Monday, August 22, 2011

Critical Hit - MC Frontalot Concert Review

When I heard that MC Frontalot was coming to town, I was so excited.  I've enjoyed his music for years and I'd wanted to see him for quite some time.  Front was the first nerdcore act that I came in contact with through the GeekDad Hiptrax podcast.  The song was "Wallflower".  After that I soon found "This Old Man" and "It's Pitch Dark".  I quickly became a lifetime fan.

My wife agreed to go with me, which turned out to be totally awesome.  She was great company and enjoyed the atmosphere and the music.  We got there early and waited at the Spring Street Tavern (the club was in the basement).  We spotted Front walking around, which was cool and unexpected.

As the door time approached, I got more and more excited and the bar got more and more crowded.  They started allowing people down the stairs and Janice and I were second in line.  We paid our entrance fees (only $7 each!).  Right in the door was the merch table and I bought Solved! (before it's official release!).  I was excited to listen to it.

The first act came on a little later.  It was a band named "Trendy Trendy Space Vegans".  I originally thought they were called "Trendy Tranny Space Vegans", which fit into their attire (the sax player wore a bra on stage).  Their sound wasn't bad, and they did have a sax player, which I liked.  The lead singer had a lot of vocal range.  I'm not about to go out and buy all their music, but I'd listen to a couple of their songs if I happened upon them.

The next act was called "Valley Meadows".  They were an unlikely rap duo.  The shorter gentleman is a substitute teacher (I know because they rapped about it).  We didn't get much information on the other guy (except that he's divorced, they rapped about that too).  I thought their flow was pretty good, but they were rapping over borrowed beats and didn't write enough lyrics to last the entire song.  A couple of times they had to ask the DJ to cut the beat off after they'd finished their rapping.  I liked their rhymes and if they get their act a little more polished, they could put on a really good show.

The next act was Brandon Patton.  I'd heard the name before, but I didn't really remember where.  It struck me though when he took the stage that Brandon Patton was none other than Bl4k Lotus, MC Frontalot's bassist.  He was the real surprise of the concert too.  He played a set with an acoustic guitar and it seriously rocked.  He got the crowd into it with a Paula Abdul song of all things.  When he played a drinking song by the Pogues, the place practically vibrated with energy.  It was amazing.  I don't know how he did it; he played his own set and then went on to play a full set with MC Frontalot.  The man must have a ton of energy.

Front's set started out with a high energy version of "Tongue-Clucking Grammarian".  The way that the entire band got into the music was hypnotizing.  It was clear that the four of them are doing something that they love and truly enjoying performing the music.  They played three or four songs from Solved! after that with an older Front song or two mixed in.  I don't stay up late all that often, so before the MC Frontalot set began, I was getting pretty tired, but all of that melted away when they took the stage.  The band's energy was contagious and the whole set was a lot of fun.  When they played "It's Pitch Dark" and "Goth Girls", the crowd (me included, of course) really got into it.  It was truly amazing.  They finished their set with a two song encore featuring "I Heart Fags", which was dedicated to Minneapolis because we were recently named the gayest metropolis in the country; and the PAX Theme.  They merged in some elements from another theme quite popular with the geek crowd, but I'm not going to spoil it for those of you who might be attending PAX this year.  Let's just say that it sent shivers down my spine when they started playing it.

I've been to concerts before, but mostly in large venues with larger than life bands like Metallica and Megadeth.  The smallest venue I've seen a band in was when my wife, a friend and I went to Reel Big Fish at the Quest club in Minneapolis.  It was a two-story club with a large stage and large floor.  It was also a great concert, but none of the other concerts I've been to had the intimate feeling that the Frontalot concert did.  My wife and I managed to stand front (no pun intended) and center.  I have no trouble in saying that this was the best concert that I've ever been to.  I don't think that I'll ever go to another coliseum or festival show again, but I'd happily go see any of my favorite bands at a small club again.  MC Frontalot definitely scored a Critical Hit against Minneapolis last Friday.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Story a Week 26 - Vesta Bound

Hello everybody!  This week's Story a Week is something new.  I've been thinking that I needed to bring something new to the table and here it is!  There's also something else new that I've done within the story, but I don't want to spoil it.

