Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wicked Awesome Poem Wednesday

She Walks in Beauty

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which Heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

-Lord George Gordon Byron

Friday, July 16, 2010

RIP Madeleine, 1995-2010

I am bone-crushingly tired and just plain worn out. It's been crazy these past few weeks; a real roller coaster of emotions and stressors. And today I am just worn out.

First thing this morning I headed up to the vet's to say goodbye to my sweet little Maddie, who was simply the most lovable little thing I've ever known. This was supposed to happen last night after work, but some complete asshat got in an accident and the traffic was terrible and I was late. I guess. I mean, they were supposed to be there until 6:30, yet I arrived at 6:18 to a dark and closed-up-tighter-than-a-drum animal hospital.

Which completely set me off on a crying jag, as my sweet little kitty now had to spend yet another night caged and funnel-collared, alone in a scary place.

Anyway, I went up this morning and they brought her to me, and I tucked her up on my shoulder, under my chin, and petted and soothed her until she relaxed, recognized me, and started up with the purring. Smelling of sickness and urine - but underneath that, of herself. I breathed deeply of her one last time; we had ourselves a confab for a bit, then Awesome Doc came in and sedated Mads. She fell deeply asleep in my arms, sighing into it one last time, while I put the pats on her the entire time.

Then came the final shot to the heart, and it was over just like that.

I'd had Maddie fifteen years ... rescued her from the ASPCA in Edison, NJ, back in 1995, when she was about 6 months old. She'd been picked up after having been hit by a car in the dead of Winter. Lost most of her tail and the tips of her ears to frostbite. I had been recruited to adopt her because she was too ugly (!!! I ask you, look at that picture and tell me, was she ugly?!? NO!! she was ADORABLE) and had been there a few months with no interested parties (she was said to be feral).

Of course I took her! Benny and Joey were three, and we had recently lost our rescued Persian, Tia, to some incurable unknown horror show. I knew the boys would be fine with another feline ... just didn't know how long it would take this newbie to warm up.

Got her home, prepped the bedroom for her (rule of thumb for introducing new cats: keep them separated in their own room a week, allowing for interaction under the door with the rest of the pets) ... she would have none of it and had escaped into the living room with the boys within the hour. Within a half hour, really.

They fell in love with her right away. No hissing. No spitting (from any of them). From then on, if one cat was sleeping anywhere, the other two were piled around. Maddie never once exhibited typical feral cat behavior: she loved people and attention immediately, and was extremely vocal right from the start.

She moved to RI with me, then out here to MO, and I was fully planning on taking her back home to New England with me, but it was not to be.

And maybe that's okay. All the kitty-siblings she came out here with (Benny, Joey, and Annie, our adopted barn cat) have died here in MO ... my Maddie's spirit certainly will not be lonely!

It's just the shock of it all ... I had plenty of time to prepare for both Benny and Joey, who had thyroid issues that slowly burned them out. Annie was sudden and completely unexpected. But Maddie was fine; she's never been sick a day in her life, and only ever been to the vet to be spayed 11 years ago. I went on vacation and when I came back ten days later she was gravely ill. Gravely. Hadn't eaten, scabs all over her body, pulling her own fur out in an effort to scratch some itch.

The first hospitalization seemed to go well; she got steroids and antibiotics and started eating and talking at me. She was home three days, going strong, then just stopped eating on the fourth day.

While taking steroids ... which should have made her ravenous. She weighed 7.2 lbs last week, and 6.5 lbs yesterday. Almost a 10% weight loss. In a week. When she should have gained weight. With all the tests and whatnot, Awesome Doc couldn't figure it out. Said she's only seen something like it once before, and hadn't ever figured that out either.

The second hospitalization did not go so well. They had to put the funnel collar on her, she was digging into her belly so bad. They had to hydrate her sub-q, because she started vomiting everything she drank. They tried to feed her, but she wasn't interested. And still all her tests came back negative, with only a slightly elevated white blood count.

I feel guilty. If I weren't moving back to New England shortly, I may have had Awesome Doc try more. But. I couldn't bring Maddie with me into temporary housing like I had planned - she'd not have survived the trip. And I couldn't leave her here under a sitter's care - that's asking too much, and the sitter didn't notice a problem the first time around (not her fault ... two dogs and four cats are difficult to watch when they're not yours and you don't know everything about them). And I can't afford to hospitalize her.

I couldn't stand the thought of her steadily getting worse; I knew my responsibility to this little one I have cherished, and that wasn't to turn my back on a difficult situation and hope it went away.

