Saturday, February 20, 2010

"Snow" Day

It had an inauspicious beginning, as days went. Alarm went off, I did my traditional 37 snoozes (greatest invention of the 20th century? Snooze alarm - for those of us who like to feel like we're stealing time), and jumped up to get in the shower.

I was rinsing the last of the conditioner out of my hair when I heard a pop, and the bathroom went dark and the bathroom fan went silent. The splash of water against the tile was magnified, and I quickly finished rinsing and stepped out to wrap up in a towel.

The kids had already eaten and were off to school. I made what I thought was a logical move, and flipped open the laptop; it hit me as the screen came on, dim from being on battery. No electricity, no internet. I grabbed my phone, to call the power company. And my cell phone didn't have signal. Hmmmm . . . Home phone. Then I remembered the home phone is through the cable - no cable, no internet, no phone. I had a moment of genius - I had an AT&T mobile card - I could get internet through the phone! But AT&T was apparently trying to demonstrate support for T-Mobile and wasn't giving me signal either.

I made the decision I was going to brave the humiliation of going to work with my hair wet, tucked behind my ears, so I jumped in the car. Fifteen minutes later (less than 1/2 a mile from my house) there was enough cell signal to receive text messages - one came from the office that said the power was out all over the building. At the rate traffic was going, I realized it would take me another 45 minutes to get to an office where I'd still be without technology.

I made a U-turn and went back home . . . found enough signal to text my assistant, my boss, and a couple others. I learned a small plane had crashed near our home, and taken out the entire city power grid. They were uncertain of when power would be returned, and our office was sending all home except people with time-sensitive roles, who were being herded to our offices in the South Bay.

I had that moment of frustration when you realize how much of your life these days is wrapped up in technology. I couldn't do my job, couldn't contact my office. I couldn't contact family or friends. I had that moment where I felt helpless - and then I stopped. Would it matter if I didn't work today?

I took a nap. A long nap. I did a sudoku puzzle. I sorted my bills (couldn't pay them on line, but I could sort them). I cleaned off the orphan counter top where all the junk mail goes. Ate a peanut butter sandwich. And when my kids got home from school, we walked to the park with a dog and a Frisbee in the 70 degree spring afternoon. It was the best "snow" day I'd had in a long time.

The power rejoined us at 6:30, just after the sun had set. We were sitting in the family room, the candles burning, my youngest sitting cross-legged practicing his "meditation". I knew I'd have a lot of catching up to do, so I plugged in the lap top and started catching up on the day's emails. But not before I loaded up the evidence of a day away, well-spent.

Respectfully submitted,

The Wife

Friday, February 19, 2010

Not The Answer

After the plane crash that took out power in the entire little city we call home in the Bay Area, I was surprised to hear of the plane crash in Austin the next day. Even more surprised to learn of the story behind it.

Let me start by saying, Mr. Dead Pilot (hereafter referred to as D.P.), this was not the answer.

I will preface the rest of my rant by saying that I firmly believe suicide is never the answer. Unless you're a mass murderer and you're just saving us the holding costs and trouble of an execution. You only have to deal with suicide once (and I have) to know that its the worst form of escape from a person's troubles - its permanent, and it only makes more grief and troubles for those you leave behind.

I read his "manifesto" and spent most of it shaking my head. He wraps it in a lot of words, but in the end, I've concluded he's a moron. A cowardly, maladjusted moron. Why?
  • He killed and injured others. Others who had neither wronged him, nor wronged the world. Shame on you, D.P.
  • He risked the life of his family after burning his house.
  • He caused costly property damage that other people, including the insurance companies and the government, with our tax dollars, will pay for; the emotional and psychological damage he caused his family, his friends, and innocent people affected by the events is immeasurable.
  • He took no responsibility for his own part in his misfortunes, and took no responsibility for fixing the system he felt was so unfair to the common man.
  • He leaves this world. Not better. Not more educated. Not more fair, or just, or right. Just down one body, and with a few more broken pieces. Way to go, D.P.

