Texas ENERGY STAR Sales Tax Holiday Memorial Day Weekend

Created Thursday, 27 May 2010 22:29

Texas ENERGY STAR® Sales Tax Holiday Memorial Day Weekend: May 29-31, 2010

Your old appliances and energy-hogging equipment could be wasting hundreds of dollars in energy each year.  Take advantage of the third-annual Texas ENERGY STAR Sales Tax Holiday during Memorial Day Weekend and get a break from state and local sales taxes on the purchase of select ENERGY STAR appliances and products. You could save hundreds of dollars off the product types below and experience up to 75 percent in energy savings from your new ENERGY STAR products as compared to standard models.

When to Shop

Memorial Day Weekend; Saturday May 29, 12:01 a.m. (after midnight) through Monday, May 31, 11:59 p.m.

Who Can Shop

Anyone in Texas can buy these products on the 3-day weekend at a store in Texas or from an Internet or catalog seller engaged in business in this state. This includes homebuilders, real estate developers, dealers, service providers and contractors. Products may be purchased for existing homes, new homes and non-residential properties. See Shopper Eligibility FAQs.

Eligible Products and Shopping Details

Look for the ENERGY STAR logo on the packaging, appliance or Energy Guide label for the appliances listed below. There is no limit on the number of qualifying items one can purchase during this sales tax holiday. The purchased items may be held in inventory until ready for use. For exemption information on associated fees, please see Delivery and Installation Charge FAQs.

  • Air conditioners priced at $6,000 or less
  • Refrigerators priced at $2,000 or less
  • Ceiling fans
  • Incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs
  • Clothes washers
  • Dishwashers
  • Dehumidifiers
  • Programmable thermostats*

* ENERGY STAR specification of programmable thermostats was suspended on December 31, 2009; however, any existing stock of ENERGY STAR labeled programmable thermostats offered for sale by retailers is still eligible for the exemption.

To qualify for the ENERGY STAR label, an appliance must meet rigorous energy efficiency and water efficiency standards set by the Federal government. These appliances use less energy and less water than regular appliances and thus help the consumer save money each month on their utility bills.

ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy for products that meet strict energy efficiency guidelines.

For more information visit Texas Powerful Smart: Texas Energy Start Sales Tax Holiday


SAWS Annual Festival of Flowers

Created Wednesday, 26 May 2010 13:16

Annual Festival of Flowers

May 29 (Sat) 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

The 13th Annual Festival of Flowers is San Antonio’s most exciting gardening-exclusive event. Presented by SAWS (the San Antonio Water System). The SAWS-sponsored event features a plant giveaway, landscaping workshops, and plant sale. Also, get landscaping ideas and expert advice on gardening and outdoor living environments. Don’t miss out on the cooking demonstrations and wine tastings.

It’s a day of informative seminars and shopping for plants, landscape materials and gardening accessories. It’s a time to swap plants and seeds at the City-Wide Plant Exchange — the largest exchange in the state.

See demonstrations on rain water harvesting, floral design and herb cooking.

Alzafar Shrine 901 N. Loop 1604 West Between Stone Oak Parkway & Blanco Rd Festival of Flowers, San Antonio’s premier gardening event, presented by San Antonio Water System. For more information, call 210 380-3532 or go to: SAFestivalofFlowers.com


Who’re You Gonna Call?

Created Wednesday, 26 May 2010 03:16
by Julia Hayden

Who’re You Gonna Call?

There’s something weird
in the neighborhood,
who’re you gonna call?

There’s something strange
and it don’t look good,
who’re you gonna call?


Being that this is the real and completely material and logical world – probably not Ghostbusters. Given a range of personal, fire, law-enforcement and medical emergencies where time is of the essence, you will probably pick up the phone, dial 9-11 or some variant, and be connected with a wide assortment of emergency response personnel – all of whom were on display – along with a nerd’s delight of specialized equipment and vehicles last Saturday in the parking lot of the Forum shopping center, at the intersection of 35 and 1604. A number of small towns; Schertz, Live Oak, Universal City, Selma – once geographically separate and distinct are now more or less merged with greater San Antonio as far as roads and rooftops are concerned, but they still are separate municipalities. And there truly was something to cover any law-enforcement, vehicular or natural-disaster caused emergency, whether it was land-born (the Guadalupe County SWAT team vehicle) air-born (an air-life helicopter ambulance, and a couple of ladder trucks with very long ladders) or water-born (the Lake Dunlap speedy pontoon-boat.)

Of course, this was a draw for families and children of all ages, being given the chance to examine up close, and thoroughly explore the insides of at all kinds of trucks, cars, boats and helicopters, which in the usual work-a-day-world are either going by very fast, at some distance or both. In every case, there were representatives of the various services standing by to demonstrate or explain. The culmination of the morning was the life-flight helicopter taking off and flying over, low and slow – and fire department personnel demonstrating their technique and tools used in efficiently disassembling a wrecked automobile in order to extract the injured within. (In the process of which they probably ruined every single chance of a late model Honda Accura getting any money back through a wrecking-yard from the sales of un-wrecked spare parts.) It took twenty minutes to hack and pry off the doors and top, and then pull the front engine compartment away – but I am thinking they probably can do all of that in a real emergency and using the range of interesting and/or specialized power tools available – in considerably less time.

