Austin Feed

Austin, so they tell me, is a hot, happening town full of creative folk doing impressive things in cool industries. And one of the biggest sectors, they also tell me, is video games. I have to rely on the word of others when it comes to video games. I'm old enough to remember Pong and the original Super Mario, but I've never been a big gamer. Apparently, I'm missing quite a bit, from entertainment, economic and tax perspectives. The Entertainment Software Association says that the video game industry generates more than $25 billion a year nationally. Texas ranked second nationally... Read more →

Texas has the most tax-procrastinating cities in the U.S.; Houston is #1

April has arrived, meaning millions of taxpayers are scrambling to finish their 2010 tax returns. Except, if this tax filing season is like previous ones, in Houston. For the fifth time in 10 years, Houston has claimed top honors, if you want to call it that, on TurboTax's annual list of America's most tax procrastinating cities. It was the latest-filing city the year before, too. Infographic courtesy In fact, it seems that many of my fellow Texans aren't in a big hurry to finish up federal returns. Three of the five slowest filing cities are in the Lone Star... Read more →

It's about to get weirder and crazier than usual here in Austin. The annual South by Southwest festival, popularly known by its acronym SXSW, begins this Friday. This mashup of tech geeks, music fans and film aficionados brings tens of thousands of visitors to the Lone Star State's capital city. Hotels love it. Rooms are booked months in advance and as the event has grown, folks have been forced out into the suburbs to find lodging. This frenzied quest for a place to catch a few ZZZZs after the SXSW sessions and parties and after-parties end also could be good... Read more →

The official song is My Old Kentucky Home, but the Bluegrass State is singing a special tax tune for residents who buy new houses. Kentucky's New Home Tax Credit is available to eligible individuals who purchase a new primary residence between July 26, 2009, and July 25, 2010. The tax nonrefundable credit, meaning it can zero out your Kentucky tax bill but it won't get you cash back if you have more credit than tax due, can be as much as $5,000. The key word here is "new." This tax break is available only for folks who buy a new,... Read more →

One of the things I love about Austin is the "wild" Christmas trees that "bloom" each December. There's a large grove along one of the major thoroughfares in Northwest Austin. Over the years, their seeds have spread. This year, several of the wild and wildly festooned trees showed up in our neighborhood. Below is a shot I took of one small group. It's a little blurry (I took it with my cell phone camera), but the good cheer of the season is still quite clear. Here's wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas! Read more →

In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Apparently, that line is just the beginning of a whole Columbus discovers the New World song. Who knew? But it's a nice little Google discovery for today, the U.S. federal holiday honoring Christopher Columbus. Three-day weekends haven't meant as much to me since I left D.C., birthplace of time off for federal employees. And now the Wall Street Journal tells us that Columbus Day is in danger of sailing off the calendar. That would be too bad. Any event for which you can throw parade is fun. Yeah, I know; tax dollars spent... Read more →

Rocking around Austin, Texas,
Live Music Capital of the World

The continuing record of our musical exploration of Austin, the Live Music Capital of the World, is now being kept at a separate blog page. Please go there for the most current information on the performances we've most recently enjoyed. Back in 2005, when the hubby and I were deciding where in Texas we would settle, the music of the Lone Star State was a major consideration. Music has always been a big part of our lives, both well before we knew each other and especially since we've been a couple. When we were young and living in Lubbock, we... Read more →

Yes, it's an old joke about blood-sucking IRS agents. So maybe that's why it seems so fitting that a tax lawyer has just published "The New Annotated Dracula." Leslie S. Klinger is a Los Angeles tax attorney with clients in the entertainment industry. You can insert your own Hollywood blood-letting wise cracks here. After his office closes, however, Klinger turns his attention to genre literature. The Wall Street Journal reports that Klinger's closer look at Bram Stoker's famous vampire novel is the tax lawyer's second such annotation. He previously edited the three volume, 2,700-page "The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes." The... Read more →

Austin homes in negative equity territory

Here in happy-go-lucky Austin, where music blares from every venue, Tex-Mex and BBQ are served 24/7 and Shiner flows faster than our drought-starved regional waters, things apparently aren't so rosy on the home front. In today's edition, the New York Times looks at Merced, Calif., the most foreclosure-ridden town in the United States. But what caught my eye, aside from the idiot moves made by lenders, buyers and even municipalities, was the map that detailed other areas where a sizable portion of homes are worth less than what buyers paid. Right smack dab there in the middle of the Times'... Read more →

Financial (and other) books
for holiday getting and giving

An Austin colleague, Liz Carmack, has just had her first book published: "Historic Hotels of Texas: A Traveler's Guide" (Texas A&M University Press). Any writer out there is lying if they say they don't want to one day see their words in hardback. So hearty congratulations to Liz. I'm sure her book will do quite well. I'm going to do my part to help a fellow writer by picking up a couple of Liz's books for holiday gifts. Anyone who's a fan of Texas, travel, architecture or tales of long ago will enjoy it. And who doesn't love at least... Read more →

Finally! No rain today!

