My Monday

For the record, I worked all weekend (Saturday 10 AM to 7 PM, and Sunday 11 AM to 8 PM). Also, I participated in the Knott’s Berry Farm Coaster Run 5K yesterday morning so I had to get to Buena Park at 5:30 AM. As you can imagine, I was completely exhausted last night! I didn’t go to bed as early as I should have, but when I did, I passed out almost immediately. But then at 5:30 AM my cell phone rang and woke me up. It was work calling me about a problem. When this happened in the past I always managed to hang up on the caller because I thought it was my alarm. Oops. (Don’t worry, they always called back.) These days I have a different ring tone for my alarm, and whatever part of my brain that was functioning when I was rudely awakened this morning managed to register that this was a phone call. I was really groggy so I’m not sure how satisfactorily I answered the question from the person on the other end of the line, but the call was over after a few minutes. Of course as soon as I hung up the phone I thought of two questions I should have asked. But at the moment I was too tired/lazy to go downstairs, find my notebook with the phone number, and call them back. That was far too much effort at 5:30 AM. My adrenaline was pumping from being jolted awake so I had a hard time falling asleep again. Unfortunately that means I overslept. I didn’t need to work a full day today, but I planned to go in a few hours before a meeting and make sure my charts were ready. In reality, I only got there a half hour before the meeting and decided to just present my charts the way they were. But when I walked in the door someone asked, “What are you doing here?” Turns out the meeting was cancelled and no one told me, not even during the early morning phone call. Aargh! I only stayed at work for a couple of hours, but then escaped to enjoy as much of my time off as possible. I certainly haven’t had much of it lately! And how did I make the most of this lovely free time? Why, by doing some spring cleaning! Usually the term doesn’t mean that much to me, but so far this year I’ve been sorting and organizing just about everything in my apartment. It’s really nice to have all of my belongings in good shape, and also to purge items that I don’t want or need any more. It doesn’t make for exciting blog posts, but I’m happy! Now I need to get to bed so I can be well rested for work tomorrow. Another busy day!

Moving again

“I’ve had a weird couple of days at work. A few weeks ago we found out that our work area was going to be turned over to another program, meaning that we were getting kicked out. Thus began the aforementioned Great Cubicle Move of 2005. We had to be out of there by the end of the day today so things were a little hectic. … Our personal belongings (of which I have very few) turned out to be the easiest part of the move. We also had to prepare our computers for the movers. Disconnecting the computers was pretty disgusting work because of the accumulated dust. … So, as you can tell, many strange things happened at work this week. I’m sure things will be back to normal on Monday, though, as long as I can find my new cubicle.”
9/30/05 webpage post

History certainly has a way of repeating itself! Nearly ten years after the Great Cubicle Move of 2005 my program is in the midst of another migration. Actually, we’ve moved a couple of times in the last decade, but I couldn’t find any posts about the interim ones. One of those moves was from the Huntington Beach facility to the Seal Beach facility so I’m surprised I never wrote about it, but I guess there are a lot of events (both small and large) that I never shared on my blog. (Per my New Year’s resolution #4 I’m trying to change that! Not that anyone is really interested in reading about the tedium of cubicle musical chairs, but that’s what’s going on in my life today. Deal with it!) Back in 2005 my co-workers and I were moving from one area of a building to another within the Huntington Beach facility, and this time around we’re moving from one building to another within in the Seal Beach facility. It’s a pretty big change. I should have started packing up my office a week ago, but we’ve all been incredibly busy preparing for and executing several important events. I’ve been pretty frantic. But the move is scheduled to happen tomorrow, so I spent almost all of today boxing up my personal belongings (my 2015 race medals, work awards and certificates, and my Gandalf toy I got from Burger King back in 2001) and dismantling all of my computers and phones. It was messy work. I really need to dust my cubicle more often. Specifically the computer. Thank goodness my neighbor brought a Swiffer duster today. Even though I waited until the eleventh hour to pack, by 3:30 PM I was done. Everything in my office had been sorted, boxed, and labeled. I was exhausted! It was a little strange seeing the cubicle empty as I got ready to leave. I felt a mixture of sadness and nostalgia. I don’t have the same attachment to my work area as I do to my home or anything like that, but I’ve spent a lot of time there over the years. But I know that I’ll be settled into my new office and working as hard as ever soon. There are plenty of good times ahead!

