Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Springing up

Observed above grass height are leaves from paperwhite narcissus, Montopolis narcissus, grape hyacinths, anemone, and allium, just within the past day. All bulbs, rhizomes, and tubers are now in the ground. Geraniums and thunbergia are heavy with bloom. Rosemary and thyme show blossoms. Hyacinth bean is blooming, but there are no pods yet. There's a mysterious golden marigold with flowers that look more like yellow calendula than anything else. Milkweed is covered with both flowers (orange ones or yellow ones, according to the variety) and with many, many pods still green. Fig leaves are gone, pecan leaves are half down, pear trees are as colorful as they ever get, but will drop soon. No potted plants have come indoors or even been draped in old sheets yet. Peas, both English and ornamental, are pretty in their young form but are invariably consumed by someone or somebody just as they're about to bloom. Nasturtiums in pots are blooming or showing buds.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

100 things

Who started that "100 things about me" thing? How long has it been going on? The rate of proliferation is certainly high. Dipping in at random is always a way to fill that idle moment when there are unpleasant to-do items waiting for attention. It's very entertaining to read what people list, especially as they run out of things to say and then (a) just plain stop before 100 is reached, (b) really become candid, (c) ask friends for assistance with the remainder, or (d) reach to reach 100.

Monday, November 28, 2005


The weblog-publishing programs that permit categories lead to some funny ones. No doubt there are some default categories to give people ideas. Among the more frequent topics in this one would probably be "indignation writ small," "house of factoids," quidnunc-at-large," and "yardening." Or something like those.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


The traditional gift for several people on the holiday list is Schafer baloney. I've never eaten it myself, but those who love this product say there's nothing like it. Last year the acquisition of the 160-year-old Schafer Bologna Co. by neighboring Alderfer's led to confusion in the orders. It used to be that a telephone call to the baloney company in Easton would reach a real live person who would hand-write the order and then it would be dispatched that same day. This year when the orders are placed, it's all likely to go better than it did last year. People who want their chubs want their chubs. And they want them to be Schafer's.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


This is what we'll remember from these days: oysters downtown, the Chuy's parade and all the pleasure brought by seeing and hearing the Hardin-Simmons Cowboy Band, the decision to consume rather than return the "Mexican martini" that was brought to the table instead of a margarita straight up with no salt, a free calendar from Tesoros, fabulous post-holiday people-watching at Luby's, a quick stop at Farm to Market on South Congress, especially enjoying acorn squash, green bell peppers, and eggplant from the South Austin Farmers' Market, checking out the Athenian Grill and Cleopatra Mediterranean Restaurant, locating Rudolph's tree lot (back at the corner of Bluebonnet again this year), gathering the seasonal supply of Cella cherries enrobed in dark chocolate, and spending some time at Turntable Records. Best of all was the extreme drop in noise, with no yard-equipment roar or whine to be heard this entire time. Second best was riding the rides down at the little carnival set up on the Ben White access road. We had to check out that Ferris wheel on the skyline, and now we have a new ride that we enjoy. It seems to go by different names from place to place. Crabtree Amusements calls it Crazy Dance, and it combines and improves upon the best features of the Octopus, the Tilt-A-Whirl, and the Scrambler, all in one. Why we've overlooked this one in the past, I can't imagine.

Friday, November 25, 2005

"A pin with a handle"

Some useful items invented in this country are manufactured here to this very day. The Moore Push-Pin Co. still exists. If one were to draw conclusions about the national economy extrapolated from how things work here in Austin, the conclusion would be that tattoo artists barter for massages and hair stylists barter for bicycle repairs and so forth and so forth. The Push-Pin people also have a related business, SpeedCount, an electronic counting and batching system for packaging small, odd-shaped items.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

A happy recipient

So consumer desires haven't withered away entirely: one of those shortie waitstaff aprons with the bib and pockets from Whip In was a most welcome present. It's sort of like those home-sewn pocketed items in cotton prints without a bib that the female waitstaff wore years ago at Scholz's. It does have the Whip In logo on it, but it's an extremely functional item. About half of the ranunculuses and anemones went into the ground today, along with over half of the bargain narcissus bulbs. The squirrels are already inspecting. Anemones from other years are beginning to show leaves in various parts of the yard. The apron will be great for cooking and great for sitting down in after cooking; it's just long enough to cover a lap.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

