Monday, May 31, 2010

Fossil Festival

Yay for Memorial Day Weekend! For all the normal reasons, of course,

but also because that's when Aurora, North Carolina throws its annual Fossil Festival! My friend P and I go every year.

This year was quite a bit smaller than last year's, and several vendors that I was looking forward to seeing weren't there. Also, it wasn't quite as well organized - no one was keeping track of the parking and we ended up trapped when people parked behind us, making three rows. But we still had a very nice time.

Our first success (and biggest of the day) was talking to one of the regular vendors regarding some really nifty rocks.

It's basically layers of coal with fossil ferns and other plants smashed in between. P and I were equally enamored of them, and asked the price. He kept giving us lower and lower prices, until we asked how much for all seven pieces. We got all seven (and the box to carry them in) for $40. Yay! The vendor, T, told us a secret - he's always more willing to deal on pieces that are heavier. Nothing like hauling rocks around to make one appreciate a bargain. (Next year, I'm moving in on his fossilized wood!) She had a favorite, which was REALLY cool so she took that one and I got the odd piece. We hauled our loot back to the car and moved along.

[When we got to my house later, and divided the seven between the two of us, I was reminded that several people have compared the two of us to those little gophers in the Warner Brothers cartoons - "No, no, I insist - you go first." "Oh I couldn't! Well, if you insist." We make me laugh.]

For the festival, Aurora closes its main street so it's like a festival/street fair kind of event. We wandered at will, and found other treasures, like fossilized sand dollars.

Then, nirvana! An air conditioned building, and the best of the shiny rock vendors. I went just a bit nuts this year. So shiny!

Fluorite. These pictures do not do justice. This piece looks like a miniature geometric city of the future. So very cool...

The tag called this calcopyrite. I'd never heard of it before, but it's a field of pale grey crystals, with indigo/purple/violet/navy crystals scattered randomly. Also much cooler in person.

Then I saw this. Oh my. The lady didn't take credit cards, so I basically jogged a mile to the nearest ATM and back. This is a softball sized piece of celestite. The crystals are palest grey to clear with lots of inclusions in them and it doesn't matter how you turn it - the inclusions cause every crystal to have rainbows trapped inside. Absolutely stunning.

We scrambled to get our shopping done since the auction starts at 3:00 and most of the vendors pack up before then. This year, we skipped the auction - it's all vendors and museum representatives and while the prices are very reasonable for what you are getting, a strict hobbyist like myself doesn't stand much of a chance. Then we tried for food. OMG. I just wanted french fries. That's it. We stood in line for well over an hour just to be told that the idiot ran out of potatoes. How the hell do you RUN OUT OF POTATOES at a booth selling french fries?!?!? And then, don't even update the damn sign so people standing in line KNOW to go somewhere else? Oooh, I was not happy!

Instead of eating french fries (growl), she got a hot dog and we moved to one of the mounds of dirt. The fossil museum exists because of the phosphate mine. After 9/11, the phosphate mine is not open to the public, but they take basically their leavings and pile the dirt up in spaces marked out by the museum and then you can dig around for free and keep anything you find.

I plunked myself down and dug in. P went wandering off and found another food booth and got me french fries. She's a very good friend. After food, life was much better and we rooted happily (like a pair of gophers...). P has the ability to spot sharks teeth. It's just one of those things. She'll walk around, looking down, and spot several of them. I am a bit more hands on. And by that, I sit in the dirt and dig. And shift. And dig some more. I enjoy it. Of course, the scale of our hunt is slightly different as well.

The penny is shown for scale. The visible tooth is one that P found. The others are the "micro teeth" that I find so attractive. I'm so quite fond of the teeny tiny fossil shells.

We hunted about for a couple of hours and then headed for home. It was nearly 100 degrees, and high humidity and we were outside for several hours, so we took a pass on the winery this year. We both just wanted to get home, shower and find an icy beverage. Here's what I (and P) found in the dirt this year.

And this is an old gas pump that just struck my fancy. We have one at home, and I just like them.

The big sand dollar and the orangey-ist of the fern rocks will be going to my mom on my next trip home. Thanks to this festival, we're both growing quite a collection of fossils and shiny rocks.

At the end of the day, I was sunburned, windburned, hot, sweaty, broke and quite happy. It was a very good day! Next year, you should come too!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Porch Anole!

