special edition thursday random eleven: “working vacation…from work” edition


I’m posting this Thursday, because of the observed Veteran’s day holiday tomorrow, as I’ll probably be mostly off the ‘tubes for the weekend. I have dance concerts to attend, potential assistance to provide, and a bit of a break to prepare for.

After this week, which included yesterday’s Quarterly Dog and Pony Show*™ in the environs of Our Nation’s Capital where I had to be “on” for most of six straight hours (an introvert’s nightmare), and the weekend, I get to spend a week in a class to top off another level of my public sector program management certification requirements, which keeps me out of the office for a week, spending my days in an off-site training center which has the benefit of being only about two miles from my front door. If the weather improves over this week’s overcast dampness and the sun maybe shows its face at all, I might even commute via bicycle, which is a novelty I’m actually kind of looking forward to.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to a week away from this project. I’ve largely (barring one particular issue I’m hoping to settle this afternoon) got things set to run on autopilot for the week – my minions keep working their magic while we wait for the target system to get their shit together, which would be a nice change.

I’ve also got tickets for Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s “An Astrophysicist Goes to the Movies” show downtown on Wednesday night. I’m looking forward to it.

Otherwise this week, I was pretty happy with the election results, both here at home and across the country. Virginia looks good in blue, as they say. Especially, I love the election of Danica Roem in the 13th district, the first openly transgender official elected to state office in Virginia, mostly by running on infrastructure issues and not rising to the bait of her asshole conservative opponent. She’s also a kick-ass policy wonk with a background in journalism, but also plays in a very rockin’ metal band. She may not be my representative by geography, but she’s my represtentative in my heart.

Anyway, I’ve mostly got prog-rock playing in the background today (I’m kind of feeling long, arch and noodly), but I did run this “random” Pandora list this morning, which is a bit more punky, but still makes room for 22 minutes of Tull. It was also followed immediately by Yes’s “Roundabout”, which got my whole business started:

  1. “Be My Baby” – The Dollyrots
  2. “Thick as a Brick” – Jethro Tull
  3. “Pass it Around” – The Donnas
  4. “Love Bites” – Def Leppard
  5. “Suffragette City”- David Bowie
  6. “Crumbling Down” – Go Betty Go
  7. “Something to Believe In” – Poison
  8. “Let Me Down Easy” – Gang of Youths
  9. “Tell It Like It Is” – Quix*o*tic
  10. “Evermore”- Grandaddy
  11. “Train in Vain” – The Clash

To keep the Stranger Things business going, I think I have the bones of a song in the works related to season 2. Getting inside Eleven’s head a little bit and co-opting a certain repetitive mantra that makes itself known in the first half of the run. I played with it last night, and this morning, I still don’t hate it, so…we’ll see.


* – not including any actual dogs or ponies, I’m sad to say…


No way to prevent this says only nation where this regularly happens


For those who don’t get the title reference, here’s latest instance via The Onion, who posts this same story way too often.

Sutherland Springs, TX. Happens yet again.

I’m very disappointed, if not outright angry, at the Presidential reponse that “This isn’t a guns situation”, but rather “Mental health is your problem here.” Plus, you know, “thoughts and prayers”. I think the White House also said “it’s too soon to talk about gun control” again (they did).

Of course, by the time it supposedly “is time” to do so, another shooting incident will take over the national stage again.

I agree with The New York Times and nearly everybody else. It’s time. Let’s talk policy and change rather than thoughts and prayers please.

I think it’s time to talk about things, and get some commonsense restrictions in place. I don’t think the US has the wherewithal to go with the Australian solution (although Australia’s got a lot in common with America’s rural regions), particularly given the weird gun culture that’s prevalent here, but we have to do something; I don’t think the “guns vs. vehicles” argument in terms of education, licensing, registration, and insurance is perfect, but it’s not a bad place to start, really.

Really, though, the thing that strikes me most about this particular situation (along with all the others) is the whole “mental health” thing – yes, it’s a mental health issue. Not that the current administration is doing anything to make preventing problems or providing treatment for such things a priority.

