Saturday, May 28, 2005

Day of the Triffids

I think we have been scaring the neighbors with our wild and unconventional gardening trends. It's bad enough that we have that anti-war sign in the window all the time. The area is politically mixed, but I think it's fairly conservative (for Austin) on our little cul-de-sac, and if you watch "King of the Hill" you've met some of these people.

Anyway, we let the grass grow a little taller than average, and go for native plants where possible... if it doesn't grow without care in Central Texas, it dies.

This year we had probably a couple of hundred sunflower plants come up volunteer, mostly in one little patch that grew to be about 7 feet tall. They were late bloomers, not showing with flowers until late May (well after Spring). Check out the before and after pics of the monster hedge here.

It isn't true that everything is bigger in Texas. These things don't hold a tiny candle to the monstrous midwestern beauties with giant flowers the size of a pizza, but they make up for it by making lots of little blooms.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Jesus loves me but he can't stand you *

An aunt that I have never met keeps sending me awful SPAM. Today I received from her an awful racist list that is supposed to be funny, called “You Know You a Ghetto Christian If…”. Earlier I received a request to pray for an American soldier who was, and I quote, “fighting the enemies of God (the Iraqi insurgents)”. What is with these right-wing fundamentalist Christians? Actually I do know what is with them, I used to be one of those people. At some point my brain went into gear and I began to think. I lost my faith but got back my heart, my soul and my mind. Thinking can be quite a liberating and refreshing experience.

Peace, Love, Understanding, Tolerance.

If you are not getting those from your religion and “spirituality”, I think you may be headed down the wrong path.

I love my uncle that she married, so I am not going to confront her.

Here is the email she sent me:

My son. [name deleted], sent me this and I thought it was " Right On" I'm passing it on.

Huggs, [name deleted]

You Know You A Ghetto Christian If--

1. You lie on an application to get a job and then get up and testify that "God made a way out of no way”
2. You get mad at a visitor and call them out for sitting in YOUR seat.
3. You tell the preacher to baptize you from the neck down because you just got your hair did!
4. You take 2 hours to get ready for church, get there late, and leave early!!!
5. You open your Bible and you cough from the dust that flies out.
6. Your wedding song is 'Secret Lovers'.
7. You do not lift your hand during worship because your acrylic nail is broken.
8. The only time you like to sing in the choir is when they let you sing "your" song.
9. You do not tithe because you say, "the preacher might be crooked and stealing the Lord's money, so I don't want to give it to him."
10. After you've done wrong and someone has rebuked you, you don't repent but you say, "Well the Lord knows my heart".
11. If you have ever said, "show me in the Bible where it says, thou shall not smoke".
12. Your favorite part of the service is the benediction.
13. You buy "hot" merchandise and testify the Lord blessed me with a TV, jewelry, clothes, etc.
14. You overheard someone say, "We got fed today at service" and you asked if they served chicken.
15. You just got finished smoking on the outside of the church and then try to lead a song, get choked up, holding your throat and say to the congregation, "The devil don't want me to sing this song."

* Title taken from the song by the Austin Lounge Lizards

Friday, May 20, 2005

A Galaxy Far, Far Away

Darth Vader, hot babe
A Star Wars freak in my husband's office ("freak" is not used negatively) says that everybody over 30 hates the new Star Wars series, and people 30 and under prefer the later-made series, some even think they should remake eps 4-6. I shudder at the thought of that. Actually George Lucas could just digitize the actors from eps 4-6 and do just that, he'd probably coax better acting out of a digital Alec Guinness or Harrison Ford than he has managed to do with this crew. Maybe a digital Harrison could even come up with a few memorable lines.

OK, I will say that ep 3 is much better than 1 or 2, but to me, Return of the Jedi with its cookie-cutter elements and formulaic approach still towers over Revenge of the Sith. ROTS is extremely good-looking. Anakin/Vader is extremely good-looking (now that's a little disturbing... I'm not supposed to be thinking of what's under those robes in that way...oh yeah, it's a little more crusty than Anakin, but...). I thought the good performances were from Ewan McGregor and Ian McDiarmid. The others were pretty lackluster. I am blaming Lucas for this, he must be getting like Ed Wood with good special effects. “That’s GREAT!! PERFECT!! CUT!!”

