friday random eleven – “absent” edition

21
Jul

Left this sit for over a week. Sometimes I just have life and stuff, and after over a decade of this, sometimes I just run out of stuff to write about, so I take a break except for a couple of quick check-ins on social media.

I pay for the space, I’ll do what I want.

In any case, stuff happened. Last weekend I spent a couple of days in Bethesda MD for the WIDA US Open Championships. It’s kind of refreshing to attend one of these and not have to work it, other than keeping track of the occasional kid and carrying dresses around. In any case, both the youngsters hit the podium for their main premiereship event, and the spouse got second in one of her events, so it wasn’t all that bad, and the school did well overall. Nobody was entirely happy with their performance, but that’s as it should be; always room for improvement. We also got to spend a nice meal with some dear friends in Northern Virginia on the way up, so…bonus!

Tuesday was also my 19th wedding anniversary. It was pretty low-key, as I was stuck at the office much later than I’d like, and the girls had their usual dance classes. I did not see my bride awake until after 9pm. We’re going to make up for it on Sunday. I did make sure to have a huge package of snacks and comfort food delivered (she needed it), and I’m sending her off to a day-long dance workshop with the guys from Fusion Fighters (who are still bumming around the States) in Williamsburg tomorrow, which is what she really wanted anyway.

I also suffered a minor setback with weight loss – while out of town last weekend, the numbers say I gained almost five pounds. As I watch the trend with some distance, I think I may be looking at a day or two of signal noise (discounting the low weigh-in day, I was up maybe two, which is more realistic) but it was still kind of discouraging. I’ve all but made it up now, weighing in within ounces of the previous (statistically questionable) low this morning, I’m on track for over 80 miles ridden (in this blistering heat) this week, and I’m still down over fifty pounds since April, which is definitely something to be proud of.

This weekend’s pretty typical, other than some of the girls gone Saturday for the dance workshop, but I’m off playing Dungeon Master for the grad students for a few hours there anyway. Sunday is belated anniversary celebration – we’re still not sure what we’ll do, but we’re confident it’ll be pretty cool.

Here’s some music – kinda riot grrly this time around, which isn’t a bad thing:

  1. “Tell You Now” – Le Tigre
  2. “Please Don’t Tease”- The Donnas
  3. “1234” – Feist
  4. “Be Your Own Pet” – Becky
  5. “Head Over Heels” – Tears for Fears
  6. “Urban Photograph” – Urban Cone
  7. “The Beauty of Dead Cities”- Borknagar
  8. “High and Dry” – Radiohead
  9. “Don’t Stop Believin'” – Journey
  10. “Lashes” – Babes in Toyland
  11. “O Chenilla” – Cadallaca
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“but for me, it was tuesday”

12
Jul

I’ve had a hell of a time sleeping the last couple of days. I was full-on awake at 4:30am yesterday. So I got up and started my routine a bit early. As I’m lucky enough to have some flexibility with my schedule, I was at my office working by 5:30am. The VOIP phones, which have been down for two days, even came up in time for my big multi-agency conference call at 10am.

The nice thing about starting work that early is that one wraps the workday pretty damned early. I was out of there by two, and riding the trail by 2:45. I pounded out a quick ten miles in the high humidity heat index over 100° weather, which I felt like I needed, because I’d been hitting a little bit of weight creep the last couple of days (not much, but it was screwing up my trend line), and the riding makes me feel better about myself (not that the nagging scale was being anything but polite – “your weight is stable” when I’ve picked up almost two pounds felt a bit generous).

After that, I came home, listening to the news about Donald Trump Jr.’s strange, seemingly incriminating disclosure-via-tweet, changed clothes, had something to eat, and headed off to the evening’s planned event – BOOK SIGNING!

My neat local indie establishment, Fountain Bookstore, has been really knocking things out of the park with interesting author appearances lately – in the last couple of months, I’ve seen John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow in an eclectic, intimate setting. Last night, Kelly (the owner, or “latest custodian” as she calls herself) booked the opening slot on Kevin Hearne‘s (he of the Iron Druid Chronicles series which you all really ought to read!) book tour supporting his latest, Beseiged, which just came out yesterday.

