Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Update

Hey! The weekend was pretty good.We had Monday off for MLK Day.
We spent Saturday mostly doing some errands and playing with Raylan.  I ran to the grocery store.  We went out to breakfast at Snooze.  I wasn't super impressed by my food (which was literally cold- cold eggs are probably something that a breakfast place should avoid).  Oh well.  At least we branched out!


On Sunday Raylan had a play date with Truett (and Mary and Chad).  They came over to our house Sunday morning.  It was fun, and it was nice of them to come down to South Austin for a visit.


Sunday afternoon I went to a baby shower for Dan and Adriana.  It was at our friend Mark's house, and it was really nice.  There were a bunch of people there from work and the courthouse, and a few other friends from outside work (Hannah and Chris were there, and Kate, who retired from our office a few years ago).  Congrats to Dan and Adriana!
Anyway, the shower was nice.  Amy stayed home with Raylan.
Sunday night Amy made fish tacos, and they were really good.
On Monday we got up and took Raylan to the park.



 

We all had a good time.
In the afternoon I went for a bike ride.  I had been expecting to have to do some work to get ready for a hearing on Monday, but at the last minute I got phone calls from the judge and opposing counsel, and the whole matter worked out.  So I got to go for a bike ride instead!
It was fun.  The weather was surprisingly mild for mid-January.  Pretty perfect for biking.


I got home and Raylan was up from his nap and making sidewal art with Amy.


We played with Raylan and Amy made burrito bowls for dinner.

Today we've got the day off because an ice storm blew in last night.  It's hard to believe I was out riding around town in my shorts yesterday.

Hope everyone has a good week and stays warm!!

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Update

Hey! Well, we're off to a decent start with 2018.  We've been settling back into work after a nice Christmas break, and just sort of getting back into the swing of things.
I ordered a special present for Amy through a company called Pupsocks.  Their specialty is putting pictures of pets on socks, but if you send them a picture of your kid, apparently they'll do that, too.  Apparently the company got inundated with orders right before Christmas (after receiving some publicity about their products), and the small company didn't get all of their orders out before the holidays.  So one of Amy's presents arrived this week...


Our weekend was pretty good.  We went to La Posada on Friday night.  It was fun.  Raylan ate a quesadilla and seemed to like it.
Saturday involved a Costco trip, and the assembly of an IKEA dresser.  I also took down the Christmas lights.
Amy did a bit of sidewalk chalk with Raylan while I put the dresser together so he wouldn't hide the parts from me while I was trying to build it.


Saturday night I went to a baby shower for Ruben and Miguel.  They are expecting to adopt a baby in February, so that's really exciting.  I'm happy for them, and the shower (which was at Afton's house) was very nice.
Saturday night Amy and I watched the "USS Callister" episode of Black Mirror.  Good, fun, thought provoking sci-fi.  I'm not sure that every bit of the logic held up- but I'm not sure that it didn't, either.  We really enjoyed it.
On Sunday I got up and took Raylan with me to the grocery store to give Amy a break.  There was also some leaf bagging.  The trees in our yard tend to drop a few leaves...



We played with Raylan quite a bit.


In the evening I had band practice.  We were all there, and we sounded pretty good.
And that was about it!
It went by way too quickly.



Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Heading Into a New Year

Happy New Year!
2017 was sort of a strange year.  On a personal level, we had a good year.  Our jobs were good, our family life was good, our health has been good, and Raylan seems to be growing into a pretty happy, healthy kid.  We're counting our blessings on all of this stuff, to be sure.  We feel very lucky and extremely fortunate to have such great family and friends in our lives.
On the other hand, on a broader level, 2017 was a sort of troubling year.
Here in Texas we had Hurricane Harvey, which sort of wrecked Houston and the Gulf Coast.  We didn't suffer too many direct effects here in Austin, but Port Aransas and Houston are our neighbors, and they're places that we regularly visit, so it was rough to see the damage that they suffered.
Also, on a statewide level, we went through a legislative session where moderate Republicans joined forces with Democrats to put the breaks on some of our most potentially damaging, ideological legislation (e.g., in inordinate amount of time and energy was spent trying to decide which bathrooms transgender people are allowed to use).  The good news was that some of the most ridiculous pieces of legislation were defeated, but in the wake of this year's legislative battles, a number of good, commonsense Republicans announced their retirement rather than deal with headaches from more extreme primary challenges in the upcoming years.  Joe Straus, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, announced that he would be stepping down at the end of his term, thereby removing one of the strongest remaining common sense voices for legislative politics in the state.
On a national level, Trump was Trump, and has pretty much lived up to most of the fears that Democrats had when he was elected.  He has waged war on the media, immigrants, various religions, the environment, and various foreign leaders.  He Tweets incessantly, and fact checking reveals that he is either cluelessly incorrect or blatantly dishonest at a truly alarming rate (even within the truth-challenged realm of politics). 
I could really fall down a wormhole here in talking about Trump, but... that's how 2017 felt.  Every day I would read the news to see what sort of terrible mistake, idiocy, or outright lies had been made by our national leadership.  It has truly felt like we couldn't get through a week without doing something really stupid.  Most of the time it felt like we couldn't go 2 or 3 days.  It truly does feel like we are a nation that is in decline.

