weekend and thereabouts; a smattering of helplessness

16
Oct

I spent my weekend a bit to the west of usual, hanging with the kid at college (it was allegedly “Family Weekend”, but there wasn’t a whole lot of actual events for family going on). We spent some time hanging out, wandering around campus, watching a bit of a field hockey game, visiting with Josie, the campus cat, and attending a pretty good production of Avenue Q the Sweet Briar theater department put on, along with the usual getting the kid off campus so she can eat legit fast food and replenish the dorm room pantry with beverages and cup noodles.

We stayed at a mid-budget Hilton property in Lynchburg, which itself was pretty standard, though Lynchburg itself was pretty frustrating. Besides having Jerry Fallwell’s name on everything, it was also Liberty University’s homecoming weekend, so the place was extra full of people, many of them rude and decked out in full-on alumni gear. There was a lot of rudeness and “I need to speak to your manager”-ness, plus the town itself is really laid out poorly. Merely being there made me angry.

When I said as much on social media that morning, I evoked some questions, though it should be noted that *I* did not conflate rudeness with overt Christian presentatation, though one of our family’s dear friends, an alum of SBC herself and a generally much more pious person than I, jumped right in and made the connection for me.

Anyway, it was nice to see the kid and hang out and meet her friends and generally get to be kind of the cool parents (this was actually a discussion we had with the kid…our alleged coolness is something that comes up, for whatever reason), even if it did occasionally feel like we were a bit in the way – school is a busy thing (especially at this point in the semester), so we tried out best not to overstay our welcome – I think we succeeded.

We did solve the mystery of Mystery Flavor Oreos, so you can all just give that up now (the linked article has it right, btw).

One thing that did percolate through my mind a bit this past week, which I think is contributing to all the recent depressive episodes I’ve been alluding heavily to in this space for the last couple of weeks, is the fact that I, like so many other people in this country and the world, amd suffering from some flavor of outrage fatigue, though I think it’s more just the realization that much of western civilization (especially the parts happening in North America) is a civilization in decline. This weekend alone, we took steps backward in terms of inclusivity, equality, and the ability of people to take care of themselves, and not engage in large-scale military conflict (when the Secretary of State is quoted as saying diplomacy will continue “until the first bomb drops”, it doesn’t exactly add much confidence). Who knows what’ll happen this week. When not talking about removing basic rights from large swaths of people, the news was talking about the latest Hollywood sexual harassment scandal, at least until the next mass shooting happens or the next natural disaster that man’s hubris has had a hand in shaping comes along; it’ll only be another couple of hours, given the pattern.

I’m just really working on coming to terms with the fact that the peak years of American society have likely happened already, and the decline is already underway. There’s not a lot I can do about it. I’m not the only one who’s noticing. I hope things get better, but it’s been going for a while, and those with influence to shape things aren’t in a hurry to do much, to be honest. I dunno, it’s just something I think about, and it’s been popping up a lot lately (especially since I’m currently working in a part of the machine that’s not doing it’s job in a particularly efficient way, which is doing wonders for my psyche, as you can imagine).

Also, apropos of nothing (or maybe a perfect example of what the last two paragraphs were talking about), here’s a prescient comment from commenter Arnheim on this Jezebel story, which, I kid you not, is about public discussion on Sunday morning news shows about the Secretary of State’s testicles:

He has yet to hit Cobra Commander levels of outright, “BWAHAHAHA, I HAVE THE WEATHER DEVICE” villainy, so we’re not entirely through the looking glass yet.

The thread then began to devolve into parodies of the Gaston song from Beauty and the Beast, as things are likely to do given this absurd political environment we live in. It should also be noted, as my friends in the band Foot Pound Force will gladly tell you, it was the Weather Dominator, not the Weather Device.

Oh well.

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friday random eleven: “not really going to comment” edition

13
Oct

Work frustration is hitting hard. Apologize for being blah this morning. It’s also overcast and raining. I can blame that, right?

