Big ideas show there are many who carePublished 12:48pm Friday, October 7, 2011
The buffet line at last week’s Vision 2020 Night of Big Ideas looked so good that I reflexively joined the queue as soon as I stepped into the room. When wisdom returned, I backed away and stepped out into the Holiday Inn foyer. It’s a bad idea, when one is awaiting his wife, to eat before she arrives.
When Tammy got there she said, “At first I was glad you parked way in back so I could find your car. Then I realized you weren’t just being nice — there is no place else to park.”
She was right. The Holiday Inn parking lot was as full as I have seen it in a long time. So was the banquet facility, which was jammed with tables that were, in turn, packed with people who where there to talk about big ideas, their own and everyone else’s. We were barely late, but still barely in time to find a place to sit.
It turns out that there are a lot of people who care about Austin’s future.
At our table, a relatively random selection of Austin residents had gathered. It was quiet for awhile as we enjoyed dinner. But before long people were tossing out ideas left and right.
Before the Night of Big Ideas had even begun, Vision 2020 had collected something like 1,600 suggestions for making Austin better. Entire school classes had participated, many people had jumped into one of the small-group idea sessions around town and hundreds more were at the Holiday Inn for the Big Night.
A dozen years ago, I listened to a speaker talk about how the idea of geographic community was becoming quaint. And that was before Facebook, Twitter and all the other social media that give people an outlet for being together… even if they are not together.
But, clearly, the idea of community remains strong in Austin, yet another of the features that make this city unique.
It’s hard to even begin categorizing the ideas, and I do not envy the selection committee that is going to have to pore over what by now is a list of thousands of suggestions for making Austin a better place.
Eventually the list will be whittled down to 100, and the community will have a chance to help pick those that make the most sense.
Although I had driven out to the Big Night just hoping that there would be a few people there, it’s clear that enthusiasm and support for Vision 2020, and for the Austin community, is in strong supply.
More than any single idea, that may be best thing that Austin has going for it.
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My grandmother had an old-school washing machine that was more or less an open barrel with some kind of crude agitator inside. It had exposed belts and pulleys, some of which turned a set of rollers for wringing clothes.
It was an incredibly dangerous mechanism. The rollers were unguarded and there was nothing to prevent them flattening a finger or two if the operator lost focus.
As a kid, I longed for a day when I could put clothes into the wringer. But I became a teenager and lost interest long before Grandma felt I was competent to wring.
After the dangerous wringing phase, Grandma hung her clothes on the line.
Grandma was not trying to save money, as far as I know. She had just never owned a dryer. In an almost exactly opposite case, we decided this summer to start line-drying our clothes as a way to save energy and money.
OK, we’re saving about a nickel a month. But it turns out that line-drying is not so bad, even if the savings aren’t so great. A bit more work. Slow going on humid, rainy days. But totally practical.
Our success with the line-drying has convinced me that we can save even more energy by refusing to turn our furnace on until November. Last month, this seemed like an adventurous idea. With this week’s warm snap, it has been a snap.
It remains to be seen whether we can persevere for three and a half more weeks.