Tuesday, March 31, 2009

That new car smell

If you're in the market for a new vehicle--and by new, I mean a more recent vintage than what you're currently driving--now's a good time to jump on a purchase, if you can swing it. I'm just saying.

Back in 2000, when we were expecting Fairy Girl, we sold my Chevy Blazer and bought a '98 Dodge Caravan with low mileage. That minivan, despite the uncool factor of being a minivan, served us well over the years. Had to rebuild the engine a couple of years back, true, and little things like the air conditioner and battery demanded attention, but overall we got our money's worth out of it. And we have been antsy for a replacement for a while now. You just want something newer after a while, something more dependable that isn't going to demand semi-constant attention.

So, when word came via the miracle of the internets a couple weeks back that our IRS tax refund was on the way, we decided it was time to pull the trigger. Place the old Caravan up on Craigslist and maybe it'd sell in a couple of weeks. Combine that with the tax refund and we had a not-insignificant down payment. So The Wife puts an ad on the local Craigslist, and we set the price several hundred dollars above what we actually want for it, to give us some flexibility in negotiations. A response comes within the hour. They want to look at the minivan that night. And will we accept cash?

Twelve hours later we wander across the Bluebonnet Chrysler-Dodge dealership in New Braunfels, cash in hand. All of it. The buyer of our old minivan took it as-is, no haggling. We're somewhat stunned by the development. Equally stunned by the uber-low mileage of the '08 Grand Caravan sitting in front of us with enough whistles and bells to stage a Rice MOB halftime show. A semi-loaded minivan that's roughly half the price of an identical new model sitting across the lot. It drives great--more truck-like than the old Caravan, but this Grand Caravan is a safer, more comfortable vehicle that gets better gas mileage than the old one. And it's bigger, too.

But we don't have the tax refund yet. Not a problem, the Bluebonnet folks insist. Let them run some numbers. The results: A five-year note at 5.5 percent interest. My jaw hits the floor. Add on a dirt-cheap extended warranty that will cover the car for pretty much as long as we'll own it (24 hour roadside assistance included) and wer'e still paying less than $200 a month. At this point, Wells Fargo calls my cell phone telling me we'd been approved for the same loan, minus the roadside assistance, at 9.1 percent interest. Obviously, I declined Wells Fargo's generous offer.

The long and short of it is that we've got a new vehicle that we've yet to figure out all the buttons on. Yes, minivans remain exceedingly uncool, but with three kids it's the only real practical option. And goodness, the deal we got on it. Car dealers are desperate to move stock, be it new or used. If you've got a job and even a token down payment, you can pretty much squeeze blood from the car dealer's stones.

Ten years from now, though, we're trading in this minivan for a candy-apple red '67 convertible Mustang for The Wife. After all those years of driving a minivan, karma's got to balance somehow, right?

Now Playing: Jimmy Buffett Boats, Beaches, bars & Ballads

Monday, March 30, 2009

Aggiecon 40

Well, it's over and done: after 18 consecutive years of attending Aggiecon--making it as dependable a harbinger of spring as anything in my experience--I've now missed it two years running. In 2008 I wasn't invited. This year I was invited, but six months of radio silence from the convention and emails going unanswered didn't do much to reassure me. Ultimately, family obligations forced me to offer my regrets to the con, but my cancellation was never acknowledged and indeed, I have no idea if anyone at the con even noticed my absence.

From scattered reports surfacing online, it's looking like I didn't miss a heck of a lot. Todd McCaffrey is a great guy and a talented writer, but no convention is going generate much buzz by bringing him back as the sole author guest of honor year after year. Despite repeated warnings from myself and others that turning Aggiecon into a media con (ie paying B-list celebs to attend and charge money for autographs) lies the way to financial ruin, the students still seem hell-bent on charting this course. Repeated offers to put them in contact with authors, artists and comic book creators of their choice have been met with profound silence.

If attendance was as bad this year as rumor has it, maybe the few remaining Cepheids will take the hint and take the steps necessary to save the convention. More likely, with the Memorial Student Center set to undergo massive renovations next year--forcing the eviction of the convention from the home of the con for the vast majority of its 40 year run--I fear that this year marks the final chapter in that event's storied history. It's like Obama told GM and Chrysler today: Yes, you made some effort to right the sinking ship; but no, it's not nearly enough.

