‘Austin’ Category


Readin’ and Writin’ and ‘Rithmatic

Originally Published July 8, 2020 by Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – Do you know how many students attended public schools in the United States in the 2019-2020 school year? According to the National Center for Education Statistics, https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/, about  50.8 million – 35.5 million in prekindergarten to grade 8, and 15.3 million in grades 9-12.

About 3.7 million students graduated from high school this spring, in the strangest ending to a school year anyone can recall. I’ve heard stories from my parents of “depression years” and school schedules revolving around “cotton-picking time.” My Dad was double-promoted in high school during hard times and wound up graduating at age 16. “Daddy had been a school teacher, and he made sure I got my studies done first. So I’d go to classes in the morning and then put in a crop in the afternoon,” he told. My Mom was dealt a reverse blow – her father held her back for two of her school years; once due to a lengthy illness and once when she simply needed to help support the family. My grandfather was a carpenter, and she dug clay from the riverbank to make bricks. But both parents persevered. They made it, despite the odds.

This year’s high schoolers were hit with an unexpected, unpredictable crisis along about March. In a flurry of fears and fumbles, as the COVID-19 virus began to creep across the country, schools shifted to stay-at-home, online classes. The methods varied from state to state, even within school districts. “Let’s stay home till this passes,” was Plan 1.

It didn’t pass. Virus cases continued to go up and state governors were tasked with issuing mandates to protect their citizens. What a thoroughly depressing “rock and a hard place” to be between. We can’t let 3.5 million kids miss a senior year! But also, we can’t let 50.8 million kids sit side by side in a classroom when the danger of illness, or death, is entirely possible.

So what to do?

You know what happened, it’s past now. My two high-school-senior-grandchildren toughed it out, sitting at home with their laptops; certain hours for online classtime and individual study. Yes, you can STUDY at home (that’s normally called “homework”) but how the heck do you complete a welding class online? They missed the senior prom, the cross-country meets, the camaraderie with school chums. It all went flat.

I applaud the effort their school officials made to create “virtual graduation ceremonies” so they did get to WEAR those caps and gowns; they did get photographed with smiling faces and feted with “immediate-family-at-home parties.” And cake, of course, cake. I’ve heard stories from friends in different parts of the country that told of similar, and some very unusual, solutions for “how to make it SPECIAL for the Class of 2020.”

Life goes on, and the virus isn’t letting up as the fall “school year” fast approaches. The daily news is mostly daily arguments and accusations; we MUST do this; we CANNOT do that. The impact of school closures extends far beyond “educational concerns” or “health concerns.” Financial, emotional, practical, common-sense issues are topsy-turvy; our structured way of life is no longer certain of its footings.

I analyze COVID-19 cases every day on the CDC site; today’s totals are 2,982,900 with 145,663 deaths so far in our 50 states, the District of Columbia, and our US territories.

Top Ten List

Sometimes, I noted, it isn’t good to make the TOP TEN LIST. Today, the ten US states dealing with the highest sheer numbers of COVID-19 cases are:

  1. 399,925: New York. Capital City Albany, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Democrat
  2. 277,724: California. Capital City Sacramento, Governor Gavin Newsom, Democrat
  3. 210,594: Florida. Capital City Tallahassee, Governor Ron DeSantis, Republican
  4. 210,585: Texas. Capital City Austin, Governor Greg Abbott, Republican
  5. 173,878: New Jersey. Capital City Trenton, Governor Phil Murphy, Democrat
  6. 149,574: Illinois. Capital City Springfield, Governor J B Pritzker, Democrat
  7. 110,338: Massachusetts. Capital City Boston, Governor Charlie Baker, Republican
  8. 105,094: Arizona. Capital City Phoenix, Governor Doug Ducey, Republican
  9. 100,470: Georgia. Capital City Atlanta, Governor Brian Kemp, Republican
  10. 92,148: Pennsylvania. Capital City Harrisburg, Governor Tom Wolf, Democrat

Andrew Cuomo, Gavin Newsom, Ron DeSantis, Greg Abbott, Phil Murphy, J B Pritzker, Charlie Baker, Doug Ducey, Brian Kemp, and Tom Wolf, governors of these hardest-hit states, have some tough decisions ahead. So do the governors, and health departments, and school boards, of ALL our states and territories.