Normally, this place doesn’t get too crazy for book signings, but I kind of had a feeling about last night, so I reserved a copy of the book online earlier in the day, which was the right call, because the place was packed beyond capacity (I’m surprised the fire marshall wasn’t called). ‘Twas still a nice time, as Kevin’s a very pleasant, gregarious guy who made everybody feel welcome, and I got to see a couple of con buddies I don’t see too often (Hi, Chris, Melissa, and Whiskey Dave!). Somebody even brought an Irish Wolfhound (if you’ve read Kevin’s stuff, you know why).

Even leaving was an interesting experience, as somebody did a smoky burnout on the way out of the parking garage, which set the fire alarms off!

I closed out the evening by checking my messages and poking through the PrimeDay sales one last time, dropping sixteen bucks on a heavily discounted biking jersey, to go along with the mic stand and copy of Witcher III for the PS4 I ordered earlier. Total damage: about $65 bucks. Could’ve been worse.

Then I went to bed, reading a bit of the new Carrie Vaughn book, Bannerless, which also came out today, and I ordered back in January, because, let’s be honest, she’s kind of my author crush (which should make Marscon interesting in January, as she and I -via the Blibbering Humdingers-, are both Guests of Honor!). Anyway, the book’s really good thus far; different from her signature urban fantasy stuff, but it fits with some of the more varied stuff she’s been putting out lately.

And finally, in other news, I weighed in at 233.4 this morning. That’s slightly more than 50 pounds down. That’s kind of amazing.

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mostly talking Spider-Man

10
Jul

Monday mornings definitely leave something to be desired. It’s not that I’m not getting things done, because I actually am today; it’s just a bit of a struggle to have much in the way of investment or motivation. My give-a-shitter, as they say, is broke.

Over the weekend, though, I got some stuff done. Had a couple of nice bike rides, took care of a huge amount of laundry, got some nice stuff at the farmer’s market (though nothing’s in the cards the likes of last weekend where everybody was clamoring for my sweet potato recipes), and of course, saw Spider-Man: Homecoming which was pretty much everything I hoped it would be.

I kind of suspected they were on the right track after Captain America: Civil War, though this film hit all the right tonal notes for me – they finally, after fifteen years of actual films existing (and probably another twenty of trying to get them made based on ideas that rightfully were not made), they finally got it right.

There’s a couple of choices I wouldn’t have made, of course, but overall, this felt like the Spider-Man I grew up being a big fan of, which can’t be said of the previous five films (though each had moments). A lot of that has to do with Tom Holland, who gets both wise-cracking Spider-Man and (more importantly) Peter Parker. He feels real (in this hyper-real movie universe), both as a modern teenager, and as someone who totally buys into “with great power, comes great responsibility” (which isn’t uttered in the film, or the origin more than alluded to briefly – it doesn’t have to be, because this Peter embodies the idea so completely), tries to do the right thing, but doesn’t always get the results he wants in life because of the sacrifices he makes to that ideal.

All the classic “Spider-Man” moments are there, though – the wit, the social struggles, the relationship with May, the summoning of internal fortitude to accomplish a seemingly impossible task, and the personal connection to the adversary, which has always been a Spider-Man hallmark in the comics (at least for Spidey), but is used too much and often badly in superhero films. Avoiding spoilers, this one does it in a way that feels organic and logical and, like everything else, just feels right in line with the definitive Spider-Man tone. I suspect a lot of this has to do with Michael Keaton, who is always great, but really knocks it out of the park here.

The story’s also of the appropriate scale as well – Spidey sort of straddles the line between street-level and universe-leveling, but always works best “closer to the ground”. This plot hit that just about right, while still remaining relevant and connected to the established film universe (in ways that, say, the Neflix series’ haven’t managed to quite yet, given internal Marvel politics). I might have done with a little less of Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark, who’s really not in here all that much, to be honest, but given his current position as the fulcrum of the MCU, has a lot of influence on the proceedings, which makes sense, even if I’m maybe a little weary of Iron Man at the center of almost everything since 2008.

In any case, it’s safe to say I enjoyed it in a way that I haven’t really enjoyed all the other Spider-Man films – sure, it takes liberties (as they all do), but unlike the others- this one really got the character in ways the others didn’t.

Also, it goes without saying – stick around for the post-credit scenes.

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friday random eleven: “teenage hollywood” edition

07
Jul

It’s been kind of a week. A short week; which always feels longer for some reason.

Time dilation’s a bitch.

