Archive for October, 2008

Seasonal mishaps

Is this Halloween accursed in some way? Under some spell? If things were going well, this would be a current photograph instead of one from a prior year.

Last night, some creature gnawed giant pits in the pumpkins that were going to be carved after work today. In places, the hull has been taken right down to the flesh inside. There’s no “good” side left. Candidates with teeth include gray foxes (unlikely), opossums (unlikely), and raccoons (probable). All these critters and more are to be seen frequently. They have accounted for all our cantaloupes thus far. I’m not even ingenious enough to carve faces in these cucurbits that will incorporate the gouges. They’re just all the wrong places. We’ve always left pumpkins out on a porch until carving time comes and nothing like this has ever happened.

And, then, there’s the trouble with the cakes. At this season, now that it’s a bit cooler, I bake a lot of Breton chocolate pound cake. The old tube pan is so dented and mis-shapen that it’s a bit of a disgrace. So I invested in a new Bundt pan. The first time, all was well, But since that initial success, the pan has been reluctant to release the cake. Every single cake has come from the pan in two pieces, and this is not one of those cakes that can be glued together with frosting and hidden under more frosting. It goes to the table pretty naked, so that people are fooled into thinking that it’s something that’s harmless to their diets.

So I don’t know whether I have the time or inclination to invest in two more pumpkins, and there’s a cake in the oven now (mixed this morning, batter chilled all day) and I’m in suspense about how it will emerge. I’m pretty certain that the cake will taste delicious, no matter how it looks, and Halloween will be fun, whether or not there are jack-o-lanterns on the porch. I always think of this as the national holiday of Austin and am just one of the many thousands who look forward to it every year.

Greetings from the free world

Big Stripe cards for the incarcerated originate right here in Austin. I saw a small display ad in NOKOA The Observer noting that these cards are sold in the Austin area exclusively at Planet K. Thoughtfully, they’re available in Spanish as well as in English. These cards spring from the inventive mind of Mariann Wizard, long-time Austinite also responsible for the GOP tarot deck and many more enrichments of the local scene. Has the projected market for Big Stripe cards been hitherto overlooked? Apparently not. Many, however, are meant to be sent by the confined person to those who are not. Among the sites hurriedly examined, Big Stripe has the only site with links to resources intended to be helpful to those in the system and their families.

Second-home paradise?

The notion of a second home in Austin is certainly tempting, at least for me. It’s becoming more and more difficult, and sometimes even impossible, to make the customary weekend rounds, especially if crossing the river is involved. Even Capital Metro isn’t always informed of street-closings, and pedestrian detours can take a lot of pleasure out of a jaunt, particularly during the hot weather. We would have been spending much more money on favorite baked goods and other delights during the past several months, had it not been akin to mounting a major trek to reach them. It would be wonderful to have small retreats available in several parts of Austin.

Today’s NYT touts downtown Austin nationally as a great place to own a vacation hideaway (“People-Friendly Planning,” byline Bethany Lyttle). It’s reported that downtown condos are being snapped up by people from Boston, New York, Dallas, Houston, and San Francisco.

My favorite insights gleaned from this feature are that supply now exceeds demand, that prices are now negotiable, and that some who committed before construction to purchase condos have failed to gain financing for them.

The piece contains some photographs and specific pricing information for a high-cost and a lower-cost offering. Will these look cheap to potential out-of-town buyers?

The American Future: A History, by Simon Schama

Working into the nightIt’s been a big evening of blogging for me, three posts on my personal blog, one on my professional blog and now a 3rd one here on Austin metro blogs. I wasn’t sure if should post this one here, or on my personal blog. As time passed though, I was more convinced I should post here.

Why? A few reasons. First up, while I don’t know too much American history, I found the first episode of the BBC’s “The American Future: A History, by Simon Schama” absolutely fascinating. Since Schama is a historian, I’m sure everything is historically accurate, if not perhaps a little biased in presentation, maybe. Why doesn’t BBC America have the balls to show this here before the election? For the intelligentry it raises some more interesting questions on their voting choices for November, in this episode, mostly about water.

