Austin Animal Center thanks police department for work on bombing investigation

One of Austin’s animal shelters thanked police for their weeks-long serial bombing investigation as part of their weekly photo series partnering officers and adoptable pets.

On Wednesday, the Austin Animal Center posted photos of Police Chief Brian Manley with a dog named Deena and thanked the police department for their work investigating a series of bombs that killed two people and injured five others in Austin and Schertz. Police confirmed the suspect in all the incidents, Mark Conditt, died after a bomb exploded in his car early Wednesday morning.

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COMPLETE COVERAGE: Stories, videos and photos from the Austin bombings

“Their tireless work over the last three weeks put an end to the fear our beautiful city has felt. We appreciate them and their work every day, but are especially thankful for them today,” the Facebook post reads.

In the Facebook post, the center shared that the initial dog the chief posed with named Deena was adopted the night before the “#APDRescueMe” campaign launched. The chief redid the photoshoot with another dog named Chin-Chin.

The Austin Animal Center’s “#APDRescueMe” social media campaign has showcased adoptable pets posing alongside Austin police officers since February.

10 totally Austin Valentine’s Day date ideas

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Still scrambling to find something to do with your true love on Valentine’s Day? Maybe you and your boyfriend or girlfriend have only been dating for a little while, or you aren’t sure how “serious” your relationship is. Check out these ideas of fun ways to save, splurge and have a very Austin-y Valentine’s Day.

VOTE NOW: It’s time to pick the cutest couple in Austin

Kasey Fagan submitted this photo for our “You’re My Butter Half” gallery.

1. Visit a food trailer
You and your sweetie can split a doughnut (or splurge on two) and get a chocolate-and-strawberries fix with the “Dirty Berry” at Gourdough’s on South First Street. Or take your cupcake for a “LuvCake,” featuring chocolate cake and strawberry cream cheese frosting, at Hey Cupcake! at The Picnic park on Barton Springs Road. The West Campus area by the University of Texas is also home to various trucks and trailers for lovebirds to explore.

2. Get your (responsible) drink on
Austin is home to a bunch of craft beer brewpubs located all over the city. Up north, you can have a Peacemaker at the Austin Beerworks taproom and brewery. Over on the east side, order The One They Call Zoe at Hops and Grain. And if your significant other is the light of your life, you might want to head down to Independence Brewing Company, where you can sip on a Power & Light pale ale. Not a beer snob? The Austin area is home to cideries, wineries and distilleries.

Hops & Grain allows brewpub customers to both buy beer to drink on-site, and buy beer to take home. Owner Josh Hare pours a pint. Emma Janzen/American-Statesman

3. Take part in the “sharing economy”
Dabble in Austin’s share of the sharing economy by renting an Airbnb for a mini-staycation, taking a ride-hailing service somewhere so you don’t have to drive or even checking out a B-cycle at one of the city’s 50 stations located in and around downtown.

4. Go on a mural photo tour
Fair warning: This is probably a popular idea anyway, so get ready to see some lines. But if you and your boo are feeling patient, you can show everyone who is your “butter” half near Poquito Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard. Of course, you can stop by the “I Love You So Much” wall at Jo’s Coffee on South Congress Avenue. Or display your “Puppy Love” at the MudPuppies on East Riverside Drive, like fitness writer Pam LeBlanc and her husband, Chris.

Fitness writer Pam Leblanc with her husband Chris at the Puppy Love mural at Mud Puppies on East Riverside Drive.

5. Share your love with the great outdoors
If February is anything like January, keep your fingers crossed for great weather so you can enjoy the fresh air. Try something new, get a backpack of snacks together and head out to the Greenbelt or McKinney Falls and get a little lost together. If clear paths are more of y’all’s thing, a romantic stroll on the boardwalk at sunset is a low-energy alternative and comes with a great view of the Austin skyline by the water.

6. Try and snag a last minute reservation
Best of luck to anyone still searching for the perfect restaurant at which to lovingly stare into another person’s eyes (unless you’re the type of couple that sits on the same side of the table). Restaurant critic Matthew Odam dishes on some Valentine’s Day specials worth checking into. If those don’t work out, he’s also played wingman and hooked us up with a list of romantic places to dine around Austin.

7. Catch a live music show 
Bob Schneider & the Moonlight Orchestra are hitting up ACL Live at the Moody Theater on Wednesday night.

