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In conclusion

2 Sep

The littlest cheese truck!

Child and tiny truck. Missing: one tooth.


As every summer ends in New Braunfels I always lament that I didn’t go swimming enough or that I didn’t go tubing or enjoy all the fun, outdoorsy stuff there is to do here. By October, I’m full-on bitter about the cooling weather and how it means no more swimming.

I somehow forget that I’m not really that outdoorsy and that even though I love swimming, I hate being out in 105-degree heat and get cranky if the air conditioner doesn’t stay well below 77 degrees in the house.

This summer is different because instead of somehow feeling like I lost the time due to summer lethargy, it’s actually been jam-packed with activity for me and for the whole family. There’s been more travel than I’ve done since before the kids were born, the conclusion of something I’d been working on for a while (or at least the next phase of work on it), a door opening for a new site that I had been wanting to write for but that I hadn’t been able to commit time to and, honestly, the best summer I’ve had with my girls yet.

That’s been kind of of the showstopper around here. Several times a week my wife and I will exchange a look as our daughters are calmly playing together or doing something completely new and we’ll say, “They’re getting bigger.” They’re growing up. They’re not babies or even toddlers. Our Lilly turned 6 a few weeks ago. Only a few days later she lost her first tooth (no worries; it was painless and she didn’t even notice it was gone until I pointed out the gap). As I write this, she’s completed her first week of 1st Grade. Her sister, the curly-haired wild child, is still destructive and prone to bursts of turbo energy that exhaust us all, but she has also grown sweeter and kinder and more in love with us and her sister than I could have hoped.

She’ll make a huge fuss about taking something to school (a toy, a paper with writing on it, anything) and after giving up on trying to convince her she shouldn’t, I’ll find out that she only wanted to take the item to school to show it to her favorite teacher because she can’t keep something she loves to herself and wants to share.

This summer we got to take the girls to Disney World, we were able to make a beach trip, Lilly went on a bunch of field trips with her older-kids daycare to places I’ve never even seen, I went to Las Vegas for my first work trip in a very long time (more on that in a bit), my wife did some work traveling and I attended my 20-year high school reunion. We sold our damn Austin house, relieving years of stress.

I haven’t been tubing yet (there’s still time!) but as Labor Day approaches and the summer winds down, I don’t feel like I missed much. In fact, I feel like I’m ready for things to calm down and conclude. It was a great summer, but not for all the reasons I usually expect.

Double decker shopping

Work writing

A really busy couple of weeks at work. Here’s what was in the paper and online.

Sam Killermann, one of the working-at-coffee-shop experts I spoke to for my story. Photo by Deborah Cannon / Austin American-Statesman

Sam Killermann, one of the working-at-coffee-shop experts I spoke to for my story. Photo by Deborah Cannon / Austin American-Statesman


Digital Savant columns:


Sony SmartWatch


Digital Savant Micro features:

Other random stuff:

A lengthy blog review of the Leap Motion controller.

A silly blog post suggesting new names for Microsoft’s SkyDrive.

A blog post about a new Austin-based video commenting tool called FrameBuzz.

Las Vegas

Work trips are super stupid-boring, so I won’t subject you to the details of a trip I took for Vegas, but I’ll just say that because of the nature of my beat and the nature of working at a newspaper with a limited travel budget, I don’t take a lot of trips to cover stories outside of Austin.

Since last year, when it was announced that South by Southwest Interactive would be doing a conference in Las Vegas, my then-editor and I assumed I would go, but even a few months before the event in August, I still had my doubts that I would actually go. Things have been so busy this summer that I began to like the idea of just not going but when my editors approved my travel plans, I started to get excited about it again.

I’m so glad I went. Not only where there plenty of things to write about before the SXSW V2V, as the Vegas conference was called, but I had a lot more fun there than I was expecting, a combination of knowing a few people from Austin and other places that I got to hang out with, a really upscale venue with killer hotel rooms (The Cosmopolitan) and an overall laid back and accommodating vibe that wasn’t as crazy or as hectic as the SXSW I’m used to in March in Austin. No matter how wild things might get or how late I stayed out, I didn’t have to worry about a 45-minute drive home, which is always in the back of my mind at SXSW Interactive.

As I tried to make clear in my stories, there’s a lot of change happening in downtown Las Vegas and techies are beginning to take notice that there might be some big opportunities there (MyStatesman version here).

As for what I actually wrote, I did a Digital Savant column about how the event came together and a Sunday business story about the Downtown Project aspects that helped draw SXSW to Las Vegas.

After the event was over, I did a wrap-up of the overall event. (MyStatesman version here.)

I also shot a video at V2V that was expertly edited quickly by Emma Janzen. You can find that below.



Other highlights from Vegas: playing blackjack with friends one night drinking endless Manhattans (my new favorite get-drunk-quick drink!) and woke up to the worst hangover I’ve had since my 20s and maybe ever. I literally could not look at a computer screen for several hours.

