March 31, 2019

Hermit Run Ends At 22 Days

Against all odds, on Wednesday March 27th, for the first time since I was deemed surplus to requirements by my employers, I left Pond Central.  I got into the Duckmobile, drove a few miles to my local AcceptableClips for my first haircut in over a full year.  They took 10 inch lengths of hair off!  Now every time the wind blows I shiver because there's airflow over my neck, and that hasn't happened in months.


But there must have been a reason for me to go out, right?  Right.  On Thursday, I had a job interview.  Similar to what I was doing, except now I'd be creating the bills and sending them to the insurance companies.  It went well enough, except I have no idea what the interviewer thought.  Good poker face... I mean, if I interview someone, if I'm interested it would be pretty obvious.  Here though, she could have thought I was the worst candidate ever and I'd have no idea.  

More importantly though... I finally went back to the office to pick up my waiting packages.  This was duly accomplished, but I had a very interesting conversation with my ex-direct supervisor, who we shall call "Betty" because that's not her name.  Turns out Betty was being sent to Chennai, India by the company the next morning, for a month of training classes.  No, not her being trained, but her training other people.  Specificially, new hires on how to process claims from the same client I worked with. Three states' worth of claims were going to be permanently moved overseas for processing in India... and two of the states were quite large indeed.  Suddenly, it becomes even less surprising that people were being let go.  Betty also went on to say that it was "probably a good thing" that I was let go when I was... the whole building has a black cloud hanging over it, morale has totally cratered, ain't nobody happy.  Betty was expecting a mass exodus soon, in fact.  We talked for a few more minutes about her upcoming trip, she promised to e-mail, and I came home.

I'm still not fond of the outside, though.

Formula 1 race on Sunday, from Bahrain... the Ferrari of Charles AMX-30 is on pole, would you believe?  More important, however, is that this video is so cool it's stupid-cool:
Talk more soon.

EDIT: ...and then I found this, which is perfect: y'know, hermit crabs?

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March 28, 2019

Extending Apologies To The Spookliy-Named Group

Well, Ghost is much too weird for me to explain them.

That's what I said in the blurb for the Pet Shop Boys' cover in the last post.  I'd like to apologize for that, because some few hours has taught me quite a lot about the band from Sweden.  You would do well to turn the volume up on this post, by the way.

Everybody knows what a concept album is, right?  A bunch of songs devoted to the same thing telling a story as they go... The Who's Tommy, Pink Floyd's The Wall, Joe Jackson's Big World, Alan Parson's Project's Tales of Mystery and Imagination,  Styx's Paradise Theatre, all examples of the concept album.  Well, Ghost takes it one farther: they're a concept band!  The concept is, however, that they're a Satanic cult led by their charismatic frontman.  Said frontman has until only lately been appearing in skull makeup and church regalia.  These days, he wears a Uncanny Valley facemask. 

Didn't make the satanism rumors go away, which is probably exactly what Ghost wants.  The more I think about it, the more I believe them to be more performance art than musical band... though considering their formidable skills, I'd not say that to their faces.  These Followers of the Morning Star can friggin' rock.
Yes, that's right, that's a Grammy Award they've got there.  They won the 2016 award for Best Metal Performance for their song Cirice.
Nowadays the Grammys aren't worth much of a much, but for people of a certain age... ahem...  that remember what they used to be, there's still a cachet to owning one.  And while that's a helluva music video they've got there, Ghost seems to be a better live act.  Here's a live version of Cirice, for example.
Across the board the band's official videos are... inventive.  To the point that sometimes they take away from the actual music... the video for Rats! is so goofballish that the song (which isn't one of their best, it must be said) just gets swamped.  At other times, the video will actually explain the song (see Cirice, for example).  Often enough, fortunately, the band'll leave things open to interpretation, forcing you to actually listen.  Square Hammer appears to be freemasonry, clever since how many people actually KNOW what a Mason is/was anymore?
In a lot of ways, there's nothing new with Ghost.  They're absolutely metal, taking cues from all over the map: Kiss and Metallica are references mentioned in interviews (and there's a kickass cover of Enter Sandman played in front of the King of Sweden, too... turns out Hetfield's a fan!).  They don't seem to be just the usual headbanging heavy riffers... there's a serious amount of songwriting and musical talent here.  I'm tempted to say that this is "Metal For The Thinking Man", except they'd probably make fun of me for being pretentious.  But come on, read the lyrics to what I think is their best song, He Is:
If you didn't know better, this is Christian Rock.  At least, it is to start.  It sort of heads south (if you know what I mean) along the way to the end.  Even then though, you really have to be thinking about what the lyrics are saying to catch it.  The reference to the story of the burning bush speaking to Moses is really sneaky... when Moses asks for proof that he's truly speaking to God, the reply is "I am who I am."  So "he is" is second... or is it third?... person referencing here.  Circles within circles.

