Monday, June 19, 2017

Father's Day Weekend

Welcome back!  I hope everyone had a good Father's Day weekend.
We had a nice one!
Amy got me a really nice bottle of whiskey (Balcones Single Malt) for Father's Day, as well as a bunch of popcorn.  It was a really nice gift!  Made me jolly.
We just sort of hung out around the house on Friday night.  Amy made paninis, and they were very good.
On Saturday we got up and went out to breakfast.
Afterward we went swimming over at Garrison Pool.

He was supposed to be watering the flowers...
The pool was really nice on Saturday morning.  It wasn't too hot out, and we got there right when it opened, so the pool wasn't very crowded.

Practicing jumping to Dad
We swam for a while and then went to the playground for little bit.
Afterward, there was lunch and a Raylan nap while Amy and I worked out.  Raylan took a really long nap, and basically slept through a birthday party that he was supposed to attend.
Oh well.
I went to the grocery store, and afterward I played with Raylan while Amy made a key lime pie and some blackberry bars.
I'm not sure what we did Saturday night.  I think I watched Better Call Saul.  Good show!
On Sunday we got up, and I talked Amy into going out for breakfast again.  Because Father's Day.
We Went over to Dan's near our house.

Raylan is suspicious of me as I try to convince him that
I'm even better than Mom at buttering pancakes.
"Oh Father, when Mother butters the flapjacks, they have
a most delightful quality!!"
After breakfast we went over to Deep Eddy pool and went swimming.  I hadn't been there for many years.  The pool was really nice (it's a big, spring fed pool with a gently sloping entry point for the kiddos).  I hadn't been there in a long time, and it seemed a little different than I remembered, but a friend subsequently told me that they did some substantial remodeling to the place a few years back.
At any rate, Raylan loved the water.  He didn't even seem to mind that it was a little bit colder than the regular pools.  And, of course, it's always nice to swim in a pool without chlorine.

"This is my Father's Day dance, Dad!
Look at me!  Look at meeee!!!"

Amy convincing Raylan that the water isn't cold.

Time out for snacks and contemplation.
In the afternoon there was, once again, exercise and a Raylan nap.
In the late afternoon we went over to my parent's house.  We had barbecue and the key lime pie and blackberry bars that Amy had made.
Ryan, Jamie, Dick (Jamie's dad), Mom, Dad, Susan, and Uncle Donald were there.  We watched some of the college baseball World Series (TCU vs. Florida) and hung out and talked.  Raylan, as usual, played a lot and took turns entertaining and being entertained.
It was nice to see everyone!
It was a nice, relaxed, summer gathering.

"Well, yeah, I know the colors on this thing, Uncle Donald, but I
didn't know this was gonna be a test!"

Anyway, that was it for the weekend.  It was very nice.  Happy Father's Day to my dad!

Hope everyone has a good week!

Monday, June 12, 2017



I hope everyone had a good weekend.  Well, I know that not everyone did.  A friend of mine, Andy, had his father pass away over the weekend, so I'm thinking about Andy and his family today.

We had a pretty good weekend, though, and we're thankful for it.
It was one of our first summer weekends, or at least one of our first summer weekends that was sunny and nice.
On Saturday we went out to Steiner Ranch.  We went to visit my parents and to go swimming out at the Bella Mar pool (which is a truly great pool for little kids).
Raylan looooves the water.  It was actually a little bit cold for me (especially when we first got there and the air wasn't that warm yet), but he took to it instantly.

"I'm singing in the rain, Grandma!"

My intrepid family navigates the gauntlet of the Bella Mar
kids' pool.  
Bella Mar pool
After the pool we went back to my folks' house.  We took showers and ate lunch and Raylan went down for a nap.
In the afternoon, Amy and I snuck out to the Hill Country Galleria to go see Wonder Woman.

