We are (finally) leaving on Sunday to open the aforementioned NPR Seoul bureau. The absurdly talented Adam Cole decided to try and challenge himself to write a K-pop style ballad using only words from a beginner’s Korean phrasebook. The results made me cry with laughter … and delight. So, so overwhelmingly awesome. We need to make this a K-pop hit, y’all.
One of the most pleasurable aspects of having brilliant coworkers is basking in the wisdom, knowledge and good-humored counsel of said colleagues. I am lucky to count among my people Shankar Vedantam, who, among many other things, is the social science correspondent for NPR and author of The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives.
It goes without saying that it’s pretty sweet to have this guy around when I’m in the middle of a professional or personal crisis and just need some sage advice.
Last year I was considering another job offer, since I had just hit my three-year-mark at NPR and three years was the longest professional association I’d ever had. I was feeling anxious to do something new, maybe just for the sake of the stretching and growing that comes with leaving your comfort zone. The role being offered was pretty great and something my 29-year-old self would have leaped at, but I was at the much-better-cooked age of 31 by then. I worried about the organization of the other place — was the leadership stable? Did it have a sustainable business?
Shankar said none of it mattered. What mattered most, he said, was passion and what we feel most passionate doing. Which gets to the best advice I got last year:
He said, we tend to make personal decisions with our hearts and work decisions with our minds, but it should actually be flipped.
It makes more sense, he said, to make work decisions based on emotion because so much of professional fulfillment — and success — flows from passion, and the other details (who owns a company, the board, etc) are out of our control. But interpersonal relationships are dependent on far more than passion, because of our children, homes, etc. So it’s better to make those decisions practically and not emotionally.
Shorter Shankar: Professional decisions? Heart. Personal decisions? Head.
When leaving town, why have one big final blowout in which you accidentally consume too much marijuana and find yourself throwing up the entire way to the airport the next day (I’m just saying hypothetically, cough cough) when you can have a string of smaller goodbyes over the course of three weeks?
My former common-law work spouse Matt started his new gig at The Atlantic this month, our former boss Kinsey starts his new job in New York next month and my own move to Korea is imminent, so the first in the goodbye string was getting some of our old NPR colleagues together for drinks the same night the Packers showed America how to lose a football championship.
The other memorable part of this long goodbye tour is the DELICIOUS ETHNIC MEALS PEOPLE ARE MAKING FOR US. Eyder and his wife Cynthia dropped off authentic Texican enchiladas — Cynthia makes the verde sauce from scratch — and I ate three in one sitting. Chris Howie’s mom-in-law makes the most incredible Indian food ever and they had us over for a feast of I don’t even remember how many dishes. I got lost in a dream scenario of homemade naan, butter chicken, saag paneer, daal, oh man I can’t even describe.
Next, we wanted to see lots of DC drinking buddies and needed to get rid of a lot of random items in our house, like Magic Mesh, which Nick Fountain apparently wanted “real bad.”
If you prefer more useful freebies I’ve got Magic Mesh, which we never used pic.twitter.com/qSk7IAsrWg
— Elise Hu (@elisewho) January 23, 2015
So Friday night we had people over for a Hu-Stiles House Cooling, so that I could see lots of awesome people and give away items which included:
– Mark Sanford’s early book, The Trust Committed To Me
– A George W. Bush action figure
– A travel music stand
– Half a bottle of Jameson
– Some kind of Dutch knife sharpener
– A leftover party favor from my bridal shower in 2010
– A cat scratcher
– A screener of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood
AND SO MANY MORE AWESOME THINGS FOR YOU TO REMEMBER ME BY!
More goodbye-ing to come…
We didn’t want it to happen, but it did. Our boss Kinsey, who headed all NPR’s content and technology, got re-organized out of a job a few weeks ago. There is a longish take on the situation (reported here) which includes elliptical language about a stunningly Game of Thrones-ey situation, involving decades-old fiefdoms and fights among NPR and its stations over the network’s direction.
Since it happened so abruptly, we didn’t have a lot of time to prepare the tribute. But I thought the best way to show him our appreciation was by making something, because in all the talk about his visionariness, the reason he was so effective because made visions reality.