There are more than 50 million children out there whose future rocks, and rolls, on the decisions you make.

Tomorrow: Colleges



That Virus Thingy

September 1, 2020, Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – Six months have passed since we really started counting “that virus thingy.” I check the US stats on the Centers for Disease Control website every week; so far no US state or territory has had a week go by with NO new cases. Except for American Samoa, bless their peaceful, well-isolated hearts. Today I took a worldwide look – the World Health Organization has an excellent site and really good advice. It’s vitally important to track what is going on in our own neighborhood, but I believe it is equally important to track what is happening beyond our borders. Compare – how are they managing? How are we, in the US?

As of the beginning of September, 2020, the World Health Organization shows 25,541,380 cases of COVID-19 reported worldwide; 852,000 deaths. If we want to compare that death count with the population of cities of equal size – we could say that EVERYBODY in Indianapolis, Indiana is dead now. Or, Seattle, Washington. Dead. No living, breathing persons left in those cities. When you look at it THAT way, it seems like a lot of deaths, doesn’t it? Other cities in the US that have populations in the 800,000 range are Charlotte, North Carolina; San Francisco, California, Columbus, Ohio; Forth Worth, Texas.  Imagine them gone! Imagine a dystopian horror tale, such as Peter Heller’s The Dog Stars (2012); a world where the unexpected happened – a flu pandemic struck – and life on the planet had to adjust to “what is.” While I’m a believer in Positive Thinking, I’m also a believer in being well-informed. And approaching life in ways that are reasonable, and not based on impatience to “get back to normal, now!” Like, opening schools.  Sure, kids are getting a sucky education right now. Sure, parents are sick and tired of having to manage and monitor their children’s schooling from home.  Sure – well the issue is ablaze in arguments and accusations and vastly different proposals. Politics involved. What is the best solution? Start with facts.

Here are the numbers broken down by sections of the world, and then the US.

World Health Organization Statistics – Number of Cases Reported Worldwide as of September 1, 2020

  • Americas – 13,469,747
  • SE Asia – 4,318,281
  • Europe – 4,225,328
  • Eastern Mediterranean – 1,939,204
  • Africa – 1,056,120
  • Western Pacific – 501,959
  • TOTAL WORLDWIDE – 25,541,380

Of the Americas, that’s both North and South, let’s look at what is happening just in the United States. We’ve got the most cases of any American country — 6,004,443 COVID-19 cases reported to date; 183,050 deaths from the virus. That “death” total kills off everybody in Little Rock, just about! The US numbers are big, and continue to get bigger. Over the next month, I’ll be looking at what other countries in the world are doing to combat a pandemic that is “sure ‘nough” real, and how they are keeping their citizens safe.

Meanwhile, wash your hands, keep your chin up (with MASK intact!), and if you happen to live in any of the states below, get in touch with your governor because your state is leading the pack this week, an honor you don’t want.

US States With Highest Percent of Population Diagnosed With COVID-19 as of September 1

  1. Louisiana – 3.2%, Governor John Bel Edwards, Democrat
  2. Florida – 2.87%, Governor Ronald Dion DeSantis, Republican
  3. Mississippi – 2.81%, Governor Jonathon Tate Reeves, Republican
  4. Arizona – 2.77%, Governor Douglas Anthony Ducey, Republican
  5. Alabama – 2.57%, Governor Kay Ellen Ivey, Republican

