logging the miles

12
Aug

It’s Sunday evening, and I’m back at my August home-away-from-home here in northeastern MD after spending the weekend at home to celebrate the kid’s birthday a few days early. Colleen went all-out putting together a Harry Potter-themed party, with floating candles hanging from the ceiling, turning the front door into Platform 9¾ picking out wands, sorting into Houses, all the good stuff you do at a Potter-themed party for a soon-to-be-eleven year old and her friends.

Also, there was cake.

Getting home took almost five hours on Friday night, after a 9 hour day at class (we stayed later to knock out some group work), starting with the first of four exams (I got an 85% on the first one; I kind of wish I split the difference on two related questions I wasn’t sure about instead of going all-or-nothing; I could’ve had a 90% Oh well; I’m in fine shape to pass the course, and that’s what matters).

I left home this morning around 11:30, and arrived in the neighborhood of my hotel around 5pm, but only because I stopped at a nearby state park to stretch my legs and catch some Eevees for Community Day, and to knock out some grocery shopping so I can feed myself for the week. Otherwise, I would have hit the hotel by 3:30, even with all the damned traffic on I-95 North in Virginia.

After the trip home on Friday, I revised some plans in consultation with my lovely wife; I was going to go home next weekend as well (a friend is playing a show within an hour or two of home, and I’d be seeing the kid off to college for the fall semester), though the thought of having to put something like fourteen total hours of wheel time in (and Colleen’s thought of having to deal with me after having to put in fourteen hours behind the wheel) changed out minds; I’m going to likely stay in my current region for this weekend and maybe take in some of the local sites within spitting distance, and not rack up another 500 miles on the Scion, and save my gas pedal leg some strain.

I also have a dinner date later this week with friends who relocated up this way from Richmond a year or two back; having a nice home-cooked meal and some quality socializing and catching up should be nice.

Oh, and I finally finished the audiobook of Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer today! It’s been months – running the book at 1.5x speed, it was still over 40 hours long. Great book, though!

Anyway, enjoy your week, dear reader. I’m going to try not to wear out too much from all the studying and group projects.

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friday thursday random elevenish: “fatti maschii, parole femine” edition

09
Aug

As I write this, I’ve spent a few hours studying for the first “Celebration of Knowledge” (I swear, I wanna hurt the person at the Department training organization who came up with that particular euphemism) scheduled for tomorrow morning, and am hitting consistent 100% scores on the practice tests that some kind soul put up on quizlet to assist in studying. We’re all a little concerned, because unlike pretty much any other course in the workforce improvement/certification curriculum, the tests in this particular “capstone” program management course are closed book, and the instructors aren’t particularly open about where we ought to focus in terms of the huge volume of material.

Oh well, like most federal training courses, it seems as if it’s not too difficult; I’ll manage.

Yeah, as I’d mentioned previously, I’m on the road again, for a month-long training course for work; the final course I need for top level certification in program management in my particular area of the public sector. I’m at a certain federal facility in the “Free State” of Maryland, living in an extended-stay Hilton property for the entire month of August, more or less.

It’s not terribly exciting. It’s actually kind of exhausting, digesting all the material, and doing all kinds of group project work. Luckily, I have a pretty good team, who I get along with pretty well so far, and we seem to have metagamed the course enough to deliver the stuff they’re looking for. I’m kind of out of my depth; most of my classmates are way deeper into program management than I am; I’m just a cog in the machine of a program office, several levels down the org chart running my little corner of things supporting a business system – my classmates actually manage things (I think one of them is involved in the real-life program the “case study” fake program we use for the class is based on). Oh well, when I’m done, I’ll have another big certification that I can use to hopefully, maybe, open doors for me elsewhere.

Oh well, I’m kind of good at school.

I’ve been pretty frugal so far – I think I’ve spent a total of a day and a half of per diem money in the first week (there’s a grocery store around the corner, and my room has a kitchen); I’m planning on saving up most of my per diem and mileage reimbursement to pay off some bills (and maybe invest in a small portable P.A.). A whole month on the road is a lot of money, and I don’t need to eat fancy (not that there’s a lot here anyway).

