Wednesday, January 29, 2003

This and That

I have my "Why I prefer het to slash" manifesto written up but LJ and I are not on clicking terms as of late and I despair of it ever letting me update. But perhaps it's LJ's friendly way of preventing flame wars? "Only 404 errors can stop flame wars." Yup, that must be it.

In other news, the GAO finally found my cheque. Grrr. So everything is good now. Except I'm very tempted to write a letter and negotiate my application fee back based on the transcript below. I really should have gotten that woman's name - maybe I'll call again. But with my luck, Pollyanna will be on the phone and everything will be just fine, mah dear. Things always work out that way.

My negotiation today was less than stellar. I got taken. At least I tried to be a good sport about it. My opponent gloated and I made jokes. My friends were supportive. After all, this is why I'm in the class, yes? To learn? And I learned a lot today. Somehow, I never have learned the value of saying 'no.' I've not learned to be firm and stay firm. I blame it on flakiness, but I hate confrontation and when push comes to shove, I'd rather have the other person be happy. My saving grace is that at least I didn't pay over the reservation point like someone in another section did. I guess I have a lot of work ahead of me. But I have a feeling this is a class that will have much practical application in the future.

The Career Services Office called me. Apparently the dean has given them 3 months to turn it around so now the career people want to interview every MBA to find out what we're thinking. I'm graduating in May. Does it sound a bit bitter if I say that they should have talked to us a year ago? I did start getting to know S, but she left in December for another job in DC. So all of that work went to waste. We'll see how Monday's meeting go.

I'm just really tired right now. I had a great workout at the gym today. The negotiation made me mad. Not mad at my opponent - she did good - but me, for having had her where I wanted her to be and then giving in. So I had a lot of energy and it all get spent at the gym. I love that feeling, when all my muscles are just so tired but so very relaxed. It makes falling into bed that much easier.

I got an email from L. today. She has booked her ticket. She will be here in February. I can't believe it. I haven't seen her since 1998. She's only coming for 2 days. It's a long way to fly - all from Vermont here - just for 2 days, but that's what she has time for. Doesn't matter. I'm just thrilled she's coming. It's really brightened the last few days as it's been rather depressing in these here parts. Her phone call on Saturday saying she was coming was the best thing ever.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

You have a very bad Graduate Admissions Office, part deux

Next phone call:

Me: Hi, I'm calling on the status of my application. You say you haven't received my application fee yet and I mailed it over a week ago.

GAO: Hmmm... what's your social security number:

Me: 123-45-6789

GAO: Nope, we haven't gotten it yet.

Me: I mailed it over a week ago. When should I panic?

GAO: Don't panic yet. And if you need help, you should call the GAO.

Me: Aren't you the GAO?

Not!GAO: No, we're Fees.

Me: GAO told me to call you.

Not!GAO: They shouldn't have. They shouldn't be giving you this phone number.

Me: I'm sorry for bothering you. I thought this was the number to call.

Not!GAO: No, not your fault.

Me: Okay, thanks so much.

You have a very bad Graduate Admissions Office

So I received an email today from the program I'm applying to that says my application is incomplete. Which of course, makes me worried because for once, I had my act together and sent everything in ahead of time. In fact, it's been over a week since I sent the essays, application fee, resumes etc. So I do what any good girl would do. I call. This, I swear, is the verbatim transcript:

Me: I'm calling about an email I received saying that you hadn't received my application fee.

GAO: I don't know what email you're talking about.

Me: I'm talking about the email that was sent to me saying that you didn't have my application fee. I mailed it a week ago.

GAO: Who are you calling?

Me: The Graduate Admissions Office. I sent you an application fee last week and I want to know if you received it or not.

GAO: I don't know, ma'am.

Me: Can you please check?

GAO: I can only look at it online.

Me: Do you mind checking for me? I mailed it over a week ago and so you should have it by now.

GAO: We receive thousands of applications. I have no idea whether we received yours or not.

Me: Is there someone I can talk to? Someone who might know how to check whether you received it?

GAO: I'm telling you I don't have it.

Me: But is there someone else there I can talk to?

GAO: Okay. I'm transferring you now.

Me: Thank you.

GAO: The phone number I'm transferring you to is 555-1048.

