Friday, March 31, 2006

Hey, guys!
Not too much going on. I'm swamped at work and very, very ready for the weekend. I just got done having a hearing about whether or not we could have a hearing. How crazy is that?
I had a yummy dinner last night with Team Wilson and Jackbart and then we watched a French movie called Vidocq (my hyperlink button isn't working, so: about a Sherlock Holmes-like detective who is investigating a string of murders which were carried out using lightning strikes as a weapon. At times the plot was kind of confusing, but the movie was highly stylized and very cool to watch. I especially liked the bad guy.
I would also like to announce the return of the spring Croakfest at the Wilson pond. Croakfest started up about a week ago with the reappearance of just a couple of frogs who seemed happy to swim around and occasionally make their gravelly croaking sounds in order to announce their presence. Now toads have returned to the pond in force, though, and the cacophony of their collective voices can be repeatedly heard, swelling and then slowly ebbing away again in a slow rhythm that can be heard even a block away from the Wilson house. The toads are greater in number than the frogs and have a markedly different sound. It's really amazing to hear how loud the little buggers can get, and even when Cassidy and I are sitting in my front yard across the street we can hear the chorus of amphibians sounding out what I assume must be their mating calls from the Wilson's back yard. Pretty cool.
Well, I'm busy, so I gotta run, but I hope everyone has a good weekend!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Jill Carroll was freed by her Iraqi captors in Iraq today, so there' something to feel happy about if you were looking for a pick-me-up. Apparently she was never harmed or even threatened while in captivity, although the strain of living in captivity with an uncertain future was understandably hard on her. Carrol was captured January 7th in an ambush in Baghdad during which her translator was killed, but her driver escaped.
What else.....? Man, Steanso has been working a lot and not doing a whole lot else this week, so there's not a lot jumping out at me that seems particularly blogworthy. I just got tickets for Weedo, Crackbass, the Pea, and I to go see James Brown at Stubbs on May 10th, so hopefully that'll be a good show. I know that Mr. Brown is probably a little past his prime, but he's famous for touring with really good bands, and the people who saw him at the rodeo here a couple of years ago said he put on a really good show. I just gotta see the Godfather of Soul before he hangs up his cape. You other Adventurers should get tickets and join us for the show.

By the way, there's all kids of controversy brewing over proposed changes with immigration laws. Steanso hasn't commented much on this because he has very mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, Steanso's grandfather on his mother's side immigrated into this country illegally back in the early part of the last century after leaving Finland in search of a better job and a better life (he rode into the U.S. on a truck coming in from Canada and then got a job working as a lumberjack, if memory serves). Later, he was made a citizen during some kind of amnesty period for illegal immigrants which was established by the federal government. My maternal grnadmother entered the country legally from Finland through Eliis Island, but at a time when restrictions on immigration were much less strict than they are today.
So coming from a family of immigrants, I kind of understand where they're coming from (metaphorically). Steanso's grandparents came to this country wanting nothing more than a better life and a chance to make things better for themselves and the families that they hoped to raise.
On the other hand, the practical consequences of the massive amount of illegal immigration seem to have the potential to be quite damaging. The number of foreign nationals crossing our borders unchecked raises legitimate issues regarding national security, and the costs of healthcare, education, and other social services for millions of undocumented workers (many of who are not paying taxes) puts a drag on the economy and our social services infrastructure. It probably sounds callous, but it's hard enough to fund the public education system to pay for schools for the children of citizens who are here legitimately and who are paying taxes. Paying for schooling for millions of undocumented immigrants who don't necessarily pay taxes is simply a daunting prospect.
So we can offer some form of citizenship to the people who are already here illegally- get them registered and have them start contributing to the tax base- but that doesn't answer the question of how to control our borders or what to do about the overall immigration question.
And I don't know the answer. It seems that immigration needs to be controlled in some kind of manageable way in order to protect our security and our economy, but I don't know what the answer is. I don't think we can let massive amounts of unchecked immigration continue without it eventually having a negative effect on the economy (once we have our next true economic recession or a significant slowdown that results in greater unemployment, I think there will be a lot more people who are unhappy about "lower level" jobs being filled by illegal workers). I don't know, I don't know.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Work has been busy, busy, busy today. Adventurers, please don't beat any of your family members. That's more work for Steanso.
Here's an article from CNN's entertainment section about Austin's very own Spoon. I really liked Spoon's last album, Gimme Fiction, but when Steanso and Crackbass ventured out to La Zona Rosa to see them live a while back (see my February 3rd, 2006, entry for a perfunctory review of their February 2nd show) their live show didn't really blow me away. Granted, they had a fair amount of difficulty with their sound system and some other equipment that night, and by the time they got their problems resolved and really settled into their groove, they were in about the last 3 songs of the show. I couldn't help being kind of disappointed with the fact, however, that Spoon is clearly a band which is more impressive in the studio than they were on stage. Spoon used a lot of different instrumentation and different sounds on their album, but on stage they had a more stripped-down, four man band approach. There's nothing wrong with that, and some bands manage to transition very well in that regard (playing the songs slightly differently so that when there's less instrumentation the songs don't sound empty or like they're missing something), but Spoon didn't always quite manage to fill the voids left by the instrumentation on the album (despite the fact that they relied upon sequencers in a fair number of songs in the live show). Still, it's good to see some local guys making good on the national music scene. For a town that markets itself as the live music capital of the world, Austin often seems woefully underrepresented on the national music scene. By way of a little side note, I think Frank "Little Nicky" Skowronski once told me that one of the guys from Spoon used to work at AMD (or maybe he still does- who knows how long the Spoon train will keep on rolling). Maybe that's just wrong, though.
Anyway, Gimme Fiction is a good album and I may not have seen Spoon's best live work, so I'm still a Spoon supporter. Go, Spoon!!!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Finally Steanso finds a church that he might feel comfortable in....
The St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church has been in existence in the Fillmore District in San Francisco since 1971. Bishop Franzo King (officially ordained a bishop in 1982 by the African Orthodox Church, which also recognizes legendary jazz saxophone player John Coltrane as a saint) started the church after experiencing what he refers to as a "spiritual experience" during a 1965 Coltrane concert in San Francisco. The musical focus of the church comes from the latter period of Coltrane's life and career, when the musician dedicated much of his work as a homage to God (including "A Love Supreme"). The church serves food to the homeless and engages in some activities which might be considered more typical for a small church, but its liturgy typically consists of hours worth of Coltrane music, from both recordings and live musicians.

