Friday, March 31, 2006

I say it's plastic

And I say the hell with it. Why would anybody pay big bucks for a Chilewich carrybag or tote when plastic mesh shopping bags from Mexico are cheap and seem to last forever? Call it plynyl or whatever you will, it's still plastic and Chilewich has a great con going.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

At last

Looking as blue and starry as ever, ipheion has finally made its appearance. It's a tribute to the quality and strength of the stems of the florist's anemones and the ranunculus that nothing about this weather, neither wind nor rain nor hail, has beaten them down. There's yet another flush of ranunculus bloom and a new color appearing for the first time this season, a very dark red with some blue in it.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

At the intersection of law and nowhere

Will Legal Affairs truly survive as a Web publication, although print publication ceases with this issue? It's too bad that Yale couldn't find some way to continue the necessary financial support for long-form journalism this good.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Tired? or expired? or in some way food-related?

Wired magazine is truly weak, and getting weaker. First, I hated the design changes. Now, there is practically no ad content, and very little in the way of editorial content that's interesting. The paper has been getting glossier and glossier, and recently the page-width was cut. The best content in the current issue is a grief graphic history of games, including board games, card games, pinball, and electronic stuff, in a two-page spread. The on-line content is better, but still. The two most entertaining in-print bits most recently read were an account of a job at the B&M baked-bean plant in Portland (Sunday NYT food section) and the Sterns' brief account of the origins of their Road Food writings (Gourmet mag). The Texas Observer (March 24) has an excellent piece on the Texas Narcotics Control Program (federal Byrne funds) and its decline, not neglecting to mention HIDTAs, although perhaps glossing over the role of asset-forfeiture activities, but taking care to properly credit the role of Scott Henson (Grits for Breakfast).

Monday, March 27, 2006

Maybe this will never be opened

These brushes are said to be from ArtSkills, Easton, PA 18042. ArtSkills would seem to be in some way an offshoot of Binney & Smith, the Crayola people, one would think, although Binney & Smith, now owned by Hallmark, appears to make no mention of ArtSkills. The contents of the artfully folded pasteboard box and custom-formed vacuum-molded clear plastic display are described as 3 premium paint brushes, 2 sponge brushes, and 1 stencil sponge. The latter is a round form, great for dabbing a perfect circle to dot the letter "i" if for nothing else. The handles appear to be wooden. The ferrules of the paint brushes are individualized: the one-inch brush has a row of raised impressions of slash-marks; the 3/4-inch brush has a row of backslashes; the half-inch brush has three stacked raised horizontal bands. The bristles of the paint brushes are dyed to match their handles; the sponge-headed items have contrasting heads and handles. The on-line display of this package shows flat paint brushes in the same colors, but foam brushes in different color combinations. At Albertsons yesterday there were at least two variations from the package that came home. The UPC portion of the package bears the legend "Made in China."

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Peaks and valleys

Alliums are past their peak, though still showy. Ranunculus flowers are at their peak. Blue Dutch irises are still opening; we're beginning to see white ones; tomorrow there will be red-violet ones; perhaps there'll be yellow ones the day after that. Ipheion has been practically non-existent; the same is true for grape hyacinths and for species tulips and 'jums. Everything that's scarce this year was extremely abundant last year. No two years are ever the same.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Colorful description

After realizing that many colors of flowers in A Southern Garden are called by the names of pigments or at least names found on tubes of oil paint, I started wondering about names unfamiliar to me. The first two are amparo blue and smalt blue. These days color is often described using Pantone numbers. I wonder whether she was using this NBS/ISCC system. Esmalte is enamel in Spanish (is it nail-polish also?). Amparo blue seems to be a sort of Dutch blue or Wedgwood blue. In Spanish "amparo" is heard in religious contexts (protection, aid, refuge, succor, defense); is the blue to do with the color of the cloak of some manifestation of Nuestra Señora? Elizabeth Lawrence also uses "nopal red" fairly often. Is there a standard color-naming system consistently used now or at any time in the past to attempt to describe botanical or flower colors? Now, as I come to Lawrence's entry on oxblood lilies (now known by a different botanical name, but obviously the same flower), she associates them with Texas and describes their color as being "between the ox-blood and carmine of Ridgway." In the front matter of the book, she says this: "In checking colors of the flowers I have used Robert Ridgway's Color Standards and Nomenclature (Washington: The Author, 1912)." Other sources say that the book was published in Baltimore. At any rate, it was intended to be used to describe birds. On this page is an image of the book. The system is here described as "a mixture of pigment names, those used in industry and those derived from the Latin, such as the names in Charelton’s glossary. So we still have Cinnamon-buff, Vandyke-brown, Vinaceous-tawny, Violet Ultramarine, Ferruginous, Carrot Red, Lettuce Green and Cobalt Green."

