Saturday, October 31, 2009

Embrace the ridiculous

I've nothing super smarty rattling in my head this week, so it seems a good time to be ridiculous.  In exactly one week, I will be in Sin City, the Happiest Place on Earth. I know a number of people who are boggled by this. I rarely take vacations, but when I do, I go to Vegas.

The boggled types say to me, "If you want to see Paris, why would you go to a cheap knock-off in Vegas? Go to Paris!"

Um, right. My trip to Vegas is costing me exactly $22 in airfare thanks to my AmEx points. Maybe I'll live in Happy Cashflow Land in my next life.

I don't go to Vegas because I feel I can do Europe on the cheap. I'm not a moron.  (Although the creperie at Paris Las Vegas is mighty fine, I must say.) I go to Vegas because it's absolutely, utterly RIDICULOUS

Perhaps a visual reference will help to emphasize my point.

Yes, that's me. At the Caesar's Forum Shops. With a ginormous griffin.

I repeat: A ginormous griffin at the mall. Right there adjacent to Victoria's Secret.

THIS is why I love Vegas.  I make a point of embracing the ridiculous at every opportunity.  Why?  Because life is really bloody difficult, especially these days. Many people who know me only through online life very likely perceive me as 16 year-old at a slumber party.  My online repertoire mainly encompasses chatting about menfolk and shoes.  I actually love this about me because during the day I'm...well, older than 16, and I've spent the last couple years learning lots of things I never wanted to learn.

The company I work for has been particularly hard hit by this recession, and, being HR, I've had to personally say goodbye to over 60 co-workers.  They rage at me, cry, spill their fears, all those things they need to do.  I've done everything I can to listen, comfort, and assist them as they work through that transition.  It's stressful, guilt-ridden, exhausting, yet ultimately gratifying work knowing that I'm making this as "easy" as possible for them. (And striving onward and upward to prove that we HR types don't always suck.)

But it is work.  And it calls for very grown-up skills.  Even if we weren't in the midst of scary economic times, my workdays are all about strategy, counseling, risk management, compliance, investigation, and all those activities that could possibly turn me into a boring adult.

So, when I'm not doing that, I make a point of being ridiculous.  I don't know any other way to bring balance to the Force. (Knew I'd get a fangirl reference in there somehow.)  And when you're in Vegas, it's nearly impossible to think about anything unpleasant because you are so overwhelmed by the ridiculous at every turn.

Where else on the planet can you encounter Elvis, Darth Vader, and Spongebob all within a matter of hours?

Find me one other locale where I can fondle a $4,000 Dior handbag while sucking down a margarita as the beefcake security guards flirt with me.  (No, I don't care that they're actually paid to do that in order to encourage me to recklessly max out my credit card while inebriated.  I'm having a good time here!)

The very first time I went to Vegas with the girls, we spent an evening having dinner at Quarks at the now (sadly) defunct Star Trek Experience.  Within moments of sitting down, we were accosted by a Klingon demanding, "Where is the man in charge of these women?" followed soon after by a Ferengi duo who were quite taken by the one among us who was showing the most skin (you know who you are!).  I've no doubt that the gangs of fanboys who'd arrived for dinner were none too happy that a table of women had commandeered the geek playtime for a good hour or more, but I'm fairly certain that the heavily-costumed actors were taken by surprise that we actually knew our Trekkie shiznit. That was our time; ridiculous, fabulous (if we do say so ourselves), and full of the glee brought on by the Rikerita.

What's not to love about that?  Viva Las Vegas, baby.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lessons from sci-fi that you can apply to any career

Being a Geeky Fangirl, there’s no way around my drawing parallels between real life and sci-fi/fantasy. It just is. So, today, I’ve rounded up very valuable career advice, no matter your field, from the likes of Star Wars, Stargate Universe, and Milla Jovovich. Why?

