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.

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.

18 November 2018

Holidays

Last week, Veteran’s Day. This week: Thanksgiving. So, food coma pending. Just sayin’ … not that I can really do that, I’m on call this upcoming week. Still, we bought an actual full turkey for this week. In recent years past, we’ve only roasted a turkey breast.

All in, it was a good week just past. I spent most of it puttering around in a BMW X2 M Sport. My car was in for servicing the headlights. They ended up replacing at least one of the assemblies, possibly both. Downside of computers and motors (in the headlights!!!). Had the car not been under warranty, this would have been bloody expensive. Those things go for between one and two grand each on eBay. Cthulhu knows how much BMW charges for them. Still, Tuesday through Friday noon for headlamps. Maybe it’s time to trade in for a ’68 Camero. No computers. No tracking devices. Hardly any effective driving around corners. Heh!

Much of the extra hours of the week were given over to patching assorted UNIX-like operating systems, rebooting, and testing them.

Technology

Marcia’s seven year old Windows 7 laptop finally gave up the ghost. She needs a small, relatively inexpensive machine to haul around when she’s getting training on the software she uses to run her assorted sewing devices. So I toddled down to Best Buy and picked her up a Dell touch screen Inspiron 13″ Windows 10 laptop. She’s smart, so Windows 10 won’t cause her a bunch of grief.

Also dropping this week: the Beta of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8. It’s been four years – a long time – since the last major release. I’m excited to see what’s new in this version.

Entertainment

The entertainment side of the ledger has two items of note. Well, three. First, we’re nearly done binging all of the modern era Doctor Who shows. It’s been really quite lovely.

Second, on the book front, I finished up J. L. Gribble’s Steel Victory. The first book in the author’s Steel Empire series, Steel Victory introduced me to  Toria (mage and mercenary-to-be), Victory (Toria’s mom (?) and an elder vampire, as well as a ‘retired’ mercenary). They’re in Limani, smack dab between British and Roman forces, with a few choice local folks who want nothing to do with anyone or anything that ain’t human. Oh, yeah, in a post-nuclear war world, somehow. Weird, but it works.

I met Ms. Gribble (What an interesting pseudonym!) at her reading at Capclave this year. I enjoyed the excerpt she read from the third book of the series, so I bought the first volume from her to give it a proper try, and really enjoyed it. Yes, yes, yes. Vampires. Magic. Were-beasts of virtually every species. Brian (you say), not really your wheelhouse? No, but the story hangs together, it is very well written, and I found I cared about the characters. So, yes, I enjoyed it and I’ll be reading the rest of the books in the series. Only question – why didn’t I get her to inscribe the book when I bought it from her. Sigh.

Next up on the book front, I’m going to finish up Fran Wilde’s Cloudbound (Bone Universe book two), and jump right into Horizon, the third book in that series. I’ve had them in my stack for far too long (in hardbound, no less) and I only read hardbound at bedtime, so it takes me a long time. But I WILL get there, because these stories are great.

Upcoming – A Christmas Carol at Annapolis Shakespeare. Get your tickets today, we did already!

Lexi

Lexi (the dog), 'wearing' my sweatshirt
Lexi, ‘wearing’ my sweatshirt

Winding Down

Take good care of yourselves, enjoy time with family and friends, try to mend any fences that have been torn by the politics of this loony era. But first, be kind to yourself. Then you may find you have enough left over for those that need it.

DoD announced no new casualties in the last week.

11 November 2018

Veteran’s Day

Thank you for your service. All of you!

Closer to Winter

What with the northern half of the planet angling further away from the closest star, the light is weaker, and the cold is stronger. Tonight will be our second consecutive night in the mid-20’s. Even so, the dog finds a way to lay in the sun…

Lexi the sun dog
Lexi the sun dog

That said, she’s battling fairly severe arthritis, primarily in her left rear hip and knee. Poor pupper.

We’re at about 50% over normal rainfall for the year, with more still to come. I’ve simply got to get out and do some remedial grading along the side of the house – we’ve got just a bit of water intrusion into the basement, and grading should fix things up. I sure wish we could send a small fraction of the rain back over to California and dampen things up enough to get those fires calming down.

Winding Down

Monday is the holiday, observed, so I’ve stretched out the chores and did not as much today. I got in a few rare hours of game-play today, with Shadow Warrior 2, a silly, rude first person fighter. More house cleaning and the aforementioned outdoor work is on my queue for tomorrow.

