Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Trio minus one

The Heroic Trio is now a duo: Anita Mui is dead.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Running out of time

This is the best free calendar text generator found on short notice. It's almost 2004. The refrigerator magnets worked out well, except for the difficulty in placing the artwork on the magnet material. This will probably become easier with practice.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Is this flattery?

If, as has been said, imitation is the sincerest flattery, then a benign interpretation must be drawn from "relying on your politeness, neighborliness, and good sense when you post," which is copied directly and verbatim from text that I devised when trying to squeeze as much information as possible into the descriptive language for a listserv when the description is severely limited in the number of words to be used. Search results for the imitation/flattery quotation tossed up a great site "Find Articles" in LookSmart. So many great articles come and go (and so many defunct magazines). We read as many as there's time for and make sure that all are passed along (in poor times via Half Price Books, and in better times via a library swap table). I wish I'd held on to my run of Wigwag magazine. The editor, Alexander Kaplen, just surfaced in Metropolis mag as a hobbyist furniture-designer and an employee of Time Warner.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

John Woo still has it, whatever it is

K. wouldn't go with me to see Kill Bill; I, on the other hand, went to Paycheck, even though Ben Affleck is more like a lump or a bump on a log than anything more lively. Except for the part of the chase that was routed through a maze of shipping containers, the bike chase could have gone, but, then, where would BMW's plug have been? The greatest relief was that no harm came to the caged birds!

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Grappling in the Coliseum

As is usual these days, even the main branch of the library was very picked over, but there was a small display devoted to wrestling in Austin, with some great old-style posters for cards at the Coliseum, along with some Von Erich material.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Small manufacturing

Since the last time that we visited the H-E-B over on the east side near the Cepeda library, a small tortilla-making machine has been set up. Strictly speaking, the attendant makes the tortillas. I think that the masa harina was probably prepared in something like a floor-standing Hobart mixer. The young woman in attendance had made balls of dough. I can't remember whether she was patting them out or whether the machine pressed them. I'd guess that the machine extruded each ball and flattened it into a circle. I can't remember, either, whether the machine was electrified or gas-fired (the latter, I think). The flattened circle appeared first at the top of a tower and dropped onto a very hot, thin metal plate. Then the plate tipped, dropping the dough down to the next hot plate, but with its second surface to the plate. After a tortilla had baked briefly on each plate, it was delivered to a very small, flimsy conveyor belt that lifted it up to a surface, cooling it a bit all the while. Then the attendant grabbed it up and added it to the stack. The tortillas sampled were very thin and extremely hot. We would have bought some except that they were a bit on the salty side. In our trashy telenovela and farandula magazines there are often ads offering tortilla-making machines for sale. A search on the Web reveals kazillion kinds of tortilla machines. We found everything we were looking for, including The Villager, Nokoa, Arriba, and La Prensa.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Still working on it

We're still catching up with the parts of the holiday that other people see. It would be wonderful to be squared away before the new calendar year begins. On the other hand, as things stand now, all smells wonderful and we've received a spontaneous "festive" seal of approval.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

As they approach, there are signs and portents

As the End Times draw near and the Signs become more abundant, those who fail to heed the evidence must pay: they must buy drinking straws that keep getting shorter and shorter (even if they check the packaging, they will find no measurements of length shown); courtesy of Texas Monthly, they read that, in Texas, polo matches are divided into "chuckers" not chukkers.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003


We're still recovering from yesterday's visit to the dentist. Evidently I sit there in the chair and go very pale and seem to be scarcely breathing. They're always stopping to ask whether I'm all right.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Four Elis

GWB, Kerry, Lieberman, and Dean. The first two are Bonesmen, and Lieberman was tapped, as chairman of the YDN, but declined. There's a great piece in US News & World Report, complete with pictures from the freshman directory and other contemporary sources--too bad these aren't on line, but the 12/23/03 issue is still on the newstand for those who want to peek.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Early movies again

