Thursday, July 31, 2003

Could have been worse

Grateful for the merciful treatment in the Yale Law Report, we can now turn our attention to other trivialities. It's never too late to learn the potential for misunderstandings arising from seemingly innocuous e-mail. >>>>Nothing but the salty and the cold has any appeal in these temperatures (over 100 degrees now). We stay awake as long as we can manage, sometimes reading out in the screen pavilion and sometimes reading and listening to KKLB Tejano under the ceiling fan. If it gets too bad, we can always adjourn to the Austin Motel (our first home in Austin) or to the Hotel San Jose for a night of air-conditioned splendor. Just knowing we can do it if we really need to makes the non-air-conditioned life feel cooler! By the way, I love the new Austin Motel FAQ.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Requiem for an ironing board

After nearly four decades of service, our ironing board was put out to pasture. We felt sad about it, too. The last cover that we bought was from Target and had giant chartreuse polka dots on a periwinkle-blue background. Rust from the sole plate of our ancient steam iron ended the useful life of that pad, so out it went along with the ironing board. It's true; they just don't make them like they used to: new ones lack gravitas in every sense of the word, and everything about them, even the best we could find is much flimsier. The best we could find happened to be yet another Michael Graves product from Target. We bought an eight-dollar cheapie steam iron (Rival brand; didn't that outfit used to make electric can-openers?). When there's a minute, we'll acquire another old-fashioned heavy steam-iron like the first Sunbeams, courtesy of the Vermont Country Store. When we were looking for the iron, we found the same soap-saver that HHH used for washing dishes. We used to beg to get to swish it around in the water hot from the teakettle brought to a boil on the woodstove.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Vespas galore

This series is strictly in honor of Gregory Peck, but the Alamo Drafthouse is onto a good thing when it schedules a movie for 3 or 4 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon. The house was completely full for Roman Holiday, which evidently marked the first appearance of Audrey Hepburn. I don't think I have seen Gregory Peck in a movie. K. says that I should see the Horatio Hornblower movie. This is just not my era, though.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Out of training

Having learned our lesson with the Club Wed registry last year, we dashed right out to Target to check the Lullaby Club. I'm getting really fast with the touch screen. We were lucky to find an employee who revealed the secrets of the aisle- numbering scheme, tracked down the items we sought, and checked at other stores to see whether an out-of-stock item could be found. Then, having decided that we should buy baby-specific wrapping paper, we immediately forgot to do it at Target, passed by the Walgreen store with the great stationery selection, and then settled for the shop on Riverside. We'd been doing so well for so long at not acquiring "pretty paper, pretty ribbons" and then this! Besides the moon-and-stars paper for the baby shower and the reels of blue, white, and pale-yellow ribbon, we also just "had" to buy paper with a pattern reminiscent of 1950s tablecloth, hanky, and wallpaper patterns, featuring cherries. We're just not used to shopping, let alone shopping with a purpose.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Bonanza at the farmers' market

At our little South Austin Farmers' Market, besides the current cornucopia of summer squash and chiles, we found a fresh-killed chicken, Porter tomatoes, and some old-fashioned sort of cantaloupe that's oviform instead of spherical. It may be Hale's Best muskmelon. The tomatoes are larger than cherry tomatoes and almost pearlescent. The skins are not at all thick, very unusual. There's just nothing like cooking up a storm when it's 98 degrees outside and the house has no air-conditioning. From the library's escapist literature department, Drowned Rat (Ferrars) and Nothing to Fall Back On (Betsy Carter) were workmanlike and sufficiently entertaining to have been worth the reading.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Austin Latino-Conexion

Somebody's having a go at this sort of thing again. I think I picked it up at one of the library branches, but I can't remember which one. There's no Web presence for it, and it seems to rely heavily on personal ads. It's undated, so it probably won't publish again until there are more ads sold.

