Saturday, December 06, 2008

Ninja squirrel

We have a squirrel feeder in our front yard. Today I was watching as a squirrel figured out how to get the corn. He would lean over from the tree, grab the cord and pull it toward him. However, he still found it easier to be upside down when he got the corn. He'd bite off a piece, let the block go, and scramble to the backside of the tree to crack open the shell of the corn and eat the inside. Clever squirrel!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Backyard visitor

I first I thought Doug was teasing me yesterday when he said we had a chicken in our backyard. I thought it was some sort of post-Halloween joke, especially when I went to look and it wasn't there. Then this morning I heard Dante in some sort of tussle and clucking from our patio roof. I woke Doug and we went outside but didn't see anything but a crow. Maybe I was falling for Doug's power of suggestion and started thinking a crow sounded like a chicken.

A little bit later, Doug locked the dogs in the house and called me to the backyard. There was definitely a chicken.
We're not sure where she came from. Maybe someone in the area thought it would be cute to raise a chick and thought a grown chicken wasn't so cute. Who knows. But given that it looked hungry, and that we have several bird feeders (with birds spilling feed on the ground) in our yard, we expect her to be back.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Poor baby

My dog, Allegra, has allergies. This time of the year she's miserable. This year seems worse than normal. To keep her from scratching herself to pieces, we put on a t-shirt and a cone. It hasn't worked, so today we added booties.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Vote for me!

In this strange election year, I've decided to throw my hat into the ring. Check this out for details.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


We're back from vacation. We had a great time. I kept a running commentary on Twitter, check it out if you'd like. We also took tons of photos. Check out just a few:
Washington Trip

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Pacific northwest

Busy week with summer school ending, finals and then we left for vacation. We are in Washington State for a week with limited access to the Internet. I will be microblogging via my cell phone on Twitter. If you want to follow, go to, sign up for an account and follow me, dquack.

Will have a week when I get back and then fall semester starts. Where does the time go?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

So I haven't blogged...

...since summer school started. Have you noticed? I knew it would be tiring and exhausting, I just didn't realize how that would feel. Two writing classes and I made a commitment that the students wouldn't be short changed just because it's summer. Not sure if they are really appreciating that right about now (at least some of them). I counted it up -- 21 daily assignments during the 5 week class (and really, only assignments during the first 4 weeks), plus 8 grammar quizzes and 7 current events/WSJ quizzes. Yeah, they are working their tails off, most of them, but I'm right there with them.

I did, however, get the comment today that this was the first class the student felt like they were really learning something. Guess that's something.

One more week. That's all there is, one more week. Presentations are on Wednesday and the final is on Thursday, by Friday I'll post grades and Saturday I'm getting on a plane, heading to the Pacific Northwest, for a much needed vacation.

Not sure if we'll take the laptop and post photos during the trip or not. If not, it may be almost a month before you hear from me. Maybe by that time I'll have something interesting to say.

BTW, if you haven't checked it out, my students are blogging this summer. Take a read if you like.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Two more new restaurants

I know it seems like this is turning into a restaurant blog. Not really, but it’s more interesting than writing about summer school starting next week.

For lunch yesterday I met my friend Izzy at Sichuan Garden in Round Rock. The Austin Chronicle had a good review and we figured that would be as good of place as any. It’s in a shopping center at the corner of I-35 & 620. It doesn’t look like much and was fairly empty, but the thing we noticed was the two large tables, each filled with who we presumed to be Chinese people.

We both opted to order off the lunch menu. According to the review, it was best to skip the Chinese standbys, like General Tsao’s; unfortunately, most of the lunch menu was standbys. Still, I ordered shredded pork with bean curd which was good. Izzy said her eggplant in her garlic sauce was delish. The service was okay (but it was the server’s first day) and the soups were just okay. I was able to get in and out with drink, tax and a 22 percent tip for $8. Yummy food, low cost, I’ll be back.

In the evening, I was going to meet Doug at Zax’s for dinner and then we were going to meet friends at the Zach Scott for a show. Only when Doug got to the restaurant, there was no parking. Not wanting to deal, he suggested we go some place else. I met him at the Zach and we hopped in one car. Not sure where to go, we headed down SoCo. We opted to try Woodland; I heard JB from the JB & Sandy morning show talk about how good it is. Honestly, we weren’t that impressed.

My impression was that it was trying too hard to be laidback and cool and it just didn’t work. First, the beer selection was a selection of wanna bes, instead of what a beer connoisseur would like. The menu selection seemed limited. We both ordered burgers, which were $11-$13 and really weren’t that special. Neither was the service. Definitely a yuppie-trying-to-still-be-cool-and-laidback place. We left disappointed. We won’t go back.

I guess I can include the third new place I went to yesterday – Big Top Candy, although I didn’t buy anything. It’s an old time candy store with things like candy cigarettes, Now & Laters and huge jawbreakers, none of which I’ve seen since I was a kid. I was tempted to buy something just because, but wasn’t hungry and opted not to. However, just seeing all the candy from my childhood in one place made me smile. Just what I needed after Woodlands.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Three days, three new restaurants

We had a busy weekend, both around the house and around the town. But somehow we were able to check out three new (at least to us) restaurants.

On Friday afternoon I met an acquaintance for tea at The Steeping Room. We had a few things to talk about and since neither of us drinks coffee, she suggested we do The Steeping Room. While the restaurant does high tea, we opted not to do that and instead selected from the dizzying array of individual teas. I ordered a chocolate chai frappucino and my acquaintance ordered the iced tea version of a mojito. Both were yummy. However, the reason this place is blogworthy is the service. My acquaintance ordered a chilled watermelon soup; however, she’s pretty reserved and didn’t mention that she didn’t like it. I admit, I didn’t even notice she hadn’t eaten it. After the bill was paid, the waitress came back to the table and said her manager noticed my acquaintance didn’t eat her soup and was something wrong. The waitress offered to take it off the bill. When that didn’t work because the credit card had already been run, the waitress gave my acquaintance a coupon for a free soup on her next visit. One little act of customer service gained two return visitors.

