Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pedernales Falls

Even though the falls didn't have that much water in them, I declare Pedernales Falls State Park to be lovely! I'd like to go back and do some of the hiking trails -- we spent all our time crawling over rocks, sliding through sand, and looking at beautiful blue water.

Further photographic evidence here.

[And if you are interested, the rest of my pictures from the LBJ ranch are here.]

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Farm Life

My parents were in town for a visit over the weekend, and for a little day trip we headed out to the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site between Johnson City and Fredericksburg, before finishing our afternoon at Pedernales Falls State Park. I don't have all my pictures up yet, but I do have some shots of my favorite surprise of the trip: the Sauer-Beckmann Farmstead.

The Farmstead (which is part of the LBJ State Park) is a "living farm" where interpreters in period clothing plant, cook, clean, and live like it is still 1918. This was particularly effective on our visit, since it was a cool Monday morning and there was only one other tourist in the park. All the farm buildings and the farmhouse are open and filled with turn-of-the century equipment and furnishings. There are no velvet ropes or interpretive signs, which made it really seem like we were intruding on these old timey people as they fried up their sausage in the kitchen (we came around lunchtime), hoed the sweet potatoes in the garden, and scrubbed the floor with homemade lye soap (pictured above). The docents pitched their story just right, and didn't come off too practiced or hokey. The best part of it is that most of the time they just left you alone to explore the farm, take pictures, and watch the chickens, sheep, turkeys, and cows that wandered around loose.

Since I was really only mildly interested in the "Texas Whitehouse" and LBJ's ranch (although they were also pretty neat), this was a lovely surprise. Everyone should go! But try to do it when no one else is around so that you can have your run of the living farm...

[Note: Best thing of all -- the LBJ State Park and Historic Site are 100% free, now that they are letting cars drive through on a self-guided tour of the ranch instead of making you pay to take a tour bus. Although you do have to pay $1 for a guided tour of LBJ's office, the only room in the "Texas Whitehouse" that has been opened since Ladybird's death.]

[Growing set of pictures from the weekend, including the living farm, here.]

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Please enjoy the scariest pumpkin ever, carved by my sister, Jill. Try not to have nightmares:

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Blindness (1997)

The lovely Julia lent me a copy of José Saramago's 1997 novel Blindness, and I would go so far as to say it is one of the best novels I've read in a long time.

In a contemporary unnamed city, a man goes blind while sitting in his car waiting for the light to change. A stranger helps him home and his wife takes him to the optometrist. Nothing seems to be wrong with his eyes so the doctor sends him home to await more tests in the morning. But that night, while researching the strange eye problem, the doctor goes blind too. And the stranger who brought the man home. And the other patients in the waiting room at the doctor's office. The government quickly orders a quarantine of all the people struck by the "white blindness" in an abandoned mental institution. The population grows and grows and the social order quickly deteriorates. Yet one woman, the doctor's wife, inexplicably retains her sight.

This book is filled with large and small allegories and written in an experimental style with page-long sentences, unusual punctuation, and little explanation of who is saying what and if thoughts were spoken or only thought. And yet, it also has a clear narrative, strong characters, and draws an overwhelming picture of a horrifying and desolate world that is occasionally pierced by hopefulness and life. And the ending was perfect.

You should read this one...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Soured on Beer and Given to Claims

Yay! Achewood Volume IX: Soured on Beer and Given to Claims has made it to my door! Any true Achewood fan should not be without this fine collection of selected strips that originally ran from September 2006 through May 2007, including one of my favorite story arcs -- Mister Band (which you can read online starting here). Yay for Achewood! But when will they announce the Austin date for the book tour?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Man Who Ate Everything (1997)

The always lovely choo lent me Jeffrey Steingarten's The Man Who Ate Everything (1997) quite awhile ago and it somehow got buried in my pile even though I love food, I love reading, and I love reading about food.

