Please visit the new Coyote Mercury Blog.

It's even all up-to-date and everything.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

File Under: Ouch

Here's a headline from that I couldn't ignore if I wanted to:
Fat Buttocks Need Longer Needles
Yes, I suppose they do, but(t) I wonder if there is a standard buttock-size-to-needle-length ratio or would a patient need to negotiate that with his doctor?

Sounds like there should be something included in the Patients' Bill of Rights.


Checking Out the Checkout

firedoglake has this, which made me think about checking out at the grocery store. It's gotten very depressing these days.

Standing around waiting for my turn, I find myself glancing at the magazines available. I see things about space aliens, celebrities I've never heard of falling in and out of love and marriage, ways to look better this winter, recipes for weight loss and diabetes management, the low-down on upcoming plot lines for soap operas, and suggestions for teens who want to get a great date for the prom (start wooing that high school hunk now!)

Okay, what should I expect, right? I'm in a supermarket. Still, one would think that there would be something - anything - examining the fact that our president lied to bring us into a war, that the party that controls our government is plagued by corruption and influence peddling, that we are facing an imminent oil crisis, that our lands are being raped for profit as never before, that the administration is full of incompetents and traitors, that anyone who expresses honest (and, yes it's patriotic!) dissent is labeled a supporter of terrorists, or that our congress would like nothing more than to take away what little we do for our poorest citizens.

Just one article? I'm not even asking for a cover feature.

I understand the market (not the supermarket) decides what goes in the magazines that fill the checkout racks. They're filled with what people want, and it seems that what we want is nothing more than to pretend that this ain't happening, to utterly divorce ourselves from reality and live in a fantasy land of soap operas and chocolate pie.

Kind of like Dubya.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Finally Feels Like November

One of the things I love about Austin is the weather between late November and the end of the year. The torture of October Allergies (for me) is over, making it a pleasure to be outdoors again during the best time of year for it, and the first real cold fronts begin to arrive like the one that came in yesterday and caused me to break out my coat. I probably didn't need it, but I have to justify the space it takes up in my closet on the few days of the year on which I can do so.

Even rush traffic isn't so bad when the city sparkles in the crisp air like it did last night and again this morning. It's the time of year when I remember I have a telescope (which will be on the agenda for this evening) and find that it's actually worth setting up in the yard as the stars just seem to jump out of the sky.

It's hard to believe that only two weeks ago, I was standing in my front yard, amid fallen leaves staring at the pumpkins on the porch while wearing shorts and sandals wondering if it would ever cool off. Now that it has, I'll be sure to enjoy it. Summer is afterall only a little over a month away.


Monday, November 28, 2005

Upcoming Interview on The Armadillo Podcast

The Armadillo Podcast has another post about me. In an upcoming episode of the podcast, I'll be talking with Steven Phenix about writing and living in Austin. Check back there or here for more. (While there, be sure to listen to the other interviews with interesting Austinites.)

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Weekend Hound Report: Strategies for Walking

With a large tip of the cyber hat to Ironicus Maximus whose Friday Hound Blogging is one of my favorite traditions, and in the interests of being organized, I now commence with a regular feature: The Weekend Hound (or Cat or Hounds and Cat) Report, wherein the adventures of my furry friends will be related. If it seems odd to start a weekend feature on a Monday, then you're probably more organized than me.

Phoebe and Daphne took their first walk together yesterday. Phoebe loves the idea of walks, but when the paw hits the pavement it really freaks her out (as described here). Daphne, on the other hand, is terrified and runs away when anything even resembling a leash begins to jingle. Sometimes, however, she is tricked by the large bipedal apes with whom she lives and as happened yesterday found herself out in public. Rachel took Phoebe, I took Daphne, and we strolled down the street with each hound demonstrating her own approach to facing a dangerous world:

Daphne, who walks quickly knowing that it will be over soon, bases her strategy on the fact that if she walks fast They will not be able to get her.

Phoebe believes They can only see movement and so walks painfully slowly in the hopes that she will be mistaken for a large black and white rock.

When together, Phoebe likes to stay close to Daphne and so will actually pick up the pace. Last night's walk, took only half the time that a normal walk with Phoebe alone takes, though we covered the same distance. I have resigned myself to the fact that Daphne will never like walks, but I think Phoebe will really enjoy them as she comes out of her shell as evidenced by the fact that she always wants to go.


Want to save a greyhound in Central Texas? Check these pups out. Or go here to find a greyhound near you.

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

A Dying Language

Yesterday's Austin American-Statesman ran this story:
Loose translation: Get classic literature in text-message form
Ouch. Dot Mobile is selling its service as a new way for students to cheat avoid reading prepare for tests without having to dirty their fingers with Cliffs Notes. The service will initially provide plot summaries and important quotes from the likes of Shakespeare, Austen, and Golding without all the extra words, sentences and subtlety that only confuse students anyway.

