Friday, December 31, 2004

Good riddance!

Every year is a good year to see off into oblivion; this one's no exception.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

At least there's a toll-free number

As a charter subscriber to the London Review of Books, I've been receiving it for decades. It's true that, before I lived at this street address, I lived at another address on the same street, sharing three of four digits and in the same order. No matter how many change-of-address forms were sent, it took about a decade to get all that straightened out. But today there came a form post card reporting entirely in upper-case letters, "The Post Office has notified us that there is a problem delivering mail to the address printed at right." From there it goes on and on. What can be the problem? There's no way to find out immediately, since the toll-free number has a voicemail message reporting that, because it's a holiday (today?), there's nobody to respond to the call. And the name and the address shown on the card have always worked fine. Perhaps a holiday substitute letter carrier delivered the periodical to the wrong address and the occupant made some mark on it? Creepy Amazon provides no toll-free number where anyone is likely to find it and also fails to respond to correspondence in any form, for the most part. The WSJ this week mentioned Austin's own Ellen Hobbs and her posting of this elusive number at Cliche Ideas.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Heretofore overlooked

The imdomitable Scott Henson is following his usual topics and writing it all up at Grits for Breakfast, and there's a site following Texas criminal-justice happenings, with shortcuts to the relative legislative information. The Texas law blog warrants periodic visits also, with an excellent collection of links.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


This isn't even the gutter or even curbside. This is thrown deep into the yard. Picked up were two Bud Lite cans, each in a brown paper sack, plus the plastic cover with straw still inserted that belongs to some paper or plastic cup of fast-food something-or-other. There was a dog-chewed sheet of math homework. There was an empty plastic sack from H-E-B. The Rumbo doesn't count, although I did pick up the one from the yard of the absent neighbor so that creeps passing by don't know he's not there. Checking out the curb and the street in general wasn't an appealing notion, particularly since lately somebody's been tossing down newspaper sleeves full of dog-crap, no doubt ostentatiously picked up from somebody's front yard only to be dumped when the dog-walker believes him- or herself to be no longer under surveillance.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Report from the yard

As of this just-past weekend, the paperwhite narcissi were still in full bloom, even the very first stalks. It has been that cool. Now there are flower buds appearing among the Montopolis (Avalanche- or Grand Primo-type) narcissi. Pink oxalis is in bloom. Every lantana plant, no matter where located, has been touched by frost. The first ones to suffer are now dropping their leaves. The grass isn't growing. At last it's probably headed for dormancy, but it's still green no matter where located. Since this is the case, it's only the species tulips, ranunculus, and anemones, which stick their heads up way above grass level, that we can see for sure since there's no contrast in color. There's almost no place to walk in the yard anywhere, for fear of stepping on something. Our tree continues to drink water and smell great.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Batons, not flaming

The old 13-inch television is failing fast, but we managed to see the Rodgers and Hammerstein Cinderella with Julie Andrews. I had always known all the words, but had never seen this production, although we did see the version with Brandy done for television and once saw a production at the Bastrop Opera House. The business in which Edie Adams as the fairy godmother showed off some baton-twirling skills was especially enjoyable.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Return to Austin

What a quiet and peaceful day this has been, one much reminiscent of the Austin of old. On a quest for minor sundries, we saw long lines at open dining establishments and plenty of patronage of those establishments that remained open. We could actually hear the church bells from downtown, very rare these days.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Just one venture forth

After a quick run to the South Austin Farmers' Market, held one day early and starting one hour later, indoors has been the rule of the day. Since the Breakfast Club wasn't on, we tuned in to the best of Sam and Bob on KVET, complete with harkenings back to visits from Willie, the Kyle Sisters, and many others. Hot yeast rolls from the oven consumed in good company make for a fine day. So far no pipes have frozen.

Thursday, December 23, 2004


Cheap specs were needed; the old ones, as cheap specs do, had broken themselves, or at least that's the way it seemed. The Walgreen's on Riverside was wall-to-wall people. Only the cosmetics aisle wasn't crowded. Toys and snacks were the attraction. There were Bratz knock-offs and all sorts of toy vehicles. Featured up front were dolls over a foot tall, some in bridal gowns and some in dress from around the world. These were made in China and selling two for ten dollars. The parking lot wasn't all that full, but, then, most of the customers had arrived on foot or by bus. This is the Walgreen's that plays Latin music on the tape system and that has a staff that's comfortable with the Spanish language. We very, very rarely visit shopping centers or malls and especially not during the season from Hallowe'en to after New Year's, so this was the most frantic shopping seen outside the H-E-B at Congress and Oltorf. We haven't yet been to Whole Earth up on the Drag or to Lamme's Candies or to BookPeople.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Goods worldly and unworldly