Even though the puppets in the older eps were a little lacking in believability, the fantastic story and character development more than makes up for it. Also, in the older flesh and blood eps, the action was more exciting because it happens at a speed that your eyes and brain can register and react to, whereas the digital technology can speed things up to how they might actually be in reality (if there really were Jedis and light-sabers), but so fast it tends to become a blur and leave me wondering what-all just happened.

This is important to me because Star Wars was once one of my obsessions. Back in 1977 when I saw A New Hope, I was absolutely amazed at everything about it. I tried to think of it as only a movie, but as time went on I was unable to resist the desire to immerse myself in that fantasy. I had fallen in love… not with a “person” but with that whole galaxy (not so far away). It was irresistible. I should add that I was 24 when that one came out (not a kid!), and by 1980 when Empire was released I was a full-on goner for it all. I collected stuff too. I’m a pack-rat by nature and when I am a fan of something I tend to collect stuff that relates to it. It’s a trait I have been trying to discipline all my life, with a certain measure of success (well, not with TOTAL failure anyway). Star Wars added some meaning to my otherwise dismal existence of working long hours, taking a lot of classes, and trying to manage in a loveless marriage to a man who worked about 70 hours a week. It’s one of the only things that kept me from being a COMPLETE workaholic, another trait I am still training to minimize. Also, I do tend to obsess over things I love. I go out there to the edge, but I always know where the edge is and try to make sure I don’t cross it. Generally the obsessions have a shelf-life, and when they die down I usually move on to something else, just a natural part of the evolution of it. I don’t think it’s unhealthy, not for me. I fly out there and reel myself back in.

I got away from Star Wars because of lots of life demands, my marriage eventually failed, my Mother became chronically, then terminally ill, and my career went through a hard transition. After spending all my time trying to keep my head above water and sanity in my head, I found that I no longer even visited that old familiar galaxy. Eps 1 and 2 were extremely disappointing, Lucas was unable to coax good performances out of some of the best actors possible. I just wasn’t buying it. Where was the soul? Lucas was fallen to earth. His contributions to technology are undeniable, he helped change the world. I have no doubt about that, it should be undisputed.

Do I recommend Ep 3? If you’ve seen the others, definitely go and see it. Go right now. Stick the last pieces in the puzzle. You already know to some extent who lives and dies, and what’s going to happen, so with that bit of magical mystery removed it’s nice to just finish it all up. THE END. Stay tuned for the TV series… well, maybe I will. TV has done a lot worse.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Google goggles

A co-worker, who was a friend of mine, retired and moved to California. Recently we all received an updated address with mention of how close to the beach it is, blah blah. Neat! So, being the curious cat that I am by nature I decide to look it up in a map program. Well, no point in viewing an ordinary map when you can use Google Satellite Maps. Yep, there was the aerial view, and sure enough, it's close to the beach with all the lovely sand and surf. Wow! I got rather caught up in googlemapping other locations. It's quite a wonderful time-waster! Anyway, following through on my friend's new apartment, I wanted to see what the apartments looked like, since I've heard very nice things about that town and how cool it is. Within a few minutes of searching, I turned up a website for the apartments complete with photos inside this exact unit. Wow! So THAT'S what her closet looks like! No... I am not a stalker of any kind. This woman is a friend of mine. It's interesting to know just how much info an "unfriendly" person could dredge up on another person though. It's a weird world.

And getting back to the Googlemaps, check out this collection of interesting things captured by satellites on Google Sightseeing. My husband googlemapped my place of business and thinks that's my car in the parking lot. It probably is.

Yes, I know. I need to get out more.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

These aren't the tickets you're looking for...

One of the dumbest things I've seen in an ad for awhile: "Avoid the lines, buy your Star Wars tickets in advance online".

