bjarvis: (Default)
I'd like to say I had a really great long weekend. Really, I'd love nothing better than to say that. Truly, I would.

But lest one thinks otherwise, I should immediately say that it was a perfectly fine long weekend. It just wasn't the weekend I was looking forward to.

Our office was supposed to be shut down for the entirety of US Thanksgiving week to force all employees to burn up their vacation days as we transition to a would-be unlimited vacation policy. And while that worked for most of the company, I was hauled back from vacation mode on Monday and Tuesday to deal with various technical issues. One of the major problems was that while the US operation was on vacation, the Bangalore portion was working a normal schedule and demanded that any service they needed from the US side be made instantly available as they had their own deadlines to meet.

I'm fine with dealing with the occasional unforeseen hardware issue --random things happen. I'm a bit pissed that expectations between the US and India teams were so poorly communicated that my division, supposedly on vacation, were essentially just made to work from home. I'm having a few words with management tomorrow: I want my Monday and Tuesday back, either not being counted as vacation or given two lieu days to make up for this farce.

We saw the movie "Arrival" on Thursday. Quick review: I liked it. It was more cerebral than a lot of other films on offer, and my inner linguist was fascinated by the challenges of learning a language from an entity with whom one has literally nothing in common. There was a major item of scifi silliness which irks me a bit, but it was a construct essential to the storytelling so I'm willing myself to let it slide --watch the movie and you'll understand what I mean.

I wish I could say what I did on Friday but I can't for the life of me think what it was. Which probably means napping, reading and relaxing.

Maurita & Lucas and their daughter Elodie (now 17 months old) came for Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday. Elodie was a delight: she's so much fun. We had the traditional turkey and a stack of low-carb, gluten-free sides which the Pilgrims would never recognize. Tasted good though, so what else matters? In an unusual burst of restraint, I didn't stuff myself to the point of explosion. And there will be turkey leftovers for days.

I even got the gym regularly during this past week: every day except Tuesday morning and today. I typically take a rest day after chest day as the chest, shoulders and arms take quite a pounding a need a brief recovery space before the next workout. If I'm clever, I try to book my data center visits or outside appointments on those recovery days to help smooth out my calendar.

This day has been more relaxing and tinkering, and I'm glad of it as the following week is going to be heavy. I've cleaned up a lot of files on my laptop, freeing up another 16GB of disk space. I've finally sorted through a stack of digital photos, cleaning 4GB of them off my mobile phone and filing them away on an external archive. At this moment, I have some cleanups in progress on my Google Drive too.

After being inactive for the past 2-3 weeks, I'm back into square dance calling this week in a big way. We have our regular C2 group meeting on Wednesday, I'm calling a C1/C2 night for the DC Lambda Squares Thursday, and Kent & I are co-calling an all-day C2 session for our crowd & friends Saturday. John Marshall is calling a holiday party Friday evening so we'll likely attend that as well. In all, my reduced calling schedule has helped my professional schedule immensely, and I hope to keep this new balance as long as I can.

Sadly, tomorrow is Monday, with all the excitement that entails. More news as it develops.
bjarvis: (Default)
I'm home from the annual IAGSDC convention in Toronto, and while I didn't dance much --perhaps three tips-- I spent a lot of time studying the staff callers.

In prior caller schools and in articles I've written for The Call Sheet, I've frequently said that it is OK for callers to specialize: we don't have to be all things to all people at all times. There typically are more than enough callers around to permit everyone a niche where they find maximum joy. I've walked that walk: I don't do square dance parties as I find them painful & frustrating, despite them being the most lucrative calling gig.

Of late, I've decided to pare down some of my other calling responsibilities.

I don't especially like teaching newbie dancers. I can do it --and do it well-- but it's draining to the point of physical debilitation. The last few times, I had to sit in the car in the parking lot after the gig to collect myself together sufficiently that I could drive home safely. Even when I succeed, there's the constant worry that in a moment of weakness, I might telegraph something less than joy from the stage: the mic & location amplifies everything and a newbie dancer who has less than an ideal experience their first time out may be lost to square dancing forever. For a shrinking recreational activity, the stakes and pressure to perform are high. Teaching absolute beginners is not my Happy Place.

I've also written a few times about the Dark Side of Square Dance Calling. Once you call for a club, you're forever on the hook as the expert in all things, whether you know anything or not. During the GCA grad dance in Toronto, a few people saw me on stage adjusting the volume settings and holding a microphone: for the rest of that weekend, I was suddenly their go-to guy for issues of audio in all halls, air conditioning levels, banquet table layouts, lost & found, and fun badge tours --of which I knew nothing, nor had any responsibilities. But despite my insistence that I couldn't help them and directed them to the registration table of volunteers, they kept coming back to me 'cuz they saw me with a microphone on a stage once.

As a club caller, I'm wheeled out to consult on audio issues for every festival, weekend dances, and misc events between them all. And revising & rewriting festival schedules through multiple drafts. And consulting on & contacting potential future festival staff callers. And MC-ing various events. And coordinating other resources. Yup, I spend two hours on stage for a club night, but there's so many more backstage which no one ever sees (or at least, won't notice if I've done everything correctly). It doesn't sound too bad, but multiply this by several clubs and it adds up.

All of this was unknown to me when I started calling.

The one thing I did know in advance was a minor thing back then, but has become a more onerous problem in 12+ years I've been calling: your schedule is not your own anymore.

I have so many Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Thursdays booked over this past year for various club nights. Feeling tired? Too bad: you must go. Weather sucks so bad no one in their right mind would venture out? Too bad: there hasn't been a formal cancellation so you must go. Had a spectacularly bad day with your spouse or at the office? Too bad: you must go --and fake joy about it until the gig is complete. Need to work late? Too bad: you have to do your gig, then go back to the office even later to mop up. Taking a gig is a promise and you are honour-bound to fulfill it, no matter how painful.

