Monday, February 28, 2005

Showing the colors

The florist's anemones are mostly blue, with several of the red ones with the white ring near the center, and two pure white ones (although none of the blue-white variety with the blue-black near the center), making for quite a patriotic display out back. In addition, elsewhere there are two shades of blue hyacinths and two shades of pink ones. We're seeing some of the very showy grape hyacinths from Bastrop and a couple of blue Siberian squill flowers. The leucojums are at their peak. A pale yellow potted trailing nasturtium has seven blossoms. There are lots of buds on various jonquils, narcissi, and daffodils. The alliums are still coming along, with about a third open. Lantanas close to the street are showing no leaves, but others are. Two kinds of owls call most mornings but haven't been seen. The oak motte out front is beginning to let its leaves drop in earnest. This has been a very good year for wild anemone blanda, maybe the best ever. There are no tulips of any sort yet, neither Dutch hybrids nor species types, although the rains bring more and more leaves.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Another casualty of life without air-conditioning

The latex in rubber bands goes fast in the heat, sometimes leaving behind a gooey residue. The stickum on self-adhesive items such as foil stars lasts a bit longer, but not forever, and it's difficult, if not impossible, to find the old-fashioned ones that require moistening with water or saliva. Even though we do not prefer the Postal Service self-adhesive stamps, the other sort is being phased out. The USPS adhesive, though, is a quality item that has not failed yet, no matter how how the summer. It must now be conceded, however, that trusty old Elmer's Glue-All will not last forever, or at least it won't stand up to summer temperatures in perpetuity. It was pink and watery and the plastic bottle was sucked inward. What's more, it didn't smell all that great, either. So those foil stamps with the failed adhesive must now wait to be used until the supply of Elmer's has been replenished. Here's a laboratory material-safety data-sheet; it reports that it should be kept in a cool, dry place and that the decomposition temperature is unknown. So ours was dry, but not cool. The advent of Elmer's displaced common uses of LePage's Mucilage. Here's a shrine to LePage's, sacred to the memory of the builder's ancestors, as it turns out. Many were the scissor wounds caused by attempting to re-open that slit in the rubber cap; of course, it was all but impossible to get the top off the bottle. This stuff was brittle when dry and was not at all friendly to those who were untidy in their stickings-together. Figure 4 (scroll down) shows the top very clearly.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

What they've been looking for

It used to seem that, for all I knew to the contrary, nobody ever visited Rant-O-Mat. Now I know that people do visit, and sometimes I check to see what it is that visitors have been seeking. This past week, among the sought were "circo hermanos vazquez," "Pine Brothers cough drops" (don't I wish they could be found!), "bamboo salt," "keemo kimo," "long fingernails." and "mujer de madera." Are there any regular readers? Or do people out there visit believing this to be a consumer site, and a peculiar one at that?

Friday, February 25, 2005

Sold in a day

The "for sale" sign was out for a day before the "sale pending" notification was added to it. This all happened before there was even an open house. Within sight of this house, four properties on the market have turned over just like that, and within the past month or so. On one, there will be a dwelling built in the side-yard. The one just sold still has its little greenhouse and chicken coop and run. How wonderful it would be for poultry to be kept there again!

Thursday, February 24, 2005


The IRS still hasn't come through; the library's stocks are puny. Download is very slow on a home dial-up connection. So I spent the noon-hour calling the IRS toll-free number. Somehow I got bumped to the forms-order office. The answerer was very personable. She didn't know when forms were supposed to have been mailed out, but said that her office has been very busy with an unprecedented number of callers reporting that no forms have arrived. She was so friendly that I asked where she was located, thinking that perhaps it was Austin; no; it was somewhere in Colorado.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


Habits are thought to be deeply ingrained, but they can disappear without your noticing it happen, bit by bit. Realizing that I don't whistle much these days and sing even less, I've resolved to remedy the situation. How could whistling and singing have dwindled away? My earliest memories are of people singing and whistling; life was full of music. Where there was a piano and so many who could play so well, music from the keyboard was a large part of daily life also. Singing for years accompanied a certain weekday walk and its counterpart at the end of the day. When life detoured from that route, did the regular occasion for singing go as well? Showtunes from before WWII and after are still there in the head. I find that Then Sings My Soul, bought as a gift for somebody else and then later for myself, reminds me that I remember much more of that musical literature than I would ever have thought. The author's bias is irritating at times, but the text is interesting and a lot of favorites are included, although not I Would Be Brave or Follow the Gleam, but they're memorialized fondly on line. The book would be improved were it to furnish the traditional names of the traditional melodies. I still keep trying to find out more about the Nat King Cole album that included "Keemo Kimo." It may have something to do with a version of Froggy Went A-Courtin' but I don't know. So, here we go, with "Come to your Nabob."

