My mother's still dead, despite my dreams to the contrary. I keep dreaming that she's still in the hospital, and could recover if I can only bring her a certain medication, a certain CD, or other object. My dreams are telling me "wakeupwakeupWakeUpWAKEUP!" and thus it's very hard to stay asleep. braunbeck tells me such dreams are not uncommon in the wake of a loved one's death.

Stress plus grief plus bad sleep equals lowered immunity. And sure enough, I caught the killer crud that's been going around, and I am currently sick as a dog.

I only made it to work one day last week. This is a problem, since I'm classed as a temporary employee and I don't get any health insurance or vacation or other leave time. I do get sick time, but I already burned through that before I even left for Texas to watch my mom die.

So my paycheck at the end of the month is gonna be damned skinny, and even skinnier if I end up having to go to the doctor on Monday to deal with tonsilitis. And tonsilitis and possibly bronchitis seems inevitable now; lymph nodes I didn't know I had in my neck are swollen and painful.

I should tell you about my job. It's a one-year temporary position. Half the time I do telephone and desktop tech support for law school staff and faculty, and half the time I manage the law school's website. Or at least that's how it's supposed to work; functionally, what happens is if I get a tech support request, I drop everything else and go take care of it.

The secretaries like me. They didn't used to get much in the way of prompt response, or if they did the tech made them feel like they were stupid. I do my best to be helpful and friendly and unflaggingly optimistic, and I actually really like doing desktop support -- I enjoy helping people.

The problem is that I've never been included in the IT department's reindeer games. The Systems Manager -- who helped make the decision to hire me and who is supposed to be my supervisor -- mostly acts like I don't exist.

I only see him at the weekly meetings the head of Library Technical Services holds, and he never speaks to me directly or even makes eye contact. There has been no useful orientation, no training, no advice, no direction, nothing. On paper, I'm supposed to be learning about/helping with the local network, and nobody's even shown me the closets. The Systems Manager doesn't even answer my telephone calls or emails.

As an added bonus, the Systems Manager has got all the computers ridiculously locked down in the name of security. He's got things locked down to the extent that people can't even change their desktop wallpaper or change the home page in their Web browsers -- which has created a bit of a problem because people will stumble across sites every so often that switch their homepages to something obnoxious and they have to call tech support to get it fixed.

And I, as that tech support, for a long time had no access to the Add/Remove Programs control panel (or any other control panels besides the Printers panel, for that matter). The Systems Manager basically only gave me crippled access to the machines, gave me no orientation or training, and threw me out there to fix people's problems. For the first few months, I couldn't even install software, but after I complained about this to my other manager (more on that in a minute) the Systems Manager's boss made him give me access.

Can you say "Set up to fail", kids? I knew you could!

I honestly don't know what's going on in the Systems Manager's head. I don't know if I've been shut out because I'm a chick or what. I do have the sense that I was hired as a mere gesture and was never intended to solve any problems.

Anyhow, for the Web side of things, my manager is the Communications Director. Nice lady. But she's old-school print, as are all the other communications staff, and they all know so little about web design and development that I can't adequately explain to her how brutally messed up and unfunctional the site is.

The site was brutally messed up when I was brought onboard, and I have been able to do little to fix it. It's hugely bloated and wildly overcomplex; the Communications department has been more concerned with it looking like a magazine than they have been with it functioning properly and being easy to navigate.

The site's based on CSS layers, and the layout breaks if you breathe on it hard. It's crawling with JavaScript. I want to put a gun in my mouth every time I look at the code.

The site was designed and maintained for a while by the University's central web group -- talented guys who probably danced a jig that they could get rid of this albatross of a site when I got hired. They have been a little less than helpful ever since then.

The site would work fine if it was being solely run by a team of trained web designers, but it's not -- besides my half-time self, there are 20 people in the school who work on the site, and they're a mixed bag of underpaid, untrained secretaries and law students. Only one one or two understands HTML, and most of them don't have a clear sense of how FTP works. The site is wildly mis-designed for the people who are working on it.

I know what happened. The Communications department people went to the OSU designers and said "We want a site that looks like this!" "This" being a three-column magazine-style layout that would drive Jakob Nielsen to drink. And the web designers -- who aren't paid enough to argue against Bad Ideas -- made what the Communications staff wanted.

My Web manager's boss expects me to drop everything else and work on the alumni newsletter each month. The alumni newsletter is tedious and overdesigned and ridiculously time-consuming, and as far as I can tell, one of the least-visited features on the site. In her eyes, nothing could possibly be more important than the alumni newsletter, which they send to me as Word files and raw pictures that always need a lot of color balancing and cropping. And within a day of her sending this raw mess of materials, she starts emailing me as to when it'll be done. I'm supposed to blow off the people calling in for tech support to do this thing --

-- and I don't.

I just don't.

The damn thing gets done when it gets done, because, yes, Virginia, there are things the school needs more than the alumni newsletter going out precisely the first Thursday of the first week of the month.

The first week I was there she dumped the newsletter in my lap with no prelude or explanation of what she wanted (of course, how could they tell me how to do it when none of them knows how to so much as create an HTML table or use Photoshop?)

At one point at a meeting the Alumni director looked at me and said something like "If the newsletter doesn't go out we will have no way of promoting the upcoming alumni barbecue!"

And I'm sitting there thinking, "Ma'am, have you never considered simply emailing everyone to let them know? Two lines of text will cover it nicely."

But apparently plain ol' text just won't do -- everything has to be in full-color image-and-JavaScript bloated HTML mass mails. My pointing out to them that a lot of people have HTML turned off in their email to avoid viruses and hostile scripts was totally lost on them.

So I bit my tongue at the meeting. And I'm now in the unenviable position of having most everyone but my supervisors reasonably happy with the job I've been doing.

I had a miniature nervous breakdown about a month into this job -- the unmitigatable awfulness of the site combined with the freeze-out on the IT side got to me in a big way and for two days I could do little but sit at my desk and weep.

After that I recovered to a level of a numb sense of defeat and total lack of internal motivation. I've been getting sick a lot more than usual since then, too, which is why I don't have any sick time left to cover last week.

So flash forward to this past Friday. I was sick at home, but called up my Web-side manager to find out what had been going on.

Basically, they're splitting my job into two full-time permanent positions. My position will end when they bring on the new hires. She said I'm "welcome" to apply for either or both of them -- but the upshot is I don't stand a chance.

So I'll once again be joining the ranks of the unemployed in just two short months.

Yay, go me.