Monday, December 15, 2008

So Much Goodness in the Icy Wind

I have much to be grateful for this week. There is music in the house. Suna and I are both healthy. The kids are supportive, and we have a nice house.

That last bit is important. While running an errand the other day, I saw a homeless man panhandling on a busy corner. When I left the business, I saw the cops arresting him and several of his compatriots ambling away from the scene and trying to look like they didn’t know him.

I thought of that man and his friends this morning when I stepped out to go to work—something else for which to be grateful in this economy. I was supposed to wake up to temperatures in the 50s. Instead, I stepped out into a near-freezing wind. I wondered if that homeless man was warm, if he thought it was better to be in a warm jail cell than looking for food and shelter on a windy street. I won’t get started on the criminalization of poverty. I promise. Still my heart went out to that man I had never met.

So let me talk about an internal locus of control. We can choose our attitude. All we have to do to feel grateful and empowered is to look at those who have less than we do, not those who have more. I have seen people with very little smile and laugh while others worry themselves sick over trying to get another TV.

Then if we actually do something to help our fellow humans, how much better would we feel?

So, most of all, I am grateful for these lessons in humanity and humility.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Winter Concert

Last night, the holiday season began with the McNeil High School Band’s winter concert. Suna went a little early with TubaBoy so that she could catch the last bit of the orchestra’s concert. I took the extra half hour after I got home from work to unwind so that I could enjoy the band.

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McNeil Varsity Band

The Varsity Band played two numbers. They sounded really good this year—much better than last year. I’m not sure if that is because the music selection was better suited or because of the number of ringers playing with them. (The guy on mallets for the first number will soon turn 50. That’s younger than Suna and I but a tad oldish for a high school band.) Or maybe they just worked harder this year.

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Concert Band

Next came the Concert Band. They also sounded really good, even if the music selection did annoy Beccano. He only got to play two notes on the first selection. Then they played “Ave Maria,” which had no percussion at all. He did get to play quite nicely on the final selection.

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Wind Ensemble

The third and last band was the Wind Ensemble, featuring TubaBoy. OK. It didn’t feature him, but he was in it. They play a choir song that the composer had arranged for band. It was awesome. Then the director read a Cajun version of “The Night Before Christmas.” That has been something of a tradition, but he punished the audience last year by being too angry at the antics of a the drum line to read it.

Wind Ensemble wrapped up with “Sleigh Ride,” which we will also be doing in the choir’s Christmas program. Sigh. The band played it really well.

But the strangest part of the night was that all three band directors seemed to have gotten a fresh hair cut for the performance. Being fans of the military style, all three were shorn high and tight. They looked really professional when facing the audience. But when they turned to conduct, the stage lights shown through their hair giving the impression of haloed skulls. It would have been a really cool effect for a Halloween concert. For Yule, it was just a little creepy.

Unfortunately—or maybe fortunately—none of the photos show the skull effect, but you can see more at Facebook.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Good New—I Hope

I got a meeting request from my boss today. Nothing noteworthy about that except that the meeting is in January and my contract is supposed to expire at the end of the year. That’s good news—I hope.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Thank Yous

Suna and I open wedding presents.

Photo by: Beccano

Of course, I have to be grateful today for Suna and the family. They come first, but I’m also grateful for all the friends who came to our wedding last week. And for all the lovely gifts. Thank you to everyone who came. Thank you for all the goodies, especially for the toilet seat we asked for.

I think we finished writing our thank you cards this evening while watching the football game. I know I still have to find a couple of addresses.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Gardening Sadness

White Begonia

Today was a sad day in the garden, the first weekend after the first freeze. I spent a good bit of time trimming frost damage from some of my beautiful plants. Then to make it a perfect storm, this is also the day I had to cut the beautiful wedding flowers into bits for the compost pile.

I love finished compost, but it is always sad to have to put such beautifulness on the pile.

So, I’m posting a picture of one of the begonias to remind me that life is a circle. This white begonia is the only one in a whiskey barrel of red ones.

Some of these begonias became part of the compost pile today, along with the wedding flowers and other stuff from the yard. There they will slowly revert to compost, which will feed other plants and bring beauty back into the world.

And the circle turns ’round and ’round
And the painted ponies go up and down
Were captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return, we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
—Joni Mitchell

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Mothers and Hearts

The heart is one of the yang organs

Photo source: Wolf Wikis

On returning to work this morning, I had some astounding news. 

