2017 in review

I haven’t really done one of these before, so here goes.

Personally

The biggest news was finding out we’re having a second kid. That should happen within a month, so we’ve been anticipating it most of the year. Decided this time around to not find out if it’s a boy or girl, thus doubling the difficulty of choosing a name.

The current kid grows up more and more each week (as happens, I suppose). One of the most surprising things was when he began singing more: On the way home from school one day he knocked out a pretty good rendition of the National Anthem, and toward the end of the year he started singing a handful of Christmas carols including about three verses of Deck the Halls as well as more words of Feliz Navidad than I know. He keeps saying he wants a baby sister but we’ll see how it goes.

Trips

We took a few trips this year: We all took Amtrak to Washington D.C. for a week in May/June. I had a work conference there and Pamela and Maxwell came along. We got to see the sights and met up with Kate, Kevin and Ann, friends of mine from high school. Went to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, which was pretty cool. Bought a bunch of rocks as souvenirs. Flew back, Maxwell’s first time on a plane. He did fine — didn’t really realize what was going on, I think.

Also went back to Danville in July for my aunt’s birthday party. The hot-air balloon festival happened to be going on then too, so we went out to the airport to see that. Also went back in November for Thanksgiving, instead of for Christmas, because of the new baby.

Not really an out of town trip, but we did go over to Columbia, Ill. to see the eclipse. I really enjoyed it. Not sure how to put it into words.

Went on a couple other work trips.

Home improvement

Got some work done around the house: Took a tree down in the backyard that was pushing the fence into the neighbor’s yard and got the one in front pruned. Also cleared out much of the invasive honeysuckle bush along the back fence, hoping to plant a hedge there in the spring. My friend Katheryn offered us a swingset that her kids had outgrown, so Pam’s parents and we went over there to break it down. Put it up in our backyard a couple weeks later when my parents came to visit, so my dad could help. Finally got the deck on the back of the house replaced. Also working on getting the upstairs in shape to move some of the kids’ toys up there and make a little more room for us down here.

Hobbies

Played board games with friends a few times, and learned some new ones: Good Cop, Bad Cop; Arboretum (both played with Barb and Jim); Tiny Epic Galaxies (which I got for Christmas); Lost Cities (which Pam got for Christmas); Tournament at Camelot (bought for a game night with Barb and Jim). Also built a couple Kallax shelves from IKEA to hold our games and books and such to replace some decade-or-more old shelves we had in the dining room.

Didn’t golf at all. Pamela did a bit, but I don’t think I got my clubs out once, even to go to the driving range. I did take up woodcarving for a couple weeks. When I was clearing out the yard I got a branch that I thought might make a good walking stick, and rather than leave the bark on as I did last time, I stripped it. I then got it in my head that it might be nice to carve a design into it. I picked up a basic set of chisels and a hunk of basswood (which I later found out is also Linden, which is coincidentally one of the trees I have) to practice with. Didn’t really get anywhere with it (I have block of wood with something roughly approximating a leaf in low relief on top), but I still have the walking stick branch in the basement so maybe next year.

Kept on singing with Greenleaf. I handled our contract for the Renaissance Faire, which went okay. They insisted on five weekends, which was a bit overwhelming for our group. We took on a couple extra singers just for faire which helped immensely. We also finally nailed things down for a recording and did that in September. Got to sing at Eliot after missing it last year for Pete’s wedding. Also did our concert at Prince of Peace, did the St. Charles Christmas Traditions parade again and sang at the Daniel Boone House in an old chapel lit entirely by candlelight.

Got a new iPad (the 9.7″ iPad pro), and upgraded my phone from a 6 Plus to an 8 Plus. Also backed a Kickstarter by Loog and got a cherry red 3-string electric guitar. Kid likes it too. Got a macro lens for my camera for Christmas and I’m having a great deal of fun with it so far.

Arts

Read fewer books than I should. Borrowed Raven Rock after hearing an NPR interview with the author. It’s about Cold War preparations in the U.S. for nuclear war. Quite thorough, and interesting. I enjoyed it. I also read Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections and liked it.

