Sunday, August 31, 2003

No rest for the weary

There's nothing like a three-day holiday that turns into a no-day holiday. K. had to finish up on continuing-professional-education credits. Austin is full of returning students, football fans, and no telling who else. There's no room for the locals. Usually, Austin's at its most peaceful on one of those weekends when all return whence they came, but a football game changes everything. There were no distant church bells to be heard across the water and there was a lot of noise and fuss everywhere.

Saturday, August 30, 2003

Time out for fencing

And not the kind that involves an epee, a foil, or a sabre. It was worth it to take time away from other matters (some of them the sort of unpleasant duties that it's always tempting to dodge for a while) to assist in erecting a fence without working under the sidewalk superintendency of others. The brains behind this project belonged to somebody else; I was just the equivalent of a pole-and-chain guy on a surveying team. What I had always thought of as hardware cloth is apparently referred to by some as welded-wire fencing. T-posts (6-foot) and post pounders were in heavy play. There's a great fence forum at the American Fence Association and there I found my favorite nostalic fence, loop and double-loop garden fence, which makes a great trellis for twining plants. Somebody has found it here in Austin to use to enclose the front yard at the house built around an oak tree where we once lived.

Friday, August 29, 2003

Noticias de Club Desvelado

Having found a few books at the library, now we're rushing to be able to turn them in on time. Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight (Alexandra Fuller), Life Among the Savages (Shirley Jackson), Nickle and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (Barbara Ehrenreich), and a great Everyman's edition of Lamb's essays (both collections). "Don't Let's Go" is atmospheric and frank. It's difficult to believe that an existence like this was still possible in the 'seventies and 'eighties. "Savages" has a flipppant tone redolent of the 'fifties and hasn't aged well. "Nickle and Dimed" reminds me of a long-ago job, working in an on-campus official postal substation. The real Post Office employees were earning excellent pay for that time and that place and their families were all better off than ours financially, since we part-timers were a crew of scholarship students from locations in precipitous economic decline and for the most part from families of small, failing farmers, clergy, faculty of small colleges in obscure places, schoolteachers, non-unionized blue-collar and skilled trades workers, and serving and deceased military before improved compensation provided a living wage. Those part-timers who didn't come to an accommodation with the regulars had a miserable time of it, because of the resentment and ways of making things difficult or impossible for the disliked. I think it was in part because "we" weren't going to be there forever, and "they" were. It turns out that a lot of "Nickled" isn't new, since I saw big chunks in magazines somewhere (Harper's?). The Lamb, surprisingly, is wonderful for readling aloud (and not so lively on the page).

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Lint-trap archeology

There are some people who are constitutionally unable to check their pockets before depositing garments in the laundry; there are others unwilling to do the checking for them. Suddenly the lint screen would not go where it belonged. A strong flashlight revealed many strata of balled-up paper, of many types and colors, with several pennies lodged among them. The combination of paper and dampness had turned a slurry into something lining and blocking the grooves intended for the edges of the lint screen. Calling upon chopsticks the miracle-workers cleared out enough stuff to permit use of the screen again. Found are a lint trap weekly cartoon and a lint-trap on-line journal published at the lint-trap domain, billed as "bits of fluff."

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Family folklore confirmed

The story always was that, besides farming and keeping various country hotels, certain people in a certain branch of the family were known as fiddlers and horse-copers. The following was found in a scrapbook of newspaper clippings of obituaries and then transcribed and posted on the Internet. Hotel-keeping, horse-dealing, and fiddling are all mentioned. "B.A.M., 73, well known musician and retired Redwood farmer, died at his home on Sunday at 4:45 a.m., after an illness of only a few hours. ... Mr. M. was born Feb. 17, 1870, son of J. and J.G.M. of Brier Hill. His father was a dealer in horses as well as operating a hotel in Brier Hill. Mr. M. was educated in the Brier Hill school and early showed much talent for music. He was able to play the violin, trombone, cello, drums, and banjo. He organized bands and orchestras in Brier Hill, Ogdensburg, Morristown, and Brockville, Canada. He also gave music lessons. Mr. M., who was a farmer, retired in 1894 and came to Redwood and operated a tavern near the Redwood railroad station, now known as the Redwood tavern. He conducted this business for several years."

On June 10, 1895, he married Miss I.C., daughter of G. H. and S.M.C., members of pioneer settlers of this area. ...

