Monday, March 30, 2015

And suddenly, everything went back to normal

Long story short: the contract situation resolved itself and my job isn't going anywhere, at least for a while. Whew.

Long story long: quite a week last week. Of course no sooner did I post the latest update about how everything was hurtling towards the abyss than new and positive developments finally began to emerge. My government boss gathered the department together at about 3 p.m. last Monday for cake to celebrate the birthday of one of our co-workers. Towards the end of that informal get-together, she also mentioned that for those of us waiting to hear about the extension beyond the last day of the current bridge contract (Friday), she was fairly certain the extension would be finalized that day. Furthermore, she alluded to the fact that she expected the real contract award to be announced soon, once the money for funding the contract was officially allocated.

I just want to take a moment to emphasize a couple things, there. All of these little pertinent details were not things which were deemed important enough to be conveyed via official communications. If my government boss hadn't thought to air them in a very casual, off-hand way, I wouldn't have known a thing. Also, these comments about the budgetary aspect of the contract delays was the first I had heard about specific reasons why it was taking so long; up until then I really thought the government was dragging their feet about deciding at all, not that they were keeping the decision under wraps because they couldn't officially announce anything until all the money was sorted.

Anyway, so very early Tuesday morning my contracting boss sent out an e-mail saying that the 30-day extension had been granted, and we would be covered by it until May 1st. The e-mail was waiting for me when I got in on Tuesday, and had a couple of attachments I had to fill out and sign for the expedited processing of my new badge and access card to replace the ones about to expire on Friday. As you can imagine I took care of that paperwork immediately. Then, literally three hours later, we got the official word that we had won the re-compete and been awarded the new five-year contract, which would begin May 4th (the 2nd and 3rd are a weekend). Why not have the new long-term contract go into effect on March 30th and just forget about the 30-day extension which was now apparently no longer needed? Who knows? Ours is not to wonder why and so forth.

So by Wednesday all of our paperwork had been processed and returned to us so that we could take it to the Pentagon and get it countersigned and drop it off at the badge office and get new badges. I ran that particular errand on Thursday morning. Thursday afternoon I picked up my replacement access card. Friday was relatively uneventful. In about a month we're going to have to go through all the same steps all over again (paperwork completed and turned in for processing, returned to us, taken to the Pentagon for countersignature, waiting in line for new badge/card) but then I won't have to do it again for a whole year (if ever) and at least they're usually on the ball enough to get these things done before the expiration deadlines so we don't end up locked out of anything. As transitions go, certainly it's annoying but at least it's fairly smooth.

And as far as the whole "if ever" sentiment goes ... it's nice to know that my job is reasonably stable for the foreseeable future, but my job search will continue. I now feel like I can afford to be somewhat selective, and not that I have to jump from a sinking ship into the first opportunity that presents itself. Granted, given that my security clearance for government work is one of my more marketable assets, there's a high probability that I end up changing from one contractor employer to another, if another is willing to pay me more or let me develop new skills or show me more opportunity for growth or other upsides. So abandoning the merry-go-round of contract re-bids and facility identification and network access tokens and all that is far from a sure thing. One never knows, though.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fairest of them all (Boy, Snow, Bird)

Continuing my newfound resolve to get back to reviewing more books, here comes another one: Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi.

(CHECKING MY PRIVILEGE: Ms. Oyeyemi is a British woman of Nigerian/Yoruban descent. Take that, white patriarchy!)

If I remember correctly, I had put Boy, Snow, Bird on my wishlist because I had read one or more reviews which alluded to the fact that it was a modern retelling of Snow White, or at least that that old fairy tale provided the spine for a story which in turn encompassed much more. I have a big old soft spot for folklore and retellings thereof (Twice Upon a Time being a prime, recent example) so I made plans to check the story out for myself as soon as I could.

There is, in fact, much more to Boy, Snow, Bird than a riff on Snow White. The novel runs through numerous allusions to the works of the Brothers Grimm and others, sometimes only in a passing reference, sometimes in developing the recurring themes of the story. If nothing else, anyone with enthusiasm for fairy tales can find some fun playing spot-the-hat-tip. But more importantly, Oyeyemi takes the building blocks of Snow White - the sweet beloved girl, the wicked step-mother, the magic mirror - and uses them as jumping off points for incisive examinations of identity and reinvention, about the painful legacies of families in both momentary explosive violence and slowly decaying corrosion.

I finished reading this book a couple of weeks ago and I've been wracking my brain trying to come up with a way to encapsulate it for a review. My gut reaction is to declare it "good, but artsy" where "artsy" is one of my personal codewords for "self-consciously literary English-major bait" and also, perhaps, "pretentious"? But it's really hard to call something out for being pretentious without sounding pretentious as heck myself, since it basically requires me to say "the average person might not get it; I mean, I got it, and I liked it, but I can see how some people might not." Yeesh.

Still, it's hard to shake the old habits that run deep. I grew up on stories full of plot and incident and fantastical elements where the primary aim was to make the reader feel, and later I had to learn how to appreciate stories where nothing much happens and all of what does happen is grounded in reality and the primary aim is to make the reader think. So I always feel obliged to point out when a book falls into the latter category, presenting mundane things through subjective perspectives and ending with no real conclusion or closure. Some books are wide open to interpretation because life is open to interpretation, some don't have neat and tidy endings because life doesn't have neat and tidy endings. I get that, and I'm sure you get that, and I think it's an equally valid choice to seek out books that are superficial and straightforward for pure escapism, and valid as well to seek out books that are engaging or obtuse or however else you want to quantify the other side of the coin. (All assuming that you have actually gotten an education along the line and learned how to think critically and evaluate the distinction for yourself; believe me, if my kids ever say that a book they have to read for school is boring or doesn't make sense they will get an earful from me. As long as I've read the same book and know whereof I speak.)

So, pretentious or not, I dug the story for its ambiguity about where to draw the line between magical outlooks and mental illness, and for its takes on gender and race, and I dug the language employed to evoke the complicated, nuanced layers of things. I liked it because it's a hard book to recommend, and I'd probably recommend it to others for the same reason. Certain others, at least. You know who you are.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The worth of a cog

(With apologies to my wife, my most constant blog-reader, for whom none of this will be news and in fact much will be things which stress her out to one degree or another.)