Anyway, Steanso likes the idea of music being a kind of mystical force that can jolt you out of your everyday sense of reality and bring you closer to some kind of cosmic awareness (and thus, if he's out there, closer to God). Steanso is willing to believe that if there ever were a handful of musicians on the face of the planet who possessed the ability to create such transcendental music, John Coltrane was probably one of them (and, yes, the man struggled with heroine addiction and other problems, but as with other great musicians, such struggles seem to have somehow only made his music that much more heartfelt and remarkable rather than having diminished it). I guess, in short, Coltrane had a crazy genius to his music that made it truly unique, and if his inspiration was a sort of divine madness, then Steanso is probably more impressed by the divinity in those songs than by the words of a thousand ranting preachers.
Keep up the good work, St. John Coltrane. It's makes me smile just to know that such a church exists.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Tonight I went to Target with Team Wilson (because they're back from Hawaii and because that's the crazy way we're livin'), and as I'm perusing the contents of the deoderant aisle, looking for something that's a little daring, but not too daring, I hear the unmistakeable wailing of Miles Davis blaring out of one of the stereos over in ELECTRONICS, so I poke my head out and there's this kind of pudgy, funny-looking kid with an afro who's maybe in his late 20's or early 30's sitting behind a counter that's stocked with digital cameras, and the kid's wearing his Target uniform and this kind of goofy, zen-like smile, and then this other skinny, pimple-faced Target wageslave somes sidling up and asks, "Where'd the weird trumpet music come from?" and before Little Buddha can answer I ask, "Miles Davis?" and fat kid just smiles even wider and growls, "F#ck yeah......."
Steanso had a pretty slow weekend, but it was a decent one. With the Wilsons and Blooms still out of town and Mono E practice cancelled due to babysitting duties and parental visits, things were fairly quiet at the Hop-a-Long Lounge. I took Cassidy to the dog park and spent a lot of time catching up on my reading. I got a little exercise and watched Good Night and Good Luck (which I enjoyed). I watched UT lose (which sucked, but I kinda thought that LSU looked like the better team), and I watched George Mason beat Connecticut on Sunday. I played guitar and sat in the sun and messed around on the computer and took the dog for a walk and hung out with Reed for awhile when he stopped by. All in all, not a bad weekend, but not very exciting.

The Wilsons are still gone to Hawaii, and now I'm starting to wish I had listened more closely when they told me their travel arrangements. I had kinda assumed they would be back this weekend, but so far there is no sign of them. What if they got drunk and someone threw Jeff over the side of a cruiseliner? But wait.... they weren't on a cruise (not that this necessarily rules out the aforementioned scenario- with Crackbass anything is possible).

Also, I don't know if any of you have been following the story of the Winkler shooting out of Selmer, Tennessee, (this is the case where a woman shot her husband who was also a preacher, and then fled with their three kids) but Steanso is willing to make a completely uniformed bet on this case. Although I know nothing about any conversation that Mary Winkler had with the police or anything about any written or verbal confession that she might have given to them (well, this sin't entirely true- the police have already said that the motive didn't have anything to do with infidelity), Steanso is willing to bet a shiny nickel ( or maybe even a whole quarter) that this woman turns out to have been a battered wife who had been suffering domestic abuse. The whole thing just smacks of domestic violence, and given the fact that the dead husband is a small town preacher from Tennessee, I'm sure that this woman felt that she had nowhere to turn to seek help (given the fact that her husband was a preacher, I bet that she felt that no one would believe her if she tried to make a complaint of domestic violence). It'll be interesting to see how the whole thing plays out.

Happy Monday, guys!! Hope it's a good week for everyone.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Here's a picture of E-rock and Weedo playing with Mono Ensemble at the Bella Blue gig. Although I did some work modifying the original photograph so the computer could translate it better, the computer did all of the work in "drawing" this picture. I call it "Gottula and the Phantom Drummer". Posted by Picasa
Also, for those who have expressed an interest in Scientology (especially after the recent Isaac Hayes/Southpark debacle), here's an old article (but still interesting) from Time in 1991 dealing with the "religion". Enjoy!!!
This is disturbing. CNN and Time Magazine released a story today about the accelerated pace of global warming. Global warming is something we're all familiar with, and it's not exactly a new phenomenon, but apparently it has begun to accelerate in the last year or two as the effects of global warming have begun to amplify each other, creating feedback loops or situations in which the results of global warming have begun to cause even greater or faster-paced, measurable effects. For example, the melting of ice in the polar regions (caused by an increase in man made carbon dioxide in the atmosphere) is causing the earth to heat up at an even more accelerated rate, as melting polar caps cause less of the sun's energy to be reflected away from the earth (which, in turn, causes the earth to absorb this heat energy and the earth's atmosphere to heat up at a faster rate). Melting polar ice is also adding fresh water to the world's oceans, causing a disruption of the Gulf Stream which could, ironically, cause some continental temperatures to plummet (especially Europe) as the flow of warm salt water which normally regulates temperatures along the coasts is disrupted by an influx of melting fresh water from the polar ice caps. The glacial ice sheets of Greenland have doubled the rates at which they're melting over the last ten years, and continental droughts and tropical storms and hurricanes of increased intensity are all symptoms of greenhouse warming. Scientists predict a rise in ocean levels in the coming decades by 20 feet or more.
In the face of all of this, the Bush administration has resolutely refused to impose strict standards for regulating greenhouse gas emissions, saying that such restrictions would unfairly hinder the U.S. economy (including a complete refusal to sign onto the Kyoto Protocol, a United Nations initiative in which over 160 countries- including most all of the world's industrialized nations- have agreed to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S.'s refusal to join in the protocol is particularly devastating since the U.S. leads the world in the amount of greenhouse emissions which we release into the atmosphere).
Hopefully things are about to change, though. The polls cited in this article claim that somewhere around 85% of americans think something needs to be done about global warming, and even Bush has begun to try to implement some incentive programs for the reduction of greenhouse gasses, although his policies lack the hard and fast regulatory power that scientists insist is necessary in order to have a chance at beginning to correct the problem.
Anyway, the article is scary.
Let's all carpool or something.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Well, the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission has recently been taking it upon itself to seek out and punish people who appear to be intoxicated in bars. There is a public intoxication statute here in Texas which allows officers to arrest a person who is intoxicated in public if that person may potentially pose a threat to the safety of himself or others (which the law has interpretted to include the mere possibility that a person may stumble or fall down).

