Friday, November 30, 2012

alt-J live

Hang with this until at least the second song (or skip to it), and you'll at least begin to understand why this band is a little different...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving Holiday Update

Well, the Thanksgiving holiday has come and gone for another year.  I hope you guys had a good one.  I meant to post some sort of Thanksgiving message wishing everyone a nice time, but it all just passed by in a flash this year. 
At any rate, we had a really nice holiday.  We spent Thanksgiving out in Phoenix this year (well, Peoria, to be more precise), and we had a really nice time with Amy's family.  We stayed with Amy's parents, Jean and Greg, and, as usual, they were excellent hosts.  I had a very good time.  The food was delicious, the company was excellent, and everyone was very warm and welcoming.  It was a really good Thanksgiving.
On Thanksgiving Day Amy and her mother, along with her father and her grandparents, put together a really delicious meal.  We had stuffed jalapenos, a cheese ball, vegetables, dip, and maybe other things I don't remember before dinner (also some good beer made in Tempe called Kilt Lifter).  For dinner there were sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, stuffing with turkey sausage, green beans with mustard, rolls, some sort of (very tasty) brussel sprout salad, a cranberry dish, ham, and, of course, a really good turkey.  For dessert there was a chocolate pecan pie, a pumpkin cheesecake*, and a third pie that was also really good, but I can't remember exactly what was in it (something brown and sweet.  Molasses?  Cinnamon?  No, I don't think that's right.  Maybe.)
The food was all very good.
If it's weird of me to list the food, it's only because it was all very good and I want to be able to remember it. 
Amy's grandparents came over for dinner along with her sister and brother-in-law, her nephew, and some family friends, Dean and Sheila.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday we played music.  Amy's dad has a nice Martin guitar, as well as a ukulele, and Matt brought over his electric guitar, so we all took turns passing around instruments.  I went and saw Skyfall, the new Bond movie, with Greg, while Amy and her mother did some hiking and shopping.
We took walked with Amy's nephew as he rode his strider bike around on the hike and bike trails, and I got a chance to chat with Matt and Jerry a little bit.
We ate a nice meal at a good Vietnamese restaurant, and we popped in at the thrift shop where Amy's grandmother volunteers for the Lutheran church (which was fun).
It was a nice visit.
This Thanksgiving I was thankful for a lot of things.  I'm still thankful even after Thanksgiving, believe it or not.  I'm grateful for having Amy in my life, I'm grateful for my job, my health, and my family.  And this year I was thankful for the Davis family for being such nice hosts and including me in their holiday celebration.  I really appreciate it!  I had a good time.

Amy with her grandfather, Jerry

Amy with SuperScott

Greg and Amy work on learning some new ukulele tunes

Jean and Greg prep the bird

* Initially I stated that we had chocolate cheesecake.  I misspoke and it was, in fact, pumpkin cheesecake.  It was very good!  I am sorry for any confusion that this may have caused.  :-)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Formula One Update

I usually don't just post links on my blog, but the Austin American Statesman ran an article today with a sort of post F1 analysis of the event.  It sort of praises the overall experience of fans, but questions whether the economic benefits for local businesses were as strong as predicted.
Just kind of an interesting piece.  I think that F1 will ultimately be seen as a positive experience for Austin, but it's kind of fascinating to watch Austin try to incorporate a major high end car racing event into our local culture.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

