December 24, 2010

Link Love: I am Korean American

This has nothing to do with Christmas Eve. We woke up early and are preparing to jump on the plane. Of course, I HAD to give myself a 5 AM pedicure (there is no good reason for this...)

So, I'm trolling the web looking for distraction as my polish dries, and I come across this video. Powerful, eloquent. His story is not exactly that of Jrex, but there are interesting parallels. What does it mean to be the child of an immigrant? What does it mean to survive parents who have survived atrocities? What does it mean to deal with conflict when it's been expressed in uncontrolled ways? No one in Jrex's family was ever hit with fists, but there was still rage in his father. Anyway, if you want something besides Christmas-themes, hit play:

[Sorry! Apparently the embedded video didn't work. I had Jrex watch it with me via the site I Am Koream. He found the guy fairly irritating. Rather than a discussion of Jrex's experience, it became an evaluation of the speakers prose/poem and how much was left out of the narrative. Still an interesting talk, but different than I anticipated. That's all part of what I enjoy about Jrex, he usually surprises me.)

December 23, 2010

Going to find some winter

Yesterday and today I've been "working" from home. I've done a couple small things, but watching movies with the computer open (in case I get an email) hardly counts, right? It makes it feel like a real Christmas break. Next week our office is shutting down and we're all taking it seriously: no one wants to see or hear from each other during the time off.

Tonight Jrex and I will drop off Muttola at our friends' house (where she'll play with their Welsh Corgi, Stubby, for a week). We watched Stubby for two weeks while they went to Ireland for a 'babymoon'. The dogs are HILARIOUS together.

Wrestling, competing, playing silly/petty games.

You can see the look in Muttola's eye, "You're MY human, not his. Got it?"

Then tomorrow, we fly to Seattle! My Dad has moved there so it'll be the first Body Part family Christmas since I don't know when. My sister is hosting and we'll be staying in her house. I've gone for mini-visits, but Jrex hasn't been able to visit since Blonde Nephew was born 3.5 years ago! It'll be fun to watch Jrex get to know the kids. Fun to juggle all the BIG personalities in one room (well, fun for us Body Part people, maybe less fun for Jrex and History Prof). Fun to hit a Seattle wine bar, run around outside, play inside, go to the zoo, do whatever. I like my people and it'll be good to be together. Plus, this way my sister gets some backup against the barbarian half of the family (yes, Dad, I'm talking about you boys). Jrex and I might even make a dinner one of the nights. Mmmm...tofu chocolate pudding and whatever else.

When we get back next Wednesday, he's taking the rest of the weekend off to chill out. We're hoping to take one day and get up to SF for a couple art exhibits and a visit to Terroir, a fairly grungy wine bar with a sophisticated/eclectic selection of wines. There's a chi-chi dinner truck that parks across the way and serves French/Vietnamese fusion so it's a little cheaper than some wine bars. Plus, I'm a cheap date since I just take sips from his glass (I get tipsy WAY too fast to have my own).

Somewhere in there I get to do the Christmas/Epiphany letter and ship it out. That'll be a little tricky cause I'd prefer to tell a complete story and right now we're in the middle of the drama. Wouldn't it read better if it could say, "Jrex published his paper, won a grant and got a job. We're moving to ________ and here's a picture of our new digs". Instead it's half of a great story that ends with, "And we're deciding between Portland, NYC and Dallas. Sure you can all see us in Portland, or NYC, but we might end up in Dallas. Which isn't as bad as we'd feared. But we don't know yet. So, have a great year and we'll let you know what happens!" Ah well, life is full of tattered threads that have yet to be incorporated in the great Rug of Life (how's THAT for cliché? Don't mock it, I'm proud of it)...

I'm just so, so happy to take some time off and relax with many of the people I love most in the world. May your time in the coming week be also blessed, fun and somehow restful.

December 21, 2010

I'm the bitch, Round 2

One of the 'perks' of managing others is that there are times to be kind and times where kindness won't work.

