Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Memorial Day Weekend

So we had a three day weekend.  It wasn't bad, but it was kind of weird.  Amy had to work a lot.  It was the end of the Texas legislative session, so she was putting in long hours manning the fort at Lege Council while the legislators wrapped up most of their bills. 
On Friday night I don't think I did a whole lot.  Amy got off work late.  I really can't remember what I did, so it must have been extremely exciting.
On Saturday I went over to my brother's house to help he and my dad move some bookshelves upstairs in his house.  We moved furniture, went to the hardware store, and went out to eat with Mom and Jamie.  It was nice to see everyone and hang out.  Saturday I also did some grocery shopping and laundry and whatnot.  Amy came home for dinner, but then hag to go back in to work until late at night.
On Sunday I went to see Iron Man 3.  It was pretty good.  Not exactly groundbreaking or anything, but entertaining.  Tony Stark was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder following the alien attack on New York from The Avengers movie.  It was kind of an interesting twist to throw such a cold splash of reality into the middle of a superhero action adventure, but they didn't do much with it.  Our protagonist just sort of jokes about his panic attacks and then shrugs them off.  That particular plotline made me think that maybe superhero movies should just avoid bummer plotlines that can't easily be resolved in two hours.  It also made me realize that some of the good TV shows lately have sort of upped the ante in terms of developing nuanced characters.  Of course, TV shows have the luxury of time, telling a story across multiple episodes.
But I thought Iron Man 3 was pretty good.  I'm not sure it's going to work its way into my top 5 list, but it was a good, solid summer popcorn flick.

Sunday night we ate Thai food after Amy got home, and then I played quiet guitar music while Amy fell asleep reading on the sofa.
Monday, Memorial Day, was the last day of session, otherwise known as sine die.  It was a work day for Amy.  I got up in the morning and went on a pretty long bike ride, including a stop at Amy's office to see her for a few minutes while she took a break.  In the afternoon I went to a Memorial Day pool party at Judge Denton's house.  It was nice.  He had barbecue, and a number of people from the courthouse, including the entire staff of the veterans court, were in attendance.
After the party I headed downtown where I met up with Amy and her coworkers.  They were at the Dog and Duck, drinking a beer or two and celebrating the end of the session.
We went home and had dinner and the weekend was over. 
It sort of went by in a blur.

Hope everyone else had a nice weekend!
Congrats to Amy on finishing up her first regular legislative session!  (there's a special session already underway, but we're hoping the hours will be better)

Welcome to summer 2013...

Monday, May 20, 2013

Update; Bike to Work Day; Viva Streets Austin

Hi!  Hope everyone is doing okay!  It's been getting pretty warm here in Austin.  A few people complain about the heat, but I really like summer, so I don't mind it so much.  Plus, I've been living in Texas since about 2nd grade, and at some point I decided that the ability to just sort of deal with the heat is part of what sets Texans apart.  I greet the heat each summer like the return of an old, surly friend.  Sometimes he can be agreeable (e.g., at Barton Springs or when sitting in the backyard on a breezy summer night), but sometimes he can be a pain in the butt (e.g., certain years of ACL Fest and walking around downtwon on a workday in my suit).

The weekend was fairly decent.

On Friday it was Bike to Work Day here in Austin.  It's part of a national Bike Month, and it promotes exercise, green energy transportation, and fun.  At my office I've been sort of trying to informally organize a bit of an effort to have some showers installed in our building now that they're doing renovations.  Bike to Work Day seemed like one great way to show people that it's entirely possible to use bikes to commute (there was some question about whether anyone would actually do this, even if they got us our showers).
(Hello!  I'm the weird guy
who's been slowing down traffic!)
Anyway, BTW Day involved various "hubs" set up around the city that had food, drinks, music, and some small giveaway promotional items (I got a cloth bag that says "Bike to Work Day" on it).  On the way home they had more of the same, plus some beer giveaways for bike happy hour.
I rode in Friday morning, and as I was passing a church in my neighborhood on Bannister, I noticed a group of cyclists eating breakfast tacos and getting ready for a group ride.  They waved me over and invited me to ride into downtwon with their group.  I've never done a group ride before, but they had breakfast tacos and orange juice, so, warily, I joined them.
It was fun!  We rode into downtown and over to city hall where they had more juice and food and free stuff for giveaways.  I met a couple of nice people and got some tips on how the whole group ride thing works (it involves a bit more in terms of hand signals and hollering and riding two by two).
Riding to work was fun.  It would be nice to have a shower in the building.  I cleaned up in the bathroom, and it worked okay, but a shower would have helped.
Friday afternoon I rode home from work.  Also fun.  I rode with a friend from work to hit afternoon hubs at Mellow Johnny's and Bibcycle Sport Shop.  Had some free beer at each place and listened to a little bit of live music.  I ran into one of the people from my morning ride group at Bicycle Sport Shop in the afternoon.

