vets would be doing right now, I'm also doing. That's as much
as any human could be doing right now to help Harmony beat whatever
this is.

Keep praying. That's the one OTHER thing that anyone can do.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Yet again -- SIGH.

I got about 1/3 of a can of a/d cat food into Harmony at about 4 PM. She was SO cooperative, it was a blessing. What's more, unlike the last three times I tried to feed her (twice yesterday with the clumps of canned food, plus once today at the vet's when they were teaching me to use the feeding syringe), she did NOT immediately lose at least half of what she ate a minute after I was done.

I chalked it up to the anti-nausea pill working.

Apparently, it needs to work a little more. Half an hour after I fed the cat, Mark headed to the basement for something and reported that the cat had been sick.

Again, I'd guesstimate she lost maybe half of what I fed her. DRAT DRAT DRAT. :o(

But the good news is... she was sitting and resting on the cellar steps. In other words, she was voluntarily coming upstairs for the first time in several days. She just had to sit and regroup for a bit, because she's not strong enough to climb the stairs all at once.

She even accompanied me the for the final three or four steps up to the first floor, once I'd finished cleaning up the remnants of her little mishap in the basement.

AND even as I type, in the computer room on the second floor, I can hear the bells on her collar as she slowly makes her way up to join me. Good kitty. :o) She must be feeling at least a BIT better if she's seeking out human company again.
The time on this post might be 5:06, but I've spent most of the past hour fussing over Miss Harmony. She DID make it all the way to the second floor, so I abandoned my half-written post to spend Quality Time with her. :o)

Now I'm logging off.
This poor cat.

On Thursday (yesterday), I made an appointment for her to go in to the vet on Friday after work, since she's still not eating.

But once I got home from work on Thursday night, I was even LESS satisfied with her condition than I'd been when I made the appointment. So I called to change the appointment to Friday morning. Mark had taken Friday off, since he needs to use up his vacation days, so I figured he could help get us there and back.

To make a long story less long, she's lost even more weight now. She's something like 5.11 lbs now, which is a pretty significant drop from her weight of 6 lbs-something oz from ten days ago.

The most aggressive possible treatment would be to hospitalize her, have her on IV, surgically insert a feeding tube, and have her in there until Monday or Tuesday at the least. But the estimated bill for that was over $1300.

I want to give her EVERY possible chance to pull through this, believe me. But I felt that was an awful lot of invasive treatment when we don't even know what's wrong yet. So the next-most-aggressive treatment involved my learning to administer subcutaneous fluids and feeding her soft, mega-nutrient cat food via a big syringe.

I opted for that instead. I am very leery about doing surgical procedures on her until we know WHAT exactly is causing the problem in the first place. And besides the blood test that they're doing today, and will have some answers for me by tomorrow, we really can't find out the source of the issue until she gets an ultrasound on December 1.


They gave me some anti-nausea meds for Harmony, which is good because she's had trouble keeping anything down for the past couple days. :o( And they taught me how to do the Sub-Q fluid, which seems to be a straightforward process. And I took part in the first of the syringe feedings (of which she only kept down about half the food we gave her).

I'm exhausted and so is Harmony.

Keep praying that whatever this is, it's correctable. My fear is that it could turn out to be something untreatable, which would be heartbreaking. Of course, so is all THIS that's been going on for the past couple weeks, but it's a different kind of heartbreak. Right now, since we don't know what's wrong, there's still that potential that it's treatable.

OK, I'm rambling now. I'd better just send this.

My spirit is tired.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Miss Harmony's still not eating.

She also still needs an ultrasound. I get paid today, though, so that
should make it easier to arrange the appointment.

Yesterday, as I was home from work to attend the Schoolday Phantoms
game (which we won in a shootout, 2-1 -- GREAT game!), I manually fed
her every few hours. I got about 1/3 of a can into her that way.

She's definitely more vigorous about objecting to the feedings. She'll
also stay on the first floor for a while if I bring her up and park her
in front of one of the hot air vents while the heater's running.

But she's still walking like she's drunk and she's still in a mode
where she prefers to curl up in her cat bed in the basement above all

Oh, good news -- she did drink some water, in my presence, a couple of
times this morning.

But bad news -- I dosed her with the appetite stimulant and a bit more
food, and she got sick almost right away. I'm not sure if she kept the
pill, or any of the food I gave her this morning, down when she got
that "refund". At this point, the appetite stimulant is the least of my
worries. At least she kept the antibiotic down last night (I give that
one to her in the evening).

Sigh. How I hate seeing her like this. Maybe the vet can recommend an
alternate appetite med, since this one's not making an appreciable
difference in her food consumption.

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Monday, November 15, 2004

On Saturday afternoon, I gave up on waiting for the appetite stimulant to start inspiring Harmony to eat, and took matters into my own hands. Literally. I picked her up and started feeding her, by hand, little clumps of canned cat food. Since eating on her own is still not something she's interested in doing, this means that I'm treating the food almost as though it was a pill, and PUTTING it in her mouth for her to swallow.

Harmony was NOT amused. She meowed, growled, and complained. But every time I opened her mouth and dropped food in, she swallowed it instead of spitting it out.

