Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Computer Failure!

I'm in the middle of trying to get my old and crappy tower to work with this modern internetty thing you kids are so fond of these days...

Thanks to my tech Buz, at least we're online again in time for the big party tonight so we can settle arguments like men with dueling Googles.

This 'pooter doesn't even have PhotoShop, so many of my presents are going to be even later than I had planned.
Massive Christmas Fail on my part.

Thanks for visiting Views Of Texas.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas, Y'all

I went in a totally different direction for our card photo this year:
We LOVE our "Sneaky Santa" ornament.

Hope all of my readers have a delightful holiday.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tired Of Waiting

In our search for this year's Christmas card photo, on Thursday we listened to the people who said that the 'Museum Reach' part of the Riverwalk now has pretty lights.
Didn't take a single picture, because it was actually the exact same lame decorations as last year, just seen by people who didn't even know about Museum Reach a year ago, I guess.

On Sunday evening we made one last attempt, heading down to St. Paul Square and Sunset Station. Sylvia had seen the lights all over the locomotive while I was failing to find parking on Thursday--it was too crowded and I gave up.
Our return visit was at the perfect time of night, giving me time to scout around before the sun went down all the way so as to be in-position with a few minutes to spare.

Southern Pacific (Texas & New Orleans) 2-8-2 #794 was fully decorated, and it's headlamp was lit:
This photo was taken about five minutes before the "perfect" time--stars are starting to be visible but the sky is still too-bright of a blue.
When are they going to light this thing up???

As usual, the tree inside the station is beautiful, with the star in the stained-glass acting as a tree-topper.

Back to the loco: Sylvia asked the security guards about the lights, and they said that different organizations are responsible for the lights on the grounds and those on the train, and were under orders to leave it alone.
They chuckled when she told them she was about to start flipping breakers if it doesn't get lit in the next few minutes.
Well, the Friends Of The SP 794 were either late or not coming down on Sunday at all, and I had already lost the sky light levels I wanted.

So we took matters into our own hands.
First, Sylvia threw a big master breaker, but nothing happened.
I was very proud of her balls.

After a while I got fed up (and cold) so I opened a steel box and looked inside with my flashlight.
A bunch of the breakers inside were labeled and I started flipping the likely suspects.
Lights started coming on!

The only breaker I didn't flip was labeled "Computer", and I was afraid of it.
Didn't want to accidentally enable the engine's smoke system, but in retrospect it might have been the one that powered all the rest of the lights--as you can see, I only got about half of the loco lit.

I was trying to keep track and return things to the way I found them, but within seconds the tourists started crowding around and "Ooh-Ahh-ing" so I decided to just leave the breaker box hanging open and get away while the getting was good.

Update: We finally put up the #1 tree tonight, and also decided to go in a different direction for the card photo.
I shot it in 5 minutes in the comfort of home, featuring our favorite ornament on the #2 silver tree that's in our front window.
Now we're both very happy with the results.

To be honest, there's only so many iconic SA locations that are decorated, and I've already used the best ones.
The new plan is to look for smaller "detail" scenes wherever and whenever they can be found, with me working hard to nail all the technical details.
My 50mm F1.8 lens is perfect for this approach, and really shined tonight.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Riverwalk Views

I'm back, and as promised here are some scenes I shot tonight while scouting around downtown for this year's Christmas card photo.
To tell the truth, it took me a long time to get back in the groove after so long away from night photography.
Camera settings and tripod handling is second nature, but actually seeing and feeling the scene in front of me, and finding my vision of it, didn't come easily.

Tower Life Building as seen from La Villita.

Back wall of The Little Church At La Villita.

Shot a very similar view from this spot 2 years ago, and our card last year was shot from street level behind me.

The old courthouse on the left, I don't know what's on the right.

Finally, something I like.
Sylvia and I both went "Oooh!" when it popped up on the computer screen.
Not really sure why it works for me yet, but I trust my gut.
Still, it won't be on our Christmas cards this year--I can do better.
I have to do better, because in years past the bar has been raised pretty darn high.

