Archive for January, 2009

How Many Times a Week Do You Do It?

I have committed the bloggers’ sin of not blogging every day. Or even every week. But why not blog only when I feel like it or have something to say? After all, it’s not my job, it’s supposed to be for fun, and despite a lucky few being able to “monetize” their blogs, there’s a brain cells’ chance in Bush’s head that I’ll be one of them.

Do you really want to read every piece of crap that passes through my head? I don’t even want to, but I’m me, and I don’t have a choice. If you do, I’d be glad to provide you with one of millions of self-serving, narcissistic piece of undistilled stream-of-consciousness material that’s so intimate, long, and sometimes boring, you’ll want to get away from me after a while, too.

Yes, I have done the exact same thing in my podcasts (www.robertagale.com) but at least there’s a bit of entertainment value in listening (or watching) someone spit out their stuff in real time-the train wreck theory. I don’t know if I have the capacity to be that riveting in print.

By it’s very nature, blogging is supposed to be stream-of-consciousness-unedited, unfettered, and free, like that guy in Paris that Joni Mitchell sings about. But I spent a career doing that on the radio. I wanted something a bit more polished on my blog. Sort of like “real” writing that I  look at a little while later and change stuff around, or even cut it out entirely if it would make the piece better. The problem is, it took so much time to write and rewrite a post before I published it, that my blog became more of a homework assignment than a creative diversion. So I stopped adding posts. I didn’t even want to go to my blog site because it would just depress me.

And so much has happened since I last posted. I started my first traditional job in years (ok, it’s a temp job, but the last time I had one, Kelly Services was called Kelly Girls,) developed compassion and disgust for people who work on their feet all day for $8.50 an hour, learned everything there is to know about college students, am in the midst of an existential crisis as I watch my beloved terrestrial radio careen down techo mountain in a ball of flames, and other stuff, like learning to spell inauguration.

So I will temper my need to immediately express every crumb of my personal experiences that I always interpret as a microcosm of what’s going on in the universe at large, with my desire to write an edited, pithy, meaningful, humorous and/or profound piece that someone other than myself might want to print.

Toodles and luv ya!

Roberta

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January 20, 2009 at 6:28 pm Leave a comment

I swear (or affirm) I will sell stuff

A few days ago I was hired for a temporary job at a university bookstore. I was one of hundreds of people hired to fortify the staff during the second semester rush, when hordes of freshman, grad students, undergrads, parents, and those who have a masochistic desire to be in crowds, will descend upon a three-story temple of words. For a few short weeks, my place of employment will become a microcosm, petri dish, and sump pump of humanity. But have no fear, for I am ready. I’ve been trained to deal with fear, confusion, frustration, anger, depression,and retail mania. At least as much as can be crammed into a three-hour orientation.

Being initiated into the public sector is a strange experience. I was a virgin at the beginning of the ritual, I became a whore by the end.

Because buried in the twenty-something pages of paperwork, was something so bizarre that it deserved more pause than I, ever-cognizant of the job market, gave it. Something so creepy that I expected Joe McCarthy to jump though the page and force me to sign or be blacklisted. Something that was as foreign to me as eating Larb Gai for breakfast. Something I signed because I needed to get out of the house. Something that went like this:

A. I, Roberta Gale solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution and laws of the State of Arizona, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same and defend them against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of the office of temporary sales assistant according to the best of my ability, so help me God (or so I do affirm).

It’s called a loyalty oath, and any public employee in the state has to sign one. Correction. Everyone working for the state doesn’t have to sign one. How ridiculous of me to even think that. That would be way too big-brother-ish.

B. Any officer or employee who fails to take and subscribe to the oath or affirmation provided by this section within the time limits prescribed by this section is not entitled to any compensation until the officer or employee does so take and subscribe to the form of oath or affirmation prescribed by this section.

So I guess it’s not that creepy, after all. You’re free to work at a state job, you just won’t get paid for it. But think about. Wouldn’t it make you feel better knowing that if you’re checking out your book and a bunch of guys in red uniforms with muskets and bayonets come charging in between the Biology and Mass Media sections, I am sworn to defend you?