Duh! If it's May 19th, you're standing in line for Revenge of the Sith and haven't bought your ticket in advance... or you think there's any way on earth to "avoid the line", you must be as witless as Jar Jar Binks.
Darth Tater

We've had ours for a couple of weeks. Not planning on waiting in line more than a couple of hours or three, hope that's enough. We like to sit pretty close to the front, and luckily it's not the most popular area.

Ho Hum... another weekend in paradise.

Another beautiful weekend in Austin Texas! Started out at Maria's Taco Xpress for great tacos and music by Leann Atherton.

Ben & Jerry's had their Grand Opening. They are linked to a charity called Lifeworks, which is pretty cool as it employs troubled kids. Also the awesome South Austin Jug Band was playing, and there was free ice cream! Wheeee!

After that we went to a beer brewers festival, (with more live music) had a few of the darker samples, and that pretty much finished us off along with any hope of losing weight this weekend.

Sunday was my husband's birthday, so instead of dragging him down to San Antonio the night before for the Del Castillo show, we were up bright and early for the UU service followed by the Green House Tour. Not houses painted green, but houses designed to be more environmentally gentle. It was fun, mainly seeing the creative architecture and getting some ideas.

Rented the DVD "The Saint", with Val Kilmer. yaaaawn. Not bad fluffy entertainment, some odd casting choices. TV quality. I'm more interested in the real Templars.
- -

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Current Favorite Action Hero

Chloe O'Brian

From the bizarro-reality action serial 24 on FOX, Monday nights.

Frumpy, whiny, pain in the ass computer geek gets sent out on a field job... shoots the terrorist in a "kill or be killed" situation, saves herself AND the data! Now that she's had a taste of suppressing the enemy in the most effective way, her co-workers had better be a little nicer to her. In a climate of office politics from hell, it would be wise not to push Chloe around.

Addendum: Dave Barry's hilarious 24 blog, and his post on this episode.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Abraham Lincoln, Stand-up Comedian

Found these on a Quotes by Abraham Lincoln page. Some of these are pretty danged funny one-liners. Others are just very wise. They don't make Republicans like this anymore... maybe they never did.

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

Force is all-conquering, but its victories are short-lived.

He can compress the most words into the smallest ideas of any man I ever met.

I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crises. The great point is to bring them the real facts.

If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?

If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.

If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.

It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.

Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.

No man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent.

Whatever you are, be a good one.

When you have got an elephant by the hind leg, and he is trying to run away, it's best to let him run.

Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.

When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad, and that is my religion.

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.

People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.
(in a book review)

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Breathing a sigh of relief

The smoking ban passed and I am really happy about it! This issue has divided people in Austin at the level usually reserved for pro-life issues. It’s not down party lines either, the thing that divides people is the way they perceive freedom, civil rights and even human rights.

First of all, let me say that I support live music in Austin. I go out to clubs, I see my favorite bands often and check out new performers whenever possible. I buy their stuff if I like them, and if I REALLY like them you’re going to eventually find me on the street team, designing art, website, or something. I will find the best way to get involved. The music is the reason I go to these places.

There have been times when the prospect of getting exposed to the smoke has kept me away, like days when my allergies are already giving me problems and I don’t want to multiply it times ten. When I go to non-smoking shows, I always meet people who comment on how nice it is not to put up with the smoke. All the musicians that I’ve spoken to are for the ban, but I’m sure there are plenty of exceptions out there. As I said, the town is divided.

Let me also say that my Mother died of emphysema (COPD) after suffering for about 15 years, gasping for every breath, unable to sleep lying down, unable to walk for more than a few steps without resting, growing increasing hostile and suffering diminished brain function due to lack of oxygen, eventually becoming bedridden (for nearly 2 years), spending her life savings on home health care, and being dependent on the oxygen tank. She became quite delusional, especially when pain killers were needed more and more. She insisted that some nurses had told her it was fine to smoke with the oxygen. No one on earth was going to convince her otherwise either. She was only 73 years old and would have had many active years left and enough cash on hand to really enjoy them in style.

