Sunday, January 31, 2010

Look at this

Florencio Molina Campos was an Argentine artist who affectionately recorded the lives of the gauchos, the tough cowboys of the pampas. Go here and smile at his work. The world is full of more things than we can imagine, and the Internet is a great place to find some of those things.

Friday, January 29, 2010

We're #1 for dumb

First five from a list of the ten most illiterate cities w/pops above 25,000: El Paso, Corpus Christi, Long Beach, Calif., Detroit, and San Antonio.
See a pattern there? For the other five ignorance oases, see Wiki.answers. There has been a recent hoohah about Laredo losing its only bookstore. The few readers in that poor benighted border town are protesting, but why should a bookstore continue business in a city where nobody much reads? Texas leads the way in ignorance, sweeping all before us.

Three things about the Vicad that annoy

1. Those stupid stories that list six things about this or ten things about that. When did this become a preferred journalistic form?
2. A copy editor who used the word 'medias' in a headline. Media is plural on its own and doesn't need an 's' on the end. [The singular is 'medium.']
3. This bogus search for editorial input from readers. Is there anyone so naïve as to believe that the patsies chosen will have any genuine say in the paper's content?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A sabot in the gears

In an effort to destroy the productivity of American office workers and bring down the whole rotten system, I offer you this site as a time-waster. It presents you various problems in eyeballing in answers to some geometrical problems. Not clear, am I? Just go look … you'll be hooked. [3.43, but I'll get better.]

Sunday, January 24, 2010


From comments today on the Vicad's church desecration story:

"Jail is not enough! Castorate these men so they will not be able to
pass on their demon seed! "

" Meth addicts runs ramped there and so does crime."
I can add nothing.

Pix for Sunday

My wife went on one of those tears we will go on, looking for paintings of people reading. One of her little gems is a print of a Japanese prostitute reading, and that someow set her off. I'm not sure first one exactly qualifies as reading, but it's a pleasing picture. This painting is by a Brazilian named José Ferraz de Almeida Júnior, a 19th-Century painter. This is the painter and his model as she takes a break from posing. You can noodle around and find more Júnior paintings … they are nice looks at people, let you really see them.

This one is by Anders Zorn, 1860-1920, a Swedish painter. Anders's wife, Emma, is the subject. Looks like José had a livelier studio. Emma looks a little grim.

And this a peach blossom out in the back yard, Today this little tree has two pretty little blooms. I consider this another example of optimism triumphing over good sense. Pretty sure the tree will get nipped by a freeze before too long but admire it nonetheless for popping them out.

Gratuitous blonde-abuse

I like 'em, you like 'em, so why not? Another blonde joke:

A blonde from Dallas, wanting to earn some extra money, decided to hire herself out as a "handy-woman."
She began going door to door and walked up to this large home knocked on the door and asked the owner if he had any odd jobs for her to do.
"Well, I guess I could use somebody to paint my porch," Russ Potts said, "How much will you charge me?"
The blonde quickly responded, "How about $50?" Russ agreed and told her that the paint and everything she would need were in the garage.
Russ's wife, hearing the conversation, said to her husband, "Does she realize that our porch goes all the way around the house?" Russ responded, "That's a bit cynical, isn't it?" His wife replied, "You're right. I guess I'm starting to believe all those 'dumb blonde' jokes we've been getting by e-mail lately."
A short time later, the blonde came to the door to collect her money. "You're finished already?" Russ asked.
"Yes," the blonde replied," and I had paint left over, so I gave it two coats."
Impressed, Russ reached into his pocket for the $50 and handed it to her.
"And by the way," the blonde added, "it's not a Porch, it's a Lexus."

Friday, January 22, 2010

Take a peek

at this Chumash Indian cave painting. Would you be surprised to know that the Chumash were given to Jimson weed, a strong hallucinogen? We have one that blooms every year by the garage. Georgia O'Keeffe famously painted them.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Victoria Friends of the Library sale

The Friends sale runs for another couple days, library hours. I wandered through today and picked up a Saul Bellow I read a long time ago, a biography of brothers Wilson and Addison Mizner, a Margaret Maron mystery, and a big book on needlepointing for the girl, who's been doing that sort of matronly thing lately. There's always some kind of great deal at the Friends sale.

