Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Refugees - Past, Present, and Future

I debated with myself about writing this post. I normally stick to technology, literature, and various constructive activities on my blog, and I avoid commenting on current affairs or political situations. I avoided the Canadian federal election, talking about who I supported and why, among various other noteworthy events.

This post is different. If you want to avoid my thoughts on refugees and their place in Canadian history, then go ahead and stop reading now.

This is from a post that I wrote and shared on Facebook.

Did you know: 21,000 Mennonites came to Canada as refugees between 1923 and 1930. These were German-speaking people from Russia. This was shortly after the Russian revolution deposed and assassinated most of their royal family who were close allies of the west. This was shortly after the most violent and bloody war the world had ever known, where Germans were the enemy. This was a time when Canada only had 10 million people and 21,000 refugees was a much bigger number for the population to support.
Mennonites said they were a religion of peace, they were pacifists, but to many Canadians they were the enemy. Sure some Mennonites already lived here, but those Mennonite had been living here for two generations and more than fifty years already.
But Canada welcomed them anyway, because that is what we do. Canada welcomed my great-grandparents to this country. My family were refugees fleeing war, fleeing persecution, fleeing the Soviet Gulag. They were the enemy in the eyes of many, but they were welcomed anyway.
Many people are questioning the wisdom of allowing 25,000 refugees into our country who come from circumstances my family knows all too well, as do many families in our nation. I ask you, when has welcoming refugees EVER been bad for this country? When have we ever welcomed in the desperate and persecuted and not been made better for it?
I would gladly open my arms to Syrian refugees and tell each and every one of them only one thing. "Welcome home."
In light of the attack on Paris, many people are questioning the wisdom of allowing Syrian refugees into their country, about the possibility of enemies sneaking into the country among them. An observation was also made in response to my post about having never heard of a Mennonite strapping on a suicide vest.

This is how I answer.

I am not calling for scrapping the vetting and selection process that normally takes place for refugees resettling in Canada. I'm not rejecting this: CBC - Syrian Refugee Screening
I am rejecting this: CNN - Syrian Refugee BacklashThe refusal to aid in a humanitarian crisis because of fear of a few. What is known of the attackers in Paris is that it was masterminded by a Belgian with a history of violence, and conducted by two Belgians, three Frenchmen, and one Syrian who registered as having crossed over in Greece, along with other unknowns.
Registered - as in unlikely to have gone through a checkpoint clutching an AK-47 and a suicide vest. The attack in Paris would have happened with or without this one person's participation - and it sounds to me like the French have more to fear from its own natural-born citizens.
You say you have never heard of a Mennonite with a suicide vest, and I agree with you there. But I would counter that I have heard of Mennonites who joined the SS, and entered the gates of the Stutthof concentration camp as guards. The Mennonite - Mennonites and the Holocaust
ISIS may be trying, but they do not yet hold a candle to the mid-century meat grinders that were Germany and Russia.
What is one or two extremists without resources or equipment in the grand scheme of things? We have exported far more Canadian extremists to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria over the past fifteen years. I would suggest perhaps that we might concern ourselves more with actions that we ourselves take that create homegrown extremists, people who feel they are desperate, disenfranchised, and have nothing to lose right here.
CBC - Mosque Arson is a Hate CrimeCTV - Ontario Youth UnemploymentCBC - Poverty In Canada
I am the product of refugees being welcomed into Canada. Refugees who were hated, and feared, and demonized for where they were from, for the language they spoke, and for the beliefs that they held. I understand there is fear here, and that to some people it is a very real fear.

Imagine being one of those refugees. Living in a country halfway around the world, a country where you do not speak the language, where you do not share their culture, or the religion of most. A place where people fear and distrust you because they associate you with an enemy. An enemy that kills unexpectedly, attacking with surprise, an enemy that wants to start a war.

Imagine a new war starting, worse than the last one, started by the same people that your new neighbours see you as being part of. A worse war, one more horrible than anyone could imagine, one where atrocities were committed that saw millions of innocent civilians murdered. And you, living in your new home country, refuse to fight.

In World War 2 military casualties on the Eastern Front exceeded 15 million soldiers with another 14 to 17 million civilians killed in a war between my family's ancestral homeland (Germany) and its former adopted homeland (Russia). The fall of one as an enemy of the west led directly into the rise of the other as an enemy of the west.

