Thursday, August 31, 2006

What the rains brought forth

Popping up and opening almost before one's eyes are oxblood lilies, a happy sign of fall. They're along the fence, at Spike's corner, and along the walk to the front porch. This is just the beginning. They loom so large in the imagination, and yet in size they're really quite diminutive. Oxblood was a favorite color for kids' school shoes back in the old days. These are just a bit redder and the gold is very gold. What a welcome sight! We find no lycoris, some rain lilies, and a new flush of bloom on the lantanas. The Turk's caps are looking very lush.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Typical conclusion of a tale told by a pessimist

"And then she took to her bed, and she turned her face to the wall, and she never got up again." Many stories ended in this way. These were people who loved the song of Young Charlotte. I'm so glad that I still have nearly half of Hilary Mantel to read. Her work is seldom jolly, or at least the humor's of a certain sort, and the world is one of shadows, with more ambiguity in situation and character than will lend itself to being sorted into black or white, good or bad, sheep or goats.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

It's come to this

Supermarket checkers often do not know the identity of various items from the produce department, and we're not talking exotic greens here. Some will ask; others don't ask, but just enter something arbitrarily, as can be seen from the register slip, which we always examine.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Odd lots

In this book (Great Pretenders: My Strange Love Affair with '50s Pop Music, by Karen Schoemer) from the library are interviews with and meditations upon the careers of Patti Page, Frankie Laine, Pat Boone, Georgia Gibbs, Tommy Sands, Fabian Forte, and Connie Francis. The best of these are Page, Laine, and Boone. I notice that people still fear the wrath of Dick Clark.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

At the movies

In Idlewild, with its hundreds of extras and large cast with spoken parts, there may have been as many as two Caucasian faces to be seen on the screen; the audience census was similar in proportion. Idlewild was 8 or 9 at the box office this weekend. In the Quince movie, we saw a wall draped mostly in orange trumpet vine but with a fair proportion of old-fashioned trailing or climbing nasturtiums, some with gigantic leaves. This movie employed many Los Angeles (Echo Park) street locations. At Manuel's, the sound-system was playing song after song from the golden epoch of Mexican movies. Some of the diners may have been accompanying border governors earlier in the week and stayed on. At any rate, many there were humming or talking in Spanish about how nice it was to hear these old favorites, sung by Jorge Negrete, Pedro Infante, and their contemporaries. Somebody should really show a series of these on the big screen somewhere here in town. As they get old, they're disappearing from the libraries that have them.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Poppy packet found

Those mysterious Shirley poppies that lasted on into the heat were Angels' Choir from Renee's Garden

Friday, August 25, 2006

Vegetable marrows and cucumbers

K., rereading Nicholas Nickleby for the umpteenth time, has reached that part of the book (chapter 41: Containing some Romantic Passages between Mrs Nickleby and the Gentleman in the Small-clothes next Door") and enjoys reading it aloud, just as I enjoy hearing it. Courtesy of the library, this copy is the recent Everyman brought out here by Knopf, and based on the Oxford edition before it, with a G. K. Chesterton preface and all the original illustrations with captions.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


An immature male blue jay has been pounding himself silly and driving us crazy by attacking his own image as reflected in the glass in the fixed transoms. All other windows and doors are protected by screens and so, even if they were to produce a reflection apparent to him through the mesh, he wouldn't be able to reach the glass. We keep forgetting what the noise is. It's a very loud rap, and always repeated several times. Luckily the sun is just right for him to see himself only at a certain time of day.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Early harbinger

This morning it was a surprise to find two stalks of oxblood lilies, just along the fence from Spike's corner. They must have been sprinkled by the hand-watering of the tithonia. This seems early, even for an early batch, but there's not time to check. I think that we usually see the first ones, wherever they appear in the yard, sometime during the very first few days of September. In 2002, Uruguay issued a stamp showing these. Their Spanish name there is azucenita roja (little red lily).

Touting a tool

Somebody in this household leaves paper of all sorts in pockets of garments to be washed. This combines with lint to form a sort of papier mache. The clothesdryer is used seldom for drying, but laundry is air-tossed in it for ten minutes or so to shake out the wrinkles before being dried outdoors on the clothesline or indoors on a rack or on hangers. The lint-paper substance cannot be sucked out of the compartment where it gathers; a vacuum cleaner will not do it. When the screen must be forced into the compartment, it's time to bring out the giant tweezers. The grip is strong. I love the skinny bendy brushes from Home Trends, also, for cleaning all sorts of things. This outfit is as much fun as Vermont Country Store or Oriental Trading Company.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Disperse disburse

Here's the latest substitution in a national publication: "Louisiana's Road Home program allocated $7.5 billion for rebuilding, but none of the money has been dispersed to residents yet." This is part of a long caption for a photograph on page 53 of the August 28 issue of Time. This was not breaking news. Somebody wrote it; nobody corrected it before it went to press; nor has the on-line text been corrected.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Wall of death