I do have to go home tomorrow evening after class – it’s the youngest’s birthday party on Saturday; I won’t miss that. It’s a bit of driving, but I’ll live. I’m keeping the room (I don’t plan on going home every weekend), so I’ll make money in the deal, and I don’t mind the wheel time, necessarily; I’m finally almost finished with the 30+ hour audiobook of Sanderson’s “Oathbringer”!

So far, though, I’m staying out of the home office grind; this is a vacation.

Anyway; here’s my study music:

  1. “Ravens in the Library” – S.J. Tucker
  2. “Scare Goat” – MC Frontalot
  3. “Miranda’s Secret” – Valentine Wolfe
  4. “The Ballad of Essie Tregowan” – Mikey Mason
  5. “Dark Come Soon” – Tegan and Sara
  6. “Come To Mama” – Lady Gaga
  7. “Turn Around” – They Might Be Giants
  8. “Grade Nine” – Barenaked Ladies
  9. “Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio?” – The Ramones
  10. “Moms Away!” – Miracles of Modern Science
  11. “Blame It On The Love Of Rock and & Roll” – Bon Jovi
  12. “Keep Holding On” – Avril Lavigne
  13. “Je Suis Rick Springfield” -Jonathan Coulton
  14. “That’s All” Genesis
  15. “You Can Be As Loud As The Hell You Want (When You’re Making Love)” – Avenue Q – Original Broadway Cast
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friday random elevenish: “chuck’s rule*” edition

03
Aug

Another week, another pile o’ drama. Par for the course.

Work has been ridiculously stressful, the weather’s been awful, kids have been extra twitchy lately, and the tension is bouncing back and forth amongst everyone in the tiny Parker household (including the cats who deign to stay) and everyone is on edge.

Yay.

I did have a neat little adventure last night; some friends we hadn’t seen in quite a while dropped me a line on Wednesday evening about a house concert in town, and as we didn’t have anything else going on (for once!), so Colleen and I joined a bunch of other “music nerds” to catch a pretty great performer named Keelan Donovan at a neat little “underground” venue, Chilton House, where some great folks bring some great performers (and some big names!) for very intimate performances, and I really hope I’ll be able to catch a show again sometime, or at least swap cool Replacements stories again with Angi soon.

Thanks, so much, Michelle and John, for thinking of us at the last minute.

Anyway, I got not quite enough sleep last night thanks to this (although as we’re all old professionals, the show wrapped at the perfectly rational hour of around 10pm), and I’m going to focus on the positive vibes I’m still kind of feeling after having such a good time last night.

As I’ve indicated previously, starting Monday mid-day, I’m in the wind (or at least the wilds of middling Maryland) for a month-long program management course. Work until then is largely about shutting down the shop for a while, as in getting things ready to roll in my absence (or at least toss problems over the fence to the boss, who had no problem doing so to me when he took this class in June). Right now, my team’s ahead of schedule on our stuff, but all the other moving parts seem to be doing less moving these days, and who knows if I’ll even have a staff come the new FY, as the contracts shop is moving even less.

Dammit, I said I wasn’t going to bitch about work. Sorry.

Let’s change the tune, but stick with the music. I read a really good book this week: Natania Barron’s Rock Revival, published by my buddy John Hartness’s imprint, Falstaff Books. Really great story of music, band dynamics, and making art. Seriously, check it out (as well as John’s other stuff – he’s a talented guy).

For the weekend, some other friends are having a wine and cheese party tomorrow afternoon. I think it’ll be a good time, especially since we’re bringing mead along to go with our interesting cheeses. I think I’m finally going to get rid of the P.A. I’ve been holding onto since April (and using to bail out dance company events) as well.

