fridaythursday random elevenish: “discount candy day eve” edition


Gonna do this today, because I’m taking tomorrow off, to stretch the long weekend a bit, and so my lovely wife and I can celebrate Discount Candy Day tomorrow for lunch. Valentine’s day is troublesome, because dance class; Friday evening is also booked because of the (totally non creepy) elementary school Father-Daughter dance the youngest I and I are doing.

The week’s been full of meetings I can’t miss, and struggling through some sort of sinus bug; seriously, Tuesday and Wednesday, I went to bed at like 5pm. Feeling slightly better today, but I think I’m still going to take it easy through the weekend.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t have a date for Valentine’s Day, because I totally do. My friend Chris from Hampton Roads is in town for work for a couple of days, and we’re getting together for BBQ tonight. Yeah.

Otherwise, I’m 10/14 on #FAWM, with 14 days to go. Some of those ten still need to be chorded out/demo’d, but with my sick this week, and working to get solidly off-book on enough tunes to not look like an idiot for next week’s Castleburg Open Mic hosting gig, I haven’t gotten around to it. Might start #11 today; I’ve got a bit of a melody rattling around in the brainpan.

Anyway – tunes. Starts out killer, then it’s kind of a decent mix of the usual suspects, with unusual selections. Works for me.

  1. “Feels Blind” – Bikini Kill
  2. “Mr. Brightside” – The Killers
  3. “Girl Talk” – The Donnas
  4. “Human” – Rag’n’Bone Man
  5. “Is This Love” – Whitesnake
  6. “Fartosen Kom” – Svartsot
  7. “Ship Ahoy (live guitar solo)” – Frank Zappa
  8. “Jessie’s Girl” – Rick Springfield
  9. “Take Me Home” – Phil Collins
  10. “John Barleycorn (Live 1992)” – Jethro Tull
  11. “Walk Like an Egyptian” – Bangles
  12. “2 Minutes to Midnight (live)” – Iron Maiden
  13. “Bite The Hand” – boygenius
  14. “Hang Me Up To Dry” – Cold War Kids

view from a monday afternoon


Had a decent weekend, I guess. Been a little out of sorts, but my lovely spouse and I had a decent afternoon out on Saturday, hitting Blue Bee and Mean Bird as mentioned previously, as well as a pop by Castleburg to try the new blackberry gose; as well as discovering this:

My humble monthly Open Mic is pretty official now, if it’s made the table cards in the taproom. I’m getting good feedback from folks who will be coming, so it feels like it’s going to be a successful inaugural event. Here’s to hoping, anyway.

Sunday, which I was planning on making a quiet day of laundry and relaxation, though it was noticed that Return of the Mac was at Tabol Brewing, the new brewer on the block in RVA (opened just last week), for lunch and a chance to sample some of their wares, and I rather liked what I tried (especially the “Please Advise” dark ale, which was amazing, and quite likely sold out by the time anyone reads this); I’ll be going back.

My Monday, however, has been less than amazing; it’s been more phone calls where people on the project have, until this late hour, failed to identify significant issues that impact me (let alone the headlines that suggest partners might shut down again next week). I’ve been making rude gestures at the phone all damned day. But, the day is over, and I’ll be spending my afternoon getting my car serviced, which should be pretty low-key.

And, I’m coming into a long weekend, made longer by the fact that I’m taking Friday off, just because I deserve a break, and one is sorely needed anyway.


friday random elevenish: “old-man-fit” edition


It’s Friday. As usual, it’s been a long week. Spent most of the work week on the phone; Wednesday involved the same meeting twice (which was a nice break over the usual three times); I got volun-told I’m managing a big procurement action that’s not mine because of my “program management experience.” Yay.

Also, I knocked out over 25 miles on the bike (nice weather the last couple of days) and came to the conclusion that I’m out of conditioning after the nasty weather of the last couple of months (Thursday was the first day I didn’t seriously hurt afterward; Tues/Wed I felt every one of the extra twelve pounds I’ve put on since Thanksgiving), and knocked out seven songs so far for February Album Writing Month, and got some nice comments on my work from fellow Fawmers, including a couple of folks coughcoughmikeymasoncoughcough whose work and opinions I really respect. I think I’ve got one or two real winners so far, which feels like a pretty good success rate (and the others don’t really suck).

That’s really been the week. Work, bike, songwriting. Kind of overwhelming (ask my lovely spouse about how distracted I’ve been), though mostly in a good way.

