Old Music and New Car

After a random discovery of a CD I had been thinking about for awhile, this morning’s commute was tempered by the 10 tracks from “Super-nova” from the Mexican synth-pop group, La Siguiente Pagina.  I don’t know much about the group, but I always loved the space-themed electronic euro-dance songs on this disc from 1997.  (If I had been looking hard, I would have found the entire album online; check it out.).  

As I drove in to work, listening to track after track, I wasn’t really taken back 18 years, because for the most part, the songs have stayed surprisingly fresh, though after listening to a lot that’s being played on the SiriusXM dance channels, there were definitely a lot more BPMs going on in dance music back about 20 years. It’s too bad they only came out with this one album and a remix disc from one of songs, “Outer-space.”  That disc is tucked away, just waiting to be found, somewhere around the house or maybe out in the garage.

Speaking of the garage: parked inside is the new ride–a white CR-V Touring.  I had been thinking “new car” for quite some time, since Christmas really, when there was absolutely no more room in the Fiesta hatchback after loading it with presents, goodies, belongs, and dog.  It was a bit more than four years old and almost 65,000 miles.  I had had virtually no problems with it, and it squeezed great miles out of every gallon, but besides the lack of space for trips, I often felt vulnerable out on the road.  Larger vehicles gave no respect.

And respect the CR-V gets.  Maybe because it’s bigger; maybe because I drive it differently because it has more power.  I didn’t choose it for either the respect or the power.  Besides the added space, I liked the safety features that come with the    new-this=year Touring, that the other levels of the CR-V don’t have, like the LaneWatch, and the Collision Mitigation.  Also, I thought the Fiesta had really good side vision, but the mirrors on the CR-V just seem to give a wider angle of vision; the one on the driver’s side has a sort of split mirrors, so all-in-all the blind spots are really minimized.  Along with just sitting up higher, the better visibility makes my entering and exiting so much less chancy.

The car has a lot of other features that come in handy, like the automatic tailgate, but what I notice most is the space.  My Saturday groceries, which about filled up the hatchback of the Fiesta, now seem kinda dinky in the back of the CR-V.  It’s a different drive too, more solid, and I can’t just scoot into parking spaces.  However, considering the size of the vehicle, the gas mileage isn’t bad.  Each week, I’m putting in about two more gallons into the tank for my 50 mile-a-day commute plus whatever chore and fun miles are put on.  That doesn’t seem bad for the difference in the vehicles.

So I guess now I’ll have to dig around and see what other CDs I can scrounge up.  If I find enough good ones, it might be time for a road trip.

All spic-n-span after being freshly washed; yep, and still waiting for the real license plates.

All spic-n-span after being freshly washed; yep, and still waiting for the real license plates.

The back of the 2015 CR-V looks pretty similar to other years, but I hate to say it, but what makes it look different might seem to be a longhorn.

The back of the 2015 CR-V looks pretty similar to other years, but I hate to say it, but what makes it look different might seem to be a longhorn.

Celebrate the Fourth of July with Red, White, and Boy, Erm–Blue; Catch Steve Grand’s New Single and Video

I enjoy gay shorts–gay short films, that is.  They have been a staple of gay film festivals for years, and many classics as well as recent productions are available with just a brief search of youtube or dailymotion.

“All-American Boy” by out, country singer Steve Grand could stand as a short film on its own, but add the lyrics and music and this video becomes something special.  Not to mention Steve is one pretty fine firecracker.  

Download the song and read more at http://stevegrand.bandcamp.com

Get more of Steve on Twitter @stevegrandmusic and http://www.facebook.com/SteveGrandArtist

A Saturday Morning Adventure To One of Houston’s Well-kept Secrets

Passion Flower--Is there anything other to say than "Wow"?

Because Houston is a city that has experienced most of its growth in the last several decades, it feels pretty much the same, no matter which part of the city that you find yourself in.  Despite the ubiquitous strip centers, fast food restaurants, and housing developments, tucked away here and there are a number of unique places that can make for a fun outing.

Part of the grounds of Jerry's Garden, ready for the 4th of July.

