Transformation Salon Business Feature

Shop focuses on elderly dog nonprofit.

Transformation Salon co-owner Grace Watson said her business is more than just a place to coif hair. It is often filled with rescue dogs visiting for socialization, nonprofit organization flyers placed near the cash register and bake sales to raise money for charity.

LTW-2016-04-37-h

The salon opened in 2002 and has always donated a portion of proceeds to charity, Grace said. However, she said that in the past four years, one specific charity has become very important to her.

Lizzie’s Hospice House rescues elderly and terminally ill dogs from shelters where they would otherwise be euthanized. Founder Karen Cole met Grace nearly five years ago during a dog rescue event.

See full story online here.

Edible Insect Movement Hops into Austin

By Anna Daugherty, Briana Franklin, Emma Ledford and Andrew Masi

If a bug has ever flown into your mouth, chances are it was an unpleasant experience… but there’s a movement in Austin that’s trying to turn that around.

Entomophagy is the practice of eating insects. Startup company Hopper Foods, restaurant La Condesa, educational nonprofit Little Herds and other groups are working to normalize entomophagy in Austin to promote sustainability and a healthy alternative protein.

La Condesa executive chef Rick Lopez orders his grasshoppers straight from Mexico. They arrive boiled and flavored with lime salt. Photo by Andrew Masi.

Hopper Foods makes energy bars with ground crickets – exoskeleton and all – and other all-natural ingredients. The company currently only sells the bars online and at in.gredients on Manor Road, but they plan to roll out to more locations starting as early as next month, said Founder and CEO Jack Ceadel.

“We have been amazed by how receptive people are,” Ceadel said. “I’m assuming that’s, you know, partly an Austin thing. We’ll see how people in the Midwest deal with the idea.”

Ceadel estimated that 10 percent of people totally refuse to try the bars, but 40-50 percent give them a “straight yes.” It’s the ones in the middle, he said, that they’d like to target and persuade.

“This is an entry level product,” Ceadel said. “We’re not asking you to take the whole cricket and put it in your mouth and chew it up.”

At least not yet.

The goal right now, he said, is getting people desensitized to the idea of entomophagy and educating them about its benefits. Crickets are nutrient rich, containing 68 percent protein by weight, all nine essential amino acids and other nutrients such as iron and calcium. They are also sustainable: it takes just one gallon of water to produce one pound of cricket protein, compared to 1,000 gallons for beef and 600 for pork.

Information from hopperatx.com Graphic by Anna Daugherty

So far Ceadel and company are only selling bars made with “cricket powder,” but they have a list of products they plan to roll out in the not-so-distant future that will start masking the bugs less and less.

“If you look at the way sushi and other things are mainstream the way they weren’t, you know, 50 years ago, I think that this will be very, very mainstream in five years,” he said.

Information from hopperatx.com Graphic by Anna Daugherty

La Condesa on Second Street is ahead of the curve. The Mexican restaurant began serving their seasonal chapulines – fried grasshopper tacos – in late September. Executive Chef Rick Lopez wasn’t sure what to expect, but was “blown away” by the positive reception after selling out within two hours on the first day.

“I didn’t want, like, bros coming in and just saying ‘Nah, we didn’t like them. It was just a dare.’ I really wanted people to eat them, and every single dish that came back was empty,” Lopez said.

Kale covers the grasshoppers to represent how they are harvested in Mexico. "When you dig grass away the little bugs start jumping up...that's how they get harvested," explains chef Rick Lopez. Photo by Andrew Masi.

The restaurant gets the grasshoppers whole, clean and boiled like “little tiny lobsters,” and treated with toasted garlic, salt and lime juice, he said. They come from Mexico, which in Lopez’s opinion is exactly as it should be.

“We’re just kind of paying homage to Oaxaca and Mexico City where people eat this stuff everyday,” he said.

