Monday, June 30, 2003

Cine catch-up

One was way worse than we had expected: View from the Top. A bad, bad script marred this one and despite the good-sport acting by Paltrow and Candice Bergen, the romance angle didn't take, particularly the bad casting of Mark Ruffalo as a character intended to be sympathetic. There's just a creepy aura there. The other movie was way better than expected: Anger Management. Dragged to it against my will, against my will because of Nicholson, not Sandler, dread, I joined the rest of the audience in laughing lots. Apparently the uncredited Meatball, the fat cat, is Sandler's own. There is a credit for "fat cat suit technician."

A hub of the universe

We had business up north and took a minute to check out the shopping center on Research that features Din Ho, Sunflower, CoCo's, and Hong Kong Market. It was so busy that the only parking spaces were next door at the Target. There was a long line waiting at Din Ho. Through the window we could see brown entire barbecued ducks hanging on a rack, a sight not seen since NYC and San Francisco. A busy guy with a cleaver was working on a similarly colored entire roast pig, entirely entire. All this was at about 1:30, and Sunflower was really quite busy also, although without a wait. At Hong Kong Supermarket, the meat and fish counters were very busy. With the exception of an elderly man supervising, the behind-the-counter staff was entirely Spanish-speaking, listening to 98.2 radio quite loudly. The fish included mackerel, not that common in Austin, and appeared to be very fresh.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

May all your days

be circus days. After the show, I wasn't certain whether the ringmaster had said that this year, but K. says he did. The State seems to be charging for use of all its parking lots, so we parked on San Jacinto near 11th Street and walked up to the Erwin Center. The entrance is now on the north side, since the extravagant basketball-practice gym, or whatever folly it is, rises on the south side. The band is still led by a trumpeter, but more and more is preprogrammed and synthesized digitally. The percussionist was enclosed in a sort of acoustical box, probably to better capture his output for undistorted amplification. Larible did the same blindfolded knife routine using a volunteer from the audience that we saw in the most recent Mexican circus. Whoever stole what from whom, Larible came off second best. As always, it was a wonderful show for the money, with much money-saving, but extremely clever, ingenuity in evidence. The crazy horsemen from Kazakhstan and Khyrgystan were back, second-generation version. Astonishingly, in view of the economy, attendance didn't seem to be down, and the sale of souvenirs and toys may even have been up.

Friday, June 27, 2003

Amor y odio y locura

Marcial, of course, is not dead. Nor has he forsaken his fixation on Napoleon. We had to watch in real time.

"Entre el amor y el odio" goes wacko

Having missed most of an episode because the tape didn't catch it, as this novela draws to its close, we had to watch it in real time. There much loony stuff involving Frida doing the dance of the seven veils and Marcial in a tub of what turns out to be just waiting for Frida to ignite it. What will happen next?!!?

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Everything's a blur

The lime index at Fiesta was 12 to the dollar. There were no Manhattan paletas there, either, and H-E-B (at least ours) isn't stocking them. We enjoyed corn on the cob that is not that horrible supersweet stuff. Corn that tastes like corn and not like sugar is preferred in this household.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

If we like it, it's doomed to extinction

We already know that this goes for the perfectly balanced homely blue plastic watering can from Target. Bearing the Michael Graves Studio label, this vessel is the very thing for people with small hands. We found a thermal cooler by Rubbermaid, orange and gray, very well insulated, with a ball valve, inset grips on the side, a bail handle, and a lot of other features. This also came from Target. Luckily we bought two, since whatever it's officially called is no longer available anywhere, so it seems.

Monday, June 23, 2003

Buried in the archives

The Roy L. Thomas collection is at the University of Texas. This guy did a lot of designing for the Stacy Realty Company.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

To be a pirate king

This was the best Gilbert and Sullivan production we've seen yet, complete with a 14-piece orchestra. The hall was nearly full and we did get there just in time. AusTIX does work, since our seats were there. Every time we hear the Pirates of Penzance we're struck by something new; this time it's the silly rhyme of "divinity" and "vicinity." "Here's a first-rate opportunity To get married with impunity, And indulge in the felicity Of unbounded domesticity. You shall quickly be parsonified, Conjugally matrimonified, By a doctor of divinity Who is located in this vicinity." The modern major general was very understated and highly effective. During intermission it's always wonderful to smell the cedar and to hear the unseen warblers.