House of factoids, JuanGa division

In Forbes magazine, of all places, there was a brief piece about the IRS tax troubles of Juan Gabriel, evidently stemming from royalties earned in the United States way back in 1971 for No Tengo Dinero. I found the original letras and the Kumbia Kings letras. It was the first track on his first album, and his first hit. Anyhow, this explains why he dueted with the Kumbia Kings on their version, which has the irresistible accordion riff. Poor guy; on Univision we've been seeing his stage fall over and over again lately.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Trash-can variations

For years, solid-waste carts, as Solid Waste Services (or the sanitation department) likes to call them, were left with the tops flipped open as a sign that they'd been emptied. Then, for several weeks, the lids were flipped closed. Was that short-lived practice a response to the suit brought by the woman in a neighboring jurisdiction who fell headfirst into one and couldn't get out? Anyhow, the old practice seems to have returned, at least for this one week.

Monday, November 21, 2005

It's safe to listen again

That stupid Saturday matinee show with movie music is still on, but at least the nonstop diet of obscure and atonal unheard-of Scandinavian composers is gone from the dinner hour. It appears that the KMFA 89.5-FM radio station has indeed dropped the Symphony at Seven show. It was not the sort of music that people with headaches or bad digestion should ever hear. The host was sincere, but he appears to be gone as well as his show. Film Score Focus was fine for those who enjoy bombastic purpose-written music, one supposes; at least it was educational in a way. It will have a new host. The story of the departure is probably a story behind a story. Enquiring minds would like to know. We wish you well in your new endeavors, Stephen Aechternacht, whatever they may be, but we're glad for a change at that hour when the body and soul long for peace, not vague disquiet.

Sunday, November 20, 2005


What is so rare as a day in June? Any day in Austin without noise bombardment. So, despite the availability of household transportation, at home we remained, enjoying every single helicopter-free, motorcycle-free, electric- and gasoline-edger-free, mower-free, blower-free, and bark-and-howl-free second.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Wheels again

It seems odd for the household to be rolling again. Just one small car, but its absence means that everything, although taken care of as usual, takes more planning and more time. People afoot, taking the bus, or hailing a cab see an Austin completely different from the town known to those enjoying personal wheels. There's a choice between carrying something small and light of weight on every foot trip or making one big weekly provisioning expedition and then having the checker summon a cab because the haul is too bulky or too heavy to make it home by foot or on the bus, even with two or more porters. Every incline, every one-way street, every too-short traffic signal is called forth from the mental database. I use my toy camera more when I'm moving on the ground or spending time waiting there. I talk more to strangers. Just as we've visited every library branch, perhaps we should ride the length of every bus line. We've hit them all for stretches, but only some for the entire grand circuit. I like it that the City website now shows the bus lines serving each library branch. What happened with combined precincts in this recent election was unconscionable for its effects upon those not getting their via personal powered transportation. It will be interesting to see whether any substantive responses are received. I think that these changes may have implications under the Voting Rights Act. For decades most precinct voting places have been as close to the center of the precinct as possible and easily within walking distance to all. This was far from the case this most recent time around. It should not be necessary for voters to pay for a taxicab ride in order to be able to vote.

Friday, November 18, 2005


There are anemones, (probably) narcissi, and alliums to be seen sprouted in new places. The seeds from the pumpkins have germinated and show true leaves. We saw some pumpkin plants, probably from Hallowe'en or harvest decorations out back in the Vespaio gardens when we were strolling down the alleys. There hasn't been a killing frost yet. The decades-old succulents that we were given and have hung on to even though we'd never select them haven't even turned pink in the chill (something about sugars in the pale parts of the leaves when it becomes too cool for them). The cyclamen in the tiny pot that somebody kept eating down to the ground has sent up new leaves, having received no water other than that falling from the skies. It's been moved to a new place in case the creature who loves it to death won't look for it there.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

