Archive for April, 2005

Watch this space

At a candidates page at the City of Austin site are links to information furnished in response to PIRs (public information requests, formerly known as open records requests) from two of the council candidates. A personal favorite is the spreadsheet containing the names and titles of City employees earning over $85,000 annually. Did you know there are 410 of them? Sorting it in ascending order of salaries leads to particularly interesting results, as does sorting by departments. This and other good questions were propounded by Place 1 candidate Steve Adams. Incumbent Dunkerley sought information to assist in answering the ANC questions and added a couple of additional queries, including what would be the justification for the police helicopter (at the very bottom of the page).

A King’s Ransom

mailer.gifNorman Mailer is speaking at the University of Texas this Wednesday, but his legacy will reside here long after his departure. UT’s Harry Ransom Center has just purchased Mailer’s extensive archives (free sub. required) of letters, notes, and other remnants from his decades of researching and writing. Given his prolific involvement in various aspect of culture and society, Mailer’s archives promise a treasure trove of observation.

It is surprising that someone so closely associated with the New York literary establishment would choose to house their archives in Texas. Mailer developed an attachment to Texans during his service in World War II; an attachment that the University of Texas solidified with its outstanding literary resources. Money quote from Mailer:

“However, despite a few sentimental and cultural attachments to the state, the largest part of my decision grew out of the fact that the Ransom Center at the University of Texas has one of the finest, if not the finest, collections of American literary archives in the world.”

Austin is fortunate to have such a world-class archive, particularly since our town is a little short on cultural institutions. The HRC has a few notable attractions, including a Gutenberg Bible and the first photograph, with rotating exhibitions of 20th century literature and photography. If you haven’t already been, it’s well worth checking out.

Spring’s over, summer’s here: a sure sign

One isn’t enough; it takes three, and three seen on one day. Today was the day. Every letter carrier has optional bits of uniform. Breaking out the shorts isn’t enough. It’s the headgear that matters. Some carriers skip right from the winter gimme cap to the solar topee, without even stopping at the mesh cap. When the head needs that safari-helmet look to feel cool, spring is ending. When three heads need it, summer’s here. It’s time to oil the ceiling fans.

TCAD truncated

For several years, the free portion of the on-line TCAD database has shown past years’ appraisal figures (TCAD is the Travis Central Appraisal District). This was very helpful to those protesting appraised values. Late last week, the front end of the database changed and so did the information presented. At this time, there’s information for one year only, now 2004 and, no doubt, soon to be 2005. The missing information will still be available, but will join that which must be paid for. The appraisal bomb arrived in mailboxes on our street yesterday. All will be received no later than May 15.

UPDATE: The figures for the 2005 tax year are now up. Some of the information from prior years has been restored, back to 2000.

TCE in the NYT

An Austin-based environmental group was mentioned in the New York Times (free sub. required) yesterday for pressuring Apple Computer to improve its recycling program for used computer and iPod products. Money quote:

CEO Steve Jobs and Apple board members, including former Vice President Al Gore Jr., have each received at least 400 faxes about the company’s contribution to e-waste, said Robin Schneider, executive director of the Austin, Texas-based Texas Campaign for the Environment. The group is asking Apple to reduce or eliminate recycling fees for consumers and build in-store recycling centers.

DSCN2089.jpgTCE recently had success pursuading Dell to improve its own electronic waste program, resulting in an innovative partnership between Dell, Goodwill Industries, and the City of Austin that promotes donation and disposal of used computer waste.

Good thing too, because the continued growth of computer and computerized products means that they are increasingly becoming disposable items

More good questions for the candidates

The Austin Neighborhoods Council asked 33 questions and has posted the responses. Each question is preceded by a bit of background. Topics covered include the nuts and bolts of the neighborhood-planning process, zoning and code enforcement, budget priorities, preservation of Town Lake open space, encroachment of commerce on residential neighborhoods, compatibility issues, and property-tax issues. Anyone who owns property, or intends to, in Austin will find the candidates’ responses relevant.

Free sonidos for lunch in May

One of my favorite free music series, the kind that can brighten up that routine lunch hour, is Sonidos del Barrio, sponsored by the Austin Latino Music Association (ALMA). These will be every Friday in May, from noon to 1 pm, outdoors at the new city hall.

May 07: Ruben Ramos and the Texas Revolution
May 13: Patricia Vonne
May 20: Los Texas Wranglers
May 27: Alfonso Ramos y su orquesta

Ruben Ramos, el mero mero gato negro, always has real, not synthesized, brass, sometimes just a trumpet and sometimes more. This group is unusual in that the accordion is piano, not button.

Patricia Vonne is the sister of Robert Rodriguez and has been playing around town more and more, but I keep missing her gigs.

The Texas Wranglers are a very good local conjunto and they’ll be playing often around town for the next month or so. In the Austin traditional style of Johnny Degollado and his conjunto, there’s a saxophone with this group.

Alfonso Ramos and su orquesta (as is true also of Ruben Ramos) practically is never to be heard for free. He and Ruben are brothers.

Not having Patricia Vonne, I can’t say, but the other three play for people to dance. It’s reported that there’ll be some food for sale at these events.

Good questions

Not every candidate has a website, but the League of Women Voters election guide lets us know their answers to some of the important issues of the day.

Question 1: How would you balance the need for more intensive development around commuter rail stations with the needs of adjacent neighborhoods?
Question 2: What is your vision of what downtown Austin will look like in 10 years?
Question 3: Which previously reduced city services would you restore as city revenues increase? Please explain and prioritize.
Question 4: What improvements would you propose to the city

Su Voto es Su Voz

Don’t forget that tomorrow (Wednesday, April 20th) marks the beginning of early voting for Austin’s General Municipal Election. It’s a simple but very important election in which three seats on the City Council are up for grabs, as well as the controversial smoking ordinance. In the coming days, I’m sure that I and my fellow Austin Metbloggers will continue to pour our collective wisdom about these races down your throat, but in the meantime you can do some of your own damn legwork by checking out …

There is now no excuse for being uninformed, so get out and vote like you’ve never voted before! Vote like the wind …

SBD in the ATX

It’s news so old, it was probably first blogged on parchment how to gauge your Starbucks Density (SBD) by going to the Starbucks locator and searching within a 5-mile radius. Downtown has 14 franchises within striking distance, which sounds like a lot until you compare it to the 86 near Fuzzy’s home in Chicago or the 170 in Manhattan. Poor sods.

delocator.gifSlightly less ancient is the idea (courtesy of the Chicago Metblog) that you can now easily find the oft-sought and much-loved independent coffee houses using a similar tool. The Starbucks Delocator suggests there are 28 alternatives within the same 5-mile radius, although I count at least six duplicate entries. Oh mighty Interweb, how can you ever be wrong?

Some friends argue that Starbucks is “great” because you can always find one nearby and get the same drink served in the same cookie-cutter-cool environment (to paraphrase). Which, while true, says that a universally average experience is preferable to a selectively great one. No way, Bubba … vive la difference, as the Frenchies say. Part of the fun with coffee shops is finding the spot that fulfills whatever you need that day.

Speaking of, my current mission is to find the best Chai Latte in Austin’s urban core. 360 Uno serves the best I’ve had yet, but it’s in Davenport Village off Loop 360 … much too far away for my morning fix. Any advice?

Terms of use | Privacy Policy | Content: Creative Commons | Site and Design © 2009 | Metroblogging ® and Metblogs ® are registered trademarks of Bode Media, Inc.