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.

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.

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.

30 September 2018

This has been a busy, busy weekend. Two words: Capclave, Theatre.

Capclave

First up: Capclave. This is a lovely small literary SF/F/H/etc. conference run and sponsored by the WSFA (Washington Science Fiction Association). They’re a wonderful, motivated, well-organized group who’ve been putting on Capclave annually for a long time – Hat’s off to the team and organizers!

The Guests of Honor (usually GoH) this year were Alyssa Wong and Nancy Kress. I was, frankly, embarrassed to know not very much about the work of either, for very different reasons.

Alyssa writes superb, award-winning short stories, most of which may be considered horror, for the purposes of conversation with those of us who aren’t Alyssa.  See her Bibliography, read the stories, decide for yourself. She’s a smart writer with a strong voice and great personal presence. Heck, she won the Nebula in 2016, and was a John Campbell Best New Writer finalist the same year. Why hadn’t she gotten onto my radar??? She’s working on her first novel, and I’m looking forward to reading her work for decades to come.

My embarrassment regarding Nancy is something else entirely. She’s a writer of hard SF, which is totally in my wheelhouse. And she’s been writing for a lot of years, and winning bunches of awards. And the only thing I know I’ve read of hers is Dear Sarah (the one she read to us this afternoon in her GoH Reading session). She’s fun, smart, talented, and I’m looking to catching up on a lot of her work. Additionally, her GoH interview session was done by her husband, Jack Skillingstead, and that was a hoot of an hour!

I also became acquainted with the author who goes by the name of J. L. Gribble. I did this totally on purpose. One of the key features (for me) of Capclave is the nearly continuous string of author readings. Much as I want to sit in on every panel (up to 5 in any given hour) and attend every reading, I always make time to sit in on at least a couple of readings from authors I either don’t know, or haven’t read recently. Hanna (of J.L. fame) was my new-to-me author this time. She read from her latest work, Steel Time.

There’s so much more that’s awesome about Capclave. I was there Friday, Saturday, and today. But I missed the mass signing event, and the WSFA Small Press Awards ceremony last night, because Theatre.

Comedy of Errors

So, last night at the Annapolis Shakespeare Company, it was the Press Opening for The Comedy of Errors. Staged primarily in an 1890’s steampunk Paris, this Sally Boyett designed and directed production also featured a time travel twist, from “time to time” through the production. Also, clearly influenced by the Marx Brothers, Buster Keaton, and other past masters of slapstick comedy, this show was a joy for me. The Antipholus twins were played with verve by Matthew Murry and Morgan Hooper. The Dromio twins were executed with humor and an excruciating lack of grace by Clay Vanderbeek and Joe Leitess.

A tarnished brass set was alternately the streets of Syracuse, and the inside of the household of Antipholus of Syracuse. Adorning the back wall, a clock hovered in front of a projection wall that was used to enhance the time shifting scenes. The clocks hands were moved forward through the day of the events in question by the town gypsy, later to be revealed as Emelia, mother of the Antipholii (?), played by Christine Asero.

In all, a cast of thirteen played nineteen roles, but for me, Shubhangi Kuchibhotia as The Mime steals the show. Occasionally, she’s on stage, as a part of the chorus, moving around and through the main characters. Mostly, though, she’s in a mock Foley booth in the corner up in the seats, stage left. There she operates assorted sound effect devices to add comedic flare to the often violent interactions between the assorted Antipholii and Dromios. And throughout, she’s acting and reacting to the action on the stage, with face and body. I told Sally and Shubhangi that I was going to have to come back to see the play again, to just watch her throughout and enjoy the play that way.

Please, are you in the area? Are you going to be in the area? Go to the website, follow the links, buy the tickets, see the work. I promise you’ll laugh, love it, and have a wonderful time.

Lexi, Because

Lexi, our dog, sleeping curled u0p beside me, head tucked against the arm rest of the sofa, as I watch the telly.
Lexi, sleeping beside me as I watch the telly

Winding Down

I’m now a full weekend behind on Fall yardwork. Now, that previously may not have been an issue, because it’s been too wet to be outside, but we’ve now had three continuous days of no rain. Things are drying out, and I need to get some work done. But next weekend, I’m working (at work) on Sunday, all day, at least. I’m going to have to make time somewhere. Perhaps I’ll take Friday for yardwork.

DoD announced no new casualties in the last week.

31 July 2018

And that puts the fork into the seventh month of this dismal year.

In such good news as there is, I got the major yard work – lawns, etc. – done this last weekend, and several other chores to boot. Not much else to report. I did finish up the last few pages of that V.E. Schwab book, A Darker Shade of Magic. Fun tale, with the boring caveat that almost everyone lives, which seems unreasonably unrealistic. But the book is well written, and I’ve gotta find out what happens next… Now all I have to do is fit more of those books into my reading budget (money and time).

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In the boy-howdy-can-people-ever-be-shitty-to-other-people department, check out the recent Everywhereist (aka Geraldine DeRuiter) post What Happened When I Tried Talking to Twitter Abusers. Assholes on Twitter are just one of the many reasons we can’t have anything nice anymore.

