21 December 2007

Fun with the black puppy

So I came home an hour early. Perhaps I was thrown out for an astonishing lack of pre-Christmas productivity, or perhaps I made a up a good story and split - I'm not telling.

The Mister had been home, but was out on an error. He left the satellite TV radio tuned to the salsa/merengue channel, though.

And loud.

So I've been salsaing with Jack. You can't beat dancing with a puppy for fun before a four-day vacation.

20 December 2007

One day more...


When the shrieking customer says, You put the wrong address on my package and now my son won't have a Christmas gift? That's unacceptable! What are you going to do about it?

I will not reply, I'm sorry you don't know your address and entered a South Dakota ZIP for your Virgina home. I'm sorry you managed to reproduce. I'm going to go home and drink wine.

When the shrieking customer says, What do you mean that's still on backorder? I need it for Christmas!!!

I will not reply, What kind of asshole buys their loved ones that [weird piece of crap object] for Christmas?

When the nonconfrontational sales agent tries to play dumb and transfer me a customer whose package is obviously lost, and says, He's got a pretty serious FedEx issue and I'm not sure what the story is.

I will not reply, You know exactly what the story is, and you know he is not going to get his package by Christmas. You tell him. You think I like being bitched at all day?

And finally, when my boss shoots me an email and says, This customer called in about his order from two weeks ago and has a credit card issue, please contact him.

I will not shoot one back and reply, His credit card got declined and you know it. We've been calling him every day for two weeks. You contact him and tell him he's not getting his items in time for Christmas.

UPDATE: You know, the worst thing about all this is that I have to find a way to say, about 50 times a day, to a stranger and without laughing....Sir, my name is Abby, and I understand there's a problem with your package...

Everyone is a critic

A brief comment to popular author Dean Koontz.

Although the gang at Bad Dog Central enjoys your novels, particularly the constant themes of hope and self-reliance, we do have a bone to pick. It is a source of great joy that dogs are often featured prominently in your novels. Casey in particular enjoyed the German Shepherd in The Taking.

However, the gang feels a little slighted by your obvious adoration of golden retrievers. Sparky points out that if you want to emphasize the unconditional love that endears dogs to humans, you could find no better case study than the Yorkshire Terrier.

And Jack simply thinks there's not much a golden can do that a black lab can't do with less shedding.

Anyway. We all enjoyed The Darkest Evening of the Year, staying up far too late last night in order to read it cover-to-cover.

In fact, this morning I found that one of us had enjoyed the covers perhaps more than the individual pages. Perhaps the cover is liver-flavored?

Apparently, the picture of the author's late golden on the flyleaf was of particular interest, as Jack seems to have claimed it as sort of a dog-bed pinup.

19 December 2007

Venting - progress

It is, they say, a digital world now. And I suppose they're right. At the conference I attended last week, I heard a senior officer proudly proclaim that ran a "digital brigade."

The Army has indeed embraced technology. In my early Marine Corps days, they had just begun to require direct deposit of pay. Everything was still done with real paper, though.

Not so anymore, and definitely not in the Army. In the Modern Army, we have systems. Oh good Lord, do we have systems.

The greatest of them all, the big granddaddy, is Army Knowledge Online (AKO).

The Army's Enterprise Portal, Army Knowledge Online (AKO), is a primary component of the Army Knowledge Management (AKM) strategy and The Army Transformation. As the single point of entry into a robust and scalable knowledge management system, AKO is strategically changing the way the Army does business. By enabling greater knowledge sharing among Army communities, AKM fosters improved decision dominance by commanders and business stewards in the battle space, organizations, and Army's mission processes.

AKO is mandatory. It "embraces" a mildly-secure email system that is also mandatory. AKO requires frequent password changes, and all passwords must be between 8 and 37 characters, include at least two capital and seven lower-case letters, a number of numerals equal to the number of letters divided by your paygrade, and several special characters.

This password periodically, you will learn, must be reset using your Common Access Card (CAC). First you must go to an ID card facility and ensure your CAC has current "certificates," then if you don't want to drive to an Army facility, you must buy a card reader, download the approved CAC software from the AKO website, and figure out how to install it. Then you must log in with your CAC, remember and enter your 4-16 digit CAC pin, and change your AKO password.

You do this so you can then access all the ancillary systems and fulfill requirements.

