ten

14
Aug

So, We’ve successfully raised a *third* little person through their first decade of life. I think we’ve finally got this figured out, now that we’re done making them.

This one in particular is probably the most empathetic and joyous of all of them, which is something we need in this family. It’s nice to know that the darkness and cynicism each her parents carry around can cancel each other out instead of doubling up.

Here’s to many, many more decades of unbridled enthusiasm and uninhibited joy; the world can always use more of that.

Thanks, Kid. Happy Birthday.

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friday random eleven: “really feels like saturday” edition

11
Aug

I spent so much of this week feeling under the weather, I locking down what day it was has been tough. I was out Tuesday(?) on sick leave – feverish, chills, all that good stuff. I slept for 19 hours. Guess I needed it. And, it saved me from thinking too hard about all the saber-rattling on the world stage, so I guess there’s that.

I woke up this morning convinced it was Saturday – I was initially pissed at myself for setting an alarm, then realized it was Friday morning, and had my dreams crushed. What a way to start the day.

As I said, I haven’t done much besides work and sleep this week (and play about an hour of Witcher III and watch Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later on Netflix). I did read some, finishing a couple of books in between bouts of sleep. Some good stuff. I talked with the bike shop folks, who’ve tuned up the bike, but advised me of some worn parts which’ll give me problems eventually, so I had them replace those as well – with the way I’m feeling (better that earlier, but still sinus-blocked and the occasional chill), I’m likely not going to be riding until tomorrow or Sunday at the earliest. Might as well get it all done at one time. It’s long overdue maintenance; I expect it’ll feel like a new machine when I finally do get it back today or tomorrow.

For the weekend, we’re getting together with friends for dinner tonight, and I’m running D&D for the grad students Saturday afternoon. I’m toying with the idea of taking the eldest out to see Atomic Blonde, which she’s been talking about (she doesn’t know about this yet – we’ll see if she notices this post…); one last hurrah before sending her off to college a week from today.

That, along with the aches and pains, really makes me feel old – I have a kid in college now.

Anyway, here’s some music. Something old, something new wave:

  1. “Crying Shame” – 7 Year Bitch
  2. “Dupree’s Paradise (live)” – Frank Zappa
  3. “Do You Wanna Hit It” – The Donnas
  4. “Under Pressure” – Queen w. David Bowie
  5. “Rawnald Gregory Erickson The Second” – STRFKR
  6. “The Power of Love” – Huey Lewis and the News
  7. “Magnet” – Bikini Kill
  8. “Drive” – The Cars
  9. “Down Under” – Men at Work
  10. “A Million Miles Away” – The Plimsouls
  11. “I Melt With You” – Modern English

In Eleven/Stranger Things news, apparently Spirit Halloween has a line of licensed costumes from the show this year. Go ahead, let your inner Barb out…demand JUSTICE!

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friday random eleven – “hoofin’ it” edition

04
Aug

Yeah.

Nothing really huge happened this week (nothing that affected me personally, anyway – we’ve been watching a bit of drama from afar), though the week itself felt awfully huge. I’m tired, and I’m ready to be over. I had plans last night to go to a book signing at Fountain, but as I sat down after eating my usual regimented salad and chicken breast dinner in a quiet house (everyone else was out for dance classes) around 4:45, the next thing I knew, it was after 7pm and I’d slept my way right through that particular time window.

It’s been a lot of meetings regarding project schedules that are not lining up with plans (not on my end – we’ve picked up our slack), all-hands meetings the new senior management has been having with the workforce, and resource planning that is making the best of a bad situation.

At least, thanks to putting in extra time earlier in the week, I’m going to make them up today and leave a bit early. That’ll be nice.

Oh, and my bike is in the shop. I’d been putting off some routine maintenance, but when I throw a spoke and blow a tire nine miles into a planned 15 miler (luckily, since I was riding a five mile loop, I only had to be the pathetic guy in riding gear walking his bike for about a mile…), I had to admit is was time since the universe decided so. So, I’m off the wheels for about a week, as I get the cables tightened, gears adjusted, wheels straightened and trued, and the tires and saddle replaced. Like I said, it was an overdue service, and I’m not necessarily complaining, but it kinda sucks that I’m walking for next little while when I’m so close to hitting my *final* weight loss goal.

This weekend ought to be kind of nice, though – We’re getting together with some friends to wander around Colonial Williamsburg and do some Pokemon raids and other general tomfoolerly tomorrow afternoon. It’ll be nice.

