Friday, May 30, 2008

You Haven't Heard Anything About a Beef Shortage, Have You?

I thought I was suffering from insomnia early this morning, but I must have been dreaming.
When the alarm went off, I was thinking that I had been awake since 3:45 am, but then I realized that if that were true, then I had spent the last two hours cutting up meat with a chainsaw to satisfy the requirements of a new rationing scheme.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I Don't Know For Whom the Bell Does Toll, It Sure Wasn't For Me

My cell phone quit working today, and I felt cut off from everyone else, like, you know, an island. When I came home I read the manual, and found out how to turn it off (the switch that is labeled "Power Off"). I turned it off and then back on, and once again I was on the mainland.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Going the Extra Mile

We're halfway through the fourth week of our two week inspection. A supervisor waved me over to her car this morning and told me to just ignore her. I was already ignoring her, but I did start to despise her a little.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"Live and Don't Learn, That's Us"

We had a glorious bike ride yesterday along Turnagain Arm to Girdwood. On the slog back, we once again learned not to confuse a tail wind with athleticism.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

If David Alan Coe Was a Preacher

We went to Trinity CRC today. The scripture text was Rev 3:2. This is the perfect verse for preachers, since every so often they can pound the podium and yell, "Wake up!"

On the way home, I was talking to my neighbor. He keeps bees, which I had once considered as a retirement hobby. But what a monstrous hobby it is. At the end of every season, he kills all the bees. And why? Because otherwise, they might eat the honey they've spent all summer making. I don't see how I could be a part of that. I'd rather be an Israelite than an Egyptian, or maybe it's just 35 years in the AFL-CIO. Either way, even Wal-Mart doesn't treat its workers that badly.

*The perfect country songwriter.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I Don't Know, I Just Think It Was Funnier When Bozo Did It

Because of the medication I take, I'm generally the most amiable carrier at our station, or so I tell myself. I'm sure others would tell me how amiable I am, but I generally don't talk to anyone at work. But I must admit I wasn't particularly welcoming to the fifth supervisor "observing" me since these inspections began. Or sixth if you count the supervisor who was briefly following us today because she didn't know I already had an observer in my truck. There are so many managers involved in these inspections that this has been a common occurrence. Once they stop bumping into each other and they all climb out of their clown cars, they will sit down together and decide how to make our station more efficient.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

This Might Be Important; Let Me Think About It.

A commenter on a previous post left a link to a NYT article. I couldn't get the link to work from the comment box, so I'm posting it here. I think it might give you youngsters a hopeful outlook on your impending, your impending, oh what's the word I'm looking for? Wouldn't that have been a sad little attempt at humor if I really did know what word I was looking for, and was just trying to be cute?

Yesterday I had an actual inspector from the National Inspection Team ride along with me. He timed how long it took me to sort the mail in the morning, and then how long it took to deliver each stop. His report showed that I exceeded office standards (a very low bar) and that I delivered the mail without any problems or items that needed to be corrected. Today there was a local official parking behind my truck and making notes as I delivered the mail. As he eventually drove off, my actual supervisor drove up and told me that the supervisor watching me today had called another supervisor who had called my supervisor and said... blah blah, I'm getting bored with this story. The point is, we have about 30 managers watching our every move this week, and their focus seems to be that carriers should be crossing every lawn, not just some lawns. Since in the winter, you can't cross any lawns... nope, that's not the point, that's more of the rant. The point is that they are spending tens of thousands of dollars to save tens of dollars. A bad trade.
Oh, and another thing, I can't tell you what to find interesting, but I think a story about a dead cat that turned out to be a live dog might have elicited a comment.
Oh, oh, here's another thing. I'm reading a book, Apathy, that is so perverse, and so opposed to everything I believe in, that it's embarrassing how many times it's made me snicker, or sigh in agreement. Here's a sample quoted from memory, "Every place is uncomfortable when you're awake." I just read the Amazon review. Apparently it's not all that funny, and I'm kind of a wanker for thinking so. And now that I think of it, saying wanker probably proves Amazon's point.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Talk About Wasting Time, What a Waste of Time That Is

