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Thursday, February 7th, 2008

Subject:Writers' Strike; TV; Commercials
Time:10:03 pm.
As an aspiring screenwriter, I support the writers currently on strike. I hope the strike ends soon with the writers gaining something out of all this fuss.

Around December I had ongoing thoughts about where I could be right now had my original plans out of college materialized fantastically. I had planned to move out to Hollywood and try to make a living as a struggling screenwriter. I decided to stay in Houston and find a "day job" as I wrote on the side.

I figured living in Hollywood would be too expensive, and I did not have a solid project to sell. Also, the industry out there is immensely competitive. Everyone wants to sell their story. The "struggling" part would be entirely too real. I would have had to really work on my craft, and I estimated it would have taken about two to three years to actually sell a good story. Writers do not make spectacular money, anyway. For me, writing was not about the money. I would have been thrilled if one of my projects were sold and made into an actual motion picture.

Had my original plan found success, I would be out there picketing with all the other writers and displaced studio crew members. I imagine my income would be very little or close to nothing, and I would probably be living in an overpriced hole-in-the-wall space.

I can still hone my craft here in Houston. All along, I have thought about scenes and dialogue and characters and situations in my head. In terms of actual "writing," I admit I have not put anything on paper since the last pages of script I turned in for the Advanced Writing for the Popular Market course at Baylor. That's horrible. I should write every day.

Looking at where I could be now, things are going pretty well. I have a great job, incredible job security, and the pay, while still not spectacular, is comfortable and consistent. Now I have a big house, lots of toys, and many resources for all of my interests. I have great friends and family, and I have met lots of cool people over the past few years, as well.

It's funny how so much has come out of a dream that hasn't come true.

Before the writers' strike halted production on the new fall season's programming, what I saw of the new season was more interesting and compelling than in seasons past. I can't contribute that to any one reason. I don't remember being interested in the new offers of recent past seasons. Maybe it was because my work schedule late last year allowed me to finally watch primetime programming. Maybe there was a stronger batch of new series last year. I liked what I saw, and I really wish I could have seen the entire season run of two new series in particular: NBC's Chuck and Life. These two shows kept me entertained week after week. Really good stuff.

When the writers' strike started, the late night programs were the first to halt production. That disappointed me, but I found a silver lining in all that, too. When Late Night With Conan O'Brien resumed production without writers on 2 January, the material aired to fill the space where the written bits would have been were actually pretty unique. Sometimes, I laughed pretty hard.

What I enjoyed most about the unwritten pieces were the opportunities to experiment with entertainment concepts and the revealing glimpses of what goes on behind the scenes at Late Night. Conan had lots of fun with laser light shows from behind his desk to a zip line that ran from the rear of the studio audience down to his desk. He gave his viewers a look at what the atmosphere was like in the offices during the strike. That branched out to remotes with other people who work behind the scenes, including: production, props, and costumes. I found that stuff pretty interesting.

I have also enjoyed several commercials the past few months. I like all the Bassett Furniture spots. They are realistic and touching, much different from all the other manic furniture store ads. [As a result, I plan to buy furniture from that store.] The Citi credit card commercial with the father and son trip to Norway is shot beautifully and makes me smile. The Apple iPhone commercials are also neat. Simple production with happy background music. I don't plan to buy an iPhone, but I do want an iPod touch.

Speaking of good music in commercials, three spots use pop music tastefully to showcase their products or services. I fell in love with Ingrid Michaelson's voice through the Old Navy commercials last winter. I bobbed my head whenever I heard Electric Light Orchestra highlight the Honda Accord. Most recently, an Amos Lee song is featured in a cute AT&T spot. Good good stuff. Well-done commercials are real treats.

Three companies had one really beautiful young woman in each of their commercials in the past:
Ford ~ smiling and moving in for a hug at the back of a tailgate; "Summer savings days are here"
GAP ~ singing "Give a Little Bit" while holding a white scarf behind her butt
Carnival Cruise Lines ~ smiling and dancing to "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" on a tropical beach with a group of other women

Their names may never be known, but I will forever remember them.
Comments: Add Your Own.

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

Subject:Spending Money
Time:12:25 am.
With all the recent buzz about our nation's weak economy, I thought about my spending habits for a bit. I am a good example of how to pump money into the economy. I don't know if my contributions help any significant amount, but I do know that my once-healthy savings account has purchased some cool stuff for a lot of people.

Last year's holiday spending generally was not so rosy. Shoppers cut back on their holiday purchases because of rising fuel, food, and energy costs. Every year, my spending around the end of the year goes up. Last year, it went way up.

I do buy a lot of things for myself. I treat myself very well. Most of my purchases involve guitars, Amazon.com, or Starbucks. The Container Store figures in pretty well, too.

However, last year saw me spending lots of money on other people: friends and complete strangers. Maybe I get some jollies by seeing someone's small materialistic wish become fulfilled instantaneously. Maybe I just want to be a good friend. Maybe it's for the Amazon.com Platinum Visa card rewards points.

A look at where all my money went:

Guitars and amplifiers: It goes without saying that I'm a freak for great guitars and amplifiers. I call them "acquisitions." Not counting the Dick Dale Stratocaster I received in May, I bought five twelve-string Rickenbacker guitars (four were down payments, and they still have not reached the store) for my birthday. All the guitars were priced at over $2,000; the Carl Wilson Signature was over $2,600. I also acquired a near mint condition original 1964 Fender Vibroverb amplifier (highly sought after by collectors) for $5,000, and I had a custom Anvil Case made for the amp.

Amazon.com: Here's where the rewards points accumulate the most. I spent several thousands of dollars here. Most purchases included DVDs, books, and CDs. I also bought calendars, a computer, software, a high-definition digital hard disk camcorder, digital cameras, dress boots, lounge pants, and dress vests. Some items were gifts. Most of the books and some of the CDs were purchased only because Amazon.com decreased the price. I didn't need them immediately, and they were stored in my Shopping Cart for future purchases. As an Amazon Prime member, I got free two-day shipping on almost all of those items.

