In a single moment, a plate shifted and jumped. Moments later a wave was born. This wave raced and spread. There was little warning and no time. Planet Earth has lost, as of now, 0.00002% of it's people. Some islands have lost their entire population.

I know you've read it. I know you know the stories. This isn't an NPR pledge drive. This is what you do as a citizen of Earth. Help its people.

Now, I've heard that it provides faster relief to donate to the International Red Cross rather than the American Red Cross but the ARC said they would be as seemless as possible to get the money to the places that need it.

Either way, give something. Don't give coats or blankets or food, we can't possibly know what these people need. Let those who know how to handle this make the choice for you, but make sure they're funded. Donate. The world helped America's people after September 11th, make sure they don't regret their decision.

Donate American Red Cross

Donate ICRC


Half Life, All the Fun.

This holiday season saw to it to bring me one giant time killer in the form of the highly anticipated offering from Valve Software, Half Life 2.

Before I go on, there will be spoilers below. If you like the game and are planning on playing it or are already playing it, do not read. Scan down to the picture below and you can pick up there.

Half Life is the story of a up-and-coming MIT grad who has a secured a job at a facility called Black Mesa. I'm not going into detail about the story because frankly just playing the game didn't make me feel like I knew what was going on, so here's a timeline. Half Life 2 picks up several years later where Gordon is reawakened or brought out of limbo to again pick up a gun and shoot some stuff.

Honestly, if it wasn't for this little website that I just found, I wouldn't have any idea that there was a story behind the game. I mean, I did a lot of shooting and blowing shit up, but if you asked me who the bad guys were, I don't think I could have given you an intelligent answer. I'd have said, "Well, there was apparently this other scientist who sounded a lot like Richard Dawson and looked like The Architect from The Matrix, but I don't think he was actually the bad guy. There were some aliens, but they were friendly. There were head crabs! Yes, head crabs had to have been the bad guys."

Seriously. Now, I'm a relatively smart guy. I'm not Chaucer or Hawking, but I should know after playing 5 straight days of this game, who the bad guys were. Come to think of it, I don't think I knew who the bad guys were in the first Half Life game. It all seems so nebulous.

And I know why. The main character, Doctor Gordon Freeman, is really good at putting hot lead into shit and following instructions. For a first person game, there's really no other alternative. You have to limit the amount of choice the player can make and ultimately make it for him. It cracks me up to see characters in the game say, "You didn't have to be here," or, "This isn't your fight." Well, crap honey, now you tell me. See, there was this cinematic about 20 seconds ago that dropped me off here. I can't make any choices. It's my fight whether I want it or not.

So now, just like when I watch West Wing, the only time I'm sure something important is happening is when the music changes. If there wasn't that cue, I'd be lost. "Oh, crap. Better pay attention, the techno-beat just fired up. Something's gonna go wrong."

Now I don't want to get down on this game simply because I may not have the mental faculties to deal with a complex story line such as this in a video game, but what happens when you reach the end of a game like this is that you don't feel you done much aside from max out your brain from all the pseudo adrenaline you've pumped into it. The game ends with you lobbing energy cores into a portal that the tweed jacketed scientist is trying to open. Where's the portal going? Don't know. What's on the other side? Um, bad shit would be my guess, but I don't have a name. So why are you doing this? Well, honestly, there's the rough and tumble chick who has needed my help and is good with a gun and I'm just hoping she'll take her top off if I win.

Yes, yes. Sad day.

So you blow this portal up. The scientist is gone and there is a massive explosion that is paused suddenly. A G-man shows up and talks some philosphical deepness whilst you wonder what's going on with that explosion and that girl. Then the game becomes the end of 2001: A Space Odessy and the G-man leaves through a white door opened in the blackness, followed by credits. My first thought was that I'm now a bigger pawn than I thought. So I went from being a scientist to a one man killing machine in a hazard suit.

I don't know. I guess the thing that sucks the most is that the game is done. A movie you know has a limited time so you're sort of geared for that. A book you can see how many pages are left and can tell how long you have to enjoy the story and characters. With the game, you can kind of guess how far along you are, but it'd be just a guess and it could end at any time. I honestly thought the explosion was going to open a gate to Planet Trouble and I'd let millions of angry Something-Or-Others in and have to deal with them. The way the game was going, it was a possibility.

Well, maybe that's what they'll do for Half Life 3.

Nothing to see here, just seeing if you'd skip this far down.



Stuff your own stocking.

Happy Yuletime!

I thought I had another post explaining the beliefs Mrs. Austin holds and in which she is raising the children, but I don’t. I’ll let Wikipedia do my work for me.

What came up this year, as it has the past few years, is when to celebrate this winter festival. I call it Christmas, Mrs. A calls it Yule. However, her beliefs in this are stronger than mine so she gets last say and the say in how to portray it to the kids.

I keep having problems trying to wrap my brain around it. You open presents Christmas morning, not on the 22nd. What about all those songs with the word Christmas in it? I have to replace vocabulary and adjust a few dates with this one.

But I will say that now I can appreciate what Jewish/Christian couples go through every year until they can come up with a compromise. Our compromise is we celebrate Yule on the 22nd with our family and then Christmas with her or my parents, depending on where we are. And to be honest, and extraordinarily shallow, anymore the holiday is about presents to me. Yes it’s materialistic and sad, but I really only have faith in myself, family and friends. To exchange gifts with them is the only reason I need to have a celebration. If you want to go to mass or circle to receive the body of Christ or stand a vigil to make sure the sun rises again, that’s your thing. Me? I’m jumping out of bed with my kids to see if Santa has eaten the cookies and left us stuff.

But I won’t go any farther into that. I don’t want to start a flame war over what amounts to just another day. At most I get a day off of work, and that is reason enough to have a party.

