thursday random eleven – “get your ass to mars” edition

12
Jan

Once again, since I’ll be busy packing and traveling for the regional nerd social event of the year tomorrow, here’s the playlist a day early.

It’s been a weird week; started out covered by seven inches of snow, but with temperatures in the 60s the last two days, it’s all gone. The kids go back to school today, and almost all of my meetings for this week have been cancelled without explanation. My schedule’s been kind of hosed because the kids being off of school for snow, for values of “yes, absolutely” and “WTF??!?” depending on the day, the early release scheduled for Friday has been axed in favor of a full day, so we won’t be getting on the road as early as we’d like.

Otherwise, we’re getting stuff done at work despite the weird scheduling, I’ve managed to get some serious rehearsal in at home for this weekend (I wanna be tight for the “hometown crowd”), my son has, in the last 24 hours, put down the video game controller in favor of…a book! (Asimov’s I, Robot) without complaint, and in the best news I got all week, my child’s future home for higher education has decided my eldest spawn is worthy of a pretty hefty endowment scholarship that’ll knock the not-inconsequential tuition down by probably more than half, before we even start dealing with things like state and federal grants and loans and other merit based sort of things.

That’s worth celebrating.

Otherwise, that’s what I got. I’m hoping for lots of fun, shenanigans, and tomfoolery this weekend.

For today’s playlist, it’s kind of typical for what I get out of Pandora these days; I should probably shake up the mix again. Highly listenable, though:

  1. “Wig Wam Bam” – The Donnas
  2. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” – Simple Minds
  3. “Every Breath You Take” – The Police
  4. “Eternal Flame” – The Bangles
  5. “San Ber’dino” – Frank Zappa
  6. “Water” – Ra Ra Riot
  7. “Water Under The Bridge” – Adele
  8. “Joke” – Chastity Belt
  9. “One Headlight” – The Wallflowers
  10. “Look Into The Sun” – Jethro Tull
  11. “Crazy for You” – Madonna

Oh, and I haven’t done a Stranger Things reference in a bit (other than having adopted eleven as the usual number), so here are the most important thirty seconds of the Golden Globe awards from the other night. Yeah, Glenn Close got the news, but…

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this weekend: Marscon

11
Jan

Okay folks, this weekend is kind of the weekend I live for every year. Marscon, a weekend celebration of sci-fi, fantasy, general nerd stuff, and, as has become the tradition of the last half-decade or so, music.

Once again, for the fourth year running, I’m playing bass with The Blibbering Humdingers all weekend. Back in 2014, I made my performance debut with Scott and Kirsten at this con sitting in on a couple of tunes, which has led to playing for tons of appreciative nerds up and down the east coast with a repertoire of almost a hundred tunes and a couple of records to show for it. I thank the maker every day that they let a weirdo like me hang out with them and make noise. Since then, I’ve been welcomed into the community of musicians that’s formed around this event and others like it, for which I feel privileged and honored. I’m the ascended fanboy, which I guess isn’t the worst role to find myself in.

Anyway, in the interest of informing the public, here’s the programming schedule for this year, and below, I’ve highlighted the events that I’ll definitely be taking part in:

  • Friday, 11pm, consuite: “Harper Hall Gather” (aka “filk and cookies”) – this is where we all sit around, drink a bit, and make music until they kick us out. This might also be the convention debut of The Jenny Hendricks Experience as well.
  • Saturday, 2pm, room 8: Blibbering Humdingers show – our more low-key, intimate show in the small music room.
  • Saturday, 10pm, large auditorim: Blibbering Humdingers (PG-13) – we’re going to play some of the more risque stuff, and some of the ususal subtext may become text.
  • Sunday, 2pm, large auditorium: Muscial Round Robin – this is where all the musicians close out the convention on stage together; always a wonderful time.

As always, if I’m not at one of these, I’ll be around the convention space engaging in some short of shenanigans; definitely stop by and say “hello!”

This all said, I’m kind of frustrated this morning; in spite of it being 45° outside when I left for work at 5:30am, and the roads being so clear and passable that my car felt downright sporty hugging the pavement through corners, my kids are off of school again today. Also, given the weather-related cancellations earlier this week, the scheduled early release on Friday (which was going to get us to Williamsburg early) has been converted to a full day, so my planned schedule is screwed. Argh. Rest assured that we’ll get there, though not as early as we’d have liked.

