February 4, 2018

To me, football is so much about mental toughness, it’s digging deep, it’s doing whatever you need to do to help a team win and that comes in a lot of shapes and forms.

-Tom Brady

Happy Super Bowl Day everybody! Though I quoted Tom Brady above, I want the Eagles to win solely because #ATXPride. Let’s go Nick Foles! Represent Westlake HS, the ATX, and Texas!

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November 25, 2017

The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.

-Nolan Bushnell

Today is Small Business Saturday. Do you part and help support your local ma and pop shops. They have worked hard in setting up their business and work even harder to stay afloat in the sea of the mainstream brick-and-motors and online giants. Don’t let their hard work and dreams go to waste. If you are in ATX, then I will happily give you suggestions:

  1. Uncommon Objects – vintage shop
  2. Blue Elephant Boutique – women’s clothing
  3. Waterloo Records – music
  4. Toy Joy – toys
  5. Half Price Books – books and music –> ok this isn’t really “local” local but they’re having a 20% off sale and are significantly smaller than Barnes & Noble. It would be wrong of me to not list my favorite place in the world. 🙂

Birthday Excursion Part Deux – Sir Duke (Baltimore)

After the heavenly experience of Insomnia Cookies, my friends and I walked the square searching for any place that served food at 10 PM. Bars of Baltimore: please don’t stop serving food at 10 PM. Continue serving food until the bar closes. You’ll get more people in.

We found ourselves back at the hotel’s basement bar. Basement bar at a haunted hotel? Totally not creepy. There was one older fella drying up some glasses with a cloth. He looked lonely considering the place was completely empty. There was something eerie about the place. I couldn’t put my finger on it. It was like an old school movie meets horror film meets lighthearted fun. Does that make sense? The bartender was nice enough to smile for the picture at least. 🙂 Too bad he didn’t have food.

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He recommended that we tried the restaurant next door. We walked in, relieved it was only ten feet away from the hotel. Stomachs growled in frustration when the hostess told us the kitchen had closed. She did, however, provide us with a recommendation: Sir Duke Bar & Liquor Store. It was not on the main square but on the side streets, about a block or two away from us. It was a bar and a liquor store. A part of me didn’t feel like walking in the 40-degree weather but it was my birthday and wasn’t going to stop then.

I ordered a grilled cheese with french fries. My friend ordered Breakfast Poutine for the three of us to try. I’ve had poutine only once in my life and that was at a French party/class assignment at St. Ed’s. The poutine was amazing. The gravy sorta stayed with your breath but totally worth it.

The grilled cheese was also good. It was cheesy, the tomato was fresh and the fries (more fries!) were crispy. What I liked most about it was the fact it was warm enough to heat up my body and protect myself from the chill that came through the door.

The three of us had grown happy with a pinch of homesick when we saw the Tito’s tins used as a receipt holder. We asked the waitress if she knew what Tito’s was and of course she did. We explained we were from Austin and she immediately replied “I love Austin!”. She tried remembering the sparkling water all the hipsters drank (Topo Chico) and says it’s her tradition to drink a bottle of Topo when she goes down to ATX. It’s funny to hear someone say they love Austin, let alone visit. After living in ATX for 11 years and seeing it when it was still sorta in sleepy town mode, you tend to forget it has become such a tourist destination. Nothing wrong with ATX being a tourist destination…just don’t move there (there are plans for a major I-35 overhaul so just warning you).

We headed back to the hotel with leftovers. On our way back we found a couple homeless teenagers outside a closed boutique sitting on a bench. I gave them my leftover sandwich, keeping my oatmeal cookie. My friend took a few steps before turning around and giving them his cookie. The guilt got to me when I saw another couple of teenagers near a lamp post. I gave them my cookie, feeling both bad that I didn’t get a chance to experience the oatmeal cookie, but happy to know I didn’t think of my stomach for once.

It was a great last night in Baltimore. A wonderful adventure full of unexpected people and events. Definitely a birthday I will not forget.