Odds & ends

From the Austin Craig's List R'n'R: "Members of Congress should be required to wear uniforms just like NASCAR drivers . . . so we could identify their corporate sponsors."
"One must always have in mind one simple fact — there is no literate population in the world that is poor, and there is no illiterate population that is anything but poor." – John Kenneth Galbraith. Argue with that if you dare.
A comment from somewhere: 'He then talked about the quaint essential picnic …' Really love that one; it's a wonderful bit or word torture.
And, finally, a lick from a blog comment: "'The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom...for we never know what is enough until we know what is more than enough.' -- William Blake." That's the spirit that leads to an interesting life and hangovers.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

More chupacabras

Noticed on Channel Zero another purported chupacabras found, but it looked like just another mangy canid of some sort. There was also a sighting on the border, where they have more inclination to believe. There was a great chupacabras outbreak while I was living in EP. From the World's Worst Newspaper:
The Chupacabras craze was biggest in El Paso in 1995, when T-shirts with images of the goat-sucker, based on "witness accounts," were hot items.
Chupacabras stories made the rounds in El Paso-Juárez that year, but one story stood out. A woman in the Juárez area told reporters that she was bitten by the creature on her neck. Her claim was debunked later as a ploy to divert attention from a lover's hickey and her supposed marital infidelity.

They were selling those T-shirts on the international bridges; I'm sorry I didn't get one. One person's hickey is another person's evidence of a cryptzoological manifestation. Read all the latest one here.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday night No-G&D post

We went to a wedding yesterday in southern environs of Evilopolis. Sorta made me feel a little more optimistic about the state of the world. Principals were a couple who'd worked at the Vicad with me – a photographer I worked with often and happily, and a sports writer who could write. He was, you will divine from the groom's cake, a UT grad. Burnt orange was prominent in the color theme.
The crowd ranged across the races, and ages were from not-much-past-newborn to people our age and even older. Folks ate well, drank but not too much, danced, and mixed easily. I saw esteemed former colleagues and had a good time talking to a bunch of people, including a 17-year-old boy, who was charming, bright, and interesting, full of enthusiasms and plans. One friend who's been swimming upstream against employment misfortune appears to have found a good job. All in all, I found it a great antidote against the bad news the world offers these days. I appreciate the hope implicit in undertaking matrimony. This past year, several young people we know and love have had babies, and that, too, is a vote for hope.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Blonde joke

Can't help myself … I love 'em:
During a recent password security audit, it was found that a blonde was using the following password:
When asked why such a long password, she said she was told that it had to be at least 8 characters long and include at least one capital.

Aside: It's interesting sitting here, watching the wind foam up little waves on the water. Unfortunately, I'm looking out into the back yard not toward the bay. Can I have my drought back?

Thursday, January 14, 2010


For some odd reason, this forward tickled me, so I'll share it.


Coffee filters .... Who knew! And you can buy 1,000 at the Dollar Tree for almost nothing even the large ones.
1. Cover bowls or dishes when cooking in the microwave. Coffee filters make excellent covers.
2. Clean windows, mirrors, and chrome... Coffee filters are lint-free so they'll leave windows sparkling.
3. Protect China by separating your good dishes with a coffee filter between each dish.
4. Filter broken cork from wine. If you break the cork when opening a wine bottle, filter the wine through a coffee filter.
5. Protect a cast-iron skillet. Place a coffee filter in the skillet to absorb moisture and prevent rust.
6. Apply shoe polish. Ball up a lint-free coffee filter.
7. Recycle frying oil. After frying, strain oil through a sieve lined with a coffee filter.
8. Weigh chopped foods. Place chopped ingredients in a coffee filter on a kitchen scale.
9. Hold tacos. Coffee filters make convenient wrappers for messy foods.
10. Stop the soil from leaking out of a plant pot. Line a plant pot with a coffee filter to prevent the soil from going through the drainage holes.
11. Prevent a Popsicle from dripping. Poke one or two holes as needed in a coffee filter.
12. Do you think we used expensive strips to wax eyebrows? Use strips of coffee filters..
13. Put a few in a plate and put your fried bacon, French fries, chicken fingers, etc on them. It soaks out all the grease.
14. Keep in the bathroom. They make great "razor nick fixers."
15. As a sewing backing. Use a filter as an easy-to-tear backing for embroidering or appliqueing soft fabrics.
16. Put baking soda into a coffee filter and insert into shoes or a closet to absorb or prevent odors.
17. Use them to strain soup stock and to tie fresh herbs in to put in soups and stews.
18. Use a coffee filter to prevent spilling when you add fluids to your car.
19. Use them as a spoon rest while cooking and clean up small counter spills.
20. Can use to hold dry ingredients when baking or when cutting a piece of fruit or veggies.. Saves on having extra bowls to wash.
21. Use them to wrap Christmas ornaments for storage.
22. Use them to remove fingernail polish when out of cotton balls.
23. Use them to sprout seeds. Simply dampen the coffee filter, place seeds inside, fold it and place it into a plastic baggie until they sprout.
24. Use coffee filters as blotting paper for pressed flowers. Place the flowers between two coffee filters and put the coffee filters in phone book.
25. Use as a disposable "snack bowl" for popcorn, chips, etc.