Over the past number of years, I've missed many professional training opportunities, business trips, professional meet-ups, business dinners and such, not to mention had to perform several all-nighters at the data center because I was booked for a dance gig. Most of my gigs are planned months in advance, but ironically, most of my best business obligations & opportunities are short notice. Being a caller has limited my professional scheduling agility. And while this isn't a huge surprise and not a catastrophic problem, the effect has been that I'm slipping professionally in my industry knowledge. It's just a little each year, but after a decade, it adds up: I need to correct this quickly before I become professionally obsolete.

So all of this is a large justification for my next steps:
1. I've formally resigned as club caller for Chesapeake Squares in Baltimore to free up my Tuesday evenings;
2. I've formally resigned as club caller for DC Lambda Squares in DC to free up my Thursday evenings.

I'm going to keep calling, primarily our Wednesday C2 group, Zig Zaggers (Advanced) and other subs as they come up. I want to do more guest spots at other festivals; I've been ignoring those for the past 2-3 years because I'm typically too exhausted from being a de facto festival organizer because of me being a club caller.

3. Mainstream and Plus are not my Happy Place. I can call them and do it well, but I like challenging take-no-prisoners, hot hash & DBD, while the market wants easy, breezy, wind-in-your-face dancing with no conscious thought required. Yup, I can do that but it's not my forte so I'll refer queries to my list of great local callers.
4. No more open houses, first-nighters and square dance parties. Yup, there's good money there, and yes, these are the things we need to make our activity grow, but I'm not the guy to run those. Again, I'll refer these to someone who does them better and actually enjoys them.
5. I do good extemporaneous calling and sight resolution. I use that exclusively at Mainstream and Plus, 50/50 at Advanced, and sparingly at Challenge-1 and Challenge-2. I want to correct that: in the next couple of years, I want to be as fluent in the A/C programs as I am in MS/Plus. This is what I was studying at the Toronto convention, and that's where I want to be.
6. To fulfill (5), I need to memorize many more get-outs, and become more confident in spotting & using great get-outs when they appear during extemporaneous calling. Every now and again, I've called something like "follow your neighbour" and while the dancers were still moving, I saw what I was 90% sure was the place to call a "right-and-left grand": I need to believe in my gut a bit more, and take a few more measured risks.
7. My music collection needs a refresh. I've been relying on the old standards too long and it's getting stale. I've bought seven new pieces this past weekend and am about to go review the CALLERLAB convention recordings of the panels discussing music to see what else I can pick up. Huge amounts of music produced annually sucks, but there are still some gems to be found if one looks hard enough.

I do understand that the changes in my path may mean I'll never stand on a stage again, as most gigs go to those who can and do offer everything. I'm fine with that: the important thing is that the best person for the role is hired so if I don't meet the requirements, I shouldn't be on any mic.

And I'm looking forward to catching up with my professional career, attending conventions, meet-ups, presentations, and such once again. I retire in 4,011 days... I can slow down then.


Sep. 22nd, 2013 07:49 pm
bjarvis: (Default)
I've been calling square dances for about nine years now. Well, more precisely, I was permitted to hold a microphone on stage about nine years ago: it was nearly a year before I was allowed to go on-stage solo. I remember being scared as hell and feeling utterly unprepared. I also remember thinking that I was utterly the wrong person for the role, that I should simply drop out and admit I wasn't up to the task.

This past week, I had three gigs which tested my skills in different ways.

Last Tuesday, attendance at Chesapeake Squares' club night was sparse so I called from the floor while dancing as the 8th dancer to complete a square. I have done this before, but it was mentally draining and it wasn't exactly what one might call a polished performance. This time, however, it was no more tiring than simply calling or simply dancing. I could think ahead 2-3 calls while my feet continued to execute the current call. And I didn't shame my ancestors while doing it.

This Thursday was the Chesapeake Squares' first Mainstream class night of the new fall series. There was a time such a gig would have filled me with terror: how to I teach these calls? How do I make them interesting? How do I fill a two hour dance with only a handful of easy calls? This night, however, I wasn't nervous or fearful. It was actually kinda fun. We covered the calls I had planned and not one more (hard though it is to resist that urge sometimes), we danced them repeatedly in a variety of formations and we built new sequences out the calls on hand. In short, it worked pretty well.

This Saturday, I called a combo dance for the Times Squares in New York City. The first 2.5 hours were Advanced & Challenge, then latter 2.5 hours Mainstream & Plus. Times Squares doesn't take breaks between tips: the only rest time is the minute or so required to change music and set up news squares for the next tip. I had been asked explicitly not to dumb down the choreo or speed to the weakest dancer, and I soon understood what they meant: the Advanced floor had one dancer who was a new Advanced graduate but was having extreme difficulty with the Mainstream & Plus calls --"column circulate" shouldn't crash an A2 square. Later in the evening, there was a longtime dancer who joined for the Mainstream tips who clearly couldn't remember or execute half of the calls on the list, but also had no concept of looking at his opposite for clues or even looking around for an empty spot on in the formation to fill. Instead, he just stood there, staring at a random wall waiting for someone to move to physically to an available spot. I noticed several dancers taking incorrect spots --effectively taking a hit for the team-- just so he could be placed in the nearest available position.

In all, it was a calling challenge but I did as instructed, letting go the weak square in favor of the stronger ones. I limited walk-throughs to those sequences or calls which clearly caused the bulk of the floor heartburn (eg. peel the top, remake the thar). I used a lot of written choreo for the A&C stuff so I could repeat it on demand, but went with sight-calling frequently to fix squares or just for fun (the MS & Plus part was entirely sight-called).

