Saturday, October 21st

Augmented Reality for the Masses

The buzz about augmented reality continues to grow and isn’t showing any sign of stopping. In fact, as tech giants introduce the fusion of digital and the real work to mass markets, users embrace the unfamiliar with open arms. In the case of augmented reality (AR), it seems to be coming easier than virtual reality. There are a couple reasons for this. The layered nature of AR—digital enhancements that augment a real backdrop—might feel more comfortable to new users. And it’s available on tools we already own: smartphones and tablets. Simply taking a headset out of the equation removes a barrier to usage that VR still struggles with today.

Pokémon Go is the most ubiquitous adoption of AR so far, breaking usage and revenue records within a week of launching. The game sent players out into the real world to catch Pokémon characters and gather spoils in a scavenger hunt-like mission. Images were digitally overlaid into parks, neighborhoods, famous landmarks, and even the ocean, to encourage players to immerse themselves not only into the game, but into the real world. The blend of screen time and outdoors was a smashing success; it brought people outside again! For some, it gave renewed hope to a future that might potentially enable technology to isolate people.

Pokemon Go

With that hope firmly in place, Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore are about to cement augmented reality more securely into the zeitgeist. The mass market launch brings free development tools into the hands of more than 100 million users. Anyone with an iPhone 6 and up, Google Pixel, Samsung S8, or Android N on up will be supported at the end of the year. Users will be able to explore and create marker-free immersive experiences, meaning that using QR codes to shore up images will become a thing of the past. This new marker-free era of augmented reality tracks the environment around you using the camera and accelerometer and gyroscope to provide an accurate sense of space and even objects.

Plane detection gauges the geometry of the ground beneath you, as well as tables, chairs, and any flat surfaces. This promotes incredible realism because it enables accurate shadow casting; the user is treated to a previously-unseen sense of depth, elevating the experience and comfort level. But geometry isn’t the only high school throwback that makes plane detection and visualization cool. You’ve got physics, too. Dropping cubes on a table, knocking objects off the edge, bouncing balls. These have limitless potential for realism and physical interaction.

Another important feature is light estimation. It evaluates the amount of real-world light in the environment, which creators can use to render the virtual content more realistically. Shifts in the light are reflected in virtual objects, so a figure in the sunset will darken appropriately. Subtle visual improvements like these stack up to an immensely upgraded experience.

The last major feature worth mentioning in both ARKit and ARCore is hit-testing, which estimates how far something is, and returns accurate distance measurements. This helps with depth perception and placement of objects within planes.

So what are the limitations of ARKit and ARCore? For one thing, neither platform can track arbitrary objects or hand gestures. All interaction must be screen-based, although other platforms like Microsoft HoloLens does support hand gestures.

Also, virtual content cannot be hidden behind real world objects. So if you created a figure and someone stepped in front of it, the figure would reappear in front. This ruins the illusion of realness and pulls the user out of the experience. However, this does not hold true with planes. If your virtual object falls of a plane, it will remain hidden since the plane is a detected entity.

So how will augmented reality will change the way we live?

Augmented Reality E-commerce. AR is an affordable way to try things on for size, things that previously might not have been accessible. Like checking to see if a new car will fit in a garage. Or seeing how new furniture looks in a room. IKEA—long an embracer of emerging tech—has partnered with Apple and used the new technology to beta test IKEA Place, a VR app that superimposes furniture into a room and then connects users directly to the online store. This has the potential to revolutionize how we shop for furniture by taking the guesswork out of the process. You still have to build the furniture yourself though. Houzz also has an AR mode to their app, an upgrade to the 2D “View My Room” feature they currently have.

3D Sculpting and Painting. Creating virtual art is infinitely more satisfying as an immersive experience. Textures and colors come to life with 3D perspective and the ability to access objects on all sides.

More Engaged Learning. Immersive learning is proving to be an effective method for understand and retention. Museums are starting to incorporate deeper dives into content through educational AR experiences. Those who access the additional information gain more than those who do not, which is a compelling reason for educators to utilize the mobile functionality when they can.

Augmented Reality for Immersive Learning

Entertainment. The most obvious application of augmented reality is to enjoy for the sheer pleasure of it. Gaming, virtual pets, and the ability to create characters with limitless possibilities means mean that there is so much fun on the horizon. Already, early experiments with ARKit and ARCore are as creative and diverse as the users.

