Saturday, April 28, 2012

Just Enough to be Dangerous...

That is the old saying about someone who has just enough technical skill to really screw something up.  And that would be me this week.

I took a class which is supposed to lead to a certification called Certified Ethical Hacker.  I am not a programmer or developer but I do work with those types of folks, so it only makes sense to increase my knowledge in the field.  It was a great class and I really enjoyed it.

So during the course, I got to revisit a few of my lost UNIX skills and in talking with the instructor and some fellow classmates, I decided it would be cool to load the latest version of Ubuntu on an older laptop we have sitting in a closet.  I won't even bore you with the details, but it was a painful thing because, even though Ubuntu loaded up quite easily, I could not get the WiFi to work.  That pretty much makes a laptop useless, in my mind anyway.  The guy sitting behind me in the class is very familiar with the field of computers and as we sat there learning, he had my laptop sitting next his computer, and by the time we were ready to break for lunch, he had it fully working.  And he explained that it wasn't anything I did wrong, just a problem with drivers.
So here is where it gets ugly and stupid.  I decided to load up the latest version of Ubuntu on my desktop computer, the one I use to check e-mail, look at the Internet, blog and such.  Everything seemed to be going fine until it was time to restart the computer to finish the installation.  When the computer restarted, the screen was totally jacked up.  Of course my immediate thought was drivers.  I did some research on the Internet (I have other computers, you know) and sure enough, several people on the Ubuntu forums had discussed having similar issues.
I don't want to drag this out, but after several days, I am basically only able to boot the computer from a disk.  I have even tried to reload the WindowsXP (don't laugh) restore disk and honestly, I think it has made it worse.  As soon as I restart, the screen is jacked-up.

I have been busily copying over files to a standalone hard drive and I suspect I'll be reformatting the desktop hard drive (or just buying a new one) and resetting the BIOS to the original setting. 

I swear, people with Macs don't seem to have these self-inflicted problems.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Lunch Report: Spanky's on Culebra...

We had some business in the old neighborhood on Saturday morning and once again, found ourselves driving by Spanky's a relatively new burger place that I have been wanting to check out since it opened.  
 As is the norm with us, we rarely get to places we want to try on the first pass, simply because of timing.  For instance, if we eat a good breakfast and happen to drive by a place we've been meaning to try, we just skip it.  Or sometimes, we'll be in the area of another place we have an interest in, but it will be a Sunday and the place is closed.  Anyway, on Saturday the stars aligned and we hit Spanky's for lunch.
When we first walked in, I think we were both a little underwhelmed.  The place has a fairly modern, bare bones, strip mall, industrial look, almost as if the landlord didn't want to allow anything permanent.  Lots of cool posters and one of those Big Ass brand ceiling fans, but that was about it.  Oh, they do have an old tub full of iced down beer. As we stood there looking up at the menu board, a nice cashier came and handed us menus for a better description of the burger selections.  From where you order at the counter, you can see back into the kitchen and it looked clean and it looked like the crew was all about serving up some good eats!

Even when we ordered and paid, I was really hoping that it was going to be at least somewhat decent.  I knew we would be trying an order of fries and an order of onion rings, and until you see the end product, you just never know.  Would the burgers be small frozen patties or would they be the thick juicy burgers I've heard about?  Would the bun be stale and hard, or would it be soft and fresh?  When the waitress brought us our orders, Eva and I both actually gasped.
Eva ordered the Chili Cheeseburger and added a side of fries. She is extremely picky when it comes to the chili served on a burger and there was no disappointment at all. The bun was soft, fresh and did not overtake the size of the patty.  The meat was juicy and delicious.  The fries were right on target, seasoned with what was probably sea salt,  and cooked perfectly with no random raw ones. 
I ordered the Flaming Cheddar burger, and a side of onion rings.  Before I even thought about tackling the burger, I had to know if the onion rings would taste as good as they looked.  Absolutely brilliant!  They must be using some sort of special seasoning and making these things fresh on site rather than from a package.  They each had two rings inside the breading and honestly, these are right up there with some of the best I have had in quite a long time.  The burger itself was just smothered in cheddar cheese filled with grilled jalapenos and onions.  The toasted bun was slathered in mayo and mustard and the fixins were all fresh.