Eventually Dot Mobile intends to offer the complete works of Shakespeare and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. CNN also had a story on this including an excerpt from Milton's Paradise Lost which begins with, "devl kikd outa hevn coz jelus of jesus&strts war." The various authors can be heard spinning in their graves.

Initially, I was saddened because I knew that the effect of this would not just be another way for students of literature to avoid reading it, but would also continue the ongoing destruction of the English language, but then in the section of the article offering interpretations, I saw and reflected on the advice Nick remembers receiving from his father in the opening of The Great Gatsby:
I read this several times over and remembered that hez rite cuz itz lyk hez sain we all gotta b open n shit cuz who r we 2 judge.


Saturday, November 26, 2005

River Out of Eden

A few weeks ago, catching up on my Discover magazines, I read an interesting article about a Sir Richard Dawkins, described in the magazine as "Darwin's Rottweiler." Among other things, the article praised Dawkins' gift for writing for the nonscientist as well as his adamant stance concerning the truth of evolution.

Hmmm, I thought, I'd sure like to read something by Dawkins. When I got home that night, my bookshelf served up one of its many gifts: River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life by Richard Dawkins. There's nothing like having a bunch of books I've never read, but I digress.

True to Discover's word, Dawkins' writing is erudite and imaginative. The book is short (161 pages) and accomplishes its lofty goal of explaining the workings of evolution and natural selection at the genetic level. This being a popular science book, Dawkins relies on arm-chair logic to make many of his points, and he does so with wit, all the while conveying a sense of wonder at the natural world, whether he is describing the behavior of bees or the evolutionary functions of the eye.

I've read and heard ID proponents try to argue that the eye is too complex a thing not to have been designed by an intelligence, but Dawkins counters nicely:
Thus the creationist's question-"What is the use of half an eye?" - is a lightweight question, a doodle to answer. Half an eye is just 1 percent better than 49 percent of an eye, which is already better than 48 percent, and the difference is significant.
From there he details a variety of eye-types in the fish, insect, and mammal worlds, all of which represent "eyes" that we might consider half an eye or less, from eyes that do nothing more than track movement or show a difference between light and dark to eyes as complex as birds' eyes. Ultimately, he argues that an eye (or any other aspect of a creature's biology) will be only just good enough for the purpose it is intended to serve.

Throughout the book, Dawkins defends the truth of evolution with a seeming twinkle in his eye and smile on his face. Dawkins clearly relishes sharing his love of the natural world as much as he enjoys shooting down anti-scientific positions making this a surprisingly fun book (unless, I suppose, you're dead-set against evolution). The most memorable aspect of the book, though, is his discussion of ancestry, a poignant reminder that we are all related, all cousins.

River Out of Eden is an engaging book that provides a wonderfully lucid counter to the unscientific claims of the (embarrassingly antiscientific) Intelligent Design movement. It's also a good book just to remind us of the many wonders of the natural world.

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Friday, November 25, 2005

Reading the Paper

She was sick of all the lies in the mainstream media...

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Thursday, November 24, 2005


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

It's so simple: family, friends, food, football. I love that there's barely any commercial aspect to it. I love that it's a secular holiday that people of any faith and any political stripe can appreciate. I love that so many businesses aren't open on the Friday after Thanksgiving (retail being the exception, but I prefer to avoid that nightmare altogether). Thanksgiving is the one day of the year set aside to just chill. Unless, of course, you're cooking, but then that's what the next day is for.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Hacking Blogger for Fun

This post is mainly a shout out (link) to those sites I've found useful when tinkering with my blog's code. Lately, I find myself succumbing to a strange addiction: seeking out Blogger hacks just to read them and try them out for fun, sometimes incorporating them and sometimes not, often fixing what ain't broke. Overall a great way to learn about HTML and CSS, about which I knew nothing prior to starting this blog.

One thing I wanted to find (because Blogger doesn't yet offer it) is a categories method for archiving posts. I found Blogger Hacks - The Series on Freshblog, which had many a suggestion, and after experimenting with several methods involving services such as and Technorati, I went with the manual method described on theatre of noise primarily because I like the simplicity of it.

The randomly changing images of greyhounds and a cat that appear beneath my profile come from a small alteration and change in the placement of the javascript code provided by immeria. I also used the code in its intact form for the randomized blog description.

