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[NOTE: All names ((REDACTED)) to protect identity.]

So four of us from our company ((ALPHA)) went to ((RESTAURANT)) for lunch today. We were all wearing shirts or sweatshirts with our company name on them, because that's what we do.

We were sitting at a table and talking when a young woman walked up to the table.

In a very friendly, perky voice she said, "You guys all work for ((ALPHA)), right?"

"Yeah," we all said, gesturing to our shirts.

"So you know ((JOHN DOE))?"

"Sure, we do."

Still perky, she said "Well, I'm ((JOHN DOE))'s wife."

We started to say hi, but she kept going.

"You should know that ((JOHN DOE)) is having an affair with ((JANE SMITH)). So that's the kind of (guy/person) you work with. Goodbye."

She walked away and out of the restaurant.

[NOTE: ((JANE SMITH)) also works at ((ALPHA)), as does ((JOHN DOE))].
[NOTE: I'm not sure if she said "guy" or "person"]

The four of us sat there, mouths gaping open in stunned silence, for a good half minute. I'm usually pretty unflappable and I was just thinking "whaaaaaaaaaaat?"

And here I thought this only happened on television shows. Wow.

Funny note: ((JOHN DOE)) almost came to ((RESTAURANT)) with us for lunch today.

- yeff
I was *not* laid off yesterday.

Twenty six people were, however, which is a sad thing. On top of almost 60 laid off in May that ends up being about a 22% reduction in headcount from the start of the year.

Of course, business is down 40% from 2014 to 2015 and the leadership believes it will go down even further in 2016. In numbers, that's $220M in 2014, $120M in 2015, and $90M in 2016. Those percentages pretty neatly track the price of a barrel of oil over that time. This is the downside of being in business that is tied to the commodities market.

On the upside, our corporate parent has big faith in us and in fact is willing to let us a) have negative earnings for the next two years, and b) do a very big engineering development project that we believe has the potential to gain us enormous sales and market share when the commodities market has its inevitable upswing. The company did it before in 2009-2010 and 2011-2014 were the company's four best years ever by far. It is believed we can do it again.

Also, the management believes the business is properly sized to have two years of very low revenue while still being successful at the big engineering project.

So there's the good news. And I get to continue working at my company, which is very good news because I really really like it there.

I will have a drink to celebrate!

- yeff
Current Mood: relievedrelieved
26 September 2015 @ 04:13 pm
I haven't done one of these in a while because there isn't really one specific thing that's making me happy recently. Overall, life is solid and happy.

Sure layoffs are lurking. But I feel like I've been doing well at work and that, if I do get laid off, there are plenty other good jobs out there. The family is doing well and happy. Writing is going strong, I'm in revisions on one story and received good critiques on two flash short from a new critique group that I'm going to join. I'm getting my act organized on math contests and on coaching math team. And I even manage to find time to workout and try to stay fit.

So, nothing particular is making me happy. Just more life in general.

Well, okay, "The Martian" is coming out this Friday. I'm looking forward to it. It should be a blast to watch! Let's pick that. "The Martian" is what's making me happy this week.

- yeff
Current Mood: happyhappy
20 September 2015 @ 10:10 pm
Well, I figure I should finally get to posting my voting in the 2015 Hugo Awards. I'm mainly doing this so I have a record of my thoughts and actions when it came down to make my choices.

Even though I felt that the nomination process and the organized voting blocs violated the spirit of the Hugo Awards (see my earlier post about how "Fans Disagree"), I still tried to treat the nominating ballot fairly and not vote something under "No Award" just because it came in via an organized voting bloc. There have certainly been organized fan blocs in the past ("Doctor Who" fans in the Media Short Form category immediately comes to mind) and I've always tried to be fair anyway.

So my ballots in general went:
- Works I felt were strong enough for a Hugo, ranked in order
- No Award
- Works I didn't feel were strong enough for a Hugo, but I could see getting a Hugo, ranked in order
- Works I felt were just bad and not good enough for a Hugo (left off the ballot)

Here we go, in reverse order of the ballot.

Voting details behind the cutCollapse )
(This is delayed because I was waiting to make sure I was done, though I was really close on Sunday.)

- A New New Story!

I finished the first draft of a new story with the working title "The Bits and Bytes of the Numbers of the Beast." It starts with an incident that occurred in high school involving my Geometry and Computer teacher, and from there spins out into a story about computer programming and mathematics and battling demons.

