Obligatory “I’m Not Dead” Check In

I know it’s been, like, a million years since I’ve updated so I don’t even know why I try but hello again.

So much has happened since the last time I posted that I don’t even know where to start. SO MUCH. Cooper and I have moved in with Alex downtown, Alex and I went to Colorado for our annual ski trip, SXSW 2013 happened, I applied and got accepted to a 10-week immersive web developer training program here in Austin, the President (yes, as in the POTUS) came to visit my office last month and last week we went camping at Garner State Park:

old baldy cacti view from painted rock rio frio

These days I am spending my free time reading World War Z by Max Brooks and studying up for MakerSquare, which starts next week. You can follow my progress at my new “professional” (lol) blog/portfolio site bridraffen.com.

Snacks, Sales, Swords.

This evening after work, I met up with some lady friends at Snack Bar for dinner and drinks. Snack Bar is one of those quintessentially “Austin” kinds of places – foodie-friendly, creative menu & drink selections, locally-sourced ingredients as much as possible, dogs on the patio… you get the idea (in fact, I should probably just let the first page of their menu do the talking for me).  I like the vibe of the place and the food a lot but for some reason, I hardly ever find the occasion to eat there so it was a welcome treat.

Last time I was at Snack Bar, I had a shandy (beer & lemonade) so I decided to keep the beer-mixing thing going and picked a concoction called Oats & Apples (Convict Hill Oatmeal Stout and apple cider) from the drink menu. I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect from the order but the server brought me the bottle of beer and a glass about 3/4 full of the apple cider. The stout literally blackened the cider as I poured it in so I was a little nervous (especially since I have only recently came to the realization that I like dark beers) but it ended up being a delicious combo. Now, speaking of delicious combos – I had the Scallop & Belly Ramen and oh boy:

IMG_3358

 

Yes, that’s pork belly, scallops, noodles and a soft boiled egg in one beautiful, delicious bowl. I can’t even begin to describe how happy this made my belly. Before I even took my first bite, I apologized to my friends because I was going to have to be obnoxious and take a picture of my food  (but trust, I only do that when it’s really good). It was a little pricier than I would normally spend on a meal out with friends but it was totally worth it. The best kind of comfort food.

Prior to us finalizing plans for a lady date, I had found out about this clearance event at Maya Star and their sister (brother?) store, Co-Star and had suggested we check it out. I really like Maya Star as they carry a lot cute clothes, shoes, accessories and tchotchkes, they haven’t minded the couple of occasions I brought Cooper in the store with me and it’s a fun mix of higher end labels (ex. Rebecca Minkoff) and things that even I can afford.

jpeg

 

I highly recommend checking it out. The longer you wait, the better the savings, although, I guess there’s no guarantee that all the good stuff isn’t going to be gone by Sunday! As for me, I got this sweet little black triangle necklace…

IMG_3370

…and this badass sword bracelet!

 

 

IMG_3371

 

All in all, a pretty successful Thursday night. So much so, I almost forgot that I still have another whole day of work ahead of me before the weekend. -__-

Ahem.

I think that’s enough radio silence for now.

Hi, remember me? I think I might actually be ready to start writing again. I’m still working a ridiculous amount between jobs uno y dos but why not pile on more to my sense of responsibility and obligation, right?

In the meantime, I’m going to update the lazy man’s way: things I bought fairly recently, c/o Instagram.

Jason Wu for Target dress, 50% off! I still haven’t had the occasion to wear it yet, though.
Banana Puddin’ cupcake from Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop. Only on the menu on Wednesdays, highly recommended.
Labradorite crystal necklace from Mana Culture. It came with a helpful card of the “properties” of the crystal. I may not buy into all that, but I liked the way it sparkled and I’ll take whatever good juju I can get.
Gold Chrome Slider iPhone case from Incase. Gold on the outside, pink on the inside, makes a decent mirror in a pinch.
Pigasus bank from Open Sky. Because why not?
OMG, Spring, you guys!

Endless Summer (Reading)

I’m just going to accept that I’m terrible at blogging but still update this thing when I feel like it, for some reason. Is my web presence spread too thin and that fact the reason why I can’t keep up with this thing? Probably. I have an irrational impulse to sign up for every social network/Internet thing ever. Speaking of which, I’m on Pintrest, follow me if you’re into that sort of thing!