Friday, March 24, 2006

A peculiar omission about olfactory emissions

When praising the usually late-blooming Thalia, Elizabeth Lawrence, in A Southern Garden, has this to say: "In the triandrus group are the most graceful and delightful of all daffodils. They should be made much of in the South, for it is with us that they are at their best. Several of the hybrids are pure white and very similar. Of these Thalia is the best. Its flowers are a combination of delicacy of outline and good substance that is altogether lovely. The leaves are very broad and decorative. There are two or three flowers to a stem." She makes no remark about their scent, distinctive and sweet, not over-powering and soapy. This has been a good year for Thalia, with many blooms over quite a long period. We see new ones every day. The book will be back at the library soon and makes very good episodic reading (635.90975 La).

Thursday, March 23, 2006

La devoradora

This movie was found at the Southeast Community Branch Library the day we dropped the tax return at the post office. La devoradora is very handsome in black and white. The library system really needs to get more of these. One of my favorite color movies is La escondida. This one is a neat and dark little tale, with María Félix incarnating evil in lush female form. The wardrobe is wonderful, even though the sets are few. I love the contemporary poster for this 1946 movie. Most of what little the library branches have is from Madera Video. Either Madera is losing rights to issue DVD-format versions of some of these classics or it is using the Cozumel name for DVD.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Tomorrow we're to be without electricity for a while. A power-company subcontractor will be carrying on with pole-replacement and moving all from the old poles to the new ones. There will also be an attempt to bring nonreplaced poles back to something approaching plumb. The nearest transformer is even nearer and much, much larger. Apparently we're to get a tri-strand single-leadin to the meter, whatever this stuff is called, replacing the three separate kinds of old, brittle wire that dropped from the pole to the service panel or meter. Everybody else has long since had one. Back when we had more trees, I think that the City electric people didn't want to deal with it. Then, when somebody with "Austin Energy" noticed we didn't have the modern drop and called it in, the electric people didn't want to do anything because by that time building codes were requiring one of those huge ugly metal conduits sticking way, way above the roof line. We don't have that. But now it suits the sub to do something about it no matter what the codes. Without power, no matter how long the hiatus, all we ever need to worry about is the fridge, and it's reasonably cool now. Even the clocks are wind-up. And Internet access is dial-up. The ovens are electric, but we won't be here; if we were, the stove burners are gas, so cooking could proceed. And there's always charcoal and the hibachi. It will cause delays for all the nearby builders, remodelers, floor-polishers, and other users of electricity. I suppose that it may take out people's home networks if any part of them depends on electricity.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


The alliums are past their peak now, but the ranunculus flowers just keep on coming, undaunted by anything that the weather throws at them. What a glorious clash! There are a few lemons and creamy whites, but the strong saffrons keep predominating, opening in ever greater numbers, along with fuchsia, bright pink, deep orange-red, and just plain red red without blue. This may be the showiest year we've had for these in decades. There are still anemones, some pink with white picot edges. Blue Dutch irises are coming into their peak display. It appears that yellow ones will be next. All the lantanas are blooming. We continue to see monarch butterflies, one or two at a time. Hyacinths and leucojums are done. We still have Thalias, more than there've been for a few years. Our one-dollar clematis from the market loves this weather. Two of three plants have appeared, and they're growing apace. Last year's nasturtiums and geraniums are covered with flowers, good and raucous together. Lettuce is getting ready to bolt soon.

Monday, March 20, 2006

It took a book

When an image must be selected for upload and it has one of those unmemorable names (e.g., image12647 or photo3275 or MyJam2998 or the like) and the choice is to browse, it's so much easier to find the file or files by changing the setting from "detail" or whatever to "thumbnail." This particular library book also confirms what I had long suspected. On a dial-up connection, the farther the computer modem is from the telephone, the slower the downloads and uploads. So it really is true that it's faster to have just a short tape between the phone jack and the computer (within ten feet is said to be best) than it is to run tape connected to tape connected to tape from the jack to a computer four rooms away.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


There was a long list of items to be restocked but the day was peaceful that we just stayed home. SxSW people are gone, apart from those lingering on; spring-break people are not yet back (and they did leave town this year, pretty much; September 11 must finally be wearing off). Not even a laundry was done.

