Postcard From Austin

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | April 10, 2010 11:19 am

austin_postcard_muralHaving now been here a couple of weeks, I can say that Austin is possibly the best place I’ve lived–or at least ranks alongside New York. I’ll wait a few months to decide for sure, as it doesn’t count until I’ve made it through the summer heat.

So far I’ve been exploring town on foot and meeting all sorts of friendly people. Breakfast tacos are the staple and there are fresh avocados everywhere. Dogs and bicycles are popular, flip-flops are ‘the Austin work boot’, and wildflowers abound thanks to Lady Bird Johnson.

I’ve been hanging out with a lot of great folks involved in energy and recently toured a coal power plant. I also visited Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge which offers great birding opportunities. And since it’s Austin, it was easy to find a group of talented guys to play music with. Something about this place already feels like home.

CM’s on the way over to visit, so I’m hoping the city inspires him to pick up his guitar again…

MORE ABOUT: Austin, Texas

Comments (14)

  1. Welcome to Austin. No, really — your welcome to it. I moved there in ’76, when it was still a nice place. Left it over a decade ago. You’re right — it’s like New York City. And that’s why I left.

  2. William Furr

    You say that like it’s a bad thing, Joe Bogus. I had a cousin who lived in Austin for years. She loved it there.

  3. Guy

    I like adding a bit of sea salt, black pepper and lemon juice to mashed-up avocados. Makes a fine dip for Tortillas.

  4. Chris Mooney

    Woo hoo I am in Houston, almost there….

  5. Rand All

    I have lived in Austin for most of my life. It’s a great city. Be sure to check out the gardens at Zilker Park and the Ladybird Wildflower Center.

  6. J.J.E.

    Make it out to some of the little surrounding communities while you’re at it. Johnson City is just an hour to the west and has the LBJ National Park. It ain’t a bad place to visit. Not that I’m biased or anything, being from there and all. Just follow 290 W and you’ll find all kindsa neat little towns. You can visit Fredericksburg for the Nimitz museum and of course peaches.

    Have fun in the Hill Country.

  7. Claudia Dreifus

    Sheryl, while you’re down there, you might want to look up some relations of mine who you might find smart and fun. Eric and Robin Dexheimer. He works on the paper there. Best, Claudia D.

  8. Lauren D in Canada

    I lived there through the 80s: I played jazz in the clubs on 6th street, and people of all ages actually packed clubs back then just to listen — every sort of live music thrived. It was the only town I’d ever been to where even the teenagers agreed they wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
    But visiting it in 2002, I found the live bands had been replaced by DJs playing to UT students trying to hook up with each other — the music was dead. And, looking around, what had once been a hot bed of cultural-exchange (rastah-country-grunge BBQ at the park?) was becoming another silicone-valley-yuppie-wanna-be metro-suburban lifestyle-parade. Sad!
    But there’s still Lake Travis or town lake for swimming/boating and Zilker Park for,… whatever. It’ll always have some charm I guess.
    Anyway. Good luck there!

  9. Chloride

    Better than Boston and San Francisco?

  10. Observer

    Having lived in Austin and Boston, I’d say, “yes, better than Boston and San Francisco.” Austin’s friendlier, has more outdoor activities, and it has its own homespun culture (it doesn’t try to recreate Europe, but instead, creates its own vibrant culture). Why go to Boston or San Francisco which both try to be pale imitations of Europe, when you can live in Austin, which doesn’t try to be anything but Austin?

  11. Passerby

    San Francisco tries to recreate Europe? I was not aware of this!

  12. Why go to Boston or San Francisco which both try to be pale imitations of Europe, when you can live in Austin, which doesn’t try to be anything but Austin?

    Why is it that Southern partisans always feel the need to insult the rest of the country? You can’t simply say “Austin’s great”, or “Check out the music scene at SXSW”, you have to say “Austin’s great and Boston sucks”.

  13. Sorbet

    I don’t think many people will take very kindly to the implication here that SF and Boston don’t have an identity of their own and try to be “imitations of Europe”!

  14. Be sure to try out Wild Basin in town, or Hamilton Pool a short drive away. I love going to Wild Basin for hikes instead of walking around Ladybird Lake. The lake trails are overrun with bikes and dogs most weekends, and Wild Basin does not allow either. Makes for a more peaceful walk! Hamilton Pool is the best kept nature secret around Austin. Definitely worth a visit every spring!
    Other places to check out are Enchanted Rock and Bastrop State Park.


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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at


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