Wednesday, April 2nd

Food, Apps, and My Journal

I’ve been really busy lately with work stuff, blog stuff, and social stuff. It seems like my schedule starts to get crazy around SX and doesn’t let up for a few months. Here’s an update on what I’ve been doing.

I went to a media event at the much-anticipated La V, and as promised, it was chic and delicious. The light fixtures alone are reason enough to visit. AFBA had their monthly happy hour at the new brick and mortar G’raj Mahal and the bloggers enjoyed bites and sips in the cute outdoor space out back.

I also went to the soft opening of new American Chinese restaurant in South Austin, A-OK Chinese. The staff was nice and I wish them the best of luck, but I’ll continue driving to North Austin for my Chinese needs. Just wasn’t for me.

A-OK Chinese Dumplings

 A-OK Chinese

Keeping with the American Chinese food theme, the people from P. F. Chang’s sent me a gift card to try out their new menu items. But when we ordered, only one item from that menu was available at the location we visited. It was the Shanghai Waldorf Salad and the dressing was incredibly spicy. It was a nice twist on Waldorf Salad, which is one of my favorites. We also had egg rolls, dumplings, Kung Pao Shrimp and Scallops, and Beef a la Sichuan.

P. F. Chang's Shangai Waldorf Salad and Egg Rolls

P. F. Chang's Dumplings

P. F. Chang's Kung Pao Shrimp and Scallops

P. F. Chang's Beef a la Sichuan

In an effort to organize how I…well, organize, I’m trying out the Bullet Journal method. I normally have three to five notebooks lying around with notes and lists pertaining to different projects. It’s been great for me to do something new and have a little guidance into capturing it all in the same spot. I like the idea of using this journaling technique to keep a record of what I’ve accomplished on certain dates and get an accurate picture of how much I can really accomplish on any given day.

Bullet Journal

I’ve also been using a couple great apps on my iPhone lately. Headspace is a guided meditation app that I just started. I’m also using Duolingo to learn French. Maybe I’ll be able to communicate better the next time I go to Paris. So far I’m finding the French easier than the meditation. I’m also digging the Animal Face app because tiger heads on human bodies are hilarious. I’m really breaking the rules by putting animal heads on other animal heads.

Animal Face

Another thing I’m trying to learn is accounting and it is way outside my comfort zone. I took an accounting class in college and hated it. Now that I’m trying to do it for real, with real money, MY money…I still hate it. Anyone have any accounting books to recommend?

My latest kitchen adventures are taking the form of veggie bowls. Quinoa topped with a number of good and healthy things like beans, cheese, pepitas and hemp seeds, raw and cooked veggies, sweet potatoes. Pretty much whatever I have on hand.

Veggie Bowl

Ulysses Press sent me a review copy of the 1990′s Coloring Book and I love it. It would make a great gift for those 25 to 35 year olds in your life. You can win one of your own by following Ulysses Press on Facebook or Twitter. Just leave me a comment to let me know you did it and then I’ll draw the winners name on April 15th.

1990s Coloring Book

What’s the cool stuff you’ve been into lately?

Wednesday, March 19th

Exhaustion and Mixed Emotions at SXSW

No matter how much I try to prepare in the weeks leading up to SXSW, it’s always a scramble. Part of it is the nature of the conference and surrounding events; there’s little notice as to what’s really going on. I earnestly RSVP to everything I can in the hopes that I’ll make it into the must-do events, all the while knowing that I’ll never keep up with my overly ambitious schedule. The invites come later and later, so being flexible, yet prepared, is crucial. The day I had planned to really wander around and check out the free events surrounding Interactive, it was cold, rainy, and miserable. Craft Taste and I went to a fun party hosted by Pinterest at La Barbecue. Food and drinks were free and we checked out the Pinnebago and listened to a female punk band. We missed Grumpy Cat, the Game of Thrones exhibit, and countless other things. We walked around, saw some stuff, and went home soaking wet. The day I brought my DSLR to take the really good pictures? A total wash.

Pinnebago

We made it into the first Kimmel taping and saw Seth Rogen and Snoop Dogg. Although we were seated way up high in the balcony, it was a fun experience and I was glad we went. I especially enjoyed Jimmy’s house band Cleto and the Cletones. Even more than the musical guest White Denim.

