Wednesday, December 31, 2008

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I remain optimistic that the new year will bring positive change. Call me Pollyanna.

Again this year we will be home as the magic hour approaches, watching scofflaws set off fireworks where they aren't allowed, in mid-exceptional drought with low humidity too. From our deck we can see distant commercial displays almost in a 360 degree pan.

Today there was a fire across the street from our development: see it here - likely a cigarette butt hitting dry DRY weeds... but that's what we have area-wide.

Fireworks are legal in counties abutting Travis county, in which Austin sits. The stores open for ten days or so, twice a year. Hey - as I write this I just heard the first blast - it was pretty darn close, too.

As a preteen and teen I was obsessed with fireworks. Now, for whatever reason I don't know, I haven't even VISITED one of the stands (some are MEGA stores advertising "BUY 1 get 15 FREE!") in our four years here. I think when they stopped selling cherry bombs I lost all interest. But they do sell some big things which must cost a lot becuase they shoot lots of aerial displays: not quite commercial grade, but plenty big.

Happily, we have a metal roof and bottle rockets are banned. But there was another bang... and another.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

OUR CHRISTMAS TREE HAD A STROKE

I don't remember what it was in the LOWES lot - Frasier Fir maybe... (speaking of Frasier and by the way - the Kelsey Grammar interview on Shatner's Raw Nerve was amazing.)

We wanted one with nice pine scent. Something more natural than an open bottle of Lysol with an athletic sock wick.

My job was to insure water was in the base, to keep it embalmed. I was diligent.

We noticed that the tree was sagging, yet only on one side. This didn't make sense since it wasn't facing heat, breeze, sun, or anything which might weaken it.

Sag continued. Balls actually began to fall off on their own.

The green color became progressively grey.

So today we took it down - in all my Christmases, this is the earliest I have ever participated in a funeral march for one of our trees.

The forever tree, boxed in our attic, was heard to snicker.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

MERRY CHRISTMAS


Terri and I stand in front of our tree in our living room.


In radio we are nomads, harvesting the antenna farms of the nation. One of the sad realities is that we make friends under one tower then leave them as we seek another field to plow elsewhere. Looking back at it all, however exciting the 'new start' is, I'm not sure we come to realize the true cost in human terms until we gain the perspective to look back and miss so many.

This year has brought some reconnection through facebook, or some other force, and that's been wonderful.

I know that some addresses are long ago lost as we all have been moving targets for whole careers.

So I offer this - my annual Christmas letter, with apologies to those who didn't get the slightly smeared printed version delivered by an arm of the government, be it American or Canadian.

*******************************************************************************

It’s a TRADITION, this letter of yuletide re-acquaintance and folly. If Burl Ives is still singing A Holly Jolly Christmas, I guess I have to pump out another letter. I almost abandoned it this year in favor of my blog which has many pieces which could, I suppose, add up to a letter, but okay. In a time and place where we await salvation by our new president, we find ourselves at a crossroads, or, lost in Lowes’ Christmas Season World of Tinsel and Glitter, formerly known as Outdoor. Now, perhaps I’ve been tainted by programming years and years of Christmas music on radio stations, but I really want to take my Red Ryder BB gun (did I mention I’m a crack shot?) and go shoot the Inflatable Santa-In-A-Helicopter-with-Rotating-Blades that I expect will erupt out of the sod at a neighbor’s over-the-top House of Hallmark Remarkables. Not that I am a grinch, just a guy with the devil on his shoulder!

It’s been an interesting year. Way beyond the election, though that provided many moments of teeth grinding for all, no matter what side you were on. Having come to the realization that radio has contracted to the point where they have sliced so much muscle and bone along with any imagined fat, it wouldn’t be fun even if I could get my foot into a local stirrup. Even at this late time of the year, the groups are still cutting – no, cleavering, really, so I imagine daily life within the radio stations to be full of paranoia as all try to stretch that protection blanket to cover their collective ass.

We in Austin are in an exceptional drought. Now, when there’s a remote possibility of rain, the local weathermen assume a look of constipatory seriousness and proclaim the percentages. Still, it hasn’t rained much and when it does, it seems to go east of I-35. A good bit of Austin (our good bit) is west of I-35. Yet last year it rained a lot. This has confused the flora and fauna, enhancing a Weed Saaa-lute! to Austin at The Wood’s House where crabgrass just WILL NOT die even after liberal and repeated doses of CrabGrass Stop, Weed B Dead, Pre-Emergent Nuclear Radiating Root granules, and cursing. I am thinking of trying to rip it all out this spring, but fear the reproduction of crab grass to be through root tunnels the size of narcotrafficers’ efforts under the Mexican border - which can’t be stopped. Also, I am certain I can pickaxe into the irrigation line even with my eyes shut. It’s like divining, but with a twist.

The little GOOD grass (inhale, and remember the 70s, Boomers!) – the, um, legal grass that I sodded this past spring near the house has been beset by the claws of aggressive armadilloing. We borrowed an infra-red camera from a neighbor hunter and captured the little bugger, but only digitally. The trap has been a bust. We discovered that if you leave a tin of cat food in the trap over a week, the stink really is something beyond powerful. Plus, the flies can get through the trap, after all. When I threw out the cat food it stank up the garbage can so much I resorted to pouring liquid soap into the can when empty and I swear the soap recoiled in terror – it actually congealed into clumps, unable to deal with the stanky stuff.

The other morning Terri calmly told me that a baby rattlesnake had found home on our deck. I shot out of my chair cursing, as I had thought the 7 foot high pool stone wall would discourage reptiles. But no. Nevertheless, triggered by what I knew to be a life-changing moment, I, armed with only a mere shovel and metal rake, dispatched the snake even though it was clearly mad at me.

So somewhere there’s momma. And there’s some tall grass I must cut. I can imagine this: The mower is set to clear about two and one half inches. Blindly, I roll it over a sleepy rattler which, startled out of rattlesnake dreams, pops its head up just as the blade lops it off... and discharges it out from under the mower and into my leg where, still with a dead yet open mouthed startled look, the fangful of poison sticks into my leg.

An active imagination isn’t always that much fun.

Civilization is creeping toward us. There’s a home being built on the acre and a half behind us – it will be very nice. And another beside us. THAT one is highly suspect. Today they put trim under the gutter which is about 2 feet deep (down from the gutter), and looks like really big white baseboard. We believe the house is a spec, and I believe it’ll be on the market for quite a while. I can only hope the eventual owners have seen HGTV and know that paint can cover up mortal sins. Even though most of the house is angled away from ours, I fret. Heck, our neighbors in Houston had carpet that looked like bunnies had been slaughtered on it... a pink and white mélange, but at least it was hidden from us, inside.

I’ve been concentrating on voicework – had some coaching from two coaches, and bought a new wonderful microphone (that sentence alone puts me into geek-contention, I know, I know.) I am also reviewing some high-end equipment for an online publication. I remain on-the-air as voice of a radio station in Northern California. Terri’s had a great year despite the economy as Austin is relatively prosperous and I believe is the #1 city least affected by the economy. The other day her car stopped going and were forced to have a new transmission shipped in from Jaguar, India, or wherever the new home office and warehouse is. (Yes, Jaguar is now an Indian company. Really.)

Here’s a literary snapshot from our trip this fall – to Yellowstone: We and many others were on the boardwalk they’ve built within the area where geysers and other boiling hot nastiness are just under the surface. A herd of Bison had crossed the boardwalk and was sort of blocking the way. A park ranger came upon us – we asked what we should do. His answer: “Pray!” He then mumbled about the many gorings he’d seen and that we all were way too close to these wild animals who could not be stopped. Terri and I took the long way away from there. Yellowstone held so many scenes of incredible off-the-scale beauty! Later we came upon a lone Bison walking the yellow stripe down the highway, like a DUI test, with lineups of cars in both directions. We saw no bears but did see 5 Moose, including mama and baby (more danger there but we were with a guide who kept us clear.) I find it hard to take a moose seriously (Rocky and Bullwinkle kid-conditioning?) but they are large, fast, and right before you get got you would think, “Hey, this is serious.”

Allow me to tout some urls here... I guess a website is like a radio station broadcasting through a bent coat hanger antenna... not as many people, so I will try to pimp it to the audience. http://www.woodsgoods.blogspot.com is my blog with 700+ posts and still counting. Terri’s website is http://www.Big-Texas-Mortgages.com. I still have http://www.GreatHomeTheater.com which is hard to keep updated due to the avalanche of new gear/technology ALWAYS in the pipeline. Then there’s http://www.BobWoodVoiceovers.com for voicework.

We leave you with continued best wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Let’s hope this country can head in a new better direction than in the past 8 years, and that the economy heals nicely.



Here's a little tune for you which feels just right.

Friday, December 19, 2008

TIME WARNER SWITCHED DIGITAL

1- TIME WARNER notifies me the switched digital box is available now. This will allow TiVo with twin cable cards to receive channels I've been paying for but would not work with those cablecards (which cable companies hate because they thwart their PPV.) PayPerView IS available through TiVo if attached to broadband, though through other (i.e.: non-cable company) providers, like Amazon or Netflix.

2- I go get the Switched Digital Box, install. Then re-install, because it doesn't seem to be getting many new channels, just 7.

3- I call TW - their rep asks, "Can I put you on hold?" and double checks that I should be receiving the channels their guide SAYS I should, but cannot. It is deemed correct. They'll have to send a tech. The tech was scheduled for today 8-Noon. I wait. He arrives at 1PM.

4- By 2:45 after much futzing, he says I need a new switched digital box. I politely hurry him out the door and drive to the TW shop to get a replacement. 20 miles. Another hour.

5- The guy at the counter says mine was the first return (uh-oh...)

6- I install the new box.

