Thursday, October 30, 2008

An evil wind blows.

So, it seems as though winter has come early to this part of western, NY. We got our first snowfall (Okay, it was a dusting, at least here. Some places got a few inches.) and the wind yesterday made me start looking to see if the Wicked Witch of the West was hanging around here. The terrain here tends to be flat, though my house sits on a large hill. There are not a lot of trees around, so there is very little in terms of a wind break. When it does come through here, the wind can do a lot of damage.

Case in point: Two years ago, we had a really bad one, with gusts up to 50 mph. Apparently, either the postman, or FedEx, or someone came to the door, opened the screen door, and it got caught by a gust and was basically torn part way from the frame. (This is a heavy screen door, with a replaceable window for the wintertime.) Suffice to say that the repair job for that was a royal pain in the ass, as we not only had to replace the part of the frame and door jamb, but the piston for the door, and re-align it as well. I'm convinced that home repair is the major cause of divorce in this country, or at least marital strife.

Well, history has repeated itself as I came home yesterday to find the screen door damaged yet again. How it got caught by the wind this time is beyond me, as I thought it had been locked. I haven't inspected it closely, as it took an effort on Mrs. Nighttime's part (she actually found the door damaged before I did.) to get the door back in alignment to be closed. The piston is beyond repair, and I am hoping that the frame held enough that all I will need to do is bang it back into place.

What is going to be interesting is that Friday being Halloween, and all the neighborhood kids out and about, we're going to have some sort of temporary fix in place.

I guess this was our Halloween trick. I hope there's a treat around the corner somewhere.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Attend the tale of a new theatre.

My theatre has a new home!

Two weeks ago, the theatre I work with signed a 10-year lease for a new home, a former auto shop/bush washing garage that will be converted into a 140-seat, thrust stage theatre for the 2009-2010 season. (Down from our current 200-seat theatre, but we will be adding extra performances to make up the difference.) We have been looking for 15 months for a new home, as we have outgrown the space we have been in since 1997, and are looking for a place that is at ground level. Currently, we are on the second floor of a church, and it is hard for older and disabled patrons to make it up the stairs for performances. (The church is a historic building, and is not bound by the ADA rules regarding handicapped accessibility.)

This new theatre is near the Auditorium Center in Rochester, the theatre where Broadway traveling shows come through for the Rochester Broadway Theatre League. It is a very visible location, and we are busy planning a capital campaign to raise the needed $250,000 to renovate the building. We will be getting help from the owner, who is making certain needed (and expensive) improvements himself, which will be a big help.

First up on the fund raising effort is an enormous lift from one of our alumnus, Donna Lynne Champlin. She is a popular Broadway and Off-Broadway actress that got her start at Blackfriars at 15 in "Sunday In The Park With George," and performed in many other shows, most notably "Sweeny Todd." As all life is a circle, she was in the most recent Broadway revival of Sweeney Todd, playing "Pirelli," (along side Patti Lupone) and was Carol Burnett's personal choice to play her in "Hollywood Arms," which was written by Burnett and her daughter, Carrie.

She is bringing her one woman show, "Finishing The Hat," to Blackfriars for two perfomances in November with proceeds going to our capital campaign. You can check her out here: There is also a link on her site to Finishing The Hat. ("FTH" on the top of the page.)

I am trying to get a high res .jpg of a rendering of the new theatre to post, as Blogger doesn't accept PDF, and will post it here ASAP. We will also be putting a new page on the Blackfriars website very shortly dedicated to it. (

Today's entry in the "Stupid Human Tricks" department...

O.K., so you tell me: Just what the fuck was she thinking??? How many different kinds of stupid can one person be? Did she really think she was going to get away with it, much less help the candidate she was working for?


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I guess I'm it....

Thanks to gemmak, I have been tagged.

Here are the Rules:
1. Link to the person that tagged you
2. Post the rules on your blog
3. Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself
4. Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs
5. Let each random person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their website.
6. Let your tagger know when your entry is up

Quirks? Oh man, I can only list 6? Well, okay....

