Category Archives: Ramblings

of whining and judging

So this article from CNN is much more what I would expect from a disaster. Plucky survivors who’ve lost everything, but are determined to soldier on and rebuild their lives. It’s the kind of story that actually makes you want to go help people.

But it got me thinking about why that story bugged me so much in the first place. I think it’s because I’m at a position now in my career (career? I’m old.) where the jobs pay really well. And it all seems so easy. And it’s what we all supposedly dream of. And I’m definitely not complaining about the fact that Stella going to the hospital twice in one night did not have much of an impact on our finances. Because there are a lot of people for whom that is not the case.

But the money and the point in your career also traps you. When you make $30,000 a year life isn’t that hot. You don’t have money for a lot of things you’d like to do. If your dog gets sick you might not eat for a month. But you also can just switch jobs, and careers. Because there are lots of jobs available that pay that much. And people are more likely to give you a chance. But double that, and there are fewer jobs. And they really expect you to know what you’re doing. Double that and they expect you to be an expert and there are even fewer jobs. And it keeps going. The higher up you go, the more insulated you are from life’s twists and turns. But you get soft and the easy stuff starts seeming really hard.

And we’re human beings and we like to complain. We probably should have been called homo whinicus. And sometimes it’s hard to remember that when life is not what we want. Because life is often not what we want. I definitely would be upset and whiny if my 6500 square foot house was potentially on fire. And I would need to be reminded that there are trailer homes burning down. And there are people without insurance. And yet that still doesn’t make my personal situation any easier. We are so self-centered.

I’d like to have some sort of homily here. So many people whose blogs I read tie things up in such beautiful ways. But I’ve got nothing. We need to be sympathized with when we perceive our life is rough. And then we need someone to point out that other people have it much worse and we’re being an ass. And then we need to be sympathized with again. We are very complicated beings.

How not to earn sympathy

Wow. This article on CNN should be a poster child for not only how not to win sympathy, and perhaps also how to start a revolution. It almost smacks of “Let them eat cake”. Some choice quotes:

the fires that are consuming millions of dollars of homes all over the region

Because really, it’s the value of the homes that matters

Across the street from the high school, multimillion dollar homes behind gates are ashes.

Should have gotten that fire-retardent gate.

Quaalcom Stadium is filled with folks with no other place to go. Like Hurricane Katrina, it is a setup for criminal activity but so far they do have electricity and running water.

I had not clue that rich people went Lord of the Flies so quickly.

We do have insurance, of course. Before all of this, we were planning on putting the house on the market in the late winter and look to sell and downsize. SJ and Alex will be in college next fall and we certainly don’t need a 6,500 square foot home to maintain and pay taxes on. So, who knows what the future holds now?

An insurance settlement and an anecdote for cocktail parties? Rebuilding on the same spot so it can be burned down again in a few years? I dunno, but the future certainly seems exciting

I’m sure that there are normal people being affected by this (I’m guessing that there aren’t 250,000 rich people who can’t get a hotel room in San Diego), but I wouldn’t know it from CNN.

Oh, wait. They have a new headline in my newsfeed – “Fire affects TV shows, celebrities”. This is exactly like Katrina.

Unrelated Stuff

So yesterday my mom walked on that sidewalk that no one walks on and took the bus to her church. She was impressed by all the places she could go on the bus. I tell you, you just got to get the people on the bus once…

AustinContrarian has an interesting post on banning plastic bags. I’m definitely against this ban even though I have grown to absolutely despise plastic bags. I get in fights with Julie and/or the bagger almost every time we go to the store. But I think the ban will just inspire a massive anti-environmental front setting back attitudes by decades. I imagine it would have the same effect culturally as if someone had banned smoking in 1975.

YerMama has a post about the Village going VMU. I can’t really get nostalgic about that hole of a property although I do like a lot of the businesses. The VMU should be nice though. Hopefully it will inspire some of the other businesses in the area to move towards the street. It’s nearly impossible to see any of the businesses off of Anderson. Julie has been trying to describe to me (unsuccessfully) for months where Sun Harvest is on Anderson. That neighborhood is one of the worst “strip malls with tiny little signs dwarfed by huge parking lots” in existence. I’m surprised any of the businesses survive. I think they’re all subsisting on word of mouth. I’m hoping the Alamo will stay in the new VMU though. They’d be fools not to try to keep it as an anchor. I think 90% of the shopping traffic on Anderson is probably related to the Alamo. And if they make the sidewalk nicer I could see actually taking the bus up their to do some window shopping. Julie used to live in the area, and I miss spending time their.

So there’s my opinion, but what do you think?

No one walks on <u>that</u> sidewalk.

For the past two nights I’ve taken the bus to the Dougherty Arts Center where Julie is rehearsing for Loaded Gun Theory’s production of Little Murders. I’ve bundled up Stella and her stroller, and we’ve taken the bus the rest of the way home. Last night things were crazy. It was one of those traffic days. You have an inkling of these days when you’re a driver, but they’re much more apparent when you’re a pedestrian. People were running lights. There was lots of backed up traffic for no reason. People were making U-Turns in the middle of busy roads. That sort of thing.