  • My former boss missed the wedding because her mother had to have a heart “proceedure” again last week. She is doing better now, and former boss is back at work. 
  • Then I found out my current boss was out yesterday and this morning because her mother was having heart problems and her father was too sick to take care of her. We had a nice talk about heart surgery in elderly parents—my mom lived five years after having a quadruple bypass at 75 but never regained her former strength—and I reminded her about the Austin Heart Hospital.

Please send positive energies to these two lovely women and their mothers. I’m sure that if you send positive energy, it will get to the right place and then come back to you reinforced.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Farewells

My nephew Chris made the trek from Bozo’s Port. He and his wife went back early Sunday via my Dad’s.

Photo by: Parker

After the wedding, Suna and I honeymooned at a local hotel, where we had champagne as a midnight snack and for breakfast. Sweetness and Suna’s family joined us for brunch at the hotel. Sweetness went home to her kids from the hotel, and we went home and spent a quiet day catching up on important things like Facebook and family.

Today we said goodbye to the Prince and Suna’s sister. We dropped the Prince off at the airport and went to lunch with SS at the new Kirby Lane. The food is as good as ever, but they have completely ruined the atmosphere. The interior of the new restaurant seems to be designed to amplify the least sound enough to raise the ambient noise level past the threshold of pain. This was at 13:30, and the room was far from full.

We left after a tasty but deafening meal and visited the Amish Furniture store down the sidewalk. Then we took SS back to the house to pick up her rental car and said farewell.

Everyone eventually made it home safely, and our house is returning to its “normal” levels of chaos.

So this week I am grateful to have formed a new family and to feel so welcome in it. I am grateful to everyone who traveled to attend Thanksgiving and the wedding—and to everyone one who just crossed town. I am grateful to everyone—Parker, SS, Elizabeth, and many others—who helped the wedding come of smoothly. And I am grateful to be able to enjoy some relative peace and quiet at home again.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hitched

Beccano, Me, Suna, and TubaBoy

Photo by: Parker

Suna and I got married in the presence of more than a hundred of our favorite people. Rather than talk about it too much, here are links to various photo collections:

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving

Suna and I enjoy a glass of wine before Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends. More photos are on Facebook.

Photo by: Mystery Photog

We had a full house for Thanksgiving. Suna’s sister flew in yesterday, and her father arrived this morning. TubaBoy drove Suna and Beccano to the airport to greet him. I stayed home to finish a couple couple of cleaning projects and a few odds and ends around the house.

Suna’s friend arrived with her daughter, Cakegirl, and Cakegirl’s significant other. They brought a delicious duck dish and duck stuffing, in addition to working on the wedding cake some more. I say significant other because, although they are planning to get married on 10/10/10 (they didn’t say what time), they came very close to being common law married. In Texas, that’s scarily easy.

Thanksgiving dinner was wonderful, and the company was enjoyable.

I delayed Grateful Monday until today because what better time to be grateful than on Thanksgiving. Today I am grateful for family and good friends.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It’s Curtains

New curtains hang in the dining room.

Suna and I ordered some new red curtains to complete the update to the dining room and parlor. We were told that they wouldn’t be in until the 28th, but Penny’s beat expectations by delivering them the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

I was able to get the ones in the ones in the dining room hung last night and the valance hung in the parlor, but we lost some of the hardware for the parlor curtains. Suna went out this morning and bought a new rod for the curtains, and I hung them this morning.

Now everything will be ready for when the Prince arrives.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Another Manic Saturday

Suna models her wedding dress and an “up doo.” I thought the stylist might have missed a couple of spots, but she said they were on purpose.

I’ve not been a very faithful blogger this week. It’s not for lack of things happening. Rather it’s because of a lack of a lack of things happening.

I’ve been working diligently at my Fruit Company contract, and I think I’m making them happy. Then coming home after work and taking care of little things to get ready for the wedding, which is only a week away now.

So I’ll start with what we did today.

Suna and I got up early and drove to New Braunfels. She had an early appointment for the final fitting of her wedding dress. After that we went to a big box craft store to buy some beads for her current knitting project, but we ended up with lots more stuff: some fall garlands, a shell thingy that I want to turn into a ponytail holder, and such.

Then we headed back for Austin so she could make an appointment to get her hair died. We stopped on the way at Things Celtic to get me a lovely pair of Celtic cross ear studs. I got my ear pierced while Suna was getting her hair done. I also picked up a shirt and tie for TrackGrease to wear at the wedding.

I picked up Beccano from the house and went back to get Suna. I didn’t see her at the appointed place, but Beccano said, “Look. There’s Mom.”

Where? Right in front of me. She had gotten a trial doo, and I didn’t recognize her at first with her hair piled up on top of her head. I had been prepared for a new color, but not this. We spent some time discussing the pros and cons of the style. (As I write this, I have gotten used to it, but I don’t think Suna will wear her hair this way for the wedding.)

