seeking and finding

11
Feb

It’s been a rough kind of week. Upheaveal, and Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt are currently in power in my organization, I can’t seem to get any of my concerns or questions answered, and none of the timelines I’m able to project from here into the new order seem to work out nicely for me. The best material thing that happened during the workday yesterday was that the cleaning staff changed out the urinal cakes in the men’s restroom, giving the whole place a nice fresh floral scent.

It kind of came to a head yesterday morning, so I took to the keyboard and threw the following plea out to social media:

feeling all kinds of discouraged today, people. Could use some good thoughts and some cheering up, if you’re of the mind.

thanks…

It felt really weird and needy to put such a thing up, but you know? It worked. My friends came through, and continue to do so. I got posts, emails, phone calls, all with the express purpose of checking in or making me feel better. Also, met my friend Chris, who I hadn’t seen in a while, for coffee after work and had a nice chat (and also got my hands on the first sold copy of the latest print collection of his comic, A Dog’s Life, “Who Let The Dogs Out?”), which was great. All of these things made me feel loved, appreciated, cared for, and understood.

I just wanted you all to know how much I appreciate you all. Seriously. I know some great people. You’re all awesome.

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new hampshire

09
Feb

Okay, my head may have gotten a little swollen after nailing the Iowa prediction last week, so I’m going to go out on a limb again, and try and predict today’s New Hampshire Primary results. My predictions are not the least bit scientific – I take a look at the polls, the general sense of the media coming out of the campaigns, and what little I know traditionally about the electorate and how these things go, and take a wild-ass guess, which, really, is what most of the talking heads do anyway, so I’m in good company.

On the Democratic side, I’m going to call it for Sanders, by probably 15 percent, if not more; this is his home turf, and his independent streak works to his advantage in “Live Free or Die” territory. Also, I think some of the remarks this week from Clinton surrogates (including former Presidents, Secretaries of State, and Gloria Steinham) landed badly up there, and won’t do Clinton any favors.

On the Republican side, I’m going to give it to Trump, though not by as much as he’d like; maybe five percent ahead of second, which is probably going to be Rubio (despite his poor debate performance and inability to provide pancakes). The story, though, is going to be the strong showing by John Kasich, who’s been having a pretty good week under the radar. He’s going to hit third, or even second if I’m wrong about Rubio.

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croaking

04
Feb

The photo above pretty much represents my ability to speak right now. Not sure where it came from, but I’ve got *another* bug running through my system. I did spend a while in the company of little girls at the dance school this weekend; maybe I picked something up there. I feel mostly okay, though I’ve got no voice whatsoever, save a hoarse, creaking croak that served me very well when I had to brief the CIO Wednesday afternoon, and the several times I’ve had to argue with other branches of the organization of what constitutes a successful electronic commerce test (my definition does not include every transaction dropping for manual review, while it seems theirs does…argh).

I took a day off this week, but it barely helped, though I got some rest. Luckily, I’ve got relatively few meetings the rest of the week, and my underlings have the job well in hand, so I can hide in my office and talk to people through email and save my voice.

My throat and it’s capacity for speech have been a primary focus of my week, though a couple of other things went down – My wife had a birthday on Wednesday; I think she enjoyed it. Also, it seems my totally unscientific predictions for Iowa were right on the money; it’s unlikely I’ll be able to turn this into a career in political commentary, but it kind of felt good to get it right. If I make a prediction for next week in New Hampshire, I’ll probably bobble that royally. We’ll see how I feel on Monday.

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iowa

01
Feb


So, today is the day…the first official votes in this Presidential election cycle actually get cast this evening; the rubber, as they say, finally meets the road.

Predictions? I’m not sure, really, but here’s my general take:

For the Democrats, I’m hoping for a good showing for Bernie Sanders (if we’re being honest, he’s the one who most closely aligns with me philosophically), though I have nothing in particular against Hillary Clinton…I suppose she’d do an okay job, but I just can’t get excited about her, and the idea of dynastic politics makes me uncomfortable (as do Third Way/DLC politics in general). I think it’s kind of a toss-up, really – Clinton’s learned some things since 2008, and has a pretty great ground game, which really makes a difference, but then, so does Sanders. Total toss up.

