Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fear, or "Does this computer make me look stupid?"

I have a theory about tech-learning impediments in adults. It's fear, specifically, fear of looking or even just feeling stupid. The latter is, I think, an internalization of experience with the former. I had this theory before this job, but working with K-Cop and her ilk has added observations to my casual data. My hypothesis wouldn't hold much water if it weren't generalizable to other domains of learning. Nicely, second/foreign language learning provides some support for it I think. As a kid, you can screw up and it's cute, or at least expected. Ok, unless you're trying to learn to spell and you had my dad in which case it was grounds for being disowned but my father was a major league butt-wad. I'm talking about the general, usual (or at least not abnormally dysfunctional) cases where children are not expected to waltz in and know everything right from the word "go". Moreover, they are allowed certain styles of exploratory experience that in an adult is just frikkin bizzare. E.g., Language - it's perfectly acceptable for little kids to look or stare at and even touch talking faces. They can engage in open proprioceptive exploration too (babbling or repetition).

Adults? Nah, not so much. Take my friend B____, who upon learning that inhabitants of a region of Connecticut pronounce the name of a town in bordering Rhode Island (Warwick as "wahr-ick", which sort of comes out like "work" but not quite) was so taken with the strangeness of it that she found herself muttering it under her breath as she walked across campus one day. "wahr-ick, wahr-ick, wahr-ick" she said quietly as she walked, rolling it around in her mouth and trying to get a sense for how these crazy Connecticutians were producing the word. She called me later to tell me the story about how she ended up looking like a nutter to the folks who crossed her path that day.

So adults can't do this. Similarly, you can't grab the mouse and just go crazy clicking on shit. Why not? Because it's WORK dammit (not to be confused with wahr-ick) and you are supposed to be doing serious stuff, moreover, you are supposed to do it RIGHT. Heaven forbid you click something wrong and then whoops, the whole thing is lost or seemingly so. You can call for help, sure. Call. Your boss is just in the next room. Give her a ring up and let her know you were screwing around with the payroll authorization system and might accidentally have deleted something....

Scary, right?

But some people do have the courage to click. Sometimes this is born of false confidence, e.g. the men who think that they "know" computers by virtue of having one less leg on a chromosome or something. Why are women like K-Cop not going to indulge in this behavior? Because they don't have this (could be false) belief that they can fix it if they screw something up. Moreover, they believe they are likely to screw something up because they've been socialized to think that the missing bit of DNA amounts to a missing area of innate technical knowledge. And so there they sit, without that (probably false) belief that they will be able to fix whatever (inevitable) mistake they make, thinking they will end up needing to call for help if they even touch the mouse the wrong way - or at least feeling that helpless "holy shit I killed the _____ (insert machine here)" feeling. It's a bad feeling. I had it with the electric typewriter the other day, sort of. Except I DO believe I can fix most of the things I am liable to fuck up at work. K-Cop, on the other hand, heard the typewriter beeping each time I overrode the margin and called to me from another office "Oh do you need help?" She came hustling in saying "I heard the beeping..." like it was a fire alarm or something. "Nope. It's just fussy" I told her and went on typing past the margin. She insisted on showing me how to turn off the beeping anyhow, and I really believe that she thought she was doing me a favor. Because of course the beep was making me incredibly anxious, right? I mean, it would make HER incredibly anxious afterall.

That's my not well thought out rant/hypothesis of the week. I hope you enjoyed it. (I can practically hear my sister getting ready to unleash a volley of text on the topic of gender and adult learning....)

Pumpkin past

This was a quick jack o'lantern from last year. This year's been so busy we haven't had a chance to make one, A___ was out of town last weekend and now it's work work work...I'm guessing it'll be another last minute pumpkin this year. Man, I really want to carve me a pumpkin! Maybe they wouldn't mind if I did it on my lunch break at work, K-cop be damned.

halloween fun

I found this uproariously funny.

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To me, halloween has never been about the sexy costume. Not ever. Ok, sure I didn't necessarily want to look unattractive, but I have not once done the sexy kitten or the naughty nurse - I was a nurse one year when in college and working evening shift at the hospital because I had no costume and had a party to go to after work. That nurse costume was about as close to real nurse as you could get...with the addition of a nursing hat with glitter, combat boots, and a syringe (sans needle) for doing "shots" with. If you feel comfortable in a pantsless/sexy costume, then more power to ya. But for the rest of us, enjoy the fun and know that yes, you can do it with your pants up.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Cat's out of the bag I guess. So Kindergarten teacher, or rather Kindergarten Cop, has been working my nerve with what should properly be described as her ladylike behavior. Oh what, did you think only socially dysfunctional stereotypically masculine behavior pissed me off? How wrong you were.