And then I thought about how that might look on Twitter.

I went to Ellis Island for karaoke and had the time of my life. Vegas is the perfect karaoke city.

I finally got my ass to the pinball museum, which was pretty great but won’t replace the soft spot in my heart I have quickly developed for Austin’s Pinballz.

I had my doubts about The Cosmopolitan because the first impression it gives is pretty douchey, but my goodness the rooms are enormous and the dealers are super friendly and the restaurants there are incredible. Highly recommended, just don’t let the freaky lobby freak you out like it did me:

I put a whole mess of Vegas photos on Flickr. You can view the whole album here. I put a few of them below as well.

Inaugural #SXSWV2V sushi and fried chicken and Google Glass meetup!


Chris, Claire, Sweet John and Me.


My power

Steve Case keynote @ SXSW V2V


I mentioned the launch of a while back, a site created by the founders of Mighty Big TV / Television Without Pity and featuring lots of alumni as contributors.

It’s a wonderful thing to be able to write for people you love and respect and enjoy working with, but even after the launch, I hadn’t approached them about contributing to the site because I was trying to force myself to stop freelancing and to finish the novel I started before the start of the year. With that finally done in late June and me pretty far into the second draft/editing of it (about 210 of 360 or so pages), I finally sent a query and was thrilled to be welcomed aboard.

My first piece for Previously ran last week and was an “I Am Not a Crackpot!” suggesting that the part of Marc Maron in the TV show Maron should be recast.

This week, I wrote a story about The Walking Dead’s lead character Rick Grimes for the site’s Career Week and I’ve got another piece in the pipeline.

It feels wonderful to be a part of that team and if you’re not already checking out that site and making it part of your daily reading, you’re missing some really fun, creative TV writing. I mean, this Tales of the Gold Monkey post alone… my God. Consider it indispensable for the coming fall TV season.

Those space monkeys

Screen Shot 2013-08-31 at 12.35.04 AMWe’re still updating the space-faring adventures of Bobbo, Meany and the crew in weekly fashion and their Twitter account has been pretty active of late.

Also, we’re about to hit 300 “Likes” on Facebook. More of those are always good, hint hint.

It’s been so long since I’ve updated this blog (mostly lethargy, but also I didn’t feel like I had much to say till now) that if you haven’t kept up, you’ve missed five whole new comics!

They are:

We’ve been nothing if not extremely topical.


Voyage to the past

3 Jul

Official 20-Year Reunion Photo

10 years ago, I went to my 10-year reunion and it never even occurred to me that I was already writing on this site at the time and that of course I documented it. I sometimes forget I have this whole diary thing that dates back to 2000.

But in a way, I’m glad I didn’t read what I wrote before I flew to Oklahoma City on Saturday for a super-quick round-trip 20-year reunion. I’m glad that the fog of parent brain and 10 years passed made me go into it with no expectations other than that at least two good friends of mine would be there and that I really wanted to see them.

Because it turned out to be a weird night in a lot of little, wonderful ways.

I can’t imagine there is anyone who goes to a 1o- or 20-year reunion and doesn’t find it a little strange, unless you live in the place you went to school and are in close contact with all the people who came up with you. I imagine reunions have always been a little weird, a mix of the people you remember clearly, the people you remember but never really spent much time with even when you were in close daily proximity and then the people who unfortunately completely left your brain and don’t return in memory even when the older version of them is standing right there in front of you.

And then there’s the Facebook effect. I’m pretty sure a lot of people didn’t come to the reunion specifically because they feel they already get the nostalgia/curiosity hit they need from The Social Network and that a $400 plane ticket and accommodations aren’t going to add much to their mental picture of how their peers ended up.

I went alone. My wife has no interest in going to her reunion and had much, much less interest in going to mine and I completely agree with that decision. Unless you’re into people-watching and hearing second-hand stories of glorious old inside jokes, it’s just an uncomfortable thing to be the spouse at these things unless your relationship is new and you’re still in the figuring-out-your-mate stage where everything is a window into their past and personality. If you’ve been with something for 15+ years, it becomes more of the same shit that you’ve heard hundreds of times, more like.

The reunion did make me more aware than ever of the strange things constant online contact (again, mostly Facebook) have done to us. There were people at the reunion who spoke as if they interest nearly every day and the people that I do actually talk to on Facebook seemed like people I’d seen around within the last few months, not 10 whole years. When the night was winding down and people were saying their goodbyes, it wasn’t, “I’ll see you in 5 or 10 years,” it was, “I’ll post some pics and tag you” or “I’ll let you know on Monday what I find out.”

The people who want to stay in touch are still in touch. Even the people we didn’t really want to be in touch with necessarily all the time we’re still talking to.