During our meal, we had two different waitresses coming by asking if we needed anything, and if we had been smart, we would have asked for a to-go container.  Instead, I grabbed a fork, mixed in some leftover chili from Eva's burger with a small glob of leftover cheddar and jalapeno from my burger and licked my plate (paper liner, anyway) clean.  
Don't even wait another week.  Spanky's has been open for some time now and from what we experienced, they are pumping out Tasty Treats to happy diners!  We'll definitely be back.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Home...

I'm back from my short work trip to Tampa which gave me a great opportunity to make a short drive up the Leroy Selmon Crosstown Expressway into Brandon to see my parents.  Alligators and ugly cars aside, the trip was well worthwhile, both from a work perspective and for obvious personal reasons.
 I was able to work in an early dinner with my parents from Le Septima (I love me a good Cuban Sandwich) one afternoon,  and on Thursday, I slipped into The Shrimp Boat, a family favorite, and brought back some good vittles. By the way, if you are unfamiliar, Cuban bread is different than French bread, even if it looks the same. I took these pictures the following day as I was getting ready to eat the last half of a Cuban for a midnight snack.

On my last day before heading off to the airport, I made my obligatory drive back to my old neighborhood and by Brandon High School.  If you are like me and have recurring dreams centered on specific locations, it is very helpful to go to those places.  Memories of places ingrained in our youth are often altered in someway years later in our dreams.  Going back helps to redraw the mental map, I suppose.
Driving by the school, I noticed this marquee, a tribute to Dwayne Schintzius. I was long gone by the time he made his mark on Brandon High and later the University of Florida.  Readers here may recall the name of and the 7'2", mulleted Elvis impersonator as the first round draft pick of the San Antonio Spurs.  He didn't stay here long but I remember being excited that someone, even if I didn't know him or his family, from my hometown made it big.  

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I took the Nook with me in order to read on my flight.  I read a pretty funny book by Hilary Winston called My Boyfriend Wrote a Book About Me.  I think it was recommended to me by Nook because I had purchased a Chelsea Handler book.  All you need to know is that Hilary describes going into the bathroom and farting into a towel so her boyfriend wouldn't hear it.  I'm sure the guy sitting in the seat next to me on the plane didn't appreciate my spraying Diet Coke through my nose.
 
Apparently, everybody is coming to San Antonio for Fiesta.  My flight didn't leave Tampa until 6:55PM and I tried to get on the flight that left at 4:50.  No luck.  And when I got to DFW, I tried to get on the 9:50 flight and they had about 36 people on the standby list before I got to the gate.  So, I flew in on the 10:55 flight and there was not a single empty seat.  Thankfully I was not pressed between two huge guys like the flight from Tampa.  Unfortunately, I was seated next to a very butch-lady with an extreme case of altitude induced flatulence.  I seriously wanted to ask her to read the passage from the Hilary Winston book regarding farting and towels, but by the time the Capt Turned off the seat belt sign, I and I suppose everyone in the several rows in front and behind us had acclimated to the odor.  Yikes, just wait until she gets a few Margaritas in her.  Viva Fiesta!    

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 Fiesta was what caused Eva and I to divert from certain awesome fajitas at La Margarita in Market Square to Los Barrios over on Blanco for lunch on Friday.  That place is extremely popular and always busy, but they are pretty quick.  All I can say is, the beef fajitas just aren't as good as the one's at La Margarita.   Just because a place is somewhat touristy, doesn't mean they don't have good food.

We have a busy weekend lined up and lots of important TV shows to catch-up on.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Little Car, Big Gator...

I'm in Tampa attending a conference for work but taking the opportunity to see my parents while I'm here.  
 May I just say that in the past, I have had some crappy rental cars, but nothing beats the crappy-ness of a chartreuse green Ford Fiesta.  This car looks crappy and is dangerous for someone taller than 4'11".
 Jesse is slightly taller than 4'11".
 I was parked at my parents place and one of my nephews, the little one, Jesse thought it would be a hoot to poke fun of me and my little car.  To emphasize the smallness of the Fiesta, he and another nephew, Dan took pictures and posted them on Facebook.  One of them even asked me if the little car had a place to hold my purse.   Hellions, I say.

