Friday, August 31, 2007

Well, last night I accompanied my brother (aka, Ryan, Roundball, The League, and Slappy McGee) to a giant yearly clearance sale at Austin Books. Apparently this event is something like Christmas, New Year, and some kind of back to school sale all rolled into one for the comic reading crowd. It was kind of amazing to see, really, and you could tell by the buzz that the comic crowd felt that they had arrived at an event that was somewhat special. When we arrived there was a line of customers standing in the parking lot, each carrying a heavy arm load of comics and asking each other about what they had in their respective "stacks" (apparently some kind of slang term for the piles of comics that they were lugging around).
And the comics crowd is a strange group when you get them together, folks. It's kind of an assortment of different kinds of social misfits who got picked on or flatly ignored as outcasts in high school for various reasons, but once you put them in a room full of comics with one another, they all kind of blossom and spring to life with a newfound energy, empowered by the fact that they're among their own kind in an enviroment where they're not going to be persecuted or ridiculed for having a better knowledge of fantasy worlds than the real one (in fact, they can be confident that they will be congratulated and applauded for possessing such knowledge). There are probably a few undercurrents of snobbery, competitiveness, and one-up-manship among the comic elite, but at an event like last night's sale, where everyone is raking in a treasure trove of comics for bargain bin prices, the crowd, largely comprised of people who are probably often loners by habit, seemed pretty happy and collegial, interested in one another's purchases and willing to discuss one another's collections and interests in friendly tones. Anyway, a lot of these guys aren't really big on fashion, social niceties, or personal hygiene, but they can gleefully learn you about 3 generations of Justice League backstories faster than you can think of a reason to duck out of the conversation.
And the comic crowd is a fairly tightly knit subculture, apparently. I heard more than one group of people exchanging enthusiatic greetings like long-lost friends, and people discussing the fact that they hadn't seen each other since the last big comic convention. My own brother was singled out by one of the shop's employees as being the owner and operator of The League of Melbotis, my brother's blog site, on which he frequently posts about comic books, comic-related movies, and other stuff like that.
Anyway, it was a fun expedition, and I got a close-up look at a subculture of the local Austin community that one rarely sees outside of a movie theater or a comic con.
Other from the trip to Austin Books, there's not a lot going on. I'm ready for the Labor Day weekend. I'm shaking my head at the fact that the military angrily is demanding that the GAO revise reports that Iraq isn't meeting its security and stability goals, and meanwhile, we can't fly a plane full of senators and a congressman out of Iraq without almost having it shot down by insurgent rockets. There aren't any facts anymore. There's just spin.
Well, I gotta run, but maybe I'll rap at ya later. Peaceful weekend to all you Adventurers, if I don't talk to you before then.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Well, last night The Mono Ensemble held a rare mid-week practice to make up for the practice that we missed on Sunday when I was in Houston. Ordinarily we probably wouldn't have worried about missing a practice, but we've got our big roller disco party coming up in mid September before ACL Fest (details are coming soon on that, I promise, but keep your calendars clear for Thursday, September 13th). Anyway, the songs are taking shape and things are looking up for this roller skating soiree. Incidentally, the new amp performed quite respectably at practice, although I spent more of my time on bass than guitar. I look forward to experimenting with it some more and trying to get new sounds out of it as time goes on.

I probably shouldn't comment on it too much, given my job as a prosecutor and a county employee, but here in Austin the trial is currently underway for Laura Hall, the alleged accomplice of Colton Pitonyak, who is accused of having helped dismember Jennifer Cave's body and helping Pitonyak flee to Mexico following Cave's murder. Joe James Sawyer, a lawyer whom I've known for years and who I did a little bit of legal work for when I was first starting out, is representing Hall. Sawyer is one of those guys who just truly loves being a defense attorney. He's a natural born storyteller, a gifted bullsh*tter, and he loves a good fight. (Sawyer has been involved in a number of high profile cases since I started practicing in Austin, including Robert Springsteen from the yogurt shop murders). Anyway, I don't know how Hall's case is going to turn out, and it keeps taking strange twists and turns (the state has already produced a couple of witnesses who claim that Hall admitted to helping Pitonyak), but it sure makes for some fascinating reading. If I get some free moments I hope to sneak over to the courtroom to see a few minutes of the trial.