Jimmy Kimmel in Austin

Later, I won tickets for the opening night of the iTunes Festival. Winning didn’t mean we got to skip the very long line, but once inside the Moody Theater we were afforded a spot close to the stage amongst a crowd equally excited to be there. But no one was as excited to be there as Imagine Dragons, whose energy and and enthusiasm were through the roof.

Imagine Dragons in the Moody Theater for iTunes Festival at SXSW

Imagine Dragons in the Moody Theater for iTunes Festival at SXSW

Imagine Dragons in the Moody Theater for iTunes Festival at SXSW

Coldplay was grown up and polished, putting on a flawless performance under a dazzling light show. No bullshit on stage or in the crowd. It was ideal.

Coldplay in the Moody Theater for iTunes Festival at SXSW

Coldplay in the Moody Theater for iTunes Festival at SXSW

Coldplay in the Moody Theater for iTunes Festival at SXSW

I took advantage of my official SXSW Guest Pass and checked out the marketplace one day. It was clearly the tail end for the vendors, but it’s one of my favorite conference expos and I lingered at the booths with live music and good swag. I’m always amazed at how grand some of the booths are. I especially love checking out the other countries’ offerings.

SXSW Marketplace

Perhaps the coolest event we went to was the Heartbreakers Ball. (It didn’t hurt that we were chauffeured in a stretch limo and given VIP badges.) It was our first time visiting Willie Nelson’s ranch at Luck Texas. The ranch is more of a set for an Old Western with a chapel, a jail, a saloon, and other buildings. I loved that much of the property is used to foster horses. We watched people line up for free tattoos and drinks made with Midnight Moonshine in between the rocking sets. Willie and friends took the stage at the end of the night and despite the late hour and the cold, Willie was fantastic. I don’t know if all that pot-smoking has served as a preservative, but his voice was strong and smooth, unaffected by his many years. It was quite a show.

Willie Nelson's Luck, Texas

Willie Nelson and Friends at SXSW Heartbreakers Banquet

The aftermath of the tragic drunk driving accident that killed three people left a dark cloud over Austin. The city reeled from the news and shed tears for the lives lost and the news gained international attention. There’s no denying that SX is forever changed. We will remember and reflect on this every year. Criticisms arose and people questioned whether the excess of free flowing booze is hurting the intention of the festival. It seemed that the louder criticisms were directed towards the overblown commercialism of the conference and surrounding events. It seems that the sponsors are running the show now and no one is happy about it. In the days following SX, Austin is usually enjoying a tired but happy afterglow. This year we are collectively wincing at all the bad press and trying to figure out how the hell this happened. I predict big changes for next year.

I’m proud to live in Austin. I love that for two weeks every year we become the center of the universe and celebrate artistry and intelligence. South by Southwest celebrates the future and creates history. I hope we are able to strike a better balance in the years to come, retaining the indie spirit on which the festival was built, while letting sponsors be a part of the action in a more authentic way.

What are your thoughts on SXSW 2014?

Thursday, February 13th

Five Places in Austin to Get Stuff Done

This guest post is written by Laura Arnold, blogger at Austinite Tips. Go check out her site for her take on Austin’s best, worst, and weirdest things to see and do! 

Everyone needs to sit down at a computer and get things done occasionally. Yes, you could stay in your house, but you run the risk of being distracted by children, pets, or half-finished home improvement projects. (Building shelves is way harder than it looks on Pinterest, people.)

I’m here to help! These are five of my favorite Austin spots to be productive.

Cenote 

Full disclosure: I don’t drink coffee because I react to caffeine the way most people react to cocaine. Two sips and I’m bouncing around the room yelling ideas for television shows. Not good. (Mad Betty note: I’m devastated for her. Coffee is my life.)

But Cenote is awesome, even without taking the coffee into account. Nice atmosphere, plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, reliable WiFi, and delicious food– including cheese plates from Antonelli’s. They also have happy hour from 3-7 on weekdays, so you can reward yourself for your hard work with a local beer. Yes, please!

Cenote, East Austin, Texas

Allen Park

Have you ever sat down to work, then realized an hour later that you’ve spent the whole time looking at Corgi puppies on BuzzFeed? I feel your pain. Sometimes you have to work somewhere without Internet access.