The contract between my employer and the government is set to expire this Friday. There has been no official word as to what is going to happen one week from today. At the moment I am assuming that I will have to show up for work, because that's my default assumption every Monday and I put a lot of unthinking trust in momentum, I suppose. But there could be some surprises between now and then, certainly. At this point, honestly, I don't even know what would be more surprising: hearing some news finally, or not hearing any news and having to just operate under my own best-guesswork.

About a week and a half ago, a couple days after my last post on the contract limbo stuff, my contracting boss called the whole team together for a meeting to reiterate once again that he would share any and all news with us as soon as there was any to share, and since he hadn't shared anything yet we should all understand that there was no official news. He did add that he had been told to expect some kind of announcement by the end of that week. Clearly, that week ended and there was actually no announcement, and the week after ended and there was also no announcement, and here we are.

My boss also explained that because it takes a certain amount of time to finalize a new contract, and that interval is greater than the time presently remaining on the contract (with the gap growing every day) that it was altogether likely that we would have to enter into a short, placeholder contract once the current contract elapses. Just as a reminder, we are already on a bridge contract; the five-year contract I originally came aboard on ended back in September of 2014. The government was suppose to have conducted the entire re-compete process by then, but blew deadline after deadline which led to us entering into a six-month bridge contract to cover the extension of the re-compete. By law, the government can only play the "six-month bridge extension" card once, and now that they have done so and yet somehow still not managed to award a new five-year contract to anyone (the possibility apparently still exists that after all this jerking around we could lose the re-compete and someone else could be given the new contract), that means they can only enter into some other category of temporary contract which probably has its own name that I forget, and that can only be for a maximum of 60 days. A 60-day last-chance-not-kidding-no-backsies contract looks likely at this point (a 30-day version of same is also a possibility), in fact, if I eavesdropped correctly this past Friday on my co-worker who handles contract stuff and was trying to get ready to go on vacation this week and absolutely had to get certain tasks completed before leaving the office, that is already in the works.

You would think all of this would force the government's hand to the point where they had to award us the contract, at the very least because the also-rans would not be waiting around with resources idle to see if they were going to get it long past the projected start date. Or, if we're on the verge of losing the contract, you would think the government would have to tell us that in the next couple weeks at least, because they can only keep us around for eight more weeks tops, and they're required by law to have a six-week transition plan if they are going to switch from one contractor to another. You would think, yet here we are, as I keep saying.

And here I am, specifically, because I have yet to find anywhere else to jump to. I had a surreal experience last week where I got an e-mail on Wednesday from a small contracting company's recruiter, who saw my profile on a job site. So in other words this was not a job I applied for, this was someone spontaneously reaching out to me. The recruiter asked if I could do a phone interview the next day, as they were on a tight deadline to staff up a contract, and I said sure. I assumed that, much like my last round of interviews, this would be the pre-screening with a follow-up face-to-face interview set up by the end of it. However, it turned out that I was calling the CEO of the company and she was testing the waters of acceptable parameters for a verbal job offer by the end of the conversation. She told me a written job offer would follow via e-mail.

Now, this would be me jumping from a huge government contracting firm to a smaller government contracting company. I wouldn't be leaving behind the whole cycle of living and dying by the governments whims of awarding work, and it would be a lateral move salary-wise as well. But at a certain point it would be better to be hired by a company just about to start a new contract than to be hanging on by a thread here on my current about-to-expire contract, if only for a temporary easing of paycheck anxiety. Plus there were various other factors of minor appeal, like getting in on the ground floor of a young company and potentially more upside down the longterm road, &c. &c.

None of that was the surreal stuff. That would be the fact that the CEO called me back that evening to double-check my security clearance, something which I had been upfront about in our phone interview but which suddenly, six hours later, was a cause for concern. (Basically I am about mid-level in the clearance hierarchy and they wanted someone a level or so higher than that. No reason I couldn't clear to the next level if they sponsored me through the process, but they wanted someone who was already there on day one. Fair enough, and not really something I have any control over whatsoever. I'm as cleared as my job requires me to be because that's what my employer has sponsored me for because that's how these things work.) When I had gotten off the phone the first time I was under the impression that the written job offer would be coming within minutes and I would need to accept it asap so that the CEO could complete her own contract bid, which was due that day by COB. But the offer didn't come that day at all, then there was the awkward follow-up call, and no written offer nor any more calls nor anything on Friday, and then it was the weekend, and now it's Monday and I feel like the whole verbal job offer was just some fever dream I had last week. I was already a little uncomfortable with the high pressure to accept a job offer without so much as sleeping on it, and then it all apparently fell apart anyway. I may never hear from that CEO again, but if I do, I don't know how much of a red flag I should take all this as. If I get laid off and then hear from the CEO, surely I'd take any job offer as better than unemployment. But if I heard from her in the next 15 minutes, I just don't know.

So that's the holding pattern, as always. Every time I think things might move or change, they manage to turn around back to the starting point again. It would be comforting if it weren't so annoying.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Saturday Grab Bag of Time Management

Lots of reasons to be extra aware of the clocks and calendars recently: the beginning of Daylight Savings Time, Pi Day, the Ides of March, St. Patrick's Day, our youngest's birthday, the first day of spring concurrent with (probably?) the last snow of the year.

Speaking of the weather, I managed the great bi-annual jacket changeover this week, from my long winter overcoat to my lighter coat. It might have been a tad premature, but I powered through. I successfully transferred my building pass for work from one jacket to the other, and once I had managed that once I didn't want to get too fancy switching back and forth. (Of course, the building pass expires in one more week, with the whole contract still in limbo, but that's a rant for another day.)

Time's been on mind my mind, though not on my side, as usual.


On Friday the 13th of this month, after the kids were down in bed for the night, I scooted over to the local microbrewery to refill a couple of growlers (because powering through season 4 of Game of Thrones is thirsty work). While I was waiting at the bar for my order to be filled, I was admiring a ceramic stein that seemed to be placed there for the admiring. It was branded with the name of the microbrewery and I suspected they were for sale to the public, so I asked how much they went for. The guy behind the bar told me ($35) and I must have made a face which was easily interpreted as that's-more-than-I-was-hoping-you-would-say. So the guy then proceeded to give me the spiel about how they're hand-made and high-quality (dishwasher safe!) and all that, but none of that really impacted me all that much.

So the guy shifted gears and explained that the stein held somewhere between 18 and 20 ounces, which is of course a few ounces more than a standard pint. But they fill, and re-fill, the stein while charging the same price as a pint. That, finally, made an impact, albeit a minimal one. Nevertheless the guy emphatically pointed out, "So, you come in, pay for a pint and get your stein filled, you only need to do that, like, 52 times and the stein pays for itself!"