And there's a state report that came out this week that finds fault with Virginia Tech for the deaths of 32 of its students at the hands of Cho Seung-hui last April. The report primarily faults the university for not cancelling classes or locking down campus sooner, especially following the initial shooting of Cho's first two victims at around 7:00 a.m. in a dormitory. I find it understandable that people are angry and alarmed and frightened by the chain of events that led to this mass murder spree, but it sounds to me like there's a whole lot of armchair quarterbacking going on in this report, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the report is sort of meant to placate the families of the victims rather than provide an objective analysis of events. University officials may have been slow to react in terms of warning students once the killing spree began, but I really think they had no reason to presume that the first two murders in this case were anything other than an isolated incident at the time that they were committed, and university officials and police were in the process of trying to investigate and deal with those murders at the time that Cho went on his broader killing spree. In terms of predicting Cho's rampage, it's true that he had exhibited some signs of depression and frustration, but on a college campus I would say that such symptoms are fairly commonplace and typically don't end up indicating any particular propensity for violence (college students tend to be in a very transitional, developmental period of their lives, and I think it's pretty common for people in that age range to have difficulties as they struggle with issues of identity, social interaction, and academic ability). I guess I'm just rephrasing an old cliche, really- hindsight is 20/20. It's easy to second guess administrators after the fact, but are we really going to lock up or supervise every student who might have emotional difficulties? (by the way, students are probably going to be less likely to seek psychiatric help if they think that doing so will get them tagged as a potential mass murderer) Perhaps the school should have been locked down after the first two murders, but then again, do we really want to restrict the liberty of thousands of other students on campus and disrupt the productivity of an entire university every time there's an incident of domestic violence on campus? (and that's pretty much what the first incident looked like before Cho went on his later rampage- an isolated incident of domestic violence in which police erroneously thought they had a viable suspect. And I suspect that it wouldn't take long for students and faculty to start complaining if the whole university had to be shut down every time an incident of violence occurred on or around campus) It's true that there was a killer on the loose who had not been apprehended, but 99% of domestic violence offenders don't go on killing sprees that kill a bunch of strangers. And what if they had locked the campus down sooner? Is there any reason to think that Cho wouldn't have waited them out (there seems to have been a fair amount of time that passed between the first two killings and the later spree, anyway) or climbed through a window or something to get at other students?
Make no mistake about it- my sympathy goes out to the victims and their families, but I think that there's a bit of a witch hunt here. If anything, I think the university police at VT should have just been better trained and armed and quicker to respond once the shooting started. The civil libertarian in me is sort of loathe to admit it, but better video surveillance on campus probably would have been extremely helpful as well.
I don't know what the solution is. I just hope that Cho's final victims aren't Virginia Tech administrators who get tagged with the blame for this thing after having already suffered through an emotionally wrenching tradgedy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hey there. Hump day. Not a lot going on. I watched about 3 episodes of Deadwood last night and didn't do much else. My stomach was kind of out of wack, so I stayed holed up in my house and just waited to feel better.
I don't feel too much like writing lately, but maybe that'll blow over, too.
The two year anniversary of Hurricanes Katrina is today. I visited New Orleans earlier this year for The Police concert, and the French Quarter and large parts of downtown are mostly back to normal. I asked some of the employees at our hotel about the hurricane damage and how the repair effort was going, and they offered to get me a bus ticket to head out to some of the wards that had been truly devastated by the flooding. They explained that they had a "happy tour" for tourists that visited only the areas that had been undamaged or which had already been repaired, and a "sad tour" that visited the poorer areas of the city which had gotten wrecked, but which hadn't really benefitted from the rebuilding effort. The guy at the desk explained that they didn't really sell a lot of tickets for the "sad tour".
Anyway, it sounds like New Orleans continues to change and evolve in the wake of the hurricane. A number of young professionals have immigrated to the town in the post-Katrina reconstruction era, seeing the rebuilding effort as something of an opportunity to develop new lives and new careers, but they're a small segment of the city's overall population, and they're not likely to replace the 40% of the population which fled following Katrina and haven't returned. The murder rate in New Orleans continues to skyrocket, even with the city's reduced population, and reconstruction continues at a pace which feels frustratingly slow to many of the city's residents. I was in Houston with my folks over the weekend, and there were stories on the news in which reporters were literally traveeling around Houston and asking Katrina refugees whether they didn't think it was about time that they packed up their things and moved back to New Orleans (Houston has suffered an increased crime rate in recent years, and Katrina refugees have been blamed, rightly or wrongly, for adding to growing problems with theft, robbery, and violent crime). Incidentally, most of the Katrina refugees that I saw them talk to said they didn't really have any plans to return to New Orleans.
I'm not sure why I'm blogging about all of this except that I really like New Orleans (I think it's one of the most interesting places in the country, in terms of the way that its history blends so intricately and uniquely with its culture), and it just bothers me to know that it's probably never really going to be the same as it was before Katrina. It also drives me nuts to know that the levees still aren't capable of truly protecting the city, and that New Orleans remains just as susceptible to hurricanes today as it was back in 1995. (we can blow an insane amount of money on some pointless war, but we can't protect one of our oldest cities)
That's it. Sorry to be a downer. That's what happens when I have to stretch in order to find something to blog about.
Hope you guys have a good day.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

So it's back to work after a 4 day break. The break was good. I needed it.

Ryan and I went to Kerbey Lane for dinner last night. We exchanged stories of our weekends, and Ryan laid out the basic story behind King of Kong, the documentary about Donkey Kong contestants that he saw this weekend. Other from that I rocked out on my new amp and messed up my wireless router while trying to reconfigure the security settings.

So Alberto Gonzales resigned. I think that his resignation is a minor victory, at best, for Democrats. Alberto Gonzales may have been pretty incompetent, but his involvement in the White House's wiretap program and his participation in the politically motivated dismissals of a number of U.S. attorneys are all issues on which he ultimately got his marching orders from the White House. The Democrats got themselves a rook or a bishop on this- not a queen or a king- and I don't think Gonzales's resignation is going to get investigators any closer to discovering the truth behind these activities.

Well, I'm kind of busy today, and not very inspired at the moment. Maybe I'll blog more later. If you feel shortchanged you can check out my posts from yesterday. Hope you guys are having a good one.

Monday, August 27, 2007

This is my rig. There are many like it, but this one is mine...

Actually, there aren't that many like it. I've got a Rickenbacker 330, and I just picked up a brand spankin' new Vox AC30 Custom Classic amp (I'm pretty gun shy about buying new equipment, so this is a big deal for me). Thanks to The Admiral for bearing with me on my purchase expedition. I must master my rig as I must master my life...

