Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Project 11: Halloween Costumes

Last Halloween, when I had just received my sewing machine two months earlier and was still slightly puzzled by thread tension knobs and bias tape, Lingoman made a trip down to Seattle. After picking him up from the bus station, we went out for a meal in Baile Ard and saw a young woman in the most exquisite Wonder Woman costume I had ever seen.

That gave me the idea of making costumes for us this year. I shopped online and found a pattern for costumes that looked like something out of World of Warcraft (which we both play). They were pretty challenging. Using heavy weight interfacing covered with lame to simulate armor was quite an adventure in sculptural sewing!

We planned to attend the Parade of Lost Souls in Vancouver, and LCD Seattle decided to join in the fun at the last minute, so I made him an Evil Monk costume. Unfortunately, the parade was not held this year so we just did a photo shoot at the Vancouver City Hall and went out to a gay dance bar.

Many Thanks to Xena Warrior Princess (not pictured for privacy reasons) for helping me out of my funk and giving new, exuberant life to my 10-year-old custom made leather battle dress.

I lost count of how many people stopped us on the street to get their picture taken with us. It was a truly fun time, and I succeeded in convincing Lingoman and LCD Seattle that going out in costume can be great if your costume is high quality.

Now... for next year...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Dozen Days

On Friday, October 9th I became very ill with the flu. I don't know which kind, and I don't much care. I had a high fever and violent coughing through Sunday morning and I managed to give it to Lingoman. Happy Birthday, Honey! (don't know how that could have happened) Anyway, the upshot is that I was so sick that I didn't smoke after dinner on Friday, nor on Saturday at all, and neither did I do so on Sunday.

At that point, I thought that maybe I should give quitting a try, since I was already part way through the process. For the last ten years I had been a half-pack-a-day smoker, which in the greater scheme of things isn't that bad. You have to smoke a whole pack a day for 20 years before they can measure a statistical increase to the likelihood of getting lung cancer. Even so, I did theoretically want to quit for all the usual reasons.

So there I was on Sunday, October 11th, having not smoked for a couple days. At that point I was still coughing from the flu. It's now been 12 days since I accidentally quit and I'm still coughing a lot. The Intertubes reassure me that it is because my lungs are repairing themselves and are very sensitive. It sucks anyway. I can't practice singing and I'm getting horrible cold sweats every afternoon. Apparently this is normal for quitters. I just hope I don't gain too much weight.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Ding! Level 43!

For many years, my circle of friends has had the habit of asking what we refer to as The Birthday Questions at birthday parties. They are:

  1. What was the best thing that happened to you at [insert age]?
  2. What was the most difficult thing that happened to you at [insert age]?
  3. What are your goals for [insert next year age]?

Since I won't be having a birthday party this year, I'm going to answer the questions here on the blog.

  1. The best thing that happened while I was 42 was the trip to teach at Big Sky Folk Harp Festival in Montana. Lingoman went with me, which made it very enjoyable. While I was there, I attended a workshop by Debra Henson-Conant that clarified my need to sing on my CD. I've started voice lessons for the first time since college and have been lucky enough to make huge strides in my vocal skills.
  2. The most difficult thing was my first bout of depression since I was in my twenties. It might have been brought on by too many years of breakneck activity. I'm going to hope so, since I just don't have time left to be depressed.
  3. My goals (unfortunately) remain the same as last year. I've only lost 18 pounds instead of 40 and my CD is far from done. Progress not perfection, right?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Recording Project Update

There's a guy who can fix that

I haven't written about the recording project in a while, but I have been working on it fairly steadily. It's been a twisty road, though. Recording yourself is a great learning tool, as long as what you want to learn is how far you are from where you want to be.

I've spent the last several months practicing harp, fiddle and voice intensely. My initial vocal recordings were shaky at best, which was a blow to my confidence. I did a lot of singing in college, but haven't done much since and my old skills were very rusty. I was not making much progress, and I was starting to wonder if I should give up on the effort and make a straight-forward harp recording, leaving the rest of my creative work behind.

