Tuesday, August 30, 2005


It's 3:12 and I'm happy. Class was good today and there was a lot of discussion. Not like yesterday. Maybe it's the mix of students in the T/TH class or the fact that it's at 2 while the other class is at 3:30 and those folks might be tired. Could just be that I ran through this stuff once and am better prepared to talk about it. No matter what, I dig these students and am happy that I don't have class this evening and can head home. I am walking on clouds as I cross the street from the building where I teach to wait for the bus.

Fifteen minutes later I'm still waiting. All the buses that have come by have kept going. There's no room and everyone is standing. One of the other folks at the stop decides to walk to the quad. That's the main stop on campus and where the bus fills up. It's not far so I decide to follow. I get there, and another 15 minute wait -- most of the buses coming through are going to other places. Of course it's hot, it's Texas in August, temperatures are hovering near 100 and you just get cranky waiting. Finally a bus arrives and I get on. Standing room only. I raise my hands to hold the bars above my head and think it's a good thing I didn't go sleeveless today. I brace myself for the ride, trying to balance on my heels as the bus lurches forward. "At this point I could have walked to the parking lot," I think, except that my new shoes cut into my left heal the other day and now I am wearing a bandage trying not to walk much as my other dress shoes are rubbing against my sore. I feel the sweat rolling down my leg and try to keep my balance as the bus turns. Thank goodness I'm not lugging my laptop.

Once again I curse the university. Everyone else is wearing shorts and a t-shirt and don't look ready to topple; I am the only one on this bus in a skirt and heels. Then again, I am the only person on the bus who is a teacher. Yet that's not the way the university sees me. To them I am still a student. They've reminded me of this several times this week:
  • I'm not allowed a key to the mailroom, because policy says students can't have one. Never mind that the scantron machine that we use to grade tests is in there. During the day this isn't an issue because the door is unlocked; however, they tend to lock it at 4:45. One of my classes doesn't get out until then. Besides that, the fridge and microwave are in there. That means if I want to bring something to eat before my night classes I have to play hide and seek, looking for a professor unlock the door for me.
  • Originally I was told that as a student I couldn't get the electronic gradebook program put on my computer in my office. I'm not sure how they expected me log grades and send them to the student. (Now everything is electronic and teachers email students their individual grades after each test -- students know constantly what their grades are). Finally, the electronic gradebook has been okayed for me, but it hasn't been installed yet. Guess my students don't get the pop quiz I planned for this week. Not that it matters, as my scantron order hasn't come in yet. Sorry, I am just not grading 100 quizzes by hand.
  • Of course I have to park in commuter parking, which is way off campus, forcing me to add 20 minutes each side of my commute just to catch the bus to/from the parking lot.
  • To throw salt on the wound, the other day when I went to have lunch with my friend G, I found out that faculty and staff get a $1 discount for lunch in the dining hall. I would think that for the slave wages I make as an employee of the university, they could allow graduate assistants a $1 discount on our meals. Sorry, I guess being a student means we can afford to pay higher prices.

Since G is now considered full-time, tenure-track faculty, he loves to make fun of all the stuff they gave him at the beginning of the year. "Hey Dara," he teases, "did you get one of these book bags?" I see his humor in it and it is funny. Still, there is a feeling of being a second class citizen and not being taken seriously. It's also a matter of keeping face with the students -- they seem to respect me for my experience. What would they say if they saw me waiting for the bus while all the other instructors walk to their cars? At this point, I think it would have been better to quit my assistantship and become an adjunct faculty. I think the pay is the same and at least I could buy a parking sticker to park on campus. Of course, this semester the adjuncts don't even have an office to share, much less a computer. At least I have a computer, printer, phone and office that I share with 5 other people. I use this as my rationalization.

Of course, I am not thinking rationally. It's 3:55, almost 45 minutes after I dismissed class, by the time I make it to my car. I am hot and sweaty and crank the air to full blast. I just want to get home. At this point it doesn't matter if the class was good or not. It doesn't matter if I am a student or a teacher. All that matters is to see how fast I can get to Austin and how much of the rush hour traffic I will miss. This wouldn't have been an issue 45 minutes earlier.

