Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Colorado!

So last Thursday we flew to Colorado for a babymoon/first year anniversary trip. 
Though I was happy to be going because I wanted to get away and relax and spend some time with Amy, but I generally consider myself a city and/or ocean sort of guy, so I had no expectations for a trip where we were headed to the mountains.  I had never been to Colorado before, or, for that matter, to any place with really big mountains at all.
It turned out to be a great trip.  Turns out I like mountains.
We stayed in Boulder.  We stayed in an Airbnb duplex on Mapleton Avenue.  It was really nice, and it gave us a spot for both hanging out in Boulder and for launching off on adventures in our rental car.
The duplex was in a quiet neighborhood with older homes, with lots of leaves that were changing colors.  Our weather was perfect- sunny, and cool without ever really being cold.


The first night that we got there, we walked over to check out the Pearl Street Mall.  I had a beer, and then we walked around and did a little window shopping.  We had dinner at Pizzeria Locale.  We wandered in and got seated at a bar by the kitchen, and got to watch the cooks make pizza while we had an appetizer and relaxed.  Afterward we walked back to our duplex and passed out.
On Friday we got up and drove out to do a little trail hike near The Flatirons.  The walk/hike turned out to be really nice.  Beautiful place.  Very peaceful and scenic.  We got a nice little hike in and then headed back to town in the early afternoon.


We went back into Boulder and had lunch at Mountain Sun brewpub.  They not only had good beer (I ordered a sampler flight), but had good food, as well.  Mountain Sun is on Pearl Street, so we were sort of wandering around near the mall after eating when we got a text from our friends Kelly and Tommy, a couple who both work with Amy at her office (Tommy plays drums, so I've played music with him on a few occasions).  They were on vacation and passing through Boulder on their way from Estes Park to Colorado Springs.  They stopped by the duplex that we were renting and had a couple of beers.  It was nice to see them!  It's cool to run into friends when you're out travelling around.  Sort of the familiarity of being at home while out being out in a fun, new environment.  Plus, they gave us some pointers for our trip.  






On Saturday we got up and drove out to Estes Park and then Rocky Mountain National Park.  What can you say?  It's a beautiful place.  There were so many breathtaking views in so many different directions that at one point, Amy turned to me and said, "I feel like I'm getting tired of saying how beautiful it is."
It was meant as a sort of joke, but I knew what she meant.  Pictures don't do it justice because in photographs you only see a little sliver of the mountains, fields, streams, lakes, and forests that surround you on all sides.  In pictures you don't get the amazing sense of depth that comes from having incredible mountains in the background.  The mountains are just big.  They're big and colorful and amazing.  Valleys open up below you, and they look more like detailed oil paintings than real life surroundings (the changes of color as the mountains and valleys roll off into the distance are also extremely difficult to capture on camera- especially with my limited equipment and skills).  Very, very cool.


(snuck this one in while she wasn't even looking...)
 
We were at the park during elk mating season, and we managed to see some elk.  It was during the afternoon, and they were up under some trees, sort of chilling out.  They say the best time to spot elk is early morning or twilight, so we weren't sure we would see any before we had to head back to Boulder.  It was really cool.  Rocky Mountain National Park is a great place.  I'd like to go back and see it again sometime, for sure. 
 

(We saw elk!  We might have been more excited to see them
than vice versa...)

We drove back home through Estes Park, and stopped for some pretty tasty Thai food when we got to Boulder. 
After out late lunch we drove over to the campus at University of Colorado Boulder, just to take a look around.  UC Boulder is a really pretty campus.  The red brick buildings are impressive, the campus is large enough to be interesting while still feeling welcoming, and the leaves were changing on the many trees around campus.

