21 November 2008

Y I love Sesame Street!

Having a 2 year old gives me a great excuse to still watch Sesame Street. Even after 35 years of being broadcast, it still rocks! I mean, how do you beat the combo of Elmo, Norah Jones and the letter Y? Here's to another 35 years of Big Bird, Grover, Oscar the Grouch, and Mr. Snuffalufagus!

16 November 2008

The Giving Tree needs to stop giving me the creeps…


Pictured to the left is The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein. It is arguably one of the most beloved children’s books of all-time. Surprisingly, I don’t remember ever reading this book when I was in grade school, even though I was a pretty big bookworm at the time.  But when I was in the 5th grade, I did become a big fan of the author’s books of poetry – Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic. I couldn’t get enough of his funny drawings and his even funnier rhymes. The fact that they bordered on the edge a bit is also probably what appealed to my juvenile mind at the time. For example, here is a short poem from A Light in the Attic -


Rockabye baby, in the treetop

Don’t you know a treetop

Is no safe place to rock?

And who put you up there,

And your cradle too?

Baby, I think someone down here’s

Got it in for you.


Pretty clever eh? It wouldn’t suprise me if many of today’s top comedic writers (think any Pixar animated film) were big Shel Silverstein fans growing up as well! So, with that background info, you can imagine how happy I was when someone gave The Giving Tree as a gift to my (now 2 year old) son Benjamin. I am not sure exactly who gave it to him (thank you whoever you are!) or when it was given to him, but he  just recently startd wanting us to read it to him. Tonight was one of those nights, and after reading the book again, it inspired me to postpone my sleep to write this post…


First thing I want to address is that I don’t think I get the message of the book. The tree ends up as a stump for the boy in his old age to sit on? Wow, that’s quite a downer. I guess the point is the tree gave everything it could to make the boy happy? Is there some deeper symbolism that I am missing here?  Is the book addressing the problems of self-entitlement? Any of the more literary types out there who might read this post care to enlighten me? ( Hannah, this means you.) 

Second thing, and not as serious, but maybe even more important for the sake of future sales of The Giving Tree, is this big question: What is the deal with the photo of the author on the back cover?!


Scary Shel Silverstein!

I want to know what sales/marketing genius thought that this was the best photo to use to help convince parent’s to buy the book? Can you imagine their conversation -

“How about this photo of Mr. Silverstein smiling and looking happy?”

” Nah, too common. How about this shot where Mr. Silverstein furrows his brow and grimaces like he is suffering from severe indigestion?”

“Oooh, I like it! That will definitely not frighten any young children nor their parents!”

Even better, let’s make the photo the size of the entire back cover, so there will be no way to avoid his beady-eyed gaze!”

This post is in no way meant to belittle the rugged good looks of Mr. Silverstein. We have all suffered from bad photo days, and most of them remain hidden on our drivers licenses or Sam’s Club membership cards, and not splashed onto the covers of a best-selling children’s book, so it is not like I am not sympathetic. It’s just that I can’t believe they used that photo. And actually, by the power of Google, I discovered the photo they used on the first edition of the book -



Much better and definitely less scary

While Mr. Silverstein definitely bears a striking resemblance to Che Guevara in this photo, the fact that he has a head of hair, is not grimacing in pain and that the photo is not just a head shot blown up to take up the entire back cover, makes a huge difference in presentation. This is a cover I would not be wary to pull out to read to a group of impressionable young minds.

What? You think I am just being silly? Actually, I am quite serious about the matter, and I even did some investigative reporting, to see if it was just me who suffered from Shel Silverstein shock, and well…I think you just better take a look at this teacher’s classroom experience.

My solution to this entire problem? Either go back to using the original “Che” cover shot, or use the one that I found below, where Mr. Silverstein is humanized somewhat by the fact that we can imagine he is playing some nice lovely melody on his guitar, while humming along in a equally soothing key…




Unfortunately, the fact that the viewer’s eye cannot help but be drawn to Mr. Silverstein’s giant foot and gi-normous toes, confirms that some of us are just not meant to have our photos taken.

10 November 2008

Congratulations President-Elect Obama

Regardless of your political affiliation, it is hard to deny the history made with the election of Mr. Barack Obama. Despite his relative youth and inexperience, his overwhelming victory at the polls spoke of our country's need for something new. While I don't agree with a lot of his politics, he is still my president, and as stated so eloquently by my friend Nicole on her blog, there's no way I am moving to Canada! I must admit it is encouraging to see so many of my fellow citizens happy and hopeful again, even if that hope might be short-lived.

After 2 years of endless campaigning, I think we can all agree that Mr. Obama deserves a nice respite before assuming the office of President. Only 71 days until the inauguration, and unfortunately, there's not going to be much rest for the weary.