Yes, she was almost a militant smoker. Anything or anyone that suggested to her that smoking should be stopped became the enemy in her eyes. The doctor was to blame for making her sick (completely forgetting the reason for seeing the doctor in the first place), the emphysema was caused from “working too hard” when she was younger, the humidity was the reason she couldn’t breathe, the cat had to go because he was making it hard to breathe…. on an on and on… but cigarettes were her “only pleasure” and therefore deemed to be good and entirely blameless. She got rid of the cat, with my help she moved to a dry climate, but of course steadily got worse because she continued to smoke.

I lived across the country from her, and once during the last couple of her years when I flew in for a visit, I walked in the front door and instead of a “Hello”, she wagged her finger in my face and said, “Whatever you do, you are NOT going to tell me not to smoke”. Hello, Mother, it’s wonderful to see you too, I can really feel the love… but I had to keep telling myself that I was dealing with a drug addict. This was the addiction talking, sending signals to her brain, telling her what to do and say.

She was smoking in a medicinal stupor with the oxygen feed in her nose one day when she set herself on fire. Her face and lungs were burned, but fortunately her home health care worker handled it or the entire apartment complex would have suffered an oxygen tank exposion. She didn’t die from it, but was really angry! Angry because she couldn’t smoke anymore with the burned lungs. Instead of blaming the addiction and tobacco, she blamed the nurses she was sure had told her it would be OK to smoke around oxygen. She ended up with just a few outward scars from the fire, and I was glad that she was not disfigured.

At the very end (the last 6 months) she was really out of it, and didn’t even know me most of the time. Just the prolonged pain killers and lack of oxygen I guess, but we were grateful for any relief that she could find. Once she looked at me and thought I was my Father. My Dad had died 26 years earlier of a heart attack at age 44. He had so many different things affecting his health that no one knows whether tobacco was in any way to blame, but I saw on his autopsy that he was already developing emphysema.

Two weeks before my Mother died, my husband’s Father died from lung cancer. He was one of the biggest Smoker’s Rights people you could ever meet! He had been enjoying an active retirement in a lake house, then 6 months later he was dead. If there is anything positive that can be said about a cancer of this kind it would be that it’s mercifully fast. The suffering is measured in months instead of years.

One of my uncles died of emphysema after many years of sleeping in a chair and being nursed by his wife. Another of my very dear uncles (the one who cared most for my Mother since he lived in the same town and I lived across the country) also has the disease and has had it for a long time, but has not smoked for years so I don’t think it has progressed as rapidly. There are more stories but I think I’ve made my point.
Ad snagged from

I think it will take about 5 years for Austin to adjust to the bar smoking ban, and that eventually people will wonder why it was ever allowed in the first place… like trying to imagine allowing smoking in hospital patient rooms (even by doctors!), in movie theatres, in the office, ballparks, everywhere you can imagine. No… I don’t think it looks cool or sexy. Sorry. Anyway, I’ve got high hopes that this will have positive effects in the long run. People are still going to go to the clubs. I believe it with all my heart. And I also believe that you have every right to smoke around me, as long as you inhale every bit of the smoke and don’t exhale. If the person next to you is drinking, do they have the right to make you drink? Is that what you call "choice"? If you are smoking next to me, you are, in essence, making me smoke too. You're exposing me some something dangerous to my health.

Seriously. I’ve had enough.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Kingdom of Heaven

We saw "Kingdom of Heaven" for our wedding anniversary. The Alamo is our usual choice for celebrations and holidays.

I thought it was really pretty darned good. I liked it more than Gladiator, and I think it was probably a lot more historically accurate. What REALLY happened is always going to be a matter of discussion for the experts. I didn't see it as "anti-Christian" or anti-anybody, it's just about things in life that are valuable...or not.

Orlando was lovely, even "uglied-up", but I will cut short the fangirl gush before I start sounding like Homer Simpson thinking of beer. The word Legolas causes the same reaction in me. Anyway, thumbs-up for the movie from both in attendance.

Greencards back in town

Friday, May 6

The Greencards had a very big day and night in Austin, a radio appearance on KGSR in the morning, and what looked like a sold-out show, or purt-near, at night at the Saxon Pub. They are headed out to tour with Bob and Willie soon. Very exciting!!