Luckily, Austin’s got a wealth of parks to choose from. If the weather’s nice, I love working outside in Allen Park. It’s got 12 picnic tables to choose from and no admission fee, so you can bring a picnic and stay all afternoon. You might get menaced by grackles, but that’s pretty much the only distraction.

Allen Park, Austin, Texas

Epoch Coffee – Circa 13

Circa 13 opened in mid-December, and there was a glorious period when it was empty because no one knew about it. Unfortunately, jerks like me keep talking about it, so it gets more crowded every week. My bad, y’all.

It’s technically Epoch Coffee‘s sister store, and shares the name, but they’re completely different. Circa 13 is like Epoch’s put-together older sibling. It’s less cluttered, has less graffiti, has gender-segregated bathrooms, has less aggressive music, and isn’t open 24 hours. While it lacks the grubby charm of the original, it’s a great place to sit for hours without anyone bothering you.

Circa 13, Austin, Texas

Faulk Central Library

Need complete silence to work? Would the constant chatter of a coffee shop drive you slowly insane? You should check out the Austin Public Library nearest you– they’re a great option for people who need quiet.

Faulk is the main branch of our library system, and as such it’s the biggest and is open every day of the week. After you’re done working you can treat yourself by checking out something from their surprisingly decent movie collection. (If you haven’t sensed a theme here, I need rewards to get myself to do basic adult tasks. Like paying bills.)

Faulk Central Library, Austin, Texas

Strange Brew

As Austin gets increasingly richer, flashier, and more homogenized, it’s nice to have places that keep the old vibe alive. Strange Brew does exactly that. It’s unpretentious, relaxed, and a favorite of aging hippies. Proof: Strange Brew is one of the few places in Austin that serves hemp milk. I didn’t even know hemp milk was a thing.

But even if you’re not a white dude with dreadlocks and a Legalize It tee-shirt, you should give Strange Brew a try. The baristas are friendly and I’ve really liked everything I’ve ever eaten there. If you’re there in the morning, spend $3.50 on one of their giant breakfast tacos. You won’t regret it.

Strange Brew, Austin, Texas

Laura Arnold lives in Central Austin and works for a local tech company. She spends her free time eating an unhealthy amount of queso, buying Groupons and instantly regretting them, and reviewing Austin activities for her blog Austinite Tips.

Mad Betty note: Go check out these places in Austin to get stuff done. Go get some stuff done, you lazy bums! But first, make sure to visit her blog for other tips and to read more of her insightful and fun writing. Thanks to Laura for the fantastic guest post. Isn’t she so cute, you guys?

Laura Arnorld, Austinite Tips

Monday, January 13th

Ramblings

typewriter

This post on this day would normally be reserved for a Downton Abbey recap, but since I’ve decided to drop the show from my recaps, I’m free to talk about whatever I want. I didn’t even watch Downton yet, because I devoted my TV time to the Golden Globes. Did you guys watch the Golden Globes? Tina Fey and Amy Poehler knocked it out of the park again.

What else is new? Today’s my birthday. I’m spending it by waking up and going to work, just like every other day. Resenting Monday. (I love the years where my birthday falls on Friday the 13th.) Tonight we’ll grab dinner somewhere and eat chocolate cake.

Lately I’ve been working out a lot and going out/blogging less. I found myself having to pay a year’s worth of gym membership at once and it was a good motivator to start using it again regularly. I’ve also been attending barre classes with my friend and…that shit is hell. Really, really hard. A fantastic bastard of a workout. I’m enjoying/hating it and will continue to buy more when they run special prices on classes.

I’m not sure how my blogging frequency is going to shake out. I recently starting working a new job and it requires more writing than I’ve ever done before. The demands of writing pieces for several clients a day can be intense. I really have to focus and I’m still getting comfortable with a new tone and writing for a different media. When I get home, I’m finding it hard to motivate to write more. My personal writing feels like more of a burden, although I believe this is an issue of timing and balance. After work may not be the time for me to write anymore, so maybe I need to get up early on Sundays to get it done. I’m not sure yet, but I’ll figure it out in time. After all, a writer writes and I don’t want fear of volume to be a limitation. Just like at the gym, I need to increase my stamina.

But look for my blog to change as my life and priorities do. Hopefully you’ll all stick with me and maybe less frequent but more personal posts resonate with you.

What have you been up to lately? Anything new going on in your lives, readers?

