Monday, July 29, 2013

The 5th Annual Lights. Camera. Help. Cause-Driven Film Festival (Aug 2013)

Earlier in the year the wife and I attended to Attic Film Festival here in Austin. That was April, now come August it is time for another film festival. This one reportedly is bigger.

August 15 at 6:30pm through August 17 at 11pm
Opening Night - Thursday, August 15 • 6:30pm-9:30pm
Second Night - Friday, August 16 • 6:30pm-9:30pm
Closing Night - Saturday, August 17 • 3:30pm-6:30pm
Awards Party - Saturday, August 17 • 6:30pm-11pm


Lights. Camera. Help.’s uniquely cause-driven Film Festival will kick off on August 15 (2013) at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema’s (Village Location). This three-day film festival will host dozens of cause-driven films that focus on the good happening in every corner of the world and the organizations that are getting it done. The festival brings together activists, film fans, advocates, nonprofits and filmmakers to show us the beautiful results when causes and films meet.

The Festival’s Program Coordinator, Virginia Hernandez, said “We’re so proud to present this year’s film selections. The quality and variety of submissions we received was truly impressive, and as a result, we were able to cultivate a unique and inspiring program. We are excited to show these works, and even more excited to draw attention to the great causes behind the films.”

Aaron Bramley, co-founder and Executive Director shares his excitement about the closing awards event, stating, “The awards party will be a chance to celebrate those who do good in our community, network with other filmmakers and nonprofit professionals and award prizes to the nonprofits associated with the winning films of the festival. With numerous food and drink sponsors, it’s sure to be a night to remember.”

The featured, closing night film this year will be Brasslands, a story of the world’s largest trumpet competition in a tiny, Serbian village. The competition is teeming with Serbian trumpet champions and Roma gypsies, and, this year, an unlikely brass band from New York City. The festivities and competition that commences is a testament to the transcendent nature of music. This documentary film shows that despite vast political, racial and ethnic divides, people can gather to dance, to enjoy music and to celebrate life. The screening will include a panel discussion and audience Q&A with the directors, a group of filmmakers from Meerkat Media Collective.

On Friday night, after the feature “When I Rise”  there will be a discussion with the director of that film, Mat Hames. When I rise is a feature-length documentary about Barbara Smith Conrad, a gifted University of Texas music student who finds herself at the epicenter of racial controversy, struggling against the odds and ultimately ascending to the heights of international opera.

Lights. Camera. Help. is a nonprofit organization that enables others to create significant positive change through film.  More information is available at their website listed above.

$70 - all three nights of the festival (includes dinner and a drink each night/ also admission to the awards party on Saturday night)
$25 - Thursday Night Only
$25 - Friday Nigh Only
$30 - Saturday Night Only
$20 - Saturday night awards party only

Handicapped Accessibility:
Alamo Drafthouse is generally handicapped accessible, with very few exceptions.

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Village
2700 W Anderson Lane
Austin, TX ‎

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Eanes-Marshall Ranch

photo by Kevin Surbaugh

Alexander Eanes (1806-1888) moved to Texas from Mississippi in 1845 and acquired this ranch by 1857. In 1873 he sold the property to his brother, Robert Eanes (1805-1895), who had moved to the area following the Civil War. A log cabin built on the Eanes ranch was the first Eanes school, and the community also assumed the Eanes name. Robert Eanes sold the ranch to his son-in-law, Hudson Boatner Marshall (1862-1951) in 1883. Marshall dismantled the ranch house and moved it to a site adjacent to the nearby creek.
photo by Kevin Surbaugh

Handicapped Accessibility:
somewhat, depending on the mobility issue you are dealing with. Wheelchairs may have trouble accessing this marker.

near 941 S Capital of Texas Hwy, Austin, TX, just outside the Capital of Texas Highway entrance of the Saint John Neuman Catholic Church.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Austin is 4th Hardest Working City in the USA

Hey Austin! Have you heard the news?  I just received a tweet from KXAN  a few minutes ago about the news. Austin has made another "Top 10 List." This time the "Hardest Working Cities" list. Austin is number four (4) on the list. Out of the top 10, five (5) of them are in Texas. Below is the complete list of the top 10 hardest working cities in America.

