Google Voice

"It seems to me what you lose in mystery, you gain in awe."
Sir Francis Crick

Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives."
--William James

>>>Photo Links<<<

If any of the photo links are broken, you can find the public photo gallery here

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top 5 CDs of 2008

Watching some football and wondering why the ACC is having the "can't win a bowl game" problem again this year.  It's just sorry that Clemson didn't take care of business this year as expected.  Oh well, I thought I would spend the rest of the evening writing about my Top 5 CDs/downloads this year.  I will recap the best concerts of 2008 tomorrow while watching more football and hanging with the family, which includes my mother in-law and father in-law, who came in today from Ohio.

Reminds me so much of Neil Young.  Very introspective, mellow guitar folk.  We had the great experience of seeing him in Greenville at the Bohemian Cafe this year too.  Super nice guy, like 7 feet tall and fully bearded, kinda like Grizzly Adams on guitar.  Like I already wrote, if you like old folky Neil, then check this one.

#4  McCoy Tyner: Guitars
Any set with Derek Trucks, Bill Frisell, John Scofield, Marc Ribot, and Bela Fleck would have to be a dream set; add McCoy Tyner with the fantastic rhythm section of Ron Carter and Jack DeJohnette and you better buckle up.  Although I found Derek was a little subdued on his 2 tracks; it's smooth, like butter.  I think the standouts are the tracks with Bela Fleck, Marc Ribot and Bill Frisell.

#3 Bob Dylan: Tell Tale Signs
What is so amazing about this set is that these tunes are better than the versions that made the albums ...or are they?  That's what Bob does, he rearranges and makes the tunes become something completely different just by changing his phrasings and the instrumentation.  The mood changes with the song, the story teller changes, it takes you to another place.  He had at least 3 versions of his "Mississippi" out on the set and as a bonus song. I was lucky enough to get a copy of the 3rd limited edition CD that had more outtakes from my favorite CD, Oh Mercy. This was a welcomed birthday present too.  The outtakes, the retakes, the live tracks, it's a great mixed bag that flows as one.  Genius.

#2 Johnn Gregarius: Heaven and Earth
My evenings going to bed listening to Echoes pay off every now and then when I find a gem or two and this one really piqued my interest and I had to check my playlist the next morning. What drew my attention to this one is the fretless bass and the sonic effects that paint such an amazing space of sound.  I have listened to this one just about every night and morning ever since getting this CD in the mail from Best Buy.  

#1 The Drive By Truckers: Brighter Than Creation's Dark
To say I was amazed and converted to a fan by this one would be an understatement.  This is a set from the long lost children of Neil Young: rocking, introspective and unnerving all at the same time.  I probably listened to this double album more than any in a long time.  I get visions of my trip through Yellowstone National Park when listening (it was part of my soundtrack when driving around that day).  This is a classic and will be something that I listen to for a very long time as I grow old.  I like to think of it in the same sense as Steely Dan, the music is so good you tend to overlook the lyrics, which are full of surprises and challenges.  Top album of the last few years in my book.  

I guess I'll never grow a sideburn
it's a shame with all I've got to go between
I hope somebody's cause takes soon
it's getting hard to find a place a root can sink
Mama said a lot of things and be thankful was the one she never minded saying twice
Thanks to her I can think clear enough,
to be thankful that she died before tonight

Saving everybody takes a man on a mission
with a swagger that can set the world at ease
Some believe it's God's own hand on the trigger
and the other dumping water in the streets
Talking tough is easy when it's other people's evil
and you're judging what they do or don't believe
It seems to me you'd have to have a hole you're own
to point a finger at somebody else's sheet

Baby every bone in my body’s gone to jumping
like they're gonna come through my skin
If they could get along without the rest of me, it wouldn’t matter if they did
But skeletons ain’t got nowhere to stick they're money
nobody makes britches that size
and besides you're a ghost to most before they notice,
that you ever had a hair or a hide

I don't know how good it does a man,
to keep on telling him how good it is he's free
free to wash his ghost down the drain,
and free for them to tell him there's no such a thing

Also highly considered and enjoyed:
Levon Helm: Dirt Farmer
This one took me a couple of listens; but, the tunes and the subtley of the instrumentation really started to gel once I scratched the surface.  This is the voice of The Band and we are glad to have him back singing after his bout with throat cancer.  Good to see him at the Wanee Festival last April too.

It didn't come out in 2008 (2006) but I really enjoyed this one and the Billy Holiday set too.
Speaking of hot torchers, Susan Tedeschi's Back To The River was a good set too, enjoyed the tunes with Derek.  Not her best and not a lot different from her previous efforts but still enjoyable.

Remixed Bob Marley, what more do I need to say?  Far more upbeat than the Bill Laswell Marley remix effort and lots of good beat mixed throughout.  Classic beach music set. Summertime music for the ages.

The Cowboy Junkies: Trinity Revisited
They went back to the same church, exactly 20 years to the day and recorded another round of the same tunes with special guest.  I still have not watched the DVD that came with the set because I can't bring myself to change the images of that magical session 20 years ago that have enchanted and haunted me ever since.  Good idea and a great way to revisit but not sure if I can agree with the big package and the extra effort but it was fun to take another listen with a different ear.

Also enjoyed new efforts from Coldplay, Jack Johnson and B.B. King this year.

New interesting finds this year (thanks again to Echoes)
Dub Collosus: A Town Called Addis
Bombay Dub Orchestra: 3 Cities

I know I'm all over the map, as usual.  Although I was deep into rock and southern jam; I found myself listening to ambient and trip hop more often.  I downloaded tons of music from Amazon's mp3 store.  No stupid DRM to deal with and I can put it on device I want.  They have the Friday 5 for $5 sets and I took advantage often.  I still like having the CD to rip and then put in the CD closet when needed again.  I did get some good iTunes downloads this year but I only do that when I have a iTunes card. I don't like the DRM of the iTunes store, so that's when Amazon shines through again.  They have made it easy and cheap, another reason why they are the #1 online retailer.  

Looking forward to new stuff from the Derek Trucks Band and U2 in 2009! Can't wait!

See ya!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas 2008

Winding down the Christmas season, the lull between Christmas and New Year's when you never know what day of the week it might be or where you will be taking a nap.  We need this down time before kicking off the next year, the next project, the next school semester, the next road trip. 

Today, it's rainy and cool, the perfect day to set around, watch some football, balance the checkbook (take a few Tums while I am at that) and just lounge around with the family.  I am on call today, so not much planned other than the aforementioned laziness.

The big hits this year:
1.  The Wii: the boys are strapped in and loving the new game console.  I spent some time with the console last night setting up the parental controls, wireless access point (really cool) and learning the controls and user interface.  Right now, the new Spiderman game is getting lots of playtime.  The Wii even has a daily log to tell you how long each game was played and total playing time, great for parents!  The boys have their electronic timer going for their alloted time periods.

2.  Roasted pecans!  My Mom and Tricia made a batch yesterday and we did our best to stay out of the bag all the way home, not likely but we tried.  I could have eaten the entire batch alone.  Good stuff.

3.  Rush Snakes and Arrows DVD:  tour that Miles and I saw is also included.  One of the best shot video concerts in terms of camera angles.  It was my gift to Miles.

4.  McCoy Tyner Guitars:  John Coltrane's piano player teams up with jazz guitar heroes like John Scofield, Bill Frisell, Marc Ribot, Bela Fleck (ok, it's a banjo) and Derek Trucks on classic jazz tunes and originals.  Also includes bonus DVD of the studio sessions.  The family gift to me.  

