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Sunday, October 23rd, 2016 12:55 pm

the zone of destruction

beautiful new desk with all the stationery put away and my schedule up on top

no before picture of this side, but trust me, it was a disaster

moving the bookshelves around to get things off the floor

just need to hang some of the pictures on the wall and we're good to go!


moving to a new house in the last semester of graduate school was maybe not the wisest plan. 

last month, inspired by UFYH, i slowly began decluttering, organizing, and cleaning. my room is now beautiful, relaxing, and CLEAN!

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016 01:35 pm

As usual, a fairly unproductive week at work, made even less productive by the fact that we had to be out by noon Thursday so they could move everyone on the floor to a slightly larger floor next door. And we're only supposed to be in that location for another 6-9 months. Not that I really expect to be there that long.

I actually got some work done after the afternoon meeting (I never turn down free food) that was scheduled after our move deadline - it was just a matter of finding a quiet place and firing up my laptop.

I need to talk to my financial advisor. I've been putting it off -- I'm really good at that -- but it's gotten more serious now that I'm about to turn 70 and will have to start withdrawing money from my retirement accounts. Plural. And now that $A stock is up over 800. (That suggestion courtesy of my therapist.)

Friday I tagged along with Colleen and G' while they went to C's urology and doctor's appointments. And, of course, Mazatlan, the Mexican restaurant across the parking lot from Urology Northwest. In between, C and G' went to Costco while I hung out in the UW Clinic (across another parking lot from Costco) and tried to get some work done. This was hampered by my having forgotten to bring my VPN token :P Need to pick up a spare to keep in my backpack.

Actually, should keep one in my backpack and one at home, and stop keeping it on my badge lanyard. In fact, ... *puts token in backpack* Less likely to get wet in the rain.

Went grocery shopping with Colleen yesterday. Exhausting.

The big insight for the week (see Sunday) is that not only do I not multitask worth a damn, but it takes me a long time to context-switch. I'm at my most productive when I can work on one thing pretty much all day. Which is one reason why being on call sucks so much.

Notes & links, as usual )

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016 10:40 am
A book I thought I could renew suddenly has a hold on it. All copies are checked out, so the one I have that’s due today is actually needed. I might be able to finish the dratted thing, but I’m not sure I will. I’ve only got fifteen minutes left to watch on a DVD that’s due today, so I probably will finish that before we go to the library.

We have to make that trip earlier than we normally would because Scott’s parents are expecting us mid-afternoon. Scott’s sister’s birthday is this week, so this is to celebrate that. We need to fit in flu shots before we go, too. Scott wanted to do those yesterday, but Cordelia asked for a day’s notice, and we only told her yesterday.

We ended up going to IHOP for dinner last night. I had pumpkin spice pancakes and turkey bacon (I didn’t dare go with regular bacon at that time of night because of reflux issues). I know I shouldn’t have because of the blood sugar issues, but this is something we do once every three or four months, and I’m not quite ready to give it up. We tend not to go to IHOP weekend mornings because the wait is always more than half an hour. When we go in the evening, there’s no wait, and we get our food in under ten minutes.

My hands have been cramping, and I can’t figure out why. I haven’t been doing anything new or different. On both hands, it’s the bit between the base of my thumb and my wrist. It’s more my right hand than my left, I think, but that may be because I use my right hand for more things and so notice it more.

I need to try sock glue again because, if I can’t use it, most of my socks are useless. Knee socks were okay when I wore stretch pants under a dress because the pants held up the socks. I’m now wearing loose pants, so the knee socks end up bunched under the arches of my feet after about two minutes of walking around. They’re not terrible if I stay in the house and only walk to the bathroom, kitchen, or bedroom, but if I walk to Cordelia’s school, I have to pull them up three times on the way there.

The difficulty is that I have lots of knee socks and lots of ankle socks and only about three pairs of intermediate length. I paid $8-$10 for each pair of knee socks, too, so I’d like to wear them out. Also, they’re pretty. I don’t think I’ll try sock glue today, given that we’ll be away from home for hours, but tomorrow is definitely an option.

There’s something else I was planning to try tomorrow, and now I can’t remember what it was. I just remember that it’s something I was worried might give me physiological problems and didn’t want to try on a day when we’ll be in the car a lot. Oh, I know! Scott bought some Mio, and I looked at the ingredients and didn’t see anything that I know I can’t have, so I thought I’d try it because, if my body’s okay with it (and if I like it), it would give me some options for drinking something that tastes different.
Saturday, October 22nd, 2016 08:26 pm
In the last two days, I have written 1500 words on something that is neither my Yuletide assignment nor my UCon game. Why on earth am I letting myself do that? I need to write about 5000 words on the game, maybe more than that but certainly not less, and the fic I have in mind for Yuletide will by no means be small.

