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The Presentation

Photo credit: Ben White

In the Events division at my job, the process of getting a travel program going is divided into lots of pie pieces.  We have the folks who source the hotels and write the programs, the folks who program the program websites, the folks who book the air, the folks who write and design the communications, the folks who manage the participants, the folks who go on site and run the program.  Then there’s what I do; from the time a program sells until the participants arrive at their destination, I oversee all the other pieces of pie, getting all the details wrapped up tight so the program runs successfully.

Over the years I’ve been corralled a few times into doing work in other departments; I’ve been successful but I don’t like it much.  A couple of months ago we got the opportunity to bid for a big piece of business with a client that I’ve worked with for 15 years – in fact I’ve done 46 trips for their various regions.  As you can imagine, this opportunity has taken on a life of its own – specs from the client, questions back to them, a preliminary presentation made.  The number of meetings has been alarming, especially since I really don’t have that much input.  Others involved are excited to be doing the work, love the corporate lingo and are happy to be jumping through all the necessary hoops.  I completely understand this work has to be done but it doesn’t ring my bell.  So I smile, answer any questions asked of me and multi-task.  It really makes me appreciate zoom meetings.

The notification that we made the initial cut and have a presentation date slated came down on Tuesday.   We had a meeting on Wednesday – I knew this would be the meeting in which decisions were made about who would be part of the presentation.  I’ve been dreading this prospect for weeks; while I certainly wouldn’t be tasked with heading up the presentation, I worried that with my overwhelming experience on the account, they would think I would be handy to have in the room.  Not my cup of tea and the idea of flying to the east coast for two days for this presentation doesn’t excite me at all.

They didn’t ask me.  I can’t tell anybody at work how relieved I am not to be part of the presentation team.  But I can tell you all – I am very happy to stay home.  I’m not even going to grouse about the fact that there are two “practice” meetings that I have been asked to attend, even though I’m not practicing.  Phew!

What topic could you give a 30-minute presentation on without any preparation?

Large House Cats?

Last November there was a post that I clipped part of and have kept on my desktop.  I don’t remember what we were talking about but this string always intrigued me:

Part of the reason it has stuck with me is that it reminds me of two books.  My dad loved everything written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, especially the John Carter/Mars series, so I’ve read quite a few as well.  In the Gods of Mars series, the Therns have bamboozled another species, the Barsoomians, luring them with the promise of a journey to paradise, when in fact, they just get captured and eaten.  My father and I had some long conversations about this; he thought it was the best justification for being a vegetarian he had ever read.

The other book that our conversation reminds me of is The Sparrow by Maria Doria Russell.  Also science fiction and a similar scenario in which the traveling Earthman discovers that the dominant species eats the non-dominant, although to his eye, they are both sentient beings.  There is also a VERY disturbing sub-plot in which the Earthman is basically kept as a pet and from his (and the reader’s) perspective, abused and maimed, although his “owner” fairly easily deflects and explains those actions away.  And it was believable.  Way too believable.  It took me a few years to work up the nerve to read the next book in the series.

Even though all these memories got dredged up back in November, I still thought it was a funny exchange. Although I’m pretty sure I’m already the pet of my cat Nimue….

What’s the most exotic animal you’ve ever fantasized about getting as a pet?

My Un-Monty-Don-Esque Woods

Today’s post comes to us from Clyde.

Monty Don, of craggy face and deep rich voice and calm confident demeanor, is the BBC’s in-house gardening expert, worth knowing if you are a gardener. And worth knowing if you are into travel. In addition to his weekly garden show, he has done several series where he helps non-gardeners develop their small yards and, my favorite, when he gives tours of great gardens of different countries, such as France and Italy. Of those I love the French tour most, in part because he travels around in post-WWII era Citroen, one of the more visually memorable cars. The French gardens are the highly structured masterpieces of topiary and shaped hedges and large fountains and looping pathways. The Italian ones are about as structured but do not appear to be so, cultivated randomness.

But it is the old English gardens which impress and irritate me. Garden on the English tour means large expanses of hundreds of acres where every tree, pathway, line of sight and folly has been developed to look ancient and natural, when it is not. The long lines of sight built into the landscape are masterpieces of faux natural. The beauty impresses me, but the bending of will to man irritates me, done by genius such as Capability Brown (1716-1783), original name Lancelot Brown. (Marketing was an art even in the 18th Century.) Brown’s face is shaped much like Monty Don’s, by the way.

Then there are the woods 20 feet off my patio, owned, except for the first 5-6 feet, by the city. Capability would rub his hands in glee on how he could change that abhorrent disarray. Not that I do not have a similar impulse, having been raised on a farm where the woods were managed as graze and woodlot. Our roads through the 85 acres still appear in my dreams.

My woods here is as wild and uncontrolled as woods in a city could be, mostly because of the ravine. Various parts of both Mankato and North Mankato are designated as Upper and Lower, meaning on top of the bluffs or below them where the ancient river Warren carved out a deep and wide valley in a matter of a few days.