Bob Schneider & Tosca String Quartet performed at the Long Center for the Performing Arts on July 15, 2016. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Not a Schneider fan? Watch The Lucky Strikes at Lone Star Court, Dale Watson & His Lone Stars at Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, The Nightowls at 3TEN ACL Live, or the Peterson Brothers Band and Tomar and the FCs at Stubb’s Austin. And while it’s not quite a live music show, Cirque du Soleil Crystal at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park will feature the famous live performers on ice.

8. Watch a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse
The Ritz and Village locations will host a Moulin Rouge movie party, complete with props such as blinking rings and glow sticks. The Lakeline and Slaughter Lane locations are hosting a Valentine’s Day feast while screening The Birdcage. The Drafthouse also set up a page on its site featuring links to buy tickets and movie-themed merchandise as gifts.

9. Go shopping
South Congress’ boutiques and shops are perfect for men and women alike, and they feature local brands such as Allens Boots. Prepare for lines, especially at a traditional store where you might get Valentine’s Day gifts, such as the Kendra Scott jewelry shop (hint hint).

Kendra Scott with her husband, Albert Koehler at the Kendra Scott store grand opening, Feb. 10, 2011. (Robert Godwin/American-Statesman)

10. Grocery shop and make your own dinner
Sure, Austin has great places to eat out, but in the city where Whole Foods was founded, why not break out the “Kiss the Cook” apron and whip up something delicious with your partner? Wheatsville Co-op is another option for staying local while you shop. If you go this route, plan ahead and stop by the store before Valentine’s Day. Need inspiration? Check out some great recipes from Austin360’s Addie Broyles over on Relish Austin.

Want more ideas?

Austin 5th-drunkest vacation destination in Instagram post study

Austin is the 5th-drunkest vacation destination in the world, one not-quite-scientific study suggests.

But before we toast to that, we need to acknowledge the study’s sober source.

The analysis comes to you from the folks at alcoholic.org where you can browse their entire website and never lose sight of the number to call for treatment options (1-888-919-3845, if you feel the need).

You can also check out their list of famous alcoholics, from Steven Tyler to Stephen King.

But if you’re not on the wagon, let’s take a look at the drunk vacation study.

First off, it was done by analyzing “1,000 Instagram posts focused on travel (tagged with either #VacationMode or #Vacay) in 143 cities to find out which destinations produce the booziest vacation shots.”

So, that works in Austin’s favor, where it’s likely that the younger visitors are more willing to use Instagram and to pose for boozy selfies.

Austin is at No. 5, coming in behind Los Angeles and ahead of Stockholm, Sweden. The top 3 (or bottom 3, if you’re serious and sober) are Portland, Denver and … predictably … New Orleans.

The study showed that nearly 1 in 10 Instagram vacation shots in Portland, Oregon, featured alcohol. (FYI: Alaska Air does offer direct flights from Austin to Portland.)

And, because the folks at alcoholic.org are very thorough, here are a few more results …

  • Sweden is far and away, the country with the greatest number of alcohol-related pictures in the study, while Morocco is a the bottom of the list. (You can buy Casablanca Beer in Morocco, and even booze in some places, but public displays of drinking in the predominantly Muslim country is not going to go over well.)
  • Spring and summer feature more alcohol-related pictures (think Spring Break).
  • Alcohol-related pictures average half as many “likes” as ones that do not feature alcohol.
  • People who post pictures of alcohol are more likely to use an Instagram filter. Really.
  • And the most popular filter (no, we are not making this up, it’s in the study) for alcohol-related photos is “Clarendon” — which is also the first filter on the app.

Ready for the Republic of Texas biker rally? We’ve got the best motorcycle routes in Central Texas

Last year, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, right, greeted bikers at the Republic of Texas Biker Rally parade in downtown Austin Friday June 10, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The Republic of Texas Biker Rally is this weekend at the Travis County Expo Center in Austin. If you want to take a ride near the city, here are some of the best routes you can take:

The Three Sisters (aka The Twisted Sisters): 131 miles

This 131-mile ride has some of the best scenery you can get. Riding alongside rivers and past Texas ranches, this route is one of the best the Austin-area has to offer. The ride is known for its scenery and road quality and not so much its amenities, but a few can be found along the way.

