Quilt – Toile de Jouy

This is the quilt Cynthia made for her sister, Carol, in Michigan as a Christmas gift this year.

It’s a traditional pattern made up of various toile (pronounced “twoll”) fabric swatches.

Carol LOVES toile, and from all accounts has her entire house decorated in the stuff.

One last thing

Prior to Christmas, I was talking with my boss (who happens to be Korean) and the subject of the Chinese characters for “giraffe” came up. As it turns out, his father’s name contains these characters.

In Chinese, the word “giraffe” is rendered using the characters for “˜long-necked deer.’

I was struck by the idea that some type of artistic rendering of these characters would make an excellent gift for Cynthia as an addition to the giraffe room.

So it was off to the Intarwebs in search of some way to execute this plan before the holidays.

I found three separate web sites that advertised custom Chinese calligraphy and sent them my request. Only one responded. That was Oriental Outpost. They responded in less than 24 hours with the results of their research and provided me with several options in the form of scrolls/wall hangings.

After selecting the one I thought would be best suited, I placed my order. Sadly there was no way to have the item in hand in time fro Christmas as it was a hand made, one of a kind from China. Still, I was pretty excited and I knew that even if it was to arrive after the actual holiday, it would be more than worth the wait.

It showed up just a few days after Christmas and it is AWESOME!

It’s hanging in a place of honor right next to Cynthia’s sculpture

The hero of 3700 Main

In my time I have saved the computer at the Continental Club on a few occasions and bailed out Thomas over at Sig’s Lagoon. It’s my contribution to the “scene”, I suppose.

This week I got a call from the proprietress of Taco’s-A-Go-Go. Seems their PC was misbehaving and needed some tender loving nerd care. I was surprised to get the call since I had never given them my number. I assume it was acquired via my friend Nick or someone else who had access to my digits. I said I would have a look the next time I was in the area.

With the new 9/80 schedule I had this Friday off and felt I could afford the lack of sleep and headed off to go see Beetle perform their usual Thursday night happy hour gig at the Continental. Since Taco’s-A-Go-Go is right next door I popped in to have a look at their ailing PC. Turns out the wireless adapter driver was in need of a re-install. I had it up and running in about 10-15 minutes. No big deal.

Enjoyed the Beetle show, as always. After they were done playing I was talking to Jim and he suggested heading over to a party at “Bongo” Jane’s place.

I was of a mixed mind about the whole thing. I know Jane and I knew I would know some of the people there and Jim was just so darn insistent about it I headed on over. Glad I did. I saw some old friends I had not seen in over 15 or so years and just enjoyed hanging out.

Jane’s place is quite interesting. She has the best entertainment center you can imagine. It’s a sound stage right in the main living room. Jane has a lot of musician friends and they were coming and going from the stage all night.

click for full size

Sorry to say, I don’t know this singer’s name. She was performing with Steve Candelari on the drums and Aaron Loesch of Jug O’ Lighnin fame on guitar.

The geek who saved Christmas

Over 120 comments thanking me for the solution I provided in my Helpline blog item “My screen is sideways”. The closest runner up is “Double-click opens search instead of folder” with 60+ comments.

This comment received from a reader in the UK tickled me to death:

Daughter aged 11 hit unknown key combination turning screen sideways. Thought had virus, after an hour and much upset, decided to google. You saved our xmas as pressies depend on the computer working.

Wide and fast

Since I have begun to dangle off the deep in when it comes to photography, I have found myself frequenting the camera stores more and more.

Always on the prowl for the right accessory and taking every opportunity to pic the brains of other photographers so I can better educate myself and improve my technique.

It’s very reminiscent of when I first took a sincere interest in computers. Who knows, maybe I will have the same success if I am lucky. I have already started to ponder working in a segment on digital photography into the radio show. The idea is quite nascent but I am pondering it sincerely.

As I was poking around the Camera Exchange and talking with Charlie the subject of used lenses came up. One of the things that did not occur to me when determining which camera to buy was the second hand market. It’s obvious now that I think of it. The two most popular brands of digital SLR cameras are Nikon and Canon. Regardless of whether they are superior or inferior to any other brand is not the point. The point is that since there are so many on the market there tends to be more used lenses for these cameras than any of the others.

What this means to me is that there are practically NO used Sony lenses and relatively few used Minolta or Minolta mount third party lenses available. This is something I would encourage anyone looking to purchase a camera to consider. Being able to buy a used lens can save you a bit of money when you want something maybe a bit more specialized and you don’t want to plunk down the full price for it.

Of course I can buy anything I need brand new and heaven knows there are some damn fine lenses available for this platform. I hungrily lust for the just released Sony Carl Zeiss® Sonnar® T* 135mm f/1.8 Telephoto Lens and when and if I can ever justify the $1500 price tag I’ll just run down to the camera store and pick one up. Then I’ll show you all! Muahahahahaha!