But MrsChako, he was wronged. The government took what was his. Gave him nothing in return. Made his life hard. Took away his security. Taxation without representation. Blah, blah, blah. I'd write something more pithy but I need both my hands to pull out my soapbox and make sure it rests on level ground before I step up on it. Let's evaluate how much of a victim you were, D.P.:

  • You had a $236,000 house in Austin. I've lived near there. $236,000 buys you a very well appointed home in many parts of Austin, where the average home price is around $180,000. In contrast, for example, my parents live on a 150 acre farm with a POS 78-year old house that is held together with the proverbial lick and a promise (and some fiberboard, here and there). Together, with all the property and outbuildings, it would be a miracle if they could get that much in a sale.
  • You had retirement savings that you lost. My sister is a single mom raising two kids on a $30,000+ salary in Illinois sleeping on a pull out couch so her kids can have bedrooms. I don't know if she has enough money in her checking account to pay all her bills each month, much less build her retirement savings.
  • You spent $5,000 of your "pocket change" trying to fight against the government. Bravo for you. You forget the average American probably doesn't have $5,000 laying around as optional money to spend fighting the corrupt government. The rest of us pay our taxes, wait for the next election, and hope our elected officials do something to fix the wrongs of their predecessors.
  • You had a piano. As a business asset. For most, this is a luxury. Don't forget that.
  • You owned a plane. Most Americans are happy to have a functioning car. You had a plane. Had being the operative word. Because you were an idiot and crashed it.
  • I'm sorry you were impacted by the recession, by the .COM bust, by 9-11, by base closures, by tough job markets. You must be right - clearly the government's fault. Funny how the rest of us who fought for jobs in the first recession you mention, toughed it out during the .COM bust, lost friends, family, freedoms and financial security as a result of 9-11 (or sent loved ones across an ocean to do something to regain those things), got relocated as a result of base closures, lost our jobs in this last recession, or are still looking for jobs because their wives had to relocate to replace her 15+ year career still seem to be managing without jumping in our private planes and taking out our frustrations on the side of a public building.
  • Taxes are hard. I know. I had tax courses in college. Only "B" I ever earned in my Masters program - ruined my perfect gradepoint. Those laws don't always make a lot of sense to the average person. But let me tell you something about taxes, in this country, or any country: There is no free lunch. So if you thought something seemed like a really good deduction, you should have thought twice. And $12,000 of unreported income is a little bigger than the normal "oh, I forgot to report that $1,000 I won at the local poker tournament" (which, for those of you reading, is ALWAYS taxable income). And if you build a business model aimed at allowing companies to avoid new tax laws that result in increased revenue for the government, don't be surprised when someone scrutinizes that a little harder than they do my W-2s and maybe concludes you're trying to avoid paying taxes. I'll tell you how to avoid paying taxes . . . make less money. Talk to my brother - he doesn't have a job. Doesn't make any money. Doesn't pay any taxes. It's simple. He doesn't have a house. Doesn't have cash. Doesn't have a plane. But he's definitely got no tax ambiguities.

Do I think the complexity of the tax structure and the resulting administration of it sometimes outweigh the benefits of the revenue to our system? Yes. Do I think that our government often uses our tax dollars inefficiently? Yes. Do I think that sometimes our corporate and government officials forget their fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders, citizens, and other constituents? Yes. Truthfully, it frightens me that you and I could ever share any similar concerns, given your recent display of stupidity and disrespect for your fellow man and life in general.

If you're reading this from hell or the afterlife or wherever stupid people go when they die foolish deaths at their own hands, ask yourself this - what have you changed?