I enjoyed the movie.  It was fun.
I'm not sure I really thought it lived up to the hype, though (it's got a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and it's pulled in $205 million domestically in two weeks).
I thought it was an entertaining superhero movie and better than any of the recent incarnations of DC comic book heroes that have hit the big screen.
That being said, I didn't think it was as strong as a number of the Marvel movies, and I didn't think it was as good as most of Christopher Nolan's Batman films.
I'm glad that there's a solid superhero film out there which contains a strong, heroic female lead.  I truly am happy for this fact.
But I also feel like the social commentary imbued in many of the reviews of this movie have sort of overtaken the actual strength of the film.
I thought Chris Pine did a good job, and I thought that Gal Gadot actually did a better job than some are giving her credit for.  My complaints are more with the plot.  I felt like the entire finale of the movie not only fell flat, but was kind of a mess.  I felt like there were characters who added very little to the story, but who took up screen time.  I felt like the villains were underdeveloped and one dimensional.  I felt like the "love conquers all" theme was both a little trite as well as muddled and confused (especially given how many people Wonder Woman was willing to kill).
You can write off these complaints as irrelevant or dismiss them because, in the end, this is a "comic book movie", but I feel that this sort of treatment by critics is a bit arbitrary and selectively applied.
As I said, in the end, I had fun, though, and that's mostly the point.
But when the next superhero movie comes out, I'll be wanting to remind people where the bar has been set in order for a superhero movie to earn a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  And I don't think it's been set all that high...

After the movie, we picked up a very happy Raylan from Grandma and Poppa's house.
We got him home and got him to bed.

On Sunday we got up and went out to breakfast.
We exercised and played in the yard.
We did some grocery shopping and errands.

In the afternoon we went to the Dittmar pool.
It was a little crowded, but we had a good time.  Raylan "swam" for quite a while, and afterward he played on the playground.

Dittmar Pool

Snack time!!

Raylan teams up with some kids to work the water fountain
at the playground.

Amy made some really tasty chicken salad for dinner, and we all passed out.

That was the weekend!

It was good.  It felt very summery.

Sunday, June 04, 2017


Hey!  We had a pretty good weekend!
We had a short week at work, since we got back on Tuesday evening from Arizona, and both Amy and I took Wednesday off from work to just unpack and get some errands done at home.
We actually got back on Tuesday night and Amy had come down with a cold, so my parents took Raylan overnight on Tuesday so Amy could get some rest without a very loud toddler running around and demanding his mother every 10 seconds.  We both got caught up on some sleep.  Thanks, Mom and Dad.

On Thursday Raylan started at his new preschool, The University of Texas Child Development Center.  It's located right next door to Amy's office, and she can see Raylan when he's on the playground if she looks out the window.
Also, probably more importantly, it seems like a really good school, with teachers and staff who seem pretty invested in providing an enriching experience for little preschool brains.
Anyway, so far, so good.

Here's a picture that Amy took out the window of her office of Raylan
running around on the playground at his new school
I only worked for two days, but those two days were pretty busy.  I had three dockets, three meetings, and a whole bunch of phone calls and emails.  Crazy.

On Saturday my parents met us for breakfast at La Posada and then we all went to Bubblepalooza at the Long Center.
Bubblepalooza was fun.  The bubble artistry was a little lacking, but there were a lot of activities and the weather wasn't nearly as hot as last year, so we'll go ahead and call it a win.

This little girl was Amy's "mini me".  Seriously, this is the
outfit Amy's in after work on many evenings.
Raylan had a good time running around Bubblepalooza.  Afterward we took him over to the splash pad in Butler Park to cool off.  He had a blast.

In the afternoon there were various naps taken, and then we all went to the grocery store.  In the evening Amy made chicken and mushroom enchiladas, which were very good.

Saturday night, after Raylan was in bed, we watched Florence Foster Jenkins.  It's a film ("true story") about a woman in 1940's Manhattan who was a wealthy patron of the arts, philanthropist, and aspiring singer.  The problem is, she wasn't a very good singer.  In fact, she was famously bad.
Nonetheless, she developed a sort of cult following of people who attended and apparently, on some level, enjoyed her performances.  She played increasingly larger venues, recorded records, and eventually played Carnegie Hall.
The film portrays Ms. Jenkins as oblivious to her own lack of talent, shielded from criticism by both her husband (who bribed critics, carefully selected friendly audiences, and even hid newspaper reviews of her shows) and the artistic community which she had so generously supported.  Additionally, the film depicts her as a good person with a tragic life story, a woman truly dedicated to the support of the arts while struggling with her own degenerating health (i.e., a case of syphilis, brought on by unknowing exposure to the disease through her first husband).

