Week's worth of stuff.

What a week. So much to talk about. So much going on.

It started last weekend with Lance Armstrong, an Austinite, winning is 5th straight Tour de France. He ties Miguel Indurain of Spain for the most consecutive victories in Tour history, and since he's from Austin, that's big news for our town.

Next comes the Democrats in the Legislature breaking quorum again on a Republican called special session. This is the 2nd time this summer the Dems have exercised their option to leave the state (this time to New Mexico) and it's sparked a lot of debate. The last time a group of state senators broke quorum was 1979, the Killer B's. Before that was something like 1875. It's a huge deal in the city and state right now. For a good recap and point of view, check this out.

To cap the weekend off, Mrs. Austin and I cruised to Carlos and Charlie's on the lake. If you don't know Austin, it's basically a boat bar. Decent enough restaurant, you can rent boats and jet-skiis and they also put on concerts. Well that later bit was new to us and two of our favorite live bands, Los Lonely Boys and Bob Schneider were playing. So we went basically long enough to see them, then we headed back. I got a lot done on my (now finished) first comic and over all it was a good weekend.

The refinance woes are now a memory. After telling these people we didn't want to pay escrow at the end of the year, I guess they decided we're too savvy and would have probably dumped them sooner than later. That's the last we heard from them. Good riddance. (And that's all I'll say about finances.)

Lil Miss Austin is just developing by leaps and bounds. She's enrolled in a little dance class now that comes to her school and teaches them...well...dance, as well as some basic gymnastics. For a 2 year old, basic gymnastics include jumping and summersaults. If I see her doing any vaults in the next few weeks I'm calling Bella right now! She's still precocious and charming, lately a little whiney, like she's always hurting or tired or something. She's also just damn cute. I've noticed she still doesn't grasp the Why question, but you can be guaranteed that it will hit soon. She knows how to count and what colors are what, what's hot and cold, what hurts, what's dark and scary, what tastes good, what her name is....it's just amazing what little sponges they are.

A friend and his wife recently had their 2nd, and while I haven't seen the little one yet, I know it's going to make me and Mrs. Austin take a close look at our family planning. We like having just one child, our lives feel full enough. We always get the question, "So are you going to have another?" Well, we might? Why? Are we in a race? Did a starter's gun go off when I was in the bathroom? I know it's socially acceptable and probably a benefit for the child to have a sibling, but that's no reason to prod parents with that stupid question. If we have another, we have another one. It may be by accident or after months or years of trying. If we never have another, are we disqualified from the Earth? I'm guessing the question is more often then not just a polite conversation starter and in no way meant to pick apart the private lives of parents, but let's find some other way to break the ice, shall we? I don't want to feel that this magical little creature we dote over is somehow less than perfect because she is a single. I don't want to feel lacking because I chose quantity over quality. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to own a hockey team, but I wouldn't want to father one.


The Flip

My brother in law and I were talking about the differences between being single and married, or single and dating. We came up with a good point.

If you're single, and you know a girl who drinks a lot and is real friendly when she drinks, you do whatever you can to put yourself into a situation that involves this girl and a quart of gin.

If you're married, you try to avoid this girl or make sure you've left the bar before you're the only one left to give her a ride home.

If you're single and a girl is flirting with you at the bar, when you know it's just to get free drinks you think, "Hey, out of all the guys here, she's at least picking me to get free drinks out of."

If you're married you think, "This skank has all these other guys to work on, why's she trying to get a free drink outta me?"

Even if the girl is hot, when you're married, friendly hammered chicks are kind of annoying. When you're single they are a jackpot, and the stuff of legend.

Not that either of us have a lot of experience with this. We're both married and I'm pretty sure have it quite good. I'll just leave it at that before our wives read more into this.

Wait, wait. I've got a coupon.

Depending on what part of the country you're from, you have a local drug store. Eckerd’s, Walgreen’s, I think it's GDC on the East Coast. These stores have a weird collection of items ranging from the not-so-useful to the purely eccentric. I like to think of them as an Impulse Shoppers Paradise. Really, the only reason you should go to these places is to get your Rx filled or before a road trip to see if there's anything really novel you're forgetting, like an Alabama CD or one of 10 novels they may have. Walgreen’s, especially, is notorious for having very little in stock, nothing in bulk, and no high end items. They don't have a lot of groceries, cool Sharper Image type things or the full range of office supplies one might need. It's also a place where they could run out.

