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Winter Break 2014 [Dec. 12th, 2014|07:21 pm]

Working at UT I generally get the whole week off between Christmas and New Year's, inclusive, sometimes more. We get the same number of days off as other state workers, but we bundle many of them up into this period.

I don't like to travel during this period because everyone else is doing so. Also, it's cold. I used to try to do projects, but if you don't get all of your supplies ahead of time, it might not work out because places are closed.

This year, Robin also has off since he's between jobs. And by the time I'm retired, he wants to be getting an income, so we might not have time off together for some time. Our cash flow is pretty terrible right now, but I do have savings. So I told Robin, hey, let's go somewhere.

Let's see where trains go. Let's see where buses go. Let's just go somewhere that's interesting to walk around, even if it's just Salado.

And ... we're going to New Orleans. (By car.) Neither one of has ever visited there. And even if most things are closed, it's still pretty to walk around in. We've reserved our hotel, so it's happening.

So feel free to give us suggestions. We already know we should try seafood, cajun food, and beignets. And apparently macaroni and cheese. (And we've already found burger places and a pho place.) Sadly, we're not really into jazz.

There's a sculpture garden outside the art museum. And apparently swamp tours, plantation tours, ghost tours, and cemetary tours (though these might be closed). An aquarium. And an insectarium. And they have a river running through town just like we do, except it's the Mississippi River.
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Ann Morgan: A Story from Every Country [Dec. 6th, 2014|02:54 pm]
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I'm pretty sure I've written that I've decided it would be fun to try to experience media from every country.

And today I realized, duh, that the world is large and so of course other people have similar goals. Because I came across Ann Morgan who decided to read a story from every country. She did this very differently from how I'm doing it, though.

She decided to do it in one year. Ugh, not me--too stressful.

She wrote a blog about it. But that means she had to deal with a bunch of opinionated people. For example, they talked her into reading only things available in English even though she also knows some French and German. Whereas since I'm learning Spanish, I'm hoping I'll be able to read some things from Spanish-speaking countries in the original language.

But then people also sent her manuscripts and translations from hard-to-find countries. So that's cool. But I don't mind not actually finding something from every country. I just like how trying to find something means I will get a lot of exposure. Plus I get to read several books from one country if I feel like it.

Like me, she's using a UN list but she added one other territory based on recommendations from her blog readers. I'll add things whenever I feel like it.

Here's how she decided what counts as a story: "I decided that I would count all narratives that could be read to full effect by one reader on their own. This means memoirs, novels, short stories, novellas, biographies, narrative poems and reportage are in and, with regret, non-narrative poetry and plays are out.

"I also decided that while I would stick to mainly contemporary stories, I wanted to leave the door open for fantastic blasts from the past. The one condition is that the works have to have been created when the country was in existence in something like its modern-day form."

As you might guess, I'm not into regretfully leaving stuff out. So I'm counting plays, ancient stuff, movies, lectures, blog posts from visitors (yes, I'm talking about you Sherry, Di, and Dave), and just generally whatever I feel like plus, for desperate situations, wikipedia articles. If it's not very representative (and what is, really?), no big deal, I can experience something else from there, too.

I think she's reading only things actually written by people from the country which is awesome. As you can guess, I will not be limiting myself like that. However, she has a fabulous list of not only all the things she read, but also a bunch of other things that were recommended to her.

At the end of the year, she wrote a book about her experience. Again, no, I am not likely to be doing that.


I'm actually reading a children's book set in Kenya right now. It's translated into English but probably from Dutch, of all things, because it was written by someone from the Netherlands. But I've learned that I often enjoy learning about a country from someone who is not from there but loves it anyway for some reason. My two favorite tour guides (in Jamaica and Amsterdam) were like that.
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When recipes go bad [Nov. 26th, 2014|05:48 pm]
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One great thing about good recipes is that once you find them, you can make make those delicious things whenever you want to!

Or not.

My pie crust recipe wouldn't even pretend to let me roll it out the other day; I had to just smoosh it onto the pie pan as if it were a graham cracker crust.

Also, I'm not loving my chili recipe any more. Even though I still love chili. What gives?

No, so far as I know it's not a change in the ingredients. Or a change in the humidity. I don't know.

And now for the quotes, which is the real reason I'm writing today.

Quote of the day - "...because gravy lubricates your arteries and it's good for your heart. [smiles] I'm not a doctor." - Hilah from Hilah Cooking (beginning of her turkey gravy video)

I love that quote!

