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.

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

Still Getting Settled In Texas

I don’t know when I will get back to posting about atheism, skepticism, politics, fitness and dividend investing.

A friend of mine from college is letting me stay at a place she owns for a couple of months. So in addition to finding out where everything is I have to find a new place. It takes a while to get to work everyday. When things get more routine I will post more.

I am in Austin

I have moved to Austin, Texas. I accepted a job offer here. It is a six-month contract. Hopefully either it will lead to a full-time gig, or I will be able to find something else afterward.

Doing a good job at my job is job #1. But I will also hopefully have time to learn more about technology, and meet people in the atheist/skeptical community here in Austin.

I will be updating the pages on this site. I have a list of atheist groups in Illinois. I will update that page with Texas groups. I do not know at this point what I will do with the info about the Illinois groups.

Image from Wikipedia

Portland And Austin

I was in Texas recently for a few days. It was my fifth trip to Texas. I went in May 2010 to Dallas, Austin, Houston and San Antonio. I went in August 2011 to Dallas and Austin. I went in September 2011 to Dallas. I went in April 2012 to Austin, and lastly August 2012 to Austin. Every time I go it feels like a magic land of opportunity.

So why a picture of Oregon for this post? I am looking for a job, and I have been speaking with a firm in Portland. The technology they are using seems interesting, and they seem interested in me. (I am also talking to some people in Austin, but the Portland discussions are further along.)

Yet I am not too thrilled with the idea of going to Portland. I know this is kind of irrational. I need a job, Portland does not have a reputation for having a lot of religious nutcases, it has more water than Texas, and I know someone in Portland who said that I could stay with them for a while.

The negatives are that Oregon has fewer metro areas than Texas, and Portland is smaller than Austin. However, the Portland metro area is bigger than the Austin metro area. I have been reading a lot of articles and seeing news stories stating that Texas has good job growth. Oregon is not mentioned too often. Plus I have nobody I can stay with in Austin. I would have to get by completely on my savings, and to paraphrase Keynes, my job search could outlast my savings. My plan was to stay with my friends in Portland and find something there if nothing works out in Chicago or Austin. Is it smart to go directly to your backup plan?

Plus: I have been looking at and planning on moving to Austin for a while. If I move to Portland, it’s kind of like admitting defeat. I would not be doing what I want. Circumstances would be forcing me to do something that I was not planning. I am trying to get control over my life, and if I move to a city I was not planning on, am I in control?

Image from Wikipedia


More Thoughts On My Austin Trip

Since I did not drive here, I need to take a cab going back and forth from the motel to the conference. It is about $10/trip. Which is $20/day. I might try walking tomorrow. It’s only about 3 miles. I think with the cab fare it might now be more expensive doing things the way I did them than it would have been to drive.

Another option is to get a local to drop me off at night.