Me: Thank you.

::click:: ::dialtone::

Excuse me while I go find a brick wall to bash my head against.

Saturday, January 25, 2003

The Bugs

I've got a remake of Hitchcock's famous movie, "The Birds", right here in my apartment. Apparently, my building is the latest to be infested with this black insect - it's about the size of a wasp, black, I think has three thoraic segments, and is generally big and annoying enough to require a flight plan every time it emerges from God only knows where. So anyway, I had the exterminators come last week to rid me of these bugs. I'm convinced they are blind because every now and then, they dive bomb me. I hear them coming - zzzzzzz! - and then pow!, right into my cheek.

I stalk the bugs when I see them with a copy of the Wall Street Journal. Now, these are hardy little buggers and usually take about 80 million whacks before they surrender to oblivion. They could be missing limbs and wings and other buggy parts and yet, they can still fly! They can still zzzzzzzzzz! My apartment manager said that the bugs have short lives and they are attracted to the light. I didn't ask, but I was thinking that maybe from now on I should sit in the dark?

Anyway, things came to a head last night. Whatever the exterminator did last week didn't work. I still have the bugs. We're not talking mass infestation, just one or two of them flying around, but it's enough to drive an already batty girl absolutely buggy. So anyway, I killed one last night during the eggplant cooking (see below entry) and then felt good. And then I saw another one on the blinds. So my thought was that the blind was a good thing and I'd leave it alone to commit suicide against the window like they usually do (I have a buggy morgue by the sliding glass door that I have to clean up every other week or so).

But was my good-hearted generosity rewarded? No. The bug refused -absolutely refused! - to die peacefully by the sliding glass door. Instead, in the middle of the night, while I was reading (Virgin Atlantic Airways case study), it dive bombed my cheek. So then of course I had to get up and look for the bug. Could not find the bug. So I figured it had flown off and perhaps had discovered something else to go crash against. At any rate, one truth I held dear: the bug would be dead by morning.

And that's when I moved slightly. And heard that zzzzz sound. The bug was near my ear. Actually entangled in my hair. For those of you haven't seen me recently (or not at all, for that matter), I have a lot of hair. Lots and lots of thick black hair. I could only hear the zzzzzs. I had no idea where the bug was. So I started jumping up and down and shaking my head. Still no bug. In a panic, I ran into the bathroom to comb my hair out. Still no bug (but no tangles either!). Then I shook out my pajama top and then the tanktop I was wearing below it. And then shoook my legs. Still no bug.

I went back into the bedroom and ah ha! Bug located. Crawling, I might add, happily on the carpet. I went after my Wall Street Journal and smacked it good. Once, twice, three, four times... and the thing would not die. Finally, I got a paper towel and crunched it (I *hate*) doing that and tossed it into the wastebasket. Finally I could sleep. But then I got all angsty. What if I was going to get attacked by insects? What if this was only the beginning and I was doomed to have black bugs crawling all over my walls? Now I see black spots all over the place, even though I've only killed one of the bugs today. I keep thinking that there are more and they're all just waiting to attack en masse.

If you don't hear from me, you know why.

Friday, January 24, 2003

In the Kitchen With Seema

Tonight's excitement was my oven mitts catching on fire. Bjorn tells me that this has never happened to him, but I insist, it must have happened to someone somewhere, yes? So I'm standing there, baking dish in hand and I'm smelling smoke. I look down and I swear, it doesn't register that my mitts are on fire. At some point I think, "Wow, I really ought to do something about that." So I put the dish back in the oven - my mitts are still on fire (little fire, btw) - and then start banging my hands against the stove top. You know, taking the mitts off would have been smart, but nooo, I didn't do that. Finally, I take the mitts off when the little flames are out. So now I have some black spots on the thumb part of my mitts - so proof, that yes, I do cook, but apparently, not with much skill.

Has this ever happened to anyone before? Please...

At any rate, I made eggplant parmesan, recipe given below, with my changes (for Rocky's amusement) in italics.