It's cooler, but they still like the bath

We can look out onto the catio day or night and see some creature bathing or drinking or both. It had been a few years since we'd kept water out there in pans or trays, but the heat of the summer prompted doing it and maybe they'll stay filled all winter long. There seem to be plenty of people who don't keep water, or at least untippable water, out or replenished for their cats, just for example. In addition to the customary raccoons, opossums, and gray foxes, people have been reporting seeing armadillos in town for the first time in ages, plus one or more chaparrals. Those we haven't seen since we used to out Bee Cave way to Griffin's westernwear. Probably the last time they were reliably seen was when Las Palomas was first opened. I can remember going for a spit out that way for bean soup, with KTXS tejano on the radio.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

I'd read them again

If I could find a set, I'd gladly reread what I was enjoying for the first time in November 1976: a three-volume set of Lord Hervey 's memories of the reign of King George II. I still remember these physically, the frontispieces, the color and feel of the cover, the impression of the print, and the edges of the paper. But I don't remember whence they were borrowed. Penguin apparently at some time published an abridged version. Maybe I could find that. A lot of the books that the Austin Public Library once carried on its shelves have been deaccessioned. When a search is run, the book information may still be there, but the "holdings" section will be blank. This is always infuriating.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A new year begins

Until sometime in 1963 everything that I needed to remember was remembered. In my head. Not written down. Then I acquired my first At-A-Glance. It was Eaton. Although I've used some of the more elaborate versions (larger, and with lines), for many years the tiniest one has sufficed. It's pocket-sized. The pages are still blue, but they're no longer that certain Eaton paper, the one that used to be so popular as personal stationery. The last At-A-Glance that came from a store came from G&L,VB&J or whatever the initials were, first at the store when it was where the Embassy Suites establishment is now, and then in its new quarters, currently being occupied by assorted businesses, including La Paletera. Now I order it through the mail. Businesses stock the larger versions, but apparently they must order the tiny one in quantities of a dozen, or something like that, and don't like to. Among the cover colors used to be black, navy, and maroon covers. Now it's black only, but that's always been my favorite. So far, for 2006 I've written in cab numbers, the date the new postage rates go into effect, the dates for two opera performances, and a note to watch for Circo Hermanos Vazquez, which is supposedly up in Dallas right now and may be working its way in our direction. This note is carried over from the current At-A-Glance. Good old 70-035: now I'm ready for whatever 2006 brings.

Monday, November 14, 2005


This train of thought began with the unfolding of the butterfly's wings upon emergence from the pupal state. I wondered,and it's true: explication is related to unfolding. Pliegue or fold in Spanish is related to pleat in English. (Wrinkle is a sturdy Anglo-Saxon word, but all these others are Latinate.) To pleat (plegar) or make a pleat (hacer pliegues) is not the same as to fold or to bend (hacer doble). In Latin, explicatus is an unfolding. And so is explicatio, but the figurative use of explaining is noted. Plicare is to fold, wind, or coil. The Latin information comes from An Elementary Latin Dictionary (by Charlton T. Lewis, American Book Company, copyright 1890 by Harper & Brothers, according to the author's note in the preface "essentially an abridgment of my 'Latin Dictionary for Schools.'") This abridged book contains over 950 pages. Amazon shows that a version of this dictionary was reprinted by the OUP in 1981.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


The chrysalis was observed only as its former occupant unfolded wings and fanned them for hours and hours and hours before flying away just now. The monarch's old home had been affixed to the plastic hook for hanging a cheap plastic pot (from the hook depends a three-clip device to be attached to the rim of a plastic pot). This pot probably originally contained torenia from H-E-B and stands next to a pot containing all-yellow asclepias.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


The hyacinth beans, along with some volunteer clockvine (thunbergia alata), have scrambled up the indestructible nylon netting like nobody's business, spilling over the top of the old T-bar clothespole and then tumbling down again, almost to the grownd, forming a beautiful mound and then sprays of greenery, in motion with the slightest breeze. Now, at last, we see our first bean-blossoms. At last, just this morning, and just this morning upon returning from the amble to H-E-B we can see signs of plenty of flowers to come. The leaves are handsome, and the manner in which they fold up and expose their undersides when the air becomes drier makes you believe that you can almost measure the humidity or lack of it by noting the stages of the process. Without flowers, though, there will be no striking shiny purple seed pods. Without the pods there will be no homegrown beautiful bicolored seeds to begin the process anew. These flowers are a favorite of the honeybees.