In the midst of all the reverie that was Christmas at Casa de Conroe, we were visited by Santa on a Jet Ski. That’s right all you Northerners, the great winter elf himself graced our driveways on a Kawasaki. I remember seeing this last year and though, “What an odd, bassackward, Hicksville thing to do. But guess what, it’s Conroe, it’s not Houston. See, in Houston they pull Santa on a giant float that symbolizes Suburban Sprawl. When you have a smaller city by a lake, you pull Chris Cringle on a jet ski.

It’s not the city that did it either. No, that’d be down right O-fficial. This was just some palooka from down the block.

But oh the kids they come a’ runnin’. Older kids, smallish kids, kids with hardly any clothes on. Luckily the Casa is close to the corner so we could see him first and take some photos. A must snapshot for anyone seeking Americana and traditions of the south. We went inside and fried up some pickles.

Then Mrs. A went and broke her foot. Jumping off the trailer with the Santa Ski, she partially fractured the pinkie toe bone high up in her foot. She gimped around in pained for a couple of days, then yesterday went to the doctor to get it looked at. So now she’s wearing a little boot and is supposed to stay off of it. Not likely but that’s what the doctor said.

I hope you all have a good holiday. I hope Santa is good to you, or that you find peace in whatever traditions you celebrate. I’m off to play Half Life on my new flat panel monitor, so at this point I’ve lost the ability to care about the outside world.

Have some pictures.

”I’m absolutely stuffed. I couldn’t eat another bite.”

Was that me? Oh that was awful, I’m so sorry.

Do you like my hat? Yes I do. I like your party hat!

He’s developed an eating problem, he sleeps through it.

Ah, Texas. Where else could you find a giant illuminated snowman.

I’m raising her right. Don’t believe the lies.

No words.

Again, no words.

Dear Santa, for Christmas I’d like to not break my foot. Oh crap, too late.

I don’t think it’s narcolepsy. Maybe he just really likes socks.

Happy Holidays


Freeze Frame!

Sort of belated news. Mrs. Austin got her mailers out and has already received a few calls for weddings. She's also going in to talk with the Austin American Statesman for freelance work.

For those just joining us, Mrs. Austin quit her job at "Swell" Computer Corp. to be with a sick little Mini Mr. Austin after he was born. A few months ago she decided to pursue her interest in photography by signing up to do freelance work with several local and state magazine/newspapers. She also registered to host a booth at the up coming Austin Bridal Expo in January. That was accompanied by a list of people registered to get marraige licenses to whom she sent mailers.

I'm very psyched for her and a little melancholy. She's done in 6 months what I've been trying to do for years. Admittedly she only has to rely on herself where as I would require at least 3 other people. Also, she has a ton of gumption and aggressive marketing and networking skills that I don't have. She's done a lot of work and has sacrificed a lot to make this work.

So her first call came the day after she sent out her mailers. The wedding isn't until August, but still, some up front or payment plan means our babies can eat. Yee haw. She got another call that night.

I'm doing my bit to help out. I've successfully not set up her website, but I have designed her ad. The website thing is killing me. I spent the last week messing with this machine that didn't like me downgrading the operating system. Then she sprung the "this email has to work by tomorrow" card which sent me into a panic. I haven't felt like that since college when I knew a report was due the next day. So far it's all come together and she now is able to do what she likes to do.

The hope is to get X amount of bookings by January or she goes back to Swell Computers. Before you send any hate mail (you two) this was something we came up with together. I was all for her sticking it out until she turned the corner into the black, but she had some practical arguements that I had to agree with. So, if you have an upcoming wedding, or know anyone who does in the Austin area (or even Dallas/Houston/San Antonio) don't hesitate to email her and set up and appointment or ask questions.

The site should be up shortly, so you can check back soon to get the info.


Pilgrim isn't sleeping. I think he's teething now, it's about that time. Lil Miss Austin started up right about 6 months. Actually she had a couple chompers by 5 months, then nothing else for a long time.

We also finally gave up the guest room. Pilgrim finally got the British Indies room and I'm sure LMA can now sleep peacefully knowing her little brother isn't going to scream at 11, 2, 4:30 and 6. (Six months, shouldn't he be sleeping through the night by now?)

That's all we have going on right now. No plans for Christmas/Yule other than sending out cards and pictures. Have to get up those damnable lights.

(some cute pics coming soon.)


Happy Gobble Gobble

I can count on one hand the number of web sites wishing you Happy Thanksgiving. Then if I multiply that by 10^6 we should have an accurate number.

Ah, but what they don't have is information about soon to be pitched NBC shows; shows in such early stages of development that they are polling the average viewers to gauge reaction on their content.

A while back I somehow got onto NBC's survey list. The email would usually ask what I watched the previous night, what shows I watch regularly or if I've heard of certain actors. Last week I received more of the same but with an added tidbit; 5 pitches for new shows. They gave me the breakdown then asked if I'd watch it or not, if the idea was unique and on what station I expected to see it.

As far as what the shows were, let's just say they weren't going to win any awards.

To a show, the pitches were reality/game show in nature. I almost lost it. (Now Dad, when I say "lost it" I mean "I was perturbed at a very low level, I didn't not do any activities in a huff or decide to yell at a coworker.") Am I the only person left in this great land of ours who really doesn't like reality TV? Who else wishes for more scripts and actors and dialogue and plot twists? Not NBC viewers apparently. The barrel’s bottom has been scraped so bad that I believe we're in a whole new barrel.

I'll give you a run down of the show pitches. I'm sure by doing this I'm violating some agreement I digitally agreed to, but I'm not making any money off this so who cares.

Show 1: Motel Roswell. You guessed it; a family takes over the day to day operations of a motel near the famed Area 51. Their guests include celebrities and alien abductees. I couldn't quit figure this one out. My guess is it's a mix of X-Files meets that restaurant show.

Show 2: Insomnia. This one is simple; take the dance marathon model, remove the dancing, add people who aren't allowed to sleep. I would rather watch Dave Attel but NBC apparently doesn't care.

