Dave

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

We are so Easily Amused...

I enjoy watching the squirrels play in the trees around our house. In the back yard, there are a few that will playfully taunt our dog, Gracie, by making barking noises. The only issue is that these squirrels also like to steal bird seed from the feeders, and my wife is none too pleased when this occurs.

Our neighbor suggested we mix in a little cayenne pepper in with the birdseed; turns out that birds can't smell and the pepper doesn't bother them at all. Squirrels on the other hand...
So this was the scene. Ms. Squirrel was on the tree trying to figure out how to get into the top of one of our bird feeders. And then she got a good snort of the cayenne pepper! In addition to sneezing several times, she rubbed her nose on the bark to clear her nostrils. Good times.

Attention PETA: No birds were harmed in the writing of this blog.


San Antonio "Tagger" Wipeout Report

Saturday, my wife and I joined numerous residents from the Great Northwest along with thousands of other folks around San Antonio in the yearly San Antonio Graffiti Wipeout. We met with our group at Carlos Coon Elementary and following registration, some breakfast tacos and the distribution of paint, brushes, rollers and T-shirts, got started.This was our first time in the Wipeout event, but quickly learned how things happen. Prior to the event, City of San Antonio folks went through the neighborhood and identified areas that needed painting. They contacted residents to obtain permission to paint fences. In the event that the resident was not home, they left a release form to be completed.

Our first assignment was to take a group of folks to a fence that had already been approved for painting by the resident. The assignment sheet included the release form and a map with the location circled. Really well done in my opinion. Kudos to District 6.

Our group finished the first fence in no time, then moved on to a tagged drainage ditch - just because it was there - then noticed that a fence on a home across and just up the street was covered with tags from one end to the other. I called our city point of contact and was told that the resident had been given a release form, but it had not been signed.

At the time of the call, the resident was not home, so I walked over and talked to a neighbor and asked her if she thought we could paint the fence. She smiled and told me the folks were renters and pretty much avoided contact with anyone. But, in her mind, painting the fence would be okay. My city contact (understandably) didn't agree, and insisted we wait to get a signed form.

A short time later, my wife noticed that a car had pulled into the driveway of the house with the tagged fence. Another volunteer and I went back to the home and found the car in the driveway, keys in the ignition and running! My first thought was that the person ran into the house to grab something and would be out in a moment.

I rang the doorbell and waited to the sound of barking dogs, both inside and out. I just assumed that there was a poor guy sitting on the toilet, knowing that his car was running with the air conditioner on, and now some person was knocking on the door. How embarrassing!

So I rang the doorbell again and knocked on the door.

I looked out into the street at the volunteer waiting for me to get the release signed and pointed to the car and told her the engine was running. We both shrugged shoulders and I continued to wait at the door, occasionally knocking, hoping to keep the dogs engaged.

After almost 10 minutes (I'm pretty persistent), the driver suggested we leave and park on the side of the house. We knew that this resident did not want to be bothered, but we wanted that signature! We waited another five minutes and still, the car sat running in the driveway but the owner never left the house. And we never got permission to paint the worst fence in the area. And, I have no idea how long the car sat idling in the driveway!

We were assigned another house where the resident had not yet had a signed release, so I went to the door and rang the bell. I waited about two minutes and then knocked. I immediately heard a very thick Easter European accent yelling, Okay, okay!
The man answered the door and said he was a renter and was not sure about signing the release without the owner's permission. He didn't want to be responsible if the property owner didn't like how we painted the fence. In my best California Surfer accent, I said, "Dude, have you seen your fence?" referring to the extensive tags in multiple colors. Without hesitation, he grabbed the paper and said (as if her were Borat), "I sign; screw owner."

Here is my minor issue with this whole thing. Let me say up front that I am all for the idea of a "Graffiti Wipe Out", but I don't like the use of the term "Graffiti" when what we're covering is "tagging". Many people associate Graffiti with either an artistic value or even a political statement. Tagging on the other hand is like a dog pissing on a fence to mark territory. There is rarely any attempt at something artistic, it is simply vandalism. And as I have said and written before, I don't give a shit if you are painting the Mona Lisa; if you don't own the canvas or don't have the permission of the owner, don't do it on a fence or the outside wall of a business.