I find online reaction videos to Ghost to be hilarious.  Either people love them, or they're confused as hell... that reaction is usually from self-described christians.  These guys love the song, but despise the message, except then they don't like the song, but they do, and... and... and... they're right though, Mere Christianity is a wonderful book. 

Go out, give 'em a listen, you might be surprised.  Or you might hate them.  Either response is perfectly valid, and I'd understand either one.  Or don't think about it and just bang your head vigorously.  That works too.

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March 23, 2019

Two For GreyDuck, One For Everybody, And One For Nobody

GD, I heard these two and immediately thought of you.  It's up to you if you think that's a good thing or not.

Apparently Covenant isn't new... I see album dates of 2000, 2001, so on and so forth, so perhaps you're familiar with them already.  But some good stuff there.
Oh look, it's a weird cover of a Pet Shop Boys tune.  Well, Ghost is much too weird for me to explain them, but their original music is very heavy indeed.
I think by definition if you're a member of the Pond Scum, you get some level of enjoyment out of bagpipes.  This song has appeared on The Pond before, back in Saturday Night Tunage V where it was performed by the Victoria Police Pipe Band as opposed to the Red Hot Chili Pipers.  I just realized something, and it terrifies me: in the blurb for the song in SNTV, I mention that I first heard the song "nine years ago."  I wrote that in 2011.  Eeurgh.
So Formula 1 knocks on the door of the Chemical Brothers and says "we like your stuff.  Or, really, our grandkids like your stuff.  Do a song for us."  And the Chemical Brothers said "we like dogs."  The rest, as they say, is history.  This is an awful, awful tune.  However, as a riff dispenser it's top-notch, and I fully expect to be seeing F1 commercials and broadcasts using snippets from the track as backing music.  Other than that?  Well, the "Powered by NEEEEUM" on the car made me laugh.  If you don't get why, say it out loud while watching a F1 car drive past.

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March 20, 2019

Making Progress. Kinda. I Mean, In Comparison...

It was just over two weeks ago that I was informed that my services were no longer required, desired or wanted at my job.  14 days plus a few hours.


For the first time in those two weeks, I have left Pond Central.  Okay, yes, it was to go pick up my mail so I didn't even leave the building, but I was actually outside of my home.  At 315am, practically no chance to bump into other people there.  
I'm having lunch with Ph.Duck and D.Nurse on Thursday, so I've got to get my outside on, and fast.  I need to pick up my packages from Ex-Job... I didn't think it'd be so hard to go back... I want my stuff, but my brain is really rebelling against it.  "Go back to a place that flat out told you they didn't want you anymore?  Are you mad?"

You don't have to answer that.

I also need to get a haircut.  It's about time, the last one was Easter 2018, I'm pretty sure.  Everything is ridiculously shaggy, except where it's knotted or matted together on the right side of my head... that's the side I sleep on.  Barbers, man your shavers!  

But all of those require me to go out.

Depression is a helluva thing.

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March 17, 2019

Yes, I Know That's The Point, But Still...

Look, I get that this sort of music is supposed to be catchy.  I don't know if Momoland is an Idol team like AKB40 or whatever, or if they're just a K-Pop act, and I'm not entirely sure I care.  What I do care about is that "catchy" doesn't quite go far enough to define "Boom Boom".

Seriously.  Weaponized catchy.  The followup, "Bbam", isn't quite as good, but hell, that's like saying Godfather II isn't as good as The Godfather.  It's not, but nobody cares because II is still pretty damn good.
I hope for their next track they move into less onomatopoeia for explosions as a concept.

Enjoy all this while you wait for the the Australian F1 writeup, won't you?