Well, lots of people think HR sucks, which is largely the fault of many people who practice it. This notion of a bunch of rule-bound killjoys didn’t come out of nowhere. When I first stepped into my current job, the first thing I’d start hearing when I came down the hall was, “Uh-oh, here comes the HR Nazi.” (snicker, ha ha) To which I’d respond, “That’s Borg Queen to you, dude.”

That at least got their attention. I’ve since been very aware of how this role is perceived and what I can do to reform that image. Along the way, I’ve identified lessons learned from science fiction that are easily applicable to any career. These lessons can certainly be found in other genres, but I’m a GenX Geek. Sci-fi is the language of my people.

Lesson 1 - A fabulous pair of boots always improves job performance.
Looking fabulous = feeling fabulous = POWER. Can you imagine Uhuru without the boots? Seriously. Would she have been able to work it while wearing loafers? I think not.

Or Alice in Resident Evil. (Some call this horror; but weapons-grade zombie virus is sci-fi in my book.) Yeah, Milla Jovovich would be fabulous wearing a Hefty bag and Crocs, but you knew she was going to mess zombies up the minute you saw those moto boots.

And don’t even try to tell me that those Jedi boots aren’t responsible for giving Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi his killer bounce in The Phantom Menace. In fact, that killer bounce is the only thing TPM has going for it. If only he’d used it on Jar Jar.

Lesson 2 - Even if you really are the expert, you have to be charming.
Nobody likes a know-it-all. The only reason we wanted C3PO to be well was because it would make R2 woefully sad if he weren’t. Threepio is like the snotty cousin we always tricked into looking at the cool thing in the back corner of Grandma’s basement. Once he did, we’d run out and lock him in with nothing but jars of pickles. He was that annoying.

Now take Leeloo from The Fifth Element. She is the smartest person in the history of forever. Not only does she know everything that’s ever happened (after mere hours on a computer), but she also knows everything that’s going to happen; and she’s here to save us all. Talk about annoying!

But instead of wanting to lock her in the back of the basement with the pickles, I want to be her BFF. I know that (once she learned English) she could lecture me on everything from the socio-political climate of 13th century China to quantum physics. Despite that know-it-all cred, I still want to be around her because she also guffaws loudly, shamelessly crams her cake hole when she’s hungry, and cries when others are in pain. Charm and humor will take you miles toward making sure your expertise is heard and valued.

Lesson 3 - If you are really cocky, you also need to have a really big heart.
Han Solo. That’s all I need say. (He shot first, by the way. Just throwing that out there.)

Lesson 4 - You need to upset the boss when it really matters.
I’ve made no secret of my fangirling Camille Wray on Stargate Universe. This, in part, is due to the fact that the only other HR character on TV is Toby from The Office. Every HR person on the planet has an Inner Toby. His expression reveals: ABJECT DEFEAT. We’ve all been there. But at the end of the day, Toby is a corporate drone with issues majeur (and very likely has a cat named Pam).

But Camille Wray actually represents. On the most recent episode, she steps front and center into the quagmire of who gets a spot on the survivor shuttle and who gets to die when the ship flies into a star. The moment she appears in Colonel Young’s doorway, he gives her that irritated, “What?” followed by a tense, unpleasant exchange about how to choose the survivors. On a pure audience level, I was riveted. On a Lessons Learned from Sci-Fi level, I laughed because I’ve been on the receiving end of that “What?” when showing up in the boss’ doorway during difficult times to present my ideas. But if I’m not upsetting the boss with my unsolicited, sometimes forceful, opinion on the big stuff, I’m not doing my job. Once HR becomes an upper management lapdog, the company flounders.

However, I do try to implement Lesson 2 (be charming!) on a daily basis, which ensures that the boss always saves me a seat among the survivors, even if I get all up in his grill now and again. (And, please, no yipping at the boss when you can handle it yourself. Save those silver bullets.)

Lesson 5 - You need a clear vision coupled with the right incentives.
Let’s go back to Star Wars. (I always do.) Stormtroopers can’t hit the broad side of a barn. Why? It’s not because they’re clones or because they’re bad guys and have to lose. It’s because they can’t see! Short of that, what do you need? The Force! Yet over the course of several years, nobody teaches the Stormtroopers how to hone their intuition or even to take off the blinders so they can see what they’re supposed to be aiming at.