In this case, I think the city sends mixed signals by using the term, Graffiti Wipe Out, when later, they sponsor graffiti walls and murals in order to try to sway taggers into art. All good intentions, just mixed signals. I did ask our city rep about this and he gave me a laundry list of outstanding programs they have to basically turn potential taggers toward art before they go down that road. He said the city does not promote those blocked letter style walls (you've seen them on railroad cars and billboards where the taggers name is painted in some sort of blocked letter fashion). They do promote murals that involve actual painting of pictures. I guess we can just agree to disagree on the use of the term Graffiti versus Tagging.

The final complaint is the permission issue. A few years ago, the city was prepared to pass an ordinance that would fine the victims of tagging (graffiti) if they did not paint over the mess in a timely manner. It got bad press because in affect, you were punishing the victim.

I for one support this idea. Most people will paint over tagging the first few times or neighbors will help. But for many, they simply accept it as the norm. I say, Bullshit! If these people were forced to pay a fine for being a victim (think about that), they would DEMAND that the city take action to catch the criminals. You want to see action? Get the Chamber of Commerce standing in front of the City Council and the District Attorney holding their tickets, demanding that the little punks responsible be found, apprehended, prosecuted, and actually put in jail with the hard core criminals. Community service is an offensive joke to those of us who serve the community of our own free will.

Back to my second complaint. If someone tags a fence facing a public right of way and the owner does not take due diligence to fix it, do they not then surrender the right to stop the city or other citizens from correcting the problem? I think as a courtesy, anyone should ask the homeowner or business owner if they can help them correct the problem by painting over the taggers work. You never know, maybe the owner wants to repaint the whole fence a new color, or maybe they have contracted out to have the work done.

But what happens if the owner fails to respond or in the case of a renter, doesn't want to sign on behalf of the property owner? I submit that if the taggers did not obtain legal permission to paint a fence, why should volunteers spend more time trying to get permission to correct the problem than it would take to simply cover the offending tags.
Please don't take my complaints as an indication that this is a bad program. In fact, I was so pleased with how well organized our city reps were it actually gave me renewed pride in our District 6 office. These people are working hard to make things happen and I don't want to take anything away from that. But I have found in previous efforts at tagger remediation, that simply doing it and applying common sense on a case by case basis, you can cover a whole lot of territory very quickly. My wife and I agreed that it isn't much of a wipe-out if you have to skip every other tagged fence because some renter didn't want to be bothered with signing a ridiculous release form.

The good news is, as we painted fences, we had many horns honked approving of our work. We had a lady approach us and thank us for our efforts and we had another neighbor from the neighborhood we were in approach us and discuss his personal efforts to halt the tagging in his area.

Rudy was the man's name, and he had personally printed up hundreds of flyer's and distributed them to residents with public facing fences. He encourages people to simply plant bushes along the fence lines to discourage the taggers. In other words, cover the canvas and the taggers move on to the next available fence. Rudy also had other ideas including a plan that would have the city subsidize the planting of bushes. His plan was that if a resident had made three police reports regarding tagging on their property, the city would recognize the location as a habitual crime location and give the resident a coupon for discounted, fast growing bushes like Red Tips. What a great, proactive approach to solving this problem. I passed the info on to our city rep and he was already familiar with the flyer's and the proposed idea.
In the end, our group covered a good number of tagged fences and for the neighborhood, that is a good thing. Overall, District 6 led the city-wide volunteer competition to turn out the most volunteers with 220. They turned out 119 at John Jay High School alone, and if you are familiar with the area, you know they needed the help. Over 4,000 volunteers turned out to include many companies, city departments and non-profits - and folks like us.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Strange in and around 78250...

I have seen several strange things this weekend and it is only Saturday!Friday morning on my way to work, I found out that my windows are really dirty. I need to clean them. Oh, and on Callaghan Road, there was a minor fender-bender.Oh, we were in Bed Bath and Beyond, and apparently, it is a pretty cool place to take a nap if you are a homeless child.Remember that possum in my yard? Strange, he hasn't been back for a while.

BAM! Coffee and a Little Music...

