Archive for the 'Austin' Category

SXSW underway, normal life to resume Wednesday.

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

I just slept ~10 hours to make up for the standing, walking, talking, listening, (moderate) beer-drinking, and not-sleeping that I’ve been doing since Thursday afternoon when South by Southwest Interactive started cranking up.

Next on my agenda: shower, shave, more coffee, and then back to the Convention Center for more of the same.

This year I’m trying a different approach by not lugging my laptop around everywhere. I’m tweeting a few things about what I’m seeing and doing (via @twalk and @Hoovers), and taking notes for blog posts — and nefarious world takeover plans — yet to come.

If you’re at the conference, feel free to ping me on Twitter so we can meet up. If you’re not on Twitter . . . well, you’re probably not at SXSW. But you could still ping me via e-mail, since I’ve got my Blackberry with me.

Whatever you’re doing this weekend, I hope you’re having a similar amount of fun and stimulation.

On the imminence of South by Southwest.

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

It’ll be here within 48 hours. I’m not ready.

More to the point for this blog, it remains to be seen if I can survive SXSW, use it for business purposes, and still keep up the pace of posts here. I’m dubious, but we’ll see what happens.

Meanwhile, are YOU going to be at SXSW? If so, won’t you please attend the session I’ll be running? The official SXSW listing is here, and our Facebook event page is here. I’d love to see you there!

You know what looks awesome? Plutopia 2010, that’s what.

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Yesterday gave me a treat: I got to chat over coffee for an hour with my friend Jon Lebkowsky. Jon’s in the top 1% of conversationalists I know, so talking to him is always scintillating.

Also scintillating: Plutopia 2010: The Science of Music on Monday, March 15th — which Jon is organizing with his merry band of smarties.

Basically, if you’re going to be at SXSW 2010 and you care at all about (a) music or (b) things that are awesome, you should attend this. It’s really that simple.

Bonus self-serving plug: Plutopia will get you in the mood for my own SXSW session, to be held the following day at 5 p.m. Details on that are available at my pro blog.

The clown circus that is Austin’s Capital Metro.

Monday, September 21st, 2009

From Michael King’s commentary in the current issue of the Austin Chronicle:

I don’t believe TxDOT and the highway lobby recruited double agents to run Cap Metro into the ground and thereby discredit forever even the possibility of serious mass transit in Central Texas — it only seems that way. It’s unlikely that laid-off screenwriters from The X-Files are responsible for the inexplicable delays that have made the agency’s agoraphobic commuter train a public laughingstock.

It goes on from there.

More damning analysis, this time from Ben Wear of the Austin American-Statesman. These are the opening grafs:

Capital Metro didn’t know what it was getting itself into.

That might sound like a shot from one of the transit agency’s critics. Instead, it is in effect the agency’s explanation for why its MetroRail commuter line from Leander to downtown Austin is now 15 to 18 months late in opening. And still counting.

Capital Metro, by its own admission, didn’t know when it asked voters in 2004 for permission to build the 32-mile line how complex an undertaking it faced, or the full scope of the project, or the work and time required to fix glitches and malfunctions that would arise along the way.

What? Complexity in adding an entirely new mode of transport to a previously bus-only transit system? Un-possible!

Read further in both articles . . . but only if you have a stomach for incompetence that hinders the public weal.

Rapid-fire 1: ArmadilloCon.

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

Clearing the decks of stuff I’ve been meaning to talk about . . .

ArmadilloCon, held last weekend in Austin, was fun. It was my first sci-fi convention, and I attended mainly to meet and hear from guest of honor John Scalzi. He was just as funny and self-effacing — but in a charmingly ego-centric way! — as you’d expect if you read his blog regularly. You can also check out Scalzi’s writeup of his ArmadilloCon experience.

Another key attendee was my Hoover’s colleague Patrice Sarath, who, besides being an acute business analyst, has a new book out called Gordath Wood. My wife said that Patrice’s panel was very interesting — the best one she attended. So, go, Patrice!

My kids liked the dealer room, where they looked at all sorts of books, toys, robots, etc. My daughter also particularly liked Scalzi’s reading of the hilarious first chapter of his work-in-progress, The High Castle, which John was nice enough to deliver in a PG-13 version out of deference to my kids.

About the picture above: One of the exhibitors I met was local author Christine Rose, whose new YA fantasy novel, Rowan of the Wood — co-written with her husband Ethan — comes out on October 18. Given my daughter’s love for fantasy novels of this ilk, I imagine we’ll be attending the BookPeople release party that day. Yaaay for local authors!

And while we’re at it, yay for flights of fancy in storytelling, which was, at bottom, what ArmadilloCon was all about.

Pat Forgione hammers home the right message.

