Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Music: The Garden of Earthly Delights & World On Fire

courtesy of Apocalypse Orchestra:

This is the kind of stuff I listen to when I'm writing -- not always, but often.

If that didn't quite do it for you, maybe try Les Frictions with World On Fire?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Unattributed Quote That's Currently On my Mind

"I ask for so little. Just fear me, love me, do as I say... and I will be your slave."

Yeah.

Go ahead.

Unpack that one.

(It's not really unattributed, of course. If you don't recognize it -- and I'd bet most of you do -- then a quick search on Google or even YouTube will give you the source.)

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Boys, the Sea, and the Little Fishes

So, I've been reading Terry Pratchett's The Sea And The Little Fishes to the boys at bedtime.

Secondborn really enjoys it. He's seven, and he likes being read to sleep. I think it's partly just having the sound of words all around him -- he's an intensely auditory child -- and partly knowing that there's nothing happening without him, that everything important that's happening is happening right there on his bed. But he'll listen to me read and pass out in, I don't know, ten or fifteen minutes. Left on his own, by contrast, he can easily take an hour or more to fall asleep.

Firstborn, of course, gets it in some ways that his younger brother doesn't yet. He's ten, and cultivating his own deadpan, sardonic approach to humor.

So I'm reading along in the story, and I get to this part:
Letice had what Nanny thought of as a deliberate walk. It had been wrong to judge her by the floppy jowls and the overfussy hair and the silly way she waggled her hands as she talked. She was a witch, after all. Scratch any witch and…well, you’d be facing a witch you’d just scratched.
At this point I notice that Secondborn has fallen asleep, so I stop there and close the book.

Firstborn looks over at me from the top bunk. "Scratch any witch, and you'd be facing a witch you'd just scratched," he repeats. Then he adds: "Probably as a chicken. Or a frog."

Yup. This one's coming along nicely.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Real Work Conversations: Under Warranty?

Me:
Can you tell if by any miraculous chance, the iPad with Serial # XXXXXXXXXXXX is still under warranty?

Apple Store:
Coverage has run out on this item. Is there an issue we can help with?

Me (knowing that it's an iPad 4 that was bought back in 2013 or thereabouts):
I am wholly, entirely, completely, utterly, and in all other ways unsurprised by that, but thank you for checking.

There isn't what I'd call an issue. I think the only thing that can be done for the device at this point is to give it a decent burial, and (after a suitable period of mourning) replace it with something less... mangled.

Apple Store:
I’m so sorry that is happening. Please let us know if you need anything else as we are here to help always.

Me:
It's okay. I have it on good authority that iPad brought this terrible fate on itself through a life of reckless extravagance and poor moral judgement. It seems inevitable that it would have come to such a bad end.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Conjuration in the Real World

I realize that most people don't believe in magic, or at least think they don't; to convince you that it's real, I'd like to present you with a spell I cast successfully just this past weekend:

Me: {admiring nice, clean, shiny car}
Me: "Yep, sure is a good thing I got the car washed."
The Sky: {Rumbles Ominously}
The Sky: {Loud Crack of Thunder}
The Sky: {Begins Raining}

Monday, May 22, 2017

Friday, May 19, 2017

Financial Transparency in Municipal Government

Heh. You ready for another personal theory? Here goes:

The biggest bar to financial transparency for a municipal government isn't the desire to keep the public (or even the self-appointed watchdogs thereamong) from knowing what their employees make. Government employees -- especially at the city and county level -- really don't make that much.

No, the biggest bar to financial transparency for a municipal government is the desire to keep the employees from knowing what the other employees are making.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Real Work Conversations: Not even The Shadow knows...

Co-worker: "So, why are we doing this, exactly?"

Other Co-worker: "Not even The Shadow knows."

Me: "To be fair, The Shadow only knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men. The IT Strategic Plan is much more confusing than that."

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Monologue from the isolated cabin where my college friends and I are having a party

I'd be a big help in a horror movie. It comes of sending out helpdesk emails.

"Okay, look. Just... try not to get too drunk. That creepy guy with the axe is still out there in the woods. I know the cabin's secure and nobody's been murdered yet, but we all know it's coming, right? Just take precautions. That's all I'm saying."

