Archive for February, 2010

The De Zavala Flag

(Part of a series explaining the history behind my Texian Tees. Other entries: the Burnet Flag; the Johanna Troutman Flag; the Gonzales Flag (Old Come and Take It); and the New Orleans Greys Flag. Click here to see and buy the shirts!)

To me, this is easily the most beautiful of the early Texas flags… if it really existed. Some say it was designed by Lorenzo de Zavala, Texas’ first vice president and a drafter of her constitution. Others say it was invented nearly a century later. Even the Texas Almanac says there’s “no historical evidence” for it, while noting that it’s flown in Texas to this day. Me, I think it makes a nice shirt that handsomely indicates your interest in Texas history; as they said in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

This is also the design that appears inside the Texas Capitol’s dome at the very top:

So if somebody gives you guff about the De Zavala flag being a myth, just tell ’em, “Hey bud, I don’t know what you’re talking about; this is the star inside the Capitol dome.”

About my design: Such a star would have probably been painted or appliqued (that is to say, a star cut from white fabric sewn to the blue), and the letters painted. My graphic depicts an embroidered star and letters only to add some richness to the image.


Cotton, 3 shades of blue



Or in sustainable, organic cotton


Short link for this entry: http://bit.ly/dezavalaflag

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I was puzzled as a youngster (and indeed, up until last week) by the title of “Norwegian Wood.”  The song is moody, and I always pictured a dark forest of young skinny trees, probably related to the photomural in my dentist’s office.  But no, I read now that it was a dig at the girl’s cheap furnishings. Paul said in a 1998 book:

Peter Asher had his room done out in wood, a lot of people were decorating their places in wood. Norwegian wood. It was pine really, cheap pine. But it’s not as good a title, ‘Cheap Pine,’ baby.

For a famous guy, John famously had some issues with women (witness the original lyrics of “Day Tripper” — hint: She was not a “big” teaser). Also I didn’t realize until years later that he supposedly burns down her apartment (or whatever it is) at the end of the song. To which I say “Hmph.”

So to create the effect this song apparently should have had on me, I have reworded it slightly.

She texted ‘Come over’ so I rushed to get to her flat
I plied her with liquor and told her she didn’t look fat
We laughed at ourselves / isn’t it swell / IKEA shelves

She played me her John Mayer albums and I found them vile
I told her I wanted to bonk now and she didn’t smile
She put me through hell / isn’t it swell / IKEA shelves.

Still mysterious: how British people sleep in bathtubs.

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This was my pre-Christmas tip on Twitter: Tin snips, which will only run you about $14, are the answer you have been searching for to annoying plastic packaging.  They cut through that stuff the way scissors slice through paper.  It’s very satisfying.  Also, grab these when you have to cut up credit cards.  Snip!  You’re done.

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(Part of a series explaining the history behind my Texian Tees. Other entries: the De Zavala Flag; the Burnet Flag; the Gonzales Flag (Old Come and Take It); and the New Orleans Greys Flag. Click here to see and buy the shirts!)

young woman in Georgia made this flag bearing a blue star for a battalion that was heading to Texas in response to a call for help. (It’s more often pictured with the words “Liberty or Death,” but I preferred using the version that names Texas.) James Fannin flew it — or actually, the shreds of it — at Goliad as the “first national flag of Texas.” Many of the Georgia troops in this battalion were killed in the Goliad Massacre, but as the Handbook of Texas notes, not entirely in vain: The executions ordered by Santa Anna bolstered support for Texas independence.

The flag has a dramatic position in this painting of Santa Anna’s surrender, which has been hanging in the Texas Capitol since 1891.

(That’s Santa Anna in the blue coat and white breeches — a private’s uniform — and an injured Sam Houston lying on the blanket.)

About my design: Troutman probably appliqued the blue star on her flag; my design, like my other shirts, shows an embroidered star instead. This gives a richer and more detailed look, but at full size, it would have been so heavy the flag probably wouldn’t flap! Also, as noted above, the original flag likely read “Liberty or Death,” but I thought most Texas history fans would prefer to wear a shirt with this slogan, which is also sometimes given in descriptions.

Click to buy the shirt!

Short link for this entry: http://bit.ly/troutmanflag

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The Honeycrisp apple, so I read, took the apple world by storm in the past couple years. And it turns out there’s science behind its appeal.

A University of Minnesota hybrid that’s a little touchy to grow, Honeycrisp was introduced in 1991 but spread slowly at first (the trees take a few years to bear, for one thing). All it takes, though, is one taste of a Honeycrisp. People love them so much they will pay $1 a pound more for them; thus more growers are planting them, and the Honeycrisp is spreading. A Minnesota grower says:

Whenever we give sample slices of Honeycrisp at the orchard, new converts are won over. No matter if one customer prefers tart apples and another customer prefers sweet apples, we find that 80% of them prefer Honeycrisp. We just give them one slice, and Honeycrisp is their new favorite. I don’t know of another sweet apple (Honeycrisp must definitely be classified as sweet) that attracts the tart folks like Honeycrisp does.