Weekend in Spring

I went to Spring this weekend to visit my parents and to see the Thweatts (Lee, Sarah, Joe, Jacob, Henry, and John). I've known Lee and his brother, Joe, since sixth grade. I met Sarah when she and Lee started dating when I was a sophomore at Trinity. The rugrats, Jacob, Henry, and John, came later.
Cassidy and I stopped on the way over to Spring to take a look at the Brazos River. I've passed over the Brazos a hundred times, but I've never stopped to really check it out before. Seemed worth a stop, but Cassidy and I got bogged down in some mud along the river bank.

Karebear and The Admiral at Mamacita's Mexican restaurant on Friday night.

To the right, Jacob Thweatt explains the importance of goggles.

Jacob and Henry in my parents' pool.
And Karebear poses with the Simpson clan when we went to see the latest Harry Potter movie on Sunday (I'd already seen the Simpsons movie).
Anyway, it was a nice, relaxing weekend, and it was really good to see both my parents and the Thweatts.
I also got a new Vox amplifier for my guitar while I was down there. (about $200 cheaper than Austin! Score!)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hello. Hope everyone's doing okay. Steanso's motoring off to Houston tomorrow to visit family and friends, so this might be his last post this week. We'll see.
Anyhoo, last night I went down and had dinner with Ryan and Jamie at the Jason's Deli in the new Southpark Meadows shopping center. It was kind of strange to go to Southpark, because I remember Jeff going into conniptions when they tore down the old concert venue out there (one of Jeff's favorites) to start putting in parking lots and retail stores (I only saw one show at Southpark Meadows, myself, and wasn't all that crazy about it). Anyway, now it's just a big strip mall shopping center. If someone were to just drop you off in that place without telling you where you were at, I doubt you'd be able to differentiate it from hundreds, if not thousands, of other similar strip shopping malls from across the country. Kind of sad. But awfully convenient.
Other from that, it was a slow night. Watched some more of Deadwood's third season. I really dig that show, and it bums me out to know that I'm finishing out the last episodes. Do I really want to live in a world without Al Swearingen?
But that's about it. In a typical move which attempts to not only mislead the public about the Iraq War, but which attempts to recharacterize the effects of America's involvement in the Vietnam War as well, George Bush has begun to draw comparisons between our possible withdrawal from Iraq and the supposedly horrible problems that we supposedly created by withdrawing from Vietnam. It truly is fascinating to watch our White House at work. For years Bush has been denying and vehemently refuting any comparisons between the Iraq War and Vietnam, stating that he just didn't see any parallels between those two wars and that World War II was a much better comparison to Iraq in terms of the challenges which we now face. Of course, now that we're trying to figure out how to resolve this stiuation in which we're occupying a foreign nation halfway across the globe and fighting an interminable war of counterinsurgency against a largely indigenous enemy- now that we're trying to come up with ways to extricate ourselves, Bush suddenly not only sees the parallels to Vietnam, but he's willing to rewrite history in order to recharacterize our leaving that country as our single greatest mistake of the Vietnam War. "Ignorance is Strength," right, George? Dear lord. I can just picture the man sitting in a bar with a cold beer in his hand on one of the rare weekends when he showed up for his Air Force reserve duty (which he squeaked into despite scoring in the bottom 25th percentile on his aptitude tests), watching coverage of the Vietnam War on television and bitching about the cowards who were discussing whether it was time for us to leave. It's good that we have a man with military experience serving as president. Fills him with insight.

Anyway, I do have concerns about the way that we leave Iraq and the condition that we leave the country and its people in, but we need to get out. Seriously.

That's about it for now. Maybe more later. Maybe.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Howdy. I'm pretty busy today, and the blogger program has been giving me trouble (I think they might be working on their servers). Anyway, I'll keep my post relatively short. Not much to report on, anyway. I did watch an interesting program on KLRU last night called Water's Edge about flooding and flood damage, particularly in Texas. The show focused on the fact that a lot of people have a vested interest in building and continuing to rebuild homes that are in flood plains (the construction industry likes the business, government officials like the tax revenues generated by people living close to the water, and the insurance industry just defrays the cost by spreading out the cost of claims amongst other insured people throughout the country). Anyway, the program was interesting. New Braunfels was specifically mentioned because their representatives have managed to get the official flood plain along the Guadalupe River basin lowered significantly below the recommendations proposed by the federal government (I can't remember specifics, but I want to say it was a difference of at least ten feet or more) so that homes could be built in that area (which is kind of crazy when you realize that homeowners have had to repeatedly collect flood insurance money and federal disaster relief funds in order to repeatedly rebuild in an area that had initially been described as too dangerous to build in in the first place- the documentary said that the new "100 year flood plain" that the Comal County reps had come up with had already flooded something like 6 or 7 times since the 1970s). The documentary showed a bunch of proud New Braunfels residents declaring that they weren't going to let the repeated flooding force them to relocate, but if people are determined to live in an area where their homes are going to repeatedly have to be rebuilt, the rest of us probably shouldn't be forced to bear the cost (either through tax dollars or insurance costs). Texas leads the nation in flooding deaths, and flooding is one of the few natural disasters in which the number of deaths that we suffer continues to increase, mostly due to increasing numbers of people who continue to build homes and roads in areas which are known to be be prone to flooding.
So much for keeping this post relatively short. Ciao.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Jim Dedman sent me this Youtube link about the ongoing war of words between Mitt Romney and Billiam the Snowman. While it's difficult to say whether Billiam or Romney is currently more popular with American voters, one thing has become abundantly clear. Mitt Romney is an unapologetic anti-snowmanite . Thank you, Jim, for bringing this alarming piece of news to our attention.

Many Happy Returns!

And my dad is not always totally fond of appearing on the Steans brothers' blogs, but I just can't resist....

