Saturday, April 30, 2011

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Workers Memorial Day

From the latest issue of MMWR:

Workers Memorial Day recognizes those workers who have died or sustained work-related injuries or illnesses. In 2008, a total of 5,214 U.S. workers died from occupational injuries, and 49,000 deaths annually are attributed to work-related illnesses. In 2009, an estimated 3.28 million workers in private industry and 862,900 in state and local government had a nonfatal occupational injury or illness. Of those workers, 1.7 million in private industry and 374,100 in state and local government were transferred, placed on work restrictions, or took time away from work. An estimated 2.6 million workers were treated in emergency departments for occupational injuries and illnesses in 2009, and approximately 80,000 were hospitalized (CDC, unpublished data, 2011).

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Lunacy Continues

I speak, of course, of Birthers, the pathetic losers who are dumber than stumps and totally unable to get their heads around the fact there's a black man in the Oval Office -- and he's not there to pour the coffee. President Obama released his long form birth certificate this morning, and, judging by some of the way-beyond-delusional comments in the AJC, Washington Post, and elsewhere, the tinfoil hat crowd has simply decided to double down on the crazy.

Personally, I love the way all the wackaloons keep babbling on and on about a "certificate of birth" not being the same thing as a "birth certificate." Obviously, they haven't looked at their own papers in a long, long time. Either that, or they're so illiterate they don't know what a prepositional phrase is. Or maybe both.

Actually, some of them have looked at their own papers recently. Sort of. One of my favorite comments today was from a wackaloon who ranted about the fact the certificate as shown didn't have the baby's footprints or a nifty gold seal like his own did. The poor sap is actually so clueless that he thinks the souvenir certificate hospitals sell the parents to frame or put in baby books -- the ones that usually state clearly, albeit in small print at the bottom of the form, that it's not a legal document and an actual, legal birth certificate has to be obtained from a government office -- are what the real ones look like.

The stupid, it burns.

Feeling old

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

And how's your week going?

I'm dealing with camel snot and lung worms. No wonder I have writer's block.

Scale bar = 1 mm.

Gourmet tip for the day: make sure any snails or rats you eat are well-done.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Liberal media? Or cheerleading section?

I made the mistake of watching CBS this morning. This is the network that Caribou Barbie likes to blame her various woes on, the network that sicced Katie Couric on her and forced her to answer tough questions like "What do you read?" I don't know why Bible Spice bitches about the lamestream media, because they're doing a better job of flacking for her than her own PR people.

Palin was in Madison, Wisconsin, to speak at a Tea Party rally -- the Koch brothers and others supporting this astro turf effort chartered buses to haul in the faithful, put up the bucks for the Quitta from Wasilla's fees and expenses, and generally tried to put on a good show. Well, I know from various non-major network sources that they only managed to fill 6 out of the original 14 chartered buses, protesters outnumbered supporters by quite a bit, and that Palin was resoundingly booed a number of times. Did any of that get mentioned this morning?

Nope. All the shots were tight ones, showing Palin and a handful of people around her so you never got to see just how big the "enthusiastic crowd" was, there was no mention of the fact they failed draw even one half the number of people they thought they would, and not a word, not a hint, nada, regarding the protesters. All this accompanied, of course, by a lot of blather about Palin being one of the front runners for the Republican nomination in 2012. So much for the liberal media.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Your tax dollars at work

Or, more accurately, where your tax dollars work. Lisa had a post up a few days ago about "Where do you write?" Well, for me, this is it, at least when it's writing I'm getting paid to do.
It's in a leased building several miles from the main campus for Large Nameless Agency. It's also one of the nicer offices I've occupied over the years.

Speaking of Large Nameless Agency, the bureaucratic behemoth whose name I had said I wouldn't make explict until Retirement was Imminent, it appears to be trying to sell itself to the American public as Necessary, Vital, and Deserving of Funding. I guess when ICE decided to cooperate with National Geographic television on "Border Wars," it made it easier for producers to persuade LNA that infomercials masquerading as reality tv ("Killer Outbreaks") would be a good idea.

Let's see. It started with "Cops." Lots of action as law enforcement chased shirtless drunks around in gritty, urban neighborhoods, not to mention a rather catchy theme song. I'm not sure what the progression would be from there because I don't watch many reality shows. . . lots of on-the-job stuff (Axe Men, Deadliest Catch, Dirty Jobs) but we're now down to watching epidemiologists talk about culturing bacteria and seeing clips of Public Health Service officers carrying briefcases. This wasn't exactly riveting television, even if it did highlight why LNA exists and some of the stuff it does.

Oh well. It could have been worse. Although, to be honest, I'm not sure how.

I could hear the tinfoil rustling

First topic of the day on C-SPAN this morning? Donald Trump and his supposed interest in being a Republican candidate for President in 2012. I swear, every time I think the right-wing loonies have hit the ultimate in living in a fantasyland, they manage to top themselves. Does anyone with two brain cells to rub together seriously believe that The Donald is doing anything other than promoting himself?

