Sunday, November 26, 2017


Hope you had a good Thanksgiving holiday and a good weekend.  Ours was pretty good, mostly.
Amy and I each got to leave work a early on Wednesday (Thanksgiving eve!), so we got a chance to grab lunch together, which was nice (Raylan was still in the middle of nap time at his preschool, so we couldn't pick him up right away).

Raylan watches some popcorn pop on Wednesday night.
He seemed to enjoy the popping process more than the
actual popcorn.
On Thursday- Thanksgiving- I woke up feeling really crummy.  At first I thought it was just allergies, so I went to the gym, which usually helps me feel a little better in those situations.  Instead, I ended up feeling a lot worse.  I just had a runny nose, sore throat, cough, aches, and fatigue.  I had an elevated temperature that got up to a little over 100 degrees at one point, and I just felt really weird (I got chills at some points and felt hot at others).
Amy was kind enough to take care of Raylan while I slept for a couple of hours.
By the afternoon I was feeling a little better, but still pretty funky (I was still calling around to try to get into my usual medical clinic- closed for the holiday).  Amy convinced me that it might help if I got out of the house, so I took some medicine, vowed not to get near anyone, and piled in the car with Amy and Raylan to drive out to Mom and Dad's house for Thanksgiving dinner.
I'm really glad that I went.  We had a really nice Thanksgiving.
Jamie, Ryan, Dick, Susan, Uncle Donald, Mom, and Dad were all there along with our family.  We watched football, ate some very good food, and watched Raylan try to entertain everyone.

Thanksgiving 2017

Sick?  I'm really feeling muuuuuch better....
By that night I started to feel better.  It was kind of weird to feel that bad and then recover so quickly. 
I think I was a little freaked out to be getting sick because the last time I had been feeling like that I ended up with pneumonia for over a week and had to see two different doctors and get two kind of antibiotics to get rid of it.  Amy has had a cough for like a week now, and we're still trying to get her over the hump on that.  Anyway, I was thankful that I got better so quickly.
I was also very thankful this year for Amy and Raylan and our life together, as well as for Mom, Dad, Jamie, Ryan. Susan and Donald.  I love the whole family, and I don't take them for granted.
I'm also grateful to have married into a kind, gracious family out in Phoenix.  The Davis, Koffel, and Sinex families are always very hospitable and fun when we go out to visit, and it's nice to have married into such a nice group of people.  They've got a lot going on out there (three little cousins to juggle!), and I'm always humbled by the efforts that they make to go out of their way to accommodate us and make us feel welcome when we come flying in.
I also don't take that for granted!
On Friday we actually ventured out to run a couple of errands in the morning.  We even dared to go to Target on Black Friday, and surprisingly, it wasn't all that crowded.
Friday we had a new washer and dryer delivered (Amy is way excited), and we put up our Christmas tree and some lights on the outside of the house.
That night Amy made sausage pasta, and I watched UT shoot themselves in the foot in a demoralizing regular season closer against Texas Tech.  Oh well.
On Saturday we went to Kerbey for breakfast, and then I went to the grocery store.  Then we took Raylan to the mall to meet up with Uncle Ryan and see Santa.  I'd really been hyping this Santa thing after Raylan sort of melted down last year (i.e., screamed like a banshee and tried to flee).  This year I'd been telling Raylan how nice Santa is and prepping Raylan on how to score some good Christmas loot (Raylan had assured me that he was ready to ask for a "dark blue present" if Santa inquire about what he wanted).
Well, when we finally got to game time, the pressure sort of got to the boy...

Ho ho ho!  Maybe it'll help if the WHOLE FAMILY is in the photo...
Ryan jumped up and down behind the camera like some sort of deranged Christmas elf, trying to get Raylan to just smile and look up, but the kid wasn't really having it.  I think Raylan knew that we were going to try to dump him in that old man's lap, and he was ready to bolt.
Eventually the photographer lady busted out a wooden rocking horse, and Raylan's toy-greed and excitement to show off his rocking skills overwhelmed his fear of oddly-dressed strangers.