Happy Birthday, Admiral!!!!

He's a pretty darn good father! Hope you have a great day, Dad!

Hurricanes, Virus of the Fatties, and DWI

Hey. S'up? What are you guys up to out there?
Last night I figured out that my ACL Fest "printpasses" were never emailed to me (the email tickets that they send you after you pay for your tickets). I sent Frontgate an email with my receipt number (which is annoying- why didn't they just email the tickets with the receipt?), so hopefully I'll hear back from them today.
I didn't really do anything last night. Ate some pizza with Ryan and Jamie and watched a couple episodes of Mythbusters. Roundball is fascinated with that show. I tend to question whether the experiments that they perform really confirm or discredit the plausibility of myths that they're testing (the myths are things that tend to be urban legends- like the electrical discharge from your cell phone causing a fire at a gas pump or jumping at the last second in a falling elevator will save you when it hits the ground), but it's undeniably fun to watch them create explosions and fires and stuff.
Hurricane Dean has come ashore in Mexico and is smashing up some of my favorite vacation spots even as I write this. I've vacationed down there in Cancun, Cozumel, and Playa del Carmen, and it's a real drag to know that those areas are getting hit so hard (and not just the buildings, but the coral reefs and wildlife as well). On the other hand, some of those areas are getting pretty overdeveloped. Maybe a few big hurricanes will give some developers pause as they continue to build bigger and bigger resorts down there at such a breakneck pace. Unfortunately, though, it'll probably just end up being the poor locals who suffer the brunt of the damage as their homes gets wrecked and they don't have any insurance to help them rebuild. I'll wait and see, but this may be another time when a donation to the Red Cross might be in order.
They also announced yesterday that there may be a virus (adenovirus-36) which contributes to obesity by causing the production of fat cells among infected individuals. Of course, there's no cure for viruses, so the finding doesn't do much to help people who are infected and overweight. Even if you're infected, the best way to fight obesity is still just exercise and calorie control. There's a possibility that a vaccine could be developed in coming years which would cut down on infection and reduce obesity rates, though.
And apparently Michael Vick has decided to plead guilty to those charges involving dogfighting. I think he needs to do some jail time in order to send a message that this sort of animal cruelty is absolutely unacceptable. As for his career in the NFL, I actually wouldn't mind if they let him play again once he's taken care of obligations relating to his sentence, but I think the NFL ought to require Vick to do some public service work on behalf of abused or neglected animals, and they ought to take a significant percentage of his paycheck away from him and donate it to the Humane Society or the ASPCA for the remainder of his career if he is allowed to continue to play.
And last, but definitely not least, statistics were released this week showing that Texas led the country in its number of DWI deaths last year. To be honest, this doesn't surprise me. Most people who know me or who are familiar with this blog know that I lost one of my best friends, Jeff Wilson, to a drunk driving accident last year, and in addition, as a prosecutor here in Austin I work day in and day out on DWI cases (DWI cases probably comprise about 80% of what I currently do). The sad truth is that despite the long term PR and public education campaign, the public still doesn't take drinking and driving all that seriously in Texas. People love to drink (it's one of our favorite recreational activities), and they refuse to be inconvenienced by having to find an alternate form of transportation (calling a cab, appointing a designated driver, calling a friend to pick them up, or whatever). Equally problematic is the extremely high level of denial that we see among people who've been drinking. People don't keep track of how much they've had to drink or they minimize how much they've had to drink, and they tend to downplay the effects that alcohol has had on them after they've been drinking (they'll admit that drinking and driving is a bad thing, but when push comes to shove, they'll never admit that they ever feel intoxicated or feel the effects of alcohol). You don't have to be smashed in order to be intoxicated, people- you just have to have lost the normal use of your faculties. It's not drunk driving- it's driving while intoxicated. You don't have to be falling down drunk or throwing up in order to kill someone- you only have to lose control of your car for a split second. To be honest, my personal feelings are that there should be a zero tolerance policy, and that people should receive penalties for driving if they've had any amount of alcohol to drink. It's not that I think people can't drive after one drink, but I just think we ought to take the guesswork about intoxication out of the equation. That way people wouldn't have this gray area where they're too intoxicated to drive, but still insist that they're "fine". But the alchol/liquor lobby is too strong, so I doubt we'll adopt such measures anytime soon.

