Archive for December, 2005

Merry new paint job at Toy Joy

The credit, if any, for the design and recent repainting of the Toy Joy store on the drag wasn’t immediately visible, but it truly brightens its corner of the world. A person can’t help but wonder just how long it will be before that ledge of giant ants and that long line of nuns on the roof parapet will last in their current splendor. Check ’em out before the inevitable happens.

Welcoming the new

At Hong Kong Supermarket, we resisted the fresh, fresh, fresh mackerel that were selling like crazy, in favor the traditional New Year’s pork spareribs. I love the fish and butcher counter at Hong Kong Supermarket because, no matter what music is being played in the rest of the store, behind that counter people are listening to music that is definitely not Asian: today among the voices recognized were those of Jorge Negrete, Pedro Infante, and Vincente Fernandez.

As is customary, a purchase of ten dollars or more gets the buyer a free calendar. They’re not as wonderful as the extremely handsome 2005 Year of the Rooster ones this time around, though. These have all twelve months on one bamboo scroll and the artwork varies considerably in subject matter. I’m happy that my calendar shows the twelve-year lunar cycle and not the insipid illustration of children against a pink sky. There’s just no accounting for tastes and the calendars, in many designs, are given at random. The calendars may be going even faster than the mackerel.

Those who collect those toothpick shaker containers found at various Asian groceries around town may like to know that there appears to be a recent shipment of a variety new to me. Pick the color of the top and the preferred size of the shaker cutout.

Austin is Flammable, So Don’t Burn

drmon.gifThe environment around Austin is turning the holiday season on its ear; the weather outside is delightful, but the fires are soooooo frightful. Austin, along with much of Texas, is suffering through quite a dry spell that has brought on extreme drought conditions. There’s no rain in sight, so it’s going to be a very dry start to 2006.

The drought has already produced painful consequences around Austin, including a grass fire in Creedmore, overuse of the word “tinderbox,” and a Rick Perry surfacing. As an aside, many of Rick’s appearances the past few months have involved disastrous declarations, which sets a nice tone for his re-election campaign — Rick Perry: Master of Disaster.

Anyway, despite the obvious hazards involved with extreme droughts, idiots statewide continue to wreak havoc by defying burn bans. New Years Eve will be an especially trying time since people (including the City of Austin) feel compelled to display their pyrotechnic wizardry in celebration of an arbitrary calendar date. The culmination of First Night festivities should be a safe and dazzling display over the river, but those staying home would do well to keep one hand on the hose when the armchair explosives expert next door starts up with the Roman Candles.

French-fried residue provides propulsion

BioWillie receives national press coverage in today’s NYT business section: His Car Smelling Like French Fries, Willie Nelson Sells Biodiesel. We’re not the only part of the world where his biofuel brand is available. There’s even a Bio Willie website, tagged “Home of Farm Fresh Biodiesel.” And now there’s BioWillie humor out there (“how can soybeans be used for evil purposes?”) to help lighten up the seriousness of the National Biodiesel Board.

More than the contents

Since Austin often serves as a test market for consumer products, these may not be around long but, while they are, for $3.49 the buyer brings home much more than eight one-ounce packages of Snyder’s pretzel sticks with the salt still stuck to them. Along with them comes a ridiculously sturdy open-top corrugated-cardboard tray with sides just slightly taller than the height of an audio cassette.

As they are, these containers make great dividers for kitchen and other drawers and for pantry shelves. As is or gussied up in wrapping paper to cover the green, yellow, brown, and white color scheme, these high-sided trays will hold about 20 audio cassettes, about three dozen CDs in plastic jewel cases, or hundreds of 3-by-5-inch index cards, keeping the labels visible or the cards, for instance, easy to riffle through quickly. Because cassettes and index cards don’t stick up above the sides of these open-top holders, they can be stacked into towers that are sturdy and quite tall.

Best of all, these help a person resist the annual compulsion to check out The Container Store. Anyone who’s ever been drawn by this allure knows what I mean; and no fair using the Elfa sale as an excuse. “Snyder’s of Hanover Sticks Lunch Pack” was on market shelves all over town before Halloween. Lately this item has been found most easily at Central Market.