5.  Stomp tickets at the Peace Center: my gift to the family, for the show on the weekend after school gets out in June.  Should be a highlight of the year for us.

6.  Keller's Squirrel that his Mommy got for him.  It's a play toy that squeaks and he is so proud of it.

Don't forget the great tile back splash in the kitchen and we have a great Christmas for all.  Tricia got a nice throw blanket from Mast General Store and a Bird song clock for her classroom.  Right now she is out getting her beauty treatment (not that she needs it) at the salon.  

The in laws will be here next week, so I see some cleaning and rearranging in our short term future.  But, until then, it's football and relaxing.  Tomorrow, we are heading down to Anderson to go to church with our friends, the Barfields and have lunch.  Enjoy your weekend!

See ya!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

We are on the road to Sumter. Wishing you all the very best.

See ya!
on Blackberry

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Beacon Lube Job and Kia Lube Jobs

Yesterday, I had the gastronomical pleasure of joining a group of men from Freedom on the annual week of Christmas pilgrimage to the Beacon drive-in over in Spartanburg.  If there ever was a greasy spoon, this is the one.  You "call it" when you get in line; but, you really have no idea if they got your order right when they "call it" because it comes out in a foreign language of sorts.  I got the Chili Cheeseburger A-Plenty plate and lemon ice tea (a famous trademark drink that they actually sell in the grocery stores in SC).  "A-Plenty" plate simply means that they pile on an extra helping of fries and onion rings for your pleasure.  While I was able to finish the burger, there was just too much grease for a brother in them fries and rings to finish.  I settled for a large hand spun vanilla milkshake to chase it down.  I was done at that point but mission complete at that point.  I was more than a little sleepy when I got back home just in time for a 2pm conference call.

I also got the premium "lube" job over at Kia of Greer after I got the Spectra in for service yesterday.  I called around to a number of places trying to find someone to do the alternator and the timing belt change.  Seems that Kia timing belt is a bit of a speciality (kinda like lemon iced tea) and I quickly found that it would be best if I went to the source for my premium service.  We also decided to take care of some other needed maintenance for the car, it has over 75,000 miles and is almost 7 years old.  It's gonna be north of $1000 on this ticket but I think it should be running good and for much longer with a new alternator, new belts, new plugs and a tune up and new cylinders on the rear brakes.  Talk about a lube job!  It sure beats a monthly payment and I need something as a back-up and something to get me to the airports when I have to travel.  Just hate that kinda slam at Christmas time.  

Speaking of Christmas, I think I see the finish line and have just a few things to wrap up today (I don't wrap presents but bags are great!).  We are planning to go to the Christmas Eve service at the red barn around the corner again.  That was a lot of fun last night.  

We also went to the Christmas service at New Spring's Greenville campus on Sunday night.  This is an amazing church out of Anderson, SC. They had almost 14,000 attend their 3 campuses on Sunday.  Yes, I wrote 14,000.  It was an amazingly cool service with a full speed audio/visual presentation like none I have ever seen.  The Greenville campus is going to start having 6pm services and I think I might find myself there on occasions.  Freedom doesn't have evening services and it's good to challenge ourselves with a new or different approach to worship.  Tricia and the boys were excited about the service too.  God is good and doing amazing things all around.  

Enjoy this clip of what the Beacon might be like in the "hood" or an alternate universe, trust me, the Beacon staff is nothing like this and I know for a fact that the food is nothing like what you find in the corner King of Burgers either!

See ya!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Thanks Sherry

I want to make sure I make note of the kindness of friends relating to my bad day yesterday.  When my friend, Sherry Marshall, heard about my "plight" she picked up a little "cheer" in the form of some chocolate covered Oreos and then the family dropped them off at our place on the ride home from the store.  True friends are a blessing in this hectic crazy life.  Thank you Sherry and Cliff!

See ya!

Karate and Rainy Day Blues

Miles did great in his mid-term graduation ceremony yesterday.  As promised, here is some video and pictures. His next graduation will be in January/Feb and he will get the Blue belt.  These graduations always get Dylan fired up and ready to start karate.  We plan to start in the Fall of 2009 when he starts 3rd grade and I am going to do it with him using my company fitness incentive funds, which are still paying for my Bioforce gym right now.

Karate December 2008

After working some more in the yard (in the light rain) to finish the pressure washing of the basketball pad and the back deck, I headed out into the masses for some last minute Santa-zing and to take back some stuff for my sister Susan (big shock there :-0, love ya sis!).  The traffic was just unreal at Woodruff Road for the quick stop at Best Buy (which I could have taken care of Tuesday but was trying to help a local record store instead of going to BB but it didn't work out). So, I got in and out but had to walk a little in the rain; but, it make my drive out easier.

Then I headed downtown Greenville to one of my all-time favorite store, Mast General Store.  In case you don't know, Mast is like an LL Bean of the South and we are lucky enough to have 1 of the original locations in Greenville on Main Street in our great downtown area.  So,  I did my exchanges for my sister, got something for my Mom and for Tricia.  Did pretty good and was ready to head home as this head cold was really starting to kick my butt and felt exhausted, even after that grande Gingersnap latte (thanks Amy).  That's when the fun started.  I had to get a jump for my car on Tuesday when I went to Best Buy but just wrote that off to maybe one of the boys leaving the dome light on or something earlier that day.  On the way to Mast yesterday, my radio was shutting down and the rear defrost would not stay on.  That seemed to indicate something was shorting electrically or my alternator was needed some CPR.  I think the alternator is the issue since my battery is probably not even a year old and the alternator is responsible for electrical power when the car is running.  Well, my diagnosis didn't help much once I got back to the car.

Luckily, I was in the Richardson Street garage right behind Mast and the parking is free on the weekends.  I can't turn the starter due to the dead battery so I back the car out of the parking area and into the garage lane.  I pop the hood and get out my cables for a jump.  A very nice young lady with a baby in the back seat obliged my request for a jump start and I thought I was ready to go.  Unfortunately, when I connected the jumper cables to her battery, the power came on in my car and locked the doors.  At that moment, my head cold felt like the flu and I felt like an idiot for shutting the door.  Lesson learned.  Red-faced, I unhook the cables and thank the kind young lady.  Now, it's time to call for help.  My head cold felt like Typhoid fever at this time.

So, I call Tricia and tell her about my situation.  Long story short, I had used her keys to put some windshield wiper fluid in my car while Miles was pressure washing the basketball pad and didn't put the keys back in the correct spot.  I left them in the garage by my toolbox.  Not good.  It took Tricia about 30 minutes to find the keys where I left them.  In the duration, I tried calling a few close friends for help (thanks Cliff) but had to spend most of the time waving folks around my car and helping others to back out around it.  I think I said "no, I don't need a jump start" about 100 times yesterday.  At least I was dry and someone did remind me of that small blessing.  Tricia found the keys and luckily the garage was in the GPS and she made it to my aid. 
Quick jump start and I was on my way home.  

It was a short Santa trip that turned into an extended period of humbling and vulnerability.  God was working on me, right?  Well, I made it and I have so much to be thankful for despite minor automotive setbacks and necessary repairs at Christmas time.  I'm off to help setup at church and hope the car cranks for me this morning.  I will need that nap today, 100% positive on that.

See ya!  Ho Ho Ho

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Not feeling 100% the last day or so, been trying to keep a cold at bay.  So far, I have been 50% , a little sore throat and some nasal drainage, mostly just drained.  A little sore throat still this morning and I have medicine head.  I got 1 call last night for work at 0210am, that didn't help much either. Luckily, it was a false alarm (still get 1 hour of pay, thank you God!).  

