The Soup Peddler

The local rag has an article on the Soup Peddler, a business run by a friend, David.

David’s is an interesting guy. He holds a semi-regular shabbat dinner, but it’s probably the only one you’ll ever go to where a Muslim friend in attendance will offer you a beer. He quit his computer-programming job some time ago to become a yoga instructor. He created this soup business on the side, but that seems to be turning into his main gig.


I’ve been spammed by the Will Wynn campaign. I wonder how I got on their mailing list. Guess who I’m not voting for.

I greatly appreciate you allowing me to contact you electronically, and update you on the progress of our campaign. This e-newsletter lets us keep you and your family informed of the latest developments, and also saves us scarce campaign funds. Thank you!

It has all the hallmarks of spam–it pretends to have my permission. It contains extensive HTML markup and images. Of course, we’ve seen this kind of thing before.

[Later] Now I’ve gotten politispam from Glen Maxey on behalf of Howard Dean. I like Howard Dean. This is disappointing.

A night of surreal sights and sounds

The Alamo Drafthouse was having a “stag night” downtown. Gwen and I thought this sounded like fun, so we hied ourselves on down. There were a couple layers of difference between what I was expecting and what we saw. I was expecting, you know, stag movies. Grainy black-and-white porno shorts where the guy’s eyes had black bars across them. In fact, what they had planned to show was a more conventional porno movie, Fantasex Island (not even in the IMDB, but hey, look, it is in the Adult Film Database, mysteriously listing Holly Near in the credits!).

Well, it turns out that, according to the jackbooted thugs at the TABC, establishments that serve alcohol cannot show porno. So the people putting on the stag show edited it down to the non-pornographic parts–about five minutes (which, frankly, was enough)–and ran that.

For the main feature, they showed something much stranger: Sinful Dwarf, AKA “The Abducted Bride.” This was an English-language Danish horror movie, where a depraved dwarf and his hideous, washed-up showbiz mother lure young women into their attic, get them hooked on heroin, and use them as sex slaves for hire. Part of the schtick was that the sound was turned off, and a crew of four (?) live performers in the room took over all the voices, sound effects, and music. As near as I could tell, they stuck pretty closely to the original dialog, adding in a few of their own zingers along the way.

[Later] It turns out that none of the people in this movie have a Bacon number higher than 4. Amazing.

So, okay, that was weird. Watching it, we wondered two things: 1. What ever made anyone think that the movie had any artistic or commercial merit? and 2. How in the hell did somebody in Austin ever find this stinker and decide it would be fit to show in public?

After that was done, we then headed over to the Ritz for a night of ukulele music. The opening act was Sonic Uke (a great name that unfortunately appears to have been taken already). The three members all work at Cafe Mundi, so they were more or less familiar to me. The guy singing was doing a Bill-Murray-Lounge-Singer routine, and the chick had on a bizarre wig (as did Carl, on the uke). Most of their material was pretty weird, but not unpleasant–they do have musical talent, and they weren’t going out of their way to conceal it.

They were followed by Shorty Long, which always puts on a good show. The Ritz was filling up at this point, and not a lot of people really seemed to be into them, for some reason.

The third act was probably what most people came for: Petty Booka. A couple of Japanese chicks who cover a wide range of pop and country numbers in their quasi-Hawaiian style (along with some original numbers). I’d heard their stuff before, and appreciated it for the novelty value (which is high), but seeing them live, I realized that they really had serious musical talent, singing in harmony that reminded me a little of David Seville and a lot of a 60s girl-group like the Ronettes. I expected to see just the two of them–in fact they were backed up by a standup bass, guitar, and a very young-looking but talented Mexican guy on a slide reverb guitar. They covered everyone from the Ramones to Patsy Cline. Great show.

There was a fourth act on the bill, the Meat Purveyors, but I’ve heard them and it was already pretty late, so we left.


Had lunch with Gwen at Saltillo Plaza, the train station to nowhere on East 5th St. The place is going crazy with wisteria.

France fest

Not sure how I got on this mailing list, but I just received a notice of an upcoming event at Escapist Bookstore called (in an unfortunate apparent confusion of Spanish and French) “Viva la France.” From the message:

Womens of Masse Production bring you Viva la France!, a party honoring French culture in particular and American diversity in general. With food, drink, live music by Dakota Smith, and readings of French literature by local notables. Thumb your nez at wine-dumping, the breaking of windows of French-owned businesses (in Austin, Chez Nous was a recent victim), and other anti-Frenchist stupidity, and celebrate open-mindedness and the human spirit.

The details are:
This Friday: March 2, 6–10 pm

Escapist Bookstore

2209 South 1st St., #D

$3 donation suggested, no one turned away for lack of $

Call 912-1777 or visit for more info

In related news, I had lunch at the Fredericksburg Brewery yesterday, where the “French” in “French fries” had been blacked out on the menus.

