marscon post-op, 2018 edition

16
Jan

As expected, I had a good time at Marscon this year. The people at this con; the organizers, the volunteers, the performers and guests, and the attendees are, at this point, like family – Marscon feels like coming home. You guys are awesome, and you really know how to make a person feel welcome, appreciated, and loved.

I did struggle a little bit (as I mentioned on social media during the event) – I was coming off a not-entirely-great week in terms of brain chemistry (Depression is indeed a bitch), and I felt a lot of pressure (most of it self-inflicted) to, as part of the Musical Guest of Honor, really deliver my A-Game in terms of performance and interaction. I think I *mostly* succeeded; I hope if you came to a show this weekend, you enjoyed it and had a good time.

I could do the name-drop thing, but that’s kind of pat by now. My interactions with folks were really great; I appreciated, and really needed, I think, all the kind words, hugs, congratulations (because apparently I looked good!), free drinks, and occasionally deep and meaningful conversations that you guys all provided, in multitudes. As I say, I really tried to be my best self as well; I really hope I left you feeling as affirmed and loved as you made me feel.

Some highlights (beyond the general love and acceptance) were our Saturday show, where we got to share some of our best work with people, both in terms of songs, but also because we managed to incorporate some of our kids into the show – Liam joined us on piano for “Kiss in the Rain” (probably my favorite tune on the new album), and Mary and Catherine jumped up for dance support on “Raised By Nerds”; people really seemed to enjoy both. Also, I got to meet one of my favorite authors, the wonderful Carrie Vaughn, in person, and I found her to be just as cool and awesome as I’d hoped, based on her work, her writing, and our occasional interaction in web site comments over the years. It was a treat.

So yeah, it was a good one, even if I did appear out-of-sorts occasionally (especially Friday night, though I wasn’t the only one who noticed the energy at Filk and Cookies was off). Thanks again to Butch and the crew who put on a great con every year, Scott and Kirsten for letting a schlub like me tag along and make music, all the other performers who offer such great support, encouragement, and friendship, and dammit, just about everybody there – you’re all awesome.

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friday random eleven – “gettin’ ready for marscon” edition

11
Jan

My work week is done. I even made some progress on Thursday in solving that security issue, even if I spent most of the day updating my resume (not *entirely* in anticipation of hunting for a new job; I had to submit a resume for my latest certification application) and acting as tech support for the cybersecurity meeting happening in my building.

I worked most of a 16-hand reel in dance class. I didn’t suck.

As you might have guessed, while this isn’t posting until Friday morning, I’m writing this (and generating the playlist below) on Thursday night. I’m off on Friday for Marscon, where I’ll be all weekend (wanna know where? look at the previous post), playing music and enjoying quality time with my friends and family, both real and chosen. Gotta say, this is one of my favorite weekends of the year.

The next post you’ll see is probably going to be the name-dropping, description-of-how-much-fun-i-had-and-who-i-had-it-with write-up of what’s usually my favorite 48 hours or so of my whole damned year. I get to make music with all my friends, including bandmates The Blibbering Humdingers, a few Dimensional Riffs (who aren’t guests, but will all be there), and my fellow performers and co-conspirators Mikey Mason, Valentine Wolfe, Danny Birt, White Plectrum, and whoever else shows up, plus all my other non-performing buddies without websites – you all know who you are, and (I hope) how much I love you.

But, I gotta have all those adventures first, which I will be doing, starting around 2pm tomorrow, after I wedge all the instruments and such into the car and get my ass to Williamsburg.

Anyway, here’s a random sampling of tunes off my hard drive to tide you over until then. Most of it’s even pretty good!

