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July 2010

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Jul. 5th, 2010

To the DucKon Convention Committee and Board of Directors:

Stop.

If you have one shred of care and concern for preserving and continuing the phenomenon that was Duckon,

STOP.

STOP.

From all indications that I have seen and gathered -- both from observers and people actively involved in your organizations, it is abundantly clear that your two organizations are fundamentally broken, and that a significant majority of those involved (or at least those who wield the political power) have no interest in fixing the root causes of the problems which are endangering not only the convention, but the corporation itself. Some of these problems have existed since before I got involved with DucKon about 10 years ago, so they can't be blamed on any one specific person or interpersonal conflict; they are endemic and systemic problems with the way your organizations are defined, executed, and allowed to be held hostage to personal ego.

As I recall, Super-Con-Duck-Tivity and DucKon were formed to foster and encourage children's science fiction literature. At that point, personal egoboo, self-vindication, and preservation of personal pride -- while present -- didn't seem to be playing a significant role in the operation of either entity.

All indications now, however, point to both organizations being much more concerned with those issues than with serving the interests and needs not only of emerging writers of children's SF, but the general Chicago-area SF convention-going public-at-large.

Thanks to the actions of key members of your convention committee and board of directors in the past year and a half -- and particularly in the past week or so -- the perception of DucKon and Super-Con-Duck-Tivity has been seriously damaged... perhaps irreparably. I won't address my (granted, incompletely informed) opinion of whether those actions were right or wrong; the fact remains that highly visible members of both organizations have acted and continue to act unprofessionally in public and/or semi-public arenas, and the result is that a deepening negative impact is spreading throughout many fannish populations which have traditionally been the mainstay of support and creativity for the convention. Doing things the way you have always done them is only alienating the people you need most to continue operating the corporation and the convention.

Stop. No, really, I mean STOP. Frankly, I think the only way you're going to be able to salvage the situation is to take a step back and, if you can do so without serious financial or legal repercussions, skip holding DucKon for a year, or even two. Use the time to redefine yourselves, both as a convention and as a corporation. The status quo is no longer sufficient, and indeed, has become destructive.

Jun. 13th, 2010

Argh. Bad blogger.

Blame it on Facebook.

OK, brief 8 month recap: Still at Lovely Workplace. Over the winter months, became the primary go-to person for the grocery feature building people (rant to follow). Did the Lawn & Garden thing (rant to follow). Made the decision to turn my back on the Front End of the store and shift over to grocery after the Lawn & Garden assignment was over (rant to follow). Had various epiphanies of varying intensity and scope concerning matters political, religious and social (many rants to follow). Still considering various aspects/approaches of writing A, The, or Several books, or just rolling them up into a series. (Hey, if there can be knitting- or caterer-themed mystery series, I don't know why there couldn't be an ongoing collection of foodie/bread baking/philosopher/software process -themed small town vignette fiction.) Oh, and I became a Gleek.

More to come.

Oct. 16th, 2009

Service THIS.

Scenes from a service desk (yes, the conversation is verbatim to the best of my ability):

Customer: I bought this battery charger here yesterday, and the stupid girl who checked me out didn't deactivate the thing inside so when I tried to leave I got stopped like a common criminal, and the jerk at the door said he wasn't going to tell the girl that she'd forgotten to deactivate it because he wanted to keep his job. THEN, when I got it home, I hooked it up to my dead battery, which I bought here by the way, and it clicked and hummed but this 'connect' light didn't come on, and my battery didn't get charged. So I want to exchange this piece of crap. But I'll have you know that I drove 5 miles to get here, and I am NOT going back home with another defective charger, so I want YOU to go back there to the automotive department and find me a replacement, AND try it out yourself on one of those batteries back there to make sure it works before you waste my time making an exchange.
Me: (looking at the line of 10 people that has formed during this tirade) Ma'am, I'm sorry you're dissatisfied. I'll get an associate from the automotive department up here to find out what kind of charger you need, and they'll get you set up with something that will work for you.
Customer: I'm NOT going to wait here for someone to wander over here when they get around to it.
Me: Well, your other option is that you can go back to the counter there yourself, and I'll page the Zone Supervisor to meet you there.
Customer: Why should I have to go all the way back there? You can do it just as easily as I can.
Me: Madam, look around you. I am the ONLY person here at the Service Desk. Look behind you. Unfortunately for you, you are NOT the only person requiring service. I cannot and WILL NOT leave this desk. In any case, anyone who helps you back there is going to need to ask you specific questions about what kind of battery you're charging, and what kind of charging capabilities you need. They know the inventory better than I do, and they're going to be able to help you more quickly than I can.
Customer: Well, yes, I suppose so. I doubt you could be trusted to remember that kind of information anyway.

