Cheering Mandy Patinkin, Danny Camacho, Lisa Byrd, Ixchel Rosal

What a weekend to cheer local heroes.

Mandy Patinkin feels at home in Austin. His first concert here in 1991 coincided with the funeral of producer Joe Papp, one of his mentors and the man who made his solo singing career possible. Nerves were raw that night. Nobody will ever forget that searing concert at the Paramount Theatre.

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Mandy Patinkin

The actor and singer has returned at least four times since then. Last night at the Long Center, Patinkin spun variations on his stripped-down “Dress Casual” series. Patinkin’s voice has darkened these days; it’s less extreme, though no less dramatic. Nobody can take a familiar standard — or even a children’s tune — and make it more intensely human. The big crowd went wild.

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The late Danny Camacho

Earlier, we saluted, along with another hundred admirers, community historian and activist Danny Camacho. An East Austinite for most of his life, Camacho grew up in a loving and lively family.

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Juan Castillo, Kathy Vale Castillo and Lloyd Doggett at Danny Camacho Celebration.

Camacho spread joy during his seven decades of life before succumbing to a recent heart attack.

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They ate well at the Danny Camacho Celebration. He would approve.

At the Emma Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett, former Mayor Gus Garcia, Judge Bob Perkins, Council Members Pio Renteria and Ora Houston, archivist Mike Miller, parks historian Kim McKnight, history advocate Gloria Espitia, school board member, the Rev. Jayme Mathias, MACC board member Kathy Vale Castillo and writer Juan Castillo, looked on as Camacho was granted posthumous honors by Travis County Historical Commission. His sister, Dolly Camacho-Watson, turned in a bravura performance that told Danny’s life story.

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Lisa Byrd and Ixchel Rosal at their Farewell Party.

The night before, at a kid-friendly party on the grounds of the Carver Museum and Cultural Center, we bid fond farewell Austin cultural leaders Lisa Byrd and Ixchel Rosal. Something called Columbia University has recruited Rosal, so the family is headed to that other Riverside Drive, the one on the west side in Manhattan.

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What a relief on a warm Austin night.

It’s impossible to enumerate all the Austin communities that this pair has elevated over the past 25 years, but let’s make sure some are recorded: University of Texas, Dance Umbrella, Texas Performing Arts, Ballet Austin, Six Square (formerly the African American Cultural Heritage District) and various predecessors to the Mexican American Community Center.

If the #Texit comes, count on an #AusTexit

First, the #Grexit didn’t happen.

Then, the #Brexit did.

Now, regional nationalists and the usual rump caucus of secessionists are talking about a #Texit.

If that happens — and legally, it can’t — we’ll be hearing about #AusTexit.

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Capitol of AusTex. Christopher V. Sherman, OverAustin.com.

Though we are proud Americans and Texans, would Austin really want to stick around a new nation that regularly treats the city as if it were a child who shouldn’t make its own decisions?

For decades, we’ve called that kind of periodic legislative abuse — attempted reversals of our democratically resolved ordinances — “Austin bashing.”

Look, if we left with just the population in the immediate Austin vicinity, say, 1 million of the 2 million in the metro area, we’d still be bigger than 74 of the world’s countries and dependent territories, according to WorldoMeters.

We’ve already got a pretty nice Capitol (see above). And think what we could do with all that state land that sits untended and untaxed. We’ve probably got enough good barbecue and Tex-Mex on hand to last a while.

Then, if we wanted to re-join the United States, we’d be like West Berlin during the Cold War. Some latter-day version of JFK could airlift us goodies blocked by Texas border guards.

Kind of like Scotland and Northern Ireland these days, thinking about their next step in a post-EU Britain, maybe Austin should keep that in mind.

Austin wonders at video of UT’s first living wall

Readers are loving this video we posted yesterday from the University of Texas and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. It shows a cool modular “living wall,” a honeycomb structure that explores the intersection of ecology and architecture.

Critters seem to love it. People, too. Or at least a few dozen who “liked” the video.

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Jessi Kulow, School of Architecture Visual Resources Collection.

Sharon Sparlin writes: “So great to see it in action. Inspires me for my own walls.”

Tony Couin-Pascall responds: Look at Patrick Blanc’s work in Paris; here’s one of his larger pieces. http://www.verticalgardenpatrickblanc.com/…/quai-branly..

Sparlin sweetly replies:”The Paris work is beautiful, yes. But this project is in Texas – a very different climate and ecosystem. And their project had several distinct goals in mind, which I think they’ve tackled, if not reached, admirably.”

