Archive for August, 2006

Let’s Throw a Pity Party

For those wanting to rant about bicycle helmets at Friday night’s public hearing, the enthusiasm was tempered somewhat by the long wait before the item came up on the agenda. The City Council had its usual docket of administrative Ambien to wade through prior to the helmet discussion, including the hit parade of requests for re-zoning. Re-zoning cases often play out something like this:

Developer: Hey Council, I scored a big lot in the middle of [pick any close-in neighborhood] and I’d LOVE to pack a ton of condos / lofts / apartments there. All I need from you is to re-zone my property to a mulit-family lot. PLEEEEEEEEEEASE?
Council: Somebody keeps telling us that Austin’s population is going to double in 20 years. Since such predictions must be considered 100% factual, we’re inclined to accommodate the request. What does the zoning commission have to say?
Zoning: We know where our bread is buttered. We recommend the up-zoning, with a few token conditions to appease the neighbors. Of course the developer won’t observe the overlays and he’ll be back here in 9 months requesting a variance based on a hardship he created himself, but we’re OK with that.
Developer: He’s right, I’ll break every rule short of paving over a Grandmother. But it’s not like you’re going to make me tear down my project.
Council: Fair enough. What does the neighborhood have to say?
Neighborhood: The neighbors would prefer not to live next to a 40 foot canyon that floods their property (assuming it ever rains again). And we’d prefer not to let commercial zoning creep into the neighborhood. Frankly we’d prefer everyone lived in caves, so long as they’re designed with a cozy mid-century feel. But regardless, we’ve put together a compromise that allows the developer to build X units under current zoning rather than the X^2 that he would like.
Developer: B-b-but Council … *sniff* … it’s just not economically feasible to build a project under current zoning.
Council: (in unison, as a hymnal) Economics. Yes, this is about economics.

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The coolest movies in town

At my house there’s no air-conditioning, so movie-going takes up more time during the summer than it does at other times of the year: in exchange for paying admission, there’s not only entertainment but chilling going on. There’s no movie theater in town any cooler than the Galaxy Highland 10. Audience members dressed for the outside weather are advised to bring warmer clothes for indoors or else a companionable companion to hold close. Having seen Ricky Bobby, we had to choose one from the other possible prospects (alphabetical listing implies no hierarchy of value): Accepted, Beerfest, How to Eat Fried Worms (filmed here in Austin), Idlewild, or Step Up. Idlewild it was, and I’m glad. This is a feast for the eyes, with wonderful lighting, excellent production and set design, plenty of dancing that fills the screen, and fine costumes that include wonders of custom tailoring and millinery. There are a couple of weak actors, but they don’t include the OutKast duo, and Ben Vereen and Cicely Tyson stand out in smaller roles. A dancer friend recommended this movie. For me, it was worth the entire price of admission for the surprising and very entertaining “fear of clocks” number called Chronomentrophobia, with visuals of imaginative variations on the cuckoo-clock theme. The final credits rolled over a gigantic song-and-dance production number that was annoyingly obscured by those very same credits, which everybody stayed through and peered through trying to ignore in order to see past them to the dancers on the piano and elsewhere.

Churchathon: You betta Reconcile

Our pastor at UUMC is still on sabbatical so I went with Brandon to two different churches these past two weeks. I decided to combine writing about the two into one post because they’re good to compare and contrast.

Trinity United Methodist Church, located on Evans street behind Flightpath Coffeehouse on Duval, has a very relaxed, contemporary service. At times people would get up to get coffee during church and no one batted an eye. The congregation felt very warm and friendly, and it seemed like everyone knew and cared for each other. It’s a smallish group, and there were a lot of small familes, kindof a younger to middle-aged crowd. The music is mostly Praise & Worship, and people get really into it. It’s a bit like going to church with the Polyphonic Spree, and that’s a compliment.
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Get your hands on these lush tomatoes

During our kitchen remodel P&K Grocery has become one our favorite places to pickup a quick dinner for takeout. Their hot sandwiches are incredible. I’m fond of No. 3 (tomato, mushroom, spinach, cheese and basil) which tastes a bit like a margherita pizza stuffed inside a ciabatta. AJ has been driven to ecstacy both by No. 5, the Cuban and No. 2, hot salami. Each only $5.95!

Last night while waiting for our order I noticed the most luscious roma tomatoes I’d seen all summer, firm, deep red, and shiny. Turns out they’re from a local grower and only $1.00 a pound. What a bargain! This week Central Market was selling pasty-colored romas from Mexico for almost twice that much. And tomatoes at Whole Foods Market can run $5.00 a pound (organic from California).

