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these fragments i have shored against my ruins

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Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014
3:27 pm - pulsanti operietur: to him who knocks it shall be opened

Dunkin Donuts has (re)released a Southwest Steak Burrito.  I'm doomed, I tell you.  Doomed.

Finishing the exodus-from-Chelmsford move.  (Carpet replacement is the last big task on the list.)  I have newfound appreciation for my convertible, which, in a pinch, doubles as a pseudo-pickup-truck.  I installed CentOS 7 on a couple of machines (it's decent, save for one or two font-corruption issues);  I have the (temporary) new residence set up entirely with wireless laptops (no cables, no towers);  I cobbled together a home printing solution with a 7-yr-old Samsung CLP300, a 5-yr-old Dell Inspiron Mini, 32-bit Ubuntu 14.04, and the open-source "foo2zjs" drivers.  I have improved my shaving technique (use good gel, cut against-the-grain, a little more gel, cut east-west cleanup).  I landed a name-your-own-price startup job offer (which I find flattering, but will probably decline).  I am whimsically eyeing a 450-sq-ft yurt on one-third of an acre abutting the East Cascade River (listed for $25K).  I have, like, twenty-five blueberry flavored NutriGrain bars stockpiled in my office, because no one else in my family will eat them.

        -- Havoc.  Faux-gangstas stray into barrio criminal life.  Quasi Boyz in da Hood.
        -- Hunger Games II.  Decent film adaptation.  Previous one was slightly better.
        -- Kings of Summer.  Modern Huckleberry Finn story with Ron-Swanson wit.  B+
        -- Love + Other Drugs.  Wicked Jerry Maguire pharma satire posing as rom-com.

A few words about 'fear' and 'compulsion' today.  I think back to my high-school graduation.  My classmates were celebratory, exuberant, looking forward to their great post-scholastic adventures, but I recall a vague sense of dread, this melodramatic don't-wanna-let-go Curt from American Graffiti malaise.  And, though (I like to think) I've grown somewhat in the intervening quarter-century, I have a lot of these little nagging concerns:  I can't discard this irksome excessively-grainy 4H pencil because I need to use it down to the nub, I feel guilty about the "third choice" items in my life (e.g., linguine with clam sauce, or my overstuffed Navajo-print easy chair), which I like just fine but never seem to enjoy because I like one or two other selections 'better,' I get bad-parent shivers when my little boy asks why I never go to the (swimming-teacher's) pool with him, when my daughter plinks out her piano lessons on an instrument with three broken keys, or asks me not to yell at her so much.  This stuff can drive you crazy.

Feeling a bit adrift.  Not grounded, maybe.  Gotta (re)establish some familiar comforting ties.

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Monday, July 14th, 2014
12:02 pm - the strongest of all warriors are these two: time and patience

New (interim) commute runs ~30 miles and 50+ minutes.  Trying to make the best of it.

Lots of hard labor with (relatively) little tangible output (as yet).  The packing and moving routine is getting old;  I am exhausted and parched much of the time, sore in my calves and quads, have this strange hot sandy feeling like my eyeballs are lightly roasting.  (Too much sun?)  I suppose this is what arid-climate farmers must feel like, pizza chefs, road-paving crews.  You resign yourself to an in-between state, living in a place that is neither "where you were" nor "where you're going."  At the same time, you realize how much one surrounds oneself with needlessly, just how little one truly requires to be "home," to be "happy."  I like D&D 5th Edition, but question the need for a new release (and expensive book-set) in light of its similarity to 2E/3E;  I was summoned for juror service (for the third or fourth time in my life), but was not (have never been) impaneled or seated;  I gave up on a handful of TV series which, in my opinion, ceased to satisfy months (seasons) ago.  Need to do more of that in other segments of my life.

        -- Amazing Spider-Man II.  Cardboard villains, zero plot.  Franchise jumps the shark.
        -- Edge of TomorrowStarship Troopers meets Groundhog Day.  A decent, fun flick.
        -- Expendables II.  93 minutes of bullets, brawling + bad one-liners.  Arnie is funny.
        -- Halt + Catch Fire.  Thinly veiled 1983 Wozniak-Jobs parallel, Mad Men flavor.  A-
        -- Lamb.  Irreverent 'fifth gospel' per Jesus' best friend.  Clever Good Omens humor.

Miscellaneous (inter)personal observations.  Ulrika is now taking piano lessons, and delights in the treble/bass clef mnemonics "Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge" and "Girls Bake Delicious Fudge Always."  Lars has developed an endearing fascination with Bob Dylan's "Mister Tambourine Man," most particularly the magic-trip lyrics, and asks me to play/sing it with him, which fills me with unexpected paternal pride.  I appreciate the meticulous, worrisome care exhibited by my new tattoo artist (vaguely John-Denver-turned-Spinal-Tap-bassist), who uses Mennen Speed Stick instead of watered-down Detol ("easier to wipe the stencil off if I screw up"), composes little nonsensical nursery-rhymes on the fly so as to get the runes in their correct order ("torch, line, chicken-foot, line").  Stands in stark contrast to my fellow Mason-officers, who are absentee stewards, go-with-the-flow single dads, noncommittal, terminally unfocused.  Do I harbor unrealistic expectations?  Am I blind to my own failings?  It takes all kinds.

I call it a win when I can fulfill three errands in a single trip.  Gotta savor those small victories.

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Sunday, July 6th, 2014
12:59 am - a flawed diamond is worth more than a flawless lump of coal

My old pal Jamie dredged up this piece of 1980s cinéma vérité.  Spielbergs we were not.

