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    There are some words we heard so much in 2012 that Austin can't stand to hear them one more time. We polled various Austinites about the words and phrases they'd like to leave behind as we move into 2013. 

    Gluten Free” – We understand many people have a gluten allergy, and we get that. Actually, we’re sorry you'll never be able to try a sweet, sweet craft beer without puking – at least puking for different reasons than we are. But when products like vodka start branding themselves as gluten free, you know this trend has gone way too far. So the next time you find yourself having lunch with a friend who won't shut up about her new gluten free diet while simultaneously drenching her salad in ranch dressing, we completely support you throwing your drink in her face –  unless, of course, you're drinking a respectable beer. – Bitch Beer

    Neuro” – The media has gotten brain fever. If a reporter can find a pretty picture of the brain to slap on a story about some kind of behavior, it makes the whole thing seem that much more real. These days, there are discussions about “Neuro-marketing,” “Neuro-economics,” and “Neuro-education.”

    The fact is, we don't know nearly enough about what the brain is doing to be able to use that knowledge to draw specific recommendations for how to education, market, or influence economic behavior. So, let's stamp out “Neuro.” – Art Markman, University of Texas professor of psychology and author of the book “Smart Thinking

    Cocktailian,” “foodie,” “eater heat map” – @anavenueblog

    Awesome” – 2012 might have taken this one over the top. It seems like almost anything or anyone can be “awesome” these days. Awe is no longer necessary. Maybe we could develop a little more adjectival power. – Steve Bercu, BookPeople co-owner and CEO

    From Austin’s burlesque group, The Jigglewatts:

    Apocalypse" – The word is starting to sound like a type of seizure, or a dance move. – Ruby Joule

    Realness” – As in, “I'm serving up some back door 3rd world shanty plastic surgery realness.” – Pearl Lux

    Cray” – Just because our schedule is, in fact, cray, doesn't mean we can't take the time to say the second syllable. – Goldie Candela

    Fiscal Cliff” – It wreaks havoc with my vertigo. – Jolie Goodnight

    "YOLO "- short for "you only live once" - is a weedy word. Like a weed, it seemed to spring up everywhere at once, then flourish briefly. But it never sank down deep roots in the lexicon: whenever someone says "YOLO," they always seem to end up explaining what it means. It's time for this weed to be pulled. - Clay Spinuzzi, University of Texas associate professor of rhetoric and writing

    Get rid of “mixologist.” I don't know whether to order a drink or ask for my favorite song. – @egoistetx

    Accident” – For one, “accident” is often used to refer to traffic collisions that are simply not accidental. They have causes that are the result of poor choices made by people. The other part is that there have been far too many fatal collisions, i.e. “accidents,” with people walking or bicycling in the Austin area this year. – Tom Wald, Bike Austin executive director

    Hipster” – In 2012, this word was used so much that it lost all meaning. "Hipster" was used to describe seemingly anyone who tried something a little different, whether that be with facial hair, dress, their backyard or mode of transportation. Austin's supposed to be weird, y'all, so let people experiment! – Stephanie Myers, Austin Post writer

    "SoCo, SoLa, SoFi, So-Anything" - Look, is the word "south" so hard to say? Calling South Lamar "SoLa" is like rolling over and letting some Los Angeles development baron scratch your belly. It's not a way of life, it's a street. South Congress, South First, South Lamar. - Tim Ziegler, Austin Post editor


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    Austin Backyard BeehiveAs the chill wind blows through town (tonight's forecast predicts a freeze), we will sit cozy in our homes as Christmas lights twinkle across lawns. Perhaps friends will stop by to raise a glass. It is the season.

    In our cheer, let's not forget that saddest winter case: the drone honeybee.

    Drones are the males in a given bee hive, numbering perhaps a few hundred in a hive of thousands. While their sisters work famously hard to keep up the order of the hive – raising the young, collecting nectar, making wax and honey, cleaning the hive – the drones live a more slackery lifestyle. (You many know some Austin humans who live like this.)

    Drones are kept in honey by their sisters, who are all “work work work” all the time. For all I know the drones sleep late and do the crossword until lunchtime. Their sole purpose is to hang around and hope to have that one magical night (well, day) where they get to make wild flying whoopie with a queen.

     

    An Austin hive as seen through the viewing window. Nope, no drones in here.

    It's a crazy kind of lovemaking, a live-free-and-die-young type of copulation. (If they do find a queen to mate with, which is anything but certain, they have to share her with a few others. And, um, there's the fatal ending. But better to burn out than to fade away?)

    So if all goes well in the warmer seasons, it works like this:

    Drones go out and about looking for a queen. If the stars line up, a queen who is ready to mate (for her one and only time) will emit a pheromone that says “hey, you.”

    The queen then flies high in the air in a game of catch-me-if-you-can. Maybe this is to weed out the dim and weak drones, or just to have fun – she'll be laying thousands upon thousands of eggs for the next couple of years so why not live a little.

    She does the deed with several drones in mid-flight, one at a time. A drone who gets to do this barrel-roll in the hay will have his fun, but afterwards – how to say this gently for our family audience? – he pulls away but his endophallus remains inside the queen and tears off his body, and he falls to his death. The queen does this a few times, collecting enough sperm to keep her in fertilized eggs for months on end (for the rest of her life, actually). What passes through the drone's mind as the light dims on his fatal fall to earth, who can say?

    But what of the drones who don't find a queen to mate with?

    Here our tale grows melancholy. Once autumn-into-winter comes, the collective hive knows that the time for mating is over until spring. The honey in the hive must be conserved for vital functions: keeping the queen and the workers alive. The slackery drones are booted out of the hive.

    Fine and well, drones don't need them. Drones don't need anyone! But alas, they do. A bee cannot live without a hive. A single bee is a node in a superorganism. The complex behavior that makes a hive work, that gathers food and stays organized and on top of the game, is literally the “hive mind.” To be hive-less means starvation if a bird doesn't get you first.

    So rest warm, humans. Enjoy your friends, your warm homes, your fridge full of food. If any Austin drones are still alive out there, shivering alone, all we can do is shake our heads and wait for spring.


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    Austin photographer Neal Douglass

    Snyder native Neal Douglass (1900-1983) had already spent time with several newspapers when he hired on with the Austin American-Statesman in 1934.  A year later he found himself attending a six-week crash course in photography at the University of Texas.  After all, if he was to succeed as the first chief of the American-Statesman’s new photography department, he would have to know his way around a camera.  Fortunately for those interested in preserving Austin’s history, Douglass did succeed.  In fact, he mastered his new craft well enough to remain on the job for two decades before leaving the paper to open his own studio.  Eight years after retiring in 1962 he donated a large part of his extensive collection of photographs to the Austin History Center.  Many of these images subsequently made their way to the website of The Portal to Texas History.  A handful of these were shot during Christmas seasons past.  Their perusal offers an intriguing opportunity to compare our modern holiday with that of our parents and grandparents.

     

    Here is a 1943 photo of the Captain Jack Rogers family.  Notice the tinsel on the Christmas tree.  I’m not sure exactly when tinsel went out of style but I do recall decorating our family tree with it in the 1960s and 1970s.  As my mother constantly reminded me, you can’t just lob a handful of the stuff onto the tree; you have to lay it carefully strand by strand.  Alas, I had little patience for this tedious but admittedly superior technique.  Nevertheless, despite the blobs of tinsel defacing our trees, Mom always thought each year’s prettier than the last.

    I have been unable to positively identify Captain Rogers and wonder if he survived World War II.  For the sakes of his beautiful wife and child I hope so.  Mrs. Rogers’ outfit and hairstyle certainly peg her to her era, but the little boy’s clothes would blend in well on modern playgrounds.

    Next is a 1951 shot of Bob Goode posing by himself, or at least attempting to.  Even back then house cats had perfected the art of strolling casually through a scene at just the wrong moment.  Do people still pin Christmas cards to their trees?  I haven’t seen that in while.  And how about those socks!  Don’t they go well with the chair?

    Neal Douglass must have been quite a photographer to be able to capture a roomful of children without a single finger-filled nostril in the shot.  In fact, except for a few sullen faces, this is about as good as a group of restless, fidgety kids can be.  Check out the record rack atop the gigantic radio in the background.  Who knew in 1951 that one day these kids would carry around all that music and more on a device that fits into a shirt pocket?

    I’m sure you recognize the location of this 1947 image.  But where are the big buildings?  More than three decades after their construction, the Scarbrough Building and Littlefield Building remained two of the tallest skyscrapers on the Avenue, but both sit behind Dougless’ position in this photograph.  At right are two recognizable landmarks in the Paramount and State Theater.  I wish I could read what was playing at the Paramount.

    That’s Dr. Sandi Esquivel seated in front of the tree sporting black socks in this 1952 photograph.  Esquivel starred in track, cross country and basketball at the University of Texas in the 1920s.  He was a track All American in 1925 and captained the Longhorn track and basketball squads in 1926.  The 1924 basketball team on which he played won the Southwest Conference championship and finished the season with a perfect 23-0 record.  Esquivel has been a member of the UT Hall of Honor since 1968.

    I love this 1946 photograph.  The little boy looks innocent enough but the girl is grinning as if she’s about to spin her head in a circle and vomit pea soup.  Mom clearly just wants the whole ordeal to end while Dad appears delighted to have a marshmallow dangling over his head.  Notice the idealized collection of toys beneath the tree.  You still see such toys under trees in modern Christmas cards and images but really, what parent in history has ever given a large drum to a toddler?  The boy’s uncle must be lurking just off camera laughing at the cleverness of his gift to his nephew.

    This 1951 family Christmas gathering either took place in somebody’s tree house or involved a clan of giants.  Ma and Pa have apparently just strolled in from milking the cows while the fellow in the back at least donned his nice overalls.  Maybe this was the year that the family splurged and bought itself a new light fixture!

    The George Betts family pictured here in 1940 sure seems proud of its heavily flocked Christmas tree.  You don’t see flocked trees much anymore.  I always wanted one as a kid – it looks just like snow! – but my parents were traditionalists.  Hey, I would have settled for white spray-on goop!  We didn’t have to have pink like the family down the street.  But nooooo . . . our trees sported natural green needles just like God made ‘em.  Except where the tinsel globs covered them up.

