Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Too Good Not to Post

Beckperson, the Body Person?

When I grow up and get the job of my dreams, this would be it: Body Person for a winning presidential candidate. You have incredible access, you get to ride on Air Force I and spend your days either traveling the country or in the White House, and you literally watch history unfold before your very eyes. I enjoyed watching "The West Wing" and seeing President Bartlett and his guy, Charlie. But this story today, of Senator Obama and his guy made my day.

Is there an age limit on Body Person?

Check out the slide show of the two of them working hard, and working out.

New York Times picture by Doug Mills.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Ding Dong School

Back in the fall, I posted a story about volunteering to read to a student in the school district in which my office is located. As I mentioned then, I had dreams of having one of those moments of connection that lead to a Lifetime movie or a visit to Oprah.

Well, the school year finished last week and I'm able to report that none of the above happened. As I mentioned earlier, Nicole was hardly the inner city child yearning to breathe the fresh air of literature. Nor was she the socially awkward young person dying to have an adult's attention so she could grow into a butterfly.

Turns out she was a normal kid, smart enough to figure out how to game the system by participating in this lunchtime reading group. The only thing she suffered from was a serious lack of ability to sit down and listen to someone reading to her. Oh, that and a complete lack of table manners. Neither of which doom her to a life of crime, I suspect.

We never were able to finish a book that suited her age group, but we did speed through a couple of storybooks written for kids years younger than herself. Toward the end of the year, the program administrator embarrassed Nicole into selecting a book more appropriate for her age, and we got through several chapters of it before calling it quits when the program ended.

We did share one small moment of learning. The word "gekko" appeared in that last book we read and I stopped to ask her if she knew what a gekko was. She furrowed her brow, and in spite of her best efforts to hide it, had to admit she didn't. I asked if she remembered seeing Geico commercials? She brightened immediately and said "Oh, yes!" And then said, "Oh, I get it - Geico...Gekko!" So there. My work with Nicole paid off in one short sentence.

The question now is whether to sign up again next year? Part of me wants to spend another year with her just to see if we could get another moment or two like this. And, judging by her clothing, she's a serious Red Sox fan. The other part of me says it's not worth the aggravation. We'll have to figure it out in the fall.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Obama Nation

Holy shit! It's Woodstock revisited in Portland, Oregon, yesterday. Obama is speaking to roughly 75,000 people (according to the police, not the campaign). Thought this was a great display of where the country is going these days. Wonder if my brother and sister-in-law went? Somehow I doubt it.

By the way, Bob and Tara, happy anniversary! And happy birthday tomorrow, Tara! May you have many happy returns of both occasions.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Edwards for AG?

I've always been a fan of John Edwards. I like his style, his politics and his sense of outrage at injustice. If I were ever in need of an advocate, there's no one I'd rather have standing by my side. That's why I like this story. He very strongly says he doesn't want to run with Obama for VP, but seems to hold the door open for Attorney General. Imagine him coming in and cleaning house? Wow, there's nothing that would please me more.

Friday, May 09, 2008

And in Other News...

The Democrats have selected a nominee, and it is Barack Obama. Don't you just love that picture? The cover of Times says it all.

And now that the decision is made, many are turning to the next topic, which is "Who will be Obama's running mate?"

I like the idea of Jim Webb and some good arguments are made here. Many have speculated that Hillary would be a good vice presidential candidate. I agree with the person who said Obama would then need a food taster in the White House. Besides, she already served as VP back in the '90s. She wants the big job. And luckily for us, she can't have it this time.

It does appear that Obama needs help in the White Man department, so someone who has working class roots or military/security roots might be helpful. It will be fun to watch people lining up for the position in the coming weeks.


We are still in recovery from the trip to Austin. Not in the sense of physical tiredness, but more like "Wow" we saw and did so much. I can definitely see us returning in the near future - Austin just has so much to offer. We were definitely impressed.

But this weekend will be devoted to recoverying from a tough work week, with more to come. Found out this week that I'll be traveling to Tokyo and Shanghai in July for work. Leaving July 5 and returning on July 17. Time to practice the chopsticks and bone up on my Asian culture.


The Sox are on fire. So much for their own supposed problems with traveling to the Far East. I like what I'm seeing on this team - they're just a professional, happy, well-rounded group of guys, and fun as hell to watch. Keep it coming!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Finally Home

At various times during this trip, my feet hurt (from walking), my ears hurt (from blaring music), my back hurt (from the bed of concrete at the hotel). However, it was one of the best trips we've ever taken. The weather was summery and borderline humid. The people were equally warm and quite friendly everywhere we went. And a big shout-out to the employees of HEB grocery who babysat my wallet overnight without incident.

As Tex says, it's not a southern city at all, but a western city with a big heart that has cornered the market on individual stars.

Yeah, Austin is a liberal oasis in a traditionally conservative state, but it surprised me that the tour guide at the state capital made it a point to say that Lyndon Johnson is the ONLY truly Texan president. I found it telling that he went out of his way to note that neither of the Bush presidents were born in the state.

Here's just a few more favorite pictures before I move back to reality tomorrow:

A great picture of Donna:

The dancers at Chicken Shit Sunday were an interesting lot. But the guy facing to the right with the light on his face looked like the guy who played "My Favorite Martian" on TV.

And just because I like this one:

And this one, also at the Broken Spoke:

For some reason, the photos I took at the Stevie Ray Vaughn statue on Town Lake didn't survive (so far, at least), so here's one of Bob's:

And then we waved goodbye:

No doubt we'll be visiting again.