Though I dislike these periods of transition, the greater plan is now, truly, starting to take shape.  Ginger is packing up the house in preparation for listing, sale, and (same-corner-of-Massachusetts) relocation.  (I have been plotting out 15-to-20 mile compass arcs surrounding various locations, likely workplace(s), Masonic lodge(s), metropolitan amenities.)  We received some invaluable assistance beautifying the deck, stairs, and surrounding siding.  (Words cannot express my gratitude to Mom + Dad for same.)  I salvaged a handful of polo shirts from my (towering) French-Canadian uncle's wardrobe;  I was invited to join Caleb Butler's officer ranks (as 'alternate steward') for the 2014-2015 lineup;  I had four runic rows (including two Odin-stanzas and a medieval svefnthorn) added to my left armband (and can now confirm that elbow-crease needling trumps armpit-needling).  I overheard a whispered exchange between my children, during the course of which Lars snapped "That's a crazy idea."  These bits of hilarity keep me going.

        -- DominionProphecy angels, post-apocalyptic city, bad CGI, bad script.  Avoid it.
        -- Fall of Sam Axe.  Overly-campy Bruce Campbell.  The weak parts of Burn Notice.
        -- In Bruges.  Two hitmen in Belgium botch a job.  Black comedy, surprisingly deep.
        -- Killing Them Softly.  Two Eddie-Coyle era mob murders.  Pulp-Fiction-esque.  B+
        -- Princess and the Queen.  Targaryens kill Targaryens;  dragons as nuclear option.

I tried one final job interview with TJX (met with gaping "uhh..." responses every time I offered 'layered security' approaches or 'how do you handle risk' questions).  Soon after that, I was commissioned by my venture-capital buddies to assess the technical merits of a "cyber command" prototype.  (I found it quite challenging to diplomatically phrase 'empty framework,' 'pretty GUI atop nothing,' and 'tap-dancing showmanship.'  Probably this disqualified me from the juicy executive position linked to same.)  This leaves me with the full-time offer from Progress Software, which, when all's said and done, works out to be $10K or $20K more than even the big Boston hedge-fund.  I am, of course, gratified by this windfall, but it makes me think about other formative right-time-right-place junctures in my past:  the girl who mis-sent me a salacious text message, sparking a (fiery but short-lived) relationship, the dot-com manager who saw our common past employer and hired me simply "to steal talent from those guys."  Scott Adams (Dilbert creator) cites one of these events (a local editor's death and successor) as single-handedly fueling his success.  Could that be all there is to it?  Sobering.

I see how many people 'pose' and 'preen,' but do not 'know.'  It astounds me.  Disgusts me.

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Friday, June 27th, 2014
2:28 am - the sea is wet, the sun is warm, and the menagerie hates the mastiff

Useful travel tip:  tuck a handful of allergy-meds into the inner folds of your wallet, just in case.

Back from a four-day weekend along the California coast.  Highlights included a (Vanoni) family wedding, diversions to Malibu Beach and Ventura Harbor (boat-cruise tour), a day-trip up to the Ojai Valley to rendezvous with maternal relatives (one a fervent ornithologist), and the obligatory Disney stop (Little Mermaid, Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Tours, Tow Mader teacup-rides, the cross-park train loop, a surprisingly-good musical revue).  Vacationing is an all-or-nothing deal for me;  I get fixated on the "blue time" (spent productively, doing, learning, seeing), and get really frustrated with "red time" (sitting, stalling, waiting).  Gotta find a way to deal with that.  I assembled (and put to good use) a four-step primer concerning emergency travel hygiene.

        -- Her.  Brilliant Electric Dreams treatise on technology, distance, relationships.  A+
        -- Kushiel's Chosen.  Courtesan-cum-spy intrigue;  slow, Guy-Gavriel-Kay romantic.
        -- Penny Dreadful.  An even-more-Gothic League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  A-/B+
        -- Stoker.  Hitchcock-suspense;  a family with murderous secrets.  Beautifully filmed.

Devoting much of my remaining time to various analyses.  (Control-freak habit.) I mapped out my recent job offers and tried to fit a cubic function curve to the compensation data.  I found a decent shaving-cream set (Aveeno, Pacific, Proraso), but decided against making the old-school safety razor switch.  I used a few resources (including to collate password-cracking (rainbow-table) times as justification for my newly-published corporate policy.  I was (unwittingly) helped by Google marketing (59 minutes after browsing for 'picture framing,' I received a LivingSocial coupon for just that).  I made out handsomely (via eBay) by simply waiting a few days ("okay, we'll pay for your postage").  All this newfangled technology might just pay off.

I'm not going to sit back and coast.  I will continue to learn and grow.  But on my own terms.

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Wednesday, June 18th, 2014
2:53 pm - can wisdom be put in a silver rod? or love in a golden bowl?

OCD Tidbit #172:  I ration out my car's AC in twelve-minute bursts, so as to conserve fuel.

Fun protracted Father's Day celebration(s).  A steak-tip and burger barbecue, featuring Ryan's homemade dill-garlic and chive cheeses;  sushi and spirits with Mssrs. Dziengeleski and Luchini;  a gift-certificate to Bamboo (thanks, Mom and Dad) and a very tasty yuk-gae-jang soup from Arisu (thanks, Stephanie).  Took the extended family downtown to see Cirque du Soleil Amaluna (middle-of-the-road, better than Ovo or Totem, but not Quidam or Varekai, strong Tempest Caliban-Ferdinand-Miranda imagery).  It was the kids' first time.  (No fewer than four costumed performers stopped by to talk to them.  Their eyes-ablaze wonder was really something to behold.)  As if those weren't enough, I had my Masonic diploma framed (blue-silver), replenished my Ardbeg Uigeadail, and picked up a set of whiskey stones by way of impromptu self-gifts.  Having a damn good time in the here and now.

