The Good Life in Austin Texas


Keep Austin Texas Weird -What's that all about? (LOCALISM FEATURED)

Keep Austin Weird 5K"Wait, what was that, I ask?  My son responds again, "its 107 degrees according to that thermometer at the starting line".  I moan and try to figure out WHY I have agreed to participate with him in the Keep Austin Weird 5K (and costume contest with each entrant issued a pair of "Elvis" sunglasses) at 6pm in the afternoon in the middle of a brutal Texas summer... The event is a benefit for the RunTex Carrozza Foundation, a nonprofit group that provides running shoes, coaching and race entry fees for people with low incomes. Paul Carrozza is also the owner of RunTex, the absolute coolest running store on the planet located here in Austin Texas!

Keep Austin Weird 5KWe start off together and my son says he wants to go on ahead and I quickly agree mumbling something to the effect that I will catch up later (oh sure...) After two miles I am sweating like a politician in church and just about to say to "heck with it" when who should come running towards me? My son who has doubled back and is laughing as he tells me he wanted to be sure I was okay. I can barely see from the sweat pouring into my eyes and I am gasping for air in the torrid heat but I manage to say, I'm good! I struggle to keep moving and try and not pass out while slipping into that spacey zone that comes before heat exhaustion!

I am thinking all the while that we only have a mile to go and if I can keep from barfing up a lung I just might make it! He then tells me to "smile" for the photographers by the roadside and I do laugh when he catches a scoop of Amy's Ice Cream tossed from the Water/Ice Cream Stop by volunteers to anyone who picked up a cup a few yards earlier! (I told you this was weird!)

Keep Austin Weird

Keep Austin Weird is an axiom chosen by a group that promotes small local businesses in Austin, Texas.The Austin Independent Business Alliance picked the phrase from a remark made by a librarian at Austin Community College in a phone call to a local radio station. Red Wassenich and his wife, Karen Pavelka, placed the slogan on bumper stickers, distributing them free to businesses in Austin. "Keep Austin Weird" was later trademarked by and used to market T-shirts, hats, and mugs.

The slogan is a reference to the many small businesses, events, functions and personalities in Austin which give the city its unique cultural identity.  The Keep Austin Weird website describes itself as a "collaborative fission of coordinated individualism" and it gets somewhat weirder from there, learn more at: . The whole concept is really just a celebration of all the things that that make Austin so unique and enjoyable. Austin Mayor Will Wynn supports the foundation and the group focusing on supporting local business! I read this quote by him recently, "The city is so weird, he joked, that his parents bought a house in Round Rock. But what exactly makes Austin weird? Wynn said it is the high quality of life in a growing city that feels small. "We don't feel nearly as large . . . because we have a unique quality of life," Wynn said. And I could not agree more, every day brings some new and interesting weirdness!

Weird 5K finish lineWe finally cross the finish line behind a crowd that includes two girls rowing in a cardboard canoe, people running in various costumes, a scuba diver and a collection of Dr. Seuss characters. A short time later, after we manage to cool off and refuel with a few quarts of ice water, some Amy's Ice Cream and a half dozen slices of Mangia Pizza, we wander over to the Free stage to watch some great local music.

Keep Austin Weird Tie-DyeKeep Austin Weird is really about the rich diversity & eclectic ideas of our community and the melting pot nature of all the things that TRULY make Austin such a wonderful place to live. I love Austin and have lived here a long time and I even enjoy the fact that the Weird "slogan" sometimes irritates those who do not fully understand the meaning.  Of course, there are always party poopers in every crowd but in Austin they are vastly outnumbered!



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82 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • October 24 2008 01:58PM

Trust - The Critical Factor in Referral Business

Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him.  Booker T. Washington

Whom do YOU trust?I am incredibly fortunate that approximately 70% of my business this year will arrive through personal referrals from friends, family, past clients and agents with whom I have done business in the past. This number varies over the years, higher some years and lower others but is always a reliable and consistent source of business. My referral business is built on one primary factor; TRUST. "Referrals are the highest form of compliment I can receive from a past client" - I see this written on the backs of business cards, beneath signatures, and repeated endlessly at closings. For me, this is not just an empty platitude, it must be backed up with reliability, professionalism and real service! I have a very good track record going back many years that has been built on a relationship of reliance. If I say I am going to do something I do it!