That evening, Doug and I went to another new place, Gypsy, on Barton Springs Road. This quaint northern Italian restaurant had great wine, food and service. The waiter was excellent, giving great suggestions and allowed us to sample a few wines before we made our selections. In fact we discovered a few new wines. We split a dessert, a chocolate mascarpone cheesecake – it was rich and almost too much. We had an ice wine to go with it that tasted like apricots soaked in honey. Yum!

We didn’t make it to a new restaurant on Saturday, although we did have an enjoyable meal at El Sol y La Luna. Not only is the food good there, the restaurant is quick (in and out in under 40 minutes), which was good because we were on our way to volunteer for the Zach’s production of Seussical. BTW, the production had great costumes and great performances.

This morning was our third new restaurant – Galaxy CafĂ© in the Triangle. Cute little restaurant and good food. I had the Mediterranean eggs, with feta and basil. While there was nothing “oh wow” about the breakfast, it hit the spot and we’ll definitely return. Maybe we’ll even make it back for lunch or dinner.

All in all, a good gastronomical weekend.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Speaking tomorrow

Tomorrow I'm speaking about branding at eWomen Network. For more info or to attend, click here.

Along with that, I've launched a new business. It's really an evolution, moving away from doing media relations freelance work, to doing more strategic work.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The best barbecue in Texas or not?

In our never-ending hunt for great barbecue, yesterday we decided to try Snow’s BBQ in Lexington. The June issue of Texas Monthly named Snow’s the best ‘cue in Texas. The joint is only open on Saturdays and only until the meat is gone. We tried going a couple of weeks ago when the magazine first came out, but thanks in part to the scenic route that Doug mapped out (I love him, but he can’t navigate) we were too late. This time, however, we were prepared. Not only did I navigate, I also called on Tuesday to pre-order our meat.

According to a recent blog update on Texas Monthly, Snow’s has increased it’s production from 300 to 800 pounds of meat on Saturday; the only way to ensure you get barbecue is to pre-order by Wednesday. The Statesman’s John Kelso wrote that the barbecue is selling out in 45 minutes and that people are coming Dallas, Houston and Laredo to taste the barbecue.

We said that we would pick up the meat at 10:15, so we left the house about 9 a.m. with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. We were looking forward to the best barbecue in Texas but were worried if they could keep up the quality when their production has almost tripled in less than a month.

It took us about an hour to get there by peaceful back roads through Elgin (FM 3000 is a cute little road). When we arrived, the place wasn’t too crowded, but it certainly had its share of confusion, like the aftermath of a natural disaster. The two ladies working the counter were explaining to people that all they had left was sausage. There was a line at the door when the restaurant opened at 8 and by 9 they were sold out. Needless to say, there were a lot of disappointed people who walked away empty-handed. While waiting for our turn, I peaked at their guest book and they had folks from as far away as San Francisco. Hmm.

Our order was already pre-wrapped to go and it took a bit to explain that we wanted to eat a bit there and then take the rest with us. Finally, we got it straight and went outside to eat and watch the pit masters. We were eager with anticipation.

Although the brisket looked dry, Doug thought it was deceptively moist and tender. I thought the pork was juicy. However, it seemed like I got the dry end of the brisket and he got the dry end of the pork so I didn’t like the brisket as much as he did and he didn’t like the pork as much as I did. We both thought the sausage was okay and the pork ribs were over done, bordering on being horrible.

On the drive home (via Taylor – another nice drive) we discussed Snow’s. Overall, we rated it okay but probably won’t be in a hurry to get back. As Doug pointed out, however, that most barbecue places have their off days and this might have been one of those. Also, it may have been that all the meat is scheduled to be ready at 8 and the extra two hours of waiting for us caused our order to dry out. It could also be that they couldn’t keep the quality up with the production increase. At some point, once the Texas Monthly hype wears down, we’ll try Snow’s again. Maybe then it will live up to being the best barbecue in Texas.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I'm an ENFP

I'm now on the board of directors for the local chapter of the Association of Women in Communications. In preparation for this weekend's planning retreat, I took the Myers-Briggs personality assessment. I've taken these tests before, but I was curious to see if anything had changed since I last took the test in grad school. It hadn't. I'm an ENFP.

So what does this mean? ENFP stands for Extraverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving. According to the Web site where I retook the test,

ENFPs are introspective, values-oriented, inspiring, social and extremely expressive. They actively send their thoughts and ideas out into the world as a way to bring attention to what they feel to be important, which often has to do with ethics and current events. ENFPs are natural advocates, attracting people to themselves and their cause with excellent people skills, warmth, energy and positivity. ENFPs are described as creative, resourceful, assertive, spontaneous, life-loving, charismatic, passionate and experimental.

Only about 3% of the population are ENFPs. A couple of other things found interesting about ENFPs, and true about myself, include:

  • ENFPs are warm, enthusiastic people, typically very bright and full of potential
  • ENFPs have an unusually broad range of skills and talents
  • They are good at most things which interest them
  • Project-oriented, they may go through several different careers during their lifetime
  • To onlookers, the ENFP may seem directionless and without purpose, but ENFPs are actually quite consistent
  • ENFPs almost always have a strong need to be liked
  • Because ENFPs live in the world of exciting possibilities, the details of everyday life are seen as trivial drudgery
  • They place no importance on detailed, maintenance-type tasks, and will frequently remain oblivous to these types of concerns. When they do have to perform these tasks, they do not enjoy themselves
  • They may become unhappy when they are confined to strict schedules or mundane tasks. Consequently, ENFPs work best in situations where they have a lot of flexibility, and where they can work with people and ideas
  • ENFPs often suffer from muscle tension
  • They have a strong need to be independent, and resist being controlled or labelled
  • Friends are what life is about to ENFPs
  • ENFPs are energized by being around people. Some have real difficulty being alone, especially on a regular basis

So what do you think? Does this sound like me?

