friday random eleven: “very parenthetical” edition

24
Mar

Not gonna belabor the point. My schedule again this week has been wrecked, largely with a bunch of big important stuff coming up at work at literally the last minute (though that stuff worked out, for the most part, pretty well – important people said very nice things about me in front of my boss, which is never a bad thing), stuff I had myself all psyched up for ended up not happening (I was ready to finish the recording of the #JHX CD last night, but then my singer went and started running a fever…thanks, Jenny ūüėČ ).

And when my routine gets thrown off, I get thrown off. That’s the way it works.

I’ll manage. I got a couple of free evenings to finish a book (Tyler Cowen’s The Complacent Class, which has a lot of great ideas in it about why our country is where it is, which echoes a lot of my thoughts about how we’re stuck in a rut, but it also makes me worried about how we’re going to handle it when the big disruption finally shakes us out of it), watch some MST3K since Netflix decided to put a bunch of stuff up this week (“Space Mutiny”, “Time Chasers”, “Puma man”, “I Accuse My Parents”, “Catalina Caper” etc), finish Iron Fist (entertaining, but unfocused – also – Danny Rand is the least interesting person in his story), and eat some pizza.

I needed some free evenings without much to focus on.

This weekend is all dance (Church Hill, VA Dance Festival), all the time, plus if we’re up to it, one of our favorite authors (John Scalzi) is in town to promote his new book (“The Collapsing Empire”) at a neat little bookstore in the city (The Fountain) this evening. I met him and had a nice chat at Concarolinas two years back, so I expect if we go, it’ll be entertaining.

Otherwise, I dunno what else is on the agenda, and that’s probably okay (okay).

Here’s some music (so 80s, very pop):

  1. “Changes” – David Bowie
  2. “Women” – Def Leppard
  3. “All Through The Night” – Cyndi Lauper
  4. “White Wedding” – Billy Idol
  5. “Lord of the Blacksmiths” – Falconer
  6. “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” – The Police
  7. “Thunder Pimp” – Dweezil Zappa
  8. “Short Version” – Wild Flag
  9. “The Wind Cries Mary” – Jimi Hendrix
  10. “I Don’t Mind” – Psychic Ills
  11. “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” – The Proclaimers

…and finally, the thing that made me (and my daughter) laugh more this week than anything else:

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THE DUCK is coming for you…

24
Mar

I just thought you should know.

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making things, reviewing things

20
Mar

Hanging in there. It’s the monday after the sunday after the saturday immediatlely following the actual calendar date of St. Patrick’s Day, which is really stretching the joke, but with a family of Irish dancers, it’s the life.

We (I say we because I always roadie these things) had one performance on Friday night at a local country club, after which we sat around a local pizza joint enjoying the company. The real activity, as alluded to earlier, is this coming weekend, with the VA Dance Festival and the Irish Fesitval in Church Hill. We’ll manage.

Saturday morning, I recorded the Jenny Hendricks Experience. We want to have something, however small, to sell at these upcoming con shows that we can produce and turn around quickly and cheaply. What we’re going to have is a “live around the mic like 1920s jazz folks” artisinally hand-burned EP with six or seven tracks on it and quite likely a Sharpie-applied label; call it “limited edition” or something. It’s lo-fi, it’s hipster, it’ll be a collector’s dream come true when we all become huge amazing stars (ahem).

We knocked out six tracks on Saturday morning, which all sound pretty good, though we’re going to need another session to fix an unfixable digital recording hiccup on one song (for some reason, there’s a record-scratch skip on it that eats exactly one word), which breaks my heart, because the take was otherwise flawless. Oh well. Having to do another session means we might be able to work in another tune or two. Once get get a couple of band photos done and some more promo material worked up, it’ll probably get thrown up on bandcamp, because it’s a great way to distribute tunes. Who knows.

Otherwise this weekend, I watched most of Iron Fist (I’ll finish it up at some point this week); it’s not nearly as bad as the reviews say, though like the rest of the Netflix Marvel shows, it’s probably two or three episodes too long. As a comics guy, the inherent problem with Iron Fist is that Danny didn’t become truly interesting until he hooked up with Luke for “Power Man and Iron Fist”, so we have that to look forward to. I’m actually digging it, as it plays with a lot of stuff that Daredevil just kind of dumped out there without much context, and does some some interesting things with it (even if the show feels a little unfocused) plus it gives us Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing, who pretty amazing, and I would totally dig a pairing of her and Simone Missick’s Misty Knight in a “Daughters of the Dragon” project one of these days.

Iron Fist is kind of tough to do right; and I suspect as I watch the back third, it’ll do a lot of heavy lifting setting up The Defenders team-up series coming next, where I suspect the character will play better; Danny Rand is kind of a perennial ensemble player, and I think that’s where he’ll end up shining.