Friday night my wife and I took a short trip over to Alamo Ranch so we could get a cup of coffee from Books A Million then zip into the Mama Margie's drive through for some Fajita Nachos to go. Turns out with your coffee at BAM, you can enjoy some tunes from a nice band playing. I felt like I was in Seattle or even Austin for a minute.Anyway, I didn't catch the name of the band but they were really good. Unlike the people who live a street away from me and insist on practicing at full volume, these guys were able to play, sing (in key) and strangely, they sounded as though they were just enjoying themselves and the appreciation of the small audience, not attempting to over do the National Anthem at a Cowboys game, badly.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

GNWatch Meeting Notes: Pre-NNO Meeting...

Looking for the meeting notes for the Septemebr GNWatch meeting? You will find them here: Click!

And the Counter goes over 50,000...

Wow! 50,0000 hits on this goofy little Blog. Who would have thought a guy writing about lunch and neighborhood association meetings could draw such interest?

Oh I know, famous folks get 50,000 visitors in a day or a week. I'm just pleased that a small percentage of you seem to come back for more even after you know what it is I write about.

Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Getting Ready for NNO...

Once again the fine folks at Target hosted a Safety Day kinda deal out at the Super Target on 151 and Loop 410 where they had representatives from the various San Antonio agencies involved in the National Night Out (Texas Version) scheduled for Tuesday, 7 October. My wife and I zipped over to get our NNO Banner and pick-up some goodies for the kids who attend the event and some informative brochures on city services.Target had tables set-up throughout the store so you could go from section to section, talk with the various agencies and get the goods.And we even met Tex, the mascot for the San Antonio Emergency Operations Center.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Strange in 78250

I saw four funny things today and have pictures of three. I could have taken a picture of the fourth funny thing, but between laughing and not wanting to create a scene, I failed to get the picture off in time. I'll describe it to you.

We were leaving a garage sale when a couple walked up. The man was pretty tall and looked as though he had lost some weight. He may have actually been ill, but that isn't important. Because of his height, his shirt only went down as far as his waist. If he had been a heavier fellow, his belly would have bulged out below the shirt. But we were not looking at him from the front. His shorts were a little too loose for his waist and as a result, he was wearing them very low. The combination of the shirt not going far enough down, his shorts falling below his hips (sort of like a hood-rat trying to show off his boxers), and the fact that he was sans-underpants resulted in a clear view of plumber's-crack. Okay, crack is an inadequate word. We were mooned!
Okay, this is strange. It is natural actually, but we don't see it everyday. Look in the center of the picture under the white chair. Yes, that is a little cat with a big bird in his mouth. The bird was none too pleased and was letting the cat know it. Not sure who won.I have a collection of bumper and rear window stickers I've been snapping as I drive around. I just haven't done anything with them. This one made us giggle. Apparently, the father is no longer part of the team.Finally, in the "What not to Wear" category. My wife tells me if I ever go out in public looking like this, she'll shoot me. Considering the alternative of the guy with his pasty white ass hanging out, I'd say this guy isn't all that strange.

PETA: No cats were harmed in the blogging of this event, though at least one bird may have been dinner.

Lunch Report: Mama Margie's...

Someone alert the media; we've been out to eat again!This afternoon following a vigorous morning of garage sailing, we found ourselves in need of some vittles. Turns out, during one of our stops at a garage sale, a lady had mentioned the new Mama Margie's in Alamo Ranch, and that was the only hint we needed to get over and see the place.

We have enjoyed MM at I-10 and Wurzbach for years - the food is superior to Taco Cabana and service is much faster. This new one doesn't disappoint on either count.
The place is a lot more wide open and allows a crowd of folks to stand around and look at the menu; and they need the space. Since opening, every time we have driven by, the place has been packed. In fact, we had to park in the lot being built for the new shopping center behind it. Don't let the packed parking lot scare you; friends have told us, and we experienced lickity split service. My wife and a friend of ours both got Chalupas. I didn't try it but my wife reports the beans were fresh and good. Of course, MM's has the little condiment station so you can go up and grab all assortment of jalapenos, chopped onions, and salsas of every variety to top off your food.I went with the beef fajita platter. Caution, that platter is hot! When you get the fajitas they are still sizzling good and the grilled onions and pepper simply add to the flavor. After finishing my first fajita taco I complained that it was hot in the restaurant but my wife pointed out that I was giving myself a full facial by hovering over the steaming plate of fajitas. The plate comes with choice of beans (I went with Boracho to match my personality) and rice. Both were good but the highlight is the awesome beef fajitas.We didn't indulge, but reports from friends and neighbors are that the margaritas are out of this world. Perhaps we'll give 'em a try next time we go back - and we will definitely go soon. For fast service, great Mexican food and more competition to keep the other restaurants in the area on their toes, Mama Margie's is a Tasty Treat.