Friday, June 06, 2008

Belly rubs!

Dexter, aka Mr. Keep Your %@#& Hands Off Me, was letting me rub his belly and enjoying it. Not sure what's up with that. Go figure.

Spring fusing

This spring I found a great fusing center, Helios, and have been taking classes galore. So many class projects in fact, that I've had little free time to fire up my own kiln. In fact, I still to finish this awesome paper weight from a class that ended in April.

I think the classes are paying off and my work is going to a new level. Below are a few of my projects from this spring. They aren't representative of all the classes I've taken (some classes are technique classes), but you can see how the work has progressed.

This is from a powders and frit class. I used frit (small pieces of glass) to recreate a scene from Hawaii. Aloha!

This was an enamel painting on glass class. You trace a picture on the glass and then paint in the detail. These are the dogs on the jetty at Port A.

Doug also took the enamel class; in fact, he got way more in to it than I did. This is Umlaf Sculpture Garden in Zilker Park.

My hand, from a textures class. You use kiln wash to make a design and then place glass on top. I made this for Doug's birthday.

Project one from the paper weights class. This takes a lot of cold working, which means using power tools to shape and polish.

Woven bowl -- pieces of glass that look woven together. There was also another project where the glass is actually woven together, but the piece isn't finished yet.

Strip bowl. You cut strips of glass and then turn them on their edge for a different look.

Of course, I have more classes on the horizon.On Sunday I start a two-week mica and enamels class -- not painting, but using mica and enamel powders to create art. The hand piece here is a great example of using micas. Thursday is the start of a pattern bars class, where you fuse glass together to make interesting elements for other pieces.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Cue the barbecue

For a good portion of our nine and a half years together, Doug and I have been a quest to taste the best barbecue in Texas. Our first year and a half together we lived in Dallas and good 'cue in Dallas is as mythical as Santa Claus. But in 2008 we moved to Austin and found that we were surrounded by barbecue nirvana. Although many people will say this place or that in Austin has the best barbecue, I disagree. The best barbecue is found in small towns that require a road trip, and luckily we don't live more than 90 minutes from some of the best.

I was excited to see the June issue of Texas Monthly once again features the 50 best barbecue joints in Texas. Their top pick was as new to the editors as it was to me -- Snow's BBQ in Lexington, which is east of Elgin. I'm now jonesing to head east tomorrow.

Rounding out the top five are (in no particular order):
We've never made it to Luling, but agree with the other three. Another one of our favorites, Cooper's in Llano, made the top 50 but not the top 5. At first I was surprised and then I read the review. While most of the time Cooper's has been a real hit, we've been there a couple of times when it's been a definite miss. Texas Monthly was there on a miss day.

However, it looks like we have a few new places to try and there are several road trips in our future.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Ado'ing nothing

We're at Zilker Park tonight to see Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.

Breakfast trip

Some people have Life Lists. Some people have Bucket Lists. We have a Things That We Would Regret Not Having Done If We Ever Moved Away From Austin, Not That We Are Planning To Do So, List. The list includes things like going to Gruene Hall, visiting the Dr Pepper Museum in Waco and going to the Broken Spoke. Today we crossed one of the things off our list – eating breakfast at the Blue Bonnet Cafe in Marble Falls.

The Blue Bonnet Cafe is a Texas legend, having been in business for more than 75 years. Texas Highways magazine voted the Blue Bonnet the #1 breakfast place in Texas and one of the top 10 restaurants in Texas. To be honest, I hadn’t heard about the Blue Bonnet until about six months ago when my colleague, Mike McBride, told me about it. It took several months to convince Doug to go (and actually putting it on our list) and then a month to find a day when we were up early enough and didn’t have a lot of things on our to do list to go. Today was the morning.

From our house it was about a 70 minute drive on twisting, hill country roads. Wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t imbibed a little too much at Robert & Tracy’s wedding last night and if our convertible didn’t have such a rough ride. Still, the drive is pretty.

We got there about 8:30 and while busy, we got a seat right away. It was a friendly, bustling place. It’s cash and checks only, but they do have an ATM. The portions were definitely Texas-sized. We both got omelets, which come with either grits or hashbrowns (we got hashbrowns) and your choice of bread. Let me recommend the Texas-toast. It’s easily an inch and a half thick of homemade bread. It was so yummy that we bought a loaf to take home.

The Blue Bonnet is also famous for its pies. We didn’t have room for dessert, but we bought a pecan pie to take home. Some of the pies, like the peanut butter pie pictured below, look out of this world, but we wanted something that would easily transport back to Austin.

We must have arrived at a good time because by the time we left, the line for seating snaked down the long entry way and out the front door.

The Blue Bonnet Cafe is worth the trip. As Doug said when we were leaving, this is a place we’ll cross off our list many more times.


BTW, I've started Twittering. These are mini posts, less than 150 words. They are on the right side of the page, under the About Me section. Or you can go to If you want to sign up on Twitter and follow me (but you don't have to, since the tweets, as the updates are called, appear on this blog), my Twitter id is dquack.


I know it's been a long time since the last posting. Part of it was the end of the semester and finals, and after which, a client project. But a lot of the reason I haven't updated was that chose not to. I had one thing on my mind for the last several months and given the public nature of blogs, I thought it was best to keep quiet.

