This Week in WTF, May 29, 2015

– I think of all the education that I missed…: A teacher in Texas is facing criminal charges in connection with allegedly giving a 15-year-old student a “full contact lap dance” in class. For his birthday, authorities claim:

The teen told investigators that he sat in a chair next to Smith’s desk as she moved back and forth on his crotch and touched him all over his body. Near the end of the dance, the student said Smith sank to her knees and put her head between his legs. The incident reportedly happened in front of the other students during class.

The student admitted that he spanked Smith’s buttocks a couple of times, according to KHOU.

Because of course he did.

– Just tell me this—is there a Klondike Bar in it for me?: What would you do to achieve “internet fame”? Would you light yourself on fire while being recorded, and post the video online? No? Well, the you’re smarter than these kids (h/t Jack).

– It’s just a drink. It’s just a drink. It’s just…: It took a jury in Florida fifteen minutes to convict two people of having sex on the beach. Not the drink, the sex (h/t Amy): Continue reading

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Public Art in Austin

Austin360 has an article up by Jeanne Claire van Ryzin on public art in Austin. I mention it in part because it is a good article, but mostly because my wife is quoted in it and I’m giddily proud of her for being awesome.

It covers several temporary public art exhibits I have gotten to see recently, and I hope you get to enjoy Austin’s public art, too.

This is from “Albedo,” by Mason Leland Moore and Joel Noland.

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More pictures on Flickr.

This is a composite of pictures I took at “The Color Inside” (PDF flyer) by James Turrell:

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More pictures at Flickr and Tumblr.

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The Rise of the Super Zips

Presumably because we just don’t have enough ways yet to isolate the super-rich from everyone else, the Washington Post has prepared an interactive map of the nation that identifies what it calls “Super Zips”—zip codes that rank in the 95th to 99th percentile for median income and education level.

Austin, Texas has eight Super Zips. Not at all surprisingly, they are all west of I-35. In fact, with the exception of a small sliver of 78749, they are all west of Mopac. (Fun fact: I lived in that sliver of ’46 for just over three years! In an apartment. Trust me, the Super Zip-ness comes from the west side of the highway.) The highest overall score, a 99, goes to 78746, which includes West Lake Hills and Rollingwood, and should not be a surprise either. The highest median income, however, is in 78739 ($132,552 to the ’46’s $129,188).

The lowest score in Austin, from my cursory review of the map, is east Austin’s 78742 zip code. It ranks in the 10th percentile, with a median income of $21,071 and 14% college graduate rate. It also doesn’t seem to have much in the way of buildings.

Just for fun, I thought I’d look at all of the zip codes where I have lived in my 14 years in Austin:

  • 78705: 48th percentile, median income of $11,910 (although it’s worth noting that this zip code is probably mostly college students);
  • 78751: 57th percentile, median income of $37,521;
  • 78749: 90th percentile, median income of $79,712 (especially now that I’m not there to drag it down);
  • 78704: 66th percentile, median income of $47,336 (damn hippies);
  • 78751 (I moved back here for a while); and
  • 78723: 43rd percentile, median income of $41,839 (interesting that it has a higher median income than ’51, but it only has 28% college graduates to ’51’s 64%).

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Also interesting: the zip code where I grew up, 78209 in San Antonio, is famous for its “old money” excess, but it only ranks in the 79th percentile these days. Still impressive, but it’s clear that the real concentrations of wealth have moved further northwest (check out 78248, 78257, 78258, and 78015 for the big bucks). I bet the ’09 still has an edge in snobbery, though!

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Stop Trying to Make “Hail Satan” Happen, Greg Abbott

Satan School Girl (South Park)Greg Abbott never could decide exactly how to respond to the stunt planned by his former staffer, Lorenzo Garcia, who is currently the UT chapter chair of Young Conservatives of Texas. As Joe Deshotel describes at Burnt Orange Report, he first threw Garcia under the bus, but then decided this was a good opportunity for political cheap shots. Most notable, of course, was his attempt to resurrect the “Hail Satan” nontroversy from this summer. He couldn’t even do that right, of course, claiming that it was a series of chants during Wendy Davis’ filibuster. It actually occurred during the protests that started with the second special session, and by all appearances it was actually a handful (at most) of kids who clearly did not realize that many people would actually take them seriously.

I tried to find any media coverage of the incident that wasn’t overblown and sensational. U.S. News and World Report called it heckling, which seems fair. The Blaze offered a grudgingly fair assessment with a shout-out to the nutters: “Obviously, it is much more likely that the abortion supporters were chanting ‘Hail Satan!’ to mock pro-lifers rather than actually hailing Lucifer, but anything is possible.” Of course, Natural News (via Infowars, of course), let the crazy fly:

Obviously, not all abortion activists are Satan worshippers, but you’ll notice that none of them have denounced the Satanists, either. By failing to denounce it, they effectively embrace and welcome Satan worship as part of their cause. [Emphasis in original.]

