Thoughts On The Austin Water Shortage

Recently, there was a warning from the City of Austin that residents should boil water before using it for cooking or consumption. There was a lot of flooding upstream in the rivers that feed into the other Colorado River, which put a lot of silt and solids into the water.

Here is a quote from the link above:
This has been an unprecedented event in Austin Water’s more than 100 years of delivering water to Austin residents. Historic flooding created water that showed over 100 times the level of silt and solids typically than found in our source water. This dramatically changed the way our treatment plants needed to operate to produce high quality water, and decreased the amount of water the plants were able to filter. This required us to slow our water treatment process.

What really bothers me about all of this is that I have not been able to find any information about what they are going to do about this in the future. Climate change is happening now, folks. These floods are just one of the effects, and I think they will become more common. There will be more “unprecedented” events. So how will the city deal with this going forward?

Will they install more filtration systems? I watched a press conference on YouTube, but I did not hear anything about future preventive measures.

I did use the water to brush my teeth the first day. I did not know about the boil order until I got to work. Checking the city’s website to see the status of the water supply is not part of my daily routine.

My apartment complex has had some water issues and they have had to shut off the water several times, so to an extent I was not too bothered by the general ban. When the complex shuts off water, even showers and laundry are unavailable. I have started buying more metal water bottles to store water for shutoffs. When I first moved in, the water was getting shut off every week. I asked them what was going on, and they pulled the old “blame the government” card. The problem with that argument is the place I lived in before was also within Austin’s city limits, and that complex never had water problems.

Several restaurants were affected. Five Guys in Austin were completely shut down that week, and Whataburger only had drive-through.

I have a few more points related to this incident.

Point 1: The mayor’s press conference was first streamed on Facebook. I really wish the world would stop using Facebook, especially governments at all levels. Constituents should be able to get information on government web sites without logging into some other web site, particularly a company that most people do not trust. Do not use Facebook, do not empower Facebook, do not do anything that puts money in the pockets of Mark “privacy for me but not for thee” Snakerberg.

Point 2: I have had a few conversations in the past couple of weeks in which other people mentioned how crazy the weather has been lately. My brother in New York said that there has been no fall this year. In another conversation, one person mentioned that there are more hurricanes predicted, and again their state did not have much of an autumn. I did not say much. I found it interested that nobody said something like, “I guess climate change is really happening.”

Point 3: There were a lot of people on Twitter making the same tired joke that they will just drink more booze. This brings up two things. First, as Kristi Coulter pointed out, alcoholics and addicts are everywhere in our society. Second: As I have mentioned on this site, so many people in Austin think they are so edgy, and so original, and so “weird”, but they really are none of those things. Just people repeating the same stupid stuff, and thinking they are the first person to do so [1]. You could call it the “42 fallacy”: whenever there is a gathering of sci-fi fans or skeptics, if the number 42 comes up, somebody almost always makes a reference to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and they think they are the first person to ever do that. Or that it hasn’t lost its charm after 30 years. It did, about 29 years and 364 days ago.

If you think you are smarter than everybody else, try acting like it.

Note 1: Or they think that Austin is “weird” because there are a lot of people here who would not fit in whatever crazy little church town they are from in the middle of nowhere in Texas. The fact is, there are people in a LOT of places who would not fit in your little crazy church town.

Big Jim hate cliches, and likes being prepared.

“View of Toledo” by El Greco (1541 – 7 April 1614), at El Greco’s site, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Rambling Thoughts About A Spanish Lady

I got an email recently from my Spanish non-girlfriend. I have not seen her since I left Chicago, but we have kept in touch via email. Now she is back in Spain. Her father is in the hospital. I got the impression from her last, brief email a month ago it’s serious. I have a feeling that soon, she will come back to Chicago one last time to wrap things up, and go back to Spain for good.

Romantic opportunities do not come often for me. Women who are not spiritual or religious are pretty rare. Women who do not smoke or drink alcohol are rare. Women who fit both categories are rarer still. She did. And she did not seem to hate me.

Unfortunately, she did not seem interested in any sort of serious relationship with me either. For a very brief period, I thought she might be interested. Either I missed the opportunity, or, more likely, I was just kidding myself. I have sometimes joked (mostly to myself) that my only hope of getting married is finding a woman who is willing to lay on her back to get a green card. And then a foreign woman who meets my three criteria (along with the unstated fourth of not being fat), and it’s hard to not let my imagination run away.