How do we get one?

Austin reacts to a proposed gondola system

When I posted a link to an American-Statesman commentary by Brigid Shea and Jared Ficklin about a proposed gondola system to help alleviate traffic, the response was predictably divided.

A few dozen readers gave the idea a thumbs-up. Others dissented thoughtfully.

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Frog Design

Jake Billingly would prefer “a very large fleet of electric buses using existing roads.” I regularly take buses currently on those roads and, while they are a key part to my personal transit strategy, they still get caught in traffic and perform far better traveling north-south than east-west.

J Richard Smith was disappointed about what would be abandoned: “No light rail, but that?!” Light rail is very expensive, it tears up roads, takes away lanes, and takes seemingly forever to build. I use them in other cities, but they are already built.

John Havard Macpherson wants “moving sidewalk, Google and other technologies that work better than the 80-year-old cable car concept.” True, gondolas aren’t new, but that’s one of the selling points. They have proven to work in other cities. He also endorses a monorail, but those are also expensive and more disruptive during construction.

Later that morning, my husband, Kip Keller, looked up from the newspaper — an even older technology — to say: “Hey, am I missing something, or is this really a good idea? I don’t see any downside.”

Well, I was skeptical at first because I’m deathly afraid of heights, but the idea of stringing the first line along South First Street seemed a stroke of genius.

This is a narrow thoroughfare — a block from our house — that can’t be expanded without knocking down a lot of buildings. Also, the existing sidewalks are similarly narrow as well as uneven and would be hard to support a movement mechanism.

One could take wheelchairs, bikes, strollers and dogs onto gondola cars. They’d come every few minutes. They are air-conditioned. I’m not editorializing, but let’s give this idea a shot.

Early look: Cole Dabney’s first Austin country video

Our dear friend Cole Dabney — once an Austin-based film critic and social-media master, now a California-based movie and video maker — returned to his hometown recently to make his first country music video.

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Like all his previous work, it’s just right. New drone angles help. In this Drew Fish Band outing for CMT, look for a cameo from a celebrated country swing artist who happens to be among the most generous, sweetest guys in town.

Remembering Austin’s Sunshine TB Camps from the 1930s

Well, Linda Hank Thompson beat me to it.

Yesterday, four of us visited Eva May Smith to talk about the time she attended the Austin Sunshine Camps in the 1930s.

Very poor growing up in this city, Smith had responded to a Statesman story about the Zilker Park camps that were meant to fight TB.

Expect my own report — with video — on this visit at some point, but Thompson, director of the camps, captured the kernel of the story.

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Eva May Smith and Linda Hank Thompson.

“Yesterday, I had the pleasure of accompanying Michael Barnes to the home of May Smith who was a camper at Austin Sunshine Camps in the mid-1930’s. She credits the camp for giving her the self esteem she needed as a young girl growing up in poverty in Austin. Her story of hiding behind the stairwell during lunch so the other kids wouldn’t see she only had a biscuit to eat (made with water because they had no milk) was a highlight for me in understanding how far she had to come. Back in those days, kids were selected for the camp by how much they weighed. The camp was designed to nourish and feed kids in poverty at risk for tuberculosis. A great testimony, of a great lady.”

Fitness titan Ally Davidson: Soul of a Gladiator

We recently wrote about an adoption-match picnic staged with the help of the indefatigable Kelly clan of Austin.

While working on that post, we discovered that our original story on fitness titan daughter,  Ally Davidson, “Soul of a Gladiator,” could not be found online. So we filed through the archives and present it now, one of our favorite all-time profiles.

Note: Camp Gladiator is now firmly anchored in Austin

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“What sets Ally Kelly Davidson apart is the set of her eyes.

From a distance, the champion of NBC’s “American Gladiator” looks like any other fit, young woman – lean, clean-limbed, coiled for action.

Yet the former Austinite’s eyes, like military weapons, absorb every movement on the horizon. They focus incredible drive, whether she’s barking orders at her new Gladiator Camp in Dallas, where she now lives; trading barbs with her husband, Jeff, a financial adviser and fellow gladiatorial contestant; or playing holiday touch football with her equally intense but affectionate siblings and assorted in-laws at the family home in the Canyon Creek neighborhood.

What’s behind those eyes? Sometimes a goofy, transgressive girl who once flooded the family house in Northwest Austin because she and brother Brandon were “watering it.” At other times, one detects the no-nonsense competitor, who lettered in four sports (softball, basketball, volleyball and cross-country) at Westwood High School, played college basketball for Ole Miss and Texas State University-San Marcos, then auditioned for “Gladiator” on her wedding day, veil and all.