Other quote of the day - "[My husband] has a lovely habit. We call it 'gazing lovingly.' Every few weeks, he'll say to me, 'Come on, let's gaze lovingly,' and we go look at [our children] as they sleep." - Gretchen Rubin in The Happiness Project
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I Has the Menopause [Nov. 22nd, 2014|10:20 pm]

As of yesterday, I am officially menopausal.

How it happened for me

Last year my doctor said she could make me bleed monthly forever if I wanted her to but instead recommended that I switch from regular birth control pills to the progesterone-only type (aka the mini pill). I did so.

I immediately stopped bleeding. Boom!

Then you know that feeling you get when you realize you've made a horrible mistake and now you have to give people the bad news, or maybe you have to give a speech? I noticed a few times that I was getting that feeling when nothing was going wrong with my life before I finally realized--duh, these must be hot flashes.

Then at this year's annual physical, my doctor tested my FSH and the levels showed that I'm done now.

How to commemorate it

Shouldn't there be some sort of celebration? Community ritual? (I'm kind of afraid to read about rituals from other cultures. And my own culture is all about complaining about the millions of things that could suddenly get worse in your life, at least for a little while, but maybe forever, but how there's still hope and you could still have a fulfilling life and so you shouldn't kill yourself. Thanks, my own culture!)

At one point in my life, I enjoyed celebrating each new month where I wasn't making a baby with a doughnut. So going the rest of my life never making a baby could mean ... a gigantic box of doughnuts!

What I most want is to go to my favorite Tex Mex restaurant and eat whatever I want. Like I do pretty much every Sunday and will do again tomorrow.

And I have stopped taking the pill as of today. And I will stop buying it. And I am writing this blog post about stuff people don't talk about. And I have already gotten rid of various supplies. (Sometimes decluttering is so easy and fun!) These are pretty good rituals.
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Review: The No-Nonsense Guide to Menopause [Nov. 16th, 2014|04:43 pm]
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Note: the last few sections of this post are relevant to everyone who visits doctors, not just the smallish population implied by the title.

I've been wanting a book on how not to be an idiot about getting older and when I saw Barbara Seaman and Laura Eldridge's The No-Nonsense Guide to Menapause: A comprehensive resource with simple, unbiased advice on managing this important life stage (2008), I thought it might be part of the answer.

Hormone Replacement Therapy

Check out this quote from the introduction:

By 1990, HT [hormone therapy] had been on the market for forty-eight years but there had still never been serious clinical trials to demonstrate its effect on the heart, as well as other symptoms it was being used to treat. Despite this, Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories (now Wyeth Pharmaceuticals), the makers of Premarin, attempted to get the drug officially approved for the prevention of heart disease, hoping to expand its already lucrative market. The FDA refused. Taking the advice of the National Women's Health Network, a grassroots group that eschews pharmaceutical funding and functions as an advocate for women's health rights, the FDA called for the creation of the WHI, a massive randomized double-blind clinical trial set to last for more than a decade and a half. Almost everyone was convinced that trial would affirm what everyone already knew: HT was a wonder drug for "women of a certain age" that should perhaps, as one doctor suggested, be put in the drinking water alongside fluoride.

When the Prempro (premarin and progestin) arm of the trial came to a screeching halt in 2002, doctors and patients alike were shocked by the reasons. Women taking hormones had
more heart attacks, more breast cancer, more strokes, more pulmonary embolisms, and more blood clots than women taking sugar pills.

That result never quite made it to my consciousness back in the day, so this was good for me to read. And based on real science like we used to have in the olden days. So I checked the book out of the library.

(By the way, those results are for women who have not had hysterectomies.)

I found this to be a thorough book in a boring, hot-flash-heavy way. So I didn't read the whole thing, just the first half and other parts of interest to me.


I read about bone health because I have pretty much every risk factor for osteoporosis except being old, and I plan to acquire that one as well. I learned that bone density scans give you different results depending on what machine is used, what norms are used, what bones are scanned, and even what parts of bones are scanned, plus bone density is only one part of bone health.

I had thought I wanted to start testing my bone density, but these tests now sound almost useless to me. So I've decided I'll just act like I got mediocre or bad results and do weight-bearing exercise, drink milk, take vitamin D and maybe magnesium, and consume more produce. (And if I'm wrong and still fine, this action I plan to take is not something I'm going to regret.)