Lunch Report: Hungry Farmer...

My wife and I just happened to be on the South Side around lunch time and started thinking about where we might get a bite to eat. It had been years (probably ten) since we had been into Hungry Farmer, so we figured, why not?Something I don't recall from our last visit is that they seem to have a second restaurant attached called Uncle Barney's Old Fashioned Hamburgers. I'm not sure why they would need a separate place for burgers when you are already at a steak place, but who knows?Anyway, along with the old tractor in the front and the cows on the roof, the inside of the place looks the same as it has for as long as I can remember.I really like how the minute you are seated, they hand you a little house salad. We had to laugh at the huge celery stalks, but aside from that, it is your standard house salad, minus any of the good croutons you'd get at Texas Road House.

They were having some sort of special where you can get a T-Bone with popcorn shrimp and a side, then get the second one for half price. That sounded like a deal to us, so we were in.
For her side, my wife ordered the French fries. They are cut the way she likes them but unfortunately, seemed to be undercooked. Her steak was done just right - no need for any A1 or other offensive sauces, and within a few bites she was all worked up in a Happy Dance frenzy.As we were ordering, I inquired about the onion rings. Kudos to our waitress for telling me that I wouldn't like them. Instead, I ordered the baked potato and it was cooked just fine. The idea of the packet of sour cream always seems strange to me - at least for presentation purposes, but it all tastes the same.My steak seemed to have two personalities. I started to eat one side of the T-bone and there was a reasonable amount of gristle and fat, I suppose. As my wife continued her little happy dance, she watched me strategically maneuver my way through the steak looking for a good piece. The other side of the T-bone was seriously, melt in your mouth, wonderful. I guess that's how steak is sometimes.

The popcorn shrimp was okay since it seemed to be something they just throw in, so I didn't expect it to be Sea Island quality. It probably came from a frozen bag like the onion rings. But I ate it.

All in all, I can't complain. The steaks were huge, the waitress provided outstanding service and given the deal (second steak half price), the price was reasonable. If you haven't been to Hungry Farmer in a while, give it a try - tell me what you think.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

GNWCIA Meeting Report: My Notes...

My wife and I made the short trip down to the Lodge of the Great Northwest to attend the monthly regular Board meeting of the Great Northwest Community Improvement Association (GNWCIA). I'll keep the notes brief:

Members to Speak: The president of the GNW OWLS presented a letter to the board requesting assistance with converting some cabinets in the lodge used by the OWLS group into drawers. Some of the members are not as nimble as they were in their sixties, and having to reach into the lower cabinets often results in having to get down on the floor to maneuver in there. By installing some large drawers in place of the cabinets, I think we can all feel better that we won't have a broken hip or something drastic on our hands. I hope the board will find the money to make this happen, or better yet, I hope a resident with some carpentry skills will step up to help make this needed modification.

Community Manager Report: Financial report delivered, will address it at the next Executive Board Meeting. Residents should contact the office for a copy of the report in case they'd like to see this much awaited information.

Recreation Report: Halloween Party for adults on 17 October - I think this is a masquerade party. We had a great time at the Luau and plan to attend this little event.

Maintenance Report: You may note a bunch of cleaning up, trimming of trees and shrubs and painting going on. That would be maintenance doing their thing.

Security Report: Little bastards have splashed paint on cars parked along the street in Ridge Creek. If you see these punks, be sure to get the vehicle license and description and call the police. If you have a clear shot, take it. I mean, take the picture with a camera.

Committe Report: Election Officer Guildlines. Not sure what happened...

Items for Board Approval:
  • Recipe Book. The board approved the plan to update GNW cookbooks and sell them to residents at a price to cover costs. If you have a recipe you'd like to add to the cookbook, or if you'd like to write comments about your life in the Great Northwest, please e-mail them to Janet at jdoherty101@hotmail.com no later than 15 October. We need to get these to the printer so they will be available as a wonderful Christmas present.
  • Chili Cook-off: The board approved Ida's idea to hold a Chili Cook-off on 8 November at the Lodge. They are having a Crafts Show at the lodge that day as well as a big soccer event, so there will be multiple reasons to come out and buy a cup of chili. If you would like to be in the cook-off, please contact Stephanie down at the Rec Department.
And there you have it! Hope to see you at the next meeting.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Ads are Gone...

