Monday, December 29, 2008


The office was pretty empty on Tuesday, and by 4 it was almost totally empty, so I left and headed to the Gingerman for possibly a final sampling of winter seasonals. About 7:30 I went over to Whole Foods, but just missed getting in on the last session of ice skating for the day. I had dinner there, then went home. Wednesday was a nice sunny day, so I decided to ride my bicycle downtown and try the skating again. I got there about 12:30, bought my ticket for the 1 o'clock session and got some lunch. After skating for a little bit I realized I'd forgotten the strain on the shin muscles. I also found for some reason the right skate was pretty uncomfortable, while the left one was okay, at least until it started making my ankle sore. The ice was really scraped up (they didn't exactly have a Zamboni to clean it between hour-long sessions), which made skating kind of jerky and destabilizing. The sections that were exposed to the sun had water on the surface, making them slicker. After a little while I kind of got the hang of it, but by that point the novelty of ice skating on a grocery store roof on a 70 degree day had pretty much worn off. Plus it was mostly kids and families on the ice, so it was hard to do much of anything. Other than skating backwards, I can't do any tricks or anything, so I just kept skating until my ankle was really sore and the hour was almost up. I rode down Lamar from there and saw JCVD at the Alamo, which I really enjoyed.
I woke up pretty early on Thursday. I had already decided to ride to my aunt and uncle's, so I wanted to wait until the sun came up before leaving. I had opened a couple presents the night before, and opened the rest in the morning over breakfast. It was about 50 degrees at the house, but I was counting on it warming up. I left fully geared up, but got pretty cold since the temperature dropped north of Georgetown and I didn't see the sun until I got to Waco. I made a quick small detour to get an "I" and arrived at my aunt and uncle's at 11. Their daughter, her husband and two kids were already there. My grandmother arrived a little later, and we all sat down to a nice dinner. We had a little gift exchange, after which some of us napped. Around 6 we had leftover sandwiches and then went to the theater to see Yes Man, which wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it might be. The theater was absolutely packed, with big lines stretching outside for the movies that opened that day.
I was awake from 4 to 5 am on Friday, but managed to get back to sleep until 8, and had some breakfast before heading out. When I decided to ride up there, I thought since the weather was supposed to be pretty good I would ride to two new counties, Fannin to the northeast, and Jack to the northwest of the Dallas area. It was pretty warm and actually muggy that morning, so I left dressed lightly. I got to Fannin County about 11, then headed west. About noon I stopped for gas and took the liner out of my jacket and switched to fingerless gloves. I got to Jacksboro, took a picture in front of the county courthouse, and finally headed toward home. By the time I got to Ft. Worth I'd already ridden 250 miles, and was only about 20 miles from where I started, and had 200 more miles to go to get home. The traffic was fairly heavy on 35W, but it was moving fairly well, but of course since it's two lanes it's almost impossible to maintain a good speed. The traffic only got worse from there, with waves of hurry up and slow down, even coming to a complete stop a couple times, but also with a stretch of 80. It moved better through Waco, where there are three lanes, but once it squeezed back down to two it really sucked. It was shitty and then got worse closer to Temple, where there was a major accident on the northbound side of the highway (not affecting the southbound side at all at that point) and stupid rubberneckers were slowing down and causing the massive backup. I was so pissed off and the sun was right in my eyes, so I stopped and had dinner at the TX Roadhouse in Temple at 5. Traffic slowed down for a second when I first got back on the interstate, but otherwise it wasn't too terrible the rest of the way home.
Saturday I went shopping looking for sales, but didn't find much of anything I wanted at my favorite retailers. I stopped by the Harley shop, then went to REI where I bought a new pair of shoes that were on sale. I went to Fry's and bought a new paper shredder since the one I had finally went kaput. After lolling all morning Sunday I went for a bicycle ride about noon. I was planning to ride further, but after 5 miles I had lunch and then just went back home. It was overcast and kind of chilly, and I wasn't feeling particularly ambitious.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Onset of Winter

After work on Friday I went to Uncle Billy's and sampled a pint of their winter seasonal, called "Yule be Bock." It wasn't actually a bock, more of a wheat made with some roasted malt, but it was fairly tasty. I went from there to the Texican, where I met Jimmy for dinner. After we were done eating we were carrying on a bit and a woman from the next table came over an joined us for a while, after mistaking my saying Jimmy for her name, Jenny. After bullshitting a while, Jimmy and I went next door to Stardust. We joined his kids and bunch of their friends. We were hanging out and enjoying ourselves, but once I started talking to this really attractive woman I wasn't that interested in doing anything else. I never wound up getting her number or anything, but I enjoyed talking with her. I thought about "appropriating" her number for myself when she got up for a bit and left her phone, but I thought that would be way too creepy.
