Archive for the 'Austin' Category
For quite a while now, I’ve been meaning to start a series of blog posts about interesting projects that my friends are working on. Conveniently, a friend recently made news with an event at the Texas Capitol.
My friend Lori Najvar recently started a nonprofit called PolkaWorks to help preserve and feature cultural traditions through documentaries, other media, and events. One of the PolkaWorks projects is a photo exhibit on Texas auctioneers. The exhibit was on display last week at the Texas Capitol and, on Friday, Lori organized an auction demonstration in the Capitol rotunda to help bring attention to the exhibit. The event was featured on KXAN news.
If you look very closely in the video, you might see me in the crowd. And you can see some of my work on the PolkaWorks website, which I helped Lori set up.
Over the last few years, I’ve put together a few homemade versions of board games. Websites such as Board Game Geek and Game-it-Yourself! feature lists of games that can be made at home. Some can be printed, cut out, and playable in a matter of minutes. Below are a few of my favorites.
Time: 30 minutes
Glik is an abstract game where players try to move their colored pieces from their start square to their goal area. The board is made up of cards, most of which are randomly placed at the start of the game, adding an element of chance. Pieces move in a straight line until they encounter a wall, a neutral piece, or a player’s piece. In addition to Glik, the same board cards can be used to play the game Glak.
Time: 30 minutes
In Rat Hot, players act as merchants, trying to stack their goods near each other, while guarding themselves from rats. Players take turns placing cards onto the board, attempting to balance defensive and offensive strategy. Cards can score points simultaneously for the player and the opponent, plus the game can end abruptly if too many rats are exposed at once.
Time: 40 minutes
In addition to web-published games, I’ve also made my own versions of games. For instance, I made a homemade version of an otherwise out-of-print game called Holiday. I used the open source vector graphic program Inkscape along with Creative Commons licensed artwork from the Open Clip Art Library to make my own version of the board.
In Holiday, players bid for control of a charter plane and the ability to determine the plane’s next destination. Each destination city has a number of sights, each with an ideal day to see them. Players score points by playing one of their sight cards in the appropriate city. The closer you are to the sight’s ideal day, the more points you get. The game ends once any player has played all their cards. The player with the most points wins.
I spent some time tonight tracking down notes from some of the SXSW Interactive panels. There are some panels I couldn’t attend because they overlapped with others and some I attended but wasn’t satisfied with my own notes. I’ve compiled a list below of six blogs that I found to have great notes.
- Throwspace’s SXSW Interactive 2007
- Hellonline (Eran’s blog)
In addition, the official SXSW Podcasts are already being posted. Unfortunately, the official podcasts get posted over weeks and months, so if you’re looking for specific panels it may be a while before they make it onto the site. The podcasts from SXSW Interactive 2006 are all online though and there are some definite gems in the bunch.
Unfortunately, the SXSW Baby Notes Exchange Wiki has seen almost no updates during the festival. The the wiki was a great idea, requiring a login goes against the nature of wikis and was apparently enough to keep anyone from creating or adding content.
I’ve done all my SXSW research. I’ve read the descriptions for the Interactive panels. I’ve watched the trailers for the documentaries that are part of the Film festival. And I’ve listened to at least a short snippet of each of the songs in the 2007 SXSW music bittorrent.
Here’s a short list of some of the stuff I’m most looking forward to:
- Kathy Sierra Opening Remarks
- Open Content, Remix Culture and the Sharing Economy
- How to Make Your Ideas Stick
- TWISTED: A Balloonamentary
- Big Rig
- This is another niche subculture documentary, about truckers. It’s by the same people who did the excellent documentary Scratch.
Overall, I’m a bit disappointed by the music this year. While Jim Bianco and Golem are artists I got turned onto by listening to the mp3s, most of the artists I’m looking forward to seeing are ones I was already familiar with. The interactive festival is bigger and better this year though, so it may make up for the disappointment of the music.
My friend Jeremy just sent me the link to the 2007 bittorrent of South By Southwest music from various artists performing at this year’s music festival. It works out to be just over 3GB of free music. It’s a lot to weed through, but there are always some gems to be discovered. I previously posted some tips for making it through all the music in time for SXSW.
It’s a good idea to check the official SXSW site from time to time because they usually post another batch of additional music, as the festival approaches. And a batch of trailers for the film festival should be posted soon too.