And all along, my family lived, grew, and prospered in their new land. They made friends, lived in peace, and grew to be an intrinsic part of their new home. Today there are nearly 200,000 of us in this country, and once again a new wave of refugees are fleeing terror, war, and persecution.

We have made the right choice in the past. We must have the courage and the fortitude to make the right choice again. It is frightening, risk, uncertainty, the unknown are frightening things. But it is the right thing to do. It is what we do.

Because this is what Canada is.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Black Art of Performance Requirements

BAWorld Winnipeg (October 7-9, 2015) at the RBC Convention Centre is now over, and I had a wonderful time listening to a full slate of excellent, interesting, informative speakers. I had the opportunity to meet many new people both in the Winnipeg Business Analyst community as well as others who joined us from out of town, and renew acquaintances and friendships with others that I haven't seen in awhile.

My own session, The Black Art of Performance Requirements went very well, I had a great time presenting and I'm glad I could provide something a little bit unique and different.

If you are interested in the slides from my presentation, I have made them available here. Download presentation for The Black Art of Performance Requirements (315kb).

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Timesplice - Inkshares Funding and Nerdist Competition

Timesplice is now open for funding on Inkshares as part of a competition being sponsored by Nerdist. The top 5 funded sci-fi and fantasy books will be published by Inkshares, one of which will also be selected to be added to the official Nerdist book collection.

The complete first chapter is available now on Inkshares (and hasn't even been published on my own site yet - but will be over the next couple of weeks).

If you have never been to Inkshares before - it is a crowd funding site for book publishing. To pledge support for a book it is only $9.99 - with no payment or cost until the book has been completely funded. And if you are new to Inkshares, they will give you a $5.00 credit towards supporting a book - reducing your very first pledge to only $4.99.

If you happen to like what you read, it would make me very happy if you would be willing to support Timesplice. One way or another I will complete this book and make it available to everyone, but if you support it now we might even be able to get it published on actual paper - giving you something to hold in your hands and read which would be amazing!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Timesplice - Chapter 1: September 24th, 2015

I have updated Timesplice adding Chapter 1: September 24th, 2015.

This is the first update to the "Thread" section - and over the next few weeks I will continue to make additions to this section until the first chapter is complete.

Enjoy!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Timesplice - Chapter 1: Experiment 001

Just a quick note, I have updated Timesplice adding Chapter 1: Experiment 001.

This is a bigger update than I will normally be making on a weekly basis, but it makes sense to post it in its entirety for the first chapter.

Each chapter will be broken up into three distinct sections. The Prologue, The Experiment, and the Thread. This section is the Experiment, and next week I will start posting the Thread.

Enjoy!

Friday, August 07, 2015

A New Endeavor - Timesplice : A Novel

I've decided to try my hand at something new, something I've never tried to do before. I'm writing a book.

Now I'm not new to storytelling, or short form writing by any stretch. But most of the writing and storytelling that I've done has been in the context of a game - most often Dungeons & Dragons which I have been running games for nearly 15 years. But what I like about being a GM is not only shaping a story, creating grand plots, but also collaborating with the players and getting new and unexpected ideas from them.

This is a bit different. I have control over the story from the start to end, and I'm also writing it in a non-traditional narrative structure too.

So this is where you come in. The website is at GarretRempel.com and the book is called Timesplice. It is going to be freely available, chapter by chapter, as I write it. Each week (on Monday mornings) I will add new content and sometimes revise/edit existing content. It won't be a full chapter each week, but at very least a new scene. I would also be happy to receive feedback, the more constructive the better! I have most of the story arc in my head already, I've been thinking about and working on this in some capacity for a year, but I am open to new possibilities too. Questions, comments, suggestions, they are all welcome.

I've also published on my new website a short story titled "Confessions of a Drone Pilot". It's one I wrote awhile back, but I figured since I was going to the effort to create a website I might as well publish it too.

Just as an added plug as a thank you, my friend Bill Harris of Dubious Quality has been helping me with editing. He is also the developer of the game (available on steam) Gridiron Solitaire.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Kids Climbing Play Structure - Building a Climbing Wall and Cargo Net

My wife was looking at play structures to give our three kids something new to do when they were playing in our yard, and hit on the idea of a climbing structure. After looking through a variety of options available online, we found that most were either too large for our small postage-stamp yard or made entirely of plastic which were impossible to store in the winter and priced at $400 and up. Now I am not a carpenter by any stretch. I am a computer programmer by trade and was never particularly inclined towards manual labour, but I concluded that I could probably build something that was well suited to our yard and would serve our kids well.