So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when I had trouble crossing Barton Springs. I walked with the signal and got half way across the road. At this point cars turning left are unprotected. They see me in the middle of the street and don’t attempt to turn left. You know, because I have the right of way and all that. But last night a car turned in front of me. No big deal, I figured that one car just didn’t see me and the neon green stroller I was pushing. But then another car went. Then another. Six cars. The last one was a Mini. I was figuring, surely the Mini won’t leave me stranded out here in the middle of the road. It turned too. I still made it across the street in time, and there was a concrete median I could have hung out on if I hadn’t made it in time, so I wasn’t in danger.

I disliked being a driver in a world where most people don’t know the traffic laws, but it sucks even more to be a pedestrian.

The reason I had to pick up Stella was that my mom went to the city meeting where they discussed the plans for improving Westgate and Davis. They have lots of interesting ideas (and some that would be horrible). One of the poorer plans would be having Westgate be a 4 lane road, while Davis intersects it as 2 lanes with no middle turn lane. I can only imagine how backed up that would get.

So my mom was talking about the meeting, and she said, “They don’t really need sidewalks on both sides of Davis. No one I know of ever uses that sidewalk.” I demanded, “Who said that?” She said, “I did. That was my comment. That we don’t need sidewalks on both sides of Davis. They should just extend the sidewalk on the south side.” I nearly spit out my dinner, “You don’t know anyone who takes that sidewalk? I take that sidewalk every single morning to walk to the bus! I have to jaywalk across the road at the top of a fairly blind hill, then cross again at the light.” She mentioned that she thought I took the trail. My mom, while frequently going on recreational walks, is definitely not a pedestrian.

The Grand Oaks trail does indeed go from Davis Lane to Manchaca. But the first place you can get off the trail onto a real sidewalk is almost equidistant between two southbound bus stops. You have to backtrack about 1/8 of a mile to get to the light. And that’s just if you want to take the #3 route. If you want to take the #103 there is currently no sidewalk or trail to get there. Which is one of the reasons I don’t take it.

Sometimes you realizes why representative democracy is really important. Otherwise we’d have all sorts of crazy roads and sidewalks that didn’t go anywhere. A patchwork of ideas that were good for one person or another, but don’t connect in any meaningful way.

Plastic Bag Update

They are currently providing two sizes of disposable plastic umbrella bags in our lobby. To put your umbrella in. A disposable bag. Someone should point out that they wouldn’t need the umbrella bags if they hadn’t decided to put marble on the floor of the elevators.

Scary driving trends.

Picture of Stella and I waltzing that I should have posted yesterday:

We took Stella to the Town Lake park to run in the sprinklers again. It was fantastic. We let her just run around. There’s really nowhere she can go that we can’t see her, so rather than following her around like we normally do we just let her roam. She had a lot of fun. She really seemed to enjoy the water jets this time. Actually getting into them. They didn’t seem to frighten her that much. She made a friend too. And then proceeded to take her hand and lead her around the park showing her all the things she had been doing. It was super cute.

But on the way home we encountered a crazy driver. This is the second time this week I’ve seen someone do this (different cars), so I have a fear it is a trend. Basically we were the lead car in the right hand lane. The lane could go straight or turn right. We were going straight. There was no one in the left hand lane. The guy behind us honked at us. Then pulled into the left hand lane and turned right from the left hand lane – directly in front of us! I saw this earlier in the week at another stoplight. What’s up with this?

Kids are smart

This story on CNN is great. Here’s an excerpt:

State Rep. Matthew Barrett was giving a civics lesson Tuesday when he inserted a data memory stick into the school computer and the projected image of a topless woman appeared instead of the graphics presentation he had downloaded.

Barrett said there were a few snickers from the approximately 20 students in the senior government class at Norwalk High School when the image appeared. He said he immediately pulled the memory stick out of the computer.

So what did we learn? Kids can handle an image of a naked lady in their high school civics class. Chances are those snickers were at his complete lack of computer skills. But seems par for the course for the PowerPoint types. I’m surprised this doesn’t happen in more of the meetings I go to at work.


I never blogged about this, but we were driving past Oaks Treatment Center on Stassney a while back. It’s some sort of juvenile group home. And as we drove by we see this teenage girl running for the road,

The future of "downtown" Austin

So I was looking at this website to rally support against the development of an apartment complex in the North Loop area:

Don’t bother commenting. They don’t want your input. Unless you’re a property owner in the neighborhood and against the development in question. I can completely understand why a neighborhood that is approx. 70% (often rundown) rentals would not want a set of new luxury apartments next door.

They’re citing traffic concerns though, which I think is a horrible strategy. Supposedly it’s going to add about 2000 new car trips per day, which is about what Grand Oaks added. That’s the neighborhood that was built across from our old neighborhood. You’d encounter 4-7 extra cars at the busiest times of day, but nothing horrible. My guess is that the developers will just get an analysis of the traffic on Koenig and probably point out that 2000 cars go through that area every 30 minutes at peak times of day (or something close to it). 2000 extra trips a day is pretty small potatoes on a major thoroughfare. Of course, it’s easier to frighten people with the image of 2000 cars, rather than pointing out that they’re probably talking about 500 cars (2/per 250 units) taking 4 trips a day.