Anyway; here’s some music – pretty decent mix, and I’m going with the name on the 45rpm record for #8, even if Pandora went with the modern equivalent, and #14 (oh, I stretch the bounds of eleven) is a blast to play as a soundcheck, especially when you shift the chord progression to White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army”:

  1. “Poofter’s Froth Wyoming” – Frank Zappa & Captain Beefheart
  2. “Tonight Feels Different” – Keelan Donovan
  3. “You Shook Me All Night Long (live)” – AC/DC
  4. “Hello” – Adele
  5. “Making Art” – JD Samson @ MEN
  6. “Sweet Emotion” – Aerosmith
  7. “The Gold” – Manchester Orchestra
  8. “Jack and Diane” – John Cougar
  9. “Our Swords” – Band of Horses
  10. “Medley: We Used to Know/For a Thousand Mothers (live)” – Jethro Tull
  11. “Always Something There To Remind Me” – Naked Eyes
  12. “Soma” – The Strokes
  13. “It’s That Bad” – Go Betty Go
  14. “Sweet Dreams (are made of this)” – Eurythmics
  15. “Fade Into You” – Mazzy Star
  16. “That Thing” – Hazel English

____________________________

* – Many of those who know me know my rule; “Never** refuse an opportunity for live music”. I almost always win when I follow this rule. Doesn’t matter the genre, venue, etc; live music is an inherent good, and you should enjoy it (and if you can, be present, don’t do this if you can help it – couple of photos is fine).

** – I include the asterisks, because of my biggest hit/miss with this one, but it’s complicated. Once I missed a chance to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the Meadowlands, after missing out earlier that day on U2 tickets**. That said, because I wasn’t actually there to answer the phone to take the Springsteen opportunity (see, it’s fuzzy, I didn’t actually “refuse”), I got to spend one last evening with my dad. “Never” is a tough one, and I have passed on a couple of opportunities since, but in general, it’s a good idea to go see music played if you have the chance.

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make a supersonic man outta you

31
Jul

I so needed this:

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…tuesday

31
Jul

Today’s gonna be a better day, whether Bison razes my village or not. Kinda has to be.

Monday was all the phone calls. All of them. Also, being told out of one side of management’s mouth that I need to disengage because of the class next month, but also need to get these two dozen new things done before I leave. Also, my children have been totally evil beasties…well, more than usual.

…and, when I went to go ride my bike, in the rain, I found that somewhere along the line, I picked up a nail in the front tire. Dammit. At that point, I couldn’t do it anymore. I put the bike away unfixed, took Ready Player One* back to the Redbox, and gave up to do nothing but curl up on the couch to catch up on Cloak and Dagger** on hulu, and went to bed early. Twas the best plan.

I also lost my “One Ring” again – I swear I had it on when I went to bed last night, but it’s not on my finger now. It’s probably in the sheets…I feel so…visible.

Anyway, that’s my life. Dammit.

___________________

* – okay, stealth reviews of movies part one: RP1 was…okay? I liked the book, though I didn’t love it; a lot of the criticism about it being mostly ‘member berries is true, but they’re the right memories for me. Most of it worked for me. The movie did some things differently (the second key actually worked better than the book), and smoothed out some of the wrinkles (hey, it’s Spielberg; guy earned his rep), though was about as good as the source material in the end. I enjoyed it, but I’m glad I just rented it and didn’t pay full price.

** – stealth reviews of tv shows, part two: C&D is, um…pretty good? It’s somewhat different from the admittedly d-list comics deep cut it’s based on, which is actually a good thing. The New Orleans setting works, the kids are charismatic, and about episode seven when they start being heroes, it’s hit it’s stride, though they kind of roll things back because they realise they have more to go, then they lampshade it by framing the next ep with a lesson on The Hero’s Journey in the classroom, which is effective, but…Oh well, it’s not done yet; I’ll keep watching. However, in spite of what Jonah says, Cage season 2 is better.

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monday morning coming down

30
Jul

I was a little, shall we say, bleak, on my friday update? Probably, but then, that’s where I kind of find myself. I’m not necessarily better, but I did a whole lot of nothin’ beyond totally failing my quest rolls to find things for errands and catching up on some movies and tv. It was largely quiet, mostly; and at least sort of restful.

