Monday, July 28, 2008

At Long Last

After what seemed like forever, but was really just a matter of weeks, on Tuesday I got my iPhone and on Thursday I got my Fat Boy back from the shop. I got an email Monday that my phone was being sent overnight from Dallas, so I stopped at the AT&T store on my way home from work on Tuesday, as did several other people, so I had a little wait before it could be activated. I got it home and hooked it up to my Vista PC and started transferring music. After a few songs, iTunes froze. I restarted it, it looked okay, and started copying more music. It froze again, i killed iTunes, and when I restarted it, iTunes said there was a problem with my iPhone and it had to be restored. I uninstalled iTunes, rebooted my computer, reinstalled iTunes and it still said it couldn't see the iPhone. The phone itself could play the music that had managed to transfer, but it wasn't talking with my computer. The next day I brought the phone in to work, which is an XP machine, and it could see the iPhone just fine, but I couldn't put any of the music on my machine onto the phone. I did manage to sync with my Outlook calendar, but that was about it. At home that evening it was the same story, iTunes said there was a problem, so I tried its suggestion of restoring the phone, but since I'd never backed it up, there was nothing to restore. At work on Thursday I did a restore, which zapped a number of changes I'd made to contacts and bookmarks. I called Apple and after waiting for someone to talk to, he suggested creating a playlist and syncing that, which isn't the usage model I've used with my iPod, but I tried it and it did work, but I had to force iTunes to do it. At least I was able to get music on my phone. The problem with my work computer is that the music I have ripped on it is in WMA format, which Apple doesn't support. A while back when I first got my iPod I transcoded some of the collection to AAC, but I've gotten a lot of music since then. I started transcoding, which took all afternoon and into the night and filled up my disk. I came in the next morning with all kinds of errors, due in large part to its having re-copied songs already in AAC format. I now have my music about how I want it on the iPhone and spent some time this morning getting album covers, which it turns out is not nearly as automatic as I would have liked.
After work on Thursday I went over to the Harley shop and practically signed over my first born to pay for the repair bill. I wasn't happy that it was ready and they hadn't called me, but I was glad to at least finally have it back. I got a small box of trophies with it- the cam plate and two very scorched pistons, as well as some miscellaneous small pieces. Fortunately the Hurricane Dolly-related rains had subsided and it wasn't raining, but the roads were still wet and dirty, so the wash job was nullified. Riding back to the shop on my bicycle was even more dirty since I was riding on the shoulder of the road some.
After work on Friday I had dinner at Shady Grove, then went downtown. I went to Gingerman for a little, then hoofed it over to Stubb's for the Air Guitar finals, but when I got there at 8:30 thinking the show started at 9, I found out that the doors didn't open until 9:15 and the show started at 10. I went to kill the time at Coyote Ugly, which was fully staffed but not yet full of patrons. It was something like "wigged out Friday" for no apparent reason, and all the girls were wearing wigs. I went back to Stubb's for the competition, which was held in the usual format, pitting the winners from the preliminary rounds and the dark horse round earlier in the week, as well letting a couple other people who pretty much just showed up. The first round was everyone's prepared routines, then there was a break before the compulsory round where the top scorers of the first round had a shred-off to Motorhead's Ace of Spades. There were some great high-energy performances, but the winner by far was "Master of Destruction," and according to the Facebook page, another favorite The Guardian won in Dallas, so he'll be competing in the US finals in NY as well. After the competition everyone got up on the stage for a little air guitar.
Saturday I left the house on my bicycle about 9:30 for the 11:35 showing of Dark Knight at the Alamo. When I got there, there were already people seated in the theater, and it was the smallest theater. I wound up with nobody sitting next to me, but it was about the only empty seat in the place. It was almost 2:30 when I left the theater, got a couple things at REI and rode the hike-and-bike trail for a bit. It was extremely hot riding home around 4, so I took it kind of lazily, stopping along the way to cool off in air conditioned stores.