    Just what are these folks up to?  It’s Christmas Eve 1946 and Braniff International Airways is about to make history.  You see, this here’s a turkey from Jane’s Turkey Ranch and we’re gonna put it on that plane out yonder and fly it somewhere special on Braniff but first we gotta tie this big ‘ol gift tag around its neck.  Won’t Aunt Mabel be surprised?  Yeah, but that fellow in the background has the look of a federal turkey inspector about to lower the hammer on the whole turkey shipping gift idea.  Let’s see some ID, folks.

    You thought I was joking, didn’t you?

    These lucky children are evidently receiving a copy of Marshmallow for Christmas.  Claire Newberry’s classic book about the friendship between a cat and a baby bunny had just hit the shelves in 1943 when this photograph was taken.  That’s Judge Charles Betts, wife Eula, and the couple’s two children gathered round the tree.

    Austin mayor Bill Drake passes out treats to the kiddies as Santa Claus in this 1951 photograph.  Mayor Drake could have used a bit more faux facial hair and a pillow or two stuffed underneath his Santa suit.  And can anyone tell me why the girl at left is sporting what appears to be a basket on her head?

    By 1955 Santa appears to have foregone his sleigh in favor of a ride on Continental Airlines.  No word on whether Rudolph and gang made the trip.  I wonder if Santa upgraded or stayed in coach.  Either way, think of the frequent flyer miles he racked up!

    Notice anything in this 1947 photo of the nativity scene at St. Ignatius Martyr Church?  Snow!  Sure, the grass pokes through in several spots but that’s the real white stuff in Austin, Texas!  One thing for certain, though, I’d never let a camel get that close to my baby.

    No party in 1950s Austin would have been complete without the sweet sounds of the Vic E. Sterzing Band!  A bookkeeper for a quarry company by day, Sterzing moonlighted by night as leader of an elegantly-dressed musical ensemble complete with torch singer.  I’m not sure which one is Vic but the man behind the seated woman has the look of being in charge.  Sterzing died in 1992 at the ripe age of 84.

    There you have it, Austin Christmas past courtesy of Neal Douglass.  The entire Douglass collection consists of over 55,000 images housed at the Austin History Center.  Merry Christmas, Mr. Douglass, and thank you.


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    The world might not have ended today (although the day is still young), but that’s not to say something big won’t happen one day, and some Austinites are getting prepared by learning primitive hunting, herbal medicine, water filtration, and simply self-confidence.

    “People are more concerned with survival skills because it is imminent that something will happen. We can’t continue at the rate we are moving without hitting a cliff,” said Sam Coffman, the founder, director and lead instructor of The Human Path. “Whether drought, famine, disease, economic meltdown, war, natural disasters, it is inevitable even if we weren’t treating the planet as though it were disposable, that we will hit a wall as the human population reaches its tipping point.”

    A growing number of Central Texans are turning to groups and schools that teach survival, natural medicine, homesteading, and hunting and gathering skills to get back to nature, prepare for “the big one” or just to test themselves.

    Roy Wenmohs runs Texas Atlatl, a group that aims to provide a venue for people to exchange ideas about the atlatl, a primitive spear-like hunting tool and its uses, as well as other primitive skills, experimental archaeology and survival skills. The group specializes in primitive weapons, like archery, sling, bolas, knife and tomahawk throwing, blowgun, rabbit-stick, whips, and more, in addition to the atlatl.

    “We have been doing this stuff for years and nobody was interested, but now it seems like we are going mainstream,” Wenmohs said. “Now, students from survival schools and martial arts schools are coming to us for specialized weapons training. More women are getting involved nowadays, and our camps for kids fill up before we can officially post them.”

    The Human Path has experienced huge growth for a variety of reasons since he founded it about five years ago, Coffman said, citing 100 percent growth each year the school has been open.

    “Often, they are folks who are looking for some purpose or sense of community in their life, and we provide lots of that,” Coffman said. “There has been a huge increase, but I attribute it more to the fact that people are starting to know we’re here.”

    A desire to connect with the planet is also a major draw for many students, Coffman said.

    “The majority of our culture thinks food grows in a Styrofoam McDonald’s box, and 20 percent of our country’s population is on some kind of behavioral medication that creates a severe psychological change when removed,” he said. “These are just a couple of very small examples of the kind of complete disconnect from our natural world we are experienced. It is unprecedented and the results will be unprecedented as a result. I think more people are realizing this.”

    Lynn Rose Demartini has been involved in alternative heath practices for 35 years and says she’s quick to question the status quo. That, coupled with seeing an increasing number of people in the world who don’t value self-sufficiency, independent critical thinking skills and an increase in the “gimme” attitude, helped lead her to The Human Path, she said.

    “What many people refer to as ‘preppers’ or ‘survivalists’ are simply people trying to get back to that independence, not crazy, paranoid psychopaths,” Demartini said, adding that part of why she began taking classes was to learn skills in homesteading and wilderness self-sufficiency. “I felt that it would be a very beneficial thing to learn all I could to lessen the impact in my life of any interruption in what we have taken for granted.”

    Demartini has been taking classes at The Human Path since 2009 and says they’ve changed her for the better.

    “These classes challenge me and make me reach beyond my comfort zone to test my limits. Confidence in your ability to manage hardships is gained with every skill acquired and is a precious gift,” she said. “I am not the same person I was four years ago and am glad.”

    Coffman, a former Green Beret medic started The Human Path in San Antonio to, as the school’s mission states, bring “people closer to the earth, closer to self-awareness, and teaching them to be the best possible person in the worst possible circumstances.” The school’s main campus, composed of 50 acres, is in north Comal County in Bulverde. Classes, taught by 11 instructors, cover topics like field medicine, self-defense, herbology, primitive hunting and fishing, leadership skills, bow making, blacksmithing, cheese and butter making, spirituality, scouting and much more. Students can also earn Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) certification and Wilderness First Aid certification, and in the summer, the school offers classes for children.

    “The purpose is not just to teach ‘one-off’ survival skills. You can get that at any survival school. There are literally dozens of survival schools that will teach you a bow-drill, hand-drill or how to make a friction fire,” Coffman said, adding that at The Human Path, he strives to make “50 percent or more of what we offer be something you cannot get anywhere else.”

    Classes are composed of 30 to 40 percent lecture and 60 to 70 percent hands-on instruction. A dozen times a year, part of the learning experience is scenario; the school hires role players to act out post-disaster or post-apocalyptic scenarios in which students can put their skills to test. The best known is probably the Zombie Apocalypse scenario, held around Halloween every year.

    “This is based off of an evolving plot line, with about 50 to 60 zombie role-players, good guys and bad guys, and lots of conflicts as students show up, inevitably get all their gear taken from them by some version of bad guy and have to survive on their wits, skills and endurance alone for a 24 hour scenario,” Coffman said. “There’s usually a lot of drama of one type or another.”

    It’s not all adrenaline-charged fun and games. Coffman also operates a non-profit called Herbal Medics, which aims to help people in remote and disaster-torn parts of the world learn self-sufficiency and medicine. Last year, Herbal Medics took 13 The Human Path students to a remote part of Nicaragua, where they built – and taught others how to build – water purification and sanitation systems using only materials they had on hand. The students also taught classes on plant medicine and ran an herbal clinic that saw almost 200 patients in just over two days, Coffman said.

    Timothy Helmstetter began taking classes at The Human Path in July out of a desire to help people after disasters like Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, and the earthquake in Haiti. Over Thanksgiving, he put the skills he’s been learning to the test when he joined Coffman’s group to Nicaragua. This year, he’ll be working with the school to build earthen houses and a homestead, the techniques for which the group will then take back to Nicaragua and to nearby Native American reservations.

    “The goal is to help people who have been forgotten by our modern world and cannot afford modern pharmaceuticals, housing, and food – to teach them how all this is available to them from the earth and in the process develop a deep appreciation and respect for our environment,” he said. “The plus side to all of this is that if some disaster were to occur here, my family and I will be prepared and less a burden on the responders. And if no disaster ever comes, I've created a much less stressful lifestyle, eating much healthier foods and [gaining] the ability to take care of myself with the plants that grow all around me.”

    In 2013, Coffman plans to take students to return to Nicaragua and also visit Colonias on the Texas and Mexico border. The experience – learning what you’re capable of and that you can rely on yourself – can be a life-changer for some students, Coffman said.

    “We don’t set out to do this, but we change lives,” he said. “People get divorced because of what they experienced in our classes. People get married because of what they experienced in our classes. People commute from Dallas and Houston to take our classes. People move from Dallas, Houston, etc., so they can be closer and take more of our classes. Some of our students practically live at the school they’re there so much. And they all form their own community of people you would want to call if there was a disaster, believe me. They’re the kind of people you hope you can have as your neighbor.”

    Through their shared experiences, those involved in survival skill training say their classmates become their community.

    “They have quickly become a family to me,” Helmstetter said about his classmates. “They are people that share my same interests and beliefs and understand what being a community is all about. I also gained a deeper respect for nature and our responsibility to protect this earth because you certainly learn how difficult life can be when all these things are gone.”

     

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    The other day I was out on my patio enjoying the 85-or-so-degree Texas December weather and heard two young children nearby singing "Jingle Bells." I had to wonder if they even had a basic idea what "dashing through the snow" means, much less what it feels like.

    Growing up in what's called The Southern Tier of Upstate New York, I had more than my share of white Christmases as a young 'un. A fresh overlay of snow and some bracing cold always seemed to epitomize the spirit of the holidays. Without that it didn't fully feel like Christmas. More often than not the weather delivered.

    After all, snow fell and lasted for the better part of four months of the year, and was hardly a surprise when it came even before or after the bulk of winter. One year in my childhood stands out in particular. Nearly three feet had fallen by the time Christmas sunnily dawned. Later my cousin who lived on the next block and I trudged through shining virgin snow as high as our chests to clear the pathway through a friendly neighbor's property from our street to his backyard before we all shared the annual ritual of exchanging gifts between our families.