And should you fear that the person running the register one lane over will join the other side and turn on all of us, don’t worry.

C. Any officer or employee having taken the form of oath or affirmation prescribed by this section, and knowingly at the time of subscribing to the oath or affirmation, or at any time thereafter during the officer’s or employee’s term of office or employment, does commit or aid in the commission of any act to overthrow by force, violence or terrorism as defined in section 13-2301 the government of this state or of any of its political subdivisions, or advocates the overthrow by force, violence or terrorism as defined in section 13-2301 of the government of this state or of any of its political subdivisions, is guilty of a class 4 felony and, on conviction under this section, the officer or employee is deemed discharged from the office or employment and is not entitled to any additional compensation or any other emoluments or benefits which may have been incident or appurtenant to the office or employment.

They’ll be canned. And they won’t even be eligible for unemployment or COBRA.

January 10, 2009 at 4:09 pm Leave a comment

A swear (or affirm) I will sell stuff

A few days ago I was hired for a temporary job at a university bookstore. I was one of hundreds of people hired to fortify the staff during the second semester rush, when hordes of freshman, grad students, undergrads, parents, and those who have a masochistic desire to be in crowds, will descend upon a three-story temple of words. For a few short weeks, my place of employment will become a microcosm, petri dish, and sump pump of humanity. But have no fear, for I am ready. I’ve been trained to deal with fear, confusion, frustration, anger, depression,and retail mania. At least as much as can be crammed into a three-hour orientation.

Being initiated into the public sector is a strange experience. I was a virgin at the beginning of the ritual, I became a whore by the end.

Because buried in the twenty-something pages of paperwork, was something so bizarre that it deserved more pause than I, ever-cognizant of the job market, gave it. Something so creepy that I expected Joe McCarthy to jump though the page and force me to sign or be blacklisted. Something that was as foreign to me as eating Larb Gai for breakfast. Something I signed because I needed to get out of the house. Something that went like this:

A. I, Roberta Gale solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution and laws of the State of Arizona, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same and defend them against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of the office of temporary sales assistant according to the best of my ability, so help me God (or so I do affirm).

It’s called a loyalty oath, and any public employee in the state has to sign one. Correction. Everyone working for the state doesn’t have to sign one. How ridiculous of me to even think that. That would be way too big-brother-ish.

B. Any officer or employee who fails to take and subscribe to the oath or affirmation provided by this section within the time limits prescribed by this section is not entitled to any compensation until the officer or employee does so take and subscribe to the form of oath or affirmation prescribed by this section.

So I guess it’s not that creepy, after all. You’re free to work at a state job, you just won’t get paid for it. But think about. Wouldn’t it make you feel better knowing that if you’re checking out your book and a bunch of guys in red uniforms with muskets and bayonets come charging in between the Biology and Mass Media sections, I am sworn to defend you?

And should you fear that the person running the register one lane over will join the other side and turn on all of us, don’t worry.

C. Any officer or employee having taken the form of oath or affirmation prescribed by this section, and knowingly at the time of subscribing to the oath or affirmation, or at any time thereafter during the officer’s or employee’s term of office or employment, does commit or aid in the commission of any act to overthrow by force, violence or terrorism as defined in section 13-2301 the government of this state or of any of its political subdivisions, or advocates the overthrow by force, violence or terrorism as defined in section 13-2301 of the government of this state or of any of its political subdivisions, is guilty of a class 4 felony and, on conviction under this section, the officer or employee is deemed discharged from the office or employment and is not entitled to any additional compensation or any other emoluments or benefits which may have been incident or appurtenant to the office or employment.

They’ll be canned. And they won’t even be eligible for unemployment or COBRA.

January 10, 2009 at 1:40 pm Leave a comment

Asthma Taffy

It started with a Bell telephone my family rented for a dollar a month. The sucker weighed about twenty pounds and shook when it rang-a jarring ring that commanded anyone within range to pick it up NOW or ELSE.