Weird week

It’s been a weird week. On Monday and Tuesday I was frantically making final preparations at work for an event that took place on Wednesday. I was in charge of the whole thing so I was really stressed about it going well. There were a lot of people I needed to impress. I was so tired when I got to work on Wednesday morning that I was already ready for the event to be over. But in spite of the high stakes, I honestly expected to breeze through the day and leave that afternoon with a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. Unfortunately I was wrong. Actually, the first half of the day was great, but everything went downhill after lunch. The good news, if there is any, is that I had nothing to do with the downward spiral. All of the products I created worked the way they were supposed to, but we uncovered a few vulnerabilities that we don’t currently protect against. Aargh. This means more work for me, of course, but I’ll get back to that in a minute. I eventually escaped from work and celebrated by watching a movie and basically accomplishing nothing for the rest of the evening. Thursday was an even weirder day because I had to work from 11 PM to 7 AM. My plan was to get up at my normal time, get a few things done in the morning, take a nap in the afternoon, and then go to work at night. It didn’t quite happen that way, though. I just couldn’t sleep when I needed to. I probably dozed off for an hour or so in the early evening, but that was about it. So I wasn’t in very good shape when I got to work at 11 PM. But I powered through. And I probably would have been fine if I could have gone home at 7 AM and immediately crawled into bed, but that wasn’t in the cards. There was an important meeting scheduled at 8 AM regarding my event on Wednesday that I needed to attend. Happy Friday, right? (Not that I remembered what day it was at that point. When your shift spans two days your brain started to get a little confused.) I was exhausted by the time the meeting rolled around. I ultimately got home around 10 AM and I passed out after inhaling some breakfast (or whatever you call the meal you eat after being awake for more than 24 hours). I woke up again around 4 PM feeling slightly better, showered, and got ready to run some errands. Specifically, I needed to pick up my race shirt and bib for the Race on the Base 5K the next morning. (Don’t worry, I’ll write more about the race tomorrow.)

The best news that came out of last week is that I booked my Disney Cruise for next February! If all goes the way I’m planning, I’ll run the Princess Half Marathon ay Disney World on 2/21 and then hop on a cruise to the Bahamas the next day. It’s going to be amazing!

Mascot

At work we tend to be a bit superstitious. I know this isn’t a trait that you’d usually associate with engineers and other scientifically minded folks, but I think the fact that we work on spacecraft which have a tendency to malfunction has something to do with it. Amongst my co-workers, we have rituals that must be followed or else people get really nervous. For example, we have one particular phrase which shall never be uttered again based on what happened the last time someone said it. Also, when we get close to finishing a package of Oreos (we eat a lot of them in my office), the last cookie absolutely must be eaten by one specific person. Heaven forbid that final Oreo is taken by anyone else! That superstition has been going on so long that I can’t even remember what initiated it. Yes, we’re a crazy bunch of people sometimes. We even have a mascot! Several actually – a Lego space shuttle sitting on top of a computer, a cartoon character figurine, a rubber duck that brings good luck, etc. But one of the mascots that’s been around for a long time is The Fruit Cup. I capitalize the name to distinguish it from any other ordinary, run-of-the-mill fruit cup. This one is special. It’s a small can of fruit cocktail that was purchased at a grocery store in the DC area sometime in 2009 or 2010, at the latest. To personalize it, a “Spicy” sticker from a Chick-Fil-A spicy chicken sandwich was added to the outside at some point. That fruit cup is still around (and unopened, thankfully, since it expired in 2011) in our DC work area, bringing us luck when we need it. In fact, we consider it such an effective good luck charm that this week someone decided we needed a corresponding Fruit Cup on the West Coast. Unfortunately it seems Chick-Fil-A doesn’t use “spicy” stickers on their sandwiches anymore so our newest mascot isn’t the same as the original in that respect. As an alternative, I supplied some Hello Kitty stickers with inspirational phrases in case the Fruit Cup’s owner wanted to decorate it in a different way, but that idea was rejected. I guess the masculinity of mixed fruit would have been undermined by the presence of Hello Kitty. Or something like that! So for now it’s an unadorned fruit cup, but based on what’s happened since it arrived, it has definitely brought us luck. I know it sounds silly, but we all feel a little more at ease with our new Fruit Cup in the office!

Blowing up the sun

Engineers are funny. I laugh at work every day, usually about really random, crazy stuff. I’ve gathered some great quotes from my co-workers over the years, but unfortunately I can’t share most of them here if I want to keep my job. One I heard yesterday from the guy who sits in the cubicle across from me was really great, though. He was talking to someone about a piece of hardware that currently doesn’t work the way we want it to, and trying to convince them that the replacement is worth the cost. He said something like, “Look, we can either blow up the sun or we can use this new part!” Technically, both are valid options, but only an engineer would actually think to include both in his argument. Have I mentioned how much I love my co-workers?