I was a bit hung over when I woke up at 9 Saturday, and lazed about until noon, then went to Alamo Ritz and saw Milk, which was really good. Uncharacteristically, although I was hungry when I got there, I had trouble finishing my lunch of pizza. Heading toward home, I went to check out the Barton Springs Greenbelt, partially because I've been near it tons of times but never actually checked out, but mainly as a possible alternative route to get to work. The part of the park I saw was pretty nice, although the creek wasn't flowing at all with the severe drought we're under. There were a ton of intersecting trails with no markers whatsoever, so I wasn't sure where to go, but I found a path down to the creek and got a Dr Pepper from the convenience store on the other side. The trail was too rough to take road bike on and the path from where I parked (where I would presumably enter) down the the creek was pretty steep and would be pretty treacherous on a bike, to me at least.
I wanted to go for a bicycle ride Sunday, but the temperature was in the 40s and it was windy, so I drove to Alamo Lamar and saw the Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In, which was also really good. I was thinking there were a couple of things I'd like to pick up at Best Buy, not thinking that it was the Sunday before Christmas, and was overwhelmed by the number of cars trying to park in their small lot. It took me five minutes just to get through and leave. I did a little bit of picking up around the house, then went over to Jimmy's and watched football and have dinner. When I got home I happened to notice that my thermostat was blank and realized why the house had felt a bit cold all day. I checked everything I could think of, like the breakers and the thermostat itself, but didn't see anything obvious. I was thinking I would be freezing without heat on a sub-freezing night, so I went to sleep in my new down sleeping bag. I woke up sweating at 2am and just slept in my fleece sweats under the covers.
This morning I called a handyman Jimmy knows. He found a 5 amp automotive-type fuse hidden under a couple of access panels had blown. He replaced the fuse, but it blew again immediately after the power was turned back on to the unit. I tried calling a HVAC guy he knows, but couldn't get a hold of him, so my house is still without heat, and it's still in the 30s outside. I went to work just so I could warm up. So now I have to get a professional out, and I'm sure it's not going to be cheap.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Tuesday I found out a fraternity brother was coming down to Austin, very briefly, for a job interview. He was supposed to get in around 9, which is already on the late side for getting together for a drink, but due to weather he didn't get in until closer to 10. By that point the weather in Austin had gone from rain to a rain/sleet mix, but it wasn't supposed to get below freezing at any point, so the roads weren't supposed to be problematic. I met him downtown at the Gingerman and we had a few beers to chat and catch up. While we were sitting there, the sleet turned to snow, and almost everyone in the bar ran outside. Since I had just been in NY and gotten real snow, and he lives in Pittsburgh and is unfazed by snow, we just sat there. The roads were wet but not slippery, even for my sporty car with summer-only tires. The next morning there was the slightest hint of snow on my lawn, but apparently areas further from the city got a little accumulation, judging by the snow on people's cars.
Friday I rode the Night Train to work, then after work went to Chuy's for dinner and then had a couple beers at the Gingerman. Although it warmed up throughout the day, it didn't get so warm that I really needed to take my chaps off. On Saturday, however, I was really glad to have had elastic netting with me so I could take them off and strap them on the back. I left the house at about 8 so I could pick up a toy at Wal-Mart for the chapter toy run to the children's hospital. It turned out to be a pretty nice day and there was a really good turnout of bikes, and an incredible number of toys. At about 11 I left and set out to do some ABCs, but decided to check out the new REI in Round Rock. It was a nice store, but the kid who was telling me stuff about backpacks later looked at me as though I had a third head when I asked about crampons. I had lunch in the same new retail complex before setting off and getting 5 more points. After getting back mid-afternoon, I puttered about some more and then got ready for the company Christmas party downtown. I got there about 7:15 and was about the 3rd person to show up, but I was at the front of a wave of people, and the place was packed by 8. The food was really good, great appetizers including shrimp and crab claws, although I didn't get any of the tuna. The main course had asparagus and beef or chicken. It was kind of nice to meet some people I've seen around but never actually met, catch up with some people I don't see much anymore, and talk with others in a relaxed social atmosphere.
