Archive for February, 2008

Metroblogging Meetup: SXSWi Edition

Metroblogging will have a meetup during SXSWi this year.

Here’s the details:

Where: Rio Rita – 1308 East Sixth Street 

When: Sunday, March 9th at 5pm

Authors from Austin and several of the other Metroblogging cities will be in attendance including Houston, Minneapolis, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Hope to see you there.

Genius Fries Himself Trying to Steal Copper Wire

That power outage in East Austin yesterday?

Yeah, some genius was trying to steal copper wire from an electrical substation and shocked himself so badly that he actually set himself on fire. They sent him to the renowned Brooke Army Medical Center burn unit in San Antonio. Things don’t look good for him. Darwin Award, anyone?

What’s up with this copper wiring craziness? My mother-in-law had an entire AC unit stolen from her house for the copper wiring. I realize that the price of copper has gone up, but geez.

Star of Texas Rodeo: Cowboy Breakfast

Last year, The Wife and Kids got up extra early for a Cowboy Breakfast at Auditorium Shores. The Cowboy Breakfast is the traditional opener of the Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo. I opted to sleep in and miss it, but the reports from the family afterwords made me sorry I missed it. An Austin Chronicle article from 2005 does a pretty good job of describing it.

This year’s Cowboy Breakfast is this Friday from 6am to 9am. You can park at Palmer Events Center. I’ll see you there.

SXSW Music: 600 More Wristbands to Drop Tomorrow

If you missed your chance last week, you’ll get another one tomorrow. 600 more SXSW Music wristbands will go on sale between 12pm and 7pm or until they sell out.

They’re $139.

Local money for presidential candidates

There’s a wonderful graphic showing how much money in contributions over $200 has gone to each of four presidential candidates from ten ZIP codes in this part of the world. The graphic (for which I find no credit, although the source for the data is the Center for Responsive Politics) accompanies a feature with lots of quotations (byline Jason Embry) in today’s local daily. The graphic shows only donations to “the top two remaining presidential candidates.” Nevertheless, given the geographic distribution and amounts related to Huckabee, a comparison including Ron Paul would be fascinating. There’s also a tidy little table of amounts raised for each of seven candidates in Texas at large and in the Austin-San Marcos metropolitan area. Fred Thompson is included in the statewide table, along with Giuliani; Ron Paul appears in the Austin-San Marcos list. Especially mystifying are the differences in amounts and recipients between 78746 (West Lake Hills) and 78731 (northwest Austin). This little graphic and chart will provide great conversational fodder for days to come. The information is updated through the end of January; I hope there will be another illustration when the figures are available through the end of February.

Starbucks to Close for 3 Hours – Dunkin Donuts Tries to Captialize

Starbucks locations around the country will close today at 5:30pm local time and remain closed until 8:30pm to undergo some sort of barista re-training. There’s speculation that this may have something to do with the AT&T / iPhone deals that have been announced over the past year.

Though they claim to be doing it for other reasons, Dunkin Donuts is offering a 99 cent small latte, cappucino or espresso from 1pm to 10pm today as well. Since there’s only one Dunkin Donuts location in Austin (183 between Duval and McNeil on the south side of 183, 258-6560) and eleventy bazillion Starbucks locations (well, 40 or so), I’m guessing not too many people will take advantage of this….and you’re an outright caffeine fiend if you’re craving a latte between 5:30 and 8:30 in the evening, but who am I to judge?

On a somewhat related note, I caught the Sundance Channel show, Iconoclasts, for the first time a couple of weeks ago and it happened to feature Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz with Norman Lear. They pair two celebrities and draw parallels between their careers. The show is currently in its third season. Some of the pairings are downright strange.

Now where’s my coffee cup?

Rival radio ads

While listening to Tejanoman Chris Tristan yesterday evening on Univision station Recuerdos 107.7-fm, I heard Clinton and Obama campaign ads almost back to back. I can’t even decide which one I thought was more effective and wonder what the experts think.

I don’t know who the narrator is for the Obama ad, but he speaks at an urgent pace. This ad contains English-language sound-snippets from Obama’s speeches. It is marred by annoying swelling Coplandesque background music. In its favor, on the other hand, is that Obama speaks in Spanish at the end to give the little blurb affirming that he approved the ad. The theme throughout, repeated more than once, is “Obama me esta hablando a mi,” and at the very end this phrase is capped with “y te habla a ti tambien,” immediately following which Obama gives his short statement in Spanish. The theme is education and health care and building a better future. I’m not sure how to convey the tone of the Spanish phrases quoted above (without the proper markings on the vowels), but it’s very emphatic, underlining that “Obama is speaking to me” and then “to you as well.”

