New York Times asks why Texans are so obsessed with the shape of the state

It took awhile, but the New York Times is onto something. Set that Texas-shaped waffle aside, give your Texas-shaped tattoo a little scratch and listen up: Have you guys realized how people from Texas seem to really like Texas-shaped things?

The University of Texas at Austin's open house, Explore UT, culminated in the "class photo 2009" in the shape of the state of Texas. An estimated 50,000 people, including 330 buses of K-12 school children, came from 200 schools and 80 school districts throughout Texas, from as far away from El Paso in West Texas, Donna in the Valley and Plano in the north. Explore UT consists of over 400 events, performances, exhibits, lectures and hands-on activities led by faculty, staff and students. CREDIT: Marsha Miller/ UT Austin. Received 03/09/09.
The University of Texas at Austin’s open house, Explore UT, culminated in the “class photo 2009” in the shape of the state of Texas. An estimated 50,000 people, including 330 buses of K-12 school children, came from 200 schools and 80 school districts throughout Texas, from as far away from El Paso in West Texas, Donna in the Valley and Plano in the north. Explore UT consists of over 400 events, performances, exhibits, lectures and hands-on activities led by faculty, staff and students. CREDIT: Marsha Miller/ UT Austin. Received 03/09/09.

That’s right. Just as it did with the Franklin Barbecue line and the bats under Congress Avenue Bridge, the New York Times has tackled another Texas institution: Its obsession with its own shape.

“Indeed, the shape of Texas shapes Texas,” the piece reads. Although aside from literally that doesn’t seem to mean much, the piece is right in that, “A few states identify with their shapes, but not many.”

But the assertion that Texas’ “obsession with its shape is one of many age-old ways that Texas likes to separate itself from the rest of the states,” hits a little off.

Texas’ uniquely jagged borders, off-centered curves and, you know, the fact that it clocks in at about twice as large as many of the other 49 states surrounding it, serves to differentiate it without the help of its residents. Or their penchant for self-branding with tattoos in the shape of its likeness.

READ: New York Times’ ‘36 Hours in Austin’ guide totals nearly $2,000; here’s your alternative

That is all to say — did we have a choice? You try looking at Texas and not wanting to own a throw pillow in the exact same shape!

Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy said it all when he told the New York Times, “It’s not some boring box-shape,” and, “There’s a lot of homespun sense of place in Iowa, but there was no place where people served me waffles the shape of Iowa.” That’s because (sorry, Iowa) a regular square waffle is pretty close.

READ: 180 things we love about Texas

In the same way that Coca Cola need only print its name on a billboard, the shape of Texas, with all its ups, downs and strange buzz cuts (a.k.a the panhandle), serves as the perfect representation of all the good stuff you can find there and the people who really, really love it.

It’s not your fault that you live in less distinctly-shaped state, everyone else. But it’s also not our fault that we don’t.

Friday’s rare ‘black moon’ and why you won’t be able to see it

Friday’s sky will feature a phenomenon you don’t see everyday. Including the one it happens on.

(7/20/2010) – James Brosher/AMERICAN-STATESMAN – The Moon is seen from Austin, Texas late on Monday, July 19, 2010.
(7/20/2010) – James Brosher/AMERICAN-STATESMAN – The Moon is seen from Austin, Texas late on Monday, July 19, 2010.

Although the “black moon” set to rise Friday only occurs every 32 months, it’s one of the moon’s subtler shows.

As National Geographic reports, the black moon is defined as a month’s second new moon. Because the moon travels around the Earth in a 29.5-day cycle, most months only have one new moon, the first phase in the lunar cycle. Since our months are a little longer than the phase of the moon, every so often (32 months to be exact) the disjunction means two new moons fall within the same month.

PHOTOS: Blood moon stuns at the Capitol

And why can’t you see a new moon? “Since new moons are in the same part of the sky as the sun, they rise and set with the sun and are overwhelmed by its glare,” National Geographic explains.

If you’re a truly devout sky-watcher, tune in for the non-show tomorrow night. The weather should be just right.

5 ways to enjoy the cooler weather

Although the first day of fall was last week, Austin’s cooler weather just kicked in. We couldn’t be happier to explore the area wearing our long sleeves again.

A runner moves past a line of fall colors at San Gabriel Park in Georgetown on Thursday, December 3, 2015. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
A runner moves past a line of fall colors at San Gabriel Park in Georgetown in 2015. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Here are a few ways you can celebrate the chilly Central Texas temperatures:

  1. Enjoy fall beers! Treat yourself to more than just the typical Oktoberfest lagers and pumpkin ales.

      2. Check out a fall festival around Texas.  From antiques fairs in Round Top to pumpkin patches in Chappell Hill, there’s a festival for everyone’s taste in Central Texas and beyond.

