I Got a Feeling the Bills Are Going to the Super Bowl

A brave new year is underway. So far the winter has been pretty mild, if not exactly warm. Even as the chaos of the world continues to writhe around us, one surprising good thing is the Buffalo Bills are back! It’s been twenty-five years or something since they won a playoff game, and now they’re gonna be in the AFC championship! As a fan back in the day of Jim Kelly and Bruce Smith, I gotta say this is pretty fun and exciting.

One thing I accomplished in 2020 was to work my way thru the entire book Patterns for Jazz by Jerry Coker et. al. on saxophone. It took me about three years to do it in high school, and I must say my facility has leveled up. I’m now starting to work thru to book on piano, and am immediately encountering little tricky things I never thought of before, like how to cross over fingerings when going up a half-step after every riff. Meanwhile in soxphoneland I rediscovered a book called The Bebop Bible by Les Wise. It’s an encyclopedia of jazz riffs for major, dominant, minor, ii-V-II, etc., organized by starting tone. Should keep me busy for a while.

I also went up in weights on my workout toward the end of last year. Winter is usually the hardest time of year for working out cuz the cold makes you sluggish and more susceptible to injury. But so far so good. The last few winters have been pretty rough, so here’s hoping I can ride it out thru to springtime.

Our Friday night D&D campaign had a particularly exciting night this week. Michelle got me the book Tales From the Yawning Portal for my birthday last summer. It’s collection of all-time great D&D modules from the game’s entire history, and includes classics like the Giants’ Saga and The Tomb of Horrors. Since the fall we’ve been playing the Forge of Fury, in which the party explores a once-abandoned Dwarven Mine, which is now overrun with orcs, troglodytes, evil Drow Dwarves, dwarvish and orcish undead, animated armor and other strange Dwarven craftwork, and other assorted nasties. The module has a great pacing to it as each level flows into the next and the level of danger and isolation increase. Also, Michelle got all her cousins new dice for Christmas, themed to their characters, and I bought a pack for myself, all sparkly and cool colors.

This week they reached the very bottom of the dungeon, where a young Black Dragon dwells in an cave with a subterranean lake. It was one of the best combats ever. It began with the dragon killing half the party in the first six seconds, first with a bite attack (natural 20!) on Phil’s character Philbert, a Druid doing advanced scouting underwater with a Cloak of the Manta Ray, and then a breath attack on everyone else. Michelle plays the Cleric Thea and luckily was able to heal everyone. A few rounds went by where the dragon swooped in close to bite and claw, and everyone unleashed everything they had for spells and weapons attack. Lou, playing the Dwarven fighter Luca, jumped onto the dragon, hacked it with his great axe, fell into the lake, swam to shore, scaled a cliff wall and jumped onto it again. He delivered the killing blow just as the dragon used its breath weapon a second time, killing everyone in the line of fire (actually acid). The dead dragon crashed into a cliff wall just past the party’s position, causing further mayhem. The only other surviving member was Phil, who was still in the water. He was able to climb up the bank and heal Thea, who then cast Mass Cure Wounds to restore the party. Epic fun! Next week they’ll try and get out the hoard of treasure out in the middle of the lake. Who knows what nasties they’ll encounter when they get there…

In addition to D&D, other gaming, watching LotR appendices and now football on TV, Michelle has been really getting into baking. She got a cookbook of deserts for Christmas and has been making coffee cake, pumpkin break, cookies and other yummies. Much as this interferes with my new year’s resolution to diet and lose some weight, I find it hard to object.

And finally, I started a new job a couple weeks ago. Suddenly I’m busy all the time and have to plan ahead to get around to minor random tasks. So far it seems good and the people seem pretty cool and and decent. It’s a small company, only six or so engineers and half of them are doing stuff like hardware and industrial design, which is fascinating and a whole ‘nuther area of expertise.

The company makes electronic musical instruments and they hired me to create a media hub which can connect to all the devices and their companion apps and people can share musical content. Right in my wheelhouse. Also the first time I’ve started a fully green-field, all new technology stack with completely free reign in many years. So right now it’s basic requirements gathering and system design.

They do seem to really like meetings, including agile and all the overhead that goes with it: daily progress reports, sprint planning, backlog grooming and all that. It occurs to me that I’ve gone fifteen months of working without having to go to a single meeting that wastes my time, as I don’t use agile in my other projects. I’m wondering if I can help them get better at this, to be lighter and not conflate the map with the territory so much. Of course projects need to be managed one way or another, and alot of it is good, helping me get to know the people and the situation faster than I would otherwise. This week I plan to spin up a web server and start prototyping.

Long December

Well 2021 is here, and there’s reason to believe maybe this year will be better than the last. Our holidays were pretty laid back, but we made the most of things. Michelle and Jeannie were both off the week of Christmas and were working/schooling from home the week before that. We went up to Buffalo to visit my parents. We went up a few days earlier than usual, because we’d been isolating, and spent Xmas day there. Lizzy came and joined us, and we all came back downstate together. I must say it’s great to still be able to visit my parents after all these years, and fantastic that they’re doing well. My Mum cooked up an amazing feast and my Dad was out shoveling a good foot of show two days in a row.

On the downside we didn’t get to see alot of people we usually see over the holidays, including Martin, Denis, Larry, Nick and their families. And we didn’t really go out or go anywhere. We did manage to have Mary and her Family, along with Jeannie’s parents, come up for an afternoon last week when it was reasonably warm. We hung out in the backyard and built a fire in our firepit.

That night we watched the Bills game. The Bills are pretty hot this year and Lizzy is a huge fan. For me their Super Bowl run from 30 years ago is etched upon my mind, so it’s nice to daydream of victory. We’ve also been playing alot of board games. Ticket to Ride has become a family favorite, and both Jeannie and Michelle have been playing against the computer to improve their strategy. We also got a new game Azul for Xmas.

Now we’re all back at work and school. I’m finishing off some last loose ends for the Jukebox in preparation for a push to live. It’s down to syncing the song metadata and doing a round of QA. We’ll see how things shape up for the new year.

My project to build a scheduling tool for Origami USA has been coming along. I’m pretty close to having a working prototype, or minimum viable product. I’ve been working closely with Robert Lang, who built and the web site, and (not to surprisingly I guess) is an expert software engineer in addition to being a world class origami artist. I’ve been pulled into the committees for the OUSA web site and convention planning. Mostly it’s a fun hang. There’s a good number of people who’ve been there a while and know how to run things, and a few newbies like myself. All pretty friendly but with enough different opinions to keep things lively. Robert is like Mycroft Holmes, running everything on the tech side behind the scenes and handling a million details.

I’ve also started a consulting gig for a company that makes fun (but but very sophisticated) electronic musical instruments, which they want to to connect up into a social media platform. So far they seem like really great people. This could really be alot of fun, right in my wheelhouse. More info as the situation unfolds.