In the Clinton ad heard, Henry Cisneros speaks in a conversational tone. Clinton makes the ending announcement in English. I can’t yet find a link for this on line but the main pitch is to vote early, because the Texas primary could be decisive in the battle for the White House. Cisneros introduces himself, says that it’s important to vote before Election Day, and announces a number to call in order to learn the location of a nearby early-voting location and arrange, if necessary, for a free ride to the polling place. The fact that I can’t remember everything in the ad speaks against it; on the other hand, the voice of Cisneros is very familiar and soothing. I used to see him often in the Capitol grounds and he was always at ease when he was about to speak with reporters, with no fumbling for notes or anything like that, just talking extemporaneously and comfortably. Here’s an English-language video version that I think is somewhat close to what I heard on the radio, but the radio ad is specific to our state. I know that the radio ad speaks of “nuestra amiga” and says that Clinton is working so that everyone in Texas may have a better life. Cisneros says that Clinton has a special affection for Texas. There are faint strains of an unaccompanied conjunto-style accordion to be heard in the background. I heard the Cisneros ad for Clinton in Spanish again this morning, but it just doesn’t seem to be as good at catching the ear immediately from the very first words in the way that the Obama ad does. But I may be alone in that opinion. I’ve seen no television ads for any presidential candidate, in English or in Spanish.

Austin Music Awards: The Judy’s

pic_washarama.jpgThe Austin Music Awards this year will be on March 12th at the Austin Music Hall. The big news, at least as far as I’m concerned, is that it’ll feature the reunited Judy’s. Tickets went on sale this past Tuesday at Waterloo Records ($15 advance, $20 the day of the show). If I wasn’t already playing that night, I’d be at this show.

Washarama was a staple of the first few years of high school in the mid-80s along with The Big Boys’ Where’s My Towel. We loved them because they were awesome and they were from Texas, dammit.


Craftsman bungalow wooden window screensCraftsman-style wooden window screens are disappearing fast. This is one of my favorite styles: downward-dropping arrows in lengths cut to form a curve or an angled arch along the bottom. For this picture, the sun made a stronger shadow than I would’ve liked, but I appreciated the novelty of the color scheme. Here, the non-vertical member runs straight across; in other arrowhead styles, there’s an arch there instead. Variations on arrowhead screens are straight across, with arrowheads dropping to a uniform length across the bottom, or arched but with arrows of uniform length. Some styles omit the arrowheads.

Another, simpler style is divided into thirds or fourths vertically, halfway down the length of the screen only. Yet another style has a row of squares ornamenting the top quarter or third of the upper half of the screen. Very occasionally the dividing laths apportion a screen into an all-over nine-over-nine pattern. These are usually found on somewhat later houses.

The first thing some newcomers do is take down the screens and put them out at the curb.Windows in houses of this era are meant to be opened, and screens keep the insects out. The sashes are mostly double-hung, meaning that the top may be dropped down or the buttom may be raised, so that the movement of air can be controlled as the angle of the sun changes or the pevailing winds swing around. Once the screens are disposed of, the windows are usually painted shut, never to open again. People who do this usually enclose or demolish sleeping porches, too.

Red Light Cameras On The Way

After the pilot program of two red light cameras on the I-35 frontage road last year, the Austin City Council gave the go ahead for red light cameras.

Today, they announced nine intersections that will have red light cameras installed in April and will be functional by May 1.

The nine intersections are:

  1. Riverside Drive at Pleasant Valley Road
  2. East frontage of Lamar Boulevard at the south frontage of Ben White Boulevard (eastbound)
  3. West frontage of Lamar Boulevard at Ben White Boulevard (westbound/northbound)
  4. Northbound I-35 service road at 11th Street
  5. Southbound I-35 service road at 15th Street
  6. Southbound I-35 service road at MLK Jr. Boulevard
  7. Southbound MoPac service road at eastbound U.S. Highway 290
  8. Northbound MoPac Expressway at Howard Lane/Wells Branch Parkway
  9. Southbound MoPac Expressway at Howard Lane/Wells Branch Parkway

Personally, I only ever pass through #1, 2, 3 and sometimes 5. #1’s always a mess, but I don’t see very many people running it and I’ve never seen an accident there. #2 and 3 have accidents. I know I’m sometimes coming westbound off Ben White to northbound Lamar and cross three lanes to get to the right merge lane to head north. It’s always fun to beat the northbound Lamar traffic. I never go through #8 and 9, but that intersection’s a nightmare.

Cameras aren’t the answer, but they need to do something about the Braker, Mopac, 360 clusterfsck in the evenings. There are accidents on Braker between Mopac and 183 all the time, mostly the westbound traffic.

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