Tag Archives: Austin

Barton Springs is Austin’s Summer Swimming Hub

I wrote this article for St. Edward’s University’s student-run paper,
the
Hilltop Views.

Summer is upon us, and with it come the soaring Texas temperatures. To escape the heat in the next few months, many Austin locals will venture off to everyone’s favorite summer spot—Barton Springs.

Barton Springs, a set of four natural water springs located on the grounds of Zilker Park, is the result of the cool waters flowing through the Edwards Aquifer.  The spring’s chilly waters and natural ambiance has made it a year-round swimming destination for Austin locals.

Infamous for its nippy waters, Barton Springs attracts crowds of people looking for an escape from the sweltering summer heat.


Dr. Shirley, professor of Religious Studies, says he has always enjoyed Barton Springs, “[The spring] has a lot more character than the pool at the gym, plus you get some sun.”

Shirley says, however, Barton Springs is not your conventional swimming hole. “It really isn’t so much for swimming laps as for the ambiance. There used to be a rock—that I think was called the ‘Philosopher’s Rock’—where some of the local educational elite used to sit and chat.  There’s also a statue just outside of the pool area, near the parking lot, commemorating some of the more famous local intelligentsia.”

Kate Rosati, administrative coordinator of the Center of Ethics and Leadership, likes to visit the springs with friends on warm summer days. “My girlfriends and I will lie out on our towels on the hill, heat up until we can’t take it anymore and then jump in.”

However, Rosati says the only thing better than taking a dive into the cool waters is getting back out, “The best part is getting out of the freezing cold water and realizing that the sweltering heat suddenly just feels warm and cozy.”

Dr. Jodi Egerton, assistant professor of English Writing and Rhetoric, shares Rosati’s enthusiasm for taking to Barton Springs for a quick dip on a hot day. “On a perfect dreamy day, we like to sit on the far side on the big grassy hill. Bring along some books, a towel to lie on, lots of sunscreen and a hat. Lie around reading until you’re just so hot you can’t stand it, and then go cool off in the water for a while.”

Egerton’s says her husband, former Humanities adjunct instructor Owen Egerton, loves Barton Springs.  “[Owen] loves to go early in the morning and swim at the break of dawn. He goes every year on his birthday to swim if we’re in town. He’s originally from Wales, and he learned to swim in icy Welsh lakes, so he has absolutely no issues with the cold [water].”

Barton Springs Pool, a man-made swimming pool, is located on the grounds of Zilker Park. The pool sits within the Barton Creek channel and is filled by water from Main Barton Spring.  The pool’s temperature, which remains between about 68°F and 72°F, allows for year-round swimming.

Shirley admits that he enjoys being around the pool more than he enjoys being in the pool. “I have fun wandering the area outside the actual pool area:  the play area, with all the kids’ equipment, and on the other side of the springs.”  He says he also enjoys exploring all of the interesting concrete and stone structures surround the pool.

No matter your reasons for going—be it to escape the heat, read a book, or explore new things—hitting up Barton Springs will be the coolest thing you do all summer.

Barton Springs Pool Fees

Weekdays Weekends Summer Pass (Memorial Day through Labor Day)
Senior $1 $1 $60.00
Adult $3.00 $3.00 $180.00
Junior (12-17) $2.00 $2.00 $120.00
Child (11- under) $1.00 $1.00 $60.00
Family of 4 n/a n/a $350.00 (additional family members are required to purchase the individual pass for their age group
Parking fee at Zilker n/a $3.00 (March through September)

n/a

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An Open Letter to You “Free Spirited” Men

Nothing defines humans better than their willingness to do irrational things in the pursuit of phenomenally unlikely payoffs. This is the principle behind lotteries, dating, and religion.” -Scott Adams

Well put, Scott.

For almost a year now I’ve been in the single’s realm, an odd place to be if you haven’t exactly been on that horse for awhile.  Besides feeling like a 54-year-old divorcee trying to find a fitting suitor, I am also having to grapple with the fact that I am a certain “type” of gal (I put that in quotes because I hate admitting that I fall into a categorical “type”).  Among some of the “scarier” aspects of my “type” is my attraction to commitment–can you hear the guys reading this running?

