Monday, January 31

Shearwater for the Statesman

Once in a while an assignment can be a complete joy.  I'd heard the buzz about Shearwater, but hadn't had a chance to listen to their music.  I got the call to cover a performance of three of their most recent albums at Central Presbyterian Church in Austin.  The albums are thematically linked and together form The Island Arc.  Fans came in from all over the nation to hear this (possibly) once-in-a-lifetime performance of all three albums in order.  I was enchanted.  There's a trip to the record store in my future.

Texas Tea Party for the Dallas Morning News

On the eve of the 82nd Texas Legislature, the Tea Party was in town to lobby for a Speaker of the House more to their liking.

Ronald Taylor, from Sherman, Texas holds Tea Party flags during a rally on the north steps of the Capitol on Monday January 10 , 2011.  Tea Party members from around the state gathered to show their support for Ken Paxton as the next Texas House Speaker.

Tea Party members, including Dallas Tea Party Coordinator Ken Emanuelson (center, in black), observe a moment of silence to remember victims of the Tucson shootings.

Maggie Wright, left, and Ruth Zschiesche, right, members of the Texas Patriots in Burleson, hold signs protesting the election of Joe Straus as Speaker of the Texas House in the Reagan building on Monday January 10 , 2011.

Capitol security guards react to a rush of Tea Party members in the Reagan building as the Republican caucus conducts a vote for Speaker.

Members of the Republican caucus return to the capitol after a 70-30 vote in favor of re-electing Joe Straus as Speaker of the Texas House.

Dallas Tea Party members Lorie Medina, left, and Tori Fabry, right, coordinate with other protesters at the capitol on Monday January 10 , 2011.  Medina came from Dallas to support Ken Paxton as the next Speaker of the Texas House.  "We deserve someone much more conservative than (current Speaker of the House Joe) Straus," said Medina.  "This is not the Tea Party standing alone.  This is all of Texas."

Friday, January 21

Christiane Benson for the Statesman

Christiane has Batten disease, a neurodegenerative disorder that leads to blindness, mental deterioration, a loss of motor skills and death, typically in the teens or early 20s. It's hard to tell that anything is wrong with this vivacious 8-year-old. Though legally blind, Christiane runs around the house playing hide and seek with her brother Garland, 6, and is learning how to tap dance.

Her parents helped develop a single test that will screen parents and children for 448 rare genetic disorders, like Batten, and will cost under $500, the current price for screening just one disorder. The test can't save their daughter, but they hope it can help other families and researchers looking for a cure.

Christiane, 8, peeks out from behind a chair while hiding from brother Garland, 6.

Christiane Benson, 8, plays with her mom, Charlotte, and brother Garland, 6, in their backyard in central Austin. Christiane has Batten disease, a neurodegenerative disorder.