Worldly goods welcome in this establishment are books, music, flowers, plants, stationery, writing implements, food and food ingredients, certain non-powered hand-tools for home and garden, and kitchen and tabletop items. These are not the items that another can really select for the recipient. Only rarely is there an exception. I hope to outlive my supply of stationery, not the other way around. That state has probably already been achieved for all time in the wardrobe department. Fortunately, Austin is one of those rare places (New York City is another) where people disregard eccentricities of dress and are courteous to the wearer anyhow. "Fashion" is just a wannabe thing and completely personal. As to the immaterial, we would all rejoice to enjoy Peace in all its aspects.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Toy camera

I really love my Concord EyeQ digital mini-camera. It has no flash. It has no digital display. It takes two AAA batteries. It fits in my pocket. And it works with Windows 98. Even indoors, it takes captures an image of sorts, one that can sometimes be corrected. The cheap plastic case is made to mimic a much more expensive camera. It's perfect for Web use. It came from Target and was really cheap, so cheap that it wasn't even kept behind the counter. These days I think there are models with flash and perhaps with a display, but I don't care. If I want flash, there's the old JamCam 3.0. I've used it enough to be able to guess fairly well when it's ready for that first shot and how long the shutter-lag is between shots. Here are some pix taken around town (signs and pots, Tesoros and neighbor, and Rudy's tree lot). It's probably already off the market as obsolete. I hope that my mini EyeQ lasts a long, long time.

Monday, December 20, 2004


Luckily, Northwest Hills Pharmacy had sold out all its Crane's Christmas cards so there were no sale items to tempt. In the racks of greeting cards was a birthday card asking the age-old question, "Why do old men wear their pants to high?" Inside was the answer, "Don't worry; you'll be finding out very soon" or something along those lines. Luckily, Northwest Hardware, a small and very nice establishment of the old-fashioned sort, tempted us only so far, far enough to buy some foil-paper stars to hang up as decorations and to buy some packets of flower seeds. This store has a beautiful selection of wagons and toy cars. An ardent Longhorn fan would certainly covet the giant three-tiered outdoor pivoting pinwheel on a stand, complete with a vane for keeping it turned to the wind. Luckily, there are no ardent Longhorn fans in this household. Luckily, there's still a swap table at the Carver branch library. Leaving some of those extravagant magazines full of pictures there for others to enjoy helps allay some of the guilt incurred by spending money on such frivolity. Luckily, this Tesoro Tierra turkey was even more delicious than the last, or should I say penultimate, since this one is the very last bird from this source. It's so delicious but will be available no longer, since the Tesoro Tierra people are leaving the business for a while. Luckily, the H-E-B wasn't as busy as we feared; most people must have been out shopping at non-food places. Luckily, even at H-E-B we weren't subject to Christmas music.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Open on Sunday

After we hit Manuel's, Tesoros, and La Peña's gift shop, and after we peeked into Las Manitas, we headed over east. The Carver branch was open. While I unloaded magazines for the swap shelf, which was very picked over, K. had fun listening in on a political meeting (the Green party?). As is true of every Austin library branch, the library was full of patrons and the books were few. Then we checked out Big Red Sun, which has not yet unpacked a new shipment of bulk seeds. There is a very sweet bi-colored version of violas there, but we already have a lot. Inside the house were handsome clothes for children, a good selection of books, and various small items including reprints of Victorian show cards to be used as gift cards. I had never noticed that there were still some hand-painted windows in the adjoining building, which had been a cleaners not all that long ago. Why did one window say "RUINED"?

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Lined envelopes

Last year we were so good about using up batches of holiday cards from other years that it seemed fine to take advantage of after-Christmas sales to acquire new cards. So this year we sent out very beautiful Crane's engraved cards. We had found three different vintage designs last year that for some reason weren't attractive enough to be sold to others. All three have envelopes lined in red. I realized that one design would require additional postage because of its size. Only after they were mailed did I realize that envelopes of another size required additional postage also, because of the ratio of the height to the width. They'll probably be back here on Monday. Last year we had bad luck with sale cards at Northwest Hills Pharacy. Somebody had been there first. We had good luck at BookPeople. We used to have the very bst luck of all at the old office supply store at Congress and Riverside.

Friday, December 17, 2004


At last the seasonal spirit is making itself felt. Maybe it's the smell of the tree; maybe it's reading holiday correspondence and answering it. Maybe it's putting out the mostly red-and-white toy Texaco trucks (here's my favorite one). Whatever it is, I'm all for it. Only after I sent out a batch of cards, though, did I realize that some of them require extra postage. I wonderhow soon they'll make their way back here. Or will the postal service relent and send them on anyhow?