        -- Arrow.  More Dark Knight than Robin Hood.  Surprisingly grim.  Rates B-minus?
        -- Cirque du Soleil:  Worlds Away.  Clip show.  Good sampler of the Vegas acts.
        -- Don Jon.  Decent.  Less about 'porn,' more the idealized lifestyle, relationship(s).
        -- The Lords of Salem.  Lots of Blair Witch + Rosemary's Baby here.  Impressive.

Launching into a (small) number of do-it-yourself projects through these final few weeks of workplace-lull.  (One such effort involves next-direction strategy briefings and discussions with a couple of execs concerning "the [broader organizational] future of my role.")  I procured a 48" baker's rack for future 'mini-data-center' office computer shelving.  I tinkered with a handful of razor-and-cream combinations (to help my bumps/rash situation), and found a coconut/tea-tree blend that seems to do the job.  I brought my twelve-year-old (21", 600x800 only) Batesias television into the office, where it serves a bright/sharp third monitor.  I find myself clinging to these things, my creamy-crunchy Comte, fruity-peppery Miyagikyo, specialty shaving gel(s), and sundry other familiar tokens, as everything gets boxed up for the impending house sale, interim relocation, and ultimate relocation.

Lots of change.  A great many unknowns.  Important to stay centered in the midst of upheaval.

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Wednesday, June 11th, 2014
1:35 pm - perhaps to yield to happiness was to accept defeat, but it was a defeat better than many victories

Turns out the Game of Thrones DVD commentaries are... not very good.  (Disappointing.)

Gradually building a strong foundation for future endeavors and extensions.  Had a low-key celebration for Mom's birthday this year (kayaking, lobster rolls, sushi).  Got Gin Cirque du Soleil tickets and a new (gently-used) Samsung Galaxy S3 for her own 39th orbit round the sun.  Visited the Cathedral of the Pines (with a throng of hepcats and hot-rodders) to commemorate my brother's passing.  (I miss Torr terribly, but I see reminders of him everywhere, especially amidst the people and pursuits he loved.)  I picked up a bunch of mail-order Dorco razors (mostly satisfied with their ~85% of Gillette performance at ~40% of Gillette price).  I have averaged 41 hours per workweek since February, and hit an all-time high paycheck (day-job plus moonlighting) in early June.  I keep twenty-six pencils in a jar on my desk, and thirteen pairs of shoes in my closet.  (Seems a bit excessive.)

        -- 12 Yrs a Slave.  Poignant, but the best parts are the white plantation-owners.
        -- Crossbones.  Malkovich is predictably great as Blackbeard;  the rest is so-so.
        -- Hemlock Grove.  Strange Dark-Shadows-Twin-Peaks mashup.  Campy, rambles.
        -- Phantom.  Loose retread of K-129 sub incident.  This story has been overdone.
        -- The Last Stand.  Schwarzenegger's take on CopLand.  Decent action B-movie.
        -- X-Men:  Future Past.  Clever, innovative adaptation of the classic Sentinel arc.

Ulrika lost (yet) a(nother) tooth (getting a quasi-jack-o-lantern look), and Lars performed (received an award for) his gymnastics recital.  This is one of the most rewarding bits of parenthood, seeing (and (re)living) the first time he brandishes an athletic trophy skyward, the first time she finds a gold coin beneath her pillow, the first time(s) they jump and scream with excitement watching a film or play or stage-performance.  Something simple and powerful about cherishing the experience.  I know a thirtysomething colleague who lives his life in direct superficial obsessive opposition to this, only applies for executive titles, drinks 91-rated whiskey, eats Wagyu steaks.  Indeed, I was like this myself once.  But I'm not now.  Not depressed, not gone to seed, just muted somehow.  Like I don't care so much anymore, like the years have rubbed it out of me.  Maybe there's some hard-won wisdom there.

I am trying to be a 'better' person.  I am trying to lead a 'better' life.

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Wednesday, June 4th, 2014
2:29 pm - in the dark, the town is yours, and you are the town's; together you sleep like stones in the field

Sir Kevan's speech in defense of Tywin Lannister is one of my very favorite passages.

Perhaps what I once found "slow" and "boring" I now term "a difference in focus."  We had a delicious scallops-and-soft-shell-crabs celebration at Belle's Bistro for Ginger's 39th birthday.  We took the kids for a romp through the Carlisle State Forest, walked past a pair of wild lady-slippers, and, while returning on the Woodchuck Trail, found a set of car-keys lying in the dirt.  (Hard to know the right course of action here.  We left a couple of notes at path-intersections (incl. the parking lot) and brought the keys to the ice-cream stand.)  I tried to run Sprint's Android 4.4 update on my Galaxy S3, and nearly bricked it, but backed out (using TWRP recovery) and installed CyanogenMod 11.  The lady five doors down, who needed help after her 2013 fall, is now using a walker;  I am glad to see her getting around, but it strikes me as a sad peripheral reminder of time's passage and mortality.

        -- Captain America II.  Better than I expected.  Big-data is evil.  Drones are evil.
        -- Dallas Buyers Club.  Very nearly a Philadelphia remake.  Big pharma is evil.
        -- Now You See Me.  Fun Keyser Soze re-do as magician-heist.  Flawed script.
        -- Transcendence.  Amazing AI-singularity nano-tech premise.  Its plot falls flat.

More tedious suburbanite minutiae.  I picked up a couple of old-style grainy mustards.  (One was adequate, but featureless;  the second, product of the Netherlands, was strong, vinegary, and delicious.)  The protective clear tape-strip was starting to peel off my office desk, so I removed it entirely, leaving a vaguely-unpleasant sticky residue right where my forearms and elbows rest.  Lars had his last day of preschool (for at least the summer) Monday, and is becoming a courageous life-explorer, ebullient, full of energy.  Ulrika is 'delicate' and 'refined' in all senses of the word (both good and bad), loves rainbows and unicorns, plans out how she and her school-friend(s) will play on any given afternoon.  I had a disturbing dream where one kid disappeared in a parking lot for an hour and was possibly 'mistreated.'  I took it into my head, during the other's illness, that she had leukemia.  These are in no way factual or rational beliefs -- and I recognize them as such -- but parental vigilance is not without its dark side(s).