    Another Christmas day was seasonably warm (meaning in the 40s) and clear without any snow on the ground. But as night fell the mercury plummeted and a storm front blew in. The next morning I awoke to the loud thrumming pistons of a snowmobile racing down the street of my residential city neighborhood atop a four-foot blizzard snowfall. Snow was never far off.

    Heat and lack of snow seemed to knock Christmas off kilter. One warm Yuletide morning the rising temperatures melted off most all of the snow save a few patches as the thermometer rose above 60. What was usually post-gift unwrapping family time got cut short in the neighborhood as some of the fathers bolted to get in a round of golf. (And hey, it might be as late as April or even May until they'd get that chance again.)

    It was almost as if the snow and cold conspired to keep the family unit inside and gathered together in warmth. Even though snow is, for all its first fall loveliness, a major chore and too often pain to deal with, without it Christmas seemed bereft of an essential element.

    After my parents relocated to Texas years later, my first holiday visit in 1977 to their new home outside of Granbury was met with a rare three inches of snow on Christmas morning. But it was Texas snow that didn't naturally cohere into a a firmly packed snowball, much less a snowman. And it was largely gone by midday. Similarly, when I moved here to Austin a dozen years later, nearly two inches fell over the holidays. As rare as snow is to those raised hereabouts, it was fitting to have that light dusting on the landscape to make the season truly feel like Christmastime.

    By the time my relocation here in late '89, however, the appeal of snow had largely faded. Having grown up where cold and a consistent damp layer of white stuff was as much the natural condition as anything else, I'd learned to utilize the snow and freezing temperatures for fun by sledding, skating, and skiing.

    But certain brutal facts of life in the snowbelt became less tolerable: deep puddles of slush in most every pathway, ice that you were bound to slip on and thump onto your rump as well as skid on in a car, toes so chilled they felt amputated or made you wish they were, cheeks whipped raw by frigid winds... I could go on... and on. For every joyful memory of romping about and diving into snowdrifts a dozen or so feet high like a frolicking polar bear – of course after first donning longjohns underneath the standard thick warm clothes and a full body snowsuit plus gloves with wool liners and boots with moisture-proof inners atop it all – there was the drudgery of shoveling pounds upon pounds upon more pounds of the stuff just to get out of the house and to clear a path between the car and the street.

    A signal moment of my new winter in Texas sans snow and its glorious benefits was a sunny January day in the late '90s when it almost reached a sweaty 90 degrees as my pal Jack and I biked on the trail around (what was then simply called) Town Lake. But by a decade or so later snow and cold had been imbued with a certain romance by the fickle powers of reminiscence.

    During a visit to Toronto in late November six years ago, I blissfully walked along an avenue as snow drifted down, my leather jacket and fleece vest unzipped and open, feeling invigorated by the chilly breeze against my face and body. "Aren't you cold?" asked my Canadian friend I was visiting, bundled up in her full-length puffy parka, looking like the Michelin woman.

    "No." More accurately, the weather was cold but it felt good after so long without it. And there were a number of moments during the record-setting and soul-blistering heat wave of the summer before last when I conjured up virtual hillocks of fluffy cold white stuff in my imagination.

    Snow, for all its challenges, does have an undeniable allure. My oldest brother became a snowbird gone to Texas when he entered SMU law school in the late 1960s and settled in the Dallas area. He chose to retire northward a few years ago to a mountainside home in Montana. After exchanging presents and sharing a big extended family meal Christmas morning, he and his now-grown kids and grandkids will step out of the house, strap on skis, and glide out and down on the slopes.

    When I finally admit I'm in my senior years, I envision migrating towards a more tropical climate. Yet as I lay down my head tonight, rather than visions of sugar-plums dancing, I'll envision a symphony of heavily falling snow, swirling in the wind and glistening in the moonlight. And recall how waking underneath a blanket of it invoked the mythical magic of Christmas.

    It won't be a wish. I'm happy to awake to no snow.

    But as the temperature dips below freezing as predicted tomorrow night, when I step out from the home on a hill just southeast of town where I enjoy an annual orphan holiday dinner, and feel that bracing chill on the flesh of my face, it will bring just enough of a flash of wintertime to complete the scene. And make the food, fellowship and merriment seem like Christmas indeed.

    Snowy street photo by Kaitlin Marie via Flickr.


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    It’s that wonderful time of the year – when the college kids are on break and everyone has gone over the river and through the woods, and those of us who remain have Austin all to ourselves. The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is a great time to visit the places that are normally mobbed the rest of the year. Here are some of our suggestions:

    Finally get around to trying Franklin BBQ. If you’re like me, despite all the amazing things you’ve heard about this destination BBQ joint in East Austin, you despise standing in lines and have yet to try their mouth-watering meats. I know it’s supposed to be the best, but I just can’t stomach the idea of standing in line for an hour or more to mow down. This week, with the downtown lunch crowd away, might be our best chance to get a taste without the wait. Franklin will be open Dec. 28, 29, and 30 from 11 a.m. until they sell out of food.

    Go to Wheatsville on a weekend. Normally, I’d rather dunk my head in the toilet at Barfly’s than battle all the hybrids in Austin for one of the three parking spots in the Wheatsville lot midday on a Saturday. Perhaps this week will be different though. The kids are out of town and most people will be eating leftovers, so this might just be our chance to see what the University-area co-op grocer is like in weekend daylight hours. Wheatsville is closed Jan. 1 and is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Dec. 26, 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Dec. 27-30 and 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 31.

    Try your hand at Ginny’s Chicken Shit Bingo. Normally, Ginny’s Little Longhorn is packed to the gills on Sundays for Chicken Shit Bingo, a game where customers purchase a number that corresponds to a square on a large board set atop a pool table. If one of Ginny’s cluckers does No. 2 on your spot, you win the pot. It’s more exciting than it sounds, as evidenced by the out-the-doors crowd that normally ends up tailgating in the parking lot (also home of the chicken coop) every Sunday beginning at 4 p.m. On Dec. 30 though, bingo and chicken enthusiasts alike will hopefully be able to press their way in to try their luck.

    Grab a burger and a beer at Crown & Anchor Pub. This University-area bar has been a favorite of students going back to its founding in 1987. In fact, it’s been so much of a favorite that when school is in session, it’s hard to fight your way in to order a pint and one of their delicious sandwiches (some would say they have the best regular ol' burgerstand burger in town). But when school’s away, the rest of us can play. Head in and maybe tip a little extra; it’s a hard time for bartenders whose bread and butter are in students’ pockets. The Crown & Anchor is open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. every night.

    Eat at the original East Side King trailer, without having to wait forever. The trailer that started it all for now famed East Side King is in back of The Liberty on East Sixth and has, in my opinion, the best menu of all of the ESK locations. I might not be the only one to think this, judging by the fact that most nights you visit, it takes 45 minutes or more to get your food. I get it, the place is just that popular, but maybe this week, we won’t have to sneak in appetizers. The East Side King trailer is open 5 p.m. to 1:45 a.m. every night.

    What’d we miss? Let us know in the comments section your plans for this sleepy Austin week.

     

     

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    image: http://amandabauer.blogspot.com/2012/01/austin-texas.html

    New Year’s Eve is one of those funny holidays. You get really hyped up that it’s going to be a fabulous, fun-filled night, because it’s New Year’s Eve! You make plans, you get dressed up, you fight your way into a bar or club that’s throwing a party that includes a “champagne toast” you paid $60 a ticket for, and then you get disappointed. 

    It seems that when New Year’s Eve is super hyped, it never lives up to its promise. If you’re like me, you're more apt to stay home, pig out and watch X-Files on Netflix, rather than venture into the masses.

    This year though, friends are visiting from out of town, and I’m committed to making the best of the night. Traveling en masse provides a great excuse to find something fun to do while making the most of the people watching that this holiday presents. And there’s plenty to do without hitting up the soiree at The W.

    Here are a few of the picks I’m trying to decide between. Do you have a better idea? List it in the comments!

    Throw a party at home. One NYE option is just to gather your friends together, purchase a truckload of booze and make your own fun at home. You can opt for a theme or costume party, make a signature drink, host a sit-down meal or simply get a keg and throw a rager. This option is especially good if you’re celebrating with mostly locals who aren’t interested in out-of-the-house hoopla.

    Avoid downtown. Traffic is sure to be a pain in the butt (and you probably shouldn’t be driving anyway), and most downtown bars and restaurants will probably be pretty crowded. If you don’t want to brave the crowds around Sixth Street, go for a neighborhood option. For example, do a pub crawl on North Loop or spend NYE at The Whip Inn or The Draught House. Find someplace within walking – or stumbling – distance of home.

    Hit up a show. It looks like the biggest shows for New Year’s Eve will probably be Black Joe Lewis at Emo’s, Neon Indian at Mohawk and Ringo Deathstarr at Frontier Bar, and there's also the annual Willie Nelson concert at the Moody Theater. Off the beaten path though, there’s also the White Horse’s Black and White Ball, featuring East Cameron Folkcore, or the Reggae Bash at Flamingo Cantina. The Volstead/Hotel Vegas/Pine Street Station is having a 1984-themed party with multipe stages all featuring 80s cover sets by Austin musicians (that one gets my heart pumping).

    Go see the fireworks. If partying isn’t your thing, or maybe you have the young ones in tow, head down to Auditorium Shores for a family-friendly, alcohol-free party featuring local art, music, and fireworks. The event ends at 10 p.m., so you still have time for a midnight toast after, if you’re so inclined.

    Say screw it and head to Dirty Sixth. Let’s face it, every once in a while, a person needs to throw out their judgmental side and their inhibitions and just embrace all that is cliché. New Year’s Eve on Sixth Street, if approached with the right people-watching, laissez-faire attitude, can be a ton of fun. Know that people will bump into you; know that you’ll get annoyed by too-young, too-drunk kids and just go for it. It’s only one night.

    Get home safely.

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    Dec. 31 is a night to celebrate the end of the old year and ring in the dawn of the new. For many, that means taking to bars, the streets and parties to celebrate with friends and make new ones.