At any rate, I enjoyed the movie.  We've all experienced situations where friends and/or colleagues have been encouraged to engage in performances or activities at a level that probably exceeded their skill set.  Normally this sort of phenomenon reaches a natural tipping point when audiences are no longer willing to expend time and energy to consume a mediocre product, and the artist or performer is forced to reconcile their aspirations against the actual level of their talent.  Florence Foster Jenkins portrays a more unique situation in which external factors (i.e., primarily the social status and philanthropy of the performer) contribute to a level of tolerance on the part of the audience that would have never been achieved on the strength of artistic merit alone.

Or at least that's the way the movie portrays it.  The real Florence Foster Jenkins may have been a more complicated  figure, with her audiences actually drawn to her performances because she was so bad.  Historians of the real Ms. Jenkins seem more willing to accommodate the notion that she actually knew that he singing was terrible, but she indulged her desire to perform, anyway, despite never really publicly acknowledging that the popularity of her shows existed, at least to some degree, in the comedic value that they held for her audience.

Anyway, it was an interesting movie.  Glad I watched it.

On Sunday I did some chores.  We took Raylan to the park.  I took Raylan to get a haircut.  Mandy stopped by with her dog, Darla, and we hung out in our yard for a bit.  Raylan loves Darla (and Mandy, although Mandy is somewhat eclipsed by Dalra's celebrity status).

In the afternoon, Amy took Raylan to a playdate over at Truett, Mary, Chad's house, and I went to band practice with Reed and Frank.  We had a good time making noise.

And that was it!  That was the weekend!
Hope you guys had a good one.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Memorial Day in AZ

Howdy!  Hope everyone is doing well!
We just got back from a very nice trip to Arizona over the Memorial Day weekend.  We flew out on Saturday (thanks for the airport shuttling, Mom and Dad), and got to Phoenix in the afternoon.
We stayed at Carol and Jerry's house, which was really nice.  They were up at their cabin at Munds Park when we first got there.
Raylan slept pretty well.  We had fish tacos from Rubio's the first night.  Good stuff.  Jean made some desert bars that had chocolate and coconut.  Also very good.
Sunday morning we got up and exercised and went to the Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale.  Raylan loves butterflies, and the place had thousands of them.  He was very excited.  Jean, Amy, and I also really enjoyed it.  Beautiful colors.

Sunday evening the Sinex crew came over, and Raylan got to play with his cousins.  They all got along well together.  Jean and Greg made a marinated, grilled chicken dinner with potatoes, salad, and a really tasty and interesting peanut sauce.

On Monday morning I borrowed Greg's bike and went for a bike ride.  As hot as it gets in Arizona, the mornings are actually pretty cool (God bless low humidity).  I rode about 15 miles.  It was a nice change of scenery, and the flat terrain in their part of the valley made the riding pretty easy.


After the bike ride and Amy's exercise we met Matt and the kids at the Vistancia pool.  Raylan had a blast.  He loooves the water, and he had fun with his cousins.  He tries really hard to swim.  Soon!
Their neighborhood pool has a couple of big water slides, so Scott and I went down them a few times.



On Monday Jerry and Carol arrived back in town, so we got to hang out with them on Monday afternoon.  It was nice to catch up with them.
Monday night I went out to dinner with Jean, Amy, and Greg at Saigon Kitchen while Carol and Jerry took care of Raylan and got him to bed. We had a really delicious, nice dinner.  It's a really good restaurant.
Tuesday morning I went for another bike ride, we hung out with the family a bit more, and then we had to head to the airport.  It was a really nice trip!
Thanks for the hospitality, Phoenix Family!


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Goodbye to Cassidy

On Saturday we had to say goodbye to Cassidy. I really, really loved that dog. Still love her.  She'd been with me for 14 years, and she was family.  She'd been having joint pain and arthritis for a couple of years, though.  More recently her mobility had been extremely limited and she seemed to regularly be in varying amounts of pain despite efforts to control it through medication.
Even with all of this, she would still exert the effort to hop around the house and into the yard to be with me and the family.  Being with us always seemed to make her happy.  Being petted made her happy.  Being talked to made her happy.  Sitting in a warm sunbeam in the grass while we worked or played nearby in the yard made her happy.
These things kept her going up until the end.

