Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009: The Year in Blogging

Seeing as how it's New Year's Eve, it's time for my annual roundup of "posts of note" from the past year. As I've said in previous editions, a post may have been chosen because I think it bears repeating, or it's my favorite post of that month, or maybe it brought this blog quite a bit of traffic. At any rate, here we go:

JANUARY: Drunken Lemur Alert
FEBRUARY: More Than Just a Place to Lay Your Head
MARCH: With This Blog, I Thee Wed
APRIL: An Interesting Day
MAY: A New Take on "Old Home Week"
JUNE: PETA Peeved by Pike Place's Piscatorial Projectiles
JULY: Let's Wish This Iconic Jazz Educator a Happy Birthday, Starting in "1, 2, 1, 2, 3, 4"
AUGUST: There's Still No Place Like Home
SEPTEMBER: Last NIght, We All Got Wiested
OCTOBER: Happy Halloversary, KNTU!
NOVEMBER: Thinking About This Dress Code Makes Me "Emo"
DECEMBER: Christmas Lights and Music: The Next Step

I actually have a New Year's Eve gig this year for the first time in several years, but it'll take a few hours of driving to get there. Back tomorrow with more, and remember, if you celebrate tonight, be sensible about it.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Now It Can Be Told

A huge weight was lifted off my shoulders this afternoon when my two weeks of on-call service for federal jury duty came to an end. It's actually a better deal than the county courts because of the on-call thing (which they do because they compensate you a little better than county, including mileage and parking money, so they don't want you there unless you're absolutely needed). Still, the whole process meant that I never knew my status for any given day until after 3 p.m. on the day before (or the Friday before if the next business day fell on a Monday and so on). Granted, I was able to take my trip to Houston for Christmas with no problems, but I didn't know what day I'd have to come back here until last Wednesday.

But now it's done, and--like many people I talked to, I never ended up having to go in. But still, it's been hanging over my head for a while (seeing as how I had to postpone it a few times because of my accident and surgery), so it's nice to have it in the past. And oddly enough, county ended up wanting me for their own jury duty the same week, so that one had to be postponed until March.

(And the reason that I say "now it can be told" is because, once I logged in the first day and didn't have to go, I decided not to blog or tweet about it until it was done, to keep my luck going. Superstitious a bit, you say?)

Maybe I can use some of these in the future: Here's an intresting list of excuses that usually worked to get people out of jury duty. (And may I say that I'm glad I don't live in California; from that list, and other stuff I've read, they seem to have no regard for small business owners or sole proprietors in this regard.)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Another Chapter in the Urban Legend

On Saturday night, my parents and I went out to eat at a restaurant that could qualify as an "upscale sports bar," due to the number of TVs in the room and the fact that said TVs were all tuned to sports programming. And the one story that kept on going in true Energizer Bunny fashion was the surprise announcement that University of Florida head coach Urban Meyer would be "resigning his post after the Gators' upcoming bowl game for "undisclosed health reasons" (more and more of which were disclosed throughout the evening). Though I'm not a huge Florida fan, I'd followed Meyer throughout the years, since he coached at my parents' alma mater a few years ago. Though the health problems were not considered life-threatening, it was apparent that the guy needed a break.

For the rest of that night, the sports news was pretty much all-Urban, all the time; Dad and I both commented that it was really getting to be overkill after a few hours (and no, we weren't watching the whole time). So it was even more surprising to read Sunday's paper (which I didn't get to until Monday because of the travel day) and discover that Meyer had already changed his mind, downgrading his resignation into a mere leave of absence and stating that he hoped to be leading the Gators again in the '10 season.

After the screaming, front-of-the-sports-page headlines of the original story, it was certainly strange to see the resolution buried a few pages in. But I wish the guy all the best, and I hope that the time off does him some good. I've certainly tended toward workaholism myself on occasion, but the stage has never been as large as that of an NCAA Division I football coach at a top-tier program. May 2010 be a better year for you (and for the rest of us who have had challenges in '09).

