Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Update

So busy lately!
This weekend was good!

Feel Like Funkin' It Up!


On Friday I went to see Rebirth Brass Band at Emo's with Frank, Mandy, Candace, Vicki, and Sigmund.  It was a really good show.  Rebirth puts on the kind of performance that just makes you feel good.  Funky New Orleans second line style jazz.  Lots of dancing and bouncing around. 
It was a fun night.  It was my first show at the new Emo's location on Riverside, and I think I would give the venue a favorable rating.  The sound was pretty good, parking was easy, and it wasn't too crowded.  Drink prices were about average for an Austin club.
Thanks to Frank for driving me around!

On Saturday we ran some errands and did a few chores.  HEB, Costco, and I installed some smoke detectors.  The usual.  It rained pretty steadily on Saturday, and the temperatures were quite a bit cooler.  We kept calling it faux fall because we know that we start getting cold fronts in September, but they're usually just a tease.  The heat doesn't actually really break until sometime in October.  Still, the cool weather was nice.  We opened the windows, and I bought a cool ceramic pumpkin at HEB.
Saturday night Shelly and Kit came over.  We watched UT play against UCLA.  UT lost the game, and they took some heat in the media for blowing their lead late in the 4th quarter, but to be honest, I was just super happy that UT showed so much improvement after the BYU game the previous week.  We lost the game, but it was really tight and competitive.  Going into the UCLA game I had been afraid that it would just be a horrible rout and that UT would once again show themselves to be incredibly outclassed.  Instead, we looked like a team that barely lost while playing against the 12th ranked team in the country.
So, good news/bad news following that game, I guess.  The good news is that this is a rebuilding year, and Coach Strong's team definitely shows signs of improvement.  The good news is also that UT showed tremendous potential on Saturday night.  Swoopes played well, and the team looked more cohesive, calm, and motivated.  Execution was better on offense and defense (with a few notable lapses). 
The bad news is that UT fans are extremely demanding and they have a short memory.  They definitely have a "what have you done for me lately?" mentality, and I was shocked to see the journalists in the paper on Sunday morning complaining about the Longhorn loss.  UT is an extremely well-funded program, though, with lots of opinionated, affluent boosters.  It's already becoming obvious that Strong isn't going to get a pass for very long just because he inherited a mess created by Mack Brown.  On one hand, this makes sense.  Strong is getting paid a lot of money, and he knew what he was getting into when he took the job.  On the other hand, reality is reality, and money doesn't instantly change the capabilities of existing players.  This might be one of those situations where patience is rewarded as much or more than dollars.  Texas fans almost pride themselves on their impatience.  I hope Strong gets a fair shake.
Anyway, it was a fun game.  I had a blast watching it.
Also on Saturday night we played Mario Party on Kit's Gamecube.  It's not exactly up my alley in that I'm not a huge fan of more traditional arcade style games, but it was fun to play a game that four people could all play at the same time.  Also, as predicted by Kit, there was at least one group argument caused by the game.  We were forewarned that this was commonplace with Mario Party, that many a friendship had been wrecked upon the rocky shoals of this deceptively cheerful Nintendo landscape, but we thought we were above such pettiness and scoffed at the notion we would suffer discord as a result of a video game. 
Hubris.
After an unseemly incident where Shelly and Amy engaged in some godawful cheating and then giggled about it like giddy hyenas, fingers were pointed, and it became obvious that we would not be immune to the curse of Mario Party.  In the future we may need an additional person to serve as referee.
Oh well.  We'll get 'em next time. 
In all seriousness, it was fun hanging out!  Hope to do it again soon.

On Sunday we did chores and stuff.  Got some exercise.
Sunday night I had band practice at Reed's with Frank and Jim.  We had fun.  We played some originals and worked on Niteclub, by the Old 97's.  We had a good time.
On Sunday night Amy made pasta with Italian sausage and spinach for dinner.  It was delicious.

And that was it. 
Nice weekend.  Too short!

Hope everyone is doing well.
Enjoy the ride as we begin our initial descent into fall.
 
 

Monday, September 08, 2014

Update

Hullo everybuddy!
Ummmmm...
Not a lot new going on, really.

