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It's one of the best real estate markets for investors, but a new report boldly states that Austin is one of the worst places to own a home.

In conjunction with Redfin, Porch.com recently released a list of the best places to own a home in America. Porch.com surveyed U.S. homeowners on a range of topics (from safety to taxes) and gathered insight from Redfin real estate agents to determine the rankings.

Austin ranks No. 48 out of the 67 cities studied. The overall ranking comprises 10 category ratings of which Austin has two positive showings. We rank No. 4 for economic opportunity and No. 15 for tax fairness. However, Austin lands at a dismal No. 63 for commute (wonder why?), No. 62 for real estate confidence, and No. 59 for walkability.

The Capital City bottoms out with the worst ranking in the state. Houston, which ranks No. 1 for economic opportunity, sneaks in ahead of Austin at No. 40. Dallas fares best at No. 21; San Antonio follows at No. 28.

The happiest homeowners, it seems, are living it up in Denver, Colorado. Other top places to own a home are Grand Rapids, Michigan; Washington, D.C.; Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Rochester, New York.

Courtesy of Porch.com

7 stunning Austin bathrooms bathed in stylish design

Austin's Best Bathroooms

From full vanities and statement-making tile, to an entire master suite retreat, discover the defining design accents that harness the look of your dream bathroom. Whether you prefer simple, elegant touches with marble and all-white fixtures or traditional natural beauty, these seven bathrooms brought to you by our friends at Porch.com go beyond the average home design.

From full vanities and statement-making tile to an entire master suite retreat, discover the defining design accents that harness the look of your dream bathroom. Whether you prefer simple, elegant touches with marble and all-white fixtures or traditional natural beauty, these seven bathrooms brought to you by our friends at Porch.com [https: /porch.com/] go beyond the average home design. --- White porcelain tile walls, blue vertical glass backsplash tile, and linen textured floor tile combine for a carefully crafted bathroom design. Complete with a freestanding tub, his and her vanities, and a central frameless glass shower cube, this eclectic bathroom was designed by CG&S Design-Build [https://porch.com/projects/symmetry-bath].

Courtesy of Porch.com
From full vanities and statement-making tile to an entire master suite retreat, discover the defining design accents that harness the look of your dream bathroom. Whether you prefer simple, elegant touches with marble and all-white fixtures or traditional natural beauty, these seven bathrooms brought to you by our friends at Porch.com [https: /porch.com/] go beyond the average home design. --- White porcelain tile walls, blue vertical glass backsplash tile, and linen textured floor tile combine for a carefully crafted bathroom design. Complete with a freestanding tub, his and her vanities, and a central frameless glass shower cube, this eclectic bathroom was designed by CG&S Design-Build [https://porch.com/projects/symmetry-bath].
Courtesy of Porch.com

6 Austin homes with dreamy kitchens that will wow any chef

Austin's Best Kitchens

Editor's note: Our friends at Porch.com have rounded up six amazing Austin kitchens that will wow any chef.

For the dedicated foodie or the culinary wannabe, these Austin kitchens go big in design, providing the ultimate workshop for the chef in your family. Whether you live in the heart of the city or off in the country, these six amazing Austin kitchens brought to you by Porch.com mix old with new, to bring you the best kitchen designs that are full of southern charm.

Editor's note: Our friends at Porch.com [https: /porch.com/?preview=1] have rounded up six amazing Austin kitchens that will wow any home chef. For the dedicated foodie or the culinary wannabe, these Austin kitchens go big in design, providing the ultimate workshop for the chef in your family. Whether you live in the heart of the city or off in the country, these six amazing Austin kitchens brought to you by Porch.com mix old with new, to bring you the best designs that are full of southern charm. --- A 21st century-style home, this kitchen is all about simplicity. With smooth surfaces, clean-cut lines and open shelving, this modern design by RisherMartin Fine Homes and Alterstudio Architecture brings creativity and fun to the heart of the home.