  • 2 medium eggplants (about 7 inches long). I only had one and I think it was 9 or 10 inches long. I can't find my ruler, so I don't know for sure
  • 3/4 cup milk (more, as needed) I used soy milk and I didn't measure it - I went with the "more, as needed" measurement
  • 2 cups fine bread crumbs or wheat germ (or a combination) I made my own breadcrumbs. Yes, yes, I did. I took two pieces of bread, crumbled them up, soaked them in olive oil, put them in the oven to toast, and they were just fine, thankyouverymuch.
  • 1 tsp. basil
  • 1/2 tsp. each: oregano and thyme
  • 1 batch Italian Tomato Sauce The recipe suggested making your own tomato sauce, but a girl has her limits. I used Classico brand, Spicy Tomato and Basil. Maybe next time I will make my own sauce.
  • 1 lb mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced or grated
  • parmesan cheese ~ about 1/2 cup (amount = flexible)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F (I did mine just to 300 - everything burns if I turn it much higher than that). Lightly oil a baking tray (oops) and a 9 x 13 inch pan. (I had a smaller pan than this - I was just making a single portion, or in this case, a double portion)
  2. Cut the eggplants incircles, 1/2 inch thick. (I might have been off here - remember, ruler was missing) Place the milk in a shallow bowl; combin bread crumbs (wheat germ) with herbs on a plate. Dip each eggplant slice in the milk, moistening both sides, then coat is throughly with the crumb mixture. (Okay, this sooo didn't happen. Is there a trick to getting the breadcrumbs to actually stick?) Spread the prepared slices on the baking tray and the pan and bake until tender (about 20 to 30 minutes). Remove from oven and pile them gently into the baking tray.
  3. Without cleaning the 9 x 13 inch pan, ladle some tomato sauce into the bottom. Add a layer of eggplant sliced, and cover with more sauce. Arrange some mozzarella over the sauce, then repeat the layering until you run out ofsomething or you run out of room, whichever comes first. Generously sprinkle the top with parmesan.
  4. Bake uncovered at 375 F for about 40 minutes or until heated through and bubbly around the edges. Remove from the oven (this is when my oven mitts caught on fire). Remove from oven and let sit about 10 minutes before service. Serve hot (Recommended!) or warm.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

It is bitterly cold here. Not quite as miserable as Jemima's day but it's still cold. North Carolina at least gets snow but we get nothing but windchill of 20 degrees. Brrr. I was lucky - I didn't arrive on campus until 9 am this morning and apparently it was in the teens this morning when some people arrived around 7:30 or 8. I did schlep around campus for about an hour to get some errands done - buy another textbook ($68!), turn some paperwork into the career center and take care of mail at the post office. I was one cold tootsie when all was said and done.
The Worst Act Ever?

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

From the mouths o' babes

I was talking to the four-year old on the phone the other night and she said she was having dinner. So I asked what was for dinner and could I join her? Her response was, "Come fast and don't get lost in another state."

I'm still ROTFL.

Some linkage:

Afterlife Telegrams falls under the "Say what?" category. I'm still mulling over their fee for 'delivery attempts.'

In case you didn't know, You have a very bad hotel.

Saturday, January 18, 2003

Mucho gracias to Jerie for not only taping tonight's National championships for me, but also for giving me a running commentary while the event was going on. I tried to predict what was happening based on her comments (I'm a sofa judge), but I missed the mark on Sasha Cohen and Ann-Patrice McDonough - based on past experience, I can see how Sasha was more exciting than Ann-Patrice, but I'll have to actually view the tape myself to understand what the judges were thinking. But Jerie's play-by-play was fun and it was cool getting the news 'live' as it was happening. Ain't the Internet grand?
Have I mentioned how annoying small town cable is? No National ice-skating championships for me. No, not at all, despite having two - two! - ABC stations. One is showing some telethon benefitting the western part of our state (who the heck watches those anyway?) and the other has gone over to the TV guide station. Jerie has come through for me and is taping it for me, but what the heck? I don't have UPN, either, for those of you curious, so my brother has to tape that for me. I get the WB, but only after the FOX programming for the night is done and only then if the network feels like switching over. How crazy is this? I'm currently on hold with the cable company to complain; they keep thanking me for my patience, but patience nothing. They can put the national broadcast on and get rid of the platinum blond country singer, thankyouverymuch.

Frustrated much? Why do you ask?