Friday, July 25, 2003

One mystery solved

We've been training scarlet runner-bean plants, grown for the flowers, not the beans themselves, and cypress vines up, through, and around an old tomato tower by the back door. Every time we get a certain part of the tower filled in with the vines, a hole appears in them. Now we know that it's Lupe, a neighborhood cat, doing a circus act by leaping (1) from the ground to the top of a cedar post that doesn't provide much landing surface, (2) through an aperture in the tower and the plants grown on it, (3) to the top of a rectangular brick pillar. On the pillar she stretches out like a statue of a lion on a plinth. She usually returns via the same trajectory. This act is already circus-worthy; addition of some flames to the tower would make it a Gunther Gebel-Williams circus act.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

The summer equinox

We like to think that at a certain time, not always the same day, we can sense that the earth is tilting farther away from the sun. It's not any cooler; it just seems that the quality of light has changed. This is the week that it happened this year. K. likes to imagine a day he calls the "summer equinox," about a month after June 21, when the days grow shorter at a faster rate. Every year there comes a day when the air smells a bit more like fall than like summer. This day has not yet arrived this year. Nothing about these two phenomena means that it's any cooler; we're just closer to the time when living without air-conditioning becomes less unpleasant.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Maybe in New Zealand

It's the Christchurch public library that seems to have the best listing of, and the most items by, E. X. (or Elizabeth) Ferrars: over 100, including large-type and sound versions. I found a good chronological list and a good categorical list. Excellent and quick-moving escapist reads have been Unreasonable Doubt and Hunt the Tortoise. We have paperbacks acquired in the UK and in Canada; this author stays available today chiefly in the large-print format and on cassette.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Faux meter-reader?

The Austin city utility reports the expected next meter-reading date (water and electricity) in each bill. Today was not anywhere near the date. Yet, quite early someone was out with one of those tools to lift the cover from the water-meter. K. saw him, not I, but I don't think the guy was a real reader. This is another service that the City, in its wisdom, contracts out to some outfit with high employee turnover. In a perhaps not unrelated, though again out of the ordinary, occurrence, an Austin Police Department patrol car sat on the street for at least twenty minutes. Waiting for the "meter-reader"? It's been about three years since the Police Department has bothered to update its website to show current APD district reps.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Large-type bonanza

Even though our poor library is always de-accessioning books, it seems to leave the large-type editions alone. This is a recent discovery by K. It means that, if a book is something that old ladies like to read, you may be able to find it on the shelf. So now we have a new-found bonanza of unread British and other murder mysteries, and already I've roared through a Margaret Yorke (Cause for Concern), plus an Amanda Cross. I hadn't realized that Carolyn Heilbrun was still writing. A little escapist reading wards away thoughts of heat, very helptul to those of us without air-conditioning.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Busier than expected

We thought we'd check out the expanded Maudie's on Lake Austin Boulevard, but it had quite a line waiting (as did Katz's, by the way). So we headed for Maudie's on South Lamar, to find that the menu's been changed around again. It took a while to find our favorites. It, too, was busy, but there wasn't a wait. Closest to us were a table of fraternity boys and a table of computer-game nerds.

Saturday, July 19, 2003


This brand of polvo para hornear is sponsoring a serial publication of baking recipes. The bread and cake recipes look especially good. Some of them use measures of weight. We have numbers 18 and 20. In trying to find Radar Editores, the publisher, on the Web, I found a Radar search engine instead, an ineffectual Web directory of search engine.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Backyard favorite

Somebody with a domain of the same name has links to books, including one about a green anole as a pet.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Doomed to fail?

"The magazine at the intersection of law and life" (otherwise known as Legal Affairs) isn't generating much in the way of newsstand sales, I'd bet. The publication design is dignified and restrained. K. and I read it from cover to cover, but, then, we would. We should ask M. whether he sees it. It's separately incorporated but it's listed as an "affiliated publication" of Yale Law School. One feature weighing heavily on the plus side is publication of Ted Rall cartoons. It's time to begin again to keep a spreadsheet of issues received for every sub. Yesterday we received an issue of the TLS from the second week in June. There was an illustration in it that made me want to see a really good image of the Palazzo Dario (or Ca' Dario) again. The fenestration of what must be the staircase is something I'd like to see in more detail (the round lights in the picture). A quick scan of Google shows that Monet and John Marin are among those who made it a subject. Our poor letter carriers are so over-burdened with unworkable and over-extended routes these days.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