  • The IRS does not care that you are dead. ". . . take my pound of flesh and sleep well . . ." I'm sure they'll get right on that. Right after they squeegee the last of you off the side of their building and go right back to collecting money from the rest of us. Maybe a little extra from the rest of us to pay for damages.
  • Your CPA doesn't care that you are dead. He doesn't have to risk his professional license anymore to try to find you loopholes, and your estate will pay him for his time and trouble thus far. Case closed. Circular file in about 7 years when the statute of limitations runs on your last return.
  • Your elected representatives do not care that you are dead. They are likely relieved that there is one less fly buzzing, one less voice to oppose their re-election next year.
  • The corporate fat cats don't care that you are dead. When they need another engineer, they'll go get one for a lot less money, who whines a lot less, and who appreciates having a job in this tough economy.
  • You didn't change the system, fix corruption, or make any one's life easier, better, or more complete. Ergo, this was not the answer.

Your only positive contribution D.P.? I won't have to read any more of your self-serving manifesto whine-fests.

My sympathies to your family and friends . . . the ones who are left to make sense of your senseless act.

Respectfully submitted,

The Wife

Show Me The Plan

So yesterday, I ended the day with a meeting with Brad. I'm not even going to use a fake name. Brad. Imagine me saying it while I wrinkle my nose and roll my eyes. Braaaddd.

Brad's working on something that's been outstanding since 2008. Now before I go bash him, in his defense, prior to being in his new group within my team, and prior to me being here, he has been supervised by our weakest manager/director. A guy who works hard, but is terrible at project management, communicating status, and prioritizing. A guy who is no longer a manager/director in our group. Even I have to admit that it might be hard to rise above your environment.

That aside, let me start bashing. Not only has he had responsibility for a project that's been outstanding since 2008, but he's managed to piss off the Europeans during the process. And they're complaining to me. So we call a meeting. To give Brad a chance to explain the situation.

"So Brad, help me understand what we need to get this done."

Seemed like a simple question. And he gave me a simple answer. "Well, I gotta do this thing."

"Great, Brad. So how long will it take to do this thing?"

"Well, about 3-4 days." Ok, I'm thinking . . . 3-4 dedicated days . . . we'll transfer his responsibilities to so-and-so for a week, let a few of his partners know . . .

"Really? 3-4 days, Brad? We can do that. So that's it - you do the thing and then we're done?"

"Well, we're done with that part. Then we gotta do the other thing. Then a different thing. Then we have to wait a long time, 'cause that country's finance team operates on 'island time'. Then we gotta give the thing to the other guys and then they prepare another thing and we gotta sign the thing . . . "

Fortunately he was on the other end of a phone instead of in the room with me where I would have disintegrated him with my eye lasers.

"Did we give them deadlines to get back to us Brad (hint, your answer should have been 'yes')? Did we follow up on the deliverables (come on, you know what the answer should be . . . )?"

"Well, I mean, we gave them stuff, but then the merger happened, and you know how that went . . . " Eye lasers activated and waiting, while he hemmed and hawed.

"Project management, Brad. We need to track this stuff, item by item, and put a timeline on it, and then hold everyone to it. Including yourself."


Today, I got an email from him. A random list of stuff. No dates, no assignment of responsibility, no nothing. Just like a big pile of past due poo. I walked over to his new direct supervisor.

"Did you see the e-mail?" I asked, tapping one high-heel leather boot that was itching to kick something(one).

Poor M smiled and held up a hand. "Let me deal with Brad."

I bit my tongue and strode back to my desk, maintaining a well-practiced executive calm.

But I've got two hands that feel the serious need to wrap themselves around a windpipe and squeeze. I'd stay out of range until Brad gets me a timeline.

Respectfully submitted,

The Wife

Writer's Stau

Writer's block is when the words won't come.

I've got writer's stau. Say it with me. "Schtow" - rhymes with "cow".

"Stau" is a German word meaning, effectively, traffic jam. It's a derivative of "staugefahr" which means "delays likely" or "risk of congestion". It's one of my favorite German words. Concise. To the point. Sounds like it is, if traffic jams had a sound.

Imagine vehicles traveling unlimited speeds on the autobahn, and having to come to a slow down because of road construction, accident, etc. We're talking 100 mph is normal cruising speed (trust me, I know . . . what other speed would you take the A3 to Frankfurt at?). Now imagine the after affects of that - a stau in Germany can be crippling and can last for kilometers.