So yeah. This weekend I go out to SBC for parents’ weekend; we’ll see how that works out. I’m sure it’ll be fine.

Playlist this morning is interesting; a lot of the usual suspects, but some new stuff I got to hit the Pandora “thumbs up” on which I hadn’t heard before, but really kind of liked (numbers one and three, particularly):

  1. “Fill in the Blank” – Car Seat Headrest
  2. “Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?” – Frank Zappa
  3. “Now Is The Time” – Damone
  4. “Life on Mars?” – David Bowie
  5. “Take Me To The Backseat” – The Donnas
  6. “Is There A Ghost” – Band of Horses
  7. “Elodie” – Ten Fe
  8. “Langt Nord I Trollebotten” – Lumsk
  9. “Cry Baby” – Kitten Forever
  10. “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)” – Cinderella
  11. “Budapest” – Jethro Tull

Okay…because Eleven, here’s the new Stranger Things trailer (only two weeks to go!):

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I have opinions on the latest scouting news

12
Oct

In case you hadn’t heard the news, on Wednesday, “the international Day of the Girl’, the Boy Scouts of America announced that they’d be making a change to allow girls to enroll in the program, starting with Cub Scouting, and eventually allow girls to earn the Eagle Scout award.

Based on the information provided, the units involving girls will be single-gender at the den level in the Cub pack, at least to start (I wonder if this has to do with requirements of the BSA’s Youth Protection program?), but for a lot of folks looking for the textbook “Scouting” experience (Girl Scouts is a great program in a lot of ways, but the goals are a bit different) for their daughters, this is, at this point, good news.

I’m sure those who know me are not surprised that one, I have opinions on this. I am, after all, an Eagle Scout, merit badge counselor, and several-times-over Assistant Scoutmaster. I am also a big supporter of Scouts For Equality, and have been more than a little frustrated with the national BSA’s regressive policies over the last couple of decades (it’s very different, and much more political, than what it was like when I was a Scout), and have struggled with my involvement, at both the local (depending on the unit – they vary widely) and national level.

The organization is crawling into modernity, finally allowing LGBT youth involvement in the program, though, like SFE, I continue to struggle with the overtly Christian/Theist interpretation* of “A Scout is Reverent/Duty to God” in place (GSA really does this better), and the continued bans on LGBT Adult volunteers.

In spite of the GSA being a little upset with the decision**, I think it’s a good call overall, though I wonder how it’s going to fall out within BSA and the International WOSM organization.

My feeling is that we’re not too far off from a schism in the US organization. the BSA’s released information indicates that it’s up to the units as to whether they go co-ed; I expect the more conservative elements who are already kind of segregating themselves off on their own anyway, will resist making the changes, and double-down on what they’ve been doing, and the more progressive, welcoming troops (relatively easily identified these days) will develop more ties with the international Scouting organizations, which tend to be co-ed these days anyway, and have been for a long time. Ten years from now, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the current BSA to become two different organizations, with the conservative factions splitting off to do their own thing, and the co-ed groups remaining affiliated with WOSM; that’s my hope anyway, but who knows, really. It’s probably going to get potentially ugly before that happens.

Anyway, I applaud this move in theory – we’ll see how it works out in practice.

___________________________________________

*- while the units I was involved with as a Scout – and I was with several over my tenure- weren’t overtly religious or particularly political (though pretty progressive generally – one of our assistant scoutmasters was a gay single dad, and nobody batted an eye, in the late 80s!), my modern experience as an adult volunteer has been different; I’ve sat through overtly Christian holiday programs that would make the theoretical Mohammed the Weblo Scout and his family feel terribly unwelcome, and have been advised while sitting on Eagle Review boards -an activity I quite like generally – that word from national is that there’s only one make-or-break element on an Eagle board, and it’s the God thing – if a kid even hints at being non-theist it’s a no-go, full-stop. That, unsurprisingly, made me *very* uncomfortable.