In all though, I think the evening was successful and I had a fun time. It's rare that I call extended sets like these: I've only done it three times before, including our own Harvest Festival Hoedown in 2010. I have proven to my own satisfaction that I have sufficient choreography, workshop material, choreographic variety and a musical palette for such extended dances and sufficient mental & physical stamina to keep focussed beginning to end. Times Squares is a good club and I hope to work with them again some time soon. If nothing else, I'll see many of their dancers at upcoming square dance festivals across the next few months.

To make a long story short ("Too late!"), I've survived a compressed work schedule, a series of demanding calling scenarios, extended travel and much more this past week without significant angst or last-minute panic attacks. I entered into each event as prepared as I believed I needed to be, along with some safety margin just in case. I left each without the sense of explosive decompression I knew only too well several few years ago. I hesistate to say this has become routine, but it has become --finally-- familiar enough that it doesn't trigger excess anxiety or stress. I'm going to call that "maturity" and "experienced."

There is, naturally, still so much more to learn and experience. I'm happy however that I've finally reached my personal goal: a of stable performance of several challenging calling situations without excessive strain. From here on it, it's dessert time!
bjarvis: (Default)
All of our operators are busy with other palace coups and takeovers... please stay on the line for our next available operator.

The Mid-Atlantic Challenge Association (MACA) has been a bit adrift lately. For many years, the same folks have been on the board, and the focus of that board has been limited to running two dances per year and running the Zip Coder magazine. The magazine however has been transferred to a private company so the organization agenda is dramatically reduced. Many of the current board wish to retire from it, and some have begun making noises about winding down the organization.

[profile] cuyahogarvr, [profile] kent4str and I have other ideas. :-)

The current by-laws include a statement of purpose which clearly outlines several other MACA functions, many of which have been ignored for some time either by benign neglect, lack of interest or lack of human resources to implement them. These include:
  • coordinating & promoting Challenge square dancing in the DC-Baltimore area;
  • assist in establishing a systematic procedure for teaching the Challenge programs, possibly even sponsoring classes;
  • sponsoring at least one open dance per year;
  • promote a positive image of Challenge dancing;
  • foster interaction between Challenge dancers and the rest of the square dance community;
  • foster cooperation between Challenge callers in the area; and,
  • promote special events.

In short, we've done the dance-per-year thing pretty well, but the rest of have been left unattended.

We're looking to run for board positions this coming November 2 with our own agenda:
  • sponsor at least four dances per year with both local & out-of-town callers;
  • plan our quarterly dances three years out, with a variety of callers and dance locations;
  • partner with multi-level clubs, not just Challenge-only clubs;
  • coordinate with non-MACA clubs to ensure a full booking schedule for travelling callers (and possibly sharing expenses);
  • sponsor Advanced and Intro-to-C1 sessions at some of our regular events as a feeder to our Challenge program;
  • modify the mission statement to expand our Baltimore-DC description to truly cover the Mid-Atlantic region;
  • promote the hell out of MACA and its events with every means at our disposal, including paper flyers, Facebook, Twitter, an updated web site, email, eVite and more.

There are a few other things we'd like to do, but these will do for the first year. With $20k in the bank, the organization has resources to do a lot if we can get the personnel and energy involved and directed into a new action plan.

[profile] kent4str will run for a delegate-at-large position while [profile] cuyahogarvr and I will run jointly for the vice-president position --the VP does most of the dance planning & coordination. We still need two other people to run for positions which will likely be vacated by retirements: I have a list of people we're approaching for those spots.

This is a mid-range plan covering the next 15 months, but I think we can do good things for the organization. Fresh meat is a good thing from time to time.
bjarvis: (Default)
The past half-month has been a bit of a blur, but it's been good for the most part.

We spent Labour Day as planned at the trailer in West Virginia. All five of us were there, [profile] kent4str, [profile] cuyhogarvr and me, along with co-trailer trash Jerry & David. It makes for a crowded trailer and not a great deal of isolated rest, but it was fun nonetheless.

[profile] cuyahogarvr and I stayed at the trailer for the rest of Labour Day week. Outside of some moments of stress because of a dead car battery --it had a charge but was just shy of its 7th birthday so it didn't retain enough juice to start the car-- I caught up on some rest and reading. More precisely, I caught up on some self-study, working towards my eventual Cisco network certification later this year. Still, I could have used a few extra days to fully recharge.

Work has been active. Our team has been distracted from large outstanding projects by a surge in daily problems-of-the-moment. Not realizing the wave of minor things would run on for days, we didn't prioritize our tasks properly and it cost us some time, but this week we'll be more aggressive about it: a couple of our team will be dedicated to simply addressing the daily minor things while the rest of us attack the outstanding big projects.

That said, I did get two major projects off my plate and a third nearly completed by this past Friday. I'm confident our team overall will be back in a very good position again with in a week.

Spare time will be at a premium this coming week: the Mainstream class with DC Lambda Squares continues for another two Wednesdays, even as a new Mainstream class for Chesapeake Squares starts this Thursday. I have a club night with Chesapeake Squares this Tuesday, then a six hour calling marathon, Mainstream through Challenge-1, with the Times Squares in New York City this coming Saturday. I also have a board meeting with the Mid-Atlantic Challenge Association Sunday afternoon.

Needless to say, I'm looking forward to all of these projects but it will require some heavy lifting for the next two weeks.
bjarvis: (Default)
I have almost literally nothing to report.

I called a gig for the Chesapeake Squares in July and am scheduled for another next Tuesday. That's it. On the one hand, I'm grateful for the break as I've been a bit overextended lately. On the other hand, I fear getting a bit rusty.

We were supposed to go to a C2 workshop & dance this past Saturday but it was cancelled for lack of dancers. I had two C1 gigs in July and early August which were similarly cancelled. It's the summer: everyone is off traveling, has schedule conflicts or such. Bummer, but we knew it would happen.