Hypothyroidism runs in my family, so I read the section on that. It turns out you can do thyroid self-exams. This is basically feeling for lumps along the sides of your esophagus between your Adam's apple and sternum, which is easiest while you're sitting up straight, pointing your chin out or up, and swallowing. I can't actually feel anything, though one would think I could tell the difference between the side that has been removed and the side that has not. Oh well.

Finding a good doctor

They also have advice on finding a good doctor. The doctor should:
* have gone to a medical school in the US or well-reviewed other medical school
* have performed a residency somewhere good (find out where by asking the doctor's staff or checking the American Medical Association's Medical Directory at a library or online at the AMA's website)
* be board certified (not just board eligible) in his or her specialty (find out by contacting the American Board of Medical Specialities)
* have continuing medical eduction, preferably through membership in a medical specialty society rather than through a program underwritten by a pharmaceuticals company (check the society to see if your doctor is a member)
* have hospital affiliation (hospitals have good resources for researching qualifications of, malpractice payments by, and disciplinary actions against doctors and would not want to allow questionable doctors on staff)

Preparing for appointments

The authors give this advice for preparing for appointments:
* when making the appointment, explain what it is for to make sure you are given enough time
* ask the cost--you can comparison shop if you like
* visit the office of a new doctor so if your spidey-sense says to run away, you still have time to cancel the appointment
* write up your medical history
* write up your list of concerns you want to discuss and prioritize them
* have relevant medical records sent to your doctor
* talk about everything of concern or that might be relevant, even if it's embarrassing--remember, doctors have heard and seen a lot more things than you're thinking about and they can do a better job with more information
* research your symptoms ahead of time so you can ask more relevant questions--the Mayo Clinic and the government-run MedlinePlus are good resources--trustworthy and written in simple English
* feel free to print out articles you have questions about
* if your doctor interrupts you (a common occurrence), make sure you get back on track and discuss everything you want to
* if you don't understand something, speak up
* ask questions about proposed treatments such as any risks of getting the treatment as well as risks of forgoing treatment

Drug questions

They also have this checklist of things to ask about prescription drugs:

1. Is this drug FDA-approved to treat my symptoms/health problem? (It's not illegal to prescribe a drug for off-label use, but it can be unwise.)

2. Why do you think a drug approach is the best way to go?

3. What might be some nonmedical things we could do that might also work?

4. What will happen if I decide not to treat this problem?

5. What kind of studies have been performed on this drug (including size, nature, and duration of the study)?

6. What are some of the known side effects of this drug? Which ones are either serious or potentially life-threatening?

7. How long do you think I should take this drug? Is it a long-term prescription?

8. How much does this drug cost? Will it add a financial burden to my life?

I don't see them knowing the answer to #5 or maybe even #6, but a pharmacist might, plus you could research these yourself later.


After reading as much of the book as I did, I can see that there is a strong bias against drug companies. It's the same bias I'm growing toward any large company where I can't help assuming that you just don't get large unless you're willing to do things that other companies are not willing to do in the name of profits.

In this case, companies can make a lot of money by finding drugs that treat but do not cure long-term common problems. The ideal situation is to define some common characteristic as a disease and find a drug they've already invented that helps with the symptoms. Prevention and cures are not as profitable.

It's now difficult for me to read the cheap women's magazines I picked up from the give-away pile at the library because they are full of gigantic ads from pharmaceutical companies.
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Presents To Your Future Self [Nov. 15th, 2014|10:23 pm]
Mr. Money Mustache has recently published Are You Giving the Shaft To Your Future Self? As many of his posts do, it takes the form of a vicious, if amusing rant. But I like his point about how the things you do not only affect you right now but also can be setting you up for better and worse times in the future.

And the post is about finances, but the concept can be applied to all kinds of things.

It's fun to think about what kinds of things am I thankful to my past self for giving me. All kinds of things! For example:
* great boyfriend
* fascinating and fun friends
* great pension
* paid-off house
* good recipes
* warm coat, hat, and scarves
* LiveJournal entries
* having kept up in Spanish class

What kinds of coal has my past self left in my stocking? I'm very lucky that there aren't a bunch of obvious answers. I'm sure there are a few ticking time bombs like going swimming every day in my childhood sans sunscreen and letting certain deficits build by not eating vegetables or exercising enough, but none of those are too scary to me. (Which might be a problem.)