Yesterday morning, a friend and I took a Saturday morning adventure to one of Houston’s best-kept secret’s, Jerry’s Jungle.  No more appropriate name could have been given to this plant menagerie, which is open to the public just a few times a year.  This private garden-cum-nursery is about a 15-minute drive north of downtown off of I-45.  Taking the exit onto Gulf Bank, then Airline, and finally Hill Street, one might feel a bit like they are somewhere in Mexico (as my friend said).

The grounds, very densely covered with all types of flowering plants and trees, occupy, what seems to be, several lots.  Most of the plants are growing in the ground, but when Jerry’s Jungle is open, there are many varieties of unusual plants for sale.  (Check out the Jerry’s Jungle website for the calendar and other offerings.)

This red clerodendron is ahowy plant. There are many other varieties. I wonder if I will be able to recognize them.

I am not good at recognizing nor naming even the more common yard and garden foliage, so I was far out of my league with the myriad of plants yesterday.  However, the beauty and variety were amazing.  Seeing everything that Jerry grows, I realized that the range of plants that we can have in our yards and gardens here in Houston is far greater than I had ever imagined.

Some of the many hardy, acclimated plants available for sale at Jerry's Jungle.

I’ll go back in October when Jerry’s Jungle is open to the public again.  By that time, I will have a better idea about some new beds I want to make in my yard, and the relentless heat should be a bit more forgiving.

After a wonderful time of encountering many different plants, when the Saturday morning heat intensified, despite the shade, my friend and I decided to take a respite at another place she knew of:  My Dee Dee’s Pie Shoppe and Deli.   Just a few blocks from Jerry’s Jungle, this is another business that seems a bit out of place.  Located in an old Victorian house with antique decorations inside to match, My Dee Dee’s was an interesting stop to get inside from the sun.  The lemon chess pie had a nice citrus tang, but was so empalagoso, that a sliver would have been enough to satisfy a sweet tooth.

What a very pleasant way to spend the first morning of a 3-day weekend, a lot more fun than a trip to Lowe’s and stopping at McDonald’s afterward.

Seeing passion fruit actually growing--another first for me.

Like so many others, the name of this beautiful flower is unknown to me. That will be the challenge if I want one to put in my flower beds.

Only A Few More Hours Before 6 PM, May 21st–Those Expectiing “The Rapture” from Earthquakes Might Get It from Tasmanian Bomb

Sex bomb, that is.  This rapturous bomb got three big yeses from the judges in “Australia’s Got Talent” this past week.  It’s long past 6 PM in Australia.  Haven’t heard about any earthquakes there yet, but if they’ve got more “bombs” like this one, let the rapture begin!

It’s Already 6 PM, Saturday, May 21st, Somewhere in the World–Has Anyone Heard the Rumble of Any Big Earthquakes Yet?

This is just another reason that shows why religion is whack.  If one preposterous story is whack, it’s all whack.

I’m going to bed, not worried that any earthquake is going to blow me out of bed, but wondering if these hand exercises I’ve been doing will help with the carpal tunnel aggravation of the last couple of mornings.

Don’t y’all take too many wooden lava rocks!

Sure Seems Like I’ve Heard It Before: New Song by Brit Singer Adele Sounds a Heckuva Lot Like “Kaw-Liga”

Spending almost 2 hours a day commuting these days, I hear a lot of music on a variety of stations.  I don’t know all the new artists, but my ear tells me there’s a lot of lifting from older music.  I can appreciate Lady Gaga’s stands on gay issues, but despite her over-the-top outfits, she’s hardly an original; nor is her music.  A lot of her songs sound a lot like pieces of Madonna’s and other dance groups’ hits.  Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro” sure sounded to me like I was hearing the old Swedish group, Ace of Base’s “Don’t Turn Around” at the beginning, then segueing in to what seemed very near to Madonna’s “Isla Bonita.”

There was a song with a male singer a month or so ago that was playing that I would have sworn was Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.”  However, I have yet to catch the title or singer of that song.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Sirius radio lately, especially to BPM (the dance music station) and BBC Radio 1.  On both, I’ve recently been hearing this song with a female singer, and I was sure I had heard it before, but just couldn’t place it.  The song is “Rolling in the Deep” by a new British singer-songwriter, named Adele.

