Tag Archives: Blogger

Ohh, La La

I asked my cousin, a highschool student aspiring to be a Graphic Design major, to create a new background for my Twitter account; my poor site was in need of a good, clean makeover. Behold! Amanda sent me a great logo of sorts for my Twitter, and now my page is visually appealing (whereas, before, it was visually repulsing).

Feel free to follow me at Twitter.com/jobenhaus.

Thanks, Amanda Carol!

twitter

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Blog Surfing at Its Best

A big thanks and quick shout out to Condron for promoting bloggers like me. Check the site out to peruse some great blogs.

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Filed under Blog, Blogger, Blogroll, Network, Personal, World Wide Web, Writing

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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Filed under Austin, Health, Oddities, Personal, Trends

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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Filed under Austin, Blog, Blogger, Education, Health, St. Edward's University, Trends, Writing

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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Filed under Austin, Blog, Blogger, Health, Journalism, Personal, Sports, St. Edward's University, Trends

Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy

Twitter has been my strongest ally in getting my blog out there. For those who have yet to join the tweeting phenomenon, or who have not yet gone to my Twitter page, check it out.

Twitter Screenshot

My typical number of hits per day prior to my active use of Twitter was in the 70-75 range. Now, I manage at least 100 hits a day, averaging about 130-150 hits a day on week days.  Below is a screen shot of my blog’s stat recorder. Look at that line climbing that mountain. I’m a proud mama.

Blog Stat Screesnshot

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Magellan: A Profile on my Grandfather

He couldn’t find his way around the cities of the world,
but he did find his way to the top.

When I think of my grandfather, I see him sitting in an old, white plastic lawn chair in his driveway at sunset with a ceramic mug of Texas pecan-flavored coffee, looking out past his endless rice fields and levies in the town of Anahuac. His Labrador is resting loyally next to the chair with ears twitching ever so often from the relentless flies, occasionally looking up at his old man with the utmost affection. My papa’s tractors, with mud and grass caked on the wheels, are resting outside the massive barn in the far right corner of the property. A few Green-winged Teal fly noisily overhead, making their way across the grassy acreage, which is being soaked for just a few moments longer by the hot, orange sun, dipping behind the horizon.


Sunset

I’m six years old. I can remember sitting in the back of my papa and nana’s big blue Suburban and begging them every time we took to the road to play my favorite car game. They would both look at each other quietly, as if to say, “Let’s get this over with.” Then, my nana would cry out, “Oh, Papa! No! No! Turn back! We left our chickadee behind!” I remember giggling ferociously in the back seat, pretending to howl in a fading voice, “Oh, Nana..! Oh, Papa..! Please come back…!” My papa would grumble to my nana, with a twinkle in his eye, “Arrh! We aren’t going back for her!” This would go on for at least ten minutes. I was quite an “imaginative” child—but my family loved me. That much I knew.

It’s the day I go to shoot the bull with my papa. He and I sit in white plastic lawn chairs in his driveway. Am I surprised? He has a wet glass of beer in his hands, and he points to the fridge in the corner of the garage and tells me to help myself to whatever’s in there. I grab the last Diet Coke—my papa’s soda of choice—and plop back in my lawn chair, which unnerves me some because it has cobwebs strewn across it (and, boy, do I hate spiders).

Papa asks me about school, about boys, about my brother and parents. I politely “dish” all the answers, which are essentially a few lines of carefully rehearsed responses that will appease my grandfather without giving him too much—you can’t have your grandfather really knowing what you think of that total hunk of a guy you’re seeing.

After I finish telling him about how much I love my classes and how boys are all but the plague in human form and how dandy everyone at home is, he nods heavily. The papa is pleased. He takes a swig of his beer, takes a look at the dog, and then lifts his head back up to look out past the yard, past the fence, and past the fields.

He then swings a glance at me and begins giving me some pearls of wisdom. Let me preface this by describing my papa’s voice when in an excited state. Imagine a firecracker popping off and screeching before it bursts. My papa, when fired up, has a voice that is that ear-shattering.

Papa begins by telling me about perseverance and hard work. He was nineteen when he got his job as a laborer at a company in Ironton, Ohio, that later became Gulf Chemical and Metallurgical Corporation. He worked his way up to becoming a chemist in 1965, earning a college degree in the mean time. “I used to play pool for milk money to bring home to your nana and the kids—your mom and uncles.”

From 1965 until 1970, he was the Head of Laboratory and Research at Gulf Chemical. In 1970, he became Plant Superintendent, then Plant Manager in 1972. There were only about thirty people that worked there at the time.

The big move from Ironton, Ohio to Angleton, Texas came in 1973, when my papa had to load up the wife and kids to make their home in the Lone Star State, where he became the Manager of Manufacturing in Freeport. Then, he took a sabbatical to get his bachelor’s degree.

“You know, I took sixty-three hours in ten months at two different colleges!” My papa beams with pride at this feat (which makes me realize that my measly twelve to fifteen hours a semester isn’t so bad after all).

In 1978, he returned from his sabbatical as the Assistant to the President. The very next year, he was promoted to General Manager—the company having grown to include plants all over the country. Soon thereafter, in 1984, a Belgian business bought my papa’s company, and my papa was made General Manager and Vice-President of the company. A mere six years later, a French corporation bought Papa’s business, naming him President.