So what was on my mind? In a word, my job, or rather wondering if I would have one next school year. At the beginning of the school year, the school had plans to hire one tenure tact professor (this means someone with a PhD) and one senior lecturer (no PhD required). The senior lecturer, and promise of a three-year contract, was one of the reasons I came back this school year. The senior lecturer is basically what I've been doing for the last two years, the only difference is that it is a three-year contract, so at the end of each year I wouldn't have to go through the angst of whether I'd be hired back. And what angst it has been.

Somewhere along the line, the school started thinking they could hire two tenure track professors and no senior lecturers. Fast forward to April, only one PhD had accepted the offer and at that point, the school opted to look for a senior lecturer. On Dead Day (the day before finals start, where there is no class) I interviewed for my job. It was somewhat surreal, interviewing with my colleagues for the job I already had. I also had to give a teaching presentation. Despite it being a day off for everyone, I was able to get quite a few of my colleagues, as well as several students there. That, I think, was the best part, getting the students. Many current and former students who couldn't make it wrote letters supporting me. I am very appreciative of the support.

In the end, I got the contract and I will be back. Without going into much detail, one of the things I learned was to stand up for yourself and know what you want and others will go to bat for you (assuming, of course, that you're good to begin with). I got a lot of support along the way and it was great. In fact, working with some great students and other really neat professors is one of the reasons I love teaching.

So now I have some time off until summer school in July. Well, I do have a student who has to finish a project, but other than that, nothing pressing. I am going to do some more work on my own consulting business, as I have some ideas there I'd like to explore. At this point, I just have six weeks and I know it will fly fast.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Wasting away in Margaritaville

At a Jimmy Buffett concert in Dallas.

Monday, April 07, 2008

When dreambars become nightmares

Saturday was opening night of Doubt at the Zachary Scott. This isn’t a review of the play because I didn’t get to see it (but I hear it was good). Instead, I volunteered, which Doug and I do most opening nights. This one will stay in the memory for a long time, beating out the night the homeless guy wandered into the opening night party and started partaking of the free champagne.

The reason this opening party is memorable is because it was self catered, but not by choice. A normal opening night has volunteers running the bar before the show and at intermission, taking tickets, playing ushers, selling shirts, etc. After intermission, the volunteers help set up for the party, setting up tables, popping the cork on the champagne (Doug’s job), pouring the glasses. The food and all the goodies are set out by the caterer. Only this time, there was no caterer.

The show was short, 90 minutes and no intermission. At 8:30, the house managers were worried. By 9, they were in a panic. By 9:05 they were at Schlotzsky’s, buying goodies and sending someone to Whole Foods. We had just finished pouring 150 glasses of champagne when the first volunteer came back with brownies and lemon bars from Schlotzsky’s. Working in the semi-dark, as quietly as possible so no noise could be heard in the theatre, we unwrapped the baked goods, cutting them in fourths, just to make sure everything was bite-sized and there was enough to go around. “Who here is good at making this try look pretty?” someone asked. We all just shook our heads.

Then the head house manager came back, carrying full trays of lemon bars and dreambars. He had bought out the restaurant. In the kitchen we were frantically cutting and prepping, as the show was about to be over. “Dara’s good at cutting,” someone said and handed me a knife. I had an ooyie-gooyie, crunchy, sticky mess in front of me. One platter filled, then another, out to the table they go. Make sure the powers of be know what’s going on – the staff talking over the walkie-talkie. Where’s the meat and cheeses from Whole Foods? No matter, it’s 9:30, the show is over, the audience leaves the theatre and comes to the party. We are still in the kitchen, cutting, waiting for the rest of the goodies to arrive. I have dreambar goo on the front of my shirt. Someone walks into the kitchen, upset, wondering how the caterer forgot. The head house manager swears he tried to get through to absolutely everyone he could think of to ask. The girl goes on. Maybe it’s not my place, but I said it doesn’t matter whose fault it is now, they can worry about it later, but right now we have to focus on making the party a success.

Luckily, it was a success. None of the patrons ever knew about the catering mishap. The audience grabbed a glass of champagne and some sweets and went back into the theatre for a talk-back session. The Whole Foods stuff arrived, so there was an assortment of fruit, veggies, cheese and meat when the talk back was over. The volunteers manned the party like normal – pour wine & champagne, picking up glasses, etc. All in all, a good night and a good party, but not one any of us will want to relive in the near future.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Words of wisdom from Evan Smith

Evan Smith, editor of Texas Monthly, spoke to my PR Campaigns classes yesterday. Since he’s involved with I Live Here, I Give Here and several non-profits, I thought it might be good for him to talk to the students about the campaigns the students have been working on this semester (each team is working for a non-profit) as both a journalist and a donor. He was open, bluntly honest and funny; the students really enjoyed having him in class. A few things he discussed:

  • People who donate to non-profits want to see results, where their money goes. Success stories, highlighting a particular individual or group, are great for donors, and journalists are more likely to run the stories.
  • Journalists do not like PR people; they find them annoying. This is because many PR people just spam journalists and don’t understand what the journalist writes about or what the publication is about. He advises PR people to get to know a beat reporter way before they pitch the reporter.
  • The media is undergoing a revolution. People aren’t reading traditional media anymore, particularly the younger generation. Media companies will need to figure out what the next model is. Additionally, media is more prevalent and segmented than ever before. I think Evan said there were 400x more publications available than when he first started. He gave an example that there used to be just People magazine, now there is also Teen People and People en Espanol.
  • PR is changing too. In fact, PR people could become irrelevant because there are more ways for clients to now reach reporters directly.

All of the above, I’ve told my students before. However, I always think it’s good when they hear it from experts, particularly the media. Evan had worried about being too harsh on the PR thing, and I disagreed. I told them I’m always sharing those stories and they need to learn how not to be an annoying PR person before they begin their career.

