friday random eleven: “political wait-and-see, really shitty morning” edition

20
Jan

Good morning, such as it is. Hasn’t really been so far, except that it hasn’t killed me yet, despite at least one earnest attempt. Stay tuned.

I originally said I wasn’t going to belabor the issue of what’s happening today a couple of hours north of me. I then proceeded to add my couple of paragraphs to seemingly endless wasted ink, airtime, and electrons. So be it, here it is:

It’s happening, and what will happen because of it’s going to happen. Doesn’t mean we can’t influence things (and I hope we will). Though I’ve chosen not to agonize over results like so many of my friends and acquaintances. I’m gonna give the guy a chance to fail (likely) or succeed (stranger things have happened…) on his own. We don’t have to like him (I don’t), but as I’ve said before, he’s what we have until we don’t.

As one might expect, I don’t anticipate much good, though I have a strange feeling, based on some of the unsaid stuff in many of the stories in the news, that the complete lack of interest in policy or allegiance to established political positions on the part of the new Chief Executive might throw those of us on the left the occasional bone. This’ll likely be by accident and in spite of the Republican establishment, though I kind of hold out hope that once the White House looks at things, stuff like single payer healthcare might actually rise to the top as the most cost-effective “replacement” for Obamacare.

And if that happens…you know what? I’ll let them take credit and do the victory lap like it was their idea if people get the care they need.

Or it could, as many expect, a complete clusterfuck. That’s the thing, we don’t know. I’m just going to watch closely, but I’m not going to waste any more time wailing and gnashing teeth and wallowing. When there’s something that needs done, I’m going to get out there and do it.

I’m also not going to resist the cheap joke, so I post this, like everybody else of a certain stripe is bound to today:

Okay, that’s enough waltzing around politics. My week’s been weird and unpleasant. My kids have been sick, which has put me off a bit. Work’s been work, with the usual crap surrounding a test cycle and an impending dog-and-pony show in DC next week once the people from the first couple of paragraphs clear out. My friend’s dog died. Some unexpected expenses made money tighter than I’d like for the next week. I’m developing a cough, which can’t be good.

This morning’s been really, really weird and unpleasant. I left for work at the usual time, but ended up turning around after realizing I forgot my work ID (without which I can’t access my computer, or even get onto the facility), and, more significantly, having my nerves totally fried after nearly getting caught up in a big pile-up on the interstate because of a thrashed, disabled vehicle sitting in the middle of southbound I-95 with no lights on it. Luckily, I swerved out of the way (thanks, responsive steering and brakes!), and had a clear lane to swerve into, and avoided sudden highway death due to extreme deceleration.

So, I limped slowly home as my nerves and muscles slowly uncoiled, grabbed my identification card, sat for a few minutes to cool down, hugged my wife, and tried again. I made it to work without incident (avoiding that stretch of interstate), a little later, but alive and more or less resigned to face this already weird Friday and whatever the hell else it throws at me.

Anyway, here’s the music I’m listening to while all that stuff goes down. Got weirdly appropriate there in the back half:

  1. “Ophelia” – The Lumineers
  2. “What It’s Like” – Everlast
  3. “Peaches in Regalia” – Dweezil Zappa
  4. “Pass it Around” – The Donnas
  5. “Don’t Stop Believin'” – Journey
  6. “Ditmas” – Mumford & Sons
  7. “The Hour of Defeat” – Unleashed
  8. “The Man Who Sold The World” – David Bowie
  9. “Money” – Pink Floyd
  10. “Slepp Meg” – Lumsk
  11. “Archie Marry Me” – Alvvays
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marscon 2017

17
Jan

So, that’s another Marscon down.

As always, I had a good time, catching up with friends, making music, and generally engaging in the nerd love-in for a couple of days. the energy this year was, according to pretty much all concerned, weird, though no unified theory as to why really emerged. For the second year in the hotel, they made a couple of changes to the way things go (games got moved upstairs, secondary music room got moved out of the sweet small auditorium, con suite adjustments, etc), but everybody generally felt it was more than that.

Lots of compelling theories abound, from the snow earlier in the week throwing everyone off, to the political situation in the world bringing us all down, to the fact that many of us are going to be right back in exactly the same place in a couple of months for Ravencon, and it might all be too much. I dunno.

That said, despite the weirdness (and some serious social circle drama coming to a head which I won’t discuss because it’s really not my place to do so), there’s still a lot to love about this con. The attendees are great people, I love the way music has become the focus/highlight of the event for so many of us, and I love the cool, creative, and accepting atmosphere that gets maintained. I hope the strange energy works itself out; in a lot of ways, this event is the highlight of my year (and not just because I get to be a little bit of a celebrity for 48 hours or so), and I have a vested interest in keeping it awesome.