When I first joined ActiveRain last summer, one of my goals was to establish contact and build relationships for referrals across the country. This turned out to be one of the most amazing aspects about the community. In the past I have had to rely on various networks, catalogues and brochures to find someone and this proved to be a difficult proposition. I would look over various descriptions, profiles etc. and finally find someone to call. At that point, I would have a brief conversation and if everything seemed okay, pass along the information. With this scant amount of discussion I was passing along the trust of someone who trusted me. I have very high standards for my clients and want the referred agent to treat my clients in the same manner as I would.

Webster's Online Dictionary defines trust as: 1 a: assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something b: one in which confidence is placed

The key is learning about people and getting to know them over time through the communication provided here at ActiveRain. First impressions are important but here we have the inimitable opportunity to read others posts along with comments that reveal us more openly and deeply and at a visceral level that cannot be hidden. I will admit that I have seen comments, posts and behavior that is unappealing to me personally but I can assure you I am not judging anyone, I realize that there are some people out there for whom professionally and to some degree, personally, I am not a good fit which is just fine.

On the other hand, since joining Active Rain, I have had the great fortune of establishing some phenomenal relationships with brokers, agents, lenders, stagers, marketing gurus, artists and the general public that I absolutely value. The best part of the site, for me is the ability to genuinely get to know someone over time through the discourse offered and the communication between the members. One of the first people I met in person was Jason Crouch. I read a number of his posts and thought I would just call him up and ask him about the site and get to know him. We had an absolutely enjoyable time and I can tell you from personal experience he is as interesting and bright as you would imagine while at the same time devoid of any ego or attitude that all of us sometimes witness in this business. He was open and helpful and we have since become friends as we have gotten to know each other over time. Our companies and areas of business focus are different (geographically more than anything) and so recently, when I received a very good lead that was not in my particular area of expertise (or any of my associates) I immediately thought of Jason. AND WHY NOT, it's better to send good business to someone I trust so that we can all benefit (the client in particular) rather than just leaving them to call the next number they find in a phone book, the newspaper, online or from a yard sign.

I can tell you unequivocally that I have met at least two dozen people here (so far) whom I would not hesitate sending business all across the country because of the relationships I have established and nurtured here. Now that I think of it, I am going to write a post and mention everyone I am talking about (Y'all already know who you are)because my experience here has been the most exciting new thing to enter my world as a real estate broker in years!

               Thanks to ActiveRain and I look forward to meeting more of you in the future!


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103 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • October 16 2008 09:50AM

Architecture at the Umlauf - Lecture Series – November 6th

The final installment of the Architecture at the Umlauf Series season is coming and will take place Thursday, November 6th. The monthly series was founded and is produced by two of my associates at AvenueOne properties; Scott Harvey and Carla Umlauf (granddaughter of the esteemed sculptor) and is sponsored by our firm, AvenueOne Properties. The lectures take place at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and the series is now wrapping up its highly successful second season.  Mell Lawrence, FAIA is the featured speaker. There is a minimal charge of $5.00 for the event but is free to museum members.

Architecture at the Umlauf - Nov. 6th

Thanks again for your continued interest and support!


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21 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • October 14 2008 12:03PM

Amy's Ice Cream-Sweet Temptation: Taste an Austin, Texas Original

Amy's Ice Cream-Sweet Temptation: Taste an Austin, Texas Original

Temptation of EveI love ice cream; in fact I would say it is my favorite food in the world. If ice cream had been available in the Old Testament it would have easily replaced the apple as Eve's temptation. History reveals many stories and myths surrounding the tasty treat dating back to Roman times. My favorite tale revolves around a King who wanted a dessert that had both the elements of summer and winter in the same dish. And some intrepid soul invented the hot fudge sundae. (My current personal favorite!) 

Austin, Texas is home to the most original ice cream store on the planet. Amy's Ice Creams was founded by Amy Simons in 1980. She previously worked at another shop called Steve's. Amy's Ice CreamsSteve's establishment was popular for what, at that time, was the completely bizarre & unconventional practice of taking homemade ice cream and smashing different ingredients (cookies, candy, nuts, fruit, etc.) together and serving it in a cone or cup. Seems strange these days when you can buy pints of just about any flavor mixed with just about any ingredient at your local supermarket! Steve's closed and Amy went on to open her own shop and she now has 12 locations in Austin as well as stores in Houston and San Antonio. But don't look for mass growth. At Amy's its all about quality, service and community.