Guidance. Developers are already working on creating directional instruction that users can call on to help find people or things. One day you’ll be able to locate your friends in a crowd and access step-by-step instructions on how to get there. That same support might also be able to help you find a specific grocery in a store.

I wrote this article for Mutual Mobile, where it first ran on their blog here.

Wednesday, March 29th

March Badness

This post is part of my ongoing relationship with Netflix as a Stream Team partner.

Bathtime

Hey, guys. It’s the last week of March and then 2017 is 25% complete. Yes, life is flashing before our eyes. What are you doing even reading this? Live, damnit, LIVE! Go!

We’ve been so busy that I don’t know how I keep up with everything. You know those crazy weeks that are packed with random appointments, meetings, and events, that seem to happen on top of each other and then something breaks and you have to navigate all of it on top of your already busy job/home/family. That’s every single week for us.

Chris went to Tampa for a few days for work and Violet and I had some quality alone time. We played, snuggled, had a pizza date, and went to bed early. She loves her crib and happily burrows under her covers at night, grateful for the sleep after a long day. Same as me.

I had a SXSW Interactive badge and dabbled in the learning, networking, and random cool shit, burning out before Music this year. I had a fender bender with some construction debris lying in the middle of the road in the dark, stranding me without my car for about a week. And our refrigerator exhaled its final breath that week, too, leaving us desperately trying to salvage what we could in coolers for a couple days. But Violet and Chris bought a new fridge and celebrated with Pinkberry. All’s well that ends well.

Fridge shopping

Pinkberry

I’ve been working nonstop for what feels like months. In addition to working a full time contract job, I have almost as many hours of much freelance work to do. Essentially I am working two full time jobs with none of the perks or vacation time. Working for yourself is a tough gig because you never know when you might run out of work. I’ve certainly known lean times, so I almost always say yes to new projects, even if my docket is full. I work all day and come home and work more. I love what I do but just wish I had more hours in the day.

Anyway, I still manage to find time to decompress with some Netflix. I was so happy that Love returned for a second season! I met Paul Rust around this time last year and told him how much I love the show. The second season differed from the first in that it felt like a series of relationship moments and the season didn’t push forward toward a big conclusion. For 12 episodes it meandered and where we ended felt less important that how Gus and Mickey were evolving together. Both characters came more into who they are and Gus especially became more multifaceted. But I think my favorite character might be Berdie. More Berdie in Season 3!

Love, Season 2 on Netflix

Berdie on Love

I had some friends feel differently, but I really enjoyed Santa Clarita Diet. It has a campy and theatrical quality reminiscent of Desperate Housewives and some recognizable desperate faces, too. Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant are great together and I especially love him doing comedy. Creator Victor Fresco did another show I really liked, Better Off Ted. 

drew-barrymore-timothy-olyphant-santa-clarita-diet

It’s been years since I’ve seen Superbad, so revisiting it last month was fun. I’d forgotten so much of it, so it was like new to me. I’m a fan of the one-crazy-night genre and this one totally holds up.

Superbad

The low point of my streaming month had to be Amy Schumer: The Leather Special. I like Amy Schumer, but this was sloppy and lazy, relying on raunch with very little cleverness. She’s too smart for that. And so am I.

Amy Schumer: The Leather Special

Next month Netflix will transition from the 5-star rating system to thumbs-up/thumbs-down. Not sure what I think about that, but I trust they know what they’re doing.

What have you been watching? What should I add to my list?

Monday, January 2nd

The End of the World As We Know It, or Happy 2017.

Middle finger

This post is part of my ongoing relationship with Netflix as a Stream Team partner.

A new year is always a time of hope, starting fresh, rebirth. Even though the changing of a date doesn’t really change everything, it’s nice that so many of us are on board with these traditions. I always look forward to a new year, but this time I feel robbed of my enthusiasm.

As 2016 progressed and gained a reputation for being cursed, particularly with a tidal wave of beloved celebrities passing, there seemed to be a consensus that we’d be better off when the year ended. Except that we won’t be. Not in the United States at least, where we’ve willingly elected a racist, stupid, narcissistic piece of shit to be our next president. I admit that I never even entertained the notion that this was an actual possibility so I was stunned when the unthinkable happened. A tried and true Hillary Clinton fan, I thought Trump was her ideal opponent. Because who would vote for such a joke of a human? And yet, here we are.