As always, feel free to let me know what you think in the comments.  This post marks the halfway point of my goal to do a year's worth of stories.  I really do enjoy writing them and I hope that you enjoy reading them.


"Dad, how long do we have to stay powered down?" Jeff asked his father as they sat in the pilot and copilot seats of the family's mining vessel.

Hubert sighed before replying, "Jeff, you know as well as I do that we need to stay powered down until the pirates leave the area."

Hubert glanced down at the only piece of electronics that was still running on the entire ship, a motion sensor screen.  The pirates had to know that there was someone out here because Hubert had detected them with his long range radar.  That was when they had shut down their systems.  Fortunately, motion sensors were passive detection, so they weren't putting out any detectable signals anymore.  Hubert just wished that they were longer range and could tell the difference between the asteroids around them and the pirate ships like radar could.

His breath caught in his throat as he spotted the two pirate ships moving on his screen.  They appeared to be heading straight for his ship.  Hubert glanced down to the button that would turn everything back on again.  It would take roughly ten seconds for the engines to power back up.

Not that Hubert thought that he could outrun the pirate ships anyway.  The mining vessel had been in his family for eighty years, but the pirate ships were likely to be pretty new.  The Watson family was proud to be part of the first wave of explorers and miners to reach the main asteroid belt.  Hubert's grandfather, Albert Watson, was one of the founding fathers of the Vesta trading colony.  Pirates were a new phenomenon in the belt as more and more miners settled here so did the people who would prey on them.

Hubert remembered his history lessons from school.  The same thing happened before in humanity's history.  When Europeans had established reliable trade in the Americas, pirates began to raid that trade.  Now that trade from the belt was reliable and lucrative, pirates began to raid it.

Hubert watched tensely as the pirate ships come closer and closer.  He was about to push the button when he noticed that the ships weren't exactly heading towards his, but would pass it by.  It would be a close pass and if someone was looking out a porthole there was a chance that they'd see his ship.

They were getting close enough that Hubert could see them through his own viewports.  The hulls of the pirate ships were covered with weapons ports.  He stared at more missile, laser and grappler ports than he had ever wanted to see in his life.

"We need to get out of here," Jeff whispered.

Hubert could tell that his son was scared.  He looked over at him and replied, "You don't have to whisper.  The vacuum of space prevents sounds from travelling to them."  He turned back to the pirate ships.  They were getting closer, but his experienced eye told him that they would pass them by.  "They're..."

Suddenly the lights in the cabin turned on and Hubert felt the throbbing of the engines as they started up.  Hubert quickly turned to see Jeff's hand on the startup button.  "What are you doing?" he yelled.

"I'm sorry, dad, but they are getting too close.  We need to get out of here," Jeff replied.

Hubert looked back at the pirate ships and knew that they had been spotted.  "Shit," he said under his breath as he buckled into his chair.  "Announce to the crew to buckle down.  It's going to be a rough ride."

Hubert frantically pressed buttons on his screen to get the ship up and running.  The radio lit up and Hubert pressed the button to turn it on.

"This is the Gaelic Pride calling the unidentified mining vessel.  Don't try to run.  We're faster and more agile than you and will catch you quickly," came the voice over the radio.

Hubert hit the send button and said, "Well said, pirate scum.  We'll take our chances."

"Fair enough.  We'll see you soon," came the reply.

Hubert angrily turned the radio off as the engines came online.  He punched the accelerator and began to navigate the belt as he tried to head towards Vesta.  Maybe he couldn't outrun the pirates, but he might be able to call for help.

Without diverting his attention from piloting the ship, Hubert said to Jeff, "Tell the family to assemble in the mess.  Take Devon and try to hide some of our stock in some of the cabins."

