29 August 2011

Another reason I like my job

I am in charge in planning the annual meeting of our managers and Board of Directors, a very fine group of people with whom I greatly enjoy spending time.*

Today I sent out the e-mail confirming the date and location of the meeting, to wit:

As mentioned previously, the managers meeting will be held [date]. We had originally hoped to have the meetings here in the DC area but a city-wide meeting** is taking place that week, so we will meet at the [location]. [Further details, blah, blah, blah]

Within a few minutes I got a reply from one of our Operations Managers: Wow – a city wide meeting. Do all residents have to attend? That must be one heck of a gathering!

And I answered back: Yes! That’s exactly it. Plays hell with restaurant reservations with 600,000 all trying to get a table.

This is why when people ask me what I do I say that I work with smart people who can take a joke.

* I would probably enjoy it more if my brain weren't running a constant hum through my head of "What have I forgotten to do?  What have I done wrong?"

** A city-wide meeting has lots of stuff going on in the Washington Convention Center and fills every hotel.

26 August 2011

I like to look

Tess Vigeland* hosts my favorite radio show about personal finance** and over the past couple of years if there is one thing that she has said more than once it's that during volatile times like these we should just throw the investment statements in a drawer, unopened.  "Don't look!"

(Hmmm.  Maybe there should be more exclamation marks in that because Tess always sounds very emphatic when giving this particular piece of advice.)

I respect Tess immensely and enjoy her reporting but I have to say:  I like to look.

In fact, I look every week.  On Monday morning, as a matter of fact.  I've kept a series of Excel spreadsheets (one per year) for the past ten years.  The data?  The balance of my 401(k).  The purpose?  I do better with feedback.  When watching my weight, I get on the scale.  When I was digging my way out of debt, I paid lots of attention to my bank balance and those debts with my lists and graphs and calculations***.  If I could figure out how to as quickly and easily quantify how many lines of dialogue I know versus how many I need to know, I'd do that, too.  And probably learn the darn lines faster.****

I know that sometimes the news will be good and sometimes it will be ... less good ... but locking in losses when the numbers are down remains a poor idea.  So I look.  And I chart.  And I leave my 401(k) alone.  Every few years I rebalance but not during a volatile period.  And I look.  And I chart. And I make jokes about which brand of cat food Pekoe and I will be sharing during my golden years.

Oddly enough, I started doing this charting three months before 9/11 so if you look to the left you can see the  10 percent drop in my balance after that awful day.  It was a scary drop at the time but the balance recovered in a few weeks and compared to 2008 it can't even be seen.  From May of '08 to March of '09 I lost 40 percent of the then current balance.  Right now I'm down 8 percent from just before the whole Debt Deal mess.  But the numbers on the right are still higher than the numbers on the left. Up and down, up and down, but generally up.  Looking has taught me to take the long view.  I'm saving for the future, not for this morning's balance.

As I like to say, if I look out of the window during the winter and see that it is snowing, I don't throw away my summer clothes.  So I look.  And I graph.

I like to look.

*It's pronounced Vigg-land even though it looks like Vie-gland.  Sort of like it's pronounced Lee-tah even though it looks like Lett-uh.  Those who can pronounce us can't spell us and vice versa ...

** Okay, there's not a large sample, I realize.  Not the point. The show is awesome, as is Tess.

*** And lines and circles and a few paragraphs on the back.  

**** When a friend was in labor and said that she wanted to go to the midwife's office to find out how dilated she was because she "needed to know the numbers" it made perfect sense to me.  Of course, if it hadn't made perfect sense to us, then her husband, mother, and I might have recognized this for the class transition phase thinking it actually was.  S'okay.  We got to the hospital with several minutes to spare. What?

22 August 2011

Rhyme of Rhymes

Savoynet has been discussing poetic rhymes lately, especially how the word "wind" is to be pronounced in a given phrase and one of our members posted this poem.  

Andrew Lang (Scots poet 1844–1912), in Longman's Magazine:


Wild on the mountain peak the wind
Repeats its old refrain,
Like ghosts of mortals who have sinned,
And fain would sin again.

For "wind" I do not rhyme to "mind,"
Like many mortal men.
Again" (when one reflects) 'twere kind
To rhyme as if "agen."

I never met a single soul
Who spoke of "wind" as "wined," And yet we use it, on the whole.
To rhyme to " find" and "blind."

We say, "Now don't do that agen,"
When people give us pain;
In poetry, nine times in ten,
In rhymes to "Spain" or "Dane."

Oh, which is wrong or which is right?
Oh, which is right or wrong!
The sounds in prose familiar, quite,
Or those we meet in song?

To hold that "love" can rhyme to "prove"
Requires some force of will,
Yet in the ancient lyric groove
We meet them rhyming still.