The above photo was taken by my wife at Obama's first political rally in Austin, Texas, held on February 23, 2007. She went with a few friends (all who are proud conservatives) who went to the rally mainly because they were just curious about who this person was, and they all had to admit afterwards that the man had charisma in spades and was going to be a strong contender for the Democratic nomination. Now, almost two years later, I tell Vanessa that this is probably the closest any of us will ever get to the POTUS!

Below are a few links to some cool articles/photos/references regarding the new president.

Behind the scenes on election night (photoset from flickr.com)

The next President of the United States (photos from The Big Picture)

Newspaper Frontpages from around the World, Nov. 5, 2008

One of these ones is not like the others...

Barack Obama: The 50 facts you might not know


04 November 2008

A Real Hope…

I just got back last night from attending a Christian Young People’s Conference in Odessa, Texas. There were about 120 attendees, ranging from junior-high to college-age.  The topic of the conference was “Experiencing Christ as the Good Land of Canaan”. If you are familiar with the Old Testament, you will know that there is a major focus on entering and possessing the Good Land. We saw this weekend that this is just a type or picture of the New Testament believer, who’s focus and goal should be on gaining and possessing more Christ. It is not good enough to just be a Christian who has partaken of the Passover Lamb (signifying redemption) or one who has crossed the Red Sea (signifying baptism). Even one who is enjoying the manna (signifying Christ as our real food) in the wilderness cannot fully accomplish God’s goal. God needs a group of people who give themselves to walk in Him (Colossians 2:6), and allow Him to make His home in their hearts. (Ephesians 3:17). Once the land has been gained, there is a way for the city and temple to be built, signifying God’s authority and representation.

Being in the enjoyment of the conference, I completely forgot about what was going on with the presidential election.  The analysts have been saying that more people will vote in this election than in any presidential election in U.S. history. Seems both sides are quite fired up for their candidate of choice. While I do have my choice of who I want to see in office,  I was reminded this weekend that my hope is not in a person named Obama….or McCain. Or Palin. Or any other cause, for that matter. As Christians, we have a living hope (1 Peter 1:3). This hope is the real hope, and this hope is what keeps us going day by day, even when things don’t seem to go our way.

Regardless of who wins the election tomorrow, may we grant the new President the proper prayers and respect that is fitting for the highest elected office in our great nation…


1 I exhort therefore, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings be made on behalf of all men;

2 On behalf of kings and all who are in high position, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all godliness and gravity.

3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of our Savior God,

4 Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the full knowledge of the truth.

                                                                        - 1 Timothy 2:1-2

27 October 2008

Dino-fun at Zilker!

I spent 3 hours today installing our new dishwasher after our old one gave up the fight after a brief 5 years of service. I am by no means the master of home improvement (just ask my dear wife), but since I installed the original dishwasher 5 years ago, I thought it would be a piece of cake. Turns out, some cakes take a long long time to make. Needless to say, that’s 3 hours of my life I won’t be getting back again. But it wasn’t all bad. Today, we finally made it over to the Zilker Botanical Gardens for the Dinoland exhibit! It was a beautiful day for a family outing, the sun was shining, but it wasn’t too hot.

When we arrived, parking was an issue. It took us a good 15 minutes to find a spot. Guess Dinoland is a popular place! Admission is free for kids under 3, everyone else is $5/person. The last time we were in the Botanical Gardens was when we took our engagement photos, almost 7 years ago(!) I must say, ZBG is still as beautiful as ever. If you are graduating from high school/college or need to take special occasion photos, you can’t go wrong taking them there. That’s my free tip of the day.

As for Dinoland, it was a huge hit for the dinosaur fan in our family. Benjamin liked it too. :)  He kept saying “big dinosaurs” in awe.   He enjoys his “little dinosaurs”  (the dino-chicken nuggets from Costco, which I highly recommended to all nugget fans) so he was amazed at seeing them full-size. If you’ve got a little dino-fan you know, I suggest you take them to the Dinoland exhibit. It runs until November 30th.  Below you will see some photos from the exhibit. The last one is from our lunch at P. Terrys, which has some of the best burgers in town. Okay, that’s my second free tip of the day. Aren’t you glad you read this post?

  IMG_3792-1  IMG_3796-1

 IMG_3858-1 IMG_3862-1


21 October 2008

Proof of the Cult of Obama: Obama-gazines

Pictured above are the latest issues of some magazines I subscribe to: Men's Health (Nov. 2008), Time (October 20, 2008), and MIT Technology Review (Sept/Oct 2008). Guess what they all have in common? That's right, they all have cover stories on the 47 year old senator from Illinois! Yes, the media infatuation continues! Seems like he doesn't need to be spending any of the $150 million he raised last month (over $600 million total) on things like this, when the media already scrambles to put the Obama "brand" on anything possible. Don't believe me? Walk into your local bookstore and scan the magazine section, then get back with me. I would be very interested in seeing how many magazine covers McCain has been featured on versus how many Obama has been on.