Ironically, I don't think many will miss it once it's gone. Once there was only Aggiecon and Armadillocon for Texas fandom. Now, there are two great conventions in the DFW area with FenCon and ConDFW, while in Houston Apollocon has grown into a very enjoyable event. As always, Armadillocon remains the gold standard. Still, anyone who knows me knows I have a profound emotional investment in Aggiecon and would hate to see it go. If any of next years' concom has any desire to solicit my advice, for what it's worth, I'm easy to get ahold of.

Now Playing: Pink Floyd Animals

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Night Videos

When was the last time I featured Supertramp on Friday Night Videos? Never? Well, that's too long!



Previously on Friday Night Videos... REO Speedwagon.

Now Playing: Various artists Native American Currents

New MEMORY!

Hey kids! I've got a new chapter of Memory up at No Fear of the Future for your reading pleasure. That brings us up to 35 installments total, with no end in sight. Shouldn't I get a cookie or something?
Flavius tried to stand only to find a vine had managed to wrap around his thigh, holding him down. Every time he moved, the hairy spines gouged a little deeper into his flesh.

“Goddamnit,” he muttered, sawing at it with Memory. The vine parted, but not before giving a fierce constriction. “Yeow!”

He leapt up and kicked his leg free. He found Acaona a short distance away, held fast by a knot of the vines. Flavius could see now they were definitely moving, and not as a result of Acaona’s struggles.

“Lassie, what kind of garden have we landed in?” Flavius demanded as he hacked away at the tendrils coiling around her.

Oooh! Killer plants! Things don't look too good for Flavius right now, do they? Give it a read and find out if he survives or not. Or, better yet, start at the beginning!

Now Playing: Joanne Shenandoah & Lawrence Laughing Orenda

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Three meme

Rob Blake tagged me with this on Facebook, so, since it's either do the meme or actual work, the meme wins out.

Here's what you're supposed to do: Create a new note, copy and paste this message, delete my answers and type in your answers. Then tag a few good friends and family INCLUDING the person who tagged you. The theory is that you will learn a lot of little known things about your friends and family. Have FUN!

THREE NAMES I GO BY

1. Jayme
2. Daddy
3.

THREE JOBS I HAVE HAD IN MY LIFE

1. Sports reporter
2. Media relations specialist
3. Bus boy

THREE PLACES I HAVE LIVED

1. New Braunfels
2. Columbus
3. College Station

THREE TV SHOWS THAT I WATCH

1. Battlestar Galactica
2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
3. Coupling (yeah, the last two are on DVD. Haven't started watching a new broadcast show in a long time)

THREE PLACES I HAVE BEEN

1. The Grand Canyon
2. Uxmal
3. Cahokia Mounds

THREE PLACES I WANT TO GO

1. Australia
2. Germany
3. Rome

THREE OF MY FAVORITE FOODS

1. Freebirds World Burrito
2. TexMex (extra spicy)
3. Crawfish jambalaya

THINGS I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO

1. Taking the kids to Disney next year
2. Vacation on the beach in Rockport this year
3. Stealing a weekend away with The Wife in New Orleans some day

THREE PETS THAT YOU HAVE OWNED

1. Sigfreid Sebastian Bach, the greatest beagle who ever lived
2. Spartacus, a black emperor scorpion
3. Ocho, a figure-8 puffer fish

THREE FRIENDS WHO WILL REPLY

1. I have friends?
2.
3.

THREE FAVORITE BANDS/ ARTISTS

1. The Kinks
2. Billy Joel
3. Pink Floyd

THREE FAVORITE TEAMS TO WATCH

1. Texas A&M Aggies
2. Houston Astros
3. San Antonio Spurs

THREE FAVORITE DRINKS:

1. Beer, preferably homebrew
2. Iced tea (black and green tea mix) with lemon and passion fruit juice
3. Diet Dr Pepper

Now Playing: Earth, Wind & Fire The Eternal Dance

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ache

Went to Columbus yesterday to check on/visit my mother. A good time was had by all. Well, maybe with the exception of your truly. Mom's house is in a mild state of disrepair due to about 20 years' worth of neglect of upkeep, so my brothers and I are piecemeal trying to arrest any future decay so we can, at some point in the future, implement full-scale renovations (or a facsimile thereof).