(via… yes, that’s me.)

Summer may technically still be a month away but it’s already started in Texas. I had my first swim of the year last weekend, which was oddly, my very first visit to Barton Springs Pool, even though I’ve lived in Austin during and toughed out four blazing summers before. I know, it even shocks me. I anticipate several trips back as the oppressive heat continues to terrorize us (just checked the forecast and it’s supposed to get up to 100 today… and it’s only May).


Because I work a weird schedule that makes it pretty much impossible to be social during the week, I end up spending the bulk of my free time consuming various forms of media (a LOT of podcasts, Hulu, Netflix, etc.). Now that most of my TV obligations have closed out their seasons for the summer (my favorites, of course, being Parks & Recreation and Community and my guilty pleasures, Grey’s Anatomy* and Private Practice), I’ll have more time for other stuff, like my ever-growing Summer Reading List AKA books on my Kindle that I’m “”getting around to”” reading (in no particular order):

  • Currently Reading: How Did You Get This Number? by Sloane Crosley
  • Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith
  • We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals by Gillian Gill
  • Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday, Cafe Society, and An Early Cry for Civil Rights by David Margolick
  • Decoded by Jay-Z
  • The Commitment by Dan Savage
  • The Kid by Dan Savage
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
  • No Turning Back by Estelle Freedman
  • Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti
  • Spook by Mary Roach
  • Undoing Gender by Judith Butler
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Tales of the Beetle Bard by J.K. Rowling
  • Goat Girls by Francesca Lia Block
  • Necklace of Kisses by Francesca Lia Block
  • Help! a Bear Is Eating Me! by Mykle Hansen
  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave
  • Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • John Dies at the End by David Wong
  • All of the Southern Vampire Series by Charlaine Harris
  • Black No More by George Schuyler

Here’s hoping to make a dent in it, at least until True Blood, The Walking Dead and Louie come back.


* I swear I had kicked the habit several years ago because it was so bad but within the last two seasons, I’ve somehow gotten sucked back in. It’s still bad, over the top and ridiculous but entertaining.

Six South By Pro Tips

I wanted to run down a list of SXSW tips on the latest episode of that podcast thing I do, Beyond 6th, but as I am wont to do, go distracted talking about other things. This post kind of elaborates upon what I wanted to say (and borrows a bit from the segment). I’ve been putting off making this post (or you know, blogging in general) for a while, to a point that I realize this post is almost too late. But for out-of-towners not arriving in Austin until next week, this might actually be helpful! Or at the least, someone can refer to it next year…

(Baby me on 6th Street, St. Patrick’s Day, during my 2nd SXSW in 2006. This guy was just hanging out, sitting on the curb and I asked for a picture. Keep Austin Weird, indeed. By the same time a year later, I would be an Austinite myself!)

I like to joke that South By is my favorite holiday. Despite the traffic and noise, to me it’s always been the most wonderful time of the year. While I won’t pretend to be an expert at all, I’ve got a total of six years of SXSW under my belt (two as a visitor and four as an Austin resident) and I think I’ve picked up a few things along the way.


1. HAVE A PLAN (AND A PLAN B AND C AND…)

Whether you have a badge, wristband or you’re completely winging it, I cannot overstate the importance of having a set schedule AND a backup plan (or two or three), if need be. Nothing is worse than getting to a showcase or party that you had your heart set on and realizing that the venue is at capacity, there’s a line around the block and no one is getting in, not even if they have a fancy badge they paid good money for. If you underestimated the turnout and didn’t have another event in mind, utilize your smartphone to access sites like Do512 and Show List Austin or download the official SXSW app to find out what is going nearby if you get shut out. There’s nothing worse than standing around wasting time standing around trying to figure out what you’re going to do when you could actually be doing something (I know this from past experience)!

More than likely, the artists you want to see are going to be playing several shows throughout the week (most will play at least 3-4, some insane ones’ performance count will creep into the double digits). If you have a  badge or wristband, find out which of your favorites are playing day parties and prioritize. Do you want to get up early to see them perform at noon with a decidedly smaller crowd in a more intimate setting (maybe you’ll even have a chance to talk to them before or after their set!) or do you want to try your luck waiting in line to see them at a small, packed venue that will fill up quickly? Do you want to see your favorite local band that you can see several times a month or do you want to see a band from Iceland that maybe never come back to the U.S., let alone Austin, again? Only you can make the best choices for yourself but it helps to think about how you want to get the most out of your SX experience.

