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Twenty five years ago today ...

submarine insignia, dolphins
On April 13, 1989, my military service officially ended. Six years, ten months, zero days and a wake-up earlier, I was sitting in Logan Airport waiting for the flight to Chicago and boot camp, and wondering how much trouble I'd be in if any of the (ten?) other recruits traveling with me managed to miss the plane. Fortunately, nobody missed their first military movement ...

Getting out was the right thing to do at the time, just as getting in was the right thing to do at that time. I still wonder, though, how my life would have turned out had I stayed in the Navy.

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Peacemakers in the news

me at star
The Worcester Telegram has a brief article about yesterday's concert. While the article text doesn't say very much, there is this nice picture showing the orchestra and adult chorus in front of the 150-year-old Worcester Organ:
cut for the bandwidth-sensitiveCollapse )
WORCESTER — The Master Singers of Worcester in collaboration with the Worcester Chapter of the American Guild of Organists presented the Massachusetts premiere of "The Peacemakers" Sunday at Mechanics Hall.

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me at star
Back from my big concert debut, Karl Jennings' The Peacemakers at Mechanics Hall in Worcester.

That was fun. Tiring, but fun.

I hadn't realized how much stamina it was going to take to get through a seventeen-movement, seventy-two minute work standing up and holding a hundred-twenty-plus page score, and I suspect I'll be feeling it for a day or two. That was certainly the largest audience I've ever been in front of. OTOH, it was also the largest chorus I've ever been part of, with over a hundred adult choristers and fifty youth.
Plus it was an excuse to get all spiffed upCollapse )

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Just back from rehearsal ...

me at star
Specifically, the final dress rehearsal for Karl Jenning's The Peacemakers. The actual performance (one time only!) will be at 4:00PM this Sunday, March 30, at Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts. I think things went well, all considered, although I found myself almost almost completely unable to hit the D above the bass clef (of which there are several in the baritone part).

Tickets are still available online through either the Mechanics Hall or Master Singers of Worcester websites. You'll get to hear some great music in a wonderful venue and see me all spiffed up in suit and black bow tie!

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me at star
Not so much that the National Weather Service is predicting a late March snowstorm. This is Massachusetts; that happens some years.

Not even so much that the late March snowstorm is expected to reach blizzard conditions. Really big storms can happen at any time of the year; when they're full of snow, they tend to be considered blizzards.

But the current NWS forecast for my neck-o-the-woods calls for maybe an inch or two of snow along with winds around 20-30 miles per hour and occasional gusts up to 55 miles per hour. The blizzard warnings are up for Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket - which are southeast of me:
237 PM EDT TUE MAR 25 2014


237 PM EDT TUE MAR 25 2014





I really can't remember a blizzard this late in the season that missed me to the south. Even for New England, that's weird.

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New Shadow Unit!

shadow unit
In case you missed the announcement on the main page, Shadow Unit episode 4x11 Due North, by Leah Bobet (leahbobet), is now online at

Good stuff, as one would expect from the Shadow Unit crew.

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meth lab of democracy
That Arizona "legalize any sort of discrimination on religions grounds" bill that I wrote about earlier this week?

Jan Brewer, governor of Arizona, has vetoed the bill. From Talking Points Memo:

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) announced Wednesday night that she has vetoed the anti-gay bill that has been sitting on her desk since last week.

The bill "does not address a specific or present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona," she said in explaining her decision. She took no questions after announcing the veto.

"I sincerely believe that (the bill) has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve," she said. "It could divide Arizona in ways that no one could imagine."

Brewer added that the legislation was "broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences."

The bill had drawn an intense national focus on the state since it cleared the Arizona House last week and went to Brewer. Gay rights advocates had said the bill, which would require the government to have a compelling interest before infringing on an individual's exercise of their religion, would effectively legitimize discrimination against LGBT people.

[ ... ]

Meanwhile, the Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative group that helped craft the bill, lamented Brewer's decision.

