Sunday, December 30, 2007

Steanso's 2007 Top 10 List

Jamie posted a top 10 list of her favorite stuff from 2007, and it seemed like a good way to look at the good stuff from the past year, so here goes my top 11 list :

- Mexico
- Mono Ensemble First Thursday gigs at Ben White Florist
- Crack and Mono Ensemble at Bella Blue for SXS1st
- free Public enemy show at Auditorium Shores
- Mono Ensemble actually finish a recording project (Spare Room Flange is released)
- Robosaurus (if you go to the link, keep lookin'. He's in there somewhere)
- The Police and The Big Easy
- Hanging out with Cassidy on the greenbelt
- Mono E Playland Skate Party
- ACL Fest
- Corpus Christi on the company dime

There were other very good things that happened this year (e.g., John Thweatt doing well with his cancer treatment, for one), but some of these things weren't photographed or seemed a little personal to include on a goofy list of cool stuff for 2007.

Anyway, I like the list. Enjoy the list.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Happy Friday. The last Friday of 2007, in fact.
2007 has been a difficult year in a lot of ways, but I've started to feel a bit better during the second half of it. I lost a good friend to cancer in April of 2007 (Liz Pieper), and, of course, it's been a year in which I've still been struggling to come to terms with Jeff's death, as well. It's been sort of a tough year in watching friends continue to suffer who were closest to Jeff and Liz, and knowing I couldn't help a whole lot. And, of course, the court case for Mary Dodgen, the woman who hit Jeff, continues to stall in the criminal court system as she undergoes treatment for cancer, so that's frustrating as well.
On the other hand, this year I've had more opportunities to hang out with Ryan and Jamie, and I've come to a greater appreciation of what it means to have them back in town.
The Mono Ensemble practiced a lot this year, but only played a few gigs. One of them was the pre-ACL Fest roller skate party, and that was a lot of fun. We'll have to find something comparable to do next year.
I've moved into a new position within my office, handling this mental health prosecutor thing, and so far I really like it. It gives me a chance to work on criminal cases, but to approach them from a different angle, and the job has the potential to hopefully help some people. So that's been good.
The record-breaking rains that we got in the spring time really swelled Austin's swimming holes and creeks, and Cassidy and I had a good time wandering the greenbelt throughout the spring and summer of 2007.
On the whole, it's been another year of highs and lows, but I hope I'm not jinxing myself when I say that I feel better here at the end of 2007 than I felt going into it.

I'm not sure where that little year end wrap up came from. I wasn't planning on writing one- it just happened.

In 2008 I would like to travel, play more music, and find some time to volunteer a bit. You gotta have goals, right? I also want to be more appreciative of my friends. Well, maybe not be more appreciative, because I really do appreciate my friends already, but I just need to treat people better sometimes. There are times when I'm feeling down, and I vent my frustrations toward the people who deserve it the least. I need to work on that.

Oookay. Well, I'm not saying this will be the last post of 2007, but we're getting close to the end, anyway. I hope 2008 is rad.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Well, I'm back. I'm still angered and saddened by the Bhutto assassination. She just seemed like one of the good guys, and it seems like the good guys can't really catch a break lately. The ironic thing is, she was pretty much campaigning on a platform of democratic reform and open government (which might have actually given these terrorist nutjobs a voice). She wanted to make Pakistan's political process more inclusive and to help bring the country together. So that means that whoever killed her was essentially not only refusing to participate in the normal political discourse of a civilized society (probably because their viewpoint is too radical to garner much popular support), but they were also trying to hamper or defeat the implementation of democracy, wanting to see the Pakistani people ruled by a radical, highly vocal minority instead (or at ruled by people who would make allowances for such a group). Bhutto, herself, was well aware of the danger that she faced from ideological opponents, and she had questioned whether her security was adequate following a previous suicide bomb attempt against her in October which killed over 140 people. Despite the danger, Bhutto refused to allow terrorists to prevent her from carrying on her political campaigning in advance of next month's planned elections.
Anyway, Bhutto has been killed, but she'll most likely live on as a martyr to democracy and her ideals.
I just hate to see fear playing such a prevalent role in politics these days, whether it be in Pakistan or the U.S..

In other, more local news, last night I had dinner with Roundball at Casa Garcia. Jamie had to go to a rare, nighttime dialysis because of a wacky vacation schedule. Fortunately, she got home in time to watch Ninja Warrior with Roundball and I on G4. I also got a rare, late night visit from the Shaw clan. Reed needed to pick up his drums to play with some friends today, so he stopped by last night with Jen and Meredith in tow as they returned from a family outing to San Antonio. Meredith sure talks a lot now. Cassidy is wary of her, but intrigued, nonetheless.

Well, that's about it for now.

"Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never- in nothing, great or small, large or petty- never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense." -Winston Churchill
Well, they killed Benazir Bhutto. It makes me sort of sad and depressed. I liked her, and I think she genuinely wanted to help spread democracy in Pakistan and to help her country to move forward (away from both military control and the control of religious fanatics). And of course, Musharraf, the man who stands to gain the most by her death, is a former military dictator who's willing to impose martial law whenever he finds doing so to be politically expedient (a man who has enjoyed heavy support from the U.S. government, mostly because we share a common enemy in Muslim fanaticism).

I gotta run, but it's sad.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Well, it's the day after Christmas, and I'm already back at work. Due to some idiosyncracies of our office vacation schedule, I'm working this week, but I have all of next week off. I'm not complaining at all- I'm really thankful to have the time off. Back when I was in private practice, we really didn't get much of a break around the holidays (when you're in private practice, every day that you're not working is just a day that you're not making money).

The Christmas break was nice. I went to Houston (to my folks house) on Friday night. Saturday night I went with parents to a party that some of my dad's friends from work were throwing. The party was filled with festive, British, oil industry people, who were made more festive by the cocktails and the company. Here'a picture of Mom (aka, The Karebear) dancing with some of her friends, Anne and Vicky (Mom's the one on the left). Things got even wackier a little later when one of Dad's friends busted out an Elvis wig and crooned along with a few tunes.

I also got to briefly see the Thweatts (which was nice, although way too short), and our family friends, the Bridenstines. It was good to catch up with all of them.

My grandparents arrived on Sunday (the same day that Ryan and Jamie arrived in town), and it was good to see them. I hadn't seen them for a few years.

Anyway, we did all of the traditional Christmas stuff (i.e., big meals, church on Christmas Eve, unwrapping presents on Christmas morning, rum eggnog, overly competitive boardgaming, etc.), and it was nice to be with the family. I also briefly talked to my cousin, Susan, and wished her a happy birthday (her birthday was Christmas Eve) out there in Florida with Uncle Donald.
I got back in town last night, and dinner with Mandy. She made pork tenderloin, some really good sweet potatoe dish (which was kind of surprising for me, since I'm normally not a big sweet potatoe fan), and dressing. D.K. stopped by for a little while. We talked a bit and watched Elf (which was really funny- I had never seen it).
I had a pretty good Christmas, but still a little bit tough. It was the second holiday season without Jeff around, and this was the first Christmas since Liz passed away (Christmas Eve was her birthday, actually, so she shared that with my cousin). I've been trying to keep my expectations pretty low and trying to stick to being grateful for what I have (which is a lot- it was really good to see the family, and I don't think we ever really even got into any family arguments). I've also been trying to make sure that my friends know how much I appreciate them. I'm not very good at that, I have to admit.
Anyway, that was Christmas. Cassidy and I both hope that all of ya'll had a good holiday, and that you found a little happiness and/or peace.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas from The Adventures, everybody!!!!

Here's a picture I just stole off The Admiral's hard drive of one of the Blue Angels flying really low across San Francisco Bay. Not all that Chistmas-ish, per se, but pretty cool.

Hope you guys have a peaceful, happy holiday.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Hey. Well, Christmas is just about upon us. I'm supposed to head to Houston tonight to go spend the holidays with the folks. I've got some stuff I still need to get done between now and then, though.

Yesterday there was another hearing in the Mary Dodgen case (the woman who hit Jeff, Kim, and Sigmund). There weren't any major developments, really. She's still sick (she has cancer- I believe in her liver), and it doesn't look like the judge is going to set this case for trial until the doctors say she can "handle it". I'm not sure when that's going to happen. It's very frustrating.

I went to dinner last night with Jamie because Ryan hates us and would rather work than come home (I don't know, something about working late and then taking his workers out for a drink afterward). Anyway, Jamie and I had a nice dinner at Hao Hao.