Travel in progress

I’m sitting here in DFW waiting for my flight to Tallahassee in a couple of hours. It’s going to be on a small regional jet so I’m in an area of the airport with very small gates. At the moment I’m sitting on the floor until another flight leaves and I can find an empty chair! No big deal. Air travel is never comfortable. My flight from LA was uneventful except for some turbulence as we were landing in Dallas. It’s very rainy here. I’m just thankful that it’s not colder or it would be snow instead! Flying through Dallas in the winter is always a gamble. I should have thought of that when I bought my ticket, but I waited too long to book my travel and American was the cheapest option at that point. Flying Delta through Atlanta would have been a better choice. I’ll remember that next year! Luckily it looks like today the weather isn’t going to be too much of a problem in Dallas. Phew!

Yesterday was my last day of work for the year and I’m very happy about that. Monday is actually supposed to be a workday for Boeing employees, but just about everyone is taking it off. Since I obviously won’t be there I used the hours that I worked last Sunday to avoid using any vacation time. That’s helpful. Work this week was really busy. I always say that the last few workdays of the year are my most productive because there are fewer people around to bug me, and that was mostly true this year. I had a lot of testing to do and then some documentation updates to make based on the results. (It doesn’t sound exciting when I write it that way, but I actually enjoyed it!) Unfortunately I didn’t finish everything I was supposed to before the end of 2013. Not that I didn’t try. I even got to work a little after 5 AM yesterday to run a test before anyone else got there. That was a success, but by about noon I was losing focus fast. I kept zoning out in front of my computer. So after checking in for my flight and printing my boarding pass I left for the day at 1:30 PM to go home and bake some cookies to take to Tallahassee with me. On January 2nd I’ll have get back to work with a vengeance, but I’ll worry about that later. The cookies were more important yesterday! I whipped up double batches of almond butter chocolate chip cookies and chocolate snickerdoodles (coincidentally the last two recipes I posted) as soon as I got home from work so I would have plenty of time to pack my suitcase afterwards. Of course I didn’t get to bed early enough (I had to leave for the airport at 4 AM), but I was able to fit all of my clothes, personal items, and Christmas presents in my suitcase. Hooray! Plus, I left my house in pretty good shape. Besides spilling a bunch of flour on the kitchen floor, and then wrestling with a defective smoke alarm that went off hours after I stopped baking (both before and after I switched out the battery), everything is mostly clean and tidy. That will be nice to go home to in a week. But for now I’m just looking forward to enjoying the next week in Tallahassee. See my family, hanging out with old friends, and celebrating Christmas. It’s going to be great.

It’s about time for me to start boarding my plane to Tallahassee. It’s a really tiny jet so I’ve got a seat to myself on one side of the aisle. And I’ve got “The Day of the Doctor” on my iPhone to entertain me on the flight. Have I mentioned how excited I am about the Doctor Who Christmas special on Wednesday? But anyway, I’m going to find a seat at my gate. I’ll check in again tomorrow from Tallahassee.

Spreading holiday cheer

Here’s how I spread holiday cheer today:

1) Eggnog cake. Delicious, delicious eggnog cake. As good as the cake smelled, it tasted even better. I used this recipe from Mother Thyme with a few tweaks (more eggs, less flour, and added spices). I’m not even a fan of eggnog and I thought this cake was amazing. And my co-workers loved it, of course. I’ll post the recipe soon, but if you’re wondering whether a cake with eggnog would be good, the answer is a resounding yes! Despite striving to eat healthily this week I had two slices of cake…and I wanted more. I’ll have to make this for a holiday party just so I can have some more! (And because I have a lot of leftover eggnog.)

2) Peppermint Oreos. When I saw this holiday variation of my co-workers’ favorite cookies at the grocery store I had to buy them. We’re having an event this week and we always go through quite a few boxes of Oreos before they’re over. What can I say? We work hard, we get the munchies. At this point we are serious Oreos connoisseurs, so when they’re available, holiday varieties of the sandwich cookies are very popular. We try them all, but I can’t say everyone goes back for seconds – the candy corn Oreos were truly awful. Stay far, far away from them. But I liked the peppermint Oreos a lot. I might have been the Christmas association that drew me in, but I thought they tasted really good. I only ate two of them, but in addition to the slices of eggnog cake today wasn’t very healthy at all. But it was worth it!

