Category: Everything Else

Witch at Yule

I have so many thoughts on this and I just want to try and write them down.

First. I am not a Christian. There is no one in my household who is a Christian. I am a pagan. A witch, thanks very much. This is no secret in my workplace. It’s not like I walked in and said, “HEY I’M A PAGAN”. But one day in conversation that fact was made plain. (Which should not have been a surprise considering I have worn jewelry with pagan symbols for 6 years. Just sayin’.) Although I do believe it is easier for folks who are uncomfortable with that fact to ignore the obvious until it is plainly stated.

More background. I work in an environment that is  ….. difficult. There are issues with race, gender, educational level, and socio-economic class in an unnaturally forced blue collar-white collar environment. Add in the very potent brew of religious difference, overlay it with the seemingly outsized importance of the Christmas holiday and it is a formula for great unease. To be fair, on both parts. Mine and theirs. The situation is not helped by the holiday parties, holiday cards, and holiday wishes from the institution where we all labor. I do understand that large institutions must appear to be ecumenical whether there is a genuine interest or not. It’s just good business. It costs nothing and avoids problems. And I do believe at my place of employment on the macro level that the sentiment is genuine. On the micro level it is just a mess.

Here are my thoughts on this. I really do not want to be lumped in as an afterthought on the ‘holidays’. I actually find it offensive. On this I share common ground with the Christmas crowd. Conflating Yule/Solstice, Hanukkah, or any other Winter holiday with Christmas is not cool. Our traditions and beliefs are not some diminutive form of Christmas that must be grudgingly included in the seasonal festivities. They are rich and special in their own right. And they pre-date the Christmas holiday by millenium. There is a grand irony that the last folk to join in the Winter festivities are the ones viewing all those who came before as the usurpers. BTW, I’ll just mention that I have no hard feelings that you are using pagan traditions and symbols when you celebrate. Okay?

hannukah menorah

To the war on Christmas office contingent wishing anyone “Happy Holidays” is offensive. Every year I hear about the war on Christmas, the faux meaning of other religious and cultural experiences, and how it’s Christmas, dammit. Without fail at some point when the holiday ‘spirit’ is in high dudgeon I am asked if I am ready for Christmas. And each year I answer, no, I’m not ready for Christmas because I don’t celebrate Christmas. I’m not sure how to interpret that. At best I could say that it is well meaning but indecipherably ignorant. At worst it is intentional baiting.

I actually find it sad for the war on Christmas crowd at my workplace. To be nursing such a grievance and feeling so under seige when you are in the majority doesn’t make any sense to me especially when you celebrate a season that has as one of its basic tenets ‘good will towards men’.

photo credit for Hannukah menorah: dirtydog2003 via photopin cc


From Dr. Charles Raison at CNN:

When the holidays bring heartache instead of joy, I think they do so because they stand as an unforgiving yardstick against which we measure our losses and troubles.

If no one reminds us, we can sometimes overlook the fact that loved ones are gone, or that our lives are filled with painful conflict in exactly the intimate areas that should be sources of strength and comfort for us. But then along come the holidays, imposing upon us once again a template for what happiness and interpersonal success is expected to look like.

It can be hard to measure up. It is far easier to overlook the death of loved ones when you don’t have to stare across the holiday table at their empty places. It is far easier to pretend that family trauma or conflict don’t exist when you are far away and on your own.

But the holidays force us to either return to painful family interactions or to fully own our isolation and spend the season alone.

It is a terrible choice. I’ve treated many patients over the years who reliably became depressed during the holidays out of dread of having to interact with their families. On the other hand, the silence of Christmas morning on one’s own carries its own unique pain.

I never cease to be amazed at how often both emotional well-being and mental illness hinge on how we negotiate these types of impossible choices. Because the choices really are often insoluble and the losses are often so actual …..

Eagle Watching at Conowingo

This past Saturday we wandered down to Conowingo Dam to watch some eagles. The first thing we saw was THIS:





But there were eagles. And vultures!


photo by D. Klapholz


photo by D. Klapholz


But the best thing, the very best thing, I saw all day was …. TRIXIE!



Where’s the exit?

I am dead tired of the blame and responsibility game. The phrase, “I didn’t say you were responsible, I said we were going to blame you”? Yeah. That one. Designers create art.  We are not responsible for your content. That? Is on you. It is why  you sign off on the contract or the artwork or the job sheet or the email that says, “Okay! This is good to go!” If you didn’t like the color choices don’t complain after the job has been printed. If you hate the photo choices why didn’t you speak up when they were submitted for approval? If there is an error in your copy then you should have hired an editor. When you don’t like “your vision” as a finished product? Just remember that it is your vision because you interjected yourself at every turn and vetoed the judgement of a professional designer. That ugly baby is yours. I’m just the midwife.

Even worse, the whole process is inorganic.

You don’t touch the artistic mediums. You don’t sit in front of a live model. You don’t grind pigments, or mix colors on a palette, or dirty your hands with ink, charcoal or paint. There is no sound of a pen scritching across paper or a brush swirling in a water pot. Even charcoal makes a sound if you listen. All you hear is click, click, click.

Should everyone have an opportunity to be creative? Absolutely. But what has been lost is that professional grade artwork is not just a matter of  personal taste and a canned template. Designers really do go to school. There really is a whole curriculum where we learn about color and type and composition and how to use the software and how to produce the finished product. And, we have talent. That intangible that even Adobe can’t give you no matter how much money you spend. All things are not equal when it comes to skill, talent and artistic vision.