You know what's coming.

It doesn't work any better than the old one.

What a positive experience. They should change their name to TimeWaster-Warner

Friday, late in afternoon - This just in - they called me - in fact it was today's tech on the phone - he wants to send someone who can really help. I said okay: Monday at 9.

7- Sunday - We get an automated call from the TW computer - it says the tech will be here between 8 and Noon Monday.

8- Monday morning I get a live call at about 9:30 - the tech won't be here til after noon. That then changes under questioning, to after 1:30.

THIS supervisor explains that the boxes are new and they still have to work out the bugs. I explain I am not their beta test site and that it would make sense to have the techs who call on these issues to have a certified working box with them. He says they don't do it that way.

9- I explain all of the above and ask for a higher level rep. After being on hold twice I am connected to the service rep on the desk at the office. She offers me $20 - I refuse. She also told me at one point I should come into the office to discuss, that people were waiting. I explained to her I've been waiting several days.

10- I confirm with her the channels I SHOULD receive. I ask twice, am told the same thing twice. I asked twice because a) I don't believe what I am told is accurate and 2) I already get channels I shouldn't get according to what she said, and don't get ones I should.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I TAKE IT BACK.

I've started to LIKE FRINGE on FOX. Of course that's late since it's off now til January. I think all aspects of the show have improved, or I am kinder. I think it's the show.

The plots are still goofy and unrewarding... but I am enjoying many of the characters now. I take back my slam.

But if you wanted to see a cat turd on film, get the latest X Files Movie. Aromatic, like tuna through a cat.

And SHATNER'S RAW NERVE: Biography? TV is the best set of interviews I've seen. Last night he 'did' Kelsey Grammar - AMAZING!

Friday, December 12, 2008

CHRISTMAS CARDS

There is glitter all over and under the keyboard, so if this gets odd, and spell check cannot fix it, know I haven't had a stroke.

HALLMARK has done a strange thing - their cards don't exactly fit the envelopes which are clearly too big. They glued them shut to fit the card. Huh? Doesn't some Hallmarkian genius figure this stuff OUT? Maybe they figure they'll get more $ for the cards if they appear larger, but they don't - the envelopes do.

Well, so when I folded the annual Xmas Xletter, I measured (thoughtful, huh?) only to find the REAL bottom to the envelope (I know, it's confusing - in fact the card slips in from the narrow side) which only almost-holds the folded letter.

And the glue doesn't glue. So, here's good news! There are some horses alive which would have been dead for the holidays.

If you get one of the cards with the apparent bleeding ornaments on the glittery Christmas tree, it's not a religious statement - it's the flap that cut me.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

ELF ON THE SHELF

What a great way to introduce your child to homeland security surveillance.

ELF ON THE SHELF is a brilliant invention, may have been around for awhile, but in the serendipitous way of all things, I was told about it on Sunday and spotted one in Hallmark's GOLD Store on Tuesday. Here's the deal: you put this doll somewhere in your child's world. He "reports" back to Santa if you've been a good little kid. Parents move it while the child sleeps, so it appears the ELF has been moving about at night.

If it doesn't work, show them the movie CHUCKY. But I digress.

Here is a great way for those folks at homeland security to educate a child on the benefits of surveillance! It's positively Disney-like programming.

ME AND THE ELECTRIC SAW

I actually read the instructions. Stressing safety, I carefully mounted the fresh blade and tentatively approached board number ONE. The blade cut through that wood so nicely - for a second, then ground to a halt. I back off, the blade picked up speed from a stop... I approached the wood and again it stopped. And back and forth.

Freshly charged? dead battery! suspected and proven. My second cut spewed no blood and I eventually moved on to the REAL boards I need cut.

I offer the following amendment to the laws of the universe:

178 (a) - Trim pieces bought at LOWES are not only not parallel to each other when laid flat, but they are also warped.

178 (b) - ...and they are not alike, except in total length.

275 (a) - carpentry is easier for those who possess three or more hands.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

STAINED, BUT UNDAUNTED


I'm going to approach the fabric and fibreglas mess in the post below from another direction... I bought strips of wood (no relation, but I can't account for EVERY SECOND of my life - c'mon!) with which I will attempt to trap the fabric to the substrate.

I have already stained them, the garage floor, here, and there; a ladder against which I propped them, and my fingers. But I did wear gloves - my work gloves - my leather work gloves which have insecticide and fertilizer traces on them. Those chemicals should mix nicely with the wood stain to give it a special sheen.

Later, I will put a brand new blade on my brand new electric saw and try to cut exact length stripettes from the 8 foot lengths.

I will remember to subtract for the blade width.

I will keep all blood off the fabric.

I bought tiny little nails with which I'll bet I can hold the strips to the sides, though there really isn't much space, and they cannot come out the other side or they'd be visible, sharp, and deadly.

Now, you might think this is no big deal but I haven't mentioned that this job must be done while all is vertical. I can't lay the damn thing down. THAT would be too easy. It would also damage the front which is curved and delicate.

MAN OF ACTION

This week I have been working (with help from a good neighbor) on a column of sound panels for my listening room - they deflect and absorb sound from a flat area. My neighbor who has a huge wood working shop, fixed my error and built a brace to firmly hold the new base to the stacked panels, which I had cobbled together so they wouldn't all fall down like humpty dumpty, if you looked at them.

Yesterday I covered the yellow fibreglas rears with fabric we had left over from the ceiling (yes, there are more sound baffles hidden under it.) It's quite a room.

I went to bed tired but proud. I had learned:

1- Double sided tape really wants to stick to ME. And itself. But not fibreglas, even pressed fibreglas.

2- Cutting fabric requires really sharp scissors. Box cutters only rip it, even with a new blade. And I didn't bleed onto the fabric, just onto my hand.

3- Fabric stretches, fooling you into believing lines are straight.

But I preservered. Job DONE!

This morning I see that yesterday's progress is today's setback. The project is now a mess of fallen fabric, stripped tape, yanked fibreglas: a mess. There's very little area to get anything to bond to... and you cannot clamp anything due to the radial front of these panels. DAMN YOU, GRAVITY!

Back to the drawing board.

I did learn one valuable lesson at the woodworking shop - boards aren't really perfectly cut, or flat, and the sides aren't really parallel. My respect for cabinet and trim work has grown exponentially.

Maybe GLUE...

Sunday, December 07, 2008

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A STRAIGHT CHRISTMAS TREE

It says so right here in the Laws of Physics:

147(a) No pine tree shall grow to be be perfectly vertical. If it appears so, it is an optical illusion which will be spoiled by viewing from an angle of 30 degrees.

147(b) No Christmas tree holder will tilt in the direction necessary to make the tree perfectly vertical.

147(c) It is impossible to cut the base of a pine tree to compensate for the lack of perfect verticality.

I have proof, if you wish to drop by to see it.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

TV ON COMPUTER

I missed the Thanksgiving BOSTON LEGAL, and, having read about it, forgot to record same. so looked online. Yup. ABC provides back/missed episodes, as long as you download their player.

"I don't want another program which might mess up what WORKS," said the more intelligent devil, propped on on my shoulder, smelling like Aqua Velva. "Yeah, but it's got to be okay, or they'd tick off the world. And besides, you REALLY WANT to see that show," said the evil devil on the other shoulder, smelling like eggs gone wild.

I went for it. Download. Into another ring of hell or what?

Amazingly, the program worked, the program episode loaded, and other than a few WalMart advertisements, all went flawlessly. In fact, it was the best TV picture quality (or show) I've seen on this monitor. In fact, I DIDN'T miss seeing it on the 60 inch HD screen upstairs! In fact, intrigued, I compared screen size at viewing distance - they are IDENTICAL, i.e.: 10 feet from 60 inch equals 23 inches from 19 inch computer screen (the player picture aspect ratio didn't take the full screen - just trust me on this, okay?)

I have a friend who lives on a boat and his claims of no space are the reason he watches TV and movies on his laptop. I scoffed. But I will scoff no more.

Incidentally, for the ten or fewer of you who read this (thank you - think of it as an exclusive club), there's a good show on BIO - which isn't a college course anymore, thank yew geesus! It's The Biography Channel, and on it is William Shattner's Raw Nerve, an interview show he does. We watched an interview with Tim Allen which was great. Probing, incisive, and without Baba Wawa-or ET style fluff, it seems to be very worthy. I now have it loaded into TiVo on a season pass. You might wish to check it out.

Then watch any Actor's Studio interview and dry heave at the screen.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

COLLEGE VERSUS PRO FOOTBALL

Even though I was closer than most to some pro football; not as an athlete, but as programmer of an NFL local team radio network (Buffalo Bills, years ago), even though, technically, several coaches, and quarterbacks 'worked' for me in terms of broadcast, I wasn't really ever completely 'into' the game.

That changed when we moved to Austin, home of the Longhorns.

First of all, it's so much easier to identify with winners. But my enthusiasm isn't completely generated by that.

When I watch pro football, good as it may be, the players so often seem to celebrate themselves. Indeed, many are self centered, spoiled, talented mega-millionaires. The ones who aren't remain in the background.

What I enjoy so much about UT football is what seems to be a genuine sense of FUN. Example: the second string QB scores and the possible Heisman-winner first stringer is jumping around for genuine joy for him and for the team (even with a 40 point lead.) They smile and laugh. The coach calls them kids - they ARE, after all, but no macho posing MEN. The defensive (and future Head-) coach slaps and chestbumps his players as they come off a play and he's clearly having as much fun as they are. (Head) Coach Brown emphasizes having fun. There's a purity there which seems missing in pro ball. Sadly.

Here's a big kid having fun.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

WALL STREET IDIOTS

You see it almost every night on TV when they show the stock market close. The darn stocks could well have tanked - even to record lows or drops and there are always a gaggle of smiling clapping idiots standing around to 'close' the day.

