Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Talk Thursday: Whot's It Going To Be Then, Eh?

I stole this topic from "A Clockwork Orange." I hope Anthony Burgess doesn't crawl out of his grave and sue me, the litigious zombie. But it's perfect for my current dilemma. It's right up there with to be or not to be, that is the question. Oops, I just nudged another litigious zombie--sorry, Mr. Shakespeare. Ye gods, zombies everywhere. I've gotta stop watching these late night episodes of The Walking Dead, even if it is the coolest show on TV by a comfortable margin. Go, Sheriff Grimes! Or is it Deputy Grimes? I never did figure that out.

Remember a couple weeks back when I said I got tired of writing this? Or at least I didn't know how safe it was anymore? I mean, it's not like I'm in Egypt or anything, and I'm not gonna spend four years in prison like Kareem Amer, but this thing with my ex coworker is really bringing me down, folks. The whole mess just reared its ugly head again when it came to the attention of some People in Charge at my office. No, I'm not in trouble, but the People in Charge now know this blog exists. The reason I'm not in trouble, of course, is that I've never said anything that reflects poorly on, or for that matter identifies, The Firm. And they know that because they've read it, or at least part of it, at least once. I hope it wasn't while Mr. Naked Guy was up there on the front page, but if it was, well, so it goes. Remind me to get Mr. Naked Guy a fig leaf before he fades into the archives.

A blog is, of course, not exactly a secret. What you put on the Internet stays on the Internet, likely for all time. But anybody who has a blog usually goes to SOME trouble to disguise one's true identity (like Batman) and not to alert certain people to its existence. Like, for example, one's bosses. In my case, I use separate e-mail accounts, and the screw-up was sending an e-mail to the wrong person from the wrong account. Very stupid. But it happened. And so now I'm back to the same dilemma I'm in before. Is it ever safe to write about real life? Work? Things legal? Or should I just take a giant step out of all of it and stick to nice safe esoteric topics like airport security, writing and raccoons in the back yard?

Whot's it going to be then, eh?

You'll notice I haven't panicked and taken the whole blog down, like this lady allegedly did after the TSA responded to her blog post (interesting analysis of the whole story here). I thought about it, but I'm just not that kinda gal. But it is kind of a creepy feeling. I'm awfully darn circumspect at the office. I hardly talk about my personal life, opinions, etc. at all. And yet here it all is. And now somebody's found it. Maybe. Possibly.

Whot's it going to be then, eh?

It's late and I'm tired and I haven't a clue at the moment.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Talk Thursday: There's A Light At The End Of The Tunnel...

...and it's a backscatter X-ray machine.

Really, even though it's Talk Thursday, there's only one topic allowed by the general media this week. If you're CNN, MSNBC or even some random blogger in Nowhere, Texas, the only thing anybody's talking about is airport security, or lack thereof. It's like there's a ban on all other subjects. Or worse, if you're going to talk about anything else you need to submit to a backscatter X ray and an enhanced pat-down before you can--oh, wait. I'm getting ahead of myself.

Sorry if you're reading this over breakfast, but over to the right here we have a scan of Mr.
Naked Guy. I wish I knew his real name because I'd apologize to him for using his, uh, nudidity in my blog without permission. This is apparently what the average traveler looks like in a full body scan, aka a backscatter X ray, aka the nifty new screening machines that are appearing in airports everywhere. The idea is to see if you've got anything hidden under your clothes. As you can see, Mr. Naked Guy doesn't. As you can also see, he carries slightly to the left. I'm sure you didn't need to know that to let Mr. Naked Guy board his flight. In fact, you probably could have gone the rest of your life without knowing that. I certainly could have. But never mind. Obviously Mr. Naked Guy is not a terrorist and letting him on an airplane will not threaten the lives or safety of the American flying public. In short, Mr. Naked Guy is okay-fine with us.