Would you watch tv on your cell phone?

I purposely kept quiet about my clients this summer, but I wanted to share this story from yesterday's Austin American-Statesman about watching tv on your cell phone. Varsity Media Group develops tv, online and now mobile content/programming for teens. In fact 85% of their content is created by teens -- now a lot of high schools have multimedia production facilities and Varsity gives these teens an outlet to showcase their work. Getting the paper interested in Varsity's story and working with the reporter and photographer for this story was one of the last things I did for the agency and client this summer. After working on the account all summer, and the fact they were pretty cool clients, I am pretty excited the story got such good coverage. I'm also a little sad that I had to leave the account to go back to school, although the account was left in great hands and there was no way I could have added one more thing to my plate this semester. Clients and technology like this reminds me why I like doing PR. Of course there are clients that remind me why I wanted to go to school, but we don't talk about them. :-)

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Yuppies have no taste

A couple of weeks ago I was reading this blog about yuppie lawyers in Manhattan. In this one entry it mentioned that they all have Stella Artois beer in their fridge. Hmm...not a beer I had heard of. Not that I am a connoisseur, but with Doug's brewing I've grown a small interest. Later that day I saw the beer advertised for sale at Central Market. You don't have to be a yuppie to shop there -- you could be a foodie or a granola and fit in nicely -- but if you are a yuppie in Austin, you divide your grocery shopping between there and Whole Foods.

The ad mentioned that Stella, as the yuppies seem to call it, is a Belgium beer. Interesting...Doug and Robert specialize in brewing Belgiums, but I hadn't heard of them talk about this beer. So I asked Doug about it. He was unfamiliar with the beer, but offered to make me a yuppie beer if my heart so desired. I did desire, just because I thought it would be cool to say you brewed something that folks paid $10 a six-pack for. I then asked Robert about it -- the beer was not listed under the Austin Homebrew recipes, but Robert suggested that if we took the beer to Forrest at AHS, he could create a recipe. "But Dara, you need to try it first to see if you like it before we go to the trouble brewing it for you," Robert warned. Point taken. I swore up and down to Doug that I liked the Czech Pilsner Urquell, until he made a keg and I hated it.

Yesterday we were at Central Market buying Hatch chiles and Doug suggested we buy a six pack of Stella. We did and today when Doug and I were transferring our peach wine to the secondary fermentation, we opened a bottle of Stella. Not only does this beer not taste like any of the Belgiums that the guys brews, it basically has no taste. None. It's somewhat like a Heineken, but with even less taste. And this is coming from a girl who a year ago wouldn't drink anything heavier than a Coor's Light. What a year, and a significant other turned brewer, does to a person. Oh well, no more yuppie beer for me, because after all, I do have taste.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The smell of fall

Despite the 100 degree temperatures, you know fall is near with the arrival of the Hatch chiles. These green chiles are from Hatch, New Mexico and are the best green chiles you can find. However, they are only available fresh two weeks a year. You buy a case and they roast them for you on the spot (the photo is of the roaster). Normally we buy a case to freeze them to have them all year long. You can smell the roasting chiles as soon as you pull into the parking lot. They smell so good and you realize that smell signals that fall, and slightly less hot weather, is just around the corner.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Beer & peanuts

For more than a year, Thursday night has been beer night. For awhile it was at Robert's house in Lago Vista -- a 45 minute drive with no traffic. When it was there, it was definitely the "he-man's woman-hater club," (think Little Rascals) with no women allowed. The men were allowed to bask in their testosterone and were happy to do so.

Then Robert moved to a much smaller place and beer night had to move over to Tom's house, also in Lago Vista. Being that Tom was married, it was no longer just guy's night. Still, it was a beer and chips nights and the guys were happy about it. Since I had class on Thursday nights I only went once, which was plenty.