Having grown up with it, I understand gun culture. I actually enjoyed shooting sports and hunting when I partook in my youth. That said, I never felt the need to really dive in and by the unrestricted gun nut/NRA line (and it’s not an accident I conflate the NRA with gun nuts here). Commonsense restrictions make sense, especially when you’re considering mental health. As someone with a mental health diagnosis (depression, with treatment) and have seen, first-hand and personally, how guns and mental health issues can lead to tragedy, I want no part of owning guns or having them around in my life anymore. The risk for me having an incident like the one I allude to above (for those who don’t know, my dad, who also had depression, committed suicide with a gun he owned while I was in college) is minimal given the steps I’ve taken in my life, but it’s a risk I can effectively bring down to zero by not having guns around. I’m not particularly worried about personal protection, the main argument for owning guns (the “good guy with the gun” fallacy), as simply having a gun present immediately increases the chances of an incident tremendously. Other flavors of mental health can lead to the kinds of mass shootings we see with all too much regularity just as easily. Something’s gotta be done, and taking steps to limit or prevent people with at least certain kinds of mental health issues from obtaining firearms feels like a good, non-controversial step.

As I’m fond of saying, no situation has ever been made more calm and reasonable with the addition of a firearm. Some sense of regulation (as is referenced in the first part of the poorly constructed Second Amendment) is something this nation needs.


annual voting reminder


Yes, I say this every year (sometimes more than once), but it’s important every year.

Your local municipality is having an election today. You should be registered (if you aren’t, why not?). Go out to your polling place and vote. Unless you’re here in Virginia or in New Jersey, it’s probably for local offices. Notice I didn’t say “just for local offices”, because it’s the local ones that probably affect you most directly, like in the sense that these are the people who set your property tax rates, fund your fire departments and emergency services, or take care of your pet if it gets lost (if you go by the stereotypical “dogcatcher” example and they actually elect that person in your municipality). It’s important.

Me, I get to be one of those fun bellwether elections this time, since we’re one of the two states (along with the aforementioned NJ) who elect a governor the year after the presidential election, and very important pundits assign lots of value on our results as a referendum on how the President’s party looks a year into the term. It’s pretty close here, all told, but I suspect that Ralph Northam and the rest of the Democratic ticket will do well here, because Northern Virgina and the interstate corridors, which are reliably blue, will overwhelm the rest of the state. Also, if Charlottesville’s unpleasantness is any indication, there’s a lot more anti-racism folks than there are white nationalists (though I don’t have to look to hard to find them around here).

Anyway, go vote – as I am also fond of saying, it’s the absolutely least you can to fulfill your responsibilities as a citizen.


friday random eleven: “even episode seven” edition


Like I said earlier, this week’s been a rough one. Damned depression. I’m slowly coming out of it, though it’s really hard to feel anything like joy or contentment. I’m no longer despondent, but I’m pretty much numb. I had a few moments in ceili class on Thursday night that I felt maybe a bit normal, but they were fleeting.

As I say, though, don’t worry. I’ll pull through, I always do. I appreciate the good thoughts and understanding from my many similarly-afflicted friends. It helps to talk about it, especially in a public forum, not just me, but everyone else who deals with it, normalizing it, and as one friend put it, “naming it”.

In any case, that’s been what’s occupying me. It may have actually helped a bit, as I went into a couple of meetings at the deepest part of this particular cycle, with my filter basically off, and was surprisingly effective at getting things addressed; sometimes it helps to attack those things when they are assigned their proper insignificance. I’m trying to maintain the same sense of detachment in regard to the resident office asshole’s late-night temper tantrum we all came in to find this morning.

Given what I’ve described above, there wasn’t a hell of a lot else that felt like it mattered this week. I blundered through ‘Riffs practice, did some reading, and finished Stranger Things, which was really, really good. Highly recommended, even the “bottle” episode with Eleven off by herself – great use of music in that one.