Friday, January 17, 2003

Worst rejection letter ever

Thank you for forwarding to me your resume through for the Editor/Web Producer position in Needham MA I have open.
Unfortunately, I am going to pass on interviewing you for the position. With over 200 resumes to sort through, I have had to make quick decisions on finding the top five or so people to interview. My criteria are very tough, and you didn't make the cut. Thank you for your understanding. Best of luck with your job search.

D****** P******

My understanding, my foot (mind you, I get about 10 to 15 of these a day, this has got to be one of the rudest ones ever. Wish I could remember which company this was so I could put a link to it and point and laugh or something). ::sniffle::

Thursday, January 16, 2003

My 'rerun' team (minus one) got blindsided today in class. We're missing A - she isn't taking a marketing class this semester, but the rest of us from last semester's marketing team are in the class together so we agreed to work as a team again this semester - we did quite well last semester as a group. We needed a fourth person for our team, but we really hadn't talked about it much - it was one of those 'non priority items, we'll discuss as the project proposal deadline gets closer' type thing. So I wasn't even really thinking about it when J asked me this morning if I had my team set and I said, I thought so but I needed to talk to the others before I could tell her whether we were set or not. I said very clearly, "I'll get back to you."

I have issues with J. I've never worked with her before but I've heard rumors and stories and she isn't known as a team-player in the program. In fact, I believe her first semester team last year disintegrated because of conflict between her and another team member. So I was trying to get to the other two to talk to them, but got pulled into a conversation with another classmate and so before I knew it, J was asking another one of my teammates re our team status. He said the same thing I had said. Then, as class was ending, she asked the third person on our team. At that point, there wasn't anything that could be said really since none of us had a chance to talk to the other about incorporating J on our team, but we also didn't have a good enough reason to say no to her (other than the obvious "Eh, we're not so sure you play nice."). So at the end of class, we suddenly were a team of four - and one of my teammates has worked with J before and he isn't optimistic. At least the three of us have worked together before and gotten along, so perhaps it will be a different dyanmic and not as scary as I think it might be.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Having an absolutely fantabulous birthday. Literally. Jerie made me a new LJ icon, which I will debut tonight and Rocky wrote a birthday fic (which has the added bonus of starring Tom! Tom!). Thank you everyone for the birthday cards! I'm feeling very warm and fuzzy and generally enjoying the day.

Saturday, January 11, 2003

Cooking with Seema

I made this soup - recipe from "The New Moosewood Cookbook" by Mollie Katzen - for dinner yesterday. Very yummy. I'm typing out the original recipe here and my substitutions are in italics.

Hungarian Mushroom Soup

2 tbs. butter
2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 to 2 lbs mushrooms sliced (mine ended up chopped, ah well)
1 tsp salt (this ended up being 2 or 3 tsps of salt)
2 to 3 tsp. dried dill (or 2 to 3 tbs freshly minced) (I didn't have dill, so I used something called Nature's Seasonings, which is a variety of crushed dried herbs mixed together. It tasted fine)
1 tbs. mild paprika (I didn't have paprika, so I used chili powder instead)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice (no fresh lemon juice, so I used the regular lemon juice from the bottle)
3 tbs flour
2 cups water
1 cup milk (can be lowfat) ~ at room temperature (I used 1/4th cup Half & Half, 3/4th cup low fat milk)
black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup sour cream (can be reduced-fat variety) (I didn't have sour cream so I used low fat yogurt instead)
finely minced fresh parsley, for the top (I skipped this step, I'm not a huge fan of parsley)

1. Melt the butter in a kettle or a Dutch oven. Add onions, and saute over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, salt, dill and paprika. Stir well and cover. Let cook for about 15 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in lemon juice.

2. Gradually sprinkle in the flour, stirring constantly. Cook and stir another 5 minutes or so over medium-low heat. Add water, cover and cook about 10 minutes, stirring often.

3. Stir in milk; add black pepper to taste. Check to see if it needs more salt. Whisk in the sour cream, and heat very gently. Don't boil or cook it after this point. Serve hot, topped with freshly minced parsley.

