Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Central Market Extends Hours

In keeping with our policy of giving you the latest in grocery store news as soon as I randomly stumble onto it, the H-E-B Central Market at 4001 N. Lamar moved its closing time up to 10pm last week.

I've found that the best time to shop there crowd-wise during non-business hours is around closing time on a Sunday or Monday night. This gives you one more hour to do that.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Ron Titter on the Northside This Friday

"Dammit, it's been too long since The Ron Titter Band played on the north side of town!" If I had a nickel for every time I'd heard a hot chick say that, I'd still be broke.

Nevertheless, we will be returning to North Austin gigdom on Friday, March 2 at the Parlor on North Loop. The Electricks start the show at 9pm, Candi & the Cavities melt our hearts (and teeth) at 10pm, then we play until they turn out the lights.

So come on out, folks. There's no cover, the pizza is hot, the beer is cheap and parking is plentiful. What better way to rock it like Davy Crockett on Texas Independence Day?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Island of Misfit Texans

My longtime work colleague Larry Cuellar has a good essay in today's Austin American-Statesman about the liberation of living the unremarkable good life in Austin after growing up gay in the Texas Panhandle.

Most every native Texan who settled in Austin after growing up maligned for their differences will easily relate. Click on through right here.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Lenten Workplace Cussing Moratorium: Week 1

Wednesday, February 21
1 hell, 1 bitch

Thursday, February 22
2 hells

Friday, February 23

*It should be noted that there was only one other person in my six-cube pod on Friday, which reduced my cuss triggers considerably.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Wal-Mart, Lincoln Propose Small Changes to Northcross Plan

According to Thursday's Statesman, Wal-Mart and Lincoln Property Company have proposed several changes to the contentious Northcross Mall Supercenter plan in response to neighborhood concerns. The proposed changes include:
  • Closing the store from 1-5am
  • Cutting 6,000 square feet from the store
  • Not having gas or automotive services on the property
  • More sidewalks, landscaping and lighting
  • Requiring trucks to use the U.S. 183 to Burnet Road route when making deliveries
  • Adding a turn lane at Burnet and Anderson
  • Adding a turn lane on Northcross Drive
  • No RV parking
Although I’m still no fan of Wal-Mart for lots of reasons not related to the Northcross redevelopment, these changes are baby steps in the right direction. I'm in favor of keeping trucks off Ohlen Rd. (a residential arterial with bike routes) and I think keeping the store open 24 hours would be a considerable drag on police in the area. On the downside, cutting a measly 6,000 feet from the store's footprint does nothing and I'm not sure an extra turn lane is going to mitigate gridlock at Burnet and Anderson, which is already pretty bad at peak times.

Not surprisingly, Responsible Growth for Northcross is nonplussed by these changes, which is sort of ironic since it is unlikely that any of them would be happening without their vocal opposition. I hope RG4N keeps up the pressure. While their “No Wal-Mart” stance may not carry the day, it continues to push the middle ground in the right direction.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

My Girl Thursday

Speaking of important developments in Austin business, congratulations are in order for Kate, who will be starting as a full-time reporter for the Austin Business Journal next month.

You go, girl!

Whole Foods Sows Wild Oats for $700 Million

Whole Foods Market announced Wednesday that it would buy Boulder, Colorado-based Wild Oats Market in a deal worth $700 million. The Austin-based natural foods behemoth hopes the purchase will shore up its market position in the Rocky Mountain region, Florida and the West Coast. It will also give Whole Foods a bigger beachhead to compete against Trader Joe’s.

We have two Wild Oats stores in Austin that operate under the name Sun Harvest. The Rockwood Lane location is currently the only grocery store within reasonable walking distance of my house, so I go there a lot.

There is a world of difference between Whole Foods and Sun Harvest. Despite its quasi-hippie beginnings, Whole Foods is primarily beholden to people who don’t have to worry about the well-earned “Whole Paycheck” moniker. Aside from their 360 line, virtually everything in that store constitutes a “special” purchase in my ledger. It’s always fun to visit the Whole Foods flagship at 6th and Lamar to eat samples and maybe order a smoothie, but I can’t imagine buying a week’s worth of groceries there.