Then something wonderful happened.

I taught at the Big Sky Folk Harp Festival, and while I was there I attended a workshop by a Blues / Jazz harp player called Deborah Henson-Conant. Blues and Jazz aren't my thing, but I was interested in learning more about this woman who had risen to such prominence in the harp world. I was expecting her to be witty and entertaining, but what I got went much deeper.

She told the story of her own journey of singing with the harp, which she didn't do at the start of her career. When she decided to, however, she was discouraged by friends, audience members and critics. She was told that she should not sing; that her voice was terrible and that she was holding her career back by insisting on doing it anyway.

At this point I was on the edge of my seat because what she was describing was my own inner dialogue on the subject.

She then shared a story about something that had happened to her years earlier. She was teaching at the Edinburgh Harp Festival and met the members of Síleas, Patsy Seddon and Mary Macmaster. Patsy and Mary are a singing harp duo, and Deborah asked Patsy why they sang on their CD, since in her opinion, the singing wasn't as strong as the harping. Patsy answered "It's what we do."

Punch in the gut. Tears. It's what I do too.

Side note
I've always enjoyed Patsy and Mary's singing, but I do agree that it has gotten stronger over time.
Deborah went on to say that Patsy and Mary's singing got better and better over time and now rivals their excellent harping. The theme that Deborah came back to several times was "There's a guy who can fix that", referring to getting help when you need to do something better than you are currently able.

Message received.

As if to confirm that receipt, a few hours later at dinner, I was sitting at a table with another harp presenter (the fabulous Verlene Schermer) and several other friends and the subject of playing the fiddle came up. I remarked that as a self-taught fiddler, I wished that a friendly violinist would put together a program of just the parts of classical violin technique that fiddlers need. Verlene turned to me and said, "I don't usually teach violin, but maybe I can help you with that."

Verlene spent an hour with me correcting the worst problems in my technique and the results were astounding. Intonation problems vanished. My tone warmed up. Fast bowing passages that had always sounded sloppy started to resolve like an image on a web page slowly going from a blur to clarity. I had found the 'guy' that could fix that.

That evening it was Deborah's turn to entertain. Again, I'm not into Jazz or Blues music, but the woman is a jaw-dropping performer. And the voice. The voice on her! That was the part I couldn't believe. This was the person that was told not to sing? Madness!

And so, in a couple days I'm starting voice lessons for the first time since college. I have to sing on my CD. It's what I do.

Thank you, Deborah.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Happy 10th Ballardiversary!

Ten years ago today, I moved from a dark, oddly-shaped studio apartment in Northgate to an adorable duplex in Ballard. The place had just been vacated by a co-worker, who tipped me off to its availability. It was perfectly laid out for me, with a bedroom (yippee!) kitchen, dining area, living room, front yard, back patio and parking place and the rent was unbeatable. $650 a month!

After I moved in and got settled a little, I had a series of housewarming events over a weekend. Friday night was the house blessing and spellcasting party. I made up little spell kits with complete instructions and folks had a great time sprinkling saltwater, reciting charms and stringing up rowan berries. Saturday was a drop-in buffet for those with evening commitments and Saturday night was a grand céilidh with somewhere around sixty people singing, playing tunes and drinking gallons of scotch. Sunday was a "survivor's brunch" complete with a reenactment of the assault on the Death Star from Star Wars using primarily French cheese for all the actors and ships.

Over the next seven years, countless wonderful and moving things happened in that house. I threw at least twenty huge céilidhs for the Slighe nan Gaidheal community. There were times when every room, including the tiny bathroom, was packed with happy, laughing, singing people enjoying the little home I had made for myself.

My friend Pandora and I started the Winter Solstice Banquet, which usually entailed a full day of decorating, a day and a half of cooking and a full day of washing dishes and cleaning afterward. The traditions of heartfelt reflection and honest sharing that evolved around the Winter Solstice table will stay with me for as long as I live.