Friday, January 10, 2003

Confessions of a former hand coder

Back in the day, before web editors, NotePad and WordPad were my best friends. I spent hours, literally, inserting every line break and paragraph break and religiously conformed to the standards set out in my HTML book - HTML 3.2. Somewhere along the line, I think I graduated to version 4, but I've always been more comfortable with 3.2, simply because tags get deprecated and added so quickly and the browser wars continue to this day (but not so bad as it was in Days of Yore). Hand coding was something really cool. It meant I could do something most people back in '97 couldn't do.

I'm not saying it was pretty, because those who have hand coded tables know that there is nothing easy about doing that. I think I had nightmares at the time of tds and trs, with the occasional th to stir things up. And at the time, I was constantly checking out the W3C, the standards organization before I realized that Microsoft and Netscape were simply paying Tim Berners-Lee and friends lip service and I'd still have to serve up two different pages for every one page in order to get my site to render properly. I still have horrors of writing the javascript necessary for browser detection - these days, I can do it easily, but in those days, I was still a wee one online and all of those semi-colons and brackets made my eyes bleed and I cursed Bill Gates (though, I did applaud Microsoft for deprecating the blink tag - thank you. Now if we could just get frames to go away...). I do still look at the W3C on occasion, but I no longer have to be anal-retentive about it, simply because I've sold my hand-coding soul over to Macromedia.

Life with Dreamweaver is, for the lack of a better word, a dream. My pages work (mostly) all of the time. I can set it up to use my favorite HTML version, 3.2 (because, at this point, most of 3.2 is accepted by the most recent browsers) and if I decide to go with funky javascript (which I don't, as now the only code I have is to avoid being "framed" and another little snippet that prevents my windows from being resized when the visitor is using Netscape and not IE), Dreamweaver lets me know which browsers my script is compatible with. So I no longer need to have 80 million different browsers on my computer - I simply use Netscape, occasionally view my site in IE, but usually Dreamweaver catches me if I do something that will render, say, maroon in a lovely puce color (it has happened). I used CSS at work (this site doesn't use CSS, due to browser incompatibility issues, sorry, Jemima) as we all used the same version of IE and I used to write those out as well and alignment used to make my head hurt. Dreamweaver does those for me too. And I use layers now. I could never code layers by hand (not that I tried, but it scares me to even try).

Every now and then, I still hand code. I'm not a hand coder, like say Jemima is, but if I need to, I can get in there and fix it. Dreamweaver is lovely, but every now and then it refuses to do what I command it to do and in that case, the only thing a girl can do is get into the Code Inspector and rewrite the HTML herself. The school computers in the masters' lab lack HTML editors - not even FrontPage Express (bah! Evil!) or Netscape Composer (only slightly less evil than FrontPage) - and so that's where I do most of my hand coding, if at all. These days we have to close tags that we once would have left open because the browsers would have rendered them okay anyway, so inserting paragraphs now takes forever and a day on a 50 or 60 page story. Back in the day when I used to host other people's work on my site, I used to spend a good chunk of every Saturday not only reading the submissions but also hand coding them until I thought my fingers would fall off.

So while I respect the hand coding warriors and was proud to be a member of them at one time (to the point that I actually had a "proud hand coder" button on my site), I can't deny the quickness Dreamweaver provides me in updating, how it auto-updates all of my links for me, dynamically changes consistent parts of my site when I change just one little thing - it's beautiful. The site is over 400 pages now, so it's impossible to keep track of what is where. For that reason, I have to confess, I've gone over to the dark side and given up the proud, true ways of hand coding.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

I spent today working on my application for Masters Number Two (someone, stop me). Luckily, I got out of having to order and pay for official transcripts from my current U, thanks to the fact that when you apply from there, the school just pulls your record on its own. However, wasn't so lucky with the GMAT score and now, I'm truly convinced that ETS is the outfit from hell. Not only do they lack customer service - ie, giving me wrong information and then refusing to correct it and refund my money - but they have the website and phone system from hell. But at any rate, that part of my application is finished.

I also spent the day calling hotels and caterers for a Very Big Event this spring. This type of stuff brought back memories of The Job and I had a scary fugue moment where I was remembering details of doing everything from booking hotels to wrapping gifts for the speakers. I only spent the money though, someone else actually handled paying the bills. Except for that one speaker with the weird travel itinerary. That was one conversation everyone in my department heard because it was possibly the most furious I'd ever been at work. It went something like this.

