Sunday, May 31, 2009

Waking Life

I have insomnia. It's the chronic type. I've had this sleep disorder for years... more than 5 years, maybe 10 years. It's hard to go to sleep, then I wake up a lot during the night and it's hard to go back to sleep. I can generally sleep in the morning between 5 and 8 AM, but unfortunately, that's when I get up every weekday - at 5 AM. I *might* get 4 hours of sleep a night (and that doesn't mean "in a row")

I don't think I have just one cause. For the past several years, a lot of it has been cat-related: 4 cats and some with serious health problems. Now we are down to 2 cats, but one of them is elderly with various health problems that seem to keep my brain awake most of the night. I can't blame this on the cats (not anymore). I'm a worrier. I'm working, even when I'm trying to sleep. Deadlines loom and I can't forget about them. Naps have been almost non-existent for the past 4-5 years. Dreams are not restful either, as I seem to spend them searching for someone (person or pet) who's lost until I am hopelessly lost too, and never get anywhere. Sometimes they are post-apocalyptic. Do you think I've seen too many movies?

Anyway, after recent major changes in the employment department, I've decided it's a good time to make major changes all the way around. I need to start taking care of my health. I need to try and get time off occasionally (OK... that's unlikely for another year or two), I need to stop worrying about everything, get some exercise, and accept circumstances. Try to relax and go with the flow. Relaxation has become an alien concept to me over the past few years. Must. Learn. To. Relax.

As for meds, I really don't want to resort to prescription sleep drugs (like I don't already worry too much now, I don't need to worry about those). I'm giving up my nightly dose of diphenhydramine (an anti-histamine and the primary ingredient in most OTC sleep remedies) for awhile. I've taken so much of it that it no longer makes me drowsy so that benefit is gone. I've been taking an OTC product called "Calms Forte," and it might be helping a little. It might be buying me an extra hour a night, but not much more.

I think I'll open a frosty, cold beer, and get out a cheesy novel. How's that for therapy?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Big box recycling


Strip malls tend to start dying nearly as soon as they're built, especially these days when even the previously successful ones are starting to go belly up. In fact, these days, the discount-style strip malls are more likely to continue to hang on than many with high end shops. This one (at Westgate and Wm. Cannon) used to have an Albertson's supermarket as its anchor with a women's gym at the other end. The Albertson's has been closed and empty for a long time, and the mall has starred the Dollar Store (which is sandwiched between 2 banks, one which has failed and has been absorbed by the other). Now, the Albertson's old big empty box is getting some use.

The space is being used for small business vendors of all types. The individual stores just consist of cubicle walls. Some shops featured handcrafted stuff and some didn't. There was a little video store with videos in Spanish, and even an Avon store, where I picked up some Skin-So-Soft (to repel mosquitoes). When the rest of the inner space is filled out, there will be a farmer's market, a bakery, and a game area with Moonwalks and pool tables...

... and even a Psychic Advisor offering palmistry and tarot readings.

Madame Sofia, will we survive this recession and keep a roof over our heads?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Fresh ideas from an old source


It's the birth anniversary of President John F. Kennedy (May 29, 1917), and here (audio only) is a very interesting speech on the topics of secrecy and the press. Also, it's nice to listen to some different audio snippets from JFK, he's got some classic hits, but they do get a lot of airplay.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Time to freak right out - again!

GE... we bring good things to... BLAM!!!

Here's another tale of corporate negligence, followed by danger to consumers, followed by a bullshit explanation that attempts to put the blame on the consumer and is obviously a CYA lie.

GE microwaves are exploding, sending glass shards and who-knows-what-else all over the kitchen and occasionally people. It's not just the glass breaking through consumer misuse (as they allege) - these things are going BOOM when they are not even in use.

Check out the article, where there is also a video than I couldn't embed here, and you might want to look into this further, especially if you are a GE microwave owner.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Has it come to this?


Yes, you can call it "pee-cycling." [LINK]

Yes, it has some definite usefulness in certain situations... I only hope to not be in those situations.