Devil’s backbone/Old Spicewood: 33 miles

On this 33-mile stretch of scenic road, you’ll get a great view of Balcones Fault. You won’t be going too fast, but the road quality is good and so are the amenities.

Gruene-Fredericksburg-Bandera Loop: 239 miles

Clocking in at 239 miles, this scenic route takes you through the countryside and farmland of Central Texas. For amenities you can stop at Gruene, Luckenbach, Fredericksburg, Kerrville and Bandera, which all have great things to see and do.

Day trip to Luckenbach: 72 miles

This 72-mile trip goes through the Hill Country back roads. If you get hungry, stop at a mom-and-pop burger restaurant called the Alamo Springs Café.

Bikers park their bikes to register for Rot Rally on Friday, June 10, 2016 at the Travis Country Expo Center. This is Rot Rally’s 11th anniversary. Jessalyn Tamez / AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN

South-Central Texas Route 16: 88 miles

If you just want to ride through different towns in the Hill Country, including Kerrville and Fredericksburg, this 88-mile route is scenic with great roads.

Hutto-Granger-Georgetown Loop: 61 miles

This northeast Austin route has good scenery filled with creeks and rives. There are also plenty of curves to ride on. If you are looking for somewhere to eat, there is Louise Miller BBQ in Taylor.

Spicewood Springs Road: 5 miles

Looking for a short ride? The Spicewood Springs has good scenery and road quality. You’ll see some farms with horses and creeks and rivers. Its not a fast road, but you will be able to soak up some Texas beauty.

FM 487: 11 miles

This ride is on the shorter side but it has some nice scenery and good road quality. You’ll be riding through Texas farmland and woods. However, don’t expect there to be many roadside amenities.

Texas Twister: 61 miles

This 61-mile ride has great scenery as you’ll be in Hill Country near the Texas Highland Lakes. The road quality is good, but the road side amenities are not the best.

Hippie Hollow Horror: 40 miles

The Hippie Hollow Horror is 40 miles of great scenery that will take you to the north end of Lake Travis. There are also great roadside amenities with stops in Austin and Four Corners.

In billboard battle, it’s Yeti vs. MoPac expansion project

Take that, MoPac!

Austin-based Yeti Coolers takes a swipe at the ridiculously past-due MoPac expansion project in a new billboard that has popped up atop its flagship store on South Congress Avenue.

The billboard, which advertises the new Yeti Jug, features a brief checklist with a sick burn for the team that’s been working on MoPac seemingly forever.

The Yeti Jug, the company says in its ad, is virtually indestructible. It also keeps ice all day. It does not, however, know when MoPac will be finished.

Then again, no one seems to know when that’ll happen, including the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, which has given several estimated completion dates that have come and gone.

The contractor who handled the bulk of the project, according to the authority, has been fined millions.

And, yes, in case you were wondering, @EvilMopacATX has weighed in:

This, of course, isn’t the first time a Yeti billboard has generated buzz. Check these out:

Mayor Adler sends tongue-in-cheek response to man upset over ‘Wonder Woman’ screening

Austin Mayor Steve Adler used a witty approach Wednesday in responding to an email he received last week, in which the writer voiced his opposition to the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema’s plans to host two women-only screenings of the movie “Wonder Woman” on Tuesday.

GAL GADOT as Diana in the action adventure “WONDER WOMAN,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

The writer called for a male boycott of the entire city of Austin.

“I hope every man will boycott Austin and do what he can to diminish Austin and to cause damage to the city’s image,” he wrote. “The theater that pandered to the sexism typical of women will, I hope, regret it’s [sic] decision. The notion of a woman hero is a fine example of women’s eagerness to accept the appearance of achievement without actual achievement.”

You can read the rest of his musings here – because Adler posted the exchange on his blog – if you’re interested in hearing the writer’s thoughts on makeup, military service, the Olympics, inventors and the “women’s movement.”

Adler decided to alert the writer “that your email account has been hacked by an unfortunate and unusually hostile individual.”

“Please remedy your account’s security right away, lest this person’s uninformed and sexist rantings give you a bad name,” Adler wrote. “After all, we men have to look out for each other!”

In response to the writer’s – possibly rhetorical – request to “name something invented by a woman,” Adler noted that “women invented medical syringes, life rafts, fire escapes, central and solar heating, a war-time communications system for radio-controlling torpedoes that laid the technological foundations for everything from Wi-Fi to GPS, and beer.”