The total cook time is less than a minute. Lopez heats a pan and adds chopped raw garlic. He then adds the grasshoppers with some lime juice and epazote, a Mexican herb. He serves the dish “build-your-own” style with homemade corn tortillas, guacamole, salsa verde and chipotle sauce on the side. He uses the dish’s presentation to play on the grasshoppers’ natural habitat, covering the skillet of bugs in fried kale to simulate grass.

“So what we tell the tables is when you move back the kale – you move your grass away – you find the little bugs underneath living close to the wet mud, you know,” Lopez said. “Where they want to be.”

Conference attendee David Comer eagerly snacks on a whole cricket, describing the flavor as "pistachio-y and almond-y." Photo by Andrew Masi.

Focusing on where bugs want to be is also important to Little Herds founder Robert Nathan Allen. Little Herds is an Austin-based educational nonprofit that works to promote ethical insect farming.

For the full story, and more photographs, please finish reading at the Multimedia Newsroom.

 

Inaugural Stargayzer Fest Celebrates Austin Queer Community

By Anna Daugherty, Emma Ledford and Alex Vickery

More than 100 LGBTQIA musicians, artists, drag performers and comedians from around the world took the stage for the inaugural Stargayzer Festival on Sept. 12-14 at Pine Street Station.

Zahira Gutierrez of Houston band Wild Moccasins sings during their Saturday set. Photo by Alex Vickery

Despite the rainy weather, Austinites of all ages and orientations turned out to support the diverse range of talent within the queer community.

“We’ve got comedians and drag and performance art and we even have yoga and visual artists,” festival organizer Brett Hornsby said. “I think a lot of other pride events just kind of focus on one area alone, and so we just wanted to be as diverse as we could and show the broad spectrum that is being offered.”

Stargayzer has been years in the making, Hornsby said. Over the last five years, he was inspired by the diverse range of queer artists he met while touring with performer Christeene Vale.

“I think by [touring] I discovered how much incredible queer talent there is all over the world and how it’s kind of being overlooked,” Hornsby said. “I wanted to bring everyone together and make something that’s focused just on that.”

Photo by Alex Vickery

Scheduling Stargayzer for the weekend before Austin Pride Week wasn’t intentional, Hornsby said, but it was good timing. The weather, though, was less than ideal, as rain soaked the festival grounds all day Friday and part of Saturday.

Pegzilla, from Toronto, poses with her "baby." Photo by Alex Vickery

The festival atmosphere, however, was anything but gloomy. Austin-based comedic drag performer Rebecca Havemeyer embraced the unexpected weather.

“I like how we have rain. We never have rain in Austin,” Havemeyer said. “The grass is growing and the ants are crawling.”

Tamara Hoover and Maggie Lea, co-owners of queer-friendly bar Cheer Up Charlie’s, said that Hornsby came to them with the idea for Stargayzer about six months ago. They jumped at the opportunity to see the Cheer Up community in a different element and location.

“Overall, this community has come out no matter what weather parameters they were given,” Hoover said. “It’s been a really awesome display of how supportive our Austin community is for each other.”

Lea agreed, adding that many festivalgoers didn’t just come for the headliners, but to support the lesser-known local bands and the Austin queer community as a whole.

When Hornsby began booking for the festival, he started with the better-known artists. He ended up getting so many submissions that he had to start turning people down.

“We discovered, on top of everything else, how much crazy stuff was out there, so going through it was really fun,” Hornsby said. “People are like, ‘Oh, you booked all the gay artists in the world!’ But that’s not true at all. There’s so many more.”

Regina The Gentlelady and her band Light Fires traveled all the way from Toronto for the festival. They played pride festivals before, but were attracted to Stargayzer because of the quality and diversity of the talent.

“It’s just a nice showcase of queer talent, and a really broad range of things,” she said. “There’s drag queens and then there’s bands that you wouldn’t even necessarily know are queer, or don’t have a queer agenda or anything, but they just are.”

"Have you ever seen a hairy bagel?" L.A. comedian Brad Loekle entertains a crowd on the main stage between musical performances.

Though it had its share of challenges, Hornsby hopes the first Stargayzer Festival will create a foundation for the event to happen again next year.

