You know me, right? In the continuum of natural-to-unnatural, I’ll be the one with the binocs looking at birds and furry animules out in a relatively human-free landscape. Always have been bent that way, though I’m not outdoors enough to call myself a wilderness adventurer or anything. I’ve written stories and songs set in the outdoors, and have always enjoyed movies and books in that sort of setting. I’ve hiked and backpacked. I’ve dreamed of running away to the wilderness. I’ll even admit to having moments of interest in Furry fandom, mostly toward more realistic than ‘toony tropes.

Then on Monday, I read something on Twitter that a distant friend either liked or retweeted (probably liked) and it blew my fuzzy green mind. It was a middling-long series of tweets of a quick yet fairly well-done sci-fi story:
What if…
(note: Other tweets and retweets from that user may not be work-safe.)

Here’s the text from the first tweet:

What if. What if you lived in the flat above a cybernetics shop/clinic combo.

Going downstairs every day and seeing the most incredible cybernetics in the window. Seeing the heavily ‘borged hacker at the counter, chatting with clientele.

What if.

What if you went in one day.

That’s all you get here; you gotta go read it yourself if you want. Man, I got into the story. A good bit of it was how affecting the story was. Even with a couple of missing details, the style just pulled me in. (I say “missing details” only as if I were an editor advising the writer what he could add to make the story a skosh longer for publication. Just a skosh.) The other bit, maybe the bigger bit, was ME saying “What if I could do that?”

Well, we can’t do that yet, and won’t for quite a while. While scientists are working on a slice of what might eventually be the field of “replacement parts” for humans, they’re only working on vital things like the heart, really. I don’t think they’re really trying to make everything integrate with the human organism in the way a science fiction write would envision. At this point, it’s more important, and plenty challenging, to keep a person alive NOW. Get fancy later.

In a century or so … maybe we can get replacement eyes with adjustable colors and irises. (Oh, and perfect vision, of course.)

Anyway, I’ve spent the week sorting out a bunch of thoughts on this Eureka! moment, because cyborg-anything is so far from where my rich fantasy life has always been, and yet it really seems to fit, somehow. (This week, that is.) Not just for practical reasons, such as my current eyes being a mismatched pair of myopic and astigmatic balls of rods, cones, and humors. Maybe also for aesthetic reasons. Maybe just for fun.

By today, Friday, I think I figured out what the underlying thread is. The notion of changing myself or how I’m presenting myself is, um, really cool. From dressing up in a Ren Faire outfit or biker leathers, to occasional thoughts of more tattoos, to wondering what I’d look like with antlers or fur or even a spiffy robotic hand with a built-in multitool. Cuz, let’s face it, being a normal human living in a suburb of a metro area with a day job is kind of … mundane. Right?

It’s just that … how does all this fit in with the guy with the binoculars from the first paragraph who likes to watch birds?

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Music festival time

Last weekend I went to the 40th Hiawatha Music Festival, in Marquette, Michigan. I wish I remembered how many of them I’ve been to. The Ott Lake Rambler moved back to Marquette in 1997, so it’s no more than twenty festivals; it’s more like fifteen for me due to a few years where circumstances were beyond my control.

There are two components to this festival for me. There’s the festival itself, the acts going on the main stage and the workshop tents, the things I’m actually paying for when I buy the ticket. Then there’s the group of friends I see at the festival, most of whom are fellow campers or ones who live close enough to walk in. This second part is what I especially cherish about Hiawatha. I go there alone, but once I’m there I hang out with at least a dozen locals and more folks from other parts of Michigan and Wisconsin who I enjoy seeing very much. Most of us talk and catch up with each other, and we jam together a lot.

The jamming is almost always on old-timey music, fiddle tunes specifically. Hiawatha is where I coined the phrase “It’s a fiddle’s world, we only live in it.” As a guitar player, my job is accompaniment, but I’m very happy with that because while I contribute, I get to listen to one or more fiddles playing the melodies, sometimes slow, usually fast, often intricate. I love the sound of a fiddle. It’s sometimes hard for me, because I seem to have very few fast-twitch muscle fibers in my arms and the fiddlers can be speedy, but it’s fun.

It’s a lot different from what I play when I’m back home. Jams back home got disappointing for me because everyone I know plays guitar. I don’t care if you’re Eric Clapton, when there are more than five guitars no one stands out. It’s all one guitar sound blob. But if you have fiddles, banjos, mandolins, basses, and guitars, then things sound more interesting. Another thing is, focusing on instruments instead of voices is fun. I must confess singalongs don’t generally move me as much as playalongs do, sometimes. YMMV.

Then there’s the part where you’re playing along on an obscure tune uncovered by the master fiddler from Mt. Pleasant from some old recording he found, or your best friend plays one he learned from a legendary fiddler in West Virginia … instead of singing “Peaceful Easy Feeling” for the nine hundred and first time.

