Summer in Washington

I travel to Washington DC several times each year.  There are some things I do (nearly) every visit.  I make a pilgrimage to the Lincoln Memorial.  I have dinner with my friend, Holly.  I have lunch at the Atrium Cafe.  Now, I am also trying to see things I don’t always see and appreciate them more.  So here it is:



And I just realized that I don’t remember where I saw this fountain.  I want to say it was behind the Natural History Museum, but it might have been behind one of the buildings in the National Gallery.

Because my office is on the..Jefferson Memorial side of the Mall, that is generally the way that I walk.  But the other night, I walked over to the White House instead and was on Constitution Avenue rather than Independence.  I found myself looking at the street entrances of the museums, rather than those facing the Mall.  And there was the fountain.

And here is the (Instagram filtered) obligatory pic of the White House.

White House - Filtered

Note to my mom:  I didn’t take a pic, and I had seen the statue before, but I just realized that General Sherman and his horse are looking right at the Treasury Building.  I’m not sure that’s where I would have placed him.

On the way back, I took this picture because it looks weird to me to see the monuments from this angle.  It’s like seeing the Sears Tower behind you when you are driving to Midway.  (That is the Jefferson Memorial on the lower right.)



And then I went to the District Chophouse for dinner.  According to Foursquare, I hadn’t been there in over a year.  But I really appreciated that burger.


The national conference for the Society of Human Resource Management was last week.  Thirteen thousand HR types descended on Orlando for a few days of education, bonding and booze.  Because that’s what conferences are for.  That and the recertification credits.

Not all HR people like this conference.  Some think it is just too big.  Too big to network and too expensive to be practical.  I love it, and I am extremely grateful to my awesome employer for continuing to send me.  Truth be told, I don’t do enough networking.  I jam in as many sessions as possible, have dinner with a colleague and then fall into bed exhausted. I can’t imagine anything more boring than having to listen to someone talk about all the great stuff she learned at a conference, but there are a few things I want to note, for myself, for future reference:

First, Cy Wakeman.  The author of Reality Based Leadership, which I have not yet read, did a great session on the theme of Ditching the Drama.  Which, hello.  I need to keep top of mind.  There were two thoughts so poignant that I tweeted them.

Stop judging, start helping.

Sooooo hard to stop judging.  But I am working on it.  The “start helping” makes it a better mantra.  At the same time, my job makes me a sort of professional coach and I have to balance the validation of feelings with the Reality.  “Stop judging, start helping” is a phrase I might be able to adopt.

Would you rather be right or be happy?

If my damage as a human being could be summed up in one line, that might be it.  I should have this tattooed on my wrist.

It’s not that I make a ton of poor decisions.  I am a completely functional person and I don’t create a whole lot of drama myself.  I absolutely get impatient, but I don’t look for things to get upset about – particularly at work.  However.  I am very easily sucked into other people’s drama and if my head is not in the game I am liable to express every feeling that I have right in the moment I am having it.  Bad form.

Another thing about conferences is the BOOKS.  I read Social Gravity, by Joe Gerstandt and Jason Lauritsen.  The piece of advice they gave that resonated with me was to start answering those phone calls that I don’t want to answer.  Start taking the meetings.  It is not a crime to try to sell something, and sometimes those calls turn into contacts and those contacts turn into relationships.  Investing some more time isn’t going to kill me.

Then I came home, filed my application to renew my certification, and got back to work.  I remember seeing a statistic once about how very little is retained from the average training/development session.  Maybe blogging it will help this year.

In Which I Learn to Insert Tweets

For those of you not in Chicago, there is a major construction project on a major highway heading into the city.  An entire bridge is being replaced, and if I understand correctly, the plan was for the road shutdown and detour to require only three weekends.   This is the story.  Suburbanites were warned:

  1. You really don’t want to go into the city this weekend.
  2. If you do want to go into the city this weekend, take public transportation.
  3. If you don’t want to take public transportation, plan on major delays.

#Carmageddon.  Seriously.

This morning, a friend posted on Facebook that he had to be in the city for a work thing and he cruised right in.  Such that he was an hour and a half early for his project. Then I switched over to Twitter and saw this:

This isn’t someone I follow, but the Chicago Tribune re-tweeted it.

Now, I suppose that Ms. Manchir could have been referring to people in the passenger seat, or assuming that traffic was at a dead standstill – which she would know wasn’t true if she’d turned on a radio this morning – but I was bothered. I hit Reply and politely requested that Michelle Manchir and the Chicago Tribune not encourage the people that text and drive.   I went about my day, but checked back on it later.  Seems it was still bothering me.  The Tweet was still there (don’t know why I thought it wouldn’t be), and it looks like this reporter spent the day tracking the #Carmageddon story.  That wasn’t much of a story.

Incidentally, a few more people posted negative responses to the Tweet.  The snarkiest was:

Which I am ashamed to say made me smirk.  Then I went to my niece Ainslie’s baseball game this afternoon and the coach’s wife was saying that they went downtown this morning for their other son’s event and cruised right in (although the ride back was pretty bad).  Another mother said that she also drove into the city that morning and didn’t have any trouble.  And now ABC News is reporting that the project is ahead of schedule.   It is a good news day!