I was feeling kind of worn down and tired yesterday, so I went to bed early, and then I woke up still feeling tired this morning (I mean, beyond my usual grogginess). I was afraid I was getting sick again. Then this morning I saw on the news that the cedar pollen counts have jumped from nonexistent into the high category over the last few days. S'posed to get worse this weekend. Good time to flee for Houston.

Well, that's it for now. I'll talk to you guys later.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Last night I did some last minute Christmas shopping, and for some inexplicable reason I watched the new Rob Zombie remake of Halloween (I know, I know- not very Christmassy). I gotta say- it had moments of clunkiness, but on the whole, it was a pretty scary, somewhat disturbing movie. It actually managed to make the whole Michael Meyers character, who's become pretty much a Hollywood slasher cliche, into a more believable person, and the process of watching a little kid transform into a complete sociopath is a pretty disturbing one. I'm not saying that this movie is for everyone, but if you're a fan of the original Halloween movies (or maybe horror/slasher films in general), then you might want to check out this flick. I thought it was pretty scary.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hello. Kind of overcast and gloomy today.
Last night I joined Ryan, Jamie, and Cousin Sue for a pre-Cristmas gift exchange (Susan will be in Florida with her dad over Christmas) and an understated birthday celebration (Susan's birthday happens to fall on Christmas eve- I'm not going to say how old she is, but suffice it to say that this is a significant birthday). We went to The Tavern and had dinner and a drink or two and exchanged presents. It was nice.

In other news, yesterday I went to a campaign kickoff press conference for Gary Cobb, a veteran Travis County prosecutor who's running for D.A.. Now, just to be fair right from the get-go, there's a possibility that the First Assistant from my office, Randy Leavitt, may also be running for D.A. ( he hasn't made an official announcement), and I'm not saying that I wouldn't support Randy or that I think that Randy wouldn't be good for the job, but I've also known Gary since I started practicing as a defense attorney, and I've always liked him and respected him. I guess I just want to see him do well no matter how things turn out. Anyway, I thought Gary gave a good speech yesterday, and I think he would do a good job if he were elected D.A.. He's got a lot of experience, he's a fair-minded guy, and I think he's got his priorities in the right place (he tends to favor the vigorous prosecution of violent crimes, property crimes, and fraud-related crimes, while taking the view that drug possession, in and of itself, should be seen as more of a healthcare and community caretaking issue- meaning we should try to favor rehab and treatment for drug offenders when possible). Anyway, take a second and check out Gary Cobb if you live in Travis County and you're planning on voting for D.A.. He's a good guy, he's a veteran prosecutor who's handled a ton of felony cases during the course of his career, and I'm sure you'll be hearing more about him in the months to come.

What else? Not too much. Just trying to squeeze in some of those last minute errands before Christmas (how can I be expected to buy presents and remember to buy wrapping paper?).

That ain't a lot, but I guess it's all I've got. Hope you guys are having a good day.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

First of all (let's get this out of the way quickly), here's a link to a sort of disturbing holiday poem written by my brother about his favorite Christmas character, Santor. Read it at your own risk.

What else? Not much to report on the home front. Just trying to get things squared away before Christmas.

And here's a newsworthy item regarding the legality of an important new piece of Texas legislation. The Texas Entertainment Association is taking the Texas State Comptroller and the Attorney General to court this month over a new $5 surcharge fee that is supposed to be charged to the customers of Texas strip clubs. The plaintiffs charge that the $5 fee is an unconstitutional infringement on the First amendment right to free speech. The $5 fee is meant to raise about $44 million which is supposed to go toward sexual assault prevention programs and health care services for the uninsured. It warms my... uh... heart to know that Texans are raising healthcare money for the uninsured when they go to get a lap dance. Everyone get out there, and let's help support health care for low income families!!!

Well, it's a beautiful day out there, so get out and enjoy it if you get the chance (I went to Opal Divine's with a co-worker for lunch- not because we necessarily love the food, but just to have a chance to sit out on their patio and enjoy the sunshine). Talk to you later.

p.s.- I got some live, in-person feedback from a friend today up at the courthouse who said that he's not crazy about the blog moderation because it cuts down on the opportunity for quick, back-and-forth banter between people in the comments section. I told him I would take that under consideration, but to be honest, some of the "quick, back-and-forth banter" in the comments section is the exact type of stuff that makes me wary. I love it when someone goes off on another person, personally insults them, throws in a few expletives for good measure, and then I don't catch it for 12 to 24 hours because I haven't checked out the page. I haven't been getting many comments lately, anyway, but they had kind of slowed down for awhile before I put in the moderation feature. Maybe that's just because I haven't been being controversial enough.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Well, it was a pretty slow weekend, all in all. I got a bit of Christmas shopping done, and I spent a lot of time just kind of reading and listening to and playing music as I tried to beat my lingering cold into submission.
Sunday my parents were back in town, back into negotiations with a homebuilder over the construction of what is to eventually be their retirement home out in northwest Austin.
Ryan, Jamie, and I went to meet them (and Cousin Sue) for a late lunch/early dinner on Sunday at Houston's on Anderson Lane. Strangely, we (Ryan, Jamie, and I) had already bought tickets to a showing of The Golden Compass at the Village Alamo for later in the evening, so after Mom and Dad got back on the road, we found ourselves with over an hour to burn out in the Anderson Lane area. Not having any better ideas, we rolled over to what's left of Northcross Mall.

Visiting Northcross Mall, as Roundball put it, was like visiting a friend in the hospital who has a terminal illness. We tried to keep things peppy, but there was no disputing the dismal fact that the end was in sight.
Northcross is one of Austin's oldest malls, and now they're trying to tear it down to put in a giant Wal-Mart. To no small extent, Nortcross was the mall of my youth. It was always small, but it has a skating rink, and it used to have a pretty cool movie theater (it had the movie theater which originated the sing along/ audience interactive version of the Rocky Horror Picture Show which later spread across the world as a cult sensation). It also had one of those "recording studios" where you could get a recording of yourself singing popular songs, and sometimes the guys who worked there would pipe the songs of their customers out into the mall.

The Northcross Mall is pretty close to Lee Thweatt's house (one of my best friends, whose house I lived in during my senior year of high school), and we went to the Northcross Mall movie theater to see a midnight showing of Pink Floyd's The Wall at some point during high school, a transformative experience that turned us both into lifetime Pink Floyd fans, I think (I remember walking out of that movie feeling shell shocked, and maybe a little depressed, but overwhelmed by the power of the music and the images).
I remember the giant Oshman's sporting goods store in that mall that had its own basketball court, batting cages, and motorized ski slope. Kids from our high school would truck down there to hang out in the place like it was an amusement park.

Anyway, most of the stores in the mall are empty, now, and large sections of the mall have been entirely blocked off to deny access to the public. We hung out and walked past the empty stores and talked about things we had bought at that mall and people we had hung out there with. Jamie sat by the ice rink and watched a TV screen that had the Cowboys game on it.

There was even some kind of empty storefront that used to house some kind of DWI education center (or something like that). I'm guessing they moved into the space when the rent became cheap, but then shut down when they were told that the mall was going to eventually be closing.

Anyway, the whole trip was a little sad. We watched some people playing hockey on the ice rink, and we looked at clearance merchandise in a couple of stores that were going out of business, but overall, I just couldn't make sense of it. The mall is a little old, and needs some renovation, but I just can't understand why that space can't make a go of it as a shopping mall. It's a great location, and the building itself seems like it could be very serviceable if someone would put some money into fixing it up.
I was talking to Ryan, and it seems like a lot of the life went out of this mall after the Yogurt Shop Murders back around 1991 or so. Those murders didn't actually occur in the mall- they happened in a strip shopping center which is adjacent to the mall, actually- but they were supposed to have been committed by a group of kids who spent a lot of their time hanging out at the mall and wasting time. Bad kids. Evil kids.
After those four girls got killed in the neighboring yogurt shp, suddenly the groups of loitering teenagers that had always populated Northcross seemed much more ominous than they had before. Parents were less likely to be happy about their kids hanging out there, and I'm guessing that mall security was a lot less receptive to the idea of kids congregating there en masse.
And high school kids were probably just about the only thing keeping that mall afloat by that time, anyway. Without their food, clothing, and entertainment dollars, the mall probably lost one of its last solid customer bases (most adults had moved on to other, newer, bigger malls that had more large department stores and whatnot).
Anyway, I think that Northcross Mall just needs some serious reinvestment and possibly an exorcism. I still think it's a good location, and if I had the money, personally, I'd sink some into the place (after putting together a comprehensive business plan and selling some stores on the idea of moving into our hip, shiny, new shopping center).