Monday, January 11, 2010

South-of-the-border bloodshed

From the New York Daily News:
In a new incident of grisly drug war violence, a  man's face was skinned and stitched onto a soccer ball as a threat to members of Mexico's Juarez drug cartel.

Read more here.
I first read the story in the Vicad, and it put me in mind of one of the gorier Aztec gods – and the Aztec deities were a gory lot. Wikipedia has an OK write-up on Xipe Totec, the flayed one, who was honored with the skins of sacrificed humans. Aztec cosmology is horribly obsessed with violence, death, and cruelty. Small wonder that all their neighbors joined the Spaniards against the Aztecs, and large wonder that latter-day Mexicans have chosen the Aztecs as their historical ideal. They were mean bastards, pretty nigh a psychopathic culture. I've wondered if the Santa Muerte cult in Mexico might not resonate with some atavistic Aztec impulses.
And then, from the World's Worst Newspaper on Sunday:
The violence continued Friday in Juárez with at least 18 slayings -- and the brutality continued to be shocking.
One man was cut into pieces, another was decapitated, one was hanged, a man in a wheelchair was shot to death, and three women were killed.

Read all that story here if you have an appetite for that sort of thing.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday night misc.

From a story in the Charlotte [NC] Observer:
Between them, Jeff and Jennifer Felts had seven children when they wed in 2002, so they decided a bigger house was in order.
Last week, with him out of work and her earnings down, they won a 60-day delay in foreclosure on their Kannapolis home. Their case is one of more than 63,000 started last year in North Carolina, a record jump in foreclosure filings amid a weak economy.
"It's a nightmare," he said.
Their ordeal began in December 2004 when they contracted with a builder for a custom house costing about $800,000. They were comfortable with the debt, based on his earnings as a truck driver for 28 years and her higher income as an insurance agent.

Get that? A trucker and an insurance agent, and they feel entitled to a $800,000 house. The entitlement of the buyers annoys me almost as much as the stupidity and cupidity of the lenders. To read about their nightmare [inevitable word in one of these tear-jerker stories], click here.
From a site called OutsourcePortfolio, a piece on outsourcing of publishing work to India:
The trend of outsourcing in this industry is in fact so well-established and profit margins so high that a deluge of Indian BPOs further outsource their work (Nearly 70%) to local printers. The Indian publishing BPOs currently employ about 35,000 professionals and there is demand for 20,000 more in the next couple of years. Seeing the opportunity venture capitalists re also getting drawn to the sunshine sector. American Capital Strategies recently announced ( $45 million fresh investment in Techbooks
With all this and more, the publishing BPO business is clocking an annual growth of 30% in India with profit margins oscillating between 30-40%. The sector mainly caters to the US and UK markets.

Read the whole post here. American companies that do this are evil and approach treasonous.
Then, Richard Rodriguez on the role that newspapers formerly played in our civilization and where they are now. There was a time when ordinary Americans aspired to more of culture than the hope of winning on American Idol. Rodriguez writes
A scholar I know, a woman who is ninety-six years old, grew up in a tin shack on the American prairie, near the Canadian border. She learned to read from the pages of the Chicago Tribune in a one-room schoolhouse. Her teacher, who had no more than an eighth-grade education, had once been to Chicago—had been to the opera! Women in Chicago went to the opera with bare shoulders and long gloves, the teacher imparted to her pupils. Because the teacher had once been to Chicago, she subscribed to the Sunday edition of the Chicago Tribune, which came on the train by Tuesday, Wednesday at the latest
For that sad story, click here. It's in Harper's mag. The coarsening of the ordinary American is the unremarked tragedy of the last forty years. Not so long ago we had a working class that was engaged politically and culturally with a wider world. The methodical destruction of that class has been the greatest tragedy of the years since 1973.
I apologize – A dreary lash-up of news, and here we are, another damn day closer to death.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Faux pas

