Sunday, October 31, 2004

More wisdom for the times

How much heartache would be prevented if only more people would remember this magic solution: "small package to follow." Just write this in the Christmas card or the birthday card unaccompanied by a timely present and then make good on the promise before it outlaws. In some families, there's no longer any need to expend unnecessary effort in writing out the entire phrase. "SPTF" does the trick. The promise of "small package to follow" is especially helpful in families or social circles in which all the birthdays and commemorations of significant life events fall on major holidays. And Hallowe'en is a Major Holiday, at least in Austin.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Wisdom for the times

This is a cautionary saying: "Don't shake the salt off your own pretzels." (What? Let the supermarket do it for you?). This is cryptic along the lines of that famous advice from Jesse Duplantis: "If the suit don't fit, it ain't yours!" And here's a truth evolved from the life of the road warrior: "However many gazintas you have, you won't have the one you need." And the advice that's of greatest importance: "Vote or forever hold your peace."

Friday, October 29, 2004

Don Francisco interviews presidential candidates

Today's Wall Street Journal had a feature on Sábado Gigante and Don Francisco. Don Francisco has separately interviewed the presidential candidates, and each will be featured in a 10-minute edited version, about two hours into the show tomorrow night. We catch this show without cable on channel 31, and Univision can be viewed without cable also somewhere in the 60s. The show starts at 7:00 pm Central time, but it's probably shortly after 9:00 pm that the interviews will air. The interviews are reported to cover such subjects as family values, immigration issues, and religiion. Those who haven't seen Don Francisco and who love old-fashioned variety shows with a little bit of everything tossed in are really missing something.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Austin political lie-detector site II

At the now-notorious site showing voter-registration information, the column reporting prior rates of participation in primary elections and in those of which party is now gone, although whether early voting has been accomplished is still reported. So are the names of all people voting from one address. All of this information, by the way, is available from the county for under $100, although historically in printed form.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

More about that mysterious member of the mint family

Now that it can be seen what brings people to this site, it's clear that there are plenty of people out there looking for information on teucrium canadense. The University of Texas has a beautiful image archive of plants found in central Texas. Unfortunately, it's up to the seeker to know the scientific nomenclature, key to the proper image. The site was found during a search for pictures of Gregg's mist (conoclinium greggii or eupatorium greggii), which is reported on reliable authority to be a butterfly magnet, attracting migratory monarchs in particular.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Austin lie-detector site

Do you want to check out that Potentially Important Person for political compatibility without directly asking and taking the chance that the answer won't be the true one? Has your patience with political whiners worn thin, especially with the people who probably never vote anyhow? When your friends say they've voted, do you have a sneaking suspicion that they haven't and don't want to be bothered to go to the trouble? Learn the truth. If they plan to vote the way you want them to and know they would if they could just be bothered, here's the place to find your friend's voting history and whether that ballot's been cast this time around, so that you can nag, nag, nag. Check it out.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Urgent bulletin from SoulCiti Austin

Today's SoulCiti distro set forth eight reasons to go to the polls, and soon. The eighth reason is the much-talked-about Statesman endorsement, quoted verbatim in its entirety. Today's news from the nation's supreme judicial body would, of course, constitute an addendum to reason 7.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

It's not smart to mess with Buddy's chicken

This weekend, on Saturday, we were happy to find El Galindo tortillas. But now it's Buddy's Chicken that's being squeezed at the H-E-B, in favor of some outlander poultry called Smart Chicken, apparently sold in thirty states. There was a small allotment for Buddy's and we bought and roasted an entire bird. We once tried Smart Chicken by mistake (Central Market?) and didn't like it. The texture was peculiar and for some reason it tasted salty. Buddy's natural chicken comes from Gonzalez only, just down the road. It used to be that not every store would carry Buddy's because the birds came whole and had to be dismembered in store, but that has changed, evidently, so that smaller parts of the bird are shipped to the stores upon request. Here it should be recorded that the H-E-B at Congress and Oltorf, before noon on a Sunday, actually had 14 of 16 registers open and operating.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Clockvine says that summer's over

All week long the weather was more oppressive each day. It just had to rain. Yesterday morning a little cool front blew through, seemingly from the southeast, if that's possible, but at any rate not from the north. With it came monarch butterflies, but no rain. After midnight came the torrents, accompanied by thunder and lightning. The plants know it's not summer any longer, even though it's not exactly cool. There were high winds, but the clockvine (thunbergia alata; see picture taken today) didn't drop flowers.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Austin Internet rumor of the day #2: endorsement funny business?