He also told stories about Texas Monthly:

  • Willie Nelson has been on the cover 8 times, more than anyone else. They will have an upcoming issue celebrating Willie’s 75th birthday. The cover story will be an oral history about Willie, where they’ve talked to just about everyone connected to Willie.
  • Evan had the idea for the infamous January 2007 Dick Cheney cover 11 months before the issue. He just hoped that no one would be a bigger bum steer that year than Cheney, and while no one beat him, a few came close.
  • The original idea for the January 2002 American Gothic cover was to have both Willie Nelson and Kinky Friedman in dresses. Evan called Willie, told him about the idea and Willie replied, “That’s not funny.” Quickly coming up with an alternative, Evan pitched the idea of Willie in overalls and Kinky in a dress. “Now THAT’S funny,” Willie replied.

He also told stories of job interviewing, gave the students specific feedback about their campaigns and was a great overall resource. I’m glad he took time out of his busy schedule to speak to these students; I know they got a lot out of it.

Monday, March 24, 2008

One month to go

I realized today that the last day of class is exactly one month away. It's always the busiest time of the semester, and with spring, there is that fever where you'd rather be having fun than in a classroom. I'm sure the students feel the same.

The other thing is that there is only one month left and I have no idea what is in store for me next year. Just like last year, I have not yet been asked back. Last year, it was the last day of class before I was given an offer and by then I was so frustrated I said no. Only during the summer did I change my mind, and part of that was because I was told there was going to be a three-year, non-tenure track position open. I'm not sure what happened to that position, but it looks like the university would rather hire a PhD and put them on the tenure track, although that hiring hasn't happened yet either.

Sometimes I feel so caught up in this that I can't breathe, much less sleep. But I have to work through the fact that in academia, decisions are not about me, whether I'm doing a good job or not. It's not always about the students either. And most importantly, I have little influence and can't control things. To paraphrase Stephen Covey (the 7 Habits guy), I have my circle of influence and my circle of control. As I'm learning, university hiring decisions are beyond both my circle of influence and my circle of control.

It will be interesting to see what this next month brings, and what decisions will be made. I'm sure the end of the semester will fly by sooner than I think. That's actually a bit scary, because I don't feel ready for decisions. But in the meantime, I have a bunch of papers to grade today and errands to run, so I better get back at it. Grading and errands -- those are in my circle of control.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Hoppy Easter

When you think about it, it's interesting how two people, when they decide to make a life together, combine their traditions, especially when it comes to holidays. In our household it's pretty much my way, basically because Doug isn't into holidays. Start asking him things like, "When's Valentines?" and he'll get mad.

Bottom line, they never made a big deal about holidays in Doug's family. I knew they did "practical" Christmas gifts, and Doug only got to trick 'n treat a couple of times because he had to keep lookout that the house of two teachers (his parents) weren't tricked. But I was floored last night when Doug said he never received an Easter basket or went Easter egg hunting. He remembers coloring eggs once, but never the hiding or finding of them. So I snuck out early this morning, went to the grocery store, bought a basket, filled it with candies and hid a half dozen candy-filled eggs. At 44, Doug went on his first Easter egg hunt this morning.

Funny how we remember things like holidays. When I was little, I always felt left out because I didn't have a cool, store-packed Easter basket or a plastic orange pumpkin candy holder on Halloween. All the Halloween costumes were from the attic, not the store, and Christmas gifts were saved until Christmas morning. Now that I look back, none of that matters. I think store-bought costumes and baskets look cheap and Christmas Eve is for a party with friends and family, not for opening presents. The traditions of my mom, lives through me.

I remember the first time I knew someone who didn't celebrate Easter. It was my good friend from junior high, Sandy. We were going on a day trip to some cavern in the Ozarks and we stopped at Wal-Mart. All the Easter goodies were on sale. She mentioned she wished she would get something for Easter and I questioned what she meant. Sandy said she was a Jehovah's Witness and they didn't celebrate Easter. I was sad for her. I think our friends got her a stuffed bunny that year.

When I think of Easter, I remember the smell of vinegar and watching the Paas color tablet dissolve in it. I remember how for the week before coloring eggs, we'd poke holes in our egg shells and blow out the yolks so we'd have enough eggs to color. I remember the three baskets on the coffee table waiting for my sisters and I. Obviously, as an adult, Easter memories are a little different, but they are never as fun as the ones from childhood.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sunset dining

It's such a nice evening that tonight we're having dinner on the deck of The Oasis, the sunset capital of Texas.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Classy lass

This morning I will be going to my third glass fusing class in as many weekends. On Wednesday, I will finish my four (extended to five)-week strip bowl class. I also have another weekend class later this month, and will start another a four-week class at the end of the month. From mid-February until the end of March, I will have taken, or at least started, six glass classes. Needless to say, I'm feeling a little out classed.

Actually, it really is all good. There is this t-shirt I saw with a guru, holding pieces of glass and meditating, with the saying, "Therapy with sharp edges." I love that! I would have bought that shirt except it was for a stained glass shop, not a glass fusing shop. Who knows, I still might get it. Still, that's what I feel like when working with glass. I can get into my little zone and not think about anything except the little pieces of glass in front of me.

I had really wanted to take my fusing to the next level, and it's getting there, at least in my mind. I haven't had a chance to work on anything at home yet. I found this place in January, Helios Glass Studio, owned by Paul & Karen Tarlow. Paul has a national reputation, so I feel like I am learning from a master. There were things I wanted to learn, but since I don't learn well from books, I was a bit stuck. Now I'm learning them, or soon will be, can ask a lot of questions and try things out. I'm most excited about learning cold working, which means working with power tools. I can't wait until the end of the month when I learn to sandblast a piece!

So it's all good. I'm just busy, but I'm definitely one classy lady.

Friday, March 07, 2008


I found out this week that I am one of eight faculty members from across the university who will be honored this year by the Texas State Student Foundation for inspiration and outstanding dedication to educational excellence. The Student Foundation is a group of student leaders who serve as presidential ambassadors for the university president.

