friday random eleven: “educationally inclined” edition


It’s actually been a slow week, at least compared to the last few. With all the folks above me in the program office off at a big senior management gathering in the midwest, almost all the usual meetings have been cancelled this week, which let me get some necessary paperwork and programming for my team done with almost no interruption. I’ve also wrapped one of the online courses I need to take in order to check the box for the next level program management certification for my current position. I’m also fishing with the certification people to see if the maxed-out contracting certification (the top-end of which was comparable to graduate level course work) qualifies as equivalent for the couple of piddling 100-level “contracts for dummies” courses included in the PM requirements, because I’d really rather not take those if I don’t have to.

With the crappy, rainy weather most of the week, I haven’t been on the bike since Monday, though I have been habitually briskly walking a little over a mile every day at lunch on a little course I’ve plotted for myself over at the Petersburg National Battlefield, which is conveniently located a short drive across the highway from my workplace. I’ve even managed to catch clear weather for most of it (except for Tuesday when I got absolutely drenched when the skies opened up on the last 100 yards back to the car. This afternoon and weekend look nice, so I’m hoping for at least a little biking over the weekend.

Otherwise, I’ve done a little audio system consulting work for the folks over at the dance school, since their sound system speakers crapped out last week, had a really productive practice with The ‘Riffs the other night, have had several people tell me how skinny I’ve gotten (I’m noticing a little bit – like I said, I’m down 25 pounds, but I’ve kind of hit the wall for dropping the easy stuff, at least temporarily. I’d really like to dump another 15 if I can manage it), and for some unexplainable reason, been sleeping really badly most nights this week. Sometimes that just happens. I’ll manage.

As for the Memorial Day weekend? I have very few plans, save catching what promises to be a really bizarre and interesting musical experience – Okilly Dokilly, Beatallica, and Los Ramones at the Camel in RVA. You might have heard of the headliners, the world’s first “Nedal” band, who play energetic thrashy metal inspired by, well….

See? The other bands are a mash-up band combining the Beatles and Metallica, and a group that describes themselves as Tus canciones favoritas de los Ramones en Spanglish!, so it ought to be fun (also, thanks WNRN for the tickets!).

Anyway, here’s some tunes. Happy long weekend!

  1. “Spring Dance” – Korpiklaani
  2. “Going to California” – Led Zeppelin
  3. “Space Oddity” – David Bowie
  4. “Rebel Yell” – Billy Idol
  5. “Dirty Denim” – The Donnas
  6. “Ends of the Earth” – Lord Huron
  7. “Dirty Knives” – Bangs
  8. “Too Young to Fall In Love” – Motley Crue
  9. “Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing (live)” – Frank Zappa
  10. “Short Version” – Wild Flag
  11. “Hungry Like The Wolf” – Duran Duran

minor musical crisis….averted


So this happened Tuesday evening when I sat down to run through a few tunes:

As I was tuning up the guitar, I grabbed the tuning machine for my D string, and the knob fell off in my hand. Surveying the damage, I noticed the whole thing was slightly bent out of shape; I don’t remember doing it, but I must’ve bumped the headstock someplace in the last couple of days. It happens.

I’m proud of myself that I didn’t panic; I merely put out a call to Guitar Works in Carytown, perhaps the best luthier I’ve ever dealt with (these are the only folks I’ve ever found who were able to get the intonation set properly on my ’64 SG Special and it’s finicky non-Tune-o-Matic stop tailpiece so the G string didn’t buzz; that makes them wizards in my book), who informed me that it was, as I expected, easy fix, most likely, if they happened to have a matching replacement in the shop, which was a crap shoot to determine over the phone.

Having rehearsal scheduled with Dimensional Riffs on Wednesday night, I dug out my backup acoustic (hiding in Mary’s room), and threw both instruments in the back of my car yesterday afternoon after work (shop is more-or-less on the way to the rehearsal space), figuring I’d hope it could be fixed while I wait, but be prepared for it requiring an overnight stay.

As usual, the folks at GW came through for me. Buried in the shop junk drawer was a perfectly matching piece, save the “Takamine” sticker on the bottom of the tuner barrel. Ten minutes and five bucks later, my blonde Takamine Jumbo was back in action and ready to rehearse the new tunes we’re putting together for ConCarolinas next weekend; and belive me, there’s some really good stuff in there.

So, musical crisis averted. Not much of a story, I guess, but it’s something that had been consuming a lot of my brain cycles for 24 hours or so. It’s a common problem, but one I’d managed to avoid for about 30 years of active guitar playing, so I guess it was my turn. Thanks for listening.