I just need to finish the game, so that I can start the Yuletide story.

The last time I was writing a game, I set myself a daily goal and just didn’t go to bed until I had managed it. I don’t think, under current circumstances, that that’s a viable option.
Saturday, October 22nd, 2016 02:45 pm
Drat. I have no idea what to do for a sweetener. I can’t have sucralose or aspartame or sugar alcohols. Now, I’m discovering that stevia has issues because I have problems with the bulking agents added to it in processing. Whole Foods adds maltodextrin which is actually high glycemic which defeats the purpose of using stevia (I only found that out a few days ago. I’d think the nutritionist might have warned me). Sweetleaf brand adds inulin which is fine glycemically but seems to give me gas and diarrhea even in quite small quantities (a single packet). All of the other brands I can find add sugar alcohols which give me worse issues than inulin seems to.

Oh, and apparently one’s not supposed to have processed inulin if one has a ragweed allergy because it’s usually processed from plants closely related to ragweed (chicory, mostly).

On the plus side, the problems from the Sweetleaf stevia mix have completely stopped the problems I had from Zoloft. Um… Yea?
Saturday, October 22nd, 2016 03:59 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. (This one is truly no work and no school. If you have a work question, you can email it to me or post it in the work-related open thread on Fridays.)

weekend free-for-all – October 22-23, 2016 was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016 12:04 pm
Yesterday, I mostly did household chores. I ran and unloaded the dishwasher. I did three loads of laundry. I changed the sheets. That pretty much did me in.

Oh, I also took out the trash and replaced the bag. Then Scott threw out some spoiled broccoli that smelled so terrible that we had to put the bin on the back porch or all be driven completely out of the house. Usually, he leaves things like that, in the sealed container, on the counter so that I can have the pleasure of emptying them after they’ve sat at room temperature for a couple of days. I have no idea why he changed procedure this time.

Cordelia had three friends over to watch a movie. One of the friends talked non-stop and then kept complaining that she’d lost track of what was going on in the movie. The other girls would then pause the movie and explain. I think they spent as much time doing that as they did watching the movie. Castle in the Sky/Laputa is not all that complicated, IMO.

We got cheese pizza for Cordelia and two of the three friends. The third is vegan and said she would eat before coming but ended up not doing that. We got her bread sticks, asking Cottage Inn to leave off the cheese and butter they normally put on, and we put out grapes and almonds in addition to the chips and popcorn. Nobody touched the grapes or the almonds, so I don’t think the vegan girl got a particularly balanced dinner.

I read enough of a library book that can’t be renewed to realize that I didn’t care if I finished it or not. It had a lot of things going on and was aiming for being funny, but nothing in it ever connected with me. I’ve got two graphic novels that I’m halfway through that are due tomorrow. I’d like to finish at least one of them.

I have realized, though, that one of my problems with reading and watching things is that I flinch and can’t go on when I realize I’m at the point where things are going to go wrong in order to kick off the plot. I’m not sure what to do about that.

I think we’re going to have thermostat wars this winter. I’m finding 73F a little too warm while Cordelia’s finding it cold. We certainly won’t go higher (for budgetary reasons), but Cordelia’s going to be unhappy if I tweak things lower during the day. I suppose we could do some complicated programming so that it gets warm while Cordelia’s getting ready for school (we keep it in the low 60s over night), cools off for me right after, and then gets warm again when she gets home.

Today, we need to get flu shots for Scott and Cordelia and deal with a mountain of dishes (Scott baked two different types of meat last night. Those pans are nasty). I need to corner Scott for help with number crunching for the Amber diceless game. I put my character notes for that in Gdocs, and he’s been reading and commenting.
Friday, October 21st, 2016 09:00 pm
  • Wash the dishes in your sink
  • Get your outfit for tomorrow together, including accessories
  • Set up coffee/tea/breakfast
  • Make your lunch
  • Put your keys somewhere obvious
  • Wash your face and brush your teeth
  • Take your medication/set out your meds for the morning
  • Charge your electronics
  • Pour a little cleaner in the toilet bowl (if you don’t have pets or children or sleepwalking adults)
  • Set your alarm
  • Go to bed at a reasonable hour
Friday, October 21st, 2016 08:18 pm

With some patience and persistence, mostly. Try to pace yourself as best you can–you’re probably going to want to tackle it all at once, but with years’ worth of mess to undo, that might not be possible. So take breaks, take your time, and don’t get discouraged if it’s not going as fast as you want.

