Category Archives: Andy

 

Two Trips to Vienna

It’s official: We’re allowed to stay in the Czech Republic through August! A lot of people have asked us what the process of being allowed to live long-term in Prague looks like, and while I’m not a superstitious person I wanted to wait until everything was completely finalized before writing much about it. I’m happy to say that day has come, and we have officially been approved for our first long-stay visa here in the Czech Republic!

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2013 Retrospective

It’s the time of year when one stops to reflect on what’s happened the previous twelve months, and I’m no exception. For me, this always starts with the music that’s served as my soundtrack for the year. I had to pare down from thirty or so tracks, and what I was left with was a bunch of music that I really, really love—but that doesn’t seem to fit together all that well. Nevertheless, I’ve compiled them together here for your consideration.

So long 2013.

Lost & Found

The moment when you realize you’ve been robbed? It’s exactly how they show it in the movies. You stand in one place, looking dumbly around the room in the direction of where your most valuable items ought to be. This is where I found myself Sunday morning, as I came downstairs to make breakfast for my daughter.

I actually made it all the way through the living room, through the dining room, and into the kitchen before I realized anything was wrong. My first clue was the back door. It was wide open. My dog Gus, always at my side, bounded out the open door like it was the most normal thing in the world, but that was the moment that began one of the most abnormal weeks of my life.

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Moving On

For those of you who haven’t already heard, Google Reader has been discontinued. If you haven’t heard of Google Reader, you can read a quick writeup I did from 2009. In short. Google Reader is an aggregator that keeps tabs on all the news sites, blogs, and web sites that I read regularly, and presents a concise list of new updates that appear on those sites. When I wrote that article in 2009, I had already been using it for years and years, so you can imagine how sad it is to lose something that’s become such a big part of how I use the Internet.

I don’t dispute Google’s right to shut down a project like Google Reader — especially in light of the fact that it’s a free service that I haven’t paid a penny for. But the loss of Google Reader has absolutely taught me a valuable lesson: Things worth having are worth paying for.

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Lucy: Month Twenty Four

Dear Lucy,

Last night was the first time you tried to run away from home. You were very upset with your mama and I because it was almost bed time, and we wouldn’t let you use your finger paints. You gave out a short little anguished cry — but only the length of a second or two. Then you marched with clear purpose to the front door and tried to push it open. I asked you where you were going and you replied with a succint-but-emphatic “out!” So I unlocked the door for you.

You made it about one step onto the porch when you turned back and said, very quietly to yourself, “But it’s cold,” and then “Papa, sweatshirt!” So I helped you put on your sweatshirt.

Once that second arm was through the final sleeve, your resolve returned and you strode back to the door. As your tiny hand pressed against it to start out on your own, I heard you mutter “Might get wet… better button up.” I helped you get the zipper on your sweatshirt pulled up so that, in the event your journeys took you to wetter climates, your Yo Gabba Gabba Foofa shirt would stay dry.

You returned to the front door one more time, noticably slower than the first two times, and turned to me to ask “Boots?” I pointed out that you already had sneakers on. You contemplated this for a good ten or fifteen seconds, looked at me, cocked your head slightly to the side and said “Color? Crayons?” That seemed like a reasonable compromise, so I helped you out of your sneakers and sweatshirt and took you to your drawing table.

I can’t believe how big you’ve gotten, especially compared to the last time I wrote one of these letters. A lot has happened in nine months. Nine months ago you were just beginning to master walking, now you’ve got a pretty good handle on running. “Hurry hurry hurry! Quick quick quick!” That’s what you yell as you’re running down the aisles of the grocery story with us at full-tilt.

As funny and energetic and outgoing as you can be, I still get really happy to see little bits and pieces of your introvert papa shining through in you. Every now and then you just get a little overwhelmed with it all. A few weeks ago, we were shopping and you had clearly had enough of us. You got up off of the bench that you and your mama were sharing, walked the ten feet to another bench, and just sat by yourself with your head hung down. Every now and then a stranger would come and sit by you, trying to make small talk, and you would high tail it back to your mama. But as soon as that bench was empty again, you went right back for it.

I really can’t believe how much fun you are these days. You’re just a little sponge, soaking up all the little things we do and things we say only to spring them back on us after a few days of thinking about them in that tiny little head of yours. Several times a day, one of us will catch you contemplating a drawing you’re working on saying something very adult like “Let’s see here,” or you’ll greet one of our friends who has come to visit by saying “Oh hi, I missed you!” It’s very sweet. And I know that someday you will learn to actually read, but I’m just enjoying the pretend “reading” you’re doing now. 

If there’s one thing you really need to work on, little girl, it’s your negotiating skills. I’m not sure what your strategy is by asking me for “colate” (chocolate). “One colate, please? One?” You’ll insist. “One colate? Two?? Two colate please, thank you?” Sadly, though, this form of negotiation has proved effective more than once. So well done on that count.

Little Lu, I’m excited to see what this next year holds for you. I’m sure your vocabulary is going to continue to explode, you’ll continue to push your boundaries and our buttons, and I have every reason to believe there will be at least one more attempt to run away from home. Your mama and I will be there when it happens, ready to help you on with your sweatshirt and make sure you’ve got some string cheese in your pocket, and maybe try to convince you to just stay the night instead. You know, so you can get a fresh start in the morning. 

Or maybe just draw instead.

The Art of the Hand Typed Email

I don’t email as much as I used to. After college, email was a great, easy way to keep up with my closest friends, now scattered across the midwest. Sometimes it was a quick, one-off comment about whatever was going on, but at least once a week you could count on someone sending a moderately lengthly update about what was happening at their new job in their new city. With the rise of Twitter and Facebook, I think we’ve lost the art of the email.