WTF are they smiling about? This makes me crazy. Maybe they think it's a priviledge or maybe their firm seeks pub, but truthfully they all look like fools smiling as they preside over failures and financial horror.

FOOLS. EVERY SINGLE NON-THINKING ONE OF THEM.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

OH THOSE COUNTRY FAIRS



Just as long as little Doofus didn't mix the signs up, everything should be okay.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

HANDY MAN

Generally, no, I'm not handy. Not for projects around the home unless they involve audio or video. It's not that I am unwilling, it's that I am a klutz. And impatient.

We have two pipes which drain 1- pool overflow 2- deck water when it rains. Both weren't thought out very well, as they stub out and then the water runs down the outside of the rock face which is the pool wall.

ALL BY MYSELF... I went to the paint store to buy more foundation paint... went to the builders' supply (NOW THAT'S A STORE!!!) bought some PVC, had it cut, discovered an elbow was mis-sized, returned it (major step forward) for the right one, attached the pipes, painted the pipes... and had a lot of paint left over so I repainted the foundation (actually the edge of the concrete slab) where it had become discolored... and then I also painted some concrete which has discolored on the deck. I didn't spill a drop. I colored within the lines.

A few weeks ago, some workers had mortared around the front door and when they stripped their blue tape, it removed some paint on the trim. I even CAREFULLY repainted the bare spots... but

apparently that's the wrong color. It didn't dry to match.

We CAREFULLY noted all paints used at the house when under construction. I fear THIS ONE DOOR is surrounded by the bastard stepchild o' paint, have no idea what it should be, but have eliminated one as wrong.

ALMOST made it. ARGH!!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

BOND, JAMES... CRAIG

Craig is the best Bond since Connery.

We saw QUANTUM OF SOLACE yesterday. Here's my take in appropriate bullet points:

* The opening credits song sucks.

* They will never top the opening action sequence of Casino Royale. It was two GUYS. This one is two CARS.

* The script of Quantum for Daniel Craig seems like it was about 5 pages long. More action, less talk?

* The villain is more real than most of them are.

* From the airplane on, IMHO, the film improves.

* Olga is okay, a good actor. I thought she'd be lousy - didn't like the Casino Royale 'girl' "Vesper" at all.

* The Redhead is hot... at first. (Gemma Arterton)

* Nice new geography - locales very effective.

* Judi Dench is tops.

* Giancarlo Giannini adds humanity to the story. I wish he was in more of it.

* Escapism like this will sell many many tickets.

* I want an Aston Martin.

* They say there are no gadgets, and there really aren't EXCEPT for some pretty cool computer tables.

And the title refers to what Bond sought in revenge. I see confusion in other reviews on that.

Friday, November 14, 2008

HOUSE CONCERT

New friends - Andro (he's Dutch), and his wife, Allison, introduced me to a "house concert" which took place at an incredible venue last night. The concept is that folk music (though apparently not limited to that) enjoys somewhat of an underground audience, and that certain places - private homes or whatnot - are volunteered to bring the artist to the people. All the money at the door goes to the artist --- refereshments' generated donations to a charity.

It's really all about the purity of the music, and sharing.

So last night we found ourselves driving (too fast, I know, me at the wheel) over the backroads of Wimberly, Texas, to Blue Rock Studio, which turns out to be an incredible home/venue/studio. Here's the link - I encourage you to take the video tour! (choose: facility/video tour)

Most of the audience had been there before, as indicated by a show of hands. (So easy to see why!) I'd estimate the venue - a large hall (see the video!) holds about 120. The studio is a million dollar plus showcase. They video the shows with 3 cameras, and record audio by tielines into the studio control room.

The artist performing was highly touted, but I had never heard of her. In a word, she was GREAT. I'll link to her site and suggest you watch and listen to Don't Work With Your Friends. For another side, see the A&E video.

Susan Werner is witty. Between the songs (and even in some of them) it was all shared fun. But that's not to suggest she's one dimensional at all - some of her songs were so sensitive and wise! Here's her site.

I am humbled in the presence of such talent.

Monday, November 10, 2008

MARS LANDER DIES

The last Twitter post said it all: "01010100 01110010 01101001 01110101 01101101 01110000 01101000."

For those of you who aren't fluent in binary, the post, from NASA's Mars Phoenix Twitter account, translates as "triumph." Several scientists at JPL, who smelled suspiciously of medical cannabis, subsequently ran through the halls of the Jet propulsion Lab shouting that "there's life on Mars and it's BIKERS!"

According to NASA, the space agency is no longer receiving communications from Phoenix, its Mars lander, after more than five months of operation. The not unexpected event came after the lander moved into an area, NASA said in a release Monday, where "seasonal decline in sunshine at the robot's arctic landing site is not providing enough sunlight for the solar arrays to collect the power necessary to charge batteries that operate the lander's instruments." The guys in service said that parts are backordered.

In other words, Phoenix has run out of gas. But according to NASA, the agency got more out of the lander project than it expected, so it considers--what else would you expect NASA to say at this point--the mission a success. Since the economy in the solar system has been affected by the worldwide economy here on earth, there appears to be little chance NASA could afford a fill-up, could a station even be found.

And while the lack of suitable sunlight, as well as a dustier sky, led to the inability to power up Phoenix's batteries, NASA does hold out some hope that the lander might return to life at some point. HOUSE, MD. watching marathons are planned.

NASA launched Phoenix on August 4, 2007, and it landed on Mars on May 25, 2008, "farther north than any previous spacecraft to land on the Martian surface." Unfortunately, there was no evidence of Superman's Martian fortress of solitude or Santa's Martian Workshop.

Among its goals? It "dug, scooped, baked, sniffed, and tasted" Mars' soil like a little mechanical Martha Stewart. And while that may not seem like glorious duties, NASA credits Phoenix with confirming the presence of water-ice in Mars' subsurface, something that had first been detected remotely by NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter in 2002. Phoenix was also a prolific photographer, shooting more than 25,000 pictures of the Red Plant during its tenure there.

NASA said that Phoenix helped further study the question of whether Mars was ever a suitable environment for microbes, and also determined that Mars harbored small deposits of salts that might have been "nutrients for life." In addition, Phoenix discovered calcium carbonate on Mars, "a marker of effects of liquid water," and what appeared to be dog stool.

Throughout the Mars Phoenix mission, NASA had sent out Twitter posts related to the project. Along the way, it gathered 38,417 followers (as of this writing), making the account the seventh most-followed on the service. (Barack Obama holds the top spot.)

And it seems NASA knew that Phoenix was dying. One post prior to its binary goodbye, the account read, "It's very unlikely I'll wake up next spring but if I do I'll call home. Good luck w/ your project."

Saturday, November 08, 2008

WHAT WAS ONCE A KODAK MOMENT IS NOW A PHOTOSHOP MOMENT

I am about to start looking through the almost 600 pictures I took on vacation. I like to let a period of time pass so the pictures wiil be great memory triggers - so here it comes. Then I'll do a Shutterfly book. We keep these on the coffee table, open to a new page each day. I regret I didn't stop the car more often and take more pictures. Yellowstone was breathtaking over and over again - there are distinct areas which each have amazing beauty. It's incredible. And I really wasn't expecting to be as blown away as I was. After Yellowstone we flew back to Salt Lake City then drove to Sundance. We'd been there several times and it was very familiar but still good.

TIVO can call up pictures from this computer for display upstairs on the 60" Sony -- Amazing!

SWITCHED DIGITAL

Does anyone else have the TiVo solution for "Switched Digital" channels? As I understand it, this means your cable carrier somehow piggybacks digital HD channels on each other - and TiVo cannot decode the 'riding' channel. I just lost half a football game by choosing "record by time" and not noticing that I chose the switched digital version.... which gave me the first half - of nothing.

TiVo was said to have been working on it - or was it Time Warner? In either case, that was then and it's still then.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

OH-BAMA!

Well, now it gets REALLY interesting.

Personally I hope he fills his cabinet with BOTH republicans and demolicans... I mean democrats. That would be a great step forward toward the 'across the aisle' non-partisan rebuilding of the United States. Such a shame his grandmother didn't live to see him succeed.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

OBAMA in 30 MINUTES

I thought the Obama Network Half Hour was brilliantly constructed. Darn near perfect for what was obviously intended, I felt it got just a little hokey once or twice, but I'd have to see it again to be sure. That, no matter who you support, was CRAFT!

And while at the tube, let me add I felt the MAD MEN season ender (still not quite a sure thing for another season as I write this...) was wonderful. They built in plotline closure just in case that's that, but there were obvious threads which could pick up from where they left off. Excellent!!!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

TELEMARKETER REPELLANT

REMEMBER: Cell Phone Numbers Go Public today
REMINDER.... all cell phone numbers are being released to telemarketing companies tomorrow and you will start to receive sale calls.

... YOU WILL BE CHARGED FOR THESE CALLS

To prevent this, call the following number from your cell phone:
888-382-1222.

It is the National DO NOT CALL list. It will only take a minute of your time. It blocks your number for five (5) years. You must call from the cell phone number you want to have blocked. You cannot call from a different phone number

Monday, October 13, 2008

ZZZZZZZZ

After 19 years, Terri declared it time to buy a new mattress. I don't know that guys even know about replacing such things - I wouldn't have thought that - but my back every morning aches pretty seriously, and it turns out that a hard mattress (like we had) is bad. We discovered some of this on vacation, in various hotels.

So, to the mattress store. This is where I feel sorry for the sellers - what can be more boring than selling a mattress? The people lie down, get up, lie down, get up, etc. I don't know what you could say that would matter. Interestingly, it took AIRLINE TICKET PURCHASE AT AIRPORT quantity of keystrokes to order it for us.