Courtesy of Porch.com
Editor's note: Our friends at Porch.com [https: /porch.com/?preview=1] have rounded up six amazing Austin kitchens that will wow any home chef. For the dedicated foodie or the culinary wannabe, these Austin kitchens go big in design, providing the ultimate workshop for the chef in your family. Whether you live in the heart of the city or off in the country, these six amazing Austin kitchens brought to you by Porch.com mix old with new, to bring you the best designs that are full of southern charm. --- A 21st century-style home, this kitchen is all about simplicity. With smooth surfaces, clean-cut lines and open shelving, this modern design by RisherMartin Fine Homes and Alterstudio Architecture brings creativity and fun to the heart of the home.
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Texas state parks beckon this holiday season with festive events and peaceful escapes

Silent nights

If roasting s'mores and hiking in the great outdoors sounds fun, pack up your family and visit one of Texas’ state parks this holiday season.

Texas state parks and historic sites are ringing in the holidays with a number of festive events. There are drive-thru light tours, special holiday hikes, arts and crafts for the kiddos, and more.

Reservations fill up quickly, so be sure to visit an individual park's website before you head out. And check the Holidays in the Parks page for many more fun options, pricing information, and more information.

Austin/San Antonio-area parks

Bastrop State Park
Follow ornaments with clues through the park every day in December during the annual Fa La La Through The Forest Scavenger Hunt. Enjoy the Lost Pines Christmas Parade, a collaborative event with Bastrop and Buescher Parks, at 6 pm December 10. Tour the inside of the historic Refectory and see how the Civilian Conservation Corps celebrated Christmas away from home during A Lost Pines CCC Christmas 9 am-12 pm December 17.

Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site
Visit the popular attraction during December to learn how the farm staff get ready for das Weihnachten (Christmas). Return to the park at 5:30 pm December 18 for the 53rd Annual Tree Lighting, a holiday tradition started by President and Mrs. Johnson.

Garner State Park
Join the Buffalo Soldiers program and friends as they stop into Garner State Park before leaving for Christmas break during the Marching Towards Christmas event 10 am-2 pm December 10. Christmas activities will include hand-dipped candles, frontier Christmas painting, Christmas-themed hard tack in Dutch ovens, and stories of the Buffalo Soldiers.

Buescher State Park
On the Fa La La in the Forest Scavenger Hunt, you can follow ornaments with clues through the park to secure a prize at the end, December 1 to January 1. Enjoy the Smithville Festival of Lights and Lighted Parade, a collaborative effort between Buescher and Bastrop parks, on December 3.

Hill Country State Natural Area
See how art, history and state parks are connected; learn some basic watercolor techniques and paint a card or two to take home during the Watercolor Christmas Cards event 2:30-4 pm December 3. Come back for Horses in History & Ornament Craft from 2:30-4 pm December 22 and learn how horses played important roles in the lives of vaqueros, native people, ranchers and more. Then, play a round of horseshoes and paint a horse ornament to take with you.

South Llano River State Park
At Christmas at the Ranch, 2-5 pm December 3, guests can warm up with hot chocolate and cider, listen to live entertainment, enjoy crafts and cookie decorating, and anticipate Santa's visit while taking in the twinkling lights and Christmas decorations at the historic Ranch House that now serves as Park Headquarters.

Dallas-Fort Worth-area parks

Tyler State Park
Enjoy Reading Ranger Campfire Stories around a cozy campfire at 3 pm December 3. Head back December 9-10 for A Pineywoods Christmas, when you can stroll or drive through the Lakeview and Big Pine campgrounds to take in campers' elaborately decorated sites and take a Winter Wonderland Hike.

Lake Tawakoni State Park
Drive through or stay at the park and decorate your campsite with your favorite Christmas decorations to receive your second night of camping free during your stay. There will be a decorating contest, complete with awards, as well as a reading of The Night before Christmas — all part of Twinkle Tour 2022, 5-8 pm December 3.

Daingerfield State Park
Drive through the park lit up like Santa Land during the 10th annual Christmas in the Park drive thru lights tour December 14-17 (times vary). Marvel at the decorated campsites and lights, and enjoy hot chocolate and cookies while waiting for a chance to visit with Santa.

