Politically Libertarian, Socially Conservative, Culturally Modernist

Status Quo Ante

Austin Dispatches No. 72
Oct. 24, 2004

For the first time in too long, I’m working in my own town, at a pretty good job for OK money.

Despite my expectation, Vignette is not an association of Franco-Russian teetotalers. Instead, it provides computer solutions for other businesses.1 Vignette shares the office building with Synopsys, but I can’t summarize that company.2

Vignette’s revising its internal policies to conform to the Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act, or Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.3 The law resulted from the pressure on the feds to do something about corporate shenanigans after bad news from Enron became too big to ignore. Enron, from what I’ve been reading, was at best an entertaining experiment as to what would happen to a company if its top people, all with various severe character and professional flaws, set about disregarding any sense of self-restraint and every known time-tested business practice.4 Well, entertaining in retrospect, at a remove, especially if you weren’t broken by working with or for the company. In other words, I benefit from others’ mistakes. Although macroeconomically, it’s a case of the broken-window fallacy.5

Now I work daily in a subterranean, gray cube farm,6 albeit one with a kitchenette stocked with free soda, coffee, flavored chips, and Pop Tarts.7 Oh yeah, and free beer on Friday afternoons.

My agency told me I blew away the competition for the job. All modesty aside, it’s nice to know at least one local business is capable of making a smart decision. I’ve had my doubts. Maybe, just maybe, Austin isn’t a thumb-sucking Hooverville after all.

Effectively, this puts me, financially and mentally, about where I was the same time of year in 2000. Now all I need is a woman.

I celebrated my new job at Mirabelle Restaurant, which I’d heretofore not tried.8 The hostess came back over to my table and said, “You look familiar. Where do I know you from?” Libertarian events, we concluded.

I invited her to the Contumacy party that night. The staff complained about the lack of women, at the party and in their lives. Like I was supposed to fix that for them? These guys don’t even know how to flirt. I suggested they learn to dance. They rejected that.

The new job comes amid ratcheting pre-election frenzy, and mastering my new computer system. I’ve been perusing various tomes detailing my new computer system and applications.9 I’ve learned much that Microsoft omits from its help files,10 although no single manual explains everything consistently well, which is why I have to peruse so many. For instance, I found out that Windows XP contains an underpublicized fax/modem application.11 RingCentral was useful to me on my old system, and I’ve had to do a lot more faxing lately. However, after an uneventful installation, I could neither send nor receive faxes, because the software couldn’t locate a dial tone. Moreover, my security software corralled a stampede of Trojan horses12 after I configured Microsoft Fax Console.

SBC, uncharacteristically helpful, told me I needed to install a line filter. But my physical layer configuration is underaccommodating.13 For now, I decided the fax is more trouble than it’s worth.

My next door neighbor, and Jessica Caplan both worked as volunteers at the Sep. 17-19 Austin City Limits Music Festival.14 I stumbled onto an even better way to see it for free. I watched parts of the festival on the Internet from the comfort of my apartment. I avoided traffic, parking, crowds, the heat,15 and bands I didn’t want to hear. The lineup was better than last year. According to the Chronicle, at least one of the acts I did want to see and couldn’t on the Net played a set plagued by bad sound.16

Between this, and being able to rent entire seasons of TV shows on DVD, I may never buy a television again.17 You’d think the TV industry would be wary of cannibalizing its future profitability like this, but then that’s not my problem. Although I did try to meet them part way. I plugged in a coaxial cable from my hard drive to the wall outlet. At best, I viewed ghostly patterns on Channel 7. On the other hand, most of the shows I wanted to watch are either off the air or available on DVD.

It’s the New Brew Review, and Other Excursions

Sep. 26: Caught the final performance of “Copyright Denied,” a mildly entertaining stage play at the Dougherty Arts Center.18 The cast included Bowie Ibarra, former Libertarian nominee for state comptroller.

Oct. 1: I incorporated my latest lessons, plus modified merengue moves too good to waste on merenge, into my dozens of turns on the floor with attractive women19 at the bi-annual Salsa Dance Festival at the Texas Union Ballroom.20 The last one I missed because of the flu. Unfortunately, I had to cut short my attendance at this because of parking restrictions around campus because of some ball game the next day.