The Republicans have the bigger show, I guess…My feeling is that Trump and Cruz will come really close; both are stoking the anger and frustration of the far-right, though in the end, I think Cruz (as odious as he is) is gonna come out on top by one or two percent. I suspect, in the end, that there’s some evangelical discomfort with Trump that’s not completely been captured, and while Trump has kind of been annointed (see the Falwell endorsement), Cruz has better bona fides with the religious right, and that’s going to tip things.

Either way, the Republican field is going to get slashed a bit going forward – a few may hang out through Super Tuesday, though I expect folks like Gilmore, Kasich, and Santorum will probably drop in the next week.

My reasonable Republican friends are hoping for Rubio to do well, and I suspect he’ll probably do well, but he comes across as human and mostly rational, and I just don’t think that’s going to be a real advantage this time around.

In any case, I’ll be watching. For some good interesting perspectives (and a good discussion with an actual Iowa voter of how the Caucus works) on the entire process, check out The More Perfect Union podcast (which is made by a few friends of mine). It’s enlightening.

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schadenfreude

28
Jan

and now, for your reading pleasure, some good old-fashioned vagueblogging:

I truly and honestly know that I should not take pleasure at the misfortune (or in this case, missed opportunities) of others. I try not to do it. I’m not proud of the fact that I occasionally do.

However, in this particular case about which I won’t elaborate further, it couldn’t have happened to a nice guy.

As I said, I’m not proud.

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lost weekend

27
Jan

With the passing of the plow though my neighborhood on Tuesday late afternoon, I guess I can say that life is more or less back to normal after #Snowpocalypse 2016.

All told, my workplace was closed two days, I was snowed in one day beyond that, and the kids are *still* out of school. I really couldn’t tell you how much accumulation we got, probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 12-15 inches, though there were drifts on my lot in excess of three feet during the height of things.

I started out, oddly enough, missing a bunch of the break; overnight Thursday, I was struck with some sort of awful lower-GI plague, spent most of the night losing weight the quick (but not so easy) way, and other than an occasional bleary-eyed semi-wakened wandering, I totally missed Friday. I woke up Saturday morning, feeling drained and dehydrated, and began working my way back, slowly stepping into eating white unseasoned foods and some clear liquids. My understanding, based on the experiences of a couple of my far-flung con compatriots, somebody dropped a delayed-release viral bomb at Marscon, and more than one of us got hit with things by mid-week.

I was largely on the mend by Sunday, though I slowly eased my way back into life further, and cracking the whip on my teenagers to dig out the driveway. Monday likewise, my office was closed (my home Commonwealth is pretty awful at getting roads cleared; not that this sort of storm is in any way typical – at least the power stayed on), so I checked a couple of emails, but mostly stuck around the house, venturing out a little bit to see how the roads were, and ran a couple of errands and supported a last-minute Eagle Scout board of review (made another Eagle Scout…yay). Roads in my neighborhood were barely passable.

Tuesday morning I woke up and tried to get the car out of the driveway, though overnight, the passing of multiple bro-dozers and fishtailing sedans through my neighborhood made the barely-passable roads impassable; I got stuck halfway out of the driveway, and required the assistance of a passing local policeman to help push my car back into the driveway. I called in, taking advantage of liberal leave policies.

That’s the basics. Wednesday was back to work, dealing with that usual bullshit. Yay. Just have to get through a couple of days, tossing out passive-agressive emails to people who don’t know how to loop me in until the things the need me for have already started. It’s crap.

Still, I had a couple of days off, read a couple of books, maybe got myself hooked into a cabin-fever relieving jam session with some local folks on Saturday night, which could be fun. Plus, there’s a Humdingers gig with a bunch of other great acts coming up in a couple of weeks. At least the musical part of my life is rewarding.