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crisis of faith tuesday

10
Jan

I’m not entirely sure what it is, though I’m having serious doubts today.

Not to get too specific, but work is especially frustrating, and not just in the “why the hell don’t they plow my parking lot” kind of way. For the last year, my team’s been analyzing the shit out of things and generating a lot of really good data for a lot of people that, if used effectively by those people, will save the organization a shitload of money, which is good for the organization, the taxpayer, and pretty much everybody.

The problem is that nobody’s doing a damned thing with it, but I’m spinning wheels, testing and analyzing, with nothing much to show for it.

It’s frustrating.

I think it’s justifiable frustration, certainly, with this situation, and the overall weird organizational culture I have to deal with. I dunno. Could be that I’ve just been in this chair longer than I’ve had any other position for the last seven years or so, and I’m restless. I dunno. I’m just having a hard time getting enthusiastic and excited about what I’m doing right now.

Might also be that it’s the second week of January, there’s snow on the ground, the powers that be are reacting to it badly, and I am, on some level, jealous of my kids who haven’t been at school all week and probably won’t go tomorrow in spite of the fact that it’s supposed to get well above freezing today and tomorrow.

Whatever. I’ll deal. I even have kind of a plan, and since I’m kind of in charge, I can make it happen.

Y’see, I have all kinds of things I could be doing which will make life easier for me in terms of maintenance of the channnels I’m in charge of, and will make my team look like good team players with the rest of the larger program and department (and will take advantage of some existing administrative structures that will push the responsibility for improving numbers over to a different area, where people already have to justify their existence to an agressive authority once a month).

So I’ve kind of decided, after all the frustration I’m dealing with, to focus inward for the next couple of months and do the things that make my life better rather than trying to please everybody else.

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venturing out

09
Jan

So I spent most of the weekend hanging about the house thanks to the seven or so inches of snow that blanketed the RVA over the weekend. It was kinda nice, mostly. I ventured out on Sunday afternoon for a necessary trek to obtain prescription depression medication, tampons, chocolate and Pamprin, to which the pleasant pharmacist gave me a knowing and sympathetic nod along with the following comment:

“Some weekend for a snowstom, huh?

We shared a good laugh. Anyway, the roads, once you got out of my neighborhood weren’t all that bad anyway, correcting for someone like me who grew up driving in this sort of thing..

Otherwise, I read some books, played some video games, made a kickass new recipe I discovered online for Peirogie Lasagna (which is an amazing carbohydrate bomb of goodness), and changed the strings on my bass.

The kids got the call that school was cancelled for Monday early on Sunday, and I checked the plans for the host installation for my place of employment in the afternoon to discover we were on a four hour delay.

A four hour delay.

I have decided, having now dealt with this situation that a four hour delay is really skirting the edge of propriety. if you’re going to cancel half the day, you probably ought to just have closed the place. Sure, I got to sleep in a bit. That was okay. However, like a responsible adult, I cleared my car and such out well before this morning, and it doesn’t take me all that long to get here (it’s a fifteen mile commute, mostly on the interstate). I had just enough time to eat a nice breakfast of leftover peach pie, and sit impatiently until it was time to go, with my wife looking at me funny in my discomfort, because there really wasn’t time to really start anything in the morning before I had to show up.

Granted, I’m one of those 6am people (gets me out of the way before teenagers start beefore school routines, and I get a couple of hours of quiet to queue up the day before the meetings start, and I get to see the sun in the afternoon, even in winter), so I aimed to arrive at 10am. I gave myself a few minutes extra, used most of it to stop and buy a sandwich to stick in the fridge for lunch, and still got here at 9:45.

The main roads on post were clear, as expected, though here’s the view out the front door of my building of the parking lot where I usually park:

Nobody bothered to plow it (which is funny, because it’s usually full of people for the health clinic across the street), other than a little space in front of the porch (which is where I put my car). And, it doesn’t look like the plows are running anymore.

Huh. Making good use of those extra four hours.

Yeah, I’d just cancel things, even being the superior-about-winter-weather northerner that I am. Everybody else is grumbling too.