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DoD announced no new casualties in the last few days. Thank Cthulhu. Now it’s time to go roast some coffee: a Guatemalan from Sweet Maria’s.

26 July 2018

Well, I guess it’s been a bit. I participated in two long painting days at the theatre last week, and by Sunday, after chores, etc, I was plain tuckered out. Since then, I’ve just been either busy or forgetful … I can’t remember which.

Upcoming is the last weekend of Love’s Labour’s Lost presented by the Annapolis Shakespeare Company at St. John’s College in Annapolis. Also, still running through late September, The Miser is on in the courtyard at Reynold’s Tavern. We’ve seen and loved them both (and we would, even if Marcia wasn’t volunteering as a part time office manager, and I wasn’t on the Board). The next season is going to be a joy, too! Get tickets, bring your friends, see the work, love the work, become subscribers. That’s precisely how we got hooked!

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What I’m reading in my copious spare time: Fran Wilde’s Cloudbound (book two of her Bone Universe trilogy; I loved Updraft, and Horizon is on deck – she signed all three for me at Capclave last year, yay!). These are wonderful, extravagantly envisioned works of fantasy. Fran crafts characters that I care about immediately, and gives them a consistent place above (and in) the clouds for them to love, contend, and try in their own ways to save themselves and their society. Inevitable conflict is the main story. However, the little touches of side story show that this author is superb at building a universe much larger than we can see, and showing us just what’s necessary for the story. I love these books, and I think you will, too. You can find them at many booksellers.

I’m also reading V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic, set mostly in three Londons. Magic missing, magic mostly in balance, and magic as weapon … then there’s Black London. I’m enjoying the tale a lot, and I’ll probably pick up the rest of the series. Then there’s my late night bedside re-reading of some of Iain M. Banks Culture novels – love those a lot.

I’ve been listening to a lot of David Bowie, The Eagles, and Amanda Palmer of several incarnations, of late.

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The garden has been producing a quart or so of cherry tomatoes every couple of days, which is delicious and wonderful. Last night I made a south-of-the-border-ish dish with pork, rice, shallots, a couple of serrano peppers and a double handful of halved cherry tomatoes. Yum.

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Recently roasted coffees include single origin beans from Guatemala and Burundi.

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DoD announced no new casualties in the last week and a half.

28 May 2018

Memorial Day for those in the US. All respect and honor to those who gave their lives in service to our Country and Constitution.

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A busy week last week, building new systems for new services, retiring old systems, and generally doing modern system administration stuff. Continuing to build out the configuration management system to improve system repeatability, reliability, security, and availability. So there’s that. The three day weekend had a bit of lawn work, a bit of garden work, coffee roaster maintenance and roasting, etc. Oh, and a bit of old-school wood working:

Breaking out the block plane to smooth a small cutting board glue-up.

Breaking out the block plane

 

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I’m also signed up for this year’s Capclave. Such an awesome small literary speculative fiction (F/SF/etc) convention. Wonderful, supportive, inclusive, and diverse … and such a deal: 3 days of convention for $55 currently (it goes up in $5 increments as the last weekend in September 2018 approaches, but even at the door, it’s only $65!) Are you in the DC Metro area? Can you be, in late September? Join us!

Oh, hey: Annapolis Shakespeare‘s production of Molière’s The Miser opens tomorrow night for an 18 week run in the courtyard at Reynold’s Tavern in Annapolis. Exceptionally, for us, we’re going to miss an opening night, but we’ll see it soon. Gonna be fun! Dinner. A show. You should go!

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Our condolences to the family and friends of Staff Sgt. Conrad A. Robinson, 36, of Los Angeles, California, who died on May 24 at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, from a non-combat related incident.

4 February 2018

There’s a football game going on now, just after a halftime show of some sort. If history is any guide, then losing badly is where the Pats want to be right now. That said, ahead by a considerable margin is where the Eagles want to be, too. So … win/win?

I had a productive work week that lasted all seven days. Well, not seven full days, just five of those. But remote work to do things outside of business hours both yesterday and today, both days successful. Huzzah!

On the off-hours, I’ve been spending more time with Python. It’s a useful language for a number of projects and OS management tools I either use or am interested in, so I’d like to have stronger skills there. Working on it.

Reading: I finished up Jennifer Foehner Wells’s Confluence Series … well, at least the four books that are out in that universe. I’m hoping for more. Great fun: Recommended!

Now: Eagles up by 10 after a couple of possessions in the third quarter. Maybe an exorcism is called for. Anyway, time to walk the dog for the last time, and get back to Python for a bit.

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DoD announced no new casualties in the last week.

28 Jan 2018

Good evening. Bob Thompson is still much on my mind. I’m going to miss him.