When girls like me say they want a guy to be committed, for some reason, when this is processed in the male brain, it sounds something like, “I would like to own your soul and take away your freedom.”  Oddly enough–surprise–this isn’t at all what I want.  In fact, it’s really a turn off to me when a guy doesn’t have his set of buddies that he has a night out with or some sort of extracurricular hobby or something-or-another to keep him busy.  Yes, guys, independence is attractive.

On the other side of the coin, I, too, want independence.  If I had to forfeit my time with my friends or time left for myself, I’d be really, really unhappy.  The best part of a relationship is being able to share your life with someone else, not become the life of something else.

So, when girls like me want to know boundaries–“Are we or aren’t we in some sort of relationship? Are we casually dating?”–we’re just seeing where the lines are so that we don’t cross them.  Girls like me aren’t setting a trap for you “free spirits” (as I heard it called today), we’re just trying to get our barrings because–surprise again–we like you.  We want to get to know you.  We want you to get to know us.

If not for dating, how else would we know what we ultimately want?  Guys, if you treat dating like a taboo, girls will lose interest quickly.  Don’t be so presumptuous as to think we want to take over your life.  Personally, I want a guy to kick it with, have fun with, get to know, and just enjoy being young with.

Guys, we girls are just as clueless as you.  You have to tell us what you want, and we’ll do the same.  It is what it is.

Don’t brood. Get on with living and loving. You don’t have forever.

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St. Edward’s Renovations Go Green

I wrote this article originally for the Hilltop Views.

St. Edward’s University has made concerted steps towards a more energy-efficient campus over the past few years, and the renovations
on Doyle Hall have been especially environmentally conscious.

Doyle Hall is being renovated and expanded in order to accommodate more classrooms, as well as offices for faculty and staff.  The
university site says that renovations of existing buildings, such as Doyle Hall, allow the university to repurpose an existing building and
prevents existing building materials from going into a landfill.  Most of the building’s shell and interior walls will be reused, including
existing clay tile walls, concrete structure and roof, light fixtures and floor finishes.

In order to preserve St. Edward’s heritage, the university has secured notable architects to help renovate older campus buildings, as opposed to simply tearing them down.  Not only does this move maintain the campus’ traditional aesthetic, but keeping older buildings like Doyle Hall and opting for renovations helps the university go green.

St. Edward’s Physical Plant Project Manager Saleem Jehangir says that the most important green step taken in the renovation of Doyle was reusing building materials and simply demolishing the building and starting from scratch.  “Although the reuse of Doyle was extremely challenging from a design standpoint, given the low ceilings and beam depths, the quantity of energy and materials saved was substantial.”

Samara Spence of the Benz Resource Group, which is working with St. Edward’s on the renovations, says the architects and contractors took several steps to improve the sustainability of Doyle Hall.  These steps included focusing on four key parts: the sustainability of the site, materials and resources, indoor air quality, and energy performance improvements.

To keep the site sustainable, existing Cedar and Oak trees were left untouched.  In addition, the addition to Doyle Hall was designed as a
dense two story structure to minimize impervious cover and compliment the existing architectural character.

St. Edward’s made a resolute effort to reuse as much of the existing building materials as possible.  The university’s Web site says that
renovating outdated buildings helps reduce costs and cut down on waste in the landfill.  “St. Edward’s is helping reduce negative impacts on the environment by implementing sustainable design principles. Whenever possible, the university reuses existing materials, such as
carpets, to minimize waste.”

In terms of increasing the quality of the air indoors, all paint used in the project is low VOC (volatile organic compound), which is meant
to reduce air-born toxins in the building.  Also, sealants and construction adhesives are low VOC.

One of the most important aspects of the renovations of Doyle Hall regarded energy efficiency.  New double-paned windows with low-e
coated class are being installed in the building. The new roof with be a white TPO roof, which is a reflective material that minimizes the
heat gain on the roof surface.  Also, new roof insulation will be installed.