Our condolences to the family and friends of Maj. Brent R. Taylor, 39, from Ogden, Utah, who died on Nov. 3, 2018, in Kabul Province, Afghanistan, as a result of wounds sustained from small arms fire.

17 Octogre 2018

First

Y’all: VOTE! Where registration is still open, do that. Then vote!

Where registration is closed, many states offer on-site registration in concert with early voting, so check it out, carve out some time, and do that.

Failing everything else, if you’re unregistered, at least find out where your correct voting location is, and totter down there with ID and do a provisional ballot. Important to be at the right polling place, though.

Running Late

I haven’t forgotten, I’ve just been busy. Especially Sunday, which had an evening full of song and a bit of dance at Cabaret Night at the Annapolis Shakespeare  Company. And coming up soon, an actual two week run of the musical Cabaret! Also, two more weekends to see and love the Comedy of Errors.

To make up for my failings, here’s a picture of Lexi with a body pillow:

Lexi the dog, with a body pillow
Lexi with a body pillow

That’s a Wrap

We’re still on the fence about seeing CoE another time – it’s a wonderful show, but I’ve been really busy, and it’d be nice to have a weekend or two without having to be “on”.

No other news to speak of, and no casualties reported by DoD since last I posted.

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.

23 September 2018

The Weather!

More rain. Seriously. And we live close enough to DC that the rain-hole that exists there shadows us a bit – we got just a bit over half of the 22 inches that BWI got in the same time span, and that’s less than 30 minutes drive. We’re at 15 inches in the last two months. That’s four month’s worth of annualized rainfall. And I’m tired of it. Oh, yeah… the app on the phone says each one of the next 24 hours has rain due, better than 50% chance.

I count Fall as officially started on the first night that temps drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. We’re two days into Fall by the calendar, but I don’t even see overnights below 60 forecast in the next 10 days. Yikes!

I had a dream that while climate change in the form of global warming was happening, the “consensus” blame of rising temperatures on anthropomorphic causes was in fact a cover-up for a geo-solar interaction that wasn’t going to stop at two or three degrees Celsius of warming. But we have a couple of hundred years to go before things start becoming untenable, so the thinking at certain levels is that the hordes won’t panic and kill civilization just yet if they think that (a) there’s a happy ending possible, and (b) somebody will take care of it. A current day rocketry entrepreneur is enlisted to work towards getting some miniscule (rich) percentage of humanity off towards a healthier star before the world economy goes to hell.

Food and Friends

I started my Saturday at the theater, doing a couple of maintenance/setup tasks of the sort I’m useful for. Then I came back home to stay out of Marcia’s way, and clean house. The former was because Marcia was making lasagna. This began with making the fresh pasta, which happened while I was gone. She also made a pot full of something mostly resembling a bolognese sauce (okay, gravy) which made the house smell super-awesome. Oh, and enough for the Italian army, because reasons.

Mid afternoon, as my cleaning blitz was winding down, Marcia assembled a couple of trays of the lasagna, with the blanched and shocked pasta, a meat/herb blend, fresh mozzarella, and the gravy, in multiple delicious layers. Those heated in the oven, and came out just as Mike and Linda joined us for a lovely evening of food and Cards Against Humanity. And now you know why I was cleaning house, too!

Lexi, Because

Lexi, the chipuggle cuddle hound, relaxing while I work from home
Lexi relaxing while I work from home

Technology?

Speaking of the phone, I’ve taken an early plunge into IOS 12. I have nothing useful to report yet except the following:

  • This was one of the fastest updates I’ve applied to an Apple phone yet.
  • The phone was not bricked.
  • There have been reports of color/screen issues after update; This has not affected my phone (a year-old iPhone 8)
  • The apps I’ve used so far all still work as expected.

Seems like a low bar, doesn’t it? Well, sure. But one does “hear” reports of problems, and it’s easy to internally discount the unhappy customer bias of the news reporting cycle. Happy people just get on with their lives. Unhappy ones go on crusades.

Upcoming Events…

The Comedy of Errors opens with previews this Friday the 29th at Annapolis Shakespeare. The show runs for five weeks. Tickets available through the website, or call the box office. I can recommend the deal to be gotten by getting a season flex pass, though. Great value, and in so doing can get a 50% discount on the 12 (well, 11, now) Cabaret nights that are sprinkled through the year.