*      *      *

Work-wise, it was a productive week. But the weekend, ah, it was good:

Friday evening, we attended opening night for the Annapolis Shakespeare Company‘s production of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit. Spiritedly directed by ASC Founder and Artistic Director Sally Boyett, thc cast romped through this classic drawing room comedy like they’d been working together for ages, and were still having marvelous fun while doing it. Kurt Elftmann, whom we last saw with ASC as Richard III, plays the novelist Charles Condomine magnificently. He’s ensconced in his country home with his second wife, Ruth, executed adroitly by Jessica Hannah Fraser. Natasha Preston is Edith, the maid, who still bears the rushing-about demeanor of her navy training. As the show opens, our host prepares to welcome neighbors Doctor (Phil Bufithis) and Mrs. (Nancy Blum) Bradman to join them for supper, along with spiritualist Madame Arcati (enthusiastically played by Barbara Pinolini).

Condomine hopes to mine the planned seance for material to use in his forthcoming novel. Instead, the evening’s doings result in the arrival of the marvelous Kay Kerimian as the shade of Condomine’s first wife, Elvira. (Side note – a woman named Kay played Elvira in the 1945 film of the play! That’s suitably creepy!) In the balance of the first act, and through the second and third, Elvira vexes and disrupts the household. Edith is an unlikely lynchpin to apparently resolve the resulting furor, and things only really end well for the witty and erudite Condomine.

This play is a real joy, and we’re looking forward to seeing it again before the run closes on February 25. You really should go. Highly Recommended!

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 Saturday, I washed all the crap and salt off of both cars, as well as getting some other chores done, including roasting a pound of Honduran coffee beans from Sweet Maria’s.  It rained today (Sunday), but that was my fault (obviously). We got the shopping and the rest of the weekly chores done, and a friend came over to have me assist in de-crapping her phone (removing all the useless apps) and recovering the password for her main account on her Windows 10 laptop.

Finally, I managed to get my sump pit monitoring system working again. It had been on the fritz for a few weeks, and there were always more important things to do. I was able to safely put it off, because I know that the sump pump is in good condition, but I’d like warnings to be working for the day when it isn’t, anymore. Turned out that I just needed to reseat the connectors between the distance sensor and the Raspberry Pi that runs the software.

*      *      *

Reading:

Upstairs, in hardback: Fran Wilde’s Cloudbound. This is book two of her Bone Universe series, and as with book one, it’s wonderful. Right below it on the stack at my bedside is the third novel in the series: Horizon. Fran is a smart, talented writer who manages to create worlds and characters that get under my skin and inside my head. Highly Recommended.

Downstairs, in paperback: Iain Banks’s Excession. One of the Culture novels, and a re-read for me. I’ve been working my way through the books again, off and on, since he died back in 2013. Today I learned that some of that story was inspired by Sid Meier’s Civilization video game. You should read everything Banks wrote. For me, he’s reminiscent of Philip Jose Farmer.

On the phone via the Kindle app: Jennifer Foehner Wells’s Valence (Book 4 of the Confluence series). I’ve read and enjoyed the first three enough to keep on with the fourth, which is enough of a reccommendation. I read on the phone whenever I have time to spare, because reading is always wonderful.

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DoD announce no new casualties in the last week.

16 January 2018

G’day. Yep, I was busy. Sunday we did the shopping, then I started in on chores and such. About halfway through the afternoon, I saw an email that Annapolis Shakespeare Company needed a hand. It was the first load-in day for the set of the next play, and the expected carpenters had bailed on them. So I gathered some tools and went off to Annapolis to help out for several hours. I got home before 10, though… I went back the next day and gave a hand for another few hours. When I wrapped up my participation, all the walls and bracing that could be done were done. Glad to be of service. Still taking ibuprofen, though. And the extra holes in my skin (mostly hands) are beginning to heal. Yay! Good to have spent MLK Day doing volunteer service for our favorite 501(c)3, as well.

I’m not sure I’d be good at set design. I’m a build-to-last kind of guy. Sets are designed to look great for 6 weeks, and be rapidly dismantled before they fall apart of their own volition. Heh.

Not much else to report. I did get some coffee roasted – a Tanzanian from Sweet Maria’s. It’s resting, and I’ll start brewing from that in another couple of days.

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I recently finished reading Fluency (Confluence Book 1) (at this writing: $0.00 for Kindle) by Jennifer Foehner Wells. I’ll admit to a fair reluctance to dive headllong into the new wave of Speculative Fiction – there’s so much unevenly edited crap out there… But I can usually tell within a few pages whether I’ll be swiping the book to the archives, or reading it through. Fluency got a read-through. I enjoyed Ms. Wells’s writing style. The premise of an insectile spacefaring enemy that hasn’t arrived yet, a ship whose only remaining crew is the squid-ish navigator, and a human team of folks who might be able to get along and complete their mission, if it weren’t for the space slugs and the rogue nanotech… Okay, it’s a bit of a mashup, with shades of Red Dwarf and a few special easter eggs. I enjoyed reading it through, and more importantly, I am going to read the next book in the series. That doesn’t happen much, so can count as a reasonable recommendation. I could wish for two lead characters who weren’t starved for the physical attentions of the other, unrequited except in alien-mediated virtual reality. I’ll see how the second book stacks up. Recommended.

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Our condolences to the family and friends of Spc. Javion Shavonte Sullivan, 24, of Fort Mill, South Carolina, who died on Jan. 8 in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, from a non-combat related incident.