Category Archives: Personal

10 years

Today marks the first decade of Julie and my marriage. As much as I love Ms. Etta and Ms. Stella, I have to say there’s a part of me that can’t wait for them to grow up so I can go back to spending time with Julie. Uninterrupted.

I have goey stuff to tell her. But not on the Internet. Just wanted to record it.

10 years nerdz!

Awesome Electrician

We needed a few electrical projects done around the house. The fan in the babies room was not particularly stable, and we want to put a ceiling fan in our living room, so we started asking around for recommendations. My boss gave me one he’d used that was an offshoot of a local lawn care company. I had them come out to do an estimate. The guy spent probably twenty minutes with me, and a week later we still haven’t gotten a written estimate or a phone call.

So we ended up calling two other electricians we were recommended. On Ashley’s recommendation we ended up going with Lyon’s Electric. They came out this morning. They were great. Three guys come out for an hourly rate. It’s obvious they work together all the time and that these weren’t just some flakey guys the master electrician had picked up to work for the day.

They did a great job doing all the projects at the same time. They put down mats to protect the floor. And they were done in an hour. I felt really bad we didn’t have more projects. We’d scaled down our expectations because we thought they’d be really expensive.

We’re definitely going to be calling them again.

get on the rain train… rain train

I’m not big on watering. I don’t like the fact that I have to supplement nature. Plus I’m lazy. But, I’ve come to realize it’s a necessary evil. We put in a cactus garden in our old house with a rock base and the temperatures coming off there were scorching. Like actually scorching the undersides of the cactus in some cases. Like you couldn’t walk across it to weed after 7am or you could feel the heat coming up through the soles of your shoes. Obviously just covering your yard with rocks is not ideal. It’s only one step removed from concrete. As much as the idea appeals to me.

Our new house came with some beautiful, well established grass. The backyard in particular is wonderful. You can walk on it in bare feet which I think everyone who lives in Texas can agree is a ridiculous ideal that no one actually believes is possible. I feel responsible to this soft grass to take care of it and not kill it through neglect.

I’ve got the front yard on a timer and it works well. I don’t even have to think about it. Well, it woke up Stella last week so I had to change its time a bit, but mostly I don’t have to think about it.

The old homeowners recommended the rain train for the backyard. The idea behind it is that you lay out the hose in the path you want the train to take across your backyard. The water coming through the hose propels the train across your hose “track”. It does this slowly and evenly watering the whole back yard. This has turned out to be very nice. It waters quite evenly. My backyard is a long strip. My guess is that to water it using a traditional spinkler I’d have to move it at least 3 times. That’s not going to happen. The rain train does require that I lay out its track and turn it on and off. But I don’t have to remember to move it at regularly spaced intervals. I know that with a traditional sprinkler I’d end up with one really nice green section, one sorta brown section, and one completely dead section. I know my limitations.

So I’m happy with the rain train. It’s pricey, but worth it if you’re unable to remember to move a sprinkler like I am. Plus you get to sing “get on the rain train.. rain train” (to the tune of “Love Train”) all day.

Someday, I do plan on migrating the front yard to a cultivated prairie. But I think I’ll keep the backyard grass. It is nice to do my morning sit-ups in, Stella can run across it barefoot, and it is awfully nice for a nap.

I’ll keep it as long as it can withstand only being watered twice weekly by the rain train in this hot, hot summer. It’s doing good so far.

The Way The World Works

I was quite interested to find a link to this article on the Austinist last night. Ward Road is pretty familiar to me.

I remember waking up the day after graduation around 2pm. We’d had one of those school sponsored lock-ins the night before to keep the kids from drinking. We were supposed to pick up our diplomas before noon, but I had chosen sleep instead. Around 2:30 I got a call from a gentleman at Chapparel Steel inquiring if I’d be interested in a summer job. Apparently, as part of the Advanced Placement program at my school I’d consented to have my information given to local employers who were interested in hiring bright kids for summer jobs.

My mom was always complaining about me not having a job so I jumped at the chance to get a job without any effort on my part. Plus they paid $6.50/hour! This was when when minimum wage was $4.25. That was a massive jump. I would have thousands of dollars in the bank at the end of summer. It would be awesome!