I'll say this for the aging process.  I don't get angry or stifled about 'missing out' anymore.

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Tuesday, May 27th, 2014
1:35 pm - funny how falling feels like flying, for a little while

I estimate that switching (from Verizon) to Ting has saved me $600 over seven months.

Various adventures and contrasts as warm pseudo-summer days give way to crisp cool nights.  Joined some friends for a pontoon-boat cruise round Lost Lake (in Groton) with fruity cocktails, greasy Chinese food, highbrow alternative-energy discussions.  Spent Memorial Day weekend in coastal Maine, driving along the Acadian fingers, walking the stony bay shores and beaches, scouting out local eateries for future visitation (Chester Pike's, Christopher's on Eagle Hill, the Salt Box), introducing the family to fire-pits and s'mores.  I am reminded with each trip northward how much I love the sea, a lifelong passion, stronger than just about everything save for my children and my books.  Am sampling various Japanese spirits, Hibiki (astringent, highland floral-honey, odd bite on the back end), Nikka Taketsuru (doughy and malted, approaching barleywine or sake, citrus beneath), Yamazaki (unremarkable, a heavier Glenlivet).  I also finished my bottle of Tullamore Dew, but that was more of a mercy-killing.

        -- Cat's Cradle.  Apocalyptic superweapon, religious cult.  Not Kurt's best.
        -- Charlie Countryman.  Cliche hipster-sees-world.  An artsy Garden State.
        -- Noah.  Adds stone golems + self-doubting fanatic angle.  Above average.
        -- Of Human Bondage.  Bitter boy explores four unsatisfying social niches.
        -- The Sparrow.  Sci-fi retelling of Isaac Jogues' 1642 Jesuit mission.  A/A-

Retraining my attentions to include scholarship, not merely hedonism.  I attended a Littleton lecture on Canaanite archaeology and Semitic tradition (Ark-Tabernacle-Jerusalem stuff, comprehensive and gripping in its presentation);  I helped to (re)configure my father's aging computers into a workable Linux-Win-7 cluster;  I tried to help an unemployed colleague (who asked me for assistance) with his info-security publication, but gave up after the first six or seven "No, that's not right" and "No, I don't agree with that" and "No, that's not what I'm looking for" rebuttals.  Strange synergy with my current workplace situation, where attrition is starting to set in, one or two longtime employees leaving every few weeks.  On the one hand, this is 'good' for me (because it increases the odds that I will be converted to full-time hire following this contract's August conclusion).  On the other, it gives rise to some doubt(s), causes a rational observer to question what is causing the departures.  Trying to watch, learn, and strategize.

I err on the side of being unsure, holding back, not nailing holes in my walls.  Will adjust.

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Thursday, May 15th, 2014
5:07 pm - shake with your right hand, but hold a rock with your left

Sleeping with the window(s) open is glorious and refreshing.  I have missed it sorely.

The weekly regimen is somehow less demanding nowadays.  (I'm not complaining, mind you.)  I have abandoned several TV series which I no longer enjoyed (Community, Revolution, Vampire Diaries, spinoffs).  I dropped my cell-phone on pavement, shattering its screen, but successfully replaced it after some detailed component-level surgery.  (I have since ordered a spare, for use as parts, and/or maybe as a secondary family handset.)  I bought three pairs of khakis on eBay, averaging nine dollars apiece.  I bought a double-handful of generic Gillette razors (grey-market stuff, cosmetically identical, probably from imitator factories), and find them noticeably less smooth, but still acceptable.  I have been bitten by the tattoo bug in earnest, and am trying to self-moderate.  Seems like I'm playing a lot of paladins, lately, hardened warriors, religious zealots.  Just a phase, maybe.

        -- Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.  Teen lost in the woods;  v. Gerald's Game.
        -- Mysterious Egypt.  The first ~55% of this series is valuable docu-history.
        -- Philomena.  Ex-nun seeks the son she gave up.  Very Sophie's Choice.
        -- The Monuments Men.  Semi-farce.  Dirty Dozen meets Ocean's Eleven.
        -- Winter's Tale.  A Constantine-Golden-Compass wreck.  Ruins the book.

Am trying to spend more time in the company of my kids, to bear witness, to bask in the fullness of their life-experience(s) as they learn to ride their fixed-gear bicycles (little guy is a powerhouse), memorize the words to (and history behind) My Country 'Tis of Thee, the Star-Spangled Banner (Daddy, THIS SONG is about a SOLDIER FIGHT at a FORT CASTLE, Daddy THIS SONG has DIFFERENT WORDS in England because of a WAR).  Am also gaining an appreciation for the peculiar pie-slices we call personalities, Trivial Pursuit game-pieces with multi-colored wedges, this one prickly and unfriendly but perfect in a crisis, that one attentive but catty and cutting behind the scenes, this other one affectionate, but capricious, perpetually flitting on to the next pursuit, the next infatuation.  The ones you (think you) know will surprise you.  The ones you dislike will make redeeming gestures.

For years I have cared too much about what others think of me.  But I'm working on it.

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Wednesday, May 7th, 2014
2:28 pm - the talented few harness their dreams and turn them into horses

I feel better on days when I have salad for lunch.  Lighter, perkier, sharper somehow.

