This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is “Edge.”
This view of the Texas State Capitol is slightly obstructed by the edge of a building on the right. I tried to use it instead of trying to avoiding it.
On a side note, I have taken the bad habit of taking most of my iPhone pics with the square, Instagram format. Habit needs to be modified.
I am back in Austin, Texas – Yeah! I moved back from Washington, DC in the first days of May and started my new job early in May. Life is good. I am also eager to go back to writing and blogging now that I have settled back home.
The blog turned 4 years last May 6. Granted, posting has been a bit sporadic a lot of times, but it also means that I’ve now been in the U.S. for almost 5 years. I kept myself busy, and I loved it!
I’ll go back to my time in the Washington, DC area, but here are just a few of the things I’ve seen since I’ve been back in Austin.
You guessed it, gorgeous sunsets and sunrises:
What about you? What exciting things have you seen or done this spring so far?
That’s it. I just finished the great job experience that I started 6 months ago in Austin. Like the legislative session (yes, the comparison is chosen on purpose) (no, I did not work for the government), it started slowly, increasing in intensity in the last three months, and the last 4 weeks especially, leaving the great team I worked with with nights without sleep but never defeated. What a great time I had!
Of course, as I’m sure you have noticed – or not! – that left little time for this blog. Again.
And then in no time, just like that, I’ll be heading back to Washington, DC, with all the joys and drawbacks that it implies. I’ll miss my husband and my kitties. I’ll miss Texas. But the experience will be interesting and hopefully will lead me back here.
In other news, Texas has been under severe weather lately, although not as harsh in Austin as in other places in Texas. Austin was mostly under flash floods that created great mess, but also brought some much needed water in a drought-stricken Texas. Here is what Lake Travis looked like before and after.
Finally, the sun is back though, granting me some time to enjoy this great state before I leave for a while.
Sometimes following your passion implies making choices, choices that are not always easy, but the ultimate goal is the happiness of everyone involved. Let’s see if we can reach this happiness.
On March 2, 1836, Texas declared her independence from Mexico to become the Republic of Texas. Only in December 1845 would she become part of the United States of America.
Happy Birthday, Texas!
When a government has ceased to protect the lives, liberty and property of the people, from whom its legitimate powers are derived, and for the advancement of whose happiness it was instituted, and so far from being a guarantee for the enjoyment of those inestimable and inalienable rights, becomes an instrument in the hands of evil rulers for their oppression . . .
In such a crisis, the first law of nature, the right of self-preservation, the inherent and inalienable rights of the people to appeal to first principles, and take their political affairs into their own hands in extreme cases, enjoins it as a right towards themselves, and a sacred obligation to their posterity, to abolish such government, and create another in its stead, calculated to rescue them from impending dangers, and to secure their future welfare and happiness . . .
We complain that we are overburdened by regulations that make our lives less easy – and that’s true. You’d imagine that someone like Santa Claus would get special privileges from the “governing” sphere though because, well, because he’s Santa, for goodness’ sake!
Well, you’d be wrong. And right.
Santa and his reindeers have to get all the permits necessary to enter the U.S. territory like everyone else, but we do think the red tape is being reduced a little for him. After all, if someone is used to red tape, that must be Santa (red, green, silver…), so you don’t want to add to it.
If you are still thinking: “what the hell did she drink for Christmas?!”, let me explain.
The US Department of Agriculture issued a permit to Santa so that his reindeers could enter the U.S.:
Breaking news out of Washington, D.C. as the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today issued a movement permit to Mr. S. Claus of the North Pole, a broker with Worldwide Gifts, Unlimited. The permit will allow reindeer to enter and exit the United States between the hours of 6 PM December 24, 2013 and 6 AM December 25, 2013, through or over any northern border port.
“During this season of giving, USDA wants to do everything in its power to help Santa,” said Dr. John R. Clifford, USDA’s Chief Veterinary Officer. “We agreed to waive the normal application fees and entry inspection/overtime costs, provided he winks his eye and wishes port personnel a Merry Christmas at the time of crossing.”