By the way, The Golden Compass was pretty good. I liked it more than The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, but not quite as much The Lord of the Rings flicks. It had kind of an interesting storyline and some good characters, but it seemed as though it were moving along at breakneck pace (almost as though they had too much material to fit in), and it definitely felt pretty incomplete- there was no mistaking the fact that this film was meant to be the opening round in a series of films.

Well, that's it for now. Maybe more later. Happy Monday.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Comments moderation

Well, I'm not just trying to make lame excuses, but my blogger program is supposed to email me and let me know when I have comments stored that are waiting to be published. I've been pretty much publishing every comment that I thought I had received, so I hadn't bothered to check the Inbox for my comments, but it turns out that I've received some comments that I never got emails on, and therefore didn't know about. I went ahead and published those, and I'll try to be better about checking to make sure all of ya'll's comments are getting published from here on out. Sorry to anyone who wondered why their comment hadn't been published.

(Also sorry for this long, boring, administrative entry. I need to spice it up.


How's that for spice?)
Hey there. It's Friday. It's cold and rainy here in Austin, but at least it's Friday.
Last night we had our Christmas party for the County Attorney's Office. We ate Mexican food and had a couple of beers. The office Christmas party thing is kind of strange. I mean, I like the people I work with, but I already spend 8 hours a day with them. We spend plenty of time hanging out in one another's offices, chit chatting and shooting the bull. So when Christmas party time rolls around, it's pretty much more of the same, except we switch locations and put drinks in our hands. Anyway, the party was nice, but fairly predictable. It's been held at the same place, with the same food, the same drinks, and many of the same people for many years now.
What else? I generally don't make a lot of music recommendations, mostly because I'm bad about keeping up with new stuff, and by the time I come to appreciate a "new" band everyone else has already been listening to them for awhile, but Mark McCrimmon lent me a double CD from an Austin band called Future Clouds and Radar yesterday (I had read the name in the paper and it made me chuckle, but I had never heard them before), and I listened to it last night and really liked it. The lead singer, who I guess is Robert Harrison, has a voice that I initially wasn't sure that I loved, but the more I listened to it, the more it grew on me, and I like the music a lot. It's kind of power poppish, but it's got some interesting instrumentation, and some catchy, powerful songs that kind of just suck you in. Maybe it's not earth shatteringly innovative, but I would definitely call it interesting, from both a songwriting and performance perspective. Plus, I like the audacity of making the group's first album a double CD (this isn't Harrison's first project- he also played previously with a band called Cotton Mather, but this is the first album from this new group, Future Clouds and Radar). Anyway, thanks to Mark for lending me the CD. Jeff used to be really good about seeking out new music and letting me know about different stuff, so now I have to find new outlets for discovering good tunes.

What else....?

Nothing else for the moment.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hi. Well, my cold is getting a little better, but I'm still sniffling and coughing and I wake up every morning with a sore throat. It's good that I have a blog so that I can pass along that kind of information. I know you'd be lost without it.

So it's finally official- lots of the nation's top baseball players have been using steroids. It's headline news, and yet, somehow, I don't think America is going to be too shocked by this revelation. Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi, and Roger Clemens were all among a number of players named after a 20 month investigation, and the report included allegations that each of the 30 baseball teams in the major leagues had at least one player who was involved with taking illegal substances.
I guess they'll try to clean up baseball now with increased drug testing and whatnot, but that will, of course, only lead players to find new drugs and new ways of taking drugs that will help them to circumvent the drug tests. I really don't think athletes will abandon the use of performance enhancing drugs so long as they believe that using the drugs will give them a competitive edge.
So professional athletics develops its own microcosmic drug war- new ways of trying to check for drugs balanced against new ways of trying to avoid detection. The stakes are high any way you cut it- if athletes use steroids and get caught, they could be banished from their sport, but if they don't use drugs while their teammates and competitors continue to get away with using them, then their relative performance may suffer.
I'm not sure what I'm advocating, here, if anything. Maybe this was one of those situations that might have been better left alone. Or maybe they really can clean baseball up. Until someone finds a better way to cheat. Am I a cynic, a realist, or just a prosecutor?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

This article is kind of funny. Apparently Monday was the 25th anniversary of the Commodore 64 home computer. A Commodore 64 web site,, has been set up, and a twelve piece orchestra was established in 2006 which plays compositions based upon the soundtracks of various games designed for the Commodore 64.
I'm honestly not sure whether we had a Commodore 64. I don't think we did. I know that at one point we had a Commodore Vic 20, an 8 bit home computer that predated the Commodore 64 (ours used a regular old magnetic tape player for memory storage), and that we later had an Apple IIe. I remember using a Commodore 64 at some point, but I think it may have been at a computer lab at school or something. Plus, of course, the C64 had a lot of similarities to the Vic 20.
Anyway, just thought this was a fun little trip down memory lane, at least for people in my age group.
Hey. Still can't shake this cold.
And I can't come up with much to write about.
Last night I had dinner with Ryan and Jamie. Ryan is fighting with the L.A. municipal courts. Apparently when he traded in his old Subaru for a new Element at Howdy Honda they were slow on transferring the title, so now Roundball is receiving notice of parking tickets in Los Angeles, even though he's never been there. He seems pretty frustrated with the whole thing, and I can't really blame him. On the other hand, I can't help but wonder what kind of adventures his old Subaru is having as it trucks across the country with its new owner.

Cassidy is having a play day with her cousins, Mel, Lucy, and more reluctantly, Jeff, as Lourdes comes to clean my house today. Let's hope she's not driving Jamie nuts.

I'm almost done watching Ken Burns' miniseries, Jazz. The documentary thus far (I still have one of ten discs to go) focuses more on the earlier history of jazz than the more recent stuff that I'm more familiar with (i.e., more Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Dizzie Gillespie, and Bennie Goodman than Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, or Wayne Shorter), but it does a good job of covering the lives and the struggles of the musicians who helped to secure jazz a place as a permanent art form on the American cultural landscape. I've learned a lot, and more importantly, it's been fun to watch.

Well, that's about it for the moment. Maybe more later.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I'm still not feeling all that great, but life goes on, I suppose.

Last night I watched a low budget action/suspense flick called The Prodigy. It seems to have been made on a shoestring budget with quasi-professional actors, directors, and crew, but it was fairly engaging, and although the plot took some twists and turns that might have occasionally lacked a bit of logic, overall I would say it was probably as good as most of the Hollywood thrillers that've been made in the last few years. The plot essentially revolves around a protagonist who's a member of the organized crime underworld and some kind of sadistic serial killer type of guy who's life becomes intertwined with that of our hero. At least the movie felt fairly original and had some heart (I listened to part of the director's commentary afterward, and it always blows my mind to hear how people struggle and fight to get together the financing, talent, and time to put something together like this without studio backing- it kind of makes you want to go back and watch the movie again with an eye toward seeing the things in it that the director and producer must've been so impressed with in the original script). So if you want to see what kind of action movie you might be able to make if you squeezed a small fortune out of the father of your richest friend, go check out The Prodigy.

Well, I've got very little news, and I feel lousy (I think it's a cold).


Monday, December 10, 2007

It's kind of cold and drizzly in Austin today, and I'm feeling under the weather. Ryan and Jamie's party this weekend was fun. Maybe you guys can just look at the party pictures from yesterday's post, and that can count for today's post as well.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Ryan and Jamie's Holiday Heckstravaganza

Cassidy amongst fallen leaves. "You're not going to abandon me to go to some party, are you?"

Kim, Rami, Steven, and Sig, kicking it on the patio.

People enjoy food and stuff. Cousin Sue chats it up with Eric.

Andy F. shows off the "grand prize" that he won in the door prize contest. Note that Roundball appears upon a tee shirt worn by the bear.

The hour grows late, and Roundball explains that kids at his high school didn't have no use for learnin' evolution or natural selection.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Last night I went out to dinner with Ryan, Jamie, and Jamie's parents, Dick and Judy. We went to Threadgill's and I had chicken pot pie. It was nice to see them, and the chicken pot pie was pretty good, too.
Other from that, I didn't do too much. I took Cassidy for a walk, watched a bit of TV, and blogged about Mitt Romney.