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March 16, 2019

F1 Quals: Australia 2019

The first race of a new year is always interesting.  Not just because Australia's circuit is rather radically different from most other on the calendar, but because hey!  We've got F1 again!  And nobody really knows what's in line for the year.  Preseason testing didn't tell us anything we didn't already suspect (Mercedes and Ferrari are fast.  Williams is not.), but you can never quite trusttesting results.  SO the first qualifying session is where we finally get to see what's what... and here's the provisional grid for the 2019 Australian Grand Prix:

Pos
Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1
Lewis Hamilton       Mercedes 1:22.043 1:21.014 1:20.486
2
Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:22.367 1:21.193 1:20.598
3
Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:22.885 1:21.912 1:21.190
4
DH Verstappen Red Bull Racing
1:22.876 1:21.678 1:21.320
5
Charles AMX30 Ferrari 1:22.017 1:21.739 1:21.442
6
Lettuce Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:22.959 1:21.870 1:21.826
7
DP Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:22.519 1:22.221 1:22.099
8
Lando Calrissian McLaren Renault 1:22.702 1:22.423 1:22.304
9
Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo 1:22.966 1:22.349 1:22.314
10
Sergio Perez Racing Point
1:22.908 1:22.532       
1:22.781
11
Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:22.540 1:22.562

12
Smiley Ricciardo Renault 1:22.921 1:22.570

13
Mitch Albon Scuderia Toro Rosso
1:22.757       
1:22.636

14
Tony Snazzy     Alfa Romeo
1:22.431 1:22.714

15
Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso
1:22.511 1:22.774

16
Veruca Stroll Racing Point
1:23.017


17
Pierre Gasly Red Bull Racing                 
1:23.020


18
Carlos Sainz McLaren Renault 1:23.084


19
Nipsy Russell Williams Mercedes 1:24.360


20
Idiot Kubica Williams Mercedes 1:26.067



People honestly believed that the field had actually began to catch Mercedes.  I mean, just look at those Q1 numbers: the first 15 cars were covered by less than a half-second, and the top 18 by less than one second.  Now THAT'd be a season!  Instead, everything changed when Merc kicked in their "party mode" and the cars became just that much faster.

Notable performances?  No question but that rookie F1 driver Lando Calrissian stole the show, dragging his McLaren into Q3.  The kid's like, 12 years old, but he can drive.  At the other end of hte spectrum we find... Williams.  Oy, what a disaster this is shaping up to be for the legendary house that Frank built.  They missed part of pre-season testing because htey couldn't pass the mandatory crash testing, they had to redesign part of the car because the old parts might not have passed scruitineering... all this from a team that has over 800 people working for them, including some of England's best engineers.  And even they get it all wrong sometimes.

Race is in a few hours, F1U! sometime thereafter... in some format.  See ya then!

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March 14, 2019

Charlie Whiting 1952 - 2019

Just before the start of the 2019 season, the Formula 1 world has suffered a terrible loss.  On Thursday, Race Director Charlie Whiting passed away from a pulmonary embolism.  He was 66. 


Whiting was the go-to guy for any team complaints during a race, but he also oversaw everything on the tech side of the sport.  A new track could not be certified as a Grade 1 (suitable for F1) circuit without his final approval.  His was the call to stop a race, or to resume racing, during weather incidents.  In many ways, he did not just know the rulebook, he wrote it.  He was a tireless crusader for car and driver safety, presiding over the addition of both the HANS device and the new HALO system.  The combination of him and Sid Watkins did much to keep drivers alive and in one piece.

Despite such power in the sport, all reports say that he was very much just a guy who loved Formula 1.  However, he very rarely gave interviews so the fans didn't really know him.  Look, this is the sort of person he was: he loved the "Fake Charlie Whiting" twitter account.  It was a very gentle satire of the subject, but really made fun of the sport more than anything else.  In fact, he liked the account so much, he met the person behind it many times and had many e-mail exchanges with him.  I have a hard time seeing, say, Jean Todt, do the same.

As far as what this means for the race weekend, and the upcoming season as a whole, former V8 Supercars deputy race director Michael Masi will be filling in this weekend.  I expect to see similar substitutions through the season unless they name a replacement right away.  I have no idea who Whiting's second-in-command was, or even if there WAS such a person: in the 20 years he was Race Director for F1, he presided over more than 400 race weekends.