You can create special IDs and satisfy classroom requirements (driver ed, risk management, brain injury). You can download more software and figure out how to have a "digital signature" so you can sign paperwork that is a requirement. Best of all, you can gain access to the Great Big Security Website to try to sort out your security clearance issues (because that is also a requirement).

The Great Big Security system is adorable. Really, it's been making me giggle like a pedophile at Chuck E. Cheese for the past few days.

See, I've had a security clearance (a boring one, not a Tom Clancy novel clearance) for years now. And at some point, apparently, I used this goddam Great Big System to enter the information required for renewing it.

And when I did, I was forced to set up (you're going to love this term - it's precious) Golden Questions. You know, to really really verify who I am in case the Muj steals my social security number.

1 - How many brothers do you have?
2 - What is your mother's maiden name?
3 - What was your first pet's name?

This is really, really not complex. I know all of these things, and cannot fathom a point in my adult life when there would have been any confusion about any of them.

But can I supply the correct answers? Apparently freakin' not. Of course, pointing out that there really isn't any way my clearance is expired and that there's a large trail of evidence to that conclusion isn't an option. I must access the Great Big System and interact with it.

Which cannot happen unless I can figure out how on earth I may have chosen to indicate my only-child status whenever it was I set these Golden Questions up.

So I have a toll-free number to call the Security Clearance People, who I am sure have some really charming system set up for those of us who cannot answer our "Golden Questions."

They're going to waterboard me. I know it. I'm going to be out in my garage, shivering and spluttering while grim-faced DoD civilians stand over me.

"The dog's name! Give us the dog's name!"

Scruffy! The dog's name was Scruffy!

Sometimes when I don't blog

...it's because you all really don't want to know.

The Mister was diagnosed by the crack Navy medical team down at JRB with some sort of nasty foot skin condition. Does that sound like fun or what? Ointments are involved.

Jack stole a string of shiny plastic beads off the Christmas tree. I'm not sure if he hid them in the yard or actually ate them. If he ate them, I'm not sure if it was as a string or in smaller pieces. Trust me, I will take pictures if this develops into a Great Pooping Moment.

The annual gift-buying debacle is almost at an end. Now I'm left with wrapping. Super. As an American, I should be better at expressing my love by people stuff, but I really suck at it. I love you, here's a nice flashlight just doesn't seem to cut it. [sigh]

I'm trying to have a gift for my Dad delivered to a remote location Up Home. Of course, it seems to be traveling with a signature requirement that I did not request, and so now I have to call the delivery company and shriek. In short, I am being forced to become one of my customers.

My (paternal) grandmother is back in the hospital. Third time in less than a month. Nothing makes you feel like a jackass more than deciding to stay in Texas for Christmas and having your Grandma in the hospital back home.

17 December 2007

What I have learned in retail

during the year's runup-to-Christmas

1 - hope springs eternal. Even if the Perfect Gift is out of stock and due in on Thursday, someone in New Hampshire will try to corner me into promising I can have it delivered Friday.

2 - cheap knows no season. Less than a week before the Big Day, there are still folks who want to whine that super-budget-freight-saver shipping won't get their items to them on Saturday.

3 - desperation opens wallets. If your son wants some weird item, and you feel like a bad father to start with, you will pay $50 for overnight shipping to ensure you don't screw up Christmas.

4 - preparedness must feel very good. The happiest people I talked to today were not buying Christmas presents. No darlin', they'd drawl (and I could hear the smile). I'm doing some shootin' in February and just want to be ready.

5 - I love our FedEx corporate liasion guy. He's wonderful. He calls me with solutions, and on the off chance I ever meet him, I fully intend to hug him.

I expect things will fall off for our sales folks, but I get the awful feeling the next four days will be like having sharp sticks jabbed in the eyes of the Fixin' Problems Department.

And, finally, I'm not really one to point fingers, but some people buy other people some weird crap for Christmas. I'm just sayin'...

16 December 2007

The tree is up. For now.

Well, it's up. And it's decorated.

Before decorating, we had coffee and snacks. Which was pretty tempting for one of us.

We finally ended the torment and got down to business.

Oh, he's been pretty good so far. But you can just tell what he's thinking by his posture - I'm going to eat that tree while you guys are at work tomorrow.

It's been cool here, so Casey spent the evening out in the yard, pretending to be a timberwolf or some such herding dog fantasy. Sparky was unimpressed with the entire proceeding, and stayed on the couch.

Wake me, he said, when Santa Paws shows up with the squeaky toys.