In other news, I pulled of the Crosstown Expressway and thought that I had come up on a multi-car traffic accident.  There were at least 6 or 7 cars stopped in both directions and people standing out in the street with cameras.  I exited the off-ramp and slammed on my breaks thinking someone might need first aid or something.  
Then I saw the gator.  There was a man trying to keep the people from getting too close, but obviously, some folks have watched enough Swamp People to feel like they can handle a small one like this.
Without Troy Landry in my passenger seat, I decided to skip the inevitable leg-chomping inflicted upon the slowest runner and weave through the assembled gawkers.  But I did get this nice profile picture.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Lunch Report: Uncle Barney's...

If you are familiar with the Hungry Farmer Steak House, you may have seen the sign for Uncle Barney's Old Fashioned Hamburgers on the side of the building.  I had no idea that Uncle Barney's was an actual separate restaurant until I read a review on the SA Burger Blog some time ago.  I guess I just thought that Hungry Farmer referred to their burgers as Uncle Barney's.  So once we got that issue cleared up, the next step was to actually give it a try.  Like many places we have on our list, this one just kept getting bumped, but when I was able to get out of work early one day during the week, Eva and I were both hungry, and Uncle Barney's was the destination.
 Right off the bat, I like the old feel of the place.  Lots of signs and junk cluttering the walls and shelves is enough to keep one entertained while waiting for the burger.  At the time of our visit, the diners all seemed to be working folks taking a break for lunch.  
 Unlike the Steak House operation, there is no waitstaff in Uncle Barney's.  You walk up to the counter, order your vittles then find a place to sit.  When they call your number, you grab the order and dig in.  I like that.
 Eva had a hankerin' for a a chili-cheeseburger and that was what she got.  This is the type of thing you can actually pick up and eat instead of having to tackle with a knife and fork. She did cut it in half, but the idea was, the chili complimented the burger, not overwhelmed it.  The bun was grilled, but soft, and the combo meal included a granola bar.  Not sure why, but she saved it for later.  
 I tried what they call the Muchacho Grande which is two patties and a combination of fries and onion rings. The first thing to note is the fries and rings.  They have the steak fries and the good style of onion rings.  When we got our order, the fries were hot but the rings were just warm.  They were good, but I would have preferred waiting a little longer for a fresh order.  The burger fixin's were excellent.  I love the bun, the fresh tomato, lettuce pickles and such.  The hamburger patties themselves had us pondering whether or not they were frozen patties or freshly ground.  According to a sign, they make their burgers from the cuttings of steaks from the restaurant next door daily - so I guess that means fresh.  Unless you are really hungry, skip the double meat.  I felt stuffed and didn't even finish the fries or warm onion rings.  
 Overall, we were good with Uncle Barney's and wouldn't hesitate to go back again.  In a case of people all have different opinions, I read several reviews where writers claimed this was a terrible place or that it was the best burger in town.  I'd beg to differ on both counts.  We left the place satisfied that we got a good burger for a fair price, and sometimes, that's enough to keep a place on our list.
 

Before...

 The photo used at the top of this blog page was taken with my handy little deer cam.  I have it mounted on the fence on the side of our yard looking into the vacant land next to us.  
 In short, it allows us to attract the deer and enjoy their funny faces while keeping them away from Eva's growing collection of plants.  Oh sure, the deer could easily jump the fence into our yard, but our dog Gracie, who only wants to be friends with the deer, so she says, is unable to jump the fence and tag along with them. And we and the deer prefer it that way.
Almost from the time we moved out here, we have wanted to buy the property next to us.  There are a number of reasons, but most of all, we just don't want someone else building next door and ruining our nice relationship with the deer.  So, last week, we made an offer on the property and the offer was accepted.  I call this post "Before", because this is what the property looks like now, or before we get started working on it.
There are no great plans to do anything.  I will put a gate between the two lots so we can easily walk between the yards, but aside from cleaning up the trees and keeping it mowed, we just plan to make it look like a park.  Someday, there may be little ones who want to set-up a tent and camp out with the deer sniffing around in the middle of the night.  Later, Eva may get that golf cart she has been wanting and drive around picking up branches and stuff.  Who knows? 