Saturday, March 18, 2006


I truly dislike signing up to be at a certain place at a certain time; it just ruins a weekend. On the way back, we checked out Mandola's. It's so funny to see kids in those deli duds. The hats are cloth, too, and not paper. We went around until we found an unlocked door. The by-the-glass prices for wine looked very reasonable. They're still really stocking the shelves and doing various tryouts and events, not officially open to the public until Monday, but not shutting anybody out, either. Fancy pastry items were free for the trying. The omelets were huge. I hope this outfit succeeds. The acoustics aren't good, and when there got to be so many members of the public there, a tape was fired up with all the disgusting "Neapolitan" songs of the 'Fifties, mixed in with plenty of Sinatra from the creepy era. We may be the only people left in town who remember a business called Old World Bakery and Grocery, or some such, sort of near Hancock and that movie theater that's been closed for so long, in a strip semi-warehouse center. They had real pasta beyond fideo and canned spaghetti (quite a novelty at the time) and baked true Italian bread in many shapes of loaves. They didn't last all that long, but while they were here, we went there every week. One of the very best things about the idea of Mandola's is that it will be open every day of the week beginning at 6:30. Austin has its few all-night joints but not much variety or much doing in the early morning. You'd think that it may turn out to be a sort of corner store and sandwich shop for the Triangle-dwellers and also get pick-up-and-go breakfast and lunch business from the UT and State offices nearby.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Male weepie

Or at least maudlin male sentimentality. It's especially bad in the preface or front matter in The Tender Bar, which actually has an official site. Later the book gets better and has some decent parts for reading aloud, particularly the segment about the bookstore in a forsaken part of Scottsdale, Arizona, and the kindness of giving away the books with the covers ripped off to be returned for credit as representing unsold books. I was also somewhat disaapointed that the bar parts of the book are more about his experiences as a young man, not a child. This book was on the new-books shelf at the Southeast Community library branch. I've been a grateful recipient of the somewhat shady giveaway of books with the covers ripped off. This happens when books are legitimately unsold, a reader starving for material, especially a kid, begs, and a kind-hearted person gives away coverless books intended to be destroyed. The book is truthful in its depiction of reading as a secret, unshared "vice" and how sometimes people learn, very much to their surprise, that someone thought to be known fairly well has a fondness for reading but, in accordance with a given social circle's customs, is slightly ashamed of it and doesn't deliberately reveal it or does so only when there's real intimacy. It sounds as though "his" bar had a bartender-controlled sound system, not a jukebox, also a disappointment here. I have a legitimate fondness, legimately come by, for jukeboxes. What a bonanza for a kid when a grown-up forks over five or six plays' worth of money (a whole quarter!).

Thursday, March 16, 2006


Why are wrens like boll weevils? Because they're lookin' for a home. And every year at this time they try to nest in our medium-size rural mailbox if it's left open even a tiny crack. How can they make themselves so small? They love to work with large, soft, and brown leaves frozen on the Turk's cap stem when the first really cold weather struck. Sometimes they throw in a bit of ball moss. Maybe they even somehow pry open the door. We continue to see monarch butterflies on the lantana flowers; and there are also clouds of honeybees, which are also attracted to every flower now open, including allium. We've seen no slugs; we keep seeing the same tree lizard; we heard happy toads this morning.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Under fifty cents a year

They cost under five dollars over ten years ago. Obsolescence hit them both this week, in the form of adhesive failure. This is a pair of clunky plastic men's sandals with Velcro fastenings, sort of primitive coarse Tevo-type footgear. They came from the try-it-on-yourself rack at the south Kmart that's now gone. I bought them when the two-dollar Tevo lookalikes from the zori aisle at Walgreens came unglued. Those had lasted about four years. I guess you get what you pay for. The failure occurs where one side of the ankle-strap is glued between layers of the sole. These have been good items for wearing with socks around the house and for running out in the rain to pick up the morning papers because they're easy to unfasten and discard on the porch by the door. Since both sets of straps on these are adjustable and they really have a high molded arch, they have been very comfortable and have stayed well with the foot. They've always accumulated and discharged static electricity, though. They're made of synthetic materials and they lack rippled, wavy soles and are not of leather, but even so they're just a bit like the basic Famolare sandal of years ago. I wonder whether Bean's will still let you send an outline tracing of your feet and then select the perfect size in whatever footgear is ordered. It's been a long time since I tried that, although I used to do it all the time.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