  1. “One Voice” – The Wailin’ Jennys
  2. “Shop Vac” – Jonathan Coulton
  3. “Fantasies Come True” – Avenue Q OST
  4. “The Ballad of Lilah Rose (rough live version)” – S.J. Tucker
  5. “Goner” – Twenty-One Pilots
  6. “Let Me Go” – Three Doors Down
  7. “You Don’t Have To Go” – The War On Drugs
  8. “Blue Velvet” – Lana Del Rey
  9. “I Would Die 4 U” – Prince and the Revolution
  10. “Dance of the Shepards and Sheaprdesses
  11. “Watchin’ You (live)” – KISS
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marscon schedule

11
Jan

In case you haven’t looked at this site in, like, forever, you probably know that I, as part of The Blibbering Humdingers, will be 1/3 Musical Guest of Honor at MarsCon in Williamsburg this weekend; merely one of a whole slew of really great guests, musical and otherwise. This is really my favorite con of the year – it’s like a homecoming; all my great and wonderful friends and I get to hang out, make music, play games, and engage in all sorts of shenanigans and tomfoolery.

Anyway, if you’re there, here’s where I’m scheduled to be over the course of the weekend:

Friday:

  • 6pm – large auditorium – opening ceremonies
  • 8pm – large auditorium – Blibbering Humdingers concert
  • 11pm – con suite – Filk and Cookies (I’m likely to play some of my own stuff, and some ‘Riffy stuff, here, as well as Humdinger-y things)

Saturday:

  • 10am – small auditorium – “Behind the Music” panel
  • 5pm – large auditorium – Blibbering Humdingers Concert

Sunday:

  • 1pm – large auditorium – Blibbering Humdingers Concert
  • 2pm – large auditurium – round robin music

I also try to spend some time working the table with the band in the dealers’ room, and if I can manage to get a seat at my friend Dan’s GURPS table in the game room if scheduling works out, I will do my best. Also a good bet is me trying to get a couple of books signed by the author Guest of Honor Carrie Vaughn, who I’ve been a big fan of for years, and hanging out to watch all the rest of my fellow entertainers performing – I don’t know when all that is yet, but here’s the schedule for you to take a look at.

Oh yeah, Humdingers have a new CD too – come buy it!

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chilling and rehearsing

08
Jan

This weekend was relatively uneventful. By Friday night, I started getting a tickle in the back of the throat and pressure behind the eyes. Argh. It hasn’t been cool. I’ve felt like shit, plus now that I’ve lost all this weight, and it hasn’t gotten above 20°F for most of a week, I’m constantly cold. I spent most of my time (apart from a couple of limited errands combined with bare minimum Pokemon Go catching and spinning to keep the streaks rolling) either crashed on the couch watching television (Colleen and I are doing the watch a Marvel movie a week lead-up to Infinity War thing), plus I knocked off the Orville and a couple of other things) or sequestered in the bedroom with the Jazz Bass working through the new tunes (and writing bass parts for the couple I didn’t play on) so I don’t totally suck this weekend as Guest of Honor at Marscon, letting down my bandmates, our fans, and looking like a douche in front of my author-crush Carrie Vaughn.

As I posted to social media on Sunday morning, I did play through the entirety of Fantastic Geeks… (minus a couple of tunes I know we’re either not going to do) with no errors whatsoever. I also noted that this is never likely to happen again. Anyway, I probably put about six or eight hours of solid playing in over the weekend, and it’s paying off. As my fellow wzrd bassist Dave tells me, I can’t let Lemmy down.

For the week, it’s likely to be more of the same, along with work (which, thankfully, looks pretty quiet, assuming people will actually respond to some emails). The temperature’s even supposed to get above freezing by Monday afternoon. I also plan on getting some rest so I’m not patient zero for the con and get everyone ill. That would truly suck.

Also, my ancient kindle died last night. I am sad.

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friday random eleven: “alara, wanna open this jar of pickles for me?” edition

05
Jan

After yesterday’s aborted attempt, I made it into the office this morning (after a two hour delayed opening, which I obsessively checked on six or seven times as I got ready), cracking the seal on that metaphorical jar of pickles. Roads weren’t bad, though my parking lot, as I expected, wasn’t plowed, and there was a six or eight inch snow drift against the door to my test lab building. They’d cleared a small area alongside the road that runs between the lot and me, so I parked there with a note in the window to hit the buzzer and get me if they need the car moved. Due dilligence achieved.