3) Homemade cookies…for my co-workers out East. On Friday I shipped a box of cookies to them so that they would arrive on Monday (and be taken to work by the person I sent them to today). I got instant messages from several people today saying how awesome they were. Apparently the apple butter cookies were the clear favorites. (Don’t worry, I’ll post the recipe soon.) One of the girls out there said they were being hoarded by one of the guys and he got irritated when anyone else took one. She was worried he was going to find a sharp object to defend them! I seriously love my co-workers. That’s why I send them baked goods at any opportunity!

4) Potluck recipes. Next Tuesday is my favorite day of the year – the annual holiday potluck! I’m still looking forward to eating my weight in homemade scones, but as far as my own contribution goes, I think I’ll do something a little different. There’s already going to be so much good food that anything I provide is just going to get lost in the shuffle. So I think I’ll make some Crockpot hot chocolate for the breakfast buffet (it’ll be great for scone-dipping) and some Crockpot mulled apple cider to go with lunch. If I have time this weekend I’ll make some test batches to see how they turn out. With less than a week until the potluck I’d better get cracking!

5) Christmas music. Yep, not all holiday cheer has to involve calories! While I was driving home today I realized it was the perfect afternoon to go running. It was a bit warmer than it has been recently (the high was in the 60s rather than the 50s), I’d had plenty of water to drink at work, and after a full night’s sleep I wasn’t completely exhausted. Plus I hadn’t exercised in a week so I really needed to get off my butt and do something. My original plan after work was to do some Christmas shopping, but I figured it would be a shame to waste such a beautiful afternoon. So I went home, changed into some workout clothes (as fast as possible since my apartment was freezing), and went running. And what did I listen to while I was jogging down the street in Seal Beach? Why Christmas music, of course! I wish I could say that it was enjoyable run, but it was really tough since I haven’t been keeping it up. Luckily the Christmas music made my run more enjoyable. I liked checking out all of the great light displays that have been going up in Seal Beach too. This town really knows how to celebrate Christmas.

Two weeks to go

Some of my readers (all two of you!) already know that I will be going to Florida for work this fall. I’m leaving two weeks from today and I’ll be there for over a month. Crazy, huh? So now that you all know the facts, you might as well also know that I’m a little stressed about this trip. There are so many things to consider when leaving home for that long a period of time! Not just what to take with me (or how much to take with me), but taking care of everything I’m leaving behind too. I’ve never been away from my primary residence for this long before and I’m afraid of surprises. So today I started making two long lists – a packing list and to-do list – so I don’t forget anything. Hopefully, at least. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

In the meantime, I had a great weekend while mostly ignoring my upcoming business trip. I’m doing everything I can to make the most of these last two weeks in California by doing everything that I love. So where did I go first? Disneyland, of course! This was the last weekend that the parks opened at 8 AM (the “summer” season is ending soon) so I figured I’d better take advantage of the early morning hours when the crowds are thinnest. Plus next weekend is a holiday AND the Disneyland Half Marathon so I’ll probably stay away to avoid getting caught in that madness. So yesterday I woke up early and had a great morning at Disneyland and California Adventure. Around lunchtime I walked over to the Downtown Disney AMC theater and caught a showing of “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.” I was really excited about this movie, but I hate to say I was disappointed by it, to say the least. City of Bones is one of my favorite books so it’s not that I didn’t love seeing it come to life, but the film adaptation was…cheesy. Really cheesy. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it if you haven’t read and liked the book. But I’m still glad I saw it. After the movie I went home, washed off my sunscreen (I’ll be posting another sunscreen experiment soon), and grabbed something to eat. Staying on the couch for the rest of the evening was tempting, but since I wasn’t going jogging that night I decided to go out and do something instead. So I drove down to South Coast Plaza to return a dress to Ann Taylor and look for some new clothes, and I was actually fairly successful! I bought a pair of khaki pants and a pair of corduroys at J.Crew which was amazing considering how much trouble I’ve had finding pants for work. They’re a bit more stylish that I would usually wear, but it’s time for me to take some fashion risks and see if they pay off. Today was a but less eventful than Saturday, but I still got a lot done. I went to an early showing of “The Wolverine” at the Block at Orange and I really enjoyed it. Especially the extra scene after the first part of the credits. I’m already looking forward to the next X-Men movie! After than I got some lunch and walked around the stores. Not much luck there, but I got a couple of pairs of shoes to go with my new pants. I hope. I haven’t tried them on together yet. Except for my evening jog the rest of my day was pretty quiet. You know, washing dishes, cleaning up messes, working on blog posts, etc. I would like to brag that I jogged 4.5 miles out of my 7.5 mile route tonight, mostly in 0.7-mile increments, and it wasn’t too difficult! I can hardly believe it, but I’m making some real progress with this running thing. I’m a little worried about keeping it up when I go to Florida, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Now it’s time for bed so I can start another week of work. It’s crazy, but I’ll be in Florida soon!