So, they're redoing the inspections that got canceled last week. We count mail all week, but we have only one day with an inspector riding along all day, although "observers" might skulk along for a couple more days. Anyway, today was my day with an inspector, and I had to carry a third bundle of flyers. This takes a lot of extra time compared with sorting it in with the other mail in the morning. Although, since I finished with an hour to spare, I'm beginning to think that maybe what takes all the extra time is telling every customer I see how inefficient it is to carry a third bundle.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Coming to Terms With Senility

Before I started taking extra Vitamin B, I apparently lost the key to the shed. Luckily, I knew exactly where the hacksaw was this morning. It was depressingly easy to cut the lock off. I put a new combination lock on the shed door, and knowing how likely it is that I'll remember the combination, I was careful to put the hacksaw away where I could find it.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Working Title Till I Come Up With Something Better, Although You Just Know I'm Going to Leave it Like This: Cry Havoc and Release the Cats of War

My friend Rich and I went for another ride this morning, up to the top of Stuckagain Heights. As you might know, it's a steep ride up the Hillside. As we rode up towards the mansions in the sky, there was one house that stood out in its magnificence. It had a commanding view of the city, Mt. Susitna and Cook Inlet. When we reached the top, we were standing on the road next to the house and we turned to look back down on the city, just the way the owner of the house normally would look down on us.
As we stood there breathless, Rich noticed a cat writhing in their yard. At first we weren't sure if the cat was just rolling on its back, or maybe playing with a bird that it had caught, but Rich was concerned that the cat was staying in one place like it was caught on, or by, something. Then the cat started to shriek. Rich walked across the grass, and said the cat was dead. I said it couldn't be dead because it was still breathing but Rich said that from the way its eyes were bulging, it would be dead soon, and that it looked like it had been hit by a car because its back leg was twisted unnaturally. I was reluctant to ring the doorbell, knowing that there was bound to be a large, vicious dog inside just to keep riff-raff like us off the porch. And there was, but the owner of the house restrained the dog and stepped outside when I told him that there was a cat dying in his yard. "He's not dying," he said contemptuously. "And he's not a cat."
I thought his calm, condescending manner would be shattered when he saw his cat dead in the yard. Which is exactly why, I suppose, he was condescending in the first place. It was his dog, and it had caught its rear claw in a clump of matted fur by its ear. The man loosened the claw, the dog stood up shook itself and walked off, and the man went back in his house. That just left the ride back down the hill, pretty much a reprise of last year's; "I was a little girl squeezing the brakes and whimpering, 'Slow down. Slow down.' "

Friday, May 16, 2008

It's Like We Went on a Ride With Henrick Lorentz

This morning my friend Rich and I went on a bike ride. We went through Russian Jack Park, then out to Arctic Valley Road, and up it for awhile. We saw a porcupine, and a moose, and as we road up the steepest part of that road, we almost saw my breakfast.
Then, down the hill and out to Eagle River Lion's Park and then home, full of self congratulation that we had ridden 47 miles.
What a pity that it was only 33 according to that map I linked to.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Irony Abounds, But Can It Dribble or Shoot?

Today was Bike to Work Day, and I did, without even realizing I was part of a movement. Of course by the time I found out, I was already part of the problem not the solution. I raced through the first part of my route so I could ride home and take Karen to a doctor's appointment. When I took her home, I just kept the car and drove back to work. For no reason, really, once I got off work, I drove around for awhile looking for a new bike lock. I sort of need a new lock because recently I dropped my keys in the outgoing mail, and never saw them again. Since then, I've started taking big doses of vitamin B5, B6, and B12, way more than I ever did B4. I don't know if it's helping my mental acuity, but just two days after starting the regimen I was able to remember Elaine Cox's name. That's anecodotal evidence, so I know it can't be trusted, although I don't think it would deliberately lie to you.
I probably don't really need a new lock because somewhere I have a spare key, but, I really hate the lock I have, so I was just looking for a reason to get a new lock. I went to REI. Here's a geopolitical note. The store was full of Japanese tourists taking advantage of the falling dollar, catching a bargain. I stared at the locks for awhile, but I couldn't bring myself to buy one, knowing I had a perfectly hateful one at home. Yesterday, I did bring myself to buy two new road tires for my bike. I had just been convinced by my bike maven that I didn't need new tires, I needed new technique, but they were only $8.99 and will arrive in two days, years before any better riding technique is likely to appear.
Don't it always seem to go
That you dont know what youve got
Till its gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? Does Anyone Really Care?