It's late to be finishing up the paperwork. Ugh! Tomorrow morning isn't soon enough to leave this stuff at the post office. It would be nice to return to good humor, but no! After fending off the telephone company and the electric company and the remodeling, evil-doing, electricity-stealing property speculator, all witn intentions bent on tree-destruction, now we must contend with the City's "Solid Waste" department, which is sending letters to nearly everyone, claiming that trees are lower than 14 feet above the street at the curb and must be chopped. Since the collection trucks don't ever come near the curb, but stand in the center while the operators work both sides of the street at once, what's the point?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Slap shot

Bernie Geoffrion, whose name will be associated for eternity with the Habs of a certain era and with the slap shoot, has died. In the winter, radio signals bounce for a much longer distance. I haven't seen Slap Shot, containing one of Paul Newman's greatest roles and performances, since it was in theatrical release. It's also one of those movies with real snow in it. So's Nobody's Fool, as I recall, another of Newman's great roles and performances. The role is courtesy of the book (thanks, Richard Russo), not a screenplay.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Today in the pleasure grounds

Ranunculus can never be too lurid. This has been a good year for them. The warm colors are preferred to the whites and blue-reds. These were from what was left very late in the season to be planting at Sledd's, which always has the very best in quality bulbs, corms, and rhizomes. This is the second year for them. The bright green in the far background is leaf lettuce.

First in a while

Found today in the pleasure grounds were a monarch butterfly, several yellow swallowtail and pipevine swallowtain butterflies, a tree lizard, and lots of lantana flowers. There are still honeybees in clouds in the redbuds, but petals are falling as leaves appear.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Today and tomorrow

Today there are yellow and orange ranunculus flowers. We see clouds of honeybees in the redbuds. This morning the first lilac wonder tulip opened. This is the first species tulip of the season. Allium type one is probably at its peak. Morning glories and moonflowers have germinated. We have a sweetpea flower. A different type of pink Dutch hyacinth is blooming now. We have one Thalia open and another on the same stalk not yet open. It's worth it to get right down there to take in the scent. A new color of wintered-over nasturtium is blooming: strong yellow with large splotches of red-brown. There are bits of green showing on the roses of sharon, all but the old-fashioned homely Kleenex-chrysanthemum super-double deep-pink one. It may have reached the end of its vitality. The first of the redbud flowers are beginning to drop; if the ornamental pear flowers open tomorrow, as they promise to, there will be pink and white side by side for at least one day.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Carried away

Luckily this beautiful moth stayed with me to be carried outdoors. We've never seen one like this guy before, not large and not small, with copper-colored outer wings when seen from above and more bronze-colored wings underneath close to his reddish body, again when seen from above. Each of the coppery outer wings had a single dark dot on the lower and outer part. Another night there was a small moth with long wings speckled brown and black and beautiful antennae. It used to seem as though there were undifferentiated "dusty millers," clothes moths, and the occasional luna moth or cecropia moth. Now we seem to see new ones all the time. There's no moth-identification book here.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


Last night's fast-moving rains will have their effects. This morning we have blue Dutch iris opened up where we weren't even aware of buds. Little wild anemone blanda appears everywhere, mostly blue, but some completely white, which is unusual, because they usually have a tinge of pink or blue.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Noteless gospel

There are no liner notes for this. I think it's from Germany. The Greatest Gospel Music Meeting: A Night in Harlem is marked CBS S 62 767. I find nothing on line about this compilation. All songs are credited to Lion Publishing. Artists and songs follow: This Little Light of Mine (The Melody Kings of Los Angeles), New Burying Ground (The Mighty Superiors), The Unfolding Book of Life (Reverend Cleophus Robinson), Come and Go (The Soul Searchers), You Don't Have Nothing (The Dixie Hummingbirds), Life Is Too Short (The Cotton Brothers), Let the Church Roll On (Inez Andrews and The Andrewettes), Ain't Nobody's Business (The Starlight Quintette), I want to Ride (The Booklyn Skyways), When I Get In Glory (The Gospelaires), Softly, The Night Is Falling (The Kansas City Melodyaires), View the City (two parts; The Drexall Singers), and Gabriel (The Dixie Hummingbirds). Inez Andrews reminds me of the Reverend Shirley Caesar and a bit of Dorothy Love Coates. She sure had one hot piano player. So I find that Shirley Caesar and Inez Andrews were both in the Caravans. It appears that many, if not all, these tracks were licensed from Don Robey's Song Bird label. Most of these artists are on the archived playlists (and shows) of a radio station called WFMU-91.1 fm from a show called Sinner's Crossroads. This is an album that was kept for a reason. All apart from any others, a person can never listen to too much of the Dixie Hummingbirds.