That's right, in our day and age of consumer gluttony where we're only happy with our purchasing experience when we can log roll 22 gallons of mayonnaise out to our car, having to hear the words "out of stock" seem like their coming from another planet. And they art, sort of. These midsize drug stores harken back to the days when they were the Wal-Marts and Super Targets. They were the big kid on the block. But they've kept their ideals and their size and their product selection....and their clientele.

Oh Lordy what do I gotta do to shop at this place without having to stand behind the AARP'er trying to pay for make up, deodorant (moth ball scent), batteries and cranberry juice with twice as many coupons as she has items. I've worried that I've overspent before, like at a Best Buy when I feel guilty about paying $50 for a video game, but this is nearly haggling, another lost art. "Well, I think 3 chickens is a fair price, but I think you can do better. How about 2 chickens and a duck for this basket of Maybelline?"

Not to mention that they have to pay in exact change, change they don't have ready, change they can't find, change they don't even know they may or may not have. So after 10 mins of bickering over whether the weekly special on flash bulbs and Ambesol actually registered on the register, then digging through a purse the size of a waterbed bladder looking for 96¢, it's time for me to move up.

And the whole reason I go, is because cigarettes are cheaper there. We're not just talking a few cents. If a local kiosk selling gum, muffins and smokes charges $4.50, and the gas station is charging $3.50, Walgreen’s is charging $2.50. It's weird. I guess in the end, they're keeping a lot of things from the past, including the price of smokes.


Sinead O'conner I'm not.

There's nothing like shaving your own head. I've done it once before, but it was along with my brother. We grew long hair together, we shaved heads together. Sort of a bonding experience. Back in the day, I would shave down to nigh the scalp coming ever so close to needing to Shick it to get any less hair. Well I've gone and done it again. In a desperate act of hair dresser avoidance, I clamped the #3 guard onto the clippers and let fly with about 3 months of mop.

I tell you what. Something very cathartic about shaving your own head, even better if it's on a whim. I had planned to get my hair cut, and threatened to "trim it up" myself, but never to just go at it with some clippers. So as I stood staring at myself in the mirror, stripped down to my shorts, looking at my Johnny Storm hairdo, something profound came over me. Not a sadness, but an acceptance. Like a drunk finally making the first step in recognizing his problem. So the clippers came to life and I began hacking away like a weed whacker to that unruly patch of grass underneath the gas meter. The clippers sang out like a heavy metal guitar as lock after lock was dumped into the sink. I start slowly, and around the back and sides, so if I changed my mind I could still wear a hat for a day or two while seeking professional intervention. Then with one fatal swoop, I went for the widow's peak.

Widow's peak is a euphemism. I'm 30 now and the hair is receding so it's not so much a peak as it is a remnant. It military terms, as most balding men tend to use in these situations, it's scrimmage line for an ordered retreat. But there's frightfully few of them boys left. It almost looks like I'd just missed a spot. It's thin and scattered and hopeless. It's mere presence is a reminder that, while I feel young again by taking drastic stylist steps on my own, I am moving steadily on toward the end of my life rather than moving away from the beginning. It's humbling and ridden with anxiety.


Ameriquest woes

Another fun aspect of owning a home, fun in the classic Greek sense where there's a guy wearing a mask with a big nose, is the refinancing of your mortgage loan. To say I have a good grasp of how mortgage-lending works would be to insult brokers everywhere in the world. I have no more sense about such things than the average May Fly. Mrs. Austin was either solicited or started the process on her own to refinance our 6.25 loan with Ameriquest. They said they could help AND get us cash back as a home equity loan. We said go for it.

Now, if Mr. Brighton or Mrs. Colorado Springs are reading this, let me preface by saying we haven't signed anything and don't plan to.

So some time has gone by since our first dealings with Ameriquest. Mrs. Austin has brought me up to speed and I've done what I can in my capacity as an idiot to help with the proceedings. After we'd sent many an article of payment and bank history to these folks, we're still no closer to a) Understanding what's going on and b) Getting what was promised to us than we were 2 months ago.

The original deal goes like this. Contact is made. Our credit isn't very good, it's not bad, but it's not sterling. We had good enough scores to actually obtain the house, but to get a lower rate requires a credit report that hasn't had any activity since 1960 at which point the 30 years of prior spotless payment history was closed out, sealed in the hall of records and buried under the remains of the Statue of Liberty, to be excavated by Simian descendants of man wearing leather tunics and riding horses. With this in mind, the strategy changed from "lower rate and home loan" to "higher rate for a year, home loan, next year lower rate." Ok, we agreed. To get a lower rate is worth the sacrifice of one year at a higher rate while we repair our oxygen deprived credit scores. On top of it all, we get a few G's in a loan to help with the bills. Keep the "bills" bit in mind, it'll come into play later.

