Monday, October 30, 2017


Hey!  It's been a busy, but fun week over at our house.
With Halloween right around the corner, I carved a jack-o'-lantern with Raylan on Wednesday night.
I asked him what sort of face the jack-o'-lantern should have, and he seemed to put some serious thought into it before responding that it should be a sad pumpkin with a square nose.  I tried to throw out some other, more traditional jack-o'-lantern face choices (happy, scary, etc.), but he was set on sad with a square nose.  Soooo....

I'm not sure why I'm sad, doc.  It's just sort of a general malaise...
On Friday Amy and I celebrated our anniversary!  Four years of marriage!
I love you, Amy!  We had a busy day planned, but we got a chance to go out to lunch together at Zocalo Cafe, and that was nice.
Friday afternoon my office held it's annual trick or treating event for the children of our employees.
It's a really fun deal.  People decorate pretty much the whole floor for our trial division with spooky decorations.  Some people dress up, and lots of people hand  out candy.

The Super Paralegals!  David is Captain America, JJ is Storm, and
Jamie is some sort of weird Batgirl (I told her that Batgirl doesn't
wear a tutu, but she seemed unfazed)
I thought that Raylan would be sort of scared of all of the decorations and people in costume, but he was pretty happy to take part in the whole thing.  He's been reading some books about trick or treating, and he's seen a few cartoons about it, and he jumped right in.

Raylan scores some loot from Ashley, one of our most fun and
festive interns.
Raylan also ran into one of his former schoolmates, Will, whose
mother I work with.  It was sort of funny.  They've both grown so much since
seeing each other, but I got the feeling that they sort of recognized each other in a
vague way.  But couldn't quite place it...
Anyway, Raylan enjoyed the trick or treating much more than I expected.  He grabbed candy, and said, "Trick or treat!" and, "Happy Halloween!"
He also wore his ghost costume the whole time.  Amy made it, and it's really cute.
Raylan wanted to be a happy ghost, and Amy really pulled it off.

Later on Friday night Amy's parents arrived in town for a visit.
They didn't get to our house until about 8:30 (Raylan was asleep), but we had dinner and a drink with them and got to catch up.  It was really nice.

On Saturday Amy and Jean went to the gym, and we ran a few errands (one with her parents).  In the afternoon, Greg and I went over to the Austin Beer Garden Brewery for their October Fermentation Fest.  We had some beers, sat outside to enjoy the beautiful weather, and just got a chance to chat and relax a bit.  It was really fun!  We also got some cool boot-shaped beer glasses that they were using for the festival.

Greg suits up for Fermentation Fest
On Saturday the four adults plus Raylan went to La Posada for dinner.  The food was good, the conversation was good, and we had a nice time.

On Sunday Greg and I went to see Bladerunner 2049 at the Alamo.  I had seen the movie once before, but I had felt, even seeing it the first time, that it was a film that was definitely deserving of a number of repeat viewings.
We had a really good time.  Greg actually caught a clue early in the movie that I wasn't able to catch. [spoiler] There is a name written upon a wall at the beginning of the film at Sapper Morton's farm which is apparently a woman's name, written in Russian.  Greg actually reads some Russian, and he said he figured that the name would have some importance later in the film.  Well, as they eventually end up going on the hunt for the replicant child...
Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie again.

On Sunday evening we met up with my parents at the Salt Lick out in Driftwood.  On the day that we had been married back in 2013, we had a family dinner out at the Salt Lick, so it seemed appropriate to go out there again.  As luck would have it, the hostess sat us at the same table where we had sat 4 years ago.  It's a big place, so that was sort of weird!

The more things change...

Mother-daughter barbecue time!

Yes, there's a Tardis in the parking lot at the Salt Lick.
Of course.
Time Lords love BBQ.

Raylan's grandmas!

We had a great time having everyone join us for dinner!  It's kind of a haul to get to the Salt Lick, so thanks to the parents/grandparents for coming out!

Raylan has a bit of a cold or something which has been slowly developing over the weekend, so we ended up cutting dinner a little bit shorter than we otherwise might have, but we still had a nice time.
(By last night he even had a little bit of a fever, although he slept in this morning and seems to be doing better).