Barring any complications, it'll be ours in a month or two.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Weird Friday...

Friday morning started off just great.  I was at the entrance to our sub-division which sits on the frontage road of I-35, getting ready to pull out so I could make my way to the on-ramp just down the street.  For those not familiar with Texas' system of frontage roads, you basically have a divided highway with traffic flowing at 75MPH and then another road on one or both sides of the highway with traffic going in either one direction or in some cases both directions.  In our case, we have the frontage road with two-way traffic going 55MPH, a small strip of grass, the highway at 75MPH, then another strip of grass and another road with two-way traffic at 55MPH.  There is a sign in my sub-division just before this entrance that says, Dangerous Intersection and I never really understood why, until that morning.

People out here are generally courteous drivers but I have had more than one occasion where I was driving down the frontage road, only to have some jerk pull out in front of me causing me to slam on my breaks.  Keep in mind, this usually happens while it is still dark outside.  What I did not realize until Friday morning is that there is some sort of weird optical illusion caused by the multiple lanes of lights traveling in different directions that causes one to misjudge whether or not the lights coming at them are on the frontage road or on I-35.  It makes no sense, but I fell victim to this little optical illusion that morning.

As I approached the intersection, I was fully awake, no cell phone, no other distractions and I was fully cognizant of the traffic.  At the stop sign, I stopped and as I always do, I looked both directions a few times.  I can't blame this on adjusting to new glasses because I feel pretty comfortable in my lenses by now.  When I pulled onto the frontage road, I realized I was pulling right into the lane of a Jeep coming full speed ahead.  I hit the breaks and stopped.  There was no option of gunning it in hopes of getting across the lane; he was that close.  Trying to back-up was not even a thought.  All I could do is sit there and wait for the guy to hit me and hope that he didn't hit my truck in a way that would cause his Jeep to flip.
 The second or two that the entire incident took place, and me sitting there like a fish in a barrel was apparently just enough time for the driver to realize that he could go around me in the other lane.  His skid marks, still visible after work, show that the guy really laid on the brakes before he almost casually eased around the nose of my truck.  When he passed by me, I waved as if that was some form of guilty plea and apology rolled into one.  Whoever you are Jeep driver, sorry about that and thanks for handling that little situation the way you did.  I'm pretty sure that the outcome would have been a lot worse for you than it would have been for me, and that's not something I'd like to have to live with.

I continued down the road trying to replay how this little misstep had transpired.  Was there a possibility that he was driving with his lights off at first?  No - I would have seen his lights turn on.  Could I have forgotten to look that direction?  Not a chance.  I confess to speeding - a lot, but at intersections, I don't trust anyone and like I said, I look both direction several times.  And yet, there it is, I pulled out in front of someone they same way those jerks at the very next street down the road seem to do to me quite a bit.

And just as I was approaching that next road, just when it looked like a truck was about to pull out onto the frontage road,  I flashed my lights several times to get the guy's attention.  Crazy stuff.

You can't let things like this get to you.  It happens.  But for the rest of the morning at work, there were a series of events that seemed to cause me issues.  I don't even recall what they may have been, so obviously nothing earth shattering.  At some point, I decided to just get out of the office - something I never do - and I went to get my hair cut.

They have these little numbers and if you have a particular barber you prefer, you give your number to that person and then when they are available, as long as your number has been called, you can go to them.  In my case, I don't care who does the cutting.  As soon as my number is called, I take whoever it is.  All at once, there were three or four haircuts finishing up and I began the little game of seeing which barber I would get.  There was one really tall lady who seemed agitated and I got the feeling that she was in a bad mood.  I had hoped that I wouldn't get her.

