Monday, January 31, 2005


It wasn't imagination. The new Diamond kitchen matches that we finally found yesterday are a full head shorter, match-head, that is (about an eighth of an inch). The splint may be very slightly more narrow as well. The diminution can be confirmed because there are still a few of the old batch around for comparison. I don't think that shorter matches are a safety feature when the purpose for which they're bought is primarily to relight the pilot lights on the gas stove, which go out as soon as the pressure gets low in this cooler weather.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Did you hear these?

By "these" is meant a series of loud reports, between approximately 4:15 and 4:30 am this morning (Sunday, 30 January). If you did hear anything, you'll know what I'm talking about. The location was somewhere between IH-35 and Congress, along Riverside, part or all of that distance. If you have information about this incident, you may call 3-1-1 or Austin Police Department South Central District Representative James Scott (telephone 448-4385).

Saturday, January 29, 2005

First of the season

Thanks to the South Austin Farmers' Market, we've enjoyed new and tasty-licious asparagus fresh from the farm.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Memory-allocation problems

No; it's not me. It's the ancient home desktop. It's time to run Ad-Aware again.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

"At your earliest convenience"

The first impulse was not to return the call. From a bank? From a bank nowhere near here? The first thought was that it was yet another attempt to sell some non-insured financial product. But it turned out that delaying to subtract to get the running balance in the checkbook register and then later misreading a handwritten 5 for a 3 resulted in an overdraft. A small one, under ten dollars. Yes; a potential bounced check! It is the end of the month, after all. The initial fear was that there had been identity theft or an unauthorized withdrawal from the account. The patient bank employee kindly read the number and amount of every check that cleared for the entire month of January. Bad handwriting not bad intentions was the cause of the problem. Resolution: tidy up that handwriting!

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Innu outtu

No; I know nothing about Innu Salon beyond its website and clever print ads. The current set of four animations on the website has two favorites: caterpillars in, butterflies out; and raindrops in, snowflakes out. The most recent print ad seen has angels in, devils out. The concept's clever; the visuals are amusing. Whoever is responsible has garnered praise from Rantor, something that doesn't happen often.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Spoiler: Mujer de madera

Why did she get the black bean? Why not Marisa? How can they possibly wind up the plot of Mujer de madera? If we're around at the right time, we don't want to miss the Tucanes de Tijuana on Sábado Gigante this Saturday.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Where are all the early-birds?

The South Austin Farmer's Market is changing its hours and won't open until 9:00 am. It's a small-time, small-town feature of Austin that, except for true 24-hour joints (and they are few for a town this size), very little opens at an hour that anyone would call early. Sweetish Hill is a rare exception. The market should have beautiful, sweet local asparagus in two or three weeks.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Can Flour Box replace the lamented Bruce's pies?

These little pecan (and sometimes blueberry, apple, or cherry) pies were found by chance when the tire needed air, down at a former Texaco, now I forget what, station. Somebody in the household "needs" these pies fairly often, but this is the only place they've been sighted. Sometime when there is time, it will be necessary to call or write to Flour Box Baking Company, 125 East Jackson Square, Weimar, Texas 78962, voice (979) 725-6156, fax 979-725-6077. Someplace more convenient must sell these pies.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Cooder Browne replayed

No matter what the station, there's always something irritating lately, so ancient vinyl long unheard has been spinning on the turntable while the radio is silent. Well as I remember enjoying the Cooder Browne band live in Austin, everything on Mercury Lone Star Records L-4604 was a surprise. Let's tell the truth: nobody anywhere ever, ever needs to hear the Orange Blossom Special even one more time. Among the tracks, the version of Grizzly Bear was at least as good as the original and Isle of View, penned by a member of the band, was Jimmy Buffet without Jimmy Buffet. It brought back Margaritaville on the Scholz's jukebox. The very best track was Hanging on to a Lie, penned by Larry Franklin, who went on to spend many years with Asleep at the Wheel before moving on to studio work in Nashville. The album doesn't capture Cooder Browne, really, but it does bring back memories that do. Somebody should make a new recording of Hanging on to a Lie (original publisher Window Music, Inc., BMI).

Friday, January 21, 2005

Bookshelf meme

"Copy the list from the last person in the chain, delete the names of the authors you don't have on your home library shelves and replace them with names of authors you do have. Bold the replacements."
from Sean Bonner via ttrentham / thechunk on January 14.