“There’s a lot of groups to juggle and shuffle, but they’ve all been patient and really excited to be a part of something like this,” he said. “We want to make this happen. And whatever happens, happens.”

For more photos and videos, please check out the original story on the Multimedia Newsroom

Beauty Buzz: Honey Do

Image by Andrew Chan

Image by Andrew Chan

If you’ve ever left your lip balm in the car on a hot summer day, you know what happens—it becomes a gooey, misshapen mess. That type of melted misfortune is what inspired Derrick Frohne, a computer technology business owner, to create Gentle Bees. Frohne wanted to find a product for his fiancee that could withstand Texas temperatures. With a little research, he discovered that beeswax has a high heat tolerance. His lip balm formula includes pure ingredients such as beeswax, coconut oil, shea butter and jojoba oil. The line also features hypoallergenic, biodegradable olive oil soaps and beeswax candles made with a variety of infused oils to target symptoms such as fatigue, which will come in handy if the summer heat wears you out.

Click here for more information on where to get these products and to see the full article.

 

Glass Sculpture Video Project

Karen Woodward has been creating glass sculptures for over 15 years, but recently moved to Austin, Texas where she has been focused on actively getting involved in the art community.

This video was created for J311F: Reporting Images at The University of Texas at Austin by Anna Daugherty and Erin Spencer.

Thanks to Karen Woodward, Hayley Gillespie, Scott Hartley, Donna DeCesare, and Gabriel Perez for all of their help in the production of this video.

Local nonprofit provides example for Veterans Affairs Commission

By Anna Daugherty

 

Austin’s newest commission, one year old, is considering establishing a “one-stop shop” for veterans, and is looking to a non-profit organization in Cedar Park as an example.

At the Commission on Veterans Affairs meeting Tuesday afternoon, the commissioners spoke about a one-stop shop that would serve as an all-inclusive resource center online, bringing together the many veteran benefits programs to make the application process smoother.

Commissioner Linda Yoder proposed petitioning the city council to create an online and written resource for veterans to find information about available support. She said this resource would bring help ensure that veterans can find what they need.

Chairwoman Cassaundra St. John opposed, saying the commission was not yet ready to move forward with the proposal, because similar resources were already available through the state and county. St. John said if the city did not add something new, the council would reject it.

Commissioner Phillip Gutierres supported Yoder.

“The city is derelict if it’s no doing anything, if we do nothing but piggyback, that’s not progressive for Austin,” Gutierres said.

Yoder said she thinks the commission will be able to find a lot of holes to fill in information.

“You can find information in general but there is no specific information about the greater Austin area,” Yoder said. “That’s where it becomes more and more difficult. I think we should see what we can come up with.”

The commission decided to suspend the idea pending more research.

Allen Bergeron, veterans consultant for the commission, said there are several non-profit organizations that are already helping veterans find the support they need.

Christopher Araujo, Military Veteran Peer Network (MVPN) coordinator, is trying to offer a one-stop resource through the Heroes Night Out center in Cedar Park, Texas.

Araujo said the center offers peer-to-peer interaction and counseling, peer group mentoring, monthly dinners and weekly breakfasts. Araujo also maintains relationships with many levels of veteran resources, including county veteran service officers, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the city and state veteran centers. He sorts through the resources to help make the process streamlined for veterans.

Yoder said MVPN sounded similar to the one-stop shop commissioners were looking for, and expressed interest in partnering with MVPN when the city is ready to build its own.

“It’s a great facility,” Yoder said. “I’ve been out there. I would encourage everyone to go look at Heroes Night Out when we’re considering our one-stop shop.”

Araujo said he tries to work with all veterans, even those with a dishonorable discharge, or incarcerated veterans.

“We don’t discriminate,” Araujo said. “That’s how we’re different – we work with everybody.”

Araujo said one of the biggest challenges that veterans face is the stigma about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He said veterans who might be ready to get help for their PTSD might be hesitant because they don’t want to be stigmatized.

