I just read this somewhere

  • This little story about Austin’s commercial real estate has been floating around in parts for the last month or so. Following is some language from today’s NYT (“Sam Zell’s Empire, Underwater in a Big Way,” byline Charles V. Bagli):

    In Austin, when the Thomas Properties Group formed a partnership with the California teachers’ pension fund and Lehman Brothers, which was also a lender in the deal, to buy 10 Equity Office buildings downtown and in the surrounding suburbs for $1.15 billion, it instantly became the biggest commercial landlord in town.

    Like many of the other deals, it was highly leveraged and dependent on rising rents. The problem is that rents are now declining in Austin, particularly in suburban areas, where vacancy rates have climbed to 14.4 percent as several new buildings are coming on line without tenants.

    There are other quotes specific to Austin; just scroll on down. The local daily has been whipping up quite a bit of suspense over whether certain property taxes will be paid.

  • This book’s been out there for a while, but I finally caught up with it at the library, where it’s constantly on hold. Julie and Julia (365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen: How One Girl Risked Her Marriage, Her Job, and Her Sanity to Master the Art of Living) started with a blog by Julie Powell, who grew up right here in Austin. Her blog documented her project, which was to prepare every recipe in the first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the cookbook that first brought Julia Child to the attention of the world at large. There’s not much of Austin in this book, except a misspelling of Pok-E-Jo’s and passing mention of Austin High. It’s more about friendship and about living in the Big City, working (apparently for the Port Authority) in the aftermath of September 11. I enjoyed this book and recommend it, even though the Austin connection is on the slight side and the cooking parts are as much about shopping as anything else, but that’s one of the ways that Real Life enters in. The author had never really eaten eggs until she started cooking them. She says that people found that difficult to believe, but there’s at least one more person who’s pretty much the same in that respect. I never ate eggs myself and still don’t, except tucked into baked goods. The closest I’ve ever come was when I was starving to death on staff food at a resort that shall go unnamed here and I found that, beyond boxed cereals and steaks filched by friends working at a tonier resort, very lightly egged French toast could be endured for the sake of survival.
  • Mongo: Adventures in Trash, by John Botha, recounts the author’s adventures among scavengers of various types. He’s writing about the Big City, but Austin comes in for a tribute from one in a group of experienced seekers of food and other useful necessities: “In Austin Texas, where he spent the past few winters, he came across a five-gallon drum of solid chocolate–not once, but several times. . . . “We’ve also found whole crates of soy milk and a load of maple syrup and waffle mix. Whole crates! We fed a crew of fifty people out of the Dumpsters. I’ve found bikes, even library Dumpsters. . . . Austin is the best place in the world for Dumpster diving.” I think that this may be true, but I was surprised to find it in print (pages 78 and 78 from the library’s hard-cover edition).

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