We then took Beccano shopping. He’s such an easy boy to buy clothes for. His favorite store is Good Will. He and I wandered Good Will while Suna gathered comments from her knitting friends. Beccano picked out one flannel shirt, and we came home.

So much excitement. So little time.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Gaming the Night Away

Beccano and I play Arkham Horror

Photo by: Suna

Beccano helped Suna and KP prepare wedding decorations. We stayed out of the way and played Arkham Horror on the kitchen table while they worked in the media room.

I haven’t played AH since my friend from work moved up north. It is a fun game where a band of lunatics save the world (if they win) from an Elder One from HP Lovecraft’s Cthulu mythos. Of course, they are completely devoured if they lose, and all humanity suffers the consequences. No pressure there.

We were just playing to refamiliarize ourselves with the rules and game play. KP joined us just as we got started, and we played for a few hours.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Licensed and Legal

Suna holds up the lovely booklets the county gave us with the license.

Suna and I had to take off work together to go get our wedding license. We got up a little early (not early enough) and drove up to Georgetown together.

When we walked into the courthouse, I set off the metal detector, even after removing my belt and keys. I patted myself down and went back through, only to repeat the same results.

At this point, one of Williamson County’s finest ordered me to “stand over here and turn your back.” He patted me down and let me through when he didn’t find anything either.

Suna and I went on to get the license, a little perplexed at why I was setting off the alarms.

The lady who issued the license was really nice and even funny. Don’t tell her boss. I’m sure you’re not allowed to be funny if you’re a county employee, even though I’ve met a judge who could do standup but for the pay cut.

On the way out, we had to wait for the elevator. I put my hands in my pocket and found a dirty spoon. I guess I got sidetracked on the way to the dishwasher with it. Thinking of the spoon setting off the metal detector reminded me of the line from Robin Hood.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Poor Thing

Poor little moth

This poor little moth kept us company for the last few days. Even Suna, who hates moths, thought this one was really pretty. Its irridescent wings seemed to glow. You can see a touch of its beauty even in death.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bookishness

I heard a writer on NPR yesterday morning describe the post-Potter world. (At least I think it was on NPR. It could have been one of the local news bits they sometimes intermingle with the NPR stories. I couldn’t find the article when I looked on the Morning Edition site.) She said we need more books that get children to think thoughtfully.

Think thoughtfully? How else can you think?

Steven King discusses a drinking game that features such wit in On Writing.

And then tonight as I was getting ready for bed, I noticed TubaBoy’s book on the bar. He is reading (or has recently read) Wuthering Heights. That got me thinking. Is there an English infinitive to wuther? If not, from whence came the present participle? If so, how exactly does one wuther?

English is such a weird hodgepodge of languages. It’s a wonder any of us ever understands what anyone else says.


15 November Update: Of course, when I looked it up, Brontë was right. Never argue nomenclature with a 19th century writer. When the wind wuthers, it “blows with a dull roaring sound.”

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wedding Prep

KP and Suna perform some arcane pre-wedding tasks, like making signs.

After a long day at work, I came home to find Suna and KP working on arts and crafts projects—making signs for the wedding. I am glad that KP has become one of Suna’s friends. They both seem to have a lot of fun talking and working together on wedding-related projects.

Buffy Tarot Dies Yet Again

Death has found the Buffy Tarot…again.

Image source: Major Spoilers

Well, I had expected it when the deck didn’t ship at the end of September. When it didn’t ship in October, the second and final death of the Buffy Tarot became almost certain. Still I hoped, but the last nail in the coffin arrived in the email this morning.

Thank you for ordering from Entertainment Earth. Unfortunately, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Tarot Cards (Item DH15339), which you ordered, has been cancelled[sic] by the manufacturer. From time to time manufacturers cancel items for a variety of reasons. No additional information was given as to why this item was cancelled, however. No units were ever shipped to Entertainment Earth. We certainly would have filled your order had this item been manufactured. We apologize for any inconvenience. The order you placed for this item has been cancelled in our system.

Things from Another Planet sent out the cancellation months ago. I can only assume that EE left the product on their site to gather more email addresses for their “newsletter,” or as I prefer to think of their daily mass mailing: marketing spam.

The good news is that I can add EE to my junk senders list now. That will keep a little of their junkmail out of my inbox.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Farewell to Michael Crichton

John Michael Crichton (-2008)

Photo source: International Herald Tribune

I learned this weekend that we lost another master last week. Michael Crichton, author of Jurassic Park, The Andromeda Strain, and The Great Train Robbery, died unexpectedly of cancer on 4 November. Many of his books, including all listed here, became successful movies. There were even a couple of blockbuster.