The other thinking that went into this was that whatever we built, the best way to pay him tribute was to work as a team, to symbolize our continued support for one another and the ability to quickly organize ourselves. That team had to bring together the people who make stories and the people who make technology, ’cause that’s a huge part of Kinsey’s legacy — making sure that product and editorial were lifting each other up.
So in our break times and overnight and on weekends, we made Infinite Kinsey. Modeled on NPR One, a listening app that gives you segmented audio that follows you on any device, the Infinite Kinsey is an endless stream of audio tributes for Kinsey Wilson, about Kinsey Wilson. We collected more than sixty audio tributes in the span of a week. They came from NPR employees past and present, and from all corners of the country. Some audio messages were sent in from as far away as Hong Kong and the airport in Istanbul.
Since it was a product, it needed a launch. Tuesday night at a goodbye gathering, I got epically blasted and we unveiled the player to its single intended user. It has a branding page and even a product launch video, a parody that Friend Claire put together, with great help from a bunch of NPR folks who volunteered to do some really goofy video shoots with us.
Goodbyes are so so hard, especially the ones you never wanted to happen.
But it’s important to put closure on this chapter — not just for KW’s sake, but for those of us who will continue at NPR. With our parting gift to him, we will kinda get to follow Kinsey wherever he goes, a stream of voices telling him he’s rad.
Everyone should be congratulating me today, because starting next week, I will no longer have to work with my husband! We have worked together at two different news organizations now, from 2009-2011 at The Texas Tribune, and after that, here at NPR. Now he’s leaving me (professionally) and joining The Wall Street Journal‘s Washington bureau, as a data reporter on their economics team. After being a data editor and news apps creator for the past couple of years, he’s eager to do some beat reporting again. He is awesome at it — a few months ago a Texas state lawmaker came to visit me at NPR and he ducked to avoid Stiles cause he’s still scared of him.
Anyway, the goodbye note from our boss, Scott, ended this way:
“Matt has worked on numerous interactive projects. Some highlights include a crowd-sourced directory of playgrounds designed for children with disabilities, an interactive that detailed the damage caused by the 2013 Oklahoma tornado and a database of workers killed in grain bins throughout the United States. He has also championed data-related tools and training for the newsroom.
The list of Matt’s projects is impressive, but it doesn’t entirely capture the value he’s brought to the newsroom and the network. He’s played a vital role in our evolution as a news organization of real depth and expertise in the visual presentation of information. He’s not a spread sheet guy but a very fine reporter who has helped a whole bunch of people at NPR and in our member station universe think differently about their work and what’s possible in their work.”
As for his teammates, the legacy Stiles will leave behind is his inscrutable personality and dark sense of humor. Basically, the opposite of Mr. Chips. Incidentally, Stiles does actually LOVE potato chips. So as a tribute, his teammate Claire O’Neill arranged for his friends to bring bags of chips to pile onto the News Apps table all morning.
“It’ll be like that scene at the end of A Beautiful Mind when all the professors give Russell Crowe their pens. Except better because instead of pens … it’s chips.”
Congratulations, Mr Chips-Stiles.
I have a long and storied history with journalism interns. Back when I started as a beat reporter at age 21, sometimes sources would confuse me for the intern, and the intern for the reporter.
During the Texas Tribune early days, “Dan the Intern” became a real team member, so much so that I worked him into my The Office parody video to introduce the TT.
But then, Dan The Intern got back at me by calling me out in the very first HuTube vlog.
So, I tend to have a fun time with prodigious and puckish interns. Which brings me to Emily. Emily Siner started as an NPR intern last fall, but graduated to editorial assistant (a much better hourly rate) when we couldn’t afford to lose her when the semester ended. She’s become indispensable in short order, explaining Bitcoin better than I ever could, being a true partner for our online and on-air work and most importantly, always always asking interesting questions about the world. Curiosity — and follow through — are basically the whole game, in journalism. Emily also has a boyfriend named Matt, and y’all know I basically love all Matt’s.
Emily is headed to Nashville Public Radio, which means she’s staying in the family and going to eat delicious food. Wishing you many fun and educational adventures, Emily.
