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Month: March 2012


Caldwell County Courthouse Conservation of attention notice: if you’re from Austin you know all this.

We drove down to Lockhart today with Susan’s parents to do the barbecue pilgrimage. This is not the only possible barbecue pilgrimage, even in Central Texas. There’s Luling and Taylor and Llano, but Lockhart is pretty damned close and it’s home to a few legendary barbecue places, so we wanted to see what it was all about. Being heathens from out of state and all.

Lockhart is a tiny little town. All three of the high reputation places are within a couple blocks of each other, with a really cool Second Empire style sandstone courthouse in the middle. We did Smitty’s, which lies right next to 183. It’s this old, completely unassuming brick building with a very mellow sign. We went around the block, came in the front, and found out the line is back on the 183 side anyhow.

Smitty's smoking pit You order right in front of the smoking pit. My hair smells like oak smoke from the ten minute wait. These smokers have been in operation for over a hundred years, and I gotta think some of the quality is due to a well-seasoned apparatus. It’s market style Texas barbecue: you can get brisket lean or moist, pork ribs, pork chops, and sausage. By the pound, mostly. There’s a market in front of the building for drinks and sides. The meat is piled up on butcher paper. You get a knife, no fork.

Smitty's fireIn terms of quality… wow. It’s the best meat I’ve ever had, beating out the original Morton’s in Chicago. So there’s better meat out there, I’m sure, since it’s not like I’ve ever eaten at the French Laundry or anything. But man, that moist brisket was amazing. Good beef, smoked for hours, until the fat renders into the meat and gives it more flavor. No sauce. Insanely tender.

The sausage was exactly to my tastes. It was spicy but not uber-hot, and fairly grainy. Next time I’d ask for somewhat more smoked links to get it a little drier, but it’s not like it was bad. We had some left over and it’s going into breakfast tacos soon. I can’t wait.

The pork chop was stupid thick, cause it’s smoked, so it’s not like there was any worry about cooking it too dry to get it done all the way through. Yum.

Instapaper Fiction

I like fiction delivered to a convenient and elegant place to read! So:

  1. Go to ifttt, log in/register/whatever
  2. Create a new task.
  3. Choose the Feed trigger.
  4. Choose New Feed Item.
  5. Use the Feed URL, on the assumption that you want to read HiLoBrow’s H. Rider Haggard serialization.
  6. Feed it into Instapaper (or Readability if you like that). You can leave the default field values alone. If this is your first time using ifttt, you’ll need to register the channel first.
  7. Give it a description.

Or just go ahead and use the recipe I made.

Hudson’s On the Bend, & Elk

We had dinner last night with Susan’s parents at Hudson’s on the Bend. In general it was reasonably tasty; the more Hill Country specific cuisine was, unsurprisingly, where it shined. We all had the three course tasting menu. I had chipotle lobster bisque as the appetizer, which was reasonably good: the richness of the lobster was set off nicely by the chipotle. I’m not sure the Hill Country is really lobster territory, and I wouldn’t say this was more impressive than any lobster dish I’d get in a decent Boston restaurant, but it was still good.

For the main course I had the smoked elk with a lime chipotle beer blanc sauce. Totally awesome. I’d never had elk before; it’s like venison, reasonably enough, but richer and darker. The sauce was perfect, again lightening the richness of the main ingredient. They use an espresso rub, and it was superb. I would have this again in a heartbeat. Possibly I can without going to Hudson’s; the actual recipe is here.

The dessert was a pretty mundane caramel pecan pie coated in chocolate. Good ingredients but the chocolate overwhelmed the pecan. I should have gotten the pumpkin white chocolate bread pudding, which was in fact superb.

Texas State Legislature

Our Texas State Senator is Kirk Watson, in Senate District 14. It’s a ridiculously Democratic district covering most of Austin. At a quick glance he doesn’t look incredibly progressive, nor terribly conservative — I’d guess he’s reasonably middle of the road for the Democratic Party. Health care is a big issue for him, as is the economy. He’ll be running against Guy Fielder on the Republican side. There’s a Guy Fielder in the area who’s been a high tech executive for quite a while — worked at Compaq, etc. — so I’d guess it’s him. No Guy Fielder campaign Web site yet.

Our State Representative is Elliott Naishtat (House page here) in House District 49. The House page is more informative than the single-post blog, but the single-post blog is kind of charming. He’s from Queens, moved to Austin after coming here as part of AmeriCorps, and appears to be very feisty. This is another safe Democratic seat and nobody filed to run in the Republican primary; there are also no Libertarian candidates. Or Green candidates, as far as I can tell.


