Saturday, September 22, 2007

Ideas of greatness

I was dusting a book that belonged to my younger grandfather (the one born in 1889; the other one was born in 1845). The book is called True Stories of Great Americans for Young Americans. Cyrus Field is the most recent great American included. At least one edition of this book, said to have been first published in 1898, has been reprinted (some reprintings have omitted original chapters and added ones about women; the book is, of course, out of copyright) and even made into an audiobook for the home-schooled kids of today. This picture is quite a bit smaller than the original; it says "Lincoln, rail splitter." Lee and Grant have their due as well. There's nothing to say who was the publisher (Eaton & Maines?). This one and the other three were cheap to begin with and the Aunt Charlotte Bible Stories book and the retold Leatherstocking Tales have been loved to death by all the kids who treasured them, including me.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Dual Flash-O-Matic

It was a multi-player tabletop coin bowling game, with an alley of some length, that used a shuffle puck. We remember it as being called Dual Flash-O-Matic but so far there are no results like that, no matter what the search. Maybe "Dual Flash-O-Matic" was just a setting. We can't remember what the brand was. I hope to hear someday from someone knowing something about Dual Flash-O-Matic. This is a great series of close-ups of a shuffle bowler. I see that there is a sign that says "FLASH" backboard. This site lists the romantic names of the various models; it uses the word "puck." At this crazy site, there's a list of the types of games that can be played, among them: dual flash, flash, and flash-o-matic. I think that these added an element of chance to the score. Here's more information found about flash-o-matic and dual flash features. I was once a true champ at these but had completely forgotten until somebody reminded me just the other day.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

More and new

We have more spider lilies (lycoris radiata). Some are where there used to be many but where blooms have not appeared for years, although leaves always do. One is the result of squirrel work. There have been leaves for two or three years, now, but this is the first time that flowers have appeared. The very last of the oxblood lilies have appeared (wave number four); next, we'll see leaves. Clockvine continues to give us a show. Cypress vine is blooming. The grasshoppers have kept taking it back, but enough has survived to produce some flowers at least. The hyacinth beans are producing flowers at least. The pods and the seeds are handsome, too.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


All use of "spot on" and "spot-on" must cease immediately. Any person employing either form will be transported to Ultima Thule at once.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

First fall appearance

We have flowers on the self-seeded clockvines (thunbergia alata). Now that the oxblood lilies are on their third flush of bloom, we must believe that summer is truly drawing to an end. There's a tentative return of pink oxalis and we see a few morning glories each day. It's cool enough much of the time recently so that we're seeing flowers and peppers on the chiles in pots.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Monarchs times two

We've seen two more monarch butterflies, or maybe one is the butterfly previously noticed and there's only one new monarch on the scene. Zebra longwings we usually notice one at a time, but we saw two of them circling one another around suppertime.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


A monarch butterfly was going from lantana to lantana this afternoon. It's the first one seen for a while. When orange wings are seen around here, they usually belong to a gulf fritillary.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Strains of music

From afar, ACL might as well not exist, for what we're hearing of it. From time to time we have been catching quite a bit of music emanating from Fiesta Gardens, which is just fine with us. I think that it may be something about the prevailing winds. When we tried to fit in a few errands today, we were tormented nearly everywhere by sound systems pouring out what someone near and dear refers to as "whiny white boy" music. I did love it that the H-E-B at Riverside and Pleasant Valley was all Mexican and Tejano music, nothing but, including plenty of old favorites, to which many of the workers and customers were singing along, not just humming, but singing with the lyrics. Contrary to popular belief, there are still plenty of students living in that part of the world, but, if the City and new property-owners have their way, those stunning views of downtown from the river to the tower on campus won't be available to the riffraff much longer.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Until the next downpour

That's how long it will take to know whether the assiduous attentions of the AT&T technician have restored rainy-day dial tones. During the most recent rains, one of us was trying to work at home and we were without a dial tone for over four hours. Examined were the telephone line at the house (rather admired for its great antiquity, I think), the telephone equipment on two nearby poles, and at least one, and perhaps two, of whatever those metal cabinets are called that sit by the side of the street and contain person-high banks of telephone-related mysteries. We don't care about not being able to receive incoming calls but for some reason the inability to dial out is a great irritation.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Consumer of collards

I've become one. I also now enjoy turnip greens. I've always enjoyed kale, chards, and beet greens, but collards and turnip greens are a fairly recent addition to the diet. And it's all thanks to Luby's, which made them both appear to be very appetizing and prepared them to be tasty. I'm not sure what I think about mustard greens, but probably one day I'll see them at Luby's and they'll look good enough to eat. I bet the same would be true of cooked cabbage.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Disquisition on acquisition

Shopping is rarely much fun, unless the shopper is a regular and enjoys the social aspects of it. Otherwise, I don't want to accumulate more things, whether supposedly "durable" or merely to be consumed; I just want some peace and time to enjoy and use that which I already own. I do not want to replace anything that should have lasted much longer than it did. I want to deal with fewer objects and services, not more of them. Good luck!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Fostering the olfactory pleasure quotient

This is a public service announcement. If you're expecting your city, county, or state government to protect you from such revolting noxious nuisances as chemical portable toilets placed within the no-construction setback, up against the property line, and left unattended for weeks at a time, think again. Below is a response to eight questions posed; the response merely confirms what research had seemed to say, but I couldn't believe that there's nothing more governing such facilities. Even privies can be no closer than 75 feet from neighboring residences. All members of the city council have been asked to assist in remedying the lack of ordinances to prevent the creation of such reeking and unhealthful conditions, but thus far there has been no response.