One year I held a birthday céilidh for my dear friend Kat which her evangelical parents attended. I was pretty nervous about not offending them and with controlling my reactions if they inadvertently offended me. I kept myself in an icy grip of self-control, but despite my fears we had a truly wonderful evening and found common ground despite our differences.

That house was also the last of my homes that my mother ever saw. The year that I moved there, I decided that I wanted to host the family Christmas celebration. It was a very big deal to me and it came off really well. I took the last photo of my Mom that I ever would that day. We blew it up and framed it for her memorial service.

Lingoman and I met while I was still living there in 2001. In the early years of our romance, he would come down to Seattle fairly often so we spent a lot of time in that house getting better acquainted. One weekend, we were getting ready to go out of town when I discovered an enormous dragonfly perched over my dining room table. I mean enormous and it had apparently decided to settle down and start a family with my Ikea light fixture. Being the son of a biologist, Lingoman had no problems capturing the guy unharmed and releasing him outside to rejoin the dragonfly dating pool. That next Solstice, he gave me a beautiful cast aluminum tray decorated with dragonflies. Every time I see it I think "he will help me deal with my fears."

In January 2006, I received notice from the landlords that they had sold the place to a developer, who would be tearing it down to build townhouses. After crying for a week, I picked my self up and started looking into buying a place, since I never wanted to get that kind of letter again. With help and guidance from my wonderful realtor, Sara, I found the condo in which I now live. I moved at the beginning of August, 2006. It's a nice place; comfortable and convenient, but not set up for entertaining. Life has become rather solitary as a result and I struggle with that.

The developer didn't get around to demolishing the place until January 2nd, 2007. I got a call from my former neighbors while I was driving Lingoman to the airport to fly home. By the time I got there, it was all over. You can see my stove on which seven Winter Solstice Banquets were prepared in the pile of rubble if you look closely.

I often ask myself if I would trade the more upscale conveniences of this place to have my little duplex back. The answer is still 'yes.' I would go back if I could.

Friday, June 5, 2009

What Pride Means to Me

This story, like so many others, begins with my mom. In the extremely long, tortured process of coming out to her, I never had to convince her that being gay is innate. I think she knew about me by the time I was 5 years old. It took some effort, though, to open her eyes to the number of people who are not heterosexual. Every year the Seattle media would cover the Pride parade and Mom would assert that "all those people aren't gay." Sometimes she would follow up with "they just want the special benefits" or "I don't see what there is to be proud about. It's not something they had to earn."

I had my work cut out for me.

Trying to explain what Pride is about to my mother, though, prompted me to dig deeper into my own thoughts about it. Here are some of the things I came up with:

  • Gay Pride is the name of a movement, and movements have to come up with tags, handles and titles for themselves. In my mind, a slightly more accurate title would be Gay non-Shame, but that doesn't have quite the ring to it that we need.
  • Gay Pride also comes from my sense of connection with the gay men, lesbians and other sexually non-conforming people throughout recorded history who have achieved great things. Alexander the Great conquered the world. Sapho's poetry is still studied. Leonardo da Vinci's genius continues to inspire people throughout the world. I reminded my mother that she felt pride for my accomplishments, even though she never took a music lesson in her life.
  • Gay Pride is not just about being gay, but also about having survived being gay in this society. It's something that most straight people never think about since they are surrounded by a world that is slanted toward them. Most gay people are raised by straight people and learn to hate gay people before they know that they're gay. I remember the moment I realized that I was one of those people vividly. I think I was about eight years old. I had already been exposed to plenty of negative stereotypes of gay people both from my family and on TV, and absolutely no positive images.
  • Gay Pride is our chance to be visible for one day a year. Even in today's more progressive society, a child growing up gay even in a city like Seattle, will almost never see affirmative images of gay people. It feels like we're not real; that our lives and experiences are not worthy of inclusion in society. Benign neglect is the term, I believe.
  • Gay Pride is a chance to feel safe for a few hours. Long before I moved to Seattle I would come to the Pride parade just for the sake of having a day without worrying if someone was going to think I was gay and be hostile to me. For gay people living in enemy territory, those few hours are precious and irreplaceable.
  • Gay Pride is the best place to celebrate our progress with our straight allies.

