Sunday, May 23, 2010

If you can't be an athlete...

   The day came early and ran through several themes before it was done.  Now it is 5:15, and like a business traveler with jet lag, I need to force myself to stay awake until a respectable bedtime (and still find the voice to record some more of “Child Development and You,” not its real title). 

This is good news for you, though, because it means I can spend at least an hour telling you this story, and you can  eat a peanut butter sandwich, or other things that I imagine are sad enough that  DrawingIn can perk it up.  And I’ll disclaim this installment this way: it could probably be funnier, linkier, and glurgier, but these hands are tired.

In fact, I have stared at the space under the above paragraph for about 20 minutes, trying to decide how much introduction is required to get to the part I want to tell.  Here it is in as few sentences as possible.  (Naturally, I meant as few as possible for me)

“Please report to Gate B between 5:00 and 5:30 am,”  they asked, and I said sure, after ensuring that I had somewhere nearby to stay the night before.  My assignment: “course support.”  You know what this is.
It comes with no other instructions.
I have to interrupt my own story with this sidebar, because it is pretty funny.  Friends of mine  confessed last night at dinner that they were very confused about what I was doing at this event, once they had cleared up that I certainly was not running.  Despite all appearances, I am no athlete, and you don’t have to know me long or well to learn that early.

burns and allen
It was like this:
George – well, I know she’s not running, but what is it again?

Gracie – I think she’s protesting…or something.

George – what?  it’s protesting…?  No, it’s a fundraiser.  For the Jimmy Fund, I think --- why would you protest the Jimmy Fund?

Gracie – well, I don’t know what it is, but it’s something about the war.  I thought she was protesting the war…

You don’t know how much I love knowing I was the subject of a shout-through-rooms husband/wife act.  We cleared it up.  Not protesting.  NOW (but not because I’m above it).

I’ll say this, though – at a protest, they feed you clever chants to say while you are serving as the Wall of Sound.  Not so with Course Support.  “Cheer them on,” said our crew chief, then hopped on the shuttle bus.

Don’t leave me on my own with this.  ‘Cause what I've got is, “You are physically fit and ambitious.  I’m not.  GO!”  (wooooooooo….)

They dropped 8 of us off on Mass and Comm Aves (we don’t waste syllables in Boston) and we waited an hour and a half for the race to start.  Some cocktail party chat, a run for coffees, a briefr misunderstanding of which side of the road we should be on… It was a good corner, since it was both the 3/4 mile and 5 mile mark, so there was plenty of cheering to do, but this is NOT the Boston Marathon.  Perhaps it will be in time, but the 8 of us, and 2 friends-of-runners were on our own in front of Sleeparama to annoy the upstairs residents.

Things I tried:  (put your beverage down)
- all right, let’s go, let’s get this party started, things of that nature
- yelling out people’s t-shirts at them:  All right, Boston PD… There you go, Army, and (I promise) “Semper Fi, Marine.”

You should really know what you are talking about when you are in a situation like this. 

- looking good/strong/fit
- you can do it/make it/take it

Big hands, big voice – why stick her at a registration table?  Let’s give her enough open street to dork right out of her mind.  To heighten the scene, let’s have her shout things at 4000 runners wearing iPods, even though they have been expressly prohibited for safety reasons

- 5 mile mark right ahead
- you’re almost there
- I smell hot dogs.  ( I was really running out of material)

All ages, all abilities.  A runner with an artificial leg, 3 guys running in full packs, women in pink ARMY shirts,  others in GPBL replica uniforms, some runners with names of their fallen buddies and mates written down their arms . A woman running in a sequined party dress and sneakers, for reasons known only to her dress.

- Glamour Run.  Awesome.
I am purposely leaving out exclamation points so you can feel the Liz Lemon agony of the content itself.  

High fives as they each pulled past that 5th mile.  They actually seemed grateful for the encouragement.  And we weren’t even a water station.

After I returned to Fenway, I found myself amidst the care-box assembly line, where soon-to-be-my-new-friend Jerry was alone with a tape gun and a line.  I could have gone home; my assignment was done.  Instead I jumped right in with Jerry. 

 Couldn’t have been happier.  I taped boxes shut for the next 3 hours, with no call to cheer anything.

Here is where I would post video from the day, but none is posted yet.  You’ll have to check back later.

Next weekend is Memorial Day.  Combined US military casualties for the campaigns known as OEF (Afghanistan) and OIF (Iraq) total 5,480.  It is true the numbers are decreasing, but there is very much a war on.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Enter the webcam

I've started to write about this many times. There are a lot of reasons I haven't.  But a couple of things tipped me this past week -- least of all not having updated this blog in 10 days.

And maybe that was the real catalyst . A frequent reader suggested that the new job must be "very interesting," since I hadn't written in awhile.  Or... I replied, there is nothing interesting to write about it.

Neither one is true.