As a sidenote, I have noticed that women seem more likely than men to drink alcohol, at least in the atheist/skeptical community. It seems odd to pride yourself on your logic and critical thinking skills, and then turn around and knowingly ingest a toxic, addictive substance. And be proud of yourself for it to boot. I think it is really a dumb thing for women in particular. They are at a disadvantage in just about every way; two I am thinking of are finance and health care. So why spend money on something that destroys your health? When I was in Chicago, I noticed most of the men did not drink alcohol, while most of the women did. I not only joined the atheist/skeptical community to be part of a community, but also to find a woman. No such luck. I sometimes wish my libido had an “off” switch.

There was another women who did not drink alcohol, but she showed up once and never came back. I was unemployed at the time, and not feeling my sexiest.

The Spanish Lady did not seem interested in being in a relationship with anyone. I don’t know if that is a good thing, or not. She did not seem happy with her life, and seemed resigned to the idea of going back to Spain to take care of her family. I admit, I had an agenda/fantasy of my own. But what’s wrong with wanting to do something for her? Who will be there for her? Another woman in Chicago thought the Spanish Lady’s family (or at least some of them) wanted her to go back so they could live off her money. I don’t think she had a lot, but she works for the Spanish government, so she might have a pension. I just want to make her moan and scream during anal sex and not drink booze or go to church. I want her body and her mind, not her money. Maybe that is wanting to use her. But in the fantasy world in my head, she would love every minute of it.

I know one of her brothers is severely autistic, and lives in an institution in Spain. A couple of other siblings have some issues as well. But as I stated, I don’t think she is really choosing this. I have always felt that she felt pushed into that decision and seemed resigned to it. In my defense, I did not set out to save her. The complexity of her situation became apparent to me over time.

I know it’s kind of sad to be pining away for a woman I have not seen in a few years. But things aren’t going well in Austin. I spend a lot of time in my car going to and from work. I am trying to learn a new programming language so I can get a different job, and it is taking me a lot longer than I thought. And my current job is not going too well. I did not like my brief time in a startup, but big companies seem to have a lot of chaos as well. I need a job where I can work on only one thing at a time.

Plus no woman. There are not too many at the atheist/skeptical meetups that I go to. It is still pretty guy-heavy. There was one geared towards women, but I think the leader of that one broke up with the guy leading all the other ones. And I have started going to yoga, but sometimes that seems pretty heavy on the lez.

Other people seem to find new romantic sexual partners like putting on a new pair of shoes. I still cannot figure out how to get anywhere with women. For me, it is like women are from Mars and men are from Venus. Or whatever. Sometimes I am a bit envious of gay people. It seems like there is less misunderstanding. It seems like (in some contexts) it is okay for them to be more open about sexual interest. Aside from people trying to kill them and take away their civil rights, it seems like an okay life. (I am estranged from big chunks of my family, so that part I am used to.)

I always plan on getting stuff done every weekend (work on software, blog posts, meditate, work out), but I just surf the net and don’t get much done. On top of that, I am gaining weight. Working out is not a problem, but eating less is. The only part of my body that ever gains any muscle is the inside of my thighs. It can make life uncomfortable.

Then again, if the Spanish Lady comes back to Chicago, it’s not like she would want to be with me. And she might not want to stay anyway. Illinois has gone downhill with Rauner. Like Wisconsin with Walker. And Louisiana with Jindal. And Kansas with Brownback. Seriously, people: state elections matter.

Except here in Texas, where the Republicans just get crazier and crazier. When they are not denying climate change and talking about secession, they are asking for federal disaster relief.

Plus, if Trump is president, the Spanish Lady will almost certainly stay away. I think a lot of people in foreign countries will stay out of the US.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use. A larger version is here; you can read some of the labels in the larger version. North is towards the upper left corner.

Guns, Property, and Religion

A bill was filed with the Texas Legislature called the Teacher’s Protection Act. You can find the text here. The basic idea is to limit liability for teachers in self-defense situations.

First off, I thought that people already have a right to self-defense, regardless of who or where they are. According to the article, lawyers at the Association of Texas Professional Educators feel the same way.

But what is interesting about this one is that it allows “deadly force”. That phrase is used several times. I am guessing this means guns. I guess it’s not enough to be a pro-gun legislator in Texas. You have to be so pro-gun you have to file redundant bills.