Beer math is the best math, it's true, but I can't even fathom how long it would actually take me to go back to the microbrewery 52 times. Probably four years, minimum. I applaud the guy's salesmanship, but as of yet I've resisted the temptation to invest in free beers in the 2020's.


Hopefully by now most people have had a chance to check out the "If Wes Anderson Directed X-Men Movies" parody on YouTube. (If not, voila.) I like Wes Anderson movies. I like the X-Men. I was amused.

But what the clip most keenly made me aware of was just how deeply the Alamo Drafthouse has gotten into my head. Because my first thought after watching the video was that it would be a great element of the pre-feature clip collection for either an X-Men movie or a Wes Anderson movie. In fact, apparently I want to recreate my own little Alamo experience in my house (mostly so I can curate the clip collections myself I reckon), since I briefly entertained the thought of showing my wife the We Anderson X-Men parody before we sit down to watch Grand Budapest Hotel some night. And then I thought IT IS ALREADY IMPOSSIBLE TO CARVE OUT AN UNINTERRUPTED HOUR AND A HALF TO WATCH A MOVIE WITH YOUR WIFE WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO ADD ON A 20 MINUTE PRE-SHOW WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?!?


I just remembered that I've actually been down this road before. Back in the day when I was a young louche splitting a townhouse with buddies, we would from time to time host parties dedicated to playing the Star Wars drinking game. We would go through the entire trilogy, so these were all day affairs, and by the time we already had survived a couple they were drawing a fairly large crowd. This was around 1997 or so, too, so we were using VHS copies of the movies, which actually matters for the particulars of this anecdote. So, people descended on our townhouse at the appointed time early on a Saturday afternoon, and we were about ready to get started, go over the rules of the game, and so on. But to get everyone's attention, we started with a little video bonus: Hooper X's rant about the gentrification subtext of Star Wars from Chasing Amy. It related to the trilogy, it comes from one of my other favorite movies, and it's pretty hilarious, so it was worth it to physically cue the Chasing Amy videotape up to the scene in question in advance. I would have loved to have done a whole clip reel instead of one scene, but I'm sure that didn't even occur to me given the daunting logistics of popping multiple tapes in and out of the VCR. We had a lot more time on our hands back then, but not infinite time.


I felt like I had a bunch more time-themed things to talk about, but maybe my mind was playing tricks on me. Too much time gone by in my life for my memory to be terribly reliable, I suppose, but I've known that for a while.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Dark wings, dark tunes (and dark 'toons)

There have been two dvd sets hanging out next to each other atop our entertainment center lately. Both of them have birds on the cover. One is the box set of Game of Thrones Season 4, which is almost pure black, a dark background against which a crow spreads its wings, with the feathers extending from the tips of said wings looking suspiciously like swords. The other is the animated movie Rio, which is suitably carnivalesque in its bright and happy color palette depicting friendly animated macaws and toucans and canaries and cardinals (and a marmoset and a bulldog).

You might think the avian imagery are the only thing the two have in common and that they couldn't be further apart other than that one superficial connection. One is a sex-and-violence-fueled drama for grown-ups, the other is an animated musical for kids. Rio has a happy conclusion; Game of Thrones may never end.

All the same, there's some darkness in Rio, most notably in the form of Nigel the cockatoo, who is arguably the main villain of the story. (There are both people and birds caught up in the plot machinations of the movie, ornithologists and pet owners and poachers and smugglers, so you could argue the greedy humans are the main villains, but go with me here.) Nigel is voiced by Jemaine Clement (of Flight of the Concords) and ... wow, he really breaks the mold.

Don't get me wrong, I admire the heck out of Jemaine Clement as both a writer and performer of some really sharp comedy. And he has a great voice, both speaking and singing, so he brings Nigel to life in a delightfully creepy way and gets to perform what is for my money the best song in the movie, "Pretty Bird".

And also don't get me wrong that I appreciate that there is a general tendency for children's entertainment, especially modern feature-length animated films, to be predictably formulaic. Heroes are reluctant but basically decent and learn important lessons about being true to themselves, while villains are power hungry or egregiously materialistic or both. On the one hand, if it ain't broke don't fix it, I get that. But on the other hand I applaud anyone who even tries to deviate from the proscribed boundaries, regardless of their success. So, Nigel got my attention because he's not trying to take over the world, to steal the crown of King of the Birds, or make a fortune by selling out the kindly old Mom and Pop Macaw business to developers or anything like that. His backstory, as relayed when he performs Pretty Bird, is this: he was once a famous TV star, and then he got old and got replaced. And because of the mental trauma associated with rising to the top and then losing it all because of the inexorable passage of time (and the entertainment industry's worship of youth above all else) Nigel became twisted and evil and sadistic, and now his only pleasure in life is making other birds suffer. He works with the bird poachers because it gives him the opportunity to torment other birds. He goes beyond being merely misanthropic (misaviopic?) and into terrifyingly Hannibal-Lecter-crazy; they literally depict him as a cannibal who enjoys eating chicken wings! Like I said, kudos for coming up with a motivation for the bad guy that's not totally rote, but like I also said, WOW.

There's something more than a little bit disturbing about hearing your six year old breaking out snippets of "Pretty Bird" at random moments, when they include lines like "I'm a feathery freak/With a beak/A bird murderer/You think you're badder than me?/I've never heard of ya". Yes, it's impressive that he memorized the lyrics after watching the movie only two or three times, and yes his flow is pretty good on the delivery, too, and yes, "murderer ... heard of ya" is a dope rhyme BUT STILL.

The climax of the movie takes place on board a cargo plane and Blu the heroic macaw outwits Nigel and manages to knock the cockatoo out of the hold. At which point Nigel gets sucked into the engine of the plane, in a moment which is more or less played as silly slapstick violence. But when I saw the movie the first time, given the context of Nigel's characterization, I thought it was not outside the realm of possibility that the implication was that Nigel had been brutally dismembered. Later there's an epilogue showing that Nigel survived, and merely was stripped of most of his feathers and made even uglier, which is pretty good comeuppance for the character driven over the brink by thwarted vanity, I guess.

