Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Quiet zones

Back in October I wrote and entry entitled, the Sound of Silence. While I know that many residents enjoy the sound of the train horns as they approach the various street level crossings in town, there are federally approved standards for design that eliminate the need for them.

Well Leander is moving forward on this, based on this report from KXAN. Josh Hinkle reports that Austin won’t be moving forward anytime soon.

Why? Well the city can’t find the $500,000 needed for a study. What?

Outrageous, why is a study needed and how the heck does it justify spending HALF A MILLION DOLLARS on it. It seems to me that’s just an excuse for the lack of real action.

While I know it’s not linked, Brian Kelsey Director of the Capital Area Council of Governments is leaving Friday May 14th. In a summary of his 5-years in planning he said: “Planning is critical, but it needs to evolve. We talk a lot about the value of a plan being in the process, rather than the end product. And then we spend 50 percent of the budget on a 125 page document that very few people will have time to read, much less use in any meaningful way.”

Someone at the city needs a rocket up their ass if they really think HALF A MILLION on a report will solve or help anything or tell us something we don’t already know. Get on and do something, less consultants, more action!! Make a decision will ya, thats what you were elected for…

Food matters, follow-up

Feed lot grazing - courtesy of

Feed lot "grazing" - courtesy of

Back in September, I wrote here about my surprise and disappointment as a result of my drive along I10 and the huge number of cattle I’d seen in what apparently are feed-lots. They were in TX, NM and AZ.

Well I caught this excellent follow-up on NPR. What caught my attention as I drove by was the number of cattle stood with their heads through gratings to eat, the fact they were stood there in 95+ degree heat, and that mostly as far as I can see they were stood in piles of their own waste.

I really hadn’t thought through the consequences of that, and thats where the NPR piece picks-up. You can read or listen to it online here.

Remembering Andrea Burden

While we’ve all probably grown tired of hearing about swine flu, or H1N1, and being reminded to sneeze on our sleeves, wash hands regularly etc.

Andrea Burden from

Andrea Burden from

I was shocked to learn on Monday, that Sunday evening local illustrator, artist and mother, Andrea Burden had died on Sunday of bacterial menangitis. Although not as contagious as H1N1, Bacterial Meningitus is spread in much the same way.

Andrea’s work featured a mystical style that combined oil painting with digital photography and photoshop. While the home page on her website currently contains details of today’s funeral. You can view examples of her work using this link. Andrea was the illustrator for Jane Bozarths “The Fairy Godmother Academy” series of books, of which books #2 and #3 will be available in 2010, published by Random House. She was also one of the major contributors to Evilution, at the Austin Music Hall back in 1999.

Portal and Friends has posted a remembrance set of beautiful photographs of a beautiful woman, and another set of her beautiful art. on flickr. In many ways, her art was a view into her innerself. Andreas was just 40 when she died. I hope in death her surroundings are as beautiful as her life.

{thanks to Mike at Launch787 for notifying me about Andrea}

3rd Annual Santa Speedo run

Some of last years speedo runners

Some of last years speedo runners

Yep, it’s that time again. On Saturday, December 12th 2009, Team Santa Speedo will run for the 3rd year at the Trail of Lights fun run being held in Zilker Park. Based on similar events in Toronto and Boston, I do a lot of runs, rides and swims, but never do I laugh as much as charging around a 5k run in a speedo for a good cause.

We kinda hope that despite the fact the lights are scaled down this year, and the run is a short 2.6-miles, that the Santa speedo run will again get more participants. You can either just show up in a speedo or bikini(red, white or green preferred) along with Santa hats, reindeer horns, and other festive attire. You can run alone, or you can seek safety in numbers and at least start with the rest of us. Trust me, not everyone that takes part in the speedo run is an athlete, in fact Head Santa Cruz was just the other day bemoaning the fact he hadn’t done any running. So come on down and have a blast!

It’s also an fundraiser for Out Youth, a non-profit organization whose mission is to support and provide services to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth ages 12 to 19 in Austin and Central Texas. We’re asking Team Santa Speedo members and their “Athletic Supporters” to do some fundraising and donate directly to this organization to help them continue their work.

You can sign up for Team Santa Speedo, or become an “Athletic Supporter” and sponsor a runner at:,

You do also have to enter the official fun run, and will get a long-sleeve t-shirt if you sign up by Wednesday, and save $3 over race day entry.

Austin Santa Speedo Chief Elf Officer

More Austin in Print – Mens Health

I don’t read much “in print” these days, so was pleased to find in my latest issue of Mens Health magazine December issue, Best Life column, that Austin is rated #5 Most Charitable cities in the Donation Nation article. Now that IS something to be proud of.

Austin gets an A- and comes behind Cincinnati, OH, Seattle, WA, Richmond, VA and winner Madison Wisconsin but well ahead of more affluent and large target markets for giving such as upmarket retirement cities. The article says “While anyone can lavish gifts on friends and family, it takes people with “ho ho ho” in their hearts to be generous with strangers.”