Funeral services were held at the home Wednesday afternoon with the Rev. Kenneth D. Jones, pastor of the Redwood Methodist church officiating. Burial was made in the Redwood cemetery.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Popping up everywhere

This year we'll be seeing more spider lilies (lycoris) than we have for a few seasons. The leaves appear faithfully every year, but the rain at the right time does not. And volunteering and blooming now in a pot that has yielded a couple of other surprise items is a beautiful asclepias or butterfly weed (or Mexican milkweed, as some people around here call it). These past several days we've been seeing hummingbirds all over the yard.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Past lives on the Web

Who hasn't done this? While holding a line on the telephone or waiting for something else to happen, it's so tempting to run those idle searches on Google or Teoma or somewhere, and to use a name or a place as a search term. Here's what "Ramah+New+Mexico" elicited, and somewhere I even still have a copy of those books. Somehow, by the way, I doubt that there are liposection services anywhere nearby.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

In memoriam

I'm so glad that we heard Floyd Tillman attack his own songs several times. I hope that his royalty deals were good ones. We've been hearing a lot of his songs on the radio, including, of course, Slippin' Around, sung by Margaret Whiting and Jimmy Wakely. I was surprised to learn from K. that he knows Jimmy Wakely as a movie cowboy; I know him especially from this song, on the jukebox at the Corners. When it comes to movie cowboys, I think of Ken Maynard and Johnny Mack Brown first thing. E.B. was my "computer father." He suited my style of learning, which is to figure it out by myself, know what makes everything work from behind the scenes, ask questions only when necessary, and refer to printed material where available. A person alive with intellectual curiosity and a thirst to learn and teach is gone.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

So this guy's a comedian?

As we were bound to do, we saw Jackie Chan in The Medallion (also known as Highbinders). Sammo did the fight choreography, but a lot of the scenes were severely truncated in the editing. Huge chunks must have gone to curtail the running time for this market. There's yet another person out there billing himself as a comedian who shouldn't; somebody may think that he's funny, but Lee Evans doesn't make me laugh.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Name that restaurant!

Lately I've been checking in at a new-to-me Austin weblog, apparently a southish one, called Trailer Park Girl. The writer is working at a restaurant in its shakedown phase, but doesn't say which one it is and I don't think I've figured it out.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Tabletop nomenclature

Sometime I'd like to know why those colored candleholders seen on restaurant tabletops (usually enclosed in netting, also) are called "Venetians." The tonier ones, without the nets, are often called Euro-Venetians. The claims for legnth of burn-time range from 60 to 72 hours. All paths lead to the Candle Corporation of America, sometimes apparently known as Ambria, a part of the Sterno group! No; that's wrong. Sterno is part of the Candle Corporation. Now I know.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Stop that noise!

Who's left to know the age of one of the ceiling fans? Yesterday it was slow to start, and then it began making an alarming noise. Time to add some oil? Where? In a quarter century it's been done once, by a quivery, quavery elderly man sent by Bettis Appliances. Thanks to the wonders of the World Wide Web, Hunter Fans are found soon enough, but the site is a confusing one. At last, there's a referral to a technical site. Everything's slow to load and there are no pictures of most of the items. Finally there's a brochure with diagrams that does more than discuss the need to add oil; it almost tells how and where to lubricate the fan and with what grade of oil. And I could find the tube of oil. First there wasn't enough added; now there's too much, so that there's a little dripping on the floor. But the noise has stopped, and I'll remember how to do this the next time.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Miraculous modern mini-marvel

Although it's a plug-and-play device for newer operating systems, installation for Win98 is another matter. There are no useful instructions with the device or at the site, either, really, but eventually I got it done. I'm talking about the Flashkey USB pen drive. This is one of the most wonderful presents any computer-user can ever receive. In the hand, the device feels right in the same way that a good jacknife does. Its case has a sort of organic shape and the way the cover is removed is somehow ingratiating also. There are little circular depressions on either side to be gripped to remove the cap. It is peculiar, though, that the lettering on the case is upside down when its inserted into a vertical USB drive. For those whose tastes run to gadgetry, this is the party favor of the year.