Mostly, my lumps of coal are things I have convinced myself are fine, but are they? Should I have built better negotiating skills? Should I have more friends of varying ages (almost all my friends are within ten years of my age)?

Which brings me to the fun part. What kinds of presents would I now like to give to my future self? Before reading this blog post, I already had several ideas:
* finish qualifying for my pension ASAP (12 more weeks)
* learn Spanish
* learn ASL
* exercise more
* eat more vegetables
* declutter
* mend broken things that I love
* maybe add some grab bars in the bathroom?
* minimize my income taxes (oh, I have an evil plan for this year)
* keep up with regular medical check-ups
* start thinking about whether I'll prefer bifocals or two sets of glasses when the time comes

But should I be thinking more broadly? For example:
* learn to be more dependent/ask for help
* learn to allow others to do the same around me
* build bravery
* get more money-making and frugality skills
* learn self-defense
* create something big

It's an interesting notion.
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Review: The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict [Nov. 15th, 2014|03:49 pm]
I just found the fourth book in the Mysterious Benedict Society series, though it was published in 2012, and highly enjoyed it.

It starts off in a universe similar to that of the Series of Unfortunate Event series: The main character is a smart, caring, optimistic, creative, and cautious orphan. The adults are generally useless or dangerous.

And I quickly grew to love the main character. Small little things added up that are hard to show in quotes.

A faint impression in the man's hair suggested he'd been wearing a hat, though Nicholas saw none on the bench, nor any on the hat rack nearby. With some difficulty the man turned to a different section in his newspaper (the damp pages clung together) and resumed his reading, mouthing the words to himself. Nicholas, watching his lips, followed along for a tedious ten seconds ("...the impact on the price of wheat since the war's conclusion...") before losing patience and interest.

The middle of the book is focused on a mystery that of course does not get solved in the middle of the book and I feel they stretched parts of out too long.

Then there's a scene that reminds me of one in Malcolm X's life. He had grown up dealing with so much horrible racism that when someone told him that the white man was the devil, finally everything made sense. (Yikes!) Later when he went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, he met white people who clearly weren't devils and as a result he changed his whole way of thinking in ways that were clearly difficult and courageous.

There are some good lessons about what kind of person you should be. I don't think I can even follow the main lesson; that's how trite it isn't. I'm just not that good.

And then there's a sudden, though believable, happy ending. I wish they would have stretched that part out a bit more and I would like to have seen a bit further into the future, perhaps a few weeks later when a certain character made a promised visit.

Mostly, I just enjoyed hanging out with the main character through the whole book.
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Don't tell me why I didn't vote the way you wanted [Nov. 6th, 2014|01:59 pm]
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Dear Mr. Julitz:

According to today's Daily Texan (UT Austin's student newspaper), you said that the reason voters may have turned down Proposition 1 [for a new rail line] is that we may not have been able to have seen the whole picture. I'm writing to tell you that this was not the case for me. I saw the map showing proposed later phases and I saw it via several sources.

I'm also writing to tell you the reason I voted against this proposition. It's that the route was chosen to be useful for people who might live near the line in the future. That should not be the purpose of a so-called first phase (which I thought was the Red Line) or any early phase. Early rail lines should serve the current population. When one is proposed to serve a potential future population, that tells me that it's really for developers. And that tells me that the plan is corrupt.

I'm willing to pay a lot of tax dollars to create a decent mass transportation system in the Austin area. I am not willing to pay a lot of tax dollars to fill the bank vaults of developers and the people they bribe. And no amount of 'splaining to me how eventually it might help me too would change my mind on this issue.

Please create your next plan for the people who already live here. We are the ones who are voting.

Deborah J. Miller


Yes, I did actually send this (to a Capitol Metro/Project Connect spokesperson). It felt good.
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Voting [Oct. 24th, 2014|06:53 pm]
Ah, trying to vote.


Well, some things are easy for me this year. Here are those things in order from easiest to least easy.

City Council - District 10

Gregario Casar heard that some construction workers weren't getting paid. The construction workers were afraid to speak up because many of them were illegal immigrants. Casar did something to make sure those people got their pay. Whatever you think of illegal immigrants, surely hotels should not be able to get free labor out of people by breaking their contracts like bullies. Anyone who fights against theft and corruption is my man. His other viewpoints mostly sound good to me too.


