Sep 162010
 

William Gibson made a stop at the Arboretum Barnes & Noble last night to promote his new book, Zero History. He read from Chapter 16 of the book and took some questions from the audience, some of which were enlightening. Not sure if he was just using it as an excuse, but he cut it short because the feedback from the sound system that the store provided was annoying him. I was disappointed because I was enjoying his answers. Someone asked him about a recent short story and why he didn’t do more of them. He answered that there’s no money in them these days and that he feels like he’s got a limited number of ideas and any that turn into short stories take away from the pool that he can use for novels. He also discussed his admiration for Inception. During the signing, the guy in front of me had him sign his electronic copy of Zero History on an iPad. That was a first, but fitting, I suppose, for the author who is credited with coining the term “cyberspace”. You can follow him on twitter @GreatDismal. He’s pretty active when he’s not busy writing. Zero History is the third book in a series. The first two were Pattern Recognition and Spook Country. I’d recommend starting with Pattern Recognition. I’ve really enjoyed the first two and am looking forward to reading the third.

Aug 252010
 

As I mentioned, John Legend and The Roots taped a performance for Austin City Limits last night. It will air locally on KLRU on Saturday, November 20, 2010. They’re promoting their new album, Wake Up, which will be released on September 21st. It’s a mix of mostly 70s soul covers and a few originals. They had performed the night before in Las Vegas for the Miss Universe pageant.

Austin City Limits is moving to its new location downtown at the beginning of next year, so there will probably only be a handful of performances at Studio 6A before the move. Bob Schneider tapes a set tonight and I’m assuming there will be a few tapings with the ACL Festival coming up at the beginning of October. There were the usual ACL taping amusements last night: people spilling the free beer (the only time I’ll drink Ziegenbock because it’s at least a little better than Budweiser – pro tip: always get two on the way in, it’s too hard to go back and get more) and watching people narrowly miss getting bonked in the head with the boom camera. The most adept at avoiding the camera is the official ACL photographer, Scott Newton, who just released a book collecting 35 years of photos from the show on UT Press.

Black Thought, who was present at the GMA Central Park performance that I linked in my preview post, wasn’t there for last night’s taping. They played pretty much straight through the set without too much talking in between songs and obviously the rap portions of the songs were dropped with the absence of Black Thought. “Captain” Kirk Douglas had a blistering guitar solo at the end of the Bill Withers cover “I Can’t Write Left Handed” and ?uestlove got pretty animated by the end of that song, definitely the best one of the set. I’ve heard “Hard Times” twice now and it’s been stuck in my head all morning.

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Aug 242010
 

I first heard about The Roots living in NYC in 1995. I picked up their first major label album Do You Want More?!!!??! and couldn’t stop listening to it. I completely wore out “You Got Me” from their third album, Things Fall Apart. Their latest album, How I Got Over, was just released in June.

I pretend to be a drummer on occasion and had always admired ?uestlove (aka Ahmir Thompson), drummer for The Roots, but developed a serious man crush after seeing him at a live show during SXSW in 2006 for Before the Music Dies. I didn’t know about his bandleading skills until that performance, something that would become much more evident when The Roots began their stint as the house band for Jimmy Fallon’s takeover of Late Night from Conan O’Brien  (the only redeeming aspect of that change, in my opinion).

?uestlove also does guest DJ stints displaying his encyclopedic knowledge of music and will do one tonight immediately following the Austin City Limits taping at Red 7 at 9pm. It’s $8 in advance (try End of An Ear records) and $10 at the door and probably will sell out.

Tonight’s Austin City Limits taping will be with John Legend. Their collaboration, Wake Up, will be released on September 21st. I caught one song at a Central Park performance on Good Morning America a couple of weeks ago. The collaboration is inspired by the presidential election campaign of 2008 and is a mix of covers and originals. VH1 has a bunch of behind the scenes videos promoting the album. I’ll post a review of the taping tomorrow.

Here are the air dates for Season 36 of Austin City Limits which airs locally on KLRU on Saturday nights at 7pm:

October 2, 2010         Jimmy Cliff
October 9, 2010         Spoon
October 16, 2010      Patty Griffin & Friends
October 23, 2010      Alejandro Escovedo / Trombone Shorty
October 30, 2010      Robert Earl Keen / Hayes Carll
November 6, 2010     Steve Martin / Sarah Jarosz
November 13, 2010   Rosanne Cash / Brandi Carlile
November 20, 2010   John Legend & The Roots

Apr 302010
 

Bob MouldUnless you’ve been under a rock for the last four months, you’ve heard that UT announced it would be closing the Cactus Cafe at the end of the summer. It appears that public outcry has caused them to reconsider that decision. As far as I can tell, the two proposals gaining interest now are either that it be run by the students or by KUT. They continue to take feedback until May 7.