The DC Lambda Squares' Mainstream class is chugging along very well. John Marshall is the instructor but he had both [profile] kent4str and I do guest teaches of assigned calls so John could evaluate and offer tips & recommendations. I need more work on vocal metering, but otherwise my session went pretty well: good rapport with the floor, clear diction, etc.. Calling for new Mainstream dancers is the hardest gig I've ever had simply because we have to work with such a limited square dance vocabularly. More than once I wanted to call "wheel & deal" or "tag the line" but they didn't have those calls yet. Imagine writing "Hamlet" with a vocabulary of 500 words instead of the standard 25,000.

This Mainstream class technically winds up in September, but we know from the call list that there will be another dozen calls which need to be taught. These will be covered in upcoming club nights with that week's club caller, whether [profile] caller_dayle, [profile] kent4str, myself or someone else.

The Chesapeake Squares is hosting an open house August 27 and hopefully will have a Mainstream class starting in mid/late-September. More news as it develops.
bjarvis: (Default)
A few weeks ago, I was in San Francisco for a couple of weeks of work, along with attending the IAGSDC convention. Work was kinda wierd: it was the first time I visited our new company location in downtown SF, which was very cramped as there were renovations still in progress.

The square dance convention itself was an adventure. As vice-president for the Gay Callers Association, it was my responsibility to coordinate the annual caller school, this year with coaches Barry Clasper & [personal profile] billeyler. It was a lot of fun and I consider it to be a complete success. Beyond all of the preparation work in advance, I had to emcee the graduation dance, prepare flyers for next year's caller school, arrange official GCA name badges and back-orders of school materials, make file reports & make presentations with both the GCA board and the IAGSDC delegates and a stack of other minor tasks. [profile] billeyeler was kind enough (and not yet sick of me) to invite me to join him as a paenlist for the "Intro to Calling" discussion. I think we were all delighted with the excellent turn-out for that session.

In all, I danced only about 90 minutes out of 90 minutes out of four days. Still, that was enough to satisfy me, especially since I Have so many dance opportunitites at home: I like to the convention for the opportunity to mix & mingle, to catch up with people between sets and generally keep my ear to the ground to see what's going on in the broader community.

I can't say enough good things about the San Francisco convention. I know from back-room discussion with various coordinators that not everything was smooth as silk, but they managed through it, found solutions and kept ugly reality hidden from everyone --and that's what good organizing professionals do. Great location, great facility, great staff and great volunteers: what's not to love?

Since the convention, I've hardly called much. John Marshall is teaching the Mainstream class for DC Lambda Squares on Wednesdays, while Kent & I are assisting periodically and are given test teaching assignments. Last week, I was assigned teaching "grand square". Good news: that call is astonishingly easy to teach and gives the students a huge sense of accomplishment because it is a large call. My regular patter otherwise wasn't the greatest, largely because we had only a dozen or so calls to use and I was exhausted from overtime at work over the last few days. Still, no one died so I'm calling it a success.

There's talk of having us teach a Mainstream class for Chesapeake Squares beginning in mid-September too.

I haven't danced a great deal lately either, largely because my schedule has been very full. Again, I'm OK with this: I'm dancing enough for enjoyment and using the remaining time productively.

Tonight, DC Lambda Squares is hosting caller Bill Harrison for a DBD Plus workshop in the afternoon, a potluck dinner and then a Mainstream thru Challenge-1 dance in the evening. I predict a good time will be had by all.
bjarvis: (Default)
We're in the home stretch for the 2013 GCA caller school and the San Francisco IAGSDC square dance convention.

As vice-president of the GCA, I have direct responsibility for the caller school. Most of the advance preparations have been completed but there were some minor outstanding issues which needed to be addressed in the last week or so.
1. I have reservations made for a business dinner with my caller coaches for Sunday, June 30.
2. I have made a tonne of photocopies for the documents to be distributed to our course registrants.
3. I've made some required confirmations with the local convention staff --who have been a dream to work with, BTW.
4. I have a caller coach booked for the 2014 caller school and a funding proposal submited to All Join Hands for their consideration at their meeting next week during the convention.
5. I have flyers ready for next year's convention.

I'll be checking in bodies for the caller school as they arrive, staffing a help desk for them Monday-Wednesday, offering small advice & suggestions to the newbies, and emcee'ing the GCA dance Thursday morning 10am-1pm. I'd be happy to co-call with the newbies too if they'd be more comfortable with a second, or to allow them to concentrate on their patter or singer.

I still need to collect various packages which were shipped to San Francisco rather than to me in Maryland but I'm feeling otherwise very prepared for this caller school.

There are some other items which I need to finalize unrelated to the caller school, however...
1. I have a report on the recent CALLERLAB convention to report at the IAGSDC delegatse meeting.
2. I may also be reporting to the same delegates meeting on the GCA's recent activities, especially the caller school. The primary delegate is heavily loaded with 2015 convention planning & reporting activities so the alternate delegate, [profile] kent4str and I can duke it out for this reporting function.
3. I still need some detailed preparation for my singular convention calling gig, the leather tip.

Barry Clasper has invited me to share the stage with him for the leather tip, an hour-long square dance in full (or minimal) leather Friday evening. It's Mainstream which I sight-call 99% of the time, but short of the opening & closing ceremonies, this is the single most attended square dance hour with potentially over 1,000 dancers. In short, I don't want to screw this up, and ideally, I don't even want to stumble. Thus, I'm composing and printing all of my square dance cards in advance to guard against any potential issue. I'm 100% confident I can do this easily, but this is such a good opportunity for visibility which may not come again for a while that I want to take every step to make it flawless.

I still need to print these cards but I'm sure I can do that at the hotel or just run up the street to my conveniently-located office.