Tunes…as I write this, it’s a really long playlist, with several songs clocking in at over eight minutes:

  1. “Down Under” – Men at Work
  2. “A Fine Day To Die” – Bathory
  3. “Son of Mr. Green Genes” – Frank Zappa
  4. “Cold Light” – Operators
  5. “I Didn’t Like You Anyway” – The Donnas
  6. “Cygnus X-1 Book II Hemispheres” – Rush
  7. “The Logical Song” – Supertramp
  8. “Battle Metal” – Turisas
  9. “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” – Cyndi Lauper
  10. “Shine on You Crazy Diamond (live) – David Gilmour
  11. “Be Your Own Pet” – Becky

been having a rough one, folks


Greetings. Just wanted to report in to folks that if you’ve seen or interacted with me this week, and I seemed a bit, well, *off*, it’s because I am. For some reason, the brain, after what was a pretty good weekend, to just go into one of its moods.

Depression’s a bitch, and I’m the target this week.

Doesn’t help that I had to spend most of yesterday being on, dealing with Very Important Work Things™, and working to continue to put things in order to make sure things get done. Monday I was a total wreck. I can tell you that. I took a nice walk in the woods at one of the local parks yesterday after work, and it helped a bit, but I still totally kind of missed Halloween – after I ate a little something, I went and hid while everyone else did the trick or treat thing. I hope you all enjoyed it. I’m enjoying looking at everyone’s costume photos this morning while I wait for emails to come in.

Anyway, that’s it, really. I’ll pull myself out of this; I always do. I know, as people say, Depression lies. Things aren’t awful, looked at rationally. I have a lot of good things. At my wife’s suggestion, I keep an actual list of good things that surround me in my wallet for times like this. It’s a tangible reminder.

So, again, know that if I seem off for the next little while, it’s not you – it’s an unfortunate expression of abnormal brain chemistry is all.


probably too busy a weekend: wrock, dance, and road trips


Well, Saturday was pretty damned busy anyway. Friday was a usual workday, aside from hauling my behind out to Amherst to grab the kid (which I don’t mind doing at all – we had some nice bonding over college and work gossip and our friends Valentine Wolfe’s new record), with a stop at the Appomatox Court House National Historical Site (again, me and my National Parks…) to walk around, enjoy the site, and *own* the Pokemon gyms for most of the weekend.

Saturday started with me trying to run some errands, which I did, but my farmers’ market connection wasn’t around at the town square (missed you, Jerry!), which was unfortunate, but I’ll live. We then spent most of the rest of the morning at the Celtic Festival, where the entire family except me (Andrew made his performance debut, and looked pretty damned good, if I do say so myself) did the Irish dance thing to an appreciative audience, and I got to chat with a couple of friends I haven’t seen in a while, and also have some pretty good pub-style curry chips from a food truck called the “Frying Scotsman”, enjoy some of the Highland Dance competition (this is not the Irish my folks do, but rather a Scottish form) where one of Mary’s college friends did pretty damned well, and see a bunch of other neat stuff like the British car show and a bunch of Irish Wolfhounds.

After wandering about a little bit, I made my way out a bit before the rest to drag myself and my gear (and a couple of capos because Scott forgot his) down to North Raleigh NC to do a show with The Blibbering Humdingers at HonorCon. Like I’ve said, The Royal Manticoran Navy aren’t necessarily our crowd, but there’s a lot of crossover (partial because HonorCon is local to S&K), and for some reason, the shows we do here, while small, tend to be a little *silly* and a bit unforgettable.

This year was no exception – we played for two solid hours, ran through a good bit of our repertoire, including some new tunes we haven’t actually really recorded yet (but will be on the official full-length release of Fantastic Geeks and Where to Find Them), including the highly-regarded “Elegy for a Nerf Herder” and the first public performance of the still-in-process-of-being-written “Little Lego Loki” (thanks, btw, to Mark and Samantha for the video – they pretty much put up the whole show if you care to go digging). I haven’t actually listened to all the recordings yet to see how it carries on phone videos, but I wanted to send a hearthfelt thanks/shout-out to Perry(? – apologies if I got the name wrong) our soundperson, who made us sound awesome, which is sometimes a real challenge in a hotel ballroom/convention space!

