Sunday, August 30, 2009

It is really about the food

Got up this morning to move the water from the blueberries to the raspberries, the latter of which are still producing! Of course enjoyed my morning ritual of picking all of the ripe raspberries for my breakfast.

Went out into the fields and hills again today to check the fences, but also to look for more wild plums like those I found while repairing the fence a couple of days ago. I found another tree, but the fruit was not yet ripe. Still, good to find these so I know what to look for whenever I am hiking. These plums are as good if not better than any I've had elsewhere.

While up in the woods I came across what I believe to be a variety of Hen of the Woods, an edible mushroom. I need to go back with my primary mushroom identifying book to make sure. Still, a nice specimen and it has many of the necessary traits.. If it is a Hen of the Woods, then I will have some very good eating in my future as this is definitely one of the prized mushrooms, related to the Maitake of Japan. This guy is over a foot in diameter, meaning that I ought to be able to get a couple of good meals off of it, and still leave enough for it to reproduce.

I checked the quince.. still far from ripe, as is also the case with the muscadines.

Dinner was a couple of varieties of squash simply sauteed with a bit of salt and one of them finished with a bit of parm.

Later I will enjoy the mystery melon, which I have been told must be a tiger melon from Asia. Regardless it is delicious and a welcomed treat!

Friday, August 28, 2009

More of the same electronic woes..

So after submitting a report about the forgotten repair on the laptop, and then also pointing out a new issue on it, I now have to call in to get the approval for return shipping to have these repairs done. Why isn't email sufficient? I described the problems, and they need only to tell me that they will have it picked up and fixed..

On a similar but far more frustrating front, I had to deal with AT&T (Southwestern Bell really) again. I want to cancel my old phone contract since I have no phone which uses that number anymore, and at the same time start up a data only plan for a PDA or similar device. Simple right? All I would need to do is go into the AT&T store, tell them what I need, and they will take care of it.. or as it happens, not.

Never once has anyone in any AT&T store ever been helpful, and never even once have they actually answered my questions or handled whatever it was that I needed. In Wichita they actually would not read my sim card so I could retrieve my numbers unless I would buy at least the $200 phone. Here they could not set me up with a go phone account unless I purchased a $60 phone. (I went through Best Buy and paid $20, and received a $10 credit!). In Austin the kid who was supposed to be helping me knew less about their contracts than I do, and he asserted repeatedly that AT&T did not offer any data plans.. Strange thing to claim given that the website clearly indicates that they do offer such plans..

So now I have to call in to cancel the service, and try to convince whoever answers the phone on their end, after the obligatory 15 minute or more wait on hold, that I really do just want a data plan, without a phone, and preferably without a long contract, if any at all. I have the phone that they try to use to justify the two year contracts so all I need is the service and the sim card.. Anyone believe that AT&T will actually give me customer service? No one?

If there were any other option where I am building, I would go with it.. Ever since SWB bought AT&T, the customer service has simply stopped.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mystery Melon

Let me begin by saying that I know I need a pic of this melon.. I'll get to it once I make room on the camera's card..

After heaving up rocks heavier than I should be lifting, painting Rancher Bob's propane tank with a solvent based paint that I am certain no one should ever be using, and dealing with a multitude of computer issues (the newest laptop is still screwed up, but at least in a different way..), I opted for a stroll through the much neglected garden (the vegetable garden only gets attention when Rancher Bob or I are here, so with the funeral and subsequent Austin trip, and Rancher Bob's work related travels, the garden is in decline, when it ought to be thriving).

I discovered a few squash, including some winter squash which had been left for dead.. the Malabar spinach still thriving, though going to seed, and much to my delight a mystery melon growing out amongst the corn. This was not a plant that was intentionally grown, but rather some natural hybrid of melons grown in previous years.. or maybe a throw back to some older melon..

The melon is yellow and orange striped, sort of in the same manner as a watermelon is striped. I assumed because of the color that it was some watermelon which was overripe, but my curiosity got the better of me, as it often does, so I sliced one open right where I found it. Inside it was clearly not a watermelon at all, but something closer to musk melon (with a different rind obviously) or honeydew, but not exactly like either. It smelled perfectly ripe so I sliced off a bit and tried a bite.. damn that is one good melon!