Starbucks: I had a staggering thought on Sunday while reviewing Starbucks receipts. If I cut Starbucks out completely, I could save two to three thousand dollars a year. When I worked in the jail, I went every evening and bought a venti coffee with one or two shots of espresso (two shots for a double shift) and two pastries, sometimes three or a sandwich. During the Academy, I went to Starbucks before and after work. The order was usually a quad grande mocha and two pastries in the morning, and a hot and cold drink in the afternoon, both venti. I always tipped each trip, and I rarely received discounts.

The one Starbucks trip where I received a generous discount, I refused it. This is an example of spending money on complete strangers.

On 8 December 2007, I went to the Willowbrook Starbucks with Kathy. Prior to that stop, we had sushi for lunch (I've been eating sushi more frequently lately, as well). Kathy knew what I had planned at the Starbucks, and she wanted to see what would happen.

I had a "Pass the Cheer" stunt planned. I ordered my drink, Kathy ordered her drink, I started to pay for both of us, and then I told the barista, "Keep it open. For the next fifteen minutes, put every customer's order on this card. But don't tell them what's going on or who I am." The barista stared at me in disbelief. Kathy said, "Yes, he's serious." I told the barista we would be at a table watching everything and wouldn't go anywhere. She said, "How generous of you," and the "Pass the Cheer" stunt began.

Kathy and I sat at a table across from the register and watched all the customers in line. This started at 15:30 on a Saturday during Christmas rush, so the place was pretty busy. We sat and watched and laughed at the strange looks on all the people's faces. It was amazing to look at how people reacted to getting something free of charge. For a little bit, I stood off to the side, and I heard the barista tell the customers there was a "Secret Santa" that day. People were looking all over the store and outside to see who this "Secret Santa" might be. And then some would point and whisper to one another a speculation.

After fifteen minutes, I walked up to the registers. There happened to be no line behind Kathy and me. The barista thankfully told me, "I've gotten so many 'Thank yous.'" Because most of the customers were intent on paying, some put more money into the tip containers. I said "Good" and asked what I was up to. The barista told me the amount, and I said, "That's it? It's going to have to be thirty minutes, now." Turns out they had given me some kind of executive discount. It ended up being about 30% off the total. I refused the discount adamantly, and another barista restored my tab to full price. I paid with the Amazon.com card and tipped them a twenty into the container, saying, "You might want to hide that. It looks unsightly on top."

After shaking hands and exchanging Merry Christmases with the baristas, Kathy and I left. After turning away from the registers, I muttered to Kathy, "Sucks to be whoever comes in now." We laughed and walked out.

Outside on the patio, a man wearing a Santa hat played upbeat jazzy Christmas music on an electric keyboard to a pre-recorded backing track. As I walked outside, I said, "Hey, there's a guy playing keyboard!" I walked up to the keyboard, readied my left hand, and played a low 'C' three times to the beat. The man stopped playing and looked at me as if I were going to play something. I stopped short, acted puzzled, and said, "Man, I thought I knew the song" and just walked off. Kathy cracked up, and the patio patrons laughed. The man laughed too, but I think it was more of a frustrated laugh, one that wordlessly said, "Hey, some a-hole just messed up my song."

I like to have fun like that a lot. Most of the time, no one is there to witness my antics, but I still do it anyway, for fun.

Food: I eat out occasionally, but almost all of the time it's by myself and simple, like a burger for lunch. When I am with a friend or even a group of people, I like to sneak and pay for everything. That's one thing I will always buy for someone else: a meal. The biggest example of this was dinner out at the Downtown Aquarium to celebrate Kathy's birthday. A total of nine of us went out: me, Bryan, Kathy, and some of Bryan's and Kathy's respective family members. It was hard, but I managed to alert the server I wanted to pay all of the bill. In the end, I did get the big bill, but Glenn almost got it away from me for a split second.

Guns: I went out to a gun show at Reliant Center with Bryan and Kathy, and our main purpose was to shop for shotguns. I didn't find one I liked, but Bryan found one that he loved. He gets in line to check out, fills out all the paperwork, shows all the necessary documents, and gives the salesman his bank card. It comes back as expired. We [me, Kathy, and Jonathan Dixon (a fellow Academy classmate)] all laugh at Bryan's misfortune and the priceless look on his flushed face. After I stop laughing and wipe the tears from my eyes, I handed the salesman my Amazon.com Visa and said, "Here. I'll pay for it. Can I do that?" I paid for Bryan's shotgun, he kissed me on the head, and all was well. Until...

We all went to Academy Sports and Outdoors to buy Kathy a shotgun. Bryan, being the persistent child he is, wanted to try his bank card again at the front register. He is convinced this time it will work because he will swipe the card himself on the console. The card comes up expired. Again, I laugh. Again, with the tears. Again, I pull out my card and hand it to him. We joked that I bought more guns with my card than they had the money to.

I eventually bought my own shotgun at Carter's Country. And then I ordered another handgun from C and G Wholesale last Tuesday. A holster was purchased for that gun, as well.

Gift Registries: My best Baylor roommate Russ got married on 29 December, and weeks beforehand, I contacted him about helping him with items on his and Meg's wedding registry. They were registered at Bed Bath and Beyond and Crate and Barrel. I ended up getting them a really nice linen set and a food processor from Bed Bath and Beyond. From Crate and Barrel, I picked the most expensive item they had listed: a five drawer chest. Why not do something nice for my best Baylor bud?

My Academy buddy Trey and his wife Erica were expecting a little girl. They were registered at Babies 'R' Us. I bought a crib for them. Trey called me during our Christmas holidays [I was sick] when he received the package a few days before Christmas and told me his wife said that just made her Christmas. That was a nice feeling.

