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Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 08:08 pm
The girls were going to go to their dad's for Thanksgiving. That fell through at the very last minute, which left me with only a couple of days to prepare my menu and do my shopping. We're bringing food over to a friend's house, so that'll work.

I'm making:

Swedish meatballs (which are something to be thankful for right there)
brussel sprouts with sour cream and bacon
roasted vegetables with maple syrup
creamed spinach
two chickens
mashed potatoes
sweet potato gratin with blue cheese
cranberry sauce

Which really ought to be enough food! One can only hope. Friend is providing stuffing, and whatever vegetables the combined children want to cook. Ana is planning on preparing an apple crumble over there.
Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 03:19 pm
...always knows when you're wearing black.

Read more... )
Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 07:00 pm

Posted by PJ Jonas

Quote Post Driving in The Beast and a little smart car goes past us.
All the kids: “Ugh!”
Greyden: “How does a person fit in there?”
Jade: “It’s so ugly!”
Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 07:00 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I work at a community college and recently all staff and faculty received a small bonus for the holidays. Immediately, one of the long-time instructors donated her bonus to a needy student and challenged the entire staff to do the same. Very few did. I didn’t because my bonus came in handy with all the extras of the holiday season. I would rather participate in some type of fundraising effort for needy students and their families.

I just don’t think it was “kosher” for her to challenge everyone to give up their bonuses. What’s correct?

Ugh, yeah. I’m sure her heart was in the right place, but people really, really shouldn’t be telling other people how to spend their money.

If she wanted to do it on her own, that’s great. She even could have sent out a low-key emailing offering it up as a suggestion to others — but challenging others to do it? That crosses over into inappropriate pressure.

People need to stop telling their coworkers how to spend their own money, even when it’s for a good cause.

my coworker tried to pressure us into giving away our bonuses was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 05:30 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

If you’re a new manager or team lead, you might find yourself charged with leading work that’s already well in progress. How do you jump in and learn what you need to know in order to effectively drive it forward?

At Intuit QuickBase’s Fast Track blog today, I talk about three keys to successfully leading a project when you come in mid-stream. You can read it here.

how to lead a project when you come in mid-stream was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 04:00 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I have a couple of employees who are using their time and company resources during work to communicate with each other and sending personal emails to one another during work hours. What is the best way to address this without alienating them? It seems to be ongoing throughout the day and is affecting their work.

Well, coworkers emailing each other during the work day is pretty normal, even when it’s not strictly work-related. That in and of itself isn’t a real problem.

If it’s excessive to the point that it’s affecting their work, that’s an issue — but in that case, the issue is their work and their productivity, not the fact that they’re emailing each other.

So, focus on that. Be direct with each person involved that you’re concerned that you’re not seeing the quality or quantity of work that you’d like to be seeing. As part of that conversation, you can certainly mention something like, “I’ve noticed that you spend a lot of time emailing with Imogen and Fergus during the day, and that might be part of the problem. Can you pull back on that and see if it helps?” But again, that shouldn’t be the main thrust of the message — the main message is “I’m seeing issues X and Y in your work, so let’s figure out how to solve them.”

The reason that you should focus on that and not the emailing itself is because ultimately it’s the work that matters. If they stopped the emailing but nothing changed about their work, you’d still have concerns, right? And if they were performing at a high level, you presumably wouldn’t care if they’re doing some chatting at the same time.

Some managers hear that and think, “Well, it’s knowing about all this emailing that makes me think that they’re not using their time well — if they have time for so much emailing, don’t they have time to be more productive as well?” And that’s not a crazy line of thought — but even then, the answer isn’t “make them stop emailing.” If you’re concerned that they have large swaths of time that they’re not using well, address that. It’s fine to say something like, “Hey, I’ve noticed you’re spending a lot of time chatting with Imogen and Fergus, and I want to be transparent with you that it’s made me wonder if we could be using your time better.”

You might hear a response that changes your thinking — for instance, that they’re chatting with each other while they wait for some process to finish running and that there’s nothing especially productive they can do with that time. You might hear that the emailing is happening while they’re eating lunch at their desks. Or, maybe not — maybe you’ll hear that they didn’t really realize how much time they were spending on it. Either way, it’s a useful conversation to have so that you’re all on the same page and you’re not worrying about something that they don’t realize is causing concern.

my staff are sending too many personal emails to each other during the day was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 11:30 am
I think I kept everybody's addresses from last year, but-

If you want a card this December, or if you're one of the people I'm supposed to send soap/shampoo to, please ping me with your address here. I set comment screening to 'all comments', so I think that means anonymity; if I'm wrong please correct me and I'll fix it, and pass me your snail address via PM instead.
Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 10:35 am
Mondays, every week, let's celebrate ourselves, to start the week right. Tell me what you're proud of. Tell me what you accomplished last week, something -- at least one thing -- that you can turn around and point at and say: I did this. Me. It was tough, but I did it, and I did it well, and I am proud of it, and it makes me feel good to see what I accomplished. Could be anything -- something you made, something you did, something you got through. Just take a minute and celebrate yourself. Either here, or in your journal, but somewhere.