Thursday, November 28th

Happy Thanksgiving!

Kramer as a turkey on Seinfeld

Hey, buddy. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, October 9th

#ATXPhotoCamp

A big, big thank you to everyone who planned, attended, taught, and supported Photography Camp. It was a pretty fantastic day.

Chameleon Cold Brew

Pamela Jane's New England Lobster Rolls

Dinner Lab

Dinner Lab

Dinner Lab

Photography Camp

If you didn’t make it, we’ll see you next year!

Wednesday, October 2nd

Guest Post: Nick Bachan and his Vacation Anxiety

Today’s post is from Nick Bachan, Austin’s premier young writer, cartoonist, and podcaster! He’s one of my favorite people on Twitter and he’s racking up a serious amount of interviews on his show Nick vs. the Podcast. At only 24, Nick’s got all the wisdom and self-awareness of a seasoned 25-year-old. I hope you enjoy his work as much as I do. -Mad Betty
Cartoon of boy with his parents

I think I’ve done it. I think I’ve finally become a successful adult. I sit at a desk for the majority of my week, I complain about traffic to cashiers at the grocery store, and I check my mail as regularly as possible.

Recently, to reward myself for my tremendous achievements, I let my parents take me on an amazing trip to Aruba. I even let them pay for everything. What can I say? I guess I’m just a wonderful and completely dependent son.

Vacation or no vacation, I’m prone to anxiety. Several alarming thoughts found their way to the forefront of my mind while I was sitting on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Apparently, my version of having a clear head is just having extra room for my deepest, darkest fears to come out of hiding.

Cartoon boy under a palm tree

Here are a few things that concern me regarding my personal development over the next 5-70 years:

  • I look forward to doing laundry at my parents’ house
  • I stress out when my employers offer me “benefits,” “promotions,” and “money”
  • I eat most of my meals standing up, in my kitchen, over the course of 3-5 minutes
  • I ask if I’m on dates while I’m on dates. Also, are those dates?
  • I confess personal details about my life to strangers via other people’s blogs

I know I’m not the first person to wonder where my life is headed at 24, but it is a disturbing reality that I couldn’t ever stop worrying about my future even when everything about that pristine, tranquil beach setting was aggressively screaming “Relax!”

Upon discovering my age, people immediately tell me that these are the best years of my life. That’s a lot of pressure, especially when all I’m going to remember about this time in my life are everyone’s real-time opinions of Breaking Bad and how I spent a week trying to figure out iOS 7. How do people let go, live in the moment, seize days, etc.? Is it drugs?

I suppose there’s a bulleted list of things to be concerned about at any age, so I’ll keep that in mind when I can afford a second trip to Aruba in a distant, post-apocalyptic future. I’ll do it right next time! Until then, I’ll see how long my parents will put up with my financial instability while I’m living the best years of my life.

Sunday, September 29th

Off the Grid

Going off the grid! After an entirely too busy few months, I’m taking a week off. From work, from social media, from the internet, from TV. A week of snorkeling and beach time in Playa Del Carmen is the escape and reset I need. I’m bringing some crappy paperbacks for entertainment, but otherwise I’m just going to enjoy my surroundings and take some time to breathe.

Sandos Playacar, Playa Del Carmen

No laptop, no iPad, no phones. See you all next week, friends.

Wednesday, September 11th

Accepting Your Flaws, a Lesson in Humility

We all have flaws. I definitely have more than most of you. I am damaged goods, yo, and I carry my baggage around on my shoulders at all times. I’m not going to get into how I’m overly critical and can’t relax and grind my teeth and have zero patience. Those are separate posts. Or a separate blog.

Flaws

My main struggle lately is the complete lack of balance in my life. I work pretty much around the clock. I work at work. I work after work. I work on the weekends. I have fitful sleep because I’m worried about the work I have to do, the work I haven’t done and all the things I just know I’m forgetting. I feel guilty when I’m not maximizing every second. I’m completely neurotic.

It’s not just for my regular job. I don’t want to give the impression that I work at a sweat shop. I absolutely do not. I have a million other projects going all the time. One-offs that I promise to do because they seem easy but are always, without fail, more complex and time-consuming than originally intended. One-offs that I’m always on the verge of finishing before my schedule is freed up. One-offs that finally end but are replaced by three more.