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


There were no signs over the weekend; this evening some of the branches were dusted with pink bloom.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Holding the right cards the wrong way

We picked up a newsprint publication called The Austin Student. Among the articles in it was one containing rules for Texas Hold'em. The article didn't say what this particular game used to be called, and this is a subject for research. What was interesting to me was that there were illustrations of all the various types of hands in poker, and they weren't arranged in the order I've been using since I was a kid. Do I arrange cards the way I do because I'm left-handed? I always place high cards toward my left hand, and lower ones toward my right, no matter what the game. K. does exactly the opposite, no matter what the game. It appears that my method is traditional for bridge; K's for poker. Again, this is a subject for research. I've been playing all kinds of everything since I was a tiny kid, but I don't remember being shown how to order the cards.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

If I could've, I would've

Since the branch library moved on out to Ruiz out by ACC, we're seldom in the little shopping center with La Hacienda and Joy East as we make our constant rounds among the branches. According to an ad in the Chron, the first seen except for one either in El Mundo or in El Norte, probably the former, the Joy East buffet will have lion dancers at the inauguration of its expansion, which will have a sushi bar and a game room. This buffet, when last visited, had frequent, small batches of the dishes, all quite appealing for the price, and some of the best pico de gallo (salsa fresca, salsa cruda) anywhere in town. It's too bad to miss those dancers.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Not hitherto known

It's still surprising to see that narcissi are extremely attractive to the butterflies that have been around (gulf fritillary and clouded sulphur). This is a new observation.

Friday, February 18, 2005


We've gone from white, to white with yellow, to white with orange, to yellow with deeper yellow elongated trumpet, all in the narcissus and jonquil department. The lemon-drop flowers last described are from the mystery Southern mix, courtesy of White Flower Farm. All these are out back. Ice Follies blooms continue to appear; these are all from prior years. There will be many more to come of all the three types. It would be great if the single jonquils, when they appear, are as free from bud blast as they've been some of these recent years. White allium appeared first as a squirrel-planted item in a pot, but is now beginning to bloom everywhere. These make wonderful dried flowers. Avalanche, Grand Primo, and Montopolis are past their prime; a little cooler weather would have made them last longer. Hyacinth has progressed from a medium-blue loosehead to a pink, more formal type; they're blooming simultaneously and have returned now for several years. Next door, the 'jums bloomed before ours, as they do every year, but our snowflakes (leucojums) are now blooming. We have blue and purple florist's anemones along with the little wild anemone blanda; all of each type are here every year. The first ranunculus will soon be open, a deep blue-pink flower in this particular case. A pale-yellow potted trailing nasturtium has a half-dozen flowers. The zonal geraniums in pots really love this weather. Titmice, chickadees, wrens, and cardinals are all to be heard each morning. The stems on the Dutch iris may at last be thickening. Windows are open at night, but not yet transoms.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Favorite foot factoids

People who care about matching the footgear to the well shod foot classify pedal extremities into one of three categories: (1) Egyptian, where the large toe is the longest toe, (2) Greek, where the second toe is long, and (3) cubic, with toes of equal langth. This is from a feature (by one Burkhard Bilger, a name not soon forgotten) in the February 14 and 21 New Yorker, about Czech shoe-people and the reproduction of the shoes worn by the Ice-man.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Somebody manufactures these items and what they're called I can't guess

Bread tags? They're the little color-coded flat plastic objects that sometimes are also stamped with a date. They have a notch and are used to crimp closed such items as English muffins, loaves of bread, and sacks of tortillas. Could they possibly be called "bread tags"? If they're used on non-bakery goods, I haven't noticed. Well; according to Google ("plastic bread tags"), they are in fact known as plastic bread tags or tabs, and they have many folk re-uses. Furthermore, to them are ascribed a certain number of fatalities each year, human or otherwise; don't swallow these! And some do think that there's a color code for pulling goods from the shelves by a certain date. As socks do, they seem to reproduce in obscure corners. Unlike socks, however, they aren't usually to be found in matched pairs, so they must reproduce asexually.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Love and larceny

