Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Just surfaced

Mojo magazine, August issue, came home because of the "free" CD of James Brown and related material. Now, I'm loving it for lots more, including a great look back at Fania Records and a wonderful photograph of Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and some roller skates. Now, I'd like to read the feature on Smokey Robinson, but I'm not coming up with it. I think that Univision should show the Latin Grammy awards, or at least some of the show, on Thursday.

Monday, October 30, 2006

One's named Newtie; the other, Georgie Porgie

We decided that the shorter, rounder one looks lots like Newtie Poot, at least in some lights and from some angles, and that the taller one resembles another well-known public figure, a three-initial person whose pater is a four-initialed person. The second couplet has some relevance. No matter how the blade carves the cucurbit, the result is always expressive.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

There's no better eggplant

This stuff is always beautiful to look at, but sometimes it can be bitter. We've been enjoying the sweetest and nuttiest eggplant from the farmers' market in the El Gallo parking lot. I just learned that the Trio Romantico that plays at El Gallo includes Manuel ("Cowboy") Donley among its members. The repertory is mostly Trio Los Panchos stuff, which I dearly love. I can remember when Fonda San Miguel used to have a duo strolling around and singing and playing this repertory.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Now appearing everywhere

Each day brings more anemone leaves popping up everywhere in the grass out back, and in some other locations as well. I'm pretty sure I'm seeing leaves of Johnny Jump-Ups, too. Time will tell.

Friday, October 27, 2006


Whatever doesn't cost much or take up much space is difficult to resist if encountered in the "seasonal" aisle at the market. From H-E-B we came home with "The Everlasting Pumpkin Lite; safe, reusable & scary bright; great for lighting pumpkins and "trick-or-treat bags," as the package promises. I like the blurb on the back:

The last Halloween light you will ever buy!
No more re-lighting candles
No more risk of fire
Safer and brighter than candles
Easy to use and safe to handle
great for lighting "trick-or-treat" bags
Bulbs last 100,000 hours
Requires 3 AAA Batteries (Not included) [although the blister-pack has space to include batteries]
battery life 10+ hoours on steady mode, 20+ hours on flash mode

We'll use candles, thank you. I can't remember the price, but it was ludicrously low. These little items, which we acquired in white, red, and amber versions, were identified on their backs as FlareAlert battery-operated safety flares. It's disappointing that they lack the magnetic base that items sold as FlareAlert are described as having. They are really very bright, these alternatives to "the dangerous incendiary flares (also known as strike or fusee flares)," as the Web site says. These are the railroad or truckers' flares that we used to employ to light the yard on the Glorious Fourth. I see that outfits catering to law-enforcement agencies sell FlareAlerts. EPoliceSupply has a great, far more extensive blurb than the FlareAlert people themselves do. It's so reassuring to know that this product enjoys "Unlimited Applications!!!!!" and that it's "safe for virtually any use you can imagine." I'll always remember not to turn this product upside down in adverse weather conditions.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Colors of the season

They held on all summer long; now they're growing and blooming. We have orange-and-black Thunbergia Alata (clockvine), climbing and also sprawling where the birds planted them or where perhaps the wind took their seeds. We planted some years again and have never needed to do it again, since they volunteer and produce every year, if only for a short time in the spring and a short time in the fall.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Cash, not cards

Trying to wring every last buck out of those who run up few charges and pay every bill in full, the credit-card outfits have taken to changing the due date to the last day or so of the month, no doubt trying to catch people out and assess late charges. This is just another reason to keep only a couple of cards or so. It can eat up more time than one would think to reach the person authorized to alter the billing cycle and change the due date back to one that's reasonable for those paid on the last day of the month or the first day of the succeeding month. I guess it's back to carrying the folding stuff, and not much of it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Avant garde or stragglers?

We think that they must be in advance of the main flights, but each day that it's not raining we've been seeing a monarch butterfly or two, here just in time for the asclepias bloom. We always have to look up close, because there are so many gulf fritillaries here all the year round that merely seeing something orange from a distance isn't enough.

Monday, October 23, 2006


I have always kept all my names, not always in daily life, it's true, but always on legal documents and all official paperwork of every kind. The first name, which has always caused difficulty for everybody, is a name borne by generations of people on both sides of the family. Another part of the name has always been troublesome, both for reasons of pronunciation and because my mother had a different surname and in those days the schools just couldn't deal with parents and children with different last names. We're back now to having fatherless soldiers' children whose surviving parent has remarried, and households of people with differing surnames aren't unusual these days, for many reasons. When I recently suffered a unilateral name change on my voter card, I decided I'd better round up every possible form of identification. There was panic when the passports couldn't at first be found, but then they were, in a file involving the last identithon we were subjected to, when the functionaries had never seen old-style birth certificates or old-style documents of other kinds and spent a lot of unnecessary time questioning their authenticity.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Into two kinds