Physicists have said that time is not continuous, but moves in small increments. The smallest theoretical unit is called Planck time and is roughly the amount of time it takes from the moment my hand touches the door knob until my dogs start barking.

I'm not sure that there is a longest theoretical unit, but we took a stab at it at the post office this morning. Our recent inspections were thrown out in part because we received inadequate training in the proper way to fill out form 1838-C which accounts for every nanosecond of a carrier's time. We spent one and a half hours going over the form line by line, including lines that aren't there (line 20) and lines that refer to functions we haven't had in over 20 years (line 17, strapping out time). To plagiarize another writer, it began to seem that we would be delivering mail using continental drift.

Monday, May 12, 2008

I'm as Patriotic as the Next Guy

For five days of our route inspections we count our own mail and keep track of every minute of our time ourselves. One day, though, a supervisor counts the mail and follows us all day. He times each stop and writes down everything we do or say. Really, it's a model of how the Patriot Act will be implemented as time goes on. The difficulty will be that the inspectors will need to be watched, and eventually we will run out of Americans to enforce our security and will have to outsource it, probably to the very people that hate us. It's all very clever, I suppose. If they work for us, they can't afford to attack us.
In any event, today was the day that I was followed. It all went pretty well up to a point. The point was located on Princeton Way. That's where a different supervisor arrived and said that the route inspections had been canceled.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Twice the Length, Four Times The Power, Seven Times the Price

Like so many dreams of the lower middle class, (gracious retirement, adequate health care, energy security) my snake adventure ended in disappointment. It started out fine. I could have hung a "Mission Accomplished" banner right over the toilet, but within a day there were hints that all was not well. The biggest hint was that water would run into the toilet, but not out.
I went back to Home Depot today and looked at drain openers again. There was one solution that involved exploding CO2 cartridges. I was sorely tempted because frankly I wanted to blow something up, but I figured that might create new problems. I opted instead for a new snake that was twice as long as the original one, and seven times the price. It fished some really nasty stuff up, including pieces of the last snake. Right now I'm experiencing that glow that comes from a job well done. I give it another couple of hours, until someone uses the bathroom.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

I'll Probably Be the Hall Monitor

We got our first day's paperwork back this afternoon. I only had one mistake highlighted. It was the postal equivalent of a 1350 on the SAT.
Today was the NALC food drive. One of my customer's had a Nordstrom bag full of baby food waiting on her porch. It was generous, and I'm sure the clients of the Food Bank will appreciate it, more than her dog did anyway. He wouldn't eat it so now she has to buy him chicken breasts at Costco and cut them up for him. I'm surprised he'll even eat Costco food. His collar and leash are a matched set of Swarovski crystals.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Triumph of the Lower Middle Class

I've been doing some abs work with the plunger on our upstairs toilet. It hasn't done that much for my abs, and nothing for the toilet. Today I walked over to Home Depot and bought a toilet snake. I wasn't too optimistic since I've never had any success with them before, but I resolved to try a radical approach, reading the instructions. That turned out to be such a good idea that I may consider it for other projects in the future.
I looked at the $169 power snake that did everything but hunt mice, and the $35 one that had some ergonomic features, but decided on the $7 one that warned the buyer to wear thick gloves to avoid injury. Although it was put together so poorly that the handle fell off almost immediately, it cleared the plug in the line. Because the handle came off so quickly, I didn't even have to pretend to clean and oil it like the instructions said. It could have only been more disposable if it was flushable.
Tomorrow my route begins its half decadely inspection. For a week, I'll have to go in early and count every piece of mail, and account for every minute of my office time, including line 23, time spent filling out the form. Monday a supervisor brought in from the Western Region Headquarters will be with me all day. They must have pretty high expectations of how much money they can save at our station to justify bringing in six of these pros from Denver. If anything irritating and amusing happens, I'll let you know.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

All Things Considered

Just got back from the store. I was riding my bike pulling a trailer with soy milk in it. You just know I listen to NPR.