So I said goodbye to my little cat this morning, and I'm feeling blue. As my big brother said, it's been a rough year for cats over here. But I'm positive Joey met her at the Gate, and took her off in search of Ben and Annie. They're all sharing one huge succulent salmon right about now. Or maybe roast beef ... the kids did so love roast beef.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wicked Awesome Poem Wednesday

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

-Dylan Thomas

My Passing Familiarity with "Bittersweet"

This has been a strange few weeks, with some absolutely awesome things happening, and some terrifically hidious things happening, all kind of rolled up in some oh-my-word-I-am-so-effin-TIRED.

So. Not very long ago a friend in the business asked if I was still interested in moving back home to New England. I replied in the affirmative, and explained the various places I've been looking for work.

He had an Inside Scoop, and passed his contact to me. Who I promptly called and e-mailed. She forwarded my info to the hiring person, who seemed shall we say less than interested in the wonder that is me.

I know! Right? What was she thinking?!?!

Anywho, I advised I'd be in the area on vacation and quite happy to come in for an interview. No response.

In the meantime, colleagues, unbeknownst to me, were giving an earful as to the wonder that is me (thought I was just kidding about that, didn't you?). So then it was on. Can I just say "YAY!" right here?


I fly back home Friday night, and my SIL picks me up at the airport. On the drive we get a phone call: my 99 year old Nam, my last surviving grandparent, had passed. The Absolute Suckage.

Two days later, 80-plus loved ones got together for an all day celebration of Mom's and Dad's 50th wedding anniversary. It. Was. Spectacular. I was worried that Dad would have a really hard time of it but, as Aunt Sue pointed out: the family was all together. What a perfect time to have such concrete evidence of the love and support of everyone.

Three days after that I go on the interview. It. Was. Awesome. I wanted that job so much I could smell it. And I was offered it on the spot, with the official letter to come in two days.

Yeah, that day arrives (Friday before the long holiday weekend) and no offer letter. Nooooo! Now I have to sit all (long) weekend and wait for it! Will it be enough money? Will there be relocation? Temporary housing? What? What!!

On the 4th we have our annual reunion on the island, with 44 attendees this year. So fun!! Then I fly back West to work Tuesday morning. Still no offer, and no explanation as to the delay.

That's what bothered me the most: being left in the dark.

So, I get home from my 10 day vacation around 7pm Tuesday night, only to find my 15 year old cat Maddie gravely ill. I tell you I lost it, right then and there. My poor girl obviously hadn't eaten the entire time I was gone, and her entire body was encrusted with some kind of skin rash.

She crept out from under the bed on unsteady legs and collapsed on the floor next to me. She couldn't get up on the bed; could barely stand, actually, and had crusty scabs over 80% of her body.  The 20% without scabs was because she had no fur at all and the skin was clammy and fire-engine red. WTF? I pulled out a jar of baby food, and she devoured a spoonful. I waited an hour to see if she'd sick-up and, when she didn't, gave her another spoonful.

She ate half the jar (which is tiny) and collapsed in exhaustion. She kept waking up all night and snuggling into my shoulder like she was amazed I was really there. I fed her 1/4 of a can of cat food the next morning and ran her up to the vet (the Awesome Doctor Laura) who decided on the spot to keep her overnight.

I don't get it; I've been going back home twice a year for the past 10 years and she's never had a problem. I thought this was stress, but a week later she's back at the vet, dehydrated and with a 10% weight loss while on steroids. Makes no sense, as steroids make pets ravenously hungry and thirsty.

Anyway, while I've been going through Maddie concerns in the week I've been back here in Misery (she's up all night, vocalizing, which means yours truly is also waking up, all night, listening ... last night I actually slept in the spare bedroom so I could sleep through the night), I've also been going crazy over the (possible) new job.

I finally called hiring manager Wednesday to ask after the offer letter, which I had by the end of the day. For much less than I expected. Way less. As in, effectively a cut in pay less. But an awesome relo package.

But too little to actually live on, seeing as there's a 20% delta in cost-of-living.

So I crafted, with the tremendous help of Dad, my counteroffer and shot it off Thursday. And waited for a response.

And waited.

And waited.  Until Monday. Which was supposed to have been my start date.

So I called hiring manager, who was headed into a meeting and asked if she could call me back in an hour. Which didn't happen.

So I called back yesterday, we hammered out the pay issue, and she sent a revised offer letter.

But wait. Someone in the upper echelons has to confirm my years of service (this is a sister company) and health benefits will transfer with no breaks. Well, my HR thinks so, but can't be held to it; refer to hiring manager, who thinks so, but can't be held to it; refer to hiring HR, who thinks so, but has only been on the job three weeks so needs to investigate.

