Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thankful? We're Working On It.

Hey, I know Thanksgiving Day was a couple of days ago, and yesterday was Black Friday (signifying the color worn by the family of that poor guy at a Long Island Wally World who got trampled to death by rabid Christmas shoppers). Next Monday is Cyber Monday -- only for people who don't really understand that using "cyber" as a prefix for anything anymore just shows that one doesn't really know much about the Tubular Interwebs. "Dude, the '80s called and they, like, want their slang back."

Anyway, I suppose that this puts us right in the middle of the holiday season today, whether we like it or not. I hope it's not too late to still be thankful for a few things, however small.

  • I suppose I'm thankful that the pre-treatment estimate for Charlie's upcoming surgery pretty much equals the last deposit I made to my checking account. Anyone who wants to complain about it being a fairly lean Christmas from these here parts is more than welcome to unwrap a lump of you-know-what for the holidays, and I'm not talking about coal. (Clue: You can come to our backyard and scoop your own piece from the available selection.)

  • I'm thankful to still have a job, but let's revisit that particular idea in a couple of months. It was nice of my employers to let us all sweat through the holidays before letting us know whether we'll ever be able to pay off the gifts we charged to our MasterCards. Priceless.

  • Okay, I am genuinely thankful that we finished Dinah's AKC championship this year, and are teetering on the brink of finishing her in Canada. Details are on my other blog. The Thanksgiving Cluster usually marks our last show appearance of the calendar year, so it was particularly nice to be able to finish our 2009 season at the last shows of our year. I'm also grateful to be able to pick and choose our shows now that she's a special, instead of sending out $30 and a whole lot of hope to every show within a few hundred miles that stands a chance of amassing a major's worth of competition. I can roll that savings right into my 401(k) and watch it disappear anyway.

  • I am grateful that my family seems to be hanging in there, despite some health scares that my father's had this year. One of my sisters recently got engaged, and I'm glad for her. I just pray every day that she and her intended run off to Las Vegas and get married by an Elvis impersonator so I don't have to deal with a 50-year-old Bridezilla. See "lean year for gifts" above.

Yeah, we still have our health, the roof is still over our heads, and our guy won in the last election. This is a season of hope, however guarded that hope might be. If I have a wish for this upcoming holiday season, it's that we will shortly be able to look back in it and say, "Remember how down and how scared we all were?" -- and be able to do so from a place that is genuinely happier and more hopeful. I wish everybody the best, and hope that there are better times to come.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Days Only Look Shorter!

Whew! Sorry to have been away from the blog for so long -- but I've spent much of the time right here in front of the computer. It's been a busy time for Web site updates. If you want to see what I've been up to, have a look:

That's been enough to keep me out of trouble for a while. As for keeping me off the streets... well, it's just a shame I'm not getting paid for most of this work. In the future, I might have to change the ratio of paid to unpaid...

Not that I'm at all surprised, but the company I work for has just announced that it plans to lay off between 5,000 and 6,000 people. My peers and I are waiting (with dread) for tomorrow's conference call, in which our managers share what they know about our chances of surviving the bloodbath. I give myself a 50-50 chance of seeing the New Year. On the good side, I've just been assigned to one of the hot new projects that the company is depending upon (no pressure there!). On the bad side, they could up and ship all of our jobs overseas.

Please think good thoughts for me. Quite frankly, I'm scared to death.

Anyway, I can recommend a good, cheap Web site designer...

One of President-Elect Obama's campaign promises was to impose a penalty on US companies who ship jobs overseas, and a break for those who keep their jobs here. The bad news about that is that the layoffs are scheduled to start about 3 weeks before he takes office, and Dreamerica wasn't built in a day.

I can't help but think about the Great Depression, and the mess that FDR took on when he succeeded Herbert Hoover as President. The parallels between now and then are just too scary. My parents grew up during that time. To hear them talk about it, you'd think that they had the time of their lives -- but all those songs about money and how to get along without it were their pop culture. I grew up learning all the words to those corny old ditties, and lately lines such as "the rich get rich and the poor get poorer" have been coming back to me.

A Small Piece of History

I might have mentioned that I spent occasional evenings this past year doing data entry for the local Democratic office. Truth be told, I've been a proud Independent voter for many years now, and registered as a Democrat this year so I could vote in the state caucus. I just felt that I couldn't sit idly by and watch everything go down the proverbial tubes, so I went out and offered a little help.

On Election Night, the local office was positively electric -- and not as overconfident as you might think. The crew captains had CNN running on one of the monitors. Canvassers came in, reporting when they had been threatened, discussing some pretty nasty robocalls going around and whether to notify the papers, and picking up flashlights before heading out again.

Many stayed at the office long enough to take pictures of themselves and one another there. They knew that win or lose, they had helped to make history -- and they planned to keep little pieces of it to show their grandkids someday.

News of The Man

Greg has been putting the last finishing touches on the piece he calls Symbolist Minimalist. I'm not sure the title will stick, but the piece itself -- no matter what he calls it -- is one of the prettiest he has ever written. The piece calls for only three instruments: harp, viola, and flute. Greg's been in touch with a couple of harpists who have been advising him on how to make the piece more playable for their instruments, so each revision has been most productive thus far.

If I had to characterize this piece, I'd call it "Debussy and Scriabin Have a Picnic." It combines lovely, dense melodic and harmonic textures with sections of atonality that not only fit the piece, but provide the connectivity between the lush melodic sections. Am I giving anything away by mentioning that there's just the merest quote of "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun" in there someplace? If Greg puts up an excerpt on his Web site, I'll blog about it. You won't want to miss it.

Even Some Knitting News

My friend Fran and I have been taking part in the occasional Open Knit up at one of the local yarn shops, Rosemary's in Cornish. I've made it most of the way down the foot of one of Dad's gray Scheepjes socks. I cast on the cuff of the other sock when I was in a spot where the light wasn't good enough to work the heel gusset, but I could still cast on a sock cuff in the semi-dark. Anyway, I have a couple of inches' worth of cuff on the second sock, so I can just jump back to that after finishing up the toe of the first sock.

I'm still struggling my way through The Friday Night Knitting Club. I'm afraid I'm not enjoying it any more than I've enjoyed my samplings of the endless collections of knitting-related mysteries and giggly, self-referential books about knitting. I'm trying to finish it, really -- but mostly I'm hoping that a giant monster from outer space invades the city and eats all the main characters. There's always hope, right?