I was hoping that the actual act of eating would remind her of the smell, taste, and feel of actual food. I hoped it'd generate a response akin to, "Oh, yeah. I used to LIKE doing this", so she'd eat on her own. But that first feeding didn't have that effect on her. So I did the same thing on Saturday night, and several times on Sunday. I tried not to give her too much food at one sitting, since cats don't normally eat large amounts at any one time. I figured it'd be easier on her if I gave her moderate amounts (say, a teaspoon) each time, and fed her every few hours.

She's gotten sick once so far. But she's kept down more food than she lost. She's also looking better than she was before -- more alert and more willing to complain and sulk when I give her a feeding.

I'm still medicating her with the appetite stimulant (would it PLEASE create an appetite so I can just GIVE her food and have her decide to eat it?) and antibiotics. And I'll keep doing so until the vet says otherwise. But at least she's getting some food in her system now, so I can relax on that score.

More later about the fundraiser I took part in on Saturday. I had a great time and the upshot was that about $2500 was raised for the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge. So that was fabulous news. :o)

Right now, I need to medicate ME. I was so concerned about getting Harmony's meds and food into her, I forgot to take the darn med for my back spasms. My back is starting to raise an objection to this oversight. I'll post more tomorrow. (Well, later today.)

Thursday, November 11, 2004

I can't believe this. I'm almost ready to laugh.

I found a job listing on for a COBOL programmer. It
shocked the living daylights out of me to see it there, as COBOL jobs
are extremely hard to come by.

I looked it over. How do you like that... they want 10 years'
experience on one of the systems I worked on when I was at The Bank,
prior to being downsized. It was a secondary system for me, compared to
the one I worked on primarily, but nonetheless I worked on it and I
have a pretty decent idea of its ins and outs. Enough that I'd be able
to hit the ground at least jogging, if not running, if I saw it again.

So I sent a resume. I got a callback from the recruiter.

And what do you know? Guess what company it is that's looking for a
COBOL programmer?

How about "my former employer"?

How about "my former DEPARTMENT", though it's under a different manager
than I was working for?

How about "my ex-salary is distinctly less than the range that was
being promoted in this job ad"?

What can I say? I told them to go ahead and send my name in for the
opening. What have I got to lose?

And where in heck does my former employer think they're going to track
down people with 10 years' experience on the system they're enquiring
about? On THEIR VERSION of it, no less, since they've customized the
living daylights out of it?

If not me, who? If not now, when?

I actually do hope this works out. I never wanted to leave that former
job in the first darn place. Stupid downsizing. But we'll see what happens.

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Plenty has been going on lately. Unfortunately, too much of it has to
do with doctors' visits.

The upshot: my BP meds have been increased, and Harmony's fighting an
as-yet-undiagnosed problem that has caused her appetite to drop off to
nothing and her white blood cell count to go way up.

She's on an appetite stimulant as of Tuesday night, but so far she's
still not eating much and I'm not happy about it. If I don't see
improvement by the time I get home tonight, the vet gets another call

She also needs an ultrasound. Reasons why a cat's white blood cells
count could elevate include an infection (which, if there is one, it
hasn't been located yet) and cancer. SIGH. I know she's 14, and
symptoms start cropping up as pets age, but still. I hate to see her
feeling ill like this, especially when I'm still waiting for the
remedies to really kick in and start working. Poor cat.

More stories later. Minus all this health stuff (the cat's illness and
my BP and back spasms), the weekend was really enjoyable.

But crud on illness. Crud on back pain, too. And I pray I see an empty
cat-food dish when I get home, because that'll mean Harmony's eating again.

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Saturday, November 06, 2004

As it happens, going out for lunch would've been a problem for me today anyway.

I've had back spasms since Wednesday night, and have been applying a
microwave heat pad to my back since yesterday.

I've also been dealing with two things that are side effects of the
blood pressure medication: shall we just call it "unwanted types of
output from both ends of the digestive tract", and leave it at that?

But the fact that my(?) whole department OTHER than me went out to
lunch at a Mexican restaurant, to celebrate one of the underwriters'
birthdays, still stings. I've been here a year and they don't even ASK
me if I want to go? I didn't even get to sign a group card, if there
was one.

BTW, it's *my* birthday on Monday and not one person here (besides
myself and Karla) knows it. So I DEFINITELY know not to expect a group
card for that, never mind a lunchtime outing.

I'm sure I'd feel less cranky if my back wasn't kiilling me.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Ugh. I feel flat-out sick today.

For once, I KNOW it's psychosomatic, and not stemming from an oncoming

All I can think of is an excerpt from 1776, from a song that's
on the soundtrack, but is usually edited out when the movie is aired on
television. The song is "Cool, Cool, Considerate Men", and it's sung at
a point in time when the conservative members of the Continental
Congress are grouped together by themselves in the chamber.

Actually, the portion of the scene I have on my mind is a bit of spoken
dialogue that occurs between verses of said song. John Dickinson is
trying to convince John Hancock, who supports declaring independence
from England, to change his allegiance and support reconciling with the
King, stating that "History will brand Mr. Adams and his followers as

"Traitors, Mr. Dickinson? To what? The British Crown, or the British

"Don't forget that most men with nothing would rather protect the
possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor. And
that's why they will follow us..."

[all resume singing]
"... To the right,
ever to the right,
never to the left,
forever to the right
And we'll hold
To our gold,
Tradition that is old,
Reluctance to be bold...".