Adler wished the writer luck in securing his email account.

“I hesitate to imagine how embarrassed you’d be if someone thought you were upset that a private business was realizing a business opportunity by reserving one screening this weekend for women to see a superhero movie,” Adler wrote.

This isn’t the first time Adler has used his blog to counteract hostile rants from members of the public. Last year, after voters defeated a referendum on ride-hailing rules that led to Uber and Lyft leaving town, Adler put up a post featuring some of the most profane tweets he had received on the topic. His spokesman said that post “speaks for itself and quite loudly.”

Review this checklist before you hit the road Memorial Day weekend

 

An estimated 2.8 million Texans are expected to be on the roads this Memorial Day weekend, according to AAA Texas. The group anticipates that more than 330,000 drivers will require a roadside rescue – at least 21,500 in Texas alone – AAA Texas spokeswoman Anne O’Ryan said.

So here are some safety steps that O’Ryan says motorists should take if they’re getting on the road this weekend:

  • Have your car battery tested.
  • Make sure your tires are properly inflated.
  • Get plenty of sleep — at least seven hours — so you can stay alert. Drowsy driving accounts for about 20 percent of all crashes, O’Ryan said.
  • “Pack your patience,” O’Ryan said, and drive defensively.
  • Build in extra time for travel.
  • The best times to travel will be early morning, as other times will be more crowded.
  • Take breaks every two hours or every 100 miles.
  • Keep your eyes open for other drivers making sudden lane changes because a lot of out-of-towners and tentative drivers will be on the road.
  • Watch out for motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians.
  • Don’t text and drive or hold your cell phone.
  • Put your pets on a leash or a cage, and not in the front seat.
  • Wear your seat belt
  • Never drive impaired.

Austin police said officers will be targeting impaired and distracted drivers during the holiday weekend. Under its no-refusal initiative, Austin police will make it harder for a driver suspected of driving while intoxicated to refuse providing a breath or blood sample. If the officer has evidence of impairment, police said, the officer can get a judge’s approval for a search warrant to obtain a blood sample.

The no-refusal effort will be in effect from Friday through June 12 – to include the Republic of Texas motorcycle rally – between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Police said 107 people were arrested last year during the no-refusal period for Memorial Day and ROT Rally.

Interim Austin police Chief Brian Manley recommends that if you do plan to drink, you should have a plan for a ride home. He said the Austin Transportation Department has provided a website, austintexas.gov/gethomesafe, with resources to help you get home safe, including links to Capital Metro services and designated driving programs.

The Williamson County sheriff’s office will be undertaking its own no-refusal initiative, starting Friday and ending Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. each night.

In Hays County, San Marcos police will run its no-refusal program from Friday through Sunday.

 

Austin’s emergency management office lauded, earns elite accreditation

American-Statesman file photo

A national nonprofit group lauded Austin’s emergency management efforts Friday, certifying its program meets 64 industry standards.

Austin is just one of three Texas cities, along with Dallas and Arlington, to win accreditation from the national Emergency Management Accreditation Program.

“Emergency management accreditation represents a significant achievement,” said EMAP Commission Chairperson Robie Robinson in a statement. “We applaud the City of Austin’s leadership and we recognize the dedication to the safety and security of the residents that it represents.”

The city’s 15-member Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management plans and prepares for emergencies, educates the public about preparedness, and manages grant funding to improve homeland security and public safety. The agency co-manages the Austin-Travis County Emergency Operations Center.

 

Scientists shocked, intrigued by this San Marcos deer chewing on human bones

Deerstare
A deer chews on a human rib bone in San Marcos. Photo courtesy of the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State

Warning: This post includes photos of a human skeleton that may be disturbing to some readers.

The land that Texas State University uses to observe how human bodies decompose has led to a recent discovery. But this particular discovery doesn’t have anything to do with humans.

As Texas State scientists observed one deer (or possibly two different ones) pick up a human rib bone with its mouth and casually gnaw on it, “extending from the side of the mouth like a cigar,” they realized they were looking at something unusual, they wrote in a recently published paper. In fact, it was “the first known evidence of a white-tailed deer scavenging human bones,” three Texas State scientists wrote in the Journal of Forensic Sciences.