But first the physical and drug test at the company doctor in Midloathian. I know. Red flags should have gone off. But I didn’t listen to country music at this point in my life. This involved the most invasive drug test I’ve ever had. The nurse actually came into the bathroom and stood on the other side of a shower curtain. Right on the other side of the shower curtain. Needless to say, I couldn’t perform that day. This was holding up my start date, so I didn’t pee the entire night, or next morning and headed out, ready to burst. After two attempts I was able to check my first drug test off the list. And I think the nurses were only extremely frustrated with me at that point.

I drove out for my first day of work. Starting at 7am. They got me to fill out a ton of paperwork. I had to have an ear test (so they could see how badly they’d screwed up my hearing). Then they got me some ear plugs, 2 pairs of fire retardant pants, 2 pairs of fire retardant shirts, hard hat, and gloves. I got changed and they took me out to the floor of the furnace where I’d be working. I was getting introduced to people on the floor when they dropped some barrels that had a little water in them into the furnace and it flared. A flare I later found out is not that big a deal. But the ceiling of the furnace room is probably twice as high as the furnace and flames shot out above the building. So I think I can be excused if I found it a bit dramatic.

The heat was intense. I ended up turning away because I could feel my face burning a little. The heat keep intensifying and I could feel pain on the back of my ears that were still exposed. The heat eventually got to a point where my boss decided we’d be better off inside the air conditioned control room. We headed in and I felt the back of my ears. They felt a bit like pork rinds. Nice and crackly.

A few minutes later one of the workers came in. He was completely wet and covered in soot. He’d been cleaning next to the furnace when it had blown and was just a tad crispy. He was laughing. Ah the joy of being in a non-unionized steel mill. Workplace safety is for chumps! Those locking procedures are completely optional!

And so began my first week working in a steel mill. I would wear long johns under my clothes to protect me from the furnace heat. This was in 100 degree Texas heat. You’d go out into the sun to cool down. The rule of thumb was that if you felt hot you need to stop, drop and roll because you were already on fire.

It was a 12 hour shift, and the first week I worked M-F 7am to 7pm, before beginning my real shift which started rotating Saturday night at 7pm. So my first week was 7 days of 12 hour shifts, at which point I had 2 days on 3 days off, then 3 days on, 2 days off. Each block alternated between a day shift and a night shift.

We’d work for about 15 minutes on the hour. We’d take a long probe on a pole and put it into the middle of the furnace to check the temperature. Then we’d spend the next 45 minutes awkwardly. I’d read something like Zora Neal Hurston while the guys I was working with read the same 3 pornographic magazines. I still have no clue how they didn’t go completely insane. We’d talk about their personal watercraft. And they’d tell me that I should go to college. It was like one of those movies where the college boy gets a job with the blue-collar workers. Except that awkward scene happened every hour for 45 minutes. 12 times a day. I’d like to say that like some cheesy eighties movie we had a break through where we became fast albeit grudging friends, but these guys were much like some of the programmers I’ve worked with. They just don’t do anything interesting. They’re not really interested in movies or television or camping or anything. It had nothing to do with class. They were by and large just boring people. There were a few interesting people to talk to, but they all worked on the opposing shift.

The second week they shut down the furnace and we did cleaning. I was mostly cleaning up the scrap yard. The same scrap yard that is currently on fire. I remember being out in the sweltering heat at 4am. The whole world quiet, and then watching the sun come up, and the heat staying the same. It was a surreal experience. Like being on the moon.

After working 7 – 12 hour shifts my first week, and 3 night shifts and 2 day shifts my second week I came to a realization. If I worked that job all summer I would never see my friends. I would never go to a movie. I would just work a 12 hour shift. Come home. Collapse into bed, and wake up for my next shift. Even when I did have days off my schedule was so screwed up by the rotating shifts that it was as though I had the worst jet lag ever. So I quit.

Sure two weeks sounds like a short amount of time to give a job. But I did work 144 hours in those two weeks. Which if you consider that a normal part time job is about 20 hours/week, I basically gave it 7 weeks. Which is almost the entire summer.

But it was definitely an experience that made me determined to stay in school. And after the number of frightening near misses and things caught on fire, it made me very appreciative of unions.

Scaping the Goat Publicity Shot

Trying to clean up my hard drive so I can backup efficiently, and found this picture. Figured I need to share with the Internet. This is myself and E.D. Harrelson as the two Russians from my play “Scaping the Goat”. Publicity shot from the Frontera Fest version.

