Archive for October, 2008

Hatin’ on the traffic.

On Halloween night, I would love to post about the wondrous spookiness that ensues around the wonderful city of Austin.  There will be a post about that. . .later.  Today, I have to hate.

Traffic.

Austin, I love you, but honestly, the traffic in this city every day from around 4pm (depending on the road you have to take) until 8pm.  Now, it could just be that I missed the memo that declared 5:30pm to be city-wide “every road becomes a parking lot” time, but based on the angry faces of the people around me, I’d guess that isn’t what’s going on.

Here’s my suggestion:  if people a) let people merge in a slow and steady streaming pattern (instead of pretending not to see them and rushing on ahead, forcing the next person to come to a complete stop. . .you get the picture,) b) remain patient and not become too agitated when you drive (which leads to accidents, or at the very least, unhappy other-drivers,) and c) switch to public transportation (granted there isn’t an ongoing strike, of course,) the roads would be a little less clogged and a little more happy.

I think this is important to keep in mind, particularly in lieu of the Cap Metro strike. Here’s hoping a settlement is reached soon!

If you have other “happy driving” suggestions, post ’em.

-Caitlin

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Capital Metro Strike

Sorry!  I know it’s not my day to post, but I thought this was too big to not mention.

Captal Metro is (more than likely) going on strike this Wednesday (Nov. 5).  During the stike, limited service will be offered on what are considered the “busiest routes.”  These include the 1, 3, 7 and 10 buses, along with several others.   A complete list of buses that will run, on limited service, during the strike can be found here.

Statesman transportation columnist Ben Wear has some useful information on his “Shortcuts” blog.  Wear writes:

The transit agency expects to run 70 vehicles — less than one-third of its usual 246 — on the first day of the strike.

“This is a conservative guess,” said Terry Garcia Crews, head of Capital Metros’ unit that supervises union workers

Service would run on 10 main routes from 6:00 am to 7:30 p.m with service at least every 45 minutes, possibly more often, depending on how many drivers are available.

It’s unclear when both sides of the dispute will meet again at the negotiation table.  The union had planned on striking Monday, but with Tuesday being election day, decided to delay the strike to Wednesday (gee, thanks).

As for how this strike will affect UT students and campus shuttles–it shouldn’t.  At least, that is, not directly.  The University issued a e-mail statement Friday morning:

At this time, we anticipate the UT Shuttle system will operate as normal, with increased ridership because of displaced mainline riders.

For those of you that utilize the mainline bus system to get to campus, please review the following information:

*Capital Metro will operate on a reduced level of service and only between the hours of 6am and 7:30pm on the following routes:

1L/1M, 3, 7, 10, 17, 20, 37, 101, 142, 214, 300, 331, 990


Finally, the Daily Texan story about the “looming stike” can be found here.  As someone who doesn’t have a car here and takes the 7 to work every Tuesday and Thursday morning, I’m more than a little concerned.  Arriving to work, sweaty from my bike ride to 9th Street does not seem like a legitimate alternative.

Bikers, Bikers Everywhere!

Let me begin by saying that this post could just as easily have been written from the “hate” perspective (and probably will, soon).  But for the time being, let’s appreciate the bicycle program that we have in Austin.

As someone who has been struggling to find the beauty in the flatness of this area (oh, I know—it’s the “Hill Country”), I can at least be glad that bike travel is extremely easy in this city.  A tremendous number of major-artery streets have designated bike lanes that are adequately broad, and most of the pavement in Austin provides for a smooth ride.  As a result, and coupled Austin’s year-round biking-condition weather, cyclists hit the streets in droves.

This kind of thing doesn’t happen by accident, though.  In fact, Austin’s Public Works Department has set up a Bicycle Pedestrian Program.  In their own words:

The purpose of the Bicycle Program is to integrate bicycles into the transportation system of the City of Austin. The program works with all City departments, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (formerly the Austin Transportation Study), Texas Department of Transportation and other governmental agencies to create more bicycle lanes, wide curb lanes, paths and other facilities.

The City of Austin has provided a bike map with different levels for

The City of Austin has provided a bike map with different levels for

And whether your biking to work or for adventure, the city has also set up a comprehensive map of the area, detailing bike routes and their “ease of use.”  Seen here is a portion of the map.  According to the map creators, the green routes are the easiest to use for bikers, followed by blue, and red is the worst.  Red routes have “high traffic volume and narrow lanes that “could act as barrierst to cyclists.”

