Sunday, February 22, 2009

How's Beer and a Movie?

While many people, Emily included, eagerly watch the Academy Awards tonight, I sit to issue Volume 1: Blog #6. Yep... five blogs deep, and I am still in the game.

Emily and I took off to the hills of Austin for some R&R after having been in H'town since before the beginning of this year. It is hard to believe that we had not left the city for seven weeks.

It was time for a departure, indeed.

Late on Friday night, on our way into town, we made a visit to the Alamo Drafthouse. Not the original theater downtown, but a franchise location in the northwest part of town, in what is evidently Austin's suburbia.

What an idea for the ages: combining beer and a movie.

I ordered Real Ale Brewing Company's Shade Grown Coffee Porter. It was stout and delicious. Emily went for the Drafthouse Amber Ale, made by Independence Brewing Company. I tasted hers, and enjoyed its rich flavor.

As for the movie, it was helpful that we had brew to go with it. The Reader was at the same time engaging and depressing, set through a period of forty or so years in Berlin following World War II. The story begins with love--lots of it--and ends with total sadness.

The movie-going experience was fun and unique. Props to the guys behind Alamo Drafthouse. Keep your beer selection as local as possible, your movies interesting and return we shall!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Love Buzz

In my first year of marriage, Valentine's Day, an annual reminder of how to express our love, no doubt had a special meaning. But, this year, it was further significant for another reason: February 14 fell on a Saturday, accentuating its precense throughout the day and into the night.

Houston was abuzz with activity. Grocery stores were more crowded than I remember seeing, any holiday season included, despite the weather not being clear. Inside the Loop anyway, Houstonians were on the streets in full force, running errands with more passion than normal.

I should have known better than to go to the Whole Foods on Kirby. What a zoo. However, like the sucker that I am for that place, I went anyway, without a chance of finding a parking place for my Corolla. I parked down the street, walking a block and into the store. I am glad I did, because I found a white (not red) rose with a long, thick stem and full bud, just what I wanted.

Seats at well-rated restaurants were tough tickets. I told myself and Emily that we should try to avoid getting too wrapped up in the customary pre-fixe meal at an expensive restaurant. But we had a $150 subsidy in the form of an award I got from my employer, so I let loose.

Last weekend, we began talking about where to spend it.

After calling around town looking for the experience we wanted, I settled on Au Petit Paris (, where the french decor is done well.

It was our second visit to the restaurant, the first being on the night before big Hurricane Ike, when the dining experience was fabulous and we were nearly the only patrons there. Last night was different from our first experience. Fun, but not the same.

For starters, we could not order from the menu, which was an oversight on my part. If given my drurthers, I will order from the menu in a nice restaurant on any night.

It made a difference, too. We went with the wine pairing. I ended up with a white wine, (Sancerre), which I do not typically prefer, but it did the trick. And Emily's main course selection, of cod, arrived warm. Not hot, but warm, and needed to be sent back.

The small establishment was crowded, and a wet night was not helpful. Neither were the table placements. They were situated too close together, which put us right in the middle of the conversations transpiring immediately around us. The hostess did seat us at 8:45, our reservation time precisely, which will always get high marks with me.

I made it through my first official Valentine's Day, with a full belly and a love buzz.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Balancing Content

Over the last few weeks, I have been consumed with work and our move to Cherryhurst. But between my consulting j-o-b at Accenture and getting settled into the new digs, I have found time on every Sunday of this year to post my thoughts. I am enjoying the drill.

By design, it usually takes me 60 minutes, from start to finish. By the time I sit down to write, I may have thought about my post, content-wise, but never have anything organized.

I simply write whatever happens to roll off of my fingertips, and an hour later, Emily will give it a quick edit. She then clicks "Publish Post," and voila, we're live.

That, my vast readership, is the extent of our editorial operation here on Haver Street.

I bring up the routine without reason. Really, I do so to point out that there is not much of any routine.