A list in town asks newcomers to describe themselves by selecting either sauce or no sauce. I think that's really about BBQ, but it could be about so much more. I'm definitely no sauce in practically any situation. If the world can always be divided into two kinds of people, one temperamental sorter, I think, is between cave-dwellers and treetoppers. Some like to be where it's warm and dark and close to the ground; others want to be aloft, in good weather and bad. How much I loved the picture of Mabel Dodge Luhan's so-called solarium (I bet it was a sleeping porch and once screened in) at her Taos ranch, which I only just learned is one and the same as the establishment kept by Dennis Hopper back in those times.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

They should have put the damper on that one

We hardly get to hear any music from outdoor concerts these days, not even the bass lines. Today has brought an exception. Further inquiry reveals that the not very musical music that wasn't lowered in volume is part of some Christian rock festival or something like that. If they made us listen to this stuff, they'd better allow us to hear the Stones and their warm-up bands.

Friday, October 20, 2006


Appearing for the first time this season now are allium leaves, lycoris leaves, some Dutch iris leaves, and leaves from an old pot of paperwhite narcissi that was dumped out years ago and has continued to thrive. When the skies are clear, there are beautiful pre-dawn views of the Big Dipper, the North Star, and Orion. It almost seems as though we should be able to feel ourselves hurtling through the ether. We will be so glad to be rid of Daylight Savings Time. We continue to enjoy ruellia, four o'clocks, plumbago, rosemary flowers, and pink oxalis, now that the weather has been changing for the better. Finocchio (fennel) is displaying new shoots, so soon it should be possible to know what can be cut back. In one part of the yard, some creature continues to drill into the pods of the hyacinth beans, while in another part of the yard, they're left unmolested. There are more pea shoots every day.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Maintenance of way

On the return trip during the noon-hour back from PC Guru, at the grade crossing we saw a UP Hi-Railer, the first in a while and the first up close for a long while. As practically nobody seems to have the sense to do, we stopped at the crossing and let the truck go through. We waved and the driver, who appeared to be a woman, waved. This picture doesn't show the wheels well. This second photo, with lots of toolbox fitments, is better. The picture caption speaks of transferring materials, but most hi-railers are used to get to freight scales, bridges and the like, and to allow various sorts of inspection for maintenance of way. This UK Wikipedia article links to some close-ups. Once the Hi-Railer is properly aligned, the flanged rear wheels are usually dropped first. Anyhow, I'm glad we saw it (and also glad to find that PC Guru did so well by us).

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Owls and lilies

This morning we heard a screech owl carrying on for at least twenty minutes. It's been a long time since we've heard a whippoorwill. There's so much light pollution all over Austin that we can't bring poinsettias around again without locking them in a closet indoors. The four o'clocks are loving this weather. There's still at least one hummingbird barrelling around the yard, attracted particularly to the revived Turk's caps. Something's eating the pods of hyacinth beans. New lettuce and pea seedlings have sproouted. Most will probably be consumed by whatever creatures love sweet green shoots, which are most. Morning light revealed three new oxblood lilies.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Spicy factoid

If you use McCormick spices, check to see whether they're fifteen years old or older. Only black pepper has been packed in metal tins during the period. And if your black pepper was packed in Baltimore instead of Hunt Valley, Maryland, it's old, too. Gotta check that allspice. Once Sweetish Hill kept those German-style strong molasses and strong ginger cookies (gingerbread people) in continuous production, I stopped making molasses cookies at home.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Son of San Benito, El Be-bop Kid

San Benito has given many of its sons and daughters to the greater world. In Austin, sometimes it seems as though every fifth person was born in San Benito. Baldemar Huerta, or Freddy Fender, as the grateful world knows him, q.e.p.d., was also a child of San Benito. He and Doug Sahm are reported to have met for the first time as long ago as 1960, at a battle of the bands at a San Antonio drive-in. I've been playing the old vinyl. Wasted Days, and Until the Next Raindrop as well, are two of the very best car-radio songs ever. One of my favorites is "Desde te conozco (Since I Met You, Baby)." His was a voice like no other.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Cake-pan mysteries

An 8-cup tube pan to replace the old dented one that now has twins appearing in magazine food photographs as a vintage prop has yet to be found. The Nordic Ware site was even mysterious about sizes the last time that I checked but just recently sent a handsome mail-order catalogue that does include capacities: they're just about all 10-cup pans, it turns out. What with one obstacle and another, All-In-One Bake Shop has yet to be visited. It has a mysterious Web site also. I'm thinking every day now about the first Breton chocolate pound cake of the season. We still have windows open and fans in them, but the oven has been in use recently for pork-loin roasts, meatloaf, broiling fish, and baking homemade pizzas and dinner rolls. I wonder whether it's possible to use a 10-cup pan for an 8-cup recipe. I don't really see why not, but I'm not sure. Getting the old pan to release is tricky and one of these cakes baked in a loaf pan tastes just as good but isn't nearly so handsome.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Astonishing display