Speaking of coaches hoping for a better 2010: One guy who is undoubtedly counting the seconds until New Year's Day is the Cowboys' special teams coach, Joe DeCamillis. Not only did the team's indoor practice facility fall on him during that big storm in May (fracturing four vertebrae in the process), but he had to miss Sunday's game against the Redskins because he was undergoing an emergency appendectomy at the time. And with the same fighting spirit that brought him back to the practice field 15 days after the practice facility collapse, he actually wanted to coach the game first and then get the appendix taken out (the doctors, of course, refused that request). Here's to another quick recovery, Joe D.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Fry Street Saga: Here We Go Again?

It's been a while since I blogged anything about Fry Street, because there hasn't been much to say; the out-of-town owners, United Equities, have been sitting on the project ever since their request for a drive-thru for the CVS drugstore that was to be bulit on the footprint of the Tomato at Hickory and Fry had been denied, and a lot of us were hoping that they would eventually sell to someone who would create a development that was more appropriate to its location across from campus (i.e. things very similar to the stuff that was torn down in the first place).

Well, we may have been half right, as it appears the property may be sold, or at least a development may be going up on the site. This time, somebody wants to build...wait for it...more student apartments:
The Dinerstein Companies of Houston and Winkelmann & Associates Inc. of Dallas filed a pre-application with Denton city officials on Monday to build 210 student apartments with 586 beds in a four-story complex split by a multistory parking garage. Attempts to contact spokesmen from both companies were unsuccessful.

Mike Cochran, a former City Council member who lives in the nearby Oak-Hickory Historic District, criticized the proposal. Cochran, a vocal opponent of the Fry Street Village project in 2007, said the new project would have the same disturbing result: increased traffic on roads already stressed beyond their capacity.

“The only way to get to it is through residential neighborhoods,” Cochran said.

Cochran also called the proposal a waste of prime commercial land.

“It just seems a shame to almost squander the commercial potential for that property with apartments when there’s so much other land around that would be excellent for students,” he said. “It is, of course, completely incompatible with the neighborhood as well.
Well said, Mr. Cochran. So maybe this isn't quite as bad as a generic chain drugstore, but it's still not the best use for the site. For one thing, there are already plenty of new, upscale student apartments near UNT (go a few blocks up Fry Street itself and you'll dead-end into some). Student apartments aren't special, and this corner is special, because of its heritage--a heritage that may have been sullied at times, but it's there nonetheless. Go to nearly any university and there'll be a little mini-downtown across the street, in buildings that are about 80 years old and filled with student-friendly businesses. That's the part that United Equities took away, and it's time to bring it back.

So why not split the difference here: Since New Urbanism is all the rage, how about a mixed-use development with businesses on the ground floor and apartments above it? Cochran is right--apartments would be a waste of prime commercial land, so that might as well be included in the plan. How about it, folks?

I'm sure there will be more on this in the weeks ahead; in the meantime, I'm going to go leave the previous paragraph in the comments to the DRC story.

Down on the Farm: Check out music from James Farm, Joshua Redman's new band. Very cool stuff. (And yes, there's a Denton angle to this, as Redman has played the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival in the past.)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Notes from the Road (Big Triangle Edition)

I'm back from my Christmas trip and looking forward to a few more days off here at home. This time, I did the BIg Triangle on my way back, going from Houston to Dallas via my sister's place in Austin. Unlike two years ago, when Kevmobile 1.2 suffered the breakdowns that would lead to its replacement a few weeks later, this one went without incident.

Here are a few random notes from the trip:
  • The traffic was only bad in a few places (I-10 heading out of Houston and I-35 around Temple), but, being a Sunday, the typical "Sunday driver" added to the slowness of things.

  • A lot of hurricane-related infrastructure has been put in place on I-10 since Ike hit the area a few years ago. Among the amusing things were the little hurricane-shaped logos painted in the right shoulder, allowing its use as an extra lane in that situation, and the signage that allows all traffic to head westbound during evacuations. They're known as "contravac" lanes (a combination of "contraflow" and "evacuate"), which sounds like an industrial-strength vacuum cleaner.

  • I was on a bit of a tight schedule, seeing as how I wanted to get back in time for the Cowboys game. But if I hadn't, I would have taken a picture of a fireworks stand I passed on Hwy. 71 between La Grange and Bastrop; I swear the front of the building said "BUY 1 GET 11 FREE."

  • I also would have stopped to photograph things like the giant Texas star atop the front gate of a ranch in the same area, and the giant golf ball on a tee a few miles down the road, not to mention the giant pig statuary outside of Eddy. (They do say that everything's big in Texas, ya know.)