Sources report that on Sunday the local daily will endorse the incumbent chief executive of this nation and that it will do so because the publisher overruled his editorial board. The publisher is Michael A. Laosa. His mailing address is: Austin American-Statesman, Post Office Box 670, Austin, Texas 78767. The telephone number for his office (it will reach his assistant) is 445-3550. According to WWW information, the facsimile number for his office is 445-3679. The local daily is headquartered in the ugly encroachment on the south bank of the river, east of the Congress bridge. The following is not a rumor. On this morning's KAZI 88.7-FM Breakfast Club program, the three participants mulled over why the local daily would praise and praise David Van Os and then endorse his opponent. Perhaps more of the same is at work.

Austin Internet rumor of the day: election peculiarity?

It finally reached the listserv that I administer. I wondered whether it would. Since first posted, just after midnight this morning, it has really gone around town and it has reached me seven times so far. Here it is, in full and verbatim: "Yesterday a friend voted early at a polling location in Austin. She voted straight Democratic. When she did the final check, lo and behold every vote was for the Democratic candidates except that it showed that she had voted for Bush/Cheney for president/vice pres. She immediately got a poll official. On her vote, it was corrected. She called the Travis County Democratic headquarters. They took all her information. They told her that she wasn't the first to report a similar incident and that they are looking into it. So, check before you leave the polling booth, and if anything is wrong, get it corrected immediately. Report any irregularities to your local Democratic headquarters."

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Items of doom

Item number one is the Bulb Box of Doom. It's The Works, Southern Style, from White Flower Farm, 100 bulbs bought for $39 and free shipping, a special deal available a while ago. Now the Bulb Box of Doom has been delivered. One hundred bulbs to plant doesn't sound That Bad, but it is. Every year I do my best not to acquire additional spring bulbs. I keep us away from Sledd's (West Lynn and 12th), the Great Outdoors, and that especially evil and tempting place, Gardens. I hide the catalogues. It does no good. So far, we've avoided the locals, but there is that Box of Bulbs, waiting reproachfully. We usually plant the first week or two of November, but it would be okay to do it now and okay to do it later. I just don't want to be the one stuck again. Item number two is the Pumpkin Duo of Doom. Why couldn't it be just one pumpkin? I just know it will fall to my lot to do the carving again. It's two, though, both from the pumpkin patch at Grace United Methodist Church, just east of Congress.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Casting a ballot

What an archaic term is "casting a ballot" these days! Travis County early voting is very busy. We prefer to vote at the precinct, one of those in high-turnout 78704, or at the Travis County courthouse. The former must be done on Election Day itself; the latter is preferred for early voting, that wonderful feature of the Texas elections system. One of the events in the recent event cluster took us farther south, so we voted at the Albertsons market on Stassney. I think there were a half-dozen voter stands, but maybe there were more. At any rate, each was constantly busy. At any given moment three people were going through the process of getting a verification code to enter on the eSlate, two had completed that process and were waiting for a machine to open up, and two or three were waiting to begin to present a current voter-registration card. When people are discussing the local retirement of the punch-out paper ballot, they often inveigh against the new touch-screen voting. These are people who haven't voted lately, since the eSlate is not a touch-screen device and is really rather fun to use. The eSlate has been recording votes in Travis County for quite some time now. What the little spin-wheel device that clicks is called I don't know, but that adds to the fun, and the screen is very easy to read, even for someone with poor vision. Votor-registration cards were being recorded by using a hand-held scanner to read the bar code. This is new. Many people are encountering the eSlate for the very first time, if one's to judge by the requests for demonstration of use. Really, though, the device is very user-friendly. It appeared that the requests for assistance were from people not acquainted with computers generally. Now I don't have to worry about being "struck down" before Election Day. It was so busy that we forgot to ask how many had voted, and it was so busy that not one of the election officials had time to make the customary comment on turnout.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

An event cluster

There's much talk of disease clusters. Why not event clusters, and a center to which to report them? "Cluster events are groupings of a particular disorder or a class of disorders that appear unusually frequent in a place." Perhaps the reports would be happy-event clusters, but probably the preponderance would be of unhappy events. When a dental emergency is the least unpleasant occurrence at a particular location, nothing's going well! Well; there are plenty of things that could be said, but not one would be very pleasant. I hope to live to vote!