That's pretty much what happened during the election last night... so
many of those states that are colored in with red today are populated
by people who think just like that smacked backside they voted for:
changing direction shows weakness, rather than learning from mistakes.
Stay the course, and who cares if the course is leading straight into
quicksand, because staying the course means we're strong.

They'd rather protect the "possibility" of becoming rich, because
they're apparently sated when the good economic news for Halliburton
stockholders comes through. It means that the economy is turning
around. Meanwhile their jobs are being shipped overseas, their
companies are going bankrupt, they're not seeing one freaking red cent
of the economic turnaround unless they were already part of that cool,
cool, considerate affluent minority, and they don't even REALIZE it.
Because they're proud of themselves for staying the course, you know.
It showed strength.

I hope we all have enough strength to deal with four more years of
continued unemployment woes, a national deficit that's enough to make a
sane person vomit, unmitigated envoronmental destruction, and an
ever-climbing death toll for our military and civilians in this morass
we caused by invading a sovreign nation.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

'Splain to me why I should be happy when the company I'm temping for
sends out a company-wide email celebrating the fact that they exceeded
the budget for October by more than $2M dollars... when they insist
that they don't want to increase the number of employees. My salary for
the YEAR is a fraction of a fraction of a percent of that.

Ditto for the other month when they exceeded the budget, April. That
time, my ANNUAL pay worked out to less than one-half of one percent of
the company's budget excess for that month. In other words, they
could have hired two hundred people at my pay rate for the YEAR and had
excess income left over. Well, they could bring on a lot more than two
hundred people at my annual pay rate and have money to spare
from last month's overage, you can be certain of that.

Tell me again why I'm supposed to be happy to see this, in other words.
As I spend the morning filing the paperwork from my department that
people from OTHER DEPARTMENTS did over the weekend, and earned OVERTIME
for... they can pay people OT every freakin' week for stuff they don't
even have to do, but can't justify making me a permanent employee.
Maybe they feel they need that OT, but I feel I need a JOB. I think my
need trumps theirs when push comes to shove, but apparently I'm the
only one who feels that way. This "OT for doing other departments'
work" thing doesn't appear to be even registering on the radar of the
people who make financial decisions. But it sure as blazes registers on

I've made a mental note of the MINIMUM number of resumes I intend to
send out per day. This situation is turning into a depression trigger,
and I have more than enough of THOSE as it is. I really like this place
and I wish I was a permanent employee here, but if the company doesn't
want to do that, I can't keep banging my head against the wall.
In other news. We went to my sister-in-law's house yesterday, to see
how my nephew decorated for Halloween. Dang, he goes all out! :o) The
funniest part of a multi-item lawn display is the skeleton sitting on a
(real) toilet, with its jeans down around its ankles.

There was a family that actually drove several miles from a neighboring
town to take a group picture with said skeleton. Frankie saw them out
on the lawn. They said they stop by every year and that his display is
"award-winning". Frankie wants to know what awards that would be, since
he hasn't been notified of having won anything, but I think he got a
big kick out of it anyway.

The latest addition is a life-sized Frankenstein monster on a table,
with a loop of the soundtrack from said movie playing when Dr.
Frankenstein goes off on his "It's alive! It's alive!" speech and a fog

I'm so mad at myself for forgetting my freakin' camera. NEXT year I'm
bringing it.

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Saturday, October 30, 2004

My friends are nuts. I have nuts for friends.

A few days ago, Joe M. called and left a message on our voice mail that there would be a delivery of flowers to our address on Saturday (today). I thought, "How nice of him, he knows what has been going on with the blood pressure and the depression and doctor's visits and everything else".

Till I spoke to him later in the evening, and after we hashed out plans for everyone to stop over here on Saturday night for a mini-Halloween get-together, he mentioned that he'd just take the flowers home at the end of the night.

Take them HOME? Turns out they're not MY flowers. They're HIS flowers, and since his house is torn mostly apart due to remodeling, he wanted them sent HERE so everyone could see them for Halloween.

Only Joe does these things. Of course, only I have friends who send THEMSELVES flowers to MY address, too. LOL... my friends are nuts. I have nuts for friends.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Yay -- we got some digital pics this morning from the coworker from our
department who had her baby in early October. What a BEAUTIFUL little
girl! :o) I was one of the ones who, prior to Linda's departure on
maternity leave, reminded her multiple times "Send pictures!" Well, the
pics came out great. Now it's time to hound Linda to bring the baby for
a visit ASAP, so everyone can dote on Alyssa properly. :o)

I hope things turn out equally well for KM, the young lady from the
Property department who I'm helping to fill in for. She had to go out
on maternity leave a few months early, due to premature contractions.
She was supposed to go out at the end of the year, just as Linda was
coming back from HER maternity leave. Instead, she and Linda went out
on leave within a few days of each other, just at the end of September.
KM has been on strict bedrest since she went out, to try and prevent
the contractions from starting prematurely again, because it's still
WAY too soon for her baby to be born. She's on meds -- steroids, I
think -- to help speed up the development of the baby's lungs, also.
This way, it increases the odds that the baby will be all right even if
she's born prematurely.