Not sure what’s up for the weekend; aforementioned lovely spouse has designs on hitting Blue Bee on Saturday to catch the new release and Mean Bird, who has this “Veggie Bird” dish she’s been itching to try. I expect we’ll probably do that, though I’d also kind of like to get the taxes done, especially before the 15th, when bits of the federal government, including the IRS, just might shut down again, and I wouldn’t mind having my stuff in the queue prior.

Otherwise? who knows. I’ll just be happy to have a couple of days’ break.

Anyway, here’s some tunes; yanked off of my hard drive for a change, rather than a streaming service, which seems to have side-stepped the Bowie/Zappa/Donnas tendencies, at least for this week:

  1. “Rain” – Patty Griffin
  2. “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad” – Def Leppard
  3. “You Don’t Remember, I’ll Never Forget” – Yngwie Malmsteen
  4. “A Gentleman! What Gentleman?” – Valentine Wolfe
  5. “The Tale of Tom Riddle” – Witherwings
  6. “Heart of Gold” – Tori Amos
  7. “Hell Hole” – Spinal Tap
  8. “End Love (Subtractive Remix)” – OK Go
  9. “When You’re Dead” – Voltaire
  10. “Travelling” – Hikaru Utada
  11. “Wretched and Divine” – Black Veil Brides
  12. “Over It Over Again” – She & Him
  13. “Lost” – Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra

friday random elevenish – “fawm time” edition


it’s Friday. Thank $diety.

I’ve been struggling with work all week; swinging from angry to frustrated to despondent and then back again. So many conference calls full of people who can’t be bothered to listen to reason, logic, or, frankly, anything.

I’ve also felt like hell physically. This cold snap is playing hell with my sinuses. This week has largely been nothing but office bullshit for eight (or more) hours, drive home listening to The Adventure Zone on spotify (thanks, Mary and Andrea, for this suggestion – it’s hitting the sweet spot), complaining to my lovely and patient spouse about my day, knocking together something to eat, then settling in with a book for a very early evening zonked out on Nyquil.

I guess, yeah, there was a pleasant visit to Frank the chiropractor, who made my back feel good for a bit, and I did knock out some pretty decent Ethiopian red lentils on Monday, though I may have cooked them a little too long. Oh, and I now own my own public address system, which will get used for gigs and supporting Irish dance events. It’s not fancy, but it’ll do for a small room.

This weekend looks to be primed for celebrating my lovely spouse’s birthday; the tentative plans are to meet some friends for dinner and enjoy some time out. I really hope it works out. I could use a good, pleasant time without pressure.

But, I’m also putting pressure on myself, but it’s good pressure. It’s February Album Writing Month, beginning today, and I’m going to do it again. The gist of this thing is to be creative on a schedule, the challenge set upon ourselves to write 14 songs (approximately an album’s worth of material) in 28 days. It doesn’t have be awesome, ut just has to be. Hell, I’ve already got a good start; I knocked up some lyrics this morning already. I’ve got a bunch of friends participating this year along with me; if you care to track my progress, my bit on is here. One of these days, I’m going to learn to be a songwriter.

Oh, my bandmates in the Blibbering Humdingers booked a gig a few months back to write and record a promotional tune and video for Adult Swim‘s new show, Tigtone, a sort of video gamey/absurdist/fantasy thing. It’s really S&K’s medieval thing, so I’ve only been tangentially involved (if at all), but I’m still proud of my people, and am proud to share with you the video that dropped yesterday, which will surely lead to us living our best lives as full-time rock stars any time now, right?

All that’s left, I guess, is the random music. Well, not so random this time; Pandora started repeating itself; rather than prune things, I just went with it. Almost the whole back half is repeated artists. Oh well. The tunes are basically good:

  1. “Wasted” – The Donnas
  2. “Stick Together” – Frank Zappa
  3. “Pretend” – Hovvdy
  4. “The Man” – The Killers
  5. “Crazy Thing Called Love” – Queen
  6. “Be Good” – Frumpies
  7. “Pumped Up Kicks” – Foster the People
  8. “Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go” – Soft Cell
  9. “Nothing Is Easy (live)” – Jethro Tull
  10. “Do You Want to Hit It” – The Donnas (again)
  11. “Who Are The Brain Police?” – Frank Zappa (again)
  12. “Killer Queen” – Queen (again)
  13. “Skip Under Lide” – Lumsk
  14. “Jack-A-Lynn” – Jethro Tull (again)

insert relevant danny glover lethal weapon quote here


On Saturday, we joined our friends Jennyfer and Ted to celebrate Ted’s birthday. These folks (who we know via the dance studio – Jennyfer and Colleen are part of the adult dancer contingent), are in their mid-twenties, and have a wonderful kind of energy that I, as a fortysomething old man, don’t necessarily have.

