Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

The UN is coming! The UN is coming!

What separates Texas from “some third-world fascist dictatorship”? Ronni rants perhaps not as much as we’d once hoped. She spotted an AP article in SFGate reporting that “A United Nations human rights expert will head to the United States later this month where U.S. to investigate a highly criticized Texas center for detained immigrant families…” in Hutto. Remember when that only happened to the bad guys: the Russians and the Chinese?

I couldn’t find the article using the search facility at the Austin American-Statesman (if you saw it, let me know where and I’ll put in a Thanks to K, for the link!) but I did find this Hutto tidbit. In his April 22 column, John Kelso noted that TxDOT had just unveiled two new highway exit signs for Hutto. Maybe that’s to help the UN inspectors find it.

With a double-shot of noise

While I’ve moved away from campus, I still camp out at JP’s often, and it’s a nice, quiet place to study- its proximity to the law school lends it popularity among the grad student set and its comfy chairs mean we students tend to stay for a long, long time. I was there over midterms for most of the day a few days in a row, and I got a lot of work done. Nice, idyllic hours spent poring over notes while nursing our Texas Toddys.


“Oh you must be joking.”

It’s 10:30- 11pm on a Sunday night before a lot of us have exams on Monday. This LOUD noise keeps going off and people’s heads start popping up like lemurs, wondering who has spoiled our unspoken code of midterms= study and study= silence. We all look at each other with shifty eyes and the noise goes off again. And again. And again.

This middle-aged woman in the chair next to me, who is obviously not a student of any stripe, turns to me and stares at the side of my head until I notice her. I take my headphones off and she tells me she’s lost her bluetooth earpiece and would I mind getting up to help her look for it?


Civil servants on permanent voicemail

The notice from the City arrived in the mail last weekend. No matter on what day or at what hour the City employee named therein is called, the telephone number is always on voicemail. When I’ve been able to call from a touch-tone, not a rotary, telephone, I’ve been able to punch “O” in accordance with the voicemail instructions. This action results in a 40-minute hold and then a cut-off. During the hold, the annoying music loops over and over again, interrupted only by the message that “all our agents are busy.”

The answers sought are simple ones. Why, when one action before a citizen board was scheduled a month ago, was there a big red-orange sign posted on the property (although briefly and without written notice to most of those who should receive it)? Why, when this action was placed on the agenda again, this time with written notice, was there no big bright sign, as there was the first time? Why is there a big bright sign on another property on the same agenda for the same date as the first matter? What is the difference in procedure as between the two agenda items? Why was the postponed agenda item treated differently the first time as to notice from the way it’s being treated this time?

All apart from the fact that it’s pretty obvious that no answers will be obtained before the agenda items are decided, whether or not there’s compliance and consistency as to notice, public servants who seem always to have their voicemail on do a disservice to anybody who falls into one or more of these classes: has a rotary-dial telephone, has no telephone at work, may call on breaks but not receive return calls during work hours, has no answering machine, has no voicemail, or has no cell-phone. Some people, by the very nature of their jobs, are out in the field all the time, but their voicemail usually says at what hours they may be reached directly and during what hours they return calls. Now leaving rant zone to resume regular activities.

Do It Neighborly

I went to the Responsible Growth for Northcross community meeting last night, and it was well-run and informative. The executive committee presented results from the survey, a possible mixed-use vision of what Northcross could be, and upcoming events. What really stuck with me was a comment made by Chip Rosenthal as he presented results of the survey. When he pointed out the portion of respondents that are for the Wal-Mart, he said, “Remember, these people are your neighbors.” Exactly. We would all do well to remember, when we get upset with a neighbor for wanting Wal-Mart or for not hating Wal-Mart in the same way and to the same degree we do, that the people we’re getting upset with are our neighbors, people who live on our street or around the corner. People that we should treat with respect and civility rather than angry words and insults, regardless of their opinion. As RG4N has said, “Do It Neighborly.”

Grumble, Grumble, Blue Laws, Grumble

The Wife was up early this morning to beat the crowds at the grocery store. As she left, she asked if I had any requests. Not thinking, I asked for more beer since we’re low and we’ll be entertaining both tonight and tomorrow night. It being a Sunday before noon and this being Texas, of course, she was denied.

Blue Laws have been around for a long time in the US and Texas seems to have a particular fondness for them. Debunking the popular etymology, Wikipedia sez:

Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence to support the assertion that the blue laws were originally printed on blue paper. Rather, the word blue was commonly used in the 18th century as a disparaging reference to rigid moral codes and those who observed them (e.g., “bluenoses”). Another version is that the laws were first bound in books with blue covers.

It’s not like I’m not aware of them. I was born and raised in Texas. It’s just that you forget sometimes in the course of your normal activities that it’s Sunday and that it’s before noon. You’re out getting groceries and think, “I should get some beer.” You’re not going to drink it right then…maybe not even that day, but you can’t fucking buy it because of the stupid fucking law. There I said it.