Show 3: The Gauntlet. Mrs. Invincible mentioned that this was previously a British show, but all I could find was a link to MTV's Road Rules. Apparently this is a mix between Fear Factor and Labyrinth in which contestants are dropped into a maze with dangerous puzzles to solve.

Show 4: Master Blasters. Not to be confused with the giant riding midget of Mad Max fame, this show combines the engineering swagger of Junkyard Wars with the new excitement from Space Ship One of blasting things into the sky. This show will launch everyday objects (chairs, cars, senators) into the low atmosphere.

Show 5: I can't remember the name; we'll call it Survivor 2099. This, heh, far reaching concept drops people in the middle of an alien world and they must use nothing but their wits to return to, I suppose, Earth. Think Amazing Race meets the worst marketers ever.

Seriously, these are the pitch ideas NBC is coming back to its viewers and asking what they think. I wasted no time in telling them they were hacks and should bring Sorkin back to West Wing. I hardly watch TV, but I spend a lot of money on it. So if this is the offerings, I'm going to have to refuse. Lost was pre-empted by the season finale of The Bachelor. I must be in the minority (again) with my TV viewing. I don't watch these Real Single Obnoxious Wife Swapping Makeover Life shows, and I can't imagine why anyone would. They're stupid. The people who watch them are stupid. The people who come up with them are stupid. You're all stupid.

I have an idea, why don't you take the time you waste on watching these shows and go out and make a life of your own? The mind boggles.

Now, there is a difference, I've found, in certain shows. I don't think they have acceptable genres yet, but here we go.

The Secret of the Sphinx. Hitler's Bunker. Wings over Poland. These offerings by the history channel are documentaries. They are real, but not Reality TV. They have scripts, research, narration and usually some facts.

Trading Spaces. Mythbusters. Junkyard Wars. We'll label these shows Hard Hat TV. I don't mind these, they're ok. There's generally something interesting being done, and even if I don't learn something, I can pick up a few hints on how to furnish a game room using nothing but tin foil and wooden daisies.

Fear Factor. Amazing Race. Survivor. I've learned these are called Fantasy Game Shows. I'm no fan of these, that's for sure. There's nothing particularly wrong with them, they are no better or worse than Let's Make a Deal or The Price is Right. Someone does something outrageous or completes a task or answers a question and they win money. Before you had to solve a puzzle with only a few clues, now you have to eat a llama's asshole. Same ol' same ol', right?

The Bachelor. The Simple Life. Wife Swap. These to me are Reality TV. Even though it's extraordinary circumstances that will never EVER happen, they call it Reality TV. So I guess that's what we'll stick to. Reality. You know, because tomorrow you and a stranger could exchange spouses for a month. A Box-of-Hammers could select you out of 25 other people to be the love of their life AND you get 20 million dollars. See? Perfectly average realism.

So the argument is, this isn't reality. If they want reality, they can put a camera in my cubicle for 9 hours. Yes it would be boring and yes it would get canceled. People don't want that. They want adventure, excitement, passion. Just don't call it Reality. That's insulting to all of us who live normal 9-5 lives. Because I tell you what, if Paris Hilton ever came to my office and tried to do my job, it would be Surreal.

There it is. Surreality TV.

Lil Miss Austin fixing Mom and Dad a Thanksgiving day feast at school.

Pilgrim giving Mom the high sign that he's done for the day.

Walking TO Starbucks if fine. Walking back is tiresome.

Someone discovers the science behind reflections.

Morgan, the school hamster, comes home for the weekend.


Life as we know it.

Funny thing. The company I used to work for may go up for sale. Only this time it's not because it's losing money and looking to shore up revenue or because its accounting was less than spectacular.

It's still a rumor, but Rueters is looking to sell Instinet for $2 billion.

That's right. That's a 2 with nine zeros. That's too high for me to even deal with. Of course the day I heard the news on my way into work (because I'm a dork that listens to NPR and the 10 minute Market Place at 6:50) our company's VP gathers everyone together to go over our previously thought to be worthless stock options.

Which leads me to my entry.

I have a disease. I don't know what to call it. I have great organizational skills. I even look forward to large projects that have multiple participants and lots of scheduling and assigning of tasks. The problem? I'm only really good at it when it has nothing to do with real life.

I'm a moderator on a pretty popular comic book message board. It's not Marvel, it's not Dark Horse, it's not even a real company that makes money doing something. It's just a place where comic book creators and talent come together to hang out, network and show off a little. I moderate a forum that deals with "art jams." Those are 5 page stories where each page is done by a different artist, different inker, colorist, etc. It's a lot of work keeping track of who is doing what and when deadlines are.

And I love it.

There's a new idea coming up about how PJ should have Awards, like the Oscars, or more relevant, the The Eisners. (No, not that Eisner.) So while I'm not really sure about this, because it sounds more like a popularity contest, I do drop my hat into the ring on the organizational side by just being a freak and running at the mouth about what committees need to be formed for nominees and submitting rules and categories...

Meanwhile, I have to roll over my 401k into an IRA. I have to decide which health insurance to sign up for. I have to figure out some other adminstrativa that has to do with that hory host that is real life. And yet I have no desire to do so. Yes I'm even a bit quesy thinking about having to call people on the phone and talk to them. I don't want to feel like an idiot.

On top of it all, I have to do my job.

So with Mrs. Austin wanting to start a business, my first thought is, "Oh god, don't ask me to do anything buy make your ads." Our office is a whirling dirvish of papers and comics and photos and computer parts and cameras and trash and CDs. We have all our financials in a filing cabinet, but that's the extent of the organization. Sometimes I get a hair up my butt and really make an effort to organize all our bills, set up online things, create a system and a budget that works so well we would put nary a thought into the process.

Then I give up and log onto Penciljack and mess around.

So, do I qualify for disability somehow?

I'd like to thank the Academy...


Sorry Everybody. You all, everybody!