** – Girl Scouts does a lot of things really well; better than BSA in pretty much all ways socially, and their program is valuable and provides a great foundation for developing girls’ independence and ambition (in certain focused areas, particularly business***, but they’re getting pretty good with STEM as I understand it), it doesn’t do the traditional “outdoor” stuff well at all – in fact, the stringent adult volunteer training requirements make it *very hard* for a unit to organize even a simple overnight without hours and hours of GSA-sponsored training involved, so most groups, unless they’re very motivated, don’t go there.

*** – After being associated with the GSA for several years as the spouse of an adult volunteer (who was once even cookie mom, which meant hundreds of boxes of cookies stacked in my living room for weeks once upon a time), they’re definitely focused on one particular image of womanhood, very closely resembling the hard-charging entrepreneurial working girl/CEO, to the point that it sometimes feels like Girl Scouting, at least at the upper ranks, with the focus on that sort of thing (there are numerous merit-badge equivalents that directly apply to cookie sales – at least as many as the outdoor stuff), that it sometimes feels like a saleswomanship training program at best, cheap labor**** for the cookie business masquerading as a youth achievement program at worst.

**** – Seriously, while Girl Scout Cookies are in all ways the preferable option for fundraising over the Trail’s End Popcorn the BSA tries to sling (oh, how we hated it…), the actual fundraising potential for the local units is abysimal, I think it’s less than a quarter (that’s the 25¢ coin flavor of the word) of the $5 a box sales price gets directly back to the girls. Also, yay! double-nesting footnotes!

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happy ada lovelace day

10
Oct

I haven’t called this occasion out in a while, though it’s definitely something worth disucssing more often.

To quote the official website of the celebration:

Ada Lovelace Day (ALD) is an international celebration day of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). It aims to increase the profile of women in STEM and, in doing so, create new role models who will encourage more girls into STEM careers and support women already working in STEM.

The day itself derives from the celebration of the birthday of Ada Lovelace herself, who, back in the early 1800s, worked with Babbage on the Analytical Engine, and was the person who really recognized the potential of such equipment beyond simple calculation, and is credited with creating and publishing the first computer program (an algorithm to generate Bernoulli numbers) to be run on the machine, as well as really start the thinking about how “computers” and technology could be applied by humans and the affect of such application on society.

I heard a bit about her this morning on The Writer’s Almanac on the way into the office Monday morning (which always reminds me of things to think about) on the commute Tuesday morning, and it got me thinking, with some sadness, how few actual women there are working in my particular Information Technology department – my agency’s IT shop is very much a boy’s club beyond a couple of non-technical program management types, and I think the culture and potential of our organization is so much the poorer for it.

I’m definitely of the opinion that we’d do a better job with a bit more diversity around these parts (I’m not in much of position to do much about it right now, but if I ever find myself there, I will); it feels an awful lot like a men’s locker room these days, and some different perspectives would most certainly improve our thinking and processes beyond the virtual towel snapping, especially since I know a lot of women in technology in more social rather than professional contexts, and I see the work their organizations are doing, and I’m honestly envious, both in terms of the cool stuff they’re doing and the environments the get to do that stuff in.

So, here’s to all those women doing pioneering work in STEM fields, and here’s to the intention of doing what we can to empower them to do even more, and to inspire the next generation of girls to code, calculate, and innovate!

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chestertown and such

10
Oct


I look very very serious here for some reason

So, after nailing my exam (100%!) in record time on Friday afternoon, I hit the road for Chestertown, MD for the HP fest over the weekend, arriving with plenty time time to go on stage, in part because the opening festivities were running a bit late. Our show Friday night (pictured above) went pretty well, we got everybody dancing, which is generally the idea.

Saturday’s vending and park show went pretty well, although it was hot and we were doing a lot of shifting our seats around to maintain our shaded positions. We sold some things, talked to folks, and generally played a nice little show with more people watching by the end than at the beginning. Cool.

