What’s next?

23 Apr

New me, new cards


Change is trauma, I guess, or at least a shock to the system you can’t really gauge without some perspective.

Your body re-forms a lot of its own cells constantly as you move along in this world and in a decade you’re mostly not even physically the same parts. And I can imagine that a sudden change of environment, a big swing of emotions and priorities and goals must speed that along, the stress-shedding of even more skin and bone and follicle.

Last year was all about change, the “Bulldoze” year, this year was “Foundation,” building on new ground and starting new things.

It’s late April and there’s a bit of a lull right now. South by Southwest took up a lot of my energy in March (more on that below) and the weeks leading up to that and as soon as that was done, I dived into a big project for a publication I’ve always wanted to write for that I hope to post about here really soon. That took me into early April, then I had to finish up my taxes, which were incredibly complicated and weird for 2018, and then I was in the middle of some home appraisal stuff, preparation for a whole other project that I’m excited about and now it’s now and I’m taking a deep breath and resting a little bit and seeing where I am.

Everything from like Halloween to Easter is a big blur, preparing from one holiday to the next, traveling a lot, spending as much time as I can with my kids now that I’m not rushing home from an office after 6 p.m. every night against traffic.

I got past the bit where I was stressing out about money every day. Even after I knew that a contract I signed for 2019 was going to keep me financially OK, I was still worried about Christmas gifts, the costs of all these house things that needed repairing or improving, the ridiculous cost of having basic health coverage as a freelancer, and this looming fear that whatever I owed on my taxes for what turned out to be a windfall year (minus putting a down payment on a new house) was going to wipe me out.

now it’s now and I’m taking a deep breath and resting a little bit and seeing where I am

That didn’t happen, but I still have that nagging need to hustle, to keep accepting assignments that only pay $50-$100 just to keep income flowing instead of wasting time, just to cover dinners and dental visits, to hedge against some future costly emergency. Not every day anymore, but often enough that I can’t sit still for very long.

There are days that are incredibly relaxed, when there is nothing due and no place to be when I can work on the shed/guest house that came with this house with my dad, putting up particle board and using saws and drills. Those are days when I can catch up on movies I missed when my life was too busy (shoutout “Civil War”), or to just go the gym and not feel rushed to get it all done in 45 minutes.

But it’s not without problems. I get bent out of shape chasing invoices that don’t get paid for a long time, I always feel like I should be writing more, even when there’s no assignment in front of me, I have that fear of disappearing and being forgotten because I’m not pushing stuff out there like I used to.

When I went freelance last year one of the first things I put on my to-do list was “Make business cards.” I played around with some designs on the Kinko’s website and wasn’t really happy with any of them. My brother, who’s much better at design than me, agreed they weren’t great and I just kind of put it aside. Truth be told, I don’t get asked for a business card very often, but the few times I did at interviews it was always that awkward, “Oh, I don’t have them yet, working on it…” and I wanted something to hand out, even if it was a happy face on a piece of lunchmeat (how great would that card be? But you’d have to keep them in a mini fridge you always carried around.).

So after SXSW I used a coupon code I got from a very good Moo booth at the event where they gave out lots of samples of their stuff. I threw something together that I ended up really happy with. Sure, the fonts are all over the place and the photo could be sharper (it’s a picture of a picture), but it reflects me more than some simple modern design. They came so beautifully packaged in little ornate boxes that I felt spoiled, like I was treating myself to something I really didn’t deserve. Moo really makes lovely stuff, you should give them a try if you need cards or other printed stuff.

The only thing on it I really wonder if I should have done differently is the title. “Technology Culture Reporter.” Is that what I still am, more than 20 years since I started using that title? Aren’t I doing a lot more than that? Is there room for me to list all those things? It it better not to pigeonhole myself at all?

Maybe by the next round of cards, I’ll be something completely different.

South by Southwest 2019

Photo from me at the Henry Winkler acting workshop panel. He was magic.

A month ago, it was South by Southwest, maybe, I don’t know, the 15th or 16th time I’ve gone (there were a few years in the early 2000s where my main job wasn’t so tech focused so I skipped some).

I always thought that if I left my job at the Statesman, that would be the end of me being obsessed with SXSW every year and running around covering stuff. But a month before, I got asked to contribute as a freelancer for Austin360 and the Statesman’s business desk and to get badged up and so there I was, back in the mix. But it was really different this year in a lot of great ways.

For one thing, I didn’t spend a couple of months planning and prepping and writing lots of previews and exhausting myself so much that by the time SXSW starts, I’m already burned out on the whole thing. It was nice coming in fresh, doing the things I was assigned to do (or other assignments I picked up for other publications on top of my initial list) and then spend the rest of my time actually enjoying SXSW.

Ironically, I managed to get sick the day it all started with what we call the “SXSW Crud,” but a week earlier than usual, so I soldiered on with boxes of Kleenex and a very phlegmy cough, but managed to make it through.