This is good, but of course, it could be better.  The City of Chicago’s bike program, for example, is truly impressive.  Online users can truly contribute to making that city’s program better.  Chicago’s Department of Transportation has provided for download a “Bike Plan Vision” through the year 2015.  There’s also a place where residents can request a bike rack where there currently is none.

Do we have a great city for biking?  Sure.  But I think a quick look around at other successful programs will show us that there’s plenty of room for improvement. 

Vintage Shopping!

The city of Austin has over 30 vintage stores! Most locations are central, but there are many in north and south Austin as well.

Vintage shopping is a great way to “Go Green” by wearing used clothing; you are recycling the garment and reducing emissions from factories and vehicles used to transport new items.

At a vintage store you can get one of a kind clothing from any era, and at most stores- dishes, furniture, accessories and décor are also available.

Shopping used/vintage is typically a more affordable way to go, and still is. However, since vintage clothing is popular for its trendiness and the city of Austin is heavily populated with musicians, college students and other eccentrics who vie for these items, what previously cost you $5 is $10.

interior of an Austin Vintage Store "Homegirls" (credit ana @ apartmenttherapy.com)

interior of Austin vintage store Homegirl (credit Ana @ apartmenttherapy.com)

When buying vintage items there are a few things you should do, that you wouldn’t at a “first-hand” clothing store:

1.    Be sure to check the condition of the item; look for holes, stains, and tears, make sure zippers work and that the size is right for you.

2.    Talk to the store clerk and ask about their return policy before buying. Many stores do not allow items to be returned.

3.    Be patient, at vintage stores  organization methods vary and clothing isn’t always separated by size or type (normally just Men’s and Women’s). Therefore, you really have to look through a lot before you find that vintage gem.

The City Search editorial winner for 2008 was Blue Velvet. Room Service Vintage is a four-time “Best of Austin” winner, for the Austin Chronicle.

My personal favorites include: Room Service, New Bohemia and Feathers.

Furniture at Room Service Vintage

Furniture at Room Service Vintage (credit roomservicevintage.com)

Vintage shopping can be a lot of fun, get some friends together and make a day of it- you never know what treasures you may find.

Good Luck!

Go here for a complete listing of Austin Vintage stores.

-Samantha

#19: Bats

Oh, I know, I know. They’re so damn cute. They’re a symbol of Austin. Countless generations of Austinites have been conceived under the Congress Street Bridge during dubious ‘bat-watching’ dates.

But I have to ask: how much do you really know about the common Mexican Free-tailed Bat?

By which I mean, how sure are you that they aren’t a really fiendish horde of blood-sucking demons who leave the Congress Street Bridge by night to feast upon the living?

Eh? Eh?

(Credit J Centavo)

Cute, huh? Now imagine his teeth in your neck. (Credit J Centavo)

Oh, I know. You think they live on mosquitos. But look at those teeth and tell me those are for bugs. You ever kill a mosquito? Know how they squish real easy ’cause they don’t have any bones? So tell me: if you’re living off flying invertebrates, why would you need teeth like that?

The answer, of course, is that you don’t.

I’ll tell you what’s happened here. With their big ears and whiskers and scrunched-up little cat faces, the bats have tricked us into thinking they’re harmless. Instead of being terrified by the possibly demonic presence just blocks from the Capitol, we’ve made them our city’s unofficial mascot. We’re in mortal danger, folks, of waking up one morning to find the bats in control and ourselves as their undead minions.

But it’s not too late. We can still take back our city.

I’m not, of course, advising violence against bats. I think that, for all their possible evil, they’re still pretty cute. We need more of that in this city. Also, I’m not certain they can be killed.

So instead, I present you with the top-eight list of things we can do to help avert the Bat-ocalypse. 

  1. Ban The Bat City Review. A literary magazine telling the bats that the city is already theirs? Seriously, whose side are you guys on? It’s only by the grace of God that bats prefer pulps and cheap gothic romance, or else they would have caught on to this by now. Knock it off.
  2. Stop going to the Congress Street Bridge on dates. The risk of vampiric bat infection is just too high. Even if you don’t mind waking up to your significant other sucking the life-fluids from your neck, what if he or she cheats on you? Don’t put the rest of us at risk.   