Not since the days of the ten-o'clock movie at the old Westgate have there been showtimes for people like us. Now that we've found our way to the Pflugerville Tinseltown, we'll go back. Movies before ten, even. We've been surprised to see the long lines and sold-out showings all over town for the LotR movie. Bad Santa was selling well, though. We saw Billy Bob Thornton in A Simple Plan, but I'm not sure about others. Bad Santa had the audience laughing up a storm. Critics seem to dislike it for its vulgarity, but it is truly funny. Bernie Mac is wasted in it. The movie really belongs to Billy Bob. At Taj Palace there was very good seekh kebab, good dal, lukewarm dal makhni, lukewarm naan, and a new menu item that seemed to have spinach, cashew nuts, and fresh mint and ginger making up the contents of a deep-fried ball. It was called hara kebab, and there are lots of recipes out on the 'Net for it; the only thing they all have in common is spinach or spinach-like greens, plus the deep-frying. There were no pakore or bhajia. Being there was worth it for the seekh kebab.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Haul on the bowline; they sang that mel-o-dee

After a good haul at H-E-B, it was off to the horrors of West Lake Hills to catch Master and Commander on what may be the last weekend. K. has never been able to see why I like the O'Brian series, but we both were glad we'd seen the movie. Russell Crowe would not be my choice as Aubrey, but he did do very well. The audience really liked "the lesser of two weevils." Somewhere I've read that Crowe is said to have practiced the violin for several hours daily in preparation for the filming. The playing of someone else is on the soundtrack, and the two are not well synchronized. Love of music brought Aubrey and Maturin to make one another's acquaintance. The end-credits included the word "artillary" twice.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Death of a rodent

The expiration of an ancient mouse was all the excuse needed to devote the day to as much gallivanting as we could stand, ideally without being forced to hear some of the worst of the commercial musical offerings of the season. You probably have a list of "music" that you never, ever want to hear again. The Official Errand of the Day was in two parts: to draw a cashier's check, and to pay the exorbitant property tax. The county tax assessor-collector office moved from the easy-to-get-to downtown location to one that can be reached by bus, but not during anyone's noon hour. Luckily, the credit union was not busy; luckily, the new clerk's location turns out to be nearly across the street from Lamme's candies, which was doing great business and is even open on Sundays until the end of the year. There were prewrapped boxes of pralines, and people were buying stacks and stacks at a time. K. indulged in almond bark made with dark chocolate and also in orange peel dipped in dark chocolate. On the way back south, we stopped at Wheatsville Co-op, which was selling those small, mirrored Diwali lights (will hold tealights) for much less than what they go for in the mail-order catalogues. There were people shopping who looked like retired faculty from the less prosperous departments, as well as those who still get by with part-time or very low-paying jobs. We took magazines to the library and went to the post office. At OfficeMax, things were very busy, but a standard PS2 three-button wheelmouse was available cheaply and we indulged again in the great deal on flash/key/pen drives. At the City Market, the lime index was 12 for a dollar, and the Villager was available. Following a quick stop at the house to unload, we were off on the Annual Pilgrimage to Target for the dollar deal on Cella's dark-chocolate-covered cherries. The box is red and handsome. The price is no longer one dollar for a five-ounce box, but it's still not bad. K. also found the house-brand razorblades in stock. Target did not stock the Tucanes wanted, the one with El Amor Sonado, but there was one with Me Gusta Vivir de Noche, which, of course, has not left the constant-play list on the mental jukebox. The Banda el Recodo CD has all the best hits of the past two or three years, but that's purely coincidence! Oddly, only Wal-Mart seems to have the track list complete with audio samples. So now we can listen to Yo Se Que Te Acordaras and Y Llegaste Tu and several others. As always, Azul Tequila was full of guys, even though it was quite late for lunch by this time. There was nothing at all wrong with my enchiladas verdes, but the chicken soup was delicious, with a very homemade quality to it, and lots of chicken and lots of assorted vegetables. The red table salsa was good. The frijoles charros were the best ever. All this was more errands and shopping than we've done in one day since last year around this time, we'd guess.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Dial-up doings