F1 Weekend Update

So, this weekend was Formula 1 weekend here in Austin.  For those who don't live in Austin or who haven't been reading the news, for a few years now developers have been building a giant track (impressively named the Circuit of the Americas) for Formula 1 racing in Elroy, a small community just to the southeast of Austin.
If you're like most Austinites, you probably don't know much about car racing in general, and even less about Formula 1.  Apparently it involves really expensive cars going super fast around a curvy track, though, and Austinites have been assured that it has a very large audience in the U.S., and an even larger audience in Europe, Latin America, and the rest of the world.
Austinites, residents of a city which regularly hosts large events ranging from South by Southwest to the Austin City Limits Festival to the Republic of Texas Biker Rally, were assured that they had never seen anything like the sorts of horde-like crowds that were about to descend upon their city for F1.  Downtown offices were closed on Friday in anticipation of traffic congestion (Amy was allowed to work from home and our office shut down early), and helicopter companies set up shop in order to ferry the wealthy to and from the track above the congested throng of fans who were predicted to hopelessly clog the roads between downtown and Elroy.
Race organizers had forecast as many as 300,000 visitors to Austin during F1 weekend.  In a city that has a population of less than a million, an influx of 300,000 sounded pretty daunting.
But upon closer inspection, I'm not sure where the promoters came up with that figure.  The race event itself ultimately had a little less than 118,000 fans in attendance on its biggest day.  That's definitely a lot of people, but keep in mind that home games for the Texas Longhorns at Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium regularly hold well over 100,000 people (capacity is about 111,000), and Austin holds those events without much of a second thought at least half a dozen times every fall.  South by Southwest also hosts well over 100,000 people, and we've been doing that for over a quarter of a century. 
Anyway, the F1 event does take place over three days, so I guess that, theoretically, if the track were filled to capacity with a different set of fans each day, the numbers might total more than 300,000.  Realistically, though, I think you're always going to have the majority of people attending on more than one day if they're taking the time to travel to Austin for the race (especially when a lot of the tickets are sold in three day packages).
(some kind of crazy metal dragon
threatens to consume the F1 fans)
The more important point is that the talk of crowds and congestion and inconvenience scared off a lot of local residents who might have otherwise at least ventured into downtown to see the music at Fanfest or to have taken part in the revelry in the bars and restaurants.  Instead, I think a lot of local businesses had an average to slow weekend in terms of business and sales.  I rode my bicycle downtown on both Friday and Saturday, and I'm here to report that, at least during the day, the city seemed sleepier than usual.  Friday night Amy and I went down to South Congress for pizza, and Homeslice was no busier than usual- maybe even a little quieter.

(the crowds at Fan Fest)
All in all, I think that the crowds and problems that were expected to be caused by F1 were overblown.  I'm guessing that race weekends will continue to get busier and more congested in the future, particularly if visitors had a good time and if positive reviews of the event continue to spread.   But this weekend was pretty nice.  We had beautiful weather, light crowds, and the people that I ran into seemed to be enjoying themselves and were very friendly (I even got asked to be in a picture with a random large, extended Mexican family who wanted a photo with the "Big Texan!").


("F1 traffic?  What F1 traffic?")
The events downtown seemed busy during the day, but not packed.  If I hadn't gone down to specifically see the race events and the music stages set up along the Congress area, I'm not sure I would have even known it was an F1 weekend.  (although I guess the regular helicopter flights over my house might have provided some clue).
Anyway, in the end, I think one of the biggest hiccups with F1 weekend came from scaring all of the locals away with talk of traffic snarls and horrible crowds.  It sounds like the race weekend went smoothly, but it might have been a little more festive if the locals hadn't been scared away.

In more personal news, Amy and I had a nice weekend.  I went for several long bike rides, we took some shopping trips, and Amy did some watercolor painting with a friend from work.  We played guitar and ukulele together, did some raking and other chores, and did some reading.  Band practice was cancelled because some things came up with the guys.  Amy and I had a nice time grabbing pizza on South Congress one night, and later in the weekend Amy made some really good chicken and dumplings in the slow cooker.  It turned out to be a nice, quiet weekend with really good weather.  I had a really nice time hanging out with Amy and riding my bike.

I hope everyone else had a nice weekend!  I also hope you have a nice Thanksgiving holiday if I don't get a chance to post between now and then!  I have a lot to be thankful for!  (Amy, my family, friends, my job, my health, Cassidy, etc., etc., etc.!)


     

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Uncle Bob's Birthday; The Weekend

Howdy!  So it's been a busy week or so.
Last Thursday I had a busy day at work.  In the evening we had our second Travis County Veterans Court anniversary.  It was kind of cool.  A reporter came by and did a profile on a Vietnam era vet who's participating in our program.  

