friday random elevenish: “clockwatching away on the last day of my year” edition

14
Dec

Today is the last official* day of my work year, and I’m counting the minutes, as the watermarked stock photo image above suggests. I haven’t taken that much time off in 2018, and given my level of seniority and the kind of leave I earn, the concept of “use-or-lose” comes into play, so I have two weeks or so to burn. It’s also the habit I’ve gotten into over the last few years anyway, as it works for me, and let’s be honest, here in the public sector, we basically shut down (let’s hope only figuratively, though my department won’t be subject to this one, we’re one of the few that got full-year funding) anyway.

As is also my habit, I’m not making much in the way of plans for the holidays, either. My two week constitutional will largely consist of me sticking close to home, and not doing much of anything unless I or the household chooses. As I say every year about this time, I made the choice to not do the typical holiday-obligation travel a while back, and my sanity is so much the better for it. My lovely spouse and I dragged three young kids and their attendant stuff all over the place for years, and it wasn’t at all relaxing or enjoyable. I’m not going to do it now with three adult-sized kids and their different attendant stuff now. If people want to see me, they know where to find me. I’m going to take two weeks of “me/us” time, just chilling at the house, cook some meals, catch some Pokémon and maybe a couple of movies, hit a few breweries, and just relax.

It’s been a hell of a year, full of senior-level briefings and program “murder boards”, exams, apocalyptic current events, the 24 hour news cycle, and all kinds of other stress. We all deserve a break where we don’t have to think about it too hard and just enjoy the days as they come.

I do have a short overnight planned for the weekend; the Blibbering Humdingers (along with our friends Hawthorn and Holly) are playing a couple of sets each at Cavendish Brewing Company’s “Christmas in Hogsmeade” event down in Gastonia, NC on Saturday. Cavendish (which I discovered at ConCarolinas’ “Heavy Metal and a Pint” panel last year), tends to do some neat, geeky events and this Potter-themed event is one of them. They’ve got stuff going most of the day, and the lovely spouse and I plan on getting down there a few hours early, enjoy some time with friends, drink a few pints, and generally get a break from the snowed-in conditions from earlier this week.

It’s actually been a pretty good week for music overall; with the light crowd at Isley this week, I ended up playing a 40 minute solo set to a small-but-enthusiastic crowd, including a few weird Christmas tunes and a handful of my own compositions, and it went *really* well (there may be some video out there online if you look hard enough). I also got some feelers this week about a potentially cool development in town that might open up some more performance opportunities, though I’m not going to say anything more for now, so as not to jinx it, but if we pull it together (I’ll know more next week), it’ll be pretty neat.

So, that’s it, really. I kinda doubt I’ll be as regular about posting in this space for the rest of the year – if something cool comes up, I’ll talk about it, and I’ll probably do my semi-traditional year-end wrap up posts, because I’m so very anal about that, and while it hasn’t posted yet, The A/V Club’s annual “Year in Band Names” will arrive shortly, and I always share my enjoyment of that with my adoring public, such as you are.

In any case, that’s the state of CdPdN for now. All that’s left to do, given that it’s Friday, is to share my random play-list; a little longer because I’m just enjoying the background noise while shutting down the shop for the year. While heavy on the modern indie, it of course devolves into what every playlist for Pandora eventually devolves into for me – Zappa, Bowie, and The Donnas. That last one though is always a welcome surprise, as it’s got one of the best guitar solos of the hair metal/power ballad era on it – never not worth a listen:

  1. “Right Before My Eyes” – Cage the Elephant
  2. “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” – The Proclaimers
  3. “Chicken: 30” – The Coathangers
  4. “Simply Irresistable” – Robert Palmer
  5. “No One’s Gonna Love You” – Band of Horses
  6. “Crazy” – Gnarls Barkley
  7. “Overkill” – Men At Work
  8. “Heroes” – David Bowie
  9. “Pygmy Twylyte (live 12-10-73 – show 1)” – Frank Zappa
  10. “Broadsword” – Jethro Tull
  11. “Laid” – James
  12. “Decide” – Heavens to Betsy
  13. “Drivin’ Through My Heart
  14. “I Remember You” – Skid Row

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* – I shall have my work laptop within reach at home should I hear that the project goes pear shaped, but I don’t expect that to happen, and I’m not one to choose to work on my own time, even if other suckers people around here do.

