Thursday, December 30, 2010

Flew South For The Winter

A Texas winter evening:

Texas is the home of and winter destination to over 600 species of birds, more than any other state in the U.S. They can be a frighteningly overwhelming yet completely fascinating to see flock this way.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Won't A Graffiti Artist Please Change This To "Most Dangerous Place For Children Is In the Wombat Reserve"?

Oh, Travis County. What have you done?

Anti-abortion ads target black women:

This ad is one crazy scare tactic. Banned in Dallas and Houston, but not Austin? WTF!?

The website sponsoring the ad,, poses this fact:

This is a pretty shocking statistic. Before the fervor gets blown out of proportion (like accusing the founder of Planned Parenthood of a secret plan to ethnically cleanse minorities), let's look at some facts. According to Susan A. Cohen, author of "Abortion and Women of Color: The Bigger Picture" (Guttmacher Policy Review, Summer 2008, Volume 11, Number 3),

The disparities in unintended pregnancy rates result mainly from similar disparities in access to and effective use of contraceptives. As of 2002, 15% of black women at risk of unintended pregnancy (i.e., those who are sexually active, fertile and not wanting to be pregnant) were not practicing contraception, compared with 12% and 9% of their Hispanic and white counterparts, respectively. These figures—and the disparities among them—are significant given that, nationally, half of all unintended pregnancies result from the small proportion of women who are at risk but not using contraceptives.


Not only do fertility and not wanting to be pregnant work against women, contraceptives can be messy, uncomfortable, forgotten, misplaced, or incorrectly used.

"For an individual woman who is attempting to avoid a pregnancy, the particular method she chooses and the way she uses it over time also matter. In fact, all of the major contraceptive methods are extremely effective if used "perfectly." In actual practice, however, there are significant variations in a method's effectiveness in "typical use" (i.e., for the average person who may not always use the method correctly or consistently). The IUD has a very low failure rate because it is long-acting and requires little intervention by the user. Coitus-related methods such as condoms are at the other end of the typical-use effectiveness scale, because they depend on proper use at every act of intercourse. The pill, which is not coitus-related but must be taken every day, is usually more effective than the condom, but less effective than an IUD. Factoring together the method choices and the real-life challenges to effective use over long periods of time, women of color as well as those who are young, unmarried or poor have a lower level of contraceptive protection than their counterparts.

Studies by Guttmacher Institute researchers, published in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health in 2007 and in Contraception in 2008, sought to shed some light on the reasons women at risk of unintended pregnancy do not use contraceptives at all or use them only sporadically. Geographic access to services is a factor for some women; however, for many, it is more a matter of being able to afford the more effective—usually more expensive—prescription methods.

Beyond geographic and financial access, life events such as relationship changes, moving or personal crises can have a direct impact on method continuation. Such events are more common for low-income and minority women than for others, and may contribute to unstable life situations where consistent use of contraceptives is lower priority than simply getting by. In addition, a woman's frustration with a birth control method can result in her skipping pills or not using condoms every time. Minority women, women who are poor and women with little education are more likely than women overall to report dissatisfaction with either their contraceptive method or provider. Cultural and linguistic barriers also can contribute to difficulties in method continuation."

Shocking: women are human! Acquiring and then correctly using contraceptives can be a financial, emotional, time-consuming, stressful burden. But some of us are lucky to have a doctor to provide them. Others use free clinics, over-the-counter Plan-B, prayer, or the rhythm method.

"Access to health care, including financial access, remains a significant issue that particularly affects minority communities; however, there is increasing recognition of the critical importance of quality of care as it affects health-seeking behavior and outcomes. In 2002, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) reported that "minorities are less likely than whites to receive needed services, including clinically necessary procedures." The IOM offered a number of explanations for this finding, including linguistic and cultural barriers that interfere with effective communication between a patient and a provider. The IOM also noted a level of mistrust for the health system in general that exists in minority communities. Mistrust can cause a patient to refuse treatment or comply poorly with medical advice, which in turn can cause providers to become less engaged—leading to a vicious cycle. These obstacles are difficult enough to surmount in cases where a patient is ill and presumably motivated to receive some kind of treatment. In the case of a prevention intervention such as birth control, however, where the need for "treatment" may seem less pressing, the cumulative effect of these obstacles could be daunting."

