Tuesday, April 27, 2004

I thought that after about two days of almost non-stop rain ranging from drizzling to torrential downpours, I figured that all the airborne pollen would be rinsed out of the air (so to speak). Normally, rain does vastly reduce the number of airborne particles of all sorts.

However, we had a dry day today, and what did I come out to on my car? Another layer of yellow "dust".

Here's a view of the pollen stripe left on my windshield after I gave it the windshield-wiper treatment: :)





So, besides doing my civic duty and voting today, I supported the Darwin theory by transporting a bunch of pollen 11 miles from my workplace in NJ back to Philadelphia. Now if THAT doesn't keep the gene pools for gosh-knows-how-many plants varied and vigorous, I don't know what will. ;o)

Now I'm hoping that the Phantoms perform a bit of Darwinian elimination on the Norfolk Admirals, and push them one game closer to being out of the playoffs. Currently, the best-of-seven series is tied at one game apiece. I'm listening to the cybercast even as I type. GO PHANTOMS!

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Mark has headed off to Home Depot. He's getting a digging implement, the name of which I've forgotten, that he'll use to redo our lawn.

Now, understand... for those of you who haven't actually seen our lawn, I'm talking about a patch of ground that could be completely covered by a good-sized tablecloth. My father-in-law jokes that we could mow it with a scissors, and he's actually not far off the mark.

Unfortunately, right now it really COULD be mowed with a scissors, because except for a tiny bit of grass, the only thing that sprouted this spring are dandelions. It's kind of sad to see everyone else's mini-lawns sprouting green, and ours sitting there all hay-colored and lifeless, except for a constellation of dandelions that's strewn haphazardly throughout it.

Mark has a bunch of vacation days coming up this year, and his intention is to tear the entire thing up and redo the lawn from scratch. I fear that's the only thing that will make a difference, at this point. I don't think we have enough viable grass left to salvage.

So, be prepared for stories of lawn-restarting adventures, because they're coming soon to a blog near you. ;)

Friday, April 23, 2004

Aw, CURSE WORDS!

Freaking Norfolk scored in OT. The series is now tied at 1-1.

I'm sure our coaches will work with our guys to help them tighten up a few things from this game. Or, more to the point, to take better advantage of some of the openings that the Admirals gave us. We thoroughly outshot them, and IMO we spent decent stretches outplaying them during the past two games. If we cash in a few more opportunities, we won't have to worry about one bad bounce costing us in OT. We'll be able to win in regulation time.

In other news, the Stork has been pretty busy in the Flyers/Phantoms organization in the past couple of weeks. The enforcers for both teams had additions to their families. PJ Stock of the Phantoms became a dad for the second timeon April 15 when his wife had a baby girl. Todd Fedoruk of the Flyers and his wife became parents for the first time this week when they had a son. I made a sign for PJ: I took a picture of hockey gloves, used MS Photo Editor to just get their outline, and colored them in pink. Then I used Word to write in lanscape mode, in a large pink font, "CONGRATULATIONS PJ" across the top of the page, and "on the pitter-patter of little hockey gloves being dropped :)". Then I attached the picture of the pink hockey gloves in the center. Before we left the Wachovia Center tonight, I gave it to one of the ticket reps and asked if he would be able to deliver it to PJ. He said he'd do what he could. Heck, as long as the sign gets to him, I don't need to be the one who presents it to him. I just want him to HAVE it.

Anyway (as I sit here and work on making the thoughts of that darn OT loss go away), I'm sure that the Phantoms can win at least one game in Norfolk, where the next three games will be played. Our next win will guarantee us another home game during the playoffs... either Game 6 during this series, or Game 1 of the next series. Either way, GO PHANTOMS!
OVERTIME! Aaagh! The Phantoms/Norfolk game is headed into OT. And since this is the playoffs, it means that we're gonna be here until the next goal is scored, whenever that is. Well, we can predict that the final score will be 2-1. Here's to the Good Guys from the Home Team getting the winner. GO PHANTOMS!
Whew! Got pollen? I sure do! When I left work tonight, I noticed a thin film of dust on my windshield. I discovered the hard way, months ago, that when you're driving into the sun, things like dust on the windshield are a major visual distraction. It's like trying to see through fog.
So, I gave the windshield a quick once-over with the windshield wiper. Sweep, sweep went the wiper blades. That cleaned the glass off nicely, but that's also when I discovered that it wasn't dust all over my windshield. The wiper blades left a little line of not-really-dust along the left-hand side of the windshield, which was when it became clear that the dusty-looking stuff was quite yellow in color. To my surprise, it was a layer of pollen that had settled all over my car as it sat in the parking lot all day. I never saw so much of it in one place at a time in my life.