Evelyn: Okay, so this doesn't fall into the end of last year, but I want to mention it because I don't talk about my crushes very often or... ever. Evelyn was a bank teller at Washington Mutual back when I worked at Café Ko. I'd see her when I deposited all my money weekly, and I developed a crush on her. She is beautiful. I used to buy little plush dolls and cards and present her with a little gift bag for each holiday. One time, I invited her to the Little Shop of Horrors performance at the Hobby Center. I remember her exact words when she declined to go with me: "I'm with someone." Sadly, I found no one else to attend the performance with me, and I went to the show by myself. One ticket wasted, one empty seat next to me. It was a good show, too.

Evelyn eventually promoted to financial services representative and moved to the desk to the right of the lobby. I visited her on Thursday (17 January) after picking up the cashier's check for the house closing cost. I was in full uniform because I had attended the Promotional Ceremony that morning at 701. I also knew she was still there after all these years because I had deposited some cash earlier in the week.

I said hello to her, she said hello and, "I didn't know you were a cop." I asked her, "What's new with you?" She shrugged and replied, "Just sittin' here." We talked for a short while. I apologized for not keeping in touch very well and jokingly told her not to get mad. Somewhere, I said, "It's like we're growing up." She replied with something like, "We must all blossom." I said "No." We had a semi-cute back-and-forth. It was like we were actual friends and not supercute bank employee-awkward customer.

I looked at her name plate on the desk at one point in our short conversation. Her last name was different. Turns out Evelyn is married now. I was disheartened, but happy at the same time. Seeing her new last name killed any chance I had of hoping she was single by that time and would even look at me.

That night, I went to Amazon.com and selected some items to send to Evelyn for late wedding gifts. I ended up picking out a great food processor, the same really nice digital camera I bought for myself, an Apple 16 GB iPod touch, and a leather case for the iPod touch. Maybe these gifts were a bit much for someone who doesn't know me outside of being a bank customer, but it shows that I care. Every gift had a little message saying Congratulations and such.

So that's where most of my money went. Other purchases include ordinary stuff: household items, gas, AT&T bill, fees, etc.

The goal now: pay off my credit cards, rebuild my liquid assets, and spend money on furnishings and work for the house.

The goal for the end of the year: have at least $20,000 in a high-yield savings account or have money invested in a broad index of stocks.

Can it be done? I shall find out.
Comments: Add Your Own.

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

Subject:New House
Time:11:55 pm.
I am a 25-year-old single homeowner.

I closed on a house Friday morning, 18 January. The appointment at Fidelity National Title was set at ten, but we started early because we all got there early. Everything was finished shortly after eleven. Parties present: me, home seller Vernetta Gonzales, realtor Crystal Mendell, mortgage banker James Koss, and Fidelity National Title representative Kemberly A. Warren.

The house is beautiful. It is located in the Ashcreek neighborhood right outside the Beltway and just off of Bammel-North Houston. Built in 1999, it features two stories, four bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths, and a two-car attached garage. Inside, there is 2,812 square feet. It is pretty spacious for a single guy, but the price was not bad for the square footage. I was also lucky the interest rate dropped during the loan application process. My excellent credit score qualified me for 100% financing at a fixed rate over thirty years.

This was the third house I researched. I came across it while browsing online listings. I focused my search for properties based on proximity to Northwest Fire Department Station 42. I also wanted the property to be in Patrol District I. The small neighborhood and location are great. The house is minutes from my hot spots: 1960, 249, The Container Store, Barnes & Noble, Fuddruckers, Starbucks, and Willowbrook Mall.

The four bedrooms are all upstairs, as is the game room. The living room, den, dining room, kitchen, breakfast, and utility room are all downstairs. All the bedrooms are big, and they all have walk-in closets. They are also all wired for cable. I will get the master bedroom. The second largest bedroom will house all my guitars and music equipment. The third and fourth bedrooms will be guest bedrooms or extra storage areas.

All the space in the house gives me the opportunity to create custom work areas. I plan to create a computer center on the left wall of the game room. Because the master bedroom is so big, I'll put a queen-sized bed by the far wall, and the near wall can be a work/casual area. I know I want at least four Sony high-definition LCD television sets: one each in the living room, den, game room, and master bedroom. And every room I work in will have an amplifier so I can play guitar in any room I want.

The house is ready for move-in as is, but there is a lot I wish to do to the interior to customize everything to my tastes. I want to rip out the carpet and install laminate flooring throughout the whole house. Recessed lights with dimmers will be installed. The kitchen will ultimately be outfitted with a Silestone countertop, cherry cabinets, and ceramic tile. I want to change out the tile in the restrooms as well. I also want to replace all the toilets. The total cost of all this work is up in the tens of thousands, but first I need a refrigerator, a washer, and a dryer.

Bryan and Kathy dropped by yesterday and took a tour of the empty house, and they loved all of it. Kathy is jealous the master walk-in closet is huge. Bryan kept on saying the place was so big that now I have to get married and have little Simons. They brought me the first item to ever go in the house: a framed photo of the three of us at the Graduation Ceremony. We went out to Fuddruckers to eat afterwards.

Getting the house turned into a great home will take a few months and thousands of dollars, but I plan to keep my house as open to all my buddies as possible. Anyone who needs a place to crash or wants a cool place to hang out is welcome anytime.

Less than three weeks into the new year, and already two huge life changes have happened. Feels like I'm growing up.
Comments: Read 2 orAdd Your Own.

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

Subject:Mike Meros (1950-2007)
Time:10:33 pm.
I just learned that Mike Meros passed away unexpectedly on 26 December 2007.

I was deeply saddened to read this news. Mike Meros' Hammond B-3 organ and keyboards performance with the Beach Boys on 4 July 2001 has stood out among all of the stellar instrumental performances I have seen live.

I hung out behind the stage at that show, and I only saw bits and pieces of Mike's performance from stage right. The first time I saw the Beach Boys live, on 4 July 2000, was also when I was introduced to Mike's mastery of the keyboards and especially the power of the Hammond organ.