What was funny tonight was how many times people would watch me working a scene with my DSLR and tripod, then slide into my exact spot with their pocket cams as soon as we left.
Hopefully this doesn't come off as arrogant, but I could tell that they weren't going to get usable results just by glancing at their cameras and techniques.
Every copycat brought home pics that are dark and blurry because in all cases my shutter was open for 2 to 10 seconds or more and there's no way to get anything decent hand-held even if they crank up the iso speed. Not at night.
I was a little flattered, but Sylvia took it personally and seemed highly offended.
She scoffed twice, and one time said "Good luck!", which was also flattering.

The freak show of tourists and locals was interesting, too.
Inappropriate/impractical outfits and bad hygiene kept us amused.
We were cracking each other up the whole time with a running commentary that would have gotten us shanked if we didn't speak in code.

I had a wonderful time!
The best part is that I get to keep doing it until the card photo is found.

What's also nice is that I have two from last year and '08 that I'm fine with using, so there's no pressure.

BLISS Video from Friday night is streaming at:

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Day 2010

The band had to play last night, because just like the day after Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year, the day before is the biggest drinking night of the year.
I got to play bass at the end of the night, and it was a lot of fun:
To be honest, I really miss playing regularly and am trying to get this part of my life fixed. It's terribly frustrating and depressing.

Here's a view of the sky just before the cold front blew in:
From the '80s to the 40's in a couple hours--on a drive across town I started with the AC in my truck and ended up switching to the heater.

In a newish neighborhood ("The Parc"--how pretentious!) on FM1516 near Converse my brother detoured me to this scupture of a deer made from scrap metal:
It's huge--at least 40 feet high. You can get a sense of the size by the bicycle sticking out of the buck's chest.
It was already dark and I didn't have a tripod, so I did the best I could for a photo. Definitely going back for daytime color and infrared pics--especially since the high thin cirrus clouds I love for IR photography are finally back in season.

Sadly, some rotten scumbags stole tools and clothes and jewelry out of a truck parked at the family gathering today. Instead of shopping for Christmas on Black Friday, they'll be buying necessities just to get through their visit, which is just wrong.
At least nobody got hurt, although I would give thanks if the thieves had an "accident" and lost their teeth and maybe some fingers...

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! 

Sorry I've been too busy to take nice pictures lately, but with Christmas coming soon you just know I'll be shooting some cool stuff for our card so be on the lookout for the outtakes. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Candy Is Dandy

Snakes won't eat when their skin is too tight, so after shedding last week I knew Candy would be hungry.
First, she has to earn her meal by posing for the "Chair Project".

This is (was) the 2nd mouse:

Sylvia latest medal, from today's Rock & Roll Marathon:
I would have gone, but didn't wake up until 1:23pm. Oops.
(I haven't slept well all week)
I'm very proud of her--she came home to a bouquet of flowers sold to me by a couple of surly emo "girls" who'll never get another dime from me.
Hey, try not to let your hatred of men interfere with commerce?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day 2010

Thank You, Veterans

This image and many more like it can be found at the Library of Congress's Flickr page.
As Americans, this photo collection is ours, both from a copyright standpoint and for the simple fact that the pictures are us.
The Flickr page is organized in "Sets" by subject, along the right side of page 1.

I highly recommend that you take a look around--there's all kinds of great stuff.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Thank You, Voters!

Sure, we still have a dysfunctional system filled with career politicians.
But a message has been sent in no uncertain terms.
Now, the people who make our economy function have some hope, whereas two years ago the only ones who felt good were the deadbeats and those who pander to them in exchange for votes.
I feel better today than I have in a long time.

(Wonder how long before a commenter twists this into a race issue somehow--the lack of logical thinking on the left can be shocking sometimes. All I want is for my country to prosper again and it clearly wasn't going to happen the way we were going, so save your breath).

Halloween went well.
We had 59 kids, which is low, but that means I have a good supply of candy for myself.

My newest trick was a success.
I had parked my truck so that the kids would have to walk behind it to get to our door.
Our ghoulish dummy (torso + head) was in the bed and had a light on it, which slowed them down a bit.

Then I pressed a button on my remote system which activated taillights and a backup alarm like those found on commercial vehicles:

There were many who jumped back, some screamed, and the fathers usually nodded appreciatively.
My idea was that while being afraid of werewolves and spiders is fine, there are things in the real world that can be quite deadly if you aren't careful.
Getting killed by a dumptruck in reverse is far more likely to happen than being attacked by a vampire.