Then Tom moved to Alabama; in the meantime Robert moved from Lago to Round Rock, and they had to find another place to brew, so naturally Doug offered up our house. I didn't mind, as in the spring I had an evening class and didn't get home until 7:30. I figure it gave us an excuse to keep the house in guest-clean mode. The only thing I minded was that I would come home from class and would be hungry. Robert, Doug explained, liked to eat early before he came over. Being a good host, I didn't want to cook or eat in front of him. Probably more evenings than he knew I picked up take-out or just starved until he left, which was usually about 9:30. I couple of times I couldn't wait and force-fed Robert just so I could have a bite.

Then came summer. "Robert, why do you eat so early, before you come here at 5?" I point-blank asked him. "Because Doug never has anything to eat but peanuts," was his answer. I informed him that was going to end and that he should not eat next week. Living up to my word, every week I would spend time cleaning, grocery shopping and cooking for the guys. Robert proclaimed he hadn't eaten so well in awhile. Eventually beer night became quite a party, with various guest attending each week. "Thursdays are the new Fridays!" my friend T would gleefully proclaim as she hoisted a pint. Many nights it was after 10:30 before the last guest left. We had a good time.

Then came back to school. Last night instead of being the hostess with the mostess at beer night, I was learning about instructional communication. I got out of class at 9:15, chatted with a classmate, and headed home, getting stuck in construction twice. It was 11 when I walked through the door. Of course beer night was going on in my absence. Being hungry I asked Doug what he made for dinner. "Beer & peanuts" he answered. Oh well, I guess beer night will go on without me.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Back to school

Yesterday was the first day of class and my first day teaching. I think it went okay. I was still a bit nervous in front of class -- I should have kept up with my Toastmasters training. But the students seem fun and mostly eager. Of course you have the guys who slump in their seats in the back of class. That will never change. And you always have that one wise-ass in class, but they can usually take as well they give and they are the one who makes you laugh the most. The one in this class likes Harley's and Vegas so I asked if he played poker and he asked me if I wanted to play him. Heck no, he'd be the one who takes all my money. Actually I really liked the wise-ass in my class last fall and will always remember how he hugged me on the last day of class.

I met with Dr. N yesterday regarding my thesis and I just need to make a few minor tweaks -- I was trying to complicate things a bit. I also spoke to DN and between the two, I feel much better regarding the thesis. I think some folks try to make it a big deal and some looming project that will derail graduation plans. As what Dr. N and DN explained, it's simply a research paper that you expand a bit -- just more of what I did in Research Methods last semester. Given that I worked on the Journal and how Dr. W made us dissect all those articles last fall, and given that I did market research for 2 years with VEM, I don't think doing the thesis will be that big of a deal.

Today I have the first class for my TTH section of Intro to PR. I also will have my Instructional Comm class tonight. I am looking forward to that. Students just rave about Dr. M. One of the thinks I'll have to do in that class is write an academic book chapter. I also get to teach an undergrad class late in the semester. How funny. Unfortunately it doesn't look like I can just have him come in and evaluate one of my classes. Part of the teaching assignment is to teach what we are writing for the book chapter.

More on the start of the semester later -- my battery is almost out of juice.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

School daze

"Dara, you wouldn't be you if you didn't worry," said my friend Tom as we were getting our hair cut today. I had just revealed that tomorrow is my big day and I'm more than a bit nervous about it.

The fall semester starts tomorrow and it's my first day of teaching. It was almost 18 months ago that I applied to grad school with the hopes that some day I might teach PR. That some day is here. I have two sections of Introduction to Public Relations, each with about 50 students. While I know I know more than the students, and think I have more agency experience than some of the other, older, instructors, I still have a horrid case of butterflies in my stomach. Will I be too easy? Will I be too difficult? Will the students like me? Will the students learn? How do I make sure to cover the stuff in the book as well as PR really is about? In my opinion, instead of covering community relations, the book needs to cover how to manage your clients' expectations without blowing budget and/or telling your ADD, manic-depressive, control-freak client to freakin' get off your back. Of course I'm not talking about anyone I know who worked in tech during the dot-com era. :-)

"Are you sure you want to read and grade 100 three to five page papers?" Doug asked last night, reviewing an assignment I made. Let's see, I am taking a full load of graduate courses, working on my thesis and teaching two classes. The answer to his question would be "No!" but I still feel that I should have the students write a topic paper. I want them to think beyond the text and class lectures.