Amy's special secret is no secret at all. They use only the best quality ingredients and don't cut any corners in producing the highest quality ice cream available in the world. Flavors change on a rotating basis and there are also seasonal fruit, berry, and nut ice creams available. In additional to the standard sugar cones, Amy's also makes their own large waffle cones that are tasty by themselves as well as a vehicle for the most luxurious ice cream you will ever eat, taste, nibble, gorge, or devour. Lola

Amy's goes out of the way to employ interesting and compelling folks that know the true meaning of "Keep Austin Weird". The company mascot "Lola" an awesomely funny cow, is prevalent everywhere. Each store has its own whimsical personality and feeling. Children and adults alike are always delighted by the décor, the antics of the employees (there are often displays of ice cream juggling which, I know sounds strange but trust me on this one) and the overall ambience that goes along with the most flavorful, richest, tastiest, creamiest ice cream you will ever put in your mouth.Amy's Mira Vista

MelissaMy favorite location is, obviously, the one closest to my home. Amy's in the Mira Vista shopping center 2765  Bee Caves Road is managed by the wonderfully bright, energetic and cheerful Melissa Hanson. She is a true disciple of the Amy's mentality and a purveyor of all that is delicious in the world of ice cream. In the interest of full disclosure I have to tell you that our son, Morgan, was an employee at this location until he recently left for college. I don't mind admitting how proud his mom and I were that he managed to get hired because it is something of a challenge to get accepted. Amy's looks for employees who are a little different, somewhat interesting, and creative as well as hard working. Although maybe not as significant as being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys or  nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, we were thrilled to know someone on the inside of the Amy's empire. And I admit I may have used the connection to get a few extra sprinkles of "crushin's"!?!


Enough of this talk...  I cannot think of anything but ice cream now so, as soon as I post this I will be driving over to the Mira Vista store for my current favorite obsession. (My hands tremble in anticipation as I hasten to finish typing and I begin to expectantly look forward to the sinfully extravagent indulgence). Pictured at left and served up with good humor and a smile (by my favorite Pit Boss/Scoop at the Mira Vista location) the not so discrete object of my desire. A three scoops Sundae of Mexican vanilla, chocolate chip cookie dough and Belgium chocolate (with Oreos crushin's) covered partially with Amy's homemade hot fudge and a half scoop of their warm praline sauce.  This artery clogging concoction will be topped with freshly whipped cream, fresh sliced strawberries, and some mixed nuts. Eaten with a plastic spoon ONLY (to prevent freezing of the tastebuds and enhance the full flavor of the frozen dessert). Okay, I can hear all the health nuts and fussbudgets out there but before you start  preaching,  please remember, life is S H O R T, eat dessert first and... I know, I know.... I will have to run an extra 5 or 7...or, oh whatever, a bunch of extra  miles this week, but it will be worth it. Remember to indulge responsibly...


Do yourself a favor; if you are lucky enough to live in or travel to Austin, San Antonio or Houston Texas, visit Amy's and enjoy a world class treat that originated right here in Austin Texas!

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71 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • October 09 2008 07:56PM

Waiting for the other shoe to drop… The paralysis of FEAR

Well now, Congress finally managed to pass a bail-out..."Recovery Bill" at a cost $700 BILLION. But nothing has fundamentally changed. Jump-Wall Street ProtestPeople from all walks of life are worried because everyone wonders what is going to happen next. Unemployment numbers skyrocketed this past week and worldwide economic indicators are falling. But that's just part of it.  It seems like every time you turn on the T.V. there's more and more bad news. The level of worry and stress is going up everywhere while the overall mood of people keeps dropping.

Who can blame anyone? The same culture of corruption that has increasingly put us in the mess over the last eight years, telling us all along that "everything is fine and we are in a stable financial situation", suddenly pops up with a cry of alarm and a three page "solution", demanding that we just "TRUST" them. If I were to go on a listing appointment with the same flimsy approach and shoddy documentation, my clients would run me off without a second thought. Where is the accountability?