The other Blogger drawback is lack of a trackback system. After some tinkering I figured out how to get Haloscan's trackback feature without the comments since I like Blogger's comments. Making the trackback link look like part of Blogger involved playing a bit with the CSS tags and learning how that works. It's probably not that big a deal, but it made me happy to figure out the logic of it on my own.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Appearing on The Armadillo Podcast

I'll be appearing on an upcoming episode of The Armadillo Podcast, which describes itself as a:
Weekly podcast of ostentatious interviews of Austinites famous and infamous, known and unknown, with the sole intent to convince my good friend Galia, an Israeli woman living way out in California, to move and live with us here in the land of the weird and the home of the armadillo.
I am honored to be representing Austinites unknown in Steven Phenix's valiant effort to convince Galia to move to Austin. It should be posted on Friday so check back there (or here) for more info.

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Monday, November 21, 2005

A Morning Run

Sometimes you just have to stop running and look around. This morning, jogging under a crisp November sky, I couldn't help but stare up at the stars shimmering brightly overhead. Jogging in a southwesterly direction, I had ample time to become engrossed with Sirius and Orion, my winter favorites.

This morning, the stars virtually popped out of the clear black in a way that makes me feel humble and lucky and aware all at once. It's ironic that we so often miss these things that are so immense and jaw-droppingly awesome without really paying attention to what we're actually looking at.

I remember from university astronomy classes many years ago that in the case of Orion, I was looking at a place where stars are forming. It's hard for me to imagine anything more profound than that considering that the totality of everything we know and are exists only because one particular star formed.

Wanting a closer look and a chance to really see what I was seeing, I checked out some Hubble images courtesy of NASA's GRIN Library and found these (which you can click for more learned info from NASA):

Reflection Nebula
Just knowing what's out there even though it isn't visible stirs the imagination. It's as thrilling as looking up in the direction of Cygnus X-1 on a summer evening and knowing there' s a black hole there even though you can't see it. Just knowing it's there, all there, all happening indifferent to our presence, is a pretty amazing - and strangely uplifting - thought.

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Getting Along Famously

Phoebe and Daphne...

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Slow Greyhound

When I take Phoebe for walks, I notice that she gets freaked out whenever we try to turn around, cross the street, go off the sidewalk into the woods, or do anything other than walk straight ahead.

If we go in a giant circle, finally coming back around to the house, she's usually fine. If I try to coax her into crossing a street or turning around, it takes a great deal of persuasion. I can't help but wonder if this is the result of prior training. She was a racer (not exactly retired, more like fired), and I'm beginning to suspect that the idea of turning around or running off the track, in this case the sidewalk, is anathema to her. She just can't bring herself to do it.

So we walk along the sidewalk track each day, so slowly that passersby must think she's the slowest greyhound in the world, which may be why she didn't last in the racing world.

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Friday, November 18, 2005

(Always) Rediscovering Daydream Nation

Ever since I first read about Sonic Youth's album Sister back in 1987, I've loved this band despite never having heard them. Granted, I never could find Sister at any of the record stores (either of them) in Newport, RI, but I knew they were my favorite band.

I finally heard them a year later when their follow-up, Daydream Nation, arrived. I had moved to Austin by then and was able to locate what would become my favorite album ever. Period.

I've tried to explain to many people for many years why I love this noisy, spacey album so much, why it's my desert island disc. But then love of a particular work of art is a lot like loving a person: you just can't always explain it.

I suppose when I heard it, it was so at odds with everything else that was floating around out there, so unexpected, and so stimulating that I couldn't stop listening to it. Literally. I think I listened to "Teenage Riot" five times before letting the tape (yes, a tape) advance to "Silver Rocket," which was the track that sealed the deal. I still love the way the song descends into that insane pit of boiling feedback and white noise to finally be rescued by a drum roll that rises out of nowhere, growing louder and louder, organizing the chaos back into music and then, suddenly, the band is back, tight as ever, from wherever they had gone. Amazing.

I never tire of listening to the intro and outro to "'Cross the Breeze" and Kim Gordon's lyric:
I took a look into the hate,
It made me feel very up to date
Or Lee in "Hey Joni":
She's a beautiful metal jukebox,
A sailboat explosion,
The snap of electric whipcrack
So cool. So hip. So unlike anything I'd ever heard before. This is one of the few, if not the only, bands from my high school years that I still follow, and Daydream Nation is why. In 1989, it seemed like everything that was worth knowing about popular music had been distilled, destroyed, and rebuilt in this album that still sounds like a punk rock Dark Side of the Moon.

Sparking this post, I ran across two exciting treats in store (or should I say in stores soon):
  • Continuum will be publishing a 33 1/3 Series book about Daydream Nation

  • Billboard has this (discovered by way of Kofi's hat) which mentions that the band is looking into doing an expanded release of Daydream Nation as they did with Goo and Dirty. It also mentions several other releases to look forward to in the meantime.
I finally found Sister in 1994 when it was re-released on CD by Geffen. It was as good as I knew it would be and inspired an interest (obsession and grad school project) in Philip K. Dick's writing, but alas, that is a post for another day.