"Only a little bit"

That's how much people with air-conditioning always claim that they use it. Setting the thermostat to cool to 75 degrees and running it only when they're home constitutes "only a little bit," it seems. Those of us who do without air-conditioning entirely hear a lot more of what goes on outside our windows, for better or worse. Of course, passers-by hear a lot more about us! People are always so startled to be greeted (or asked to pick up what their dog left). Inconsiderate people who slam doors and throw their beer bottles around under our windows at three o'clock in the morning do not inspire kind thoughts. Only the other neighbors without air-conditioning are ever seen to have their windows and doors open once mid-May comes around. It's sad that people are removing the ornamental wooden screens made to cover the entire window and original to their houses and that they permit their windows to be painted shut. We're certainly enjoying this drop in the temperature that we owe to the hurricane.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

The house was packed

The next show with available seats for Pirates of the Caribbean was not until 4:00. If there were any empty seats at our 2:00 pm showing of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, we didn't see them. Even parties of two were having to split up in order to find a place to sit. I read a review that complained about the design of the Nautilus, but I thought that the silver-mounted furniture and fixtures, in Raj style, were wonderfully detailed, and Naseeruddin Shah almost steals the show. There was a bit too much computer-generated stuff here, but the movie was fun and we didn't want to not see it on the big screen, and it doesn't seem to be a sure thing to be booked at the dollar cinema. Now I'd like to read the comic (or graphic-novel) version.

Monday, July 14, 2003

They all ate teriyaki

The chicken kind. But every member of the large party that arrived post-church was adept with chopsticks. The only people consuming sushi at Mimosa Cafe were a rural-appearing family of three. By all appearances this was a taste acquired by the father, and perhaps the mother as well, in the military. The kid was happy with this sort of food, and the father appeared to be downing sake. The miso soup was smoky-tasting and delicious, with the tiniest cubes of tofu ever seen. The salad is the kind that gives iceberg lettuce a good name, and had beautiful slivers of carrot and red cabbage for color. The tempura, which included five shrimp as well as eggplant and sweet potato, among the items, may have been the best we've ever tried. Our fish (salmon and mackerel) came piping-hot to the table. The mackerel was served with a cone of salt like the one that came with my salmon all those years ago at Hiroko in London. K. would go back to try the scallop dish; I'd try this salmon entree or the other on the menu, gladly.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Lowe's for hose

On the way back from the dollar movies yesterday, we checked out Lowe's. The high-quality hose that the NuPants bestowed upon us was finally crimping too much to use. How long they had it is unknown, but it's been in use at this establishment for at least six years. The hose bib released the old item and the new one went on fine. One thing is now known: the better the quality, the heavier the hose. We replaced an old cheapie hose that was beginning to be a problem, and the new item is much more trouble to drag around. We've been complying faithfully, as always, with the Austin watering schedule. Once every five days does work, but for those without irrigation systems, there's quite an investment in early rising. Our yard looks better than the yards of the Secret Soakers who have their sprinkler systems running all night every night (pause to gloat).

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Without fear

Daredevil made a much better movie than could ever have been expected. Selecting an oxblood color for his costume worked very well. The computer effects were not too, too overdone, and the best of them were Daredevil's getting around in costume. There was a gallery of character actors, all of whom are not over-exposed and most of whom were very good. Jennifer Garner as Elektra did not have the screen presence to match the others.

Friday, July 11, 2003

It's magic

A search locates nothing about ByMagic toy distributors of Carrollton, Texas, but there is something about item 5090, made in China, "PDA Tech Slate" ("slide to erase drawing quickly neatly"). This is indeed a high-tech magic slate. When I was trying to find out about magic slates, I found super cool stuff. The way the stylus fits into the case is ingenious.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

National eye on Austin

No local news outlets seem to have remarked on the Time article that focuses on Ronnie Earle and capital trials in Texas. The reporter seems to have no understanding of the resources expended on any criminal trial or any notion of how a prosecutor's office works.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Paper in three dimensions