Saturday, June 21, 2003


As always these days, even the main branch of the library has few books on the shelves and very beaten-up music for the borrowing. This will only get worse. K. remembered that we had wanted to check out the Austin History Center, since some kind neighbors had thought they'd seen a vintage photo of the house. They had, as it turns out, though it took a bit of a search to find it. This image has been added to the archives since the last time I searched for one, probably about ten years ago. There are more city directories, too, so we could add to the chain of ownership one Matt Howard (and Wilma, his wife). In the early thirties he was the chief auditor for the State Liquor Control Board. The photo is marked Roy L. Thomas, and the "L" is for Leonidas, after the Spartan hero of Thermopylae.

Friday, June 20, 2003

Our naked yard

Our turk's cap and agastache pretty much had their leaves blown right off by the tree guys when they were pushing sawdust around. They'll restore themselves, but it'll take a while. My potted scarlet runner beans suffered in the same way. They probably will not return..

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Fall of a giant

The tree people appeared an hour later than the scheduled time to begin felling one of our two backyard pecans, the one tipping out of the ground and looming ever more threateningly over our neighbor's roof. Seemingly fearful of approaching the porch, they might have paced up and down all day, had we not noticed them and gone out to talk. One understood English very well, and spoke it a little. The other, probably not much of either. One went aloft, shinnying up in sneakers, sometimes using the trunk and at other times going up a nylon rope slung over a branch. The other remained on the ground. One used the large chainsaw; the other the small one. As the trunk grew shorter and shorter, its slices were made thinner and thinner, so as to weigh less and be easier to toss into the wheelbarrow. Nothing broke the telephone line; nothing broke the electric wires; nothing hit our neighbor's roof. The toll included two rosebushes, two hollyhock plants, some irises, one patch of bachelor buttons, delphiniums, and coreopsis, plus an unfortunate snake who lived under the wall surrounding Mack's flower bed, which also suffered. After all was done, we adjourned to Luby's for some calming drafts of cold tea, and coconut four-layer cake for K. and surprisingly generous and beautiful grilled salmon for me.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Sesame sez me

Sweetish Hill had a beautiful loaf of bread with one slash along its length and lots of air holes, a bit salty and covered with zillions of the very freshest of sesame seeds. When I think sesame, I think Ali Baba, plus one of the very few cartoons I ever saw as a kid, where somebody (Popeye? yes; Popeye) yells, "Open, sez me!." We also ate a lot of Euphrates wafers, now apparently called Euphrates wheat crackers. I like the Euphrates Wafer origin story. When I was looking for Burry Fudge Cookies, which we always used to buy in Canada, I found an appreciation for them in, of all places, something called the Gamer's Nook, billed as "a journal on life, politics, and gaming." Cookies must come under "life." Speaking of the 1001 Nights, I'd sure like to hear Cole Porter's Aladdin again, especially "Opportunity Knocks But Once (at the Door)" and "Come to the Supermarket in Old Peking." Apparently the recording is becoming a collectors' item.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Relampagos at Target

Even at whitebread Target there's now a section of Latin music. It must be served by an outlaw rack-jobber, though. There was some legitimate Tejano music and also a lot of what looks like bootlegged reissues. For hardly any money, on the Dismex label, we came home with an hour of music, 20 temas originales, coleccion de oro volumen 2, Cornelio Reyna y los Relampagos del Norte.

Monday, June 16, 2003

The Fast Freddy index

The lime index has moved to 8 limes for a dollar at H-E-B. The Fast Freddy (corte de pelo) index had been at $8, then went to $7 at most locations. Now, at least one FF establishment is down to $5, back to the lowest ever.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Branch manager

We'd had an appointment for a week and a half with one tree person and he directly referred us to another person, who might be able to tackle a different aspect of the tree situation, or in the wake of yesterday's storms we'd probably be like those people trying to flag down a taxi in the pouring rain. The news about one of the pecan trees was not happy; after 75 years of providing shade and beauty, the benefits are less than the assessed risk. For comfort, I sought Mexican food; K. wanted Chinese. We compromised on Luby's, just a minute away. One of us particularly enjoyed a four-layer frosted coconut cake; the other thought that the grilled salmon was just great. I won't say which was which. The portion of fish was very generous, and two vegetables, plus bread, including delicious jalapeno corn bread, were bundled together at a very good price. Of course, they get you on the iced tea! It was quite a bit later than true lunchtime, but we saw a neighbor on the block buying a huge batch of takeout for home consumption.