Eisenhower State Park
Help those in need and spread holiday cheer — and as a bonus, get free entry to the park — by bringing one unwrapped donation item to the park’s Holiday Donation Drive through December 19. Visit December 9-10 to visit the Light Up the Park drive-thru lights event, featuring milk and cookies with Santa. This year, the park is taking unwrapped toys to donate instead of collecting entrance fees for the event.

Cleburne State Park
Enjoy Pancakes With Santa and make pinecone bird feeders 9-11 am December 10.

Cedar Hill State Park
Search for birds taking their winter break at the park during their Winter Birding Walk, which takes place 7:30-8:30 am December 13. Explore Christmas on Penn Farm on December 17: Learn about the history and pioneers of the Penn Family and the farm they built 150 years ago.

Lake Mineral Wells State Park
Experience Christmas, cowboy style, at Cross Timbers Cowboy Christmas, December 3. Park ranger and cowboy poet David Owens will gather guests around a campfire at the Lone Star Amphitheater for an evening of cowboy culture through songs, stories and poems.

Dinosaur Valley State Park
In partnership with Toys for Tots, the park is hosting Christmas in the Valley, a full day of ranger-led events, programs, family friendly activities, arts and crafts, food and more. Bring a new and unwrapped toy for free admission for the whole family. The event takes place 1-4 pm December 17.

Houston and Gulf Coast-area parks

Brazos Bend State Park
Holiday in the Park is an all-day affair on December 10. Events include a self-guided "Elf Hike," Christmas crafts, "Pup Parade," s'mores, and more.

Goose Island State Park
See the park in lights, enjoy holiday activities, and camp for free when you decorate your campsite during Christmas in the Park on December 17. Guests are invited to "Santa's Village" at the CCC Recreation Hall for holiday crafts, games, hot chocolate around the campfire, and to drop off letters to Santa in the North Pole Mailbox.

Lake Corpus Christi State Park
Get in the holiday spirit with the second annual Holiday Light Drive Thru, 6-9 pm December 10. Visitors can enter the park for a drive through the lighted areas of Javelina and Opossum Bend camping loops, plus the Old Pavilion.

West Texas and the Panhandle-area parks

Franklin Mountains State Park
On December 3, make ornaments and holiday cards with recycled materials as part of the Art in the Parks series. During Cookies and Cocoa, you can decorate and take home your own Christmas treat while sipping on a cup of hot chocolate 2-4 pm December 23. Come back on Christmas Eve for a guided, two-mile Santa Hike at 11 am.

Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site
Bring your family out for Home for the Holidays guided family hike on December 10 and moderate hike on December 17.

San Angelo State Park
Enjoy a drive-thru tour of lights and optional pictures with Santa and Smokey Bear during Holly-Days in the Park, 6-8 pm December 10.

University of Texas launches $10 million seed fund with investment in vaccine storage pioneer

Sprouting Ideas

Planting a seed seems like a quaint activity, but the University of Texas at Austin doesn't do anything small. Its new $10 million UT seed fund is going into incubation soon, thanks to the efforts of Discovery to Impact, the team leading the University's "research commercialization and innovation efforts."

Except for its scale, this project is no different from any other seed investment, which inputs capital into a business in the form of a lump sum, in exchange for a portion of the business. In this case, the recipients are "promising new startups built on university-owned intellectual property," according to a press release. In total, UT Austin estimates that this intellectual property, or research enterprise, totals $800 million, a number it commits to "dramatically expand."

“By investing in these early-stage companies, we will be addressing a crucial gap in the capital market and enabling development of impactful technologies, while encouraging investors to consider opportunities coming out of the university,” said vice president of business strategies and operations Jim Davis in the release.

Discovery to Impact helps launch startups and stays on board through the many growing pains many startups experience, helping to accelerate "new products, services, solutions and cures." This means choosing and collaborating with three or four new companies each year, and when divided, the seed does appear rather small: companies can expect no more than a $250,000 investment.