Mike had command over the organ. Most Beach Boys songs had organ in the background or in a small solo, but Mike took his Hammond B-3 and carried the songs with intricate chord melodies and driving solos. The most memorable performances for me were his small solos in "Don't Worry Baby," "Be True to Your School," "Surfin' U.S.A.," and "Kokomo."

The fill in "Do It Again," right after Mike Love sings the verse "Well I've been thinkin' 'bout / All the places we've surfed and danced and / All the faces we've missed / So let's get back together and do it again," is always in my head. I hear it all the time just like I heard it (much louder then) at the concert.

After subsequently watching the recorded broadcast of the concert, Mike became a legend to me. It was not until I watched the 2001 telecast when I discovered that that performance was Mike's last with the Beach Boys band. He retired from touring with them so he could be at home more.

I have not watched my tapes of either concert in years, and I plan to convert the content onto DVD so I protect the tapes as much as possible.

The world has lost a phenomenal musical talent. I have never realized that I think about Mike every day. I hear his solos, I see him pulling out drawbars above the keys, I see him with his glasses and his beard and his beret, and I realize that I miss him more than I know.

After hearing Mike play, and after seeing his enthusiasm and how much fun he was having behind the organ and keyboards, I not only fell in love with the Hammond organ, but I now realize that Mike's musical contributions really changed my life. Very rarely does someone perform any piece of music that I end up hearing in my head every day. In Mike's case, he's played several pieces of music that I will forever hear in my head. That is something truly special.

I was reading through some of the entries in the Guest Book for Mike, and I realize that he is the man I would ultimately like to be. Reading the entries reinforces the feeling I get when I see him perform in my head: "That is who I want to be."

Link to the Guest Book:

We love you, and we'll miss you, Mike.
Comments: Add Your Own.

Friday, January 4th, 2008

Subject:Simon is a Texas Peace Officer
Time:10:35 pm.
I am now a certified peace officer in the State of Texas.

I took the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education (TCLEOSE) licensing exam this morning. This was the career-defining big test: 250 questions, 2 hour and 45 minute time limit. I passed with an 87. Sergeant Nelson informed me (and several others) I received the highest score out of the 46 total test takers.

Aside from the computer program review questions, I did very little outside studying prior to this test. I studied more for each of the fourteen class tests than for this state test.

Though I am a certified peace officer effective late this morning after the submission of my exam, I don't actually become a Harris County deputy sheriff until 10 January during the graduation ceremony when I am sworn in by Sheriff Tommy Thomas.

With the TCLEOSE exam completed, all the major stuff is DONE. I can now relax a bit. "Relax" is subjective for me right now.

This afternoon I also signed the loan paperwork for the house I am buying. Things are really rolling along so far.

I also visited Fuller's Vintage Guitar to buy a case for my Rickenbacker Carl Wilson Signature 360/12. The latches on the original case were messed up.

A Limited Edition Custom Shop Masterbuilt Fender Stratocaster in white gold leaf finish caught my eye. I had never seen anything like it before. Price tag: $5,758.20. (That's the sale price).
To buy or not to buy? That is the question.

[At the end of this writing, I am leaning toward buying it.]
Comments: Add Your Own.

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

Subject:Happy New Year
Time:9:15 pm.
Happy New Year to you.

I hope all is well.

2008 will be a big year. A lot is scheduled to happen.
I graduate from the Harris County Sheriff's Academy on 10 January.
I am scheduled to close on a house on 18 January.

What will follow is more work, more overtime ("K-Time" in the jail), and the hectic business of furnishing and managing a new home.

A new truck is in store for this year, as well.

I am very excited about attending the Bruce Springsteen concert on 14 April.

I definitely plan to perform live somewhere with some of my buddies.

As for acquisitions, more amplifiers and guitar accessories will be added to my collection.
The four new Rickenbacker 660/12 guitars will come in sometime this year (hopefully).

All along, there will be careful planning on "the next big thing." I don't know what it is exactly, but it's big.

There's a lot to do, and hopefully I will have the time and energy to keep documenting my adventures here.
Comments: Add Your Own.

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

Subject:Five New Guitars
Time:11:11 pm.
I do not update this LiveJournal as consistently as I did during my years at Baylor. Over the past half year, much has happened, and I have been extremely busy and preoccupied with training in the Harris County Sheriff's Academy. There are a bunch of thoughts I have had, but I rarely had time to visit this site and update. Additionally, the frustration of an old computer frustrated me to no end and discouraged more frequent updates. Now that things have slowed considerably, and also with a new computer, I will try to keep you updated on the recent goings-on and what is to come in the near future.

The big news of the day: I have expanded my guitar collection once again. In total, five guitars will be added to my collection.

Only one guitar was completely paid for and taken home today, and it could not be more special. I am now the proud owner of a Carl Wilson Limited Edition Signature Rickenbacker 360/12 electric guitar.

Charles from Guitar Center called me on my birthday and informed me about this guitar's whereabouts at the Brea, California, Guitar Center. A few weeks ago, I had requested he search for a Rickenbacker 660/12. Guitar Center does not deal Rickenbacker anymore, and there was no way the guitar I wanted could be special ordered, so Charles was on the hunt for me for one available at mint or near mint condition. [Let me add that the only reason I wanted a Rickenbacker 660/12 was because I wanted the exact guitar Steven Van Zandt plays with Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. I saw it for the first time during CBS' broadcast of Live in Barcelona. Incidentally, that was on a Friday evening in the dorm room sophomore year at Baylor, and Rachel also came over. So the "Gotta Have It" factor was already high.]

There are certain guitar characteristics that really stir my enthusiasm. I believe the medical term for this is "freakin' nuts." The second Charles said what this guitar was, my immediate thought was: I've gotta have it.

What makes this guitar so special?