    Unfortunately, in a city like Austin, where folks often seem to be permanently strapped into the driver’s seat and where public transportation isn’t at its most accessible, that can mean a lot of drunk drivers on the road. This year, keep yourself and others out of danger by finding an alternate form of transportation after a few drinks.

    If safety isn’t a good enough reason, maybe avoiding jail time is. Although they won’t conduct road blocks, the Austin Police Department will again enforce the No Refusal Initiative from Dec. 28 to Jan. 1, a representative said. If a driver is stopped for suspicion of driving while intoxicated, the driver will be required to breathe into a breathalyzer. If the person refuses, the officer will present a probably cause affidavit to a judge requesting permission to draw blood for analysis.

    Although APD officers can enforce this initiative year-round, it is much more publicized on holiday weekends. Seventeen people were arrested for DWIs last New Year’s Eve, said Lt. Derek Galloway of the APD Highway Enforcement Command.

    “We always suggest persons who are drinking make a plan,” Galloway said. “We ask that they designate a driver, call a cab or a friend, or make plans to spend the night where they will be drinking.”

    Capital Metro will operate its Night Owl bus service from midnight until 3 a.m. Jan. 1, departing from 6th Street and traveling to North Lamar, Riverside, South Lamar, Cameron Road, and South Congress. For more information, check out www.capmetro.org/nightowl. Unfortunately, MetroRail service will not be extended on Dec. 31; the train will instead operate on its normal weekday schedule.

    “Capital Metro encourages Austinites to leave their cars at home on New Year’s Eve and leave the driving to us,” said Erica Macioge, a CapMetro representative. “With bus routes throughout the city, riding public transit is the easiest and safest way to get around town while welcoming in the New Year.”

    Another option is taking advantage of AAA Texas’s Tipsy Tow program, which offers free rides to drivers who have been drinking. Valid for members and nonmembers, a Tipsy Tow representative will provide driver with a complimentary ride and vehicle tow up to 3 miles (to home, not to another bar). Ask for a Tipsy Tow by calling 1-800-AAA-HELP (222-4357).

    Pedicabs and taxis will be flooding the streets, willing to bring you home, for a fee. There’s also the option of designating a driver or simply walking home. And for those willing to shell out the big bucks, there are plenty of hotel rooms available downtown, as well as limo services.

    However you choose to get home New Year’s Eve, get home safely.

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    Looking for a low-maintenance, mature dog that's potty-trained and polite? At seven years old, Aries has ripened into a well-trained, affectionate gentleman that wants nothing more than a good belly rub, game of fetch or stroll through the Farmer's Market. This gentle German Shepherd mix can still go for more energetic jogs, but is also happy to relax with his person. 

           

    Aries is in kennel 48 at Austin Animal Center's Town Lake Animal Center location (1156 Cesar Chavez), and his animal ID is A631762. He is part of the shelter's Classic Cats and Canines program, which helps more mature pets find families. The program has a "Seniors Helping Seniors"partnership with AARP that waives adoption fees for adopters 50 years and older adopting pets five years and older.

    Aries is neutered, microchipped, vaccinated and ready to go home today. Can you help him achieve his 2013 resolution to find an adoring adopter?

     


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    What if this New Year, everyone made the same resolution and it was simply to improve whatever they could around them? I don’t mean tackling huge projects but rather taking small steps, like smiling at everyone they meet. What if we all just decided to be nice and do what’s right? What would change?

    It’s so easy to get fed up year after year. The economy is in the dumps (or in the landfill at the bottom of the “Fiscal Cliff”); people are rude and lazy – they don’t say “excuse me,” they won’t get out of their cars, they treat our environment like their personal garbage can; and things only seem to get worse.

    What are we supposed to do? The problems seem so large that it’s impossible to imagine them getting better. As we see with the aftermath of Newtown, it feels impossible to imagine a scenario in which people of all kinds agree to a solution and then actually enact that solution.

    It’s hard to imagine an America where people don’t litter, where they think before they speak, where they aren’t rude and hateful to each other, where they don’t hurt each other. It’s hard to imagine a country where people think about others and put themselves in someone else’s shoes before being so quick to judge or dismiss.

    Lying in bed the other night, thinking about all of this and more is when it hit me: This year, my New Year’s Resolution is simply to try to make the best of everything around me. I’m going to smile more, I’m going to ride my bike more, I’m going to try harder to feel empathy for others, I’m going to donate my time and money. In short, I’m going to try to ensure that everything and everyone I come in contact with is better for that contact.

    My idea is that maybe this positive contact will have a ripple effect. For example, if I see the high school students in my neighborhood walking back from their lunch at McDonald’s, throwing their garbage on the ground, I’m not going to get angry; I’m just going to go pick up the garbage. Maybe other neighbors, or even the students themselves, will see me and decide to do the same. 

    Maybe if, the next time I have an encounter with a rude server or fellow shopper or driver, and I simply smile at that person and treat them with extra care, they’ll do the same for the next person. Before you know it, everyone will be just doing the right thing – thinking about others and the impact of their actions before they speak or act. It’s exciting to imagine what a normal day would be like in a world filled with thoughtful, selfless people. Things would change; that ripple effect would trickle down to touch every person.

    There is no place for blame or for excuses in this resolution, only for action. That’s the beauty of enacting this change – you don’t have to organize anything, you don’t have to explain anything, you just have to do it.

    Things have gotten so big and so bad that it’s hard to imagine ever finding a solution, but perhaps we are each the solution. If we each focus on fixing our own tiny corners, then the tiny corners will bind together and form a large swatch that will keep growing and growing until it covers everything. In this way, we don’t enact change, we simply are change.

    Happy New Year.

    My 2013 New Year's Resolution

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    In the tech world, if your skills are five years out of date, you’re out of a job. The Austin Post talked to three local recruiters about what tech skills coders should be working on today if they still want to be relevant to employers after this year’s crop of freshmen graduate. 

    “I would say you need to take a good hard look at your skills every three years. If you wait until five years, you’re out of date,” said Renee Diaz, a recruiter with Vitamin T, a division of Aquent. She said employers looking for talented coders want to know which thought leaders you follow, how you’re staying on top of future trends, and what you consider your most interesting new skillset. Those aren’t answers you can fake if you’ve let yourself coast for the last five years. 

    Traci Hughes, Principal Founder at Third Coast Search, agreed. “There will always be new software, a new tool people are using, or new coding languages. Reading relevant blogs, going to conferences whenever you can, and proving you stay up-to-date is vital to employers.”

    Diaz said today’s most in-demand skills haven’t changed since last year. Local employers are currently looking for people with HTML and CSS experience, thorough knowledge of PHP, plus some Java and Drupal.

    HTML 5 is also an important technology, Diaz said. She recommended coders fresh out of school make a habit of following the trendsetters and thought  leaders in the industry. Without teachers to guide them, it would be easy to settle into a comfortable niche instead of constantly challenging themselves. 

    She also encouraged people to get into the mobile sphere. “I get so many requests for tablet, mobile phone development, and Facebook apps. Anything that’s mobile. It’s an exploding market that will continue to grow for the next few years,” said Diaz. 

    In addition, she said the days of platform loyalty were over. “People need to know their way around both a Mac and a PC. In mobile, you need to know how to make apps for Android as well as iPhones.”

    Johnny Chang, a recruiter with Lifesize Communications, had a more philosophical approach. “‘Updating your skills’ is kind of a red flag for me,” he said. “A developer should be constantly evolving. If you find yourself looking in a mirror one day and realizing your skillset is out of date, that tells me you’re not naturally passionate about technology.”

    Many of Austin’s coders have normal, mainstream lives, but Chang says his clients are still looking for the old-school coders who live and breathe technology. “They want people who are coding outside of work or committing to open source projects. Saying you’re ‘updating your skills’ means you’re working towards the goal of making money. That may be your goal, but employers don’t want to hear that. They want to hear you’re coding all the time because you love what you do.” 

    He recommended a 40-year-old still working in COBOL might want to reevaluate why they’re a coder. If they lack the passion for it, employers will be able to tell, and that could cost them in an interview. If they’re still passionate but the combination of family responsibilities and work haven’t left them much time for hobby coding, he said they need to find a way to shift those responsibilities so they can do the kind of work that reminds them why they got into the field in the first place. 

    “If you’re going to be a successful coder, you have to do it for fun,” said Chang. “Work on projects outside work. Develop iPhone or Android applications or cool  tools and widgets. That lets you demonstrate to employers that you enjoy what you do. When you hear about people working on a project outside of work or school, you know they’re passionate, and employers want those passionate people.” 

    As for practical skills, for the immediate future he recommended Java, .NET, and PHP as core developer skills. He said ambitious people or those who love learning new languages just to see what they can do with them should look into Ruby on Rails or Python.

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    Tucked away on an unassuming residential street in East Austin, you’ll find one of the best television studios in the city. Over the last 40 years, it’s been called Austin Community Television, the Austin Community Access Center, Public Access Community Television, and now, simply Channel Austin.

    “We channel all that is Austin. We’re the mothership for everything that keeps on keeping Austin weird,” said Linda Litowsky, Executive Director.

    In the age of YouTube, Channel Austin keeps public broadcasting relevant by providing top-notch equipment, high-quality studio space, and most of all, affordable classes on every aspect of video production.

    At $120, a basic membership costs less than a pocket-sized HD camera. With it, you not only get access to technology and facilities well outside the means of your average person, you also get training. The two biggest differences between Channel Austin and a film school are price and accreditation. If you want to make something more sophisticated than a webcam video, Channel Austin offers classes on everything from industry standard software to how to block a shot. People pay thousands of dollars for similar training at film schools, but you can get it on a budget, on your schedule, without any pretense or pressure, and with the total freedom to make whatever you want. The only thing they don’t offer is an actual degree.

    “We try not to use the term ‘public access’ because it has such a negative legacy attached, but by law, that’s what we are,” said Litowsky. “We don’t want people bogged down in the Wayne’s World mentality. Instead, we prefer to call ourselves Community Media.”