Can we please get beyond this silliness? I can’t buy beer and I still don’t go to church. I don’t go to church because I don’t believe in God, not because I’m out getting loaded, although stuff like this makes me want to go out and get loaded. Damn.

You may now resume your holiday merriment, though not until after noon.

Good News in the Fight for Northcross

I just got home from the Responsible Growth for Northcross community meeting. The RGFN group formed to support desirable development for Northcross Mall and wants neighborhoods to be involved in planning for the area’s redevelopment. Currently, Lincoln Properties, owner of Northcross Mall, is planning to redevelop the site with a 200,000+ square-foot Super Wal-Mart as the anchor store. This gigantic building would become the third largest big box store in central Texas, after IKEA in Round Rock and Cabela’s in Buda.

There were hundreds of concerned Austinites in attendance, and the RGFN steering committee seemed well-organized and well-researched given the short amount of time that has passed since the first article announcing this project ran in the Statesman on November 8. I’m encouraged and inspired, by the turnout, by the news that Wal-Mart is not a done deal, and by the success of other Austin neighborhoods (such as Circle C) in fighting off the Beast from Bentonville. The building and demolition permits have not yet been granted. We can still fight and win. First and foremost, every concerned Austinite needs to contact city council members and let them know you oppose the Northcross Wal-Mart and ask them to direct the city manager to suspend approval of the site plan. Also, RGFN needs lots of help. Two days ago I was disheartened by the idea of Wal-Mart becoming my new neighbor. Today, I’m excited to take on the fight.

They don’t mean “immigrants”

Last week local news station KXAN ran a story on how robbers were targeting “immigrants” who might be afraid to report assaults to the police. They reminded viewers that because of recent beatings and deaths of “immigrants” that APD has a policy of handling crime reports without respect to immigration status. Therefore, no one should be afraid to report a crime.

As I listened to the story, the reporter used the word “immigrant” over and over to describe the targeted group. Yet I realized she didn’t mean immigrants at all. My husband is an immigrant. He legally immigrated to the United States from England two decades ago and is now a US citizen. He works at a company full of legal immigrants–from Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, and Bulgaria. None of these people were the topic of this story.

No, the topic of this story was illegal immigrants from Mexico or Central America. Only once did a person interviewed refer to the targeted group as “Mexican nationals”. Never did anyone in the story prefix immigrant with “illegal”. “Immigrant” was clearly being used as a code word for Hispanic–and yet in some bizarre attempt to avoid an ethnic slur, they tarred all immigrants (include legal Hispanic immigrants) with the same brush.

Worse, when we substitute “immigrant” for “Hispanic” we encourage the kind of discrimination taking place in the Dallas suburb Farmers Branch. This bunch does not differentiate between Mexican nationals here illegally and Americans of Mexican descent, some of whom are descendents of people settled in Texas before it became a state. Take Susie Hart of Farmers Branch who is quoted as saying, “This is the first town in Texas that had the guts to do what’s right. The education system is tanking, health care has gone through the roof, everybody is bilingual.”

Sadly, despite my immigrant husband’s degree from Oxford University, he is not bilingual. But I reckon Susie Hart wasn’t talking about him when she voted to make English the official language of Farmers Branch. Let’s recognize this as a clear attack on those who speak Spanish whether they are longtime citizens or workers here illegally. Don’t let the news media gloss it over with umbrella terms like “immigrant”. It’s unfair to legal immigrants and it buries the anti-Hispanic feeling that should be exposed so that it can be uprooted.

Just how welcome?

Only people who read the local daily seem to be talking about the city council retreat at a luxury spa 22 miles from downtown on two weekdays that will be workdays for many and one of which will be a childcare nightmare for some. We common citizens are to foot the bill for a high-priced dubious excercise that will employ two high-paid “facilitators.” The location of the retreat is not any of the municipally owned meeting spaces that would entail no additional costs or be convenient to any interested user of public transportation. Very few of us have staff meetings, however categorized, at The Crossings, which describes itself as “a progressive learning center, meeting place, and wellness spa” located in a “setting that inspires growth, balance and sanctuary.”

I assume that there was a bidding process or RFP as to the facilitators, who are coming from Kansas. The local daily does not report on all aspects of the planning and approval process, but does mention that Futrell, Wynn, and Kim have been devoting time to planning this little exercise “for months.” This is a wonderful piece of reporting (byline Sarah Coppola) and obviously entailed a great deal of effort in chasing down those who would comment, whether on or off the record. This amount of money would go some way toward realizing higher civic priorities.

