Monday, November 19, 2018

Monday Meanderings - 11.19.2018

The decline and fall of Sears Roebuck and company has been a long time in the making. Store closings, product lines sold off, strange business alliances and stranger business decisions. The company is officially in bankruptcy, with little chance of coming out. There are no more Sears stores in Austin.

Frankly, I have not shopped at Sears for a number of years. Evidently I am not alone. Over the years, though, Sears played a significant role in the commerce of my life, beginning with those wonderful catalogues. I doubt if my grandchildren can conceive of receiving a 300+ page catalog in the mail and referring to it for the essentials needed for almost every aspect of your life; appliances, furnishings, clothing and auto.

The big book was more than just a way to order what you needed - it was an education. Helpful notes about how to order, what to choose, tools you would need, parts descriptions. And over the years the spectrum of goods offered was staggering - from autos to houses, and anything else one might want.

And the Christmas Wish book. How many hours were spent poring over the pages, making and re-making the Christmas list?

I was a Sears customer long before I married - tires, batteries, dorm hot plates and the such. Barb and I bought our bedroom suite from Sears when we moved into our first apartment. We still have it. We bought refrigerators, washers and dryers over the years. Mattresses for the bed, clothing for our kids, tires and batteries for the car. Tools and hardware for the house, the treadmill we still (occasionally) walk on, the chest freezer presently out in the bonus room.

So why did we stop shopping at Sears? All of the factors that eventually brought it down. High prices, diminishing product lines, heavy competition - but mostly it was unprofessional sales staff, and poor customer service. The Home Depot on the other end of the shopping center was always "no problem." Sears always seemed to say "we can't do that."

So farewell Sears. We will miss the old you.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Monday Meanderings - 11.12.2018

Watching the election unfold this week reminded me of my small contribution to the process - way, way back when I was a paperboy in Breckenridge Texas.

Whenever a major election took place, the election headquarters for Stephens County was in the County Courthouse, fittingly enough. But the newspaper office - several blocks away - had the teletype machines and connections to the State headquarters in Austin.

So on election nights, the Breckenridge American called in all the paperboys and we couriered the latest counts from the courthouse to the paper office, and carried State news to the folks in the courthouse. It was a high-priority, don't-stop-for-anything process, and we competed fiercely for the shortest elapsed time covering the distance, skidding our bikes right up to the paper office door, hopping off to hand the latest count (which was tabulated by court-house staff hand counting paper ballots). Crowds would gather on the street in front of the paper office to see the numbers change on the blackboard (borrowed from the high school) which was positioned in front of the building.

Inside, the counts would get forwarded electronically (if the teletype line was up, which was not always guaranteed) to Austin. And sometimes, the publisher just picked up the phone and called Austin. It was a lot faster. And state-wide results would come back the same way, and the available paper boy would take this information to the courthouse - at a much more leisurely rate - and hang around until they had counted another batch of local ballots.

In Stephens County, it didn't take long to count the ballots. Breckenridge was, and still is, the only incorporated town in the county, and the folks in communities like Caddo, Gunsight and Necessity came into town to vote, if they cared. So it the excitement generally ended early, which is okay, because it was a school night.

The one exception to that was the year Jack Cox, a local boy who had gone off to Houston to be in the oil business ran against Price Daniel for governor of Texas. Everyone hung around for a while to see how that came out state-wide. I was in college by then, but came back to town with my journalism-major roommate to watch democracy in action. Jack lost handily, and we went off to the Dairy Delight to check out the girls. So much for politics.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Monday Meanderings -

Happy Election Day eve - or as I prefer to call it - The National IQ Test. Choose wisely.

Where did all the pecans go? Earlier this year the branches were laden and drooping - so much so, I was concerned about limbs breaking, as they are want to do. But the season is drawing to a close and the total crop is but a small grocery sack full at this point. Of course, the Vietnamese lady has gathered some, but I've been pretty proactive with the gathering.

