Archive for May, 2007

Apple and Alamo Supply Free Summer Kid Fun

Now that school’s out, it’s time to find something to do with all of that free time. If you haven’t already booked your kid from morning to evening with activities, the two local Apple stores and Alamo Drafthouse have some free stuff for you.

Alamo South Lamar continues its Free Summer Kids Camp this year. The free films are Mon.-Thurs. at 11am. Admission is free and seats are first come first served, so you’ll want to get there a bit early. The series kicked off this week with Sky High. Here’s the list for the rest of the summer. See their site for details.

6/4 – 6/7 – Muppets Take Manhattan
6/11 – 6/14 – Monster House
6/18 – 6/21 – Zathura
6/25 – 6/28 – Wallace And Gromit
7/2 – 7/5 – March of the Penguins
7/9 – 7/12 – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
7/16 – 7/19 – Iron Giant
7/23 – 7/26 – Holes
7/30 – 8/02 – Nanny McPhee
8/6 – 8/9 – Howl’s Moving Castle
8/13 – 8/16 – Heavyweights
8/20 – 8/23 – Harry and the Hendersons

Apple Barton Creek and Apple Domain are also sponsoring the Apple Camp again this year. You need to register through the site. The workshops are from 9-11:30am and are recommended for kids aged 8 -12.

7/9 and 7/17 – Podcast Workshop
7/10 and 7/19 – Garageband Workshop
7/11 and 7/16 – iMovie Workshop
7/12 and 7/18 – iWeb and iPhoto Workshop

Trail of Dead Seeks Temp Drummer for Summer

According to Pitchfork, Austin band, …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, is looking for a fill-in drummer for their European tour this August and September. Anybody think they can persuade my boss and family to give me a two month paid sabbatical?

Cantina Laredo…more like Cantina Estupido

On Sunday night, The Wife and I were looking for somewhere new to try. The kids were out of town with the grandparents, so we were unencumbered and ready for adventure. Since we’ve visited most of the local mexican food establishments, we thought we’d give the relatively new Cantina Laredo location downtown a try.

I wasn’t expecting too much. It’s a chain and I’d been to the location in Dallas many years ago. The reviews on Yelp and Austin360 are pretty likewarm. I had heard that the tableside guacamole was worth experiencing and I was looking forward to a margarita.

We parked at the free City Hall parking (which ends in a few days on June 4th btw) and wallked over to 3rd and Colorado. The outside patio was mostly full, as was the restaurant when we walked in. There was no host/hostess at the stand when we entered. A woman behind the bar looked up and informed us that they were understaffed and that they were closing. It was 8:45pm on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. She lamely explained that Sundays are usually quiet. We turned around, extremely annoyed and passed the 8-10 other confused people who thought they were going to eat there. While I appreciate them not seating me and making me wait hours for my food, it’s colossally stupid to understaff on a holiday weekend.

We ended up at Malaga, who aren’t usually open on Sundays, but opened to take advantage of the increased business on a holiday weekend. Imagine that! They were, of course, packed. We’d been there once before and enjoyed. This time was also good. Despite the high volume, our server was attentive and one of the kitchen staff even brought out our last order to ensure we got it while it was still hot.

So, the moral of this story, kids, is to visit Malaga and avoid Cantina Laredo like the plague. They blew their chance to make a good impression on me.

Java Garden quick-lunch

Java GardenJava Garden, neatly replacing the “China” on the existing sign with “Java,” still offers a Chinese buffet at lunch. There is an Indonesian (and Chinese) luncheon menu, but we truly did need a quick lunch. The hot and sour soup was genuinely and deliciously hot. The egg rolls, mostly cabbage with some carrot it appeared, were light and tasty, prepared in fresh, not stale and over-used, oil. The chicken dishes were from the good parts of the chicken and the sauces were not over-thick with cornstarch. The rice had not sat around a long time and was excellent. People were picking up food to go and there’s also delivery available within a certain area (call 385-8858) for more information. The Chron reports that the Java Gardens people are the original Java Noodles people. If you see vehicles in the parking lot of the departed Albertsons on Pleasant Valley, the chances are good that they belong to people dining at Java Garden. The 10% discount for students is still available. The soup was so especially delicious that I want to return and try the Indonesian menu at dinnertime, or perhaps on a Sunday, when the buffet is entirely Indonesian and changes every week to incorporate the chef’s specials.

Google Maps Time Warp

Ben Wear’s transportation column in the Statesman this weekend pointed out something that’s been annoying me for at least a year: Google’s map data for Austin is sorely outdated.

I realize that it takes some time to get updated satellite images and that they can’t possibly keep every location on earth up-to-date, but it’s been more than 3 years since they’ve updated the downtown satellite imagery. How do I know? Take a look at the Frost Bank Tower at the corner of 4th and Congress. It was completed by January of 2004 and construction began in November of 2001. In the Google Maps image, it’s clear that the top of the tower hasn’t been completed. This data is probably from 2003.

I guess that’s one benefit to a rapidly changing landscape due to new condo and building development. It’s easy to date satellite images.

CapTexTri Cancelled

Unless you’ve lived through years of Central Texas droughts, you probably consider us perverse for praying for rain. This weekend, however, was weird for us because, for once, we we’re praying it didn’t rain. The reason: AJ was participating in the CapTexTri (Capital of Texas Triathlon). Swimming in Town Lake is never pleasant; swimming in Town Lake after run-off swollen Shoal Creek has been pumping oil, dog poop, and trash into it is just nasty.