A former professor of anthropology at Cambridge University and a graduate of Harvard Medical School, Crichton’s science fiction was always strong on science. His books were always tightly plotted and filled with interesting, believable characters. In short, he was a well-rounded writer whose contributions will live long for a long, long time.

So this Monday, I am grateful for Crichton’s gifts to the world.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Saturday Night Live Music

Chanticleer: Thanks for the tickets, Edgar. I’ll pay for them someday.

Photo source: Chanticleer

So after Suna came back from her day of dress fitting and yarn festivalling, we went to see Chanticleer, an all-male acapella group, at First Presbyterian Church.

First, I want to say something about the church. It is absolutely beautiful. Outside is a wonderful water feature that makes a pacifying water dance. Inside, the architecture is all native limestone and timber frame. OK, they did reinforce the timber frame with some ugly painted metal, but…

Chanticleer is an amazing group. These guys even sing the soprano parts! There are at least two countertenors, who sing in the mezzo-soprano range. One is even listed as a soprano. (Suna and I wondered if they sang that high the old-fashioned way.)

More impressive: I picked four singers at random and read their bios. Three listed at least a Master’s degree in vocal performance. The other taught vocal pedagogy at Notre Dame.

No wonder these guys can hit a very fat chord (7/9 or denser, once with at least two, maybe three, stacked seconds) from a single seemingly unrelated note generated by a guy banging a tuning fork against his head. (I wonder if he had a headache by the end of the night.)

The program covered a diverse collection that spanned more than 300 years. It included three by Stephen Foster and a pair by P.D.Q. Bach.

I totally enjoyed it. I enjoyed Suna’s smile while she listened.

If you get a change to see this amazing ensemble, go.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Liar

Water is relentless. A little drip can do a lot of damage over time.

Photo source: Pixadaus

Nobody believes me Liar
Why don’t they leave me alone?
—Freddy Mercury

Remember last week when I said I fixed the sink, and there were no leaks. I lied. There is an insidious seep leak. It takes a couple of days to leak enough to ruin paper products,

So I spent much of today on my back in the bathroom. All to no avail. The leak persists at the end of the day. Next Saturday, I’ll have to go to Home Depot for a couple of replacement parts.

“Why didn’t you get them today and be done with it?” you may ask. Well, I was the only one home today, and we were short one front door. (It was in the garage with a fresh coat of marine poly drying to a smooth, wonderous sheen.) So I was stranded home alone.

At least I know what I’ll be doing next week, and we can use the sink in the interim—as long as we keep a drip catcher underneath.

Friday Night Lights Out

This injured marcher kinda sums up the game last night—down to the popcorn in his hair.

Suna did a great job of blogging our wedding planning session from Thursday night. So all I’m left to comment on this week is last night’s football game.

It turns out to be the last game of the season for the Mavericks, just as Tuesday ended the season for those other mavericks. McNeil put up a good fight for a few quarters. But in the end, Georgetown was just too much for them.

The final score was 24-0. It was 7-0 until the last quarter, which is really good. We were supposed to be trounced much harder than that. Georgetown moves on to the playoffs. McNeil moves on.

I share the mixed feelings about the end of the season that various members of the band expressed. I am glad to have a large chunk of my life back to do other things. But I will miss the band kids and riding to the games with them every Friday. I will miss the bickering, singing, swaggering, and sweetness. I will miss listening to W. rant about the quality of the coaching and how even he could have caught that one. I will even miss the other bus parents, with whom we shared a few laughs and lots of empty water bottles.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Happy Days Are Here Again

Image
Still, lingering doubts remain—mostly about what the Greater and Lesser Evils might do. I’ll let you figure out who I’m talking about.

Image Source: The Arkham Bazaar

Happy days are here again
The skies above are clear again
So let’s sing a song of cheer again
Happy days are here again
—Milton Ager

As happy as the election was last night, I dreaded waking up. I was afraid it would all have been a dream, and we would be in the same place we were when I got up yesterday. I waited until the sun in my eyes became irrefutable.

Then I studiously avoided the news. I did look at Facebook, where the comments and status updates of my friends were somewhat reassuring.

I don’t think it really started sinking in that we had won until I was driving to work. NPR covered all the regular stuff, but I missed their election recap. When it was over, John Aielli’s show started. I usually avoid Eklektikos because I find Aielli pretentious and annoying. He has been known to play 15 versions of the same song in a row—even the same version of a song three or four times in succession—because he feels like it. Who cares what anyone else thinks? He is something of a grumpy old man who has control of a radio station for a few hours every day.