And, of course, this whole story about the CIA destroying videotapes of terror suspect interrogations rather than handing them over to the courts, Congress, or the September 11th Commission kind of disturbs me. It conveys the image of an intelligence service operating without oversight or regulation- believing itself accountable to no one and apparently willing to violate the law in order to serve its own ends.
The fact that the CIA is destroying material that constitutes evidence would be troubling under any circumstances, but when it's destroying evidence that relates to interrogation practices, the agency's behavior becomes downright chilling.
People on this blog have taken exception to the fact that I've referred to U.S. interrogation practices as torture, claiming that we engage only in "extreme interrogation techniques" that don't rise to the level of human rights abuses that constitutes torture. Well, it's pretty hard to feel confident that our government isn't engaged in questionable activities when they not only refuse to allow outsiders any access to interrogation activities, but they're actively engaged in the process of destroying evidence of their interrogation sessions.
And the claim that the tapes were destroyed in order to protect the identities of the interrogators is ludicrous. The tapes could have easily been modified to blur out the faces and voices of the interrogators before any portion of the tapes was to be made public. If MTV can blur out name brand logos from tee shirts and ball caps for The Real World, then I'm pretty sure that the CIA can get access to the same technology.

Anyway, the torture debate is ongoing and the question of whether it is sometimes justified (and under what circumstances) remains open, but the actions of the CIA in destroying material that was clearly meant to be evidence (both in the federal trial of accused terrorist Zacaria Moussaoui and in the legislative inquiry of the 9/11 Commission) is absolutely inexcusable.

Why do I doubt that our justice department is going to spend a lot of time investigating this matter, though?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

So Mitt Romney gave a speech at Texas A&M today in which he defended his right to pursue the faith of his fathers while also attempting to reassure the American public that he would not be beholden to the church authorities of the Mormon church in his role as president.

This whole question of using religious faith as a deciding point when examining political candidates is kind of troubling and interesting at the same time. On the one hand, as Americans we've been kind of trained not to be judgmental about matters relating to a person's faith. As long as a person isn't hurting someone else because of their religious faith, I try to remain open minded about it and accepting of it (well, sometimes it also bugs me when people become judgmental on the basis of their religion).
So should the same rules apply to a person who's running for president, or do voters have the right to be a little more opinionated about a person's religious choices when that person's religion may serve as the bedrock that informs decision-making processes which will most likely effect the course of global events?
And Romney's speech today- his assertion that he can continue to faithfully adhere to the tenets of his religion without becoming beholden to the religious leaders of his church. I'm not sure what to make of that claim. From what admittedly little I understand about the Mormon church (or The Church of Latter Day Saints), it has always seemed like a religion with pretty strict rules and a fairly rigid structure. Is Romney stating that he would turn his back on church doctrine if it came into conflict with what was "right for the country"? Would he even see the possibility of distinguishing the two things? Saying that he won't be beholden to church leaders seems like an easy thing to proclaim, but when those leaders are maintaining that their words represent the will of god or the church, the distinction between being faithful to one's religion and adhering to the dictates of religious leaders becomes much more murky.

Then again, John F. Kennedy was a Catholic, and as far as I know he never bothered to have a red phone installed in the White House that could connect him with the Vatican. I'm pretty sure the Pope was never consulted during the Cuban Missile Crisis or the Bay of Pigs Invasion.

It's interesting to note that even Romney agrees on the point that religion matters. Almost any person pursuing a life of religious faith would probably agree with the idea that religion contributes to a person's personality, character, and moral principles. Romney chooses to draw his line of distinction by saying that he isn't going to feel compelled to follow the dictates of the leaders of the Mormon religious hierarchy. But Mormons believe in revelation of divine will, and from what I understand (which is, once again, quite limited), the leaders of the church are thought to be the people who receive revelations most directly from God pertaining to the guidance and direction of the church as a whole (I think this is expecially true of The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, The First President, and a few other high ranking members, who receive revelations pertaining to the leadership of the church as a whole).
Then again, how much of this is really going to effect presidential policy? I guess that's the question.

Well, Romney probably isn't going to make my short list of candidates, anyway, but his candidacy raises some interesting questions for Americans relating to religion in politics. It also highlights how little I know about the Mormon church.

I'm going to go find some dumb sitcoms to watch now.
Hi. Last night I helped Mandy and Kellie string some Christmas lights over at Casa De Wilson (looking quite festive, thank you very much). Also ate some Thai food. Spent a little bit of time with Max the Wiener Dog, who is recovering nicely from his back surgery.

Austin's own Pinetop Perkins has been nominated for 2 Grammys for a couple of traditional blues albums. I last saw the 94 year old blues legend perform at Jeff's memorial party, thrown by Jeff's former boss, Joe Turner, just before the 2006 ACL Fest. I think Jeff would be pretty impressed that Pinetop Perkins played at his memorial party.

In another bit of good news, a new study shows that U.S. pediatric cancer fatalities dropped by 20 percent between 1990 and 2004. Apparently the number of cancer cases being diagnosed hasn't dropped off, but American healthcare providers are getting better at treating cancer (inlcuding bone marrow transplants and other techniques), so the survivability rates, especially among children, have increased substantially. That's some really good news, and it kind of hits close to home, given the recent struggles that my friends, the Thweatts, have had with their son, John, in his fight against neuroblastoma. Thanks to all of you Adventurers who voted for Prop 15, which will allow Texas to play a bigger role in the fight against cancer (by funding a new cancer research facility).

Well, not too much news. That's it for now.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Random Pictures

Cassidy enjoys a new rawhide bone. Her eyes only glow like that when she's attempting to use her mind control powers. Which she frequently does.

Mandy's house after some midweek Christmas decorating.

Another extremely festive house on Mandy's street. Rumor has it that an extremely talented rock star/lawyer/ninja lives here. I can neither confirm nor deny.

Not too much to report.
Here's the Christmas tree that's in my office. It's purple. It's festive. You know you covet my purple Christmas tree.
My dad is in China. He should be back on Friday.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Not too much to report, I guess. Last night I had dinner with Ryan and Jamie. We spent at least part of our time reminiscing about Ryan's tae kwon do years, including at least one occasion when Ryan kicked some guy in the face and got disqualified from a tournament (which totally bewildered me at the time, because this was a tae kwon do tournament, and there was no doubt about who won the fight, right? I mean, the guy's kind of wimpering and trying to staunch the torrential flow of blood coming out of his nose, and Roundball's kind of smiling and doesn't have a mark on him) I think at some point during dinner I once again threatened to take kung fu lessons.

And here's a piece of technology that's long since overdue. Gibson has apparently developed a guitar which can keep itself in tune (or, alternately, a gizmo which can be added onto guitars to allow them to do the same thing). I've actually talked to friends of mine before about this concept, and I'm kinf of surprised that it hasn't come out sooner. After all, we've had technology for a number of decades now which can recognize various pitches, and which can change various pitches to make them match each other (I even developed a rudimentary version of this program on my own for a computer class that I took at Trinity, and I'll be the first one to tell you that my programming skills are extraordinarily primitive). We've also had some pretty sophisticated servo motors for years that would seem capable of the sort of fine tuning required to adjust strong tension and achieve the desired pitches. I guess that the reliability and sturdiness of the thing were probably what was holding the whole operation up. Guitars tend to take quite a bit of wear and tear and get jostled and banged around quite a bit, and there would be no point in putting a self tuning mechanism onto a guitar if it were going to get constantly broken or knocked out of alignment.
That being said, the concept behind the self guitar seems relatively simple, and if it works smoothely and effectively, it's a technology that guitar players will undoubtedly embrace (I can't tell you how much time gets wasted, both at band practice, and when I'm playing on my own, in trying to get a guitar to play in tune, and then trying to keep it in tune once you've gotten it where you want it). Of course, as is the case with most new technology, the self-tuning guitar sounds like it's going to initially be pretty expensive, but I would bet that it won't be long before the price comes down and self-tuning instuments become more accessible to the average Joe.

Sadly, I can already foresee a day when I'm going to be wandering aimlessly through my local guitar shop, examining the instruments and telling the younger kids, "Now, I remember a day when we didn't have all these fancy robot guitars to do our tuning for us! We had to use tuners, or sometimes our own decibel-shredded ears to tune our guitars, for God's sake! We were real musicians in those days, damnit!!"
And the kids will just kind of glance at me in annoyance.
"Whatever, old man."

