The New Business Casual

Here in the U.S., we just hit an improbable milestone:  one year in quarantine. For those of us who had to adjust from office life to the work-from-home grind, it wasn’t easy at first. What even is the work day without an office? What about happy hour? What about lunch with my coworkers? What about happy hour? What about those gossip sessions by the water cooler? What about happy hour?

Well, I learned pretty quickly that I am just fine in my PJs all day. To be honest, I wonder why we don’t just go ahead and embrace the future and make pajamas the new business casual? When we hop on those Zoom meetings, we know damn well our coworkers are not in fact wearing pants. They threw on a shirt and the rest of the so-called outfit be damned.  Out of sight, out of mind, as they say. At this point, are we even sitting at our desks all day? Probably not. So, why don’t we get rid of the office altogether and work from home in our robes forever?

During the last year, a lot of businesses realized they could do just fine – or even better, without the office setting. Working remotely was always a good business model, it’s just that now the corporate powers that be are starting to appreciate it.  Working from home keeps employees happy and happy employees are loyal employees, and loyal employees are long-term employees. Allowing folks to work from home reduces overhead, ensures talent longevity (a cost savings in itself), and it’s surprisingly productive. Though, maybe not all that surprising after all.  Offices can be inefficient, productivity-killers, especially with old-school managers and their outdated management styles at the helm.

Maybe too, as the talent, we’re starting to realize we don’t have to tolerate the daily grind. Were you afraid to apply for that job across the country before? Well, now not only can you apply, but you might not even have to move. Working remotely has made workplaces more inclusive, and they can hire from anywhere. You’re also going to save a bunch of money if you continue to work remotely. No more commuting, buying business clothes or going out to lunch every day. No more ‘happy hour’ with those coworkers you hate, either. Okay, well, maybe we’ll keep the happy hour.

In the before times, many people spent at least an hour commuting to and from work. Not to mention getting up early to get ready to go into the office and face other human beings all day, every freakin’ day.  Spending less time preparing for and getting to the workplace gives us more time to do the actual work. And at the end of the day, it gives us more down time.

When you’re working remotely, your office can be anywhere. You can decorate it however you want, and when things become safe again, you can pack up those pajamas and hit the road for some travel without taking any time off. The world is your office when you’re working from home!

If you’re chomping at the bit to get back into the office, good for you. Working from home definitely isn’t for everyone.  For those of us who have embraced a life of robes and slippers with no commute, we hope work from home is here to stay.

Stupid Games. Stupid Prizes.

This post was originally written way back in 2014.  I thought it was worth revisiting. Not because the show in question was re-aired recently but because in a general conversation I was having with someone this week, they mentioned that they’d like to travel to another country and they gave the exact same answer mocked in this very postBefore you roll your eyes at me and make excuses for them, you should know they live in the United States just like me. I weep for the future as we descend ever deeper into the plot of “Idiocracy.”  

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Family Feud, Where Facts Need Not Apply…

Sometimes the best way to win a game isn’t by swinging for the fences every time. Occasionally getting an answer “wrong” turns out to be the best way to the top of the leader board. It’s called strategy. Having trouble thinking of the kind of game that would reward not getting “correct” answers? I have one for you that my daughter and I would absolutely demolish if we ever got picked to participate.

Family Feud.

Not only are our minds deep, vast reservoirs of completely useless information, but we also understand how stupid the human population can really be. That’s really the key point that would give us an edge on the show we love to binge-watch. You see, Family Feud is not based on correct answers, it’s based on what other people think are correct answers.

If you’ve ever watched TV since the 1970s you’ve probably caught a show or two and know how it’s played. But just in case, here are the rules: 100 people are surveyed on pointless questions (If your house caught on fire what would be the one thing you’d save? What are the most relaxing things to do on vacation? When you get on a plane what is one of the first things you do? On a scale of 1 to 10 how pretty do you think you are without makeup?) On one episode I saw, five (yes, five) of the 100 people answered a question thinking Hawaii was a separate country. The question was this: Name an exotic country?

Now it bears repeating… five people (presumably Americans) out of 100 thought Hawaii was a country.

So you see how my daughter and I might etch out some wins. To succeed at Family Feud, you can’t simply give answers that make sense, because as it turns out, not all of them will. What you want to do is give answers based on what you think 100 people off the street might say. Doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong, just that someone said it. For instance, name an exotic country. Answer: Hawaii. Yeah, we know that’s not true, but according to the survey that doesn’t matter. A wrong answer can garner you $20,000 and a brand new car.

And this is our strategy for winning. Don’t presume that everyone roaming around out there isn’t grossly misinformed about the world they’re living in. Sad, but profitable.