We liked one a lot. In our size (California King) it was north of... and get ready for a shock if you haven't been looking, as I haven't... SIX THOUSAND DOLLARS!!! We passed on that one. Prices have risen in the past 19 years, it seems. And now there's technology!!! Sleep numbers. Foams.

19 years ago we simply asked a sales person at the radio station who had a mattress account to see if she could get us a deal. She did. In no time, the mattress was delivered to our new home. I don't think we even tried it out, or shopped. It was, "Can you get us a deal?" "Yes." "Okay, let's do it." (Despite what it sounds like, the mattress was a good one.)

Where do they take the old mattress?

How many mattresses are now banks?

I couldn't get the sales guy to budge on price once he landed a standard discount for us. But I DID arm wrestle two free pillows out of him (which he'd give ANYWAY.)

He did try to upsell us on the Pad-That-Kills-Cooties, but we passed.

After a week two very large guys brought the new mattress to the house Saturday. Sunday morning I awoke an hour and a half LATER than my usual automatic pop-up!!!

We went with a foam - Swedish? I thought it was a gimmick at first but, man, do I want to go back to bed! It's won-der-ful. And guaranteed for 20 years.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

MICROSOFT FINAL ACT

If you read below a few posts, you'll see the helpful advice given me by one of Microsoft's techs. It didn't help.

I was eventually referred to an automated telephone 'help' place where, I discovered after multi-calls, that, if you answer NOTHING - i.e.: ignore all questions while holding your breath, you may be directed to a live person. But when I say nothing, I mean not even a peep, even when the questions are asked again.

I had 8 encounters over 18 days with zero results except, following instructions, I was adding and deleting things to my computer, all the while the threat of not activating XP SP3 was haunting me via pop-up balloon.

Tech 9 actually took control of my computer from India (this is a rough guess, based on his thick accent. "WHAT?" "I can't underSTAND you!" said me, more than once. After an hour and 13 minutes, he gave up - "I have exhausted all my knowledge and am unable to solve the problem," he admitted, in words that sounded only something like that. "Ken" (likely NOT REAL NAME, though that's what he said) then bumped me up to the very highest level tech, Jimmy (likely NOT REAL NAME, though that's what he said.) Jimmy went on my computer from far away and fixed it in about 3 minutes. Then he tested it several times, proclaimed it fixed, which I believe it is.

18 days, many emails, voice tree telephone frustration and 10 techs, all to validate a download. If Microsoft thinks they are too bloated, they'd be right. INternal communication must flat out suck. Several encounters brought forth acknowledgement that there have been some problems... though that sentence didn't sound that way.

Next: SKYPE, as the latest upgrade won't 'take' and the last operating version didn't work, and trying to wipe it off my computer and replace it with a much earlier version doesn't work. So far I've received one email days ago, with two "fixes." Neither worked.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

JUST ANOTHER DAY IN TEXAS...

Wake up, get up, walk the dog. Back for breakfast. Read the paper. About at this time Terri says, "Hey, there's a scorpion." The dog had been interested in something wher a cabinet meets the floor, and that's what it was. I go get the Scorpion Jaws of Death, a handy plastic clamp I use to pick them up while maintaining a sting free distance - I've been stung once and it was surprising how much it hurt!) Drop into the garbarge disposal for a quick ride down the drain. Back to reading about Sarah Palin and Joe Biden. Terri goes by with a broom and steps outside to the pool and then she returns and says calmly, "Baby rattlesnake on the patio." I emote. Snakes scare me more than they should - ALL snakes, but I thought this territory by the pool, 6 feet off the ground, was safe, unless some fool snake would want to climb stairs, and 'they wouldn't do that...' went my now broken thought (although I do believe it must have come up the bushes which top out at pool level; another disturbing thought for all the times I've been innocently trimming shrubs.)



A neighbor has killed a BIG rattler, but not recently. Maybe 4 weeks ago that same neighbor killed a copperhead but his property includes a creekside. I tell myself that's why he had it.



So I insist I have to confront my fears and I gather the rake and shovel and move the flowerpot and sure enough - it sure does appear to be a baby rattler with triangular head, too young for rattles, though it looks like the stub has begun.

Tiny though it was, I read that the babies come with full venom, and Googling snake bites shows some evil necrosis. You don't want snake poison.

Time to be a lot more careful. Those little reptiles blend in REALLY well. And I know momma hatched more than one... and then... there's momma.

Friday, October 03, 2008

DEBATE

One pundit said it best - it was a win-win, which surprised me. Palin, to her credit, wasn't lost in space; Biden didn't appear condescending or long-winded. Hard to believe this Palin is the one in the Katy Couric interview. I guess time will tell.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

THE GREAT DEBATE

I'm trapped in the house by workers who are chipping away at the mortar which has dried and cracked or left holes around windows and doors. Hopefully they'll then fill the holes and cracks. But it's odd to see people at the windows, and hear the tap tap tapping. That precludes any recording of demos (auditions) today. That - and a whopping headfull of allergy. I've been very nicely succeeding at a homeopathic remedy for the season up till today. The damn broke. My head might explode.

Watching Olbermann last night as he ran the best/worst of Palin, I noticed that she's not as bad as you might initially think (not that I think FOR ONE MINUTE she should be VP) but she has managed to pull a few deflections that worked when she obviously had no clue as what the real answer was. No, not the reading material answer, or the supreme court answer, and certainly not the foreign relations experience issue... but there were a couple times when I thought (upon further examination) that she scored reasonably well and got away with a couple.

My fear is that she'll do well tonight; or that Biden will flip out and be mean or condescending to her. The best I hope for is that we all walk away and think, "nice woman - but completely lost when it comes to important matters." Tick tock.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

UNBELIEVEABLE MICROSOFT ISSUE

I have now spoken to or emailed 5 Microsoft techs - WITH NO SOLUTION!!! And it's their software 'upgrade' which has caused all of this. Can you imagine the waste in a company which repeatedly gives advice that doesn't work - 'Do this - this will happen...' I do, it doesn't. The buck has been passed and passed and passed and passed and passed and passed. Literally. Now I am told to wait for a call from the "research team" member who will help me. What a joke.

Monday, September 29, 2008

SARAH PALIN DEBATE

I thought I saw Katie Couric's eyeballs spin like slot machine windows when she interviewed Sarah Palin the other day. I watched a recording, which allowed me to rewind and answer my dumfounded, "WHA?"

Now Sarah faces a serious test - the debate Thursday night, with Senator Biden.

First of all, Biden is in a tight spot. He can't be bullying, condescending, or mock her at all. He's got to wait and let her do herself in or he'll be hated. And this guy also has a wingnut loose on his facts when he gets oratorally wound up, so to speak, so to speak. (sic)

The question is really this: Can Sarah memorize enough material to cover all or most of the questions she'll face? If she's able, that's the way to go.

Throw in a couple more "Hockey Mom" quotes, and the electorate not running for medication at that point will love her like a reality show 'star.'

And of course, if you don't know the answer, change the question, "Well, what I think needs to be said is this: ........."

Expectations are low - seriously low - so with a little memorization, she might actually do well.

"Gimme a "U" Gimme a "A" Gimme a "S".... no, wait... well, you know."

UPDATE: I read interviews with Alaska politicians who have debated her - they said she's tremendously effective at being liked even though her statements tend to be very broad non-answers. Both guys lost to her. I also read a very interesting theory - if you can call it that - that right after the debate Thursday, Biden will step down for health reasons and Obama will tap Hillary Clinton to be VP.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

DILLO



I borrowed an infrared stealth homeland security and varmint cam. After several nights, we caught the bugger on video, continuing to rip apart our landscaping.

Today we stopped at Academy sports store to buy a trap. Academy is huge; along the wall with traps were duck decoys. The LUCKY DUCK QUIVERING DUCK BUTT caught my eye, as it will now doubt catch the sex-crazed eye of the poor duck that tries to ride this love boat.

You don't believe me, you city-dwelling prude? Click here

Terri and I also took advantage of the aging of our phones to extend the service contracts and get new ones. Hers was becoming cranky and mine was having battery issues.

What do you think arrived in email while we were at the phone store? CLICK THIS : I don't think this is a trick.

I think it explains why our new phones came with the deep-fryer options.

Friday, September 26, 2008

MICROSOFT INCOMPENT (sic)

My saga continues, despite this crap:

Dear Bob,

Thanks for taking the time to reply to me.

I understand that there was no Activate Windows command under System Tools. I fully understand the inconvenience the issue has caused and that the current situation can be frustrating. Please be assured that I will continue working closely with you until the issue resolved.


Big whoop. The last two instructions were thwarted by reality. Most recently - 'register it with a reperesentative online - call this number - and choose a live agent.' I call - there's no way to ACCESS a human at all. Hey, Microsoft - when you update your procedures, tell India!

Saturday Update: they are bouncing me higher up the ladder... within 72 hours.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

MICROHARD EVEN HARDER

I feel obliged to follow up my story below on the rigors of attempting to install XP SP3 on this computer:

Emailed repeated exchanges have been UNhelpful, i.e.: do this: step one, step two, step three. But when I execute step one it doesn't lead to what the instructions say will happen, stopping me right there. This has happened again and again. Add to that for some reason unknown to me, WORD now crashes regularly. Plus, their telephone center seems to only have recorded information...

With such a huge installed base there must be millions or stories in the naked-cyber-city, but mine is entirely frustrating, time consuming and unproductive. I'd expect them to be better than this.

Monday, September 22, 2008

60th EMMY AWARDS

It sucked so badly I thought it might suck back on itself, wormhole-like, and consume the opening, which would have been fitting and merciful. There was so much wrong I don't even want to relive it in my mind to enumerate the bad ideas and poor choices.

Friday, September 19, 2008

THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

I am reminded of The EYE OF THE SPARROW sung by, I believe, Sammy Davis Jr., from the old TV series Barretta.

Recently I attempted to 'join' a stock=photo supplier - whereby they 'represent' your work as ad agencies, publications and what have you, shop at their site. While on vacation, their email notification was in the large stack awaiting our return.

"No, not good enough" is what I saw, though there were different words.

Farther down the stack of E was another from the same place:

"We're going out of business."

So it's, Bad, Bad, or Bad, Good, or Good, Good.

Were they too focused (pun!) on their product? Or not enough?

Which brings me to FRINGE, touted as the BEST NEW SHOW ON TELEVISION. Uhhh, no.
I've watched two episodes now. The sound is exceptional. The HD picture is great. The photography is exceptional. Episode 2 had great editing for about 5 minutes.

The plots have been awful. The writing GOD awful, the acting, especially of a lead character (the old guy) WAY over the moon. The lead actress just doesn't visually hold the screen for anything but one angle.

For five minutes, they had it going. Then it sucked and sucked and sucked. I am intrigued by - what could they DO to fix it? You'd have to shift the show's direction away from the old man but since he's crucial to finding oddball solutions to the problem du jour, that isn't likely.

Really disappointing. If they make it through 5 episodes, then that means there's nothing else on.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

ELECTION STUFF AGAIN

You might want to skip to the one below this if you aren't into politics. Below is a continuing story about Windows XP SP3, the final chapter to be written - or resolved - yet. EVERY TIME I get the computer to work right, I go and add something or upgrade (ha!) and it takes me back several steps. WHY I DON'T LEARN remains a mystery. It's a genetic urge toward progress maybe?

I just read something about why the media has been so nasty to Sarah Palin. I've got to get this off my chest.

"The media" doesn't exist. It's too broad a generalization. You can find a cable network which leans republican (FOX) and one which leans democrat (MSNBC). There's a lot less unanimity than has been suggested, though I think both 'sides' miss important points about their own cause celebs.

The Palin issue, to me, is that here's a woman with little experience who will surely be led around by the nose by those whose entire professional career has been to do just that - and they are really GOOD at it. If McCain should pass while in office, she's going to be so vulnerable to the system. It'd take Jimmy Stewart and a Mr. Deeds MOVIE SCRIPT to work it out differently.

I get the need for serious change. I want that. But to take someone with so little experience and set them into that scenario is just dangerous. We'd all like to believe that good triumphs evil, but that's naive, or to be less cynical, isn't in the mid-game, is maybe the end game. We'd all like to believe that someone with pure intentions or the commonality of us all (!?) could bring what we need. Folks, the system is CORRUPT. We are being LIED TO by both sides, call them sins of omission or commission... there are so many half truths: platform planks that can only be accomplished if CONGRESS goes along, or the SUPREME COURT goes along.

We have incredible waste, regulatory oversight gone lame, a gutted constitution, a war on two fronts (so far), a horrible economy, lack of leadership in so many ways, and so much more. We've got troubles!!! Jimmy Carter (arguably one of the highest IQ presidents ever) could simply not work the system. History repeats itself. You have to work the system.

In MY opinion, we need the inspiration and (god, I hope) drive of an Obama, coupled with the experience of Biden over the insubstantialities of McCain and Palin. Neither choice is perfect.

MICROHARD

I don't think those Seinfeld spots for the PC are going to do anything but hurt his reputation. That's based on the one I saw where he and Bill Gates have moved in with 'an ordinary family.'

Meanwhile, I received an update notice that XP SP3 was ready for me. I've never met or even heard of one Vista user to like it (indeed, they HATE it), and since I have SP2 and it seems stable and since I want to keep XP tip-top, I loaded SP3. BIG MISTAKE.

SP3 wants to be 'validated.' The validation key (XP was preinstalled on my computer, with the key documentation on a sticker on the actual computer tower) comes up as INVALID. The SP3 won't register and seems to have a 30 day time bomb built-in. I don't know what exactly happens when time's up. I contact Microsoft. The fella can't help - I need another level of tech support. I send the email. Here's the response below... and I simply post it so you might know what YOU can get into... the bottom line is, the key on the email doesn't match what's on my machine and the replacement .dll link is a dead page.

I am LOST. Without Kate.

Dear Robert,

Thank you for contacting Microsoft Windows Update Support. My name is Annie and I am glad to work with you. You can contact me directly by sending an email to v-30azho@mssupport.microsoft.com with the case ID SRX1078962371 in the subject line.

From the case log, I understand that after loading Service Pack 3 and rebooting the computer, it would like to validate. When enter the product key on the sticker, it told that it was the one on the computer. The product key is MTPFX-KXF74-HBHH4-2WVXX-84Y6D. If I have misunderstood your concern, please do not hesitate to let me know.

I understand the inconvenience you have experienced. Please be assured that I will do my best to help you.

After checking the information you attached, I am glad to inform you that the Product Key MTPFX-KXF74-HBHH4-2WVXX-84Y6D is genuine for Windows XP Home Edition. I would like to explain that the issue appeared because the system has not been validated successfully. As there is a genuine key on hand, this issue can be caused by one of the following factors:

1. The system wasn’t installed with the genuine key.
2. The Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) engine hasn’t been installed correctly.

At this time, let’s try the following steps to check if the genuine key is installed on the system.

Run WGA Diagnostic Tool

==================
1. Please open Internet Explorer and visit the following link to download the WGA Diagnostic Tool:

http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?linkid=52012

2. Save the "MGADiag.exe" file to the "Desktop," and then double click on the file to run the tool.

3. Click the “Continue” button.

In the "Windows" tab, please check if the Validation Status and Product Key are the same as the information below.

Validation Status: Genuine

Product Key: XXXXX-XXXXX- HBHH4-2WVXX-84Y6D

If they are the same, we can take the following steps to see if the issue can be resolved.

Step 1: Temporarily disable the security programs for troubleshooting purposes only

==============================================================

The following programs can prevent the validation tool from running properly:

Norton Security programs

Panda Antivirus programs

Web Accelerator programs

Anti-Spyware programs

Pop-up Blockers

If any of the above programs cause the issue, please check if it can be re-configured to accept the WGA ActiveX control. Otherwise, please temporarily disable it to enable the WGA validation tool to work. Please ensure the program is re-enabled after we complete the troubleshooting steps.

Step 2: Install the WGA engine manually

==============================

The WGA engine may have been already installed, but is not working properly. We can use the following steps to install the latest version of WGA. This will ensure that the engine files will be copied and registered properly.

1. Click "Start"-> "Search".

2. Select "All files and folders", and then search for the following files:

legitcheckcontrol.dll

If you find the above file, please right click to rename it to something new, such as legitcheckcontrol.old.

3. Please download the update KB905474 from the following website link and save it to your Desktop:

http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/info.aspx?na=90&p=&SrcDisplayLang=en&SrcCategoryId=&SrcFamilyId=f8b8bc77-cfa1-47bd-b325-7a6d3893add8&u=http%3a%2f%2fdownload.microsoft.com%2fdownload%2f8%2f8%2fe%2f88e78788-5d68-49e4-afdd-3c8c9ab77843%2fWindowsXP-KB905474-ENU-x86-Standalone.exe

4. After downloading the update, please double-click the downloaded file on your Desktop, and it will be launched automatically. Please follow the instructions to install it.

After we have finished the above steps, please restart the computer and try to validate Windows again. If we still encounter issues after performing the above steps, please refer to Step 3.

Step 3: Visit the WGA Diagnostic webpage

================================

Please access the following website:

http://www.microsoft.com/genuine/diag/

On the website, we can test some system settings and confirm that there are no other blocking issues with your validation or Internet Explorer settings blocking the validation process.

If you have accessed the site but the validation issue persists, in order to narrow down the cause and provide more effective suggestions, we need to collect more information.

Please capture a screenshot when the error message occurs on the validation webpage.

Screenshot

=========

1. Please access the following website and click the “Validate Now” button on the webpage:

http://www.microsoft.com/genuine/selfhelp/Support.aspx?displaylang=en

2. When the error appears, please press the "Print Screen" key (PrtScn) on your keyboard.

3. Click "Start", click "Run", type "MSPAINT", and click "OK".

4. In Paint, click "Paste" under the "Edit" Menu, click "Save" under the "File" menu, type a file name for the screenshot, choose JPEG as "Save as type", click "Desktop" on the left pane, and click "Save".

5. Please find the screenshot on the Desktop and send it as an attachment to: v-30azho@mssupport.microsoft.com .

Note: When attaching files to emails, the process will vary depending on the email application being used. While you are composing the email, most applications will provide you with either an "Attach" button or Paper Clip Icon to click in order to attach a file. After clicking this button/icon you must browse to the file you wish to attach and select it by either double clicking it or clicking it once and then clicking on the "Attach" button.

However, if the Validation Status and Product Key are different with the information I provided, please collect the WGA Diagnostic Data for further research.

WGA Diagnostic Data

================

1. Please follow the steps at the beginning of this email on how to "Run WGA Diagnostic Tool".

2. Under the “Windows” tab, click the "Copy" button.

3. Open up an email, and paste (when editing the email, press Ctrl + V) the information collected by using the tool.

4. Please send the email to me at v-30azho@mssupport.microsoft.com

Thank you for your cooperation. Once I obtain the information, I will perform further research and get back to you as soon as possible. If there is anything unclear, please feel free to let me know. It’s my pleasure to be of assistance.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best Regards,

Annie Zhou

v-30azho@mssupport.microsoft.com

Microsoft Windows Update Support Professional

----------------------------------------------

Very satisfied customers are my top priority. Please let either myself or my manager know what you think of the level of service provided. You can send feedback directly to my manager, Tony Tang at v-30tont@mssupport.microsoft.com.