Working with the Statesman team did give me the opportunity to go back and sit in on some planning meetings and to visit the newsroom again, something I hadn’t done since around October. I’ve been telling people that I don’t really miss the newsroom or the act of committing daily newspaper journalism, that what I’ve really missed are the people I worked with and the feeling that comes from being part of a large team working together to make something bigger than any one of us.

That’s true; I miss the social part of my job, being able to look up from my computer monitor and seeing friendly faces of people I respect and admire.

But when I visited, I didn’t expect the warm wave of nostalgia I got from just riding the elevator, the one I’d ridden thousands of times before. The little warm fuzzy from being recognized and greeted at the security desk, the temperature of the conference room and the scuff of the conference room chair on my legs. I was in that newsroom for more years than I’ve ever lived in any home in my life, and that’s probably going to remain true for a really, really long time.

I don’t miss being there every day, but the thought that in a few years it may not exist — that the staff will move to an unfamiliar place as the building is razed or built out into something else — fills me with a lot of sadness. But I guess I’m learning how important it is to make new homes, to find new places you love, and to be out in the world more.

I’m trying to explore more, to be less tied to locations and rooms, to feel as comfortable in wide open spaces than in bulb-lit interiors. It doesn’t always come natural for me.

All I did for the Statesman at SXSW:

CNN’s clubhouse at SXSW was… bogus

In the lead-up to SXSW, I also got asked to double up on some panels and write different versions for the journalism organization Poynter. This was a much bigger challenge than I was expecting! South by Southwest is exhausting enough and when you find the time to sit and write something, it’s a small miracle, but then to start over and try to write the same thing again, the thing you just pretty much said what you wanted to say about, from a different angle… well, that was tougher than I thought it might be.

So for Poynter, I offered a more journalism-focused take on the Trevor Noah panel, a more Poynter-iffic take on the panel about rural/Trump country reporting, and a third piece that wasn’t double-up for the Statesman, a very powerful panel about covering family separations at the border.

SXSW activations, always a constant

And because I wasn’t done overloading myself with work, I also did two pieces for a blockchain news site, Modern Consensus. I interviewed Austin’s Dave Sikora after he did a panel and I covered a “Blockchain deathmatch” panel that included Jimmy Song, whom I profiled a few months ago for Breaker Magazine. And for the Book + Film Globe site, I did a wrap-up of all the crazy SXSW activations including ones for “Game of Thrones” and “The Highwaymen.”

We told her how much we loved “Russian Doll” and she was nice enough to take a pic with us.

It wasn’t all work, though. I still got to have fun and hang out. Thanks to Jeana, who was not as shy as the rest of our group, I got to meet Natasha Lyonne at an afterparty for a premiere of “Booksmart” where Santigold played and Olivia Wilde celebrated a birthday.

I ate a fucking lot of cheese. I gave good cookie advice. I bought a “Nancy” shirt that arrived in time to wear for at least one day of SXSW.

There was lots more, but like every SXSW, it has already started to fade and compress and feel like one long fevery dream where everything happened all at once.

South by South Rest

Here’s the rest of other things I’ve been working on since February.

For the aforementioned Book + Film, I did a review of Rooster Teeth’s Austin-made anime gen:LOCK which I really enjoyed. I finished off the season after this review was published and I thought it finished strong and left me wanting more. I also reviewed another Austin-made creation, Battle Angel: Alita, which I liked a lot less. Comment writers noted that I don’t seem familiar with the source material, and boy howdy is that true. I had major problems with the film version.

I had much nicer things to say about the pretty perfect conclusion of Broad City. Most recently, I wrote a mixed-bag review of Donald Glover’s strange but also strangely compelling mini movie Guava Island, now available on Amazon streaming.

For the Statesman, after SXSW, I wrote about a really great exhibit that took place at the Texas capitol building, “Refugee Is Not My Name.”  For the business section, I did a piece on Austin-made AR pet-adoption app “Furiends.”

And, new freelance gig! I started writing some piece for Barnes & Noble’s Sci-Fi and Fantasy blog.  My first two pieces were a roundup of scariest Stephen King books that aren’t Pet Sematary and a roundup of six very funny comic books / graphic novels you should be reading.

Wendi Aarons and I returned for our second piece together at McSweeney’s. It was timed to Equal Pay Day but ended up running a few days after that. It’s called “If Women Completed Work Based On Their Percentage of Wages Compared To Men.” I thought it came out really well.

And for Texas Standard, I did a whole bunch of things, here’s that list of topics:

I should also note that I’m still doing daily audio segments for Tech Minute Texas; the site has been updated with 30 more segments, so we’re up to 130 total and I’ve got more coming.


When I wasn’t working, I celebrated a birthday, did a long-ass 8+ mile hike for a waterfall in Arizona, ran a 5K with my daughter,  got confused for a dog, adopted three fish as pets, got into a fight with Build-A-Bear, celebrated Manu Ginobili’s retirement, made a really dumb video nobody saw, saw Kacey Musgraves in concert and got excited for Latino Comedy Project’s upcoming new show. I’m not in it, but I backed the project and can’t wait to see how it turns out.

These have been good months and I can’t wait for summer.

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