There's a Rio 2 which none of us have seen yet, but I understand Nigel at least makes an appearance in the sequel. Nobody spoil it for me, but if they somehow make the bad bird even more bananas in the second installment, I may be ruined for kiddie flicks for life.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Like a proton torpedo right in the old thermal exhaust port

They really know how to hit me where it hurts. "They" in this case being the Disney overlords, specifically the ones presently responsible for making Star Wars something I can feel some legitimate excitement about again. I don't think I mentioned it hereabouts specifically, but I did geek out pretty hard when the Episode VII trailer debuted a while ago. As someone who loved the original Star Wars trilogy as a kid, and was disappointed by the prequels but not so much that I forsook my earnest childhood fandom entirely, I was initially skeptical about the announcements that the saga would be extended by yet another triptych of movies. But the trailer (ok, specifically the sight of the Millennium Falcon engaged in a dogfight) stoked my inner nine year old something fierce, and my inner grumpy disillusioned cynic has settled into a wait-and-see pattern which basically gives the kid free rein.

So the new movie comes out this December and I'm genuinely looking forward to it, what could be the problem? That would be the recent announcements of a little project called "Journey to The Force Awakens" which apparently involves a multimedia assault with two ostensible purposes. The first and most glaringly obvious one is to monetize the anticipation for the first new Star Wars movies in over a decade. Can't wait for the big theatrical debut? Tide yourself over by purchasing this character encyclopedia, these sticker books for your kids, and more, more, more! Hey, I get it, this is America, Disney's never demonstrated any particular aversion to money before, so it goes. The second purpose of Journey, though, is a bit more insidious. The Force Awakens takes place some time after Return of the Jedi, but not immediately after. In real-world terms, the fact that Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford will be reprising their central roles and have aged thirty or so years in the interval means the new stories have to take place at leas that much later. But what, one might wonder, happened in that galaxy far, far away during the corresponding narrative gap?

Well, you might not wonder all that much. Or you might be perfectly content to pick up the gist of what happened based on context clues within Episode VII when you sit down to watch it on opening night. (We're all going to the midnight showings, right?) But for a certain completist mindset, you might have a greater hankering for deep knowledge about things that will be glossed over on the big screen. And, wouldn't you know it, Del Rey is going to publish a trilogy of novels to answer those very questions, not mere tie-in informational companion books but actual in-continuity stories, the kind that would really appeal to Star Wars junkies, lifelong or reformed or relapsed or whathaveyou.

So, of course I'm going to pick up Star Wars: Aftermath right when it's published. This is the kind of no-brainer that "I mean, come ON" was coined for. Yes, I feel target-marketed, and possibly even exploited, but that doesn't mean I'm going to ignore the books' existence. I will not feel right sitting down to watch Episode VII if I haven't read the book by then. Or books? The one thing I'm not clear on right now is whether the entire trilogy of novels will come out this fall, like a book every few weeks, which means it will just take over my reading list for months as I remain helpless to resist it and December looms closer and closer. Or if it's one book this year, and subsequent volumes in future years, potentially with each installment of the novels revealing more secrets and foreshadowing more developments important to Episode VII and then VII and finally IX. I'm not worried about it, though. I'm sure Disney will make it abundantly clear when and where the books are available so that I can dutifully scarf them up.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Irish Stew

My wife has an Irish maiden name. So does my mother, and so did her mother, all of which I toss out there to establish up front that there's plenty of Irish heritage on both sides in my marriage, my nuclear family. My surname is German, and my father's mother's maiden name is ... vaguely eastern European? I'm terrible at genealogy, is another fact I should put front and center. When I was growing up, both sides of my family were multiple generations post-immigration, and I felt American more than anything else. I was aware that my family came from somewhere, but I didn't feel any personal connection to the research I had to do for various grade school projects on family trees and ethnic identity and so forth. When we had a Home Economics assignment in sixth grade to prepare a family recipe for a dish reflecting our ancestry, I totally cheated. I dug through my mom's recipe box and found an index card for apple pancakes that were vaguely German-sounding. Never in my life had my mother served us these apple pancakes, or anything else that would have been considered remotely exotic in her homeland (Wilmington, Delaware). I went with a German dish rather than Irish even though my mom did most/all of the cooking in our family, because I was eleven and I was a boy and I definitely over-identified with my father at that stage of development. I went with something random because the one recipe of his mother's that my father was always trying to get my mother to replicate was red spaghetti sauce (and clearly there's not much Italian in my family since I call it "spaghetti sauce" and not "gravy"). After many years we all more or less accepted that Grandma's sauce tasted different from Mom's because the pot my grandmother used was made of a different material than my mother's, and probably leached into the sauce in ways best not dwelt upon.

So: me, Irish, in the mix but not in a prominent way. My wife, Irish, much more prominent. She looks Irish, and has in fact been mistaken for native Irish on sight while traveling in southern Europe. (I was once mistaken for Mexican in Mexico by an American tourist, but that's neither here nor there.) The other major nationality in my wife's background is English, and clearly that evokes a whole lot of complicated interplay, much moreso than German-Irish. She's descended from both the oppressors and the oppressed, and she knows the history on both sides pretty well. She owns her Irishness a lot more than me, to the extent that it's not even a contest.

This has come to light over the years in various ways which caught me off guard at first, I admit. My wife and I both enjoy being sports spectators, and have our teams we root for and teams we root against, but my wife has always been much more invested in college sports than I ever was or will be. Early on I discovered her antipathy towards Notre Dame, which didn't really faze me. Nobody in my family went there or hyper-identifies with ND, but I know they're a big enough deal that there are just naturally going to be boosters who have no official connection to the school at all, and haters who have no real skin in the game either. (As a New York Yankees fan who knows other fans who've never lived anywhere near the Bronx and knows haters who could not care less about the entire American League except for despising the Evil Empire, I have a framework for understanding this.) But I was soon informed that it was specifically the pugnacious leprechaun mascot of Notre Dame that drew my (future) wife's scorn. She explained that as an Irish woman she found "Fighting Irish" to be as offensive as the tomahawk chop chant at Seminoles games might be to a Native American. And she was kind of, sort of, a little bit winking and kidding, because she's a person with reasonably clear-eyed perspective on how being the most downtrodden of Europeans still leaves one a lot better off than Native Americans, or African-Americans, &c. She's not claiming to be the most persecuted minority, all the more indignant because others get all the attention. Or if she is claiming that, she's doing so ironically. But also with a grain of truth, a kind-of-sort-of-NOT kidding. It's complicated, but basically I support the validity of her hating on Notre Dame as much as she wants.