"In school, you couldn't get away with that garbage because the taxpayers know that if we don't uphold scholastic standards, we will wind up driving on badly designed bridges and go in for a tonsillectomy and come out missing our left lung, so we flunk the losers lest they gain power and hurt us, but in politics we bring forth phonies and love them to death." - Garrison Keillor

'Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress... But I repeat myself.'  --Mark Twain 

"Banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies" -Thomas Jefferson

And you want to know something? This is nothing new; check out this little tidbit from out the last century: "We the men in this hall, who control the economic destiny of the Nation, knew in 1927 that this terrible depression was coming, and we did nothing about it." - President of the American Bankers Association, speaking at their convention, in 1931

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that I broke my crystal ball many years ago. I am not the smartest individual around and a good example is that I entered real estate in 1989, in Texas, in the depths of the S&L Crisis. Yep, there were thousands of foreclosures, many more thousands of homes on the market and what, maybe a few dozen buyers? It was the greatest financial dilemma since the depression but somehow, we made it.

X-Ray reveals...Now please don't get me wrong!  I am not one of those "Pie in the sky" dreamers jabbering empty platitudes and honestly, I tend at times to have a darker more cynical attitude that I have to monitor. This is a very sinister time and we have some incredible challenges so I just get up every day and go to work with my EYES WIDE OPEN. I will not wait around or be paralyzed by fear and I will not be a prisoner of my thoughts.  I make an effort to not give any power to those whose only path is that of failure on woe while offering nothing but complaints and never solutions. It's funny but I am amazed at how powerful my thinking can be as it determines my every day actions. I don't have to play that game--regardless of what's going on in the world.

Oh, by the way Congress...along with each and every one involved in getting the country into this mess, your X-RAY came back and I think we found the problem!

See you at work on next week!

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73 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • October 04 2008 12:35PM

Architecture at the Umlauf - Lecture Series - October 1st

The next installment of the Architecture at the Umlauf Series is this week. This monthly series was founded by two of my associates at AvenueOne properties; Scott Harvey and Carla Umlauf (grand daughter of the esteemed sculptor) and is sponsored by our firm, AvenueOne Properties. The lectures take place at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and the series is now in it's second season.  There is a minimal charge of $5.00 for the event but is free to museum members. The next lecture falls on First WEDNESDAY this month and is specially catered by the hot new restaurant Mulberry (interior architecture by Michael Hsu).

Architecture at the Umlauf

And don't forget the AIA Austin Homes Tour next weekend: AIA Austin Homes Tour 2008


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8 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • September 29 2008 10:01PM

Two Words...that could save your life!

Road - Rage

I'm sitting in traffic about a quarter of a mile from the stop light at one of the busier intersections in Austin, Texas. Behind me cars stretch as far as I can see. I begin to feel the tension in my shoulders as my frustration starts to build. I am just about to shout (at no one in particular just out loud,) when I notice movement in the car next to me. I look closer and see a man pounding on his steering wheel and shouting. Next to him I see his companion. Her chin in her hand staring out the window and probably wishing she was somewhere else. At that very moment, I have an epiphany and decide from that moment on I would let people like him be upset for me in any frustrating driving situation. Whenever I was in traffic, I would be absolved from getting angry or frustrated by knowing that somewhere out there, there will be several people going off like a steam kettle. To this day, when stuck in traffic I almost always see someone carrying on in the same manor and these days it makes me laugh.

TrafficI read a recent interview with Tom Vanderbilt, a freelance writer and author of "Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)," just published by Knopf. It's a well-researched 402-page book on the complicated and interesting relationship between people and the machines they drive  "at 88 feet per second (60 mph) or sit for hours in bumper-to-bumper-to-bumper traffic." Vanderbilt writes that driving is "the most dangerous thing most of us will ever do."  In the interview he makes some very interesting points.

He quotes a number of studies that prove without a doubt that we are not as skilled at driving as we have lead ourselves to believe.

  • Talking on a cell phone takes concentration, and Vanderbilt's book points out the many ways in which a driver becomes less attentive while on a call. Because of that split attention, he writes, "We become worse drivers and worse talkers."
  • "Accidents": The way we talk about traffic, Vanderbilt says, can make us think that driving a car isn't as dangerous a task as it can be. Consider the word "accident."
  • "We prefer the word ‘accident' because we all drive. When you hear about a plane crash, you don't hear ‘plane accident.' We wouldn't feel comfortable with that description because it would indicate someone throwing their hands up and saying, ‘Oh, accidents happen."
  • "This is the classic thing in traffic safety. You don't want to petrify people. But, on the other hand, you sort of do. ... Forty-three thousand people a year-that's just fatalities.
  • "There's so much associated with driving-romance and excitement. A survey by some Canadian people found that 50 percent of car commercials showed unsafe driving acts. What are they selling?" (The ultimate driving machine?)