(And if you feel uncomfortable doing this in public, I've set this entry to screen any anonymous comments, so if you want privacy, comment anonymously and I won't unscreen it. Also: yes, by all means, cheer each other on when you see something you want to give props to!)
Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 08:49 am
Saw the news last night. Ain't commenting on it. If you know me you already know how I feel about it. if you don't know me-

Well. Cut for mention of an unlooked-for anti-abortion message from somebody else. )So yeah. Not gonna post about what happened last night. If you know me, you probably know what I think; if you don't know me, you probably don't need to or want to know, and I'm not going to force you to find out about it.

That's all.
Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 08:53 am
I have my nephew's Christmas present ready to go to the post office. I just hesitate to send it because it's so early. He's seven. I don't want to ask him to wait a month to open his presents. That just seems cruel. Then again, I will be near a post office this morning and don't expect to be again until some time in January. If I don't mail it today, Scott will have to.

I baked a cake yesterday. It was from a Kroger brand mix. The texture is a little off, and it sheds crumbs a lot when I cut it. Still, it's not terrible, and it was cheaper than Betty Crocker or Pillsbury or whatever. The frosting was also Kroger brand. It's pink and tastes of artificial strawberry. I expected it to be nastier than it is. I can actually eat it which wasn't a given.

I have several DVDs I want to watch this week, and I don't know if I'll get to all of them. First, I bought the Rurouni Kenshin live action movie. I'm about twenty minutes in, and I keep stopping because there are other things I need to do. I have a DVD of Dae Jang Guem that I've had from Netflix since some time in September. I really want to watch it, but I keep not finding time. Finally, I have the last DVD of season two of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries from the library. That's due on Sunday. I don't know if I'll be able to renew it or not; it depends on if someone requests it between now and then. I only have a few hours for watching anything today because I've got a doctor's appointment mid-morning.

I'm debating what to do with my collection of Bill Cosby albums. I have a lot of Cosby in my iTunes, and I have more on vinyl, awaiting conversion. I just don't know. It's hard to accept that he's a terrible human being, but the evidence is compelling. I loved his comedy-- It's never mean. I'm simply not sure that I can listen to it any more; it feels too much like endorsing his actions. I definitely won't purchase any more of his albums, but what to do about what I already own?
Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 08:04 am
I am deeply upset (but not at all surprised) by the grand jury in Ferguson declining to indict Darren Wilson for shooting Mike Brown. (Everything I read about how the grand jury was convened and how the evidence was presented makes it absolutely crystal clear the prosecutor did not want the indictment. Which, again: heartbreaking, but not at all surprising.) I'm more upset by the fact that county prosecutor Robert McCulloch made the announcement at 9PM -- that was such a bone-headed move that even before I saw the announcement there was absolutely no doubt in my mind the timing was deliberate to provoke the very response that happened last night as protests erupted into violent confrontation. You don't announce news like that at 9PM unless you want an explosion -- every conflict gets escalated after dark -- and it's yet-a-fucking-nother example of how badly the whole thing was handled from the beginning.

I'm posting, however, to let people know about the Ferguson National Response Network, which has a coordinated list of protests being planned across the country, mostly for today. I don't know if I'm going to be physically capable of attending Baltimore's tonight, but there are planned protests in loads of locations and judging by my reading list I know a lot of you are just as upset as I am.

(And if you're looking for something you can give to people in your life who don't get it, I thought this article by Janee Woods, 12 Ways to Be a White Ally to Black People, was a really good attempt at being concise and clear about a very complicated subject.)
Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 04:54 am
Killings by Utah police outpacing gang, drug, child-abuse homicides

The Fed Just Acknowledged Its Too Big To Jail Policy

Everything you need to know about prison

Americans could save a fortune this winter — if they only understood their thermostats

Record Drought Reveals Stunning Changes Along Colorado River

It's Chilly, But Record Cold Years Are Gone

Do Democrats and Republicans actually experience the weather differently?

You Can't Educate People Into Believing in Evolution

Extreme shrimp may hold clues to alien life

Why We Pay People Who Care For Children Like Parking Lot Attendants

Ferguson decision reflects juries’ tendency to give police benefit of doubt, experts say

Violence erupts after Ferguson grand jury announcement

Sierra Leone Ebola burial workers go on strike

Robot discovers that Antarctic ice is thicker than we thought

Turkish president rounds on feminists, says men and women not equal

Life as a Fake Beauty Queen in Small-Town China

Brain's dementia weak spot identified

Russia suspends coal supplies to Ukraine

Ukraine leader, under pressure from West, pledges new government soon

Iraq says airstrikes are critical in the shifting battle for Ramadi

Iraqi Kurds prepare Sinjar mountain offensive

How Western ‘foreign fighters’ are being recruited online to join Kurds against Islamic State

What It's Like to Teach in Syria Under ISIS Rule

40,000-year-old blood brings mammoth cloning closer

Complex life may be possible in only 10% of all galaxies

Libya air strike hits Tripoli's last functioning airport

Tax-Dodging Wal-Mart Holds Another Food Drive for Its Impoverished Workers

Israeli Cabinet approves Jewish nationality bill
Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 12:30 am
It's interesting how much time I find that I have when I'm not scurrying around during the last few days before Thanksgiving doing all the things that I usually do.  During one of my butt-icing sessions, it occurred to me that I could use my extra time to try to include a few interesting dishes to complement our usual turkey-stuffing-potatoes-cranberry routine.

In my searching, I came across a very tasty-sounding recipe, which I immediately modified and changed to the point that I really can't post the actual recipe that I used.

