Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Off to London

Just a quick post to let everyone know that I'm headed off to London tomorrow. I'm not sure why I'm even telling everyone this except to say that the blogging may be a little spotty for the next few days. On the other hand, if I have access to a computer while on my trip I may try to post something (or even from my iPhone, possibly). I'm travelling with Ryan and my dad on this trip and really looking forward to it. I really can't remember a time when the Steans men all took a trip together (I've travelled to Honduras with just my dad and to Costa Rica with just my brother, but this is the first time with both of them, I think). On a slightly less excited note, this is going to be the longest time I've been apart from Amy since we started dating, so that's going to be weird (it's also a little weird to be leaving my mom behind on a family trip, but she's been visiting friends and will actually be in Austin and hanging out a bit with Amy and Jamie over the weekend). Anyway, I guess that's it. Hope everyone is doing well!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Veterans Court

Fox 7 did a story about the Travis County Veterans Court this week. My boss, David Escamilla, is in the piece, along with Judge Denton, who heads up the court, and Maria Canchola, Constable for Precinct 4, who was instrumental in getting the whole thing going. We're still working out some of the details for the Veterans Court, but it's a good program, and I think it fits in well with our other treatment court programs. (I tried to embed video below, but it seems to be working intermittently, so you might have to click on the link to see the story if you're interested in catching a glimpse of what I've been up to).

New Court For Veterans: MyFoxAUSTIN.com

Friday, March 25, 2011

Happy Birthday, Jamie!

(thanks for shooting the pic, Amy!)

Happy birthday, Jamie! I hope you're having a really good day! Don't let the dogs boss you around today- it's your birthday!
At any rate, you're a great sister-in-law, and, as you know, I always genuinely feel lucky to have you in the family! Thanks for putting up with all of my big brother shenanigans all these years... ;-)
Love you!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Addendum on California Earthquake Worries

As a follow up to my post from a couple of days ago where I expressed some concern about a possible lack of preparedness for major earthquake on our west coast, I offer this new Newsweek article by Sharon Begley and Andrew Murr which seems to address some similar concerns.
I'm really just going to provide the link in case anyone's interested.
One thing that jumped out at me in the article, though, was a prediction by the Seismological Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, that California has a 99.7 percent chance of being hit by an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 or greater within the next 30 years.
Scary stuff.
Like I said in my previous post, I'm not sure exactly how much preparation we can do for something like that, but I hope that we're doing the best that we can to take real precautions.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mono Ensemble Practice

Our last Mono Ensemble practice (on Sunday, 3/21) was recorded by our bass player/saxophonist, Jim Gillespie on a digital recorder. Jim edited the recording into songs and put them up on a page on Ge.tt. I'm linking it here if anyone would like to hear a bit of it. Some if it is good and some of it is... less good (the rest of us didn't even know he was recording it, so we're just sort of plowing through stuff on a typical Sunday afternoon, and some of the songs are things we hadn't attempted in quite a while), but it's a pretty decent recording of what goes on at a Mono Ensemble practice (sadly, Frank wasn't there, so you won't hear him).
Eric played guitar and sang.
Reed played drums and sang some backup.
Jim played bass and a little sax.
I played guitar and a little bass.

Monday, March 21, 2011

SXSW Hiccups

So there was this article this weekend in the Austin American Statesman titled Some Sour Notes as SXSW 2011 Closes. The article contains the usual complaints about overcrowded venues, traffic congestion, high prices, etc., as well as complaints more specific to this year, including mini riots (fans crashed a gate at a Death from Above 1979 show and, apparently, rushed the stage during the Strokes show), invalid tickets (at the Kanye West show), and the collapse of video equipment onto unsuspecting fans (at Stubb's during the OMD show).

