Monday, March 31, 2008

How to Attract Homebuyers

Rule #1 of How To Attract Homebuyers: Tear down the spare closet. Spread sheet rock all over the carpet. Leave it that way.



If I were a gambler, I'd bet any amount of money that this is the week the buyers start clamoring to look at our house.

(OK, so we cleaned everything up after tearing down the closet. Almost everything. About 40% of everything. At least the scattered sheet rock is gone.)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Time For Some Changes

Don't you hate it when life is going along just fine, and you get into the habit of not running every day because you're tired of being away from home all the time and just want to be with your husband, and you make brownies a couple of times, and go out for pizza a couple of times, and then you look into the mirror one morning and notice that your waist is starting to hang out over the waistband of your pants? And that the reason you didn't notice it before was because you were focused on the fact that your pants were fitting a lot tighter than they used to?

Oh, me. So this is how it happens. It's time for some changes.

I had been so good. I was fighting successfully against the fact that I now have a sedentary job and two hours of commuting every day. Last fall, I was at the gym at 6:00 a.m. every day for a run or a cross-training session. I got tired of that, and when we started working shifts in January for support season, I moved my workouts to the evenings. I would eat dinner at work, then, after the hour-long commute home, I would get to the gym at 8:30 at night, and get home around 9:30 or 10:00.

Then I got the flu.

I tried to run in the weeks after the flu, but, truth be told, it took me a good three weeks to feel like myself again after the fever went away. I knew then that I wasn't going to be ready for the half-marathon I was training for, so I decided to just run four or five miles a day, four or five days a week, to stay in shape.

Some nights I had trouble running even two and a half miles. I was just so tired. I suspect the long hours and the long commute are starting to wear on me, now that I've been at it for almost a year.

Plus, the Hubster will soon be going on a five-month journey, and I want to spend every last waking moment with him before he leaves. So, when it comes to making the choice of taking two hours for a Sunday long run, or spending two precious hours with the Hubster, it's kind of a no-brainer.

But this waist-hanging-out-of-the-too-tight-jeans thing ... ugh. I have worked too hard, for too long, on this bod. It almost feels like a betrayal, only I know that I'm responsible, so I only have myself to blame.

So, it's time for some changes. No more baking brownies for work people and keeping a few "just for me." No more fatty pasta salads at lunch. No more cookies at the coffee shop in the afternoon. And thank God the Girl Scout cookies we bought are all gone. (Hmm, can anyone guess where they went?)

Yes, it's time for changes. And I'm going to go on a nice five-mile run today. It's really amazing how much motivation a bit of flab hanging over a waistband can inspire.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Bored No More!

Here's what's on my plate for this summer (so far):

Internal documentation! Loads of it!
Screen and help file standardization!
Internal training!

That "internal training" thing ... wasn't on the agenda. But I said stuff like, "I love to teach! I'm really good at lesson plans!" and next thing I knew, I'm going to meet with people who are planning internal training classes and helping with the "standardization" of the class formats. How cool is that?

Plus, I'll get to teach some classes! (I told them I love teaching, so long as it's not for 80 hours a week. Heh heh. Wry look. Heh heh.)

So, between now and Monday, I need to ...

- Make a list of general "audience analysis" and lesson-planning tips to share with new trainers within our group

- Start working on a FrameMaker template for internal documentation (I used one of FrameMaker's pre-made templates last year, but I had to because I was so new at that level of FrameMaker. But now I have a better idea of what would be required for our particular types of documents.)

- Plow through current (pre-Waterfall) standardization documentation and review the standardization ideas I wrote down last fall while editing/proofreading all of our screens and help files ... and start working on a draft standards document.

I'm so excited! I'm so happy! I'm not sitting idly by at work anymore, waiting for the phone to ring! Yee-haw!

Whew. I barely know where to start.

I'm so glad they didn't fire me. Or ask me to take over the company. They knew better than to do either.

Those nice folks I work for, I've always said they're a pret-ty smart lot.

Bored No More?

I wrote an e-mail to my boss today telling her I was bored.

(That's a very dangerous thing to do, by the way.)