Sunday I met up with another road captain to pre-ride this Saturday's ride to Cascade Caverns. The ride down there was really nice, good weather, but then it was only 10:30 when we got there. We didn't do the tour, and just turned around after getting some information on the place. Claudia and I separated when I stopped for gas, and I got home a little after noon, before it was scorchingly hot. This ride was also a little test of the Fat Boy and my electronic set-up. Two years ago when I had my Sirius on the bike during my big road trip (I haven't used it on the bike since), the biggest problem was that its loudest volume was just a little bit too quiet for me to hear well. I bought a small inline headphone amplifier, which did gave me plenty of volume, but for one thing it's one more thing to carry in my pocket (which is part of why I got a new phone), and it got intermittent interference from my phone. The interference shouldn't be a problem on my trip, since I'll have my phone off most of the time I'm riding, and I guess I'll deal with all the crap in my pockets like I always have in the past.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Friday afternoon at 3:15 I got an email via Facebook from the Alamo that there were two last-minute tickets available for their Batman adventure to Bracken cave. I wanted to go to the event when I first heard about it, but when checking online it went from not on sale to sold out. Apparently it sold out in about 15 minutes. I thought about it for 15 minutes, since I was still at work and would have to run out to make it in time for the 4:30 departure. I figured that they would be gone by the time I decided I wanted to go, but called and found out at least one was still available. I purchased the ticket (for $110!), finished up a few things and headed over to the theater on Lamar. I was sitting by myself on the bus for a while until a couple ran up at the last minute and the woman sat down next to me. We chatted some on the way down to the cave and also laughed at the campy original Batman episode they played. As soon as we stopped I rushed off the bus to the bathroom, which was a single port-o-potty, because of the beers I drank and I decided to wait until we got there after we turned off of the interstate. There were a couple of people there from Bat Conservancy, which actually owns the cave and surrounding land, to tell us about the cave and the bats, as well as a crew from the Alamo to cook and serve dinner. The food was top-notch, but for whatever reason seemed to have something of a raw/rare theme. Appetizers were steak tartare and ceviche, and the main course was rare tuna steak. I ate every bite, but it was kind of weird to eat raw food more or less in the middle of nowhere, and it didn't seem to have any connection to bats or the movie. As I was finishing the main course, about 7:30, the bat flight started. Apparently due to various factors, the flights have started earlier than normal, and it's something of a rare treat to be able to see them leave in full sunlight, usually it's closer to dusk. Everyone got up from the tables to see the bats closer up. It was really incredible to see, but what I found much more amazing was just the sound, particularly the sound of all the wings flapping. For reasons even the bat guy didn't know, the first flight didn't last very long and quite a few came back, which was really neat to see, and apparently very unusual. They did a sort of dive bomb into the cave. Closer to dusk, a second flight started and continued until we left at dark. On the way back a different woman sat next to me and we chatted most of the way about movies, music, and whatever. We got back to the theater and had a whole section blocked off for us for the 11:30 show. I thought the movie was really good, but I missed some of it having to go to the bathroom and I think I briefly fell asleep since it was past my bed time. Plus the mojitos didn't help.
Saturday morning I lazed about for a while, then left on my bicycle around 10:30. I got to Home Slice at 11:15 and as I was about to walk in the back door, I was told they didn't open for another 15 minutes, explaining the staff meeting on the patio. As I waited out front reading the paper about a dozen more people showed up. The pizza was excellent as always and I ate three slices. From there I rode to Uncle Billy's and drank beer in the AC reading the paper for two hours. I decided to go to the Blanton museum from there to see the Michener collection of Japanese prints as well as an exhibition on printmaking in general. I left there about 4 and headed to Chuy's for dinner. I of course stuffed myself and had something of a hard time getting my fat ass (which was pretty saddle sore at that point) back home. I got home about 7 and watched qualifying for the drag race, which was a measly one hour show, then watched Hostel part 2, which was predictably silly torture porn.
I did almost nothing of any value on Sunday, except to get a few things at the grocery store after having lunch, until after dinner I went rollerblading for the first time since I broke my ankle. It went better than I thought it might, I was able to make the full 5K in a decent time. My ankle was really uncomfortable, but I powered through and did a second full lap after a 5-minute break, which also went pretty well. After the second lap my ankle was pretty sore, and it still is, particularly around the top of the implant on the fibula.