It does say that “force or deadly force” can be used by the teacher to defend themselves or other people. What is interesting is there is also a provision for using force to protect school property. Not defense while ON the property, but defense OF the property. I guess putting that in the same section as defending actual human beings was not enough.

Back in the 1990s, Whoopi Goldberg had a talk show that was on late at night. One of her guests was George Carlin, and he said something that has stuck with me all these years: Democrats care about peoples’ rights, Republicans care about property rights.

Republicans seem to want to take that as far as they can. Some of them probably want to go back to the 1850s.

This bill was mentioned on The Immoral Minority blog. There is one paragraph in the comments that I think sums up a lot of the religious people in this country:

You righties mock the Islamists, yet you do the same things: glorify weapons of death, glorify those who use them, teach the usage of weapons of death to children, and by your ideology teach your people to hate the ‘other’ – thus ensuring that eventually, the ‘other’ is obliterated by your weapons of death. All because you, just like the Islamists, are totally lacking in any positive, socially transformative, ideas that are uplifting to your fellow man, including those with whom you disagree. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ is anathema to you, just as it is anathema to the Islamists. Your ideology is ‘obliterate your neighbor’, the same ideology that they have.

Image from Wikimedia,  assumed allowed under Fair Use.

SSDD In Texas

We have a new governor and new legislature here in Texas. Mostly Republican, largely Tea Party. The current group of wingnuts said the last group was not conservative enough. Granted, the last group said the group before them was not conservative enough.

I think a lot of conservatives are pathological. Nothing is ever conservative enough for them. News flash: If nothing is conservative enough, maybe the problem is you.

A few writers on the Texas Tribune Tribcast were wondering how much more conservative can some of the policies get, especially with abortion. I write this in jest, but it may come to pass: Perhaps there will be a menstruation fee, since that is a potential fetus leaving a woman’s body. If they are willing to lie about the timelines for fetal pain and fetal heartbeat, what would stop them from saying life begins at ovulation?

Governor Goodhair is leaving the scene. He was a state representative for six years, then Ag Commissioner from 1991 to 1999, Lt Gov for about a year, and was the longest-serving governor in Texas history for 14 years. What is it with conservatives who spend a long time in government, all the while saying government is the problem? (And Republicans think the answer to bad government by Republicans is to elect more Republicans.)

We might see less “crony capitalism” here in Texas. Perry started the Texas Emerging Technology Fund and the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, which seem to steer a lot of money towards Perry’s contributors. He also started the Texas Enterprise Fund, which unlike the other two does not have a reputation for being a slush fund for his friends, but does play a part in bringing business to Texas. All three have not always been closely monitored to ensure that companies were creating as many jobs as they claimed they would. Perry is one of those conservatives who think the government should stay out of the free market when it comes to clean air and water, but not when it comes to giving money to people and companies that do not really need it.

If Texas is such a great place to do business, why does the state have to bribe them to come here?

Perry is also famous (or infamous) for going to states with Democratic governors and telling companies based in those states to come to Texas. In all seriousness, why did he never go to states with Republican governors? If you really think that Texas has a better model that all 49 of the other states, then why not say so in all 49 of them? For one thing, you might inadvertently inspire companies in those blue states to look at other red states, and not come to Texas. And why is it that Perry would ask people from more educated states like California and Illinois to come to Texas, but he never went to Mississippi or Alabama? Does Perry want people from more educated states, or does he need them to come here? Whose model is really being validated here?

In other words, Perry is practicing corporate socialism: It works until other states run out of educated workers.

And then there is our new governor, Greg Abbott. Mr Stuff For Me, But None For Thee. He is in a wheelchair because a tree fell on him. He is rich because he sued the landowner and landscaping company and they paid him about $14,000 a month for several years. And he has been against accomadations for handicapped people at public facilities, and all for tort reform. I wonder what would have happened if Greg Abbott’s policies had been in place when the tree fell on him. But I am sure there is some convoluted legal argument about why it’s okay for him but not for you.

While he was still AG, his office ruled that chemical plants did not have to file reports about what compounds they had at their sites. The reasoning was that terrorists might use that information. But then Abbott said if anybody wanted that information they could just ask the chemical companies. If I can just ask for it, why can’t a terrorist just ask for it?

It is hard to believe that this is happening after the disaster in West, Texas. There is a town called Athens that almost had a similar disaster a few months ago (see here and here). Abbott said all you need to do as a homeowner is drive around your town to see if there are any potential risks.

