Out of 26 million Texans, you may have an idea to change the world. You may have had several ideas to change the world. But only a tiny minority of you pushed through the U.S. Patent office from application to successful patent. We've seen Texans change the world many times over. Jack Kilby did it with Texas Instruments in 1958 with the integrated circuit, causing the start of the digital revolution, which, in part, is why you can read these words over your electronic device.
Over the last few years, Texas Business has brought its feature: Texas Business Patent of the Day. This list is of the ones that were either extremely clever, odd or strange. One thing becomes apparent from these patents and the patent that runs daily in Texas Business—Texans have a unique mind set.
Though the history of the Corn Dog is disputed, the State Fair of Texas claims to have introduced the Corny Dog sometime between 1938 and 1942. As a paean to that invention that now sits in the freezer section of every grocery store in the southwest, here are the fried foods the State Fair of Texas has introduced, or tried to introduce, in the last seven years.
Don't get caught up with John Wayne religion. For one thing, he's not Texan. He's in some fine movies involving Texas, most notably The Searchers, but none of his movies can make the best cut of Texas movies. Here's the short list.
Unsung Texas Business Journalists Mention that one is a reporter, and there's a spark of interest. Mention that one is a business news reporter, and watch the eyes glaze over. Except to the players, business and economic journalists are unappreciated. While many wish to become sports reporters when they grow up, most do not realize that business journalists cover the Real Game. Mention that reporter covers business, and watch the eyes glaze over. A toast to these below on the short list and the numerous unnamed ones slogging away. Full Story » TexasBusiness.com
Best Texas Mexican Food: The Short List No, we're not going to debate the difference between Tex-Mex, Mex-Tex, Mexican and Texican food. Just know these establishments are the pinnacle of Texas Mexican fare. No brag, just fact. Full Story » TexasBusiness.com
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The 1.5 million Mexican free-tail bats fly off on their nightly hunt for insects is one of the many free attractions that brings hundreds of visitors to Austin. Photo by Stephanie Bathurst.
J.P. Foley recently spent a Sunday evening standing under the Congress Avenue Bridge for the third time in four years, waiting for the city’s famous million-bat colony to take flight.
“I have some friends in from out of town,” said Foley, an Austin resident, “and I wanted to show them something different, unique to Austin.”
From March to November, hundreds of Austin residents and visitors line the sidewalks above and trails under the bridge at dusk to watch approximately 1.5 million Mexican free-tail bats fly off on their nightly hunt for insects. In all, about 100,000 people come to see the Mexican free-tail bats every year, according to Bat Conservation International, the not-for-profit research and advocacy group.
And while watching the bats can be as cheap as securing a good spot on the bridge, the flights also contribute a bit of financial lift. The BCI estimates that bat-watching adds about $10 million to Austin’s economy. Most of this money comes from bat-themed river cruises, kayak and Segway tours and restaurants offering a riverside view of the nightly flight. Their insect consumption also contributes to the prevention of $3.8 billion in damage to American agriculture, according to a study released in March.
Austin’s annual Batfest, held on Aug. 27 and now in its seventh year, also contributes to tourist activity by drawing people downtown for more than 50 food, art and specialty vendors. Organizers had expected 40,000 attendees this year before the record-high temperatures resulted in a light turnout. But the Sunday before Labor Day, an especially large group of people came to see the colony, according to a refreshments vendor, Lee Spalding. “The crowds definitely exceeded our expectations,” he said. “This was even bigger than the Fourth of July.”
Spalding says that he encounters travelers from afar all the time. “Tonight I’ve met people from England and India,” he said.
There are no numbers on how many people come primarily to see the bats, but the scene clearly seems to add to out-of-towners’ Austin experience. Paul Tanenbaum of Boston remarked on the uniqueness of the experience. “I’ve seen bats before at Carlsbad Canyon,” he said, “but never so many like this, and never in an urban area.”
Lorena Vustos of Albuquerque said that she loved the experience of seeing the colony take flight: “It engages all your senses—you can watch them, hear them waking up and rustling, even smell them.”
And the bat buzz can mean good business. Spalding reported, to his pleasant surprise, that he sold out of everything in his refreshment cart that particular Sunday. For those lounging on the banks of the lake, it was an easily accessible live show in Austin.
“It’s like an old church picnic,” Spalding said about the appeal of the bats. “It’s about the last thing out there you can do with your family for free. It’s entertainment without the flash, and a good excuse for people to get together and see something different.”
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