Celis is back

At Central Markup yesterday, I noticed a familiar label out of the corner of my eye. I almost failed to give it a second thought, but realized “Hey, that’s Celis beer!” I asked the beer-and-wine guy about it. Turns out the Michigan Brewing Company has bought Pierre Celis’ copper kettles and recipes, and is running his exact formulas (apparently a condition of the sale). For the time being they’re just making White and Pale Bock; I’m awaiting the return of Grand Cru.

Just in time for summer.

Also spotted at the store: complete turduckens for $80. Quite a sight.

Name dropping

A couple people suggested that I should go to Bruce Sterling’s for the post SXSWi party he was throwing. Although I prefer to get invitations from the host, I decided to show up anyhow. After all, he lives just a few blocks away…

Being there was sort of like being at a wrap-party for a Hollywood blockbuster, only all the celebrities are geek celebrities, not beautiful-people celebrities. Ben Trott and his lovely wife Mena. Anil Dash, who I spoke with for a bit. Cory Doctorow. Dan Gillmor. Probably lots of other people I should have recognized but didn’t (at one point, Anil buttonholed some former Pyra employee to corroborate a point about features for Blogger Pro that existed in the beta but were dropped from the final). A little while after I got there, Gwen joined me.

Gwen and I chatted with Rebecca Blood at some length, and told her details of the construction of the house we were in–I had never been there before, but had seen it under construction. We talked about 37th Street, right around the corner, where I used to live.

In one of Bruce Sterling’s earlier novels, The Artificial Kid, the story opens with his protagonist surrounded by a swarm of his own tiny, flying cameras; he edits the footage of his life down later and makes it generally available (as do, apparently, many of his peers). Although this bears a vague resemblance to a certain popular activity today (cough-blogging-cough), what recalled this to my mind last night was seeing a trashy-pretty woman approaching the Sterling residence with a tiny digital camera in hand. She was holding it high and shooting pictures of herself as she walked up.

War Leaflets

Shortly after Bush’s Thursday-night “get ready for war” speech, a variety of anti-war leaflets (clearly run off on a laser printer in a hurry) were stapled to utility poles around my neighborhood. By Sunday morning, these had been joined by leaflets reading “TERRORISM IS WAR,” (clearly run off on an inkjet printer in a hurry) which I can only suppose is an anti-anti-war message.

I just went out to get pictures of these, but they’re all gone.

Blog Day Afternoon

The community of Austin Bloggers agreed to have a “blog day” today, where we’d all write about the same topic, being “what would you do with four free hours in Austin?”

When I think of things to do in Austin, I think of doing things outdoors. My ideal four hours would probably consist of a bike ride on 360, a little time hanging out at Barton Springs, and something to eat–preferably seated outside (though Austin has a relative paucity of outdoor dining venues).

Curiously, today turned out to be exactly the wrong kind of day to contemplate things to do in Austin: our weather was unusually cold, with freezing rain in the evening. In fact, today’s weather is probably in the top-five bad winter weather days I’ve seen in Austin.

This winter (such as it is) has been especially gray. Austin is known for its heat, but one thing that may be as important, but less noted, is its sunshine. I think Austin averages about 300 sunny days a year, and when we are deprived of the sun for any length of time, it tells on the residents. Everyone complains about how gray things are. The weekend just past was warm, bright, and sunny, giving us a break in weather that hasn’t been downright awful, just blah and gray. Everyone was out enjoying the respite. Today the blahs returned with a vengeance.

In three months, we’ll be ramping up for a typical summer under a hammer-like sun, and we’ll be downright nostalgic for weather like this. At the moment, though, it’s just depressing.

Room to let

I’ve got a room to rent in my house. I’ve been having a hard time filling it: I’ve been advertising the vacancy for a little over a month. Usually doesn’t take this long to find a renter, and this time, I’ve had very few respondents to my ad (and fewer who are remotely appropriate). It makes me wonder whether the lousy local economy is causing an exmigration of people looking for greener pastures, though I’m not sure where that’d be. Well, I’ve always complained about Austin getting too big. Guess I’m getting what I wanted.

I did have one likely suspect at the end of last month. A tall, attractive woman in her late thirties. Self-employed, she had recently moved here from San Francisco hoping to find a new market. She liked the place, and after calling her references, I was satisfied with her. I offered her the room, and she said she’d drop off the deposit check the next day. She didn’t. She called me to tell me she was moving back to San Francisco instead.

A few days ago, another candidate came by. A tall, attractive woman in her late thirties. Self-employed, she had recently moved here from Tennessee. She was enthusiastic about the place. I checked her references and was satisfied. I e-mailed her, offering her the room. No reply for over a day. Then she writes back to tell me she was moving back to Tennessee.