In the course of the evening, we made stops at six different breweries/cideries/establishments within RVA’s Scott’s Addition neighborhood of drinkery. It was a pretty wonderful time overall. I may have indulged a bit more than I’ve done in quite some time, and unlike our friends, I am not in my twenties. I woke up Sunday feeling slightly worse for the wear, more than functional enough to take the eldest offspring back to college on Sunday afternoon, but…yeah.

A good, responsible time was had by all (though I have not heard from J&T since Saturday evening when we parted ways), and we’ll likely get together for dinner and (ideally, fewer) drinks in the coming weekend to celebrate my lovely spouse’s birthday, but this is the kind of thing I can’t do terribly often, especially after playing rock star at the con last weekend.

I may indeed be in better physical shape today than I was in high school, though I occasionally need reminding that I’m not twenty-five any longer.


friday random elevenish: “thirty-five days” edition


I’m funded, working, and got paid yesterday. I’m relieved and thankful, but I also feel exceedingly guilty about it, because 800,000 odd other public servants, including many good friends, haven’t been paid for a month, and there’s really no resolution in sight for fixing this stupid impasse.

In fact, in the paycheck I got yesterday was heavy, as it included my end of year “contribution bonus,” which I used to pay a car off a few months early, and bought some reasonably priced music gear I’ve got a legitimate need for, but still felt guilty about ordering.

Damn my Catholic upbringing, the guilt never quite goes away. I’m going to try to focus on the fact that it’s also compassion for my fellow man instead, and hope it salves things a bit.

Anyway, that out of the way, the rest of this week, apart from the whiplash-inducing temperature changes, hasn’t been all that terrible. At the office, my team made a couple of breakthroughs on this project (never mind that we have time to do this this because our partners in other departments aren’t available for crucial testing), and I’m making myself rather useful in improving the organizational bottom line by helping other divisions tighten up their acquisition documentation (one day, this sort of thing is probably going to end up being my full-time job). At home, It’s actually been kind of quiet; the weather’s stirring up sinus issues, so I’m taking it easy; I didn’t go out to open mic on Wednesday, in part because I wasn’t feeling great, and in part because the brewery’s put it on hiatus for a while, which sucks, but I kind of understand, as the last couple of weeks have been really slow. I need to get over there and chat with folks to find out if there’s any more to the story.

Oh well – in three weeks, I have my inaugural Open Mic hosting gig over at Castleburg, and I’m getting some good feedback from folks who are planning to come out and play.

Oh, and I got new glasses. I kinda like them, even if they look pretty similar to the old ones (I have a type that mostly works and I stick with it), though I can see better now, so there’s that.

That’s a high level survey of my life at the moment; all that’s left is the playlist. Very typical, swinging toward 80s alternative, but that’s cool.

  1. “Dancing With Myself” – Billy Idol
  2. “Sex” – Frank Zappa
  3. “Dreams” – Beck
  4. “It’s My Life” – Talk Talk
  5. “Better Off Dancing” – The Donnas
  6. “Fallen Angel” – Poison
  7. “Fascination Street” – The Cure
  8. “Infinity” – The xx
  9. “Kissing Willie” – Jethro Tull
  10. “Hunnybee” – Unknown Mortal Orchestra
  11. “Rocket” – Def Leppard
  12. “Pine Woods” – Korpiklaani
  13. “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” – Eurythmics

And Oh Yeah – Pokemon Go: Level 40!


marscon in brief


Marscon was pretty damned great. I worked hard, made a bunch of great music (full five-piece band!), got to play some of my own stuff and it got some pretty decent acclaim, made some new friends, played some games, and shared the stage (and drinks, and fun and all kinds of things) with some amazing friends, collaborators, and musicians (so many to list – just go to the Marscon Entertainers page – they are all my friends and compatriots!).

I spent a little bit of money, but not too much. The spouse got a purse, I bought a book. I got off light.