I work at KM's desk for part of every afternoon now, and every time I
do, I encounter pictures of her, her husband, and (I presume) their
four cats. :o) When I see them, I hope that they're ALL fine, including
their unborn little girl. Say a prayer that I'll have nothing but good
news to report on that score.

In other news... score one for the "little voice". I have learned, the
hard way, to listen to the "little voice" when I get a sense that I
should, or should not, do something. Early in my job search, I attended
a job fair where one local IT company actually left me unnerved... the
guy who reviewed my resume practically laughed in my face as he told
me, "We haven't got anything for someone with YOUR background". He
genuinely looked like he was ENJOYING delivering that news, something
that I have not encountered before or since, and it made my skin crawl.

Anyway, the "little voice" kicked in, giving me a sense to steer WELL
clear of that firm, because Something Wasn't Right there. Every time
I've seen or heard their name in an advertisement, including the ones
declaring that they're hiring, I've gotten the creeps and a sense of
revulsion; needless to say, I have NOT applied there since that weird
episode at the job fair.

Sure enough, I woke up to a headline this morning that federal agents
have raided that firm's offices and taken out file cabinets and other
records, as part of a criminal investigation. I'm glad I listened to
the "little voice" and steered clear of that creepy firm.

For the next couple of weeks, this article will be available online, so
check it out if you are interested in more info:

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

When we had drought conditions here a few years ago, we had two or
three autumns in a row where the prediction was for dull foliage.
That's because when the summers were excessively dry, the trees didn't
get the resources they needed to build up... well, whatever it is that
produces the BRIGHT fall colors on their leaves.

Well, THIS summer was a total rain-fest. I should have a dime for every
occasion where my weather-alert radio sounded the alarm for
flash-flooding... and that was BEFORE we got the remnants of four
hurricanes coming through here. My take on it was that the fall colors
ought to be so bright THIS year, the leaves had better glow in the
freakin' DARK to make up for all the aggravation that the excess rains
were causing.

I'm happy to report that, although Mother Nature hasn't taken me up on
that idea of glow-in-the-dark leaves yet, the foliage we've had so far
has been SPECTACULAR. The only disappointing thing about it is that it
can only last for a few weeks per tree before the leaves drop. But,
fortunately, since each type of tree (and possibly each individual
tree, depending on what kind of summer it had) is on its own autumn
timetable, the net result is turning into a prolonged visual feast.

Good. I could use some pretty things to look at during my commute. It's
a nice way to get my spirits lifted a little bit twice a day. In
particular, there are some intense hues of yellow and orange that I
can't help but notice every time I pass by. It always makes me wish
that I was a passenger, rather than the driver, because I'd love to
take a photo of some of these trees before they shed their leaves.

In the meantime -- for anyone who's got the option of driving on Kings
Highway for one reason or another, I recommend doing so at least once
during daylight hours before winter sets in. That big canopy of old
trees that line both sides of the road, for miles on end, are putting
on quite a show this year.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Oh, and before I forget...

Last spring, at the Phan Club banquet, Neil talked to Mark and me about
the bobblehead doll promo that had recently gone off. I'd asked him how
it felt to be a bobblehead, and he wanted to know if Mark and I had
gotten one (yes: we each got one as season ticket holders).

I told him that I had his doll right next to Maxime Ouellet's
bobblehead, and he grinned widely. "Maxy has a bobblehead?". This was,
apparently, the first he'd heard of it.

"Yeah. I keep patting him on the head and he keeps getting shutouts."
(Which was true -- Max set a new team record with 10 shutouts for
Portland last season.) "Now I'll pat you both on the head".

"Oh, pat away, pat away", Neil agreed. It must have worked -- both he
and Nitty broke the PHANTOMS club record for shutouts (5) -- Nitty had
7 and Neil had 6 by the time the season was over.

So, anyhow, I needed a hockey fix over the summer, and took this
picture with my camera phone:

It's still the wallpaper on my phone, and it occurred to me to show it
to Neil.

"Remember I told you I had your bobblehead and Max's together? Here
they are", and handed him the phone.

Great big grin. "Is that Maxy's doll?"

"Yeah. Every morning I pat them on the head as I walk by. It must have
worked yesterday, you both won last night".

"Maxy won? Good. How's he doing this season? Who were they playing?"

At which point I launched into who Portland's opponents were on Friday
and Saturday, the fact that Max won both games, and that he's 4-1 so
far this season. It never seems to take long for people to figure out
that I'm a walking font of minutiae for details like favorite players'
stats, does it? ;o) Then again, what good is being a geek if you can't
memorize the important minutiae like that?

Ah, well. Back to the grind -- I have some letters to print.

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Sunday, October 24, 2004

I got the color copy of Neil's interview in The Hockey News to him this afternoon. He definitely had NOT seen it yet, judging by the way he immediately took it out of the envelope and read it straight through. :o) Eric Meloche was sitting next to him, and proceeded to lean over to read it, too. When Neil was done reading, he got my attention and said, "Thank you, Donna". :o) Things like this are why I think so highly of him -- even after being, arguably, the most popular guy EVER to be on this team, he doesn't take even small gestures of appreciation from fans for granted.

After assisting with handing out the Secret Phan questionnaires to the players (which ask information such as their favorite snack, favorite colors, what size they wear, stores they like to shop in, etc), and helping to collect them once they were filled out, I went back to our lane to wait for our players to arrive. The guys choose a lane number from a hat, then head over to said lane. The players at Mark's and my lane were Randy Jones, our second-year defenseman, and our captain, Boyd Kane.