More time goes by. We don't hear from Ameriquest for weeks and we're starting to worry. One of the initial points was we don't pay on our current loan for 2 months during the process. Naive as I am, I don't ask why, I just assume it has to do with paperwork changing hands. Again, total moron. So while we're waiting for our closing now, our bank note is falling behind, and no one from Ameriquest has contacted our lender to tell them we're refinancing. On top of that, the original appraisal of our house has suddenly dropped below the level that will ensure us a home equity loan. The deal is slowly going south. I feel like Lando trying to keep Bespin while Darth Vader is hunting down rebels. "This deal is getting worse all the time."

Today was the back-breaker for me. Having very little to do with the dealings up until now, my only call to Ameriquest didn't sit well with my gut. My guts have seen me through quite a few spells and I just didn't see this deal as being on the up and up. First off, I'm referring to it as a "deal." Where's Monty to let me pick door number 2? As the rep explained it to us, we would be basically getting the cash back in the form of savings over the next year from not paying on our current loan for 2 months now and 2 more months in one year's time. Then we would be getting our escrow account refunded to us. Problem is, we'd still have to pay taxes on the property at the end of the year. Meanwhile our payments on the principle and interest were going up on a monthly basis, more than what a slight interest rate increase would yield. Something sounded wrong.

Something indeed. Like fish left in the back seat of a Datsun in Baton Rouge in August, the smell of this started to stick to my clothes. As soon as we fought back, just a little, to say that it'd be better for us that we pay the Tax along with the Principle and Interest and Insurance, suddenly their computers went down and they'd have to call us back. Call it Sad, Call it Funny, but it's better than even money that it's a stall tactic that this company is trying to use to string us along until we're so desperate for the funds we'll sign on to anything. Right after the call I checked epinions.com and put Ameriquest into the search field. 2 reviews, both bad. Both basically summing up what has been said here. One with an unresolved outcome, one with a decent outcome that required calls to the Better Business Bureau.

Speaking of the BBB, you should look up Ameriquest on their site. I'd say the report was scathing, but I don't know business. I'm pretty sure that when terms like "fails" "unsatisfactory" "unresolved" and "consumer complaints" are used, that's not going to win you many beauty contests.

So now we're in limbo. Yes, it's good we haven't made any commitments. Yes, I'm glad we found out about it. Yes I'm upset we didn't get the offer that was promised. The thing that upsets me most is we're now behind in regular monthly accounting practices because of the delays. It's really unfortunate that in an effort to straighten up and fly right, get ahead on bills, get a better rate on our home, we're going to end up even further behind. Now things like school and Chicago trips are threatened. Thoughts of selling household items to pay the bills is starting to creep into my mind. Hmm, blood goes for $25 a pop. I can get 10 bucks for those X-Men cards I have. Is that fair? Is that right? Is that the American Dream? No, but it's apparently the American Quest.

(Will update this story as more information becomes available.)


You invited WHO to the picnic?

So we were going to head out to Hamilton pool Sunday for a nice little picnic and swimming. Mrs. Austin loves the place, can't seem to get enough of it. I, on the other hand, find it gorgeous and serene, but I'm not a big swimmer, so I take my art or a book and a pack of smokes and enjoy the view. Lil Miss Austin loves swimming as well. She's so cute with her little inflatable life vest and swim suit. She can dog paddle now but occassionaly tips onto her back like a turtle and starts sucking down water so we have to remain close. It's not like we can just let her do laps, she's only 2.

Anyway, we head to Hamilton Sunday morning without calling first. Bad news. Mrs. Austin is always sure to call ahead, but this time it was spaced out and I never think to call. The reason you would call ahead is because it's a natural run off swimming hole. It's not a spring, so they have to check the bacteria levels and animal fecal levels and a battery of tests that I'd just as soon not know about or I'd never go swimming there again. It's a little creek that's carved it's way into an underground cave, and over time the cave wore away and a nice little swimming hole with a beautiful water fall was born.