Being Friday, very little happening other than a couple of calls with my teams to catch up on the latest happenings (which, included no serious crises, and one decent little win, though not, apparently, the one I’d like to have gotten), so it was clear the detritus, check to make sure the building survived (the only issue was somebody closing the rest room doors before they left, and given the lack of heating registers in there, it was effing cold this morning), get out for the weekend.

I will say that yesterday’s schedule disruption totally blew my plan for the day, and being a creature of habit, I kind of just wandered and puttered generally, I think, got on my wife’s nerves – she told me she truly hoped I made it into the office Friday because I was becoming difficult to be around, which I totally understand. My apologies, my dear.

I eventually settled down and watching a few more episodes of The Orville, which comes courtesy of the Hulu subscription I set up recently (mostly to watch Marvel’s Runaways, which is a Hulu original), and we are really enjoying around the household. It was kind of savaged by critics, but enough friends of mine have said good things that I gave it a shot, and was delighted to find a generally well put-together, heartfelt, affectionate, and slightly profane love letter to Star Trek: The Next Generation. If that’s your jam, and you haven’t checked it out, give it a shot.

Reaching back to my more cerebral or maybe navel-gazing post from the other day, I am still working on the intentionality I talked about. In that spirit, I’ve set myself up a reminder, making use of a $1.78 piece of amusement I grabbed the other day from the Target clearance shelf, which currently holds a place of high visibility in my workspace:

We’ll see if it helps.

Anyway, some tunes. Little riot grrl, little 80s, the best version of stairway I’ve ever heard, and 18.18% Tull for some reason:

  1. “Don’t Wait Up For Me” – The Donnas
  2. “Sweet Disposition” – Th Temper Trap
  3. “Hymn 43”- Jethro Tull
  4. “My Best Friend’s Hot” – The Dollyrots
  5. “Fucken Awesome” – Spiderbait
  6. “Safety Dance” – Men Without Hats
  7. “Yr Mangled Heart” – The Gossip
  8. “Bouree (Live 1992)” – Jethro Tull
  9. “Black Infinity (Upside Down)” – SULK
  10. “Rebel Yell” – Billy Idol
  11. “Stairway to Heaven (live)” – Frank Zappa
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well, I tried

04
Jan

The metropolitan area got about four inches of snow overnight (my friends to the east got hit a bit harder). It’s cold, and pretty.

As I said in my last post, today’s the day I was supposed to go back to the grind after the holiday break. When I woke at my usual 5:10am, my site was operating on a two hour delay. I went back to bed until 6:30am. Was still on a two hour delay. Got showered and dressed, and packed my stuff up. Still on a two hour delay. Shoveled the driveway (being nice and cold, it was light and powdery); still on two hour delay. Get on the roads, which are crappy. Continue to be crappy even on the interstate. Consider turning around, but I really kind of just want to rip the band-aid off and get things over with.

Just as I pass the half-way point (which also includes a dearth of exits for several miles), I learn that the office has closed. Damn.

Oh well. I tried. Tomorrow is another day.

My northeast upbringing and practice dealing with slides and skids (thanks for all that donut practice in the empty mall parking lot, Dad!) kept me in good stead. The exit I used to turn around was recently changed from a boring red-lights and intersections into a cool and pretty efficient roundabout. As I navigated the unplowed circle, a bit of a skid happened; I took the roundabout a bit sideways (at a safe speed of about 3mph) and perfectly recovered it in time to drive smoothly through the exit back onto my ramp heading home. Must’ve looked like a bad-ass rally film in slo-mo worthy of Top Gear. The cop sitting patiently in his car waiting for me the clear the circle before he entered gave me a thumbs-up as I made my way through.

I kind of wish I had noted the car number to check with the department to see if he had the dash cam on – I’d love to see myself looking badass for once.

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existential crisis?

03
Jan

That’s kind of what my spouse called it anyway.

