Archive for February, 2010

Travel, Time and Transport

I traded links with Mike Dahmus aka M1EK, over on twitter the other day; I’d just come across this Inrix Nation Traffic Scorecard.

Haven driven a lot in the past 6-months, and with my travelling backrgound, I was surprised to see that Austin appeared to be 23rd worst city in the US. I sent the link to Mike as I knew he’d have something to say. When I looked at the page, and you can sort by many columns and get different views, I was interested in when, where and other aspects of the data. It’s long been my view that Austins traffic wasn’t that bad, and that given the proximity of I35, the 45 Tollroad, and Mopac to downtown, actually it was pretty simple to get in and out.

Of course that isn’t true if you are one of those people who sit daily in the massive traffic jams to get from north to downtown, and to be honest, I don’t see the traffic trying to get from the south into downtown, just the downtown end of it.

What Mike pointed out was that the situation was actually much worse than I’d envisaged, especially looking at the Inrix study. While they give you the ability to sort by column, if you could sort on multiple columns, Austin would come out near the top if you took population, average delay and distance traveled. Mike’s tweet was “We’re even worse than we come off there; these studies unfairly penalize cities where large % of commuters don’t drive (i.e. NY).”

I’ve just been reading Mikes blog, and he makes some important points there on the recent Capital Metro’s Service 2020 plan, but also on the Rapid Bus proposal changes. Seems like there is a lot more work to do yet.

As seen on tv… This old house

Well almost. The web site though for this old house currently features the “World’s Wildest Houses IV“. Two of the houses featured this time around are from Austin and both in the same, 78704 zip code.

Actually I didn’t go back through the first three sets of this Old house collections, but it’s hard to say that these represent the worlds wildest designs, but they are certainly some of the most extravagent. First up is the Bouldin Castle, which I blogged about back in September and then again in December when it went on sale.

The Casa on West Milton

The Casa on West Milton

The second Austin home featured is Casa Neverlandia on W Milton St. I’ve been past it a few times, it’s another 78704 gem. However, it wasn’t until I read the “This Old House” website, that I was intrigued to go out more about it. There is a great write-up here and at least according to that website, you can visit Neverlandia monthly by reservation only, usually on the second Sunday of the month. Call (512) 442-7613.

To get a better idea of what Casa Neverlandia is all about, and if it’s worth a visit, see this great picture set on Googles Picasa website.

Plane Crash at 183 and Mopac

Plane crash at 183 and Mopac

Photo by co-worker friend Jay Harrison via Facebook

Like me, you’re probably getting most of your news updates via Twitter, Facebook or other social media, but a small plane crashed into an office building near Mopac and 183 this morning around 9:50am. A co-worker came in breathless having seen the whole thing as it happened. In retrospect, we felt the shock wave a few blocks away.

Initial reports are that it was the Echelon building and may have housed IRS, FBI and St. Edward’s University employees. I’ve also seen that all but two people have been accounted for from the building and that the plane may have been out of Waco and went full throttle into the building.

Of course, this is all pure speculation at this point since it’s so soon. More as it develops.

Update: Follow the Austin American-Statesman twitter account for the latest.

Update 2: Statesman blog post now has quotes from aforementioned co-worker.

Update 3: Note left by the plane’s pilot, Joe Stack. He was clearly targeting the IRS criminal investigation division. We’re lucky he didn’t decide to target the much bigger and more populous regional service center a few miles away.

Update 4: Stack was an Austin resident and set fire to his house just before getting the plane. There was a report on the Statesman’s Blotter blog at 9:42 about the fire. A quick check of tax appraisal roll confirms that it’s an address owned by Mr. Stack. It’s a house not very far to the north of the site where he crashed the plane.

Update 5: T35 Hosting has taken down Stack’s company web site (he was an embedded systems programmer) and his manifesto. I, like a lot of other people, kept my own copy. You can probably still get to it at the Internet Archive. The markup indicates he wrote it in Microsoft Word which conveniently records the create and last update times. He created it on 02.16.10 at 7:24PM and went through 27 revisions with the final one this morning at 6:24AM. Here’s the City of Austin’s info page in the incident (what’s up with that URL?).

As seen on tv… Amazing Race

The Amazing Race duo

down on Ladybird lake

The latest series of CBS Amazing Race features a grandmother, granddaughter pair billed and shown as being “from Austin”. The attached screen grab was taken during the series intro.