If anyone is interested in coming to Pride this year, you can get all the information here:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Homemade Music

It might seem funny to hear this from someone working on a recording project, but I think we're too reliant on recorded music. In my parent's day, it was normal for there to be a piano in a well set-up house. If a family had no one that played an instrument, it generally meant they were very poor and often a quiet effort would be made among neighbors to make sure the kids in the family had some access to musical instruments and instruction.

It remains to be seen if the US consumer's changed habits of thrift and frugality will last, or if like that Atkins diet fad, we will grow bored with homemade dinners and low-cost vacations. I hope that if it is a fad, that it lasts long enough for a good swath of our generation and the next to rediscover the satisfaction of making the things we want and need for ourselves; including music.
Just in case you're thinking what I'm afraid you're thinking
Playing "Guitar Hero" doesn't fill the bill. All you're doing there is learning a different computer keyboard and hand-eye coordination. Playing an instrument gives you hand-ear coordination which accesses a different and neglected part of your brain.

My Dad was an amateur musician in his youth, and when I was growing up he would still occasionally play a tune on the piano or guitar. It wasn't perfect or brilliant or spectacular, but it was wonderful. It was real and it showed me that real people make music. I think I relate to music very differently because of those early experiences. If all you've ever heard are the artificially perfected sounds of a studio recording, how are you ever going to have the courage to make imperfect real music yourself?

Science is finally catching up with what my parent's generation knew. People need to hear live music and I think everyone needs to at least try to make some music themselves. Take a singing class. Pick up a cheap tinwhistle. Take a beginning guitar class at your local community college. If not for your own sake, do it for your kids or your sibling's kids so that if one of them is born with an undiscovered musical talent that he or she will have the courage to give music a try. That's what my Dad playing "Stardust" on the piano imperfectly, and with great love, did for me.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Nine Element Scramtata

The Nine Element Scramtata has been a weekend brunch staple for Lingoman and I for quite a while. It took years of careful research and experimentation (urp) and now it's time to share the results with the world.


Quantities are per person to be served! An opportunity to use your fractional math skills!

2 strips thick-cut bacon
1/4 of a medium-sized onion
1/4 of a small potato
2 eggs
1 tablespoon milk
1/4 cup shredded cheese (of some type that makes you say "oooh!")
1/2 of a Roma tomato
2 broccoli florets
1 mushroom

Slice the bacon strips into small pieces. Fry over medium heat until they are about half-way done.
While the bacon is frying, chop the onion and potato into small pieces. Note: This morning I used a new potato, so the pieces are rounds instead of small chunks.

When the bacon is half done, lift it into a small bowl (don't put it on papertowels; you need the rest of the fat!) and discard the fat in the pan. Return the bacon, onion and potato to the pan and sauté.
While the bacon, onion and potato are cooking, beat the eggs and milk and fold in half of the shredded cheese.

Chop the tomato, mushroom and broccoli. Note: I had some spinach on hand this time so I used that instead of broccoli.
Add the tomato, mushroom and broccoli to the egg and cheese mixture.

When the savories in the pan are well and goodly sautéed, remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes. Fold them into the egg, cheese and vegetable mixture and mix well.
Pour the mixture into the pan. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, scrape through the ingredients as the egg begins to cook. After a few minutes, start to scoot the mixture in toward the center until edges start to form. Continue round and round the pan as the sides of the scramtata form up.
Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the scramtata and place under the broiler for 3-5 minutes until the cheese is melted and the vegetables poking up are golden brown.
Serve with crusty bread toast and Ta-da! Packed with nutrition, your scramtata will fuel a great weekend! Leave a comment if you try the recipe and love it!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Project 10: Tarot Card Bag

True confessions time. I haven't used my Tarot cards in a few years. I guess I've come to rely on my own intuition more than I did when I was younger. Anyway, I had occasion to use them last week and found that the black velvet bag I made for them thirty years ago was in a deplorable state.