Oct. 9: A new brewery, Independence Brewing Co., e-mailed me about a free launch party at its brewer in South Austin. I tried the wheat and pale versions. I didn’t finish either, and wolfed a chili-cheese dog to replace the taste in my mouth. Meanwhile, a bluegrass band picked in the background. I shouted out a request for something by the Sawtooth Mountain Boys.21 The musicians paused, looked at each other, put down their instruments, and slunk away in shame.

Earlier that day, I visited the Crockett Center for the bi-annual Austin Record Convention. I nearly bought a couple of recordings, but by the time I finished inspecting everyone’s wares, I forgot where I’d found what I wanted to buy.22

Oct. 16: The Westlake Farmers Market held its grand re-opening at the Toney Burger Athletic Center in Sunset Valley. I grazed the free samples from high-end producers and restaurants.23

Oct. 19: My work at Vignette headquarters makes for an easier starting point to reach downtown in the early evening. For example, Austin Chronicle after-hours party at the Cedar Street Courtyard in the Warehouse District. I went for the free food. Cedar Street’s immediate neighbors, Saba Blue Water Café and Malaga, supplied tasty yuppie pub grub.24 But the food was in limited quantities, the service was uneven – it took a good 40 minutes into the event to get forks – and the venue was plagued with various equipment problems. The whole thing probably encapsulates the reality of the Chronicle’s worldview.25 For a time, I speared chunks of meat and roasted potato with a plastic stirring straw. Then I fashioned the straw into pincers for the casserole – or was it a dip?

The next night, I attended the Mojo Martini Mixer in the VIP lounge at Fox & Hound.26 As usual with these events, the organizers invoked a lot of stupid rules that actually hindered the purpose of the event. For my part, I ignored their rules as thoroughly as possible. I paid $35 at the door to meet and woo women, not listen to guys who dressed like bond salesmen but behaved like Mr. Rogers.27 Guess who won that contest of wills.

I came to the mixer after a confluence of favorable circumstances, capped by a good day at work, so I exuded self-confident like an aftershave. I had my mojo working, but Mojo just didn’t work for me.28 Mostly because attendance was sparse.

Actually, the whole thing turned out to be a front for merchants to hawk their wares. You’d think I’d’ve learned by now.

Seven years ago, I answered a personal ad  in the Chronicle. I visited this woman at her house in the West Austin hills. I immediately liked the looks of this leggy, half-Portuguese brunette. Judging from her expression, she liked my looks, too. I should’ve seized her and ravished her on her living room carpet. Instead, we made the mistake of talking. Two bigger egos you never met. The mutual dislike mounted. What’s more, she was advertising to snare boyfriends and salesmen in some health-care product multilevel marketing plan.

One merchant thought she could fix me up. We’ll see. Somebody actually fixed me up last year, and I got dumped after two weeks and out 40 bucks.

Dating was so much easier in Phoenix. I met the barnburner on my second visit to a dating mixer, run every Saturday night in Scottsdale for $5. I filled out a questionnaire, the organizers entered it into a database, taped the questionnaire to a wall, and printed out matches every half hour. I zeroed in on the barnburner and chatted her up.

She looked at my questionnaire. “ ‘Seeks beautiful, intelligent woman for torrid affair,’ ” she read. Then she laughed. “Aren’t you modest.”

“Well, how about it? You interested in a torrid affair?”

She gave me a once over. Then she gave me another once over. Then she gave me her phone number. I called her up the next day, asked her out to dinner, and rest is Austin Dispatches archives.

Political Follies

Looks like there are tangible benefits to being a presidential elector for an insurgent party: Howard Phillips, president of The Conservative Caucus, and himself a former presidential candidate,29 mailed me a neato paperback, "The Importance of the Electoral College," by George Grant.30 Rest assured, I remain committed to voting for Michael Badnarik at the statehouse in December.