The melons are slightly larger than a softball on average, so perfect for two people. I ate half of it while I walked around the rest of the garden, and saved the other half for a treat before bed.. which I am enjoying as I type this.

I may not know the variety, or if it is even a specific variety, but with a tip of the hat to Alton Brown, I do know what it is: Good Eats!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ted's Legacy

. . . .. and let us not forgetMary Jo Kopechne . . . . 1940-1969mmmmmm
Mary Jo Kopechne . . . .

Mary Jo Kopechne . . . . 1940-1969

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


From 9 am, when I could find some of the yard where the dew had more or less dried, until 8 pm I spent nearly every moment on the lawn mower, mowing Rancher Bob's yard..

I am still not done..

An hour or two tomorrow should see the yard completed.. I hope..

Making some small progress finally on the deep freezer front.. AJ Madison the (disreputable) dealer from which I purchased this freezer sent an email five days ago telling me that the freezer shipped.. Today I was able to get the shipping company name and track the package on their site, rather than trusting AJ Madison's site... Turns out that the freezer did not ship 5 days ago, but instead was scheduled to be loaded TODAY! Here again I find AJ Madison being dishonest and unnecessarily delaying shipping the order which was placed over a month ago.

Still, looks like Yellow Freight has the freezer and hopefully will deliver it on time (by their stated time that is) so that I can get it installed before I have to leave again..

No contact with the bulldozer operator so no idea if I will be able to get the site cleared while here. Hopefully I will be able to catch him tomorrow.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Brief visit.. my house site!

I am back in the rocky hills for a very brief visit (in which I hope to make some damn progress..) before I am off again, this time for paying gigs..

The time in Austin was good and modestly enlightening, in ways explained and hinted at, as well as others which may come to light in the future in this blog.. I've some thoughts on being a good house guest, showing adequate and proper appreciation to folks who host parties you attend, and other thoughts on places and interactions..

For now I am grateful to be back in my own bed, which is long enough for me!!! The importance of this cannot be overstated..

I have to hit the ground running, doing work that supposedly Rancher Bob's wife does, but in practice unbeknownst to him, others including myself make sure that these maintenance tasks get done so his time home is what it should be.

I am also going to be trying to at the very least get the homesite cleared so I can stake out where the excavation for the house should be.. With under a week to make this happen, and having been trying to get this to happen since February, I am not going to hold my breath.. Anyone need work done by a live in designer this winter?? :)

Tonight will be a night of rest and relaxation.. of reading and enjoying a fine bottle of Becker Claret, Vanerchuk be damned!!!

Friday, August 21, 2009


I've been trying to explain to various people my reaction to returning to Austin a mere 13 months after I left, and I believe tonight I have finally managed to capture the feeling in a cliche which we all do or should understand: You can never go home again.

I came to Austin first when I was a child and loved that this small town (as it was then) was the capital of the biggest state (Alaska can bite me.. :) ) in the US. I returned many years later to go to the biggest record (albums, LPs.. ) convention in the world, and once again fell in love with the great green hills, the laid back atmosphere, and the feeling of place, of real unique identity. I visited a few more times while in graduate school, and finally moved here, mostly by accident, in 2000. I stayed in no small part because of the people (ironically those people were not from Austin themselves!) but also because of all of the attributes I had enjoyed in the past visits.

None of that has changed, other than the fact that Austin is no longer a small town in anyone's imagination, except perhaps in comparison to any small city in China.. (though the Chinese cities retain more of their community flavor than US cities in my experience..). Still, Austin is not home anymore, even though no where is home at the moment.

This does not prevent me from enjoying the drive down Spicewood Springs road over to McNeil, or from savoring with childish glee the negative G's that you can get on a particular arroyo on Westlake Drive if you hit is just over the speed limit.. Nor does it take away from the heaven that is a well crafted Freebirds! or a night at Shady Grove enjoying the big man, Bruce Robison, and his wife Kelly Willis. I have very much enjoyed my visit here, from the place to the food, to the people, but still it is not home and does not have that magnetic draw to it that Austin once held for me.