Sunscreen experiment #6

Business travel has its advantages and disadvantages. Pro: All of your food is paid for. While I’m on travel I usually hit the grocery store every other day to pick up water and granola bars, and then grab a sandwich from somewhere or another for dinner every night. So I don’t slurge on expensive meals, but it’s still nice to not have to worry about how much it costs. Con: Living out of a suitcase. I forgot to pack a blazer on my most recent trip and that meant I had to wear to work were two pairs of jeans, some tank tops, and two sweaters. Not a lot of possible variation there. And I didn’t have time to go shopping while I was out there. I wanted to, but it didn’t happen. Pro: The only essential things you really need to worry about are working, eating, and sleeping. Just about everything else in your daily life can fall by the wayside and it’s no big deal because you’re away from home. I always enjoy not having to wash dishes or clean or anything like that. Con: Perturbing your established routine. This basically means that my exercise schedule is thrown completely out of whack and I have a hard time adapting. I’m generally lazy by nature so I’ll use any excuse possible to stay in bed for a few extra hours rather than get up and work out. But I still try to burn a few calories while I’m on travel. Case in point, my first jogging expedition in DC last week. It was raining, but I went anyway because I knew I’d be mad at myself if I slept in AGAIN that morning. So I braved the weather, and squishy Nikes, to get some exercise. I intended that morning to be sunscreen experiment #6 because I had slathered on some Neutrogena Ultra Sheer (SPF 30) before I left my hotel, but obviously that went out the window the minute the water hit my skin. Of course I’m aware that you can still get sunburned when it’s cloudy/rainy, but I’m pretty sure most of the sunscreen washed off at some point. So I tried the Neutrogena again the next morning when I went jogging in some more inviting weather. I’m not sure it was the most demanding test of the sunscreen because I was in the shade at least half the time I was on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail, and because it was actually quite cool that morning after the rain went through, but the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer was still pretty good. It didn’t make my skin feel oily or greasy and I definitely didn’t get any sun during the hour and a half I was outside. Too bad this stuff just has chemical sunscreens rather than titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, but it’s still much better than a lot of options on the market!

Back at work in California

The first day at work after a business trip is never very productive. Despite having fewer people than usual bugging me (a lot of them took the day off after last week’s craziness) I still didn’t get a lot done today because I was taking care of all the mundane stuff I ignored when I was too busy last week. But the day went by very quickly. I was wearing a new dress and I was looking good, if I do say so myself! When the workday was over I was surprised to not be exhausted (especially after spending the weekend suffering from jet lag), so I went to the mall to return a couple of things to Old Navy. Then I made the mistake of browsing the clothes and I bought two new pairs of workout pants. I already own quite a few pairs, but now that I’m jogging a lot I tend to go through them quickly. At least the ones from Old Navy are cheap. Plus they have a pocket in the waistband to hold my house key (unlike some of the ones I have from Target and Walmart) so that’s a major plus. And going to the laundromat less often is always a good thing. On the way home I went to the grocery store to stock up on milk and fiber cereal. If you haven’t tried the Fiber One 80 Calories Chocolate Cereal then you’re missing out! It tastes like Cocoa Puffs and it has 9 grams of fiber per serving – more than the less than delicious Post Raisin Bran I was eating before. Finally I got home with my purchases, threw on some workout clothes (including one of the new pairs of pants I got at Old Navy), and went on my walk/jog. After my poor showing on Saturday morning I wasn’t expecting much, but I actually jogged 4 miles out of my 7.5 mile route! And one of those jogging intervals was a full mile in about 9 minutes! I had no idea I was going so fast, and that might explain why I was so tired afterwards. There are days I thought I’d never make it more than half a mile at a time, but days like today make me think I can actually make progress. I guess we’ll find out! Now I’ve stayed up way too late writing this post and I’m about to fall asleep at the keyboard so I’m going to bed. Good night!