EXPLORE: Find the flavors, sights and sounds of autumn all around Austin

3. Hang out at a cool coffee shop. South Congress Avenue offers plenty of good shopping, but take a break at one of its coffee shops while taking a sip of something warm.

4. Go camping. It’s time to get off-the-trodden trail and explore lesser-known campgrounds.  

5. Dine outdoors.  Enjoy all the outdoor dining options around the city without melting.

 

 

 

 

Follow the presidential debate live

Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton square off in the first of three presidential debates Monday night.

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Follow live coverage, including from Democratic and Republican gatherings in Austin, here:

Texas State students stage sit-in during national anthem

A group of Texas State students staged a sit-in during the national anthem at the game between the Bobcats and the University of Houston on Saturday.

untitledTexas State student Lonvis Naulls told reporter Mark Berman of Fox 26 that there were 125 people in the Black Lives Matter group, which sat and raised their fists as the anthem played at the Bobcat Stadium in San Marcos.

Related: McRaven requests that UT athletes stand during anthem

Naulls said the group sat in protest of social injustice and are following the lead of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who garnered national attention in August for sitting during the national anthem prior to the start of a game.

Read: Texas-ex Boyer stands by Colin Kaepernick during national anthem

“We believe that this country oppresses black people in many ways,” Naulls said. “The senseless murders of unarmed black men who are complying with police officers. There’s no justice at all. Why should we follow the national anthem if it doesn’t pertain to us? It’s excluding the black community.”

Big Tex, mildly terrifying friend to all state fair guests, lives yet again

Imagine this in a booming, robotic drawl: “HOWDY.” Now, return that greeting to Big Tex, who has officially returned for this year’s State Fair of Texas.

OCTOBER 10, 2015 - Texas fans, Mark Jacobs, Jennifer Bowland, Billy Jacobs, behind, and Ryan Jacobs, left to right, enjoy a famous Fletcher's corndog in front "Big Texas" at the State Fair of Texas before the start of the Big 12 conference game between Texas and Oklahoma held at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Tx., on Saturday, October 10, 2015. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
OCTOBER 10, 2015 – Texas fans, Mark Jacobs, Jennifer Bowland, Billy Jacobs, behind, and Ryan Jacobs, left to right, enjoy a famous Fletcher’s corndog in front “Big Texas” at the State Fair of Texas before the start of the Big 12 conference game between Texas and Oklahoma held at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Tx., on Saturday, October 10, 2015. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Crews erected the titanic cow-puncher at the center of Fair Park in Dallas on Friday, according to the Dallas Morning News. And, to be honest, we mostly wanted you to see their tweet about the annual rebirth.

The Morning News reports that Big Tex’s new duds have a special meaning this year: honoring fallen police officers.

“The revered mascot wears a new outfit this year — in addition to his signature Dickies western wear, Big Tex sports a blue ribbon and badge on his shirtto honor the local officers that lost their lives during the July 7 ambush.”

You’ve got plenty of time to visit, because the State Fair of Texas runs Sept. 30 until Oct. 30. Be honest, you’re already looking forward to your Red River Rivalry selfie with the big guy.

This is certainly happy news for fans of Big Tex, but it might be a good time to remember that time he caught on fire in 2012, and also consider that remains an excellent Halloween costume idea.

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Texas Walmart to open State Fair of Texas treats restaurant

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You have no excuse — Texas astronaut to vote from space

You might have a lot of excuses for not making it out to vote in this year’s upcoming presidential election. But if you’re still on planet Earth, your excuse will not hold with Texas astronaut Kate Rubins.

This undated handout photo from NASA shows astronaut Kate Rubins aboard the International Space Station wearing a hand-painted spacesuit decorated by childhood cancer patients at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. NASA said Rubins will chat from the space station with patients during a 20-minute call on Friday, Sept. 16, 2016. (NASA via AP)
This undated handout photo from NASA shows astronaut Kate Rubins aboard the International Space Station wearing a hand-painted spacesuit decorated by childhood cancer patients at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. NASA said Rubins will chat from the space station with patients during a 20-minute call on Friday, Sept. 16, 2016. (NASA via AP)

As the Associated Press reports, Rubins is currently the only American in orbit and might remain so if her October trip home from the International Space Station is delayed any further. While Russia was set to send its replacement crew into orbit this Friday, the plans have been pushed back (possibly for a month or more) for technical reasons.

Luckily, Rubins thought to grab an absentee ballot for just such a circumstance. Because, yes, astronauts can definitely vote from space. Although she calls Houston home, her ballot lists her current address as “low-Earth orbit,” according to AP.

LOOK: Here’s what Austin looked like from space nearly 50 years ago

Rubins is just as amazed as us Earthlings that she can have her say all the way from space calling it, “very incredible” and “incredibly important for us to vote in all of the elections.” She doesn’t just mean astronauts. If not being registered is your excuse, you still have plenty of time (till Oct. 11 to be exact) and thorough instructions on how to do so right here! Being on Earth should make things, if only slightly, easier.