Given the amount of drunk driving, domestic violence, and other collateral consequences of alchohol consumption that plague our state (and country), I kind of understand what TABC is trying to do (which I presume is to stop drunk drivers before they get behind the wheel), but, c'mon... arresting people for being drunk in a bar? Having dealt with TABC officers and their enforcement policies both in JP court as a prosecutor and county court as a defense attorney, I've kind of mulled this over a bit. I think the real problem is that our society is sending strongly mixed messages about alcohol consumption. We advertise alcohol, glamorize alcohol, and sell it to the tune of a billion dollar national industry. The consumption of alcohol occurs at pro sporting events, musical concerts, in restaurants, at fairs and festivals, and in a hundred other venues that I can't even think of. Billboards, television commercials, print ads, and radio commercials all remind us of the good times that are to be had by consuming alcohol, and bars, taverns, and eating establishments across the country rely heavily upon the sale of alcohol as a profitable cornerstone of the food and beverage industry.
But the same impaired judgement and lowering of inhibitions that make the consumption of alcohol so popular (I mean, drinkers think of these effects in other terms, but they do recognize the effects of alcohol) also lead to drunk driving and other problems, and for every bartender or waitress who relies on beer, wine, and liquor to make his living there is a MADD mother out there somewhere who would rather just see prohibition reinstated.
Anyway, I just see these latest actions by the TABC as a symptom of the "mixed messages" problem that we're facing in this country in terms of alcohol. It seems absolutely ridiculous for government officers to hang out in bars and then arrest people for consuming the beverages that the bar has been legally distributing and which the customer has legally been consuming for the better part of the night (especially when there's no indication that the patron has demonstrated any desire to get behind the wheel of a car or engage in any other truly harmful behavior).
I also, for the record, think that the DWI laws are really screwey (and I imagine that people are going to really think I'm nuts because of this rant). As the laws now stands, it is legal for a person to drink and drive so long as that person is not intoxicated (a person is considered intoxicated once they have a blood/alcohol concentration of .08 or once they are deemed to have lost the "normal use of their mental or physical faculties"). Here's the rub- we allow people to drink and drive so long as the person uses sound judgement and monitors their own alcohol intake/consumption so that they're still able to drive safely once they get behind the wheel of a car, but the whole problem with alcohol in the first place (i.e., one of the main reasons we don't let people drive while intoxicated) is that it impairs a person's judgement. So we're relying upon the judgement of a person who has ingested a substance which has been shown to impair a person's ability to objectively make judgements, and we're hoping that this impaired person knows their own limits enough to police themself. I guess that the problem is that once a person has reached a level of intoxication where they shouldn't be driving, then that person is probably also not in a position to be the best judge of whether they're really capable of driving.
We've all seen the person who is going to drive home, despite the fact that they've clearly had too much to drink, because they don't want to admit or are unable to recognize that they aren't completely in control of their faculties, and we all know people who claim to have a high tolerance to alcohol, failing to recognize the fact that tolerance of alcohol has much more to do with learned coping mechanisms and familiarity with the effects of alcohol than the absence of alcohol's effects on the body and mind.

Although a lot of times having one drink, in reality, isn't going to effect someone's driving once they get behind the wheel, the whole slippery slope of deciding "how much is too much" becomes problematic when we're asking people who have had a few drinks to make the decision if whether to drive. It's a stupid way of looking at drunk driving. Our policy (and again, I know this won't be popular with a lot of my friends) ought to simply be a zero tolerance policy for drinking and driving. A zero tolerance policy would simply force people to make alternate transportation plans if they are planning on drinking at all. It would make the privilege of driving contingent upon the fact that a license holder will promise not to drive if he's got any detectable alcohol in his system.
I really haven't convinced myself of this whole zero tolerance idea, but they use it for pilots and some other countries already have it, and here's why it might be a good thing:
1) a zero tolerance policy would let people know without any uncertainty where they stood if they got behind the wheel of a car after drinking. Most people don't realize how low a .08 Blood alcohol concentration is, and how easy it is to rise above that limit (as a guideline, I believe that most drinks will boost your level by at least .02 and that the body can only process, or get rid of, .02 per hour, at most. Keep in mind that mixed drinks may have an alcohol content considerably higher than .02). As a defense attorney, I had a number of clients who got DWIs who honestly were shocked to see how high they had blown on the breathalyzer or how much difficulty they had with field sobriety tests after just a few drinks. You have to keep in mind that the standard is "loss of the use of your normal faculties", and not falling down drunk. Usually if you can really feel the effects of alcohol you're probably pushing the legal limit.
2) I think that once a zero tolerance policy were put into effect, eventually the need to find alternate forms of transportation (rather than driving oneself) would become simply become a fact of life that most people would learn how to deal with. I'm not advocating prohibition here, but rather the adoption of new attitudes toward alcohol consumption as a culture. People might be more willing to give each other rides and hopefully the zero tolerance law would make true designated drivers more common (as opposed to the "whoever drinks the least drives" rule), and there might be more use of cabs and public transportation, etc. Austinites might finally vote for light rail so people can go out for dinner and some drinks downtown and then ride the train safely home.

But I think that the alcohol industry and its lobby are too strong. They won't let a zero tolerance law go into effect, even if such a law might ultimately make drinking safer and more acceptable.
Man, I don't know. I just think that our alcohol laws are hypocritical, inconsistent, and that they create a situation involving uncertainty and ambiguity for citizens out there who are just wanting to have a good time.

But now it occurs to me.... What am I doing? It's Saturday for God's sake. Time to take Cassidy outside!!!!!!!!!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Who saw UT beat West Virginia in that buzzer beater last night? I did!!! (I think... I was at Weedo's house, and it was getting kind of late...) Anyhoo, it was very cool.

And remember that family that somehow managed to survive with after being trapped in their motor home in a snowstorm for over a week out in Oregon? Well, apparently the parents in the family, Elbert and Becky Higginbotham, are wanted on warrants out of Arizona for possession of methamphetamine. I guess this goes a long way toward explaining how the family kept their spirits up while trapped in an icey wasteland and living on melted snow, and why they were out driving around in the backwoods of the Coast Range in the first place.

Also, in the category of things that shouldn't really be news but which we never thought we'd see on Fox, a major adoption institute is now throwing their support behind gay couples who are pursuing adoption, stating that gay couples should be actively recruited in order to provide nurturing, permanent homes for children who are caught up in the instability and uncertainty of the foster care system. According to the Fox article, 48 percent of the U.S. population is still opposed to gay adoption. Steanso thinks this is crazy. Kids who need adoption should go to whatever person or couple can provide a safe, happy, loving enviroment- period. Sure, there are some gay couples that are dysfunctional, but lord knows that there are a ton of straight couples that are dysfunctional, too, and I just don't see how the sexual orientation of the parent has all that much to do with the mental and emotional health of the child. What is the fear here, exactly? That gay parents are going to create armies of gay children?
Part of the debate, I guess, goes back to the issue of whether sexuality is learned or innate (or whether it is, most likely, a combination of both). Do we really think that people just learn to adopt a sexual orientation by watching others? Dear lord, millions of Will and Grace viwers are in for a big surprise...
Anyway, Steanso thinks that gay families should be allowed to adopt (so long, of course, as they meet the same criteria for providing happy, healthy homes that straight families do). To turn kids away from loving families, especially when we're hurting for permanent homes and the foster care system is so overworked, seems pretty sick to me.

In other news, Cheney expressed outrage today over repeated references by Democratic leaders to "dangerous incompetence" on the part of George W. Bush. It just kills me. How can we not refer to the man as incompetent? He's done irreparable harm to our nation's reputation in the global community. He's gotten us into a quagmire of a war (which, by his own admission, will have to be handed off to future presidents in order to be resolved) by way of entering the war half-cocked on bad intelligence (and I'm being kind here- he may have known all along that there were no WMDs) and without any thought as to a viable exit strategy. Bush failed to assume any kind of meaningful leadership position in dealing with Katrina or its aftermath. He's done nothing to stymie the outsourcing of American jobs into foreign markets. He's failed to make any meaningful reforms in health care (his prescription medication plan is, by all accounts, a joke). The deficit continues to skyrocket.
Here's the crappy thing. I bet the economy falls right out from under whatever poor bastard comes into office next, and when things fall apart, it'll be because of Bush and the fact that he's gotten us into this stupid war (and probably because of whatever nut he picks to chair the federal reserve- Greenspan helped keep us out of a lot of economic messes, but his term is at an end). It'll be Bush's fault, but the next guy will take the blame. I've actually been amazed that the economy has held up as well as it has, but I credit Greenspan with a lot of this, and he was a Clinton nominee (and one of the best things Clinton has done for the country).