Down ballot, in U.S. House District 17, Chet Edwards’ Republican opponent is copying the rhetoric Paul Farris and I used against him when Paul ran in 2002. It was true then; it’s still true today.31

Cultural Canapés

AMG's Web site finally works, with an improvement. It has sound clips. In combination with BugMeNot,32 I can anonymously trawl through limitless recordings. In this manner, I finally listened to Frank Sinatra's collected Reprise studio recordings.33 They hold up far better, for far longer, than I expected. On the other hand, Dean Martin’s complete 1962-66 sessions chronicle his rapid descent into utter schlock.34 Not only is it cheesier than a fondue pot, it rivals any crap from that era the Boomers still swoon over.35

In other music notes, William Shatner has a new album, “Has Been.” Surprisingly, it’s actually pretty good. I liked more than half the tracks. That’s rare for a pop album these days.36

Non-movie advertisements played before the movie increasingly irritates me. It’s almost enough to keep me from the theaters altogether. Occasionally, I’ll see an ad that just perplexes me. A current soda commercial features Academy Award-winning actor Adrien Brody.37 I started speculating on his motivations. What did Brody tell his agent? “Now that the Oscar’s given me clout, let’s forget all these intense, character-driven arty dramas I kept getting scripts for. No, what I’d really like to do is a soft drink ad with a lot of rap music.” I was so preoccupied by my speculation, I didn’t even remember the brand. By contrast, I vividly remember the film “Tae Guk Gui: The Brotherhood of War,” which offers the visceral pleasure of seeing Commies killed by the thousands.38

More recently, the Three Stooges appeared in an ad for the first time since the late ‘80s. Those ads, while amusing, probably undercut that era’s Stoogemania. The Stooges could survive parental disapproval, but not the treacly embrace of the media-merchant-advertising complex.39

But seriously, folks, when I heard Rodney Dangerfield had fallen into a coma, I kept waiting for the punch line.40 Had he survived the whole procedure, I have no doubt he'd have mined it for stand-up material.41 The whole year has been one long obituary for cool people. Soon my generation’ll inherit the Earth and be sharing it with entertainment pygmies.

A copy editor at the Austin American-Statesman resurrected “zilch” for a headline in the Oct. 22 edition.42 I hadn’t seen the word used since about 1978. It’s good to see the “Z ” words zoom back from zip to add some zing.

Neighborhood News

The Texas Department of Transportation backed off its plan to install toll booths on MoPac Boulevard before the Parmer Lane intersection. Community pressure and traffic snarls forced the booths farther north of Parmer.43

Magma Design Automation has moved into the StoneCreek II office building.44 It’s next to Siemens, which has never done jack for me. Fashion Cleaners has moved into the former Jack Brown Cleaners spot in the Stonehollow Place strip mall. Blockbuster has moved out of its location at The Market at Parmer Lane. Cool Comic Collectibles has opened in the strip mall at 2121 W. Parmer Lane. 360Commerce has moved from its Stonehollow Drive location to IBM’s “Rustbucket” on the west side of Burnet Road.45

Meanwhile, across the way, Miss KT is astonished to learn that IBM’s sclerosis – the part that hasn’t been shipped out to India46 – is maintained by the sort of people who look like they just finished snowboarding, rather than guys in the traditional style (buzz cut, horn rims, skinny tie).47 I could’ve told her that – and did, about four years ago.48 Old stereotypes live on, even in acute minds.

A Guide to Midland Dinning

Several times this year people asked me, “What’s in Midland?”

I said, “Oil and money.”

And a lot of good restaurants. Here are the ones of note:

Abuelo’s Mexican Food Embassy: Upscale Tex-Mex. Excellent side dishes. One of the few restaurants I’ve patronized where vegetables are more than an afterthought. In the lobby, you can enjoy the irony of a Diego Rivera-esque mural, extolling proletarian Mexican nationalism in a restaurant patronized by well-heeled gringos. Abuelo’s also serves Austin.49

Brooks Barbecue: Ramshackle joint on the edge of downtown. The large burger really is large, about the size of a dinner plate, plus a large heap of fries. Don’t order there unless you have an appetite to match.50

The Garlic Press: Upscale dinning with a beef and Italian emphasis.51

Jorge’s: Tex-Mex. The barbacoa dinner plate is terrific, and the spicy dishes are genuinely spicy. Also serves Austin.