I’ve apparently been under a rock because I didn’t realize until yesterday morning that Bob Mould was in town for a two night stand at the aforementioned Cactus Cafe. I quickly checked with The Wife and that tickets were still available and got myself down there for the second night. I’ve only been to the Cactus a couple of times, but I had not doubt that it’d be a great intimate venue for Bob’s solo show and given the uncertain future, it may be my last chance to see the Cactus in its familiar glory.

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Mar 252010
 

Decided I’d title this whatever song was playing on the iPhone when I started writing. Seems appropriate, I guess.

The last post was a little less than a month before M. was born. He’s nearly nine months old now. Needless to say, I think my blogging urge is being fulfilled by Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Delicious, YouTube and whatever little posting I still do over at Metroblogging Austin.

Is a new baby a good enough excuse? Do I need an excuse? Should I keep updating WordPress versions to keep ahead of the script kiddies (probably)? Should I change the theme (probably)?

It’s also been nine months since I quit the main band. I’ve had a couple gigs with Victims of Leisure since then, but we haven’t played or practiced since before Thanksgiving. We’ve got one coming up this Saturday for the gig at the Parlor next week (April 3). I’m not sure I even know how to hold the drumsticks still (or remember the songs). It could be ugly. Better be sure I have plenty of beer so I’ll play better.

We finally tried out a Skype video call with my parents using the webcam that I got for Xmas this week. Ours has been working since the beginning of the year, but it took this long to get my parents going. Now my mother-in-law is running out to get a webcam as well. Yes, we’re just now joining 2004 and doing video calls with far flung relatives. If you’ve got a webcam and are on Skype, come find us. It’s the same damn username that I use for everything.

Mar 192010
 

Cheap Trick opened the 36th and final season for Austin City Limits in its current location on the University of Texas campus. They’ll be moving to block 21 just north of city hall sometime near the end of this year or beginning of next year.

I had an amusing moment before the show at Terra Burger across the street. I saw a guy with platinum blond hair decked out in cowboy rocker gear and just wrote him off as a SXSW hipster wannabee. I passed him as I got a drink refill and headed out to wait for the interminable light to cross The Drag back over to the communications building. He came out at the same time and stood next to me. I looked over at him and it dawned on me that it was probably Robin Zander, Cheap Trick’s front man. Turns out that I was right that it was Robin and wrong that he was a wannabee. If anybody’s entitled to walk around like that, it’s him.

If Robin was inconspicuous with his presence in the Terra Burger, Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos is conspicuous by his absence on this trip through Austin. He wasn’t at the taping last night or at an interview with CNBC on St. Patrick’s Day and he hasn’t been mentioned in any of the interviews that I’ve seen so far (including an interview from Austin360 where they give a shout out to Sam’s BBQ on east 12th street). It’s almost like they’re trying to avoid talking about it (is this punishment for that Hanson/James Iha side project?). Guitarist Rick Neilsen’s son Daxx filled in admirably during the taping. He’s definitely of the Bun E. school of drumming. The band is rounded out with amazing 12 string (!?!?) bass player Tom Petersson and two keyboard players, Phil “Magic” Cristian, who’s played with them on and off since the 80s and Roger Manning from Jellyfish and Imperial Drag.

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Mar 102010
 

As nice local pre-event to the upcoming SXSW insanity starting Friday, I attended a 20th anniversary panel on the secret service raid of Steve Jackson Games last night at Independence Brewing. If you’re unfamiliar with the landmark case in cyberlaw, Steve Jackson maintains a page about the case on his company’s web site and Bruce Sterling’s book, The Hacker Crackdown, was written in 1992 and has been available as an ebook (also here) since 1994. The raid led to the founding of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The panel was hosted by EFF-Austin (The original idea was to have local chapters of the EFF, but that never panned out. The Austin chapter has continued on independently since then.), attended by Steve Jackson, Bruce Sterling & Pete Kennedy, and moderated by Jon Lebkowsky. The panel went over the basics of the case and why it’s important, followed by a Q&A session. Sterling became pretty impassioned during the talk. He said that he’d thought he was over his anger with the issue, but the two hour panel brought it all back. Pete Kennedy was very measured. Steve Jackson looked back on it with a bit of humor, but 20 years ago, it nearly killed his business. Kennedy brought up the interesting trial detail that the government’s main basis for the sealed search warrant executed on SJ Games was a local security professional affiliated with UT who wouldn’t corroborate half of the things that the federal government alleged. Sterling thinks that the Chicago US attorney at the time, William J. Cook,  had career ambitions that made him reckless. He also brought up the Obama administration’s current cyber security czar, Howard Schmidt, served under Cook at the time of the raid. Sterling also contends that we missed an opportunity at the time to be the standard for law on the Internet and that things are much worse now.