Guy who sends me stuff sends me a wunnerful blooper from the Tyler Morning Telegraph:
When William B. Holsonbake of Hughes Springs celebrated his 100th birthday last May 15, someone asked him how he had managed to become a centurion.
Read it all here, but the punchline is right there, living to age 100 and getting to be a centurion. If I make it to 100, I hope they don't make me learn Latin; second-language acquisition gets really hard in the advanced years.
My correspondent did remark, 'Pat, I hope you make it to triple digits, because you would cut quite the dashing figure in a big red-plumed helmet. And I'm certain you could put the sword to good use, smiting the ignorant and the illiterate[.]'
Well, we smote that East Texas turkey, anyhow. That 'centurion' is just another one of those painful missteps that happen when a writer substitutes for an unknown word a known word that's kinda close. In a happier world, a good editor would catch the blunder. In this world, all the editors are in meetings or updating their social pages or talking about their Tweets or something similarly useless.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

On a brighter note …

One of the great chefs remarked that the discovery of a new recipe does more for the happiness of mankind than the discovery of a new star. In that spirit, I offer for your happiness this recipe from the NYTimes. It's a kinda meatloaf for the bbq that wraps pork sausage in bacon. That has to rank up with Paul Prudhomme's breaded and fried bacon in one of his oyster recipes. I admire this kind of imagination and daring. Twice too much ain't half enough.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sad news plus

More and more reasons to regard the paper with caution. Today, a tiny two- or three-graf story on the obits page reported the death of Kelly Fero. Kelly was a friend of mine and a beautiful writer. We both wrote a lot for Third Coast mag, a real writer's rag that published in Austin mostly in the 80s. Kelly was a funny guy with a gaudy history at a time and place when we all had gaudy histories. He had lived in Argentina and later gone to college in Mexico. Here's a profile of him that ran in the Austin paper in '08. Or you can Google him, as he's pretty thick on the Net today. Circumstance and the burdens of child support made him give up journalism and go over to D political work. His politics were left but good-natured and tinged with a sense of humor that saw the grins in everything. He had messed around with music, like about half the people in Austin in those days. He worked for Jim Mattox and Placedo's own John Sharp, among others. Kelly's the guy I mentioned some time back who'd hung around with Neal Cassady, aka Dean Moriarty, in Mexico, long after Cassady's the On the Road days and after the Ken Kesey bus trip. It's a sad thing that Kelly isn't in the world any longer. He was a good guy. He once wangled a job for me that I failed to take. Wish I had.
Then for more bad news from today's Vicad, from a front-page story on some jackleg preacher, contemplate this sentence: 'He preaches with a Hebrew prayer shawl in Spanish and English to a small congregation of fervid followers ...' What interests me is how did this Hebrew shawl learn Spanish? Probably forced into ESL classes. Pore ol' Vicad ... no writers, no editors, no future.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Got gloom?

Oh, well, I just happen to have a spare cup or two on hand:
Do you believe everything the government tells you? Economist and statistician John Williams sure doesn't. Williams, who has consulted for individuals and Fortune 500 companies, now uncovers the truth behind the U.S. government's economic numbers on his Web site at Williams says, over the last several decades, the feds have been infusing their data with optimistic biases to make the economy seem far rosier than it really is.

Go here to the Fairfield [Conn.] Weekly for a long interview with Williams. The comments are a hoot, with every possible variety of despair and doom.

Friday, January 1, 2010

It's quiet around here

Well, most mornings I step out the front door and say, 'Another damn day closer to death.' This morning I said, 'Another damn year closer to death.' We hew to the folk observances of our culture, so we we lunched on blackeyed peas and hamhocks plus steamed cabbage. May not guarantee prosperity, but it did make a nice lunch. Blackeyes taste like dirt, but in a good way.
Had my customary birthday dinner last night – pot roast and spaghetti, vino, antepasto, and a nice little dessert of pumpkin pies that herself baked. Served beer bread with it, simple as one-two-three: One can of beer, two tablespoons of sugar, three cups of self-rising flour, mix it together, leave it sit for a quarter hour, then bake on a greased sheet at 350° for an hour and fifteen minutes. Operating in the spaghetti mode, I sprinkle it with Italian herbs, brush it with good olive oil, and sprinkle it with coarse sea salt. Not as good as real yeast bread but not bad.
The guests were a good bunch – the Girl and husband, a newspaper guy and his wife, plus Mad Mike himself and his girlfriend, a very prodigy of accomplishment. Entertaining conversation on a lot of topics, including music and newspapers. The hardier then took boys over to Swan Point to shoot off midnight fireworks. I admired the show from the sidewalk as I smoked a fine cigar. I would observe that every year we bang the vino a little less. A nice way to end the old year and initiate the new. I wish all a Happy New Year, one damn year closer to death. Try to eat as well as your purse and your digestion [and your narrow-minded, niggling doctor] permit.

We all suffer some for the holidays, dogs included. Without benefit of bipedal locomotion, that baby has achieved rapid deployment techniques.