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Also behind the twinkle cogitates the adventurous woman who broke her neck skiing, barely skirting full paralysis and keeping her housebound for months. That was one of several times that Ally and her family invested ever deeper trust in a shared Christian faith that pops up, sunnily, in almost any conversation.

And, deep inside, there’s the teenager whose entire family’s stamina and faith were tested in ways that few today could guess. When she was 17, her uncle was convicted of murdering her aunt and cousin, as well as attempting to murder Ally’s brother Joey. During the victim-allocution phase of the trial, Ally trained those unblinking eyes on the convicted killer, saying he destroyed those who had only loved him in return.

Spend enough time with Ally – and her family – and those eyes will tell remarkable stories.

Family in motion

Every large family is something of a circus. Yet growing up in the Kelly household must have resembled living with an unruly pack of Lance Armstrongs and Mia Hamms.

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Father Neal, 51, a systems analyst for the state comptroller’s office, competed at the state level in track and still bests his adult children at leg wrestling and other contests. Mother Patricia, 51, a lawyer with her own firm, won an all-school competition for reading the most books – 67 – and still participates in family mini-triathlons.

Both grew up in Austin, meeting in fifth grade, graduating from Anderson High School and the University of Texas, cheering the Longhorns through several national championships. Ally’s 1983 birth presented this sports-saturated couple with a singular dilemma.

“UT was playing in the baseball College World Series, ” Patricia says. “However, (Neal) was my labor coach. He kept getting phone calls from his brother (who I thought was checking on my labor), but the calls were sports updates. He missed the whole game. So, Ally was destined to be a great athlete and entertain her parents even more.”

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Eldest daughter Amanda, 27, played championship volleyball and still exults at beating Ally at arm-wrestling, board games and other endeavors. Brothers Brandon, 25, Daniel, 22, and Joey, 20, have not only excelled at sports, they’ve joined siblings on charitable missions – Brandon, an all-American swimmer in high school, now fights poverty in Guatemala with the God’s Child Project. Daniel studies medicine in San Antonio, and Joey started a Christian fraternity at Texas A&M University and competes in a hip-hop dancing group.

Even in this company, Ally stood out. “She was an intense kid, ” Amanda says.

Sometimes, boys wouldn’t play games with her because they couldn’t catch her. A bundle of combustible energy, she was told to race down the street and touch the stop sign when she became too much trouble inside the house. At other times, her parents were forced to impound her bicycle to keep her indoors after dark.

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“She always showed determination, which is difficult for a parent, but a great quality to have in life, ” Patricia says. “I stopped taking her to the grocery store as a child, because she would insist on selecting and throwing in the cart the groceries she wanted. She wanted to be in charge.”

There were minor temper tantrums, like the time a boy false-started in a race that wasn’t called back (and her father was the official).

“I’m still mad at dad, ” she jokes.

She and Brandon, once her cousin, got into particular trouble. They spent a lot of time in “time outs.” Once, the duo dug a hole in the back yard to “get the good people out of Hell.”

Luckily, Ally was born into a generation when a competitive, active girl could make a mark in public.

“When I was growing up, the girls cheered for the boys, ” Patricia says. “There were limited sports for girls. But I always told the girls they could be anything they wanted to be.”

DMN+Gladiator+Training+1.JPA fitness program at Hill Elementary School set up a competition: Anyone who jogged around the track would receive a Popsicle stick, then at the end of the year, the one with the most sticks won. Ally didn’t just best the other first-grade girls: She beat the boys all the way through the fifth-grade level.

In high school, Ally triumphed particularly on Westwood’s state championship basketball team, snatching district MVP as well as all-state and all-American honors.

“She’s kind of a freak athlete, ” says husband Jeff. Ally also excelled, however, at academics, making her ripe for college recruiters.

She was determined to play for the Southeastern Conference – then the best conference for her sport – and so turned down other offers to walk on for the University of Mississippi basketball team. After sinking three straight three-pointers in her first game, Ally was offered a scholarship. Eventually, she missed Texas and finished her college career in San Marcos, earning summa cum laude academic honors.

Ally recalls, “I always felt I could play at a higher and higher level.”

Turning point

On Dec. 2, 2000, the Kellys’ rambunctious suburban lifestyle was interrupted by a tragedy that might have thrown a family with less spunk – and faith – into permanent desperation. The event affected two of Ally’s siblings, Joey and Brandon, even more emphatically. Yet her whole family was, for a while, shattered.