Saturday night’s show (back at the Garfield Theater where we played Friday – a really nice room) was, from my perspective, a big mixed. I’d put the first twenty minutes of that show up against any show we’ve ever played, but somewhere after that, we lost the crowd and never quite got them back. We were opening for the trivia contest, which is honestly what most folks were there for, so it was a tougher room (I also kind of blame my situation the previous two weeks not allowing for enough rehearsal, but who knows…).

The trip home was much more relaxed than the way out, which was nice (no pressure for time).

Otherwise, ’twas nice to hang out with friends, old and new. Also of special interest was that I finally, after schedules conspired to years of missed connections, finally got to meet Brian from Draco and the Malfoys, who’s a pretty cool guy I look forward to talking and hanging with in the future.

Sunday afternoon and Monday were nice – got some stuff done (bills paid, groceries shopped), and had a nice day off (save a doctor’s appointment) on Monday (Columbus Day observed) to hang with my spouse a bit.

This week, it’s back to the grind, though I have a couple of musical things to hash out and some basic life stuff to do. I think I’ll live. I still think I need a bit of a vacation after the last couple of weeks.

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friday random eleven: “academia and artistic expression” edition

06
Oct

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been plowing through class work all week to the point that Earned Value Management formulas are dripping out of my ears (my nose is too occupied by the mucus – I ran out of zyrtec this week, replaced it with a claritin for one day, and I think that was enough to require my system to readjust – I’ve been sneezing and sniffling like crazy with allergy symptoms the last 48 hours), so I haven’t had time for much else (besides the work crap -putting out fires and saying nice things about myself for the end-of-year self eval for HR- I had to do as well). I am learning some things, and I’ve made some new virtual friends with my team who I’ve been spending about eight hours on the phone with each day during my eleven or twelve hour shifts this week.

That said, I did get end up finally hitting close to the mark that Kirsten wanted on a demo track for her new tune that I quickly knocked out Monday evening, and I didn’t totally embarrass myself at ceili class – I’m reasonably competent at the Fairy Reel, Walls of Limerick, and Bonfire Dance now, with just three classes under me. I don’t know where my feet go most of the time, and I still spin the wrong way about sixty percent of the time, but I’m getting better. Thankfully, we all have fun doing it. It was actually kind of what I needed Thursday night to knock out some of the stress, since I only got ten miles in on the bike this week (though each of those miles averaged between four and five minutes, so I was really pushing), and the 150-250 push-ups or so I’ve been doing every day (to work upper body and tighten up the loose skin I’m left with after the weight loss) the last two weeks aren’t as enjoyable as the biking.

Also, apropos of nothing, in a certain post by a certain daughter of mine on social media, women I know are debating the merits of my ass on the internet. This is a weird, weird thing, and it’s absolutely the last thing I’d ever expect to happen. I suppose this means my fitness program is working.

Friday, I spend the morning wrapping my class, taking the exam around lunchtime (hopefully it won’t take too long – the review feels like it’s pretty targeted), then hitting the road for Chestertown MD and its annual Harry Potter Festival. Humdingers are on at 7pm tonight, and play shows tomorrow at 1pm in the park and 7:30 or so in the pub. It should be fun. I’ve been trying to make this one for years now, and I’m finally going to do it (though i don’t necessarily like my timing, exam running on central time is a pain). I’ll still have five or six hours to cover 200 miles or so (even with Friday DC traffic in the way), so I should be good, but wouldn’t mind some positive thoughts or offerings to the traffic gods on my behalf this afternoon.