The header photo shows the tangle at its worst or most glorious. They are the end of the woods where they point out into a small field of corn or soybeans, a la Ben. Those trees are not shaped that way by the wind, in fact they are bent right into the prevailing wind. I assume their need for sunlight made them arch out and away from the tall trees. It is a favorite place for deer to bed down. But even they struggle to navigate through my woods. There are several tall trees reaching their full maturity, about which there is a mystery I will not delve into. But when the leaves are gone (I took these pictures in April.) you can see the tangle of fallen and rotting trees down the sides of the raven, which gets deep very quickly, or up among the standing trees. Or you can see my corkscrew trees, as I call them, species unknown to me. They reach up like a middle finger in the face of Capability.

Trees are in all stages of life and decay.

Many visitors live or walk through the woods or the apartment building’s strip of grass.

Just three days ago I realized that at the base of one of the mystery trees a pair of squirrels have raised almost to maturity a litter of, I think, five kits. I caught them venturing out to explore, but only on their tree so far, and took this photo through the window above my computer.

I have sketched several parts of my woods. These two trees now are mush on the ground.

This spring a thick branch on one of the mystery trees broke in the high winds and got caught as a squirrel beltway. The next day the squirrels tested carefully before venturing out on this wonderful shortcut across an open space in the upper trees. Now it is their jousting ground and a trysting place, observation deck, escape route and attack route.

I could show and tell more, but I have overstayed my welcome.

Thoreau said he had traveled much in Concord. In what small area have you traveled much?

Too Much Mulch

It’s my Menards time of year.

One of the upshots of the “more flowers, less grass” way of life at our house is mulch.  We like the look of mulch around all the flowers and now that the front yard and boulevard are essentially all flowers, that’s a lot of mulch.

“A lot of mulch” and “very small Honda Insight” aren’t usually phrases you see in a sentence together.  That’s because you can only put 8 2-cubic foot bags of mulch IN a Honda Insight if you want to continue to see out the back window. (You could transport more if you used the backseat and not just the hatch but that lesson learned was ugly.)   If you go through 25-28 bags of mulch in the spring, that means several trips to Menards.  Yes, I’ve looked into having a boatload of mulch delivered, but one of the things I know about myself is how unhappy I will be with a mountain of mulch that might get rained on before I get to it, is taking up driveway space and is also making me feel guilty until it’s all gone.  And the savings isn’t that great anyway.

Mulch trips are in the morning – it’s cooler, plenty of room in the parking lot, not too crowded in the store – so for four mornings in a row, there I am, with my mulch on a big cart.  There is an older woman who works the first register shift every morning and she is NOT a happy person.  Could be that she resents working so early.  Maybe she resents still having to work at all at this stage of her life.  Might even be that she’s just not a morning person. 

I try not to take this personally, but I’m a chatter.  Every morning I say “good morning”.  Once I said “Eight of them (the bags), if I counted right”.   Couple of times I’ve said “see you tomorrow”.  Yesterday was “Thanks”.   Nothing from this woman.  Not even a smile, which I would have thought would be helpful in a customer service role. 

The mulch trips are probably over for this spring but I have determined that if I need more, I will probably just leave this poor woman alone when I go through her lane.  It won’t hurt me and maybe it will give her a little relief at 6:15 in the morning.  Of course, it’s not as much fun.

Tell me about a time you’ve gotten GREAT customer service!

Trust

The breeder from whom we got our dog said that a road trip was one of the best ways to bond with with a puppy. Kyrill was pretty scared, at first, but by the time we got him to our first night at the hotel, he was happy and perfectly content.

Kyrill is very attached to us, so much so that he follows us everywhere and can’t bear to be away from us. Our experience with other terriers is that they are independent souls who want to explore the world on their own terms. Kyrill’s terrier breed, on the other hand, has a pack-mentality and only wants to be with the leaders of the pack. I had to set some limits with him regarding his feeding, as he only wanted to eat if the food bowl was underneath my feet as I sat on the sofa. He trusts us implicitly to provide everything he needs, and that is a little daunting at times.

Kyrill loves to help us in the yard. Here he is helping us plant bare root strawberries.

I admit that I have encouraged much of his dependence on us, as I let him sleep with us, but, in his and my defense, he is a perfect sleeping partner and only stirs once a night after about 5 hours. He then goes right back to sleep for another 4 hours. . He is crated during the day when we are at work.

How do you get animals or people to trust you? How can you tell if you can trust someone? Have you ever known anyone with a trust fund?

Celebration!

A diagnostics company in Kentucky ran up a $450,000 bill for an employee birthday party.  It wasn’t over the top decorations or a gilded cake. 

Several days before his birthday, the employee asked his manager to not throw a party for fears it would trigger his anxiety disorder; he doesn’t do well being the center of attention and worried about having a panic attack. 

The glassbowl manager decided to throw a party anyway, planning the fete over lunch in the breakroom.  The birthday boy fled the building and ate his lunch in the car.  To add insult to injury, the next day the employee was scolded in a meeting and then fired. 

The lawsuit filed against the company alleged that they did not accommodate his anxiety disorder and caused him to suffer loss of income, benefits as well as causing him emotional distress and mental anxiety.  The jury on the case agreed and awarded him $450,000.