Friday, November 11, 2005


Once again, the library at Michigan Law School comes through with links on a new Supreme Court nominee. His mother, still living, was the principal of an elementary school (although some sources just say schoolteacher) and she looks it. His father, deceased, was once a schoolteacher. Early reports were very mysterious about describing his work, some making it sound as though he was a lobbyist, but it appears that he worked at and eventually headed a New Jersey agency similar to the Legislative Council here in Texas, drafting and analyzing proposed legislation. Many reports say that the young Alito chose not to join an eating club. My bet is that in those days he couldn't have had he wanted to. He was on the "town" side, really, not the "gown" side, being there as a local and also as offspring of a schoolteacher household. The result would have been the same had he been from those other favored shabby-genteel classes: the military, the clergy, or faculty at institutions of higher learning, including the historically black colleges and universities.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

In circles

Has anybody made jewelry or other accessories (e.g., bracelet charms, necklace pendants, earrings, trim to be sewn onto denim garments, or keychains) incorporating replicas or takeoffs on the most popular designs for ornamental wheel covers, especially spinners? I've seen none. It seems like something that would sell. There are even outfits rights here in town that rent these wheels. Why shouldn't somebody be making jewelry, either with or without licensing the rights to actual designs? Earrings would be especially great, I think. Yes; here's somebody out there doing pendants for chains (and there are others). Here are charms for shoes. There must be pit bulls and Rottweilers sporting similar items. But where is the precious metal set with gems? Now that I've thought about this, I'll begin seeing them in real life.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Department of why

Everybody sells names. That's why we try to subscribe to whatever it is using variants of names and e-mail addresses because tracing the course is sometimes very interesting. Two of the three junky Spanish-language show-biz magazines out there come into this household via subscription. The third one can sometimes be found around town, although less often than the other two, which are U.S. editions (in Spanish, even so) of magazines headquartered in Mexico. The telenovelas are not broadcast simultaneously in the two nations, so the coverage is required to be different. Sometimes the Mexican editions of these two can be found in stores here in town. The third magazine is published in Miami and was once on paper very close to cheap newsprint, with not even spot color beyond the cover, but it has had an infusion of capital and has finally hired somebody who knows how to keep the aspect ratio of graphics. What I'd like to know is why do charity solicitations that put us on their mailing lists via TVnotas or TV y Novelas give much better free premiums? Is it that most of their targets are more generous? Or do they expect more if they're to give at all? Instead of the customary free return-address labels, there are calendars, tablets, stickie-pads, paper books of devotions, magnetic picture frames for the fridge, and religious medals and religious keychains.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Monarchs and milkweed

Just now upon an early arrival home, we found monarch butterflies all over the milkweed flowers. They must have come in on this little front. Will last year repeat? We're also enjoying renewed nasturtium blossoms and are about to see open blossoms on the loquats (the scent's already there).

Monday, November 07, 2005

Consumption equals Gaul

Caesar famously said that omnia Gallia in tres partes divisa est; so, now, is the full act of being a consumer reported to be. Except for necessary purchases of staple consumables and ingredients for cooking and baking (apart from some recent minor gift-buying activity, mostly things to read), there continues to be no wish around here to buy anything, merely to use what's available. The business press doesn't seem to agree whether consumer activity currently is lagging generally or not and how the economy is being affected. In a sidebar to an article in the November 14, 2005, issue of Fortune magazine, there's an interview with James P. Womack (Lean Enterprise Institute) and Daniel T. Jones (Lean Enterprise Academy). They analyze consumption as unpaid work by the buyer and user. The process of consumption, according to them, is tripartite: acquisition, installation, and maintenance. So it's not just the shopping; it's the aftermath. And it is work. And not pleasurable.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Telenovelas in the NYT