When we got back to Texas in May 2005, the state was in the midst of a drought, which I whined about bemoaned in January 2006 and again last September. The came some spring rains, which everyone welcomed. But it's true: You can have too much of a good thing. These last two weeks have put an end to Central Texas' infatuation with precipitation. Although local meteorologists say June is typically a wet month for the Austin area -- usually the third or fourth wettest month of the year -- the late-month rainfall we've gotten is unusual. Sadly, this rare... Read more →

Rock 'n Roll summer camp

It's no surprise that music camps are big here in Austin, Live Music Capital of the World. Rock Camp USA, a part of the Austin School of Music, operates camps in Austin and Fort Worth, as well as in Chicago, Miami, L.A. and Davenport, Iowa. "Study" options range from Lil' Rockers Camp for 5-to-7-year-olds to programs for jazz fans to intensive camps for tomorrow's Maroon 5 or White Stripes or Police or Rolling Stones. For aspiring Fergies or Lily Allens, Austin also has a Girls Rock Camp. But Austin's definitely not alone in educating young musicians. Baby boomer parents nationwide... Read more →

Summer energy savers ... and expenditures

I hate summer. Actually, I guess the more accurate statement would be I hate hot temperatures, meaning a warm spell in the fall or winter also irritates me. Many of you are asking, why then did I return home to Texas, a state whose pride in excess seems to also extend to thermometers that regularly hit triple digits by July? It's a two-part answer. First, I missed home enough to deal with it. And secondly, our move was made possible by the best modern convenience ever: air conditioning. The best modern convenience, that is, until it goes out. Which is... Read more →

What I like about Austin

The hubby headed to Atlanta today on business, and as I drove back home after dropping him at the airport, one of the best things about our new hometown came across loud and clear. On my favorite radio station, KGSR, I heard in succession: Lucinda Williams' heartfelt inquiry Are You Alright? Joe Ely's bluesy celebration of Dallas The Neville Brothers' funky Fiyo on the Bayou Lyle Lovett trying, but realizing You Can't Resist It Joss Stone wanting someone to Tell Me 'Bout It Booker T and the MGs musically munching Green Onions All those songs. Old. New. All those genres.... Read more →

Bluebonnet break

March here in Central Texas was unusually wet, but few folks are complaining. We've had enough of the drought. Thankfully, the 6-plus inches of rain we got last month have refilled area lakes and, just as important, made this a blooming good early spring. Wildflowers, especially the Lone Star State's official bluebonnets, are popping up like crazy everywhere. When the hubby and I take our neighborhood walks, we spot them in dozens of yards, including our own. I took the shots you see sprinkled in this posting this weekend. They are of some of the bluebonnets in our front yard.... Read more →

Happy Birthday Texas

"You may all go to hell and I will go to Texas." -- Davy Crockett That famous proclamation by Tennessean-turned-Texan came four months before Texas declared its independence and Crockett and other defenders of The Alamo gave their lives for the cause. But I've always thought it perfectly captured the state's spirit. Brash, brave, committed and a bit reckless. That's some of what makes the Lone Star State and its residents, natives and those who got here as soon as they could, special. To commemorate Texas Independence Day a few years ago, another famous Texan elaborated on what our state... Read more →

Burn with care

A cold front blew through the Austin area this weekend. The key word here is blew, not cold. Temperatures were in the 70s, and I'm not complaining. But I am complaining about the 40 mph gusts that pummeled us Saturday. Combine those winds with the drought we've been in for the last few years and the region is a tinderbox. Yesterday we had half a dozen grass fires burning around the Austin area. Thankfully, none got out of control. As the winds whipped, the local newscasters issued their usual request in such circumstances: Burn with care. That's such a strange... Read more →

Kermit: Star of hot new TV show!

No, not the frog. My hometown. The cheerleader who was saved so that the world could be saved is from Kermit, Texas! It was just too personally freaky to be watching the already freaky NBC show "Heroes" last night and see Claire, the indestructible cheerleader, discover that she was born in my hometown. It gets better. Her birth mom still lives there. If only my cousin and I had known when we rolled through Kermit last summer! Apparently, no one in the town knew what was coming. There was no buzz. Everyone in my small West Texas burgh was still... Read more →

It's snowing!

That's not big, or even good, news for folks in many parts of the U.S. But here in Central Texas, it's a big and exciting deal, even by Lone Star State standards. Austin's climate is pretty temperate. OK, we get triple digit temps in the summer, but honestly, it's a dry heat. Trust me. I spent 25 years in the summer saunas known as the Mid-Atlantic and Florida. Hill Country winters, however, aren't that bad. At least they haven't been for the two we've been here. In the Panhandle, it's a different story. Snow, often heavy, up that direction is... Read more →

Awaiting wicked winter weather

Buckets of rain fell yesterday. Local creeks overran their banks. Streets, businesses and homes were flooded, not on a massive scale, thank goodness, but flooded nonetheless. Worse, one person is feared dead, having been swept away in a rapidly rising stream. An onlooker tried to save her, but the water was just too strong and the attempted rescuer had to be rescued. This video is of another suddenly- full Austin waterway, Bull Creek. At another point (not shown here), the creek runs under a low-lying road we use to get to one of our favorite restaurants; that section of roadway... Read more →