1. Thomas Hardy
2. William Dean Howells
3. Henry James
4. Charles Dickens
5. Mark Twain
6. Edith Wharton
7. George Eliot
8. Joseph Conrad
9. William Shakespeare
10. William Makepeace Thackeray

I love Readerware. Yes; I love my CueCat, too, even though it's no good for books without barcodes. A lot of the books here are too old to have an ISBN as well.

This must be one of the few households that received three free CueCats and didn't throw any away (though two of three have since been given away).

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Family legends

Once a month the RootsWeb people send out a little mailing. The most recent one seeks people's stories of whether they've been able to prove or disprove any family's fables, such as (fill in the blanks):

--Kidnapped by (_____).
--Stowed away on ship to (_____).
--Disowned by rich or noble family because (_____).
--Eloped and/or ran away with (_____) to (_____).
--Proved that I am (am not) related to (_____) -- a famous person.
--My black sheep ancestor really was a (horse thief, scoundrel, etc.).

These are odd legends to claim, I think. It does seem to be true that, for any family long settled in a particular part of the nation, almost all the old settlers and their descendants are related, either by blood or by marriage, including or excluding sworn enemies.

There's at least one fairly uncommon surname in my family history. We were always told that those other people were not our relatives, but it turns out that they were, and not all that distant. On one side of the family, nearly everybody followed a certain occupation but many people remembered by name are recalled as being known for some additional calling: water-witcher, horse-trader, fiddler. This would be fun to confirm or not.

In the nineteenth-century wills that have turned up, the eldest son is always charged with supplying certain items for the remaining life of his widowed mother: firewood, eggs, a cash allowance, milk and cheese, and so on. There's often one person explicitly disinherited or bequeathed a token amount. Why? There's nobody left who knows.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Twice blest

This has nothing to do with Shakespeare, other than that it's a blessing to get the mail and we bless whoever finally brought us some. Arriving home for the lunch hour, we found eight periodicals and eleven pieces of first-class mail. By suppertime, there had been a second delivery, this time of four periodicals and a half-dozen items of first-class mail. A day without mail is like a day without sunshine.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Gloom of night

"Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." Hah! Gloom of night long since arrived, and the mail has not been delivered. This happens here in Austin from time to time, usually when the branch is short-handed before or after a holiday so that, even with remaining carriers sharing out the uncovered routes, some mail is not delivered. It isn't worth it to call the branch. The response always is that there probably was no mail for that address. There's never no mail for this address.

Monday, January 17, 2005


It would surprise a lot of people to know that there's more than "I have a dream." A factoid recently printed claims that, of American professing Christians, only one out of three can name the four books of the Gospel. So I asked a few people. Nobody could come up with all four. Somebody thought there was a Book of Paul. Why not a book of Eddie? Cultural illiteracy is rampant.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

A movie to delight the eye

The House of Flying Daggers justifies the existence of the movies. Even though it's not one of those with a host of characters and extras, it still fills the screen. The plot is operatic; the acting is subtle.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Thanks for the drabware

The Martha Stewart Catalog for Living is shutting down and selling all remaining stock. A lot of what was in it was sold at too high a mark-up. Sometimes Martha Stewart brought something back into popularity and then somebody closer to home could sell it at a cheaper price. For instance, the Container Store started stocking those old American Anchor glass screw-top storage jars. She also reissued old transfer-ware patterns, but I don't think that she was any more successful with it than Williams-Sonoma was a few years ago. She brought back the older, better-shaped drabware cups. I think that drabware had been out of production entirely for some years until Martha Stewart revived production. In practically no time at all since the announcement, nearly everything is sold out. Except, of course, for some of the transfer-ware.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Even the nasturtiums

All plants, potted or in the ground, were fine this morning. The temperatures must not have dropped much, if any, below the freezing mark, the winds were light, the ground was reasonably warm, the air was reasonably moist. Tonight shouldn't be much different.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Betting on the weather

Despite the scare tactics of the weatherpeople, my bet is that tonight will not produce a killing frost. But is tonight supposed to be the coldest one of the next three or four?