Start with the trash. Get as much trash out as you can before you start doing anything else. Dishes, too. In general, work in a way that’s logical to you, whether that’s one small section at a time, or by category (all clothes, all books, etc.), or “everything that’s blue, then everything that’s white,” or anything else. Do what you can to ensure you only have to deal with each item once: encounter it, decide its fate, and put it in whatever its permanent spot will be.

Be patient, do something every day, and take breaks when it gets frustrating. You can do this.

Thursday, October 20th, 2016 08:52 pm
Age of first chief's ancient tomb reveals Pacific Islanders invented new kind of society

A library that brings books by sailboat

Surgeons use nose cells to repair damaged knee joints

What School Lunch Looked Like Each Decade for the Past Century

Plant discovered that neither photosynthesizes nor blooms

Mexican Taco Stand Switches Menu to Haitian Food for Refugees

Boosting the prospects of foster children: Ohio ups the age limit

Feral cats find work at Javits Center in exchange for food and shelter

Records, Descendants Help Weave Stories Of George Washington's Slaves

Mice smell, share each other's pain

Breast Cancer Death Rates Are Down, But Racial Disparities Persist

Out With the Poor, In With the Rich: The Landlord’s Guide to Gentrifying NYC

Inequality Is Still the Defining Issue of Our Time

Valentine Strasser was once the world’s youngest dictator, ruling Sierra Leone for four turbulent years. But his fall from power left him broken, exiled, and eventually back home as a mysterious and feared recluse.

How the owners of Fidelity get richer at everyday investors’ expense

What's really going on in PTSD brains? Experts suggest new theory

Most Farmers Still Doubt They Have Anything To Do With Climate Change

Scientists in California just discovered a new type of earthquake

In the Chicago Police Department, If the Bosses Say It Didn’t Happen, It Didn’t Happen

Where Zika struck hardest, Brazil moms say more help needed

Small-scale agriculture threatens the rainforest

Internet Attack Spreads, Disrupting Major Websites

Central America's rampant violence fuels an invisible refugee crisis

Working in tobacco fields can make kids sick. But they still need the money.
Friday, October 21st, 2016 04:37 pm


One month ago, the sewing/guest room had gone to crap again.  You literally couldn’t get in there.  But I was expecting company mid-October, so I had a deadline.

20 minutes, once a day.  Not even every day.  And it’s usable again.

Friday, October 21st, 2016 05:59 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

Remember the letter-writer back in March who felt aimless and unsure about how to figure out a career path? Here’s the update.

I know it’s been a while since my post was published, but I thought I’d give everyone an update about my life.

First, thank you so much for your advice and for the advice of everyone who commented. It feels a little silly to me now, but I didn’t know that this angst was a common thing for so many people! Most of my friends are the sort who knew exactly what they wanted to do with their lives since they were in utero, and it was so refreshing to hear that not everyone has it all figured out, and that it’s OKAY not to have everything figured out. I have spent the last six months mostly trying to chill out.

As for my job, I took your advice and started asking people in my department if they needed assistance on projects or teams. No surprise here, they did! In the time since you posted my question I have learned so many different facets of library work from my regular admin duties, including things like library marketing, library instruction, patron services, cataloging, etc. and I decided that…I really like it. I also started talking to a few senior staff members about what made them decide to be librarians, what they think makes a good one, what they think of the field (the list goes on). I had some time to mull this all over while we waited for my fiances job offer to finalize, and I realized that I might actually already be on my career path (something about hindsight being 20/20).

So, I’ve found another paraprofessional job at a library in our new town and I’m putting my feelers out towards a MLIS program nearby (I’m considering Fall 2017). However, I’m still leaving my possibilities open, should some other job come along and sweep me off my feet.

Thanks again for the support and great advice! I felt much better about the whole situation after I read your post and all the comments.

update: how do I choose a career path? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016 01:49 pm
but for whatever reason, all their tours are in the morning and I just can't hustle out of the house at 6:30 for this school.


In a first, mouse eggs grown from skin cells

Pets at work may help atmosphere - but bring their own risks

5,000 years ago, rodents were apparently considered food in part of Europe

In fume-choked Kochi, a solar rickshaw glides to the rescue

Monkeys are seen making stone flakes so humans are 'not unique' after all

How the World’s Biggest Costume Maker Cracked Halloween

The unexpected answer to the biggest mystery of the American Revolution

New room found at San Jose's Winchester Mystery House

Autism Speaks No Longer Seeking Cure (So they say. I'll reserve judgment.)