Seriously! LOCKJAW!

I know people have been kind of dismissive of Marvel’s upcoming Inhumans tv series coming this fall; it’s a very weird corner of the Marvel Universe, traditionally more Shakespearian than even Walt Simonson’s Thor, full of arch, scenery-chewing Game of Thrones-style royal family backstabbing involving women with prehensile hair and a guy named “Blackagar Boltagon”, for Uatu’s sake. This of course, could be fun, though the fact that the Inhuman royal family looks to be kicking around Hawaii for most of their scheduled eight episodes, and the costuming (oh, the costuming) has people a little worried.

The weirdest piece of Inhumans’ lore, though, by far, is Lockjaw, the giant teleporting bulldog. Thing is, people love Lockjaw, because he’s awesome, most recently doing a great supporting stint in the excellent Ms. Marvel series:

If Inhumans are going to work, they have to get Lockjaw right. It’s a moral imperative. That said, I like the look of this very blurry screencap; he doesn’t have the tuning fork on his head, but it’s suggested in the fur pigment (which I guess works), and he’s as big as a Mini Cooper, which is about right.

I really *want* to love this. This picture, small hint as it is, gives me a little bit of hope.

Also, we are now one step closer to Pet Avengers, which would be brilliant.


back in the saddle


So Tuesday I return to work after a nice, self-imposed long weekend. I generally feel mostly rested and refreshed, kinda. I have another couple of long weekends coming up as well (Memorial Day, and ConCarolinas), though this one was just for me, because.

I accomplished a few, small things – had a couple of very nice bike rides (totalling almost 40 miles) before the weather went to crap, admired lots of wildlife on the trail (snakes, turtles, squirrels, woodpeckers, doves, deer, groundhogs, and all kinds of birds), though I did end up running over a squirrel’s tail with the bike yesterday morning (poor thing did a weird direction changing juke after I swerved to dodge him)…I hope he’s okay. Seriously, I’ve spent more time thinking about this small interaction than I probably should have. I feel like my karma’s out of balance. Oh well.

Otherwise, I spent a lot of time with the dance folks and Jamie and Chris from Fusion Fighters working on the #createnothate project video (I carried some things, drove the car, and did some work fixing the studio’s sound system anyway…). The girls had a blast working with these guys this week, and Mary in particular will miss her older English boyfriends when they go back to the UK later this week.

Otherwise, I worked some new tunes with Dimensional Riffs, did a bunch of laundry, got some great stuff at the farmers market, and washed, waxed, and (mostly) detailed my car, which was way overdue, and the result makes me unreasonably happy (my spouse and children just don’t understand…).

This week, it’s back to the grind; at the office, I’ll keeping my work projects rolling, continue the ongoing professional certification online training I’m taking, and generally living the public sector project manager life. Outside of work, it’s the usual maintain a house/practice music/entertain kids and cats routine, and keep the weight loss project rolling – I’m down almost 25 pounds from where I was at my worst, and am within ten pounds of the first big goal of dropping 10% of my total body weight as measured in mid-April. Progress is slowing (I think I’ve dumped the “easy” stuff now), but it’s still steady, and my trend lines still have me hitting that goal by the end of this month. That feels good.


friday random eleven – “couple days off” edition


So I’ve taken a couple of days off…I originally had a week or so blocked out around this time as the plan was to join the Humdingers at MISTI-Con in New Hampshire, but life and time and stuff got in the way. I knocked some of that time off, but saved myself a five-day weekend, because dammit, I deserve it.

I’ve been spending my time mosty relaxing about the house, taking care of some chores (today is laundry day), and getting some solid miles behind me on the bike in the mornings before the heat gets to badly. I did fifteen yesterday, and while I don’t regret it, I was feeling it in my old man bones by the end of the day. I still did ten this morning, enjoying the breeze of the James and counting turtles on the trail.

This week’s been a busy one for the dancers in the family, as HOI has been hosting a couple of guys from the Fusion Fighters, a professional dance group (who do a fusion of tap, irish, and a bunch of other stuff) from England who have been working with the folks at the school and some other groups in town all week, leading up to a video they’re shooting tomorrow. The older girls are limping around after intensive work and private lessons all week, but it’ll probably be worth the effort.

Otherwise, the current obsession is finding appropriate vessels for 7-Eleven’s bring your own cup slurpee day, in order to maximize the benefit.