  1. Seattle, WA
  2. Arlington, TX
  3. Fort Worth, TX
  4. Austin, TX
  5. San Jose, CA
  6. San Francisco, CA
  7. Dallas, TX
  8. Virginia Beach, VA
  9. Washington, D.C.
  10. Houston, TX
So what factors into the decision of these cities making the list?

Average hours worked per week
 According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers in Houston are putting in more time than the rest of us. Resident of the Texas city averaged 37.6 hours of work each week. Coming in second was a three way tie between Fort Worth, Arlington, and Dallas, each with 37 hours. This is likely because the data collected was for the metro area.
Movoto Blog
Unemployment rate
Here the lower the unemployment the better. Seattle came up with lowest unemployment rate at just 4%.
Commute time
The longest commute was Chicago, and this survey factored in the average commute time according to the U.S. census.
Employed workers per household
Again using the Census Bureau they looked at how many people in each household are working.
Hours volunteered per year
Some people put in extra hours for various causes that are important to them in addition to their work hours.
Lack of sleep
Are people staying up late zipping emails back and forth with colleagues? In other words, are they losing sleep burning the midnight oil?
Cost of living
Here they looked at the cost of living in each city and figured that those with higher costs would mean that people would have to work harder just to survive.
So there you have it. The top 10 hardest working cities and how they figured the list.

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Beautiful Scenic Overlook on 360

A must see attraction in Austin is the Scenic Overlook on Highway 360 (Capital of Texas Highway). This scenic vista can be found as you drive north on 360, just after the entrance to the Wild Basin Preserve.
photo by Kevin Surbaugh

Among the things that you can see from this scenic viewpoint is the Texas State Capital, University of Texas Tower, and a number of other tall buildings that sit high on the downtown horizon.
photo by an unknown visitor at the site

Handicapped Accessibility:
Yes, the wife had no problem moving around the Overlook.

There is no exact address for this attraction, however it is 2.3 miles south of the Pennybacker Bridge at an approximate address (according to the GPS) of  1673 N. Capital of Texas Highway. The nearest intersection is Hwy 360-Loop North and Westlake. Just north of the Wild Basin preserve entrance.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

King-Von Rosenberg House

photo by Kevin Surbaugh

In 1916, the heirs of Gov. Elisha Pease established the Enfield Realty and Home Building Company and began dividing the Pease estate into what would become Austin's Enfield neighborhood. Six years later, Belmont Belle Graham, a cousin to the Pease heirs, and her husband, Florian Bibb King, built their home at this site. Nina Electa and Frederick Charles Von Rosenberg bought the house in 1928, and the property remained in their family until 1988. The historic home exhibits influences of the Prairie School and Renaissance Revival styles, with a porte cochere, composite columns, triumverate windows, decorative ironwork and a wide overhanging hipped roof.
2004 (currently Missing)
Handicapped Accessibility:
1500 Lorrain Street
Austin TX 78703

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Austin High School

Tax supported, locally controlled secondary education began in Austin in 1881 with the establishment of a high school department in the city school district. Plans for implementing the program were developed under the leadership of school board President A.P. Wooldridge and Superintendent John B. Winn.

Austin High School opened in September 1881 with an enrollment of 31 girls and 17 boys. Classes were first held on the third floor of the west Austin school building at the corner of 11th and Rio Grande. Due to continued growth, classes were later moved to the First Baptist Church building, the temporary State Capitol, and the Smith Opera House. In 1900 the first high school building was completed at Trinity and 9th. When the enrollment outgrew the facilities there, the high school was moved to the campus of John T. Allan Junior High School on Rio Grande. Austin High was moved again in 1975, following the completion of a new complex at this site.

For over a century, Austin High School has been a leader in the development of innovative educational programs and has maintained a record of academic excellence that reflects the community’s concern for the quality of education in Austin
photo by Kevin Surbaugh

Handicapped Accessibility:
Yes, the marker is located on the wall near the main entrance.
photo by Kevin Surbaugh
photo by Kevin Surbaugh

1715 W Cesar Chavez St
Austin TX 78701

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Daniel H. Caswell House

Daniel H. Caswell came to Austin from Nashville, Tennessee, about 1895. He purchased a cotton oil manufacturing company, bought and sold cotton, and in 1899 built a cotton gin. When completed for his family in 1900, this house was located in the far northwest corner of the city. The Caswell House, which exhibits influences of Late Victorian, Colonial Revival, and Chateauesque styles, features a corner turret and porches supported on rusticated piers.
photo by Kevin Surbaugh

photo by Kevin Surbaugh

Handicapped Accessibility:
No, the marker itself is on the porch at the top of the steps.