Man, I'm babbling. Yaddah, yaddah, yaddah. I hate Bush. Yaddah, yaddah.

Well, the sun is out and it's beautiful outside. I hope everyone has a good weekend.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Well, Steanso posted a blog yesterday that was kind of inaccurate in both its recounting and analysis of a legal opinion. Ordinarily this wouldn't be a big deal (and in fact, it might prove that Steanso is qualified to sit on the bench in some county or district court seat), but Lunch caught Steanso on it and took him to task. Oh well. Clearly I have no other option than to punish Lunch's clients disproportionately with outlandish jail sentences for the remainder of my prosecutorial career. (just joking, people!!!)
Also, do you remember Steanso talking about the film Loose Change? Well, it was a "documentary" about 9/11 and a supposed conspiracy in which people within the U.S. government had orchestrated the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I found the documentary to be interesting, although ultimately unconvincing, and I had sent a shout out on The Adventures to see if anyone else had seen the film, and if so, what their thoughts were. Well, apparently Charlie Sheen recently appeared on a radio talk show hosted by none other than Alex Jones, Austin's own nationally prominent conspiracy theorist and media personality, and publicly declared his belief that the events of September 11th were part of a larger government conspiracy.
Steanso brings this up not necessarily because he's all that impressed with the political views of Charlie Sheen or because he hasn't heard the paranoid rantings of Alex Jones before (whom I believe is actually connected in some capacity to the Loose Change film itself, as evidenced by his promotion of the film on his Infowars website), but just to point out that September 11th conspiracy theories seem to be gaining traction and increasing in popularity within certain segments of the population. As I said before, I find the conspiracy theories surrounding September 11th to be highly implausible and unpersuasive, but the question of why such a conspiracy theory might take root and grow within the national psyche is a much more fascinating question to me. Why do we feel a compulsion to recast our tradgedies in terms of Machiavellian governmental schemes and shadowy plots carried out by members of our own society? I think that the conspiracy, as a social phenomenon, must fill a void somehow. But I don't understand it. I don't understand the drive to desparately reshape, reinterpret, and even fabricate evidence in the pursuit of formulating new theories to explain an event, especially when we have clear and convincing evidence before us of how a crime was committed.

I guess it's part of the American gothic tradition- our need to believe that things are always darker and more complicated below the surface than they appear upon first inspection. Don't get me wrong- I think healthy skepticism and independent analysis of the facts are always a good thing, especially in this era when the manipulation of public thought through the media is so prevalent (we've all watched as politicians try to rewrite history or "spin" events in a more favorable light through the use of talking points and reinterpretation). Conspiracy theories, however, are frequently taken too far, bending the mind until no amount of evidence will ever be sufficient to disprove a particular conspiracy theory or to prove the actual fact pattern of real life events.

Oh well. I just think it's all very interesting. Go watch Loose Change on Google Video and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Well, The U.S. Supreme Court handed down an opinion today that should lend some comfort to civil libertarians (who had begun to fear, quite frankly, that protections against search and seizure in this country were beginning to constitute a dying body of law). The Supreme Court held that in cases where the police are seeking to perform a search in a home where at least two residents are cohabitating together, permission to search the home from one of the residents without permission from the other resident (especially when the second resident explicitly refuses to give permission) is not sufficient to provide a basis for a warrantless search.
Prior to this, the law seemed to indicate that if any party residing in the home gave permission to search, then officers were entitiled to search the house regardless of the wishes of any other cohabitants who were also living there (there are additional issues for locked rooms inside the house that the person granting permission to search doesn't have access to and so forth, but you get the general idea...).
Anyway, in general, as most of you have surmised by now, Steanso is typically a pretty big civil libertarian. I can definitely see why it's a good thing to have a rule that prohibits your crazy-ass roommate from giving the cops permission to enter and raid your place just because that roommate gets mad at you and decides to call the police. It's nice to know that your privacy is protected and that even people who live with you with can't give that right away.
On the other hand, maybe as a result of my new job, I can see how this new ruling is going to make things much more difficult for the police- especially when they're relying upon consent as a valid basis for their search. The need to gain consent from each and every member of a household may make consent searches extremely chaotic (if the offense reports that I read in my current work are any indication, it may be difficullt in many situations to determine who lives in a given home [as opposed to visitors] and to then make sure that consent to search has been given by each individual who lives there. If officers think that they've gotten permission to search a residence from all of the occupants of the house, but then, still acting in good faith, overlook one of the residents, does this render the search invalid?
I guess I'm just saying that the old law had more of a "bright line rule" for officers to follow and adhere to in the field- namely, that it was ok to enter a residence once you were given permission from anyone who lived there. With this new rule the officers have to make sure that they have gotten permission from everyone who lives in a home before entering, and my own prior experience with criminal clients has taught me that criminals are a pretty transitory group. Many of them float around and live with different people, and at any given time, some of the larger groups or families may not even be exactly sure about who considers themselves to be a resident of a given home at a given time. You can look at utility bills and who gets the mail at the house, but that may not tell you everyone who is actually staying there.
Anyway, this new ruling only deals with warrantless consent searches of homes and says nothing about searches which occur in emergencey situations (e.g., someone may be hurt and hidden in the house somewhere), exigent circumstances doctrine (e.g., evidence may be in danger of being destroyed unless a search is promptly conducted), or searches with warrants.
I guess the most important realization to come out of this pretty surprising ruling is that it's another indication that the court may not have swung nearly as far to the right as many had feared. First Alito comes out of the gate with a ruling that upholds a stay of execution for some guy who wants to challenge the constitutionality of lethal injection, and now this? We've got some new justices, but it doesn't seem that they're ready to burst into our homes and force us to go to church at gunpoint just yet....

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Apparently V for Vendetta is number one at the box office. I liked the movie, and I find it pretty impressive that a major studio release involves a movie about an anarchist terrorist who wears a mask for the entire movie and blows up government buildings in the fight to pursue individual liberties. This being said, I liked the book better than I liked the movie, and you can find a pretty darn good review of the whole affair by none other than Roundball, my bouncing baby brother, over at Nanostalgia.
The fascists who run the government in V's totalitarian version of the U.K. seem more like charicatures than real people- their absolute, inescapable, all-pervasive iron rule serving almost as a distraction from the subtlety and banality with which our civil liberties are diminished in the real world (i.e., a phone tap here, a Patriot Act there, and a few secret prisons for people who are different enough from us so that questions will not be raised when they are subjected to degrading, inhumane treatment).