Geeze, I feel sorry for anyone who lives in that area and has allergy problems. The drug stores must have quite a challenge keeping their shelves stocked with antihistamines. Joe M. has called West Chester, PA the pollen capital of the world, but I have news for him. Cherry Hill, NJ could give West Chester a major run for its money. I NEVER came back to find a car full of pollen after parking in West Chester for a full day.
The word of the day is prodrome. Have YOU ever heard it before? I sure didn't. That is, not until yesterday morning when I came to work with a migraine that'd been annoying me since Wednesday night.

Thanks to meds, the headache part of the migraine was actually not that bad. However, the light-sensitivity issue was another story. Driving here (which takes about 30 minutes) while facing the sun didn't help matters, even though I wore my usual hat-with-bill and polarized sunglasses. The symptom was so bad, that in desperation I went to the Yahoo search engine and entered MIGRAINE RELIEF LIGHT SENSITIVITY. I figured that maybe I'd find a link to a site that has suggestions for dealing with and/or alleviating the problem.

You know what the sites I found told me? That light sensitivity is a symptom of migraines. Well, DUH!!! I freakin' KNOW that! (I get cranky when I don't feel well for two days. Can you tell?)

The sites also described several symptoms, including light sensitivity and fatigue, as "prodromes" of a migraine. That's when I ventured over to dictionary.com to find out what in heck a prodrome is. If you haven't hit that link I provded earlier, it means they're symptoms that can show up in advance of the migraine. Well, THAT was useful knowledge, anyway, even if I didn't find anything that would do me any good in the "relieving light sensitivity" department. I noticed a few months ago that nearly every migraine I have is preceided by a day or two of EXTREME fatigue. I'm not talking about feeling a little bit tired or run-down, I mean "ready to fall asleep as soon as I stop moving". I started to wonder whether the one symptom was causing the other, or if it was just an advance warning sign that the other was on the way. It's nice to know that I wasn't imagining that there's a connection between the two.

I'm almost better today. Light is only annoying me a little bit.

I'm thinking that the migraine was brought on by the stress of the "they're trying to shift my workload to other people to see if I'm expendable" situation that's been going on for the past two weeks. I hasten to add that even though I can see the parts of the work that other people are doing in my stead, I STILL have got enough workload left over that I have not run out of things to do yet. Not one time in the past two weeks have I been in search of something to occupy my time. I definitely think there's more than enough workload to go around, but I'm not the one making the decision.

I'm so sick of being on the outside looking in. That's how I've felt for three years at all these temp jobs.

I think I'll have a conference with my little bobblehead committee. They're sure to nod in agreement with me, no matter what I say. I wish THEY were the ones deciding whether I stay here or not.

Monday, April 12, 2004

In two weeks, I'll get an update as to whether my current temp assignment will be continuing, or wrapping up. I could find out that I have a stable work situation to look forward to, or I could be assignment-free within 30 days from right now.

I hope it's the former. But neither hope nor hard work have gotten me much in the past three years. So I'll just keep working hard but emotionally I'll try to be ready in case the news isn't good.

I'm not happy, though -- on the job sites I normally visit, there is NOTHING that fits my IT experience. Nothing. The office assistant/receptionist/etc type of positions are also slim pickings, at best. I just finished checking.

I've heard a zillion times that the economy is improving. I'm still waiting for concrete proof besides people expressing opinions that the economy's getting better. I'm not seeing it. If anything, I've seen exactly the opposite for the past three years.

I just feel so discouraged to think that yet again, hard work, doing a good job and having the good opinion of the people I work with/for might just mean nothing and the bottom line might mean I'm expendable. Again.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

I've done a bit of homework, looking through my bird identification books, and checking one or two books during my trek to several bookstores this afternoon.

I've reached the conclusion that what I saw last week was an immature red-tailed hawk. The Ferruginous Hawk doesn't live in the eastern US, and the rough-legged hawk's legs are feathered farther down than this bird's legs were.

There was a bird book by National Geographic that showed a picture of an immature red-tailed hawk in flight. The light morph of that (as opposed to the darker-feathered one that, from what I gather, lives out west) was the only one pale enough to really resemble the bird I saw.

Ya know what's REALLY aggravating? I *had* my camera with me. It was in my tote bag. I was just so taken aback by seeing a hawk right there in front of me, I forgot everything else. I wish the thought had crossed my mind that I could try and get a picture of the bird.

Oh, well. Maybe he lives near the building where I work. If he comes back, NEXT time I'll try to photograph him.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

I saw a hawk outside my workplace on Monday evening.

Just as I exited the building, I heard the noise of a jay squawking and carrying on. He was pretty miffed about something, and I looked up to see where the noise was coming from.

High in a tree, I saw the jay doing the scolding. Somewhat farther down, I saw a bird that appeared to be mostly white with some light-to-medium-brown markings. The way it was perched allowed me to see its body and tail, but not its head because the branch it sat on was blocking my view.