I also told her that I wanted to discuss documentation plans for the next few months. Things really feel up in the air at work; not in a bad way, but in an "I'm-not-sure-what-I'm-supposed-to-do-next" way. (Did they need me to take over the company? Probably not. Did they want me to start planning some general "business writing" classes for the summer, when different departments offer training to all company employees who are interested? Possibly. Did they want to fire me? Hopefully not.)

So anyway, I was getting ready to hit Send when I got an e-mail from the VP of our division saying that he, my boss, and I needed to have a meeting this afternoon to do some "documentation brainstorming."

Wow. So before I sent my boss the e-mail, I added a little note at the beginning, something like, "Just thought it was kind of funny that I was getting ready to send you this e-mail when I got the meeting announcement."

She wrote back and said I shoudn't worry, that I wasn't going to be bored for long. In fact, she wrote, I'm going to be VERY (in all caps) busy after the meeting today.

So I e-mailed her back with this ultra-professional response:



Now, by "VERY busy," I hope she didn't mean I was going to be packing up my personal items and saying good-bye to everyone. I'll keep you posted, faithful readers.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Shirley's Thoughts on Her Great Room

Shirley is back to her blogging ways, this time with her thoughts on her great room, also known as The Red Room. You can read all about it here.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Nervous Shirley

My house, Shirley, is very nervous today. The realtor will be filming her for a video tour. I gave her a photo shoot last night, thinking it would help with her jitters, but she was going a mile a minute. Here's the picture she posted on her blog this morning.



(If you can't read her thoughts, click on the image to make them really big.)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Happy Birthdays All Around!

Today is the birthday of two very special, important people who have had a profound influence on my life: my longtime friend Amy, and my beloved, bejowled, and bewigged J.S. Bach.

This is Amy. I found this cute picture at Women Take Wing, a site for woman entrepreneurs.



I cannot begin to express my debt to J.S. Bach. If I try, I get all teary eyed and risk salting up my computer keyboard.



Happy Birthday to two wonderful people!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

My Hearing Test

Here's my hearing test from the other day.


The big circles are my right ear. The X's are my good ear. I think normal hearing for most frequencies is supposed to be within that highlighted 0 - 25 dB range, i.e., people with normal hearing would have X's and O's all in the highlighted band. My hearing falls off above about a 1500Hz frequency.

My left ear got a 92% in word recognition at 25 dB, which is roughly the volume of a cat's purr. My right ear got a 12% in word recognition at 65 dB, which is roughly the volume of normal conversation where people are sitting relatively close to each other.

Does this have anything to do with the fact that I'm rather right-brained and think a cat's purr is one of the most wonderful sounds on earth? Or something like that? Nah. Didn't think so.

Good thing my left ear is better than my right ear, or my love affair with George (and Bach, for that matter) would probably never have happened!

I think I'll go take an auditory soak in the B Minor Mass now. I'm in the mood to appreciate it even more than usual.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Crunch Saga, Continued

What? You don’t remember Part I of The Crunch Saga? When my hearing aid went crunch beneath my shoe, right in the midst of crunch time at the bookstore back in 2006?

The bookstore? How many jobs ago was that?

Here’s where I left off after telling the sad tale of how my hearing aid was fatally injured:

I suppose I would have heard the crunch if I'd been wearing my hearing aid, but I didn't hear a thing. But I did finally notice my hearing aid on the floor beneath the cash register. Oh, joy! My hearing aid! Panic was replaced by euphoria!

I bent down to pick [the hearing aid] up, and ... the plastic was broken. All the tiny, wiry innards of the device were hanging out of it. It wasn't completely crushed, but ... I was.

I'm hoping I can get it repaired before Christmas. I don't want to spend the holidays cupping my ear and asking people to repeat and/or write down things. I'm hoping it can be repaired, period. I'm really sad about this.

So, crunch time at the bookstore was great, but the ensuing crunch (which I didn't hear) wasn't so great. I'll let y'all know the conclusion of this gripping saga tomorrow.