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frozen nostalgia

12
Dec

So, I ended up getting two days off of work thanks to the twelve-to-fourteen(!) inches of snow Mother Nature saw fit to dump on my section of the mid-Atlantic starting early Sunday morning; so early, in fact that they cancelled the 5k the youngest and I were going to run that afternoon. Oh well, I made a huge pot of vegetable soup, watched Real Genius, played a few hours of this ridiculous video game called OnRush, which is all about crashing cars into each other, which is cathartic.

The storm, as I discussed with someone I met Tuesday night, originally from Bloomsburg PA, of all places, was an awful lot like the storms growing up in NE PA; lots of snow, lots of shovelling, but otherwise not inconvenient; no power going out, no blocked roads…it was nice.

Otherwise, the weekend was not bad; took a trip over to Hardywood to eat Mac and Cheese from the food truck and pick up a couple of bottles of GBS variants, but not the ones everyone else standing in the long line(!) were grabbing, mostly Kentucky Christmas Morning – coffee and bourbon barrels. The whole city goes nuts for this brew – this satiric article is awfully close to the truth). Ran into a few friends; it was nice. The lovely wife and I spent our evening at the Castleburg taproom catching a couple of sets from The Sequels, a pretty great country-rock americana band. It was a nice bit of time out before we got snowed in.

In less interesting news, my brand new Windows 10 laptop decided it was going to be difficult – I’ve put it in timeout for a couple of days until I get the motivation to really fix it – backups and factory resets thanks to garbage updates from Microsoft. If it doesn’t get itself in gear, I’m gonna threaten to install Ubuntu.

For Monday, I was up early shoveling the driveway. On Tuesday, the lovely wife and I ventured out a bit around lunchtime to hit the library and take care of a couple of errands, and I got a little stir crazy by Tuesday morning, so I headed out to wander around the local park and watch geese over the James.

Starting Wednesday, it’s back to work, starting to put things to bed so I can take my leave after Friday.

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friday random elevenish: “apparently i’m important to people besides my cat” edition

07
Dec

Today looks relatively quiet, especially after yesterday, where it seemed I was stuck briefing all the important people everywhere. As I said on social media, even two decades in public service, up here near the top of the pay scale, it’s weird to know that on a semi-regular basis, my voice echoes through the august corridors of power (even if it’s only playing through a speakerphone).

Beyond that, work’s been largely about spinning things up to operate without me. At closing time today, I’m down to five more workdays (maybe less if something I talk about later impacts things) before my holiday break. My tech lead is being a little alarmist about progress, but as I’m figuring out, that’s just the way he is, and he’ll pull a Scotty-level save out at the last minute.

Otherwise, this week has not been ridiculously busy. Housework, being followed around by the kitten, longing for the sweet release of retirement…you know, the usual. As mentioned previously, I had the day off on Wednesday, and did relatively little, beyond taking a trip through whiteout snow conditions to the other side of town so my lovely spouse could pick up some specialty elastic to finish a sewing project. The snow was all gone by the time we left the region an hour later after our shopping and a rare mid-week lunch date (although we actually did that *twice* this week, as she met me on Monday so she could retreive the wallet she left in my car!), but it was neat while it lasted.

Of course, the whole mid-Atlantic region is panicking now, on the radio, on my office email, in the high school halls, in the shopping malls (♫ Conform or Be Cast Out!♫) and elsewhere about the storm predicted for Sunday/Monday. The latest I’m getting from the NWS is only two inches or so, though other models folks are talking (including my resident weather hobbyist friend) about give us more. I’m mostly concerned it’s going to wreck my plans with the youngest on Sunday to run the 5k in the afternoon. We’re keeping our eye on it.

Otherwise, nothing else really on tap for the weekend from my end. If you happen to be in the Pacific Northwest, consider checking out the Weekend of Wizardry in Tacoma, Washington, where a ton of my wrock friends are going to be, including my bandmates from the Blibbering Humdingers. If you’re somewhere else, there’s almost certainly something cool going on in your neck of the woods.