At first, I thought it might be a pigeon, but in this area, pigeons never seem to perch in trees. Honestly. If you live in the Philly/South NJ area, pay attention to it and you'll notice that you NEVER see them sit in trees. Roofs, telephone wires, awnings, windowsills, yes. Trees, never.

So there I stood, several yards away from the base of the tree, wondering if this mostly-white bird was a pigeon who was trying something new. Then I realized that the shape of the body and tail were just wrong for a pigeon, plus the more I looked at it, the more I thought that this bird was just too large to be a pigeon. In fact, I could think of lots of things that the bird WASN'T, but that wasn't helping me ID what he WAS.

I wanted to get closer and view the bird from a different angle, but that would have involved walking under the branch where he was perched. Something told me not do to that... I got the distinct sense that he would, and I quote, "mess on my head". I didn't know where THAT thought came from, but I learned long ago not to go against these little instinctive warnings that crop up from time to time. Any time I ignore that sort of thing, I live to regret it. So I remained standing where I was, not far from the building's exit.

Another woman came out the door, and asked what I was looking at. I pointed to the bird and asked if she'd ever seen one like it before. She thought it was a duck. I responded, "I don't think ducks perch in trees". (Actually, there IS such a thing as a tree duck, but I've seen pics of those and this bird's markings and body shape were nothing like it. Plus, I didn't think they lived in this region anyway. But I didn't mention all that.)

Just then, the mystery bird changed posture. He leaned forward (though not far enough for us to see his head), raised his tail, and let loose with a prodigious amount of, well... mess. I sure was glad I didn't try walking under that branch! Not to be gross, but I've never seen a bird produce that much, um, output at one time in my entire life. Now I was certain it wasn't a type of bird I'd seen before.

His posture change allowed me to get a clearer look at his legs, and I could see they were heavily feathered most of the way down. That was another cue that I hadn't seen this sort of bird before. Now I was definitely thinking "hawk" or maybe "owl"... though in broad daylight, I wasn't sure how many kinds of owl would be out and about.

The mystery was resolved when the bird apparently thought he saw some prey in the leaves on the edge of the parking lot. Suddenly he launched himself from the tree with a few strong wingbeats, aiming himself at the leaves. He glided downward, coming down forcefully with his talons onto a landing point that was out of sight behind some parked cars. Now there was no room for doubt that he was a mostly-white hawk with brown markings.

Whatever it was that he'd been aiming at, he must have missed. A moment later, he flew up, with his talons empty, and soared right above the heads of the other woman and me before disappearing.

I'm still trying to look up what kind of bird it was. Signs point to it being an immature red-tailed or ferruginous hawk, since both of those have a light version that seems to fit the description of the bird I saw. If I can find some PHOTOS of the immature light morph of the bird, I'll know for sure if my guess is correct.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

I'm baaack. Now, about that contest: at work, we had a special week in honor of March Madness, where people were encouraged to decorate their cubicles in honor of their favorite team(s) and compete for a prize. The grand prizes were Flyers and Sixers tickets, but other smaller prizes would be handed out to people who did a good job at decorating without winning the top prize.

Not only do I have tons of Flyers and Phantoms stuff that I've gathered over the years, but prior to this, my cubicle was about 99.9% undecorated. I had those two post-game pics that are on my shelf with the bobbleheads, and the current season's Phantoms magnetic schedule. That was pretty much it. This combination meant that I was able to adorn the ENTIRE cubicle in a hockey theme, since there were no pre-existing non-hockey decorations to work around. I had to laugh... I ran out of wall space in the cube before I ran out of things to bring in.

Not only were we encouraged to show our team spirit by bedecking our workspaces, we were also able to wear team shirts, jerseys, and hats. I had a grand time with that, too, especially when we were informed that this would be started a few days early. Instead of going from March 22-26, we were permitted to start wearing team things beginning on March 17. (So of course, I wore the Green Jersey on St. Patrick's Day). The rest of my department expressed amusement because I ended up wearing a different jersey and hat for every day of the event. But since I'm not the only one in our area with a hockey jersey collection, it was kind of fun to see who was wearing what on which day. Between the four of us who wore various jerseys in, we could have suited up an entire hockey team.

Finally, the big day arrived. The final day, March 26, was the day when the company president was going to go around and choose the winners.

I was looking forward to it, and at least three people told me I was sure to win, but I had a nagging doubt. I definitely had more memorabilia than anyone else whose cubicle I saw. I admit I didn't tour the entire building, but most of the people I saw devoted one area to the team(s) of their choice, rather than the whole cubicle. However, there IS that nagging detail that I am a temp worker, not a full-fledged employee of the company. I had a feeling that no matter WHAT I did, for that reason alone, I wouldn't win. If I invited actual PHANTOMS to come sit in my cubicle (which is not entirely out of the question since the team practice facility is only 5 miles away), I suspected that wouldn't have been enough to make me win.