I’m depressed not just for our future and that we are going to regress 50 years in a short amount of time, but that humanity itself seems to be going backward. We’re getting stupider, less empathetic, more divided. I’m scared and sad and I feel powerless. My coping mechanism is to bury my head in the sand and stop paying attention to the news. It’s the opposite of what I should be doing. I hope to turn it around and do my part to keep our country from slipping into the darkest regions of hell. But I’m not ready just yet.

I can’t let myself be too depressed when this is my daily reality:

Shower

I have the best family life. My little family at home and all my family in New Jersey and elsewhere…it’s all great. I’m extremely lucky and I know how good I have it. I want to protect it. I want Violet’s generation to grow up in a good world. I want my own generation to thrive. I want my parents generation to have their best years ahead of them, and not have everything they worked for go up in flames. So…yeah. 2017 scares me.

Hope Outdoor Gallery, Austin Texas

Airplane snuggles

Glasses

Family

Aside from letting a mad man destroy the world, there are some things to look forward to in 2017. I turn the big four-oh in less than two weeks. And this year we finally get the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie. (And a bunch of other cool pop culture stuff.) In August we’ll be captivated by the Great American Eclipse. So, it won’t be a total wash.


There are some Netflix shows to look forward to as well.

I am really excited for the second seasons of Love and Master of None. After meeting Paul Rust at a party at SXSW, I’m especially invested in Love. 

Love on Netflix

Master of None

Season 4 of Orange is the New Black gutted me so I’m eagerly anticipating the next season this summer. And of course, my beloved BoJack Horseman which is one of my favorite shows of all time.

Orange is the New Black

BoJack Horseman

This post feels incomplete if I don’t address the losses of 2016. I felt notably heartsick over Sharon Jones, who I’ve loved for a long time. I saw Miss Sharon Jones! when the Austin Film Society ran it and I felt even closer to her. She was my favorite live performer. I can’t believe that era is over.

I shed tears over David Bowie. And the news about George Michael hasn’t quite sunk in. I listened to him for my entire adult life and about half of my childhood. Wham’s Freedom was on my very first mixtape (that I made myself on a cassette, holding my boombox up to record MTV.) Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 was among my first CDs when I only had a few. I listened to it thousands and thousands of times and I still consider it to be a masterpiece. I chose Kissing a Fool as the song for my wedding party to dance to at my reception. I’d always hoped he’d find his way out of the darkness and make more music. What a shame.

Garry Shandling was also someone I loved and I’ll continue my tradition of watching The Larry Sanders Show annually. Talk about genius ahead of his time.

The hardest part of 2016 is something that I will carry with me forever. The deaths of two close friends changed how I feel about life and I’m still working to process them. The circumstances were different, one a suicide and one a baffling accident. I loved both and am unable to shake the sadness I feel about losing them. I find myself crying at random times when I think of either one and the holidays were particularly difficult. I dissolved into tears thinking about their families leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas. I know grief must run a course and eventually I won’t feel it so sharply, but all these months later, it still grips me tightly.

Life is precious. And that’s what I’m carrying into 2017. I hope to make the most of it.

Friday, October 28th

Halloween Things

This post is part of my ongoing relationship with Netflix as a Stream Team partner.

I love this time of year! Halloween is one of my favorite holidays and I’m crazy about costumes, pumpkins, and even candy corn. I’ve thrown many Halloween parties in my day, although it’ll likely be a few years before we’re throwing big grown-up bashes again. For now, we’re enjoying the holiday with our little strawberry and finding the spooky in the everyday.

Little Strawberry


As Netflix continues to add more and more things we want to see, our watch list grows exponentially. Here’s what we’ve watched lately:

Mascots

Mascots on Netflix

I was eagerly awaiting Mascots and it did not disappoint. I love all of Christopher Guest’s mockumentaries and was excited that Zach Woods joined Guest regulars Jane Lynch, Parker Posey, Fred Willard, and Ed Begley, Jr. If I had a dream dinner party, these are the people I would invite. I’ll be watching this one again soon.

Tallulah

Tallulah on Netflix

I put off watching Tallulah because I thought it was going to be really sad. When I finally got around to viewing it I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t quite as heavy as the trailer made it seem. Ellen Page and Allison Janney reunited for the first time since Juno and both are tremendously talented and likable actresses. It’s a deep story that plucks at your sympathies.