Sorry. I can't remember exactly what amounts I used of anything. Or I'd put my modified recipe here.

So I decided to make a roasted vegetable gravy to serve alongside our traditional turkey gravy. I began by spraying a roasting pan with cooking spray, then spread a single layer of various veggies on the bottom of the pan and drizzled them with olive oil. I used onions, garlic, carrots, and celery. I roasted them at 400 degrees f. for about an hour, or until the vegetables were soft and were beginning to brown.

After I removed the pan from the oven, I dumped in some low-sodium organic vegetable broth and scraped all those yummy browned bits from the pan; and transferred the broth and veggies to a sauce pan. I added some more vegetable broth. I don't know how much.

Then I added some fresh herbs -- rosemary and parsley -- because that's what I had on hand, some soy sauce, and let the pot simmer for about another hour.

After I strained the vegetables out of the broth I was pleased to see that the gravy was a nice caramel color.  I added some salt and fresh-ground black pepper, hesitantly tasted it, and was pleasantly surprised by the flavor: kind of sweet, yet substantial and a bit salty. After making a roux of butter and flour, I scraped the browned buttery stuff into my stock and the gravy thickened nicely.

Well, now.

The original recipe said that this gravy could be made a two or three days ahead of Thanksgiving if kept refrigerated then warmed on the stovetop a few minutes before serving; and that the gravy may need a shot or two of vegetable broth or white wine or water to thin it a bit after refrigeration.

I'll give y'all a gravy update after Turkey day.
Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 05:03 am

Posted by Ask a Manager

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My HR rep demanded to read through my email

Today, the HR rep for my main worksite (but not the rep responsible for my for my division) came into my office, told me she needed to check my email immediately, and asked me to log in. She then sat at my desk, reformatted Outlook to her preferences, and read through my email. She then did the same with another of my office-mates, and then left. She said that this was an HR matter, and nothing to do with me personally.

I’m baffled. Is this normal? I assume that all my work emails can be accessed at any time, remotely, but I’ve never encountered something like this.

I’m a little concerned because she didn’t already have have log-in privileges for my workstation, and also that I didn’t get a chance to shut down other client-centered applications with sensitive information that this HR rep is not supposed to be privileged to view. Honestly, I was so taken aback by this that it only occurred to me in hindsight. What on earth is going on here? By the way, I never send anything personal from my work email, so I am completely at a loss.

I have no idea either, but it’s absolutely reasonable to ask about it. I’d start with your manager: “Jane came in today, told me to log into my computer, and then sat at my desk and read through my email. She didn’t explain why, and then just left. What’s going on?”

2. My manager has asked us for brutally honest feedback

My manager wants our team to give her a written evaluation and then discuss our feedback with her in a one-on-one. This is not something HR is asking of her, but something she wants to do to better herself. She wants us to be “brutally honest” and it will stay just between us. First off, who does this? Isn’t there a major conflict of interest here? How can I be honest with out her holding some sort of grudge? I’m the next manager down from her, so I’m walking on eggshells to be brutally honest. She is the person who would help promote me.

Is this common of managers? How do I respond?

It’s certainly not uncommon. In fact, good managers actively solicit input from their staff members, and some of them do it in the form of written evaluations or 360s. The key, though, is that in order to get candid, useful feedback, they need to have first established an environment in which people know it will be safe to speak candidly.

So, what do you know of your manager? Does she have a track record of taking feedback well? Or does she get defensive and shoot the messenger? How candid you can be will depend on that. But there’s nothing inherently outrageous about the idea itself.

3. One recruiter said the job is contract, but another said it’s permanent

My boyfriend is job seeking, and recently he was contacted by a recruiter for a six-month contract position for a company nearby. Although he’d prefer a permanent position, he agreed to a phone interview so as not to leave any stone unturned and on the off chance he might be able to sell himself so well they hire him direct.

The day before his phone interview, a different recruiting company called about the same job but he said it’s permanent. My boyfriend was honest, told him what happened, and asked this guy if he was sure it’s permanent, and the guy said yes. And afterward we found it on the company website and confirmed that to be the case. The second recruiter, being ethical, said he’d keep him in mind for other jobs since he was already working with someone else on that one.

My boyfriend decided to proceed with the phone interview as if he did not have the knowledge they really had a permanent position. He’s confident that the company and this first recruiter will be contacting him for an in-person interview. At what point should be mention his knowledge that they want someone permanent and to whom should he broach this with?

I’d reach out to the original recruiter and just be straightforward — explain what happened, and ask if she has any insight.

(Also, just to clear something up about that second recruiter: Because your boyfriend had already been submitted to the company by the first recruiter, that recruiter “owns” his candidacy there. The second one can’t submit him, and wouldn’t earn a commission if he got the job, even if she did submit him. So it’s not that she was being ethical by backing off when she learned about the first recruiter; she was just following normal recruiting practice. I mean, she wasn’t being unethical either — but I think you might have read something into that that wasn’t quite right.)

4. My boss won’t let me volunteer one day a week while I’m preparing to wrap up my internship

I’m OP 4 from this post. I have an update on my situation that I am unsure how to handle. I’m currently in a paid internship that ends in a few weeks, and I’m doing everything I can to enter this other company (that one I talked about previously) because I’m very passionate about the work they do. I was turned down for two different positions, but have made connections and have decided to try and get volunteer experience within the organization.