Thursday, December 16, 2004


BBQ from the Iron Works is fine; I'm not complaining, especially when the batch of brisket has the fat rendered out completely but hasn't become jerky. But I still miss the Pit, where the flavor was of meat and of smoke and where the brisket was never too fatty. Iron Works doesn't measure up. The Pit incorporated the Susanna Dickinson house, it turns out. It was a great resort for working people at lunch, too, with one of those bottomless (ever-refillable) giant plastic glasses of (iced) tea. Whatever is rubbed on at the Iron Works (a) has a lot of salt, and (b) has something sweet, and sweeter than blackstrap molasses, something more like just plain sugar or even ketchup; this is not a plus. I miss the Pit, and I bet the regulars still miss it all, including the door between the Pit and O'Henry's or the Back Forty behind the Pit. (Here's what the Chron used to say about it: "O. Henry's Back Forty, 407 Neches, 478-0411 The writer for whom it is named wouldn't likely recognize the decor, which is straight out of Roy Rogers' rec room -- formica tables, faux-tile linoleum bar, and red woven-vinyl chairs. You'll find more Greek letters and college insignia than cattle brands, and it's always happy hour on the Natty Light.") Sigh. Not that I'm complaining. I like this rundown of BBQ providers, including those now defunct. I don't think he mentions Sam's or Ben's Long Branch, though. This guy does properly appreciate the Pit #3 and laments its passing.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


For all sorts of reasons, when I'm at the dentist's office, it's only with a death-grip on the arms of the chair and by thinking very calm thoughts that I manage to endure the ordeal. I can't even make my own appointment, which must be the first appointment of the day. Although I can take a bus or a cab on to the next stage, even with a mere cleaning it's best if I have an attendant waiting for me when it's over. When there's a new technician, she always asks if I'm all right or going to faint or something like that because I turn so pale. Well, it's over for this time around. It did help that K. played a lot of music from Pinafore before we headed on out. Having "and our saucy ship's a beauty" on the mental jukebox certainly was cheery. And it was cheering to find that, when the coverings were lifted, all has been preserved in excellent shape. The hyacinth beans do look a bit touched. The thunbergia closest to the house suffered a bit also. We did see quite a bit of real frost around town this morning. The fact that the wind didn't blow made the cold settle more, but wasn't as dehydrating; and it also meant that the warmth wasn't stripped from the house. I suppose that gas pressure was vey low this morning; thinking fearful dental thoughts, however, I didn't notice.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Betting against the weatherpeople

So last night turned out fine. The only plants that are truly tender are plants that were gifts from a neighbor no longer with us: a kalanchoe and its offspring and some kind of semisucculent whose name I always forget (jointed stem, white borders on the leaves, green centers). They're no trouble to bring in. Tonight, I think, will be a different story. Just to be safe, the schefflera came in this evening. The geraniums and all the potted herbs are covered in sheets and towels. So are the potted nasturtiums and several other items. There's nothing to be done about thunbergia on the fences or about our splendid display of hyacinth beans on the t-bar clothes pole. It doesn't seem to make sense to carry in all those pots just for one night. And the nasturtiums are the old fashioned trailing kind, and they're all intermixed and some have also gone aloft. We shall see.

Monday, December 13, 2004


The leaves on the pear tree have turned overnight. There are years when the leaves are blown to the ground before they have a chance to redden. I don't believe the prognostications about the weather. I don't think it's going to be as cold tonight has it was the night that we really did have a near light frost.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Bulbs are in

There are no more to get into the ground. One bin in the fridge has been emptied of tulips. The year's first plantings are already showing leaves. We sat out in the yard in the afternoon. The loquats continue to bloom, as do the paperwhites. Even outdoors and with a breeze, the scents are nearly overpowering. The hyacinth beans draped over the clothespole love this cooler weather and are putting forth more blooms than they have yet.

Saturday, December 11, 2004


Today I frightened a Girl Scout, although I didn't mean to. I startled myself, too. I opened the door to step out and almost stepped into her. The little curtain made from an old Totes scarf was covering the glass pane in the door. She may have rung the doorbell, but it's as old as the house and doesn't work. She may have been affixing a little yellow thank-you tag to the doorknob. We both jumped back. She and her mother were on the porch to collect a sack of items for the Capital Area Food Bank. Those unable to stop by the event tonight were asked to leave a sack at their doorstep. Tonight's event is a more intimate and friendly Austin Trail of Lights, in Stacy Park. Seeking donations for the food bank, Austin's own Girl Scout Troop 1217 has installed over 600 luminarias or farolitos in the park, where there will be hot chocolate and cider on tap, along with plenty of carol-singing around the campfire. It all happens tonight, as soon as it begins to get dark, from Woodland/Annie to Big Stacy Pool.