Anyway, that was the weekend!  It was fun!

I hope everyone's week is off to a good start!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Book Review: The Last Stand

So I just finished The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn by Nathaniel Philbrick.
It's a good book.  It paints a vivid, thoroughly researched portrait of George Armstrong Custer, the 7th Cavalry, and  the events which occurred during the hunt for Sitting Bull and the Lakota, Arapahoe, and Cheyenne tribes in the Montana Territory in 1876.  I recently read Philbrick's Bunker Hill, and I'm not sure that this book flowed quite as well, but then again, Bunker Hill covers a longer period of time with many more events, so maybe the chronological chain of occurrences in that book contributed to the difference in styles.
Philbrick does a good job of exploring Custer as an actual human being rather than as the mythological figure that he's come to represent over time.  He portrays the good (civil war hero, decorated for bravery), the bad (Custer's impulsive nature, which had led him to the brink of disaster in prior battles against the Indians), and the ugly (Custer's penchant for keeping captured Indian women in his camp for use as, essentially, sex slaves).  One things that this book really drove home was the general awfulness of the American treatment of Native Americans during the push to move them onto reservations in an attempt to "pacify" those populations as well as the savage resistance mounted against that effort by certain tribes and tribal leaders.  The book is replete with violent images of Sitting Bull's warriors as they lay waste to Custer's forces, including the torture of soldiers and the mutilation of bodies following the battle.  Philbrick is quick to recount reasons for the rage that drove the Indians, though, alluding to various "battles" which the cavalry had previously engaged in which had actually amounted to massacres of women, children, and elderly members of the tribes which Custer faced (including at least one really disturbing event where the army had paraded the corpses of dead Indians through city streets in celebration after one such event).  Even before this battle, Custer's own scouts killed a number of Indian children who were found in the area just prior to the commencement of the fighting.  In fact, the mutilation of dead American soldiers following Little Bighorn was apparently carried out in many cases by women from the tribes, who visited pent up rage upon their dead enemies.  The carnage had become pretty awful on both sides by the time the Battle of the Little Bighorn occurred, although the U.S. military was undoubtedly the aggressor in the conflict.  It's obviously impossible to seize lands from indigenous peoples while refusing to tolerate dissent without being the aggressor, and, in addition, American forces, often seeing the Indians as almost less than human, carried out atrocities with alarming frequency.  Violent backlash was to be expected.

Anyway, the expansion of the American West was. for a great many of the participants, a horror show.
That's not the sort of thing I was really made to understand during my history classes in high school, but it's a truth that, as an adult, I've come to more fully recognize.

[I'd previously read Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, and I had been sort of turned off by what I considered to be the over-the-top violence depicted in the book.  Reading a more historical account of events in the American West, I'm struck by the fact that the real world violence is only barely less horrific than the fictional version that I had previously considered unrealistic.]

When you consider the violence, intolerance, and oppression that was utterly enmeshed into the fabric of our culture as a developing nation, it really lends a different perspective to modern debates on topics ranging from civil rights to racism to the actual nature of the "American Dream".
We still have a long way to go, but, man, we've had a lot to overcome.

As with Bunker Hill, Philbrick does a good job of exploring and depicting the leaders involved in the run up to the battle.  His portrayal of not only Custer, but the officers within the 7th Cavalry, includes explorations of their motivations, their personalities, and the interpersonal relationships, friendships, and rivalries which ultimately played out as the battle itself unfolded.

It's a good book.  Admittedly, I didn't know much about the events surrounding the Battle of the Little Bighorn before reading the book other than believing that, "Custer was supposedly overconfident and got a bunch of soldiers killed."
As usual when reading history, there's a lot more to the story (although I'm not sure that my limited initial assumptions, although vague, were incorrect ).
There are some serious history buffs out there who might have a different take on the book, but I found it an interesting, compelling, and hopefully fairly accurate read.

Monday, October 23, 2017


Our week was good, but went by really fast.