I feel like that with writing. All the words are there, ready, they just have to get through the congestion. I have so many thoughts in my head right now that are total blog-fodder (as opposed to blog-father - Iggy). My "snow" day where the plane took down an entire city power grid for a full day. The moron who took out his aggression on the IRS by crashing his plane (cry me a river) into a building in Austin (yeah, that and the people you injured really showed those guys and are going to drive meaningful change). My dependence upon technology. My husband's search for a job. The excitement of the Olympics (and the hotness of Shaun White and his lovely ginger locks). Morons at work. Nice people at work. Shoes.

But it's like they're all racing down the highway at 100 mph and there is a tight curve up ahead with construction cones, a fender bender, and a dead deer or two. And until one of these "vehicles" makes it way around all the obstacles and out onto the open freeway, I'm looking at a blank screen or tidbits of half-finished blog posts scattered about "My Documents."

I want to be witty. Pithy. Sarcastic. Romantic.

But all I got is a thousand words struggling to get out. Total verbal stau.

Oh, and a bed, calling me, saying "put your head here, sweet thing . . . no staus in dreamland."

Respectfully submitted,

The Wife

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Logic in there Somewhere

By the time you read this, I'll be in the thick of some pretty heavy meetings with our CEO, CFO, and our audit committee. Wednesday, we'll release earnings and this is our big lead up to the final thumbs up from everyone designated to have a last say.

Last night, I was getting ready. Checking the calendar, sending a few emails out, organizing some things for the week, knowing my calendar would be too heavy this morning to really accomplish anything (like blogging, which was actually done in the wee hours of the morning and scheduled for release . . . . NOW).

I was going through my checklist: power suit - check; pantyhose with no runs - check; cute girly shoes to balance the power suit - check; manicure - holding steady; pedicure - impeccable.

"What else have I not thought of?" I asked myself, and one of my other inner voices piped up immediately. "Shave your legs." I ran to the bathroom and started a hot bath, while I gathered a razor and shaving gel.

In the middle of my preparations, I stopped myself. "Why am I shaving my legs?" It was another one of those inner voices. The lazy one. "My husband just flew home tonight and won't be back until Friday - what's the point?"

Then another voice piped up. "You have some very important meetings tomorrow with the CEO and CFO." The previous voices all went "Ah," and nodded their heads knowingly, and I went about my business.

I was two full legs into it, finished with the delicate bikini lines, and giving those pesky ankles another once-over (ankle bones were not designed with the flat planes of a triple blade disposable in mind) when the lazy voice started pondering.

What did the CEO/CFO meeting have to do with shaved legs? Was I going to lose my skirt and pantyhose in the middle of the meeting, exposing some stubble? And even if something that ridiculous did happen, is that the kind of thing that would make the CEO or CFO say "Gosh, you seem to know a lot about financial statements, but now that I see the extraneous leg hair . . . I'm not so sure . . . "

It made me think back to my mother who used to warn us that we always had to make sure we had on clean underwear with no holes in them, just in case we were in an accident. As if EMTs don't provide emergency medical assistance to people who aren't wearing clean underwear.

But just in case, I'm wearing clean underwear. With no holes in them.

Respectfully submitted,

The Wife

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Walk to Remember

While the rest of the world was planning candlelight dinners and roses and chocolates and sparkly things galore, we had a more mellow approach to Valentine's Day. Lest you think the Dr. is completely unromantic, I did get a dozen roses and a box of lovely Swiss chocolates. But our au pair had the weekend off, and my husband had the weekend "on" with us . . . so we celebrated by spending time as a family in the fantastic California sunshine.

We drove up into the foothills outside of Palo Alto on Sunday, and enjoyed the park and the trails so much, we did it again today, as we all had the day off. As I downloaded my pictures, and flexed my calves tonight, trying to release some of the day's tension, I reflected on the walk.

Here are some of the worthwhile lessons from my walk to remember:

When you see a bridge, cross it - you might love what's on the other side.