Ahem, but I digress.

As I was saying, second hand lenses. Not many interesting lenses to be had on the second hand market (yet). None at the Camera Co-Op and a very limited number at The Houston Camera Exchange, and the ones they had were not terribly exciting with the exception of one that caught my eye. It was the Sigma 20mm f/1.8 EX ASP DG RF prime lens. What I found interesting was the high speed and the wide angle.

The Sony 50mm 1.4 has been my go-to lens and my favorite by far of any of my lenses. That being said, the limitations of the 50mm lens really reveal themselves in a small space or when trying to get a good group shot of a band or similar.

The idea of having a fast wide angle lens was very appealing and the price of this one used was way more affordable than buying it new in the box so after contemplating it for a week I went back and purchased it.

I’ve not taken the definitive photo yet. Most of the pics from the last few blog entries are using that lens and I did take it to the Big Top for the Light Rock Express show and the debut of Disco Expressions. If you’ve ever been to the Big Top you’ll know what a photographer is up against in this space. Very dim lighting and what lighting there is tends to be red. Thank heaven for good custom white balance settings.

Light Rock Express

Just add horns and voila! Disco!

I like it. I can get up close and personal and still capture a lot of what is going on. And not having to use a flash makes me far less irritating to the performers.

Of course now it’s going to be a more difficult decision when I trying to determine which lenses I will travel with to any given destination.

Thank you Santa!

Christmas eve was spent in the company of two of our bestest friends, Jim and Greg Henkel.

I forgot to get a good picture of it, but Greg is wearing a shirt that Cynthia made for him as an Xmas gift. The fabric is Hawaiian and has pictures of islands, palm trees and BATTLESHIPS. Greg’s a huge fan of the dreadnought so it was the perfect gift for him.

Cynthia had great gift from her sister waiting under the tree on this chillsome Xmas morn.

It’s a giraffe marionette.

It’s a pretty well known fact that Cynthia loves giraffes and some of you may might recall her adventures/antics/shenanigans at the Texas Renaissance Festival as the “Crazy Puppet Lady.”

And I got the coolest present EVER!

It’s a collectible set of GI JOE Xmas ornaments that are replica pieces from “The Secret of the Mummy’s Tomb” set which came out in 1971. This is what the original looks like:

It was a gift from Cynthia’s mother. She has the idea that I should have a GI JOE tree if Cynthia has a giraffe tree. We’ll see. For now I have them in my collectors case with the REAL GI JOE’s. I especially like the back of the ornament box which features the actual graphic from the original box.

Here’s hoping Santa brought you something nice this Christmas!

Oh Tannenbaum, oh Tannenbaum

In my swinging batchelor days I didn’t decorate for the holidays in my own space. I was happy enough to see the familiar trapings of the yuletide season when I visited friends and family but never took the time to trim a tree with tinsel or anything sentimental like that.

I am of the age and background where whenever I hear the song “Oh Christmas Tree” I think of the Saturday Night Live “Killer Trees” skit. I especially loved the episode where Frank Zappa was in the lineup of trees as a “suspect” …

Cynthia, on the other hand, LOVES to decorate for Christmas.

Living room

In our living room we have our main tree as well as the tree made from Xmas postage stamps that you can see above the fireplace.

It was conceived when Cynthia was hunting giraffe stamps to create something for the giraffe room. She collected the stamps and did the layout and numbered the stamps to match a diagram she created and then handed the materials to our framer to put together.

Stamp Tree

Of course it doesn’t end there. At some point a few years ago Cynthia either bought or was gifted a giraffe Xmas ornament. Since the primary tree is deocrated in a mouse theme there was no real place for the ornament to go and the giraffe tree was born.

Giraffe ornaments are hard to find, but we have managed to find a few.
In fact next year we are thinking we’ll need a bigger tree.

Merry Xmas everyone!

Cockrell Butterfly Center

A challenging photographic opportunity is the Cockrell Butterfly Center.

It’s very warm and humid in there which causes the camera lens to fog up until it accilmates. Then there’s the sweat rolling into your eyes. Of course the better looking butterflies aren’t sitting totally still. I want to go back and try again but I must remember to bring something to mop my brow with…

Cockrell Butterfly Center
Click for larger image

Cockrell Butterfly Center
Click for larger image

Cockrell Butterfly Center
Click for larger image

Camera: Sony Alpha 100
Lens: Tamron AF 28-75mm f2.8 XR Di

Zappa plays Zappa

I attended the Zappa Plays Zappa show at the Verizon Wireless Theater on Sunday night.
In all honesty, I was apprehensive about the show and had some doubts about how it might be.
I’ve seen Frank Zappa in concert twice so I know what a Zappa concert sounds like.

The idea that his son, Dweezil, would put together a band and try to perform his father’s music filled me with an understandable amount of apprehension and trepidation.