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friday random eleven – “it’s….coming!” edition

06
Jan

All told, it’s been as tolerable a first week back in the real world as one could reasonably expect. There were, as there always are, challenges (figuring out where the hell we left off at the office), weirdness (kitchen fixtures showing up in decidedly not kitchen places, for example), non-sequitir (I have been served so many ads for local boudoir photography companies this week….) and impending disaster in the form of snow coming to the mid-Atlantic region.

Although we’re not expected to get pounded too much (the RVA is expected to get somewhere in the neighborhood of 4-6 inches), my experience living here for the last 19 years (and yes, I just counted in my head, it’s been that long) is that two inches is good enough to shut the place down for a couple of days. I had to run to the grocery store last night for, coincidentally, milk, bread, and toilet paper (not because of the oncoming storm, but because my kids eat and poop constantly so we were running out). My local Kroger was a freakin’ madhouse.

Actually, it could’ve been worse (like say if I went today, which I still might have to do…argh), and the shelves were rapidly emptying, though I still got my staple items.

Normally I wouldn’t necessarily mind a nice weekend storm, though I had plans to go to a friend’s “after holiday” party in NoVA tomorrow night, which this weather might scuttle. We’ll see. Either way, I’ve got music to rehearse for Marscon next weekend (yay!), a couple of bombers of good local beer to drink, books to read, and a new PS4 to spend time with (the No Man’s Sky universe isn’t going to explore itself!), so I’m good.

Below you’ll find the first random eleven of the new year. The first half is, interestingly, a neat alternating pattern of Viking Metal and late 80s New Jersey Glam Rock, before settling into the usual really weird eclectism:

  1. “Schwertzeit” – Varg
  2. “Youth Gone Wild” – Skid Row
  3. “The Pursuit of the Vikings” – Amon Amarth
  4. “Wanted Dead or Alive” – Bon Jovi
  5. “Havamal” – Falkenbach
  6. “I Ran (So Far Away)” – A Flock of Seagulls
  7. “Take it Off” – The Donnas
  8. “Father O’Blivion” – Dweezil Zappa
  9. “Shia LaBeouf Live” – Rob Cantor
  10. “Ha Ha Ha” – The Julie Ruin
  11. “Bad Horsie” – Steve Vai
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returning absurdity – a “slice o’ life” post

05
Jan

Wednesday was my first day back at the office after the traditional holiday break.

I arrived bright and early (well, I was bright, the sky wasn’t, as it was ten to six in the morning). I found that while I was gone, facilities had installed a sink in my building. A kitchen sink, pretty much sitting right out in the open in what we traditionally think of as a hallway.

There’s been talk of repurposing some of the extra space in this building (used mostly for storage) to house some additional folks, which would necessitate some upgrades to the facilities, though we figured they’d stick the sink in the little break room that’s got the microwave, coffee machine, and refrigerator in it.

Apparently not.

Having encountered this change half a dozen steps inside the front door, I made my way to my office to find that the network was down in the entire building. In today’s fancy VOIP world, that means nothing works, no phone, no internet, no intranet…nothing. So I spent an hour on hold with the help desk on my cell phone before talking to a pleasant person who told me that most of the organization was down, and kindly entered a service ticket that I couldn’t see because I couldn’t get into the online service ticket tracker.

Anyway, my computer did turn on, and I was able to look at all the messages left for me since I last logged on back on December 21 (I came in for half an hour that morning while running errands because I didn’t trust that the timekeeping system worked or that my boss approved my time sheet so I’d be paid*). I spent a while working through that, and sending a couple of off-network email messages (using my spare public email) to my team letting me know the situation.

I took this as a sign, and since I didn’t have any meetings scheduled on my calendar (at least as of the last update on 12/21), I’d spend my day knocking out some documentation off-line and setting up my project file folders for the new calendar year. It was a quiet, pleasant morning.

Then the plumber and the electrician came in. Seems the sink wasn’t finished yet; they had to hook up a water heater and tap the water line.

It wasn’t quiet anymore.

The internet eventually came back on after I’d also let the housekeeping folks in and gone off for lunch. I was able to clear the rest of my messages, send off the documents I had queued up, and then it was pretty much time for me to leave.

I hope the rest of my year is less eventful.