And my daughter has come up with a reason for the usually friendly and fraternal but sometimes-sorta-serious rivalry between cops and firemen . . . the firemen have at their disposal and hands-down a much better assortment of non-lethal power tools.

But a marvelous time was had by all – large engines, powerful vehicles and an extensive range of power tools – what better way to spend a morning? They do this every year, it seems.




More Like Mr Darcy and Less Like Shane

Created Friday, 21 May 2010 18:25

More Like Mr. Darcy and Less Like Shane


I think very fondly of re-enactors when I am working up a book, especially when I am working on a bit of historical fiction about Texas. Next to the public library, and the second-hand bookstores like Half-Price Books, there is no better way to figure out how something works, looks, smells, handles and feels than . . . well, checking out the fantastically dedicated re-enactor community. I first realized this, when I was working up the first book of the Adelsverein Trilogy – and had to become very familiar with the workings of the 1836 Colt Paterson revolver. Behold, I was put in touch with a local collector and re-enactor who happened to own a replica set, and would be kind enough to show me how it was loaded, sighted and broken down for maintenance – the only such in town, apparently. My daughter and I spend a very informative hour in a locked and windowless conference room at an undisclosed location. This is not exactly the sort of session where one welcomes the casual kibitzers. Even in Texas, someone walking in and discovering three period revolvers and the necessary tools are spread out over the conference table is obligated to make a comment to the building management. The fact that there was no ammunition involved would not have ameliorated the resulting excitement.

The oddest thing about the Paterson was that it was actually rather a small weapon, dull matte metal with a polished wooden stock. It fit my hand comfortably, and I have rather dainty hands. The revolver that made things equal in a fight between Jack Hays Rangers and the Comanche was actually… rather small, especially in comparison with the next iteration, the Walker Colt. The collector who showed us all this told me he has a pair of those, as well. The Walker is a massive weapon, weighing about four and a half pounds. After expending all six shots, anyone armed with one would have still had a dandy club/brass knuckles. No wonder they were immediately popular. But after wearing a pair of them on a gun-belt for a whole day of re-enactor events, he really, really felt every ounce of them, in a considerably painful way.

Another amusing element: gentlemen re-enactors of early Texas days are splendidly turned out in the finest early 19th century finery; waistcoats, high-buttoned jackets, tall books and all, even to fancy spurs with jingle-bobs on them. The Texians at the Alamo, dressed in their best, may have looked very much more like Mr. Darcy than Shane: no cowboy hats or boots, no jeans, nothing like what people are used to think of as “western” dress. These gentlemen of early Texas wore tall top-hats, or billed caps, tail-coats or hunting coats made of heavy canvas or buckskin, trimmed with fringe – and very fancy waistcoats. That was a very male bit of a splash- the fancy waistcoat, especially when accessorized with a huge hunting knife. And his gentle lady carried a pretty big hunting knife as well. After all, a lady must always be armed against ungentlemanly advances … with whatever comes to hand.

There are a number of re-enactor groups in San Antonio and in South Texas, which schedule open events quite frequently; I am told that one of the most moving, and evocative is the lamp-lit encampment held at the reconstructed Presidio La Bahia at Goliad – which represents to be the evening before the Massacre.

The Texican Rangers – SASS Affiliate

The Presidio la Bahia – Goliad, TX




Log Cabin Days

Created Wednesday, 12 May 2010 16:36

Log Cabin Days


Back in the old days, shelter was almost everyone’s first need, upon settling on a homestead, that and planting some kind of crop in the ground. A marvelous book called “Texas Log Buildings; A Folk Architecture” differentiates very clearly the difference between a log cabin, and a log house. A cabin was small, dirt-floored and windowless, put up as a temporary shelter, whereas a house was larger, permanent, and carefully constructed; even elaborate. Many such were covered with siding and paint as soon as their owners could afford to do so. Frequently, the temporary cabin was reused as a smoke-house or a stable.

I’d always visualized such houses and cabins built out of rounded logs, like a ‘Lincoln-log’ house, but that method was only used by the relatively unskilled and/or in a tearing hurry. Most Texas log structures were built of timbers which had been roughly shaped on two sides and notched at the ends to make a square corner . . . and were also raised off the ground on corner piers, to prevent rot and termite infestation.

