Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

World Cup: watching in the morning

This morning it was Mexico matched against South Africa. Those of us without home-viewing possibilities who wanted to see it all, and in the company of others, found the guide in this week’s Austin Chronicle invaluable.

The spots we hit were Buenos Aires Cafe Este, Justine’s, Brixton, and the find of the day, Takoba. We watched post-game activities at El Meson, which deserves its own separate entry.

As promised, Justine’s offered croissants, coffee, and booze, not necessarily in that order. It’s true: the French were in attendance.

Buenos Aires will be saved for the Argentina show, but even early on there were viewers for Mexico’s turn today.

The Brixton was dark in the daytime and very busy, with wall-to-wall standees. There’s a cigarette machine. Need I say more?

The real discovery of the day was Takoba (1411 East Seventh; telephone 628-4466). It also was wall-to-wall people indoors and shoulder-to-shoulder outdoors. Many were wearing tokens in support of today’s favorite, Mexico, and Spanish was to be heard everywhere. The kitchen did not appear to be open at that hour of the morning, but we can hardly wait to try it. The crowd is genial and prosperous. This was where true excitement and fervor were to be found today. Takoba plans to replay the days’ games beginning at 5 pm.

We didn’t check out Copa (217 Congress downtown; telephone 479-5002) this morning, but the last time around for the World Cup we enjoyed the company there very much.

We wound down with after-game shows and a wonderful meal at El Meson, a newcomer to South Lamar.

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.]

What they’re saying about us

  • Newcomers to Austin relocating from Virginia bought their new house without ever having seen it. They used Google Street View and other on-line real-estate tools. This is reported in the January issue of Smart Money (“What’s Your House Really Worth”?). Their names are given and their house is pictured. I recognize it as being in Hyde Park. What do Trulia and Zillow have to say about your habitation? How do their approaches compare with TCAD‘s valuation?
  • The NYT covers Etsy as a way to make a living beyond its hobby aspects (“That Hobby Looks Like a Lot of Work,” byline Alex Williams). The focus is in part on Austinite Caroline Colom Vasquez and her business, Paloma’s Nest. This piece has been blogged by the Huffington Post.
  • The NYT also reports that Austin’s own Four Hands, importer and manufacturer of furniture and other items for the home, will be rolling out a line of furniture called Bina, which will mix North American black walnut and white oak with reclaimed exotic hardwoods (“Exotic Woods Out of the Urban Wild,” byline Tim McKeough). Bina already encompasses over 80 pieces and will be available in January.
  • The WSJ has managed to elicit quite a bit from UT athletic director DeLoss Dodds in what’s nearly a full page devoted to how the Longhorns raise more support from more people than any other team in the US (“Texas Football Boosters Think Big,” byline Hannah Karp). More living alums and a high percentage who still reside in the Lone Star State, plus an economy that’s better off than most, are thought to be the answer. I think it’s just competitive showing off, but others no doubt think otherwise. Did I need to say “football”?

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

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 and Event Closures III

Just when you thought it was safe to go back on the street!

Yep, the next round of this increasingly confusing topic is due on the agenda of Thursday April 30th council meeting as item #25. For those of you not paying attention, that means today, unless you are reading this before midnight, by which time I’ll have hopefully finished writing it…

You can find the full agenda here. I’m not a specialist on city council meetings/processes, but as far as I can tell, this is open to the public, but possibly only to listen. So far in the City Council meetings it has been heard in the afternoon or evening, in the Public Hearing section. As I read it, this time it’s being heard in normal council business, where no separate discussion is necessary unless desired by a Council Member. Unless you know better!

It would seem that since the last meeting, city staff have been busy. There is a comeback on the taskforce recommendations, which seemingly pretty much explains why they are not really implementing any of there major points. This can be read here.

Instead of a separate office for events, staff is recommending folding the responsibilities into the Urban Transportation Commission (UTC). This may be prudent, but it’s not at all clear its right. Prudent because at a time of trimming city budgets, declining tax revenues etc. the last thing the city could probably afford, was a new department. However, adding the “special events” to the UTC will double the number of monthly meetings and “require additional support staff” – which probably just means saving headed notepaper then, and then a potential new head of department on the city “shilling”.