On Friday Amy and I had lunch with out friends Shelly and Kit.  We ate Mexican food and got caught up.  It was nice to have a chance to hang out with them.
Friday night we just sort of hung out and watched Northern Exposure.  Saturday involved breakfast at Central Market and exercise and a grocery shopping and whatnot.  Amy made delicious guacamole and sundried tomato dip for the UT game on Saturday night.
We went to Ryan and Jamie's house Saturday night to watch the game with Mom, Dad, Jamie, Ryan, Juan, Nicole, and Matt.  There were also a lot of dogs in attendance (Scout, Lucy, Levi, and Cassidy).  The food and the company were great for the game (thanks for the chicken, Roundball!), but the game itself was pretty awful.  Our new quarterback, Tyrone Swoopes, performed fairly admirably for a sophomore with limited playing time under his belt.  The rest of the team just kind of fell to pieces.  The offensive line was a mess.  They've had injuries and suspensions to deal with, but then again, they were pretty bad for most of last season, too, so I'm not sure that their recent difficulties tell the whole story.  Defense held it together through most of the first half, but in the second half they reverted to form, with blown tackles and blown coverage.  Felt like last year.

Still, we had a good time.  It was fun to hang out and shoot the breeze and force Ryan to be our grill slave while we watched football.

Levi and Dad face off over who gets to sit on the
sofa during the football game.  (Levi won)
On Sunday we mostly hung out around the house and took care of some chores.  I ran a couple of errands, including a trip to the mall to pick up a couple of suits that I had ordered.


This guy backed up traffic for ten minutes before realizing
that maybe his weird bike was safer on the shoulder than
rolling down a regular lane of traffic on Loop 360. 
Keep Austin Weird!
Sunday evening I had band practice with Reed, Jim, and Frank.  We had a good time.  We're working on taking a song that Frank composed on GarageBand and turning it into something that the whole band can play.  It sounds cool.
After band practice Amy made chilaquiles (woo hoo!) for dinner.  Amy did a little reading while I goofed around online, and that was it.  The end.
Pretty good weekend!

Hope everyone is doing okay.  Hang in there, Horns fans!

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Labor Day; Coach Strong's Debut

Hey!  Hope everyone had a good Labor Day!
Ours was pretty good.
On Friday we went to Cypress Grill for dinner.  The food was good, and we had a really nice time.  We both like that place.  I don't want it to get any more popular because it would just get crowded. 

On Saturday we went grocery shopping and took care of a few errands (or tried to- apparently hardwired, interconnectable smoke detectors are not as easy to find as one might assume).  The first University of Texas game of the season, UT v. North Texas, was on Saturday, and we were supposed to go to a watch party over at Ryan and Jamie's place.  Ryan got sick, though, so the plan was scuttled.  Ever flexible, we watched the game at our house, instead.
 
UT looked okay.  This was the debut game for Charlie Strong as head coach, so I was curious to see how things were shaping up.  The defense looked really solid, but the offense was still showing some weakness and making a few errors.  The game was more or less a blowout (38-7), but a victory was more or less a foregone conclusion against North Texas.  The first game of the season is almost always played against a really weak opponent so coaching staff can get a look at how things are working and make adjustments before facing off against more legitimate opponents.  At the end of the game, I still had some pretty big concerns about how UT's offense was handling itself.  Coach Strong has made adjustments, and things seem to be getting better, but these are still mostly the same players that were recruited by Mack Brown in previous years.  The offense still had a number of moments when it looked like it was sputtering.
Then, this morning the headline in the paper was that David Ash had suffered another concussion after a blow to the head during the game.  He was out last season after concussions and head injuries, so this is not good news.  It sounds like he's going to be out for the next game, and his future after that is unclear.
Bad news.
Ash's replacement is a young, sophomore quarterback named Tyrone Swoops who appeared in 5 games last season, throwing for 26 yards and rushing for 79.
Strong's expectations for Swoops?  He should be able to "execute the offense".  I guess it's fair to say that Strong would rather keep the expectations low.
Sigh.
Well, everyone knew that Strong was going to have his work cut out for him, given his number of returning players and the way that they struggled last season.  With Ash out, expectations will be significantly lowered, giving Strong a chance to engage in some serious rebuilding without taking too much flack regarding the disappointing performance of his team.
Annyway, that's it for Texas football.  I just wanted to post a little bit about it, given that it was Coach Strong's debut with the Longhorns.  It's the beginning of a new era.  I like the work ethic and sense of responsibility that Strong is trying to instill in his players.  I hope he gets the chance to get his program off the ground.