This morning he started out with Streisand singing “Happy Days Are Here Again” followed by a string of celebratory orchestral music. I listed to the full five minutes I got to hear without even being tempted to hit the button. That is something of a record.

At work, most people are happy and relieved. I hope we can put the financial and cultural devastation of the last eight years behind us quickly.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Obama Wins!

This survey map from back in March seems to be uncannily accurate. Some of the colors will be different, I’m sure, but …

Image source: Surveys, USA

I hope I’m not going to repeat history with that headline. The election is not settled as I write this. Suna and I are spending a very nice evening at home watching the election returns. The kids are watching downstairs.

They are talking on TV about the real America and how John McCain insulted most of America by suggesting that only white rural areas of the country were the real America. We are now an ethnically and culturally diverse nation. Only our enemies try to stereotype us as white Christians. The Taliban says that about us, not admitting that there are more Muslims in this country than in Iraq. McCain made the same mistake.

The popular vote is very close as I write. I am starting to relax as Obama’s victory is starting to feel more certain. I hope that he wins the popular vote, too. I hope he can win with an indisputable mandate, something that hasn’t been done in a very long time.

We’re switching to the Daily/Colbert election coverage until we get more news about my home state. Or not. Maybe I’ll just start using Swagger from Old Spice.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Politics and Mondays Always Get Me Down

Go team!

Photo source: John F. Zur

Well, you’ve seen how busy the last month has been and how much we have accomplished. And you’ve seen how the election has turned nasty over the last month as McCain’s chances for victory evaporated. In a way, having been too busy to pay much attention to politics has been a good thing.

But the election is at hand, and I am still nervous about what will happen. No matter who wins, I will be nervous for awhile.

Still, as I mentioned in church the other Sunday, I am grateful to live in a country where politics is discussable. So many people die worldwide over politics. So many people die for saying things that are not nearly so nasty as what our politicians say about each other on a good day. So many people die for their politics—over even minor difference in ideology.

No matter how I rant about neo-fascist Republicans, I am glad to live in a relatively free and peaceful society. I am also glad that this round is almost over.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Tent for Darfur

A tent for Darfur
There was a regional sleep-in at the church this weekend. More than a hundred teenagers from as far away as Louisianan participated. Ours did not. They were too busy this weekend with band and debate.

One of the things they did was to decorate a Tent for Darfur. The kids at Live Oak had raised money over they summer to buy the tent. Everyone that participated in the gathering this weekend helped with the decoration. It is a large tent that they hope will be used as a classroom.

I hope it’s not too scary with all the smiley faces and religious symbols.

Live Oak Gardens Receive Award

Hella receives a gardening award

As part of the closing ceremony at church today, Live Oak’s master gardener Hella received an award on behalf of the church for her work in creating a wonderful native garden. The butterflies and bees showed up in abundance to help with the honors.

This is just one of the garden’s many admirers.

Hella works really hard on the gardens. And even though she has lots of helpers, I think of them as her work. She is the brains behind the organization.

As a master gardener, her responsibilities include passing on her expertise. She has a number of devoted deciples, so I am sure Live Oak’s gardens will continue to prosper long after she is gone. One day, I may even be able to count myself as worthy of studying under her.

I posted a few other pictures on a Facebook album.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

I’m a Plumber

I didn't see the point of posting a larger version of this loveliness.
I had to take the goose neck apart to get the sink unclogged.

I am a plumber now. I got the sink unplugged. Yea me!

This task was made unnecessarily difficult by the original plumber, who sealed all of the joints with plumber’s putty. A couple of master plumbers have explained that there is no need to use plumber’s putty on this fitting unless you just don’t know what you’re doing—or you want to make it hard on anyone who needs to clean the drain in the future. No putty went into the reconstructed joints.

And it even stayed dry once I put it the pipes back together.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Senior Recognition Night

Two of the seniors whose names were called for Senior Night—most dressed up for Halloween.

The band seems very injury prone tonight—sort of like a football team. One kid showed up with a sprained ankle that the RN had to tape. Another had a bum knee. And yet another tripped and hit his head against a fence. He jumped up again really fast—I guess to avoid embarrassment—only to pass out. He seems to be OK, at least well enough to play with the band at half time.

Halloween seems to have kept most of the usual suspects home, even though it’s Senior Recognition Night. I’m posting a bunch of band pix on a Facebook album.