Here at the Adobe Hacienda, we got along fine with a CompuAdd for a long, long time (somebody's using CompuAdd in a marketing course; how many remember Austin's other big computer start-up?). Now the home workhorse is a 98-vintage Dell. The connection is dial-up, which is also fine, but here's a word of warning based on recent experience. Don't bother to download IRS Publication 17: wait until it arrives in the mail or you won't be able to do anything else for Quite Some Time! This is one big file (2M *.pdf).

Wednesday, December 17, 2003


Cigar ribbons are out there on the Internet. When reused, most went into making a tablecloth without batting, although sometimes they seem to be mistakenly billed as crib quilts. Some are fringed with ribbons; others are not. A log-cabin pattern is most commonly illustrated, but the one I've had since I was a little kid is crazy-quilted, with a featherstitch.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Settling on a name

Pen drive? Thumb drive? Key drive? Flash drive? We've always called them pen drives, but I bet that they'll settle down to be flash drives. Apparently Pen Drive is a brand name. And so is Flash Drive. Whatever they end up being called, these little USB storage devices are the neatest bits of hardware that have come into use in 2002. Even on Windows 98, with installation of a driver (though every brand seems to have its own), they work; and otherwise they're completely plug-and-play. When it's finally time to upgrade, it'll be difficult to forsake DOS. It always seems to much faster to go out to DOS and ftp and do file commands from the DOS window.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Factoidal feature

In Forbes magazine there was a great little article on gutta-percha. NP had some gutta percha golf balls, and I'd known about its qualities and use as an electrical insulator and also in holders ("union cases") for daguerreotypes and other 19th-century photographs, but its use in dentistry for packing root canals was news.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Making the rounds

The time that worked out best for catching a movie dictated that the movie would be Duplex, at the dollar movie (now $1.50 in Wells Branch). One young person was studying in the box-office cubicle, another was selling refreshments and sweeping up litter, and a tihrd was starting the projector systems and filling in at the refreshment stand for the sweeper. At the Pflugerville H-E-B we bought a six-dollar cheapie plastic tree stand, since our old one, metal with the outriggers, had developed a lot of rust inside the water-container part. It held water, but any slop-over water was rusty. We had planned to replace it anyhow, but somebody stole it from an outbuilding. We went in search of Rudolph's tree lot, but it had moved. The sign gave the new location, but we forgot to make a mental note, so we had to cruise South Congress for it. The improvement this year is that there was a young guy there sawing off the bottom of the trunk, so that I didn't have to do it. The price was very good, and the tree stand works (although it probably wouldn't be very stable were the tree to be any taller than its 6.5 feet or so). The tree's about 6.5 feet and is set on a table. If it were any taller, it would be too tall. The tree itself smells great, and so do the free Frasier fir boughs. Now we can begin catching up with seasonal correspondence.

Saturday, December 13, 2003


Yet another sender of monthly bills has stopped enclosing a return envelope. With the disappearance of complimentary window envelopes for returning statements and payments, there's a greater chance that the customer will misaddress the envelope and thereby incur a late fee. Dispensing with a return envelope cuts costs and increases revenue in one measure.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Big turnout on short notice

The chapel at Huston-Tillotson was at capacity. The Statesman even sent a photographer, although there were no published shots of the crowd or the event itself, just a closeup of Sarah Weddington and of Carole Keeton McClellan Rylander Strayhorn, billed on the program as "dignitaries." Azie Taylor Morton was just 67, but when she was growing up in the St. John Colony (established by freedmen) in Dale, Texas, there was no provision for high school for her. There is a mention in the Handbook of Texas of the St. John Colony in Dale, as well as for St. John's Colony here in Austin. With both of them there must be an association with the St. John Missionary Baptist Church Association, since she earned her high-school diploma at the St. John school for (non-Caucasian) blind, deaf, and orphan children in Austin.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Funereal salesmanship

