Wintry mix

26 Jan

Nobody's house in Austin looked anything like this during our "Snowpocalypse"

Nobody’s house in Austin looked anything like this during our “Snowpocalypse”

Here are three short things and then everything else I’ve been working on.

Ice

As I’m writing this, we are getting past a very brief ice/snow storm that in central Texas was treated as apocalyptic. At first, people were calling it “Snowpocalypse” ironically because all we ever get is a dusting of snowflakes and maybe half an inch of ice in our worst winters, but then more than 200 people got into car accidents and suddenly it doesn’t seem like such a joke.

Transplanted northerners who live here think the whole thing is silly but they’re also smart enough to stay the Hell off the roads because people here can’t drive even when it’s 70 degrees and sunny. I used to think we had pretty decent drivers compared to other parts of the country but that was before smart phones. Now I don’t trust anybody on the road; I just assume they’re all texting and playing Angry Birds as they drift out of the lanes at 80 mph. Trust me. I commute more than 100 miles roundtrip. I see this shit every damn day.

The ice meant we stayed home with the girls. We took turns doing work-from-home shifts as we alternated entertaining/feeding/keeping warm the daughters. After much pre-production, they finally got bundled up and went outside into the wintry expanse of our backyard which was pretty iced over. It wasn’t the wintry wonderland they were promised by dreams of Frozen-like snowfall (more on that in a minute). But they were enchanted anyway, especially Carolina, who hasn’t really ever seen snow and was too young to appreciate icicles and crunchy grass last time we had this.

By the afternoon, they were completely stir crazy from being inside the house too long. Before dark the ice was already gone and it was just a cold day.

I really don’t know how people who deal with months of snow do it. Not the de-icing the car part or the driving on snow. I lived in Oklahoma, which isn’t that much further north, but gets tons more snow. It never bothered me and I actually prefer it to the 110-degree summers here.

But having kids in cold weather is stressful. You always imagine they’re going to throw over the covers and wake up chilled in the morning or that an icicle will fall off the roof and pierce them in the eye. I guess summer has dangers, too, but they’re dangers I grew up with and that we’re used to dealing with. Sunscreen, A/C, lots of shade and trips to cool swimming pools.

Winter is… what? Hot chocolate, lots of Netflix and clothes layering?

Ice explorers (not much ice)

Imminent launch

Last time I wrote here, I was about to go back to work after several vacation weeks and was full of nervous energy about what was ahead.

Part of it was that I was returning to writing my weekly column with absolutely no idea what I was going to write next, which is always a scary leap of faith that tends to work itself out. That’s exactly what happened. After a few days of fumbling and catching up on email, the ideas started coming and now things are pretty much scheduled more than a month out as things should be in the months before South by Southwest Interactive arrives. (I felt the cold chill of something walking over my grave as I typed that.)

The thing I was most excited to get back to was preparing to launch our podcast. We did a pilot/test episode back in November and as cobbled together as it was, we all really liked how it turned out and everyone agreed we should do more of them.

By the time you read this we may have already recorded our first new episode. It’s going to be called “Statesman Shots” and it will have its own blog and will be a weekly show about Austin culture hosted by me and by the charming and wonderful Tolly Moseley. You’re going to get sick of hearing me talk about how great Tolly is, but everyone who has met her through working on this agrees: she’s the best. Funny, nice, full of great stories, curious about culture and possessed of a great voice made for broadcasting.

It turns out that putting together a podcast for work (as opposed to doing one myself in the garage) is a shit-ton of work and involves lots of moving parts. I’ve basically become a project manager, something I haven’t really done since my days as an editor, but I’m so determined to make Shots work that it hasn’t been a bother at all. It’s been fun to geek out about audio quality, to talk about how the podcast will work in the context of everything else we do (including ways to get things that come out of it into the print edition) and planning ahead.

I want you to hear it and that will be something that can happen very, very soon. It’s hard to believe that it’s taken a year and a half for Tolly and I to turn this into a reality, but I’m so glad neither of us gave up on the idea and that the talented people I work who are helping make it happen believe in it, too.

As soon as we have the first new episode and videos posted (oh yes, there’ll be videos, too), I’ll put up a blog entry about it here. It could be as soon as Thursday or Friday.

Thinkery

This was a very small thing, but something I haven’t forgotten since last week.

We went to the Austin children’s museum, which moved and was renamed The Thinkery. (Try explaining that name to a four-year-old. Not possible.)

It was great, just the right amount of learny stuff mixed with fun, running-around stuff and the kids didn’t take a moment to overthink any of it, they just dived in and grabbed and jumped and did whatever was called for in each area as if there were specific microchips in their brains that were activated in each new environment instructing them what to do and how it was to be done.