Consider the issues in my photo. Men's Health? Yes, I agree, Obama is a man, so I guess he qualifies to be on the cover. I suppose it is better than the usual cover of male models with chiseled abs and bulging biceps. But check out that tag line - "Strong and Fit!" Wow, not too subtle eh? Especially when considering the "Old and Weak" alternative, right? How about Technology Review? Published by MIT since 1899 (almost as old as Senator McCain!) the cover tag line is "How He Really Did It". Did what? As far as I know, as of the publication date of the magazine, the election had not been decided yet! And Time, the oldest newsweekly in the United States, seems to have Obama on the cover every week.

This post is not meant to be an indictment of Mr. Obama. He is very accomplished, seems to be a natural leader, and is quite eloquent. If I had to choose between listening to Dreams of My Father spoken by Mr. Obama, or Faith of My Fathers, spoken by Mr. McCain, I'd choose Obama's sonorous voice over the nasally pitch of MCain everytime. And there's no doubt, if Mr. Obama is elected president, it will be a historic event, the first man of color to be elected to the highest office in the land. Perhaps such an event would prove that race is no longer an issue, and that a person's character and honesty and belief is what really matters. Sounds dreamy, right? Sounds like real change, right? Former Secretary of State Colin Powell seems to think so, calling Obama a "transformational figure" while endorsing him for president today.

I appreciate his life-story, I think he is quite likable, and because he is younger and a person of color, I can definitely identify with him more. But here is my main concern: I am worried that Senator Obama is going to be elected president solely because of America's love affair with all-things celebrity. Senator Barak Obama is a rock star. Senator McCain is not. I remember reading about the first televised presidential debate, between JFK and Nixon, and how many analysts felt that because JFK looked better on camera, that translated into people thinking he would thus make a better president. Perhaps that is not the best example, based on what happened with Nixon later on, but it still makes a strong point about the need for star power. McCain made a valiant effort at fighting back with his own choice of celebrity, but she has proven to be no match to the Obama love affair, even with her latest appearance on SNL.

The 2008 election is not about who has better economic policies, who would make a better world leader, or who has more experience. Really, it's about who will sell more magazines at the newstand. And frankly, that's just plain sad.

12 October 2008

O Who?! Texas 45, OU 35


My sister Anne just got back from a 3 month rotation in Kenya last week. She flew into Austin, and we went down to San Antonio to surprise my parents for their anniversary. We had a great time together, especially on Saturday morning. We drove out 10 miles past the city of Medina to the Siesta Valley Ranch to go on a 3 mile walk. The only drawback was that I had to miss what many are calling the greatest UT-OU game of all time. We were able to listen to the end of the 3rd quarter and entire 4th quarter on the drive back, so that counts for something!


Hard to believe that UT is back at the #1 spot in the nation! With games against Missouri, OSU, Texas Tech, and Kansas coming up, if they can run the table, looks like they might be playing again for the national championship.


Gameday photos


Run Chris Run! Chris Ogbonnaya’s 62 yard run in the 4th was the final nail in the coffin.


OU fans stream out as they realize they are no longer #1.


Reality begins to set in: “We lost and we still have to drive back to the state of Oklahoma.”


A lovely site for all Longhorns!

11 September 2008

7 Years Later…

Hard to believe it has been 7 years since all our lives changed dramatically. I believe most of us will never forget where we were on that fateful Tuesday morning. I realize a 7th anniversary doesn’t have the nice ring of a 5th anniversary or a 10th anniversary, but if anything, it is a good reminder for us to  be those who are always “redeeming the time, for the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:16)


26 August 2008

Best Photos of the Olympic Games



Forgot to include a few links in my last post. Both are courtesy of the Boston Globe’s Big Picture section. Truly amazing photos, check ‘em out…


2008 Olympics Opening Ceremony



Beijing 2008 – It’s a Wrap


25 August 2008

Olympic Memories

As the 2008 Summer Olympics drew to a close tonight, and our television gets a much needed break, I thought I'd write up some of my thoughts and impressions of the past few weeks.



1. 2008 drummers in unison


This was probably my favorite part of the unbelievable opening ceremony. When I saw them perform the 60 second countdown, I could hardly believe my eyes. I can't imagine the number of hours of practice they had to go through to get that right.


2. Lezak coming back from behind to help the US beat the French in the 4x100 free relay


Just desserts, especially after the French team talked smack about how they were going to smash the Americans. Just desserts. If I remember correctly, the last time the Frenchies smashed anything significant was during the Napoleonic era. Hey France, that's what you get for trash talking the country that liberated your sorry nation during the second World War. In case you forgot, the great state of Texas is bigger than your entire country.  And finally, never forget what happened to your country in the 2000 Sydney Olympics...