As for myself, I had a pretty good time during SXSW, but I also understand the complaints and definitely think that they have some merit.
SXSW started off as a rather small music festival which was meant to showcase regional musical talent and to help them get national and international exposure. Tickets and wristbands used to be relatively inexpensive, easy to come by, and all but guaranteed that you could get into most of the shows that you wanted to see.
Nowadays SXSW is big business, and its harder than ever for most Austinites to get the chance to enjoy the whole thing. Granted, SXSW brings in a lot of money for local businesses, but it doesn't really cater to local bands (the conventional wisdom has been for years that the festival organizers prefer out of town acts over local ones in order to make the festival seem like more of a national event), and the Austin citizens are the ones who deal with the travel, trash, and traffic congestion that's brought on by the festival each year. Add to this the fact that $165 wristbands are effectively meaningless these days (you need a badge to get into most of the official shows, and those cost something more along the lines of the $700-$1000 range), and you start to get a better idea of why Austinites are starting to get fed up with an event that makes lots of money for a slim subsection of the population while inconveniencing and excluding a whole lot of others.
Sure, there are free shows and some unofficial events going on (which can be really nice for all of us who can't afford badges), but these tend to contribute to problems as well. The festival now draws in many more fans than its official participation accounts for, which makes planning difficult and tends to add to the congestion and chaos (the free Strokes show at Auditorium Shores, for example, had to close its gates because of the unexpectedly overwhelming size of the crowd, and Austin area hotels were pushed beyond maximum capacity during the festival, leaving many attendees with few housing options).
Venues which allow free entrance with wristbands and badges also often allow entrance for unofficial attendees (who usually pay a small cover), which encourages people who aren't associated with the festival to crowd into the downtown area. Venues and streets become overcrowded. Parking is a nightmare. As a wristband holder, I've noticed that shows are typically either so popular that you need an expensive badge to get in, or that you might as well not have bothered getting a wristband at all because the crowd is thin enough that they're letting everyone in.
Festival organizers try to point to the unofficial events as one of the primary reasons why SXSW has gotten a bit out of control, but you can't help wondering if that's just because the organizers would rather see patrons and their dollars crowded into official SXSW venues. On the other hand, it's probably harder to get the bars and clubs to sign up as "offical" venues if you're having to tell those places that they might have to turn away potentially paying customers (who will undoubtedly be buying drinks) in order to cater to SXSW attendees on a preferential basis.

Annnnyway, I just think that there has to be a better way to manage this thing. SXSW is kind of an unusual fesitival in terms of the fact that it takes place across the city at a large number of official and unofficial venues, which certainly makes coordination and planning difficult. With so many venues operating more or less autonomously during one citywide event, miscommunication and mismanagement is almost inevitably going to be a problem.
But they need to do a better job than this. Someone needs to get all of the venues together- official and unofficial- and really organize this thing so that it will run more smoothly. Part of this coordination effort has to come from the SXSW organizers, who need to realize that they're more or less responsible for the whole thing (both official and unofficial events) since the unofficial events have only helped to build the fame and size of the whole festival. The organizers make plenty of money off of the festival, and Austin has been more than accomodating of their needs, so it just seems like it would be awfully good of them to step up and take responsibility for as much of the activity as they can- not just the part of it that's putting money directly into their own pockets.

I still love wandering around and listening to music on a spring afternoon or evening in Austin, Texas, and I don't want SXSW to go away, but it needs to be better managed. Hopefully the organizers can find a way to get as many of the participants as possible around a big ol' talbe and get the thing a little better organized for next year.

RIP Pinetop

Grammy winning blues piano player (and Austin resident) Pinetop Perkins has died. The man was like 97 years old.
I only saw Pinetop play music once, and that was at a memorial party for Jeff Wilson that was held at Joe Turner's office. I never really understood how Pinetop came to be at that party (Joe has a lot of interesting friends, including Willie Nelson, so it's probably not quite as strange as it seems).
Anyway, Mr. Perkins played the piano really well that night, and he didn't miss a beat in flirting with the ladies and cracking jokes.
Given his age, Pinetop's death isn't a huge shock, but this city is definitely going to miss him, and I'm grateful to him for having helped to make a sort of strange memory from my life a little bit merrier.

Sara B.'s Food Blog

F.O.S. (that's Friend of Steanso) Sara B. has started a new cooking blog called Veggie Wench. Unfortunately, I can't really remember having eaten any of Sara B.'s cooking, but the first recipe on her blog sounds good, and I'm always willing to throw my support behind the endeavor of a friend.
Good luck with the blog, Sara! Also, if you happen to make any more tasty food items and bring them to work, don't forget about your faithful friends on the third floor who could always be cheered up by some good food!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Earthquake Chain Reaction?

Warning: this post involves some serious rambling. I was just interested in the topic, and I've been wondering about the safety of Americans after watching the events in Japan. No better reason than that. If you're seriously adverse to hand wringing, this might not be the post for you.