______________________________________

* – I was right, by the way. The time system crapped out and I had to re-submit my time card. Sometimes paranoia is a virtue.

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so it begins…

03
Jan

Tomorrow, I go back to work after being out for a little over two weeks.

Not gonna lie; it’s going to be tough.

The good thing is, I’m mostly in charge of my own program, so I get to set the schedule for the most part, so there’s nothing immediately pressing tomorrow save digging through the emails, which shouldn’t be all that bad, because let’s face it, everybody else at my level, given the responsibilities they have to deal with and the amount of leave we accrue, was off for the last two weeks of December too.

I’ve got three days to dig out and set things up for the two week test cyle I have lined up to start up on Monday next week. In fact, my team’s probably already got it covered, because they’re awesome like that (especially since I’m doing the MarsCon thing for the long MLK day weekend).

That said, though, I’m not really looking forward to going back. It’s not that I was particularly rested during my two weeks off; I had a bunch of low-level stressors (“did my boss approve my time card?”, “is the body shop ever going to get done with the van?” “Why the heck can’t I get a good night’s sleep?”) working the whole time. It’s just…work. The thing I do so I can afford to do the other things. Sometimes I enjoy it, but mostly it’s the hassle I go through to keep a roof over my family’s head.

Oh well; it’s happening, I just have to accept it. And read things like this thing my friend Ryan posted today and nod my head with knowing helplessness.

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wrapping up 2016

01
Jan

The past year was (not just because of all the very public deaths of famous people and the less-than-preferable political stuff) challenging. This isn’t to say that I didn’t accomplish stuff, because I did. That’s mostly what this post here is about; highlighting the good stuff. The challenges are there, over the posts logged over the past 365 days for you to look over – there were a lot of challenges; personal, emotional, mental, vocational, relational. I think I talked about most of them.

Here’s the stuff I thought was cool:

Thing the First: I’m actually really proud of all the cool musical stuff I got to do this year, with a whole bunch of different people; I played public, occasionally paying(!) gigs with two (maybe three, if you squint) different performance groups in public venues. Not all of them were amazing performances, but if I think about it, I could point to something really cool about each performance (although I never really counted how many shows I played – it was a lot, though). I played in cities all up and down the east coast, from the DC Suburbs to Downtown Atlanta, and all kinds of places in between, from fancy auditoriums to living rooms and campfire circles. Every time was a privilege, and I learned a heck of a lot about performing with other people, with myself, and for and with an audience.

I also wrote some songs this year; some of them might end up being something. This is kind of a new thing for me, I’m still getting all of my bad stuff out the system before the good stuff can flow semi-reliably, but I’m learning. I didn’t really record or release anything this year with anyone (we were too busy playing shows), though I think that’s on the docket for this year. Again, it’s been a pretty cool learning experience.

This part of life has brought me so much damned joy over the last however many years; I’ve made so many friends, both musicians and fans all over the country; I really feel privileged to have been welcomed into this community of artists I find myself in.

Thing the Second: As much as I bitched about work here this last year, I think after sitting in my particular vocational chair for two years now, I think I almost know how to do what I do. Sure, I don’t *do* things so much as *direct* things these days – my *do*s are largely relegated to meetings, emails, and monthly and quarterly briefings, though my team and I have managed to accomplish a couple of pretty neat things over the last year, and we’re showing progress with my particular area of the agency infrastructure that has largely been coasting and limping along for a while. I don’t love it, but I’m starting to show competency, and being competent is something I do love. It pays the bills, which allows me to do all the other cool stuff.

Thing the Third: I managed to reorganize life a little bit so that the cash flow makes more sense, and be a little better prepared for what life throws at us. I make to much money to feel so damned poor sometimes, but I took some steps to fix that a bit. This is kinda new, but we’ll see. It’ll certainly help out with some of the other stuff coming down the pike soon.

Thing the Fourth: I don’t feel like a complete failure as a husband and father right now, which is nice. My kids, to greater or lesser degrees, are succeeding, and my wife hasn’t left me yet, or given me any indication she’s going to, despite my many faults. Everybody’s doing well in school, passing classes, and (as I alluded to previously), getting themselves accepted to college. I wrote the check for the deposit and to reserve a place this week, so that’s happening. I’ll figure out how to make it happen. It’s a good kind of stress, though, as it indicates that I didn’t completely screw the first one up.

