September 23, 2012
Aloha, Austin; Aloha, Seattle
Woah, we moved to Seattle! Having not updated here in a long while, this news may feel sudden to you, the humble Internet denizen, but it was pretty much the most drawn-out activity of my life. First there was the decision on if we even wanted to consider this, then the decision on whether to make the move, then the act of putting the house for sale, then actually selling the house, then replacing every piece of the house as part of the selling, then packing all our stuff, then getting 2 adults, 1 toddler, and a kitty on an airplane, then arriving in the dead of night and figuring what exactly corporate housing entails, then starting a new job, then finding a new house, then getting all of the old stuff into the new house, then deciding to write a blog post. It's intense, man!
What do I think of Seattle so far? I am surprised with its natural beauty, and I'm also surprised that I would be surprised by this. Living in Texas for a long time, I wasn't exactly aware of this thing called natural beauty. I knew it was a thing out in the world somewhere, but I assumed that to see some of it, I'd need to hike for days into the wilderness, then contact a spirit guide. It turns out that, actually, some people can just look out their front door and see mountains, lakes, and pine trees; now I'm one of these people.
Other things that are surprisingly surprising: people here like coffee. Having heard of Starbucks, I was prepared for this and thought maybe the people of Seattle liked coffee a little more than the people of Austin. Not the case. If anything, Seattle is populated by walking, talking coffee disposal systems who have jobs merely so they can afford more Americanos. The closest thing to an alternative currency here is espresso beans, followed closely by ironic t-shirts about the Supersonics.
People in this city are also very, very enthused about local food. I had previously seen this Portlandia skit and assumed they were being comedic. In fact, that skit was a documentary, and the same conversation is happening at 400 different Seattle restaurants right this minute.
There are a lot of things I miss about Austin: my family, friends, and the various tacos that I had become close to. We're about to host the first of many visitors, and I'm excited to show them around. My only request is that they stuff their carry-on luggage with Tacodeli.
February 20, 2012
I started growing a beard at the start of winter. In doing so, I have learned some important beard wisdom that ought to be shared with the internet and future generations of beard enthusiasts.
1. The path to beard-dom is a little bit bumpy.
I have tried to grow a beard a few times in the past. I'd get two weeks into it, then I'd accidentally look at a mirror and just start shaking my head in disappointment. There was progress, though. Each time I tried, my beard was maybe 1% better; through the magic of compound interest, I was slowly earning my way to facial hair wealth. I decided to try again recently, but I didn't expect much.
My expectations changed completely after I got some good advice from my friend Cara. She said that it takes at least a month. In other words, you have to put up with looking like a deranged hobo for a few weeks in order to eventually look like a badass mountain man. My long-standing problem had been that I just didn't know the timeline; I was expecting a thick, lustrous beard in a week or two. Some men might be able to do that (ie, Zach Galifianakis), but not me. Neither Rome nor beards are built in a day.
2. Everybody's beard is a little bit weird.
If the hair on my head behaved like the hair in my beard, I think I'd just have to wear a hat at all times, etiquette be damned. My beard has quite a few crazy cowlicks, unexplained spiral patterns, and hairless patches. As I looked at other beards, I realized something: all beards are crazy! You can comb and groom it, but it's still a battle with chaos.
Again, think about a badass mountain man. His beard gets unruly, what with him tracking grizzlies and humongous badgers across the tundra (I'm pretty sure I nailed this ecosystem). You know what he says? Deal with it, society. That's the aesthetic we embrace as beardos.
December 20, 2011
Top 10 Albums of 2011
Just in time for Festivus, it’s my Top 10 Albums of 2011! Before I dive in here, I should note that this has been a fantastic year for music. It’s clear to me that all musicians got together on January 1, 2011 and collectively agreed to really rock our pants off with new releases. Mission accomplished, collected musicians of earth.
10 Hooray for Earth - True Loves
Usually I don’t enjoy synth-poppy stuff; I don’t feel cool enough to listen to it. It really seems like music for people who wear skinny pants, suspenders, and comically anachronistic eyewear. And yet, I really enjoyed this album. It’s awesomely anthemic music from 1987.
9 Tom Waits - Bad as Me
Ahh, Tom Waits. He’s probably the most polarizing musician around; you’re either in the ‘This dude sounds like Cookie Monster’ camp, or you think he’s the best thing since pork pie hats. I am in the latter camp, and I am relieved that he suddenly decided to become prolific. I would also like to take this opportunity to praise his supporting turn in the unfairly-maligned film Mystery Men.
8 The Decemberists - The King Is Dead
To be honest, I stopped liking the Decemberists for a while. Imagine you have a friend who’s ordinarily fun and witty, but now all he wants to do is talk about Japanese folk tales. I will gladly participate in 15 minutes of conversation about Japanese folk tales, but at minute 16, it is officially time to discuss any other topic in the world. Thankfully, the Decemberists went back to making fun albums for simple knuckleheads like me and now we may rock again together. (Side note: they also released an EP towards the end of the year, Long Live the King, that was stellar.)