(I page the ZS to the automotive counter and she huffs off, only slightly missing a stride when one of the other customers in line turns and says to their companion, "What a tin-plated BITCH!" She comes back about twenty minutes later; the other SD associate has come back from break and is waiting on a customer, and there is no line. I'm clearing returns off the back counter.)

Customer: Well, are you going to wait on me now, or do I have to wait in line?
Me: Ma'am, there IS no line. You are welcome to wait until one forms.
Customer: I shouldn't have to put up with people like you!
Me: In all honesty, madam, NEITHER SHOULD I.



Scene Two: the phone rings. I pick up the phone and rattle off the standard "Thank you for calling your 24-hour Houghton Lovely Workplace..."; then this happens:

Customer: I was just at your store about 10 minutes ago, and I have a box of diapers here that isn't on my receipt, so I need to come back and pay for it.
Me: Well ma'am, we appreciate your honesty! Just bring it in, you can pay for it at any register or here at the service desk.
Customer: Well, I'm at another store right now, but I can come back there as soon as I'm done here... but here's the thing. My son is with me, and he's asleep. So I'm wondering if I pull up to the pharmacy entrance, whether you can send someone out and have them bring my credit card in, ring it up, and then bring it back out with the slip for me to sign.
Me: Well, ma'am, technically by store policy we're not supposed to handle a customer's money of any kind for them without direct management supervision. Are you by any chance calling from a cell phone?
Customer: Yes.
Me: If you'll call back when you get here, I'll see if I can round up a manager and an associate for you, but I have to warn you that it may take a few minutes, as we're very short-staffed this morning.
Customer: Oh, that's OK. A nap is a nap, I don't want to rush it.

(45 minutes later the phone rings again)
Customer: I've been waiting out here for half an hour and no one ever came out here so I just pitched the diapers out the window at the front door. Thanks anyway!

Oct. 15th, 2009

I love mankind. It's people I can't stand.

Situation #1. This past Saturday, it was **NUTS** at the Lovely Workplace. Friday was a Tech payday, it was Homecoming weekend at both Tech and Lake Linden High Schools; there were a LOT of people in town, and ergo, at the Lovely Workplace. Just before lunchtime, I had a long line of people, most of them with a lot of merchandise, several of them with multiple transactions. The CSM (Customer Service Manager) comes along and tells me to shut off my light. This means my register is closed, I finish out my line, log off and go to lunch. OK, fine; my customers know the drill. Normally, the CSM will also put a 'Lane Closed' at the end the register counter to underline the situation, but sometimes we run short of them, or (as in this case) they forget. Still, my light is off, and the customers in my line know that I'm closing down and in fact are warning other customers away. A couple minutes after my light has been turned off, I'm down to the last couple, a multiple transation big cart-o-crap, and another customer approaches with a full cart.

My customers: He's closed. (They're ignored.)
Me: I'm sorry, sir, this register is closed.
Newcomer: No, it's NOT.
Me: (to my customers:) I'm sorry, excuse me a moment.
(I lean over the counter, plant both fists on the belt, give the newcomer the full-bore Parental Consequences From Hell glare and tone:) Yes. It. IS.

The CSM, having last heard this tone from me immediately before I bodily marched a recalcitrant 8 year old out of the store by the ear, hurries over to shepard the newcomer somewhere else.


Situation #2. (After lunch, same Saturday...) The madding crowds continue to mill. My latest entry in the joy lottery is a customer in one of our motorized scooters; its' basket is full, but not excessively heaped.

Customer: Can I have my stuff packed in those large bags?
Me: Oh, certainly. (sigh)
Customer: Oh, that's enough for that bag.
Me: (looking in bemusement at three not-particularly-large-or-heavy boxes of cereal knocking around in the bottom of said bag) All right then.

[similar packing instructions continue. During the packing of a later large bag, which at this point contains a small roll of heavy plastic (for windows) and a container of cleanser....]

Customer: Oh, that's far too much for that bag. I don't mean to be rude, but have some common sense.
Me: (looking pointedly at her scooter basket, which now contains quite a few large bags, each absurdly underpacked)I buy *REAL* garbage bags, rather than trusting a household's worth of trash to shoddy plastic bags given away for free. Do you REALLY want to talk about common sense?

To be (believe it or not) continued...

Oct. 6th, 2009

Cold weather comfort food: Chicken Paprikash

I made this for this month's meeting of the Keeweenaw Gluttony Society (KeGS). It came out, if I do say so myself, spectacularly well. This is probably a bit much amount-wise, so scale it to your preferences; or don't -- it should freeze well.

As always, volume measurements are approximate...