The kids all seem to have had fun, dancing and yelling. The drum line and cheerleaders even set up an improvised nosh pit after halftime. And it was fun listening to the director bantering with the kids as the game clock wound down.

McNeil even won. As Suna put it, “They sucked worse than we did.” Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this team a decent coach wouldn’t fix. Put one on my Christmas wish list.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Book Review: Any Given Doomsday

Handeland, Lori (2008). Any Given Doomsday. New York: St. Martin's Paperbacks.

Photo source: LibraryThing

Any Given Doomsday is an urban fantasy novel about an ex-cop turned bartender named Elizabeth Phoenix, who is also a psychic. This is the first novel in a series to be called The Phoenix Chronicles. (A scene from the next book is even included as a teaser.) “Chronicles” seems to be the current word in fantasy to indicate a series.

The book is a fairly quick read, and it held my interest. While it did not keep me up nights reading, I wanted to pick it back up every time I laid it down. Even so, the style is distracting. It reads more like a 1940s private investigation novel. It’s a lot like reading an old Mike Hammer novel—but with vampires, werewolves, magic, and lots of graphic, gratituitous (if not very erotic) sex.

In short, Doomsday is a good book to pass a few hours with. It’s not high art, but it doesn’t pretend to be. This book does not take itself too seriously, and you shouldn’t either. Just relax and enjoy the ride—if you can.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Uninsured and Unacceptable

Nonelderly Adult Uninsured Workers by Firm Size, 2006
This chart shows that even larger employers are not providing health care for their employees. Small employers just can’t afford to do so.

Source: Cover the Unisured

Texans without Insurance” is a really scary story. It is also why I urge everyone to vote against John McCain this election. The Republican health care initiative will only exacerbate the current situation.

According to the article, two-thirds of people without insurance in Texas also work. This number includes both Suna and I. Finding insurance as a contractor that costs less than a catastrophic illness is a daunting task. The Republicans just don’t get it.

Marching Bands Galore

McNeil 2008 Marching Season T-shirt

So this weekend was jammed packed full of all the music in the world.

Friday night was the high school football game. We were the visitors. So I didn’t get to hear or see the band very well. We met the grandfather of one of the other Tubas. He went to the home side to watch and listen to the half-time show while the other chaperons and I cleaned up after the kids. I’m glad he had a chance to see his grandson play.

Saturday was the UIL Regional competition. Thirty-one 5A bands competed for six slots to go to State. McNeil placed dead in the middle and went home before the finals. Once again, I took too many pictures to do anything with. But because it was daylight, I think most of them will be pretty good quality (I haven’t looked at them yet). Anyway, the bands were good.

I didn’t add any pictures of this band to the Facebook album for the competition.

The most amusing was one that based their show on cars and traffic. It included a traffic jam where the drill team and other parts of the band kept getting in the way of marchers with cars. It also had a gas pump with prices that kept going up and up until one of the members fell over. An ambulance came rushing up. They performed CPR. Then they carefully laid their instruments in a stretcher and carried it off to the sidelines, leaving the “unconscious” band member laying by the pump. At some point he got up and started marching again, but my attention was fixed on the instrument stretcher.

Sunday, the choir sang “Sweet Day,” a really nice Baroque (?) piece at a service on preparing to die. Most of the rest of the music used in the service consisted of the songs from Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou? that I really dislike. The guest lecturer was a retired professor who talked over the heads of most of the congregation and droned on for way too long.

Ms. T enjoyed watching the Festival of the Bands despite being cold. More photos are in the Facebook album for the festival.

And tonight is the ninth annual Festival of the Bands, a showcase of all the marching bands in RRISD. Even the middle school bands participate, so we get a preview of the talent in the pipeline. This year, that pipeline looks pretty good. Of course, the high school bands are at a near-professional level by this time of year—even if those that are not going to State are starting to unwind. The only drawback was the cold front that blew in today. It was cold in the stands.

So today I am grateful for a life filled with music. If I can remember where, I think I’ll even buy the DVD of Saturday’s performance.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Oops! Wrong Color

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Yesterday ended and today started poorly. Suna didn’t sleep last night worrying about the house getting painted the wrong color, in spite of my saying repeatedly that we would get it fixed. The way the world works, we are extremely lucky to be this far into the project before the first miscommunication happened.

And I take ownership of this one. She told me what color she wanted the house, but I got confused when we only picked out two colors. That was because she didn’t realize we were painting the body of the house as well as the fascia, sophets, and trim. Sigh.

The contractor was very nice and volunteered to eat part of the cost of repainting since he was involved in the miscommunication—even though I had already told him it wasn’t his fault. He even said it wouldn’t throw us that far off schedule. He will pick up more paint and have it fixed by the time we get home from work tomorrow.