Yes, Frenchies, even your own commentators were blown away.


3. China versus USA basketball game

Likely, the most watched basketball game of all time, with viewers in the billions, this game carried a lot of symbolic meaning. From President Bush in the US pre-game huddle to the entire stadium proudly singing the Chinese national anthem, it was quite the spectacle. This was one of the showcase events for the nation of China. Too bad the US still blew them out of the water. China, we might let you produce poisonous toys for our children, but that doesn't mean we'll ever let you beat us at basketball. USA! USA! USA!


4. Bob Costas interview with George Bush

I happened to watch this live, and thought to myself, "Boy, that Bob Costas is one mighty good interviewer." President Bush also presented himself quite well. Some might say this is surprising, since everyone knows he is not a great orator. On a side note, Vanessa and I watched a documentary a few nights ago called Journeys with George. It presents the symbiotic relationship between the press and the presidential candidates. Quite insightful, especially with the upcoming presidential election. Check it out when you get the chance.


5. Jamaican' me crazy! 


The boy is wicked fast. World records in both the 100m and 200m.


6. USA vs Spain, Basketball Gold Medal game

The so-called "Redeem Team" pulled it out in a surprisingly close one, especially since the US blew out Spain by 37 in their first round game. It was nice seeing Dwayne Wade back in top form again,and his alley-oop to Kobe against Greece was probably the top basketball highlight of the entire games, although Fernandez's dunk on Howard in this game was a close second.

Nice commercial by the marketing genius's at Nike that makes you proud to be an American and a basketball fan, ha ha.


And of course, no highlight reel can end without mention of the amazing


7. Michael Phelps, going 8 for 8.



8 gold medals? Are you kidding me? By the end of Phelp's quest for perfection, even Benjamin was a fan...




Unfortunately, it wasn't all great...

1. Slant-eyes photos

Spain - Men's basketball team


Spain - Women's basketball team

Beijing Olympics Spain Photo

Spain - Men's and Women's tennis team


Argentina - Women's soccer team


Ha ha, part of me thinks it's all  funny and part of me thinks it's kind of sad. Maybe Latinos really do hate Asians. Course, we know that's not true, because otherwise, how do you explain our boy Benjamin, or Kayla Alarcon, or the entire Filipino people? Actually, the fact of the matter is, Latinos heart Asians, or at least they love working at our restaurants. Ouch, low blow. Sorry. Guess that's some repressed anger coming back out after enduring years of slanty-eyed jokes while growing up in San Antonio, Texas. Hallelujah, in the one new man there cannot be Latinos or Slanty-eyes!


2. The little girl who wasn't allowed to sing


"The main consideration was the national interest," he said. "The child on the screen should be flawless in image, in her internal feelings, and in her expression. In the matter of her voice, Yang Peiyi was flawless, in the unanimous opinion of all the members of the team."

That was until attention turned to Yang Peiyi's teeth. Nevertheless, Mr Chen thought the end result a perfect compromise.

"So we made the choice. I think it is fair to both Lin Miaoke and Yang Peiyi - after all, we have a perfect voice, a perfect image and a perfect show, in our team's view, all together."

Wow, they created the perfect little girl. Congratulations you slanty-eyed communist masters of propaganda! 


3.  The 16 year old Chinese gymnasts

Yeah, right.


I know Asians age well, but this was ridiculous.



4. The ultimate sore loser


Cuba's Angel Matos displays his displeasure at the ref's ruling by kicking him in the face. You stay classy Angel.


5. The London portion of the closing ceremony

bus jimmypage

LONDON—How can London, host of the 2012 Olympic Games, possibly compete with China? How can it top the eye-popping pyrotechnics, the cast of thousands, and the architectural gem of a stadium that were part and parcel of the successful Beijing 2008 Olympics?It can't, London's organizers admit.

It can't, London's organizers admit.

So it won't even try.

(You can read the rest of the article here.)

I guess they already stopped trying, based on their 8 minute segment.  Granted, no one expects the proper Brits to spend anywhere near the $44 billion that China has poured out on their one big "China is great!" infomercial, but still...a transforming bus? Leona Lewis? Jimmy Page? David Beckham kicking a soccer ball? Apparently, the transforming bus and Beckham's appearance cost the Brits $9 million dollars. Is that all $9 million dollars buys you these days? Looks like that is $9 million less you will have to spend on your 2012 games, but it probably won't make much difference, based on this debacle. I found myself cringing during the entire segment and felt embarrassed for the performers. It was the same feeling I had when Vanessa dragged me to a production of Viva El Paso! last time we were in her hometown...usually, it is performed in the McKelligon Canyon Amphitheater, with the Franklin mountains as a backdrop. From what Vanessa tells me, it is a beautiful setting. Unfortunately, when we saw it, the Amphitheater was being renovated, so we ended up at the El Paso Civic Center. Let's just say, the production probably benefits a lot from the natural outdoor setting, and we'll just leave it at that.  No viva Viva El Paso! But I digress...