The place where I work is actually sorta astounding in terms of workplace safety. And not in a good way.

Our building has no potable water. I work on the second floor and the only running water is in a workroom that is filled with chemicals including a chemical spill that has been left on the floor until it has dried into a green scum. We do have a water cooler which provides drinking water which is the good news.There is also no bathroom on our floor. I have to go to the first floor for that. And it makes you wonder when you wash your hands, since the water isn’t potable, what you are carrying along with you that can contact your food when you eat your lunch.

There are no fire sprinklers in the building. The building is old and therefore falls under a grandfather clause where it isn’t required. One would hope that a concern for employee safety would trump ‘required’ but not here.

The second floor has 2 forward exits on either side of the room. There is no back exit. If the first floor is aflame? I guess we had better hope the fire decides to concentrate itself at one end of the floor so we can use the other side of the floor to exit. Especially scary since the first floor has a heavy amount of flammable products including chemicals, so I kinda doubt the fire will be kind and set up shop in one corner so we can get out on the other side.

Just say we have that fire (a horrible thought) and the second floor employees and the first floor employees get out the front of the building. Directly in front of us is the gas pump where the organization’s vehicles gas up. Directly to the right of us is a propane refueling station for vehicles that run on natural gas. Again, I hope that fire is polite and the firefighters are fast because 50 feet from the front door is an explosion waiting to happen.

Let’s recap — no fire sprinklers, lots of flammable materials, no alternate back exit, and within 50 feet of a gasoline pump and a propane refueling station. NICE WORK FOLKS.

Below is the text of my communication (edited for privacy) with the Tier 1 Customer Support at Ford Motor Company over a repetitive failure of the alternator in my 2007 Ford Focus. The content speaks for itself. And this is just not an isolated case. I have also exchanged tweets with @FordService (distinct from the email convo with Tier 1) and I am hoping they have a real solution instead of the total dismissal I received from Tier 1 Ford CS which frankly is pretty damn disappointing. Every vehicle I have purchased since 1997 has been a Ford. I have supported the company and I have supported the UAW. This is the first vehicle with a significant issue and I am being dismissed out of hand by the dealer and the mother company and frankly it is unacceptable. Loyalty appears to be a one way street at Ford Motor Company.

——————- Original Message ——————-
From: (name deleted)
I have had 3 alternators fail on my 2007 Focus. The first replacement alternator was installed in 2009. That alternator failed and was replaced on July 2, 2012. The alternator installed in 2012 failed on July 6, 2013 and took the battery with it. I am now looking at a FOURTH alternator in a 6 year old vehicle. There is either something seriously wrong with the vehicle, the installation work, or the Motorcraft alternators that have been installed. (All of this work was done by a Ford Dealer (name deleted).

The dealer’s response was that the vehicle and the 3rd alternator installed on July 2, 2012 are out of warranty and they cannot do anything about the issue even though the 3rd alternator failed 4 days outside the one year window, and it was alternator #3 in a 2007 vehicle. The vehicle was purchased from (name deleted), as was my 2009 Focus. They have always been great folks to work with. All of my vehicle maintenance for both of my Ford cars has been done at their dealership and I was happy to purchase my cars from them. This? Unacceptable treatment of a loyal customer when there is clearly something wrong with the electrical system of this vehicle. I expected better from (name deleted) and Ford.

I want a new alternator put into the 2007 Focus at Ford’s expense as there is clearly something wrong with this vehicle or the parts. Whether this alternator failed on day 365 or day 369 should not be the hard line in the sand as this was alternator #3 and in practical terms it lasted 1 year and @8,000 miles. I would also like a full diagnostic of the electrical system, again at Ford’s expense, and reimbursement for the battery I have already replaced. Ford Customer Service was zero help.

Response from Tier 1 Customer Service at Ford:
On Sat, Jul 13, 2013 at 9:28 PM, (email deleted) wrote:
Hi (name deleted),My name is (name deleted) and I am with Ford’s Customer Relationship Center.  I received your email concerning the alternator issue on your 2007 Ford Focus.I am sorry to hear about the multiple issues that you are having with your vehicle.  I understand that this may be an inconvenience on your part. [emphasis mine] Despite of this issue, thank you for your continuing loyalty.  We are pleased to have you in the family of satisfied owners.  I have looked into this matter for you.Our records indicate that you contacted the Ford Customer Relationship Center on July 12, 2013, and our Customer Care Representative advised you , there are no warranties or programs in effect that would provide coverage of your current concern. I recommend that if you keep your receipts in case Ford initiates a recall in the future based on customer feedback.  At this time we are unable to provide you with an alternate response.   If any additional information regarding this matter should become available in the future, please let us know.On behalf of our company, I apologize for the disappointment you might have had as a result of this issue.  Thank you for contacting Ford Motor Company.(name deleted)Customer Relationship Center
Ford Motor Company


That pretty much says it all. Four alternators in a 6 year old car is business as usual and apparently an inconvenience. You can read my complaint posted to Car Complaints, along with the all the others having the same exact problem with the 2007 Ford Focus. I also filed a complaint with the NHTSA (National Highway Traffics Safety Administration because the total failures of the  electrical system  have all occurred while the car was driving on a highway resulting in ZERO control of the vehicle. No steering, no hazard flashers, no way to signal the vehicle behind me because I no longer had functioning brake lights. If this isn’t a safety hazard I don’t know what it. Next up? The BBB where I see Fred Beans Ford already has a D- rating. Can’t hurt to add one more dissatisfied consumer.