For years, the state of Texas installed signs everywhere with just two words "Drive Friendly."  I think this simple message actually encouraged people (weather directly or subconsciously) to do just that. I wish Texas would bring them back because it might help. It is always irritating to be stuck in traffic, but the bizarre and aggressive nature of other drivers can also be maddening. For instance, I turn on the signal to change lanes and the person in the next lane (usually in one of those cars advertising its self as "the ultimate driving machine,") roars up to cut me off. Road side gawkers who slow to a crawl to look at anything at the side of the road from a clearing wreck to (in Austin at least) a man dressed in a pink thong pulling a wagon full of odd junk. Honking freaks, lying on the horn, if you don't move the instant the light turns green or just to express themselves at any given moment. You can fill in the blank with your own particular aggravation.Drive Friendly

Okay, I am going out on a limb here with some admittedly "half baked theories". Of all the things in the world that make me cranky, hunger is right up there in the top two or three. I think this also applies to the majority of people in the world today. Now, think about the fact that at least half of the population is on some type of diet. You see where I am going with this? Well, it makes sense that there are a lot of people on the road who are already on edge from self imposed hunger pangs that are just a snack away from losing it! I know I will catch flack for this but my other "prejudice" concerns the people who pilot the aforementioned "ultimate driving machines". Now don't take my word for this. Just start looking around and I feel certain that you will soon begin to notice many of the smaller versions of this car whipping in and out of traffic, turn signals apparently broken, barrelling down the road with no regard for others around them and generally "letting the ego take the wheel..." Okay, enough of that, you get my point!

As a real estate broker in Austin Texas I spend a great deal of time behind the wheel. I am one of those realtors who divide my time almost equally between representing listings and working with buyers. Over time, I developed a strategy to stay comfortable both physically and mentally while driving. I like driving a nice car that is as comfortable as possible and is also good for shuttling clients to various homes. I believe in a hands free phone system so I can talk and drive if the need arises. I utilize both an iPod as well as a subscription to Sirius radio for a wide variety of music choices. A word of warning: avoid choosing hard rock, punk, or speed metal when in traffic as this may increase the aggressive side of your driving nature. Always have a snack nearby to avoid the crankiness driven car tactics I mentioned earlier. Last but not least, give yourself ample time to get where you are going. If you are behind before you get in the car you are already inclined to drive like a bat out of hell. In no way am I preaching. I just hope we can all drive in harmony and save ourselves some emotional anguish and maybe even some lives.

As always, I remain yours in the social graces and will see you on the road.


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83 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • September 27 2008 01:16AM

1 in 10,859 - Standing Out in a Crowd of Agents

Standing out?While recently updating my E-key, I noticed that the roster function deleted 78 members and then added 84 members for a net gain of six. Looking at the roster total I saw that there were 10,859 agents currently registered with the MLS system in the greater Austin, Texas area. Now, that is a huge number of real estate agents in my part of the world. Out of curiosity I learned that in the last year approximately 12 percent of the agents had sold around 90 percent of the real estate. Further investigation showed that 70 percent of the new agents entering real estate quit in the first year. Of the 30 percent left, 90 percent of those quit in the second year. It appears that the people making the most of this massive turnover are those that own real estate schools. I talked about this with Jason Crouch (who also had the same experience)at lunch recently and was inspired to write this post! Thanks Jason!

I hear people say that with the downturn, maybe it will clear out some of the crowd but I have never found this to be true. In good times people flock to the profession in search of the so called "easy money". In bad times even more people seem to get a license because "if you can't do anything else you can always be a Realtor". As professionals we encounter and incredible amount of competition. The only way we can effectively stand out is by building a solid reputation based on results.

I often go on listing appointments and face the challenge that my soon to be client has both friends and family who are realtors. At these meetings I also see a lot of refrigerator magnets, calendars, cup holders, drink coasters, and other house hold items emblazoned with the names and logos of competing agents and companies (which is the reason I don't employ such marketing gimmicks.) Although 75 percent of my business comes from personal referrals I depend on my reputation and that of my company to build and expand my business.