"Beckham, brought up in east London, hailed Beijing's success but told Reuters before the ceremony: "I'm sure we will be better than them, without a doubt." (article here)

Looks like Beckham is still bending it, only this time what he's bending is the truth. Ha ha, guess that's why he's paid not to prognosticate, but to play soccer.

(nagging thought - how in the world did Atlanta land the 1996 games? I've been to Atlanta, it's got a great aquarium, I have family who live there, but sorry Atlanta, you ain't no LA, Chicago or London)


Final thoughts


I think we can all agree that China put on a pretty good show for the world, and that probably no other Olympic games in our lifetime will ever match the spectacle of these Beijing games. On a personal note, it was a nice family-friendly way to conclude what has been one great summer. Well, if family-friendly means sitting on our rears, watching TV, while ingesting huge amounts of junk food. Hey, wait a minute, what's more American than that? USA! USA! USA! To everyone who participated in a similar way, be proud, you are all true patriots!

Benjamin really enjoyed the swimming portion of the games but alas, showed no interest in the Redeem Team, despite my best efforts. Guess he is still not a fan of Kobe, ha ha.

Here's a photo gallery of some of the best images of these games, taken by the photographers at Sports Illustrated. 

Finally, I want to finish with this simple but profound statement. In the words of the American patriot Lee Greenwood, "I am proud to be an American, where at least I know I am free...God bless the USA!"

20 August 2008

Are you ready for some (college) football?

The season draws nigh! Check out this cool "Guide to the BCS Galaxy" put together by some smart fellow over at ESPN. Much better to look at than some boring Top 10 list. Notice how Baylor is almost on the way out of the galaxy...poor Bears!

06 August 2008

This Blog Needs Work!

Look for a new design and new posts coming soon...I promise!
In the meantime, try not to laugh.

23 July 2008

How to Say it Discretely, the Web 2.0 way

A few years back, I had a co-worker who had some major B.O. issues. I had to hold my breath everytime I was around him. I would have killed to have had this service at that time -

Thankfully, it wasn't too long before he moved onto another company, thus clearing the air (literally) and sparing me from having to be in an awkward conversation.

05 July 2008

Egads! Another Online Photo Printing Service?

I am often asked what company I use to print out my photos. I look for a place that has a combination of good quality and price. I think you should never pay more than 15 cents for a 4x6 print. I remember in the early days of online printing where they charged 35 cents a print! If I need the photos in an hour, I usually just upload them to Walgreens and pick them up at my local store. It usually costs 19 cents a print, but they always have weekly promotions to bring the price down to 15 cents or less. However, a lot of it does depends on the actual store that will be doing the printing. I used to get my prints developed at Costco, but the last few times, I was not satisfied at all with the quality. I tend to think that stores with a high volume of orders are not able to give each order the adequate amount of attention, in regards to reviewing and tweaking colors. I have a friend who pays a little more to get his prints developed at his local Wolf Camera, but he feels it is well worth it, due to the quality of the prints.

In regards to ordering online, I used to be a member of Dotphoto, which at the time had the cheapest prices for 4x6s. But a bad experience with them deleting photos without my permission caused me to look elsewhere. I have also spent time with Snapfish, Ofoto (now Kodak Gallery), and Shutterfly in the past. Yes, I will admit it, I am a online-photo floozie.

My current choice is a new site called Artscow. Strange name, I know.
Part of it probably has to do with the fact that they are based in Hong Kong. Can you say lost in translation? I heard about the site about a month ago while perusing one of my favorite bargain sites. For all new members, they are offering 200 free 4x6s, 200 free 5x7s, and 1 free 8x8 photobook. I couldn't resist that offer, so I signed up right away. The site itself is a little cheesy, kind of like a lot of things that come out of Asia (teal + pink + bright yellow clothing with bunnies anyone?) but nonetheless, functional. With my Mom's birthday coming up, I decided to make her a photobook. They were also running another promotion at the same time where for every photobook you created and ordered, they would give you 3 more photobook credits. Since they are just rolling out their service, they want to test out their printing capacity, and so want as many members to order as possible. The book itself was free, but it cost $13 for shipping/handling, understandable since it is being sent from across the globe. (Ordering products from Hong Kong is not unusual for me. When I needed a new pair of glasses, I ordered them from here for less than a third of the price I would have paid at my local Lenscrafters. Thank goodness the world is flat!). Two weeks later, I received my book in the mail. What did I think? Ha ha, well, you will just have to read my review (with photos!). Berry, the crazy CEO of Artscow is running another promotion where you post your review of your book on their online forum, and he credits your account $10. Cha-ching! Berry, you are my kind of guy, you crazy yellow fellow! I think I am in love.