Midsomer Revisited

Once again, I find myself binge-watching the last couple of seasons of Midsomer Murders. Ahhh, yes, Midsomer… where the most creative murders ever known to man take place.  Squashed by a wheel of cheese? Yep. Covered in truffle oil and eaten alive by wild boar? You’ve got it.  Boiled in a vat of brewing beer? Shaken by an apple harvester? Check and double check. This idyllic English county has a knack for homicide, that’s for sure… and Wi-Fi service worth killing for.

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Originally written May 23, 2017

Midsomer Lifestyle

Have any of you ever seen the show Midsomer Murders? It a great show from England about two detectives, The Barnabys (first there is Tom, played by the incomparable John Nettles, who protected and served Midsomer for 14 seasons and then Tom’s younger cousin John, played by Neil Dudgeon, who takes over when Tom retires) and their varying Sergeants who assist in their crime-solving routines. If you haven’t seen it yet here’s the basic premise: Set in the fictional county of Midsomer, the Barnabys take on and solve murder cases, which are never in short supply given the area’s shockingly high murder rate. I. Love. This. Show. I’ve been binge-watching (or rather, re-binge-watching) this week to my daughter’s dismay.  To say she isn’t into languid, picturesque British detective shows is an understatement.

the cousins Barnaby

The villages of Midsomer — many named Midsomer something, as in Midsomer Florey or Midsomer Worthy, or perhaps something as delightful as the jaunty Badger’s Drift — are so tranquil and charming that I don’t see how anyone would be angry enough to commit murder there. But murder they do, and the perpetrators never seem satisfied with just one, either; more often than not, there are multiple per show.  It’s like potato chips with these people. There was only one episode in the history of the series that had zero murders, and from what I understand, fans were outraged with that singular murder-free storyline…go figure. Who knew there were such rabid viewers addicted to rampant violence running amok amid an idyllic backdrop?  If you’re a fan of fun crime dramas this is for you. There’s no shortage of material. The show started in 1997 and as of right now, 21 seasons have already aired.

If you’re a fan of breathtaking English countryside, this is also the show for you. The locations in which they shoot are always beautiful, historical, and quaint little hamlets. They’re so quiet and comfortable-looking that I’ve daydreamed about buying a little cottage in one of these villages and living that Midsomer country life. You may be asking, “But what about, you know, all the murders that happen there?” I’ve thought about it and while it would be a disadvantage if my neighbors were getting iced all the time, it just might be worth the view. These towns are REALLY pretty. And you know, the violent crime rate does give everyone something to talk about down at the local pub. So there’s that.

Amazingly enough, while from the outside, these locations seem about as far away from modern technology as one could be, everyone (in the later episodes of course) have a laptop and a smart phone. Flip phones were all the rage in the earlier shows. It’s not just the “old-money” rich, either, in their truly opulent homes, and who seem to outnumber the middle-class residents of the area by a landslide. No, everyone from the farmer down the lane to the Lord who renovated that castle up the street have electronics that make me envious… and the data to back it up, despite nary a cell tower cluttering up the landscape. I mean, I can’t even get service in my local grocery store, let alone when travelling between towns on our rural backroads.

Outside of the steady flow of homicide, I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to live in Midsomer. If it existed, that is. With the lovely to-die-for (ha!) scenery AND the possibility of unlimited data, I think I could ignore the rampant carnage.

Seriously though, how is Wi-Fi not an issue in Midsomer? That’s the real mystery I think the Barnabys should spend some time investigating.

Petty is as Petty Does

If I’ve heard it from one teacher, I’ve heard it from 1,000 “Wendy, you’re an underachiever!”  Or “You have so much potential, what is wrong with you!?”  Well. Those teachers would be eating crow today. For today, I achieved a feat almost unheard of in modern times. Are you ready?

I got kicked out of a Murdoch Mysteries discussion group on Facebook this morning. I know, I know, don’t all of you applaud at once… my ears, they’re aching! I don’t blame you for being awe-inspired though, it’s an impressive achievement, if I do say so myself.

Murdoch Mysteries is a show set in late 1890s to early 1900s Toronto. It’s a terrific show, I highly recommend it. My erstwhile Facebook discussion group, not so much.

I’ve always thought that Facebook was full of cliques if not clichés and there is nowhere that this more evident than in Facebook groups, regardless of the topic.