Anyway, I'm not sure if this version of the technology will be the one that sticks, but mark my words when I say that the age of the self-tuning guitar is upon us, and it's not likely to end anytime soon. It's kind of weird to think that people may be able to play guitar who know so little about the instrument that they can't even tune it, but then again, having to keep a guitar in tune can be an annoying chore for even the most talented musician, and I think that once we get spoiled by self-tuning models, we're not going to want to settle for anything else.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Happy Birthday, Andy F.

Oooops! I almost forgot, but I think that it's still technically his birthday. Many happy returns, Feral Andy! I really hope you've had a good one!

Hey. The weekend was pretty good. Friday night I pretty much just hung out and had dinner with Ryan and Jamie. Saturday I got up and ran a few errands, and got together in the afternoon with Andy and Sigmund for Crack practice, and then went out in the evening with Ryan, Jamie, Matt, and Nicole to see No Country for Old Men on Saturday night. The movie was cool. We went to the new Ritz Alamo House down on 6th Street for the movie (which is kind of a strange location, but which did a good job in terms of service and food) , and afterward we went next door to Shakespeare's and had a drink before heading home. Sunday I got up and ran another errand or two (including a bit of long overdue shopping for myself) before Mono Ensemble practice. I also read some more of World War Z in their somewhere (It's a novel by Max Brooks about a zombie war which occurs when there's a world wide outbreak of zombie plague. It's told from the standpoint of a reporter who's collecting first person accounts through interviews. It's a lot of fun.)

That's about it for today. Good weekend, though. My parents were in town working on getting their new place. I never even saw them, though, and now The Admiral is in China through Friday.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Howdy. It's Friday, and it couldn't have come at a better time.
I went to a fundraiser my friend and co-worker, John Lipscombe, last night. John is running for a judicial seat in the new Travis County Court at Law (County Court 8) that's going to be opening up next year. John's a good guy, and if you live in Travis County, you should consider voting for him for judge.
We (meaning myself and some of the kids from my office) snuck out of the fundraiser at some point and wandered over to Joe's to watch the Green Bay/Dallas game. I stayed for about half before Cassidy guilt got the better of me, and I went home to let the dog out and get her some dinner. The NFL network had the game streaming on the internet, so I caught about the last quarter of it at home. Man, Green Bay has just never been able to get it together against the Cowboys when they play in Dallas, and although they put up a decent fight last night, the curse was just too strong. It was still a fun game, though, and it was kind of fun to see all of the people out downtown watching the game. It almost seems like they ought to put the occasional game on pay per view or something more often, because there's just something different and fun about having to go out to watch a game out in public every once in awhile.

Also last night I caught a bit of John Edwards on Charlie Rose. I like John edwards. I liked him when he was on Kerry's ticket, and I still like him, but I've just been questioning whether or not he's really electable in this election. Well, I think he's probably electable, but I doubt whether he can defeat Hillary in the primary. This is kind of a conundrum, because, to be honest, I'm not sure whether Hillary is electable in the general campaign (I still think there's a ton of very strong anti-Hillary sentiment on the right, and quite possibly enough of it that it could motivate a lot of conservatives to go to the polls who might otherwise not vote at all, and they'll vote for whatever Republican candidate who's running, just to make sure Hillary doesn't get into office). Still, I'm not sure whether any of the other Democratic candidates can defeat Hillary in the primary.
Anyway, Edwards was talking about the fact that he sees the influence of lobbyists and special interest groups as one of the largest impediments to the effective implementation of democracy in our country today, and I think I have to agree with him. Large corporations and other special interests have all but drowned out the voice of the average middle American in today's politics, and some major reforms are needed if we're going to get back to a system in which the large, silent majority of middle class America is heard on a variety of issues in Washington. Drug companies, car companies, energy companies, construction companies, insurance companies, banks, and almost every other area of industry all have high dollar lobbyists constantly putting intense pressure upon our legislators in order to protect their profits and interests, and we need someone in office who's not going to forget about the needs of middle class people (fair taxes, a clean environment, affordable healthcare, and other items are important to most of middle America, but it's much more difficult to get those positions voiced without the big corporate lobbying money that many industries have to spend in advocating their positions).
As Edwards said on the program last night, for many of America's most pressing problems, we're not just facing the challenges of making our country better- we're also facing the obstacles presented by lobbying groups who don't want to see change occur. It's going to be hard to get any kind of health care reform accomplished because the pharmaceutical companies have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. It's hard to get enviromental regulations approved when many manufacturing or energy companies are afraid that cleaning up their act will eat into their profits. It's even hard to get laws passed that will prevent people from building their homes in dangerous areas (areas which are subject to flooding, hurricanes, etc.) when the construction industry would rather continue to rebuild homes in those areas (remember my earlier blog about the construction lobby getting floodplains lowered so they could build houses in areas prone to flooding?).

Anyway- you get my point. Any time there's an area where companies are making a profit and they see that profit potentially threatened by change, there's going to be resistance to that change, and in Washington, that oftentimes means pressure by lobbyists to get legislators to do things that aren't necessarily in the best interest of their middle class, lobbyless constituents.

So I liked what I heard from Edwards. He talked about the fact that he thought some major reforms were needed in our country, and the fact that incremental changes weren't enough (especially in health care, economic growth, education, and some other areas). He talked a bit about the death of his son and his wife's battle with cancer. He sounded like a man who had sort of moved beyond the careful development and protection of his political career, and who was finally just kind of ready to lay it all on the line in trying to accomplish the things that he sees as critically important for the country. I think his wife's illness and the death of his son have lent a sense of urgency to his mission. Also, I like the fact that Edwards already has a good deal of political experience, and that he's already shown himself capable of standing up to the scrutiny of a presidential election.

Well, I don't know if he'll win the nomination, but I like Edwards.

Well, that's it for now. I was going to blog about this teacher in Sudan who's been jailed for allowing the kids in her class to name a teddy bear Muhammad, but the whole thing is just self-evidently stupid. Sudan- no one's ever going to consider you a civilized country if you can't develop some concepts of tolerance and diversity.

Hope you guys have a good weekend.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

So last night we had an office happy hour and send off for our friend and colleague, Katie Norris, who is moving to Dallas because her husband got some kind of job up there. Katie's a pretty good kid, and we'll be sad to see her go. She's from Iowa, and she talks about corn more than any other person that I've ever met. She also looks eerily like Reed Shaw's wife, Jen. Maybe the two of them were both spawned in the same test tube before being shipped to different locations in the midwest for insemination.
Anyway, good luck to Katie Norris as she begins her life anew up in Dallas!

And here' an email from my good friend Lee, down in Houston:

"hey brother: I'm curious about the timing of things...

Trent Lott's brother in law, a gazillionaire plaintiff's lawyer named Dickie Scruggs, who earned somewhere around $400 million in the tobacco settlement, was indicted by the feds today in Mississippi for consipiring to bribe a judge. So, Lott announces his resignation Monday, surprising everyone. The FBI raids his brother in law's office on Tuesday. His brother-in-law is indicted today by a federal grand jury. Hmmmmmm...."

Lee, I'm sure there is a perfectly rational explanation for all of this. As a matter of fact, I heard one from the Lott camp on television this morning: It's all a coincidence- an unfortunate but totally random pairing in time of two completely unrelated events.

See? I knew there would be a logical explanation.
And yet, maybe it's just the prosecutor in me, but I'm extremely skeptical of coincidences and "bad timing". We'll see, I guess.

And everyone up here in my office is all fired up for the Dallas v. Green Bay game tonight. Time Warner Cable (which serves the majority of the Austin viewing audience, I would bet) isn't even showing the game because they're in a contract dispute with the NFL over whether or not the new NFL Network should be carried as a basic cable or premium channel. Anyhoo, even though they're going to have to go to a sports bar or find a friend who has satellite TV in order to watch the game, people around the courthouse are more excited about this game than they were about the last couple of superbowls (some of our legal assistants even brought in a Dallas Cowboys cake, with Cowboys cookies and queso in a big ol' Cowboys crockpot). Both teams are pretty darn good, I guess, and there's something kind of cool about a Thursday night game. Anyway, it's kinda fun, I guess. Not sure if I'll catch any of the game myself, or not. In any event...