Delightful warm-springtime transition.  I am (slowly) winning over my coworkers, stockpiling their votes for some future contract-to-permanent hiring decision:  a spare iPhone for one, a handful of TV episodes for another, some special hobbyist materials for the third guy.  I accompanied Ginger to a wine-tasting party up Everett way.  (Quality bargains:  Frei Brothers, Primal Roots, Rodney Strong.)  I (re)assembled the Goateed Gamer Guys for beers and burgers before proceeding to stogies at Castro's Back Room.  (Turns out Martha's Exchange becomes a dance-club haven for skanky Rivier co-eds after hours.  Who knew?)  Brought my third (eMachines) monitor into the office.  (Though dim and dusty, it has improved my work life immeasurably.)  Helped Ryan move a good-sized (5' x 8') industrial refrigerator for his coming cheese-making endeavors.  I installed Waze (crowd-sourced traffic information), and was briefly overwhelmed by the density/distribution of available data.  I can now confirm that I get seven or eight shaves out of each disposable razor cartridge, maybe nine or ten if I use shaving cream.

        -- Burn Notice.  Campy spy stuff w. wry voice-overs.  Thoroughly enjoyable.
        -- Divergent.  Same old young-adult sci fi formula.  No original content here.
        -- Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit.  Adequate;  loses the old Tom Clancy flavor.
        -- Pompeii.  A blatant Gladiator rip-off, down to chars, plot, dialogue.  Avoid.
        -- This is Martin Bonner.  Aging divorcee finds a niche.  Understated.  Good.

The kids are becoming quirky, idiosyncratic little people.  Lars sings Ozzy tunes during the drive to school, demonstrates for me "how hard [he] can punch."  (Ow.)  Ulrika has memorized the lyrics and dialogue to Brave, Frozen, a handful of Katy Perry hits.  It's nice -- reassuring -- but it reminds me that my friends (and I) are becoming old men.  This one needs bifocals.  That one is growing hard of hearing.  The other guy is experiencing pain(s) in his feet.  Seems a long way from the young punks and would-be hipsters who went cruising through previous decades in their Jeeps and muscle-cars, blasting KMFDM, Peter Murphy, Siouxsie, The Cure.  Later, they reached back to luxury sedans, classic Rush, Van Halen.  Later still, they sought comfort in family-friendly automobiles, folk music, maybe a little jazz.  And what are they now?  What are we now?  A mishmash combination of the above?  The slick sun-warmed coils at the center of so many previous snake-skins?  An ashlar gradually smoothed and sculpted?  Or the amalgamated remains that were allowed to settle at the lowest layers of the cistern?

My creative process works like this. Makes me think it's all "amalgamated remains."

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Wednesday, April 30th, 2014
11:07 pm - what is to give light must endure burning

Finished the remaining drops of the Whistle Pig rye last night.  (Thanks, Sis.)

Very productive week.  My convertible is back from (a third trip to) the shop, and seems functional.  (Frayed wire deep in the compartment, down near the underside of the engine block.  Caused some intermittent short when things heated up.)  We took the kids to their first (Japanese) teppanyaki restaurant.  (They loved it, though Lars was terrified by the initial pyrotechnics show.)  Took a side trip to the Hayden Planetarium, watched their 'Exploring the Universe' show (with new info concerning Kepler 186(f)).  (Ulrika's favorite was Saturn.)  I cruised out Rutland way for a cigar outing at the Rufus Putnam Lodge;  I sampled several new cheeses (Mastorazio (sheep, salty), Oma (soft, buttery), Schweitzer (cow, creamy w. crunchies), Haut-Bearn (sheep, a bit too much 'barnyard');  I determined that the Dollar Shave Club isn't the best deal for the money, but it's not too terrible either.  My left armband is now fully detailed and shaded (thanks to Mike LaFontaine, of Pelham NH), and looks much better than it did previously.

        -- Drunk History.  Comedians (re)tell anecdotes while hammered.  Funny.
        -- I, Frankenstein.  Blatant Underworld remake;  demons v. gargoyles.  C-
        -- House of Sand + Fog.  Competing desperation.  Who deserves it more?
        -- Jodorowsky's Dune.  Incredible documentary, all info in one place.  Wow.
        -- The Pyramid Code.  Starts as valuable history, becomes quack-theories.

Been learning a lot about Amazon cloud-hosting these past few months.  I experienced a network-saturation problem (caused by my security scans), and, amazingly, watched the troublesome VM copied, re-imaged, and re-spawned to a larger clone (having fatter pipes) in literally 120 seconds.  Similarly, I accidentally erased an important production virtual-machine (oops), and, while right-clicking frantically, found a storage option to "Launch Another Just Like This."  Obvious now that the entirety of the Western business world will live in the cloud by decade's end.  I like that there are still opportunities to learn (and teach) things like this.  I delight in it when I make a few unfamiliar-to-me inroads into quantum crypto-key generation, when I notice not-quite-happenstance commonalities between Masonic ritual and Osiran mythology, when my little boy points out "that [Quonset hut] is a SEMICIRCLE" during the ride home.  Am I too focused on the details?  The technology?  Deep in the weeds?  Maybe so.  But, down here, I am unassailable.

Fine foodstuffs.  Cybernetics.  Motorcycles.  Marksmanship.  Glassblowing.  Literature.
These are the passions that define us while we're here.  They linger after we're gone.

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Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014
12:24 pm - no wind serves him who addresses his voyage to no certain port

How many past presidents + opponents + running-mates can you name, Reader?

Easing into a gentle, (hopefully) restful springtime.  We took the kids to a roller-derby competition at the Wilmington Shriners Arena (Baltimore vs. Boston), where we watched a cat-quick jammer spin and twirl between blockers, witnessed another (taller/stronger) gal jumping the track's inside corner, a jaw-dropping six or eight foot stretch, to score a game-changing handful of points.  I ordered a replacement (rhodium) nib assembly for my Namiki fountain pen, whose original cylinder died a horrible death beneath a house-guest's shoe(s) and posterior.  I picked up two reasonably-priced 64 GB thumb drives (which is, itself, grimly amusing, as I remember buying some much-more-expensive 4 GB sticks not long ago).  I am starting to write again, slowly, but comfortably;  I am just emerging from a long dark nearly-90-day tunnel without health insurance (an unfortunate part of the consulting life);  I tried to spin the (Christian) Easter narrative into young(er) vocabulary for my three- and six-yr-old, and was generally well received.