"Who's behind me?  What are you doing?"
Anyway, that was Christmas Santa Photo Experience 2017.  Thanks to Ryan for helping out.
Afterward, predictably, Raylan instantly became fearless, running around the mall in his cardboard antlers and insisting that Uncle Ryan serve as his steed for closer inspection of Christmas decorations.
We wrapped the whole thing up with a trip to the food court for some chicken nuggets and pizza slices.  Cuz Christmas.

Higher!  Higher, I say!!
Saturday night Susan came over to babysit Raylan while Amy and I went to see Tuna Christmas at the Zach Theatre with Mom, Dad, Jamie, and Ryan.  (Thanks for the show, Mom and Dad!)
We really had a good time.  The play is funny, and the actors did a good job.
Joe Sears and Jaston Williams have retired from performing the play, but Jaston Williams is still directing it.  With all of the changes going on in Austin, I'm really happy to see them keeping the Texas-centric Tuna plays alive.  They're a fun way to remind everyone that we're still living in Texas.
Thanks to Susan for taking care of Raylan!

On Sunday morning we ate some breakfast tacos.

Legit South Austin toddler breakfast experience 

We also took a walk and went to the park.
Raylan is really learning to pedal that tricycle.

Faster, Dad!

We have some neighbors who really embrace Thanksgiving
In the afternoon, while Raylan was napping, I went for a bike ride.  The weather was beautiful, and it was fun to get out and pedal around.  I had a good time.

In the evening we ate some of Amy's "midwestern spaghetti", which was very good, as always.
That night we watched the first half of Guardians of the Galaxy 2, which we'd borrowed from Jamie and Ryan.

And that was it!
I hope everyone had a nice holiday and a nice weekend.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Arizona Trip!

So we just got back from a trip to Arizona to visit Amy's family.
We had a really nice visit.
We flew to Arizona on Thursday, getting there relatively early in the day.  We hung out at Jean and Greg's place, mostly, although we spent the night at Carol and Jerry's house.
We went out to dinner at Casa Rio with Jean and Greg, and met up with Heidi, Matt, Joanna, Scott, and Nathan.
We had a nice dinner and got some frozen yogurt afterward.

Raylan and Nathan play with toys and with Amy while Molly
bounces from person to person seeking affection

Raylan on the electric-powered four wheeler
On Friday we went with Jean, Nathan, and Scott to the Children's Museum of Phoenix.  It was a really cool place.  The main lobby of the building has a sort of three story tall playscape that they call a "climber".  The whole thing is enclosed so the kids can't fall out of it, but it involves all kinds of walkways and climbing sections.  Raylan loved it, and Scott was a big help in sort of guiding him through it since neither Amy or I could really fit through all of the narrow walkways and tunnels, especially with a bunch of other little kids running around on it.

The Climber!

Drop down maze cage in the Climber.  Rylan is trying to keep up
with Scott

Scott shows Raylan how to work one of the ball puzzles in
The Grand Ballroom

Raylan, having dropped his ball into the chute, watches it traverse the room
through a sort of Rube Goldberg machine before ending up in a bucket

Raylan keepin' it clean at the car wash!
We had a really good time at the Children's Museum.  We've been to children's museums in Phoenix, Portland, and Austin (yeah, I'm calling The Thinkery a children's museum), and I think the Phoenix one was the best.
Friday afternoon I borrowed Greg's bike and took a ride around Vistancia.  I was mostly riding in neighborhoods, but I managed to get in almost 13 miles.  It's always fun to go riding out in Phoenix.  It's such a different looking place than Austin.
Friday night we had a really good Italian dinner at Jean and Greg's house.  Everyone was there:  Jerry, Carol, Matt, Heidi, Scott, Nathan, and Joanna.  The food was tasty, the company was good, and Raylan had a blast playing with his cousins.  The kids all got flashlights, and they spent time in the dark bedrooms of the house and in the darker parts of the backyard playing hide-and-go-seek as well as a particularly weird game of Raylan's invention in which everyone tries to look for the Pale Green Pants from the Doctor Seuss story, "What Was I Scared Of?"  I've never seen Raylan actually find the Pale Green Pants, but he assures me that he has found them before.  Scott wins best cousin of the year award for participating in that hunt.
Anyway, it was a nice evening.  Jean made pizookie, and it was great.
We all slept hard that night.