Just as Austin changed me, largely for the better, so has this year plus traveling changed me such that Austin is a good friend, a great place to visit, but not a place to live for me anymore. I noticed in my short, although extemded beyond my intentions, time here that I fall into a particular rut that is not where I want to be. I have done the whole rabid business owner thing, and it was good for a while, but my priorities have shifted a bit to focusing on my own life directly rather than focusing on creating environments for others that will ultimately contribute a bit to my own life (through the checks they send).

Tomorrow is my last day in Austin, and I am ending it in the right way: a birthday party for a lovely woman who tolerates a very trying but equally wonderful man, both of whom I consider dear friends. The Wichita crowd is largely going to be present which will be a nice reunion of those folks, then Sunday morning I leave to go back to the hills for a bit..

While none of us can really go home again, it is good to be reminded that life is not stagnant, that we grow, change, and evolve such that at different times we really are different people enjoying a different life.

It is what it is..

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Best of Austin

Once in a while everything just comes together which is what happened last night. I called up my cousin's significant other to check on him, and along with his brother we went to Shady Grove (very cool south Austin spot) to catch the free show. This alone would have been cool, but to make it even better the show was Bruce Robison. Yet it still got better.. his wife Kelly Willis also got up on stage and sang a couple of songs..

He did everything I could have wanted to hear, and then some. The company was great, the music perfect, and the food always good.

The only possible problem came as the evening came to a close when a gal who had spent the entire evening loudly talking to others and generally being obnoxious, turned around and told us to shut up when finally, for the first time during the entire show, I asked Greg how his brother was dealing with the death of my cousin. We were talking relatively quietly, but she went on a rampage which was accompanied by her homeless (?) beau also screaming at us. We quickly figured out that they were drunk and needed to be ignored while we continued to enjoy the last song. They saw it differently. They ran to the management who came on strong at us, until we calmly explained that this couple was drunk as could be, obnoxious, and was feeding the management a line of crap. A short while later the same manager came back apologized profusely, and then apologized later as we were leaving as well. Obviously the Shady Grove manager saw through their charade and recognized that we were just enjoying the show.

We did not let this sad but amusing incident mar the night. A great time was had by all of us.

Meeting and talking to both Kelly Willis and Bruce was a nice little bonus.. great people, even if Bruce is freakishly tall! (we need more folks like that!)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Insult to Injury

E-Cycle Pro did finally respond to the email much to my surprise. They even feigned regret over the problems that they have caused and to make up for it they shipped the motherboard... to the WRONG ADDRESS!

They had been given the address no less than 5 times, with the address also included in the special instructions so as to avoid any possibility of such an error. Sadly they went out of their way to ship to the wrong address. They dredged up an old out of date address from the archive and chose to ship to it instead of the address that they were given and appeared in the paypal billing.

This is the state of customer service for many businesses, and a sad state it is.

The next hurdle will be to see if E-Cycle Pro will immediately refund the entire payment, or if they will create some further problem. I have no doubt that they will fail to compensate for the lost time and opportunity costs.. and now I am left without the time to get the computer repaired here before I have to leave once again.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Good to be Wrong, or at least not all right

Though I am still completely unimpressed by the efforts, or more accurately the lack of efforts of most companies including those already named, I am happily reminded that there are still a few, perhaps merely a handful, or people who recall what customer service is.

Unfortunately I had to send in my laptop for service under the suspicion that the motherboard was kaput. Systemax not only arranged for UPS to pick up the computer at no expense to me and without even a hint of argument, but called today to let me know that they replaced the memory and have shipped the computer back out after stress testing it for 36 hours. Here again Systemax has reminded me why I should and do recommend them to just about everyone I meet when the topic turns to computers.

Now if only I were going to be in the same place as that computer... but that is beyond Systemax's control..

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Customer Service RIP

The last two orders I have placed online have been met with what is sadly the current trend in customer service: no service.

On July 24th I ordered a freezer online via an Amazon link, and not only have I not received the freezer, I have twice emailed the company and cannot even get a response. Needless to say I am not going to be promoting AJ Madison as a seller to trust...