5 people got packets of Taco Bell Sauce instead of candy this year.
Pushing 30 and no costume?
Oh hell no, candy is out of the question!

Texting or talking on a cellphone while holding out your bag?
Taco Bell Sauce for you!

The saying is "Trick OR Treat", and it's our choice.
Follow the long-established rules and you get the good candy.

We also gave some to the tiny tots who are so young that their parents will surely check every piece, just to mystify mom and dad.
(Don't worry--they got candy, too).

My new tiki torch was an improvement because it holds more oil and didn't need a refill at 8:00.
Apparently, Garden Ridge is the only place that sells them year-round. WalMart's had flickering LEDs instead of fire, which is totally unacceptable.

I added some spare stage lights this year to make everything more visible--it was tricky getting them dim enough to keep from overpowering the scenes and strobes.
Next year will see more work along this line as well as more sounds and another smoke machine.
The new scary-noises CD was pretty good--well worth a buck50.
Which brings me to the main thing--while we'll never come close to the commercial haunted houses, it's always the scariest home in the 'hood.

Have to keep my spending at around $20 for show improvements since we spend so much on the damned candy. SPURS tickets and parking and drinks are a better entertainment value, but Halloween only comes once a year.
So, I try to be creative on the cheap and slowly build and refine every year.

The best comment was from a little boy who said Boy, this house is some house!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Stuff and Junk

BLISS has a new sponsor, Venom Energy Drink.
25 calories a serving, and lots of good flavors.
The grape mixes well with vodka.

Our T-shirts are cool but whoever printed the banners must have quit work at 4:20, because the band's logo should be the main focus instead of getting tacked-on in the bottom corner.
Hopefully, this relationship will feature a little more attention-to-detail in the future.

My roadies tonight were Halloweiners.

This is a perfect example of how NOT to do it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Beautiful Mess

Our New Band debuted last Sunday at PediCab on Cevallos (next to LaTuna near Blue Star)
When BLISS is over early next year, A Beautiful Mess will be ready to keep me busy--on Sunday we had an opening act and only played 1 set.

Steve and I have worked together with The Hollering, Simmons Allison Group, The BeWires, The Hitmen, BLISS, Loud Nine, and a few more acts over the past 20-odd years.
We both consider ourselves lucky to have found a partner in music that is at the top of their respective job in South Texas, and we're also great friends.
Basically, he joins bands and when their soundman proves to be a tool I get the call and stay until the band breaks up years later.

John is from Kerrville, and is perfect for the new band's country/rock sound and look.

Valentino knows a billion songs and is quite a character.
Put a nice shirt on this guy and we have a star.

The opening act was an all-woman band whose name escapes me, but they were alright. The crowd at PediCab loved them.
Our set ignited more dancing, since it was now dark and our music was less serious and the beat was far more infectious.

Rikk is in charge, and it's been a real pleasure to work with him over the last few years. We have that mind-reading thing going, so the work gets done with minimal aggravation and always to our shared professional standards.

I worked with Stephanie for over a year and it was great to hear her sing again.
It's about time she found a band that's going to be able to bring her talents to a wider audience.

I suggested "Gravel Avenue" as a name for the new band, but it didn't make the final cut.
I'm going on record right now as claiming that name for future projects.

Halloween preparations are proceeding nicely.
I have work to do tonight on one of the scenes, and have started buying candy.
So far I have Snickers, Starburst, and Skittles, but the bowl must have a hole in the bottom because it doesn't look as full as it did a few days ago.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

No More Chalk After This

I used to own a mini-Marshall amp. My Peavey practice amp sounded much better, so I sold it.

Yes please cheese.

These bike adverts were everywhere. Notice the motorcycle batteries used to power the internal lights.