This sounds like the typical conservative idea that companies need to be coddled and shielded from any liability or responsibility for their actions, and all the burden is on citizens. I think that companies should file that information with the government, and it should be available to citizens. If a company is putting people at risk, the burden should be on the company to tell people. Conservatives talk about responsibility, but they always seem to shift it to the people least able to bear it.

Image from Wikimedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Thoughts On Scotland, Water and the Future

During the decade or so I was living in Chicago, I thought that I was going to be in Chicago for the rest of my life. Then I wound up in Texas. But I do not think I will spend the rest of my life here.

One major reason is water. There was an excellent article in Men’s Health called “Who Stole the Water?” about water in Texas. Governor Goodhair is telling everyone to come down here, but not telling people that the water is running out. And since this is Texas, nobody wants to spend any money. As I wrote before, when you want to point out magical thinking, you say, “X does not just fall from the sky.” Water actually does fall from the sky, just not when and where you want it to.

I think Texas will not do well in the future. Climate change will hit Texas hard. It is already too hot for me already. According to the Drought Monitor, Illinois is doing fairly well. So I might go back to Chicago. Or perhaps up to Canada. I had thought about Portland or Seattle, but it looks like the northwest is getting a bit dry as well. I always thought the northwest was the best place to be to deal with climate change. Plus I don’t understand how Portland can have a drought. They are right on the Columbia River. Are they starting bonfires every time they light a joint?

I am toying with the idea of checking out Scotland. Part of my family is from there. Part of my family is also from Ireland. (Being Scottish AND Irish is NOT the same as being Scots-Irish. Scots-Irish are Lowland Scots who moved to northeastern Ireland. Some of them were not Scottish at all.)

My mother offered to take me to Scotland for a few weeks. I have not given her an answer either way. She is retired, and needs her money more than I do. But all the news about the independence referendum has got me thinking about looking into moving there. It would be a long shot. If they become independent, they will probably allow more people in. I hope they need software developers.

Another reason to go would be to find a wife. I have not had much success with women, so the idea that one woman will choose to do something that no woman until now has chosen to do is pretty slim. Plus, I do not want to break the chain.

I do not know too much about my family history. My great-grandmother came to the USA from Ireland with her parents when she was very young. She married an Irish man. All of her siblings went into interracial marriages. Polish and German I think. My grandmother married a man who was mostly Scottish with some Irish. Again, her siblings got their swirls on with Polish or Germans. Same with my mother’s siblings. And now my siblings are in interracial marriages. My sister-in-law is badda-boom-badda-bing, and my brother-in-law does not speak any Polish but has a last name with five consonants in a row that none of us can pronounce. (The “ski” at the end I can say.)

So if the chain is going to continue, it is up to me. Women have picked guys who beat the crap out of them over me. They can write me off in two seconds knowing nothing about me, yet somehow everybody fools everybody else. I do not assume that I will rank any better over there, but I could not rank any worse.

I did look at Craig’s Lust for Dublin, Glasgow and Edinburgh. There are a LOT of American women who are interested in Irish and Scottish men. I am guessing it is the accent, because being Irish and Scottish has not worked at all for me. Seeing some of these ads gives me pause. Moving to another country is a lot more difficult than moving to another state. Moving inside of Chicago was a major hassle. Some of them are really delusional. One said “I want a older rich man who can come t the states (florida) and take me to vegas and marr and take me back to their country. And live happly forever.” Another said she was part Irish and part Croation. She’s soooooo Croatian, she doesn’t need to spell it correctly. Why place a personal in another country? What do these women think will happen? Then I think to myself: I am reading these ads, so maybe I am a bit off the wall thinking about this as well.

My employer does have an office in Edinburgh. I am guessing that the clients are probably in the financial sector, which I have heard is pretty big in Edinburgh. Many financial firms said they would leave if Scotland voted to become independent. (After that news came out, the “No” gained a bit in the polls; it makes me wonder who does Scotland really need to be independent from?)

Lately I have been spending more time learning some new software languages. That is one reason I have not posted here as much. I need to get a Plan B ready. So I guess my future might lie in Chicago, Toronto, or Edinburgh.

Image from Wikimedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Thoughts on States’ Rights and Local Control

It seems that conservatives push states’ rights when they disagree with the federal government. But when a state does something they do not like (usually a state other than their own), they have no issues siding with the federal government. They go on and on about local control, but they have no problem butting in when someone somewhere else does something they do not like.