I do, of course, recognize the irony of this. Ten years ago, when all this email writing was going on, the generation before us was decrying the loss of the art of the written letter. “Young people don’t know how to properly write a letter anymore,” we were told, as we rolled our collective eyes. A decade later, though, our decline in quality of communication has taken the next step.

There’s nothing wrong with social media; Facebook and Twitter are great ways of keeping updated on the daily goings on of friends we might otherwise lose complete touch with. But I think the fact that we see these daily updates gives us a false sense of closeness. That, because I saw what you ate for breakfast on Instagram, I have an undestanding of what’s going on in the lives of my friends who live several states away is a lie that prevents us from really keeping each other informed of what we’ve been up to. And so the months go by knowing more about our friends dietary and nail polish choices than how they’re feeling and what they’re really going through.

And so I’m trying to renew in myself the lost art of the written email that is longer than a sentence or two, and learn a bit more about what my friends are really up to in 2013. If you have any interest in knowing more about my life than what book I’m reading or what local restaurant I’ve dined at recently, I’d love an email to start the conversation. It doesn’t require a big time investment to write more than 140 characters, just 5 minutes and a little bit of thought.

A Comeback Story?

2013 is poised to be a really interesting year for the mobile device space. I’m a long time Apple fan, having used every iteration of the iPhone since the 3GS came out in 2008, but I think things are due for a shakeup. And that very likely could start today.

Like a lot of people, I’ve generally laughed at the slow and steady decline of Research in Motion, makers of the once-popular BlackBerry devices, since the rise of the touchscreen phones last decade. They were arrogant and played it all wrong. “People want physical keyboards!” they cried. “If people want to write apps, go ahead, but we won’t help!” was the other major complaint. And so, with most of the tech / geek sector, I wrote them off.

Over the course of the past several months, as I’ve been curating smartphones and tablets for our local device lab, I’ve been fortunate enough to get a bit of a sneak peek into what RIM has been working on, and I was surprised at my response. A little backstory, first; In December, I approached RIM’s regional BlackBerry Evangelist about possible donations to our device lab. We had a candid phone conversation about where RIM’s at and what they’re doing to “right the ship.” He talked a bit about the operating system strategy and offered to send us out some Playbooks — RIM’s 7″ tablet — for our lab. 

They arrived a few days later, and I was curiously surprised at their quality. It’s not nearly as polished as the iPad experience, but it was far more user friendly than the Kindle Fire that we purchased late last year. The lone detractor from the experience was the apparent lack of third-party app support available. There is no Netflix app, no Hulu, and certainly no Instagram. I wasn’t even able to find an official Facebook or Twitter app. It doesn’t matter how great the hardware or operating system is, if there isn’t a large library of third-party apps available it’s not going to success.

I think RIM was thinking the same thing, because it was just a week or so later that I became aware of the last in a series of “Port-A-Thon” events they were sponsoring, trying to motivate iOS and Android developers to port their apps over to the new BlackBerry 10 system. Beyond just going out of their way to make it super easy to do this, they were also offering a monetery incentive: $100 per app ported over. As easy as it was, it seemed foolish not to do it. So a few of us met up that weekend to work on porting our apps over, and by the end of the day we had 13 apps in the review queue.

bb10portathon

Something funny happened over the course of those few weeks. I went from laughing at the idea of a RIM comeback to being a minor cheerleader for them. Today is their “big reveal” of the new BlackBerry 10 platform and phones, and I’m really hoping that they’re able to pull it off. I’m not completely sold that what they have is better than Apple, Android or Windows Phone, but I’m a little excited about another option being there to help push the other three. They have an uphill battle on their hands, for sure. They’re going to need a few key killer apps to convince those of us already using Apple and Android devices to give them another shot. But if they come out of the gates with some really good looking hardware, an official Instagram and Netflix app, and the support of the developer community behind them, I think they stand as good a chance as anyone does.

What about you? Have you completely written RIM off, or are you curious to see what they have up their sleeves. I know I’ll be watching their press event to see if this turns out to be their last stand or the beginning of their comeback story.

2012 Retrospective: Books

In 2011, I don’t believe I even read a total of 10 books, so I’m excited to even be able to talk about my 10 favorite books of 2012. Below is a quick look at all the books I was able to read last year, with my ten favorites at the top.

The Night Circus On the Beach 11/22/63 The Sense of an Ending Timequake Einstein's Dreams The Maze Runner On the Road First Meetings in Ender's Universe After Dark My Horizontal Life Lord of the Flies The Trial Freedom A Wild Sheep Chase Gentlemen Cloud Atlas Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep? Nigger Then Everything Changed In Cold Blood Me Talk Pretty One Day The Stranger The Lemur The Time Machine Overgrown: Tales of the Unexpected The Kill Order Ready Player One

2012 Retrospective: Music

Every year, I like to compile a playlist featuring music that has served as the soundtrack for the past year. They aren’t all necessarily songs that were released in the previous year, but are generally songs I’ve first been introduced to in the past year. 2012 started off slow; I don’t think I got to ten tracks until the Fall, but it built quickly from there to the point that I had to pare it down from nearly 30 tracks to it’s current set of 15 songs.

If you would like to listen to the Team Soell 2012 Retrospective on Rdio, you can listen below. If you’d like to take it with you “to go,” you can download it in MP3 format.

What about you? What are you best tracks of the year?