Monday, May 15, 2017

Reading Suggestions

Some stories for you to enjoy and/or explore (preferably at home - I make no promises that any of these are safe to read at work, or in front of elderly or impressionable family members).

Sun, Moon, Dust
They Will Take You From You
Say, She Toy (Big Time Trigger Warnings on this one, folks.)

Friday, May 12, 2017

Another Odd Memory

My mother once told me that when I was much, much younger - in my first decade of life, though she didn't phrase it that way - that she used to arrange for me to have a friend over. Now, this friend was almost exactly my age; he was the son of my Godmother, one of my mom's oldest and closest friends, and was born just barely over a month before I was. Both of us were oldest siblings in our families, too.

So it helps, I think, to remember that this is someone I grew up with.

Anyway apparently my mom would set up these afternoons for Childhood Friend to come over and play with me. And he'd come over, and we'd play... for a while. Then I'd get tired of him, and go off to play by myself. Apparently he would then go and complaint to my mom that I wouldn't play with him, and she'd explain that there wasn't much she could do about that, and... I don't know. I don't know what the next step was, whether she would give him something to do or send him back to find something to play with on his own, or what. Maybe she'd just call his parents and tell them it was time to come pick him up?

Like I said, I don't know.

But this kid would come over to play, and we'd play, and then after a while I was done interacting and I'd go play by myself.

I think that really tells you all you need to know about what I was like as a kid.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Vital Importance Of Kettle Corn

So I pick up the boys and bring them home, while the Beautiful Wife arranges to pick up pizza and catch us up there. Since I'm not sure how long this will take and when we'll actually I have food, I hand each of the boys a plate with some Kettle Corn on it.

"Since I'm not sure when Mommy will get here with the pizza, here's some kettle corn to hold you over," I tell them.

"...And this is why I love growing up in this family," Firstborn tells me.

Secondborn then takes his plate out into the back yard with him. He returns a few minutes later with the empty plate.

"Can I have some more?" he asks.

"No," I tell him. "Not unless you were attacked by a flock of crows who ate all the kettle corn off your plate."

"Oh," he says. "Yes. That's exactly what happened."

"My goodness!" I exclaim.

He turns back to look at me. "No, I'm kidding!"

I give him an extra handful of kettle corn anyway, after explaining that his answer was hilarious.

Then the Beautiful Wife arrives, and we all sit around eating pizza and discussing tardigrades.

Monday, May 8, 2017

When Daddy Sings, The Whole World Cringes

Me, in the car, singing loudly:
I came in like a Taco Bell
I ate and I don't feel so well
The grease has gone into my gut
Things soon will come out of my butt

Beautiful Wife: "Did you hear that somewhere, or did you come up with those lyrics yourself."

Me: "I came up with them myself."

Beautiful Wife: "I'm so proud."

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Movies

Okay, how can I watch Guardians of the Galaxy and the opening is fine, but I watch Spring and the dude losing his mom in the first three minutes utterly wrecks me?

I know I'm late to the party, but it's actually a really good movie - part romance, part horror, part science fiction. If you haven't seen it yet, see it. Whatever you think it is, it won't be what you expect.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Ash Knight Scene 4

It was just past dawn when someone knocked on his door. Edrin had been readying himself to sleep, but he'd half-expected some sort of interruption and hadn't settled in yet.

"Yes?" He opened the the door a crack, found the custodian looking in at him, and opened it the rest of the way.

"Two men tried to break into my rooms last night," the custodian said without preamble. "I need to know if you stopped them." He looked at Edrin, swallowed, then added: "I won't speak of it. But I need to know, for my own mind."

Edrin shrugged and stepped back. "Yes," he said. "You told me it doesn't happen here. If I have my say, it doesn't happen here."

"They belonged to the Plague Dogs," the custodian said, crossing to one of the bare wooden stools that had come with the room. He seated himself upon it, then turned to face Edrin again. His face was pale, and there were dark circles under his eyes. "They would have taken the rents, everything I need to keep this building in even this poor repair, and everything I owe to its proper owner."

Edrin spent a moment considering that. This was supposed to be a hiding place while he tormented the church in hope of reforming it, but that didn't mean he could ignore what went on here. "The Plague Dogs are a problem? Or will be, now?"

