Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I'm not about to share my resolutions for 2010 with you, internet.
I've seen your capacity to mock a person's stunning failures. Hell, I've frequently participated in mocking a failure, myself. You'll be getting no such ammunition from me.
What I will do is analyze my resolutions from last year and compare them with the results so far. I do still have a day or so to finish up everything.
I was going to lose some weight. My fast food diet from my initial solo move to South Carolina had me seriously considering purchasing the domain name
Status: Done
I'm going to hold off on that domain name purchase for a while.
I intended to reduce my gaming time and spend more time reading.
Status: Also done
I canceled World of Warcraft (holy crap I miss it sometimes like digital crack) and tear through whole series of paperbacks at a rate which has me combing multiple bookstores every week to keep up.
I was going to learn the guitar.
Status: Incomplete
I made it through about fifteen minutes of the "How to Play the Guitar" DVD before becoming frustrated beyond capacity at the entire tuning process. However, I want to stress that I still have about a day to make it through Stairway to Heaven before I put a check mark in the "FAIL" column.
Unfortunately, Stairway to Heaven is about eighteen hours long.
Making the house (which I pretty much bought just for the location) habitable was also on the list.
Status: A nice try. I actually have a check box for that. Effort is key.
We painted. We painted several times, actually, and then hired people to paint correctly.
We moved furniture around. We worked on the decaying deck. We relocated Gwynyth to the guest suite and set up an office and studio in other rooms. We replaced appliances and bought about a million candles. We added cabinet space to the kitchen.
Overall, the net effect is not unpleasant.
I have not yet found a local retailer for a solid gold toilet, and South Carolina has really squirrelly laws about sales taxes on out-of-state everythings, so the gold spray paint is going to just have to learn to stick better to ceramic for now.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

2009 . . .

Well, what did we expect, anyway?
Looking back, 2009 was everything our first year since 1993 as a culture without Zima should have been.
However, looking back is about the only comfortable vantage on 2009, so bear with me for a post while I do that.
As cold winds ushered in a bleary start to 2009, I was enjoying month seven of a five month long contract in South Carolina.
That math is what we consultant-types like to call "Contractor Math". While I've honestly never had a use for any of the Algebra 2 information (of which 71% helped me graduate High School, to be fair), contractor math is a representation of the real numbers behind imagined results. It is a way of loosely encapsulating the actions required to fulfill a need, real or imagined, which can only be satisfied by hiring extra people.
These types of projects often have definite end-dates but nebulous results. To further complicate the math, often one of the first jobs assigned to the newly-hired consultant is defining the end result of the effort.
During the course of the project itself, more and more responsibilities are handed over to the temporary consultant, who watches his contract end date come and go like any other day.
Eventually, either boredom or greener pastures prevent the consultant to from accepting a full-time position.
That really is the story for 2009, and in fact the story of the entire aughts decade.
I've been riding the consultant wave for over ten years from place to place, solving problems, uncovering bigger problems, pointing and laughing at unsolvable problems, and splashing off to the next desk with a paper sign with my name on it.
In the spring of this year, having decided to paint the house to our liking and settle in to allow Gwynyth to finish school in the decent system we'd found for her, everything went to hell at work.
Hours were cut for everyone, leaving all the consultants, to whom hours are the only source of income, in a precarious situation.
No overtime? No reason to work through lunch?
Coupled with our lousy contract health insurance, I had little choice to but to seek employment elsewhere.
Then summer happened, early July specifically.
I'm not going to detail a lot of that, but summer sucked.
I consider it a bit like an emotional disemboweling followed by recovery process hindered by the regular application of rock salt to the wound.
In spite of this, I am recovering, and was able to apply for work again with a reasonable chance of making it through a phone interview without crying by September.
So I started the consultant math over again at a new place at the end of that month.
I've gone from one of the largest health insurance providers to one of the largest banks in the country, but from my view both places (and all places) make the widgets which drive our national economy.
And pay my mortgage in exchange.
I'm ready to put 2009 behind me, to learn and to grow and to move on.
2010 will be better.
2010 will be better.
2010 will be better.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Treasured Memories