The fascia looks good…better when it’s painted

I guess it’s part of getting older. I make more mistakes than I used to. Or maybe I’m just more willing to admit them.

While we were talking about the paint, he also pointed out that one of the vent caps on the house was missing. I guess it blew off in one of the storms. We hadn’t noticed because you can’t see it unless you are standing in the neighbor’s driveway looking at the chimney. At least we know how the squirrels were getting into the attic.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Work Can Be a Pain—Literally

This is how my neck has been feeling by the end of the day.

Photo source: Juvenile Brain Trust

I think that both of my readers have noticed an increase in the number of typos in my recent posts and that they are running late. As you might have guessed from what I’ve been writing about, I have been busy as all getout lately. Not much time for blogging, and when I have been home to blog, I have been in pain and not felt like touching a keyboard. 

Luckily, my iPhone has enabled me to do a bit of catching up during lulls at other activities. Then it doesn’t take a whole lot to clean up the posts to a point where I feel comfortable publishing them when I eventually get to them. As I am writing this, there are three prior posts in the queue waiting to be cleaned up.

So the busy explains the delay, and the iPhone explains how I have been able to post at all. Now I’ll explain the pain.

I love my new job and my new cubicle. The desk is one of the most comfortable I have ever used. The problem I have is that the computer at my new cubicle is not designed for people who wear bifocals. It is sleek and sexy, but hardly ergonomic—no way to adjust the height of the integrated display, which is fixed at about six inches above the desk surface. It does tilt a bit, but that still leaves me tilting my head back to see the upper two-thirds of the display. And I have had to sit like that for hours on end—one of the pitfalls of writing for a living.

The constant pain has been making me very grumpy. Suna has thought that I have been upset with her, but I have not. I’ve just been hurting. When I woke up yesterday, I couldn’t move without whining until I stood in the hot shower for a half hour.

When I came in this morning, the guys from facilities had already lowered my desk the two inches suggested by an ergonomic survey. That’s a bit low for comfortable typing, but I can see the whole display by moving my head minimally. And I think that much motion is good for my neck.

I feel better after only one day. Maybe the old me will be back soon.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What’s in a Dining Room?

The Pile

Suna was relieved recently when we turned the dining room back into a dining room for a church get-together. Alas, that is no more.

Tonight the boys and I took everything off the walls and stacked the furniture in the center of the room. Why? It’s all part of the remodeling project.

Since I am afraid of heights, I don’t feel comfortable painting the high walls in the entry hall and dining room. They are way up there. I don’t even own a latter tall enough to reach the top.

So we made ready for the contractors. It was fun working with the boys—even if they didn’t think so. Sigh.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

TrackGrease Contacted

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After playing phone tag for several weeks, I finally got to have a nice conversation with TrackGrease. He is working as a software tester at a company that makes games for the Wii, among other products. Since there is an undisclosed new product—luckily he and I both understand and honor NDAs—in the next few days, he has been in crunch mode, working in excess of 70 hours a week for the last few months.

He seems happy to have parted ways with the leather company. I think he’s finding out that there is more money to be made and more fun to be had in areas other than retail management. Granted, he’s contracting now—so he has no benefits—but there is an opportunity that his gig will become more permanent. At least working with the software engineers—he calls them “officers”—he’s learning that a degree can make the difference. He is planning to go back to school under the Hazelwood Act—a Texas law that covers all expenses for veterans who want an education. That is in addition to his GI benefits.

He and his SO are planning to marry in March, and he is going to try to make it here for the big day in November. He said he also wants to visit before then so that we can just hang out. That would be nice.

It is so wonderful to hear him being happy and planning for the future.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Grateful Monday

Suna and I are extatic that the work has begun.

The contractors showed up and started work. Granted there were a few frantic phone calls when their compressor didn’t start. They thought that the power was tripped on the GFI circuits outside. But it turns out that the compressor was already fully charged. So it didn’t turn on because it didn’t need to.

They worked until it was almost fully dark outside putting up trim and hardyboard. The house looks better already, and they only have done one side—and that side isn’t visible from the street.

So today I am grateful that we have finally got everything together and they have started work.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hands on Housing

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The Happy Homeowners

Photo by: Jon Montgomery

Yesterday while Suna took the kids to the UIL competition, more than 100 volunteers and I participated in Hands on Housing (HoH)—a project of Austin Area Interreligious Ministries (AAIM).