APHIS also waived the normally applicable disease testing requirements, as the North Pole is recognized by APHIS as negligible risk for all livestock diseases and at a recent inspection, the reindeer were found to be healthy and able to prance and paw with each hoof.
Rudolph might avoid being frisked but he still has – per mentioned-regulation – to stick to a special diet of hay, sugar plums, and gingerbread and be microchipped.
But wait, that’s not all. The Federal Administration Aviation also made things a bit more easy for Santa:
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today said Santa Claus, his elfin crew and the Santa One sleigh are GO for the annual round-the-world flight that will deliver presents to good boys and girls everywhere.
“This is my first holiday season as Secretary of Transportation, and I feel a special responsibility to make sure Santa’s flight goes off without a hitch,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
While there were no external changes to Santa One this year, FAA inspectors put in many hours ensuring that the sleigh’s systems – and especially its crew – met all applicable regulations.
“We’re helping Santa fly smarter and faster while making sure he has a safe and successful mission” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.
Finally, not even Santa is free of being
spied on surveilled tracked. Yes, you read that right: you can track Santa’s route thanks to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). In fact, “they’ve been tracking Santa since 1955 – they’re veritable professionals at keeping tabs on the big man. From their website, Noradsanta.org, you can follow Santa as he zooms around the globe delivering presents and spreading good cheer.”
Well, I hope that Santa stopped at your house and delivered what you expected :-) If you are unsure (!), you can always ask the NSA to check for you.
Not everything went smoothly everywhere. I went to Austin’s Capitol on Monday to take a picture of the Christmas Tree in front of the park.
Finally, finally,… have you heard of boxing day? I had not until about a year. I’ll go back to how in a moment.
Nobody knows exactly the origins of Boxing Day, but there are several theories:
The best clue to Boxing Day’s origins can be found in the song “Good King Wenceslas.” According to the Christmas carol, Wenceslas, who was Duke of Bohemia in the early 10th century, was surveying his land on St. Stephen’s Day — Dec. 26 — when he saw a poor man gathering wood in the middle of a snowstorm. Moved, the King gathered up surplus food and wine and carried them through the blizzard to the peasant’s door. The alms-giving tradition has always been closely associated with the Christmas season — hence the canned-food drives and Salvation Army Santas that pepper our neighborhoods during the winter — but King Wenceslas’ good deed came the day after Christmas, when the English poor received most of their charity.
King Wenceslas didn’t start Boxing Day, but the Church of England might have. During Advent, Anglican parishes displayed a box into which churchgoers put their monetary donations. On the day after Christmas, the boxes were broken open and their contents distributed among the poor, thus giving rise to the term Boxing Day. Maybe.
But wait: there’s another possible story about the holiday’s origin. The day after Christmas was also the traditional day on which the aristocracy distributed presents (boxes) to servants and employees — a sort of institutionalized Christmas-bonus party. The servants returned home, opened their boxes and had a second Christmas on what became known as Boxing Day.
Boxing Day is not celebrated in the United States. Well, wait, it is actually, although it is celebrated in a particular way that is not on Wikipedia. It is how I heard of it. Boxing Day is a kitty holiday! Mais bien sûr ! And you can be sure some kitties at my home are celebrating like it’s Christmas all over again!
Happy Holiday Season!
With the moving, the AT&T fight and everything, I have only had time to go for a walk downtown Austin twice. Mostly around the Capitol.
[Click on any picture to enlarge]
For non American readers who might not know, Austin is the capital of the State of Texas. The State Capitol building is made of “sunset red” granite and it is a few feet higher than its model, the Capitol building in Washington, DC. There sit both chambers of the Texas legislature.
The Capitol can be visited, something I will do as soon as time permits.
Below is, first a picture of the Frost Bank Tower, and second a view of downtown Austin from Town Lake Park.