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The best of all possible worlds

It would have been a shame to miss the PBS telecast of Candide. It's purely by chance that we happened onto it. I remember listening to the original-cast album and was even correct as to the year. I cannot imagine a better production of this work, which I enjoy more every time I hear or see it. The Austin opera really did a respectable job, but who could outdo this? Choreography, voices, and the production generally could not be bettered. Or at least I'd be very surprised. This must have been one of Sondheim's earliest efforts, and I suppose that Richard Wilbur, also credited as a lyricist, must be the poet, though there hasn't been time to look it up.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Get your free income-tax software!

TaxAct is out there again this year, entirely free, although the outfit behind it is trying to get people to buy the paid version by making the free version less prominent. Publication 17, the traditional IRS "everything" document for a personal tax return includes less and less every year. So it's not until it has been sent for by mail, located in a library branch, or downloaded in all its grandeur that the hapless taxpayer learns that yet other publications are required in addition, apparently more each year. So it's more and more difficult to get the big picture. And the IRS always sends forms and instructions through the mail based on last year's return, which never works here. So every year the return's different, every year I prepare it and K. checks it, and of late years, TaxAct double-checks it. I love TaxAct!

Monday, January 10, 2005


We're observing more leaves of single jonquils, new leaves on frost-touched lantanas, more leaves of Dutch iris, and now hyacinth leaves, for the first time this year, in three of the four locations where we'd expect to see them. There's the "what flowers?" thing going on out front, where people deliberately march their dogs over low fences and through flower beds with germinating seeds. Needless to say, these aren't the people who would respect actual blooms, either, and are a large part of the reason that we've more or less abandoned doing much new out front.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Marketing madness

In the November Atlantic is one of many tributes in remembrance of Bill Mitchell, inventor of Cool Whip, Tang, Pop Rocks, and much else new to the twentieth-century up-to-the-minute housewife. I've tasted none of the products mentioned in this or any of the other entertaining articles about this man. I just don't move in cake-mix circles. And then there's a brief piece in the February Metropolis magazine, illustrated by a beautiful stack of packages of Colgate, on the zany brand-segmentation in the dentrifice market. This doesn't seem to be on line yet, but it's called "The Toothpaste Aisle" (Karrie Jacobs). The last time I tried to buy what I wanted, I just gave up and bought some Tom's cinnamon because I like the flavor and couldn't find the exact product sought in the first place.

Saturday, January 08, 2005


Attending an event at the UT-PAC, otherwise known these days as the Bass Concert Hall, is an undertaking. Route, parking, nourishment, sanitation--all must be taken into consideration. Tonight it was the amazing production of Elektra. We're back now. This was the first live performance in Austin, and it's highly recommended. What music! Had we known, we needn't have taken refreshment. We had stocked up on NECCO wafers; Central Market had Goldenberg's Peanut Chews for the first time ever. But we didn't need them, because there were no intermissions. Had we known, we could have taken the bus coming and going. Unlike many other opera performances, this one concluded by about 10:30, before bus service stopped. It was an hour and a half of pure, unbroken, astonishing music. Those who did not attend really missed out on something wonderful. There are three more performances; the cheapest tickets are $15; the most expensive ones, whatever the price might be, would be worth the cost. The orchestra and singers together have not sounded this fine since the days of Dr. Ducloux.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Bar none

"Awesome" should be reserved for sights comparable to what we were privileged to see last night: a barred owl, first flying to a wire, then perching there and obviously watching us while we were watching her, and then flying silently up the street with that extravagant wingspread.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Terror for the treetops

Mornings this week there've been white trucks with red markings around in the side streets. The fear has been that these represent more "line-clearing" by contractors for the City. The butchery from the last time is still evident in all its ugliness, complete with trees left standing but that died as a result of their kind treatment by chainsaws unleashed. Now it appears that this outfit (RSI? Burnup & Sims?) may be stringing new wires from poles to the dim streetlamps on side streets in order to make them as blindingly bright as luminaires on wider streets. At noontime the bucket trucks were out and around. Minor noise of chainsaws was to be heard, mostly trimming off waterspouts left by the serious butchery of the past. We shall see.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