INGREDIENTS:
* 5 lbs. chicken -- your favorite cut. I used leg quarters sectioned into thighs & drumsticks, with the extra fat trimmed off & rendered.
* 4 Tbsp fat -- this can be butter, rendered chicken fat (schmaltz), or oil.
* 1 1/2 large onions, peeled, halved, and sliced thin.
* 3 Tbsp sweet Hungarian paprika
* 1 1/2 tsp salt
* 2 - 3 cups chicken stock
* 2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
* 3 Tbsp flour
* 2/3 cup sour cream

METHOD:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Saute the onions in the fat over medium heat until they are golden and translucent. Remove from the pan and set aside; brown the chicken in the same pan in batches. Note that you're not cooking the chicken completely here, you're just getting some nice color on them. Place the chicken pieces in a large heavy dutch oven and set aside.

Pour off all but a couple tablespoons of the fat, return the onions to the pan, add the paprika and the salt and cook over medium heat for a couple minutes; stir in the tomatoes and about half of the chicken stock and simmer for 7 or 8 minutes.

Pour the onion/paprika mixture over the chicken, cover, and bake for an hour to an hour and a half, until the chicken is tender and starting to slip off the bone. Remove the chicken to a rimmed platter or serving dish, cover and set aside; place the dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-high heat, and whisk in the flour briskly. Cook for a couple minutes, and then whisk in the remainder of the chicken stock, adding more if you need it to get a gravy consistency that you like. (It should have a velvety body but not be overpoweringly thick.) Turn off the heat, let it stand for a minute (you want it to drop just below the boiling point), and then whisk in the sour cream. Pour over the chicken and serve over wide egg noodles or with dumplings.

Sep. 16th, 2009

Fear & Loathing at the Lovely Workplace

It's been an interesting few weeks at the Lovely Workplace. Fear and loathing are running rampant among the associates, for two reasons. The first reason is that our store is teetering on the brink of being organizationally restructured. The current organization of department managers and floor associates will go away, to be replaced with zone managers (each zone being made up of several current departments), zoning teams (who will spend their time straightening up the store), price change teams, and module deployment teams which will set up and take down product displays. The Store Manager, co-managers, and assistant managers will no longer directly oversee store operations by walking the floor; they'll be sitting in the administration office coordinating teams while the zone managers do the walking and make recommendations for team deployment.

Needless to say the set of current department managers are all up in arms... because the zone manager position is obviously a step up, and team assignment is obviously a step down. Competition is rife and tensions are high. None of these changes in arrangements have a particularly profound impact upon the front end operations, other than to further blur the line between front end associates and floor associates; more front end associates will find themselves working the floor on occasion, and more floor associates will find themselves working registers from time to time. The only real impact it's likely to have on me is that my role as a generalist will probably become official... so I won't have any real idea what I'm likely to be doing on a day-to-day basis until I get there. Variety, they say, is the spice of life.

Reason #2 for fear and loathing is that, starting this Thursday, our Lovely Workplace will no longer issue paper checks. Paper copies of paycheck stubs will still be available -- it seems to be required by law in Michigan -- but all paychecks will be disbursed electronically, exclusively. Associates who don't have direct deposit into a bank account are being compelled to either set it up, or to receive their paycheck on a cash-based Mastercard (which they can subsequently cash out immediately if they want to). The folks who already have direct deposit are unfazed. Everyone else is convinced that the Lovely Workplace is doing this so that Big Brother/Organized Crime/The Corrupt Banking & Insurance Industry/Gay Athiest Communist Aborting Terrorist Hippie Hackers can immediately swoop down upon all these defenseless electronically available funds while the Lovely Workplace shrugs and says "not our problem".

(The current issue of the supermarket tabloid Sun trumpeting that the world will end on October 11 isn't helping.)

Sep. 13th, 2009

Random bits...

Seen on a T-shirt yesterday: "You have the rest of your life to be a jerk. Why not take today off?"

For you hunters & commandos on the go, Remington sells camoflage makeup in a compact. (I spent much of the day snickering at random moments at the visual image of deer hunters perched in a tree, peering into a little mirror while dabbing on black, brown, and green makeup.)

Yesterday's Difficult Customer: I don't think I've ever been called 'Madam' before.
Me: Oh, don't worry, I save it for my special customers.

Sep. 5th, 2009

simpsons

A dream to make you swear off spicy food...

(The problem is, I didn't HAVE any particularly spicy food last night... but I digress.)