US States With Greatest  Numbers of COVID-19  Cases Diagnosed as of September 1

  1. California – 704,485, Governor Gavin Christopher Newsom, Democrat
  2. Florida – 616,629, Governor Ronald Dion DeSantis, Republican
  3. Texas – 612,969, Governor Gregory Wayne Abbott, Republican
  4. New York – 435,783, Governor Andrew Mark Cuomo, Democrat
  5. Georgia – 270,471, Governor Brian Porter Kemp, Republican

US States With Most New Cases Diagnosed in One Week as of September 1

  1. California – 40,416, Governor Gavin Christopher Newsom, Democrat
  2. Texas – 35,432, Governor Gregory Wayne Abbott, Republican
  3. Florida – 22,342, Governor Ronald Dion DeSantis, Republican
  4. Georgia – 16,522, Governor Brian Porter Kemp, Republican
  5. Illinois – 15,130, Governor Jay Robert “J. B.” Pritzker, Democrat

John Bel Edwards, LA

Ron DeSantis, FL

Tate Reeves, MS

Doug Ducey, AZ

Kay Ivey, AL

Andrew Cuomo, NY

Brian Kemp, GA

Gavin Newsom, CA

Greg Abbott, TX

J B Pritzker, IL


An Invite From DAR

1 DAR Presentation ArkadelphiaLinda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – I was invited by Charlotte Jeffers, Regent of the Arkadelphia Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution, to speak at their April 14 meeting. “Do you want me to talk about the history of the capital cities, or my travel experiences?” I asked. “What will everyone be most interested in?” “We are interested in everything,” was the reply, so I decided to focus on our likeminded objectives, which sent me to the DAR national website.

I learned that DAR was founded October 11, 1890 and incorporated in 1896 by an Act of Congress. Objectives are listed as Historical, Educational, and Patriotic, so I honed in on the “educational” factor, since that is a primary objective of Capital Cities USA. For DAR, “to promote…institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge, thus developing an enlightened public opinion.” For Capital Cities USA, “to build community, character and citizenship through humanities education.” From Objectives to Methodology explains the Journey Across America: Item 1 – to assess civic, community and historic resources in the 50 capital cities of the United States and their capitol buildings by gathering data through on-site visits to each capitol and capital city. In a nutshell!

I began my talk with bottom-line statistics – departed February 28, 2012 and concluded December 18, 2013 for a total of 659 days. Traveled 31,710 miles and spent time in 50 state capitols and the national capitol in DC. Shared neighborhoods with 12,947,450 people as I lived two weeks in each capital city. (With my two cats, no less.) I shared a map showing the 75 overnight stops I made before settling down in Arkadelphia, and then moved into story telling.

“What learning opportunities did I find in the capitols?” I focused on five that were exceptional:
• Austin, Texas – Most Extensive Visitor Services
• Boise, Idaho – Most Inspiring Kids Tour
• Atlanta, Georgia – Tie With Springfield, Illinois as Most Welcoming
• Springfield, Illinois – Tie with Atlanta, Georgia as Most Welcoming
• Montpelier, Vermont – Most Intimate & Inviting, Best Volunteer Program, Most Meticulous Restoration

» read more


The Ides are Springsteen

Linda Burton posting from Austin, Texas — Beware the Ides? The schedule said noon, but it was 12:27 before The Boss arrived at the Austin Convention Center and began his Keynote Address, kicking off the music portion of SXSW today. “A keynote speech at NOON?” he groused. “All musicians are asleep right now.”

Not a musician, and not asleep, I enjoyed immensely (via live coverage on KUT) what he called a key notes talk.  “Since Elvis died,” he commented, “we have not agreed on anything about music. There is no pure way of doing it. There’s just doing it.”

He’s been doing it. It was announced yesterday that Springsteen’s latest album, Wrecking Ball, had topped the charts at  #1, his 10th  #1 album in the US, tying him with Elvis for third most  #1 albums in US chart history.