Yesterday, I patched the roof. That roof is in serious trouble. Two huge old live oak trees were allowed to grow over the years without any pruning, the result being that heavy branches rubbed sections of the roof for years. In those sections, not only are the singles gone, but so is the underlying tar paper, exposing the wood underneath. This is not good when it rains. There were other sections where individual or groups of shingles were peeling up and away. Individual nails popping up. Lots of places where rain can seep in. Unable to afford the full cost of a new roof, I climbed up there with a bucket of liquid asphalt and a broom. I think I spent close to four hours working up there. My back and shoulders ache today to no end, and my hands have black smudges on them from where no amount of scrubbing could clean the asphalt away. But I'm amazed at how sore my feet are. Had I not been there and seen the shoes on my feet, I'd have sworn I worked up on that roof barefoot. It's like I walked around on that rough surface unshod for the entire time. Weird.

What stinks is that despite my efforts, the patches are temporary at best. And I know I missed smaller leaks that simply aren't obvious to the eye. Every single shingle is in a bad way, with dime- to quarter-size holes forming in their surfaces. A few more years, and the elements will have it stripped bare.

After I finished with the roof and caught my breath for a bit (hey, I'm pushing 40. give me a break) I went around the side of the house with my ax and chopped up a bunch of aggressive poison ivy that'd taken to growing up an old, dying sycamore tree. I did this a couple of years ago to positive effect, but poison ivy's persistent. Then I spent the remainder of the afternoon stacking dead limbs and branches that've been falling from the sycamore. My family'd already begun a pretty big pile of dead limbs, but more had fallen in the interim. Fortunately, even thick branches lose a lot of weight after they die and dry out in the sun. That whole tree needs to come down, but that's a project for another day.

Now Playing: Earth, Wind & Fire The Eternal Dance

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Battlestar Galactica: The final curtain

So, the finale of the reinvented Battlestar Galactica series aired last night. Because of scheduling conflicts, I had to watch the 11 p.m. airing, and didn't get to bed until late. After all the seemingly bizarre and make-it-up-as-you-go plot twists that have permeated the last couple of seasons, I really had to wonder if they could pull off a decent wrap-up. The first half of this final season did not give me hope. The episodes devolved into melodramatic soap opera territory, and the epic seemed to persistently grow smaller rather than more grand. After a hiatus lasting the better part of a year, the final episodes kicked in and gave me reason for optimism. The two-parter dealing with the Gaeta-led mutiny aboard the Galactica was the best in a long, long time. They were dealing once again with concrete moral issues, rather than woo-woo mysticism or Apollo being a wuss or whatever. Gaeta's motivation was muddled, however, since his pathological hatred of the Cylons which ostensibly drove him to mutiny against Adama came off as tenuous, at best. Yes, he suffered under the Cylons, but no more than anyone else. The loss of his leg, which remained an obvious anger issue for him, wasn't caused by by the Cylons but rather by Colonials who attempted mutiny on a mission led by Starbuck. Participating in Baltar's Cylon-collaborating algae planet government--albeit as an informer to the resistance--almost got him killed. So yeah, Gaeta had issues and motivation take drastic action, but the justification for turning against Adama, rather than extracting vengeance against those who legitimately wronged him seems thin. I was also disappointed with the final appearance of Tom Zarek. After playing the former terrorist for the entire series as a ruthless yet almost idealistic agitator for justice, in his last act he turned into a simple thug, violent and brutish in his greedy quest for power. Murdering the Colonial Quorum? That was too far. Zarek always worked best when his despicable methods were morally justified to some degree. Abandoning that ambiguity at the very end in favor of a cheap, two-dimensional villain to hiss at was beneath the dignity of the show. I'm not arguing to change the fate of either Zarek or Gaeta, but the writing definitely fell short. Which is too bad, because otherwise the mutiny two-parter harkened back to the greatness of the series' first two seasons.