I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m going back to work tomorrow after two weeks or so away. If you look back at my posts here for (especially) the past year, you’ll notice a theme: I’m not very happy there. The organization I work for (who shall remain nameless in print) is kind of a mess; management has recently changed, after the previous regime identified some serious problems in a bunch of departments at the headquarters level, and the new folks are shaking things up; nobody knows what’s going on, and what things are going to look like a year from now.

I’m dealing with a lot of stress; a lot of uncertainty, a lack of support, and a lot of (frankly) bullshit in the way of doing the job the way it ought to be done is really frustrating; because if this stuff wasn’t in the way, I could get this thing moving on rails and save the public an awful lot of money, though my pleas for the space to do so fall on deaf ears, mostly because it’s an endless circle of bullshit all the way around, and nobody has any space.

As I’ve said previously, here and to my boss (who’s just as helpless as me, honestly), I’m giving it a year – the contract I’m overseeing pops at the end of the FY, and if things don’t settle down or get put in the proper order by then, I’ll be looking for greener pastures to maintain my sanity.

I’m not really the type to make “new year’s resolutions”, but I am heading into 2018 with some intention: I’m going to try my damnedest to not get hung up in the cycle of expectation, uncertainty, and perception of failure. I’m going to work on managing my expectations of what success in the workplace looks like; the situation just isn’t set up for anything but the worst bureaucracy can deliver. I hate the way this sounds, but I’m going to promise less and expect even less in return, because I’m just one small cog in a big unwieldy machine, and frankly, I’m not in a position to do a hell of a lot to change things unless help comes down from the top (and my organization is terrible at change management, and seems strangely proud of it).

So, I’m going to try to let some things go, and try to convince myself it’s not that I’ve given up, but that I’m setting conditions for a healthier life and a better situation down the road. Feels like the best thing to do; just not get my hopes up, and let this stuff roll off.

In not expecting a lot of validation or feelings of accomplishment in the professional space this year, I’m going to have to find it somewhere else. Luckily, I’ve got some good things happening outside of the professional world – last year, I really got my physical help in order, and had some wonderful creative successes. I’m hoping to keep that going – as we’re fond of saying in the musical realm, “this is cheaper than therapy”, and it really is. People really seem to like what I do in that space with my various co-conspirators, and we’re going to have some great opportunities to take our “hobby that kind of pays for itself (at least some of the time)” out in the world for more people to enjoy, and we know we’ll really enjoy it ourselves, bum notes and all….as a wise man once said, “there are no mistakes, just happy accidents.”

So there; that’s what’s been rattling around in my head the last few days. Just gotta stick to the plan.

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Fantastic Geeks and Where To Find Them…..it’s here!

01
Jan



Okay, folks…this is the album we’ve been working on for the last year or so, and we cannot wait to share it with everyone! There’s some really great work on here (if I do say so myself), including a songwriting credit to yours truly, some really great songwriting from Kirsten (seriously – “Elegy for a Nerf Herder”? Pegasus award material!), and a bunch of fun material that really got me stretching my abilities as a musician (I gotta keep up with those other other folks, after all…).

Anyway, it’s now out there in the world, and I share it with you. You can listen (and purchase!) at the link above, at least digitally. We’ll have the official CD release at Marscon in Williamsburg in a couple of weeks. Did I mention we’re Musical Guests of Honor this year?

I am, shall we say, excited this is out in the world. Hope you all like it.

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2017 by the numbers

31
Dec

I’ll be honest, this year wasn’t completely awesome – there was a low-level (occasionally spiking to high level) stress and anxiety thing going on all year because of a less than ideal work situation, that’s still less than ideal, but like I told my boss, I’m giving it another year to sort itself out before I start looking for a lifeline – there’s a lot of changes coming up with the organization, and it’s either going to get better, or it’s going to go even further to shit than it already is, and a year from now, we’ll know which way the sewer lines are flowing.