On Saturday I got up and exercised on Jean and Greg's elliptical.  We had some plans, but Raylan managed to stumble his way onto a cholla cactus while on a walk, soooooo... by the time we got the spines out of his leg (a process which did not look fun), he needed a little down time to recover.  He bounced back pretty quickly, though.  Raylan hates to miss a party.

Raylan chills out and watches some cartoons with Nana
after his de-spining

Getting his groove back,  Raylan takes part in a bongo party with Poppa Greg.
Turns out that Raylan really loves playing bongos with Poppa Greg.

Raylan works on cutting wooden vegetables with a wooden knife.
"Like Mommy does."

Greg and I went out to the Peoria Artisan Brewery and Gastropub on Saturday afternoon.  I had a really fun time.  We each had a flight of beers, so we got to try their stuff.  The beers were good!  (They had a couple of good IPAs as well as one that I think was a vanilla rum porter which was really tasty).  Anyway, it was fun to sit outside in the beautiful weather, have a few beers, and just have a nice, relaxing chance to talk.
Saturday night Amy and I went out to eat with Matt and Heidi at El Encanto while Raylan stayed with Jean and Carol.  We had a nice dinner.  It was good to get a chance to catch up without having to chase or corral kids.  Thanks to Matt and Heidi for coming out!

On Sunday we got up and exercised.
Raylan helped Jean do laundry.

Even after he got back to Austin, Raylan continued to proudly tell me
about how he did the laundry with Nana.

We met up with Matt and Heidi and the cousins at the park.  (By Sunday morning Raylan was repeatedly asking where the cousins were).  They had a really fun time playing with each other, and it was a really nice way to wrap up the trip.

Nathan and Amy

Raylan chasing Scott

Raylan, Nathan, and Scott

Even once we got back to Austin, Raylan was still talking about how he
and Scott climbed the green ladder.

Hey, we managed to get a picture where you can see the faces
 of all three kids at the same time.  Success!!!

After that, we piled in the car and rolled out for the airport.  It was a good visit!
We had a nice time, and it was good to see everyone.  We talk about the Arizona family quite a bit when we're here in Austin, and it's great to watch Raylan form stronger connections with them.
As always, a big thanks to all of the Arizona family for all of the hospitality!

Hope to see you guys again soon!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Book Review- Armadillo World Headquarters: A Memoir

For those who don't know, the Armadillo World Headquarters was a fairly famous music venue in South Austin that existed through the 1970's.  It's credited with bringing cowboys and hippies together, helping to give birth to a new form of "redneck rock".   Also, along with other famous venues like Threadgill's, Antone's, and Liberty Lunch, it's said to have to have helped to establish Austin as a legitimate music scene.

This particular book about AWHQ was written by Eddie Wilson, an investor, concert promoter, and sort of locally famous personality.  Wilson was also one of the early key players and founders of AWHQ.

A quick glance at the few reviews of the book on Amazon left me with the impression that many of them had been written by friends of the author or by people who didn't actually read the book.