Well, as I said, Roundball covered most of this already. More later.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Huh.... Apparently Whole Foods isn't as wholesome in the way that they market their products as they are in ensuring the quality of their food. I know I'm kind of stretching things a bit when I start picking on gourmet/organic grocery stores, but I warned you earlier that I was in kind of a bad mood today, and these upscale supermarkets kind of irk me anyway- mostly because it pisses me off that they seem so self-congratulatory and high-minded on the healthy alternatives that they are supposedly offering to the American consumer, but then their prices prohibit half of the country from realistically being able to shop there. It's more yuppie elitism cast in the sheep's clothing of 60's idealism. Ok. End of micro rant. By the way, I do like the Central Market sausages, olives, and cowboy burgers. Damn them.
Well, Steanso is suffering some mild depression following his fun-filled birthday weekend, truth be told. The Blooms are in Europe, the Wilsons are in Hawaii, and even Jennifer is rounding out her pool trip in Oklahoma, I believe. Steanso got a little taste of fun over his extended birthday weekend, but instead of being satisfied, he is only left with a craving for more. More music, more friends, and less stress- that's what Steanso is craving as he enters his 33rd year.
The alarm clock went off too early and I was greeted by the sounds of rain on the windows. I turned on the TV to wake myself up, and was greeted by a story involving one of my former clients who is now wanted in connection with a murder which occurred over the weekend. Jeez. I remember talking to this kid, and I thought he was kind of a loser, but murder? Never would have guessed it.
I want to thank everyone again for making my birthday great.
I'll write more later. Maybe.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Well, the weekend of Steanso is winding down. During the day yesterday I watched V for Vendetta with Weedo, and then last night Feral Andy and Elf Rami stopped by to help me usher in my 33rd year. We were supposed to go out and have a drink, but we never made it farther than the Hop-A-Long Lounge. Oh well- it was great to have them stop by to help celebrate. Andy and I discussed the finer points of Crack, and once again I was treated to some fascinating Andy/Rami stories, although once again I was sworn to never divulge the horrors they had spoken of. Suffice it to say that things are never boring with Andy and Rami, Adventurers!!! Thanks to eveyone who helped make my birthday so great!!!! Posted by Picasa

Saturday, March 18, 2006

On my birthday yesterday I got up and had lunch with Weedo and then rolled east side for some afternoon music at the Red Scoot Inn. I got there and met up with Crackbass and his officemate and esteemed colleague, Chris. Posted by Picasa

Here's a band called Vacation Gold that rocked pretty hard. They played Helter Skelter and I thought they had songs that would be fun to listen to while driving a car really fast.  Posted by Picasa

Here are some dudes called Brokedown who were really good. I think they were from LA. Good harmonies. Posted by Picasa

Jeff's office showed up to help out with my birthday rockfest at the Red Scoot! Here's Julie, Sherrie, Marty, and Jeff all discussing the finer points of the Austin music scene and why ZZ Top is still better than all of this SXSW tomfoolery. Posted by Picasa

And we rounded things out by seeing The Glass Family. They were really good and had some pretty original sounding stuff. Later that night we went to see a very cool Willie Nelson show at The Backyard, but I didn't take my camera because I didn't want to lose or break it. Thanks to the Wilsons for getting me a ticket to that show, and to everyone who went for making it lots of fun (Jackbart and Stephanie, Ellie, Crackbass & Pea, and Chris and Jennifer). It was a really nice birthday!!!!Posted by Picasa

Friday, March 17, 2006

Here's a photo of Crack doin our best to do our best at Bella Blue. Posted by Picasa

Our friends and comrades in arms, Kosmodrome, at the Bella Blue. Operating a nuclear reactor or creating ambience-driven techno music- it's all the same to those crazy Russkies!! Posted by Picasa

Here's the Mono Ensemble rockin' at Bella Blue!! Posted by Picasa

Happy St. Patrick's Day!! 'Tis that magical time of year when people worldwide celebrate Steanso's birthday by drinking themselves Irish and cursing at the wee leprechauns who appear in their heads and bid them to do evil!!! Yarrgh, I loves it so!!! Green beer and an excuse for tomfoolery!!
Steanso sends out a heartfelt thank you to all who attended our Bella Blue gig yesterday! I know that the bands had a good time, and I think even one or two onlookers enjoyed the show. Anyway, I know that both bands sincerely are greatful that people are willing to listen to our music, so thanks for coming out, and thanks again to Stephanie Nance and the people of Bella Blue for hosting us. I hope to have a picture or two from the gig at some point, but the pictures that we took were on Crackbass's camera, and last night I accidentally erased them off of my 'puter. Oh well. Enjoy Ralphie for the time being! Also, via con dios to Team Bloom as they rocket across the Atlantic today on their way to London and then Amstredam. Have a blast, guys!!Posted by Picasa

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Oh yeah. Last reminder. Crack and Mono Ensemble. Today at 4:00 sharp at Bella Blue at 2213 South First Street. On the east side of the street, about a block or two north of Oltorf. Be there or be square. Word.
Well, Crackbass, Weedo, and I went and saw F for Fake play last night at a place called Copa on Congress. They were really good. It was a new, stripped down version of F for Fake with only five members instead of the nine or so members that they've had in the past, but they still had a big, loud, powerful sound and they rocked pretty darn hard (I think that the move away from horns and banjos and acoustic guitars toward a more rock-oriented electric configuration has changed the sound of the band a bit, but the sound has changed by emphasizing some of the more driving, forceful undercurrents which were already present, although less obvious in the larger configuration). The band has new material, which, adventurously enough, is largely comprised of a musical examination of the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta in something like the 4th or 5th century B.C.. The songs are interesting and are entertaining (even if you're not a history buff) in that many of the lyrics, although written about an ancient war, are timeless and metaphorical enough to transcend their literal source material and resonate as decriptions of modern political debates or even more personal struggles. I guess I'm saying that the concerns that people had in ancient Athens are probably not dissimilar to a lot of the concerns that people still have today, and this fact makes the music surprisingly easy to understand and relate to, even if you're not exactly "into" the Peloponnesian War.

Anyway, after the F for Fake show we wandered down to Stubbs to try to get into the Belle and Sebastian/New Pornographers show, but we didn't have wristbands, and we couldn't get in (despite some discussion with, and possible offers of bribes to, the doorman). We wandered back down Sixth and checked out all the excitement, though, and stopped in for a couple of rounds of Guinness at The Aquarium (one of the rounds of beer somehow becoming free after Crackbass used his secret password, which oddly enough was "Jackbart", on our cute and funny bartender).