I have a hibiscus that lives on my porch every summer and in my library every winter. I have an anole that lives in the hibiscus. Every fall, I worry about accidently bringing the anole inside, and I shake the hibiscus and try to make sure that no one's home when it comes indoors.

This winter, I found a dessicated little lizard corpse in my storage room upstairs, and was sure that I'd murdered my porch anole. I had this whole scenerio in my head where he's dragged inside, chased mercilessly by the cats and limps off to die in the equivalent of a basement. It was tragic.

That scenerio happened to some poor little guy, but I still have a porch anole! I've been trying to capture him on camera for a couple of weeks, which has been a comedy of errors, but today, today! I succeeded! I wasn't quick enough to catch him displaying, but maybe next time.

And then he sauntered away - he wasn't nearly as panicked as LAST time I chased him around the porch. Maybe one day, I'll be able to maul him the way I do the treefrogs with their cute little suction-cup toes!

UPDATED: Not gecko. Anole. I've had this little guy stuck in my head since I read this article 'cause he's SO pretty! I love the eye color!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Music Of Nature

You've probably heard Lang Elliot's work even if you have no idea who he is. He is widely considered the major force in recording birdsong and is the primary bird song recordist for the Eastern Stokes Guide. He and some friends have put together a blog of nature music - birds and frogs and other fauna. It's the perfect antidote to a gloomy depressing day.

I stole this video from his blog. You should check it out here: The Music Of Nature.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Church Fail

From the same town that brought you this, comes this little goof. U, V, what's the diff, right?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Assistant FAIL

All of the salaried employees in my factory share one administrative assistant, and unfortunately, ours sucks.

Let's call the dear thing Gidget. Gidget is not just sullen, inane, sly, lazy, entitled, and bitchy, she's stupid and yet oddly convinced that she is capable and entirely deserving of the better-than-you attitude that she wields with such clumsiness.

Keep in mind that my mom was a secretary, so was my grandmother - both of the old school, shorthand taking, absolutely capable of running the company single-handedly sort. My last company had several admins of the same vein - they were bright, capable people who were almost scary in their ability, knowledge and efficiency so it is true that my expectations were high. (I make a point of making friends with the admins immediately 'cause they can either make your life much easier, or make your life hell.)

I've never have to work so hard in my life to get along with someone as with Gidget. And in the last couple of months, she's screwed up even more than usual. A few examples of her recent antics:

1. In spite of having the approved travel request form for three weeks, she didn't make my travel arrangements for my recent trip to Mexico until the Friday before I left. (I left the next Tuesday.) She only made them then because I asked her about them with the plant manager standing there. She whined the entire time because she "felt sick" and wanted to leave early and couldn't because mean me made her do this travel stuff. Because of her delay, the company was charged nearly $1000 more for my airfare. (We have to have her make the arrangements for us to travel, I'd be so much happier doing it myself.)

2. The charge card that she used for my hotel reservation was declined, so after calling and emailing with no response, the hotel cancelled the reservation. I found this out when I tried to check in and they had no rooms. They must have suspected that there'd be more to the story, because they had the emails and phone log in a folder behind the desk - so I KNOW they contacted her about it and she did nothing. End result: alone, in a taxi, somewhere in Mexico, at midnight, traveling to another hotel room for the night. Not only did she not do anything to help me, she never even apologized for getting me stranded. (Again. This isn't the first time her screw up has resulted in me stuck somewhere.)

3. I was in the process of bending to corporate will and getting a corporate card for this trip, so the airfare went on the ghost card. (The ghost card is a corporate credit card basically without a name attached for the admins to use as needed.) When one does an expense report, all of the charges for the trip have to be included, including charges on the ghost card. When Gidget bought my air tickets, she had to email me the itinerary since it was in the ghost card profile. When I did my expense report, I asked her to please send me the invoices for the airfare - I couldn't get into it since it was on the ghost card. She sent back an email telling me to follow the link she sent me (to the itinerary). I dug it out of my email archive and tried, but it had expired, so I sent her the link and asked her, again, to print out the e-invoices. She sent back a 5 MB email full of screenshots of the website, with big red arrows on where to click to get into the invoice, completely disregarding that it was IN HER PROFILE and I could not reach that page. I almost sent back screenshots of my own, but managed to restrain myself. So I walked across the entire factory to her desk and pointed to her name on her profile. She proceeded to walk me through the entire process that she'd just sent screenshots of, like I'm the idiot here. Then, after she's AT THE SCREEN with the invoices, she went to close it and then got all upset when I tore into her and told her to print it, which was what I asked for originally. She still believes that she was right and I was wrong.