Right in broad daylight, somebody snipped all the open Ice Follies daffodils that were beautifying the front yard. They were there in the morning, gone by suppertime. This is not the first Valentine's Day happening of this sort. These flowers are often open for February 14. They usually go overnight, either the evening before or the evening of Valentine's Day. Somebody's sweetheart is a real loser. "L'amour, l'amour," as one of The Women says.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Yes; they're acid free, and they're made in the USofA

So you can make valentines with a clear conscience when you use Royal Lace paper doilies shaped like hearts. These people also make the little fluted cups made to be used for muffins and cupcakes. And shelf paper! And green shamrock-shaped doilies for St. Patrick's Day!

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Prisoners of the marathon

Barred from making our customary Sunday-morning rounds downtown, we gritted our teeth each time a helicopter passed over, always too low. It would have been interesting to see how the pulga over by the old Aquarius movie theater was doing. The finish was somewhere around Palmer and the river-crossing was at Pleasant Valley. Connected with the flea market are many ancillary ventures, including vehicle sales, clothing sales, home-cooked food establishments, and the like. Were they swept off the sidewalks and thoroughfare for the Freescale (formerly) Motorola event? Did I mention the stupid amplified voices?

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Blogeros y blogeras

So, while tax documents are on the table, some people are at the computer being aimless and not constructive, finding the growing blogero/blogera list, thanks to Texican.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Just couldn't do it

It just wasn't worth it to pick up that telephone and talk to even one more water-related person. Maybe I can face this in the week to come. Maybe it's just best to wait for the next bill and see whether an estimated usage figure has been substituted yet again for reading a meter.

Thursday, February 10, 2005


So the Austin water people seem to have dug up the yard again. This time there are no caliche stains on the sidewalk, but the earth's still wet so that the clay soil is forming balls of earth that are scattered all over on top of the St. Augustine where they didn't go back into the dig. Are these signs that the promised new meter has been installed? I'm sure not going to lift off that heavy cast-iron plate to just to look for a meter. The taps were sputtery and the noise in the pipes wasn't so bad. Does that mean that the lines have been flushed?

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

If you value your sanity, part II

Don't call to inquire about your water bill from the City. (Please refer to if you value your sanity, part I; too bad there ever had to be a part I and part II). This time it took over an hour and a half, and only time will tell whether the results are any better than the last time. The bill arrived. It's the season for estimating summer water rates based on winter usage. Again, the water bill was estimated. Again the amount estimated bore no relationship to the amount used last year. And January was one of the highest-precipitation months in a very long time. I called the City. And was put on hold. And was told that I'd need to present my Social Security or driver's license number to get any information, even though I was plainly holding several months of bills in my hand right then. All apart from the fact that there appears to be no recognition that plenty of people (a) ride the bus and don't have a license, and (b) don't have Social Security numbers. I went from Suleekha to Ray to Antoinette to Eric. At Eric I was cut off, probably not intentionally. So, beginning again, I went from Suleekha to Eric's voicemail to Suleekha to Trent to Eric, who said he would involve Ms. B. and also Peggy. Various people said things that contradicted various things that other people said, both today and also last November when all this happened before. And by the way, the rereading of the meter promised in November never happened. After the shut-off valve that the City had broken had been replaced, though not before letting gallons and gallons of water wash down the hill before reading the meter (the meter should have been read and recorded before and after) and not before unhooking the garden hose and then replacing it wrong so that it hasn't come right since, the promise was that the new meter would be installed either later that day, a Friday, or on the following Monday or Tuesday. All unaware, we had foolishly assumed that the meter had in fact been replaced. Untrue. In fact, today when somebody referred to the record, the order for meter replacement had been cancelled. Cancelled when? Yet another call elicited the information that the order hadn't been cancelled; it had been "closed." As if that makes a difference. That particular call elicited the information that the new order wasn't started today; it had been started on February 3. Really?!? Yet another factoid elicited during that particular call is that the horrible noise in the pipes ever since the first visit is because the lines weren't flushed. And still, as before, if there's to be any adjustment made to the billing for any of this, some kind of claim process must be undergone. Not worth it! Will the meter be read? Will the reading replace the estimate? Will the new meter be installed? Stay tuned for further developments.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Invested ten minutes, saved forty bucks

Sometimes it takes asking to escalate, or go to the next person up the line, the one with greater powers, but it feels so good to get those stupid annual credit-card fees waived. It also pays to read the boilerplate on any monthly statements received, to make sure that there's no change of terms being inadvertently accepted.