Deerstare1 13 15
A deer chews on a human rib bone in San Marcos. Photo courtesy of the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State

The focus at the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State is usually on the human bodies themselves, but the center decided this observation was too intriguing not to share.

“While most forensic anthropologist and taphonomists are aware that carnivorous non-human animals chew on and consume human bones, the fact that ungulate (a.k.a. hooved) species also gnaw on human bone is not as widely recognized,” they wrote.

By the time this deer got to the body – which had been donated for science – it was essentially a skeleton. Many wild animals (but not deer) are known to scavenge human remains on the 26 acres of land that the Forensic Anthropology Center uses to study human decomposition in nature. These scientists use observations such as these to help people like medical examiners who are working to determine, for example, if trauma to a body was caused by a weapon or a raccoon.

“Researchers have observed deer scavenging non-human bone many times in the past, but this is the first time we have observed it with human bones thanks to the unique research happening at the Forensic Anthropology Research Facility at Texas State University,” said one of the scientists, Lauren Meckel. “We were surprised only because we see the deer so often in the photos from our motion-sensored cameras. Usually they walk around the skeleton and sniff it a few times, but never had we seen the deer actually pick up one of the bones.”

DeerRibLateralView
A deer chews on a human rib bone in San Marcos. Photo courtesy of the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State

LOOK OUT, TOPO CHICO: Austin’s own sparkling water set to hit stores

Look out, Topo Chico. An Austin-based upstart is coming for you.

Two years after it was first announced, Rambler limestone-filtered sparkling water is set to hit store shelves late this summer. There have been a lot of challenges along the way, but the product’s backers, including several well-known Austinites such as James Moody, say they never stopped believing.

“We had to change directions a few times,” said Moody, who owns The Mohawk live music venue and the Guerilla Suit advertising agency. “We’re so sensitive to making sure we do this right.”

Rambler will be sold in six-packs of 12-ounce cans when it hits stores late this summer.

One of the biggest obstacles was finding a place to produce Rambler. As luck would have it, Austin Beerworks recently expanded and had extra capacity at its facility in North Austin.

“They initially didn’t have any interest in working with anyone outside of their own business,” Moody said. “We approached them and when they realized there was no local option out there for sparkling water, they said, ‘We wouldn’t normally do this, but we want to work with you.’”

The sparkling water – billed as a “soda alternative” – will be sold in six-packs of 12-ounce cans. A price has not yet been set.

“Our recent brewery expansion created lots of fun opportunities for us, but helping Rambler get up and running has been the most exciting,” said Austin Beerworks co-founder Michael Graham. “The Rambler team shares our company values, passion for delicious carbonated beverages and love of all things Texas.”

While the Rambler team had initially envisioned their product in bottles, like Topo Chico, Moody said canned waters – such as LaCroix – have become more popular lately, in addition to being “better for the environment and better for economics.”

“If you look at what’s happening locally and nationally, people are actually drinking way more LaCroix,” Moody said. “LaCroix is something you have in your fridge all the time, while Topo Chicos are only once in a while.”

Moody, for instance, who says he was “hooked” on Diet Coke for many years, says he goes through 12 to 14 LaCroixs a day at work, while typically downing Topo Chicos only when he’s out and about.

In addition to Moody, the team behind Rambler includes Leo Kiely, former CEO of MillerCoors; Bill Kiely, owner and director of Windowseat Entertainment; Jay Russell, chief creative officer for GSD&M; Jeff Trucksess, a partner in Solcharge; and Dave Mead, an Austin-based photographer and director.

All say they are committed to producing Rambler with sustainability in mind. To that end, they plan to donate a portion of the proceeds to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation.

“We’re pleased to partner with Rambler, a Texas-based company that is helping to promote conservation of Texas lands and waters,” said Anne Brown, the foundation’s executive director. “We applaud Rambler for their conservation-minded approach to launching this new endeavor.”

When it debuts, plans call for Rambler to initially be distributed in the Austin area, using the Austin Beerworks distribution network. That, Moody says, means the 600 or so customers – primarily bars, restaurants, convenience stores and grocers – already carrying Austin Beerworks products will be first in line to get Rambler.

Over time, the goal is to go wider, perhaps taking Rambler into other Texas cities.

“For us to be bringing a local, healthier option to the marketplace, I’m stoked,” Moody said.