I’ve got no photos for you, but others do. Check it out. http://kut.org/








No Limits on Austin

  Linda Burton posting from Austin, Texas — The tour guide pointed out the Moody Theater as we turned onto Willie Nelson Avenue. “That’s where Austin City Limits tapes its shows,” he said,” but tickets are handed out on a lottery basis, so don’t expect to just walk in the door.”

 It’s popular, all right. Did you know that ACL is is the longest-running music program in television history? The only TV show awarded the Presidential Medal of the Arts, it has featured everyone from Willie Nelson to Foo Fighters, presenting a huge variety of musical styles. Who could have guessed what would happen when PBS put out the call back in 1974 for original programming from its local stations?

Trio Bill Arhos, Paul Bosner and Bruce Scafe put their heads together and hatched the idea of showcasing Austin’s diverse mix of country, blues, folk and psychedelia. Bosner suggested the name — he passed the Austin City Limit sign on his commute coming in from Dallas — and thus a legend was born .http://austincitylimits.com/


That Austin City Limit sign has welcomed many to the Live Music Capital of the World. Today the city boasts 200 live music venues and 2,000 musicians in residence. And then there is the ACL Annual Music Festival in Zilker Park, three days, eight stages, and 130 bands; the Pachanga Festival, latin-themed, 20 bands of various genres; the Urban Music Festival; and of course, SXSW (those in the know just say South By) which I’ve been talking about all week, the granddaddy of all festivals. http://www.austintexas.org

And if you go away, that Austin City Limit sign welcomes you back, no matter where you’ve been. 

 Driven by a restless urge to wander,
You hitch your wagon to a shooting star.
Flying down the highway headed yonder,
Then you get where you were going, and there you are.

So a body’s born with half a mind to travel,
That wanderlust to pack your bags and roam,
‘Til you’re wearing out your boots just scratching gravel,
And you long to be some place that feels like home…

I’ve been a little blue but I’ll be fine
When I see that AUSTIN CITY LIMITS sign.

Lyrics by Hank Alrich https://hankalrich.com/notes/AustinCityLimits.html



Goddess of Liberty

Linda Burton posting from Austin, Texas — The Goddess of Liberty sits atop the Texas State Capitol dome, but I don’t find much information about why she was chosen. I was struck by the symbolism however, in my stroll around the capitol grounds and inside the building today. http://www.tspb.state.tx.us/SPB/capitol/texcap.htm

Out front a demonstration was going on, protesting cuts in funds for women’s health care. It was a lively group, rallying in red, making noise, being heard, speaking up. The Planned Parenthood bus was parked nearby, and demonstrations are scheduled for Tuesdays as these issues continue to be top-line news. Participants consented to my picture-taking efforts.

 Further up the walkway, I met Nicole, a University of Texas sophomore majoring in advertising. She was wandering the grounds with camera in hand, on assignment, looking for “something that was a defining moment in Texas history.” I asked permission to get her picture, and at my request, she took mine.

 Up at the Visitors Entrance, the line had gotten long. The two women in front of me were together, why had they come today? I didn’t ask, but noted one was armed with her camera.

 Tours were going off every 15 minutes. A little bit about the capitol, a little about Texas history, 45 minutes guided, or, you can tour the entire building on your own. Pamphlets in many languages are available to explain what you’re seeing. Davy Crockett’s portrait looms large, as do statues of Sam Houston, who served as President of the Republic of Texas, and Stephen Austin, for whom the capital city is named. In the rotunda, portraits of ex-governors surround. To the right of Ann Richards is George W Bush (accidental symbolism?). Current governor Rick Perry doesn’t get a portrait until he leaves office. Then everybody shifts over one position!

I had some lunch in the outstanding cafeteria downstairs and while resting on a bench near the gift shop met Wilma, a retired schoolteacher from Lubbock. We chatted about schools, and teaching, and changing times. She was there with her parents, her sister, and a nephew and niece. I met them too, a delightful family, headed for San Antonio after a few days in Austin. Spring break for the kids. “We have 25 grandchildren, four adopted,” bragged Wilma’s parents, offering pictures.