Somewhat hilariously, the episode drew the ire of actual Satanists: Continue reading

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Drinking, Driving, and DAs: The Lehmberg Story Has Gotten Too Interesting for Austin’s Good (UPDATED)

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From “Remove Rosemary Lehmberg” on Facebook

The Travis County legal community is choosing sides in the battle over whether our currently-incarcerated district attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg, should get to keep her job when she gets out of jail in a few weeks. She is currently serving a 45-day sentence for driving while intoxicated, which could be as short as 22-23 days if she manages to stay out of trouble while in there. A Travis County lawyer (also a colleague, law school classmate, and friend) filed a petition to remove her from office, citing a Texas statute allowing removal of a district attorney for intoxication. The County Attorney’s office has now filed suit under that statute to seek Lehmberg’s removal, and a group of Austin attorneys has filed a “Friends of Rosemary” memorandum opposing her removal.

My first thought upon hearing about the memorandum in Lehmberg’s support was a sense that, as a non-practicing but still-licensed attorney, I am somewhat on the sidelines of this debacle. The district attorney is elected by all the voters of Travis County, though, not just the attorneys who vote (even if the attorneys are usually the only ones who closely follow DA and judicial elections.) This affects me and every other individual in this county, even if I will never professionally deal with Lehmberg or her office. I understand the arguments in favor of Lehmberg remaining in office. Considering all of the factors at play, I’m not entirely happy to say this, but I agree that she should go. I think it would be better for her to resign, but the chess pieces are in place now, so I guess we’ll see what happens.

To be clear, I have one reason for this position: public safety. I do not care if the district attorney was drinking alcohol per se. I do not care what a public servant does in their private time, except when it directly threatens the safety of others. Driving while (apparently, very) intoxicated is a direct threat to public safety. The end (of my position statement.)

Here is a bit of a play-by-play of what has happened so far.

I. THE ARREST

According to a police affidavit, as reported by KXAN, a 911 call at about 10:45 p.m. on Friday, April 12, 2013 reported that a Lexus had been driving in the bike lane and weaving for about a mile on southbound FM 620 in west Austin. Police arrested the driver, DA Rosemary Lehmberg. Her behavior at the police station is sure to be the stuff of legend (the affidavit reportedly described her as “both polite and excited, insulting and cocky.”) (Also, restraints were involved.) She was released on a personal bond at about 7:30 that Saturday morning. Continue reading

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Is North Korea Targeting……Austin?

Okay, this scene was pretty scary. (via alternatehistory.com)

Okay, this scene was pretty scary. (via alternatehistory.com)

I’ve heard some rumblings this morning that North Korea has a list of targets in the U.S. for the missiles it may or may not have, and that this list includes my current abode of Austin, Texas. Let me first note that, according to KEYE, the source for this list is the Drudge Report, so take the news with a multi-kiloton grain of salt. Second, why Austin?

See, I grew up in San Antonio in the 1980’s, when nuclear war was the disaster du jour, much like the zombie apocalypse today. Because San Antonio had four Air Force bases and a major Army base, we pretty much all figured that we would be among the first to go if the Russians ever decided to bomb us. By the age of ten or eleven, I had an oddly fatalistic view of nuclear war, and movies like The Day After didn’t scare me all that much, because I didn’t think I’d be around for my hair to fall out in the first place. A native San Antonio author, Whitley Strieber, even co-wrote a post-apocalyptic travelogue of a post-nuclear America called Warday, in which San Antonio was one of only a few cities directly destroyed by nukes.

It sort of makes sense for San Antonio, in the 1980’s to be a target (did I mention all the Air Force bases?). Austin was supposedly even on the primary target list back then, because of Bergstrom Air Force Base. Bergstrom has been a commercial airport for over a decade, though, so what’s the deal, Kim? Do you not like live music?

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SXSW 2013 Diary, Day 1 (March 8, 2013)

I’m going to be honest here: I’m not really feeling it this year. I suspect that is approximately 100% due to the fact that I moved into a new house at the beginning of this week, and am experiencing the associated anxiety and odd depression that always seems to come with that. Don’t get me wrong, I love our new house. It’s just that I also sort of hate it at the moment.