While boasting a large-ish following – and despite a name that implies participation (Murdoch Mysteries Discussion Group), this particular group allows just a small band of people – admins and presumably the admin’s friends – to post or otherwise participate in the commentary. Others are routinely muted or the post deemed off-topic or conversations simply disappear. I get that some group admins can feel an overwhelming sense of power given their seemingly complete control over their realm and its citizens. They smite members and create arbitrary rules on a whim. And yes, I also understand that it’s “their group, their rules.” I suppose I just assumed that a discussion group would have some form of … discussion.

Today, someone who is tight with the admins was bashing the members, as a whole, for constantly asking “when will the show be available in my area!?” A question that they can “basically google themselves if they weren’t so freakin’ lazy.”  It’s an annoying question, I’ll give them that. But bashing members is “against the rules” and besides, it was a stupid, self-serving post. There. I said it.  Anyone else, and it would’ve been gone almost before it hit the interwebs.

My comment of “How does a post like this help to further the discussion of Murdoch Mysteries?” was deemed, you guessed it, bashing a member.  Hence my ouster. It was really kind of funny, actually. The OP (original poster) immediately – but immediately – tagged her friend, the admin, and well, there you go. Tattling, adult-style.

Now, my feelings aren’t particularly hurt due to my ejection from the group. It’s not the first door to hit me in my… well, you know what, and it won’t be the last. Although, I assumed it would be over something a bit more dramatic and worthwhile. I disappointed myself in that regard.

 But it does leave me with one burning question:  Does high school ever end?

An Open Letter

Dear Colleagues, Friends, and Office Compatriots,

It’s been some time since I’ve delved into the riskier side of the fashion scene. Unfortunately, today was the day I decided to wade into the shallow end of the fashion faux pas kiddie pool. Oh, who am I kidding, I took a dive into the deep end.  It could be argued that I’m rebelling against the establishment.  A coup against good taste, one might say. But no. It was more just a dim moment of a girl, standing in front of a closet, desperately trying to find something clean to wear.

You see, I’ve forgotten that my *ahem* ample thighs and corduroy don’t mix and, together, they become quite symphonic. Though not in a good way, say like Pentatonix.  I wish. The only item of clothing I can think of that might be noisier would be an outfit fashioned entirely of SunChips bags. (I mean, honestly, have you tried opening a SunChips bag on the sly?  Not gonna happen.) But alas, all I have are my corduroys … and thighs.

And for someone who hates drawing attention to oneself, well, you can perhaps see my dilemma – and shame.  On a side note, the heat generated from the friction of these corduroy pants rubbing against my Rubenesque thighs could very well be the solution to the world’s renewable energy needs. I’ll have to study this further – or in other words, examine the rash at home later. For in addition to sketchy fashion decisions, there is a definite lack of talcum powder.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that unless I stand motionless in one corner of my office all day (à la Blair Witch) and never move (which is sort of creepy unless you’re really really into uber-eccentric performance art), I will be creating the sort of noise that slowly drives people insane. You know what I mean. Like hearing your child trying to slurp up the last bit of milkshake through a straw… over and over and over. You just want to yell… “It’s GONE! FFS!”  But you don’t. Because it’s your child. And that would be wrong. I’m hoping you have the same patience with me today. I may not be a child, but I do sometimes make the same bad decisions that result in a similarly irritating noise. **waving at my outfit**

I would offer noise-cancelling headphones, but those are hard to come by right now, because, you know, Christmas.  And COVID. Tech products remain elusive at best. The Sharper Image is sold out.  I checked.

Instead, all I can offer are my apologies and beg for your indulgence. Have no fear – that loud “VOOP VOOP VOOP VOOP” isn’t indicative of something terribly wrong with the heating system. Nor is it a ginormous itchy dog scuttling along the corridor… dragging his you know what.

It’s just me. In my corduroys.

The Giving Spirit, or Would You Like Fries with That?

Did anyone else see this CNN headline where “Over 900 cars paid for each other’s meals at a Dairy Queen drive-thru”? The article is all about this act of kindness, and one person even says that it restored their faith in humanity. Sure, it is a nice gesture, and I don’t deny that paying it forward is a nice thing.

And here’s the but. You knew it was coming, right? BUT I don’t really believe that it’s a true act of kindness. There, I said it. Everyone in that Dairy Queen line planned on purchasing their own meal with the money they had in their wallets. Presumably, they could spare the money because, you know, they were in line at Dairy Queen. They also didn’t go out to DQ with the intention of helping others. They just wanted ice cream. Or a hot dog. Or whatever.

So, I ask you, is a trail of strangers paying for each other’s meals because they’re afraid to “break the chain” really an act of kindness?

