Java, Cup of Joe

I can distinctly remember my first cup of coffee.
I was 12 or 13 years old so that puts it around 1973.

Yup, it was the “olden days.”

My mother used to go down the street to Mrs. Gladden’s house for coffee and gossip.
It was summertime and I was bored one day so I went with her to hang out. Mrs. Gladden’s son wasn’t around so I sat in the living room with my mother and Mrs. Gladden and Mrs. Gladden asked if I would like a cup of coffee.

I looked at my mother and she nodded her approval and I said “yes!” It seemed to me to be so very adult to get to hang out and drink coffee. There was the first sip of black coffee which was not too pleasant and then my mother and Mrs. Gladden coached me through the process of adding non-dairy creamer and some sugar which made it much more palatable.

I was hooked from the get-go.

Keep in mind that during my adolescence and early adult years I did not drink or experiment with drugs. That’s right, while the other kids rocking round the clock, I was hoppin’ and boppin’ to a thing called the Crocodile Rock Java Jive. While many of the kids my age were extolling the glories of casual drug use by doodling marijuana leaves and pills on their notebooks I was revelling in the iconic simplicity of a steaming cup of coffee.

There were plenty of head shops during the 70’s but not so many dedicated coffee shops. Places like Jo-Jo’s, Denny’s and Kip’s Big Boy served bottomless cups of coffee, but they were restaurants first and foremost. The wait-staff frowned on teenagers coming and ordering cup after cup of coffee without purchasing a meal. I can recall Rich Davis and me wearing out out welcome at the Kettle on S. Shaver (or was it Spencer Hwy?) in Pasadena, TX any number of times.

After I got out of the Navy and returned to Pasadena my coffee addiction was in full swing and now it was 1981. Coffee shops were still a rare commodity and I was pretty much hooked on coffee. I had a percolator my parents had given me and I kept that thing going pretty steady.

In late 1983 Hurricane Alicia came along and ripped the roof off of my small apartment and this was the catalyst for moving into the city. I landed in the Montrose and before long I was working at the Half Price Books on Waugh Drive. In the process of exploring my new neighborhood I discovered Tim’s Coffee Shop. It’s now Bambolino’s Italian Kitchen but back in the day it was a cozy little coffee shop/restaurant and I was there almost every day before heading in to work, reading the paper and drinking coffee and making friends.

Tim’s Coffee Shop became the formal gathering place of the Philosopher’s Guild, a small band of friends who would meet and stay up to all hours of the night discussing anything and everything while consuming mass quantities of coffee.

Tim’s eventually closed down and Charlie’s Coffee Shop opened just down the road in what was once a topless bar called The Boobie Rock and is now the lesbian bar Chances. I sometimes wonder if the patrons know the sordid history of that little piece of real estate…

Charlie’s, for all intents and purposes, was a gay Denny’s. While it was primarily a restaurant, you could still just grab a booth and sit and drink cup after cup of coffee. I spent a lot of time in Charlie’s and was very sad when it closed.

During this time frame two things happened that were directly influenced by my love/addiction to coffee.

My first radio show of any significance was on Friday mornings from 5-8 and when I was trying to come up with a name I thought of that glorious line from the 1984 movie Suburbia, “Wake Up and Smell the Coffee” (which was also later used in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in 1986).

The third album/CD my band recorded adopted the title “Give Me Coffee” from the first song I ever wrote of the same name.

Fast forward some years and I’m in The Heights after Cynthia and I first got together. Coffee shops are starting to pop-up like crazy. Starbucks has begun to explode and coffee drinking is becoming quite the fad. I found a place called Java Java on Heights Blvd and that became my new coffee haunt.

After I finally managed to get out of working retail and on to a more steady Monday through Friday schedule working in the corporate worlds my trips to the coffee shop began to dwindle as I opted for the grab and go convenience of Stop and Go coffee.

In all the years I have been consuming coffee I rather prided myself in being quite basic about it. No lattes, no cappuccinos, no espressos or mochas or anything fancy. Just a cup of coffee with cream and sugar or black in a pinch. As Starbucks rose to power, other specialty coffee shops sprung up but I kept true to my coffee roots.