Monday, October 18, 2004

"Put a little Fawn in your life"

This slogan leads one to believe that the person who came up with it has a Cajun accent. The peculiar purchase of the week is Fawn Eyeglass Cleaner, ingredients not on the label. It's reputed to be "excellent for cleaning jewelry, mirrors, windows, and tinted glass." It doesn't smell like ammonia. It's from Fort Worth. There's a toll-free telephone number: 800-843-6372. It's in a generic white four-ounce pump bottle. The label has a crude image of a fawn bearing some resemblance to Disney's Bambi. Around the neck of the bottle was another label: "This product makes a great gift for friends." Advice to "clean daily to minimize scratching" is an obvious attempt to speed the purchase of the next bottle. How is it that precious shelf space was given to this item? It's just Another Tiny Mystery.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Pushed off the shelves?

It's becoming tougher and tougher to find El Galindo tortillas in this town. El Galindo makes the best tortilla chips, also. El Galindo's corn tortillas contain nothing but corn, lime, and water. This is very rare these days. Others contain preservatives, and even sometimes sugar and artificial coloring. Just look at the list of ingredients. The El Galindo website is down. This weekend we failed to find tortillas at KashKarry/FreshPlus and at H-E-B. Even though H-E-B gives precedence to its own tortilla products, there has always been a little spot down at the very bottom of the shelves for El Galindo, and Frito-Lay has not succeeded in kicking El Galindo chips out, either, or at least not for any extended period of time before people complain. We didn't have time to check Whole Foods or Central Market, both of which usually devote at least a small space to El Galindo.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

"I Think You Got Your Fools Mixed Up"

"You must think I'm somebody else," is the next line. I love this song, another of those great ones that never became a hit. This one, The Great Ray Charles, needs some cleaning up to be listenable; there's too much New Mexico red dust interfering with the sound. Louis Armstrong: An Early Portrait sounds as though it needs cleaning up, but it doesn't. The decision was made merely to transfer this early music from the 'Twenties to vinyl as it was (Milestone MLP 2010; produced by Orrin Keepnews). To be heard in addition to Armstrong are Ma Rainey, Trixie Smith, Fletcher Henderson, Sidney Bechet, and Alberta Hunter. Favorites from this one are Texas Moaner Blues, See See Rider Blues (of course! nobody's ever done a better vocal on it than Rainey herself), and Cake-Walking Babies. This all began in a search for Buffalo Springfield albums, by the way. And then there's The Cool Sound of Albert Collins. This page shows a picture of this 1965 album down at the bottom; it's not even stereo, but it sounds better than a lot of CD stuff out there. Here's the track list, along with some samples (don't be fooled by the different name; it's a full reissue of all the tracks on The Cool Sound, in the same order). There won't be time to play Trout Mask Replica, also found, at least not today. I thought it had been sold long ago to Half Price Books, along with a lot of special-edition Beatles and Stones stuff, but apparently not. It is the 1969 US original on Straight STS 1053.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Breakfast with the chefs

The KAZI (88.7-FM) Breakfast Club was in excellent form, laughing about the debates and eulogizing the many good works of M.J. Anderson, of which each of the three hosts had extensive personal knowledge. This morning there was no sign of a passion flower, but at suppertime there was a great, big bloom. It's cool enough for roses again, and the butterflies are still with us everywhere.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Friday night lights