Logs were prepped before construction, either by cutting a shallow straight face on two opposite sides, or slicing a thick plank out of the center of the log. On rare occasions each log would be square-hewn on all four sides; usually only the bottom log and the topmost, which supported the rafters would be squared. Those logs would be the largest; if there was to be a wooden floor, the sills would be mortised, with the floor joists lap-jointed into them. A log house went up, fast once all the timbers had been prepped: the book gives an estimate of two men working two days for a fairly simple, square (single pen) structure, and three men working three days for a more elaborate one.

Roofs were usually constructed with the gable-ends on the sides of a two-slope roof, with pairs of rafters lap-jointed or mortised together at the roof-ridge, at about a 45-degree angle. Long lathes or slats run cross-ways between the rafters. Most log houses were roofed with cut shingles. Attached porches and sheds would usually have a shallower roof line, described as a “witches’ hat” in silhouette.

Doors and windows were cut after construction was completed, neither large nor numerous, since cutting them weakened the structure. The carpenters would set wedges into the spaces between the logs to prevent them sagging, and cut vertically until the desired size was reached. Then a frame of planks would be nailed or pegged into place to stabilize the cut logs. Another reason for having a minimum of windows in many parts of Texas in the early days was the ever-present danger of Indian attacks. A number of houses from that time actually had so-called shooting holes, two or three in each wall. Windows were secured with wooden shutters; before glass was available, oiled paper or thin-scraped oiled rawhide were use.

In all but few houses made from carefully fitted hewn timbers, there was a gap between each log which needed to be filled in order to make the house weather-tight; with thin slats nailed or driven into place, flat pieces of stone and mortar, or clay mixed with animal hair, straw, or moss… or just plain mud. In a house built of logs which had been rough-hewn, bark left on the top and bottom helped the chinking material adhere.

The most common floor-plan was called a “dog-trot” a pair of rooms with a covered breezeway between. When metal stoves had become so widely available, houses were retrofitted with them, and fireplaces removed. Larger windows were cut when cheaper glass became available. Later, many log houses were covered with siding; there being a whiff of poverty attached to living in such. Sometimes it is hard to tell that there is a log house underneath the siding and plaster, the porch added at the front, and the shed kitchen on the back. Armed with knowledge, I am resolved to look very carefully at houses in the very oldest neighborhoods, knowing that there may be a log house there, lurking in the heart of suburbia.


Land Lots of Land

Created Tuesday, 04 May 2010 14:17

Land, Lots of Land

Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above,
Don’t fence me in.
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love,
Don’t fence me in.

About two weeks ago I made a decision about some land I own – which I don’t think about very much, except when I have to pay the taxes on it. When I get the bill from the San Diego assessor’s office for the three acres and some of unimproved howling wilderness – that’s when I remember that yes, indeedly-do, neighbors – I am a landowner. It’s a nice tract, which would have been covered with black oak, pine trees and mountain laurel, on the edge of a national forest – save for a plague of bark beetles throughout the 1990s, topped by a massive forest fire in 2003. Everything should be fairly well grown back by now, though.

About halfway through my career in the military I thought I should prepare for eventual retirement by purchasing a bit of land close by my parents in Southern California, something that I could build on.  Having lived in a series of drab rentals and military housing units, the thought of a bespoke home of my own was enticing. My parents drove me around to look, eventually focusing on the mountains near a charming little town called Julian. We hadn’t actually fixed on a suitable tract – but my parents knew my tastes by then. Basically, I bought my property on their advice.

When I returned from my last assignment overseas, I resolved to buy a house to live in for the rest of my time in the Air Force. I’d continue working until the mortgage was paid – then sell the house and use the equity to fund a new house on my land. Lucky me – I got sent to Texas. Which was third on my list of preferences, by the way – but I did buy the house.

And then  . . .  well, things happened. It’s called life, which happens even when you have plans. One of those things which happened was that Texas – rather like bathroom mold – grows on you. Really; after a while, practically everywhere else seems dry and savorless, devoid of an exuberant sense of place and identity. And the countryside is lovely: green, threaded with rivers lined with cypress trees, interspersed with rolling hills dotted with oak trees and wildflowers star-scattered everywhere. I put down roots here, made friends. I wrote books with a Texas setting which have garnered me readers and fans, and a partnership in a little specialty publishing firm. I have come to love San Antonio; which I have described for years as a small town, cunningly disguised as a large city.

Another of my occasional employers runs a ranch real estate bidness from a home office. I put in a small number of hours a week, just to keep his files and documents from becoming a kind of administrative black hole, sucking in everything within range. I put together his various brochures for the properties that he has listings for – and last week, while assembling one of them, I was thinking all the while, “I so want a bit of that.” I’d rather have a bit of land, maybe park a little cabin on it, where I could go and spend quiet weekends: something I could drive up to in a couple of hours, rather than in two days. So, I told Mom and Dad to put the California acreage with a local realtor, and my friend the ranch real estate expert that I would be looking for a nice acre or two. It feels good, it really does.

I expect that I will eventually be driving a pickup truck. But the gimme cap, the gun rack and the hunting dog are still negotiable.