I had also planned to lose 10lbs of fat around the waistline before going up on stage in leather but that didn't happen. Stupid sugar addiction.

And after Friday evening, it's all rest & relaxation for me until the closing ceremonies.
bjarvis: (Default)
Three months back, my schedule went straight to hell.

I knew it was going to happen: my work team was losing two people and my boss was taking extended leave to handle his father's funeral arrangements, leaving us with only a 50% staffing level. Spring is also the season of square dance fly-ins, another round of square dance teaching evenings and a tonne of other events. The calendar was a swirling mess of color listing all of the commitments and appointments until May 5.

Today, mercifully, is May 6, and it feels like the weight of the entire freaking planet has been lifted from my shoulders.

Yes, my team is short-staffed still but I'm interviewing a potential hire tomorrow afternoon. Further, a number of major projects and our annual audit have all been completed succesfully. Even our annual performance evaluations have finished and I was informed today I'm getting a 4.8% raise. Go team!

This past weekend was the last of the square dance fly-ins on my calendar before the upcoming IAGSDC convention in July. It was great fun as always, but I'm happy to have a chunk of my life back again.

The trailer is de-winterized. While that's a luxury issue for us, we had the de-winterizing tools and equipment: our co-trailer owners in Columbus, OH, couldn't use the trailer until we did our part to prepare it for use. The pressure is now off: Jerry & David can enjoy it at their convenience.

Even the family stuff is largely done. [profile] kent4str's parents are back from wintering in Floriday, [profile] cuyahogarvr's kids birthdays & visits have come & gone, and my clan have finally locked down dates for the parents' upcoming 50th wedding anniversary in 2014. Alas, that date is opposite the 2014 IAGSDC convention but I've already sold our registrations so that's off our books as well.

And extended break from all social media helped immensely. It's amazing how much time one can get back when one ignores Facebook, LiveJournal, Twitter and such. I missed keeping current with various friends' travails, but I needed to focus elsewhere until the storm had passed.

Yeah, there are still appointments on the books but it's all a tiny fraction of what I had up until last night. Life is good.
bjarvis: (Default)
Friday afternoon, we headed to Wilmington, DE, for the Independence Squares' annual weekend festival. It's a nice two hour drive --if I95 North is flowing nicely-- and the hotel itself is very cozy and friendly (and I adore the free chocolate chip cookies they give to guests at check-in).

Despite all of the conveniences and dancing opportunities of the weeekend, I wasn't really feeling into the experience this year. On the way home this afternoon, I think I figured it out: I'm tired. No, I'm exhausted, not so much physically but mentally & emotionally. The toll of the past few weeks and the anticipation of the next two months has been subtly catching up with me.

It was naturally very nice to see so many old friends together and the few tips I did dance were fun. I'd like to think the tips I personally called (Advanced) were pretty good but the dancers have to be the final judges on that. But on the whole, I was content to sit on the sidelines in the lobby and read, indulging my introverted self and resting my psyche.

Next weekend, we're going to York, PA, for a C2 weekend with John Marshall. Alas, there won't be a lot of rest between now and then as I have one (and possibly a second) calling gig this week, a must-attend dance Wednesday and a potential night shift for work on Tuesday evening. At least the coming weekend is largely structured and has fewer dancing hours overall than the just-past IS fly-in.

My only goal for this evening was repairing my netbook (done!), catching up on email and relaxing at home. So far, so good!

Still Alive

Apr. 5th, 2013 11:56 am
bjarvis: (Default)
I haven't had much time to read or post lately... life has been busy and will continue to be so for another couple of months. This lack of spare time has been keeping me away from LJ, FB and Twitter, among other things; on the flip side, it's amazing how much spare time one can recoup by staying away from LJ, FB and Twitter.

In the past couple of weeks, I've:
  • finished my employer's performance evaluation;
  • attended the CALLERLAB convention in Cary, NC, where I was a panelist & moderator and representative for the GCA;
  • worked several night shifts, racking up new servers, retiring old ones, and upgrading existing ones, as well as preparing equipment to be shipped out as we've sold one of our divisions to an outside firm;
  • attempted to de-winterize our trailer at Roseland Resort (the campground water hadn't been turned on yet so we couldn't flush the antifreeze from the water system & tanks, and we ran out of propane for the furnace at 3am Sunday morning);
  • worked more extended shifts (did I mention we're a bit short-handed and hiring two more staffers for my team?);
  • had my old netbook die on me;
  • helped a friend assemble some furniture;
  • collected a dresser from another friend;
  • and prepped to head to Wilmington, DE, for the Independence Squares' fly-in this weekend.

In short, I'm up to my ears in a lot of projects. The good news, at least, is that I've completed a lot of smaller projects in the past 48 hours so I'm at least experiencing a significant degree of satisfaction and progress.
bjarvis: (Default)
Tonight, we held the annual membership meeting and board elections for the DC Lambda Squares.

For the most part, there wasn't any dramatic news. We're making a bit of money off our fly-in festivals, losing a bit on our community dances and club nights, and losing a great deal off our classes. On the whole, we had a financial deficit but there's more than enough cash in the bank and certificates of deposit to handle that.

We've created a committee to re-evaluate how we do our community dances. I proposed the board offer a list of items or projects and ask the members to consider sponsoring these special expenses; to demonstrate how it could work, I also committed to covering 50% of the caller's fees for our next dance (another dancer volunteered to cover the other 50% after the meeting).

Four of the five board positions up for election were all re-elected by acclamation. I think it speaks volumes that the folks who are staffing the presidency, membership chair, secretary and one of the two at-large positions were willing to continue for a second term and are comfortable working with each other. They are, as a certain upcoming movie would say, an effective team.