I have a comment section in this site. Yes, it's weird and you have to click it to take you to the post you want to click on, but it's there.

What I'd like is for someone to explain to me, like I was a 5 year old, is why 51% of America (man you're gonna get tired of that number) thinks it's ok to teach creationism in school. Yes, school is a place of learning, but I'm talking about public high schools and middle schools, not parochial schools that are backed by the church. I pay taxes that go toward funding of public education, so I'd like to know why my kids may be taught something I don't believe. If you want to teach creationism, send your kids to catholic school. If you want to teach science, send your kid to a public school. I don't understand why we have to suddenly include all these faith based ideas in government run institutions. It's almost as if the leader of the country is trying to use his religious beliefs to create some kind of Moral Law...

...oh wait.

Heavily religious groups, some call them Right Wing Nutbags but you won't read that here, are using this latest GOP win for the White House and Congress to push as many little nuggets of Christian brimstone down the public's throat while they have 4 years to do so, and it sticks in my craw because I'm paying for it. My wages are being taxed so I can discriminate against gays, teach my child that although science has shown the world to be 4.55 billion years old, they will also learn that God made the Earth 6,000 years ago. So, is that confusing? Probably as confusing as why states from Nevada to Ohio believe in turning the other cheek and forgiveness and acceptance, but collect weapons and remain bigoted toward any number of non-white, non-straight, almost non-male groups.

Taxation without representation.

I don't mind if you say, in a school, "Here are the main tenants of Catholicism or Buddhism or Islam." I don't mind if you include abstinence as 1 of the many, and the most effective method of birth control. I don't mind if you say how dangerous abortion is and how adoption is a better alternative. But you HAVE to make sure we know they are alternatives and not the only choice.

Text books in Texas will now say marriage is between a man and a woman and abstinence is the only method of birth control. So, sex is dirty unless you're married and according to Texas schoolbooks, there is no such thing as gay sex.

Fuck that.

I know, I know. Sour grapes. I can sit here and quietly (because, let's face it, all 5 of my readers...) snipe from this laptop about how I'm pissy at not having my candidate win the election, but this is the only way I can express myself with the voting complete. I will not back this president to heal the country. I will not reach out to Christian Republicans with the olive branch in hopes we can build a stronger country.

I won't because this administration and this constituency of hatred, bigotry and ignorance is not something I want to be a part of. I will fight to change it. I will get active locally. I will spend money, time and effort to support the candidates who believe as I do. I will battle tooth and nail, and I will fail.

Because this country is run by old white Baptists and Lutherans and Catholics. It's not run by Mexican or Korean Christians, Black Buddhists, Arabic Islamists, Gay men or women, Pagans, 18-35 year olds. Until my voice is represented equally, I will fight a failing battle, a retracted front. But that equality is a long time off, because apparently, 51% of American is old, white, and Christian.

Sorry World.

I wanted to say that with the lack of hockey going on, I've been watching less TV. West Wing let me down since Sorkin left. (I even found out Leo's NOT dead. Assholes.) That was the main goal of this post, I don't know who wrote that first part.

On the plus side, everyone still needs to watch Lost and Scrubs. Best shows on right now. Even if you can catch Futurama or the Daily Show on cable, do so. Futurama was too close to the Simpsons to be effective. Removed for a few months and moved to cartoon network for reruns, it's become a new favorite and a silently genius of a show.

Here's some pictures.

Couple of sleepyheads being cozy.

Have to get her started early.

George and his new neighboor friend, Meo.

Don't let this fool you, this is 0.01% of his day.


That's "Mrs." Shutterbug to you!

Our readers may not realize this, but a good 90% of the photos you see here are taken by our resident shutterbug, Mrs. Austin.

When we two met back in the misty realm of yesteryear, Mrs. A had aspirations for two things, pyschology and photography. Her father was a photographer, well at least he had a lot of equipment. I actually haven't seen him even touch a camera in 7 years. Mrs. A says that he was a good photographer when she was a kid but at some point he just stopped.

That leaves her to carry on, as it were, in her father's footsteps.

To that end I'm very proud to announce that Mrs. A has her first official freelance gig with Austin Monthly Magazine. For those who've visited our house, that's the magazine that comes out each May with the 100 things to do in whatever year it is. Starting January, the magainze will contact her and give her assignments. I'm assuming they would be local. However, she's also been in touch with Texas Monthly, and that would allow her more exotic Texas locations, like El Paso...


All kidding aside, I couldn't be happier for her. She's doing what she wants to do and making it happen all by herself. She doesn't rely on anyone's charity or ride any coat tails. She is her own PR firm and a force to be reckoned with. I'm feel lucky to be her husband.

Good job.

Going back to the election, I was reminded independently of two points.

1) You can be a liberal AND a Christian AND live in Texas.

2) The Presidential race isn't as important as local races. The President is just someone for the French to hate.

Both good points. In my maudlin haze of the post election build up and news frenzy, I probably overlooked several key local events. So let's pick them up.

We got light rail. I won't be able to use it because it can't drop me and LMA off at school and it won't go anywhere near my work. But I did vote for it because it's progress. Yeah, yeah. Taxes will go up. We'll pay for it and not use it. I'll tell you what, if a 2% increase in propertay tax means I don't have to sit on the 360 bridge for 20 minutes every morning, sign me up.

11 states voted for a state level constitutional ban on gay marriage. Mississippi passed it by 92%.

An Oklahoma Senator (Tom Coburn? Someone find me facts...) said that not only is he against abortion, voting to ban partial birth, but is in favor of instituting the death penalty to any doctor found in violation of that ban. So, kill the doctor if he's found violating the sanctity of life that is childbirth. How positively Aesopian.

But that's about it. The Republicans, thanks to redistricting, now have a stranglehold on the congressional seats, so much so I voted for a write in candidate on the sole point of him being a Democrat. It was either that of vote for 1 of 2 republicans. I've seen more equal representation in Thunderdome. Not even locally do I feel the Democrats held or gained any ground or had their voices heard.

