Archive for March, 2008

Wasn’t it still northdry?

There’s a report of a bank robbery this morning in “northwet Austin.” I thought it was northdry until this afternoon, when storms pretty much soaked us all, complete with thunder and lightning, along with hailstones for some.

All aboard!

Zilker ZephyrZilker and Barton just might be the busiest places in town today. The swings were in constant use, the grills were fired up, and people were everywhere except in the water. This is a picture of the Zilker Zephyr rounding the final bend before it slows to a halt and boards new passengers. The miniature train is freshly painted to greet the new season. This attraction is ostensibly for children, but I saw many adult couples seated on the upright benches who did not appear to be supervising anyone younger. Sno-cones in the more lurid colors were especially popular refreshments. Today was a good day for kites, and the butterfly kites were especially handsome. Many are still stranded in trees from the recent kite festival, and they’re still colorful also. I had never been to Zilker on a Sunday, but I’ll certainly return.

A good time, even without any food

Eastside CafeEastside Cafe is 20 years young, and the garden is more spectacular than ever. Our rendez-vous didn’t work out quite as planned, but the people-watching was wonderful and the mystery of the missing salad dressings has been solved. We strolled the gardens, admired the cats and the purple martins, and enjoyed people-watching of a high order. And we also checked out the on-site shop, Pitchforks & Tablespoons, where the person in charge told us that the longed-for bottled dressings, Dijon mustard vinaigrette and feta cheese dressing, although missing from the shelves of Central Market, will soon be available again, at Pitchforks & Tablespoons. This little shop sells souvenir T-shirts, botanical-themed stationery, scented products, seeds in packets, and much more, including handsome bird-baths that stand on a metal stake stabbed into the ground. They’re easy to move and are safer against the predations of felines than other forms. Anyhow, food wasn’t on the menu tonight, as it turns out, at least not for us, but our visit was most enjoyable anyhow.

Katz’s unkluttered

We were lucky this morning to be seated without trouble at Katz’s. We all put away astonishingly large quantities of nourishing food, accompanied by real milkshakes, iced coffee, fresh-squeezed fruit juice and more. I won’t say what others ordered, but I went with the all-spud special: four potato pancakes, with applesauce, plus an order of French fries. Katz’s never does close, and there’s food for all. The nearby parking is as ample as the portions.

For knitters, too

Hill Country Weavers, on the east side of South Congress in the 1700 block, is not just for people with looms, but I never knew this until today. This resource is housed in a cottage that appears diminutive from the outside, but that is packed from floor to ceiling with countless skeins of yarn, in many weights, of several materials, and in colors from bold to very subtle and sophisticated. There are pattern books galore and many finished articles of clothing for inspiration. The staff is knowledgable and a fine source of information about all the possibilities. This is the place to look for unusual buttons for all sorts of garments. They are stocked in many unusual sizes, shapes, and colors. Look for tote-bags here, as well, and not just to carry knitting supplies. Ask about lessons.

Lucky to be seated

Sushi Sake, AustinWe didn’t even try to dine downtown last evening. The lodgings were north, so that’s where we sought food and were happy to be seated at a circular table, some us in in a booth and some in chairs, at Sushi Sake. Our party was the last one for a while that didn’t have to wait.

The sushi bar was busy and that’s all I know about that, since we are not ourselves sushi-adept people. Tempura of all sorts was light; we enjoyed our miso and the dressing on the salad. My portion of salmon was very generous. There were several fish specials. The most interesting dish was one from the appetizer section of the menu, chilled spinach with a sesame-seed paste. We all especially enjoyed the gyoza (pan-fried dumplings). Some people order only the dumplings and shrimp tempura.

Service was attentive without being intrusive. The portions were generous. The quiet acoustics make this a good place for a conversation.


Fran’s Hamburger’s, South Congress, AustinPark under the carport, go in, step up to the window and place your order, fill your cup with tea, sit down, and wait for your number to be called.

There’s a jukebox, but there’s usually vintage music coming over the speakers with no need to spend any money. If the jukebox is an option, there’s plenty of Tejano music on it.

I always order French fries. They arrive in a flimsy little paper sack. Tabasco sauce is on every table. The chili cheeseburger is gone from the menu, so those who were fond of it must console themselves with a plain cheeseburger.