Then we went home and went to sleep. And I woke up this morning with Cassidy puking on my foot. On my bed. She's been eating too many sticks out in the back yard. Woo hoo!!!! Spring break '06!!!!!!!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Well, this is the poster (created by none other than the legendary Crackbass) for the gig that Crack and Mono E are playing on South 1st tomorrow starting at 4:00 (Kosmodrome at 3:00). The venue is called Bella Blue, and it's a little art store on South 1st in a blue house at 2213 South 1st Street (in the El Corazon area just a block or two north of Oltorf). There will be no beer, but you can bring your own! Skip work and come rock out!! You know you want to... Hope to see everyone there!! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Also, apparently circulation is down at a sister site of The Adventures called Nanostalgia. Nanostalgia is a site dedicated to analysis of mass media and popular culture, and Steanso is theoretically a contributor (although Steanso has been hard pressed just to keep up with The Adventures of late, and his Nanostalgia contributions have dwindled). Other contributors include The League (aka Roundball, my kid brother), Crackbass (my neighbor), Jim Dedman (our correspndent in Beaumont), Randy, and Steven Harms (there are others, also, but these are the main contributors that I actually know). Anyway, readership is sagging, but we wanna keep the website going because it's kind of fun and has already been spotted by and received comments from some authors and other media outlets. So check it out. Add it to your favorites list. Nanostalgia.
Well, Isaac Hayes has quit Southpark, giving up the role of the character Chef because of what he refers to as the show's "intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others". Southpark co-creator Matt Stone responded by saying that Hayes was only quitting because the program has recently aired episodes which poked fun at Scientology, Hayes' chosen religion. "This is 100 percent having to do with his faith of Scientology... He has no problem — and he's cashed plenty of checks — with our show making fun of Christians," stated Stone.
Anyhoo, I'm sorry to see Hayes go. His character, Chef, was always one of the high points of South Park, and the show won't be the same without him (unless, of course, they manage to find a really good Isaac Hayes impersonator and just keep Chef around). It especially bums me out to hear that Hayes is leaving the show over something as seemingly ridiculous as Scientology. I wonder how much pressure that particular "church" put on him to quit and to denounce the show. The fact that the Scientologists got Hayes to turn against something which had been a positive force in his life for years only makes me feel that much more skeptically toward and suspicious of their whole "religion".
In other news, South by Southwest is descending upon Austin this week, and with it the throngs of musicians and industry personnel who clog up our restaurants, clubs, and hotles for several days each year. I hope to go out to see F for Fake tomorrow night (Wed.) at 8:00 at the Copa Bar and Grill at 217 Congress (my friend Charlie Roadman plays in this band, and I can't recommend them enough- go out and see them if you can possibly make it. They're kind of a folk/rock with a trumpet and a banjo and some pretty great lyrics). Thursday Crack and Mono E are playing during the day at Bella Blue at 2213 South First Street starting at 4:00 p.m. sharp. Skip out of work early and drop by to hear us play for a bit! The weather should be great!
Friday I hope to go out and see some free shows during the day, and then I'm going to see Willie Nelson on Friday night. Should be a good week.
A couple of years ago I went to a music law conference at The Four Seasons during SXSW, and something struck me as funny. The hotel and lobby were chock full of industry people and musicians, but walking around the hotel and people watching, it seemed to me that many of the musicians seemed a wee bit thrown off their game by the whole SXSW experience. I think that musicians, as a whole, are used to standing out and feeling like they are a bit unique because of their musical talents and ability to produce songs. Amongst the general public, musicians are perceived as exceptional (or at least somewhat exceptional) because of their ability and willingness to "put themselves out there" and attempt to entertain. (which is why you get musicians who dress differently or act differently in their attempt to embrace this role)
The whole idea, however, of musicians being somehow "different" kind of gets cast aside during SXSW when thousands upon thousands of musicians flow into our fair city and overtake it for a week. For musicans who can just relax and enjoy being in a creative, stimulating enviroment populated by their professional colleagues, SXSW must be fun.
My experience eavesdropping upon visiting musicians at the Four Seasons reminded me, however, that a lot of these guys are coming in from out of town in hopes of getting signed by a label, and the sheer number of musicians and the overall chaos of the SXSW event must be both intimidating and nerve-wracking to some of these up-and-coming musicians. Amongst the musicians I heard gossipping about other bands, bitching about venues and logistics, and other complaints. At first I was annoyed and wondering why they weren't enjoying the whole scene the same way that I was, but then it occurred to me that a lot of these guys seemes actually kind of nervous about the whole SXSW scene. It's definitely a party for the audiences, but these musicians have some high hopes and potnetially a lot riding on the performances that they manage to pull off during SXSW.
All of this to say- go out and cheer for the bands, Adventurers! They need your support and affection! The more unknown the band is, the more they need your support and help. Maybe an audience who is actively enjoying some unknown band is more likely to influence an industry agent to take interest in a that band, or maybe having a good audience will just make the SXSW experience a more positive one for some of the lesser known musicians who are kind of struggling to get through the whole experience.
Anyway, enjoy your week, even if you skip SXSW.
You gotta love Austin in the spring time!!!!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Still not really feeling it in the writing department, fellow Adventurers. Steanso just needs a break. He's got Thursday and Friday off (by the way, don't forget to come see Mono E and Crack starting at 4:00 on Thursday at Bella Blue on South First Street), but he's not sure he'll make it.
Crack practice is tonight. Probably the final practice before the gig.
I gotta get some work done.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Crap. I meant to post a blog yesterday that I had written about a new poll in the Washington Post that showed that a majority of Americans have negative feelings about Islam. I spent some time working on my post, but apparently I accidentally erased what I had written before posting it (I think I logged off thinking I had already published the post). Anway, suffice it to say that I am frustrated and disappointed by the results of the poll. I think that there are plenty of religious fanatics within the confines of American Christianity who do just as much if not more damage to the world than the Muslims. Maybe the primary difference is that instead of being a marginalized, splinter group who has to resort to terrorism in order to fight their ideological opponents, our religious zealots seem to be able to gain prominent positions within our government and society. You don't have to set of roadside bombs when your religious base votes you into office and you can just go ahead and start a full scale war.

I gotta say, that as a nonreligious American (I wouldn't call myself a complete atheist, but agnostic probably fits) I feel pretty beseiged by Christian conservatives in this country. They've managed to pretty much ban gay marriage, they're relaunching their attack upon abortion, they're pushing for Christian iconography in government buildings, they're continually pushing for prayer in schools, they've been pitching a fit about the whole "Christmas" versus "Happy Holidays" thing, and they even want us to turn our back on science and teach intelligent design in schools rather than evolution.
Let me assure everyone that I'm not out to attack Christianity. I'm happy for people who practice it and find meaning and comfort in it. What bugs me is that nowadays it feels like Christians can't seem to leave everyone else alone.
Kids shouldn't have to feel like outcasts if they don't want to join in group prayer in school. Knowledge gained through scientific experiment and discovery shouldn't be discarded because of political pressure from people who aren't capable of reconciling modern scientific thought with their religious beleifs. Institutions of government shouldn't intimidate non-Christian and practicitioners of other religions by way of Christian iconography on the courthouse lawn (the role of governemtn in this country should never be to make one group feel more privileged than another within our society). Jews and non Christians shouldn't be excluded from the holiday season just because they don't wish people a "Merry Christmas" (especially since the church is historically said to have established the holiday of Christmas largely in order to compete with the Roman holiday of Saturnalia and Celtic winter solstice celebrations). Christians shouldn't be allowed to force non-christians to comply with their religious viewpoint of what a marriage ought to be, and although Christians are entitled to their religiously-informed views on abortion, their views shouldn't hold more weight than any other person's merely because they are based on Christian theology.
I don't know. I just feel frustrated. I think that Islam and Christianity can both be beautiful things when practiced in the right way, but they each need to include a respect and reverence for other people and their ideas as they are practiced (and I don't think that it's impossible to be a devout Christian and still be tolerant and open minded- after all, Jesus taught primarily by way of persusasion and leading a life of example- not by trying to force other people to adopt his views, right?).
Anyway, all of this to say that even mainstream Christianity (or at least the religious right) can seem kind of oppressive and Christianity certainly seems to have its own radical splinter groups (The Branch Davidians, The Aryan Nation, and others seem to all claim to practice a form of Christianity), so it just irks me to see America casting stones at Islam. I guess the whole thing isn't too unexpected given the fact that Muslims have been getting pretty much nothing but bad press in this country since 9/11.