But I digress. Mrs. A and I won't even watch West Wing now. Well, that and it sucks any more. Killing Leo was weak as shit. But I've stopped listening to NPR, watching the Daily Show; I'm burned out of anything political.

But it's over now. Time to watch this administration do its job. I know Bush is calling for a unity of all citizens, but unless he changes his stances or allows concessions on certain issues, I'm not standing with him. But I will support his right to lead.


Four more years of winter.

It's 12:14am, November 2nd, 2004.

I've been watching TV since 6pm.

I've been watching my country and my fellow citizens alienate me and leave me wondering why we are called a homogenous people.

Yeah, CNN is balking at calling Ohio, Fox News said Bush was president 2 days ago. To me it doesn't matter. As much faith as I had in my candidate, the Robot did better 4 years ago.

So what now? I'm ready to concede. I'm tired of following politics at this point. Even if the outcome were to change, or was different from the get go, I'd be tired of it. You know why? I'm not in the majority and I'm tired of fighting about it.

I'm tired of thinking gays have the right to get married because they are human and humans have rights. I'm tired of thinking it's odd that people believe in capital punishment but have the temerity to be Right To Lifers. I'm tired of hearing people thinking a goofy ass, knuckle-dragging, good ol' boy who couldn't find North Korea on a map, much less the weapons being held there, is a better leader than a war vet with an Ivy league education and a rich wife.

I want to say "Screw you!" to all the W fans, but I'd be pissing off friends and family, so I'll leave it at this...

Congratulations. You now have four more years of war mongering. Four more years of realizing pointless tax cuts are better than reducing government spending. Four more years of environmental law rivaling Chernobyl recovery. Four more years of "I hate you because my Bible tells me to."

So yeah, if you're happy with all that, congratulations. I plan to silently go insane while I watch Jon Stewart cry on national TV because he too is tired, but happy that he's got 4 years of limitless material.

I'd move to Canada, but the NHL moved down here. Dammit.


LMA/Pilgrim '04

Polls are closing, CNN Headlines news has already called it for the challenger.

That's right, you heard it.

Jon Stewart is the next President of the United States. (Man I wish.)

Anyway, get out there. Vote. For those of you who would rather read this blog than actually watch the results, go push a button or punch a card or check a box or toss an onion or whatever it is your polling location does. Just do it. And if you don't, I don't want to hear it from you about how whoever is in charge is screwing everything up. I abstained from voting in 1996, thinking I was exercising my right to vote by not voting. I didn't like either candidate (or were there 3?) so I didn't vote. That doesn't count today. After 2000, it's obvious every single vote counts toward something. Even though we may not know who will become the ruler of the most powerful nation in the world for days or weeks, that should not stop you from running to the closest school or firestation or library and making your voice heard.

I'll stop with the pitch.

I leave you with LMA doing her best Katharine Hepburn.



So it's been a few weeks, hasn't it? So much has happened, yet it feels like so little.

First, we never heard back from the doctor about LMA's finger. I'd like to think that after you make the trip to the office AND the radiologist, someone would have the temerity to call you and put your mind at ease. These people must work for CPS or something.

Anyway, she's fine. Pilgrim is fine. We're all dandy.

Mrs. Austin, actually, is a little more dandy than the rest of us. Not to spoil anything, but she has an interview with Austin Monthly magazine to be a freelance photographer. Please help me in wishing her the very best. She's put together a portfolio that's pretty stunning so I can't imagine anything but good news coming out of this. I hope me writing about it doesn't jinx it.

Mrs. A's also got press passes to the UIL State Band Competition that's going on tomorrow in San Antonio. She'll be going in an official capacity as photojournalist. I'll be going in an unoffocial capacity as baby wrangler. This is a dream come true of Mrs. A. Taking pictures of lots of marching bands from the comfort of the press box. The rest of us will be freezing our tuckases off in the fridged mid 60's. (Don't get me started on these people and their weather.

But that's not why you're here, to listen to me prattle on about climate and lenses. You want pictures of small people in cheaply made store bought costumes so you can say "Awwww" and quickly check your printers to make sure there's enough of the colored tanks to print off a good 8 1/2 x 11.

Well who am I to deny you such pleasures.

Friendly neighborhood Spidermidget

If there's anything more adorable than a little girl with wings, I haven't found it.

Halloween was pretty good for all involved. Our friends came over and brought LMA's little friend, the The Funky Fairy. So the two fairies hit the town with their bags and buckets, all geared up for a fun filled evening of spooks, kooks and candy. I must say I was a little dissappointed in our neighborhood's lack of holiday cheer, or, ghoulishness. It's simple people, if you don't want Trick-or-Treaters, turn off your light. If you have your light on, have a bowl of candy. If you leave your house, turn your light off. It's not like this day sneaks up on anyone. "Holy Crap, Linda. You didn't tell me today was Halloween. I have no time to prepare!"

We hit one house where there was a light on, decorations out front, door was open and the lady inside actually ignored the doorbell and the trick or treating. Two faries spurned. Funky Fairy's dad made the observation that we had forgotten to bring eggs for houses such as this.

Here here! I say. Egg and TP these houses until they get the message. As I watched the two girls eating candy and watching The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, I thought back to my childhood and how it seemed every house on the block was lit up and smiling adults with bowls of candy sat expectantly by the front door. Now it's a gamble if you're getting a good house or a crack house and the streets are darker and darker and the kids are getting lazier and lazier. It's not the joyous time I remember anymore, and I'm sad for LMA and Chubbin that they won't know the safety we knew.

Of course, I've also married into a family that doesn't have anyone throwing a football around after Thanksgiving dinner. So maybe it's the state, maybe it's the times.

Maybe it's that I'm old.

Quiet you!


Ok, so to recap...