Should the sight of something like this encourage you to conserve water in areas where drought is becoming a larger problem all the time?

{yup}

Monday, May 25, 2009

P-Bucket hates artwork with butts showing


Awhile back I had to replace the above image stored on Photobucket that had been removed for obvious indecency (who's the censor over there? John Ashcroft?). It is called "Three Graces" and was painted during the Italian High Renaissance (around 1501) by Raphael. Well, just recently I discovered that they had also removed the one on the right - an ad (this one from 1958) that Coppertone has plastered all over magazines, billboards and in many other very public places using various versions of the same ad. We all grew up looking at this ad! I used it in a post from last Summer called "Heliophobia," where I also used the image below. So far, they have not removed that one... probably because it does not contain a classic painting or illustration featuring a female butt.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Darwin Award candidate?

"Half-cocked" now has double meaning for bad guy wannabe.
[LINK]

I think the Darwin rules might apply, or at least an Honorable Mention.

Furbaby Friday - Jax's mug


Jax wonders why he is being forced to pose for a mugshot, even show he's done nothing wrong. He doesn't mind much though, and loves to show off his striking profile. You don't see a chin like that every day. I only wish he had smiled for the camera.

"Officer, the perpetrator had one white whisker..."

Tags and links: Friday Ark - Carnival of the Cats - This week's carnival is at House of the (Mostly) Black Cats - -

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Learning something new every day

[From Dictionary.com Source Link]
The rumor that "orange" rhymes with no other word is incorrect. Orange rhymes with Blorenge (a mountain in Wales) and sporange (a sac where spores are made). "Silver" has the same rumor going for it, but it actually rhymes with Wilver (a nickname) and chilver (a ewe lamb).

Wow. Don't say this blog never helped you in Scrabble. I totally forgot about Blorenge, sporange, and chilver.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Weekends: Friday and Monday

Friday was MrBs birthday, so we splurged and went to the Nutty Brown Café to see Del Castillo, one of the best live bands you can see. The Nutty is a really nice outdoor venue/bar and restaurant, and it always seems like there's a breeze blowing. It's down the road in Dripping Springs instead of Austin, but the crowd is probably mostly Austinites. Here's Mark during his jaunt through the audience.

Here's some silliness on the part of the brothers. They took cameras from folks and used them for slides (all in la familia, nobody minded at all).

I was super tired from my week - hell, the last few weeks - stress from ditching my business (for the most part) and changing my employment status in light of our recent underemployment crisis, and the usual stress of kitty cat health problems, and Henry keeping us up all night every night creating a state of sleep deprivation in addition to work stress exhaustion (I don't earn enough to keep us afloat and unemployment checks may not start for several weeks), so something needs to happen - and I believe it will. We are being patient and trying to stay on a budget. We are also leaving more lights on during the night. It helps relieve Henry's distress due to failing eyesight. Anyway, Saturday and Sunday were used for resting and NOT going out.

Saturday we had rain and Sunday a wonderful cool front came through, taking the temperatures down to where, on Monday, the high didn't even break 80. Perfect weather. We went down to Waterloo Records to see Steve Earle's in-store performance, which was wonderful. Now, I saw Steve Earle a few years ago at the ACL Festival, it was from a good distance when he headlined on a big stage with a full band. It didn't do much for me. I later picked up his Washington Square album in the free KGSR bin, and became a fan. This show was just him and his guitar, playing free for a small crowd. Here's a video someone took, we were further back but still have a clear view of him. Glad this was captured. I think I'd rather hear him this way.

He played for about an hour, then we down a few blocks to Opal Divine's to hear MilkDrive on the patio. I was a good night and we got home at a decent hour, as they say.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

American Crusades


Just when you thought you couldn't be more disgusted by the Bush administration, along comes one more thing.
[See the rest at the SOURCE LINK]...documents from the Rumsfeld Pentagon mixed religion and war

In the days surrounding the U.S. invasion of Iraq, cover sheets - like the ones in this exclusive GQ.com slideshow - began adorning top-secret intelligence briefings produced by Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon. The sheets juxtaposed war images with inspirational Bible quotes and were delivered by Rumsfeld himself to the White House, where they were read by the man who, just after September 11, referred to America's war on terror as a "crusade."