Saw the other day that the lady who invented the green bean casserole passed away.  I was astounded to learn that that dish was invented in the Campbell Soup test kitchen. I thought it was part of the Creation Story in Genesis. You know, "Then God said, Let us make mankind in our image, and whip up some green bean casserole to go with those tasty chickens we created the other day." Really. Who knew?

Which makes me think of church pot-lucks, which are largely a thing of the past. Not when I was growing up, though. I have especially fond memories of the church ladies in Breckenridge who would gather regularly for quilting bees - though I'm not sure they used that term. But the quilts (in their frames) were suspended from the ceiling in a couple of the class rooms in the church basement, and they would gather to quilt, and visit, and eat lunch together.

The Junior High was just a few blocks down the hill, and on those days I would walk up for my share of chicken and green bean casserole, announcing my presence with a hearty, "Hello, you lucky people."

I don't know what they did with the quilts. Gave them to needy people, I guess. Sent them to missionaries. Maybe with left-over green bean casserole.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Monday Meanderings - 10.29.2018

I'm going to stop blogging about weather and such. It seems whatever I mention jumps up and bites us - like cold, and rain and Boil Water declarations.

Yes, A Boil Water mandate. Sunday night we went to bed hydrated and Monday morning we woke to find Austin plunged into widespread and prolonged mild inconvenience.

Here's a rough time line of events this week:

Monday, October 22 - 6:00am -- City holds press conference, announces immediate mandatory Boil Water declaration. Really? 6AM in the morning??

Monday, October 22 - 7:00am -- Social Media begins showing pictures of bare grocery store shelves; proclaims that there is no bottled water to be had. I take comfort that I filled the coffee pot last night, so my morning coffee is pre-ban, and therefore safe.

Monday, October 22 - 8:00am -- HEB says, "We got this. Give us a few hours to get the trucks on the way.

Monday, October 22 - 9:00am -- Next Door member rats out corner Texaco station charging $30 for 12-pack of bottled water,

Monday, October 22 - 10:00am -- Attorney General Up_for_Re-election files price gouging suit against corner Texaco. $20,000 fine. Per instance. Bring your receipts, folks.

Monday, October 22 - 11:00am -- We have boiled and set aside about 5 gallons of water. As has every other Austin Water utility customer.

Monday, October 22 - 11:15am -- Social Media: "Attention Aggies. You need to let the water COOL before you drink it!"

Monday, October 22 - 11:30am -- Social Media: Most Starbucks are closing. "Sorry, can't deal with this."

Monday, October 22 - 12:00pm --  Chuy's: "Of course we are open. We know how to boil water. You want queso to go with that burrito?"

Monday, October 22 - 4:00pm -- City of Austin: "Stop! You are using too much water! We can't keep up!" Well, duh! Every water customer just drew out about 5 extra gallons of water! What did you think was going to happen?

Tuesday, October 23 - 9:00am -- City of Austin: Press briefing explains that problem is "that our water source has had millions of gallons of silt and debris-laden water dumped into it from upstream, and the treatment plants are struggling with water that is 400% 'dirtier' than usual and falling way behind." No indication that water is actually not safe to drink. "Matter of overabundant caution."

Tuesday, October 23 - 9:00am -- HEB: "Y'all need to come get this water. These pallets are in our way."

Tuesday, October 23 - 12:00pm -- City of Pflugerville: "Hey, we don't have a water problem and ALL our restaurants are open."

Tuesday, October 23 - 3:00pm -- LCRA spokesperson: "This may last 'till Halloween."

Tuesday, October 23 - 3:01pm -- Mayor Up_for_Re-election: "No, no. This is only going to last a handful of days."

Tuesday, October 23 - 3:02pm -- Social Media: "How many is a handful?"

Tuesday, October 23 - 3:03pm -- City Water Chief: "Uh, not so fast, Mayor Up_for_Re-election."

Tuesday, October 23 - 4:00pm -- Water Chief: "Okay, we are now treating water faster than we are using it." Mayor did not attend briefing.

Wednesday, October 24 - 9:00am -- Ross' Cafe, our Wednesday breakfast stop: All good except for ice maker. Your choice if you want ice or not. Most restaurants and cafes are business as usual, just selling canned drinks and serving everything as take-out. No dish-washing.