I have not ordered any prints from them yet, but am planning on it and will let you know how they turn out. In the meantime, have a cow, or at least Art's cow, and join me at Artscow. Full disclosure time: I don't work for Berry, but if you join through the above link, I will receive some photo credits. Honesty is the best policy. :)

04 July 2008

What should I blog about?

Happy 4th of July everyone! In honor of Independence Day, I need to become less independent and more dependent on you, my readers (ie Vanessa, Hannah and Tim). What should be the overall theme of my blog? Right now, it's just a bunch of random stuff, which is fine I suppose, but I would like to focus on a specific topic more. Perhaps I should leave this site to random stuff, and create a new blog.

The experts say the first step to a successful blog is to pick a topic to blog about that you are passionate about. I guess that's the hard part for me - I am a jack of all trades and master of none. There's not much I am passionate about, but there are a lot of things that interest me. In no particular order - my family, my friends, the Christian life, parenting, technology, gadgets, slick deals, lifehacking, photography, web design/development, the NBA, a good book, current events, graphic novels, humor, witty people, the Wii, sentimental stuff, creating stuff, making new friends, downtime, travel, exploring new places, BBQ...and the list goes on. Yeesh, I am definitely all over the place.

The second step to a successful blog, besides updating often, is to get to know your readers. I know my wife pretty well (love you!) , and I've know Tim and Hannah for awhile. For example, I know Hannah has no interest in all things NBA, despite the fact that her hometown Celtics are once again the reigning world champions. So if I were to focus my blogging on the latest NBA news, I would immediately lose one of my most devoted readers. Boo, wouldn't want that to happen. But, Hannah does love all things parenting, and she has some great posts about her experiences with parenting and with life in general. Another example - I enjoy Tim's posts on his adventures on the bike, but I know my dear wife has no interest at all in bicycling, sorry Tim. What is my dear wife into? She loves making her cards, which I'm pretty sure don't really garner much interest with Tim the biker. Is there some way, pardon the cliche, to have your cake and eat it too? Hmm, guess the lesson is that there is no subject/topic that appeals to everyone, so maybe I am asking the impossible in regards to focusing on a specific topic while at the same time keeping everyone interested.

Looking back at my past blogs, the post that generated the most response in regards to comments was my post on our water heater woes. Now I know no one in their right mind is really interested in water heaters, but seems like the story behind what happened is what appealed to everyone (all 4 of you). Maybe the first order of business is to finish the story with part 2. Problem is, it seems like it happened such a long time ago, and I already forget more than I remember. Looks like that is another lesson I need to learn - less inspiration, more perspiration in regards to timely blogs. So without further ado...

Things in my life that I need to blog about sooner rather than later

Okay folks, I've gone on already for way too long. Remember my question readers - should I focus on a particular topic, or remain random and rambling? Enjoy the 4th, and be careful with those fireworks! (I almost burned down my neighbor's house when I was in middle school due to a stray Jumping Jack, so I know what I'm talking about) Stay safe and hydrated everyone!

22 June 2008

Where's Matt? Still Dancing...

He's back, and this time he invited a few friends to come along for the dance! Just watched this tonight for the first time, and I thought it was funny as well as heartwarming, believe it or not. Good job Matt! Coincidentally, according to his website, Matt arrived in Austin today, June 22. Hmm, maybe he's getting started on the 2009 edition! If anyone knows where he's going to be filming, let me know. This might be my chance to showcase Benjamin's amazing dance skills.

18 May 2008

Water (Heater) Woes...part 1

Whew, this last week has been a crazy one. This past Wednesday night two supercell thunderstorms rolled into town for a little visit. Texas thunderstorms are pretty amazing, nothing like the wimpy showers in Seattle. Thankfully, we were able to avoid the wrath of the first one, but weren't so fortunate for the second. We lost power around 1 am, Thursday morning. By this time, we were all wide awake, due to the continuous thunder. Thankfully Benjamin was able to go back to sleep easily, and I was able to enjoy the lightning show, but Vanessa was a little worried about possible tornadoes. After about 20 minutes, the storm died down a bit and we were able to go back to sleep, although with no A/C, things were a bit stuffy.

We wake up around 8am, still without electricity. I decide to call Austin Energy to report the outage and to see if they have any idea when it might come back on. The AE rep tells me to try and reset the breaker, so I head downstairs to the kitchen, where the breakerbox is located. I come down the stairs and as I am about to enter the kitchen, I step into a pool of water. No bueno. I let out an audible "oh no!" that almost results in Vanessa having a panic attack. She comes downstairs and asks me what is wrong. Turns out our water heater must have gotten frightened by the intensity of the storm, for it had leaked all over our kitchen, dining room, and downstairs bedroom. The photo below is not my water heater. If only...