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

And I guess this may be overdue, but some of you have probably noticed the fact that I've turned on the comment moderation feature on the ol' blog. As Reed said the other night, I've now allied myself with "The Man" in censoring free speech.

In truth, I will probably continue to publish the vast majority of comments that I receive, but I've also just finally decided to start exercising a little control over the comments section.

I like hearing from people, and moderating the comments will allow people to comment again without having to register as a blogger (although I still prefer it when people identify themselves and accept responsibility for their blog comments), but the flip side of the "free speech" argument is that I never meant for this blog to be a forum for endless, ongoing, political arguments (or endless arguments of any kind, for that matter). I still want to foster some discussion and allow for viewpoints that are different from my own on the blog, but I want the ability to shut the comments down when they become repetitive, nonsensical, or when they degenerate into personal attacks.

To be honest, I also have to blame my own obsessive/compulsive tendencies for my decision to moderate the comments. I have an embarrassing tendency to get caught in this cycle where I can't let comments go unanswered when I disagree with them, which often leaves me arguing with people far past the point where anyone has anything new or interesting to say, and far past the point where I'm accomplishing anything other than looking like a blowhard idiot. Still, I get this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that people will read some kind of resignation or acceptance into my silence if I let some comment slide that I don't agree with. So I argue on- way past the point where the discussion has ceased to be interesting, informative, or in any way persuasive.

And I don't feel too badly about the comment moderation because my blog was never meant to be used for people to express every thought they come up with- if people want to do that, they can publish their own blogs or go post on some political forum (despite my political rantings, I still see my blog as more of an online journal of my personal, day-to-day thoughts than as a sort of political persuasion and argument site). I'm not trying to censor free speech, but I am trying to exercise some control over the manner and the extent (meaning, basically, the length and quantity of comments) to which I'm going to allow people to express their opinions. The idea of the comment section is s'posed to be to allow people to make quick responses to things that I say on the blog- not to provide a soapbox. Like it or not, the soapbox belongs to me because the blog belongs to me.

Well, I probably went on too long about this, but it involves issues of free speech and restraints on it, and I tend to take those things sort of seriously. Even when they're just taking place on my stupid ol' blog.
I went to Ryan and Jamie's house last night and we ate lasagna, supplied by their housemate, Nicole, who brought the pasta back from her trip to see her family in Dallas over Thanksgiving. It was pretty good.

I was reading through some of my old blog postings last night, and it was kind of a strange experience. Some of the blogs just don't really sound like me, or maybe they sound like me, but only one version of me. There's something about having to come up with a topic to write about every day that leaves me sounding even more opinionated and argumentative on the blog than I feel like I typically am in my daily life. I feel compelled to come up with some kind of content every day, and nothing's easier than just going through the news and giving my perspective on what I see. But in real life, if I hear someone giving opinions that are contrary to mine, I would probably be just as likely to let their comments pass without argument. It's partially just my laziness, and partially the fact that I don't necessarily relish arguing with people, but oftentimes I would just as soon not expend the energy required to engage with someone in a debate, especially when I'm pretty sure that no one's opinion is going to be changed, anyway (which, when it comes to politics, religion, etc., is usually a large percentage of the time). I mean, there might be times when I find someone's viewpoint actually offensive, and then I usually have a hard time keeping my mouth shut, but for the most part I just recognize that it's pretty hard to get people to change their opinions (Texas juries have taught me the importance of trying to persuade people to a course of action within the framework of their own opinions rather than trying to change those opinions), and so I see a lot of political debate as so much meaningless noise.
Anyway, the blog is a strange creature. I use it to document how I'm feeling about things at a particular place and time, and I'm not necessarily apologizing for or embarrassed by the things I've written, but sometimes I later have a hard time recognizing myself in my own entries. Present Steanso may not entirely see eye to eye with past Steanso on every detail of everything I've ever written. Sometimes it's just the tone of my writing that's mostly different. But then again, maybe that's part of what's good about the blog, especially as the years go by- it's an interesting way of keeping track of how you've changed.

In other news, Musharraf has relinquished his role as the leader of Pakistan's army. He still sits as president, but has voluntarily removed himself as a military leader. Musharraf has also recently released over a thousand political opposition leaders that he had arrested during his recently declared "state of emergency". Anyway, good for Musharraf. He's made some very dubious decisions (and it's got to be hard to admit that you're wrong when you're a self-appointed military dictator), but he actually seems pretty committed to the expansion of democracy in Pakistan. I think. Anyway, let's hope things continue to improve over there.

Well, I gotta run, but possibly more later.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


I had dinner with Ryan and Jamie last night. It was good to see them after a week of going our separate ways (to Houston and Oklahoma). Plus, Cassidy got to see the cousin dogs (Lucy and Mel) after almost a week apart. She was so excited that a little part of me thought that she truly might explode. Cassidy also loves their cat, Jeff, but I'm not sure that the feeling is mutual.

Team Steans has already hung Christmas lights on their house, and they were assembling their tree last night while I was there. I tried to hang Christmas lights on the front of my own house on Sunday, but after having already strung half of them up I decided to plug them in, and as it turns out, half the bulbs were burnt out. So this weekend I'll get new lights and try again.

In other news, Dr. Robert Cade, the inventor of Gatorade and the originator of the entire sports drink industry, died today at age 80 of kidney failure. As it turns out, Dr. Cade went to church with my parents back at the University of Florida when they were in graduate school (shortly before I arrived on the scene), and apparently he was constantly working on different kinds of beverages, even at the time that they knew him. They've told me that he would sometimes bring different varieties of his beverages to church social events and parties to test them out on his friends. I think I remember my dad telling me that Cade even had developed some sort of version of Gatorade that involved alcohol, but I guess it never really took off. Anyway, the original purpose for the sports drink was to help University of Florida football players replenish their electrolytes while working out (thus the Gator in the Gatorade brand name), and I guess that's what it's still best known for today. I'll bet even my parents never knew that Dr. Cade had originally graduated from UT Austin and had gone to UT Southwestern Med School up in Dallas (which also produced Dr. Kevin "The Pope" Palka, I believe).

And Bush is doing something that I actually support in holding this Israeli-Palestinian peace conference in Annapolis. The goal of the conference is to set up a framework for continued negotiations, with an eye toward establishing some kind of peace pact between the two groups by the end of 2008. I'm kind of surprised that the Palestinians agreed to participate, given the fact that many Muslims are a little unhappy with the U.S. at the moment, but nonetheless, I'm glad that the Bush White House has deemed the Palestinian-Israeli peace process to be a worthy endeavor. It would undoubtedly be one of the crowning achievements of the current administration (and, to be honest, a pretty surprising victory, as well) if they could make some significant headway in bringing peace to this conflict. I'm not sure many people would say that diplomacy has been the strong point of this administration, but George and Co. have got a chance to score some big points here if progress can be made. Despite all of the criticism that I've heaped upon Bush's White House, it would be really nice to have at least one big achievement that we could point to as being proud of from this gang before they leave office. So believe it or not, I'm giving some kudos to Bush's crew for pulling off this conference today, and I wish them continued luck as they continue to try to foster negotiation and mediation throughout the upcoming year. This is the kind of stuff I'm looking for when I talk about wanting to see the U.S. as a world leader.

Monday, November 26, 2007

We may not have thought of him in any way, shape, or form for many years (and I'm not sure I ever even knew his name before now), but he still had some kind of small place in the bewildering years of my childhood...
Kevin DuBrow, the lead singer of 80's heavy metal band Quiet Riot, passed away today at the age of 52.
I don't really have any special love for Quiet Riot, in particular (I mena, I didn't follow them over the course of their career, or anything), but their loud, angry sound marked the dark and dangerous end of the my musical spectrum as a grade school kid. Just as I was starting to move away from the Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, John Denver, and Neil Diamond records of my parents into an eager exploration of the world of rock and roll, Quiet Riot burst onto the scene with "Cum on Feel the Noize" and somehow helped to make me understand why bad was sometimes good and how angry sounds could somehow feel liberating. Quiet Riot played a pretty cheesey version of Top 40 style heavy metal, and I guess they stole some of their biggest hits from Slade, but they were just the band that was there in the "scary, angry, heavy metal" slot at the moment that such things began to enter the constellation of my thoughts. I think I bought Quiet Riot's Metal Health album through some kind of Columbia House deal for about a nickel, and I instinctively knew from the get-go that this probably wasn't the kind of music that my parents were going to be really excited about. Nonetheless, I remember hollaring out some Quiet Riot choruses with friends on the bus as we rode home from school (one of the kids on our bus had a radio that she used to play on those bus rides, and I remember Joan Jett, The J. Geils Band, Dexy's Midnight Runners, and others in the mix, with Quiet Riot holding their own, special, wicked place in the lineup). There's something absurd and yet still awesome about a bunch of middle class, white, elementary school kids rolling through our suburban neighborhood in our yellow school bus and singing at the top of our lungs about how we were going to get, "Wild! Wild! Wild!" Ahhh, the 80's....