It is 8am and I am in my desk -- in the dark, because I haven't learned where the light switches are and because I don't want that to now be my responsibility, turning the lights on, when I am not at all the first person here in the morning. Someone is already making and tagging the coffee. The interesting things I have to do today are accompany a co-worker on a customer call and make it back on time for a run-through of a PowerPoint deck. Until then, I am heightening the intensity by blogging to you about work... at work.

I have narrowed our topic to the Webcam because it is the source of much whispering around the cube-farm, yet no one seems about to confront it --- including me.  It's easily a year before I start calling those balls and strikes.

The manager I have nicknamed Sparky has installed a webcam in her cube.  Sparky should have an office, but as these things go in corporate politics, she was too late to the dance, and does not rate high enough to have someone bounced on her behalf.  If she has been offered an office around the corner, she has turned it down (and I have no evidence that she has).   One can extrapolate that she has turned it down in favor of her webcam.

Here's the set up.
It's aimed behind her, and certainly many people set up rear-view mirrors in their cubes to see who is behind them.  I have never caught on to that (like I need more distractions) but I get the appeal for a certain kind of personality.

Originally, it was inside her cube, but it seems she didn't like the mise en scene, because a day or two later she was standing on her desk, mounting the watchful eye on the support pole conveniently located behind her back wall.Weeelll... now... we have depth of field, see.... and we are in business.

Point # 1 (or #2, if you count the existence of the camera as the first point, and already I can hear some of you howling your protests) - when you do come to her cube "door," and you appear on the 2nd monitor she has set up primarily for this purpose, she will talk to the screen for at least a few seconds before she turns around to talk to you.

Point #2 - the office door it actually points at (presumably the office she would have if it weren't for those meddling kids) belongs to our HR rep (or Haytch-Are rep, as one commonly says around here).  She is like Toby from The Office, but without the sense of duty.  So even if she is aware of it (which I doubt) she is not going to speak up or out. 

Point #3 - Other people who are not going to complain are Sparky's team; her cohort, whose team members have complained to them; her peers in other departments who find it appalling but none of their business.  Like the cargo shorts and sneakers.  But that's another blog.  In fact, it's this blog.

Point #4 - The Tipper - In a recent meeting, to which Sparky now brings her personal iPad rather than the company asset, the webcam view appeared on her screen.

To reiterate: on her iPad screen.
a. this took some effort, more so than standing on her desk
b. is a truly "personal" personal computer the appropriate place for this?
c. w.t.f.

Questions for Discussion:
Discuss the following questions with members of your team.  Designate a note-taker and present your findings to the larger group.
1.  Does Sparky watch her webcam when she is away from her desk?
2.  If yes, what is she watching?  What measures would be required to actually steal something off her desk under the weak peripheral vision of the lens?
3.   If yes, does she watch from home?Is that a sickness?If yes, which sickness and which pharmaceutical should be applied?
4.   Is she, right now, looking up devices that will allow her to aim said camera from her laptop, from home?
5.   If yes, will she come across this post?

I thought of taking a picture of the webcam in a kind of meta-spy counter-measure.  But you know I don't know how to work those things.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Biting the Hand

Just when I think I am completely out of ideas, Big Pharma leaves a giant package tied with a bow.  It was time to add a new Label just for them.  Rather than link you back to my previous rants (let’s hear it for smallpox, shingles, HPV and nasal allergens), I direct you to the new Big Pharma category at right.  It was bigger than I expected it would be.

Here’s the latest addition.

A certain local pharma-glomerate has inadvertently announced the impending launch of a concoction called DryMist, by posting a job opening for a marketing professional to handle said launch. (Yes, I still read job postings.  They are like Economic Crisis Porn.  You feel cheap and dirty, but you can’t help yourself).

So here is what the job posting has to say about the new thing we won’t be able to get away from (if they find the right Fit and Match). 

Omnaris DryMist, a novel formulation of ciclesonide for allergic rhinitis.

Watch me spend an entire blogpost on one delicious Hostess Sno-Ball of a sentence.

My doctor once placated me with a diagnosis of “acute rhinitis.”  Latin for… stuffy nose.  But ALLERGIC rhinitis, well that is fancy.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

bill gatesOmnaris DryMist – I have many regrets of the modern age, but the internal capital letter may be top of the list. 

I will look the other way because Sepracor has had the decency to spell both words correctly before shoving them into each other.

So… Omnaris.   Making up drug names is more fun than naming Orientation themes.  If we could combine those things, I might get back into the game.  The Society of People Who have Time to Do What I Only Dream About have designed this random drug name and side effects generator.  It may or may not have created Omnaris, about which a focus group of secretaries then said, “I don’t know what that could be; is there any more danish?”  so they added DryMist, which…. believe me…. we will get to in a second.

DryMist – makes.  no.  sense.

BactrianCamel-m Why would I spray what sounds only like SAND up my nose?  I’d rather have the rhinitis.

On the other hand, it goes perfectly with Sepracor’s “Preliminary Phase III” study result (in a world where “venti” is small, phase 3 is “preliminary”), which was a “large-scale 707 patient” study.   If, in the field of pharmaceutical advancement, 707 is considered large-scale, I don’t want to know about it.