He punched some keys on the radio.  "Vesta Defense, this is Captain Hubert Watson of the mining vessel Memphis.  Do you read?"

Hubert weaved around some smaller asteroids as he waited for a response.  A few moments later he got one.  "Memphis, this is Vesta Defense.  We read you."

Hubert sighed in relief.  At least the pirates weren't jamming the radio.  He pushed the send button and said, "Vesta Defense, Memphis.  I need to declare an emergency.  I have two pirate raiders on my six.  I'm not sure I can make it back before they catch us."

A few moments later, "Memphis, Vesta Defense.  We're sending help.  We have your direction.  ETA, six minutes."

Hubert looked down at his radar and instantly knew that they probably didn't have six minutes.  He also knew that the pirates would have heard all of that and he just hoped that they didn't just blast them instead of trying to catch them.

A moment later Hubert knew that they were done when he heard loud clang of something hitting the hull.  They had latched a grappling line to the Memphis.  The engines started groaning as the pirate vessel cut her own engines and began to reel in the mining vessel.  Another clang was heard as they got another grappler onto the hull.

Hubert sighed as he cut the engines and locked the computer down.  He saw the other pirate vessel continue to head toward Vesta through the viewport.  It was probably going to try to buy this vessel some time to take as much as they could before help could arrive.

He got up and headed aft towards the cargo hold.  He ran into Jeff and Devon as they were leaving Jeff's quarters.  "Come with me," he said.  "They've got us."

Jeff and Devon fell into step behind Hubert.  Jeff asked, "What are we going to do?"

Hubert stopped and turned on Jeff.  "Nothing.  Nothing at all, do you hear me?  We'll let them take what they want and leave."

Jeff wasn't about to back down.  "Why?  They're just vultures!  We all worked hard to harvest all of this ore and water!"

Now Hubert was getting angry.  He yelled, "Why?  Because it's all just things!  Replaceable things!  What will you do if they decide to kill us all because we fought them?  Nothing but die.  If we let them take what they want and don't fight back they're likely to let us live to mine another day."

This time Jeff did back down.  He'd never seen his father this angry before.  Of course, they'd never encountered pirates before either.  The three of them entered the cargo bay just as there was a metallic knock on the airlock.

Hubert gestured that Jeff and Devon should stay where they were as he walked to the airlock and pushed the intercom button.  "Can I help you?" he asked.

The voice on the other side was gruff as it replied, "Stop wasting our time, miner.  We'll give you ten seconds to open the door or we'll start cutting through it with a torch."

Hubert knew that cutting through the door would take a very long time, but he also knew that the pirates might just decide to go back to their ship and destroy the mining vessel rather than let it get away so he pressed the open button on the control pad in front of him.

Six armed men stormed in.  Four of them surrounded Jeff and Devon as two of them grabbed Hubert and pushed him away from the control pad.  Another man, seemingly unarmed strode confidently through the hatch and moved in front of Hubert.

"I'm Shamus O'Leary, owner of the Gaelic Pride.  You Watson?" the man said.

Dejectedly, Hubert replied, "Yes.  Just take what you want and leave us alone."

Shamus nodded as he looked around the cargo bay.  "Oh, we will take what we want.  That's for sure.  As for that other part..."

Shamus pulled a dagger out of nowhere and stabbed it into Hubert's torso.  The two men holding him let him fall to his knees as he clutched his wound.  Jeff yelled a wordless cry as the two toughs near him grabbed him.

Shamus looked over to Jeff and said, "Ah, you must be his son."  He walked over to where Jeff was being held.  "You should know that I did that to teach all you miner scum a lesson.  "Resistance is both futile and illogical.  We have better weapons than you, we're faster than you and we travel in packs.  If you all just give us what we want without any fuss, we can be civilized about all of this."

Jeff growled, "Civilized!  You call murder of an innocent man civilized?"