Carl Wilson Limited Edition Signature Rickenbacker 360/12

The artist name sold the guitar in itself. Carl Wilson is, of course, Brian Wilson's younger brother and one of the original founding members of the Beach Boys. I was extremely saddened to read of his death on 2 February 1998 from lung cancer. His Limited Edition Signature Rickenbacker model was produced only in 2000, and this is #388 of only 500 guitars produced. Actually, I did not even know this Signature model existed until the night before my birthday when I was online looking for images of the Rickenbacker 660/12. So Charles' phone call about this guitar on the very next day was coincidental.

No one really knows this, but I had been a fan of the Rickenbacker 360/12 for years. The "360" is the model number, and the "12" signifies a twelve-string model. Rickenbacker guitars are iconic instruments known for their legendary sound (the "jingle-jangle") and artist association. Tom Petty plays several Rickenbackers. George Harrison and John Lennon of the Beatles both played Rickenbackers. Inspired by George Harrison's twelve-string, Roger McGuinn of the Byrds picked up a 360/12, and that leads in to inspiring me.

I saw Roger McGuinn play "Mr. Tambourine Man" on the PBS Rock and Roll documentary in 1996, and I've been a fan of the Rickenbacker twelve-string ever since. (I still have the videotape). Seeing the Rickenbacker Roger McGuinn Signature model years ago at Guitar Center added to my interest, and I even put that experience in a small poem written in Mrs. Capps' class freshman year.

This Carl Wilson Signature Rickenbacker marks the first twelve-string guitar in my collection.
It also marks the first used ("pre-owned"?) guitar I have ever purchased.

Not One... Not Two... Not Three...

Now for the really crazy stuff. Before the visit to pick up the Carl Wilson guitar, I visited Fuller's Vintage Guitar just off the 610 West Loop. Remember that Little Steven's Rickenbacker 660/12 holds a very high "Gotta Have It" factor. Guitar Center doesn't deal Rickenbacker anymore, and I want this guitar badly.

I called Fuller's Vintage Guitar last weekend and asked if they could special order the 660/12 in Jetglo, just like Little Steven's guitar. The guy I was speaking to was Eric. I met him years ago, the first time I visited Fuller's Vintage Guitar. He remembered me, and he even remembered I played a few things from Pet Sounds during that visit.

He informed me the 660/12 I wanted was already on the way. After months of searching for this guitar on the market, this really surprised me. I learned Eric had already ordered the 660/12 for the store's inventory. All I had to do was go in personally and put down a payment to hold my order.

Apparently, the Rickenbacker company is notorious for long waits between dates of order and order fulfillment. Eric told me the order for the 660/12s was placed on 13 April of this year, and they still had not made it to the store, nor did Eric know when they would. I suspect this is one of the reasons Guitar Center is not a dealer anymore. In order for me to get this guitar, I had to place my order and then wait patiently for the stock to ship to the store.

Knowing about the long delay between order and fulfillment, and also knowing about the iconic nature of Rickenbacker guitars, I set a personal record: I bought four guitars at once.

Call me crazy, but these guitars are hard to get, and Rickenbacker fans are rabid for these instruments.

I ordered the Rickenbacker 660/12 in all four finishes that Eric ordered for the store: Jetglo, Mapleglo, Fireglo, and Amber Fireglo. All the same model guitar; I just had to have it in four different finishes. After paying 20% down payment, now I just wait patiently for the guitars to reach the store. (And they won't all come at the same time). These guitars also mark my first purchases from Fuller's Vintage Guitar.

Do you realize that, in one afternoon, I ordered over $11,000 worth of Rickenbacker twelve-string guitars? I call them "Acquisitions." Crazy. But worth it. They are so beautiful! I keep looking at the Carl Wilson model (a Fireglo finish), and I still can't believe how beautiful it is, and I own it!

With all five of these Rickenbacker twelve-strings, my guitar collection is up to fourteen. I am probably done for this year, but you never know.

Everyone sing along!
"... in the jingle-jangle morning I'll come following you."

Entries to be Written Soon: Backdated entries for original 1964 Fender Vibroverb amplifier and special Birthday dinner with Rachel.
Comments: Add Your Own.

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

Subject:Jazz musician Max Roach dies at 83
Time:11:55 pm.
NEW YORK -- Max Roach, a master percussionist whose rhythmic innovations and improvisations provided the dislocated beats that defined bebop jazz, has died after a long illness. He was 83.

The self-taught musical prodigy died Wednesday night at an undisclosed hospital in Manhattan, said Cem Kurosman, spokesman for Blue Note Records, one of Roach's labels. No additional details were available, he said.

Roach received his first musical break at age 16, filling in for three nights in 1940 when Duke Ellington's drummer fell ill.

Roach's performance led him to the legendary Minton's Playhouse in Harlem, where he joined luminaries Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie in the burgeoning bebop movement. In 1944, Roach joined Gillespie and Coleman Hawkins in one of the first bebop recording sessions.

What distinguished Roach from other drummers were his fast hands and his ability to simultaneously maintain several rhythms. By layering different beats and varying the meter, Roach pushed jazz beyond the boundaries of standard 4/4 time.

Roach's innovative use of cymbals for melodic lines, and tom-toms and bass drums for accents, helped elevate the percussionist from mere timekeeper to featured performer - on a par with the trumpeter and saxophonist.

"One of the grand masters of our music," Gillespie once observed.

In a 1988 essay in The New York Times, Wynton Marsalis wrote of Roach: "All great instrumentalists have a superior quality of sound, and his is one of the marvels of contemporary music. ... The roundness and nobility of sound on the drums and the clarity and precision of the cymbals distinguishes Max Roach as a peerless master."

Throughout the jazz upheaval of the 1940s and '50s, Roach played bebop with the Charlie Parker Quintet and cool bop with the Miles Davis Capitol Orchestra. He joined trumpeter Clifford Brown in playing hard bop, a jazz form that maintained bebop's rhythmic drive while incorporating the blues and gospel.