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marscon 2016 – thankful

17
Jan

Hey all, it’s a damp Sunday evening and I just got back from this year’s MarsCon, my “home” fan convention, and quite possibly one of my favorite experiences I get to have every year.

As has been the case the last couple of years, I spend a bit of time “working” these cons, as the bassist/mandolin player/roadie/co-conspirator/coffee getter/etc for Blibbering Humdingers, although it doesn’t feel like work at all; it’s just a little over 48 hours of hanging out with my friends, cracking jokes, and playing music.

While Marscon is a con with a bit of everything – Games! Science! Costumes! Writing! Art! ALL THE THINGS! – over the last half-decade or so, it’s really become well-known for it’s music track (largely guided by the wonderful Butch Allen), which has collected over the years a wonderful and eclectic collection of artists who keep coming back every year to entertain the collected throng, as well as each other.

And I’m still kind of amazed and humbled by the fact that I get to be part of that. This was my third Marscon playing with Scott and Kirsten, and going back even farther, I’ve been welcomed into the Marscon musical brotherhood in filk circles and impromtu jam sessions. I couldn’t ask for a more supportive, welcoming, and open group of creative people to be kind of adopted by; it’s truly a safe space to get out and perform and take risks (which I did this year by making an attempt at a seriously hard to play and sing David Bowie tune, “Life on Mars”, in front of about 100 people during “Filk and Cookies”), and not get affected too much by impostor syndrome.

This year, though, I feel like I’d finally “made it” as a peer, rather than an aspirant. This year I got to sit on the *big stage* during the big con closeout round-robin concert with all the performers and play along with everyone, and was welcomed with open arms by both the players and the audience. It was a great feeling playing along with and supporting (I *am* the bass player; that’s my job) such amazingly talented people like the Humdingers, Mikey Mason, Jonah Knight, Valentine Wolfe, White Plectrum, Danny Birt, and this year’s musical Guest of Honor, S.J. Tucker (who you should really check out, because she’s an amazing player and performer, and honestly, a real sweetheart of a person who made everyone feel welcome and appreciated, including my stupefied superfan daughter).

I really hope that someday I’m able to “pay it forward” to some other ascended fanboy; because I really want somebody else to feel as welcomed and appreciated as I did this weekend.



(photo by Althea Kontis)

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2016 this far….

12
Jan

Hi.

We’re 12 days into the new year; it’s been very much an up-and-down thing thus far. There’s been some good stuff. There’s been some supreme frustration. More than I’d really want; let’s be honest.

Work’s a never-ending pile of bluster, bro-ing, business word salad, bad attitudes, belaying progress, blowing off meetings and commitments, and other bullshit that’s not so alliterative. I have hope that I might be able to fix things in my corner of the world, but the culture here isn’t conducive to the way I operate; I don’t see good things in the future for this organization, and I’m really not digging the idea of “long term” here, though the milestone plans I elaborated in the last post (and just wrote again and deleted when I realized how repetitive it was because it’s on my mind so damned much) still stands.

It’s just that the last week hasn’t been good, and this week isn’t looking much better; for all kinds of reasons specific and non-specific that I won’t elaborate on here.

This past weekend, however, gave me some welcome respite. I drove down to Cary, NC on Saturday to play a Humdingers show at Illogicon, which is, more or less, my bandmates’ “hometown” convention. I met a few new friends, saw a handful of old ones, and despite some serious technical issues with sound and amplification, we played a damned good show with a very appreciative and responsive audience who seemed to really dig what we were doing, or at least laughed and sang along in all the right places.

I also learned, to both my amusement and slight embarassment, that I may have a couple of fans among the geek-cougar demographic in the NC Research Triangle. Weird.

