February 27, 2006

Celebrating and Snowboarding in Virginia

Filed under: Friends,Places — Cory @ 1:33 pm

I spent the weekend with some friends in Virginia at Wintergreen Resort.

The event was great because almost all of us had something to celebrate. Rebecca is (finally) graduating from Pharmacy school, it was Pete’s birthday, I finished paying of my college loans, and Scott was celebrating the fact that Rebecca is (finally) graduating. :) Sarah and Elissa helped to get the party started. Its not very often that this group of friends gets together, since we all live in different parts of the country, but when we do it is a lot of fun. Unfortunately I was never able to meet up with Tate and his entourage while we were all up there (sorry Tate!), but I’ve already told them that next year we have to plan a trip out west.

I’ve been skiing and snowboarding at Wintergreen since the fourth grade, and it always seemed like such a fun place. But after spending several days snowboarding in Colorado my perspective on east coast slopes is a little different now. The snow is so slippery and icy, the slopes are short and crowded, the lift lines are long, the lifts are slow, and the people are dangerously novice at best. People also appear to have attitude problems there as well, but that seems more like a general east coast issue.

But, then again, there are a lot of mountain men up that way and you tend to see some interesting sights, like the guy in the picture to the left. Notice the camoflague hunting overalls doubling as skiing attire, and the awesome “pizza” stance.

It was a very quick trip, but we had a great time.

• • •

February 26, 2006

Bonnie Raitt at the Majestic Theatre

Filed under: Music — Cory @ 9:43 pm

Wednesday night I was able to go catch a show by Bonnie Raitt at the Majestic Theatre.

The show opened with 8 or 9 songs from Paul Brady, an Irish musician who wrote several songs that Bonnie made famous. His musical skills were pretty good, but his songs were a little too “popish” for me.

Bonnie and her band finally came on stage around 9pm, and started off with some really good blues songs. During the middle of the show they descended into pop-land, but arose from the depths to tear up several more blues songs near the end of the show. The encore was 3 slow love songs, which I could have done without.

I loved the fast stuff, and was pretty bored during the slow songs, but overall it was a decent show. I really love seeing shows at the Majestic, its such a great venue.

• • •

February 20, 2006

Elana James and the Continental Two at Gruene Hall

Filed under: Music — Cory @ 12:30 am

Saturday I drove up to Gruene Hall to see Elana James and the Continental Two.

Although I had seen Elana perform a couple times since the Hot Club of Cowtown stopped playing together, this was the first chance I have had to see her with the new band.

Elana’s playing style is famous, and Beau Sample does a terrific job on the upright bass. Luke Hill also seems to be very talented, although he was playing an electric/acoustic classical guitar and it just didn’t quite have the presence that it needed to fill the room. I imagine he sounds great when playing a hollowbody jazz instrument. The music was very similar to that of Hot Club, and it was difficult to avoid comparing this group with them. Overall I think this will be a really fun group to go see.

Elana had a CD available for sale at the show with the strange title of “Top Secret Illegal Bootleg Sampler.” Buying music that is self-proclaimed “illegal” seemed a little strange, but I had to get it anyway.

Incidentally, I just checked the Hot Club website and saw this:

We are happy to announce that THE HOT CLUB OF COWTOWN will continue to perform a limited number of shows in 2006.

That is great news, as this is one of the few bands that I would actually drive hours to go see. Hopefully they will play a show or two in south Texas at some point this year.

• • •

February 18, 2006

I’ve Waited 8.5 Years For This Day…

Filed under: General — Cory @ 12:16 am

So today was the day that I have been waiting for.

On the day I graduated college in May 2001 I had between $70k-$75k of combined debt, including student loans (private and Sallie Mae), credit card debt, and several thousand that I owed my dad for a truck I bought from him.

Today, about 4.5 years later, I am happy to say that I am completely debt free.

I’ve basically lived off of 1 paycheck per month for the last couple years, and I have put all of my extra income that I’ve earned coding on nights and weekends towards my debt. In the past 15 months I have paid off more debt than I earned in my first year of employment after college. Even during college my loan payments reached $300 a month, and I had to work 3 jobs* on campus to be able to pay them.

And to make it even sweeter, I paid off the main loan over 3.5 years early, thus saving several thousand in interest.

In case you are wondering, I went to a very expensive college and made poor grades, thus qualifying for pretty much nothing in the way of financial aid. If there was one lesson I learned out of this whole thing, it was that you should really try to make good grades in college, especially when the classes are so expensive. Its a shame that I’ll probably never have the chance to apply this wisdom again.