This was our learned fathers' wont
In prehistoric times.
We follow it, or if we don't,
We oft run short of rhymes.

21 August 2011

If we'd met when we were teenagers. And Irish.

Mag:  Oh, you're so clever!  Well, I'll tell you something:  there are occasions in my life when I know how G-d feels.

Joe:  Good for you.

Mag:  And one of those occasions is now.  (Puffing her cigarette regally.)  At this moment G-d feels ... expansive ... and beneficent ... and philanthropy.

Joe:  Philanthropic.

Mag:  (after momentary setback).  And we will not be put into bad humor by grubby little pedants.

Joe:  Look, Mag:  we came up here to study.  What are you going to do first?

Mag:  French.  And then maths.  And then Spanish.  And then English language and literature.  And after lunch geography and the history of the world.  I have planned a program for myself.  The important thing about revising for an examination is to have a method.  What are you starting with?

Joe:  Maths.

Mag:  Then what?

Joe:  That's all.

Mag:  Only maths?

Joe:  Huh-huh.

(She considers this absurd idea for a second.  Then, because Joe is wiser in these than she, she readily agrees with him.)

Mag:  Then that's what I"ll do, too.  (Really worries.)  My G-d, if the volume of a cone doesn't come up, I'm scootrified!  Not that I care -- I can afford to go down in one subject.  (Pause.)  Joe ...

Joe:  What?

Mag:  What's the real difference between language and literature?

Joe:  You're not serious, Maggie!

Mag:  Don't -- don't -- don't tell me ... I remember now ... One is taking and the other is ... books!

Joe:  Talking? ...

Mag:  That's it.

Joe:  That's no definition!  Language is ----

Mag:  Don't say another word.  I have it in my head.  But if you start lecturing, I'll lose it again.  I have my own way of remembering things.

19 August 2011

Thank you, Fin Dwyer!

I was recently asked to sub for another actress in a one-act at Silver Spring Stage.  A week's notice, okay, but really that just makes it exciting, right?  And besides, I'm playing a narrator, so I can consult my script while I sit in a chair.  Easy peasy!!  I can read! I can sit!  I can read and sit at the same time!


The play in question is the first act of Brian Friel's Lovers.  Brian Friel is Irish.  So are his characters.  That means that they have ... Irish accents.  And preferably not "Irish Spring" or "Lucky Charms" accents.*  I have long said that I had an Irish accent that would pass auditions but I'd never had to put that to the test before.

So I collected the script a few days ago and have rehearsed with the cast a few times. And the other night at home I re-loaded all of the Irish History podcasts that I had previously listened to back onto Smudge.  And I have been wandering around in my free time listening to the host, Fin Dwyer, tell stories that can be summarized as "As then things went very badly for the Irish"** and repeating what he says more or less phrase by phrase.***

No would seriously mistake me for a resident of the Auld Sod but I think I'm at least ... not jarring.

And I was, of course, no end of pleased when our director was giving notes one night and suggested to another cast member that their accent was wandering.  "Maybe you could listen to some Irish History podcasts," she said nodding at me.

Possibly more difficult will be to stop speaking that way when not in performance.

So this is my tiny effort to repay Fin for the assist.  If you have any interest in Irish history, I highly recommend his podcast and website. 

*Telling an actress that she has a Lucky Charms accent is the sort of thing that makes people go all slitty-eyed and resentful, though outwardly still smiling and charming.

**See, for example, the Vikings.  

***In the episode about the Spanish Armada, I got really good at saying the word "gun" with the proper accent.  Such a pity that word doesn't occur in the play.  Well, unless I work it in every so often.  "He carried his school-books *and a gun* in a leather satchel."  Like that.

09 August 2011

Everyday Words

I don't know if I found Words We Live By on my own or if David sent me the link but it's exactly the sort of thing that we flag for each other.  In this case, I'm not entirely sure that "Dwight Garner" isn't some kind of obvious pseudonym because there are entire bits in here that David could have written.  To wit:
My family recently moved to western New Jersey;* a bus trip is a convenient way to reach New York City. The surprises began when, aboard our early-morning Trans-Bridge bus, we decided to read together, for the first time, the small print on the back of our ticket stubs. 
On that street sign Singer’s name is spelled entirely in capital letters — in all-caps, as word people say. This turned out to be worth noticing. New York City is in the process of eliminating its all-caps street signs; they turn out to be less legible than those in upper- and lower-case. The New York Observer has called this sign-swapping project, due to be completed in 2018, a "$28 million copy edit."

And, of course, I have the hidden clue that the "also on the New York Times" box features a link to a story about boxed wine, David's current favorite way to be eco-friendly while imbibing.

Even Hamilton Burger could get a conviction on that kind of evidence.

*No, David doesn't live in New Jersey, nor does he have children.  I am assuming that those are merely corroborative detailintended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative