Wednesday, December 31, 2008


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


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


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. is my blog with 700+ posts and still counting. Terri’s website is I still have which is hard to keep updated due to the avalanche of new gear/technology ALWAYS in the pipeline. Then there’s 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


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'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


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


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.


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


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.


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


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


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.