Well we didn't get in Sunday. We've been once this year, and 3 times last year so the only thing wasted was the expectation and the drive. So we thought, we'll let's head to Krausse Springs. Krausse is a spring that turns into a little stream that ran through an old German's land. He damned it and directed it in certain areas and the result is a breathtaking little water fall and swimming hole. Mrs. Austin found it by sheer determination and a mind like an iron trap. We'd been once before, but if you paid me to find it I'd take you to Dallas, I had no idea. So we found it, and we found it crowded. The last time we visited we were but the third car to arrive. We spent a good amount of time by the little manicured pool then headed down to the falls. This time, it was like White Trash Day. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, it is called a swimmin' hole after all. Not that I'd want this place all to myself, but I was just amazed how many people were there. It's apparently the number one thing to do in Austin according to Austin Monthly Magazine's 103 things to do in 2003.

Well we had a good time. I dropped LMA as I slipped on some rocks, got sunburned and bitten by ants. However, I got some good pictures and some drawing done, Mrs. Austin got to swim and relax, and LMA got to play with rocks and water. It was a good time. I suggest visiting if you're in the area.


Home Sweet Home

The joys of home ownership are as numerous as the headaches. For every touch of love you put in, there's an equal and opposite catastrophe that requires you to empty your savings and learn about electrical work, plumbing or masonry.

Case and point, we have just finished doing the preliminary work on refinancing our house. Turns out we will be getting a home loan, have to pay a higher rate for a year and next year get a lower rate than what we have now. Doesn't affect our monthly payment, plus we get cash. Win win. I'm still a little confused as to how it works, but I know that the couple things left on our credit must be rectified. In purchasing the house in the first place, I know how fun dealing with your credit is, and no matter how much we fix things, in two years time something else from our past will probably pop up in a perpetual goose chase with faxes, pay stubs and phone calls.

But that's not the reason for my call, Doc. I was going off on the yin and yang of home ownership. So we are now expecting a good sized chunk of money in the next couple weeks (and for you Kato Kaylin's out there, it's to pay the bills we're already behind on, so don't look to us for a free club membership to Chez Austin.) With perfect English thespian timing, the air conditioner starts leaking. When I say leaking, I'm referring to how Niagara Falls leaks more than how a tap might drip a few times during the course of a day. There hasn't been this much water in our garage since our 2nd night in the house when I ceremoniously pried the water valve off the wall.

Being the industrious squirrels we are, and with some advice from Mr. Austin Sr., we made the trek to Home Depot and purchased some tubing, PVC elbows and other needed items and created a fine Rube Goldberg contraption designed to ferry the leaking water out of the AC/Water Heater closet and into the washing machine drain. It was A-Team tight. What we didn't count on was one thing. Water usually drips down and not up. So our ad hoc plumbing, while attractive and time consuming, really didn't do much. Along with a big air pump designed to inflate children’s' pools, we were at best keeping the deluge at bay.

A call to our local HVAC professionals, and $70 later revealed the AC doesn't drain out to where it should, but into the waste water line. We thought that made sense, so we called the City. City guy comes out and gives us the 411 on how the HVAC people screwed up out of $70 because nothing runs into the waste water line, gave us a boat load of tips on how to take care of these problems ourselves, and then didn't charge us a dime. Say what you want about city employees, this guy was top shelf. So we exchanged water on the rocks for his "contract" number in case we have any more questions and he went merrily on his way. Yeah we lost a day waiting for both these chaps, but the AC works for the next couple weeks and we have learned a valuable lesson. "It's always the 2nd guy that has all the answers."


"Flash" Jordan Thomas

Austin isnt' without its share of Freaks. Probably the most famous, and literally and institution, is Leslie. The thong wearing, gristled old whatever-it-is is a mainstay on 6th Street. However, just slightly less well known is the slew of cable access shows Austin has to offer. I've actually only seen a handful of episodes, more than half of those were of some normal looking guy getting really agitated over the Presidency.

However, even cable access fame is still fame. Our group at work just took a lunch at Spaghetti Warehouse and while there a coworker noticed an older gentleman dressed like Elvis enter the restaurant. We all took our gracious inauspicious glances at his table. Black tee shirt, trademark gold specs, chops, immaculately quaffed hair. As we were glancing and giggling, the waitress mentioned that the table was being occupied by none other than Jordan Thomas. Who? we asked. Apparently, "Flash" Jordan Thomas has one of the top rated access shows in the city and is somewhat of a cult classic. I plan on looking for this show now, but after looking at the description I may just leave this Pandora’s Box closed. See for yourself. (Look for Austin City Lights)

Virus and the Corporate World

If you haven't already guessed, I work in a corporate atmosphere. Yeah, I know. The pictures with the cowboy hat, the comic book art, the endless talk of Legos and Star Wars probably had you fooled, but sad to say I am employed by a company that actually has a middle management level.

