Friday, March 20, 2009

Your Tax Dollars at Work

I work for a consulting company that won the bid for a Department of Defense web project. Fortunately, this week we began moving our people into the building in Rosslyn where the DoD folks on the project sit. It's pretty nice - the office space was just completely renovated, and the building is as close to a "downtown" as you can get around here; I definitely prefer it to the suburbs.

The woman whose cubicle is adjacent to mine is probably in her mid-forties. Her 11-year-old son is 5'3" tall, weighs 140, and plays two sports after school. They live in an 800-sf apartment near King Street and like to shop at Whole Foods. She picks her son up from his after-school activities in the evenings, while another mother drives the boys there. She's gained 10 pounds since she started this job. I found all of this out in less than two days of work (or, rather, what I call 'work').

And how do I know this much about the woman on the other side of my cubicle "wall?" Because Queen Gab Fest spends half her day on the phone, that's how.

And she is LOUD. I brought ear plugs in today and ended up putting them in and pulling them out of my ears all day long while Ms. Gabbie made her loud personal calls. To make matters worse, she's a fan of speaker phone. That was too much, I thought to myself while beating my head against my desk. But the kicker was when she turned on some video on her computer, with no qualms about airing the sound through her PC speakers. At that point, I finally spoke up, "What is that?"

"Oh, it's my computer. Sorry." Unfazed, the audio continued.

Anyone who has ever worked in a cubicle environment knows these unwritten rules: No loud voices, no music, no computer audio without headphones, and no speaker phone. Period. No, no, no, no, no!

The funny thing is, all of us consultants sit together in one area. The DoD folks sit on the other side of the floor. I'm surrounded by empty cubicles right now. Any occupied cubicle near me has one of my teammates sitting in it. Most of my teammates are still in the old office across town.

And yet, in this vast sea of empty cubicles, who ends up sitting just inches from me, with nothing more than two one-half-inch thick corkboards separating us? The loudest, most talkative, oblivious woman on the floor. Why isn't she sitting with her own folks? Hmmm.

So there you have it. Your tax dollars at work at the DoD. I can't imagine taking a job and then sitting on the phone half the day. It's either a Southern thing or a government thing because I saw it the last time I left NY and moved to this area. You figure, if she's spending a good four hours a day on the phone, she must be one of those people who surfs the Web and responds to personal email at work too. When does she work?

Maybe she doesn't have to. Maybe her boyfriend works at AiG . . . . but let's not go there. Not today.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Need a Day Off!

On Monday I started my new IT job and its associated ugly suburban bus commute (accompanied by extensive walking while carrying my mobile office and school books to and from the bus line).

By end of day Tuesday I had a severely pulled lower left back muscle, I could barely walk, and I was exhausted.

The topic of the lousy, overpriced D.C. Metro bus system here is something to be addressed later. God I miss my NY subway.

Monday and Wednesday were long days: Commute to the suburbs, walk to work, spend 8 hours at work, walk to the bus, commute by bus and train to school, attend a 2-hour class, then do the 50-to-60-minute commute home by train.

On Friday when I came home from work, I'd planned on getting caught up on my school work, but I was so tired that I went to bed at 8:30PM—I wanted to at least read for a while but I had to turn the lights out at 9:00 because I couldn't keep my eyes open. I couldn't believe it, myself.

Saturday morning came around quickly. I got up, did my weekend chores, then went to a 2-1/2-hour King Street Cats volunteer meeting.

After the meeting, I got a ride to Old Town, checked my business mail box at the UPS Store, then walked the 1-1/4 miles home from there, stopping at Whole Foods for a meal to bring home. There were more chores to do at home (including unloading part of my huge storage closet to dig out two boxes containing office iems for my job). After wrapping my dad's birthday present for shipping, I finally did some homework for the first time since last weekend.

This afternoon I was supposed to work at KSC doing adoptions for another four hours, but it was just too much. They were overly staffed, so I bowed out. Looks like I'm going to have to cut way back on my volunteer role from here on out. There's no way I'll survive doing that job, in addition to school and my full-time job. I know my limits!

And now I am ready for a day off! I've always admired people who can go to grad school and work full time. Now, I'm not quite sure how they pull it off. My mom says to just "keep slogging," so that's what I'll do. I'm so ready for my new career, but I have to wait until I finish my degree to get to the part where I finally get to do something meaningful by fighting crime.