"Opponents were desperate to distort this bill rather than debate the merits. Essentially, they succeeded in getting a veto of a bill that does not even exist," the group's president Cathi Herrod said in a statement. "When the force of government compels one to speak or act contrary to their conscience, the government injures not only the dignity of the afflicted, but the dignity of our society as a whole."

Maybe I can retire my "Arizona: Meth Lab of Democracy" usericon again?

I hope so.

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whiskey tango foxtrot
I saw this job posting today:

The Builder Tools team at is looking for a top-notch Software Engineer to help create the ultimate distributed software and fleet management system.

boring techie detailsCollapse )
This position requires the applicant selected to obtain and maintain a Top Secret security clearance with Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS/SCI) eligibility and access. A US Government administered polygraph examination will be required. Existing TS/SCI clearance is not required to start; however, the applicant selected will be subject to a Single-Scope Background Investigation (SSBI) and must meet eligibility requirements for access to classified national security information. Applicants with a current SSBI, SBPR, or PPR, may be eligible for crossover in accordance with ICPG 704.4.
(emphasis mine)
WTF does somebody working on Amazon's internal cloud computing infrastructure need a TS/SCI clearance? Those are a major-league pain in the ass to obtain and retain ...

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meth lab of democracy
As reported all over the place, including the Arizona Republic, Talking Points Memo and even the BBC, the Arizona state legislature has passed a bill which opponents say will in effect legalize overt discrimination against gay people on religious freedom grounds. From the Arizona Republic / AZCentral article:
The Arizona Legislature has passed a controversial religion bill that is again thrusting Arizona into the national spotlight in a debate over discrimination.

House Bill 2153/Senate Bill 1062, written by the conservative advocacy group Center for Arizona Policy and the Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom, would allow individuals to use religious beliefs as a defense against a lawsuit.

The bill, which was introduced last month and has been described by opponents as discriminatory against gays and lesbians, has drawn national media coverage. Discussion of the bill went viral on social media during the House floor debate Thursday.

Opponents have dubbed it the "right to discriminate" bill and say it could prompt an economic backlash against the state, similar to what they say occurred when the state passed the controversial immigration law Senate Bill 1070 in 2010.

Proponents argue that the bill is simply a tweak to existing state religious-freedom laws to ensure individuals and businesses are not forced to do something that goes against their beliefs.

I am not a lawyer of any kind, but I do have a bit of Google-fu and was able to find both the full text of SB 1062 and the sections of Title 41 of the Arizona Revised Statutes amended thereby online. Chapter 9 of Title 41 is entitled "Civil Rights"; article 9 of that chapter is entitled "Free Exercise of Religion" and consists of five sections:
41-1493 Definitions
41-1493.01 Free exercise of religion protected
41-1493.02 Applicability
41-1493.03 Free exercise of religion; land use regulation
41-1493.04 Free exercise of religion; professional or occupational license; certificate or registration; appointments to governmental offices; definition
My layman's interpretation of the current text of article 9 is that it basically is set up to keep Arizona state and local governments from interfering with religious expression in two specific fields: land-use regulations (section 41-1493.03) and professional licensing (section 41-1493.04). SB 1062 expands (dramatically, in my opinion) the scope of article 9, so that anybody (not just religious organizations) may use a "sincerely held religions belief" defense against any enforcement action or lawsuit, whether brought by the government or by private individuals - like, for instance, a gay couple refused service at a public establishment.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer apparently has five days to sign or veto the bill. I personally hope she vetoes it; however, it appears to be sufficiently badly written as to provide all sorts of unintended consequences should it become law. Do people who believe capital punishment to be evil now get to not pay their state income tax? Does this now permit Islamic fundamentalists to practice Sharia law? Does this now permit the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints to practice polygamy?

For that matter, consider what might happen if certain people were to profess a sincerely held religious belief that pregnant women are entitled to terminate their pregnancy - and then went to work at an Arizona Planned Parenthood center?