The online version of the article says “Austin’s Capital Area Food Bank may have helped the city earn a spot in our top five, but by providing more than 20 tons of food to 21 Central Texas counties, the organization’s help reaches far beyond the capital city.”

There has been a major shift in chairtible giving in 2009. The 2005 rankings list the winner as 1. Atlanta, GA, 2. Washington, DC, 3. Wilmington, DE, 4. San Francisco, CA, 5. St. Paul, MN and in which Austin was 51st.

The magazine says “see more rankings at” but sadly it’s running 2-months behind the print edition and as of this morning was featuring the October 09 Accident Prone Cities, where Austin comes 30th.

Food Matters

Another one bites the dust

Another one bites the dust

I’m just back from my first ever long road trip in the US. I’d previously done New York to Florida, but it was over a number of days with stops in many places. This trip was a drive as far as you could, rest and drive again type.

While I was totally impressed and in awe of the size, variety and sheer beauty of the land in places, I was surprised, disappointed and concerned about other aspects of the journey and what I saw. I suspect like many people, I still carried the romantic notion that out there in the Texas flatlands were thousand upon thousand of cattle, roaming free, feeding on the planes grass, being rounded up by cowboys and herded based on the season. I was prepared to make some concessions, like most of the cowboys riding 4×4’s but nothing prepared me for what I saw.

What I saw in numerous locations along I-10W, there were thousand upon thousand of cows penned up in pens close to the road. Mostly standing around in what looked and smelt like their own waste, in temperatures that were exceeding 95f. There wasn’t just one place where the cattle and pens were present, but dozens along the ride between east of El Paso TX and Yuma, AZ. I guess like everything, even cattle in Texas has become a factory process in recent years. According to a Feb. 2009 USDA report, there are some 418,000 cattle in Texas, 338,000 in New Mexico, and 186,000 in Arizona. Who knew? Just sayin…

The Progressive Dairy web site has an interesting insight into the cattle “industry”.

In the interests of transparency, I’m NOT a vegetarian, I enjoy a nice steak and eat ‘burgers from time to time.

You never miss the water…

until the well runs dry, or the aquifer does. It turns out that there is an application into the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District for a private owner to drill a well into the Trinity aquifer and extract 1-million gallons of water per year for “domestic irrigation needs”.

8 Sugar Creek Austin, Texas 78746 ??

8 Sugar Creek Austin, Texas 78746 ??

Err, run that by me again. Yes, a property owner in Rollingwood, 8 Sugar Creek Austin, Texas 78746 to be precise, and if Google Streetview is accurate, the property seen in the picture, wants to drill right through the Edwards Aquifer into the underlying one, and pump out 23x per month than I use, and use it for irrigation.

Now, I guess you might argue that for a farm this would be a small quantity. But this isn’t a farm, it’s a house+land situated between Bee Caves Rd and Lake Austin. While I’m sure the owners may feel they are putting the water to good use, at a time when we are all being asked to cut back and save on water consumption, this is the equivalent of 3x the water consumption that Lance Armstrong used and caused him such embarressment(thanks to Steve for his comment correcting my understanding and math) This request is approximately half the annual amount that embarrassed Lance Armstrong, and for which he took immediate steps to rectify.

Let’s remember, there is a water shortage. Water isn’t man made, it’s part of the commons. It “belongs” to all of us. It’s unclear to me that this won’t affect the Edwards Aquifer, as we all know that water finds it’s own level. There is apparently a chance that the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District will approve this free extraction and use of OUR water.

Now, remember this isn’t about cost, it’s about supply. Seems to me that if this passes, now might be a good idea for us all to start plans to build our own wells to water our own lawns, after all we can all be selfish.

Alternatively, if you feel that the commons right to water is the responsibility of all of us, you might want to call BSEACD on (512) 282-8441 in the next 3-days and tell them, and indirectly tell James David and Gary Peese, the property owners, that you do not feel this is an appropriate action, period, and especially in the current drought conditions.

Possibly the worst road in Texas

blakemanorThree weeks ago I was riding along Blake Manor Rd, right near the Texaco gas station, when, WHAM, right in front of me one of our small group dropped her front wheel down this crack, immediately went over the handlebars and landed face first on the tarmac.

The blood exploded from her mouth, she lost four teeth and fractured her upper jaw; it was gruesome, I bailed rather than hit her and ended up with a scrape on my elbow and leg. It could have been much worse for her, she was wearing a helmet, and although it cracked, it did its’ job and protected her forehead and the frontal lobe of her brain.