Sometimes the trail ahead looks tough . . . keep your best buddies beside you.
Even when the trail looks tough, sometimes the view from the top is amazing.
Never look back . . . unless it's with someone you care about, and it's just to reflect on how far you've come.

Don't forget that there are things out there bigger than yourself . . .
But beauty in even the smallest of things . . .
And entire worlds beneath our feet.
When you find another bridge, don't be afraid to cross this one too . . .
Particularly when you've got someone right by your side . . .
Or a couple of lovelies waiting for you on the other side.

Don't be afraid to pause and feel the sunshine warm on your face, and in your hair.
Remember you can never go wrong in accessorizing with a touch of red . . .

Or that a little yellow always says "spring".

Remember that some classic red beads are always in season . . .

And that something sparkly looks good with practically anything.

And you can call it a good day, regardless of what happens, as long as everyone is still smiling.

And that "tired" is just fine, as long as its a good tired.

The best part? We did it as a family.
Respectfully submitted,
The Wife

In the Blink of an Eye

I had just convinced my little guy to go brush his teeth. Just watched the coverage of the men's downhill, where I watched Bode Miller's first place run, whittled down to second, and then third, by just 2 hundredths, and 9 hundredths, of a second, respectively. Not that a bronze medal is anything to sniff at with the world's best amateur athletes. But .11 seconds separating 1st and 3rd. Only 2 seconds separating 2nd and 3rd. They say close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades - close in the Olympics takes on a whole new meaning.

I was drafting a quick email to a friend, and I said as much. I believe I even said "Yikes". Don't know that I could live with that kind of small margin of success or failure on a day to day basis.

About 15 minutes later, the NBC Olympic coverage had a segment on how close the men's downhill was: how only a few seconds separated you from the gold and the bronze, from medaling or not.

I laughed. That was so .11 seconds ago, NBC.

Respectfully submitted,

The Wife

Editor's note: Thanks, baby . . . forgot some decimals. All better!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fiction Alert

So lately I have been having these odd,compelling snippets of dreams that haunt me until I write them out into something. Below is a short one that I turned into a mini-story. Any resemblances to fact are, well, completely fictional. Oh, and its a little girly.

I checked one last time in the mirror before I went down to the café. I should have been tired, but the energy and the anticipation was canceling the exhaustion that comes with hours of travel and a sleepless night. I checked the messages on my phone one more time, though by this time I’d memorized them, having dissected them thoroughly with Graham on the flight over the night before.

I grabbed my bag with the few things I’d need for work – it would be a short day, and I would have the rest of the day to spend with Devin. And based on the texts, I’d need the whole rest of the day. That thought made my heart skip as I stepped off the elevator and headed for the café. As I approached, I saw Graham standing in the courtyard, talking with Devin, their heads together, Graham gesticulating forcefully. They both saw me approach out of the corner of their eye and turned; something in their face slowed my approach. Then I heard the voice behind me.


I could feel my forehead wrinkle for lack of understanding and I looked at Graham to get some perspective. Then I felt her rush past me, this little blur of blonde and cashmere and freesia and breath mints. “Devin,” she purred, as she threw herself at him, and he caught her, looking sheepishly over her head at me. I was processing, slowly, still confused, until she paused long enough in her embrace to lean back in Devin’s arms. “I took the train up here this morning . . . and don’t have to be back until tomorrow afternoon!” This time, when she hugged him, he looked down and away, refusing to catch my eye. I looked helplessly at the two of them, and then at Graham. His eyes were sympathetic: too sympathetic. I felt a wave of nausea, like I’d been punched hard in the stomach.

I could feel a thin film of tears form over my eyes, casting a translucent curtain over the whole bizarre scene, and I could hear Graham’s voice, slightly muted by the buzzing in my head. Her name didn’t register with me; I felt only Graham’s hand on my elbow, turning me and escorting me out of the hotel café. I followed without thinking, not sure if I’d taken a breath since I’d seen the guilt in Devin’s face. It wasn’t until I sat with the cup of coffee in front of me that I could even say anything to Graham, and then all I could manage was a curt “I don’t want to talk about it.”