Today, we are going to a mid-term graduation for Miles' karate program. That means Miles will not get a new belt but will participate in the ceremony and get a certificiate.  Once you reach Green belt,  you have to be in 2 ceremonies to get a new belt level.  Judging by the sweat on Miles face and uniform, he continues to be challenged and grow with the program.  Hope to have some pictures later.

Tricia and Dylan are out walking with Keller.  I am going to work on the yard a little before the karate ceremony and then do some Santa tasks later today.  Miles and I had a great time watching Airplane II last night.  Lots of stupid laughs and the movie series that set the standard for spoofs.  Here's a clip I found on Youtube.  You know I speak jive, didn't trip cause I don't need no translation!  

Enjoy and See ya!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

This is a really, really great article with fantastic pictures of the festival.

Tricia and I are out the door for our Life Group Christmas party and gift exchange.  It's hard to believe we are done with the our Love and Respect book and study. We have made some good friends in this study and look forward to the next study, starts in February.  Tricia and I actually learned from the book and the discussions, I know our communication has improved.  We have a long way to go to perfection; but, it's getting better everyday!!!

Gotta run!  See ya!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Terminal Velocity: Thursday, Friday, Saturday

Where did this weekend go?

First, Miles' 1st piano recital, Christmas Style. He did a great job and has really enjoyed learning with Mrs. Sherry since February. Enjoy!

Then, Friday was the Christmas Jam. We made it home in the very wee hours of the morning, with the show having ended at 0420AM.
Day 1 of the Jam started around 7pm with Gov't Mule and ended with the Allman Brothers Band's blistering 3am set.
Lots of guests all over the sets:


Brighter Days
Like Flies
Bad Little Doggie
Blind Man In The Dark
Sco-Mule w/ Tal Wilkenfeld on Bass and Robben Ford on Guitar
Fallen Down w/ Karl Denson

Mean While
She's Music
Livin In A World Gone Bad w/ Matt Grondin & Karl Denson
Badboy w/ Warren Haynes & Eric Krasno
Thank You Falletime Be Mice Elf w/ Tal Wilkenfeld, Eric Krasno, Warren Haynes, Danny Louis

1952 Vincent Black Lightning
Squirrel Hunter w/ John Paul Jones
Little Georgia Rose w/ Travis Tritt
Old Kentucky Shore w/ Joan Osborne & Travis Tritt
My Love Will Not Change w/ John Paul Jones
Celebrate w/ The Lee Boys

To The One I Love
Help Me w/ Warren Haynes
Christmas Time In New Orleans w/ Ron Holloway

Leave My Girl Alone
I Walk The Line
Pickin' At It
Pressure is On w/ Warren Haynes
Movin On Over w/ Warren Haynes

Going To California

Down In THe Flood
These Days
Can't Sleep At Night w/ Susan Tedeschi
Anyday w/ Susan Tedeschi & Eric Krasno

Don't Want You
Cross To Bear
I Walk on Guilded Splinters
Statesboro Blues
Stone Me w/ JJ Grey
Who's Been Talking w/ Robben Ford & Ivan Neville
Dreams w/ Karl Denson
Liz Reed w/ Tal Wilkenfeld
The Weight w/ Ron Holloway, Danny Louis, Susan Tedeschi, Ruthie Foster
Mountain Jam Intro
Dazed & Confused w/ John Paul Jones
Mountain Jam w/ John Paul Jones

One Way Out w/ Roosevelt Collier & JJ Grey

I didn't take any mics and patched into 2 rigs at the show. One, good. The other, not so good. But, there were about
30 sets of mic stands and rigs running. I have spent a lot of bandwidth today downloading the sets from both nights. Day 2 was a completely different line-up with highlights including Ben Harper, more Mule with a Led Zeppelin themed set and a short Johnny Winter set. I tried to tape Del McCoury up close with my stealth mics but the crowd was too rowdy and I just stopped the recording and enjoyed the set, which included Joan Osborne and Travis Tritt joining on vocals. It was an incredible night of music. Barry and Cliff both agreed it was worth the physical efforts to see such a great night. Glad it's once a year!

Then on Saturday after a few hours of shuteye, we headed down to Sumter for the family Christmas party:
From Christmas 2008 at Nana's home

The "potty putty" was the big hit and had all the guys laughing and the women rolling their eyes. Lots of great food and fun with the family. The boys had fireworks and a fire pit with their cousins to keep them up late into the night. They didn't go to sleep until very early in the morning on Sunday. Me, I crashed around 845pm on Saturday. Tricia stayed up watching out for the boys and laughing with Susan, Dave and Amy.

On Sunday, Amy joined myself and Tricia at Alice Drive Baptist. It's always great to be at ADBC and enjoy worship with old friends and family in Christ. Clay's sermons are always on target and bring a challenge. We went back to ADBC in the afternoon for the matinee performance of this year's Christmas pagent, The Answer. It was a spectatular production and had me missing being a part of it, as in year's past. But, I sure don't miss the set break after the performances are done. Great job, Jock and crew. We look forward to next year!

Ok, that's a quick recap of this blur of a weekend. We made it home around 930pm last night with 2 exhausted little boys. They will be sleeping quietly tonight too, I can see it in Dylan's eyes. Miles is out of focus, like he gets when he is tired. I'm sure school was rough on all 3 of them today, I know work would have been harder without my forced walk in the woods to get me going. Well, I have rambled long enough. Enjoy your week, only 10 more days to Christmas.

Now Listening (NL): Bombay Dub Orchestra (what I got with my iTunes card from Chinese gift exchange on Saturday, even if I did bring it to the party :-) )

See ya!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Jam 2008

I will be out the door in just a few to head up to Asheville for the 20th Annual Warren Haynes Christmas Jam.  I could not be more excited.  This is one of the events that I long for each year.  I am going with my pastor, Cliff and my neighbor, Barry. The minivans will be rocking as three old guys head up the hills for some great music.  Check out the lineup and this neat guide to the shows this year below.  See ya!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New Kitchen, finished Bush book

Everyone really enjoyed Miles' choir performance.  Thanks for the comments!

Some really nice tile going up in the kitchen this morning, it looks like a completely new kitchen. Tricia is going to love it!  Can't wait for her to see it. Mr. Tucker the Tile man is doing a great job. I wouldn't even know where to start with the tile.  We are planning to work with a friend from our life group and work on the bathroom as a DIY project.  Didn't want to take that chance for the kitchen work.  He's been doing this for about 40 years and it shows.  

Cold and wet today here in Blue Ridge.  Glad my grass seed is going to get a good soaking this week. Keller did chew up my water hose I left in the yard, so good thing it's raining!  That puppy was just helping me clean up what I left out in the yard, right?  

I finished the book Bush Tragedy last night.  An interesting and frustrating read.  If I have to use the dictionary more than 5 times for 1 book, I get a little annoyed.  Just use English for Pete's sake! But, I did like the way the author parallels Bush's life and politics "adventures" with Shakespeare's Henry V.  The passages about Karl Rove and Dick Chenney were very informative and made my blood pressure go up at times; but, also confirmed what I suspected all along, that Chenney was running the show.  Good information about Bush's grandparents (both sides of the family) and how they influenced his views and work ethics.  Did I learn anything new?  I guess I liked the history and comparisons to past administrations and Shakespearean characters; but, this was more an affirmation from someone who evidently shares the same views as me.  Good read at times, a little fluffy at times.  On to the next book.  Maybe a trip to the library with the boys.  They always love that!  We have to find childcare for tongiht's Life Group (the last in our series before the Christmas social next week).  Ok, gotta get back to work. 

See ya!