His loss leaves a huge hole in the sport, one that won't be easily filled.  We here at F1Update! extend our condolences to his family, friends, and the F1 world in general.

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March 12, 2019

Endings And Beginnings

Last Tuesday was by all appearances just another day.  Same assignment for the day, same system difficulties we've had for weeks, same lack of neighbors around my desk... really, that last one wasn't much of a problem.  After clocking in and checking my e-mail (chair massages are on thursday!) I got right to work, popping lifesavers as I went.  It's a new habit, I guess.


After a good 90 minutes, I came up for air, stretched, swore as my saddlesores screamed, then checked e-mail again.  Hm.  E-mail from the boss, inviting me to a meeting in 15 minutes in the forward training room. Okay, just click on "accept" and... huh?  No accept?  It wasn't sent via outlook, but personal from the boss to me.  Well, isn't that interesting?   I sat and thought for a moment... perhaps it's going to be training on a new work type.  We have been struggling for claims of late, after all.  I leaned back, mulled it over in my mind, then sat up, pulled my cellphone out of the filing cabinet, followed by my car keys and my glasses.  To anybody looking at me, it just appeared I was going on break as I headed to the meeting.

I found seven or eight other people in there, as well as the boss herself.  Oh dear... she's not a trainer.  She talked for a few minutes about... nothing, really, I guess, and then said the magic words: "we've made the decision to terminate your employment with us."
Declining claim counts and a new processing system were cited as reasons.  Then the various managers, supervisors, and assistants walked in carrying boxes and bags... the contents of our desks.  I was mildly amused that while almost everybody else was being handed their stuff in shopping bags, my desk needed a large box and a large bag.  Well, when you've lived in a place for nearly four years, that kinda happens.  They helped me get my stuff to my car... when you're using canes, your ability to carry boxes is kinda truncated... wished me luck, and I was unemployed again.

I drove directly home, looked around, and decided to take a nap... and that was probably the last coherent thought I've had.  The past week has been spent doing (or not doing) things as it strikes me.  There are things I could/should be doing, but nah.  To me, it's clear that for whatever reason, losing this job has hit me harder than losing the Duck U Bookstore job.  I haven't left Pond Central since I got home that day, so about a week.  I've got packages waiting for me back at the office, things I couldn't have redirected, so plenty of reason to go out, but no.

Guess this is good news for the F1 fans left in my readership... I'll have time to follow the sport again.  First race of the season is this weekend after all... Australia.  I'm unsure if this is a good trade or not.

Time will tell... about a lot of things, actually.

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March 01, 2019

A Question Answered... By Anime!

For most of the nearly four years I've worked at my present job, there has been a constant face in the evenings/night shifts... the head of the cleaning crew.  They usually show up around 8pm, empty garbage cans, clean bathrooms, vacuum, that sort of thing, y'know?  I've made it a point to smile and nod, or wave, or something, to the guy in charge, because hell, he's cleaning up our mess.  Without him, I suspect the office would look like Pond Central before the "condemned" sign went up in no time at all.


However, in one of those "I don't know X, and by now I'm afraid to ask" moments, I don't know his name.  He told me a few years ago, yes, but he has a very thick Slav/Eastern European/Something accent, and it just got by me.  I mean, it's not a big deal, it's not like we talk or anything... a nod, a wave, that's about it.  And, to be honest, I'm just about the only person there who does even that much.  There's always a few people in a business setting you don't want to piss off: the office manager, the head of the cafeteria, and the head of housekeeping all leap to mind...  Anyway.  Tonight.  It is 8pm, and I've been the only person in the entire building since about 6pm... I had a couple of hours to make up.  Anyway, because I was sick and tired of headphones, I had hooked up my mp3 player to a couple of cheap external speakers and was rocking out whilst doing claims.  Mr Head Of Housekeeping was a couple rows over, using a push-brush to clean up a spill before he brought out the real vacuum, and something wonderful happened.
He started singing along.  "It was a song my grandfather sang."  I'm still not entirely sure where he's from originally, but he knows Katushya... and his first name is Alexander.  I'm not sure how I didn't get that the first time around.  What the hell, let's do another Russian song!
I first heard this maybe four or five years ago (edit: SIX!  Saturday Night Tuneage XVIII, would you believe?), I didn't know what I just heard then, I'm still not sure now, but damn it's fun anyway!

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