I think I was dealing with low-grade migraines (stress, allergies, all that stuff can contribute) for most of the weekend, which happens occasionally with me. I’ll manage.

Wasn’t thrilled to wake up to rain this morning, but whatever. I’ve concluded that I’m going to go ride a bike in the rain if it comes to that.

This week, as it appears, is largely going to be a week of disengagement around the office, as starting next week (assuming my travel orders can get through the bureaucratic nightmare that is my particular organization) I’ll be spending a few weeks (really, the entire month of August) off-site in the wilds of Maryland taking a resident course about program management. I’ll be slipping home for a couple of weekends (I have a life), but as my boss just wrapped this a few weeks ago, he confirmed that it pretty much eats your life for four weeks.

I am going to consider it a vacation. I have a team of folks who will mostly be able to keep things rolling in my absence (although one of my best contractors got a great offer last week and is leaving the team – I wish her luck, but I’m going to miss her); and there’s nothing in my corner of the world that can’t wait until tomorrow, in spite of what people around here occasionally say.

Vacation. That’s what I’m calling it. Yep. I’m just going to keep my mind on the idea that I’ll have a valuable and marketable certification in my pocket when I’m done with this, which might help me find a way off this sinking ship eventually.

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oh jeez, not this again

30
Jul

As if I haven’t had enough to get diagnosed with “Trump Anxiety Disorder” (which is apparently a thing), 45 is threatening shutdowns again. Just what I need going into a new fiscal year, especially with all the weirdness around my particular corner of the bureaucracy.

Oh so yay.

Seriously, early morning twitter from the shitter is no way to run a government.

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friday random elevenish: “um…no” edition

27
Jul

It’s not even over, and it’s already been the week from hell.

I’m not even going to get into the work bits, because I don’t want to get ridiculously angry again. The weather’s been a mess and I haven’t managed to get *any* biking in this week at all, and also, Lady Sif is still missing; we’ve done everything we can (looking around, keeping food out, checking with the shelter, etc); but I’m kind of accepted she’s not coming back – I always had kind of bad feeling that she, being pretty much the runt of her litter and being a little sickly here and there, wouldn’t be with us really long (and the anecdotally-proven habit of animals wandering off if they know their time is short doesn’t help). Anyway, if she comes back, I will be amazingly happy, but my brain has already kind of gone into mourning – it’s been two weeks with no sign whatsoever.

Miss ya, kitten. My shoulder is a lonelier place.

Yeah.

I’m kind of a mess, to be honest. Beyond my spur-of-the-moment adventure Wednesday night heading out to Isley Brewing for their conveniently-timed open mic night, which wasn’t my best set ever, but was far from my worst (the guys at the bar said they liked what I tried to bring, even when I wasn’t thrilled, and insisted I come back) and a couple of minor, fleeting moments of okay (like when Luke Cage said “Where’s My Money, Honey?” on TV)it’s been crap all over. That little adventure helped for a while.

I got nothing planned for the weekend. Pfft.

Anyway; here’s some music; I don’t feel much like commenting other to day that the mix is bog-standard “meh”:

  1. “It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)” – AC/DC
  2. “Hang Me Up To Dry” – Cold War Kids
  3. “Take It Off” – The Donnas
  4. “My God” – Jethro Tull
  5. “Starman” – David Bowie
  6. “Officially Dead” – Veruca Salt
  7. “Going to California (Mandolin/Guitar Mix)” – Led Zepplin
  8. “Nothin’ But A Good Time” – Poison
  9. “Mr. Green Genes (live)” – Frank Zappa
  10. “That’s All” – Genesis
  11. “Run Fast” – The Julie Ruin
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challenging my positivity

24
Jul

I am going to remain positive today.

I am going to remain positive today.

I am going to remain positive today.

I was copied on a work email yesterday after I left for the day containing an obviously long-existent, complex and largely complete document providing a description of a supposedly undocumented process I’ve been asking this exact person for for two years with no success (everyone said it didn’t exist), which was provided happily and without drama when someone else made an off-hand comment.