I didn't have time to write about it when it happened, but during the madness of the last conference I worked on, I had to fire one of the contractors. He kept making mistakes and worked very slowly. I can do semi-slow and meticulous, but slow with mistakes wasn't ok given how much signage we'd be generating in the two subsequent weeks. I learned a long time ago from my mother (when she consulted me on how to say 'no' to someone who loved me), "Don't give false hope, it's the cruelest way because it makes the emotions linger." When I fired the contractor, I tried to blame it all on the fact that it wasn't a good fit. We have fast-flowing chaos and he seems like a designer who needs quiet order. I didn't promise him future work and I didn't give him another chance (I didn't have time, and based on what I'd seen, if he were under more pressure, he'd just make more mistakes). It wasn't fun, I was shaking a little when I asked him to step into an empty office, but I was able to be firm and clear and not give false hope. I'd written out my script to make sure I'd be clear. I didn't have it with me in the room, but it helped to know ahead of time what I should say. He was obviously upset and shocked, but took it very professionally. I really respected his attitude (and conveyed that to the placement agency).

Last Friday, I got to have another round of being the hard-ass manager. We're working on a response for a client (R F P) that's due right after Christmas. During the madhouse of the last conference, one of the designers I hired was assigned to work over on the execut1ves' side of the building and do Powerpoints and presentations for them. They loved his work on an earlier R F P (let's call him Tall and Earnest). When this new R F P came through, the execs specifically asked for Tall and Earnest. He's been working on it for the past week and a half.

Friday evening, Tall and Earnest had already gone home when the door to the design studio burst open and Short Fiery exec burst into the room along with our Gala Guru. Short Fiery exclaimed, "Is Tall and Earnest still here?" And my 'no' she said, "You've got to call him. He put the entire book of the last R F P we worked on on his website!! Doesn't he understand that it belongs to us not him? That's got sensitive pricing on it. What the f___ was he thinking?! I just got called by a prospective employee who'd Googled the event and started talking to me about our fun ideas. WTF!!??"

I called him and he agreed to take it down. Then Short Fiery went on, "You have to get this to him in writing. He signed a non-d1sclosure agreement, he obviously doesn't have a clue what that means."

I defended him by pointing out that he's young and excited, but that I'd email him. I sent him an email that included phrases like, "I can't tell you how violated this made us feel". Unfortunately for him, he's responded since in ways that are both very arrogant and very young. He wrote back to me to say, "I took it down. I'm sorry about that. I didn't think it was that big a deal." Um, yeah, obviously! Not an effective apology to your employer... A little while later he asked if he should apologize to Short Fiery and Gala Guru. I wrote back to say, "Yes. You need to say that you're sorry, you were excited about your design, you made a grievous mistake and it won't happen again. Do NOT say you didn't think it was a big deal."

When he came in on Monday we discussed it further and he had the audacity to say, "Well, if I'm not able to use what I make here to further my career, then I might need to go with other offers."

He's a good fit for what we're doing right now and I don't want the hassle of bringing someone else up to speed right aro, but again, NOT a good answer. It felt so arrogant. I spoke about the situation with one of our long-time freelancers who was horrified, "Does he not know that he could get sued!? Does he also not know not to piss off the big fish? And you all are definitely big fish. His whole job is to keep you happy." Turns out this second freelancer doesn't use ANYTHING he creates for his clients. His business is all word of mouth, he doesn't even have a website since he can't show most of his work. Once a booth or conference is produced, all that work is then in the public domain, but any proposed work can never be shown.

Last night, my Dad also weighed in, "This kid really needs to have a chat with a lawyer. He has no idea how deep the water is does he?" Honestly, I hadn't even thought about the legal issue until both the second freelancer AND my Dad thought about it as their first reaction. I realized I needed to make sure Tall and Earnest understood the situation.

On a side note, I have to say that one of the fun things about this job has been discussing it all with my Dad. He's more of a Mr. Fixit than a Mr. Empathy, so when I'm pouring out my emotional troubles it doesn't always work as well, but anything business related, he's great. He graduated from Harvard with a focus on contract law and worked for an international corporation as their Employee Relations Manager. Management, business and the law? He's great.

Anyway, I just sent off an email to Tall and Earnest explaining the situation. Telling him that I understand learning curves, but trying to fill him in so he can learn from the mistake and not just think it's me being a b1tch or our company being parano1d. Sil1con Vall3y/San Franc1sco are small worlds, all the companies overlap, everyone is working on something cutting-edge and secret. If you're not discreet, you won't have work. I don't think he realized that.

