Saturday, April 26, 2008

Thunderstorm season

Sandy and Chris had driven all the way from El Paso last night, so when they got home, we fired up the hot tub in our back yard. I had been a bit worried about them, because we were due to get a big thunderstorm.

It arrived just as the tub had heated up. Sandy sensibly desisted from hanging out in a hot tub in driving rain. Chris thought it was rather cool to get rained on, although the odd bit of hail bothered him somewhat. I decided that the hot tub part sounded good, but not the driving rain part, so I got a big umbrella and sat in the tub under it, as you can see in the photo.

Sandy got increasingly worried about our sanity and our safety when the lighting started to hit nearby, so we got out. About ten minutes later, there was an enormously loud crack of lightning very nearby. It turns out it had hit an oak tree in the front yard of our next door neighbor. It split the tree in several large pieces, which fell on his lawn as you can see in this next photo, taken from our front lawn.

Remind me to listen earlier to Sandy next time.

Eeyore's Birthday

My son Chris and I went to one of Austin's great eccentric events, Eeyore's Birthday, named of course after Eeyore the bashful donkey in the Winnie the Pooh.

Here you can see Chris posed by a statue of the Eeyore of Liberty. The event seems to let a lot of people exercise some creativity.

The party is Austin's gathering of the hippie tribes. One of the roots of Austin's current character is that it was one of the big gathering points for old hippies after northern California got too strange for many people. Several of Austin's premier musicians headed to the Bay Area in the late 1960s or early 1970s, then headed back. I saw Doug Sahm and Asleep at the Wheel in California then, before they headed back to make Austin (or San Antonio for Doug Sahm).

There were a lot of drum circles, just like in the good old days, when I was a student in Palo Alto, 1969-73. Here is a photo of one group of drummers that we listened to for a while. There was one group that had a distinct Brazilian samba rhythm going, with the right instruments, and a nice clear beat, so we did a bit of samba dancing before moving on. (Dancing samba is one of my favorite things and this was a nice venue for it -- bit different from carnival but nicely hippie post-modern.)

Not everything was particularly hippie, mind you. Lots of people came in small themed groups, just adding to the extreme variety of what Austinites will think of. One of my favorite was the pink poodle ensemble of painted dog, cart, etc. that you see here.

There were a lot of whimsical things for people to do. Mud for kids to wade in. Lots of dogs to talk to. And a few dozen hula hoops to try out, so Chris did -- although the hoop did not stay up in motion too long. I remember them as hard to do, from when I was a kid.

Chris and Sandy had driven his car back from Utah in a fast paced trip of just two days, arriving Friday night, so he got tired after a couple of hours of wandering around Eeyore's Birthday, which is probably just about the right amount of time there anyway. Unless you are going to settle in and be part of a drum circle, which might be kind of fun next time.

So we headed home. Which reminds me of the last photo I took. The event was pretty crowded and parking hard to come by. So we took our smallest car, the Mazda Miata, and I managed to park it in a space that would have been small for a large motorcycle. Thank heavens for really learning how to parallel park back in driver's education in good old Kuna, Idaho.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


In one of my classes today, we got into an interesting discussion of how western cultures look at Islam and vice versa, both on television and on the Internet. It made me think of one of my favorite songs by Steve Earle, Jerusalem.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Springtime in Austin

I came home today from a few days in Tucson, which is an attractive desert town, but was charmed to see how green Austin is now by contrast. And colorful. Lots of flowers out, shrubs blooming, etc.

Here is a shot a professional photographer took of blue bonnets in the Hill Country. I haven't seen quite this many in town but the sides of the freeway between UT and our house has some patches almost this big.

Here is a shot of the flowering hedge in our front year. The front lawn has greened up, too, so just now we look more than an oasis than a desert.

The next shot is of two bushes, one flowering, one just colorful in our backyard. They frame a plastic pink flamingo that we short of inherited from the previous owners. The flamingo has just sort of stayed put while things grew around him.

 The next shows primroses blooming in our very own backyard. They are much thicker some other places, like along the highways, but our backyard is pretty shaded. Nice for keeping the sun away, not so good for flowers.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Brazil and New Orleans

I went to a Brazilian studies association meeting and a special pre- conference on communication research in Brazil and the US in New Orleans last week. The communications pre-conference was organized by Vicki Mayer of Tulane (at left in the the picture). Nicely done. I organized the first of these in Austin a few years ago, and you could see how they are getting better.

The next picture shows the people who were at the communications pre-conference, with yours truly in the upper left. Also there are two UT grad students, Jeremiah Spence in the upper right and Amy Schmitz-Weiss in the lower left. I really like seeing our grad students get out to these meetings.

Running around New Orleans with a bunch of Brazilians for most of a week reinforced a sense I have always had that New Orleans in the part of the USA most like Brazil in many ways. The next photo shows several of us heading off through the Tulane campus to walk back to our hotel through the grand old houses of the Garden District. Like the one in the next photo.

Rather like Brazil, New Orleans has great music with very clearly Afro roots, great cuisine with clearly Afro roots, and a nice funky relaxed culture with the same origin. The last photo shows several of us sitting around a very nice outdoor cafe, Cafe Amelie:
left to right, Veneza Ronsini (Santa Maria), Vicki Mayer (Tulane), Suzy dos Santos (Federal University of Rio), Jeremiah Spence (UT), Livio Sansone (Federal University of Bahia), and me.