Scientists get their first look into how bacteria construct a slimy biofilm fortress

Trump? Clinton? Many young Americans prefer giant meteor, poll finds

Teaching Seventh Graders in a ‘Total Mess’ of an Election Season

Fearless teacher helps children of Albania's blood feuds

Kids Are Tiny, Judgmental Snobs When It Comes to Morality

The U.S. recess predicament: Extraordinary photos of what we can learn from play in other parts of the world

Success Spoils a U.S. Program to Round Up Wild Horses

Voter Suppression Is a Much Bigger Problem Than Voter Fraud

Interview With a Woman Who Recently Had an Abortion at 32 Weeks

When Mom is in prison

In Philippine drug war, a family struggles to stay safe

The white flight of Derek Black

A lot more kids killed in gun accidents than gov't says, study finds
Friday, October 21st, 2016 04:00 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

My boss and I have a standing weekly check-in where she is supposed to call my cell phone (she works remotely). Occasionally, she will just not call in to the meeting. At first I would ask to reschedule, but after this happening several times I eventually accepted that she just will sometimes not make it for that meeting. She didn’t call in this past week but the next day emailed me saying I needed to be better about keeping our check-in. I apologized and asked if maybe the time scheduled on our calendars just wasn’t a good/convenient time for her. She said it was and that she had called me at the scheduled time and left me a voicemail.

Except that she didn’t. At least I’m almost positive she didn’t. I don’t have any missed calls or voicemails from her and I sat by my phone the entire time. I also sit next to the sales phone so if she couldn’t reach my cell, she would typically dial that but that didn’t ring or receive any messages. I haven’t responded to her last email since I’m not sure if mentioning I didn’t receive a voicemail would come across as accusatory. Do I respond at all? If so, what should I say? Am I being crazy? Is there some way she could have recorded a message and I just wouldn’t have received it?

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • My boss has one foot out the door and is constantly complaining
  • Can my employer require me to use English when talking to coworkers?
  • I loaned a coworker money and she won’t pay me back
  • Can I bring notes into a job interview?

my boss blamed me for her mistake was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Friday, October 21st, 2016 11:11 am
Yesterday was a lazy day. I was very tired all day. Scott spent time working on digitizing videos for a coworker (things like the coworker’s wedding). We ended up getting Wendy’s for lunch.

When the cleaning lady came, Scott and I went into the bedroom with our laptops. We had the door open and were watching The Daily Show, but the cleaning lady ended up not telling us when she was ready to leave, so I didn’t get a chance to pay her. I don’t like that.

Scott and Cordelia ended up going out to buy some new ink cartridges for the printer because Cordelia needed to print something in color for her homework. I have no idea what kids who don’t have color printers— or printers at all— are supposed to do.
Friday, October 21st, 2016 10:17 am

Posted by Ask a Manager

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about. If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please don’t repost it here, as it may be in the to-be-answered queue :)

open thread – October 21-22, 2016 was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Thursday, October 20th, 2016 08:18 pm


Before and After my cleaning session. Took quite a few 45/15s. Have yet to vacuum, but I feel proud. Bonus picture of my desk as well.

Thursday, October 20th, 2016 05:59 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

This is timely, because I’m currently laid up with a fever and terrible sore throat…

A reader writes:

I work for a company with an accrued PTO policy that is used for all vacation time and sick leave. However, we have the option to work from home if we need to, and the manager of my group is pretty flexible and understanding.

However, over the past few weeks, several of my coworkers have come into the office while obviously sick. They spray Lysol and take medicine at their desks instead of taking a day off or working from home. Most recently, a coworker who sits close to me has come in while coughing, sniffling, and even groaning throughout the day.

Our manager is being very kind to her, but I really wish she’d tell this coworker to just take her laptop and work from home. I understand why my coworker doesn’t want to take a sick day since that would eat away at her bank of PTO, but coming in when she has the option to stay home and work is driving me crazy. Even if I don’t get sick myself (which I still might, as we get further into cold and flu season), it’s very distracting.

Is there a way I can address this with my manager that doesn’t come across as whiny? I also don’t want to negatively impact my coworkers, such as my complaint leading to them being forced to take PTO. Is it way out of line to ask if *I* can work from home if she’s going to allow people to stay in the office while sick?

I think you’re more likely to get a better response if you say, “Would you be wiling to encourage people to work from home rather than  coming to work while they’re sick? I tend to catch colds and flus easily, and I imagine others may be the same and that it would be better to have one person working from home than the whole office waylaid by sickness.”

