3 February 2019

Weather, man…

It’s been an interesting week, weather-wise. For instance, it was properly cold for a couple of days, with lows in the single digits and highs in the mid-teens (ºF). And on Friday, when we were due an hour or two of snow flurries midday, Ullr sent us snow starting at 8 AM and lasting all day. It was light snow, but it all stuck, since everything was pre-frozen. I shoveled off the 2.5″ when I got home late afternoon:

Me heading back in after shoveling snow from driveway and sidewalks.

Me, after shoveling snow..

Two Men and a Boat

On the entertainment front, we enjoyed a superb opening night production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at the Annapolis Shakespeare Company. Clay Vanderbeek and Nate Ruleaux handed out stellar performances as the titular characters, well supported by Conner Padilla (as Hamlet), Morganne Chu, Stephen Patrick Martin, Ian Charles, Dexter Hamlett (really), and Phil Bufithis. Sharp, intricately timed verbal jousting is at the core of this show, with Nate playing off of Clay’s occasional confusion perfectly. The players, lead with power and cynicism by Stephen Martin, are a joy, albeit an occasionally disturbing joy. The set was stark and verging on minimal, suiting this show perfectly. A fun romp on it’s own, Stoppard’s most famous work is best enjoyed with Hamlet fully in mind. Running about two and a half hours including intermission, this show was directed by Donald Hicken. Highly recommended.

Coffee

Today I roasted a pound of Kenya in the Behmor 1600+ coffee roaster. After recovering from math and email reading issues, I can confirm that I’m calling this roast the ninth birthday of my roaster. It just keeps trucking along, even though I thought it was a year older. The freshness of home roasted coffee is just the best. Ask my friends at Sweet Maria’s, if you don’t believe me.

Winding down

DoD announced no new casualties in the past week. Some political careers are still holding onto unwarranted life, too. Oh, yeah, and there’s a football game being played right now. Not watching – skipped the “sport” altogether this year. Be well.

27 January 2019

Weird Times

Because they are, just sayin’… So I’m going to ignore all of that for the moment. Marcia did a bunch of wonderful baking and cooking, so for supper with friends Saturday night we had scratch made: crackers, focaccia (two kinds: rosemary and olive), pasta, and cake. Carb-loading for the gluten gluttons only? Yup. But super-tasty!

The house got cleaned, too. Coffee from Kenya got roasted. And I did some intermittent remote work over the weekend, getting stuff done, which is good. Finally, I spent a bit of time playing around in Skyrim. Net result, there: I’m now the Arch Mage of the College of Winterholm. Yay?

Tired now and time to sleep, and if it gets real cold, I may just stay there until April or so…

Winding Down

Our condolences to the family and friends of Staff Sgt. Joshua Z. Beale, 32, of Carrollton, Virginia, who died on Jan. 22, 2019, as a result of injuries sustained from enemy small arms fire during combat operations in Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan.

21 January 2019

C-c-c-cold

Not properly cold, not in the ice moon Hoth sense of the word, anyway. But it was 11º Fahrenheit when I walked the dog early this morning, with winds gusting to 40 mph. I think that means a wind chill of minus one billion. As the day went on, it warmed a little bit, and the winds dropped to gentle breezes, which meant I could shed a layer or two for the later walks. It’d have been better if Lexi would simply walk, take care of her business, and be ready to head back in. But her idea of a walk is to spend half an hour inspecting and sniffing assorted clumps of (frozen) grass, (frozen) shrubberies, and (frozen) sidewalks, before grudgingly warming one or two of those items with bodily excretions. But we both lived, so there’s that.

Food

Marcia’s been baking wonderful things: Cakes and crackers and breads. I won’t torment you with descriptions of things you can’t have because they’re all gone, but I *can* tell you that if she keeps this up, I’m going to have to add some double doors to the house for the width I will achieve.

In coffee news, I roasted the second pound of Guatemalan beans this weekend. The first batch, roasted to a City+, was delicious, so I kept to that roast level again. Next up: Kenyan, and ordering more beans since I’m dropping below 4 pounds left in house.

Entertainment

We went to a 1940’s themed Cabaret evening last night at Annapolis Shakespeare. Big crowd, good energy, great entertainment! And their production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is just around the corner. I’m so looking forward to the show – I’ve not seen this play in 38 years.

Reading

Still holding Fran Wilde’s Horizon at night, reading the hardcover at night when I’m winding down. On the phone, I’m reading Kari Byron’s Crash Test Girl, which is a hoot of a read from a wonderful woman (Side note – the Kindle version is just $1.99 in the US store as I write these words).

I also just read this little treat from John Scalzi, over at The Verge: A Model Dog. Fun. Also fun and thought-provoking was this piece by Sarah Miller on Popula: The Why of Cooking.

