Monday, April 30, 2007

Flying solo

Just before supper, we saw a monarch butterfly near the milkweeds, but we couldn't tell whether he was migratory or recently emerged right here on the premises.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Blue preferred

At last there are bachelor buttons (cornflowers), but so far only pink ones. Back when the Capitol grounds were full of ParKings, some of them had tiny gardens, and maybe the State, when it was keeping up greenhouses over at the State cemetery, did a bit more for the grounds. At any rate, the very first (and for a long time only) bachelor buttons seen by me in Austin were those lining the curving path to the door of the Old Land Office building. They were an inspiration to many.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Just off to the right

In this image are spires of delphinium in at least three different shades, a couple of St. Brigid anemones, and a couple of poppies (Angel's Choir). Beyond this image are a few California poppies, a few corn poppies, and two different shades of trailing nasturtiums. This is a bad picture, taken using a Concord Mini EyeQ camera when the angle of the sun was not favorable.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Smart equals rich?

Not. This study, yet to be published in full, has made for good idle conversation these past few days. There'd been nothing to make clear who the study subjects were and what measures of "intelligence" were used. K. and I both speculated that military tests were involved. In this, we turn out to be correct. K. thought the tests would be the ones administered before the Viet Nam exemption lottery was introduced, when test results played a role in extending student deferments; I thought it would be the test that is described in this summary. Perhaps, in fact, they are the same test, the AFQT (Armed Forces Qualification Test). The author of this study is with Ohio State, one Jay Zagorsky. Here's another abstract of the method and conclusions. Here's information about free study to prepare for the AFQT. Some sections have been added and some dropped since the days of 'Nam and before. This and the old National Merit Scholarship (before the PSAT came into use for that purpose) do not at all resemble the SAT in any of its versions.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

New arrivals

True poppies are opening, both the old-fashioned red and those with paler stems and leaves that are a very odd deep purply pink, with black spots and quite a sheen. Tomatoes have blossoms for the first time. Cypress vine has germinated, and it took a long, long time to do so. Did I soak the seeds? All shades of delphinium / larkspur are opening. The cassia has reappeared. There are flower buds on the butter-dream oleander and on the pink one. These are the only two remaining in our yard; the other pink ones succumbed to the same blight or whatever it is that has killed everybody else's old ones.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Clad in the armor of righteousness

Superheroes all have their costumes. I feel invincible when I'm wearing a bib apron. My grandmother made aprons for everyone in the household at least once a year. Occasionally, they were cobbler-style aprons, but mostly they were the bib style. The last of those of mine has worn out, I think, although there may be one last apron tucked away somewhere. No matter for whom they were intended, all had pockets of one sort or another. We wore them to work in the kitchen and on week-nights we wore them at the supper table. My favorite current apron has criss-cross straps and came from the Vermont Country Store many years ago. K. wears a cobbler apron from that source and of that vintage. Neither style is carried these days. I'm not one for shopping when I travel but it is my firm intention, when we're next in Mexico, to buy aprons from the market there. I like this site: "Tie One On: about all things aprony." I also like it that the Spanish word for apron is "delantal" (cognate to frontal).

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Sweet sweet peas

We have more every day, even though Wando's over. The most prolific sweet pea has been identified, thanks to Zanthan; it's Cupani. All of them are scented. Some of the other varieties are pale blue, white, lavender, and, my favorite, a maroon and cream one in which the maroon portion is striated with very thin bands of the cream.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Modest flocks of phlox

I read once, I think, that all cultivated phlox, even that homely old-fashioned tall puce phlox, is derived from Drummond's phlox, so modest and so pretty. Some years we don't see any, but this year we have some, peeking out from beneath other flowers, some amidst the ranunculus and some with the firewheels.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


One is a giant solid red amaryllis in a pot, probably from three years ago. All by itself, just sitting in a pot, this year it is producing a handsome stalk of flowers. And the real treat is one from two years ago, again sitting neglected in a pot, that's not only reblooming but has a delicious freesia-resembling scent; the label's still on it; it's small and it's called Pink Floyd, of all things. They're indoors so as to last longer out of the weather and to be enjoyed up close. Another of the old ones in the ground is opening up; this one's striated peachy-red, if that makes sense.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Only half an hour left

KVET is doing a special on Glen Sutton this morning. I was surprised to learn just last week that Billy Sherrill is not remembered by a lot of people; the case of his writing and sometimes producing partner, Glenn Sutton, is even worse. Anyhow, in honor of Sutton, who died this week, Tom Allen's show is highlighting many of the recordings of a certain era. The Wikipedia entry on Sherrill is sparse; the Wikipedia entry on Glenn Sutton is scant, too, but does include a link to an obit.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Homegrown or passing through?