So I set off with the following list of requirements.
1) It must have two climbing components, a rock wall and a cargo net.
2) It must be sturdy enough to hold 3 children at once.
3) It must have a small footprint.
4) It must be portable and it must be able to collapse or fold for storage during the winter.
5) Total cost of materials must be under $400 CDN and be built using commonly accessible tools (using either what I already had on hand, or could borrow from my father - only tools that I already knew how to use).

Here is the end result:



















Footprint: 7.5ft x 4ft
Height: 6ft from ground to top of the wall (6ft 3.75in to highest point)
Folded Dimensions: 7ft x 8in
Total Cost: $468.67 (ok, I didn't succeed here - but it was close!)
Tools Used: Circular saw, jigsaw, hacksaw, electric drill, power sander, various wrenches / drill bits / screw driving bits, hammer, chisel, screwdriver, pliers, metal file, tape measure, carpenter's square.

If you would like to build something similar, below you can find my complete materials list (not including the extras I had left over!), design plans, assembly instructions, and plenty of photos I took during the process. If you do decide to build your own, I would love to hear from you to see how it turned out - please leave a comment below or send me an email.

Materials
Note: I have no connection to Home Depot or any renovation stores - I just shop there. I've included links for everything I bought to their product page at the place I bought them from for your reference.


Qty
Material
Purpose
7
Structure
7
Climbing deck
8
Structure
4
Structure
1
Structure
2
Structure + Climbing Holds
2
Hinge
8
Hinge
2
Hinge
2
Cross brace mounting
2
Cross brace mounting
8
Cross brace mounting
4
Cross brace mounting
4
Cross brace mounting
1
Cross brace
5
Climbing Net Anchors
16
Climbing Net Anchors
1
Rock Wall
1
180ft of 5/8-inch 3-strand twisted polypropylene rope (this was purchased at Rona, but I could not find their product page for it online)
Climbing Net


Design
The basic concept for this build is a simple A-frame with a removable cross brace that allows the two faces of the frame to fold together. An off-center pivot and one face narrower than the other allows it to nest inside it when it is folded and thus letting it fold completely flat.



The structure would consist of two mirrored A-frames as shown above, built from solid cedar 2x6's. The frames would be connected by 2x6 beams so that the 'exterior' legs are on the same face and that the completed structure is 4ft wide and a 1/2" hex bolt at the top center serves as a pivot so that the two halves can close like a scissor.

The Rock Wall face will be decked with 1x6 cedar boards for the climbing holds to be mounted on, while the Cargo Net face will have ropes woven together through eyebolt anchors that have been drilled into the frame.

Instructions
These instructions include some adjustments that I made during the construction process when I noticed and made some changes during the build. You may see some pictures that seem to be out of order because more of the structure has been finished than where you are. This is because I had to go back and add some reinforcement later on to ensure it was structurally sound.

Building the Frame
The legs of the frame are constructed from four 2x6's that are cut identically. Repeat the following for each of the four 2x6 boards.

1) Drill a 3/16-inch pilot hole located 7 ft (84 inches) from one end and 1 inch off-center (3-3/4 inches from one side, 1-3/4 inches from the other).

2) Using a compass (or a piece of string tied to a screw) that is anchored at your pilot hole, mark a 3-3/4 inch radius arc across the short end of the board.

3) Cut along the arc with a jigsaw and round the end of the leg.

4) Enlarge your pilot hole with a 5/8-inch drillbit. This is where the Pivot Bolt will be eventually secured.

5) Mark a diagonal line across the long end of the board from the corner to a point 3-7/16 inches from the end on the same side that has the offset hole.

6) Cut alone the line with a circular saw.







The legs of the frame are complete (for now), the next step is to cut and attach the beams that will form the support structure for each face.

7) Using two 2x6's, mark and cut two lengths that are 45 inches long, and two lengths that are 41-1/2 inches long.

8) Select two legs to use for the larger Rock Wall side of the structure.

9) Mark and mount the two 45 inch beams flush with the leg's Face Edge. One beam will be positioned 4-1/2 inches above the toe, the tip of the bottom edge of the leg. The other beam will be positioned 3-1/2 inches below the Pivot Hole.



10) Attach each beam using two 4-inch wide metal reinforcing angles and 1-inch wood screws.