What kind of party would you throw for yourself with a $450K budget?

TRAVELERS NEVER DID LIE, THOUGH FOOLS AT HOME CONDEMN THEM

At Blevins Book Club on Sunday, tim and I were extolling the high quality of Ben’s eggs, having both gotten some the weekend that the straw bales were delivered.  Even the organic eggs that I get from my milk man pale by comparison.  I commented that I wished Ben lived a bit closer so I could justify driving down for eggs on a regular basis.

I should not have been surprised when I got a text from tim today saying maybe we could do some kind of driving swap/egg coop arrangements.  For the first five minutes after I got the text, I thought “tim is one crazy dude.”   Then the next five minutes I was emailing Ben with a few questions to even determine the feasibility of this. 

The third five minutes I was looking up directions between my house and Ben’s farm and thinking about how every few weeks I could get in almost 3 hours of books on tape when I was driving down and bacl.  And the fourth five minutes I was thinking about the spreadsheet I could design if this turns out to be do-able and more baboons than just tim and I can co-op (a lot of this does depend on Ben’s chickens after all).

I’m not sure what the next few five-minute increments will bring – but please don’t anybody tell my milk man!

How far will you go for your favorite products?

Royal Living

Last week I extolled calling a professional concerning my front porch.  The stucco guys weren’t the only professionals I called upon last week.

The story of my “privy” is a long one.  When I moved into my house 30 years ago, the lid on the bank had been previously broken in 2 places and glues back together….badly.   The glue had been liberally applied and the excess, which had yellowed, had not been wipe off.  It looked so awful that I always draped a towel or napkin over it.   A few years later, it got dropped and broken again, this time it couldn’t be put back together again.  Luckily YA, Child back then, found an exact replacement at Architectural Antiques downtown.

I had learned early on to changed out the tank ball; it needed to be done every year or so.  I also installed a new fill valve several years back.  So when the trip lever broke about a year ago, I figured it would be a quick fix.  Wrong.  I won’t go into the excruciating detail, suffice it to say, it went from bad to worse and we ended up having to jiggle as we flushed and then jiggling again after the ball dropped.  Sometimes twice.  I’ve probably spent 40 hours in the last year trying to adjust, replacing levers, replacing the ball.  Awful. 

I was pretty sure what the plumber would tell me, but when he showed me what was contributing to my issues and talked through the repairs, I knew that I had been right to expect the worse.  He came back two days later and voila – a new throne!  It uses less water, fills faster and does its job better.  I almost wish I had replaced it years ago.  YA is reserving judgement as it’s taller than the old one.

Toilet paper – over or under?

Automotive Aeronautics

Saw a news story yesterday about a Tesla flying into a building.  Watch until the end, because the last camera’s viewpoint is fascinating.

Of course, I assumed it was a Tesla that was driving itself.  Imagine sitting back in your Tesla, kind of paying attention and suddenly you are crashing into a building.  Turns out that it was a guy driving; he said he lost control.  Witnesses suggested he had sped up to make a light before the car took wing.  So the story isn’t as fun as a Tesla auto-piloting it’s way into a building – not sure what that says about me.

I’m thinking the driver was incredibly lucky – his entry point into the building was the glass window and door entry way; if he had sailed into some other part of the building at that speed, I wouldn’t be writing this story because the poor guy would likely be pushing up daisies. 

When was the last time you flew anywhere?  Any flights coming up?

Before / After

The next step in the front porch drama has concluded.  I’m sure you remember the photos of tim and me from sandblasting last summer.  So so dirty. 

What I didn’t say at the time was that what we uncovered when we got rid of the 3-4 layers of paint was horrific.   Completely uneven, a few long gouges and all the holes from when the house had been insulated back in the `80s.  My vision of painting the weekend after the sandblasting and being done were shattered.  tim walked me through plastering process but as the weeks went on, I knew I wasn’t up to it.  3 years into this project, I just needed a professional.

I found The Stucco Guy through my hardware store.  He came out, looked it over, took a few photos and the next day sent me a quote.  I accepted but by this time it was too chilly to do stucco work so we made a date for this spring.

They came last Tuesday morning and spent most of the day prepping.  Then on Wednesday they did the base coat.  It was a little disheartening because it is dark gray on application and it made the front porch seem quite gloomy.  They assured me it would lighten up over night and they would do the final coat the next day. 

On Thursday, I purposely stayed upstairs in my home office; I was so worried how it would turn out and if I would like it.  When he texted me at 4:30 that they were done and cleaning up, I was almost afraid to go downstairs.  It’s so beautiful that when I stepped out onto the porch, I teared up a little.  Best news?  He didn’t increase the price he had estimated for me last fall.  Very reasonable for 3 days of work (for 2 of them) and such a fabulous result.

There is some work to be done yet, but it’s the kind of work that YA and I are qualified for (little sanding, little painting) and hopefully will be done within the next month.  Only 3+ years to remodel a small front porch.  Gotta love these old houses!

When was the last time you gave in and called a professional?