And then there's St. Patrick's Day, which some Irish-Americans genuinely seem to enjoy, as a chance for them to flaunt their awesomeness while everyone around them adopts (or co-opts) that awesomeness in an exuberant way. And some Irish-Americans (not to mention some non-Irish-Americans) see St. Patrick's Day as kind of cheesy and lame, an amateur night when the last thing you would want to do is go out amongst the crowds of drunken yahoos carrying on. Certainly the latter take on the holiday is easy enough to understand when the shamrock-shaped novelty sunglasses and their ilk start to appear in retail outlets across the land. It's a harbinger of spring, granted, but a somewhat tacky one.

My wife recently, a couple weeks ago at most, had taken the younger kids to the shopping mall and told me about the excursion later that evening, mentioning that the St. Paddy's displays of gaudy green junk were out in full force. I sympathized. She said that some of the hats and t-shirts attempting to be edgy were, in fact, pretty offensive.

"Don't you mean ... O'Fensive?" I asked, taking great pains to explain the capitalization and punctuation that comprised my out-loud joke.

I don't know why she puts up with me sometimes, I really and truly don't. Must be the luck of the Irish.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Significant digits

Party like an irrational number, y'all ... on and on and on ...

We are headed to a party ourselves today, as my wife's BFF celebrates her 40th. Despite the sentiment above, though, we'll probably be home well before the kids' bedtime. That's how we roll these days.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Bathtub Questions Answered

Q: How many bathtubs do you have in your house?

A: One.

Q: Really?

A: Yes, really. We live in a 2.5 BA colonial, and obviously the .5 bathroom does not have a tub. Somewhat surprisingly, the bathroom in the master suite does not have a tub either, just a shower. The only bathroom with a full tub is the one that might be referred to as the main bathroom, the hall bathroom, or as we call it, the kids’ bathroom.

Q: How does that work out?

A: Pretty well, honestly. I very rarely take baths, whereas two out of three of our children take baths exclusively (the eldest goes back and forth). The kids’ bathroom is where the kids take their baths, so it lines up fairly neatly. The only major challenge comes on those semi-frequent occasions when my wife wants to take a bath.

Q: Why is that a challenge?

A: Because before she can take a bath she has to excavate about a metric ton of stuff out of the tub.

Q: What kind of stuff?

A: Playthings. Our kids consider bathtime to be an extension of playtime, and in fact it is sometimes difficult to convince them to put down the toys long enough to soap them up, despite that being the ostensible main purpose of a bath.

Q: OK, they love their toys, but a metric ton? How many toys do they really need in the tub?

A: Need? Not that many. Want? As many as will fit.

Q: Can you break down the kinds of objects that might be found in your bathtub at any given time?

A: Absolutely, let’s do it by category:

I'M GOING IN! (We had this exact toy at one point. I think we got it at a dollar store. I think it lasted about three days before it broke irreparably.)

Toys, Actual Bath: Squirt the sea turtle from Finding Nemo, a floating book entitled Elmo Gets Clean, various assorted pirate wall clings, various assorted alphabet animal clings
Toys, Beach: a purple pail in the shape of a castle tower, a plastic speedboat
Toys, Not Intended Specifically For Waterplay But Whatever: small plastic sea creatures from a set of 40 (5 each of sharks, dolphins, octopi, seals, crabs, lobsters, starfish and moray eels), Imaginext explorer (used to be a dinosaur rider, maybe?), various assorted Dora the Explorer character figurines, anthropomorphic dump truck
Instruments, Musical: You know those shaker egg things? One of those. No idea how it became a designated bath object, but there it is.
Implements, Kitchen: at least three slotted spoons, one miniature and intended for use in a toy kitchen, two real but long since probably rendered unsuitable for cooking

Q: Can you talk a little more about the alphabet animal clings?

A: Sure. They are big foam animals with letter inserts that pop in and out. The letter corresponds to the first letter of the animal name.

Q: Do you have a full set?

A: Ha ha ha ha ha no. At this point we have, like, the alligator, the bear, the crab, and the J, X and Z. It’s like the first page of a nursery school primer crossed with endgame Scrabble.

Q: Speaking of reading primers, do you have any bathtime-related books, the cardboard and paper kind, not semi-inflated floaties?

A: Glad you asked. We do have a book called Splash which is a very simple picture book. Right now our youngest is pretty into it. It is also a case study in how ridiculous the English language is.

Q: How so?

A: The following pictures come up in the following order near the beginning of the book: frog, fish, starfish, seahorse. Little kids can grok the difference between a frog and a fish pretty easily, I imagine. But then it’s like a deliberate effort to confuse them. Here is a starfish, which looks nothing like a fish. In fact it looks nothing like a living thing, more like a block from the shape sorter. But it’s a living thing. But it’s not a fish, even though “-fish” is right there in the name. Then over here is a seahorse, which looks nothing like a fish. But it is a fish! But it doesn’t have “-fish” anywhere in its name. It has “-horse”. It’s not a horse though, it’s a fish. I think.

Q: So, at some point in the future, when you buy a new house, will the number of bathtubs factor into the decision-making process?

A: I mean, ideally I’d love to have a master suite bathroom with a shower stall AND a soaking garden tub with jacuzzi jets AND a double vanity. But if we find a nice 4 BR that happens to once again have 2.5 baths and only one tub, and also met a lot of other criteria we deemed necessary, then I think the tub thing would be a minor to non-factor overall.

Q: Eventually all the kids will outgrow baths and just take showers with toys anyway, right?

A: Right. And then we can look forward to them all being teenagers at once and fighting over time spent in the bathroom and privacy and all that. Thanks for reminding me.

Q: You’re welcome.

A: That’s not a question.

Q: You’re … welcome?

A: Mm-hmm.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Ideal Worlds (Tigerman)

Remember when I used to put up book reviews on a regular basis? Good times, good times. Worth getting back into, I reckon, starting with a novel I recently finished reading: Tigerman by Nick Harkaway.

(CHECKING MY PRIVILEGE: This is the first book I've finished since resolving to keep an eye on the diversity of my personal reading list. Inauspiciously, Mr. Harkaway represents a direct continuation of the straight white male same-old-same-old. But fear not, based on the next book I started reading, I'll be able to report on getting somewhat outside the comfort zone soon enough. But more on that later.)

