'Twas the week before Christmas, and, as is my habit, on behalf of Kayleen and me, I cobbled together a newsy year-end letter to enclose with the Syracuse Cultural Workers holiday cards that we sent to friends and relations far and near.
In the writing of that letter, I kept it to what would fit comfortably on both sides of a sheet of letter-size printer paper. That meant taking a "just the facts" approach, a type of discipline that I must consciously self-impose. As a big-picture person, I generally like to include ancillary details (e.g., explaining the peculiar etymologies of words like ancillary), as well as occasional opinions (of which I have many). Doing so would not have worked to our benefit.
Fortunately, I have website with a blog section, albeit one that has been underutilized these past two years. So I have plenty of space to take my two-page letter and expand it to include additional information, plus some hyperlinks that the print edition could not accommodate. Be advised that it contains what appear to be not-so-subtle advertisements for some corporations, very atypical of this blog.
Though I've said it many times and not entirely followed through, I earnestly hope to make this blog less underutilized in the coming months. One of my resolutions for 2022 is to post more regularly.
This summary of our 2021 is for any and all who carer to read it, including those who received the two-pager. The additions are all in red italics.
17 Dec 2021
Dear Family & Friends/Intentional Family:
DBC here, writing on behalf of Kayleen & myself.
This HalloThanksChanuKwanzMas letter is brought to you by Ticket to Ride, the award-winning train-game series from Days of Wonder, which has provided many hours of enjoyment in this household during months of limited social activity.
One sentence you’re probably tired of hearing or reading is “Wow, it’s been a crazy year, hasn’t it?” It’s right up there with “It went by so fast!” So, we won’t say it.
We hope that this note finds you physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy. We know that the past two years have brought many changes, large and small—some of them harder to handle than others—and that such rapid change brings no small amount of stress.
Despite all the lethal weirdness of 2021—viral variants, a winter storm unlike any ever seen in these parts, crowd-crush mayhem at a music festival just down the road—life goes on, as do we. We have some actual good news to report despite the apparent collapse of civilization-as-we-know-it.
Katy's New Job
The top headline would have to be Kayleen’s new position, which began on 1 November, within the Houston Community College System. Her role as Administrative Assistant to the chair of the Visual Arts department feels like a perfect fit: She works with a bunch of creative people, and she gets to put her broad array of clerical and technical skills to use (for faculty members who generally lack those skills). Hardly a day goes by without the chairperson telling her how indispensable she is.
Perhaps best of all, the position comes with a significant increase in what HCCS calls “Rewards” but most of us call “compensation.” Pay and benefits aside, the job carries far less stress than teaching in a public school. We both still consider ourselves “recovering schoolteachers.”
I enjoy telling folks this tidbit: Kayleen has been taking advantage of some online instruction in MS Office toward a certification (whatever they're calling it these days). I have been providing her additional tips and tricks for the last two years or more. Last month she surpassed all expectations by looking up and implementing some sophisticated VBA code to make Excel mass-produce folders in MS Outlook (or is it Teams?) for instructors to upload their grading documents to be entered into PeopleSoft. I was most impressed.
DBC Goes Back to School
At a somewhat advanced age, I have begun preparations for a whole new career in website development, acquiring skills and knowledge that are much in demand. The immediate goal is to escape the world of contract and gig work, which has defined (and complicated) most of the past three years.
In the first two weeks of online classes, my previous knowledge and experience in webwork—mostly picked up independently or informally—have set me up in the half of the class that often assists the other half with less of a programming background. What will this lead to? Well, sitting in a room writing and testing code all day has a certain appeal for an introvert; however, I would prefer to pass the knowledge on to others as an instructor.
Here’s the part where I thank Mom & Pop for backing me in this investment in my future and my well-being. I am incredibly fortunate that they are not just able, but also willing, to provide the necessary assistance.
This is one of the topics about which I intend to post as part of my New Year's resolution, mentioned at the top.
The company providing this six-month full-stack web development boot camp, Codeup, started eight years ago in San Antonio, and has since expanded into Dallas and Houston. The Houston office is scheduled to open for in-person instruction in April 2022.