Right now Wendy Davis is running for governor of Texas. A few months ago, the Texas Tribune Tribcast said it might look bad for her if most of her money comes from out of state. A lot of Ted Cruz’s campaign money came from out of state. The guys who ran against Hillary Clinton for Senate got money from outside of New York. A lot of Tea Partiers have gotten money from outside their states/districts. For people who go on and on about unchanging values, they sure seem willing to cast them aside when it’s convenient. IOKIYAR.

Many of them say gay marriage is a states’ rights issue. A lot of the money for Proposition 8 in California came from the Mormon Church in Utah. Why can’t those Utah conservatives mind their own business? There are a lot of states with laws against gay marriage. But I bet if they thought they had a chance of getting an amendment to the US Constitution passed, they would go for it.

When New York passed a law allowing gay marriage, Rick Perry said that was a good thing. He said if you’re okay with that, then live in New York. If you are not, you can live in Texas. I think that how they want people to think they view states’ rights. But then after he said that he was quiet for a few days, and said that gay marriage is always bad. I wonder what happened. Perhaps some of his paymasters had a talk with him about it.

Ted Cruz recently criticized the Obama adminstration for not going after people for marijuana laws. As some have pointed out, he doesn’t seem to think that states should not make their own laws on gay marriage, gun control and abortion. But don’t hold your breath.

And when a level of government below the state does something a conservative does not like, they think it’s okay for a state to make a law overriding a local law.

Travis County has required companies running gun trade shows to perform background checks for all “person to person” gun sales. And Greg Abbot had threatened to sue Travis County. Why can’t Travis County do what Travis County thinks is best? Would it really be so hard to have it in a different county? I have heard Taylor really wants to build up its economy. And Hutto has nowhere to go but up. (Hutto is northeast of Austin. It is about as small and rural as it sounds.)

One of the things I forgot to mention in my review of my first year in Austin is that Austin recently banned plastic bags at retail stores. At first I kept going into HEB and get to the counter and realized I did not have a bag. And I still see people walk out of the store without stuff in bags and they put things in their car one item at a time.

Well, a Repub in the lege from another part of Texas proposed the Shopping Bag Freedom ActHis objection was that it could spread disease and bacteria, and it is an overreach of big government. I wonder how he feels about chemical plants polluting rivers and blowing up. To see why a bag ban can be a good idea, see this page.

Sometimes repubs have this magical view that state goverments can do no wrong. Unless they pass a law allowing people to smoke pot or allowing gay marriage.

Then there is the issue of Park 51 in New York City, aka the “Ground Zero Mosque”.  A lot of conservatives were against it, even though it got approval from a local zoning board. And let’s not forget, that Constitution they all claim to love says we ALL have religious freedom. I thought it was funny seeing all of these repubs fall all over themselves screaming about this. They don’t want outsiders telling them what to do, yet they have no problem sticking their noses in other people’s business. The best part: Seeing conservatives get soooooo concerned about NYC. Usually there is a competition amongst conservatives over who hates NYC the most.

Sidebar: This country is becoming more urban and less rural, and they seem to think that only people in small towns are “real Americans.” How can these people say they love America, when they hate most of the people in it?

These people talk about freedom. My question for them is: Freedom for whom to do what?

I am not saying that states’ rights is not a valid issue. But if you look at segregation and gay marriage, it seems to get the most airtime when Southern conservatives see something they do not like. If they only time you talk about states’ rights is when you want to kick someone around, do not be shocked if some people do not get on board.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use

Second Last Post On First Year In Austin

This is my second last post on my first year in Austin. (Not my second-to-last, or penultimate, post on the subject, but the second time that I think I am writing the final post.)

One thing I noticed that was not a surprise is there are a lot more trucks here. Sometimes when I am going somewhere I think for a second that someone stole my car or I have no idea where it is. Then I walk ten feet and I find that it was obscured by a truck.

I have also noticed that a lot of parking lots have narrow spots. Some of them are almost too small for my car. I find this odd since there are so many trucks. If I can barely fit in some of these spaces, there is no way they could fit.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use

Last Post On First Year In Austin

I use Meetup to find things to do. I joined a few years ago when I was in Chicago. I actually have a couple of accounts: One I use for technology meetups, and one for everything else (atheism/skepticism, science, sci-fi, gaming, Celtic culture, etc).

