Sunday, March 31, 2013

Lake Tahoe--Finally

The weather and schedule came together today, so we took a cruise across Lake Tahoe on the M.S.Dixie II.
It's a "paddlewheel" made to look old-timey, but no smoke comes out of the stacks and there are some bonus screws underwater to augment the hydraulicly-driven stern wheel.

'Twas a fine time to be on the lake, and per our experience the weather changed constantly during the 2-hour tour.

A Sylvia pic of the two monkeys who lucked-out and got to fly to Tahoe.

Highway tunnels--supposedly the longest and shortest tunnels in Nevada.

I was hoping to see some of these clouds.
Seems like they are common in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

It was nice to be able to step back and shoot the snowy mountains from a distance.
Got a ton of these Views of Tahoe.

The bears and other critters are still hibernating, so the girls were excited to see a real wild bald eagle.
Lots of yelling and a quick lens change later...

These are the wild women with whom I've just spent a crazy week in Lake Tahoe:

All skiers and snowmobilers now.
Thanks for the great times, ladies.
I'll try to fill-in the blanks later.

Friday, March 29, 2013


The girls all decided to ski today, and I decided I needed some alone time to poke around.
As usual, I picked a direction and followed my inner voice that says "Turn here".

Before too long I found myself pulling into a marina looking for a place to turn around, and that place was the parking lot for a nature preserve!

On the walk out I shot infrared with the F828:

It was a wetlands reclamation project, and I didn't recognize most of the species of plants, so that was really cool.
On the way back to our rental car (a Chevy Tahoe, of course) I switched to shooting color with the Alpha 200:

There are two guys fishing this pond that I tried to hide with bushes, but you can Waldo one of them. They were drunk at 11am and singing silly songs until one noticed me and told his buddy "That guy's taking pictures of us" like he was pissed. I just kept walking, glad that they were now quiet.

It got interesting when it started looking like the ground was smoking. Man, the weather here changes constantly and quickly even on the ground, let alone up on the mountains. Love it.
These pics were all from 11am to noon, and you couldn't see the lake from 100 yds--I was bundled up. At 9am the girls rode the gondola above the clouds and it was clear and hot.

Here's some other stuff from later in the day.

Tomorrow we finally get to sleep late!
Hopefully taking a boat tour of the lake for more photo ops.
If not I'll find something else worth shooting on our last day in Tahoe.

PS: These new slot machines don't make any sense at all.
I would have tried gambling with a cup full of quarters, a big handle you pull, and spinning wheels, but these things are dumb.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

In Thin Air

Up bright and early again, and we all went up Heavenly.

The gondola ride is nuts. I'm not fond of heights, but being enclosed isn't too bad.
Screw that chairlift thing, though.

Most of the way up there's an observation deck so we got out to sightsee.
It was WAY colder than down below, and snowing a little.

Gotta represent.

Up at the lodge level it was snowing harder for a little while.

Time to show off our hats:

Sylvia found a SPURS hat by Adidas at Academy a few weeks ago.

I wanted something a little wilder, or a different SPURS hat, and that took longer to find.
Then, at a different Academy we found mine:

A mohawk AND Spurs logo?
And half-price?
More than I could have hoped for...gonna wear it to a game someday.

We had planned to just sled on the innertubes, but it had gotten icy and windy so they shut that down for safety reasons. Bummer.
Then we chatted with the staff and got a full refund on the gondola rides, so we're going up again tomorrow and now all the girls have decided to ski.
If anything I'll sled, or just take pics and hang out at the lodge.
We spent a couple hours there today and it was nice if you like $10 pints of beer.
(I had a sandwich in my pocket + a flask of bourbon, so there)

The previous gondola photo is pretty tame.
A lot of the ride was more like this:

Tonight we went to dinner in the nicest restaurant at Harrah's.
Also pricey but good.
Then the girls played in the casino.
I was the big winner--put $3 in a machine and won a bottle of Aquafina.
Quit while I was ahead, proving that beginner's luck is real.

Day 2: Fun In The Sun

Today started early, but luckily we're in the Pacific Time Zone so it wasn't as bad as it sounded at first.

The five of us went to Lake Tahoe Adventures to get outfitted with helmets and goggles and sign lots of release forms, then a bunch of other folks joined us on a shuttle bus for a long trip into the mountains.
Ending up in Hope Valley, we got introduced to our machines by our most excellent guide Danny and took off up into the snowy wilderness:

At the first stop, Danny took this pic with my phone--I didn't want to deal with bringing the big cameras and in full sun my Samsung does okay.