With that, I’m going to leave things as they are, except to present today’s random playlist, which is heavy on post-punk alternative this time around, but that’s okay with me:

  1. “Skip Under Lide” – Lumsk
  2. “Didya Think” – Arlie
  3. “Photograph” – Def Leppard
  4. “Pictures of You” – The Cure
  5. “I Turn My Camera On” – Spoon
  6. “Every Breath You Take” – The Police
  7. “Thick as a Brick”- Jethro Tull
  8. “Time After Time” – Cyndi Lauper
  9. “Change” – The Revivalists
  10. “Ruler of Everything” – Tally Hall
  11. “Jungle Bird” – Punch Brothers
  12. “White Wedding” – Billy Idol
  13. “Under The Milky Way (Acoustic Version)” – The Church
  14. “Come With Me Now” – Kongos
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winter is coming here

06
Dec

This morning, I had to scrape frost from the windshield.

Yesterday around 11am, I found myself driving in whiteout conditions on a popular metropolitan beltway.

I’ve been cold almost constantly for the last couple of weeks.

This weather pattern they’re talking up for the weekend is looking at dropping a few inches on us at the low end of the model.

I’m not quite sure I’m ready for this, when it all comes down to it.

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quick check in…

04
Dec

I’ve been pretty busy this week so far. At work, it’s lots of meetings, testing, decision-making, and setting things up so I can disappear for two and a half weeks’ holiday break starting in eight working days (since tomorrow is the “National day of Mourning for President Bush*, and thus a federal holiday in practice). At home, it’s been working on knocking other things together to prep for upcoming activities, including continuing my training for the upcoming Celebratory 5k I’m running with the youngest on Sunday to wrap up her participation with Girls on the Run, a neat little program she’s been having fun with.

My training, of course, has been interrupted by the awful cold/sinus thing I had last week, but yesterday, I ran a full practice 5k one one of my usual bike trails, and didn’t do too shabbily. If weather holds this afternoon, I may do it again today…though the weather guys have been dropping the dreaded word “snow” into things, possibly for tomorrow, so we’ll see. At this point, I’m running most of the distance (with some breaks, mostly due to the impact on my ankles – I’m a biker so I can avoid all that), though I expect I’m pushing myself harder than I’ll have to in order to keep pace with the kid. I mostly just don’t want to embarass myself.

Not much else to speak of this week; it’s pretty typical. Just trying to work my way through the last slog until I can relax a bit.

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*- I guess I should comment a bit on President Bush (41)…Although I remember Carter and Reagan, Bush was the first President I was truly aware of – his term coincided pretty much in line with my high school years. Mr. Ely the civics teacher and advisor for the “Young Republicans Club” was a big fan, unsurprisingly, and given where I was at the time and the primary influences I had, I tended to be way more conservative than I ended up being as an adult. That said, 41 really was from another era; an era where cooperation amongst the parties was de rigeur and possible, and things he passed, like the Clean Air Act, and the Americans With Disabilities Act, are things that are basic human goods, but that today’s Republican party wouldn’t touch, with cries of socialism and whatnot. His presiding over the end of the Cold War, and over the first Gulf War (wow…a military action in that part of the world with a clear goal and end point? kind of an anomaly in modern American history) isn’t to be ignored. He wasn’t perfect, of course, no one is, though I kind of think of him as the last of the decent Republicans, in part, I think, because he was a career public servant and really knew the bureaucracy inside out and in general, how Washington worked, and was truly interested in the public good rather than “pwning the Libs”. The world is very different today, much, I think, to our detriment. I’ll definitely mourn the loss of Mr. Bush, and the loss of the era he represents. Also, if Sully (tear) thinks he was a good guy, that’s gotta mean something.

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friday random elevenish: “can’t breathe” edition

30
Nov

Greetings from Friday morning. It’s been a long week, not the least of which because I’ve spent it primarily on the phone while sounding like a frog, or blowing my nose, or coughing up yellow/green mucus, all while surrounded by freezing temperatures, sometimes on the inside (my office yesterday was weird). Except for Tuesday, when I called in sick. I’m slowly on the mend, but I’ve blown through two boxes of tissues this week, just at work.

In spite of all the snot and nose blowing and whatnot, I made some significant work progress (or rather, my staff did, but they did so allegedly under my leadership? I dunno), made it out to open mic on Wednesday, not to perform (see previous paragraph), but to support my fellow musicians, and because I just needed to get the heck out of the house. Funnily enough, the bartending staff outnumbered patrons that evening, so I just had a beer, shot the bull for an hour, then came home and went to bed.