The string of episodes that followed were average at best. They served mostly to fill out random plot points, bring back Ellen Tigh, lay out that the Galactica is too structurally deficient to continue much longer before breaking up, stuff like that. Treading water, essentially, setting up the pieces for the final endgame in the series finale.

So, how about that finale? In my opinion, "Daybreak" was far better than it had any right to be. Certainly more satisfying than Galactica 1980. Better than the entirety of The X-Files' final season. I did expect them to find our "Earth" at the end, an Earth that was not the same as the nuke-blasted 13th colony populated by Cylons. I did not expect it to happen 150,000 years ago, although in hindsight this does appear to be their only real "out" and--unlike the majority of the plot twists introduced these last couple of seasons, strikes me as one that was in place at the time the miniseries aired all those years ago. I even remember seeing some media feature that made mention of the fact the fleet isn't going to seek Earth, because it had been blasted in a nuclear war centuries before--a hint that someone on the production team let slip a plot point by accident during initial promotion efforts. Finding indigenous humanoid life extant on the planet with fully compatible DNA was just a tad too convenient, however, particularly since if Hera is going to be a mitochondrial Eve figure the timing's off. Because 150,000 years ago, Homo sapiens had already evolved. They claim the homo species has no language, but does have tribal society and buries their dead, but even Neandertals had these traits. The hominids discovered would have to be Homo erectus, but the Galactica would've needed to arrive almost 100,000 years earlier to interbreed with that species and give rise to Homo sapiens.

Of course, all would be forgiven if two colonial refugees named Arthur and Ford were overheard bemoaning the fact that most of the colonials were unemployed telephone earpiece cleaners.

There was an egregious over-use of flashbacks, as well as a pretentiousness and a hubristic display of "we're making an important show" syndrome throughout the final three hours. Flashbacks worked well for Ron Moore in the Star Trek: The Next Generation finale "All Good Things..." but those flashbacks (and flash forwards) were fluid and integral to the plot. Here, the flashbacks are just that, serving as elements of character development that should've happened throughout the series run, rather than being shoehorned in at the last minute.

The Big Battle with the Cylon colony was okay, but too easy. There was none of the awesomeness of the Galactica-Pegasus tag-team match against the Cylons over New Caprica. That no-holds-barred imagination was missing this time out. And The whole business with the Dean Stockwell-led Cylons felt very unfinished. Yes, there were comments made that they faced extinction with resurrection technology and/or dissecting Hera, but having all the evil Cylons die off safely off camera was a cheat. Sending the sentient Centurions off in their own basestar was better. That, at least, leaves the door open for future, different follow-up projects.

Starbuck's fate sucked. Just awful. Starbuck didn't know what she was, and neither did the writers. So they make her disappear. WTF?

Ditto for the Baltar and Caprica Six "angels." These hallucinogenic figures most assuredly did not start out as such, and their elevation to benevolent supernatural status felt very much like an 11th-hour workaround to a problem nobody had a solution for.

There were a lot of 11th-hour workarounds on display here. That's a consequence of making things up as you go along with no real concern for existing continuity or how everything will resolve in the end. I have to give Ron Moore and writing staff for pulling... well, maybe not a rabbit out of the hat, but certainly not a stinking turd. The plot holes and gaps in logic have been papered over, and as long as you don't look too closely the thing is pretty and entertaining.

I'm glad I saw it, and I don't feel ripped off or betrayed (certainly not like all those LOST fans are going to in another year) but I've no real desire to see "Daybreak" again. If I've got an urge to take in three hours' worth of a SF series finale, I'll pop in my DVD of Farscape's "The Peacekeeper Wars."

Now Playing:

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Night Videos

"I Do' Wanna Know" is the song that introduced me to REO Speedwagon. Not a great song, and an odd choice for the lead single off their great, great Wheels are Turnin' album, but the video for the song was just so bugnuts insane that I couldn't help but love it. I haven't seen it in maybe 25 years, but even after long interval it's still as loopy as I remember. Enjoy!



Previously on Friday Night Videos... Earth, Wind & Fire.