I immediately shut off the water supply, and come to realize besides having no power, we now also have no water. No bueno. But surely, the electricity would come back soon, right?

Thankfully, Benjamin had his Mothers Morning out on Thursday, so Vanessa took him out to breakfast and dropped him off, while I proceeded to try and figure out our next plan of action. I called my friend Manuel who lives close by and asked to borrow his wet vac to remove the standing water. After I pick it up, it dawns on me that without power, the wet-vac is about as useless as my neighbor's Chinese-crested hairless dog. I then decide I should call a plumber to come check out the water heater to see what needed to be done. He shows up around 10 o'clock, and tells me we need a new water heater, and to purchase it, install it, and bring it all up to code, would cost $986. It was now my turn to have a panic attack. I called my father-in-law who works selling plumbing supplies to contractors and asked him what he thought of the price. He told me he sells his water heaters for $170 at cost, and that if I ended up paying that much for the water heater to be installed, he would have to ask for a divorce from me being his son-in-law. Those might not have been his exact words, but I got the gist. I then turned to Mr. Plumber, thanked him for coming out, but told him that I still wanted to have a happy relationship with the in-laws, and that we wouldn't be able to use his services...

Not longer after he left, Vanessa returned with breakfast tacos, and we decide to head to Home Depot to check out the prices there. As we strolled down the aisle holding hands, I was thankful to the Lord that He provided me with such a wonderful partner and friend...sniff sniff. Okay, so we found a water heater priced at $280, and decided to have it installed through Home Depot as well. We are now proud owners of a 12 month no interest Home Depot credit card, yippee. The nice lady at the counter let us also charge our almost-dead cell phones while we waited for our new card to be charged. The cost of installation was going to be $225 if nothing else needed to be fixed, which most definitely was not going to be the case for our late 70's era townhouse. After getting our cell phones working again, we called a neighbor to see if the power was back on yet. No dice, so we headed off to a coffee shop to try and get me some internet access so I could do some work. Unfortunately, I couldn't concentrate too well, and Vanessa was hungry, so we headed to old faithful Chipotle, and had a quick lunch before heading off to pick up Benjamin from his school at 2pm. We were faced with a slight dilemma, since there was still no power and no water, we didn't want to take Benjamin back home. Then I remembered one of Vanessa's good friend's lived close-by and needed her router fixed. Vanessa called her, and she told us to come on over. Melanie graciously allowed us to hang out there while we waited to hear from the Home Depot plumber. Melanie makes some pretty cool stamps, and turns out her husband Paul is pretty skilled as well - Benjamin had a blast playing with Jonathan and William on the cool jungle gym that Paul built a few years back -

Where was I when those oh so useful handyman skills were being passed out? Oh yeah, that's right, glued to the tv, playing Nintendo...sigh. But before I get sidetracked even more, back to the story...

I get a phone call that the installation crew is on their way to our house, so I jump in the car and head over to meet them, leaving Vanessa and Benjamin with Melanie and the boys. On the way home, I call Austin Energy to get an update. The nice lady I talk to tells me that we won't be getting our electricity back Thursday, worst case scenario not until Saturday. When I pull into the house, I realize that she was right. Still no juice. The installation crew gets there not too long afterwards, two young guys in their twenties, who seem like they belong in one of those Partnerships for a Drug Free America commercials. They proceed to tell me that it would be best if the electricity was working so they would be able to test out the water heater after they installed it. I couldn't argue with that, and told them I would reschedule. As they were pulling out, I heard one of them shout out, "We're done early! Yeah, baby!" I was glad at least someone was getting some satisfaction out of this entire debaucle. . I headed back to Paul and Melanie's to pick up my family. Paul had gotten home by this time and we started talking. I told him what happened and he told me there's no way I should have to pay that much for installation. He then offers to come over on Saturday to help me install the water heater. I am touched by his offer and quickly accept before he can come to his senses. By this time, Vanessa and I have decided it would be best if she and Benjamin headed to her parents for the next couple of days while I try to get the house back to normal. We thanked Paul and Melanie for being gracious hosts and headed home, where Vanessa quickly packed up, fed Benjamin dinner, and hit the road. I then decided it was time for some decompression and went to go play basketball with some friends. Then we all went to Pluckers and watched the Spurs stomp the Hornets in game 6, and suddenly, everything was better. I ended up staying the night at some friends (thanks Allen & Kristen!) since our house was still without electricity at 11 pm, and for all I knew, it wouldn't be back until Saturday. When I woke up Friday morning, I called Manuel and discovered that the power had come back on at 1am. Can you believe it, I survived a whole 24 hours without water and electricity! Yeah, boy! I am a survivor! Is that all you got? Come on, how about a real challenge? Bring on the living dead! (of course, I am being facetious. I am no MacGyver, I have never watched Man vs Wild, and if I were in an airplane crash in the Andes, there's no doubt in my mind that I would be the first survivor to be eaten by my fellow passengers.)