But I am equally excited about the opportunity that I will now have to invest and begin saving. I’ve neglected that while I focused on eliminating the debt.

Damn it feels good to be a gangsta.

* I worked as a human SMTP server (in the campus post office), a human firewall (in the college admissions office), and a Perl coder (in the webmaster’s office), so that kept me pretty busy.

• • •

February 15, 2006

Jack Handy’s Speech to the Martians

Filed under: General — Cory @ 10:48 pm

This evening on the way to dinner at Blue Star I was listening to NPR and there was a piece on about violence in entertainment. I wasn’t paying much attention as I was too busy yelling at the idiot drivers surrounding me 281. But as I turned onto Durango and calmed down a little bit they aired a speech by Jack Handy titled “My Speech to the Martians.” Most people know Jack Handy from his “Deep Thoughts” segments on Saturday Night Live, but his Martian speech is definitely one of his best works. You can listen to it here: “My Speech to the Martians – Jack Handy.”

• • •

February 13, 2006

Beaver Creek, Boulder, Robert Randolph

Filed under: Friends,Music,Places — Cory @ 2:08 am

Recently I spent some time out in Colorado, here’s what happened.

Snowboarding at Beaver Creek

 [ Snowboarding at Beaver Creek, CO ] After landing at the Eagle/Vail airport I met up with some mutual friends and caught a shuttle to our place at Beaver Creek Resort. When I arrived at the house I didn’t know any of the other 7 people there, but they were Chris’s friends and everyone was very friendly. We had dinner and played some games until everyone was ready for sleep around 10. Chris arrived later that night.

The next day we hit the slopes. It had been about 3 years since I had last used my snowboard, so it took me an hour or two to get back in the swing of things. Soon I was back on the advanced blues and hitting the black daimonds. I started skiing when I was in the 4th grade, and switched over to snowboarding around the 11th grade in high school, but almost all of my experience is from the mountains on the east coast, especially at Wintergreen Resort. In college Tate and I used to go up there several times a week in the winter, good times. When I lived in New Orleans I flew out to Winter Park, Colorado to hang out with my cousin and snowboard for a few days. I remember thinking then how much more intense the slopes are in the Rockies, and Beaver Creek is no different. (check out the trail maps)

We snowboarded for 4 solid days and after each day everyone was completely exhausted. Usually everyone passed out by 10pm, but one night we took the opportunity to head over to Vail and check out the scene. By the end of the 4 days my calves were a jelly-like substance and there was no way I could think of spending any more time on the slopes. The only thing that kept me going was the excellent food that Katie, Jason and the group prepared each night, although I am quite sensitive to peppers now. We headed out Friday morning, and I caught my flight to Denver to continue the rest of my trip.

Hanging Out in Boulder and Denver

Ken picked me up from the Denver airport around 4pm on Friday and we headed over to his friend Scott’s place to hang out. While we were in Denver with Scott and Jenny we went to dinner at Tommy’s Thai. When we walked in we noticed that everyone was wearing jackets, gloves and stocking caps. It was very cold inside, but the food was worth it. I ordered medium hot Pad Thai and an order of vegetable gyoza, and every bite was excellent. I’m not a huge fan of Asian food, but I could eat at Tommy’s any day. After playing several games of pool and being reprimanded by a middle-aged woman in an “N’Sync” shirt, Ken and I headed up to Boulder where he lives.

The next morning we woke up early and got off to an extremely good start by having breakfast at Lucile’s. Breakfast is my favorite meal and I think its pretty hard to get a top of the line breakfast. There are many great lunch and dinner spots, but few places specialize on breakfast. Lucile’s breakfast was one of the best I have ever had. There were 3 or 4 things on the menu that I really wanted to order, but I finally settled on the New Orleans french toast. It came with eggs, sausage, fresh fruit, and was hands down one of the best breakfast meals I have ever had.

After breakfast Ken showed me around the Pearl Street Mall in downtown Boulder. There were all kinds of interesting shops and stores, and I picked up a few CDs from Bart’s CD Cellar. After a few hours of this we headed up to the foothills and walked around for a while. By this time we were ready for a late lunch so we headed back down to the city and stopped by Foolish Craig’s for a byte to eat. Once again the meal was incredible. I ordered their chicken salad sandwich and a Raspberry Frambozen and all was at peace. We walked around for a while longer then headed back for a break.