We saw a monarch butterfly up close at suppertime, looking fresh and new, so maybe it emerged from the midst of our pots of asclepias.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sweet surprises

Sweet peas, at this time in April! They smell wonderful, because they're all old-time varieties, although we didn't record which ones. We moved the pots of Johnny jump-ups into a more shaded spot, and they're enjoying a surprise resurgence. Various old amaryllis bulbs in pots have buds on them; when they open, they'll smell good, too. Remarkable for their long blooming season this year are anemones (blanda, St. Brigid, and de Caen). We have more nasturtium flowers every day. Milkweeds are opening everywhere, and one of them is even the scarcer, less hardy bi-colored version of red-orange and gold, not just all gold. Larkspur and delphinium are beginning to show shades of blue. The mystery rose (centiflora?) is just covered in flowers and buds, perfuming all of Mack's yard, mingling with the scent of the sweet peas. Even though one nearby pond installation has been destroyed by post-suburban vandals, another has been refreshed, so there are dragonflies everywhere, in all sizes and several colors. Firewheels, lantanas (although some are not yet leafed out, others are in bloom), and geraniums and offshoots of old Mrs. H's gift kalanchoes are enjoying the sun.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Novel packing cushion

I ordered for the first time from an outfit called Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply (, because shade cloth was needed and this place offers degrees of shading. Other stuff was ordered as well. In the bottom of the carton as padding were three sheets of scored corrugated cardboard, once parts of cartons. The cardboard had been scored (really slit all the way through) in rows and in staggered cuts (rather akin to the raking, not perforated, style of mechanical meat tenderizing). When pulled from the top and the bottom, these cuts open up into a diamond lattice or fishnet pattern, for a distorted honeycomb effect. I'm sorry I didn't scan one of these pieces; they're now outside hanging from a T-bar clothes-pole, employed as a combination shade and trellis device. I'm betting they'll last the season but, if not, by then the vines should be self-supporting. I like it that this business offers a free premium according to the size of the order: your choice of the available seeds. The catalogue from these people has over 160 newsprint pages. Bamboo stakes are offered, in varying heights and circumferences. This one's going to be fun to read. So far I've found nothing about the scoring device for recycling cardboard in this manner; there must be better search terms than those I've been employing.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Insults and insulting descriptions and curse words

Tattletale, worrywart, fraidy-cat (or scaredy-cat), sneaky, mean, bully, snot, brat, snotty brat, bratty snot, and baby: these are the sorts of expressions that could get somebody's mouth washed out with soap if said within hearing of a grown-up (although they usually were not). I never knew any of these words until at about the age of four I began to consort more with kids than with adults. Insults didn't get to the physical, which is a good thing for cross-eyed kids (I was sort of one). The level of public discourse might be improved if people didn't go much beyond these, which are hurtful enough. Not for kids to say were: "J---s, M--y, J----h," "Saints preserve us," "Diosito Santo," "G-- A------y," "D----t," or even "oh H--l" (using dashes in keeping with the spirit of the prohibitions); these were used more in awe or when something went wrong when a nail was being hammered.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Was this a stage play?

Lazing about, just by chance we checked out channel 31 (Univision) and found Escuela de vagabundos, an extremely entertaining comedy of manners with plenty of physical comedy as well, in the long and complicated scene set in the kitchen when people think they're seeing an apparition. From the very stylish costumes, I guessed the year to be 1952 or 1953; it turns out to be 1954. We needed to laugh, and we did. It turns out that yesterday marked the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Pedro Infante. We couldn't stick around for the second movie, Cartas Marcadas, one of the ranchera romantic comedies, with Marga Lopez and also with El Chicote as the comic sidekick. Many of the Infante movies have been reissued and we're thinking of getting some. The comedies are fun to see again. In trying to find more about El Chicote, I found this entertaining site by a musical group that has taken that name.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sousaphones doubled