The coolest thing to me about this honor is that it is bestowed by the students. They nominate you, write an essay about you, and then the faculty is selected. I didn't even know I was being considered until I received the invitation to attend the event.

It also means whatever the university decides to do, I know I am a good teacher and am reaching the students.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Happy birthday to me

This was a whirlwind birthday weekend. Doug and I left about 4:30 Friday night, driving to the Ft. Worth area for the weekend. Doug bought a glass class for my birthday, which we took together, to learn about working with powders and "paint by light." Jody Walker, a nationally renown glass artist, taught the class. The two-day class was very intensive, and while we didn't come out with any finished pieces, we came out with about 19 test tiles and a new way to think about glass. Now I just need to find some time and get after it.

Last night we celebrated my birthday by first meeting my sister Chris and her husband Mark, for drinks. We actually had a great time chatting. It's the first time ever that I didn't feel like the little brat sister. Maybe because it was just two couples and not the family dynamic. I wish we could have stayed longer, but Doug and I had dinner reservations.

We went to Bob's Steak and Chop House. This has been named one of the top steak places in the nation and it didn't disappoint. Man, that was some of the best ribeye I've eaten. And for as good as the steak was, I was blown away by their carrots. I know it sounds weird, but that was a damn good carrot. The server said the carrots were marinated in cinnamon and orange juice. I believe it. I told Doug I thought it tasted like Christmas. To round out dinner, we had a Napa cab from one of my favorite wineries, Silver Oak. The dinner was outstanding!

The glass class finished about 2 p.m. today and we headed home, exhausted. After two days being the only guy in a class of eight women, Doug is out having a beer and getting some much needed testosterone time. I'm home, checking email and watching Gladiator on high-def. Tomorrow we'll be back in the grind.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Who's fault is the defaulting?

I'm watching a little bit of the Democratic debate last night, since it was in Austin. Obama is giving his opening remarks and mentions that he met with a couple in San Antonio whose house is getting foreclosed on because of predatory lending practices. WTF? "Did you hear that?" I asked Doug. He said he tuned out as soon as Hillary started her remarks. I replayed the comment. Predatory lenders.

Let me get this right. You have poor credit. You decide to buy a house that you can't really afford. You decide to take out an adjustable rate mortgage that is really low when you take it out, so you can make those house payments, but the rates will go up. Now that they have gone up, it's the lenders fault that you can't make the payments? Get real.

I know this is a rough situation. And yes, it is partially the fault of lender. They qualified risky applicants. They probably also did a huge sales job. Still, the borrower has responsibility in this as well.

Recently we were talking to some mortgage companies about refinancing our home loan. One of Doug's work friends recently refinanced his home and got a 5% rate; he thought we could do the same and it would cost us less than $1,000. Save 2% on mortgage, why not?

Calling around, the rates were up to 5.75%. And while it would only cost us $750 out of pocket, the rest of costs would be rolled up in our loan. The actual cost would have been about $2,500. Even with the monthly savings, it would take us 24 months to break even on this. We were hoping to move to a different house by then. We decided not to go forward and instead take the cost and put it straight to our principle. Any other savings, we'd use to fix up the place. The refi just didn't make financial sense.

Of course, the lenders made it sound good. Get a lower rate and pay only $750. This way you are paying less interest and more principle each month. They do try to sell it. They make it sound good and put a shine on it. But is that predatory lending?

It is up to the borrower to know what he/she is getting into. When we bought our house, they qualified us for way more than I would have expected. However, we opted to go with something much smaller, something we could afford on one income, and after the tech crash, that has served us well. I don't know if we could have kept a more expensive house. They also offered all sorts of mortgages that sounded great, but we weren't buying. No ARMs for us. We wanted a 30-year fixed. And we got what we wanted.

I call banks and lending institutions a lot of unflattering things, but predatory is not one of them. When it comes to your money, you have the say and you have the right to agree to the terms or walk away. Get smart when it comes to your money and don't fall into this victimization trap just because you won't take the time and effort to become educated on money. It's not predatory lending just because you didn't know what you were doing.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Head shot

I had a photo shoot today. I'm going to be one of forty women featured in a Go Red spread for the American Heart Association in the May issue of Austin Woman Magazine. In general, I hate getting my photo taken, and was dreading it. However, the photographer, Korey Howell, did an awesome job! She made me feel comfortable, helped me pick my outfits and made sure I looked my best. I was completely at ease and had fun. I would totally recommend her to anyone.

In addition to the Go Red photo, Korey also did a professional head shot for me. Doug said he prefers the red photo, but I like them both.


Seems like I'm going through the same old stuff that I did last spring, whether there will be a teaching spot for me next year. Without going into all the details, let's just say it's not looking good and I'm just frustrated to the hilt. Yesterday, on the way home, I was wondering why I put myself through this again.

Then I remembered why -- the students. I've got a great group of students this semester. Actually, every semester I have a great students. I just have to remember to focus on that and forget about the rest of the b.s. Of course, that's easier said than done...

Monday, February 11, 2008

Democracy in action

Texans have spoken loud and clear. We have selected a winning license plate. According to the Statesman, the selection won't be official until later this week. I actually think this was the best design and voted for it myself.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Lights, Camera, Heart Ball!

Last night was the annual Heart Ball for the American Heart Association. The theme this year was the Hearts of Hollywood, with a 1940s supper club look and feel to the party. As communication chair, I developed the branding and positioning for the Ball. We've been working on the Ball since May, so everyone was glad it finally arrived and went well.

I didn't get the final count, so I don't know how much we raised. There was both a live and a silent auction, dinner and dancing. There were lots of things to bid on, so my bowl didn't go for much -- just $60 and a friend bought it. I think my highlight of the evening was watching a film a student made, and hearing everyone comment after. The student brought her mother from Port Arthur, Texas and you could tell how proud her mother was of her. Once of my friends said she thought I got a tv station to produce it. That made the student and her mother smile.