The first seed will be planted in Jurata Thin Film, in order to grow solutions that streamline vaccine and biologic development and distribution worldwide. As many who followed COVID-19 vaccine news are aware, one major problem in distributing a vaccine is keeping it cold and stable. Jurata, based on the work of UT College of Pharmacy professor Maria Croyle, makes "thin films" (look up this keyword to see how unique Croyle's contribution is) that preserve vaccines for up to three years at room temperature. This is excellent news for communities with fewer resources or more arduous shipping needs.

The company is still relatively young, although not brand-new, having been founded in 2019. Its leadership has more experience; CEO Sheila Mikhail and co-founder Jude Samulski have previously collaborated on Asklepios BioPharmaceutical Inc. (AskBio) and Bamboo Therapeutics Inc.

The UT Seed Fund investment, along with other funding, will help bring about a pilot-scale manufacturing line that can create 1,000 doses of loaded thin films per hour, plus studies to ensure the safety of the formulation under the tongue, inside the cheek, and via intramuscular injection.

“Jurata is very excited to be the first recipient of UT Seed Fund,” said Jurata’s senior director of business development, Megan Livingston. “UT has been extremely supportive of our technology and development, and we look forward to continuing our relationship through this investment.”

A similar seed fund already exists at the University of Texas at Dallas, with larger sums for each business. More information about research at UT Austin is available at utexas.edu.

Disney's Strange World is a visual stunner with too many story ideas

Movie Review

For a studio whose entire reason for being seems to rely on creating and sustaining familiar characters, Walt Disney Animation takes its fair share of risks. In the last 10 years, it has released nine films, seven of which were not based on pre-existing properties (the other two were sequels for two of those seven). That’s a lot of new stuff, most of which has succeeded mightily for the perennially-popular leaders in animation.

They’re at it again with Strange World, which takes place in an unknown country/world known as Avalonia, where Jaeger Clade (Dennis Quaid) is a famous explorer whose only desire is to find a way over, around, or through the imposing mountains surrounding the land. His son, Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal), doesn’t share his enthusiasm, and an early discovery by Searcher of a unique energy source leads to a rift between father and son. Jaeger continues onwards, while Searcher returns home with a plant they call Pando that creates harmony throughout the land.

Years later, when the plant shows signs of failure, Searcher is recruited by Avalonia leader Callisto Mal (Lucy Liu) to help in an expedition to find the source of whatever is attacking Pando. What they and others – including Searcher’s wife Meridian (Gabrielle Union) and son Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White) – find in their travels certainly lives up to the title.

Co-directed by Don Hall and Qui Nguyen and written by Nguyen, the film is a visual stunner. The quality of animation in Disney movies rarely fails to impress, and Strange World is the latest and greatest example. Whether it’s the humans, the landscape, or the innumerable weird creatures that populate the film, there is almost nothing that doesn’t deserve to be stared at and admired.

It’s odd, then, that the story does not come close to matching the graphics. There are a variety of reasons for this failure. Nguyen is the sole credited writer, and he stuffs the film full of big and small ideas, probably too many for this type of project. Searcher’s family and the world of Avalonia and beyond are diverse in multiple ways, to the point that it feels like Nguyen was trying to include everything he could think of in case he never got another shot.

The bigger sin, though, is how quickly the film advances through its plot, often bringing up new things out of nowhere. While Searcher and his family make for an interesting group, the side characters never make an impact. There are also multiple instances where the story takes a turn that makes no sense, either in the world of the film or a storytelling manner.

This includes the final act of the film, which features a significant twist that is presented and accepted in a way that doesn’t fit with the rest of the film. It adds on yet another message in a movie that contains a lot of them, but in a way that even those inclined to believe in what it’s trying to say may wonder why that part is there at all.

The science fiction element of Strange World is a bonanza for the filmmakers and animators to go as wild as they wanted in the visual department. But all that splendor is in service of a story that just doesn’t measure up, making it one of Disney’s less successful offerings in recent years.

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Strange World is now playing in theaters.

Photo courtesy of Disney

Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal), Jaeger (Dennis Quaid), and Ethan Clade (Jaboukie Young-White) in Strange World