2018 in review

The biggest change in the new year of course is the birth of my second child. I also applied for and was chosen to teach a data journalism class at SIU-Carbondale beginning in the Spring. Other than that, I don’t know. After reviewing the year, I mostly just feel exhausted.

Personally

The aforementioned child was born by the time February was here, so we spent most of the year adjusting to raising two kids instead of one.

Trips

Took mostly small trips, in town.

In April, we visited the St. Louis Science Center during an exhibit featuring the command module Columbia from the Apollo 11 mission. It was a surprisingly moving experience to be in the presence of it.

Also went to a Cardinals game with my Dad in April, to the Zoo in May, the Transportation Museum in June, a Cardinals game in June, Grant’s Farm and the Arch in August, the Arch again in September, and the Garden Glow at the Botanical Garden in December.

A couple larger trips my family took were to take the new baby to visit my family in May, another trip back there in Christmas and a trip to Carbondale, Ill. to fill out some paperwork for the job, when we also took in a football game and spent a day at Giant City State Park.

In June I also stopped by Chicago for a day on my way home from a work conference and got to hang out with a friend and his family.

Home Improvement

Didn’t do much to our house this year, unfortunately. Did clean out the back fence line again this fall, and dug out an old lava-rock-lined flower bed on the north side of the lot. Also bought a new battery-powered lawnmower and weed trimmer, which are working out well.

Hobbies

The singing with Greenleaf continues, beginning with a concert in January, as well as singing a bit at one of our member’s weddings. We also performed at the Renaissance Faire in Wentzville for three weekends, the concert at Eliot and our own concert in December. We finally sold tickets online for the first time for our own concert and that seemed to work well.

In February, I made a weather status indicator out of a Raspberry Pi and a Blinkt! module. Later in the month, I used a Scroll pHat HD and a Pi to animate a customizeable rainstorm. Inspired by the movie ‘Desk Set’ and its 1950s computer mainframe prop, I also coded up a version of that.

I think I played exactly one round of golf this year, at the Prairies in Cahokia.

In May, Pam and I went to “Geekway to the West”, a board game convention in St. Charles. They have a game library with all different kinds, vendors and publishers running demos, and lots of door prizes. Between Thursday and Sunday, I played 22 games. It was a lot of fun — we plan on going back again this year.

In August, I managed to finally use some scrap leather I bought at the Renaissance Faire the previous year to make a lcase for my AirPods. Turned out pretty good, and it was fun making it, although I haven’t done anything else with it.

In August, I also went bowling for the first time in a half-decade.

In September, I somehow got it in my head to go thrift store hunting. The first time out went pretty well, yielding a Gitman Bros. blue oxford shirt, a Land’s End pink OCBD, a Brooks Bros. broadcloth shirt and some Banana Republic Traveler Jeans. Around the same time I also nabbed a deal on a pair of new Levi’s for $13. Later in the year I got a couple new Jos. A. Bank corduroy jackets for $20 each, so I was feeling pretty well dressed by the end of the year.

In October, Pam and I went to a board game cafe, Pieces. It was a good time. We played Jaipur, Hive, Medieval Academy and Potion Explosion.

I keep on taking pictures. I bought a used Rokinon 85mm f1.4 lens, which I really enjoy using. Also got a 12mm f2 for Christmas this year, so I’ll be trying that out more too.

Arts

A NYT article in early January led me to ‘Force Majeure’ a weird, dark movie about relationships in a Swedish family on a ski trip. It was good, and one of those splinter-in-your-brain-type movies. It was a 2014 movie, so nothing new, but new to me.

While in Chicago for a work trip, I got to multitask and go to a Mac Power Users meetup and meet David Sparks, Katie Floyd, and Kourosh Dini, among many other fans of the show. It was a good time.

I watched ‘Jesus Christ Superstar Live’ on NBC on Easter Sunday. It was quite good.

Also in April, I was lucky enough to win the lottery to see Hamilton at the Fox. Pam and I went, and it exceeded expectations. Just incredible.

In August, I got to go see a couple friends performing in R-S Theatrics’ Light in the Piazza, which was delightful. I wasn’t familiar with the show or the soundtrack, and it was quite good.

In October, the “Rushmore of Nerdcore” tour came to the Firebird, with Schaffer the Darklord, Mega Ran, MC Lars and MC Frontalot. I heard MC Frontalot on his last trip through St. Louis, and I’m glad I went again.