I like to think of Sun Harvest as Whole Foods for those of us who’d like to shop at Whole Foods if it wasn’t so damn expensive. You see a fair amount of sustenance-level progressive types driving sad-ass beaters covered in political bumper stickers at Sun Harvest. I like that. It’s probably a little like Whole Foods was when it first started. The quality and selection are nowhere near as good (or as healthy, for that matter), but their produce deals are sometimes even better than H-E-B’s. I also like Sun Harvest because it’s small and I can get out of there in a hurry.

Regardless of the Whole Foods deal, my Sun Harvest was endangered from the moment Wal-Mart announced it was building a Supercenter at Northcross Mall. The fancy new Whole Foods going in at the Domain will probably seal the store’s fate unless Whole Foods has plans to develop a “neighborhood store” concept there.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Getting the Lent Out

Although I'm not Catholic, I've been trying to give up something for Lent in recent years in an effort to improve my life and rectify my sometimes-galling lack of self-discipline.

This year, I've decided to give up cussing in the workplace. I've been working in the same government office since 1995. If you find a job you can peaceably coexist with and stay there long enough, there's a very good chance you’ll eventually find it impossible to continue hiding your true self in the name of workplace decorum. My problem is that my true self likes to cuss. A lot.

Consequently, I’m rarely able to make it through the workday anymore without cussing out loud at least once. Despite a general loosening of the silk noose, it is still considered unprofessional in most non-sporting quarters to proffer such colloquial observations as, “I can’t fucking believe we have to do this shit!”

I’m pretty careful about only doing this among my closest colleagues who I know and trust, but if I don't take steps to reign myself in, I know I’ll eventually say something less-than-couth in front of someone who won’t let it slide. Therefore, at 8am this morning, I vowed not to say another cuss word at the office until Easter Sunday.

By 10am this morning, I had already broken the aforementioned vow with an inadvertent “hell.” A "bitch" followed around 3pm this afternoon. So much for self-discipline. Maybe I should just limit my commitment to words you can’t say on broadcast TV.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Welcome Letter from the Hotel Aftermath

Dear Troops,

Thank you so much for signing up to fight our war for us.

We appreciate you risking your lives to protect our freedom. Just look at how often we invoke your sacrifice. From slapping magnetic yellow ribbons on the back of our vehicles to deeming anyone who doubts our glorious motives guilty of treason, we are behind you 110 percent for the duration of this global war on terror.

But make sure you get adequate health care when you arrive back in the States? Get the fuck out of here!

The Republican Party

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Morning at the Marathon

Kate and her East Coast pals Caitie and Annie ran the AT&T Austin Half Marathon this morning. A half marathon is 13.1 miles. Kate ran this distance in just under two hours and 21 minutes.

I took this photo right after Kate crossed the finish line at Congress and 4th. I don't think she looks like she just ran 13.1 miles at all. I'd be curled up in a fetal position and covered in my own sick after the first mile.

The three runners were hungry, so I offered to take them to Las Manitas. The food was good and I felt bad telling Caitie and Annie that Las Manitas would probably be replaced by a lame-ass Marriott before too long. I felt even worse when it came time to pay and I discovered my wallet was not in my pants. I must pat myself on the back for not having ruined the tranquility of Sunday brunch by lauching into an anxious, profanity-peppered tirade.

Nevertheless, this was bad. I left my digital camera at Las Manitas as collateral and ran back to North Austin to see if I'd left my wallet at home, wondering the entire time if it had been picked from my pocket while I was watching the marathon. Thankfully, it was right where I left it. A truly unpleasant situation became merely embarrassing.

Life lesson #4,326: Always feel around for your money before offering to buy anyone brunch.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Friday Night is Family Night

In honor of it being Friday night, here is ABC's "Friday Night is Family Night" promo from 1970, featuring The Brady Bunch, Nanny and the Professor and The Partridge Family. Now that was television!

Cold As Ice

Northcross Mall ice rink owner Chaparral Ice Center issued a press statement this week saying it is “caught in the crossfire” of neighborhood opposition to the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter at Northcross. Chaparral signed a lease with Dallas-based mall owner Lincoln Properties last July to open a new ice rink in the former Beall’s Department Store building where I once bought a flannel shirt for $4 from a farting salesman.

If Responsible Growth for Northcross seeks a court injunction to halt construction of the Supercenter, Chaparral says the resulting business interruption could cost the company “up to a million dollars” and result in bankruptcy. Virtually everyone involved in this debate loves the ice rink, so it would be nice if both sides worked to avoid a scenario in which Chaparral is left out in the cold, so to speak.