I've missed a few things on our lovely board that my dear viewers (I need a nickname for you guys, like Dean's Army) haven't been made aware of.

First, my brother was married at the end of September. After a long battle with wedding planning, the day went quite well. This would officially be their second wedding as the first was in Hawaii. Very few could actually attend that one, so they had a lavish ceremony at the Grant Humphrey's Mansion in Denver.

Lil Miss Austin was the flower girl and I was technically the ring bearer but there wasn't really a little kid ring bearer like you'd think. I had one ring, another bride's maid had the other. The funny thing was, it was a jewish ceremony so I had to bobby-pin a yarmulka on my big poofda hair. Very clown like.

The whole family went, and some had more fun that others.

Not much else is going on here lately. Pilgrim is starting some solid food, ooching around the floor quite well and we believe, last night at Red Lobster, he officially cut his first tooth. Pretty traumatic for him, but we were pretty excited. Mrs. Austin said LMA cut her first tooth on the same day. Hmm.

He's also working on sitting, but his head is so big it keeps dragging him down. I think that's why his legs are so chubby, he needs some kind of ballast for his enourmous head. (It's like a gr-r-rapfr-ruit on a toooothpick.)

LMA had a scare yesterday. Our garage door into the house is spring loaded and set to close on it's own. Well the spring is really strong (or hydraulics or whatever it's on) and tends to slam digits and arms and heads and cats between its mass and the door jam. I can sense you know what's going to happen. LMA was trying to open it and it shut on her little finger. I don't mean little like, aw, she's just so little, I mean her pinkie finger. So Mrs. Austin did her best with a mangled little finger and sent her off to school, knowing you can't set a baby finger, and told the teachers to watch her in case she went into shock. A far fetched thing to happen. In all likelyhood it just got pinched badly.

We still had to get an x-ray that evening.

Haven't heard anything yet.

On the positive side, our little man doesn't like to sleep! What a glorious day this is. It'd be ok if I had some hockey to watch in the evenings. Mrs. Austin and I have this weird arrangement in which if he wakes up I'll get him and she'll feed him, but then it falls apart around there. After I get him, she falls asleep feeding him and I go to another room. Well lately we've been TRYING to get him into his own bed more often, which seems to be working. He knows how to fall asleep, but it's only for about 90 minutes.


Such is life. At least we remain cool.


Good news for Team RH.

First off, I'd like everyone who reads this page to head over to Darn Tootin and show your support. They got some good news about Schuyler and we're all very happy for them. I don't want to be the pessimist, but so far it's just a meeting with the doctor that originally diagnosed her, but they've never actually met. They're going to do their best to get up to Chicago for an appointment in January. Who knows what may come of it, but it's a positive step. Help me wish them the best.

I've got a snazzier way to view the vacation pics if you are so inclined. I promise we'll have some regular updates soon and I'm sure politics, the lack of hockey, comic books and children will be in there somewhere.



Come to paradise, mon.

This is a quick entry. Yes I realize it's been almost a month. Yes I realize you are all waiting on pins and needles for the next update filled with pith and pictures. Guess what, you'll have to wait longer.

There are some bullet points of note:

- Mrs. Austin effectively quit her job to stay home with Pilgrim. He's doing much better than he was, but he's not 100% and she's taking an extended leave of absence to stay home with him. She'll use this time to bond and play and hang out. She'll also be doing some much needed Mrs. A time by getting her fingers dirty working with photography. She's got a few weddings and other engagements under her belt. I hope she does well and enjoys the "time off." (You may laugh at that phrase now.

- Little Miss Austin hasn't changed much in a month. She's starting to pick up different phrases that I don't think either Mrs A. or I use, so it's still keeps us on our toes. We're trying to get her into dance and gymnastics through school.

- My job is still the same. It's in a new building and hopefully the cord will be cut soon and I can start focusing more on the daily tasks. I'm also supposedly volunteering my time toward creating quarterly themes for the business model. Don't ask, it involves Photoshop and my limited web skills so who am I to complain.

- My comic stuff is plodding along. I've finally nailed down a plot for this latest secret project, more about that later.

- Finally, Mrs. A and just got back from St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. There are many stories to tell, maybe soon I'll be able to write them all. In the mean time, here are the photos that don't involve the wedding. There are wedding photos, but I'll let the Missus deal with that. These are the fun pics. For the most part they are unedited, save for the resize so you're little 800x600 monitors don't esplode.

That's all for now. More later.


Honey, I'm home!

There's something weird in the way either blogger or this template handles tables. I'm working on it, so just scroll down.

I have a few friends living in Florida. I don't know them very well, online acquaintances, but send a few happy thoughts their way for their safety. I had a whole rant written up about doofuses who live in storm paths and fault lines and flood planes and on volcanic islands, but decided to scrap it and be nice. So wish all my idiot friends the best.
Moving on, the family unit is doing quite well. We're as close to Sparkling as I suppose you can get, assuming Sparkling is a state of mind as well as a state of kitchen ware. Mrs. Austin has decided, as most of you know via her email, to stay home with Pilgrim until the end of the year. She'll take a leave of absence from her Giant Tech job and stay home to be a mom.

Now, I don't have a problem with her staying home. It's her decision and I'm behind it 100%. I am feeling a little weird about what happens when I get home. Usually it was both of us getting home with at least 1 at most 2 kids and spending the evening cleaning, dining, preparing for bed and then getting ready in the morning. I will admit to the operation being unfairly split, but even then I was doing something.
Now when I get home, the house is clean, dinner is either ready or being made, laundry is done, lunches are ready for the next day and most of the time bills are paid. All I have to do now is watch the kids and eat. It's a little unsettling, and I'll explain why.