I have made (what I think is) a very reasonable request to my boss to take off one day a week to volunteer. He turned me down, saying that I he needs me around and that I’m invaluable. I know I don’t have any opportunities to stay, so this isn’t helping me. I’m very frustrated. I haven’t had much luck in the company that I intern with or anywhere else. I really think this volunteer experience will help me. How do I bring this back up to my boss without sounding desperate? What can I do?

If your position ends in a few weeks, why not just start the volunteering then? Pushing your boss on this after he’s already said no isn’t likely to go over well, and you’re really so close to your ending date that it doesn’t make sense to leave on that note.

5. Am I wrong to keep my boss in the dark about looking for another job?

I don’t understand. I do not see the benefit to telling your boss that you have a job interview or even a job offer before anything is set in stone. Yet when two of my direct reports told me this, my own boss thought it was the right thing for them to do. I myself have been applying for jobs and had an interview. Am I being unprofessional by keeping my boss in the dark?

Nope. It’s very normal to be discreet when job-searching.

If you happen to have the rare manager who has a track record of making it safe to tip her off when you’re starting to think about moving on, you might handle this differently — although even then, you’re not obligated to.

HR rep insisted on reading my email, my manager has asked for brutally honest feedback, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Monday, November 24th, 2014 05:55 pm
This is California. You are a facility belonging to the University of California. Furthermore, you're situated in the capitol of California. Now, given that the rest of the nation considers California to be home of the "Fruits, nuts, and flakes," (and note that I fall into at least one of the first two of those categories, so I'm not disparaging, here,) not to mention a seething hotbed of liberal inclusion, tolerance, and political-correctness (not that this is strictly true — Orange County comes to mind,) one would think that you'd have your act together, when it comes to accessibility.

One would, sadly, be incorrect in that assumption.

Why? Well, let's see: We could talk about your closing-down the parking ramp which gives the most convenient and accessible access to much of the main hospital and turning it into staff-only parking (except, apparently, for one day per week, which isn't actually specified on any of your signage. (The signage, actually, says it's still for patients and visitors, for the most part. Until you try to enter, of course.)) Or we could talk about the the other parking ramp, which has had its handicapped spots moved farther from the doors and replaced with Electric Vehicle charging stations and maintenance vehicles. Because, y'know, fuck the patients with disabilities. You have to encourage the use of electric cars and keep things as convenient for your employees as possible.

Then there's the main hospital, itself: A maze of twisty little passages, all alike. I realize that your hospital, even more than most, apparently, has accreted, rather than been well-planned. However, your hospital is a stone bitch to get through for the people who don't have mobility issues. For those of us who do, it's a freakin' nightmare. "Well, you have to park here, then walk to the entrance there. Then, if it's during regular hours, on a weekday, and you've come in through the main entrance, a volunteer will walk with you part-way to where you're going. [which is frequently at the other end of the complex, down a route with more twists and turns than an Escher print.] Of course, you can come in through one of the closer entrances to the parking ramp, but there won't be a guide. You'll have to follow the signs." The signs. Er...yeah. That's another little matter where you fail spectacularly. I know of at least one hallway junction where there are four signs labeled "East Wing," with arrows. The arrow upon each sign points (and I'm not kidding, here) in a different direction. Is it ahead? Back the way I came? To the Right? Or through that door to the Left and down the stairs? Pick one. Only to go in whichever direction has been chosen, and find a sign with an arrow pointing back the way I came in the first place. (The trick, apparently, is to ignore the signage in that junction, continue straight onward, take the South Elevators, which will arrive in the East Wing. Apparently there are spacial anomalies involved, which would baffle Captain Janeway. And gods know she saw far too many of them in that lousy spin-off.)

Eventually, one hopes, one will arrive at one's destination. Your medical care is, generally speaking, good to excellent. Administratively? Well, your administrative talents rival those of your signage abilities. But hey: Care's the important thing, right?

Unless, of course, one happens to have mobility issues, and is walking forfreakingever down those twisty little passages, all alike. I finally found a way to escape your hospital, by the way: One follows the "Specialty Coffee Kiosk" signs. Apparently they, unlike the signs for, say, the East Wing, aren't designed to be read as a faulty logic puzzle from Alice in Wonderland. Of course, then there's the hike back to the parking ramp, but hey: Exercise is good for people, right? Even when walking for distances is excruciatingly painful. Builds character, and all that.

Seriously, UCD: You're a medical branch of a major state educational institution in the state believed to be the most progressive and accommodating in the entirety of North America. Nonetheless, you fail — and fail spectacularly at that — in so, so many ways. I simply cannot imagine how you can design your medical campus to fail this spectacularly, in so many "WTF?" ways.

Does UCD actually even have any mobility-impaired people on staff? 'Cause y'all need to hire some. Seriously. Preferably in your planning and facilities maintenance departments. Because, y'know, the level of fail in your facilities is approaching critical mass.
Monday, November 24th, 2014 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

Monday, November 24th, 2014 07:08 pm
This idea is the result of two things hanging around in my head.

First, the difficulty of playing a good game of Rummy 500 with five people. You can add a second deck of cards in, but then that changes the game a bit. I mean, you can have a run of 4 2s and then do 4 straights using those 2s. Who wants that? Not me.

Second, the fact that although there are a number of games you can play with a deck of cards to help solidify the times tables to 10, there are very few you can play that work up to 12, unless you want to constantly be reminding the kids whether Jack or Queen is 11.

