NATURE: It was a gathering of the true believers. For 35 years, the Save Barton Creek Association has pursued one crystal clear goal: To keep the water in Barton Springs — and elsewhere in Austin — crystal clear. Monday, the group gathered opportunely at the Zilker Clubhouse, a rustic cabin originally built for the Boy Scouts in 1934 on a spectacular hilltop near the western edge of Zilker Park. There, they honored the past and present: the city of Austin’s Junie Plummer for land acquisitions, researcher Paul Robbins for his "Environmental Directory," noted Texas hydrologist Raymond Slade for his supporting science, City of Austin’s Matt Hollon (and team) for the new watershed protection ordinance, biologist Laurie Dries for work on the Barton Springs salamander, Austin Chronicle’s Louis Black and Nick Barbaro for their media advocacy, Friends of Barton Springs Pool for their group efforts, and Council Member Laura Morrison for acting as a bridge builder and peace maker. (Among those present were current mayoral candidate Steve Adler, past mayoral candidate Daryl Slusher, former council members Brigid Shea and Jackie Goodman, conservancy hero George Cofer, golf teaching pro Scott Johnson, former State Rep. Ann Kitchen and current Rep. Elliott Naishtat.)

MEDIA: Always one of the high points of the workshop season. At the University of Texas McCombs School, former Dell executive and Long Center advocate Ben Bentzin teaches a high-powered course in marketing. He divides the class of 30 or so into teams who spend the semester figuring out how to promote a nonprofit or for-profit project. I swoop in each semester to offer some practice pitching the media. The McCombs students do this well: Find a subject — something related to their project and to Austin’s people, places, culture or history — then decide on four ways to pitch it. They intrigue me with social media, inform me via email, answer questions through pretend phone calls, then deliver a "party pitch" in what is inevitably a delicious bit of face-to-face role playing. Among the projects that fit my writing needs almost immediately: A visit to the new Loaves and Fishes community for the homeless, a visit to the Student Union bowling alley, and an interview with the Bolivian-born pastry chef at the Carillon restaurant. (The other pitches were very good, too. Some just fit my beat more snugly.)

SXSW 1: The kids are alright during spring break. From Deborah Sengupta Stith’s column in the Statesman: "Like many Austinites who love our city and consider the March carnival of music also known as South by Southwest to be Austin’s pinnacle celebration, I was shocked and emotionally devastated by the March 12 tragedy on Red River Street. A drunken driver, police say, stole the lives of three people and left 22 others injured. Most of them were very young. All of them were music lovers. It felt like a sickening attack on the heart of our culture. As families grieve and victims rehabilitate, citizens of Austin are still struggling with what the tragedy means for our city and the festival that defines it in the eyes of many around the world. We’re searching for the right way to move forward. Seizing upon this energy, City Council Member — and soon-to-be mayoral candidate — Mike Martinez has proposed a full-scale review of SXSW. His resolution, which will be presented at Thursday’s City Council meeting, covers everything from event sprawl and traffic management to the free drinks flowing from side parties that for some have become as big a draw as the festival itself." http://shar.es/Bru2C(Keep it young.)

SXSW 2: Ten lessons to take forward from Interactive. From Omar Gallaga’s column in the Statesman: "Sometimes it takes a little while to absorb the lessons of South by Southwest Interactive, the massive technology festival that concluded two weeks ago after five days of outsized parties, panels and weirdness. The festival drew 32,798 participants, growing 7 percent from 2013, according to final numbers the festival released last week. Earlier reports, due to a miscount, had pegged attendance as dropping for Interactive in 2014. But the fest, however crowded, is always a very individualized experience. Attendees choose the panels and parties they want to attend, but the plan frequently changes due to occurrences of serendipity and the logistics of getting from place to place. You could talk to thousands who were at SXSW and find none of them had the same festival. But many of them might tell you this was a particularly strange one, bookended as it was by two tragedies. The death of Matthew Crump, who helped coordinate the first Gaming Awards at SXSW Gaming, of a heart attack on March 2 put a pall on the festival as it began. And after Interactive concluded, a horrifying car crash on Red River Street left three dead and many injured. http://shar.es/Br50H(Thoughful through and through.)