Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend

Well, we were supposed to be in Arizona for Memorial Day this weekend.  Amy and I were both looking forward to getting away from work and heading to Arizona to see her family.  We were supposed to fly in to Phoenix and then head up to her family's cabin in Munds Park, near Flagstaff.  Unfortunately, a wildfire began last Tuesday at a place called Slide Rock State Park, in a valley near Sedona, which is maybe 15 miles or so (?) from Munds Park. 
We weren't sure what the conditions would be, in terms of smoke and traffic (they shut down one of the major roads near the cabin, and people in some areas were being encouraged to evacuate).  Anyway, long story short, we ended up rescheduling our trip for June.  We were both a little disappointed about the weekend, but we're both still really looking forward to going!

So Friday was pretty uneventful.  We ate some tacos and went to Half Price Books.  Not too earth shattering.  I can't remember if we did anything else.  Mellow, relaxing night.
Saturday we got up and went shopping.  Amy made chocolate peanut butter pie.
(Amy at Mom and Dad's house)
Saturday evening we went over to my parents' house for a cookout with Ryan, Jamie, Mom, and Dad.  It was fun.  Dad and Ryan grilled some salmon and some steak.  We also had corn, salad, pasta salad, and fruit.  We had that chocolate peanut butter pie for dessert. 
It was good to hang out and relax and catch up.  Good food and good company.  It was really nice of Mom and Dad to have us!






On Sunday we got up and went out to The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center with Mandy and her family.  They recently opened up a Family Garden at the Wildflower Center, and there's a series of really cool watering holes and ponds that have been set up.  Kids can fill up watering cans and splash the water and pour it on the rocks and plants.  It's really cool looking, and the kids seem to really like it (and adults as well!).  The watering holes have been established as a memorial in Jeff Wilson's honor by his family and friends (if you were friends with Jeff, you can still make a donation here- just be sure to indicate on the donation form that you're making the donation in honor of Jeff Wilson so that they'll know that it goes toward the memorial fund).
The watering holes are a great tribute to Jeff.  He loved wildlife and gardening and being outside.  He also loved the water.  He loved all of these things enough to put a large pond in his own back yard, so, of course, he would have loved the idea of having a watering hole named for him.  He woulda gotten a real kick out of seeing all of the families hanging out in the Wildflower Center and enjoying the water.  The whole place sorta feels like Jeff.  It's a great tribute.



(Mandy, Amy, and a wildflower yeti)

(click on this photo to enlarge and see that the
watering holes are dedicated to Jeff)  


(the kiddos pump water for the watering holes)


(Another view of the watering holes)
 
Neither Amy nor I had been to the Wildflower Center before, so we also just wandered around and enjoyed the grounds.  It's a really cool place.  I can't believe I've never been out there before.  It's really not all that far from our house.






So we spent most of the morning at the Wildflower Center.  Then we went home and grabbed lunch, and I put on a suit and headed downtown for a memorial service for one of my coworkers, John Fusselman.  Fusselman worked IT in our office.  He was one of our "go to" guys when you can't access your electronic files or when the mail server locks you out or when a hundred other things go wrong.  John was a really nice guy.  He was always happy to help out- quick to lend a hand and diligent in working on something until it was actually fixed. 
He was an avid cyclist and had ridden his bike not only all across the country, but in Europe as well.  He was a member of several cycling groups, and frequently road his bike to work.  He died when a car struck him last weekend while he was riding his bike on Bee Caves Road.  It was apparently a true accident, with no one really at fault (the sun just got in the eyes of a driver as she was making a turn).  Very, very sad.
John's memorial service was very well attended.  Standing room only, in fact.  It was quite a testament to the quiet power of such a friendly, unassuming man.  His funeral packed a large chapel beyond its capacity on a Memorial Day weekend, even when so many people were out of town.
I know John will be missed around our office.

Sunday night I had band practice.  Reed, Jim, Frank, and I played at Reed's house.  We sounded pretty good, and we had a good time.  Practice ended with a bang (literally) when during our last song a large, framed picture fell off the wall above our practice room's door, and landed on Frank's head.  Glass went everywhere, Frank suffered a small cut, and the rocking came to an immediate stop.  I'm sure there's a joke in there somewhere about bringing the house down...
Anyway, other from the picture attack, it was a good practice.