There's been a great deal of consolidation in the funeral business over the past decade or two and many outfits do not disclose their ownership, preferring to let local people believe that they're dealing with a local business, so there's no way of knowing whether this sales letter is used throughout some chain or whether it's an original creation and "used only for the purpose for which intended" and created, the inauguration of this grand Chapel of Serenity (the chapel of serenity concept is sweeping the funeral business nationally, as is the move to "above ground entombment," since there's more profit to be had). There seems to be a vogue for "memorial parks"--let's have no more of cemeteries! Except where there are brackets, the following letter is printed in its entirety, unedited.

An Open Letter To All Area Families:
[A cemetery that shall go unnamed, although it uses a fancier name than "cemetery"] is proud to announce its plan to construct [unnamed] County's first modern community chapel mausoleum, the CHAPEL OF SERENITY. The new chapel mausoleum will be situated in a beautiful setting of flowering trees and broadlawns. The [cemetery] is now extending the opportunity for area families to select above ground entombment in this beautiful chapel mausoleum, luxuriously finished with imported marble and granite.

There are many advantages to above ground entombment:
. Timeless construction of granite, marble, steel and concrete.
. Clean, dry, ventilated chambers.
. Price comparable to the average cost of earth burial.
. One purchase is the only purchase, eliminating the need for
lots, vaults, and memorials.
. Comfortable inside services in the beautiful chapel regardless of weather conditions.

For centuries our most reverent and honorable form of burial has been in permanent structures of beauty and dignity. We urge families to select early, as the most desirable spaces will surely be chosen first. In addition, the first one hundred families to select will be honored by having their names on a bronze plaque to be permanently placed at the mausoleum. This will be a way to thank these families for necessary support to make this community mausoleum a reality.

Enclosed please find a postage paid reply card that can be filled out and mailed in to obtain more information on the NEW CHAPEL OF SERENITY MAUSOLEUM. In addition, you are entitled to receive "FREE", the Emergency Record Portfolio. This planning booklet helps to list vital information, helps to organize important papers, possessions, documents and financial records.

Looking forward to serving you, I remain
Sales Director

We sincerely regret if this letter should reach any home where there is illness or sorrow, as this was certainly not intended.

And then there's the enclosed post card: "Chapel of Serenity: Heritage . . . Dignity . . . Beauty . . . Permanence . . . an Everlasting Memorial to Your Family Name -- The beautiful and elegant chapel, with it's [sic] richly appointed granite and marble, will be a place where friends and relatives will visit for generations with pride. This is about you -- Caring and sharing."

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

From the yard and garden this weekend

We're still seeing an occasional monarch butterfly (pausing to refuel at the loquat blossoms), and admirals and various sulphur butterflies still appear. Morning glories and lantanas have been cold-touched where not sheltered. The clockvine (thunbergia) continues to bloom where sheltered by the house or the fence. The serranos in pots bloom and set fruit, though they've been indoors for the night a time or two. Years ago we dumped a pot of forced paperwhite narcissus in an inauspicious place and we've had flowers ever since. This year there are already seven buds showing. Geraniums are still loving the weather. In places that the squirrels haven't ransacked, there are seedlings of delphinium, California poppy, various true poppies, and other flowers that will later divulge their identity. Some creature has wiped out the sweetest lettuce and is working on the second-sweetest and a bit of the spinach. More Dutch iris is appearing, but we've seen no hyacinth leaves yet. The Grand Primo/Montopolis/Bastrop narcissus is making a strong showing, but no buds have yet appeared. Sunday morning was as quiet as could be until some idiot fired up an electric leaf-blower to toss around a few pecan leaves. The frequencies eimitted by those things are unpleasant in the extreme. We put on our ear-protectors and moved to another part of the house until the aural assault had concluded. Recently we read that people aged 45 are showing signs of deterioration in hearing that used to be characteristic of people in their mid-seventies.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Ultimate home sound system

Wherever this was read, it was recently: somebody in the music business has a home turntable capable of playing a stamper, which is to say, capable of running backwards and reading the ridges, not the grooves.