Capclave, a lovely small literary Science Fiction / Fantasy / Horror conference, runs Friday through Sunday next. Not in Gaithersburg this year, but Rockville instead. So bypass the REM recommendation, do go back to Rockville, and enjoy a wonderful, small, inexpensive, respectful, and inclusive convention. Online registration via the website (https://www.capclave.org/) is now closed, but the walk-in price for the full three days is but $70.

Winding Down

DoD announced no new casualties in the last week.

10 September 2018

Lexi (the dog) stays in bed

Lexi stays in bed

I think this dog either…

  1. Doesn’t want to get out of bed.
  2. Is hoping that being well hidden will keep her from surgery tomorrow.
  3. All of the above.

9 September 2018

We’ve been home from Maine for about 30 hours. It’s been raining for approximately 36 of those hours. And I’m having fun with the french drains leading to the sump pump. I think one is mostly blocked … AND I’ve got some grading issues along that side of the house. Sigh. Today I back-filled and improved some of the grading. I also extended a couple of gutter drains a lot further away from the house. Hope it helps while I figure out what the next move is. After all, there’s rain in the forecast here for each of the next eight days. Sigh.

Maine. We did another week up at Cobbosseeconte Lake, and got some fishing in each day. I caught a few undersized, malnourished specimens, but Marcia had a spectacular week:

Tuesday: 19.5", 3.5# Large mouth bass caught by Marcia

Tuesday: 19.5″, 3.5# Large mouth bass

Thursday: 19", 3# Large mouth bass caught by Marcia

Thursday: 19″, 3# Large mouth bass

Both of those went right back into the water and swam off after their photo opp. No matter that bass is tasty, regulations for the lake require bass between 16 and 20 inches to go back in the water. One presumes that this is to protect some of the trophy-size fish for the regular tournaments that grace those Maine waters. It was a good week, very quiet and lovely once the holiday weekend folks were gone.

   *      *      *

For the upcoming week, Lexi is getting surgery to deal with some gum issues, and a tooth cleaning as long as they’re putting her out. I’ve got a large backlog of work to deal with. And maybe continuing water problems. We’ll see what’s next.

   *      *      *

DoD announced no new casualties in the last few days.

26 August 2018

Well. By this time next week, we’ll be two thirds of the way through the year. Whew! While it’s been a relatively cool summer for us, there have been plenty of storms with lots of flash and bang. Not really Lexi’s favorite. Last weekend, she came down to the basement and barked at me until I let her sit in my lap while the storm boomed outside and the coffee was roasting inside:

Lexi: The thunder always wins, so she sits in my lap and shivers..

Lexi: The thunder always wins…

Speaking of Lexi, she’s got a couple of growths on her gums. We spotted one of them while prying her mouth open to put in a few drops of mutt anti-anxiety meds, a week back. The vet isn’t worried about malignancy, but she wants them excised, so Lexi gets to visit anesthesia land next month, and is going to have her teeth cleaned in the bargain. Note: I don’t think Lexi is going to regard this as a bargain in any sense of the word.

*      *      *

The commutes around here are always … I’l be honest, I’ve got a great commute: 22 minutes when it’s great, and a bit over 30 when I miss a couple of lights. But even with my lovely, mostly back road drive, there are a couple of choke points, and choke points are known for bringing out the special drivers:

 

Special driver, wrong side, on-coming traffic. 'nuff said.

Special driver, wrong side…

*      *      *

Yesterday, I spent the day painting at the Annapolis Shakespeare theatre, helping to make the public spaces prettier. It’s mostly down to trim now, with a couple of walls needing a second coat of the field color.  I brought the box office window doors home to trim them down a bit – they were perfectly sized for their openings … before paint was applied to all the surfaces. This morning, after early remote work at the office and shopping, I went back to the theater, installed the box window doors, sanded and painted out a couple of ventilation grates, and prepared for some future work. Then back home to do more remote work, roast coffee, walk the dog, etc. A productive weekend, IMO.

Theatre note: there are 5 more weeks of The Miser playing Tuesdays at Reynold’s Tavern, and Comedy of Errors previews starting on September 28, and officially opens with the third production the following night. It’s set in 1890’s steam punk London. So, so looking forward to this.

*      *      *

Our condolences to the family and friends of Chief Warrant Officer 3 Taylor J. Galvin, 34, from Spokane, Washington, who died on Aug. 20, 2018, in Baghdad, Iraq, as a result of injuries sustained when his helicopter crashed in Sinjar, Ninevah Province, Iraq.