I practically swore to myself I would never patronize a Starbucks. That was until our trip to the UK. While we were in Edinburgh, Scotland we toured The Edinburgh Castle. It was cold, wet and windy. When we got to the top there was a gift shop and in that shop there was a Starbucks…

I didn’t change my coffee stripes then and there. I was a coffee addict and this had the appeal and benefit of actually being available. Still, the chip in my coffee armor was there now.

Over the years my resolve to stay away from designer coffee shops has wained.

Cynthia enjoys a “good” cup of coffee on Sundays. She’s not interested in Stop and Go coffee and suggested a few years back that we stop at Starbucks on the way to the grocery store. Her offer was to buy the coffee if I would agree to stop there. I capitulated and now it’s our Sunday tradition.

It wasn’t long before I was hooked. I can no longer drink the coffee offered at the local convenience store. Now I get a Starbucks pretty much every day on the way to work and often one in the evening.

But it’s still a matter of pride that I don’t order those designer froo froo coffee drinks.

No frappacinos, no half caff no fat grand mochachinos for me, no sir. Just a LARGE house coffee to go, thank you very much!

The El Orbits

The El Orbits
Click to see full size image

The El Orbits line-up has changed for 2007.

David Beebe has taken a hiatus from the band to have surgery on his throat and will be spending the next few months recuperating. After that he’s off to Marfa, TX to work on another project.

Thomas Escalante, front man for Clouseaux and lead singer for the Houston based ska phenomenon, The Suspects, has stepped into the role.

Other changes include guitar sensation Jim Henkel (The Musical Find of the 90’s) hanging up his ax and moving into the role of keyboardist while Allen “King of the Oldies” Hill picks up the bass and Allison Fisher take over as lead guitarist and also lends her unique vocal stylings to the mix.

Steve Begnoche and Eric Hughes stay in their role of alternating drummers and I’m not sure where Landis Armstrong fits into this new mix. Probably still the pickup guitarist when the band plays Austin and other outlying areas.

The El Orbits have always been one of my favorite bands. Beyond that, they have been Cynthia’s all time favorite local band. She even likes them more than MY band, The Flying Fish Sailors!

Cynthia had not seen the new El Orbits and therefore had not rendered a verdict on the new line-up. That changed a few Fridays back when the band played a rare Friday night public gig at The Big Top. I say rare because The El Orbits are a wedding and private party machine, only breaking this pattern every Monday night at the Continental Club from 9-Midnight and I we’re just not a go out on Monday night kinda couple.

The show was really good. Even though the band had not played in public very many times in this configuration, you could hardly tell it by the way it sounded. This new incarnation of the band is strong, stong, STRONG.

If you’re a get out on Monday night kinda person, I strongly recommend checking ‘em out!


My friend Rich sent me this link, calling it a “little timehole”…

From the web site:

Nothing keeps a relationship on its toes so much as lively debate. Fortunate, then, that my girlfriend and I agree on absolutely nothing. At all.

Combine utter, polar disagreement on everything, ever, with the fact that I am a text-book Only Child, and she is a violent psychopath, and we’re warming up. Then factor in my being English while she is German, which not only makes each one of us personally and absolutely responsible for the history, and the social and cultural mores of our respective countries, but also opens up a whole field of sub-arguments grounded in grammatical and semantic disputes and, well, just try saying anything and walking away.

Examples? Okey-dokey.

Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About

Damn, he wasn’t kidding.

Each item separately is not all that compelling, but when you get to #20 or so you begin to realize just how epic this relationship must be.

The list is no longer being updated on the web, but there is a mailing list you can subscribe to if you are so inclined.

Geek ink blot test

A funny thing happened when Cynthia was reading the manual for her new camera.

From time to time, as she was reading the manual, she would come to my office and excitedly tell me about some feature or another that her camera had. I would stop what I was doing and we’d discuss the feature and I would impart whatever information I could to add to her understanding and, of course, agree about how cool it was or whatever.

At one point I heard her exclaim from the other room “That’s what the cupcake button does!!”


“Cupcake button?”, I thought to myself. I thought she was exploring her camera. Maybe she had moved on to the bread maker and discovered a new feature or something.