11) Select two legs to use for the smaller Cargo Net side of the structure.

12) Mark and mount the two 41-1/2 inch beams perpendicular to the leg's Face Edge. One beam will be positioned 6 inches above the toe, the tip of the bottom edge of the leg. The other beam will be positioned 3 inches below the Pivot Hole.



13) Attach each beam using two 4-inch wide metal reinforcing angles and 1-inch wood screws on the bottom side of the beams.





14) Take both parts of the structure and tip them onto their sides. Place them so that you line up the pivot holes and the two structures are back-to-back, the Cargo Net side should fit nicely inside the Rock Wall side.

15) Through each of the pivot holes from the outside-in, thread a 1/2-inch diameter, 4-inch long hex capscrew bolt. Place one washer on the outside, two in between the two pieces of wood, and one on the inside. Use a nylon insert lock nut to hold it in place and tighten firmly.





















To complete the base structure the last step is to add reinforcement to the Cargo Net side in order to support the weight of the climbers once the net is mounted to the frame.

16) Secure each beam on the Cargo Net side using two 2-inch by 3-inch metal reinforcing angles and 1-inch wood screws on the top side of the beams. Make sure to position the reinforcing angles so the 2-inch side is vertical against the legs and the 3-inch side is horizontal against the beam.

17) Using the last 2x6, mark and cut two lengths that are 41 inches long. Slide each beam on top of the reinforcing angles you just added and attach each of them with 6 3-inch wood screws up through the beam just below it to laminate them together.






















Adding the Cross Brace Mounting
The cross brace is a simple removable metal bar that attaches to the legs of the structure on either side and holds them in place, preventing the structure from sliding open when it is upright. The cross brace is detachable, allowing the structure to be folded up and stored flat.

1) Using a hacksaw, cut the slotted flat metal bar in half at a slight (60-degree) angle. Use a metal file to file down the sharp cut ends of the bar.

2) Stand the structure upright so that it is in its final A-frame position. Measure to ensure the pivot bolt is 6 ft above the ground, and from the toe of the Rock Wall side to the toe of the Rope Net side is 7 ft 6 in. The feet of the structure should rest flush and level on the ground.

3) The outermost unbroken holes in the slotted metal bar are the mounting holes. The next step will be to position them on the structure and mark them so that we can drill holes for the mounting bolts.

4) Position the metal bar so that the angled cut is almost flush with the Rock Wall face and low enough so that the mounting hole on the cut side is about 1-inch from the face edge, and the mounting hole on the other side is about 1-inch from the back edge of the Cargo Net side.

4) Mark the mounting hole positions on the structure and repeat for the other side. Use a 3/8-inch drill bit to drill the four marked positions.

Because the Cargo Net side is designed to fit inside the Rock Wall side, if we simply put the mounting bolts in as-is then the cross brace wouldn't sit flush and true on both sides of the structure - it would have to bend to fit properly. Also, the mounting bolt on the Cargo Net side would interfere and prevent the structure from folding completely closed.

To solve these problems I had to add a block on the Rock Wall side for the cross brace to rest against securely, and I had to counter-sink the bolt on the Cargo Net side.

5) Using a scrap of 2x6 from previous cuts, rip two 1-1/2 inch strips lengthwise along one of your scrap pieces. Cut these strips down  so they are 3-inches long. The grain of the wood must run lengthwise to avoid spitting.

6) Use a 3/8-inch drill bit to drill holes in the center of each 1-1/2x3 inch block.

7) Through each of the brace mounting holes on the Rock Wall side, from the outside-in, thread a 3/8-inch diameter, 4-inch long hex capscrew bolt. Place one washer on the outside prior to threading - you will need a hammer in order to drive the bolt through the hole (it's a tight fit). Once you have the bolt inserted, slide the wooden block that you just made onto the end (again, with a hammer).

8) Once the block is firmly in place, place a washer on the bolt and secure it in place with a 3/8-inch hex nut.





9) On the Cargo Net side, use a small coring drill bit (I used 1-1/4 inch bit) to drill 1/2-inch deep on the outside of the frame where you have already drilled the mounting hole. Use a chisel to clear and clean the center of the core.

10) Through each of the brace mounting holes on the Cargo Net side, from the outside-in, thread a 3/8-inch diameter, 2-1/2-inch long hex capscrew bolt. Place one washer on the outside prior to threading - you will need a hammer in order to drive the bolt through the hole (it's a tight fit). Place a washer on the bolt and secure it in place with a 3/8-inch hex nut.