It was in the midst of this chaos that I embarked on my second year as a badge holder at SXSW Interactive. Once again, I don’t really have a clear notion of my goals, other than to meet people, learn more about tech, blogging, and social media, and just be around talented, interesting, and occasionally self-important people. I’m sucking at the “meeting people” part so far, but being at the Austin Convention Center in a relatively festive atmosphere is a welcome reprieve from a week spent mediating between furniture deliveries, movers, and contactors. (Also, the purchase of a house with enough repair needs to quickly burn through most of our money, but let’s not go there just now.)

I took the Capital Metro rail for the first time, parking where I’m probably not supposed to park and riding the train to the final stop just outside the Convention Center. I don’t know if the train is usually that crowded, or if that is a SXSW effect, but it was a decent ride. It certainly beats trying to find parking downtown.

Since I don’t do much late-night partying anymore, I was able to arrive downtown at about 9:30, give or take, and it took a mere 5 minutes to get my badge. I remember last year needing about 20 minutes, but then seeing that the line had circumscribed the Convention Center later in the day. This would be an example of the hipness of being square – less time waiting in lines, or something.

I spent much of the morning catching up on work, and found the environment to be oddly conducive for work. Maybe there was some osmosis of creative power, or maybe I was just determined to finish so I could move on to fun things.

By the time I broke away from the siren call of legal-blogging-for-hire, I was not sure where I wanted to go. I considered catching a shuttle to a different venue for a panel on the business potential of animated GIFs, but ran into a friend who was going to a panel on disaster relief.

Disaster: The Future of Crisis Communications addressed how the Coast Guard has made use of social media and other technologies in disasters like Hurricanes Sandy and Irene. Very interesting stuff. Much of what they said seems obvious at first, but when you consider conditions after a disaster, you understand their importance, and how easy it might be to overlook them. In sufficiently serious crises, the very network we rely upon for information might be out of commission. How would we get information without our smartphones? Yes, many people still use things like radio or newspapers, but social media allows responders to get information out in, to use a cliché, real time.

Teaching Cheetahs: Disruptive Education in Africa was the only other panel I went to this day, partly because it sounded interesting, and partly because I didn’t have to change rooms. A group of panelists included two executives from a nonprofit that funds scholarships for top students from African to study at American universities, the founder of a Kenyan startup that provides tablets to students loaded with school curricula, and the director of an organziation that produces documentary videos highlighting educational needs. There was far more than I can justifiably summarize here, but the overall theme was “African solutions to African problems.” I just read an article the other day about well-intentioned but catastrophic efforts at aid to Africa, most of which amounted to dumping America’s leftovers in rural Africa rather than supporting infrastructure and education. It is also generally annoying that people in the U.S. often refer to “Africa” in a unitary sense, when in reality it is a continent with 54 countries (I think that’s the right number), about 1 billion people, and a wide diversity of culture, history, and language. It’s also more than twice the size of the U.S., so it’s big. Here are the organizations and companies represented, and I’d say they are worth checking out:

  • African Leadership Academy in South Africa
  • African Leadership Bridge in Austin, Texas
  • The Nobelity Project, also in Austin
  • eLimu, a startup based in Nairobi, Kenya

After that, I went home to assemble IKEA furniture.

Other highlights of the day included getting my picture taken in the Iron Throne…

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…and also with Clifford the Big Red Dog…

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There was also this odd display by 3M, which I call 3M’s 2D Hottie.

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Maybe Not the Best Way to Make Friends at SXSW (UPDATED)

(WARNING: I’m going to be mean in this post.)

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Seems legit (via austin.craigslist.org)

Meet Daniel. Daniel is an Austin musician who just wants to meet cool people and hang out for South by Southwest, and he is offering up his place if you need somewhere to crash.

And if you’re a lady. Or two ladies. Who are willing to provide “services.”

I’m looking for one to two ladies to stay free during SXSW at my place. This is a simple deal; a free place to stay with many extras, for your services.

The precise meaning of “services” is left unstated, although you can read between the lines.

He offers many amenities, including “recording equipment and instruments” and “free internet and computer access.” This sort of begs the question: who charges for internet access at their own place?

Listed among the amenities, it is worth noting, is “a 6′ tall 190 lbs 6% body fat with ripped abs and a musician, for company.” The grammar is unclear, but I think that is all in reference to Daniel, although it is possible that he has a musician growing out of his abdomen. If he does, you can’t tell from the picture.

Anyway, Daniel wants us to know that his needs are pretty simple, and that he’s just reaching out to make new friends.

I’m just looking for cool people to hang out with during SXSW.

• Two friends
• Sisters/twins
• One girl is fine too

I mean, when I meet a woman with whom I’m interested in forming a friendship, I always ask if she has a twin. Who doesn’t?