  • For the most part, the trip from west of Houston to Austin along Hwy. 71 has been improved a great deal since I was a kid, with freeway-type bypasses in Columbus, La Grange Smithville and most of Bastrop (I don't miss the stoplights in La Grange at all, though the Smithville bypass makes me less likely to stop at the old Dairy Queen, which was a common haunt on our way to/from State Solo and Ensemble in high school).

  • But that being said, they really need to get the freeway done in front of the airport--pretty much the area between the new SH130 bypass and Riverside Drive, where the stoplight lasts for an eternity--as soon as possible. It's being studied as a toll road at the moment, and that's one toll that I'd happily pay.

  • I also noticed something interesting driving past the airport: There's a huge disparity between the businesses on the north and south sides of the freeway. (Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, located on the site of a former Air Force base, opened in 1999.) On the south side, where the airport is located, there is a big, nice hotel and lots of green space. But on the north side, dilapidated old gas stations and a couple of XXX video stores remain from the area's pre-airport days. I bet the airport officials can't wait until those places go out of business so that the area can be redeveloped, and I'll bet they're glad that part of the freeway infrastructure has already been built, to separate the two sides.)

  • Speaking of freeways that need to be improved, it seems that there's really no excuse (save, of course, money) for I-35 not to be six lanes in each direction all the way from Dallas to San Antonio. It's getting done little by little, but the area that seems to need the most immediate attention would be Temple, where post-Christmas traffic made for a rush-hour-like scenario on a Sunday afternoon. The Temple segment will also be the most difficult to widen because it's either embedded in concrete canyons or on elevated bridges that already cover part of the service roads. TxDOT is talking about it already, but it's likely to take a while before it gets done.

  • Continuing the road rantlet for just a moment, I wonder why the beautiful reconstructions of I-35 between Dallas and Waco--the recently-done section near Italy, the section currently under construction between there and Waxahachie, and the part between Hillsboro and Abbott that took at least a decade to complete--were only done as four-lane facilities instead of six; it seems like they'll just have to go in later and add the extra lane. (My guess is money; it's a real shame that the Texas Legislature keeps raiding the gas tax revenues to use on other projects; there oughta be a law...)

  • And to end on a more positive note, the kolaches at the Czech Stop were, as always, superb. And I'm glad that they have the Little Czech Bakery next door, which helps one to avoid the long lines at the Czech Stop--which was packed, as always--when kolaches are the only thing being purchased.
With hopefully a few relaxing days this week, regular blogging should continue without interruption.

Notes from a future road: While researching the SH 71 improvements above, I came across a page devoted to the extension of SH 249 in Montgomery and Grimes counties, which would alleviate almost all the traffic problems I experienced last month at the Renaissance Festival (save for getting out of the festival's parking lot, of course). Build away, folks...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Greetings

SUGAR LAND--Merry Christmas to those who so believe (or even celebrate secularly). I hope you're getting to spend the day in relaxing fashion with family and/or friends, and let's not forget a group of special people today: Those who don't get today off (law enforcement officers, emergency medical personnel, fill-in broadcasters, convenience store clerks, etc.), and those in our military in areas where conflict never takes a holiday. Here's to a joyous day!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Glories Stream from Heaven Afar,
Silent Monks Sing Hallelujah

SUGAR LAND--I got to sing with Dad in the choir tonight, which is always fun, even if, as a singer, well...I'm a really good saxophonist. I think I sing well in groups, but if I were set to sing solo, you'd probably want me to take a vow of silence, like these guys did:

I had a true LOL moment when I first saw this a few days ago; hope you enjoy it just as much. (Hat tip: An Althouse commenter from a few days ago whose name escapes me. I'll look it up later and update.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night Trip

SUGAR LAND--I made it here with no problems today, but my gosh--the middle of my trip (roughly from Fairfield to Huntsville) was among the stormiest trips I've driven in quite some time. At times, it was impossible to see a few yards in front of me (the drivers who inexplicably had their lights off didn't help), and I'm pretty sure that a decent portion of the trip was spent not touching the pavement at all.

As I said on Twitter, Godspeed to my fellow travellers whose journeys haven't yet begun.

Travel Advisory

I'm headed to the Land of Sugar for a few days to celebrate Christmas with the family. I should be able to catch up on all the unfinished posts while I'm there, and regular blogging will continue as well.