Wendy Davis became known all over the country for taking a stand (literally) on something that's actually important. Her overall stands on some things are a bit fluffly, and I'm annoyed that she lets Republicans take ownership of things like "family values."

But Greg Abbott is scarier than Rick Perry. The latter, at least, could occasionally be reasonable or rational. So the choice is easy.

Lieutenant Governor

I remember figuring out a long time ago that Van dePutte sounded good and Patrick sounded crazy/scary, though I no longer remember the particulars. Patrick sounds sane but misguided on the LWV document, but I think he actually was friends with an undocumented worker he'd hired but then went turncoat on all undocumented workers, as if he didn't realize they were made out of people anymore.

Proposition 1 (city)

This is the proposition to build another light rail route. I love light rail. However, just like the last one, this one doesn't actually go anywhere good. And unlike the last one, it's not because it follows already-built railroad lines; they'd have to build new lines. Those who favor this route say that it's for places that will be growing in the future, places with potential. To me that sounds like something developers want. I think you should build things that are needed right now. I think there is no explanation for the route proposed here but corruption. This route is actually more accessible to me than the more obvious route through the center of town, but I don't care. I'm voting against.

Proposition 1 (state)

This requires half the money from gas and oil taxes that go into the rainy day fund to not just sit there but to actually be spent on transportation projects.

This sounds good to me. Also my old favorite Representative (no longer in my district) endorses it.


I have received many responses from my current Senator on the ballot (Cornyn) and every single one without exception has pissed me off. He likes to thank me very much for my opinion. He values the time I have taken to send him a response. He believes the exact opposite of what I have requested. He usually gives reasons that are based on bad data or otherwise make no sense, though occasionally he gives reasons that are just based on different priorities. And then he promises to take my opinions into consideration when he makes his decisions. When you lie in my face like that over and over and then also disagree with me on every single issue, it's easy to vote against you. But who do I vote for?

Alameel sounds basically okay, though stereotypically Democratic. Paddock sounds very hateful toward immigrants and mother earth, but I do like that she opposes spying on US citizens and is concerned about the suicide rate for veterans and active military. Sanchez did not submit a response to the League of Women Voters. I guess I'll vote for Alameel.


Other things are harder to decide.

Railroad Commissioner

(For those outside Texas, this is more important than it sounds.)

The League of Women Voters puts out some good information, but normally I don't care about the issues they ask about. But hey, they have an issue I care about for Railroad Commissioner: fracking. Sadly, I hate every one of their answers.

Steve Brown says "I would also support establishing a baseline of environmental factors through geological surveys and water tests to determine how drilling might impact an area." Um no, we don't need studies. I remember from one of Carl's classes in the 1980's that deep-well injection of hazardous wastes were found to cause earthquakes. Back then, that meant that you couldn't do it. Apparently the natural gas lobby is bigger than the hazardous waste removal lobby. But we don't need studies; scientists already know fracking sucks.

Mark Miller says "The Commission has rules to satisfy many purposes, e.g., prevention of waste, protection of mineral rights, water resources, and public safety. Fracking, per se, requires few additional rules. However, the fracking boom requires consideration of rules related to such things as waste water injection, discharge
of natural gas, and protection of surface owner rights." This doesn't sound like much. On the other hand, when a Libertarian says we need rules, that's pretty serious, so this guy might be my candidate.

Martina Salinas says "The commission also needs to be more vigilant in that only safe and reputable energy companies are allowed to operate in Texas." Only safe and reputable energy companies? There's no such thing. So no energy companies should be allowed to operate in Texas? Yeah, right.

Ryan Sitton says "All of the commission’s rules should be based on sound science and data and properly balance the safety and health of communities with our need to responsibly produce as much energy as possible." Science. And knowing that Americans want their power. Yes. But then he says, "Fracking is a proven, reliable and safe drilling technique that has allowed for tremendous growth in energy production." No, it is a profitable drilling technique that has made loads more natural gas available. Especially if they don't have to pay for any of the damage they do. But it is not safe at all. I hate this guy.

So, okay, I'm voting Libertarian here.

Austin Community College issues

These are
1 - growth bond (increase Highland, add one in Leander, and acquire land in SE austin for a "workforce" campus, whatever that is).