Now, the TSA has repeatedly assured us that the backscatter X ray is perfectly safe, carries a low dose of radiation and won't make anybody sick. What's more, the nude pictures are viewed in a remote location by one guy (for some reason I'm sure it's a guy) who doesn't know you and who deletes the photos as soon as he's sure you don't have any contraband stashed under your breasts or in your crotch. However, if you're not sure you wanna be viewed naked and/or you're concerned about the whole radiation thing, you can Opt Out (this being America and all). If you do, you're given an "enhanced pat-down." What this basically means is that a TSA agent, most of whom work for a little above minimum wage and get essentially no training, will grope you lots of places that your mama said only the doctor could touch you, and even then only if mama said it was okay. Horror stories abound, from the three-year-old (yes, they grope three-year-olds) who couldn't stop screaming to the celebrity magician (Penn Gillette) who was roughed up and then suddenly treated like royalty once they realized who he was.

(Pause here to contemplate the appropriateness of sitting in a Middle Eastern restaurant writing about airport security. In fact, I wonder if it's even legal. There's a police station across the street, too. If I abruptly break off in the middle of a paragraph, you'll know what hap

So what's it going to be then, eh? Nude-O-Scope or public sexual assault? If you think those options are scary, listen to TSA head John "The Pervert" Pistole go so far as to acknowledge that the new screening procedures "may challenge our social norms." He just don't get it, people. I don't know about you, but I'm a lot more afraid of my government right now than I am of terrorists. I haven't been on a plane since July and I may never get on one again at this rate.

Fortunately, there's a backlash starting to happen. This brilliant guy has started "National Opt Out Day," a day of protest scheduled for (naturally) the day before Thanksgiving, the busiest travel day of the year. Rep. Ron Paul, who is by no means my favorite person, has introduced the American Traveler Dignity Act, which states only that the TSA employees who perform the searches are not immune from U.S. law (as in, laws against assault, child pornography, etc.) -- something that would do a lot to stop the kind of overreaching I've been hearing about all week. And Janet Napolitano, whom I met once back when she was a mere lawyer in Arizona, has indicated, at least a little, that there may be some room for compromise here. So there may be hope.

In the meantime, though, we still have to pick. Nude or groped. At this point I'd probably opt for nude. It'd be safer for everybody. That darn purple belt in karate and plenty of post-traumatic stress makes it entirely possible I might forget myself and deck the poor TSA agent who drew the unpleasant task of feeling me up, which would land me in jail and her (presuming it's a her) on the sidelines with an ice pack. If I opt for the Nude-O-Scope, the only person in any danger is the guy in the back looking at the pictures, and if he passes out, it's not like anybody's gonna notice.

Here's a bunch of nifty t-shirts you can buy to get the point across. And the ACLU has free stickers (they always have free stickers) - request yours now for the busy holiday travel season.

Late breaking news! We have a verdict in the Burns case and it's in our favor!! Whoo hoo!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Talk Thursday (on Saturday): Wide Open Spaces

This is gonna be a short post because I'm about to run out the door to have a pre-Thanksgiving meal with Joan and her cow orkers. Sorry for lateitude, by the way. Trial starts Tuesday on the Burns case and things have just been a little crazy around here. Er, more than usual.

I live in Texas, which despite Montana having stolen the title, is Big Sky country. Seriously, go outside on a Dallas morning and take a look up. Unless you're completely hemmed in by buildings, there it is. Nothing but sky for miles and miles. Well, and the occasional airplane. And, yeah, there's the pollution from all the cement plants down Midlothian way. But still. Lots of sky. And how it does go on.

I kind of keep an eye on the Texas sky. I'm not exactly a stargazer, but I'm familiar with the planets (Jupiter's been particularly bright the past few months) and other wanderers through the solar system (pretty sure I saw a meteorite a few weeks ago, streaking across the night sky and fading out somewhere over my head). This time of year, when the clouds start piling in from the south during warm fronts and the north during cold fronts, we get weird spats of rain and blanketing fog, which make for great sunsets right around evening rush hour. Pink and orange and gold with little accents of purple as the night closes in. Good stuff. Better than the old San Diego sky, anyway, which was always clear and sunny and completely devoid of stars because there was so much light. No variety, in other words.

