Monday, January 29, 2007

At last!

News of the day is that my work permit has finally arrived! It takes the form of a credit-card sized item with my mugshot, signature and fingerprint on there, as well as lots of extra shiny holographic overlays. This thing is more secure than our visas or driving licences! Looks like I have to renew it every 18 months or so though. So be it.

A couple of gratuitous sunrise shots for you, since Alan phoned this morning to tell me it looked like a promising one:

And the latest view of the parking lot across the way. They've slowed down a bit recently - not helped by the ice last week, I'm sure. They seem to have built that random bit at the front corner but there's nothing yet to join it to the main structure. Time will tell, I suppose.

Meanwhile, I noticed an alcohol license application on the window of one of the empty units next to the gym this morning, for Flipnotics coffee shop/bar. Perhaps we will get another place to go, soon :-)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Mainly Ice

It looks like the weather is set to warm up a little today but yesterday was still covered in ice and as predicted, Alan and most of Austin stayed at home.

Here's some more ice pictures:

All the grass and other vegetation is encased in ice:

This rose was no exception:

More icicles hanging from the awnings:

Compare this with the previous fountain picture to see how much the ice grew overnight:

A close-up of the lower half of the fountain:

It's still dark as I write this but I suspect most of the ice will be gone if not already, then during this morning. Alan has made it in to work and he says the most exposed parts are still icy but it is due to get better today, so we will see.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Ice and snow!

It is continuing to be cold and today we have snow!
The weather advisories have told everyone to stay at home today due to the ice storm. Most schools and businesses are closed. There's very little traffic on the roads. The ice storm is the most un-stormy thing I have seen, it is dull and grey outside but very still, not raging at all but very cold.

We went out to get some bread and found the grass and plants on the ground are all encased in ice. The roads and pavements are slippery. It's to freeze hard tonight so by tomorrow it will probably be sheet ice. Alan is working from home today and no doubt will do so again tomorrow.

These are some icicles on the side of the next building.

ice fountain
Around the corner, the fountain outside the Italian shop is still flowing but all iced up too.

Meanwhile, we are running warm machines in the apartment as we have just discovered that the heating system in here is worse than useless... we haven't had occasion to test it before!

Monday, January 15, 2007

It's cold in Texas

In the last post, I said we were going to see a Laser Spectacular show. We did, and it was not bad. There were plenty of lasers being flung about the room and making pretty patterns on a projection screen, alongside regular projections of (mostly) the Pink Floyd videos that went with the songs they played. The music was LOUD though, unecessarily so really. But we enjoyed it.

Friday night saw the weather really coming in though, and we got home just in time before the rain started in earnest. When we woke up on Saturday morning, the rain had been hammering down all night and continued to do so all day. The lake and culvert outside the apartment were totally flooded. We think this is designed - when it rains, there's so much water it has to go somewhere, preferably in a controlled fashion. There are warning signs around the lake that say the area is prone to flooding.

Here's a couple of before-and-after shots showing just how much it flooded. The first one shows the lake run-off; if you look carefully you can see the water is almost a second lake all the way to the end in the first shot!

After the water had receded:

A staircase on the edge of the lake itself:

The same staircase at normal water levels:

I say normal water levels - it actually seemed like the water had dropped more than usual when the flood receded. Alan wonders if there was a blockage somewhere that the pressure of water may have shifted.

Saturday night saw us at Mark and Jessica's house for a few beers and games of pool, with Micah and Brandi and some other friends of Mark's. This was a very pleasant evening. It was nice to get out of the house too, as we'd been stuck in all day due to the incessant rain.

Now the rain has passed but it has turned very cold. The weather charts show a big ice storm covering a huge chunk of central USA, most of central and northern Texas. We are getting the southern edge of it. We went out at lunchtime to get some supplies and I had to wear my big sheepskin jacket. Didn't think I'd be needing that much in Texas!

Here's a bush covered in ice drips:

Here's some icicles forming on our balcony railing:

See, I'm not lying! It's cold outside!

Finally, some random birdlife. Here's a Great Egret that comes regularly to the lake. It was enjoying all the new debris washed up by the floodwaters.

Some years ago, we are told, a person released a couple of parrots into the woods the other side of the UT football fields just by here. Since then, Nature has taken its course, and there are many parrots! They nest in the lighting towers in the football fields. The other day I was walking past and there must have been 40-50 of them on the ground. Here's a few of them:

Right, I'm away to turn the heating on...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Things seen (or not) from my window

I'll start last Friday, when I went down to San Marcos airfield to practise some photography techniques at the CAF hangar which is filled with lovely aeroplanes. It's about time I got an aircraft picture into this blog, so here's a shiny T-33 for you:

There's plenty more photos here.

Friday night, we had been invited to Michele and Ferdinand's house for tea. Michele is our relocation contact in Austin and she was instrumental in helping us find a place to live and getting us settled. She called me up the other day and asked if we'd like to come for dinner, nothing fancy, just to have a bite to eat and meet her neighbours who were also coming. So we arrive, and discover that (a) Michele loves Christmas, (b) Michele loves to entertain, and (c) she had prepared the most huge and sumptious holiday meal for us all to span Christmas, New Year and general festivities, with all the trimmings! You know when you see American homes in films, all done up with decorations? Hollywood has a lot to learn from Michele, the house looked like a million dollars, she had done it so nicely. The meal was excellent, she served perfectly cooked roast beef. We had a very nice evening indeed.

