Monday, January 27, 2014

Snowpocalypse and Weekend Update

Hey!  Hope everyone is doing just fine.  I guess we're in midwinter now.  The weather here in Austin has been a little crazy.  Last Thursday night the temperatures dropped down into, I guess, the twenties, and we got some precipitation mixed in with freezing temperatures.  This, of course, set the stage for Austin's SNOWPOCALYPSE 2014!  By Thursday afternoon, with temperatures just starting to drop below freezing, and with no ice yet in sight, the City of Austin sent it's road crews into high gear, coating bridges and overpasses with large amounts of de-icing crytals (I'm not sure what they actually use, but apparently salt is obsolete at this point).  The first casualties of the snowpocalypse, in fact, were apparently caused by cars sliding not on ice, but on de-icing material that had been spread on the surfaces of highways like IH-35 and 290.  Anyway, we did eventually get some legitimate sleet and freezing rain, and between 5 p.m. and midnight Austin emergency services ended up responding to at least 109 crashes
Soooo... Friday was delcared a snow day, with local schools, government offices, and the university shut down.  Suddenly Amy and I had an unexpected, but very welcome three day weekend on our hands.  Texans, and Austinites in particular, love a good snow day.  It's a day when you're not only free from going to work, but a day in which you are actually encouraged to avoid getting in your car and going anywhere.  The whole point of the snow day, after all, is to avoid the death trap of icy Austin roads.

Of course, a person still wants to enjoy their snow day, so by 11:15 I was out the door and shuffling my way (carefully!) over to our nearby movie theater to try to catch a flick.  I was foiled on my first attempt.  The theater, perhaps wisely, had decided to open late so that their employees didn't have to drive on the roads to get to work.  I walked around a bit, trying to imagine what it must be like to live in a bitterly cold place where people have to struggle their way through a frozen wasteland as part of their day to day existence (Lubbock and Dallas came to mind), and then I walked home.  I did a few chores, and then I went back to the theater in the early afternoon. 
I saw Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, which turned out to be a pretty mediocre spy flick.  It seemed like it didn't really know what it wanted to be.  It started out as a more reality-based espionage thriller, with our undercover hero, Dr. Jack Ryan, working as an analyst on Wall Street, essentially performing high level forensic accounting in the hopes of tracking terrorist money transfers.  Of course, eventually Ryan is called into action and ends up in a situation where people are trying to kill him.  Plausibly, he seems extremely rattled at first.  Ryan, as he repeatedly protests, is trained as an analyst and not as a field agent.  It takes about 10 minutes, though, for our hero to go from economics nerd to Rambo, and his handlers at the CIA seem more than happy to repeatedly thrust an untrained analyst into life and death combat scenarios that would tax the skills of a green beret ninja.  By the end of the movie, Ryan's character felt like a bit of a stretch, and the enemy's conspiracy felt artificial and forced.  I generally like Chris Pine, but Harrison Ford did a much better job of bringing the awkwardness and sense of discomfort to Tom Clancy's analyst-turned-hero character.  Pine's character felt more like Jason Bourne, which just isn't all that appropriate for a depiction of, well, Jack Ryan.

By Friday night the ice had melted and the roads had cleared.  We headed over to our friend Reid's house to play some games with friends.  We played a game called The Resistance: Avalon.  The game was pretty cool.  It involves secret identities and trickery and people trying to figure out who is on their team and who is working against them (kind of remind me of life at the courthouse!  Hahaha!!).  It's sort of based on the King Arthur stories.  Anyway, we had a lot of fun playing it.  We also played a game which involved telling fairy tale stories with cards.  I never really got the hang of that one.  Not sure it was my favorite, but by then I was a little tired and worn out, so maybe I need to give it another shot at some point.  Anyway, it was fun to see Reid and Jim and friends.  Very nice of them to have us over.

Saturday we had breakfast at Magnolia Cafe and then ran some errands.  We did some chores and took Cassidy to Joslin Park.  The weather was beautiful, and it was hard to imagine that the town had been iced over the previous morning.
Saturday night we went to Bass Concert Hall.  As a Christmas present for me, Amy had gotten us tickets to the KUTX first anniversary birthday extravaganza.  There were three acts:  Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, Iron and Wine, and Neko Case.  All three were really good.
We had seen Thao & the Get Down at this year's ACL Fest, and it was good to see them again.  Their music is different and catchy and funky.  Not all of it is immediately accessible, and I felt like I had a much greater appreciation for it this second time around.  They're a cool band.

The Iron and Wine set was really cool, too.  Sam Beam has really beautiful, haunting songs.  His father joined him onstage for his set, and accompanied him on a combination of instruments, ranging from banjo to mandolin to possibly some guitar.  That definitely made the show feel special.  In addition to being a great singer-songwriter, Beam has a very comfortable, relaxed, funny presence as a performer.  I've seen him several times now, and I've repeatedly been struck by how his relatively upbeat personality kind of lays at odds with the more somber music that he performs.  In fact, he even made a couple of quips about the fact that his "sad music" might not be the ideal choice for a birthday party.  Whatever.  He was great.  I guess he's moved out of state, but it was nice to have him back in Austin for the night.

Neko Case closed out the evening.  She and her band were also great.  We had seen them at ACL Fest this year, as well, but their ACL Fest was marred by bad sound quality, with an extremely loud Atoms for Peace set on a neighboring stage stomping all over the quieter numbers performed by Neko and her band.  So it was great to hear Neko at Bass, a performance hall with great acoustics and a quiet, respectful audience.  The venue may have been a little more formal than than the band was expecting for a birthday party, but it was a great place to showcase their talent. 
The tempo of Case's music can range from slow to driving, and Neko her band is sort of large and plays a wide variety of instruments.  The songs, though varied, all kind of tug at the heartstrings and evoke emotion.  Neko's specialties, fueled by the harmonies of her uniquely talented backup singer, Kelly Hogan, seem to lend themselves to heartbreak and sorrow, but almost any sort of angst will do.  Case and crew rip through "Man", a rocking plea in defense of masculinity, with an interesting combination of bravado and desperation.  From nuanced and complex to achingly simple, Neko Case performs songs that conjure up feeling in a way that surely instills envy in a lot of other artists.
Anyway, it was great to see her.  It was great night!  Thanks for the tickets, Amy!

(a moment on the balcony at Bass Concert Hall before the
start of the show.  UT Tower in background to make it legit)

On Sunday Amy made us breakfast (eggs, sausage, hashbrowns.  Yum!).   We took Cassidy to Garrison Park.  We walked around and then sat in the sun and did some reading while Cassidy hopped around.
Sunday afternoon I went over to Strange Brew for a while for the Sunday Bedlam.  I'll probably post about it at some point on my new blog, so I'll hold off on writing about it here.  I only was there for about an hour, but I had a good time.

Amy made pasta with Italian chicken sausage, spinach, and wine sauce for dinner.  It had both penne and rotini pasta.  It was excellent.  Had it with some salad and bread. 

And that was pretty much the weekend.  It was a good one.  The extra day off was really nice.  There's a chance of more freezing rain again this week, so all of you Austinites stay safe!



Jean said...

Oooohhhh! The pasta looks delicious. Can't believe the cold you're having. Stay warm and be careful on the roads.

J.S. said...

The pasta WAS delicious! Amy made some potato crusted halibut the other night with sauteed zucchini that was delicious as well. I'm too lucky! The roads are warmed up for now, but they're already talking about the possibility of more ice next week...