I noticed that many of the scriptures used on the cover sheets are from the Old Testament, a book also sacred to the people we were invading... much like the original Crusades, which didn't go well either.

Found this link via http://twitter.com/colinmeloy (of The Decemberists)

Slumdog Millionaire - with SPOILERS

Curmudgeony "just gotta disagree" movie review

I've been putting off seeing this, even though it won all those awards including the Oscar for Best Picture, because the trailer made it look like one of those pictures that gratuitously play on your hopes that the underdog good guys will win the big prize - and then they do - and then everybody is happy, end of story.

First of all, I liked the way they told the story about how the guy came to know all the answers, and how they used that to construct the whole plot. Very nice. I guess the part I didn't like was the ending itself - because it DID end up being one of those "underdogs win in spite of impossible odds" movies. (I'm not saying I don't like any of those, I love Star Wars Episode IV - A New Hope, for example.) In this case, it seems like the message the movie delivers is "All You Need is Money," or "First, Get Some Money and It Will Solve Everything." That message just leaves me feeling cold, just the opposite of the warm and fuzzy that was no doubt intended.

The woman (who is kept as a mistress/slave by a rich man) will not go to him while he is poor, asking "what will we live on?", even though he, the romantic, wants them to live on love.

He does win the big prize, and is joined by the woman, and their worries are over. There is a wonderful choreographed street dance (which is enjoyable, as is all the music in the movie), but I feel that we are actually robbed of the real ending. OK, having the money and the woman is great, but aren't there any loose ends? How do they spend the money? What about all of those people (including sooo many children) who are still living they way that they grew up, and have no hope whatsoever? Do they help them? Or not? Ironically, the young actors who starred in the movie, in spite of getting some financial benefit, are still living in the conditions depicted in the movie. One of them recently had his shack demolished after his family was run out of it by authorities threatening to beat them with canes. These are the living conditions that the movie is about, and being as it was sooo highly touted as a thing of wonder, I would have liked a better end to the story. There are loose ends, there are raw nerves, there is unfinished business. I want to see those things (and I don't mean in a sequel).

Quote of the week

On Carrie Prejean:

"She is clearly a prophet. Hell, she might even be the Second Coming, because, just like Jesus, she rode into town on her ass."
-- Stephen Colbert

Friday, May 15, 2009

LOLcat pre-empts regular catblogging.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

see more Lolcats and funny pictures

...also too pooped to catblog... that's what happens when certain cats keep you up night after night.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Happy Birthday MrB


May 15, another trip around the sun for MrB. He's got his bird and bug support going in a big way (possibly to the distress of the next door neighbors who are trying to sell their house - but the prospective buyers may as well know who they are moving in next to. He's potentially a hero this week, because he found a little hatchling birdie on the ground and put it back in a nest. (Hopefully it was the right nest, but we can't be 100% sure of that, and he was trying to help the poor little naked cutester helpless on the ground with its beak open wide waiting for food).

That flower in the picture is my favorite right now. It's the tallest sunflower so far, must be a good 7 feet tall, maybe more, with an absolutely straight stalk and one little perfect flower right at the top.

Prickly pear cactus is blooming right now too (just as the red poppies have gone seedy and crispy, and the thick white jasmine has peaked and will soon be less fragrant), so we have a lot of yellow.

You don't want to sniff these blooms though, there's at least one bug per blossom.


To celebrate his birthday we are planning on going out to the Nutty Brown Cafe to see Del Castillo - postpone the employment worries until Monday...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Project Rant


This video rant features a friend of mine, Lana Dieterich. It's the top-rated rant on Project Rant right now. It's an Austin-based video production company that makes dramatizations of the stuff you love to hate - real rants fleshed out by actors. Check 'em out, and submit a rant if you feel the need.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Blueberry Eyes


Splotchy had an Eye Meme going, so I tagged myself.