On Porch
1404 West Avenue
Austin TX 78701

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Birthday Thoughts

Thank you everyone for reading my blog on the many things to see and do around Austin. As a lover of history, there is one thing I am disappointed in. That being the the things and places that are lost forever.For my birthday today (July 13), my son and his girlfriend gave me a book entitled, "Lost Austin (Images of America (Arcadia Publishing))," depicting many of the places that we have lost in Austin. From landmarks, neighborhoods to institutions to various businesses they are all regrettably lost forever. The book even has images of places that are endangered.  I can't wait to dive into this book with more focus.
Just from thumbing through the book I can tell there is a lot of interesting information about this the greatest city on the planet. It certainly looks like a book that every history buff (especially those that love Austin) should have on their bookshelf.
For my birthday will enjoy free coupons from some national chains, like the free Denny's Grand Slam, Free small ice cream cup (with Crushin's)  and the buy 1 get 1 bogo offer from DQ's blizzard club. I have also received deals from Ihop (Free Rutti Tutti) and others. Besides all that we will still be exploring the city.
Last night the wife and I even went to Chick-fil-a and free meals for dressing up in our homemade cow costumes. What a deal!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Ten Family Friendly Things to do in Austin

Since I moved to Austin almost three years ago (August 2010) I have been asked what there is to do. In fact last year, I was asked to write an article for Dayton Moms, listing my top five favorites. However, with more then 300 historical markers, hundreds of museums, landmarks, murals, nearly 100 statues and dozens of parks. Then there are dozens of festivals through out the year. Looking at the all the annual events it seems that there is one almost every weekend. Throw in all the concerts at literally dozens of venues there is something for everyone,  there is a lot to see and do. As a lover of history, I prefer the historical stuff. So I thought, I should revisit the subject on this site and expand it to the top ten.   So what are the top ten things to see and do in the great city of Austin, Texas? Well here is what is on my list.
  1. Texas State Capitol
    Completed in 1888, it is the main attraction of the 22-acre capital complex. Tours are free and usually 45 minutes long, starting every 15 minutes Mon-Fri 8:30-4:30, Saturday, 9:30 am - 3:30 pm, Sunday, Noon - 3:30 pm. Capitol tours are conducted daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Day and Easter.
  2.  Attic Film Festival
    This Christian film festival is my favorite. My wife and first found out about TAFF last year. Since we didn’t have the money for tickets we signed up to be volunteers, which allowed us to put in a few hours selling tickets at the door after which we were able to attend the rest of the festival free. We even got to meet Micheal Landon Jr. The event is held every spring. 2TourAustin was a 2013 sponsor of this event.
  3. Congress Avenue Bridge Bats
    Every night from Mid-March through October hundreds of people line the Congress Avenue bridge to watch as an estimated 1.5 million free-tail Mexican bats emerge from under the bridge at sunset. This is a great way to spend an evening and its free. All though if you drive, you may have to pay to be able to park legally.Of course for $10/adult ($8/senior and $5/kid) you can hop on a bat watching cruise about 30 minutes before sunset.  The wife and I still need to make it down to see the bats.
  4. Lyndon B. Johnson Museum
    This is a great museum. It was actually the first museum my wife and I visited after moving here. My personal bucket list includes visiting all 14 presidential library/museum.
  5. SXSW
    SXSW is probably the biggest and best known of the annual events in town. The event is known for it’s music, film and interactive programs each year. The wife and I attended the interactive portion of the 2013 festival.
  6. Trail of Lights
    Every December the Christmas Tree in Zilker Park is lit along with a “trail of lights.” Over all it is said to contain over 1 million lights. It is truly something to see. Although, it is not friendly, in terms of parking for the handicapped.
  7. ACL Fest
    Come October, it is time for another big name annual festival. That being the ACL Festival. Everyone knows about the venue Austin City Limits (ACL) from the program on public television, but they also have a huge music festival in Zilker Park. In 2013 the festival will be expanding from one weekend (three days) to two weekends.
  8. Barton Springs Pool
    The pool is an artesian spring-fed swimming hole in Zilker Park that is a constant 68 degrees. Open daily 5am-10pm although it is closed Thursdays between 9am-7pm.
  9. Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum
    Located downtown is more then a museum it is also Austin’s premier IMAX Theater. The museum portion tells Texas’ story through exhibits that take up three floors.
  10. Formula 1
    On November 16-18, 2012  Formula 1 racing is arrived in the United States. The first American home of this international race (from Circuit of the Americas) is expected to bring an estimated 300,000 fans to the city. The 2013 race is scheduled for