That night, according to public records, Joey, then 12, was sleeping over with cousin Mikey, 9, and aunt Phyllis Brickley. Her other son, Brandon, was living with her estranged husband, John.

John entered her Northwest Austin home while everyone was sleeping and attacked his wife. Hearing the screams, Mikey and Joey attempted to fight off the burly man. Phyllis and Mikey died; Joey escaped a horrific struggle with stab wounds to his arm and chest before seeking help from neighbors.

Brickley then set fire to the house, burning himself as he left the scene. After spending months in a San Antonio hospital, Brickley was charged with two counts of capital murder, attempted capital murder and arson. Two years after the crime, he pleaded guilty and remains imprisoned in Huntsville. (The families had agreed on the plea agreement to achieve closure, say Patricia, who is still deeply shaken by the crime, trial and their aftermath.)

Amanda and Ally, along with other family members, spoke during the victim-allocution phase of the trial.

“The day after it happened and even weeks after that, there was a lot of anger, ” Ally remembers. “But I was a kid, and so were the rest of us. It was a difficult time of not understanding why something like this would happen.”

In response, however, the Kellys, now including Brandon, grew closer and closer.

“We were incredibly blessed to have Phyllis and Mikey at all, ” Ally says. “I came to realize that it’s much better to have loved so deeply and then to lose them, than to never have them at all.”

Courting Ally

For the Kelly family, the crime split their lives in half – before and after.

Yet not all Ally’s trials ended tragically. Not long after graduating from high school, serious romance skipped across a basketball court.

You see, there was this assistant coach … Jeff Davidson. Five years older and a senior at the University of Texas, Jeff’s best buddy was football player Jeremy Jones, who was coaching an all-star summer-league basketball team.

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“I was already enamored early in the summer, ” says Jeff, who grew up in Irving. After Ally sunk 11 three-pointers during the season finale, Jeff ran over to Patricia – the parents have always attended their children’s games – and shouted “I’m going to marry your daughter!”

That raised a few eyebrows.

“A lot of us thought it was shady, ” teases Brandon.

Yet Jeff sent Patricia a long e-mail explaining that his intentions were honorable, asking permission to date Ally. Only problem: Ally had decided to attend school in Oxford, Miss. – a 11-hour drive from Austin. Depressed, Jeff decided the only solution was a surprise road trip, which led to the promise of more romance.

“The first year, we dated long distance, ” Jeff says.

“Really long distance, ” Ally adds.

As Jeff took subsequent jobs in Houston and Dallas, he pressed the courtship.

“Pretty much I married my coach, ” Ally says.

In comparison to Ally and her family, Jeff is less overtly competitive. At first, he’ll avert his eyes with strangers and defer to others. Where Ally is exuberantly optimistic, Jeff is skeptical, reflective. The two were well-matched, however, as Jeff, by all accounts a natural salesman, uses a charming determination to achieve his goals.

“Ally finally found a playmate who can keep up with her, ” Neal said at the time.

Naturally outdoors types, both headed to Gunnison, Colo., for a skiing trip when Ally was still a college junior. Of course, the pair chose the most difficult, extreme slopes. At one point, Ally lost her skis and slammed into a tree. Pumped with adrenaline, Jeff insisted she not move and was able to reach the ski patrol, which took her down the mountainside on a trundle.

Eventually, she was transferred to a Denver hospital where a neurosurgeon said that, in breaking her neck (the second and fourth cervical vertebrae), Ally had narrowly avoided permanent paralysis. She spent the next six months back at home in Austin in a hard neck brace, torture for someone as active as Ally.

“It was a scary time for her, ” her mother says.

“It was a humbling experience, ” Ally says. “Just to know that you blink, and your life is taken away.”

Spending months depending on her family for everything from feeding to washing deepened the attachments.

“It improved our relationships because she’d just want to talk to us, ” Brandon says.

An accident such as this one might have scared anyone else away from such risks, but Ally continues to ski, snowboard and climb mountains.

“She breaks her neck, ” Amanda says. “And she’s ready to hit the slopes!”

Spandex surprise

It was all sister Amanda’s idea. Ally had never even watched “American Gladiator.” In fact, Amanda filled out the pages-long application form and insisted Ally show up at the Austin auditions on Feb. 2, 2008. That was also the day Ally was slated to marry Jeff, who knew nothing of the audition.

“I stayed up all night at my parents’ house with my bridesmaids, ” Ally says. “All we could think about was how to do something crazy the next day. So we snuck off to try out.”