Other little notes to make; first, I find it kind of awesome that David Weber, the author whose books this whole event and Fan Club (The aforementioned Royal Manticoran Navy) are dedicated to, gleefully dresses up in the official uniform of the organization when participating in these things, and that at the host hotel bar, I had a very good bottle of Foothills Brewing Company’s People’s Porter, which was provided in response to my order of “whatever’s darkest and most local”, which I find is a pretty good way to order a beer in most places where I’m not particularly familiar with the brewing landscape.

Having energy after the show, I decided that rather than crash at S&K’s place, I’d just drive home (it’s only about two hours, even in the rain…) and sleep in my own bed, which would let me not rush so much early on to get to the scheduled Sunday performance at the Celtic Festival, which ended up getting cancelled due to rain (oh well), so I made meatloaf at the college kid’s request (apparently the dining hall can’t do meatloaf right), and watched the beginning third of Stranger Things series 2, which is awesome, then crashed early as I usually do on Sunday evenings while I mentally prepare for dealing with the frustrations of working a job I’m kind of down on right now, while my lovely spouse, who didn’t do nearly as much driving as I did over the course of the weekend, took the kid back to college.

So yeah, busy. Next weekend looks quieter – I think I’m supposed to run a D&D session at some point, and we’re working out logisitics of maybe going to see The Long Losts, who are scheduled to play a venue in town, and maybe, just maybe, get out to see Thor: Ragnarok, though there are some promises made that might need to be kept first. Oh well.


friday random eleven: “feelin’ 84” edition


For those of you following along elsewhere, you’re already aware of the major events of my week. But for the rest of you, after being mostly down for count this past weekend with a quick-onset bug of some sort, I started the week okay, but got knocked down again Tuesday during the day , and gave in again and spent the day Wednesday sick, and am still kind of shaking it, working Thursday but giving ceili class a pass.

Also, as someone who recently dropped a lot of weight, I don’t recommend what I did* this week as a means to drop five pounds in forty-eight hours.

Besides being the official premiere day of Stranger Things 2 on Netflix, I have things going on this weekend, and I think I might even feel up to them. The Central Va Celtic Festival is this weekend, and much of the clan is dancing with HOI Saturday and Sunday (I’m running out west Friday afternoon to grab the remote one). This event’s always a good time.

But, I’m going to be missing at least some of it, because the call of the wrock star life is pulling me down to Raleigh NC for a Saturday night gig with the Humdingers at Honorcon. Being a “military sci-fi” con (dedicated largely to David Weber’s Honor Harrington stuff), these folks aren’t our usual crowd, but there’s a lot of fandom crossover, as one would expect. S&K are doing some panels and vending all weekend, but we’re playing a celebratory shindig Saturday evening. Last year’s show was a bit of fun, if I recall correctly, so I have high hopes for this year as well. Plus, we’ll have some new tunes to play.

Anyway, that’s what I got going on. The tunes below are very 80s, which surprised me a bit, until I noticed I wasn’t on “shuffle” so much as “80s rock” on Pandora. Oh well, it’s appropriate for the return of the gang from Hawkins, Indiana this weekend.

  1. “Everybody Wants to Rule The World” – Tears for Fears
  2. “Our House” – Madness
  3. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” – Simple Minds
  4. “Nobody’s Fool” – Cinderella
  5. “Seventeen” – Winger
  6. “Summer of ’69” – Bryan Adams
  7. “Lay It Down” – Ratt
  8. “Cum on Feel the Noize” – Quiet Riot
  9. “Armageddon It”- Def Leppard
  10. “Highway to Hell”- AC/DC
  11. “Girls Girls Girls” – Mötley Crüe


* – colloquially known as “shitting out my life essence”. See why I put it down here as footnote?


damn the man, save the empire national parks


As most of you know, I am a huge fan of America’s National Parks. I visit numerous parks every year (I’m fortunate to have many nearby, including the amazing Shenandoah National Park), and make use of NPS facilities weekly (I regularly walk the Petersburg Battlefield Park on lunchbreaks or after work, due to it’s proximity to my office). I grew up appreciating nature, with scouts, uncles, and whatnot; and have always had an eye toward conservation, and being a historian for a while made me a big fan of folks like John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt. One of my career ambitions as a federal employee is to at some point work for the Department of Interior (particularly the National Park Service); I almost see doing such a thing as penance for all these years I’ve spent under the Defense umbrella. I’ll make it happen someday.