This morning reveals many, many more oxblood lilies here in the pleasure grounds, and as we headed for the South Congress farmers' market and PC Guru, we saw many more. Some that we had thought to be completely displaced by all the madness going on everywhere south of the river have now appeared, although haphazardly and some from clumps tossed into a corner by excavation and other upheavals. We going to stop at the Grace UMC pumpkin patch, but I'd rather wait and hope that my own computer stuff is back and working before or by next weekend, so that I can use my toy camera to capture some aspect of it visually.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Nibs and inkwells

I've been talking about the decline of decline of cursive writing to a lot of people, and most seem to agree that the loss of speed is one drawback of knowing block letters only. I was surprised to learn that one of my very near contemporaries did, in fact, learn with a dip pen, not a fountain pen (my favorite, though far from my first, was yellow just like these). The students were graded on their handwriting, and blots, almost inevitable using this sort of pen, counted against them.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Statistical outlier

There were two oxblood lilies in Mack's flower bed this morning. There hadn't been any new ones for at least a week before this discovery.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Cn u rd ths?

Cursive handwriting is on the way to extinction in this country, according to the Washington Post ("The Handwriting Is on the Wall: Researchers See a Downside as Keyboards Replace Pens in Schools"; byline Margaret Webb Pressler, 11 October 1006, page A01)."When handwritten essays were introduced on the SAT exams for the class of 2006, just 15 percent of the almost 1.5 million students wrote their answers in cursive. The rest? They printed. Block letters." And they truly are block letters. Nobody's even taught the proper forms for lower-case letters. The "handwriting" of more and more people resembles that of people who completed only second, third, or fourth grade on the other side of the border, but not nearly so well shaped. One reason to learn cursive writing is for speed and fluency. Cursive is much faster than lettering. We changed from the pencil used in first and second grades to a fountain pen (except for arithmetic) in third grade. The fountain pen was so modern compared with the open inkwell and dip pen used not all that long before, and every desk still had an inkwell hole and a groove to accommodate the penholders and extra nibs. Stationery stores often gave away a blotter with blotting paper on one side and an ad for the establishment on the other. I see people these days who have trouble deciphering handwriting. Some blame the decline in writing or printing to the increased use of the keyboard. What's truly sad is that people aren't even taught to use the keyboard without looking. There's so much inefficiency! I always like to remember that Charles Dickens was a stenographer.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Sing it to this tune

Every song has an alternative set of lyrics. When people start going on and on about electronic Spam, I just figure they're slow readers. It's tempting to break into a chorus of "I'm My Own SpamCop" set to the tune of "I'm My Own Grandpa(w)." It just seems to be so much faster to scan the in-box headers and delete, delete, delete. The programs let through a lot of rubbish and then often toss legitimate correspondence into some junk or delete folder where it sometimes takes a long time to be found. And why the anti-Spam programs can't deal with e-mail from the Yahoo groups or listservs and periodically block everything from them is a complete mystery. This wastes so much admin time in "unbouncing" people. Here's a hint for the clueless: never send e-mail to a friend headed "hi." It will surely be switched onto the electronic highway to nowhere and may never be caught.

Monday, October 09, 2006


The October 2 New Yorker has a wonderful piece about the trade in gemstones in Madagascar ("The Path of Stones," byline Burkhard Bilger, page 66). Madagascar, along with Ceylon as it was then, were two of my favorite places when I was a kid. I love the Flashman novel set in Madagascar, with Queen Ranavalona. Madagascar always issued handsome stamps back in the days when there were little ten-cent and quarter glassine packets of stamps for sale in Woolworth's. Ceylon stamps often pictured the Temple of the Tooth. Of Leonard Woolf's memoirs, the part recounting his years as a colonial administrator in Ceylon is my favorite. Anyhow, the New Yorker piece inspired us to recall all our visits to old mining claims in New Mexico down between Atarque and Fence Lake and the Gila Wilderness and also back along the old rail line behind Ramah and Tinaja, etc. Some of these places are now, apparently, artsy.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Department of miscellany

Yesterday morning on Univision TV there was a replay of the "debate" of gubernatorial candidates in Spanish translation. Too bad we didn't hear about this in time. In this format, it might have been bearable to watch and certainly would have been fun to check out. File under "Department of Tardiness." Our carrier brought us last Saturday's undelivered newspaper; despite all promises of the local daily's circulation department, no copy has been brought to our door. File under "Department of Told-ya-so." Or maybe it belongs filed under "Department of Tardiness." An unlisted telephone number isn't as unlisted as all that. Caller i.d. will show the name of the caller. It may be time to go "listed" again. When we have a telephone, we usually do this under the name of a minor Dickens or Trollope character. The off-directory cost keeps going up. File under "Department of Modern Communications."