If you've ever worked with computers in a big corporation, you'll understand my current dilemma. A few days ago, we were infected with the Muu virus. It's not like a normal bug that is opened by some technophobe who really thinks that someone they don't know cares about them enough to send them a Friendly greeting, it actually works its way into a network and looks for any shared folders, moves to them, finds more shared folders and it's on its way. While shared folders aren't hard to find on one machine, looking for them on every machine in the company takes some time, especially if they're on machines that are rarely viewed. Automation is a nasty lady when it comes to that. You hear a lot of, "Huh, I didn't even know we HAD this machine."

So for the past 4 days, we've been through a mix of scrambling around trying to stem the flow of infectious code and sitting idly by because some of our servers just aren't working. To top it all off, today, Friday, our email server goes down and we have no way to communicate to large groups at once. For problem reporting that's a big issue, I don't even have the phone numbers to call all the people I need to tell something isn't working right. Again, nasty lady. Let's just say I've got a little time on my hands.

Well guess what, today, of all days, management decides to ask how our testing is going. I work in Quality Assurance and we run all our applications through a battery of tests before they're released. For the past week we haven't had servers and sometimes our own machines to test with, but that doesn't stop the supervisory board from asking how our testing is going. How's it going? HOW'S IT GOING?? It's going freakin nowhere, Sir! If you haven't noticed, 70% of our machines won't load a desktop, the rest are using up the CPU like a cancer. Now our Exchange server is down and you want me to give you an update on our testing?

Coupled with this is the building management's uncanny knack of not providing half our building with AC on Fridays. So with coworkers in tanks tops and I in my cap, we all settle down and put up with this crap.

(Notice this has little to do with the cool things going on in Austin, just looking for a place to open up the valves a bit.)


Whew! The parents are gone!! Don't get me wrong, I love having guests, especially when it's my family, but two weeks in a row of not being able to walk around naked...

*ahem* So the comic book message board I go to on a daily basis has seen fit to nominate me as a moderator for one of their forums. It's a big deal for me actually because I've been visiting this board specifically for over 2 years and the old Wizard boards before that, so it's been a while. I'm truly honored and I hope to do a good job. It's an interesting turn of events, though. I mean, it's not like I finally obtained my degree in Art or got a raise or sold my first comic or won the lottery, but I'm so excited about it I'm bursting to tell someone. Trouble is, it doesn't sound that great to just the average Joe. Mrs. Austin was pretty jazzed about it, she knows how much time I spend there and how much the place has influenced me and my actions in the comic world. I consider it my second home, the people my extended family. I guess in terms that are more relative, it would be like being nominated to City Council or head of the PTA. It's not the presidency, but it's a small taste of power. "And with great power comes great responsibility."

Mrs. Austin is thinking of going back to school. Thinking, hell, she's registered. Classes start Aug 21st. We're of course worried about finances, but it's a chance to finish her degree so I'm all for it. Things will work out. It's a good change after 3 years of pumpin' PCs and dealing with managereal paperwork and I hope she makes the best of it. Once the convention hoopla is done, it'll be her turn to chase her dream. I'll still be drawing and making sure Lil Miss Austin is being raised in the fine tradition of hockey, Star Wars and Lego. Sure we might have to cancel the cable and DSL and sell a car if financial aid is not available, but those are small things compared to knowledge. I'm excited for her. She's excited to go. LMA is excited to see Spongebob, so it all works out.


On the Road Again. Blue Eyes Cryin' in the Rain. Crazy. Kansas City Here I Come.

Not all these are Willie's songs, not all are made famous by him although he wrote them. But one thing's for sure, when he sings them, when he sings anything, you'll know it's Willie Nelson.

8 miles up Hwy 71 in Spicewood lay the Two Rivers Canyon Amphitheater. We hauled the Mitsubishi loaded up with Mrs. Austin, Lil Miss Austin, Grandpa and Grandma Colorado and myself down the winding scenic highway until we reached the gilded oasis of music, turkey legs and redneck beer drinkin'.