7 Wilco - The Whole Love
I know exactly what happened when Wilco began to plan this album. Jeff Tweedy told everyone, “I don’t know what I’m going to sing about, but damn it, there’s going to be some rockin’ organ.” Man, the organ needs to be featured more prominently in pretty much all music, including gangster rap. The same thing goes for high quality whistling, which is also used well on this album. Another great release by a force of consistent excellence.
6 Crooked Fingers - Breaks in the Armor
This album reminds of Frank Black’s first few solo albums; the lyrics are great, there’s a lot of neat instruments and a kinda rollicking vibe, and the whole thing feels very personal. What about Frank Black’s later solo albums? Well, at least he has the Pixies. (Side note: as much as I like this band, I had never really listened to any of Eric Bachmann’s previous stuff. I was blown away by Archers of Loaf this year. Good call, college students of the early-mid 1990s!)
5 Real Estate - Days
Real Estate tried to pull a fast one on me this year. I loved the single of theirs (Out of Tune) that Sirius began to play on its SiriusXM U station at the start of the year, but the album wasn’t to be released for months. When I tried to download it early, I got something vastly weirder and different. I then shared that whatever-you-call-it with some friends with the promise, “THIS IS SO GOOD!” Fortunately, all my friends lost faith in my musical taste a long time ago. Wonderful guitar abounds on this album.
4 Fucked Up - David Comes to Life
I wonder about bands who just cavalierly include an F bomb in their name. Do they realize the mental battle I put myself through in deciding whether to include the whole thing on Goulash? Seriously, guys; think of Goulash. If I were to describe these guys with a simple formula, I’d say they’re the Hold Steady + Refused. Those are two of my favorite bands ever. My one complaint is that I couldn’t find the lyrics to all the songs, and I would really like to obsess over them. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re going to give this a shot, listen to the end of the song.
3 Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
I feel like a lot of people freaked out over this album when it came out, and then I haven’t seen it on anyone’s Best of 2011 list. That’s a little unfair, isn’t it, music critics? How do you think Fleet Foxes feels about that? I’m not just attempting to even out some sort of cosmic karmic balance here by putting these guys 3rd, even though they seem like the band who’d really believe in that stuff. Now, on to this specific album: it’s consistently wonderful. You can play their first album and this one back to back, and it’s like listening to the soundtrack of an epic movie.
2 TV on the Radio - Nine Types of Light
I got into a routine this year where I’d listen to this album every morning on the way to work. Let me tell you, that was one Mazda 3 in which man and baby were both rocking. When you think of the music you like the most, do you think of albums in which you like every song or albums that have 3 or 4 truly amazing songs? I am definitely in the latter camp, and this pick is evidence. There are a few songs on here that I’ve only listened to a couple of times (looking at you, Killer Crane), but there are a number of instant classics here (Second Song, Keep Your Heart, Will Do, No Future Shock).
1 The Dodos - No Color
I have liked the Dodos for a few years now. I wouldn’t say they were my favorite band, but they were in the top 10-12. In the fall, Laura and I went to see them here in Austin and I learned something amazing: there are only 2 of them. How did I not know that? When I saw them take the stage, I seriously learned over and said, “Pfffffft. Opening act.” Anyway, once I realized it was actually them, I went from liking them to like-liking them. What I really like about them is that each song has a few different movements, all of which complement each other; it’s like listening to a symphony. And it’s all 2 guys! Unless I’m wrong, and that really was the opening act.
December 12, 2011
I have blown an inside joke out of proportion.
My friend Darby has strong Google fu. When faced with a question he does not know the answer to, he turns to the friendly, all-knowing robots of Google. I think that's completely reasonable (and I do the same thing), but this particular approach to problem-solving is infecting the minds of non-nerds as well. When his wife Jenny was telling a story and said she needed to know something, she said, "I pulled a Darby trick and Googled it."
We really liked referring to Googling something as a Darby trick, but the wording is a little cumbersome so I shortened it. From that point forward, to Darble something was the same thing as Google something. Granted, that typically required a ton of explanation whenever I used it for the first time around someone, but it was still funny.
All the while I was spreading the gospel of Darbling, I was thinking that I should really create a one-stop website for Darbling. Google is fine and good, but it could really use some Darby flair. Also, I loved the idea of Darby having his own personal search engine. Any gauche fool can buy a Ferrari, but who among them has an eponymous search engine?!
For Darby's birthday this year, I created DarbleIt.com. There's not a whole lot there, but it captures the essence of Darbling in all of its glory. (Google: please don't sue me, it's a joke and I'm a shareholder.)