He was survived by five children: sons Daryl and Raoul, and daughters Maxine, Ayl and Dara.
Comments: Add Your Own.

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007

Subject:New Year, New Guitar, New Ideas
Time:10:30 pm.
Happy New Year to you.

Today is my first off day since November 15. I just completed 48 consecutive days of work with no off days, and counting my overtime double shifts, I worked a total of 75 consecutive shifts. I am a little tired.

I fully intended to sleep most of the afternoon, but I woke up early. I just did not feel like sleeping that much.

On a whim, and probably because I had some surf song in my head, I had the spontaneous urge to buy the Dick Dale Signature Stratocaster. Dick Dale is hailed as "King of the Surf Guitar." One of his most popular songs is "Misirlou," which most people recognize from the credits of Pulp Fiction. His music is a lot of fun to play. His guitar, "The Beast," looks cool. So why not get one?

I went out to Guitar Center and hung out for a bit while Charles took care of some business in the sales office. When he came out, I approached him and first told him that my newest guitars were great. I then asked him if he could special order a guitar for me. We went into the sales office, I told him I wanted the Dick Dale Signature Stratocaster, and he dialed up Fender Sales to inquire about the availability.

A Fender sales representative told Charles that it would take four to five months for the guitar to ship from their factory in California to Guitar Center. Charles asked me if that was okay, I said it was great, and I paid for the whole thing right there. The list price was over $3,200, but Charles offered it to me for $2,299.99 after discount. I thought that was not a bad deal for a Fender Custom Shop Artist model, and I ended up paying $2,473.17 for it.

The Dick Dale Signature Stratocaster is finished beautifully in chartreuse sparkle. It's very sparkly. Though I do not have it yet, this is my third new guitar purchase in thirteen days. I bought three guitars in 2005, two in 2006, and this Dick Dale Signature Strat is the first for 2007. I am sure it will not be the only guitar I purchase this year. It is the ninth guitar in my growing collection. The Dick Dale Signature Strat is also the first guitar I have ever special ordered. It is definitely not a guitar that you see everyday, and I can't wait to perform with it.

I was pumped up this whole day, full of ideas. This year, I have plans in two fronts: business and art. Specifics are hard to give right now, but I can tell you that artwise, I definitely will perform live somewhere this year. I have nine guitars now, and eight are playable live. It is time to hone my talents even more and have the guitars shine on a stage. Live shows don't have to be perfect. If I play just to have fun, that would be great.

I also have some material written about some highs and some not-so-highs of 2006. And, again, I have been meaning to share some memorable moments from Baylor, but I've been working a lot. Look for all those little bits to show up here at some time in the future.
Comments: Add Your Own.

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

Subject:Eric Johnson Signature Stratocaster Number Two
Time:6:00 pm.
I bought another guitar this afternoon.

This guitar, my eighth, is the Eric Johnson Signature Stratocaster in candy apple red finish I mentioned in the last entry.

Charles found a brand-new one, in the case in the box, in the Plano location and shipped it into Houston for me.

He opened the box and opened the case for me to check it out, and it is beautiful. The tinted neck is gorgeous, and the candy apple red finish is very vibrant.

Of course this one features the same specifications as my first Eric Johnson Signature Stratocaster, the two-color sunburst one. I just had to have it in candy apple red. No guitar collection is complete without a candy apple red guitar.

I told one of my buddies at work: Watch, once I have a candy apple red guitar, the ideas are going to flow.

Total damage: $1,673.09.
Comments: Add Your Own.

Thursday, December 21st, 2006

Subject:A Christmas gift to myself
Time:7:52 pm.
I bought a new guitar this evening.

This newest addition to my collection, my seventh guitar, is an American Vintage 1952 Fender Telecaster in butterscotch blonde finish.

This is the first Fender Telecaster in my collection. I have wanted this guitar for years.

My final sales price was $1,394.24.

Influenced by one of his promo pictures and a live concert, I had been meaning to buy the Eric Johnson Signature Stratocaster in candy apple red finish since I had first seen it on the wall at Guitar Center a few months back. Upon closer inspection, I found a small scratch on the guitar body, and I told Charles I did not want to buy that one. He told me he would look for another one in the region.

Looking back at December 2005 entries, I made a small list of my first six guitars and said that I did not know what was in store for 2006, but I was definitely looking at a 1952 Fender Telecaster. Well here I go.

I actually do not remember that I said that, but similarly: I do not know what is in store for 2007, but I am definitely looking at a Gibson ES-335 reissue in translucent red with block inlays.

And I am definitely looking at my new nurse friend Monique.

(Hey, it's worth a shot.)
Comments: Add Your Own.

Thursday, November 2nd, 2006

Subject:Happy November
Time:11:48 pm.
Hello, all. I hope you have been well these past few months. It has been quite a while since I last visited you.

The big news, as of a few minutes ago, is that, pending my payments to post to my accounts, I am now officially out of credit card debt. Woohoo!

This is a great feeling, to be back in black. I had paid off the Amazon.com Platinum Visa card on 03 October, and all that was left was my Guitar Center Preferred Player Credit Card, for which I still owed $1,726.71. This was the Eric Johnson Signature Fender Stratocaster I bought in December of last year on a no payment, no interest deal.

I've had the funds for several months now, but I never got around to sending in a check or logging on to my account online. Now I am out of debt and I plan to stay out, baby!

I have been in credit card debt since August 2004. I had paid off all my balances then, and then buying books for college courses put me back in the hole. I fell deeper into the hole by overspending at Amazon.com (Christmas purchases), Guitar Center, The Container Store, Foley's, Hallmark Gold Crown, and GAP.

I recently celebrated one year of employment with the Harris County Sheriff's Department. Halloween was my start date last year, but I hired on 17 October.