During the holiday season, we see stories like this all the time. And I always wonder, is it really kindness that motivates these people? Or is it the satisfaction of feeling like they did something kind? It might just be my holiday spirit of cynicism (just kidding, I have that all year round), but this so-called kindness cost them nothing. There was no serious outlay of funds, no work, and no effort. And arguably, it did nothing to better the world, nor did it — and here’s the kicker — even impact the people in the Dairy Queen line.

Sure, the first person in line had double the bill because they paid for their own ice cream and the guy behind him, but the 899 people after that paid for just one meal. An expenditure they had already planned on, um, expending. Granted, it might have been more than they bargained for because they didn’t know what the car behind them ordered. It also could’ve been much less than they were expecting. But generally, it likely wasn’t much different than they would’ve spent on their own meal. I mean, it’s Dairy Queen after all.

Wouldn’t a true act of kindness or, rather, a further-reaching act of kindness contribute to individuals who need it the most? Like people who can’t afford Dairy Queen in the first place.

Instead, wouldn’t it be kinder for each of these 900 people to donate $10 towards feeding the homeless, supporting the traumatized and abused, or helping an animal shelter? That would be $9,000 and let me tell you, that adds up to some serious help for those in need during the holidays.

Sure, these people are helping out strangers. I guess. I mean, the argument has been made. That’s great. But they’re not really giving much, if anything, to the person behind them because that person then pays the same amount — or close to it — that they would’ve spent anyway, except now it’s on the family in the Chevy behind them in line.  This whole exercise in kindness seems moot if you ask me…. and yeah, yeah, I know you didn’t.  If anything, they’re giving themselves the satisfaction of feeling like a good person. Think about it. If they just said thanks and drove away, they’d feel like guilty grinches!

I’d much rather see a story where 900 people pay for a stranger’s meal at a restaurant that pays it forward to the homeless. For example, some restaurants take donations (the cost of a meal) and issue tickets to keep on hand or tacked up to a board or whatever. Then, when a homeless person is in obvious need of sustenance, the restaurant can offer a hot meal based on someone’s week-old kindness. This kind of difference would be much more meaningful.

And you would know that every person who donated did so because they wanted to — not because they felt like they had to or because someone else did it first.

 

Scared Straight Redux

I watched the movie Krampus with Adam Scott and Toni Collette again today. Much like The Addams Family at Thanksgiving, this movie is becoming a Christmas tradition in my home.

Anyway, it made me think of this blog entry back from 2014.  Now, to be completely honest, I don’t really condone either Santa bribery or Krampus warnings. Being eaten by Krampus isn’t really something that would have successful follow-thru anyway. Sort of like the Santa incentive, it just falls flat, and would ultimately fail miserably.

I suppose the point of Krampus was to show children there were consequences for bad behavior — a dark moral fairy tale similar to many of the original Grimm fairy tales, or at least, that’s my take on it.

But it does make for entertaining cinema.


Originally  posted 12/5/2014 

Scared Straight

‘Tis the season when we Christmas-lovin’ folk start looking at the world through red and green colored glasses. We’re rushing to buy trees, hoarding the best milk for those cold nights when hot cocoa will be divine, making space on our mantle where fuzzy stockings will be hung, and whispering stories into our children’s ears about an evil demon that will drag them to hell if they don’t behave.

Wait…what!? Did you just hear a record scratch?

That story of Santa?  Boring! What a goodie-goodie that guy is. He rewards the good kids with gifts. Effective enough, I guess. But there’s the lesser known Bizarro Santa known as Krampus, a horned beast concocted by Germanic and Eastern European countries (with original ties to Norse Mythology) to scare kids and keep them on the straight and narrow path throughout the year. How you ask? Well, it’s simple really…Krampus threatened to stuff the bad children into his doggy bag and take them down to the fiery pits of his lair where he would feast on them at his leisure if they dare step out of line. Now that’s what I call problem solving.

Santa is to Superman what Krampus is to Batman. Santa is an out-and-out hero with a seriously naive outlook on the goodness in the world and caters to that, while Krampus is that creature lurking in the shadows of Gotham inducing terror into any wrong-doers until they straighten themselves out. Superman may get the sponsorships but Batman gets the results.

Just try it. If your kid’s throwing a tantrum in the aisle at Toys R’ Us, use the good ol’ Santa card and see if your howling monster of an offspring snaps to attention. Maybe you’ll get lucky, maybe not. It sure didn’t work in the case of the child throwing a fit at the Fresh and Greens last year.

But if you pull out the Krampus threat, I bet he or she will snap to attention a lot quicker knowing their soul is on the line instead of a 10-speed bike. Put yourself in your kids’ shoes for a second and listen to these two phrases:

1) “Santa won’t give you that train set unless you stop yelling.”

2) “Krampus is going to eat you alive and feast on your bones unless you get yourself under control right now.”