P&K is also carrying fresh eggs from a neighborhood supplier. Could they be from the hens across the street? I can hardly wait to try them out.

I’ve been wondering how boutique groceries like P&G and Farm to Market could compete with CM and WFM. I stopped in at P&K initially just to support local entrepreneurship. I keep going back. Not only is the food excellent, the prices are suprisingly competive. And there’s such neighborly atmosphere about it. I feel like I’ve been transported into my grandparents’ small-town America. Zipping into the corner grocers is so much more convenient than navigating the bowels of the WFM parking garage and battling the crowds.

Small is beautiful!

ACL 2006 – Friday and Sunday 1-Day Passes Still Available

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I’m staying home this year unless tickets fall into my lap for cheaper than full price. If you’re thinking you want to brave the heat (and forecasts appear to indicate that we’re in for another blazing hot ACL with temperatures near or above 100), there are some one day passes still available for Friday and Sunday according to the latest ACL mailer.

A Coffee Space to call “My Place”

There is but one bummer yet unresolved in my relocation from campus to South Austin- believe it or not, I’m completely uneducated as to where one can find beverages, comfy chairs, and wireless internet under one roof. I was spoiled by JP’s a block away, Flightpath up the street, Metro a little bit away and what used to be called the Hookup Lounge (which is now Smoke n’ o’s, I guess) another little bit away. My options were endless. And now I guess I haven’t had time to look for another place… I’m here at Flipnotics right now and the live music coming from Shady Grove has stopped, but it’s a beautiful night with a sweet breeze through the patio and nearby trees.
Any suggestions, dear readers? I live on South 1st. Anything nearby will be considered and any considerations will be much appreciated.

My Love-Hate with Longhorn Delivery

For the second day in a row my lunch has been late. Really, really late. When I can afford to, I get my lunch delivered from Longhorn Delivery because up until now their service has been great, their selection of food is wonderful, and they’ve been timely and inexpensive. Until now. Now it’s like… I might as well just brownbag it (I have very little food at my new place) because I’m waiting a really long time for my food (two hours yesterday and an hour and a half today), but it’s not like I can find delivery with the same amount of options. I don’t know whether to give it up or not but lately the service has been really sloppy…maybe it’ll get better. I hope so, because those Janitzio burritos aren’t going to walk into my office on their own.

UT ranked #1 Party School

Princeton Review’s annual survey ranked UT the #1 party school in the nation. For those keeping score:

It topped the overall list – its first time atop the Princeton Review chart – by ranking second in the use of hard liquor, third in beer drinking and 13th in marijuana smoking.

I doubt if we’ll be seeing the tower lit in orange tonight after this big win. Well done.

Donn’s did it again

Donn’s Depot was the only Austin spot to make Esquire magazine’s 2005 list of the best bars in America. That feat was duplicated for the 2006 list. This year’s brief blurb omits the “beautiful women” and “rowdy in a different way” commentary, going for a “puzzling mix of old-school acid cowboys, students, and retirees drinking inside a collection of old railcars.” This is just another factoid to purvey to those out-of-town guests who’ll start dropping in once the weather cools down a bit.

Not to Xalapa, not today

autobus.jpgAfter asking about bus fares at Autobuses Garcia, we checked out Ta Lai next door for the first time in a long time. Ta Lai was very fancy when it opened, back in 1977, and was a date-friendly spot for the students who populated nearly all the Riverside apartments in those days. Today it was serving a buffet with an array of customary dishes, all-U-can-eat for a bit over seven dollars. This included iced tea refilled endlessly and a choice of two soups. The soups, egg drop and hot and sour, were very good. The hot and sour was full of cloud ears. These were the best part of what was available, which was otherwise fairly workaday. Ta Lai was doing a good business today between one and two. There’s a table near the register with items attractive to those picking up to-go food (sold by weight) for the long bus rides that begin every evening at 9:30 to Celaya and Queretaro with connections to points beyond. These include toothbrushes, sunglasses, costume jewelry for presents, and more. With views of the Tower and the Capitol, once all the waterfront apartments have been condo-ized and gentrified, the hilltop locations south of Riverside will be next. The closing of the Back Room, with the gameroom that was a home away from home, is probably just the beginning of big changes to come. Today’s fortune, courtesy of the Golden Bowl people at Wonton Food of Brooklyn, is “Your power is in your ability to decide” but there are no hints on what shouold be decided or how. I’ve decided, though, that tonight’s not the night for heading to Xalapa.

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