Our shows went really well, particularly Saturday night’s Naughty show, where we played all the slightly risque dirty joke songs together, which we don’t get to do very often. Also, thanks to some social lubrication, a lot of the subtext became text, and people had fun, laughing in the right places and singing along. We had fun.

Pictured above, you can see a shot my friend Chris took of the Sunday afternoon round-robin performance, where we all play stuff together and enjoy each other’s company. This year was interesting, as we had three(!) bassists on stage for the round-robin, and sadly, we couldn’t come up with a quickie arrangement of Spinal Tap’s “Big Bottom” – next year, Braxton and Michael, we need to make that happen.

Beyond the music, I got some quality gaming time in with one of my favorite game masters ever, who I don’t get so see so much anymore since our regular gaming group fell apart a bit, which was wonderful. Also, had some pleasant conversations with folks I haven’t seen in a while. I really do miss so many of you.

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thursday random eleven – “get your ass to mars” edition

12
Jan

Once again, since I’ll be busy packing and traveling for the regional nerd social event of the year tomorrow, here’s the playlist a day early.

It’s been a weird week; started out covered by seven inches of snow, but with temperatures in the 60s the last two days, it’s all gone. The kids go back to school today, and almost all of my meetings for this week have been cancelled without explanation. My schedule’s been kind of hosed because the kids being off of school for snow, for values of “yes, absolutely” and “WTF??!?” depending on the day, the early release scheduled for Friday has been axed in favor of a full day, so we won’t be getting on the road as early as we’d like.

Otherwise, we’re getting stuff done at work despite the weird scheduling, I’ve managed to get some serious rehearsal in at home for this weekend (I wanna be tight for the “hometown crowd”), my son has, in the last 24 hours, put down the video game controller in favor of…a book! (Asimov’s I, Robot) without complaint, and in the best news I got all week, my child’s future home for higher education has decided my eldest spawn is worthy of a pretty hefty endowment scholarship that’ll knock the not-inconsequential tuition down by probably more than half, before we even start dealing with things like state and federal grants and loans and other merit based sort of things.

That’s worth celebrating.

Otherwise, that’s what I got. I’m hoping for lots of fun, shenanigans, and tomfoolery this weekend.

For today’s playlist, it’s kind of typical for what I get out of Pandora these days; I should probably shake up the mix again. Highly listenable, though:

  1. “Wig Wam Bam” – The Donnas
  2. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” – Simple Minds
  3. “Every Breath You Take” – The Police
  4. “Eternal Flame” – The Bangles
  5. “San Ber’dino” – Frank Zappa
  6. “Water” – Ra Ra Riot
  7. “Water Under The Bridge” – Adele
  8. “Joke” – Chastity Belt
  9. “One Headlight” – The Wallflowers
  10. “Look Into The Sun” – Jethro Tull
  11. “Crazy for You” – Madonna

Oh, and I haven’t done a Stranger Things reference in a bit (other than having adopted eleven as the usual number), so here are the most important thirty seconds of the Golden Globe awards from the other night. Yeah, Glenn Close got the news, but…

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this weekend: Marscon

11
Jan

Okay folks, this weekend is kind of the weekend I live for every year. Marscon, a weekend celebration of sci-fi, fantasy, general nerd stuff, and, as has become the tradition of the last half-decade or so, music.

Once again, for the fourth year running, I’m playing bass with The Blibbering Humdingers all weekend. Back in 2014, I made my performance debut with Scott and Kirsten at this con sitting in on a couple of tunes, which has led to playing for tons of appreciative nerds up and down the east coast with a repertoire of almost a hundred tunes and a couple of records to show for it. I thank the maker every day that they let a weirdo like me hang out with them and make noise. Since then, I’ve been welcomed into the community of musicians that’s formed around this event and others like it, for which I feel privileged and honored. I’m the ascended fanboy, which I guess isn’t the worst role to find myself in.

Anyway, in the interest of informing the public, here’s the programming schedule for this year, and below, I’ve highlighted the events that I’ll definitely be taking part in:

  • Friday, 11pm, consuite: “Harper Hall Gather” (aka “filk and cookies”) – this is where we all sit around, drink a bit, and make music until they kick us out. This might also be the convention debut of The Jenny Hendricks Experience as well.
  • Saturday, 2pm, room 8: Blibbering Humdingers show – our more low-key, intimate show in the small music room.
  • Saturday, 10pm, large auditorim: Blibbering Humdingers (PG-13) – we’re going to play some of the more risque stuff, and some of the ususal subtext may become text.
  • Sunday, 2pm, large auditorium: Muscial Round Robin – this is where all the musicians close out the convention on stage together; always a wonderful time.