I know it's probably lame to do this, but I'm posting a picture of the article that they ran on the front page of the paper.  I'm not even mentioned in the article, but I managed to squeeze into a photo.  It's pretty rare that you get into the paper in my line of work reference to an article about the justice system really trying to help out a bit as opposed to just punishing them. 
Anyway, I hope it's not lame that I posted the pic, but I thought it was kind of cool.
On Friday I flew out for Tallahassee, Florida, to go celebrate my Uncle Bob's 70th birthday.  Uncle Bob retired relatively recently after a long career- in the military, as a civilian working for the military, and finally as a sort of civilian contractor or consultant.  I don't really know the technical term for what he did, but he spent a lot of time involved with purchasing of equipment, weapons, and supplies for the military.  He worked at the Pentagon for quite a long time, and our family breathed a collective sigh of relief on 9/11 when we learned that he had been away from the building when the plane hit.
At any rate, Uncle Bob has been visiting and/or been visited by my family since I was a young kid.  It was really nice to have the chance to go celebrate his birthday with him.
Uncle Bob and his wife, Aunt Linda, moved to Tallahassee following Uncle Bob's retirement, and they live close to our cousins and their families (Kirk, Terri, Michael, Becca, Kim, Jack, Kathleen, Reid, and Sarah).  Frank and Sukhi, my grandfather's son and his wife, were also in attendance, as well as Janis (another cousin from my dad's side) and her wife, Al.
At any rate, we had a lot of family in Tallahassee for the weekend, and it was really nice to see them all and spend time with them.  During our brief stay we squeezed in two dinners, a trip to a car museum, a christening for two small Anderson children, several visits to various people's homes, and some nice drives around Tallahassee (including a drive by the Florida State football stadium).  
 
Dad, Kirk, Linda, and Uncle Bob all relaxing toward
the end of the weekend at Kirk and Terri's house

Kathleen, Reid, Kirk, and Terri at dinner

Michael terrifies Jack while Becca and Mom watch

Kim shows off her reading skills to Ryan
 
   
Tallahassee is a nice place, and it was good to see the family. 
Thanks to the Anderson and Steans families for being such nice hosts!  It was a good trip.
 
Ryan and I got back to Austin relatively late on Sunday night.  I had Monday off for Veterans Day.  I spent the day running a few errands and taking a long bike ride.  It felt good to get back on the bike, and the weather was cool and pleasant.
Monday night our friend Heidi was in town from Lubbock.  After a brief happy hour with Amy's work friends we picked up Heidi from her hotel and headed over to Curra's where we met up with Jaci and Josh for dinner.
Dinner was good, and it was really nice to see everyone, but it was a little sad as well.  Jaci and Josh, who we've become good friends with, are moving to Washington, D.C., this week, and Amy and I are both happy for them to have an exciting opportunity, but very sorry to see them go.  Heidi has only been in Lubbock for a relatively short period of time, but it's also been hard to lose her.  Amy, Heidi, and Jaci have been good friends for a while now, so it's sad to see the group split up, but hopefully we'll all stay in close contact and there will be visits on a fairly regular basis.
Good luck Jaci, Josh, and Heidi!  If things don't work out, remember that Austin will leave a light on for ya!  ;-)
So that was the weekend.  Busy.  Good.  Tiring!
Hope all of you are doing well.
Take care.  

Monday, November 05, 2012

Update Update; The Walking Dead

So I actually write some of my posts about my weekend on Sunday night, the night before I post them.  As I was rereading my post about the weekend today during lunch, two things occurred to me:

1)  Amy and I had our first official ukulele/guitar jamboree/jam sessioon on Sunday afternoon.  It went very well.  I can't believe how quickly Amy has been learning to play the ukulele and how good it sounds.  I really, really had fun playing with her.

and

2) Last night's episode of The Walking Dead was really intense.  That show just gets darker and darker and bleaker and bleaker.  I'm talking almost Cormac McCarthy level intense.  I mean, yeah, you start our with the premise that it's a zombie apocalypse, so of course it's not gonna be a cheerful show, but it's gut wrenching on a level that goes beyond your typical quasi comical horror movie schlock.  I was honestly almost angry at the writers at the end of last night's episode.  They do a really good job of developing the characters and getting the audience to care about them and become invested in them, and then... then they do really, really bad things to them.  No character on that show is ever really safe, and there are almost no moments when the characters (or audience) can step back and revel in any real sense of safety, security, or victory.  Part of what makes the show disturbing, I think, is that, as in the case of many similar stories, the zombie apocalypse is clearly meant to be a sort a symbol or metaphor for what life might really look like when you strip away the niceties, comforts, and protections of modern civilization.  There have been some episodes that barely contained any zombies (i.e., "walkers") at all.   Walking Dead uses the zombie apocalypse as a sort of disturbing fictional example of what can happen to people in any given situation where humans are left in a sort of barbaric state of nature (e.g., the aftermath of wars, natural disasters, diseases, famines, etc.).  Where many prior shows and movies have simply used the genre for cheap thrills and scares, the writers on Walking Dead have used the zombie storyline to more deeply explore questions of human nature, resilience, and morality.  In other zombie shows the zombies themselves have been the scariest part of the story.  On Walking Dead it has become apparent that the zombies (i.e, the "walkers") are more akin to a deadly but understandable natural force, akin to a plague or disaster, but that the humans who exist in the aftermath are the more frightening and less predictable element to be feared.  Walking Dead features zombies (lots of zombies), but in the end it's a show about how people survive when they're running out of resources, they're surrounded by things and people who would do them harm, and it's not clear who, if anyone, can be trusted.
Anyway, the show is well written.  It has well developed characters, an unpredictable plot, and manages to create a heck of alot more emotional resonance than you'd expect from a zombie show.
Irecommend it, but not to people who are averse to things that are violent or depressing (why do I watch it, again?).

