Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

Thank You For Your Service And Sacrifice
Memorial Day is a big one for me.
I don't shed tears very often, but every year at this time...

We've had this flag for a long time (Thanks Ray and Selma!) and flew it with pride quite often until the bracket that attaches to our house broke a couple years ago.
I found a steel replacement but hadn't bought it yet, then Memorial Day came rushing out of the future and I was suddenly in a bind.
So I did what I always do when something needs fixing in a hurry (or on the cheap) and started digging through our closets and garage.

Here we old tripod for band lights!
Added a cinder block to one leg, and it withstood 30mph gusts with ease.
And while the flag still means the same when it's on a short pole sticking out of the wall at a 45 degree angle, for some reason it really does look better on a vertical pole 10-12 feet up.
When the wind blew it for the first time, I got all choked up.
Then I ran for a stage light so I could leave it up all night.

I need to find an even taller steel pole at a good price, and stock up on concrete mix--gonna do it right as soon as I can.

This morning I went through my CDs looking for this photo taken by my late cousin James's daughter Melody:
Ken and me at Arlington National Cemetery, on the day in late 2004 when my father and his crew finally made it back to where they belonged.
38 long and painful years.

This photo captures the exact moment when I was finally free to start the second chapter of my life.
I remember clearly that the pain and rage which had always filled me was suddenly starting to fade, and we both broke into big smiles.

My prayer on every Memorial Day since has been that all the other families who's loved ones never came home will someday get the same relief.
Death in war is bad enough, but not knowing what happened or where they are is unbearable, because you can't move past it.
Thankfully, as administrations come and go and the years burn away, the people who find our missing loved ones are always out in the field searching.
They are the best detectives and archaeologists we have, in my opinion.
And their stated mission is to find them all.
May God Bless Them.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Lot On My Plate

This week I'm very busy, what with several just-completed band trailer repairs, a 3-day weekend of shows coming up, and figuring out how to work this thing:
This is my first "smart" phone, the Samsung Fascinate.
What strikes you right off is the sheer size of it.
(Remember when phones used to get smaller every year?)
It's posed on a $20 bill to illustrate it's dimensions, including just how wafer-thin it is.

The "Super AMOLED" screen is 4 full inches tall (or wide) depending on how you hold it--works either way and auto-rotates the image. 800x480 pixels. From my limited testing so far I'll give it a rating of Gorgeous/Accurate/Holy Crap!
Makes the backlit LCD on my DSLR look small and weak, and it was nearly state of the art a few years ago.
I haven't watched any movies on it yet, but a couple of games looked superb, as do my own photos--which incidentally just showed up on their own after I signed into my Google account.
It looks like every pic I've ever uploaded to all of my blogs past and present are there.

I only thought I might want a smartphone for the bigger and better screens so I could carry around a compact digital portfolio of my work, but I have to admit that the mobile internet and apps and games are already catching my fancy.
Sylvia said "Since we have to pay for the data plan every month anyway, use the shit out of it!"
No problem, baby.

I also like that it has a standard 3.5mm jack, so when I want to use it as an mp3 player or watch videos, any earbuds or headphones will work in stereo. Our last phones were mono.
And it came with a 16gb microSDHC card already installed.
It's like Samsung was reading my mind!
Every feature that was important to me is here, but I have to admit that Sylvia picked the Fascinate and I just got really lucky.
A quick Google of the specs and I was totally on board.

We had always assumed that since we're Verizon customers, going to their stores and/or website would be the place to get the "best buy".
The Big V still has the Fascinate at $200 each, plus you have to deal with a bunch of double-talk and poorly answered questions when it comes to your bill.
We expected an even worse experience at BB, but within 15 minutes the automatic doors parted and we felt like Bonnie and Clyde.
(Speaking of BestBuy...
Unlike a lot of people, I don't hate them.
It helps that I've never needed knowledgeable salespeople, although I fondly remember when you could go into any Sears and find someone in every department who had a firm grip on the facts. The internet, and before that catalogs and writing letters to the right people, worked pretty well.
When they have the lowest price on something I've already decided to buy, that's where I go).

Which would YOU choose--$400 or Free?
I guess Verizon will still make an obscene amount of money from our new data plans over the contract period, but all those pictures of Ben will cover more than 25% of it.
Don't even know what to make of the published MSRP of $600 each. As a portable media player, internet device, gaming unit, photo portolio, phone, vid/still cam, etc, they might be worth it.
As long as we don't go crazy and start spending money on endless downloads of content and apps that add to our monthly bill, it's a sweet deal.
Just being able to check weather radar before loading-out of a club has me excited, in the unlikely event that it ever rains here again.

My job right now is to figure out how to convert and transfer the music, movies, and photos we already own to the new devices.
Now that Sylvia has Angry Birds on hers, I probably have plenty of time.