So, ever since Friday, we’ve been shaking our fists at the gloomy skies. After all this is the week for memorable weather, the week when old-timers swaggle their fingers at the young and recall the Memorial Day flood (1981) and the Jarrell tornado (1997).

About 3 this morning we were awakened by thunder and rain. It rained moderately until 6 when it began pouring down. AJ’s Blackberry was buzzing with text messages. “Swimming cancelled. Stay tuned.” Half an hour later, “Event cancelled.”

A triathlon requires a lot of training on the part of the participants and effort on the part of the sponsors; I never realized how much. Everyone is disappointed…and now at 7:30 am, as people would be gathering to begin, the rain has stopped.


It’s been reported that the City of Austin faces a budget deficit. I bet we’ve all got some notions about where savings can be found. My own first cut would be the police helicopter, especially with the rise in fuel costs. Nights when this clattering monstrosity is not in the air are the only nights that offer a chance of unbroken sleep. In the budget, this function is called “air support.” Last night, we were buzzed and the noise was so close that the rattling window panes and the rest of the noise, light, and vibration awakened us from a sound sleep; then, no sooner had we returned to slumber than the occurrence repeated itself. I’d like to see more money spent on the libraries and the parks (including extending the wading-pool season) or, if this money stays with the police department, then on foot, bicycle, and automobile patrols where people live, not concentrated on downtown entertainment districts or on IH-35. I think that beneficial savings would result from abolishing every title and function similar to “public information officer.” I believe we’d all know more about what’s really going on. The communications performance measures have a degree of entertainment, if no other, value. Solid Waste Services would save money in the long run and provide better sanitary services by returning to better trash carts, sturdier ones that keep their wheels, axles, and covers, and with non-warping and close-fitting covers that do not provide access to houseflies. I wonder what services other amateur budgeteers would prefer to see eliminated, cut, augmented, or initiated. Those who don’t wish to comment here should consider communicating their budget priorities to the city council.

Kill-a-Watt Challenge

We haven’t yet gotten to the Victory Garden stage of public participation but the Kill-a-Watt Challenge is a start in the right direction. The Challenge provides some competitive spirit in everyone’s effort to cut energy use…and it offers recognition and prizes to boot.

The only downside is that it doesn’t reward people who are already conservation-minded. I’d be interested in some sort of kilowatt per person per residence statistics. Instead, rewards are based on the amount of energy reduction over the four month period beginning today over the same period last year. Individuals, neighborhoods, and businesses can compete.

The Austin Chronicle is looking for prize donations. Contact if you’d like to contribute a prize. “No prize is too small.” Movie tickets, massages, business gift certificates have already been donated.

Sign Up via the Chronicle website. Austin Energy will do the killowatt comparison based on your utility bills. I’ve already signed up.

On the skids

Unearthly cracking and high-pitched screeching noises broke the after-midnight stillness. The cacophony drew closer and closer, accompanied by high-intensity police-style gumball lighting. Being drawn along, taking tree limbs and leaving bits of itself, was a pink cottage, looking just like a child’s sketch of a house. There had been no warning, there was no police escort, and all the vehicles involved were unmarked. On earlier occasions of this sort, a notice was distributed so that people parking in the thoroughfare could park on another street. Earlier in the day, we had actually noticed this house up on beams waiting to be skidded and had commented that, if that was a candidate for removal, as it appeared to be, then its next-door neighbor, still on its foundation, appeared to be a good bet to go next. Little did we know. I caught a handsome image of this event as the progress was stopped beneath a streetlight, but I deleted it inadvertently. This morning, after picking up snapped limbs, I checked the City’s permit-search feature and learned that, in fact, the other house is the subject of a removal permit. Will tonight bring an encore?

Fiesta first day

FiestaMart southIt was an Albertsons; now, it’s Fiesta south. It seemed as though the entire Fiesta corporate staff was there, checking out inventory and pricing and asking customers whether there was anything that they wanted to find, but didn’t. Fiesta southside will be open from 6 am to midnight, not around the clock. This new Fiesta, on the IH-35 frontage at Stassney, devotes a great amount of space to its in-house tortilla-making but in general has a less Latin flavor than the Fiesta north. There’s a very decent selection of Dickies work trousers. The extensive produce section is watched over by a fine selection of pinatas, including the classic globes with tasseled horns, in two sizes. There are fresh coconuts and there’s watermelon cut into selections of smaller portions of several types. I was happy to find two kinds of serpentines (those paper streamers that spiral out when thrown and that are always shown in the movies when an ocean liner comes in to the pier) and also my favorite small-sized play money. In the housewares department are stocked two sizes of comales (cast-iron griddles, good for pancakes or tortillas). The bakery had pan dulce, teleras, bolillos, and pan frances. For fans of the telenovela, TV y novelas has always been easy to find and lately H-E-B has begun to carry TVnotas quite regularly, but TV y mas has been elusive, but Fiesta has it. There were two kinds of live music while we were there (Mariachi Gavilan and Ramon D. Torres), and I believe there will be live music at least through the weekend. At Pleasant Hill library there was a bold western kingbird, and on Circle S Road there was a dead skunk to be seen (and smelled). We had intended to have lunch at La Fuentes, but it was very, very busy and so, taking the afternoon off, we’re getting a head start on slow-roasting the beautiful and reasonably priced spare-ribs acquired at this new southside market.

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