I kept out of the volunteering trenches, for the most part. I've already spent some years on the board and on the 2009 IAGSDC convention executive; further, I have a lot of duties related to my square dance calling for several clubs and my vice-president's role with the Gay Callers Association. I'm not getting burnt out, but I stretching just a wee bit past my comfort level at the moment so some restraint is a good thing.

There were lots of good ideas for recruitment and fundraising offered at the meeting: I'm looking forward to seeing many of these put into operation, as well as whatever we can learn from the upcoming CALLERLAB convention this weekend.
bjarvis: (Default)
God, the past two weeks...

My team at the office is still effectively down to 50% of its normal headcount thanks to departures and a family emergency of my manager. He's doing what he can remotely, but he's had bigger things to worry about than office stuff so we're all doing double-time and I've been stepping into the management role.

While we've had no major crises, I've been busy every hour of every business day with (a) my own project list as the sole engineer for the production data center, (b) various team projects we have in already in progress, (c) company projects such as our annual payment card audit and (d) misc issues as they come up in our production & non-production environments. Being nibbled by ducks is a good comparison: not life-threatening, but annoying/frustrating in a thousand little ways.

At least my part of the performance evaluations are completed and submitted. I still need to do my list of goals for 2013, but I need some information about the enterprise and operations goals first so I can align my wishlist with the official program.

In the interim, I still have my regular square dance calling gigs and personal appointments. We were supposed to de-winterize the trailer last weekend but we decided all of us had too many work commitments to spare time away from the office; we'll try again March 29-31. I've also cancelled some discretionary appointments and projects to make room for work hours.

This weekend & early next week, we're going to North Carolina for the annual CALLERLAB convention, a conference of square dance callers. The timing isn't great work-wise, but I'm ready for the escape. I'm not getting away scott-free, however: I'm a panelist moderator for an hour session on marketing dancing using social media with Kris Jensen, and I'm representing the GCA at the inter-organizational roundtable meeting and the business meeting. And I'll be reporting back to the GCA in July with the stuff we cover at this conference.

As I type this, I've packed my suitcase. I still need to pack my personal items into my backpack (camera, tripod, laptop, tablet, etc.), but that takes only 30 minutes in the morning. I also want to make copies of the GCA's "The Call Sheet" journal and registration forms for the GCA's caller school to offer on the promo table. I also need to ship two hard drives back to our New Jersey office tomorrow morning before I depart.

I really need a lot of sleep right now, but I'm doing better than I feared.
bjarvis: (Default)
DC Lambda Squares' Advanced & Challenge square dance fly-in weekend has come & gone for another year. In all, we had just under 100 attendees, slightly less than last year. While we heard from some who needed to cancel at the last minute, there were at least five people who had registrations who neither cancelled, rolled-over their registration to next year or gave us instructions of any kind.

This was the first time we had used the Four Points Sheraton Hotel, just 1.5 blocks from our past dance location at the Almas Temple. It's so nice to have the hotel rooms and dance spaces in the same building. Sadly, the only room [profile] kent4str, [profile] cuyhogarvr and I could get was at the Embassy Suites hotel another two short blocks away. The Embassy Suites was a very nice hotel, BTW --I'd stay there again-- and the weather was very nice so the walk wasn't a bother.

A high school girls volleyball competition also has been descending on down DC this weekend the past couple of years. The kids are fine, but wow, they chatter a lot and the high-pitched giggling in every public space was beginning to make my ears bleed. Perhaps it's just my personal bias, but I can't help but think having the same number of boys in the same space would have been much louder and even more obnoxious so I'm choosing to count my blessings.

The dance spaces at the hotel were adequate. As much as I'd like to say they were flawless, there's no denying that the load-bearing pillars were badly position two of the smaller halls. We worked around them: the caller's table was placed at the opposite end to provide the best possible sight-lines, and the rooms were (largely) allocated according to dance population (Advanced got the largest hall, C3B the smallest). It worked out but I wish those pillars weren't there.

[profile] kent4str hosted an hour of GCA C1 guest spots, while I handled the Advanced. To provide padding in the middle of my A2 hour for the guest callers to scamper from Kent's to my hall, I called a brief tip which I thought was so-so: it was half sighted, half-read and while it was OK, I scored lower than I would have liked. Fortunately, there was a brief 10 minute block at the end of the hour in which I called a final set which was damn near perfect (sight-called the entire thing) so I believe I redeemed myself. Yay for second chances!

Half of the GCA board was present so we had a mini-meeting, just to catch up on the status of the caller school and convention planning for the upcoming IAGSDC convention. One board member who shall remain nameless continues to be as clueless as ever: he can't figure out why some people aren't responding to his email requests. I wanted to scream, It's because you never ask, you order, instruct, insult & belittle, but never ask! but decided it wasn't a battle I wanted to fight.

I'm interested in seeing what the surveys say about our ACDC event. We asked for input on the selection of callers and the hotel facilities, among other things. My gut feeling is that one particular caller isn't going to be receiving big accolades: one dancer who didn't know the caller previous asked me "Is that caller new? Seemed inexperienced and not really altogether here." Ouch. I also suspect the room layouts may get some comments --we may need to reevaluate the possibility of booking the same hotel again for next year.

I did get one good idea from a caller though: we should put clocks on each of the caller tables. I didn't realize it, but true, each room lacked its own clock so something to help the callers know how much time is left in their block would help. I'll see if I can find something suitable in time for our next fly-in.


Feb. 15th, 2013 12:40 pm
bjarvis: (Default)
I've been slowly getting myself psyched up for this weekend's square dance festival, ACDC 2013, which DC Lambda Squares hosts every Presidents' Day weekend.

Last night, I assembled all of the audio systems in our basement, confirming we have an amp, speakers & appropriate cables for three halls and a spare set as an emergency backup.