Monday, August 18, 2003


One of these times, I'll be up in the madrugada and answer all the e-mail that's been flying in. One was a thank-you, always welcome, and involved a happy result for a new website for a neighborhood church. This followed from a recommendation of a book on do-it-yourself HTML. Another is concerns Urban Dentistry, a forward-thinking practice set up at Penn Field and certain to benefit from that close-in location now that practitioners of all kinds are being driven from downtown Austin proper by excessive rents. Yet another is from an Australian who recently visited Austin for the first time. Another is from a fellow Austin gardener concerning a reappearance of schoolhouse lilies coinciding with that of ours, and the Zanthan garden site in turn led to another garden site with many beautiful photographs of anoles.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Club Desvelado update

Zapped through during night-time reading were After the Stroke (May Sarton) and The Summer of The Great-Grandmother (Madeleine L'Engle). Hugh Franklin. L'Engle's husband, played Dr. Charles Tyler, on All My Children, a factoid new to me. I can't think what cheerful part of the library these came from on that flying visit to the Manchaca branch. Thanks to a quick search on the L'Engle book, though, I've found a site to which I'd like to return at leisure: the literature, arts, and medicine database, complete with annotations and cross-topic headings. Two great pieces from the September Wired are Confessions of a Baggage Screener and an excerpt from Tufte's Power Point is Evil, which won't be archived on line for several days, plus an article called "MIT Everywhere," not yet archived on line, reporting on the progress of the MIT open courseware project. When the courseware project began, it was tough to get to see because it was so flooded, so I'd almost forgetten about it There are all sorts of subject headings that I hope to have time to look into. Also great is the Fortune article on Hooters.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Welcome harbinger

Our schoolhouse lilies have been activated by the rain. There was no sign of them yesterday; this morning they're shooting up everywhere and some are already in bloom. Summer will end.

Friday, August 15, 2003

Lights out

If the power went out here for an extended period, we'd be just fine. There'd be some food spoilage, but, then, we don't keep much in our aging refrigerator because it's not much of a chiller anyhow after multidecades of use. We're able to walk to any location on our daily itineraries. We have a hard-wired telephone. We have good radios, not dependent on being plugged in. Even were it to be heading for 110 degrees, we wouldn't miss our nonexistent air-conditioner. It wouldn't be fun; neither is summer in general. I liked the reporter who sought man-on-the-street opinion on the giant U.S. power blackout from people in Iraq.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Stomping and clomping

Shoes that make noise are shoes that shouldn't be worn. A noisy walker can make any shoe a noisy shoe, of course. A stomper or a scuffer will make noise in any shoe on any surface. I don't want to hear myself or anybody else walk. All footgear seems to develop some sort of squeak or pop with age. A pair of shoes that begins to do this is destined for early disposal. One day silent; the next day noisy and doomed. This is built-in obsolescence!

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Those with air-conditioning will never know

How wonderful the cooler temperatures have been! They won't last, but the relief is beyond description for those of us relying on fans only. And for two nights, the fans could be on low speed!

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Hot-weather cuisine

Combining Buddy's chicken, peeled and diced boiling potatoes, and Parampara Mix from the Gandhi Bazaar, a new product to us, in one container, adding water, and cooking it all in our mini-tiny microwave oven resulted in a surprisingly tasty dish, and one that didn't heat the kitchen. We'd do it again. They called it chicken Hyderabadi, and the chile was hot. There were whole cloves and shards of cinnamon also.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Touring the libraries

In our ever-widening search for new free books to read, we've been checking out unfamiliar branches of the library. Over the weekend we hit the Manchaca branch. There's not a large selection there, but it's well edited, and there's excellent sound insulation. We dashed in there just before the first movie matinee on Saturday. There was no time to check out Riverside or Cepeda for El Mundo, El Norte, and Arriba, plus, perhaps, La Prensa. El Mundo is trying to keep up an on-line entertainment calendar.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

Fabulous shrinking monitor image

At first I thought it could be the heat (heading for 110 degrees?). After the spectacular failure of the 19-inch Dell CRT monitor, an investment of $30 brought a ancient used monitor of a much more modest size. It's been great, and with a good quality, non-quavery screen, but this morning the image was visibly shrinking in from the sides. I finally found the hidden control panel and made some changes, and all seems to be well. Maybe the heat and some of the electrical activity frizzled something. I'm keeping my fingers crossed because I do not want to be dealing with hardware again any time soon.

Saturday, August 09, 2003

Summer aromas: caucasian division

Even if somebody's driving by and with the windows rolled up, I swear I can smell the aura of sunscreen half a mile away. The atmosphere inside the movie house was drenched in this smell, and the pale faces glowed in the gloom. The movie was doing decent business, even for the first matinee, with a ratio of about ten females to every male, and not a teenager in sight. The movie was I Capture the Castle, which probably won't stick around long. It's too bad that we passed the book along, because this would be a good time to reread it and compare it with the movie version. The movie didn't make nearly enough out of the bear/fur-coat confusion.