Fran’s Hamburgers is for the hungry who can’t wait and for those with tired feet. Skip the lines at Magnolia if either of these two conditions apply to you. Your order is made up just for you, and is usually ready quite quickly. Fran’s, along with the Richard Jones Pit, is a South Congress survivor. Ask for carry-out if that’s what you want. Children are welcome here, too.

Restaurant refuge from the crowd epicenter

Cafe Josie AustinCafe Josie is one of those places where the food comes piping hot to the table. And what food it is! Lobster cakes and oysters and redfish, enhanced but not overwhelmed with enticing sauces and garnishes. The quantities are not gigantic, but every single mouthful is imbued with complex flavors. The luncheon menu changes with the seasons. Some make a meal from a series of the delicious appetizers. We always intend to order desserts but usually find that there’s no room. The starters and entrees are much more generous in portion than they at first appear to be. The crowd at lunch today comprised Austinites mostly, but I did hear some talk of recouping advances and I also heard a table of people speaking what was probably one of the languages of Scandinavia (it sounded German-related but wasn’t German). So some visitors are finding their way to this pleasant spot behind Portabla, across the side street from Wiggy’s, and about a block from Sweetish Hill Bakery. Cafe Josie was a happy choice for lunch and, if the fates decree it (or if long waits to be seated elsewhere do), we’ll return again for dinnner sometime during South by Southwest.


The dial-tone was buzzy and full of static and then it disappeared altogether. This was Monday at 9:00 am; it returned at a little before 5 pm yesterday. That makes over 24 hours without a land-line. And yes; I’m a laggard when it comes to adopting technology, which means it’s POTS or nothing. And let me just say, that the lodgings that promise Internet access don’t always have it up and working or working well. I blame only myself for any Luddite tendencies, but I blame the torrential downpour, aging infrastructure, and the telco for the problem. One variant or another strikes many neighborhoods south of the river from time to time, making life especially unpleasant for businesses. But that’s another story.

It’s South by Southwest, remember, and school’s out and lots of us are taking breaks from work to entertain visitors from far and wide. Here’s what I found when I sought a way to check in. I did not try the City’s free WiFi in the same building, but I did stop in at the Austin Java now serving as a cafe and more in City Hall. The tables are sturdy, the chairs are excellent, and the people are friendly. Even though attendance at SxSW this year seems to be a little light, going by street presence of people with lanyard i.d., there were plenty of attendees at Austin Java. The connection’s good. Food and coffee are available beginning at 7 am (great for early birds!). I know someone who’s returning to try the Eggs Benedict. Acoustics aren’t good, but that’s the only drawback.

For the extremely reasonable cost of a cup of coffee and some pastry or another beverage and an ice-cream cone from the cafe, Ventana del Soul came to my rescue another time during the POTS outage. There, also, I found out-of-town SxSW attendees. This is a great place for people to keep in mind for meetings, formal or in- and large or small. The signal is strong but a little slow; it’s great there there are so many electrical outlets. The natural light is a plus, and the people are always very pleasant. Those waiting may read some of the many up-to-date magazines, and there are board games, too. Supporting Ventana del Soul supports its mission.

Best of all was the Howson branch of the public library. Howson is a reader’s place and so was exceptionally quiet for working. Sign-up for access was quick and simple, with no need to possess or show a library card. Desks aren’t that many, but I worked at one. The height was ergonomically correct, there was sufficient work surface, and the electrical outlets were on the desktop. The signal was strong and downloads were instantaneous. I’ve never taken a laptop to the library, but I certainly will again. Next, I think I’ll try Carver and Ruiz branches.

Wooldridge Square is on the network serving the APL system, I see; when the day is sunny though, even Wooldridge shade probably won’t help with screen visibility. I don’t know what’s the best on-line directory to free Austin hotspots. The ones I tried were just ones I remembered hearing about. So this was my first adventure. Of course, an on-line directory is of no use when it’s needed for the reasons I needed it; nevertheless, it would be very helpful to bookmark a few directories for the future. The directory of access points at Auscillate is extensive; I wonder whether there’s one even better.

Lloyd Doggett Today Arguing for Override of Bush’s Veto of Intelligence Authorization Act of 2008

Would that the rest of the House Democrats were like my man Lloyd Doggett. He consistently makes me feel like I still have some representation in the Federal government, unlike my two rubber stamping senators. Go Lloyd!

Via Burnt Orange Report 


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