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friday random eleven: “Beannachta√≠ na F√©ile P√°draig oraibh!” edition

17
Mar

Greetings, everyone on this St. Patrick’s Day! I’m writing to you from the other side of a seemingly long (though actually kind of short) week. Not so much at work, though that’s had it’s own drama (it’s not every day the CIO of an organization gets shown the door seemingly without warning mid-week – I’m still waiting to see how the fallout is going to affect my corner of things), but due to the the rampant illness around the house; my wife *finally* seems to have yanked herself out of a flu coma as of yesterday afternoon, after being down for the count since Saturday night. I’ve also got a teenage boy down with a similar affliction, including a nasty, painful sounding cough.

As a result of this, I’ve had my schedule all kinds of shaken up; I took Monday off because it was clear my wife wasn’t able to care for herself, and have shifted my schedule ahead about 90 minutes most of this week in order to make sure the non-ill (knock on wood or whatever surface is handy) children get off to school with clothes on and lunches packed (also driving the still-gimpy eldest). This, combined with running them off to various after-school activities and the time change last weekend have thrown my equilibrium off (to the point that I ended up sitting down on my bed for a few minutes after I got home on Wednesday and had to be woken up three hours later to take a kid to the dance studio).

But as far as I can tell, I’m not sick.

As it’s St. Patrick’s Day week, the girls do have a couple of Irish dance events around the community here and there, but not as many as I’d expect (that’s next weekend, with both the Church Hill Irish Festival and the Virginia Dance Festival on deck). Our big dance event this weekend didn’t involve my folks actually performing, but heading out as a group with a pack of maybe 80 other folks from HoI heading out to the Carpenter Theater to catch Rockin’ Road to Dublin, a touring Irish music and dance revue run by a friend of the company.



photo courtesy of my wife

It was a good show, with many talented performers and dancers, and really well put together, although the sound mix was, unfortunately, way off; for a show with “Rockin'” in the title and a big medley of classic rock tunes in the middle, you ought to be able to hear the band beyond the fiddles – I know the focus is on the dancing, really, so maybe not turn the guitars up to eleven, but at least, say seven or eight (and if the band was cranked, the “sweetening” the show pipes in to support the hard shoe stuff wouldn’t be as obvious). We had a good time, everybody was terribly impressed with the skill of the performers, and everybody enjoyed a night out, regardless of the plague rolling through the family (both mine, and the extended dance family).

Anyway; I hope you all enjoy your St. Patty’s day weekend, however you choose to celebrate (or not). I’ve got some music-y stuff to do (I’m hoping to knock out some quickie “live ’round the mic” JHX tracks on Saturday morning so we have at least something to sell to the adoring fans for the upcoming gigs), an oil change to have done, and ideally, some quality couch time at least starting Iron Fist on Netflix (reviews be damned, I’m still watching) and maybe catching up on some of the classic MST3K riffs that just showed up online. We’ll see.

Anyway, here’s some music; the music out of the Pandora mix seems to skew heavily toward innocuous 80s pop this week, which I guess is okay:

  1. Sunglasses at Night – Corey Hart
  2. Ashes to Ashes – David Bowie
  3. Pygmy Twylyte – Dweezil Zappa
  4. Manic Monday (extended remix) – The Bangles
  5. I Am Over Here – Eerie Wanda
  6. I Get Weak – Belinda Carlisle
  7. Your Love – The Outfield
  8. Treacherous Cretins (live guitar solor) – Frank Zappa
  9. Turn Up The Radio – Autograph
  10. Dog Days Are Over – Florence + The Machine
  11. The Hunt – Grand Magus

Have a good weekend, everybody!

Sl√°inte!

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weekend positivity round-up

13
Mar

You might have noticed there wasn’t a regular report on Friday. That’s fine; I was just off the internet, which is something you have to do now and then.

My weekend was actually pretty decent; I got stuff taken care of on Friday (including getting the eldest a pretty awesome prom dress for almost nothing), and relaxed a bit.

Saturday, I ran the D&D game I’ve been running for a bunch of grad student newbies, who are having a blast, and it’s pretty low pressure, as none of them have ever really done a tabletop RPG before, so they don’t know that I’m a relatively mediocre dungeon master. I wrapped friday with a decent Korean-influenced dinner out and a first round of the Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game.

Sunday, although my wife was ridiculously sick (she blames cold conditions for the first of many Irish dance performances, being the season, on Friday night), I took care of some errands, cleaned the fish tank (and added a few – the dwarf gourami is gorgeous, if shy), had one minor meltdown, and played a little No Man’s Sky; after wrapping the Atlas quest line on my crapped out bugged save file, I started fresh with the newest update, and still haven’t left my original system, having taken it upon myself to catalogue all the animals on the planet I started on, and figuring out how much fun cliff diving is on the next planet over, which is full of neat islands deep lagoons, and archepelagos.