Anyway, here are some tunes, this time from my personal archive, rather than from Pandora:

  1. “Handy” – Weird Al Yankovic
  2. “Building A Mystery” – Sarah McLachlan
  3. “Listen to Your Heart” – Roxette
  4. “Boom City (live)” – Halestorm
  5. “Promises” – Eric Clapton
  6. “The Dornishman’s Wife” – Valentine Wolfe
  7. “The Gringott’s Goblin Coaster” – Witches of Grimmauld Place
  8. “Code Monkey” – Jonathan Coulton
  9. “A Better Man” – Earth to Bob
  10. “Boys Don’t Cry” – The Cure
  11. “Mary Ellen Carter” – Jig to a Milestone

wrocking roanoke


So…the Roanoke HP festival.

It was interesting. There were some weird organizational issues that could be chalked up to this being the first year of an event that got way bigger than anybody expected (and a couple of rumors I won’t go into that probably can’t). The folks in attendance seemed to have fun (even if it wasn’t always the kind of fun they were expecting) and enjoyed themselves.

Our part of the festival kind of got the short shrift; although the weather for Saturday ended up being gorgeous, the organizers made the call early to put the wizard rock in a venue several blocks away from the main festival area and didn’t do much to let anyone know where we were. The venue itself, The Spot on Kirk, was a pretty nice room to play in, but it’s kind of frustrating when for much of the day, the very talented musicians (Grace Kendall!, Tonks and the Aurors!, Hawthorn and Holly!, us!) were playing for nobody but the sound guys.

We had a few folks roll into our shows, partially because we had a couple friends in town, but mostly, I think, because we picked up our gear and set up a rogue busking show on the festival grounds (next our our friends from Mysticon) which got us a fair bit of attention for our afternoon show.

What was really frustrating was watching a metric assload of people wander into the space when a couple of YouTubers we’d never heard of were scheduled to do their thing. I guess promotion made it out for some stuff.

Oh well – our shows went well enough from a performance perspective – those that heard us dug us, and word from the crowd is that we looked and sounded good. We also took some band promo photos in front of an interesting wall that I think will probably come out looking pretty great (maybe it’s just because I’m feeling good about myself after dropping some weight, I don’t know – the other two are really pretty, pretty much all the time).

Whatever the non-optimal circumstances, we had fun playing for the folks who came out, like we always do.


friday random eleven: “don’t talk about it” edition


Happy rainy Friday, folks! I’m wrapping up my work week a little early to make the trek to the other end of the state for the Roanoke Harry Potter Festival gig tomorrow, which should be fun, even if the whole business has been wet, rainy fustercluck so far in terms of scheduling, atmospheric conditions, and organization, though we’re going to do our best to entertain the folks who come out, and we’re committed to enjoying ourselves, as we always do when we get together to make music and goof off for our adoring public.

Otherwise, I think I’ve learned an important lesson: the first rule of weight loss club is to not talk about weight loss club. After trending down nicely all week, my weigh-in this morning was slightly more than half-a-pound higher than yesterday. I know that in the scheme of things it’s signal noise (it’s either a slightly higher sodium intake yesterday and I’m retaining water, or I’m increasing muscle mass with all the biking I’ve been doing the last couple of weeks), but one of the detriments of this daily weigh-in program is seeing these sorts of things and assigning too much value to them emotionally and feeling like a failure for a couple of minutes.

I think the nagging scale understood that, though. It’s message to me this morning wasn’t that I was up xx lbs today, but “Your weight is stable. Make one small change to see your weight go down tomorrow.” I think that’s its way of softening the blow.

I’m kind of over it already. I rode over 30 miles on my bike this week (ten of those miles in the rain yesterday, picking up a couple of ticks for my trouble), and maybe more importantly, I tried on the vest I mentioned yesterday, and I was able to button it again(!), so I’m calling it a win.

Here’s some tunes. Enjoy:

  1. “Never Be The Same” – Surf Rock is Dead
  2. “Alone” – Heart
  3. “Montana (Whipping Floss) – Live in Helsinki Finland, 1974 – Frank Zappa
  4. “Shine” – Mondo Cozmo
  5. “Animal” – Miike Snow
  6. “Enter the Glade” – Falconer
  7. “Obsession (U.S. 12”) – Animotion
  8. “Alive” – Pearl Jam
  9. “Daylight” – Matt & Kim
  10. “Gone for Good” – The Shins
  11. “Dashboard” – Modest Mouse

Oh, and in Stranger Things news (to carry on the “eleven” theme) season 2 is supposed to edge more toward the horror genre than last season. I just hope it keeps the same great atmosphere from last season, which played more to fear and dread than jump scares, and one of the things that really made it special.