Me, Marcus, Candace and Jeremy

Me, Marcus, Candace and Jeremy

I’m not saying that’s good or bad; for me it’s nice in a lot of ways and only negative once in a blue moon. But it is different, it is weird and I’m not sure that my generation has figured out what to do with it beyond simply ignoring it and moving on.

I did have a good time, though. It took place in a strange and awesome building in downtown Oklahoma City (I went to school in nearby Midwest City) at some eccentric rich person’s house. I mean rich like having the kind of money where you say, “Screw it, I’m putting cars in the living room and getting poker playing dog throw pillows. And putting a DJ on the rooftop!” It completely blew away our 10-year reunion, which was in a boring ballroom that nobody remembers.

I’m glad I went, the expense was worth it and at the end of the night, I had gotten to spend (not enough) time with some very close friends I never get to see. Sometimes just a few minutes of that is worth the money and the trouble.

Some photos and Tweets from that night:

This was, no joke, the entrance to my 20-year reunion. It turns out it's a freight elevator to an amazingly eccentric rich person's house. Bruce Wayne, maybe.

This was, no joke, the entrance to my 20-year reunion. It turns out it’s a freight elevator to an amazingly eccentric rich person’s house. Bruce Wayne, maybe.


Marcus and dog mentioned in Tweet below

Marcus and dog mentioned in Tweet below


Nope, nothing weird about this!

Nope, nothing weird about this!




Work stuff and monkey stuff

I was on vacation for a week when the Digital Savant column and Micro didn’t run, but it’s been nearly a full month since I’ve updated, so here’s what I’ve had in the paper in the interim:

Colin Anawaty, left, and Jason Bornhorst are co-founders of Filament Labs. Photo by Mark Matson for the American-Statesman

Colin Anawaty, left, and Jason Bornhorst are co-founders of Filament Labs. Photo by Mark Matson for the American-Statesman


I wrote a column about how complaining on social media about a product or service doesn’t always reward you with a happy ending (though it does work for some people). Last week’s column was about whether health- and fitness-related apps can really change your habits and make you a better, happier person. A MyStatesman account is required to view that article, but I also wrote a free blog post with supplemental information on the topic.

This week’s column was about civic hackathons and the impact they’re making on the Austin community. Like the last one, it’s on MyStatesman, but I’ve been told a few times via Twitter by readers that it’s also available elsewhere on the web. I have nothing to do with that if that’s the case.

The Micros recently were about movie-related apps Anything After and RunPee, a definition of the digital locker concept UltraViolet, what to do with old VHS movie tapes  and an explainer of Google+ Hangouts. We’ll be doing a Hangout on Tuesday to coincide with a column that runs that day in the paper. (Info on that in the Hangouts Micro.)

I kept busy with a few other stories and blog posts: there was a story about Austin tech guy Whurley and his UnGrounded innovation flight to London; a story about the Win8 version of the ACL Access app and Dell’s involvement with that; a post about coping with the end of Google Reader; a post about an Austin-made orthodontics app called Mighty Brace (which will run next week as a “Raising Austin” column in expanded form); and a short story about family mobile company Famigo.

Vacation sketch

Space Monkeys! has rolled along with a new comic about parking problems and, because Pablo and I were both traveling, two vacation-themed sketches over the last two weeks, one themed to Costa Rica, the other themed to my Disney World trip.

A bit’a meta 

Wow, that’s a lot for having been on vacation. Speaking of which, I wrote a huge chunk of blog about my Disney World trip, which happened before my reunion, but this blog post is already far too long so I’m splitting it into two blog entries.

The good news is that it’s already written, but I’m saving it for next week to time it to my next column, which ties directly in with that trip.

Sorry for the long break. It’s just been busy-as-crazy around here and I’m excited that I’m very close (days close) to finishing up a huge writing project that I’ve been working on since December. It’s been a lot of that and very little blogging here, but that ratio should change soon as I get done. Hope to tell you more about that in just a bit.

ACL Fest 2012: the photo gallery

28 Oct

ACL Fest was a ton of fun for me this year even though I only went for two days (Friday, Saturday) of the three and went home like a decrepit old man each time before the headliners even performed.

I don’t care! I ate and walked around and people watched and saw some wonderful bands (Wild Child, Alabama Shakes, Andrew Bird, The Roots to name a few).

Instead of boring you with all the details of a fest that’s already two weeks gone and which has been covered extensively elsewhere, I’ll just offer a YouTube video to show one of my favorite sounds of the fest and the photos I took in a gallery below.

Excited for next year already!

Click on any of the pics to go into the photo gallery.

Many viewpoints

19 Sep

‘Do we look too hot for this apocalypse or what?’

I’m having fun lately — not, Oh my God, that roller coaster was insane! fun — but some satisfied fun, the kind I can allow myself when I feel like things are rolling along and I’m not somehow lagging behind.