Other additions meant to improvement energy performance include sun shade systems to control direct sun exposure into the building,
occupancy sensing lights that will turn off when nobody is in the room, energy efficient fluorescent lighting, and a more energy efficient HVAC (heating, ventilation and cooling) system.

Jehangir adds that the lighting in Doyle Hall will feature low wattage fixtures.  “Maximum lighting power consumption is one watt per square foot.”

He also mentions that construction waste recycling has been instituted and many recyclable or re-processed materials have been specified, such as the cementitious cladding and aluminum windows.

The building isn’t the only aspect of Doyle Hall that is getting an environmentally friendly facelift.  St. Edward’s is enhancing the  landscaping, adding more trees, plants, fountains and shaded seating around campus.  At Doyle Hall, the university’s plans are to include
colorful native plants like Monterrey oaks and mountain laurels to shroud the nearby parking lot and road.

The hall was named after Mrs. Mary Doyle, who left most of her 498-acre South Austin farm to the Catholic Church to establish an
“educational institution.”  Three years after the passing of Mrs. Doyle, Father Sorin founded what was then called St. Edward’s Academy.
Doyle Hall opened its doors to its residents in 1960.  The residential hall has since served as a male-only hall, a female-only hall, and a coeducational hall.

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Lady Bird Lake the Social Hub for Austin Runners

I originally wrote this article for the Hilltop Views.

If you like to walk, jog or run, you are in luck. Austin provides some of the best trails the nation has to offer. Longtime Austinites, new residents, and visitors have come to love the scenic, natural areas that have been dedicated for trail use in Austin. There are always new regional running trails being created for easy access.

In fact, Austin has—at last count—accumulated over 50 miles of trails used by runners. The natural greenbelt trails are all well-surfaced and accessible.

However, the Lady Bird Lake (formerly Town Lake) trail loop remains the running social hub for Austinites.

running

“It’s a place I can go and enjoy the outdoors while I exercise. There are a lot of trails I can take, depending on what mood I’m in,” says St. Edward’s University Junior Kayanne Armer.

The original 10.1 mile Lady Bird Lake loop, which runs from east to west from MoPac to the Longhorn Dam, is a perfect escape from the Austin ado for everyone, from serious athletes to casual joggers.

The trail—which is mostly flat, rather wide and very popular—offers a variety of trails that fit different runners’ needs. The trails along Lady Bird Lake offer pictorial trails for those wanting a scenic run, or primitive trails in wooded areas for runners wanting a challenge.

St. Edward’s University Junior Jillian Tito is encouraged by the scenery out near Lady Bird Lake. “I like running out there because it’s really beautiful, and you’re easily motivated because of all the Austinites out there.”

After moving from bitterly cold Boston, Mass. to sunny Austin in the summer of 2007, Tito became an avid runner after discovering it made her feel good about herself.

“[Lady Bird Lake] has many different trails, so I can if I feel like running five miles one day, I can. Or 2 miles another [day], I can run that. It has beautiful scenery that just makes you feel good to be outside, and there are lots of people running, walking, swimming; it’s very encouraging.”

An added bonus is that the trails around Lady Bird Lake are pet and bike friendly. Austinites are encouraged to take a run with their four-legged friends, or hop on a bike to cruise the trails.

Previously known as Town Lake, the area was renamed in honor of Lady Bird Johnson on Aug. 6, 2007. Lady Bird was an instrumental figure in getting this area transformed from a drab flood zone to a recreational focal point for the city. Thus, it seems a fitting acknowledgement.

Austin also provides several organizations for varying levels of runners to help facilitate health and fitness. The Austin Runners Club is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization that has members of all ages and abilities. According to the organization’s site, The Austin Runners Club promotes and encourages running, walking, wheelchair racing, and related activities and educates the public to their benefits.  The club also maintains competitive and non-competitive activities for its membership and for the general public.

When asked if she had any tips for beginning runners, Tito replied, “I would say to go at your own pace. Don’t try to compare yourself to other runners around you, set a goal and give it your all. It’ll only get easier.”

No matter what your pace is or what your personal goals are, running has proven itself to be one of the easiest, most convenient forms of exercise. Whether you want to run the Statesman Capitol 10K, or you just want to shed a few pounds, the trails along Lady Bird Lake can lead you down the path of health and happiness.