Mrs. Austin purchased tickets to Willie Nelson's 4th of July Picnic months ago, practically when they went on sale. Willie Nelson is to her as a trip to Disneyworld is for an 8 year old. So making this trip to Meca-B-Q was a no brainer. With my parents buying their own tickets as well, it was just begging for a good time...

...or disaster.

Sorry, I'm reading that Da Vinci book so I'm forcing some dramatic pauses in here.

Anyway. The day was overcast and breezy. We'd heard on the radio and TV the day before (the actual 4th of July) that traffic was horrible getting into the venue. The rain made the general admission seating resemble Woodstock II. And on top of it all, The Dead (sans the Grateful) did a 3 hour set. Even Willie thought it better to avoid that trip. But that's not the 5th of July. When we went, the crowds had stayed home or left later, the traffic was non-existent, the rain stayed away, and all that was left was the fun.

Even being a confirmed anti-country fan, and recently giving in to the urge to own a cowboy hat because I thought it was more an urban apparel thing, I had a really good time. We didn't sit too close, but this wasn't Rage Against the Machine, if you wanted to get close to the stage, all you had to do was politely nudge past a few drunk Texans and you were there. Mrs. Austin did that several times, making sure to get her money's worth of Willie and her inner core's worth of heavy bass lines. I mostly sat with the parents and LMA while band after band took the stage.

I'd like to give a special recommendation for anyone reading to check out Los Lonely Boys; easily the band of the day. They were tight, energetic, fun, talented, and had a big sound with not a large band. To me, they blew away the headliners included the "Best Band in Austin" Del Castillo. Consummate performers with a natural sense of music and human emotion, I was glad to have been party to their unfortunately short set.

Willie was not the main star of the show. Don't get me wrong, it had his name all over it, but he wouldn't be on stage all the time. He'd come out and play along with each band for one song, then head back to his air conditioned bus to recoup. I don't think ANYONE had a problem with it, after all, he's freakin 70 years old. However it gave an odd sense of eulogy to the entire event, like they were celebrating the man who was only partially there. It wasn't a Willie Nelson concert, it was a Williepalooza. So when one of the acts couldn't perform because they were stuck in traffic, we had the legendary honor of hearing Mr. Nelson do 4-5 songs on his own, a twist of fate we wouldn't normally had the pleasure of hearing. It was pretty funny all in all that the next performer was "stuck in traffic" when there was no traffic either getting to the show or leaving the show. Another biz euphemism for "they're stoned off their ass and couldn’t carry a tune right now if you put it in a back pack." Needless to say, Mrs. Austin bolted to the stage and enjoyed 30 mins of unadulterated Willie (easy with the jokes now.)

I can't say it's the most fun I've ever had. It was certainly enjoyable, but it also came with a lot of sitting and worrying about my parents. The last concert they went to I'm pretty sure involved the word Pops, so having them sitting in the muddy and rocky grass surrounded by straw hats, long boys and a prominent lack of AC was giving me stress that I was unable to translate. I didn't want to leave, but I didn't want to force them to stay if they didn't want to, and I didn't want to tear Mrs. Austin away from her country music bliss. I easily blasted through half a pack of smokes in about 4 hours. Not wanting to spoil the afternoon by being a sour puss, I had a few beers and forgot about it all.

In the immortal words of Ray Wylie Hubbard, "Screw you, I'm from Texas."


I'm watching From Russia with Love and it hits me that there are a few too many scenes of 007 walking around a hotel room looking for bugs with chase music going on. The trademark Bond theme blaring with all the trumpet power it can muster, and Mr. Connery is doing nothing short of looking behind a painting for a wire. 30 minutes later, his associate in Istanbul has his private office bombed and all we get is a cello. Call me reactionary but I think the director of music must have taken a nap when he threw this baby together. Probably wrote the whole bit on a Sunday afternoon after watching The Birds and realized it was good but needed a snappier soundtrack.

