The Big Think

September 10, 2013

Hang Ten at Forty Four

Filed under: Disclosure — jasony @ 12:06 pm


Today I am 44 years old.

Today my blog is one decade old. Ten years! 3650 days. Thanks to friend Giles’ generous gift of a WordPress setup as well as hosting (which has since been taken over by the inestimable Jeff Snider) I started this long journey of public navel gazing. Glad you’ve been along for the trip.

So. 44 years old. 44! When I started this, 40 seemed a long way away. Now it’s 4 years in the rearview mirror. Funny how time keeps moving. Like a river that never stops. Like a clever metaphor that entertains (but not this one).

So what have I done with the last 525,600 minutes? Some highlights:

Had a rather touching reunion: About a decade ago I let one of the ex-band members’ daughters sit on the piano bench with me during a performance of a Pigskin act. She was a wide-eyed and overwhelmed 8-year-old and I had fun sharing my unique perspective with her. Little did I know that, 10+ years later, this little girl would grow up to become a Baylor student and be involved in the show. She came down to the pit and shyly introduced herself and told me how much that experience meant to her. Well, what do you do after that? Get a pic with her all grown up and sitting in the very same spot, of course. The wheel of time turns and turns and you never know what it’ll bring you. Thanks, Emily:

Emily and Jason.jpg

Sold my studio. About three years ago I dove headfirst into the software program Logic and never looked back. I do all of my music writing on the program now and, while it was a huge, huge learning curve (as well as about $5000 invested in computer hardware, software, and sounds), I’ve never once regretted trading in the clunky early 90’s underpowered software for a truly state-of-the-art monster sequencing/recording program that uses software instruments and a super powerful 27″ iMac with an i7 chip and 12gb of RAM to handle all of the sound duties (this will all sound so quaint in 10 years). I love using Logic and wish I’d have made the switch earlier. Unfortunately, one of the downsides to the changeover was that all of the MIDI hardware that I had taken years and years researching and purchasing was, at one stroke, completely outdated. I had about 2 dozen MIDI modules and various devices that were suddenly technologically moribund but since I had some emotional attachment to them, and since they still provided some cool looking blinky lights and made the studio look all official, I kept them around. Losing value. So this year I finally undertook the months-long process of unwiring them from the equipment racks, testing them out, boxing them up, and listing them on ebay. Eight months and $600 in shipping costs later my equipment racks are almost empty. I made quite a bit more on the equipment than I had thought and it’s nice to have it all gone, but I’ll miss the cool looking equipment. Technology marches on!

Props: I continued my prop building exercised by taking on a total of 6 groups’ props for the show. This was obviously insane since each build session takes up an entire weekend as well as hours and hours planning, designing, and spreadsheeting materials costs. I had self-limited to just four groups but somehow miscounted and had five. Then when I was approached to build a Revolutionary War cannon, how could I refuse? Along with the cannon I also built 40 flintlock muskets, a giant tiara, a huge set of doors (that, alas, were cut from the show), various platforms, chairs, hanging things, several of the ubiquitous 4′ cubes (boring!), as well as a set of 5′, 6′, and 7′ tall 3d mushrooms. I absolutely loved the process and even though I spent many precious days during the holidays in the cold garage and standing at a CNC machine, the time spent with these clients and friends was more than worth it. It’s a chance, especially for the girls, for them to get some of their first ever experience with power tools building “real” things. Here are a few pics:

CNC cut ribs and supports for the mushrooms. This took probably 6 hours on the CNC ShopBot router:


Giant doors made in my shop. They eventually got cut from the act (unfortunately the opening song got cut and the doors went with it- wow, what a lot of work out the window).


Long log “tunnel” for a wood nymph/fairies act (great costumes in this one):


Finished and covered mushrooms (that’s the Sing director Cheryl on the left being goofy for the camera):




Huge hanging tiara for a hilarious “Toddlers and Tiaras” act:



The big cannon with the small laser cut version I built for their approval. I wanted to build a pneumatic gun into the barrel (it would have been fairly easy) but didn’t want the potential responsibility of handing over a semi-legal weapon to a bunch of college guys. “Liability” writ large:




One of the 40 muskets made from plywood and ENT conduit with a laser cut flint mechanism (you can see the long line of muskets on the table in the pic below). They looked great from the house! I also laser cut 40 small tags that had the name of the group and the title of the act (you can see it on the rifle butt). I had several guys tell me that they were framing theirs to remember the experience.


And finally, one of my favorites, taken by the BU advertising dept. This act ended up tying for first place. Can’t wait to see it again at Pigskin in a few weeks!:


Back in the Spring Sean and his son Liam came up and we joined forces to make a giant trebuchet for our friend Ken. He gave it to his dad as a gift. What a great time! We build the thing on the back of Ken’s huge gooseneck trailer out of pressure treated wood and serious hardware. Alas, the first time Ken fired it the main axle bent (that’s what happens when a 28′ trebuchet has only a 1″ thick steel axle). A quick repair and it was back in business. Still needs to undergo extensive testing if you ask me:



Yeah, my neighbors don’t know what to think of me.


Much of this crazy building was supported by the annual membership I got at TechShop. If you’ve read this blog at all you’ll know how squeally-fangirl I get about TechShop, so I won’t go into it overmuch here except to say that it’s a brain-spinningly awesome place to hang out and get your creative juices going. Laser cutters, CNC routers, 3d printers, welders, metal shop, wood shop, electronics bay, vinyl cutter, heavy duty computer software, free popcorn, tea, and coffee, and a whole host of members who are good at different disciplines. This place has changed my creative life. Totally worth the membership.