Check out this free sampler from mp3 downloads:  Jazz Sampler

Christmas Jam this weekend:  Guide to Christmas Jam 2008

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Frosty the Elvis Snowman

Miles worked very hard on his solo for the Christmas choir performance at school.  The rhythm got off a little but I think he did a super job!  Check it out for yo'self!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Oh yeah

My recap of today would not be complete without some mention of us trying to get a family picture for our holiday cards. Don't plan on it for the ones we took today. The goofy factor was high and I think we may just work on a year in review collage or something. Why is it so hard to get 2 boys, a cat, a dog and 2 parents together for 1 picture? Here's a sample...

Sunday download

We had a great time yesterday cheering for the SHS Gamecocks. Although we didn't stop the Lattimore express (Jr. from Byrnes ran for over 300 yards) we gave them a good run and the final was 31-20. I think this is Byrnes' 8th state championship in the last 10 years. It's a great program over there. We got to hang with our friends from Alice Drive Baptist church and I got to see some Sumter High folks from the class of 1988 that I hadn't seen in a long time, folks who didn't make the reunion. We had a mini-reunion during half time. It was great to see Tony Hinnant, Dexter Davis, Patrick Johnson (lives in Greer) and Steve Price. Steve was my roommate at Clemson, freshman year.

Today after church (great praise music and message today and Jake even busted out the mandolin for the first time in a long time, the band sounded great and Cliff talked about checking your heart and getting it cleaned and pure for the work to be done, great message Cliff) and a nice nap on the couch, I finished the front porch Christmas lights display and then got to work on the driveway with my new pressure washer. There is something mysteriously cathartic about spending a few hours spraying away clay and dirt from cement with cold, wet toes. The driveway looks great and it was easy, glad I got the electric pressure washer instead of the gas, just couldn't stand that noise for so long. While I was working on the driveway, Amy took all of the boys down to the trail. Miles and Dylan rode their bikes and Keller and Drew tagged along. They had a great time but Dylan was just about pushed to his limits, pushing the bike back up the hill from the trail across the street. They had a great time this weekend with cousin Drew and Aunt Amy. We will see them next weekend in Sumter for my Mom's Christmas party. That's the day after the Christmas Jam on Friday night. That will be the utmost highlight of the week!

No NFL (Not For Long as in how long I stay awake watching) tonight but the Panthers are on Monday night football tomorrow, so I will watch after we get home from Miles' Christmas choir performance at Crestview. Look for a Youtube upload soon. Can you believe we only have 2 weeks from this Thursday until Christmas. Terminal velocity has us moving rapidly to 2009! Hold on!

See ya!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Early Christmas, Go SHS Gamecocks!

Christmas came early, December 5th, for me. First, I got my new bass pedal from Musician's Friend along with some other not to be named birthday present for a boy who will be 11 in January. It's not the place where you eat pancakes...IHOP; but, close :-). The bass pedal allows me to use 80 different "voices" and effects for my bass and has a built in tuner and volume pedal. I was all geeked out on it yesterday and so was Miles. Even has a built-in drum machine to keep the beat. Very cool! Can't wait to spend some more time "playing" around with that toy! My fingers have blisters today since I haven't played that much bass in a while.

Then, to top it all, Tricia and I went to Lowe's for some project stuff. We are giving each other a back splash in the kitchen as Christmas. We had a deal for some no payment/no interest at Lowe's, so we went to get the tile for the backsplash there. We also picked up the rest of the stain we needed for the fence, a much needed power spray washer and an electric chainsaw. Throw in some seed for the yard and seeding soil and you can imagine the price. Good thing I have 12 months to pay it all! I had to park on the street and load it up the driveway. Oh yeah, throw in 16 stepping stones for a path from the garage door to the back deck. It was a lot of work unloading, I promise you that! So, I have plenty of projects to work on for the next few weekends. Much needed improvements. We have already received an estimate from the man who is going to do the backsplash, we just need to schedule that for now, should be soon. What more could a man ask for in 1 day when he gets a bass pedal, a pressure washer and an electric chainsaw? I'm happy.

Just so you know, that trip to Lowe's was preceded with a trip to Starbucks with Tricia. We had some coffee and just hung out together, almost like a real date. I guess if you throw in the baby sitter we had at the house with Miles and Dylan, it was! Tricia even updated her status on Facebook to say we were going on a date to Lowe's and Starbucks. That makes it official, right? The gingersnap latte had real ginger bits on the whip cream, very tasty. So was the no sugar added banana nut bread. Tricia and I also got some good couple time walking with Keller on the trail after they got home from school yesterday. A nice cool December afternoon in the woods is always a treat for us.

Today, my sister and nephew are coming up to go to the game with me and Miles in Clemson. Amy is stopping in Columbia and getting Drew for the night. Tricia and Dylan are going to hang out here and enjoy their Saturday. I am really excited to be heading over to cheer for my high school. A late suspension yesterday of 3 players from the opposing team (the Upstate champs, Byrnes) for smoking pot and skipping school may or may not have any effect on the game. It will be fun to see our friends from Sumter and cheer on the Sumter High Gamecocks!

Well, I think I have some holiday decorating or project work that is calling me. See ya! Go SHS!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Gator Bowl Bound

It looks like Clemson is heading to a New Year's day bowl, The Gator Bowl! I can't wait to watch that with my inlaws :-) They will be down here for a visit on New Year's Eve through the 4th of January. It will be a fun party!

Keller was a playing the spoiled brat today. I let him in the office like I have been lately in the afternoons to hang with me while I work. When it was time to go back outside, he protested and pretended to hide his face. I literally had to pull him out of the office. It was funny and frustrating at the same time. We will continue to work on that! He is still enjoying his bed in the garage at nights too, no problem there.

Watching the Clemson basketball team play a tough Illinois team in the ACC/Big Ten challenge. Right now, Clemson is down and it's a fast paced game tonight, their biggest challenge so far this year. We have tickets for the 1/10/2009 game at Clemson when they play NC State. Speaking of Clemson, did I mention that we get to head to Clemson this Saturday to watch my high school play for the football state championship? It's gonna be a fun time, can't wait!

We are slowly decorating for the holidays around the home. Still working on the outside displays but have the traditional Johnson family fiber optic tree on the porch up and running with the timer. That's a must-have for our holidays! It was one of very first family trees and has hung in there for more years than I expected! Still looks great.

Did you see Jupiter and Venus beside the moon last night and tonight? Wow! It caught my eye last night and I looked on Earth and Sky and found what the planets were that were so brightly shining in the sky to the southeast of the crescent moon. I tried to take a few shots, see below.

Well, that's all for today. Hope you are enjoying this cold weather as much as I am, my walks in the morning are cold but very enjoyable. Keller is still getting in the creek, even with ice patches in the water. It's usually at the end of the run, not the beginning like in the summer. So, he does feel the coldness, I'm sure!

See ya!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Cold and Wet

It's a cold, windy and wet Monday morning here in Blue Ridge, South Carolina. I am going to start saying we live in Blue Ridge because it actually comes up on the map in Google and it's a much closer approximation to our house since the Greer post office is a long ways away from here. Greer city limits is almost 5 miles. It makes me feel better, how about you?

It was a slow moving start for the Crestview gang this morning, hard to get going after the long weekend and holiday. We enjoyed our visit from Nana, Pete and Aunt Amy over the weekend. We really had a blast watching Clemson dismantle the swagger of the USC Gamecocks. I am really proud of how our team got together and made something out of the season despite all the setbacks and coaching drama. It was a great way to bring it all together for the Seniors. I am excited today to see if we get the announcement for Dabo to be the new head coach. I have some concerns about how some of the fans may set their expectations on his performance but I know his heart and soul has been poured into those boys and I think we could do a lot worse. It will be a hard road for any coach but Dabo has sure proved he can handle it, even under the worse conditions. Now, we wait for our bowl game! Go Tigers!