So there's this little girl next door who's taken a shine to Lil Miss Austin. I can't quite imagine why, LMA is 2 and this girl is 6. LMA is working on not leaving surprises in her miniature panties and this girl is modeling swim suits. The only attraction I can figure out is that the neighbor girl, we'll call her Alice, thinks LMA is a little doll. They can't talk on any level, they don't have the same toys, Alice's other friends are even older than her, by almost a generation. Regardless, she's at our door almost every 20 minutes asking if LMA can come out to play. Actually, she's got a bit of a stutter, so it's not so much asking as it is a lot of standing there with nothing to say while she tries to chat up a 30 year old dad who wants nothing more than to slink back into his nice cool home and play Half Life. Nothing against the girl, she's really sweet, but I think she's still learning about boundaries. It's one thing to approach a family as they sit outside, playing in a pool or with a small two wheeled killing machine, it's another to come in to our house unannounced, bringing the mail. Mrs. Austin and I have got to the point where we don't answer the door anymore. I'd rather see Jehovah’s Witnesses outside than to have to small talk this little trooper. On top of it all, she doesn't give grace time from first doorbell ring to next door knock to next insistent door knock to small polite "Oh I don't think their home but I'm 6 and what do I know" door knock...*sigh* I really would like LMA to be friends with her, or anyone really. There're not many toddlers around here. However, I think Alice needs some friends her own age. Plus I'm pretty much out of lies about LMA being sick, asleep, doing her calculus homework, or dead. I mean, I'm being played by this girl and it's making my reflux act up.

The Da Vinci Code. Oh good God don't give this book to anyone unless you don't expect to see them for 48 straight hours. I received this nugget as a gift on my birf-day and I haven't read it yet. Meanwhile Mrs. Austin has absconded with it, took the day off of work, read it cover to cover, researched it online, figured out all the clues and is currently petitioning Austin Community College to open a course on the subject. I mean seriously. (Mrs. Austin here. If Mr. Austin knew anything about the book, and had as much desire as I had to read it, he would know that there already was a course!) To add insult to injustice, she's a fast reader and can accomplish such Dead Poet Society tasks, where as it will take me the greater part of a M Class star's life span to read it just one time. For example, Lord of the Rings; the full trilogy took me a year. A YEAR!! That's half my daughter’s age, to read a book! Who's the mook now??

Anyway, I hear it's a good book. I hope to find out before LMA can drive to the library to check it out.

Father in laws don't appreciate humor about pot distribution at the Austin airport. I can't imagine why. Well, maybe Timothy Leary's dad thought it was funny. Or Jerry Garcia's dad. Yeah, that's it. Pot in Austin is like Hash in Amsterdam, it's a non-issue. I don't smoke pot *coughliarcough* but I do drink a lot of coffee and eat too much pasta, ends up being the same effect. Right? RIGHT? Besides, someone who's seen Willie Nelson in concert THREE TIMES *cougholdmancough* should at least chuckle at the joke. Otherwise, no double-holed bent up Pepsi can for you at the show, man. Sweeeet. Totally.


Thirty years and a day. That's how old this human being is now. Thirty years. It doesn't feel much different than 26 and probably won't feel any different when I'm 35 or even 40. I'm sure my knees might pop a little more, and I might get acid reflux easier, but to be honest, I don't feel 30. Call it immaturity, call it denial, but I actually still have a 22 year old mind set. I still feel like this weekend I'll be going out and getting wasted and staying up all night and the next day play video games and go see a movie. I still watch cartoons. I read comics. I suppose it's "young at heart." It's hard to say.

One thing that came up in coversation was that it's not so much the age that bothers me, it's what it represents. I don't feel like I only have a certain amount of years left, I feel that the years that I've had so far have been wasted. I'm not regreting any decisions mind you, but I would have liked to have done more. Looking back through eyes that have seen 30 years of my antics, there is a great lack of accomplishment. Mrs. Austin asked last night what the biggest accomplishments I've had in my life. I had to think about it and it was kinda sad to see that my biggest accomplishments didn't happen until I was almost 30 anyway. Married, 25. Baby, 27. House, 28. Making my own comic, 30. So out of 30 years, 5 have been production.

I could go farther back and say, well I TOOK 6 years of college. I didn't graduate and yes the time was mainly spent drinking and sleeping late, so I've got nothing but some fond memories there. High school wasn't much better, instead of focusing on business, or a skill that would benefit me later in life, I chose to flounder between art, music and theater. And even then I didn't pick one to put all my energy into. I'm only now realizing that I need to stick with art. I need to ditch all thoughts of doing anything but what I like to do best and just do it. I need to abandon my drum set, my hockey skates, and any other distractions that weigh me down like so many chains on Jacob Marley. 30 is the age that snaps you around and says, "Ok, you've farted around for long enough. You didn't go find yourself in Africa or Europe, and you're too old to be starting a garage band. It's time you started on your path and stick with it. Even if your path is plumbing, do it and do it well. No more excuses."

I hope I can listen well enough.