As always, if I’m not at one of these, I’ll be around the convention space engaging in some short of shenanigans; definitely stop by and say “hello!”

This all said, I’m kind of frustrated this morning; in spite of it being 45° outside when I left for work at 5:30am, and the roads being so clear and passable that my car felt downright sporty hugging the pavement through corners, my kids are off of school again today. Also, given the weather-related cancellations earlier this week, the scheduled early release on Friday (which was going to get us to Williamsburg early) has been converted to a full day, so my planned schedule is screwed. Argh. Rest assured that we’ll get there, though not as early as we’d have liked.

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crisis of faith tuesday

10
Jan

I’m not entirely sure what it is, though I’m having serious doubts today.

Not to get too specific, but work is especially frustrating, and not just in the “why the hell don’t they plow my parking lot” kind of way. For the last year, my team’s been analyzing the shit out of things and generating a lot of really good data for a lot of people that, if used effectively by those people, will save the organization a shitload of money, which is good for the organization, the taxpayer, and pretty much everybody.

The problem is that nobody’s doing a damned thing with it, but I’m spinning wheels, testing and analyzing, with nothing much to show for it.

It’s frustrating.

I think it’s justifiable frustration, certainly, with this situation, and the overall weird organizational culture I have to deal with. I dunno. Could be that I’ve just been in this chair longer than I’ve had any other position for the last seven years or so, and I’m restless. I dunno. I’m just having a hard time getting enthusiastic and excited about what I’m doing right now.

Might also be that it’s the second week of January, there’s snow on the ground, the powers that be are reacting to it badly, and I am, on some level, jealous of my kids who haven’t been at school all week and probably won’t go tomorrow in spite of the fact that it’s supposed to get well above freezing today and tomorrow.

Whatever. I’ll deal. I even have kind of a plan, and since I’m kind of in charge, I can make it happen.

Y’see, I have all kinds of things I could be doing which will make life easier for me in terms of maintenance of the channnels I’m in charge of, and will make my team look like good team players with the rest of the larger program and department (and will take advantage of some existing administrative structures that will push the responsibility for improving numbers over to a different area, where people already have to justify their existence to an agressive authority once a month).

So I’ve kind of decided, after all the frustration I’m dealing with, to focus inward for the next couple of months and do the things that make my life better rather than trying to please everybody else.

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venturing out

09
Jan

So I spent most of the weekend hanging about the house thanks to the seven or so inches of snow that blanketed the RVA over the weekend. It was kinda nice, mostly. I ventured out on Sunday afternoon for a necessary trek to obtain prescription depression medication, tampons, chocolate and Pamprin, to which the pleasant pharmacist gave me a knowing and sympathetic nod along with the following comment:

“Some weekend for a snowstom, huh?

We shared a good laugh. Anyway, the roads, once you got out of my neighborhood weren’t all that bad anyway, correcting for someone like me who grew up driving in this sort of thing..

Otherwise, I read some books, played some video games, made a kickass new recipe I discovered online for Peirogie Lasagna (which is an amazing carbohydrate bomb of goodness), and changed the strings on my bass.

The kids got the call that school was cancelled for Monday early on Sunday, and I checked the plans for the host installation for my place of employment in the afternoon to discover we were on a four hour delay.

A four hour delay.

I have decided, having now dealt with this situation that a four hour delay is really skirting the edge of propriety. if you’re going to cancel half the day, you probably ought to just have closed the place. Sure, I got to sleep in a bit. That was okay. However, like a responsible adult, I cleared my car and such out well before this morning, and it doesn’t take me all that long to get here (it’s a fifteen mile commute, mostly on the interstate). I had just enough time to eat a nice breakfast of leftover peach pie, and sit impatiently until it was time to go, with my wife looking at me funny in my discomfort, because there really wasn’t time to really start anything in the morning before I had to show up.

Granted, I’m one of those 6am people (gets me out of the way before teenagers start beefore school routines, and I get a couple of hours of quiet to queue up the day before the meetings start, and I get to see the sun in the afternoon, even in winter), so I aimed to arrive at 10am. I gave myself a few minutes extra, used most of it to stop and buy a sandwich to stick in the fridge for lunch, and still got here at 9:45.