No Men Beyond This Point

No Men Beyond This Point

Another mockumentary, No Men Beyond This Point is less enjoyable than Mascots. In fact, it stinks. But the subject matter was interesting enough to get me to watch it. In a world where men are no longer needed to procreate, women take over everything. The dwindling community of men either take to the woods or are employed as mannies. It’s a clever idea executed in the most boring, un-funny way possible.

Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids

Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids

I’m an unabashed Justin Timberlake fan. If you’re like me you’ll be happy to see that they filmed the last show of his most recent tour. I didn’t get to see this tour in person and now I know what I missed.

What have you been watching lately? Here’s a Stream and Scream Guide to help you with your Netflix watching all Halloween weekend.

Netflix Stream and Scream Guide

Wednesday, May 25th

What Suicide Leaves Behind

I don’t normally use my blog as therapy or get too personal here. But something happened in my life that is so intensely painful that I’m having trouble moving on. I’m hoping that the practical process of writing and organizing my thoughts will serve as a means of catharsis.

Angel of Grief

A close friend of mine died last month. It came as a surprise. She was young in years and even younger in spirit. We hadn’t spoken in several months, which was not unusual for us. Our friendship didn’t require constant maintenance or checking in. She shunned social media so our catch-ups happened over email or even better, in person. I would save up stories and photos our mutual friends shared on Facebook and deliver the news, savoring each piece of juicy gossip. She always had news for me, too, and even after marathon sessions of chatting, we never ran out of things to talk about.

If I had known the last time I saw her that it would be the very last time, I would have made every moment count. I would have hugged her tight and said the important things that friends should say to each other: You taught me so much about being kind and selfless, just by being that way yourself. You are worthy and talented and smart. You are supposed to be on this planet a long, long time because you make it a better world.

I didn’t get to say those things and apparently she didn’t know those things. It took several weeks of digging and finding out information in small terrible pieces, each one deepening my grief, lessening my understanding. Eventually it was through the police that I found out my sweet friend took her own life in a horrifically violent, punishing way.

When I was trying to find out answers, suicide was not something I considered. Because she was healthy and happy. She could (and did) run marathons without even training for them. She regularly did yoga and got massages because she believed in treating herself well. She didn’t struggle for money, nor did she care about material things. She volunteered constantly because she enjoyed giving back and didn’t even view it as a sacrifice. She played the violin and never missed a performance of the Austin Symphony, buying season passes and bringing a different friend to each show. She had no enemies, only legions of friends who loved her. Her family was doting and supportive. She loved good food and didn’t smoke or do drugs, and could barely handle a glass of wine. No, she lived life unaltered and wasn’t looking for an escape.

Except that she was.

There was no depression or mental illness, but something was very, very wrong and I missed it. We all missed it.

And now it’s too late. There are no more answers to be had, only questions upon questions. Still, I google her name in vain. I check her obituary online several times a day, hoping that someone new leaves a comment that will provide some answers. Anything. I compulsively look at the one social media account she had—LinkedIn—which I made her get when she was job searching years ago. But there are no answers.

Dock on calm water at dusk

Eventually I’ll have to let this go and learn to live with the questions. I’ll have to stop obsessing over the terrible way she died and try to remember the gentle way she lived. But this loss has left a hole in my heart. I look at Violet and see all the promise and happiness the future holds and it devastates me how much my friend lost. I think of her parents and my body shudders with sobs. It’s a tragedy unlike any other I’ve ever experienced and my sorrow feels bottomless.

So much of Austin reminds me of her. Our regular dinners at Whole Foods downtown where we’d linger at the seafood counter. Of Eeyore’s Picnic. Of a North Austin spa we went to and a restaurant around corner where we sipped wine and ate oysters in a treat yo’self day. The Driskill Hotel, where we met at a Halloween ball and were wearing the same costumes. So many memories.

Death is a dreaded topic on its own, but suicide is so much more complicated. Because mixed in with the grief are confusion, regret, and anger. I feel all of those things. I’m angry that she robbed herself of a future. And that she robbed us of her. And I’m filled with regret that I waited too long to reach out and plan our next dinner. And I’m confused as to why she didn’t think her life was worth living. But through those feelings, it’s the grief that has the tightest grip.

Red Northern Cardinal

I miss you, CJ.

Saturday, February 27th

Nights at Home

This post is part of my relationship with Netflix as a Stream Team partner.

She’s only six months old, but Violet has a more active social life than many adults I know. Chris and I commit to a lot of social events and, so far, it’s been relatively easy to bring Violet to most things. Having a baby hasn’t slowed us down much yet, which is why those rare nights at home are so special.