My friend James Taurman recently moved to Fort Collins, CO which is about 45 minutes north of Boulder, so I called him up when I got to town to see if he had plans. James drove down to Boulder to meet up with Ken and me at the Red Fish Brewhouse for dinner. We all ordered one of their Pilsners and I thought it was quite tasty. (I originally order their “Badonkadonk Brown,” but was disappointed to hear that they were sold out.) The meal was pretty good, although my previous three meals were a hard act to follow. James’ suggested that we head down to Denver to see Robert Randolph and the Family Band at the Fillmore Auditorium. Danny told me that Robert Randolph put on an excellent show at last year’s ACL Fest, so it sounded like a good plan to me.

Robert Randolph at the Fillmore in Denver

When we arrived at the Fillmore Auditorium there was a large gathering of people around the ticket window, but we were still able to get tickets. I thought the Fillmore was actually a really cool venue, with the blacklight-fueled purple chandeliers and the sunken center area. We were only there for about 5 minutes when a man on the center of the stage started making some incredible electric sounds. It sounded like a guitar, but the man did not appear to be playing a guitar. Then I finally realized that it was Robert Randolph and he was making these sounds on a pedal steel guitar, an instrument almost exclusively used in country music. But here he was playing it in funk/soul/blues music. Insane!

The show lasted about 2.5 hours, with about the last 30 minutes of that being a 4 song encore. These guys can really jam, as several of their songs lasted 10-15 minutes each. They are also great showmen. At one point in the show Robert started pulling people from the crowd and giving them an electric guitar (a PRS, btw) for them to play leads on. Two different white guys jumped up onto the stage, but their skills weren’t quite on the same level as the rest of the bands. Around that time the band also had about 25-30 girls from the audience come on stage and dance with them. But of all the stage tricks they had, the most amazing was when they started swapping instruments. At first Robert went back to play drums, while the drummer came down to play the pedal steel. Then Robert went to bass and the bass player got behind the drums. Then there was more swapping with the keyboard player until they all finally swapped back into place. The crazy thing was that each one of them did a fantastic job on each instrument, they are all extremely talented.

Without question this was the most high-energy concert I have ever seen, and I see a fair amount of music shows. Whenever he wanted to Robert would make the pedal steel screen and the entire room would be just buzzing with energy. This lasted throughout the entire show too, I have no idea how the band members can sustain it without any break other than the 3 minute gap between the show and the encore. In addition to their own original music they covered a few older songs including Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean”, Bobby McFaren’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” All in all, it was an excellent show and I would highly recommend checking out this band.

Wrapping it up…

Sunday morning Ken, James and I had a really good breakfast over at the Buff Restaurant in Boulder. Afterwards Ken and I bid farewell to James and then headed towards the Denver airport, where I had the only negative experience of the whole trip.

I arrived at the airport at about 12:45pm (an hour and fifteen minutes ahead of my flight), waited in line at the United Airlines counter for 30 minutes, and when I finally made it to the front I was told that I could not check my luggage and snowboard since the flight was scheduled to leave in less than 45 minutes. It was actually around 42 minutes before the scheduled departure time, and she told me that she didn’t care that I had waited in line for 30 minutes, only to miss the checkin deadline by 3 minutes. I had checked-in online the night before, I only needed my baggage to make the flight. I told her that the baggage could come on a later flight if necessary, but she wasn’t interested in making a deal. She put me on standby for the next flight to San Antonio, which was at 7:30 and told me there was almost certainly no way I would make it, as the flight was already overbooked. Thanks, lady. After talking with several other people for the next hour and a half I finally ended up in front of a man with a brain and the will to get things done. He immediately told me to ignore what everyone else had told me, and that he would put get me a seat on the 7:30 flight, which is exactly what he did. I asked if there was anyway that I could tip him, but he said no and quickly asked to help the next person. Rock on, dude.

I’ll probably avoid United Airlines from now on, just as I have done with Northwest for the past year. Sometimes the lower price just isn’t worth it.

Overall, I had an excellent trip and it was great to see a few old friends and make some new ones. Oh, and Boulder has topped San Francisco in my list of most awesome cities. I didn’t think that would be possible, but The People’s Republic of Boulder is one extremely cool place.

• • •

February 9, 2006

Dave Alvin at Casbeers; The Greencards at Gruene Hall

Filed under: Music — Cory @ 7:38 pm

Last Thursday and Friday I had the opportunity to see a couple of really good music acts, so of course I had to go check them out.