Part 2 coming soon, in which Sam watches in awe as Paul installs a water heater. Seriously, there is no way I would have known how to do that by myself. Guess that's what I get for spending my formative years with a fake plumber.

08 May 2008

Rant of the Day - Doris Burke

I am watching the Spurs try to come back from being down 2-0 to the upstart New Orleans Hornets, and find it hard to believe the current ESPN NBA broadcasting crew...Who in the world is Doris Burke, and what in the name of all things pro basketball is she doing as the color analyst? Before you accuse me of being a pig, hear me out. The job of the color analyst is to add insight and analysis into the game, based on their knowledge and experience of the game. Who were ESPN's other NBA color analysts this year? Jeff Van Gundy (former NBA coach), Hubie Brown (former NBA coach), Jon Barry (former NBA player), Rick Carlisle (former NBA coach), and Mark Jackson (former NBA coach/player). Nothing against Ms. Burke, she has a good broadcasting voice, but come on, this is the NBA playoffs! Can we please save Ms. Burke for the WNBA broadcasts? How about bringing in an analyst who has some firsthand experience with the NBA game? I find it hard to believe that none of those other analysts were available. ESPN, I hope you're listening. Ms. Burke, if you are listening, please don't take this personally. It's not your fault you never got to play in the NBA. That's why there's the WNBA. Remember? You got next.

04 May 2008

More than Meets the Eye!

In my search for cool threads for my 2-year old, I stumbled across the art of Glenn Jones, a graphic designer and illustrator from Auckland, New Zealand. You can check out more of his work here. He's got some great designs, including the one above, which is my favorite. What an iconic image - Thomas the Train as a Transformer. Now, the only question is how to justify getting one for myself as well...hah hah.

26 April 2008

Spring time is the best time!

As probably with most people, spring is my favorite time of the year. Our little family just came back from walking around "the Lake formerly known as Town" and it was quite pleasant. Vanessa and I asked ourselves afterwards why we don't do that more often. Then we remembered - it's not summer yet! This is why I love springtime in Texas. The heat of the summer has not enveloped us yet, the wildflowers are blooming, the trees are lush and green, and the mosquitoes haven't started attacking in full force. Of course, all bets are off once the month of May rolls around.

One of the biggest reasons I love the springtime is that I get to watch my favorite team, the San Antonio Spurs, take to the court for the NBA playoffs! I love this game! Well, at least I love the playoffs. The regular season, with an 82 game schedule that beings in October and ends in March, is just too long for me to spend much time getting into, especially since the playoffs don't conclude until early June. As a result, I find no need to watch the NBA during the regular season. I suppose that is one of the indicators that my team has been really good for the past few years. Actually, extremely good, winners of the championship for 4 of the past 8 years ('99, '03, '05, '07). The only thing they have failed to do is win it in back to back years, which is why some people say they still do not deserve the dynasty designation yet. Most of those people being bitter Laker fans (Cephas, Nikao, Sharon, Peter), Mavs fans (Jacob, Albert,) or Rocket fans (Allen, Tino, Isaac) hah hah.

While everyone in America is hoping for the "dream finals matchup" between the resurgent Lakers and Celtics this year, I am faithfully pulling for my Spurs to validate their dynasty with another championship title and prove the naysayers wrong. A first round sweep of the Phoenix Suns tomorrow afternoon would remind the rest of the league they better not count out the defending world champions.

I know I have probably already bored a lot of you already with all this basketball talk (if you are still reading, sorry Hannah and Vanessa) but I actually wasn't planning on blogging about my Spurs obsession. I really wanted to blog about the latest issue of Time magazine. We received it today, dated April 25th. What's suprising is not who is on the cover, Obama and Hilary, but the design and inspiration for the cover -

The NBA has been running a series of very cool commercials during the playoffs, where they have two current superstars speaking to the camera in a split screen format, the same phrase. Very compelling, you can check them out here . Anyways, I was shocked that such a respected magazine would use the exact same idea for their current issue. Yes, I understand that they are trying to make a correlation between the NBA playoffs and the Democratic candidate "playoff". But that means you'd have to be watching the NBA playoffs to truly understand the cover. Plus, if I was in the Hilary camp, I would be less than happy with such an unflattering photo of my candidate. Obama's photo looked like it was taken by a professional photographer, whereas Hilary's looks like it was a random photo pulled off someone's MySpace page. How come her head also looks so much bigger than Obama's? And who's idea was it to make one half black and white and the other sepia-toned? Bad photo illustration and design all around.

Time Magazine, "Where copyright infringement happens"