One of the surefire ways to get me on a story's side, to grab my attention and lock in my sympathies for the author, at the very least, before even attempting to get me invested in the characters, is to dive right into the pop culture references, particularly those from deep within my wheelhouse. Tigerman is a good case in point. From the outset, it presents itself as very much a piece of modern literary fiction, concerned with such themes as the ultimate unknowability of other people's inner selves, and the vast hardships and meager rewards of even attempting to forge meaningful human connections in order to construct something like a stable family out of the chaos of a fallen world. Not exactly the stuff of pure escapism. But soon enough come the Green Lantern references, and the Star Wars references, and at that point I am fully onboard for wherever the tale is going to go afterwards.

It's ironic (and not lost on me) that these shibboleths invoking imaginary power rings and fictional planets far, far away are the very thing that makes Tigerman feel grounded, like a story that takes place in the world I live in, where comics and movies matter to people. Also ironically, these geeky touchstones serve within the narrative not as obscure esoterica that mark the child who speaks of them as strange, but the common ground that an adult British army officer and a young third world street urchin can meet upon in order to understand one another.

Tigerman takes place almost exclusively in a fictional island nation called Mancreu, in a fictional near-future. An industrial accident has created an underground stew of chemicals and microbes which occasionally vents gas clouds that create strange and unnatural effects, and the international community grapples with grave concerns that at some point the entire cauldron will vent at once, creating a global disaster. The consensus is that Mancreu needs to be wiped off the map in some kind of concerted tactical strike, but opinions differ as the exact timing and other details. A few warships gather in the island's main harbor, along with a few other ships trafficking in extralegal activities, since the imminent demise of the island means that no authority has a vested interest in fighting crimes taking place just off the coast. All of which sets the stage for Lester Ferris, the official representative of Her Majesty in Mancreu, to take matters of justice in his own hands, urged into action by the young comic book fan he befriends, a boy who never talks about his home life and only gives his name as Robin (as in "Batman and"). And Lester, somewhat inadvertently, becomes Tigerman, more to win the admiration and possibly love of a boy he thinks of like a son, having never started a traditional family of his own.

It's a great premise for a story, particularly at this moment in history, with superhero stories ascendant in both popular and critical acclaim (to varying degrees). It imagines the ways in which a man with the proper motivation and no small amount of surplus military ordnance might realistically conduct a campaign against drug dealers and terrorists and status quo enforcing world powers indifferent to the suffering of the have-nots. Which is to say, realistically such a campaign would be doomed to failure, so the story is ultimately a tragedy of unintended consequences, although as I said above, the novel makes it clear from the first word that it is not a piece of fanciful happy-ending fluff. It takes the emotional depth of the characters as seriously as it takes the elaborate sci-fi-inflected worldbuilding. It takes the ideas, and the ideals, of superheroes very seriously, and digs deeply into what they mean, even if their inherent implausibility is a foregone conclusion. It's not a deconstruction of the tropes of comic books (thankfully; we already have plenty of those) but a meditation on what comics and real life might already have in common, and what they've always had in common.

I don't think I've ever read a book quite like Tigerman, certainly not recently, one which has breathless action scenes and dizzying plot twists and turns, and also very poetic language in service of painting the mindset of a character, and also science fiction that borders on magical realism, and also a philosophical center that still has me thinking over the implications a week later. I'll let that stand as my recommendation for it in all its pop-cult riffing, zeitgeist-seizing glory.

Monday, March 9, 2015

More of the same

So Thursday, as mentioned, was a snow day. Friday the office re-opened but I stayed home because my wife was dreadfully ill. She didn't need me to nursemaid her per se, all she really needed was the freedom to spend most of the day reclining and preferably unconscious. But since Friday is normally a day home from daycare for the little kids, and this Friday was an elementary school holiday as well (for some unknowable reason), it fell upon me to stay home and keep the children alive and happily distracted away from their recuperating mother. Mission more-or-less accomplished.

The weekend proper went by quickly, with my wife heroically going in to work her shift on Saturday morning despite still not feeling 100%. Fortunately she was more herself by Saturday night, just in time for the little girl to succumb to a stomach virus once again, or possibly a relapse of an earlier one, who knows. On Sunday my wife took the little guy to a swim lesson that had already been postponed twice due to weather, while the little girl spent almost the entire day napping on the couch, poor little thing.

Still, we made it through, and this morning for the first time since last Wednesday I returned to the office. I knew, rationally, that everyone had the day off last Thursday, but there was a tiny part of me hoping that maybe, juuuuuuust maybe, there had been some movement on the contract front last Friday and I would come in to good news this morning. Or any news, really, since it's the not knowing that kills me.

But no, in case anyone else was wondering, still nary a word about the fate of our team engagement here. Fourteen more working days until everything expires. Contracting is not for the faint of heart.

Thursday, March 5, 2015


So today is a snow day. Probably the last snow day of the winter, but that merely serves to emphasize the point that it is March 5th. I know we got off fairly easy this winter, no major crippling multi-day blizzards or anything. We never lost power, and we never found ourselves stranded without food. (With three small children, we pretty much have to make sure there's always more than enough provisions in the house to get us through to the next weekly shopping trip, because you just never know.) Still, I'd rather get through all the snowstorms in January and February if it's all the same, thanks very much.

I admit that I did a fair amount of eye-rolling at the people who were bawling on Facebook around Labor Day about how much they were going to miss summer. I mean, come on. Seasons change, life goes on, it's hard for me to scrape up much sympathy for someone who's devastated over something, like the beginning of fall, that hasn't technically happened yet. But what a difference six months makes. This first week of March is basically like aphelion if Labor Day were the sun (alaborion?) so yeah, right now I'm longing for summer.

But we don't get to control the passage of time any more than we get to control the weather. At least we can control our schedules based on meteorological predictions, though. School for the little guy was cancelled last night around 8, and the day care notified everyone they'd be closed shortly after that. It took until 4 or 5 this morning for the federal government to decide to close, but they made the right call, as did my wife's place of business. So we're all safe at home with a fire in the woodstove and Finding Nemo on the tv. It's still coming down out there, but I guess the snowy season might as well go out big.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A Reading Challenge

I recently became aware of an article published this year which issued a blanket challenge to book nerds: go an entire year without reading any books by white, heterosexual, cisgendered men. It was intended to be provocative, which of course means the interwebs went apeshit, so much so that the point of the article seems to have been lost amidst the controversies about reverse sexism, misandry, out-of-control political correctness, &c. &c.