On the other hand, Boba Fett nearly always succeeds, even though his vision is equally, if not more, obscured. But what do we know about Boba Fett, even though we never see his face? He’s always thinking! Every time you see him you immediately recognize that he’s working things out. He’s standing just off to the side, sussing out the situation, and then BOOM there’s Han in a big block of carbonite. Why? Big fat bank roll from Jabba! Boba Fett always has his goal front and center in his mind. We know what motivates him. What motivates Stormtroopers? Fear of being throttled by the boss.

Lesson 6 - Put down the Crackberry. Just for a little while.
“Open the pod bay door, HAL!”

“I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

Your phone wants you to know that you have work email. But it’s Sunday morning. You don’t need to check it. No, you don’t. Really. You can ignore the phone. If somebody you love is dying, you won’t find out via work email. If the world is ending, you’ll feel that coming on very shortly, I promise. There’s no reason to pick up that phone and see which of your co-workers is emailing you on a Sunday morning.

Instead, eat some bacon. Better yet, go out for breakfast with your spouse, your kids, your friends, your parents, your grandma, whoever. Don’t let your smart phone outsmart you by robbing you of time with those who are real and human and keep you that way. Don’t be like Dave. Keep your techno-tools in their place. If they get out of line, show ‘em who’s boss.

And then go by some fabulous boots.

Friday, October 23, 2009

By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes

Must do ubiquitous Halloween post!

Unlike my sister, the lovely and talented Vivi Alden, I'm not a huge Halloween fan. Since I don't have kids, Halloween doesn't mean a whole lot, and the only trick-or-treaters we get are high school boys who don't even make a costume effort.

But when when were kids, it was the most glorious time of the year. Our mom would take us to the fabric store in September, and my sister and I would pour over pattern books to search out the perfect costume.

As I've mentioned before, I am a geek. Not a gaming geek. And certainly not a techno-geek...which should be obvious by the stark condition of my blog. The extent of my coding expertise involves doing this or doing that. Rock on.

No, my brand of geek is fangirl. My geeky fangirl phase began about five minutes into my first viewing of Star Wars, and it's held momentum ever since. Actually, the seed was planted at an even younger age when I watched Star Trek reruns with my dad, but, at the time, my main concern was marrying Dr. McCoy when I grew up.

It likely goes without saying that my very first geeky fangirl idol was Princess Leia, and this particular costume amounted to holy quest. Mom and I strategized this costume because it couldn't be found in the pattern book. She proposed using a simple, medieval princess dress pattern, but she'd construct it only of white fabric. I loved this idea. Finally, I'd be able to walk in the figurative shoes of my idol.

So Mom sewed the white dress, and she searched a number of drug stores for just the right hair apparatus in order to form my unruly, thick hair into Princess Leia's famous coiff. (This was no small feat in Anchorage, Alaska at that time.)

The dress was perfect. The hair was perfect. It was all perfect.

And then I was talking to my BFF at the time, our next door neighbor who was neither geeky nor fangirly. She was, in fact, already perfect (or so my young mind perceived). We were excitedly discussing the Halloween party she was going to have in her garage, as well as the party we'd have in school, and she asked me what my costume was going to be.

"Princess Leia! It's so cool!" I responded with glee.

And then she laughed. And laughed. And then yelled out at other people about what I was going to do. Since she laughed, they laughed. And somewhere in there was, "Oh my God, you're going to put donuts in your hair, and everything?" More laughter.

That was that.

I hurried home and informed my mom that I was no longer going to be Princess Leia because that was SO UNCOOL. I didn't tell her that my best friend just mocked me across the school yard. I just pretended that I was pre-pubescent and fickle.

After realizing that I was unmoved by her disappointment after all the work she'd put into it, Mom, always the trooper, jumped into action. She added fanciful gold trim to the dress and made me crown of cardboard, gold foil, and sequins. She even lent me her fabulous gold belt to cinch the waist of the dress so I could be more fairytale regal than the sci-fi variety.