Anyway, Texas is way behind the curve in terms of taking DWI seriously. We were one of the last states to make it illegal to drink while driving or to have open containers in our cars, and we still don't have DWI checkpoints (and I've heard people complain about the possibility of checkpoints- but c'mon, people- we're number one in the nation now for DWI fatalities. Obviously our drinkers are not stepping up to take responbility on their own for keeping the roads safe, and something has to be done).
Just call a freaking cab people. Vote for light rail. Step up and volunteer to be the designated driver for your friends. Tell your friends to call you if they ever need a ride. Drink at home, and invite your friends to spend the night once they've had a few (it's always fun to get breakfast the next day, anyway). I'm not here to make a plea for prohibition- I just don't want people getting behind the wheel after they've been drinking.
It drives me nuts to know that Jeff's death contributed to this problem and the statistics which have put Texas at number one for DWI fatalities. 1,354 deaths (in Texas alone). If a terrorist attack in this country killed that many people, we'd be at war in a heartbeat. I work on prosecuting these cases all day long every day at work, but to be honest, the problem is never going to get better until there's a public shift in our attitudes about consuming alcohol and then getting behind the wheel.
That's it. Peace.
Have fun. Play safe.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Also, I think I fixed the link to The Five Minute Drill (Sigmund's internet football show) and added it to my Hot Links. Try it out again if it didn't work for you before.
Oh yeah. I want to take a second to wish good riddance to Karl Rove. As a political advisor to George W. Bush, Karl Rove has managed to bring a sort of third world, "I got mine, so screw the rest of 'em" mentality to the White House that I never would have believed possible in this country. He's turned the democratic process into a campaign of misinformation, fear mongering, ignorance cultivation, and separationism in a way that truly makes me wonder if this country will ever again see an election that is fought on the basis of competition between ideas rather than as an active and disingenuous manipulation of the public. Dogma as talking points, biggotry disguised as "protection of the American family", and a national arrogance bordering on fascism (that's been passed off as patriotism) have been the hallmarks of Rove's work, and I couldn't be happier to hear that the man is leaving the White House. I've heard several pundits maintain recently that Rove isn't even really a very strong conservative. He's far more interested in just manipulating the public in order to win political battles than he is interested in advancing or advocating any specific ideology or set of priniciples (i.e., he doesn't care all that much about fiscal conservativism, religious fundamentalism, or the safeguarding of America's place as a world leader on the international stage- he just wants his friends to gain power and help make more money for other friends).
Anyway, as Rove conducts his exit interviews while leaving the White House this week, he continues to attack his enemies- Hillary Clinton foremost amongst them. Unfortunately, Rove is a lot of things, but he's not stupid, and I think the he still makes an interesting point when he highlights Clinton's high negative numbers in the Gallup Poll as a substantial obstacle to her campaign. Lots of people actively dislike Hillary, and she's going to have a built in base of resentment from a lot of voters in this country- people who lean a little to the right, but who might still be persuaded to vote for a Barack Obama (they already know and dislike Hillary after having gotten to know her during the Clinton years, but they might be willing to give this new guy a chance). On the other hand, Rove seems to feel the need to repeatedly and consistently attack Hillary, and maybe that means that he senses something to fear in her. But just as likely is the possibility that Rove's just one of those people who harbors a strong, deep dislike for the woman. It'll be interesting to see how things play out.
The weekend was ok. Friday night I really didn't do a whole lot. I listened to music, played guitar, and watched some show about ancient Sparta on PBS (which was kind of fascinating- somehow the tradition of pederasty which was apparently common within the Spartan legions didn't quite make it into the ultra-macho depiction of the Spartan warriors seen in the movie 300). Saturday I woke up, mowed the lawn, and went down to Gus Fruh with Ryan, Cassidy, and Mel (Ryan met some Venezuelans and ate their watermelon) while Jamie went to some kind of modern dance class with Carla. Saturday night we went to see Superbad, which turned out to be one of the funniest movies that I've seen in a really long time (which was cool, because they had been showing the previews for so long that I had already gotten kind of sick of the movie before it ever came out. Turned out that the movie was actually much funnier than the previews for once, though). Sunday I went and ran errands and had lunch, once again with Team Steans. We went out just to pick up a few things, but kind of forgot about the fact that it was "tax free weekend" for back to school shopping. It was kind of a zoo out there. Then last night we had Mono E practice, which was good.
Hurricane Dean looks like it's going to tear up Mexico, but it looks like it's not going to come anywhere near striking the Texas coast. Nonetheless, the news channel that I watched this morning spent about 70% of their time covering the storm and discussing "what if" scenarios regarding the storm's landing in Texas, despite the fact that none of their computer models predict that it will come anywhere near us.
That's about it. I can't believe it's Monday already. The weekends go by way too quickly.
Have a good one.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Friday, August 17, 2007

Hey. It's Friday. I'm glad it's Friday. This has been kind of a weak week.
I hope you guys have a good weekend.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Five Minute Drill

Hey! I just wanted to take a second to plug a new internet video short program featuring a good friend of mine and fellow Crack member, Sigmund Bloom. Sigmund knows an awful lot about football, and he and his friend Cecil have put together a weekly five minute football analysis program called The Five Minute Drill. The program is specifically designed for hardcore fantasy football fans, and it appears to contain some real insights into the value of various professional football players (I say appears because I know next to nothing about football, so they could easily just be duping me). Sigmund and Cecil have already got an audio-only podcast program called The Audible which has recently been ranked among the top 50 podcasts on iTunes. In addition, Sigmund writes for NFL Draft Guys, a site which has already been listed for some time as one of my featured links over there on the right hand side of my blog page.
Anyway, check out Sigmund's show, especially if you're a football fan, but also if you just want to gamble a bunch of money on fantasy football, but don't know much about it.
Hey there. Well, Tropical Storm Erin has been downgraded to Tropical Depression Erin, and she's arrived in Central Texas to dump some more water on our heads (and just in time, too- with the recent weather we've been having I was coming dangerously close to having to water my yard). Anyway, it's nice to have a bit of rain again to keep everything green, but let's hope we don't end up with a bunch of flooding or other ridiculousness.
I had dinner last night with Jamie and Mandy (Ryan was working late) at Southside Flying Pizza. The food was good (we each got personnel pizzas, so we could get whatever we wanted on them and not have to argue about ingredients), and it was nice to have dinner with the ladies. I like Southside. It's kind of fun to go to a low-key neighborhood pizzeria. Nothing fancy, but the food is good.
Also, I watched The Most Dangerous Game last night. It's a 1932 movie starring Fay Wray and Joel McCrea based on a short story by Richard Connell about a crazed hunter who takes to hunting human shipwreck survivors on his private island. I remember putting Dangerous Game into my Netflix cue because it was referenced in some other movie, but now I can't remember which movie it was discussed in (I think it must have been Zodiac). Anyway, for being a movie from 1932, Dangerous Game had some genuinely scary moments and manages to build some real tension as McCrea and Wray struggle to escape Count Zaroff (played by a pretty creepy Leslie Banks).
And let's hear it for Lloyd Godson, who just finished a 13 day stay in a closed-system underwater living enviroment on the bottom of an Australian lake. Godson's underwater home featured a "biocoil" filled with water and algae which processed carbon dioxide out of the air and converted it into oxygen. Pretty cool. I want to be an aquanaut. I'm pretty sure Andy F. would come visit me if I lived underwater.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I was reading some article yesterday (I honestly can't remember where- maybe in Newsweek?) where the writer was bemoaning the fact that sites like blogs, MySpace, and Facebook all tend to feed into some kind of narcissistic impulse on the parts of their owners. It kind of got me thinking. Is that right? Maybe it is. After all, who really wants to know what I do on a day to day basis or what I have for dinner or who I eat it with?
On the other hand, I've never pretended that this blog was anything more than a sort of online diary or journal. I don't force anyone to read this thing, and I certainly don't get my feelings hurt if people don't keep up with it. I think it's sort of therapeutic to keep some record of what I'm doing, and to occasionally rant or vent about things that are bothering me. Also, I like being able to go back and see what I was doing on a certain day a year ago. It's kind of cool.
Anyway, the blog may be a little narcissistic, but I think it's pretty harmless, and sometimes genuinely helpful (in addition to simply blathering on on a daily basis, I've found old friends through the blog, conveyed information to people about certain important events, and helped to keep my friends updated about newsworthy happenings through the blog).
So I guess the blog is staying. At least for awhile. You guys love to know what I've had for dinner each night, right?