Jumburrito: Locally owned fast-food joint that’s fast and cheap.52

KD’s Barbecue: My fellow contractors praised this place before I even arrived. They were right. Big portions.53

Luigi’s Italian Restaurant. This one isn't good, but it sticks in my mind. Don’t be fooled by the listing in the AAA literature. Luigi’s is just a mediocre red-sauce joint that’s stayed in business so long people just assume it’s good.54

Michael’s Charcoal Grill: Great burger and barbecue spot.55

Old Monterrey Café: The spicy dishes are really spicy. I couldn’t finish my order, but I could eat enough to tell it was superb.56

Sedona Grill: This upscale restaurant suffers from spotty service and the risk of the chefs being out of your order. But if you can overlook these defects, the food is sinfully rich.57

Venezia’s: Ritzy Northern Italian cuisine and an extensive wine selection. My supervisor and I probably dined there more than any other place in town.58

Wall Street Bar & Grill: Savory meat entrees, including an memorable Argentine-style steak dinner.59

E-mail: austindispatches@swbell.net
1 Hawkins, Lori. “Vignette’s Loss Mounts, Sales Force Reorganzied.” AAS 20 Oct. 2004: D2.
2 Goering, Richard. “Is Synopsys in ‘Gain’ Game?” Electronic Engineering Times 27 Sep. 2004: 1.
3 P.L. 107-204, 116 Stat. 745 (2002).
4 Cruver, Brian. Anatomy of Greed: The Unshredded Truth From an Enron Insider. New York City: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2002; McLean, Bethany, and Peter Elkind. The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron, rev. ed. New York City: Portfolio, 2004.
5 Hazlitt, Henry. Economics in One Lesson, 2nd rev. ed. New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arlington House, 1979: Ch. 2.
6 EAD No. 5n6 (June 1999).
7 Coupland, Douglas. Microserfs. New York City: Regan Books, 1995: 2.
8 Wood, Virginia B. “2004 ‘Austin Chronicle’ Restaurant Poll.” AC 21 May 2004: 45-46.
9 AD No. 69 (July 28, 2004); Frye, Curtis. Microsoft Office System Step by Step. Redmond, Wash.: Microsoft Press, 2004; Kettell, Jennifer Ackerman, Guy Hart-Davis, and Curt Simmons. Microsoft Office 2003: The Complete Reference. New York City: McGraw-Hill/Osborne, 2003; Maran, Ruth, and Kelleigh Johnson. Teach Yourself Visually Office 2003. New York City: maranGraphics/Wiley Publishing, 2003; Online Traning Solutions Inc. Microsoft Office Word 2003 Step by Step. Redmond, Wash.: Microsoft Press, 2003; Pogue, David. Windows XP Home Edition: The Missing Manual. Sebastopol, Calif.: Pogue Press/O’Reilly, 2002; Shelley, Gary B., Thomas J. Cashman, and Steven G. Forsythe. Microsoft Windows XP Professional: Introductory Concepts and Techniques. Boston: Course Technology, 2002; Ulrich, Laurie Ann. How to Do Everything With Microsoft Office 2003. New York City: McGraw-Hill/Osborne, 2003; Young, Michael J. Microsoft Office System: Inside Out. Redmond, Wash.: Microsoft Press, 2004.
10 Kobler, 164; Pogue, op. cit., 2.
11 Kobler, op. cit., 146; Pogue, op. cit., 395-402.
12 Kobler, op. cit., 262.