So as you can see there is a very diverse range of things to see and do. Trying to narrow everything down to ten is very hard to do. No matter what you like Austin has it for you. All of which helps make Austin the fastest growing and best American city ever in my book.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Bastille Day Celebration

CELEBRATE THE STORMING OF THE BASTILLE with ALLIANCE FRANCAISE D’AUSTIN live music from RUMBULLION and DANIELLE REICH band. . Bastille Day Celebration is fast approaching.
According to an email from the ALLIANCE FRANCAISE D’AUSTIN everyone should bring their dancing shoes!  According to the same email there will be plenty of other activities and games including, Pétanque contests, jugglers, caricature artist, face painting, marionettes, balloon twisting. Not to mention Scrumptious French food and pastries like Croque-monsieur, merguez, cheese, Pan-bagnats, pâté sandwiches, frites, macaroon, eclairs café chocolate, chouquettes, babas au rhum, millefeuilles, handcrafted frozen pops, and of course plenty of French wine and kegs of beer!
Don't forget to bring a chair or a blanket.


Saturday, July 13th
6pm - 10pm
French Legation Museum
802 San Marcos St
Austin, TX

Handicapped Accessibility:
I have not been to the museum yet, so I am not sure how accessible it is. I am sure though they have made some modifications since former President Reagan signed the Americans with Disabilities Act back in the 80's.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Local Restaurant: Big Daddy's

The wife and I recently attended a meeting at Big Daddy's on Research Blvd, so we decided that a review of another local restaurant was in order. The fact that we got a burger again this time was simply because of the ease of splitting it between the two of us, over the other entries that Big Daddy's serves.
photo by Kevin Surbaugh


Burger Patties 9
Unlike some other places this burger was nice, thick and meaty. Of course it was also half a pound. That is one thing that I love, being able to taste the meat. )

Bun 7
What can I say about the bun? It was very good as well. The bun was a brioche (wikipedia: a pastry akin to a highly enriched bread of French origin, whose high egg and butter content give it a rich and tender crumb. It is "light and slightly puffy, more or less fine, according to the proportion of butter and eggs"  It has a dark, golden, and flaky crust, frequently accentuated by an egg wash applied after proofing).  I was a little skeptical at first, when I seen the bun type in the menu, but this picky eater enjoyed it.

Quality 8
I would say the quality was excellent. Near perfection.

Garnish 8
The only garnish we got on our burger was ketchup and lettuce, though the wife did have some tomato on her half. The standard garnish or their burger is lettuce, tomato, pickles and onion. The lettuce we were served was very fresh and crisp. Like it had been picked from the garden that very day. The wife felt the same about her tomato.

Fries 7
Fresh cut fries were good and tasty. Nice size to bite into and actually taste the potatoes. They weren't the best potatoes, but at least you can taste the potatoes. Cut like regular fries, they has the taste and feel of steak fries.

Atmosphere 7
Great pleasant atmosphere. A family friendly atmosphere vibe when were there at 3:30 PM on a Saturday afternoon. But with more then 10 TV's, including a big screen, all tuned to various sporting events, it could easily become a sports bar at night.

Cleanliness (Restrooms, Dinning area, Entrance, etc) 9
Entrance and parking lot looked good, as did the dinning area. The restroom looked cleaned as well. It appeared someone was staying on top of things.

Other  9
Very accessible, with nice smooth threshold. The only tricky spot for a person in a wheel chair would be the double entrance at the entry way. I could see someone that was wheelchair bound getting sandwiched between those two doors. That being the case is the only reason this category didn't get a perfect 10.

