All posts by tim

Round Rock Freeloadin’

So according to this story, Round Rock has developed an express bus service. But not any express bus service, this one takes riders from downtown Round Rock to the CapMetro park and ride facility at Tech Ridge.

For those not in the know. Round Rock has declined to be part of Capital Metro. This is why they don’t have bus service in Round Rock.

So rather than have an express ride into downtown Austin you get an express ride to pickup another express bus almost completely subsidized by Austin citizens!

They’re also talking about building rail to take their residents from downtown Round Rock to one of the Red Line stops. In other words, they get public transportation for their citizens almost completely subsidized by the citizens of neighboring cities!

This would be less obnoxious if Round Rock wasn’t ridiculously rich thanks to the tax receipts it collects for every Dell Computer sold in the state of Texas.

We don’t need a border wall in the valley. We need one along Howard and McNiel.

No. But I am.

Last night Stella, Etta, and I were eating at McDonalds. It was the one with the playground on Riverside. We’d driven the extra 5 minutes since the McDonalds around the corner from us doesn’t have a playground.

As we were eating we were having a nice conversation. Then out of the blue Stella asked, “Dad, am I dumb?”. She had the most pathetic look on her face. Immediately all sorts of thoughts ran through my head. “Who said that?” I asked. She looked at me puzzled. I thought about the fact that we’re trying not to just tell Stella she’s smart, but praise her for the things she’s actually done. Had this backfired? Did we go too far? Had we destroyed her self-confidence? Had some kid been calling her dumb because of her clothes? Did we not bathe her enough? Was it because we didn’t let her watch princess movies?

“Dad,” she asked again, “am I done?

Done.

Done. Not Dumb. Done.

“Yes Stella, you’re done. You can go play.”

Libertarianism fails again.

One thing that’s not being talked a lot about is the fact that the BP oil spill proves once again that Libertarianism is not a workable policy.

The classic idea in Libertarianism is that we don’t need government regulation because there is sufficient economic incentive for companies to regulate themselves. There is no need to regulate the oil companies because they realize that if there is a spill in the gulf they might not be allowed to drill there ever again.

So we’re following the classic Libertarian model here. Industry realizes public relations nightmare. Industry will toughen their self-regulation in response. But where does this leave the public? How in the Libertarian model do you get the public back on board? Do they just believe that if an industry destroys themselves through “the Jungle”-style lack of regulation that the industry is gone for good?

This is one of the places that industry regulation is great for business. There will undoubtedly be some new regulations put in place after this, and drilling will more than likely resume in the gulf in a few years. Because ultimately we do trust that the government can do a pretty good job of regulating the oil industry. But how would that trust ever be regained in a Libertarian model?

Libertarians always say that consumers should ultimately make the decisions. But what if consumers actually did and half of Houston’s economy disappeared overnight?

Economics of the Future

So I was somewhat shocked the other day when I saw that Dell still employs around 10k people in Austin, but only around 70k people worldwide. Which is crazy when you realize they’re number 34 in the fortune 500. FoxConn out of China who manufacturers a lot of the products for Dell, Apple, etc. has 800,000 employees. Over ten times as many employees as Dell. I just wonder about this. If you can do only the most profitable work with a small number of employees, what’s your long term business plan? What’s to keep FoxConn who can actually make things cheaply and easily from getting into the managing people who make things market?

Austin’s past beauty is a myth

I found this picture in the master plan for the new Seaholm development.

old downtown austin

It’s interesting to me because it shows the Austin I remember and not the one that I always hear people waxing nostalgic about. I visited Austin in the late 80s and early 90s and moved here in 1996. I remember it as lots of empty lots that you had to drive past to get to the beautiful places. If it wasn’t developed it was a weed filled lot or someone’s ranch that had been stripped of trees. You can see that downtown is mostly just one story buildings and abandoned lots in the picture.

Has there been a lot of development in West Austin over the aquifer that has been environmentally destructive? Absolutely. But a lot of that nature dates only as far back as the 1980s and is a serious tribute to the environmental movement that emerged around that time. In the 70’s west Austin held a lot of ranch land as you can see in the pictures on this site.

There’s a lot of nostalgia in this town for a past that never was.

