La Guelaguetza

La Guelaguetza

GuelaguetzaNow that May is upon us and Summer is just around the corner, it reminds me of home. Preparations have begun for the annual Guelaguetza Festival back home. It takes place on two consecutive Mondays in July and involves people from all seven regions of Oaxaca which include Cañada, Mixteca, Valles, Sierra, Tuxtepec, Costa and Itsmo de Tehuantepec. The event is really the premiere festival of the year, featuring music and dance, promoting the folklore of the Americas. We call it the Lunes del Cerro or ‘Mondays on the Hill’ and it’s a celebration of the indigenous traditions of the Catholic faith. The dates sometimes vary but it almost always takes place on the two Mondays after July 16th the Day of Saint Carmen.

The Dark Side of Code

The Dark Side of Code

bitcoinYou’ve all heard of Bitcoin by now. In the event you haven’t, it’s a form of open source, peer to peer payment that operates without any central authority or traditional banking institutions. It’s basically a digital form of money that has been used since 2009 and users can send and receive bitcoins as payment for goods and services through wallet software on computers, apps, and mobile devices.

But they’ve garnered attention most recently over concerns that this type of cryptocurrency can be used for illegal activities. One such place this was most prevalent was on the Silk Road online black market, a veritable haven for purchasing drugs, weapons, and other contraband that was being offered and sold freely by people who wanted to remain anonymous and bitcoins offered some amount of privacy to conduct these transactions. The FBI seized control of the anonymous site in October 2013 and shut it down, confiscating something in the amount of 144,000 bitcoins worth around $28 million.

Headed Home Again, Better Get MY Military Backpack Ready

Headed Home Again, Better Get MY Military Backpack Ready

OaxacaMoving to Austin was a big step for me but it’s one of the best choices I’ve ever made. There are so many wonderful things about living in the US. Work has been great and I have learned so much about programming from my colleagues. Web design was always a passion of mine and all of the opportunities that I’ve been blessed with have help me pursue my dreams.

But there is so much that I miss about home. Oaxaca is full of terrific people and it’s such a beautiful city. My family still lives there and I do miss it terribly. I am fortunate enough to have a career and a life in Austin that allows me to come back home quite frequently. When work doesn’t prevent my travels, of course. I’m often very busy at my job so sometimes it’s tougher to get back home than others. It all really depends on the workload, which has been pretty steady as of late. Things are going great at the company and I’ve been under some pretty heavy deadlines. Now those have come and gone and I’ve delivered on all of my projects.

That means it’s time to get out of town. I had planned my trip home a few months ago, keeping in mind that I had these pressing deadlines to meet, but knowing myself and my team, I had it all under control. We finished up three projects for our biggest accounts and with a few days to spare. So I wrapped up everything else at the office, brought the other teams up to speed on some of the other accounts that were coming along, in case my people needed some extra help while I was gone.

Now I’m all packed up and ready to go. Even got a new backpack for the trip this time. The old satchel had finally fallen apart and it was time to get a replacement, so I looked into military backpacks. One of my co-workers brought one into the office the other day. Man, that thing was huge and looked great. It had something like nine compartments, plenty of pockets and pouches, zippers, straps, all the bells and whistles.

He directed me to Pack-it-in Pack-it-out to look up military backpacks so I could find one of my own.  You wouldn’t believe how many different sizes and shapes are available. This site had them all, reviewed each one and it made picking one out easy. I got a Maxpedition, it wasn’t too expensive, and I’ve been able to fit everything inside of it. I don’t even need another suitcase to take along. I can just stick it all in my military backpack and get on the plane. I won’t even have to check it either. That saves me a good forty bucks. This bag is already cost-effective!

The Gadgets of Tomorrow Today

The Gadgets of Tomorrow Today

smart shoesI’m a bit of a gadget freak. Actually, that’s kind of an understatement, I’m a gigantic gadget fan-boy. I’m one of those guys who waited in line at Best Buy for the PS4 and my Android Nexus 5. I’m the first to admit that I’ve been burned a few times after buying a new gizmo before it’s been vetted by other geeks. I’m thinking of my last Palm Pilot (what was I thinking?!?). But a few bad apples hasn’t deterred from seeking out new tech before it goes mainstream.

With today’s post I thought I’d share some of my favorite gadgets that don’t get as much press as things like Google glasses or self driving cars.

Smart Sneakers

The German company Fraunhofer has developed sneakers that have a built in bio-metric measuring devise that take all sorts of measurements while you’re running or just walking around. They will tell you how fast your going and if your weight is evenly distributed, and will make suggestions about how to run more safely so you don’t injure yourself.  They also include built in GPS so you can track your route or someone can find you if you get lost. Pretty cool if you ask me!