Oh, I also saw a burlesque routine set to “weird” Al Yankovic’s “MacAurthur Jurassic Park” during which the performer starts out dressed as Jeff Goldblum and ends up as a T-rex in green fuzzy pasties, but that’s neither here nor there, it’s just the life I seem to lead.

This coming weekend, assuming I survive the next 30 or so hours of business time, is Marscon, which I consider “my” hometown convention, where I’ll spend the weekend hanging out with all my geeky friends and co-conspirators, playing a bunch of music late into the night, which I suspect will probably involve lots of David Bowie, because after waking up yesterday, I found out there’s a big damned hole in the world that won’t get filled any time soon. Several of my musical friends and I have already started hatching plans.

Dance, Magic, Dance.

PS: today’s the day: State of the Union Drinking Game. Go forth and imbibe.

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in memoriam – 2015

04
Jan

I meant to write up something like this weeks ago, but I kind of shut myself mostly out of the internet (other than occasional poking around on social media and playing some games). The break was welcome. I read some books, had a few nice evenings out with family and friends, saw Star Wars a couple of times, and just dropped out.

I needed it.

Anyway, 2015 was a whirlwind of confusion. new job in a new job series in a new division of an organization I only joined a year prior. New responsibilities, including……kind of being somebody’s boss. New personalities to deal with; some of whom became very different (and difficult to deal with) as the year went on. Let’s be honest, most of my life this year has been dedicated to figuring out what the hell I was was doing and who I was supposed to be doing it with/to/about.

That part wasn’t fun. Not at all. It probably won’t be fun going forward into 2016. Still, I managed to keep a handle on most of it, not fuck up too much, and keep the job (heck, I even got nominated for an agency award, fat lot of whatever that means).

What the job stuff did do, however, was get me thinking. I went through some serious rough patches this year (some of which bubbled up here…a lot of it bubbled up here). I’ve had very few moments where I’ve been able to look at this job in a long-term context; whatever happens, I don’t see myself overseeing this particular corner of the world forever. After two years in the agency, and a year in this department, I’ve kind of decided that I’m not a great match for the organizational culture; most folks are nice enough, but I haven’t forged any real relationships worth dragging outside the gate, and I think a lot of it is personality and temperment. That’s okay, I think I have a plan

Around mid-2017, I’ll have 20 years federal service logged. That’s nothing to sneeze about. I’ve quietly, personally, and non-obligatorally committed to myself that I’ll stand pat until I hit my twenty, then I’ll re-evaluate. Given my age, that’s somewhere just past the mid-point of my career; Plenty of time to shift gears if necessary. There’s other stuff I might like to try – I’ve been under the defense umbrella for 20 year, much of that with the country on a de-facto war footing (which has been wonderful for my social-justice/liberal mindset). I’d like to see what life’s like under another flavor of cabinet official, you know? I’m a little averse to jumping the federal ship, given my investment, but I’m not going to say never. That, however, is a discussion for another time, once I pass the current milestones.

Outside of work, things have been a bit better. Outside projects and relationships have helped keep me sane and motivated. I played a bunch of great shows with The Blibbering Humdingers all up and down the east cost this year, wrocking lots of people at lots of neat places. We made a record we’re pretty proud of, and plan on flogging up and down the sci-fi convention circuit for the forseeable future (gigs are lined up), and I think we’ll have more music to share soon-ish.

I can’t thank the little musical family I’ve made (Scott and Kirsten, plus Eddie, Christie, Leah, Mikey, Jonah, Gray and all the rest) enough; these little weekend adventures we have throughout the year really saved my sanity. I also got a little more confortable with my own stuff – I don’t have much, but I’m starting to play it a bit, and have obtained the gear to lay it down once I really figure out how. Who knows what the coming year will hold on that front.

otherwise, my social circles, the geeks, the gamers, the UUs, the everybody else…have also been amazing. My dance card is eternally full, and it’s generally pretty excellent. We have adventures in worlds real and imagined, musical and prosaical. It seems I have a friend in every port I find myself these days, which is a real comfort. Special shout outs to the KT, Kevin, Scott, Winter and Dan…you guys are awesome.