I also printed out some in-house docs, such as the volunteer instructions for our registration/check-in desk, a sign-up sheet for the after party, a sign-up sheet for the guest caller spots and such, as well as final proofs for items which will be mass-copied. The DCLS Travelling Bin of Stationery has been prepped and is ready to go.

Today is payday. Money was transferred to various house accounts and some bills were paid. Yay for paydays!

This morning, I walked down to Staples for a tonne o' photocopying: copies of the current year's registration form for walk-ins, next year's registration form for early-bird registrations, the dance schedule, a quality control survey, a restaurant & dining guide and so on.

My bags are packed. [profile] kent4str and [profile] cuyahogarvr's bags are also packed and are in the living room. In a few minutes, I'll be loading the entire lot into the minivan in a last-in-first-out order since we'll be dropping the equipment off at the dance location first, then checking into our hotel later.

I wish we were able to stay at the same host hotel as everyone else but nearly all DC hotels refuse to have three adults in a room, quoting fire regulations. The Embassy Suites however doesn't have a problem, we presume because of the size & configuration of the room.

At the moment, I'm feeling a little out of touch with things. This is our first time using the Four Points Sheraton Hotel so I'm not sure how best at the moment to unload the equipment, which rooms we're using and where to set up the audio systems within those rooms. I'm also unclear where the registration desk is going to be located. This wouldn't be a problem except that 100 people are going to descend on the hotel in a few hours and for reasons I don't understand everyone --hotel staff, guests, club members and the rest of the host committee-- will be waiting for me to make the call. I don't know why, but that's typically how it turns out.

In all, we have about 100 registrations. It's a shame [profile] rfrench isn't able to join us this year as hoped because of recent knee surgery, but glad John Marshall was available to substitute. We'll have Anne Uebelacker, Dayle Hodge and Linda Kendall on staff as well this year. We're looking forward to having Rob next year, with Sandie Bryant, Lynette Bellini and Betsy Gotta.


Jan. 30th, 2013 05:44 pm
bjarvis: (Default)
The past 24 hours have been a whirlwind.

Tuesday was a fairly regular work day but I went to a geek user group in the evening, the DC chapter of LOPSA, for a talk on using wireshark to decipher TCP protocol failures. It was interesting, not in a huge amount of depth but I learned some new things nonetheless. The February meeting will be a combined meeting of five different geek groups in the greater DC area.

In the middle of last night's meeting, I received an email from my team's new manager. My prior boss resigned effective Feb 1 (this coming Friday) but the new guy has been given the reins of power early. Alas, said new guy also had a two week Hawaiian vacation planned already and departed today. In his last act before heading out of the door, he made me the manager pro tem for our team. Yay.

I was up late last night addressing a number of minor alerts from that evening's code release but finally made my way to bed around 2:30am.

This morning, I woke up with nasal congestion, temperature sensitivity and a mild headache. This is what I look forward to on my birthday while simultaneously being on-call for work and interim manager. Such fun.

I tackled a number of work tickets today, approving many, executing some and delegating others. A firmware upgrade on one of our new small storage arrays bricked the whole damn thing: I'll head to the data center tonight to power-cycle it and see if I can resurrect it.

I have a new laptop! Yay! Alas, it has Windows 8. If you haven't seen Win8 yet, here's a quick description: it's Windows 7 with Metro popping up at ill-advised times to prevent you from doing anything useful. Remember Clippy, that damned paperclip animation which would spontaneously appear in Word when you were trying to get work done? Imagine your entire screen vanishing and replaced with various animated tiles. I've heard there's a means of blocking Metro from popping up... I'll look for that later tonight. I like the new hardware but am not overly fond of the new OS.

Tonight, I'm off to dance C2 before dashing to the data center to reboot the wayward storage array. And I a dental appointment for 9am tomorrow morning. Whee.
bjarvis: (Default)
Last night, I taught the last class for Chesapeake Squares' latest Mainstream square dance course. It's been a long slog --we had a somewhat stumbling start as we had new people joining 2-3 weeks after the course formally began-- but we ended only two weeks later than originally planned.

As with many prior classes, I've been a bit surprised which calls cause heartburn and which ones are snapped up instantly. Yes, 'cast off 3/4' traditionally causes problems as new dancers frequently can't/won't trust their own ability count walls. 'Scoot back' is an issue because it causes dancers to repeat the use of hands, something which runs counter-intuitive to everything they've learned up to that point.

That said, this is the first class I've ever seen where 'partner trade' caused heartburn for a few dancers for weeks. Indeed, there's at least two dancers for whom I suspect they still don't quite get it. We workshop it, I give them extra help during breaks and yet it all vanishes from their synapses within seconds. But those same dancers can do 'spin the top' without a hitch.

This class had a wide variety of skills. At least three are solid dancers and with a little more floor time will likely be eager to absorb more. Three more seem to be a bit slower to pick things up (or at least their memory maxes out sooner) but they have determination which serves them well. A few others, well, it's too early to say. They seem to be strongly oriented to dance-by-feel rather than definition so perhaps their epiphany will happen after more floor time.

The official graduation is set for club night, Tuesday, January 22, 8-10pm.

In other news, I've been contacted by the San Francisco IAGSDC convention committee to see if I'd be interested in co-calling the leather tip with Barry Clasper. OMG, yes! To be asked to call any specialty tip is an honor; to be asked by a convention committee on another coast is a bigger honor; to be asked to call at either the bear or leather tip is an incredible honor and opportunity! Now to think about music...

The 2013 caller school continues to chug along in slow motion. I'd love to be able to market it a bit more extensively but I've been having a lot of difficulty getting the GCA web site updated. Emails and phone calls since August haven't been returned but we had a useful telephone call this week so I'm we can get the online stuff ready within the next week or so. Once we have that, I can finally market the hell out of this thing.