Two Russian Ozzie Ozborne fans if I ever seen them.

You can treat me like a rockstar.

My new shoes

Shoes. For many years I hated shoe shopping. I did it as infrequently as possible.

This started at age 12 when my feet hit size 13. I bought my first pair of white Reebok hightops on a summer trip to visit my grandmother in Michigan. They seemed like a good idea at the time. They were a name brand. Which made me feel like I was cool, even if no one else saw it that way.

I got these same shoes the next year when my feet hit size 14. And the next when they hit 15. By the point they hit 15 it was less of a choice as that’s what they had in the store. The size 15 white Reebok hightops were hand carried in a suitcase into the Soviet Union. There is video of me dancing in them, my voice cracking. At the point the video was taken I was 6’2″ and somewhere between 100 and 120 pounds due to a bout of Amoebic Dysentery, and so the shoes appear to have been taken from a giant japanese transforming robot. There are many pictures during our travels of other children wearing my shoes. Engulfed up to their knees in white shoes.

When I came back, I decided it was time for something a little more practical. Something that would let my ankle bend. So I decided to go with the fashion trend from a few years back and buy some top-siders. I went down to the big-and-tall store. Figuring that was an appropriate place to buy large shoes. You know, because they sell clothes for big-and-tall people. Me being a tall person.

Once there the salesman found the top-siders for me and asked if I was going to go water skiing. Or head out to Colorado. At the big-and-tall store. And that’s pretty much how it went for years after. I would go into a store and ask what shoes they had in my size. They would bring me out a box and crack a joke. About watershiing, or snow skiing. And I would decide if I was at all interested in their 1 pair of shoes. More often than not it was on to to the next store.

A few years ago, my oldest sister (who also has feet proportionate to her height, but out of proportion with what stores want to stock) told me about Zappos. Where you could put in your shoe size, and they’d show you all the shoes they had in stock. I figured this sounded good, but I was completely unprepared to have thousands of choices. The first pair of shoes I bought there was almost impossibly difficult because I had too much choice. I had gone from the Soviet shoe-stores to the west, and it was too much.

Last night I went back again. Chose size-15. Men’s shoes. Black. And got my list of hundreds of shoes. I chose what I wanted and made my purchase at about 5pm last night. They have free shipping to you. And free shipping back if the shoes don’t fit. When I checked my email this morning, I got an email saying they’d expedited my order. Just because. I can only assume that there must be someone there with size 15 feet who knows what I’ve been through and sped things up for me. I had another email waiting with my tracking number. I went to UPS and looked it up. The shoes are out for delivery.

Wow. Around 14 hours after I placed my order the shoes are on a truck, and I’ll get them today. What rockstars.

My weekend?

So I didn’t see it this past weekend, but I recommmend seeing The Brats of Clarence. This is the most I’ve enjoyed a show in a long time. The Chronicle sums it up best – “most of all, it’s fun”. That’s it. Fun. Go see it. What you have too much fun in your life? Didn’t think so. Go see it.

Sunday, I spent five hours fixing leaky faucets. We have two leaky faucets. But it took me five hours and three trips to Home Depot to fix them. First trip was to buy replacement washers for the sink that leaked, and a handle puller. Since the shower handle had been turned so hard to try to get it to shut off that the plastic and metal have melded a bit. So store in your brain that I have a handle puller. And call me when you need it. I’d like for more than 1 handle to be pulled of with my $9 investment.

Once I got the handle off, I realize I needed sockets I didn’t have. Well, actually I don’t really have any sockets. I have a few random small socket sets around the house, but nothing truly useful. So I got to spend a lot of money on a socket set. That was trip number two. After spending about an hour trying to get one, very, very tight nut off, I was finally able to pull out the handle. And the washer was, of course, different from the two washer types I had previously bought. Back to home depot for trip number 3. After a bit more work to get the handles to be in a straight line, when in the off position, I got everything back together.

I had neglected to fix the cold water on the shower, though because the screw was stripped that held the handle on. Of course, it appears the cold water, does indeed leak also. So I get to tackle that next weekend.