Baby and I are watching a movie. Well, I'm watching; she's begging me to pull out the little red bug toy (also known as a laser light). I really need to get her a playmate.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

A Day at the Newseum

Saturday, March 7, 2009

We were expecting great weather today, so I got out of the apartment and took the train into D.C. to explore a couple of museums. I'd planned on stopping by the National Archives, but they are still closed. Every time I try to visit the Archives, it's all roped off.

Anyway, I went straight to my other destination—the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue. The huge six-story, glass-encased museum is both expansive and bright, and comes complete with both a news chopper and tremendous video screen hanging in the large atrium.

The building rests on the same location where the National Hotel once stood. With the big exhibit "Manhunt: Chasing Lincoln's Killer"on location, it's an appropriate place for this museum, as John Wilkes Boothe had stayed at the National Hotel when he came to town to carry out his conspiracy to assassinate President Lincoln in April, 1865.

I arrived at the museum around 11:30 and scanned the many displays of today's headlines from around the country outside. I bought my $20 ticket and went downstairs to watch the 8-minute orientation movie, which was helpful. Then I visited the 12' tall sections of the Berlin Wall, which weigh 3 tons each and are covered with grafitti and art. That exhibit was neat. I walked inside the original East German security tower located along the wall at Checkpoint Charlie.

Starving, I stopped in the cafeteria for a delicious bowl of chili before continuing my tour. I was really impressed with the chili! Next, I went through the FBI exhibit "G-Men and Journalists," which was reminiscent of the National Museum of Crime & Punishment that I so love. On display were things like the Unabomber's Montana cabin (basically a small square hut with no running water nor electricity), and the FBI-fabricated vehicle used in the D.C. sniper trial to demonstrate how the snipers hid inside the rear end of the vehicle to target their defenseless victims.

There were also displays for Waco, the Oklahoma bombings, the Lindbergh kidnapping, and several of the infamous 1930's gangsters like Machine Gun Kelly, Baby Face Nelson, and Pretty Boy Floyd.

Then I took one of the big glass elevators up to the sixth floor to do the recommended top-down tour. The view of the U.S. Capitol is great from the outdoor pavilion on the top floor. The elevators are the tallest hydraulic-lift elevators in the world. The museum was so large that I didn't finish seeing everything.

The newscasts being aired in the 9/11 exhibit on fifth floor got me all choked up. I don't recall previously seeing interviews of people shortly after they escaped the towers. The tears of both the interviewers and interviewees were moving, to say the least. I guess it never gets easier.

The center of that exhibit holds the crumbled tip-top of the radio tower from the WTC, and there is a touching tribute to a photo-journalist named William Biggurt whose final photos were taken (and later retrieved) just before the north tower fell, crushing him. One wall contained headlines from around the world from that fateful day.

The 4-D movie about the history of news was informative, recounting the story of Nellie Bly's undercover stay in the Blackwell Island insane asylum, and other historical news events. I couldn't figure out what the fourth dimension was until I felt a "rat" running under my legs and the guts of a squashed cockroach fly into my face. Pretty cool effects.

After over three hours there, I was getting tired (and my plantar fasciitis was killing me more than it has since it cropped up last summer), but I couldn't stop looking at the exhibits.

I came upon the newscasting area and just had to get in line to perform my own newscast. That was fun! For $5.00 I was able to purchase a photo and web video of my brief report at the U.S. Supreme Court. (Participants got to pick which background they wanted to be filmed in front of—the white house, the capitol, a weather map, cherry blossoms, and the supreme court were the primary choices.) The teleprompter moved faster than I expected! And, of course, I couldn't help but laugh at the end when I had nothing else to say for the final 13 seconds. Duh.

It was after 4:00PM when I finally left and was barely walking. I came straight home and iced my right foot. This episode of plantar fasciitis is the worst I've ever had. I don't recall having this pain for eight months.

The worst thing is that one injury leads to another. The foot pain changes your gait, whether you realize it or not. This all started around July when I began adding some jogging to my very long walks in NYC. A couple months later, when I ran the Susan G. Komen 5K Race for the Cure on Sept. 14th, I pulled my right hamstring. I continued to run on it through the end of November when I started to enjoy running around the Central Park Reservoir, just assuming that the muscle kink will work itself out. It didn't.

Finally, I decided to give up the running and take it easy so I could heal. Gentle stretching (several times a day!), icing, and anti-inflammatories haven't helped. Ultimately, about a week ago, my right knee went out. I guess it was working too hard to compensate for the other two injuries.

I just can't win. My right leg is virtually out of commission. And just when the nice weather comes around and I want to get outside and explore! Aaargh. . . .

In any case, if you come to D.C., be sure to try to make it to the Newseum. You won't regret it.