What does it all mean? African-American women have less access to high-quality health care. The best contraceptives are often the most expensive and difficult to acquire (read: you have to get it from a doctor). The less expensive contraceptives effectiveness rely on "perfect use." Often culture or linguistics can be a barrier to proper care, prevention, or education.
And I haven't even touched on Texas' abysmal sex education policy.

Seems that there are more factors at work than just one evil genius' plan to wipe out an entire race on a purely volunteer basis - you remember choice, right?

Planned Parenthood's full response:

Planned Parenthood's mission is to provide preventive, affordable health care to everyone in the community regardless of their race, ethnicity, sex, religion, sexual orientation, or ability to pay. Planned Parenthood health centers provide health care and education to three million women and men in the U.S. every year—including 33,000 men and women in Austin. Last year, Planned Parenthood in Austin provided 5,944 breast cancer screenings, 5,557 cervical cancer screenings, 16,577 tests and treatment for sexually transmitted infections; 6,578 HIV tests; and birth control for more than 26,000 Central Texans. This expensive billboard campaign generates media attention but unfortunately does nothing to provide critically needed health care and education in the Austin community.

Critically needed health care for the Austin Community. Austin's low-income healthcare provider, The Medcial Assistance Program (MAP) just imploded on itself this summer. Without enough clinics and doctors available to care for the growing number of patients, low-to-middle income residents were denied benefits and their contracts went unrenewed as a means to quell the demand. Right now, to meet MAP's qualifications, you must make under $900 a month. The well-intentioned receptionists at MAP do, however, recommend Planned Parenthood as an alternate source of care.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Texas Store: Exactly Like It Sounds

Finally, a place to get all of my holiday shopping done! A delightful boutique boasting the bounty of the great state of Texas.

Texas Store. No fancy or foreign words to confuse you. Oh, you introduce your nouns with an article? Whatre ya, one ah them ed-you-cated e-leet? They don't even need originality or cleverness to get you in the door. These goods sell themselves, people.

The shirt sale sounded extremely promising! And then I entered the land-of-all-things-porcelain-crap, plus keychains. Finally, a use for my new acronym. OMFGDMWTX!!!!:


Texas has over 200 universities and colleges, including Rice, Texas A&M, Southern Methodist, and Baylor, but as a tourist, you might never realize this. But while only some of you like learning, everybody likes FOOTBALL!!!!! Subsequently the ubiquity of Longhorn apparel takes all precedent over any prestigious school.

Are you noticing the football phone in the top left corner?

And just because I'm an exposer of conspiracy/truth:

Y'all ain't welcome here. Xenophobia with a side of hot sauce, literally.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Texas Economy Kicking Your State's Ass

Great news for Texas: It's economy is doing better than the rest of the country and is ranked 11th worldwide. Susan Combs, Texan Comptroller of Public Accounts, gives us these updated statistics:
  • Texas’ October 2010 unemployment rate was 8.1 percent, the same as the previous month versus the 9.8 percent U.S. unemployment rate in November 2010, a 0.2 percent increase from October.
  • The Texas unemployment rate has been at or below the national rate for 45 consecutive months.
  • In October 2010, the Texas foreclosure rate was one in every 667 mortgages. This was substantially better than Nevada’s one in 66, Florida’s one in 137, Arizona’s one in 143, and California’s one in 190.
  • The Texas region’s consumer confidence index increased from 71.8 in October to 89.7 in November 2010, and is now up 38.2 percent from its level one year ago.
Lucky Austin is the American city least affected by the downturn, ranking as No. 3 in economic performance before the recession, No. 3 during the recession and No. 1 since.