The concept of wide open spaces, and particularly, emptiness, gets discussed in Buddhism a lot. Not to be annoying, but true emptiness is empty even of your idea of emptiness. (Yes, I know. Don't think about it too much.) In fact, form is emptiness, and emptiness is also form. Emptiness is the pure potentiality of the universe, its ability to become anything. Ironic that the subject of wide open spaces should come up in the Talk Thursday circle, because Bro. ChiSing, my favorite Buddhist monk, just did a dharma talk on this very subject a couple of weeks ago. Here's a link to the audio version, and another link to the transcription (done by yours truly, in my lighting-fast fingers mode) for the hearing impaired. Not that I can
promise the whole concept of emptiness/wide open spaces/form/ pure potentiality will make any more or less sense after you listen to the dharma talk, but I enjoyed it, anyway.

To the right here, we have an image of Buddha among the stars, his mind grown so vast (and empty) that he's become the entire universe. This is from the Osho Zen tarot deck, which is gorgeous to look at but kind of hard to use as far as telling fortunes and all that. But it's a great illustration of pure potentiality and the Zen of emptiness. Remember, kids, an empty head isn't always a bad thing. I'fact sometimes it's the thing we all aspire to.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

This Blog Post Does Not Have A Title.

So I heard from my ex coworker the other day. He has a new job, which is much better than the old job and pays a lot more. And he's happy. Which is good. Everyone should be happy, especially at work, because we all spend a lot of time at work. If you're miserable at work you're going to be miserable in general, and life is just too short. Quit a job if it's not fun. My job is fun, even though it's sometimes a little stressful. But certain jobs take certain personalities and not everybody's right for every job. I was miserably unhappy as a credit card collector for Bank of America, for example, even though I was shockingly good at it. (Why? Because I believed everything a cardholder told me, and if they said they could only send me ten dollars I said that was fine. In short, I was easy. I was also cheap.)

Something else about my ex coworker. He stumbled across this blog. My fault, I accidentally sent him an email from the account that has the address in the .sig instead of the Serious Professional One that just has a Serious Professional .sig. And, uh, he's kind of not exactly happy about how he was portrayed here.

Remember back a couple of weeks ago when I stated that I didn't know how safe it was to be writing about this stuff? That I might attract the attention of somebody important, somebody who might give me a hard time? Well, case in point. I go to some lengths to keep Work Life separate from Writing Life. I don't "friend" the Law Firm on Facebook, I don't deal with things literary on work time. I don't even talk about Writing Life during Work Time, unless somebody else brings it up, and then watch the ensuing (and amusing) scramble as I change the subject as quickly as possible. Plenty of reasons for that but the big one is I'm just used to it; it's been a semi-secret for years. Besides, when Writing Life and Work Life bump into each other the consequences are usually messy.

In this case it's safe to say I really screwed up. Yeah, yeah, First Amendment, white American child of privilege, freedom of the press and all that. Glenn Beck has freedom of the press, too. Doesn't mean he uses it well. My point, and I do have one: I either should not have written about my ex-coworker, or I should not have stupidly sent him the link to this blog. I can't exactly take it back at this point, but I can and should apologize. So, ex-coworker, if you're still reading, I am sorry I hurt your feelings. I do like you, I'm glad you are happy and I hope your future days are warm and productive. Namo amitabha Buddhaya.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Talk Thursday: The Story Of My Life.

For today's Talk Thursday topic, I'm instructed to "think of the Smashmouth song," which of course being practically Methusthelean in age, I have never heard. So I "googled" the lyrics. Here they are. While I can't say all of that happened to me, I can still relate to quite a bit of it. Like the part about one's checking account being overdrawn. Well, mine isn't--yet--but let's just say it would be really really awesome if Joan's pay check hit early this week. And the part about finding the car and then not being able to find my keys. Half the time I'm positive there are car key gnomes that deliberately sneak your car keys out of wherever you put them and hide them places you could swear you haven't been in a week. The rest of the time, though, I take my meds.

Today I ended up at the pool with a neatly packed backpack full of all the stuff I needed EXCEPT for my little bag of jewelry. For this avid beader, walking around with no jewelry feels like what an ordinary woman would probably feel like walking around stark naked. Yet I could swear, I packed up my little black and crystal netted necklace and my little black and silver earrings and my wine colored bracelet that matches my wine colored pants, and tucked it into the outer flap of my backpack with my little pill box and my lucky coin and my hairspray. Still, when I got out of the pool, I found the pill box and the hair spray but no lucky coin and no jewelry. When I got home, I found out that I'd left the little bag on my dresser, next to my lucky coin. Why I remembered to stuff my pill box in there is beyond me, but it's a good thing I did or I'd have been even later to work than I already was. One Does Not Go To Work Without One's Meds. It's noisy enough in my head with the volume control fully engaged, if ya get mah drift.