That was December 17, 2006.

~~~And now, for Part II.~~~

Early in 2007, I still had no hearing aid. My bookstore boss pleadingly asked if I would get a new one; apparently, I was getting lost in books and not hearing customers when they came in, and even appearing to “ignore” them when they asked me questions.

“I’d love to get a new one,” I said. “But we’re talking $2,000 at the very least.”

It took her a few seconds to pick her jaw up off the floor. Two grand is a lot of money for a little piece of plastic.

Needless to say, much as I loved working in books, I was never going to afford a hearing aid on my part-time bookstore salary. So when I got the tech writing job, my loved ones sighed with relief: “Good. Now she can get her hearing aid and I can talk to her without repeating myself twelve times every time I say something.”)

I put in long hours at work. Work Village is an hour away from the audiologist I wanted to use, and it’s not exactly practical to take a three-hour lunch hour to go to an appointment. Also, even though I was making more money than at the bookstore, I didn’t relish the idea of forking over a couple thou for anything, much less a hearing aid.

And … I probably shouldn’t admit this … I kind of liked not having a hearing aid.

Think about it: Imagine having an small, extremely costly piece of plastic that you have to remove from your ear every time you (1) answer the phone; (2) play the piano; (3) put on your iPod headphones; and (4) are in the presence of an infant. Add to that my tendency to misplace things that are smaller and/or lighter than a bowling ball, and you’re looking at quite a bit of unwanted daily stress.

I liked not having the stress. There’s also a part of me that likes not being able to hear. An introvert at heart, I appreciate that the curse of deafness is also a blessing that allows me to tune everything out and apply razor-sharp focus to whatever I happen to be reading or writing.

But then there’s the stress of never being able to look people in the eye when they’re talking to you since you’re busy trying to read their lips, hoping you can decipher what they’re saying. It’s inconvenient, I guess, to be a couple of seconds “behind,” constantly playing catch-up in conversation. (Here’s an example: my friend Carla might say something that sounds like, “Quantum offbeat?” Being the ingenious soul that I am, I know that she probably didn’t really say “quantum offbeat,” so my brain plays with the sounds, and with what I know about my friend Carla. A second or two later, I realize she’s probably saying “Want some coffee?”)

Oh, if only people came equipped with their own closed-captioning devices … of course, if that were the case, I would never be able to ignore anyone again. So I’ll be careful what I ask for.

Yesterday, well over a year after my old hearing aid crunched and died, and after many schedulings and reschedulings due to work, illness, and unexpected travel, I went to the audiologist.

Here is an ugly picture of me getting a hearing test:



The headphones were too big for my petite head, so they had to use a sponge so the headphones would stay on.

As you might guess, if hearing tests were a pass/fail operation, I failed most miserably. I knew the audiologist was going to tell me that I was deaf as a post and can’t stand loud noises, but she worded it in a much more clinical way:

Profound hearing loss in both ears; unable to complete test due to hyperacusis.

(I looked up hyperacusis on the Internet and it looks like my condition is something more like recruitment, but whatever … it’s six of one, half-dozen of the other, as far as I’m concerned. For this reason, I prefer my terminology: Can’t stand loud noises.)

Here’s a definition of hyperacusis from the UCSF Medical Center Web site:

"The hallmark symptom of hyperacusis is having a reduced tolerance and increased sensitivity to everyday sounds in your normal environment. People who suffer from the disease often complain of living in a world in which the volume seems to be turned up too high ...

"For people with hyperacusis, the everyday, normal sounds that most people hardly notice suddenly become irritating and painful. Often the most disturbing sounds are sudden, high-pitched noises, such as alarms, bus brakes, the clanging of silverware and dishes, children's screams and clapping.

"Because people with the condition are so sensitive to noise, they may develop a fear of noise, known as phonophobia. As a result, this may cause them to avoid social and public situations in fear of exposing their ears to harmful sounds."

Phonophobia? Hmm … next time the Hubster cranks up Neil Young or Dwight Yoakam on the CD player, I’ll tell him that I have phonophobia and that he must, must turn that crap sorry alternative to classical music vintage classic rock off immediately.