Looking ahead to the 2014 IAGSDC convention, I may have a problem. My parents 50th wedding anniversary lands on July 4, 2014, overlapping with the convention. I thought we had a plan to have the parents' anniversary celebrations on the weekend prior so it would be tight, but I'd be able to get from Ontario to Utah in time to fulfill my obligations to the caller school. It appears that the parental plans have changed however so I may not be able to get to Utah at all.

If that is indeed the case, I can at least set up the majority of the caller school for 2014 --booking the coaches, negotiating a curriculum, doing the marketing, etc.-- but we'd need someone else to sit & coordinate events on the ground for June 30-July 2, 2014. I hope for clarity on this before we get to the 2013 GCA membership & board meetings so we can plan appropriately.

Back to composing more C2 choreo for next Wednesday's workshop...
bjarvis: (Default)
I had a number of things I wanted to do these past four days. Here's the score:
  1. Shop for new square dance music. Done.
  2. Shop for a new laptop. Done: it arrives Friday (hopefully).
  3. Read four books. Done I got through
    • What I Didn't Learn in Business School
    • About the Size of It
    • Stock Trader's Almanac 2011
    • The Most Important Thing
    • Harold: The Last Anglo-Saxon King

    I didn't get to:
    • The Little Book of Valuation
    • Technical Analysis for Dummies
    • Winning with Futures

  4. Work on a C1 square dance class. Not a single thing. *sigh*
  5. Update my calendar. Done.
  6. Square dance demo team research. Not a single thing.
  7. Square dance flyers to the IAGSDC. In progress.
  8. Web site for [profile] cuyahogarvr, Mostly done. Need additional content but worst of the structure is in place.

I really wish I had an extra vacation day to catch up on some domestic stuff, as well as complete my list. With any luck the next couple of days will be light work-wise: outside of teaching a square dance class on Thursday, I have no commitments.
bjarvis: (Default)
Today is Friday. Despite being promoted by many as the date of the Mayan apocalypse, the worst thing to happen was a server reboot 8am this morning, an event I used as a convenient excuse to upgrade the machine from 24GB to 48GB of RAM. Take that, Mayans!

Tuesdays is xmas; the Monday prior is a company holiday. Taken with the weekend, I have four days of vacation time. Here's how I'm going to use it:
  1. Shop for some new music to add to my square dance selections. I've finally broken open an iTunes gift card for $25 which has been sitting on my desk for damn near three years. It's time to put it to use.
  2. Shop for a new laptop. I may not buy one, but there is a computer show & sale locally this weekend and I'm planning a visit on Sunday close to closing time when vendors are more willing to make a sale. My current netbook has been delightful for three years but it's showing its age and has already been expanded to its limit. I have a need for a faster machine with more RAM.
  3. I'm going to read at least four books, one per day. I have a large inventory to choose from, but I've decided this weekend's focus will be business/financial.
  4. I'm going to get off my ass and begin serious planning for a fast-track C1 square dance class. No dancer should have illusions about what they'll accomplish: I've been through enough boot camps to know that a single weekend can't do more than give a flavor of the program. Unless one has local follow-up workshops, it won't stick. I've also been around long enough to know that many dancers (esp. lapsed dancers who need a refresh) don't need a 50+ week long course for a program. I'm inclined to 3-4 six hour sessions on consecutive weekends. More planning & design is required, as well as a survey of the potential market.
  5. I need to update my calendar for 2013.
    • I need to insert all of the 2013 office holidays.
    • I need to plan my San Francisco IAGSDC convention schedule along with work-related visits to the mothership in late June & July.
    • Our trailer weekends to Roseland Resort are already in the calendar but I need to update my team's vacation schedule to ensure I can get those vacation days.
    • I'm also planning to attend the LISA conference in DC next November. My office won't pay for it so I'll need to have some money saved, but they should at least give me the time off work if I request it early enough.
    • Our square dance calendar is largely filled in, but I do need to alert the office to my pending absence for the CALLERLAB convention in Raleigh, NC, in the spring.

  6. I'm still working on a square dance demo team for DC Lambda Squares. This weekend, I should be able to do at least research calls & formations we're going to teach/incorporate, as well as check YouTube for ideas & research.
  7. I need to check with the DC Lambda Squares and Chesapeake Squares boards to see if we have flyers going to the IAGSDC for distribution in their restored bimonthly mailings. The deadline is Jan 6.
  8. I'm going to work on a web site for [profile] user. I've had some aborted attempts over the past number of months but since he's lining up business contacts in Europe as I write this, we need to get this component together and done asap.

That should do it for now. I may add more as time allows.
bjarvis: (Default)
Tonight was the last class for DC Lambda Squares' newest mainstream square dance class. [profile] kent4str and I began teaching it July 9, Mondays 7:30-9pm. We've missed a few Mondays because of holidays and hurricanes, but we have indeed finished prior to our club's Harvest Festival Hoedown this coming weekend. Yay, new dancers!

This Thursday, I'm teaching Chesapeake Squares' Mainstream class, 7:30-9pm. We're still in the early weeks of this course; I currently anticipate it wrapping up some time in January.

On Friday, we head to York, PA, for the aforementioned Harvest Festival Hoedown. I have guest caller hosting duties on Friday and Saturday evenings, as well as an hour of Mainstream calling Saturday afternoon ([profile] kent4str is calling Mainstream and Advanced hours). We're also responsible for assembling & setting up the audio systems for three halls, among other things.

Next week, I'm calling:
  • Challenge-1 for the Ettseteras on Monday;
  • Challenge-2 for our workshop group on Wednesday;
  • class-level Mainstream for the Chesapeake Squares on Thursday; and,
  • Advanced for the Zig Zaggers on Friday.

The past couple of months have been the busiest calling schedule I've had for some time. It's a Good ThingTM!

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