    Rebecca Campbell, Executive Director of the Austin Film Society, refers to Channel Austin as the minor leagues of local filmmaking.

    “It’s like an incubator,” said Litowsky. “It’s the truest form of media democracy while also facilitating creativity using the newest and latest technology.”


    A full-featured studio at your fingertips. (Image courtesy Channel Austin.)

    According to Litowsky, around one third of the people who create content at Channel Austin eventually land careers in media. “It’s addictive. After you try it out for fun, a third will keep it going just for their community, and another third will become media professionals.”

    That’s a better rate than most film schools or journalism programs. Famous alumni include directors like Richard Linklater ("Slacker,""Dazed and Confused,""A Scanner Darkly,""Before Midnight") and Robert Rodriguez ("Desperado,""From Dusk Till Dawn,""The Faculty,""Sharkboy and Lavagirl,""Spy Kids,""Sin City,""Machete").

    While spawning internationally known directors is nice, Channel Austin’s actual mission is to give everyone in Austin a voice. This means you’ll find everything the long running The Atheist Experience to practical advice for the local disabled population on The Gene and Dave Show to Christian vacation advice from JCI First Coast Travel and Tourism.


    A sampling of Channel Austin offerings.

    “The thing about public access is that we’re content-neutral. No matter what, as long as you meet the legal things, you can air anything you wish - and we encourage that you do. It’s your voice, it’s your story. We’re the electronic soapbox, your home to free speech,” said Litowsky.

    Channel Austin’s soapbox spans three channels of cable television (10, 11 and 16), three live streams of content available on the Web, and an upcoming YouTube channel where they’ll host over 60 shows.

    Channel 10 has the unusual honor of being the longest continuously running public access television channel in the world. It first hit the air on August 3, 1973, and Channel Austin is eagerly planning how to best showcase their 40th birthday in 2013. Despite a 39-year legacy, Channel Austin is still entirely first come, first served both for studio and equipment space and for live broadcast time slots.

    “There’s no way we could afford to do this without Channel Austin,” said Gavin Stone, creator of the weekly geek pop culture program Fanservice. “We are so fortunate to have a full-featured studio at our fingertips.”

    For people interested in making their own television programs or music videos, Channel Austin offers three studio spaces. The 14’ tall 30’x40’ main studio has three cameras mounted on pedestals, a control room with two Final Cut Pro studios running, and a telephone interface so callers can dial in during live shows.  The 16’x24’ mini studio has the same basic setup but with only two cameras. If you don’t have a crew but do have an idea worth broadcasting, the 9.5’x10.5’ micro studio is designed so one person can run it alone.

    In addition to the video studios, they also have a stand-alone audio production booth where musicians can create their own albums or people can record their own podcasts.

    In addition to the studios, Channel Austin also offers a wide variety of cameras and equipment people can check out in order to make their own videos offsite.

    “The only rule we have about the equipment is that you air whatever you produce on one of our three channels first,” said Litowsky. “That way we have good local programming that’s constantly fresh. Once you share the content with all of us, then you can sell it, put it on YouTube, put it on commercial spaces, do whatever you wish.”

    Getting started is as simple as showing up at their weekly orientation program at 7 p.m. every Monday night. After the hourlong session, you pay a membership fee, take their mandatory TV 101 class, pass a quick test to make sure you won’t break all the expensive equipment, and you’re free to start making programming.  “We pride ourselves on the fact that we can make anyone from age 8 to 80 feel comfortable and confident using the resources we have available to the community,” said Litowsky.

    Their most expensive yearly membership is $960. That’s only $11 more than taking the Final Cut Pro class at the Austin School of Film. Instead of one class, the membership gets you every class Channel Austin offers (including Final Cut Pro), plus 18 tech support sessions and use of the studios and check-out equipment.

    For $480 per year, you get half-price classes (which normally range from $30-$200), tech support sessions, and the same use of studios and check-out equipment.

    If you already know what you’re doing, the basic membership is only $120.

    “If you’re just starting out and want to learn everything, we recommend you start as a premium member, if you can afford it,” said Litowsky, “But your second year? Get the basic membership. Once you’re certified on the equipment, just go out and use it.”

    For Channel Austin’s next 40 years, Litowsky said she can’t wait to see the next Robert Rodriguez or the next Atheist Experience. “It’s an amazing, inexpensive, hyperlocal academy. We’re about our community, for our community, and most importantly, by our community. You can’t get this anywhere else.”

     
    Channel Austin: Longest-Running Public Access Channel in the World
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    "Do you notice people looking at you as you drive around town in a Car2Go?" asks Paul DeLong, the company's sales and marketing head. Yeah....

    His interest is obviously in how the carsharing service's pudgy little pods on wheels, officially known as the Smart Car Fortwo, help promote the business. And yes, people do notice as I pilot one around Austin.

    But then there's that other look I sometimes get – the one down the nose with an air of derision, almost always from someone in a vehicle of size or power. The one that says without words: Ha! That's not a real car. Those are the times I want to roll down the window and holler, "Hey dude. It's a freaking Mercedes!" The Smart was in fact designed by Mercedes Benz engineers.

    And when a guy in a muscle car gave me that look at a red light and then I beat him up the steep hill ahead of us, it felt good. "Some people don’t like getting passed by Smarts," DeLong observes.

    I've recently learned how one can live in Austin without owning a car, especially if you work from home. But sometimes you need a car, and that's when Car2Go has come in quite handy.

    For a one-time fee of $35, you can become a member of the carsharing service. When you want to use a car, you find one online or on the Car2Go smartphone app and reserve one for 38 cents a minute, $13.99 an hour and $72.99 a day (that's 24 hours), all plus tax but including gas and insurance. 

    The cars tend to be available within a reasonable walking distance of most anywhere you may be within the central Austin Car2Go service area (where cars can be found and left): roughly bounded to the south at Ben White/290, the west along MoPac and Lake Austin, the north at West Anderson Lane, and the east threading down Airport Blvd., East 51st Street, Springdale Road, and Montopolis Drive. There are more than a dozen dedicated Car2Go parking locations just in the center city between Lady Bird Lake and the Capitol building, or you can park the car in a metered space free of charge.

    Within about two weeks of joining, my membership card arrived in the mail. To use a car you've reserved, you simply hold this card to a reader under the windshield, wait about 20 seconds, and the Smart Car unlocks. The first nice surprise when you climb in is how roomy the ultra-compact car's cab is. But the major charm for me came after I started the car and began to drive.

    Though the Smart lags a bit between 0 to 20-or-so miles per hour – which can make pulling into busy traffic seem daunting at first – it boasts a zippy power and handles not unlike a sports car with a firm presence on the pavement like that found in larger autos. The "smartshift" five-speed manual transmission sans clutch offers the options of automatic shifting or the further control gained by hand shifting using the stick between the seats or, as I've come to like, the small up and down gear tabs on either side of the steering wheel. Over time, you learn how to gauge when to shift by engine sound and speed (but an arrow also appears under the speedometer to help) and how to punch the pedal and get the pop you need to get quickly up to speed from standing. The Smart Car website takes the words out of my mouth when it calls the auto a "driving delight."

    I've also driven the electric Smarts that are initially disconcerting when you turn the ignition and hear nothing to indicate the motor is running. "People will punch into the call center and say, 'Hey, I turned the key and the car's not on,' and we'll say, 'Yeah, it's on,'" DeLong notes. It also doesn't have quite the same pep as the combustion model but still performs well.

    The center touchscreen console features AM/FM radio and GPS, and an "Ecoscore" display that shows a green rating and controls for rental and communication with the Car2Go call center. "It helps [Daimler, Car2Go's parent company] introduce new technologies to people and have them become more accustomed to them," DeLong points out. The one feature I wish it had is a socket to plug in a smartphone and play my own music.

    "That's one of the top things on our surveys [which they do often and grant 15 free minutes for answering]. We've heard it, we know, it's definitely in the works."

    A few people have told me they'd be afraid to take a Smart onto I-35. Yet it holds its own on speed, and the wind from passing tractor trailers barely sways them if at all. "I commute every day on it in one and feel safe as a bug," notes Austin Car2Go location manager Dana Golding.

    "What I was really amazed by was how much fun those cars are to drive," enthuses Austin singer-songwriter Sara Hickman, who met Car2Go CEO Nicholas Cole at a Leadership Austin meeting and, after talking with him about the company and carsharing, became a spokesperson for the launch, driving one as a promotion during her busy SXSW performance schedule and for a month or so afterwards. "I loved it and my kids loved it. If I moved downtown I'd sell my cars and drive one of those."

    DeLong demurs any intended Car2Go marketing mission as a rolling advertisement to sell Smarts, but does acknowledge that it helps "strenthen brand awareness." Yet the Smart has charmed me so much that its ads touting a sale price of $12,500 and $99/month leasing fee for a basic model have me thinking it could be my next car or a future one.

    And with smaller and more efficient urban vehicles proliferating and car sharing rapidly spreading, using a Car2Go does draw one into aspects of a likely transportation future to come. The company also espouses such higher goals, as DeLong asserts. "We want to introduce people to new ways of getting around. It's not just about the car itself. We're making a difference in how people live."

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    After all the big, loud festivities of December, January is a chance to relax with some calmer, quieter, more intimate activities. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the first week of the year is dominated by laid back excuses for boardgames and geek conversation. If you want something a little spicier, make sure to attend this month’s Nerd Nite for some geektastic “Bedpost Confessions.”

    Austin LARP Meetup
    Jan. 4, 6:00 p.m.
    Big Daddy’s Burgers & Bar
    9070 Research Blvd, Suite 101
    Get together with other Live Action Role Players to discuss upcoming campaigns, plan new games, and dish about the fun of combining the great outdoors with geeky gaming goodness.

    Nocturnis-Amtgard Park Day
    Jan. 5, 2:30 p.m.
    Brushy Creek Park
    3300 Brushy Creek Rd
    Cedar Park, TX
    If the SCA has too much authenticity and LARPs don’t let you get violent enough, check out this boffer sword fighting group. If you’re not familiar, boffer swords are usually made from PVC coated with foam and duct tape with a nice cloth cover.  People get together to beat on one another, drink, and go camping. If you’re an outdoorsy geek looking for some good exercise, check them out.