I saw the Coen Bros’. Ballad of Buster Scruggs when it came out on Netflix. Not without its issues, but beautifully shot, and thought-provoking.

Finally, in December I happened to catch that TCM was playing White Christmas in a few theaters on a couple nights, so Pam and I went to see that. She really enjoys the movie, and it was nice to see it in a theater.

Food/Booze

My first restaurant meal in 2018, according to my Twitter, was a Courtesy Diner Slinger, so it was pretty much all downhill from there.

I also made it to Squatters Cafe several more times before it closed toward the end of the year. The chef is opening a new restaurant nearby, so I’m looking forward to that.

On the aforementioned Chicago work trip, I went to Portillo’s for the first time. I also went to Eataly, which was a couple blocks down from the hotel and Shake Shack a couple times, which was right across the street.

In September I got to take a VIP tour of the Schlafly Brewhouse downtown. It was interesting to see behind the scenes and in the basement, as well as taste some in-production stuff.

I made Krupnik again, and it turned out great. I took some to one of the Greenleaf cast parties and it seemed to be a hit.

I made some chili for our work chili cookoff in November. It did not win, but I thought it was pretty good. Got to make chili powder from scratch, too.

On Black Friday I managed to nab some bottles of 2018 Bourbon County Barrel Stout at Schnucks, so now I have bottles going back to 2015. Due to accidentally getting some extra 2017, I also cracked open a bottle of that, and it’s delicious, as expected.

Work

Got a new boss, got a new (side) job. Flew the drone a bunch, did a bunch of projects.

New Job

I saw an opening posted for a temporary part-time person to teach a data journalism class at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where I earned my degree from. It sounded like a good fit, so I applied, and I got it. I’ve been preparing for it ever since, and the first class is in two weeks. I’ll be commuting down there one day a week. So we’ll see how that goes. I’m excited.

Projects

Worked on lots of projects this year: A 10-year look back at the Great Recession, a major project on the 25th anniversary of the Flood of 93, a neat little graphic tracing the path of a baseball at Busch Stadium, our election night graphics, a investigative piece on Northside Regeneration, and a year-end Best of 2018 project.

And those are mostly just the larger projects, let alone the analyses, maps and daily graphics, tools, etc.

Trips

In March, NICAR was in Chicago. It was good, and more of the same. I helped lead a session on “Learn From My Fail.”

In June, I also got a spot at SRCCON in Minneapolis. A bit higher-level/more conceptual than NICAR is (also smaller), it was great to be able to take a step back for a few days and focus a bit wider than usual.

Drone

We finally got the drone and all the approvals and everything we needed to fly this year, so I got to take it out several times. I flew mostly in St. Louis, taking pictures of the new NGA site, the former Pruitt-Igoe site and St. Louis’ water towers. I also flew at a house that was flooded in 1993, though you couldn’t see the river from the house using the drone. I got it out over the Mississippi River to take some photos and video of the Merchants Bridge. And I took it out after a snowfall in December and got some footage and photos of the Mississippi River from the Illinois side just south of Chain of Rocks Bridge.

I was also on our radio talkshow in May to talk about the drone and how we’d use it, and again in July, this time live, to talk about Temporary Flight Restrictions in place around the President’s visit.

Games I played at Geekway to the West:

Thursday
Atlantis rising
Rising sun

Friday
El Dorado
Azul
Hardback
Sagrada
Cottage Garden
Rising Sun
Whistle Stop

Saturday
Sentient
Photosynthesis
Indian Summer
The Networks
Palace of Mad King Ludwig
Topiary
The Thing: Infection at outpost 13
Jaipur
Bottom of the Ninth
Settlers of Catan: Dice

Sunday
New York Slice
Topiary
Blueprints

Ah, Sunday night: when idealistic motivation and the practical consequences of insufficient sleep are most at odds.

Seeing command module Columbia from the Apollo 11 mission in person was a surprisingly moving experience. It’s at the St. Louis Science Center until the beginning of September.

Just realized a good benchmark for a digital personal assistant (e.g. Siri) would be the ability to answer “will my garbage be picked up tomorrow?” (assuming it knows where I live). To its credit, Siri gave me the link to the holiday pickup schedule.

“The readers of the Manhattan Argus aren’t interested in sensationalism, gossip and unsupported speculation! Facts, figures charts — those are the tools of the newspaper trade!” RIP John Mahoney