we were on a break


Well, I was on a break, but now I’m back in the office for two weeks for a return engagement before taking a really long break. I’m going to be completely honest with you, dear reader, as well as myself, and say that I’m probably going to be at least partially checked out for the next little while, both looking forward to the long holiday break, and the gig this weekend. I’m not proud of this (the clockwatching bit), but I am a little proud of the fact that I’ve spent the last month or so setting things up so that my assigned projects will roll along nicely without my intervention unless there’s a big emergency, though I’ve mostly tended to that as well. You’d almost think I was turning into an effective project manager!

So…last couple of weeks. Dance thing went well. Girls didn’t place as high as they would have liked, but did really well, considering they were punching way above their weight class in a couple of instances. I did lots of dad volunteering stuff, running concessions, handing out awards, combing the city for pro-audio cables at 8am on a Saturday morning (and then MacGyvering something together with junk in my backpack when nothing was open yet). Usual stuff. I’m a problem solver.

The Thanksgiving week was quiet – couple of days off cleaning the house and sorting through stuff. The spouse worked a bit (did I mention that? She’s started doing some freelance delivery stuff for Amazon Prime Now, which just stared service in our area over the last couple of weeks) because the holiday pay they were were offering for the Black Friday/Cyber Monday season was insane, but otherwise, we kind of hung out and I cooked some stuff.

We did get together with friends on Friday and Saturday, spending a few hours playing games, cracking jokes, and all that. Friends are nice. I really appreciate you all. Still, week was pretty low key.

This week is largely going to be dedicated to refreshing myself on a few dozen tunes for the party we’re playing this weekend (as well as learning a couple of new ones), and tonight I’ve got a rehearsal for this pop-up church bass-tenor choir thing (figure I need to learn how to sing one of these days), which has been fun.

So, plenty to do. Next week, when there is significantly less to do, will be the one that really drags (my goal there is to be just busy enough in the right time windows to avoid the “forced merriment office holiday celebrations).


friday pandora eleven – “my kid’s stuff is mixing with mine” edition


It’s friday, it’s kinda nice outside, I have no meetings, and, for we comics/MCU fans, it’s Jessica Jones Day!, which I will be settling into watch at least part of this evening before the weekend gets too crazy (more on that presently). I’m pretty sure you’re all aware how much I’ve been looking forward to this one.

However, the weekend is going to get pretty hectic pretty quickly, as I’ll be hanging/working/watching/bouncing/etc at the Oireachtas (AKA dance competition) all weekend while the girls dance. It’s gonna eat most of the weekend, but they all enjoy it so, and it’s kinda neat anyway.

The weekend crazy actually kind of started yesterday, as I spent most of the evening after work delivering pies. PIES.

The dance school did a holiday pie fundraiser sale, and few approached could resist the persuasive power of a cute little eight year old girl, so I hung out at the dance school last evening (after taking care of a few other things, like a kid doctor appointment, and picking up my sweet new glasses, which have been determined sufficiently hipster by my teenage daughter) waiting for the pie man and his refrigerated truck to show up…most of an hour late. After sorting pies, I loaded a bunch into the car and spent the evening in the West End delivering pies to friends there via a mostly organized pick-up (and shoving all the un-picked-up pies into the freezer in the church kitchen, carefully labeled – go pick up your pies, people!), and getting home kinda late. Did I mention that I did this all in very heavy fog and rain? No? because I totally did, making me Dad Hero of the Universe™ for at least a few hours.

That’s been it, really, apart from some usual biological functions, answering of emails relating both to work and set lists for some band gigs coming up, the creation of a great many powerpoint presentations (argh) and the occasional contemplation of what the worst Christmas song is on social media.

…and one of these days I have to maybe think about the Thanksgiving feast, point one being whether we’re going to bother with a big production or not.