After reading Fast Food Nation and watching Supersize Me, I’m no big fan of the fast food industry. Lately, I’ve noticed a new trend that bugs me. McDonald’s is tearing down what apprear to be perfectly good buildings and then rebuilding new ones in their place. I’ve seen this happen to two Austin locations recently and my mom mentioned that the same thing was being done in Gallup, New Mexico while she was there visiting.
I did some research today and found that it’s happening all over the place. It’s apparently a corporate strategy that’s even losing them some franchisees. To me, it seems like a waste of resources and a bad environmental move to completely demolish and rebuild a strcture that’s solidly built and only 20 years old. Why not let the buildings learn?
I was very happy recently to run across a New Orleans brass band show on Austin’s KOOP radio. I have been a fan of brass band music for a long time, but it’s a rarity in these days of commercial radio.
After getting hooked to the weekly brass band show on WWOZ while working for a few months in New Orleans, I used to record the show via streaming audio. I was so disappointed a few years ago when they cancelled the show that I wrote a letter to the WWOZ management to complain. The last time I checked, the show still hadn’t been brought back.
On the bright side, one of the New Orleanians relocated to Austin post-Katrina has brought a brass band show to Austin. Brass Band Brother airs on Wednesdays from 3:00 to 3:30 pm. For any brass band fans not in the Austin area, KOOP has an online stream. Now if only I could find a gypsy brass band radio show.
UPDATE: Sadly, broadcasts of the Brass Band Brother show ended in 2006.
My office at work has no windows and is pretty stark. I’ve been needing something to spruce up the walls.
For years I’ve been wanting to order a print of a 1910 panoramic photo of downtown Austin that’s on the Library of Congress Website. However, the price and/or the hassle has kept me from doing so. It turns out the LOC site has a much easier system for ordering prints now, but I have already taken matters into my own hands.
I used a program called The Rasterbator to convert the image into a series of 8″x11″ sheets that fit together to make a poster that’s over 7 feed wide. I used Scotch Clear Removable Mounting Squares to mount the individual sheets on my office wall. I’m very happy with the end result. Click on the photo below to see a larger version.
This week’s Austin Chronicle features an article about a radio show on KVRX called These Aren’t the Droids You’re Looking For. The show is a weekly half hour of radio all about Star Wars. I haven’t heard the show yet, but I applaud the creativity of the concept.
Everything in the movies is there to be discussed and dissected from as many angles as possible. Military strategy, scientific inconsistencies, the theological subtleties behind the Force: all in an evening’s work. As Needles says, “For the sake of the show, there’s more to talk about if you accept the world as real.”
The Austin American-Statesman has a story on the new plan to bring free wireless to much of downtown Austin. This is in addition to the existing free hotspots in parks and businesses.
The City of Austin plans to create a high-speed wireless network that will deliver free broadband Internet access to parts of downtown Austin, East Austin and Zilker Park.
The city is partnering with Cisco Systems Inc., the largest maker of computer networking equipment, and the World Congress on Information Technology. Cisco will donate nearly $700,000 worth of wireless networking equipment for the project to the group hosting the international gathering of technology leaders in Austin in early May.
Amanda and I flew back into town last night from Beijing. On the flight from Houston to Austin, I finished my book, so I was looking out the window when I noticed some HUGE writing on the ground. The writing spelled out “LUECKE” using trees.
When I got home, I looked up the word and Google pointed me to a post on the Google Sightseeing blog about the giant letters. It turns out that Luecke is the name of a rancher who decided to leave his mark on the world in a big way.
One of the commentors mentioned an article that had been writen in the Austin American Statesman about Mr. Luecke. I tracked down the article, from March 6, 2000, which included the following:
Before you even think of invading Earth, check the trademark just north of Smithville and go see Jimmy Luecke. You see, it’s Luecke’s world — some of us just fly over it.
We know you’ve seen the name. Commercial airline passengers into and out of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport have seen it carved out of the woods on the Luecke ranch. Jet pilots who don’t know who Luecke is have long guessed he cut the name 3 1/2 miles long and 3,100 feet high to make absolutely sure you knew who owns this planet. Hell, John Glenn, our oldest astronaut, helped take pictures of it on a shuttle mission two years ago.