I’m no child psychologist but I’m going to take a wild guess that Option #2 might be a tiny bit more effective. You never know until you try, right?

Eastern Europe might’ve been a harsh place to live back in Krampus’ day, but one thing’s for sure, they knew how to keep their kids under control. Seems like there’s a lesson in there some place.

Repository of Useless Information

Do you ever think about all the useless trivia you’ve got floating around inside your head? I do. All. The. Time.

I could tell you every single lyric to Saginaw Michigan, a country song released in 1964 by a man known as Lefty Frizzell. I also know the words to All About That Bass, 9 to 5, and Amazing Grace. Go figure.

Anyway, do you know why flamingos are pink? Their bright colors come from their diet. They eat a lot of pink shrimps. How do I know that? I’m not entirely sure.

What else do I know?

Well, I know that the ZIP in zip code stands for Zone Improvement Plan.

I know that Frank Oz voiced the original Miss Piggy—and the original Yoda.

There’s a right way to pronounce Samhain, and it doesn’t sound like “sam-hane.” It’s “sah-win,” for your information. While we’re at it, forte is pronounced fort, not FOR-tay. No, really. Do I pronounce it fort? No. No, I do not.

Gruntled is a real world. No, not disgruntled—gruntled. It means pleased. I’m gruntled that you now know what gruntled means, but quite disgruntled that the word gruntled is rattling around in my brain.

Supposedly cats can’t taste sweetness. It has to do with their genetics, but I know from experience that my cat loves sweets, especially whipped cream. I’m not entirely sure where to stand on this one, but I want you to know that I think about it. A lot.

What’s your favorite movie? I’m bound to know the most trivial facts about the actors from the star right down to the eccentric character actor who had less screen time than it took me to type that out. For example, the main actor, he was in another movie with another actor who is actually the brother to the actor in that one movie, you know the one, and that actor was married to an actress who performed in a TV show with the main actor from the first movie. Crazy small world, huh?

The fact that you still have that cool tattoo is all thanks to your immune system trying to rid your body of, well, the tattoo. Because your immune system, and specifically your immune-response cells, is so good at its job, that black cat surrounded by barbed wire you got on your bicep 20 years ago should stay with you forever.

Do you know about the creation myth? Well, there’s more than one creation myth, and nearly every culture/religion around the world has a similar creation myth that they believe… one involves a turtle. Maybe there is just one original story, but people twisted it up a bit through the years like an old game of telephone. There’s a lot more that is similar in the various myths than there is that’s different. If you want to get into it, we can talk more about this one someday. Right now, though, that turtle is taking up space in my head.

Oh, and beer isn’t vegan. Well, not all of it, anyway. Most beers use an ingredient that comes from fish’s swim bladders. Yes. You read that right. Fish. Bladders. It’s not uncommon for beer brewers to add animal products like gelatin or isinglass (the fish bladder stuff)—and Guinness especially is known to use this technique. I know, right!?

The Catholic Church declared beavers and capybaras fish so that parishioners could eat them during Lent. No, seriously. Hippos went the same route. Since they spend most of their lives in the water, they’re fish. Who knew? I know this has more to do with the Church’s never-ending quest to convert all and sundry to Christianity than science, and that sometimes, it’s just easier to let the newly converted have their hippo meat. Nonetheless, it was apparently an easy decision. Since they all swim so well, it wasn’t a leap to declare these animals… um, I mean, fish… worthy of mealtime at Lent.

Who even thinks about this kind of stuff? I do. Quite often.

Do you need someone to help you win trivia night down at the pub while we throw back some Guinness?  I’m the queen of movie trivia—hit me up, and I’ll be there.

Were you wondering about that beyond obscure footnote that’s nearly been lost in the history of the world? I’ve got you.

Struggling with a crossword clue? Call me. I’m on it.

All of us stuff our minds with information of one sort or another, and most of the time, that’s seen as a good thing, right? Straight A students, engineers, mathematicians—there are plenty of people who need a brain full of facts. But what about when it’s stuffed with useless trivia?

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I am a whiz at trivia board games like Trivial Pursuit. Even the aforementioned pub trivia contests.  You’d definitely want me on your team. But I’m not good enough to win Jeopardy. If I was, I would have won by now, and I’d probably be sitting on a beach somewhere instead of going to work every day. I’m telling you, useless trivia. Keyword: useless.

As it is, I’m just the crazy kook you might meet at a party who rambles on about Alan Rickman, the origins of Christmas, interesting traits about dog breeds, and hippo meat.

Oh, well.

By the way, did you know that Johnny Depp is terrified of clowns? You do now.