Why did I pick DarbleIt.com instead of just Darble.com? Sadly, Darble.com was already registered. I inquired with the owner as to whether it was for sale, and it was... for a mere $20,000. As much as I value my friend, I just don't see me paying that much for a joke domain without several hallucinogens involved. Besides, if you forget the domain name, you can always Darble for it.
June 30, 2011
I have been busy lately with a wide variety of work projects, baby sickness, and the imminent collapse of all important/expensive parts of our house. Busy, yes, but I'm not exactly comfortable dubbing myself a busy beaver: I don't know much on the work habits of nocturnal, semi-aquatic rodents (thank you, Wikipedia). And since all this "work" is taking place at night, possibly under water, I'm guessing even licensed beaverologists don't know quite how busy beavers are. What am I talking about again?
Anyway, things are hectic enough that I am not really paying much attention to the calendar. Today at work, someone asked, "Hey, are we working on Monday?" I said, "Man, Mondays suck, but we should come in unless it's for something special." It turned out that Monday actually IS something special: it's the 4th of July! How did that happen? The ship has now totally sailed on my big Passover party.
I am excited about Independence Day, though. I get to introduce 3 great parts of being an American to August: fireworks, American flag do-rags, and our love-hate relationship with the Brits. If anyone knows a way for me to combine all 3 into a potent blast of Americana, let me know. I suspect it's theoretically possible, but it could only occur in certain pristine conditions, like Toby Keith's garage.
Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays, in addition to being one of my favorite Jeff Goldblum vehicles. I spent a lot of Independence Days at the beach when I was growing up, attempting to blow up jellyfish with Black Cats. That might be too much for a 7 month old. Then again, if he's strapped into a Baby Bjorne and I'm handling the dangerous parts, it just might be perfect.
June 22, 2011
Baby Hacking Our Way Through Sky Mall
Our whirlwind trip to Illinois is complete. What were we doing there? Laura's family does a big family reunion around her great grandmother's birthday. This year, it was an even bigger occasion, as she was turning 100. You can (and should) accuse me of many things, but never accuse me of being callous enough to skip my great grandmother-in-law's 100th birthday, even if it requires taking my 6 month old son on his first plane trip.
When it comes to parenting, I am an idea man. I even have a snappy name for my unorthodox parenting techniques: I call them baby hacks, a name which never fails to provoke terrifying mental imagery for everybody around me.
With all the modesty in the world, I must admit that I came up with my greatest baby hack yet on the airplane. Shortly after we sat down, August started to squirm and hoot. Had I been thinking ahead, I would've brought along infant sudoku or something similarly engrossing. Not having any of that, I did the next best thing: I handed him a copy of Sky Mall.
He proceeded to do exactly what I've always wanted to do to Sky Mall: he ripped it to shreds. His hatred for Sky Mall was so strong, he not only tore up that one copy; he actually tore up a copy of all 4 flights we were on. It wasn't a frenzy of tearing either. He tore each page and wadded it up, then waited for me to turn to the page. The only thing missing was a maniacal laugh after he tore out each page.
On the one hand, I applaud him for his anti-materialistic gusto. On the other hand, if he feels this strongly about Sky Mall, I have no idea where I'll get him an $800 novelty suit of armor.
July 28, 2010
Establishing Ground Rules
Since I'm going to be a dad soon, I'm trying to figure out what my parenting style will be. Most people who know me would assume I'll be the type of dad who'll gladly let his son eat chocolate cake for breakfast and then leave the house with his underwear on his head. And I will be. However, there are going to be some ground rules for my child.
1. Don't speak against the family. In this case, the family is defined as all immediate family members, present and past members of the Texas Rangers, Bill Murray, and Elvis Costello.
2. Be nice to animals and old people. The only expection is if you suspect the old person is actually Hitler in disguise. Even then, I expect some sort of proof besides just a hunch.
3. If you ever go on reality TV, you are immediately disowned.
4. Say thanks a lot. I tend to over-thank people, to the point where strangers might think I was just freed from prison and thus really, really grateful to get things like breath mints and glasses of water. Is that so bad?
5. Don't pee in public, unless you're in a natural body of water. Clearly this rule doesn't apply to babies, who get to pee as much as they want, all over the place.
6. Cowboy boots and shorts is a totally valid fashion choice. Same thing goes for wearing a swimsuit instead of underwear.
7. No one likes a know-it-all, unless you literally know everything and bring great fortune to the family via televised game shows. Even then, we don't need to hear about it all the time.
8. Help clean up. If you've observed the natural surroundings of your parents, you know we need a hell of a lot of help here. Bonus: this gives you carte blanche to be as messy as humanly possible beforehand.
9. There's never a bad time for a pun, a Knock Knock joke, a weird accent (bonus points for Cockney), or an unrelated movie quote. You might be wondering if flatulence is covered by the same principle. My gut says yes, but we'll have to see.
10. Lord loves a working man. Don't trust whitey. If you catch it, see a doctor and get rid of it.