I dreamt that I was working as a software project manager in New Orleans. (Yay!) The software development company was located in second-floor offices over a bar in the French Quarter. (Double Yay!) The bar's clientele was mostly flesh-eating zombies and their evil masters. (Um...) Also, in an effort to preserve the picturesque historic ambiance of the area from the detrimental ravages of carbon monoxide and squished zombie pulp, cars had been banned from a several block radius of the office's location, so that all travel in the area had to be done on foot... amongst the flesh-eating zombies. (Double Um...)

To deal with this less-than-optimal commuting problem, the owner of the company hit upon the following solution. All employees would live at this quiet, staid boarding house several blocks away from the office, and commute on foot en masse, via the buildings themselves: across rooftops and along window ledges. Gaps between buildings were bridged either by rickety hand-built spans of scrap lumber or by screaming and hurling one's self across the chasm.

After about a week of these forays I threw in the towel and refused to do it anymore. It was at that point that I woke up.

This type of subconcious commentary really doesn't bode well for my state of mind, methinks.

Sep. 3rd, 2009

mousesdonkey

A new definition of hell.

Seriously, this would never have occurred to me... but having lived it now and survived (well, I have tomorrow yet), I can testify matter-of-factly that it is an ordeal to strike fear into the stoutest of hearts.

What is this terrifying experience?

Being second-in-charge of Stationery, e.g., Office / Back-To-School Supplies. at the Lovely Workplace... during the last two weeks before elementary & high schools start (and of course during the influx of returning students at the local area colleges).

WHOLLY. FREAKING. GHU.

Parents are excited about the looming advent of school. Kids, not so much. However, they can all agree that they sure-as-heck LOVE to shop for it. So much so that they run amok throughout the store from display to display, changing their minds faster than a sugar-laden toddler channel-surfing on Saturday morning. As cooler supplies are discovered, uncool supplies are soulessly abandoned... resulting in significantly large parts of the store looking like the aftermath of the Blitzkreig. Meanwhile, the managment, in an effort to shamelessly pander to these madding crowds, order ever-increasing supplies, so that we have had six or eight pallets of freight to price and get out onto the floor (or more amusingly to jam Tetris-like into storage) a day where before we might get one or two.

It was SO much fun this year that the management of the Marquette Lovely Workplace got into the act (on our local management's request) and sent us their entire last year's stock of "high-end" drafting supplies -- never mind that we had our own 36 cubic feet of compasses, protractors, globe protractors, triangles, rulers, T-squares, circle templates, colored pencils, micro-fine pens, 4 different kinds of erasers, and let us not forget, erasing templates -- to say nothing of nifty premier sets of all of the above assembled in fragile plastic cases -- to get rid of somehow. That's right, 36 cubic feet. When each item is at most an average of 6 cubic inches, that's a lot of "high end" drafting supplies. (Yes, those quotes are sarcasm. The engineering students generally don't buy their supplies here. That's why both we and Marquette had all that stuff leftover from last year. You'd think someone would get a clue, but NOooooo....)

Ultimately, it's the sheer shopping bedlam that floors me... well, that and the fact that almost NO ONE can be freaking well bothered to put stuff back where they got it. Honestly, people, whatever happened to responsibility and due diligence? Yes, it is in our job description to pick up after the customers' lazy asses, but we're not supposed to be spending a full QUARTER TO A THIRD OF OUR ENTIRE WORKDAY DOING IT.

#define SIDE_RANT
A couple months ago, the Lovely Workplace's employee magazine had an article exhorting us associates to be shining examples of "Servant Excellence". EXCUSE THE HELL OUT OF ME? "SERVANT EXCELLENCE???!?"

For the record: I cashier (still far and away the fastest damn cashier in the store); I pick up and clean up after customers; I work the service desk; I cover breaks for people greeters; I price merchandise and stock shelves for any department that needs me; I help customers; I maintain inventory in the back room; I train new employees; I troubleshoot recalcitrant equipment; I've even been known to push carts in the parking lot and unload trucks. In other words, I PROVIDE SERVICES to the store and to the consumer public. The fact that I provide services does NOT make me, in any way, shape, or form, ANYONE'S "Servant", thank you very frigging much. It is a subtle distinction to draw, but a damnably important one.
#undefine SIDE_RANT

(Oh, and as a capper: today the assistant manager in charge of the Front End informed me that I 'Exceed Expectations'.
Damn freakin' straight, bucko. I just wish it were reciprocal.)

Jul. 23rd, 2009

mister

Obviously, I'm not in my right mind.

I happened to notice that The Globe in its last issue was shouting about a plot to steal Michael Jackson's body. My first reaction was "Oh please, who in their right mind would have any use for it?"

And then I realized exactly what *I* would do with Michael Jackson's body.

I'd mummify it with the latest technology, install animatronics, and unveil the concept of live-action dance-along 'Thriller' karaoke.

I'd make **MILLIONS**!!!!

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