We have a lot of home improvement in this house. Yesterday, they came back to put on our solar screens that we’re getting as part of our HVAC complete upgrade. The City of Austin structures their rebates in such a way that you get a bonus if you do all of the work required at once. One of the things you have to do is get solar screens. And solar screens just happen to be a little bit less than the bonus. So you essentially get them for free (do you get the feeling that a lot of people weren’t getting the solar screens?). Who can turn down free? They make the front of the house look really sharp, but they definitely make the back darker. So I don’t know how long they’re destined for the back of the house. We like energy savings, but we partially bought the house, because it feels like there’s nothing separating you from the back yard. Now it feels like there’s window tint separating you.

Finally, Stella is making jokes. Which I think might be reason enough to have a child. Once you get to encounter a two year olds humor it makes their temper tantrums seem worth it. On Saturday night we took Stella out to dinner to celebrate her Granddaddy’s birthday. We actually went out with the entire family, including Granddaddy. We don’t generally go out to celebrate people’s birthdays without the birthday boy and/or girl.

We had some sloooow service at Johnny Carino’s, and so we didn’t start driving Stella home until almost 10pm. Her normal bed time is 8pm. So we’re driving home, and she says “poopy shoes”. And starts laughing. Julie and I question her, “Are your shoes poopy? Does Stella have poopy shoes?” She giggles and says, “Stella poopy shoes”. Then she giggles and says “Daddy poopyshoes”. Julie and I start cracking up.

-“Daddy has poopy shoes?”

-“Mama poopy shoes”

-“Mama has poopy shoes, now too?”

(Stella is practically hyperventilating with laughter)

-“Baba poopy shoes”

(Julie and I are snorting loudly)

-“Baba has poopy shoes?”

-“Baby poopy shoes”

And so it goes. Since then she has made several jokes about poop. She’s quite the comedian.

craigslist steal

Yesterday I was reading my rss feeds. I monitor craigslist austin for the term “mid-century modern””. A post came up for two herman-miller-esque shell chairs for $35/each. They were in great shape so I decided to try to get in contact with the seller even though Julie was still asleep. I got a call from the seller and woke Julie up, showered, and piled everyone in the car.

We ended up at a very nice apartment complex in north austin. Sandwiched between some of the scariest complexes I’ve ever seen. Say what you will about where I live. There are no apartment complexes with razor-wire. Yeah. Razor-wire. Julie, saw a drug deal as we were buying the chairs. In any case we got the chairs for the price and got them in the car. I still can’t quite believe it. I’m never one of the people who find vintage pieces for amazing prices.

Since we were up North we decied to go check out Eubank Acres. Elle who owns Austin Modern came to our oscar party. And complimented our house. She then talked about where she lived as being similar. Eubank Acres is bounded by Braker on the South, Lamar on the West and I-35 on the East. It looks a lot like our neighborhood although with fewer traditional houses. Lots of amazing houses with amazing windows. They also have lots of hills and creeks. Very nice place. And the fact you can get a house for under $200k should make it a really nice alternative to the Shoal Creek area. We drooled and drooled.

View Larger Map

Anyway, here’s a picture of our craigslist steal:

it came upon a midnight clear

I’m sorry. That song lyric will always have horror connotations for me. I guess that’s just suburban programming, but what good could possibly come upon a midnight clear?

Anyway. Last night our alarm woke us up again a few minutes before midnight. Our digital phone has gone out again and so the alarm can’t phone home. It conveniently phones home every night at midnight. Then it beeps loudly that something has gone wrong. It’s fantastic. I’ve found I can turn it off, by jumping out of bed and resetting the alarm.

So last night I was on my way to do my nightly reset when I noticed a figure at the window. At first I thought it was Punky, our cat, looking out. But it was on the wrong side of the window. Then I thought it was perhaps one of the 2,004 cats that live in our neighborhood and like to stare in our windows. But it was the wrong shape.

As I got close it shuffled off. It was a juvenile possum. Not quite as long as an adult. It shambled away looking embarrassed that I had caught it peeping in.

I mentioned it to Julie when I got back from resetting the alarm. “There’s a possum in the house?!,” she yelped. I calmly explained that it was outside the house. It was just looking in the windows. “I would have screamed bloody murder if I had seen that,” she replied. I mentioned that I thought its shambling was kind of cute. She turned over, convinced of my insanity.