2 - maintenance bond (mostly for Rio Grande) and some other growth (Hays public saftey, Round Rock health force, Elgin sustainable ag and vet tech)

3 - raise the tax cap from 9 cents to 12 (over the next five years) to cover maintenance and "stabilize" tuition. Also finances a Nursing RN to BS program.

Figuring out how I want to vote on these issues requires me to figure out how I feel about three things: what should the ratio of student:taxpayer cost be for community colleges, do I like what these proposals are meant to do, and do I value and trust my particular community college? One could argue that it also matters whether I would personally benefit from any of these proposals.

I love colleges. Even community colleges. Love! But should these things be paid for by the students or by taxpayers? Does having cheaper classes help tax payers by improving the knowledge of some of her residents? At least it's not free--the people who benefit most do have to pay for part of that benefit, and they have a monetary incentive to not blow off the classes they're taking.

Now, what do I actually think about these proposals?

The first one about growth is probably just the sort of thing that makes sense to fund with bonds rather than regular income such as taxes and tuition. Also, I have a bias because it includes expanding the campus that is walking distance from my house. (Slobber, slobber.)

ACC has a nice page on these. They say "The college has since completed all planned bond projects [from the 2003 bond election] on time and under budget. In fact, strategic fiscal planning allowed the college to do more than promised." If that's true, I am impressed and inclined to entrust them with more money.

The second one about maintenance should be funded by regular funds such as tuition and property taxes. On the other hand, I get really sick about people not funding maintenance, so I kind of want to vote for this anyway.

Also, my friends in the School of Nursing at UT have told me that there is a huge demand for nurses (I also know this from my mom, who is a nurse) and that they can train only a certain number of nurses because there is only so much room in the local hospitals for them to practice. Still, if ACC can figure out a way to grant additional nursing degrees, that sounds kind of good.

The third one about raising the cap reminds me of how standard tip percentages have risen over the years. I am opposed to that. Yes, there is inflation. Therefore, things cost more at restaurants. And tips of a constant percentage will increase at the same pace.

So I'm inclined not to raise the cap on the percentage because property values increase and because the number of properties increase as the population grows. But ACC says that compared to other cities in Texas, our taxes are much lower than average and our tuition is much higher. So moving towards more taxes rather than more tuition is not going overboard compared to other cities. But the League of Women Voters says that attendance at ACC has fallen 8% since 2011, so why do they need more money?

I guess currently I'm inclined to vote yes-yes-no.

Representative - District 25

Betz has given the League of Women Voters no response. Montoya sounds surprisingly okay. My current Representative Williams has no response.

Attorney General

The Chronicle endorsements generally can't be trusted because they tend to recommend funding all bonds and voting straight Democratic. However, it's worth paying attention when they go against those trends.

I didn't see that happening for any races I can vote in. But I did read something that might make Robin want to vote for something other than the Libertarian candidate:

"After years of politicized prosecutions under AG Abbott, it's a relief to endorse an experienced lawyer who has pledged to end Abbott's commitment to secret government. There is no public benefit in sealing records of explosive chemicals or state subsidies to private businesses, and Houston will turn a bright spotlight on state operations once more." Sounds good to me; I'll be voting for Sam Houston. In spite of his name.


Ugh. Tired. Do not want to read any more about this stuff.

but I did think to google endorsements. I don't see any groups I identify with. However, I did see the Tea Party. So tempting to vote against everyone they endorse. They also have some people they recommend but don't endorse--I won't hold recommendation by the Tea Party against anyone.

Dang, I only see endorsements for two races for which I can vote:
Lt. Governor: Dan Patrick
Attorney General: Ken Paxton
And I'd already decided against those guys, so, oh well.

If any of the above makes you think, "No, no! Don't be an idiot!" please let me know. If you have an opinion about any state-wide races I didn't mention or school boards, please let me know. In fact, make any comments you please.
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My Austin [Oct. 21st, 2014|08:17 pm]
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In a book I'm reading, one character says she doesn't really like Paris. Then the other character says to let him show her his Paris.

That got me thinking. If I were to show someone my Austin, what would I show?

Some of my favorite things don't really exist anymore, though they still color my view:
* Jester dorm second floor as it was in 1985-1986
* Bill and Dave parties
* ballroom dance classes taught by Richard Fowler

However, I can think of a few things I could still show people:

The UT Austin library

This is especially good for anything you want from before 1988 (back when it was the second biggest academic library). Basically it has 99% of everything (besides popular fiction and cookbooks). After that year, it has only 50% of everything. That's still a pretty nice place to go.