Now Playing: Smithfield Fair Cairdeas (Kinship)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Time to dance!

Texas A&M. BYU. NCAA tournament, first round rematch from last year. The Aggies' fourth consecutive appearance in the Big Dance, a school record. Tipoff coming at 11:30 a.m. on CBS.

Let the Madness begin! Gig 'em Aggies!

Now Playing: AC/DC Who Made Who

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

And how many angels can dance on that pin head?

I've long had trepidations about Pope Benedict XVI. As Cardinal Ratzinger, he headed up the office of the Inquisition, although it's now known by the more innocuous title "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith." After Pope John Paul II's death, it was widely viewed that Ratzinger aggressively campaigned for the papacy, and in all honesty, that's the way it looked to me--particularly in light of his ubiquitous media presence in the weeks following JPII's funeral.

The thing is, a Grand Inquisitor does not a good pope make. Cardinal Ratzinger, an arch conservative, enforced dogma through his office with a dictatorial finality. He made decrees rather than engage in discussion. And unfortunately, he's carried that management style with him to the Holy See. But Pope Benedict isn't simply a theological lawyer who deals in hypothetical religious legalese. He's the head of the Catholic Church, but also a head of state and an international diplomat. As Grand Inquisitor, Ratzinger could bark at clergy or laity who ran afoul of him, and those hapless folks' only recourse was toe the line. On the world stage, well, nobody is required to grovel at Pope Benedict's feet.

His hostility to the reforms of Vatican II have been obvious since Day One, and he's worked to turn back the clock throughout his papacy. In his rush to reconcile with radical breakaway sects of the church that rejected Vatican II (including the Catholic Church's disavowal of anti-Semitism and supposed Biblical justifications for it) he's rehabilitated the right-wing bishops and priests of the Society of St. Pius X. Yet Pope Benedict expresses surprise that the society contains anti-Semitic, Holocaust-denying bishops? Egads, that's part of their basic statement of so-called faith! Yet he is bothered more by the fact that Catholics called him on it:
"I was saddened by the fact that even Catholics, who should know better how things work, thought it necessary to attack me with such hostility," the pope wrote

That's a longstanding favorite trick of high-handed folks who get called out for their ill-considered actions or words: Apologize for the fact that the critics are wrong. The Vatican's used this tactic quite often in the last few years. John Paul II was probably every bit as conservative as Benedict, but John Paul won over the world with his gentle manner, keen intellect and willingness to actually talk with people, whereas Benedict seems to hold anyone who doesn't agree with him in contempt.

Pope Benedict's tendency to dictate rather than discuss and gross insensitivity to views other than his own has resulted in outrage in the Muslim world and strained relations with Judiasm. Scientists aren't too happy with him either, although he's pretty popular among Creationists (you know, as much as a Godless Catholic can be).

And now Pope Benedict has decided it's best to condemn thousands, if not millions, of African women to death because it's better they die of AIDS than force their husbands to wear condoms. What boggles the mind is that the pope continues to dismiss opposition--both within and without the church--as irrelevant, and won't even consider a discussion on the issue:
On the plane, Benedict also dismissed the notion that he was facing increasing opposition and isolation within the church, particularly after an outreach to ultraconservatives that led to his lifting the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying bishop.

"The myth of my solitude makes me laugh," the pope said, adding that he has a network of friends and aides whom he sees every day.

This strikes me as eerily similar to the bunker mentality George W. Bush established in his White House, surrounding himself with like-minded cronies who wouldn't dare question the head man's decisions. At least the Vatican doesn't have nukes. That we know of.

And once again, Pope Benedict responds to criticism by dismissing it entirely with meaningless prattle:
"You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms," he said. "On the contrary, it increases the problem."

What doesn't he get? There is a problem with promiscuity in many African nations. Men, in the time honored exhibition of machismo, go out and have extramarital affairs with women who may or may not be prostitutes. This is done, of course, sans condom because 1) the church says condoms are sinful (nevermind the fact that adultry is sinful) and 2) men just don't like condoms. Now, said wayward husband has infected himself with AIDS and comes home to his wife, who he demands his husbandly right of sexual gratification. And he gratifies himself with her, again, without the use of a condom because 1) the church says condoms are sinful (nevermind the fact that murder is sinful, as he's now effectively infected her with a death sentence) and 2) men just don't like condoms. And if we're really lucky, in Pope Benedict's candy-colored world, said congress will result in a baby born with AIDS who'll die a year or so before or after mother and father.