The main roads on post were clear, as expected, though here’s the view out the front door of my building of the parking lot where I usually park:

Nobody bothered to plow it (which is funny, because it’s usually full of people for the health clinic across the street), other than a little space in front of the porch (which is where I put my car). And, it doesn’t look like the plows are running anymore.

Huh. Making good use of those extra four hours.

Yeah, I’d just cancel things, even being the superior-about-winter-weather northerner that I am. Everybody else is grumbling too.

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friday random eleven – “it’s….coming!” edition

06
Jan

All told, it’s been as tolerable a first week back in the real world as one could reasonably expect. There were, as there always are, challenges (figuring out where the hell we left off at the office), weirdness (kitchen fixtures showing up in decidedly not kitchen places, for example), non-sequitir (I have been served so many ads for local boudoir photography companies this week….) and impending disaster in the form of snow coming to the mid-Atlantic region.

Although we’re not expected to get pounded too much (the RVA is expected to get somewhere in the neighborhood of 4-6 inches), my experience living here for the last 19 years (and yes, I just counted in my head, it’s been that long) is that two inches is good enough to shut the place down for a couple of days. I had to run to the grocery store last night for, coincidentally, milk, bread, and toilet paper (not because of the oncoming storm, but because my kids eat and poop constantly so we were running out). My local Kroger was a freakin’ madhouse.

Actually, it could’ve been worse (like say if I went today, which I still might have to do…argh), and the shelves were rapidly emptying, though I still got my staple items.

Normally I wouldn’t necessarily mind a nice weekend storm, though I had plans to go to a friend’s “after holiday” party in NoVA tomorrow night, which this weather might scuttle. We’ll see. Either way, I’ve got music to rehearse for Marscon next weekend (yay!), a couple of bombers of good local beer to drink, books to read, and a new PS4 to spend time with (the No Man’s Sky universe isn’t going to explore itself!), so I’m good.

Below you’ll find the first random eleven of the new year. The first half is, interestingly, a neat alternating pattern of Viking Metal and late 80s New Jersey Glam Rock, before settling into the usual really weird eclectism:

  1. “Schwertzeit” – Varg
  2. “Youth Gone Wild” – Skid Row
  3. “The Pursuit of the Vikings” – Amon Amarth
  4. “Wanted Dead or Alive” – Bon Jovi
  5. “Havamal” – Falkenbach
  6. “I Ran (So Far Away)” – A Flock of Seagulls
  7. “Take it Off” – The Donnas
  8. “Father O’Blivion” – Dweezil Zappa
  9. “Shia LaBeouf Live” – Rob Cantor
  10. “Ha Ha Ha” – The Julie Ruin
  11. “Bad Horsie” – Steve Vai
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returning absurdity – a “slice o’ life” post

05
Jan

Wednesday was my first day back at the office after the traditional holiday break.

I arrived bright and early (well, I was bright, the sky wasn’t, as it was ten to six in the morning). I found that while I was gone, facilities had installed a sink in my building. A kitchen sink, pretty much sitting right out in the open in what we traditionally think of as a hallway.

There’s been talk of repurposing some of the extra space in this building (used mostly for storage) to house some additional folks, which would necessitate some upgrades to the facilities, though we figured they’d stick the sink in the little break room that’s got the microwave, coffee machine, and refrigerator in it.

Apparently not.

Having encountered this change half a dozen steps inside the front door, I made my way to my office to find that the network was down in the entire building. In today’s fancy VOIP world, that means nothing works, no phone, no internet, no intranet…nothing. So I spent an hour on hold with the help desk on my cell phone before talking to a pleasant person who told me that most of the organization was down, and kindly entered a service ticket that I couldn’t see because I couldn’t get into the online service ticket tracker.

Anyway, my computer did turn on, and I was able to look at all the messages left for me since I last logged on back on December 21 (I came in for half an hour that morning while running errands because I didn’t trust that the timekeeping system worked or that my boss approved my time sheet so I’d be paid*). I spent a while working through that, and sending a couple of off-network email messages (using my spare public email) to my team letting me know the situation.

I took this as a sign, and since I didn’t have any meetings scheduled on my calendar (at least as of the last update on 12/21), I’d spend my day knocking out some documentation off-line and setting up my project file folders for the new calendar year. It was a quiet, pleasant morning.

Then the plumber and the electrician came in. Seems the sink wasn’t finished yet; they had to hook up a water heater and tap the water line.

It wasn’t quiet anymore.

The internet eventually came back on after I’d also let the housekeeping folks in and gone off for lunch. I was able to clear the rest of my messages, send off the documents I had queued up, and then it was pretty much time for me to leave.