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Call Me a Dork, but...

The following are links to some interesting Harry Potter related commentary and analysis:
  • This is a pretty thorough and convincing analysis of Snape's background and why he is, despite murdering Dumbledore, still working for Dumbledore's cause.

  • "Harry Potter and the Half-Crazed Bureaucracy" is the abstract (I can't seem to access the whole article, but the abstract is still worth a read) to a law review article about the Ministry of Magic.

  • ASL Library contains a series of links (including the one listed above) to more law-oriented articles about the world of Harry Potter.
Anyways, I still have Potter on the brain and will until I see Goblet of Fire.

As an antidote, I think I'll be reading a nice short work of nonfiction next: River Out of Eden by Richard Dawkins.

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

A New View

There's nothing like seeing familiar sights anew to make a person appreciate what he takes for granted. Just one tiny shift in point-of-view makes the familiar seem so unexpectedly exciting. I love those moments when, as David Byrne once put it, you suddenly notice the color of white paper, and I was treated to one yesterday.

Being a North Austinite, I rarely find myself needing to go from East-bound 71/Ben White/290/Whatever-the-hell-they-call-it-now to I-35 North, so I'd never driven the new (to me anyway) overpass that connects the two highways. Nevertheless, yesterday, I was ascending the overpass thinking, Man, I am up here!, and as the roadway bent northward, a stunning view of the city that I'd never before seen rolled into view. The overpass is high enough that you can look down on St. Edward's University, which is usually hidden, and clearly see the main building dominating the foreground, and in the background, the downtown skyline rises up from the trees in a way that the buildings all seem to huddle together making them seem somehow taller and the city denser than it appears from some of its other views.

The crisp wintry air that (finally!) arrived the other day just made it appear all the more inviting.

White paper never looked so white.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Ok, JK, How Long for Number Seven?

Be advised, not pissed: If you haven't read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, but wish to do so, you might not want to read this as it contains spoilers.

I finally finished reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince last week. I've been on a Potter streak lately, and now I am finally caught up. This book wasn't the kind of page-turner that Order of the Phoenix was with all its intensity and downward-spiraling chaos, but it easily kept my attention for the pieces of the past that Harry discovers with the aid of the great wizard Dumbledore. Their trips into the pensieve to witness the past and learn the story of how Tom Riddle became Voldemort paved the way for Book Seven in which Harry will have to face Lord Voldemort and either destroy him or be destroyed.

Half-Blood Prince jogs along at a relatively slow pace as most of the big action in the book takes place in the past. The present Hogwarts story concerns the love lives of Harry, Ron, and Hermione and their awkward efforts to find romance and do a little snogging. Much of the book is quieter than the previous books, but it is by no means boring. Rowling does a fantastic job of keeping tension seething just beneath the surface through news of the world outside the school and Harry's growing paranoia, which contrasts sharply with the relatively peaceful year at Hogwarts following two incredibly tumultuous ones. The peace, of course, is all on the surface. All of the characters are terribly afraid and unable to articulate their fears, which set everyone on edge, ready to jump down each other's throats at only slight provocations. Throw teenage hormones into the mix, and Rowling has created a pretty tense atmosphere.

Throughout the novel, Rowling does an excellent job humanizing the insufferable bully Draco Malfoy. One even begins to pity him the dark and mysterious task about which he is obviously conflicted and yet trapped into. At the novel's beginning, the unpleasant Professor Snape (still apparently working as a double agent spying on Voldemort's Death Eaters for Dumbledore) is forced to make the Unbreakable Vow to finish whatever task Malfoy has been set if he is unable to accomplish it. I assumed it would be to kill Harry. How Snape would get around the Vow was one of the things that kept the book exciting. Of course we learn the plot was to murder Dumbledore and when Malfoy can't do it, Snape does thus proving that all along Harry was right about Snape's lack of commitment to Dumbledore's cause. Or does it?

I had a suspicion that Dumbledore wouldn't make it through the book considering that someone had died in each of the previous two books with the importance of the death escalating each time. With Harry's godfather, Sirius Black, killed off in the last book, who could be more important to Harry than Dumbledore? I also knew that ultimately Harry would have to face Voldemort utterly alone, but I still couldn't believe Dumbldore died, nor that Snape was the one to kill him. Like Dumbledore I had always believed Snape, bastard that he is, was not working for Voldemort, and I still wonder about that.