Friday night Amy got off work kind of late.  I think we went out to eat.  I can't really remember.

Saturday we got up and I went to the grocery store, and Amy went to work.  I got home and exercised and made a chicken tomatillo dish in the crockpot.  It came out pretty well.  First time I ever used a food processor.  In the afternoon I went suit shopping with my dad.  I bought a suit, and we stopped off afterward and had a beer.  By the time I got home, Amy was home.  Saturday night we just sort of hung out and ate dinner and relaxed.  It was nice.
On Sunday we went out to breakfast at Central Market.  We ran a couple of errands.

(why have you brought me here,
and what is happening?)
After that we rode downtown on our bikes to check out Viva Streets Austin.  It was fun to see people out and about, but the event itself was kind of weird.  As I told Amy, it felt a little like a festival in search of an identity.  There were some vendors (mostly just kind of advertising booths, really- not people selling food or art or anything), and there were a few performers (not very many), but there didn't seem to be much of a theme.  It was advertised as a street festival, but there just wasn't much to it.  Mostly just people wandering around in the street.  I'm not upset that I went, but I wouldn't really bust my butt to make it down there again next year.
All in all, though, we had a good bike ride to the festival and back and a pleasant time.  Sunday was one of our warmer days so far this year, so it was good to get out and ride around and acclimate to a little sun and heat.

Afterward we got home and relaxed for a while.  Amy made some really good tortilla soup for dinner (spicy!!), and after dinner we watched some more of the Ken Burns Jazz documentary on Netflix.
It was a really nice day.

That was about it!  Hope everyone else had a decent weekend.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tori at the Height of Her Power

This is a recording of Tori Amos from a 1998 taping of Sessions at West 54th.  She had just released From the Choirgirl Hotel, which I still think of as her best album.  Matt Chamberlain played drums on this tour, and Jon Evans played bass.  They're both awesome.  Matt Chamberlain is great at throwing in flourishes and playing around rhythms while still keeping the beat rock solid. I know that Chamberlain is a drum hero of my own longtime friend and drummer, Reed.  On bass, Jon Evans has this really amazing and cool ability to pull off lyrical musical phrases on his instrument while still solidly holding down basslines that bind the rhythm to the melody.
And, of course, Tori Amos is an effortlessly great piano player.  Her voice alternates between soothing and shrieking- breathy and powerful.  Her music sort of pushes and pulls, soars, sobs, and implores. 


Monday, May 13, 2013

Update

So, things have been pretty busy.  The weekend was really good, though!
On Thursday night Amy had to work until sometime after midnight.  That was not super cool, but she's sort of a trooper about these things AND one of the bills that she wrote actually got signed into law by Guv'nah Perry this past week!  (lots and lots and lots of bills die a slow death over there at the capitol, so seeing one get passed is pretty cool)  I may not have this exactly right, but I believe the bill allows law officers to shoot a bison if it escapes from an enclosure or piece of property and if it will be a considerable hardship and/or safety risk to law enforcement to have to recapture the bison or otherwise bring it under control.  If you keep bison as cattle and/or pets, don't let them wander off your property, people!!

Anyway, Amy had a late night Thursday, and I had a late night waiting up for her, especially once it started storming and I was worried about her safely getting home.