Needless to say, I stipulated to the bridge-in-service in my acceptance letter.

And now, it looks like tomorrow morning on the way into work I will be stopping at the veterinarian's to cuddle my dear sweet Mads as Awesome Doc administers the drug (they just cannot get a handle on what is wrong with her or why, and she's not reacting as expected to antibiotics or steroids; her eyes are now slits due to crust and light sensitivity and she's got even more encrustations all over that aren't clearing up). Sigh. This f'n sucks.

So: Nam passed, wonderful 50th anniversary, job interview, wait for job offer, wonderful 4th of July, wait for job offer, discover very sick cat, wait for job offer, get low-ball job offer, submit counter-offer, wait for response, cat gets worse, get revised job offer, very sick cat, wait for HR info, stressed out/no sleep.

Now have to get actual start date, temporarily farm out (surviving) cats and dogs, sell house, pack belongings, store belongings, buy house, ship belongings, transport pets, etc. I'm exhausted, but am pretty sure I'm bordering on happy in there somewhere. Just can't feel it right now. Have I mentioned I'm exhausted? Poor Mom picked up the phone this morning and was ambushed by me bawling over Mads (thanks Mom, and sorry Mom!).

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Please, Please, Please Be Careful. Please!

My BFF texted last night, asking that we pray for the son of one of her sister's friends, who was seriously injured whilst playing with fireworks.  Apparently he ... all of 21 ... and a friend were taping a bunch of sparklers together with electrical tape to get a 'sparkler bomb' in an effort to get a bigger bang for their buck.

Something a lot ... and I mean A LOT ... of people do across the country this time of year.

He's lost his right hand (surgeon's amputated at the wrist) and has serious facial injuries and may well lose the vision in his right eye (some reports say he already has, but in actuality he can discern some colors right now) ... physicians are waiting until Tuesday to see how well it heals before they decide on a next step.

The type of eye injury he has, which involves blood in his cornea, is the same type many of our young soldiers are getting overseas, due to bomb concussion and/or phosphorus burns.  The best surgeons for this type of injury are also overseas, serving in the military, where they have gained experience treating soldiers.

Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of surgeons within the United States with the expertise required to save his vision, and they certainly aren't going to throw just any old surgeon on that job ... this, my friends, requires a specialist. Which we do not have. So we wait for his injury-wracked body to heal a bit on it's own, with the support of modern medicine. 

What happened? He and his friends were in the kitchen, working on this masterpiece together. And don't get me wrong; if this had worked, it would have been a masterpiece and everyone who enjoyed it would have sang out in glee and awe at the experience.

But instead they got a different experience, and the singing out in glee will be much delayed, and most likely much muted, and entirely dependent on how far and how quickly he recovers.

The blast, most likely due to friction that may have been caused by a drill, actually knocked an external wall three inches off the foundation. In all, three of the four people in the house at the time were injured, although his injuries are the most severe.

So here's where I'm going with this: please say a prayer for his recovery, or think good thoughts, or whatever it is you do in these situations. Please also tell this tale to that person (or people) you know who are planning a similar activity.

Don't rant and rave that it's a stupid thing to do, or that they ought to know better ... we all know this to be true, we all also know that just because it's true doesn't mean anyone really wants to hear it ... just remind them that friction, of any kind, does not mix well with explosives.

In fact, it kind of triggers the reaction that makes explosives so very ... um, explosive. At least of the fireworks variety.

And if that still hasn't convinced them ... hide the fireworks.

I mean really; this kids' parents are freaking devastated over this. Devastated. In that way you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy. It is truly horrific what has happened here.

His hand is gone. GONE. He may lose not only the vision in his eye, but the eye itself. The EYE. Witnesses told the local news crews that there was blood everywhere, and his lower jaw was gone. Holy crows, his JAW. GONE.

As my SIL's mom says, "It's all fun and games until somebody loses an eye."

Then shit gets real serious real fast.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Best Informational E-Mail from a Boss, EVARRR!

Date: Weds, 30 June 2010

From: Matt Rutledge (CEO –
To: All Woot Employees
Subject: Woot and Amazon

I know I say this every time I find a picture of an adorable kitten, but please set aside 20 minutes to carefully read this entire email. Today is a big day in Woot history. This morning, I woke up to find Jeff Bezos the Mighty had seized our magic sword. Using the Arthurian model as a corporate structure was something our CFO had warned against from the very beginning, but now that’s water under the bridge. What is important is that our company is on the verge of becoming a part of the dynasty. And our plans for Grail.Woot are on indefinite hold.