5 ways to celebrate today’s autumn equinox in 90-plus-degree weather

Welcoming the first day of autumn looks a little different in Austin, Texas. It’s less about chilly mornings and crunchy leaves and more about a high of 93 degrees Fahrenheit. Although weather forecasters are promising a weekend cold front, today, the official first day of fall, is a lot like the ones before it — very warm, very hot.

Photo by Larry Kolvoord AMERICAN-STATESMAN....11/28/05....Jacob Brown and Monica Jones paddle their kayak past the autumnal colors of a Cypress tree on the shores of Red Bud Isle in Town Lake.
Photo by Larry Kolvoord AMERICAN-STATESMAN….11/28/05….Jacob Brown and Monica Jones paddle their kayak past the autumnal colors of a Cypress tree on the shores of Red Bud Isle in Town Lake.

So what can you do to welcome the seasonal change without pretending it’s actually occurred? Soak up another one of the (many) final days of summer! Here are a few in-between activities.

1. Pass on the pumpkin spice and grab one of the last snow cones of summer. A frozen treat remains an appropriate choice as long as eating it outside means you’re at risk for melting. If you’re feeling ambitious hit up more than one of Austin’s many snow cone spots.

2. Save a pleasant walk through the park for when it’s actually pleasant and opt for a pool. Or swimming hole. Or lake. Check out all the places you can swim in and around Austin here.

KEEPING COOL: Tired of crowds? Try some of these less trendy pools, parks and trails

3. The idea of a campfire is still more torturous than enjoyable. But if you really want to set something on fire tonight, try barbecuing. Or if you want the payoff with none of the work, grab some barbecue instead.

4. If you can’t dress the part and outside doesn’t feel the part, you can always resort to decor. Hang your autumn wreathes, plop a pumpkin on the porch, scream “It’s fall!” and dare summer to defy you.

EXPLORE: Find the flavors, sights and sounds of autumn all around Austin

5. Learn a little more about the day. What exactly does an equinox signify and why do meteorologists observe it on a different day?

Keep up-to-date with Austin’s forever-summer weather here, and happy autumn equinox!

Let us know how you feel about Blue Bell

Blue Bell Creameries announced Wednesday that it has voluntarily recalled some of its ice cream amid another listeria scare.

Blue Bell has released a new flavor of ice cream called Cookie Two Step that is a combination of cookies and cream and chocolate chip cookie dough ice creams. Photo from Blue Bell
Photo from Blue Bell.

We’re as sad as you are, trust us.

The recall affects about 2,000 cases of cookie dough produced in August that was sent to Blue Bell facilities in Texas and Alabama, for inclusion in the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Cookie Two Step flavors.

Read more: Listeria scare prompts new Blue Bell recall

Blue Bell said the ice cream was set to be distributed in 10 states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. (Note that Texas isn’t on that list.)

This isn’t the first time the ice cream has been recalled; Blue Bell only returned to the shelves a little more than a year ago after the company’s first recall in its 109-year history. That outbreak led to three deaths and sickened 10 people.

Read more: A year after listeria scandal, Blue Bell still battling back

This possible listeria outbreak only affects a few flavors, though, and that means there’s still plenty of ice cream on the shelves.

But what do you think? Will you still buy Blue Bell ice cream? Vote in our poll below.

4 of the best U.S. cities to live are in Texas, according to Time

Four Texas cities made the cut for the top 50 places to live in the U.S. by Time Inc.’s Money magazine this week — and it seems to have forgotten Austin.

Longhorn cattle stand in front on a Texas-flag-painted shed on FM 1371 in Chappell Hill on Thursday January 2, 2014. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
File photo. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

That’s right, folks. Our city is nowhere to be found on the list, which names Columbia, Md. as the No. 1 best city to live in. The first Texas city to appear on the list at No. 3 is Plano, described as “a corporate center with a small-town vibe.” The other three Texas cities include Pflugerville (12), Euless (18) and Spring (44).

Read: Austin named No. 1 most ‘surprising city’ where gentrification is displacing poor

Rankings are determined based on 60 data points in categories like job and income growth, the local economy, housing affordability, education, health, crime, arts and leisure and ease of living.

Related: How does Austin stack up in this ‘Best Texas Cities for Families’ poll? Not so hot

It might be surprising that Austin wasn’t chosen but using a Time feature that allows you to compare cities might help clear things up. Compared to Columbia, Austin has a lower percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher, a lower median family income, a lower projected five-year job growth, a higher median home price and a higher average property tax. We only beat it with an average commute time of 22 minutes compared to 29 and slightly lower unemployment rate of 3.2 percent compared to 3.5 percent.

Read: Love ‘old Austin’? Good news: City ranked No. 2 best for senior citizens

Oh, well. Better luck next year, Austin.