I have been short on content as well. Coming up with meaningful content can be a difficult balance.

Sometimes there is a lot to write. Sometimes there is not much. Either way, it is a useful exercise for me. Of course, it is no help that I have not read much news lately.

I put myself on a low-news diet to be more productive during this particularly busy stretch at work and to get through our move. I do not recommend a low-news diet for everyone, but it works out well for me. Some people enjoy passing their time watching news, and that's cool.

Although I will state that, if your intent is to immediately increase your focus, eliminate news, particularly from the TV, from your day, and you will get results. I picked up this idea from Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek.

I was never a fan of the local news to begin with, as my experience with it is typically negative. But whether or not I like the news is not the point. Rather, the point is that if you clip the daily news from your routine, you will have more time to focus on other people, projects and priorities that matter in your life. Increased happiness is a worthwhile byproduct of news elimination.

That stated, I thought about buying the Sunday Times this morning, which, in my view, is an educational way to catch up on the week's events over caffeine and carbohydrates. I resisted, to instead face down an iTunes overhaul, which was successful after two hours of "duplicate song" deletion. What a royal waste of time. (If anyone knows how to control songs from duplicating whenever you update your iTunes library with digital files in storage, suggest your resolution.)

Nevertheless, we are up and going with a pleasant selection of songs currently shuffling on the iPod in the living room. The view is worth the climb. Quality sounds are a must-have.

We currently have a single speaker that is made for the iPod's flush fit and compact enough for our 1,2oo feet of house. Next on my list is to figure out how to activate the speaker system coarsing through it. Once comnected, we will totally be in business on the music front.

On another note, my friend, Brady, asked me to meet him at Memorial Park yesterday. Brady is always brewing up something adventurous, so I didn't hesitate to join him. I went for jog and then met him, his wife and his little boy of five weeks.

With him, he had an apparatus made up of a strip of nylon and two hand cranks on either end of it. I think he called it a slickline, but when I briefly Googled "slickline," I found only several web pages that featured slicklining equipment of the oil field services variety. No thanks. (If I can find a link for the slickline, I will tweat it on Twitter.)

The idea is to strap the slickline between two hefty trees about twenty or so feet apart. Then you pull the line taut between them, using the two cranks to tighten it. Ideally, it lays across, horizontally, about three-to-four feet above ground.

Once set up, you step on the strip with one foot, eventually placing the other one on as well, at which point, you try your best to balance for as long as you can. It reminds me of unicycling, an activity I never mastered. A difficult balance takes focus and occupies the mind, which I enjoy. It is fun.

That is it for now, until the next balancing act.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

For me, Super Bowl. For her, Super Swirl.

It is a super Sunday, our first in Cherryhurst. A Super Bowl Sunday. A Super Swirl Sunday.

A majority of the nation, many in the world, and half of our Cherryhurst home will be feasting its eyes on today's game, featuring the Cardinals of Arizona against the Steelers of Pittsburg.

Emily, my better half, who does not plan to watch, is frenetically readying our home for long-term living with her sister, Laura. A veritable swirl of activity and organizing.

Thank goodness for their efforts, or I would be living sparsley for the foreseeable future. Instead, I am up and going, already comfortable and productive.

The past few days have been stressful, between our move, which we finally finished yesterday, and a crazy week at work. Today is a good day to settle. One of my best friends, William, came by for a cup of java and discussion of entreprenurial endeavors, a common pursuit for us both.

There is no internet access, nor is there cable. Both services are supposed to come on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, I am surripticiously getting the Net on a neighbor's unprotected wireless network.

Emily and I bought a TV earlier this week. A 40-inch, Samsung flat screen. It is slick, and with an analog antenna, purchased for a mere $12.59 at Best Buy, we can fetch all local HD channels.

That brings me back to today's game. It is televised through NBC, Channel 2 locally in Houston, which means I can watch right here on Haver.

For me, a Super Bowl. For Emily, a Super Swirl. Our first Sunday in Cherryhurst is super.