*I finally added all the images to the previous Texas posts below.

Ending with a Bang (of The Gourd)

Friday was a good way to end the Texas sojourn. We rested up a bit and got ourselves organized so that we could enjoy the last night. The trip down I-35 took us to Gruene (pronounced "Green" for those of you non-native Texans), which is a little bit of tourism, a little bit of history, and a whole lotta fun.

Smack in the heart of the little village are two important places: the Grist Mill, where we enjoyed dinner, and Gruene Hall, where we saw "The Gourds," billed as the oldest Dance Hall in Texas.

First, the restaurant:

Then Gruene Hall:

A couple of artsy pics from the iPhone before the show started. Turns out I drank a fair amount of Shiner's this trip.

And on the way to the ladies room, you could pass close to the band, who were having the times of their lives and entertaining us quite well:

You can listen to the band here:

Friday, May 02, 2008

No, We Can't Be Winding Down!

It may just be my imagination, but even when it's not hot in central Texas, it LOOKS hot. Perhaps it's the angle of the sun, or the fact that there was often not a cloud in the sky. Whatever it is, on Thursday we began to get a small sense of what summer in Austin is like. There was a touch of humidity in the air as the temps rose to the mid-80s.

After a late start at Austin Java, we crossed the River into downtown Austin and visited two small, but interesting art museums: the Austin Museum of Art, and the Mexic-Arte Museum, both located on Congress Street. While not large in size, both of these museums pack a lot in.

After this bit of culture, we were off to meet Tex for an early dinner at Guero's, prior to First Thursday, a celebration of the South Congress Street district. As if Austin needs an excuse, there was even more live music spread out along the street for the evening. They included a band full of 15-year-olds playing everything from Canned Heat to the Doors and other old-timer music (pretty well, too, at least until their mothers came to pick them up); to a band of local country types called Lonesome Heroes. The stores stay open late on First Thursday, while tables of vendors selling jewelry and crafts. I bought a little tie-dyed onesie for our soon-to-be-born great-nephew.

One of the truly Texan shops along South Congress:

Tex is drinking coffee, people:

When our feet gave out, the party moved to "The Mean-Eyed Cat" for a drink or two. The bar is dedicated to all things Johnny Cash, and featured yet another musician playing in the backyard: Matthew Ballard.

The number of possibilities for a musician in Austin are seemingly endless. Restaurants, bars, saloons, nightclubs, all feature live music of some type or other. Lucky for us, the music we enjoy most was featured most often where we visited. We've seen so many musicians and heard so many songs we haven't had a minute to process any of it. Luckily, the internets (and the notes I've taken here this week) will allow us to go back and revisit some of it. Where possible, we picked up CDs, and I expect we'll be downloading more when we get home.

Today will be relatively quiet (at least this afternoon) and we'll be starting to get organized for the trip home tomorrow. We haven't bought an enormous amount of souvenirs, but it never fails that it's harder to get everything back in the suitcase when it's time to go home.

For our final taste of local music, we're seeing "The Gourds" tonight in Gruene, Texas, just 30 minutes or so south of here.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Just Another Wednesday

Yesterday was fairly quiet in Paloozaville. If you call a quiet day shopping most of the afternoon, having the best frappacino ever, eating deeeeelightful BBq at The Salt Lick, going to the Mother Church of Texas Music (aka "The Broken Spoke") and topping it off with another set at the Continental Club to see Jon Dee Graham.

South Congress Street has some great shops, selling anything from Mexican tchotchkes, to Texas boots to glass art, and everything in between. We meandered up and down the street a bit for our afternoon stroll in the +80-degree sunshine. When Tex finished her workday, we were off to The Salt Lick, just a wee bit west of Austin. They serve great food family style, which means all the ribs you can stuff in your mouth for a mere $18.95.

The bbq sauce was all sorts of tangy, without being sweet. The cole slaw and potato salad were simple and not overly fussy and full of mayo. When we finished the first plate of meat, which included ribs, beef brisket and sausage, a second one was delivered and we promptly buzzed through that one. Bob and Tex also enjoyed blackberry cobbler, with Blue Bell ice cream. Somehow I managed a few bites of cobbler, but I'm not really sure how.

Dinner was followed by a visit to The Broken Spoke, the Mother Church of honky tonk music. There was so much history at this place, they actually had an entire room full of relics. Everything from cowboy hats to record covers (and I do mean LPs) to photographs of the famous and near-famous who have visited. The dance hall featured Traci Lynn, a local singer who provided all the accompaniment needed for a range of swing dancers. They varied in age from early twenties to middle aged, and they swung along the floor easily and comfortably. I surely wish I could dance like that. This was certainly no place for a tourist, but rather a place where locals go on a normal Wednesday night to dance up a storm.

Our next stop was a return to the Continental Club, which featured Jon Dee Graham. While I'm not familar with him, Bob tells me he also played in the band with Alejandro Escavedo, the guy we saw there Tuesday night. While he had a bit of country in him, Jon Dee put me in mind of Tom Waits, a bit snarly, a bit poetic, a bit ornery.

Here's a sample:

Not bad for one day, eh? Tonight it's Guero's for Mexican food, First Thursday on South Congress and perhaps a cupcake from an RV, then Seth Walker music and the Mean-eyed Cat. Another jam-packed day.

**more pictures to come when I get them sorted out. It's really hard to use someone else's computer - I can't find anything I'm looking for.