When we stay at home I cook a simple meal and we’ll play settle in to play with Violet. She’s actively rolling around, playing with toys, and vetoing the food we give her. Those nights are filled with giggles and baby sighs and something fun on Netflix. Sometimes we’ll opt for a movie, other times we’ll watch a few episodes of a series.

Live Oak Brewery, Austin, Texas

Southwest Pediatrics, Austin, Texas

Baby food

Of course, the series everyone is talking about this week is Fuller House. The beloved family show is back after 21 years for a sentimental revisit of the sappy, silly show I loved as a kid. The cast aged well and it’s a great bit of nostalgia to see them back, laugh track and all.


Here are a few things I’ve watched lately:

Luther

Luther starring Idris Elba

Luther is a must-see for anyone who is debating giving in to a full-blown Idris Elba obsession. Just give in. The British cop show is the oft-told tale of a troubled cop who doesn’t play by the rules but it’s SO MUCH MORE! Unlike our American cops shows, this one is disturbing as hell. It’s not a show I can binge watch because it’s so dark, but it’s simply fantastic.

Love

Netflix series Love

Sigh. I really, really loved this show, you guys. Love is a binge-watcher for sure and feels made for that purpose. Each episode picks up right where the last leaves off. It’s a ten-episode tale of two people, a hot mess of a woman and a slightly less messed-up dork. We watch them meet, see them interact with each other and with friends. It’s not exactly the romantic comedy the name implies. A+ to Judd Apatow.

The Tiger and The Monk

I was so enthralled with The Tiger and The Monk that I watched it twice. The 50-minute documentary from 2007 is a glimpse into the idyllic Tiger Temple, where monks and tigers live in harmony together. I was actually coming up with a plan as to how we could make a trip to Thailand to see it in person. But in recent weeks, extremely distressing news has come out about the temple. My heart is broken. Watch it before reading this.

What are you guys watching? What do you do on your nights at home?

Tuesday, December 29th

Why I’m Against the Open-Carry Handgun Law

handgun

This Friday, January 1st 2016, the open carry law takes effect giving licensed gun owners freedom to wear their firearms in plain site. Up until now, the law allowed for concealed firearms, so the argument has been, wouldn’t you rather see who’s walking around with guns? 

Um, no. Not in the slightest. Without turning this into a discussion about political leanings and beliefs, guns don’t make me feel safe. They make me feel scared. And I feel that seeing someone walking around in public with a gun holstered to their body is going to be intimidating to those of us who are unarmed. Without even distinguishing between the good guys and bad guys, the very presence of firearms changes the setting. There are places where I expect to see guns, like when I get off an airplane in Mexico. But when I’m pushing my baby in a stroller around Town Lake, or having coffee with a friend, I’d prefer not to feel scared or intimidated.

And what is the point of open-carrying, if not to intimidate? I’ve seen some feedback from pro-gun folks who think it’s a bad idea because it could make the carrier a target. If the shit is going to go down, isn’t it wise to take out the person with the gun first? What exactly is the benefit to anyone to have firearms out in the open?

I only hope that the state’s almost million registered gun owners choose to keep their firearms hidden, or better yet, locked up at home. But I guess that remains to be seen. I hope that many companies exercise their right to ban open-carrying in their establishments, such as the following businesses have done:

  • Chili’s
  • Chipotle
  • HEB
  • Panera Bread
  • Randall’s
  • Sonic
  • Starbucks
  • Target
  • Whataburger
  • Whole Foods

I’m not trying to change anyone else’s views here or debate the Second Amendment. So if you’ve stumbled on this post and are looking for a fight in the comments section, I’m not interested. You aren’t going to change my mind about what makes me comfortable. But thoughtful discussion is welcome.

And yes, most states have some degree of open-carry laws in effect. For a quick explanation of permission vs. non-permissive states, you can find more information here.

Tuesday, October 27th

The Home Zone

Disclosure: Zaarly reached out to me to help spread the word of their Austin launch and sent me some friendly baby gifts, pictured below. Beyond that, I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own. 

A photo posted by Kristin Sheppard (@madbettyatx) on

As new home owners, Chris and I have recently discovered how unhandy we are. Sure, we can paint, install shelves, and do minor repairs. But when it comes to the big stuff? Or even stuff that seems small but is actually a huge pain in the ass—like installing a ceiling fan—that’s when we need to call in the experts.