Really not that eventful a week, I guess. Just cold and sick, with occasional quality kitten snuggles, especially last night when I needed them.

Stuff on the agenda this weekend is relatively light (for us, anyway); there’s a Christmas dance performance for the rest of ’em on Saturday (I’ll pull some form of dance dad duty, as usual), I have an appointment for my 55,000 mile scheduled service at the Toyota dealership, and on Sunday, Barry’s going to have the Curry In A Hurry truck over at Hardywood, so that’s where we’re headed for dinner, I think.

That’s about it. On the two week clockwatch now. Holiday break is in sight.

Oh yeah – tunes. Lots of punk/pop riot grrrl today, a great Cheap Trick cover, and a pretty great Pink Floyd tune to close it out.

  1. “Sweet Emotion” – Aerosmith
  2. “P.R.D.C.T.” – Bratmobile
  3. “Who Made Who” – AC/DC
  4. “Unbesiegt” – Equilibrium
  5. “Situation” – Yaz
  6. “Are You Gonna Move It For Me” – The Donnas
  7. “Alien She” – Bikini Kill
  8. “Everybody Wants to Be Famous” – Superorganism
  9. “I Want You To Want Me” – Letters to Cleo
  10. “Just My Kind” – The Julie Ruin
  11. “Stink Foot (live)” – Frank Zappa
  12. “Apocalypse” – Cigarettes After Sex
  13. “Coming Back To Life” – Pink Floyd
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grinding through the home stretch

26
Nov

Happy Monday. My holiday weekend was relatively relaxing. After I wrapped work on Wednesday (ending my week with some good news for once), the crew went out and had dinner and caught a screening of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, which was problematic, but pretty. I missed the fun character moments and inherent sweetness from the first one that was better than it had any right to be. Thanksgiving was pretty chill, by design. I cooked some stuff, I drank some beer, and hung out with the fam. It was nice. For “Black Friday” I avoided shopping (the spouse grabbed one thing on sale online), though we did make a quick trip to Scott’s Addition to grab a growler of Isley’s “Apple Brown Betty” (brown ale with apple juices from Blue Bee Cider down the street) released this past weekend, and a couple of bottles of mead from Black Heath while we were there. In the evening, we went out to an open mic hosted by my friend Doc (a.k.a. Dirty Metal Lefty) at a local coffee shop, where I ended up playing a couple of *really* good sets, if I do say so myself.

Didn’t do a whole lot on Saturday; it was rainy and meh anyway. Got some nice stuff from the farmer’s market, hung around the house. Sunday, I drove the kid back to college after hitting the grocery store to stock her up on snacks for the last couple of weeks of the semester. I also found a really freaking weird beer on the shelf, “Grainsmith Pineapple Chai Stout” (ingredients also include chocolate nibs, coconut water, and agave nectar); it was too weird *not* to buy (also, it was cheap). I sampled one can in the evening while watching The Meg (Jason Statham vs. Giant Sharks? my kind of movie), and it was…odd. My reaction to it on social media apparently inspired my friend Mikey to do a livestream of his weekly podcast Beer Powered Time Machine (also, his usual venue was closed), though I missed the live version, sadly, recovering from the drive, and from the strange beer. Oh well, I’ll catch it on the replay.

For this week, I’m already monitoring several work hiccups that are probably going to be a pain in my ass, but I think we’ll get past them. I’m also concerned that my sinuses are clogging up more than normal allergies would indicate, but I’ll try and get through it. I’m on the Three Weeks Until Christmas Break™ countdown, and I’m not going to let stuff get me down.

Or at least I’m going to try my best.

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friday wednesday random elevenish: “thanks” edition

21
Nov

Got a nice long holiday weekend queued up, and I largely knocked down all the big rocks at work on Tuesday afternoon. It’s nice to be able to pass along good news at status meetings. Weather was also pretty nice on Tuesday; I didn’t have the bike, but I stopped at the park and briskly hiked 2.5 miles after work, which felt good.

I’m tossing up my usual week-end post now because, as is usual for holiday weekends, I’m going to endeavor to spend some time away from the electronic world beyond catching some Pokemon, but that gets the fam and I out into the real world and we occasionally meet real people doing the same thing. It’s fun.