1. I will always make sure you walk on my right side, as that is the ear I actually hear out of. Well, I'm not totally deaf in the the other one, mind you, but just enough that you'll think I'm ignoring you.

2. When I talk to people, I make a very conscious effort never, and I mean never to use the phrase, "You know?" unless I am making an honest query about something. I hate it when people use that phrase over, and over and know? (Aw, crap!)

3. Spelling mistakes make me crazy, both when other people do it and I do it. Maybe that's why I am learning how to proofread. I also hate it when you point out something simple, such as "your" vs. "you're," and people poo-poo you about it. Learn proper grammar, goddammit!

4. I have a tendency to put something down, then 2 minutes later totally forget where it is. It's not dementia, but I'm convinced I'm part squirrel.

5. There is only one song in this world that can reduce me to tears, and no, I'm not telling you what it is.

6. My Bronx accent is far more pronounced when I am tired, or talking (tawkin) with my family on the phone. We won't even discuss what happens when I go home for a visit.

Ok, so, the 6 people I tag are:

1. Having my Cake
2. Purpleplus
3. Somethng In the Water
4. Liz
5. Alexandra
6. Andy

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Autumn, western, NY.

Rivers of gold and red, and still the occasional green, a crisp chill and frost in the morning. Breaking out the heavier jackets, and maybe a sweater at night.

Putting away the patio furniture, the screen in the front door replaced by the window, and the woodchucks, thankfully, seem to have retreated to their burrows until spring.

(Not-so) Weeping cherry trees still hang on to their green finery, but that will change soon enough, the burning bushes must have talked themselves silly, as their leaves are no more,

And the sunsets, for some reason, just seems to be a bit more spectacular...

Fall has arrived, but they're talking about some snow on Tuesday night.

Oh joy....

Saturday, October 18, 2008

To sleep, perchance?

I have read in the past on many an occasion that as one grows older, the need for sleep grows less and less. It doesn't mean that one does not need sleep period, but the amount that one needs grows shorter. I have to wonder if that is starting to affect me.

Now granted, I get to sleep a about 3:30 in the very AM on work nights, but as my commute is 30 seconds to my bedroom that is not as bad as it seems. The problem is that I only get between 6-7 hours, and that is often not enough for me. I find myself napping during the day for an hour or more to play catch-up. So last night, on my day off, I went to bed at the normal hour of about 11:30. (I personally wish I had been out with some friends, but it was one of those days, and I was actually pretty whipped.)

Well, I slept fine, until about 6:15, (oh-dark-thirty in my book) when I found myself wide awake. I didn't want to be, but there I was. I got up, fired up the coffeemaker, and just rummaged about the house. I wanted 8 hours, truth be told, but it seems I have to be beyond tired in order to get that, or pump myself with some Benadryl, which I don't like to do unless absolutely necessary.

I have to wonder if it is possibly a symptom of my circadian rhythm being off as well, being used to going to bed much later than I did. I still can sleep relatively deeply, but not like I used to. I quite literally slept through an earthquake once. I visited LA for the first time in 1980, and slept through a 5.0 tremor in my hotel room.

Well, here's hoping tonight goes better. Sunrises are beautiful, but I don't want to see them regularly. I did that for many years, as while a paramedic, I worked the 7am-3pm shift. I am more of a sunset person anyway, and a night owl.

Hoot, hoot.

Friday, October 10, 2008

"You call yourself a salesman you son-of-a-bitch?"

After the talking to we received the other day, (see previous post) it started to trigger a memory in my brain that just made me smile.

David Mamet is my favorite playwright. His work is so brutally caustic, so real, that you feel as though you have been through a two hour workout. It is even more so when you get the opportunity to perform one of his pieces, as I was fortunate to do when I was in "The Water Engine," about a year and a half ago. As with so many of Mamet's plays, the American work ethic, and salesmanship is at the heart of it, but the real titanic piece of work that he is known for is "Glengarry, Glen Ross."

