Sunday, March 30, 2008

Delightful discovery

The find of the day is a Johnny jump-up (viola), self-sown and thriving without attention until today, when it bloomed. It's the bicolored favorite form. There are five eye-popping pink-striped flowers of saucer size on a dollar clematis plant from Albertsons. Ranunculus continues to brighten the yard where it grows. Red anemones flourish from past years; they're smaller in size than newer ones. The dutch iris continues to produce, with multiple blooms in blue per stalk, newly joined by iris in yellow and white. The last clump of hyacinths, a surprise, begins to fade now. We're enjoying spiderwort and lantana flowers. Leftover trailing nasturtiums in pots are blooming like crazy. Thalia and others are done, but Ice Follies continue to bloom. We have various Shirley poppies. The third and final harvest of peas from the first batch has been accomplished and the peavines there are beginning to turn brown. Lettuce (mostly fancy Italian stuff from packets bought at Mandola's, I think) is highly ornamental and very tasty. Bush beans and squash are thriving, but they're in the grasshopper corner and something is already consuming some of their leaves. The bush beans germinated much more quickly than my non-purple hyacinth beans did. Ancient zonal geraniums from which slips should have been taken are revitalized and blooming like new. Four o'clocks are popping up in all the old places. The first firewheels are blooming. Delphiniums continue to germinate everywhere in the grass out back; the earliest at last have buds. The stock is past its prime but still gives some color and plenty of scent. Sweet William never quit all winter long and neither did gazania. Cyclamens in pots outdoors continue to be showy, and the pink oxalis everywhere is doing better than it has in years and years. Iphieon continues on, giving us a very blue show this year. We've seen nothing yet of flowers from the sweet peas. Loquats are turning bright and dropping the first fruits. We enjoy views of spirea and pomegranate flowers next door. Houseplants will stay indoors until the oak flowers have dropped. Nothing much is happening in the pecan department yet (there's been not a hint yet of that sassafras-turpentine scent), but those flowers won't affect the potted plants. Everything looks the most beautiful and lasts the longest when the days are overcast.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Challenging difference

Both "reto" and "desafio" are nouns that mean "challenge." What is the distinction between them? Which one would be used in a courtly or duel context? I would guess that disafio is the one related to a duel or a similar challenge. This word is an obvious cognate of "defy" or "defiance." Someone once told me that no two English words have exactly the same meaning or set of connotations. Another person told me that, when it comes to different languages, there's little in the way of exact equivalence of meanings.

Friday, March 28, 2008


They've arrived and they're hard at work on the fennel. You can smell a parsleyworm before you can see it. We just remove them but we know that they make their way back to the closest fennel plant. I don't think they consume wild carrots. We love our fennel but we love those black swallowtail butterflies, too. At least one of these guys has already become a butterfly, seen feeding on the milkweed blooming everywhere in the yard in pots.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Spicy love

It's black pepper, discovered at the H-E-B. It's distributed by the Spicetime Div. of Gel Spice Co., Inc., of Bayonne, New Jersey. The package says "satisfaction guaranteed." The standard plain metal 4-ounce container has printing in black and in red and is embellished by a small red-and-white checkerboard pattern at the top and the bottom. The print on one side is small, but well worth the read. It says, "Try our chic-n-meat seasoning, soul seasoning, Italian seasoning, seasoned salt, garlic pepper seas., pizza seasoning, five spice seasoning, seafood seasoning, shrimp-n-crab seas., bacon bits, cinnamon sugar, curry power, try our other fine spices and herbs." The inventory list has adobo seasoning and cajun seasoning, as well. I love the list of bakery items, especially the everything mix (for everything bagels, I'd guess) and the item called "little bitties" and also "pokies." "Industrial" means "bulk."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Canny love

The label was attractive, but I resisted the purchase. The can was metal and large, but I resisted the purchase. Resisted, that is, until the next time the end-cap display in the H-E-B caught my eye. And that's how a 34.5-ounce can of "S and W Mellow'd Roast Coffee Ground Coffee Blend for All Coffeemakers" came into the house. We grind our own beans, but this ground coffee is an excellent roast, so we've been using it when we're temporarily out of the beans (Ruta Maya Columbian plus Eight O'clock in a secret proportion) that go into our own curent house blend. We would have bought more of this mysterious coffee, and not just for the can, but it hasn't been seen since. When I went to the Coffee Holdings site, I found S and W blends galore, but not this particular one with its great colors and letter-forms that could be vintage or could be just retro modern-day evocations of a late 'Thirties or 'Forties moderne esthetic. Maybe this coffee was bought in a lot by H-E-B following a label change or maybe it was a custom blend with some remainders. Digging more, I discover that Mellow'd Roast, although not found on the site from the home page, was found via a Google search. Here's the front of the label.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Duty has been attended to; now it's up to Someone Else to review the tax documents. I do love that nifty calculator at the IRS site for working up the sales-tax deduction. I was happy to find that the calculator's results were the same as mine. For years, Someone Else moaned and groaned and made a Big Deal about doing the tax returns, even though all the documents were collected and organized by a person synonymous with me. Then, one year, time was getting very short so I had a go at it myself and learned that it's not really a Big Deal, even in a complicated year; it's just tedious. This may be among the last households left in which returns are prepared without employing the services of outsiders or using a software program.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Talk about tax-avoidance!