Part of what helped me pay off my credit cards so fast is the overtime program with the Sheriff's Office. I have been working like crazy the past few months, and I also have not been spending too much money on unnecessary purchases.

I work double shifts (sixteen hours total), and I also work on my days off, and the time-and-a-half adds up to some great paychecks. I have been averaging over 130 hours per paycheck just in overtime pay, and lately I have been working the maximum amount of overtime allowed by policy: 144 hours. (This is overtime salary without my regular 80 hours for base salary).

Harris County Commissioners Court started paying for overtime just late last year in order to keep adequate staffing numbers. A lot of employees have been taking advantage of it. However, overtime pay with the Sheriff's Office is not going to last forever, so I am going to work as much as I can in the near future to take advantage of it myself.

As you can imagine, working so much does not leave me any time for a personal life, and I haven't had much of a life outside of work. I took a leave of absence from Northwest Fire Department 08 September just so I could beef up the overtime hours, and that took out firefighting, one of the things I most enjoyed doing.

When I work doubles, I work my regular eight at night, and then I stay over another eight hours for the day shift. Once I get off after 1400 hours, I head home, eat maybe, take a quick shower, and then I take a quick four-hour (at best) "nap" before I head back to work and do another double shift. Consequently, I do not have much time to watch television or play the guitar.

Most weeks, I work on both my days off. I have worked as many as 41 days straight without one single day off (the first 41-day stretch over all of March, and the second 41-day stretch I just completed over all of October). For the first stretch, I did maybe three doubles the entire time. For the second stretch, I was working three, four doubles per week. I have worked as many as four double shifts in a row. All of this work drains my energy, but I enjoy it so far, and the paychecks are not bad at all.

Over the past few weeks, I have been working female lockdown more often than I used to, as many as four to five days out of the week. Unlike some of my coworkers, I don't mind working female lockdown. The sergeants trust me with the half-hour rounds, and they know I will keep the lockdown pod clean. Sergeant Nimmo said I run lockdown better than anyone else. If I am not working lockdown, then I am moving all around as a floor rover, or the sergeants have me take care of trouble pods. I stay busy no matter where I am assigned.

In the near future, I will still be working a lot. I have a big Amazon.com purchase coming up, and I will look into something special for Christmas. Today's weather made me feel like shopping. This morning, I had flashbacks to several days at Baylor and driving back to Houston on chilly evenings. I have been meaning to write some entries about my memories from Baylor.

Hopefully you will hear them soon.
Comments: Read 1 orAdd Your Own.

Tuesday, January 24th, 2006

Subject:THE BIG ONE: Three Alarm Commercial Warehouse Fire
Time:2:00 pm.
As I have mentioned before, I don't like to miss working fires. I missed two house fires in one week because of work, and that ticked... me... offf. The call Monday afternoon would make up for that.

I did not hear the box alarm or the call from Harris County dispatch because I was having problems with the printer in the living room, and my pager was sitting in its charger on my bed. It was also turned down a bit so it wouldn't bother my dad.

I just happened to wash my hands, and then I went to dry my hands on a towel in my bedroom. That's when I heard that Chief Cole was already on scene. Of course I did not hear the nature of the call, but Chief reported that there were flames and heavy black smoke. The initial crew from 42 made entry into the second floor of the warehouse, but apparently the roof started to cave in, and Chief Cole pulled out all interior members and made the attack defensive.

Chief Cole then radioed Harris County dispatch and ordered a second and third alarm, additional mutual aid assistance, and five-minute updates. There were no fire hydrants in that part of our district, so Chief Cole called for multiple tanker trucks as well.

I should have left much earlier when I heard all that heavy radio traffic, but I split once Chief called for three alarms. I had already missed two working fires in the past week, and I definitely was not going to miss this one. This is the stuff I live for.

I sped as fast as I could to the station, and from Station 41, behind the trees, I could see smoke billowing from the warehouse. Two men had actually stopped into our parking lot just to watch the smoke and see what we would do from Station 41.

Gus was at the station already, and I pulled all my gear from out of my trunk and my yellow helmet from the front seat. I heard over the pager that Andrew was en route from 290 and the Beltway to pull Engine 41, so it would take him a good while to arrive at the station. Roy and Juan showed up, and we were all ready to split. However, because Roy was not authorized to drive Engine 41 yet, we had to respond in Squad 42.

The warehouse was located at S.H. 249 and Proctor, which is really not far away right behind Station 41, so it took us just half a minute to arrive on scene. Upon arrival, multiple mutual aid companies were already staged, and the Sheriff's Department was also on scene to direct traffic.

Rush hour traffic on 249 is bad enough, but it got a lot worse Monday evening, as 249 became the staging area for all incoming mutual aid companies. Fire engines lined the westbound shoulder, and more fire engines also took up space in the median of 249. That stretch of 249 became a sea of flashing reds, whites, blues, oranges, and yellows, and the simultaneous heavy humming of fire engines set on high idle was as deafening as being on the tarmac at Bush Intercontinental.

The warehouse was pretty big: about 100 by 300 feet. It was a paving company, so some pretty nasty materials were burning inside. The flames shot twenty-five to thirty feet into the air.

Once on scene, I think Roy disappeared to somewhere really fast to pull some supply hose. Gus, Juan, and myself were initially put into a resource pool for second-entry assistance.

Gus was already packed up. James Redd, Station 42 Captain, ordered me to grab an air pack from Engine 42 and join the resource pool. After a minute, a member from Aldine Fire/Rescue instructed us to go to the rear of the warehouse with the two-and-a-half inch rear discharge from Engine 42.

In the past, I had fought fires with the inch-and-three-quarter hoses, the car fire line, or donut rolls. This was my first time on the two-and-a-half inch line. Gus was initially on the nozzle, and I backed him up on the hose. A firefighter from Aldine Fire/Rescue used a diamond-toothed circular saw to cut two huge triangles out of the two garage doors. The diamond-toothed blade cuts through anything and everything. From there, another Aldine firefighter used a pick head axe to pull open the garage door segments.