Wednesday, October 24 - 4:00pm -- Press briefing: "No bacterial problem with water, but doesn't pass state 'turbidity' standard. Required by law to declare Boil Water."  Mayor nowhere in sight.

Thursday, October 25 - 9:00am -- City of Austin: Announces various locations to obtain free water.

 Thursday, October 25 - 9:30am -- Social Media: Traffic jams at all free water locations.

Thursday, October 25 - 10:00am -- HEB: "Y'all - we're only charging 79 cents a gallon for water! You'll spend more idling your car in line. Seriously."

Thursday, October 25 - 12:00pm -- White House: "It's the Democrat's fault."

Thursday, October 25 - 2:00pm -- White House: "It's the Media's fault."

Thursday, October 25 - 2:30pm --  Mayor Up_for_Re-election: Signed a disaster declaration, allowing the city to request reimbursement for expenses related to weather emergencies.

Thursday, October 25 - throughout the day -- Social Media, Next Door members weigh in:
     "Don't forget your pets. Be sure you use boiled water for your dog."
     "Are you kidding? My dog drinks out of the toilet!"
     "OMG! I forgot and brushed my teeth with tap water! What to do?"
     "Rinse your mouth with some Purell."
     "Everybody should move to Manor."
     "Can't. Have to wash dishes before I can sell my house."
     "Can you get giardia geeardia jiardia stomach bug
            from drinking non-boiled water?

Friday, October 26 - 10:00am -- Statesman: Blame Game begins. Mayor Up_for_Re-election and City Council passes resolution requiring complete and thorough investigation of Austin's BoilWaterGate crisis.

Friday, October 26 - 10:30am -- Water Chief responds to City Council: "Have you looked out the front door of City Hall at the color of the water in the river? #NotOurFault

Friday, October 26 - 10:30am -- Politicos who voted for 4th water treatment plant 2 years ago: "See! We told you that we needed that plant!"

Friday, October 26 - 10:32am -- Politicos who voted against 4th water treatment plant 2 years ago: "See! We told you that that plant was a waste of money!"

Friday, October 26 - 2:30pm --  Water Chief: "Sunday afternoon/evening is ‘operating target’ for lifting boil-water order."

Friday, October 26 - 3:00pm -- White House: "Calling out National Guard."

Saturday, October 27 - throughout the day -- Social Media: Ho hum.

Sunday, October 28 - 3:30pm -- City of Austin: "Crisis is over! Drink up!"

Sunday, October 28 - 4:00pm --Various local vendors: "I Survived BoilWaterGate! tee shirts and coffee mugs now on sale. Get yours while supplies last."

Monday, October 22, 2018

Monday Meanderings - 10.22.2018

I may have miss-spoken about Fall not showing up. Sometime between the time I wrote last week's blog and the time I got up on Monday morning, someone turned on the cold. You may have seen the memes that pointed out that the temperature range in Texas was low 30's in the Panhandle and mid-90's in the Valley. On the same day. Austin, in the middle, was 44 degrees most of last Monday.

And then it started raining.

Yesterday was a beautiful day, a much-needed respite from the rain, but floodgates are open all up and down the Highland Lakes, dumping millions of gallons of water hourly - which must eventually pass through Austin. And the rains will resume this week.

Interestingly, an over-abundance of water often creates problems for city municipal water delivery. A number of cities along the flooded areas have been having issues getting safe water to users. Boil notices and shortages are common, and even though Lake Travis - where Austin gets its drinking water - is at 147% of capacity, Austin Water has issued urgent pleas to curtail usage. All the silt and debris in the lake is severely taxing the filtration process, it seems

On the bright side, the current joke is that Cruise Lines are now offering departures from Port Austin. Excursions include Bald Eagle viewing along the Llano River.

But still no fallen pecans to speak of, though that doesn't deter the little Vietnamese Lady. She comes by daily to check. It has motivated us to be properly dressed of a morning before opening the blinds. She really likes to prowl along the drip-line in the front flower bed, where the pecans that roll off the roof land. Surprise!

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