The Juneteenth parade on the East Side was cancelled because of threatening weather last year, so there are no pictures from it. One of my photographs from the East Side parade the year before, slightly cropped, has been selected as an illustration for this year's Alvin Patterson Battle of the Bands and Drumline Competition. This was either taken with a JamCam or with the Concord Mini EyeQ toy camera. Both go to events, because one captures eight images and the other two dozen at best. That's not a large number, even with both cameras along, but it's the max possible when it comes to digital images. The list of bands looks great. Our favorites are Hearne, Beaumont, and our own growing Austin all-star band.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Return of roses

It has been so many years since we've seen a rose in bloom that it'll take research to learn what this one is. For years, pests have denuded the rosebushes of leaves early in the season and we've seen no flowers at all. Our most reliable bloomer, a single, orange-red mystery that never failed and that we named Safety Vest or DayGlo because it its lurid hue, was whacked off by a large and at-large dog. But this year we have our beautiful mystery, covered with flowers and with many, many buds yet to open. The leaves are small and tinged with red when they're new. The plant is taller than I am. The flowers are a dark, dark blue-red, not single, but with perhaps just a double row of petals. The stamen and all the the center are a strong golden color. How could flowers as large as these emerge from buds so small as those? The scent is heavenly, just exactly how a rose should smell, not oppressively heavy, but still good and strong, and both sweet and spicy and completely like a rose. It's reappearance alone makes this a wonderful spring, as though it hasn't been one all along so far. We found more sweet peas. We've seen our first blue dayflowers (small tredescantia). We even found one mystery jonquil or narcissus today, a straggler for sure, with a creamy perianth and a lemon-yellow doubled and broken trumpet (doubles are not favorites, but it was a treat to find this one). We've seen potato blossoms and chile blossoms. Bush beans are germinating. The air is fresh and this is a wonderful day to be working outdoors. Clematis petals went with the wind, but ranunculus and anemone petals did not. We found St. Joseph's lilies open, another surprise, and they withstood the winds, too. We have old holiday amaryllises in pots that show buds, so we look forward to them, too. Some lantana hasn't yet leafed out; some is covered with flowers. The last of the loquats are on the ground. I did some weeding of loquat and mimosa seedlings today while I was picking up, but not nearly enough as is (and will be) required.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Worth the subscription

Nothing from the May issue of Harper's is up yet, and I'm not sure how much is ever available on line without some sort of sign-in, but everybody I pass it on to loves the letter from San Francisco ("A World in Three Aisles," byline Gideon Lewis-Kraus), about the Prelinger Library and lots more. The illustrations repay scrutiny, too; they're images from the library in bands across the pages, some commercial art, some title pages, some diagrams. Some of these publications are deaccessioned library items and still carry the old-fashioned pinprick-style marks of library ownership, rather than a stamp imprint of the library name. One of the library books is What I Have Done with Birds, by Gene Stratton Porter, an author who was a best-seller and whose books stood in ranks on library and other bookshelves. I liked the image of a promotion for Space Food Sticks. They used to make delicious snacks when we went tent-camping. I don't know when (or if) they were discontinued (I see that they're supposedly available, or at least some version of them), but I liked the chocolate ones in their day. Also discussed in the article are the Internet Archive and how a trove of industrial and instructional film (so-called ephemeral films) came to be preserved.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Moonves internal memo and CBS statement re Imus

The Moonves memo to CBS employees is courtesy of Gawker and it appears to be authentic. The text of a CBS announcement is more impersonal (from the Boston Herald site). The CBS radio site has not updated. I'm going to borrow a recording of the Oprah show made today. The head coach and the members of the team were to appear.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Radio resource

Radio Daily News is news to me, but I like it. It even has Arbitrons, but not broken down by demographics. Billboard is showing more free material than before, but not beyond number one. At least we identified one of the current favorites with lots of airplay as by Jenni Rivera and thereby settled a bet.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Also enjoying the break in the heat

The self-sown violas in pots are still very happy. So are the cyclamens. So are the pink oxalis plants, all blooming profusely. The four o'clocks are coming on strong, although without flowers yet, or course; they're just shooting up like beanstalks. There are still rosebuds, although no flowers yet. All the morning glories and moonflowers have germinated, but something's eating them, perhaps those small grasshoppers, some a fresh green and others a light tan.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Thanks to the respite

