November 2001

Time-shifted rain

Weather last night was very cold for Austin, with freezing rain. This morning, the trees were iced over. As the day warmed up, I started hearing what I thought was rainfall, even though the sky was clear. I realized it was the ice melting off the trees. So in a way, it really was rainfall, it just had to wait until the morning to reach the ground.

Cold and quiet at firenight

Tuesday, so it’s firenight at Cafe Mundi again (no pictures). It was really cold and windy. Not many people showed. Me, Thomas, David, and Rita. “Het-man” stopped by, decked out in tails and glittery pants. Rita left without lighting up, and Sage appeared. We managed to get a few burns in, and then called it quits. I couldn’t get warmed up enough to really get comfortable, no matter what. A newcomer to twirling, Penina, stopped by briefly.

A new use for Japan’s defunct theme parks

So I was talking with someone about the many failed theme parks in Japan (a topic about which I know way more than anybody needs to), and she asked “What do you do with a failed theme park?” I realized at that moment that the only thing to do is use it as a location for filming a Scooby Doo episode.

Thanksgiving dinner chez Butt

Thanksgiving dinner at Farooq & Eileen’s. Drew was there, along with a couple of friends of F&E’s who I didn’t know. Jenny was supposedly going to show, but wound up not making it. Quite the feast. Yams, two kinds of potatoes, a greenbean casserole, stuffing, and oh yeah, a big ol’ turkey. Everything was great. After dinner Farooq gave me this bizarre “candy” made with saltpeter, Tyrkisk Peber. Tastes sort of like black licorice, but kind of spicy. Very weird. Well, I’m glad I tried it. Then he gave me something similar, but much more potent, which I concluded was really intended for nuclear reactor cores. Yech.

Although we didn’t talk as much about the situation in Afghanistan as I thought we might, Farooq did make an interesting point: he contends that it is a lucky thing that there’s a military dictator running the show in Pakistan–if there were a political government, he believes they’d kowtow to the extremist mob and would not go along with the military action.

Then we watched some Space Ghost Coast to Coast, with special guest Tenacious D.

Jenny got a new Powerbook

Jenny got a new Powerbook and I spent a few hours yesterday helping her move files over and set it up. It’s a damn nice machine. I’m impressed by the power brick, prosaic as that may seem–it’s clear that a lot of thought went into the design. The prongs fold out of the way for transport, and can pop off to be replaced by a special extension cord (in case you can’t squeeze the brick onto your outlet strip). It has little tabs that fold out for wrapping up the cord. It’s a small rounded square, sleek and white, like an iBook.

Migrating the files from one machine to the other wasn’t as simple as it should have been, because the old machine kept locking up during the file-transfer process. Very mysterious. We wound up compressing batches of files, uploading them to the net, and then downloading them. Sounds silly, but it works, and wasn’t any slower than doing it over the improvised LAN.

Firenight: Bean burns

So, another Tuesday, another Firenight. Bean had her first burn. It’s always fun to be around someone having their first burn because they’re always so jazzed, so alive afterwards, it’s a little like catching a contact high.

Disclaimers discredit intelligence

So there’s a TV ad for the anti-depressant drug Zoloft, and it shows a little cartoon animation of chemical activity at a synaptic connection. Below that is the crucial disclaimer, “dramatization.”

Is there anyone out there who thought they were showing an actual photographic record or something? Oy.

Property tax: Ouch

Got my property-tax bill today. Over $5100. I don’t have that much in the bank, or in outstanding invoices. I don’t know how the hell I’ll pay it. I also don’t feel like I’m getting good value for my money, though as Will Rogers once said “it’s a good thing we don’t get all the government we pay for.”

Big rain bigger than I knew

You know the saying “God loves fools”? Guess it suits me. Turns out that while I was dropping Sage off at I-35 and 38th, a funnel cloud was touching down nearby, at I-35 and MLK (and was headed towards us). No wonder the driving seemed so dicey. I don’t know of anyone who got hurt, though a lot of people lost power.



One of the consequences of a heavy rainstorm this time of year is a nut-storm. There are three big pecan trees on my property, and this year, they were heavily laden with nuts. Not anymore. They mostly got knocked off by the incredible rainstorm we had last night. My back deck was so covered with nuts this morning that I had to thread my way across it lest I crush several nuts with each step. Just gathering up nuts that were in the way of foot-traffic, I filled half a shopping bag. That’s a lot of nuts.