I waited for a long time to get anything decent from this artist, but we both failed.
She was using a Roomba to drag her chalks around but instead of embracing the random nature of this device, was hovering over it with the remote trying to control it.
Etch-A-Sketch at best.
Roombas aren't heavy enough to provide the required downward pressure, so the chalk lines were wimpier than a 2-year-old's worst efforts.
We were on a very tight schedule (how did I get so many pix in under an hour?) and I had to wait while she changed batteries then either stand in my way or drive the thing into the shadows.
To add insult to WTF?, her "canvas" was the very best location that usually hosts the top showcase artists.
I was expecting a masterpiece on this corner, and saw nothing.

We were asked to be on the volunteer staff this year but couldn't do it.
Next year, I really hope we can.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chalk 2 +

Some more photos from Chalk It Up! 2010:

A guy in my camera club met this guy in a bar that night and drank beer with him for hours.

The stolen chair project continues:
That's the largest wooden roller coaster in Texas back there, so obviously I was parked behing Neiman Marcus.

When did my visitor counter pass 50,000?
Last time I looked it was at half that, and I'm pretty sure that it only passed 20K less than two years ago.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Chalk It Up! (6 years in a row)

I started this blog in early 2005, and that October we first heard about Chalk It Up! and decided to check it out.
Been back every year since, and there are more photos of it than any other annual event including the rodeo.
Last year it took me four posts to show them all, but I'll try to do it in 3 for 2010.

The late great Linda Pace, of Pace Picante Sauce fame, started this whole thing among many other art projects and endowments.

Chalk Tacos

I see funnel cake

More to come...

At tonight's show, during the first break I spotted a suspicious drunk sitting on our stage...
He kept losing track of our tip jar, then finding it again and trying to move it behind him without anyone noticing.
I noticed.
After telling the guitarist to "watch this!" I went back to the stage and somehow a wad of bills had moved from the jar to the dude's shirt pocket!
(Hanging out in a wad, I might add).
I snatched back our money and tore him a new asshole, then got the rent-a-cops involved, and they also had a ball with this idiot. Threatening him with jail if he didn't confess, calling him an ungrateful bitch for stealing from the band, etc.
Meanwhile, his friend tried to explain to me how "he has a good job and doesn't need to steal", which didn't hold much weight against me actually seeing him do it.
On my recommendation he got sent home with a stern warning.
If I see him again, no mercy.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Introspection (Looking Inside)

I've had this photo rattling around in my head for well over a year and tonight I finally decided to just give it a try, fully expecting to learn something but then have to do the whole thing over.
But it turned out just like I imagined, and was far easier to make than expected.
10-15 minutes was all it took, with a handful of lighting tests, three exposures to get one of me I could live with, then 4 or five of the skull to get it placed exactly where it belongs so I didn't have to screw around in PhotoShop for an hour.

I wish I had so many teeth!

It's been a LONG time since I posted anything on Flickr or changed my FaceBook profile picture, so that's why I got off my ass and finally just did it.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Got A SPURS Fix Today

For the second time in recent memory, server error caused me to get a LOT more bacon with my breakfast than I ordered. Oh darn.

Fortified by my extra pig meat, I braved the crowds on too-little sleep to see the SPURS practice at the ATT Center.
Free parking, free admission, this little gift to the fans is a yearly ritual for us.
$1 hotdogs and sodas.
With training camp only just begun it's a very early look at all the new faces, many of whom will likely be gone before the season starts.

And it's nice to see the vets out having fun.

I was bummed when Tiago Splitter hurt an obsolete tendon and had to sit out. The best player in the Spanish league last season, we've been waiting for him for years.

I didn't know what the Coyote was doing until reviewing pix in the car.!

Did I mention that the place was infested with little kids?
Most were of an age where they won't rate a paid ticket during the regular season, so it was nice that families can give 'em a taste of the excitement.

More than once I just closed my eyes and reveled in the sounds and smells of a game.
Almost brought a tear to my eye--I love my team and city so much.

If anyone cares, the Blacks beat the Silvers with George Hill and DeJuan Blair putting up the most points out of all the SPURS.
James Gist, Alonzo Gee, and Garrett Temple showed a lot of hustle.
McDyess and Jefferson looked more comfortable than last year.
Coach Popovich was funny as usual, and it was great to see the return of Jacque Vaughn on the coaching staff. He's a school for our young guards, and will be a big help (for less money than Avery Johnson).

Afterwards, we went to DQ for mini-Blizzards and onion rings.