As it is, I feel like I am short changing them. I haven't planned any other written assignments, just tests and quizzes that I can run through a scantron machine, and a PR plan that it was dictated I assign. The other teachers swear the students need to know how to do one; I swear I haven't had to do one in 13 years of professional work. The other professors remind me of a particular west-coast agency that tried to open shop here in Austin in 2000 -- they had the rep that the first three months on retainer they spent developing your PR plan, showing very little actual results. Clients like results and you always bring them some low-hanging fruit right up front. No wonder this agency had to close their Austin office before the tech bubble even burst.

But I have my syllabi complete, and my Intranet sites up. I've already received my first email from a student and have responded. My hair is cut and my toes are polished and I have completed my back-to-school wardrobe shopping. I now just need to finish my lesson for tomorrow and chill. And if I'm lucky, I can calm my brain long enough to get at least 6 hours of sleep.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Party girl

It's Sunday morning although we've been up for a couple of hours, I'm dead tired. We were up way too late last night, but I couldn't sleep in, thanks to Dante thinking he needs to be on the bed and hogging the space. Because he's not supposed to be on the bed, he does this stealth thing where he waits until we are asleep and climbs up, climbing down just before we wake. You don't know when he is up there unless he's being a bed hog. Usually I can kick him a couple of times and he'll get so annoyed he'll go sleep on the couch (another place he's not supposed to sleep). This morning I kept kicking him only to find out later I was kicking Doug. I guess Dante got wise to the kicking scheme and decided to sleep on the other side of Doug instead of between us.

I'm feeling like a party girl this weekend, nothing but non-stop parties. It's like I'm in my early 20s again, only this time I can't stay up as long, can't sleep as late and am not even drinking that much.

Friday night Robert was having a cookout at his place in Lago Vista, on the north shore of Lake Travis. Pretty area but a long drive through Friday afternoon traffic. Coming home the traffic isn't bad but you have to be careful on the twisting, hilly roads. Robert took me for a ride on his motorcycle and we cooked prime rib. There were about 15 folks there and everyone had a good time.

Yesterday afternoon we went to our friend Tierney's house for a little cookout and swim in her pool. Gary & Tom were there as well. Tierney made it clear that what happens in the pool stays in the pool. :-) Seriously, nothing to report anyway except that she has this gorgeous pool and backyard that is almost tropical and Doug wants one just like it. Also Tom brought over this gadget that makes and dispenses homemade whipped cream and I want one of those. It is so much easier to use than your beaters to make whipped cream and so much more tasty than the store-bought stuff. Plus, you can just make a little dab. It always seems that the other ways I need just a bit and the rest spoils before it gets used.

We had to leave Tierney's because we had a third party to go to in a 24-hour period. Actually it was at the Zachary Scott Theatre where they were opening a new play, Shear Madness. We volunteered and worked the show and the party. While you do work your tail off (or at least some volunteers do) the parties can be fun. It was packed so we didn't see the show but we have vouchers to go back. Doug and I worked concession and were hustling drinks. During the second act we had to set up the champagne table and help get everything ready for the party. Doug single-handedly opened 70 bottles of champagne and they were all gone by the time we left at 12:30. In fact the party, or what was left of it, was still going on when we left, despite the fact that everything was cleaned up, put away and the caterers and other volunteers had long since left. Still, Doug and I stocked the concession cooler and the house managers found more champagne, so the party could have gone on until 2 a.m. We were just too tired to see the end of it.

I think we are going to take it easy today and we have stuff to do around the house. But first I might crawl back into bed for awhile because this party girl can't party like she did 10 years ago.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Handy man

Yesterday Robert showed Doug how to patch a hole in the ceiling. He left his tools so today Doug is being the handy man, repairing the cracks in the ceiling where the house has settled.Robert mentioned a shop vac is handy to clean up dry wall. Did not know it would be handy to clean up Doug.