I was in no shape to bowl, given how much trouble my hand has given me this week. The last time I tried to bowl with my hand like this, two years ago, I kept dropping the bowling ball. Talk about mortifying! I had no grip strength and I just couldn't hang onto the )$@#$# ball long enough when I tried to throw it. I had no desire to have another day like THAT today, so I didn't bowl. But Mark, Randy, and Boyd all did. Incidentally, Boyd's right-handed, so he was able to bowl, but his LEFT hand is in a cast most of the way up to the elbow... and with his ring and pinky fingers included. I've never seen a cast that extends onto any of the FINGERS before. I'm darned if I know which bone(s) would have to be injured in one's hand to require a cast that looks like this. But whatever the injury to his left hand is, his RIGHT hand's just fine and DANG can he ever bowl. I think my favorite shot of the whole day was when he was trying to get the far-right-hand-side pin for a spare. He threw a ball that went into the gutter a moment before it reached the pin, but had such spin on it that it ricocheted OUT of the gutter and up far enough to knock the pin down anyway. Now THAT's what I call a spare! :o)

Actually, both Boyd and Randy have an enviable knack for hitting ONE pin, when that's all that's left standing. I can't imagine it... I consider myself lucky to hit one pin when I have all TEN of them standing there to choose from, let alone when there's just one upright pin remaining. Both of them got plenty of strikes and spares... that hand-eye coordination they've developed for hockey apparently serves them well in other sports, too. :o)

Karla and Al, meanwhile, were at the next lane over from us and they were bowling with John Slaney and Wade Skolney. At the lane on the other side of us, the players were Todd Fedoruk and Joey Hope. The Secret Phan committee had to get a little bit creative when Todd arrived... fortunately, we had a few extra folders and copies of the questionnaire on hand, because we had to get something together on the fly for him to fill out. We didn't know for sure if he was going to come or not, because there've been conflicting reports in the local papers as to whether he'd signed an AHL deal with the Phantoms or not.

My concern for Todd, now that it's clear he is joining the team (otherwise, why would he have come today?), is that it might create an awkward situation for him among his Flyers teammates who remain locked out. I personally don't see how it's any different for him to sign an AHL deal as opposed to the guys who signed overseas in order to keep playing. The man wants to play. I don't blame him one iota. If it was up to HIM and the players like him, there wouldn't BE this stupid stalemate in the CBA negotiations. I hope the other Flyers, the ones who are not signed in other leagues but are practicing in this area, don't give Todd a hard time for finding a way to get back onto the ice in real game situations.

Overall, it was a nice afternoon, and to top it off, I didn't have anywhere near the major fatigue I experienced yesterday (my first day on this new blood pressure med). I hope that means I'm making a quick adjustment to it, because I really don't want to be in drowsy mode when I'm at work. (Nor do I want to feel fatigued while I'm driving, for obvious reasons.)

Tomorrow night's the next of the every-other-Monday gatherings in the Deptford Mall food court, where sign language and interpreting students meet up with members of the local Deaf community and chat. Jean and Joe want to go, and they left a message for me asking if I'd like to go, too. I do want to. I haven't been there since the end of the summer, and I'd like to go again.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

I'm back from the doctor's visit. I'm now on blood pressure meds along with my other prescription. I'm NOT happy about it, but I'm even less happy that my BP today was just as badly screwed up as it was the last time I was there 2 or 3 months ago.

Why am I surprised? Not only does high BP run in my family, on both sides, but the stress levels I've been under for the past few weeks would give a freaking lump of COAL high blood pressure.

So I'm on the prescription -- I took the first one as soon as I got home -- and I'm to report back in two weeks.

Also, because of the medical insurance plan I'm on, rather than getting a referral from that other sort of specialist I was hinting at in previous posts, I have to call the medical insurance plan directly. They have their own directory of people I can go see. Whatever. I just know which nights of the week I'd be available to start setting up sessions, so my goal will be to work around that.

I still feel like crud. At least I had actual joy DURING the game last night (The Phantoms put on a solid showing and won their home opener). Although I haven't been able to fully enjoy anything, without at least some feelings of stress/pain/whatever creeping in at least once during the event, for several weeks now, at least I DO have some time spans when I'm actually enjoying myself. So I haven't completely lost contact with the Land of the Emotionally Living. That's why I'm pursuing additional treatment now, before those last vestiges of feeling like a real, live person disintegrate. I've been THERE before, and I wouldn't wish that frame of mind on anybody. Ever. Anywhere.

Tomorrow should be a good day. The Phan Club's having the Meet and Greet, and throwing a bowling party for the team. I know I can't bowl worth a hill of beans. I might not even GET to bowl since I'll be helping out with the Secret Phan committee this year, and we're doing some of our work during this event. Probably just as well -- I wore my wrist splint all day Thursday and Friday, after waking up in major pain in the middle of Wednesday night. Even if I don't bowl, spending the afternoon saying "hi" some of the team in an informal setting, and eating some pizza, sounds like a pretty constructive way to spend a few hours. ;o)

I hope I get a nap this afternoon. I never got much sleep last night and I feel like I'm wilting. I hope I get decent sleep TONIGHT so I can feel well tomorrow!