The first run-through for the income-tax return was over a month ago, and I haven't been able to bear even thinking about all that stuff since. Publication 17 finally arrived, and so did other items that were lacking. There's really no excuse at all not to get at a close reading of the IRS materials and a review of IRS forms and supporting documents. In the meantime, though, I'm accomplishing all sorts of tidywork and organization, merely as displacement activities.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

More tribute

Ponder Lee accounted for another rat yesterday. This time, she didn't call it to our attention, but it was placed neatly in the usual location. We placed the usual tombstone over it, knowing that natural processes working from beneath will leave nothing much in the way of earthly remains. As the Statesman reported an exterminator's saying, "Construction in the Austin area also has been disturbing rats' natural habitat." So far, it appears that Ponder Lee is keeping from invading this establishment as they search for someplace new to live following demolition of their old habitats.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

More monarchs

They head for the asclepias. We should be looking for eggs. We also have six very dark-blue hyacinths with prominent stripes. Ranunculus is coming into its own. Among the varieties is one with the colors of a Peace rose: creamy yellow with a certain pale rose tinge at the edges.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Passing through

Today there were monarch butterflies. They must have come in on one of these windy fronts, although some years we find a chrysalis or two left by over-winterers.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A mystery solved

Squirrels need their greens, too, evidently. At least, we saw one taking good-sized bites out of nasturtium leaves. We'd been wondering, but had ascribed the activity to cats. I saw a bumper-sticker saying, "Squirrel: it's what's for supper," but I couldn't make out the illustration. Some recommend sprinking chili powder in the pots to keep them from digging among the plantings. On a neighborhood list, some wag advised turning to a certain page in an older edition of Joy of Cooking. I didn't need to look; as I recall, it shows one or more diagrams of a squirrel without his fur coat. Squirrels are destroying all of last year's nests, which appear to be constructed in large part of ball moss.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Not hitherto mentioned

It's wonderful to see bachelor buttons here. They're mostly blue ones, which is a good thing, since I don't really care for pink ones, maroon ones, or white ones all that much. I first tried them following the inspiration of a long line of them along each side of the winding sidewalk leading up to the side door of the General Land Office one year. That was back when the State still had a little greenhouse over by the State Cemetery and the ParKings put in private gardens in odd parts of the Capitol grounds. Austin municipal employees used to fill every little traffic island and right of way with all sorts of flowers and other ornamental plantings, too, back when we weren't such a trendy place and city services actually existed. I see that some people have flourishing displays of California poppies, also planted by us after being inspired by the efforts of others. We always have good early foliage, ornamental in itself, but not always much in the way of actual flowers. We shall see. The old-fashioned tall alliums that used to be in every old yard and that consitute such a handsome backdrop for flowers of all kinds are now past their peak. The shorter ones have not bloomed yet.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


I read every newsletter that comes my way. It's force of habit. I'm interested in format and contents. I used to love the one published by the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy that indulged in mimicry of ledger paper, complete with that EZ-read greenish tint. Here's one with a shy little title: Worth a Look. Only if it were called Perhaps Worth a Look or Worth a Look, Maybe could it be any more self-effacing. I'd guess that the title is intended to remind people of this: "a look at [net] worth."

Monday, March 17, 2008

The soul of tact

I suppose I'll send in the questionnaire that arrived along with news of a class reunion. The very best question is a free-form one and asks about "special events in your life." This could really elicit some lively answers if anyone's inclined to respond with any degree of candor. It was that kind of school. I wonder how many of us survive. The percentage would be easy to figure out, since the class graudated just about a hundred people as I recall.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Adding to the floral display

This morning brings the first bachelor button, more Thalia, more Ice Follies, more poet narcissus (probably Geranium), Baby Moon, Sun Disc, Silver Chimes, Minnow, February Gold, and more of everything that's been there already. The stock is holding up remarkably well, despite the heat. Although the flowers are small, ranunculus in a saffron color makes a strong display and is the first ranunculus of the season.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

For the first time this season

Today's arrivals include Thalia and buds on the one-dollar clematis plants from Albertsons.