Sunday I woke up at 6, read until 7, putzed until about 10, then set off on a bicycle trip. Since I've been wanting to get a feel for riding to work and also not having done any Christmas shopping, I decided to go to the mall. The ride went fine for the section I do all the time, but when it got to the section I knew was going to be hairy, my legs started feeling really tired. I made it to the top of one hill and then started descending fast down the other side. It was pretty frightening going really fast and the shoulder narrowed down to almost nothing approaching a bridge barrier wall. My heart was pounding out of my chest going back uphill with all the traffic whizzing past. I had to stop at a traffic light for several minutes to catch my breath before attempting the small remaining distance. I'm certain it would be much worse during rush hour traffic, so I'm rethinking trying to take that route to work. I didn't realize that most of the stores in the mall don't open until noon, which was surprising with so few shopping days left until Christmas. It didn't make a big difference since I was looking in the department stores, which were open. I stuck around until just past noon and left after having some terrible food court food. I struggled getting back home, and then collapsed. I cooled off and recovered enough that after a shower, I went to Alamo Ritz to see RoboCop, which was pretty fun.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Friday, after freezing riding the Night Train to work and getting home merely cold, I drove downtown to see the GWAR show at La Zona Rosa. I heard about it and thought it might be fun to see, but I didn't really decide to go and see it until I saw Kingdom of Sorrow, a "supergroup" headed by Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed, was opening for them. By the time I got parked and walked to the venue, I'd missed the first act, which is probably no big loss. Kingdom came out and tore it up, encouraging the mosh pit, which was a safe distance and lower level from me. I really only know one of their songs, but that didn't really matter, I still enjoyed their ~40 minute set. It didn't make any difference that I only know one GWAR song since I couldn't understand anything Oderus Urungus was saying. Their set started with a recorded message from their "manager," Sleazy P. Martini, setting up a wrestling-related story involving prize belts. The show alternated between songs and wrestling interludes involving massive amounts of fake blood. In the first match, Oderus decapitated some guy, the second was a tag-team that ended with Obama being decapitated and Hillary Clinton's breasts being ripped off. The third match was much less one-sided, after two space aliens (similar to the band) stole the belts and Oderus and Bonesnapper fought them back and forth before ultimately prevailing. The show was as disgusting as expected, since I have seen them live before, but completely different. Everybody near the front got sprayed by red and green colored (how festive!) "blood" and "pus" or whatever. There were some people who had been to a previous show and were wearing the same (once) white t-shirts stained red and green.
Saturday I rode the Night Train to pick up a few last-minute pictures for the ABCs of Touring in the morning. I got home around noon, changed and then went for a bicycle ride. I rode over to the Wildflower Center and veloway, stopping to have a sandwich for lunch along the way. I took a stroll through the Wildflower Center's store, which was having a sale, to see if there was anything I could get as a gift for somebody. I went across the street and did two laps on the veloway. It was kind of funny that the hills didn't seem nearly as high as when I would skate on it. I rode home, pretty slowly since I was tired at that point. I took a shower and got dressed for the HOG chapter holiday party. Jimmy called me about 6 and said I should come over and ride with them over to the place. The place was pretty nice, a large rustic barn/dance hall, but new. Dinner was not great, but it was okay. The cobbler for dessert was pretty good. They had casino style games after dinner. I played craps for a little, then sat down and played blackjack for a while. You can tell there's no real money involved by the low quality of the dealers, paying out when they shouldn't and such. At the end they drew door prizes and I won a Harley tool box and $50 Craftsman gift card. We went back to their house and Jimmy and I stood in the driveway bullshitting until after 1am.