P.S. I do have that copy of Neil's interview to give him. I'll have to make extra-sure to remember to bring it tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

So the "Meet the Phantoms" event was tonight, and BOY was it a mob
scene! I did get to get the team's signatures, though, which is good
because who knows if there'll be a Carnival this season to get
signatures at?

So... I got to see the players, welcome the new guys to Philly,
compliment Neil Little on a very articulate interview that he gave for
the Hockey News (more on that in a moment), and meet Jeff L, the
webmaster of the site. I'd call that a productive night, no?

Oh, and it turns out that Neil hasn't seen his interview in The Hockey
News yet. So tomorrow I'll be spending some time communing with the
color photocopier at work, so I can run off a copy of the article for
him. The man ought to have a copy of his own interview, after all! :o)

So at the end of the event, I was chatting with some other fans when
the time came for the players to leave. When they did, Mark and I both
saw the empty table full of player nameplates (little paper stand-up
thingies with the players' names on them). There was Neil's nameplate,
along with a bunch of others, just sitting there unattended. I thought,
"Well, if they're gonna just chuck these, I might as well go get
Neil's". Mark was one step ahead of me and picked it up for me.

Which would've been fine, except Neil came BACK to the table a minute
or two later, with a small fan and her mom in tow. Wouldn't you know
that they were looking for his nameplate? So I said, "Er, is this what
you were looking for?" and gave it back. Neil was all happy, thanked me
for giving it back, and the little girl was thrilled -- apparently
they'd asked him for his nameplate and he came back to sign it for her.
I apologized and said, "I had no idea anyone would come back for it".
TWICE he said, "We'll have to get something else for you". But that's
OK if he doesn't -- I wasn't about to contend with a little kid over
the nameplate. If he DOES remember and do something, I'll consider it a
pleasant surprise.

Oh, and LOL. There was a Flyers game from 1987 on TV last week. One of
our assistant coaches, Kjell Samuelsson, was on the Flyers team at the
time. I asked him, "Did you see the Flyers game last week? I saw you
playing and thought, "Aah, that's Kjell!' ". He laughed and answered,
"Did you see I had hair then?" LOL :o) as a matter of fact, I did, but
I wasn't gonna bring that up. Hee hee!

The home opener is Friday. I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Okaaaay... so KC from Property not only did a bunch of MY (and I use
the term loosely) cutouts over the weekend, she also did the PROPERTY
submissions that I was expecting to be doing right now (I go over there
at 1 PM.

That does it. I am gonna pounce on EVERY Property submission I can get
my hands on. She's GOT a permanent job. She'll survive.

I also retrieved a bunch of cutouts from Casualty (another department)
that I can do, in place of the ones from my department that KC from
Property did. Two can play at this game. Actually, it's standard
procedure for me to go and get Casualty cutouts when we haven't got any
from this department... but we wouldn't BE nearly out of them here if
someone else from outside the department hadn't decided to get some OT
in. So, if someone ELSE can get OUR cutouts, I'M getting someone ELSE'S
cutouts. SO THERE.

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I came in this morning to find that someone from another department had
taken home a HUGE stack of our correspondence -- the stuff that I
normally prepare to be sent to the file room -- and did them over the

Not only does this rankle me because that's MY work she's doing, and
I'm feeling very possessive about that, but she's doing it so SHE can
earn overtime.

THIS ISN'T EVEN HER (@#*$& DEPARTMENT and she is getting overtime for
taking OUR stuff and doing it over the weekend.

HOW is it cheaper for this company to pay someone OT for work that
they have no real need to be doing
, instead of hiring someone like
me to freaking DO the work as a permanent rather than temp employee?

Penny wise and dollar foolish. I'm sure that this other girl's hourly
wage is more than mine, so her time-and-a-half will DEFINITELY be more
than what I earn. Shoot, even if I did OT her time-and-a-half would be
more than my time-and-a-half.

I need to get more resumes out there. If nothing else, taking concrete
action will be a morale lifter. I hope.

I slept almost all of yesterday, minus the hour I spent at church and
about 60-90 minutes after that when I came home and checked e-mail. I
bumped up my prescription on Saturday morning and I think that's got
something to do with it. The doctor said a long time ago I could take
30mg or try 40, if 30 wasn't enough. Well, Saturday was the first time
I actually tried 40mg. I didn't feel any different UNTIL somtime
Saturday evening. I'm guessing that by that point in the day, 30mg will
have "worn off", which my body is used to (after over a year on that
amount) but with the larger dose, that meant that there was more med in
my system than my body's used to having. So the side effect of
sleepiness kicked in. And did it ever kick in. I slept like the dead on
Saturday night (not my usual MO -- my sleep patterns are normally all
screwed up). Then I had a bear of a time waking up Sunday morning but I
dragged myself out the door to church anyway. Then I took a LONG nap
when I came home -- somewhere between 4 and 5 hours' worth of sleep.

Then we had a "goodbye to the Jessup Street kitchen" gathering at
Joe/Aunt Phyllis's house, since the remodeling is about to kick in
there. I took a few "before" pictures which we can compare to the
"after" photos once the extensive amount of work is completed. But that
ran from about 8-9:30 PM or so... after which I came home, did another
brief e-mail check, and conked out. And I slept through the night
AGAIN... it's been a while since I've done THAT two nights in a row.
It's been a while since I've done that ONE night in a row.