    Light Boardgame Night with Austin Geeks and Gamers
    Jan. 5, 3:00 p.m.
    Newk's Express Café
    9722 Great Hills Trail #130
    Get ready for games like Settlers of Catan, Small World,  Bohnanza, Apples to Apples, Kingsburg, Saboteur, and The Resistance, just to name a few. This is a chance to introduce new players to the wonderful world of fast, easy Euro style games.

    Heroclix Kids Night
    Jan. 5, 5:00 p.m.
    Dragon’s Lair Comics
    6111 Burnet Rd
    Heroclix is the awesome game of chess with superheroes! Ever wondered whether Batman or Superman would win in a fight? Now's your chance to find out. We'll be running free demos of the game aimed at the next generation, so if your young one has been looking for a new hobby, join us Saturday to put the action back in action figures!

    Geeks Who Drink Meetup
    Jan. 5, 9:00 p.m.
    Opal Divine’s Marina
    12709 Mopac
    Trivia lovers can join a team for the chance to show off their smarts and win free drinks.

    Central Texas Boardgames Meetup
    Jan. 6, 2:00 p.m.
    Silver Grill Cafe
    4005 W. Parmer
    We will play a wide variety of board games. Usual favorites include Dominion, Kingsburg, Small World, Race for the Galaxy, Settlers of Catan, 7 Wonders, Tichu (a card game) and many others. Bring your favorite game! Someone will most likely want to try it. Come out and have some good fun and good eats! The restaurant loves us. Sometimes we are the only ones there and most of us eat at least once there.

    Girl Geeks of Austin Nerdy Knitting and Fiber Arts
    Jan. 7, 7:00 p.m.
    Genuine Joe’s Coffee House
    2001 W. Anderson Lane
    Enjoy a laid back night of knitting, crochet, embroidery, or whatever fibercraft you love in the company of your fellow nerd girls.

    Girl Geeks of Austin Board Games and Brews
    Jan. 8, 7:00 p.m.
    Black Star Co-Op
    7020 Easy Wind Dr
    Enjoy some microbrewery beers along with Euro style boardgames in the company of your fellow geek girls.

    Pathfinder Society Meetup
    Jan. 7, 7:00 p.m.
    Dragon's Lair Comics & Fantasy
    6111 Burnet Rd
    Looking for some new faces around the gaming table?  Delve into ancient dungeons, uncover lost knowledge, and advance the secret goals of your faction--whether it be the freedom-fighting Andorans, the good-hearted Silver Crusade, the shady dealings of the Sczarni, or the strict laws of Cheliax--and gain experience and loot for your character no matter where you game!

    South Austin Game Night and Boards and Brews Meetup
    Jan. 8, 6:00 p.m.
    Rockin Tomato
    3003 S. Lamar
    This weekly gathering of gamers regularly hosts over 40 people playing a dozen different games. New people are always welcome.

    Nerd Nite Austin
    Jan. 9, 7:00 p.m.
    ND Austin
    501 N IH 35
    Austin’s Nerd Nite discussion series usually has a packed house, so show up early, get a drink, and prepare for some quality presentations followed by rollicking discussions. This month’s theme: Bedpost Confessions.

    Austin Geeks and Gamers New Year Social
    Jan. 9, 7:00 p.m.
    Mozart's Coffee & Bakery
    3825 Lake Austin Blvd
    This is your chance to get to know all the new members, and for the new members to meet the vets. Plus, now that 2012 is over, I'd like to hear what was on your "Best and Worst" lists for the year. Share your favorite movies, TV shows, books, and of course games of 2012.

    Austin Lord of the Rings Meetup
    Jan. 10, 7:00 p.m.
    Join to learn the location
    What can I say about the Lord of the rings group? Too much, We follow the books, movies, actors, directors. We sometimes devate onto other topics, but thats because a LOTR's person was/is in it. We have lots of fun of course conversing about everything.

    Want to see your event listed? Post the date, a current link, and a good reason why your event belongs in This Week in Geek on the Facebook group, This Week in Geek.


     


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    Have you ever been to Cisco's? I texted my friend Amy as we figured out our brunch plans a few Saturdays back.

    No, she replied. Let's go there.

    Once Amy said she'd never been, it was a must as far as I was concerned. Especially since she has lived in Austin since she matriculated at UT in 1995.

    If you live in Austin, there are certain traditions you must observe. Migas at Cisco's at 1511 E. Sixth St. is a ritual to be performed in honor of the past that made Austin the city it is today.

    There was a time when breakfast at Cisco's wasn't just a tradition but simply a fact of life. Whether you were just plain folks or President Lyndon B. Johnson, it's what you did on a regular basis. It was a hub where politicians from the capital and academicians from UT, or musicians, authors, and local titans of industry, whoever you were, mover and shaker to slacker, all found common ground over breakfast plates at the bustling Tex-Mex breakfast and lunch joint. 

    The dish to eat there is of course the migas. That does require few or no dietary restrictions. Cisco's follows the old-school Texas tradition of cooking with lard (or whatever similar substance they use). Damn the artery-clogging dangers and full speed ahead with forking down their food (which also includes other egg dishes, enchiladas and more). Some things taste so good they're worth the potential risk of a few less days on the planet.

    "I have to bring my father here," raved Amy, who for all her cutting-edge modernity as a founding local rollergirl is still a dyed-in-wool made from Brazos bottomland cotton Texas girl by birth.

    I can cite any number of other spots whose migas may be richer, more abundant, more suffused with flavorful accents... blessed with culinary qualities that imbue the classic Lone Star dish with its ongoing appeal to local and visiting palettes. Nonetheless there's something about the migas at Cisco's that satisfies every time I've visited since late 1989, when my first serving felt like a revelation to this refugee from the isle of Manhattan. 

    They've been serving them up since 1948 at their longtime location and have the dish down: nothin' fancy but the right balance of fluffiness and substance, dotted with peppers, served on an oval diner plate, swimming in ranchero sauce with refried beans on the side. Best enjoyed the old-fashioned way with a sausage patty or a slab of smoky fajita meat.

    Breakfast comes with warm tortillas and biscuits fresh from the oven that are luscious little clouds of airy baked dough. Split one open and pour on the liquified butter from the old-style squeeze bottle and bite into morning comfort-food heaven.There's no charge if you wolf them all down and request more.

    Until he passed away in 1995, owner Rudy "Cisco" Cisneros, whose cigar-chomping visage serves as the eatery's logo, held court at a large table in a corner of the main back dining room. Hosting his friends, visitors, and members of his "Liar's Club" roundtable of storytellers, he played the Austin eminence grise in his later years, a stiff drink most always in front of him. After all, the place's formal name is Cisco's Restaurant Bakery & Bar.

    The ambience is no-frills, a bit worn with age, devoid of pretension. The table you eat at just might be older than you are. It could have been occupied by past power brokers making deals that led to the future we are now living. Yes, if its walls could talk.... And in a way, in the middle back dining room, they used to illuminate how pivotal Cisco's was in Austin's culture as the city progressed from retro to metro.

    But since my last visit the pictures of LBJ, Walter Cronkite, John Connolly and many other Texas legends, luminaries and celebrities (most prominently Amanda Blake aka Miss Kitty of "Gunsmoke," network TV's longest running series ever) that filled a wall in that room have been removed. Their absence is an omen that seems to signal a change in the winds. The adjacent dining area still has its sign announcing that it's the Jody Conradt Room, named for the winning UT women's basketball coach for some three decades until her 2007 retirement. But the change imbues a shiver of loss as the old Austin fades into the mists of history.

    As the revived East Sixth strip on the far side of I-35 crawls closer to Cisco's at the southwest corner of Sixth and Comal, gentrification will likely erase what is for many a genuine cultural and culinary landmark in the not too distant future. In 2010, Cisco's son Clovis put the property up for for $3.8 million, far above market value, but let it be known he'd also entertain serious offers. It seems only a matter of time....

    You can't fault the Cisneros family if they do cash in on more than six decades of long, hard days of feeding Austin.

    So now is the time to go and eat at Cisco's, either for the first time or to do so again. As Austin American-Statesman columnist John Kelso nailed it not long ago: "If you haven't been to Cisco's, you don't know Austin. You just think you do.

     

    (Home page article photo courtesy of Carlos on Flickr.)


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    Austinites like to be outside – we like to tailgate, sit on patios, hike, bike, swim, and camp. It doesn’t rain here often, especially the last couple years, nor does it get cold for too long, but when it does get chilly and wet it puts a damper on our outdoor-loving ways. However, there are plenty of indoor activities around Austin to enjoy on those wet occasions.

    Go Bowling. Although there are a handful of bowling alleys scattered around the city, my favorite lanes are the ones at Dart Bowl, 5700 Grover Ave. I think the best kind of bowling alleys are the ones that look like they haven’t been updated in about 40 years, and with Dart Bowl’s laser-themed purple décor, I’d say it’s been at least 30 there. The bowling alley features a decent restaurant and cheap beers. If you really want to get nostalgic, they serve Schlitz. If you do go, remember these two words: cheese enchiladas.

    Play Some Video Games. Keeping with that old school theme, put down the Wii remote and head up to Pinballz Arcade, 8940 Research Blvd. This video game arcade features a huge collection of pinball machines, dating from the 1960s to the present day. They also have arcade games ranging from Donkey Kong to Mortal Kombat, as well as games for the kiddies, air hockey, and much more. They also allow you to bring in your own beer, although one drink at a time per person. Take a look at Shane Shelton's Austin Inside Out video for an intimate and closeup look at Pinballz. 

    Go See a Movie. This one’s a no-brainer. The Alamo Drafthouse has several locations around town that feature first-run releases, Saturday afternoon children’s movies, 80s action flicks, and much more. It’s an Austin institution that’s spreading around the country. Not only do you get to get out of the cold and damp, but you can also whet your whistle with a tasty beverage and a mid-viewing meal.