Hang Gliding Lessons! A childhood dream since I was nine or ten, this was made all the more special by the fact that my wonderful wife bought it for me as a Christmas gift! Gutsy choice, that. Alas, I had to wait until the heat of the summer to use it (and scorchingly hot it was, too… 103 degrees!). While I only got some short flights in on account of being at the “utter newbie” level, it was still one of the most memorable things I’ve done in a long, long time. I’d really like to do the extended class some day and get some even longer flights in. And who knows? Maybe someday I’ll take that step off a cliff. If you didn’t see it, here’s a little video of the experience:

We were once again blessed by our friends Bridget and Neil when we did them the favor (ahem) of house-sitting in Colorado. They’re gone for most of the summer every year and this is now the 4th year that we’ve escaped the brutal Texas summer heat. This year we spent 22 wonderful, relaxing, and low stress days in their beautiful house. I got 9 books read, we went to the Denver Aquarium and visited all our old favorite haunts, including a great little Irish pub who’s only downside is its longitudinal deficiency. We watched the sunrises and sunsets from the huge deck at the house, drank good wine, roamed around Colorado Springs, and enjoyed a record 19 consecutive days of wonderful rain. This was probably the best time we’ve had up there. So grateful!

Denver Aquarium:



Sunday brunch at Jack Quinn’s Irish Pub:


Sunrise from the 900 sq ft deck:



While we were there we did our annual tradition and Camped in Colorado: for three glorious days we sat under the pine trees next to a creek and read, got rained on, made camp food, watched the deer, and did even less than nothing. There is nothing that relaxes me more than getting out into the forest for an extended period. Even though it’s only a few days a year it’s still something that I look forward to and cherish:




Definitely going back to the Collegiate Peaks campground.

One more adventure we had this year in Colorado was an absolutely blow-out dinner at our favorite restaurant, the Dushanbe Tea House annual Tea Dinner. What an incredible experience! A five course meal where every course had a different tea as a main ingredient. We each got something different for each course and split it between us. One of the most memorable dinners I can remember:



Tea Dinner Menu
First Course
salmon, genmaicha green tea broth, rice, nori, ginger,
radish sprouts, toasted sesame seeds, fresh wasabi

Tung Ting Oolong Poached Chicken
Heirloom tomatoes, melted leeks


Second Course
Black Dragon Tail Black Tea Marbled Egg
frisse, crispy potatoes, micro herbs, aioli,
black dragon tail tea vinaigrette


Keemun Hong Mao Feng Smoked Duck
napa cabbage, sweet peppers, pickled carrots,
jasmine pearl tea dressing


Third Course
Sweet Tea Brined Pork Chop
Three Leaf Farm Succotash,
white peach tea potato puree


Genmaicha Polenta, Portabella and
Heirloom Tomato Napoleon
Peaches and Cream Corn Sauce,
seared TLF Greens and Toasted Puffed Rice


Tres Cambric Tea Cake
Lady Grey, Mate Carnival, Honey Orchid
with Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream


All served with several pots of wonderful Black Dragon tea and foccaccia bread with tea-infused olive oil. Just decadent. Here’s the “after” pic:


Totally worth it.

Adding to my list of unique experiences from the year, we got to fire an AR15: I had mentioned to a friend that I’ve never had a chance to fire a “black rifle” and he told me that he had an AR15 that we were welcome to try out. So Erin and I took him up on the offer and spent an hour or so gleefully putting holes in a big 50 gallon plastic barrel. Not nearly as violent or powerful as I’d thought it would be. In fact, contrary to everything that’s been implied by the media and certain politicians, the gun isn’t a “fully automatic machine gun”, nor is it more powerful than a hunting rifle (a standard well-accepted 30.06 deer rifle is many, many times more powerful). An AR15 isn’t even a true “assault rifle” in that it’s lacking most of the features of these military-only weapons. Sure, it has the cosmetic features (it’s black, it has the cosmetic barrel shroud that protects hands from a hot barrel, and it might or might not have a mount for a bayonet), but otherwise it’s pretty much a normal, underpowered .223 rifle. Yes, the projectile it fires is only. 003 inches bigger in diameter than the bullet that came out of my childhood .22. Anyway, politics and misreporting aside, it was a lot of fun to shoot and we appreciate our friend’s generosity. Erin even got in on the act and had a lot of fun.



Drove a Bobcat. Thanks to friend Ken Fowler, I was able to fulfill another boyhood dream when I got to drive his Bobcat front loader. And what big kid wouldn’t want to do that? Happily the only thing that I managed to damage was his driveway from my gleeful out-of-control donuts. Dang! Can’t find the video now. Sean, can you hook me up again? I’ll repost it here.

Finally, one thing I’ve recently done that I’ve enjoyed a lot is joining a local Austin board gaming group. The group meets each Sunday and Wednesday for a random assortment of board games of the more epic and Euro-style persuasion: think Settlers of Catan, Agricola, Drum Roll) as well as more pickup games like Love Letter, King of Tokyo, etc. It’s been a great way to blow off steam after spending way too many hours staring into a computer all day. This lets me get my fix of board games as well as get out of my studio for a few hours each week. I’ve met a lot of new people, and some of them even have social skills. 🙂

So that’s year 43 in the books. New friends and old, travel, experiences, and learning. What fun! I always wonder what the next year brings and this past year was no disappointment. I wonder what’ll happen next year?

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