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Attention Massachusetts-area folks!

me at star
The Master Singers of Worcester and the American Guild of Organists Worcester Chapter present The Peacemakers: A Musical Celebration of Peace by Karl Jenkins, for one performance only on Sunday, March 30 at 4:00 PM at Mechanics Hall in downtown Worcester, Massachusetts.

The 72-minute work is based entirely on the theme of peace, utilizing a wide range of texts from a variety of languages, religions, and authors including texts by Rumi, Ghandi, the Dalai Lama, Shelley, Terry Waite, Mother Teresa, Albert Schweitzer, Nelson Mandela, Anne Frank, Bahá’u'lláh and St. Seraphim of Sarov, as well as quotations from the Qur’an, the Bible and the Ordinary of the Mass.

This concert will be the New England premier of this work, and is part of a series of events celebrating the 150th anniversary of Mechanics Hall's 3,504-pipe Hook Organ. Performers will include the Master Singers of Worcester, the Worcester Children’s Chorus, the Worcester Polytechnic Institute Orchestra, and the massed choirs of many area churches, including First Unitarian Church of Worcester, First Congregational Church of Shrewsbury, Wesley United Methodist Church, Trinity Church of Northboro, First Parish Church of Berlin, St. John’s Episcopal Church of Sutton ...

and the choir of the First Parish Church of Stow and Acton.

Including me, singing baritone.


In all seriousness, this is an impressive piece of work. And Mechanics Hall is a fantastic venue, originally built by the Worcester Mechanics Society before the Civil War. And I promise not to suck badly. So if you're interested in choral works, or in peacemaking, or in awesome concert halls, or even in hearing me singing as part of a massed choir, check it out. Tickets are $25 ($20 for seniors/students), and available online at

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Eight! Eight Snowy Inches! Mwah-ha-ha!

Today's storm has moved further Down East (to annoy Mainers and eventually the Canadian Maritimes). We picked up about eight inches between noon and six PM. Evening newscasts were showing a particularly aggravating evening commute. Another storm is forecast for tomorrow. The weatherfolk think it will be a rain/snow mix this time around, which was yet another reason to get out tonight and finish relocating the current batch while it's still relatively fluffy.

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me at star
The latest snowstorm has started snowstorming in my little neck of the woods. The good folks at the National Weather Service have yet another Winter Weather Warning up, this time for "A QUICK PERIOD OF HEAVY SNOWFALL" (five to eight inches worth) through eight PM tonight.

Boston proper is forecast to receive less, and only gets a Winter Weather Advisory. Snowpocalypse, this ain't; still, tonight's commute is likely to have much suckitude.

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That's the first wave...

me at star
Around nine inches of white stuff on the ground, with a nice freezing drizzle crust on top. The National Weather Service says I might get a few more inches later tonight.

Then there's a chance of snow Saturday and Saturday night.

Then there's likely going to be snow Monday night into Tuesday.

Then there's still the rest of February and all of March to go.


Actually, as long as I don't have to drive in it, I like the snow. And this should hopefully give us a solid snowpack for the rest of the winter. The worst winters, IMNSHO, are the ones where we get heavy snow, then it mostly melts leaving brown and grey crap, then we get heavy snow, then it mostly melts, etc. etc. etc. Too many snow-to-bare-ground transitions per season get to me after a while.

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The game commences...

Yep, the heavy snow is starting:

We're expecting a few hours of this, followed by a nice "wintry mix" of snow, sleet, freezing rain and sundry neither-sunny-nor-dry precipitation. Choir practice tonight has, unsurprisingly, been cancelled.

Stay warm and dry, folks!

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Well, maybe not snowpocalypse ...

but a foot or more of snow, with potential bonus freezing rain. Definitely sucky weather, and stuff I'm glad I don't have to go out in.
Text of the current Winter Storm WarningCollapse )

This may make life ... interesting ... for those trying to get to Boskone from outside the area, especially since this storm has already screwed up air travel through the Deep South.

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NTSB on the Bounty

submarine insignia, dolphins
Back in August of 2012, I spent a day playing tourist along the southern New England coast, including a visit to the replica tall ship Bounty. [1] She was originally built for the 1962 version of the movie Mutiny on the Bounty. I have a few pictures of her on Flickr.