So the Sunday Times has two features on novelas, probably because Univision outdid the major networks in the most highly desired demographic (ages 18 through 34) for some weeks this summer. It's my guess that viewership would be recorded as being even higher but for the fact that most guys make fun of them and don't like to admit that they ever watch them (although they do!). Without cable, we used to be able to receive three Spanish-language channels. Now, it's only two and one of them has very bad reception at times, which we lament, since on Sundays it has been showing wonderful black-and-white movies from the epoca de oro. We were interested to see that the commercial ads were numerous and national for the Latin Grammy show, including one featuring Victoria Ruffo, a star of La Madrastra, in an elaborate Christmas commercial for Sears.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Fridge fixation

Back in October, I wrote about a run on baking soda and also linked to a story about the filthy, stinky refrigerator situation in Beaumont in the wake of the storm. That article, in the Beaumont Enterprise, has disappeared, but there's a new and related fridge story. How long this article will stay up is unknown, but scavengers are picking up curbside appliances and attempting to purge them of their odors for eventual resale. I think that the planned life of a refrigerator is about ten or twelve years. Astonishingly, after about three decades of hard use, our 19-cubic-foot Kenmore still makes ice and keeps things reasonably cool, having had no attention other than one replacement of a gasket. At that time, this was a large-capacity item; now, if one is to believe the ads, it's on the small side.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Not on the pumpkin

When the Frost is on the Punkin' is never, in Austin. This year, for the first time in living memory, the fungus isn't, either. Even though the days have been warm, the nights have been cool, cool enough to permit lighting the pumpkins both morning and night.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The ultimate portable entertainment device

For those who read, nothing will ever replace the convenience of the book. Ever. It's the standard in go-everywhere versatility. Staring at a screen and waiting for material to scroll or reload does not compare to print on paper in any form. This is another reason why I think that it's a mistake for magazines, for example, to keep their content off-line. I can understand licensing it to a for-pay database, I guess. How wonderful it would be if someone would scan and upload the contents of magazines past, whether way past or just such recent publications as Mondo 2000, FringeWare, Wigwag, Spy, Details before it became the current Details, and so forth. Someone has put up most of the Austin Rag; I'd like to see Hey! Hey! Buffet! and 15 Minutes available, as well as the Austin Sun and Third Coast.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Searching for fun

It's tough to leave the world of print.Google. This is going to be a wonderful tool for those doing light research into genealogical or historical subjects. The way it's set up seems to me to conform to most notions of fair use, although there are those who disagree. One search leads to another, on all sorts of topics. I've already found material that I didn't know existed, some in print and some available by other means. It's even more fun than scholar.Google.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Judging by the cover

John Updike has written a somewhat sour review in The New Yorker of a book about the covers of books. He uses the occasion of the review to digress on the subject of book covers in general. I like it that he mentions the peelability of the film of cellophane on the covers of the original Pocket Books. His is the first mention I can remember seeing of this nearly irresistible temptation. I worked many hours on Bambi (Felix Salton). He also notes with approval what he calls "the quiet, hand-lettered, crosshatchy covers" by Edward Gorey, done for Doubleday Anchor (in the fifties, he says, but, I think that at least some were from the early sixties). It was thanks to these covers that I read my first Henry James (What Maisie Knew) and also the stories in Come Back, Dr. Caligari, with the surreal pots on branches. I still have both of these, although others with these covers are long since gone. I bought them because I was attracted by the covers. I see from the list that Redburn is one of his, also, but that came used into the house. He also did the typography for Goffman's Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, which may still be here. My second Henry James was The Turn of the Screw and Other Short Novels, which was a Signet. I bought many, many Signets because I liked the covers, but all Signets used an inferior adhesive for the perfect binding that held (or in this case, did not hold) the pages. Signets were among the paperbacks available only in a peculiar little store run by a grumpy man whose main business was cut-out LPs and worn 78 rpm and 45 rpm records retired from jukeboxes (these all had a hole drilled in them, as I recall). Dust covers were seen on "real" books when they were new from the stationer's and they soon disappeared, being discarded almost at once or, if kept, were kept merely so that the flap could be used as a bookmark for as long as it lasted. "Real" books were for gifts. The giver was expected to read the book first. After the recipient had his or her turn at it, it circulated first among relatives, then among friends, and eventually among people unknown. Public libraries did not invest in plastic covers so that they could keep the book jackets, although department-store paid lending libraries did so.