I hit a goal on the writing project I mentioned earlier and I started working on something with my brother that we hope to roll out in a little while. We’re going through some big system/software changes at work, but this time the stuff we’re being trained on seems to me like a pretty big improvement over some of the things we’ve gotten used to and in one big way, it’ll offer me a lot more flexibility with how and where I do my job, so that’s nice.

So, I’m not doing cartwheels or anything, but I’m pretty happy. OK, I did a cartwheel. One cartwheel. Just now, I’m sorry you missed it, it was a tiny cartwheel, you shouldn’t have blinked.

Part of the fun has been settling in to a rhythm with the Digital Savant columns and the newer Micro mini-features we introduced more recently.

This week’s column allowed me to flex my dormant TV critic muscle in talking about the new, ridiculous, kinda wobbly J.J. Abrams-branded pilot episode of Revolution. It turns out that I haven’t forgotten how to write about goofy, earnest fantasy sci-fi, and in this case my editor had the great idea of writing about the show’s plot of a mass blackout in terms of how we live with technology.

What I did not anticipate was how badly the show wants to be The Hunger Games.

I mean, look at this guy. Just LOOK:

Last week’s column was about Mike Daisey’s one-man play The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, which he performed in Austin for three nights.

Photo by Kevin Berne, courtesy of UT-Texas Performing Arts

I hadn’t seen the show before we spoke, but of course I’d read all about it and listened to the infamous This American LifeRetraction” episode.

The phone interview we did was good, I thought. Daisey was generous was his time, thoughtful in his answers and only a little cagey and indirect when I asked him whether he regretted participating in “Retraction,” which is how the column ends.

What surprised me much more was seeing the actual show, more than a full week after I’d written the article. I didn’t have any obligation to review or follow up the column, so I was able to attend the show without a notebook in front of my face and to just see it as a theatergoer.

It was funnier than I was expecting. I was expecting a depressing, searing lecture on human rights abuses and that does come toward the end and sprinkled inside some pretty amusing thoughts on what it is to be a geek, an Apple Fanboy and someone suddenly thrust in the spotlight and suddenly interacting with people like Steve Wozniak.

It played to about half an audience; the night I went it had the bad luck of being scheduled at the same time as an away UT football game and the theater was on campus.

The play had some very recent updates, including mentions of a recent Chinese student labor scandal and some thoughts about the iPhone 5 launch. Daisey suggested at the end of the show (after accusing all of being complicit and not doing enough to stop Apple and Foxconn’s shoddy labor practices overseas) not that we stop buying Apple products, but that at least in the case of the iPhone 5 that maybe we should wait a few weeks. Big product launches tend to be where the worst of the working conditions take place and not rushing to be the first to own the new iPhone might relieve some of that pressure.

Judging from what pre-orders look like, it’s a message hardly anyone heard or heeded.

The Digital Savant Micros are starting to feel a little more substantial and newsy when we can make them so, like one we recently did explaining Reddit and tying it to an event that was in the news. This week, we did a Micro about how you can tell why a website’s not loading tied to last week’s GoDaddy outage. (Which actually did affect a website I own, but since that site gets single-digit traffic per day, I’m sure nobody noticed.)

Other recent stuff I wrote included a follow-up on Ken Starks, a man I wrote about two years ago, who has been having some health problems and got some much-needed support from the Linux community and, of course, a wrap-up of the iPhone 5 announcement. (And no, I’m not upgrading this time. Perfectly fine with my 4S and my wife, who is out of contract, has no interest in getting a new phone right now).

Every year I always lament the passing of summer because here in New Braunfels, that’s when all the fun stuff seems to happen (except Wurstfest. Oh, Wurstfest, you cannot get here soon enough).

This year, we went to the beach, I got to go tubing, we made plenty of trips to Schlitterbahn and it was a mild enough summer that we actually got to go outside and even got some rain, not like last year’s endless drought.

So instead of complaining that the cool weather got here too soon and that the season is behind us, I’ll just enjoy these pictures and be glad that as the girls are getting older, they’re getting to enjoy more of the summertime as they start transitioning into school every August.

Oh, one more thing. I have a story about my car that I’m going to save for next week. I would write it tonight, but something else just happened and I want to see how the story turns out tomorrow before I put it into words. But it involves a collision, a court appearance, a missing antenna and several other twists and turns.

You won’t be able to put it down! Or click off of it, or whatever.

Easter pics

16 Apr

Carolina discovers that cracking cascarones on herself eliminates the middle-man.


Just a little gallery of images from last weekend’s Easter festivities. Click on any of the images to enter the gallery.

Girls hanging out

5 Apr

(via Instagram). It’s so rare to get a decent picture of the girls sitting together and not moving so much the picture is all blurry.

We found out this week that registration is opening up for Lilly’s kindergarten class in August. TOO SOON!

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