So, getting back to the narcissistic accounting of my day to day events, I went over to Carla's house last night with Jamie and Ryan. She and her husband, David, have a pretty amazing house in Travis Heights (although David is working on the east coast right now and is in town only on weekends, so he wasn't there last night). We brought Thai food from Madam Ma'am's, and Carla made something that she called peach pudding (although part of it had a pudding consistency, it was also breaded and had peaches in the bottom- very good!!!). We spent much of dinner coming up with ideas and themes for an internet video show for Ryan (theoretically it's to be centered around comic books, but we're trying to keep it lively- there's a good possibility Ryan will need to assume an alternate identity while hosting the show).

Other from that, not too much to report. I've started watching Season 3 of Deadwood on DVD. I'd forgotten how foul mouthed and surly most of the characters are on that show (they're all kind of at each other's throats in Deadwood). Watching the third season is a little disheartening because I know that the show got cancelled after this season. It really is a great show, with characters and dialogue much more akin to something that you typically find in a good book rather than on a television show. The dialogue is so multi-layered, complex, and nuanced (cursing and cussing aside) that I often find myself watching the show with the captions on- just to be sure that I haven't missed anything that they've said.
Anyway, I'm enjoying this last season, even if I know it's drawing to a close.

That's it. I hope you guys are having a good day.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Here's a New York Times column about the possibility that we're all just living inside a computer simulation, and, more importantly, about the implications of such a possibility. Such ideas aren't new (having been explored in a variety of source materials, from the writings of Descartes to the science fiction of Tron and The Matrix), but as our computer technology grows more and more advanced, these ideas begin to seem more and more plausible. Anyway, I thought that the linked article was a pretty entertaining bit of armchair philosophy. I mostly just want to know whether there are other simulations out there that are more fun than the one I'm in (it might be fun to spend a lifetime as a noncorporeal being, possessing a different sensation of time and space than that experienced by humans, or it might be nice to exist in a reality devoid of pain or suffering for awhile). Anyhoo, this article just brought out some of the old philosophy student in me, so I thought I'd link it.
Hope everyone's doing ok. I'm not going to really make much of a post today. Had dinner with Ryan and Jamie last night and watched the premier of Flash Gordon on the Sci Fi channel. I think that all three of us were pretty underwhelmed by it (poor writing, acting, directing- there are a lot of reasons this show is mediocre).
Anyway, go read Roundballs' blog. He's got a post on there that's interesting, if a bit confusing, about being a child-free American.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Howdy. It's Monday, and I'm a little tired, but I'm here. The weekend was pretty good. Friday was Ween at Stubb's, and it was a pretty rockin' show. The band went pretty deep into the vault and pulled out some of their more obscure material (earlier and lesser known stuff). The crowd was comprised of pretty hardcore Ween fans who seemed to know and greatly appreciate all of the material (I knew a lot of it, but by no means all of it), so I think Ween came to the right town to play a show where they were gonna play some of their more esoteric stuff. (I say they came to the right town for this kind of show, but it's worth mentioning that Ween seems to have begun to build up a fairly large contingent of fans who are following the band around- I talked to several people at the show who had come to Austin from various places out of state to hear the show, and being the fanatical Ween followers that they were, they were all pretty excited to hear some songs on Friday night that Ween rarely plays live). They also played a mini acoustic set, and that was pretty darn cool. Anyway, it was a cool show. (I mean that figuratively- it was actually pretty hot at the show)
Saturday The Admiral and Karebear rolled into town. We went to lunch with them at Trudy's, but then they motored off again to go look at houses (potential retirement properties for when Dad hangs up his bean counting abacus in a couple of years) and to play with some of their friends who live out on Lake Travis.
Saturday night I attended a graduation party for Vikki. Vikki just graduated from grad school at St. Ed's (some kind of human resources program, but you would have to ask her for specifics), so her parents came to town for her graduation, and Dan threw her a nice party (with the help of Vicki Ashley and some other people). Andy and Rami were there, and Andy taught everyone about the importance of owning an iPhone.
Sunday the Steans family gathered once again for a lunch at the south Maudie's down on Slaughter Lane. It sounds like Mum and Dod have found a property that they're interested in, at least, but the area they're looking in still hasn't been developed, so they've still got a few kinks to work out. After lunch, the parents took off, and I hung out over at Roundball's place and screwed around for a long time until band practice.
Mono Ensemble practice was pretty good. We're still working on preparations for that roller disco party on September 13th.
And that's it. I cant' believe it's Monday again. These weekends go by way too fast.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday. I've got a ticket to see Ween tonight at Stubb's. Karebear and The Admiral are rolling into town for an early celebration of The Admiral's birthday tomorrow (his birthday isn't until the 21st, but we're celebrating tomorrow, I guess).
Last night Jamie made pork tenderloin, and I got to eat some. I brought a salad that I bought at Central Market. Cassidy brought nothing, spent most of the evening attacking Lucy, barked the whole time that we were watching TV, and then immediately passed out when we got home. We watched another episode of Who Wants to Be a Superhero? on Sci Fi. I have a small crush on Basura. (she's good looking, seems cool, and yet she's still enough of a geek to be on this show- what's not to like?) The show is pretty stupid, and yet like so much reality television, somehow captivating at the same time. We also watched a wee bit of the Cowboys v. Colts preseason game. I say this every year in August, but I can't believe there's football on already.