Last Friday she wanted to see where the accident happened and so we agreed to meet up and I’d walk her through it. She bought a camera. What shocked me, driving from the west end of Blake Manor RD on 973, was just how bad shape this road was in. Yes, the drought is playing havoc with the road surface. It doesn’t help that much of the road on the south side falls off as the land slopes downhill. But simply put, this road is a hazard for car drivers. There are at least two sections where the road is likey to break away completely and there are dozens of sections with cracks almost as wide as a Dollar bill, and more than 5ft long.

Surprisingly, the actual crack where she crashed has been part filled, there seemed to be whole sections where tarmac has just been dumped on the road randomly and smoothed down. It’s really inconciveable that this road is in such poor shape, given that the frontage road of Mopac between Bee Caves and 360 seems to have been re-tarmaced recently, when it was one of the better roads anyway.

So, I advise ALL cyclists, motorcyclists and drivers to avoid Blake Manor Rd between 9730 and Lockwood Rd unless absolutely necessary. And unless you know otherwise, I declare this, the worst section of road in the greater Austin area, and possibly all of Texas!

Thought for the day #3 No blocking rule

austin-tx-town-lake-trail-running[1]The rules for Town Lake trail are few and far between, and quite rightly so. Don’t drop litter; clean up after your dog; keep to the trail; don’t take samples from the plants; women wear a sports bra while jogging, men make sure you shorts don’t let the mouse out of the house while jogging; dogs on a leash except at auditorium shores; cyclists, no speed in excess of 15MPH.

None of these are formal, they are just good. So, today my thought was, no blocking. Walking three abreast on the trail just doesn’t work. It really doesn’t work when you are all wearing mp3 players and not talking to each other, let alone listening out to what’s going on around you.

Three going clockwise can’t pass three going anti-clockwise; three on one side, two on the other, pretty much blocks one passing in the middle. So I propose that where there are three people blocking one side, now the football season is with us, it becomes an automatic right to be able to execute a tackle from behind on one of the three if you need to pass.

No need for those slightly embarrassing calls, on y’alls right/on y’alls left, instead just shout no blocking and run or bike right through… (more…)

Street Closures, City Staff, and council – Process over people

It’s strange to see democracy in action, or rather process over people. In a response to one person who asked me before the meeting what they had to do to ensure the “event” community won the current battle, I replied, the city process isn’t set up to create winners, it’s there just to make sure there are no losers!

And so it was tonight, at the City Council meeting where the staff recommendations for implementation of the Downtown Street Closure Task Force recommendations were heard. It was public hearing and a large number of people from 4-sides showed up, with a few others including marginalized neighborhood associations.

The Churches were well represented, as were the Race and Event organizers, and the task force members. In addition there were a large number of runners and event participants, but they had been effectively neutered by the race organizers through their emergent AREA organization. The Austin Races and Events Alliance (AREA), had appealed for people to attend but not speak until they’d spoken, probably fearing a backlash similar to the earlier one at the early taskforce meeting.

In the end the meeting was conducted in a relatively orderly and positive fashion, with Mayor Wynn and a number of the speakers enjoying entertaining interaction. After some 2-hours 30-minutes, most of it hearing public testimony, what became clear is that the City staff had turned months of work from the taskforce into a lose-lose-lose situation and wasn’t clear why this was.

The staff recommendations introduced rules like ensuring that Caesar Chavez was ALWAYS open, which the task force had never considered, as far as I know. That, had the Art Austin, 1st Night Austin and many other event promoters and producers losing out. The recommendations did not institute the Special Events office that the Task Force had recommended, thus they were losers. The Churches didn’t get their access needs met and they lost out, and well, the race organizers didn’t get it their way either, so they lost out too.

After the meeting I was asked “did we win?” My answer was, no, but you got what you wanted. What did they want? Well almost no one it seemed wanted it to go ahead as prescribed, and that’s what they got.

What happened was Council Member Leffingwell proposed to adjourn the public hearing and pass the staff proposal on the caveat that the letter submitted by the Task Force would considered and the proposal amended to accommodate. After a small amount of discussion and clarification from council members and Mayor Wynn, thats what they got, approved on first reading with the Leffingwell compromise. 2nd reading with be on either the 23rd or 30th of April, based on City Staff’s ability to meet with Task Force members and incorporate the changes.

However, quite why and how we got to where we did is beyond me? Why would staff come forward with these recommendations that were so out of line with a process that had taken months of compromise? Given that it’s been three of four months for staff to come forward with that, how likely is it that they’ll come back in as little as two weeks with the update thats acceptable to the task force and everyone else?

I found it personally interesting that none of the Mayoral candidates publicly took a stance on this and push it through one way or the other. One can only wonder if they really hope they’ll get the election over and done with before the Street and Event Closure really does claim a loser, the mayoral candidate that backs the wrong horse.

And so it was, process over people. – Oh yeah, before anyone suggests I’m a conspiracy theorist, I’m not. I also know that things don’t happen by accident.

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