Cool Mouse

Whether you live somewhere hot like I do in Texas, or just get excited while gaming, then the cool mouse by Nyko is for you. It has a little fan blows air on your palm to help cool you down. There’s nothing worse than missing an easy kill while you’re gaming because your finger slipped. Definitely a good investment for gamers everywhere.

Tactical Watches

I wear a watch everywhere even though I always have my cell on me. I just like the look and feel of watches. Lately I’ve been getting into “smart” watches that not only tell the time but have all sorts of other cool built in functions. I’m partial to tactical watches like this one because they’re rugged which is a good thing for a klutz like me and they have multiple alarms, gps, thermometer, measure barometric pressure, and more. It’s really a small computer strapped to your wrist.

There are a ton of other cool gadgets out there but these are 3 of my favorites. I’d love to hear about your favorites in the comments.

My All American. The Freddie Steinmark Movie

My All American. The Freddie Steinmark Movie

Freddie SteinmarkThere are certain players that every UT fan considers among the great Longhorns ever; Bobby Layne, Earl Campbell, Tommy Nobis, and newer guys like Vince Young and Jordan Shipley. But there’s one player that is also one of the greats, whose career never progressed due to tragic circumstances. He was Freddie Steinmark, a Junior starting safety who played under Darrell Royal. Freddie was only about 5’10” and weighed about 160 but he was a valuable and productive member of the team. He played defensive back as a freshman, sophomore and junior, and was the team’s leading punt returner his second year on the team.

December 9th, 1969; the Big Shootout. Texas vs. Arkansas for what was, back then, considered the National Championship. The 100th anniversary of college football itself and, at the time, the largest television audience for a football game ever. President Richard Nixon was at the game. Coach Royal led the team to a victory and little Freddie Steinmark had a big hand in the victory. Despite his size, many were speculating that he had a career ahead of him in the pros; but a week after the game, Steinmark ended up in the hospital.

What they thought was some kind of deep bruise suffered in the Shootout turned out to be a tumor. A bone sarcoma located in his left leg turned out to be the culprit instead of a football injury, and shortly thereafter it had to be amputated. That was the end of Freddie’s football career. But he took in stride and soon became a beacon of hope and inspiration for millions of cancer patients. Three weeks after his amputation he showed up on the crutches to the Cotton Bowl, Texas vs. Notre Dame, to rousing applause and admiration.

Steinmark’s story became national news, especially after Texas won the Cotton Bowl. The country rallied behind the young man. He was UT’s freshman defensive backs coach the following year. Steinmark and Coach Royal were invited to the White House by President Nixon for the start of the annual fundraising drive of the American Cancer Society. Freddie, being a devout Catholic, cited his faith, his belief in himself and in God as his motivators for not giving up on his growing struggle with cancer as it progressed despite extensive treatments. He used his position to raise awareness and money, speaking at fundraiser events, he even wrote an autobiography about his journey. But it was on April 20th, 1971 when he was admitted into a hospital for the flu and passed away about six weeks later.

Now Hollywood has recognized how inspiring Freddie was and they’re making a movie about him. It’s called My All American and it has Aaron Eckhart playing Darrell Royal and it’s being directed by Angelo Pizzo, best known for writing the scripts for the movies Hoosiers and The Game of their Lives. I didn’t see the second one, but the first is one of the greatest sports movies ever made! So it looks like Freddie Steinmark’s story is in good hands. The movie starts shooting in and around Austin next month and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

Comin’ On Strong!

Comin’ On Strong!

longhornsLast year, an era came to an end. Mack Brown stepped down as the head coach of our beloved Texas Longhorns. It was a move that had long been anticipated. He wasn’t producing the kind of football that UT fans had come to expect and, by his own admission, he too realized that maybe it was time to call it a career. Mack had taken the team to two Big 12 Championships and the BCS Championship in 2006 with Vince Young at the helm against a USC team that was on fire that year. The result was a National Championship.

But since then, the winning ways weren’t as prevalent as Longhorn fans had grown accustomed to, with a few notable exceptions, like the 2009 Big 12 Championship and numerous Bowl appearances; but ever since that loss to Saban’s Alabama team in that BCS Championship Game in 09, something just seemed different.

In the years that would follow up until his resignation in December of last year, the team just wasn’t performing well. The disastrous 2010 season saw the team end with a losing record and no Bowl appearance, the first time ever during Coach Brown’s tenure. It was an anomaly, just a bad year for Mack, he’ll rebound. The team will be back, strong as ever.

The loss of some key personnel didn’t help, and while the team had winning records in 2011, 2012, and 2013; each one had four or five losses taking us out of contention for the National Championship and into the Holiday Bowl and two consecutive Alamo Bowl appearances after that. The second of which we lost 30-7 to the Oregon Ducks. But at that point, the writing was on the wall. Mack Brown was done in Austin, after an impressive run that made him the winningest coach in Longhorns history with a record that included seven wins over the Sooners.

