Black Skimmer open house Skimmers are the only birds whose lower beaks are longer than their upper beaks, and when they skim you can see why. Sporting tuxedo colors, like penguins, the sharp-winged birds skim low over the water and scoop up food with their lower beaks. Skimmers are normally shy, reclusive birds, but for reasons of their own, a colony has resided on an oyster-shell parking lot at the Dow industrial complex since 1968. Skimmer scouts know where the birds nest, and they're ready to introduce the public to more than a thousand of the pot-bellied, red-beaked birds. Refreshments and shade will be available. 9 a.m.noon. Dow Texas Operations, take Highway 288/332 through Lake Jackson, turn right onto Highway 523, turn left at Dow Gate A-41 and then get shuttle service to the skimmer lot. For more information, call (409) 238-2276. Free.
Water Garden Festival Most people who garden seriously for any length of time eventually think, "Hmmm, maybe I should put in a pond." But few do, because ponds are hard to design and require major maintenance; and also because there's often little support for would-be water gardeners. Today, however, is the day for those who yearn to learn about installation, water filtration and which plants and animals to stock. Experts Dave Artz, Leo van Poppel and Kevin Richards will be on hand to lead new and struggling water gardeners through the ins and outs of such endeavors -- there's even a seminar on waterfall art display. BeepBeep the clown will keep kids out of your hair, and non-gardeners can gorge on turkey legs and lemonade. All in all, it's a fun day for the whole family. 9:30 a.m.5:30 p.m. today and Sunday. Lilypons Water Gardens, take I-10 west to Brookshire, Exit 731 (FM 1489-Koomey Road), and find Lilypons a quarter-mile south on the left. For more information, call 391-0076.
Hibiscus Show and Sale The secrets of these showy tropical flowers are available to you, the so-far-unsuccessful hibiscus grower. The Lone Star chapter of the American Hibiscus Society's show and sale will feature a vast array of plants, including the relatively hardy Chinese hibiscus that grows well along the Gulf. Along with the plants, the society will be selling a helpful text, the Hibiscus Handbook. This how-to and all-about book contains everything you need to know. 15 p.m. Bellaire Civic Center, 7008 South Rice Avenue. For more information, call 668-9772 or 665-2491. Free.
Hone your computing skills Many office workers -- and we all know this is true -- seek solace from the Monday doldrums by playing computer games. This is not a bad thing, necessarily, but playing solitaire will get you only so far. This drab, hot Monday, why not give the World Wide Web a shot? Forget the complex and confusing instructions your sys admin offered; just point and click on your own. We suggest that you find, download, install and play the pre-release version of Quake, a soon-to-be-available game from ID Software, the people who brought you Doom and Wolfenstein 3D. This may seem like a not-entirely legal activity and a waste of time, yet nothing could be further from the truth. The people at ID want you to test their wares; they're practically begging people to slurp the alpha version. And by finding, downloading and installing Quake, you'll be teaching yourself valuable information-gathering skills, skills you need to be a front-runner on the information superhighway. It's easy, and it's fun -- although not so quick: searching, downloading and mastering this little freebie might take all day. Fire up your Web browser and point it at a search engine (Yahoo or Magellan or whatever the computing powers-that-be command you to use). The free alpha sample can be found with search terms "Quake" and "ID." Remember: you're doing this to become a better and more productive employee.
The Pleasure Police David Shaw, writer and Pulitzer Prize-winning media critic for the Los Angeles Times, asks a rhetorical question: "Why in the world have the healthiest, wealthiest, safest and most pampered people in the history of humanity turned into nation of pushy, whiny, misinformed nutrition Nazis, teetotalers, prudes and abstainers?" Though his book The Pleasure Police may not answer that question, he does have a bang-up time detailing the shallow, self-serving stupidness of nimrods who believe all the bad science they see on Hard Copy. Beware, you witless fascists who try to take the fun from the lives of normal, thinking people: in this happy book, the religious right, feminists and all the ant-people take their lumps. Shaw signs copies, 7:308:30 p.m. Barnes & Noble Vanderbilt Square, 3003 West Holcombe, 349-0050.
Lively Arts Festival In most cases, wise and good parents teach their children to shun and fear mimes. There are, however, exceptions to this rule. Say, for instance, that it's Wednesday, and you need to haul the sprouts out for some entertainment. What's cheap and new? Why, the Lively Arts Festival. There, trained mimes who can get grant money will entertain your li'l shavers with Outsiders on the Inside. This is a sci-fi story about baseless hatred, a Hatfields and McCoys on the planet Ecalpon. Kids will enjoy the colorful costumes, the music and the dance, and they may even learn valuable lessons. 10:30 a.m. today, Thursday and Friday. Presented by Texas Mime Theatre at HCCS, Heinen Theatre, 3517 Austin. For more information, call 520-MIME. $5; $3.75, individuals in groups of ten or more.