In talking about this recent Japanese earthquake with friends and colleagues at work, several times the conversation has turned to the number of recent earthquakes around the world and their seriousness. In recent memory, we've had major earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, New Zealand, and now Japan.
I really know nothing about geology, but this doesn't seem good. The little bit of geology that I've been exposed to came mainly from an oceanography class at Trinity, and although I've forgotten most of the detail, I remember the whole tectonic plate thing, with its accompanying ideas of subduction zones and tectonic plate grinding and sliding under under one another. And one of the main points that I remember taking away from Dr. Kroeger's class was the idea that when tectonic plates move, pressure gets relieved in one place, but it usually (or at least often) results in the shifting of pressure to a different place. (speaking of Kroeger's views on earthquakes and tsunamis, I just came across this article where he talks about such things. Apparently he's still preaching and teaching about the dangers of earthquakes and tsunamis. In the linked article, Kroeger even says that the occurrence of a major quake along the American West Coast should be considered not in terms of "if" but "when".)
And now yesterday I was reading Newsweek and I came across this sort of troubling article by Simon Winchester called The Scariest Earthquake is Yet to Come. Winchester talks about a growing concern in the geology community that the significant earthquakes occurring around the Pacific Ring of Fire (the area of tectonic plate activity and geological activity around the Pacific rim) might be foreshadowing a major quake at California's San Andreas fault.
Now it sounds like the threat of a tsunami might be lower in California than in Japan (with the San Andreas fault line lying below dry land as opposed to under the ocean, where tremendous amounts of water can become displaced by a major quake), although apparently some geophysics researchers at UT Austin have recently begun to explain that the risk of tsunamis in places like California might be greater than originally believed.

Anyway, all of this just sort of makes me wonder whether there's any sort of planning being put in place along the American West Coast that might help people to prepare for a major quake or tsunami, or even whether such emergency preparations are really feasible in any sort of practical sense at all. It kind of amazed me that Japan suffered an 8.9 magnitude earthquake and that Tokyo suffered as little damage as it did. I know that there are building codes in California that are meant to safeguard against earthquakes, but I'm not sure how we would fair if an 8.9 hit a major population center in California.
I'm not sure what I'm saying. It just seems like people out west ought to be training or drilling or preparing or something so that we're a little more ready if one of these really big earthquakes hits.
But I'm not sure what can be done.
It just feels weird that geologists are starting to get worried about the very real possibility of an imminent quake in the U.S., but it doesn't seem like we're doing a whole lot publicly which might address that possibility event.
Maybe we're more prepared than I realize. Or maybe (and this is more frightening) we just can't do much, and the authorities just want to keep people calm and peaceful.
Anyway, Glenn Kroeger's oceanography class taught me not only about imminent earthquakes, but also about global warming and its general effects on global climate systems. That man was a prophet of doom, but a good teacher).

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Brief Word on Libya

So we're launching missile attacks against Libya. We're attacking Libya's air defense system, so I guess that we're planning on helping this international coalition to enforce the no-fly zone over the country.
I'm a little confused by this whole turn of events in Libya.
Qaddafi is undoubtedly a bad dude, but I'm just really unclear as to what our strategy is supposed to be.
I may very well be wrong (I'm certainly no expert on military matters), but I've repeatedly heard it said that it's pretty much impossible to win a war through air power alone. I thought the conventional wisdom was that you could sort of use air power to beat your enemy back or to force him to hunker down, but, in the end, you would actually have to put troops on the ground if you wanted to really clear out the bad guys and win a war (in Iraq, I know we basically knocked out Hussein's army from the air in each conflict, but I don't think anyone really thought we really brought the situation under any modicum of control until we put troops into Baghdad and the rest of the country).
Anyway, I'm just not sure where this is all headed, I guess. From what I've read, it sounded like the Libyan rebels are sort of a poorly trained, poorly equipped, ragtag group of soldiers. It's also not exactly clear where their loyalties lie or what Libya will look like if this group seizes power.
I only bring this up because I'm guessing that one option being considered is likely to be the prospect of providing arms and munitions to the rebel forces so that they can actually handle the ground action while the international coalition beats back Qaddafi's forces from the sky. From what I've heard so far, the U.S. doesn't really seem very interested in committing ground troops (a reluctance which seems fairly sensible at this point).
The problem is that when we start funneling guns and money to different groups just because they're the enemy of our enemy, especially when we're not sure of their ultimate ideology and loyalty, those sorts of activities can sometimes come back to haunt us. Operation Cyclone, which funneled money to mujahideen during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, came back to bite us when some of those same mujahideen became radicalized and helped to found al Qaeda.
So Libya is a mess. I'm not saying that there's any sort of clear solution to the situation at this point, but I guess I'm just worried about the extent of our involvement in such an ugly situation.