Knowing that this event would require an Open Meetings posting, I was not surprised to see that, despite all the protestations for public consumption about how the meetings are open to the public, the largest part of the published agenda contains this boilerplate that suggests otherwise: “The City Council will go into a closed session under Chapter 551 of the Texas Government Code to receive advice from legal counsel, to discuss matters of land acquisition, to discuss personnel matters, to discuss or take action on a ‘competitive matter’ of Austin Energy as provided for under Section 551.086, or for other reasons permitted by law as specifically listed on this agenda. If necessary, the City Council may go into a closed session as permitted by law regarding any item on this agenda.” Which item? Which merits secrecy?: “working conditions” and challenges facing a governing body? leadership styles? development of strategic goals that incorporate the goals in the existing strategic plan? or some of the other oh-so-worthy items?

The local daily has obtained a more complete agenda or program than what’s on the City site, showcasing additional absurdities. Watch for the high concentration of trendy expressions: (prioritize, vision, ongoing initiative, self assessment instrument, key objective, dreams and fears, nominal group voting process). Don’t miss the play-nice rules at the end.

Foonote: Kelso weighs in.

Update: On Thursday, 9 November, the local daily reports in a tiny item on an inside page that the retreat, in recognition of childcare issues, will end at noon on Friday. The cost to taxpayers will remain the same.

Ferocious? Seriously…

So yesterday I was stuck at home with a migraine – you know, the headaches that feel like someone is pounding their DeWalt hand drill in and out of your eyeballs while someone else is hitting you with a 2×4 and singing bad polka music in your ear. Just as fun as ripping your fingernails off and then paying someone to spill hydrochloric acid on your exposed nail beds. It’s a gas!

So while I would have preferred to lay on the floor in the fetal position covering my eyes with a pillow and softly moaning to myself, I had to get up to go to my long-awaited dermatologist appointment. Oh I wish I could have skipped it, but then they probably would have charged me an insane amount of money or something.

Looking back, the $40 missed appointment fee would have been well worth it, because this was the worst dermatologist appointment EVER. I’m kicking myself for making an appointment at a place that has the word “Westlake” in its name… (and you all know how I feel about THAT place). I’m not going to tell you which clinic it is (for fear they would attack me with botox-filled syringes in the middle of the night), but if you look up dermatologists in Westlake, you would probably figure it out.

Ok so first of all, I’m sitting in the waiting area, head pounding and fighting nausea. The bulimic college girls running the front office are listening to Greenday or AFI or something annoyingly poppy like that, mapping out their evening of (and I quote):

“…getting ready at Cynthias house because she has better lighting in her bathroom, having cosmos by the pool before they leave, eating salads at Sabas [because I’m feeling kind of bloated lately], and dancing all night with the rest of the crew…”

It was awful to listen to. I kept having visions of leaping over the counter and choking them with their oversized hoop earrings.

After 20 minutes of holding my head in my hands while rocking back and forth, I finally get taken back to an exam room where I only wait another 15 minutes. The only magazines they have are “You Can Change Your Appearance” and “Beautiful Austin Socialite” (not the real titles, but you get the point), which were making me ill as I flipped through them. Did you know you can finance a new nose?

Just as I was starting to wonder if my chin was too large or small…

They may have a point

Many are those who laugh at people who subscribe to the hard copies of any publication, and especially to newspapers. They prefer to read what they read on line. For reasons related to work and also out of personal preference, we subscribe to the local daily, along with two other newspapers, all delivered, when things go well, by the daily’s carrier.

But Saturday, there were two of one, one of the second, and none of the third. This morning, there was one of paper A, one of paper B, and none of paper C. Following the proper procedures, redelivery of the missing item was requested Saturday. It hasn’t occurred. Redelivery of today’s missing item was requested. It hasn’t occurred, and it won’t, at least not today.

During a quick noon-hour fly-by, no paper was to be found, not even far, far from the porch, in the driveway, where newspapers are not supposed to be left. In the course of a follow-up call, the circulation agent did report that both requests are in the system. The redeliveries just have not been performed, for reasons that can’t be explained. This marks an improvement over past experiences, when the local daily’s circulation department has claimed no record of redelivery requests, although the other two papers’ circulation departments say otherwise.

It’s understandable when a new carrier takes a while to get a system worked out, but there’s no excuse for the redelivery promises to be worthless, or all but. In a one-computer household, breakfast-time news-reading doesn’t work on-screen. It’s slow, it makes it easy to overlook some small but important item, and there’s no way to divide up the sections. And breakfast-time is the only time available before the day takes off and leaves no leisure time to speak of.

Will the two missing papers be delivered, as now promised, tomorrow morning, along with tomorrow’s paper A, paper B, and paper C? Or will the follow-up process begin again? Or will something else be missing? Few have any sympathy. Complaints like this are met with derision. Only a dwindling number of die-hards
are left to be smeared with newsprint ink. It’s beginning to be easier to understand why.

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