In the meantime, here’s some music, since I felt like some music (and I haven’t done it in a while anyway). It’s proving to be an insteresting mix, as omewhere along the line, Mary and I started using the same Pandora account (because she likes most of my old dad music because she’s cool like that), but she adds new channels a lot, so I get a few weird surprises here and there:

  1. Past Lives – Borns
  2. The Great Moonwolf Trap – Tom Smith
  3. Strange – R.E.M.
  4. Don’t You (Forget About Me) – Simple Minds
  5. Man It’s So Loud In Here – TMBG
  6. I’ll be You – The Replacements
  7. Teen Age Riot – Sonic Youth
  8. Obvious Bicycle – Vampire Weekend
  9. Mess Is Mine – Vance Joy
  10. Babymetal Death – Babymetal
  11. You Oughta Know (live) – Alanis Morrissette

popping off on refugees


Like most of us, I’m sure, I’ve been watching the situation regarding Syrian refugees develop, especially after the unfortunate events in Paris and elsewhere this weekend. This sort of thing, it can bring out the best in people, or it can bring out the worst of people. I’m seeing some absolutely awful stuff from folks on the right, and most of them are parroting the words of the many, many Republican candidates for President, who are spouting off all sorts of awful things, many of which harken, unfortunately, back to stuff I remember hearing fourteen years ago, only with the crazy dialed up a few orders of magnitude higher. All of it’s pretty uncharitable toward people in need, and in flagrant violation of the two disparate documents these sorts of people proclaim to revere above all others, those being the Bible (see, among many other places, Leviticus 19:33-34 and Luke 10:25-37) and the US Constitution (specifically Article VI, paragraph 3).

To play the scripture game with these folks, we’ve got a whole lot of loudly self-proclaimed Christians (most troublingly, at least 19 state Governors) taking on the part of the innkeeper in Luke 2:7. Even the Christmas/Easter types and those who slept through Sunday school ought to be able to figure out that’s the wrong side of that equations to be on.

Luckily, despite all the garbage being spewed over the airwaves, the internet, and from journalists in press conferences who should know better, there are cooler heads prevailing, and one of them happens to sit in the Oval Office, which makes me feel pretty good. Quoth President Obama:

The United States has to step up and do its part. And when I hear folks say that well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims — when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test? For which person, who is fleeing a war-torn country, is admitted? When some of those folks themselves come from families who benefitted from protection when they were fleeing political persecution? That’s shameful.

He’s got a cool head and definitely has the right idea, though much has been made of the frustration he showed at that press conference yesterday. I understand the frustration, especially after being asked, and answering in thoughtful detail, the same question multiple times,. It seems the reporters present were simply not getting the answer they’d like (which one journalist, CNN’s Jim Acosta, kindly articulated bluntly, would be “to take out these bastards”), lending credence to the axiom “if it bleeds, it leads”.

The response people keep talking about, to me, seems pretty reasoned, and exactly the kind of thing I want to hear from my head of state (emphasis here and there is mine):

But what we do not do, what I do not do is to take actions either because it is going to work politically or it is going to somehow, in the abstract, make America look tough, or make me look tough. And maybe part of the reason is because every few months I go to Walter Reed, and I see a 25-year-old kid who’s paralyzed or has lost his limbs, and some of those are people I’ve ordered into battle. And so I can’t afford to play some of the political games that others may.

We’ll do what’s required to keep the American people safe. And I think it’s entirely appropriate in a democracy to have a serious debate about these issues. If folks want to pop off and have opinions about what they think they would do, present a specific plan. If they think that somehow their advisors are better than the Chairman of my Joint Chiefs of Staff and the folks who are actually on the ground, I want to meet them. And we can have that debate. But what I’m not interested in doing is posing or pursuing some notion of American leadership or America winning, or whatever other slogans they come up with that has no relationship to what is actually going to work to protect the American people, and to protect people in the region who are getting killed, and to protect our allies and people like France. I’m too busy for that.

The President was a lot cooler in the presence of idiocy than many others would be.




This showed up on my work computer this morning. I think somebody may have dropped the ball.


use or lose


I’ve officially been a bureaucrat long enough that the mythical “use or lose” annual leave is a thing.