So today the high was 109 degrees

Two finished escapes are Cyanide with Compliments, listed by somebody as one of the 100 classic British mysteries (Elizabeth LeMarchand) and Q is for Quarry (Sue Grafton), courtesy of the library. Cyanide with Compliments is also listed among books about cruises, courtesy of the Omaha Public Library. The Economist is not as soporific as usual, because there's too much going on around the world that is far from boring.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Life without air-conditioning when it's 108 degrees

It's not much different from life without air-conditioning when the temperature's 80 degrees. Tomorrow we'll get to run this comparison all over again. Window fans help hasten the night-time exchange of air. So long as the windows are kept shaded and the transoms are kept open, even at peak heat the house reliably stays 25 degrees cooler than the outside world.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Dentist dread

We had good reason to dread having our teeth cleaned. The only way we manage to get it done at all is to grab the first appointment of the day, ideally the first day of the week. It's best if future appointments can be set when paying for the current one. Last time, though, all was so uncertain that we couldn't predict when we'd have free time. So we sent way, way, way too long and we almost went even longer, but luckily something opened up for both of us. We survived, but the rest of the day was shot, so we headed up to the dollar movies and saw Daddy Day Care. Steve Zahn once again added that special something. Maybe sometime we'll get to go to the movies from India shown there. On the way up to the movies, we kept passing possible lunch places, but it was already "lunch hour," which begins shortly after eleven around here these days, so some places were already crowded. K. expressed an interest in BBQ. Soon thereafter, up on Parmer, we saw a Pok-E-Jo place so we decided to try it. It was hopping, mostly with techie guys. The brisket had the fat rendered out of it and was sliced very think, which it the way it should be, but the smoke flavor did pass superficial penetration, unlike the way it did at the old Pit. Even though I like the background color of the website, it's extremely slow to load for dial-up people. We dropped in at a new store, Gandhi Bazaar, and picked up a few items. Somebody posting on the Sulekha forum liked the Gandhi Bazaar.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

"Se baile asi"

A guilty pleasure of the moment is the music of Los Tigrillos. They're going to be in town this week as Desperados. Maybe, just maybe, their tracks rely just a bit too heavily on use of a cowbell and yelling "Je-jefa," but I can't help it; I'm a sucker for their stuff. While tryng to find more than a listing of their CDs, I found for the first time: Tejano Dallas. At least there's still a streaming Tejano station in Dallas (KLNO)..

Monday, August 04, 2003

Ready for the week to come

All is ready for the endurance trial that's today, including two bags of Fritos. Sometimes salty trumps sweet bigtime, especially in this heat!

Sunday, August 03, 2003

La pulga

Almost every weekend we check out the ever-growing activity at the flea-market set up on the parking lot of the old Aquarius Theater. This pulga has spawned additional activity on adjacent parking lots and streets: taco trucks, small food booths, CD-sellers, etc., in addition to yard sales in the giant apartment complexes once built as cheap private housing for college students but now occupied in large part by recent immigrants from the other side of la frontera. Now Tommy Wyatt's Villager newspaper has printed a real scoop: apparently the pulga is intended to be temporary while the interior of the former moviehouse is prepared to be a two-level indoor flea market charging higher rent, to be called "El Gran Mercado." The piece was by a new reporter for the Villager and we have seen nothing in print anywhere else about this place. The developer is from Pakistan.

Saturday, August 02, 2003

Austin grand tour: coffeehouse division

At last we checked out Penn Field. The same Antenora Architects set up on Live Oak have done the work at Penn Field. It's getting tough to find Ruta Maya coffee in the supermarkets, so we knew we had to go to the source, or the Ruta Maya coffeehouse itself. RM no longer sells cigarettes by the one; somebody must have called down enforcement against this practice. We picked up the latest Austin Daze. We need to check out the current Bouldin Creek coffeehouse, Cafe Mundi, and Jo's. It has even been a long time since Little City. It must be that in all this heat one's thoughts turn to iced tea, the true nectar of the gods.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Mysteries of Jalna

We were talking about bookshelf staples, the sort that nobody talks much about these days but that are still to be found on the shelves of public libraries, at least in large-type editions for elderly readers. I thought I remembered that Mazo de la Roche was Canadian, but until now I never knew that the writer was a woman. CCH used to laugh at the Jalna books, but there was at least one on the shelves at LP, so somebody had read them sometime.