But now there’s a new coach in town and his name is Charlie Strong. He used to be the head coach at Louisville before coming to Austin and that raised some eyebrows. The Longhorns have long been considered one of the most highly sought after coaching gigs in all of college football. After Coach Brown’s resignation the rumors were flying fast. All kinds of huge, marquee names were being thrown around. There was buzz that Nick Saban wanted the gig at one point and despite his vehement denial that he wasn’t leaving Alabama for the job, no one believed a word he said having boned LSU and the Dolphins in claiming he had no interest in leaving for a job that he was rumored to want. Though despite all the speculation, Strong was hired amidst a lot of people scratching their heads. A guy from a mid-level program in the AAC taking over what is arguably the best job in college sports?

Well it’s 2014 now and Charlie Strong has taken the bull by the horns and the program has him doing a multi-city bus tour to sort of introduce himself; talking to fans, boosters, and players and tempering the lofty expectations of the Longhorn faithful by giving them some real talk. One of these such events took place down in San Antonio last week and he told a sold out crowd of 800 fans at Sunset Station not to expect a National Championship this year.

That was met with a mix of boos and approval from fans who were thinking practically alongside him. He told the crowd he knew that the program isn’t where it’s supposed to be but he’s dedicated to getting the team there, to make them better. He’s telling players the stark truth about their presence on the depth chart with one on one meetings. Coach Strong knows how rabid we are as a fan base, and that to me is re-assuring.

He knows we want to win, he knows that’s all we want. Everything I’ve seen about his no-nonsense approach to the job makes me think we’ve got the right guy for the job. But it’s still early, even Coach Strong acknowledged as much during his stop in San Antonio. His exact words were: “I know you all are excited, but it’s only April the 28th. Let’s not get out of hand. We’ve still got a ways to go.” He’s right about that, so time will tell if this was the right hire or not. One thing I do feel is important is that we give him the time to acclimate fully to the job, get the boys’ heads and hearts right about the game, and make sure we don’t pressure him to win NOW. These things take some time.

Hook em’

You Can Go Home Again and Should.

You Can Go Home Again and Should.

hometownI only get back home a few times a year to see my two brothers and my sister who still live in Oaxaca. There are some days where I get more than a little homesick for my native Mexico. Don’t get me wrong, there’s so much I love about Austin and so much to do here. In fact there aren’t too many places I can imagine that are better than here. There are a heck of a lot of great things about Austin, Texas.

First and foremost, obviously, is Longhorn football. Hook ’em Horns! I know Charlie’s going to get this program right and we’re expecting some big things this year. But I think we all have our expectations tempered enough to know it’s going to take a little time. There’s the food; places like Kerbey Lane Cafe and Franklin’s, even Torchy’s Tacos is pretty darn good.

The Alamo Drafthouse is the best place around to see a movie. Heck we even got a statue and a street named after Willie Nelson. There’s beautiful architecture almost everywhere you look. We got music festivals all year, from South by Southwest to the Austin City Limits fest and everything in between. There’s not much about this town to dislike.

But I think we all miss home from time to time, no matter how terrific our current living situation might be. There’s an inherent need to return home sometimes, if just to ground yourself perhaps. I think we all have that desire to turn around and go back to where you came from. It can recharge the batteries, give you a new outlook on life. Maybe even confront painful memories or happily relive those that make you smile each and every time you’re reminded of them.

I just read an article about how the rock star Sting gave a talk at a TED conference in Vancouver. He performed some songs from his new album and discussed where the songs came from. He had gone home. Back to where he grew up in Northern England. And it inspired him. Sting had discussed how he was creatively empty for a long time. He couldn’t write any new songs or have any desire to do so. He was spent. The new album was a result of his time back home, remembering all the things about his past and they began to stir some things inside of him that led to a resurgence of sorts. Going home sparked a new outlook on his work and his life. I think that’s something we all need from time to time. To go home.

There are so many things I miss about Oaxaca; our food, our culture, all the holidays that we celebrate back home bringing us closer to family and friends. These are all the things I think about when I get homesick and I start to think that the idea of being homesick is the mind’s way of telling you it’s time to recharge the creative batteries. Sure I love Austin, I love living here and all the friends I’ve made and people I’ve met. There’s a reason they say “Keep Austin Weird”, it’s because we do just that everyday. There’s always something new to discover here. But sometimes the discovery of one’s self happens back at home. Every time we’re there I think we can discover something new. Sting re-discovered his muse there. What will you re-discover when you return home?

I’m eager to find out myself. I think it’s time to get on Expedia and see about getting back in time for the Guelaguetza .