Friday night we had a Mono Ensemble show at Carousel Lounge.  Amy and I went to grab some dinner at Central Market before the show, and as we were getting out of the car, Amy commented that the sky was getting sort of dark.  About ten minutes later the skies just opened up.  It was one of the heaviest downpours that we've had in a while, and for a little while, as I watched the streets flood and watched the rain come down in sheets, I was questioning whether we should even play the gig.  Getting my electric equipment soaked while unloading for a show that no one was likely to attend didn't sound like such a great idea.
In the end, though, we started a little late, but we played.  A number of people texted me to tell me that they weren't going to make it out to hear us because of the weather, but we still has a small group in attendance, and it was fun.  I think we actually sounded pretty good.  I guess since there weren't that many folks there we could just sort of relax and have fun and rock out.


(by wearing this hat I brought art TO the museum)
So Saturday we got up sort of late.  We ate some breakfast, and while we were eating, Amy commented that she had been wanting to see the masterworks alumni collection at The Blanton Museum of Art.  That particular exhibition is only going to be around for a couple more weeks, and Amy's work schedule makes things kind of unpredictable right now, so after we got done eating we headed to the museum to see the art while we had the chance.
I had never been to The Blanton before.  It's a really cool museum.  The collection of art that had been collected by UT alumni was really pretty amazing.

(art > work)
It was a diverse collection, with pieces ranging from samurai helmets to menacing Luis Jimenez sculptures to paintings by Monet and Rousseau.  I really enjoyed the alumni exhibit, as well as seeing the museum and its permanent collections for the first time.  I would definitely go back.  I hear that Thursdays are free...

Once we finished up at the museum, we went to the store and did some grocery shopping.  After that I went for a bike ride.  The weather was really, really nice, but it felt like there were very few people out.  Kind of odd.  Usually when the weather's nice there are people all over the place in this city.

Saturday evening Amy made a really good salmon dinner.  I'm terrible at describing food, but it was baked salmon with breadcrumbs and mustard, and it was muy delicioso!  She served it with asparagus, which tastes good, and, I'm told, contains lots of vitamins, fights cancer, and helps prevent cognitive decline (I need the help in this last area so Amy will have fewer opportunities to outwit me!).  Dinner was great. 
Saturday night I was suffering a bit from the allergies.  Also, perhaps, from late nights on Thursday and Friday.  We did some reading and went to sleep (after unsuccessfully looking for something to stream from Netflix).
On Sunday Amy made us some breakfast.  I did some exercising.  After that, Amy worked and I went out for a Mother's Day lunch with my parents and Ryan and Jamie.  We went to Willie G's down on Congress.  I had never been there before.  It was nice.  The food was good, and it was actually quiet enough to be able to carry on a nice conversation.  I had a pleasant meal and a good time visiting with everyone.  I hope Mom had a nice time, too.
I love you, Mom! 

After lunch I went home and changed clothes and picked up Amy.  We zipped across town to The Bates Recital Hall at UT, where we listened to The Austin Civic Orchestra.  My friend, Laura, plays clarinet in the orchestra when she's not prosecuting bad guys.  Amy and I both enjoyed the performance.  I like the classical music.  I like a lot of different kinds of music, but classical music has a richness to it that you don't hear in many other forms.  I especially like to hear classical music performed live.  With classical music, for some reason I feel much more emotionally engaged with the music when I'm hearing it come straight from the musicians and their instruments.  It really pulls me out of my head.  I think that you can really hear the timbre, texture, tone, and nuance of the instruments in a live setting, whereas those qualities are frequently diminished to some degree when an orchestra is recorded and the sound later reproduced (unless you have an almost perfect recording and an awesome stereo).  There's just a whole lot of complexity to classical music, and it helps to hear it live.  Powerful stuff.
Anyway, the orchestra was good.

Afterward we stopped off for a quick shopping trip.  Following that we went home, and once again, Amy made a great dinner.
Sunday night she made shrimp cakes.  They had bread crumbs and some kind of hot sauce and green onion and cilantro and lime on top.  They were great.  I helped her boil some corn to go along with them.  It was a weekend that involved some very good food.  Both the salmon and shrimp cakes were really excellent.

And that was about it.  More reading.

I hope everyone else had a good weekend!  Ours was very nice.  In between these other activities we spent some time just sitting on the back porch.  The weather was so nice!