Now it’s Monday morning. I’m taking the day off because my wife simply isn’t in the position to take care of anything. I write this in the morning, while poking children to get themselves moving to go to school. I don’t envy my wife this task every morning. Anyway, I will say that my little experiment helped a bit; it got me looking toward the good stuff in my life, and I found some. If nothing else, it forced me to focus on something that wasn’t the crappy vocational conditions (which seem to have gotten a little better in the meantime, or at least seem that way), which was really the point.

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project positivity: thursday

09
Mar

Today wasn’t altogether bad either, at least so far (and as it’s past six and my dinner is cooking, I’m calling it a day).

The fact that I made today my Friday helped a bit. I had a productive work session with my team at the office, wrapped up all my paperwork, answered a few questions, and called it a day. I didn’t spend much time thinking about the meetings my boss was having with the big important people about the fate of our budget. Last night, as one says, I let it go.

Oh, and on my lunch break, the same pokestops threw me double sun stones again; I’m pretty sure it’s a bug, but one that’s working in my favor. Win.

I spent some time with the eldest child this afternoon (running her to appointments before dance class), and we had a nice time. I trained this one good; her snark game is strong, and she gives as good as she gets. Win.

My freezer has some fundraiser cookie dough in it, though most of it’s leaving the house later this evening or tomorrow. No worries; I’m keeping the oatmeal cranberry package. Win.

The rest of the evening, I’m going to eat my dinner, catch up on my reading, and probably at least sift through the Kickstarter copy of The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game that UPS kindly dropped at my door as I was pulling into the driveway after running my errands. I’m looking forward to playing this one; especially since the kids are all but caught up with Butcher’s published books (praise be the audio versions and James Marsters’ excellent narration), so the plot points won’t be a surprise. Win.

Tomorrow, I’m going to relax a bit; probably do some chores, pay the bills (payday today – win.), and hopefully take my wife out to lunch. Win.

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project positivity: wednesday

08
Mar

Today was actually pretty good day.

Work was generally good; my 10am meeting was cancelled, which was wonderful, because it’s always a slog, and we’d spent two hours yesterday in an ad-hoc meeting discussing the same project anyway. I also spent some more time running some more numbers on my interminable budget nightmare, and proved that my particular project definitively gave back more than half a million dollars of our alloted budget each year I’ve been in charge, so I have actual numerical proof that I’m not a wastrel like the rest of them. Even with this new request I’m putting in (because they gave me more work to do!), I’m still way under my previously approved but apparently no longer valid upper limit.

My boss also checked in and passed on his thanks for making such a good case for the program, and that thanks to all my crap, we have a good story to tell the folks upstairs. Like I said yesterday, if they decide to screw us, it’s not because we didn’t make an excellent case.

That felt nice.

Additionally, I went out for lunch and determined that the optimal burrito configuration at Chipotle is half chicken, half chorizo, with black beans and fajita vegetables. Try it. Seriously.

After my work day, the youngest and I went out for a nice five miler bike ride on one of the trails at a nearby riverside park, which was a nice refreshing time outside while the weather’s still nice. Sure, her bike dropped a pedal (the bolt that goes into the crank was stripped, and as I didn’t do that part of the assembly the other week, I didn’t notice) on mile four, but we’ll get that sorted out – I’ll just put a new set of pedals on it tomorrow.

Since then, I’ve been home, just chilling out, sitting next to the kid reading my book, while she reads Prisoner of Azkaban, because she asked me to be nearby so she could “get through the scary part”. Sometimes being a dad is cool.

Oh, and as I’m currently up to date on everything I owe everyone at the office this week, or will be by tomorrow mid-day once I finish the pleasure of completing a past performance survey for my contractor to include in a bid for another contract – I say pleasure becuase they’re great people who do awesome work and consistently make me look like I know what I’m doing (it also helps keep them gainfully employed because grumblegrumble I might not have the budget to keep them all come next month)…anyway, since I’m all caught up with that, I’m taking Friday off, because dammit, I deserve a little break after the crap I’ve put up with.

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project positivity: day two

07
Mar

So Tuesday…work was kind of mixed; started out slow (though we accomplished a lot on the current “big” project) but wrapped up with a big rush of paperwork for a couple of hours, because somebody asked for something else on my resource request, so I had to fill out a bunch of new paperwork and charts.