As a aside, I’m kind of a beer snob and haven’t been a very big fan of the Independence Austin Amber or Bootlegger Brown, but I had the opportunity to try their Stash IPA last night and liked it quite a bit. I’m partial to IPA’s anyway, but still. I think it’s only available on draft right now, so check with your local beer pub.

It sounds like EFF-Austin plans to become more active than it has been lately, so be on the lookout for more events from them.

Feb 182010
 
Plane crash at 183 and Mopac

Photo by co-worker friend Jay Harrison via Facebook

Like me, you’re probably getting most of your news updates via Twitter, Facebook or other social media, but a small plane crashed into an office building near Mopac and 183 this morning around 9:50am. A co-worker came in breathless having seen the whole thing as it happened. In retrospect, we felt the shock wave a few blocks away.

Initial reports are that it was the Echelon building and may have housed IRS, FBI and St. Edward’s University employees. I’ve also seen that all but two people have been accounted for from the building and that the plane may have been out of Waco and went full throttle into the building.

Of course, this is all pure speculation at this point since it’s so soon. More as it develops.

Update: Follow the Austin American-Statesman twitter account for the latest.

Update 2: Statesman blog post now has quotes from aforementioned co-worker.

Update 3: Note left by the plane’s pilot, Joe Stack. He was clearly targeting the IRS criminal investigation division. We’re lucky he didn’t decide to target the much bigger and more populous regional service center a few miles away.

Update 4: Stack was an Austin resident and set fire to his house just before getting the plane. There was a report on the Statesman’s Blotter blog at 9:42 about the fire. A quick check of tax appraisal roll confirms that it’s an address owned by Mr. Stack. It’s a house not very far to the north of the site where he crashed the plane.

Update 5: T35 Hosting has taken down Stack’s company web site (he was an embedded systems programmer) and his manifesto. I, like a lot of other people, kept my own copy. You can probably still get to it at the Internet Archive. The markup indicates he wrote it in Microsoft Word which conveniently records the create and last update times. He created it on 02.16.10 at 7:24PM and went through 27 revisions with the final one this morning at 6:24AM. Here’s the City of Austin’s info page in the incident (what’s up with that URL?).

Dec 142009
 

This week’s city council meeting should be interesting. There are two ordinances and related matters up for consideration that tend to light up comment threads.

The first is the texting ban that was passed earlier this year and is going for another reading before being put into effect next month (item 90 under Items from Council). Chip Rosenthal is one of those leading the opposition to the ban’s current wording. I tend to agree with Chip on all of his points. You can also follow Chip and this issue via the Facebook Fan Page if you’re into that sort of thing.

The second (item 92 under Items from Council) is something that the Statesman has called out via Twitter and on its City Beat blog. The city is considering reimbursing Reagan for moving a billboard that will be out of compliance with a city ordinance if it changes that ordinance (141 PH on the agenda) to require billboards to be 500 feet from residences. The actual resolution can be found here. After reading the comment thread on the Statesman, I’m not surprised that most of the commenters have neglected to even read the resolution.

As the Statesman post sort of indicates, City Council is proposing changing the ordinance that dictates how close the billboard can be to residences. If the ordinance changes, then the billboard will be out of compliance. If it was in compliance when it was erected, where does that leave Reagan? The rationale in the resolution is that we’re trying to promote growth downtown, so we need to make changes like this to promote that growth. That being said, it sounds like poor planning on someone’s part with respect to the zoning and the ordinances for signage. And, as others have already asked, if we have to pay to move this one, how many others are there? Will we pay for all of them too? Or is this one really getting special treatment? Don’t changes like this usually have grandfather clauses to avoid this sort of problem?