PS: So far, the 5 megapickles camera looks pretty good. It actually focuses on specific things!
Hope I don't get sucked into the current iPhone wormhole of leaving my "real" camera at home and using apps to try and make art out of snapshots, but we'll have to wait and see on that.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Tires And Tribulations

This weekend our new country band A Beautiful Mess has crossed the line from a good band to a great one.
Everyone is comfortable and confident now, so instead of worrying about what lyric or chord or sound cue is next, we're all in the zone and can push the music to new heights.

One big recent improvement is this Fender Telecaster clone that John built for himself--it's sound is perfect for the band and he plays the shit out of it:

We played in Kerrville tonight. The club has a patio overlooking the Guadalupe River. It was hot and steamy.

Driving home we saw lots of deer, but luckily they were on the sides of IH10 instead of bouncing off our truck.
The good luck held right to my door--as I got out, I clearly heard air hissing out of one of the trailer's tires. By the time I had unloaded my personal gear into the garage, it was completely flat.
Must have gotten punctured in the very last minute of a 125 mile round trip!
Compared to our last flat this was a dream scenario, as I was able to fire up my air compressor and refill the tire, then back the trailer into our driveway and park it.
Rikk got to go home with minimal delay, and I can deal with the tire whenever the hell I feel like it. And unlike last time, here at the house I have a nice big hydraulic jack and someone to help me.

I'm going to see what the Martinez Bros. can hook me up with for around $40, since this tire was already overdue for replacement.

I guess everyone got it wrong.
Tonight was The Rupture.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Not Much Happening...

It finally rained this week!
Being woken up by thunder, and lying in bed listening to the rain--sweeeet!

But then I found that the storm had done some damage--a big section of tree was cracked, but it landed on a lower part so taking it down was complicated and dangerous. I had to jump off the ladder with a saw in my hand, then later as it finally fell the rest of the way I almost got my arm torn off by the rope I was using to pull it free.
No pictures.

I DID take a picture of the tiedown bungee attachment thingies that I added to the front of my truck's bed.
It had a front pair already, but they are recessed in the floor and hidden under my bed liner. To install these I made some steel plates that are on the other side of the body's sheet metal, to distribute the stress better than any washers could.
Lots of drillpress and grinder action.
Best part was--these were salvaged from my old Mazda pickup right before I got rid of it. I was walking past it one day and saw them, and thought "I wish my new Dodge had those". It only took around 45 seconds before I realized that all it took was a wrench to get the process started.
Now the band's lights don't tip over when I haul-ass around corners.

Not much else to tell, so here's a picture of my basses:
I never get tired of looking at them.
Just wish I had more opportunities to play them.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Blast From The Past

Here I am in January 1988 driving my late great Olds Cutlass Supreme:
My brother and I were headed to the Ft. Davis area of West Texas to fly BIG model rockets, having been certified competent and safe by the governing body the previous year in Colorado.

This was the biggest one I flew, at around 5 feet tall and 4" in diameter.
I used an H90 for the main motor, as seen in the photo.
A few seconds later, 4 Estes D12 motors on fuses "air-started" to give it an extra push, plus a lot of white smoke.
(For those of you who flew Estes motors as a kid, 2 x D = E, so an H = 16 D motors, plus the extra 4!)

Post-flight handful of stinky motors.

For rocket meets like this, we had to apply months in advance to the FAA for a waiver that allowed us to penetrate "their" airspace. In return, the air traffic controllers were supposed to keep all aircraft away from the area for the duration of the scheduled launch window.

While big for me at the time, my rocket wasn't anywhere near the size and power of some of the others--I didn't even hit a mile in altitude but other guys probably went over two. And believe me, if something that big and fast hit any kind of aircraft, or God Forbid got sucked into an engine...

Which makes it all the more surprising that on the 2nd afternoon, a couple of Apache helicopters came around and invaded "our" airspace!
After orbiting the valley we were flying in, they made a few low passes right over the launch area.
Guess what color they were painted?
Any markings to be seen?

Maybe all those conspiracy theorists you used to laugh at weren't so crazy after all?
All I know is what I saw with my own eyes.

Tonight I also scanned a photo of my father from 1957:
Climbing into a jet fighter was probably a high point of his time in the service, since he ended up flying (and instructing) in multi-piston-engine stuff not long afterwards.

We were both 26 years old at the time of these pictures.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Snake In The Grass

And not just any grass--this is Raliegh St. Augustine, the finest grass known to man.

This is the second checkered garter snake I have caught this Spring. Compared their markings, and it's clearly a different individual of the same size, so they are possible litter-mates.

Getting back to the grass...dude...I finally understand why Hank Hill got all emotional over his Raliegh St. Augustine lawn.
I have around 25 square feet ($1.59/12x18" sod) next to the front porch and it blows our regular St. Augustine all to hell.
THICK carpets of grass with wider blades that lean towards the blue end of the green spectrum rather than the yellow--just beautiful stuff!
Even the saddest 2 pieces of sod that I bought a week later, from the bottom of the pallet at Home Depot, have come back to life nicely and are already impressive.

If we ever win the Lottery, you can bet your ass a crew would be here within days to re-do the whole lawn with Raliegh.
Grass so good, it's endorsed by Luann Platter®