Two years ago or so, my public sector seniority became such that I hit the top tier of vacation time earnings. Combine this with the fact that I’ve swapped positions in the “company” (and even swapped companies once) so many times in the last couple of years that I spent most of my time trying to figure out which way was up in the office and needed to be present, I haven’t been in a position to take all that much time off.

As such, I’ve built up a pretty good back log of “annual leave”, some of which will go *poof* if I don’t use it before the end of the calendar year.

Those of you reading here regularly will have perhaps noticed that this lack of “break time” has taken it’s toll on me in terms of stress and such; that wouldn’t be wrong. The fact that I’m in a position to lose this vacation time I’ve earned hasn’t helped the stress any, either.

In any case, I’ve managed to sort out my schedule (having a bit of autonomy to determine what my little corner of the agency does has helped a bit here) to allow for several extended breaks to close out the year. The first of those breaks was the back half of last week. It was a nice break. I didn’t do a hell of a lot besides take care of some appointments (I’m getting new glasses, yay!) and spend some time being idle. It was nice. I think I uncoiled some of the tension springs bit.

The nicest bit, though, when I got into the office on Monday morning, I found that nothing exploded during my absence. That was novel. I cleared the email backlog in less than an hour, and there were very few things in there that needed immediate pouncing upon.

Of course, also this past week, I spent a bit of headspace marking time for the rest of the year. When I lay it out, it’s actually pretty nice:

  • This week: full week, calendar is pretty empty
  • Thanksgiving week: two day week, three days off
  • first two weeks of December: low impact test cycle
  • rest of December: not working for three weeks. Such luxury!

My thoughts right now are to do my usual end-of-year thing (just for an extra week), and not plan on going anywhere unless we make a conscious decision to do so – the best Christmas gift I can give myself is to just let go of the stress of holiday obligations and not do something unless *we* feel like it. It’s worked really well the last couple of years, and I think it’s a tradition worth keeping.

And yeah, I’ll probably see Star Wars in there somewhere…


“marty chrissman”


Begun, this Christmas Coffee War has.


Actually, my favorite bit about this particular holiday “Operation Mayhem” is not that people are protesting (once again) by giving the entity that offends them more money, but that if everybody gives their name as “Merry Christmas”, no one will know whose drink is whose, and it’ll lead to further chaos and first-world suffering of those expressing their feelings of faux oppression.


“the truth is stranger than fiction”


One of the big political stories in the Presidential horse race late this week has been Ben Carson’s “pyramids as grain storage” theory. To review:

“My own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain,” Carson said in a 1998 commencement speech at Andrews University, unearthed by BuzzFeed. “Now all the archaeologists think that they were made for the pharaohs’ graves. But, you know, it would have to be something awfully big — when you stop and think about it, and I don’t think it’d just disappear over the course of time — to store that much grain.”

Now, anyone who went to elementary school for ten minutes (even in the kind of educational system Ben Carson and his ilk would create if they had their druthers) know this is completely ridiculous. Carson, despite being, by reputation, a gifted neurosurgeon, professes to actually believe this, and it’s hardly the first time Dr. Carson has held forth on bizarre theories with no actual basis in science.

Now, a reasonable person might postulate here that Dr. Carson, coming from a highly specialized field like pediatric neurosurgery, was forced by vocation to focus on a very narrow area of knowledge rather than a broader understanding of a wide variety of fields (almost certainly excluding Egyptology); and might also consider the possibility that surgeons, whose specialized knowledge gives them perceived power over life and death, and whose chosen vocation is commonly considered the epitome of difficulty and complexity, (matched only, perhaps by rocket science), might allow this practically and sociologically reinforced sense of superiority to bleed into other areas where it might not apply so aptly…

Me, I’m personally convinced that Ben Carson is actually just pulling a series of Calvin’s Dad gags on the American public.

At least that’s what I want to believe, because I don’t want to believe that someone so obviously out of touch with general knowledge and understanding of the world could be considered a Presidential frontrunner.




hey folks, I do this every year; you should be used to this by now.

It’s election day. Do your civic duty and go vote. It is, absolutely, the least you can do to fulfill your side of the social contract that is democracy (or constitutional republic-cy, or whatever it is that we have).