Monday, August 15, 2005

World's ugliest dog

We all have our crosses to bare, but some have more than others. Take this dog, for instance. He's won the world's ugliest dog contest three years in a row. Dude doesn't even have the pitiful factor going for him. Still, his owner loves him, which goes to show that there is someone out there for everyone.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Must have been a typo

"No f***ing way -- they must have left the 1 off in front of the price." This was the response Doug had when I showed him this house on the cover of today's Parade Sunday supplement. I had to admit, that was my reaction when I saw it. It was a new 1,160 sq. ft. home in Austin listed for $98,000. I figure it must be a typo as houses are not that inexpensive here. While not as expensive as say California, when we were house hunting four years ago it was hard to find anything livable for less than $120K. In parts of central Austin, houses run close to $200/sq. ft. and you feel lucky if you can find a 1950's style 1050 sq. ft. Bungalow for $200K (before renovation). The house in the photo must be non-existent or just for show to attract new residents to Austin, pulling the old bait-and-switch once they get here.

Originally we were looking at living far northwest in Leander, thinking we could get more house for our money there. We were wrong. Instead we settled for Pflugerville where we found a seven year old 1,550 sq. ft. house for $82/sq. ft. We found a nice, quiet little neighborhood, nothing too fancy, where we didn't have to worry about keeping up with the Joneses or making our mortgage payments. This strategy has been our saving grace.

Admittedly, there are times when we want a nicer place; when we are near downtown we think how cool it would be to live down there, near Whole Foods and the hike & bike trail. There is just a different vibe in central and south Austin that you don't get in the 'burbs. Still, when we think about it, we know we made the right choice and that ideally our next house will be further out, on a piece of land.

Of course, if what Parade depicts is true, we should be able to move to the country before too long.

Friday, August 12, 2005

One of the prettiest places in Texas

Quality of camera phone aside, I think walking along the River Walk in San Antonio is one of the prettiest places in Texas. I could spend days at an outdoor cafe people watching.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Down by the river

Tonight I am hanging out on the River Walk with a group of grad students from Penn State. A mariachi band is singing to us as we are eating Mexican food.

Strange trichotomy

“What’s it like with all your experience, to find yourself a full-time student?” Every so often I get asked that question, the latest being last night during a cocktail reception at the Association for Education of Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) conference in San Antonio. “It’s been interesting…” is my usual answer and depending on who is asking, I might give different example to illustrate. Admittedly, the program at Texas State was set up for working professionals, and in class, I’m not the oldest, although in some classes I might be the most versed on a particular topic. However, in the realm of graduate assistants I admittedly feel out of place within our department. They are all a good dozen years younger than myself and have mostly gone direct from an undergrad program to graduate school, with very little real world experience.

Even with professors it has been tough at times, as they see me as a student. Interestingly enough, most of them seemed to have worked before attending graduate school, but I guess since they deal with undergrads all day, sometimes they forget to flip that switch. Then again, I am their student and our relationship is as such. Still, there were some faculty members who when I told them I was working at a PR agency this summer asked me if it was an internship. You don’t know how offensive that was to me. I am an account supervisor, setting strategies for clients, not an intern filing magazines and doing clip books.

Am I a professional or am I a student? Interesting dichotomy, especially after working this summer. My friend G is a media law professor with a JD degree who has been taking mass comm classes so that he might be able to teach other classes (he has to have 18 hours to teach other mass comm. classes). He came to one of the parties Doug & I threw last year and later he admitted feeling a bit out of place with the other grad students there talked about professors who were his colleagues and he saw from a different side.

Now that I am a teacher of record, I get where he is coming from and it’s actually creating a trichotomy for me – professional, student, teacher: which is it? At this conference I am wearing a big yellow ribbon on my badge that says Graduate Student. Supposedly I get more free stuff, but I have yet to see it. Anyway I’ve noticed that when I’m making an introduction to folks, oftentimes they look at that ribbon and somehow I get treated just a little different. I’ve noticed that with the professors and I even noticed that with some professionals who have been guest panelist. If I saw these same folks at a PR networking event, I would be treated very differently.