If I hadn’t mentioned it previously (I haven’t posted here in a week, so I haven’t mentioned it here, I guess), we had a pretty good holiday weekend. A lot of it was pretty chill, though we made the trek down to Cary NC for the “Nerdmuzik Cookout” hosted by the Blibbering Humdingers on Sunday, where we ate food, socialized, and played a bunch of music along with the likes of Madison “Metricula” Roberts and show headliner Leslie Hudson, our new best friend from Toronto, who’s amazing, talented, and currently touring the US. She’ll be playing Athens, AL tomorrow, for example, and starts a touring leg next week with my friend S.J. Tucker across the western US, which is probably the best performance bill you’re going to find anywhere for your music dollar right now if you’re in the area.

Seriously, Leslie is an amazing musician and performer; you should check her out and buy all her records (I did).

We didn’t do a whole lot else during the long weekend (driving down and back to NC on I-85 in one day was probably enough), though I did have an interesting experience riding my bike on the river trail on the morning of the Fourth – I got catcalled. As I said on the social media, I wasn’t sure how to feel about the experience; on one hand, I was kind of thrilled that my fitness routine is working enough that some teenage girls shouted their appreciation of my ass in spandex cycling shorts. On the other, I was uncomfortable because I felt that way, because of my empathy for my female peers. It did, however, spark a nice discussion amongst my friends.

I’m hoping just to take things relatively easy this weekend; we do have advance tickets for Spider-Man: Homecoming on Saturday morning, because of course we do. I’m really looking forward to this one; it seems to hit all the sweet spots for Spidey for me, and the reviews (both official and from friends who’ve already seen it) indicate I’ll enjoy it. Plus, it seems to really revel in the “Hollywood Teenager” milieu (the AV Club’s review included the proposed alternate title The Perks Of Being A Wall-Crawler) in an 80s John Hughes style, which seemed to annoy the NPR reviewer this morning, but to me seems pretty appropriate for the hyper-real Marvel Cinematic Universe.

It would be a bit of an understatement to say that I’m merely excited to see this one. I’m a long-time fan who’s been waiting most of his life to see Peter Parker done right (we’ve gotten close, but never really hit the bullseye), and it seems they finally nailed it.

Tunes. Hits the right notes. Indie, a little aggressive, with a bit of classic 80s teen movie nostalgia thrown in at number eight:

  1. “Ghandi Blues” – Madame Ghandi
  2. “Minstrel in the Gallery (club Edition) – Jethro Tull
  3. “Good Mistake” – Mr. Little Jeans
  4. “Yr Mangled Heart” – The Gossip
  5. “Kids” – MGMT
  6. “Joe’s Garage” – Frank Zappa
  7. “Maps” – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  8. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” – Tears for Fears
  9. “New Radio” – Bikini Kill
  10. “Battle Metal” – Turisas
  11. “Pour Some Sugar on Me” – Def Leppard

Oh, My eldest child finally watched Stranger Things this weekend. It was pretty cool seeing it again through somebody else’s eyes.

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milestone

01
Jul

239.4

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friday random eleven: “positive pendulum” edition

30
Jun

Happy Friday, folks. It’s relatively happy for me, as I’m looking at a short work day (thanks to having had to stay a few hours late earlier this week for an absolutely draining annual audit review meeting) heading into a four day weekend (Happy Independence Day! Happy Canada Day!) . Plus, I get to spend part of that weekend playing music with my friends, which is always welcome.

I’ve actually gotten to see my family a bit this week as well, as we’re in the idle week between recital and summer session classes at the dance school (the recital, if I haven’t mentioned it, went really well), which is nice. Work has actually been pretty productive this week (aside from the aforementioned audit review meeting), with me finishing another professional training certification course, knocking out some significant work products, and feeling, for the moment, anyway, like I might actually be halfway okay at this whole program management thing.

I’m also, as of last night, 50 miles into my goal of riding 60 miles this week, and I’m prepared to blow past that milestone this afternoon after work. Weight has been pendulum swinging on a not quite a pound long string anchored at 241 (just go with the image, okay) for the last week, which is alternatingly encouraging and frustrating. I really need to get off this plateau, and I think if I hit the trail hard tonight, I can do it.

The emotional boost I’ll get from seeing the tens digit go down by one (even if it’s only to 239.9) looks like it’ll be formidable, and I really, really need that hit. Badly.