On the agenda for the holiday weekend? Not a heck of a lot, necessarily. At my lovely wife’s request, we’re playing it low-key and non-traditional for Thanksgiving (which also meshes well with the whole lot of them being kinda sick on college germs at the moment), though the eldest tells me we have to make jezebel sauce, so that’ll happen. Otherwise, I have no idea what we’re going to have; I have lots of possibilities in my fridge and pantry; I’ll see what the spirit moves me toward tomorrow.

Besides that, we have plans to get out and see the new Fantastic Beasts movie at some point, and I wouldn’t mind stopping by Isley on Friday to greet friends and grab a growler of the Apple Brown Betty ale (a collaboration with Blue Bee) they’re tapping, and my friend Dirty Metal Lefty is hosting a Black Friday open mic at a local coffee shop, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I made an appearance there with guitar and interested family members in tow to let off some steam and make some noise, because that’s a much better use of my time than lining up outside Walmart.

So, yeah. That’s the next couple of days. I expect there’ll be some kitten skritches in there as well, since he follows me around so darned much.

I provide the expected random playlist below; it’s heavy on the vikings, which is okay with me, especially the overblown and extended guitar breaks throughout #5, which are, well, \m/ (-__-) \m/ , to the Nth degree.

  1. “Edge of Town” – Middle Kids
  2. “Phantom Limb” – The Shins
  3. “Hit Helga Tre” – Burzum
  4. “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” – Michael Jackson
  5. “Svarta Ankan” – Falconer
  6. “Cosmik Debris” – Frank Zappa
  7. “Don’t Bring Me Down” – Electric Light Orchestra
  8. “Havamal” – Falkenbach
  9. “Promises” – Day Wave
  10. “Pibroch” – Jethro Tull
  11. “G.Q. Pimp Theme Song” – Emily’s Sassy Lime
  12. “Here I Go Again” – Whitesnake
  13. “Space Oddity” – David Bowie
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ready for my close-up

20
Nov

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friday random elevenish: “that escalated quickly” edition

16
Nov

Winter came on like gangbusters, huh? No snow here in the RVA, but my friends in DC and environs farther north and west got spanked with snow, ice, and power outages. We just got tons of rain and a bunch of wind. One of the trees in my back yard fell down, though sadly, it didn’t land on the house and get me a new roof. Oh well.

The rest of this short week (which has felt really long, as they do), has been pretty uneventful. Work is work, the kitten remains cute (and may, in fact, have his own instagram account by now), I played a decent, if not my best, set at Isley on Wednesday night, and I may be feeling a little ‘bleh’ thanks to the flu shot I got on Tuesday afternoon, though I seem to have avoided being knocked totally on my ass by it (yes, I know “getting sick from a flu shot” is a myth, though I always get a few of the side effects for a couple of days); I just really hope this one works, unlike last year, which didn’t, and put me down for two weeks.

No huge plans for the weekend, beyond making the drive out to SBC to pick up the kid for fall break, running other kids to events elsewhere, and the usual laundry and shopping and whatnot. A trip out to Scott’s Addition if there are decent food trucks about is always a possibility, but it isn’t guaranteed.

Not the most amazing update, I know, but it’s been pretty chill (and chilly) week overall. We’re just going to have to live with that.

In terms of commentary on this week’s random playlist out of Pandora, as I write this, at least, the usual suspects have been left out (a nice surprise, actually), but the basic indie + vikings + 80s classics continuum is maintained, though the algorithms seem to have developed some holiday tags, given #6, but at least it’s not the standard FM radio holiday tunes; I’ll be avoiding those for a while longer if I can help it.

  1. “Shine” – Mondo Cosmo
  2. “Don’t You Want Me” – The Human League
  3. “Kingslayer” – Grand Magus
  4. “Darling” – Real Estate
  5. “Santonian Shores” – Eluveitie
  6. “Ring Out Solstice Bells (2003 Remaster)” – Jethro Tull
  7. “Something Came Over Me” – Wild Flag
  8. “The Final Countdown” – Europe
  9. “Steps” – Leah Nobel
  10. “Dramamine” – Modest Mouse
  11. “Drive” – The Cars
  12. “We Belong” – Pat Benetar
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