Winding Down

Our condolences to the friends and families of these fallen warriors:

  • Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent, 35, of upstate New York, died on Jan. 16, 2019, in Manbij, Syria, as a result of wounds sustained from a suicide improvised explosive device.
  • Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan R. Farmer, 37, of Boynton Beach, Florida, died on Jan. 16, 2019, in Manbij, Syria, as a result of wounds sustained from a suicide improvised explosive device.
  • DOD civilian Scott A. Wirtz of St. Louis, Missouri, died on Jan. 16, 2019, in Manbij, Syria, as a result of wounds sustained from a suicide improvised explosive device.
  • Sgt. Cameron A. Meddock, 26, of Spearman, Texas, died on Jan. 17, 2019, in Landstuhl, Germany, as a result of injuries sustained from small arms fire during combat operations on Jan. 13, 2019, in Jawand District, Badghis Province, Afghanistan.

13 January 2018

Snow Day

Yup, our first major winter storm arrived yesterday late afternoon. We’ve so far got over 10″ here in my back yard. I shoveled the driveway and sidewalks just after 4 PM, when a mere 6.5 inches had fallen. By the time was done, I went back over the whole thing to quickly remove the next inch of snow that had fallen while I was shoveling. Yay?

It's still snowing, and there's about 2.5 inches since I shoveled last at about 7.5 inches. So that puts us at 10" of snow in this storm. Wow!
Still snowing…

Oh, yeah. The snow was supposed to be done by now … but it’s still falling. That explains the schools pre-announcing tomorrow’s closure. The Feds? Who knows, all of the OPM people who communicate such things appear to be furloughed, so it’s down to the individual agencies.

Aside from shoveling snow, I got some remote work done today, supporting a database migration/upgrade. I also roasted a pound of green coffee from Guatemala, via Sweet Maria’s.

Entertaining

We’ve been watching Black Adder and a show about the Le Mans car race on the streaming services, waiting for the boys to show up in this year’s edition of The Grand Tour. I’m reading Fran Wilde’s Horizon, Kari Byron’s Crash Test Girl, and a bit of light interstitial reading courtesy of one of Terry Pratchett’s Diskworld books.

Winding down

Lots to do this week upcoming, but some of that depends on timing of storms, road conditions, etc. I’ve got to get Marcia’s car in for the emissions check, for one thing.

DoD reported no casualties in the last week.

6 January 2019

First Post

Of the new year, anyway. Not much of external interest happened in the last week – work was work, I got some chores done over the weekend, including the first coffee roasting of the new year. We’d been drinking from a couple of different batches of Rise Up coffee for a while, courtesy of a Christmas gift from the St. Germain’s. But that’s now running low, so it was time to get a pound of Sweet Maria’s Ethiopian roasted and resting in anticipation of Wednesday or Thursday brewing.

Reading

I am finally down to reading the wonderful Fran Wilde’s Horizon, the closing novel in her Bone Universe series. Updraft and Cloudbound were so, so good – I can’t wait to see how some of these story arcs end.

The best thing I read this week was Anne Helen Peterson’s How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation. I’ve been following @annehelen on Twitter for a while, and getting her weekly newsletter for a shorter period of time … she’s a thoughtful, deep writer on issues that are important. This piece on burnout has generated a lot of good conversation, and I commented:

I find that it’s often both more of an effort *and* more rewarding to read a piece (like yours) and find what I have in common with it, rather than to read dismissively with a “that’s not me” bias. Your writing pushes for a better me, so thank you for that.

@bilborg on Twitter

Winding down

DoD reported no casualties (on the assumption the people watching for and posting such things are still working/being paid during this recurrent inane “shutdown”).

Y’all have a great week.

30 December 2018

Year, Gone

We enjoyed a quiet Christmas at home, mostly binge-watching The Great British Baking Show. In the evening, we watched the Springsteen Broadway special. The dog got a couple of new toys, as did I. Marcia was surprised to get a couple of things, too, since we’d already got her “Christmas presents” a couple of months ago.

With Christmas gone and New Year’s Eve tomorrow, another year’s gone by, and each goes faster than the one preceding. But here at Hovel Bilbrey, we’re continuing to do okay. The big changes of the year involved first ramping up our involvement with the theater company, then backing off to just enthusiastic patrons and subscribers. Too much sausage making, relative to the amount of sausage. Marcia’s ramped up her quilting, and is enjoying that a lot.

Speaking of sausage, I have a chili and another dish that I like making from a hot Italian sausage. But two weeks in a row, no hot Italian at the food warehouse. But there was picnic shoulder there, so I’ve made my own sausage. Here was the setup:

Prep for grinding pork shoulder at home, using the meat grinder accessory for the Kitchen Aid.
Prep for grinding pork shoulder

We’ve had the meat grinder accessory for our Kitchen Aid forever. But I’ve used it only rarely. So I ground once, seasoned the grind, and reground it. Now it’s resting in the fridge, and I’ll cook from it on New Year’s Day. I’m very pleased with the results.

Winding Down

No new casualties were reported by DoD. Elsewhere, I hold out hope for either an outbreak (a tiny one at least) of sanity in our nation’s capital … or a giant asteroid strike. So, win-win.