There may yet be more Dutch irises to come. We have some of the shorter-stemmed alliums that came by mistake from Park that time and aren't the old, leggy ones in all the old yards. There's been a small resurgence of anemones, red St. Brigid and a few more blue de Caen. Ranunculus is going crazy, with more and more flowers every day, in more and more colors. Chiles in pots are covered with flowers. There are still just the three clematis blooms, but every petal is still attached. Every day we look for delphinium or cornflower blooms, but there are none yet. Some lantanas are blooming; others haven't even leafed out yet. The pecan limbs are embellished with soon-to-be leaves. The first round of nasturtiums continues to be colorful; they're trailing varieties that are either solid saffron or a less orange and more yellow vining version with red-orange spots at the throat. Some cucumber leaves and some tomato leaves were a bit touched on the edge by the chill but we've seen nothing more than that. All the returning and new volunteer fennel plants are very ornamental. Just how old were those free seeds when I put them in the ground? All loquats have been consumed by the creatures. Despite the chill of some of these days, the jays in particular enjoy making a great splash in the water set out fresh every day in big shallow coasters meant to go beneath pots. The potted milkweeds are all in bloom or are about to be, and one of them may even turn out to be orange and yellow and not just plain yellow.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

100% virgin resin

When plastic dining utensils are needed, the knife is the one that's most difficult to find. It's fairly easy to find packages of knives, forks, and spoons together. Packages of all forks or all spoons are usually found without an extended search, but packages of knives only are another matter. Thank you, Ace Mart. I love the brand name for the knives found there, which is Dispoz-o. Not only is all Dispoz-o cutlery made in the U S of A; there's no recycled plastic in it. I'm always entertained by the substitution of "resin," especially in ads for costume jewelry, for "plastic." If one must sometimes use disposable products, it's great to be confident that they're premium.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Fleeting sleet

Sleeting fleetly, fleeting sleet moved on within minutes but made a beautiful sound and was fun to catch in the hair and in the hands. When it was over, we stayed out on the porch for quite a while just enjoying this weather, so refreshing and beautiful. Tomorrow we'll pick and eat the last of the beebleberries (Wando peas); the earliest vines are falling prey to a powdery mildew or something like that and even the most recent ones will probably produce no more.

Friday, April 06, 2007


We're having lots of fun with the corn, even though it won't amount to much. No doubt it will be taller than Hopi or Zuni or Navajo corn, but it won't have the ears. Just as we love chile plants for themselves alone and their own beauty and scent, though (and they do produce), we also love the sight and feel and smell of corn plants, even though they seldom produce more than a puny ear or two apiece for us here.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Extra day

It's so hard to know how to spend it. Getting around to places that aren't open on the weekend? Seeing an extra movie? Doing something that's a favorite? Trying something new? Of course it would be nicest just to sit in the yard and watch the world go by, but that would require ear-protectors and a strong rein on the temper. Why don't these people stay in the suburbs that they so love instead of buying perfectly nice old houses and wreaking havoc on them to make them more closely conform to suburban ideals? And what's with the high-intensity lighting? Does everybody really want his or her property to resemble a prison yard? Or are they terrified of the big bad city? Pools of light just make the shadows darker, but not as dark as my mood these days. Maybe it's time to think about lighting out for the territory.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Nasal root breadth

Today's WSJ contains a great feature on respiratory masks and related safety equipment, reporting that the advent of women and others not of the Caucasian male persuasion in certain trades and activities means that old equipment, apparently fitted on members of the USAF once upon a time, no longer serves. "Nasal root breadth," along with "nasal protrusion" measurements, apparently have long been used in physical anthropology, among other contexts (anthropometrics). I even found a link to the NIOSH study. I love the summary of methodology and results.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

First firewheels

These are probably self-sown examples. I've never tried to pick them because, much as I love them, we don't usually have all that many (I see that A&M reports them to be excellent cut flowers, lasting from six to ten days). Our firewheels receive no attention and are often walked on by passers-by before they show themselves to be the beautiful flowers that they are.

Monday, April 02, 2007


Our dollar clematis from Albertsons is now sporting three giant flowers at the same time. It's Nelly Moser and no pictures that I find do it justice. It must vary a great deal in the degree and distinctness of its bandings, which have always been intense on ours.

Sunday, April 01, 2007


The blue Dutch irises are past their peak. We are now enjoying ones with yellow falls and white standards. These are returns. Being streetside, they get little attention in the way of water or anything else. They look especially beautiful when the skies are overcast. Some years, Dutch irises produce more than one flower per stem, but this hasn't happened at all so far.