Of course unless the city gets single district voting, chances are as the inner city gets more and more dense the desires of the residents of these sparsely populated neighborhoods will get heard less and less.

But it got me thinking again about the nature of those neighborhoods and their long term viability. The Chronicle did a writeup on the Domain this week. If you’re not up on what they’re doing out there you should take a look:

Basically, the thinking right now is that they’ll build a second downtown up North. Second downtown is a euphamism. It’s basically an endcap. If you look at a map of Austin it becomes clear that “downtown” is no longer actually the area bordered by I-35, MoPac, MLK, and the River. Downtown is everything inside the I-35, MoPac, 183, 71 loop. And if you think about the commuter rail and developments like the Domain and the Concordia redevelopment I think the eventual goal is to have downtown encompass everything from downtown to downtown north. The center of town will increasingly become a dense business district with a university and small incredibly affluent pocket communities ala Houston. I think it’s what we’re going to be seeing. I predict the next decade is going to be very interesting for Austin.

I’m really hoping that eventually I’ll be able to walk from my house all the way up to the domain through a vibrant downtown if I want to. I’ve always seen the looping bike paths that run from the UT area all the way down to the Hike and Bike trails as a promise of what Austin could be like. A place to walk and explore. With lots of people out and about. That’d be pretty cool.

Update All At Once


I have when I haven’t written in a while and I have to catchup. It makes me not want to write until I can address everything adequately, which is ridiculous and quite frankly simply a way to procrastinate. In any case, let’s just start:


My parent’s neighborhood is riddled with wildlife. I’m loving it. My first day running on the trail in their neighborhood I ran into a doe and a fawn hanging out by the side of the trail. The next day I ran into them again, and two more deer by the retaining pond. Yesterday I ran into a full blown convocation of deer. I split up their meeting and they took off running. I’ve seen deer run before, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen how fast they move when being chased. I was essentially chasing one of them (as she was running the same way I was), and it was like lightening, easily twice as fast as I normally see them running, and I thought that was plenty fast.

Last week Julie and I went on a walk and counted 15 frogs. Nothing important there. I just like frogs. I like to look at them. I like the fact they eat bugs.


We went to Houston this weekend. It was fun. We stayed with Julie’s parent’s and got to see her brother and friend Sarah. Unfortunately, I managed to develop some fairly severe lower back pain on Saturday morning. I’ve been really careful to lift Stella with my knees so I really haven’t had any issues with her, but I bent over to pickup a shoe and my back just started screaming with pain. I’d forgotten that I used to have a lot of back pain before we got our Sleep Number bed (you’d sound like a walking advertisement too if you hadn’t had any back pain at all since you bought a product). I guess too many strange beds finally took it out on my back. I was on my back for Saturday morning, and I was able to wander around by the afternoon, and mostly better by evening. I’m not a good patient. As of today it’s mostly gone away, but lifting Stella to change her diaper yesterday morning had me almost screaming in pain. Unfortunately, when she’s completely out sleeping there’s no way to get her our of her crib other than lifting with my back.

Saturday night we got out and saw Stardust, which I really enjoyed. Really imaginative. I’ve been in a fantasy frame of mind lately so this was nice to see. Makes me want to go to the library and get more Neil Gamin books. Beowolf looks ridiculous though. I had no clue why anyone would want to make a movie out of that story, and the trailer makes it look worse than possible. Speaking of trailers we saw the one for “The Dark is Rising”. Oh, I’m sorry, “The Seer – The Dark is Rising”. They look to have horribly destroyed one of my favorite books. The main character is an American kid, and the whole tone is wrong. The book took place in the dead of winter, and all events seem to occur at dusk or during the night. The preview looked like some sort of European travelogue. It’s pretty obvious that Hollywood is going to turn off the American public to fantasy movies again by doing poor adaptations that rely on even worse special effects. Seriously, this was even a problem with Stardust. They kept having the camera fly around poorly rendered scenery that looked like something out of a video game circa 1999. Hopefully they’ll get a few more like Stardust made before they stop making fantasy movies for another 20 years.

We had lunch with my family on Sunday.

The House

We signed our paperwork to sell the house on Friday, but it still hasn’t funded. We make $45 every day they don’t fund, so it’s not a horrible problem, other than being terribly inconvenient. We think they’ll get it by the end of the day today. At one point today they had sent us about $2k. Because you can buy a house for that.


Is there anything else I’m forgetting? I don’t think much. Stella’s really become a little girl. She runs everywhere now. No more walking. She’s always ahead of me waiting for me to catchup. We had a lot of fun alone last night (Granddaddy and Baba at Church, Julie at ACOT meeting). She did slip and fall in the bathtub though. Because those sort of things only happen when you’re alone. Nothing bad happened, and she didn’t even really cry, just sat there looking stunned. Then she immediately tried to stand up in the bathtub again. Strong willed that girl.

The Bus

These people are back on my bus, but they really don’t look well and aren’t moving well.


Ok that’s it. Not literary, but up to date, and I can go back to writing single topic blog posts.