My high school, Sumter High, will actually be playing in Clemson next Saturday for the State football championship. We are going to the game, which starts at 3pm on Saturday. What's really cool is SHS won the state when I was a senior so this would make a great 20th year gift for our class! Can't wait to cheer those Gamecocks! Yes, my high school mascot is Gamecocks but we have an authentic claim to the Gamecock mascot since General Thomas Sumter was nicknamed "The Fighting Gamecock" during the Revolutionary War. So, there!

As promised, I wanted to write a little about the fun Miles and I had in Charlotte on Friday night. I got tickets during the presale for the McGholon Theatre show (Spirit Square) way back in the summer. This venue is just about perfect for the Derek Trucks Band. It's actually the old sanctuary for 1st Baptist Church of Charlotte. The stained glass is still there as are the big wooden church doors. The venue has received some recent sound system updates and it showed. The sound was top notch and my recording really shines. Miles and I stayed at the Hampton a few blocks away (thanks to the free room from work travel) and enjoyed the services of the shuttle bus to and from the show! Very nice! We had dinner at the Rock Bottom brewery/pub with our good friends from Greensboro, NC, Greg and Meredith Cohoon. Miles and I got a latte and mocha treat after the meal to get ready for the show. That hit the spot! We then met up with Yonrico, the drummer, and gave him some peach bread and cider for the band to enjoy (actually we gave that to Todd the bass player and Count M'butu, the percussionist). I also delivered the percussion shakers I got in Botswana for Yonrico's birthday! He was very appreciative and Miles got to say hello by the bus as well. It was a treat. We didn't get the chance to speak to Derek, Mike or Todd's wife, Brooke (with both kids in tow) but we spoke with Kofi (keyboard and flute). It's always fun to let them know how much we appreciate the music and that we are looking forward to the new album in January.

As for the show, I think the recording speaks for itself. "My Favorite Things" clocked in at 18 minutes and was a highlight as was the "For My Brother" encore. The band was in a great form and played a lot of the new CD. The crowd was relaxed and seated for the most part with dancers seen in the corners during the sets. Miles and I went up in the balcony during the 2nd set and he really enjoyed the view from up above, speaking of... "Up Above My Head" to end the 2nd set was funky! Check out the pictures here: dTb 11-28-08

Well, it's time for my Monday to get started! Have a great week and Happy December to you!!!

See ya!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Clemson beats USC, again!

Hey, quick post before heading back to church this morning! We watched a fantastic Clemson vs. USC game yesterday with my Mom, Amy and Pete. Clemson salvaged the season with a 31-14 thumpin'. I plan to write about the fun Miles and I had on Friday night in Charlotte later. In the meantime, you can listen here:

Friday, November 28, 2008


We had a lot of fun yesterday for Thanksgiving.  Tricia's brother, Frankie, and his family stopped by for Thanksgiving dinner on the way to the beach.  Tricia made a great turkey dinner with sweet potato pie, fresh cranberry sauce and all the fixin's.  It was a great meal and we were so happy to share with family.  They have a new little one, Dominique who is now 4 months old. I called him "mini-me" because he looks just like Frankie, seriously.  I thought his older brother looked just like that too.  Their oldest, Jasmine, is growing up and such a cutie.  She had a lot of fun playing with Dylan.  Miles entertained with piano and karate moves, of course...

After the dinner, we went down to Lake Robinson park and took a few pictures before sending them off down the road for their beach vacation.  I took a nap, Miles and Dylan played around and Tricia did some school work in the afternoon.  After my nap, I decided to take the family to a movie since we were going to see the lights on Roper mountain anyways.  With a little debate, we picked Bolt.  I'm glad we did, this was one of the best cartoon movies.  It had lots of action and laughs.  The hamster, Rhino, had us cracking up long after the movie was over.  We also waited until the 7pm show to see the digital 3D version and I'm glad we did.  It was awesome!  The special  effects added with the 3D were really, really worth the extra wait time and effort (including not being able to pay matinee prices).  I can recommend this one for the family and we also got the preview for the new Ice Age 3D movie that is coming out in 2009!  That should be a riot too.  

Well, Tricia just got home from a walk with Keller.  When she got back, she came in and said "Mark, you have to come look at Keller.".   Other than being wet from head to toe, he was carrying a rag in his mouth.  On closer inspection, it turned out to be a dead squirrel.  Keller got his first live kill!  Tricia said he caught it going up the tree.  He must try that move about 10 times on every walk in the woods!  Today he made it happen and he couldn't be prouder!  Tricia reported it was a fierce battle and Keller was a little confused about what exactly to do with it.  She said that during the "battle" the squirrel actually latched onto Keller's chest and he had to shake it off.  She said "he was on his own there, nothing I could or would do!"  I thought that was as funny as Keller looking at her for help with a squirrel latched to his chest.  Right now, he's strutting around the back yard with his prize!  He's our Bolt!  

Miles and I are headed to Charlotte tonight to see the Derek Trucks Band at Spirit Square.  It's a very cool venue that is actually an old church, the stained glass windows are still there.  The sound and views are hard to beat.  Can't wait!  We are staying at a hotel uptown around the corner and having dinner with some friends from NC.  We are also planning to met up with the drummer and our friend, Yonrico Scott. I got him a couple of percussion instruments while in Botswana!  On Saturday, we are going to head back early so we can be home for the Clemson v. USC game at 12noon.  My Mom and Pete are coming up with Amy to spend the weekend with us and watch the game.  I think we are going to put up the tree too.  Should be a fun weekend!  
Enjoy yours!  See ya!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wednesday before Thanksgiving

So, do you fast today so you can eat a bunch tomorrow?  Or is that a sin for planning gluttony?  I guess I will find out!  Nah, I will just eat a little lighter instead and plan a sensible meal for Thanksgiving tomorrow.  Famous last words.

It almost feels like a holiday today, Tricia and the boys are home.  Tricia is enjoying sleeping in, tucked under a bunch of covers.  Miles and Dylan are watching cartoons in the den.  Dylan and I just figured out he is thankful for having cereal for breakfast, something he knows I agree with completely.  Even when I drink my regular soy-protein-banana shake after working out in the morning, I some how find an excuse to eat cereal at some point during the day.  Usually, it's a snack or like yesterday, it was 2 bowls for dinner.  Ok, I am thankful for cereal too.  I said it, there.

It's chilly today, 29F with the sun coming up now.  I'm sure it's even colder to Shadow since he got put outside after getting a bite to eat. He was waaaaaaay too noisy this morning around 0630am wanting to know why Mommy wasn't up and wanting to know who was going to watch him eat.  I guess he can find someone to watch his cold butt pee outside too!  I'm sure a black swirl will come through the crack of the front door the next time someone opens the door.  He will be posted there very soon.

Tomorrow will be an extra special Thanksgiving.  Not only will we be eating on the new dining room set we inherited; but, Tricia's brother, Frankie and his family will be joining us.  They are heading down from Sandusky, Ohio for a vacation at the beach and are planning to stop by our home on the way.  They have a new little son who was born a few months ago and that's always special.  I pray for them on their travels, I have been there and done that many-a-time, with newborns too.  It's never fun and the end of the line is always welcomed!

Well, I hope you have a great Thanksgiving and find a moment to offer praise and thanksgiving to our God who has blessed us beyond measure.  Enjoy the meal and the fellowship with friends and family.