Today’s tunes aren’t bad; nice mix this time, though number four (and six a bit, actually) mostly makes me think of This guy (and his various copycats), who always make events like Dragon*Con so much more interesting:

  1. “Back in Black” – AC/DC
  2. “Heavy Duty Judy (live) – Frank Zappa
  3. “Love Is A Battlefield”- Pat Benatar
  4. “Careless Whisper” – Wham!
  5. “Lonely Boy” – The Black Keys
  6. “If You Leave” – Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark
  7. “Dancing With Myself” – Billy idol
  8. “Aqualung (live 2003)” – Jethro Tull
  9. “One Way or Another” – Blondie
  10. “Svarta Ankan” – Falconer
  11. “Big Sur” – The Thrills

Finally, with the loss of Tom Petty this week, this video’s been popping up a lot. So much talent on that stage. Everybody loves Prince’s barnburner of a guitar solo, though my personal favorite bit is Dhani Harrison on acoustic rhythm guitar there in the back. As things really get rolling, he’s there doing his thing with a big shit-eating grin on his face, like he can’t believe that he’s up there playing music with all these amazing talents. Even though he’s a Beatle’s kid, he still looks like he feels like I would if I was in his place; in awe of (and maybe a little intimidated by) all these rock gods, but ridiculously excited and grateful to be small part of it. Dhani Harrison is us.

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my wizard-y weekend

04
Oct

So, this is where I’m going to be this weekend, entertaining all the fine folks who come out to the festival to do the wizarding world thing with the rest of the Blibbering Humdingers. I hear we’re playing three shows, the one I’m sure of right now is Friday night at 7pm at the big kick-off thing. We’ll be playing with a bunch of other cool wizard rock acts. Shenanigans are sure to ensue.

One of our sets is supposed to be in a pub. After the week I’ve had (it hasn’t been unpleasant, just long), somebody better buy me a beer.

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all quiet

03
Oct

Yeah, it’s pretty quiet on this end of things. After a completely ridiculous end-of-fiscal-year adventure (which I’m not sure is over yet), I’m taking a class this week for the certification I’m supposed to have in this job. Unlike all the automated self-paced classes I’ve taken, this one’s “live”, but it’s still online, but not the kind of online course I loved during the course of grad school. It’s the kind of thing I’d rather actually have in a classroom – I’m on the phone all day, working exercises with a group of classmates, which isn’t all that bad, except the thing runs on central time, which means I’m on the line 9-530 local time or so all week, but in order to get all the other stuff done I have to get done, I’m going in at my usual 6am to put out fires (still a few small brush fires to deal with), make an attempt to get my year-end self-assessment in the new HR system upon which depends whether my salary goes up any or not (which would be nice, but this is exactly the wrong week to spring that on me), and ideally get the (thankfully limited) out-of-class work knocked out.

Suffice it to say, it’s Tuesday evening, and I’ve got twenty-three hours on the books already.

It all boils down to an exam (conducted online) being held at some point on Friday, though I don’t know when yet (though with this central time zone crap it’ll probably be way later than I’d like), and that’s a stressor, because I’m due on stage with the Humdingers at 7pm on Friday night in Chestertown, MD, which on a good day is three and a half hours away (gotta go up to go down – it’s on the peninsula), though in my case, however the trip gets made, there’s Friday afternoon on a holiday weekend DC between me and my rock star lifestyle.

You can see how this bugs me.

Oh well….I managed to catch a MewTwo last weekend, so there was that.

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the definition of insanity…

29
Sep

Quickly following up on the previous post, I have gotten yet more “promising” news claiming all my stuff will be done and settled by the end of the day.

We shall see.

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friday random eleven thirteen: “so angry I can’t count” edition

29
Sep

warning: contains significant workplace bitching vague-blogging content

This week, as some of you may be aware, is the last week of the fiscal year for many areas of the public sector, including mine. This generally includes a mad dash to obligate ALL THE DOLLARS before the end of the year to make budgets work out and such. Many people are very busy. I was very busy in my decade or so as a purchasing type. However, I have never been as busy (or as frustrated, angry, and fed up) as I’ve been this week, as a program manager who’s just trying to ensure that orders are in place to make sure my people can work for me next week.