Over the next few days, you will probably read headlines that say “Matt Rutledge revealed to be monstrous pseudo-human creation of Jeff Bezos.” You might even see this photo making the rounds. Rest assured that these rumors have nothing to do with our final decision. We think now is the right time to join with Amazon because, quite simply, every company that becomes a subsidiary gets two free downloads until the end of July, and we very much need that new thing with Trent Reznor’s wife on our iPods.

Other than that, we plan to continue to run Woot the way we have always run Woot – with a wall of ideas and a dartboard. From a practical point of view, it will be as if we are simply adding one person to the organizational hierarchy, except that one person will just happen to be a billion-dollar company that could buy and sell each and every one of you like you were office furniture. Nevertheless, don’t worry that our culture will suddenly take a leap forward and become cutting-edge. We’re still going to be the same old bottom-feeders our customers and readers have come to know and love, and each and every one of their pre-written insult macros will still be just as valid in a week, two weeks, or even next year. For Woot, our vision remains the same: somehow earning a living on snarky commentary and junk.

We are excited about doing this for all sorts of reasons. One, our business model is so vague that there’s no way Amazon can possibly change what it is we’re truly doing: preparing the way for the rise of the Lava Men in 2012. Also, our deal means that Jason Toon will finally be released from that Mexican jail owned by Zappos honcho Tony Hsieh. No, don’t lie, Tony, we’ve seen the paperwork. And we need a powerful ally in case Steve Jobs finally breaks down and comes after us for all our Apple jokes over the years. Don’t think of it as a buyout; think of it as NATO!

I will go through each of the above points in more detail later, but first, let me get to the top 5 burning questions that I’m guessing many of you will have.


Q: F1RST!!!!
A: Okay, that’s not a question, but it is a good place to mention that our forums will still be policed by a team of moderators, as before. And also, Woot’s previous and always-in-effect privacy policy will still be just as always-in-effect, so don’t worry, there are no plans to suddenly give up or merge your forum data.

Q: Is Snapster leaving?
A: Are you kidding? He’s out the door about ten seconds after that check clea- that is to say, Snapster will continue as CEO, just like before, and the rest of our staff’s not going anywhere either. Woot and all our various sites will continue to be an independently operated company full of horrible, useless products and an untalented jerkface writing staff, same as it ever was.

Q: Will the Woot culture change?
A: Amazon is interested in us because they recognize the value of our people, our brand, and our unique style of deep-tissue, toxin-releasing massage. And they don’t want to start changing things now. Amazon’s hoping our nutty Woot steez continues to grow and develop (and perhaps even rubs off on them a little). They’re not looking to have their folks come in and run Woot unless we ask them to, which incidentally you can do by turning off the bathroom lights and saying the word “Kindle” three times; a helpful Amazon employee will appear in the mirror. That said, Amazon clearly knows what they’re doing in a lot of areas, so we’re geeked about the opportunities to tap into that knowledge and those resources, especially on the technology side. This is about making the Woot brand, culture, and business even stronger than it is today, and we expect that any changes will be for the better or we wouldn’t bother with this endless paperwork.

Q: Where can I get one of those vuvuzelas?
A: Are you even paying attention?

Several months ago, when we were all sitting on Jeff Bezos’s bumper drinking orange Mad Dog and trying not to be noticed, we heard a voice in the distance yelling “You kids better not scratch my Mercedes or I’m calling the cops!” We ran. It was later that night when Amazon came by the house and said they liked our style and also wanted to get that money we owed them for messing up the chrome. We like to think that our relationship with Amazon will continue at this level for many, many, many years to come.

But we here at Woot are still a thoughtful company, so, at the end of the day, I watched the sunset, and its golden-hued glory made me think about two questions:

Is there really a universal deity?
Does such a thing preclude free will or are we humans in control of our own destiny?

After spending a lot of time falling asleep at the library while facing the philosophy books, I determined that the concept of destiny is a construct that allows man a gentle release from facing the terror of his existence, and that a Hyundai full of twenties would pretty much offer the same benefits. And so, I ultimately said YES!

This is definitely an emotional day for me. The feelings I’m experiencing are similar to what I felt in college on graduation day: excitement about getting a check from my folks combined with nausea from a hellacious bender the night before. I remember fondly that time when an RA turned on the lights and yelled “WHO OWNS THESE PANTS?” Except this time, the pants are a company, and the RA is you, and the sixty five hours of community service is a deal that will ensure the experience can continue to grow for years and years and years, like a black mold behind the Gold Box. Join us, because together, we can rule the galaxy as father and son. Also, there will be six muffins waiting in the company break room, courtesy of the nice folks at Welcome to the family!

Matt Rutledge
CEO, Woot
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