Sir Duke Bar & Liquor Store is located in Fell’s Point at 701 S Bond St., Baltimore, MD 21231

Birthday Excursion Part Un – The Horse He Rode In On & Insomnia Cookies (Baltimore)

The evening started with a best 2 out of 3 chess match in the hotel lobby with one of my more nerdier friends as we waited for a third companion to come long. The first game went on for some time as we were both rusty. I lost that match. The second and third matches were much swifter and also not in my favor. Turns out the nerd was hustling hahaha

The night began with a short walk around the corner to The Horse He Rode In On, which is a well-known dive bar. It is supposedly the oldest bar in Baltimore, opening around the 1700s (can someone fact check that for me please?). It is also said (per the bar folks) that it was Edgar Allen Poe’s last stop before the Grim Reaper showed up. No, unfortunately I did not see Poe’s ghost wander around.

Live music was playing near the front. The singer was good but I’ve got to say nothing beats Austin live music. The food menu wasn’t too grand. Mostly snack items from what we could tell. We left the bar around 9:20 in search of food.

We passed by Insomnia Cookies near Fell’s Inn. The place smelled like fresh hot chocolate chip cookies. They also advertised ice cream sandwiches. We went in, falling for the temptation. Who doesn’t want dessert before dinner?

Insomnia Cookies Counter
Bryan, the gent pictured here, was quite friendly and non-judgemental, which is perfect when you are craving dessert before dinner.

Oh man. We spent a great deal of time in there, deciding which cookies to get and talking to Bryan The Cashier, who is pictured above. Insomnia Cookies doesn’t have a large variety, but when everything looks good, it’s hard to pick the cookies that gets the honor of cheat meal.

I got a Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal. I ate the Chocolate Chip in one minute. It would have taken about 20 seconds but I wanted to enjoy the gooeyness of the chocolate and the smoothness of the dough. It was heavenly. More than heavenly. It was above heavenly.

The best part? Insomnia Cookies is open AND DELIVERS until 3 AM. We made a note to venture back here later for ice cream sandwiches because dinner was awaiting us.

Insomnia Cookies Banner

The Horse He Rode In On is located in Fell’s Point at 1626 Thames St., Baltimore, MD 21321.

Insomnia Cookies* is located in Fell’s Point at 812 S Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21231.

*For you Austin folks, Insomnia Cookies has a location in San Marcos at 111 E Hopkins St., San Marcos, TX 78666. Please note they do NOT deliver to North Austin. I asked.

Diablo Doughnuts (Baltimore)

Today is my birthday. I can’t believe I am celebrating it away from home. My friend and I made plans to go across the square to bring breakfast for the group. We received recommendations about Diablo Doughnuts. Considering we are foodies and donut people, we took the opportunity. My reaction to the donuts: MOVE OVER VOODOO DONUTS!

 

Diablo has many cool flavors from Blueberry Basil to S’mores. My personal favorite was the Strawberry Cheesecake donut, which is pictured below. It’s a plain yeast donut with cream cheese icing ad slices of strawberries. Most donut shops that have crazy donuts are typically super sweet, so sweet you can’t finish it (my eyes are darting at you Voodoo). This strawberry cheesecake donut, though, was the perfect amount of sweetness that you are to finish the whole thing without the taste of syrup in your mouth. The strawberries were fresh and the yeast donut wasn’t hollow when you took a bite, a major plus.

Don’t like donuts? That’s ok. They do pizza for dinner. Talk about geniuses!

Diablo Doughnuts is located in Fell’s Point at 717 S Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21231.

ATX Weekend Plan: Sept. 22-24

Concerts and festivals and food oh my! How to detail all the events happening in ATX this weekend?????

Sept. 22: Harvey Can’t Mess With Texas Benefit Concert                                                     @ Frank Irwin Center, 7-11 PM CDT

The Texas Box Office released more tickets to this sold-out benefit concert, the largest in Texas. Haven’t checked to see if those are sold out, but I wouldn’t be surprised. This concert benefits the REBUILD TEXAS Fund. It’s a great lineup of musicians and speakers. You’ve got Willie Nelson, Leon Bridges, Paul Simon (Paul Simon!), James Taylor and more performing. Appearances include Matthew McConaughey, journalist Dan Rather, Houston police chief Art Arcevado and a great cast of folks. Charlie Sexton is serving as the music director and local Austin-band Asleep at the Wheel will be performing as the house band.