Another barber, an older Korean woman, called off number 91.  No answer from the crowd.  92.  Nothing.  93.  I stood up and presented her with my ticket.  This lady has cut my hair on several occasions and I was always okay with her performance, so I was pleased.  Just as I sat down, I see this guy stand up and he looks at me holding up his ticket.  He says, "I'm number 92."  I probably could have been a jerk since I was already seated, but I just got up and smiled and made a motion toward the chair.  And of course, the tall crazy lady looks at me and says, "93?"

I don't do the whole talking thing at the barber shop.  Because of my really jacked-up hearing situation, I can hear everything, but when there are multiple conversations and sounds from different directions, I can't understand any of it.  Same situation on an airplane.  If you sit next to me, I'm not trying to be rude, but I just can't understand what you are saying.  So thankfully, the tall crazy lady was not one of the talkative types.  Aside from the instructions about "over the ears, a little off the top and I comb it straight back", there was no need for small talk.

Things were going fine.  I did notice a man sitting in the chairs looking at me - or what I presumed to be at me - several times.  It occurred to me that perhaps he was looking at the lady cutting my hair, and perhaps he had made a similar assessment that there was something going on with her.  I'm sure the haircut was half-way over before her first outburst.  She very loudly proclaimed that she knew there was a conspiracy regarding her scissors and that if "you didn't do it" then she wanted to know exactly who could have perpetrated such a thing. I knew she couldn't have been talking to me, because I know I did not do it.

There was a long pause in the cutting of hair and I looked over at the chair next to me thinking that perhaps the Japanese woman cutting hair might have been the target of the accusation.  Nope.  She was fully engrossed in a conversation with the Korean woman who was cutting number 92's hair.

The man siting in the waiting section continued to stare at me and/or the tall crazy lady.  There was another outburst and more accusations and my only response was to pretend that I was not involved in any way and just let what would happen happen.  I fully expected to leave with some really punk-rock like haircut, because there was no way that this little train wreck would turn out good.

You always hear about people who do things like get up and walk out of a restaurant when they get bad service or yell at the employees of Wal Mart.  I avoid situations like that.  But I kept wondering if for safety sake, I might get up and simply hand the lady some money and quickly exit.  I could just go to another barber shop and have someone finish the job.  It would make great conversation with the new barber, if I were the type to have conversations with barbers, that is.  Instead, I sat there wishing the haircut would end without the lady pulling out a razor and slitting my throat.

When I first joined the military and before people were so freaked-out about blood transfer, the barbers used to use those straight razors to shave the back of your neck.  I always had this fear that some guy would go nuts and start slitting the throats of guys just wanting a haircut.  This fear suddenly came back to me because the barber lady, the tall one who was clearly in some sort of emotional crises, spent an extra long time with her back to me doing something at her little barber sink.  The staring man continued to hope his number would be called before my haircut was finished.

Finally, she remembered that I was still sitting in her chair and she shoved a hand held mirror in my face, the signal whereby one knows that either the haircut is finished, or there is more work to be done.  "I look fabulous!" was my enthusiastic response and I handed her cash and said to keep the change.  I didn't even bother to stick around to see if the poor guy playing the staring game got selected for the chair next.

So technically speaking, I may very well have avoided serious bodily injury twice on Friday. 
    

   

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Breaking Bad: Finally, We've Made It...

Last night we watched the first three episodes of the very first season of Breaking Bad, a show I’ve been eager to watch but just never have seemed to get around to.  We finally did it, and I think it is safe to say, we're already hooked.  I had the benefit of listening to a great interview with Bryan Cranston, the lead in Breaking Bad.  You may remember him as Hal, the goofy father on Malcolm in the Middle.  This is nothing new to those of you who have been watching since the first season in 2008, but during the interview, Cranston explains how the creator, Vince Gilligan had this vision of taking the character, Walter White, a high school science teacher from this humble, nearly transparent man who has never had as much as a speeding ticket, and transforming him into Scarface.  When you see the plight of this genuinely good man and what he endures without complaint in his given life situation which is revealed in the first episode, you are able to turn off the moral compass for a minute and appreciate why he even considers the absurd and illegal path he is about to embark on.   And now, like me, if you had been meaning to watch Breaking Bad for years but hadn’t, it is time to grab the first season from Netflix and get started.