That said, Chaparral’s statement seems to place the entire onus for their potential financial woes at the feet of RG4N. The carefully-parsed statement below sounds like it was written by Lincoln’s PR department.

“We want all those who are contributing to RG4N’s litigation against the City of Austin and Lincoln Properties to know that they are helping to fund the possible bankruptcy of at least one of the local businesses they claim to be protecting,” says Chaparral president Charles Collins. “It’s not that we are defending Wal-Mart or even that we disagree with RG4N’s desire to see a mixed-use development of the site in principle. We only wish for them to consider our concerns, and other tenants’ concerns, and amend their legal course of action accordingly.”

Here’s some free PR advice – if you’re ever “caught in the crossfire” in Austin, it’s never a good idea to hide behind someone from Dallas.

Mission to Mars

Kate and I went to Mars for Valentine’s Day dinner. Despite the inevitable crowd and the fact we were seated in the line of cold wind blowing through the door, it was a memorable meal.

Choosing from the prix fixe menu, we both started with the lobster bisque and pickled ginger tuna tartar with crispy wontons. The latter dish had a very nice mix of flavors without being particularly spicy. It was quite sizable and filling, too.

We diverged on our entrĂ©e choices. Kate had the lollipop pork chop, wok fried Yukon potatoes, and grilled radicchio with a sun-dried cherry sauce, while I went with the beef tenderloin with grilled asparagus, risotto cakes, and sake demi glace. Mars’ tenderloin wasn’t quite as memorable as the Driskill Grill’s, but the risotto cakes were a nice, chewy counterpart to the beef.

For dessert, Kate had the triple mousse, consisting of milk chocolate, caramel, and cinnamon served with warm apple confit. I had Mars’ tribute to the Dreamsicle, which was Dreamsicle vanilla bean panna cotta and blood orange sorbet topped with mint granita and a white chocolate Florentine. Both were sublime. The mint granita made me feel like I was about to start tripping, or maybe that was just the wine.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Merck Money Trail

As much as I think we need to provide the HPV vaccine to Texas girls, I’m no longer convinced Rick Perry’s executive order was a smart way to go about it. It would’ve been better just to hash it out in the Legislature.

A report released earlier this week by Texans for Public Justice does a good job of mapping the Merck money trail. I found the following paragraph particularly enlightening.

There would have been much less controversy if the governor had promoted the vaccine differently. It would have been different if he fast-tracked vaccine-mandate legislation—rather than resorting to executive fiat. It would have been different if he had held a prime-time press conference—rather than issuing a statement late on the Friday preceding the Super Bowl. He further invited controversy by granting vaccine maker Merck & Co. a statewide monopoly without concessions—rather than negotiating a deep vaccine discount for poor Texans. Finally, there would have been fewer questions if this initiative came from a longtime champion of women’s health—rather than an official previously AWOL on health policies.

It was my previous suspicion that Perry issued his order to circumvent legislative debate on the vaccine as a favor to his far right colleagues who didn’t want to be forced into becoming mouthpieces for batty religionists who don’t want to lose HPV as a “punishment” for sex they don't like.

The fact that so many Republican legislators have come out against the order proves that theory wrong, but I still don’t think he’d sell out his far right constituency for a measly $6,000. There's got to be more to this. Just how deep in Perry's pocket is former chief of staff-turned-Merck lobbyist Mike Toomey?

Wipe that smirk off your face!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

My Girlfriend is Worcester Famous

Kate made the front page of the sports section of her hometown newspaper in Worcester, Massachusetts!

Go there now (but bring a coat, because it's about 15 degrees outside) to read all about her upcoming Texas 4000 bike ride from Austin to Alaska this summer to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

The 70-day ride is the longest annual charity bike ride on the planet. In addition to raising at least $4,000 each, the riders work to raise cancer awareness and bring hope to those fighting it. For information on how to donate to the Texas 4000, go here.

The print edition of today’s Worcester Telegram & Gazette also features this very lovely photo of Kate in front of the UT Tower.

UPDATE: Turns out Kate's pic wasn't in the print edition, which makes this photo a Beetsolonely exclusive (cue oh-Jesus-we're-going-to-die "Fox News Alert" ID)!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Dr. Tran in "Roybertito's"

I saw this 2005 Dr. Tran clip (possibly NSFW) for the first time two Fridays ago during Spike and Mike's Festival of Sick and Twisted Animation at the Alamo Drafthouse.