After the game we watched the last two episodes of season 2 of Orange is the New Black.  The second season was pretty good, and the ending was satisfying.  I'm not sure where they're going to go with a season 3.  The characters are really well established, and we've already had major plotlines involving a large number of them.  Just about all of the stories from season 2 were brought to a fairly satisfying conclusion.  I'm a little afraid that season 3 is gonna be where the show turns into a full on soap opera.  The premise of Orange keeps the characters trapped in a prison, after all, so there's a certain point where either things will become boring (the same people doing the same things over and over) or where it will feel like characters are intentionally creating their own drama.  Characters who create their own drama are typically less likable and less sympathetic.

On Sunday we did some chores and then went out to my parents' house out in Steiner Ranch in the afternoon.  The four of us went swimming in the community pool out in Steiner, and we had some Rudy's barbecue back at my folks' house after swimming.  After dinner we looked at pictures from their recent trip to Scotland and Ireland (brilliantly displayed on Dad's megaTV).  It was a really nice day, with all of the elements necessary for a classic Labor Day weekend (i.e., sunshine, water, barbecue, and goofy family activities).  At some point my Dad even pulled out a photo album of baby pictures of me to show to Amy.  It was somewhat hilarious and only mildly humiliating.  Mom and Dad were 1970's fashionistas, I'm here to report.  And I was an adorable baby.  Hahaha!!!

On Monday, Labor Day, we took care of chores, ran a few errands (I went to the mall and took advantage of a suit sale), and got a little exercise.  Amy made us a top notch breakfast with eggs, homefires, and bagels.  



It was a big enough breakfast that I skipped lunch.  In the afternoon I had band practice.  We played our originals, some 1980's classics, and even a few jingles.  You gotta keep things lively, ya know?  I'd like to buy the world a Coke...

So that was Labor Day.  Not too crazy, but relaxing and very nice.

Hope everyone is doing okay!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Update

Hi there. 
Just thought I would check in for a minute.
Our weekend was very low key.
We just sort of did chores and did a lot of hanging out, for the most part. 

On Sunday we managed to make it to Garrison Pool.  It was really hot outside, but the water felt nice.  It's just a plain old city pool, but somehow the water was still reasonably cool, despite the Auguast heat.  Turns out it was the last day that Garrison Pool will be open to the public this summer, so I was really glad we made it.  On the way home we stopped off for snow cones.  Lemon lime.  Real lime.

Sunday night we went to see Sarah Jarosz and Nickel Creek at ACL Live.

The show was good.  Sarah Jarosz was the opening act, and she played a really good set.  She played with just a fiddle player and a cellist, singing all of the songs herself.  Neither Amy nor I had ever seen her live, but we're both big fans of her music.  Honestly, her music was probably just as good as the Nickel Creek performance, which was really cool, given that she's a local talent and was playing for her hometown crowd (I think she's actually from Wimberly, but close enough).  She's a very talented musician, as well as a good singer.  I'd like to go hear a performance sometime where she's the headliner, but it seems like she hasn't been swinging through Austin all that often lately.
Nickel Creek was, of course, also very good.  Frankly, I'd heard more about them then I'd actually heard their music (I won their greatest hits, but that's about it).  They're extremely talented musicians, (Chris Thile is a prodigy on the mandolin), and their vocal harmonies are outstanding.
I've been a fan of Punch Brothers and have seen them a couple of times live (another band featuring Chris Thile).  It feels like both Punch Brothers and their predecessors, Nickel Creek, are genre blenders and expanders when it comes to the folk/bluegrass/singer-songwriter scene.  Their music is strongly rooted in folk and bluegrass traditions, but displays complexity and stylistic choices that push it beyond the boundaries of those musical forms. 
It's easy to see why the members of both Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers are attracted to bluegrass music.  It's a style that utilizes and celebrates technical prowess, and the members of both bands are extremely talented musicians and singers.

 
But Nickel Creek wanders, stylistically, into areas reminiscent of pop, rock, and, in certain moments, even a bit of a classical feel.  Punch Brothers at times sounds like bluegrass folk jazz.  Or maybe progressive bluegrass.  Prog grass.
At any rate, Nickel Creek's geneaology includes not only their direct descendents, Punch Brothers, but acts like Milk Carton Kids and, of course, Sarah Jarosz.  Many others aspire to a similar level of performance, and some come close, but most just don't the technical chops.
As an amateur, wanna be musician, I go see quite a few bands.  There are a lot of shows where you walk away at the end impressed by their stage presence, their songwriting ability, and maybe their ability to play well as a cohesive unit, but you're not always super impressed by the level of talent (which is ok!  It's not appropriate to incorporate flashy technical skill into every style of music).  While watching both Nickel Creek and Sarah Jarosz, there were very few, if any, moments where I found myself thinking, "I could do that..."
Both acts had a really high level of technical skill, and both acts made their performances look easy.