I got to see Chris Thile when he came to the radio station to play a show. I met him before he played and told him how much I enjoyed his hosting of The Show Formerly Known as A Prairie Home Companion (it wasn’t “Live From Here” yet) as well as his collaboration with Brad Mehldau, which I’d been listening to a lot of. I’ve mostly just kept up with podcasts — Merlin’s (Back to Work, Reconcilable Differences, and I started listening to Do By Friday), Marco’s (ATP and Under the Radar) and Pete’s (How to Be Awesome at Your Job) as well as some others (99% Invisible, Broadway Backstory, Mortified, The Moth, The Omni Show, etc.). Also S-Town.

In live theater, there wasn’t much. Pamela and I saw The Moth on stage at The Sheldon when our station brought them in, and then I saw my friend Ann in New Line’s The Sweet Smell of Success. That’s about it, really — I need to see more shows.

Food/Booze

Most notably, I got to try some Pappy Van Winkle 12-year at the Royale in January. Pam had taken Maxwell up north to visit her grandparents, leaving me behind. There was a big ice storm here. Steven Smith posted a photo of the bottle on Twitter, saying “A good reason to leave the house. It won’t last long.” I was there in 10 minutes.

In other booze news, I nabbed some 2017 Urban Chestnut Wolpertinger and the 2017 release of the Bourbon County Brand Stout.

I had several notable meals. Anew, an event space near my job, had several “test kitchen/popup” things this year. I went to one in March put on by The Social Affair with some delicious biscuits and gravy. Then there was one in December by Café Osage, where I had a pork schnitzel sandwich on challah bread. Both delicious. And a new place opened up down the street from work, inside KDHX: Squatters Café. I’ve only been twice, but each time has been great.

Work

Did some stuff at work. Lots of staff turnover. A couple trips. Lots of stuff to look forward to.

Projects

Probably the biggest project I worked on was our Millennium Mayor project. It was a limited-run podcast focusing on a handful of days in the tenure of Mayor Slay, at the end of his run. I made a stand-alone website for it, and it turned out not too bad, I think (mostly because of the content, not my work, but still).

Also put together a one-page mayoral candidates guide for the primary race that I particularly liked how it came together.

Did a thing where we graded Missouri legislators. It was…okay. I like the idea, but there’s so much intangible that it would take a lot more human intervention to do well than we allowed for it.

Published our “NFL Tweets” project — an idea by a reporter to ask who St. Louisans were tweeting about in the NFL since the Rams left. It also turned out alright — my largest dataset in a project to date. But that data came with some shortcomings that made it tough to draw conclusions from.

Also did election graphics (of course), census graphics, a timeline of the East Saint Louis riots and a quiz to help figure out if you have the right ID to vote.

Trips

Kicked off the year with a trip to Jacksonville, Florida for NICAR 2017. Good times. The hotel was a bit less conducive to hanging out than in prior years, but overall it was great. It’s always nice to be able to hang out with the folks I usually only ever see online. I also remember the river was just outside half of the conference rooms, so you could see the boats going by.

In May/June I got to go on the aforementioned trip to D.C. for the Education Writers Association conference because We Live Here’s stories on racial disparities in suspensions was nominated for an award, and they asked me to present on it. I got to be on a panel with Nathaniel Lash, who presented on his Pulitzer Prize-winning project Failure Factories.

And in July, I filled in for coworkers at the Missouri Urban Journalism Workshop, a week-long “journalism camp” for high-schoolers at Mizzou. Most of the other instructors had some connection to Mizzou, but not me. Still, I had a good time and it was refreshing to get my head out of the code and get back to basics again. Also I got to meet some friends from KBIA for the first time, so that was nice also.

Drone

Toward the end of 2016, when the FAA was getting ready to enact Part 107 to make commercial drone use easier, I went to a boot camp to learn what I needed to learn to get licensed. I pushed to get one at work, but it never materialized. Until this year.

We got a donation earmarked for the purpose, so I took the Part 107 test (passed with a 95%), and spend the end of the year ordering, then testing the drone as well as putting together all our documentation and procedures about it. I’m presenting on it to the newsroom next week and am looking forward to using it in the coming year.

Other stuff

I got to meet and interview Jer Thorp when he was here installing a project of his called the St. Louis Map Room. It aired, one of a few times I’ve been on the radio. That was fun.

Didn’t bring lunch to work today. Briefly considered getting Jimmy John’s delivered, then decided to walk down to Squatter’s Café instead. Rewarded with this delicious meatloaf sandwich on special.