On Thursday Dave Alvin played at Casbeers. I had never seen him play before, but earlier that week Chris had sent one of Dave’s songs to me and after hearing it I decided I couldn’t miss the show. Incidentally, I had also never been to Casbeers so I was up for checking out the place I hear so much about.

I showed up a little after 9, pulled up a seat at the counter and ordered a couple of their famous enchiladas. A few minutes after I got there Dave went on stage and announced that an old friend of his would be playing on harmonica, along with the lead guitarist. This was great because I enjoy small shows much more when there are no drums. The music was excellent, and Dave played several bluesy acoustic tunes that made me want to go home and pick up my guitar. At several points throughout the show Dave brought the music to a stop and held the crowd at complete silence until he fired it up again, it was really something to see. Before I left I picked up a copy of “The Great American Music Galaxy” by Dave and The Guilty Men.

The next night I headed up to Gruene Hall to see The Greencards. The last time I saw them back in September they put on an incredible show, and Dennis Ludiker and Sarah Jarosz came on stage and to play with them. I remember that it was one of the best performances I had ever seen.

I told David that he needed to see The Greencards, so Johnny and I met up with him at Gruene for the show. The band was already playing when we got there, and as expected they had the crowd energized. After a couple of awesome fast-paced bluegrass tunes they played their snappy Italian instrumental called “Gnocci.” They did this song last summer when I saw them, and I wish I could find a recording of it because its fantastic. Soon afterwards they announced that a special guest would be joining them, and I had a feeling that I knew who it was going to be. Sure enough, Sarah Jarosz was there with her mandolin. They played 2 instrumentals, and then Sarah sang a tune as well. They decided to play one last song before she left stage, and as it turned out they picked my favorite traditional bluegrass song: Cherokee Shuffle. Swapping leads from Kym’s mandolin, Eamon’s fiddle, Sarah’s mandolin and Robbie Gjersoe’s guitar, it was one of the best versions of Cherokee Shuffle that I’ve ever heard. All in all, it was an excellent show.

• • •

February 4, 2006

My Latest Instrument: The Dobro

Filed under: Music — Cory @ 2:21 am

I received my first guitar as a birthday gift from my parents when I was 8 years old, and although I learned to play several parts of songs, I didn’t really get serious about it until I was 12 or 13. I played guitar for several hours just about every day from the time I was 13 until 18, when I went to college. At college I still play a lot, but there were plenty of other things to do as well, so my guitar skills did not quite get the same amount of attention as they previously had. [ My Gibson Hound Dog Dobro ]

Around my senior year I started playing again, but it didn’t seem as exciting. I wanted to try something new. So one day I was in Richmond with my roommate Andrew and we stopped by Guitar Works, which was my favorite music store. I checked out several guitars, and then I noticed the mandolins. I knew a little bit about mandolins, as Gramps would put on a show every Sunday afternoon (when he wasn’t burning up the strings of his Martin). I bought a mandolin that day, and I ended up having a blast learning how to play it. It was like starting all over again, and there were so many directions that I could go in. This was the beginning of my fascination with other instruments, and I’ve since bought a second mandolin, a fiddle, a harmonica and, of course my Taylor guitar.

After playing around with alternate tunings I became more interested in playing with a slide. I knew what I needed to do, I needed to buy a dobro. So last Sunday I added another instrument to my collection, I bought a Gibson Hound Dog Dobro on eBay. I noticed it on Saturday and saw that it was starting at a great price, set to end at around 3pm on Sunday. I watched the auction and ended up winning it with 3 seconds to go. Best of all its almost brand new and I got a terrific deal on it.

I haven’t had a whole lot of time to play with it yet, but so far its been extremely fun. I just love the bluesy-steel sound that this thing makes. After I had played around on it for a little while I noticed a hole for a cable on the bottom of the dobro. I couldn’t believe it when I plugged it into my amp and it was also electric/acoustic, woot! Anyway, you can bet I’ll be spending plenty of time learning how to play this thing.

Recently I’ve been giving more thought to trying to put together a (mostly) acoustic blues band.

• • •

February 1, 2006

Censorship in All Its Glory

Filed under: General — Cory @ 12:39 am

I saw this on another blog that I read, but I thought it was worth reposting.

Contrast the difference in results of an images search for “tiananmen” on Google China vs. Google Proper.

All that nonsense with the tanks must have never happened!

(Update: I only read slashdot about once a week now and I just noticed that this was a story there. So, old news for the geek readers.)

• • •
Powered by: WordPress • Template by: Priss