This last week I ordered a motherboard, and even requested expedited shipping, paying the extra $40+ dollars to get it the next day.. two days later still not here and the tracking on the website does not even show the order as fully processed and shipped!! In fact there is a line hidden deep in the site that says that they try to get most orders shipped in 4-6 days. Now, if someone is explicitly requesting expedited shipping, telling you that they need it the next day, do you take their money and then simply ignore the order? Apparently that is what you do if you are E-Cycle Pro... I have snt in an email to them, but I am not so foolish as to expect a response.

What happened to taking pride in your personal integrity, in your work, and in keeping your word? Are we as customers so complacent that we do not demand good service?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Austin update

I am making some progress in Austin, some of which is unexpected. I believe that I have found a contractor who I feel comfortable recommeding to my clients on the basis of the quality of his work, and the nature of his character. A person with a respect for doing the job right, and the integrity to make sure that the job is done right is all too rare. One who recognizes that such referrals are worth a great deal to him, even more so. With luck I hope that he and I will be developing an ongoing relationship where my customers are satisfied and I am even able to get a bit of income out of the deal.

I am also fortunate to have my truck back in the shop. Strange thing to utter, but when you have a mechanic as good as mine here, you are thankful when he can do the routine maintenance and even grateful when he finds other problems which must be addressed. I do not like spending money, but at least with Paul I can rest assured that the money is well spent and the work necessary without any hint of doubt.

With my Freebirds! fix currently sated, I am able to consider the other culinary opportunities in Austin such as Shady Grove, or perhaps other forgotten spots.

Though it is quite hot, I will likely try to visit some of the trails I used to know to enjoy the rugged beauty of the Texas Hill Country. Speaking of which I have been able to pick up a couple of bottles of Becker Vineyards' Claret, perhaps the best wine in Texas. I look forward to sharing these at some later time with some dear friends who have also moved away from this area, though in the meantime I hope to enjoy a bottle with friends who still live here.

The two jobs I have here are on hold until Saturday, when I do one of the jobs, and then next week for the other, which will make my further travels longer and more rushed. Still, it will be good to get a couple of paychecks even if they are small ones which do not even come close to covering the bill from the mechanic..

I will be looking into perhaps picking up a water storage tank while in Austin in hopes of saving a great deal on transportation costs for a 3000 gallon water tank.

However today is simply a day of rest as I am without the truck. So I am catching up on some reading (Nozick's Examined Life), contemplating various aspects of life including one recently discussed with a friend, and keeping the sausage dog company.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Secret to Peace and Contentment


Regular on Spinach
Rice and Cheese (mix cheese)
Black Beans
Dark Meat Chicken
Hot Tomatillo sauce (or habanero or death sauce)
Tomatoes, pico, and salsa
Red onion
Corn salsa
Poblano salsa
and just a bit of lettuce.

Unwrap slowly and experience complete sensory satisfaction.

Freebirds! at last..

I have survived the death race which is Interstate 35 to Austin my reward for which was delicious Brazillian barbeque for lunch, and then Freebirds! for dinner. For those not familiar with Freebirds! imagine if Chipotle had flavor, character, and style and you will get an image which would be a mere shadow of Freebirds! World Burrito.

Though I would like to take today to rest from the travels and from the busy day here upon arrival, I have to hit the ground running by going to bid a couple of jobs and connect up with a new business connection which may well take over my old clients for me.

Then order computer parts and contact folks around here some of who knew I was coming.

Such is the day of this traveler..

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Services today

Today is the service for Kim. I have been asked to be a pall bearer a grim task that I feel flattered to be asked to do.

Needless to say the day revolves around the issues of the service and Kim's life. The family is getting together again today, though we gathered yesterday at the "viewing." I refrained from viewing the body as I find the practice more than creepy and distasteful. However it was good to get together and to offer what support I could.

As my father commented last night, we can never find the time to get together and enjoy life with one another but always can make the time for a funeral. I suspect that this is true for most people, not merely our own family and as such a truly pathetic statement on what we value and our placing of death as more important than life an experience.

And on that sad I leave off... until Austin..