Having been born missing a front leg, Cassidy always stood out, but the physical abnormality didn't really slow her down.  I adopted her on a trip to the Humane Society with my good friend, Jeff Wilson.  I called my dad at his office from the adoption center, I think inadvertently pulling him out of a meeting, to ask if I was crazy for adopting a three legged dog.  
"What are the drawbacks?" he asked.
"She might not like long walks?"
He just laughed and lent his support.  Hop-a-Long Cassidy came home with me that day.
Throughout her youth and much of her adult life we spent a lot of time walking the neighborhood, swimming at Barton Creek, hiking on the green belt, going to dog parks, and just hanging out around the house.  When she was younger she slept in a blanket on my bed.  Later, she slept on a dog bed on the floor, but still in easy reach of where I was sleeping.

Back when my band, Mono Ensemble, used to play at my house, she would sit right outside the practice room, wanting to be as close to me and the guys in the band as she could handle, in spite of our ridiculously loud volume and her sensitive dog hearing.

When Jefff Wilson, one of my closest friends, was unexpectedly killed by a drunk driver, Cassidy was a therapeutic and loyal companion for me, accompanying me to the swimming holes and hiking trails near Barton Creek as I spent months and months working through my grief.  We would swim in the cold water and lay in the warm sun, sometimes listening to music and sometimes just listening to the water, enjoying each other's company.

Amy mostly only knew Cassidy in her later years, but when Amy first moved in we all used to go for walks together on a regular basis.  When Amy was studying for the bar exam, I would come home to find that Amy had taught Cassidy new tricks and had been playing hide and seek with her (one of Cassidy's favorite indoor games) during her study breaks.

The rest of my family loved Cassidy, too.  She spent a lot of time with Ryan and Jamie, and really enjoyed hanging out with their dogs, Scout and Lucy.  My parents took care of her on many occasions when I was travelling, and Cassidy and I road tripped to see them down in Spring many times before my parents moved to Austin.  Cassidy always seemed really happy to see all of the members of my family.

She was just a good friend.  Some dogs are just happy to get attention from anyone.  Some dogs are skittish.  Cassidy was neither.  She liked people, but could be slightly wary around them until she got to know them.  She was a very intelligent dog (perhaps owing to the Border Collie in her), extremely loyal, and brave.  Having three legs rarely deterred her from much (although later in life the arthritis slowed her down), and she would, on very rare occasions, get into a scuffle with another dog if it growled or snapped at her aggressively at the dog park.  I never saw her get into a scrap with a dog that wasn't considerably bigger than herself.  She didn't like fighting, she just didn't like being bullied. Really just wanted to happily play with other dogs.
She was not only brave, but stubborn.  I remember jumping off of a 15 foot tall bluff once into a swimming hole at a spot near Twin Falls, figuring I would get out and go back up to get Cassidy after cooling off.  There was a happy cheer from the crowd of swimmers a couple of minutes later after three legged Cassidy, overcoming her trepidation, refused to let me swim without her and launched herself off the small cliff into the water below.  
Another time I remember a small boy approaching me at the Barton Springs spillover (a regular destination when it wasn't crowded).  Watching Cassidy clamber out of the water, he said he was amazed that she could swim so well.
He said, "That is amazing that your dog does that and only has three legs!"
Unable to stop myself, with a straight face I looked at the boy and then at Cassidy before responding, "Oh God!  When did that happen?  She had four legs when we got here!  Help me find that other leg!!"
The poor kid looked freaked out and looked like he was gonna cry, and I spent 10 minutes reassuring him that it was just a joke and Cassidy was fine.
Another time three hippie girls, dancing around in body and face paint and waving burning sage, told me they were blessing the creek with some kind of prayer or ritual or something.  They told me that Cassidy had some kind of incredibly strong karmic-cosmic energy, and they fawned over an extremely self-satisfied Cassidy for quite a while.  They were probably super stoned, but it was still a nice sentiment, and I told them I agreed about her karmic energy.

I'll miss sitting outside and playing my guitar with Cassidy for my audience.  She's probably heard more of my music than anyone else (I hesitate to say she was my biggest fan-but at least she didn't object!), and she used to jump up when I grabbed my guitar, hoping we would head outside.  She'd sit nearby and keep an eye on the yard while I played, happy to spend time together.