The work week seemed particularly busy.
After a day involving a hearing in district court on Thursday, Amy came home and made pasta with sausage and spinach.  I came home from working late(ish) at vet court to a very nice meal.  I love my wife!
On Saturday we had a foster care training all day.  The material was pretty good, but the pace of presentation was a little slow.  That night Amy and I had a nice dinner at Cypress Grill.
Mom and Dad took Raylan on Saturday.  He went to a pumpkin patch and the park and got to see some horses.  Seems like he had a blast.

Sunday was mostly occupied by running errands and taking care of chores.  We did grocery shopping, installed a carbon monoxide detector and a new light fixture, and took care of a few other errands.
That was about it.  We also watched Kingdergarten Cop and Gremlins.

So that was the weekend.  This is a short post, but it was a quick weekend.

Have a good week!!

Monday, October 16, 2017

ACL 2017

Hey!  Hope everyone is doing okay!  Another year of the Austin City Limits Festival has come and gone.  We went to weekend two this year.  I attended ACL once again this year with bandmate, friend, and co-conspirator, Frank.  This was, I believe, the 16th year that I've gone to the festival.  I started this blog sometime after the festival in 2004, and probably first mentioned or documented my ACL experience for the first time in or around 2005, so this makes about my thirteenth annual entry on this blog regarding ACL in some form or fashion.
That makes for a lot of blogging over the years about ACL and artists and the whole experience.

There were a few changes this year.
They moved a stage to the other side of Barton Springs Road, thereby expanding the festival into the south side of the park for the first time.  I thought it was a nice change.  It seemed to spread the crowds out a little more, and it definitely helped to alleviate some of the congestion over near the food stands on the other side of Zilker Park.  It also seemed like it helped to cut down on some the sound bleeding between stages.

In fact, overall, the sound production was really good this year.  For an outdoor festival with multiple stages, they really did an amazingly good job.  I remember years when the sound would be terrible during particular shows or where the volume from one stage was overpowering the music at a different stage.  I didn't really experience any of that this year.

It's worth noting that the festival occurred this year in the shadow of the worst mass shooting in American history, an event which occurred at the Las Vegas Route 91 country music festival a week prior to weekend one of ACL.  Needless to say, security at the festival this year was pretty tight.  All in all, I thought they managed the traffic flow fairy well, though.

Frank and I had a good time at ACL.  As with the past couple of years, Frank drove over to our house, and we took the bus to Zilker from our place.

I'm just gonna go ahead and list the bands that we saw.  I know that most people aren't interested, but I like having this stuff documented so I can look it up down the line.

The Bishops
Liz Cooper & the Stampede
(Sandy) Alex G - we only saw a little bit
Valerie June
The Lemon Twigs
Eagles of Death Metal - partial
Bonobo (Live)
Ryan Adams
The XX

Striking Matches
Car Seat Headrest
The Black Angels
Ice Cube
Red Hot Chili Peppers - just a bit
Chance the Rapper - just a bit

Middle Kids
Rainbow Kitten Surprise
Songhoy Blues
Dram - a little bit
First Aid Kit
Portugal the Man - very little

As far as standouts, I'd say that on Friday I was pretty impressed by Liz Cooper & the Stampede.  The Bishops were pretty good.  Strong female lead singer.  They're young, but they're probably up and comers.  Valerie June was cool.  I really dig her voice.  She's got an interesting style to her music.  Lemon Twigs are cool, but I'd seen them previously at SXSW.  Vulfpeck were good.  Funky and fun.  Great rhythm section.  Great bass player.  Bonobo was really good.  They were electronic, but with a drummer and enough live instrumentation to keep things interesting on stage (keyboards, bass guitar, a singer, etc.).  The XX were pretty good, too.
Friday had some good music.  The sun got a little intense at times, but it was pretty fun.