Monday, July 14, 2008

No iPhone... Yet

I was planning on trying to get one of the new iPhones on Friday, thinking the insanity wouldn't be as much this time, but I soon learned that was definitely not the case. Friday morning on my way to work I stopped at the AT&T store near my house. As I drove up I didn't see a line, but it turns out I was just approaching from the opposite direction as the line was going. I got out of my car and started toward the store when I saw the line, which at first looked to be close to my patience level, but as I walked toward the corner of the building and found the line turned and kept going for a ways, I just got back in my car and went to work. At lunch I stopped in another store and was not surprised to find they didn't have any, but the guy said they'd be getting more in the coming days. Saturday morning I went back to the store near my house just before they opened at 9. There was only one person there, who had already been told they didn't have any in stock there. Other people walking up had reports of absurd waits at the stores that did have stock. I stuck around until they opened and decided instead of waiting or checking in every day I would do direct fulfillment, where the send the phone to that store in 7 to 10 days. With some luck I'll have it this Friday or Saturday. I did play with a live demo of the new version of the iPhone in the store.
I went back home and putzed for a little bit before getting on my bike to do a charity ride. The flier I had must have been a misprint because it said first bike out at 11, when it was really last bike out at 11, so when I got there at 11:10 they were just about to leave. The ride was pretty nice, nothing I haven't done innumerable times before. The fourth stop in Lago Vista was the only one I really hadn't been to, and it was down a ways off the main road, so I wasn't sure if I was headed the right direction. I got there at 1 and was getting hungry, so I was glad to see the Lions Club was selling BBQ, which wasn't bad. At the final stop at Carlos and Charlie's I was kind of surprised not to find my co-worker who rides with the group that put the event on and was the one who told me about it. He showed up later, having stopped for a long lunch in Marble Falls. I did pretty well in the "Scrabble Scramble," but wound up just outside of prize range. I stuck around there until 5, didn't get home until 6, quickly cleaned up a bit, changed and jumped in the car to get to a friend's surprise birthday party. I got there much later than I had hoped- right at 7 when she was supposed to arrive. As I was walking from my car to their house I saw a car pulling up that I thought might have been hers. Turns out it was her car and I kind of ruined the surprise, but at that point she already pretty much knew what was going on from all of her friends' cars parked in the street. The party was good, I enjoyed myself. The food was good as it always is at their parties. It didn't get quite as crazy as the last party of theirs I went to, but it was pretty rowdy. I finally left after 2 and got home about 3:30 and went straight to bed.
I woke up at 8 Sunday, read for a bit and otherwise did nothing until about 10 when I went to the theater to see Hellboy 2, which I really enjoyed. I went from there to my company's summer party. I had never been to the place, near the airport and kind of hard to get to, but the company party had been there the previous two years as well. People who had been to those parties as well grumbled some that the party should go somewhere else. That and the oppressive heat probably kept a lot of people away, as turnout wasn't great. There were mostly families with young children, and some couples. After lunch, which was just okay, I was looking forward to riding the zip line. It turns out it wasn't really engineered and they imposed an age/weight limit because their stopping mechanism wasn't meant for much more than 100 pounds. After being denied on the zip line, I was thinking about going home but decided to change into my swim trunks and jump in the pool. The pool was cool but not too cold and it felt great after sweating in the nearly 100 degree heat. I left about 5 and went home and watched the drag race. I fell asleep on the couch about 7 and woke up at 8:30, watched drag racing until about 10:30 and read until I fell asleep about 11.