Below are photos of us as we were about to leave the house. Isn't Doug handsome in his tux?

Here's me in my dress. Isn't it great? I got a lot of compliments on it.

Amy, my hairdresser, did my hair in a 1940s style updo. I'm always afraid that my hair will fall, but Amy made sure it didn't.

Doug and I did get our photo taken together by a professional photographer, so if we like it, we'll buy it and post it. Some of my students were volunteers and they took photos as well. I hope at least one of Doug and I together looks good and I can post it.

Friday, February 08, 2008


I'm going to be covering SXSW (South by Southwest, for those who aren't in the know) this year. In exchange for writing about a half dozen stories for a Web site, I'll be receiving a press pass. I'm pretty excited. I had thought about buying a badge for the Interactive part of the festival, but was wondering if I could justify it. Now I can go to everything, including the film and music.

Tomorrow is the Heart Ball for the American Heart Association. We've been working on this since the summer, so I'm glad it's finally coming together. Doug picked up his tux yesterday. I didn't see it, but he said it looks sharp. I've got appointments to get my hair, nails and make-up done.

Busy week with school, but it's going well. I'm loving this 70-degree weather we're having.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Baby you can drive my car

We came out of Lone Star Kolache this morning, ready for a drive. Allegra was in the driver's seat and Dante was in the passenger's seat. Guess they thought they should drive and we should sit in the back.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

I want belly rubs!

Allegra can't wait for Doug to return from Canada today. She wants him to give her belly rubs.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Latest fusing projects

My kiln has been busy since Christmas and I wanted to share a few of my latest pieces.

This first one is a commission piece, meaning my friend Pat bought the glass and asked me to make 10 plates for the American Heart Association (I donated my time). Needless to say, it took several weeks to make all 10.

For this next one, I fused iridized glass, face down, on a textured tile. I really like the crinkle effect.

This last piece is my favorite piece I've ever made. The photo doesn't do it justice. The green, aventurine, is darker, almost a forest green. I fired it on lava cloth so the bottom is textured. I originally made it to donate to the Heart Ball auction, but now I love it so much I don't want to depart with it. I guess I can always make another to keep.

I need to coat my kiln shelf now so I can make some more. I'm also looking into some advanced classes as I'm ready to go to the next level.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Book on Parade

Risa, the wife of Doug's cousin Tim, recently published a book, Cinescopes. It was mentioned in Parade Magazine today. Click here to read the review. Hurray for her!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Officer Cat

I love this story. I've heard of drug-sniffing dogs, but never kiddie porn finding kitties.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I hate being sick

This week both Doug and I have been waylaid by the stomach flu. Doug got it Monday (although he swears it is food poisoning) and I got it yesterday. Doug seems to think that food poisoning can be passed on through contact -- I say we both have stomach flu.

Doug is back at work today, but only because he was behind before he got sick and is heading to Canada on Saturday for a week and needs to have everything prepared. I canceled classes today.
I think from all the "common" illnesses, stomach flu has to be one of the worst. Even if you felt like eating, you can't keep it down. Your abdomen muscles hurt from all the vomiting, your body aches and you just can't get comfortable. Then you have to worry about accidents from what my mother-in-law calls the "big D." I haven't had anything to eat (that I've been able to keep down) since Tuesday night. I have, however, been drinking a mixture of Pedilyte and water so I don't get too dehydrated.

Worst thing, I think, is tv. There is nothing on. Funny thing is, when I actually find something somewhat interesting, I fall asleep. Unfortunately, I can only sleep for an hour at a time.

I think it's hard when both of us are sick because neither Doug nor I feel like being nice to one another. I want to be babied and he doesn't want to do it. About the only one giving me any attention is Dexter.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Restaurant review: El Greco

Admittedly, Doug and I are foodies and Greek/Middle Eastern is one of our favorite cuisines. Until the last few years, good Greek/Middle Eastern restaurants in Austin have been few and far between, so when we hear about a new one, we're there.

A few weeks ago we heard about El Greco, a new Greek restaurant on Guadalupe, so we tried it out--twice. The service was so bad that I doubt we'll go back.

Our first trip was two weeks ago, Saturday night. It's small, but was packed. You order at the counter and they bring your food. Doug ordered the Chicken Souvlaki, which he thought was okay. I ordered the Beeftekee, chopped steak stuffed with feta. It had a lot of flavor. Doug liked his potatoes, but my sides were a bit bland. Compared to other similar types of restaurants, I thought the portion sizes were small for the price. It was like $3 for about three tablespoons of hummus and the hummus wasn't that special.

The thing that got me, however, was the service. It was 15 minutes after we ordered that I got my wine. We asked the server about it when he brought the hummus and the reply was, "I can't serve that to you." I understand being under age, but he could have responded better. It took another 5 minutes after I got my wine for Doug to get his beer. They were out of water at the drink station and I had to get the server to fill it up. And it wasn't just us, the table next to us got their appetizers after their entrees. You could just look around and tell everyone was getting frustrated at the service.

Still, it's a new restaurant and it has to work out its kinks. We decided to give it a few months before we went back for dinner. However, they do serve breakfast. Saturday I was in the mood to try one of their feta breakfast pockets, so I convinced Doug to go. They open at 10; we got there 5 minutes early so we walked across the street to Wheatsville Co-op to kill time. By the time we got back to the restaurant, it was 10:10.

We walk in and we're not even sure if it's open. The kitchen is open to the restaurant and one of the guys in the kitchen was singing something about bitches at the top of his lungs. Not a great first impression. The owner was at the cash register and Doug asked if they were open. The owner said they were running late and it would be another 20 minutes. Then he said something about not having all the breakfast items and what would we want. We got the feeling that us just being there was an annoyance to the owner. Doug politely said we would come back another time.