I don’t mean to go all intellectually deep and such but I am fascinated by otherwise normal, law-abiding citizens who give in to the temptation of bending the rules for what they deem to be a moral right.  If you watch Dexter, I think you can agree to that it can be exhilarating when he finally tracks down and eliminates his victims.  For those that don’t know, Dexter is a serial killer.  But he only kills those people who are bad and who have otherwise escaped justice.   Another show we watch, Justified, has one bad person after another getting whacked.  Generally, even if it is Boyd Crowder, a preacher and a criminal doing the killing, as viewers, we tend to agree that the people he kills, need killin’.

I’m not as intrigued by people who are just plain criminals because they are lazy or bad.  I don’t go around robbing banks, stealing from my neighbors or killing random people for fun, and I can’t say that I would admire or want to know people who do those things.   And this is where it is different with Mr. White, the main character in Breaking Bad.  He knows that what he is setting out to do is wrong, and he is torn by the decision he makes.  But he weighs his options, what his family situation is, what his foreseeable future looks like, and suddenly, he is willing to do something that goes against his very grain.  And this makes for good TV.

Most of us have been faced with infuriating situations in our lives, and for the most part, we keep it under control.  We take a few deep breaths or maybe offer a few expletives, but we count to ten and move on.  Aside from bouts of semi-road-rage and the flipping of the occasional bird, few people I know would ever stoop to committing actual crimes in order to right a wrong done perpetrated against them.  If you were 15, you might egg a kid’s house because he was a jerk at school, or involve yourself in fisticuffs to solve a dispute, but as adults, this never seems like as good an idea in real life as it does in the movies. 

For years, I have had this idea for the opening scene of a movie.   I don’t even know what type of movie it would be, but in my mind, there is a well dressed, conservative looking guy riding in his nice car.  It could be a Lincoln Town Car or it could be something fancier like a Jaguar.  It isn’t Steven Seagal driving the car, but someone more “normal”  Like that guy who played Ferris Bueller’s father. 

Ferris’ dad is minding his own business, driving calmly down the street as he listens to some smooth jazz in the background and he is having a polite conversation on his cell phone, perhaps it is with Mrs. Bueller or maybe he is checking in on Ferris, who knows.  In my movie, talking on the cell phone while driving is not a crime.  The guy pulls up to a stop light and as he chats on the phone, a second vehicle pulls up in the lane next to him.  Though Mr. Bueller has the windows rolled up and the air conditioner on, his conversation and his smooth jazz is rudely interrupted by the obnoxious thumping of the unreasonably loud music coming from the car next to him, a car inhabited by a couple of pot smoking slackers with nothing better in life to do than insinuate themselves into other peoples’ personal space.

As a side note, I have found myself in this situation more times than I care to share.  Not driving in a Jaguar listening to smooth jazz and chatting with Katie Bueller, but sitting in traffic while a couple of assholes make their music selection my music selection.  It’s rude and it is wrong.  But aside from perhaps an ugly look, I wait for the light to change and move on.  And most of us do that.

In the movie, the actor chatting on the phone asks the caller to hold on for just a moment and he sets the phone down on the dashboard.  He places the Jaguar in park and opens the door.  The light is still red and the guys in the car next to him only just begin to pay attention as he steps toward their car. 
 
In a single move, the unassuming dad from Ferris Bueller pulls a large Glock from inside his suit jacket and puts two holes into the radio console between the driver and his stunned passenger.  Though the music is now gone, he calmly says, “Turn that shit off.” Okay, maybe it is Clint Eastwood in this role.  Nevertheless, just as quickly and as the light turns green, he slides his Glock back into the holster in his jacket, enters his own car and picks up the phone only to say, “sorry about that” and drives down the road continuing his conversation and enjoying smooth jazz.   I don’t know how the rest of the movie goes, but with a beginning like that, I already like the main character. 
 