I don't like having to be the mean Boss Lady, but I'm really grateful for my years working with messed up kids. I had to learn there how to be the villain in the piece and how to shrug off the toxicity and keep loving them after. I hope it doesn't make me a callous manager, but I'm glad I'm not afraid to do the hard, but necessary, tasks.

December 14, 2010

Gratitude Project #3

I am very thankful today:
  • for being home safely
  • that I took today as a comp day. It was especially good to know that last nightwhile announcements that our plane was delayed kept coming at the airport. Only left 3 hours late (due to fog in SF).
  • for the interesting woman who struck up a conversation with me in the airport. She was an African-American woman who looked at most 42 and proudly announced she was 51. She kept trying to ask me questions about our diet, if we get massages, what we do to stay healthy (since my obviously Asian husband was next to me, my impression was that she was asking about Asian secrets to health and long life. I've had Caucasian friends ask me if my MIL has taken me for special Korean facials. Anyone else know any Asian longevity secrets? I sure don't!) She certainly helped pass the time.
  • that Dallas is a really intriguing city (since Jrex glows every time he talks about the research there...)
  • for a future that is unknown, seems like it will contain some unexpected twists, but which will still be interesting.
  • that I get to go toward that future with a man I enjoy and respect.
  • that a bunch of women whom I really enjoy are coming over tonight for tea and biscuits.

December 12, 2010

Promises promises...

This is why I've never tried to do any blog program that would require me to write every day: I just can't be consistent on a daily basis! It's the same principle as my cleaning program: clean when company is coming over but the rest of the time, not so much.

ANY way. We're in Dallas. Jrex is in the room doing research for his 2nd round of interviews tomorrow at S0uthw3st3rn. I came up to the executive business center to print our boarding passes and then started jonesing for a fix of the blogosphere.

This is going to be a tough decision. The good news is that Dallas isn't so bad. It's a big city with lots of amenities. Tons of art museums and festivals. Lots of friendly people, great restaurants and things to do. We'd even have some built in community via Jrex's friends from Hopk1ns. Last night we had dinner with the wife of a guy who used to be in Jrex's lab. He was out of town visiting Stanford while we were here with his wife. Ironic. She's a petite, fiesty woman who works remotely and has only made one friend in the five years she's lived here. (That made me nervous if I work from home, but she's much more of a hermit than I tend to be.) Originally from the NYC area she could compare things to areas in terms we could understand, "They have a neighborhood they call the 'West Village', but that's a joke compared to the real thing." Jrex chimes in, "Yeah, but the West Village doesn't even measure up to its own reputation anymore." She's someone I could call to go out to see weird independent movies, or to go for a hike or for food (since she's married to a scientist, she's also a 'married single' woman, like me).

We drove around with the realtor for a couple hours both yesterday and today. I'd picked a wide range of properties around the city. It gave us a good sense of neighborhoods and what we might like. It also showed us that we'll likely pay as much here as we would for a house in Portland. It would probably be a bit bigger (it IS Texas after all), but not much cheaper. Somehow we thought we'd find an amazing bargain house here, but the ones in that price range were SCARY. Apparently the soil here is sandy clay or something and houses can settle in very twisted ways. If you don't consistently water the soil around your house (yes, you have to water your HOUSE) then the difference between wet and dry spells is so extreme that the ground expands and contracts and ruins foundations. So some of the houses had floors where you could put a ball on the floor and watch it roll downhill. None of the homes have basements.

When I heard that I exclaimed, "Oh, so they must not have tornadoes here!" The realtor laughed, "No. I guess you're supposed to hide in your bathtub." I responded, "That sounds the same as what they tell you for earthquakes in California. I think they just say that so you'll think you have a plan."

We went to church this morning. I wanted to get a feel for Christian community here and to have some time to try to tune in to whatever the Lord might want to say. It was a good time. Via the internet I found a young, hipster church that meets in a warehouse in an inner city area. It's not 'it' for me in terms of a church, but it was fine. I was able to hear some stuff from God and that was great. I asked him, "Where do you want us to be?" and the first thought that jumped into my mind after I asked was, "With me." It felt like the Lord's humor (and direction) to me. I sort of got the sense that He has good things in store for us wherever we end up. When I told that to Jrex, he nodded. I think he's had the same sense.