I’ve got a woman who just moved here from Houston coming by tomorrow…

Duplex zoning changes and the Internet

The city of Austin is taking public comment via a web-form regarding some proposed code amendments that would affect duplexes and two-unit homes.

It’s interesting: just last week, the Economist had a big section on the Internet society (not to be confused with the Internet Society), including one article on direct democracy and how the Internet will change it. Taking public comment via a web form seems like a good example.


Gwen and I tried out Ruta Maya in its new digs last night, bizarrely located between a strip joint and a country radio station. Nice place though — it’s sort of a hodgepodge of two walls from an old industrial building that have been sandblasted to within an inch of their life, and bridged by the kind of insta-building architecture that usually house welding shops and the like. But it actually feels quite comfortable inside, though a little empty.

In less happy news, Flightpath has a problem.

I’ve been a regular at Flightpath for…a long time. Let’s say eight years for the sake of argument, but it might be nine or ten. It occupies part of what was once an auto-repair shop, When it first opened, it occupied a small chunk, with a large area in back left unfinished. Over the years, the previous owner, Terry, finished out the remaining space in a couple of phases, until Flightpath came to occupy its entire “slice” of the building.

Here’s the problem: The City of Austin mandates that all businesses have a certain number of parking spaces proportional to their square footage (the ratio depends on business type). When Flightpath opened, it was fine. But at some point, its square footage exceeded its available parking. This didn’t become a problem until someone who lives near Flightpath began bugging the city about Flightpath’s lack of parking. Flightpath is a popular place, especially at night, and evidently people were parking in front of this guy’s house. He didn’t like that, discovered that Flightpath was out of compliance with this regulation, and went on a crusade.

The current owners of Flightpath tried to make some creative accommodations for the city’s requirements, but evidently the squeaky wheel kept on squeaking. Last Thursday, an inspector said they had to wall off their back room by Monday. And so they did.

There is so much wrong with this picture that I don’t know where to begin.

  • I have always objected to the parking/floor space ratio requirements. It flies in the face of the city’s nominal policy of–and my preference for–urban densification. For a place like a coffee shop, it creates an added burden in terms of rent. For a neighborhood joint like Flightpath, it is also unfair in the sense that it gets more bike and foot traffic than other locations might. Mine was one of five bikes on the rack today.
  • I have never understood the objection to street parking. It’s a city. Of course people park on the street. It’s not illegal. If you don’t like it, move to the country. Or at least shut up and let us city dwellers live in a real city.
  • Although Flightpath now has about half of its floor space closed off, it is still paying rent on all of it. I don’t know how long it can manage.
  • Flightpath has become a very popular neighborhood hangout, but its ability to do business–and the ability of many neighborhood residents to continue enjoying it–is being threatened essentially by one crank. Flightpath is also noteworthy for being one of the first places in town to install free wireless Internet access.

Flightpath is going to be seeking a waiver on the parking requirement, and at some point, this post is going to be reworded and sent as a letter to the City Council.


Still more news about GeoURL.

Joshua Shachter, who is responsible for GeoURL, has created a simple interface between it and Movable Type. This allows individual archive entries in MT to automatically generate the appropriate tags, and to ping GeoURL.

I’ve already begun putting this to work in a local blog-thing, so that local real-world places of interest can get in on the GeoURL action. Things are still very tentative and rough, but check it out: AustinURL.

Local metablogging

We’re on the cusp of something interesting with blogging in Austin, I can feel it.

I attended the first local blog meetup some months ago, and have gone somewhat erratically since. A result of that meeting was the Austin group blog, which hasn’t seen a great deal of action. There’s also a quirky index of local bloggers (some quirk has omitted me from it, anyhow).

More recently, GeoURL has blown things open, as local bloggers everywhere have been able to semi-automatically discover each other merely by registering themselves. This has created a rush of enthusiastic energy here in Austin (and quite likely elsewhere). It prompted Adina to put together a self-aggregating local blog that uses trackback technology to harvest entries from independent blogs. And I’m working on something that is not yet ready for prime time, but will use GeoURL as a way to create pins on a virtual map for local attractions. Next step will be to merge that with Adina’s project, somehow.

An early spring

The new year is only three days old, and despite a mild freeze last night, it feels like spring. I noticed the mountain laurel outside Gwen’s place was covered in buds this morning. When I got home, I discovered that, despite my utter lack of care for the garden, the iris, rose, and skyflower were all in bloom.

The “akemashite” in the Japanese new-year’s greeting, akemashite omedetou is a homophone for the word for “opening.” That seems especially apt right now.

Blue Genie Bazaar

Went to the Blue Genie Bazaar last night. Numerous exhibitors, and a generally high quality of stuff. There was one maker of very nice art glass selling his stuff for embarrassingly low prices.

The Blue Genies–three guys doing commercial art–have a wickedly funny style. One of their pieces was a giant replica of a handheld vacuum cleaner sculpted from an enormous Rice-Krispie treat.