Sunday morning I woke up at 6:30, but fortunately went back to sleep until 8:30. I putzed around for a while, then at 11 I got on my bicycle and rode downtown. My butt was kind of sore from the previous day. My first stop was at REI, where I bought a climbing harness and helmet, taking advantage of a $20 off deal. I rode from there to the campus area and had lunch at a pizza place. It was pretty good, but not as good as Home Slice. From there I went and saw Charlie Kaufman's new movie, Synecdoce, New York at the Dobie theater, which I'd never been in before. There was only one other person in the theater when I got there, about 10 minutes before showtime, but more arrived for a total of about 10. I enjoyed the movie, but it was so surreal I was slightly disoriented when I walked back into the real world.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thangsgiving Holiday

I flew to New York the Sunday morning before Thanksgiving. The trip was pleasantly uneventful, and I actually got into LaGuardia a little early. On the Dallas to NY leg I my assigned seat was way in the back next to the galley. The two seats next to me were empty for a while, until a couple and their two small children showed up. As they were struggling to strap in their car seat, I asked the stewardess about sitting somewhere else. The plane was a lot less full than I would have expected, and I was able to sit all the way up front behind the bulkhead. For dinner that night my parents took me to our favorite restaurant near their house we've been going to for years. I didn't do anything too exciting on Monday, mostly just helped my mom in the garden and had my favorite pizza for lunch.
Tuesday I went into Manhattan, going down on the first off-peak train at 9:30. I walked along Museum Mile for a bit, poking my head into the Guggenheim to take a couple pictures, and then went to the Met. I mostly looked at their special exhibitions- one about the acquisitions made during the tenure of the head curator who is retiring, one on love in renaissance art, and one on photography. I decided to go through the Egyptian wing and the Temple of Dendur before leaving about 1. I picked up a hot dog at the entrance to Central Park and walked through the park to its southern end. It was gray and a bit drizzly still, even though the weather man said it should clear up by noon. I walked down 5th avenue for a while, making a brief stop in the Apple store. Since I was kind of tired at that point, I did a search for a brewpub and came up with one a few blocks away, so I went there for rest and libations. From there I walked a few blocks to my dad's new office, got a tour of the place, and we went to Grand Central to catch the last off-peak train back north.
Wednesday morning we drove upstate to friends' farm, where we've been having Thanksgiving dinner for years and years. They were glad we were there early to help get everything ready since they had gotten a few inches of snow and it put them behind in preparations. I shoveled snow for the first time in I can't remember how many years, as well as hauling stuff here and there. There were something like 12 for dinner that night, a delicious spiral-cut ham. Thursday was kind of more of the same, except more people kept showing up. The total for dinner was 22 people and 4 dogs. I of course stuffed my face, and everything was excellent. The turkey was moist and delicious, all the side dishes were tasty, and the dessert certainly wasn't bad. Friday my dad woke my up at 6am and we left at 6:30, before anyone else was awake, in order to get to the airport for my 1pm flight. We stopped at their house for a few minutes and dropped off my mom before my dad took me and dropped me off at the airport. I had a bunch of time to kill before my flight, so I mostly wandered around, read a magazine, and ate the lunch my mom had made. I had more time to kill at O'Hare between flights, but it was also uneventful and I got back to Austin about 8:30.
Saturday I rode in the Chuy's Children Giving to Children parade for the first time. The HOG chapter has been participating for years, but I've always been out of town. It was fun, but it was a lot of hurry up and wait, we left the dealership at 9 and the parade didn't start until a quarter to 11. We rode down Congress avenue waving and honking to tons of people lining the street to watch. Afterward, a lot of us went to have lunch further down Congress. I figured since I was already downtown, I would go to the new Patagonia store to look for a jacket. The prices were way too high, so I went to REI and found a jacket that was on sale, but not before it started raining. It wasn't a particularly nasty rain, but it wasn't fun, and it was fairly cold. I went home and fortunately it was pretty dry at that point as I drove over to the dealership and picked up my Night Train at long last, rode home, and rode back on my bicycle. I thought about going out for dinner, but just stayed home and vegetated.
Sunday I had a ticket for the Lord of the Rings marathon and feast at the Alamo. I left the house at 9, earlier than I thought I really needed to, and got to the theater to find it was already pretty full. I found a decent spot and settled in for an epic. The first two movies were shown in extended versions, but apparently the third film was never released on 35mm in extended version, so they showed the regular version rather than watch a DVD. The food throughout was incredible. There were 8 courses, including dessert, corresponding to the halflings' eating times, so: breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner, supper, then dessert. I was actually a bit amazed that I stayed awake until the end at 9:30pm. Since they were serving from the back to the front and I was in the middle, I could tell whenever a new course was coming by the sound of silverware on dishes behind me. It was epic and definitely worth doing once. Maybe I'd do it again, but not anytime soon.