I had hired a speaker to come to an event in the summer of 2001. In his contract, I said I would pay him his fee ($8,000) for 3 hours of speaking and his transportation, room and board expenses. This guy was quite a piece of work. I had a room booked for him at the hotel (which, btw, is a national historical landmark and costs $300/night - we had a negotiated rate that was a bit less than that) but he went and made his own arrangements (grrr...) at the full rate, not the negotiated rate. But the kicker was his plane ticket. He was flying here from Ohio. The ticket invoice he sent me was for $1,600.

Eh? $1,600?

He flew first class. Okay. I didn't approve first class, but okay - he was a big guy. But what got me was how he calculated the ticket. He flew here from Ohio, then from here to Minnesota and then on to about 9 other cities in the continental United States. So the way I saw it, I was on the hook for a one-way ticket from Ohio to here (as he had a speaking engagement in Minnesota and theoretically, the other company ought to be paying for that ticket) and that one way ticket was only $750.

So I called his people and asked what the hey was going on. They told me that they were charging me the estimated refundable, changeable, first class fare from Ohio to here. Mind you, not the ticket that they bought, but one that they could have bought but didn't. What they bought was $750. Big difference. I asked him how he wanted me to explain this to Accounting? I had nightmares of the conversation.

"Um, yes, this is a receipt for a ticket that was never purchased, but if I called Delta and asked for a one way, refundable, changeable, first class fare from Ohio to here, then it would cost $1,600, so you should reimburse this guy that much money even though he didn't spend that much money and the ticket receipt clearly reads $750."

Not to mention, if he was charging all ten companies he had bundled together $1,600, he was clearly making a killing on travel. I also pointed out that it was unfair of him to put my company into a "tour" package without telling me first. Had I known, I would have had Corporate travel make the arrangements the same way I did for one of the speakers I flew in from California. I also pointed out that we had to pay for two hotel rooms for him - one that had been booked by us at the negotiated rate and then the one that had been booked by him at the full price.

I think he got the message; not only did he not go over well as a speaker, we were clearly unhappy with the way he charged us. So I ended up reimbursing him for the one-way ticket from Ohio and for his airport shuttle, and of course, the meals he ate which weren't already provided by us at the hotel.

I just realized how nightmarish that month must have been - I did not blog for an entire month. An entire month of nothing because I was chasing receipts, wrapping gifts, and angsting over how my agendas were printed on a slightly different color paper than the rest of my materials. Nah, I don't miss the job. Only the money. The money I miss, the job I don't.
Bloggy Dodgy Blog

I'm so rusty with this blogging thing given my two week hiatus, I haven't got much to say. I've been amusing myself by lurking at forums, and reveling in the prevalence of self-absorption in some. It occasionally takes much will power (and a resounding NO from Jerie) to pull me away from said forums so I don't post something inflammatory (or with the potential to erupt into a flame war). I also have this thing about posting to mailing lists - I'm always angsty about it afterwards and wondering if everyone else on the list thinks I'm a total moron for saying anything. Especially when the post is greeted with - nothing. And then it's like, "Uh oh, I said something stupid and no one wants to tell me so."

But there seem to be plenty of people out there who don't have a posting complex, who post lots of stuff and don't even think about how it comes off or whether it even makes sense to say what they're saying. Coherence and/or respect for differing POVs don't seem to prevail in certain forums these days. There really ought to be a site devoted to dodgy forums, baseless accusations and gratuitious fawning - a 'best of', per se. I'd start one myself, but my fic taxes are already piling up and I'm reluctant to add more. Still, it would be nice.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

And here's Seeeeeeeeeeeeeeema!

I'm back! Yes, after two weeks (7 airports, 6 flights, 3 cities), I'm back on terra firma. The inbox frightens me greatly, the beta reading queue (six fics) terrifies me, and I just realized that school starts on Monday and I have no idea what my schedule looks like. At any rate, my friends on the East Coast blame me for the snow storms of the last two weeks - I take full responsibility for that. Now that I'm home, it's highly doubtful I will see snow here. At any rate, I'm back, in one piece, but not necessarily sane. And tired, dreadfully tired. Did I mention that I slept in 7 different beds over the two weeks? Twice in my clothes?