Sorry, Mom. I should have gone with my gut. The Princess Leia costume would've rocked. Just like all the other costumes you made. I'm sure my "best friend" was just jealous that her mom didn't make her costumes.

So here's to the Halloween costume that never was. And also to the fact that I no longer put so much stock - or invest my friendship! - in those who would mock me.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

This blog needs a makeover, and so do you!

Don't worry, as much as I idolize Stacy London, I will not force you to stand in front of a three-way mirror in your over-sized holiday sweater and tapered jeans. (But for the love of God, if you own a holiday sweater, donate it to someone's grandmother. The tapered jeans will just have to go entirely.)

But, you, ladies, need an attitude makeover. These come in a variety of options, but today's attitude makeover is all about re-thinking your need to tear down other women in the workplace.

I really cringe to say this, but the fact of the matter is that, in my experience, the more women we have in a company, the more drama there is. As staffing ebbs and flows, the drama factor in the office can be directly correlated to the number of female employees. Mind you, I work with some incredible, intelligent, innovative, kick-ass women. But they are the minority. I have always worked for mid-sized firms, and, unfortunately, I have always found this to be the case.

Is this where we are in 2009? Really? Do we actually think that our male co-workers and managers will take us seriously if we become caught up in who said what to whom and whose turf is being trespassed?

Listen, I know that there are people who annoy the crap out of you! I get it. Some people are just mean. Some people can't see their way clear to rise above the petty. Some women are so riddled with insecurities and self-esteem issues that it would take a decade or more of therapy to dig their way out of it.

Or maybe someone just rubs you the wrong way. But that's okay! We're not supposed to be BFF's. We're supposed to be co-workers. Professionals who check our issues at the door and work together toward a common purpose.

What if, right now, you decided to stop participating in the high school games? What if you made a conscious decision to stop giving your power over to somebody else and letting her/him get a rise out of you? What if you decided to learn how to get your emotions under control?

Gender bias in America is alive and well, and we still have a lot of hurdles to overcome. Women in the U.S. still make only $.77 for every $1.00 men make for equitable work. Women pay more for medical insurance (and dry cleaning!). And we are still fighting for family leave rights despite federal and state protection. The list goes on.

These are issues that require thoughtful, concerted efforts to overcome. We aren't doing ourselves any favors by muddying the waters with gossip, backstabbing, playing the victim, and/or manipulating male coworkers with tears. It's okay to cry in the toilet stall once in a blue moon on a bad day, but to plunk in a manager's office with your tale of woe? This isn't getting us anywhere.

What's worse is that when real work issues arise between women, good luck being taken seriously if previous behavior indicated a gaggle of high school girls. Your bad behavior rubs off on all of us, so even those women who do behave professionally have a hard time when those issues arise.

So there it is. We need a revolution against all these petty squabbles and behaviors that hold us back. Imagine what we could do if we focused our energies on working together instead of tearing each other apart? What if we just stopped assuming that every look, tone, and gesture was somehow a personal attack? What if we understood that we're all - women and men - facing numerous challenges in our work and private lives. It isn't all about you. It isn't all about me. It's all about us.

What if!

And yes, this blog needs a Stacy London makeover. I'm working on it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I'm bringin' blogging back. Yeah!

My sister, the fabulous and talented star of Cursing in Heels, recently harassed me to do NaNoWriMo with her. The thing is, I like to make ridiculous excuses like: How can I possibly be expected to devote a month to writing a novel when we are heading into the holiday season? (FYI I have no children, only a couple relatives live close enough to gather, and, frankly, I don’t like Thanksgiving food.)

I had the thought that maybe I should try a baby step by at least blogging again and see where that goes. And instead of just the usual blogging blah blah, come up with actual, ya know, topics!