They made a spirited start in the first adventure but only just made the cutoff at the end of last weekends show. Grandmother Jody Kelly is from Round Rock, and Granddaughter Shannon Foster is currently living and studying in Georgetown[details for show bio page].

Jody Kelly is making the most of her retirement, she’s apparently an avid triathlon competitor and is shown in TriZones training group kit and there is more detail on their web site.

Interesting, asked by CBS what she’d do with the million bucks if she wins, Jody says “Donate half to the Strengthmobile Foundation and spend the other half on a 500-square foot condominium within a mile of Lady Bird Lake in Austin, Texas”

I’m guessing that Jody doesn’t hope to keep her bikes, wetsuit and other triathlon gear, as well as live in 500sqft. And, are downtown condos really that expensive…

[Update 2/23. Jody and Kelly were eliminated in the second episode, see the write-up and interview here.]

Whole Foods vs. Walmart blind tasting

A mostly anonymous panel of Austinites sat down to food prepared by Fino. One set of ingredients came from an Austin Walmart; the other, from Whole Foods Central. This is reported in the March Atlantic: “The Great Grocery Smackdown,” by Corby Kummer. The results were surprising to some.

All that I find about the tasting panel in the magazine is that among the members were an aromatherapist; James McWilliams, a faculty member from Texas State in San Marcos and author of Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly; and Carol Ann Sayle, of Boggy Creek Farm.

The Atlantic account is quite funny. The ingredients and every course are described in extensive detail. I certainly agree with the comments about injected chicken. I find that there’s also an feature in today’s local daily (byline Addie Broyles; scroll down), which has already attracted comments from two of the panelists, Marshall Wright, not mentioned by name in the magazine article, and James McWilliams.

Austin art exhibition receives national notice

The exhibition of the Petrobelli altarpiece by Veronese, just concluded at the Blanton, receives a good three print pages in The New Republic (“Venice in Texas,” byline Jed Perl, February 18). Here’s a representative quotation offering tribute to the curatorial knowledge at the Blanton: “In Austin, the exhibition was embraced by a loyal audience that has come to expect word-class scholarly work from the curators at the Blanton.” The accomplishments so far and the goals for the future are recognized. Perl dislikes the atrium and staircase as much as many of us do (“simultaneously overbearing and bland”). The Blanton is credited at its fiest with “exhibitions in which the best art historical scholarship, closely linked to the academic values of the university, flows seamlessly into the dazzling showmanship that any museum needs to attract the public.” The Veronese show is said to be “a powerful example of a modium-sized museum building on its strengths and coming up with something truly substantial.” The Suida-Manning, Leo Steinberg, and Latin American collections are recognized for their artistic and scholarly value. “Even after you have factored in Austin’s long tradition of intellectual sophistication, there is something rather extraordinary about the amount of money that has been raised to support a program of collections and exibitions,” Perl says. I’ve noticed that the Blanton seems to have cut back on its mailings and other forms of publicity. We should not overlook the gem in our midst; the rest of the world doesn’t.

Terra Toys is tops!

Terra ToysTerra Toys stocks commercial-free Valentine cards, free of licensed characters: no Disney, no TV shows, just old-fashioned sentiment. We were too late to send away for reissues of vintage cards and didn’t have our usual luck this year finding old-fashioned valentines in Spanish.

Terra Toys has been a magnet since it was one of the first new retail establishments in years to open its doors downtown on Congress, on the lower part of the Avenue that sported an array of bars catering to those who also rented mailboxes at the same places and would turn over their monthly VA or SS disability checks and then run a tab all month until credit ran out. Terra Toys survived there and seemed to thrive until one of the recurring real-estate booms demolished its premises. That’s when Terra Toys pioneered on South Congress, continuing to sell its little handmade wooden toys on wheels and expanding to offer one of the very best selections in town of books for children (still true) and then Dragonsnaps, selling clothing for children.

Again the real-estate juggernaut charged through, and now Terra Toys is located at 2438 West Anderson Lane (445-4489; open at 9 am every day of the week but Sunday, when it opens at noon). Terra Toys still offers Steiff, Madame Alexander, kites, toy robots, dress-up clothes and hats, board games, construction toys, art supplies, activities, and much, much more. Don’t forget those showy cocktail rings sporting giant facted “jewels,” just three dollars. Most of the creatures on wheels and other handmade wooden toys from the old days went as presents, but I’ll never, ever give away my chicken on wheels or my wonderful floating battleship.

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