They also used to have all the best books in the Undergraduate Library, but they have since moved those books back to their respective parent libraries (such as the Biological Sciences Library). Still, great books are available.

UT Austin classes

You can audit classes for almost nothing, something like $25/course. I haven't done this lately, but I will again soon. They have so many amazing courses. If I'm wrong about a course being awesome, it's no big loss. And the great thing about auditing is that if a text is no good, instead of reading it anyway and remembering as much as I can for a test, I can just read a better book instead.

The Ladybird Johnson Wildlife Center

I don't actually go there very often, but wildflowers and Tex-Mex were the two things I missed when I lived in Boston. And now I also love the Center's philosophy that if you plant native plants, then you have plants that actually like your soil and your weather, so they're easier to take care of. Plus the native birds, butterflies, etc., also like them.

Alamo Drafthouse Theatres

I'm not actually a fan of wait staff asking you questions during a movie, but I absolutely love that their pre-shows are silly, interesting things that are somehow related to the movie you're seeing. I also sometimes enjoy their notifications that talking is not allowed, and that "Texting totally counts as talking." Like the one where Ann Richards throws someone out on the sidewalk (using totally cheap special effects) for talking.

If only normal theatres were available with their loud, obnoxious, repetitious pre-show ads, I'd probably never go to movie theatres again. The sound is better at home, plus you can have subtitles and pause to use the restroom.

Interesting yards

There's a yard with at least a fifteen-foot tall Gumby in my neighborhood. Also a yard with the different parts edged in bowling balls. Near a friend's house there is a Loch Ness Monster. And many, many yards are loaded with wildflowers of many, many kinds.

Hiking Spots

I also don't go here much, but it's good to take people to Enchanted Rock. Big magma bubbles peaking through the surface of the soil. And plants growing out of rock. Amazing.

And Inks Lake State Park. It has a bright blue lake. And it will teach you to notice lichens. They come not only in army green and gray, but also in yellow green, burnt orange, and bright yellow. On pink granite. Occasionally you get to see a roadrunner.

And McKinney Falls, where there's some bare limestone that sort of feels like you're on a cratered moon. (With as much gravity as a planet.)

The Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail is nice and long and pretty scenic. There's also a trail near my house at the old airport.


I've always liked crispy tacos, burritos, and enchilada plates. ("Plate" means "with beans and rice.") Now I also like breakfast tacos, especially migas breakfast tacos. And tortilla chips, with or without queso.

There are other good restaurants of all kinds as well. I love the fried rice at Tan My's, for example. And soup and salad at La Madeleine. And we have many good barbecue places, Indian food places, soul/comfort food places, etc.

Good grocery stores

My favorite grocery store was my first grocery store, in Waltham, Massachusetts. They had a huge selection. For example, I used to check graham crackers to see if they had lard. There were six or nine choices of plain graham crackers, two of which did not have lard. Most grocery stores have only one or two kinds, and they might both have lard.

But I sure like HEB as having a pretty good combination of selection, quality, and price. I could live with just that store if I had to, especially the new branch near me.

But I also like how super nice and competent everyone is at Wheatsville Coop, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe's, plus they each have things I like that are available only there.

Non-summer weather

Sunny. Pretty. It stays dark too long in the winter, but not like in the north. No shoveling. Cars don't rust. It snows occasionally, just so we don't feel left out.

Costume parties

My friends often have costume parties. But they're not the only ones.

The Capitol 10K used to be full of people running in costume. I have run in costume myself before. I've been one of the Secret Service staff accompanying President Clinton. (I actually wore a black blazer, tie, and dark sunglasses, but also wore black shorts and sneakers.) I've been spring fairy (my friend and I wore bridesmaid-type dresses, flowers in our hair, and sneakers).

Ultimate frisbee pick-Up games

The great thing about ultimate frisbee is that you can play with people of multiple abilities on each team. You just have people guarding the people on the other team at a similar level, and so long as you have a rule that you always throw to whoever's open even if you're pretty sure they can't catch it (good motivation for perfecting your aim), then everyone gets to play. On co-ed teams, even.

Actually any games with Dave (and Bill) are good. For example there's also round-robin ping pong; people go out quickly, then you start a new game. And there's disc golf--whoever is furthest throws next--if you're bad, you get to throw more often!

I even became adequate at volleyball because of various groups around town.
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