Anyway, that’s the news from Lake Woebegone for now. Enjoy some music. Very 80s new wave/pop influenced this week, even with the thirty percent viking metal:

  1. “Making Art” – JD Samson & MEN
  2. “Havamal” – Falkenbach
  3. “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” – Eurythmics
  4. “Blut Und Feuer” – Varg
  5. “Champagne Supernova” – Oasis
  6. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” – Simple Minds
  7. “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” – The Police
  8. “Pumped Up Kicks” – Foster The People
  9. “Sound and Vision” – David Bowie
  10. “Nehalennia”- Heidevolk
  11. “You Make My Dreams” – Daryl Hall & John Oates
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inhumans

29
Jun

Okay, so the trailer for Marvel’s Inhumans tv series (showing up on ABC in September with a limited IMAX preview in theaters prior) dropped today:



Ehhhh….

I really *want* to like this one; I really do. Inhumans in classic Marvel terms ought to be huge, dramatic, over-the-top space opera rife with with courtly intrigue and backstabbing. It’s Shakespeare by way of Jack Kirby, with weird superpowers and giant teleporting dogs; It’s day-glo, pop art Game of Thrones; or at least it should be.

We get some of that political intrigue here, with Iwan “Ramsay Bolton” Rheon as Maximus the Mad monologuing over some fade in/out shot of Atillan (looking pretty grey and spartan) about taking back Earth as the inhuman (who are descendants of ancient humans affected by alien scientific experimentation and exposed to the Terrigen Mists to awaken their superpowers…Comics, Everybody!) birthright, and challenging the leadership of his brother the king, Black Bolt.

After that, we get…Hawaii. Running. Quick shots of the other characters like Medusa, Crystal, Karnak, and Gorgon, and a quick flash of Lockjaw, the giant teleporting bulldog. And not a whole lot else.

I’m afraid this is going to tank, largely because it looks like it’s trying to ground something that is absolutely NOT grounded at all. I want to see Medusa throwing cars around with her super-strong prehensile hair; I want to see Black Bolt (who has a voice that levels mountains, so he remains mute most of the time) conveying emotions and thoughts beyond “constipated”…I get that this is a TV budget, and the property has gotten kicked around between movie and tv divisions thanks to the internal Marvel feud between Perlmutter and Feige…but they’ve laid down so much inhuman ground work with Agents of SHIELD the last two years, there’s plenty to work with to get there.

Oh well, I’m still going to give it a shot (of course I will), but I’m not expecting much.

The only thing that gives me hope is that stinger with Lockjaw doing his dog thing. That’s awesome. He deserves the chance to be the next runaway success like dancing baby Groot. I’m afraid he’s not going to get it.

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trail magic

28
Jun

As one might notice (as I write this, anyway) in the “current obsessions” block in the left sidebar, I’m working toward a goal of biking at least sixty miles this week, mostly to see if I can manage it, and I want to see if I can kick my body in the pants and kickstart the weight loss process a little bit (I’m still going down, but I’ve been languishing in the same general region -the 240s- for more than a week), and I’m thinking a little extra cardio along the way might just do the trick.

Yesterday afternoon, I hit the trail straight after work as I do at least a couple of times a week; I’m finding it helps clear my head after a busy day of program managing and office politics. I usually find myself doing ten or fifteen miles any given day. Monday’s fifteen felt pretty good, so about half way through my first lap (my trail of choice most of the time is the loop at Dutch Gap Conservation Area, not far from my house), I decided that I was feeling just as good, so I was going to try to get ahead of my pace and do twenty, especially since it’s been a little cooler and less humid the last few days.

…and I managed it. I might even say I felt virile afterwards, if my ass wasn’t so sore after being in the saddle for such a distance. While I was out, though, I met somebody who puts my efforts to shame, and really impressed the heck out of me. Typically, I lap most hikers pretty regularly (I average aound 10-12mph), and even a lot of cyclists. Along the way this time, I passed a fellow on a bike once or twice, and about twelve miles into my run, we found ourselves on an easy stretch together and got chatting for a mile and a half or so (I honestly appreciated the temporary slow down to recover a bit), and this guy amazed me.

This fellow, Bobby, is 80 years old. He rides the trail a couple of times a week, in spite of having had a knee replacement done a couple of years ago. I sincerely hope, should I live that long (and I’m doing my best to try to make that happen), I’m still out and active and doing stuff like he is. He told me about another guy who he rides with sometimes who’s 87!

Talk about an inspiring human being. Wow.

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somewhere on the journey I find we

26
Jun

Twenty years ago today, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was first published.