Later on my music tastes would change, grow, and develop (ok, in the case of Crack, some might say significantly devolve), but Quiet Riot still has a little place in my heart for showing me that being loud, outrageous, angry, and a little bit scary can be fun. (a lesson which would later come in handy while learning to enjoy a host of other bands in a variety of genres)
So here's a toast to Kevin DuBrow. He may not have been the world's greatest musician, but he contributed a verse in our collective musical consciousness, and somehow he managed to play a little part in some of our lives.

Bang your head.
Hey. Is Thanksgiving really already over? I'm sure I had another day in there somewhere....

Anyway, Thanksgiving was good, even if a bit short. I went to the folks house over in Spring. Mom made us a nice dinner, and Cousin Sue also made the trip to celebrate with the folks and me. I never quite made it to see the Thweatts (it was a short trip, and Lee ended up going to College Station on Friday to watch that embarrassing Longhorn defeat against the Aggies), and I didn't quite get the shopping done that I had intended to do. On the up side, I got to see the Bridenstines- John, Julie, and their new baby, Brandy- in a sort of unexpected visit, and we had a pretty entertaining visit from my parents' neighbors, The Bloods, with their kids. It was a fairly quiet holiday, but a nice one. Cassidy came with me, and I think she had a good time, too.

Not too much else to report. Last night Reed and I ventured up to Chris Griego's house (Griego Manor, up in Round Rock) and watched Battlestar Galactica: Razor, which was a two hour movie about the Galactica's sister ship, the Battlestar Pegasus. The movie was an interesting experiment, kind of showing the darker path taken by military leaders who didn't have strong civilian leadership around to advocate for democracy and human rights after the outbreak of war (i.e., the civilian president and the military leadership having worked out a sort of checks and balances system for safeguarding civilian rights in the Galactica fleet, while Admiral Cain of the Pegasus sees fit to unilaterally take any action she deems necessary in defense of her ship, which has some unhappy reults for some civilians). Anyway, Razor was pretty good. I think I'm going to have to break down and get cable or satellite before BSG starts airing new episodes in March.

Well, not too much else to report.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

So here's some photos from Thanksgiving.

Mom with Brandy.

Julie with Brandy.

"Cousin" John without Brandy.

Mom, Dad, and Cassidy enjoy a quiet morning in "the nook".

A rainy, cold drive home.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving, Ya'll!!!!!!!

Hope everybody has a good turkey day! Relax, have fun, be thankful. If you have nothing else to be thankful for, be thankful you're not a turkey.

Well, it's Thanksgiving Eve. I'll be headed to Houston tomorrow to spend Thanksgiving with my folks, but I just want to wish a happy turkey day to all of you Adventurers. Have a happy holiday, and be safe if you're going to travel, ok?

And here's a shocker: Scott McClellan, the former White House press secretary, says in his new book that he was directed to tell reporters in a 2003 press conference that neither Karl Rove nor Scooter Libby were involved in the news leak that compromised Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA operative. The problem, as he retells it, is that this assertion was untrue, and yet the decision to publicly assert the innocence of Libby and Rove came from the highest levels of the administration- including Bush, Cheney, Andrew Card (White House Chief of Staff), Rove, and Libby.
So Bush told someone on his staff to be dishonest with the press. I'm not sure that this is exactly an earth shattering revelation, but then again, I didn't think the whole Monica Lewinsky thing was going to end up being a big deal when it first made the news, either. And if you ask me, lying to cover up the criminal act of one of your subordinates is pretty much worse than lying about something as personal as a sexual act between two consenting adults, but then again no one ever asked me.
I'm sure that a full blown character assassination attempt on Scott McClellan is being planned by the White House even as I type this. It'll be interesting to see how vigorous the attacks are, given that McClellan was once part of Bush's inner circle.
OK. Gotta run.
You guys be good.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hey. So with Thanksgiving right around the corner, I'm trying to focus on on the things that I'm thankful for, in order to try to help maintain a jolly, festive, holiday mood. I'm thankful for family and friends and my job and Cassidy and the fact that I live in America rather than in some country that America is occupying and I'm thankful that I have bands to rock in and a roof over my head and I'm thankful that I have too much to eat rather than not enough.

And there's been a breakthrough in stem cell research. Apparently scientists have come up with a way of mixing material from egg cells with other cells and sort of turning back their biological clocks to the point that they're viable for use in stem cell research and transplantation techniques. This is really good news because it helps to remove some of the ethical issues associated with the use of embryonic stem cells while still preserving the overall usefulness of stem cells. So that's good news (or at least news that holds a lot of promise).

Well, I'm pretty jammed up today. (why does it alwyas get the most busy right before holiday time?) Hope ya'll have a good one.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Some surfer guy (he splits his time between surfing in Hawaii and snowboarding in Nevada) has come up with a new theory regarding the way that everything in the universe works. The crazy thing is that physicists are scratching their heads and saying that he may be onto something. The surfer, named Garrett Lisi, has a doctorate in physics, but isn't associated with any university. Now he's come up with a potential theory to explain the workings of fundamental universal forces, their interaction with matter, and a bunch of other stuff I don't understand.
Anyway, the theory may not pan out, but it's testable, and it's interesting enough to be generating some world wide buzz. Kinda cool.
The weekend was pretty good, despite the fact that I felt like I was fighting off allergies and/or a cold the entire time. Not sure where the time went. On Saturday evening I had dinner with Mandy, Andy, and Rami. Mandy made some really good baked ziti and we had cookies. It was good to see them. It had been awhile since I had hung out with the Whiskeetos. Sunday we had a good, if short, Mono Ensemble practice (we cut it short because just about everyone in the band has been feeling a little under the weather).
John Thweatt is apparently now out of the hospital after undergoing what seems to have been a successful set of stem cell/chemotherapy treatments. Anyway, he's at home and doing pretty well, and Henry, his older brother, just turned 5 yesterday. Hooray for Team Thweatt!!!
In local Austin news, Hyde Park Baptist Church was almost responsible for ruining the 23rd annual interfaith Thanksgiving celebration (hosted by the Austin Area Interreligious Ministries) when they rescinded their offer to host the affair after realizing that Muslims would be taking part in the event. The service included worshippers from a number of religions, including Christian, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Baha'i. This was the first year that Muslims were scheduled to take part in the event. The official statement from Hyde Park said, ""although individuals from all faiths are welcome to worship with us, we cannot provide space for the practice of these non-Christian religions on church property." I guess they initially didn't realize that non-Christians would be participating, missing subtle clues such as the title of Interreligious Ministries on the name of the group organizing the event, or the fact that the event is called an interfaith celebration (maybe to them, interfaith meant both Baptist and Southern Baptist). I've been a big fan of Hyde Park Baptist Church since back in my high school days when parents from that church petitioned our schoolboard in an effort to dictate what books we should be allowed to have on our reading lists and in our public school library and since the time that Hyde Park spent a small fortune (also during my high school years) trying to find ways to drive their neighbors from their homes so that they could expand their church parking lot. An oasis of spiritual enlightenment- that's Hyde Park Baptist Church. Congregation Beth Israel stepped in to offer a place at the last minute, so good for them. (Anyone else find it ironic that a congregation of Jewish folks was willing to open their doors to people of the Muslim faith, while somehow the Baptists had a beef with them?)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday night there was barbecue and mini golf. Teams Steans and friends went to The Green Mesquite and then Peter Pan down on Barton Springs. Here's Jamie by a castle....And Ryan posing with some kind of hideous putt putt death totem. Anyway, it was pretty fun, and there were a lot of people at the Peter Pan. I forgot they let you bring beer and wine into that place.
Hey there. Not too much to report from the home front. Max the wiener dog seems to be recovering slowly but steadily from the surgery that he had on the herniated disc in his back.