So it was a good show.  I'm rambling.  We had a nice time!

I hope everyone is having a good week!
Talk to you soon.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Update

Hey!  Hope everyone is doing alright.
Things are going pretty well for us, but we've been busy.
On Friday night we mostly just hung out.  We ate dinner and got some exercise.  Later in the evening I walked across the street and had a beer with Mandy, Candace, Spencer, and some of their other friends. Amy was sort of worn out and sleepy, so she stayed home and talked to her mom on the phone, I think.  Anyway, it was nice to hang out at Mandy's for a little while in the back yard and chat about music and whatnot.  Surprisingly nice weather for an August night.

On Saturday we went to Barton Springs.  It had been a while since we'd been there.  We laid in the sun and laid in the shade under a tree and went swimming and listened to music.  It was extremely pleasant, and not very crowded.
After our trip to the pool we stopped by Maria's on the way home and had some belated breakfast tacos.  Perfect day to sit outside in the shade under the fans and eat breafsat tacos with like three kinds of salsa and pico de gallo.

We got some exercise, and Saturday evening we went to see Seela Misra and her band over at Strange Brew.  I wrote about the show over on my music blog, ATX Note Book, and you can read about it here.  The show was fun and relaxing and nice and easy and close to home.  I know I've said it over and over, but the sound over there at Strange Brew is just remarkable.  I guess it's probably a combination of both the acoustics in the room space, the sound system, and the skill of the sound engineer.  Probably the best live music sound that I've ever heard.  For realz.

After the show we wandered over to Sap's and had a sort of late dinner.  Good dinner.  I had kao soi, and it was really good.  Spicy and a little sweet and delicious.  Noodley goodness.

On Sunday Amy had to work.  I went to the grocery store, ran some errands, and did some chores while she was gone.  When she got back home, we went and did alittle more shopping together, and then I went to band practice at Reed's house. 
Mono practice was good.  All five of us were in attendance.  We ended up messing around with a bunch of 80's songs, including "Right Here, Right Now" and "One Hand in my Pocket".  Maybe kind of stupid, but we had fun. 
When I got home, Amy had a delicious tortilla soup on the stove.  It was awesome.  We had dinner and watched Northern Exposure and went to sleep.

That was the weekend.  Have a good week!!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Update

Hey!  Hope summer is going well for everyone.  For those with kiddos, I guess back to school time is right around the corner, and summer is almost over.  For those of us without kids, we're sort of working off a "what does it feel like" sort of model, and, at least in Austin, we we're looking forward to at least a month or so of summer before we get any sort of real respite from the heat.

This week was pretty good.  Once again, we've been pretty busy.  On Tuesday we went over to our friends Adam and Katie's house.  Adam was on a game show on GSN (the Game Show Network) called The Chase.  I'm not sure when the show was filmed (I guess a couple months ago?), but it aired this past week, so he had a watch party at his house.  We had a really good time.  The show is essentially a trivia show where contestants compete, as a team, against a big, smart British guy who goes by the name The Beast.
One of Adam's teammates got eliminated early on, but Adam and another teammate advanced to the final round.  The competed for a final cash prize of about $110,000, but, in the end, The Beast caught up to them (in terms of the number of questions correctly answered), and they lost.  Kind of sad to see all of that cash slip away, but it was definitely a fun ride.  Adam had a strong performance.  Definitely better than I could have done.

On Friday evening we stopped by a garage sale that our friends Libby and Jordan were having.  They're moving to Spain next year to attend a Spanish language immersion school, so they were selling some of their stuff before leaving the country (I guess they thought it a better to unload some stuff than store it all).  We hung out with them and had a beer, and Amy even bought a few items.
Both Libby and Jordan have worked in my office for several years now as prosecutors, and they're good friends of ours.  I'm happy for their experience, but sad to see them go.

On Saturday we went to Austin Books with Ryan and Jamie.  Amy has seen Ryan's comic book collection (which is... impressive), so she was curious to see where all of his books, figures, and collectibles come from.  Austin Books now had actually split into several stores- their original store, a game shop, a sort of pop art gallery, and a resale shop.  We walked around the different places, and Amy got to let it all wash over her.  It's a lot to take in for a newbie, but she enjoyed it.
Afterward we went and had lunch and hung out a bit.