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Birthdays and Close encounters

Some notes on the first week of May. the weather has been gorgeous!

April 30, 2005

Time for Eeyore's Birthday party and the weather could not have been better! The drum circle is cosmic. You can spend hours in that without even noticing. It's food for the soul.

First visit to the new Alamo on South Lamar to see the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Laughed a lot. Did not disapprove on the handling of the material for the most part. I think Ford was a bit wrong [marvin sigh] but enjoyed it.

May 1, 2005

Van Wilks and Jeff Carroll's joint birthday party (it's been a birthday weekend if you count Eeyore) is an annual event that we enjoy (thanks for the invite, Van). It's very laid-back and the music was excellent. Dave Sebree and Van played together and it was absolutely awesome.

May 4, 2005

Went to see Jedd Hughes at Stubb's. It was a free show, and really excellent. He plays really good guitar and is a talented songwriter. I think this may be a big year for him, but he is still really unknown in Austin. The Greencards were in attendance as I thought they might be since their schedule looked open and they play in Austin on Friday. I am really excited for them, they are starting the big tour with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson later this month and good things are going to be happening for them in a big way!

May 5, 2005

This morning I got President Clinton's autograph. I got in the line at 6:30 am for 9:00 am doors. There were maybe 150 people there already. The Secret Service arrived in their fleet of matching white Chevys and stationed them around the block. One car unloaded its spiffy-looking, sunglassed ear-wired suits right in front of us. When they walked away I couldn't resist turning into Bart Simpson for a moment with an expression of "That was cooo elll" (Well, it's very sexy and exciting) Next was the parade of police accompanying the bomb dog -- they, and another Secret Service white car went into the secure gate.

They were being extra secure for this, reneging on the allowance of getting up to 5 books signed to only allowing one per person per time through the line. Luckily I am too poor to afford more than one so it was not a problem for me. Also we were not permitted to carry so much as a set of keys into the signing area -- everything got checked in baskets and our bodies screened for metal. I'm glad they are being careful. I'd hate to lose another President I love to some nutjob (not that I believe in the lone gunman theory from 1963, but that's another topic), especially in Texas.

People seemed to be having similar reactions when they got to the third floor signing room and could see Clinton standing there. GASP. Geez, that's actually Bill Clinton standing there, one of the most famous people on earth. All I could think of was WOW that's really him! And it was. I wanted to giggle, but didn't. He shook every person's hand and greeted each person, and did it 1300 times. It's a huge book, and I hope I can find time to read it this summer.

Tonight is First Thursday, so we went down to South Congress. Shook hands with Kinky Friedman, who is running for governor (and why the hell not?). We landed at Jo's Coffee, which is usually my preference for First Thursday, and listened to Gary Primich while having a veggie BBQ. Tonight he had Mike Keller with him, so that is an extra special treat. Mike is one of the best guitarists around this town.

It was a beautiful night, and sufficiently weird. It was Cinco de Mayo, but Guero's didn't have any specials on margaritas. $4.50 for a small (but strong) one.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Got here as soon as I could...

Texas Oasis is just my little “life in Austin” journal. I moved here at the beginning of 2001 (actually Christmas of 2000, but we were stuck in Georgetown* in a small apartment with 3 grumpy cats until we found a house in South Austin) and it really felt like home almost immediately. It is sooo wonderful to live in a liberal environment instead of feeling stifled and afraid like I had been for many, many years in the Midwest. I am not a Midwesterner, not in heart, soul or mind, it doesn’t matter how many years went by.

Bill Moore uses the phrase dad-gum, left-leaning, "blueberry in the ketchup" in this article on plug-in hybrid cars.

*Georgetown is a conservative town about 25-30 miles north. They are proud of their Williamson County logo because it is basically a big W, and of course there's equal pride about having "George" as part of it. They are also against allowing any roads in their county to be named after Willie Nelson... that pro-weed lawbreaker. It's closer to Crawford up there. Lots of things are big in Texas, but not "blueberries".