Jeff didn’t find out until after the “I do’s.”

Something about Ally and her story – she and Jeff had previously tried out for “The Amazing Race” – caught the attention of the show’s producers.

“Ally’s always been convinced that one of two things would happen in her life: She’d win the lottery or wind up on TV, ” Jeff says. “And it happened.”

The producers called her out to Hollywood, putting her through the paces with medical and background checks. At first, it looked like the newlyweds would spend four or five weeks apart – two weeks after getting married. Storyboarding the show, however, the producers asked: “How about your husband? Is he athletic?”

Though fit, Jeff hadn’t worked out seriously in a year. And he’d be facing some Goliaths during the combats on the revival series.

“They called me on a Friday, ” Jeff says. “They said, ‘We want to know if you want to come out and join her.’ I said ‘I’d love to watch.’ ‘No, no, no, we want you to come out and be on the show. We have a plane ticket ready, so come out right away. You have two hours to decide.”

It wasn’t so easy for Jeff, now vice president at his financial firm, to commit. He ran the idea past his supervisors, and everyone said “go for it.” Ally coaxed him as well.

“Can you seriously see me on national television, wearing spandex, and some 300-pound wrestler squeezing me between his legs?” Jeff asked his bride.

“Yeah, I’m imagining it right now, ” Ally laughed. “And I’m loving it.”

But he went along with the gig, and they performed as a couple-team in the first round.

Jeff remembers telling NBC executive producer David Hurowitz, “See that little blonde girl over there? That’s the best personality and athlete you have on the show. Let me emphasize athlete.”

After the finale, the producer told Jeff he was right.

Their secrets: Although the other contestants and professional gladiators were body-builder or fitness model types, Jeff and Ally are fast, agile athletes, well-fitted to the actual skills on the show.

The entire Kelly family secured excuses from school and work to cheer – and often coach – Ally and Jeff, then only Ally, once he lost during the semifinals.

“We make fun of each other but all we want to do is spend time together, ” Brandon says. “‘If you don’t win this, ‘ we told her, ‘don’t think about coming home!'”

It was all on the line: $100,000 in cash, a new truck and a shot at joining the cast of “Gladiator” (an expensive show to produce – with 300 crew members – that could return to the NBC lineup in the fall).

It looked as if Ally wouldn’t make it. During the Eliminator obstacle course round, she fell during semifinals. The whole family went silent, but Ally wasn’t done. Despite a 5-second deficit going into the final round, she beat the other contestant at the last possible moment.

Ally says, “It was definitely the most fun summer of our lives.”

Off to camp

It’s 5:30 a.m. A full moon rises over North Dallas. It’s so cold that flesh sticks to metal. Yet Ally Davidson’s Gladiator Camp assembles around orange traffic cones in the donated parking lot of the Watermark Church.

Two dozen Dallasites of various shapes and ages hit the warm-up laps before engaging in strength and flexibility exercises. Jeff’s there, too, going through the paces, hauling sandbags with everybody else.

Then Ally adds her signature challenge: games. There’s a competition to snatch traffic cones, then a tug-of-war series. When one team easily bests the other, Ally joins the losers for the next match, though, despite her Herculean efforts, they lose again.

“Give me all you got!” she yells, not with the snarl of a Marine sergeant, but rather like that rare coach who can motivate even the unmotivated.

In just a few months, Gladiator Camp has grown into the Metroplex’s second-most-successful boot camp (after Jay Johnson’s, the fitness trainer of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders).

“She pushes us to the point where we feel we are going to break, but we don’t, ” says client April Willers, who discovered Gladiator Camp in an advertisement.

Like everything else, it’s a family affair: Jeff works the accounts and the Web site; Ally prepares the work-out routines and coaches clients in between sessions. (“They tell me about every injury so I won’t think they’re slacking off.”)

Yet this is not where the Gladiators want to stop.

“We’ve either got to get bigger or smaller, ” Jeff says of the business. “We’re already too big to do this part time.”

Although they plan an adult boot camp in Austin during the spring (www.campgladiator.com), their ultimate goal is a Christian sports/adventure camp like Camp Travis, the one that caught Ally’s imagination growing up. Right now, Jeff likes the idea of day camps for urban kids in Austin and Dallas with Gladiator games; Ally persists in the dream of summer sleep-away camp.

The $100,000 winnings were supposed to provide the seed money for either option, but it seems the goal line is still in the future, given the cost of land and construction of cabins for a permanent camp.