Finally the kitten has chosen me as her favorite. That’s gotta count for something, right?

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friday thursday random eleven – “end of days” edition

15
Dec

Here it is. My last day of work for 2016. It’s been a heck of a year, all around, and my work life really isn’t an exception. I’ve taken on more responsibility, which involves lots of dog and pony show meetings and briefings to important people (even if those briefings aren’t so much about defending my failings as keeping them up to speed on cool stuff I’m doing to make them look good), but also finally sort of figured out, after two years, how to do the job in a way that works for me. I have, largely through my strong aversion to having to deal with complicated crap and excess work, implemented some pretty nice efficiencies in the process, and I get to close out the year with plans to deploy a new bit of code that will make my life a lot easier by replacing eight unique data structures with one that does the work of all of them once we come back in January.

In the future, when the process changes, I’ll have to do it once instead of eight times – that’s something like a 30 percent reduction in effort. I’ll take it.

Why am I talking about work? I spent a lot of time the last two thinking about it and talking about it, leading up to my performance appraisal the other day. It was nothing to worry about, I’m doing well (in fact, according to my boss, I’m “carrying the program” while they get the larger structures sorted out). That’s nice to hear, since I’ve been afflicted with all kinds of impostor syndrome these last two years now that I’m kind of in charge; I figure eventually everybody will figure out I have no idea what I’m doing, and am coasting along on the backs of the people who do all the real work. Maybe that’s the case, maybe it’s not – intellectually, I know it’s not, but I can’t help but feel that way; damned non-code mental wiring.

Anyway, after around 2pm today (I’m cutting out a bit early to deal with a car appointment), I get to box all that stuff away for a little over two weeks, and replace it with holiday anxiety, which shouldn’t be too bad, as I’ve actually got most of my shopping done. I haven’t decorated anything yet, but I expect, unless the kids go nuts with it, that we’ll probably keep that kind of low-key as well.

As has been my custom for the last couple of years, I’m going to spend the holidays primarily chilling at home, and treating myself to the gift of non-obligation. I’m going to let myself just be; enjoying the feeling of not feeling obligated to do anything for anybody or anything unless I choose to do it. I’m going to sleep in, enjoy my family, maybe play some music with friends, and catch up on leisure activities. I’m not going anywhere, unless I think of something cool I want to do, or the booze and snacks run out.

We’ve had a hell of a year, folks. We’ve lost lots of wonderful artists who made the world better, made some questionable choices as a nation, and dealt with some serious crap for the last twelve months. I’m going to do my part by kind of dropping out and rejuvinating in my own personal Lazarus Pit for two weeks or so to recover from what’s come before, and do my best to be ready to make 2017 a better experience all around.

To that end, I’ll probably update here a little less; I won’t be totally unplugged, as I need to coordinate social engagements (Rogue One comes out this weekend, and I have plans), and one of my stress relieving outlets is the Marvel Heroes MMO; but I probably won’t be putting much here, other than my usual year-end wrap-ups (I like my year-end “by the numbers” and writing highlights posts).

I have some serious loafing to do, and I already bought myself that PS4 (hey, I did it to make it easier for my wife to shop for me for Christmas; she doesn’t like to buy me musicial stuff without my input, just like I don’t like to buy dance stuff for her without hers), and it needs some attention.

To that end, this is probably my last random playlist of the year, unless I feel moved. This one’s not terrible; it’s a little derivative of recent history, though that first track was pretty awesome. Led Zepplin was made for trombones….

  1. “Ocean” – Bonerama
  2. “Heaven is a Place on Earth” – Belinda Carlisle
  3. “Heroes” (live 1978) – David Bowie
  4. “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) – Journey
  5. “Better off Dancing” – The Donnas
  6. “I Melt With You (7” mix) – Modern English
  7. “Flesh Without Blood” – Grimes
  8. “Livin’ On A Prayer” – Bon Jovi
  9. “Cliffs of Dover” – Eric Johnson
  10. “Budapest” – Jethro Tull
  11. “Efterbyrden” – Asmegin

…also – if I hadn’t been looking at the screen on my phone, I would’ve sworn #10 was actually Dire Straits.

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my weekend

13
Dec

…and a good time was had by all.

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