The Versa at 10K

My little Versa, named “Vessie” that replaced “Susie“, hit the 10,000-mile mark today. The milestone came a bit earlier than it would, but a trip to El Paso or back last weekend help push it closer.

A car, while being just a pile of nuts, bolts, belts and fluids, does take on a personality unlike most objects in our life. I spent more time in my office, using my computer, in my apartment, or standing in the kitchen trying to figure out what to eat for lunch than I do in my car typically. I ride public transit for work more often than not; so I only use the car for errands, appointments and long-distance traveling. That being said, it has a personality more defined than the rest.

My car is a “she”. No particular reason for it; I just think of the car in the feminine. I give her a name, Vessie. Does coaxing her to do something help her, in fact, do something. Of course not, but I feel like we’re a team trying to achieve a goal.

Perhaps it is the remains of a coachdriver and his horse. The activity and the goal were the same: to travel from point A to point B. Talking to a horse, however, has a much greater probabilty of doing something to enhance performance.

In either case, here’s to the first 10% of my car’s life (hopefully, at least).

Austin Transportation

Capital Metro trains APD to drive a bus

Capital Metro, the public transit authority for the Austin-area, has a blog entry about training the Austin Police Department’s DWI unit to drive a new Breath-Alcohol Testing bus donated to the City by CapMetro.

The simulator is pretty sweet; would love to have a chance to see how hard it would be to drive a bus. I’m hoping there’s an open house of the bus as well. I suppose they would drive it to a DWI enforcement zone (i.e. South 1st or South Congress around the time bars close) and test folks inside.

The video from Fox News 7 is below. EDIT: The video has been removed from YouTube as of August 2018.

Austin Transportation

You Are Trapped in Your Own Home

One thing I check every week is the City of Austin’s website to see what road closures will occur due to special events. Living so close to downtown, the Palmer Event Center and Auditorium Shores, it is very common for something to be going on.

One thing I check every week is the City of Austin’s Event Closure Page, listing road closures due to special events.

The week’s press release, released yesterday, informed me that South 1st Street between Oltorf and Cesar Chavez will be closed between 7 am and 5 pm on Saturday. That’s the street I live on and that’s a long time for the street to be closed.

I placed a call to the City’s 311 line to ask if this was a complete closure or if there will be a lane open. During the marathon, for example, one southbound lane was open, allowing traffic to make it to Oltorf westbound and back to the normal street system.

As the operator was aware, the street will be closed. Period. She transferred me to Special Events, who basically said she knew the same thing. I asked about the way the marathon had it setup and asked if that wasn’t in the works. She wasn’t sure and said she would do research, getting back to me later in the day. She asked me exactly what street I lived on so she could help figure out a route if South 1st was completely closed. Yes, my friend, I live on South 1st.

This wouldn’t be a big deal except Vanessa and I have an appointment at 10 am and with the 10K’s 4-mile point being right at our apartment complex, I highly doubt all of the racers would be passed us by the time we would need to leave.

Let’s hope for good news.


The End of Susie

As many of you know, I own a 2000 Hyundai Elantra that has been lovingly named “Susie Brahmaputra”, or Susie for short. It is the first car I owned, being purchased for me by my mom using life insurance money left from my dad. The car itself is a little tank. I’ve been mudding with it up on dirt roads in Oklahoma. It has driven me virtually everywhere. I left the lot with it at 128 miles and at last note, it has 87,383 miles on it.

A week ago today, I drove from Austin to Wichita Falls to be with my family for my mom’s operation. Since I left in the morning, I wanted to avoid as much traffic as possible and decided to avoid IH-35. The “back way” to Wichita Falls is US 183 north out of Austin to US 281 north in Lampasas. US 281 will take you all the way to Wichita Falls.

On US 281 between Jacksboro and Windthorst, out of the corner of my eye, I see a full-grown buck (male deer) clear out of the high grass next to the roadway. I slam on the brakes and swerve to avoid a hit, but to no avail.

View Larger Map

I was not injured, so no worries there. Susie, however, did not fair so well. Not realizing the full extent of the damage, I called State Farm and was referred to a body shop in Wichita Falls (after limping home).

State Farm called the next morning and told me that the initial estimate would total the car. They would send out their own person to look at the damage to confirm or refute the total value loss. Long story short, I am now looking for a new car.