I just reread this and decided that it sounds like I'm coming down a little too hard on Christianity as a whole. I didn't mean to do that. I was just trying to point out that there are hardline religious conservatives within all different kinds of religions (including Islam and Christianity), and that zealots who practice intolerance are difficult to deal with, no matter what religion you're talking about.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Well, loyal readers, today Steanso is just having a really hard time coming up with something to write about. You do this day in, day out, and eventually it's bound to happen. I had a nice dinner with the Wilsons last night, but otherwise my evening was unremarkable. Work has been busy, but not really noteworthy in terms of reporting events that would be of interest to anyone outside the courthouse. Cassidy is doing fine (although she ate an entire bag of oatmeal cookies last Sunday, but she seems to be recovering nicely from that). The political world just seems to be chugging along. The Patriot Act looks like it's getting renewed again, but I'm not too surprised (and more importantly, I can only write so many rants about how the Patriot Act stomps on our civil liberties and grants excessive power and authority to govermental agencies which are frequently misguided or just plain wrong- if you want to look up one of my rants on the Patriot Act, go here... and here... and here... and... well, you get the idea).
I'm tired of the Bush White House and other Republicans sticking it to us, but at this point I think I'm even more saddened and discouraged by an American public that lets them get away with lying, breaking the law, and screwing up our country. At the moment, I think that we live in a nation ruled by ignorance and fear. Not a good combination. I'm not rolling over for these bastards (because I think that's what they ultimately want), but I'm a little burned out. I probably just need some time to get my head together before things start to pick up speed as we move toward the fall election season and political news moves back to the forefront of the nation's consciousness.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Crack practice last night was... interesting. There were at least two schools of thought on it- one school thinking it was a successful practice in terms of jamming and coming up with new, creative grooves while the other school thinking that we didn't do enough work at practice in terms of nailing down our material and tightening up our sound for our upcoming gig.
Steanso can see it both ways. Crack definitely has a ways to go in terms of coming up with a more polished, "professional" sound. As far as rehearsed bands or musicians go, Crack is still in its infancy in tightly performing songs of any kind of complexity. On the other hand, I also think that, given the fact that we're all new to our insturments and that we're basically learning as we go, our greatest strength at the moment lies in our ability to spontaneously synthesize soundscapes and grooves. The members of Crack aren't really trained on their instruments (well, Gary actually knows how to play guitar and Andy knows some piano), so we're not going to blow anyone away with our virtuosity, but we are good at listening to each other and looking for places for different musical phrases to fit into an overall framework (a skill which can be extremely difficult to teach to someone if they don't have a knack for it).
Anyway, I have confidence that even when Crack isn't performing at a level that is necessarily "good", at least we can be interesting. And the possibility that we could have a complete and utter meltdown at any second just makes it that much more exciting!!
Anyway, check us out March 16th. Love us or hate us. We don't care. We're just whores for attention.

Well, I don't have a lot more today. It's only Tuesday. Jeez.

Monday, March 06, 2006

By the way, here's Mum and Dod celebrating Mum's birthday. Mum + wine + Japanese weaponry = good comedy!! (note the look of concern beginning to spread across the face of the waitress in the background...) Posted by Picasa
Well, the weekend has come and gone. Steanso spent his weekend in Spring, Texas, with Mum, Karen "Karebear" Steans, in celebration of her birthday. We had a few people over to the house for cocktails and then went to a Japanese steakhouse (I forget the name) for dinner. It was a good time, and I got to catch up with cousin John and his wife, Julie. Crackbass's birthday was also over the weekend, but I still haven't seen him since I got back into town. Hopefully he had a good one.
Last night was Mono E practice, which trumped the Oscars (which is no big deal, except that I wanted to catch a bit of John Stewart- I miss that man ever since I quit having cable television in mi casa). Mono practice was strong. We are still playing on the 16th. Come out and see us that afternoon at Bella Blue at 2213 South First .
Tonight is Crack practice. Steanso is already a bit tired, but he will perservere.

In other news, South Dakota has passed a law which bans almost all forms of abortion (and which fails to provide any special exceptions for cases of rape and/or incest), so I guess that the race is on for the U.S. Supreme Court. Steanso really hates the abortion debate, but I get the feeling that it's about to kick back into full gear. Ultimately, the abortion debate is a debate about different ways of perceiving reality (i.e., the destruction of human life vs. the right to control one's own body by removing something which could eventually become human life). Steanso hates the debate because it involves very important issues which are fundamental to concepts like human autonomy and the meaning of human life, and yet it seems like reasonable people could quite easily differ and come down on different sides of this debate. Like any debate where people with conflicting views could both potentially be right, this whole thing bugs me.
The real question in the debate seems to hinge upon the definition of what a human life actually is, and at what point such life needs protecting. (Although maybe the real question should be about why we hold human life to be sacrosanct [what qualities life has to possess in order for us to consider it to be human], and at what point we should begin to protect something as human) The entire debate has become embroiled in questions of religious ethics, but it need not be. Obviously, the law is not going to protect "human life" in all of the ways that Western religion might wish to have it protected (ie., we're not going to pass laws completely banning birth control, meaning that the law has already refused to protect the "mere potential" for human life, a view which is different from the views shared by Catholicism and some other religious groups which prohibit the use of contraceptives or other means of birth control). Many religious denominations have adopted the view that an egg, once fertilized, becomes an embryo, and that from this point forward it should be seen as human being (in the religious view, becoming a child of God from the point of fertilization forward) and becoming inviolate. It is possible for the nonreligious to share this view and to see all embryos as human (thereby possibly wishing to protect embryos because they hold the potential to become human beings), but this view is rarely advanced.
Anyhoo, Governor Mike Rounds of South Dakota siad this when explaining why he signed the South Dakota abortion ban: "In the history of the world, the true test of a civilization is how well people treat the most vulnerable and most helpless in their society. The sponsors and supporters of this bill believe that abortion is wrong because unborn children are the most vulnerable and most helpless persons in our society. I agree with them." Granted, I don't know a lot about the voting record of Governor Mike Rounds, but if he's so eager to protect the most helpless and vulnerable members of society, I'd like to see what he's done to support programs like Head Start (in which Republicans have gutted programs for America's poorest children in order to fund tax cuts for the wealthy), on Medicare's prescription drug program (which still has America's senior citizens sneaking across the border into Mexico to fill needed prescriptions), and among other social programs which have been cut for the poor in recent years, such as HUD programs which aid the poor in obtaining housing and welfare-to-work programs which help with job placement and training for those who are unemployed.
All I'm saying is, if we want to be concerned about the plight of America's helpless and vulnerable, maybe we should start with some individuals who are already here- already born, alive, and capable of sentient thought and emotion. Passing more laws that force unwanted children into the world seems fairly ridiculous when some of the same groups that are adamant about ending abortion also seem reluctant to help the downtrodden and needy people that we already have within our population.
Crap. I don't know. I hate the abortion debate.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Happy Birthdays!!!!!!!