Perhaps I am being unfair here. Perhaps this really is just an Austinite reaching out to make friendships and offer a place to stay during the city’s busiest week of the year, when hotel rooms are scarce and expensive. What do you say, Daniel?

I’m not a shallow person as this ad may seem. This is really a business deal, a nice way to meet cool people, and have some fun at the same time!

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Were you maybe picturing something like this? (via moejackson.com)

A……business deal? I’m a little confused. I don’t usually include a picture of my abs in business proposals, but then again, mine are hiding under multiple layers of pizza. Yes, you said you could offer a place to stay with free home-based wifi in exchange for “services.” You also just want to make friends. With ladies, possibly twins. It’s almost like there’s something you don’t want to come right out and say……are you going to make these women clean your pool? Let’s just go with that.

Also, thank you for stating that you are not shallow. I have always found that the best way to reassure someone that you’re not shallow is to tell them that you are not shallow. Because we are all the most credible source when it comes to our own shallowness, or lack thereof.

I suppose I should applaud Daniel’s initiative. Who knows if he’ll get any responses, or if any responses he does get will be remotely close to the image he may have in his mind. He’s offering room, board, other amenities, and his abs in exchange for “services.” I have long advocated for decriminalizing sex work, and now I can point out that decriminalization would make not-shallow stuff like this mostly unnecessary.

Because I figure the post will come down soon (I can’t be the only person to have noticed it), I screencapped it here and here.

UPDATE (March 8, 2013): I forgot to give a hat tip to Damon, who brought this bit of oddness to my attention.

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Cue the Invisible Hand of Capitalism!

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What would Adam Smith do???

Downtown Austin has a parking problem. Anyone who has every tried to go there at any time other than 3:00 a.m. on a Wednesday knows that parking is a challenge. (Also, I am only assuming that parking is easier in the wee hours of mid-week, but I could be wrong.) To hear some city officials and business leaders describe it, though, you would think that we have too much parking downtown, thanks to antiquated government regulations. The city is prepared to respond, too:

Austin might soon ditch a three-decade-old policy of requiring downtown buildings and tenant businesses to have a minimum number of parking spaces tied either to square footage or the number of condos and apartments in a building.

Supporters of the move say the minimum requirement has caused a parking surplus downtown, encouraging people to use their cars rather than bikes, buses and rail. Take away that requirement, they say, and eventually garage parking will become a more scarce (and expensive) resource, encouraging people to use alternative transportation. [Emphasis added]

I must have missed this glut of downtown parking somehow. Admittedly, I do not spend as much of the evening hours downtown as I used to, say, ten years ago. In fact, I’m not certain of the last time I went downtown at night with the intention of doing anything other than improv or a movie.

The real question is about this “alternative transportation.” What “alternative transportation”??? Yes, we have buses, and yes, we have a nascent commuter rail system, but Austin is part of the grand western American tradition of drive-your-damn-self-everywhere.

Perhaps this is the Invisible Hand at work. If we remove the ability of consumers to park downtown, then the Invisible Hand will create a shiny, efficient transportation system to get people to and fro. I hope the mayor has an Adam Smith Signal, because we need to light that thing up!

Photo credit: © Copyright kim traynor and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

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Austin Scares Itself Quiet

First_lap_2001_Canada

If they can do it in Canada, we can do it here, eh?

For months now, we have heard about how thousands upon thousands of ritzy foreigners will be descending on Austin this weekend for the F1 races, and the havoc that this will play on an already stressed transportation grid. As a result, at least judging from social media chatter, many, many locals decided it would be best to just stay in.

Amusingly, this led to what appeared to be a very quiet downtown Austin. Whatever extra traffic appeared thanks to the addition of Euro racing fans was offset by a lack of Austinites. Well, that’s my unscientific theory, anyway. Aside from a noticeably higher volume of helicopter traffic, the roads were smooth sailing between at least 6 and 11 p.m. last night. I’m not sure how crowded Rainey Street normally is, since it is not part of my regular social rotation, but finding price-gouged parking was quite easy, and getting out of the parking lot later in the night was also easy.

It wasn’t just Rainey Street, either. If Twitter is any indication, the West Sixth Street and Red River scenes were both quiet as well.

My advice to you, Austinites, is to get back out there. We are allegedly overwhelmed by obscenely wealthy foreigners who are trying to decide if Austin is a good market on which to drop a buttload of money. If this city can handle more than a week of South by Southwest traffic, we can handle two days of F1. Get back out there and be weird.

Photo credit: “First lap 2001 Canada” by Paul Lannuier from Sussex, NJ, USA (Lap 1) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 or CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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