Second, Schama’s “history” is running on the external display on my laptop, full screen in great quality. When the USA goes digital in February 2009, you might ask, where are the US offerings that are anything in comparison with the UK’s broadcast digital Service. not to mention the BBC iPlayer. I was lucky enough to be able to download this episode while in the UK last week, it cannot be accessed online from the US, so don’t bother trying. Here though is a small clip from the BBC YouTube channel.

Third, was doesn’t the BBC, and likewise it’s erstwhile real partner here in the USA, PBS and WGBS Boston, figure out some way of making BBCi programs available for a charge online here in the USA? I’d certainly pay more for BBC shows especially news and documentaries than I would for online music and books.

Fourth, the first episode of the series includes a piece on President Carter, where he says “Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns” and “if we succumb to a dream world, then we will wake-up to a nightmare”. Oh the ring of truth for this today. There is though a salutary lesson for the next President of the USA, if he wants to get elected for a second term. The circumstances of Carters second term election will almost certainly be the same, if not worse by then.

Scharma book on American plenty, that spawned the series is available from amazon.co.uk now and for pre-order for amazon.com if you are prepared to wait until May 2009.

In mammary of mom

Mom flyerI was around at Sinsations earlier this evening to pick-up and pay for my ticket for tommorrow nights erotic carnival and when I got back someone had hung a flyer on my door handle for 50% off Shuggies Burgers down at the South Austin Trailer park and Eatery. So I put a hoodie on, grabbed “Bob” my cruiser and headed on down their for dinner, more on that in a minute.

When I ordered my food, there in Shuggie trailer window was a promo flyer for “In Mammary of MOM” a charity gig for the benefiting Komen Austin’s race for the cure. 10% of all food sales will be donated.

I’ll be down at the carnival watching the fire eaters/jugglers and contemplating getting spanked for charity otherwise I’d go. The South Austin Trailer park is always alive Friday evenings, this week even more so. From 7-10pm for every $5 donation you’ll get a chance to win a digital camera plus gift certificates to local merchants and other “fun” prizes.

Music will be supplied by the Neil Nasset band and you are encouraged to NYOB. According to this evite, there are already 76 people going, and theres some sort of t-shirt contest going on apparently, who knew!

If you’ve got ’em, feel ’em!

SPTAE SignsThe South Austin Trailer Park and eatery is just south of the Texas School for the Death at 1311 South 1st St. and is home to both Shuggies and Torchys Tacos.

Railroad Commission of Texas – who’da thought?

As a non-voter, ad nauseam(1), I was astonished to listen to a News-8 piece this morning on the elections of the Railroad Commission of Texas.

While its been encouraging to read/listen to the discussions on Prop 2., it seems to me that there should also have been some useful pointers to this VERY IMPORTANT commission. Maybe as a newcomer maybe I’m just the only one that didn’t know?

As you show up to vote, please take time to familiarize yourself with the relevant positions wrt this board. They literally hold some of the most important controls for energy pricing and production for the future, especially in wind, solar and gas.

I know that many may opposed to wind and solar farms for their looks and their environmental impact, they are likely to happen any way. Yesterday the UK officially opened one of the biggest wind farms off the east coast of England to become the world’s biggest offshore wind generator.

Wind farms need investment to build. They also need investment to connect to the grid, however, given proper design and build they are not difficult or expensive to run and maintain. The same can be said for solar power.

Texas has both the size and conditions to run large wind and solar farms, the question is who should end up owning these? Large multi-nationals, billionaires or state or local cooperatives.

Here are three resources to help you get started:

(1) Despite paying a bunch of money in income tax, and ever increasing property tax(although I guess not next year because of the drop in the property market, as a non-citizen I can’t vote. I would otherwise, do you have any reason not to vote?