It occurs to me that I could solve both these problems in one fell swoop with a custom deck. I could have number cards up to 12, perhaps add another face card (because 16 is a square number, that's why), and - because why not? - add another two suits and - voila! A custom deck of 96 cards, just slightly less than if I'd shuffled two decks together. (If I add yet another face card I get even closer to the total of two shuffled together, but then I've got 17 cards a suit and... blech.)

Now, this is all hypothetical, because the odds of me getting my shit together enough to do anything remotely resembling this are pretty darn slim, but since I'm thinking anyway, would it be better to do these two additional suits one red and one black? Or in a different color entirely, like blue?
Monday, November 24th, 2014 06:27 pm


My first UFYH post.  Who knew you could fit six pairs of shoes in my tiny living room!  3 x 20-minute sessions.  At least now someone will see it :D 

Monday, November 24th, 2014 04:37 pm


Needed to unfuck my bedroom really badly. Couple of days off work, got up bright and early, made breakfast, and tackled the fucking anxiety beast that is my room. 

Here’s some befores:




And here’s what it’s like now:





Still not perfect but ugh so much better. Like a huge fucking weight has been lifted. Did this in about three 20/10s, and one 45/10, I think? The major difference is my bookshelf, I filled a crate with books I didn’t want on there anymore, only kept my favourites (Hi, whole shelf of Stephen King ❤️u❤️ )

Thanks, UFYH ❤️

Monday, November 24th, 2014 03:16 pm
Fun times. Next time I'll have them take a tylenol as soon as they exit the exam room rather than waiting until we get home, that should help. Poor Ana was sobbing for half an hour, although once the painkiller kicked in she conceded that it probably wasn't as bad as her headache from hell. Geez, poor Ana. She sure does seem to suffer a lot. And she's really a trooper about it.

Right now they're engaging in the educational activity known as "watching as much Netflix as they like", which is probably what they'd be doing if they weren't homeschooled. Because extractions.
Monday, November 24th, 2014 07:00 pm

Posted by PJ Jonas

Quote Post Colter: “Fletcher, come down here! With or without pants.”
Fletcher: “But…”
Colter: “With or without pants.”
He came down wearing pants. Lol
Monday, November 24th, 2014 07:00 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

Every December, I publish “where are they now” updates from people whose questions I answered here in the past year. It’s time for 2014’s version, so …

If you’ve had your question answered here in the last year, please email me an update and let us know how your situation turned out. Leave no juicy detail out! I’ll post updates as they come in. (Don’t post them here though; email them to me.)

And if there’s anyone you especially want to hear an update from, mention it here and I’ll reach out to those people directly.

where are you now? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Monday, November 24th, 2014 12:55 pm


Guys, I was surprisingly productive for a Sunday night. First two pictures show the total wreck my room has been in for the last couple of weeks. Last three show how it is now. Floor is clear, desk is clear, sheets are clean, laundry is in progress. So now I can come back from Thanksgiving break to a clean room and not trip over 5 different pairs of shoes as soon as I walk in the door!

Monday, November 24th, 2014 05:30 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

featured-on-usnWhen you’re slogging through the daily grind of work or a job search, or when you’re dealing with a difficult boss or coworkers, it can be easy to forget what we should be thankful for at work. But there are some significant changes underway in the American workplace, and they’re offering workers real advantages that most people didn’t have a decade ago.

At U.S. News & World Report today, I talk about five positive developments that have been changing the workplace in the last few years, including the growth in telecommuting, an increase in laws requiring paid sick leave, and more.  You can read it here.

5 workplace trends to be thankful for was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Monday, November 24th, 2014 04:00 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

My wife’s employer is hosting a Christmas party at a local Mexican restaurant where they will be paying for everyone’s meal. They announced yesterday that they forbid anyone to drink alcohol at this establishment, even if they purchase the beverages themselves. (The owners of the company are Mormons who do not drink, but they employ many non-Mormons who do not uphold that standard.)

There are many people in the company who have taken offense to this, as they feel as adults of drinking age, they should be able to go the bar and get their own beverage outside of the employer’s gifted meal.

This doesn’t sit right with me and I’m wondering if her employer can indeed do this. Also, what about the couple who has a cocktail before the party and the employer gets suspicious of whether or not the alcohol on their breath was purchased at the restaurant?

Sure, they can do that. The hosts of a party get to set the terms of their hospitality.

Whether or not they should do that in business setting is a different question. It does feel a bit paternalistic to “forbid” adults from purchase legally sold beverages with their own money … but it’s the company’s prerogative if they want to do it this way. Throwing a dry party isn’t really an outrage.

I do think they’d have been better served by presenting it a little differently. “We’d like to keep the party alcohol-free and request your help in that” isn’t a crazy statement — people might not be thrilled about it, but I’d imagine most people would be okay with it. But something like “Drinking alcohol at the party is forbidden, even if purchased with your own money” of course comes across as far more heavy-handed and is a recipe for eye rolls.

As for your hypothetical about smelling alcohol on the breath of someone who had a drink beforehand … I doubt it’s going to come to that, and I think you might be getting a little carried away with outrage. It’s unlikely that they’re going to be policing it to that level.