They showed an excerpt from his most recent speech given to the delusional Obama-haters. The Donald managed to touch each and every one of the red meat issues in under 60 seconds: he's anti-abortion and pro guns and a birther. The gullible fools in the audience ate it up. He was telling them exactly what they wanted to hear, so of course they think it's the closest thing to the Second Coming they've seen in a long time.

And then the calls to C-SPAN began, proving once again that there are a lot of people out there who will support anyone who's willing to validate their own delusions.

I do recognize that all politicians play the same game: they make promises to the electorate that they either know can't be kept or will not be kept, but they run their mouths anyway. But usually they're a little more subtle about it -- there's nothing subtle about The Donald. He's going to tell the Republican base exactly what they want to hear, no matter how insane it is, and they're going to be foolish enough to believe every word of it.

We do have to thank Trump for one minor blessing, though. He's managed to suck so much oxygen away from the other possible candidates that Caribou Barbie seems to be fading into the muskeg. One can only hope that a year from year Bible Spice's star has dimmed to the point of being referred to as "Sarah Who?"

Thursday, April 14, 2011

For those of you who don't bother reading comments

Too good not to share:

H/T to the Blog Fodder.

Stuff I've been wondering about

Why are Brazilians (the wax jobs, not the people) called Brazilians? I know Brazilian beaches are famous for the proliferation of the dental floss string bikini, but Brazilians (or most Latin Americans, for that matter) have never struck me as being obsessive about body hair. Americans are. So why isn't that particular grooming technique known as a "Miamian" or, perhaps even more accurately, a "Pacoima," Pacoima being the heart of the porn industry and almost assuredly the birthplace of the shaved beaver in America?

Personally, I've always thought it was a little strange that people would willingly submit themselves to having their hair ripped off any part of their bodies just for the sake of aesthetics, but it's not any odder than most of the other things people do -- and as a person who went through the gold eye shadow stage back around the time the movie Cleopatra came out, I'm not in a position to question anyone else's choices in personal modification/enhancement.

I do, however, wonder a little bit about the aestheticians who get to do the ripping. I'd like to think the poor saps who are earning a living by getting up close and personal with strangers' coochies are earning a decent wage, but I doubt it. An aesthetician in training had an essay on Slate a few months ago. From what she said, waxing someone's crotch is remarkably time consuming, and the pay received seemed pretty low. She also noted that, believe it or not, the clients as a rule are remarkably poor tippers. Her theory was that by allowing her to work on the most intimate part of their bodies, the clients mentally transformed her into a friend -- and you don't tip friends. Bizarre. If I were still in the demographic that feels the need for a hairless crotch, I'd be tipping big -- because for sure I wouldn't want any lingering resentments about cheapness on the last visit to influence just how the wax gets applied the next time.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

And so it goes

Another continuing resolution, another week of limbo.

There's some smug Tea Party Republican on C-SPAN as I type, busy bragging about the fact they managed to come up with "the biggest cut in federal spending since World War II." Well, yeah, if you look only at the dollar amount and don't adjust at all for inflation. If you look at it in actual percentages, though, they've accomplished Nada, Nothing, Zip. It's a blip, the type of numbers you get when you round off numbers, like when you go from putting four digits after the decimal point (99.2362) to dropping it down to one (99.2). They've wasted months of everyone's time, stressed out whole herds of ordinary people, and for what? Nothing. A few sound bites.

And they're not done yet. We get to live through at least another week of this crap, the political posturing about out of control spending, before there's an actual budget in place. I'm not holding my breath.

If any of these so-called deficit hawks, fiscal conservatives, so-concerned-about-spending types was actually serious about the deficit and government spending, they'd go after Defense. The Department of Defense is loaded with waste, spends zillions on various high tech toys that will never get used -- or, if and when they are deployed, turn out not to work (remember the stealth bombers that can't fly in rain because as soon as those billion dollar boondoggles get wet they show up on radar? The missile defense system that's like a black hole when it comes to sucking in money, but doesn't work even when it knows exactly when and where the incoming missile was launched from and has been pre-targeted accordingly?). But you can't touch defense. It's okay to fuck over little kids, old people, and women, but god forbid Northrop Grumman or Lockheed Martin has to suffer. Why is it that when it's a weapons system, it's untouchable because eliminating it would put people out of work, but it's okay to defund schools, clinics, and cultural resource programs? It's okay to put teachers and nurses out of work but not the guys shooting rivets into an F-22?   