Safe travels to all who may be on the road or in the skies today as well.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Claus That Refreshes

Via a tweet from Lileks, I find myself enjoying this collection of old ads from the Coca-Cola Company. While they didn't invent the modern incarnation of Santa (artist Thomas Nast, among others, can be credited with that, along with the descriptions found in Clement C. Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas," better known as "The Night Before Christmas"), the Coke ads by the artist Haddon Sundblom certainly cemented his current image in popular culture, especially the "jolly" part (some past Santas looked strict or even scary).

Read the whole story, and check out the pictures; it's fascinating stuff. And thanks to Lileks for sending me there.

Friday, December 18, 2009

All is Calm for the Palm

Among all the other news stories of the week, sometimes it's the simple ones which catch your attention the most.

I'd read a while back about the Division Street Palm, a tree in Arlington that was way out of its element, nestled as it was in a highway embankment near the Division Street bridge over State Highway 360 in Arlington. But the reconstruction of that interchange left the palm's future in doubt. Still, the tree had cultivated (heh) a lot of fans over the years, and one of them, Richard McMullen, did something about it. And now, the tree is out of harm's way in its new home in Carrollton. The Dallas Morning News' Jacquielynn Floyd has more:
As it turns out, the Division Street Palm (as it has been informally christened) had a little community of fans that had marveled and wondered about it over the years. Many of them wanted the tree saved.

Deliverance was offered by Carrollton city arborist Lorrie Dennis, a former Arlington resident who knew about the tree herself.

"I thought, if it was growing like that by the bridge, with no irrigation, with all that carbon monoxide, I wanted it," she said. "That tree wanted to live. It had a will."

Dennis had a perfect transplant site: Carrollton's city-owned swimming pool and water park at Rosemeade Parkway and Old Denton Road. The landscaping there already included smaller palms; the Division Street Palm would be a perfect landmark for the park's main entrance.

"I can imagine people dropping their kids off and saying, 'I'll pick you up by the big palm at 5,' " Dennis said – kind of like meeting under the clock at the Biltmore.
Read the whole thing, which obviously has a happy ending. Also interesting is the story of how the tree was planted in that oddball place to begin with; it involves a musician!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hair We Go Again...

It seems like we were discussing the Mesquite school district's dress codes on this blog just a few weeks ago. Oh yeah--we were.

But this time, it's not something as new as emo pants, but rather the latest volley in a game that's been going on for decades: Hair length on guys. But what makes this one especially goofy is that the "guy" in question is a pre-kindergartner:
Four-year-old Taylor Pugh, in prekindergarten at Floyd Elementary School, likes his hair long - just below his ears and along his collar in the back. He likes it longer in front.

That length is outside the school district's dress code so the boy has been having lessons alone in the library. And his mother says the district has said he will be kicked out of school completely on Tuesday.

"He only goes two and half hours a day. He's not a distraction. He doesn't get teased," his mother, Elizabeth Taylor, said.

She spoke to the Mesquite school board Monday night, asking for help with her dilemma. But the board could take no action because the item was not on the agenda.
I love that last sentence--bureaucracy at its finest.

In case you're wondering--yes, Taylor does have some Native American blood, and his father wears his hair long (though the playing of this card is negated somewhat by Taylor's short-haired older brothers). But thus far, Mesquite refuses to give him a pass on that (the ACLU has gotten involved, for better or worse).

As you can imagine, the comments are running strong on both sides in the DMN blog post linked above, though it alarms me how many people just blindly accept the "rules are rules" idea, no matter how idiotic the rules in question may be. Such nice little sheeple they'll make! Perhaps the best points are brought up by a commenter who goes by the name Squanto:
1) This is a gender biased rule. Why must boys wear short hair? Hair grows on both males and females, period. This is not corporate America, if the kid decides to work on Wall Street then he will need to conform in order to be rewarded. And wear a tie, a strip of material that has no function.

(2) If there is an ethnic reason, that it is an indigenous practice, it's time for Mesquite to grow up. There is no reason boys must wear their hair short. There's no biological reason, it's culturally conditioned conformity.

