Archive for November, 2007

Shopping’s just part of the fun

Travis Heights Art TrailThe fifth annual Travis Heights Art Trail throws a lot into the mix beyond getting a start on that holiday gft list, not overlooking your own wish list. (Please be duly grateful that the phrase “trail mix” was not employed anywhere in this entry; temptation was successfully resisted, but with some difficulty.)

If you don’t find everything on that shopping list, the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar and the Blue Genie Art Bazaar will still be there. And it’s easy to combine this event with the Thornton Road or Bouldin Creek studio tours.

Check out the map. There are 16 locations open (some studios, some homes) tomorrow and Sunday, December 1 and 2, from 11 am to 5 pm each day, and about twice that many artists showing and selling their work. Painters, photographers, sculptors, fine cabinetmakers, ceramicists, fiber artists, artists in glass, and more await your discovery. Find works of beauty and beautiful objects intended for practical use. Enjoy the varied architecture and creative landscaping. Walk along the alleys and peek into people’s yards.

Fresh air and exercise can stimulate the appetite. It’s great to adjourn afterward to one of the dining spots on South Congress. One of the many reasons to love Austin is that there’s no need at all ever to enter a national chain store or restaurant. Ever. Let’s be thankful to our neghbors for all they do to help keep it that way.

Cowboys game viewable where?

The local daily has a Google map constantly updated by readers. It’s reachable on line from the home page (scroll down to “where are you watching the game?”). The map has been seen over two thousand times already. Word has it that home viewers with Grande or AT&T service can watch from their recliners in comfort, but they’re in the minority. Some people are installing alternate broadband service just to see this game. AT&T and Grande trucks have been sptted everywhere the last couple of days. How to see this game is a hot topic on local listservs so I thought that others might be interested as well.

Update: The link for “where are you watching the game?” has been changed since the above entry was initially posted; a kind person with the local daily reported the changed link and the correction has been made above. The link is to the reader entries reporting locations where the game may be viewed. At shortly after 1 pm, the number of map-views was over 3,200.

Update 2: So I’ve been asked. Yes; the game’s on the radio. As always, tune the radio to KVET 1300-AM. The inconspicuous button to click for streaming audio is to the right on the gray bar near the top of the page, just above the black menu bar. The map has been viewed over 6,800 times as of shortly after 7 pm.

Seeking singles all over town

Pay attention to any right-of-way and eventually you’re sure to see one of these signs or one like them. All incorporate “single” or “singles” in the name of a domain. Here are the ones spotted so far: austinsingles.org, austinsingles.com, travisheightssingles.com, and singleinclarksville.com. All these Web pages contain a photo of the Austin skyline; singleinhydepark.com, found on line, shows only the photo of a generic Caucasian couple. Perhaps it’s intended to be for Austin, Chicago, and any other cities with a Hyde Park neighborhood. Westlakesingles.com, also found on line, sports a skyline, but not one known to me. Otherwise, these are just like the Austin-specific sites thus far seen, in that they, as do all the others, have a stack of three photos to the left, captioned in order “Parties,” “Trips,” and “Introductions.” The come-on is to “meet verified local singles now.” Ownership of the domains is cloaked. To me, this operation seems designed to collect as much personal information, including telephone numbers, as possible about as many people as possible, and not necessarily for fostering coupledom. It reminds me of the Who’s Who businesses out there. I think it’s funny that a responder is asked to “select” age, height, weight, education level, and occupation. If only we could! I think I’d select “Pulp & Paper” or perhaps “Quality Control,” but my guess is that “Consulting” would be then common occupation selected in Austin. Judging from the business cards dropped in restaurants to be drawn for that free meal or one-drink happy hour (I always inspect them), “Consulting” is a favorite all-purpose occupation for the many self- and un- and under-employed of Austin. Unfortunately, there’s no “Other” occupational category with a space to say what the “Other” is. I’m partial to “futurist.” Whoever designed the selections for “Typical Work Hours” does have a sense of humor; among the possibilities are “Prefer not to say,” “Always changing,” and “My time is my own.” Are there similar signs in parts of town other than the ones found? I wonder.

Fiat lux

“Let there be light.” And there was light, after many peaceful months without it. I’m talking about the corner luminaire, a streetlight that’s over-bright and sends way more light upward and elsewhere other than on the street. Some busybody newcomer must have called it in, perhaps the one that believes that a good illumination scheme is one that gives the appearance of a maximum-security prison and extends the benefits to properties several houses away, allowing people to read inside their own houses without turning on a single light. Now late-night drivers can add an additional thirty miles an hour to their rate of progress. There is one benefit to living on the bright side: those of us with peaceful reel lawnmowers and who use rakes, not leafblowers, who formerly had to wait for dawn’s first glimmers to do yard chores can return to working in the middle of the night after being awakened by the police helicopter buzzing rooftops. The grinding bucket truck began its work before four o’clock this morning. Austin’s skies are too red and we can do better than these drop-lens cobra-head monstrosities. Can you tell? I’m a fan of the Dark Sky people. I like to see the heavens and I loathe light trespass. The city code of ordinances does contain some provisions prohibiting light trespass, although not from the public right-of-way, but they’re not enforced, just as many construction and zoning provisions are ignored. Other needed provisions (regular and frequent emptying of portable chemical toilets, extended idling of big trucks on construction sites in residential areas, e.g.) don’t even exist. Where does the mayor stand on issues other than trucks in downtown commercial areas? His statement does not enlighten.

Lovy dovy ta ta

We were not alone in foraging for food yesterday and the day before. All up and down the Avenue on Friday, tourists were peeking in restaurant windows, reviewing menus, usually in vain, because a lot of the stalwarts that serve continously throughout weekday afternoons were closed, including even Louie’s 106 and the Shoreline.