Well, Steanso is off to Houston this evening to celebrate his mum's birthday tomorrow! Steanso is probably not at liberty to discuss Mum's actual age on The Adventures, but let's just say it's going to be a major birthday and that her new age will rhyme with plixty. Karen "The Karebear" Steans is a pretty hip lady who's done way more for her family, friends, and students over the years than I can fit into a blog entry (and has set an example that I think Roundball would agree can be quite challenging to live up to), so let's all just wish her a big ol' happy birthday, shall we? Happy birthday, Mom! We love you!
Also born on March 4th was Jeffrey "Crackbass" Wilson (intersting how these March 4th birthdays don't exactly tend to produce people who are shrinking violets). Jeff will be turning 32, and I'm a little bummed that I will be out of town for his birthday. On the upside, I promise to be in attendance for his birthday on any year that is a multiple of ten. Let's all wish Crackbass a happy birthday, as well (but not, "Can you come bail me out of jail?" happy).
Many happy returns to both Karebear and Crackbass, and I hope, for each of you, that the upcoming year is one of your best ones yet!
Yeah! The Austin City Council voted Thursday night to allow restaurants to permit dogs on their patios or outdoor areas so long as the dogs are kept on leashes and not allowed onto tables. Now Cassidy can go with me to Opal Divine's for a pint o' beer! It's a small victory, but a nice one, especially after Austin voted a smoking ban into effect last year which took the decision of whether or not to allow smoking out of the hands of bar and nightclub owners. Steanso just tends to believe that bar and restaurant owners should be allowed to do what they want to in their own establishments- if people don't like the enviroment, they can exercise their power as consumers and go somewhere else.
Anyhoo, it'll be nice to take the pooch out for a drink on a nice day!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Last night we had Crack practice, including the musical stylings of "special friend" Gary Meyer (who used five- that's right, five- distortion pedals at practice last night). Practice went pretty well, although I don't think it was our best practice ever. We're trying to get ready for our next gig (which is going to be at around 3:00 p.m. at Bella Blue on South 1st on March 16th- an informal, unofficial SXSW gig with Cosmodrome (sp?) and the Mono Ensemble which we encourage everyone to attend). Anyway, we want to introduce some new material at our gig, but I'm not sure that the band is really feeling all that comfortable with our new stuff yet (or whether there's a consensus on whether this new stuff is ready to be unveiled). Despite the confusion on these points, I had fun at practice, and the good news is that we will apparently now have the whole band in attendance for the gig (there was some question as to the availability of Feral Andy for an afternoon gig up until last night). Crackbass has procured a new amplifier for his bass cabinet, so if nothing else, Crack will probably be pretty loud.
There was a satrical article this week in The Onion about the Democratic Party pledging to remain hopeless despite being offered numerous opportunities to regain control of the federal government in the face of continued bungling and failure by the country's Republican leadership. The article hit a little too close to home for me to really find it funny.
Unfortunately, the Democrats have been pretty damn ineffectual for the last six or seven years- having been intimidated and cowed by their Republican colleagues, having failed to deliver a clear and coherent message, and seemingly resigned to their status as America's "second party", the Democrats have failed to capitalize on the failures of and shortcomings of the Republicans by offering alternate, workable plans of their own. The Democrats have been maintaining a posture which is largely defensive and reactionary, and have failed to put forward their own plans for health care, economic development, educational improvements, and a management strategy for the war in Iraq. C'mon, Dems. Pull it together.
By the way, I want to issue a belated happy birthday to ankle-biter DK Punzi who turned about a billion years old on Tuesday! She may only be three apples tall and be feeble of mind and body due to her old age, but she's still full of piss and vinegar and is always ready for a good party! Let's give her a hand, kids! Many happy returns to Deborah Kay!!!!!!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Well, online colleges got a big break this week when Congress changed a budget bill to allow students to receive federal financial aid even if the institutions which they were attending didn't host at least half of their classes on an actual, physical college campus.
I may be wrong, but it seems like the federal government may have acted a little too quickly when approving financial aid for these sorts of educational programs. Many of the schools that offer extensive online degree programs are schools which are operated on a "for profit" basis (rather than traditional universities, which tend to be non profit), and these "for profit" schools, as a group, have managed to put together some fairly extensive lobbying efforts in order to free up federal dollars (in the form of federal financial aid) so that they might be spent at online universities. As far as I know, there are currently no nationwide academic standards which seek to guarantee the quality of education provided by many of these online schools, and critics have accused a number of these "for profit" universities as being set up to do little more than collect financial aid from their students (as opposed to seeking to deliver any sort of meaningful education). These schools may be collecting fees from their students with no intention of seeing the students through the entire educational process (from entrance to graduation), or the schools may be granting degrees and diplomas to students who have, in truth, gained no real knowledge or skill sets as a result of their participation in the online programs. With these degree programs now open to federal financial assistance, the incentive for "for profit" universities to spring up and enroll students may be more attractive than ever, but unless new academic standards are put into place, the requirement that these schools provide their students with a quality education has not improved.
Let me hasten to say that I'm not against distance education, per se. My brother, Ryan "Roundball" Steans works in the distance education field at Arizona State University, and he knows a whole lot more about all of these issues than I do, but I'm sure he would be quick to point out that distance education has its place in the academic community. Online education provides information and teaching resources to people who otherwise might not have the access or opportunity to attend college classes. Students in rural areas, students who are working full time, and even professionals who are out working in the field all might legitimately benefit from distance education. Distance education which is part of a legitimate educational program is not what I'm talking about here (in my mind, legitimate educational program means that there is the opportunity for ongoing interaction between students and instructors, there are tests, projects, or other benchmarks by which one can measure how much learning is taking place, and the classes, as a whole, are part of an accredited program which is open to review by other academics or professionals within that field of study). The real issue arises in terms of accountability- particularly when an institution of higher learning is operating in a "for profit" capacity. I'm just saying that I'm extremely reluctant to see federal (tax supported) financial aid programs made avialable to "for profit" universities when there is no reliable system of oversight in place to make sure that these online universities are actually teaching anyone anything. Without oversight, I envision a multitude of fly by night "universities" popping up which are eager to take federal financial assistance from well-meaning students, but which rarely graduate any students, or which produce students with degrees that aren't worth the paper thast they're printed on. I hope I'm not coming off as too much of an academic snob, either. I just think that if you go to school you should probably actually learn something. Hopefully that's not too much to ask.
OK. Enough of that. I should have left that rant up to Roundball, anyway. Just ask him about The University of Phoenix (which I think is currently the biggest online university in the U.S.). He doesn't really rant about it, but whenever I've asked him about it he kind of rolls his eyes.

In other news- well, there's not much other news in the world of Steanso. Crack practice tonight! Kim Bloom got a phat new car (it's a black Volkswagon Passat, and it's wicked cool- we went to lunch in it today). The weather is getting unseasonably warm, and I think Cassidy is itchin' for a trip to Barton Creek (or maybe I'm just projecting).