The view after opening gaping holes in the garage doors was something else. It looked like a pyrotechnics unit straight out of a Hollywood action movie set. The entire middle section of the warehouse and all of its contents were engulfed in flames. The flames had already spread toward the walls of the building as well. Small pockets of flames were also tucked into various spots along the rear of the warehouse. Wall to wall, and shooting through the roof, it was huge. The roof had already mostly caved in, and the heat from the flames melted large amorphous warps into the wall of the structure.

Gus and I went to work on the flames from the outside with the two-and-a-half inch line. After we had the entryway pretty much extinguished, I tore away more of the garage door metal segments with my gloved hands, and we attacked more of the flames with two connected donut roll extensions joined onto the end of the two-and-a-half inch line. By that time, Roland and Phillip had arrived to back us up. The discharge through the donut roll extensions was not as effective as the two-and-a-half inch line. It seemed like we were peeing out a campfire with the thinner line.

With the donut roll extensions, we were able to make a more effective entry into the burning building. We made our way fifteen or twenty feet or so into the building, and we also went inside the remains of the wall of what appeared to be an office. We were not able to go too far into the building because the roof might have collapsed on us at any time. Roland said that he could hear the roof creaking down, but I didn't hear anything but a lot of noise on the fireground.

That two-and-a-half inch line is nooo joke. It kicked both our butts, and we were exhausted after knocking down most of the heavy flames. At times, it felt like the hose was wrestling us to the ground.

In all, ten fire departments showed up on scene. I do recall ten companies: Northwest Fire Department, Champions, Ponderosa, Cypress Creek, Little York, Aldine, Jersey Village, Tomball, Klein, and Spring. Almost 100 firefighters helped put out the blaze. There were also 27 units of mutual aid apparatus, including four tanker trucks in total: Northwest Tanker 43 (3,000 gallon capacity), Cypress Creek Tanker 22 (4,500 gallons), Klein Tanker 37 (3,000 gallons), and Tomball Tanker 3 (3,300 gallons). I saw two tower ladder trucks on scene: Champions Tower 11 and Ponderosa Tower 61.

It was great to see Champions Tower 11 in action. All four outrigger stabilizers were extended out, and the entire body of the truck was lifted a few inches off the ground. A supply line was hooked up, the ladder was fully extended, and water thundered out of the large nozzle at the front of the "bucket" for an aerial attack at the warehouse roof.

In all, over 20,000 gallons of water were used to extinguish the flames. We also used foam discharges at times. The call lasted over five hours, and other companies were "backed in" into our stations to handle our possible other calls while we were battling the big blaze. Several fire marshals and fire investigators also arrived, as well as someone from Centerpoint Energy.

Gus had to leave early because he had the flu, and I had to leave early to get ready for work. I heard that after the call, Chief Cole bought $250 worth of pizza, and all the remaining Northwest Fire Department members chowed down that night.

Three news helicopters showed up not long into the call, and they circled overhead with spotlights trained on the warehouse to get live news feeds. Ground cameras arrived not long after the helicopters, and I saw a news team from Channel 13 take pictures from the perimeter. Afterwards, the cameramen interviewed Chief Cole about the fire.

This fire was definitely the biggest fire I have ever seen up close. The experience was exhilarating. Nothing compares to it. There is no place I would have rather been than right there, right next to the flames, with my firefighting brothers and sisters.

It was "The Big One," indeed.
Comments: Add Your Own.

Saturday, January 21st, 2006

Subject:The Year So Far
Time:6:00 pm.
Three weeks into the new year, and this is the news.

GOALSCollapse )

PERSONALCollapse )

THE JOBCollapse )

BIG NAMESCollapse )

Comments: Add Your Own.

Thursday, January 19th, 2006

Subject:Happy Birthdays!
Time:8:00 am.
Happy 19th Birthday to my sister!

Happy 50th Birthday to Northwest Fire Department Chief Wes Cole!
Comments: Add Your Own.

Tuesday, January 10th, 2006

Subject:One goal down for the year!
Time:3:35 pm.
I got my yellow helmet yesterday!
Comments: Add Your Own.

Friday, December 16th, 2005

Subject:Northwest VFD Christmas Party
Time:11:00 pm.
The Northwest Fire Department Christmas party was held at Wyndehaven Terrace tonight.

fajita dinner
Daphne was my date
Daphne received a present from the department
I received a present from the department
Cy-Fair and Cypress Creek fire departments covered

Details as soon as I have a chunk of time.

AT 1041 HOURS: ordered Millennium Falcon model from Code 3 Collectibles
Comments: Add Your Own.

Subject:Fire Suppression Training
Time:2:00 pm.
This morning and afternoon I had fire suppression training with the Harris County Sheriff's Department at Ponderosa Volunteer Fire Department.

Station 63
fire extinguishers
SCBA training
Hooters for lunch
smoke house
got out early

Details as soon as I have a chunk of time.
Comments: Add Your Own.

Thursday, December 15th, 2005

Subject:House Fire
Time:11:00 pm.
There was a house fire tonight.

box alarm hit just as I sat down at computer
residential fire, multiple calls
sped to Station 41
packed up
Enchanted Forest at Bridge Forest
responding apparatus: Engine 41, Engine 43, Rescue 42, Rehab 42, Engine 42, Command One, Booster 43, Squad 42, Little York Engine 81
pulled down part of wall
Gus and Rigo got lost in Booster 43

Details as soon as I have a chunk of time.
Comments: Add Your Own.

Saturday, December 10th, 2005

Subject:Live Burn
Time:11:00 pm.
Today I had live burn training at Ponderosa Volunteer Fire Department.

Station 63
Curtis J. Cook Training Facility
seven black hats
small room
controlled burn
800 degrees
three rounds
last round firefighters came out steaming

Details as soon as I have a chunk of time.
Comments: Add Your Own.

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