    Check Out Some Art. You can go the “fine” route with the University of Texas’s Blanton Museum of Art or the “modern” route with the Austin Museum of Art – Arthouse or the “pop” route with the South Austin Popular Culture Center. There are also a host of local galleries throughout the city, and some East Austin studios are often open for browsing.

    Sample Some Beer. Austin is becoming a great destination city for brewpubs, and a rainy day is the perfect time to post up in a bar somewhere (and try out public transportation). There’s Uncle Billy’s on Barton Springs Road, North By Northwest in the Gateway shopping center, Black Star at Lamar and Airport, and of course, The Draught House on Medical. Rainy days often make for slow days in bars and restaurants, so the bartenders might even have time to give you a little Beer 101 to help you with your sampling.

    Rent a Movie and Order In. We’ll end with the rainy day favorite, watching a movie at home and ordering a pizza. This is Austin though, so Netflix and Pizza Hut won’t do. Keep it local by visiting I Luv Video on Airport or Guadalupe or Vulcan Video on 29th or West Elizabeth (read our article about Vulcan here). Both locations have a great selection of television shows and movies, including hard-to-find independents and foreign films, as well as new releases. Try East Side Pies (delivery) or Home Slice (take out) for pizza, and make your locally inspired lazy rainy day complete!

    Related Articles: 

    Austin Inside Out - Pinballz Arcade Rules

    Pinballz is an old-school arcade in Austin with more than 100 pinball machines (including some sought-after classics), arcade games and lots more.

    Austin Mainstay Vulcan Video Thrives in a Netflix World

    Independent video stores are alive and prospering in Austin. That’s good news for Bryan Connolly — not just because he manages Vulcan Video’s store in South Austin but also because the Olympia, Wash. native is personally obsessed with film.

    Dining In at the Cinema: A Guide to Austin's More-Than-Moviehouses

    Forgive me if I get a little over-excited here, but man, I love going to the movies in Austin. This is my tenth city, and honestly, in the last nine I’d reached a point where renting DVDs from Redbox was an excuse for a girl’s night in.


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  • 01/06/13--23:20: Tech Events Roundup Jan 7-13
  • Go ahead and clear your schedule for Thursday. Not only is BASHH back (with the bonus addition of BizBASHH for people who want to do more traditional networking), but the monthly Social Media Breakfast is that morning and Door 64 is hosting a STEM careers networking event that night. For those of you who don’t want to spend all of Thursday power networking, you can still enjoy Austin’s All Girl Hack Night at Build-A-Sign, another Tech Ranch Campfire, and plenty of other user groups.

    Austin Web Developer Lunch
    Jan. 8, Noon
    Torchy's Tacos                            
    4211 Spicewood Springs Road
    We host a monthly lunch-time forum for local Web developers, designers, and other Web professionals to talk shop, network, and geek out!

    Technology in a Non Profit World
    Jan. 8, 5:45 p.m.
    AT&T Conference Center
    1900 University Ave
    The Austin Forum is a monthly speaker series that hosts distinguished industry professionals and leaders who share their knowledge and experience about the confluence of science, technology and society in the 21st century. This speaker series and networking event provides a unique venue in the Austin community for introducing new knowledge and ideas, education, and encouraging collaboration among Forum participants.

    Austin All-Girl Hack Night
    Jan. 9, 7:00 p.m.
    Build-A-Sign
    11525 Stonehollow Dr #100
    Bring your laptop, bring your projects, bring your knowledge, and bring your questions! From now on, hack night is going to be a more informal affair, a chance to drop in and work together with other female developers in Austin on side projects, work projects, or larger open source initiatives. You can also come get help with presentations, technical articles, testing, or just general feedback.

    Austin Python Monthly Meetup
    Jan. 9, 7:00 p.m.
    Capital Factory
    701 Brazos St, 16th Floor
    We typically have a main presentation or a series of lightning talks, followed by discussion and Q&A.  There is a diversity of domains and experience levels represented, so come with your questions and be prepared to talk about how you use Python!

    Social Media Breakfast
    Jan. 10, 7:30 a.m.
    Kerbey Lane Cafe - Northwest
    13435 N Hwy 183, #415
    The Social Media Breakfast brings together social media practitioners and enthusiasts for mornings of eating, meeting, sharing, and learning about the industry. The Austin chapter is part of the Social Media Breakfast Series, founded by Bryan Person in August 2007. The group convenes at coffee shops and restaurants around Austin every 2 months.

    Door 64 STEM Themed Happy Hour
    Jan. 10, 5:30 p.m.
    Texican Cafe
    4141 S Capital of Texas Hwy
    The Door64 Happy Hour began as a small monthly gathering of friends in 2007. The happy hours have grown to become our largest public networking event, with monthly happy hours in North, Downtown, and South Austin. All science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professionals are welcome and are invited to the next Door64 Happy Hour. We ask that professionals in unrelated fields, including sales, real estate, financial planning, and career coaches, please respect the technical focus of the happy hours, and consider some of the  other door64 events.

    BizBASHH
    Jan. 10, 5:30 p.m.
    The Ranch
    710 West 6th Street
    BizBASHH the new sister event that happens before every BASHH - this is your chance to swap business cards in a laid back atmosphere, and attendees will network and mind share over a casual drink. The music is low, the lights are up, and professionals of all sorts will be in attendance - join us! Thousands of people have crossed the threshold into the BASHH, a big ass social happy hour for social media enthusiasts to meet and connect, consumer to consumer. It's been a tremendous success over the past five years, and hundreds show up every month to do it all over again.

    Big Ass Social Happy Hour
    Jan. 10, 7:00 p.m.
    The Ranch
    710 West 6th Street
    #BATHH was founded in 2007 and became #BASHH in 2010. BASHH is a volunteer run city event that happens every month to bring people together offline that have met online. It's a laid back social gathering where friends come first and business later. BASHH is Austin's relaxed mixer filled with professionals of all backgrounds that feel awkward knowing each other online but not offline. There are no speakers or panels, no lame pitches, no egos; all are welcomed to relax and have happy hours! Cheers!

    Drupal Dojo
    Jan. 10, 7:00 p.m.
    Mangia Pizza
    8012 Mesa Drive
    Theme: The Drupal Dojo is for anyone interested in hanging out with other Drupalistas in a "hive mind" environment. There is no set topic or presenter so bring your laptop, a pet project and an appetite.

    HackFormers - Beware of Wolves in Sheeps Clothing
    Jan. 11, 11:30 a.m.
    Microsoft Technology Center
    10900 Stonelake Blvd, #225
    This Christian coder group with an emphasis on security has speakers each month with different themes where they discuss both computers and Christ.

    Tech Ranch Austin Campfire
    Jan. 11, 3:30 p.m.
    Tech Ranch Austin
    Jollyville Rd, Suite 100
    Campfire is all about connecting you to the larger tech startup community. We bring out lots of interesting, accomplished people from the ecosystem so you can get the introductions, insight, and help you need to move your business forward, while also helping others. Our structured teaming activity facilitates getting know your fellow attendees at a deeper level than a conventional networking event to enable knowledgeable recommendations that quickly get at what you actually need.



     
     

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    Portland, Seattle, and Austin have more in common than a large bearded population and a desire to keep their cities “weird.” They also have some of the most extensive community gardening programs in the nation.

    Jake Stewart, head of the City of Austin’s Sustainable Urban Agriculture and Community Garden Program, recently visited the other two cities to study ways the City and the gardens can work together.

    “It’s basically an unwritten book on how to engage from the municipality side – water policy and zoning is a big deal,” Stewart said. “Austin is one of the few cities where community gardens and urban agriculture are an approved use in any zone. That allows us to use an underutilized property or barren piece of land, especially an eyesore.”

    It also means a City arm like the one Stewart is growing may be necessary to ensure not only that rules are followed but also that the gardens and their gardeners have the best resources at their disposal.

    The Sustainable Urban Agriculture and Community Garden Program was created in 2009 to be a main point of contact for Austin’s various grassroots initiatives around foods, Stewart said. The City Council wanted to centralize urban agriculture efforts and brought Stewart on in 2011.

    “I started with no budget and a belly full of passion,” he said. “I’m here because I believe in this stuff; I’m not here to retire.”

    The City of Austin has 33 (give or take a few from year to year) City-endorsed community gardens, meaning they have a leadership team together and are in place to benefit and provide access to the public, and they’ve filled out their paperwork.

    “The city is effectively helping them out, so the idea behind it is to make sure that it’s a genuine community garden or sustainable urban agriculture project,” Stewart said. There are many more neighborhood gardens dotted around Austin, ranging from front yard plots to neighbor-claimed road medians.  

    The gardens are “as different as the neighborhoods they’re in,” Stewart said. Each garden has a facilitator or leader who responds to inquiries and helps assign plots. Gardens can range in size from as small as 4-by-8 feet to as large as 10-by-20 feet.

    “My biggest strategy is to focus on empowerment for garden leaders, so we work a lot with leadership teams,” Stewart said. “Where it’s on public land, I didn’t want it to be ‘we’re coming to inspect’ but rather that we’re empowering the gardens to take care of themselves.”

    The Deep Eddy Community Garden, for example, resides on land that belongs to the Austin Parks Department and has 34 plots, all of which are claimed. There’s a three-year waiting list for a plot, showing the popularity of the idea.

    “Gardens in neighborhoods give people an opportunity to get to know their neighbors and work on projects with them, provide a space for gardening that does not require you to drive and the opportunity to get exercise and grow your own healthy produce, and connect you to the cycles of nature and the magic of the sprouting seed,” said Flo Rice, one of the leaders of the Deep Eddy Community Garden.

    Of course, the idea of community gardening in Austin is hardly new. Austin’s Sustainable Food Center was founded in 1975 as Austin Community Gardens, with an original mission to “help low-income community members identify, secure and grow food on land they were physically near and could access in order to supplement their fresh produce intake,” said Susan Leibrock, community relations director of the Sustainable Food Center and manager of the Hyde Park Community Garden.