Two months later, following a month-long shipyard availability in Boothbay Harbor, ME, Bounty sailed to New London, CT for an "Exchange of Vessel Tours" with the recently-commissioned Virigina-class submarine USS Mississippi (SSN 782); the exchange occurred on October 25. The next item on her itinerary was an event in St. Petersburg, FL scheduled for November 10; Bounty sailed for St. Petersburg that evening.

However, there was a storm brewing - Hurricane Sandy.

Bounty did not make it to St. Petersburg. On October 29, she sank off Cape Hatteras. Of the sixteen persons on board at the time of the sinking, fourteen were safely rescued by US Coast Guard helicopters flying out of Elizabeth City, NC. One person was recovered and pronounced dead at the hospital ashore. The captain's body was never recovered and he is presumed dead.

The National Transportation Safety Board has now released its report on Bounty's sinking, MAB-14-03 - Sinking of Tall Ship Bounty (914KB PDF file). Based on information gathered by the Coast Guard, the NTSB declared the probable cause of Bounty's sinking to be
the captain's reckless decision to sail the vessel into the well-forecasted path of Hurricane Sandy, which subjected the aging vessel and the inexperienced crew to conditions from which the vessel could not recover. Contributing to the sinking was the lack of effective safety oversight by the vessel organization.

The details given in the NTSB report are damningCollapse )

I am profoundly grateful that I had no closer connection to this tragedy than having visited her once in port. I do know somebody who was considering joining Bounty's crew; thankfully, said person had yet to do so when Bounty sank, and thus was not aboard on that fatal final voyage.

[1]They used to have a website at Said website has effectively disappeared into the aether, although the Internet Archive Wayback Machine does have some snapshots.

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Close, but no snowpocalypse

me at star
Areas south of Boston got a foot to a foot-and-a-half of fluffy snow. Snow totals from the NWS websiteCollapse )

Me? A bit over an inch of fluff. Plenty damn cold, though.

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The verdict?

me at star
The verdict on today's jury duty? Not empaneled. Not this time around, at any rate.

Works for me. Malden District Court is way the hell out of my way.

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Jury duty

vote at your own risk

Fortunately, Massachusetts has a one-day/one-trial system. If I'm picked for a trial jury, that one trial will be the only one I have to serve on for the next three years. If I'm not picked for a jury by the end of the day tomorrow, I won't have to serve on a state jury again for the next three years.

Unfortunately, the powers that be at the Office of the Jury Commissioner have decided in their infinite wisdom to summon me to Malden District Court, which is just about the least convenient courthouse in Middlesex County for me. Not Concord District Court, which is in the next town over. Not Ayer District Court, which is two towns over in the other direction. But Malden, which is pretty much at the other end of Middlesex County. Grumble.

I shouldn't bitch too loudly, of course, considering just how essential juries are to the US system of justice. But still, Malden? (Could be worse; could be snowing tomorrow. Or it could be Federal service, which would be in downtown Boston which is even more of a PITA from where I live.)

(But still. Malden of all places?)

BTW, in the event I do get empaneled, the juror handbook makes it clear that I shouldn't discuss the trial online at all. So I won't.

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whiskey tango foxtrot
My local National Weather Service forecast for this afternoon:
Rain likely, mainly before 4pm. Cloudy, with a high near 56. West wind 8 to 11 mph, with gusts as high as 23 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.

My local National Weather Service forecast for this evening:
A slight chance of snow between midnight and 4am. Mostly cloudy, then gradually becoming mostly clear, with a low around 9. Wind chill values as low as -4. West wind 10 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 29 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

That's a forty-seven degree swing in less than one day. (In degrees Fahrenheit, which is just over twenty-five degrees Celcius, if that's your local scale.) Even for around here, that's pretty damn extreme.

(Meanwhile, between the warmth and the rain, we're getting holes in our snowpack, again. Sigh.)

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