It would be difficult for me to identify as more white, more straight, and more cis-male than I currently do, so if that combination of attributes is being examined, then I am a decent representative of the type. But I don't feel like I personally am under attack, or that this is all about setting up an enemy in order to concentrate on taking them down. When someone says "the literary canon is too white or too male" I don't ever feel the need to dig my heels in and shout back "what's wrong with white males? I happen to be one and I like myself just fine!" Mostly I find myself saying "yeah, it really is." The point is not that any one particular segment is bad in and of itself, the point is that any dominance of one segment to the detriment or exclusion of all others is very bad, and even dominance in terms of majority while still allowing a token under-represented class here and there is still pretty bad.

As an abstract idea, most people would probably agree that balance and moderation are key in various aspects of life. It's just that nobody likes being told what to do, and some people don't even like the hint of an intimation of a suggestion that there might be a better way to do things that what they're currently, possibly probably unthinkingly, doing. I understand that facet of human nature well enough, which is still well short of actually defending people who have tried to whip up the backlash and shout down Ms. Bradford with harassment, insults and threats. There's really no defense for that kind of thuggishness. It would be nice to live in a world where the very concept of thuggishness is a non sequitor in the context of a comments thread after an article about reading habits, but we have to live in the real world instead. People get defensive; idiotic, overly entitled and emotionally stunted people lash out. I will officially go on the record as saying they shouldn't, but beyond that, what should we do about it? Other than ignoring it and never, ever feeding the trolls, I really have no idea.

But narrowing the focus a bit to my reaction to the challenge, I think it's a good idea overall. Which means I'm going to keep it in mind, even though I'm not fully prepared to take it up.

I looked back over the books I've read just in 2015 so far, and here's the tallies:

8 books read
1 female author (Karen Maitland, Company of Liars)
0 POC authors
0(*) LGBT authors

OK, that is kind of embarrassing! Given that I like to think of myself as a proponent for equality, those numbers are abysmal. I can say with confidence that I don't actively turn my nose up at books by authors writing outside the white, hetero, male perspective. I guess I just don't pay enough attention to it, and that's enough for the insidious disproportionality in the publishing industry in general to take hold in my personal reading habits.

The truth is, I almost always read books based on what they're about, not who they're by (with exceptions for some of my favorite prolific authors). I might read a review that makes something sound great and/or right up my alley, or become intrigued by a publishers blurb after an algorithm recommends something, or just like the look of a book's cover or think the title has a nice ring to it. It's never going to be second nature to me to start with criteria for an author and then work my way through to the premise, especially when we're talking not about the author's expertise or literary reputation but their cultural/gender/sexual identity.

Plus, not trying to throw shade on Ms. Bradford, but I'm honestly curious how I'm supposed to know the sexuality of authors to begin with. I can tell because our society has designated "Karen" as a feminine name that Maitland is female. Also, her Wikipedia article uses the "she" pronoun, while also informing me that she is English, and thus I presume white (the article has no photo). It doesn't mention a husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, or any other clues as to her orientation. There are certainly gay themes in Company of Liars, but I don't know if the woman exploring those issues had a personal connection to them or not.

And this of course is where even well-meaning bleeding heart liberals can and do get all tangled up. We say it doesn't matter if someone is male or female, black or white, gay or straight, and that's fair enough. We can usually tell at a glance where someone falls in the first two splits, but not necessarily the third, and we also say it's really not anyone's business unless the person in question chooses to share. Hence the asterisk up by the zero for the number of LGBT authors I've read this year. There's a chance one or more of them is gay, though nothing obvious has stood out to me. Is that a good thing, or a bad thing, the fact that it hadn't even occurred to me to wonder? Am I super-progressive, because I'm not constantly searching for signs of otherness to be outraged about? Or am I naively sheltered in my straight white male privilege, assuming these things don't matter at all because they don't bother me?

It's exhausting sometimes just trying to be a decent person. I can kind of see why some people don't bother.

I could probably spend a whole year just working my way through Octavia Butler's bibliography, but that might be missing the point.

Again, I'm not disputing Ms. Bradford's main point. If anything, I'm underlining it. To really make sure that my reading list doesn't just lapse complacently into a big old pasty sausagefest, I'd have to be very selective, probably do some research and actively seek out intersections between my areas of interest and the de facto fringes. It would make sense to make a Year-Of project of it, to do the (admittedly, probably minimal) Google-fu required to track down a list of LGBT sci-fi authors or pop culture critics who also happen to be people of color, and go from there. I could do that. I should do that.

But it also feels like doctor's orders, and like I said at the outset, everybody has some aversion to that, myself included. I've been told by medical professionals that I should watch what I eat and exercise more for years (probably decades at this point) and ... I sort of do. Not as much as they meant when they said it, but more than nothing. I'll eat more green leafy vegetables. I'll work out when time permits. But I'm going to break down and gorge on candy (frequently) and give myself permission to sleep in rather than hit the gym. If something is better than nothing, then at least I'm doing something that nods toward self-improvement, even if I'm not perfect.

Straight white dudes like Neil Gaiman and Patton Oswalt have new books out that I really want to read, and Stephen King has one coming this summer as well. I could put them all off for a year, but that feels like starving myself now while planning on binging later. Long-term balance and moderation are key, right? A change for the better is preferable to a stunt.

What feels like an achievable goal at this point is for me to at least be more mindful of who I'm reading. I know I have a few more female and POC authors sitting in my to-read piles at home, and I can certainly bump them up in the priority order. I can make an honest try at improving the numbers I cited above over the next year or so. Or at an absolute minimum I can make sure that every time I talk about a book I've read I mention whether or not there's anything remotely outsider about the author, which keeps me honest and might shame me into switching things up more frequently than if I just elided right over that.

So, it's not so much an all-consuming Big Project announcement, but it's a bit of an introduction to an idea which I may very well revisit again and again. Stay tuned for more.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


The re-told fairy tale anthology to which I contributed a story is still available! And in point of fact the publisher is currently in the midst of a big month-long publicity push, including sending out excerpts of various tales to appear on blogs hither and yon, and also interviewing some of the authors to provide a little more context and background for their work. My interview went up on the publisher's website recently, and you can check it out here if you're so inclined.