And if I weren't at work right now, guess what I'd be doing? Making
more ZZZs. It's been a while since I've been in "was I bitten by a
tsetse fly?" mode, but I'm definitely in that mode now.

I had no luck calling the doctor last week -- their phone is
CHRONICALLY busy and I just don't have the time during the workday to
sit there and dial 999 times. The one time I did get it to ring,
insetad of a busy signal, they turned out to be freakin' CLOSED for the
afternoon and I got a recording with the answering service's number on
it. GRRRR! Mark is going to try to get through today... I'm looking for
an evening appointment on either Wednesday or Friday, or else a
Saturday appointment. We'll see how it goes.

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Friday, October 15, 2004


I just had a submission to enter whose handwritten address appeared to
be mis-written. So I decided to look up the company on the internet, to
see if they had a home page where I could find the correct address.

Oh, I found a home page, all right. It even had the correct address for
me to use when entering the submission.

Unfortunately, it also bore a letter, dated three days ago, which
began, "Dear Valued Customers,

It is with great regret and displeasure that I must announce the
closing of ___ Company", thanking the customers for their loyalty
during the company's years of business, and directing them to a contact
address where they could inquire after the auctioning off of the
company's equipment.

Like I said, UGH! My condolences to everyone who USED to work there.

This economy rots. :o(

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Happy one-year anniversary to me... a year ago today was my first day
as a temp in the company where I'm working now.

And in the meantime, I've learned a bunch of stuff that I can add to my
resume, met a lot of nice people... and applied for several openings
here that I didn't get.

Even in my low-morale state, I've GOT to make an effort to apply for
more opportunities elsewhere, instead of just the few here and there
that I've been doing in the past couple of months. I've been sending
stuff out occasionally (and not mentioning it here -- I rarely mention
ANYthing job-related I do anymore to anyone, unless it results in an
interview). But I need to do more.

This could prove to be more challenging than usual, because these days
I feel like I've won a battle just by virtue of getting up in the
morning. But it's time for me to put my persistence/stubbornness (the
same personality trait, named according to whether people
agree/disagree with my stance) to more constructive use.

Although, I did get up this morning. Score one for using my persistence.

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Thursday, October 14, 2004

I've gone back to taking migraine meds daily along with the
prescription. The fatigue I've had for the past couple of days has been
just short of debilitating, and I mean that without exaggeration.
That's usually clue one that a migraine is in the works, so I'm doing
the pre-emptive strike thing to try and avoid that.

Next on my to-do list is the call to the primary care physician. I'm
not sure if the Rx needs to be changed to something else or the amount
of what I'm already taking needs to be altered, and I think it's time
to supplement the meds with in-person appointments of some kind.
SOMEthing's got to change. The way I feel right this minute is not
living. It's the state of having a body walking around like a robot
with limited, at best, actual feeling of "life" from the person who's
(supposed to be) resident inside... fortunately, there's still enough
left of the Real Me to know that this is a situation that can be, and
must be, fixed. Score one for having dealt with various levels of this
issue since age 10. Experience counts for something.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2004

It's always a good day when you can post the hockey schedules in your
cubicle. In this case, I now have a pocket schedule for the Phantoms
and also the Trenton Titans (ECHL) on display in my cubicle. If the NHL
wasn't in the midst of a labor dispute, I'd have their schedule posted,
also. And if I can get my hands on an Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies
schedule, (also ECHL), that's getting posted, too.

So far it's been a good few days (at least event-wise, even though my
morale is, and has been, on rocky ground for a good couple of weeks
now). I saw Barry Manilow from the third row (expect to be hearing
about that one for a while, :oD) on Saturday, and on Monday, the
Phantoms had a preseason shutout vs. the Trenton Titans in an
exhibition game. Yes, it was vs. a lower-league team, but ALL the
players from both teams worked their tails off out there and it was a
pretty feisty game. And any time my boy Neil Little is involved with
the Phantoms getting a shutout -- this time, he shared it with Chris
Houle because they both played part of the game -- I'm happy about it.

I say it's because I patted his bobblehead doll on the head earlier in
the day on Monday. :o)

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Monday, October 11, 2004

Today feels like a "shoulda stayed in bed" day. My spirits are flying
at half-mast even though I get to learn new job tasks for the Property
Department this afternoon, even though I'm less than 48 hours removed
from sitting in the THIRD ROW of a Barry Manilow concert (have I
mentioned that enough times yet? :o) ), even though I interpreted
yesterday which is often a mood booster for me, and even though I have
a hockey game to attend tonight.

Those things, combined with the fact that the weather's been BEAUTIFUL
for the past few days, ought to have me feeling great. Heck, I oughta
be dancing from room to room with a combination of things to
remember/look forward to like that. But instead I'm sincerely wishing I
could go home and pull the covers up over my head.