11) Thread the cross brace on the mounting bolts and secure with two 3/8-inch steel wingnuts.




The cross bracing is now complete.

Finishing the Rock Wall
To finish the Rock Wall we will need to install the climbing deck and then add the holds!

1) Measure and cut each of your seven 1x6's in half so that you have fourteen 4ft long 1x6 boards.

2) Remove the cross braces from you structure and fold it up, laying it flat on the ground with the Rock Wall side facing up.

3) Align the first of your 1x6 boards so that it is flush with the top of the top support beam on the Rock Wall side and lies across the face. Secure in place using 3-inch wood screws.

4) Position and secure the rest of the 1x6 boards on the face of the Rock Wall side, leaving a small, 1/4-inch gap between them (I used a couple of small screws as spacers to keep it consistent).




5) Arrange the climbing holds on the Rock Wall surface however you like and screw them in place.

A couple notes on how I arranged the holds. I avoided placing any on the bottom or top boards on the wall since they would be wasted there, at the bottom a climber can stand on the ground to reach, and at the top they can grab the top of the wall.

I also substituted a lot of the provided 2-inch screws provided for the installation of the climbing holds with 1-inch wood screws. The reason is that many of the mounting holes in the climbing holds are very shallow, and in a lot of places the 2-inch screws would punch right through the climbing deck - leaving a sharp point on the reverse side that a child could scratch themselves on. So I swapped out close to 2/3rds of the provided screws, and only used the longer ones for mounting holes that had enough rock that they wouldn't sink right through the deck.


Finishing the Cargo Net
To finish the cargo net and end this project we need to install the rope anchors, weave the net with our ridiculous amount of rope, and tie it off.

1) Along the underside of the upper beam on the Cargo Net side evenly space and mark 5 points 8-1/2 inches apart along the length and 1 inch from the side's face. The beam is 41.5 inches long, so your marks will be at 3-3/4, 12-1/4, 20-3/4, 29-1/4, and 37-3/4.

2) Drill a hole slightly smaller than the threading on your 7/8-inch eyebolt. For the eyebolts I bought, I used a 5/16-inch drillbit and drilled 1-1/2 inches deep leaving enough wood for the screw to bite without splitting the beam.

3) Screw your 7/8-inch eyebolts into the drilled holes and align them so they are flush with the face.





4) Mark 8 points down each leg, 1-inch from the face, starting 4-1/4-inches from the top beam and then spaced 8-1/2-inches apart. Drill each mark and install your 5/8-inch eyebolts in the same fashion. Align the eyebolts so they are perpendicular to the face this time.

The screw length of the 5/8-inch eyebolts is shorter and thinner than the 7/8-inch eyebolts so make sure you select an appropriate drill bit, and don't drill as far into the leg. I used a 3/16-inch drillbit and only drilled 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch deep.




5) Cut your rope into 10 equal lengths of 18 feet, using a lighter to melt the ends to prevent fraying. If you are left with one rope slightly shorter than the others when you reach the end of the roll that's ok. Set that rope aside and use it for one of the outside edges of the Cargo Net - the side strands have fewer knots and don't need to be quite as long.

6) Group your ropes into 5 pairs, tie a secure knot at one end and thread the two long ends through one of the five eyebolts at the top of the frame from the back.

7) Here I will cheat. I will send you a link to how to tie a cargo net. My wife did the knotting (and did a fantastic job of it too!) because I can't tie knots to save my life.

Ignore their advice for rope length or net size - only worry about the knot structure and pattern. This net is made using a 6-inch grid and the eyebolts are spaced properly for that size.

How to Make Rope Climbing Nets

Every other row of knots, the outside strands remain loose. Thread them through the eyebolts to anchor them.



8) When you reach the bottom, drill five 1-inch holes spaced in the same way as the eyebolts at the top of the frame.

9) Tie one last row of knots, then thread each pair of ropes through the holes and tie them off on the other side. ***

***Caveat - I didn't get to do this. I used 150ft of rope, not 180ft - and we came up a little short. I had to improvise using a heavy metal plate and screwing the ropes into place on the underside of the frame. It was my plan to tie them off, but it didn't quite work out.

And you are done! I hope you have fun with these instructions, and if you give it a try please let me know how it works for you!