* * * * *

I lay there sobbing, curled in a ball in Graham’s lap while he stroked my hair as we sat on the bed, two empty wine bottles on the nightstand. “I should have known, G, I really should have,” I blubbered, blowing my nose. “God, I feel so stupid.” I rested my head against his chest, realizing I could still smell his laundry soap through my stuffy nose. He continued to stroke my hair, talking against my head. I closed my eyes, listening to the vibrations in his chest.

“It’s not you Soph, really, it’s not you. It’s him. He’s just like that. I told him not to mess with you. I told him he should tell you.”

“What, you mean like this morning when she showed up?” I asked, blowing my nose, and laying against him.

“Then,” he said. “And before.”

“What do you mean ‘and before’? Don’t tell me you knew, G.” I sat up, looking at him like he’d just grown another head.

He met my eyes, then hung his head. “I suspected before, Soph. I didn’t really know. Until like a month ago. He was asking about that night we all went out – if I thought you had a thing for him. Admitted he had this on again, off again thing. But was looking to be ‘off’. I thought he was off. Until she showed up this morning.”

“God, G, I can’t believe you could know something like that and sit there listening to me go on and on about some stupid text messages and not stop me at some point and say ‘Hey, he might have a girl!’ God, how can you let me be so stupid? How is that being my friend?” I slurred the first couple words, but the rest flowed smoothly as my indignation rose. Graham reached out to gather me up in his arms again, and I tried to hit his chest.

He grabbed my wrists, holding my arms tight. “What am I supposed to say, Soph? Would you have believed me? Would it have mattered? I wasn’t the person who could tell you Soph.”

“What is that supposed to mean, G? You’re my best friend – if you can’t tell me, who can?” I groaned in frustration.

“I don’t know Soph. Maybe someone who was an impartial observer.” He fidgeted. “When I tried to tell Devin, he just accused me of having a vested interest.”

I laughed, snorting. “Vested interest? What does that mean, G? That sounds like some ridiculous way of saying it was like some competition or something. How ridiculous, G, you’re my friend.”

He dropped my wrists, and said “I know Soph. I’m your friend. Just your friend, Soph, I know.” He flopped backward on the bed, staring at the ceiling, and the silence brought me out of my wine-soaked haze.

“Graham, I . . .” I lay down beside him, my head by his shoulder, looking up at him. I rolled on my side a bit, reaching up to brush his hair away, finally making him look at me. So obvious to me now, it still surprised me when he leaned over and kissed me, tentative at first, then hard, crushing my lips into my teeth. When my phone buzzed with an incoming text, I was past hearing it, or caring.

* * * * *

I was giggling as I went to pull the door shut, and we ran down the hall to the elevator. It was late – maybe too late for Sunday brunch. Graham was still tucking his shirt in, and bent to tie his shoe, letting the other passengers off first. I stepped off the elevator, and right into Devin, who was pacing in the elevator lobby.

“Sophia, I need to apologize,” he started, not letting me speak. “She and I – we’re done. Through. I didn’t invite her. She keeps doing that to me. It’s complicated, Sophia – you need to understand . . .” I saw his jaw snap shut, and felt hands on my waist. I could see it processing in Devin’s eyes. The possessive touch. The messy hair. The clothes from yesterday, including the sweater of Graham’s I was wearing. “Sophia, I . . . um . . .”

I couldn’t resist, wondering if he felt like he’d been punched in the gut. I put my hands on Graham’s now tight around my waist. I suppressed the urge to giggle. “It’s complicated, Devin. It’s complicated.”

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Any Given Sunday

Any given Sunday is usually a day of rest. A day of laying in bed late, or maybe getting up to make a pancake breakfast. Deciding whether to take part in a family activity, go to open houses, or see if our favorite team was playing.

Today had a different buzz. For football fans, today was the big dance. The Superbowl. The ultimate showdown between the NFC and AFC. The biggest shows. The most expensive ticket prices. The most expensive commercials. Some of the best commercials ("You're playing like Betty White out there" . . . "Oh yeah (says Betty White)? That's not what your girlfriend says . . . ").