Anyway, many of you by now have seen the headlines about the proposed fee increases for entry to some of the “busiest” parks, including the big guns like my beloved Shenandoah, and the big western parks including Yellowstone and Grand Canyon.

I am, not surprisingly, opposed to this.

Now, most of the park system is free to access (odds are you have some hidden jewels near you to discover, like I did with Great Falls Park a few years back), but the larger ones do charge a reasonable access fee per vehicle ($20-$30 currently at peak season), to recover some costs. However, the current proposal put forth by Interior Secretary Ryan “$12k Charter Flight”” Zinke, would increase fees at these parks to $70 per vehicle, all while the current administration’s budget is looking to cut the NPS’s budget by double digits and permanently eliminate over 1200 full-time positions within the agency, as well as shrink National Monument/Park areas by hundreds of thousands of acres and auction the areas of to oil and mining companies

Of all the the thoroughly awful things the current administration is doing (I’m not even going to bother listing them, because it’ll get longer by the time I finish), this one really hurts. As a nation, we have some tremendous natural beauty and grandeur within our borders; access to such resources should be open to ALL Americans, regardless of financial situation; decreasing access by increasing fees reduces availability of these great public resources, with their opportunities for education, reflection, recreation, relaxation, adventure, and spiritual fulfillment, to the people who probably need it most. We ought to be encouraging Americans to get outside and look around, to enjoy, respect, and preserve nature, not fence bits of it off and auction the rest to folks who’ll despoil it.

The good thing is, we’ve got some time to make our voices heard on this one – the Department of Interior has this issue up for public comment through mid-November, so I recommend you go to the comment site linked here and make your voice heard on the issue – let’s get the nation on record that we don’t want to see our nation’s natural public spaces cut off from significant portions of the public!

-not always a fan of this FB group as they sometimes get mean, but they’re mostly on the money here-


GEOSTORM! or geez, i’m an old



Just getting the obvious joke out of the way…

Anyway…I saw a trailer for the currently-in-general-release, 11% Tomatometer™ rated Gerard Butler vehicle probably two years ago (it was originally supposed to be released last year, but got kicked down the road a couple of times to avoid such quality product as Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice), and promptly forgot about it, maybe being reminded once or twice, thinking it was a Sharknado-level SyFy original about extreme weather disasters and “action meteorologists”. Twister meets Independence Day, were I pitching it to Joel Silver or something.

Everybody else pretyt much forgot as well, given it’s performance. That said, I read the review that io9 posted and got a bit of a laugh, as it’s apparently not terribly good as a disaster movie, action movie, or any kind of movie, actually. Apparently after this, plus stuff like Gamer and Gods of Egypt, the guy really needs a new agent. He was a lot of fun in 300, and probably dservers better.

The thrust of the linked review is that it’s a ton of footage of people looking at screens, while the audience themselves watches the “action” on screens itself….it’s kind of meta, but also kind of true to life, given my experience, and expressed by this particular comment from from Kinja user OlyOink:

My 7 and 8 year old sons would probably love this movie if their habit of mindlessly watching other kids play video games on YouTube is any indication…

Yep. This is what kids do, and those of us of a certain age are all about telling them to get off our lawns while tying onions to our belts. In as recently as the last two weeks, The Washington Post wrote a piece about this…the conclusion in that article was pretty much the same one I and my Gen-X friends have come up with, is that our children are asocial aliens and have no sense of what’s actually funny or entertaining*.

And the world keeps turning.


*- to be fair, my teenage son found “internet classic” Macaroni and Beef hysterical to the point of choking on laughter when I shared it with him a while back, so there may be some hope.


spam folder poetry: october 2017


once again, as the spam folder fills up, I recycle the contents into *art*, or something thereabouts. The poems below, as always, are actual extracts from the spam comments this blog receives, arranged according to my whim. Occasionally, I hit on some deep stuff, addressing such varied topics as:


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social actualization and media criticism:

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patterns in capitalism:

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even more media criticism

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meta commentary:

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This has been my latest attempt at amusing myself with the stuff left behind. Hope you enjoyed it.


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