It's the first truly new new story I've written since getting back into writing at the tail end of 2014. Other things have been rewrites of old stories ("The Dybbuk's Moll", "The Straw That Shines Like The Sun") or a story involving a character from a old story ("Nora Gets A Golem" is Nora from "The Dybbuk's Moll") or small flash pieces on given prompts (the Apex Halloween contest stories). This was totally, grounds-up, new idea. It was spawned by a conversation between high school friends on Facebook about high school math/computer teachers. The incident came to mind and the story took off from there.

The story is set in the summer of 1981, so the soundtrack is new wave music from late 70s and 80-81. Specifically the following albums:
- _New Wave Hits of the 80s, Volume 2_ by various artists
- _Freedom of Choice_ by Devo
- _Computer World_ by Kraftwerk
- I also do a lot of listening to local "oldies" station (101.5), which plays a lot of 70s/80s music. I am now an "oldie", I guess. 1980 is as far from now as 1945 was from 1980. Yikes.

Now comes the revision. I plan to just about take the story apart, both in terms of structure and scenes, pick what works, then rewrite it with a looser style. I used a very tight first person in the first draft (let's call it "Noir Style") and I think it restricts the story and my ability to tell it.

That should take another week or so. After that, I'm going to use the same technique on "Straw" and see if I can get something coherent out of what I've done so far. I'm positive about the possibilities.

- yeff
07 September 2015 @ 05:29 pm
Well, it's already been two weeks since the Hugo Awards. My, time does fly. In the last couple week of run-up to the awards and the follow-up after the results were announced, I've gotten back into the Hugo neepery. I've been reading commentary and diatribes from all parts of the fan and opinion spectrum. Frankly, I'm getting a little burned out. Once anyone gets into epithets and derisive attitude, I'm out. It's made my reading go a lot faster :-)

But I've also crystallized the core of my opinion about the whole process. What it comes down to, for me, is this:

Fans Disagree.

If you ask a group of fans "What's the best SFF TV show", they will disagree. You'll get a range of opinions (Star Trek! Game of Thrones! Doctor Who! Battlestar Galactica! Fringe! Quark!). Some answers will get more votes than other. But overall, the fans disagree.

Even if you're asking a group of like-minded fans, say Star Trek fans, "What's the best episode", you'll get a range of answers and thus, disagreement.

Post a list of "Five Best Episodes of Doctor Who" and what will the majority of posts be? "How could you put A first?" or "How could you forget B?" or "That ranking is terrible and way off-beam, you bozo."

In the end: Fans Disagree.

So you might think my sympathy is with the Puppy groups. In one sense, I have some sympathy with SP. They disagree with what gets nominated for and wins Hugo Awards. What fan hasn't disagreed and said "*That* got nominated?" or "*That* won? Give me a break" or "I liked *This* but it didn't win. Sheesh." In having that opinion, they are acting like fans.

But when it came to their nominating votes, they did not act like fans. All indications are that the groups largely agreed when voting. They voted for the same set of nominees, again and again and again. The nomination numbers are pointing that out, especially in certain "high-profile" categories. They didn't vote their opinions. They didn't vote what they individually thought was the best. They didn't disagree. They voted like a voting bloc that was trying to make a point. This is certainly even more true of the RP bloc than the SP bloc.

And that's the core of my problem with it. The vote from these fans was not done based on individual likes, but on complying with an agenda. As a result the response from the final ballot voters ended up, in my opinion, partially based on nullifying the bloc vote and the agenda. So we end up with a lot of No Awards.

I'm hoping that things are different in 2016 and that the SP group changes their tactics to be more about having people vote their individual favorites and then we'll see what rises to the top in the nomination process. (I wrote off the RP group a while back). It certainly will be an interesting year.

I'll do a second post on how I voted on the final Hugo ballot and why.
- Weird Al!

I saw Weird Al Yankovic in concert Sunday night at the Three Stages complex at Folsom Lake College. I had a fantastic seat, maybe about 30 feet from him. I could have easily hit him with a tennis ball without trying (I didn't).

Weird Al put on a great show. He had tons of energy and kept the pace going non-stop. All the classic songs that you know and love ("Another One Rides The Bus", "White and Nerdy", "Jeopardy", "Eat It", etc, etc, etc). Al did multiple costume changes during the two-hour show - probably at least a dozen. During the costume change times, they showed videos of Weird Al appearances in all sorts of movies and tv shows and animations over the years. You forget that he's been performing and thus in the public eye for more than 35 years.