The best thing I did, though, was stay at the hotel/convention space Sunday night – after the bulk of the con attendees leave, several guests, performers, and most of the staff stick around and relax off the clock and enjoy each other’s company. We had a nice leisurely dinner, drinks, and spent a couple of low-pressure hours making music for each other and whoever else felt like hanging around; it’s the kind of thing that used to work on Friday night, though things have gotten so big, we’ve kind of lost that great informal hanging out thing the last couple of years, but I found it again Sunday night, sitting around a commandeered lobby Starbucks table with Mikey, Madison, and our friends singing songs and making each other laugh.

By now you know that this is the weekend I look forward to probably more than any other in a given year – spending time with my fellow martians is truly my happy place.


friday random elevenish: “countown to mars” edition


Haven’t been all that active this week for a number of reasons. One, I’ve been feeling not great; it’s the time of year for weird sinus and whatever things, so I’ve been largely mainlining vitamin C and rest so I’m in better shape for the weekend, and it almost actually seems to be working. We’ll see.

Secondly, I’ve been working a special project all week at work that sticks me in the secure area of the organizational HQ building, where any sort of device that connects to the outside world is verboten (it’s nothing particularly sexy or interesting; I’m helping some folks massage some documentation so it’ll get through reviews more effectively). It’s been interesting, except for the part where I effectively have to be escorted to the bathroom, because there isn’t one behind the security airlock. Oh well.

The big event, of course, is this weekend, MarsCon, my home convention where I get to spend time with dear friends and chosen family, make music with all kinds of great people, and generally get to bask in love and acceptance for 48 hours or so. I cannot wait. In between the other things, I’ve been rehearsing my Humdingers bass parts, gathering gear, and generally looking forward to the good times to be had.

If you happen to be around, here’s where I know I’ll be:

  • Friday, 10pm – large auditorium: Blibbering Humdingers Show
  • Saturday, 10am – small auditorium: “Behind the Music” panel (all the musicians talk about songwriting and the creative process)
  • Saturday 2pm – small auditorium: Blibbering Humdingers Show
  • Saturday 10pm-ish: small auditorium: Open Filking (where I’ll be playing some of my stuff with other like-minded folks)
  • Sunday, 2pm – large auditorium : “Round Robin” jam session (all the performers play a bunch of tunes to close out the con)

Otherwise, I’ll be around, socializing and such, more often than not within the vicinity of where the music is. That’s the way I roll.

That’s really about that. If you can tell, I’m really in good time anticipation mode.

All that’s left to do really, is introduce the random playlist, which is here. Kinda prog this week, but still wades into the usual Donnas/Bowie/Zappa continuum where my pandora shuffles always end up. At least it’s my favorite Bowie song:

  1. “Sirius” – The Alan Parsons Project
  2. “Maneater” – Daryl Hall & John Oates
  3. “Have a Drink on Me” – AC/DC
  4. “Live Well” – Palace (UK)
  5. “Africa” – Toto
  6. “Solsbury Hill” – Peter Gabriel
  7. “Tonight’s Alright” – The Donnas
  8. “Life on Mars?” David Bowie
  9. “Battle Metal” – Turisas
  10. “Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing? (live) – Frank Zappa
  11. “Listen to the Music” – The Doobie Brothers
  12. “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” – Jet

friday random elevenish: “indifference, weather panic, music and neutering” edition


Overall, this week, in spite of it’s perceived length, hasn’t been awful, at least for me. Yes, huge swaths the federal government is still shut down over temper tantrums, I spent most of Thursday bundled up in my coat and scarf in my office because the heat is really wonky, and the mid-atlantic is panicking over the coming snowpocalypse (even if it’s not going to be too terrible in my neck of the woods), because the last one dumped more than a foot on us.

The good: I played a pretty good open mic on Wednesday – not my best set ever, though I did about a half-hour of almost entirely originals, which is always a risk. “Bureaucratic Talking Shutdown Blues”, which I wrote during the last big shutdown business back in February (and I never thought I’d have to revisit again), went over especially well. This shutdown continues without apparent end, which sucks for so many people, but it has, as I expected, bought me and my team at least eight more weeks of much-welcome testing time before this project gets deployed. Finally, I had my conference with the boss regarding the year-end evaluations and pay pool deliberations, and the news wasn’t awful – the result was about what I expected; a reasonable (if not tremendous) salary bump for the coming year, and a modest “contribution award” (aka one time lump bonus) that’ll put a couple extra bucks in the budget soonish.