BUT, in our little corner of the world we're doing pretty well.

Amy and I both took off work from Christmas until the 3rd of January.  Raylan's school has been closed, and it seemed like a good chance for some family time.
We made it to the new Central Library downtown Austin.  It's a really nice facility.  The price tag for the city to build the thing was pretty steep, but it's a really cool building and a nice library.

Raylan plays with computers in the kids' portion of the library

Raylan watches bigger kids try out the library's virtual reality system.
Raylan is just beginning to get a handle on regular reality, so
we're not ready to let him try it out.

The staircase of the library

I don't know what's behind that door, but it better be good.

Rooftop reading area and garden 

The view of Ladybird Lake and Auditorium Shores from the library

The weather has been really cold for a lot of this week, so we've spent a lot of time at home playing with Raylan and his new Christmas toys as well as looking for places to take him where we can all stay warm (the library was one of these destinations).  Amy took Raylan to visit her friend Katarina and Katarina's son, Logan, up near Cedar Park.

Raylan and Logan play together
Dad, these marbles aren't going to run themselves...

On New Year's Eve we went out to breakfast at La Posada.

"Pancakes.  I need pancakes."
On New Year's Eve I had an afternoon band practice with the guys.  

A rare pic from Mono Ensemble's palatial rehearsal studio.
On New Year's Day we took Raylan to the mall so he could do some running around.



See, Dad, Christmas isn't really over!
Shopping ninja.
In the afternoon on New Year's Day we went over to Mandy's house for a get-together.  Kim and Miles, Andy and Rami and Wilson, Kelly and Jojo and Goldie, Donna Rene, Kate, and Spencer and Mandy were all there.  There was some good food, some drinks, and a lot of child-fueled chaos.  It was a good time.  It was nice of Mandy to have us all over.

Tuesday was the last day of Christmas break for Raylan, so Amy and I took it off.  We took Raylan to breakfast at Kerbey Lane, and then took him to The Thinkery to meet up with Grandma.  Mom and Dad got us a family pass to The Thinkery for Christmas, and it's a great present.  It was the perfect thing to do on a cold winter day on Tuesday.

Amy helps Raylan build a ball run



Raylan managed to get himself a little soaked in the water play section
when a bucket dumped near him.  Here's Grandma helping with
the recovery.

And that's pretty much been our week.

I hope everyone's 2018 is off to a good start.  Best wishes to everyone for a happy, healthy 2018!!


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Christmas 2017

Merry Christmas!  Well, Christmas has come and gone, and 2017 provided a pretty festive, jolly holiday.
Last Thursday I went to the Austin Trail of Lights in Zilker Park with Amy, Raylan, and my parents.  I don't think I'd been to the trail of lights in many, many years.  I certainly hadn't been to visit it during the current era, with lot of complicated displays and live music and rides and on-site Santa Claus.  It was a fun evening.  Raylan had a really good time, of course.  We went ahead and bought a zip pass, so we got to get in an hour or so before the general admission gates opened.  There were still quite a few people there, but it didn't feel too crowded.


The Zilker Christmas Tree.  Obligatory Zilker Tree picture.

Raylan rode the merry-go-round with Grandma.
When I asked him how he liked it, he said,
"It went up and down.  It was loud."