So I did this, not because I expected to have a chance at getting the Flyers tickets, but because I *wanted* to do it. I was tired of sitting in a bland, empty-looking cubicle. I haven't had a workspace with MY personality on display for three years now. In all the other temp jobs, I've either had an impersonal, sterile, unadorned work space, or else I've been sitting at someone else's desk where the pictures of THEIR family, friends, and pets stare back at me all day long. I was tired of working like that, so I figured, "Prize or no prize, I just want to have my own little space in the world again".

Sure enough, when the president of the company came by, he gave me a white denim shirt that has the name of the company embroidered on it. Nice gift. Getting something for nothing is never a bad thing. ;o) However, he stood a few feet outside my cube and talked to someone (couldn't see or hear whom) for a few minutes after he gave me the shirt. I didn't hear what the other person said, but his response was, "That would be unfair to the people who've worked here for years".

I have a feeling he was referring to the act of giving the grand prize to a temp worker instead of a regular employee. I knew I wasn't going to win, and I knew why, before I even brought in one single hockey item. Still, it was disappointing. I felt reminded, for the umpteenth time over the past three years, that temps are on the outside looking in when it comes to the companies where we are assigned. It's not that we're the lowest on the pecking order... we're not even IN the pecking order.

But I'm looking at the bright side. Not only do I have a new shirt, I now have a cube that has Flyers/Phantoms stuff everywhere I look, boosting my mood all day long.

Especially, I like my little bobblehead committee. They're such great company -- they always have such an upbeat demeanor. Or at least they smile and nod all the time. I wish EVERYONE would be so agreeable, don't you? :o)
Here's just a small head's up... I have a story to post about the cubicle-decorating contest we had here, but right now's not a good time. So instead, I'll just provide a link to the photos I took of my cubicle when it was fully decorated.

A few of the items shown in those photos have been brought home, notably the banners outside the cube, the pucks, Phuzz, Muppets, Flyers car-window flag and the two books. The other items are all still in place.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

The subconscious mind is an amazing thing. It processes some thoughts even when we're not aware that the topic is on our minds.

Case in point: yesterday. I had a talk with my supervisor. The other temp, who had been doing a different job than I'm doing, had been hired by the company several weeks ago. She also resigned last Friday.

There'll be a departmental meeting some time this week, during which some of her former duties will be dispersed among the remaining people. The boss of the department will also have to be making some decisions including whether to hire another person to replace her, and how long MY assignment will continue (if it's going to keep going or if it'll be winding down within the next few months).

I discussed all this with my supervisor yesterday. I mentioned that I would like to become a permanent worker, even if it means doing something different than what I do now. I'm willing to embark on yet another learning curve, if I know that "this is IT" and I can look forward to a continuing work situation, and I said so.

Now, let's backtrack to almost precisely three years ago, when I was downsized from my job at the bank. (Speaking of subconscious mind, I should mention that even though I haven't had to battle migraines for several weeks, I fought migraines from a few days prior to the anniversary of that day, right through the anniversary itself. But I digress.) Losing that job, which I'd had for 12 years, left me with the feeling that it doesn't matter HOW long you work at a place or HOW well you do. In my current world view, merit and length of service take a back seat to the bottom line, and if your salary doesn't fit when it comes time to cut the budget, out the door you go.

So, for the past three years, I've basically cared about how well I do and worked hard, with an attitude of "it's for my OWN satisfaction that I care about it, since nobody else will". Even now, I am aware that even though the only break I have all day is my lunch hour, and otherwise I'm busy from the time I come in until the time I go home, hard work won't mean much if the number-crunchers decide that the company can do without a temp. So I take the approach that I want to do a good job so *I* can be satisfied with myself and what I do, number crunchers or not.

What's this have to do with the subconscious mind? Yesterday, a few hours after having that discussion with my supervisor, I caught myself humming a song while I was in the file room. There's nothing odd about that, except this particular song is one that I haven't heard in months, so the fact that I had *that* song in my head was a bit unusual.

Even then, the significance of the song didn't strike me until I started thinking of the lyrics instead of just humming the tune. That would be Abba's The Name of the Game, which has a refrain that includes...

What's the name of the game?
Does it mean anything to you?
What's the name of the game?
Do you feel it the way I do?


... and also...

If I trust in you
Would you let me down?
Would you laugh at me
If I said I care for you?
Do you feel the same way too?

I wanna know the name of the game


...

Well! When I realized just what I was singing to myself, THAT was certainly an eye-opener. I guess that was my subconscious mind's way of processing the discussion I had earlier in the day, because I really DO want to know where I stand as far as my future here goes. And, frankly, I want it to be good news when I do find out what the company is planning to do.

There's not much I can do about it besides keep working hard and doing a good job. So that's what I'll do.