Roanoke Potter Fest


It seems the thing to drop a quick note to let anybody within sight of this particular post that we Humdingers will be performing at the Roanoke Harry Potter Festival in beautiful Roanoke VA this Saturday, May 13!

As of right now, the schedule has us playing at 11am and 4pm as part of the “Wizard Rock Concert” on the Downtown Stage. I expect with weather (they’re calling for rain), the venue and/or time may shift. I’ll add more info if/when I get it, We’re making the assumption that there’ll be some organizational snafus, but we’re going to have our fun anyway, and put on the best shows we can for the people who show up. We’re going to be playing some of the new stuff that’s available on the new record, which is a lot of fun, if I do say so myself.

So, if you happen to be in Western VA this weekend, swing on by!


motivation through statistical analysis


This post may be a bit personal, though I’m proud of my progress thus far, and felt like talking about it in this space might be interesting to you and/or useful to me.

As I’ve alluded to a few times over the last month or so, I’ve been working on dropping some weight. Although my doctor tells me I’m mostly healthy in spite of the extra pounds I’ve put on over the last couple of years thanks mostly to my sedentary office job and elevated stress and anxiety levels (I’ve found that my body’s reaction to stress is to go into “starvation mode”, holding on to every last calorie I put into it, even if I’m not eating all that much. I wish I was one of those people who lost weight when anxiety kicks in!), and we’ve agreed that dropping a few pounds would be a good thing. Thanks to a slight re-adjustment to my antidepressants, jumping back into my biking habit, and the temporary inclusion of a medication that assists in weight loss efforts through the magic of brain chemistry (it depresses the hunger center, reducing appetite, and the reward system, which kills the impulse for stress eating and cravings), I’m down 15 pounds over the last month or so.

One of the things I’m doing to monitor my progress is playing around with the free membership to the weight loss support system that came along with the prescription. Basically, I get a free, internet-enabled scale that tracks my progress and sends text messages to me regarding progress and offering advice for reducing caloric intake and adjusting behavior to lose weight.

The advice itself is kind of simplistic; I quickly realized it’s not designed for somebody like me who understands the chemistry and biological processes at work. I get things like “eat more vegetables” and “have the restaurant make your sandwich open-faced”, and I immediately know it’s telling me to increase fiber intake and reduce refined carbohydrates; I’m out-thinking the machine. It was also pretty creepy getting text messages from the scale at first (it’s in my phone contacts as “Creepy Nagging Scale”), but it’s gotten less weird over time.

I wasn’t originally sold on weighing in every day, though doing so does feed the part of this program I do find terribly useful and fascinating; the online tracking of daily weight and the ability to derive trends and such from the daily data points. And those of you who know me know that I appreciate data to play with.

At first, things plotted all over the place, but eventually I’m starting to see the patterns and how adjustments to diet and exercise affect things. And, so far, it’s working, and I’m not experiencing any of the side effects (other than a serious reduction in appetite overall) some folks have experienced. The program’s helping me focus, and it’s helping to modify my behavior, including increasing my exercise regimen (I’ve added my hike/bike mileage to the left-hand column again – I’m on track for over 30 miles this week).

Here’s my chart from this morning:

Over the last week or so, it looks like I’ve settled into a good groove with things, and the trend overall is definitely going in the right direction. Having the data to watch actually does help; it helps me anyway, since I tend toward the analytic side of things. I’ve also plugged this data into excel spreadsheets where I can calculate trend lines and averages and such, because why the hell not.

Of course, I’m not seeing any physical appearance changes yet – I’m hoping that’ll come soon. My weird aspirational goal is to be able to button the vest I’m wearing in this photo again; then I’ll really know it’s working.

Again, apologies for any overshare!


Fantastic Geeks and Where to Find Them


Hey, look what I woke up to this morning!

It’s the new release (kind of) from The Blibbering Humdingers!

We’ve been working quite a bit on this one for the last little while (right up until Saturday afternoon, in fact!), and while it’s not the whole record, we’ve got enough to get out now ahead of a couple of big gigs (The Roanoke Harry Potter Festival, MISTI-Con – which I sadly won’t be making- and ConCarolinas) coming up, so Scott and Kirsten put up a limited-pressing “pre-release EP” to whet the appetite at those shows before getting the whole record out.

There’s some pretty great stuff on here, if I do say so myself, and it’s been a lot of fun to play on, with me really stretching myself in my bass playing (and getting to do some cool electric guitar stuff too!). I even got a songwriting credit!

Anyway, enjoy!

Two album releases from two different bands in the same week….I’m a freakin’ machine!


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