Of course, Doug was lying. He vowed never to go back. It wasn't that they weren't ready, it was the whole attitude. It's one thing not to have the flow down. And I know it wasn't just us, I've read other comments about El Greco's service. But that could be forgiven, assuming that it gets better. It won't get better, however, if the owner doesn't care, lets his staff sing about bitches, and comes across rude himself.

Thank goodness, there is Sarah's Market, which I'll have to tell you about another time.

Semester has started

But I'm sure you can tell, given the frequency of posts. Classes started last week. I'm teaching four classes, or three courses. One course is new to me, so there is a lot more prep. Plus, the beginning of PR Campaigns always takes a lot, trying to find client projects for the students to work on. So far, so good with the classes. Nothing else really new to report. No news always means good news with us.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Secret works!

You may have seen the book, the movie or even the Oprah show about The Secrete, aka The Law of Attraction. Used to be called the Power of Positive Thinking. Whatever you want to call it, it works. Case in point, the selling of my car.

In August we bought a new (used) car. Since then, my piece o'crap 1997 Chevy Cavalier has been in our driveway. The idea was to clean it up, do a few things to it and then sell it. Unfortunately, we (the royal we, meaning Doug, who had been driving it for the last two years) had not gotten around to doing that. Additionally, there were certain times that "we" (meaning me) would not have time to deal with the email inquiries, so I didn't push.

In November I had the idea that during the Christmas break I would go ahead and take photos and post them on Craigslist, with the idea that if someone wanted to look at the car, "we" would be motivated into fixing it up. Then with the rush of the end of semester and the holidays, this plan slipped my mind until last week.

On Thursday, I pulled into our driveway, looked at the green car and thought about grabbing the camera and posting the photos on the Web. Then I remembered Doug was going to be traveling quite a bit for business and I that he should probably be here for the selling of the car. Friday, I come home from a massage and looked again at the green car and thought, "I don't need Doug to sell this car. I can do it myself -- after all, I bought it myself." Then I realized I really didn't want strangers coming to the house when Doug was away. I knew I needed to just get rid of it.

A couple of hours later my door rings. There are three Hispanic guys, maybe in their 20s, and they asked if we were selling the Cavalier. I told them yes. I asked how they knew (since there were no signs, no ads, no nothing) and they said because we hadn't moved the car in awhile. Okay, this freaked me out a bit. I let them look at the car and they asked what we were selling it for and I told them, jacking it up a bit. They asked if we it was in good condition and I said yes (neglecting all the problems with the air conditioning, etc.). I suggested that if they wanted to know more they should call Doug after 6 p.m. and gave his cell number.

Later that afternoon I'm running some errands and get home a bit after 6. I know Doug is on his way. As I'm parking, this van stops in front of the house. It's dark out and I see it's the guys. I'm more than a little freaked -- after all, they knew enough that the car hadn't moved. Were they casing the joint? They want to know about Doug and I say he's on his way, hightailing it into the house. I call Doug on the cell and no answer. The guys are still outside. I call Doug again and yet again and no answer. I think -- who can I call? With the dogs, I was safe inside, but still... I call my friend Gary, hoping he was working late at Dell and could swing by on his way home. Of course, he was already at dinner. Gary could tell by my voice I was worried and it didn't help when we got disconnected. He finally called back and I told him what was up, but said it would be okay. Finally, Doug arrived and Gary hangs up.

Of course, this was my overactive imagination, but still, it was suspicious.

Doug talked to the guys, told them what all was wrong with the car, cleaned it out for them and let them test drive it and made a deal with them. The price was less than what I quoted, but more than what we thought it would actually sell for. They paid cash, signed the paperwork and drove off with the car, heading, they said, back home to Brownsville. The car has finally been sold.

I'm still a bit freaked to think someone watched the house enough to know we weren't driving the car, but I'm more amazed with how easily the car was sold. I decided it was finally time that the car was gotten rid of and suddenly it's gone. Think it and it will happen.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Weird news of the week

Here's a story out of Houston that reminds me of the old journalism school adage about what is news -- Dog Bites Man is not news, but Man Bites Dog is. Maybe that's why the Dog Shoots Man headline caught my attention.

Friday, January 04, 2008

So excited!

This weekend we are moving to the world of HD. We did the day-after-Christmas sale at Fry's electronics and bought this Sony Bravia for a really great deal. Tonight we are going to buy the stand/mount we have picked out, tomorrow the tv arrives and Sunday the DirecTV folks are going to upgrade our system. The tv has been a long time coming, doing research and patiently waiting for the right time, system and bargain. The conversion to HD is partly our Christmas present to each other, along with a gift from both both of our parents (thanks, folks!). I can't wait until Sunday when I can try out all the channels.

Cool gifts

I got the neatest Christmas gift from my sister Chris yesterday. It's a photo book with family pictures throughout the year. It's printed, hardbound and even has captions. It's a really cool idea for a gift.

This year, we decided to get digital photo frames for both sets of parents. The ones from Kodak were the best. What made it real cool, at least in our mind, is that we pre-loaded the frames with photos. I need to make a flash slide show and post it for folks to see.

I also got mom laser etching of the photo below. Mom is the baby, sitting on my grandmother's lap, with my great grandmother and great great grandmother on either side. We found this place in Georgetown that can laser etch photos into framed tiles, glass and wood. Unfortunately, we found it after we sent the Christmas package to Doug's parents, or we would have done something for them as well.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Latest projects

Below are some of my latest fusing projects. The first two are Christmas gifts for my sisters, the next two are candle holders (Christmas gifts as well). The last two are just because I found a couple of cool slumpers when I was in Ft. Worth. More of my fusing work can be found on my Web site; I will add these photos to the gallery later this week.