Don’t have tickets? No problem! TEGNA is showing this live on all 11 stations throughout the state with, yes, NO COMMERCIALS. Don’t live in Texas? You can check it out on YouTube as the show will stream live internationally from 9-10 PM CDT at YouTube.com/TexasStrong. Come (or watch) to show your support to those who have lost everything from Hurricane Harvey because #HarveyCantMessWithTexas.

 

Sept. 22-24: Texas Tribune Festival                                                                                              @ UT Austin AT&T Executive Conference & Education Center

The annual Texas Tribune Festival is back! Get ready for a weekend full of politics, government and issues that affect our fellow Texans. Guests include Chief Art Acevedo, former Austin Police Chief and current Police Chief of Houston, Senator Ted Cruz, Rice University professor Douglas Brinkley. Topics include President Trump, Hurricane Harvey, Mexico, race, social justice, and the big debate of Country vs. Party. You can check out more information on their site: https://www.texastribune.org/festival/.

Sept. 23-24: Pecan Street Festival

It’s an Austin tradition that you need to do at least once. Fun fact: 6th Street used to be called Pecan Street back in the day. Vendors from around the Central Texas area gather around to celebrate fall with food goodies, arts/crafts, knick knacks and did I mention food? Like, funnel cake? Yum! There’s games for kids and music. Yes, of course there’s music! I’m talking Royal Teeth, Migrant Kids, and more. The fest takes place on East 6th. For more information, check out Do512: http://do512.com/pecanstreetfestivalfall2017.

 

So, what are your plans?

The Edge of Texas 2017 Lineup Announced

2017 marks the first annual Texas Monthly The Edge of Texas. Based off the May 2017 issue, this event is what I like to think of as a all-Texas SXSW in the middle of the Autumn season up in Dallas, TX.

The Edge of Texas will be held on November 10th and 11th, with each day holding a different theme. Friday, November 10 will be “Party on the Edge” at the Fashion Industry Gallery. Think great food, great music and great art as you and your fellow Texans celebrate everything art, fashion, and food.

Saturday is split into two themes. The day events (10 AM-4PM) is “Storytelling on the Edge”. Your favorite Texas Monthly writers and editors will be interviewing various speakers, allowing their stories to come alive from the pages of the mag. Topics vary from medicine to ISIS to movies to magicians to murder! The night portion begins at 7 PM with live cooking and a “futuristic campfire”. The night is finished off with musical performances by Shinyribs, a local Austinite band (“I Got Your Medicine“) and Sarah Jaffe, who is from Denton (“Clementine“, “Bad Baby“).

To see ticket information, the full lineup and the schedule, check out www.edge.texasmonthly.com.

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Graffiti Park (Castle Hill) – ATX

 

 

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The entrance to HOPE Outdoor Gallery/Graffiti Park/Castle Hill/King’s Hill

This place is known by many names. Google calls it HOPE Outdoor Gallery, but it’s also known as Castle Hill, Graffiti Park, and, I recently learned, King’s Hill (I think that’s a new Austinite thing). I call it Graffiti Park because it’s the most self-explanatory.

The last time I went to Graffiti Park was Spring 2014 as part of a “ultimate downtown ATX excursion” with a large group of folks from high school. My friend John has never been so I figured it would be a great time to re-explore the park during the Labor Day weekend.

Helpful advice: Graffiti Park is one of the most colorful places you will find in Austin. Also one of the most packed when it comes to parking. The park does not have an official parking lot and the surrounding shops are strict with their “Tow Away” zones, so that leaves parallel parking on the side streets. If you can get their via Metro or your own two feet, I would recommend it.