Saturday, June 14, 2003

Pressure drop

When the storm at last arrived, there was really no warning before everything opened up. Leaving the windows and doors in the boys' room until the very last, I went out to the laundry porch. As soon as the window closed, both doors, one closing in one direction, and the other in the other, slammed shut and locked. One could be unlocked from the porch, but the door into the house could not. There I was, rain coming down at about 10 inches per hour, running ankle deep (slight exaggeration) outdoors, lightning showing all around. There was nothing to read, nothing on which to sit but the floor (and down I went, because the lightning was so close to the three windows), no way to read or otherwise pass the time. After 20 minutes or so, the rain lessened and I took a piece of cardboard so I could try to work on the screen door and get in via the boys' room. Just as I was about to give up and retreat to the laundry porch again, I did get in. I was soaked to the skin and had to use three towels to mop up the floor where the rain had been coming into the room while I was locked in and couldn't close it. There were lots of leaves just sucked from the trees. Up and down the street, there were branches down from crape myrtles, pecans, oaks.

Friday, June 13, 2003

JuanGa has Austin fans

At Azul Tequila, nearly all the diners were guys, in short-sleeved shirts, polo shirts, or T-shirts. There was a TV at each end of the bar, both silent, one tuned to an American soap and one tuned to a Univision novela. The albondigas chipotle came four big ones to the bowl, with lots and lots of fresh mint. Lunch is a terrific deal, since the portions are so generous. As the lunch crowd thinned, the staff kept playing more of solo Juan Gabriel.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Tax dollars at work

Once again the main branch of the library is not opening at 9:00 am, but at 10:00. But we can pay security guards to keep people from parking around the library before it opens. We had hoped to stop in at the Austin History Center and locate the picture of our house when new (back in the late 'twenties or early 'thirties) that we'd been told about, but we were there too early. Later, we left our month's worth of read magazines at the Riverside branch, where we talked to an owner, obviously, of the soon-to-be Montoto's panaderia, which will make both kinds of tortillas. There are good hand-painted signs on the glass. The Friends of the Library book sale is postponed. Evidently, trying to impose an 11-page code of rules and regulations on the volunteer sorters did not work.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Thanking Michael Graves

It was probably somebody in the Michael Graves studio, not the man himself, but Target sells a homely watering can that is beautifully balanced so that it's much easier to carry and to pour from than the green uglies that are to be found everywhere else. The spout can be turned to be a sprinkler rosette or a pourer. A cut-in makes it easy to fill in the kitchen sink without having the sink fixtures get in the way (especially too-long aerators). There were just two and we bought one. It may be a discontinued item, since it's not to be found on the Target website. Now that we know how great it is, there'll probably never be another to be found. This is always our luck with consumer products. Acemart has stopped selling Fiestaware by the broken case. As we were leaving with the year-long supply of heavy-duty foil that we came for, there was a catering truck in the parking lot from Nuevo Leon, and all the Acemart workers and hangers-on (and this is a hangout) were lined up to have a second breakfast.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Bob took his marbles home

It would be a shame to miss the Sam and Bob show tomorrow. Bob stormed out, being distressed by repeated use of a certain sound-effect. The following is a quotation lifted from the Merck Manual entry on "flatus": "Despite the flammable nature of the H2 and CH4 in flatulence, working near open flames is not hazardous. Children have been known to make a game of expelling gas over a match flame. However, gas explosion, rarely with fatal outcome, has been reported during jejunal and colonic surgery and even when diathermy was used during endoscopic procedures in poorly evacuated patients." At the bottom of the Merck page on this symptom is to be found this: "The following piece appeared in the Gastrointestinal section of past editions of The Merck Manual, and is being reprinted here because of reader demand." It goes on: "Flatulence, which can cause great psychosocial distress, is unofficially described according to its salient characteristics: (1) the "slider" (crowded elevator type), which is released slowly and noiselessly, sometimes with devastating effect; (2) the open sphincter, or "pooh" type, which is said to be of higher temperature and more aromatic; (3) the staccato or drumbeat type, pleasantly passed in privacy; and (4) the "bark" type (described in a personal communication) is characterized by a sharp exclamatory eruption that effectively interrupts (and often concludes) conversation. Aromaticity is not a prominent feature. Rarely, this usually distressing symptom has been turned to advantage, as with a Frenchman referred to as "Le Petomane," who became affluent as an effluent performer who played tunes with the gas from his rectum on the Moulin Rouge stage." At any rate, it would be a shame to miss tomorrow's show. Whatever Bob Cole thought that anyone else may or may not have been engaging in excessively, others might think that he resorted incessantly to the word "poot," new to these ears and gladly never heard again.