My semi-annual trip to Miami for my side-hustle collided with my birthday weekend. Just like I like it, absurdity ensued.
I’m really fortunate to have a crew of brilliant and hilarious friends down in the 3-0-5, so Friend Chris organized a whole day/night featuring my favorite activities: beachtime, sunshine, pooltime, delicious cocktails, celebrity sightings, Justin, meat and cheese, Korean liquor, the 90’s and private karaoke. These are some things that happened:
Justin, my partner-in-crime, came down for the shenanigans and while we were catching up at Starbucks, Jesse Something, The Bachelor circa 2004, walked in. He’s still on TV as an ESPN commentator, and he paused at the sugar/cream station and kept looking at me as if he either knew me or was waiting for me to realize who he was, but it took me too long. Wah-wah. I didn’t get to invite him to my birthday party.
After getting drunk on the beach thanks to a pitcher of some refreshing vodka concoction, we decided to do some poolside time at Soho House even though the water was flooded with children. I looked left and BAM! Spotted Sofia Coppola reading a magazine just a few chairs down from us. I was too chicken to say anything to her, so Justin and I took weird surreptitious photos. Then we noticed her husband — the lead singer of Phoenix — and her daughters, playing in the water. We avoided taking sketchy photos of the kids.
Tim Elfrink (who just won a Polk Award, woot) lives in Miami, and our mutual Mizzou friend Nick was also in Florida escaping DC’s wintry gloom, so they joined in on festivities. We started at a divey pool bar with excellent cheesesteaks and $5 drinks.
We got some ridiculous Coors swag and posed with the beer girls. Then we had to drink some free Coors Light.
Tucked away in our private-karaoke room by midnight, these are some of the selections performed by the group to celebrate the 1990’s, my halcyon days of youth:
“Birdhouse in your Soul” They Might Be Giants
“Spiderwebs” No Doubt
“Always be my Baby” Mariah Carey
“The Sign” Ace of Base
“Livin’ La Vida Loca” Ricky Martin
“Man in the Mirror” Michael Jackson
“Callin’ Baton Rouge” Garth Brooks
“Too Close” Next
“Mmmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” Crash Test Dummies
“Thong Song” Cisco
Despite four attempts by different people, the song system was unable to choose R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix)” which is infinitely superior to what kept coming up — just plain ol’ “Ignition.”
Karaoke participants — on four separate occasions — chose R. Kelly’s “Ignition,” which is an inferior song that is most definitely not the catchy, viral “Ignition Remix” of 2003. Then I came home and discovered Jimmy Fallon had sang it for us.
While squished on our leather karaoke room couch for 12, pal Michael and I went through two and a half bottles of soju on our own. I think Justin enjoyed his own bottle on the other side of our karaoke coffee table. He nursed a hangover for two days, since we started drinking some kind of refreshing vodka stuff around 3pm that afternoon.
There is something involving 3am sandwiches at some famous place on South Beach, but I don’t remember it clearly except that Justin awoke the next morning with two of those sandwiches in bed with him.
On the actual night of the birthday, Michael Maness took me out to a smokey dive bar where he got to control the jukebox. Yes, there was David Allan Coe. And yes, we did stop to eat 1am Cuban sandwiches on the street. Happy birthday, indeed.
“Take what you love and make it the way you live your life, and that way you bring love into the world.” -Bill Murray, in his Reddit AMA
Most of my favorite collisions with people come with less than an hour’s notice. That kept happening in San Francisco — a mark of my similarly last-minute friends, and maybe the ethos of the Bay area. I shall award my trip various arbitrary points, below:
+500 This view (from previous post) will never get old.
+60 The purpose of the trip was reporting for our upcoming Bay Area theme week and to attend the TED Women conference. Both went really well.
+50 When I landed at SFO on Wednesday, I saw on Foursquare that fellow Texas Tribune original gangsta H.O. Maycotte was in San Fran, too. Thank you, Foursquare, for the “people nearby” filter. We met for lunch 30 minutes later in the Ferry Building, right on the water.