(3) Making him learn apart from his peers is "shunning." That is an old Protestant practice used to make non-conformists conform.It has nothing to do with rules and regulations that are debated openly by community members.
Indeed. Let me reiterate something that I said in the "emo pants" post:
Look--I understand the arguments from the other side: Kids need to learn how to obey rules; they're in school to get an education, not show off their fashion sense, blah blah blah. (And the worst one of all: They're never going to get a job in the business world if they don't dress more nicely. Never mind that many kids will never set foot in the business world, and, as I've said before, with some of the things that have happened on Wall Street in recent years, I'm not so sure that we should be holding up the business world as a role model in the first place.)

But it seems like those in charge should pick their battles a little more wisely. I still believe that there are a lot of kids out there--not the extremely smart kids, not the thugs-in-traning, but the big, big middle--who wouldn't mind school so much if it didn't seem as if the administration weren't throwing roadblocks at them every step of the way.
Blogger "Hall Monitor" of (who became familiar to me after visiting The Musings during that earlier post) also posts about this and offers the following:
Once again, the length of a child's hair becomes the center of our education woes. If only every student would come to school with a neatly-trimmed haircut, we would be able to start focusing on the other problems our schools face. After all, it's a well supported fact that NO ONE with long hair has ever been successful.
Heh--well said. (And did anyone notice that the kid's hair just really isn't that long? This is much ado about nothing, methinks.)

By now, it probably goes without saying that I have a solution to the problem of administrative idiocy...and wouldn't Mesquite be a great place to start this practice?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tom Hicks Hits One Out of the Park

The long-awaited deadline for Rangers owner Tom Hicks to announce his choice for the team's new ownership group was made last night, and I was extremely pleased to see that his selection is the group led by Pittsburgh lawyer Chuck Greenberg and current team president/local hero Nolan Ryan.

Having Ryan on board pretty much says it all for me, or I guess I should say that not having Ryan on board would have been a deal-breaker for me, had I been in Hicks' shoes. As a player, Ryan was a class act, and he brought the team a great deal of credibility that it had not previously enjoyed. As team president the past couple of years, he was well on his way to helping the team restore said credibility, even if the effort on the field fell short. Ryan's involvement had me pulling for Greenberg all along.

As I read over the profiles of the various competing groups over the past few months, I was always a little leery of the group led by Dennis Gilbert. Maybe it was his former profession (sports agent); maybe it was his ties to the Chicago White Sox (you know us Texans, not wanting them dad-blasted furriners comin' in here and messin' things up). Or perhaps it was the fact that he wanted to run baseball operations himself, which would be bad for two reasons: 1) It would guarantee Ryan's departure from the team, and 2) The Metroplex sports scene already has one Jerry Jones and doesn't need a second one. (And maybe I just have bad vibes about people named Dennis coming in from outside an organization and messing things up--part of my personal history that won't be blogged any further here.) And I didn't know enough about Jim Crane, a late re-entry into the race, except that Ryan might have stayed if Crane were the winner, so that put him as #2 on my personal list.

At any rate, the Greenberg/Ryan group sounds like a good fit; once the lawyers, accountants and fellow MLB owners go through the process, maybe we'll see the new ownership group in place by Opening Day.

Tom Hicks may have made a few questionable moves from time to time during his tenure with the Rangers, but if this is indeed his finale as top dog, he's going out on a good note.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I'll Get Caught Up on Posting Again...

...when I stop getting detoured by sites like this. (Don't get me wrong--it's a great read, and tons of local information, but it can become a gigantic time-suck if one is not careful.)

Tomorrow is a fairly easy day, so I might well get caught up then.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Lights and Music: The Next Step

Ever since that guy in Ohio set his Christmas lights to music (and was featured in a beer commercial), all the cool kids started doing it. I spend a pretty decent portion of my annual Holiday High-LIghts post talking about this type of setup, and I wasn't sure anyone could top Jeff Trykoski in Frisco (both at Frisco Square and his own house) or the Zephries or Gordons in Plano, but someone's sure put a new twist on things: Check out Christmas Light Hero:

That's right, the lights can be run by a Wii guitar controller by a live human being, like the kid in the video. As developer/dad Ric Turner (formerly of Disney) notes, passersby who tune in on the FM channel can hear all your mistakes!