Ultimately, the deal is this: The company is throwing the party, they’ve requested that people not drink, and it’s polite to comply with your host’s request in that regard (just like you presumably wouldn’t drink at, say, a dry wedding). If it’s terribly onerous, you always have the option of not going, but it’s really just a few hours. You can always break out the tequila afterwards if you feel inclined.

company is banning alcohol at its holiday party, even if we buy it ourselves was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Monday, November 24th, 2014 10:25 am


pic from a couple days ago. sometimes a mess can seem too big to handle, but this literally took me only 20 minutes. I even threw some cleaner in the toilet and watered my plants.

Monday, November 24th, 2014 03:00 pm

Posted by PJ Jonas

A few weeks ago, we had our first snow for this winter. The kids kept disappearing. A few hours later, they would be back. With frozen hands. And bright red cheeks. “We were sleddding!” “And it was AWESOME.”  
Monday, November 24th, 2014 09:14 am


A little less than six 20/10s later and my bedroom is (mostly) unfucked!

My closet is still a little messy, as is the invisible corner under my desk, but those are both projects for another day.

Go me!

Monday, November 24th, 2014 09:07 am
Haven't actually been working on my Fallout historical fic stuff this past week. Sorry about that, even if I'm the only person reading this who has an interest in it. Will have to get back on the wagon.

Made an apple pie last night; I'd been putting it off for about a week because I didn't want to deal with all the dishes, but a) I really wanted pie and b) the apples weren't gonna last forever. Brought the pie into the office, had some for breakfast. So did a lot of other people. Guess it went over pretty well. I used a mix of Mcintoshes and Fujis, and I cooked about half of them in a frying pan for 5-10 minutes to let the Mcintoshes break down somewhat, as I'd picked out some pretty large apples and didn't have a dish deep enough to accommodate them all. Also added a little boiled cider to the mix (I bought mine from King Arthur Flour; it has no alcohol, it's just American non-alcoholic cider that's been boiled until it's as thick as golden syrup). There was alcohol in the crust, though. My crust recipe uses some vodka in addition to the usual cold water to keep things tender. Baked the whole thing for 25 minutes at 425, then turned the oven down to 370 (my oven runs a bit hot) and let it bake for another half an hour. Turned out well. We'll see if something similar is wanted for Thanksgiving.

I've been playing Dragon Age: Inquisition since it came out. Companion character bitchery behind cut for spoiler purposes. )
Monday, November 24th, 2014 08:33 am
My sister finally got back to me about my nephew's interests. She likes the idea of Goosebumps books for him. He already has the first three Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. He hasn't tried any graphic novels and doesn't know the Peirce's Big Nate books. He still collects shot glasses, and he's now interested in geology.

We have some nice geology books that we bought when Cordelia was in second grade, when we were doing Rock Hunters for the Science Olympiad. We were going to donate the books to the Science Olympiad team, but they did away with the Rock Hunters event when Cordelia was in fourth grade. (I suspect that the event managers decided they'd had enough. If they were on the young side of seventy, I'd be surprised.) Cordelia's not interested in geology, so she's not going to use those books. We'll send them to our nephew, and that will take care of Christmas. In January, I'll order something for his birthday. There's plenty of time after Christmas for that. Now I just have to wrap the books and package them up to mail.

Scott says he's definitely working on Friday. Apparently, the one year they gave everybody Friday off, the plant management got into trouble because the employees hadn't worked forty hours that week. That means busy work on Friday. The machines will be shut down; there will be no production. They're just insisting that everybody show up anyway. Scott says they'll probably spend the time cleaning. I know one year they painted.

This concern with making sure everybody gets in forty hours doesn't bode well for Christmas Eve, either. Some years, Scott gets that off or gets off work early, but not always. Him working makes a lot of things more difficult-- His parents want us up in Fenton (an hour away) in time for dinner and church. It's a family tradition. They're perfectly willing to go to a 9:00 service, but we really, really don't want to because of the hour to get home after. Scott and I end up staying up late on Christmas Eve as it is, because we have to do the last minute present wrapping and retrieval. That usually takes a couple of hours. I'll wrap everything I can in advance even though I'm bad at wrapping stuff, but there are going to be some odd shaped things that require Scott's skill. Maybe the weekend before Christmas, I can find one of Cordelia's friends to take her for the day so that we can wrap then.

We decided to buy another big ticket item from Cordelia's wishlist-- I ordered an electric blue Nintendo 2ds from Best Buy via eBay. I wasn't sure how important getting the right color was to Cordelia, and I didn't feel like I could ask, so I stuck with her chosen blue. If I'd been able to go with red, instead, there were things I could have bid on that would probably have been cheaper. As it was, the Best Buy option which comes bundled with a game she also wants saved us $40 over Amazon.

I ended up ordering a couple of different Christmas tree ornaments. I haven't decided how to give them to Cordelia. I think she'll get the idea of an early present. I nearly balked at paying $15 for the ornament that she really wanted-- a Kung Fu Panda ornament of baby Po-- but I did. We'll use it for years. I also ordered a little polar bear with a drum that Cordelia wanted and a set of six tiny glass owls that I liked.