25 December 2018

Merry Chistmas, y’all

Whatever you celebrate at this time of year, with or without family, with or without larger significance, please let it give you and yours both joy and peace.

I had a lovely few days off work. We spent a not-inconsiderable amount of time binge-watching The Great British Baking Show, and to join us in our turkey dinner today, we were joined by a Mister Bruce Springsteen, shown in the production filmed over a couple of nights of his Broadway run. What a lovely show.

We leapt out of bed this morning at the crack of 8:41, and once the dog was walked and breakfast/coffee consumed, we did the rending of paper and revealing of gifts thing. Marcia’s “big” presents had already been around for a bit, but I still had a couple of things under the tree to surprise her. She managed to steal the list I sent to Santa, and all of that was there too. Lexi even got a couple of new toys to abuse.

Winding down

This space is usually reserved for showing respect and final farewells for our troops dying in harms’ way, on our behalf. But today I wish to offer our deepest condolences and regrets to the family and friends of eight year old Felipe Alonzo-Gomez, who died today in CBP custody, separated from his family. This follows the death of seven year old Jakelin Caal Maquin on December 8, also in CBP custody.

Incompetent and irresponsible, this agency is. When your agency is given unethical and immoral policies to implement, consider pushing back. If you (being the agents and bureaucrats of DHS/CBP) don’t challenge this, I hold you personally responsible, along with the administration that issued the orders. This misguided policy of detaining asylum seekers at the border and breaking apart families must not stand.

17 December 2018

Winding Up

Almost nothing to report, other than the continuing deluge that is our weather this year. Over the weekend, we got ANOTHER 2.6″ of rain, as measured in my back yard. And more rain due on Thursday and Friday. Lovely. We’re up around 65-66″ on the year, smack between the record-breaking DC and Baltimore totals.

Marcia’s been baking some wonderful things, and we also attended a fun Broadway Holiday production at Annapolis Shakespeare on Saturday evening. That was a total hoot, and there are two more of those to go, running in rep with their stellar production of A Christmas Carol. Both highly recommended!

Lexi

Lexi, the dog, wrapped in a towel,  warm and looking worried...
Lexi, warm and worried…

Reading

I’ve just finished reading Fran Wilde’s Cloudbound, the second book in her Bone Universe series. Oooh, does that woman know how to craft a tale! Continuing to build on the events that started in her superb debut novel, Updraft, Cloudbound gives us Nat as our central character, being twisted and thrown down by people wanting power, and people wanting what’s best (usually also, power).  Dix made me so very angry, and still, how that ended made me a bit sad. Gosh, what a good writer Fran is. I’ve got a mystery to read, then I’m straight into Horizon, the trilogy closer. I know she’ll wrap it up real pretty, with a bow on and all … but it’s the getting there that has me on edge.

Computing

I picked up an Intel NUC, an inexpensive terabyte of SSD storage, and 32G of RAM to build a small VMware home lab. Next thing on that box: A FreeBSD 12 install.

Winding Down

Our condolences to the family and friends of Pfc. Joshua Mikeasky, 19, from Johnstown, Pennsylvania, who died on Dec. 13, 2018, at Bagram Airfield, Bagram District, Parwan Province, Afghanistan, from a non-combat related incident.

9 December 2018

A Tree…

Our Christmas tree is decorated
Our Christmas tree

Don't Blink (a Doctor Who reference) - the tree topper this year is a Weeping Angel.
Tree topper is a Weeping Angel

Me, I had a busy week and a busy weekend.

Our condolences to the family and friends of Sgt. Jason Mitchell McClary, 24, from Export, Pennsylvania, who died on Dec. 2, 2018, in Landstuhl, Germany, as a result of injuries sustained from an improvised explosive device on Nov. 27, 2018, in Andar District, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan.

2 December 2018

Another Week

This was a productive week, but nothing especially outstanding. We’re mostly recovered from Thanksgiving, and getting ready to decorate for the Christmas period. We watched series four of Fake or Fortune, a show that works to establish attribution and provenance of artwork, presented by Fiona Bruce and Philip Mould. Great fun, for those who love Brits, European art, and art controversy.

I’ve got a lot of paperwork to do, wrapping up some stuff in advance of year end, both personal and work related, so that’s coming up this next week. Nothing else super exciting on the calendar yet.

Lexi

Lexi the mutt guarding her pillow fort.
Lexi and the pillow fort

Winding Down

Our condolences to the families and friends of these fallen warriors, who died on Nov. 27, 2018, from injuries sustained when their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device in Andar, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan:

  • Army Capt. Andrew Patrick Ross, 29, of Lexington, Virginia.
  • Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Michael Emond, 39, of Brush Prairie, Washington.
  • Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan J. Elchin, 25, of Hookstown, Pennsylvania.

Additionally, I’d like to lower the flag in honor of the passing of former President George H. W. Bush.