whiplash

23
Jan

So, after getting furloughed yesterday, went back in to the office today as Congress reached a grand bargain half-assed postponement (beyond some good news for low income families needing healthcare) to reopen the government. For eleven business days.

Of course they waited until the last minute (Seriously, I got my “official” notification to report well after 11pm), because why not ratchet up the anxiety on federal employees to the greatest extent possible to cement our position as playthings of the ruling elite?

I may be slightly bitter, because of course I am. After spending yesterday morning shutting things down, The task is now the efforts of standing everything back up 24 hours later, which is going to take more than twice as long, because it’s way easier to cancel all these commitments than figure out how to get everybody back up to speed, and it sounds like I’m going to be head-down most of the rest of the week to make up for having to shut down for what was effectively half-a-workday while the Congresscritters kindly stopped their sniping and pissing contests for a few hours to look dramatically diplomatic and potentially presidential, only to kick the can down the alleyway for a little while.

I fully expect promises not to be kept, deadlines missed, and we’ll be doing this all again in three weeks.

I think I have a few Xanax left…

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non-essential

22
Jan

Like more than three-quarters of a million of my compatriot bureaucrats, I am currently sitting in my office waiting to receive my furlough notice for signature and conducting the most disorderly “orderly shutdown of operations” one could possibly imagine.

Unlike the last one these, just a few weeks after I changed jobs over to an agency funded by appropriations rather than working capital (which means the organization is sort of self-funded, and can keep rolling for a while in these situations), things are anything but orderly. There was pretty much no guidance heading into this one (we a copy of a surprisingly political memo from the deputy secretary very late on Friday which told us nothing of consequence), so we’re all kind of flailing.

My boss didn’t actually get the invite to the staff meeting this morning where they tell people how to actually handle things this time, though without actual guidance, we’re defaulting to the way it was five years ago. Whatever.

I’ve given my folks what direction I could, changed my voicemail and email autoresponders, and started checking the building (not really my job, but I’m the only one in this one right now) for perishables in the trash and fridge.

I did find a cold Diet Coke I didn’t drink last week…furlough bonus!

Also got some pretty sad news last night; a dear relative passed away, and this shutdown business is likely going to prevent me from making the trip for the services, between the “can’t take leave, but gotta come in if they call you so don’t leave town” situation and the whole “wonder when I’m going to get paid again” business. Let’s just say it’s pretty frustrating.

In any case, the general consensus around this particular organization right now is that we’re figuring it’ll take about a week for the political theater to play out on the Washington stage (and that’s really what all this is…I’m just a little frustrated to be a non-essential prop) and the congresscritters work out a solution to this manufactured problem.

On a brighter note, though, we played some decent shows this weekend down at the pub crawl (though we saw and heard some definite issues with organization and lines for the event), I made a little money doing it, and it’s been gorgeous outside – I got some biking in yesterday afternoon after returning from NC, and will probably do the same today once this “orderly shutdown” is complete.

Yeah.

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friday random eleven: “potential furlough blues” edition

19
Jan

It’s been a few years, but it’s looking increasingly likely I’ll be making use of this image (courtesy of artist Dan Nokes) again by the end of the day…

I am not loving the possibility, because I like to get paid (especially since I just got confirmation of my performance bonus and not insignificant raise becoming official this week), though at the same time, I’m really very weary of the can getting kicked down the curb every couple of weeks. If you’re working in an office that depends on budgets (and who doesn’t?), it’s really very difficult to make any kind of plan beyond tomorrow if your organization is only funded for two weeks at a stretch. This has been going on since October; at this point, I think it’s time for somebody to call someone else’s bluff; the federal bureaucracy shuts down for a week or so, consequences become real for lawmakers, and they actually hammer out something resembling a budget/spending bill that lasts more than fourteen days, and they pass a bill covering my time on furlough (which is actually already on deck) to avoid pissing off public sector-employed voters.

What’s most frustrating thus far is that the organization has provided zero guidance as to how things are going to be handled should things go the way they look like they’re gonna go; I guess they’re waiting until the absolute last minute, which merely puts my management in the same club as the legislative branch.

I hate that this is where we are as a nation, but…yeah. Also, on the potential bright side, it’s looking less likely all the time that I’ll have to get on a plane next week.

In the meantime, here’s some tunes that my phone spit out:

  1. “Summer of ’69” – Bryan Adams
  2. “Our Swords” – Band of Horses
  3. “Starman” – David Bowie
  4. “Little Talks” – Of Monsters and Men
  5. “Svarta Ankan” – Falconer
  6. “This Might Be The Place (Naive Melody)” – Talking Heads
  7. “Friends Like Mine” – The Donnas
  8. “Take Me Home Tonight” – Eddie Money
  9. “Round and Round” – Ratt
  10. “Silver”- Waxahatchee
  11. “Clean Getaway” – Maria Taylor

Oh yeah, once again, if you’re in Raleigh tomorrow, come on out to the pub crawl and say hi – looks like we’ll be making our music at Market Hall.

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another snow day

18
Jan

Wednesday ended up being another snow day for me, although it probably didn’t really need to be. Oh well. At least I found out before I left for work.

I did get out and about a bit; a quick coffee run, and a trip to the leather goods shop to pick up a ghillie that was done being repaired. Roads weren’t bad at all; they were probably worse on Thursday morning when I left with only a two hour delay. And it’s supposed to be 60° this weekend. This closing/not closing/whatever is really playing havoc with my schedule, which is awful for a creature of habit.

Plus, I have to go to Ohio next week for meetings and whatnot; which I’m not hugely looking forward to, but it’s what it is (assuming it is, since there’s still no budget resolution coming into the Friday deadline, so our orders aren’t allowed to be approved yet anyway) I also had to reshuffle all my reservations again this morning because they need me up there a day earlier than planned. Oh well, I’ll make some money on the trip, since I’m staying in a hotel with lots of free food, and if the food sucks, at least they have White Castle up there.

And this weekend, I get to play some music; The Humdingers, coming off a successful Marscon stint, are playing a couple of sets for the Wizard & Wand Great Harry Potter Pub Crawl in Raleigh on Saturday. I’m not entirely sure which venue we’re in, but we’ll be there wrocking the tea towel off your house elf or whatever. If you’re in the area, come on out.

That’s the latest. In the meantime, I’ll just be here poking people who owe me answers and f5-ing govexec.com like the rest of the bureaucracy.

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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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