The fact that this band was touring with Napoleon Murphy Brock, Terry Bozzio and Steve Vai did lend the concept a certain amount of legitimacy in my mind and was intriguing.

When I got to the Verizon Wireless Theater it was pretty plain that the Houston Zappa fans were out in force. I saw many old faces and old friends as we got ready for the show.

The concert lasted for well over 3 hours and I gotta say…I was completely blown away.

I didn’t commit the set list to memory, but Joe found someone who did a nice job of documenting the show. This is how it went down last night:

Conducted improvisation – Andy – Call any vegetable (“Band From LA” arrangement) – Tell Me You Love Me

Who Are The Brain Police?

Florentine Pogen (Dweezil Zappa solo)

Pygmy Twylyte – The Idiot Bastard Son (’74 band arrangement) – Cheepnis

I’m The Slime (“Saturday Night Live” 1976 arrangement) (Billy Hulting – Don Pardo vocals) (Dweezil Zappa solo) – A Pound For A Brown On The Bus (Billy Hulting mallets/Scheila Gonzalez sax/Dweezil Zappa conducted improv only horns/Napoleon Murphy Brown sax/Dweezil Zappa conducted improv/Dweezil Zappa conducted audience improv/Aaron Arntz keyboard/Jamie Kime guitar/Pete Griffin bass/Dweezil Zappa conducted improv only horns/back to head of piece)

Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow – St. Alfonzo’s Pancake Breakfast – Father O’blivion – Joe Travers/Pete Griffin duet

Inca Roads (Dweezil Zappa solo/Aaron Arntz solo)

Exit Napoleon Murphy Brock – Enter Terry Bozzio

I’m So Cute

Tryin’ To Grow A Chin – Punky’s Whips (Dweezil Zappa solo)

Black Page Drum Solo (done as a trio – Terry/Joe/Billy) – (Enter Steve Vai) Black Page #2

Exit Terry Bozzio- Enter Napoleon Murphy Brock

Peaches En Regalia – Montana (Dweezil Zappa/Steve Vai guitar duet) – Village Of The Sun – Echidna’s Arf (Of You)

Zomby Woof (Steve Vai solo)

Black Napkins (Dweezil Zappa and Steve Vai solos)

(core band + Napoleon)

Oh No – Son Of Orange County (“Roxy” arrangement) (Dweezil Zappa solo) – (Enter Terry Bozzio and Steve Vai) More Trouble Every Day (“Roxy” arrangement – Steve Vai solo/Dweezil Zappa-Steve Vai duet/Dweezil Zappa-Jamie Kimeduet/Dweezil Zappa-Scheila Gonzalez-Steve Vai trio/Terry Bozzio solo/Joe Travers solo/Terry Bozzio-Joe Travers duet) – A Token Of My Extreme (chord vamp only with Dweezil band introductions) – Sofa (“Zappa In New York” arrangement)

There’s every indication that this band will tour again performing Frank’s music. If you get the chance to see this live I heartily recommend it.

Angels we have heard on high, inflate to the proper P-S-I

It started, innocently enough, with a lawn ornament in front of our neighbor’s house.

We have named it the “Farting Bear” for obvious reasons.

This bear has fueled an ongoing discussion between Cynthia and myself about the nature of Xmas decorations in the south. We both agree that, while this is a winter holiday, it’s not so much of a winter wonderland here in the south. Take today for example. The temps are right at 80 degrees for our high and no cold weather in the forecast for at least a few more days and even that probably won’t stick around.

The idea of trying to decorate in a winter theme down here in Texas just seems ludicrous. If anything, we should be developing our own southern style of decorating that incorporates things more suited to our climate. Maybe a surfboarding fat man who rides gnarly waves and delivers presents to all the good boys and girls. He could leave them under the jalapeno tree or mesquite tree something.

The “Farting Bear” is a prime example of what we find lacking in climate appropriate decorations here in the south. Look at him, for crying out loud. He’s wearing a sweater! I took that picture in my short sleeves and retreated back to my living room where I have the AC on and cooling the house.

But let’s put that aside for now. Obviously the winter theme is not going anywhere anytime soon.

The “Farting Bear” is not just preposterous for it’s winter theme, oh no, it’s a part of a bigger problem that has been in evidence this season. The problem of the inflatable lawn ornament.

I knew they were popular this year. They seem to be all over the place. It was when we saw the inflatable nativity scene that we knew that the problem was bigger than we could imagine

Cynthia and I decided to drive around the neighborhood and see how many we could find within a few miles of the house. All in all we found 32 unique inflatable lawn ornaments.

That’s not counting the dozen or so that were not inflated and lay lifeless on the lawn. Apparently they can be turned off and when they are turned off they deflate.

What we saw ranged from snowmen

to snow globes

From Santas

to Snoopies

You can see all we found in the Inflatable Lawn Ornament Gallery.

If you have any pictures of inflatable lawn ornaments please send them to me for inclusion in this gallery.