Windows Live OneCare: http://go.microsoft.com/?linkid=4416252

Give your computer continuous antivirus and firewall protection, along with regular tune-ups and back-ups to maintain its performance

GOD HELP ME !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

MOUNTAINS OF FUN!

Last night we returned from a great vacation, or "holiday," as they say in Canada.
I may be jet lagged. Pictures will have to wait several weeks since there are so many (more than 500, I think, and those are the KEEPERS.) Here's a phone cam picture...



The route was fly Austin to Salt Lake City, transfer to Jackson, Wyoming, stay there, drive to Yellowstone, stay there, back to Jackson for a night, return via air to SLC, drive to Sundance Utah, fly home. IKE missed Austin completely.

I realized along the way my mind isn't shot - I actually managed to count (and I believe accurately) that our return flight was my 476th airplane flight. Not included: blimp, ultralights.

Despite earplugs, I must note the girl with the broken ankle in 1C, just in front and across the aisle from us last night, nattered for 2 hours 38 minutes non-stop. Drugs? Pain?

Noted, and there will be much more follow-up as the lag wears off:

People in Utah universally drive far over the already high speed limit.
Gas stations near SLC airport are well hidden.
IKEA makes a pretty darn good SUV! I preferred it to the XTERA we had later in the week. Okay, it was a KIA. Surprise surprise!
Yellowstone has many yellow stones.

We saw 5 moose; pronghorn, elk, squirrels, chipmunks, horses, cattle, geese, ducks, stork (or egret or whatever), hawks, bald eagle, too many bison to count (not to include the one Terri ate part of... it came with Lobster. Surf and... Prairie? She also had antelope at another restaurant. I tasted: Bison, chewy, not bad - Antelope, okay, but maybe that was the prep and gravy which was tasty.)

The naturalist we hired for a photo trip of exploration assured me there were no snakes in Wyoming (or maybe she said poisonous ones.) Anyway, later we encountered her at the lodge office and wrapped around her hand was a snake! A baby boa named Derek. Boa Derek. Anyway, I freaked.

Yellowstone is incredible. Jackson was beautiful; not so much the town which was fine (and where I had one of the best meals EVER) but the view from our room, which I will eventually post, ran to the mountains and what appeared to be thousands of feet below into the valleys. I lost count of the "wows." We saw so many shades of beautiful that no camera could capture. These were soul-stirring colors.

At Sundance we stayed in a cottage which was owned by Juice Newton and her husband. I remember playing her music back when I was on the air in the 70s. Small world. This was pure happenstance. A VERY nice cottage, by the way, full of hubby's polo trophies and a few Juice items - the gold record, etc.

One interesting sidebar: along a trail to various geysers and stewing things, we encountered a herd of bison. They were between us and out. A ranger came along and told everyone we were much much too close to these wild animals. "What should we do?" asked Terri. "Pray," said the ranger. "There's nothing I can do to stop one of those bison and I see many people gored..." We took the long way back. Don't know if anyone was gored.

Later in another part of the park traffic was stopped as a lone bison casually walked down the yellow stripe between traffic lanes, then in this lane, then that one. We all politely waited.

Actually, bison are apparently very dangerous, and also, when they want to be, fast.

More as I unlag.

5 THINGS YOU NEVER KNEW YOUR CELL PHONE COULD DO

There are a few things that can be done in times of grave emergencies. Your mobile phone can actually be a life saver or an emergency tool for survival. Check out the things that you can do with it:

FIRST

Emergency

The Emergency Number worldwide for Mobile is 112. If you find yourself out of the coverage a area of your mobile; network and there is an emergency, dial 112 and the mobile will search any existing network to establish the emergency number for you, and interestingly this number 112 can be dialed even if the keypad is locked. Try it out.

SECOND

Have you locked your keys in the car?

Does your car have remote keyless entry? This may come in handy someday. Good reason to own a cell phone: If you lock your keys in the car and the spare keys are at home, call someone at home on their cell phone from your cell phone. Hold your cell phone about a foot from your car door and have the person at your home press the unlock button, holding it near the mobile phone on their end. Your car will unlock it saves someone from having to drive your keys to you. Distance is no object. You could be hundreds of miles away, and if you can reach someone who has the other "remote" for your car, you can unlock the doors (or the trunk).


Editor's Note: It works fine! We tried it out and it unlocked our car over a cell phone!"

THIRD

Hidden Battery Power

Imagine your cell battery is very low. To activate, press the keys *3370# Your cell will restart with this reserve and the instrument will show a 50% increase in battery. This reserve will get charged when you charge your cell next time.

FOURTH

How to disable a STOLEN mobile phone?

To check your Mobile phone's serial number, key in the following digits on your phone:
* # 0 6 # A 15 digit code will appear on the screen. This number is unique to your handset. Write it down and keep it somewhere safe. When your phone is stolen, you can phone your service provider and give them this code. They will then be able to block your handset so even if the thief changes the SIM card, your phone will be totally useless. You probably won't get your phone back, but at least you know that whoever stole it can't use/sell it either. If everybody does this, there would be no point in people stealing mobile phones.

And Finally:,

FIFTH

Free Directory Service for Cells

Cell phone companies are charging us $1.00 to $1.75 or more for 411 information calls when they don't have to. Most of us do not carry a telephone directory in our vehicle, which makes this situation even more of a problem. When you need to use the 411 information option, simply dial: (800) FREE 411, or (800) 373-3411 without incurring any charge at all. Program this into your cell phone now.

This is the kind of information people don't mind receiving, so pass it on to your family and friends

Thursday, September 04, 2008

SARAH PALIN SPEAKS WELL

I feel obliged to comment on Sarah Palin's speech last night. She was good, even very good, but it disgusted me. Below is a link which will give you some background as to the misinformation she spewed.

Click Here

I HATE the way the Republicans have targeted the media. That's called misdirection. It's sleazy. Shoot the messenger. Ignore the substance.

And that crowd ate her words up like a junkie takes free crank. Again, she was a worthy 'pusher' but the facts speak from themselves (or, no, they apparently DO NOT.)

Maybe it's due to the nature of this election? I fear we'll never ever see a civil election in our lives. The internet, the media focus, the lockstep of the parties are all contributing to something ugly; out of the control of reason and truth.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

WHERE'S HUNTER S THOMPSON WHEN WE NEED HIM?

DEAD. Well, that sucks for us. I think his 'take' on the increasing ridiculousness of the election shrieking would serve for those thinking souls who are ready to throw up.

It's becoming so transparent.

Is that me, my age, my attention, focus, values? Or is it real?

The rebubbalicans (sic) have now decided that to forestall possible Palin nasty reportage from the press, they'll attack the press. Heck, they know that the press is held in low regard (along with congress, the president, the vice president.) Swing hard at what's already an easy target.

I couldn't stand last nights poli-babble. "Now on the floor of the convention, here's Andrea Mitchell with (anyname goes here)." "Anyname, how do you feel Sarah Palin will affect the election?" "Well, I think she's a tremendous asset. She's completely energized the base in a way no one else could have..."

It's amazing how quickly they all march in lock-step. Every interviewee said the same thing. "On message" is what they call it.

Are these people so needy and lost that they have to rely on group-think to substitute for greater depth?

And yes, I admit, the democrats do it too.

Even I fell for the company line when I worked for a big conglomerate. Like a dutiful party member, I would espouse the company line back down to my people. What an idiot I was. It meant zero to anyone, probably lowered my standing among my people, and when the conglomerate came to cut muscle along with fat, I got sliced. So much for loyalty. Meanwhile the bigs still flew around in private jets "for security reasons."

Politics plays like college football cheerleader-think. Slogans, cheers, and an emptiness filled by membership to the group... with the lower group intelligence of a mob.

Monday, September 01, 2008

GUSTAV BLOWS BUSH OFF STAGE

They say every cloud has a silver lining. In this case, the silver lining will apparently keep President Bush and VP Dick 'The Smirk' Cheney out of the Republican convention - it may even keep John McCain off stage. The silver lining is in the fewer comparisons to the Demo-spectacle, the better, because McCain is no McAble when it comes to crowd-rousers.

They say he is showing concern for the people of New Orleans. As I write this, Gustav is still offshore, but has diminished to a category 2: nothing to be sneezed at (especially into the wind.) "Acting presidential" is the role McCain has taken on... but other than showing concern and holding off the balloon drop, I don't really see what he can DO beyond expressing concern.

Meanwhile, Bush is here in Austin.

Later, he should tour any New Orleans devastation with Michael Brown hanging upside-down from a rope beneath the helicopter.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

I CALL BULLSHIT!

The steaming bullshit in this election cycle is a global warming problem we don't need!

Catch the lack of logic: McCain says Obama isn't ready to lead because he has a lack of experience.

So he selects a woman with even LESS experience!!! to be one heartbeat away from his presidency - McCain - the oldest geezer ever in the chair if he gets to sit in it.

This is like a good Frank Capra script, or a bad Hollywood script: I can't decide.

Capra: McCain gets in, dies, and she turns out to be a wonderful leader.

Bad script: Or... he dies, she takes over, and is puppeteered by those who seize upon her inexperience to 'help her.'

I don't wish McCain harm. I don't wish Palin ill.

At the end of this run, it will be said (if he wins) that this was a brilliant counterstrike strategy. If he loses, one of the dumbest moves, ever. I don't see any in-between.

It's a pretty tough deal to introduce an unknown and sell her to the public in this short a time span. Unless she has a whole heap of charisma, likely impossible.

Oh - that noise? It's Hillary's teeth grinding!