We signed over the car to State Farm yesterday morning and received our settlement. They’ll take Susie to be chopped up and the rest of her will be used for parts.

May Susie rest in pieces.


toll roads are a-opening

Yesterday, the first toll roads in the Austin area opened to traffic. Loop 1 now extends north to the new State Highway 45 which currently stretches between RM 620 and the new State 130. 130 is open from US 79 in Round Rock down to US 290.

I was already scheduled to be in Round Rock last night so I was able to drive the stretch from Loop 1 to IH-35. I’m a bit of a dork so I enjoyed myself. Once tolls are collected, cars using the TxTag transponders can stay in the main lanes and pay without slowing down. Cash customers will take an exit of sorts to a row of toll booths. The few toll roads I have driven on (mostly in Oklahoma), transponder customers still had to slow down to 40 MPH and still drove through the plaza. Since traffic does not have to slow down, traffic can flow very smoothly through the toll plazas.

I’m interested to see how IH-35 is impacted once the full length of 130 opens. 130, once current construction is complete, will run from IH-35 north of Georgetown to 183 in Austin. Future construction is planned to extend 130 to IH-10 east of San Antonio. IH-35 can use all the help it can get!

Church Transportation

in flight to washington: busted halo

I’m currently 37,000 feet above the United States, just crossing the Sabine River out of Texas. This is my first flight aboard an EMB. This American Eagle-operated airplane was 13 rows with 3 seats in each row with no first class- for those who wouldn’t like to fire up the calculator, that means 39 plus a crew of 3 or 4.
To pass the time, I’m doing a few different things. First, I’m doing homework. I’ve written most of a film review for my Studies of U.S. Poverty course and now I’m writing a blog entry. While the blog entry would usually be personal time for me, my Collaborate Technologies course asks a few blog entries from me. While doing all of this, I’m listening to old Busted Halo podcasts. Busted Halo is a young adult website produced by The Paulist Fathers.
I’ve somewhat read the print material on Busted Halo and to be honest, it has never jumped up to the top of my bookmark list (or now my links or a feed on Google Reader). Everything on there seems to be great; just never really called out to me. By virtue of working for the Paulists through the University Catholic Center, I’ve been able to meet a good number of people involved with Busted Halo and I’ve even been recruited to help with their Word on the Street segment (I still need to produce something! Fr. Dave Dywer, CSP (NYD, since he’s the Fr. Dave in NYC) if you’re reading, I haven’t forgotten about it yet!). My boss, Fr. Dave Farnum, CSP (TXD as NYD has referred to him), recently traveled to a preaching conference and walked away after talking to NYD with the idea of podcasting some of the homilies from the University Catholic Center.
I figured, what the heck, if I’m going to start producing podcasts for Fr. Dave and the UCC, I should listen to some of the Busted Halo podcasts. I downloaded all 73 released episodes and I’m currently listening to the 4th episode- I’m impressed.
In terms of new media- Internet-accessed media, EWTN has been the big fish in the Catholic pond. EWTN is a fine network and produces quality Catholic content. The downside to EWTN’s content is that there is a high assumption that you’re already well-formed in the Church. A random member of the intended audience has probably been Catholic for sometime, attend Mass every Sunday if not more often, may have a decent understanding of Catholicism and Catholic tradition. If you’re on the fringe of the Catholic Church or not even in the Church at all, there is a high barrier of entry presented by EWTN.
I’ve really enjoyed the Busted Halo podcasts so far as that barrier of entry is eliminated. The assumption made by NYD and Mike is that if you’re listening, you’re seeking to grow closer to God and are open to the Catholic tradition. Now, this is not to say that these podcasts contain only very superficial material. This was my fear and it was proven incorrect.
Some of the topics they have touched upon is the role of fundamentalism in today’s political landscape in an interview with former President Jimmy Carter, explaining some of various saints and holy people (St. Nick, Dorothy Day and others) without shying away from some of the darker aspects of these individuals background, looking at parishes across the United States that have young-adult programming. NYD went into the need for confession, including why when a Catholic is under serious (mortal) sin he or she should abstain from Communion.
In other words, I think anyone could listen to these podcasts and be able to follow what is going on without a problem. At the same time as an amateur Church expert, I enjoy listening myself and have found these podcasts useful and interesting.