Depending on which side you take, events, churches/business(not claiming they are the same, just lumping their objections together), residents or Task Force members, you can be sure that the final recommendations don’t add up. There seems to be a new 30-day Rules Posting Process, according to Jason Redfern, Right-of-Way Management Division Manager, Transportation Department – “that has not started yet, which will provide stakeholders the opportunity to make suggestions”.

Joey Trmyer of Conely Sports, isn’t pleased with what he’s seen far and wrote this blog post and this letter to the council. I have to say, and I’m taking Joeys “council” on this, a number of the plans might work for static events like the Art Fest, but they introduce significant safety questions for sports events of all sizes. Kathie Tovo, ex-Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association prez. is also concerned with a number of the proposals too. So far two out of four.

News reaches me though that Council Member of Mayoral candidate Leffingwell is this evening proposing his own set of changes which reach a more effective compromise. Hey Larry, why didn’t I hear about this from you?

So, who knows which way this will go, if you are at all interested, and able, head down to city hall in the morning but be prepared to be confused and delayed as the agenda, ordinances and time keeping get shifted around to suit the political time table. I won’t be there this time, please post comments and let me know how it goes.

Thought for the day #2: Trust me on the sports bra!

Town lake is an amazing place to run at the weekends, there are often more people out running, than most cities can muster to participate in a 5k. You can’t really “see the wood for the trees” though, people flash by in all directions.

It’s not the same on weekday mornings though. Sure, there are still a lot of folks out, but the numbers are down and so you actually notice individuals. This post is for the late-20’s girl, blonde, red t-shirt, black shorts, with her hair held back with a white band, running on the trail this morning.

Running without a decent sports bra doesn’t do you any favors. Yes, it’s distracting, no they won’t get any bigger in any meaningful way, the skins just stretches. When you get older you’ll regret that. If you had a sports bra on this morning, you need a new one, it’s lost it’s support.

Me, I always run in spandex/lycra shorts, same reason, well thats my excuse and I’m sticking to it. As Baz Luhrman might have sung, “but trust me on the sports bra”.

Real sports – HBO, Austin on

Even if you are not an avid sports fan, but have HBO access, it might be worth catching the current episode of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.

One of the “stories” in episode 145 is about local Austin boxing coach Ann Wolfe. She is unique in any number of ways, Wolfe went 24-1 as a female boxer, including one massive knockout fight where she beat then defending World Champion, Vonda Ward as well as 7x other world titles. Wolfe went on to start her own gym and coaching, she’s out on Bastrop Highway. One of her current boxers is Austin’sJames Kirkland who is the WBO NABO light middleweight champion.

The show take you through Wolfes’ background and well as how boxing became her savior, it also shows some of her unsual training metheods. It also shows some some notable Austin landmarks from Wolfes past, including Brackenridge hospital emergency wing, where she used to spend the night with her kids when homeless. Wolfe is unique in other ways too. A couple of Travis Counties finest also feature when they stop Wolfe and another of her boxers, for driving in a stolen vehicle. It’s a look at a different way of life here in Austin.

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.

City Staff talk back on Street closure task force

Mark your diaries, I hear that City staff will brief to Council and taskforce members today at 2:00pm (time varies) at City Hall Council Chambers. The brief will cover the progress on the Taskforce recommendations.

April 2nd at 6pm, a public hearing will be held with possible action by Council for amending City Ordinances related to Street Events Closures and review of the new Right-of-Way Closure Rules. Citizens may provide comment to Council at this hearing.

I’ve reported on this twice, and posted a summary on the difficulties faced and reasonable progress made taskforce. If you remember, one of the early meetings was attended “mob-handed” by the athletes community, and most never got the chance to speak. This is your/their chance.

I’ll find out where the documents can be obtained, and update this post.
[Update: 3/30/09 The documents covering the current state are all now posted on the city website – Thanks to Taskforce member Kathie Tovo for the links and work on the taskforce.[/update]

The best results from public participation at city hall meetings is garnered by actually having a considered, factual input based on what is being discussed. An emotional rant might make you fell better, but they rarely “move the ball forward”, but hey, feel free to do either :-)

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