Took a few-okay more than a few-pictures of the park, which you can find below. You’ll notice the park is layered. There is no concrete sidewalk to hike up to get to the top level, so I would also recommend you wear sneakers or comfortable flip flops and not fancy boots. I saw a few of those and couldn’t help but cringe. I would describe more about the park, but I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. 🙂

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If you are ever in Austin, this is a great spot to check out, especially when it’s not 100 degrees out.

HOPE Outdoor Gallery is located at 1101 Baylor St, Austin, TX 78703.

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Zelly & Ol' Hem's Graffiti
“Follow Zelly & Ol’ Hem’s” 🙂

STUDIUM Fall 2017 Edition

My dream has always been to be a published writer. I’m so excited to announce that dream has come true.

This past March, I submitted my undergraduate Honors thesis, “Little Complaint, Much Grievance: The Failure of the French Directory (1795-1799)” to a journal called STUDIUM, which is published by the Faculty of History, Philosophy and Theology – “The Lower Danube” University of Galiti, located in Romaina. I had been rejected by Duke and U of Chicago, never received word back from West Point and the folks at Oxford, though they saw the passion in my writing pretty much said to come back when I have my PhD. Hearing about STUDIUM, I was hesitant for five seconds before jumping right in. I mean, it couldn’t get any worse than Oxford telling me to get a PhD. xD Going on a tangent now. Focus!

Almost two months passed by and I hadn’t received word. I was a little discouraged. It was West Point all over again! Siddiqi, the logical one, advised I inquire about it, so I did. Two days later, I got it: the acceptance letter. I was going to be published. Pretty much floated on cloud nine for a week.

Okay present day: Yes, STUDIUM came out with the Fall 2017 edition of their journal. The best part of all this, besides getting published, is the fact I got published in the same edition as Siddiqi. #TexasTakeOver

“Little Complaint, Much Grievance”

“Little Complaint” focuses on the final four years of the French Revolution before Napoleon establishes the Consulate. The Directory (Le Directoire) is not really a high focus since it’s sandwiched between the violent Reign of Terror and the fascinating Napoleonic Era. I focus on how the Directory was established, how they managed the following sectors: Royalism, Terrorism (different from our current definition), Finance, the Catholic Church, War and Napoleon; and an analysis on why they failed.

I spent all of my senior year working on this project. It was the most fun project I have ever embarked on and I love that I can now share my hard work and passion with the world. I would like to thank my family for supporting me, Siddiqi for recommending the journal to me/being my editor, Dr. Austin for being my thesis advisor (and an awesome one at that!), Dr. Lowe the thesis prep adviser for the Fall 2015 semester who helped during the panicky moments of deadlines and research topic mayhem, and Oana-Maria Mitu, the Editor in Chief of STUDIUM, as well as the staff for accepting my submission.

Little Complaint Comic Book Cover
From my undergrad thesis comic book. Yes, there was a paper AND a comic book. 🙂

Please read my article, Siddiqi’s article and all the other published writers’ articles here: http://www.studium.ugal.ro/index.html

The Great American Solar Eclipse

Happy Solar Eclipse day! If you’re like me, then you either didn’t have time or money to jump in a car and drive to the path of totality. That’s okay. There’s still much to learn and experience about the Solar Eclipse. Here are some fun facts for today (pst teachers. Great way to kick things off for the first day of school!):

  1. Google created a Google Doodle for today’s event. If you play the video, the aliens will teach you about eclipses!google
  2. The last time a solar eclipse came through the USA was 99 years ago. The next one will come in 2024 (save those glasses folks!).
  3. You can live stream the solar eclipse on NASA’s Facebook page. They’ll give you the optimum experience, showing the eclipse from different vantages points, including from the ground and from space.
  4. Don’t have glasses? Create your own! All you need is a cereal box, white paper, aluminum foil, a pair of scissors and a pencil. ABC News has your step-by-step guide to make your five-minute box here.
  5. Please don’t look at the sun without glasses. It’ll cause long-term damage to your eyes. Also, please don’t point your cameras or phones at the partial eclipse without a filter. That’ll do long-term damage as well.

It’s a great opportunity to go on an adventure and see our wondrous universe at work. Have fun everyone!