Of course not everyone has been like that. I got to trading war stories about PR versus newspapers with one professor over happy hour at our hotel. Was talking to another professor who is into new media about convergence about some things a client is doing. We may work on a paper together or at the very least, introduce him to client. Overall everyone has been nice. But still there is the question, which am I – professional, student or teacher, and more importantly, what will I be this time next year?

Monday, August 08, 2005

Customer service

The other day I ran into a convenience store to get a couple cans of beer. I know that's ironic as there is probably the equivalent to 1,000 bottles of beer in the house, but they are all in bottles or kegs. I needed a 16 oz. can so that I could stick a chicken on it and roast it on the grill. And I didn't want to buy a whole six pack when I was only cooking two chickens.

After spending the day cooking and cleaning, I didn't look my most attractive -- hair pulled back, no make-up, comfty t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops. On the door there was a big sign that read, "We card everyone under 30." Of course, this didn't apply to me. I don't think I looked under 30 when I was under 30.

Even though there is no mistaking me for a 20-something, the guy at the counter asked to see some ID. He was a little bit of an older guy and my response was "bless you" as I immediately whipped out my ID to show him I have been legal since 1991. It made my day and gave me a big smile, but got me thinking -- if you did that to all your female customers in a certain age range, you could probably win several loyal customers. I know I'll go back there!

It also made me think about the issue with our tree. Out of the half dozen folks who I called, only one acted like he wanted the job and he was the only one to show up to look at the tree. Because my friend Karen highly recommended him, not only did he get the job of taking down the tree, we hired him to move our back fence, in effect doubling his revenue from one customer. As many marketers will say, it's not all about increasing the number of new customers, but also about increasing revenue from existing customers. It costs a lot more to secure new customers than it does to increase sales from existing ones.

It amazed me how many folks didn't seem to want the job. Then again, maybe it didn't. We seem to encounter bad customer service several times a week. Just last week I called the place where Doug won the travel gift certificate in the poker tournament. I wanted to ask about the certificate, explore our options, and have her look into a trip to Napa over Labor Day weekend. The lady I talked to said she wanted to price out some options and would call me back. Five days later and she still hasn't called. Unfortunately, our extra vacation money was spent on the tree and the fence, so I just booked a trip to my backyard for the holiday weekend. Still, it makes me mad that she didn't call me back when she said she would and if I didn't have this gift certificate to use, I wouldn't book travel through her.

But if I could, I would book my travel through the guy who asked to see my ID -- at least he knows what customer service is about.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

In a funk

After Doug left the house to play in his Sunday evening poker tournament, the phone ran. It was from area code 509 and since I didn't recognize it, I didn't pick it up. A little bit later I got curious and check the message. It was from my Uncle Pete. He was calling to tell me that his wife, my Aunt Grace, was flying to Galveston. Evidently my Aunt Mary was diagnosed with throat cancer earlier this week. Uncle Pete said that my cousins were going to be there as well and Aunt Mary had said before that her biggest fear was being alone and having to go through something like cancer. Of course, Aunt Grace has been battling breast cancer for more than 18 months.

So I called mom. My aunts are my dad's sisters, but I figured mom would know what was going on. Also, I wanted to ask about my dad. Mom had sent an email earlier this week saying dad didn't want anyone to know, but he was in the hospital. He fell and with his diabetes was having some issues with his foot and got admitted to the hospital. However mom had made the email sound like it wasn't that big of a deal and that they would still be able to go on their two week cruise through northern Europe and back across the Northern Atlantic to New York. When I talked to mom I found out dad's foot was a bigger issue and that the doctor cancelled their cruise. My father has been having issues with one of his feet, but this is the other one now. It looks like he will be wearing a cast on one and a brace on the other. He still doesn't want anyone to know, so we all have to act like we don't. (Luckily he doesn't know how to even get on the Internet, so I'm not worried about him reading this blog.)

You know, it's so hard to know what to do. The way my uncle was talking, I should head to Galveston. I have a journalism/mass communication conference this week in San Antonio, but I could always cancel. Registration was just $90 and I would actually come out ahead as the department is not paying for hotel, which is $90/night. One of my friends has a beach house in Galveston and I know she would let me stay there.