My mom was out, leaving my sister to her least favorite chore-babysitting me. The only plus on her end was being able to tell me what to do. I rarely listened, unless I had something she wanted, which she got by using reserve psychology so brilliantly succinct it still works. “I don’t want it, anyway,” was powerful back then, and it still suckers me in now. Why would I want something that my big sister doesn’t?

A few minutes after I had given her my Brown Cow and was well into not realizing my stupidity, the phone rang. It was mom checking up on us. Why just then, I don’t know, but for some reason I looked at the phone and wondered what made it work. I asked my sister, who answered, “I don’t know, It just does.” Then she walked off to relish the candy she psyched me out of, all carmel-y and chocolate covered and no longer mine.

It was just me and the phone, my sudden object of intense curiosity. I picked it up and shook it, and noticed the ringer set inside the metal plate. OK, that’s how it rang! It wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted IN. I ran and got a screwdriver from the kitchen catch-all drawer and got to work. First I screwed off the metal plate. Then the ringers (real bells back then,) then all the other metal stuff inside. I undid the wires and was fascinated by the different colors. Then I started on the handset. Wow! A microphone where you put your mouth and a heavy disc thing where you put your ear. By the time I was done, it looked like someone had eaten a phone and thrown up.

I felt only semi-fulfilled. I took the phone apart, but I still didn’t have much of an idea of how it worked-how it took a voice from somewhere else and put it in our phone.

I never found out, since my sister came into kitchen soon after with those three words that always led to a spanking. “I’m telling mom!” She always sounded so gleeful. But no belt across my ass was forthcoming, because I put the phone back together so well that mom didn’t believe my sis when she insisted I tore the phone apart.

Since then, I’ve always been curious about how things were made. Which led to my passion for factory tours (and later third world factory tours where OHSA regulations are non-existent and anyone can get close enough to touch products and blades) and for taking things apart.

This curiosity persisted through the decades, and I still get the same thrill when I open something up as I did back then. My latest project is an empty Advair Discus. Empty is important because if I had to pay out of pocket for these things, I’d be out 200 bucks.

Since the moment I started huffing them a few years ago, I was enthralled with how well they were built-the Mack trucks of inhalers.

The Advair “Diskus”-which sounds like an ancient Olympic event that someone suffering from asthma couldn’t win-works by lining up the mouthpiece with some little bubble of powder. Something in the inhaler bursts the bubble, and I inhale deeply as the magic dust invades my lungs. In theory, this is supposed to improve their efficiency. Each time I picked it up it was so round and heavy and thick and full of pulleys and mechanisms and plastic that it was just too irresistible. I had to find out what was inside this goose that laid the golden dust.

The Intact Inhaler
The intact inhaler

So I gathered up screwdrivers and wrenches and pliers and hammers and nails and screws and pins and whatever else I could get my hands on to unbuild this mystery of non-American (English) ingenuity. I tried to pry the top open with a screwdriver. Failing that, I tried the pliers, always a favorite. The top moved a bit, but that’s it. I stuck some nails in whatever openings I could but still no luck. I was really getting fed up and a little wheezy at this point, so I went for the cheaters tool-the hammer. I took it outside and smashed it on the concrete. It cracked, but didn’t open. I was really frustrated. In all my history of opening stuff up, I have never failed to get the guts out. I decided to do the adult thing and get a sledgehammer from the garage, but for some reason I couldn’t find it. I think my husband hid it from me for just this reason. I still didn’t give up, but I did capitulate somewhat. The last refuge of a scoundrel is the internet, and that just where I went to find a pic of the Advair innards.

The Amazing Guts of an Advair Inhaler

It really doesn’t look like much, so I quickly got over my disappointment. Until I saw that someone not only got inside but made a flying saucer out of the thing complete with noise and blinking lights. They even made a video of Advair shooting though the atmosphere. You’ll have to find that one yourself, because I’m jealous and don’t want to share.

January 3, 2009 at 3:25 pm Leave a comment


Roberta Gale

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