I can testify to the phenomenon. I’m a lifelong carnivore who prefers veggies to be seen and not heard, and rarely does fruit darken my door unless it is parked inside a pie. Even so, I have a weakness for apples n’ cheddar, and the first time I had a Honeycrisp, I said something quite rude out loud. I LOVE them. I’ve even talked a total stranger into buying them for his kid at the grocery.

Honeycrisp (left) leaves even sweet apples like Ambrosia (right) in the shade.

Honeycrisp apples got me to eat apples regularly. (That whump! was my college roommate, a nutritionist, hitting the floor.)

Are they different?  Turns out, yes.  Cells in the Honeycrisp are apparently twice as large as in other varieties, and the pectin holds the cells together more tightly than in other apples. This could explain its crisp texture, juicy burst and long shelf life. The great flavor is probably due to its hybrid parents, but those specifics are lost: Researchers found one parent was the Keepsake apple but can’t identify the other.

So far Honeycrisp apples are not available all year — they start to ripen in September and stay good till April or even June– and even if they do become widely enough grown for year-round stocking, surely they wouldn’t be as jaw-droppingly tasty in the off-season. So I’m already trying to line up alternatives for when my supply dries up. But I think I’m in trouble.

Ambrosia is a similar-looking (yellow with a red blush) apple — not as big, but nice and sweet. It’s not the same, of course, and its season is shorter anyway — October-January. But it’ll do if the Honeycrisps are sold out.

Growers are hoping the new SweeTango variety will make people even loopier — a Honeycrisp cross, it’s supposed to have the same crispness and even more flavor, and should be available nationwide in 2011 or 2012. But tighter controls on its production and distribution mean that it will likely be available for short times. That’s basically intended to ensure the quality (and prices) stay high, of course. Yucky mealy mass-produced fruits have already turned too many people off apples.

The patent on Honeycrisps expired in 2008, and since even Texas grocery stores are now hawking them, they are obviously on the path to world domination.  Keep the quality as high as you can, though, will you, dear growers?  This is a truly amazing creation.

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(Part of a series explaining the history behind my Texian Tees. Other entries: the Burnet Flag; the Johanna Troutman Flag; the De Zavala Flag; and the New Orleans Greys Flag. Click here to see and buy the shirts!)

Allegedly flown in the first battle of Texas’ revolution against Mexico, in October 1835, the flag depicts the legend “Come and Take It” under an old cannon Mexico had given to the DeWitt colonists to defend themselves against Native Americans. Under Santa Anna, Mexico began taking away the colonists’ arms, and requested the cannon back. The colonists, freaked out by the increasing dictatorship, said No, but thank you; we’ll keep the cannon. Mexico sent soldiers, but instructed them to avoid conflict if possible; the Texians fired on them; the Mexicans retreated.

Public domain image from Wikipedia

About my design: People have depicted the arrangement of the star, slogan and cannon in a number of ways; I used what I think is a traditional arrangement, as seen in the 1938 mural above, in the Gonzales Memorial Museum, which apparently includes some Davy Crocketts manning the cannon and another Davy Crockett stuck behind the flag holding it out. My cannon is based on a photo of what some say is the actual cannon. Noah Smithwick’s description also places a Lone Star above the cannon. (The Handbook of Texas hypothesizes that the flag of Col. James Long’s 1819 expedition might have been the first to use a lone star for Texas.)

Click to buy the shirt!

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About 3 hours before the end of my work shift, I often get into a weird state that’s a combination of antsy and tired. We’ve just completed the hustle of 4 p.m. deadlines; I’ve been sitting too long and I’m tense.

A few stretches from the book “Yoga for Suits” — designed for folks wearing work clothes; often one or more of my coworkers will stretch along with me — loosen things up nicely.  Here are three examples if you’d like to try (click image for a printable PDF), next time you want to flee the office but you still have a few hours to go. Do them slowly, breathing deeply:

(My illustrations are embarrassingly rudimentary, but I promise, if you buy the book you get full-color photos and proper instructions, as well as a very practical discussion of yoga philosophy.)

Also, I often have trouble getting to sleep.  My mind keeps running in circles and won’t slow down.  This meditation MP3 really helps me. It’s 8 minutes long (I often fall asleep before the end of it) and, to be honest, I like it because it’s very straightforward and doesn’t have flutes or somebody telling me to visualize unicorns. You get the rhythmic rise and fall of a Tibetan singing bowl, kind of a humming, white-noise sound, and a gentle voice giving you simple instructions that focus your attention on your breathing.

There is much more to yoga and to meditation than a 3-minute stretch at your desk, or just trying to get to sleep, of course. I simply offer these up because — truly — they work for me.

[Edit: March 29, 2010 — I haven’t tried them out yet, but you can download free meditations here! Unicorns and rainbows are possible. If I check ’em out I’ll update again.]

short link for this post: http://bit.ly/deskyoga

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