I just finished up my last day of SXSW Interactive. Unfortunately, I’ll be missing the last day of the conference. Of the panels and presentations I made it to, my favorites were:
- Daniel Gilbert’s How to Do Precisely the Right Thing at All Possible Times
- DIY Now More Than Ever
- Roll Your Own Web Conference
- What People Are Really Doing on the Web
I wish I’d taken better notes, especially in that last one—What People Are Really Doing on the Web. I’d be especially interested if anyone wrote down the three trends Michele Madansky mentioned at the end of the Q&A. I remember the first one was something along the lines of personalizing media. My brain was a bit fried by the end of the day though and I missed the other two.
I would have included the Ambient Findability in my list of favorites, but I think Peter Morville needed a good dose of Presentation Zen. He certainly wasn’t the only one, but his slides were the most information dense I ran across during the conference. He had great photos and illustrations to back up his talk, but many of the slides were text-heavy to the point of distraction.
The Texas Juggling Society held its 13th annual Jugglefest earlier this month. The festival just keeps getting better every year. This year, visiting performers included Alex Chimal of Circus Chimera, Luke Burrage from Europe, and unicyclist Connie Cotter.
I’ve posted a few of my photos from the event on flickr.
My friend Jeremy, a SXSW volunteer, just sent me a link to the 2006 Bittorrent of SXSW music. It’s a great way to help decide what bands to try to catch at this year’s festival. But even if you’re not braving the crowds at SXSW, it’s also good for some free/guilt-free music. And chances are you’ll find a few bands you hadn’t heard of before.
If listening to 700+ songs seems daunting, check out my tips from last year on weeding through the SXSW MP3s.
Update: The official SXSW bittorrent page is now live. And they’ve included a bittorrent of this year’s movie trailers. Keep an eye out for more music releases too. They released an update last year, as the festival got closer.
I blogged earlier about tracking exercise using the Google Pedometer. A reader named Dustin sent me a link to an Austin-centric version of the Gmaps Pedometer. It appears to be missing some of the latest features of the original site, but it could save Austin users a few clicks.
Amanda and I have made getting in shape one of our top priorities for the coming year. To get started, we’ve been taking walks every other day, over the holiday break. We often walk the 4.5 mile loop around Town Lake, but it’s sometimes easier to walk to different places around town to take care of errands instead. The Gmaps Pedometer has proved a handy tool for tracking the distance of our errand walks.
Amanda and I toured the Cave Without a Name today with some friends. The cave is west of New Braunfels, about two hours from Austin. Formations include cave grapes (photo, right), a 40 scoop ice cream cone, a rooster claw helictite, giant cave bacon, a uvula formation, and soda straws. One of my favorite formation names was the “Leaning Tower of Boerne,” which is named after the nearby town of Boerne, TX.
And if you’re in Austin and you read this in time, they’ll be playing another show tonight at the same place. I didn’t make it in time to see the opener last night, but the Slackers took the stage at around 11pm and played a great, high energy show.
If you can’t make it to the Flamingo Cantina tonight, check out a few of their songs on myspace.com.
The Scarborough-Phillips Library at St. Edward’s University recently changed to new card catalog software. Today, I used the LibraryLookup Project to create a new ISBN search bookmarklet. The bookmarklet allows quick searching of the library catalog from sites such as Amazon.com.
On the extremely unlikely chance that someone might search for it, I’m posting the SEU Scarborough-Phillips Library Bookmarklet here. To use the bookmarklet, simply drag the link above into a browser’s bookmarks or toolbar, then when browsing Amazon.com click on the bookmarklet to check if the library has the book in its collection. For more general information on bookmarklets, see Wikipedia.
Thanks to a recent unexpected gift from Brian Mitchell, I now have a flickr pro account to play with. I just posted my first photo, a panoramic view of the Austin skyline, made with AutoStitch. AutoStitch is a new program that simplifies the process of making panoramic composits by automatically piecing together multiple shots.
I’ve been interested in panoramic photography ever since I saw an exhibit of old black and white panoramic photos made by a camera that litterally panned as it exposed the film. One of the shots included the same clown twice because he was able to run behind the camera to the other side of the shot before the camera finished it’s pan.
One of my all-time favorite photos is a panoramic shot of the Austin skyline from 1910, on the Library of Congress website.