So, even though I checked the book out of the library instead of buying it through Amazon, I left a review of my own:

"Austin needed a book about the Armadillo World Headquarters and the music scene
in which it existed- it's just that Eddie Wilson probably wasn't the best guy to write it. Wilson, by his own admission, spent most of his time steering clear of the musicians and artists who actually brought fame to the Armadillo. When he actually did interact with artists, it feels like many of them may not have trusted him. It was hard for me to come away from this book feeling like I was even getting a true story from Wilson much of the time (he constantly speaks of AWHQ money problems and tries to assert his own hippie cred, taking advantage of hippie culture to garner employees who work for free or next to nothing to help establish the Armadillo, while Wilson, himself, doesn't seem to noticeably have much trouble paying his own bills while living in a house in the posh neighborhood of Tarrytown).
Wilson's focus on business means that the book spends more time discussing marketing campaigns, minutiae regarding building renovations, and lease agreements than it spends on getting to know any of the actual musicians who brought fame to the Armadillo or their concerts.
Wilson has a perspective, to be sure, and he manages to conjure up a few interesting tales to tell from his own point of view, but I felt like, this really wasn't the book about the Armadillo World Headquarters that I was looking for."

 Anyway, the book wasn't terrible, but it wasn't great.  There were times when it painted a pretty good picture of what it was like to own and operate a large, famous business filled with hippies and odd characters in Austin during the 1970s.  There are various stories of drug use, hedonism, and arguments between various stakeholders in the busniness.  Respect is paid to some of the artists who helped keep the business on its feet (Wilson seems to really love the artists who made the promo posters for the Armadillo and the cooks who ran the kitchen), but I never really got an in-depth feel for the music side of things, and that's what made me want to read a book about the AWHQ in the first place.  Most of the stories about musicians are pretty short, and the descriptions of actual shows at the Armadillo are generally limited and sort of perfunctory.

Oh well.  It was a decent description of the Austin scene at the time, I guess.
I was just hoping for more in terms of the views, attitudes, inspiration, and mindset of musicians who lived in and passed through the Armadillo World Headquarters over the years.
Maybe a book by the sound engineers or other people who actually worked more with the bands is what I was looking for... 

Sunday, November 12, 2017


Hola!  Hope everyone had a good weekend.
It was Veterans Day on Saturday, so I special shout out to our veterans.  Thank you for your service!
My office is traditionally closed for a holiday on Veterans Day.  Because it fell on a weekend this year, they gave us the day off on Friday.  It was sort of weird to have the day off, given that I'm not a veteran, but I'll take those free holidays where I can get them.  Amy had work on Friday, and Raylan went to school.
In the morning I ran errands and got the grocery shopping done.
In the afternoon I went out for pizza and beer with my friend, Robert, from work.

Having an IPA in honor of our nation's veterans
Raylan is captivated by the hypnotic glow of the the
Mickey Mouse bubble wand.
Raylan was scheduled to have a party for his class, The Monkeys, from school.  It was supposed to be at the home of his classmate, Alex, but Alex came down with the flu the day before the party.  Amy volunteered to swing by and pick up the party supplies from Alex's parents so we could move the party to Ramsey Park.
Saturday morning was slightly chaotic as we dashed around town to pick the stuff up and get to the park on time, but, in the end, it all came together really well.  The weather was nice, the kids seemed to have fun, and the parents were relaxed and talkative.
As usual at such events, Raylan was super excited and played to the point of exhaustion.  In the pictures below you can sort of see him losing steam over a couple of hours.

From left to right, Sam, Ian, Lowry, Genevieve, and Raylan.
They're waiting for their turns to spin and Monkeyin' around!

Here Raylan is a little annoyed that the kids aren't spinning this
thing correctly.

After more than an hour of playing, social niceties go out the window and we 
just sort of melt down instead of patiently waiting for our turn on playground
I've been there, buddy.

Back up on Dad's shoulders, and in a better mood.
Saturday afternoon we took care of a few chores.