Shamus shrugged as he cleaned his dagger and sheathed it in a hidden spot up his sleeve.  "We're prepared to do whatever it takes to get what we want.  Civilized or not."  He looked hard at Jeff.  "Are you going to give us any more trouble, or do I have to get my dagger out again?"

Jeff hung his head.  "No, take what you want and get out of here."

Shamus nodded.  "That's better."

He indicated that the toughs could let Jeff go and they did.  He ran to his father and held him in his lap.  He could tell that his father was dying.  He started crying as he said, "Dad, I'm so sorry."

Hubert's eyes fluttered open.  He weakly shook his head as he said weakly, "Don't be, son.  You just did what you thought was right.  We learn from mistakes, not from doing the right thing the first time."

Jeff's tears started running down his cheeks as his father continued, "Jeff... you're the Captain of the Memphis now."  Hubert grimaced in pain as he coughed some blood out onto the floor.  "Don't let your grandfather take that from you.  He might be the head of the family, but you were next in line for the ship."

Hubert closed his eyes for the last time as he lost consciousness.  Jeff felt Devon's hand on his shoulder as he cried over his father's body.  He hardly noticed as the pirates took half of the contents of the cargo hold.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Change is Inevitable

I've been told before that change is inevitable.  I don't disagree with this, but there are times when I absolutely hate that things change.  Change can be good or bad, but it always brings with it a level of uncertainty.  I hate uncertainty.

There has been a major change at my company today.  Wyde has been bought by an Indian company called MphasiS, a subsidiary of Hewlett-Packard.  You can read more details about this here and here.  We had a companywide phone call this morning when the news was dropped.  I tweeted about it here.  Needless to say, it was quite a surprise.

I've been with Wyde for four and a half years now.  Being with a company that long gives you some idea at what your career prospects are like within the company.  I knew where I was and where I was likely to go and I was happy with that.  Now, though, this change has introduced a large amount of uncertainty to that path.  Sure, management told us several times that we would remain a separate entity and that nothing would be changing.  I'm not so sure.  I'd like to believe that, but if management didn't want anything to change within the company, why would they sell it to MphasiS?

They explained that MphasiS would bring us more opportunity and I do believe them.  One of our problems of late is getting large insurers to take us seriously due to our size.  While the company has at least grown by four times in the time that I've been there, two hundred employees doesn't make us a large company.  MphasiS will solve that issue because of their numbers.  They will allow us to create an off-shore team in India that can support Wynsure development efforts.  Their size brings a certain amount of credibility to Wynsure and a guarantee that Wyde won't just disappear off the face of the earth at any moment.

I never really write about my personal life, so why am I writing about this?  Good question.  Well, I have been filled with a tumultuous sea of emotions ever since I heard the news and I thought that getting it all down into a blog post would help me sort out my feelings on the issue.  Also, because I don't really write a lot about my personal life.

So, what are my feelings about all this?  Well, I don't really like the uncertainty that this change brings to the table.  I'd like to think that I've cemented my reputation and career path within Wyde and this has cracked that foundation.  Why would Wyde use me as a project manager when I'm sure MphasiS has many project managers chomping at the bit to get on one of our projects?

Of course, there is the feeling of hope that this change brings.  Lately, I haven't been terribly satisfied with my job.  Sure, it pays well enough and I certainly am good at it, but I've been having a lot of trouble lately caring about it.  I do the job from day to day, but I haven't been putting any feeling into my job.  The hope here is that this change forces me to care or forces me to find something else.  Since I'm kind of lazy and hate job hunting, I'm hoping that this shakes things up a little for me and gives me a reason to care again.

So, what does this change mean for me right now?  Nothing.  Right now I'm going to play the wait and see game.  I'll be prepared, of course, the best I can.  I've tried to stay positive and that's the best that I can do right now.  Is this change good or bad?  I think it's too early to say, quite yet.  I'll let you know as soon as I know.

PS: I almost titled this post "How I became a third tier HP employee".  Is that a better title?  :)

PPS: Since change is inevitable, I've changed my Twitter handle.  I'm now @geekonablog!