That's my update update. 
Ukulele = joyful and life affirming
Walking Dead = um.... not.

Update

Well, last week was a pretty big week.  Amy got her bar exam results on Thursday and passed!  Even thought I was very confident that she would do well, I still breathed a sigh of relief when she got the news (and, obviously, I know that my own relief was just small fraction of the happiness that she felt).  I'm extremely proud of and happy for Amy!  The law school experience is not an easy one, and even though the large majority of people pass the bar exam, it's an extremely difficult test that really messes with your head and tests your nerves (it's a difficult test that's graded on a curve, so very few people walk out of the thing feeling like they're really sure that they did well).  We went out and had a few drinks with some of Amy's work friends on Thursday night to celebrate.  Those Lege Council people seem like a cool, friendly group.  I enjoyed hanging out with them.



this is how I look when I'm
preparing to rock
On Friday night we went to see an ACL taping for Delta Spirit.  It was a good show.  The band played with a lot of energy, and they have some songs that are really fun to listen to.  I'd seen them before, but it had been years back at The Parish, and obviously it was a totally different experience seeing them in the Moody Theater.  They seem to have been amking a slow transition from a band with a slightly more southern, regional sound into a band that has a more polished, mainstream appeal.  To be honest, I sort of like some of the earlier stuff a bit more just because I think it sounds a bit more unique, but the newer stuff is good, too, and it might broaden their audience base.  They've got a good stage presence and lots of energy in a live setting, so all of their stuff sounded really good on Friday night.
Several of Amy's work friends and their significant others were in attendance for the Delta Spirit taping, so after the show was over we all rolled over to The Highball for some karaoke.  It was ridiculous, hilarious, and fun.  I think it's fair to say that Delta Spirit paled in comparison to the level of performance that occurred in the karaoke room at the Highball of Friday night.
On Saturday we got breakfast, did a few chores, and went to the store.  I went for a nice bike ride.  I watched a good chunk of the UT football game, but then we had to leave to go to.... 


Dia de los Muertos altar.  If you look
closely you can see Grandpa Ross wearing
a multicolored hat on the middle row
 
... the annual Dia de los Muertos party over at Mike and Meg Alexander's house!  I brought pumpkin pie in honor of Grandpa Ross, who passed away this year, and Amy brought a homemade onion chip dip  in honor of her great grandmother, who also recently passed away.  The party was good.  People made sugar skulls and ate food and drank and were generally merry (although I'd sort of forgotten that merriment, for boys ages 5 to 10, generally involves beating on one another endlessly with nerf swords and martial arts maneuvers).  There were tamales and cookies and various hot and cold drinks and lots of different appetizers.  Amy and I chatted with Mike and Meg and several of their friends and neighbors and watched the face painting (very cool).  The house was decorated with colorful papel picado banners, candles, and colorful skeleton decorations.  Very nice people and a very nice time.







The view from Red Bud
on Sunday morning.
 
On Sunday we got up and took Cassidy to Red Bud Isle.  The weather was nice, the dogs were happy, and the people were friendly.  We walked around the park a few times and had a nice visit.  Cassidy really seemed to enjoy herself.  Afterwards I ran a few more errands.  Then I went for a bike ride with Amy during which we used my bike computer to mark off the distance of one of her jogging routes.  Afterward I went on a longer solo ride. 
Friday evening we had band practice.  We mostly all played acoustic instruments for a change, which I always enjoy.  Switching to acoustic really changes the whole sound of the band.  Good practice.  After practice we had dinner.  Amy made garlic chicken tacos, and they were really good!
And that was about it.  It was a very nice weekend.
Fall is going by soooo fast!  Enjoy it!