Yes, it’s an off-year election, and there’s nothing sexy happening in most places. My answer for that is that the non-sexy races are actually the ones that probably matter the most to you. These local elections are the ones that determine what happens in your backyard – your kids’ school, your municipal taxes, things that directly affect your neighborhood. In the scheme of things, the people who sit on your local school board have a heck of a lot more of an affect on your actual life than does the President of the United States, so it behooves you to take a few minutes (the internet makes this embarassingly easy) to know who’s on your ballot and go mark the thing at your local polling place.

for example, my ballot this year has my state legislators, school board, and a bunch of county offices. Not high profile, necessarily, but important. Other social media friends of mine all over the place have been making noise about some of their local races on the friendface this year as well. You all can’t imagine how happy this makes me feel. It gets me right in the civic duty feels.

So, y’know…go vote and stuff.


I feel strange, but also good


After nine hours in the car on Thursday after my trip, I had scheduled Friday off, in part because I knew I’d need a bit of a rest after nine hours in the the car, partially because we had lots of weekend stuff (see below), and also because we’re hitting the end of the year and I have use-or-lose leave sitting there I have to burn off.

Friday I took care of some things like a doctor’s appointment, various errands, and some laundry, then spent some solid decompression time working through the back half of Flash (excellent all around) and Arrow (good, but kind of dour and draggy towards the end of season) and Jurassic World (big, dumb noisy fun – enjoyed it thoroughly). I also paid bills, which isn’t particularly fun, but necessary.

Saturday was pretty busy, as all the girls were dancing at the Central Virginia Celtic Festival, which is always a good time, with lots of great music, crafts, libations, and people throwing very heavy things. The girls did a great job with their performances (although the stage was a bit small), and we got to hang out with some friends and share this bit of the girls’ passion with them (one dear author friend is researching Irish dance and the culture surrounding it for a story she’s writing, and Colleen and Mary are helping her with anecdotes and terminology). It’s safe to say we enjoyed ourselves.

We also did some shopping; I feel slightly bad about it, but I bought a very fine hat, the sort I’ve been pining for for many years, but finally found a decent deal on. I don’t feel too badly about it, it’s quite cunning (even in this crap photo), exemplifyng my roots in the community.

While perusing the jewelry vendors, my spouse and I splurged a little bit and bought new wedding bands; she’s been without one for a while now (had to be cut off due to pregnancy induced swelling once upon a time, then it was fixed, and had to be cut off again for the same reason later), and we found a couple of nice matching claddagh rings to replace the simple gold bands. We quite like them, though after wearing the same ring without taking it off more than half a dozen times for more than seventeen years, this new one feels strange; I find myself constantly futzing with it, when I’m not catching the little crown bit on things. Colleen says my behavior is “adorable”. I’m not sure I agree, but I’m sure I’ll get used to the new accessory before long.


I wasn’t even supposed to be here today


Greetings from the mysterious mid-west. I don’t really want to be here, because I’m adding absolutely no value to this test I’m supposed to be supervising/supporting, since the guys who actually do the work have this business down. Also, I have another test going on at home that, frankly, requires a lot more attention.

I’m really only here to keep up appearances for the home office anyway. This is the project I gave up a while back, but since the new person is out, I’m backing her up. There’s really nothing for me to do here except be seen. I’m going to try to get some face time with a couple of people I have deep and meaningful telephonic relationships with, but otherwise, I’m just sitting here doing my job displaced by about five hundred miles for a couple of days.

That said, I’m just making the best of it. I’m doing what I can to smooth over some access issues for people (not that I didn’t get hung up by building security this morning myself), and catching up with tester community (who are all wonderful people), but it’s still frustrating, because I’m adding very little benefit at all (though I won’t turn my nose up at the travel money they give me). Luckily, I can pretty much do my job from anywhere, and there’s a White Castle a few blocks down the road (tasty, tasty novelty).

Though if little steam-grilled mystery meat sandwiches are the best thing I can find to get excited about, I hope you’ll all have a better week than me.


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