An obvious conclusion to draw would be the correlation between oil in Texas and the sustaining economy. Another surprising and optimistic factor, however, are Texas non-profits and charities. According to the Austin American Statesmen,

One out of 26 people — 3.8 percent of the state's total work force — works at a nonprofit. In 2008, the most recent year studied in the report , 16,389 people worked at Travis County charities — 3.6 percent of all jobs in the county. 403,000 nonprofit employees in the state earned $16.8 billion in wages, according to a study by the Austin-based OneStar Foundation and Johns Hopkins University .

In 2009 , the state created a task force to help it work more effectively with nonprofits. That group issued a variety of recommendations intended to help charities, such as maintaining the current tax policy for the sector and maximizing the state's acquisition of federal funds for grant and contract programs.

Clearly the message is that nonprofits are a key economic force in Texas. After a dismal election in November 2010 gave the Texan Republicans a supermajority, apprehension set in about the effects of certain-to-be government cuts will have on that force. Non-profits have a difficult time lobbying for their own benefits and rights because they are so busy, you know, helping others. The task force will hopefully help city officials and non-profit leaders work to more effectively contract and provide services, so that non-profit organizations can continue to focus on their projects.

Or maybe they should just buy an oil field. Then the government will definitely listen.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sunday Mass, Plus BBQ

This Sunday, I experienced my first Baptist Brunch. What a show. Baptists are the second largest denomination in Texas, with over 3 million practicing, making Texas the true "buckle" of the Bible Belt.

Stubb's BBQ is the place for The Gospel Brunch Buffet - a beautiful hybrid of praising Him while practicing gluttony. According to the restaurant history,

"Stubb was born March 7, 1931, in Navasota, a small town on Texas’ Brazos River, one of 12 children born to a Baptist evangelist preacher and his wife. Some say that Stubb inherited his love for cooking from his father who would feed his congregation barbeque along with the gospel. Stubb recalls revival meetings followed by potluck dinners featuring beef, pork and even raccoon and possum."

Thankfully, they now only serve brisket, sausage, and chicken for breakfast. Stubb's original restaurant was in Lubbock, Texas, a city famous for boasting the most churches per capita in the nation. Unfortunately for Lubbock, for fortunately for me, Austin was destined to be the final home of the music venue/barbecue pit.

"Let’s put it this way," said Stubb, "I got run out of Lubbock ’cause I was broke, busted and disgusted. I can’t fight the IRS with barbeque and sauce."

He started selling BBQ out of the back of another music venue here in Austin in 1985 and was on his way to opening Stubb's BBQ over on Red River Street.

Sunday is really where its at for Stubb's. Besides an all you can eat BBQ brunch, there's a gospel choir/band playing a two-hour show during your meal and a make-your-own Bloody Mary bar to boot. The buffet includes biscuits and gravy, enchiladas, migas, pancakes, pecan pie, grits and fried catfish while the butcher carves you off a slow-roasted choice cut of meat. While you're digesting between rounds one and two (or three and four), you can clap your hands, stomp your cowboy boots and praise Jesus!! And thank Him for giving you barbecue, the breakfast of champions.

The restaurant also hosts a myriad of musical acts from country to pop to dance to bluegrass, and lists Willie Nelson, B.B. King, Linda Ronstadt, and George Thorogood as former performers.

Grammy winner Tom T. Hall even wrote a song about Stubb’s Bar-B-Que—“The Great East Broadway Onion Championship of 1978”—about an early morning pool game between Hall and Ely, where they used an onion instead of a cue ball. Blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan came in regularly, and learned to play Tin Pan Alley by listening to James Reed’s version on Stubb’s jukebox.

I don't mean to be all commercially/proselytizing at you, I'm just saying that if you go there for music or food or both, you won't be disappointed.

You might even get saved.