Saturday I liked Striking Matches.  Male/female guitar duo.  Slightly gimmicky, but they were both good guitarists (including some good slide guitar), and they both had good voices.  Car Seat Headrest sounded pretty good, but they aren't exactly the most charismatic live band to watch during a day show in a festival setting.  Maybe at night in a smaller venue might be different.  Dreamcar ended up being fun.  They sort of had a latter day sort of Queen vibe going on.  Or maybe that was just the voice and style of the lead singer.  I'm not sure.  The Black Angels were pretty cool.  They rocked.  Ice Cube was... well, he was Ice Cube.  He laid down mostly gangsta rap, and he did it very well.  After a few songs he commented on the fact that people nowadays forget that he started out in music, not as an actor.  But he still brings a ton of energy to his shows.  Good ol' gangsta rap fun.
Spoon was also good.  I've seen Spoon a number of times over the years, with some shows being better than others.  This was a good one.

Standouts on Sunday included Songhoy Blues.  They are a sort of African "blues" band from Mali.  They have a lot of energy, a unique sound (at least to American ears), and good musicianship.  Frank and I both really enjoyed their set.  First Aid Kit was also really good.  Great harmonies and catchy songs.  BadBadNotGood might have been the most technically talented band that we saw all weekend.  They're essentially a jazz quartet, although incorporating enough funk to keep a festival audience engaged.  Both their bass player and their drummer were amazing.  Frank said during their performance that they had to have studied music at some kind of conservatory or something, and sure enough, the founding members met while studying music at Toronto's Humber College.  Anyway, they were badass musicians.  Really good show.  See again.  We finished out the festival with Gorillaz, and they were great.  They have a pretty impressive stage show.  The basic band with the backing singers seems like it incorporated a dozen people, and then guest vocalists cycled on and off the stage throughout.  On the screens behind them were the famous animations that the group is known for, along with a crazy lighting display.  On top of that, the music is catchy and powerful and kept the crowd fired up.

So that was our ACL this year.  The weather got better and better each day.
I had a really good time (although I'll admit that I slept hard each night).
Thanks to Frank for going!

In the mornings I got to hang out with Amy and Raylan each day.  We went out to breakfast, and I got to play with Raylan and take him for a ride on his tricycle.

I took Monday off, and on Monday morning I went up to Raylan's school to play guitar and sing some songs for his class.  Amy came as well, to do an art project with the kids (they did Halloween ghost hands out of palm prints).  We sang a couple of Halloween songs (Ten Little Monsters and The Monsters Stomp Around the House) as well as Wheels on the Bus and Six Little Ducks.  The kids seemed to enjoy it.  Amy and I declared it Toddler ACL Fest.

From Austin: The Bishops 

Liz Cooper & The Stampede

Valerie June

Frank gets SUPER excited when someone offers to take our picture!



The XX

Breakfast at La Posada with the fam

Striking Matches

Uhhh.... Dreamcar?

Ice Cube is up there somewhere.  And he sounds pissed.


Songhoy Blues

First Aid Kit

Swingin' by for some music


Finding out that Garba Toure, lead singer for Sonhoy Blues, is
apparently a big Gorillaz fan!


Amy helps the kids make ghosts

Steanso brings music to the (little) masses.  You may not think Raylan is in
this picture, but if you look closely you may see his foot sticking into the frame
along the left edge.  Rylan, having heard me play plenty of times before, was
the only kid to quickly bail on my performance and return to playing with blocks.
I think he was, by far, the least impressed by my attempts to entertain.
But then again, he's wise to my tricks...

So that was the weekend.  This afternoon I took the rest of my vacation day and snuck out to go see It.  I thought It was not only the best adaptation that I'd seen of a Stephen King book (except The Shining, which is amazing, but arguably as much of a Kubrick work as an adaptation of King's novel), but also one of the best horror movies that I'd seen in a long time.  It had a great balance of empathy, humor, and genuinely scary material.
I enjoyed it, but Amy probably wouldn't have liked it, so it was a good one for me to see on ACL recovery day.

That's it.  Have a great week!

Sunday, October 08, 2017


Hi!  Hope your October is off to a good start!
We had a pretty good (albeit busy) week, followed by a nice weekend.
Friday night we played with Raylan and goofed around.  I think we ate some Indian takeout, and we watched some of that Vietnam War documentary.  We've also been watching American Vandal on Netflix, so we watched an episode of that.  I'm always sort of reluctant to recommend comedies to people because I find that your  mileage varies greatly depending on whether the show or movie appeals to the particular sense of humor of the person watching, but we're really enjoying American Vandal (which is a sort of parody of any number of true crime "documentaries" from recent years).