I turned down a very (*very*) lucrative job-offer this week.  Gig was in downtown Boston, the financial sector, 'exciting' stuff, but high(er) pressure, a 60-to-75-minute MBTA ride from the northern suburbs, or wherever we next end up.  All negotiations boil down to a two- or three-dimensional planar surface;  you and the other party anchor on a system of axes/variables, such as {money, bonus} or {money, title, commute}, and you define your respective minimum/maximum acceptable points, and the rest is a matter of shading in the bounded area(s).  The intangible things dance around this process, and tease you with maybe, might-have-been, never-were -- $50K cash bonuses, dinners and playtime missed with kids, fraternal and/or hobbyist pursuits proving impossible, inner-city carousing with colleagues, long hours wasted on the train, side consulting opportunities, ultimate marital estrangement, workaholism.  I (think I) know what I would have sacrificed, had I accepted the offer;  but it doesn't (yet) feel like the "right" call.

Unhappy with X or Slightly-Less-Unhappy with Y?  Is this how choices are made?

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Tuesday, April 15th, 2014
3:09 pm - lapis reprobatus caput anguli... the stone which was rejected has become the headstone of the corner

Up till my early twenties, I thought obstetricians were 'gynecologists for men.'  Heh.

I was raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason last night.  The ritual proceedings were solemn, and poignant, and steeped in allegory, and wholly unlike anything I have previously experienced.  Very glad (and grateful) to have seen it through.  I filed our 2013 income taxes, and (due to shifting circumstances) owed three or four grand less than the previous year(s).  I am (slowly) mending multiple heel and sole ailments with Epsom salts and a pair of family-donated Crocs.  One of my back-of-neck skin tabs got caught in my hairdresser's clippers (which is just as painful and repugnant as it probably sounds).  Peter Gabriel tunes have been serendipitously popping into my head over the past few days, like some happier, simpler emotional renaissance.

        -- Agents of SHIELD.  Mission Impossible w. Whedon wit + arc.  Not bad.
        -- Bag of Bones.  Writer's block;  a haunted widower.  Flat and mediocre.
        -- Banshee.  Ex-con pretends to be county sheriff.  Lots of sex, violence.
        -- Lego Movie.  Hints of Neverending Story, Tron.  Creative rebellion.  B+
        -- Turn.  1770s Colonial spycraft.  Slow to unfold, but well worth watching.

Ten weeks into the new job, I am slowly gaining admirers, thanks to some blend of unorthodox showmanship and bull-headed persistence.  I solved a complex networking problem, which proved 'my theory' to be 'right' and the other expert 'wrong' -- valuable not for the conflict itself, but for its resultant reputation-boost.  I brought home a couple of old (defunct) cell-phones for my kids to play with, and realized, watching their play, that I have somehow substituted comic-book morality in place of a conventional (religious?) code of ethics.  Green Lantern's power is that he is brave and never gives up.  Batman keeps people safe so that no one will ever have a(nother) childhood like his.  Even hardened villains can despise and redeem themselves.  Will this work for them?  Time will tell.

Have accomplished a great deal these past 13-14 yrs.  Need to keep that in mind.

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Wednesday, April 9th, 2014
6:09 pm - the ink of a pen is simply the blood of a heart

"Wear your heart on your skin in this life." [--S. Plath]Collapse )

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Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
6:08 pm - back to the pool where we all go down to drink, to cast our nets, to swim, and sometimes to drown

Current trends suggest I now receive something like 150-to-200 emails daily.

I take as a good sign that there are still victories *and* unresolved challenges.  Took a (business) trip down to North Carolina, where I had occasion to chat with some staggeringly-smart people (like, the sort of luminaries who simultaneously fascinate and terrify, energize you with purpose and make you feel roughly three feet tall both at the same time).  Had lunch with my contract-shop recruiter (a 24-yr-old cheerleader turned bartender turned office-rep, doesn't know who Rodney Dangerfield was, watches only The Bachelor, giggles about "that one time I actually thought about getting a tattoo, hee hee").  I finished off the Pappy van Winkle (with some friends) and compiled runic materials for a few more inked rows (five or six, even).

        -- Despicable Me II.  Not quite as funny as the first one, but still v. good.
        -- Lisey's Story.  Writer dips into... madness... for inspiration.  WOW.
        -- True Detective.  Equal parts Se7en + Twin Peaks.  Watch this ASAP.

Though my humdrum day-to-day routine plods along (converting my biker jacket into a 'kutte,' re-purposing creaky old storage devices into a tiered-backup system (original server, local attached disk, (even) slow(er) IDE/SATA enclosures), watching my belts and jeans and socks steadily fray), the interesting stuff is happening on familial fronts.  My kids are enjoying Picard-era Trek (esp. the saucer-separation).  Lars is recently fixated on the concept of mortality, the notion that, when our dog Marley went to the doctor, the doctor "couldn't make his body better" and he "went to the stars," the intuitive corollaries that his uncle went (and grandmother might go) the same way.  Has inspired some talk about 'healing,' 'memory,' what have you.

You watch, proudly, as they learn and grow.  And you mourn their innocence.

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Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
8:39 pm - das werk lobt den meister... the work proves the craftsman

Amusing aside:  Drum Hill Liquors' manager has a Dr. Who cell-phone ringtone.