1. Is there any ordinance, statute, or regulation about siting these port-o-lets or temporary toilets (other than the ordinance found, requiring them to be within 100 feet of a job site)?
No- There is no ordinance, statute or regulation related to the siting of port-o-lets or temporary toilets, other than requiring them to be within 100 feet of a job site. This requirement can be found in Chapter 10-5-5 section C of the City of Austin Land Development Code (LDC).

2. Are they permitted to be so close to a neighboring property as to be even within the zone where construction is not permitted?
Per Chapter 10-5-5 section C, the only regulatory requirement is that the port-o-let be within 100 feet of a job site. The City has requested that the developer voluntarily move the toilet to a different, hopefully less offending location. However, please note that it is beyond the City’s authority to require this.

3. If there is an ordinance, statute or regulation governing placement of these, what is its citation?
As previously discussed, the City’s only regulatory requirement pertaining to location of port-o-lets requires placement within 100 feet of a job site. If a site is found to be in violation, legal charges may be filed in Municipal Court.

4. If there is an ordinance, statute, or regulation governing placement of these, who enforces it?
The Watershed Protection and Development Review Department enforces job site compliance.

5. Is there any ordinance, statute, or regulation governing replacement, emptying, or cleaning of these facilities (remember; this one went untouched for 2.5 weeks before being pumped out and has now gone nearly 2 weeks again with no additional attention)?
Chapter 341 of the Texas Health & Safety Code states that, “Human excreta in a populous area shall be disposed of through properly managed sewers, treatment tanks, chemical toilets, or privies constructed and maintained in conformity with the department's specifications, or by other methods approved by the department. The disposal system shall be sufficient to prevent the pollution of surface soil, the contamination of a drinking water supply, the infection of flies or cockroaches, or the creation of any other public health nuisance.” The ordinance does not address the frequency of which the port-o-lets must be emptied, cleaned or replaced.

6. If there is such an ordinance, statute, or regulation, how often does it require replacement, emptying or cleaning of these facilities?
As discussed, the ordinance does not outline a specific maintenance schedule for port-o-lets.

7. If there is such an ordinance, statute or regulation regarding how long these facilities may be left unattended and accumulating waste, what is its citation?
Although the ordinance does not outline a specific maintenance schedule, it is the policy of the Environmental Health Program to respond to sewage complaints within 24 hours of receipt. If a violation is observed, legal notice is issued to the property owner/responsible party with a reasonable amount of time to allow for abatement of the nuisance/unsanitary condition. Legal charges are filed in a Court of Law if the violation is not corrected with the stated time frame. A Court would determine the penalties for such a violation.

8. If there is such an ordinance, statute or rule regarding how long these facilities may be left unattended and accumulating waste, who enforces it?
The Health and Human Services Department would be responsible for issuing citations related to port-o-let sewage complaints. Please contact Robert Wright, Environmental Health Program Supervisor at 972-5654 or Daniel Gonzalez, Sanitarian Senior at 972-8053 if you observe unsanitary conditions with the portable toilet in the future.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Tone, no tone

Soon after it begins to rain, the telephone dial tone becomes worthless. This used to affect a lot of people, but I think they've all switched to other telephony and don't care that much about their land lines these days. Several crews worked at a nearby pole for several days; the verdict was squirrels and something they did that let water in where it shouldn't be. The repair held for several months. But now we're suffering again. It's about being able to call out, not about incoming calls. The AT&T repair site seems to blame all dial-tone trouble on something inside a customer's house. So I'm not optimistic. The next time this happens, though, I'm going to request assistance. If a call does come in or go out, the noise on the line makes it impossible to decipher what's going on. More often than not, an outgoing call cannot be made; the bad dial tone cann't be broken. Modems don't work under these conditions, either. It used to be that, if it was rainy in Houston, incoming calls from other area codes would be met with the "all circuits busy" recording. Maybe that's what happens in the neighborhood.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The higher illiteracy

Someone described as "the deputy assistant secretary for economic policy at the Treasury Department from 1988 until 1993" writes of "the poor who bare the brunt." Please! Please! Keep those brunts covered! "Bare" has been changed to "bear" in the on-line version, but the original may still be seen on page 14 of the September 10 issue of The New Republic.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Inner sleeve survives