I am making rude hand gestures at my computer screen.

{{{deep breath}}}

I am going to remain positive today.

I am going to remain positive today.

…..

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friday random elevenish: “feis funk” edition

20
Jul

This week, I tell you…

While the family dancers didn’t have a bad showing overall at the US Open this past weekend, I somehow ended up picking up a bug from all the kids wandering around; started with the headaches and sinus congestion, went through some serious lower GI issues (I shat away seven pounds in 24 hours; I got well under 220 there, but that’s not the way I’d prefer to do it), and general aches and pains. I think I’m mostly coming out of it now, though I’ve basically just been muddling through work (which is shit, but I’m not going to talk about it , because I’m trying to be positive today), then coming home, eating something or other, then collapsing. I’ve been a week off the bike, too, because I don’t have the energy or lungs, frankly, and I’m missing my “two-wheeled meditation” as I call it. I was, shall we say, a bit salty yesterday, especially after coming off some work crap I said I wasn’t going to talk about, yesterday.

But yes, I forced myself to be a bit more active on Wednesday, as it was our big 2-0 wedding anniversary. According to the googles, “China” is the traditional gift, but we’re not exactly traditional; I got her an espresso pot and a set of neat cups and saucers to go with it (maybe that is china? I dunno), she got me a Kindle Fire 7 to replace my dear departed ancient kindle that finally died a few months ago. We also had a nice dinner out at Capital Ale House, a favorite resturant of ours (which just happens to be down the street from the dance school, where we’d previously dumped the children because dance classes, of course), and did some poking around stores nearby afterwards.

Also, yeah, we got all the kids back Monday night, as the eldest was retrieved from her trip to Australia. She’s largely sorted from the jet lag and all, and had an amazing time.

Also Monday night (likely during the late-night return of the eldest child), the kitten (well, not kitten, but she’s still tiny), Lady Sif, somehow got out, and has been out doing rumspringa all week, and while I’m sure she’s probably hiding under the neighbor’s shed like Shamokin used to, but I’m still a little worried, and that’s been a low-level stressor all week as well. If she’s reading the internet, come on back, Sif, okay? We have treats.

Otherwise, I’m just trying to get through my day so I can go home and put this week behind me, and get onto the weekend. As it stands now, I need some energy and constitution, as dear friends are coming to town to do an ad-hoc brewery/cidery tour through Scott’s Addition. We personally love Blue Bee Cider and Isley Brewing in the neighborhood, but there are almost a dozen other craft breweries/cideries (plus a meadery and a distillery) in the mix as well, and tons of food trucks and events at so many of them. I expect we’ll have a good time.

Anyway, that’s life from here. I’m trying to focus on the positive things, as there’ve been a bunch of non-positive things tossed my way this week. I’m going to, if not always, try to look on the bright side of life for the rest of the day. Hoping I can manage it.

Anyway, tunes. Not a bad mix – some new faces, twice the Frank (and probably the best version of “Stairway…” I’ve ever heard…seriously), and a bit there in the middle that could read as a playlist from the early days of MTV. It’s made the morning sound okay as I dig through spreadsheets.

  1. “The Voice” – David Arkenstone
  2. “Brown Shoes Don’t Make It” – Frank Zappa
  3. “Sossity You’re A Woman” – Jethro Tull
  4. “Gold on the Ceiling” – The Black Keys
  5. “Thelonius” – Jeff Beck
  6. “Round and Round” – Ratt
  7. “Tainted Love” – Soft Cell
  8. “Little Red Corvette” – Prince
  9. “Bette Davis Eyes” – Kim Carnes
  10. “The Great Salt Lake” – Band of Horses
  11. “T-Shirt Weather” – Circa Waves
  12. “Rock ‘N Roll Suicide” – David Bowie
  13. “Stairway to Heaven (live)” – Frank Zappa
  14. “Heart it Races” – Dr. Dog
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