Saturday, October 07, 2006

"Monarch way stations"

After reading this recent feature about monarch butterflies (NYT; 3 October 2006; byline Donald G. McNeil, Jr.), we're happy to see more milkweed seeds germinating and many of those that survived the summer now showing a spurt of growth and reinvigoration, with some blooming for the first time. At least a couple are the handsome orange-and-yellow version that is more susceptible to killing frosts (the majority are the sturdier all-yellow ones).

Friday, October 06, 2006

Great are the powers of music

After our most pleasant interlude of hearing Austin Wonder Brass, sleep was unbroken and filled with wonderful dreams. This was a little bit of the vanishing Austin of small-scale events occurring just for the fun of it, not for profit and not to raise funds for some worthy cause. I remember that we used to run across little fiddling events without even looking. People of all generations would be playing and teaching each other new pieces, and not one version of Orange Blossom Special would be heard. Austin is rich with chamber groups, bands and orchestras of all sorts and in many configurations and with every kind of repertory, and vocal groups of every size singing music from every era. The small children running and galloping to the tempo or the music, for the pure pleasure of movement, made a very beautiful sight.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Surprising perennial

Naturtiums are not annuals where there's no killing frost. We were looking up more about them after seeing photographs of banks and banks of spilling blooms in a photo feature about some rich somebody's little adobe hacienda in Marrakech. This makes K. all the more eager to learn about Xalapa. Since the volunteers are popping up all over in the ground and in pots, I pressed some seeds into various pots hanging on fenceposts, so that there'll be some successors to the hyacinth beans, melons, and cucumbers now growing from those pots and twining in the hardware cloth. We buy naturtium seeds wherever we find them, especially if they're the old climbing or trailing sort. The quality of Burpee's seeds surpasses that of other companies, and Burpee has those great Fordhook nasturtiums. For some reason, the Alaska varieties don't do well for us here.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Confirmed: one down

the on-line Chron explains why we haven't seen or heard the KXAN helicopter of evil around lately. The equivalent news director is gone as well. He used to sneer at people who called or wrote to complain about living with the accursed helicopter permanently stationed overhead for hours. A good example would be on the occasion of a fire: once the flames and smoke and fire equipment on the ground have been captured for the viewers out there, why linger? A low and slow or stationary helicopter makes incredible amounts of noise, rattling every windowpane and dish around. The APD equivalent has been in the air less, lately, perhaps because of fuel costs; getting rid of that would go a long way in the money-saving department, not to mention aiding the sleep-deprived. Some nights, it goes over extremely low and slow, complete with intrusive downlight, waking many, if one's to believe the evidence of lights popping on in all directions, making a like pass in the opposite direction just as everyone's settling down again.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Ain't a-dancin' no more

When the Apple Mango Tango sample was delivered along with the local daily, we tried it. It smelled good. We forsook our usual generic for a big box of the high-dollar stuff. At first we liked it. Then there was a laundry just finishing up as it began to rain, so it didn't go outdoors. It went on racks and hangers indoors to dry instead. What had been a faint, vaguely pleasant scent seemed to permeate the entire house. It no longer seemed so pleasant. We're finishing the box and then it's back to the cheap stuff. If only Tide had kept its original scent!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Department of yuck

Barring buying masa and patting it out and putting it on the comal yourself, there's no purer corn tortilla in town than El Galindo, just lime, corn, and water. There's no sugar, no dough conditioner, no preservative. El Galindo wheat tortillas haven't been that pure in a long time; both versions, nevertheless, are better than those of others. Recently, it's been tough to find any El Galindo outside Kash-Karry and a couple of other places. H-E-B gives El Galindo the poorest shelf-placement there is, making the old faithful squat down and reach back on the bottom-most shelf. Wheat tortillas, either "Home Style" or "Mexican Press," have usually been easier to find than the corn ones. We were unsuccessful this weekend, though, and tried H-E-B house wheat. Ewwwww! They used to be better, I think, but now they're really laden with the good stuff and exhibit an odd sort of puffiness on the comal. Next, we'll try El Milagro wheat, but that ingredient list even includes sugar, upon closer inspection.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Not that anybody cares

Even at the library, where one would think people would be able to read, and at a decent rate of speed, it seems to take forEVer for some to visually scan a shelf of books. And they're not even polite enough to step back and allow the rapid among us to take a quick look-see.