Somewhere in late 1999 or early 2000 (I honestly don’t remember quite when, but the experience sticks with me), I picked up a paperback copy of Sorcerer’s Stone (oh, how I still wish, all these years later, they just went with the original title and didn’t assume -likely correctly- that Americans were idiots) on the way to an appointment so I’d have something to read in the waiting room, based largely on the burgeoning hype these stories were generating.

I got started with it that afternoon, and I’m pretty sure I finished it in a couple of hours, and immediately grabbed the other two books that were available at the time (I’m dating my recollection based on the September ’99 first publication of Azkaban), and from then on, I was pretty much hooked.

Sure, I was an “adult” who didn’t grow up with the series like so many other fans did, but I played along with the community going to midnight release parties, posting and discussing theories of what was happening next online and in person (especially with my lovely wife, who went right down the rabbit hole with me), and perhaps most significantly, catching Harry and the Potters at a free library show on a mid-week afternoon in DC on a lark some time in 2006-2007 (I honestly can’t remember anymore), which, at least indirectly, led to my discovering “wizard rock” and eventually finding a much beloved community and creative outlet as I got myself hooked up with The Blibbering Humdingers, who I first met (according to my blog archives) in 2010, and have been playing bass and assorted other instruments with for most of the last five years(!).

My association with Scott and Kirsten (two of the most wonderful and creative people I have the pleasure of knowing) led to my own personal initiation into a larger world (sound familiar? that’s intentional) of both wrock and nerd/geek music in general, where I’ve made some very dear friends and have gotten to have all kinds of wonderful and novel experiences that wouldn’t have been possible if not for a certain book published with little fanfare, written a single mother living on public assistance who jotted the whole business down while hanging out in a coffee shop in Edinbugh.

So, thanks Ms. Rowling, for giving the world something that ended up meaning a lot to so many people, and that led me, personally, to find such wonderful community and outlets for creativity that bring me so much joy.

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friday random eleven: “what a craic” edition

23
Jun

Another week down. I spent quite a bit of it doing the usual work/exercise/etc thing. Pretty standard, aside from a couple of car service appointments (one of which is still in process – a recall repair/rogue check engine light on the van is taking a while, so the spouse is currently rocking a 363hp Chrysler 300C with a huge V8 and the capability to store half a dozen dead hookers in the trunk as a loaner) and doing my grocery shopping on Tuesday instead of over the weekend because Awesomecon.

Weight loss project still looks good, though I’ve kind of plateued a bit – I’m still going down, just not at the same rate as before. I’m pretty sure the easy weight is gone now, and the last 15-20lb is going to take a bit longer. I’m actually okay with this, rationally, but it’s screwing up the nice trendline I had going on my personal data crunching spreadsheet, which is kind of infuriating to my inner pedant. Oh well.

I’ve also put a bunch of miles behind me on the bike (some of them in fifteen mile chunks, which I appreciate, but my ass doesn’t), though I had to cut yesterday’s short, as I think it’s time to replace the rear tire; the tread’s down, and I think I have a slow leak in the tube (the ass-end of the bike was sliding all over the place yesterday afternoon). I’ll probably live with it for another couple of days (keeping the pump in the car) and get it to the shop on payday (it needs a gears-and-brakes tune-up anyway).

As for the weekend, that’s going to be mostly all about the HOI recital, where I’m helping out with sound/lights/tech/whatever else they need me to do while everyone else dances. Tonight’s dress rehearsal, and Saturday evening at 7pm at Thomas Dale HS is the big event.

Also – if you’re down the NC triangle way, check out my bandmates from the Blibbering Humdingers (as a duo, because of my responsibilities in the last paragraph) performing at Steampunk Mid-Atlantic in Raleigh Saturday at 6:30!

Anyway, here are some tunes. Nice and indie this time around:

  1. “Phantom Limb” – The Shins
  2. “Rocket”- Def Leppard
  3. “Farm on the Freeway” – Jethro Tull
  4. “Luxury Problem” – Lunachicks
  5. “Soul Meets Body” – Death Cab for Cutie
  6. “Ran” – Future Islands
  7. “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” – The Proclaimers
  8. “Lord of the Blacksmiths” – Falconer
  9. “She’s Amazing” – Team Dresch
  10. “First Day of My Life” – Bright Eyes
  11. “Kiss and Ride” – Bratmobile
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