Well, not much of a post, but maybe I'll write more later. If not, I hope you guys have a good Friday and a nice weekend.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Howdy. Well, I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but I've got this lady who cleans my house. (It's not that I'm all that averse to cleaning- but it's just not how I want to spend my free time on my weekends). Well, I had one lady, Maria, but she kind of disappeared on me, so yesterday was my first day with my new lady- Lourdes. Lourdes did a really great job cleaning my house, and she's a really nice lady, but when I got home last night she was still at my place, finishing up with the cleaning, and I was kind of shocked to find her car still parked in my driveway- shocked because it turns out that her car is a Lexus. Now I'm not saying Lourdes's Lexus was brand spanking new or anything, but still- here's my cleaning lady driving a high end luxury car, and I come wheeling into the driveway in my wheezing, gasping, beat up, eight year old Honda compact that's been in two full on collisions and at least one parking lot fender bender. Three years of law school. I shoulda been cleaning houses. (I'm joking. Lourdes works really hard, and I could care less about driving a Lexus, but still, the whole thing just felt kind of ironic, especially since I carry a certain amount of bourgeoisie guilt about having a cleaning lady in the first place. I think that in some very teensy way that Lourdes's Lexus helped to assuage my guilt and helped to restore a bit of my faith in the effectiveness of the American capitalist system. A teensy bit.)
Other from that, it was kind of a slow night. I went over to Fort Fanboy after work (I like that one. Think I'm gonna go with it for awhile) and watched some show with Jamie about some woman in Africa who had a giant tumor removed from her face that was so big that it had destroyed some of her skull bones and pushed one eye of its eye socket. The show turned out to be pretty depressing because they were only partially able to rebuild the woman's face, and she died shortly after they finished filing the show.
After that we went out to eat Chinese food at Hao Hao. Ryan doesn't like going to Hao Hao very much because the ladies at Hunan, the Chinese place across the street from Hao Hao, are very nice and they always remember us and greet us with enthusiasm. Jamie and I both like the food quite a bit better at Hao Hao, though, and when we went into Hao Hao last night, the lady who runs the place remembered us as regulars and talked to us quite a bit. She's really nice, and the place definitely has a family feel (there are several kids, presumably the owner's, who are always in there playing videogames on a TV in the corner of the restaurant when we go in for dinner. They've got a Wii, and I think Ryan's itching to challenge them to a game). Anyway, I think Roundball's warming up to Hao Hao. Slowly. Our food last night was good.

That's about it. I started watching the movie of Slaughterhouse Five last night, too ("I have come unstuck in time"). I read the book sometime in late high school or early college, but I can't remember very much of it, and I've never seen the movie. Maybe I should be rereading the book instead of watching the movie, but I can always do that after I've seen the film, right? (Movies typically seem to kind of pale in comparison to the books, so I think I'm better off watching the movie first.)

Okay. Gotta run. You guys play nice.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Hola amigos! I know it's been awhile since I rapped at ya, but Steanso has been real busy.

Okay. Not really. (Did anyone get that opening reference? Maybe there should be a prize...)

Last night I dined with Roundball and McSteans at their place (which is desperately crying out for some sort of title- The Logy Lounge? Fort Fanboy? I'm not sure...). Jamie made a steak salad. Now, to be honest, initally when she told me we were having salad for dinner I was a little skeptical. But it was steak salad with Jamie's famous wonderbread to go with it, and it was pretty darn good.

I also finally finished watching Zodiac last night, and I really enjoyed it. It was an adaptation of Robert Graysmith's book about the Zodiac killer from the '60's and '70's. David Fincher directed the movie (who, I have to admit, is on the short list of my favorite directors), and I just thought he did a really good job. The movie focuses more on the people who were involved with investigating the Zodiac than it does upon the Zodiac himself (maybe because the actual Zodiac killer was never actually arrested or forced to stand trial), but the movie still provides some genuinely chilling scenes when depicting the killer. Anyway, the cinematography and the acting in the movie are both really strong, and the movie does a good job of conveying the sense that the Zodiac killings became part of the cultural identity for a portion of California for a couple of decades. Anyway, I just thought the movie approached its subject in an interesting (and very realistic) way, and I thought Fincher pulled off a serial killer movie which didn't feel stale (a challenging feat, given how many movies have been made on the subject). I liked the fact that there were no car chases or cheesy "final showdowns" between the investigators and their target. The film felt somewhat stylized, but still consistently realistic. Anyhoo, it's worth checking it out if you haven't seen it.