Ryan, Amy, Jamie, and Steanso
Saturday evening Amy and I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy.  We really enjoyed it.  It hits just about the right tone for a summer blockbuster, action-adventure, sci-fi popcorn flick.  It's got good dialogue, cool action sequences, well-developed characters, and a great sense of humor.  The plot was fairly run-of-the-mill for this sort of movie, but I ended up caring about the characters and what happens to them, and that's really all that I ask out of that sort of movie.

Today we went out for breakfast, since then we've been running errands and doing chores.  I took Cassidy to the park for a little while.  Amy's been working on a test recipe for Cook's Country.  She volunteered to try making some sort of toffee bars, and then to answer survey questions about it.  I guess that if the responses are good, they'll publish the recipe.  The bars are cooling as I write this, and I haven't tasted them, but they smell really good...


(Amy, preparing to determine whether the toffee bars are fit
for the rest of America)
Earlier, we also went to Costco today.  Costco has started stepping up their beer selection, carrying bombers of some pretty good beers for some reasonable prices.  This discovery has made me much more enthusiastic about making our Costco runs.


happily tucked in beside the wine rack...

And that's been about it.
Mom and Dad are still abroad.  They did a week in Scotland with some friends of theirs (one of Dad's old friends from work lives there), and now they're launching into a tour of Ireland during week two.  Sounds like they're having fun!

Take care.  Have a good week.  Stay cool!!! 

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Update

Things are going pretty well on our end, although it feels like we've been pretty busy.
I also realize that the weekend went by, and I didn't take a single picture.  This discovery made me realize that I'm in the habit of taking pictures pretty regularly.  What can I say?  I like pictures.  I like posting them on my blog. 
I know that this blog isn't the most exciting thing in the world, but it gives me a lot of satisfaction when, from time to time, I go back and look at my posts and my pictures and see what I was up to at particular points in time.  It's sort of like a digital scrapbook, and it helps make sense of the tangled mess that my memories otherwise tend to become (I can always remember things, but I have a hard time remember exactly when they happened, and I have a hard time keeping them in exactly the right order).

So.... on Friday night we didn't do a whole lot.  We went to the grocery store, ate dinner, and watched the Cowboy Bebop movie.  We've been watching the entire series of Cowboy Bebop over the last couple of weeks.  For those who haven't seen it, it's an anime movie about a group of bounty hunters (i.e., "cowboys") in the future who fly around on a ship called The Bebop.  It's a really cool show.  The characters are pretty well developed, there lots of intense action sequences, and both the storylines and the artwork are really imaginative.  The show has kind of a noir feel to it, complete with hardboiled, wisecracking tough guys and wily, dangerous dames.  The soundtrack has an incorporates both jazz and rock (it's really cool to see the way they use the jazz numbers- especially during action sequences).  The Bebop movie was essentially like a long episode of the show, but the artwork was a little more developed, and the story a little more fleshed out.  Good stuff.

On Saturday we mostly did chores and ran errands.  On Saturday night Reed and Jen came over for dinner.  The weahter was ice, and we did some grilling in the back yard.  Chicken kabobs with southwestern marinade.  Amy made macaroni salad and corn-bean salad.  The food was nice and summery.  We had a good dinner, and a nice time visiting with Reed and Jen.  Given how busy we all are, it's sort of hard to get together, so I really appreciate it when we get the opportunity.

On Sunday we got up and went and had breakfast at Dan's Hamburgers.  I've lived near that place for years, and I remember that, years back, someone told me they had good breakfast tacos.  Turns out that they do all kinds of pretty standard breakfast food, do it pretty well, and serve it for a reasonable price.  We had a nice breakfast.  I had tacos, and Amy had eggs, bacon, and a biscuit (well, part of a biscuit- she claimed fullness).

We ran an errand or two.

A little later on we went to Garrison Park Pool.  The weather was ridiculously nice for August in Austin.  It was breezey and probably in the upper 80's.  I don't know how our weather was so nice this weekend.  Kind of crazy.  Anyway, I'm really glad we got a chance to be outside for a while.  It was sooo nice.

After the pool we went home and had lunch.  I exercised. 

Later I had band practice while Amy went to the gym.  We rocked and we rolled.  It ended up being just Frank, Reed, and myself, but we sounded pretty good and had fun.

After band practice Amy and I went over to Shelly and Kit's house.  amy wanted to pick up some planters that she made with Shelly.  They're made out of some sort of concrete-like substance, and they look pretty cool.  I also got to check out Kit's watermelon patch, which is still sort of in it's youthful stage, but off to a good start.

Anyway, it was a good weekend, but it went by too fast!