The movie version of the play added an extra scene near the begining, in which Alec Baldwin delivers one of the most amazing monologues ever, and is often used by actors as an audition piece. While what happened on Wed. did not rise to the level of what is in this piece, there was a touch of this, a glimpse of what perhaps this corporate guy that came to us really wanted to say, but couldn't. Just watch this, and if you are so inclined, rent the movie. You'll see why I don't want to be a salesman. Oh yes, I know that being the owner of a small business requires salesmanship, but I'll do it my way, without trying to insult the people I want to be my clients.

Just watch it. It's a seven minute roller coaster ride.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I used to be disgusted...

...but now I'm just amused. Elvis Costello said it best.

It always boggles my mind as to how the corporate world can manipulate language to make anything different than what it truly is. Case in point:

Over the past two weeks or so, we have been receiving e-mails from the powers-that-be at work advising us lowly grunts of a "special event" that was to occur yesterday, and that we were all required to attend. They blocked off 30-minute sessions throughout the course of the day so that the entire staff could attend without seriously impacting their staffing levels on the phones. (A reasonable approach.) However, when these e-mails went out, they gave no hint whatsoever as to what this "event" (read: mandatory training session) was all about. Some of us had our suspicions. They were confirmed once we got into this "event."

In the world of corporate operations, there is this little device called "up-selling." Essentially, it requires tech support folks like me to ask the customer if they are interested in adding additional services onto their account. If they respond in the affirmative, we route them to the sales dept., where the hard core sales people put the real squeeze on them in order to earn their commission. This is not a judgment on the sales folk; they're just doing their job. Now personally, I find the whole concept of up-selling distasteful. If I wanted to be a salesman in any shape or form, I would have become one. Unfortunately, this is one of the most closely scrutinized aspects of our "metrics," or standards that we need to meet.

As anyone who has ever worked in a call center knows, the "script" that you are given to use while conducting a call is a prime example of what can be described as "corporate-speak." It is so heavily laden with false pleasantries as to be more insulting than helpful. My experience tells me that most customers far prefer straight talk, and quick answers and solutions to their issues rather than convenient social pleasantries. But, let's take it the next step.

This "special" event was nothing more than a training session conducted by a representative from the main office, that flew here to Rochester to basically whip us into line. While we were doing fine in all our metrics, there was one area that was lacking, and that was, you guessed it, up-selling. So, groups of us were treated to the why's and wherefore's of up-selling, why it's important, and what we can achieve out of it. They do try to sweeten the deal by giving a small bonus for every up-sell that results in a completed sale.

Here's the thing though; the trainer they sent here must have thought we were all idiots, or at least some of us. He would ask a question such as: "What is the goal of being a salesman?" I piped up, "To sell the product." Pretty easy to understand, right? BZZT! Sorry, wrong answer, thank you for playing. "The goal of the salesman," he intoned, "is to overcome objections."

What? Really? Silly me, I actually thought having the customer purchase the product the company was offering was the main goal, but hey, what do I know? Now, overcoming objections is an objective, or even a tool, but it is not the goal. Any first year marketing student can tell you that. What was the real kicker was when he told us that our goal as tech support was to "offer value to our customer." I just sat there dumbfounded. This guy was drinking the Kool-Aid by the gallon. Spare me please. The goal of our efforts as tech support people is to offer a first-call resolution to the customer's issue, plain and simple. We may offer value in certain customer service options we give them as well, such as taking payments, and perhaps correcting certain account issues, but as for it being a main goal, no, sorry, not buying it.

One has to wonder when corporate America is going to get away from this type of useless language get down to what being in business is all about: get the customer to buy your product over what the other guy is offering. One can do this in a simple and direct manner, that does not insult the customer's intelligence, and actually persuades them that what you offer is best for them. I also wonder when they will get it through their heads that speaking to me like a child does not help as well.