Over two hours on roads and trails, sometimes hauling serious quantities of ass, this was quite an adventure. Lots of historical places--Sylvia made a snow angel on the site where Kit Carson's party got stranded for a month.
We lucked into the best group and guide. The ones who left right after us got bogged down when a whole family just couldn't get the hang of operating snowmobiles--they eventually quit and the rest of that group carried on behind schedule only to have another family roll one machine and put some damage on another at the same spot. Weak!

While the ladies napped afterwards I took my infrared camera across the street to the stream and got a bunch of shots like this:

After naps we went down to Tahoe and split up--casinos for some, touristy shopping for others.
On our return I tried some night shots of tall pines and stars:

The full moon just now came over the mountains and eventually some good clouds joined the pachanga, so after some bloggus interruptus to shoot long exposures I bring you this:

Other than Facebooking pics from my phone, this is as close as it gets to instant blogging, and is why I bought a laptop for this trip.
Having a lot of fun both doing stuff and sharing it.
Tomorrow we're going up to the top of Heavenly Mountain, which is the kingdaddy around here.
Some will ski, some will sled, some will take pictures.
I'll be in at least one category...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Day 1: Southwest To Tahoe

A short layover in Las Vegas and soon we were getting picked up at Reno Airport and on our way over the mountains to Lake Tahoe.

Pulled over at a scenic overlook.

The lake with some showers forming.
We're in California--a first for me.
Hell, Nevada was a first, too.
And the full-on TSA trip.

More to come...

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Getting Close.... departure.

Our advance team is in place getting everything squared away for our arrival, and posted some pics to Facebook:

Don't know if it's supposed to snow in the next week--sure hope so!

This is the house we're renting:

I know--a total dump, right?

Hopefully I'll have stuff to blog every day this week, and for a month afterwards.

Got my laptop all squared away, with card readers tested and Photoshop and other editing programs installed and tested.
I had Buz, my best friend and computer expert, take over this machine by remote control last night. Spent several hours watching stuff get deleted, installed, settings changed, boxes checked or unchecked, etc as he poked into every nook and cranny. There's a ton of stuff you can do to make Windows run faster and be more stable, and Buz knows all the tricks.
He's also a damn fine bass player.

It's bizarre watching your computer being operated by someone 1000 miles away!!!
Especially at lightning speed by an expert--I couldn't keep track of what was being done most of the time.
(BTW, if anyone could use a good tech, his rates are reasonable and he's an honest and decent man who could use the work. Hit me up for contact info.)

Haven't flown since we had to go to Arlington National Cemetery in 2004.
Scanner or fondle?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Testing 1 2 3

Hopefully the photo shows up, and these words are in Texican English.

Good, the system works.
Never blogged from the kitchen before.
It's kinda cool.

Why blog from the kitchen?
Because that means I can also blog from just about anywhere.
Like for example...a snow-covered mountain on the California/Nevada border with a well-know lake below.

Just bought a pretty nice Dell laptop in a used computer shop. A good deal was made.
Been a lot of fun loading programs, changing settings, and just getting used to the foreign form factor.
Never really liked notebooks, but figured I really need one if I'm going to stay connected (and sane) on our upcoming vacation. Movies on the plane and elsewhere, editing/storing/posting photos, blogging, surfing, FB and forums, listening to new Televators mixes--I always missed my PC on past vacations, and while Sylvia's Samsung tablet is awesome for entertainment and internettage, for my photography I need more horsepower and connection options.

Just discovered that my "new" machine's card reader is a little wonky--the Memory Stick wouldn't stay inserted but holding it in place worked fine.
I was going to have to bring a card reader anyway for Compact Flash--what's one more?

And I also learned a few minutes ago that I need to install Photoshop because IrfanView isn't going to cut it, especially with the way laptop monitors are so sensitive to viewing angle. Need to stay with what I know, so I can trust in the numbers to get predictable results.

Of course this is just a small part of our VacaPrep.
Borrowing snowpants and coats, ordering long underwears and boots online, choosing the perfect hats, I'm worn out from so much shopping.
We found my boots at for $10 w/free shipping (!!!) and my hat is worthy of a blog post all it's own--a major score.

Still need to assemble a good toolkit, because I'm going to be sharing a house with 4 loud drunk clumsy girls. Need to keep them out of trouble and repair as much damage as possible. Wish me luck. (Oh yeah--need to buy new earplugs).