It was easily the funniest clip of the evening. I almost peed myself from laughing so hard.

Okay, I did pee myself. But only a little.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Mind Was There, But The Body Was Weak

Well, I didn't make it to the Northcross Mall protest against Wal-Mart and Lincoln Properties this morning. I was still in bed in a different ZIP code, so sue me.

I feel a little bad because they only got about half as many people as they wanted, but that's what you get for scheduling a protest in Austin at 10am on a Saturday morning. I know the Northside ain't 78704, but there are plenty of us who still keep musician's hours. I'm sure they could've gotten 5,000 people if they would've started at noon.

Even so, mobilizing approximately 2,500 people at that time of day is pretty impressive.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Let's Get Physical

Since I’ve been ragging on state Sen. Jane Nelson a bit lately, I’m glad to be able to say something nice about her today. The former teacher from the Dallas suburb of Lewisville has filed a legislative mandate requiring that students in grades K-8 get at least 30 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity every day.

Daily physical education – as opposed to recess – is not a bad idea in an age where chicken-fried dietary habits, over-reliance on cars, awesome advances in gaming and fear of letting kids play outside have rendered more than a third of Texas schoolchildren overweight. Daily physical education was required in Texas until 1995, when the Lege overhauled education laws to focus more on academics.

The only problem with Nelson’s mandate is that it comes with no funds attached. Without any money to hire new staff, this could easily wind up like my 1982 middle school gym class, where you’d show the football coach the elastic band of your blue P.E. shorts underneath your street clothes before loitering in the bleachers for 45 minutes while the coaches retired to their office to smoke cigarettes and mull over game plans. The only thing I learned was that I didn’t like undressing my scrawny, hairless form in front of other boys, especially the ones who were already sporting moustaches.

I take it on faith that Nelson wouldn’t have approved of this any more than I did.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Saturday Showdown at Northcross

Responsible Growth for Northcross is planning a big protest this Saturday at Northcross Mall. They're hoping to get 5,000 people to link arms around the mall for 10 minutes at 10am to protest Wal-Mart and Lincoln Properties' refusal to address neighborhood concerns regarding the ridiculously large Wal-Mart Supercenter the two corporations want to build at Northcross. The event will kick off a city-wide boycott of Wal-Mart.

I'm not much for protesting, especially if it involves touching a stranger, but I'll probably head down there to help ensure a good turnout. As for the boycott, I haven't purchased anything from Wal-Mart in two years, so no problem there.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Do You Want Easy Girls to Get Cancer?

This is the question that constituents and reporters need to ask every far right god bully in the Texas Legislature who opposes Governor Rick Perry’s executive order requiring all Texas schoolgirls entering sixth grade to receive the HPV vaccine.

Leading the charge is Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Lewisville), chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. On Monday, Nelson asked Perry to rescind his order, saying that the availability of a vaccine that can prevent most cases of cervical cancer does not constitute a public health emergency. Tell that to the 391 women in Texas who died last year of a potentially preventable cancer.

Nelson plans to ask state Attorney General Greg Abbott for an opinion on the legality of Perry’s order. Other Republican lawmakers are also filing bills to overturn the order.

I suspect Nelson’s bluster may be merely a carrot to placate the insane religionists who really do believe cervical cancer is god’s special gift to sluts. She’s not a stupid woman and it won’t help her political career to be forced into carrying water for moral degenerates who masturbate to Revelations. I can’t imagine Perry doing this without letting Nelson know about it first.

Meanwhile, Perry issued a statement to the faithful on Monday explaining that his order would do more than just keep sexually active young women from getting HPV.

"In the past, young women who have abstained from sex until marriage have contracted HPV from their husbands and faced the difficult task of defeating cervical cancer," he said. "This vaccine prevents that from happening."

Put another way, have pity on the virtuous virginal brides whose white wedding was besmirched by HPV, but not necessarily the women who get the virus outside of marriage. I also love the sexist double standard that accepts non-abstinent, disease-carrying grooms without judgment.

Some Republicans are griping about how this order usurps parental authority. They are full of hard poo. State law continues to permit parents to not vaccinate their kids for religious or philosophical reasons.