I mentioned that Raylan liked the lights, right?
Christmas Eve was on Sunday this year.  I think Saturday was spent running around and trying to get some last minute errands resolved.
Our Christmas Eve was a little unusual this year in that they held a service in the morning.  We ended up going to the morning service in order to accommodate Raylan's nap schedule and so we would have more time to make it over to Ryan and Jamie's house in the evening.
The Sunday morning service was pretty nice.  Raylan made it through a little more than half of the service, which was more than I was expecting out of him.

Raylan and Amy before church

Family picture at church

Grandma and Papa with some little kid
After church we got home and got Raylan out to ride around on his bike.  The weather was cool and clear and nice.  We headed up to Joslin Park to go to the playground.  Rylan is getting really good at riding his balance bike.

This tree was bright and colorful enough to fascinate a
two year old

Working out with Mom on the exercise equipment at the park
On Christmas Eve, Ryan and Jamie had all of us over for a dinner/party gathering.  Doug and Kristen were in town from the Bay Area.  Susan, Mom, Dad, Dick, and Juan Diaz were there as well.

It may something about me as a person that I mostly forgot to take
pictures of people at Ryan and Jamie's house, and yet I have a
picture of the food.
We had a nice evening at Ryan and Jamie's.  The food was good, the company was pleasant, the house looked festive, and everyone seemed to have a nice time.  Raylan ran around like the little party animal that he typically is at social gatherings (plus, this time he had Scout and Lucy to "entertain").  Thanks to Ryan and Jamie for putting on such a nice Christmas Eve gathering!

On Christmas morning we got up and did the pretty traditional Christmas morning thing.  Rylan was really happy to open his gifts, and seemed genuinely thrilled to get them.  In fact, at one point he sort of got overwhelmed with all of the excitement.  He retreated to his room, where I found him sitting on his bed.  
He told me, "I need to rest."
Of course, the "resting" only lasted about 30 seconds before he sprinted back down the hallway to the tree to look for more presents.


Raylan started to yank presents out from under the tree, but I quickly
snapped this pic when he ran to his room for a breather.

Amy helps Raylan open a gift

I help Raylan open a gift

Christmas fever!



Raylan is fascinated and mesmerized by the marble run
After we opened presents and helped Raylan play with a few, Amy made a really nice breakfast (eggs, hash browns, sausage, English muffins, fruit).
I took Raylan for a ride on his balance bike, and we went to Joslin again.

Christmas seems to be working out okay for this kid.
After we got back from the park we loaded Raylan in the car and drove out to my parents' house in Steiner Ranch.  We got there sort of early so we could put Raylan down for his nap at their house.
Later on, the gang came over for dinner and to celebrate Christmas.  Susan, Uncle Donald, Ryan, Jamie, Doug, Kristen, and Dick were there with Mom, Dad, Amy, Raylan, and myself.

We had a really nice time!  Dinner was good, and the company was good.  Raylan woke up from his nap, and was happy to find that a party was going on.

Mom, doing a good job hosting her umpteenth Christmas celebration.
We had dinner, drinks, and dessert.  We opened a few more presents.

Amy and Uncle Ryan help Raylan figure out what his stocking stuffers are.

Doug, Kristen, Ryan, and Jamie keep things merry and bright over
on the sofa.

Mom snaps a picture of me talking to Uncle Donald

From left to right:  Mom, Kristen, Doug, Jamie, Ryan, Susan, Me, Raylan,
Amy, Uncle Donald, Dick, and Dad
We had a really nice time at Mom and Dad's.  We all left there feeling happy, jolly, and full.  Thanks to them for hosting!  It was a great way to spend Christmas Day.

And that was about it!  The Christmas holiday has been a good one at our house.

Raylan gets super involved with his train set on the day after Christmas
I hope everyone else had a good Christmas as well.

Peace, love, and joy to all of y'all this holiday season!


















Friday, December 22, 2017

TV Review: The Punisher (TV Series)


I finished watching The Punisher on Netflix last week.  Although I haven't picked up a Punisher comic in years, I used to sort of collect them back in Hugh school, and had a bunch of the issues from the first unlimited series featuring the character, which started around 1987.
My brother and I were both reading some superhero comics at the time (a lot of X-Men and Batman and stuff), and The Punisher seemed like a sort of answer to a fairly logical question that I had about superheroes at the time- the question being: why couldn't an average Joe just get himself some high powered firearms and fight villains?  Why do you need superpowers to do that?
Well, the answer, as the comics sort of make clear, is that fighting bad guys by just relying on guns sort of turns the whole operation into a blood bath.  When your superhero is fighting crime by unloading on bad guys with an M60, the line between superhero and deranged vigilante gets blurred pretty quick.