That said, there were some completely awesome things that happened outside of that wheelhouse, which is what I’m going to try to focus on. I put in a kid in college, where she’s kicking all kinds of ass. I played a bunch of really awesome shows with two different groups, put out two small records with those groups; Dimensional Riffs’ Live in the Boudoir and the pre-release EP edition of Fantastic Geeks and Where to Find Them with The Blibbering Humdingers, and we’ve just announced that we’re releasing the full-length CD at Marscon!. We are all really proud of this one.

The other big number is 75. That’s the number of pounds I lost this year, thanks to tons of exercise, better diet, and some pharmaceutical assistance. I’ve kept it off for a good solid six months now too. That’s something to be proud of.

Anyway, some other numbers:

  • books read: 67
  • miles biked: 1167
  • shows I played: I don’t remember at all, but it was a bunch
  • cons attended: something like a dozen, it was a lot
  • kids graduated sucessfully from high school: 1
  • pounds lost: 75
  • inches lost from waist: 8
  • new pants purchased that don’t fall down: 4
  • solutions implemented to make my split-level fish tank plant racks work: 3
  • Irish dance classes attended: 11
  • ceilis learned: 5
  • the number of those ceilis I can remember by name: maybe one?
  • Dance dad sound emergencies solved: a few
  • national parks visited: 5
  • current Pokemon Go level: 34
  • average liters of water consumed per day: 4
  • number of D&D players killed: 1
  • number of players who have run the cleric in the group: 3
  • number of times I totally failed to recognize awesome celebrity Alex Kingston when she came to the merch table: 1

Not a terrible year overall. I’ll take it.

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the idle times

28
Dec

Greetings, folks, from the leisurely period between Christmas and New Years where you never quite know what day it is.

I had a little bit of a bout of illness here the last couple of days (my spouse too – I blame my kid back from college, which is fair, I was sick every year right after finals – she knocked a 3.5 out of her first semester, though – works for me), but I’m mostly back in the swing of things now.

The last couple of days, I’ve been playing with recipes in my Instant Pot pressure cooker (and then some) that my lovely spouse got me for Christmas – so far, I’ve knocked out some excellent refried beans (from dried beans to creamy taco-filling goodness in 30 minutes), a decent pot roast (from which I learned some things) and a middling cheesecake (again, a learning experience, though it didn’t stop the girls from eating it all within hours). I have plans to do an ersatz roasted whole chicken, and maybe a few other things before my break’s out. It’s been fun, learning how to incorporate a pressure cooker into my tool kit.

Since Christmas, it’s largely felt like winter, which is nice. the week or so prior (which I also had off – use-or-lose leave is a thing I deal with), it was brushing 70 – I rode almost 30 miles on the bike! I accomplished a lot around the house, though – I fixed the toilet (replacing all the innards), re-arranging my drawers, and picking up new kitchen table chairs at IKEA. Since Christmas, I’ve still been accomplishing some things, but I’ve been lying a bit lower, resting off the kid-provided illness, doing laundry, and finishing off James S.A. Corey’s “Babylon’s Ashes”, the sixth book in the excellent Expanse series of novels. I also held a small memorial service for the microwave, which died tragically last night – luckily, a decent replacement was on sale at Target this morning.

Also, today, we took the kids to see The Last Jedi, which I enjoyed just as much the second time. Some people are complaining about it, but again, it felt like equal parts deconstruction (which we’re due for after nine movies, a canon TV series, and bunches and bunches of EU tie-in media) and homage ot Empire. Again, though (and I think I said this in the last post), it felt like it could easily have been an ending to things, rather than part eight of nine. The spouse caught the force broom this time, however.

Oh well – I’ve got a week to go before I have to enter the world again. Gonna mostly just chill at home, I think. The youngest is agitating to play My Little Pony: Tales of Equestria, the MLP RPG, which I need to work through a bit, and I gotta think a bit about Marscon, where the Humdingers are musical Guests of Honor in a couple of weeks, so I should probably pick up the bass and dust off some of the Fantastic Geeks… tunes.

I’ll probably just end up drinking whiskey and playing Civilization, though, like I’m doing tonight.

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