I needed a real release when I got home, so I pulled up one of my favorite movie scenes, such as this one from "Charlie Wilson's War." Aside from the fact that I am a big fan of Philip Seymour Hoffman, there are times that I wish I could do what he did and get away with it.

Swelled with pride.

I got home from work tonight to find a message on my voice mail from my old paramedic buddy, Jeff. Seems the guy has gotten himself 15 minutes of fame in the NY Times. Jeff and I go back some years. I got him his job at St. Mary's Hospital in Brooklyn, was his medic partner on occasion, and then his boss. Glad to see him out there, still fighting the good fight.

Jeff, I'm proud of ya buddy! I'm 98 at my PAR!

(I removed the link, at the suggestion of a concerned fellow blogger, for personal reasons.)

Monday, October 6, 2008

I am a Scrabble board.

While I was awaiting the call for my liver transplant, I remember making a series of top ten lists; in my case, the "Top Ten Ways To Know You Have Been Living With Liver Disease Too Long." Among these little amusements was:

"You think that your blood test names (ALT, AST, CREAT, HbG, etc.) are perfectly acceptable words when playing Scrabble."

Let's face it: when you live with any form of chronic disease, whatever it is, your life tends to be reduced to these acronyms, from time-to-time. These days however, I've needed to learn a new one: HbA1C. (Gycosylated hemoglobin A1C.) Since I became a diabetic last year, this is an important test that I get done every six months, and is a better indicator of how well my blood sugar is being maintained, especially since I am on insulin. Today I went to my primary doc for my six-month check-up, and all is hunky dory. My A1C is right where it should be, and he is pleased with the way I have been controlling things. So, while I hate sticking myself with needles, it has been a good way to keep things as they should be. Small sacrifices, I suppose.

Now, the one thing that I have been trying to overcome is the disease of procrastination. I suffer from an extreme form of this disease, and have been desperately trying to overcome it for some time. To that end, a colleague at the conference I attended a week or so ago recommended this book:

I am starting it today, as in right after I finish this post...if I don't procrastinate about it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The would-be-Empress has no clothes.

While the mainstream media must all too often be taken with a grain of salt, (too little reporting, too much circus sideshow) there are certain reporters and commentators that I respect. Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek is one such reporter. His work is more often than not, concise, free of extraneous bullshit, and has a style that does not insult the person reading it.

This week, he covers the case of Sarah Palin. Is she ready to lead? Of course the answer to that question depends on which side of the political spectrum you happen to lean towards, but Zakaria makes a reasoned, sensible argument as to why she is nowhere near ready. Consider this snippet from the piece, surrounding Palin's response to Katie Couric's question regarding the proposed bailout and health care:

COURIC: Why isn't it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families who are struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries; allow them to spend more and put more money into the economy instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?

PALIN: That's why I say I, like every American I'm speaking with, were ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health-care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy, helping the—it's got to be all about job creation, too, shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So health-care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans. And trade, we've got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, scary thing. But one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today, we've got to look at that as more opportunity. All those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that.

Zakaria responded: "This is nonsense—a vapid emptying out of every catchphrase about economics that came into her head. Some commentators, like CNN's Campbell Brown, have argued that it's sexist to keep Sarah Palin under wraps, as if she were a delicate flower who might wilt under the bright lights of the modern media. But the more Palin talks, the more we see that it may not be sexism but common sense that's causing the McCain campaign to treat her like a time bomb."

He could not be more correct. The gibberish that spouted from Palin's mouth was beyond the pale. I've seen first-graders form a more coherent thought that she did.

You can catch the entire article here:

(P.S. - A friend recommended this piece from Slate, and it too is a winner:

Smashed Pumpkins.

I never really liked their music anyway...

The scourge of binge drinking hits the Gourd family.

Shows you I really have not much to say today, so I am trying to fill the moments.