Back outside, a brilliant evening gown on the path ahead caught my attention. A young girl, pretty in pink, posing beside the capitol trees. Permission to get your picture? I asked. Two men, her father and her brother, armed with heavy-duty cameras, nodded in assent. “What is the occasion? Did you win a contest?” “No, I’m turning fifteen,” was her answer. A family that had been touring the capitol while I was inside squealed in delight at this photo-op and jumped to pose with her. Father and brother beamed.

The grounds were filled with kids chasing squirrels, bicycles propped against a tree while their riders rested beside, helmets on the ground; picnics spread for families; a lone laptopper concentrating over computer intricacies and the smell of fresh air. Over at the edge a woman sat on a bench, her little white dog beside.

The goddess of liberty stood watch over all.  I remembered the comment made to me by an excited young boy of ten as we waited for the capitol tour to begin. From Midland, he was there with his parents and sister for spring break time. “I’ve got a good feeling about this,” he said.


Radio Face

Linda Burton posting from Austin, Texas — KUT radio, Austin, Texas, 90.5 on your radio dial. http://kut.org/ Check it out.

This public radio station is the face of Texas. Give it the Yellow Rose, the Lone Star, the Bluebonnet Blue Ribbon for excellence. I confess to being a devoted NPR listener; heck, before I left home I made a list of all the public stations in all the capital cities so I could tune in as soon as I arrived.

KUT has entertained and guided me from Day 1 in Austin. Good programming, enough talk, enough news, and laudy miss maudy there is music music music. It’s not a blues station, like some I’ve loved, or a jazz station; nor does it dote on country, or folk, or bluegrass, or latin. It does everything.

Listening to the Eklektikos show a few days ago while computering, I heard Emmylou Harris and Johnny Cash, Bob Marley and Bruce Springsteen, Asleep at the Wheel and The Shins, Alejandro Escovedo and Alabama Shakes, with NPR news at 11 followed by a live in-studio performance by Dr Dog, that psychedelic-indie rock band out of Pennsylvania in town for SXSW,. Dr Dog’s performace was a little off, for which they apologized. “Morning voice, huh?” was the astute-yet-forgiving comment. I felt like they were sitting in my living room. Connection.

KUT is thick in the community, involved and offering opportunity for involvement. It’s been around since 1958, licensed to the University of Texas at Austin, a service of the College of Communication. Committed to supporting civic and cultural life in Central Texas, its mission is simply stated — to create experiences that deepen understanding and connect people. “We are committed to authenticity, craft, context and the unique power of the human voice in all its forms.”

Check it out. And remember, this is a publicly supported station. Make a donation. Become a member. See the little blue button at the top right of their site.  http://kut.org/


Keep Fixing Up the Doghouse

Linda Burton posting from Austin, Texas — When you’re in Austin you expect live music with your Sunday brunch. Threadgill’s North wasn’t too far away, easy choice. Good home cooking, biscuits, gravy, and even those “cheesey grits” Mitt Romney mentioned eating in Alabama yesterday, obviously not up on the subtleties of grits.

Hank & Shaidri Alrich were already singing when I arrived, sweet voices carrying over the noise of hungry people in the middle of Sunday social time. More coffee please, yes, I’ll have the buffet. No brainer — not only cheesey grits, but cheesey eggs, sausage, bacon, pancakes, french toast, cantaloupe, go back twice. A family place, bouncy kids in high chairs, energy alive.

“Don’t fix up the doghouse, cause this old dog is gone….” sounded clear over the commotion, followed by pithy warnings about not taking wooden nickles either. Don’t even bother taking off your makeup, cause I’ve found a new address, and, bottom line, I’m gone. Two men in dark jackets-over-jeans whipped out their cell phones and started recording, captured and enraptured.