I used left-over linen from my shirt projects. Black for the outside, red for the lining and added some of my Celtic knot work trim. I've never made a lined bad before, but it came together fairly easily. I just thought through how each piece should relate to the others. Now my Aquarian Tarot card deck purchased from Shotwell's Bookstore in Poulsbo in 1979 has a new home.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Eight Years and Counting

Eight years ago today, Doug and I had our first date. We met a week earlier at a Vancouver Gaelic Society céilidh when I had come up to meet a visiting Gaelic singer, the fabulous Cathy Ann MacPhee. A mutual friend, Bruce Power of the Vancouver Gaelic choir, introduced us. I think that Doug and I hit it off because I knew I didn't stand a chance with this adorable blonde guy so I just kind of acted like my normal, sarcastic self. Turns out that was the right answer all along.

When he said he would like to come down for a visit the following weekend, I thought he just wanted to see some of his Seattle friends, or come to a house céilidh, or do some shopping. About eight hours into it, though, I came to the conclusion that I was on an actual date! I was quite surprised.

Since then we've each moved house, changed jobs, and helped each other through tough times. I've put 115,000 miles on my car driving back and forth to Vancouver and he's spent countless hours on Quick Shuttle buses. With all that we've been through, the good and the bad, I'd do it all over again if I had the chance.

Happy Date-a-versary, Sweetie.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Project 9: Red Shirt

Not in the Star Trek sense, of course. This time through my trusty McCalls 4399 I didn't need to look at the directions. Bright colors for Spring!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Glimpsing the Other Life

I remember vividly the moment when I accepted the fact that I would likely not make my living with music. My family had a major financial reversal during the summer after my first year attending Cornish College of the Arts and so when my Mom and I went to register for the second year, we realized that I would be borrowing as much money for the second year as the first but only be attending half time. We sat on together on the front steps of the school and I said to her "How can I keep borrowing this money if I don't know that I'll ever make a living at music?" She replied "Can you not do this and still be who you are?"

No. Decision made.

I graduated from Cornish and got a full-time job where I had been temping during summer breaks in the student loan industry. That was a stable career for over a decade. When it came to an end I briefly considered trying to make the leap into music, but quickly realized that my need for income made that a bad idea. So instead I went into government contracting where I still am today. It's provided me with the opportunity to retire all my credit card debts, buy a condo and start saving for retirement.

This weekend, though, I'm getting the chance to have a taste of what life might have been like if I had made different choices. My Vancouver harp buddy Alys and I are the opening act for a fundraising concert in Everett on Saturday night and on Sunday we zip up to Vancouver to play at CelticFest. We've been rehearsing and practicing a lot and I made all the travel arrangements so it feels a bit like a concert tour. At the end of all this work and excitement (read: stress) I'll take a look at how much money is left after expenses and I imagine that I'll still be happy with the choices I made back in the 80s.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Project 8: Black & Brown Shirts

These are now my favorite shirts ever. They're made from thick, thick linen which I would have never splurged on for myself. Lingoman's mother, however, provided the means as a Solstice gift (gods bless her) so I had to do it! Did that sound convincing?

I intended to try an experiment in mass production by doing all the cutting for both shirts, then all the sewing but I just couldn't. By the time I finished cutting out the pieces for one shirt I was done with that activity. So, I made them sequentially.

The silver-colored Celtic knotwork buttons on the black shirt actually came from my local fabric store, not from a specialty source. Pacific Fabrics rocks.