I’m no good at the focused sort of blogging, like my hero, Laurie Ruettimann, does with Punk Rock HR. Yes, I am HR. Deal with it. I’ll defend my honor at a future date. But I can’t commit 100% to the topic of HR…or to a tattoo, or a paint color for my bathroom, or a signature scent, or what I really want to be when I grow up. Story of my life.

So, diversity of topics is where I’m at. Except I can’t actually think of one right now, so I’ll just warm up my blogging muscles with another edition of:

Here’s What I Think!
(Because I realize that my vast fanbase has been experiencing cliff hangeritis for the past six months.)

I think that spicy chai from Café Ladro is particularly awesome.

I think that people who complain need to start bringing solutions. It’s a package deal, like dating someone with children. (Um okay, not really like that at all.) Want to bitch? Then bring an idea with your rant. Otherwise, shut it. (I apply this to myself as well since I fail miserably at it.)

I think that my horoscope for today is really accurate (ergo stupid, according to the voice in my head). It reads, in part: Think things through rationally, and try not to let your desire to be liked limit your options. Right, stop laughing.

I think that Las Vegas is the happiest place on Earth, and I can’t wait to get there in November.

I think I need a Twitter intervention.

I think that my Twitter habit is merely a manifestation of my constant need to have conversations with myself. (It’s genetic, I can’t help it. Ask my sister.) Talk it through, talk it through.

I think that women need to stop wearing sweats that say JUICY on the butt. Juicy-butt sweats are horrible and evil and the root cause of both the recession and the Housewives shows on Bravo. (Or something like that.)

I think that life is really, really difficult right now, and maybe we should cut each other some slack. (Except for Balloon Boy’s parents.)

I think it’d be really fantastic to be an inter-planetary archeologist. If you know anyone with whom I could schedule an informational interview, I’ll send you this Cheesecake Factory gift card I found at the bottom of my purse. I’m sure it still has at least $6.92 on it.

I think that Firefly is one of the greatest TV shows ever made , and I don’t understand why people didn’t watch it. Meanwhile, a show like Drop Dead Diva gets a second season.

I think it’s frightening that I know what Drop Dead Diva is, let alone being aware of a second season.

I think that apple cider donuts are the greatest donut creation in the history of forever and likely fall under the What Would Jesus Do? umbrella.

I think that if I were 14 years old, I would be on Team Edward. But I’m not 14 years old, so I’m sick of this Twi-crap.

I think that I’m bound to offend somebody.

I think I’m the only person I know who doesn’t have an iPhone or Crackberry. I think I would really like to have an iPhone, but I think I need a bigger paycheck to swing that.

I think that HR gets a bad rap, but I think it’s also deserved. I think I’ll blog about that sometime. But I think I’m really good at it.

I think I need to figure out why I’m so uncomfortable proclaiming that I’m really good at HR.

I think I’m going to make some tea and eat a cookie (or two).

Friday, May 01, 2009

Important things I did today

1. Got out of bed.

2. Ate bacon and pancakes prepared by my husband.

3. Showered.

4. Wore capris for the very first time this year. (That's a momentous day in Seattle, not unlike the first frappuccino of the year.)

5. Enjoyed a frappuccino (not the first of the year, but this was definitely the warmest day of the year so far...but never fear, rain & 50's returns for the weekend, of course).

6. Treadmilled. (Important note: do not try to run while watching the cab/police chase in The Fifth Element. Just skip to the next chapter.)

7. Sitting on my arse contemplating what to have for dinner.

8. Just had conversation with husband about how Nordstrom has canceled their first store in Alabama. Cannot imagine living anywhere that didn't have a Nordstrom. Not that I ever shop at Nordstrom, unless their having a shoe sale and I can purchase online. I don't know why I'm talking about this.

9. Mentally preparing packing list for weekend getaway to Fairhaven. We're staying here:

Mostly because the room looks like this:

And so when it inevitably does this:

I can park on that window seat with the blankie and read my book and magazines while cramming my cake hole with this:

Which are oh so conveniently within walking distance from the inn.

You know you're old when....

You look forward to a weekend away during which you will do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I'd like to thank the Academy...