I’m thinking that Adele might have been listening to a lot of Hank Williams Sr., the popular singer-songwriter, who died in the early 1950s.  The melody that comes from “Rolling in the Deep” sounds very similar to that of Williams’ “Kaw-Liga,” which I remember hearing a lot when I was a very little kid, because everyone in my family loved that song.  When I listen to the Adele song, I can’t help hearing “Kaw-Liga was a wooden Indian . . . .”

Adele’s version, of course, is a bit more up-tempo and ventures away from the main tune at times,  but it even has a similar drumbeat in the background.

Take a listen to both versions; play the beginnings of both songs, switching back and forth a few times, and you’ll definitely hear how similar the melodies are.  Despite not being able to get “Kaw-Liga” out of my head, I still like the Adele song quite a bit.

Here’s the Adele song:

Now here’s Hank Williams’ “Kaw-Liga”:

A Big-dicked Flower May Get You to the Museum, But Don’t Miss the Hubble Movie While You’re There

Finally, a glipse of the giant flower after wending your way through the exhibit area.

Live in or visiting the Houston area?  Now is a good time to get over to the Museum District.  After all these rains, Herman Park is green and fresh.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit the Houston Museum of Natural Science, which I’ve done many times, but right now the museum has some exhibits that are even better than usual.  All the city is abuzz about Lois, the corpse flower.  There were so many people going through that I didn’t really notice how smelly she is supposed to be.  The lines are long, but for what may be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see what is supposed to be the world’s largest flower bloom, it’s worth it.

OK, your call now. Does this huge flower look more like a Lois or a Louis?

If you’re not in Houston, you can check out a live link to see Houston’s corpse flower here.

I didn’t do my research before going to the museum, but now I’ve found that Lois’s scientific name is titan arum or Amorphophallus titanum, which means “giant misshapen penis”, which makes you wonder why the museum decided to name the plant Lois.   Maybe Louis would have been a better moniker for this big-dicked plant.

Long after Lois has become flaccid and withered, you’ll be able to see the IMAX feature, Hubble 3D.  Out of the many IMAX movies I’ve seen, this is one of the best, no, it is the best.   Narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, this is the story of the giant telescope and the painstaking work done by the NASA astronauts to get it into space and keep it working.  The movie is riveting and the 3D effects enhance the story, rather than seeming forced and kitschy, as in some 3D movies.

Take a peek at the trailer for  Hubble 3D below.   (Sorry, no 3D effects.)  Check out the schedule for IMAX films and other events at the Houston Museum of Natural Science here.

Time for Change–Get It Here

I love short films, and thanks to youtube and other sites, these snippets of cinematography are getting more attention these days than ever before.  If you’re interested in more, click on my video box on the right sidebar to find a bunch among all the music vids.

Here is one called “Time for Change” in 3D CGI, which some students from the Media Design School in Auckland, New Zealand created.  I find it Sweeney Todd-esque.

Click, and enjoy!

First-of-a kind Gay Magazine in Arabic Begins Publication

كيف حالك؟

Even when I studied Arabic in the Air Force, reading and writing weren’t my strong suits.  The squiggly lines that represent the letters with dots and other diacritical marks both above and below them are only further complicated by moving from right to left.  Making matters worse is there’s really not much difference in the way words appear in print (like the block form we have in English and other languages that use Roman-style letters) and the cursive (hand-writing) style; however,  in the hand-written form, most of the time, many of the diacritical marks, which help with the pronunciation, and, thus, the meaning and grammar, are omitted, and one is left to guess about the word.  I suppose when it’s your native language, you don’t really have to guess much, but to a non-native, all of the marks, though complicated, are helpful.

Hence, I found myself wishing that more of my Arabic had stayed with me when I read today on afrik.com that a first-of-its-kind gay magazine had started up in Morocco.  It’s called Mithly, which means “gay” in Arabic, which I think I remember, and began with its first issue on April 1st.