Lessons learned this time out:

  • Linen is loosely woven and moves but you don't have to panic. If it moves while you're cutting and it's a little off shape it will move just as well while you're pinning and you can fix small errors
  • Sew buttons on by hand. You don't save much time by using the machine and they're never quite as solid.
  • Spend a few extra bucks for the nicer fabric. If you're going to spend all those hours cutting and sewing it's worth it.
  • My six-year-old 1 megapixel digital camera sucks.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Là Feille Brìde: Bridget's Feast Day

Today is the second of February, which in the old calendar was the day that fell halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Among Gaelic-speaking peoples prior to their adoption of Christianity, this day was holy to the Goddess Brìd. As Gaeldom began to accept the new religion it did so at first on its own terms. The new relationship between the people and a new set of Gods had to be cemented in the proper way; with fosterage. Brìd shifted from being the triple Goddess of smith craft, poetry and healing to being the foster mother of Jesus. This was a very prestigious role in Gaelic society, which denoted the importance of Brìd to her own people.

Although I honor all the Gods, there is a special place in my heart and on my altar for Brìd. Having a special role in the transformative and restorative arts, I call on her when I need change in myself or the world around me. From tonight through the day that is the actual halfway point through Winter in the modern calendar I will make special offerings to Her in hopes that this world gets the changes it needs, and also that it wants most of them.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

This is the kind of thing I meant

One of my earliest posts was a set of recommendations for helping straight people get past the Eww! Ick! response when they see same-sex couples express affection. In it I recommended going out of their way to see same-sex themed movies or TV shows and I emphasized the fact that I didn't mean pornography.

I was recently hipped by Joe. My. God. to a new music video by openly gay singer-songwriter Matt Alber. It's a great song and a very beautiful video. As a gay person in North America, I've spent my whole life switching pronouns in my head and reframing stories in movies and TV shows so that I could relate to the characters. Give it a try! It will help you appreciate the ease of being in the majority.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dad's Fiddle Reborn

The story of me becoming a fiddler starts when I was a very young kid. There were large cupboards above my parent's clothes closet where seldom-used things were kept, and those storage spaces were the most magical destination in my young world. When I could get away with it I would find a way to get up into those cupboards and peek into the boxes that held Christmas decorations, old keepsakes and my Dad's violin. Dad studied with the first chair of the Minneapolis Symphony until the Great Depression hit in 1929 when he was 10 years old. Music fell by the wayside as he looked for ways to make money to help support his family.

The violin sat in its case for 64 years until his death in 1993, when Mom gave it to me. Becoming a fiddler had never been in my plan for life, but when I held that poor, decrepit instrument in my hands it felt like a door opened in my heart and the fiddle moved in beside the harp. I had the initial restoration done by a violin company south of Seattle, and not knowing any better, thought they had done a good job. I marveled at how incredibly difficult it was to get a good sound out of a violin and being who I am, I blamed my lack of talent.

After 14 years of dabbling at playing it I finally got to a place in my career and life where I could afford to spend a couple grand on a better violin. As it turns out, the poor set-up and repair work was at least partly to blame for my lack of progress. My new violin was a revelation. It was so much easier to play that I practiced for hours every day and my skills took a quantum leap forward.

Which brings me back to my Dad's violin. After getting my new one, I moved Dad's up to Lingoman's apartment for weekend use, but I never played it; I had been spoiled. A couple of weeks ago the radical weather fluctuations caused all the tuning pegs to let go and the bridge fell down. Non-players might not know, but the precise placement of the bridge, which is held in place by string tension, is a critical element in how an instrument sounds.

So I decided to bring Dad's violin into Lasley and Russ in Ballard to see what could be done. To my surprise, Duane Lasley thought that he could overhaul it and make it into a decent instrument. He took the top off, carved down some of the surfaces, sanded the fingerboard smooth, replaced the tail piece and tuning pegs and now it's almost as nice as my new violin. Duane tells me that it will continue to adjust and improve over time.