This year, we actually managed to mail some of Cordelia's school pictures to my mother and to my father. We've been buying enough for them every year, but this is the first year I've actually put together envelopes to send. We even got them to the post office and shipped them on Saturday. My father will be please. I'm not sure what my mother will think. She adores her grandchildren, but she's never wanted to be bothered with photographs. She and my step-father have never said a word about the photo calendar that Scott makes every year and sends to them. Not a single word. Not even thank you. For all we know, they burn the dratted things.
Monday, November 24th, 2014 12:30 am
I thought this article in the November 2014 issue of The Rheumatologist was pretty good. For all those sjoggies who encounter healthcare providers that claim that Sjogren's syndrome is "just dry eye and mouth", I would suggest printing this article using a very large font and shoving their faces. I have put up a few excerpts in this post but by all means read it in it's entirety here.
Systemic Sjögrens: More Than a Sicca Disease 
by Pilar Brito-Zerón, MD, PhD, and Manuel Ramos-Casals, MD, PhD, on behalf of the EULAR-SS Task Force Group 
Sjögren’s syndrome (SS) is a systemic autoimmune disease in which immune-mediated inflammation causes secretory gland dysfunction, leading to dryness of the main mucosal surfaces and systemic organ involvement.1 The disease has a difficult-to-pronounce name due to the Swedish ophthalmologist Henrik Sjögren (1899–1986), who described the main disease characteristics in his 1933 doctoral thesis “Zur Kenntnis der keratoconjunctivitis sicca.” The cause of SS is unknown, but genetic and environmental factors seem to play a role. When symptoms appear in a previously healthy person, the disease is classified as primary SS (pSS). When sicca features are found in association with another systemic autoimmune disease, most commonly rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic sclerosis (SSc), or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), it is classified as associated SS; pSS may also be associated with various organ-specific autoimmune diseases.....
This infographic is excellent:
Figure 1: The spectrum of primary Sjögren’s syndrome extending from sicca syndrome and general features to systemic Sjögren’s and B-cell lymphoma.

The authors go on to define three clinical presentations of Sjogren's:
Clinical Presentation: More Than Sicca Features 
SS may be expressed in many guises, and there are three predominant clinical presentations at onset. 
The triad of dryness, fatigue & pain 
A large percentage of patients present with a clinical pattern totally dominated by severe dryness, fatigue and pain, which are not life threatening, but have a serious impact on the quality of life (see Figure 1). Oral and ocular dryness are key to the diagnosis of SS, because they occur in more than 95% of patients, although other sicca symptoms are also frequent, including hoarseness, non-productive cough, cutaneous dryness and dyspareunia in women. In addition to sicca symptoms, generalized pain and/or chronic fatigue are reported in more than 80% of patients with pSS. Physicians should be alert to women reporting dramatic quality-of-life changes due to the abrupt onset of these symptoms. However, a careful assessment is essential in these patients, because this set of symptoms is also characteristic of other processes (e.g., hypothyroidism, neoplasia, primary depression) and, above all, functional somatic syndromes, such as fibromyalgia.1 Greater intensity of dryness, fatigue and pain seems to go in tandem with less systemic involvement and identification of immunological SS features.3 A large percentage of patients present with a clinical pattern totally dominated by severe dryness, fatigue & pain. 
Nonspecific systemic inflammatory syndrome 
Some patients, especially children and the young, may present with a clinical pattern characterized by continued, well-tolerated fever, along with night sweats, fatigue, malaise and weight loss. In these patients, the lack of local symptoms and negligible or absent sicca symptoms may delay the diagnosis. However, a history of swelling of the major salivary glands (i.e., parotid and submandibular glands) may be a key feature. Laboratory tests may show normocytic anemia, mild leukopenia and, especially, a very raised erythrocyte sedimentation rate due to high serum gammaglobulin levels. Systemic infections and lymphoma should always be ruled out in these patients. 
The occult Sjögren’s syndrome (non-sicca onset) 
Some patients with pSS may present with systemic features unrelated to involvement of the mucosal surfaces.3 A large number of non-sicca features may appear before the development of sicca symptoms, including extraglandular manifestations involving the skin, lungs, kidneys or nervous system, together with some laboratory abnormalities, especially cytopenias, which, in some patients, may be symptomatic (e.g., hemolytic anemia, severe thrombocytopenia). Finally, one specific condition, pSS, presents indirectly: a fetal congenital heart block in the fetus of an asymptomatic pregnant woman, which leads to the discovery of underlying maternal anti-Ro antibodies. A significant percentage of these asymptomatic mothers will develop pSS. In all of these patients, a positive immunological result will lead to an early diagnosis of pSS several years before the onset of an overt sicca syndrome and will help prevent systemic complications (e.g., chronic organ damage, lymphoma) by ensuring their timely treatment.....continue reading here.
This article is targeted towards healthcare professionals so the language is technical; however I still recommend giving it a close look. I strongly agree with the authors' conclusion:
A greater understanding of the pathogenesis of systemic immune-mediated damage, along with active international collaborations to develop standardized guidelines, is critical.
Monday, November 24th, 2014 05:03 am

Posted by Ask a Manager

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My boss keeps touching my hand

My boss will sometimes touch my arm or hand. Most of the time I think that he does it to get my attention, although lately he seems to be doing it more often. But that could just mean that he is comfortable with me as I’m his secretary?

One afternoon, he grasped my fingers in both of his hands – he was asking me to do something, but he then held on to my fingers for a strangely long time. I flipped my wrists, effectively breaking the contact. Also, he has now taken to telling me that I am “perfect.” I arranged something tricky for him, and he touched my arm, smiled, and told me that I’m perfect.