Some background on this may be found here. And my annual lights post will be up once I get a chance to see everything this year.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

So Far, This Is Not a "December to Remember," and the Cowboys May Be More Yugo than Lexus

Things we learned from watching the Cowboys game tonight:
  • Head coach Wade Phillips may well be out of a job in three weeks.

  • Plackicker Nick Folk will almost certainly be out of a job before that.

  • Those naysayers who talk about a Cowboys' "December curse" may well have a point. *sigh*
This wasn't the worst game the Cowboys have played this season, but there were a few things that I bet they'd like to take back: Four shots at the end zone (running the same play?) without breaking the plane comes to mind, as do yet another missed field goal and scoring that final touchdown with only two seconds left. I'm not ready to throw in the towel just yet, but things are getting dicey.

And all the best to DeMarcus Ware; I hope he's OK.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hey, Greenies: You Can Have My Starbucks When You Pry the Mug Out of My Cold, Dead Hands

From Aussie blogger Tim Blair comes this post about the latest way that environmentalists would like to control our lives. And this time, they may have gone too far:
An Edinburgh scientist has revealed the best way for coffee lovers to help save the planet – drink old-fashioned instant.

Dr Dave Reay, a world-renowned expert on carbon emissions, has calculated that filter coffees pump 50 per cent more carbon into the atmosphere than cheaper instant coffees.

And he says that ditching expensive filter coffees could help reduce your carbon footprint by the same amount as a gas-guzzling flight across Europe.
The full story that spawned Blair's post is here, and it contains one more distressing quote from Reay: "If everyone ditched their pre-work coffee fix that would do wonders for the planet." Yeah, and there might also be more car wrecks from people falling asleep at the wheel minus their java jive, not to mention the fisticuffs that might ensue from those people who are pretty grumpy before their first morning cuo o' joe (and we know who we are) getting rubbed the wrong way by people who are naturally perky in the A.M. (Of course, some environmentalists think that the planet would be a lot better off if people weren't on it at all...but didja ever notice that those same people are still alive as they say that? To roughly quote the comic-strip character Pogo, isn't it funny how the people who gripe most loudly about overpopulation already went to the trouble of being borned theirselves.)

Starbucks fights back in the linked story of course. And even more interesting is that the story right below this one in the Scotsman link notes that developing a coffee habit could help men prevent prostate cancer. Interesting.

(And yes, I know that Starbucks does in fact have its own line of instant coffee, but good heavens, have you priced that stuff? I'd have to go back to the swill-in-a-can my parents drank when I was a kid if instant were the only option.)

So I have an idea, Dr. Reay: Why don't you live the lifestyle you propose but not try to require everyone else to do the same; some of us have our own way of doing things, and just because they're not your way doesn't mean that they're wrong.

And a Scotsman commenter makes a good point:
how on earth does he think they actually get instant ? ..does it come gowing on the coffee bush in tins ?
Well said. And a Blair commenter expands on this idea:
And, not for nothing, but no way does traditional coffee use more energy. Instant coffee manufacture is a far more energy-intensive practice than roast and ground, for the simple reason that it is the roast and ground process plus several more steps.
But I guess the good Dr. Reay isn't one to let a little truth get in the way of his activism.

In the meantime, the hour is late, so I'm going to bed. And when I wake up, I'm going to have a generous cup of drip coffee, just like every day. And when I go from my 68-degree house to my 30 MPG car, I won't feel guilty about my coffee habit in any way, nor will I begrudge my neighbors (who might drive SUVs or have their thermostats set at 72) their own comfort and happiness. If only the ├╝ber-greenies would be so tolerant...

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Best 13 Bucks I've Spent in a While

For the past several days, the trackpad problem with the computer (which I mentioned here had reached a critical stage; it got to the point where I could hardly get anything done at all on here. The increased level of frustration made for an awful way to start the day, and productivity was truly suffering (and the iPhone wasn't always a good substitute; trying to copy and past multiple links into my web-based school email took a good ten minutes this morning).

This whole time, I was really hoping that the problem was strictly with the trackpad and would thus be solved by simply obtaining a mouse. Thankfully, I was correct. Having both a little bit of time and money, I headed to the Giant Corporate Electronics Concern and Tech Geek's Nirvana Spot Which Shares Its Name with a Futurama Character after rehearsal tonight and parted with a mere 13 simoleons, acquiring a perfectly serviceable USB mouse in the process. (As convenient as a wireless mouse would be, I can't part with that kind of money during the holidays, and as much as I'd like to stay all-Apple, all the time with the MacBook, I knew that such things weren't a requirement.)