4. Our volume is way up (yay!) and our factory has been working 10 hours a day, 6 days a week for months. At the recent incentive meeting, the plant provided a pizza lunch for everyone to thank them for the extra effort. (And they deserve it - the lines have been making their numbers EVERY day, and keeping quality very high - they've been doing an extraordinary job.) Gidget was responsible for ordering the pizza. That's all she had to do. Call and have the pizza delivered. She figured 2 slices of pizza per person, for 280 people. There are 7 slices in a large pizza. She ordered 20 pizzas. Just think about that for a second. For the math impaired, that's a quarter of what she should have ordered. So the assembly supervisor jumped in his car while a couple of the engineers called every pizza place in a 10 mile radius and collected every available pizza in the town to feed the plant. We asked them to each take one piece and then one of the other supervisors made a second run to pick up enough for seconds for people. Gidget did nothing to assist in the setup or teardown for the lunch, or the tearing around actually getting the lunch. Her facebook status was something about how hard she worked on this lunch and what a great job she did.

5. One of our buyers had his boss decide to postpone his scheduled trip to China - he had nothing to do with the situation. She got mad at him because she had to move the reservations, so she intentionally picked the most expensive ones and his cost center was charged an extra $2000.

6. I had the CEO and other upper management of one of my suppliers come in for a huge meeting. A month in advance, I booked the room and asked her to arrange the lunch. They were arriving at 10:00. At 9:00, she sent a decline notice for the room - she'd bumped me out of the room with an hour's notice for a routine internal meeting. When I told her I needed the room, she said everything was booked, and it wasn't her job to find me a replacement. (Actually, that is pretty much exactly her job.) I had to go to the plant manager to get my room back. And then she ordered 2 fewer lunches than she should have, so two of us had to wait until the restaurant delivered two more. Then I found out that it was actually 1 fewer but she decided she was entitled to lunch so she took one.

And so on...

Stupid, incompetent AND an attitude - what's not to love?

In an admittedly political maneuver, she's a friend of mine on facebook. (I have a special "work" list for these things so she's very limited in what she can see.) She spends her days on the phone to her sister, and updating her facebook status on her iphone. I know - I see all of her updates when I get home at night. She spends a lot of time playing bejeweled. She was already on my last nerve when she started posting things that I found to be really unprofessional. You know, like this:

My friend P is the manager of the test lab at my company, and she has a group from the Department of Energy coming in for a VERY IMPORTANT MEETING next week. In addition to managing a department of 10 people, she is project manager for several critical task forces that we are currently running. End result - she needs Gidget to be the admin and handle a lot of the arrangements for this meeting. Gidget has NOT been cooperative, and P and I have spent some quality time lately comparing notes on her.

Our plant manager is leaving, back to his home country, and we're getting a new one. I heard Gidget on the phone the other day, telling someone how tired her brain was 'cause for three and a half days ALL she'd done was work on the agenda for the new guy's week long visit. Seriously, she hasn't answered her phone or an email all week. And, she hasn't done anything to set things up for P's DOE meeting next week. This includes little niceties like letting the visitors know where to stay, how to get to the plant, how to get back, etc. Every company that I've ever worked for has had a packet of information for visitors (important suppliers, interviewees, guests from other factories, etc) that includes things like this.

So at lunch today, I was laughing to P about Gidget's latest facebook post, about something else she should be doing but has no idea...

And P turned red and then white and through her clenched teeth, informed me that Gidget was talking about HER voicemail. And told me that she hadn't gotten an answer to the voicemail, so she'd sent an email, and got back "check google maps" as a response. Huh. Maybe like this:

So, incompetent and proud of it! Win win!

I'm hoping the new plant manager will take one look at her and send her packing. We'll see. In the meantime, I have another trip to Mexico coming up - this time to Juarez and Chihuahua. With her at the helm, and the drug lords packing, what could possible go wrong??

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

How We Wreaked The Ocean

What we need to do is stop breeding. Why can't people see that we are overpopulating what is really a tiny little rock?

Star Wars Day!

Did you celebrate? I did. I once again forced my coworkers to celebrate one of my odd little holidays. We were lazy about it though and had bbq and fried chicken delivered.