    Marcos, his fuzzy whiskers concealed behind a black ski mask, plots the humans demise. (Credit Distra)

    Marcos, his fuzzy whiskers concealed behind a black ski mask, plots the humans' demise. (Credit Distra)

  3. Call in la migra. This one seems like a no-brainer. They’re Mexican bats, eh? How many of them you think have green cards? Now, true, the Mexican Free-tailed bat can live up to 18 years, and it only takes 14 to become a naturalized citizen. And, of course, any bat-lets (trust me, this is the correct scientific term for a newborn bat) born under the bridge would probably get to stay. But I think the INS could probably help us sort through the problem. I mean, these are the people who are afraid of terrorists sneaking in through Mexico, right? Well, which is a greater threat, Al Quaeda in Nuevo Laredo or a million bloodthirsty carnivores right in the heart of Austin? I thought so. Which brings me to:
  4. Spend some of Will Wynn’s leftover campaign money on an ad-campaign linking the bats to terrorists. Personally, I’d suggest the Zapatistas-no one’s ever seen their Subcomandante Marcos without his ski mask. Could he, in fact, be a bat? Seems suspicious to me. 
  5. Every night at sundown, burn a hipster at the stake under the Congress Street Bridge as a warning to the creatures of the night. True, true, I don’t know this one will work. But dammit, in a time like this, aren’t you willing to take the chance? 
  6. A UT/ACC joint ‘Defense Against the Dark Arts’ class. Personally, I’m a little surprised that this hasn’t happened yet. Might create more interest for the struggling UT Affiliated Studies program in Transylvania.
  7. Stop advertising for them. This means you. And you. One of these days they’re going to get internet access down there, and they’re going to realize how harmless we think they are. And then it’ll all be over.
  8. Bat chili.

That’s a start. But we need more.

Thoughts?

Mozart’s Coffee Roasters

The first place I really fell in love with when I came to Austin is Mozart’s Coffee Roasters. It’s located on Lake Austin Blvd, right past the Brackenridge student apartments.
Honestly, as someone who was raised in Seoul, South Korea, which is one of the world’s largest and expensive cities with over ten million inhabitants, Austin was a little too boring for me. (I hadn’t discovered sixth street then.) I didn’t know the right places to go to, and all my friends were foreign exchange students as well, so they didn’t know either. Mozart’s was the one place they knew, and every time someone new came over they would take them to Mozart’s. We always complained how Austin didn’t have anywhere nice to just hang out – it’s only recently that the concept of interior design has been introduced to Austin, and it took a while for me to get used to Austin’s, let’s say “authentic”, sense of style.
Mozart’s doesn’t have great design, and come on, it’s a coffeehouse, so it isn’t really the most exciting place to go. But something about it just appealed to me. I think it may be the sense of peace you get there. In the evenings it does get a little louder with the live music but in the mornings it’s so peaceful to just sit there with a book, gazing at the lake while eating freshly baked quiches from their bakery.

Below is a video I made about Mozart’s, when I was first learning how to use final cut and get B-roll. It’s not a great video, but you’ll get a pretty good feel of what it’s like.

It’s pretty large, with a huge main deck where all the live music goes on, two inside areas, another deck, and then a downstairs deck right on the water. They have free wireless internet too, so you can sit there for hours and just study while drinking great coffee with no one bothering you. They have a great variety of coffee and awesome cheesecakes.
If you need a place to study but don’t want to stay in a stuffy library, Mozart’s is the perfect place to go. It’s also a good place to go and sit and have a real conversation with your friends instead of going to a bar or restaurant and have to yell over the loud music. All in all, I love Mozart’s!

Comm School Love

Ok, so it’s time for a little love. I will admit that, being from a small town where I graduated with 130 seniors, getting used to UT was hard. I felt so lost at first – a veritable small fish in a big sea. My freshman year was full of doubts, wondering if I had chosen the right school, if maybe coming to a place so big was a mistake. But it didn’t take long for me to realize I was exactly where I needed to be – and to fall in LOVE with the UT Comm School.

The Comm school here is really amazing. We have The Daily Texan, one of the nation’s top rated newspapers. There is also TSTV, one of the few FCC licensed student-run TV stations. We have an incomparable faculty, including my personal favorite Mr. Michael Whitney, a lecturer and J315 professor who worked as a producer for 60 Minutes and has won over 20 Emmy awards for segments he has produced. I have had a few great teachers, but he was the best!

I feel great belonging to a school ranked top in the nation for what it does. As a journalism major, I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be!


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