Yesterday I saw McCain answer a question about Palin's credentials, and in the reply he even mentioned her PTA experience. Seriously. As an example of her executive abilities. He really did.

Friday, August 29, 2008

OBAMA IN THE STADIUM

The newsers were all atwitter about how he would need to define himself, and specifically address the claims made by the Republicans as to his experiential unworthiness. Not that they said it that way.

Some said the Acropolis they were building for him in the stadium was too vainglorious.

But, as fate would have it, it all worked.

Not quite up to the charm that Ronald Reagan could pull off, but very, very well written, very very well delivered, structured beautifully, I feel he hit it out of the park and then some. Some of the pundits I heard were almost speechless. The initial Republican shot back didn't even make sense.

I especially liked the Acropolis... two reasons...

1- This set made it appear on most camera angles that he was in a 'white house-like' environment; one that spoke of authority, and subtle hints of power. It was elegant but understated on camera, in closeup or medium shot (no columns in that view.)

2- The walk to the podium was powerfully dramatic. (And by the way, his film was incredible - already a supporter, I was wowed! Love the story of his first date with his now wife. She fell in love with him on the first date after seeing him in civic action.)

I loved, 'they don't get it, this isn't about ME, it's about YOU...' Great line.

And so: Believable? check. Specific? check. Powerful? check. Empathetic? check. Detailed? check. The risk of appearing in a huge stadium for Obama (as too much of a celebrity) was a clear victory of staging.

You could almost hear the question from the newsers... "What in hell can the Republicans do to match THIS?" McCain is horrible on the prompter. His grin turns on and off cartoonily, even eerily, like it's disconnected from the rest of him.

The Republicans had better conjure up Ronald Reagan's ghost.

Even Hillary and Bill must have been thinking... yeah, she lost this time, but he's darn good.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION 2

Good, bad, and in-between, Bill Clinton sure knows how to speak to a crowd. Last night's speech showed that (and those who know, say he wasn't even going full out.)

I DID notice he said Barrack Obama is the man you should vote for... man... get it? Well, that's just me.

But if you see the campaign video still floating around from the Hillary campaign, in which he said the Obama campaign is a 'fairy tale' then it's easy to disrespect the sincerity he poured on last night. Of course, this is what his party expected of him - to support the cause.

Bill must swim in sleaze, and he'll seemingly say or do whatever it takes. I don't think I like that one bit. If he'll do it so blatantly, then what must he do behind closed doors (interns aside?)

Probably my perverted sense of things, but I got the distinct impression that Hillary was laughing all the way through his speech at the position he was in - she knew what he wanted to say and laughed at his tap-dancing.

Bill might be morally bankrupt (though his work on AIDS, etc., is in some odd contrast with that) or at least overdrawn on his account, but he's SMART. And Hillary is SMART. That leads me to conclude there was plenty of subtext and bullshit spun from the pulpit last night.

Tonight at the stadium Barack has to hit it out of the park.

Speaking of the park, last night we also watched the closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics which we had recorded. Can I just say, TACKY. Ginormous, yes. Tacky, indeed. The thing smacked of UP WITH PEOPLE meets THE JUNE TAYLOR DANCERS meets a coked up impresario meets DISNEY. Good fireworks though.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION THOUGHTS

I enjoy watching the details as much as the main story.

There's Andrea Mitchell, for NBC News, on the floor with a bad microphone connection. She's a real pro - just keep going as if nothing is wrong. (What else could you do? Well, believe me, it's an adrenal moment.)

There's the NBC newscast Monday night, with Brian Williams at the convention. He intros a 'package' which means a reporter standup into a recorded piece. Immediately following, the screen jumped to Beijing, where Lester Holt was standing, awaiting his intro. He picked up on what happened without missing a beat, ad-libbed his own intro. Very pro.

Then back to Brian, who explained what happened. No fluster to be seen. Again, very pro. And these newscasts are timed to the split-second, so that left some time to fill somewhere. Again, Brian filled at the end of the newscast with no visible effort. Smooth.

Hillary did what was 'the right thing,' calling for unity in her speech. She works a PA system and crowd pretty well. (Speak clearly and slowly. Establish a good rhythm.) Gee, I am sick of the pantsuit. Having Chelsea narrate the film (which was great) was a slick idea... and it linked nicely to having her intro Mom with efficient brevity, live. Chelsea almost delivered the final recorded line correctly. It needed to be bigger, and a pause in the right place would have done it. I wonder if she had a director, and if so, if he/she really understood impact. Nevertheless, that young woman must be an interesting person, given her genes and upbringing!

I almost sigh every time I see Caroline Kennedy. It isn't lust or anything like that, but more than anyone she represents for me the lost hope and dreams of Camelot. She's like the sister we never had. She seems classy. I like classy.

Teddy must have seriously reformed himself along the way. But I can never see him without wondering about Chappaquiddick, a car, a bridge, the water, and the trapped girl.

Michelle Obama also was impressive for someone relatively new to this. I thought her speech or delivery were a little tepid at the intro. She led with a bit of a joke and I think the delegates didn't feel comfortable enough with her to fall for it. Nice dress choice: green. Green is the color of nature, which equals nurture, and is peaceful.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

ELECTION CRAP

"What we have heah, is a failyuh to communikate!" so said the prison boss in my memory to Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke.

That's where it seems to me we ARE with the politics of electing a new president. The this'n'that which appears as advertising seems more like third grade attempts at 'gotcha.' I admit I lean way toward Obama. Maybe this is why McCain seems like an old fool (though not entirely, with his $100 million wife and all those houses - a mighty nice rebound from POW.) He has contradicted his own bad self so many times it's like watching a ping pong game. Maybe Obama brings me a blink of hope, where I figure the old guys have screwed it up so much I just can't trust another one. Think ENRON, think high unregulated gas prices, think the housing crisis, find the source: McCain's advisor, Phil Graham.

I actually cut McCain slack on the home front, so to speak, as I believe he was groping for a truthful answer to how many houses he owns (some are in his wife's names, some his? Which is which? Is a condo a home in the context of the question? Or rental properties?

Obama seems stuck on the same message. I heard it. I got it. I wish he'd say something of substance NEXT. I wish either of them would explain HOW they think they might accomplish the general healing of the sick, the economy, the country, the war.

We should be IN THE STREETS about the waste in IRAQ - the lost moneys - the horrible construction failures at 'rebuilding' - the bogus war, the national debt.

The whole election process is one of grand promises with little attending hope to achieve those results. We are skating on a thick ice rink of reality, numbed by the cold, frozen to apathetic.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

FACEBOOK

FACEBOOK might be over. I just recently joined it. Under the theory that by the time it gets around to me...

It IS interesting how the program lassos friends' contacts for you to see, in case you know someone and want to add them to your list. So far it won't acknowledge my email addresses, which is good because that list is populated with homeowners throughout this development, VERY tenuous biz contacts, rapscallions, neer-do-wells and reprobates. It'd be pretty darn pesterfull to have the automaton ask them all if they wanted to acknowledge me.

I enjoy the line you are supposed to fill out to bring the world up to date on what you are doing right now. It's a fun goof. Hey, that's what I want to be when I grow up - a fun goof.

The picture I posted is from a beach in the leeward islands (West Indies.)

I searched for classmates. They look old. Apparently they try to look younger by: growing facial hair (me) - wearing a hat or hiding baldness (me) - or marrying the younger second wife (maybe that's their daughter?)

What not to show: gut, formal pose in suit, triple chins, disco clothes, leisure suit, afro.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

LYLE LOVETT


We've seen Lyle a number of times; last night he performed at the Long Center here in Austin. It was our first visit to this impressive venue and Lyle's second. He is on tour with his Large Band (12 players, up to 12 singers.)

In a word: great!

What's so cool about Lyle is his wit and intelligence between songs (also infused). I think he could speak into a recorder and do a book, but his timing is that of a natural wit. At one point while he was talking the lighting grid 'burped' behind him... somebody bumped a switch? and a row of lights flashed. Maybe they do this every show but it seemed a legit mistake. Lyle immediately looked back and said "I thought we were being pulled over!" The perfect ad-lib (if it was. If not, still funny and wonderfully delivered.)

Lyle likes Austin. He likes the venue - he said so but you could tell without a word. His musicians included impressive guests and he generously included them in their spotlit solos and ensembles. They played a little longer than 2 and 1/2 hours.

This man is an entertainer in the truest sense of the word. I urge you to see him if and when you can.

HOME

I didn't realize that Google had photoed much of the USA. You put in your street and you just might get a picture. If you do, you can "drive" the picture up and down the street, rotating the view up, down and around. I just drove my old neighborhood where I grew up. It's certainly changed since, but what a great way back machine.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

OLYMPIC FRAUD

Faking Their Way to a Perfect Olympics
Olympics Ceremony Featured Fake Fireworks, Fake Singer, All in the Name of National Interest
By JO LING KENT
BEIJING, August 12, 2008

Eager to put on a perfect Olympics, Beijing has swept its streets of fake designer handbags, pirated DVDs and phony corporate logos.

In recent days the Chinese Olympics organizers have admitted to faking the "footprint" fireworks that dazzled television audiences around the world.

And today they conceded that the perfect little girl who stole the show while singing "Ode to the Motherland" wasn't singing at all. She was lip synching for another little girl who was deemed -- for the good of the country -- not cute enough for China's national image.

Fake Fireworks

Part of Friday night's jaw-dropping opening ceremonies revealed sweeping shots of the footprints in the skies over Beijing marching from Tiananmen Square north to the Bird's Nest.

Viewers were led to believe they were synchronized fireworks going off across the city.