I drove home, and Amy made pesto pasta for dinner.  It was very good!
After dinner we watched the last two episodes of Treme.  I'm really gonna miss that show.  I'll miss the music, of course, but I'll also miss having a show to watch that was actually just about interesting struggles in the lives of its characters.  Treme did a good job of getting you to invest in plot and characters without employing action/adventure plotlines and without devolving into soap opera.  The show was accused of being a little stereotypical or "post card" in its depiction of New Orleans, but I mostly didn't find that to be the case.  Sure, there were a lot of quintessential New Orleans locations and traditions depicted, but the entire point of the series was to demonstrate why New Orleans is such a unique place and why it deserved the attention and support of the rest of the country as it struggled to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.  They weren't going to be able to convey that message by focusing on stories that could have occurred in just any old place.  Making the location a more subtle player on the show might have made the entire enterprise moot.

On Monday we had rain.  Lots of rain.  We needed the rain, for sure, but it really killed any chance of a bike ride or a trip to Barton Springs.  We went to Target, we exercised, and we did some reading.  When the rain finally stopped I grilled some chicken kabobs that Amy had been marinating.  They were really tasty.

And that was basically the weekend.
Kind of an interesting Memorial Day weekend.  In addition to thinking a bit about the soldiers who had given their lives for our country, I ended up visiting the Jeff Wilson Memorial Watering Holes and attending a memorial service for John Fusselman.
I still miss Jeff a lot, and I still haven't even really processed the fact that John Fusselman is gone.  Both were really good guys, although very different personalities.
I'm really pleased with those watering holes.

I guess that's it.  Take care of yourselves out there.  Have a good week.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Update

Hey there!  How's everyone doing?  Hope your week is off to a good start.
Things are going pretty well over at our house.
We had a good week last week and a nice weekend.

On one of the nights last week (was it Wednesday?) I made chicken dijonnaise.  I mention this because I usually am not much of a cook.  Actually, even this time, I had to have a fair amount of coaching and oversight from Amy.  Kind of embarrassing given that it's not a very complicated recipe, but I tend to lack the sense of timing and eye for detail that successful cooking often requires.  anyway, with Amy's help the chicken was a success!  I'll definitely try it again in the future.



Friday was bike to work day, so I rode my bike to the office and back.  The weather was nice, which made for a very pleasant commute on the ol' cycle.  In the morning I stopped at the bike station at City Hall for a breakfast taco and to listen to some quick speeched by Councilmen Chris Riley and Mike Martinez.  On the way home I stopped at our neighborhood bike shop, Bikealot, and had a beer.  I met a couple of nice people from our neighborhood who bike to work.  Friday evening we had pizza for dinner (after Amy cooked pretty much every other night of the week). 
After dinner I was sort of pacing around the house, until finally Amy said, "Yooou seem to have a lot of energy.  Why don't you go do something?"  I stared at her, trying to figure out if this was some sort of trap.  When eventually I realized that it wasn't, I rode my bike over to Strange Brew to catch
whatever band was playing.  It turned out to be Lisa Tingle.  I had never heard her before, but she was really good.  She's a really skilled singer with a powerful voice.  Her songs were sort of rocking, but not overly heavy or anything- strong, but soulful.  Her band was really good.  I hope to write a bit about the show over on my music blog later in the week.
I got home to find Amy quietly reading and probably grateful for a little time quiet time without me prowling around the house.  We had a nice evening.
On Saturday in the morning I did some shopping while Amy got some other stuff done around the house.
Later on we went to meet Ryan and Jamie to see Godzilla at the Slaughter Lane Alamo.  I would rate the movie sort of a medium.  (spolier alert) It seemed sort of interesting at the beginning, but then they killed Bryan Cranston pretty early.  It seemed like character development and interesting storylines pretty much died with him.  The early parts of the movie with Cranston's anguished nuclear engineer were much more interesting than the generic action-adventure blockbuster that the movie quickly devolved into.
Still, there were a few cool fight scenes, and Godzilla himself made for a good spectacle.  In the age of digital animation special effects are no longer, enough, though, and this movie fell woefully short in the story department.  Even though I thought this movie looked a little better than Pacific Rim, Pacific Rim ultimately had a much more compelling story (with the alien invasion via dimensional rift and the robot warrior pilots and whatnot).