Well, Dad, the instrument you had to abandon at the beginning of the Great Depression has been reborn in your son's hands at the beginning of the Second Great Depression. I think I'm going to have to write a tune about that.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Almost Canadian

I spent the weekend at the Fort Worden Folk Harp Festival and had a terrific time as usual. There were about 45 harpers there who came to learn techniques and repertoire from the five presenters and also to visit with each other. There's a core group of about 30 that come every year, and as you can imagine, we're pretty good friends after 25 years. We've seen each other through divorces, job losses, deaths, diseases and suffering of every kind. We've also celebrated each other's triumphs and joys, all in the context of our shared love of music and the harp specifically.

Most of the people who come every year are from Western Washington, but there is a contingent from British Columbia as well. I make sure they get a special shout out at the Saturday night céilidh since they have to face a US Customs agent to get there. I figure they deserve at least that.

As we were packing up to leave on Sunday morning, one of the Canadians, a dear woman about my age, pulled me aside because she wanted to tell me that she thought of me as "almost Canadian." I thanked her, and told her that my Dad was from Ontario and she responded with "O, then you are Canadian!"

Over the last seven and a half years of being in love with a Canadian man, I've been exposed to lots and lots of anti-Americanism from his friends and family. Usually when this happens, at some point the ranters will say "Oh, but we don't mean you, Seumas, you're not like other Americans!"

There's a part of me, naturally, that stiffens at that moment. I am like other Americans. Lots and lots and lots of other Americans. I've learned, however, to hear comments like that in a different way. If I take a step back I can hear something more like "you're nice and I like you."

Being accepted by people from other nations as "not like other Americans" is an opportunity to change that stereotype.

So, to all my Canadian friends, I want to say thanks for giving me the chance to show you what other Americans are like. Thanks for letting me learn a little about what it means to be Canadian. I hope I continue to earn your friendship and understanding.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

My main client is the U.S. Federal Government. It's been a great gig, which has provided me with loads of great experience and opportunities. You may not know this, but many of the people who do the work of the Government are actually contractors like me. In some ways this is good, but it also creates some strange situations. Federal managers supervise staff who are not their employees, and their actual employers are usually off-site. When there are performance management issues a complex ballet ensues. I got to see one of those today in all its glory.

An employee of a contractor who was in her probationary period wasn't working out as hoped. The Federal manager responsible for her work, who happens to also be my client, let us know this since I and my team are partially responsible for computer network management and security. Today was supposed to be her last day, though she didn't know it yet.


The Federal manager (I'll call him Teddy Bear) tells the young woman (Crazy Eyes) that she must attend her company's staff meeting off-site. She argues with him, but eventually agrees to go. Her employer was supposed to meet with her afterward and tell her that she was fired.


Teddy Bear walks into my team's work area and asks us if we've seen Crazy Eyes. We haven't. Apparently she never showed up to the staff meeting at her employer's office. We are informed that her network login has been disabled, as well as her government e-mail account.


Teddy Bear pokes his head out of the door to our area and sees Crazy Eyes headed down the hall. He leaves.


Crazy Eyes comes into our work area and tells us that she can't log in to her computer. We tell her "Go talk to Teddy Bear." She leaves.


Teddy Bear comes back into our office and we ask him if he has talked to Crazy Eyes. He hasn't. He tells us that he has phoned her employer, who is on his way into our offices to inform her that she isn't employed there anymore. In the mean time, Teddy Bear tells us to re-enable her network login.


I and two of my team mates step outside for a refreshing cigarette. As we are finishing, who comes barreling out of the building but Crazy Eyes. She doesn't say anything, but give us a head-held-high-crazy-eye grin as she walks by.


We send a representative to give the news to Teddy Bear that Elvis has Left the Building, but he's not in his office. On his chair, however, is a key with post-it note attached "office key - email to explain - Crazy Eyes."

Someday we're going to write a situation comedy called "Dot Gov." This is going to be in the pilot.