Sunday, April 30, 2006

On the road again...

First it was work, then it was pleasure.

Last weekend I got to the cabin for the first time in months! I went out Thursday to get things in some semblance of order, the Chief joined me Friday afternoon, and my parents arrived that evening for the weekend. They loved it, of course, and are already talking about coming out in the fall to see the addition (assuming it's done by then - the construction and sanitary permits, applied for in January or February, were only granted last Friday).

This weekend the Chief & I went to Cape May, NJ, for a long weekend. The (very gusty!) breezes off the ocean seemed to blow the worst of the pollen inland; I was merely sneezy, not incapacitated, despite all the time we spent outside walking around looking at the beautifully restored buildings and some lovely gardens. Oh, and listening to the ocean and watching the whitecaps. We drove up to the Wildwoods one day and strolled along the nearly-deserted boardwalk. The few things open seemed to be getting their pre-season fix-ups; nobody seemed to be open for business, or perhaps we were just too early in the day.

We also walked thru a model home on a lark. Four stories, 3 houses from the beach (although, as tightly packed as those places were, it might have been only 1 or at most 2 houses from the beach in a "normal" neighborhood), 3300 sq. ft., 4 bedrooms, 3 1/2 baths, huge kitchen, hardwood floors throughout, and even an elevator! The sales office was closed (good thing - no "vultures" wanting to get our names & address), but someone we ran into who was also having a look said he'd heard those places were going for "1.8 to 2.2". I guess he couldn't bear to utter the word "million" in there. The Chief enjoyed himself greatly by calling my folks and telling them about this little townhouse we'd looked at, as if we could actually buy the thing!

The next weekend is gonna be spent at home for a change. After seeing all those Cape May gardens, many of them every bit as shady as ours, we've got lots of plans for our yard...

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

You know you've been doing too much travelling...

...when you don't think to check the date on the milk before pouring. My morning coffee ritual consists of pouring my mug at least half full of milk, adding a bit of sugar, nuking it, and only then topping up w/ coffee. I definitely wasn't awake this morning because it wasn't until I got to that last step that I noticed the consistency of my skim milk was more that of buttermilk. Bleah!!! Sickened Thank goodness I'd just bought a fresh gallon of milk, so I still had milk for coffee.

Not the news I wanted...

... but not unexpected, either. Once again I'm not getting promoted to the next GS grade. Sigh. The demographics are absolutely killing me; those of us stuck in the bottleneck have to do at least twice as much as anyone at other grades to break outta that logjam. Frustrating, discouraging, demoralizing (fill in other adjectives here)... I can't help but think of what the Red Queen told Alice (chapter 2, Through the Looking Glass): "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"

At least this year all of my managers seemed concerned about helping me break out of the logjam for next year. My first-line manager has a pretty specific plan and the next level up offered to help me work on my package to play up the things I've done that make me stand out. This is the first year I've ever gotten any feedback that would actually be helpful, though of course I won't know just how helpful until we go through this exercise again next year.

OK, enough whining. Now I can quit wondering "is this the year?" and get back to work.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Something to look forward to...

Got some new DVDs today: Galaxy Quest and, as a splurge, the entire first season of The Muppet Show! Now the hard part - deciding which to pop into the machine first...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Dreading my performance "feedback" session tomorrow.

The dreaded moment comes tomorrow - I get the "feedback" on my annual exercise in futility; um, I meant, my performance review. For those of us paid on the government's General Schedule, "promotion" refers to getting raised to the next GS level w/ a concomitant salary increase. (The paltry annual "cost of living" increases don't keep up w/ inflation and pale in comparison to what Congress votes themselves every year.) At my agency, promo money has been very tight for the past several years; our chief of staff professed herself "delighted" that of the 71 people at my GS level in my organization, they would be promoting 7 or maybe even 8! At this point my number of years in grade exceeds my grade, hence my reference to the annual exercise in futility. Nothing quite so demoralizing as being told "sorry, we wanted to promote you but ran out of money before we got to your name." Not very helpful, either; "work on your proofreading" or "you need to work a bit faster" I can control, but I can't do squat about how much money Congress allots our agency for personnel and how the higher-ups then divvy it up among the organizations.

So after all this time, I'm looking forward to getting tomorrow's session over with. No matter what they tell me, they aren't gonna like my reaction. If they didn't put me in, they'd better make sure there are no sharp or heavy objects within reach! If they did but I got weeded out along the way, well, I won't be happy. And even if the news is good, it's been too long in coming. I'll have to try to look pleased while thinking, very loudly, "it's bloody well about time!!!!"

Not whining about this new toy

Will wonders never cease - got new cellphones for the Chief and me and am not complaining about having to learn how it works. (See November comments on figuring out how to make my iPod and digital camera do their tricks.) Yes, I admit it did take me several minutes to figure out how to enter names into the Contacts list, since the user's guide doesn't tell you the trick to getting past the first letter assigned to each number on the keypad, but the rest of it really has been pretty easy. Once I got the letter thing down, I got my entire family's phone numbers entered in about 10 or 15 minutes, have already changed the ringer (the default setting was really, really obnoxious!), gave the Chief's phone a test call, and changed the wallpaper so we can differentiate our otherwise-identical phones at a glance.

Lesson learned - forget the Verizon Wireless store! I went there first, waited 45 minutes, then had to leave before seeing a salesperson because I had to be somewhere else. After that other business was taken care of, I went to the Verizon "kiosk" at the Circuit City about 2 blocks north. What a difference! Far more ambient noise and visual clutter, but the helpful and pleasant Carla was able to take care of me right away. I was able to settle on a model, get the new contracts (another 2 years!) signed, the new phones programmed, and get on to my next errand in less time than I wasted in the Verizon store.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

"We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog..."

Did you miss me? ;)

With any luck at all, work will now get back to normal - no more intensive (and intense) traveling and something resembling a more normal schedule and workload. (8-hour days and 5-day weeks would be lovely!) To celebrate what I fervently hope is my last business trip for a very long time, I'm taking off the whole rest of the month. I'll probably spend a lot of it getting caught up on things like laundry and maybe even doing some baking, partly to mark the return to normalcy; I will definitely be making my annual pilgrimage to the local nursery for annuals.

Last year's "stop-gap" pansies faked me out; all but 2 of them not only survived the winter but thrived. I haven't the heart to rip them out when they're so bushy, bright and flourishing, so I'll probably only get a couple of impatiens plants to replace the pansies that didn't make it. (Unless someone would like to suggest another colorful gap-filler that's compatible w/ pansies?) The apartment complex behind us finally took out the enormous, 4-story-tall tulip tree that was so rotted it had become a major hazard. It'll be interesting to see how the additional sun affects how the dogwoods and other trees do this year. All those crocuses I planted last fall bloomed and faded while I was on the road, but the Chief got pictures for me. The new daffs seem to be doing well so far; I think it's still too early for the allium to make their appearance.

The ground has settled very unevenly in the wake of last year's plumbing excavation, so it looks like we'll soon be buying a lot of dirt and filling in all the uneven places. Much of the grass seed didn't come up, so that'll have to be taken care of, too; neither one of us much likes seeing all that bare orange clay. Ugh!

Enough procrastinating; time to start unpacking...