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.