SCHOOL: I attended at the request of Judge Harriet Murphy. She rarely steers me wrong. And she didn’t this time. Friday inside the Shereton Austin Hotel at the Capitol, Global Austin, the hospitality group, hosted visiting Fulbright International scholars. Most of us know about the main Fulbright program, which sends more than 1,000 American overseas for study every year. Well, Fulbrights also go to students from some 150 other nations. This weekend in Austin, the program’s Institute of International Education convened 140 students from 69 countries at the Sheraton to talk about civic engagement. "It’s soft diplomacy," says New York-based Bassim Abbassi about both versions of the Fulbrights. "And it’s a way to connect people." Global Austin made it possible for 61 Austin families to take the visitors, mostly graduate students, out to dinner — or to dinner in their homes. (Among the former Fulbright scholars helping to manage the event was my former St. Ed’s student Victoria Estrada!)

CHARITY: From a suburban gym to the gleaming halls of downtown Austin. Just a few years ago, Manos de Cristo, the group that provides dental, food and other basic assistance to the needy, held its biggest benefit in a gym. Friday, the Presbyterian-based charity filled the large banquet hall at the Four Seasons Hotel. Quite a rise in the world. It goes with the group’s expanded services in new digs on 51st Street. Quite a few people came up to offer more background on Manos. Yet I also lucked into sitting in between Dr. John and Suzanne McFarlane, who just so happen to be close friends of mega-donors Dr. Ernest and Sarah Butler. Along with Dr. Paul Burns, McFarlane was a partner with Butler in an extremely successful ear, nose and throat firm. (Glad to see all three so deeply devoted to worthy causes in this city.)

HISTORY: Witness to our times. Journalists are in a unique position to view history. Day in and day out, they sift through all that happens in our world to determine the stories that count most. For decades, Ken Herman, Judy Maggio, Cathy Conley Swofford, Monte Williams and Ron Oliveira have done that in Austin and elsewhere. So it was fitting that this funny set entertained the Angelina Eberly Luncheon for the Austin History Center at the Driskill Hotel on Friday. As readers of this column know, I spend an inordinate amount of time at the priceless if underfunded history center, but these luncheons always promise the more immediate pleasure of hearing from the folks who have lived it. Given their histories, it’s not surprising that they focused on politics — state and local — as well as growth, ecology and changes in the media. This is a droll crew, but quickest of wit was the Statesman’s Herman. (He not only invents on his feet, he calls up bon mots from the distant past without hesitation.)

BUSINESS: Texas can wait to address threat of power shortages. From Laylan Copelin’s story in the Statesman: "The state’s wholesale electricity market is functioning well enough to allow officials to do nothing now or to take the time to implement capacity payments that power plant owners argue are necessary, according to a consultant’s report released Friday. The Brattle Group did not come down on the side of the status quo or of changing how most of Texas buys and sells electricity on the wholesale market, but it offered insights that are likely to be debated at Thursday’s meeting of the Public Utility Commission. Since 2011, the utility commission has been debating how to avoid rolling blackouts during brief periods of high power demands, usually on summer afternoons, on the state’s primary electricity grid. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, commonly known as ERCOT, manages that grid and runs the wholesale electricity market." http://shar.es/QHflM(Fascinating stuff.)

SPORTS: Sochi or bust. From a story in The Economist: "Feb. 7 sees the opening of the winter Olympics in Sochi on the Black Sea. The message of the games is simple: "Russia is back". Sochi was planned as a celebration of Russia’s resurgence, a symbol of international recognition and a crowning moment for Vladimir Putin, its president, who for the present seems to have seen off all his challengers. Appropriately, the opening ceremony will include the image of the Russian "troika-bird" from Nikolai Gogol’s "Dead Souls". "Rus," wrote Gogol, "aren’t you soaring like a spry troika that can’t be overtaken? The road is smoking under you, the bridges thunder, everything steps aside and is left behind!…Is this lightning thrown down from heaven? Other nations and states gaze askance, step off the road and give [you] right of way." The quote has long been used to justify Russian exceptionalism and moral superiority. Gogol describes Russia as a deeply flawed and corrupt country, but it is precisely its misery and sinfulness that entitles it to mystical regeneration. His troika carries a swindler, Chichikov, and his drunken coachman, but it is transformed into the symbol of a God-inspired country that gloriously surpasses all others. So, too, with the Sochi Olympics. This grand enterprise, the largest construction project in Russia’s post-Soviet history, is also a microcosm of Russian corruption, inefficiencies, excesses of wealth and disregard for ordinary citizens. The Olympics are widely seen as an extravagant caprice of Russia’s rulers, especially its flamboyantly macho president, rather than a common national effort. The cost of the games has more than quadrupled since 2007, making them, at $50 billion, the most expensive in history. One member of the International Olympic Committee thinks about a third of that money has been stolen. Russia’s opposition leaders say the figure is much higher." http://econ.st/1jOgBSQ(If you’re not a subscriber, the first three reads are free in The Economist.)