"If you are what I think you are," said the custodian carefully, "I don't want to know. Better they think the building is haunted -- and from the sound of them, they do. But that won't keep them from looking, or from seeking some sort of revenge."

Edrin nodded. "You sent those two back?"

The custodian nodded. "Naturally. Two men, injured in my building and calling for their friends? Of course I helped them."

"Tell me about the Plague Dogs," Edrin said quietly. "Tell me where to find them."

Thursday, May 4, 2017

A Theory on Teams

I have a hypothesis. I'm not sure exactly when I started developing it (or when it went from a sneaking, subliminal suspicion to an actual hypothesis), but over the years I've come to believe more and more strongly that it's true.

It seems to me that any time you have a good, solid, working organization, there are one or two core people who are holding the whole thing together. As long those one or two people are involved, the team will hold together even if other members come and go (though there's also likely to be less turnover as long as that key person/those key people are in place).

Now, so far that doesn't sound like much of a revelation. In fact, it sounds like the opening line from any number of Business Leadership books and articles.

The thing is, the key people for any given team -- and this can be a company, a department, a church... almost anything, really, as long as it has some organization and some goals. The thing is, the key people for any given team aren't necessarily the ones in charge. They can be, but they don't have to be. They can be the ones who make the consistent good suggestions for how something should work, or the ones who help other people explain what they're trying to do so everyone understands it. They can be the ones who have a solid vision for what they're trying to do and how best to get there (which is usually, but not always, the formal leadership). Sometimes they're just the person who follows up and keeps track and makes sure everything gets done.

This is how you can change out a CEO without much changing the way a business works, but lose the head designer for the same company and have the whole business ready to collapse within a year. This is how you can have someone apparently innocuous retire (a good, solid employee, but nothing special) and end up having to hire two or three or four people to take over their duties. And this is how having one person leave can make an entire team completely dissolve.

It's not leadership, exactly; or at least, it isn't always what people think of as leadership, or identify as leadership. But in a lot of ways, it's actually more important.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Music: Darkness

Music by Theodor Bastard. Animation by Icepick Lodge.

I'm going to have to find more of their music. It's all over the place, but a lot of it seems to kind of... land in my sweet spot.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Monday, May 1, 2017

Ash Knight, Scene 3

Edrin had taken a room in one of the tenements in the Sink, where the Watch never patrolled and he would be hidden from the attention of the High Church. Only the poorest and most desperate lived here; only the Gardeners and a handful of actual priests ministered to them.

The Sink had grown up in the lowlands west of the docks and the warehouse district. Only the main streets were cobbled, and even those were in poor repair. The smaller streets and alleys were dirt, or more frequently mud, and in the spring the whole district would flood with runoff from the river. The pervasive scent of mildew was occasionally buried by the smell of smoke, rotting garbage, or human waste; the area was home to more rats, snakes, and feral cats than people.

Edrin slipped in through the narrow doorway, and made his way down the dirty hallway to the tiny wooden stairwell. When he'd first taken a room here, the custodian -- a big, burly man whose sharp eyes belied his rough looks, ragged clothing, and broken teeth -- had looked him over carefully and then said: "This is a lawful building, you understand? You fight, you steal, you cause trouble, you do that somewhere else. You don't bring the Watch here, you don't bother the other tenants, and you pay on time." Edrin had nodded and agreed; he had no intention of causing trouble here. These people had enough of their own.

So when he came around the corner and found the two men in front of the custodian's door, one of them kneeling as he wiggled a lifter between the frame and the edge of the door, the other standing over the mostly-hooded lantern and watching him work, Edrin's flare of outrage was immediate and overwhelming. He wasn't carrying a light; by reflex, he'd used the small blessing that allowed him to see in the dark, so the two men didn't see him immediately. So he kept walking, whispering another quick blessing to keep his steps silent on the creaky wooden floor. A third blessing, exhaled just at the threshold of audibility, snuffed out their lamp.

There was no other light in the hallway. The two would-be thieves never knew what hit them. By the time the custodian lifted the bar and opened the door, a length of axe handle clutched in one hand, Edrin was gone.