See ya!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

New Videos

Good Saturday morning to you! Not much planned today other than some karate and football. It's a crisp, cold morning and a great day to hang around the house.
I uploaded a couple of videos of Dylan last night that I think you will enjoy! Check'em out here:

Cookin' with Dylan

The Hare and the Frog

Good stuff right there! See ya!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cold Mountain and new Dylan (sorta)

I finished reading Cold Mountain on Monday night and was planning to write something on Tuesday until everything fell apart physically. I feel much better today (Thursday) and wanted to just share how sad I am that the book is done. I can't step back into that story and soak the landscape details that Frazier uses or the relationships in a different light. This book is a masterpiece and one of the best books I have ever read. While the ending was tragic, just like the war and the times, I was more sadden by the end of the reading of the story than the real ending. The movie was a good attempt and I plan to rewatch that soon but the book will be in my head for a long time as I travel these hills and mountains of the area I call home.

For my birthday, I worked a 1/2 day and then went out feeling fair and a little stronger. I went by the library and returned some CDs and put a hold on Charlies Frazier's only other novel, Thirteen Moons. I also got a new book, Bush Tragedy, that explores how George W. Bush's family relationships and circle of friends influenced the failures of his presidency. This is something that interests me like trying not to look a bad wreck on the highway. But, I feel this is something we need to examine to learn from our history and move forward. Should be a fun read as the author puts W. "on the couch". I hope I get to see the movie W. soon too. But, will have this book done before that movie.

After the library, a haircut. Then I tried to do some shopping at Best Buy and knew I was not feeling good when I cut that trip short and decided I better hit Costco and head back as soon as I could. After Costco, Tricia and the boys joined me and we went down to one of my favorite places, The Bohemian Cafe. We saw about 1/2 of J.J. Grey's set before I felt exhaustion and stomach cramps telling me I was just about maxed out. We then dropped off snacks for our life group at Cliff and Sherry's home. We did make it to Cold Stone Cremery for a quick ice cream treat. I felt like I could handle some ice cream and I was right. The Pumpkin with graham crackers was just what the doctor ordered. Tricia and the boys also gave me a great birthday gift, Bob Dylan's new collection of outtakes and remixes called Tell Tale Signs. It covers the late 80's through the most recent work and it's just amazing how he can turn a song around with a different lyric in one spot or a complete verse change. What he leaves on the cutting floor of the studio is sometimes unbelievable; but, I am glad we eventually get our ears and minds to experience the "lost tracks". I had streamed both CDs via NPR's web and was looking forward to owning this collection. The 60 page booklet is very detailed and the complete companion to the tracks. Thanks Tricia, Miles and Dylan! Just what your music geek Dad wanted for his birthday!!!

We are going to try and hit the hibachi steak house on another night when my stomach can handle more than ice cream. Before I close this morning, I wanted to share 2 things about my son, Dylan, that really exposes what he is like, personality wise. He and Miles gave me a birthday card yesterday before school. Dylan also gave me a handful of change as my "present". When he handed me the money, he looked at me and said "that's my money, not yours". He wanted me to know that he was giving something that was his, even though I gave him that change last weekend when we were out. But, I knew exactly what he was telling me and why. Later in the evening, when I wasn't feeling that good and he was getting too wound up with Miles in the van, Tricia and I were trying to get him to calm down. I mentioned that if he didn't calm down, I would consider using my belt when we got home. That got his attention and he was quiet the remainder of the drive home, not a peep. When we got closer to home, I said "Dylan, I am proud of you for making the good choice to be quiet and respectful." Without pause he responded, "that's because I didn't have anything else funny to say." Boy, what an attitude! He is defiant to the core. Hopefully, we can continue to mold that strong will to serve a higher purpose.

Thank you God for my two sons and my beautiful loving wife. Life is good.
See ya!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

One step furthur, one step closer

It's my birthday today. 39. Glad to see the sun today after the awful day I had yesterday. If I had been to Mexico, I would believe I had Montezuma's revenge. It was not fun and exhausting. Miles and Dylan both wrote on my card this morning that they hope I am feeling better. I am. Keller and I got in a walk this morning in the cold woods. It's 25F here in Greer; but, no more strong gale force winds like yesterday. The winds were in the 40mph range yesterday. I spent most of the day wrapped in a blanket on the couch, in the easy chair or in the bathroom.

Today is a 1/2 day at work for me. I am going run some errands and try to get a haircut too. Then around 5pm (as long as I have the energy) we are going to try and see a free show taping at the Bohemian in Greenville. It's J.J. Grey of Mofro doing a solo performance. I have seen Mofro several times, including a fantastic set last year at Wanee. It's white blues from North Jacksonville with some good story telling in there. Should be fun. Then maybe some ice cream. We were planning to hit a Hibachi grill in town but I don't think my stomach can handle that today. We have pushed those plans to the weekend. Well, let me get to work. No coffee today, just tea and pepsi. Well, maybe some coffee tonight :-)

I will finish with a wordle and lyrics from Daniel Lanois' "The Maker". This song caught me today on my walk and fits the day. Always did love Jerry Garcia's version and Emmylou Harris' version and Dave Matthews' version and Daniel's version...
See ya!

Oh, Oh Deep water
Black, and cold like the night
I've stand with my arms wide open
I've run a twisted line
I'm a stranger
in the eyes of the maker

I could not see
for the fog in my eyes
I could not feel
for the fear in my life
From across the great divide
In the distance i saw a light
Jean baptiste
walking to me with the maker

My body is bent and broken
by long and dangerous sleep
I can't work the fields of abraham
and turn my head away
I'm not a stranger
in the hands of the maker

Brother john
Have you seen the homeless daughters
standing there
with broken wings

I have seen the flaming swords
there over east of eden
burning in the eyes of the maker
burning in the eyes of the maker
burning in the eyes of the maker
burning in the eyes of the maker

oh river rise from your sleep...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Homecoming Done

We had such a great, full day yesterday with the kids at the Clemson game for homecoming. My buddy and old Clemson roommate, Matt, showed up in the heavy rain on Friday evening. He brought his girlfriend, Naura and her son, Dawson (9). Matt's cutie pie girls, Claire and Kylie, also made the trip.

After getting everyone settled, Matt and I stayed up for a while catching up and drinking a few cold ones and watching Colbert Report recordings. Matt and I share alike political leanings, so that was a big topic of our conversations, Obama and what happens now. I think I made it to bed around 1:30am. Which made the 07am wakeup by 5 kids under 11 very LOUD. We made breakfast for all and finally got on the road around 10am, which put us a little later than we wanted into Clemson.

All things said, we still made it in time to park over by the Botanical Gardens, walk into campus, see a couple of floats and make it to our seats in time to catch the run down the hill. Since this was probably my only game this year, it was nice to soak up the spirit, even if the crowd was smaller than normal and a little low-keyed to start. The rain and clouds of the earlier part of the weekend gave way to bright blue and some strong winds. The wind was better than any rain during the game and it turned out to be a great day for football at Clemson. Clemson handidly won this game, almost shutting out Duke, save for 1 respectability touchdown in the 4th quarter.

We found my Dad's name in the sidewalk with the class of 1960 and headed to the cars. We then strolled across campus, including a walk in front of the library just in time to see some teenage boys steal some guys' clothes as they swam in the reflection pond (some weird homecoming ritual that I have forgotten?). That was funny. After the long walk back to the vehicles, we took the 2 cars around to the other side of Clemson to hit the legenedary "roller coaster road". It's a stretch of road behind the local airport that earns it's name. The descents are over 15%, seriously. It's amazing those roads are even legal; but, they sure are fun. There were several cars and minivans with Dads behind the wheels with big smiles of pure joy on their faces. It's cheap fun and the kids had a blast.