There's a neat pop-up ad in a lot of current magazines, for summerhouses designed by Michael Graves. They've all been the round pavilion so far. The structures are sold through Target, but made by Lindahl Cedar Homes, to be constructed on site either by the buyer or by the manufacturer. It's interesting that they're denominated "pavilions" and not, say, "gazebos." Gazebo's had altogether too much use recently. A structure of this sort used to be either a summerhouse, a pavilion, a belvedere, or a casino when I was a kid.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Cine catchup addendum

Carefree is definitely a lifter of spirits. There's not the quantity of song and dance in it that is usually to be expected from a Fred-and-Ginger treat. In an uncut, unedited sequence Fred gets to show off his golf swing. A person would rather not be going around singing The Yam, even though it is by Irving Berlin. It does have a hook. Whistling it's okay, probably, but those lyrics!

Monday, July 07, 2003

Still making suits

H. Freeman & Son still exists and still makes suits in this country, not offshore. There's no mention of Whillock Bros. to be found on the web. They don't make sturdy chrome-looking straw dispensers these days, or at least we can't find one. It's great that The Tavern will reopen, but what an ugly shade of yellow paint is going onto it! Lucky Arms, by Jason Allen, is one of the catchiest bits of music out there and should have been a good national hit. Are these signs that everything's going to hell in a handbasket? It's amazing that someone has the hell in a handbasket domain (at least the net version; would anyone want to exploit the com and org domains? evidently so, although sites are not up).

Sunday, July 06, 2003

Cine catch-up

In no particular order, here's brief commentary on the recently viewed. Tsui Hark's Vampire Hunters was dubbed into jokey English, and there was also a new-age soundtrack that must have been substituted for something else. The very worst thing about this was that the forest bandits were dubbed with movie-comedy "Mexican" accents. When the waxen creatures are activated, they hop. Seeing hundreds of them hopping does not inspire fear. National Security was fun. The initial IMDB reviewer hated it, but its defenders sprang into action. Martin Lawrence and Steve Zahn make a good team, so a sequel should be entertaining. Zahn should get more roles than he does. Down Argentine Way showcases the best Betty Grable ever, with a role as an intelligent person. Charlotte Greenwood kicks up her heels and gets to wear some of the most stylish clothes ever designed for a woman of her age and build. Credit Travis Banton for all the great clothes, for men and for women. He has a tribute at the costume designers' guild. Whether he or the production designer chose the colors isn't clear. Probably the production designer, I guess, since there was color theming for everything, not just the wardrobe. The credits for the Nicholas Brothers, if they were there, went by too fast to see, but their work was certainly not the dancing of anybody else! It's surprising that The Smallest Show on Earth is as late as 1957. There are no location shots here, just lots of Margaret Rutherford and other great character actors, including Peter Sellers.

Saturday, July 05, 2003

The Glorious Fourth

We lit no sparklers this year, but we did hear some great music, courtesy of Thomas Durnan and others. Again, this year is better than last year, for which we're duly thankful.

Friday, July 04, 2003

Maybe tree stuff is done for a while

We've been fortunate so far with our tree saga. Our missing pecan is mourned. Now we've taken care of the front-yard hazards also, thanks to Arbor Vitae Tree Care, also known as Guy LeBlanc. He was interested in seeing how modest our now giant oaks were back in the early 'thirties. Trees to consider are Chinese pistache, Monterrey oak, and chinquapin oak.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

How do they make any money?

Typefaces are beautiful in my eyes, but I may be the last person in the world who ever pays for electronic fonts. I love this font site. Casady & Greene has called it quits. The firm site doesn't say it, but the rights to the typefaces were returned to their designers, I believe.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Glad it was from the library, not bought

That's the book called The Birdhouse Chronicles: Starting Over in Amish Country, by a Cathleen Miller, gathering up mostly previously published articles on living in a not-new farmhouse in Zion, Pennsylvania, among various sects of plain people.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Farewell to June

And good riddance. This has never been a favorite month and there's no reason for a change of opinion. July isn't much better. The best that can be said is that this year's June is an improvement over last year's (q.v.).