They were SXSW junkies, here from Chicago for face-to-face time, marketing moguls after the hottest trends. “It’s my first time,” the one named Lazarus told me, “but I’ll come back next year for sure.”

I bought a CD (are they still in style?) and chatted with Hank during the break. Hank was an Austin fixture for many years, at one time managing the Armadillo World Headquarters, steering through hard times of the 70’s. “I live in northern California now,” he said. “A peaceful place, the Sierras out my door. When we turn out our lights at night, there is no light anywhere around.” https://hankalrich.com/CarryMeHome.html

This old dog is gone? Not quite. Hank and daughter Shaidri bring their music back to Austin several times a year. Live on, legends Kenneth Threadgill, and Eddie Wilson, and all who keep fixing up the doghouse. That’s Threadgill’s. Dang, it’s good.  http://www.threadgills.com/history.php




Don’t Let the Rain Catch You Sighing

Linda Burton posting from Austin, Texas — Geek chic or the rodeo? Which would you rather experience in the midst of a bodacious Texas thunderstorm? Nobody except the pedicabbers paid the least bit of attention to the weather today as folks crowded in to both events with a fervor.

Governor Rick Perry dropped by SXSW and chatted with CNN’s Peter Hamby, wearing jeans and an arm sling. When asked what he’d do differently next time, he answered, “Well, I wouldn’t have back surgery just before a campaign. I’d start a little earlier and be better prepared.” Chalk it up to live and learn.

A  Twitterer commented later “Why was his arm in a sling? Was it from his fall from the presidential race?”  News knows it was from his February 24 surgery to repair his right clavicle, which did not heal properly after a 2009 bicycle accident.

Speaking of Twitter, the Interactive Hotspot calls Twitter “so 2007” news. What’s trending now is “close friends.” If you’ve got Facebook friends, your phone can tell you which ones are close by. Is this a good thing? Will this replace Lassie?

And speaking of races, the Swifty Swine Pig Races began today over at the Fairgrounds as Rodeo Austin swings into action. March 9-24, http://www.rodeoaustin.com . Little piglets like Kevin Bacon and Justin Bieboar race around Porkchop Downs International Speedway aiming for the oreo prize. Cutester!

I opted for cozy today, watching everybody else’s excitement from the dry side of the windowpane, letting the pizza boy deliver right to the door. A person can choose to be geek-cheeky at home, too, every now and then.



March Madness, Austin Style

Linda Burton posting from Austin, Texas — SXSW, pronounced South by Southwest, that’s the buzz today. Mary and Joseph, there is No Room in the Inn, or even the stable. Every room in every hotel is booked and there are regular posts as to which streets will be blocked, and when. Shuttles and bikes are recommended and walking will get you there faster than your burro. I heard tell that someone rented their couch last year for a thousand bucks! One thousand dollars for a weekend only, no refrigerator privileges.

 The folks in Austin and the media world know all about it but if you’ve been living in a vacuum, check it out. http://sxsw.com/  It begins today and goes through March 18, a festival-conference feast for every lover of music and film and interactive media.  And, for those actually in the business, it’s get-together time. South by Southwest, going now for 26 years.  According to Roland Swenson, Co-founder and Managing Director, “the value of meeting people face-to-face in order to share creative ideas and do business is what makes SXSW invaluable.” He calls it a vital launching pad for creative endeavors.

A Platinum Badge costs you $1,395 (SOLD OUT) and gets you 9 days of film screenings and premiers, 9 days of film, music, and interactive panels and keynotes, 6 days of music festival, 4 days of trade show, 4 days of stage programming, and unlimited networking opportunities. And then there are the parties, awards, mentoring sessions, book readings, and even a softball tournament for a break when you’ve reached sensory overload.

I’ve missed ticket-op time, but I’ll enjoy reading about who’s here and what they are doing during the next week.  Who needs Cannes when you’ve got Austin, Texas?