    SFC was a founding member of the Coalition of Austin Community Gardens in 2008 to facilitate the creation of more community gardens and to foster stability and land security for existing gardens. SFC serves the coalition in an advisory and participatory role, helping to move local policy in favor of community gardens and facilitate dialogue between gardeners, Leibrock said.

    Part of what makes community gardening such a success in Austin is simply that it’s in Austin, Leibrock said.

    “Austin has always been a free-thinking city, in my view,” she said. “The people tend toward a progressive sensibility and a love of the democratic process in action. The gardens are just a manifestation of that.”

    As the new kid on the block, the Sustainable Urban Agriculture and Community Garden Program is still finding its place, working with the City, the public and Austin’s network of non-profits, to find the best balance of community and City resources, Stewart said, adding that the biggest challenges now are resources.

    The program is essentially without budget; funding covers only staffing. As a result, Stewart has been working on a variety of projects to obtain external resources, including applying for grants.

    “We’re quickly growing and feeding off what’s going on in the community,” he said. “There’s so much going on in grass roots and a big part of what we do is help connect dots – what’s happening in East Austin might not be connected to what’s happening in North Austin – or connecting people who are doing complementary projects. It’s exciting to see that kind of energy.”

    Some of the initiatives Stewart is focusing on include pilot programs to introduce gardening projects at senior centers and recreation centers, as well as to work with local artists to answer the question, “How do you make a compost pile beautiful?',” he said. In drought-stricken Central Texas, another focus is on water management and climate-adapted agriculture, and the ideas and requests for help just keep coming.

    “Week 1, the calls started coming in; it was a little like drinking water out of a fire hydrant,” Stewart said. "It’s all kinds of projects and they’re coming to us, which is exciting. We want to continue to increase bandwidth and also continue to find funding.”

    Programs aren’t just focused on gardens. One pilot program in Rosewood is attempting to connect people in low-income areas with fresh produce by creating a food hub in the neighborhood, preventing people from having to travel to farmers markets while still helping them understand and experience the slow food movement.

    These sorts of projects, including community gardens, provide more than one solution for neighborhoods. They bring neighbors together, improve security through communication (the more neighbors talk, the safer their neighborhoods become), increase property value and help children understand food and nutrition, hopefully decreasing childhood obesity and diabetes, Stewart said.

    “It’s bigger than just the growing of the food. You get this fabric of the community in a garden, which is a really beautiful thing, and what you end up producing is this food you can sit around the same table and share,” he said. “We’ve been doing this for tens of thousands of years, and the crazier our world gets now, it’s even that much more important that we connect with each other and with the food we eat.”

    Leibrock, who also serves on the board of the American Community Gardening Association, said that organization is seeing an increase nationwide in the growth of food gardening as a cultural value and pursuit.

    “It’s important to know where our food is coming from for many of us in the good food movement, and it’s also vital that biodiversity be preserved not only for now, but for generations to come,” she said. “When neighbors join to grow food together, they begin to realize they can organize in other ways. I see food as a conduit for peace where it has been a weapon of war and a pathway for positive communication where we have built walls of racism, class separation and hatred.”

    Related Articles: 

    Community Gardens in Austin

    Have you ever come upon a time in your life where you've found something that you're really passionate about, and then suddenly this event or person or idea is popping up all around you?

    Sustainable Food Center Brings Farm-fresh Produce to the City

    Farm-fresh produce in Austin, through the Austin Farmers’ Market, brings fresh food to urban areas

    Central Texans Turn to Survival Skills Training, Not Just To Prep for Doomsday

    The world might not have ended today (although the day is still young), but that’s not to say something big won’t happen one day, and some Austinites are getting prepared by learning primitive hunting, herbal medicine, water filtration, and simply self-confidence.


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    People in North Texas experienced their second White Christmas in recent years last month. The strong winter front brought more with it than just cold and snow. It also brought enough wind to help the state set another record for wind-powered electricity. At one point 8,638 MW of electricity was being produced by wind turbines and fed into the state’s electricity grid. This is enough electricity to power 4.3 million homes during average demand period. The output eclipsed the previous state record set just the month prior.

    No other state in the union even comes close to matching the wind energy capacity of Texas. In fact, when compared with other countries Texas would be among the top wind energy producers in the world.

    There are a number of factors that have gone into the success of the Texas wind energy sector. For one thing the expansive geography of west Texas seems tailor-made for wind farming. The deregulated Texas electricity market creates a great incentive for energy producers to invest in wind turbines. This is especially true when you factor in the generous subsidies that have been long offered by the federal government to encourage investment in wind energy. The federal government has spent billions of dollars through the years paying energy companies for every kilowatt sold to electricity grids.

    2012 was a particularly busy year for construction of wind energy project across the country. This was because, after decades in existence, the federal subsidies were due to expire at the end of 2012. Any project that began producing electricity before the clock struck midnight on December 31st was eligible to receive the tax subsidy for the next several years. Understandably, there was a mad dash to beat the clock.

    It was widely feared that congress would fail to extend the tax credits any further in light of the "fiscal cliff" drama going on in Washington. However, a last minute one-year extension was included in the fiscal cliff package passed by congress.

    Expect the Texas wind energy sector to continue to make up a larger and larger portion of the states' electricity portfolio in the years to come.

    Sources: 
    http://www.ercot.com/news/press_releases/show/26369
    http://www.awea.org/newsroom/pressreleases/congressextendswindptc.cfm
    http://www.vaultelectricity.com/texas-electricity/wind-industrys-despera...

    [Image courtesy http://www.flickr.com/photos/therussiansarehere]

    Christmas Day Record for Wind Electricity Output

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    I know we escaped the Mayan apocalypse, but if the world is overrun by zombies (or Doomsday Preppers turns out to be right), you want the guys from Ten Acre Organics on your side. They’re preparing the kind of high-efficiency, low-impact green farm rarely seen outside the pages of golden age science fiction utopias. If they can make it work in Austin, they want to set up ten acre farms outside cities all over the country. 

    On a mere ten acres, they plan to use the science of aquaponics (a symbiotic system of raising aquatic animals and using the fish waste to fertilize crops, as the crop roots in turn filter the water) to grow tilapia alongside a diverse range of fresh vegetables, with chicken coops, beehives, mushrooms and composting thrown in as a bonus. Despite having all that farm goodness crammed into such a small space, using careful balance and a lot of science they can come pretty darn close to running a zero-waste facility. If you’ve seen what comes off industrial farms, you know that last part is indeed impressive. 

    Founders Lloyd Minick and Michael Hanan structured their Kickstarter rewards so they can help other people set up their own green gardening projects. For $200, they’ll come to your house and set up a composting system. Bump that up to $500 and they’ll build you a wicking bed garden. For $1,000 they’ll set up a mini “desktop” aquaponics system in your home. If you really want to go off the grid, for $2,500 they’ll set up a full-scale aquaponics system designed to feed one person indefinitely. If you’ve got a family, you can opt for either the $5,000 two-person system or the $10,000 four-person system, good for sustaining you through the apocalypse of your choice.

    For people who want good organic food without the mess of growing it, they also offer a variety of support levels for different quantities of CSA baskets (wherein you buy a share of the upcoming crop and get a mix of in-season vegetables every week). If you’re not sure you want to commit, you can spend $60 to attend a fish fry where you’ll sample the aquaponically grown tilapia as well as the veggies grown on the farm. 

    One of the things I like best about this Kickstarter is the use of aquaponics and organic technology for a bright, optimistic purpose. I normally see these things in a grim, survivalist context, but these guys want to make fresh, locally grown food cheaper and more available for everyone with a minimum of farm waste. That’s admirable. And as cities continue to grow, a ten acre farm could conceivably survive suburban sprawl, eventually becoming a green oasis in the middle of a sea of single family houses. 

    If you’re in the market for a new CSA or if you just like to see science used for practical, optimistic purposes, show the Ten Acre Organics Kickstarter some love. 

    ___

    Curious how our previous Austin Kickstarters did?

    The Ghastlycrud Zombies was fully funded! They earned over $6100 with an initial goal of $4300, so the book is in good shape.

    The Live Action Jem and the Holograms Movie was over 250% funded! Mind you, they were only asking for $200. Go ahead and throw them a couple more bucks just to be part of something awesome.

    Jumpshot made an amazing 500% of their goal! They raised more than $147,000, putting them in the top tier of all Kickstarters.  

    My Education was fully funded!  Our instrumental band is set for their European tour.

    Rockrgrrl Magazine’s GRL Talk Book was fully funded! They made over 120% of their original goal.

    Strange Kid Comix was over 114% funded! They raised more than $2850 for their taste of pure pop culture nostalgia.

    Wholly Kabob was 100% funded. They raised $15,250 to start a tasty new food trailer.

    Texas or Die: An Anthology of Horror sadly didn’t reach its $7000 goal and therefore didn’t receive funding.

    The Anachronist sadly didn’t reach its goal and therefore didn’t receive funding.

    Stabil-i-Case sadly didn’t reach its goal and therefore didn’t receive funding.

    The Doctor Who Review Project sadly didn’t reach its goal and therefore didn’t receive funding.

    Taskbox sadly didn’t reach it’s goal and therefore didn’t receive funding.

    The original Spinferno Kickstarter was cancelled and replaced by a new Spinferno for Android kickstarter.
     

     

    Related Articles: 

    City and Neighborhood Programs Nurture Growth of Community Agriculture

    Portland, Seattle, and Austin have more in common than a large bearded population and a desire to keep their cities “weird.” They also have some of the most extensive community gardening programs in the nation.

    ACC Has Big Plans for Highland Mall, Starting With a Farmers Market

    When the Highland Mall opened in 1971, it was Austin’s first shopping mall, a shiny beacon of consumerism. Some 40 years later, the mall’s anchor stores are closed and its large parking lot is often empty.

    Austin Organic Food Markets Expand to Meet Demand

    Austin’s organic food markets expand to meet the demand for locally sourced organic products....

    Austin Culinary Incubators Heat Up as Independent Food Producers Grow

    The term “locavore” has worked its way into the daily vocabulary of the Austin population, as more people search for locally made and locally sourced food and beverages.


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