I should have known Texas could not do something proactive like this without it turning into a sad and disgusting spectacle.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Mary Cheney Gets Some Savage Love

Poor Mary Cheney. She can’t comprehend why having a baby with her same sex partner would have anything to do with the war her political party is waging on gays and lesbians whose daddies aren’t the vice president.

Why can’t the big, bad media leave her and her partner alone with their widdle bwessing? After all, it’s a child, not a political prop, right?

Here’s renowned sex columnist Dan Savage explaining to Mary why she’s full of more than just a bundle of joy:

Mary, you worked on both of your father’s campaigns, and you kept your mouth clamped shut while Karl Rove and George Bush ran around the country attacking gay people, gay parents, and our children in 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006. It’s a little late to declare the private choices of gays and lesbians unfit for public debate, Mary.

And so long as your party insists on making the fitness of homosexuals to marry or parent — or, hell, exist — a subject of public debate, Mary, your decision to become a parent is germane and very much fit for public discussion and debate. The GOP’s selective embrace of some pregnant dykes - only knocked-up lesbians with powerful connections will be treated with respect - is a disconnect that demands answers. From you, from your father, from your venomous mother, from the idiot president you helped elect.

Savage does give Cheney credit for challenging James Dobson’s popcorn fart assertion that same sex parents are somehow damaging their kids more than traditionally-sexed breeders, but not for long…

You kept your mouth clamped shut when your father needed the political support of assholes like Dobson. And now that your dad is a despised lame-duck VP, dad’s gay-bashing political allies feel free to treat you with the same contempt with which they have long treated other gay and lesbians. And now you cry foul?

Sorry, Mary, and fuck you. You and your whole fucked-up family crawled into bed with bigots like Dobson when it suited you. And now you and your whole fucked-up family have some explaining to do. So welcome to the political debate, Mary, and remember…

Your side started it. It only serves you right that you’re going to have to finish it.

Amen to all that.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Steak 'N Shake Opens in Austin

Venerable Illinois fast food concern Steak 'N Shake has finally opened its first Austin location at 9300 S. IH-35, on the southbound service road just south of Slaughter Lane.

Steak 'N Shake will be serving their trademark Steakburgers, Midwestern-style Chili 5-way and hand-dipped shakes 24 hours a day. You even get to eat on china if you're not driving through.

The Sunday Statesman carried a coupon that'll get you a double Steakburger and shake for just $2.99. You'll have to pay extree for fries, though.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

ExpressJet Targets Austin with Nine Destinations

According to a route map on their website, Houston-based ExpressJet Airlines will begin nonstop regional jet flights from Austin to New Orleans, Corpus Christi, Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Jacksonville, Albuquerque, Tucson, and Ontario (Calif.) later this year. The “new” airline, recently spun off from Continental Airlines, is scheduled to make an official announcement on Monday, but scheduled launch dates can be found here.

This is a very ambitious launch, but I doubt whether there is enough steady traffic between Austin and Jacksonville to justify nonstop service. On the other hand, nonstops to Albuquerque, Tucson and Ontario could really give Southwest a run for their money here if the price is close enough.

Since every connection you make is another opportunity for weather delays, ground stops and lost luggage, I’ll gladly pay $25-30 more for a time-saving nonstop on an airline with assigned seating and XM Satellite Radio. If ExpressJet can leverage its former affiliation to allow passengers to bank Continental OnePass miles, that too will be a selling point.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Governor Orders Texas Girls to Get HPV Vaccine

I never say anything good about Rick Perry, but our governor did the right thing today by signing an executive order mandating that all Texas schoolgirls receive the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

Beginning in September 2008, all girls entering sixth grade will be required to get Merck's new Gardasil vaccine. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that causes genital warts, but its more virulent strains can lead to cervical cancer. Gardasil protects against the strains that cause about 70% of HPV-related cervical cancers, as well as the strains that cause 90% of genital warts. Parents may still opt out of vaccinating their kids for religious or philosophical reasons.

For once, Texas is out front on a social issue. I don’t care if Perry did it because his former chief of staff is now lobbying for Merck or to avoid an unpleasant God bullying session from combustible legislators in his own party. The order is sound public health policy that will prevent thousands of cervical cancer cases, saving both lives and money.

Now all we have to do is figure out how families of girls without health insurance will be able to afford the $360 Merck is charging for the three-shot regimen of Gardasil.