I’ve noticed that he doesn’t touch any of the other employees, only me. I don’t know what way to take this and would appreciate an outside perspective.

Tell him that you’d like the touching to stop. This doesn’t have to be a big, awkward conversation that causes tension in your relationship — it’s all in how you say it. For instance: “Oh, I’m not a toucher!” — said cheerfully and briskly and then moving right along to something work-related.

If he continues after that or does anything else that makes you feel like he’s violating your boundaries, then it’s a more serious issue. But try this first and see it if solves the problem.

2. My manager sounded thrilled with my work, but my written review was less glowing

I have a question about performance reviews. My work is project-based and I work on five or six projects at any given time. Leaders from these projects gave input for my first performance review, and based on my interactions with them throughout the year, I was expecting pretty positive feedback. During my meeting with my supervisor to discuss the review, my supervisor said really positive things like “I got comments from your project leaders that you were a rock star on X project, indispensable on Z project, couldn’t have done it without you on Y project…” That was really great to hear, but then I discovered that in the written review that’s going into my HR file (which my supervisor wrote), the praise is all flat. It contains phrases like “competent project manager,” “able to juggle assignments well,” and “speaks articulately.” There is no mention of any of the really strong praise that I had heard personally throughout the year as well as from my supervisor in the review meeting itself.

Do you have any idea why that might be the case? Should I have asked my supervisor about why he didn’t include that praise? I didn’t really realize the discrepancy in the reviews until after our meeting was over and now I think I’ve waited too long to bring it up. I’m worried that this is going to set me up for a low raise when I feel that the quality of my work merits a more substantial one.

Some people are far less effusive in writing than they are in conversation, which might be the explanation here. But it’s absolutely reasonable to ask about it. I’d say something like, “Could I ask you about my written evaluation? When we’d talked, I had the sense that you were giving me a very positive assessment, but when I read the written review, it seemed a lot more tempered. I came away from our in-person conversation thinking I’d really done a great job, but the written review has me less sure.”

3. What’s the point of giving bonuses?

Please explain to me the point of bonuses in the workplace. I understand bonuses for exceeding sales quotas for sales people or a “sharing of the wealth” when a company has a spectacular year. But why give employees an “incentive” for what is basically doing the job they were hired to do? CEO’s who get many times their salary to efficiently manage a company, admission coordinators in health care who admit people, middle managers that get a bonus for the company meeting goals when they have no ability to affect those goals. How do these bonuses benefit the company?

Like any other compensation, they’re part of retaining and (to some extent) motivating people. Some bonuses mean “you did an exceptionally good job this year.” Others mean “the company did exceptionally well this year and we want to share some of the results of that with you.” That kind of thing builds loyalty in people and makes them feel like the company recognizes their work and like they’re sharing in its success.

You might think that the company could accomplish the same thing with a raise, but it’s often easier to give bonuses than raises — raises are generally permanent and can put people in a salary category that doesn’t quite make sense for their role. Bonuses allow you to give an extra shot of compensation without making it a forever thing.

4. What recruitment data should I be tracking?

I work for a nonprofit without an HR dept and I’ve inherited the intern recruitment process. (I work in marketing, so I don’t have training in recruitment.) We have a fairly competitive program, with dozens of applications each semester. But I’m not sure what (if anything) I should be tracking during recruitment.

I keep track of all the applications each semester, of course, so I can set up interviews and let candidates know if they’ve been selected or not. But after I’ve selected a candidate and notified the others, is it typical to keep some kind of spreadsheet or record of the past applications? Or is there something else people typically track when they’re recruiting?

It sounds like you’re not using an electronic application system, but rather just accepting resumes and cover letter that don’t get put into any broader system? That’s totally fine, and often makes perfect sense for smaller organizations. In that context, there’s not really much you need to track. I’d separate out any applications that are strong enough that you think you might want to reach out to them about future openings. And you might want to have a record of who’s applied for a job in the past and what they’ve applied for — in case they apply again, or someone else in your organization is meeting with them for some other reason. But that’s not necessary, just something some organizations find useful to do.

Some organizations also track stats on the demographics of their candidate pool, so they can watch to make sure that they’re recruiting and hiring a demographically diverse staff. But that’s usually something you don’t see with smaller organizations, in part because of the resources it takes to collect that information and in part because smaller employers aren’t typically subject to required EEOC reporting.

Also, you’re required by law to keep all applications filed away somewhere for one year (and for two years if you’re aware that the applicant is over 40 — which means you should just keep them all for two years to make it easier), in case an applicant later sues (so that their materials and your notes are available for any litigation). But other than that, there’s no standard set of stuff to track.

5. Does my employer have to give me time off to interview while I’m in my notice period?

I am looking to hand in my notice tomorrow and as yet still have to seek new employment. I just can’t take my current boss’s mood swings, screaming, shouting, and throwing stuff (not at me) any longer. But by law am I allowed to ask for time off to attend interviews while I am working my notice period? I know once I hand in my notice, he is going to be really difficult about things. I would just like to know the rules/laws of where I stand.

You’re certainly allowed to ask, but your employer isn’t obligated to grant you time off for interviewing. However, since you haven’t started job searching yet, it’s probably going to be a non-issue — it’s unlikely that you’re going to have interviews scheduled in the next two weeks if you haven’t sent out applications yet.

my boss keeps touching my hand, the point of bonuses, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014 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