So, there you have it--three dead people (at minimum) who've all been saved from Satan's scourge of condoms. Naturally enough, Pope Benedict deserves no blame for this sorry state of affairs himself, because his brilliant solution is to tell all of Africa just to stop having sex. Maybe he should've aimed those big guns on the church's pedophile priest scandal. "Hey, guys! Don't do it!" Problem solved.

The truth is, 13th century sexual mores weren't any more effective in the 13th century than they are today. Just because Pope Benedict wishes it so doesn't make it true. I've never in my life been embarrassed to be Catholic, but Pope Benedict's really making it tough.

Now Playing: Johann Sebastian Bach Romantic Moments, vol. 8

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Passiflora tenuiloba

Passiflora tenuiloba is a small, unassuming passiflora native to south and west Texas. I'm partial to them, and have several potted at home. One's been blooming for the past week, with flowers maybe 3/4 inch across.

Tenuiloba_031509_05_web


I've played around with macro a little using a Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AI-s I inherited from my father-in-law with a reversing ring. I like the manual focus and aperture control which gives me more flexible say over the final image, but it's not tremendously powerful as far as macros go. Straight shots of the tenuiloba flower weren't particularly impressive. Then I remembered that my brother'd given me a Vivitar 2x teleconverter a while back that he'd played around with but lost interest in. Could I use it for macro? First attempts resulted in error messages from my camera--the lens wasn't communicating with it, the camera said, and recommended I clean the contacts. The Vivitar had autofocus contacts on it, and somehow these were causing problems. Solution? I taped over them. Presto! No more error message. And wow, were the results striking--I've lost two stops on the lens, but fortunately it was a fast f/1.8 to begin with. I'm happy with the results, and hope to take the assembly out tomorrow and see what I can find.

Now Playing:

Friday, March 13, 2009

Lisa On Location

Some of you may have noted my obsession with photography this past year. The selling off of my Dr. Demento CD collection to fund the purchase of a camera and lenses, the taking of classes at Texas State in the fall, and the relentless posting of various images I've taken--some in infrared, some not.

There's a reason for this. With The Bug getting bigger (seemingly by the minute) and edging ever closer to kindergarten, The Wife is looking towards building a career post-childcare. Her background's in journalism, like mine, but unlike me, she's always been involved in photography. Was pretty darn good at it, too, before drifting away once we had kids.

So. The Wife is opening a photography studio. Not a physical studio at this juncture, but a working, on-location endeavour. Portraits (families, children, etc.), maternity photography, senior portraits, bridals (including bridal boudoir), glamour photography, plus, of course, infrared landscapes and other such fine art imagery. It fell upon me to increase my photographic competence to the point where I'd be a capable assistant and second shooter when we reach the point of staffing weddings and the like.

Lest you harbor any doubts about the viability of this enterprise, The Wife has a website at Lisa on Location and maintains a blog as well. And we all know that if it's on the interwebs, it's pretty much official. Check out her portfolio. She's got some darn good stuff in there.

It goes without saying that if you know someone in central Texas looking for a photography, we'd appreciate your pointing them thisaway.

Now Playing: Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band Nine Tonight

Friday Night Videos

The world (and the radio) were much more interesting places back in 1982 when Earth, Wind & Fire's glorious funk grooves and unparalleled fashion sense were staples of the popular music scene. Watching the video for "Let's Groove" I'm suddenly struck by the realization of where the costume designers for "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" got most of their wardrobe...



Now Playing:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Well, that's that

I just sent my regrets to Aggiecon, informing them I would not be able to attend the convention this year. That felt very odd. After having Aggiecon a part of my annual routine for 18 years, this will be the second year in a row that I've missed it. Last year I wasn't invited--nobody was invited--as the convention imploded. This year I simply have other obligations.