Nonetheless, I found The Punisher to be an interesting character in theory, even if he was not always utilized very well by the writers.  He was a military veteran who's family had been killed by criminals.  This, of course, sends our super soldier protagonist over the edge, and he ends up wreaking all sorts of havoc in pursuit of... well... punishment.

The comics were okay back in the day, but a bit one dimensional.  Mostly I read them as a kid because of the cool descriptions of the weapons and the inventive ways that The Punisher would take out the bad guys.

I'm not sure what's been going on in the comic books in recent years, but the new show is better written and much more nuanced than the old comics ever were.

Frank Castle, aka The Punisher, is a combat vet from the Afghanistan War who ended up working for a top secret kidnapping and assassination squad while deployed.  The cast of characters on the show include a bunch of other vets, many of whom are struggling with PTSD and other issues as they attempt to reintegrate into civilian life.  As in the comics, Castle's family gets killed, although this time their murders appear to be linked to Frank's secret work while deployed overseas.

I liked the show a lot.  It's still based on a comic book and keeps the vigilante plot line intact, but the themes surrounding returning vets and the difficulties that they face after combat deployments are grounded in very recognizable real-world issues.  
I was impressed that they had taken the sort of "Rambo-esque", action movie style star from my childhood comics and turned him into a more fully realized literary figure.
Anyway, if I had come to the show with no prior history I'm not sure how I would have felt.  As someone who had an appreciation of the evolution of the character, however, I really enjoyed it.
 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Update

So, how's it going?
Things are pretty good here, albeit slightly hectic, as is usual around holiday time.
On Thursday of this week we had our yearly Travis County Attorney's Office holiday luncheon during the day, and our office party in the evening.  It's kind of weird that we have them both on the same day, I guess, but such is the tradition.  I made it to both events, and they were each pretty fun in their own way.  The holiday lunch has pretty much everyone from the office gathered together for a meal, and it's always sort of fun to see the people from all of the different sections gathered together in one place (a lot of us barely ever see each other normally, except to sort of say hi on the elevator or when passing in the hallway).  The holiday party at night is open to defense attorneys, judges, and people from the courthouse that we do business with.  This year the theme was "holiday getaway", and there were some wacky Hawaiian shirts, leis, hula skirts, etc.  There was also a photo booth...

Believe it or not, these people help decide who gets
convicted of crimes in our county
Anyway, I had fun at the party.  My Mom and Dad took Raylan (thanks!), and Amy stayed home and had a "Mother's Day In", relaxing and catching up on her favorite shows.
Saturday we got up and went out to La Posada for breakfast.  We took Raylan on a tricycle ride to the park, took care of some chores, and ran some errands.  We also played with Raylan a bit at home.

In case you were wondering whether Raylan has outgrown his
fascination with washing machines and dryers...


The big kid slide is pretty fun, Dad, but you gotta take it slow and
make sure you don't slide down too-  

"WHOA!!!!"
No such thing as a self?  Then, Buddha, I guess you won't be able
to get this car off yo head by yo self!  Hahahahaha!!!! 
On Sunday we did a few other shores, played with Raylan some more, and took Raylan to Hoppin' House in the afternoon (it rained on Saturday afternoon, and stayed intermittently misty and damp on Sunday).


"I am so excited!  I looove Hoppin' House!"
Sunday night I got together with Frank and Reed for band practice.  It was fun.  We sounded pretty good for a three man band with no bass.

Monday morning I went to Raylan's school and played a few Christmas songs for the kids.  They warmed up to the music and started dancing after a couple of songs (Amy was there, and she makes for a great cheerleader/toddler drill sergeant).
We all had fun.

Luckily I've had a lot of practice playing for crowds that stare
at me blankly.

So many objects to show Amy.  So little time.

So that was the weekend, pretty much.  Good, but it went by really fast.
After Christmas I'm gonna take a nap.