Mrs. Austin was a very "upwardly mobile dude" (points if you can guess the song that line is from) with her Giant Tech job. She wanted to make management, trainer or coach. She wanted to get on the large opportunity team. She won gads of awards and consistently had very high numbers. She fit perfectly in the world of sales. She was a Type A person, but not a jerk Type A person. Sort of an AB person. I, on the other hand, was a type Z person. I don't particularly care for the field I'm in and given the opportunity to ditch it in favor of drawing or writing full time would do so. I'm not outgoing and tend to be a little lazy. (I know, my parents are shocked.)
So her decision to move from the high paced world of tech sales to the slower paced, but exceedingly rewarding position of stay-at-home mom was a little bit of a surprise. And make no mistake, she wanted this. This wasn't a last resort, her hand wasn't forced. There were some reasons for the decision, but many of them included her staying at work. This seemed to fit and she has transitioned beautifully. I am having a hard time not having anything to do when I get home. Does this mean I get to draw more? Maybe. Does it mean she'll get to leave when I get home and go out or go to school? Yeah.

The timing is perfect. I will be getting two paychecks till the end of the year and with Pilgrim out of day care, we won't be missing her paycheck, which was a little sad anyway.
If you read Rob's page, you know about his hampsters. Well Lil Miss Austin's school just got two of them today. If you've ever seen little kids with hamsters you'll have to tell me about it because I haven't seen it either, but I hear it's cute. LMA loved them when we had them temporarily last night. Those little assholes sure are cute as they run in their little plastic wheel all night long. I was tempted to hook a fuel cell up to it that they could recharge.

That is all for now.


Get 'em while they're hot!

Spread the word, there are some new shirts to be had from my comic site. They aren't much, but with a free shop what do you expect.

If anyone has information about printing quality shirts, especially black t-shirts, drop me a comment.

My shirt shop.

More baby pics up soon, promise. As well, the GOP Convention is in full swing, look for some diatribes on that subject as well.


National Spoiler Company

With so much going on at home, we've been doing a lot of TV watching. Well, most of us. LMA is grounded for the first time for using a Bic pen to test the durability of our comforter. We've been mercifully without Lion King and Fantasia for about 4 days now.

And what has replaced it but the 2004 Olympics from Athens.

I love the Olympics. Every two years I debate whether I like the cold or warm versions better, but as the opening ceremonies wind down and the events take place I forget myself and dive headlong into mass viewing. The Winter Olympics are a little rougher on me emotionally because I tend to cry when underdogs win figure skating.

But that's not why we're here. We're here because NBC and its affiliates have done a great job bringing my affliction and me as much coverage as is humanly possible. At any time of the day I can watch sports from Athens. Now, if I wanted to watch table tennis, I'd have to tune to Bravo at 2am, but that's still ok. It's been like that for a while.

Next time around I'd like NBC or whoever has the rights to air the games to sign some sort of agreement with the rest of the American news agencies. This agreement would prohibit outlets from reporting on the results of the games until we can actually WATCH them! It's a battle between enjoying the ride home with NPR, the occasional flip over to CNN Headline News or our local News 8 Austin and not finding out who won what before the Bob Costas prime time show even starts. It's infuriating to a TV glut such as myself.

I should have known. NPR and News 8 Austin positively ruined the Tour de France for me. And they wouldn't warn me. A heads up shouldn't be out of the question. "Hey, if you don't want to feel that DVR space you used to record OLN to see Stage 16 go to waste, you might want to turn the radio off for 45 seconds." No. As soon as I turn on the TV, graphics with "Roulon wins bronze" and "Hamm wins gold" hit my receptors faster than my Catwoman-like reflexes are able to turn away.

Now, I know what I ask is impossible so I'm willing to make some lifestyle adjustments.

From now on, I will read spoiler websites 1 hour before going to see a movie. I will start reading books last chapter first. I will start my dinner with a chocolate sundae, followed by pasta and vegetables. Apparently the largest broadcasting company in the galaxy feels that good things are best left for you to find out before they happen, so I must be living my life incorrectly.

Time differences and show time perils aside, Greece is really putting on a show. The facilities look wonderful. The opening ceremonies (11 days ago) were spectacular. It's a joy to see the games with ruins behind them. I'm really worried about the judging in the games, but that's a controversy for another blog. Go ahead and look, there's got to be a googol of them. (Points if you know I didn't misspell that.)
I'm also getting a little sick of the commercials. "Hey Todd. Hey Todd!!" There's a ton of them that just make no sense. Mrs. A thinks I should go into Marketing when I go back to school because I know good commercials. Maybe she has a point.

As my first job, I'd find the McDonalds new chicken product ad team and force them to watch their failure ad nausea. "Step away from the talent!"

Best part so far was Bob Costas calling the Russian Shot-put lady a cheater-cheater-pumpkin-eater.


More Crazy in the Nuthouse

This is Mrs. Austin.

I know sometimes I'm a little melodramatic. I know sometimes when Starbucks is out of my favorite chocolate muffins it seems like the world has turned against me. I know that some of you wish I'd just stop with the pity-party antics and suck it up.

Ok, but some days really are bad.



Come on now.

The saga grows ever wider as the Austin family prepares for a visit from the CPS case worker.

For those just tuning in, Mrs. Austin is battling Post Partum Depression, a condition she mentioned to her doctor which sent us on a week long hike through Hell. By law someone had to report it. We don't know who, Mrs. Austin has a very good guess, but CPS got involved.

So we took the steps necessary to help Mrs. Austin get through this rough time. An appointment was made to see a caseworker, which she did. And a follow up appointment was made for the caseworker to come out to see the house and talk with LMA.

She didn't show.

Now when I say didn't show, I don't mean she called and canceled or rescheduled or came late, I mean the lady didn't show up. How's that supposed to look to a scared and a troubled family when the state declines to appear.

This is after being 20 minutes late and calling to say so, Mrs. A's therapist charged her $90. There was still 40 minutes left on the appointment.