Today, having serviced the oil refinery industry since 1946, Gulf Chemical is the world’s largest recycler of spent petroleum catalysts and a leading producer of ferroalloys (which refers to various iron alloys with a high proportion of one or more other element and is used in the production of steels and alloys as raw materials). Gulf Chemical is a U.S. subsidiary of Eramet, a leading global producer of nickel, manganese, alloys and special steels. The company today has more than 14,000 employees in over 30 countries. Gulf Chemical avows that the company is committed to helping the oil industry meet its energy needs while still managing intricate environmental issues.

“You know, we were environmentalists before there were environmentalists. Before all this green, you know, environmental and recycling propaganda, we were begging people not to bury hundreds of thousands of tons of s*** so we could recycle it.”

Finally, in 1995, my papa—having started at the lowest position at this company thirty years prior—became the President and Chief Executive Officer of Gulf Chemical and Metallurgical Corporation.

I’m nine years old. My entire family is at my grandparents’ house at Lake Livingston for Easter. After mass, the four grandkids—including me—are armed with Easter baskets and ready to hunt eggs. This is serious business. We line up at the end of the wooden steps that lead to the back yard to stiffly pose for pictures in our correlating OshKosh B’Gosh outfits before egg hunting. Finally, with each of us alighning our leading foot on an imaginary starting line, we look to our parents to say, “Go!” My eye is already set on a bright green egg stuck up under the piknik table. As I hear what sounds like the beginning of a “guh” sound from my papa’s mouth, I take off.

My papa will admit he’s done very well for himself. But he’s not talking about money. Papa says that the measure of his success isn’t by his net worth or affluence, but by how well his company fared. Starting off, Gulf Chemical was worth maybe a million dollars. Now it’s worth a couple hundred million.

“My measure of success in this line of work is being able to retire with your morals and values intact. The biggest treasure I came out with was my integrity. You know, so many people leave their companies in handcuffs.”

My papa’s retirement party wasn’t strewn with business charlatans as many of these sorts of events are, but filled with co-workers that had worked for my papa for twenty years and now call him a good friend. “People knew I was hard to work for, but I was reasonable and fair.”

I’m eleven years old. My brother, my two girl cousins, and I have been swimming in Lake Livingston for hours, and we had finally been called in to eat hamburgers and hot dogs for dinner. We smell of lake water, sunblock, and that natural “I’m a dirty, happy kid” scent. My papa was taking his sailboat out once more before, which we all loved to watch. There he was on that magnificent little yellow boat, slicing through infinite glimmering ripples on the lake. We all watched in awe, with mouths full of chewed up hotdog.

I ask Papa how traveling abroad was. His job took him all over the world, to every continent but Antarctica. I’d heard stories about how he’d gone hunting with famous politicians, eaten with members of the Zulu tribe, and dined in some of the most exquisite French and Japanese restaurants. There are photo albums at my papa’s house in Lake Livingston that have countless pictures of my grandparents on an African safari, in front of the Vatican, and posing in all sorts of foreign countries.

“I did a lot of traveling. But I would have rather been at home with your nana and the kids.” I watch my papa, as he nods the faintest nod anyone’s ever seen. I can see he’s thinking about her.

He then let out a single loud chuckle, “You know, my work buddies sometimes called me Magellan. I’d always think I knew where we was going, but I’d get us all lost. I couldn’t find my way through any city in any country, but I found my way to the top!” He pauses a second, “You know, I’ve been lost in every continent but Antarctica!”

I’m fourteen years old. We—myself, my brother, my cousins, and my papa—stepped solemnly into the limousine. The rest of the family and guests took to their cars to meet us for lunch later. Papa sat across from me, with my brother sitting quietly next to him. Beside me were the girls. My papa tried to smile at me and mention something unrelated, something cheerful. Probably something about the weather or the flowers growing outside. But I knew. His eyes were dark and despairing. I can remember just looking at him, wondering what he would do now. It was perhaps the single saddest, most pivotal point in my young life when we buried my nana. It was, too, for my papa.

Papa’s eyes are dark and despairing. They’re also red and wet. We’ve begun talking about my nana, the love of his life. He clears his throat several times, with a few loud sniffs in between, before he continues talking to me. I want to tell him, “I understand, Papa. You don’t have to talk about it,” but I’m frozen. I know it’s probably good for both of us to talk about it, no matter how painful it is. I can feel my eyes avoiding his. He continues staring ahead as he begins to talk.

“You know, Jeni, I’d give all this up,” he waves his shaky, free hand in front of him, motioning towards all his land. “All of it, if I could just have your nana back. I don’t care about the money or the things I have now. You’ll learn that none of that matters.”

I try hard to gulp the lump in my throat. I look away so Papa doesn’t see my eyes misting over. He just keeps looking out past the fields. At what? Oddly enough, the dog seems to be wondering the same thing, because he looks out too, then back at my papa, then back out towards the horizon. My papa’s voice is a little shaky, but it has conviction.

“Your nana was my cheerleader. You know, I was just the boy walking the picket fence to get her. That’s why I did well in my job. My career was the picket fence, and I was walking it so I could take care of her.”

I’m twenty-one years old. My papa and I are sitting in old, white plastic lawn chairs in his driveway at sunset with watered down beers and sodas. His Labrador is lying loyally next to the chair with ears twitching ever so often from the relentless flies, occasionally looking up at his old man with the utmost affection. A few Green-winged Teal fly noisily overhead, making their way across the grassy acreage, which is being soaked for just a few moments longer by the hot, orange sun, dipping behind the horizon.

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Filed under Blogger, Health, Holidays, Personal, Writing