I am fortunate to work at an independent high quality firm where all of the associates are FULL TIME most of the members are share holders of the company. Last year with 36 associate brokers and agents we sold nearly 300 million dollars worth of real estate in Austin, Texas. Compare that production with the largest company in town that has over 3,500 agents and likes to trumpet the fact that they sold 1 billion worth of properties. You get the picture.

No matter where you work, you can succeed by focusing on your abilities and what you can do for your client. It is paramount that you be truthful and realistic and (walk the walk) for any claims you make about your expertise. There are at least 2 dozen agents in my area that I know might beat me at any listing appointment where I compete. If that happens, that is fine. They are all very good agents and the only thing that distinguishes us is that different people work with different personalities.

The most important thing we all have to remember is this; in the majority of cases, a person's home is the single most valuable investment they will ever have. Because of this it is important to have the best representation possible. Not a friend, family member or part timer but someone who is a full time, committed professional with the clients' best interest at heart!1 in 10,859

Here's the difference: my clients can get the same service, effort and expertise as Neiman Marcus or they can go to Wal-Mart... which would you choose?




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115 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • September 18 2008 01:46AM

PIGGING OUT! Abuse of the ActiveRain points system…

I recently read two very good posts "Is Your Integrity Worth 25 Points?" - Blog Tips for Rain Drips and another by Bob Cumiskey where he describes bad blogging behavior and states "There are a few "so called bloggers" on the ladder who obviously blog just for the points." Both made me realize that I have also witnessed a number of other blatant attempts to "Game the System" here at Active Rain.Pigging out for points!

A short time after I joined several of us at my office received an email asking us to join ActiveRain and it turned out that the individual sent a mass email to numerous agents. Evidently, the person was hoping to rack up points by signing up new folks. I learned that the person was later contacted by Active Rain and stopped. I noticed later that this same person began to post the maximum allowable posts each week. I am not an editor or critic but none of the posts were compelling and most were cut and pasted with a few remarks and no outside comments, Curious I began to see similar actions in different parts of the country by people who were obviously, as Bob Cumiskey wrote, just Blogging for the points ~ the lazy blogger. I began to see others who would just post listings. One person in particular was part of a real estate team and would post individual units and homes (by copying and pasting the listings) in projects and by different builders who were represented by the whole group to rack up points! I don't really get that because I am unaware of the general public looking at listings on Active Rain since there are so many other sites where buyers can already view listings and home data.

Recently I noticed a new person rocketing up the ladder in my area  and when I looked at this person's profile and blog was amazed to see that they had created hundreds of posts and sent them to 30 and 40 groups at a time. I later saw that many of the posts had the X beside them but, undaunted, the individual continues to post 10 at a time in as many as 50 groups and continues to amass points. I assume the AR guardians will do something soon but that is as sad as it is irritating. They should not have to police this great site from those too ignorant, irresponsible or self serving to care what is correct protocol or even what constitutes decent manners. Every time I see someone abusing the system I am reminded that these are the same people who act inappropriately in the real world and whose corner cutting, ignoring of rules and unprofessional behavior give our profession a bad name. They are the ones who want to do as little as possible and get something for nothing!

Because of these examples, I decided early on to try and  put out something of good quality. I began to read posts by others and I learned that we must Blog Often but it begins to look like the Laffer Curve as applied to points. Blogging goes up. Points go up but quality can go down and the end result is Less than Zero. I also try to heed the advice that we must Blog with Purpose, I think Adam Waldman wrote that. I try to follow the lead by Rich, Majority Original Content" or "What's the Point of Points?" and especially the idea to adhere to "Free Speech has a Cost" - The ActiveRain Community Guidelines Re-Visited.

Rich Jacobson defined the goal of blogging and commenting perfectly "One of the most basic and foundational tenets of conversational blogging is to engage one another other in meaningful discussion and dialog. In order for this dialog to successfully occur, the blog author's content needs to be mentally digested, and the reader must respond with comments that are relevant to the topic, adding value to the conversation"

That's exactly what we should try and achieve and I really appreciate Active Rain and the new Localism as a platform to grow our business and to top it all off, it's FREE (or at least very reasonably priced when it comes to neighborhoods)! I do not pretend to be a writer and I do realize that I will never be at the top of the ladder locally but I will be happy to be in the top 5 or 10 and plan to make it there by trying to contribute compelling posts of substance, meaning and value to the realtors, lenders and my fellow members of Active Rain. Eventually, as Localism grows I want the general public to see something of value and not just masses of meaningless posts that do nothing to increase the level of discourse within our community.