And Austin’s got a lot of experts. I mentioned in a previous post that we’d hired help with our renovations and it was a mixed bag. Some of the people were great, some…meh. Normally one might hire this type of help using referrals from friends, but with a labor shortage in Austin, this isn’t always possible. So what do you do?

What I did was search Yelp. And Googled away. And asked on Facebook. And approached strange men in work trucks. In the end, I did find a bunch of guys to do our work in a somewhat timely manner, but it wasn’t the most efficient method I could have used. Nor did I have any guarantee that the work would be completed well or on time. So when I heard about Zaarly, it struck a chord.

The platform makes it easy for users to search for help in three categories: Cleaning, Landscaping, and Handy Services. Each vendor lists their specialties, service areas, and in some cases, prices. In choosing a vendor, the user can ask questions within the platform and will receive a response within three hours. It’s all very convenient.

But for me, what makes the platform really worthwhile is that all vendors are licensed and insured, reference-checked by Zaarly, and they’ll even back you up to $10,000 if something goes wrong. So they do the vetting for you and take away some of the risk. If you’ve never had a bad experience hiring someone, you might not realize how big a deal this is. But trust me, it’s big.

Do you have any projects you need accomplish? If you’d like to try out Zaarly and get help with yard work, HVAC, plumbing, electrical work, flooring, or want someone to give your place a good cleaning, use code MADBETTY to get $25 off your first service.

And since I’m curious, if you’ve ever had a great experience (or horror story) getting help around the house, please share in the comments.

Tuesday, October 6th

Is Blogging Dead?

Don’t you love these clickbait titles that proclaim the death of everything? Is rock and roll dead? Is SXSW so over?! Who killed art?!

RIP

I’m seriously asking though, is blogging really dead? I guess a more accurate question is “Is blogging dying?” Because clearly it’s not dead. There are plenty of blogs. Too many blogs. But does anyone care? Is anyone reading them? Are we all just stroking our own egos by putting our thoughts out there and thinking our opinions matter? What’s the point of a blog anyway?

For some, it’s a place to express themselves. Maybe there’s no other place to comfortably speak the truth and the anonymity of a blog provides a much-needed outlet. For some it’s merely monetary. Sigh. Some use their blogs to curate the image of an ideal lifestyle. (I call these the “pretty” blogs.) Many are passionate subject matter experts and want to contribute. Some just want to keep a record. There are endless motivating factors to start a blog.

My own motivation was that I enjoyed reading blogs. (Blog = Good. Me do blog!) At the time I started this blog I was working a job that left me uninspired and it gave me lots of free hours to learn WordPress. Blogging made me look at my life differently. The notion that everything I did/ate/watched/listened to could become fodder to write about was exciting. Rather than a place to hide, it opened up my life, encouraging me to see more, do more, take pictures, remember details. Abuse commas.

Like all lives, mine has changed plenty over the last several years. I have less time to focus on my blog and less of a need for a creative outlet. I’m busy. I write and I get paid for it. So why keep Mad Betty going?

One reason is that I’m in the Austin Food Blogger Alliance and there’s a minimum quota to stay in the group. It’s important to me, and I want to continue my membership, so I make sure to write about food. Another is that I pay for my domain and hosting, so I feel the urge to keep things at least sporadically active. Another reason is the guilt of leaving something unfinished. I feel stressed out if I haven’t posted in a long time. When I have deadlines to others, my own writing falls to the bottom of the priority list. Many nights I’ve found myself falling asleep at my laptop, trying to get a post together for the morning. I’ve failed to be as prolific as I’d like.

As a trend, blogging is down. Most of my friends have blogs and I’m noticing that people post less, read less, care less. We don’t talk about blogging as much as we used to. Our blogging dates don’t happen anymore. What was once so important to us feels like a thing of the past now.

I do think that Instagram is partially to blame, because we can document our lives, curate the hell out of everything, and all become visual stylists. It’s an easy format to engage in. You can like a photo or comment and it doesn’t come back to annoy you like Facebook. I relish double-tapping with reckless abandon because it’s kind. It’s easy. People like feedback. Even the social media weary can still muster the energy for Instagram.

I find myself reading less blogs and maybe that’s because I’m getting a synopsis on Instagram. I don’t need to read about your meal/vacation/life, because I already saw all the photos. We’re all so busy. Why read? Why write? WHY BOTHER?!