He also did two medleys - one in a quick pop style, the other in a slower bluesy "club" style with the band sitting in a circle playing simple instruments (drum with brushes, acoustic guitar, etc). It was rather well-done. Weird Al has developed some solid musical chops and vocal ability.

I also have to give a ton of credit to the band. They played songs with a wide variety of styles, from pop to rap to rock, and they were tight and solid on all the songs. Very impressive work.

If Weird Al comes through your town I'd highly recommend going. Two thumbs up!

(NOTE: Alas there's also a "*not* making me happy this week" item - work has announced we're going to have layoffs by the end of this month. And I lost my small robot that I keep on my keychain. I'm hoping that's not a bad omen. More layoff thoughts in the future.)
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(slightly delayed from Sunday, due to Worldcon)

- Worldcon! I went to WorldCon for the first time since 2011 (Reno). I had a very nice time. I became re-acquainted with many of the writing folks I've met over time and had some great conversations about writing and about what they were up to. I spent more time in the WSFS Business Meeting that I ever thought I would. It was interesting and fun, which was a surprise, and that was largely due to the efforts of the WSFS Board and its chair Kevin Standlee. I went to parties every night and had more chatting and drinks.

And I went to the Hugos, certainly one of most significant Hugo Awards ceremonies in quite some time. It was funny and entertaining. I thought it might mark the end of my deep Hugo neepery, but it looks like the controversy (and my interest in it) will keep going for who knows how long, alas.

(I'll do a follow-up post on how I voted and what I think about the results. Next post.)

Overall, I had a really nice time and enjoyed myself. Now I want to go to KC in 2016, and I definitely want to go to Helsinki in 2017! I guess I'm hooked on WorldCon.

- yeff
(delayed from the usual Sunday post)

- I dislocated the middle joint on ring finger on my right hand while playing Aussie Rules Thursday night. I was able to pop it right back into place, but the finger tip hurt on contact so I was worried it might be broken. It was a pretty good dislocation - I wish I'd taken a picture before putting it back into place. Went for x-rays Saturday, heard Monday no broken finger. So that's good!

- The website for an imaginary 1963-1964 Fantastic Four TV Series (http://www.auntpetunia.com/). A lot of fun to read, and makes references to many actors and writers who would be famous for genre work later in the 1960s. This is the kind of thing that would make a perfect nominee for the Best Related Work Hugo. Alas, it apparently first appeared in 2014 (according to Mike Glyer of the great fan website File 770, who looked it up on the Internet Wayback Machine).

- Worldcon is coming! It will be my first Worldcon since Reno in 2011 and my third overall. I seem to get to WorldCon about once every 4-5 years - I also went to LACon in 2006. I'm looking forward to the event, and to catching up with various writing and sci-fi friends who I haven't seen in a while.
- Outside Lands (http://www.sfoutsidelands.com/): We attended the three-day festival for the first time. The big draw was Elton John, performing on Sunday night, but other draws included St. Vincent, Mumford and Sons, and Billy Idol.

How did it go? Well, being at a music festival for 3 days with 60,000+ of my fellow humans did stretch my ability to deal with crowds. But the music was great, there was delicious food at food booths, good things to drink, and the logistics of the festival were surprisingly very good (lines for things were never terrible and it was never too crowded). I was often enveloped in smoke of all different types and flavors (courtesy vaping and other things), but the breeze was up at Golden Gate Park to clear it out and it wasn't too chilly most of the time (evening got cold). I also found some new bands, like Dustbowl Revival and The Devil Makes Three.

And Elton John! Elton John! I've been a fan for about 40 years and have never seen him in concert. He didn't disappoint. When you're a superstar, you can do a concert where every song is a hit and every song is special. That's exactly what he did. I stood on a table and sang along like a true fan. I had forgotten what a good piano player he is, and how bluesy he can be when he wants. Excellent concert. Now I want to see him again (perhaps in Vegas).

- Writing Excuses podcast (http://www.writingexcuses.com/): I've been staying away from writing podcasts because I figured I wanted to spend my writing time actually writing, and getting a sense of where I felt I was in my ability. I've finally started listening to Writing Excuses and it's coming at just the right time. The podcast is by four established sf/f writers and each episode is a short broadcast on one topic. Perfect. I can get one or two episodes done in a commute to work and have something to think about the rest of the day. The episode on "story openings and promises" crystallized something I've been thinking about for a while but was never able to nail down. Highly recommended.