When I moved, I left the Chicago groups and found groups in Austin that I was interested in. I have noticed that a lot of Meetup groups will sometimes charge for events. It seems like a lot of them are people using them to run their businesses. It strikes me as a bit unseemly. I like using to find stuff to do that does not cost a lot. Sometimes the organizers of groups that I am in will ask for money to cover the organizer fees. That I do not have a problem with.

Anyway, I don’t remember too many events requiring a fee in Chicago. It seems to be more common in Austin.

Another thing that I have noticed in both Chicago and Austin is that a lot of people love to do stuff on Tuesdays. It is true for technical user groups and the non-technical groups. It is pretty frustrating. It seems when people talk about starting a group, they will say, “When should we do this? I know! Let’s do it on Tuesdays!”

I can see why people do not want to schedule something on Fridays. But what is wrong with the other three days? A lot of times when I am planning my week, I will notice that there are at least two things on Tuesdays that I want to attend, but Wednesday or Thursday (or both) will be completely blank. In all seriousness, I do not understand why people reflexively want to schedule something on Tuesdays. When I hear about people say they are thinking about starting a group I ask them to NOT pick Tuesdays.

I generally like to go to regular, monthly meetings. I generally do not like to go to one-off events. Perhaps the rest of the world likes to go to one-off events and I am the only person who does not.

But the Tuesday Reflex seems odd to me.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use

More Thoughts On Austin

I realized something about Austin that I really don’t like.

A lot of people will cut across two or three lanes of traffic right before the exit. This happens a lot.

I also have noticed there are a lot more types of trucks on the highways: many types of large equipment being transported, wind turbine blades, lots of stuff like that. Sometimes I wish that I had a camera to take pictures of these large trucks. I don’t remember seeing so many types of large trucks in Illinois.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use


Thoughts On Austin

I have been in Austin since October, 2012.

When I moved here, a friend of mine from college let me stay for a couple of months in a condo she owns. I spent that time looking for a more permnanent place. It was harder than I thought.

I was still on a contract, not a full-time employee. Some landlords had a problem with that, others were concerned that I had been unemployed. I made a copy of my savings account statement. I have enough in there to live for a year. The guy at the bank was impressed, but apartment companies did not care. If you brag to other states about all the jobs you have, you are going to get some people with spotty histories. I wondered that if someone had no job and no savings, then would they be able to find a place to live here? So much for second chances.

Just about all the apartment complexes have a pool, which I have no interest in at all. I guess it’s nice if a family has kids, but I still do not like the fact that I have to pay for something that I do not want.

Costs are starting to go up here. I was paying $675/month for about 575 square feet. I looked at a few other places, but I was not able to find anything better in time. Besides, I think with moving I would come out behind. But still, my rent is now $715/month. A new person moving into that space would pay $750. I am also paying more for cable, as I have mentioned before.

I would have liked to find a studio like I had in Chicago, but I could not find any small apartments. I did not want to live near campus. I have heard that everything around campus is very expensive.

There is not much mass transit here. There is a system that seems geared towards the university. Needing a car to go everywhere is a real drag. My brakes started making some grinding noises, and I thought that I might need a new car. But I got them fixed.

The traffic lights are not as rational as Chicago. There, north and south get the left turn, then the green light. Then east and west get the left turn, then the green light. I have never quite been able to discern the pattern here. Honestly, I get too frustrated sometimes to try to sort it out. I think it is something like north gets the left turn, then north and south get the green light, then south gets the left turn, then east and west go through the cycle. What I can tell you is that I have spent quite a bit of time at red lights when people travelling in three directions are waiting, and there is nobody going in the direction that gets the green.

Plus merging onto and off of highways can be a pain. When you go onto a road, you are merging to your left, but when you get off you merge to the right, into the same lane as people merging into the traffic. I am surprised there are not more accidents. I wonder why the roads were not designed such that you enter on the left and exit on the right.

There are a lot of yoga studios here, as well as a few Zen groups. I would like to spend more time on those. I might look into living in an “intentional community”. There are a couple of those in Austin. I’ve been unemployed, so technology takes priority over other things. So if Secular Texas meets on the same night as the Groovy/Grails group, I go to Groovy. So I am not as involved in the atheist community here as I would like.