Friday, March 18, 2011

My Birthday

My birthday was good! Amy made migas for me in the morning (I "helped"), and we went out and did the South by Southwest thing in the afternoon and evening.
We went to a day party for French bands and saw part of a set for a pretty cool group called Revolver. They had good, three part harmonies, and a cello player in the bass slot. Amy and I both liked them. We wandered up Red River, and I recognized the sound of TV on the Radio doing sound check at Stubb's. Somehow I managed to wander inside and watch them play for a few minutes before security kicked me out.
Then we wandered over to The Mohawk, and watched good sets by Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears followed by a really catchy one man techno act by a guy called Diamond Rings. Both of those shows were really cool. I love both the horns and rhythm section for BJL, and Diamond Rings actually turned out to be really good (plus, John O. from Diamond Rings had a good sense of humor and seemed to be having a lot of fun. Stellar dance moves!!)

Last night we went to see Twin Shadow and The Strokes at Auditorium Shores. Big crowds, but the weather was beautiful. I really liked Twin Shadow. I'm not a huge fan of The Strokes, but they're catchy enough, and we hung out for the beginning part of that show until the place got really crowded and nutty, and then we fled.
Anyway, thanks to everyone for the phone calls and the texts and Facebook messages!
Birthdays always bring out a bit of self reflection in me, and once again, I felt like I had a lot to be thankful for this year. Thanks to Amy for spending the day experiencing SXSW madness with me, and thanks to all of the people who I didn't get to see on my birthday for being understanding. It's just hard to pull off the SXSW thing and still get in a lot of time for other activities.
My friends and family help make it nice to celebrate birthdays, so I appreciate all of you guys!!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Relief for Japan

Hey! I haven't said a whole lot about the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear emergency in Japan because I just don't have a whole lot to say. It's just awfulness stacked on top of awfulness, and just when you think it can't get much worse, it does.

Anyway, no pressure to anyone, but here's a link to the American Red Cross in case you are interested in helping out. I heard a spokesperson from the Red Cross on the radio today who was asking people to make donations, but to consider giving general donations (check the box that says "where the need is greatest") as opposed to specifically targeting the Japanese relief effort. By contributing this way, you can help The Red Cross to address the situation in Japan, but also allow the organization to stay flexible in case some other big, awful disaster rears its ugly head which also requires their attention (perhaps even a disaster closer to home which isn't receiving as much international media coverage).

So that's it. Hope everyone is having a good one! Hope I didn't bring anyone down. I just thought it might be nice to try to put this blog to work for a change!

Busy Weekend

So, it was kind of a busy weekend. On Friday, Amy and I went to see Cedar Rapids at the Alamo on South Lamar. The movie was pretty good. It was a fairly straightforward sort of delayed coming of age type of story where a grown (but very innocent and naive) man has his horizons broadened quite a bit during a business trip to the "big city" of Cedar Rapids. John C. Reilly was, once again, comic gold.

At the same time that our movie was showing, the Independent Film Channel was hosting an event at the Alamo. Danny Devito, Rosario Dawson, and a third celebrity- a woman I couldn't recognize (so help me out if you recognize her in ythis pic, and post a comment) were all in attendance for the IFC event. They were shaking hands and having their pictures taken with people. Kind of cool. I remember seeing Danny Devito on TV and in movies since I was a little kid (his character on Taxi was cranky enough to almost scare me a little bit). Anyway, it was a fun night.

Saturday night I went with Amy, Ryan, and Jamie to see some roller derby at the Palmer Events center. We saw the Putas del Fuegos square off against the Hellcats. Amy and I were both first time roller derby fans, and we had a really good time! I liked it. I think that more sports should probably resolve their penalties with arm wrestling, tug of war, and pillow fights. Those girls really knock the crap out of each other.



It was also kind of cool to see that roller derby pulls in such a diverse crowd. Somehow I had imagined that everyone in the crowd would be covered in tattoos and piercings, but it was actually a pretty tame group (although, come to think of it, intergalactic bounty hunter Boba Fett did make an appearance).






Also on Saturday and Sunday, my dad and Ryan helped me put together a new entertainment center for my house. Amy helped out with the organizing. The picture at left demonstrates one of the many ways that Ryan "helped".



Anyway, even with all of the help it was a pretty time consuming process. Without any help at all I'm not sure it would have gotten doen in one weekend. So big thanks to Dad, Amy, and Ryan! My living room looks much better!
I also had band practice last night with Reed, Eric, and Jim (which was pretty good), and had lunch yesterday with my folks and Ryan and Jamie. Plus I ran a few errands.
A good weekend, but a busy one.
So that's it! I hope everyone is enjoying the beginning of their week. It's Spring Break week here in Austin, so everyone who has this week off should make sure to enjoy it!!!





