Austin: Day Two

SPF: 50+, Hotter’n’Houston

It hit 97°F outside with 80% humidity and an “Ernie” UV rating yesterday, with the same forecast for today. This is normal for this time of year. Inside the exhibition room, possibly in anticipation of throngs of conference attendees heating up the place, near-winter conditions prevailed as the fifty-megaton air conditioning array created local weather patterns.

Austin: Day One

SPF: 45+, I just saw a tree melt!

I’m in Austin most of this week for an industry trade show. It sure is weird coming back as a visitor. For example, the airport is new, having been fully converted from the former Bergstrom Air Force Base. What hasn’t changed is the disposition of Mueller, the former airport: they’re still undecided. (History: Families moved near the airport because it was far out of town and the land was cheap. Unbeknownst to them, airplanes were taking off! Daily!! The airplanes were noisy!) Bergstrom was in the process of closing when they got the idea of converting it to a civilian facility, solving the residents’ problem and saving beau coups of money from not having to build a new airport from scratch.

While this was happening, Dell bought the rights to the former Austin Executive (3R3) airstrip, where I did my flight training. I think they converted it to a shipping facility and race track. General aviation was highly discouraged from using the new airport, and many have moved out to Georgetown. When I left, my suggestion was to dig Mueller out entirely and fill it with water, thus creating the new Lake Mueller waterfront properties.

Where was I going with this? Oh yeah. So, coming back to Austin was weird because I wasn’t sure where to stay.

All your bus are belong to us

I had a technical seminar this afternoon in Kirkland. Since I biked into work, I planned to avail myself of the bus system. It took a few minutes to figure out the nuances of address specification in the King County Metro trip planner, but I found a rare “direct” route. Getting to my seminar was a breeze once I realized the bus changes numbers mid-route and I didn’t have to do anything. For the return, I just had to catch the same bus going the opposite direction. Easy peasy.

I missed the return bus by 30 seconds. The next was scheduled to arrive an hour later. The deadly combination of engineering mindset (“I’ll construct a route on my own”) and Y-chromosome (“…without asking for directions”) kicked in full-blast. This is where things started going awry.

Texas wants you anyway.

I was in “The Greater Houston Area” during the holiday to visit my parents. Although I have previously lived in Texas (twelve years in Houston, four in Austin), I lack a discernable accent and, when I’m away from it long enough, a full appreciation for the Texas mystique.

The name Texas is a derivative of “Tejas” (a mangled form of Thecas) used by the Hasinais tribe when referring to allies. The state motto is derived from this to be friendship , but there was strong objection to putting “The Friendship State” on the license plates. Governor Richards is often quoted as saying it was “wimpy.” Thus, “The Lone Star State” still reigns on license plates.

In school, we were required to take two years of Texas history, compared to one year of American history and a half year of world history. So yes, I’ve been to the Alamo, Washington on the Brazos and the Treaty Oak. I also learned all sorts of obscure “state things” like the state tree (pecan), fish (guadalupe bass), large mammal (longhorn), small animal (flying cockroach) and yodel (you don’t want to know). I still remember the local pronounciation of Humble, Bexar County, and Kuykendahl Road, though I’m still confused whether the “J” in San Jacinto is pronounced like the J in “Jim” or the J in “jalapeño.” (To be fair, the English language in general is bizarre. The “K” in knight is silent; “x” in xylophone is pronounced as a z; and don’t get me started on the “ough” in through, though, cough, rough and bough.)

Tofino and Victoria, British Columbia

Map

During Labour Day week, we took a rare vacation, spending four days in Tofino and two days in Victoria.

Tofino’s on the west coast of Vancouver Island, just north of Pacific Rim National Park, where we’d be making day trips. It’s not very far as the crow flies, but the trip takes all day because of the uncertainties associated with crossing the border, catching the ferry, and riding with small children who need frequent potty and snack breaks. We decided to do the outbound portion in one long day.

We left our house about 6:15 a.m. Even with stopping at each of the three rest stops along I-5, we still made it across the border at 9:00 a.m. and arrived at the ferry dock about 9:40, in plenty of time for the 11:20 departure to Nanaimo.

After we boarded, we headed up to the galley for breakfast. BC ferries still serve food whereas the Washington ferries do not. (Labour dispute.) The food was okay considering the venue. While the kids were still nibbling at their meals, I snuck off to the souvenir store in search of something light to read.