Summer's Not Over

Ahh, the first few dry leaves have dropped on the lawn, the days are getting shorter, the nights are a little cooler, and there’s just that feeling that Fall is upon us. Poets often romanticize about Autumn’s crisp air, earthy golden hues, and mellower tones with sentiments like:

“There is a harmony in autumn, and a lustre in it’s sky…”

“The mellow autumn came, and with it came the promised party, to enjoy it’s bounty.”

“What visionary tints the year puts on, when falling leaves falter…”

“Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.”

Yeah, right. No sooner did the Autumnal equinox occur to officially signal the beginning of Fall did we get another near-triple-digit blast of blistering temperatures to remind us that, regardless of what the silly ol’ calendar says, Summer’s not over in West Texas just yet. And this just in time for the annual MCH Employee Picnic too!

And with the Summer-like temperature, there was also one last good opportunity to catch a few more glipses of dapper dudes sporting cool Hawaiian shirts. So, in continuing that series, here’s Harvey H. doing the stylish tropical shirt thing with a distinctive University of Texas flavor.

Harvey does a Hawaiian shirt a la UT style

I’ve Become a Pod People

I love music! I love my MP3s. I used to love MTV, but that’s another story…

And I love taking my tunes with me. So, my faithful, if not glamorous, old Frontier Labs NexII MP3 player & I had been longtime companions. We’ve been together on trips, at work, occassionally at the gym, & on many, many walks. But the old guy was showing his years — the battery compartment was finicky at best, it stopped recognizing any CF memory card other than one specific 128MB Sandisk, and became prone to random shut-offs over the past 3-4 months.

More than once last year, Dede had suggested buying me a new MP3 player for my birthday — and Christmas too! But I was miserly & stubborn, insisting that my NexII could hold on a bit longer. And it’s worth mentioning that the NexII was actually hers to begin with, so I’ve gotta credit her for getting me into an MP3 player in the first place. Well, this year I finally gave in to temptation and asked for a new player for my birthday.

I had my mind set on one, the oddly-named MobiBLU DAH-1550i, which is a 1GB player available only via I liked the idea that I could drag & drop files to the player (just as I had with my NexII) without having to learn some new interface or abandon Windows Media Player that I’ve grown very comfy with. But the MobiBLU’s capacity is a bit limited and I couldn’t help feeling that I should aim a little higher since I had waited this long and would probably have the player for years to come.

Now, I’ll admit that I’ve liked the looks of the iPods all along. And that the iPod is an industry standard and has all sorts of accessories available for it definitely appealed to both of us. Oh sure, I made sarcastic little remarks about all those mindless Apple zealots who bought into Steve Jobs’ dastardly world domination master plan like rodents following the Pied Piper to the river.

Steve Jobs and the iPod - World domination is at hand!

But secretly, I coveted those sexy little MP3 players with their iconic click-wheel interface, glossy casing, & rounded corners. Earlier this year I had an chance to try Amberly’s iPod Mini and boy, that really hooked me. But the one thing that kept stopping me just short of jumping on the bandwagon was iTunes. I’d read/heard/seen enough to know that iTunes would force me to relinquish control over my music and play the game the Apple way. With iTunes, I’d have to learn a new interface and accept that placing music on the iPod meant moving not copying files to and fro. Nope, there seemed to be too much baggage that I didn’t want to deal with, so the iPod was just not for me.

But despite my resistance, Apple’s sneaky & infectious advertising was working – those cute little iPods kept calling out to me. It’s a best-seller. Websites heap praise upon praise upon the iPod family. TV & print media say that the cool people all have iPods. So who was I to question the iPod? But still there was that darned iTunes…

Dede suggested that there might be some 3rd party software to load music on the iPod without iTunes. Sure enough, while nosing around on Dennis Lloyd’s website recently, I came across some info on a nifty program called Anapod Explorer from Red Chair Software that promised to allow me to retain control of my music, with an iPod, but without iTunes.

All the glory of the iPod but none of the baggage of iTunes? Oh yeah, you betcha… I caved. Dede gave me an awesome early birthday gift — a shiny green 4GB iPod Mini — just in time to take on vacation a couple of weeks ago.   Awesome!   Simply awesome!

A green iPod Mini - it's all good!

So, yup, I’m a pod people now. Steve Jobs is my master. Resistance was indeed futile. The magical little green gem sounds great! When you hear people talk about the intuitive and effortless interface, well, it’s true — the touch-sensitive click-wheel really is that easy to operate. And Anapod Explorer works like a charm, allowing me to move my MP3s to & fro as I please!

Of course, once you’ve been assimilated and have become a pod people, well, you’ve just gotta go find more pod people to hang out with. And there are lots of really good websites out there with iPod info, tricks, tips, & accessory reviews! For example:


iPod Hacks

iPod Garage

iPoditude – The iPod Blog

I should mention that iTunes isn’t all bad – in fact, lots of people really like it and Apple updates it often. If you’re not already well-versed and comfy with another piece of software (like Windows Media Player or MusicMatch) then iTunes can be a great tool for playing and managing your digital music collection. However, I’ll also caution you that iTunes gives you the opportunity to purchase music from the Internet – but the music you download at a little under a buck apiece is not in MP3 format and, as I noted in my Digital Music Project blog post back in February, Apple’s AAC music files are encrypted with copy protection. You don’t buy DRM-enabled music — you rent it! So, be sure to consider that before you pay to download music.