I’m going to claim a cautious positive here, because I’ve spent enough time and effort documenting the need and making my case in all kinds of formats that in the end, if The Powers That Be™ decide to not give me what I’m asking for, it’s not because I didn’t go above and beyond in terms of making the case and documenting everything. I know that my program is not one of the wasteful ones (heck, I give budget back every year, and I’m still well under what I got approved for last year), and that’s gotta be enough.

Otherwise, I got a lot of positive feedback and messages of support from the folks out in social media land, which, believe me, means a lot. You guys rock. I also stayed off the news again (listened to a bunch of baroque harpsichord and The Badlees’ “The Ballad of Dick and Jane”), which honestly, has been a pretty good decision. I spent the evening playing around with musical stuff, and even went out of my comfort zone a bit and played around with some stuff I’d never managed to demo despite writing it years ago. I’m hoping it might find a home with one of the various projects I’ve the honor to be part of. That’s another win.

So, that’s where I stand today. I feel better than I did yesterday, which is progress. Now I’m going to settle down and take advantage of the quiet and read a bit before the house fills up again.

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project positivity: day one report

07
Mar

After yesterday’s post about being positive about things, I spent a lot of the day thinking about how I go about doing it, and it kind of became a project. So, I’m going to take a couple of minutes every day this week to focus on the good stuff; the wins, however small, I’ve experienced; and report them here to you, the theoretical reader, to give myself some accountability.

Monday, all told, was largely, vaguely, positive. I didn’t get any closure to the big issues in my work life, but I did manage to solve a couple of people’s problems, knock a couple of small scheduling tasks knocked off the open project list, and get some serious organizational planning done for a meeting I’m hosting next week to do a much-needed collaborative project that’ll make everyone’s lives easier in my little corner of the public sector.

I stayed mostly out of the news wormhole apart from a couple of “on the hour” summaries; it helped. I listened to some music (yesterday was mostly spins from the mp3 library in the car, today I’ve started with a channel of baroque harpsichord from Spotify thanks to catching some on NPR yesterday and whetting the appetite), and watched some comedy on the tv, since my kids actually left it free for an hour or two.

As is my habit, I took a little jaunt around lunchtime to the collection of pokestops a couple of blocks over by the museum, and managed to score a serious win, at least in the virtual world:

For those not versed in Pokemon Go, pay special attention to the little orange sparkly things in the bottom two journal entries – those are Sun Stones, very rare special evolution items to evolve special versions of ‘mons, introduced along with the Gen2 update. I got two within a minute from consecutive ‘stops. That’s a big deal, as the drop rates have been calculated to be ridiculously low (as in .03%), and I got two back-to-back. I call this a win, which got lots of “wow” and “lucky bastard” when I posted the above picture to the local player groups on social media. It’s a stupid, meaningless win in the video game world, but it’s a win all the same, and I’ll take it.

So there, a couple of positive things, and no serious setbacks. Not bad.

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directive: attain positivity

06
Mar

Looking back at my post titles from the last couple of weeks, it’s pretty damned depressing.

It is kind of depressing right now; to be honest, and I really, truly could use a win right now, however small.

That said, I’m going to try to remain positive. To that end, I’m going to try to stay out of the weeds on political news for a bit; I heard a discussion with a Pakistani novelist/intellectual this morning who was drawing parallels between today’s America and Pakistan’s traditionally flawed “democracy”. When the news media is seriously talking about the possibility of devolution and insinuating that “hey, maybe 241 years was a good run”, it just adds to the levels of stress (personal, vocational, etc) and ennui I’m dealing with.

Okay, maybe that last paragraph wasn’t entirely positive; it started that way, but got kind of stream-of-consciousness depressive really quickly.

Let’s focus on the cool stuff that happened this weekend. My eldest knocked out some pretty amazing first place finishes at the competition this weekend, all while doing it on a taped up, braced, sprained ankle. My wife pulled out a first place finish in one of her events as well (looking awesome in the competition debut of her new dress), and the youngest placed well in the couple of dances she competed in as well (her ceili group looked really great).

As for me, I helped keep things running backstage, fixing sound issues, making food and comfort runs for the judges, and taking care of some scorekeeping duties in the couple of divisions where I wouldn’t be compromised by having relatives in the competition. It was a long day, though it was a pretty good one overall.

Also, as I tried to get out of the house this morning, the kitten wouldn’t let me leave; she kept leaping up to her traditional shoulder perch, rubbing faces and purring, and knocking my glasses off so I had to stay a little longer. It was cute, and I appreciate the affection.

As for this week; work is work – I’m not going to discuss it further unless I get that win I’m looking for. I think outside of work, I’m going to try to work on some music, both because I have gigs and a recording session coming up in the next couple of weeks, and because it usually makes me feel better. I don’t think I have anything big scheduled, so I’m going to just try to power through.

Gotta think positive, so that’s what I’m going to do.

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