Despite being old, having three legs, and some pretty painful arthritis toward the end, Cassidy never snapped at or even growled at Raylan, even when he climbed on her or played with her a little too roughly (which we tried to prevent).  I think she barked at him one single time, from what I can remember, but even that sounded more like a sound of annoyance than a threat.  She could sometimes seem a little wary around rambunctious Raylan (hopping away from his curious touch at times), but she was also pretty patient with him, and he had some of his first lessons about how to be gentle and kind to other creatures while heaping affection upon her.

Anyway, I loved, loved, loved Cassidy.  She was a ridiculously smart, loyal, and loving dog.  

There have been various posts on this blog over the years that have talked about Cassidy and shown pictures of her and talked about her, so I don't feel that I have to prove anything now.  I just love her, and I'm gonna miss her.  I can't stop reflexively looking around for her in the house to check in with.  If I'm up at night after Amy and Raylan are in bed, it feels weird and lonely to not have her around.  She was a really good girl, and she'll always be in my heart.

I love you girl.  I'll always love you.  People told me that you were lucky to be adopted by me, but, in truth, I was so lucky to have you.  You made my life so much better.  I'll miss you.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Touch-a-Truck; Mother's Day

Hi!  Hope everyone had a good weekend!
Friday night I think we ate pizza and just relaxed.  I took part in a Twitter viewing of Escape from New York  that Ryan hosted for his blog, The Signal Watch.  It was fun, even though I missed the beginning because Raylan decided he didn't want to go to sleep.
Saturday morning we got up and went to Maria's Taco Xpress for breakfast.  There had been an article in the paper saying that Maria's was closing down because the property taxes on the place were making the operation unfeasible.  When I talked to the woman who took our order, though, she said she thought things had stabilized and that the plan, at least for now, was to keep the place open indefinitely.
Which is good news!  We like Maria's, and it's a sort of South Austin institution!

Raylan learns on his first trip to Maria's that the salsa is
a little bit spicy.
"I can't believe you guys almost let me die."
After breakfast we went to Touch-a-Truck over at Camp Mabry.  It's a really cool event for the kiddos, and it benefits SAFE Austin, a program designed to prevent domestic and child abuse and to help victims.
Basically Touch-a-Truck involves a bunch of trucks from the City of Austin, construction companies, fire department, EMS, etc., and the kids get to, well, touch the trucks.  They can sit in them if they want, and they're even allowed to honk the horns.  Local businesses provide treats and bounce houses and stuff like that (thanks for the popsicles, HEB!!).
Raylan loved it!  He loved touching the trucks and their tires right away.  At first he was afraid to sit in the trucks (they're pretty big), but once Amy got up into a dump truck and sat in it with him, from then out he was excited and wanted to do everything.

"These look like my toy trucks.  But they're really big.  Orrrrrr did someone
shrink us and make us really small?!?!"

"Everyone wants me to honk this one more time."

"So where do you need me to dig the hole, lady?"

Family in a front loader!

The helicopter was technically not part of Touch-a-Truck, but still
very cool!  and I'm guessing that the soldiers who work at Camp Mabry
probably don't really appreciate it on a daily basis the way that Raylan

In addition to touching the trucks, Ryaln got to go into his first bounce house (short-lived- too many big kids), play in an inflatable play pen, and run around an awful lot.
After Touch-a-Truck there was lunch and napping.  Amy and I exercised.

Saturday afternoon we went grocery shopping.  We thought it would be fun, since we had sort of a short list, to go to Central Market.  We were wrong.
It was just sort of a madhouse in there.  I like Central Market, but Saturday afternoon is apparently not the time to go.

Sunday was Mother's Day!  We got up and messed around a bit in the yard.

Raylan helping his mom water the flowers on Mother's Day morning.
Later we met up with Mom, Dad, Ryan, and Jamie for brunch at The Iron Cactus.
It was nice!  We had good food, and it was fun to hang out with everyone and celebrate.
Between Amy and Mom, we have two great mothers in our midst, and while we appreciate them every day, it's nice to get a chance to put a punctuation mark on it once a year!
When you think about all of the endless work and toil and worry and effort that goes into being a mother, there's nothing that really repays that debt like brunch once a year, right?

Love you, Amy!

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

So that was Mother's Day.  Other from that, we spent some time at home hanging out in our yard and playing with the kiddo.  I ran an errand or two.

That was the weekend!

Hope you guys had a good one!