And that sucks. Because in whatever form it takes place, I’m an advocate of reading. And of writing. Writing makes you concentrate, think things through, use your voice (or someone else’s voice) and gives you the satisfaction of having done something substantial. It sets apart the lazy and the non-lazy.

I’m not making a case for maintaining a blog forever. I think it’s a passing phase for many writers and that’s okay. I’m not sure what the end point is when you have a blog and want to stop. I guess these things just peter out. Trends come and go and the internet is beyond oversaturated as it is. Social media has given people multiple free outlets to express their every thought. There’s no need to learn a platform, build an audience, or make a commitment. So maybe the death of blogging is inevitable.

But here’s a thought: The satisfying part of blogging is in the creating. The exhausting part of blogging is the work involved in marketing it. The building an audience, monitoring traffic, constantly prompting people on social media to “look at meeee! Look what I wrote!!” It becomes a job and an undignified one at that. This blog makes a few bucks, but by no means is a pro blog. I have no reason to constantly try to drive readers here or work to build a huge audience. There’s no need for Mad Betty to “keep up” with other bloggers. Sometimes I forget that.

Letting go of the metrics or the desire to cut through the noise is quite liberating. I’m hoping other bloggers feel the same and that those who have lapsed but still possess even a small ember of desire will continue blogging. Maybe we’ll see the trend swing back around to passion blogging, where the content is executed with personal intention alone. People creating something just for the hell of it, expecting nothing in return but the reward of having done it. Or maybe it will die off and we’ll look back and say, “Remember when blogs were a thing?”

Thursday, September 17th

All Aboard the Meal Train

Japanese Beef Noodles

A month into parenthood, I can look back at the following weeks and am grateful for our survival. I’ve mostly been hunkered down at home with Violet following her endless demands for food, diapering, and snuggling her tiny face into my neck. I’ve accomplished little else and am finding it difficult to even respond to texts or emails. My house is messier than I’d like it to be. So it’s been an adjustment, having little control of my days. I’m learning to go with the flow…most of the time.

Sausage Mac & Cheese

Boozy Chocolate Covered Strawberry

But overall, it’s been less stressful than I anticipated. I have to credit much of that to my fabulous friends who have taken such good care of Chris and I. My friend Mary Helen organized a Meal Train, which essentially is an online scheduler where people can sign up to drop off meals at a specific date and time. And sign up, they did! We didn’t have to worry about cooking for weeks. Almost everyday brought a new visitor, along with something tasty and nourishing.

Jambalaya and Cheddar Biscuits

In fact, since Violet was so late, we had some meals delivered before she was even born. Nelly made some of her famous salads, South Austin Foodie hit up Central Market’s one-day barbecue special and brought us sandwiches, and Addie worked on a crab cake mac and cheese recipe for The Statesman and we reaped the rewards.

Cuban Meal from Whole Foods

Having a bunch of foodies for friend certainly has its perks! We had homemade stromboli, lactation cookies, dal, and Linda‘s sausage mac and cheese. Lots more salads. Beef noodles and salad and kimchi with produce right from Melody and Pete’s garden. Jambalaya and cheese biscuits from an authentic Louisiana girl. Beautifully presented enchiladas and salted caramel bars from Girl Gone Grits.

Enchiladas, Chips and Guacamole, Salted Caramel Bars

Tempeh Salad

We savored Black Bean Soup, Vietnamese spring rolls with chicken and tofu, a recreation of my favorite menu item at the JW downtown, Faro Salad, a couple key lime pies (Chris’ favorite!)

Stromboli

Faro Salad

This list is by no means exhaustive, nor are the photos. Chris and I would dig in and relish every bite and then I’d jolt awake from my food and baby induced delirium and realize I didn’t take a picture. In addition to all the homemade food, we had lots of restaurant favorites, too. South Austin Foodie and Jodi brought us Vietnamese noodle bowls. Michelle knew we couldn’t go too long without Indian and we dined on curries together. Elizabeth brought a decadent Cuban feast from Whole Foods. Natasha brought us popcorn tofu sandwiches from Wheatsville and yummy vegan cupcakes.

Dal

Lactation Cookies

So, yes. We ate well. And we are so very spoiled by the kind and generous friends around us who showered us with love. I shed more than a few tears over the thought of each of them taking time out of their busy lives to feed us, choosing things that were special, that they knew we would love.

To those of you reading this, thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Love,

Kristin, Chris & Violet