That leaves us in a good, but tough place. Neither option is the be-all-end-all, neither is a home run, but neither is awful either. I guess it will come down to whichever institution makes the better offer. In January he goes back to NYC alone for a second interview there. We keep joking that NY will be the dark horse that comes from behind, but it's really a long shot. The good news for me is that I'm not in despair or afraid that Dallas would be a prison exile for the rest of my life.

Tomorrow we're having breakfast with the head of the program (at 7 AM. Uncivilized medicine people wake up at the crack of dawn and think that's normal!). Then she'll drive Jrex over to do a day of interviews while I drive around and check out the climbing gym and see if I can find cheap cowgirl boots for my sister.

That's all for now, y'all!

December 8, 2010

Thanks, Day 2

  • For a job that includes being able to see St3v1e W0nder in concert. I'd expected a VERY boring recap of his greatest hits. Instead he improvised with the audience, with his other singers and, for the last couple of songs, with from The B1ack Ey3d P3as.
  • For listening to the nudge that told me if I wimped out and took the 10:40 train home from SF I'd regret it. I stayed for some amazing DJ artistry by w1ll. Then I took the midnight train to Menl0... (cue music)
  • For a chat with a coworker (a native Californian) who is married to a guy from the Northwest. She just moved to Texas and gave me her thoughts on moving to Texas. (Lots of friendly people, no regrets)
  • That Jrex turned in his list. Phew! I'm so proud of him
  • For today, where instead of sitting at a desk and working, I get to go to IK3A to buy frames for a poster I designed. Then I get to drive them up to SF where I will load the posters into the frames in preparation for them being given to our clients as gifts tomorrow.
  • For a walkthrough of the conference with another client which will end with a keyn0te by B1ll Cl1nt0n.
Talk about a non-work work day! I'll TAKE it!

December 6, 2010

Time to purge

I've been thinking a great deal about negativity and complaining. I do think there's a difference between venting and whining, but I'm not sure where the line is and know that I cross it. There's also a difference between analyzing and criticizing, but the line is also hard to find. Lovey and I talked about giving up complaining for Advent (the four weeks leading up to Christmas). Yesterday during church I realized it wasn't so much about giving up complaining as replacing it with thanksgiving. I'm thinking of it as my pre-Christmas spiritual 'cleanse'. Each day between now and Christmas (or maybe Epiphany), I'm going to post things for which I'm grateful. Might be a bit boring for you, but it's definitely necessary for me!

For today (so far):
  • That I brought my computer home on Friday. Which meant that this morning when I realized NO ONE will be in the office (this year's huge conference opens today so everyone is on-site), I could decide to work from home and change back into my slouchy clothes.
  • For a comfortable apartment that gets morning sun.
  • For a very cute mutt lounging in the sun spot.
  • That Jrex is submitting his list to P0rtland today. He had to get estimates for microscope systems that cost @ $100,000 and other similar kinds of equipment. Yikes!
  • For my new porn addiction. House porn. The Dallas realtor is supplying me listings and I get to troll around, fantasize about life in each house and pick my favorites.

December 2, 2010

Just figured out the perfect way to fight

During the past couple weeks I've known something was bothering Jrex. I tried to draw him out and find out what was going on, but he wasn't yet ready to discuss it. We finally made an appointment to "talk". A couple days before our impending chat I was praying before work when I had a thought: let him say everything that's bothering him while I take notes (and write my counter arguments in the margins). Then, I'll process what he says and write him a letter in response. That removes the risk of confrontation for him and gives me time to give a considered response. Too often our discussions get derailed when one of us hits the other's trigger point. I told him the format ahead of time so that he would know he didn't need to be geared for battle.

Last night we had our 'discussion'. Yes, there were a bunch of things bothering him, but somehow taking notes distracted me enough to hear without personalizing the whole thing. By the end we both felt reconnected and happy with each other.

I still have to write out my response, but it was definitely the most pleasant fight I've ever had!