On the turntable has been Texas Inlaws, Akashic Records SF-1004, Supernatural Family Band. On the inner sleeve are (side one) a general blurb by Tommy Hancock and the lyrics to High Plains High, a song by Conni Hancock, and additional credits; and (side two) a contemporary black-and-white photograph of Butch Hancock, along with a tribute to him as "inside man" and lyrics to If I Was a Highway (probably better known as If You Were a Bluebird) and Ramblin' Man. There's great trombone music on this album, and great fiddling, too. The low point is a flat rendition of Lovesick Blues, and I've always disliked Orange Blossom Special. Jessie Taylor is on this album, I loved Louie Morris's rendition of "Bluebird" and the most astonishing track on this album is one by Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Most, and perhaps all, of the tracks are recorded live, and the last one is an odd version of Sly Stone's Higher. The Akashic site does not have a track list for this album, which is reported to be from 1978, when at least some members of the Supernats lived within a block of the homestead.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Arrival at last

We've lost a few to trampling by dogs whose owners don't keep them on the sidewalk, but we do have oxblood lilies and we do have a lot of them. Once again, some are appearing in surprising places, which we always attribute to "squirrel work." The spider lily count remains at two. The zebra longwing butterflies really like the flowering garlic in pots.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


The reason to set an alarm clock is so that, if if hasn't rung yet, you know that it's not time to wake up; there's still time to sleep. Having an alarm set, under this theory, always means that you will awake before the alarm goes off. So it can be a very long time before it's discovered that the alarm isn't working at all. Someone decides to sleep in late and ignore the alarm. But the alarm never goes off! So it will be traded out for another of those small black plastic dollar or free alarms that come from China and take one or two double- or triple-A batteries. Someone must be creating assemblages or some other form of art from non-working exampls of these ubiquitous timepieces.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Except for one song

On the turntable has been Ramex LP-1063, Los Pecadores. I bought this at Woolworth's or one of the two music stores that used to be on Congress Avenue. The only bad track on the album is a Spanish-language version of that odious song Patches. It's not badly done; it's just that it's Patches. On the track list, it's rendered as "Parches" and is marked "D.A.R.," which I think signifies that it's in the public domain, although that couldn't be true. "Can. Ran." is used for "cancion ranchera." Ramex evidently still exists in Houston, at least as a music store, but I find no Web site. Nothing is listed about Los Pecadores (The Sinners) but this group must have been a popular live act. The singer is excellent. Prominent among the instruments is an organ (think of some of Manuel "Cowboy" Donley's groups--as I recall--or of Augie Meyers). Perhaps I possess the sole surviving copy of this record, which is heavy on lively cumbias.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

They really laid it on thick

On the turntable has been Cowboys Ain't Supposed to Cry, Moe Bandy, Columbia 34874. I know that I bought this at Reed Music on Congress, because the label's stil on it. This has all the best session sidemen on it, including Johnny Gimble, plus the Jordanaires. Anybody would recognize some of the tracks on this album, some of which were at least sort of semi-hits. My favorite track is Up To Now I've Wanted Everything But You (K.P. Powell). Now that's what makes the jukebox play. This album's from 1977 or thereabouts, back when Moe Bandy (and Joe Stampley, too) used to play in Austin quite a bit and we heard them live on Austin City Limits (Moe twice, and Joe with Moe once).

Monday, September 03, 2007

Alvin Crow on the turntable

This is High Riding, Polydor PD-1-6102, Alvin Crow and the Pleasant Valley Boys, along with several members of the Texas Playboys, although there's no mention of these guests on the cover. I guess that Alvin Crow's voice is an acquired taste, but I've acquired it, and the music is very, very snappy. I always forget what should be remembered in case of sudden need: this album has a version of Cotton-Eyed Joe. Tommy Allsup is the producer. Th back sports a picture of the old tour bus with the fiddle-clutching crow. This from the days when the big labels scouted Austin frequently and still had money to advance for studio time.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Another bookish discovery

This wonderful site, new to me, has the complete text (usually with illustrations) of children's books that have gone out of copyright. It always seems that, when it comes to Nathaniel Hawthorne, either Tanglewood Tales or A Wonder Book is not to be found; here are both at once. This site is called The Baldwin Project. It even has that old sentimental weepie of weepies Just David.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Not recalled

Beverly Lowry, who used to live just down the road from here, has published a book about Harriet Tubman. I've read just one book about Harriet Tubman, when I was in fifth grade; it was on the shelf in the corner with Otto of the Silver Hand, which I also read (in a copy with the same illustrations as the linked-to edition), as well as Children of Odin (sometimes called something different these days, but by Padraic Colum; the link is to the edition that I read). The book about Harriet Tubman was a thick one, but I don't know the name or the author. At any rate, in one of the reviews of Lowry's book is an account of an amazing incident that occurred in Troy, New York, and it seems new. Surely it must have been in the long-ago book and, if so, it seems astonishing that it could have been forgotten.