The bad/indifferent: the work itself still is less than engaging, and the result of the year-end review hasn’t really helped me to make the call about whether I stick it out or start shopping for something else. I really don’t know at this point. Oh well. The weather can’t decide what it wants to be; I rode the bike in 70° temperatures three days ago. Today it’s not likely to break 40°. It’s gonna snow Sunday, and unless things change drastically, I have to venture toward the greater impact areas to return my child to her institute of higher education (gonna miss the kid). We’ll see. At least I have Monday off; by my own doing – at one point I thought I might be conning this weekend, but it wasn’t in the cards.

There are two interesting conventions I won’t be attending this weekend, actually – Illogicon in Raleigh-Durham, a small but ridiculously fun event where many of my friends will be performing/attending (Metricula! Valentine Wolfe! Gray Rinehart!), and GaFilk (aka, the Georgia Filk Convention) in Atlanta, where my Humdingers bandmates S&K will be attending, along with other musical nerd friends. If you’re in either area, it’s worth your time to check it out – some great people and great entertainment.

Finally, today is the day for Little Lebowski. He doesn’t know what’s going to be happening this morning, but I’m not sure he’s going to like it.

All that’s left now is the tunes, I suppose. Pretty 80s indie pop, for the most part, with some more modern variations, plus thirteen minutes of live Zappa for seasoning:

  1. “Manic Monday” – The Bangles
  2. “Living These Hard Times” – Jethro Tull
  3. “Vide Noir” – Lord Huron
  4. “Love Will tear Us Apart (1980 Martin Hannett Tapes)” – Joy Division
  5. “Take on Me” – A-Ha
  6. “The First Song” – Band of Horses
  7. “Severed” – The Decembrists
  8. “King Kong (Live)” – Frank Zappa
  9. “Pretend We’re Dead
  10. “Bittersweet Symphony” – The Verve
  11. “Paradise City” – Guns N’ Roses
  12. “Hey You” – Pink Floyd

bureaucratic talking shutdown blues


This is going to be the longest one in history. No question. As long as stuff like this happens, it’s going to go on. the federal workers’ scuttlebut is that we should gird our loins for a long one.

You all know my political leanings. You all also know, more or less, where I work. This is the third time this year we’re in shutdown territory. I work for one of the handful of Departments that happens to have full-year funding, so I’m not directly affected by this one (full disclosure, the fact that I have to coordinate testing with other Departments that are affected is actually giving me some breathing room on the current project we’re approaching the end of…though I don’t feel particularly good about it), but I have plenty of friends and colleauges and total-strangers-but-siblings-in-service-nonetheless who are (approximately 800k of them), and who aren’t going to get paid this week like I am (though I’m still going to hold my breath until the EFT actually hits my checking account), and that really, and truly sucks, because this business is pretty much happening because of a temper tantrum.

The wall (or barrier, or steel slats, or whatever we’re calling it today) isn’t a particularly good idea. It’s not well thought out. Hell, stories out this week indicate it was less policy and more a memory device cooked up by advisers so 45 would remember to bash immigration on the campaign trail.

But here we are.

I honestly don’t know at this point. I don’t think we should spend the money on it. I don’t think we’re going to. Off-the-record talk indicates that the White House is looking for a way out of this one that lets them save face because they’re actually, for once, starting to realize that this one’s gotten away from them. But, I don’t think we’re actually there yet, because of the President’s loose cannon nature. He can’t be counted on to to stay on message, and will change direction wildly based on the last thing someone said to him.

I sincerely hope saner heads prevail sooner rather than later, but this is at least going into next week. Today’s about photo ops at the border, which will lead to nothing of consequence (except for, perhaps, further inflamed tensions), and nobody in Washington works on Fridays anyway.

In the meantime, my fellow public servants are getting the screws.

One interesting thing, though, that’s getting lots of play the last day or two, is a quote from a Trump voter in Florida who, in the fine tradition of Trump voters, keeps saying the quiet parts loud, and giving us an interesting, if depressing window into the psyche of a significant chunk of America:

“I voted for him, and he’s the one who’s doing this,” she said of Mr. Trump. “I thought he was going to do good things. He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.”

It’s never been about helping anyone; as expressed above, it’s all about stomping on the necks of the people they don’t like. And that is what really makes concerned for us as a nation.


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