Sunstroke 5k #2 – 2010

First Town Lake race of the year. I thought I did pretty well. Used my running mix which pushed me quite a bit, but still didn’t come out that fast. This is a little sad because I did the longhorn run which was a 10k in 53:33 for 8:39/mile a few weeks ago. I really thought I’d picked it up a bit. Of course the Longhorn run was a cool morning race, so maybe that’s part of it. I always underestimate the effect of the heat.

Race Time Min/Mile
2 26:45 8:34

East Side King

Just wanted to quickly mention that we went to East Side King this past weekend. It’s kind of weird. You have to go to the Liberty bar to go to the restaurant.

So we went in and bought some drinks. First off we were shocked by their bartender. He was really nice and conversational. It’s a bit sad that seems shocking, but it was. They only have something like 5 taps, but their boring beers are Stella Artois and Negro Modello. And their bottled beer selection looks amazing. We got some Left Hand Wheat Beer and headed outside. It’s not a particularly hipster bar despite being in the hipster part of town. Most of the people looked like tech workers coming out for a beer after work.

East Side King is a trailer that they open up gates to. Basically it’s like an outside bar for the place. Except it serves food instead of beer. And the food…

Julie had “Thai Chicken Karaage” and I had “Poor Qui

.Net is a sign

So it came out today that the company that screwed up the appliance rebates in Texas this week had already screwed up in two other states.

But there should have been one big warning sign before that. The fact the firm handling the rebates was using .Net.

Now there are definitely good programmers working in .Net. And you can definitely built working websites with it. I’ve heard from good programmers who’ve done it. But it’s not where the energy is, and .Net seems to be drawing the unemployables. The programmers who can’t get a job anywhere else. The money is in Java. And the excitement is in Ruby, Python, and PHP. .Net positions exist… for other reasons.

And this was pretty obvious when under load they didn’t immediately remove images and other externally loaded static resources. This group didn’t even have the most basic of solutions to the problem in their toolkit.

So while it’s possible that firm you’ve hired that wants to develop in .Net is competent and has some fantastic programmers, chances are that it’s not. And it doesn’t.

Losing Our Bus

So, we found out yesterday that the most convenient bus to me is planned to go away. I can’t say I’m surprised. It goes to a couple industrial parks South of me, tools through my neighborhood, heads downtown and ends up in Enfield. It’s a nice route to have if you need it, but it’s hardly transporting a lot of people. I am sad though, because it’s part of why I was excited about our house. It’s a <20 minute trip downtown on the #9. We're also losing the #328 which went from our area to Barton Creek mall.

It doesn’t look like anyone in my neighborhood is interested in fighting it though.

But there are some interesting positives. The number 30 is going to terminate at the South Congress transit center near my house, and go by Central Market, Barton Creek Mall, and Zilker Park. Which is a pretty nice route. The transit center is probably a 20 minute walk or 10 minute bike ride from my house.

We are getting the number 300 Govalle route going by the West side of Mabel Davis park. While it’s a bit of a walk to get over there, that route goes by the HEB on Riverside, the MetroRail station (which might be useful if my company moves where they’re hinting at), GACA offices and the Blue Theater. So a pretty cool route. I’d thought about taking the 300 before, but it was always a transfer or 1 mile walk. Now it should be a quarter mile walk.

Still a bit sad about the #9. Maybe we’ll get a new route down Burleson when the Pleasant Valley extension to Todd Lane gets built.

Interactivity and Waiting

So I installed a system software update on my PS3 last night and had to wait for it to install. Julie and I wanted to watch a Netflix movie, and it’s tedious that I have to update something on my PS3 pretty much everytime I want to use it, but that’s a rant for another time.

So anytime I install a PS3 software update it always creeps very slowly up to 61% then jumps to 100%. So I’m quite confident the bar is a sham. This got my brainstorming.

Why couldn’t the bar respond to input? Like have it install a second slower per percentage, but if I bang on the buttons or shake the controller the bar moves faster. Make me feel like I have some control over the situation!

Which then made me think – couldn’t you provide me with a simple game like Soduku or Minesweeper to play while I wait.

Which made me think of Noby, Noby Boy where I get to fly a butterfly around the screen while I wait.

I know we want to look “professional”, but I’m sure that customers wouldn’t complain if they weren’t FORCED to go get coffee when they started an install.