Dumbledore knows Malfoy won't kill him. Can't kill him. Doesn't have it in him. Dumbledore has also demonstrated time and again that he will do whatever he needs to do, offer any sacrifice to destroy Voldemort as was seen when he made Harry force him to drink the poison that would reveal Voldemort's Horcrux. I can't help but wonder if Dumbledore knew that Snape had to make the Unbreakable Vow to keep his cover. Knew that Snape would have to kill him if Malfoy couldn't. Then at the scene of Dumbledore's death, as Malfoy has the opportunity to kill a weakened and trapped Dumbledore, Dumbledore works on him, stalls him, because Dumbledore believes that there is good yet in Malfoy, that Malfoy, though a bully, isn't a murderer. It is as if Dumbledore has, as Harry did, seen Malfoy in the bathroom crying, agonizing over his terrible mission. When Snape arrives, he kills Dumbledore as Dumbledore knows he must, thereby preserving Malfoy's innocence (barely) and Snape's cover, which of course could prove invaluable to Harry, though Harry doesn't know it.

It would be just like Albus Dumbledore to sacrifice his life to save one student (Malfoy) from evil and set in motion a chain of events that will help Harry destroy Voldemort. It would also be just like Dumbledore (and Rowling) for none of this to be revealed until the end of Book Seven.

As I mentioned in my previous Potter post, I am still constantly amazed by the way in which Rowling grows her characters through adolescence and into young adulthood. By the end of this book, though he is more passive than in previous books, Harry has seen too much, fought too hard, lost too much to really be thought of as a boy-wizard anymore.

When in the last chapter Harry defiantly proclaims to the Minister of Magic that he is still "Dumbledore's man, through and through," the operative word has suddenly become 'man.' Book Seven will be the story of Harry finally confronting his destiny.

These books are great fun and much more engaging than I ever imagined they would be, and now I'm left pacing around the room thinking, "How long do we have to wait, Ms. Rowling?"

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

My Own Psychedelic Picnic

I've just finished listening to the audiobook version of Kinky Friedman's The Great Psychedelic Armadillo Picnic: A "Walk" in Austin, enjoyable especially because of Kinky's profound love of this city that he clearly relishes sharing with the reader (ok, listener), making one happy to be an Austinite.

At one point, Kinky names his twelve favorite Austin restaurants and that, of course got me hungry. So for what it's worth, in no particular order and in honor of the Kinkster, my top twelve:
  1. Kim Phung - tofu lemongrass vermicelli...mmmm
  2. Castle Hill Cafe - the menu always changes, what's not to like?
  3. Chuy's - rellenos made with Hatch green chiles (nature's most perfect food) rather than the more typical poblano
  4. Vivo's - micheladas
  5. Guero's - the South Congress vibe, the enchiladas
  6. Las Manitas - mas enchiladas
  7. Thai Passion - the hottest tofu noodle dish I've ever had
  8. The Clay Pit - ok so the service was bad last time, but what a curry
  9. Hut's - whether a veggie burger, buffalo burger, or somewhere in between it's always the Wolfman Jack
  10. Katz's - never closes, there's always parking, and has the best bloody mary, what else is needed?
  11. Thundercloud - of course
  12. The Salt Lick - for the sides and suasage and the guy playing old outlaw country tunes on the porch
So there it is. Right now, but likely to change tomorrow, my top twelve Austin comfort food establishments, and I'm already wondering how I forgot Mongolian BBQ, Dirty's, Kerbey Lane, The Magnolia Cafe, Thai Noodle Bowl, Etc., The Texas Chili Parlor... oh my cup runneth over! What an embarrassment of riches we have here.

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Hound of Adventure

Everytime I go to the front door, Phoebe follows. When I go out to get the paper or to the mailbox, she peers out the front window. It's obvious she wants to walk, so I've started taking her. She does well, but usually about a quarter of a mile from the house in any direction, she just stops. I suppose her fear takes over at that point and then she becomes Frozen Dog, forcing me to coax her along one step at a time until we get back to the house, usually in twice the amount of time (if we're lucky) it took to get to the turnaround point.

Then the next time I go to the front door, she wants to go for another walk.

I've gotten in the habit of walking her to the mailbox or to the end of the driveway to get the paper, but since it's only fifty feet or so, it seems mean, though I don't think she minds. It's clear this dog has a sense of adventure, but for now, I think she only wants short adentures where she can't get in over her head as she does when we get a quarter mile from the house.

Car rides are also proving to be great fun, and when we get out of the car she's fine until we've reached just about the point where it's time to go back. It reminds me of Tigger taking Roo to the top of the tree and then not knowing how to get back down. Tiggers don't climb down. Phoebes don't walk back to where they started.

Still, we've progressed a long way from the first walk when I had to carry her (all sixty pounds) nearly a quarter mile back to our driveway after a dry leaf skittering across the sidewalk had induced temporary paralysis of the legs.

Maybe Daphne is the smart one; she runs and hides when I get the leashes out.

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"He Ain't Kinky. He's My Governor."

At least that's what the bumper sticker on a truck cruising I-10 outside Beaumont said.