Instead we're going to keep right on hearing about the evils of the National Endowment for the Arts and Planned Parenthood, as if they were somehow responsible for the federal deficit, the Republicans will keep right on saying it's all about the money while at the same time targeting specific programs social conservatives have always hated (trying to kill Planned Parenthood isn't new; the rightwing has been anti-family planning for decades), and the mainstream media will continue to do its usual fine job of focusing on the exact wrong things.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

And the shutdown draws closer

Just caught a quick news update on local television, and it appears the Republicans aren't budging an inch on compromising on a budget. It's weird. In one breath, John Boehner admits that a government shutdown would do absolutely nothing -- it would cost more in the long run than it would save, it would tick off the public once people started figuring out just what all it entailed, and it's more likely to damage the Republicans than it is to hurt President Obama. Then in the next breath he says, but we're going to do it anyway. Politicians really do live in some sort of alternate universe from the rest of us.

The atmosphere at work has turned a little weird. We've come close to a shutdown so many times now that the prevailing attitude seems to be that it's not going to happen. It'll be interesting to see how people react if it turns out to be real. I have a life outside the office; I'm not sure some of my co-workers do.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The upside down tomato

This year's acrobatic Rutgers:
We've tried this before, once here in Atlanta and a couple summers ago at the retirement bunker. The first time in Atlanta it failed miserably -- our old patio received so little direct sunshine that the tomato plant died fairly quickly. The experiment up north worked out better. Did that one the low budget way, in old milk jugs, and got quite a few tomatoes by summer's end. Because the patio for our current abode gets more light, I'm hoping that this year's experiment works out a little better than the first attempt.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The garden is in

Meet Mr. Stripey:
And his acrobatic cousin, Rutgers:

In addition to the two tomato plants, there are 3 other Rutgers in pots on the patio, 2 peppers, and a bush cucumber.

Mr. Stripey is an heirloom variety purchased solely because I could not resist the name.

Update: Just looked at this at work and noticed a photo vanished. It was there last night. Very strange. I did one Rutgers as an upside-down plant, which is why it's described as acrobatic.

Sitting at the mean girls' table

The hot topic on the employee discussion board at work this week has been "workplace bullying." It appears I'm not the only one to have noticed that the organizational culture at Large Nameless Agency tends to be a tad . . . cold? hostile? unpleasant? not particularly nice? It's one of those interesting contradictions -- Large Nameless Agency, which is supposedly a leader in promoting health and wellbeing and that has developed a much-publicized anti-bullying message for use with youth, apparently has a fairly nasty and unpleasant internal culture that provides fertile ground for workplace bullies. The topic of workplace bullying was suggested to the board's moderators, they put it up, and it looks like the volume and intensity of the responses has surprised quite a few people.

LNA always scores really low whenever they do government-wide surveys of employee morale and job satisfaction -- we're never quite as far in the toilet as Homeland Security, but we're remarkably far down the list. People aren't happy. Other topics on the discussion board have inspired numerous comments about unresponsive management, waste, contradictory policies (i.e., the official policy says one thing; the way it's implemented is the opposite). Lots and lots of the infamous "disgruntled employees."* Which, all things considered, is pretty strange given the perceived importance of the work the agency does. You'd think it would lead to job satisfaction to know that the public thinks you're doing something important. Apparently not, at least not when the internal culture isn't one that makes employees feel valued, or, even worse, helps foster a hostile work environment. And, going by the comments posted, quite a few people are experiencing or have experienced a definitely hostile work environment.

The comments fall into both of the obvious categories: the boss who is a power-hungry ogre who treats certain underlings like crap (e.g., picks out a scapegoat and encourages everyone else in the division to pick on that one person, too), and the co-worker who for some reason feels compelled to make other co-workers' lives wretched. Every work organization is bound to end up with a few examples of both, but LNA appears to have an over-abundance. In the not-quite-4 years I've worked at LNA I've witnessed more mean-spirited trolls in positions of power and more Heathers who refuse to grow up and play nice with others than I think I did in my entire previous, rather checkered work career. I've held a number of jobs over the years, in the private sector, in academe, and in government, and LNA sets some sort of record for lousy leadership and dysfunctional work groups. I've worked in places that suffered from a leadership vacuum, in places where one person had decided that he or she was Prom Queen forever, and in places where the boss was a megalomaniac micro-managing control freak -- but LNA is the only place I can think of where I've witnessed the trifecta. I like what I do for a living, but I don't particularly enjoy the environment I do it in. Hence, the countdown clock.

One thing the discussion on the board has made clear is that, even though I've had a few unpleasant experiences here at LNA and I've witnessed some others that boggled the mind, the weirdness I've encountered is absolutely nothing compared to the garbage some people have gone through. It almost makes the private sector look good.

My personal experience with LNA has been that it does what can only be described as a (and I'm being charitable) piss poor job of both orienting new employees to the agency and providing training for managers, a toxic combination that almost guarantees hostile work environments will flourish. The overall philosophy appears to be a combination of sink-or-swim and mushroom management (keep everyone in the dark and feed them bullshit). There are pockets that seem to function well, but overall? Not a pretty picture.

I really miss Omaha.

[*The use of this term to denigrate or discount people who aren't happy in the workplace has always baffled me. Doesn't anyone ever wonder just why the employees are disgruntled?]