Monday, July 7, 2008


I was planning on getting dinner somewhere I could sit outside on Thursday, but just before I left the office it started pouring rain. I went downtown, where it didn't look like they'd gotten any rain, to the Gingerman instead. About 6:30 I decided to go to the Alamo to try to catch the Team America: World Police special. It was a quote- and sing-along and included a goodie bag of props including a balloon, a glow stick and a noisemaker for certain parts of the movie. It was good rowdy fun, then we all went out on sixth street to play with sparklers and sing "America: Fuck Yeah."
Friday morning I read for a while before heading out on my bicycle around 9:30. I rode up to the Alamo Lamar for the 11 showing of WALL-E. There were a lot more children than I would have hoped, but at least the theater wasn't full. One little boy to my right kept asking his dad questions throughout the whole movie. I did manage to enjoy the movie anyway. I rode to Uncle Billy's and when I got off my thighs felt like they were going to cramp up. I stretched and walked around for a bit before going inside to cool off in the AC. I hadn't realized they don't filter their beers until I got a very cloudy beer, which the bartender was due to having recently put on a new keg. The taste was a little different and there was a big clump of yeast at the bottom of the glass when I was finished, so I switched to one of their other beers. From there I decided to go to Hula Hut. There were lots of good-looking women as I expected, but it was too crowded and I couldn't sit down, so I left after having one beer. I stopped in at REI to get some sort of light for my bicycle, anticipating riding home after dark. I had a couple of beers at the Gingerman before going to the dock for the CMU alumni boat cruise on Lady Bird Lake. It was pretty much as I expected- nice, but kind of lame. Dinner was decent- chicken and beef fajitas. There were mostly families with children ranging from babies to college-aged, and some younger alums, some of whom I had seen at other events. It was a good vantage point to watch the fireworks display at the very least. It was a total cluster fuck trying to get out of the downtown area. I had to dodge the swarms of cars and throngs of pedestrians just to get started on my way home. I went a different route than I normally have gone, down South First. It went fine most of the way, but after I stopped to get a soda the sidewalk stopped, which wasn't too bad at first, but eventually I had to ride in the street. Traffic was very light at that point, but I was still pretty nervous with just a single blinking LED. I got home about 11:30 and took a shower, and then I couldn't get to sleep so I surfed the web for a little while.
Saturday morning I went over to the Harley shop for a ride benefiting Make-A-Wish down to the dealership in Gruene. It wasn't full-on group ride, more like poker run style where you either go by yourself or in a small group and make certain stops along the way. Before leaving on the ride I checked with the tech working on my Fat Boy, who said he thinks the counterbalancer bearings also need to be replaced, which requires splitting the case, which means $800 in labor for $50 in parts. I left the shop by myself, but soon caught up with another group of people I didn't know. They weren't really going slow, just slightly slower than I wanted to ride, so at the first stop I got my raffle ticket and took off while they were all dallying about. At the second stop I caught up with a group of people I do know, but they left before I did. Somehow I missed a turn and missed the third stop, but by the time I realized it I didn't really care, so I headed straight to the dealership. I hung out there for a little while, then blazed up I35 straight home where I did almost nothing for the rest of the day.
Sunday I did some little things around the house in the morning and in the afternoon I went downtown. I went to the Ransom Center for the first time since it got its own location to see an exhibit called "On the Road With the Beats," which I've wanted to see for a while having read some Kerouac and in the midst of Burroughs. I enjoyed the exhibit, it was well laid out and had lots of good material. I had originally thought about going to the Blanton museum afterward, but I stayed at the Ransom until a quarter to five, when both museums close. I went and had dinner at the TX Chili Parlor nearby. I don't know if it was me, the hot weather or the chili itself, but it didn't seem as spicy as it normally does. At about 6:30 I headed towards the Austin Music Hall for the show, and went to kill some time at the Gingerman for the third time. I didn't care much about the opening bands and read the paper there until almost 8. It was the first time I'd been to the Hall since they rebuilt it. It seemed rather familiar, except that the upstairs space was much larger. It was oppressively hot inside. I don't know if their ventilation/air conditioning wasn't on or it just couldn't handle that crowd, but it was absurdly hot and humid. Soilent Green was already playing when I got in. They were alright. I was going to try to get some air while Chimaira was setting up, but the porch was jammed with smokers, so I just sat down upstairs. I'm familiar with at least a couple Chimaira songs, but they're not a favorite of mine. They were good live. Between acts I went back downstairs to get a close-ish spot. The Dethklok show was pretty awesome. They had a cartoon going the whole time that was more than just clips from the show. The cartoon even had some banter to allow the real band some breathing time. The band was good. I was most impressed by Brendon Small, the show's creator, who was playing lead guitar and singing in a character voice, especially "Hatredcopter," where is sung by two characters. I was kind of disappointed that none of them had long hair, and Brendon is nothing like Nathan Explosion. They finished up their roughly hour set with my favorites "Thunderhorse" and "Go into the Water" before a final "encore" of "Go Forth and Die." I don't know if it was because it was the last show, but the only Dethklok merch was a poster, I was kind of hoping to get a t-shirt.