What’s really weird is the distribution of nuts in the backyard. Have you ever walked by a creek that had risen and then subsided, leaving a line of debris where it was highest? That’s what it was like in my yard: there was a ring with an unbelievably high concentration of nuts around the yard; in the middle of the yard, which is a little lower, not so many nuts. Makes it easier to gather ’em up.

Big rain

Man, what a rainstorm we are having! I was dropping Sage off at an appointment less than a mile away, and actually thought about pulling over because driving was so dicey. Lightning striking very close by. Wild.

Firenight and puppies

Last night was firenight, as usual. Again, a lot of newcomers. It was fun. I got pictures. I brought out an experimental set of finger wands, which newcomer Diedre and Mel both tried out.Someone had abandoned puppies on the tracks behind Cafe Mundi (this kind of thing makes me really angry). They were really cute, even as puppies go, but had a puppy-like tendency to get underfoot, which is especially bad when playing with toxic fuels and fire. Anyhow, I think they found homes by the end of the evening.

Dave Edmunds at Cactus Cafe

Tracy and I went and saw Dave Edmunds Saturday night at the Cactus Cafe. What a great show! It was a solo show. He had on this shirt, a swirly purple and black pattern on velvet that would make suitable wallpaper at a goth-hippy whorehouse. He was playing a pretty black Guild acoustic run through four effects boxes. A lot of thumb-picking, with a bluegrass style that threatened to lapse into Smokey Mountain Breakdown at times. A lot of old standards played in inventive ways–he did an instrumental version of the Beatles’ Lady Madonna, and the audience would all shout out “see how they run” at the appropriate moment. He played a little classical guitar, then he played Classical Gas and followed that with his very unique take on classical music, in this case Mozart.For his encore, he came out with a Telecaster that had some weird device lashed on below the bridge; it turned out that this was a remote control for a rhythm box that accompanied him on a wild version of Flight of the Bumblebees.

Binary day

Hey, I just noticed it’s a binary day. So is tomorrow. That’ll be the last one for 1001 (expressed in binary) years. I am such a geek.

War & utilitarianism

Remember the saying “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”?I’ve been thinking a lot about the ethics of this war in Afghanistan. I’m not a pacifist–I do think some kind of military response is appropriate–but I consider the bombing of civilians (even inadvertent) to be unacceptable. I’m basically a utilitarian in my outlook, and so I think the U.S’ goal should be to minimize deaths. But it seems possible that the minimum number of civilian deaths (American, Afghan, whatever) at this point is still going to be higher than zero. To put it crudely, we’ll need to break some eggs to make an omelette.Anyhow, the upshot of all the twists and turns I’ve taken when thinking about this boils down to one basic question of ethics. Is it acceptable to risk civilian casualties in the interest achieving a legitimate military goal (let’s assume just for the sake of argument that it is legitimate). Or to put it in a more general way: is it ethical to take an action that in itself is unethical (or ethically dubious), but is in the service of the greater good? Or should one’s actions always be ethical on their own, and if they lead to more trouble down the road, well, you’ll just cross that bridge when you come to it and hope you can muddle through?I really don’t know the answer to this question. In different contexts, I can argue either way. And I don’t think the answer can be derived through a priori reasoning.What do you think?

A two-party night

Well. A two-party night. At Opal Divine’s, there was a little get-together (not so little, as it turned out) to congratulate Phil on his 3:28 finish in the NYC Marathon. Pretty darned good, especially considering it was his first marathon.

Then there was a party at Debbie’s. There was fire, but I just wasn’t quite feeling up to spinning fire, so I went as a civilian. That was cool. I still had fun. It was a nice change of pace to go without any expectation of performing.

Was hungry afterwards, so I stopped at the Denny’s on the I-35 feeder. Sat at the counter and waited. And waited. A group of Indian 20-somethings came in, the women lavishly dolled up in very ornate saris, etc. That was kind of neat. After a few minutes, I got impatient at the lack of service, and left. Went to Star Seeds instead, which is a much more suitable venue for late-night noshing.