As the Republican primary season wears on, there’s a lot of discussion of delegate math. Jed Lewison of Daily Kos keeps making arguments based on raw percentages — Romney now has to win 48.4% of the remaining delegates available to reach the convention with the nomination in hand. I think he’s just doing propaganda, though, because he’s making the implicit assumption that delegate apportions are simple. So I took the delegate count from Real Clear Politics and made a super-stupid, basic spreadsheet.

I assumed that Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich would split the remaining primaries and caucuses with 30% of the vote each; I gave Ron Paul 10% of each state. Pause for outrage, yes, I know. If you split delegates, 30/30/30/10, Romney doesn’t get over the hump. But then I went back and gave Romney all of the delegates from the winner take all states: Puerto Rico, Wisconsin, Maryland, Washington DC, Delaware, California, New Jersey, and Utah. Utah should be pretty easy for him. Most of the other states ought to be easy Romney victories. Wisconsin is coming up soon; at 42 delegates, it’s a big prize and Santorum’s leading by a big margin there. Romney needs to take all the winner take all states to get to the delegate threshold. On the other hand, if he just misses Wisconsin, I bet there are enough unpledged delegates out there to push him over the top. Without Wisconsin, he’d be at 1152 delegates — with it, he’d be at 1110.

So OK, that’s kind of a rough road. Then I redid the numbers, assuming Gingrich drops and gets all his delegates to vote for Santorum. I gave 66% of Gingrich’s future support to Santorum, and 33% to Romney, which I think is a pretty reasonable estimate. In this model, Romney winds up with more delegates (1246) and he can afford to lose Wisconsin. Note that this scenario also works if you think Romney can pull in a mere 40% of the popular vote the rest of the way, even with both Gingrich and Santorum in the race.

Oh, wait, lemme fiddle with the model some more… OK. If Romney can get 34% of the delegates from proportionally allocated states the rest of the way, and win all the winner take all states except Wisconsin, he still winds up with enough delegates to win the nomination outright. He won 39% of the available delegates yesterday, so he made progress towards his goal. Romney’s right to think he can slowly push his way over the finish line. Lewison’s wrong; it wasn’t a setback. Also, Gingrich is not going to drop out because it would kill his ability to be any kind of a kingmaker at the convention.

Edit: this blog is a real professional doing the same kind of math, but much much better.

Texas Ten

Redistricting has made Texas politics a bit of a mess this year. For the moment, we live in TX-10, with a Republican incumbent. There was a reasonably strong Democratic candidate planning to run, but he pulled out due to some unfavorable redraws of the map. For our reference, two Democrats filed for the primary: Tawana Cadien and William Miller, Jr. I can’t find anything on the latter. Cadien was a delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention and has been reasonably busy in local Democratic politics for a couple of years. There’s a William J. Miller who contributed a fair bit of money to various candidates in the 2010 elections, but the middle initial is wrong. Neither of them have campaign Web sites up for this cycle, so I don’t expect either of them are really plausible opponents, alas.

More posts under the “2012 texas elections” tag as I continue to figure out local politics.

Austin Rain

Lake Travis, 46 feet below normal It’s intensely green in Texas right now. The rhythm is familiar to me from California: long months of brown, followed by intense green while it’s raining. In February, we had 3.04 inches of rain, up from an average of 2.34 inches. January averages 2.1 inches, but we had 4.7 inches this year. November and December were above average as well. We need it after the summer; when Susan and I got here, the ground was hardtack dry.

These days it’s lush. Our neighborhood is leafy, tree-lined, and half the mornings we find water dripping off the leaves onto the streets. I take Ranch to Market 2222 to work. It curves between the hills and the Colorado River, cut into the side of the hills, leaving cliffs on my right as I drive up into the Hill Country. You go right past West Bull Creek Preserve; it’s beautiful green open space out here, for the most part. Lake Travis, shown from last summer above, isn’t far.

FM 2222 My office window looks out over more greenery. It’s due to be developed sometime; there’s an apartment complex right to the left, in fact. They had three buildings planned in this office complex back in 2006, but only two have been built so far and one of ’em is empty. Recession. I think it’ll pick up again; this is a pretty busy area and it’s a natural for expansion, with a lot of residential real estate and decent services nearby. Right now, though, mostly green.