Grown-up entertainment – Sinsational!

Sinsations 3rd Annual Erotic Carnival

Sinsations 3rd Annual Erotic Carnival

So, one of my good friends just emailed me and ask me to check a local store, I must admit I hadn’t been paying attention, and as readers will know, I’m always for “bigging-up” activities and businesses on South 1st St. I was delighted while checking their website to find out that this Friday sees Sinsations 3rd Annual Erotic Carnival. Honest, I did get an email from a friend asking…

As neighbors go, Sinsations are great. They are quiet, discrete, apart from the occasional car wash or throw down, not that I’ve been, honest. Friday sees the carnival start at 9pm at Red 7, on the 7th St. Along with some of the more predictable fare, such as the spanking booth(!), music will be from Mr Lewis and the Funeral 5. So theres a perfectly legit’ reason to go then.

Ok, must stop writing blog posts like I’m writing for the Benny Hill show… See you Friday, I’ll be the one there to watch the fire dancers. The entire event is a benefit for AIDS Services of Austin. All proceeds go directly to helping those living in our community with HIV/AIDS and helping to educate and hopefully stopping the spread of the disease. All artists and performers have donated their time and energy, and all prizes and gifts have been donated by local businesses to support their community. In turn, we ask that you support these performers and businesses for their generosity and graciousness!

Tickets, if still available, $15 presale or $18 on the door.

Report from an early voter

We’re all encouraged to vote early in order to alleviate possible crushes at the polls on Election Day itself.

Early voting began yesterday and will end on Friday, October 31. Here’s a list of the polling places for early voting, and any registered voter may vote at any of them, whereas on Election Day we are expected to vote at our precinct polling places. A good nonpartisan guide to the candidates’ positions and to the issues on the ballot is on line courtesy of the League of Women Voters.

I like to vote at the court house but today it was easy to vote at the Ruiz branch of the library, another favorite place. I love the genial election people at both locations. At slightly before noon, the tally at Ruiz for today’s voters stood at 65. I saw several voters who had never voted before. All voter stands remained busy, but the line of chairs for waiting voters never served more than one person while I was observing.

As a reward for having voted, there was a quick-stop at the Dairy Queen just off Riverside on Town Creek Drive. I liked it that the doorway to the restrooms was ornamented with safety tape that said “enter at your own risk.” That was just one of the festive decorations for Halloween.

Perfect pumpkin patch

South Austin pumpkin patch 2008

South Austin pumpkin patch 2008

There are nearly as many photographs taken as there are pumpkins and gourds sold at this pumpkin patch just a block east of South Congress (at 205 East Monroe Street, Grace United Methodist Church).

Those pumpkins will be there right through the big day itself or until they’re sold out, and they’re selling.

There are fancy pumpkins in addition to the customary orange smooth ones, in other colors and with other textures. Some of the gourds are in more exotic forms than ones I’ve been seeing elsewhere around town. This recurring event is a little different every year, but it always incorporates events for children, a quilt or afghan raffle, and a fall fair (this year, that’s on Saturday, October 25).

Matutinal crowing

petting zoo inside

petting zoo inside

We couldn’t believe our ears: we thought we were hearing the sound of a young cockerel announcing himself to the world.

A neighbor used to keep a variety of poultry, from exotic pheasants to guinea fowl to just plain laying hens. He’s gone now, but we still miss all those birds.

What we were hearing this morning emanated from this little ventilated trailer decked out to resemble an old-fashioned gambrel-roofed red barn, and it had arrived for a birthday party, all the way from Fry’s Fun Farm, near Lockhart.

People used to acquire their chicks from the Seed & Feed on South Congress, now the Guero’s establishment. Callahan’s General Store is the general source these days, last I heard. Despite the neighborhood presence of gray foxes (which would require a sturdy coop for night-time safety), with the current plague of grasshoppers, sometimes the notion of a small poultry presence is quite tempting.

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