“A big example is the Fort Hood shooting,” Araujo said. “Everyone was quick to label it PTSD. I work with a lot of people with PTSD and they’re well-functioning people. We shouldn’t label it so quickly.”

Araujo said he hopes not only to support veterans; but to influence the community’s mindset toward them.

The Commission on Veterans Affairs is the newest commission in the city. It was started at the beginning of 2013. Bergeron said some people were enthusiastic about the commission while others opposed it.

“Some people think that veterans don’t rank for any special treatment over anyone else,” Bergeron said. “And then there’s others who believe that without veterans, we wouldn’t be here.”

With more than 60,000 veterans living in Travis County, and another 38,000 living in Williamson, the commission is under pressure to represent them well in its first year.

Bergeron said he expects progress to take time and move slowly at first.

“You can’t build something huge in the first year,” Bergeron said. “The first year has had a lot of growing pains, figuring out our priorities. You have to start somewhere. They (the commissioners) planted a lot of seeds.”

 

The Russian Language Club of Austin

Maria Ryabchikova is a Russian immigrant who spends her spare time bringing her culture to those in Austin who want to learn more about Russia. She teaches the language, hosts movie nights, and celebrates holidays in an effort to raise cultural awareness in the city.

This video was part of a project for Reporting Images at The University of Texas at Austin.

 

Austin Tourism and Transportation Growth

How Austin’s increase in tourism demands better transportation options

By Anna Daugherty

            Flying or driving, from near or far, people are coming to see what all the excitement is about in Austin. The increasing attention has the city racing to keep pace.

            Fodor’s listed Austin as one of the top ten places to travel in 2012. That same year, TripAdvisor ranked Austin as second in a list of the top 15 rising vacation destinations in America. As interest in the city grows, so does the demand for quality transportation.

             Jason Zielinski, public information specialist at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, said passenger traffic at the airport has increased for four years in a row. The airport now has several construction projects going on to be able to handle the current and the future demand.

            “As Austin and central Texas continue to grow, so does the airport,” Zielinski said. “We have to increase our infrastructure, improve it, and stay ahead of the game. In 2008 we set a record with 9 million passengers, and at that point we started to look forward at possibly doing a lot of the construction projects we’re doing currently.”

          Construction projects at Austin-Bergstrom include expanding the current terminal, adding a new terminal, and adding a new car rental facility and parking lot. The airport also recently added a non-stop flight to London on British Airways – the airport’s first trans-Atlantic flight.

            “All of our expansion and construction is dependent on passenger traffic,” Zielinski said. “We just hit the 10 million (passengers) mark for the first time. And the airport infrastructure, when it was first built, the terminal was predicted to be able to handle about 11 million passengers a year.”

           Predictions by the airport’s Department of Aviation are based on a standard 3 percent to 4 percent increase in passenger traffic every year. The current passenger forecast for the airport is to reach 11.5 million passengers by the year 2017 and 13.1 million by 2023.

            The airport is mostly self-sustaining, according to Zielinski. The funding for maintenance and construction comes from money spent at the airport. Some construction projects receive additional aid from the Federal Aviation Administration. None of the airport’s budget comes from city citizens’ taxes.

            Airport travel is not the only concern for the growing city. While flying makes up 19.6 percent of transportation, the other 80 percent is automobile travel. The increase in vehicle travel has been a challenge for Austin government and citizens facing crammed streets and highways.

            Chris Bishop, public information officer for the Texas Department of Transportation, said Interstate 35 is the most heavily traveled roadway in Texas, all the way from the north side of Dallas down through Laredo. He also said this area is one of the most densely populated in the state.

           “The goal is to find what’s going to work best for I-35 as a transportation corridor, not just to handle any one event but to handle all the demands that are put on it to allow people to move safely and efficiently,” Bishop said. “It’s not just because we have Formula 1 that we have to do this, or we can’t do that. At some point, the work just has to get done.”

            Bishop said they do take special events, like Formula 1 races or South by Southwest, into consideration when planning work on highways in Austin.