Keeping busy while making (further) preparations for the future.  I booked a rare bit of business travel (using Expedia, as my dirty-lowlife-contractor status means I cannot use the corporate travel system), and have been harangued daily about every dollar I spent and how much more I could be saving.  (This annoys me more than I like to admit.)  I hit up the Formaggio Kitchen (in Cambridge) with Ryan, escaping with two hand-ground mustards and four artisanal cheeses (Calcagno (perfection), Nisa DOP (a bit pungent), Terrincho (soft, oily, fragrant), Spring Brook Tarentaise (a creamy, savory Cabot competitor)).  I pruned back my own sideburns in a (mostly-successful) homage to my stylist's comb-and-scissors thinning technique.  I was asked (during an interview with a hundred-billion-dollar bank) if I was "a LARPer, or a furry," which is pretty darn strange.  My venture-capitalist buddies are paying me a few hundred smackers to read up and speak meaningfully on quantum crypto, which is pretty darn cool.

        -- Cloud Atlas.  Visual treat.  Six parallel-life tales;  v. artsy, high-concept.
        -- 300: Rise of an Empire.  Hollow gratuitous 3D vid-game.  Not worth it.
        -- Robocop (2014).  Visually faithful, but more shallow.  'Drones are evil.'
        -- Teen Wolf.  Has a cool-highschool vibe, but actually not a bad series.

Perhaps an old dog *can* learn new tricks.  I am wearing better shoes, with thicker insoles.  I am working (slightly) more coffee into my weekly routine, and vastly prefer BostonBean's Revolutionary Blend to their Patriot Blend.  I have been enjoying a sporty Volvo S60 (loaner) throughout my own chariot's two-week dealership stay;  I shared some Honduran and Nicaraguan stogies with my Masonic brothers;  I read about Mercury's slowly-shrinking planetary mass, and it reminds me of my father telling my boyhood self that the sun will eventually burn out, makes me wonder what the 'humans' of that far-off era will be like, instantiations of pure thought, strange semi-corporeal entities using their bodies as spaceborne vehicles.  My recently-departed coworker (gone to a startup) made a parting remark about 'the six-month dance' every new employee stumbles through, the office rituals and over-under timecard variances and snarling dog-dominance and Wiki pages and  'I stayed till 6:02' emails.  I think about that stuff too.

Wintry winds.  Ringlet curls.  Bergamot fragrance.  Sense-memories everywhere.

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Saturday, March 15th, 2014
11:35 pm - and so she turned her back on the abyss for another day

Personal weaknesses:  cheap PC hardware, fried potato products, redheads.

Choppy couple of weeks.  Heel of my right foot has been hurting something fierce.  (Blotchy red-purple hemorrhage down by the calcaneal joint, down where the achilles and plantar attach.  Seems like a little strain or tear.  Healing up now.)  Car is suffering some sort of dangerous electronic-throttle malfunction where it can't find a consistent idle, lurches and surges forward fighting against the brake when stopped, has defied two or three sessions with the dealer's mechanic crew.  (Most frustrating.)  I have found a temporarily-stable job niche where I create specific technical recommendations for CentOS, Java Spring, and Tomcat configurations, offer just enough tech guidance for the experts to address the problem(s), spend much of my remaining time poking, prodding, testing, and documenting.  The highers-up assure me "I've done more [in six weeks] than the previous guy did [in eleven months]," which I take to signify that expectations aren't all that high.  Lots of chaos, confusion, conflicting priorities.

        -- Dust Factory.  Sort of a What Dreams May Come for younger viewers.
        -- Kick-Ass.  Surprisingly dark.  Reminds me of Unbreakable + Wanted.
        -- Kick-Ass II.  Unworthy sequel.  A few cheap yuks, but not much more.
        -- The World's End. Shaun of the Dead w. androids, new roles.  Funny.

It becomes immediately clear that (a) it's good to come 'home' when 'home' is a welcoming place, and (b) the full-time telecommuter deal is (was) rife with various lifestyle-boundary and visibility issues.  Dipping into familial tours and tastings at Parker's Maple Barn.  Delighting in my daughter's playdate(s) with school friends ("okay, write down what we will do so we can mark the best stuff").  Received an irksome notice from the fraternity not to share 'personal research' with my fellows.  (This doesn't (quite) put me off, but it does leave me wondering where the 'like-minded brethren' are to be found.)  Took it into my head to assemble a (small) Japanese whiskey collection.  Am seeing a number of 'empty shirts' in my last two workplaces, people who falsely claim expertise, who have learned to (just minimally) "fake it," who comment on things without reading them, who are too lazy to even Google-search a subject.  Makes me conscious of my own skill set, the need to look out for oneself, the perceptions of others.

Was 2010 the best year of my life?  Will there be better ones in store?  Hmm.

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Monday, March 3rd, 2014
12:11 am - solvitur ambulando... it is solved by walking

Sad when the highlight of your 9-to-5 grind is "ooh, jalapenos at the salad bar today."

Routine is better than it was.  Four weeks into the new gig, I have assembled a list of (security) compliance tasks, drafted a double-handful of corporate policies, drawn up some architectural data-flow diagrams.  I haven't brought my laptop home (or remotely VPN-connected) once in that time;  I note the parking lot is less than half-full at 8:45, and completely vacant at 5:15.  (Can't say I miss dreading work on Monday morning(s).)  I earned $1,025 in a 24-hour period (which was my second-best ever, behind my $1,280 Y2K dot-com shift).  I have been doing some hardware lifecycle planning (trying to consolidate my twelve-computer glut into a more-manageable number), and watching /proc/acpi/thermal_zone more carefully than I had in the olden days.  I realize, now, after the fact, that my decommissioned iPhone 5 is the best handheld I have owned to date.