I was surprised to see that Kinky's campaign to be the first independent governor of Texas since Sam Houston had reached outside the Austin area. I know he's been all over the state campaigning, but I assumed it was only in Austin and perhaps the Hill Country that anyone would have heard much about him.

Kinky has been asking, "How hard can it be?" for nearly a year now, and based on Governor Perry's half-assed performance, I can only assume that it's not that hard. Come and Take it! has a nice piece on why he has an uphill battle (assuming he can get on the ballot, which is a chore in and of itself), but provides hope that someone will have the backbone, honesty, and wit to serve up the public humiliation that Rick Perry so richly deserves.

This post is provoked by finally listening to an audiobook that my dad loaned me over the summer. The book is Kinky's The Great Psychedelic Armadillo Picnic: A "Walk" in Austin and so far (about half a CD in) it's an amusing, irreverent, and fairly accurate picture of the Austin that was (from the days of founder President Mirabeau B. Lamar through Willie, Stevie, and on towards Dell), is, and will be as told by someone who loves this town deeply (and unfortunately read by someone who does not pronounce words like 'Guadalupe,' 'San Jacinto,' 'Burnet,' or 'Waylon' - as in Jennings - like he's spent much time here).

So to make a rambling post shorter, I was driving on Mopac yesterday, crossing the river and listening to the Kinkster spin the tale of Austin's founding and the tensions between Lamar and Sam Houston over whether or not this beautiful settlement on the river in the heart of Comanche country should be the capital of the republic, and I decided that Kinky is far more deserving of life in the governor's mansion than Perry or whatever poor sacrificial lamb the feckless Texas Democrats throw out there. Kinky understands the Texan love of big stories, big myths and big talk that gets Texas politicians elected, but he also seems to get the fact that we live in the modern world and we have very real, very big problems that the Republicans have shown they have no interest in or ability to solve.

I don't know if Kinky can solve them, but at least he seems honest about trying when he talks about them. And he's funny. And listening to his book, he reminds me all over again why I love Austin.

As his campaign materials ask, "Why the Hell not?"

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Monday, November 14, 2005

Visiting Orange a Month After Rita

We had to drop everything last week and head off to Orange, TX for a funeral. My wife's aunt passed away peacefully after many years of suffering and that brought us back to her hometown on the Texas-Louisiana border. This was my first post-Rita trip to Orange.

It's been a little over a month, and the place still looks like a war zone: trees uprooted or still standing but snapped in two, twisted piles of metal torn from who knows where, buildings ripped apart, FEMA tarps on nearly every roof, crooked signs and street lights, many businesses still closed. And all this after a month and a half. Everyday, there were trucks lumbering along the roads randomly picking up the sawed remains of the forests and trees people once had in their yards that are now piled high in front of their houses.

One of the most striking things about the hurricane's aftermath was how bright everything appeared. Rachel had noticed this a week prior when she'd come to visit her aunt in the hospital, and it was, I think, both the most startling and most subtle aspect of the damage. The dense, dark forests of the Piney Woods were so thinnned throughout the town that there seemed an over-abundance of sunlight. Orange is supposed to be dark and a little mysterious, but it seemed so bright, the forests so thin, that some of its swampy bayou mystery was lost.

Driving around town was odd as we were constantly rubber-necking to view the damage while Rachel pointed out buildings and homes that despite growing up there, she'd never seen because of the thick trees that had always hidden them from the road.

The sound of chainsaws is constant, and there's plenty of work to do, but people seem to be taking it in stride. At the visitation, I watched one old guy walk over to a friend, shake hands and say with a straight face, "Need some fire wood?" It was obviously a well-worn joke down there, but they both laughed anyway.


Sunday, November 13, 2005

Near Meteor Crater

I took this photo near Meteor Crater, Arizona in March of 1992:

These old cars are about a quarter of a mile from the service road that connects I-40 to Metoer Crater. I've been there several times, and I find that the cars are as engaging as the crater itself so I always try to photograph them. This is my favorite one.

A few days after one trip out there in 1995, while browsing the CDs at Waterloo Records, I found that the cars had also served as cover art for Lee Ranaldo's excellent East Jesus album.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

"I'm Against It!"

Today is election day in Texas. We have no bastards to throw out... well actually we have many, but not the opportunity to do so for still another year. Today it's just a series of propositions to amend the constitution, the most controversial of which is prop two, which will re-ban gay marriage.

So off to the polls we went this morning with Groucho Marx's voice singing in my head:
"I don't know what they have to say,
It makes no difference anyway,
Whatever it is, I'm against it!
No matter what it is or who commenced it,
I'm against it!"
Surprisingly, my precinct was not using those cool little electronic voting machines that turn all votes cast into votes for the incumbent so I had to actually use a chisel to carve my vote into the stone tablet, but considering the backwards nature of the thinking that went into prop two, it seemed somehow appropriate.