The reason this is only a scene from an imaginary movie and not a routine occurrence in my life is that I have a switch in my brain; it allows me to let little things go.  I think most of us do.  The moment of satisfaction we might get from taking matters into our own hands does not nearly justify the pain and subsequent losses associated with police, lawyers, judges, and prison.  So, we endure the obnoxious thumping until the light turns green and we move on.  I wonder though, how many of us have something bubbling under the surface that, given the right trigger, would make us that guy.

A week or so ago, many of us probably had these fantastic ideas of how charitable we would be if only we had won the Mega-Lotto.  Imagine, after you purchase a few houses and some cars, and pay off all your debts, even the stingiest amongst us had to have some feeling of sharing the wealth, right?  The only trigger needed to make you a king of charity is to have the winning numbers on that lotto ticket.  Don’t feel bad, I didn’t win either.  But the fantasy was good for a while.

I don’t care to say who, but a guy once told me about a situation he had in a bank.  There was this underlying issue he had been having with bad service there and the people were not treating him like the long time customer that he had been over the previous decade or two.  As he was sitting there waiting to speak to someone about a particular matter, his mind began to play out these different scenarios of how he would react if he got the run-around or they didn’t give him the answer he needed.  

I sat there mesmerized listening to his detailed description of the violence that was about to be done on the contents of the bank lobby.  There would be computer monitors shoved from desks, chairs pushed aside and no doubt, more than a few deposit slips thrown into the air.  When he was called to speak to the bank official, he was tense with the anger building up inside him, just knowing that the meeting was going to go bad and before long, there would be news cameras and reporters standing outside the bank and an old driver’s license picture would be flashed on the TV screen for his wife to see that he had finally lost his shit and SWAT was moving in.

But in fact, the scenario played out differently.  The bank people gave him what he wanted, they did so in a professional and polite manner and they avoided the wrath that was just bubbling under the surface.  The trigger was not pulled that day and you just wonder, how many of us are that close, whether it is the bank or the job or a neighbor or perhaps a relative, who sets off that little time bomb.

And in case you are wondering, no; I’m not offering you a glimpse into anything personal that reporters will come back a few weeks later and say, if only we had read his Blog, we would have known.  I don’t even own a Glock.

I really just wanted to point out that, only three episodes into it, I can already feel a sense of understanding in how this man, this common, normal, responsible and good man has found himself making choices he knows are against everything he thought he believed in, and I look forward to the dramatic transformation that will unfold over the next several seasons worth of Breaking Bad.  Bust out the popcorn.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Farm...

Eva has been giddy for quite some time as her little garden out back has started to grow.  Oh sure, I could give you detailed pictures from when it was just some dirt on the ground all the way to the current status, but take my word for it, it started very tiny.
And now, it is a full fledged farming operation.  We may need to purchase a tiller or one of those John Deere combines if we aren't careful.
So far, the output is minimal.  Up first, we have a single pepper which is just waiting for me to reach in and eat it.   If it is hard to detect, that is because it is really small and the same color as the leaves.  But trust me, it is there.
 The real pride and joy is the broccoli that has come out.  Honestly, we had no idea how the large leaves were supposed to transform themselves into the same kind of broccoli that you would want to steam and pour an pound of Velveeta on.  Now we know.  It just happens. 
We did have a minor incident with the single tomato that has been produced thus far.  As Eva reached in to make said tomato visible for the camera, she inadvertently picked it.  Tomorrow morning, she may have to make herself a Barbie-doll sized portion of fried green tomatoes. 

I trust HEB Plus won't have to worry about a significant loss of income based on our current production toward self-sufficiency, but at least Eva is having fun with it. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Weekend Notes...

Last week (Tuesday) we celebrated Eva's birthday in fine adult-like fashion.  That is to say, there were no pinatas, screaming children running through Chuck-E-Cheese, or fear inducing clown shows.  I did surprise her somewhat by taking a full half-day off from work and taking her downtown to an Italian restaurant for lunch.