Here’s what I found on recruitment from sinuswars.com. Recruitment sounds (no pun intended) more like what I have:

"Recruitment is a condition … experienced by people who have hyper-sensitive ears and are unable to tolerate ordinary levels of noise.

"Recruitment patients often find normal loudness of sounds extremely painful and too loud for their tolerance. Often with an older person, having difficulty in hearing they would say 'Speak up a bit... I can't hear you' and then after you speak up they say, 'Don't shout! I'm not deaf'.

[…]

"A person with recruitment may not be able to hear high frequency sounds, below 50dB (decibels), but may find any sounds above 80dB uncomfortable and liable to produce distortion.

"Recruitment is usually due to a reduction in neural elements in the inner ear (the hair cells), a small change in the stimulus intensity produces a bigger change in response of the inner ear. More of the nerve fibres are switched or 'recruited' for a corresponding sound stimulus."


Yep, that sounds like my hearing. Only my right ear doesn’t hear medium- to high-frequency sounds at all; instead, it just feels a sharp pain, kind of like a dentist’s drill going into a tooth (which is why it can't tolerate a hearing aid). And my “good” ear doesn’t hear sounds above a frequency of 1500 Hz very well. The loudness or softness of the sound doesn’t really make a difference; it’s pretty much all about frequency with me.

I just did a search of sample sounds at sample frequencies. The highest frequency heard by average women is 18,500 Hz. The highest note on a piano is 4096 Hz. Since my “ceiling” is at 1500 Hz, this explains why the top few notes of the piano sound like fingernails tapping on wood to me.

Now don’t go thinking “Oh, poor, deaf Waterfall.” I thought that for many years, and it didn’t do me any good. George told me I was silly for being depressed over such a thing, since most “hearing” folks can’t tickle him and make him sing the way I can.

Dear old George. He sure knows how to make a girl smile.

My, but I've strayed from my main topic. So, without further ado, here's the conclusion of The Crunch Saga:

I get a new hearing aid in three weeks! Yippee!

Life is good.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Greener Grass

I love my tech writing job. It's the best of many worlds for me: low stress, good salary and benefits, the ability to use and expand my knowledge and gain new skills, and the ever-important opportunity to improve and perfect my writing. Plus, I really like the people I work with.

Still, I guess it's just the human condition that the grass always seems greener elsewhere.

Today I stumbled upon the word milquetoast, which I think is probably the second-funniest word in the English language (the funniest, of course, is "poo"). Of course, I can't read an interesting word without settling down for a cozy visit with it, so off I went to bartleby.com, etymonline.com, and the rest.

In the process of learning that milquetoast came from "The Timid Soul," a cartoon strip by H.T. Webster that featured the character Caspar Milquetoast, I learned that milquetoast is an eponym.

Of course, eponym is a wonderful word, even though, along with synonym and acronym, it has a bad case of "ending-in-n" envy (-nym words just seethe with envy for autumn and solemn, you know). Just for fun (and to make sure I was up on the meaning of eponym), I did a search on eponym and came up with a Dr. Wheeler's Web site. Here's the definition he had:

A word that is derived from the proper name of a person or place. For instance, the sandwich gained its name from its inventor, the fourth Earl of Sandwich. The word lynch comes from Captain William Lynch, who led bands of vigilantes to hang hoboes and bums residing near Pittsylvania County. The verb shanghai, meaning to kidnap or press into forced labor, comes from the practices of conscription common in the oriental city of Shanghai. The word stentorian comes from the loud-mouthed Stentor in Greek legend, and herculean comes from the muscle-bound Hercules, and so on.

But it was a while before I found the eponym definition ... I was too busy salivating over elegy, Elizabethan, ellipsis, enjambement, epic simile, epistrophe, and epithalamion.

Yes, salivating. Such a wash of literary terms are a veritable symphony of Pavlovian bell-dings for this cubicle-ensconced technical writer.

Then I read Dr. Wheeler's class study questions, his Curriculum Vitae, and more of his literary vocabulary terms (which are now listed in "My Favorites"), and found that my heart rate has picked up, just a bit. Not because of the esteemed Dr. Wheeler, but because ... oh, how I love literary study! How I love words! How I wish teaching had not been such a masochistic enterprise! (Speaking of eponyms ...)

I'm just really glad the grass here in my tech writing office is pretty green. I'm too tired--and too happy here--to want to change careers again anytime soon.