Monday, December 08, 2003

About those holiday parties

I wonder if K. still has his freebie sub to the Harvard Business Review. There's nothing explicit in the abstract for the article, but one would guess that the "secret Santa"-by-decree form of oppression might be mentioned therein. The piece is called, "In Praise of Boundaries: A Conversation with Miss Manners."

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Frownies and Wrinkies

There was entertaining fare this week, ind the midst of Everything Else. The WSJ did one of its great features, this one on the closely held company that has been manufacturing Frownies for over a hundred years. Apparently a mention of the product by Rene Russo during a magazine interview has sparked sales. The Vermont Country Store has always carried these items. The Despair, Inc., people, home of the very best in customer disservice, have been dealing in "Frownies" (singular: "Frowny").

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Windmills of the mind

Yes; there is a song "The Windmills of Your Mind," so the windmills of my mind are still turning, and in the right direction. We used to play the Dusty in Memphis album a fair amount, but we always skipped this dog. The track list for the CD remaster seems to include some extras. I hope that "Windmills" doesn't displace "Keemo, Kimo (fair is fair)," now on the mental juke box. There are so many Nat Cole and King Cole Trio reissues out there, but this doesn't seem to have been included on any of the track lists, perhaps because it was just a 78 rpm? The trio, with vocals by Nat Cole, has the definitive version of "It's Only a Paper Moon."

Friday, December 05, 2003

A displacement rant

This is a rant instead of a real rant, not that it's not real; it's just not about the truly serious concerns lurking in "the windmills of my mind" (wasn't that some stinky song lyric? something from a French song translated into English? Dusty Springfield?). They're digging up everything. When I say "they," I mean squirrels. These are squirrels old and wise, individually recognizable squirrels because of their battle scars, but they do not learn from experience. They should know by now where we plant the bulbs that are not tasty and yet they continue to excavate for them, leaving them naked atop the lawn and the flower beds and the pots. Squirrels! We don't plant the ones you like to eat! The only tasty ones remaining are the ones that you have never found. Since there's been no killing frost yet, thanks to a bit of strategic covering of pots with old bedsheets and towels and the odd pot carried indoors, we're still enjoying a proliferation of blooms from old-fashioned trailing nasturtiums and from clockvine (thunbergia alata?) on the trellis; and, of course, the geraniums are going crazy in this cooler weather. All these are triving alongside the baby pecan trees planted by the squirrels.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Still no time to rant

And no time to answer mail, and no time to get work done (though somehow it gets accomplished--genies?), and just plain no time. Question of the day: just what makes Blunn Creek and its aquifer and headwaters and the preserve and the two parks and the quality of water going into the river from it less important than similar concerns connected with the Edwards aquifer, which can bear much more stress than it does? . . . still just another you-fill-in-the bank with a question and way too many opinions.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

No time to rant

What kind of life is it when there's no time to be disgruntled, even though there's more than enough reason to be? . . . . just another you-fill-in-the-blank with a question and lots of opinioins.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Blunn Creek, Austin's beautiful treasure, is still in peril

The experience of others mirrors mine: only one member of the city council acknowledges or responds to correspondence urging protection for Blunn Creek, and that not in a way to gladden the heart.

This artwork is by a neighbor, Gloria Lee.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Days like these

Who needs 'em? Let's stick to the good part. The letter carrier came through, with mail from San Antonio, Pennsylvania, and Puerto Rico. The old Committee for Decency in Literature surfaced again, this time as a newspaper clipping. Maybe there'll be time to scan some of this stuff one of these days.