The organization I work for, which references contracts and purchasing in it’s name, for Pete’s sake, has proven remarkably inept in those particular areas, to the point that serious surveillance has been implemented to make sure that things are all being done properly, resulting in supposedly thorough reviews of things like work statements and actual contract vehicles to make sure that they’re reasonably written and contain measureable outcomes (and, in one actual example, that a software development contract actually contains the terms “software” and “development” in the work statement).

All told, my stuff isn’t that bad (and I’ve been told that my interface with the contracting process has been top-notch, to the point that management has stuck a point in my official position description for reviewing and advising on other folks’ stuff as well as mine), especially the stuff I’ve actually gotten to write (I’m still dealing with a bunch of stuff I inherited from the last idiot who sat in this chair). This, however, has not exempted me in any way from going through circular, roundabout, repetitive reviews of every last little thing with various people, including, a so-called “expert” who has a problem actually listening to what other people say, dropping contemptuous profanity into official conversations and correspondence, and most horrifically, can’t seem to not always be chewing on some sort of food while on the telephone.

I have had all my stuff blessed multiple times (I signed one form SEVEN TIMES last week) over the last two months in preparation for wrapping these things up before the end of the FY. As of late Thursday night, the two contracts that allow my team of six-ish people to do the work we need to do and get paid for it have not yet been issued. I am very angry, and have been very angry for this entire week as continual roadblocks are put in the way of me getting my work done, as anyone who’s been in my personal sphere of influence can attest.

I’m hoping the last day of the week gets itself sorted out, but I have mostly let this stuff go, because it’s out of my (the technical professional) hands now that the requirements are sorted (unless I have to go diving into contract modifications to find a mistake made four years ago that nobody noticed before that’s now keeping a routine thing from getting my people paid…again!). I have some other usual Friday paperwork to do, as well as some things to tie up because I’m taking one of those courses for certification next week, and hopefully get out of the office early because I worked eleven hours the other day and they owe me.

Otherwise, I haven’t had a lot of headspace for other stuff this week, frankly. I got one nice bike ride in after not being sick, did a ton (like hundreds) of push-ups in my office this week to try to relieve frustration, and drove a bunch of hours to go pick up my kid at college for her fall break (that bit was kind of nice).

I did have a decent dance Thursday night, even though I had to convince myself to go after the day I had – I think I can maybe do two different ceilis now – The Bonfire Dance and The Fairy Reel, at least in terms of the large geography, even if my feet don’t always know where to go. It relieved a little stress.

This weekend, I’ve got a couple of things, including swinging by Richmond Comicon for a bit to visit a couple of friends and pick up some stuff I bought from artist buddy Dan Nokes that I bought months ago. I also got one of those EX Raid passes in Pokemon Go, so I’m coordinating with the local crew I play with to take down a Mewtwo on Saturday morning. The Girls are also doing a small local dance competition (one sponsored by the cross-town rival school, so I don’t have any work to do), which I’ll close out my afternoon with before the celebratory post-Feis meal and drinks for those of age.

Oh, I should probably learn a couple of new songs for the Chestertown HP Festival gig next weekend, but that shouldn’t be a big deal.

And, as the title suggests, I’ve been so spitting angry and frustrated this week that I couldn’t count as I set this one up. So you get thirteen off my Sansa I loaded up a long time ago and have no idea what’s on it after re-discovering it recently:

  1. “When I Go” – Ingrid Michaelson
  2. “Holland Road” – Mumford and Sons
  3. “Boys Don’t Cry” – The Cure
  4. “If You Want Me (live)” – The Swell Season
  5. “Take Me With U” – Prince & The Revolution
  6. “Tear Down The Wall” – Saraya
  7. “My Next Girlfriend” – Mikey Mason
  8. “Just Shouldn’t Change” – Earth to Bob
  9. “Tick” – They Might Be Giants
  10. “Batman Smells (A Rebuttal)” – John Anealio
  11. “Think For Yourself” – The Beatles
  12. “The Moth (live)” – Aimee Mann
  13. “One and Only” – Queensrÿche
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