It’s sad when it ends, but I try to stretch it out by playing a lot of folk and fiddle CDs during the following week. This year, I’m intentionally limiting my news consumption as well, so I don’t harsh my remaining mellow too quickly. That all makes up for spending a week or more getting on the noxious task of getting the camping gear cleaned and stowed away again.

Let me add this, if you’re into bluegrass and get a chance to see or listen to Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper, DO IT. They came up from southern Indiana to co-headline Hiawatha, and they blew me away. There’s a reason why they’re winning big awards.

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What’s wrong with the news today is us

I just got mad at a chyron. (Which I think was originally a minor Greek god who announced short summaries of things best listened to in full as pronounced by major Greek gods.) It was on CNN, the video was of House minority leader Nancy Pelosi speaking, and I have no idea what she actually said because the volume on the TV was low and I was actually busy paying for lunch. But the text under her face was something like “PELOSI DOWNPLAYS RESULT OF NEW YORK PRIMARY.”* I fake-screamed, “Why doesn’t she support ALL Democrats! She’s the leader, it’s her JOB!”

The woman taking my money just nodded and tried to stay out of it.

Mind, I have no idea what Pelosi was saying. All I know is what some video editor type at CNN thought was the main story. As I walked away, I realized what I had done, and I felt more than a bit sheepish though no one else seemed to care.

There are so many problems with the news business in America. I was about to add “today,” but the complaints I would make are the same as those that surfaced in the days of William Randolph Hearst in the late 1800s, and they probably were not new then. We think there was some halcyon time when the news sources could be trusted as not only impartial but unhyperbolic. If something serious happened, you could trust it was serious, because newspapers were not overplaying EVERYthing. And if they said some politician had a concern about something, you could rest assured that politician did, and that the news source was not trying to peddle a narrative that would bring them more eyeballs whether it was true or not. They have, in fact, never not peddled a narrative that would bring them more eyeballs.

Consumers, of course, eat this stuff up with a big spoon. We need our news fast, and we always want to be entertained. If the story was a party leader saying “We are happy for so-and-so and we look forward to helping her win and working with her in the next Congress,” that would probably be dull, even if that’s what a party leader should say on the day after a primary. And it would be impossible to hear all that when you’re standing in line at the company cafeteria paying for a tuna sandwich.

All I can do is remind myself to be a more careful consumer of news, and to perhaps ignore the news when I cannot be that more careful consumer, because in the latter case it’ll just distract and inflame me, and I need a lot less random distraction and inflaming over half-understood crap.
* if you want background.

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Need something new to do on Sunday afternoons

See, I know something about football. I never played it on any organized level, but I was a fan of the college and the pro game since childhood. A football game on TV is something I can watch in the background or really pay attention to. I know what’s going on, at least at a high level, know what the basic rules are, and can come to care about certain teams.

Except, I can’t care about any of them anymore. Football as it is played in the United States is about as corrupt an institution as any other, these days. I’ve barely watched any games in the last couple of years, no more than a couple of minutes worth at any one time. And no, it’s not because the hometown pro team has a 61-year streak (and counting) of missing the championship game.

At the moment, I’ll just stick to pro football, though I have as many objections to collegiate football.

Reasons to boycott the National Football League:

1. The new rule with the penalty for insufficient respect toward the national flag and anthem, which, why are they even part of football games?

2. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and other chronic post-career conditions requiring extensive health care and shortening lives that the NFL doesn’t seem to care about.

3. Blacklisting of players such as Colin Kaepernick, Tim Tebow, and Michael Sam because they aren’t cookie-cutter traditional football players, and owners fear change….

4. … while turning a blind eye toward other football players who physically abuse the people in their life.

That doesn’t even count the usual reasons: the cost of attending games, owners robbing government treasuries for new stadiums while threatening to take the team elsewhere, and the attention they steal from other worthy interests and endeavors.

So don’t look for me at the Lions’ Super Bowl celebrations this year (ha).

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Periodic work upheaval

This April, my employer offered early retirement packages to selected staff. I was not included in this group; I’ve heard I missed their age cutoff by one year. (Age was just one criterion for selection.) This offer hit my department especially hard. Out of nine members, four are leaving, including our manager.

In my opinion, they’ve done a poor job informing the remaining staff of the wherefor and why of this. Obviously some details would have to be kept secret, but we’re lacking the background that informs the action, which causes rumors to fly and morale to settle into darkness. We have a “town hall” scheduled for next week, but it’s being held in conjunction with an annual sales conference, so one might expect less than full candor mixed with the “Rah rah Fiscal Year 2019 Go!”

I am not sure what I feel about being one of the survivors. I don’t feel my future here is certain by any means, but I’m showing up until they tell me to stop coming. The company still produces the books that I work on, so it needs people to do that work until they decide to not produce those books. Someone else might be working on retooling their skill set so they can take on other challenges, or some silly buzzwords like that. For several reasons, some of which will sound more negative than others, I’m not inclined to go that route. That probably means I’m hoping this early-retirement package thing is not a one-off, and “hoping” is perhaps not a wise move in 2018 corporate America.