If she says something like “well, it’s really up to each person what they do,” then at that point you could say, “Would you mind if I work from home while Jane has this bad cold then? I really want to avoid getting sick right now” … but if you do it every time someone comes to work with a cold, you may end up looking like you’re being a little reactionary (in part because you’re probably coming into contact with cold and flu germs plenty of other times without realizing it, just by being out in public).

Your better bet might be to talk to your coworkers. You could say something like, “I’ve noticed that in past years, colds and flus have ended up spreading around the office because we’re a group that tends to come to work even when sick. Would y’all be up for us agreeing this year to try to work from home when we’re sick and see if it helps?”

Also, for what it’s worth, this tends to be one of the side effects of combining vacation and sick leave into one bucket — it often results in people avoiding taking sick days because it will mean fewer vacation days. In your case, though, it sounds like people can work from home and thus avoid taking any PTO at all, and so it’s reasonable to expect them to do that (especially when you throw in the fact that some of their coworkers may be immunocompromised or going home to people who are).

can I ask my manager to tell sick people to stay at home? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Thursday, October 20th, 2016 02:59 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

My department’s administrative assistant (we’ll call her Olga) is incredibly impatient, and expects me to quickly complete things that I don’t have any control over. For example, I work often with her on finalizing the contracts for freelancers that we work with. She will create the contract, and I will email it to the freelancer, as I’m their main contact for the organization.

While I understand that freelancers have other clients and may take a few days to get back to us, Olga doesn’t. She will ask me if something has been returned to me only a few hours or one business day after I’ve sent it out. I will say, “I understand that we need to have Fergus’s contract returned for him to be paid, but we just sent it to him on Friday and it’s now Monday. I am planning on following up with him later this week if he doesn’t return it.”

Her response to this is often defensive, like, “Okay, but all he needs to do is sign it.” I understand, but I’m not in the same room with the contractor and I can’t force them to complete a task for us immediately!

This happens not only with contracts, but with a number of different tasks. She will ask my why someone hasn’t responded to my email, or why I haven’t finished a non-urgent task she asked me to do only an hour prior.

I think that Olga is just grumpy and is taking out other frustrations on me, rather than actually expecting me to have other people complete things in only a few hours. I don’t know what to do to stop being the target of this, and even though I tell her that I can’t control what another person does, the problem isn’t going away. What should I do?

I wrote back to this letter writer and asked, “What’s your relationship to Olga, in terms of hierarchy? Are you senior to her, or is she senior to you? Or are you peers?” The reply:

Technically I’m senior to her — she’s an administrative assistant and I’m a marketing associate. But I’m much younger than her.

Age doesn’t matter here. Relative authority in the relationships matter. She’s your department’s assistant, and you have the authority to tell her how you want this stuff to work. You just need to be clearer.

For example, when she bugs you to know if you have a freelancer contract back yet, say this: “In general, assume that it may take a few days or even a week to get freelancer contracts back, and sometimes longer. They have other clients and we’re not their only priority — and plus, it can take time for people to carefully read over contracts. It looks bad if we rush them, like we’re trying to push our terms on them without giving them time to think. I follow up if I haven’t heard back after a week, but please assume that I’m on it.”

Then if she does it again, say, “Like I said before, I don’t expect it back by now. I’ve noticed you often follow up on these quickly. I’d rather you not check back unless it’s been a week or longer.”

If she asks why someone hasn’t responded to your email, say this: “I’m not at all concerned since it hasn’t been very long. Is there a particular reason you need this urgently?”

And perhaps: “I’ve noticed that you will often check in on various items I’m waiting for from people. I actually prefer to track these myself. If there’s something you need to hear back about and it’s been several days, feel free to check with me. But otherwise I prefer to manage this stuff on my own.”

If she asks you why you haven’t finished a non-urgent task from earlier that day (!), say this: “I’ve got a bunch of other priorities that I need to deal with first. Did I misunderstand the urgency?”

And if that keeps happening: “I’m on top of everything that’s on my plate, and I don’t let things fall through the cracks. Can I ask you to assume from now on that if you’ve asked me for something, I’ll get it to you, and that you don’t need to keep checking back with me? Of course, if it’s time-sensitive, please tell me that initially so that I know from the start and can prioritize it correctly.”

In other words — be calm, clear, and direct about how you want her to handle this stuff differently.

I know that it’s easy to feel awkward about age differences and about telling someone older than you that you want them to do something differently. But really, age is not supposed to be the operative factor in working relationships — experience and authority and standing are what count. You probably don’t want people changing how they deal with you based solely on your age, right? Same thing here — don’t do it to other people. (And if it helps, pretend in your mind that she’s a year younger than you.)

my department assistant is grumpy and impatient with me was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.