There's going to be a call to the doctor this week. Nobody should have
to live feeling like this. Either the prescription amount needs to
change, the actual med needs to be changed. or it has to be
supplemented with face-to-face treatment. My opinion is, "possibly the
first or second option, probably the third one, maybe all of the
above". We'll see. All I know is that there is going to HAVE to be an
appointment to discuss treatment options here. I'm sick of fighting
this day in and day out. The med helps, because without it I'd actually
BE at home right now with the covers over my head, instead of just
wishing I were. But nobody deserves to have to feel like this 24/7, and
even MY threshhold of pain has its limits. To paraphrase that movie,
"I'm blue as h*ll and I'm not gonna take it anymore", so it's time to
have a word with the primary care doctor and see what kind of a plan we
can come up with.

I guess I can look at the bright side -- if this is how I feel WITH all
those great things I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, then this is
better than how I'd feel right now if I DIDN'T have all those things in
my recent past/immediate future. So there's that point to ponder.

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Sunday, October 10, 2004

OMG, what a night! Barry Manilow is a music deity, and by all means, go see him if you get the chance!

He was in Philly for one night only, and as this is supposed to be his farewell tour, I wanted to go. So did Joe M, apparently, and he went and picked up two tickets for us.

So we went. The seats were good -- Section 121, rows 5 and 6, seat 22 (behind each other -- he couldn't get adjacent seats).

Well, the seats WOULD have been great. If, in fact, they actually existed. In the Wachovia Center, Section 121's row 5 and 6 have only 20 seats -- the Zamboni tunnel cuts into the seating area. Seat 22 doesn't EXIST for either row, not unless someone has a chair that will levitate over the Zamboni tunnel.

So the guard investigated, discovered that we weren't nuts and our seats WERE nonexistent, and offered to take Joe and me to Guest Services. That's where we encountered four or so other people who also had tickets for imaginary seats. Most of them had bought their tickets via the internet, but Joe got ours right FROM the freakin' Wach Center box office window. There's NO way tickets bought right at the venue should have been wrong. But OH WELL. They were.

So the lady from Guest Services went back to the computer system, then returned with a list of available seats where we could be placed.

I think my jaw dropped right to the floor when she told us where the new seats were. Third row, on the FLOOR, right by the stage. HOLY freaking cow, I never had such incredible seats for a concert in my life!

If Verizon was working right, I'd be sending myself pics from my camera phone right now. But unfortunately, the picture message system seems to be whacked out -- nothing will send at the moment. GRRR... it'd better be back online later. I want to see how these shots came out!

I wish I'd had my camera. First of all, I saw tons of people with cameras. Second of all, they didn't even CARE about that when they looked in my bag. The only thing they wanted to ensure was that I wasn't bringing my own food/drink into the building, and I wasn't carrying either. Third, if I'd had any idea that we were going to be that close to the stage, bank on the fact that I'd have tried to smuggle the thing in anyway. Believe me.

Camera or not, seeing Barry perform is an experience not to be missed. He is a FABULOUS showman and he puts on a performance like no one else. He pours his entire being into every song... most of his songs are stories, and when he's telling them, he really gets engrossed. It makes for an excellent concert.

He mentioned early on what I already knew -- that Philly holds a special place in his heart because this is where his career really took off. And as the end of the concert approached, at a point when I swear he looked a little bit like he was crying, one of his parting comments was, "Thank you for my career, Philadelphia".

Oh, and the lady who was chosen from the crowd for the "Can't Smile Without You" duet came from about two rows behind us. :o) She had a sign saying "22 Years and Still Trying". Barry saw it, and picked her to be what's known on the Barry fan newsgroup as the CSWY girl.

I didn't have a sign. If I'd known I was gonna be right on top of the stage, you BET I'd have had a sign. But oh, well. If his "farewell" tour turns out not to be any such thing, maybe next time I'll have a sign. I wanna be a CSWY girl too. ;o)

And if that WAS the final time he performed in Philly, I'm glad I got to see him. He's among the best performers I've ever seen, and am ever likely TO see, in my life. Barry rules. :o)

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Joe & I are in

Joe & I are in the 3d row on the floor for the Manilow concert! More details later when I get home.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Beginning on Monday, I am going to spend part of the day over in the Property department, doing some of the entry work of KM, the person who is on an early maternity leave. She's out on disability/maternity leave and has been prescribed strict bed rest. As her due date is in early January, I can understand why they'd want to do everything possible to avoid having a birth this premature... she's only in her 6th month right now.

Ironically, KM is one of the people who, back in the spring, was assigned some of MY input work when the powers-that-be tried to see if my job could be divided among the permanent employees. It didn't pan out and I got my input back after a few weeks. Now it's me doing HER input and other work; I'll find out on Monday just what my job entails when I'm working in the Property department.

I'll also be using HER desk, which is adorned with her own decorations, photos, etc. Once again, I will be spending at least part of my workday at Someone Else's Workspace, with pictures of their family and friends staring down at me.

I really hope I can do as much work as possible from my OWN desk. If you ever want to have a constant reminder that no matter how hard you work, you're not REALLY a part of things, work at someone else's desk for a protracted period of time.

Meanwhile, back in my own department (if anything here can be designated as "mine", a feeling which I have less and less), the only time I get input to do now is when H has a backlog. It seems that they've decided to give it ALL to her and see how it goes.

Having said that... we've already had three such backlogs this week. I guess I'll find out sooner, rather than later, how H is managing at getting the input done in a timely fashion along with everything else that's on her plate.

Is it too much to hope that we have an avalanche of submissions in the next few weeks? ;o)