So somehow the radio was tuned to KNCT (probably for Bill Hecke's weather report) and somehow there was a football game being broadcast and somehow it was impossible to change stations. The match was between Harker Heights and A&M. The broadcasters weren't in an enclosed booth and so the fans, the bands, and cheerleaders could all be heard. It used to be that every local station broadcast the local football games, but this is the first one heard in a long time. By the way, do read the book before or after seeing the movie. Here's an interview with Bissinger, the author. And also by the way, it's getting tougher to hear streaming Tejano music because of rights issues, but KNCT links to a service that even announces the artist and song.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Search terms and site meters

"Pumpkin patch" and the perennial "cool hotels in Austin" are hot right now on Austin del sur. And the free Site Meter hit counter just installed for Rant-O-Mat is a delight. The most recent visitors sought "snare drum," "Christina Saralegui," "Circo Vazquez," and the "Pershing expedition." Some people comment or send e-mail, but what brings the non-communicators to a site remains a mystery without the record kept by a counter.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Local daily works on multicultural recognition

At least there was an obituary for Mr. M. J. "Andy" Anderson, first African-American licensed to be an insurance broker in this entire state, I believe, and then the first to be licensed as a real estate broker. The link to his paid notice is posted because logging in is required to view articles in the local daily. There was no mention of his formative role in several organizations, one of the most important of which was Crime Stoppers. On the other hand, there was no recognition (other than the paid notice by the family) for Lalo Campos, who also died this week.

Monday, October 11, 2004

The election season's heating up

One manifestation is that La Prensa is fatter with ads and is printing more copies and distributing them to more locations. For a while, La Prensa had an internet affiliation with the En Austin site, but now En Austin links to something called La Empresa -- Austin's Xtra News, which seems to have mostly syndicated content, although plenty of local paid notices. There's a new Earthlink domain,, that hasn't launched yet. There's bound to be a story behind this story.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Circo Hermanos Vázquez

The seating was greatly improved since the 2001 circus shows on Pleasant Valley Road. Instead of rough boards bound together and plenty of opportunities to fall through, there were enclosed risers, and bolted to them molded orange plastic seats with backs. This time there were four admission prices; last time, only two. An "usher" led people to the seats and placed a cushion on each one; in the absence of a tip he picked up the cushions. We kept ours. Ths time it was not possible to be photographed with a snake draped over one's shoulders. The strongman and his mother (and their serpent) were not in this show. There were three photo opportunities. A photographer came through the audience with a digital camera and took speculative shots using a flash. Later, he came around again with prints. It took five bucks to get a print inserted in the die-cut slots of a printed frame promoting the circus. He photographed nearly everybody and sold to nearly every subject and some people even asked for multiple prints. There was a horse act, with "Maximo," a young draft horse, and "Minimo," a miniature horse. Very small children could be photographed on or next to Minimo. Those photographs were taken using a not-new Polaroid camera. The third opportunity was for children to be photographed with the Hombre Araña, who had earlier done a very good chiffon act. Spiderman threw himself into the pictures and struck some very lively action poses with the kids, again for Polaroid pictures, but using a different camera and photographer. The clowns were excellent and so was the flying act. We hadn't seen a teeterboard act for ages; this one was a man and a woman, both jugglers also. We really could not get out of the parking lot at Marketplace Austin. In both directions, Lamar had about a mile-long line of vehicles arriving for the six-o'clock show and our parking space was blocked by those departing. So we tried the Chuy's across the street. The green chile sauce was everything it should have been.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Now, no!

The local daily has a new publication called ¡Ahora sí! and it's available free at various locations around town. The logic governing the distribution locations chosen in 78701, 78703, and 78704 is peculiar, that's for sure. We haven't found one yet, although we frequent many of these locations. We wanted to make sure that the weekend matinee performances of the circus will be at three o'clock both days this weekend; the Univision station stopped running the commercials and we forgot to write down the information. Radio exitos 98.9-FM has been promoting the Circo Hermanos Vazquez, which has been playing all week out on North Lamar at Marketplace Austin ("no fleas here!").