No Country for Old Men will be in theaters this weekend. A bunch of people have told me how much they're looking forward to seeing the movie, and although I want to see the movie as well (I love the Coen brothers, and the book was extremely well written), I'm almost a little apprehensive about seeing it. Cormac McCarthy, as I'm sure most of you know, isn't a big fan of happy endings, and he seems to take great delight in developing fascinating characters and then putting them into impossible situations. Still, the book was almost a sort of Texan parable (there's some kind of message about allowing temptation to lure a person into a world of evil in there somewhere), and its hard to resist the chance to see how the Coen brothers bring McCarthy's characters to life up on the big screen.

I also watched a movie called Bug the other night. Here's a hint: it isn't really about bugs (or if it is, it's only about bugs in a very tangential way). It's another movie where things just keep getting worse and worse, and at the end of the movie I kind of sat there kind of scratching my head and asking myself why I watched the whole thing (let alone why someone would want to make a movie like that). Anyway, Bug had some interesting performances (Ashley Judd, Harry Connick Jr., and some guy named Michael Shannon), but it sure doesn't do any favors for the public image of the mentally ill.

That's about it. Work's been busy.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Not time to blog today. I woke up late and have been running behind ever since. Maybe more later if time permits.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hey. Still not really feeling it. Nonetheless, at least I can throw some news stuff at you.

The FBI is now reporting that they have found no justifiable cause in the shootings of at least 14 out of the 17 Iraqi shootings committed by Blackwater security personnel back on September 16th. They are recommending to the new attorney general, Michael Mukasey, that he make the investigation and prosecution of these shootings one of his top priorities.
So chalk up another victory for the U.S.'s civil rights and humanitarian record in Iraq. The only thing that could make this situation worse would be if the White House were to intervene and insist that these military contractors not be held accountable for their actions. So I wouldn't be surprised if things got worse.

Things in Washington are getting ugly as the president vetoed a domestic spending bill, including education, labor, and health programs (the president claimed it contained too much pork). Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has stated that the president will not get a new funding bill for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq unless the bill contains provisions for the beginning of a troop withdrawal by the end of next year.
Personally, I'm guessing that the domestic spending bill probably did actually have some unneccessary pork in it, but I'm guessing that the money going into those pork programs pales in comparison to the amount of money that we've already spent and continue to spend in this pointless war in Iraq (not to mention the fact that Bush is throwing out funding for an untold number of perfectly good programs just to get at a few questionable items). Bush said he objected to about $10 billion in a bill that was trying to authorize funding for over $600 billion in programs (so he had issue with only a small part of the bill) while he has authorized a $459 billion dollar defense bill (increasing our military budget by 9.5 percent) for monies to be used in areas outside Iraq and Afghanistan and asked for $196 billion to be used specifically for war funding. Bush's concerns over saving money for the American taxpayer seem a little disingenuous, to say the least. But we've all heard this kind of thing before.

And in keeping with my new theme of trying to include some good news, here's an article about a surfer who was saved by a pack of bottlenose dolphins from an attack by a great white shark. The surfer was in the water off the coast of Monterey, California, on August 28th when he was attacked by a 12 to 15 foot long shark. The shark tore skin off his back and chomped on one of his legs before being driven off by the dolphins who then stayed with the surfer until he made his way to shore.
Once again, dolphins prove themselves to be cooler than people (hey- they don't hunt us or string us up in nets, and they seem to be pretty down with helping people out when they can).

Also a positive story, another sign of progress in New Orleans as streetcar lines reopen in the Garden District, allowing tourists and locals to travel the St. Charles line and to roll past some of the city's most reknowned historic mansions. The Garden District's streetcar lines have been shut down since Hurricane Katrina hit, but they reopened this past Saturday, apparently with some traditional New Orleans fanfare and celebration.
I really dig that town, so it's good to see signs of reconstruction and rebuilding, even if things are moving pretty slowly and the city really isn't getting enough federal help. Everyone go to New Orleans. Have some drinks. Go to the casino and the aquarium. Hear some music and eat some cajun food. Go boost the economy and party like it's 1999.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Well, I'm back from a 3 day weekend (thank you, America's veterans), but I don't have a lot to show for it. I played some video games, took Cassidy to the dog park, went and saw American Gangster, did some reading, and had Mono Ensemble practice. I kept to myself, mostly, with the exceptions of Mono E practice and a quick trip to the music store with Ryan.
I thought American Gangster was ok, but probably not as good as it could have been.

I hope everyone is doing ok.

Friday, November 09, 2007

My good friend, Jennifer, has accused me of never providing any positive, uplifiting news stories on The Adventures, and I think she may have a point (one of my big reasons for blogging is my need to vent, so I tend to blog about things that are bugging me, but I realize that such matters probably aren't always fun to read about).
Anyhoo, here's just one of the many good news stories that's popped up in the world over the last few days:
A group called The Freeplay Foundation has developed a system of wind-up lights for use in African homes or in other poor, rural areas which don't have a readily available supply of electricity for lighting. The wind-up system helps to alleviate the need for batteries (which may prove too costly for many subsistence level families in Africa) or the need to burn wood fires for light (which is often problematic due to a lack of wood and the health problems that can be created by smoke when wood fires are regularly burned indoors). Anyway, apparently many rural Africans lead lives which have minimal activity after sundown due to the lack of light, and this inexpensive, human powered lighting option may help to improve the lives of lots of people for a very small amount of money.
On a more personal note, over the last year or so I've read about several products which are meant to be widely and cheaply distributed throughout Africa with the hope of vastly improving the lives of Africans through small, inexpensive innovations (such as water purification straws, water transportation devices [they're called hippo rollers], solar-powered computers, and vitamin packed peanut-based food products [called Plumpy'nut] for malnourished children, to name a few). It's heartening to see organizations and corporations looking for (and finding) low cost, effective ways of improving the day to day lives of impoverished Africans, and apparently in ways that seem to be financially viable for the corporations (I'm not sure they're always exactly super profitable, but they seem to be finding ways of at least making tremendous changes with relatively small amounts of money and without suffering losses).
Anyway, I will endeavor to be more positive. On occasion. ;)
A 58,ooo gallon oil spill in San Francisco Bay? Grrrreat. Can we hurry up with those alternative energy sources, please?
And things continue to destabilize in Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto has placed under what essentially amounts to house arrest (the military surrounded her house with barbed wire and barricades, beating back supporters who tried to remove the obstacles). Many members of Bhutto's political party have been arrested or placed under house arrest, news stations have been shut down, and some roads have been barricaded. Muhsarraf continues to state that parliamentary elections will be held in February, and that he will be stepping down as the country's military leader. Meanwhile, the U.S. is probably using its spy satellites and intelligence capabilities to keep as close an eye as possible on Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. And we're still backing Musharraf, who's apparently decided to remind the world why dictatorships are really a bad thing (even when the dictator tries to seem cute and friendly for awhile). You've got to love it when a nuclear power begins to destabilize.

Here's a pretty good piece by Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post about the distrust, resentment, and diappointment that many Americans feel for George W. Bush, and how they came to feel that way. Do some of his points sound familiar?

In news from the home front, we had Mono Ensemble practice last night with our favorite German band member, Frank Dresig. Frank lives in Dresden, Germany, with his wife and son (or at least I think he has just one son) and works for AMD (the current employer of our guitarist, Frank Skowronski and the former employer of our drummer, Reed Shaw). Anyway, he comes over here about once a year on business trips, and we made it a tradition a few years back for Frank to come and sit in on keyboards when he's here in the States. He's a good keyboard player, and he fits into the Ensemble pretty nicely. He also plays with a band of his own back in Dresden (he was telling me last night that there's not a very big music scene in Dresden, so his band has gotten put onto some compilation CDs and gotten some press in local papers without having to work at it exceptionally hard- he also played us some of the music his band has been working on, and it's pretty darn good. He might be selling himself short with the "no competition" story.) Frank's band in Dresden is called hiPhi, and he mostly plays the keytar (the portable keyboard in a sort of guitar shape that was most in vogue here in the U.S. back in the 80's, but which apparently is still going strong in Germany) with them (they have a cool, kind of funky sound, including some horns and occasionally some German rap). If you click on the link to hiPhi's web site, you can see Frank and his keytar in their photos. Anyway, it was good to see Frank again and fun to play with him. He invited us to come rock with him over in Dresden, so we're toying with the idea of cutting back on the limousines and caviar so that we can make the trip.

Well, I guess that's about it for now. Hope you guys have a good weekend, but maybe I'll talk at ya more later.