Archive for May, 2006

Scream for ice cream

I do it, you do it, we all do it; and the best-selling ice cream around here is Blue Bell. In this long feature, Making Cows Proud (NYT page D1, byline R. W. Apple), the reporter interviews an owner of the Little Creamery in Brenham and points out that, even though it’s available in just 16 states, and at a premium price, this frozen treat is number three in sales nationally. This article should work wonders for Blue Bell’s national air-shipment business.

P&K, All the Way

Grocery GrassThe corner of Mary and South 5th is going through a nice transition. While South Austinites wait for the old post office to gradually (veeeeeerrry gradually) turn into a new branch library, there is no such delay for the reinvention of their corner grocery store.

P&K Grocery is a new neighborhood grocery for the Whole Foods crowd. P&K shares an organic ethos and upscale gift selection with Austin’s monolithic chain, but shrinks everything down to corner-store proportions that allow you to park, navigate, and leave in 5 minutes flat. Part of that bargain assumes you’re buying basics … “basics” being a relative term, of course. For Sunbeam and Jif, you’ll have to schlep across to David’s food store, which is also a popular source of 40’s. But if your basics include capicola ham and Japanese sparkling soda along with your organic milk, then P&K is just the ticket.

A combination coffee bar and deli counter greets you upon entry, and P&K currently offers a half dozen or so sandwiches. I stopped in yesterday to grab a bite, and the grilled portobello on ciabatta was really, really good. The melted mozzerella and garnish was the perfect compliment to a mushroom that was just the right consistency and flavor. The Chron’s review raved about the Cuban pork sandwich, and the guy next to me seemed to enjoy his completely.

I haven’t actively shopped P&K’s grocery selection, but after yesterday’s lunch I’ll certainly be back to sample more food and start checking availability for our core household items. Hopefully there are some organic Twinkies lurking somewhere on the shelves.

Scratch Acid Reunion

Clifford Antone’s death has spawned a fair amount of talk about Austin’s music legacy around here. The late 70’s – early 80’s blues scene that he fostered is probably the most well-known Austin music legacy. Equally important to a lot of people is the early 80’s punk scene in Austin.

My love affair with Austin began, in part, because of bands like Big Boys, Scratch Acid, Butthole Surfers, and The Dicks. That’s why I’m excited to see that Scratch Acid is going to play a show at the Touch N Go Records 25th Anniversary in September in Chicago along with several other legendary bands that have called the label home.

Road Trip!

P.S. Google let me down. I couldn’t find an album cover shot of either of the first two LPs. I’ll have to break out the camera when I get home tonight and dig them up.

More downtown street snafus

Closing the two right lanes of Cesar Chavez between Colorado and Brazos should produce almost as much fun as the now finished construction at Riverside and Congress, but not nearly as much fun as the street changes that occurred during all of the construction around City Hall and the CSC buildings. Those of us travelling east on Cesar Chavez and turning south on Congress can’t seem to catch a break this year.

South/East Austin Crime Spike?

I half-jokingly made fun of K-EYE last week about their headlines, but we appear to have had a rough weekend in South/East Austin.

A man was stabbed to death in an apartment complex across the street from Travis High School on Sunday and another man was shot during a home invasion yesterday. It appears there was a second shooting later in the day. I think the Statesman story last week on Mission Hill, a street only a few blocks from my house and notorious among the neighbors, has made me somewhat hypersensitive, but this still seems like another outlier weekend for crime by Austin standards. I personally thought the Mission Hill story was a bit exaggerated in its description of the street.

Speak now, or forever hold your value …

It’s been several weeks since TCAD started bludgeoning area homeowners with elevated property tax assessments. The dramatic increases in valuation were expected to bring a concomitant increase in protests, but I suspect a lot of intended challenges languished while owners sought counseling or medication to deal with the sudden cost of living increase.

If your protest form is still sitting at the bottom of a “to do” pile, you have 24 hours to dig it out. To appeal your assessment, you must submit a written protest [.pdf] to the appraisal review board (ARB) by May 31st. There’s some leeway if you received the tax notice late or your dog ate the form, but just get the protest in already. After the deadline passes, you’ll just have to bask in the glow of regional prosperity and your newfound property windfall until next year’s ankle-grab.

Meeting the protest deadline is half the challenge, but the other half is actually supplying a good case for the ARB to lower your assessment. Valuations are clearly made using blanket assumptions and very little on-site observation, so there’s often a basis for arguing against the assessment. But no matter how satisfying it might feel, your righteous indignation and polemics about the inequities of rising housing costs aren’t likely to result in a successful protest; valid comps will. Be prepared to do some homework.

For anyone that has challenged the TCAD assessment, what did you present at the hearing? What made the protest successful, or not?

Update: The anti-tax folks at Lone Star Times have some comprehensive advice about protesting your appraisal, with links to an Excel template. You’ll also find out that John Kerry has yet to release his military records, just in case you like to get frothy about failed Presidential candidates while lowering your property taxes.

Fanaa fan

Maybe this movie isn’t for everyone, since it bundles a typical Bollywood romance with a drama and suspense plot, the first before the intermission and the second after it. And the tongue-twister song in the snow with the child could have been dispensed with, perhaps. The 11:30 matinee at Tinseltown South drew a substantial multi-generational audience and we all loved it. Blind girl meets mysterious charming man on a sinister mission who is charmed by her despite himself. There was just one Busby Berkely crazy dance number but that alone would have been worth the price of admission. Fanaa was released just this week and Austin is among the venues enjoying the worldwide premiere. The romantic leads are new to me, but so many movies of this type have come to Austin during the past year or so that we could recognize at least three of the older repertory actors. If catchy tunes count, this movie boasts two that have stuck in the brain now for hours.

Local video queen draws attention

The subject header reads, Texas Woman Beats Google to the Punch, Marries Video to AdSense Ads (23 May). Her software is called Video Code Maker. Does it work? The piece, to be found on the PRweb portion of Yahoo! business news, is in the nature of a press release. The video queen’s site has an extensive FAQ page and there’s a free 10-day trial version available. Is this something that people have been working on? Yes; and the article about our neighbor appeared in connection with fanfare about Google’s own efforts.

Lofty

There’s scarcely a plain old apartment or condominium unit to be found anywhere in Austin these days. They’re all magically becoming lofts. When I was out at the Dart Bowl this morning, I noticed the Bruning Lofts, a 15-unit two-story apartment complex not in its first youth, at 51st and Duval. A little looking around suffices to reveal that only the old-fashioned landlords and real-estate promoters haven’t converted to the new terminology.

Gays of the World Unite! It’s Splash Weekend in Austin

Austin is a well known liberal enclave in Texas. This Memorial Day weekend is also the First Splash weekend out at Lake Travis. There are events all weekend. While not exclusively a gay event, it is certainly an adult-themed party weekend. (Seeing has how the clothes tend to come off at Hippie Hollow once people have had a few drinks)
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For a breakdown of events click here and there’s also a site from the UK that gives those gays from across the pond a guide to the must-see and must-bring details on the event.

If you like male eye candy then pack a lunch and a few beers.

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