A friend of mine from work suggested we try La Foccacia which is down on South Alamo in or near the King William district.  We made it in just after lunch and just before dinner, so we had no waiting and super fast service.  

They had two lunch specials, a Chicken Marengo that Eva had and a Fettuccine alla Luigi which I had.  Both were wonderful, and we were very pleased with our server, a young UTSA grad who was very attentive and Johnny on the spot with tea refills.  

As I mentioned, we were there between crowds and we couldn't help but notice a table of gentlemen enjoying drinks and conversation.  At least one of them was associated with the restaurant because he called out instructions to the staff several times.  It reminded Eva of our time living in Italy and the man who owned the hotel and ristorante near our villa in Caravigno. Good times.   
 Later in the afternoon, we stopped by her Mom's house for some cake I had picked up earlier from Lucy's. Good stuff.
 We raced home just as the sky was opening up and unloading a torrential downpour to find a box covered in plastic just outside our gate.  My son had sent flowers - tulips for Eva's birthday, and she loved them!  They filled two vases and still look good 5 days later.

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I had to break down and go get some new glasses.  I had decided to go with the progressive lenses which meant I was probably going to have to spend more than what you normally get at My $39.95 optical.  Instead, we went to a place in Ingram Park Mall called Visionworks.  I found it hilarious that they still had me in their computer system from back when I purchased glasses at the same place in the early 90's.  We had a really nice lady help with my order and during our conversation, found that she lives in Somerset and loves our new favorite pizza place, Constantino's

So the way this place works is, you buy a really outrageously priced pair of glasses but then you get a second pair for free.  I say outrageously priced because I guess I just expect all glasses, regardless of quality or prescription to cost exactly, $39.95, and not a dime more.  
 The regular glasses I got will be ready in a week or so, but we were able to pick up the sunglasses I ordered the same day and I could not have been happier at spending $528.00 in one sitting.  I was able to "get" the progressive lens thing right away, and suddenly understood how it all works.  And, most importantly, don't I look cool sporting Harley-Davidson sunglasses?  I seriously can't wait to get the regular glasses so I'll be able to watch TV and look down and read the keys on the remote without having to take my Birth Control Glasses off. 
We visited friends from the old neighborhood while we were waiting to pick up the sunglasses, and our friend Ruby mentioned that there might be a place in Wonderland of the Americas Mall where they sell artwork.  We are looking for a large painting for our living room so we've been checking out a few places lately with no luck.  Well, we never did find the place she mentioned, but we did walk around the mall.  I haven't been to that place in a decade or more, and it actually looked nice and not overwhelmingly scary.
 You never know who you might spot, and we were somewhat surprised to see Kenny Rogers taking in an afternoon walk. I like his purse.
Inside the mall, there was entertainment in the form of square dancers or cloggers, I'm not sure which.  I can tell you this; those people were having fun.  This was Saturday afternoon.  I can just imagine what these people had in store for Saturday night!

By the time we got out of that mall (they have a huge Burlington Coat Factory, and I needed some new ties and shirts and such), it was already time to eat something.  So, on our way home we stopped at Bolner's over off of South Flores (SoFlo for you hipsters).  
 We enjoy Bolner's and the generous portions which we promptly fill a to-go container with before eating the normal sized amount of food. Brisket and chicken is always good with green beans and mushrooms.  Those pickles are good too.

We ended up buying a bag of dog bones for Gracie.  They sell off these huge, meaty bones for a dollar a pound, and then depending on your dog, you can either give them raw or cook them.  I boiled up one of these things and Eva tossed in a bullion cube for flavor.  That would prove to be a mistake later in the evening when she (Gracie, not Eva) farted under our bed.  It was so obnoxious that it woke me up.
Anyway, I gave her the bone and she sat out in the yard and worked it for an hour or so.  She was so concerned that someone might try to take it from her that she had her front paws spread out in this weird position that would allow her to quickly maneuver herself and her bone away from anyone trying to grab it. I could hear the coyotes off in the not-so distance, and I think she would have taken out a few of them if they had made a move for that bone.

Next time, I'll give it to her earlier in the day so she can have plenty of time before bed to enjoy it.