Price  8
Burger/Sandwich (with fries) $7.45
Soda $2.25 (a little overpriced for me).
Glass of Water $0 (the wife had water)

Overall rating: 8 out of 10

Friday, July 5, 2013

Johnson Smokehouse

Perhaps Austin's best kept secret is the Austin landmark known as the Johnson Smokehouse.
photo by Kevin Surbaugh

Charles Johnson was a native of Sweden who settled in Austin in 1854. In 1858 he built his main residence near Deep Eddy along the Colorado River, which presently is the American Legion. The Johnson Ranch, consisting of 124 acres, was procured in 1867, and was located on the south side of Capital of Texas Highway where this historical marker is presently located. In 1899 the temporary Capital burned and the tin from the roof was brought to build the Johnson family barn and smokehouse. The original ranch house fell into ruins, but the smokehouse was painstakingly catalogued, stone by stone, disassembled and restored to its original state during recent recent development of the Johnson land. This structure is one of the few remaining auxiliary building components from its time and depicts the trials that a period family endured to merely preserve its daily sustenance.
photo by Kevin Surbaugh

photo by Kevin Surbaugh

Handicapped Accessibility:
Not very.

near 1500 S. Capital of Texas Highway Austin, TX (at the intersection of Heights Drive and Capital of Texas Highway as you drive south on Capital of Texas highway (Highway 360). Hidden behind some bushes, it can be easily missed, even for those paying close attention.

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Kevin Surbaugh also submitted this site to, which will be published at a future date.
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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Matthews School

In 1916, the Austin School District built three elementary schools, including two identical ones: Metz on the east side of town and Mathews on the west. Architect Dennis R. Walsh designed both schools, but only Mathews remains in use. Named for Dr. William J. Mathews, a physician and original school board member, the building has several additions, including a 1930s renovation by the firm of Giesecke and Harris. The central façade remains intact, with symmetrical composition reflecting a simplified classical style. Features include squared brick pilasters and a pedimented entry.
photo by Kevin Surbaugh


Handicapped Accessibility:
This side of the school was not accessible in any way. Making it hard for any person with a mobility issue to view the historical marker. However, the mural of the bus is on the retaining wall by the public sidewalk and thus is accessible.
photo by Kevin Surbaugh

906 W Lynn St
Austin TX 78703

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Monday, July 1, 2013

TMI Castle

Overlooking Austin, Texas, from the west, the former Texas Military Institute (TMI) building known locally as "The Castle" is still the most impressive structure near South Lamar. Surrounded by mansions and trendy corrugated steel shopping centers, it represents a time in Austin's history when anything west of Shoal Creek was considered "out of town."

Currently owned and occupied by real estate developers the Castle's beginnings read like a modern tale of city-sponsored incentives to reel in big employers. The city of Austin courted the Bastrop Military Institute with a building fund of $10,000 in gold. The city leaders successfully enticed them to relocate to the hilltop off Blanco Street in 1870, where the school was renamed the Texas Military Institute.

The 32-acre campus opened in 1872 with accommodations for 400 students of literature, the sciences, and military arts. Students paid $375 per academic year for tuition, board, and fees, according to the Texas State Historical Association. All the boys were required to live on campus.

The main building's unique Gothic architecture made it the dominant structure in the area. The hilltop it graces was dubbed "Castle Hill" in its honor. Many local businesses have found it convenient to adopt the name, including the Castle Hill Cafe.

The TMI closed in 1880, and from 1880-1884. The Castle stood empty. Then, from 1884 to 1887, it was home to Jacob Bickler's Texas German and English Academy, according to the historical marker on site. Not only is the building a beautiful example of architecture, it is an Austin Historical Landmark, and also the oldest existing college building in Texas, according to the Old West Austin Neighborhood Association.
The property is private and not open to the public.
photo by Kevin Surbaugh

Founded in 1868 in Bastrop, the Texas Military Institute moved to Austin in 1870. The same year, this Victorian “Castle” was built to serve as headquarters for the young men’s preparatory school. Prominently sited on top of a hill in view of the Capitol, the structure was owned by the Texas Military Institute until the school formally closed in 1880. From 1884 until 1887, the TMI Castle was the site of Jacob Bickler’s Texas German and English Academy.
photo by Kevin Surbaugh

Handicapped Accessibility:
The Castle can be seen from your vehicle. Due to the security  gates, access to see the marker itself is limited. The marker is inaccessible as the Castle is the private office is behind security gates.

1111 W. 11th St
Austin, TX 78703

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