(this building at UC Boulder is called Old Main.
Apparently it is old.  And famous.
But it can't help them beat UT)

When we got home that evening we walked around our neighborhood, and found a small, well-kept, interesting trailer park just a block or two behind our place.  It had neat little gardens and interesting porches and old fashioned street lamps.  We got home and looked it up.  It was the Mapleton Mobile Home Park, and it's a subsidized, affordable housing neighborhood in Boulder.  In a city where the median home price is over $500,000, the Mapleton MH Park is one of the only bets around for affordable housing for working class folks (and the old school trailers, only 12 feet wide, still go for well over $100,000).
On Sunday we got up and went out for breakfast.  Amy found a place called The Walnut Cafe, and it was really good.  I had an omelet with green chilies in it.  Muy bueno.
Afterward we headed over to the Celestial Seasonings factory.  It was fun.  They let us taste a bunch of teas, and we went on the tour of the factory.  The factory smelled really good.  There was a room full of bags of mint that cleared my sinuses right out. 
On the way out we saw prarie dogs, which made me excited, and in turn, Amy annoyed at my excitement.  Amy, strangely, was not at all impressed by prarie dogs.  I guess her heart is two sizes too small for a love of the prarie dog.  Oh well.  She loves her some elk.
After Celestial Seasonings we went to Chautauqua Park.  It's another really beautiful spot on the southwestern edge of Boulder.  We did a little bit of hiking on their trails, and wandered around to look at the buildings and cabins.  It would be fun to stay there sometime.  We had a nice hike and a nice visit to the grounds.

(Mountain Steanso at Chautauqua, overlooking
Boulder)




(Amy, mountains, and water bottle)

After that it was late afternoon.  We drove around Boulder a bit, just to see some more of the town, and grabbed some tasty sandwiches at Salvaggio's Deli (a good recommendation from my friend, Laura).  Then we walked around the neighborhood near our duplex for a bit.
We hung out at our place, and had a late dinner at an Indian place (well, Amy ate soup, and I had dinner).
And that was it!  The next day we drove back into Denver, wandered around Aurora for a little while before eating lunch, and then caught our plane home.
It was an excellent trip.  I really enjoyed Colorado.  I really, really enjoyed having some time to relax with Amy.  We both needed a chance to get away, and it was nice to spend time with her away from Austin.  We have a nice life, but we get so darn busy in our day-to-day!

Hope everyone is doing okay back here.  Hooray for the Longhorns for picking up a win in our absence (and when I couldn't get the game on TV- if I look away, they win!!!).

Good trip.  We came back feeling refreshed.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Update; Walking Dead Ramble

Hey!
Good weekend.
Friday night I think we mostly just hung out.  Amy had promised me that we would watch something "Halloweenish", but I had promised that it wouldn't be too scary, so we settled on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 which featured a film called The Increbibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies.  I like MST3K, but this movie was so bad that it was hard to watch even with jokes throughout the whole thing.  Anyway, I'm not sure we're gonna count that as our Halloween movie for this year.
On Saturday Amy got up and went to a prenatal yoga class with Mary, a friend from work.  I took Ryan and Jamie to the airport for their vacation trip to Washington, D.C.    I've seen a few Facebook posts from Ryan, and it sounds like they're having a good time.
Also, my parents came over to watch the Texas-OU game on Saturday.  It was a good game, but we didn't quite pull it off.  26-31 isn't bad, though.  Swoopes is looking better and better.
During the game, my dad and I put together some Ikea furniture (thanks for the help, Admiral!).  Now I have a couple of new dressers!

(we lost the OU game, but we won the battle of better
clothing storage!)
So we had a good time with my folks on Saturday.  Amy made her delicious queso, and we had veggie sticks and pizza.  Good to catch up with Mom and Dad, and, of course, we were grateful to get some help with the furniture building!
On Sunday we went out for breakfast at Juan in a Million.  We went shopping, did some chores, got some exercise, and sort of hung out.
Sunday night Amy made some really good chili and cornbread to go with it.  Delicious! 


(Amy's "Better Than Steanso Deserves" Chili!)


After dinner and dishes I watched the season premier of The Walking Dead.
Then we went to bed.
It was a good weekend!