On Saturday, we visited Independence Brewery here in town for their monthly brewery tour. Yum! We only found out the night before that they hold these tours. You turn up and they give you three tickets each, and you can exchange a ticket for a pint of their finest ale. They make four fine ales, which it was our duty to sample, naturally. I had an Independence Pale Ale and a Bootlegger Brown. Yum again :-)

This week has been fairly quiet as per usual. The builders have been getting on with their parking lot, which is getting ever bigger:

There is a comet in the sky at the moment, Comet Mcnaught, the brightest one in 30 years. I tried to see it last night but all I got were clouds, clouds, more clouds, tantalising gaps followed by CLOUDS. Damn. It's to rain the next couple of days so I probably won't get to see this comet which is a great shame as the pictures I've seen on the net look fabulous. Here's some.

Here's a not-comet, the closest I got:

Gratuitous sunset picture:

Gratuitous sunset & towers picture with added clouds (can you see a theme here?):

So I gave up after a huge cloud bank moved in, obscuring the exact portion of sky the comet was in and went to the pub. It was a Ginger Man night, followed by pizza, with the guys from Alan's work. Always a good session.

This morning, at breakfast we noticed a big fire a few blocks away. Difficult to judge how far but the amount of sirens howling around and the reflection off the clouds suggests it was a big one. Nobody was hurt, according to the local news. Another news report tells us the fire took 20 fire trucks and 57 firemen to put it out.

I discovered today that the East Anglian Air Ambulance has actually used some of the pictures I gave them last year in their 2007 calendar. While I haven't seen it yet (they're sending me a copy), if you need a calendar and want to support a good cause, go here and buy one.

We're out on Friday, going to see a Pink Floyd and Laser Spectacular event, not quite sure what this is going to entail but it should be entertaining. It's also a holiday weekend, we get Martin Luther King day on Monday so Alan has the day off :-)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Publishing foibles and Building works

We had plenty of postal shenanigans over Christmas, with some of our parcels getting delayed to the UK and some things people had sent to us getting delayed coming here. One parcel got so delayed that even the supplier thought it had been lost. So my Dad sent another copy of the book from an American supplier. Of course, the original parcel eventually turned up! So we temporarily have two copies of this very nice book, before I send one back.

All this gives me a chance to compare British and American publishing. I've noticed it before with science fiction books, in that American covers tend to show people on them whereas European covers are more abstract. I read an article a while back (it seems to have vanished or I'd link it) that said Americans like to be shown what the characters look like while British people prefer to visualise things for themselves. How true this is I don't know, but for sure it seems to extend way beyond science fiction.

Here are the two books. The UK one is at the top. The cover photo is the same as you can see, although they've recoloured it, but the typefaces are quite different on each. The rear cover is photographic on the British one, showing Concorde taking off into the distance, and the American one is solid black with a text description of the book's contents.

I look forward to reading the insides, I assume they at least are the same!

Meanwhile, we have continued building works in the land area next to our apartment block. They are constructing a multi storey parking garage out of large lumps of concrete. These arrive by numerous trucks every morning and are craned into position. They've been knocking this together pretty quickly, although we can't figure out how they join the concrete blocks together. I assume they manage it somehow.

Here it is on the 19th December:

They took some time off during the holidays but still made progress. These next two are on the 2nd January. See how the single section above has turned into three now:

Trucks queuing up to deliver their blocks:

This morning, just when you thought they'd finished, it looks like they are extending the structure out some more.

While this might not be the most exciting thing going on, it's quite fascinating to watch day to day. We are hoping they will finish this quick and get on with building the new bar that is meant to be coming. No doubt they will finish it just when we move out of here next year...

Monday, January 01, 2007

Random photos to start the year

Happy New Year, y'all!

We have enjoyed a very pleasant holiday season. The weather has been variable, and we have both had colds. Alan is full of the lurgy right now; we came home early from the party we went to as he was feeling so lousy.

Here's some random pictures from the last few days, as I've finally put camera to computer.

Here's the inside of the Draught House pub that we like to frequent. They have about 85 handpumps, each dispensing a tasty beverage.

An Austin firetruck parked outside Rudy's Barbeque the other week. I guess firemen need their breakfast tacos too.

Alan's new car! Yes, it was in the garage so long it's taken me until now to get a picture of it!

One more Christmas lights shot. This is the Hyde Park Bar and Grill, a very fine eating place a few blocks from us.

It absolutely caned it down with rain the other day. Here's the lake outside the window, or what you can see of it. There is a huge drainage runoff that the lake runs into, which is normally either dry or maybe has a trickle of water in there. After this lot, it was completely full, and the footpath around the edge of the lake was totally flooded, about a foot deep.

So here we go, into 2007. May it be filled with goodness for all.