We made a couple of souvenir Tiger clothing stops, including the Mr. Knickerbocker's in Greenville so Matt and crew could get the gear they wanted. Matt and Naura hadn't been downtown Greenville, so we headed for the great downtown of G'vegas for some Mellow Mushroom pizza. We got in to MM really quickly and enjoyed some great pizza and 420 pale ale. We then strolled around Falls Park and the Sky Bridge. Some Starbucks afterwards and then we headed home. 2 of the 5 kids fell out before we made it home.

Matt and I played a little guitar and sat up for a short while with the ladies. I think we were all in bed and sound asleep by 11pm. A full day of homecoming fun with friends and family. We had a few grumpy moments for all but for the most part, a great day. I am proud of how the boys behaved and made their guests fell at home. Miles and Dylan both enjoyed their "audience": Miles was with Claire and Dylan was with Dawson. It was fun and LOUD.

On another "family" note: I set up Keller's crate and bed in the corner of the garage on Friday during the heavy rains. He has slept in the garage both nights locked in the crate on the bed. He was so happy to be in and back in his crate. He felt right at home and got in the bed without us having to tell him. Smart dog. Don't worry, the dogloo is still his home during the day! We have no plans to let him roam the garage. Just on cold, wet nights he can now have the luxury of sleeping "inside".

Well, kids are stirring and I need another cup of Sunday coffee.

See ya!

Friday, November 14, 2008

New Photos

I also changed the photo gallery on the main blog. It's now of Keller for his 1 year pictures. Ain't he a good dog? What a buddy. Here's to you Keller on a great 1st year of life. I see many more days of chasing those fast squirrels and wading in the creek by the trail in your future. Can't wait to share those walks with you!

Clemson Homecoming

This week is Clemson's homecoming. We are heading over for the game the pregame fun on Saturday. Clemson plays Duke. Usually an easy win but...we now have the same record as Duke this year. Weird and strange these days...

My good friend, Matt Hopkins, is coming tonight from Cary with his girlfriend and her son. Matt's two girls are coming with him, so the boys are excited about having a house full of kids and the football game. I have made some plans to see a couple of other Clemson grad friends and current students too (my cousin Lindsey is a freshman). Hopefully, this rain will stop before the game so we can enjoy the floats on Bowman field and not get too wet before/during the game. Matt and the crew are staying Saturday night too.

After church we are planning once again to take a family picture down by Lake Robinson. Third times a charm, right? Hopefully, we will all be rested and well, no sickness for anyone. Miles is still taking his antibiotic and no word yet from the doctor's office on whether or not his culture was negative. Miles feels well enough for karate tonight according to his report this morning.

Listening to some remixed qawwali music today while I work. One of my favorite albums last year was this Dub Qawwali project. These remixes were from the same album and put to a faster techno beat. Good music to make the work day go fast. Too bad I am on call tonight...

Well, gotta finish work. Hope you are well and enjoying the fall. Go Tigers!

See ya!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Music from the weekend and family updates

Well, one is better and the other is not. Miles is still suffering from a mean sore throat and staying home again. I plan to call the doctor when the office opens so we can do the throat swab for strep. Tricia is alive and feeling much better. She had a rough Sunday and was upright by yesterday morning. Dylan and I have escaped the wrath so far, so good.

It's been a very busy week already. I put in 12 hours yesterday since I am covering another consultant who is on vacation and I had call last night. My last call was almost 11pm but nothing afterwards, thank you God.

Today, we are getting a much needed home improvement: gutter guardians installed on the home. If you have seen our house, you realize quickly that is wasn't going to be very often that I got the chance or the nerve to clean the gutters on the 2nd floor. It won't be cheap but it will be worth it and has a lifetime warranty that is transferable (aka "Amen").

Well, Keller is ready for a walk, he has been walking circles since about 6am. Dylan and I went down to Lake Robinson park yesterday and tried to take some pictures of Keller in celebration of his 1st birthday, which was Oct 25th. We plan to celebrate on New Year's Eve since that is the day he came home to us as a puppy.

Check out some pictures from the park and here are some videoes from the bluegrass festival this weekend. See ya!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Fall Music in the Upstate

What an awesome day of music fun yesterday here in the Upstate. Before I tell you about Saturday, let me compare it to Friday, which makes Saturday shine by comparison.

Friday started with plans for me to take the Sedona van to the dealer to get the automatic sliding doors to work, needed a switch reset. Ok, not too bad. I take the van, Tricia and the boys take the car to school. I get a ride back from the dealer while they take a look at the van. So, I'm now at home with no car. I also have no internet. Not good when you work from home via the net. So, I get AT&T on the phone (which is working) and they tell me that it might not be repaired until next Tuesday. I'm not happy because I can't go anywhere to use someone's wireless (shout out to Panera Bread). They give me a number for dial-up; but, I can't remember my password, much less the account name. So, I get the account name and they reset the password. The connection is running at 26k when I do make the connection. Please, shoot me first! I basically checked some email very slowly but I found my blackberry to be much faster on emails and basically went with that while trying to reset my password via the dial-up. I also did some reading on the couch and organized in the office. Cold Mountain is getting very interesting; but, that's off topic!

Long story short, I never got the password changed on the dial-up. So, by the time the Internet connection is restored at 4pm Friday, I can't connect because the password has been reset and I have not been able to do it via the sloth-like dial-up connection. So, back on the phone with AT&T, praying I get someone for whom English is the mother tongue. I get lucky! I get a black girl from Atlanta! The small things in life. We get the password reset but it takes a modem reset and restore, which wipes out my routing table and static IPs I had set for all of my wireless devices and laptops. Let me translate that for you, it's a lot more work for me later...

Ok, so now I have my Internet back. The van is ready and the doors working after a switch reset. The dealership comes to get me and then back home. This actually happened before the connection was restored. I am also now expecting the Direct TV installation guy to show up to install a 2nd line to run to the DVR, you can't watch something else while another channel is recording without a 2nd line. Of course, we didn't' learn that special feature until I got the DVR connected. Another $99 out of my pocket! To make the day go so smooth, the Direct TV guy is having major difficulty with some anger management and map reading skills. He was due to show up between noon and 4pm. He finally makes it around 4:30pm when Tricia and the boys get home.

The Direct TV guy spends the next 2 hours on the phone, chain smoking Marlboro Lights on my back deck, with the Direct TV support because they have my work order completely hosed and incorrect. We finally get that solved and he goes to work in the crawl space. Keller goes into the pen in the backyard, very begrudgingly too! The actual work takes no time: drill a hole, run a line and switch, done. I'm thinking, great, now we can just hang out and watch some TV and end this frustrating day. But, it was just one of those days and it had to continue. As Mr. Godsmack, aka the Direct TV guy, is walking out the door, he mentions "I smelled a lot of gas under the house in the crawl space, it was very strong." We have natural gas for the water heater, furnaces and the clothes dryer.

So, I call the gas company about the gas leak. It's now dark. Luckily, Dylan spent the night with his buddy, Samuel. It was a birthday wish for Samuel. So, we didn't have to entertain a tired 2nd grader during this fun time. Tricia and Miles went to karate practice. The gas company man shows up, finds the leak at the gas meter. It's in an area that is not their responsibility, so I have to get our HVAC company to repair the line. In the meantime, the gas gets turned off due to the leak. So, now we have no hot water or heat. I call the HVAC company and they tell me it's a $95/hr call plus parts for after hours (which includes the entire weekend). We settle on the HVAC company coming out first thing Saturday morning and decide we can deal with the lack of gas for the night. By this time, it's already 8:30pm. What a day! Keller also spent about 2 hours in the pen while the Direct TV guy and the gas service man did their work. He did manage to get in the crawl space and lick the gas service man's face before I got him out and into the pen. I was thinking he would be okay out of the pen. Silly me!