Theory of Everything, or Stubbing Your TOE

I listened to a podcast today by a theoretical physicist about competing theories for the origin of the universe. I didn't really understand it, or, using the commutative law of grammar, I really didn't understand it. I think I would have been disappointed if I had.
If I did understand one part (see above), then an enclosed volume of space can be represented by points on the surface of the enclosure. If so, then the whole universe might, á la Plato, be just a drive-in movie in some other dimensions. I think I play the lovable loser.
The other part discussed whether the universe began with a big bang, or if it was a continual oscillation between two 3 dimensional universes separated by a 7th dimensional gap, although neither theory seemed to explain where it all came from much better than the idea that the universe is supported on the back of a turtle who is standing on another turtle all the way down. Still one phrase caught my ear, "The trend is toward negative infinity." I don't know what he was talking about, but that's my new explanation for everything.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Thanks, Thanks Awfully

I forgot to mention in that last post, that Blue Cross closed their denial letter to Karen, well, technically not to Karen since it was addressed to "Blue Cross/Blue Shield Subscriber, and I have to stop right here for a second because I just listened to an episode of Grammar Girl about run-on sentences.
Anyway, they closed their letter, "We hope this information has been helpful to you."

Status Quo Ante

As President Eisenhower once said, "Things are more like they are now than they ever have been."
Two weeks ago, the snow was almost completely gone, and today, after a record (and heart) breaking storm last week, the snow is almost completely gone.
Two months ago, we were getting ready to appeal Blue Cross's denial of Karen's oral meds, and today, after getting a letter denying our appeal we're preparing a final appeal to the OPM. Once that is denied, there is no one left to send letters of appeal to.

So, just like before, I'm still ranting about health care. Today on my route, a woman mentioned that her health care was breaking her budget, and apparently her liver, since her Blue Cross plan won't pay for the meds she needs. They'll pay for similar meds, that are having a toxic effect on her liver, but not for the slightly more expensive ones that don't have side effects. A doctor on my route is dealing with them at both ends. His insurance company won't pay for his medicine, because there is an ineffective otc alternative. At the same time, his patient can't get an MRI because her insurance company won't authorize it. This orthopedic doctor was working on her appeal. He had to convince an OB/GYN working for the insurance company that the patient needed an MRI of her spine. And not just an OB/GYN instead of an orthopedic doctor that might know what he was talking about, but an OB/GYN that couldn't make it in private practice and had to work for an insurance company.
It's too bad, in a way, that insurance companies are soulless bureaucracies, since as such, they don't even have to fear the eternal damnation they have earned.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Thanks, Overlords

I see that regulations are being discussed in Washington to curb the power of credit card issuers. The new rules would limit their ability to arbitrarily raise interest rates, or otherwise change the terms of their agreements. They claim that this is the raving of paternalistic interfering busybodies vitiating the power of free markets, much like setting the slaves free, or outlawing cannibalism.
Some of the card issuers send alerts to mobile devices. Currently they're like text messages or something. I think we're meant to be grateful that, so far at least, they don't make us wear shock collars.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Don't Bother to RTFM

I mentioned recently that after reading the manual, I had finally adjusted the cleats on my shoes so that I could easily get my feet back out of the pedals on my bike. The people that wrote the manual didn't bother to mention that if you drive out of the post office with the shoes on top of your truck, it isn't going to matter how the cleats are turned.
Earlier this year, I bought a pair of bike sandals to use this summer. Realizing that there never would be a "this summer", I figured I could trade them in on a new pair of bike shoes, and this was the best part, I had two rebate debit cards from AT&T that could use if I needed extra money. In the event, I traded the sandals in, got new shoes and money back. As far as the cards go, they might as well have been in the shoes on the truck, I have no idea where they are here in this magic house.

Happy News, I Guess

Yesterday (and the day before) I took Karen to see her doctors. After taking a killing dose of Vitamin D for the last six months, her serum level is no longer clinically deficient. It is now just very low.
I just found out today that I'm the 22
nd most senior carrier in Anchorage. What an accomplishment. So if 21 people retire or die, I'll be top dog. The funny thing about being top dog: still a dog.
Also today is May Day. We celebrated by not shoveling any snow for this one day.