After the movie I got some exercise and then we headed over to a housewarming party for our friends Matt and Britney.  Matt is a friend from Amy's office, and he and his wife have a very nice house up in Brentwood.  It was built in the 1940's, I think, but then remodeled around 2008.  Very nice place.  We had a good time hanging out with people from their office and other friendly folks and seeing the place.  Very nice of them to have everyone over.




After the houeswarming shindig, Amy and I went to see Ray Bonneville at Strange Brew.  Ryan and Jamie joined us, which was very cool.  We got there, paid our cover charge, and settled into our seats just in time to be greeted by Don and Judy and Tom and Marlene, family friends that we've known since I was a kid.  It was really cool that they came out.  I had posted a couple of times on Facebook about Ray Bonneville being really good, and they took me at my workd and came out to see the show.  It was really fun to see them.
And the show was really great.  Ray Bonneville comes up with interesting tunes, is a good guitar player, and has a cool voice.  His songs range in style from blues to country to folk to zydeco, often overlapping a bit in terms of genre, but sharing a certain rythmic and vocal style that binds them together.  His subject matter is sometimes dark, but his songs are pretty mellow and nice to listen to.  I really like his music.  Once again, I hope to do some sort of review soon on ATX Note Book.

So we had a really nice time at the show.  It was nice for Amy and I to get a chance to hang out with Jamie, Ryan, Tom, Marlene, Judy, and Don.  I always like seeing live music, but it's even more fun to experience it with family and friends.  No doubt about it.








On Sunday we had a much more mellow day.  We went out for breakfast, went grocery shopping, took Cassidy to Garrison Park, and spent some time relaxing in the back yard.  We had chicken tacos for dinner, and we watched Treme.  We had a really nice, quiet day.

And that was pretty much our weekend!

Oh yeah!  At some point over the weeknd Amy finished this bell pull.  Very cool!


Monday, May 12, 2014

Update

Well, this weekend was pretty good, all in all.  I drove Amy to the airport on Friday, and she flew out to Phoenix for the weekend to surprise her mom with an unannounced Mother's Day visit.  It sounds like Jean was genuinely surprised (Amy and I were both afraid that someone would let the cat out of the bag or that she would figure it out ahead of time).  Sounds like they had a really nice weekend together.
Back here in Austin, I had a pretty good weekend, myself.  On Friday I mostly hung out around the house.  I hung out at Mandy's a little bit on Friday night while Cassidy and her dogs played, and then I went home and ate dinner, watched TV, and went to bed (for dinner I had leftovers of this really good Mediterranean shrimp dish that Amy made last week).


(inadvertantly ended up at the farmer's market at
Republic Square Park during my bike ride)
On Saturday I got up and went to the grocery store and ran some errands. Afterward I went for a bike ride that was pretty long in Steanso terms.  I rode from my house through downtown and up through Hyde Park and up to 2222.  Then I rode back into downtown where I jumped one of the Capital Metro rapid buses and rode it back to the South Congress transit center.  Then I rode home.  It was a nice ride.  The weather was a little bit warm, but it was dry and there was a breeze.  Somewhere along the way I stopped off and had lunch.  All in all I rode about 18.3 miles.  I was feeling a little proud of my ride, but then I ran into four guys on fancy bikes who were on some sort of cycling team.  They told me that they were in the middle of a hundred mile ride.  I told them that I was only riding 18 miles, and it might involve drinking a beer at some point.  One of the guys threatened to quit the team and ride with me.  Anyway, that sorta put things in perspective, and from there on I just sorta kept pedalling and took in the scenery.
When I got home I took Cassidy to the park for a while and did a few chores.
That evening I drove out to see my folks.  We went to a local Italian restaurant near their house.  We had a nice time having dinner and catching up.  We sat outside enjoying some pleasant weather and watching turtles in a pond at the nearby golf course.