In terms of the Walking Dead premier...
It was a good episode.  That show is really dark, but really compelling.  It's brutal, but I can't give up on it because I just want to see whether basic human decency can prevail in a zombified post-apocalyptic America.
Truthfully, the real draw of the show is just seeing whether people of morality and empathy can survive in any sort of post-apocalypse scenario.  The zombies on the show are imaginatively scary, but the main characters have long since learned how to deal with the zombies and have been forced to turn their attention to the real threat- other people.  Other people, as it turns out, can be pretty horrible to each other when resources get scarce and thier back is to the wall.  Actual civilization will never fall because of a zombie outbreak, but disease, war, famine, and economic collapse are pretty real. 
I think about these things because, Walking Dead is, after all, a violent, dark show that can be depressing to watch.  So I ask my self why I (and millions of other people) watch it.  If it was just a silly zombie show, I think it would have died out by now, but, instead, people seem more engaged with it than ever.  But, of course, fans of the show know that it's more than just a garden variety horror serial.
We live in an age of 24 hour cable news sensationalism, where even the terrorists are media savvy, producing grisly videos of beheadings in high definition for consumption by broadcasters and internet publishers.  Reporters keep telling us that Ebola is about to wipe us out, that global warming will be the end of us, and that death by nuclear/biological/chemical weapons could be right around the corner.
In the face of so many predictions about our imminent doom, I guess it's sort of logical for some of us to start wondering about, "What happens after the end?"  We all want to avoid the catastrophes, of course, but the media makes it feel like one of these things is going to get us sooner or later.  So, at the very least it makes an interesting thought experiment to ask: if civilization as we know it comes to a screeching halt and humanity begins to turn against itself, will any of our ideals and beliefs survive?
Zombies are, of course, a little silly.  Questions about human nature in the face of horrible catastrophe are not.
So we watch Walking Dead, knowing that our favorite, most beloved characters will probably be systematically killed off, but hoping against hope that some of the better aspects of human nature (i.e., altruism, sacrifice, loyalty, friendship, family, etc.) can somehow survive.  That's all we want.  Root for the survivors, and hope that they can preserve their own humanity in the process.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Update; ACL 2014; East Texas Lawyerin'!

Hey!  Hope everyone is doing okay.

Things have been going well over in Steansworld, but moving along at a fairly rapid clip.

Last weekend was the Austin City Limits Festival.  This would be my 12th year, folks.  Twelve years of rocking.  I remember going the first year and buying a poster because Jeff told me, "You might still be going to these things ten years from now and be happy that you bought a souvenir at the first one."
Anyway, the festival was fun this year, but also a little weird because Amy didn't come with.  I've gotten used to Amy being my live music partner, so when she decided not to go this year on account of pregnancy fatigue, I wasn't sure how thing would play out.  She encouraged me to go, though, (have I ever mentioned that I have a great wife who I love very much?), so I ended up attending.  Frank (guitarist extraordinaire from Mono E) bought Amy's ticket, so I ended up doing a lot of the festival with him.  We also met up with Mandy, Greg, Vicki, and Ellie.
The weather was really great.  Some of the best weather that I can remember at an ACL Fest.

The rundown of who I saw went like this:

Friday: Robert Ellis (just a couple of songs); John Batiste and Stay Human; Lake Street Dive; Los Colognes; St. Vincent; Childish Gambino; Belle & Sebastian; and Beck

Saturday:  Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue; Tune-Yards; Head and The Heart; Lucius; Beats Antique; and Broken Bells

Sunday:  Rey Pila; Gramatik; Fitz & The Tantrums; Phantogram; Spoon; and Pearl Jam (although we only watched a bit of Pearl Jam)

I had a good time at ACL.  Standout acts included John Batiste (really cool cort of jazzy funk style set with lots of good audience interaction), Trombone Shorty (also funky, but more rock-based), Broken Bells, Rey Pila (they ended up filling in for Bernhoft when he cancelled, so they were unexpected, but good rock music), and Fitx & The Tantrums.  I'm sure that Pearl Jam was also really good, but we were both tired and needing to get home, so we only caught the beginning of their set.  They rock, though.
We rode the bus back and forth to the festival from my house, mostly, which worked really well.  Nice to avoid the whole parking debacle down at Zilker during the festival.

Me, Vicki, Mandy, and Greg

John Batiste and Stay Human!  Great show!  Epic jazz piano version
of The Star Spangled Banner!