Basically, the Alvin and the Chipmunks franchise has been re-imagined. Like they rebooted Batman from nippled-batsuits to Christian Bale killing ninjas and we all get to pretend the bad things never happened.
Except we are talking about chipmunks.
And not talking about the chipmunks that were, in favor of only believing the new, canon, CGI chipmunks that are is, I am certain, comfortable.
I'll confess I haven't seen the newer version.
This is good for any number of reasons better documented by film critics, but bad because it dredges up the old series for me without a new vision to cover it back up again.
I may have to see it.
There was a Saturday morning cartoon in the 80s. I remember it in flashes, like a nightmare.
Correct me if I'm wrong in this:
The chipmunks themselves are basically the Jonas Brothers but, you know, rodents.
They make a ton of money for their record label in the days before music piracy and have been assigned a "handler". David Seville, this poor bastard, has to look out for their well-being between concerts and studio sessions where they cover pop hits of the era in shrill squeeky fashion.
In the 80s cartoon, Dave was softened, nicer, more concerned with the chipmunk's development and emotional well-being.
Also, there was a rival band of girl chipmunks who were basically the regular chipmunks in drag.
There is very little obvious sexual dimorphism in rodentia. So little, in fact, that the addition of lipstick is about all it takes to completely swap gender.
Anyway, while 80s Dave was concerned with life-lessons and (I assume) making sure the chipmunks eat enough fiber to keep their ever-growing incisors from jacking up their singing voices, he sometimes became exasperated with his charges.
He would yell.
This pales in comparison to the original version from the late 50s and early 60s, where Dave yelled a lot more.
And it isn't like Alvin was just a child. He was a child and a wild animal with no real reason to know anything about human society and the rules being thrust upon him and his musically-gifted siblings.
I remember, as a child, considering the very real possibility that Dave was abusive. And I assumed he drank, though I can't seem to come up with any concrete evidence of that.
These are the impressions I was left with of the whole David Seville/Alvin relationship.
I'm hoping they cleaned that up a lot before flinging it at another group of children.

I guess, most of all, what I'm trying to say is that during an average workday, I'm not thinking about actual work 100% of the time.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Pretty Geeky Gift Guide

As a people, geeks are not easy to shop for.
We are individuals, sure, but one of the defining qualities of geekhood is a factor of obsession.
In this facet, it doesn't matter if the individual is actively working in technology, accounting, or professionally teaching martial arts - His or her obsession unites the individual into geekdom. We embrace the obsessed individual, and we silently weep for those who have to buy them gifts.
I want to help, because another identifying factor in being a geek is a fundamental inability to express ourselves.
For years, I've watched my family labor over this obstacle. There are tons of geeky options out there to confuse the gift-giver. You will have to, at some point, identify your strain of geek. This is key to selecting a proper gift. You wouldn't want to give a replica TARDIS USB hub to someone who isn't a Dr. Who fan. Unfortunately, this will mean you'll need to let down your carefully constructed audio filters for a couple of minutes until you hear a common thread. Once you've identified them, I've got you covered:

Star Wars Geek:
The "Impossible Shot" t-shirt is made of a blend of cotton and win. It features a classic image, an almost inside joke, and absolutely no reference to the newer trilogy.
You absolutely cannot go wrong with a Boba Fett Hoodie. You'll know if your geek has one already, because you will never have seen him not wearing it.
Tauntaun sleeping bag. No description can do that justice.
Fanboys is a movie which can probably only fully be enjoyed by Star Wars nerds, though there is some bleed-over enjoyment for Trek people.

Speaking of Trekkers:
A classic replica phaser is always going to be appreciated. Easy to wrap, difficult to identify, endlessly amusing due to the lights and sounds it produces.
If you are more concerned with pleasant sounds, I must recommend Brent Spiner's CD. It's unfortunately a collectible now, but your geek will be amazed to hear Commander Data's Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart, I promise.

Firefly Fans/Joss Whedon acolytes:
Your browncoat set would absolutely love a custom-built replica Serenity. They've had their favorite show jerked out from under them after 13 episodes. They deserve this.
Or you can give them a few extra episodes with a graphic novel.
Just be careful with your geek. They've been hurt before and are likely to be a touch emotionally fragile.

Architecture Nerds:
Wow. Anyone buying for these people has been screwed for a while, huh?
Luckily, Lego has you covered this year. Lego Guggenheim? I think so, yes.

Battlestar Gallactica:
How about a vintage-style propaganda poster? Or, if you'd rather a more containable, less displayable gift, consider Marion Call's Firefly/BSG tribute CD.

Dungeons and Dragons Geeks:
You can't go far wrong with a dark t-shirt, honestly. A nice set of chrome dice would also rock, loudly, and late into the night. An Order of the Stick graphic novel is another solid choice. The one in the link contains strips never seen online.

Zombie Geeks:
Monster Island is a great read, as is World War Z. If you are willing to participate, the Zombies game is fun, for serious.

If you are stumped for identification, or your geek is particularly afflicted with a wide variety of obsessions, consider an elephant-squid messenger bag, a t-shirt crossing genres spectacularly, or one that detects WiFi signals.
The choices are out there. Don't stress.
Another defining characteristic we share is that geeks are going to appreciate your effort in this. The big thrill will definitely be that you took the time to listen, even for a few seconds, while we blathered about something completely meaningless to most.