Friday, December 10, 2004


Somebody has constructed a shrine to Astron. I thought that nobody else had ever seen it. Mention of it always draws a blank. There's no picture of the planes, of a cast metal and looking silly up on a pedestal somewhat akin to those holding up model planes on the desks of airline executives, which also look silly. People always fought to get to turn the knobs that turned that rollers that moved the map along. I wish that the shrine-builder had named all the airports. I can almost remember them, but not quite.

Thursday, December 09, 2004


Even though this blog elicits little in the way of commentary, since the counter was installed at least it's clear that people do visit it. Some are regulars, whoever they may; others arrive as the result of searches. Four popular searches right now are Pine Brothers (do those honey and those licorice lozenges still exist?), Throat Discs (yum, that capsicum), Aspergum, and Nyquil (as in Nyquil Blues).

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


It was with dread that we greeted the arrival of this month's City utility bill. After last month's experience, it was only to be expected that (a) the water bill would be estimated, (b) the reason given would be the invented vicious dog of last month, and (c) the usage billed would top even the record high of last month. But, no! This month's bill does not show that the water use was estimated, and the amount of water billed for was the lowest ever in the entire time of residence in this house. There's an entire month to wait until the next bill arrives. Oh, the suspense.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

No change in appearance

Our monarch chrysalis looks the same as it did when it was first noticed. Here's a better picture than the one taken of our very own pupating monarch. It there perhaps a bit more transparency? It's worrying that it has now been two weeks, but it's encouraging to know that, if a butterful does eventually emerge, it will subsist on liquids and not on the milkweed plants consumed in near entirety by it and its sibling larvae.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Favorite recent spam heading

"MAY GOD BLISS YOU AND PROTECT YOU." That's one that's never going to be opened. I'd be afraid to.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Bulbous, mostly

There are still tulips (taking up huge parts of the fridge), some anemones, and a couple of dozen narcissi or jonquils of the cheap sort waiting to go into the ground. The paperwhite narcissi from old, dumped pots of bulbs forced indoors years ago are faithfully in bloom, with more flowers than ever before. Allium of all kinds is showing leaves everywhere, and the same is true for grape hyacinths and squill. There are no signs yet of Dutch hyacinths. Dutch irises from years gone by continue to appear. Appearing for the first time are leaves from some of this fall's bulbs of various sorts. The pecan leaves are 75% down. Raking up the fallen leaves has revealed the bulbs sprouting in the midst of the grass. Redbud leaves are all down; the pear leaves are just beginning to change color.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Holidaze part one

There are still dozens of bulbs to go into the ground. So far, the music-avoidance project has been successful. Not even a quick trip to Target on the annual run for chocolate cherries enrobed in dark chocolate smote us with unwanted tunes. There was absolutely no music at all playing, except from a try-it-out CD kiosk, with samples of albums like bagpipe music, zydeco music, and so forth. Not even that was ostentatiously seasonal. The use-them-up project has also been successful so far. Not one additional seasonal greeting card has come into this household. The wandering Rudolph's tree lot has been located. The Christmas tree will wait a while, but the lot is back at 2401 South Lamar, by the trailer park, the shady spot that's been the traditional location. Whew! That's one quest successfully concluded.

Friday, December 03, 2004

coltrane favorite things martha stewart kmart

So other people have noticed. Google found this on the above search string. It's just a few bars, but unmistakeable. There have been other threads on that jazz board on the subject. I hate it that the music's truncated. It would be interesting to know why the particular segment was selected, and by whom. Does carry any associations for people? Do many people even know that the song is or have any recollection of any of the lyrics? If there are Kmarts around here these days, I don't know where; nonetheless, I've heard parts of this commercial twice in passing. Somebody, somewhere has actually produced a thesis on Coltrane and Favorite Things, minus Ms. Stewart and Kmart. My personal favorite is still Lush Life.

Thursday, December 02, 2004


The first-time ventures into the wilds of eBay and PayPal have worked out just fine. This household now contains two more JamCam 3.0 cameras. Other people must like them, too, because it's not that easy to find them for nothing or next to it. Though they don't fit in a pocket, they feel very good in the hand.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


Boxes of Avery labels have been hanging around for way too long and so have a couple of boxes of very cheapo number 10 envelopes that are losing their flap glue. Seeking to avoid doing something more constructive and with a much higher priority, I've made stickers from some sheets of these labels. Of course, they must be cut out individually, since there are at least two, and sometimes as many as five, stickers-to-be for each individual label. In Forbes magazine, I read that the mania for "cropping" or "scrapbooking" is waning. The focus of the article was on Creative Memories, which seems to be a bit on the pyramid side. Apparently, the fad has helped revive Mrs. Grossman's sticker business, which had been suffering because schoolkids moved on to something else. And there is a stickermania domain. The stickers made so far are mostly of Austin images, including of my packet of legitimo polvo de coyote, from Cantu's on South First.