That said, if you’re more of the “go with the flow” type or find yourself with a free block of time between events, allow yourself to simply wander and discover new music you wouldn’t otherwise have found out about. That’s the true spirit of SXSW!

2. WEAR LAYERS

Mid-March is Central Texas is one of the most beautiful times of the year. I can only imagine to how nice it is to people who are visiting from parts of the country (and the world) where the ground is just now starting to thaw (actually, I can, being from the Midwest). It’s (usually) sunny and warm (mid-70s to low 80s) during the day, so it can be tempting to prematurely bust out the sundresses, shorts and sandals. At night it cools off significantly (sometimes as much as 30 degrees in a few hours) so I’ve learned to utilize layers. Check the weather before you set out for the day. If you feel you’ll need it, carry a lightweight jacket or cardigan with you and/or bring a pair of leggings you can put on under your dress or shorts when the temperature drops. Boots look good with anything (it is Texas, after all) and you won’t have to worry about cold toes. And if you’re staying in close proximity to downtown, there’s no shame in going back to your hotel/crash pad for a costume change after sunset.

3. BRING A BAG

Some people may complain about how commercialized SX has become these days, what with the many, many sponsorships that make the official festival (and the unofficial events that pop up around it) a success but you know what else having all those sponsors means? TONS OF FREE STUFF. Now only is there swag to be had, such as free magazines, t-shirts, foods, drinks (more on that later) and other crap you probably won’t even look at after SX is over, but tons of bands and their street teams are pounding the pavement giving away promo CDs and other items. Not to mention, if you see one of your favorite bands or discover a new one and you may want to support them by buying some merch. It’s hard to carry around a bunch of tchotchkes and look cool while trying to have fun and easy to put something down “for a minute” and forget about it completely. As the person who is always carrying a large bag (often asked by friends to carry their stuff), I believe it’s better to err on the prepared side.

4. HAND SANITIZER/WET WIPES

At some point in the week, you’re going to have to use a Porta-Potty or bathroom that’s seen so much constant traffic that the (very busy) staff or (very wasted) tenant/homeowner couldn’t adequately keep it clean if they tried. By the time you feel the call of nature, the soap dispenser might have run dry and the toilet paper and paper towels have gone MIA (if there were any of these items to begin with at all). Some people might argue that I’m being too germaphobic and that hand sanitizer isn’t really that effective. To that I say that I feel better putting something on my hands after having to use a grimy bathroom than nothing at all (especially prior to eating). Not to mention, whenever I’ve offered a squirt to someone post-using facilities during the festivities, no one’s ever turned it down!

5. PACE YOURSELF/HYDRATE

Again, one of the best parts about SX experience is all the free goodies. After you turn 21, you get to take full advantage of the wonders of day drinking (if you’re into that sort of thing) for free. I attended two tortuous SXSW festivals before I turned 21 (the fact that I couldn’t get into some venues was more annoying than not being allowed drink, honestly). When it finally happens, it can seem like it’s too good to be true, so you should get as much as you can before it goes away. Believe me, the free booze flows like water for ten glorious days in Austin, there is no need to rush. The worst thing to do would be to lose a whole night of seeing bands and partying because you passed out before 5 p.m. due to overdoing it at an open bar. Make sure you’re putting something in your stomach regularly and drink lots of water. You’ll be getting the most out of your experience and your body will thank you for it! I also believe there’s no shame in taking a day or evening off in the middle of the fest to recuperate, if you’re not missing anything vital.

6. TIP YOUR SERVERS/BARTENDERS/FOOD TRUCK STAFF

Finally, the service industry folks of Austin work hard, just on a normal day. But during SXSW, they have to step it up to a superhuman degree, serving dozens or even hundreds of people at a time, as quickly as possible. Please be kind and tip generously if you get great and (relatively) fast service, especially if you’re at an event with an open bar and/or serving complimentary food. This town loves to eat and drink so it’s in our best interests keep to our brave and hardworking friends behind the counter happy!

I’ve already rambled far too much. What am I even doing? I should be resting up for what is sure to be a crazy next 10 days. Have a safe and happy SXSW, y’all!