My main issue right now is, ultimately, abandonment issues. That sounds a little odd to say, but when I tell you that many of the people who are leaving have been part of my work life for three decades or so, it might be understandable. I’ve worked for my manager directly for over ten years, but before that, when I was an editor, she was the one I had to whom I had to deliver books when I wanted them to be composed as pages. That also meant she was the one (aside from my manager) for whom I had to have an explanation when I couldn’t do deliver the book on schedule. That was a big part of my education. Over the last quarter-century, I got better at it, she got used to me, and we’ve worked together well. I actually like her quite a bit, within the bounds of professionalism. And now … she’s gone.

I know which manager I’ll be reporting to next, and I’m not concerned because I think he’ll be cool, but there will be a get-to-know-you phase that I haven’t had to handle in a while. There will also be a few other faces I won’t be seeing regularly who I’ll miss. Not to mention there will be a lot of new work on my desk that I have to figure out how to handle. Finally, there’ll still be what a coworker called the anvils hanging from the ceiling, with the issue of whether these will descend on me slowly attached to a parachute or not. So excuse me if things seem a little subdued here.

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What’s up?

Long time, no write. Sorry.

Work continues. Still composing large-type books. Only sometimes does it seem like the same book over and over.

My sister and her husband moved another thirty miles north of where they were before. They’d been hoping to do it before winter but things happened. They had a pretty good day for moving if I recall, though, for winter at any rate.

I’m trying to eat less and move more. I’m not being wholly successful at this yet. My doctor’s office is getting quite a lot of money, considering I’m not really ill with anything acute. They’re having me see dietitians and exercise physiologists and such. They would do better to hire me a cook and get me a dog that needs a lot of walkies. I don’t think insurance would pay for that.

I’m not playing music much, and haven’t been to any open mics all year. I’ve been to a couple of Detroit Symphony concerts with Dave. In February we Camille Saint-Saens’ Symphony No. 3 (the Organ Symphony) and three other of his works. Last week we heard Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 and Benjamin Britten’s violin concerto with Sibelius’ Pohjola’s Daughter. Everything was outstanding, simply incredible. And I got to see my friend John Finan play a birthday show at the Plymouth Coffee Bean, which he did very well.

My SecondLife avatar, Gus, bought a parcel of land adjacent to his, and then managed to lose his house somehow. No flames were involved, fortunately, so the furniture is intact. Good thing he likes wildflowers because that’s all he had for a while. Gus is alternating between becoming a cyberpunk or a full-time werewolf. No, I don’t know what it all means, either. His friends are indulgent, if not actively corrupting him.

In real life, we’ve had one week of snow while watching about three other storms slide by to our south. The weather patterns have been strange here but not in a terribly bad way. There have been a few occasions where it’s been warmer here than in Louisville.

Haven’t done much genealogy lately. Sometimes it’s best to let things be for a while, and then some new clues or thoughts surface and progress happens again.

As for the nation, I’m trying to decide whether it’s a trash fire or a tire fire. This week, I’m leaning toward the latter. Tire fires are pretty noxious, after all, and the way things are right now really stinks.

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That one time at Altivo’s place

There was a lot to LiveJournal, back in the day. (Same can be said for a lot of things, I suppose. *side-eye look at Gotham City Cafe*) I spent a good lot of time digging this up out of a friend’s LJ, because my friend David remembers it so fondly. David remembers it as a Rabbit Hole Day post, but it was in Altivo’s LJ … well, I’ll tell the story this way:

* * * * *

If you read this, if your eyes are passing over this right now, (even if we don’t speak often) please post a comment with a COMPLETELY MADE UP AND FICTIONAL memory of you and me. It can be anything you want – good or bad – BUT IT HAS TO BE FAKE. When you’re finished, post this little paragraph on your blog and be surprised (or mortified) about what people DON’T ACTUALLY remember about you.

There was that time a few years ago, when Northwestern was having that really good football season, and you invited me and the missus over to watch the U of M game… the wives were in the kitchen talking, I dunno, girl talk I guess, and we were in the living room with your little boy (who’s, what, a senior now? Gawd they grow up fast) watching the Wildcats take apart Michigan’s defense… meanwhile your daughter and mine were upstairs playing with that huge collection of plush animals. We oughta get together again sometime.

I’m speechless, truly speechless. I think you won the “IT NEVER COULD HAVE HAPPENED” award for this one.

/* does little happy dance */
I almost added a bit about drinking cheap American beer, but thought that might be overkill.

Or at least made me feel ill. I won’t even make beer batter out of cheap American (or Mexican) beer.

* * * * *

It probably goes without saying that neither Altivo nor I have wives or children, nor any interest in Northwestern or Michigan football (he went to Michigan State), and we actually have never met, just corresponded on LJ, Dreamwidth, Twitter, and Mastodon for … gawd, thirteen years? But the huge collection of plushies is not fictional.

This was originally posted 29 November 2005, and can be found at Altivo’s Dreamwidth page, . Posted without permission, though my bits wouldn’t make much sense without Altivo’s bits so I hope it’s forgiveable.

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