I just loved the feature in yesterday's NYT about these old-time fair and carnival attractions. I've never, ever missed an opportunity to see one. Now I know why helmets are never worn. I'm really sorry that the on-line version doesn't show the photograph of the stairs up to the top of the silo and the viewing platform around the rim where the spectators look down at the bikes coming ever closer to the top. I don't seem to know anybody these days who has ever seen one of these. They used to charge among the higher admissions. I think it's interesting that the performer featured in the piece prefers an old Indian. They were such beauties.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Another one found

arskillsWhile we were on a quest for another item, we happened upon our second ArtSkills item. It was by itself in the midst of the stationery aisle of the drugstore over by Randall's on Lake Austin Boulevard. As predicted, the first ArtSkills package remains unopened, but I need the beads in this one. They are just perfect for sliding over shoelace chin-straps on cheap hats, working better than a knot. I think it's funny that what used to be called pipe-cleaners are now called chenille stems. And tongue-depressors or PopSicle sticks are now called craft sticks.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Let us hear the music

"They" kept requiring the sound to be turned down at the Gran Fiesta over at Fiesta Gardens today, so we had to go over there. Having a few clouds is a wonderful thing. I hope this will return next year. I still miss AquaFest.

Friday, August 18, 2006


There are signs of the first of the oxblood lilies for this year. The leaf tips can be seen at certain angles in the midst of blades of grass. I'm ready for the canicula to be over and so it's great to see so certain a sign of fall.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Still buds

The garlic chives acquired by mysterious means (they sprouted in a pot of something else from the farmers' market and that's what they turned out to be, not clumps of grass) are budding for the second year. The bud stalks get taller and taller and the buds get fatter and fatter, but nothing's open yet.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


I knew that this was going to be a big deal. I like the name of the website: "" It sounds so innocuous. I'd already been inside one of these laptops for connection with earlier battery recalls. It's the worst one for reseating the battery. Now, using my trusty computer toolkit from at least a decade ago, I've checked out other batteries, each one seemingly a different model. It would be so much easier if in the future Dell just kept and referred to a database of components linked to the so-called "service tag" associated with each unit that it sells. This would at least take care of equipment retaining its original everything. I may be the only person of my outside-work acquaintance who's not afraid to rummage around inside these things. I remember replacing a clock battery for my trusty CompuAdd (an Austin brand now probably forgotten). In the future, though, I'm going to let people open their own laptop (excuse me; "notebook") cases. As always, the local daily didn't contain as much useful information on this subject of local interest as the NYT and WSJ and several on-line services did.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Bird baths

Mornings and evenings continue to bring plenty of bird-watching fun, with the three sizes of plant coasters. Some drink; some bathe; some do both. The hummingbirds seem to find enough moisture in the Turk's caps; all others repair to the water features on the catio. We've even seen a red-bellied woodpecker. The fact that there's just a pair of screen doors between us and all them doesn't seem to bother anybody. Blue jays, chickadees, wrens, titmice, and cardinals continue to be among the most faithful visitors. They take turns dropping down from the roses of Sharon, oak limbs, and loquats. Squirrels come to drink in the daytime, as well, and like to sprawl out with all four legs extended, cooling their bellies on the stones dampened by water from the coasters. We fill them one last time before retiring; every moring all three have been drunk dry by one or another nocturnal creature.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Straight through

There I sat in the screen house and didn't get up until the book was read from cover to cover. That takes care of the junk speed-read of the summer: The Ruins, by Scott Smith. I did read A Simple Plan and we saw the movie, too. At least it was borrowed from the library. Now it's out of my system. It's not as good as I remember Simple Plan to be, but it does have narrative propulsion and it was an afternoon's cheap escape. It was returned right away and probably spent no more than seconds on the "new books" shelf before being borrowed agai.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Zephyr and sunburst

It's sad that this variety of summer squash is now gone for the season. It has been so tasty and available in good quantities from the South Austin Farmers' Market at El Gallo all summer long. It's very pretty at table, too. Zephyr has a wonderful nutty flavor and holds its shape without being tough when it's cut into coins for steaming or for use in stews or soups. Earlier, we very much enjoyed the Sunburst pattypan squash, which never developed a hull, no matter what the heat.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


"Disperse" is used in place of "disburse" these days; in similar fashion, "diffuse" replaces "defuse." These were once seen only in bad workplace writing. Now they're in print everywhere. "I'll disperse some funds to each side, and then I'll go diffuse the bomb."