Friday, March 14, 2008

It's about time

There's long been a dearth of watch-repair people, and now Rolex is doing something about that. Business Week reports that the company is supporting training programs around the world, announcing a gift to one at Oklahoma State-Okmulgee most recently. I continue to read claims that nobody wears a watch and that checking a cell-phone is the only way that people pay any attention to the time these days. These must be the same people who have never learned to tie shoelaces, having grown up with Velcro fasteners and learned to wear only slip-on footgear of one sort or another, for "Homeland Security" reasons if for no others.I have every watch I've ever worn and I've been wearing a watch since I was five years old. It's just that I wear Swatches and cheapo novelties while I wait to find someone again who can repair what's not disposable.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Still relevant

And I haven't read it. But I will. Why Buildings Fall Down continues to be cited. Among the forensic everythngs, I recently learned that there are forensic engineers, called in to examine what went wrong when there's trouble with a built structure. I just read that there's little redundancy these days and that the most skimping occurs, as one would expect, during building booms. During these periods, problems are often overlooked because inspectors are overworked and there aren't enough of them. It's clear that Why Buildings Stand Up also belongs on the reading list.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Return of the dial-tone

There was no sign of a dial-tone for over 24 hours. In fact, there was not a ghost of one from 9 am or thereabouts yesterday until sometime after 5 pm today. I guess that's 32 hours or so. A request for repairs was made from another location, one with a working telephone. I plan to cancel the service ticket now that the dial-tone has returned. I can't stand to lose the hours that would be lost while the service is being tested and yet again there would be no dial-tone. This happens intermittently all over the older neighborhoods. Most people just don't bother to call it in, since at home they have alternate methods of telephony and Internet access.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Petty annoyances

We're hanging around the house some, for lots of reasons, several of which involve South by Southwest. First, one of the car windows just dropped into the door. Evidently, it's sits on one or more plastic brackets, which can be depended on to deteriorate in the summer heat. This has never happened before. It's amazing the number of people who don't think that they're driving too fast and too close to the curb and who have no consideration at all for pedestrians. One splash from a filty puddle is all it takes to spoil a day. In addition, the downpour has rendered the telephone land-line useless. There was a premonitory buzz, then some faintness, followed by static, and then nothing at all. What a nuisance! This used to happen whenever it rained, but months ago a technician did something and the problem has not recurred in the meantime. Until today. There have been some adventures in accessing the Internet.

Sunday, March 09, 2008


Today brought the first Lilac Wonder. Part of the yard is carpeted in leaves of species tulips, at least three kinds. It's too soon to tell what we'll see in the way of flowers, but the leaves are up and making new flowers for next year, no matter what happens this year.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Leafing out

The freshest green and new leaves are appearing on lantana, ornamental pear, and rose of sharon.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Low-down blues

Iphieon made its appearance overnight. So did the very best variety of grape hyacinth, large and strongly colored and with a touch of white. All the blue florist anemones with the double row of fringed petals are pretty much done, but the single blue-violet ones haven't yet peaked. The intensely blue anemone blanda are still going strong. I wonder whether they'll keep that strong color in subsequent years. And there's a second type of deep blue hyacinths in full force right now. Rosemary is blooming, too.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

When getting skinny is bad for the health

It's reported that Ziff-Davis has filed for bankruptcy. I can remember when PC Magazine was a must-read. It arrived more than once a month. It was fat with ads. It's been slenderizing for quite some time now. Once, it was one of the first publications read as soon as it arrived, and from cover to cover, too. Lately, it's been one of the last. How times have changed! I feel nostalgic for the days of acoustic couplers, the days when people who knew what a C-prompt was and a few DOS commands ruled the electronic universe, and for the early days of the Internet before the advent of Mosaic. People learned as they went and there were no formal credentials required to just step right up and embark on an adventure. The news came first from the WSJ, which also contained a wonderful piece about Mable John. It was news to me that she's the sister of Little Willie John. My favorite Willie John records are "Sleep" and "Talk to Me," although "Fever" may have been his biggest hit.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Now appearing simultaneously are pink flowers on the redbuds and white ones on the ornamental pear tree. This makes the prettiest display. Some years there's quite a gap between the appearance of one and that of the other. As do the oaks, the redbuds show flowers and leaves and drop both in accordance with individual schedules.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Separating the sheep from the goats

Here's a Texas shibboleth. Some of those making election calls have no notion of how to pronounce "Bexar." The old "beck-sar" is a real giveway. One blogger complains.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Tiny wonder

Little Marvel peas have been beautiful, just covered in creamy flowers that look at their best before the sun's really up. Now there are pods forming, each full of small English peas. They are wonderful for eating raw and straight from the pod. As I read somewhere else, they grow taller than what the seed packages suggest.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Many happy returns

Today is the first day of bloom for returning blue Dutch irises. There are more varieties of miniature narcissus, one flower to a stalk. A very dark blue wild anemone blanda is everywhere; they tend to be paler other years. Today marks the first appearance of leaves open on the fig tree. Every day, we've looked for clematis, but there've been no signs until today, when we saw two vines with a good start by the clothespole. The happiest return is that a pot of pink cyclamen from Sledd's last year died back and then, left outdoors nonstop, has displayed renewed handsome bi-colored leaves for some time now. Today, there were three flowers and many buds.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Prowess in pouncing

Ponder Lee accounted for the biggest rat yet. Rats on the loose are one of the many unlovely results created by teardowns and remodelings-in-name-only. Neighborhood vermin become so deperate or disoriented that they're to be seen abroad after sun-up. I can see that we're in for yet another bout of this since a former chicken coop now surrepticiously altered in various ways and dubbed a "studio" is slated for "remodeling" into a two-family residence if the propounders of this scheme are successful in obtaining various approvals.