            “That’s all part of what makes Austin the popular place that it is and obviously the heavily traveled and trafficked place that it is,” Bishop said.

            The challenges of growing population and tourism are not without their rewards though, according to Shilpa Bakre, senior communications manager at the Austin Convention & Visitor’s Bureau.

            “Locally, travel supports an estimated 50,000 jobs and pumps more than $6 billion into Austin’s economy,” Bakre said. “It’s a tremendous economic impact and benefit for the city.”

            Bakre said tourists love to visit the city for its authentic experience that can be very different than in other cities. She said the city has more than 250 live music venues to support its nickname as “the live music capital of the world,” but there are other important aspects of the city as well.

            “We’ve obviously got an incredibly burgeoning food scene, great festivals, great outdoors, and 300 days of sunshine a year,” Bakre said. “There are a lot of things that attract both leisure and business travelers to the city year-round.”

            Bakre said every growing city faces challenges, much like “growing pains” as it struggles to find its own identity as a large city. She said she hopes that Austin will continue to maintain the authenticity it has because of the people who live here.

This is the static version of the infographic, for the interactive, click on the infographic itself to open it up in its own window.

This is the static version of the infographic, for the interactive, click on the infographic itself to open it up in its own window.

English center offers help for second language learners

English center offers help for second language learners

 

Celebrating Mardi Gras meant decorating masks and eating king cake for some students at The University of Texas on March 4. The UT English as a Second Language Services celebrates many holidays from around the world, hoping to get more students involved in cultural events.

 

ESL coordinates partnerships for international students, connecting them to American students at UT in a program called Partnerships for Advanced Language Study and Cultural Exchange (PALS).

Perla De La O, audiology junior at UT, is a PALS coordinator. She said connecting international and American students is difficult because they have approximately twice as many international students interested as there are American students.

 

“We need to figure out better ways to let people know about our group and our events,” De La O said. “Sometimes attendance is high, sometimes not. We want it to be more regular.”

 

Despite low attendance and partnership by American students, Teresa Baker, associate director of ESL Services, has seen the program quadruple in size since she joined the staff in 1999.

 

“When I started here in ‘99, we had about 100 students maybe,” Baker said. “We had seven faculty and staff. Now we have 50 faculty and staff and over 400 students so the biggest challenge is managing that growth.”

 

The ESL services offers English classes based on the level of work at UT, whether it is undergraduate, graduate, or working as a teaching assistant. All ESL instructors have graduate degrees and have either taught, traveled, or lived overseas. Baker said teaching English to international students in America presents unique challenges.

 

“If you’re teaching English overseas, you have a monolingual class,” Baker said. “Here, we have maybe eight different countries and languages in one classroom.”

 

Shuning Lu, a graduate journalism student and teaching assistant, is from China and came to UT in the fall 2013 semester. She has chosen not to take lessons at ESL Services because she does not feel the need to take English classes. However, Lu said studying and teaching in English has been more difficult than she thought it would be, and taking notes is the hardest thing to do.

 

“I know English from music and TV dramas, but communicating at school is hard,” Lu said. “Sometimes the professor will say something funny and the students are laughing, but I can’t laugh because I didn’t understand it. I can only laugh because everyone else is. And politics are very hard for me to understand.”

 

“In China we do exercises in English, but it is not the same,” Lu said. “We didn’t have enough practice speaking. Daily language is still very hard.”

 

Lu said teaching has been somewhat easier than she thought it would be. She said she worried about maintaining the respect of her students, but she feels that everyone has been patient with her.

 

Though one-fourth of the 5,000 international students at UT are from China, Baker said the languages most represented at ESL classes are usually Arabic, Spanish and Korean. Baker did not say what might cause this discrepancy.

 

She said students face challenges not only speaking in English, but studying, as well.

 

“They may get here thinking they know enough English but realize when they get to their class that they don’t know enough,” Baker said. “Trying to take notes and understand what’s a side note and what’s an important point can be difficult for them.”