Although my team is out (and my friends' teams were out), it still had a buzz for me. The buzz of friends coming over, and the preparation that goes with it. A nice variety of food, drink, seating for all . . . those things I throw together from the store, and those things I create lovingly from scratch (guacamole . . . and chocolate chip cookies . . . yum). The cleaning, the tidying, . . . and the last minute electronic frenzy as we hooked up our kids new TV (so they could be entertained while the adults watched the big game).

A great collection of work pals, and some of our best Bay Area buddies joined us. We watched the teams battle back and forth. Watched Betty White take a hit in the Snickers commercial. Watched the E-Trade baby two-time his baby girlfriend. Watched two 65 year old guys try to rock their hits, and while not even coming close to their former glory, probably did better than the average grandfather would. Watched the Saints battle their way ahead of the pack. And then watched them pick off a Peyton Manning pass for a second score that sealed the fate of the game. We ended the game sitting around the kitchen table, picking at the last pieces of the food, draining the last drops of wine from the bottle, and sharing just a few more stories.

We had to say goodbye to the husband, as he headed back to Seattle again, which seemed about as anticlimactic (probably in more ways than one) as the official end of football season could be. After the guests left, it was just a table full of food, a sink full of dishes, and two kids who needed to be shuffled off to bed. I tackled them all, one by one, and sat down to watch the rest of the Sound of Music.

It wasn't just any given Sunday. It was Superbowl Sunday.

Respectfully submitted,

The Wife

Friday, February 5, 2010

Dear Frustrated User . . .

The setting: Our company has a very complex but necessary internal control function whereby managers are periodically asked to review the user access privileges of all their direct reports to determine if user access is appropriate. This includes access rights for all 300,000+ employees and various applications. The database to review your direct reports is, by default, ENORMOUS. However, my team provides specific filtering guidelines to help you quickly narrow your search to the desired population for review . . .

This email appeared in my inbox late one night. It has been excerpted, for brevity, and the names changed to protect the innocent, though I have kept the bad grammar intact. My response, save for the boring details, is verbatim.

Dear Mrs Chako's Team:

I have received the semi-annual email requesting me to perform a validation task. I took on the task hopping that it would go smoother than last time. As you may recall, I complained to you last time (04/14/09 email attached) about how tedious this recurring process was and my hope was quite high that this process had been improved. Well, at least I can say that it was quite a laughable experience for me and my cube neighbor. It took me again much longer (30 minutes) than what such task should take (5 minutes max) to validate 4 users.

30 minutes and 4028 mouse clicks to validate the access for 4 users ! Actually, after 200 clicks, I found a short cut in the address bar to bypass the ‘next page’ button at the bottom of the screen. Otherwise, 4028 clicks at 6 seconds per sequence (screen refresh + scroll down to find the next page button) represent about 6 hours of work to do the task. 30 minutes @ $70 USD per hour * nber of managers who received this email represent a lot of money for the MEGACORPORATION that could be spent in a wiser way. I know that other managers around me have faced similar issues and wonder why can’t we get more efficient system.


I am sure there must be a good explanations to this. However, the fact that 2 managers at least from two different cultures have faced the same experience shows that whatever current solution you have put in place is not obvious to us and ultimately does not reflect well on HP’s ability to thrive for efficiency. I took time to write to you a second time. I hope that this time I will be heard.


Frustrated User, Could Klearly Use Patience (hereafter referred to as FUCKUP)

I replied immediately, having just performed the task myself.


I’m sorry your experience was very disappointing and I’m sure that was frustrating. We, too, encounter some anomalies . . . and I’ll see if our team can provide any insight on how . . . to prevent that in the future.

"Smart person on my team" did provide some good instructions, though, on how to sort and minimize your direct reports. Using the filter function, you can quickly get down to your selected reports in a pretty concise, easy format with one or two clicks, not forcing you to go through page by page.