Many, Me, Frank, Vicki, and Clay.  I think it was just before I forced him
this photo Frank was telling me how much he hates being in pictures!  Hahahaha!

the UT band joins Trombone Shorty on stage for a jammy jam!

the view of Austin from ACL 2014

another year of the Crack flag!

So that was the festival.  It was fun!  I missed Amy, but we texted during the fest, and it sounded like she had a good weekend, so I think it all went okay (she got together with friends to talk about some baby-related planning and stuff like that).  Of course, we hung out in the mornings and a little each evening.  I'm glad she's good at entertaining herself because otherwise I would've felt more guilty (doing live music together is something we both enjoy).

Amy getting fired up for her hearing!
On Monday, the day after ACL Fest, Amy and I piled into the car and drove to Gilmer, in East Texas, for an eviction hearing that Amy had to do for work.  It was a case in front of a Justice of the Peace, and it involved a veteran who had bought some land through a special program, but then subsequently defaulted on payments.  Anyway, it turned out that the guy showed up for the hearing.  Amy won, and she didn't even have to feel bad about evicting the guy because he wasn't the one actually living on the land (long story, but he was letting his ne'er-do-well son live on the property).  So... Amy's first contested hearing was a nice win!  She even recovered attorney's fees on that case, which is apparently pretty unusual.  She did a great job.

East Texas was pretty.  I'm not sure I'm ready to move there, but I liked the trees.  Made for a pleasant drive.

And that's been about it.  We're back to work.  Last night we had a nice dinner with our friends Katie and Adam.  They invited us over and cooked a really tasty cheesy crab dish.  We brought some dessert squares from Central Market.  It was great to see them and catch up.



Hope everyone is doing okay!  I'm enjoying October.  Getting used to the idea that we're going to be parents!  Excited!!!!

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Baby on Board

So that little creature waving at the ultrasound device is our child!

Well, after a little more than 12 weeks of keeping it secret, Amy and I announced our pregnancy yesterday (well, Amy's the one who's actually preggers, but I wanna be supportive) through that most traditional of methods here in 2014- a Facebook post.  We got an outpouring of support from friends and family, which is awesome, because as genuinely excited as we both are about having a kiddo, it would be crazy not to admit that it's a little anxiety-inducing as well.

Aside from marrying Amy, this has been one of the most amazing events in my life.
I know that there are a lot of challenges ahead, but we are happy.
Very, very happy.

I'm not going to post too much about this because it still feels both personal and, at the same time, too big a thing to blithely comment about in some weird ol' blog post.
I'm sure you'll be hearing more about baby stuff in upcoming posts, but for now I'm still wrapping my head around it.

Peace, love, and happiness to all of you guys.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Update

Hey!  Hope everyone is doing okay!  We keep on rolling into fall, but I can't even believe summer is gone...
Our weekend was pretty good.  It seemed to go by very quickly.  Last Thursday evening we went to a happy hour with some of Amy's friends from work.  It was fun!  On Friday Amy and I went out to lunch with Jennifer and Kim.  It was fun.  We went to Arturo's.  It's cool having Amy working close enough to my office that we can walk places and meet up.
Friday night I think we just sort of hung out.
Saturday morning I got up and went to do the annual NAMI Walk.  NAMI does advocacy and works with families who are dealing with mental illness.  My parents went on the walk as well, and we joined The Justice Walkers, a team of people from the courthouse who work with the mentally ill population in one way or another.



Saturday afternoon we went over to Ryan and Jamie's place to watch UT play against Kansas.  UT beat Kansas.  We looked okay, but not great.  Kansas is really bad.  Baylor is coming up this week, and I am afraid.
Anyway, it was fun to hang out with Ryan and Jamie to catch the game.
On Sunday we went to Ikea and I got a couple of new dressers.  As I type this, they're still sitting, unassembled, in boxes at our house, but one step at a time, right?  Right?
We also did some grocery shopping, I got a haircut, and we had band practice. Mono practice was good.  Frank, Jim, Reed, and I.  I even squeezed in a little mandolin on a couple of songs.
That was about it!
Amy made a really good veggie-sausage-pasta dish on Sunday night.  Very tasty.
Hope everyone is doing well!  Things are so busy in the fall!!