This is an enjoyable collection of essays originally published in Vogue , HG, and Slate, by Steingarten, a lawyer-turned-food-writer. The author is at his best when he obsessively attacks a food-related question (how do you make the perfect pie crust? can microwaved fish taste good? what is the best-tasting ketchup?) by concocting messy experiments in his kitchen, interviewing experts, and pouring over the scientific literature. I also love it when he gets all crotchety and debunks common food myths (low-fat is good! alcohol is bad! meat is bad! salt is bad!). Some of the essays are a little dated (like a weirdly gushing piece about how awesome Olestra is), and Steingarten's humor is definitely more suited to a single piece of journalism than a whole book. This one is way more fun to read if you space it out over time instead of plowing through one piece after the other, but definitely worth dipping into.

Yay food!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Stop Looking at Me!

Ah, Flickr, I never know what weird connections you will bring about. I already know that if I tag one of my photos with "boob" or "feet" or "pee" it will suddenly become very popular. I had no idea that there is a whole group out there who are totally turned on by women wearing bandanas. That last link isn't really safe for work, although it isn't particularly graphic or anything. If you don't mind people seeing you look at a mixture of pornish-looking pictures of women tied up with bandanas together with obviously personal shots of people just wearing bandanas, then go for it. I've got no problem with someone like Flickr user sexybutt99 (if that is his real name) liking to look at some bondage photos, but seriously dude, me wearing a bandana while I am out hiking is not an invitation for you to favorite my picture and try to add it to your group pool. Ew.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

At the Earth's Core (1914)

Way back before I went on vacation last week, I seem to recall reading Edgar Rice Burroughs' 1914 book At the Earth's Core. This is the first book in Burroughs' Hollow Earth series, the second of which I uncharacteristically read first. Obviously that didn't trip me up much since I give a pretty solid run down of the plot of this book in my review of the second book. The only thing I can really add after actually reading the first book in the series is that adorable tiny little whales live in some of the ponds on Pellucidar, but that doesn't stop our hero from catching them and eating them raw when he is on the run from the freaky lizard rulers of the inner-earth kingdom.

Like much of Burroughs, this is a fun and dated sci-fi/adventure novel, but if you like that kind of thing (and I surely do), then you can't go wrong with the manly hero, freaky creatures, and staunch early 20th century American idealism of this series.

[My copy (which features the cover pictured above) is a 1976 Nelson Doubleday Book Club edition, produced to accompany that year's film of the same name. To make it even sweeter, it features 8 black and white photo stills from the movie, which starred Peter Cushing and Doug McClure (half the namesake of Troy McClure, who I'm sure you remember). And if you can't get your hands on your own copy, then read the whole thing online here.]

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Get Big Bended

Big Bend was beautiful -- I'm so glad I decided to overcome my fear of peeing outside and my general dislike of bugs and sleeping on the ground to go camping for a few days. Of course no pictures ever do any big awesome nature experience justice, but I tried. There were lots of landscapes, plants, pictures of me that I took myself, hiking, camping, spiders (okay not lots of spiders, but definitely one big one), and friends.

I'm still slowly getting back to "real life," but luckily that feeling of deep relaxation has stayed with me for a few days. Yay for vacation!

[Exhaustive photographic evidence here]

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Reaclimating to the indoor life...

It involves sleeping like a rock, being way less productive than anticipated, going through my pictures, drinking a bunch of coffee, doing a ton of laundry, going to the grocery store (hopefully soon or I'll end up eating more trail mix), and catching up on those crazy internets.

I had a wonderful time, my friends are the best in the world, and I am very relaxed even with all these "things" I have to "do."

More later...

Friday, October 03, 2008

Oh yeah!

I almost forgot to mention, I'm going on vacation today for several days of West Texas & Big Bend fun! I anticipate having an awesome time. See you all next week!

[Photo courtesy of Joolie because I haven't been out there yet. But when I get back, expect a photo explosion.]

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

To Dr. M:

Happy Anniversary to my only boyfriend who isn't secret. Click here to feel four years of love (previous five years mostly not pictured)....