 

Restore Rundberg Project

Restore Rundberg Project

By Anna Daugherty

 

Law enforcement officials are focusing on community engagement after the first year of a federal project for improving safety in high crime neighborhoods shows little change.

          

Austin received a $1 million federal grant in 2013 for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative. The grant is part of an experiment that studies ways to restore neighborhoods with high crime rates.

 

Rundberg was one of the neighborhoods chosen for the grant and is now titled the Restore Rundberg Project. According to the Austin Police Department, the Rundberg area is home to 5 percent of the Austin population, but accounts for approximately 12 percent of violent crime in the city.

 

Michael Lauderdale, a social work professor at UT and sociology researcher on the project team, said fear of police leads to an underreporting of crimes in the area.

 

“One part of the high crime rate is the fact that there is a large immigrant community in that area who are afraid of police,” Lauderdale said. “They aren’t likely to go to the police because they are afraid of being deported.”

 

David Springer, also a UT social work professor and project team researcher, said the first year of the project was focused on research, planning, and identifying high-crime areas within the neighborhood.

 

“The Department of Justice wants to first identify the hot spots,” Springer said.

 

Austin Police Department Cmdr. Donald Baker, the project manager, said the success in the first year was sporadic with occasional enforcement initiatives during which police focused on numbers of arrests and citations. These “100 percent enforcement initiatives” were designed to occur spontaneously in the crime hot spots.

 

“A lot of times when we do the 100 percent enforcements, people don’t want to have contact with the officers,” Baker said. “They know we’re out there to make arrests so they want to stay away so they don’t get caught up in anything.”

 

Baker said the department is shifting to focus on community involvement this year, and is going from the 100 percent initiatives to “walking beats” during which police will patrol crime “hot spots” with a goal of maintaining visibility and creating a safer feeling in the area.

 

“Now, the measure of success isn’t going to be how many arrests you get or how many citations you write,” Baker said. “It’s going to be, how many contacts did you make? How many members of the community did you stop and talk to, to get information on how you can make it safer for them?”

 

Springer said there are 15 other cities in the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative and Austin has been grouped with cities that have similar neighborhood demographics including San Antonio; Portland, Ore., and Seattle.

 

Springer said Austin faces some unique challenges because the Rundberg neighborhood the largest area being covered, with over six square miles. Springer also said 85 percent of Austin police time is spent responding to emergency calls, while in Seattle it is only 60 percent, so the police have more time for patrolling and community interaction.

 

In a report by KVUE news on Feb. 25 Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said Austin police are understaffed, and need approximately 300 more officers to be fully staffed.

 

Springer said the low funding and police numbers require a Austin to approach crime in a new way.

 

“You can’t arrest your way out of this situation,” Springer said. “We’re trying to develop trust over time with the police. We’re piloting some of these things here in Rundberg that haven’t been done before.”

 

Lauderdale said it was important to focus on the community more than the number of arrests, because there isn’t enough money to sustain high levels of police patrol in the area.

 

“A lot of people thought this grant would solve problems, and there’s just not enough money,” Lauderdale said. “It basically is a grant that should permit us to more correctly identify what are the driving factors and who are the victims.”

 

“It is much bigger than just what we can do with that amount of money,” he said. “The neighborhood up there is characteristic of other neighborhoods in Austin, certainly of other neighborhoods in Texas, and probably other states. So if we can learn the causes, and what are the long-term things we can do, it then becomes an experiment that is highly constructive.”

 

Baker said many residents in the Rundberg area have seen previous attempts to restore the neighborhood that have failed once the financial resources ran out. He said his goal with this project is sustainability, so that when the three years are over, the city doesn’t “just walk away” without lasting change.

“Our success at the end of the day is going to be, did we connect people up to multiple resources?” Baker said. “Did we did make it so that people are not only safer but they actually feel safer too?”

 

“This is not a sprint,” Baker said. “This is not something that you’re going to see immediate results. It’s more about the community engagement and building the foundations and networks within the community, and quantitatively that’s hard to measure, because those are really more qualitative issues.”