Again Cynthia appears in my office doorways and again exclaims “I know what the cupcake button does!”

And then she points it out on her new camera.

It’s the delete button and most of us know that icon. But not Cynthia. To her it simply looked like a cupcake.

I can only imagine what it might be like if Cynthia were ever to take a Rorschach inkblot test.

I kind of like living in a world where technology comes equipped with a cupcake button.


I’m processing several hundred images. I’m not nearly done but while I was going through my shots of The Aqua Velva, one picture in particular caught my attention and I started tweaking it in Photoshop:

The Aqua Velva
Click image for full size

I didn’t do much. The motion blur and contrast was pre-existing and I simply expanded upon that. I used a noise filter to clean up some of the roughness and give it an smoother overall texture and amped up the color just a little.

Weekend of geekin’

This past Wednesday, Dwight Silverman came to the radio show packing one of the new T-Mobile Dash smart phones. It’s a slick little device. Lightweight, slim, nice big display. It features a built-in QWERTY Keypad, Stereo Bluetooth® wireless technology, a 1.3 Megapixel camera and best of all, built in Wi-Fi. Running Windows Mobile this means you can get online at any Wi-Fi hot spot and browse the web as well as instant message and send and receive e-mail without optioning up for the additional data service plan.

It was love at first sight.

As it happens, I am a T-Mobile customer and my current phone was starting to show signs of dying the death so I called T-Mobile customer care and was pleased to discover that I was eligible for a discounted upgrade. The discounted price minus the instant and mail-in rebates made it a VERY sweet deal.

The phone arrived yesterday and today I am fully operational on the new digitalia.

The built in Wi-Fi totally rocks!

Cynthia and I have begun planning and saving for our trip this year. Our plan is to go to Spain in the fall for about a month.

The last two trips I have taken a digital camera and Cynthia has brought along her trusty Pentax film camera. As we have been planning this trip Cynthia expressed an interest in converting to digital photography. I pointed out that this could be a very good way of cutting some costs, seeing as how she would not have to buy a ton of film and pay to have it all processed. As we discussed it further she became more and more sold on the idea of getting a new digital camera.

Since she already had a Pentax and a few lenses it made sense to go with a Pentax digital SLR. Perfect timing, too, since Pentax just released the K10D.

Cynthia and I have been discussing this since before Xmas and today was the day. We went this afternnoon to the camera store and picked one up.

The K10D is an awesome piece of photographic technology. It’s very similar to my Sony Alpha 100 in that it has the built in image stabilization as well as the anti-dust technology. It goes a bit further in that it is weather sealed and sports a handful of additional features that my camera lacks.

I wouldn’t say it’s a “better” camera than mine, but I must confess a certain amount of techno-envy since it’s a newer piece of technology and my camera was released a few months ago making it a relative antique in comparison.

I comfort myself by remembering the “what’s yours is mine. what’s mine is yours” agreement we have as a long term couple.

A great geek gadget weekend for us. Cynthia has a real twinkle in her eye as she is reading up on her camera. I am excited about getting to share my passion for photography with her as I am sure this new camera will inspire her to get out and take more pictures.

Get your affairs in order

If Jesus returns tonight, who will feed your pets tomorrow?

Jesus Pets!

Who is going to care for your pets after you are raptured into heaven?

Many Christians believe that animals do not go to heaven. So when Jesus comes back and you return with him to heaven, will there be somebody to take care of your dog or cat?

If you have a non-Christian family member, they might take care of your pet, but if not, have you made any plans? Imagine being taken to streets of gold while your dog starves to death walking around in his own feces trapped in your small house or apartment, subject to fire and earthquakes or even being eaten by heathens searching for any remaining morsel of food. Do you want that to happen?

With the imminent collapse of the global economy and rampant godlessness, even the community shelters will not have the resources to care for your poor, hungry animals. So you need to make preparations.

That’s what Jesus Pets is for. We are assembling a community of heathen pet-lovers to care for pets that are “left-behind.” We are coordinating with feed mills and kennels in preparation for your post-apocalyptic pet care needs.

Ex-pats rejoice!