There's a certain set of feminine behaviors, affectations, styles, thought processes, and yes fashion, that puts me right over the edge. Although usually it's the one specific detail which I fixate on in my rants, it is NEVER just that one thing. Take Kindergarten Cop's shirt (please). The shirt is one (very) bright beacon in the sea of kCop's appallingly screwy femininity. In most of her behaviors, as with the shirt, I can see the kernel of cause and I understand it - sort of. That is, I understand as in I comprehend. I do not, as the hippies would say, "dig" kCop's causes. When wrung through kCop's filter of fem, these causes have some unfortunate behavioral outcomes. E.g. wanting to enjoy what is an enjoyable season (Fall) + wanting to put on a positive face for work (despite some shit in the private life, not speculating here, she shared a lot on day one of the job) --> [fem] --> that crazy get up.

Shirts and such are easily recognized symbols. Easy to put your finger on, so to speak. The other less physical ones such as elements of a person's management style are not necessarily so quickly recognizable, especially when your interactions in the presence of that person are limited to ones in which you are an active participant. When that is the case, it's hard (and I'd say somewhat cumbersome) to be both fully participating and carefully observing. But sometimes you are blessed with a few moments of dissociation in the confines of the discourse and you can sort of watch and talk at the same time.

I had one of those moments yesterday, a peek at what's behind the dayglow orange/yellow curtain. I am less than thrilled at what I saw.

This kind of explicit awareness is going to make working with kCop much harder, at least short term. Maybe given a few days to process this, I will be able to temper my reaction to the freak show which is my coworker but for now I'm going to have to blog, etc., to work out the utter horror she elictis in me.

Monday, October 20, 2008


So I have this job, this temp job. It's ok. You know it's not a great job when one of the things you tell yourself to get through the day is "I'm just a temp". Honestly, I think there'd be more to like if I were not just a temp. For starters, I'd be compensated better and boy there's a lot I can tolerate if I'm being paid to tolerate it. As it is, my current compensation is just barely enough and thus the consolation of being "just a temp".

On the plus side, one of my coworker's recently remarked, at least I'll have payroll experience now. I have nicknamed this coworker "the kindergarten teacher". The nickname has been coming for some time but was cemented by an outfit she wore last week which featured a turtle neck shirt the color of that crayon you are never sure whether to call orange or yellow.

Yeah, that's catty. Ok so add being clandestinely catty to my list of things I do to get through my day.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Since we're trying to get by on reduced income and no promise of a job for me after December 5th (I'm temping and the job market is sucky with an extra helping of suck), my fella and I have undertaken an ambitious program of weekend cooking. This weekend was a huge vat of spaghetti sauce with something like 48 meatballs, butternut squash soup, and banana nut bread. Man, I love the Fall. It's finally cold enough to cook without parboiling ourselves. One drawback: This evening's spaghetti feast has left the two of us staggering around the apartment muttering the "oof"s and "hmmmph"s of the very (very) well fed.

Thursday, October 09, 2008


From today's Washington Post on the news that the US Federal Reserve has just authorized lending another $38 billion to AIG:
On Sept. 16, it was announced that the government would rescue AIG with an $85 billion loan. The company was on the verge of collapse because its financial products division had made some risky and complex investments that had gone bad.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


I have one and it sucks.

I think when one picks up the office cold, one should be able to claim some kind of worker's comp or something. I'm feeling resentful because this shit goes around an office when some idiot with something to prove simply MUST show up sick so everyone else can all see how seriously s/he takes the job. As my sister pointed out, we've been rewarded for "zero absenteeism!" since grade school (and yes, I agree, the school yard may have actually been better for some strategic absences) so it's small wonder there is a set of adults who can't shake the belief that they will get a reward for coming in and showering the office with their virus and bacteria swarming snot.

Yes, there are folks who don't have sick time and this plays a role in whether or not you stay home, right? I'm one of those people with no sick time, and have been for a long, long while now. You know what that means for me? It means that if I'm sick enough (i.e. more than the sniffles), I know I need to take the time to get better rather than risk this turning into a pneumonia or even just a miserable lingering upper respiratory infection because it's better to lose something on the order of a day or two than something on the order of weeks. However, I have to add in the social/soft cost for calling in sick, a cost which is measured in a reality which includes the grade school perfect attendance addicts. It is this cost which is making me extra irritable at the moment. I'm going in tomorrow - I'm still feeling shitty but not as shitty as I was and moreover, I'm starting to get the bitchy emails that let me know my "choice" to be sick right now is really inconveniencing my coworkers.

So I'm propped up here at the computer waiting for another cup of tea to brew and I was looking for other jobs (ones with sick time) when a series of largely stumbled upon images suggested a nice halloween costume idea - group costume - Kool Aid guy, Orville Reddenbacher, and Mrs. Butterworth. Could be the cold medicine talking but I think this is a combo that spells F-U-N.

I was going to add Ronald McDonald and Tony the Tiger to this list but you know, those guys get too much press. I think the concept is better if it's the sort of lesser known food mascots. Like the Fruit Pie Magician and Count Chocula (Lucky Charms dude could get your ass kicked if you end up around any overly nationalist Irish or Irish-Americans so I'd recommend that one only with caution).