Want to see a great tweet about the I-94 construction?

Instead of trying to surface the cranky weekend commuters, I hope someone is doing a story on how a construction project of this magnitude gets done in such a short time frame with minimal disruption.  There are already some great pictures out there. How much planning it takes for engineers and logistics people.  How that fine made its way into the contract.  How many people working how many hours.

Knock on something, because it isn’t done yet.  But this is work that people can be proud of and, in my opinion, a story that a journalist could be proud to write.

Although to be fair, I’m not trying to sell newspapers.







Bird Toys

There’s this toy that Kiwi really likes.

Mostly cardboard with some wood pieces, held together by a soft cotton rope.  Retails for $25.  For as long as it lasts her, that isn’t too bad.  However, you will notice that she is really only interested in the cardboard.  So the last time I ordered bird stuff from I found the replacement pieces and they were pretty cheap for bird toys so I bought them and restrung the rope:

Bird Toy1

Great.  She will be very happy.   I removed the wooden pieces and will take them to the Refuge for to make toys for the birds that need wood to shred.

Then I thought about the cardboard replacement pieces.  And how many, many empty boxes we have lying around.  How I could cut them up and punch some holes and make the things for free.

And it just seemed like too much work.

So for anyone in my family (read as:  my brother, Scott) who complains that I am an impossible person to gift, there it is.  Make me these. (Sunglasses pictured for perspective.)

Bird Toy2

Obviously, the corners don’t have to be rounded but the hole should be big enough to string them on something rope-like.  And the box should be plain brown with no chemicals or adhesives.

“The Culture of Humiliation”

Many of my “real life” friends will recall that I laughed my head off when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, inasmuch as I couldn’t stand the Clintons. However, I always had some sympathy for Monica herself, particularly since she is my age and I couldn’t fathom the fear or shame she must have suffered.

Example:  When word hit the street that she had DNA evidence on that blue dress, the world decided that she had been trying to trap the President into some kind of blackmail scheme all along.  Her explanation was that when she got home that night, she had hung up the dress.  The next time she tried it on, she had gained weight and it didn’t fit.  She crumpled it up in frustration, tossed it on the floor of her closet and forgot about it for the longest time.  I remember thinking, “Well, I would have had it cleaned right away, even if I hadn’t known about the stain.  But I know exactly what she is talking about.”

I wouldn’t say I liked her, but I believed her.

She just wrote this piece for Vanity Fair, drawing some parallels between her experience and the Culture of Humiliation we have going online. And some stuff about misogyny that she couldn’t even have known would be so relevant right this second.  And about how women turn on each other.   Good Lord, how women turn on each other.

It is worth reading.  And also?  She looks fabulous.



Compared to most women over on Twitter right now, I have exceptionally little to complain about.   I have never been raped.  I don’t walk around with any serious fear for my physical safety.  I had kind of chalked it up to the fact that I was never all that pretty.  Guys only assault pretty girls, right?  (Rolls eyes at self.)

Even in college, at my absolute most attractive, I was more charming than pretty.  This weekend, Twitter has taught me that I have been lucky, because “charming” could very easily be mistaken for overt flirting which, it seems, can be taken as an open invitation to sexual assault.  But that isn’t what I want to tell you.  I want to tell you two stories – from work – that illustrate the extent to which I have adapted to male bullshit regarding women.

First.  It will surprise no one that in my seventeen years working in Human Resources, I have investigated one or two sexual harassment complaints.  I am happy to say that they have generally been matters of cluelessness rather than malicious intent and the “accused” have generally been genuinely sorry to have made someone uncomfortable and wanted to apologize more than anything else.  One case in particular struck me because I worked rather closely with the “accused”.  I was asked whether I ever felt like the guy was talking to my breasts.  I hadn’t noticed.  I’ve had people staring at my chest since I was 10 years old.  I stopped noticing sometime in high school.  I never once gave an “Eyes up here” or made a complaint or even offered a knowing glare.  I didn’t make a conscious decision to ignore that behavior as a general practice but, hell.   I don’t have the time or the energy to get upset about that stuff, let alone confront it all the time.  So I block it out.

I am not proud of this.  It is just how I have operated.  I am a bit ashamed, now that I am typing it out loud, that with my general confidence and competence and ability to confront people that I have been too lazy or weak to do so.  But there it is.

The second one is worse.  A few years ago a young lady in my own department told me that she had a troubling experience when she went to speak at a conference.  The weather had been bad and she’d gone to the bar to watch a game and get a burger for dinner.  Harassing experience ensues.  She wasn’t physically threatened, but felt way uncomfortable and the dude was, by extension, a client.  My first reaction, God forgive me, was “I wouldn’t have gone to the bar by myself to watch a game and have dinner.”


How m-f brainwashed am I that the thought even entered my head.  How brainwashed am I that I wouldn’t even consider watching a game by myself in a bar on the road over dinner?  I sit in bars by myself when I am waiting for people.  I eat dinner in restaurants by myself all the damn time.  I have stopped in front of random televisions in a thousand public places, by myself, to watch some sportsball item or another.  I have gone to sporting events by myself.