Sunday, March 06, 2011

Mom's Birthday and the Houston Rodeo

So the family joined together down in Houston this weekend to celebrate Mom's birthday (it was a sort of a big one. It's not polite to say a lady's age, so I won't, but it rhymes with twixty jive).
We went to the Houston Rodeo to celebrate Mom's birthday, and I thought it was really fun. I really hadn't been to a rodeo since I was a kid (I wanna say I was in elementary school or something like that).
The rodeo was cool. Bullriding, as it turns out, is still a favorite of mine. It's just absolutely nuts to see someone get on top of a huge, angry animal and hang on for dear life.
Anyway, the whole experience was just a good reminder of what part of what it means to live in Texas. The Houston Rodeo is kind of a weird phenomenon because it takes place in the middle of a domed stadium in the middle of a major metropolitan city, but it celebrates a rural way of life that's not only an important part of Texas history and tradition, but an ongoing lifestyle for a lot of people who live in smaller towns and communities across the state. The rodeo sort of celebrates it all- both as an event for people who are kind of paying homage to the traditions of a place where they grew up (because even a lot of the city slickers have relatives who've worked on ranches, farms, oilfields, etc.) and as a gathering place for some rural Texans relax, have fun, and take pride in what they do.
Anyway, I know that there are rodeos in different places all over the country, but I just can't help feeling that Texas has really raised the whole thing to some kind of unique art form. The scale and size and spectacle of the Houston Rodeo just feels distinctly Texan. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's how it felt. I had a really good time.

We also went to The Aquarium restaurant downtown Houston. It's a fun place (if you've never been there, then, yup, you guessed it- the restaurant is inside a big ol' aquarium), and the food is good. It was good to hang out and have a nice meal with our family and The Magsigs!
Anyway, happy birthday to Mom! It was a nice weekend!

Friday, March 04, 2011

Celebrating Birthdays for Mom and Jeff!!!

So today marks a birthday that's shared by both my mom, Karen "The Karebear" Steans, as well as a very good friend of mine, Jeff Wilson, who passed away back in 2006. In recent years I've felt a bit bad when March 4th comes around because my Mom's birthday falls on Jeff's birthday, and I still miss Jeff a whole lot (I really can't believe that five of his birthdays have gone by since his passing). It still really makes me sad that he's not still around for his own birthday celebration.
Even though life goes on and things keep changing, it really bums me out that there are important people in my life now who will never have the chance to meet Jeff. It bothers me that Amy was never given the chance to meet Jeff, and even at work I think of all of the new prosecutors and defense attorneys who've never met Jeff, but who would have really liked him and would have gotten along well with him if they'd gotten the chance. (and let me take a second to reemphasize my plea to beg everyone not to drink and drive- I'm not the only person missing Jeff today because of the DWI fatality that took his life)
Anyway, Jeff wouldn't like a bunch of sad talk on his birthday. He was a guy who really celebrated life and tried to live it to the fullest, so that's the sort of thing I need to focus on today, anyway! Also, my mom, like Jeff, is a person who has always lived life to the fullest and who uses each day to celebrate her family, her friends, and all of the things that she's blessed with.
So, I need to be thinking of March 4th as life appreciation day. That's how both Jeff and The Karebear roll, and it's a lesson that's well worth setting aside a special day for!





Tuesday, March 01, 2011

New Hierolglyphic

A friend of mine, Charlie Roadman, plays in a band called F for Fake.

As most of you know, I've played in a few bands myself over the years, and I'm very aware of the fact that fandom can be a tricky thing when you're talking about music that your friends have made. You want to be supportive, and sometimes that can get in the way of an honest appraisal.
I can honestly say that's never really been a problem with F for Fake. I'm a genuine fan, and I would like the music whether I knew any of these guys or not.
So they've just released a new album called New Hieroglyphic, and they're offering it as a free MP3 download through their Bandcamp site. I've been listening to it this evening, and I definitely dig it. It's got a cool feel.
They're having a CD release party for the new album on April 17th at The Mohawk here in Austin.
Be there or be square.

Amylink

I've added Amy's e-portfolio over in the links section! She put it together for one of her classes, but it's a chance for you guys to see what she's been up to. I guess that this is pretty much what resumes are going to start looking like from here on out? If that's the case then I better never leave my job...
I especially like the picture of Amy chillaxin' with Cassidy. I am, however, a little disappointed that her relationship with me is not yet listed among her top accomplishments. ;-)