Finally, one nice bit of stuff that happened this week, my dear friend, fellow filker, and Hugo Award Nominee Gray Rinehart saw his first novel, Walking on the Sea of Clouds, finally published this week (via WordFire Press)! I got my copy this week and started reading it last night, and it’s just as good as the reviews suggest so far. If you’re a fan of stories of the near future, adventure on the frontier, or you just really enjoyed The Martian, it’s definitely worth picking up (just click the title above).

Anyway, tunes. All over the place this week. Enjoy:

  1. “Seventeen” – Sjowgren
  2. “I Turn My Camera On” – Spoon
  3. “Heat of the Moment” – Asia
  4. “Dirty Denim” – The Donnas
  5. “West End Girls” – Pet Shop Boys
  6. “There Is Nothing Left” – The Drums
  7. “Turn Up The Radio” – Autograph
  8. “Africa” – Toto
  9. “Just My Kind” – The Julie Ruin
  10. “Thick as a Brick”- Jethro Tull
  11. “Karma Police” – Radiohead
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friday random eleven – “frustrated expense” edition

28
Jul

Every day this week has felt like Friday. Mostly because this week was when the universe decided that my bills had come due. Financially, it’s been rough (and it’s not quite over yet, but at least I know the final tally). First off, last weekend’s Fusion Fighters workshop for the ladies wsn’t exactly cheap, but peanuts compared to the other stuff.

Our Air Conditioning has been, shall we say, difficult, all summer long; with the crazy heat the last couple of weeks, it finally became obvious we had to get things sorted. After some examination, and some weird HVAC company employee drama and missing estimate paperwork (I don’t really want to get into it, suffice it to say it involved significant frustration), Wednesday saw the installation of a new condenser coil and the purchase of a five-year extended service agreement, to the tune of $2,200 or so. Ouch. At least I won’t have to pay a cent should anything go wrong with it for the next half-decade.

I’ve also hinted a couple of times, here, I believe, about our nagging check engine light issue with the van. That’s finally, after a month or two of drama, getting sorted out for good. TL;DR version? The check engine light popped on sometime in late May/early June. OBDII codes said it was “insufficient coolant temperature”, which in terms of the Mazda5, means a faulty thermostat 99.9% of the time. After some dealership drama (see below) and a couple of service visits to various places around town and two thermostat replacements, we find we’re in the elite .1%, since our problem is a faulty wiring harness that causes the code to pop when it jiggles right, which happens pretty much all the time. It’s expensive as hell, but is covered under my super-good extended warranty. Problem is, the dealer who’s doing the service can’t start the warranty process, because they’re not where we bought the car, because the original dealer decided all of a sudden without telling any customers that they’re not a Mazda dealer anymore (again, see below), but they’re the ones who are in charge of the warranty.

Anyway, after a bunch of crap yesterday (described herein in great, shaming detail; which I think may have eventually facilitated official resolution), we’re back in a rental while the van sits at the Mazda dealer waiting for parts to come in. Luckily, my warranty has a $50 deductible, so the damage isn’t horrid. However, while it was in, I got the state inspection done that was due, and unsurprisingly, it needed some tires. It made sense to do all four (rather than just the front two) – so I’m in another $600 or so for that.

So, that’s almost $3000 laid out in a couple of days. Ouch.

Oh yeah, I co-signed my kid’s student loan applications this week as well. Thank $diety for giant endowment scholarships, but go ahead, universe, twist the knife.

The weekend? Not much for me. The eldest is out to SBC on Saturday for some orientation and class picking stuff, but I’m probably not doing much except watching the rain we’re supposed to get and maybe take a drive over to the other side of town to hit Trader Joe’s, because I was also informed this week of the existence of Bacon Jam in this universe, and this is something I need in my life (also, I want to try the Jalapeno Limeade. And since I’m there, I’ll probably buy cheese, because damn, they have some good cheese…).

Also good news? I am so totally within spitting distance of my final weight loss goal. I currently weigh less than 230 pounds, down from 290. That kicks ass, though none of my clothes fit at all. I don’t care, it’s worth it.

Tunes: my favorite Tull tune, a bunch of alternative-ey stuff, and a bit of an edge. I’ll take it.

  1. “Variations on the Carlos Santana Secret Chord Progression (Live Guitar Solo)” – Frank Zappa
  2. “Private Eyes” – Daryl Hall & John Oates
  3. “Hunting Girl” – Jethro Tull
  4. “What Kind of Man” – Florence + The Machine
  5. “Romance” – Wild Flag
  6. “Wig Wam Bam” – The Donnas
  7. “Once In A Lifetime” – Talking Heads
  8. “Damn Damn Leash” – Be Your Own Pet
  9. “Here and Now” – Letters to Cleo
  10. “Polarnatten” – Vintersong
  11. “Because I’m Awesome (2012)” – The Dollyrots
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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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