Saturday starts with the HVAC repair at 8am for $125, thank you. Luckily, the gas service man comes back afterwards and turns the gas back on and restarts the pilot on the water heater. So, it cost me but it was over and done quickly with a much better connection created. It's a gorgeous day in the Upstate with a slight chill and some wind. Miles and I take the recyclables down to the high school while Tricia takes Keller out for a walk. I spend some time getting the laptops and wireless printers back online with my home network.

Now, you can see why I was so happy to have the chance to head down to the Peace Center for the inaugural Peace Center Bluegrass Festival. I hook up with my buddy Dan Wallace from Freedom and we head on down. The drive through the back side of Taylors into Greenville is spectacular with God putting on the colors of Fall for all to shine. We stop by Horizon Records on Stone Ave, pick up some tickets for the James McMurtry show later that night at The Handlebar. I also pre-order the Rush Live DVD that is coming out on the 25th of Nov for Miles' Christmas. We then get some free weekend parking and walk over to the Peace Center. We catch some of the Al Osteen band in the Gunter Theatre and then head over to the main auditorium for the band I was most wanting to the see: The Steep Canyon Rangers. Let me tell: these guys are the real deal and this was the best bluegrass set I have ever witnessed. We got some center seats at the back of the orchestra pit. Our good friends, Martha and David from Freedom found us and sat with us in the sweet spot! The music was magical and magnificent and had so much energy and focus. It covered bluegrass instrumental classics, Celtic tones, country blues and just fun, fast and furious pickin'. Their vocal skills are masterful, with 2 gospel tunes showcasing their harmonies and ranges. Folks, if you get the chance, do not skip the Steep Canyon Rangers. My recording turned out FANTASTIC! I also spoke with the band afterwards and they are just fine with posting the recording, which should be floating around soon. Here's some pictures from the show:

After the set, we had the best BBQ sandwich outside the Peace Center where a ring of merchants were set up. It was just a perfect sandwich to follow such an incredibly moving music experience. A walk across the Falls bridge and a Starbucks latte topped it all on such a gorgeous afternoon trip downtown G'vegas. That's my kind of Saturday afternoon.

Back to home and just in time for the Florida State vs. Clemson football game. We hung in there with them and made a good game out of it; but, in the end, FSU's defense proved to be too much of a threat for Clemson much-maligned offensive line. C.J. Spiller added to the highlight reel with a couple of nice TD runs. I finished working on the home network and also gave Keller a chilly bath during half time. Of course, I got the pictures uploaded and the SCR's set cut and tracked during all the football fun too!

After some supper with the family we started observing that Miles and Tricia were starting to look and act a little sick. Miles started complaining of chills and being cold and was spending time under the covers on the couch. I had my ticket for James McMurtry and told Tricia I would probably not stay the whole night. I made a quick trip to Best Buy for some more ink cartridges (didn't I just do this?) and then headed to The Handlebar. On the way to The Handlebar, Tricia calls me and tells me that Miles' fever is around 101F. We also don't have any more Jr. Tylenol and she doesn't want to give him any Motrin since his stomach is a little queasy. It's not looking good for the home team getting pictures on Sunday as scheduled. I did get a score on Jr. chewable acetaminophen at Rite Aid, it's the small things in life.

James McMurtry topped off the night with his hard drivin' Texas folk rock blues set. He writes some slashingly observant lyrics about today's society and the folks trying to make it. In addition, his 3 piece group locked it down with some ripping guitar and tight rhythms. I thoroughly enjoyed about 1 1/2 hours of his show, I got my 2 tunes I really wanted to hear: "Choctaw Bingo" (see lyrics below for a taste of what James is all about) and "No More Buffalo". I did record that 1 1/2 hours from the sweet spot, so I will see later today how that worked out. I made it home around 12am and found Miles and Tricia not feeling well but resting quietly.

I am up early this morning, doing a little nursing and writing this blog. I am now heading to the high school to help set up for today's worship service like I do on Sunday mornings. I don't think the pictures are in the plans for today. Tricia and the boys are going to stay home from church and rest. I am thinking about taking Dylan down to the Peace Center for lunch and some more free bluegrass at the Peace Center. Well, I gotta run. Thanks for reading and stay in touch.

See ya!

Choctaw Bingo
by James McMurtry

Strap them kids in
Give 'em a little bit of vodka in a cherry coke
We're going to Oklahoma to the family reunion for the first time in years
It's up at uncle Slayton's cause he's getting on in years
You know he no longer travels but he's still pretty spry
He's not much on talking and he's just too mean to die
And they'll be comin' down from Kansas
and from west Arkansas
It'll be one great big old party like you never saw
Uncle Slayton's got his Texan pride
Back in the thickets with his Asian bride
He's got a Airstream trailer and a Holstein cow
He still makes whiskey 'cause he still knows how
He plats that Choctaw bingo every Friday night
You know he had to leave Texas but he won't say why
He owns a quarter section up by Lake Eufala
Caught a great big ol' blue cat on a driftin' jug line
Sells his hardwood timber to the shipping mill
Cooks that crystal meth because the shine don't sell
He cooks that crystal meth because the shine don't sell
You know he likes his money he don't mind the smel
lMy cousin Roscoe Slayton's oldest boy from his second marriage up in Illinois
He was raised in East St. Louis by his momma's people
Where they do things different
Thought he'd just come on down
He was going to Dallas Texas in a semi truck called from that big McDonald's
You know the one they built up on that great big ol' bridge
Across the Will Rogers Turnpike
Took the Big Cabin exit stopped and bought a couple of cartons of cigarettes
At that Indian Smoke Shop with the big neon smoke rings
In the Cherokee Nation hit Muskogee late that night
Somebody ran a stoplight at the Shawnee Bypass
Roscoe tried to miss 'em but he didn't quiteBob and Mae come up from little town
Way down by lake Texoma where he coaches football
They were two A champions now for two years running
But he says they won't be this year no they won't be this year
And he stopped off in Tushka at that "Pop's Knife and Gun" place
Bought a SKS rifle and a couple a full cases of that steel core ammo
With the berdan primers from some East bloc nation that no longer needs 'em
And a Desert Eagle that's one great big ol' pistol
I mean .50 caliber made by badass Hebrews
And some surplus tracers for that old BAR of Slayton's
Soon as it gets dark we're gonna have us a time
We're gonna have us a timeRuth Ann and Lynn come down from Baxter Springs
That's one hell raisin' town way up in Southeastern Kansas
Got a biker bar next to the lingerie store
That's got them Rolling Stones lips up there where everyone can see 'em
And they burn all night you know they burn all night you know they burn all night
Ruth Ann and Lynn they wear them cut off britches and those skinny little halters
And they're second cousins to me
Man I don't care I want to get between 'em
With a great big ol' hard on like a old bois d' arc fence post
You could hang a pipe rail gait from
Do some twisted sisters 'til the cows come home
And we'd be havin' us a time
Uncle Slayton's got his Texan pride
Back in the thickets with his Asian bride
He's cut that corner pasture into acre lots`
He sells 'em owner financed
Strictly to them that's got no kind of credit 'Cause he knows they're slackers
When they miss that payment
Then he takes it back
He plays that Choctaw Bingo every Friday night
Drinks that Johnny Walker at that Club 69
We're gonna strap them kids in give 'em a little bit o' Benadryl
And a cherry coke we're goin' to Oklahoma Gonna have us a time