Take care!

P.S.- I'm typing this post on my phone while riding the bus to work.  If it contains a bunch of mistakes, I apologize and blame it on aforementioned busyness!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Update

Hi!
Things have been busy with us.  Work's been busy, and home's been busy.
Last week I went to South Padre Island for a law seminar with people from work.  It was a pretty good trip, as work outings go.  The classes were decent (I've been to better, but they weren't bad).  I had a fun time hanging out at the each with my co workers, and our office put us up in a really nice condo tower called The Bridgepoint.  I shared a three bedroom unit with Bill and John.  We had nice weather while we were down there, despite predictions of rain before the trip.  I think late September through early October is a really great time to go to South Padre, weather wise, unless you end up getting a hurricane.

view from 20th floor balcony

it's worth taking the shuttle bus to Manuel's for breakfast

retreating back to the tower from the beach

the 2014 TCAO crew at the beach

Proof that we went to classes.  And that we love America.

Roommates
  
I was gone from early Wednesday through Friday evening.  
On Friday night I got home.  Amy's mom, Jean, was staying with us.  Amy made a delicious jambalaya dinner Friday night, and it was great to be back home and hang out with her and Jean.
I slept hard.
Saturday involved tacos at Maria's and a quick trip to check out the boardwalk on the hike and bike trail at Town Lake.  In the afternoon I went out to see my parents for a little bit, and then came and took a bunch of old videogames and gaming systems to Game Over Videogames (a pretty cool store that deals in vintage videogames and gaming systems).  I traded in a bunch of stuff and got some store credit.  Saturday night we went out to dinner at Chuy's.
Sunday Jean left to head back to Phoenix.  Amy and I did shopping and chores.  I was feeling sort of run down (maybe a combination of allergies and still feeling tired after my trip), so I skipped out on band practice.  We watched the new Ken Burns documentary about the Roosevelts, and went to bed.  That Roosevelts documentary is really good.  They were interesting people.  It's hard to believe that one family could hold so much presidential power in the U.S. for such an extended period of time, but between Teddy and FDR, the Roosevelt held the presidency for almost 20 years, and Eleanor ended up being one of the most influential first ladies of all time, with an active political life that lasted long after her husband's death.
Watching the documentary, hearing about their personalities and the little controversies and rumors that were inevitably stirred up (as well as some of the moral conundrums that they faced), I honestly felt like it was impossible to judge them on the strength of their personal character.  They came from wealth and privilege, but they also lived out almost their entire lives under the sort of public scrutiny that comes with such position.  Ultimately I feel like you just have to judge them on the work that they left behind.  They guided us through wars and fought for sweeping and unprecendented social change.  It would be easy to be dismiss such efforts as misguided or naive if they hadn't been successful in so many ways (not in every way- but often enough to definitely lend a tremendous amount of credibility to their worldview and philosophy of governance).
Anyway, we watched The Roosevelts.  I haven't seen all of the episodes, but I've seen enough to know that I highly recommend it if you can find the time.

And that was it.  Life's been busy, but good.


Last night my friend Laura gave us tickets to see Garrison Keillor at the Paramount because she didn't go.  It was really good.  He has a unique ability to tell stories and anecdotes that are funny, poignant, and powerful, and often all at the same time.  Philosophy wrapped in narrative.  Social commentary disguised as gentle, old-fashioned humor.  I'm really glad we got the opportunity to see him, and the Paramount seemed the perfect venue to catch his performance.  We don't have many people who can tell stories that way these days, and when Keillor finally retires, we're going to lose not only an important cultural icon, but an important thread in the social fabric.  I don't know who, if anyone, is going to step forward to do what he does.  In the internet age of point and click and 15 second YouTube clips, it's hard to imagine someone trying to learn to entertain people for hours at a time simply by spinning yarns.
Anyway, it was a lot of fun.
Thanks to Laura for the tickets!!

Hope everyone is doing well!

Hope the rest of your week is good.

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.