For a list of Lady Bird Lake trail maps, click here.

To learn more about The Austin Runners Club, click here.

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World Storytelling Day at SEU a Success

I wrote this article originally for the Hilltop Views.

We listened to bedtime fairytales told by our parents when we were children, told scary stories to each other when we were teenagers and still enthusiastically divulge anecdotes to one another every day. In celebration of this age-old oral tradition, people from all over the state met to share their stories for World Storytelling Day.

World Storytelling Day is an international celebration of the art of oral storytelling that happens every March 21. This storytelling fête is the first of its kind to recognize and celebrate the oral tradition. In addition to allowing storytellers to forge new connections between one another, World Storytelling Day allows others to become a part of this tradition as well.

Sponsored by the Kappa Delta Pi International Education Society and produced by Tellers2 Productions, World Storytelling Day at St. Edward’s was a huge success. The event, held last Saturday during Spring Break, was one of only two sites in the United States hosting this international event. Over forty-eight countries participate in this massive, global event. The campus hosted a total of forty wandering storytellers, all of whom were gathered to share in the event that celebrates oral tradition. Some were professional storytellers, while others came simply to share their favorite family stories, fairytales and legends.

Planning for World Storytelling Day began in June 2008, with wheels really beginning to turn around December 2008. David Thompson, administrative coordinator of University Programs, explained that several considerations had to be made for the event, including who would act as sponsor. Kappa Delta Pi and their sponsor, David Hollier, graciously stepped in and helped Thompson run successful storytelling groups all day Saturday.

This year’s theme was “Neighbors,” with past themes including “Dreams,” “Bridges” and “Birds.” Beginning at the St. Edward’s seal, groups of storytellers shared tales, then moved to other locations throughout the day. Groups met at Sorin Oak, the Moody Atrium and Mabee Ballroom. Even university faculty and staff participated in a storytelling group called “St. Edward’s Shares,” where individuals shared personal anecdotes of their time at the campus, funny personal stories, legends about Father Sorin and so forth.

The evening concert, which featured locally, statewide, and nationally known tellers, wrapped up World Storytelling Day. There were four professional storytellers in attendance, including Lucinda Wise, Gene Helmick-Richardson, and Peggy Helmick-Richardson. Thompson, who was also one of the four professional storytellers at the event, was very excited about the turnout and success of the event. “It went really well. We were so excited.”

The event was free except for the evening concert, which asked that participants either pay $4 and/or donate four food items to be donated. Over 100 pounds of food was later presented to the Capital Area Food Bank.

Thompson plans to make World Storytelling Day at St. Edward’s an annual celebration. He already has plans about how to make the event a bigger success, such as inviting more professional storytellers, pushing for more sponsors, having more “zappy” publicity, and not holding the event during Spring Break. “The official [World Storytelling] day fell on Spring Break, so next year we’ll try to not do that. But it will still be in March.”

When asked what storytelling is and why World Storytelling Day is so important, Thompson fervidly explained that keeping the oral tradition is important. “Storytelling is the world’s oldest known performance. It passes beliefs, morals, customs, and history between and among groups. It keeps alive families and nations.”

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Breaking Blog Records… Again!

It’s only 2 p.m., but I’ve already had a record-high 148 hits today! I’m stunned, but elated.

I noticed that my blog is being posted on other Web sites as a reference, so that probably makes up for a good hunk of the new hits. For instance, Austin Explorer has listed my article on Hamilton Pool Natural Preserve as a link under their “News Headlines” section. Pretty nifty stuff.

Thanks again for following and making me feel like I’m writing things worth reading. Ciao ciao!

 

Update
The total for the 24-hour period was 193 hits! Very nice…

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Breaking Blog Records

Yesterday became my blog’s record day for highest number of hits in its mere three-month history. The 128 hits from yesterday made me very proud of this blog. It brough my total hits to a grand 2,031.

The previous record-holding number of hits in one day was 73. I’m not sure what made my numbers jump to almost double, but I’m pleased, to say the least!

Thanks to everyone who follows and checks in to the blog!

WWW

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