Other from that, I don't have too much news. I feel badly for those miners trapped in Utah. My grandfather on my mom's side (Grandpa Johnson) was an iron ore miner for most of his adult life, and I think about him when I hear about these mining catastrophes. He lived into his nineties, but I remember him showing me pictures of his friends from the mine and telling me about how many of them had been killed in cave ins, accidents with explosives, and so forth. I also remember him talking about the mining union and how they had made things somewhat safer for the miners. Grandpa was a good Democrat. ;)

Well, that's it for now. I'll rap at ya later.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

I went and saw Hairspray last night with Ryan and Jamie. It was pretty good. John Travolta in drag is kind of funny and disturbing at the same time. Some lady behind us kept talking pretty loudly, so we actually wrote a note to our waiter on the little service cards like they tell you to do during the previews, and he went over and told her to shut up. It was sort of gratifying since like 3 people had already tried to shush her (to which she responded by audibly grumbling about how she didn't need to be quiet if she didn't want to).
So that was about it for last night. Ryan and Jamie brought Mel and Lucy over to play, and they managed to pretty much wear Cassidy out while we were at the movie.

I'm not feeling super excited about posting lately, so I'll sign off for now and see if inspiration strikes later. Hope you guys are doing okay.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The weekend was pretty good. I saw several movies, and I made a couple of trips to the greenbelt. I spent some quality time with Cassidy, and I had a few meals with Ryan and Jamie (they even went down to Gus Fruh with me on Sunday). Last night we had Mono E practice, and we continued to rehearse for our roller disco party in September. Bad things keep happening that I can barely comprehend. But they're mostly not happening here, so lately I've been working on various methods of tuning them out.

On Saturday I was driving back from the greenbelt when summer finally kind of dawned on me. I was sitting at a stop sign on Barton Skyway when this high school girl rolled up next to me with her windows down in a Volvo. Cassidy and I were still wet with the creek water and it was hot out. This girl was smoking a cigarette and was obviously deep in thought, probably working out the relationship calculus of an unbelievably complex circle of teenage friends, and I noticed that she was eating a snow cone with one hand while driving and clutching her cigarette with the other. For some inexplicable reason she had "Life in the Fastlane" blaring out of her windows.
There was something quintessentially "summer" about the whole scene, and that was all it took. It may have set in far earlier without my noticing it (it had seemed like springtime for an awfully long while), but in that moment that I realized that I was hip deep into the summer of 2007.
I think that all of the rain had let it sneak up on me.

Anyway, I hope you guys have been enjoying your summer. Don't let it slip past you.


Sunday, August 05, 2007

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Hey. Well, I still don't have a whole lot to report on, but I can't drop the ball on making a post two days in a row, I suppose.
Last night I had dinner with Ryan and Jamie at Suzi's. They brought the cousin dogs, Mel and Lucy, over to my house to run around in my back yard with Cassidy while we were at dinner. These doggie playdates really help keep Cassidy from going insane, particularly when she's been locked up in the house a lot because of rain and the possibility thereof.

I couldn't sleep last night. Kind of strange because I felt sort of tired at certain times during the day, but then when I lay down to go to sleep I was wide awake with different things running through my head.

I was happy to see that the House managed to pass a new children's health plan. It's supposed to insure something like 4 million additional low income kids while raising the federal tax on cigarettes. (How can anyone afford to smoke those things anymore? It must be cheaper to be hooked on crack) Some Republicans jumped up and down and opposed the bill (mostly because of its impact on the tobacco industry), but the bill won the endorsement of the American Medical Association. Anyhoo, it's nice to see the Democrats putting together some moderate victories (it was good to get an increase in the minimum wage, too, even though it probably wasn't enough enough).

And those wiley Russians have managed to plant one of their country's flags on the seafloor at the north pole, apparently in an attempt to help solidify their claims to oil, land and mineral rights in the region (the U.S., Canada, and Denmark all have competing claims in that same region). I'm not sure about the legal ramifications of planting the flag, but the whole operation, completed with the help of powerful icebreaker ships and mini submarines, fills me with kind of a nostalgic sense of adventure. (Wasn't the U.S. better off when we were hip deep in the space race- cranking out new inventions and making new discoveries at breakneck speed while in competition with foreign nations? Certainly seemed better than spending our money and resources invading rival nations and trying to occupy them against their will.) Anyway, the Russians are supposed to conduct some experiments and research while whirring about under the ice in their submarines, but one of the main goals of the expedition was undoubtedly to lend some weight to their claims on the oil in the area. Good for them. Better to go hunt for oil under the ice at the top of the world than to invade a sovereign nation in the middle east and take the oil from its people.

Well, I guess that's it for now. Condolences to the victims of that bridge collapse in Minneapolis. How bizarre and scary. I'll be curious to hear why the structure failed once they have a chance to investigate.

Take care.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

I have nothing to post about today. Posting every day and coming up with stuff to talk about on a daily basis isn't all that easy (a fact that I'm afraid I have made abundantly clear by making many posts that really didn't talk about anything). Therefore, today I free you Adventurers to spend your normal blog reading time on more productive activities (I don't know- go feed some pigeons or smell some flowers or something).