<< So why believe anything broadcast? Nevertheless, at one point they cut to President Bush in the stands who I swear looked like he'd pay $1000 for a beer! >>

STOCK PHOTOGRAPHY

I am going to try my hand at the world of Stock Photography. IF they allow me "in." Standards, you know!

I've been taking photos since I was a teenager, all over Europe, then as high school yearbook candid photographer. This qualifies me for nothing, but it does say I've been around single and double lens reflex cameras since a long time ago. Now with digital, I feel my work has progressed to a point where I might even sell something.

However, there are two obstacles:

1- You have to be blessed as appropriate by whomever runs the stock photo 'shop' you choose.

2- You have to get signed releases by anyone who appears in a picture. That's where I get weird... do I run after a jogger I just snapped and try to convince them to stop and fill out a form for no good reason? Or does their ego help me out there? The stock shops won't even take a picture with a person if you don't have the sign-off in the release. Since there's such a demand for people pictures, I have a big hurdle there. I don't want to hire models. In fact, I have to start without spending, so I may have an insurmountable hurdle.

Wish me luck! And if you are nearby, will you sign a release and let me follow you around for a while with my camera? No posing!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

FEELS LIKE FALL

It's August 5th... mid summer... but maybe because the weather was hot early this year - May for sure, maybe April? --- my internal clock says it's fall. Odd. We are still having 100+ degree days. 42 so far, I believe.

I am sitting watching radar for the remains of Eduard which are slated to dump some much-needed water onto the area. We are way off for the year. I assume we won't have too much wind this far inland, and I hope not, because the house under construction next door has stacks of uninstalled Spanish tiles on its roof, and they could "kite."

<<< We got no wind and only about a minute of rain. This should help grow serious complacency for the next one. >>>

Later this year we will go to the wilds of Utah and Wyoming where my clock will be smashed. We'll trade hills for mountains and low trees for tall ones and summer for fall.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

RECORD GAS GREED and SMOKE SCREEN

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Exxon Mobil once again reported the largest quarterly profit in U.S. history Thursday, posting net income of $11.68 billion on revenue of $138 billion in the second quarter.

That profit works out to $1,485.55 a second.

That barely beat the previous corporate record of $11.66 billion, also set by Exxon in the fourth quarter of 2007.

Explain to me please how this can be when oil consumption is down? We're told prices are up due to short/tight supply and futures trading. So how does Exxon Mobil get MORE? Do they charge a fixed profit or variable percentage on each gallon AS profit?

Why don't we all rebel? What is it about everyday life that seems to suck the outrage out of such gouging? We have become a nation of sheep. It's sad, really sad.

This might be the answer, below. Where's YOUR outrage?

United States By Tom Doggett

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - While the U.S. oil industry want access to more federal lands to help reduce reliance on foreign suppliers, American-based companies are shipping record amounts of gasoline and diesel fuel to other countries.

A record 1.6 million barrels a day in U.S. refined petroleum products were exported during the first four months of this year, up 33 percent from 1.2 million barrels a day over the same period in 2007. Shipments this February topped 1.8 million barrels a day for the first time during any month, according to final numbers from the Energy Department.

The surge in exports appears to contradict the pleas from the U.S. oil industry and the Bush administration for Congress to open more offshore waters and Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.

"We can help alleviate shortages by drilling for oil and gas in our own country," President Bush told reporters this week. "We have got the opportunity to find more crude oil here at home."


This just in: Can you find the hypocrisy?

NEW YORK - Investors holding stock in cigarette makers on Thursday will be weighing the passage of a House of Representatives bill that will require the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco.

The bill also calls for a scientific review of menthol in cigarettes, imposes tighter restrictions on tobacco advertising and creates new federal penalties for selling to minors.

The bill, called the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, passed the House overwhelmingly on Wednesday. It still awaits approval by the Senate and President George W. Bush. Bush's administration has already said he will veto the bill.

Lorillard Inc., which makes Newport, Kent, Maverick and other brands, said Wednesday night that "while it fully supports reasonable federal regulation of the tobacco industry, that the FDA is already overburdened and is the wrong agency to carry out this enormous task."

<< EXCUSE ME AS I CHOKE HERE. YOU SHOULD TOO. Lorillard is concerned ABOUT THE AGENCY BEING OVERBURDENED??? WHAT??? DO THEY REALLY THINK WE'LL SEE THEM AS CARING CONCERNED ENTITIES? >>

Lorillard added that it hopes the Senate will "find an effective regulatory solution."

BULLSHIT!

Friday, July 25, 2008

THE DARK KNIGHT IN IMAX

Performances are sold out here for some time. I applied online for tickets weeks ago. Yesterday was the big (screen) day for us and our neighbors!

I read that they filmed 6 scenes in IMAX, and wondered if the others would be shrunk, or obvious, or lesser.

Despite arriving early by a half hour, the best we could do was third row. That's pretty close to the screen, which is huge, as you may know.

Sitting that close made the plot sometimes hard to pay attention to - as I was distracted by the picture, and also waiting for IMAX to switch on or off.

First of all, this is IMAX 2D - no 3D, no glasses. The blew up the normal film to fill the screen at IMAX-sizing.
Second, the action sequences seem to be in IMAX, the rest, not. They are very good and seem real, i.e.: rarely computer generated.
Third, the IMAX experience isn't really that amazing since most of the scenes are semi-dark anyway. I'll bet if in bright sunlight, they'd be stunning. I noticed a resolution change but it was subtle. If the difference between standard broadcast TV and Hi-Def TV is 10 units, I'd give this a 2 to 3.

The whole IMAX-size screen thing is still impressive, even the non-IMAX scenes; on a screen that big you really ARE immersed! And yes, Heath Ledger is great, He eclipses Christian Bale by a wide margin, either as Bruce Wayne or The Batman. (I like that they keep calling him "The" Batman.) As an aside, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman add a lot of class to the film - both are SO solid. Maggie G beats Mrs. Cruise by a mile as an actress, but personally I don't find her attractive enough for the role.

The sound at IMAX theaters is awesome - and that held true - the score pumps away and heightens the tension. It's loud and undistorted, arguably as good as cinema sound can be.

A fine effort for all. A tragedy that Heath Ledger isn't with us to accept the accolades.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

DOLLY RAIN


Can the weather ever be too nice? Well, having spent almost 5 years in San Diego, I can answer yes. But it isn't about NICEness, it's about monotony.

Here, we've had little rain this year (about 50% deficit) and that means a lot of hot days with sun, followed by warm nights. 100 days, 75 nights. We like that (certainly over cold and damp) but it can get boring. So Dolly's bands are bringing in some gulf moisture as I write this... pretty spotty and very brief.

When we lived in Houston, I stood in our floor to ceiling glass windows at work, watching a Category 1 hurricane blow outside. It was really just a lot of rain where we were. There were power failures throughout the city, and the windows did bow in a bit.

This far inland, I don't know what actually could get here beyond rain and non-hurricane force winds (hopefully). The real issue in our years here so far has been hail, though not Dolly hail. And occasional tornadoes.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"I LIVE FOR THESE KIDS."

That was my line in a commercial today. I was "Mr. Farmer." The kids were goats. (There was no romance involved in a backstory.) The commercial was for urological and gynecological robot-assisted surgery in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. What's it got to do with goats? Good question. It has to do with answering the question of what people live for. I will probably never hear the assembled commercial which involved a cast of four. None of the others were at the session.

I used to do commercials and other voicework for a living. This is when I lived on the west coast - I had 3 agents - San Diego, Orange County and Los Angeles... and they kept me busy and nicely employed. Even then, it was a career move full of rejection. Many auditions, considerably fewer jobs. All too often I would drive 125miles to LA, fight traffic, audition for one line or two, then haul ass back down the freeway.

It's worse today. I am told that each job requires about 200 auditions. Agencies search for the perfect voice (of course it's all subjective) and maybe pad their hours worked by doing so. Beats me. I am far down the line.

What really changed everything was the internet. Now anyone anywhere can be 'invited' to audition by agents or paid services. You have to have a home studio and be able to send the audio via email. So what was once a smaller large group is a virtual huge group all competing for the same work.

Those lucky enough to be at or near the top of the food voice chain are hired by those who know them. The rest of us struggle. I doubt I could survive very nicely on this today, the way I did back in the 80s.

Today's session required a drive to the studio (about a gallon away.) After a nice chat with the engineer, he hooked me by telephone line to the ad agency in Madison Wisconsin, and, as standard practise, I began 'doing' my line so he could set up levels, etc.

"That's terrible" came back the voice from Wisconsin. Wow. Immediate bad feeling. The producer then explained gruffly that he meant the quality of the connection. But to an actor, when you hear those words, it's tough to recover. Sensitive folks, we are, after all the rejection we get just in the auditioning process.

Well, I gave them the line this way and that and that and then with direction another dozen times, never ever feeling I really nailed it. Who knows?

Mr. Farmer and his goats won't likely even be noticed by those preoccupied by or suffering from urological or gynecological problems in Cedar Rapids anyway.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

SKONKADILLO

I think we have SKONK trouble. Not the stink part but the rip-up-the-mulch-in-the landscape part.

I have done my research. Trapping is the way to go. But then you have a skunk in a trap, likely pissed off, maybe carrying rabies, and accurate with spray to 10 feet. Sure, put it into the car.

The instructions online say to approach the trap without scaring it, to casually move it with a tarp on top to catch any stink. Huh? You can smell a dead one a COUNTY away. Tarp? Also, I can't imagine a trapped wild animal thinking, "Here comes a nice fellow. He seems calm. Now what was my mantra again?"

A neighbor farmkid many years later tells me even if you catch and release they'll come back. He says let them eat all the grubs till there aren't any and they'll go away.

Okay.


There's also a possibility we got armadillo woes. I don't know, but I am not going to put out a trap and catch a skunk in it, that I do know.