Friday, August 11, 2006

Piano, not button

This noontime downtown there was a very accomplished accordionist busking on a corner. He was playing elaborate pieces from memory. Although he was wearing very dark sunglasses, I didn't have the sense that he's blind. Loving button-accordion conjunto and zydeco music as I do, I've come to enjoy and appreciate the accordion in all its forms, including the bandoneon used in tango music.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Cucumber mystery solved

Thanks to the empty seed packet, which turned up in a basket of similar items, the mysterious lemon-shaped rotund yellow cucumbers now have a name; it's "lemon," oddly enough. All the cucumbers have climbed so well and been so ornamental, in nearly constant bloom, that next time around they're going to be growing all over the place and climbing every fence, cage, and net.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Rolling Stone now devotes more and more space to obituaries and less and less to new releases of music. Movie reviews do retain some usefulness. There are pointers to YouTube items. And it was reported (Newsweek) without comment that Billy Graham has trouble remembering the Twenty-third Psalm. If true, this would indicate real trouble with long-term memory, since this was probably the first psalm learned.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The higher illiteracy

All knowledge of the idiomatic use of our language is vanishing. Following are examples seen in print in the past few days in reputable publications: free rain or free reign for free rein, step foot for set foot, and beckon call for beck and call.

Monday, August 07, 2006


I'm not sorry that I bought the recording of the music from this movie at MGM Indian Foods. It goes well with the frozen dals from Deep Foods that we bought there at the same time. And they go well cilantro, a squeeze of lemon or lime, some sliced chiles from our pots, a bit of leftover rice, and El Galindo Mexican Press tortillas warmed up on the comal over the gas flame as a substitute for naan. This is our standby hot-weather food when we're tired. It reminds us of the summer that a movie was made next door and all around us and the special-effects crew with the antique La France pumper made sure that quite a bit of the special-effects rain fell into our yard and onto us.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


In addition to the clouds of gulf fritillaries, black and yellow giant swallowtails, and blue pipevine swallowtails, this week we have seen too many clouded sulfur butterflies to count. We haven't seen any zebra longwings.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Predators by night

We've looked and looked and looked, but only now, too late for most of the tomatoes, have we found two tomato hornworms. They had moved on to the various potted peppers, obviously subject to voracious consumption. Hornworms must be attracted to all members of the nightshade family. These were only about two-thirds grown. Always before, we've had enough tomatoes to keep them occupied. We removed them to the compost bin, where they will still find some potato plants.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Zooming sideways

Attracting hummingbirds now are Turk's cap, lantana (scant on blooms right now in the cycle and so drawing more cardinals and other seed-eaters by its berries), milkweed, pride of Barbados, tithonia, cypress-vine flowers, wild sunflower, and rose of Sharon.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


The verso of this card reads: "NOTICE [double underscore] Guests wishing to order supplies are requested to sign 'Cash' to all vouchers and pay the club attendant when the supplies are served." It was found in a leatherette card-holder containing two photo identification cards or passes. One serves as admission to the Army piers at Bush Terminal in Brooklyn; the other, to the Hoboken port of embarcation. I had never happened to look behind these before. This was behind one of the two i.d. cards, inside an envelope just bigger than the guest card, bearing the seal of the Harvard Club of New York and the following stamp: "THE ENCLOSED CARD IS TO BE PRESENTED AT THE DOOR." Behind the i.d. cards were also some business cards, a membership card to the Brooklyn YMCA, and three one-penny Australian stamps.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

River of bats

We sit outside most evenings after supper. If it's still, we usually park ourselves in the screen tent to avoid mosquitos. Last evening there was moving air, so we sat elsewhere in the yard. We looked up, probably sometime between 8:15 and 8:30 and saw hundreds, or perhaps even into the thousands, of bats against the sky in a bendy stream, almost a Milky Way of bats. The larger ribbon seemed to be headed toward IH-35 but another ribbon bent off to the west. They must have been among those leaving the Congress bridge not long before. The sun had set but the skies were not dark.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Cat aloft

She's a tawny tabby with black stockings and some pronounced stripes and not yet a year old, by appearances. She wears a new collar with a shiny bell. We'd seen her once before, peeking out from behind a potted plant on a neighbor's porch. She spent a lot of last night yowling outside our windows upstairs. Twice we opened up and let her in, took her downstairs, and placed her on the catio. The first time we had to snag her; the second, she jumped in by herself once the screen was unlatched and pushed out. Before true dawn, this morning she was at high altitudes again. Just after breakfast, she found a way to return to terra firma on her own. She's very talkative, and perhaps in heat or perhaps just plain lonely. She's not plump but is a well-nourished feline and very shiny and sleek. Maybe she's just at loose ends, on her own for a day or two. I remember that our Samson seemed to be losing that hallmark leanness. Eventually we learned that he had been getting three sets of annual shots and went by way more than three names. Where cat-doors weren't installed just for him, he shouldered his way in anyhow. The vet to whom we were taking him told us, once we all knew the truth, that he was very surprised that there were two such splendid specimens in the same neighborhood. One household called this burly guy Fluffy. Our Mothra was also claimed by quite a few households.