Turn out the lights, the party's over. Well, okay, it wasn't exactly a party fighting the building of a Wal-Mart Supercenter in North Central Austin – although it was a fun display of community unity when thousands of people held hands completely encircling the former Northcross Mall property back on Feb. 10, 2007, to show their displeasure with the corporate behemoth. On the fourth anniversary of that event, Responsible Growth for Northcross sent out an e-mail notifying supporters that the organization had ceased to exist. RG4N's efforts were less than successful – a lawsuit to deny Wal-Mart's construction permit failed – but neighbors were pleased when the Beast from Bentonville scaled down plans from a 225,085-square-foot, 24-hour store to one less than half that size, with slightly more limited hours and improved design. "Be so proud of what was accomplished," read the e-mail. "It may not be what you wanted, but it's far better than what it would have been." (Of course, economic conditions probably had far more to do with the downsizing than any community pressure.) RG4N said the organization's remaining funds would go toward paying its attorneys. – Lee Nichols
Given the myriad studies detailing the effects of video games on society, it's hard to decide if the family gamer will turn into a psychotic marksman or tech wiz multibillionaire. We have to wait until later this year to see what the Supreme Court has to say about the availability of violent video games in the Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association case, so no help there. Who better, then, to cut through the fog than the big brains at Mensa? At this weekend's Electronic Gaming and Its Impact on Society conference, the nonprofit Mensa foundation brings together local and national experts to discuss everything from virtual economies to artificial intelligence to the changing demographics of "gamers" (Fri.-Sun., Feb. 18-20; Omni Austin Hotel at South Park, 4140 Governor's Row). Of particular note: Research scientist Doug Gentile will cut through the morass of contradictory studies on violence in interactive media while local game-developer legends Warren Spector, Gordon Walton, and Tom Hall will talk about, well, whatever they want. They have that kind of clout, even with Mensa. www.colloquium.us.mensa.org. – James Renovitch
Citing the need to help kick-start the electric vehicle industry, Austin Energy has proposed making access to the city's electric vehicle charging stations cheap and easy. On Feb. 17, City Council will consider the city-owned electric utility's proposed station rates, including a six-month, unlimited-use subscription for $25. AE plans to install 100 stations around Austin by the end of summer. "Research shows that customers simply won't buy electric vehicles until they are confident that they fit their lifestyle," said AE Vice President for Distributed Energy Services Karl R. Rábago in a press release, "so this federally funded initiative is a great way to jump start the electric vehicle market in our community by assuring easy access to electric charging services." – L.N.
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