Besides a weekend on the Guadalupe last March, this is my first serious vacation in many years and I haven't flown anywhere since 2004. As the departure gets closer (and more "real") I'm starting to get excited.
The main thing for me will be the photo-ops, and if nothing major goes wrong I'll be sharing some of the results on a daily basis right here on Views of Texas.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Austin Again & Again

Last Wednesday Televators played with three other bands at Red Eyed Fly in downtown Austin.
Hooka Hey from Paris France was really good. (Their video is NSFW, in case you look it up)

We played well, and debuted our new song 'Sonetto' which features acoustic guitar, a more melodic bassline than usual, and Led Zep-ish vocals and drums.

My favorite moment was when we finished our set with the driving 'My Paradigm'. After the thunderous ending there was 3 seconds of silence, then a member of another band on the bill yelled "How the hell do you follow THAT?!?!"
Exactly how it should be done, my friend. Take no prisoners--go out and kill.
We cracked up.

Still deeply in love with my new-ish Ibanez Iceman bass and Peavey MAX tube pramp. Great tone inspires me to play better.

Just two days later we were back in the State Capital to return to Wire Recording studio and get down to work mixing the 3 unfinished songs recorded last April.

Our producer Lee Popa spent too much time and called-in all his favors mixing 'Milk Run' on his own, delivering a fine final product. Then he dropped the rest of the project, violating our contract and exposing himself to a nice lawsuit, but instead we chalked it up to lessons learned and we're still going to attach his name to the final results since that's all we have left of any value.

We used Wire engineer Joey B for mixing last Friday, in a marathon 7pm to 7am session.
Joey really knows his way around the studio, and is a cool relaxed cat to hang with.

It's interesting that we get to combine the convenience and speed of recording digitally with ProTools, but get to enhance and warm up the sound with piles and piles of vintage tube audio gear culled from famous studios world-wide. My bass might get run through a compressor used by The WHO while Bex's vocals are catching a vibe from something that the Beatles or Stones once used.

The rest of the band went back to re-do vocals and stuff on Sunday, but I missed that trip.

Not to fear, because I just went back up to Austin for the third time in a week for more mixing this Wednesday.
10pm-7am this time, and we finished 'The Visitor', our next release. The other two should be done in a few days, hopefully without my help.

Mixing is a tedious and exacting process, and we found the perfect engineer for us. Joey and Televators plan to work together from now on. But man, after hearing the same song again and again and again all night long, I'm so burned out on it that listening to the results is the last thing I want to do.
No wonder many artists never listen to their own recordings.

Some of you might wonder why I didn't mix it myself, given my 25 years of experience mixing live shows.
Well, the studio is a totally different animal and the results will be heard for years on all different kinds of sound systems from iPods to car stereos, home theaters to REAL theaters (SHHH--it's a secret for now).
I just don't have the gear or experience to do it justice, and that's cool.
Besides, live sound is more like playing an instrument.
It can be creative, spontaneous, and fun.
Plus, if you make a mistake people often blame it on the band and forget about it two seconds later.

Once 'The Visitor' gets mastered (yet another engineer performs final tweaks to make it fully compatible with all playback environments and CD pressing) I will post links so y'all can hear it for free (before you buy it on iTunes).
Once the final two songs are mixed and mastered, we'll be approaching record labels to try for a recording contract as well as looking for opening slots on major tours.

Again I ask: "Why didn't all this happen when I was younger?"
But hell, if bands that I grew up listening to can still do it...

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Treason Clouds

Fleeting vs "permanent", does solid envy gas?
Both reach ever higher within their unforgiving earthly limits.

Shape-shifting clouds celebrate their variety,
While branches and leaves can be heard dancing in the wind on moonless nights.

Personally, I'm a sucker for trees 'n' clouds.
Shapes and details that'll never be the same twice, especially in combination.
The old "No 2 snowflakes are ever alike" thing is a cute factoid because we can't see it without the help of science.
Clouds and trees have more patience than me but can't hold a candle to rocks, who gladly accept their dirt-bound fate.

Had a good scare today when I came home from the grocery store and found my PC deader than the LA Laker's chances at seeing the playoffs.
Power supply had failed completely, but what did it take down with it?
BAD things can happen.

I've kept a new unit on hand for many years because I actually listen to my PC guru, and it was a quick replacement job.
All is good--zero lost data or functionality.

But the cooling fan on this power supply is the loudest I've ever heard in my life!
Like a box fan on high in the same room, drowning out the TV.
Changing the indoor weather.
Moving clouds and branches around.