Twice each year, AAIM organizes a massive number of volunteers to repair up to 35 substandard homes. Beneficiaries are typically elderly persons who own their homes but who are financially unable to maintain them. Often, physical handicaps prevent the beneficiaries from helping on the projects, but the beneficiary from the Spring project was among the volunteers on Saturday. This time we worked on two houses in the same neighborhood.

We do a lot of what both Presidential candidates would call, “putting lipstick on a pig,” but the beneficiaries appreciate any improvement. Besides, the lipstick will probably last as long as many of them do, even if we don’t or can’t fix the underlying problems.

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More than 100 people helped. These are some of them. I’m in the red hat, helping hold up the Live Oak banner.

Photo by: Jon Montgomery

Among the projects I helped with are:

  • Putting siding and trim on the back of one of the houses
  • Covering up a water-damaged ceiling on the front porch of the other house
  • Putting 1x4 trim in one kitchen to inconvenience the rodents that had eaten through the walls
  • Rebuilding and hanging a weather-damaged door

And as proof that no good deed goes unpunished:

  • I gave my knee a good twist, and it bothered me most of the evening.
  • Rev. Kathleen’s car was rear-ended, incurring fairly significant damage.
  • I know of a couple of other minor injuries.

I only hope that the combination of these negative occurrences with good intentions pays double on any karmic debt we have or will accrue.


28 October Update: If you’re interested in more pictures of the even. Jon posted some on Picasa.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Banking Weirdness

The peak above the entry shows some of the deferred maintence we will be taking care of with this project.

Suna and I have decided to do some much needed maintenance to the house. We’re going to replace all the exterior trim with hardy plank, put up new gutters. Replace one of the front flower beds with a brick patio. Paint the tall walls in the front entry way.

This flowerbed will be ripped out and replaced with a brick patio. That way we can enjoy being outside when the weather permits without being eaten alive by the mosquitoes.

I went to the bank to talk about borrowing against a couple of CDs. Imagine my surprise when I found out that my existing unsecured line of credit has a lower interest rate than a secured, fixed term loan. I just don’t understand modern banking. But at least there isn’t any additional paperwork to fill out. We also signed the contract with the contractor who is going to do the work. They will start having material delivered on Monday and should be finished well before the wedding.

I’ll keep you advised of how it goes, gentle reader, as I spend the net of my fruit company contract.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Check’s in the Bank

Another photo from my trip home to see Dad.

Well, I don’t have a lot to talk about.

I finally got my first chef from the fruit company put in the bank. After all the trouble I had getting the check in the bank, it was such a relief to finally get it deposited. But then I couldn’t find the record of the deposit online. It eventually showed up. I just couldn’t find it because the pending amount didn’t show up in the balance on the summary screen as it normally does—probably because of the bank holiday.

So, I am grateful that I eventually found it.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

20th USSBA Marching Band Competition

This over-the-shoulder shot shows how well the kids can behave on the bus.

Today we are heading into the wild lands of northern Hays county, just outside of Buda, for a marching contest. The band squoze onto five buses for the trip.

Taft High School Marching Band

Everyone practiced for an hour before checking out their uniforms, eating a bite, and boarding the buses. Percussion rehearsed for an additional hour plus before that. I worry that they—especially the percussion director—may be pushing the kids too hard right before the competition. I know Suna was worried about Beccano being out in the sun for that long.

But at least they are quite on the bus. (I’m starting this on the ride down.)

Taft HS did a very pretty/difficult performance called The Forgotten People, complete with Mayan props and Native American percussion. I really enjoied the visuals. Me—the guy who listens to the marching bands and ignores that marching stuff.

Maverick Color Guard Tosses Flags

We followed them with our rather uninspired choreography and arrangements. Our director seems to have something against the audience enjoying the show. I certainly don’t see how they can win anything with this show.


Maverick Pit and Tubas
 

OK. I stand corrected. The kids played awesome. They made these tepid arrangements come alive. I didn’t even recognize it as being the. Same performance as they played Thursday. I am so impressed! The dynamics were better than ever, and tuning was impeccable. They ended up third of five in their division and were awarded the best percussion section. Go, Beccano!

LBJ’s Dancer

LBJ HS, who followed us had a balletino. He was spectacular until he lost a shoe. But he recovered well and rejoined the color guard smoothly.


Weslaco Marching Band

The most impressive band of the evening—and I hate to say it wasn’t ours—played last and drove the farthest—all the way from the valley. Weslaco was musically impressive, and their marching was completely entertaining. They didn’t double-time; they ran full speed in some of their maneuvers. They danced. They swayed. They ran some more. And they did all this while playing some difficult charts. All this entertainment out of a small band from a city of about 26,000 people!