So apparently I'm in the wrong field, this confounded technology, this bane of human ingenuity. I guess the big bucks are in the family welfare cartel where you are able to charge whatever you want, force people to take drastic actions and then become conspicuously absent. There's gads of leisure time and chump change to be made in this industry. I see it so clearly now. Get a degree for a diploma mill. Prey on weak families who feel bad about their issues anyway. Profit.

I guess I'm over simplifying. There are rules for everyone and we're no exception. But it stands to reason if you set up the rules, you should follow them. We should be able to charge the state $90 for a missed appointment.

All ranting aside, Mrs. A still has up and down days. Lately it's been ok. We all have dinner together, watch the unending Olympic coverage. The weekend we had away from the kids was Awe Some. I really love my kids, but on some occasions I really miss being able to sleep late, leave at a moments notice, go out without special planning, eating in quiet restaurants. But then I see their sparkly eyes and smiley faces, or hear LMA sing a song she learned in school, or hear Pilgrim start cooing with Mrs. A and I know it's going to be ok.


Holding at 24

Hey you!

Sing Happy Birthday to me!!

-Mrs. Austin



Pay attention now. This is a photo essay in four parts. Lots to cover.

The Move

In 1999, I took a job offer and we moved to Austin. Since that time, my office has been in one building. Over the 5 year span, I have had 2 jobs, 5 bosses and 3 different desks. I've worked for the same company that changed it's name twice and was bought buy another company only to have it sold back to some of the original members.

I learned a lot in this old job. A lot of skills that probably wouldn't get me a job in any other field, but enough to feel I've accomplished things. In that 5 years I've only been asked twice to contribute my artistic skills to the job; the first time being a total disaster.

But last week that all changed. We finally, after months of waiting, moved to our new facility out west. No longer will we enjoy the comforts of downtown with its convenient parking and walking distance eateries. It's a sad solemn day when a chapter of your life closes; a chapter that so far has been 1/6th of my life.

But in some respects it's exciting. The group is now smaller, leaner, and more energetic. We're ready to take on the financial world and give 'em what for. I have to share an office with two other people, but it's an office, not a cube. I'm glad I was chosen to move and I'm glad I still have a job, especially with the little one starting day care.

The Bugs

Not that Texas has bugs that are any stranger than California or Illinois or Florida, but lately it's like the rock has been rolled away from the cave and the mutants have been given a bus pass. This, yes, this is a bumblebee. Now I remember growing up with bumblebees. They were fat, slow, stupid bees. This guy and his buddy came ripping past us faster than a bird. This guy is the size of a half dollar. I didn't want to get too close so this is a zoom.

These little fuckers look like wasps when they fly and like to hang out in long grass. Imagine my dismay when mowing the lawn, I unleash a half dozen of what I think are mud wasps. Yeah, I left the mower running and sprinting down the street screaming obscenities. Then they land and you notice they're just beetles. Little jerks.

Now THIS guy is truly wonderful. Just a spider, about the size of a pea, but check out the back. Imagine getting bit by a spider, then looking to see it has an evil death's head on its back. By the way, I'm not actually touching it, the camera wasn't focusing on the spider, so I had to put something behind it.

I didn't take this one, Mrs. A did, but it's yet another Interesting Bug.

There were 4-5 of these guys marching around the top of our trash can. They almost looked like sentries patrolling for intruders. When I tapped my finger near one, it actually jumped on my finger instead of scurry away like you're supposed to as a bug. Aggressive, red, tense. I have no idea what kind of bug is it, but it looks pissed.

The Trampoline

I think I'd like to do a series of photos with everyone we know jumping on the trampoline. Not all at once, mind you, it would be foolish to get more than, oh 5 people on at one time. I worry enough having LMA up there with anyone. The limit is 250lbs. and I won't give much away, but with LMA weighing in at a sprite 30lbs., she and I push the envelope.

We had to take this picture fast. She was having none of it.

Mrs. Austin and her brother had a tramp as kids and so when he and his wife came over, he tried to recreate some of those youthful memories. Either that or give himself a busted spine.

This is Invincible Girl. You can't see it in this shot, but later shots she was less than invincible. Seriously, I don't know that she's ever been on a trampoline, but she giggled like it was covered in feather ticklers.

This is Schuyler's mom. She came to pick Schuyler up after we watched her for a while. I think she enjoyed the jumping more than the kids.

This was Schuyler's second time on the big black bouncer and this time she took to it more than last time. This time, with LMA and Miss Julie's help, she fell, flopped and knocked heads with the best of them.

The Family

It's not a utopia in our house. It rarely has been idyllic, but lately it's been downright oppressive. We're doing our best to get through this, but we're living day to day, minute to minute. Plus I've shaved my beard and let my hair grow and that's usually some kind of sign.

Haircuts aside, Lil Miss Austin has been regressing. I won't delve into specifics, but I think she's finally getting tired of the times we put her off so we can attend to the baby. She's a trooper though, we all are. She digs her brother and still wants to smoosh his head.

She's still too small to pick him up or hold him in her lap, but that doesn't stop her from trying. I left the two of them in a room, Pilgrim up on a chair, LMA on the floor watching TV, when I came back she straddling him, holding him by the waist, and dragging him over to where she was sitting. It was awful sweet that she wanted to include him, I'm just no sure how she got him off there without a single wound.

I've been doing my best with the little man, but if you remember stories from when LMA was a baby, you'll recall that she was always waking up at night. Pilgrim has improved the trait by never falling asleep. The little monster sleeps almost non-stop from 5-11 at night, then he's up almost the whole night with some distressful thing or another. It's no wonder Mrs. A wants to smash plates.

Lil Pilgrim, at least, is a pretty normal disposition. He smiles now if you tap his nose or make a face or funny noise. His little head is very edible and his eyes are insanely curious to his surroundings. He does squirm and cry and grunt and squeal like any other kid, but we're starting to notice a change in pattern. I hope it's a good change, we could use it.

LMA long ago figured out how to use a camera. Now it's a matter of figuring out how to see the picture she just took.