I hope the rest of my year is less eventful.

______________________________________

* – I was right, by the way. The time system crapped out and I had to re-submit my time card. Sometimes paranoia is a virtue.

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so it begins…

03
Jan

Tomorrow, I go back to work after being out for a little over two weeks.

Not gonna lie; it’s going to be tough.

The good thing is, I’m mostly in charge of my own program, so I get to set the schedule for the most part, so there’s nothing immediately pressing tomorrow save digging through the emails, which shouldn’t be all that bad, because let’s face it, everybody else at my level, given the responsibilities they have to deal with and the amount of leave we accrue, was off for the last two weeks of December too.

I’ve got three days to dig out and set things up for the two week test cyle I have lined up to start up on Monday next week. In fact, my team’s probably already got it covered, because they’re awesome like that (especially since I’m doing the MarsCon thing for the long MLK day weekend).

That said, though, I’m not really looking forward to going back. It’s not that I was particularly rested during my two weeks off; I had a bunch of low-level stressors (“did my boss approve my time card?”, “is the body shop ever going to get done with the van?” “Why the heck can’t I get a good night’s sleep?”) working the whole time. It’s just…work. The thing I do so I can afford to do the other things. Sometimes I enjoy it, but mostly it’s the hassle I go through to keep a roof over my family’s head.

Oh well; it’s happening, I just have to accept it. And read things like this thing my friend Ryan posted today and nod my head with knowing helplessness.

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wrapping up 2016

01
Jan

The past year was (not just because of all the very public deaths of famous people and the less-than-preferable political stuff) challenging. This isn’t to say that I didn’t accomplish stuff, because I did. That’s mostly what this post here is about; highlighting the good stuff. The challenges are there, over the posts logged over the past 365 days for you to look over – there were a lot of challenges; personal, emotional, mental, vocational, relational. I think I talked about most of them.

Here’s the stuff I thought was cool:

Thing the First: I’m actually really proud of all the cool musical stuff I got to do this year, with a whole bunch of different people; I played public, occasionally paying(!) gigs with two (maybe three, if you squint) different performance groups in public venues. Not all of them were amazing performances, but if I think about it, I could point to something really cool about each performance (although I never really counted how many shows I played – it was a lot, though). I played in cities all up and down the east coast, from the DC Suburbs to Downtown Atlanta, and all kinds of places in between, from fancy auditoriums to living rooms and campfire circles. Every time was a privilege, and I learned a heck of a lot about performing with other people, with myself, and for and with an audience.

I also wrote some songs this year; some of them might end up being something. This is kind of a new thing for me, I’m still getting all of my bad stuff out the system before the good stuff can flow semi-reliably, but I’m learning. I didn’t really record or release anything this year with anyone (we were too busy playing shows), though I think that’s on the docket for this year. Again, it’s been a pretty cool learning experience.

This part of life has brought me so much damned joy over the last however many years; I’ve made so many friends, both musicians and fans all over the country; I really feel privileged to have been welcomed into this community of artists I find myself in.

Thing the Second: As much as I bitched about work here this last year, I think after sitting in my particular vocational chair for two years now, I think I almost know how to do what I do. Sure, I don’t *do* things so much as *direct* things these days – my *do*s are largely relegated to meetings, emails, and monthly and quarterly briefings, though my team and I have managed to accomplish a couple of pretty neat things over the last year, and we’re showing progress with my particular area of the agency infrastructure that has largely been coasting and limping along for a while. I don’t love it, but I’m starting to show competency, and being competent is something I do love. It pays the bills, which allows me to do all the other cool stuff.

Thing the Third: I managed to reorganize life a little bit so that the cash flow makes more sense, and be a little better prepared for what life throws at us. I make to much money to feel so damned poor sometimes, but I took some steps to fix that a bit. This is kinda new, but we’ll see. It’ll certainly help out with some of the other stuff coming down the pike soon.

Thing the Fourth: I don’t feel like a complete failure as a husband and father right now, which is nice. My kids, to greater or lesser degrees, are succeeding, and my wife hasn’t left me yet, or given me any indication she’s going to, despite my many faults. Everybody’s doing well in school, passing classes, and (as I alluded to previously), getting themselves accepted to college. I wrote the check for the deposit and to reserve a place this week, so that’s happening. I’ll figure out how to make it happen. It’s a good kind of stress, though, as it indicates that I didn’t completely screw the first one up.

Finally the kitten has chosen me as her favorite. That’s gotta count for something, right?

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