Yet mom thinks that there will be too many people there; she said Mary can't talk right now, so maybe just a card. Of course I'm feeling guilty as for the past five years we've lived only 3 or so hours away and have yet to go see her. Then again, we rarely leave Austin for more than a day trip. I'm also feeling guilty that I should be doing something for my dad. In the midst of this, I know I have to do a bunch of stuff before school starts, but that makes me feel selfish. At least I don't have to worry about the PR agency any more.

Maybe I shouldn't have watched the movie In America this evening -- it's kind of sad and probably didn't help my mood. Only I have been wanting to see that since it came out and finally had a chance. Good movie, but maybe I should have watched something a bit more lighthearted.

Theatre in the park

Austin has a great theatre scene and Doug and I just love attending the shows. In fact, we volunteer at several theatres, selling concessions, ushering, etc., so that we can help out the theatres and stay to see the shows for free.

One of our favorite theatre traditions is getting a group of friends together to see the annual Zilker Hillside Theatre summer musical. Our friend Tom started us on this. Everyone meets at the theatre in Zilker Park, brings blankets, food, beverages, and we picnic and have a good time until the show starts about 8'ish. This year they were doing Annie Get Your Gun and we went last night. This is the show that spawned the memorable tunes "There's No Business Like Show Business" and "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better."

Last night was our annual outing and the show was cute. Normally, given that the show runs outdoors in July and August in the heat of central Texas, it can be miserable, but last night it wasn't bad (although it got muggy when the sun set). Doug and I packed a huge ice chest full of goodies -- I made a chipotle chicken salad, a tortellini & pesto salad, had potato salad with stone ground mustard (left over from beer night), an asparagus/tomato salad (which I was supposed to take to a Friday night cookout that got rained out) and a chilled cherry soup. Doug packed two bottles of wine and an unknown quantity of beer. We wanted to make sure everyone had a variety and no one wanted for anything. Fortunately our ice chest had wheels.

Unfortunately most of the friends of ours who were going to go canceled at the last minute -- calling us after we arrived at the park. Only our friend Tammy came, bringing her daughter. Our friend Krag, who manages the concessions for the Zilker Theatre, joined us for a bit, sampling the food and the beer, before getting back to work. All told, I think Doug & Krag split one beer (although it was his high-alcohol beer that is 3x as much alcohol as in a regular commercial beer), Doug had a half of another beer, and Doug and I split a glass of wine (I took four sips and Doug drank the rest so I wouldn't throw it out). Despite it being 10 degrees cooler than normal, it was still 92 degrees and at that temperature, all you want is water. Wheeling a full cooler down the hill isn't too bad, but poor Doug had to pull an almost full cooler back up the hill after the show.

Oh well. We had a good time, as did Tammy. There were some technical issues with the sound, but all told I think it was one of the better musicals they've done in a few years -- it just had a charm about it. And the lady playing Annie Oakley could sing -- during the "Anything You Can Do" number, I swear she held a single note for 3 minutes straight. It was impressive. As for the food and wine, once we got home Doug put the stuff back in the fridge -- this way the beer is already chilled for Thursday with no chance for freezer accidents and Doug has stuff to take to lunch this week.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

End of summer, end of contract

Yesterday was my last day on contract to the PR agency. I was there four months and have mixed feelings seeing it come to an end. On one hand I'm sad and will miss the agency. I really liked the work and really liked the people. And while I had some clients that were challenging, I also had some really great clients.

On the other hand, I'm ready to start focusing on school. I have done little this summer in regards to class prep and thesis work and now I only have two and a half weeks before school starts. I am really looking forward to this semester. In fact next week I'm attending a national journalism and mass communication education conference (AEJMC) in San Antonio.

As Doug said, it was a good summer and a good run. And you never know what the future might bring you.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Birthday on the Green

Tonight we are celebrating the birthday of our friend Greg at the Blues on the Green concert. This is a series of free outdoors concerts. Tonight Ruthie Foster is rocking the crowd.