On Sunday, Ryan, Jamie, and I celebrated Mother's Day by going to church with Mom and Dad.  Afterward we joined Susan, Ciara, and Uncle Donald for lunch at Manuel's, a Mexican restaurant up off Jollyville Road.  We had a nice lunch, and it was good to catch up with everyone.
That afternoon I got some exercise and walked Cassidy.  Then Mom and Dad came by (they had been down in our part of town picking up a table and chairs from Ryan and Jamie).  For some reason we all went to Kohl's together.  I got a new wallet and a shirt.  We had a good time hanging out.
Then they went home, and I did a little bit of laundry and watched True Detective.  It's a good show, but it's very dark.  Amy keeps asking me if I'm enjoying it.  I definitely appreciate the show (the acting, the plot, the dialogue), but it would be sort of hard to characterize my appreciation as enjoyment.  It's kind of like asking someone if they "enjoy" Hamlet or other tragedies.  I definitely find True Detective compelling, but it's not exactly fun in a traditional sense.  I guess I watch it because the characters are interesting and because I feel like the show maybe has something insightful to say.
I ate a leftover turkey burger for dinner, and picked up Amy around 11:15 at night.  I hadn't been sleeping super well while she's been gone.  She came down the escalator, I kissed her smiling face, hugged her, drove home, and collapsed into bed, feeling that things were right again in the world.

That was my weekend!

Hope all is well for all of you.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Update

It was a good week, but once again, it went by pretty fast.

This past Tuesday I went to see Thievery Corporation at Stubb's with Frank.  Sort of unexpectedly, we ended up meeting up with Jennifer, David, Kim, and Sigmund.  The show was good.  Thivery Corporation have a sort of funky, world beat, electronic sound.  They are, in some ways, more of a musical collective than a simple band.  There are a set of musicians (playing drums, bass, percussion, guitar, DJ, and occasionally a sitar) who remain on stage and play each song, but there are a number of singers and rappers who sort of cycle through the performance, entering and exiting the stage for particular numbers.  The band has strong bass lines and interesting, catchy, danceable rhythms.  The different vocalists lend different flavors to the songs through varying styles of singing and rapping.  The end result is a product that's bound together through certain similarities in rhythm and musicianship of the band, but which ranges in vocal style from soulful and meditative to more aggressive and driving.  Most of the music makes people want to move their feet, though, so the whole thing, overall, carries a sort of party vibe.  It was a really good show.

Friday night we met Jamie and Ryan at Sap's for Thai food and some hang out time.  It was good to see them.  We've been meaning to get together for a while, but everyone has been busy.  Nice to catch up.  Ryan had his big library conference last week, so it was good to hear about that.  After dinner we sort of relaxed at the house and watched Game of Thrones.  Gonna miss that kid who played Geoffrey.  He was great at playing a dude that we all loved to hate.

Saturday I did a few chores and went for a bike ride.  The weather was really nice.  Even though it's warming up a bit, the air was really dry and breezy, and it felt nice to be out riding.


Saturday evening we went to see Patricia Vonne at Strange Brew.  She was really fun.  I like her voice, and she has a charming stage presence.  The combination of Spanish folk songs (often accompanied by castanets), English folk and rock songs, and ballads made for an interesting, engaging set. She played with Robert La Roche on guitar/backing vocals and David Perales on violin (I've heard Perales play with her before, and he's a really impressive violin player- great musician who adds a whole other layer of cool to the songs).

Sunday we went out for breakfast.  Did some grocery shopping, and then I went for another bike ride.  The weather was still pretty nice, but I was worn out and had a slower ride.  It was still good to get out, though.  I need to stay in shape so riding the bike doesn't get harder!
Sunday evening I had band practice.  We sounded pretty good.  Eric came up with a new harmony part for "Overhead", an old song of ours that I wrote a long time ago, and it makes the whole song sound better. 
After band practice Amy and I ate delicious chilaquiles (thanks, Amy!), and did some reading until we got tired and went to bed.
Very nice weekend.

Have a good week!