Courtesy of the mystery bulb mix, southern-style, from White Flower Farm, we have two clumps of beautiful unidentified narcissi, new to us, in bloom. They are short-stemmed and sturdy. The cups are pale yellow bubbles, and the perianth is larger and more blunt-ended than varieties like Grand Primo. These are the first blooms from this batch. We're seeing more leaves of species tulips of various kinds. Appearing everywhere within the last day or so are leaves of old-fashioned single narcissus. There are still some paperwhites blooming from dumped pots. A few more Montopolis narcissi bloom every day. After the threatened killing frost, geraniums and nasturtiums were carried outdoors again. Rosemary is liking this weather.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Also still to be read

There's still a backlog of Consumer Reports that was left out of yesterday's accounting. There's no rush, though. Cameras reviewed are expensive ones only; lawn and garden stuff is all powered, and excessively; there's no bothering with 13-inch televisions these days. Half the gear reviewed seems to involve placing something in or near the ears. It's a wonderful publication, nonetheless, because of its distinctive house style, if for no other reason. The sections in which the test designs are explained have no peer. Only the purist Organic Gardening magazine of the old days ('Sixties? at any rate, when old man Rodale himself was still at the helm) would rival it for peculiarity in the earlier sense of individuality. By the way, it was just this morning that I read that 13-inch televisions will not be subject to the high-definition requirements that will up the price of all other televisions. And who can fail to be amused by the fact that today's Wall Street Journal, of all publications, had a column illustrated by a depiction of GWB as one Alfred E. Neuman, complete with the traditional caption: "What - Me Worry?" WSJ and Mad Magazine sharing the same cultural references? Here's a little disquisition on the origins of AEN.

Monday, January 03, 2005


For one reason and another the backlog isn't vanishing as quickly as we'd like. The first priority is to read all the publications likely to contain grim information: now completed are all issues of New Yorker, New York, Harper's, Economist, Atlantic, Manchester Guardian, and the three newsmagazines. There'll be lots of this stuff in the three book reviews (NYRB, TLS, LRB), but not in so great a ratio; these are portable, so get caught up with last. All picture mags apart from one last Nest are done. In a W that came this way is a one-page on Malcolm Gladwell, with information not seen elsewhere and accompanied by a comical photograph (the site linked to is that horrible fastcompany; this is his official site). Still awaiting the big read are PC Magazine (now pitifully thin and growing more slender with each issue), just one Wired, plus a couple of issues of New Mexico and of Texas Gardener. But wait; there's more! A couple of months' worth of TV y Novelas, Fama, TV Notas, and TeleRevista. Gloomy old Fortune, Forbes, and BusWeek are current. But wait; there's even more! Down at the bottom of some heap are two PaperMags. And one Esquire. Rolling Stone is often rather dull these days, but the year-end round-up was quite good, including some fine interviews (one of the better ones was with Michael Moore).

Sunday, January 02, 2005


Further reading elicits the known but long-forgotten information that monarch butterflies are disagreeable to predators, perhaps even mildly poisonous; other creatures, therefore, even mimic their appearance. Our butterfly is female. From time to time she moved from one spot to another on the milkweed stalk. At intervals of thirty minutes or so we looked at her. Late in the afternoon she was not where she had been. She must have gone when the intermittent misty precipitation ended. At the time that we found her gone, late in the afternoon, seen in the yard were a giant clouded sulphur and also a zebra longwing.

Saturday, January 01, 2005


The monarch has split the chrysalis. Every day we've looked, for a month and a little more now. The chrysalis has seemed unchanged, exactly the jewel case it has been since it was first created, about a month ago. Somewhere I'd read that it would become transparent before the butterfly left. Yesterday afternoon all seemed as it has been. Today, just after two o'clock, upon stepping outside I was almost struck in the face by a giant clouded sulphur butterfly, the first seen in days. As I turned back to the door for a look at the chrysalis, I did not see the familiar shiny case of green. Upon closer inspection of the milkweed stalk, I saw that the chrysalis was colorless, was split, and was shaking. A black leg was sticking out. Then two were. Violently, the butterfly emerged. Its body elongated. Its folded wings stretched out over several hours. This butterfly appears to be a female. We could see its proboscis. We sat by it to keep the mockingbird and jays away. In a recent Rumbo, there was an article about the monarch. For asclepias, it gave three names: hoja de venenillo, lengua de vaca, and algodoncillo. Let this be a good sign for the year beginning. May it be one of metamorphosis.