Friday, October 08, 2004

Never out of print

It is surprising to read that the Lambs' Tales from Shakespeare has never been out of print (according to a review of books by and about Charles and Mary Lamb in the 10/31/04 NYRB). Personally, I think that reading these stories in some ways spoils enjoyment of the plays themselves later on. My favorite tale was that of King Lear. Of course, the plays "taught" in school are pretty much ruined, also. As kids had done a hundred and more years before, we were still being forced to memorize Portia's speech, the two most famous speeches from Julius Caesar, and many, many other set pieces, some of which are still there in the memory, along with chunks from the Ancient Mariner, the Aeneid, and Chaucer. At least we didn't have to memorize Little Orphant Annie, Barbara Frietchie or Robert of Lincoln, thank goodness, although that doesn't mean that chunks of them aren't dodging around in the brain, somewhere, from having heard them so much recited by members of an older generation, or that we weren't exposed to them in school. James Whitcomb Riley, John Greenleaf Whittier, and William Cullen Bryant are probably very deeply out of vogue. Let's not even think about Thanatopsis! No doubt there are motivational speakers out there still quoting from that one.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Wired for sound?

An entertaining rumor of the day is that one of the participants in the recent political debate was fitted with a wireless earpiece or other communications device for receiving assistance from people somewhere in a back room but that the other participant in the debate (or his people in the back room) interfered with the alleged communications device by jamming the airwaves, thereby spoiling the transmission. Will this speculation appear in print?

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Canadian garb, elfin garb, and yard garb

These are manifestations of wardrobe peculiarity. Canadian garb is characterized by men with beards and black- or clear-framed spectacles who wear shorts, black socks, and sandals. For some reason, Canadian garb is often sported by Australians, also. In bird-watching terms, it's bearded Canadians who wear Canadian garb. Elfin garb can happen to anyone. A common occasion is when random garments are tossed on to make a night run to the Whip-In and upon coming into the light it's discernible that every item of clothing is somehow red or green or both at once. Yard garb can be worn only in the center of the yard or on the side or back porch where nobody not a very close friend or relative is likely to approach. Yard garb appears to be intact from a distance but would be indecent up close. It has holes in revealing places but is otherwise too good to be thrown away. A bad wardrobe is one that contains too many of these elements in too large a proportion. These are not the clothes that would tend to make a good impression on a stranger.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

Ours is not the Autumn of Keats, to say the least, and "pecans" should be substituted here:

To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweek kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease, . . .

With us still are all the butterflies and hummingbirds, along with a fourth flush of bloom from the oxblood lilies, some in strange places, courtesy of squirrel work. Now the squirrels are too busy eating pecans, and planting them also, to be digging up and re-arranging our flowers.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Miss Carabobo did not win

Every year the considerable splendors of the Miss Venezuela contest are cut back a little. The choreography this year was laughable. A former Miss Venezuela, Alicia Machado, lip-synched her way through a horrible musical number. The only guest star was Luis Fonsi, Adamari's current boyfriend. The set was austere. But they haven't cut back yet on the evening gowns, most of which were encrusted with hand-sewn crystals and rhinestones and sequins. As always, Miss Carabobo and Miss Nueva Esparta were the ones being cheered for. Because of the names, they're always the favorite contestants, no matter who they are. Neither won. Somebody who'd really had a lot of "work" done did. This was obviously a delayed broadcast, but it was all news to us.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Questions for Martha Stewart

So, Ms. Stewart, we understand that for several months you'll be a guest of the government at the Alderson FCP for women. Do you plan to yellow your hair before you report? If so, how do you plan to keep it yellow while you're there? Or do you? Just wondering.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

I'm a "Best of Austin" (sort of)

Yes; it's true: on the first page of the Austin Chronicle "Best of Austin" issue (page 38; October 1, 2004; readers' poll: architecture and lodging), South Austin wins as the best part of town. "For a great summation of this hallowed land, may we recommend the following Web site? " The on-line version does not show the site location, so it's been furnished here for you, as (gonna say it again) "a great summation of this hallowed land" of 78704. Maybe the page of the Chron should be framed and preserved for Posterity.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Registered to vote? Remind yourself of your own birthday

When people learn about the information that can be found at the Travis County Appraisal District, some can't believe it. Unfortunately, Travis County lags behind many jurisdictions, in that the TCAD site doesn't offer full information and has no photograph of the property. And for the person who's always wondered just how old that co-worker is but doesn't have access to personnel records, there's always the searchable Travis County tax office's voter-registration rolls.