Raylan unwinds on a Friday afternoon with a ride on his trusty steed.
While he was up there he also picked some acorns from our
oak trees.

The important thing to remember about catching a ride on Mom is
to keep a good grip on her face...
On Saturday morning we got up fairly early and ate breakfast at Juan in a Million.  We hadn't been there in a while.  Raylan seemed to enjoy his taco.
Afterward we drove over to Butler Park to wander around.

"Should we go to Butler Park?" she asked.
"Is Raylan going to get wet?"  I responded.  "I'm not sure he needs to get all wet."
"The splash pad won't even be turned on!"

"I'm having funnnnnn!!!!"  (actual Raylan quote)

Into the great, wide open.

So we went to the Liz Carpenter splash pad, watched the turtles swim around the Butler pond, climbed Doug Sahm Hill for a glimpse of the skyline, and wandered over to Auditorium Shores to see the dogs swimming in Ladybird Lake.
Afterward we headed home.  We went to the grocery store.  We played a little bit at the house, and had lunch.  Raylan napped, and we worked out.
Amy made some tasty pumpkin bread with chocolate chips.
Saturday evening Shelly and Kit came over to watch the UT v. Kansas State game.
It was good to get a chance to hang out with them, and the game was pretty good, too.
UT ended up winning in overtime, but Shelly and Kit missed the end because Shelly thought she might be going into labor (false alarm!).

UT is looking pretty good, but we've got Oklahoma next week, and I have a bad feeling about that one.  They may end up being the best team that we've played so far, and we're barely clearing the hurdle with some of these unranked teams.  I still like Sam Ehlinger as a quarterback.  He's not all that much better than Shane Buechele in terms of stats, but he's just more fun to watch.  He's also a true freshman, and I think he might develop into an even better quarterback.

On Sunday we got up and walked over to Central Market for breakfast.  Amy didn't really eat anything (she claimed she was full from the day before- although I'm not even sure that's really a thing), but Raylan and I ate a lot and stared at her (not really, we had a nice time and Amy got a bit of Raylan's large fruit cup).

Raylan demands that his mom make a hermit crab out of her hands.
Raylan has a story book at home with a farmer's market in it, and he keeps asking, "What is that?"
So, after breakfast, we climbed into the car and took him to a farmer's market over in Mueller.

They were still setting things up when we arrived, so we wandered over to the nearby playground for a bit.  The playground is next to the Thinkery, and it's pretty nice.

Raylan waiting for his turn on the swings. 

Totally worth the wait.
We hung out at the playground for a while and then wandered back through the farmer's market.
We didn't really buy anything other than a fruit drink.
There was a lady who was selling pony rides, and Raylan loudly announced, "I NEED to ride on those ponies!"
So we sat him down and had a long talk about the difference between wants and needs, emphasizing the importance of patience and deferred gratification.

Just kidding.


"I'm riding!!"

Seriously, Raylan might have been upset if I didn't let him ride the pony, but Amy would have been really upset if I didn't let Raylan ride the pony.
Raylan was a natural.  He didn't seem scared on the pony at all.
Of course, now that I think about it, when he rides on my shoulders he's about six and half feet off the ground with a bumpier ride.  Maybe being on a pony hasn't been his scariest riding experience.

Anyway, afterward we went home for lunch and nap.  Amy and I took turns going to the gym.
After nap we hung out at the house and played.  Ryan stopped by with a multicolored, light up, happy ghost toy for Raylan.

In the evening I went to band practice.  Reed, Eric, Frank, and I were there, but Jim had to skip.  We played a number for Tom Petty songs in honor of his passing this week.  I thought we pulled them off pretty well.  We also talked about the shooting of 58 people at the music festival in Vegas this week and the madness of the gun situation in this country, and played "Keep on Rockin' in the Free World" as a sort of punctuation mark for that conversation.

I got home, and had spaghetti dinner with Amy.  It was really good.
Stayed up too late reading a book.

And that was it!

Hope everyone has a nice week.