This isn’t even a conscious decision.  This is an “it would just never occur to me”.  Is it some great hardship?  No.  At the same time, it is only happening because I am female.

So.  Yeah, yeah.  Less than a First World Problem.  But if you are asking the question, “Really?  All women have been affected by a male culture of sexual dominance/violence/intimidation in this country?”

Yes.  We all have.


P.S.  I sorta want to delete that last post about guys in bars.  But I’m not going to.

Catching Up on the Books: 1-19 of 2014

Book 1 – The Song is You, by Megan Abbott

Hollywood murder mystery told from the point of view of a reporter turned studio publicist.   The story had a lot of Bad Boys Getting Away With Everything and wannabe starlets on the wrong end of some bad stuff.  I have lost some of the intricacies of the plot, but I remember that the story unfolded well and I enjoyed it.





Book 2 – A Dangerous Friend, by Ward Just

Americans in Vietnam in 1965.  Dude works with a non-profit and it tells the tale of how the U.S. might have started down the spiral into an unholy mess.  I remember the illustrations of Good Guys who are really good guys and Good Guys who are not so much and a variety of Bad Guys and the civilians that are caught in the middle.  This wasn’t my favorite Just novel and it wasn’t exactly easy to relate.  But damn, this guy can write.  I jotted down my favorite line when I rated on GoodReads:  “I agreed with her about writing your own history and being present at the end of one era and the beginning of another.  Meaning, not to allow history to unfold in your absence or as a consequence of your indifference.”



Books 3 – 12 – Sookie Stackhouse Novels (#4-#13), by Charlaine Harris

I had heard that after Season 4, True Blood went totally off the canon so I decided to go ahead and plow through all of the novels.  And I gotta tellya, I like them better than the TV show.  The politics of the supernaturals – the fairies, the weres and other shapeshifters as well as the vampires – was very interesting.  The TV show does a better job of developing characters because the cast is kept smaller, but it really botches some of the backstories.  Sookie and her men are sometimes tiresome but overall this was some good brain candy.




Book 13 – The Valley of Fear, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes novel and can I tell you?  I don’t even remember the plot.  The Goodreads reviews suggest that there wasn’t that much to remember.  I gave it three stars, but couldn’t tell you why.  This is why I need to keep up with logging books on the blog.





Book 14 – Sweet Tooth, by Ian McEwan

Recent grad is recruited into MI-5 and is assigned to seduce a writer.  After reading it, I wrote, Before starting this book, I had resigned myself to the fact that while I love McEwan’s writing style, I am perennially disappointed in his story lines. I spent 85% of Sweet Tooth feeling that.

This time, the twist at the end made me rather happy. So this is more of a three and a half star novel.”




Book 15 – Fury, by Salman Rushdie

I wrote at the time: I read this because I tried Midnight’s Children last year, found it to be too dense, and didn’t want to give up on Rushdie. This book was far shorter but still pretty heavy. The main character reminded me of Philip Roth, with the later-than-mid-life crisis, and not in a good way. I didn’t like the climax-to-conclusion. But there were some major redeeming qualities:

1. The use of language had me re-reading several passages just for the beauty of them.
2. I always get a kick out of reading British perceptions of the United States. And this was an Indian-British perspective.
3. The story was written and set in New York about five minutes before September 11. Seriously, the NY Times review is dated September 9. Rushdie had no way of knowing, but in hindsight, it hangs like a cloud over the narrative. He couldn’t have captured it better if he had written it in 2002.”


Book 16 – Fallen Skies, by Philippa Gregory

This was going to be my vacation brain candy.  Not so much.  Post-WWI Britain, wealthy veteran marries a girl too young to understand the trauma and helpless to stop it when he starts to unhinge.  The climax-to-conclusion was a bit predictable but tense nonetheless.





Book 17 – Black Coffee, by Agatha Christie

This was the novelization of a stage play.  Hercule Poirot or no, it read like one.







Book 18 – The Customer Service Survival Kit: What to Say to Defuse Even the Worst Customer Service Situations, by Richard S. Gallagher

Office book club read.  Shockingly, the secret is validating people’s feelings.  The book was really for call center people, and the examples are mostly about retail, but many things translate.  Interestingly, there was a lot of focus on how to handle it when your company just screwed up.  In my own work, I have much more trouble handling the situations where we did everything right and the customer is dead wrong.  So that is where I took that book club discussion.




Book 19 – The Girl at the Lion d’Or, by Sebastian Faulks

Another post-WWI novel and I didn’t do that on purpose.  Small village in France, young lady who has lost her parents has an affair with a married veteran.  The drama highlighted a difference in perception for me:  Americans tend to dismiss France’s role in WWII as having “rolled over” for the invading Germans.  This story illustrated the idea that men in France in the 1930′s were still completely exhausted from the previous war and knew, even then, that if the Germans came back, surrender was preferable to another war.  It reminded me of the concept I learned in a French history course on Academic Earth – after the Great War, France was a weaker country in victory than Germany was in defeat.