There was one big playroom with big, foamy objects to climb on and toys to bounce upon. I noticed right next to it was an area that was closed off and meant for infants and toddlers. There were soft toys like giant carrots strewn on the floor of that area and kids were having a great time.

My daughters didn’t even give that space a glance. They walked right past it without any inkling of curiosity and went straight to the big-kids area.

It left my breathless for a moment. I know they’re not toddlers anymore. Lilly’s long past that. I know it. But Carolina was just a baby. She was just in diapers. Lilly grew fast, but her move from infant to toddler to little girl seemed to take ages. Carolina, on the other hand leapfrogged through those stages impatiently, never clinging to them the way her sister did. She never looked back in her race to be like her sister.

It was a weird moment that they didn’t notice, but that made itself loud and clear to me. I don’t have toddlers. My toddlers are long gone. And it’s way past time to treat them as if they were.

Lilly at Thinkery

Carolina at Thinkery

Statesman stuff

In addition the podcast stuff, which is taking up more and more time as we get close to launch, here’s what else I’ve been writing in January.

As soon as I got from vacation, I wrote my annual Omarstradamus column, predicting 2014’s year of technology trends. I also took a look back at my 2013 predictions to see how I did.

Over my vacation, I got pretty obsessed with the movie Her (which I got to see early) and the British TV show Black Mirror, which aired on DirecTV. I jumped at the chance to write a story comparing their opposing views of the near future.

My next column was about wearable tech, inspired by my finally breaking down and buying a Fitbit device. I’m still wearing it and I’m getting better about remembering to turn it on/off for sleep and using it as a motivator for exercise, not just as a pedometer. I also did a short follow-up blog post with a few more observations.

Last week’s column was about a Saturday I spent at Data Day Texas, a conference for data geeks where I was in way over my head. That’s not such a bad thing! Turns out I still learned six things worth passing on.

My disc-less disc adventure with Redbox

Micro features in January included one about Austin e-lending library help, an explainer on dual-boot devices, about what’s going to happen when Microsoft stops support Windows XP and a recent one about ways to watch the Super Bowl online and on an iPad or smart phone.

For the Digital Savant blog, I had some South by Southwest Interactive news, including speakers added to the lineup such as Julian Assange, Mindy Kaling and Neil deGrasse Tyson (!).

I also wrote about my weird adventure renting games on Redbox. Or rather NOT renting games because every disc I rented turned out to be a piece of paper put there by a PlayStation 4 disc thief. It turns out it’s a huge nationwide scam that shows no signs of going away. So I’m not renting anymore, obviously.

And like I said, there’ll be lots more to share once the podcast gets going.

Previously.tv

Credit: Cartoon Network

Credit: Cartoon Network


The Walking Dead
is still on hiatus (but not for long).

For now, I’m still writing about How I Met Your Mother’s wildly erratic last season. Their new Slap Bet episode was a huge disappointment but then the episode right after that (which featured bugs with boobs, follow the link to see) was a big return to form. Conclusion? Every episode is a crapshoot.

My favorite thing I got to write was a “Get on board!” about the animated show Rick and Morty, another recent obsession. I’ll be talking about it a little bit on the first new podcast as well.

Space Monkeys!

Blackfish comic

Lastly, our monkey friends have kept on keeping on after the holidays.

We made a comic about Her and its implications for future man/sloth-computer romance.

We also did a comic featuring the return of Anything But Mini-Me, a child we have not abandoned in the story.

And most recently, Meany embarked on the creation of a documentary, inspired (or angered, at least) by Blackfish. He might be the only character around who can find a reason to be mad at orcas.

Other stuff

If you made it this far… wow, congratulations! Here are some other random things happening:

  • I was on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Central Time to talk about tech that came out of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. The MP3 audio is here directly.
  • The Mexcentrics, the new sketch troupe I worked with last year, has a new show coming in February! We wrote it in a blur through December and early January and it’s already in rehearsals. I really dig the poster for it.
  • What I’ve been playing: I finished Super Mario 3D World, which was just absolutely fantastic. I’ve been playing Brothers, I finished The Banner Saga (which my next column is about) and I’m still trying to find time to dig into Gone Home and other games I missed playing through in 2013.
  • I’m sure there’s a lot more I’m missing, but that’s all I can think of. The kids are doing great (they got to go to the San Antonio Zoo in addition to The Thinkery this month and have been having lots of adventures around here).

That’s it! Thanks for sticking through a long update.