Dry Mist treats “SAR” – ok, not SARS.   Don’t fall for the hype.  SAR, they would have us believe, is “seasonal allergic rhinitis.”   I need an emoticon that is rolling its eyes right now.

A novel formulation of ciclesonide – Which does “cicle” make you think of?   Is it just the syllable “sick” that is throwing you off?  Or the suggestion of cyanide?sickle Cicleconide (the Barbarian) is a glucocorticoid.  This is what the kids at Science Camp called each other as an insult.  I am not smart enough to explain to you what that is, so look it up here.  I wanted to get to the bottom of the “novel formulation.”

Sepracor doesn’t explain much about the novelty (one hopes they want to leave something for the new marketing manager) but it does appear to be the dryness of the mist.  I looked up mist, just for peace of mind: a fine spray of moisture.  

Allergic rhinitis – Pharma counts on you not to know the difference between an allergy and an irritant.  (here I go, all glucocorticoid on you).  An allergy is an abnormal reaction to a substance entering the body ~~ your face swells from eating shrimp.  Bee venom is poisonous; we all react badly to it.  Reacting abnormally signals an allergy.  Pollen in your eyes and nose will irritate your eyes.  Annoying, but a normal reaction.

mary baker eddy

Check this out: “The Allergies in America Survey, published in 2006, reports that approximately 33% of respondents find ‘dripping down the throat’ to be moderately or extremely bothersome, and approximately 25% of respondents have discontinued use of a nasal allergy prescription due to bothersome side effects.”  Let me rephrase – people who spray mist unto their nostrils to ease the annoyance of the body’s natural reaction to wash away irritants are now irritated by the liquid they propelled into their heads and would like to spray something drier in there.

The big finish

This is always my favorite part:

symptoms of “SAR” -  sneezing, nasal itching, runny or stuffy nose.

Side effects of Omnaris – headaches, inflamed nose or throat, nosebleeds, throat pain, wheezing or other asthma-like symptoms, infections that do not go away.


Speaking of things that don’t go away.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Restaurant Win

Boston got a water crisis in it.
Last summer, I told a story of how corporate regultion can fail a restaurant at the local level by not empowering its managers and employees to solve problems too small for "corporate" to be aware of. Today I am able to tell a flipside of that story.

The Boston area has been hit with a water contamination problem, which is difficult to understand without an explanation of how Boston's water starts pristine 50 miles away then flows downhill as if the Romans built it through antique, undersized, crumbly pipes.  Read that here.  This weekend, a 10' pipe west of the city "failed," necessitating the release of reservoired (but non-potable) water.  That part you can read here.

What I want to talk about is how (2) businesses responded to this crisis and why local leadership is important in any enterprise.

Dunkin Donuts - Koffee King and neighborhood staple throughout New England -- was crushed.  Corporate headquarters "...ordered franchise owners to close if they cannot boil water for ice, coffee or tea," according to the Boston Herald.  And indeed, on the next business day -- a gorgeous Boston Sunday full of tourists and Walk for Hunger participants -- most of the city's 7000 storefronts were shut down.  I made that figure up.  But it can't be far off the mark.  Since I am making up figures, let's esimate how many larged-iced would have been sold today.  Pfft - a WICKIT lwot.   

Now come with me to Stephie's on Tremont, little sister to the original Stephanie's on Newbury.  Posted on every table and on the hostess station -- in a leather table tent as if it were the wine list -- was this simple explanation.  I am paraphrasing, because I did not want to steal what they had spent such a sudden and classy amount of effort on (buff paper and a Chancery font.)

It opened with the statement that the MWRA had issued the water boiling order, then explained the situation in the kitchen:
  • We are not using tap water in the kitchen today
  • If you order water, we will be serving bottled water; you may also purchase Aqua Panna from the menu
  • We regret that we are unable to serve coffee, tea, or espresso today, and recommend other items from our menu or bar
  • All food has been prepared with boiled water
  • Our ice comes from a distributor which is outside the MWRA area
All the crisis communication you need.  And the place was packed.  One factor in this professional and impact-minimal response may be the influence of the leading personal injury attorney whose wife runs the joint.  If so, he gives good advice.  And Stephie and her people are in a position to act on it.

A restaurant is not a coffee shop, to be sure.  Without coffee and tea, Dunkin Donuts does have its hands tied.  But what about a similar sign on its window -- less fancy, more simple:  "Due to water restrictions, we are unable to serve our signature coffee.  Purchase other items today and your next coffee is on us."  And you give some little coupon for $1.50 of the next purchase.  Not only does it keep your customer for today, it brings them back tomorrow, and reminds them how cheap is the cost of their inconvenience.  Instead, DD, you sent them to Starbucks, where both bottled coffee milks (iced form) and instant (hot form) can be had.  With wi-fi and better chairs.  And I'm not even a coffee store manager.