And yeah, okay, the Jen as absent minded professor thing is amusing, but I like life more when I'm calm and mindful and deliberate and doing things slowly, one at a time, like Thich Nhat Hanh says. Which isn't all that often, but at least I try. And occasionally patience is rewarded. After all these months with my annoying coworker, putting up with his endless sad stories about how patently unfair it was that he had to work for this crummy law firm, he suddenly up and resigned. He gave actual notice, by which definition he could have stayed a week or so longer, but oddly enough, management didn't want him to. Indeed, they could hardly wait to get him out the door. And the lack of having him around has been almost dizzying.

Have you ever lived with something unrelentingly negative for so long that it just becomes part of the atmosphere? And then all of a sudden it's gone, and only then do you realize how bad it was? I can come up with two analogies, one lofty and one mundane: Clinton winning the Presidency in 1992, and getting new tires and a spin balance on my old Toyota pickup. Watching the Democratic convention unfold in North Dakota, thanks to my uncle's brand-new (at that time) satellite TV, I saw Mr. Clinton come to the podium amidst a surge of energy that was palpable and said to myself, "There's our next President." I realized then how utterly draining the last twelve years had been. Likewise, dealing with my temperamental truck that had needed new tires for months since I'd been in a wreck: Pulling out of the service station, I felt like I was gliding along on a pane of glass. "Wow, it must have really been bad before," I said to myself.

That's kind of what this is like. Sure, I freaked out six ways to Sunday when I thought I might be handling a double case load again, but my boss Dave has put my mind at ease about that; "Who told you you were handling both case loads? Nobody? Well, then why did you assume that? Okay, then calm down." I'm really starting to like the guy, which is funny considering how much we didn't hit it off at first.

Incidentally, here's a pic of (right to left) Indiana Jen, boss Dave (as the Joker) and his case manager Sal (as El Mariachi) on Halloween. See why I like the guy? That costume took some serious work. Plus, he stayed in character, to the point of greeting one of the suited partners (just come from a hearing) with, "We meet again, Batman."
Anyway, other people in the firm are now coming and talking to me and telling me they had the exact same issues with him that I did. Not that he did a bad job or that he was slow or anything like that, but just the unrelenting negativity. And the lack of getting it. As in, this is the reality of working at this particular law firm at this particular time in this particular century; accept it or get out. As I believe I've stated a couple of times before, I was and still am fine with it. My only real complaint, and it is minor, is that they aren't paying me as much as I want. I made more at a former job, so part of me still thinks I should be getting paid that amount, but the rest of me has pretty much gotten over it because jobs are scarce right now and this is a really good one no matter how much they're paying me. Ever heard the expression, "my way or the highway"? Well, it isn't my way because it's not my law firm, but that's the gist of it. And I could go into the whole doctrine of nonattachment and walking the middle way thing here, and quote Buddha half a dozen times, but I won't. Let's just say it's better for everybody that my annoying coworker and the law firm have parted company. I hope that if I encounter somebody like him in the future, I will find some way to simply not deal with him, rather than let him suck my energy like a vampire. Stregoi. Whatever.

(Hey, it came to my attention yesterday that the word that means the closest thing to "vampire" in old Romanian is "stregoi," and the word that means the closest thing to "witch" in the same language is "stregoica". Now, in Italy, there's a form of witchcraft called "strega", so what is the common root of all of those words? Streg? Strego? And what does that word translate as in the original Latin/Roman? Inquiring minds want to know.)

So coming back to the original point (and I do do that, occasionally), one might wonder how I became the dumping ground for my annoying coworker's complaints in the first place. Well, my friends, people will do that to me. Normal people. Weird people. Any people. On airplanes. In offices. On jury duty. In libraries, even. They walk up to me, sometimes without even introducing themselves, and begin talking about their many woes. After years of this, I have determined that it has to be the tattoo. The invisible one on my forehead that says, "Your sad story welcome here." And that, ladies and germs, seems to be the story of my life. Rock on.