One of the chores involved getting rid of our old elliptical machine.  We tried to give it to the Salvation Army, but they didn't pick it up, so I put it on Craigslist and our neighborhood listserv as a free item, and someone picked it up on Saturday.
We're getting rid of it to try to make room to convert our third bedroom into a kids' room for a foster child, which is a great reason to get rid of it.  It was surprisingly hard to let it go, though.
When I bought that machine (around 2003) I was about 50 pounds heavier than I am right now, and getting into the habit of exercising on the elliptical really helped start me on a path toward exercising on a regular basis.  It was a genuine lifestyle change, and it all started because I had easy, ready access to a convenient form of cardio exercise in my house.  I started out just marking off days on a calendar and doing a minimum of 3 days a week for 17 minutes at a time (I figured low expectations and just trying to get some consistent exercise was a way to keep myself from burning out and turning the thing into a coat rack).  I watched TV while exercising, and worked my way up to 4 days a week, watching half a program at a time (about 20-22 minutes) until I finally worked my way up to about 5 days a week, and whole episodes.  I also gradually increased the resistance.
Nowadays I go to the gym, instead, and I try to work out 6 days a week (succeeding about 90% of the time).  As Amy correctly pointed out to me once, I sort of now look at exercise as a form of medication to help control blood pressure.
Anyway, losing the elliptical was a little bit like losing a fitness security blanket, but with three Gold's Gyms locations near our house, I think it'll all be okay.

Via con dios, buddy!  You served us very well!

Saturday evening my parents came by for a visit, pizza, and a little bit of the UT game (we beat up on Kansas, but Kansas isn't very good).  We had a really nice time.  It was good to hang out, and Raylan was very excited to see them.

Still supporting those Horns!

Raylan seems to like football.  And grandparent snuggles.
And football grandparent snuggles.
Unfortunately this week our friend, Shelly, had her mother pass away.  It was extremely sad.  Shelly and Kit just had a baby boy, Spencer, born a couple of weeks ago.  I had just met Shelly's mom very recently when we had swung by their house to meet Spencer for the first time.
At any rate, I bring this up because Amy went over to Shelly and Kit's house to try to do some house chores for them on Sunday while Shelly, Kit, and Spencer are with Shelly's father and family.
So the three of us went out for breakfast Sunday morning at La Posada, and after that Raylan and I were a dynamic duo for the rest of the morning.
Among other activities, we converted Raylan's crib into a toddler bed.  We had debated going straight to a twin bed, but Raylan really loves his crib (he asks to sleep in it, likes to sit in it when he's tired, and still kicks his feet up on the railings at times).  Anyway, he's really comfortable in his bed, so we decided to give him this intermediate step.  He helped me unscrew some screws and put the new pieces on, which made him very excited about the whole thing.

The "Big Boy Bed"!
We also got Raylan a haircut.  It was a bumpy process.  The woman who was cutting Raylan's hair was young, and she seemed really nervous about doing a toddler haircut.  At first she said she wasn't going to cut the sides or the back at all (she was just doing some weird "styling").  I basically had to argue with her to get her to actually shorten his hair, and even then she didn't do a heck of a lot.
Raylan's current hairstyle is called the "We Tried" hairdo.

We had lunch and Raylan went down for his Sunday afternoon nap.  After reading a story and getting him into his toddler bed, I could hear Raylan singing when I tried to head back to the other room.
"You gotta go to sleep, buddy."
"I am asleep."
"No you're not.  You're looking right at me.  And you're singing."
"I am asleep."
"I don't think you are."
"I want my mom."

I told him that his mom was gonna be really bent out of joint if she came home and Raylan wasn't sleeping.  I'm not sure if that argument worked, or if he just lost the will to fight by that point, but he went to sleep.

Sunday night we had salmon dinner, and that was pretty much it.

I'm still watching and enjoying Star Trek: Discovery.  I'm also reading Armadillo World Headquarters:  A Memoir.  It must be having a bigger impact on me than I realized because last night I had a dream of being in 1970's Austin and listening to hippie bluesrock bands.
Far out, man.

Well, that's it.  I hope everyone has a good week.

Sunday, November 05, 2017


Hope all is well.  We just wrapped up a pretty warm November weekend.
On Friday night we had a family dinner at La Posada.  It was fun.  Nice to see everyone, eat some tasty Mexican food, and hang out. Ryan has started a new job working for Northwestern University.  He works from home, but he's based out of Chicago.  He flew up there last week, and he's up there again this week.
It was good to catch up with him a bit before he left town again.