+ 20 Gal pal Raina and I ran into each other in the lobby of the Jazz Center where the conference was happening. She’s a new mom of a seven-week-old, and her darling, delicious baby was with her. I got to babysit so she had a minute to go to the bathroom. I mainly just stared at him and took pictures.
+75 Impromptu lunch with another gal pal from the Knight Foundation super-friends circuit, Kara Oehler! My producer on the communal living story, Cindy, happened to be Kara’s mentor from more than a decade ago. Kara also used to babysit Cindy’s kids. We three were able to do a delicious lunch at a french cafe in Lower Haight. Love those gals.
+35 Sneaking in some real bonding time with my digital news coworker Dana, who I’ve worked with for years but never spent any social time with. She invited me to join her at TED Women in the first place. We had a swell time getting beers together on opening night.
+ 10 I met interior designer Elizabeth “Beth” Martin while she was freshening up all the fresh flowers in Friend Matt’s condo. She offered a flower arranging tip since I asked — Don’t be too matchy. Soft flowers like peonies and roses should absolutely be paired with woodsy choices.
+1,600 Japanese toilets. Thank you, Mr. Toto, wherever you are, for your seat warming, automatic lid-raising technology.
-400 I was too scared to try any of the rear or front washes, and don’t even know what it is that oscillates or pulsates, but I dig having all the options.
+100 I dropped in on Twitter HQ with 30 minutes notice and didn’t text my brother-from-another-mother Dave to tell him I was in his building until I was actually sititng in “The Perch,” er, Twitter’s cafeteria. That resulted in a quick lunch room gab fest until we met up again for happy hour, during which Dave introduced me and my pal and colleague, host Guy Raz to The Hot Spot, a divey dive dive bar that serves a smooth shot and a beer with a scratch-off ticket. Guy actually won another ticket, only to lose on his second try. Maybe it’s a trap?
-25 Due to too many shot-beer-scratcher combos, we ended up drinking and eating at a random bowling place in the Mission (after first attempting and bailing on a sketchy food place that smelled of urine) and stayed out too late for me to watch Scandal on Matt’s new 4K TV.
+5 The television is now updated.
No points, just saying: There were white dudes everywhere. The ratio of men to women seemed to really favor women, at least everywhere I was at. I felt outnumbered by groups of men at breakfast, at bars, everywhere except the TED conference for women.
+500 Reunion with my bestie best best friend from high school, Erin Baudo, four weeks before her due date. I’m so psyched for her little bruiser.
+30 Erin let me nurse my hangover with breakfast at the Zynga cafeteria, where she works.
+50 The three-man NPR tech reporting team — Steve Henn, Laura Sydell and myself — got together in person in one place for the first time. We hung out at member station KQED and got some delicious coffee.
+30 A nice afternoon walk with Code for America’s Catherine Bracy.
+45 Sneaking away during TED lunch hour to shop in Hayes Valley with my pal Tina. Stopped in Chantal Guillion to sample their signature French macarons, had them shipped to a girlfriend in Texas. Should get there Monday.
+24 Pre-gaming one evening with a new friend from the 2013 collection — another Matt — Matt Wilson.
-10 Having to squeeze in so much in four days felt a little too intense.
+5000 Seeing my favorite toddler this morning after being away from her for almost a week. Swoon.
I say “best day ever” about many days, which then undermines all the other “best day” claims, but Thursday was pretty sweet. I hopped on a train to New York for a Grist Magazine benefit in the evening. But just before leaving, I learned Rob and Phoebe (my favorite live musicians I actually know in real life) from the sadly-split Austin-band The Belleville Outfit were playing a little stage in Soho during happy hour. Lucky for me, I was hanging out in the neighborhood with Friend Matt anyhow, so I got to bring him and his gal pal along for the show. Serendipity rocks. Hearing Rob’s new stuff was a delight.
The night got better. One of my bucket list items in life is to hang out for a day with comedian David Cross, but IN CHARACTER AS Tobias Fünke. That did not happen. But I got closer — Rob came along to the Grist benefit and we got to laugh uproariously to the comic stylings of Eugene Mirman, Wyatt Cenac and David Cross as David Cross. So I got to meet him afterward. Here we are hanging on the couch. #Psyched!