One last thing, I do comment on posts and many times I see even more great comments and suggestions that add to the value of the original post. I think most people who take the time to write a legitimate blog want to hear a comment when they post so leave a one... whether it's for the points or to add to the discussion



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141 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • September 09 2008 09:32AM

"Pain is NOT a flavor!" - A Taste of Life in Austin TX (LOCALISM FEATURED)

Pain is NOT a flavor...

Hot Sauce Contest

August 24th was the 18th annual celebration of The Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Contest here in Austin, Texas.  The event featured many vendors who promoted their sauces along with individuals vying for glory in the hot sauce world. The organizers raise money and collect food for the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas. Attendance is free, but patrons are asked to bring non- perishable donations for the bank. It is supposedly the largest Contest and Festival of its kind and I have entered in fourteen of the contests since the beginning eighteen years ago! I arrived early with three entries, one for each category; Red, Green and Special category. First 3 entrantsI was joined by Ted Fick-C and Tom Spradling-R and as we told stories about past events & swapped "tastes"  I knew I was in trouble right away because my green entry was not near Tom's (he even grows his own peppers)! When I tried Ted's I was amazed, It was so complex and he smokes/roasts his veggies for SEVENTEEN hours. It was a red entry but I think it would have dominated in the special category commercial. And we were the first of 600 entries!

We like it Hot and Spicy in Texas and it's been that way for years. Chili peppers and the thousands of variations of salsas, sauces and pico-de-gallos testify to the unending search for the best combination to dip your tortilla chip (or literally anything else you might choose). Although I like hot & spicy I still maintain that "if it's too painful, it ain't good". Flaming Mouth

  OriginalsSo where do you draw a line? For J.P. Hayes, founder of Sargent Pepper's, an Austin sauce-making company, it's off the charts. J.P. has set up a booth at the festival every year since it started! We both realized that we were probably the only people attending  wearing the original  T-shirt  from the event's first year.  The first two years, the festival was billed as a contest between Austin and San Antonio but Austin ran away with the event both times and from then on it was just "The Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Contest. Austin became the mecca for individuals, restaurants and commercial bottlers from all over the state seeking fame and salsa fortune!  Several thousand people attended and lined up for free samples from many of the restaurants and commercial bottlers as well as a huge tent displaying  some of the hundreds of individual entries. Heat linesBig Daddys

Tears of JoyThe Food Network was also on hand to record the show and interview  the restaurants, Commercial bottlers and each of the winners who took part! The entries are evaluated by a panel of celebrity judges who are given a group of the final samples after the bulk are tasted by a preliminary group of "tasters" (a job NOT suited for the faint hearted).  I already mentioned that I have entered this event many times and I need to say I have only received an honorable mention in the special category for a fresh Peach/Red pepper salsa my daughter and I entered in 2007.Pepper Style The rivalry is as fierce as it is overwhelmingly large! This year we entered the individual category with a new version of the salsa we entered last year and I also made a red and green version. I always like the festivities and attend for the fun as well as the possibility of actually placing but my daughter decided to stay home and avoid the crowds and heat! RancheroLater, I almost missed the announcements and when I managed to arrive at the stage, Tom Spradling, Farrell Kubena (partner with Torchy's Tacos) and Elizabeth Derczo (event organizer extraordinaire) were all excitedly saying that my daughter and I had taken 2nd Place in the special category!!! By the time I managed to check in at the awards desk and pick up our prize the Food Network folks had already moved on so I missed my chance at 30 seconds of fame on TV and that is fine.Bring it ON! I plan on returning again (with my daughter) and competing for 1st Place and I hope you can make it too!

Two Hot Mama's







 Some of the winners are pictured below left to right: Russell Lewis, Mike Rypka and friend of Torchy's awards in two restaurant categories, Kevin and Jill Lewis of Austin Slow Burn who won 1st in the individual special category as well as awards for the Commercial Bottlers too!

A few of the Winners! 

Complete list of winners in each category:



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69 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • September 03 2008 12:24AM