13 Craft, Melissa et al. Exam Prep Network+. Scottsdale, Ariz.: Coriolis, 1999: 165-166; Groth, David. Network+ Study Guide, 2nd ed. San Francisco: Sybex, 2001: 49; Microsoft Network+ Certification Training Kit. Redmond, Wash.: Microsoft Press, 2001: 13-14.
14 “Three Times a Lady.” AC 17 Sep. 2004: 67.
15 Corcoran, Michael. “XL etc.” XL 23 Sep. 2004: 4.
16 Haupt, Melanie. “Elvis Costello & The Imposters.” AC 24 Sep. 2004: 70.
17 EAD No. 9n12 (Oct. 23, 1999).
18 Brenner, Wayne Alan. “Arts: Theatre.” AC 17 Sep. 2004: 82.
19 AD No. 48n5 (Mar. 10, 2003).
20 Kanter, Alexis. “Steamy Salsa Rhythms.” DT 1 Oct. 2004: B1.
21 EAD No. 9n48.
22 AD No. 50n13 (May 14, 2003).
23 “Westlake Farmers Market Grand Opening.”AC 15 Oct. 2004: 80.
24 Chronicle After Hours. Advertisement. Idem., 129.
25 Sowell, Thomas. The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy. New York City: Basic Books, 1995.
26 Novak, Shonda. “Upscale Pub Will Take Waterloo Brewing Site.” AAS 21 Mar. 2002: D1.
27 AD No. 24n12 (Dec. 24, 2000).
28 Foster, Pete. “I’ve Got My Mojo Working.” 1957.
29 Lucier, James P. “Phillips Leads the Way for Constitutionalists.” Insight on the News 25 Sep. 2000: 36.
30 Grant, George. The Importance of the Electoral College. San Antonio: Vision Forum Ministries, 2004.
31 AD No. 36 (Mar. 9, 2002); AD No. 43 (Nov. 23, 2002); Brown, Angela K. AP. “Waco Incumbent Optimistic.” DT 27 Sep. 2004: 6A.
32 BugMeNot.com <http://www.bugmenot.com/>.
33 Sinatra, Frank. Complete Reprise Studio Recordings. Warner Bros. 47045, 1995.
34 Martin, Dean [Dino Paul Crocetti]. Everybody Loves Somebody: The Reprise Years 1962-1966. Bear Family 16343, 2001.
35 Kill Your Idols: A New Generation of Rock Writers Reconsiders the Classics. Ed. Jim DeRogatis and Carmél Carrillo. Fort Lee, N.J.: Barricade Books, 2004.
36 Shatner, William. Has Been. Shout! Factory 30349, 2004.
37 Adato, Allison et al. “The Dark Horse.” People Weekly 7 Apr. 2003: 153.
38 Tae Guk Gui: The Brotherhood of War. Kang Je-Kyn Film Co. Ltd., 2004.
39 “Larry, Curley and Moe: Long Live the Stooges.” Changing Times Aug. 1985: 22.
40 Neill, Mike et al. “Rodney Dangerfield 1921-2004.” People Weekly 18 Oct. 2004: 69.
41 Dangerfield, Rodney [Jacob Cohen]. It’s Not Easy Bein’ Me: A Lifetime of No Respect but Plenty of Sex and Drugs. New York City: HarperEntertainment, 2004.
42 Barrios, Jennifer. “Award in State Wreck Case: Zilch.” AAS 22 Oct. 2004: B1.
43 Wear, Ben. “MoPac to Get Free Ramps at Parmer Lane.” AAS 19 Oct. 2004: B1+.
44 Goering, op. cit.
45 AD No. 29n50 (Sep. 4, 2001); AD No. 56n51 (Oct. 1, 2003).
46 Hawkins. “An Outlook for Austin: The Call of India.” AAS 5 Sep. 2004: A1+.
47 Cringely, Robert X. [Mark Stephens] Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can't Get a Date, rev. ed. New York City: HarperBusiness, 1996: 119-138, 329.
48 AD No. 22 (Nov. 16, 2000).
49 Midland, Texas Official Visitor’s Guide. Midland, Texas: Midland Convention and Visitors Bureau, 2003: 21.
50 Ibid., 17.
51 Ibid., 20.
52 Ibid., 21.
53 Ibid., 17.
54 AAA Texas, 2003 ed. Heathrow, Fla.: AAA Publishing, 2002: 470.
55 Midland, Texas Official Visitor’s Guide, op. cit., 24.
56 Ibid., 21.
57 Ibid., 23.
58 Ibid., 20.
59 AAA Texas, op. cit.