Hard work is not enough to survive

The truth is, I’m terrible about saying no. I like to be involved. I like to work on things. I don’t want to miss any opportunity to do something cool, make a little money, make new friends, etc. The lure that these extra projects will “lead to something more” is normally what hooks me. But the truth is, I don’t need that something more. Unless that something more is money, in which case I do need it.

Recently I kind of had a meltdown and had to unload some responsibilities. When I sat down and prioritized some things in my life, I had to take a look at what was worthwhile to me and figure out what my schedule could handle. It was sad to realize that much of what I’d been doing has been a time-suck and offered little satisfaction or reward. It was heart-wrenching to let go of some responsibilities that I valued so highly. Even more heart-wrenching was that no one seemed to care. Ouch. I have turned in to a workhorse and developed a workhorse personality to match. Utility over friendly. Business over pleasantries. Results over joy. When did I turn into this person?! 

Workhorse

My intense drive and the constant push, push, push do not necessarily mesh well with everyone. I get shit done, but I’m not always winning people over in the process. I’ve had issues with this since moving to Austin because the East Coast work ethic doesn’t always translate. My fellow eastern brethren who have moved away often talk about this, so I know I’m not unique in this phenomenon.

Anyway, I’m attempting to restore some balance and find some happiness. I’m proud of how hard I work, but that doesn’t mean it makes me very happy. In fact, the process makes me very unhappy. I cannot recall the last time I was available to attend a party or read a book or jump in the pool. My workaholic tendencies haven’t brought me a better lifestyle. So I’m taking the steps to make improvements to my schedule, my relationships, and yes, all my flaws.

Elephant balancing on beach ball

So there it is, world. I’m kind of sucky right now.

Thursday, August 8th

On Blogging

Blogging

Today marks two years since Mad Betty started. This is also my 400th post, so I look at it as a double milestone. I’ve learned a lot in these two years and I’ll share a little with you.

Blogging Ain’t Easy

It might seem all cool and fun, but keeping up with a blog is a lot of work. There is so much to know. To learn. To figure out. Trends and technology change all the time and it’s work to keep up. It’s work to promote it. For the love of Pete, it’s work to write all the time. Which brings me to my next point—

Bloggers Need to Write

Content is the essence of a blog. Sure, there’s SEO and promotion and social media. There are plenty of ways to get people to your blog. But if there’s nothing good there…what’s the point? What are you putting out there? Does anyone really want to see another “Wordless Wednesday” post? (More like Worthless Wednesday.) I consider it an honor to have you on my site, reading my words. So I attempt to put something up that’s worth reading, and to regularly put up fresh content.

Do I feel like writing all the time? No. Hell no. I write for a living. I freelance write, too. On top of that, I’m constantly sending email or texting or some other form of writing. If anyone gets tired of writing, it’s me. Sometimes I don’t feel like blogging. But then I’m always glad that I do. It’s comparable to working out, I guess. Writing makes you smarter. I might not be putting the most intellectual thoughts out on the web, but I hope that I’m not making any of you actively stupider by reading Mad Betty. I hope you are entertained for a few minutes every few days. And I hope that occasionally I make you think.

People ask, do you ever run out of stuff to write about? The answer to that is no. At any given time, I have a list of 40-60 things I want to write about. If I don’t get to something quickly enough, it drops off my list. There’s simply not enough time to discuss the pop culture things I love (or hate) or all the great (or bad) things happening in Austin.

Focus on What’s Important

My somewhat prolific, short style of blogging isn’t the only way of doing it. I really enjoy reading long-form, deep posts that others do. Ones that may take weeks to write, and then when they are complete, they are masterpieces. I write with a short attention span and I imagine my readers have short attention spans. What’s important to me is regularity. Consistency. Freshness. I’m a tough taskmaster on myself and I beat myself up if I only post three times a week.

Over the past year I’ve abandoned any real push to gain new readership. I watched my numbers steadily grow each month until they reached a nice, comfortable plateau. At first I panicked. How can I get more people to Mad Betty? But then I realized that the time and focus I’d have to spend on traffic would take away from the time I need to be working on content. I simply cannot do it all. And so I let that go. I’m at peace with my readership and value each and every one of you.

Thanks for a great first two years. I look forward to growing, getting better, and putting more words on this little tiny corner of the web. Thanks for reading.