Friday, May 29, 2015

ICPE 2015, City of Austin - Part 2

(Click here to read Part 1)

During the remainder of my stay in Austin, it never got as warm as when I arrived. It stayed a rather balmy 5-10 C for the next few days, which was beautiful as I could wander around comfortably in my shirtsleeves. I cannot say my opinion on the weather was exactly shared by the locals, most of whom were bundled up in parkas and toques (the following is translated from Canadian to English: "winter coats and woolen hats"). I think their attitude was best illustrated by a pair of women whom I stopped behind at an intersection waiting for the walk sign. I was in a t-shirt and carrying my windbreaker because I was quite comfortable, while the two of them were quite bundled up against the cold and I overheard one remark to the other "I can't believe how cold it is! I can't wait for it to warm up again, but they're saying its going to be in the 40s all week." For some reason they abruptly switched to a different topic when I passed them by.

As I alluded to in part 1 of this post, I have never been anywhere that is green in February. Now plenty of the trees had bare branches, and there patches of brown in the grass that spoke of it being winter, but it was still green. But besides that there were two things that struck me plainly on my first day in Austin.

The first was parking.

In the area of San Jancinto Blvd between 3rd and 6th, and east towards 290, downtown Austin is dotted with low and high-rise condo complexes, and if I might digress for a moment downtown Austin is a lovely place. It is open, populated, there are people out and about walking around throughout the day and well into the evening which may have something to do with 6th street. But people live in downtown Austin and it has a very friendly, clean, comfortable atmosphere to it from the short experience I had. I could easily picture living there, right in the heart of the city - something that I would be less inclined to do in my own city (Winnipeg). Now, I live near downtown Winnipeg and I have for nearly a decade, but always just outside of the true core area. In Austin I could easily live right in the core without a second thought.

What struck me though, was that every single parking garage or pad that I passed was locked up. There were no arms to block entrance, every one was locked behind a 6-foot metal fence and gate. Ok, there were a few public-access surface lots, but every private lot was fenced, gated, and monitored. Perhaps it was the section of the city I was in, but in my experience it was something to note.

The second just about scared the living bejeezus out of me.

The first evening that I was walking back to my hotel, the sun was setting and night was drawing close. Have you ever been suddenly accosted by a pack of wild demons from hell screeching in a chorus and hungry for your flesh? No? Are you sure? As I passed by a tree-lined side street on my walk, the entire line of them began shaking violently with an incredible cacophony of noise. After recovering from my unexpected heart attack I realized they were birds, an enormous flock of them that filled the trees in numbers unlike anything I've seen before. I later learned that I had a close encounter with what was likely an annoyance of grackles. If there has ever been a more appropriate name for a group of creatures, I haven't heard it.

My conference was being hosted at the Hilton Garden Inn Austin Downtown which I wasn't actually staying at, because of timing and funding it had no vacancy when I was booking a room. The hotel was a nice enough facility, but had one particularly unique feature.

And that would be the canal and walking paths that ran through it. The windows just on the left side of the photograph is the dining room where we had lunch which afforded a fantastic view of the canal and the paths that run along side it,

During the few days that I stayed I managed to dine at two of the most iconic... or should I say representative institutions in Austin. The first was of my own doing, I couldn't pass up visiting a gem of Texas history while I was here: The Driskill Hotel. The lobby is jaw-droppingly gorgeous, and the restaurant/bar is about as truly upper-crust Texas as any visitor could hope for from the beautifully polished woodwork, to the leather seating, and the bust of a steer that graces the wall above the mantle. It doesn't hurt that the food and drinks were fantastic as well, and though it was quiet (it was a Monday evening after all) a musician was busy plying his trade, singing sweet country songs on the small stage. I didn't take any pictures of the building while I was there, but a quick search will give you a good feel for it.

The second place was with all of the attendees at ICPE 2015 where we were treated to dinner and a show at a place that is true to the spirit of Austin: Esther's Follies. The show combining satire, political commentary, music, and magic was up-tempo and enormously entertaining. I gather that the edition that we saw was more international in appeal than previous ones as one of the local patrons made a comment that there was a lot less Austin-specific material than previous times they had been there. But, considering that our group of more than 100-odd people contained a majority of non-Americans (largely European, but it was very much a group that hailed from across the globe) the show was very well received, though I believe a few Rick Perry references went over their heads. The liberal leaning of the show's writers also seemed to agree quite well with our European friends.

(Part 3 will be coming soon!)