I then affixed my little 'I Voted' sticker to my shirt and went outside whistling along with Groucho, thinking, "Well, I voted against it, but next time I think I'll vote against the other pronouns," as I ashed an imaginary cigar on the sidewalk.

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Saturday, November 05, 2005

So Young. So Pimpin'.

I had dinner with my parents this evening and went home with a box of old stuff, mostly clothing from my childhood.

So, here it is. My old bowling shirt from when I was in a bowling league at Subic Bay Naval Base in The Philippines.

It was the early '80s.

I was probably in fourth grade.

We were "The Four Aces."

We were pimpin'.


Friday, November 04, 2005

Of Ghosts, Goblins, and Animal Emergency

Monday - Halloween: Daphne hid from the vicious trick-or-treaters who kept coming to the door and continued her tradition of guarding the couch in the study. Phoebe, experiencing her first Halloween away from a racetrack, followed me to the door eveytime the bell rang and peeked out with great curiosity at all the costumed kids.

Wednesday: We learned something interesting about greyhounds that we had known, but never really thought about: their skin, which is paper thin, tears very easily. This can be problematic since these are big strong dogs. I came home Wednesday to find that they'd been playing (as they've started doing lately). I was home for about twenty minutes with Phoebe whining, whining, whining the whole time while Daphne hid in the study. As it turns out Daphne had been nipped on the scruff of the neck, and her skin had torn. (Perhaps the whines were her version of 'Timmy fell into the-I mean-I accidentally bit Daphne.') So I took her to animal emergency, a place with which I am way too familiar.

One of the vets glanced up from a boxer whose ear was bleeding all over the floor, and asked, "Greyhound tear?" without doing much more than noticing the greyhound standing in front of her.


"You know, when they play," the receptionist offered, "their skin's thin so it tears."

I nodded. Daphne shivered. "This is our first time with this. How do people prevent it?"

The receptionist shrugged. "I think they just let us sew them back up."

So sew they did. The vet had to put Daphne under and extend the wound so that he could put a drain in. When I picked her up Thursday morning it looked like her head had been sewn back on, but it's not as bad as it looks. Of course she looks like Frankenstein's hound. This was sadly too late for Halloween by a few days.

Thursday: When I got Daphne home, Phoebe followed her around, crying and crying and licking her face. I suppose this is the canine version of abject apology and prostrating oneself in guilt.

All was well when Rachel got home and both dogs barked. Phoebe, it turns out is a barker, but Daphne, like most greys does not bark except when she's in a very good mood. This was bark number seven in five years and a good sign coming from a hound with a drainage tube in her neck.

Friday: We separated them on Thursday while we were gone and will continue to do so while Daphne heals and maybe for a little while beyond so as to avoid anymore roughhousing.

There seem to be no hard feelings. When I got home today they were excited to be reunited, followed each other around, and clearly wanted to play. Now they're curled up together on the couch.

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Very Funny Stuff

Epic of a backyard Genius is hysterical. Check it out.


Asteroid Headed for Austin?

It seems a likely scenario. We're too far from the coast for a hurricane, and tornado season is still a few months away, so that pretty much leaves asteriods as the only remaining tool with which God can punish the Klan when they rally in Austin in support of proposition two on Saturday. The Supreme Deity apparently used a similar tactic in New Orleans to thwart a gay pride rally, and since God currently seems to be in an it's-time-I-teach-these-little-bastards-a-lesson mode it would be wise to prepare for the worst.

There is debate raging about the best way for Austinites to deal with the odious intrusion of the Klan - moon them as was done when they came here in 1993, or ignore them and go about our lives as Mayor Will Wynn would prefer. Considering the cosmic wrath that could very well come down on the Klan and take out a bunch of well-intentioned mooners as collateral damage, I'm surprised an evacuation order isn't being considered.

I assume, though, that preparations are being made and talking points written to apply that last little bit of spin to the impending tragedy in the runup to Nov. 8:

"God Krushes Klan, Says No to Prop Two"

against the nut jobs who will say:

"God Annihilates Deviant Mooning Perverts, Supports Prop Two"

Personally, I'll be ignoring the Klan. I've seen plenty of morons; I don't need to see them play dress up. Besides, my mind is made up on this issue.

I'll probably just watch the Longhorns use the Baylor Bears to demonstrate the terrible effects of an asteroid impact.

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Places I've Been

Since I was a kid, I've loved maps, so I was excited when I stumbled upon Nathan's Updates from Seoul, which led me to world66, a very cool site for anyone who loves the magic of staring at maps, remembering places visited and highways traveled, and the lure of faraway places yet to be seen.