“It’s a couple million dollars away, ” Ally says. “Right now we are working with parents, but they have kids. Eventually, we’ll work with kids.”

Don’t discount this unlikely pair of gladiators. They’ve conquered mountains of adversity so far.

“All my life I’ve found myself in high-pressure situations, ” Ally says. “But I’m filled with peace during those times. It’s a God thing, yes. But also my family always told me that I could do anything. And I always believed them.”

 

Austinites champion an adoption-match picnic

I met Patricia Kelly years ago while reporting on her incredible daughter, Ally Davidson, who not only triumphed on “American Gladiator,” she also founded a highly successful fitness company, Camp Gladiator.

Patricia has been a good and faithful correspondent ever since.

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She let me know about a recent event hosted by the Rotary Club of Austin Centennial and chaired by  Carol Lozano.

“Our club has a passion for trying to help foster children,” Kelly writes. “And we host, with Child Protective Services, an annual adoption-match picnic where children needing adoptive parents play games and enjoy time with volunteers, other children and prospective parents.”

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The group’s recent picnic attracted 72 children — 44 boys and 28 girls — along with 28 parents and 60 or so foster parents, CPS workers and maybe 30 volunteers. They played Lego robotics, volleyball and kickball. They ran an obstacle course and bounced around inflated houses. There were craft stations, a photo booth, makeup from Mary Kay for teens, a DJ and picnic fare.

“The prospective parents just casually interact, no formal interview,” Kelly reports. “Before they attend, they go through screening and are certified by authorities for adoption purposes. Many start as foster parents then adopt, I think.”

Of course, more parents are needed. Think about it.

It might not be the sexiest subject, but improved medical data could save lives

Here’s part of our story on the Austin medical data nonprofit.

Next time you pass one of those blank office towers downtown, consider what miracles might be transpiring inside.

Take, for instance, the ponderous Texas Medical Association building at 401 W. 15th St. On the ninth floor, a smallish group — once a “virtual” nonprofit — has quietly changed one crucial component of medical research.

The official name of the Clinical Data Interchange Standards Consortiumdoesn’t really sum up its scope. Nor does its common abbreviation, CDISC.

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Rebecca Kush

There, Rebecca Kush and her team — linked up with researchers around the world — make sure that medical studies “talk to each other” by standardizing data.

“That way, we can aggregate all the data in big databases for more statistical power,” Kush says. “We wanted pristine data that would be able to help us find a cure for a disease. Before, the way people were being asked questions, for instance, to assess Alzheimer’s, were in a different order, asked in a different way, adding a question here, leaving out another. You end up with a mess.”

Researchers anywhere can now use these databases to better see the progression of a disease and better test treatments. CDISC and its partners have already made progress on condensing thousands of variations in studies about Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, kidney disease and traumatic brain injuries.

The Federal Drug Administration now insists that researchers use CDISC protocols.

“We have 35 full-time staffers around the globe,” Kush says. “We contract with 50 or 60 educators, and we have thousands of volunteers.” …

Getting real answers at the Real Places meet-up

“Have you met Julian Read?”

“You should meet Julian Read.”

“Of course, you’ve talked with Julian Read. Right?”

The guests at a reception for Real Places Heritage Travel Conference, held at the classy tavern, the Townsend, all had the right idea

Read is the grand man of the preservation movement. And yes, he and I have worked together. Last year, he helped out enormously on “How to modify a classic midcentury modern home.” This year, he has provided vital support on research about famous Austin architects and about the historic Driskill Hotel.

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Kathy Pinsky, Joan Hester, Dawn Carlton at Real Places Reception, the Townsend. They weren’t attending the conference, but joined the fun.

The conference, put together in part by the Texas Historical Commission, focused on tourism and, especially, the state’s magnificent courthouses, in meetings at the AT&T Center.

During the reception, I talked with Howie Richey, who not only gives tours of Austin and the State Capitol, he serves on the Gonzales County Historical Commission, so we talked about ancient ranches and the town’s Spanish-style square there.

Alicia Downard, Angela Reed, Rowena Dasch and Lareatha Clay started to fill in the blanks about the Friends of the Texas Historical Commission, the small nonprofit that does what the governmental body, with its always limited resources, can’t do.

Also chatted with various guests about the efficacy of clubs such as the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Daughters of the American Revolution and the Colonial Dames of America operating historical sites. All were pioneers in the field of preservation and deserve rich praise for their work. Nowadays, however, some of these genealogical clubs do a better job than others.

UPDATE: In a previous version of this post, Julian Read’s name was misspelled.