CHARITY: So much can be said about the Dell Children’s Gala. First off, it’s huge, at more than 1,000 guests. Saturday, that mess of charitable folks raised $1.3 million for the Central Texas hospital at the Austin Convention Center. (One bidder paid $85,000 for a George Strait concert package.) To match the "Storybook" theme, over-the-top floral designer David Kurio topped every table with volumes of birch bark and white orchids. Party maestro Armando Zambrano tweaked all sorts of elements, including the enormous wall projections that have become a signature of this annual event. This year, the illusions included not only an animated woodland scene, but also the taped and live testimonials of Dell Children’s patients and their parents. Another welcome addition: Young performers from Zach Theatre, draped in white, adding more youth and vitality to this enormous event. (I stayed for only four of the eight gala hours. This one’s a marathon!)

CITY: Is it easy to make friends in Austin? Dell Children’s Gala guests Susie Ellwood, Coleen Brewer and Serena Hicks enligthened me on the subject of making friends in Austin. All three Statesman leaders arrived here from other cities — or returned to Austin after extended stays elsewhere. They noted several social hurdles: While open to newcomers, Austinites are extraordinarily laid-back. So they don’t rush into new friendships. They tend to be very comfortable with their existing social networks, too, so they don’t instantly adopt newcomers. And their social rhythms sometimes befuddle the uninitiated. Good to keep in mind, all you open, smart, fun Austinites. (I assume anyone who reads this column is kind to newcomers.)

BOOKS: Incedible story of amnesia about former Austinite. From Joe Gross’ story in the Statesman: "What makes us, us? Wherein does out identity reside? Are we the sum total of our experiences and memories? Are we "merely" such a total? These are the sorts of things writer David Stuart MacLean was forced to confront (and continues to confront) on Oct. 17, 2002, when he suffered a severe psychotic break on a train station platform in Hyderabad, India. Here is the opening paragraph of his intriguing memoir, "The Answer to the Riddle is Me." "I was standing when I came to. Not lying down. And it wasn’t a gradual waking process. It was darkness darkness darkness, then snap. Me. Now awake." The then-28-year-old (and one-time Austin resident) came to with no earthly idea who or where he was. Name, occupation reason for being in India: all completely gone. No passport on him either." http://shar.es/UI9ba(What a story!)

LAW 1: Late Austinite Mark Powell’s creditors bank on insurance. From Dave Harmon’s story in the Statesman: "An Austin investment manager who borrowed millions of dollars from wealthy investors throughout Texas — including a former Round Rock mayor, a major league pitcher and one of the state’s most powerful lobbyists — had more than $15 million worth of life insurance when he took his own life in a rural cemetery last year, court documents show. And that has his creditors — nearly 90 of them so far — more optimistic that they’ll get at least some of their money back, even though what happened to the money remains a mystery. At less than $30 million thus far, the Mark Powell case doesn’t come close to more notorious investment scandals like Bernie Madoff’s $65 billion Ponzi scheme, which left thousands of victims and netted Madoff a 150-year prison term. But it has reverberated among Austin’s business and political power brokers, who considered Powell one of their own. http://shar.es/UIDAA(I knew Powell slightly. You can never tell, can you?)

LAW 2: Is former Austinite the Silk Road mastermind? From David Segal’s story in The New York Times: "Ross Ulbricht’s last moments as a free man were noisy enough to draw a crowd. Employees at the Glen Park branch of the San Francisco library heard a crashing sound and rushed to the science fiction section, expecting to find a patron had hit the floor. Instead, they found a handful of federal agents surrounding a slender 29-year-old man. The goal of the arrest on Oct. 1 was not simply to apprehend Ulbricht but also to prevent him from performing the most mundane of tasks: closing his laptop. That computer, according to the FBI, was the command center of Silk Road, the world’s largest and most notorious black market for drugs. In just 2½ years, the government says, Silk Road had become a hub for more than $1.2 billion worth of transactions, many of them in cocaine, heroin and LSD." http://shar.es/UIO5d(Was Westlake grad and Eagle Scout really Dread Pirate Roberts?)