So, what are you waiting for? Fall in line, become a pod people, and enjoy some awesome tunes!


Sometimes you see a movie that just crawls right under your skin. Maybe when you first saw it, you thought it was pretty good, but then as you thought back upon it after a day or two, it worked it’s way into your heart and/or mind.

Crash is one of those sorts of movies. It’s a “day in the life of…” kind of movie that weaves a handful of seemingly unrelated stories together atop of the backdrop of Los Angeles over the course of about 36 hours. This movie sets you up for what you expect to be one cliched situation after another, only to spin off in unpredictable and often gut-wenching directions. “Crash” is an unflinching, thought-provoking, gripping, and sometimes funny look at race and tolerance.

Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Brendan Fraser, Thandie Newton, Matt Dillon, Ryan Phillippe, and a boatload of other powerfully talented actors star in Crash, but I was especially impressed by Michael Peña, who’s previously been a mostly low-key player in FX Networks’ The Shield. Check it out and let us know what you think!

Moving at the speed of life, we are bound to collide with each other.

Hawaiian Shirts & Manly Men

Just when I had all but given up on featuring any more fashionable guys with Hawaiian shirts this summer, Antoine D. pulls through for me in flying colors. Geared up here in practice for his new son who should be arriving just about in time for Christmas, Antoine shows that you can be a manly man with an Ahola shirt and also change diapers. His stylish and functional “Daddy Diaper Duty Device” toolbelt and the sensible protective eye gear show that he’s ready for whatever biohazards Aiden will send his way.

Antoine gears up to be a dapper dad

Survivor: Guatemala – The Maya Empire

Survivor: Guatemala - The Maya Empire

Kicking off it’s 11th season, Survivor: Guatemala – The Maya Empire started tonight! And its safe to say that this season’s castaways had the most brutal beginning yet with a grueling 11 mile jungle trek.

And we’re especially happy to see two of our favorites, Stephanie & Bobby Jon back in the game this round. Looks like the 2 tribes are going to need the extra boost from having these experienced players because this season looks like it’ll make the earlier ones seem almost easy.

Buzz around the office is that 3 or 4 of the Survivor: Guatemala castaways have twin siblings and that this may come into play at some point during the season, but host Jeff Probst has officially denied those rumors, despite the fact that twins do play a major role in Mayan culture.

Wright is wrong! Set Love free!

Wright is wrong!  Set Love free!

On our recent Southwest Airlines flight to/from California, the flight attendants were wearing buttons that read “Wright is Wrong” and making in-flight announcements asking passengers to help repeal the Wright Amendment by writing Congress. Rob did some research last night to find out what it is was all about. The website Set Love Free explains the Wright Amendment and gives details about why it is bad, but in a nutshell, the Wright Amendment prohibits Southwest Airlines from offering non-stop flights from their home airport Love Field to any states that do not directly border Texas. If allowed access to longhaul markets from Love Field, consumers would benefit from DFW’s airlines having to compete with the fares offered by Southwest at Love Field. I bet you can figure out who is supporting the Wright Amendment! 😉

Please do your part in helping repeal the Wright Amendment by going to the website and asking your legislators to “Set Love Free” so we can all benefit from lower fares!

San Diego to Bakersfield

We got home from our week-long vacation in California late last night. We started off in San Diego with Clems & Sophie as their “tour guide,” except for when they went to the San Diego Zoo and Sea World. San Diego is one of our favorite places for vacation.

We started with our usual visit to Joe’s Crabshack in Pacific Beach followed with a walk in the water along the beach. After dipping our feet into the ocean, we went on a scenic drive through La Jolla up to Mt. Soledad. On a clear day you can see down the coastline all the way to Mexico. It is the perfect photo-op spot.

After four days in San Diego, Clems & Sophie flew home and Rob & I drove up to Bakersfield to visit our friend Gretchen. I had not seen Gretchen since 9/11 and, given that past visits seemed to coincide with earthquakes or other disasters, Gretchen joked about preparing for some disaster during the visit. Unfortunately, there was Hurricane Katrina this time, it just happened before we got there. Hmm, maybe Gretchen is on to something…

Anyway, the drive from San Diego to Bakersfield is really pretty. It did take a couple of hours to get through L.A. but other than that, it was very pleasant. The last part of the drive is through the Tehachapi Mountains that is really nice, even though it has been brown (not green) everytime I have driven through there. You might have received a picture showing the mountains full of colorful flowers in some of the mass emails that circulate and, believe it or not,
Snopes does say that picture is for real. Gretchen says that it does really look that way for about 2 weeks in March so maybe we’ll have to plan a trip there sometime just to see this.

Our visit with Gretchen and her daughter Annaliese was fun. Rob & I have decided that Annaliese will be in performing arts when she grows up. She is so much fun to be around and “shy” is not a personality trait she has.

We left Bakersfield yesterday and drove to Burbank to catch our flight home. We had a layover in Las Vegas and Rob came home a penny richer (he found one on the floor)!

Check out photos of the trip by clicking on Our Photo Album or check out Clems’ Photo Album.

San Diego Harbor Gretchen & Annaliese