Oh, I guess I should also pour one out for my aborted publishing career at Antimatter Press, the little venture my friends and co-conspirators Elizabeth, Duncan, Jonah, and Danny. We had great ambitions, published a handful of great things, then flamed out because we were all to busy with life, love, career, etc. It was a worthy adventure, and I’m still sort of playing in that pond, doing some light editing for one of our leftover authors. We’ll see where it goes.

Family life has been, life with teenagers, you know? Most of it’s been pretty okay, with a few extra hurdles I won’t really bother with, but i think we’ll get through it…I hope. Thanks, as always, to my dear wife, for being the rock and whatever else I tie myself to. It’s been a rough one this year, but we got through it.

Anyway – couple of other odds and ends…I checked off a couple of items on the bucket list:

I made an album (see above) and got my playing on two other releases, the HPA anniversary disc (the Humdingers contributed a track) and I played guitar on a live version of one of my favorite songs, Beer Powered Time Machine by Mikey Mason (wish I could’ve found a good version of the slow “drunkards and philosophers” version) that we knocked together at Dragon*Con this year and Mikey released in a limited fashion this fall.

Had a book dedicated to me (and my family) – Classic, by Lynn Townsend, the pen name of a dear friend (mentioned elsewhere above – I’ll let you figure it out); it’s nice to get noticed.

I think I played more shows than I attended this year – that’s neat. Did manage to see “Weird” Al again (only four or five rows back), which was kind of amazing.

I survived. there’s that.

Also – looking back, I didn’t write much this year in this space. Kinda had other things going on, you know? Nothing huge or profound to be proud of, but here are a couple of entries from this year that I liked:

Oh, and I read 73 books this year. woo.

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friday pandora ten – “last day at work” edition

11
Dec



At long last, today is my last day at work for the year 2015. I’ll be honest, it’s been a tough one. My job changed; hell, my career changed. I spent most of the year just figuring out what the hell I’m supposed to be doing here. One of these days I might even figure it out.

Every day was a new problem, and it was even odds I’ve never had to deal with that problem before. I am, for the first time since that whole catering truck thing I did through college, in charge of the work of other people, and in this case, I don’t have any more than a vague idea of how to do what those folks actually do. It’s a weird, new experience to be in charge of people, and not have the confidence to know that you could do the job at least as well as they do. I think I’m getting better at it, but it’s still new, and probably will be for a while.

The important thing, though, is that despite the setbacks and occasional breakdowns (thanks to everyone in my life for the patience you exercised in dealing with me over the past twelve months), I survived it, found my way to the road that might some day lead me to competence at this sort of thing, and most importantly, I didn’t give in to the temptation to give the boss an upper-decker*.

Anyway, after I close up shop on Friday, I’m out of the office for three whole weeks. I’m hoping to use the time to seriously uncoil some springs that have been holding entirely too much tension for the last year. It might be quiet here, it might not. However, I’m giving myself the gift of letting some outside responsibilities go, and doing more of the things I want to do (or perhaps *not* doing some of the things I don’t) for a couple of weeks. I deserve it.

On that note, here are some tunes:

  1. It’s My Life (live) – Bon Jovi
  2. 1000 Emerald Pools – BORNS
  3. Chasing the Brand New – The Badlees
  4. 18 and Life – Skid Row
  5. Ijime Dame Zettai – BABYMETAL
  6. Becuz – Sonic Youth
  7. I’m Just A Girl – No Doubt
  8. Cowboy Hat – that dog.
  9. it Happens All The Time – Dressy Bessy
  10. Everything – Alanis Morrissette

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*This is, of course, a reference to the song linked above – go ahead and listen (and if you don’t know what an “upper-decker” is, click here. you’re welcome.). To be fair, my boss doesn’t deserve it, as he’s been nothing but decent, and has totally had my back all year. There’s another guy, however….

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