RULES:

1. Post a picture of your eyes.
2. Tag a few people.

I am disobeying because I have nearly stopped tagging people. Tag yourself if you'd like to play.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Star Trek TNO (The New One)

On Saturday we saw Star Trek at the IMAX (see it at an IMAX if at all possible, and if you haven't been to an IMAX before - do it - it is what it's cracked up to be), and we were very impressed by it. "Not your father's Star Trek" was a marketing slogan, but I would not completely agree, given that I am of the Star Trek generation it refers to. OK, it does lack cheesy special effects (which were considered good for that time period in the 60s) and mini-skirts on the bridge, but I thought the casting was inspired and the actors captured the essence of the original characters (when you consider that each one is a dude playing a dude playing a dude... sort of...). I am a fan of Star Trek The Original Series (TOS). I love those characters and the stories. Sorry, but I just never got into any of the spinoff TV series, not even Next Generation (TNG) and it's not for lack of watching them.

Truly, I don't really get why so many of the older fans don't like this one. Is it because certain things happened that deviate from the plot of some of the TV episodes? Hey - it's Star Trek. You can always fix that stuff later with a bit of time travel. Don't sweat it.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

RIP Stephen Bruton (and Poodie)

What a weekend. Started out with the news that Poodie Locke had died on Wednesday. Poodie was a bar owner, and Willie Nelson's close friend and road manager. He hooked up with Willie in 1975 and has been essential to his operation ever since.

I didn't know Poodie personally, neither do I know Willie, but I do know his daughter (as well as other friends of Poodie) so I felt like it was important to be at The Backyard for her show that was now dedicated to him (and collecting donations). That was on for Saturday night. More about Poodie, Willie and all here: Still is still moving.

Stephen Bruton with the Resentments, "Heart of hearts"

click to enlargeSaturday afternoon, we found out that Stephen Bruton had died. This one hurts a lot more personally. Stephen was so much a part of our local music scene, and we had seen him quite a few times. I even held his music up for him at the Saxon Pub one night when he needed a music stand. (Sometimes the seats in the clubs are very, very close to the performers.) Also, we've got most of his records, all his solo stuff for sure. His bio is long and amazing. He's a lifelong friend of T-Bone Burnett, and got in with Kris Kristofferson in the 70's, later with Bonnie Raitt and lots more [official bio]. Here he is with Kristofferson at the Four Seasons in 2006 (the woman is Jessi Colter, Waylon Jennings' widow).



They found the throat cancer in 2007. He'd been trying to fight it. He continued to play as many gigs as he could, kept on working. Last time I saw him, it was Dec 30, 2008, at Malford Milligan's farewell to Austin gig at the Saxon. Not long after that, T-Bone Burnett flew him out to L.A. for some medical stuff, and he got to finish his time out with Kristofferson and the record he's working on. An article from the LA Times written less than 3 weeks ago says this:
When Bruton, a fellow Texan a dozen years Kristofferson's junior, shows up about an hour into the proceedings, he walks into the darkened studio with the aid of a cane. He confesses to feeling less than in his prime, having undergone several rounds of chemotherapy for throat cancer since 2007. Earlier this year, he had a particularly rough bout, from which he's bouncing back, albeit more slowly than he'd like.

"How old were you when you started playing with me?" Kristofferson asks.

"Twenty," answers Bruton, now 60.

"You were the baby of the group," Kristofferson says.

"The funny thing is," Bruton adds, "I still am. Even though I don't look like it."

At one point, doctors told Bruton his chances of surviving much longer were pretty slim. On this day, Bruton's happy to be back in a studio, a guitar in his hands again.

"What are you gonna do?" he says to Kristofferson and Was, "just sit around till they throw dirt on you?"

Here's another video, this is "Too Many Memories" with Tosca Strings.


Austin 360 obituary
Stephen Bruton Slideshow
Road to Austin bash 2007
ADDENDUM: LA Times obit with more info

Tags: - - - -

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Gross, Terry Gross

Earlier this week, on NPR’s Fresh Air [LISTEN HERE], there was an entomologist guest, an expert on the dung beetle (not to be confused with The Dung Beatles, at right, who are also not to be confused with that other band, the Fabulous Dung Beatles – and The Beatles themselves have created permanent confusion over the spelling of the word “beetles.”