Mental arithmetic

We were so tired last night that the television was on even though there was nothing to watch. So we watched some silly test that pitted groups purporting to be teachers, students, scientists, body-builders, blondes (any natural ones there?), construction workers, and "celebrities" against one another. The math portion consisted solely of addition of single-digit numbers, with the exception of one question, which threw a double-digit number in among the rest. There was a segment of "pick the one that doesn't belong." This involved two-dimensional line figures rotated in one plane or along one axis only. We started all this too late the hear the introduction. K. says that the constant use of calculators means that nobody he knows can do a thing without them. I know that nobody (but us) seems to bother with balancing checkbooks these days. There's shareware out there called Mental Arithmetic.

Monday, June 09, 2003


There is a certain time of day, in the morning, after sunrise but before the sun is doing more than casting a reflected rosy light, when shades of green, in all their subtle differences, can easily be distinguished one from another. At least by me. At the distance from my eyes to my feet, I can see every tiny little plantlet that I don't want to be there. All the new people in the neighborhood do things like hire arborists, formerly known as tree guys. For some reason I have a mental block about this and keep wanting to call them foresters. At any rate, no matter what else they advise, they always counsel beginning some kind of fertilization program. So now trees that have barely been staying alive themselves are beinning to return to top reproductive form all over the neighborhood. This year it's some kind of elm tree, something with a very long tap root already even though there aren't more than the original two leaves to be seen. Since the ground's still holding some moisture after that rain, it's possible to get quite a bit of this work done before breakfast. I did look up to see the first whitewinged dove in our yard.

Sunday, June 08, 2003

Rich in dough products

Apart from a quick run out to Sweetish Hill, which brought news of a wedding, today will be pure drift. In honor of the rare fresh weather at this time of year, there is to be no chasing around, no being constructive.

Saturday, June 07, 2003

Easy way up

This sight held our attention from start to finish. A flatbed truck with some sort of folding device on it, along with stacks and stacks of shingles, backed tidily into a driveway. The device rose, unfolded, and extended itself. It was a sort of paternoster or shingle elevator, complete with motor and continuous loop. In fact, it does appear to be called a shingle elevator. Guys on the truckbed were throwing bundles of shingles on it as fast as they could, and guys up on the roof were unloading and stacking just as quickly. This sure beats a shoulder-tote up an extension ladder.

Friday, June 06, 2003

Some discount movies beat others

Just as Bringing Down the House was worse than hoped for, Head of State was much better. Excluding how well this may or may not do in the international box office, this should clean up in the US of A. Filmed mostly in Baltimore, it seems to be a low-budget movie with ingenious use of locations and extras.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Still sealed for your protection

We used to go to Chuy's as a post-dentist consolation, but it's been a while. The utensils still arrive at the table in glassine envelopes, and the menu is still retro in design. The waitstaff is still great, the photo booth is still active; but the mechanical pinball machine is gone, sad to say.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

4 carnivores only

We frequent Whole Foods only for those fancy Spanish almonds and for an occasional fix of Pederson jalapeno sausage. Pederson's has gone and changed its website again, to make it even more annoying than it has been in the past. And Texas Monthly now requires registration to view articles like the one on favorite Texas brands. On an impulse, I bought a butterflied thick-cut piece of lamb that turned out to be some of the best lamb I've had since I was a kid. On our second visit to get more, we asked the butcher, who told us that the supplier is Atkins Ranch.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Oddest search of the week

When I think to look, I can see what searches have brought surfers to my sites. This week one was "bumper stickers lawn mowing." KQQQ and its sister station have gone from Tejano to soft jazz. There goes that easy switch between KKLB 92.5 and KQQQ 92.1.

Monday, June 02, 2003

On the road again

We couldn't relax and just watch the not-great Bringing Down the House until I recognized one actor as Lex Luthor in Smallville. Afterward, we detoured onto the old Lampasas Highway and the old Spicewood road, along the Bull Creek watershed. It was wonderful to hear nothing at all but birdsong. There were bikers on the road everywhere. Downtown at Manuel's this old guy kept coming in seeking coffee refills for his Thermos. He had giant bundles of keys hooked to each side of his garrison belt and wore a kilt held up by clip-on suspenders and a glengarry cap. No; the cap wasn't holding up his kilt. His tattoos looked like general prison issue, but he did have a Harley at the curb, despite his down-at-the-heels demeanor and never-ending conversations with himself.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

Miss Frybread's thoughts on life

I keep forgetting to mention that, when I was following some link, I came on a Dine site (the guy's a physician) that has a lot of links to weblogs and the like, one of which is called "Kiss My Frybread."