Well, what do you know? Tesco has announced that they are coming to the U.S.

I’m sure it won’t be the same as going to a Tesco in the U.K., I mean there won’t be any over-the-counter Tylenol with codeine and it will probably feature mostly US product brands. That’s a plus because it took me awhile to realize that Nurofen was the UK version of Advil the one time I had the opportunity to shop there.

One of the most memorable experiences I have from our trip to the UK a several years back was driving the rental car (stick shift) from the bed and breakfast to the local Tesco near Crawley.

I had only driven from the car hire to the B&B so I had a very few road miles logged driving a manual transmission on the opposite side of the road. Still, the proprietor of the B&B gave us really good directions TO the Tesco, not realizing we probably should have had really good directions FROM the Tesco back to the B&B.

To get to the Tesco we had to navigate several roundabouts and quickly learn to read and comprehend the road signs. All in all, it was not that bad. We arrived and went inside.

If you travel overseas you owe it to yourself to make a trip to a grocery store in the country you are visiting. It’s like being in a set for a movie. I mean, it LOOKS like a grocery store but all of the products have weird brand names and the packaging just looks alien. The Tesco was our first experience in overseas grocery shopping but we have since repeated the process in Amsterdam and Paris.

Anyway, we found what we needed and got back in the car and proceeded to drive back to the B&B. Unfortunately we did not do such a good job of navigating the trip back.

To be fair, Cynthia urged me to review the directions more thoroughly BEFORE starting the car and driving back. But I was tired and stubborn and felt confident that I could sort it out.

As you might have guessed, we struggled to read the directions in reverse and before you could say “What’s all this, then?” we made one spectacular missed turn coming out of a roundabout and ended up on the M25 which is the “orbital motorway” that loops around London (much like the 610 loop circles Houston).

We were on the west side of London moving north on one of the biggest and most crowded multi-lane highways in the world, driving on the left, shifting with my left hand and having no idea where I was, where I was going or how to find our way back to either the B&B OR the Tesco.

Keep in mind that we had also not had any sleep and we’re EXTREMELY jet-lagged.

I had my cell phone which worked overseas so I called the B&B. Of course I have not mastered international dialing at this point so there were a few failed efforts before the phone would connect. Finally I got the owner of the B&B on the phone.

Imagine me trying to explain to the innkeeper that I was lost and did not know where I was and could he please help us get back.

In remembering the situation I am often reminded of the Simpsons episode 5061F03 “Marge on the Lam”, specifically the scene where Chief Wiggum is chasing Marge and Ruth who are fleeing in a cherry ’66 T-Bird convertible that just happens to have been reported stolen by Ruth’s ex-husband. Remember when he’s on the radio, calling it in and he’s asked to describe his location and he responds by saying:

“I’m on a road, looks to be asphalt–aw jeez, trees, shrubs–uh, I’m directly under the earth’s Sun…now.”

Yea, that was me.

After much discusssion and describing landmarks and so-forth the B&B owner was able to guide us back safely.

We laugh about it now and even though that whole experience was most unpleasant while it was actually happening, it’s one of the best memories of the trip. That’s the way those sort of things work out. Kinda like when Cynthia had to go to the hospital in Belgium.


Yea, I know. We Texans don’t really know the meaning of the word “COLD” down here. Still, temperatures hovering near freezing with a goodly amount of precipitation and we’re practically crippled. It’s not even a beautiful winter wonderland or anything. Just cold and wet and partially frozen.

Thanks to the magic of the Internet, I am home and warm. Drinking some Ethiopian Sidamo coffee freshly ground from the local Starbucks as I telecommute to work today via Citrix.

Took the camera into the yard to shoot a few pics, so that’s a plus.

Sony Alpha 100
Lens: Sony 50mm 1.4

Click any image to see the full size version.




Elementary penguin singing Hare Khrishna

There’s something about Beetle that compels me to shoot them in black and white. You can always see them in color each Thursday night at the Houston Continental Club during happy hour from 7-10pm.

I’m really enjoying the fast wide angle lens.

Sony Alpha 100
Lens: Sigma 20mm f/1.8

click for larger image

click for larger image