So here's my world map, most of which is the result of growing up in a Navy family. I didn't count layovers in airports.

create your own visited country map

As an adult, the only trips abroad I've managed are Canada and Mexico. But I have traveled quite a bit in the states, usually by car, which is my preferred method especially when the drive invloves days of desert travel. Here's my map of the states:

create your own personalized map of the USA

And, of course Europe, just because this site lets you do Europe:

create your personalized map of europe

You can also make a Canada map, but since mine would only include Quebec, I decided not to do that one.

What fun!

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Thursday, November 03, 2005

I'm So Proud

Lots to be proud of in Texas especially when one considers the constitutional amendments being put to a vote, particularly proposition two. While at a loss for how to pay for adequate public education in Texas and lacking either leadership or the will to consider the problem seriously, the Jackass Festival did find the time to give 'we the people' the opportunity to exercise our collective predjudices and vote to make gay marriage illegal.

Of course gay marriage is already illegal in Texas, but the new amendment will make it really illegal. After all, denying marriage to a group of people is only just a way to protect marriage in much the same way that denying liberties to some groups of people protects liberty. Right? Something like that... Anyway, the Texas Constitution already has more than four hundred amendments, so why not try to push it up to an even 500?

Seriously, though, both the far-right conservatives and the KKK (scheduled to rally in Austin on Nov. 5), seem to agree that re-banning gay marriage in Texas will help protect marriage. And perhaps there really is a threat out there. We can't take chances on this because gay marriage could pose a threat to everything the KKK supports "decent family values." And looking beyond the concerns of the Klan, I keep hearing and reading that it will be beneficial for some Texas families and their children to know that other loving families will be denied this legal status.

When the subject of protecting marriage in Texas comes up, however, it's interesting to note that in Texas, marriage can be entered into at the age of 16, or at even younger ages if a judge approves it. This was not uncommon among my high school students (I'm talking underclassmen here) when I was a teacher. With the bar this low (as a bar must be at an early-teen bachelor party), it's important to remember that if you hear a Texan talk about defending marriage for his children, he might really mean it.

One can only hope that when the ballots are counted next week, Texans will break with the Klan and vote down this ugly constitutional amendment.

I ain't holdin' my breath.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Calexico at Stubbs

I stumbled upon Calexico at the 2004 ACL Fest and standing under the sweltering heat of that day, I was immediately enthralled with their ability to create a sonic landscape that sounds the way the southwestern deserts look. Listening to them that day, I heard traces of country, mariachi, western swing, surf rock, spaghetti western soundtracks, electronic experimentation, jazzy improv, well-controlled guitar noise, and acoustic folk produced by a large group of musicians many of whom were multi-instrumentalists. And an upright bass, a welcome change of pace outside the jazz world. The music was big and lonely and utterly captivating. By the end of the month, my wife and I had collected all of their CDs, and ever since then they've been in constant rotation on the stereo and in the cars, especially The Black Light and Feast of Wire.

Last spring, we went to see them when they were opening for Ozomatli and Los Lonely Boys at The Back Yard. Sadly that was a bust for us, since due to horrible traffic and a parking fiasco, we only caught the last two songs of their set. What we heard from the parking lot was great, and Ozomatli turned out to be an interesting show (we left before Los Lonely Boys) so it wasn't a total loss.

Finally, last Sunday night, we made it to see a (sort of) Calexico show at Stubbs BBQ. I say "sort of" only because the headline portion of the show was Calexico with Iron & Wine supporting their recent collaboration. Calexico came on after a quick set by Edith Frost and started out a bit too folk-y for our tastes. This is a band that is capable of substantial musical exploration, but the incarnation that started was to me the least interesting version of Calexico. It works for me on CD, but when I see live music, I want to see a band stretch out a bit, as I know Calexico can.

As the set progressed, my allergies began to get the better of me (as they do every time I am foolish enough to stand around outdoors in October) and disappointment began to set in. About halfway through the set though (at "Alone Again Or"), things changed. Charlie Sexton joined them on stage and they began to play more like the Calexico that I love...mariachi horns, Spanish rhythms, the hints of surf rock, the country twang, all creating that impression that when someone opens the first country bar on the moon, it will be a regular gig for Calexico.

The remainder of their set was well worth the price of admission and exactly what I was hoping to hear. We left before Iron & Wine and the joint set primarily because of a combination of allergies and what I'll call end-of-daylight-savings-time exhaustion that on a Sunday night was more powerful than a desire for more music. Of course, I did pick up two of their tour-only CDs, Scraping, and The Book and the Canal. So far, I've listened to most of the former, and only the first few tracks of the latter. Overall, I'm pleased, but I'm still waiting for an actual Calexico (as the headliner and primary draw) show. Not during October, please.

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