Anyway… as interesting as the discussion of the dung beetle was, even more interesting was the discussion of coffee (which starts near the end of the interview - about 32 minutes in). The transition between dung beetles and coffee came via cockroaches. Terry Gross was curious about why so many people hate cockroaches – even many entomologists hate cockroaches and kill them on sight (it’s hard for me to understand that as well – so, Terry, good question!). His answer included a story about a fellow scientist who, while they were traveling together, had to make frequent detours (pre-Starbucks) in order to find coffee made from freshly-ground whole beans rather than the stuff made from pre-ground coffee. His explanation for making them go through that was because he was allergic to cockroaches. (I also have a mild allergy to them, and Jax (the cat) has a more severe allergy verified by skin testing.) Cockroaches must like the smell of coffee (well, who doesn’t?) and the small percentage of cockroach that gets included in ground coffee was enough to set off an allergic reaction in him.

Apparently they will do anything to get into your coffee, including smuggling themselves in via Nestle's Coffee Mate [reference]. It was unfortunate for all involved, the roach ended up dead at bottom of the container, where the consumers discovered his body after having used the rest of the jar in their coffee. Nestle was apparently apologetic only to the point of providing them with a replacement Coffee Mate.


If you'd rather avoid real contact of cockroaches and coffee, you could try this drink called "Cucaracha" (and many other things), made generally from equal parts coffee liqueur and tequila. Even if the buggers dusted themselves into the Kahlua, the tequila should kill the germs.

That has not been scientifically verified. ;-)

Gold roach porcelain here

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

[something] iversary

I didn't realize 4 years ago when I started this blog on May 6, that it was also my wedding anniversary! [Texas Oasis: Best wedding ever] I should be shot for being unromantic (it's my nature). The wedding happened 15 years ago, but I really think the day we met is more important to me: June 4, 1988. Besides, after you've lived together for a few years, the wedding itself doesn't bring so many changes.

Thanks for reading, guys, and a shout-out to MrB, the love of my life.

Reality (update)

Am going to try and keep just one client on the side (and work full time). Husband will need to be my sanity manager.

Reality

We’ve had a particularly rough couple of weeks in the career department (with many more to come, looks like). On April 23rd, MrB was let go from his job, which has required quite a bit of scrambling for both of us since he was the main breadwinner, the one with the 40-hour a week steady paycheck. For the past 3 years, my regular paycheck has been for 20 hours a week, then I’ve padded it out with my dream-chasing hobby job. The padding varies.

This bucket of cold water in the face has just hastened the inevitable – probably a good thing in the long run – we were hanging on by threads, which have now snapped and we have to find a safe place to land.

We’ve known deep down that his job was probably not one where he would be when it was time to retire. The workforce was young, with lots of temps and high turnover of employees, a company dependent on marketability of high tech products, and driven by the quarterly bottom line.

In my work, I’ve been chasing a dream. When we moved to Austin I almost immediately began doing website work (gratis) for my favorite guitar player (readers – you know who I mean – trying not to mention clients by name in this post) and my work was featured prominently on his website. Then I did the CD artwork for an up-and-coming world music band who did quite well in the Austin Music Awards in 2003/04, and my work came in at #6 in its category in the Awards. I did that project while I was working at a full time day job, and it was very labor-intensive over the period of a few weeks, but it was something I had always wanted to do so it was worth it.

It was pretty exciting being part of that, so I decided to chase it further and suggested to one of my favorite local bluegrass bands that I could do a good job at redesigning their website and taking care of it for them. My rate was dirt-cheap, the kind that gets your foot in the door...