I’m including the section of the instructions highlighted, explaining how to filter, as per the email:
Required Actions:

  1. [Do easy step 1]

  2. [Click on the link on the right of the first letter of your last name]

  3. Hover over the manager column, use the drop down (click on the “X” sign) right of the manger’s column to reveal managers names. (text was bold in the original email)

  4. Click on your name.

I think if you follow that procedure in the future, you’ll find this process can actually be pretty quick.


Mrs Chako, VP

He responded later:

Dear Mrs Chako:

Thanks for your timely answer.

Yes it is easier and much quicker to perform the action when you force yourself to follow the recommended actions. . .



I couldn't help myself . . .

Well put, FUCKUP – TGIF (Thank God Idiots can be Fired) . . .

I do agree that we have had many HR and other administrative necessities that do take much of our time, when we’d rather be focused on our business. But like the owner’s manuals that my husband refuses to read: even good user instructions are only helpful when we users actually have the patience and time to read them!

Mrs. Chako, VP


Respectfully submitted,

The Wife

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Oh Time, How I've Missed Thee . . .

My lack of blogging is not for lack of want, or words, for that matter. It's really for lack of time, a precious commodity these days.

A got a message from a friend. One of those friend that you might not hear from for weeks, and then you exchange 23 emails on some random topic for three straight days, only to go silent for another month, never knowing if the next topic was going to be your respective spouses, kids, work, or something more exciting like sex, drugs, and rock n' roll. I expected it to start a string of emails, but so far, its just been this one lone email. Nothing more, nothing less.

I wish I had three additional hours to my day that only I knew about and no one else.

I imagine work and family and life has him as busy as it does me, so I'll wait until he has more time to write or I have more time to respond. But I hear you buddy. Boy, do I hear you.

I'm in the middle of an extremely busy time at work these last few weeks, as we rush to finalize our first quarter results and show the Street which foot we're going to hit the fiscal 2010 street with. I'm an HR machine right now, getting ready to interview a host of candidates for one of my key director roles, as well as facilitate various other transfers, promotions, and other rotational opportunities to give our teams some career development and fresh air. It's rewarding, but painful at the same time, to go through the transitions as you lose all the knowledge and new talent goes through the learning curve. I even managed to get a pay increase for one of our top guys who was being tempted to leave. And this is on top of my normal job which is - GET THE NUMBERS RIGHT. You'd be surprised at how hard that can be sometimes.

Not like family life is slower. We're still a commuter family and it's wearing on the Doc. The other day he used "f***ing" three times in the same sentence in a conversation with me about his apartment situation. I keep thinking "what man wouldn't love four days away from an assertive, stubborn, driven, type-A wife in a bachelor pad with TV, internet poker and porn, and no children duties each week" but apparently even that loses its edge after a while. And I'm down here trying to manage two kids, a household, the bills, our taxes, his business taxes, and whatever other life duties manage to assert themselves now and then (like calling to check on Mom recovering from knee-surgery).

I'm not complaining . . . I've actually been pretty calm and positive this week, despite some sinus virus that is helping me try to keep the facial tissue markets afloat. In fact, as I look back, I've managed to work late multiple nights, meet a friend for a quick drink, see a Sharks game with colleagues and one of our vendors, sing songs to my sons, make spaghetti dinner one night for the boys and my Betty, who joined us for some food and a little girl conversation, and have a long conversation with my son about how hard it is to transition to a new place, a new school, and new friends. I've started multiple stories, blog posts, and other written snippets (not finished a damn one), caught up on a few emails, read your blogs . . . oh, and book my husband to the Mastodon weekend . . . which I'll miss . . . because I'll have jet-lag. "Corporate jet" lag, that is. Like I said, I am a machine.

But it's come at the cost of a few hours of sleep here and there. And the realization that no matter how much you cram in, there never seems to be enough time for my friends. For those two little boys. For my hubby in his part time world here in California.

Yes, my friend, I wish I had three additional hours to my day that only I knew about and no one else.

Respectfully submitted,

The Wife