We also finished Stranger Things, Season 2 on Friday night.  I enjoyed it.  Amy seemed to enjoy it, too, although she said it wasn't as good as last season.
Which might be true.
But it was still fun.

Saturday we ran errands and went to a birthday party for Raylan's classmate, Lowry.  Lowry is a fun kid.  He almost always seems to be in a good mood when I see him at Raylan's school.
The party was at a park in Mueller.  There were a handful of the kids from Raylan's class there, and they ran around on the playground like little crazy people, ate cake, and drank juice.  Raylan played so hard that he got really sweaty.  After we got home and got him cleaned up, he took about a three and a half hour nap.

Spider boy!
Raylan points out Lowry's cake to him.  So Lowry won't miss it.
On Saturday night I watched a bit of the UT-TCU game.  It was boring and we lost.  I don't think I'm a Shane Buechele fan any more at this point.
On Sunday we went to Kerbey in the morning for breakfast.  Raylan ate a lot.  Very slowly.

When you're eating, it's important to spend the first 30 minutes or so
just getting to know your food without really tasting or swallowing it.
We took care of more chores.  We played with Raylan.
I got a TB test.  I'm not really sure what we did, but it seemed like we stayed pretty busy.

In case you were wondering, Transformers masks are primarily meant to
be worn while dancing.

That was about it.  Sunday night I watched an episode of Star Trek: Discovery while Amy did some reading.
That was it.

I hope that all is well with everyone.  Have a nice week!

Wednesday, November 01, 2017


A rare, midweek post, but...
Yesterday was Halloween!

I went to work during the day.  No, I didn't wear a mask in court all morning, but once the defendants had been cleared out of Court 8 after dockets were done, I posed with the Court 8 ladies and the judge for a picture.

From left to right, that's me, Carla, Libby, Veronica, Krishna, and Rebecca.
 Judge Barrera is the Iron Man in the back.
On the drive home from the office it was cold outside and raining.  The rain sort of alternated between a mist and genuine showers.  I wasn't sure there was going to be any trick or treating at all.
I stopped and picked up some pizza for the fam on my way home.
By the time we got done eating, the rain had stopped, at least momentarily.  Ryan and Jamie's neighborhood traditionally has more decorations and more trick or treaters than our 'hood, so we decided to put on our costumes and make a quick dash over there so Raylan could hit a few houses. We really weren't sure how much Raylan would like trick or treating or whether he would wear his costume, and we weren't sure whether the weather would hold up, but we wanted to give it a try.

Jean, Amy, and Greg suit up for the big event 

Well, helloooooooo, pumpkin!
Ryan was out of town on a work trip for his new job, but Jamie was at their house handing out treats.
We stopped by to say hi, and then worked our way up and down their street.
Raylan loved it!  We had to sort of wrangle him to make sure he ran to the right houses, but he eagerly ran up to the doors, knocked on them, and even said "trick or treat!" and "happy Halloween!".
He got so excited that it was actually sort of hard to keep up with him at times.  He commented on the decorations at people's houses and on the costumes that the kids were wearing.

A happy ghost, a happy pumpkin, and a jellyfish who happens
to really dig Pink Floyd

Raylan, paralyzed with indecision about the candy options.

A ghost, possessed by the spirit of Halloween

Anyway, it did rain a little bit, but it didn't seriously start coming down until after we had finished the block.  Raylan was both worked up with excitement as well as getting tired after covering the block (these might sound mutually exclusive, but any toddler parent will assure you that they are not), so we quit while we were ahead.  We went back to Aunt Jamie's house, and Raylan got to play with the dogs a bit.  Greg and Jean got a quick tour of Ryan's comic and figure collection (which they were appropriately amazed by).
Anyway, it was a very successful Halloween.  As I was tucking Raylan in to go to sleep that night, he asked me if I remembered trick or treating (which had happened an hour prior) and told me that he liked seeing all of the people and that he had fun.
Sounds like a positive review to me.