The atheist community is not as large or robust as I would like. There is a podcast made here called “The Atheist Experience”. I have not gotten around to listening to it yet, but a lot of people in other parts of the country listen to it. I somehow got the impression that the atheist/skeptical community would be bigger. I have heard that the people who make the show do not mix much with the other atheists in Austin. There is no group with the work “Skeptic” in their name.

There is a branch of the CFI here, and that is a good group. They usually have something once a week. Secular Texas is a spin-off of that. They also have a group for atheist/skeptic women called Secular Suzies. Perhaps I will find my dream woman in Texas.

I have been going to quite a few meetups. There are a few oriented around games and science fiction. Geekdom is pretty large. It is for people who are into science and technology, as well as science fiction, fantasy, comic books, and stuff like that. Sometimes somebody there gets on my nerves. There is a LOT of science fiction out there. If you think about how much there is to “Star Trek”, “Star Wars” or “Doctor Who”, there is a lot of stuff. I hate it when someone quotes a movie or something, and I ask them what they are referencing, and they will look at me like I have two heads and say, “Haven’t you seen XYZ?” No I have not. There is a lot to see.

I have also started going to the Austin Celtic Meetup. When I was in Chicago, one of the most Irish cities in America, I never really looked into Irish or Celtic culture. But somehow I found out these guys were giving Gaelic lessons, so I decided to go. In Chicago I also went to the Latino Atheists group, and now I live in an area with a lot more Latinos, yet I do not really know too many Latinos.

I have met Hispanics who grew up in Texas, yet do not speak any Spanish. Granted, it has only been a few so far, but it was surprising. It seemed odd since this used to be part of Mexico.

Sometimes I think Austin needs to get over itself. I am sure there are people who grow up in small conservative towns all over Texas, who dream of the day they can get out. To someone like that, Austin would probably seem like heaven. But if you have lived in another big city (like Chicago, Portland or Madison) or another college town, it is easy to look at Austin and not see what the big deal is. I guess nobody told them that it is not the only place in the world with a few blocks of bars.

I said this at a meetup, and there was a woman there from another part of Texas, who told me that “you just don’t get it. I have lived all over Texas, and Austin is different.” I did not respond, because it was hard to without calling her stupid. I stated I had been here less that a year. Maybe Austin is unique compared to the rest of Texas, but if you think about the whole country it is not that unique. Besides, if you cannot think about the world beyond Texas, then perhaps Austin is not the place for you.

I don’t know if I will spend the rest of my life here. I would like more control. Right now I do not feel like I have it. Things are not going too well at my job.

Everyone has the best BBQ in Texas. It’s like a religion. They can’t all be right. One guy from Chicago thought it was funny that Austin has a reputation for good food and restaurants. He said it’s a good place if you like beef.

One of the things that was really bugging me about Chicago was there always seemed to be parades, or street fairs, or art fests, or streets getting closed so a few hundred people could ride their bikes. Buses were getting re-routed for these things, and it could make it hard to drive around. If I want to go somewhere, I just want to get in my car (or on a bus or on a train) and go from point A to point B. I shouldn’t have to check a website to see if I need to change my route.

Now Austin has Formula One. (It might also get a soccer team, or something.) I had to travel for work the same day as Formula One (or the day after). So it was really crowded. I would like to live someplace where I can just go about my business.

One thing about Chicago that I really did not like was the constant sirens every night, and sometimes all day. Here I can go several days without hearing a siren.

I have noticed that people from different parts of Texas seem to not like Houston.

People keep mentioning that Texas has no income tax, as if that is the only reason to live here. It is easy to have no income tax when you have oil. Sales tax seems pretty high. Perry is trying to convince more people from blue states to move here. Why not try to recruit from states that have Republican governors? If you are goint to brag to people in New York about Texas’ lower costs but not do the same for New Jersey, then you are a liar, an idiot, or both.

Those blue states have higher taxes because they actually build roads and educate their kids. (So Perry is a typical conservative: Someone else foots the bill, and he takes the credit.) If people in Texas want the growth to continue, eventually they will have to start paying for roads and schools. Either Texans will start paying more, or the model will break down. You can’t steal smart people from other states forever.

Sometimes I think that this is all a dream, or illusion. I’ll be putting gas in my car, and I will think, “This has been nice, but I am going to go to sleep tonight, and tomorrow I will wake up in Chicago, and get on with my life.” Over the past few days, I have thought a few times: I was in Chicago, then I was in Austin, now I am here. How did that happen?

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use