So, as we walked around downtown between the lunch hour and suppertme, we were happy at last to discover that McCormick & Schmick’s was keeping its doors open. We didn’t like being seated beneath a light that flickered. We moved one booth over and the effect was still with us. At two booths’ distance, we were pleased. Other diners, seated later, didn’t seem to mind the unsteady illumination at all. The oyster sampler was a complete delight for those who opted for it, and the verdict was that the Cape Breton oysters were the best. I loved it that our server was agreeable about our pulling up stakes twice before settling on our seating and also that, after I asked about the “northwest berry sauce” that was to accompany the salmon, the piping hot fish came to the table without the berry sauce at all and with delicious mashed potatoes and spinach. She could read my mind!

Yesterday, we checked out the Maudie’s on Lake Austin Boulevard. It was jumping. Our regular Maudie’s is on South Lamar and I hadn’t been to this one since it was much, much smaller and Jorge Arredondo himself was still there. It was doing a booming takeout business. We all have our favorite Maudie’s menu items. The beans are not in any way remarkable; the rice is good old Austin style, with plenty of cumin. The extra tortillas come hot to the table and stay that way inside their foil wrapping. The salsa and chips are replenished even before diners realize they’re getting low. The acoustics are reverberant, just as they are at Maudie’s on South Lamar; the buzz of human conversation completely overrides any music on the sound system and confidentiality of conversation is preserved no matter how close the tables are to one another.

The print-out at Maudie’s has a space for the table number and the server’s name. The server was “Lovy Dovy Ta Ta,” no doubt because all members of the waitstaff assist all the diners as needed, so any one of half a dozen people might be at your table through the course of a meal, not just one plus someone to bus the table. I’d like to know whether LDTT is the only server entered in the POS system or whether there are other, equally inventive, names in use.

The parade must go on!

Hula Hut floatThat must be the motto, because it did. Many were the variations on trashbag raingarb. All were dampened, some through to the skin (as I can attest), but spirits were not (as I can attest). Chuy’s parade was not cancelled. I’m not sure that it ever has been. The rain was pouring down, so there was recorded music only from Los Texas Wranglers and the Biscuit Brothers. Among those who played anyhow, and marched, too, were the Travis High School drumline and the Silver Thistle pipes and drums. This is the Hula Hut float. The tiki drinks sport cocktail parasols along with their fake-o fruit garnishes, and the Hawaiian dancers carry real umbrellas and dance beneath them.

Scent of a new season

Rudolph's Christmas tree standBell’s seasoning and roasting turkey scented the air yesterday, but that was yesterday. Thanksgiving’s now officially over. Today’s olfactory aura is one of evergreen and pitch. Rudolph’s Christmas tree lot has found a home again this year at Bluebonnet and South Lamar, inconspicuous amidst the new construction on the Maria’s Taco Xpress lot, but still there. For us, it’s closer than the Optimist lot, which has also been a faithful tree source over the years. Besides, I always admire the hand-painted signs and other artistic touches that grace this tiny seasonal enterprise. This year’s display makes tree stands into a decorative wall element and shows them to be just as ornamental as the wreaths showcased right next to them. We like to bring a tree home while it’s still fresh. It will gain nothing by sitting outdoors, even in water and under a shade, and, since the official closing of the transoms yesterday morning, the house is “warmed” by one floor furnace, which will in no way curtail this tree’s period of fir freshness. Now it’s time to start baking cookies.

Holding down the fort

Farm to Market Grocery, Thanksgiving 2007It’s Thanksgiving Day, but Farm to Market Grocery was open until 3 this afternoon, and Central Market South and THE H-E-B (at Congress and Oltorf) were open until 2. Slack’s Chevron was open and the person there before us had bought 57 dollars’ worth of gas; that’s scary, kids. We were happy to discover that our fresh Mary’s turkey from Wheatsville was a better deal than the Mary’s at Central Market South. No turkey could be tastier. At Farm to Market, we found a great apron to be a gift for for a diminutive person, stenciled in red with the FM logo and “78704.” At Central Market, we were happy to replenish the not-too-sweet and very fresh-tasting cider from Fowler Farms in New York State and I was confident that I could pick out the Northern Spy apples (the best pie apple) from all the other unlabeled apples. We were also happy to discover that Rudolph’s Christmas tree stand has been set up and is easily found right next to the Walgreens and Maria’s Taco Xpress complex on South Lamar at Bluebonnet. That makes it easy to slide from today’s holiday right into the holiday season that’s upon us.

Enkindle and Enlighten

kindle_metblog.jpgThe release of Amazon’s new e-book reader, Kindle, is creating quite a buzz in the tech industry. Any time a large player steps into a market that has had trouble in the past, it’s big news.

The Kindle includes a wireless capability and can download blog content in addition to books. You can see where I’m going with this…the Metroblogging family of blogs is one of many blogs available for subscription on Kindle, including this one.

Why pay for something that you can get free otherwise? I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t pay $400 for a book reader either.

Still it’s kinda cool.

Out of 50

Lucky magazine selects these Austin shoppers’ magnets, listed here in alphabetical order (December issue, pages 276-281, byline Gigi Guerra): By George, Eliza Page, Feathers, Gardens, Home Girls, Kick Pleat, Luxe Apothetique, Parts & Labour, Shiki, and Uncommon Objects. So, for Austin, there are ten among the 50. Are these the “best” or were there stores overlooked that should have been included? Should there have been more listings for Austin? Lucky offers a printable shopping map, with descriptions of the shops listed, good to offer out-of-town visitors for their self-guided tours of Austin. The magazine issue offers lots of pictures, but the map includes the relevant editorial material, and it is a map.

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