Sure enough, I got home, plugged it in, and the problems of the past several weeks vanished right away. (Do I really need to download software from the manufacturer, as the installation instructions suggest? It appears to work fine as it is, and I don't need to do anything fancy like programming the buttons to do special things.) I still have a few small things to work out, such as the lack of USB ports (since I'm also running a peripheral keyboard--yes, this laptop is acting more and more like a desktop these days--and my speakers, and I'm trying to find a way to use all three simultaneously without messing with the extra wires and cables of the old powered USB hub left over from my old iMac), but it's nice to be able to do things on here on demand again. I can feel the wave of relaxation settling in already.

I'll try to use some of the next few days to get caught up on old posts and the like. As always (how many times have I said this during this semester alone?), thanks for your patience.

Friday, December 04, 2009

One More Metaphorical Graduation

Early last week, I "graduated" from physical therapy; the rest of the work that needs to be done to rehab my left quads can pretty much be done on my own. And today, I passed another milestone: Seeing the orthopedist for the first time in two months, I was told at the end of the visit (after receiving very positive comments about how everything is healing) that I would only have to go back there again on an "as needed" basis.

As I've said in earlier posts in this saga (which is hopefully winding quietly to a close), nearly everything that's happened since surgery--and really, even during the initial healing between the accident and that time--has been extremely positive. I do have some work left to do in the strength department, and I won't be taking stairs two at a time or returning to the racquetball court quite yet, but for the vast majority of any given day, I don't even think about my knee anymore. (It's true that I can feel a little something on really cold or rainy days, so I guess I'll grow up to be one of those old guys whose knee can predict the weather, but that often comes with the territory.)

There's probably not much more to post on this topic, though I'm sure I'll make note of the day when I go down a staircase without using the handrail or hit the racquetball court again. Thanks for hanging in there with me through all of this.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Great News from Denton

Glad tidings from my alma mater travel in pairs this week:
  • The One O'Clock Lab Band's latest Release, Lab 2009, has been nominated for two Grammy awards: Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album and Best Instrumental Composition (for director Steve Wiest's "Ice-Nine"). My own comments on the CD, and the release party held for it earlier in the semester, may be found here.

  • And from the athletic department comes the news that Todd Dodge will continue as head football coach of the Mean Green. As I've said before, I'm a big believer in Coach Dodge, and--despite this season's six heartbreaking losses by a touchdown or less--I think he's getting the program on the right track. Seeing as how the Mean Green were among the youngest teams in the conference this year, I predict only good things for the future, and I hope to see him on the sidelines in 2011 when the new stadium opens.
It's a busy four days of concerts and other things coming up; more later.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Trying to Get Back on Track(pad), or I Wish There Were a Mouse in My House

Apologies for the lack of posting so far this week; it's not even the usual excuse (lack of time), though that certainly figures in. Rather, this week, it has to do with a computer problem--namely, the trackpad on my MacBook Pro. It just won't, well, track sometimes. I'll move my finger around and around, but to no avail; the arrow just stays in place for a while. It's almost like a very mild version of what it must feel like to be paralyzed in a limb.

The idea has hit me that perhaps the hard drive is getting full, which I realize could affect performance somewhat. To that end, I've been doing the Great Music Purge of '09 whenever I've been on the computer during the past 24 hours. I topped out at 25 days of music, so I've been deleting anything that I already had on a physical CD, saving my iTunes space for things I've gotten through eMusic or Amazon Downloads or the iTunes Store. I'm seeing slightly better performance since I've done that, but the occasional paralysis continues.

So, a quick bleg to my fellow Mac users: Is there anything else that I'm not thinking of which could be causing this problem? A repair is not really in the cards right now, due to budgetary concerns. I also realize that I could just throw down for an actual mouse, bypassing the trackpad altogether, but I'd like some information about that as well: Of the Apple mice, which one have you found to be the best? And how about any other mice that aren't made by Apple but work on Macs--any yays or nays there? Feel free to enlighten me in the comments, as this is driving me nuts; it's taking up to five times as long to do simple tasks, and there are just some things that I can't farm out to the iPhone. Any suggestions would be appreciated.