Monday, February 07, 2005


Sprung up from nowhere overnight, there's a loose-headed blue hyacinth in bloom on the oak motte. A squirrel-planted white allium in a pot is the first of those to bloom anywhere in the yard. We're seeing more little white anemone blanda flowers than there've been in years and years. The weather has been favorable for keeping the Montopolis and Grand Primo and Avalanche narcissi showy for a long time. In a sheltered spot along one side of the house, thunbergia alata (orange with black centers) are blooming, but they fade when it rains. Nasturtiums held over in pots are not blooming, but do set new leaves. Rosemary, both in pots and in the ground, has remained in bloom. Cold has taken larkspur seedings various times in parts of the yard, but out front they're thriving. The robins must have passed over Bastrop or Smithville. It's probably too late for them around here now, and we've neither seen nor heard any. The all-yellow asclepias has continued to bloom; the butterfly-stripped orange-and-yellow ones are doing well to put forth new leaves. All the potted geraniums are in bloom outdoors. Carrying them inside on those colder evenings has preserved them, and they really enjoy this weather.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

North to Alaska

It was stupid to be forced to go all the way up to the Arboretum at Great Hills to see Mala Educacion. Everybody there was from South Austin, with a few obvious exceptions. We expect great things from the soon-to-open Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

When the berries were gone, they left

It didn't take the cedar waxwings long to strip the berries from the waxleaf ligustrum. The big one's gone, because it was getting into the Orangeburg pipe wastewater line, but there are still a few specimens of Japanese privet along the hedgerow that are mature enough to produce fruit. So the waxwing visit, though spectacular, was brief.

Friday, February 04, 2005

When good CONFIG.SYS files go bad

At home, I'm the chief technical officer of the establishment. Somebody has a reasonably recent laptop, but I don't like laptops. Laptop screens and laptop keyboards are two arguments in favor of the desktop where a laptop isn't needed. The home desktop is from early 1998. For a week it has been loading Windows successfuly only about one time out of three. The problem occurred after removal of a McAfee antivirus program that came as software from the OEM when the computer was new. Since it became impossible long ago to update the definitions without spending some bucks, Grisoft's free AVG has been doing all the antivirus work for a long time. McAfee had its tentacles into everything and even its own uninstall program did not remove every last vestige. I finally realized that there was something seriously wrong with config.sys. This did not happen to be one of the files backed up, needless to say. Whatever was wrong was causing everything to hang up with a flashing cursor. I couldn't even reboot or turn things off, but had to remove the power cord. Config.sys is working and is now backed up. So there's no need to recur to the laptop and no need to invest in a new desktop. At least for now. Mirabile dictu! I thought it would turn out otherwise.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Accept or decline

So the password for signing in on line to review transactions on a certain bank account finally arrived in the mail, along with advice to change it immediately. The transaction page, however, was never reached. Logging in proceeded perfectly, but the first page up thereafter was a lengthy "acceptance of terms" document. One of the terms is that the institution may at any time of its choice substitute on-line access for monthly reports and returned checks (that is, as many checks as are still returned following the implementation of the recent federal "check 21" statute).

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Someone should have thought of this before

Who wouldn't prefer a combination lock that uses letters instead of words? It's the winning entry in a Staples contest seeking inventions to be produced and marketed by it. The WordLock™ is something I'd buy right away. Todd Basche, the inventor, has been trying to interest people in this idea for years. There may be savants out there who can remember numbers more easily than combinations of letters, but they must be the exception.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

El perico y yo

There are now three chief villains in Mujer de madera. El perico has gained ground on our second favorite. El perico loves music by any trío romantico and so do I. This weekend at the Walgreen's over on Riverside we found good valentines in Spanish and also found some four-dollar CDs. One was boleros by the Trío Paraíso; the other was a cheesy compilation of grupero music from 1998 played by a cover band. Needless to say, its version of the Tucanazo doesn't stand up to the original.