You said duty

I’m in danger of jinxing it here, but I’ve never been summoned to jury duty. I’m not sure if it’s all of the moving around I did between ages 17 and 27, but a jury summons has yet to darken my mailbox. At $6/day for pay, who’d want to do it anyway? Well, all that changes on Jan. 1 when a juror pay raise and several other laws, like mandatory open government training for public officials. Texas jurors are in for a $34/day pay raise, their first in 51 years. If you were a juror for every week day of the year, you’d gross $10,400. Still not much to go on, is it?

1st First Night

Following up on M.J.L. Kellogg’s post, the buzz is building on the city’s 1st First Night this New Year’s Eve. The program starts at 2pm and runs all the way to midnight.

The first three hours are being billed as the “Family Festival” which includes a grand procession that appears to begin at the Austin Museum of Art’s Community Room, where you can make your own art flag for the parade, and ends at City Hall.

There’s too many things going on to list them all here. You can check out all the details by section, discipline or timeline. A map is available as well. Some of the highlights include a glowing dragon on Town Lake, fireworks over Town Lake at midnight, fire dancing by five different area troupes, a Segway Ballet, music from many different local drum acts of varying cultures, a film montage projected to the side of the Radission Hotel complete with building climbers(?), and a performance piece from Salvage Vanguard Theater called ReVERBerations.

Sounds like it’s going to be pretty crazy. Lots going on. At first glance, it looks like they may have overreached on the sheer number of things going on. It’ll be interesting to see if they can pull all of this off. I’m definitely going to check it out.

“Ring out the old”

ely.jpgAnd “ring in the new,” the Austin way. Two of the tried-and-true farewells to the old are Alvin Crow at the Broken Spoke (check in at the Spoke for tickets) and Joe Ely, this year at La Zona Rosa (he’s set to come onstage at about 10; in the old days it was midnight). Another favorite, Tejano music hall-of-famer Alfonso Ramos, will be at the H&H Ballroom on Brandt Road, so put on those dancing shoes (and your best duds; expect food and party favors). Check at SoulCiti Austin for a selection of events, with new ones added often.

As a leadup there’s always First Night Austin. The two-tier idea, of making some events, the indoor ones, available only to those who’ve fronted some moolah, is a bit un-Austinish. The outdoor stuff, of which there is a lot, should suffice, though, and if we’re lucky it may be as much fun as being downtown for the Y2K New Year’s music.

Pets should be secured for their own safety before the fireworks display over Town Lake, which begins at midnight and should be visible (and audible) from a kazillion places around town. And no matter what the plans, it’s a good idea to check out the street-closing map for First Night in order to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Ben Franklin’s second certainty

Today was a good day to visit Nelda, one of the few remaining in this calendar year. Be it ever so leaky, it’s good to have a roof over one’s head even if paying for the privilege includes an annual property tax that far exceeds the total annual mortgage mortgage payments.

It isn’t as much fun and is much less convenient since the main office moved from downtown out next to Chair King on Airport. I suppose it’s still possible to walk up and make the payment, but the default is that bank-like arrangement where only a mechanical voice is heard. At 7:30 am sharp, the “OPEN” light goes on and the early person on the shift will gladly take your money.

Added since January 2005 is a little rooflet over what’s probably the smokers’ door so that the numerous pigeons roosting inside the canopy don’t bless the heads of those below. There’s also now a fence between the tax collector’s office and Chair King, where the last of the jornaleros were arranging the day’s work at this very busy unofficial day-labor market.

The certainties are the old “death and taxes” and it was news here that Benjamin Franklin is reported to have said it first, in 1789, in what’s really a remark about about something else altogether: “Our Constitution is in actual operation; everything appears to promise that it will last; but in this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.”

Libraries and 2006 Bond Election

On my way past the library homepage, I noticed a link advocating a new central library. The current Faulk branch opened in 1979 and I, for one, can attest that it’s woefully inadequate, starting with the parking. The final public hearing for input into the 2006 bond election advisory committee is Thursday, January 5th at 7pm at City Hall. Funds for the new central library is just one of the line items that the committee is considering. Getting funds for another public skatepark to follow the one that just opened this month at Mabel Davis is another cause you can advocate at the meeting.

While I’m on the subject of libraries, there’s also a second community input meeting for the design of the new location of the Twin Oaks Branch on January 11th at 6:30pm at the Friends Monster Book Store, 1800 S. Fifth Street. To give you an idea of how long it can take from having the bond election and approving the funds to actually building the facility, this new facility for Twin Oaks is the result of a 1998 Bond Election.

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