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

Fun times this morning: I got to attend a 7:45 a.m. assembly at my kids’ school, which once again (three years running!) topped the Austin school district in fundraising for Reading Is Fundamental. (RIF is a biiiig deal with the younger set Chez Walker.) The guest of honor was Dr. Pat Forgione, Austin’s superintendent of Schools. He was extremely good-humored and energetic, and conveyed the air of a veteran schoolteacher who is intensely interested in the thoughts and feelings of the kids around him.

What was so impressive about what he said: while praising students, teachers, parents, administrators, and RIF sponsors to the heavens, he pounded home the theme that intelligence comes from effort — that hard work leads to smarts, which in turn enables to further success in work. The message of “effort = excellence” was practically the first thing that came out of his mouth, and he didn’t just touch on it lightly — he reiterated it several different ways that kids and parents alike could relate to.

This matches the educational model recommended by Po Bronson in this New York magazine article, which I’ve mentioned before. Don’t praise your kids — or your students — for their innate qualities (“You’re so smart . . . you’re so pretty”) anywhere near as much as you praise them for hard work, that is, for putting superior effort into their endeavors. I ended up talking about this after the assembly with a couple of moms of my acquaintance, and we all agreed: kids will succeed when they put their guts into something.

Superior effort — not anything innate — is the key. Rewarding superior effort is an investment that will repay itself many times over.

A crazy thing is happening in Austin right now.

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

Namely, it’s cool out, even though we’re still in the first half of September. For those of you who don’t live in this neck of the woods, you should know that September in Austin is typically a summer month — not autumn, and not even transitional, just plain hot. But it’s been very wet the past couple of days, and for the moment at least things are lovely, so much so that I’m typing this at the table on my back porch. Yes, I’m encountering mosquitoes, but it’s worth it to experience the mild weather up close and personal.

Local business plug: Vulcan Video.

Sunday, September 2nd, 2007

Mostly we rent from Netflix, because the convenience is extraordinary. But sometimes you want a particular movie and you want it now. Today, Austin’s own Vulcan Video saved the day on that score.

The funny thing is, I tried finding the movie — not something obscure, mind you, but Raiders of the Lost Ark — at three different Blockbusters closer to my house. One of them doesn’t own a copy, the other two didn’t have any on hand.


So I called Vulcan Video near the campus. They had the video and promised to set it aside for me. Since I haven’t lived very close to a Vulcan in years, I wasn’t a member, but that took only a few minutes to rectify. The folks at the store were friendly and helpful, and my kids liked going into the store because it was so different from the hunky-dory chain-store layout of Blockbuster. My son even ran into one of his classmates — confirming to me that Austin can still be a small town sometimes.

Vulcan Video confirmed to me that, sooooo very often, local is best. If you’re in Austin and haven’t already, check ’em out.

The latest in the battle over Northcross.

Friday, August 3rd, 2007

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything about this, but for those of you who are curious, here’s the latest in the battle over the future of the Northcross shopping center in my neighborhood.

The community group RG4N (Responsible Growth for Northcross) continues to oppose the plan of Wal-Mart and Lincoln Properties (sketched out here) to build a ginormous Wal-Mart Supercenter + three-story parking garage on part of the site of the current Northcross Mall (which will — and should — be torn down in any case). Because RG4N has gotten no love from the retailer, the developer, or the Austin City Council, they’ve filed a lawsuit to stop the current development plan, claiming (I think accurately) that the developers grossly underestimate the traffic impacts that a 24-hour Supercenter will have on Anderson and Burnet, the two thoroughfares that border the Northcross site.

To aid the cause of their legal action, RG4N is raising funds. So, if you have $20 or $50 burning a hole in your pocket and you don’t want to see Wal-Mart build the wrong, wrong, wrong kind of store on this site, why not pitch in? You can do it here. If you want more information about RG4N’s position and its plans for the future, check out the documents posted here.

The Austin Chronicle also ran a story about the Northcross fracas in last week’s issue.

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Neato development from

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

Besides being an enviably kick-butt nonfiction author, Steven Berlin Johnson is an Internet entrepreneur. His current project,, allows users to keep up with online news pegged to their own locale. (See, for example, the page for Austin.) Among other things, the system collects information posted by “placebloggers” — i.e., those folks whose blogs are dedicated to local/community news.

But what about those of us who only occasionally blog about our neighborhoods/cities/states? Well, Johnson & Co. have now come up with an answer: Not Just For Placebloggers Anymore

. . . today we’re making it far easier for those bloggers to share their location-based posts with the community. All you have to do is submit your blog URL using this form (assuming you’re a registered neighbor), and then tag your posts with any of the four supported geo-tags described here: GMAP links, zipcode categories, the “Where” tag, or GeoRSS.

I just signed up for this — took about a minute — so now I can start tagging anything I’d put in my “Austin” category so that it shows up on Neat, huh?

Let a hundred Austin placebloggers bloom . . .