That this magazine has begun publication in Morocco is not so surprising, in spite of all the conservative attitudes in the Muslim world about gay people, because Morocco has had a lot of European influence through the years, and there have been rumors for many years that the King of Morocco is gay.

Even so, Morocco is not by any means a liberal country; this new magazine is actually being produced in Spain.  However, the situation has to be much better in this country just across the Straits of Gibraltar from Europe, in comparison to some other Arab countries, like Iraq, where gay people are brutalized and murdered, in spite of the U.S. being in such an influential position there.

There is a pared-down, online version at www.mithly.net.  Click on the translate button in the upper right corner.  Be forewarned, though.  The Google translation will leave you scratching your head in many places.

Good luck to Mithly.  Every effort like this helps more people understand themselves better and know that they are “not the only one.”

Earthwise Electric Lawnmower: So Far, So Good

After a long, unually cool (some may say “cold”) winter here in southeast Texas, spring has sprung with almost a vengance.  Just within the past few days, many of the fruit trees and decorative-type bloomers have popped into full glory.

Some of plants that I had carted into the garage time after time are now starting to show flowers.  Likewise, the grass, and even more so the weeds, in my back and front yards, are putting forth great effort.

My house sits on a 5,000 sq. ft. lot, and with the detached garage, driveway, stamped cement patio, and tiled fountain base (something the previous owners must have liked, but not exactly my style), the actual lawn areas are not that big.  They are also patchy and seem to be a home for moles.  Both the front and back have a comfortable charm to them, and with some work,  I’m pretty sure that I can get them looking better.

Because the lawn areas are not large, I decided to get an electric lawnmower.  I just like the idea of not having to deal with keeping a can of gas around, and also having a mower that puts out smelly exhaust didn’t appeal to me.  I read quite a few online reviews of cordless and corded mowers, and there seemed to be quite a few complaints about batteries with the cordless mowers.  Some reviewers complained about batteries losing charge, and others mentioned that replacement batteries were difficult to come by for the mowers that they had purchased.

After reading more reviews about corded mowers, I decided upon the Earthwise 18-inch corded mower.  They make a 20-inch size too, but I decided that getting between bushes and other small spaces was more important for me than cutting off a couple more inches of grass.

I thought I’d write my own review of the mower and add more later, just to see, as time goes by, whether I made a good choice or not.

I ordered my Earthwise from Sears for $189.99.  I got free shipping, but add the tax and the total was $205.  It’s nearly ready to use straight out of the box.  You basically unfold the handle; it bolts together easily without even needing a wrench.  The side discharge cover easily pops into place.

You will need an outdoor extension cord.  The motor is 12 amps, so you need one to carry that or better.  I had been given a 40-ft. one for Christmas, and though there is an outlet on the back and the front of the house, that cord wasn’t quite long enough.  I bought another 50-ft. cord and now can get to the far corners with plenty of cord to spare.

Of course, all the grass and weeds are tender now, so they are easy to cut, but the mower did a great job of mulching up some small piles of leaves without hesitation.  It weighs 48 pounds, but takes very little effort to push.  There’s a height adjustment lever with various settings that’s easy to change with just one hand.

Probably the biggest concern in buying this mower was the cord.  However, it doesn’t take long to get used to it.  The best idea is to keep moving away from the outlet and the cord.  Holding a couple of feet of slack cord in my hand as I mow also has helped me keep the cord up, and that way there’s less chance of it getting anywhere near the blade.  You do have to pay attention to the cord, but I figure that’s still better than dealing with gas cans or batteries.

So far, I think I’ve made a good choice in this mower.  We’ll see after I’ve used it more if that holds true.

Update (May 30, 2010)

Mower with the flap intact

With the flap partially hacked off

I’ve made one modification to this mower.  I got tired of the rubber flap on the back of the mower dragging into the undercarriage of the mower when I backed up.  It never seemed to get hit by the blade, but it just made pulling the mower backwards more difficult, and I was worried that the blade might cut into it.  Yesterday, I finally was bothered enough that I took the nearest thing I could find–a hedge trimmer–and just whacked it off about halfway down.  No problem backing up any more.