I'm not sure how many days ago it was - maybe last Friday - when I saw that goofy little feature on the Blogger Site suggesting that I put some advertisements on Silver Creek 78250.

Let me tell you, from the word go I've never written a word of this or gone through the process of resizing pictures of hamburgers and cars with holes cut into the hoods to make a buck. But I did think that if it wasn't costing me anything to have a few links at the top of the page, why not rake in a few thousand extra dollars a month, right?

The other day, I logged into the account out of curiosity. I looked at it and said, "Damn! I made 17 cents today!" But when I made the decision to pull the plug a few minutes ago, I went into the account to remove the code and looked closer at the numbers. Yea, that decimal will get you every time.

This less than a week worth of Internet entrepreneurship made me a whole one penny! That's right, $0.01.

And now I'll probably have to pay taxes on that.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Lunch Report: Chris Madrid's...

It is interesting to me how places get all hyped up by everyone, bandwagons are jumped upon and inevitably, I feel like an idiot because I don't know anything about "The Place" for "The Best" burgers in town. Yes, I have heard of Chris Madrid's and of course, it has been on my list for a while, but to be really honest, it was like going to a movie that everyone has gone gah gah over and then, simply not getting it.From the minute we pulled onto Blanco Road from Hildebrand and the lady in my Garmin said "arriving at destination", my wife was not happy. She matter-of-fact said, "If this is it, I'm not going in there." You have to admit, the place looks run down. Rustic would be a compliment, fitting the neighborhood is probably appropriate. And the security guard out front told us we could park our car in the lot across the street. Regardless of how the place looks from the outside, people seem to have gotten the message that what's on the inside is pretty good.It took some coaxing, but we did go in and figured out where to go to order. I'll spare you the confusion if you plan on trying Chris Madrid's: If you walk in the entrance from Blanco Road, you'll see a wide open seating area with a closed in bar/smoking section (I assume) to your left, and all the way to the right is the cashier and where you order and pick up your stuff. All the way to the back you see a patio area.I don't have any issues with the atmosphere inside. People seemed happy and there were a few pictures to look at. What I didn't care for was the way you are herded into a choke point near the cash register to place your order. The menus were located down by the register, but because there was a constant flow of people trying to get by one another, we had to wait until just before ordering to grab a menu. Luckily, the menu is very limited, and I like that. My wife was not as thrilled.People clearly love Chris Madrid's. Aside from some plaques for People's Choice Awards, the place is mostly decorated in T-Shirts from various organizations or events, signed by customers. I'm all for customer loyalty to drive the business in, but once there, deliver on the product.My wife ordered the chicken sandwich - the cashier told her it would definitely be worth the 15 minute wait. She also requested extra honey mustard to dip with the order of fries we shared. When I went to pick up the order (15 minutes was about right), the lady told me they were out of honey mustard and offered Ranch instead. At that moment in time, I thought to myself, we are going to be going to Earl Abels sometime in the near future to make up for this lunch idea. Aside from the lack of honey mustard, the chicken was okay, but just okay. The fries were fine, cooked the way I like them and would have been much tastier with some honey mustard to dip them in.My selection was easy. I went with the Flaming Jalapeno Burger with Cheddar, Macho (large). The bun was done right, the burger was loaded with jalapenos and covered in gooey Government Cheese, just the way I love it. The hamburger meat is clearly seasoned with something - almost making it a little too salty. Not too salty to really enjoy though.

Aside from the dysfunctional ordering operation, Madrid's seems to operate very smoothly. For people ordering burgers (not chicken) they seem to move very fast. The fact that the lady warned us there would be a wait was outstanding and appreciated.
On what was an incredibly beautiful day, it would have been nice to sit outside on Madrid's patio. Looks very nice and wide open, not crowded like some places.

Look, I had a good burger, though in terms of value, I would have been just as happy paying a lot less and eating at Whataburger. I'd certainly enjoy Chris Madrid's again if I happened to be in the area, but if you have to go out of your way to try it, I know of several others I'd recommend.

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San Antonio, TX, United States
I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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