But ... I did print out an employment application for the local community college. Who knows, maybe they'll need a part-time freshman comp teacher this summer ...

Monday, March 10, 2008

This Morning

This morning I woke up with the phrase "the notion of some infinitely gentle, infinitely suffering thing" on my lips. And "where do I know that line?" It's Eliot. One thing I do miss about teaching: sharing stuff this good with people who may never otherwise read it.

Preludes
(T.S. Eliot, 1917)


I

The winter evening settles down
With smell of steaks in passageways.
Six o'clock.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimneypots,
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
And then the lighting of the lamps.


II

The morning comes to consciousness
Of faint stale smells of beer
From the sawdust-trampled street
With all its muddy feet that press
To early coffee-stands.

With the other masquerades
That times resumes,
One thinks of all the hands
That are raising dingy shades
In a thousand furnished rooms.


III

You tossed a blanket from the bed
You lay upon your back, and waited;
You dozed, and watched the night revealing
The thousand sordid images
Of which your soul was constituted;
They flickered against the ceiling.
And when all the world came back
And the light crept up between the shutters
And you heard the sparrows in the gutters,
You had such a vision of the street
As the street hardly understands;
Sitting along the bed's edge, where
You curled the papers from your hair,
Or clasped the yellow soles of feet
In the palms of both soiled hands.


IV

His soul stretched tight across the skies
That fade behind a city block,
Or trampled by insistent feet
At four and five and six o'clock;
And short square fingers stuffing pipes,
And evening newspapers, and eyes
Assured of certain certainties,
The conscience of a blackened street
Impatient to assume the world.

I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing.

Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh;
The worlds revolve like ancient women
Gathering fuel in vacant lots.

Friday, March 7, 2008

In Ohio for a Funeral

I'm in Ohio for a couple of days because the Hubster's best friend's mom passed away and we are here for the funeral. Hubster and his buddies are all in another hotel room, drinking beer and trading memories. I was tired (and about to choke to death from all the cigarette smoke), so I headed back to our room.

So here I am, tired and ready for sleep. It's been a long day--a long drive in the snow, and then funeral visitations are emotionally stressful, whether you know anyone there or not. (Both situations are stressful, of course, in different ways.) I don't know why I'm blogging right now. I wasn't going to blog anymore. Normally I would be writing in my journal, but I left my notebook is in the car, and it's too cold outside (and I'm too tired) to go get it.

Speaking of, here's a truly funny post about blogging. (HT: Jungle Pop)

Things I've been doing lately (other than working my patootie off) ...

- Trying to get the house ready for sale
- Reading like a ... like a bookworm (current book: What's So Great About America, by my second-favorite pundit, Dinesh D'souza)
- Feeling kind of tired and sad
- Watching, with morbid curiosity, the presidental primary hullaballoo

I've been running, though not as much as I'd planned. Piano is ... I don't want to talk about piano. I love it so much, and my practices are so short, that it's literally painful to drag myself away from it and go back to work.

My life is so cushy and easy if the hardest part of my day is dragging myself from the piano. I really shouldn't complain.

Good news about taxes, and a tip for all you taxpayers: If you have an additional $200 withheld from every paycheck during the year, you might actually get a refund. I did just this, and will be getting my first refund, ever, from the U.S. Government.

I feel so clever. I think I will buy some COOKIES when Hub and I get our refund check.

Have you seen this funny blog yet? It cracks me up.

Along with many others, I've been experiencing William F. Buckley nostalgia lately. Why? It's not like I knew the guy, or even that I was all that familiar with his work. I just know that he loved language and classical music and was an awesome writer, and that he founded the magazine for which my favorite pundit is managing editor. And I bought his book Miles Gone By several years ago and just think he's the cat's pajamas.

Tonight I'm drinking Beaulieu Vineyard Coastal Estates Pinot Noir 2006 Vin de Pays D'Oc (whatever that means). It's OK. Not bad for a $9.99 wine from the town liquor store, but not the best $9.99 wine I've ever had, either.

Well, I'd better get to bed. Dinesh is calling me, and I'm hoping to hit the hotel treadmill early tomorrow morning.

Sunday, March 2, 2008