Even if that weren't the case, I'm not sure how eager I'd be to attend the convention. After contacting me back in the summer and insisting they (the students who run the convention) were intent on restoring Aggiecon to its former glory, bringing back all the authors slighted in recent years and asking for any advice I'd be willing to offer... well, six months of absolute silence followed. There was no update to the website, and repeated emails to both the con chair and guest relations officer met with deafening silence. Various writer types around the state approached me with the "What's up with Aggiecon" question, since they'd had variations on that experience. Or wanted to attend, but couldn't get any information from the con runners. A couple of weeks ago I got an email confirming I was a guest and asking my travel plans. No programming/panel communications ever happened, so there's no telling what kinds of events they'd have put me on had I attended.

Aggiecon could've recovered from the 2008 debacle, given some hard (and smart) work coupled with lots of diplomacy. I haven't seen that, from my vantage point. The students mean well, but I think this thing has gotten beyond them, that the con's been on too much of a media-oriented trajectory for too long, that too many upperclassmen with conrunning experience have moved on... it's too much to overcome. I feel like I've watched a hearty and hale loved one suffer a debilitating stroke, and for the past two years everyone's gathered around the bed watching decrepitude take over.

I sincerely regret missing Aggiecon in 2009, because I doubt we'll see one in 2010.

Now Playing: The Kinks Did Ya

Friday, March 06, 2009

Friday Night Videos: Watchmen edition

Oh. My. "Watch It" from 1985 by Luscious C and DJ Fist. It's a rap--not a particularly good one--about Watchmen.



And, just for the heck of it, the theme song opening for "Saturday Morning Watchmen," courtesy of Mary Robinette Kowal. As a Saturday morning cartoon parody it misses the mark on several levels, but overall it nails the whole concept of "bastardization."



Previously on Friday Night Videos... Bonnie Tyler.

Now Playing: SixMileBridge Across the Water

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Spring emerges

We've experienced an unusually warm and dry winter this year, even by Texas standards. So it comes as no surprise that the yard is waking up (actually, this started in mid-February to a degree, but who's counting?). The two plum trees are blossoming, and the pomegranate bushes are leafing out. Even the fig in the back yard has new leaves appearing. But it's the passion flowers that grab my attention.

Over the weekend, I discovered my little p. affinis had sent up a shoot nearly a foot long already.

Affinis1


Barely five feet away from it, a cluster of p. foetida var. gossypiifolia had sprouted and promised some aggressive growth. Clearing away dead vines from last season's sprawling vineage, I discovered several long vines that had never died back due to cold (I told you it was unusually warm this year) and had even started rooting from nodes along the vine. I took some of these and potted them up in hopes I'll have a bunch of little gossypiifolias to trade with other passion flower collectors in the coming months.

Gossy1


That completed, I headed over to the dog run fence to clean it off. My incarnata passion vines (aka Maypops) grow along here, as well as grapevines, coral honeysuckle and The Wife's morning glories (which I'm not a big fan of). I ripped down a bunch of these old, dead vines, and was surprised to find a green vine still alive, which hadn't died back over the winter like the rest. Go figure. I also discovered a 6" incarnata sprout coming up alongside a pear tree. While pulling up some of the dead vines, several feet of solid root came up as well. This I cut into sections and potted up as well. Some pieces were already showing signs of sprouting green shoots. More trade bait.

IMG_4365


Elsewhere, I discovered tiny sprouts from my p. Inspiration hybrid, and in the front yard found four sizeable shoots of my p. Incense hybrid growing happily. My p. caerulea also proudly showed off dozens of flower buds that will likely start opening late next week.

caerulea1


Sadly, all is not sunshine and lollipops. After taking inventory of my potted plants, I realized I'd lost a distressing number of them. Two beautiful coriaceas, which had great varigration on the leaves, are no more. My potted lutea died off. My single triloba is gone, as are the two potted specimens of coccinea/miniata. I'd rooted several cuttings of the new hybrid Crimson Tears last fall. All gone now. This is exceptionally frustrating, as I had high hopes for all of those. Ah well, I suppose I can always trade for them again...

Now Playing: INXS Kick