        -- Intro to Freemasonry.  Claudy explores the allegory;  not too preachy.
        -- Legend of Korra. Airbender with 1920s-30s steampunk twist, metaplot.
        -- Mildred Pierce.  Ambitious women amidst 1930s Depression.  Bleak.
        -- The Croods.  Sort of a Flintstones prequel, w. Rube Goldberg gadgets.

Trying to fill my not-working-late hours with meaningful diversions.  Enjoyed a Chinese food get-together with old college buddies, steeped in Narnia, Prydain, Thomas Covenant, and similar escapist ramblings.  Took a weekend family outing to the butterfly museum, and found it to be a powerful sensory interlude, equal parts Mosquito Coast and Tangerine Dream.  (Faves: Blue Morpho, Scarlet Swallowtail, Zebra Longwing.)  Ulrika is getting stronger in her deltoids and trapezius (due to gymnastics), and learning to hack the password(s) on Mommy's tablet.  Lars had his first(?) fist-fight at the McDonald's playground (double-teamed by two five-year-olds, pushed back and threw an overhand right(!)), dressed in his Captain America costume, no less.  Call it a parenting rite of passage.  Goodness, but time keeps rolling on.

I dreamed of Torr.  He couldn't stay;  was just passing through.  Seemed to disapprove.

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Friday, February 21st, 2014
5:02 pm - we're all just passengers on god's kamikaze rocket ship

I know TWO secret handshakes now.

The existential tide seems to be turning.  Job is settling into a slightly-more-comfortable lull.  New paychecks are rolling in.  While I don't think I'll ever be "a morning person," I am reaching some recurring wake-up-at-6:00, 6:30, 7:00 pattern which at least gives the illusion of 'more sleep(s).'  One coworker spilled coffee on me;  another will only use Solaris x86, touting its unmatched stability ("the only way to crash this machine is to pull out its power cord");  I inadvertently set off a bunch of alerts using a port-scanner, but in so doing learned a lot about the new environment.  (Said incident, parenthetically, proves that my predecessor hadn't ever used the port-scanner.)  Will keep trying to cultivate a doesn't-speak-up-much-but-has-valuable-insights demeanor.

Life continues along non-professional fronts.  I switched over to RTorrent, which was a great (and very useful) discovery.  I grew badly overcommitted, to the point where I had to (shamefacedly) withdraw from a freelance tech-writing gig.  I scrubbed my steering wheel clean of nasty grey-black crud (on the back side, where my fingers go).  I fixed an, er, battery-operated device using paper-clips and a flat-bladed screwdriver.  I bought two USB enclosures for my aging IDE/SATA disks;  I attended a pair of delicious Masonic dinners, one accompanied by honey-sweet Vouvray and 1926 Padron robustos;  I see my prodigious memory replicated (possibly enhanced) in both children (Vivaldi compositions recognized by name, cartoon plots identified within seconds of exposure), which makes me proud, but also causes me to wonder what additional quirks I (we) have passed on.

The list gets shorter.  I don't mean that in an overly maudlin or fatalist sense, but it is indisputably true.  Slowly, surely, we find ourselves coming to a place where the world-wise jetsetter lifestyle becomes "a tenth-anniversary getaway, maybe."  Where your illustrious storied past gives way to one 'stable' job, one 'final' house to weather out the long haul.  Where the milestones are now 'see my child(ren) go to school, graduate, become self-sufficient people.'  Where the doctors stop trying for 'perfection' and instead try to stretch your condition(s) out for another ten or twenty years.  Where you learn to just hold your head up and live with things.

The list gets shorter.  Yeah.

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Wednesday, February 12th, 2014
9:26 pm - i was mistaken about Eve; tis better to live outside the Garden with her, than inside it without her

Masonic ritual(s) and Skeksis ritual(s) manifest certain unsettling commonalities.

Having some difficulty adjusting to this new job schtick.  I am quite fond of the people and their brilliant-iconoclast culture, but everything seems 'hidden,' not easily searchable or answerable, set (or immutable) by ancient unwritten oral history.  (Day #1 was paperwork, new-laptop, new-office, product specs.  Day #2 was badge-issuance, nearest coffeemaker(s), absorbing scrum 'backlogs' and 'initiatives.'  Day #3 was a blizzard, during which I came in and furnished my office, scavenged for cables, monitor-stands, etc.  Days #4 and #5 were spent at an informative but long-winded architects' conclave.  The aforementioned laptop began blue-screening every ~90 seconds from noontime onward, necessitating rebuild, due to wireless-driver conflict(s).  Uck.)  Am experiencing a greater-than-normal degree of anxiety, frustration, impostor syndrome.  Will (try to) ride it out.

        -- 47 Ronin.  Tries to alternate betw. 300 and Last Samurai.  It is neither.
        -- American Hustle.  Lighthearted but still-serious 70s con a la The Sting.
        -- Black Sails.  A sexy + violent Treasure Island prequel.  Slow to unfold.
        -- Puss in Boots.  Tries to mimic Shrek plot/humor, but somehow falls flat.

Not much else to report.  The kids are getting big(ger), harder to carry around, more adept on the ski slopes.  (I tried to hook them on the Batman animated series, but had limited success.)  I find my Galaxy S3's camera to be notably inferior to the iPhone 5's.  Tried a textbook case of 'information warfare' at the burger drive-thru last week (I drive up, order, and mention my coupon;  teller discounts total;  I go to the window, offer cash without the coupon;  teller bothers to ask for the coupon maybe 40% of the time;  I act folksy, flustered, and reach for the coupon, which was just to the side, slightly out of view, but most assuredly not hidden;  we share an amicable but knowing look before parting ways).  While re-reading the Nicholas Winton story, I found myself thinking of his 669 beneficiaries, of the five who became 'luminary' figures, of all the generations and stories that followed.

The woodsmoke-aroma has left my coat.  Took 33 days, like a regret, an ex-lover.

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