Take care!!




 

Monday, May 06, 2013

Update

The weekend was good, but way too short.  Amy worked just about all day Saturday, so it really felt like things went flying by.

Friday night we had dinner, went to the store,  and then watched the last episode of Game of Thrones from Season 2.  I know that I'm like a season behind, but it's pretty cool how season 2 had the show is making a sort of slow transition from being a being more or less realistic show, about medieval warfare in a world where magic hadn't been seen in generations, into a show that involves sorcery and dragons and undead armies (for those who don't watch, Game of Thrones takes place in a world where magic has taken on an almost mythical quality after having disappeared from the world) .  Somehow the more fantastic elements of the show seem much more interesting and compelling after watching a season and a half that mostly took place without them.  The audience joins the characters in the process of watching magic (in both good and evil forms) reenter their world.  Having taken a long journey with the characters from reality into a more fantastic world, the audience finds itself taking the magic more seriously than it would have had the show kicked off with a world filled with leprechauns and unicorns.  This slow march into a realm of magic has probably captured many readers and viewers who ordinarily wouldn't be very interested in investing themselves in fantasy fiction.

At any rate, we're still enjoying Game of Thrones.  I'm looking forward to Season 3.

On Saturday Amy had to go to work.  To help make laws.  My fiancee makes laws.
While Amy was at work I went and ran some errands for us and took care of a few chores.  After that I pedaled down to my brother's house and hopped in the car to go with him to San Marcos for a comic book convention.  I'm game for such things, and he promised that we could stop off for lunch.

I've been to quite a few of these conventions over the years, which is kind of unusual for a guy who doesn't really collect comic books.
But the conventions aren't really even about comic books all that much these days.  They're more of a celebration of a subculture.  Everything and anything that has to do with fantasy and/or sci fi is game.  Movies, TV shows, video games, comics, cartoons, and artwork.
(do NOT open the figurines to look at them
more closely!)
People walk around dressed in costumes (cosplay is what they call it), and people can just sort of let it all hang out in terms of being rabid, crazy fans without a lot of judgment or criticism from people who might fear the weirdness.
Most of me is a big fan of this sort of thing.  I generally enjoy honest, unbridled expressions of individuality and creativity.
I have to admit that there's a little part of me that sort of questions that undercurrent of desperate commercialism, but I guess that you guess that in just about any area where interests and hobbies occur.
And I had a good time!

(here you see T-Dog and Merle set aside
their differences to interrogate a small
zombie girl) 
There were some cast members (or former cast members) from The Walking Dead in attendance, so I got to snap some pictures of Michael Rooker (Merle Dixon) and IronE Singleton (T-Dog).  Also some girl who played a zombie.  I'm not sure of her real name, but apparently she's got a role in some upcoming movie that's some sort of spin off of Night of the Living Dead. 
It was pretty cool to see them in real life.  I really like that show.  One of the best sci-fi fantasy shows of its time, for sure.

My Uncle Bob and Aunt Linda were in town this weekend, and on Saturday night Amy and I rode over to Fonda San Miguel with Ryan and Jamie to meet up with them and my parents.  It was a nice evening!  Good food, and a nice chance for Bob and Linda to meet Amy and catch up with us.
We had a nice dinner.  In addition to chatting with Bob and Linda I got to hear a bit about Mom and Dad's trip to Kenya.
Fonda San Miguel is a nice restaurant.  We really only go there for special occasions, so it fit the bill very well.

On Sunday we got up and did some chores, and I exercised a bit.  In the afternoon we went over to Mom and Dad's house for a lunch cookout.  Got to catch up with Bob and Linda a bit more and spend some time with the family unit.  Dad and Ryan grilled burgers and sausages.  Brownies and ice cream for dessert. 
It was good!  I was happy that Bob and Linda got to spend time with Amy, and it was nice for me to have a chance to catch up with them.
Sunday night we had Mono Ensemble practice.  We have a gig coming up on Friday.
Amy's friend (my friend, too!), Heidi, is in town this week.  We're trying to see her.  Amy is busy making those laws...

Have a good week, guys!