[aside] I don’t think that using non-paid support people is a good idea for either party. Your work will eventually suffer because you are feeling used and burned-out. The entity you are supporting may be reluctant to ask from you the things they need, or, if need be, let you go or replace you even when it needs to be done, because they don't want to hurt you, especially since you are one of their biggest fans. [/aside]

...but that was cool, we weren't well-off but we had enough money. I had a full-time job (and so did MrB) and this was a labor of love and devotion, I was finally doing what I always wanted to do, and I was supporting a good cause (music), and the band was (is) wonderful. Starting out, it was 4 or 5 hours a month. Before I knew it, other opportunities started coming along, mostly all musicians or creatives associated with musicians. I took on projects that I felt were a good fit for me and soon I was the webmaster for several bands. I got an offer to take care of a rather large site that belonged to an entertainment PR company that handled a lot of the Americana acts that Austin is known for. They fed me a steady workload – a few hours a day – always. I made an arrangement with my "day job” to work part time, and I ran my home-based biz the rest of the time... and by “the rest of the time” I mean almost all of it. I worked every day, every night, every holiday, through all my vacation days, through all my sick days. I worked every day whether it was an hour or 12 hours. As much as I loved the work I was doing, I reached the point of exhaustion. My nerves were frayed and I was over the edge. No question about it. I was falling apart.

My work was good, but I had made some bad business decisions.
(A) I continued to work cheap, as I didn't raise my price on existing clients, I took on new ones for the same low price... hey, my clients all knew each other! I didn't want to be perceived as ripping people off.
(B) I had no backup for myself and no safety net. I couldn't hire anyone because nobody else would work for my salary and also there was a lot of confidential stuff entrusted to me - passwords and such things - and I was not willing to share those.
(C) My workaholic tendencies drove me to not be able to walk away from from the InBox. If there was work in it, I had to finish it... so that it would be done and the customer would be happy and I would be freed up... except that it was never empty - as soon one task was complete, someone else would send me work. It might only be a 5 minute job each time, but if there are 5 minutes between jobs, that's 5 minutes of uncompensated time. That's right, my compulsions never allowed me to time-manage and give myself breaks. Constantly checking email, and responding to what's there, I was never freed-up and never had actual down time.

I finally felt that I had to let the PR company go as a client. It gave me a little relief, time-wise, but I was putting a whole lot less in the bank as I now had a part time job plus a few music clients on the side, so I was still working pretty much every day, but for much shorter durations - like, maybe an hour instead of 5 hours (unless I was designing a new site or something). We came to be on a very tight budget. That's what this last year has been like. I've been feeling like I've been getting nowhere on every front. Not holding up my end of the deal on being gainfully employed, not having quality time with loved ones, not working toward retirement either.

My day job employer is going to allow me to return to full time status. I have also contacted my clients and resigned. I am closing the doors of my business. There will be some loose ends to tie up, transition periods, and that’s pretty much it even though the transition could take months. In spite of needing money, it’s not going to be good for anyone if I try and do it all. Everyone deserves better than that.

I am very proud of the work that I have done, not only of the projects (websites, newsletters, CD art designs, posters…) but of the fact that people like working with me. I am hard-working, trustworthy, devoted, meticulous and conscientious (yes, and cheap). I care. I really do, it’s not bullshit and it was never about the bottom line. My business failed, but I did not fail. I am not a failure.

I am honored, humbled and privileged to have been associated with such great talents. I am in awe of them all. It’s not over. I hope we will always be friends.

I will be returning to the 40-hour job, pecking away in a dimly-lit windowless office, dealing with traffic jams, getting through hump-day, looking forward to the weekend, planning something for a holiday, having fewer worries and responsibilities, someday... that is, if both of us end up employed. It’s a very big IF in this economy. The saga continues.

Cartoon from Toothpaste For Dinner

Hey townies! Last day for early voting!


I'm backin' McCracken. I think that Leffingwell is a good guy too, but I believe that Brewster McCracken has the vision, energy, and experience that we need in this town. He also has the overwhelming support of the creative class (unfortunately not one of those "official" groups that seems to count when it comes to endorsement lists) that includes artists, musicians, club owners, filmmakers, etc. I found the graphic here, where they have a bumper sticker competition going.

Anyway, get out there and vote. You might not care if we get McCracken or Leffingwell, but if nothing else - vote against Strayhorn.