Flower record

Flower Record is the name of a favorite daffodil. Some years it blooms and some years it does not; this is one of the years in which it is showy. Also now appearing for the first time are two colors of wood hyacinths and some blue Siberian squills. There are no grape hyacinths yet and there's no sign of ipheion yet. Milkweed plants that wintered over in pots have buds on them. Nasturtium wintered over in pots is now blooming in five colors, the latest a twitchy flourescent orange-red or red-orange. It should be called "DayGlo" or "Safety Vest." We still have lots of Ice Follies. Chiles left outdoors during the cold that appeared to have frozen for good are now showing signs of leafing out along their woody stems. A clematis plant reappeared yesterday sometime between sunrise and early evening. Stalks of Dutch iris continue to fatten, but it's too soon to tell what color flowers will be produced. Leucojums are now appearing, but a bit sparse and puny. I think it's funny that people are embarrassed to be discovered getting down on their knees to smell the Dutch hyacinths up close.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


The Texas Bar Journal March issue has some very concise and good articles explaining much about the criminal-justice system in Texas, from the Ct Crim App to the history of prison-population management in the wake of Ruiz to victim services to how to expunge certain criminal-history records. Design doesn't improve much, but content gets better all the time. Everything's up on line and much of it would make good material for high-school students. I just plain like the words "expunction" and "expunge." Somebody owns the "expunction" domain but there's nothing there.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Bad vibes

"Resonate" is the vogue word of the month, in print and in everyone's mouth, used in all sorts of ways, mostly at several removes from the figurative sense of "striking a chord," also a musical figure. "It hasn't resonated yet" must mean something like "it hasn't sunk in" or "it hasn't registered" or "it doesn't seem quite real" yet. "Resonate" is much used also in political and marketing circles.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Three cheers for the red, white, and blue

Does anybody sing "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean" these days? People act as though they've never heard of it. At any rate, there are some very patriotic colors in part of the yard right now, with blue anemones, lipstick- or flag-red anemones, and many, many white allium flowers to provide a frothy background. I love this little index to lyrics of familiar songs, complete with MP3 files, and an odd little copyright notice.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

"Lure of the smelt"

This is a top story in the Charlottetown ("birthplace of the Confederation") Guardian ("covers Prince Edward Island like the dew") today. It's been one of those weeks when life has been nearly insupportable here. Today it's chainsaws. So it was tempting to look around at some favorite places elsewhere, and Prince Edward Island is one of them, even though the Abegweit is gone.

Friday, March 03, 2006

At sea

I hated to come to the end of Tom Cringle's Log. The author is politically unsympathetic but a very lively narrator, and he pays particular attention to food, customs, and clothing, quoting much Shakespeare and Byron along the way. NYRB has republished Trelawny's Records of Shelley, Byron, and the Author, but apparently not even Project Gutenberg has Adventures of a Younger Son, which is what I'd really like to read again next. I thought it was much more fun than the Records. Project Gutenberg does have Tom Cringle's Log. It was at the main library in paperback form, as part of the "Heart of Oak" classics series. Typically, the Austin Public Library has three books about Trelawny but no books by Trelawny.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

If it's indoors, it's not really work

Even working on the factory floor is easy stuff. There's just one exception. Teaching, even though indoors, is just as tough a job as anything done in all weathers. Subsurface mining is honorary outdoors work. That's what we grew up believing, and I guess I still do. Bellyaching about work doesn't become most people. They don't know how well off they are. This is just The Thought of the Day from the old misanthrope.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

In full fig

Between dawn and dusk, the fig tree leafed out. The buds hadn't even been particularly prominent. One lantana already has blooms. Others have no greenery on them yet. Most redbuds in the yard are beginning to show some color. Oak leaves have begun to drop, but not in great numbers. Loquats will have fruit, perhaps large, since cold arrived at times that caused some fruit not to form at all. It's possible that the ornamental pear will bloom during the weekend to come. More Ice Follies appear. Allium is opening all over the place. There's thickening in the clumps of Dutch iris, so we will have flowers, but it's too soon to sell which colors there'll be.