That link actually goes to the main landing page for the publisher's blog, where you can see links to all four of the author interviews that have come out (so far). I did it that way because I wanted to give everyone an opportunity to play One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others. An alternate title for the game might be Can You Tell I'm Still New At This? Basically what we see here (for any of you who simply refuse to follow said link) are four author headshots, three of which actually look something like professional headshots you might see on the back inner flap of a dust jacket. They are black and white. They depict the author with a serious facial expression, possibly not even looking directly at the camera. And then there's the fourth one, a color snapshot of a guy with a goofball grin. (Obviously I look that way because in the original photo I am sitting next to my beautiful wife, who was cropped out for the promo version.) Please believe me that if it seems like I am poking fun, it is entirely at my own expense. The other authors' photos look like I would expect any author's photos to look. I'm clearly the amateur who's just happy to be here.

I have been thinking lately that I seriously do need to get some headshots taken, nothing elaborate or extremely high-end, but something usable not only for my hobbyist writing endeavors, which covers interview situations like this and also my GoodReads author page and suchlike, but also for my job search, since apparently all my profiles from LinkedIn to ClearanceJobs are designed to accommodate a personal photo, which may or may not have an impact on recruiters scrolling through the listings. Couldn't hurt, certainly.

Also, while I'm on the subject of my own interview, having gone back and re-read it myself I do find it slightly hilarious. I confess that I am enough of an egomaniac that I enjoy being interviewed when the subject is myself. You might wonder if my tendency to overthink things sends me into overanalysis-paralysis at the prospect of definitively stating what my favorite book is or anything like that, but the truth is I approach each interview as a chance to answer questions based on what kind of mood I'm in, assuming I can always change my answers to any degree I see fit if I ever get interviewed again in the future. I also may very well tailor my answers in a particular interview toward portraying myself in a certain light, and I think that's abundantly in evidence in the example at hand. I tell a story about writing cute animal adventures as a kid, I name check Star Wars and reference comic books, and I claim a couple of books as favorites which are out-and-out comedies; the books in question are, in point of fact, certainly among my unranked top 10 or so faves, but the fact that I held up those two is pretty telling. Clearly it was very important to me as I was answering the questions to come across as very light-hearted and likable, just a fun-loving geek with a good sense of humor (which really does go along well with the cheesy photo of me, at that). And the reason why I leaned so hard on that sentiment is probably to offset whatever impression of me the story I wrote for the anthology might otherwise conjure up. It's a dark and twisted little tale, which I knew when the idea for it came to me and I knew once I had finished writing it. If I needed any further confirmation, when I shared the story with my wife for the first time and she had read it through, she pronounced it "creepy as f&@%". And I knew she wasn't wrong! Anybody who reads this blog regularly knows I'm a horror fan, I like plenty of weird stuff, and I'm reasonably at peace with my dark side. But it's also, apparently, very important to me that people know there's more to me than that, and in the interest of making that known, I may have overcompensated a bit. It certainly wouldn't be the first time.

Monday, March 2, 2015


Did not get the job I interviewed for last week. Meh. It was not a dream job by any stretch, it was just the first place to reach out and contact me and bring me in for an interview since I started this most recent round of possible employer-hopping. Admittedly, it would be pretty hard for anything to compare with last year's whole whoop-de-doo where I thought I had an inside track because a friend of mine was personally referring me, and the perks of the potential new gig sounded amazing, and I came in for multiple interviews which I thought all went very well, and then just ended up with a "we're looking for someone with a bit more experience" rejection. Since my level of experience was apparent from my resume, and not contradicted by anything I said in my interviews, I didn't believe that for a second, and instead nursed a certain conviction that they needed to fill a quota of interviewing at least X number of people, which I counted towards even though I was never in serious contention. I actually got a similar vibe this time around, but at least it was quicker and less painful.

One of the weird things that came up during last week's interview was the fact that the new company is actively partnered with my current employer. And the manager doing the hiring was very up front about not wanting to poach people, which I found perfectly understandable. The hiring manager further assured me that this was not a deal breaker and not even necessarily a problem, because if they wanted to hire me they could either work out some aboveboard understanding with my current employer or possibly even simply have me reassigned from my current contract to the partnership contract while remaining an on my employer's payroll, which honestly sounded appealing to me since I would have the same benefits, the same salary, the same cumulative years of service, but I would also have the opportunity to do more on a daily basis, pick up some new skills, take a half-step towards a bigger career change down the line, &c. But, again, it didn't work out. I don't know if the whole no-poaching thing, big deal or not, wound up being more trouble than it was worth, or what. But I'm back to square one on the job hunt.

I just wrote a whole long paragraph about where things stand now regarding my current contract, and then I realized I already did that a week ago and so I deleted the redundant return to the same territory. Nothing has changed since that last post, no updates, no movement, just a slow and steady approach to the point of no return where all of us contractors (I think there are something like 40 of us on this contract?) will find we can't get into the building unescorted and can't log on to the network at all because all of our dingle-dongles have expired with no work authorization to replace them. As I've said, that actually coming to pass seems unlikely. But if it does, I'm not even sure what would happen logistically. Would we all come into the office and get visitor badges and sit at our desks doing longhand paperwork and/or nothing? Or would we be told to stay home until the contract issues were sorted out and we could be re-credentialed? The options are limited, and none of them seem right. Of course, it makes very little difference to me. Show-up/Do-nothing is kind of my default mode here most days anyway, and I'd be perfectly happy to stay home if that was the official directive, as long as I got paid.

I do hope the contract gets renewed, which will not signal the end of my job hunt but rather provide a bit of comfortable time-and-money cushion, allowing me to continue looking around for something better and to hold out for something quite significantly better, while still keeping a roof over my head and not suffering through any other major disruptions. I admit that at times I have run the scenario in my mind where the contract falls through and my employer lets me go with some amount of severance, at which point I could look for a job full time, with more urgent motivation, and go on interviews without burning through vacation days, and so on. It has a certain appeal, much like wishing idly for some minor health crisis requiring hospitalization has a certain appeal in terms of mandatory bedrest and whatnot. It's irresponsible and selfish and arguably outright stupid, but I'm only human.

In more positive work-related news, my wife has recently accepted a new job offer which she will begin some time in the middle of April, and she tendered her official resignation at her current place of employment. The new gig will have her working more and longer hours every week, but it also pays significantly better, and it gets her out of the crazy stress-minefield her present position has evolved into, so all in all it's a big net plus. I will update as warranted as the spring rolls along, but at the moment I'm happy for her and proud of her and thought that was a pretty good note to end on after all of the negativity up above. There's always something to be thankful for.