Codeup has rented billboards along several area freeways. After a few months of hesitating, I did the research into Codeup that helped me overcome my natural suspicion that it was a well-financed scam, that the full-tuition-refund-if-you-don't-get-hired-within-six-months thing was legitimate, with no fine-print gotchas. Then I made contact with some staff members. Then I waited a couple months more to swallow what remains of my pride and ask my parents for assistance with the (substantial) tuition.
So far, I have found that Codeup offers not only quality instruction, but also a caring environment. The staff understands that students have actual lives and families, and the format of the classes is geared toward achieving success, including time for students to get together in Zoom breakout sessions and help each other.
I fully expect that I will be working full-time on a development team at this time next year. The staff has also assured me that, through its connections with the Texas Workforce Commission, Codeup provides opportunities beyond the planet-killing sectors that dominate the Texas economy: fossil fuels, "defense," and high finance.
Kayleen and David continued their exploration of Texas this July, visiting places they never had previously. This year’s edition included a brief road trip to Port Arthur and the Museum of the Gulf Coast.
Previous road trips within Texas have included expeditions to Big Bend, Lufkin-Nacogdoches, and the Hill Country.
I foolishly omitted that we had an enjoyable dinner with my cousin Pam and her husband in Beaumont. After that, we drove around the virtual ghost town that downtown Beaumont has become.
The ground floor of the MGC displays the natural and industrial histories of the Upper Texas Coast, with the Spindletop oil discovery as the fulcrum. Upstairs is all about the musicians, artists, athletes, and philanthropists who have called the Golden Triangle their home; the Janis Joplin room was the main draw for David, as well as an exhibit of artworks by another Port Arthur native, multi-disciplinary modernist Robert Rauschenberg. The Museum stands a few blocks from where Janis took some college courses to become a keypunch operator.
Much of the downstairs is a not-so-subtle tribute to Gulf Oil and Texaco, the companies that made the Golden Triangle golden. Despite their looming presence in the exhibit, it's still informative and even enjoyable.
On the way back, we got to visit Bolivar Twist, the Bolivar Peninsula beach house belonging to my brother-in-law Jason’s father and stepmother. (Kayleen reminds me that this was the first time we had ever taken a beach trip together.)
[In the interest of family privacy, I've removed from this publicly available site some of the details of the trip that my son Paxton and I took to Pennsylvania in August. The important part is that I met a lot of relatives whom I didn't know I had until a couple of years ago. You see, my mother was adopted as an infant, and she never knew the identities of her birth parents until after several years of ancestry.com and 23andMe research.]
The research [referenced above] has also revealed that my mother's mother came to the US from a portion of northern Serbia that was once considered part of Hungary (where a lot of ethnic Hungarians still live), and that her father was from a well-to-do Jewish family that also came from Eastern Europe.
Meeting all that new-found family brings with it a new backstory and an abrupt shift in one’s identity. Digesting it all required a few weeks of soul-searching and quite a few adult beverages. Fortunately, I have recovered from that experience of temporary personality dislocation, and I have avoided developing an obsession with my personal genealogy.
Recent Writing Activity
I have plenty to keep me busy, but for the last few months I've been semi-obsessed with a writing project that I have undertaken. At this time, I do not wish to disclose the nature of the project, other than that it is not a fictional work. It does require a combination of time and concentration to put it all together in the right order and keep it, as The Tick would say, "fun...and educational!" So when I get deep into it, it's difficult to get me out of it before I have reached a suitable stopping point.
A Better '22
Here’s hoping for a 2022 that, for all of us, makes up for the chaos and tumult of the past couple of years—or at least makes a down payment on it. I am especially hopeful that our beloved Houston Dynamo FC can turn their fortunes around after a dismal season. At this point, I'm mostly hoping that it will be safe to go to an occasional game at the recently renamed PNC Stadium. However, I'm increasingly disenchanted with the experience, especially after this past season, when the Dynamo and Dash games required a specific app (SeatGeek) just to purchase single-game tickets.
Blogging Sporadically since 2014
Here you will find political campaign-related entries, as well as some about my literature, Houston underground arts, peace & justice, urban cycling, soccer, alt-religion, and other topics.