It seems that my sister, Vivi Alden, has nominated me for the Sexiest Muu Muu Award.

No wait, that's not it. I think it was the Blogger with the Sexiest Treadmill Award.

Hold up, I have to go look again.

Ah, here it is!


So, following her example, I will now list FIVE SEXY THINGS ABOUT MYSELF!

Is that right? I dunno, I'm just copying what's on her blog. I thought a sexy award would be personally delivered by Clive Owen or something, but apparently that's not the case.

Okay, so....

Sexy #1
My big brain. That's right. My big fat brain! I will kick your ass at Jeopardy. I really will. And I will do my own celebratory dance, too. (But I will not gloat when you're wrong. That would be really UNsexy.)

Sexy #2
I can speak French! (sort of) And everyone knows that a (sort of) command of the French language makes you sexy!

Sexy #3
Uhhhh.... I dunno. I'm out of sexy. I don't make my bed. I don't flat-iron my hair. I don't cook dinner unless it comes from the Trader Joe's freezer section. (Unlike my sister, I believe that eating pre-packaged food boosts my immunity to zombie flu, due to both the quick-freeze process and the time saved in cooking, which then allows you to conserve your energy when the zombie flu pandemic strikes so you have the strength to wield shotguns like Milla Jovovich.) And I'm currently wearing a retro print brown sweater with blue plaid pajama pants.

I'm sexied out, yo.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I meant to post this quote I found from Charles de Lint:
A long time ago a bunch of people reached a general consensus as to what's real and what's not and most of us have been going along with it ever since.

I totally fangirl him now.

long time, no post

Not that I haven't had a lot to write about, but it's just been wholly unpleasant. More layoffs, pay cuts, stress, grief, panic, are we going to make it? Et cetera. Nothing I want to re-live by blogging about it.

Ready for all of it to be over and for this thing to start turning a corner. I've had quiet enough of building my HR repertoire, thanks very much.

But that's that.

Our weekend has been fabulous. Maybe not fabulous for those living in climates that don't toughen the soul. But for us, hitting 60 degrees on a weekend in April is quite a major event. Of course, the really sunny, 70's weather is going to fall on Monday. Figures!

And I can't believe I just let myself eat coffee ice cream and 2 Milanos. Woman, do you have no shame?

Yeah, that was a rhetorical question.

Have been feasting otherwise on Memory and Dream by Charles de Lint, which was recommended by friend. I'd only read one of his previously, The Onion Girl. I liked that one, but it really started to drag toward the middle, and I ended up speed scanning through sections of it just to get to the end.

Not so with Memory and Dream. It took me a little while to pick up this one since, like The Onion Girl, it is a huge book with very small print! That's a substantial commitment for me. But he is simultaneously inspiring my unadulterated worship and insane jealousy at his talent. I am so utterly enthralled with this story that I'm forcing myself to keep a steady pace to savor it. I'm terrible at breakneck reading in order to find out what happens. I still have a couple hundred pages to go, so I've put it down for the evening so I can finish it tomorrow.

It's so layered and beautiful and haunting and.... All about art, writing, and magic. An artist whose paintings open a doorway for creatures from the Otherworld to enter reality and the writer's stories that connect them. Truly, urban fantasy at its best. I'm in awe of his ability to blur the lines between fantasy and reality so that you just believe that these things could actually happen. Especially for anyone who's ever pursued writing or art. You know how characters come alive inside you, so the leap you have to make while reading this book - that these characters can actually come alive - doesn't really feel like such a leap at all.

And today I had to laugh out loud during one chapter where the writer, Kathy, is talking about a story that's coming out complete crap, but her characters won't leave her alone until she sees the story through til the end. She makes the comment that she just wants to write: "And then they all died. The End."

How many of us have felt that urge about eleventy billion times through the course of writing something?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

rollin' like Fozzie

Wocka! Wocka! Wocka!

That's pretty much all I can think of to say today. WOCKA! WOCKA! WOCKA!

And maybe throw in a:
Doo doo doo doo doo