Saying A Proper Goodbye

Kinsey had to listen to a lot of speeches about him on Tuesday. (Photo by John Poole)

Kinsey had to listen to a lot of speeches about him on Tuesday. (Photo by John Poole)

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.

From the Infinite Kinsey branding page.

From the Infinite Kinsey branding page.

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.

Claire and Becky, manning the tech table for the Infinite Kinsey rollout.

Claire and Becky, manning the tech table for the Infinite Kinsey rollout.

Goodbye Mr. Chips

The Mr Stiles-Chips tribute. Like that scene at the end of A Beautiful Mind, but instead of pens, chips.

The Mr Stiles-Chips tribute. Like that scene at the end of A Beautiful Mind, but instead of pens, chips.

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.

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Goodbye to Emily, One of My Fave (and Best) Interns

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 at her final digital news editors meeting.

Emily at her final digital news editors meeting.

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.

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Bounce Bounce Bounce Bounced To Miami For My Birthday

Michael and Chris have become two of my closest compadres in my thirties, so I feel so lucky to have spent my b-day with them.

Michael and Chris have become two of my closest compadres in my thirties, so I feel so lucky to have spent my b-day with them.

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:

Just seeing the glowing orb they call the sun was pretty amazing.

Just seeing the glowing orb they call the sun was pretty amazing.

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.

The Coors Light ladies gave us free bead medallions which I will treasure forever.

The Coors Light ladies gave us free bead medallions which I will treasure forever.

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
“Unpretty” TLC
“Too Close” Next
“Mmmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” Crash Test Dummies
“Thong Song” Cisco

So much fun.

So much fun.

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.

Rebekah Monson is my favorite new friend of 2013. We killed it on some Garth Brooks together.

Rebekah Monson is my favorite new friend of 2013. We killed it on some Garth Brooks together.

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.

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Impromptu Collisions in San Francisco

One of the co-living homes I'm featuring in an upcoming NPR story.

One of the co-living homes I’m featuring in an upcoming NPR story.

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.

Why were our TED badges the size of our faces? (With Guy Raz.)

Why were our TED badges the size of our faces? (With Guy Raz.)

+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.

Raina's sweet boy.

Raina’s sweet boy.

+ 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.

The amazing Japanese toilet that both excited and confounded me.

The amazing Japanese toilet that both excited and confounded me.

+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.

Best night of the week was with brother-from-another-mother, Dave. I found him in the Twitter cafeteria.

Best night of the week was with brother-from-another-mother, Dave. I found him in the Twitter cafeteria.

+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.

Matt was kind enough to update his new TV for Scandal, but none of us made it home in time to watch it.

Matt was kind enough to update his new TV for Scandal, but none of us made it home in time to watch it.

+5 The television is now updated.

My best friend from high school in Plano, Texas, Erin, is 9 months pregnant. So excited.

My best friend from high school in Plano, Texas, Erin, is 9 months pregnant. So excited.

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.

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Best Day Ever

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.

Rob and Phoebe from The Belleville Outfit play a tiny stage in New York.

Rob and Phoebe from The Belleville Outfit play a tiny stage in New York.

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!

Oh, no big deal, just hanging out on a couch with DAVID CROSS. (And Eugene!)

Oh, no big deal, just hanging out on a couch with DAVID CROSS. (And Eugene!)

My Daughter Turned A Year Old Today

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And just like that, a year is over.

Babies manifest the passage of time in a dynamic way. One day they’re tiny, the next day they’re not, and suddenly they’re not even babies anymore.

On this day last year, my mom was quite literally feeding me a chicken leg in between contractions that were three minutes apart, before we met my midwife at the hospital. She insisted I needed the protein for the final few hours of labor. She was right. That chicken saved me, and Matty, who she also fed.

People say, congratulations for making it to a year, but I don’t think we deserve much credit for anything. Eva, as those of you who know her, just crushes it at life. Her fearless approach to every new encounter delights and inspires us, but perhaps her greatest gift over the last year is allowing us to maintain our freedom. Being well-rested and of good cheer, Eva let us proceed normally with adult pursuits. She has reliably gone to bed every night around 6:30pm since she was six weeks old, so Momma can get out to her happy hours and dinners as before. She also knows never to wake up before 7am, because her parents need sleep to function. And she travels with us to cities around the globe — she’s logged 22,295 miles on planes, and who knows how many on trains, boats and automobiles.

A hopeless nostalgic, I take photos and keep journals and blogs because it makes me sorta sad that *this moment* will never be, again. Our memory cards are exploding with images and videos and data from the last year. I’ve used an app to log every hour Eva’s slept, every minute she’s nursed and every diaper since her first week of life. It’s proven so helpful for understanding her natural routines so we can just go with her flow, and in packing, since we know how much stuff she consumes or uses over the course of the day. But a year seems like a nice stopping point for the relentless tracking.

Incidentally, the Washington Post just ran a story this weekend about how digitally saving every memory could actually be confusing us. If we save everything, how do we know what’s worth remembering? I think our hearts and brains figure that out. I was talking with my mom on the phone this morning and she recalled how, when I was one, I figured out how to turn my body around to go down steps legs and butt first. And how my hands kept grabbing at her collarbone when I was lost in a nursing haze. Little memories, tiny things, my momma can remember like they were just mere moments ago. She reminded me that that’s something transformatively powerful about your momma-baby relationship. It’s living and growing and changing, but also imprinted in your heart and mind forever.

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Audrey and Patrick’s Montana Wedding Spectacular

Wound up back out West a week after leaving Colorado. En route to the Bozeman, MT airport I changed planes in Denver and landed at the gate across the walking escalator from the one I left a week ago. This time, I traveled sans husband and baby, which meant such a light load that I kept feeling like I was a bag (or six) short.

The Beam, Andy, The Nurse and I joined forces and shared a cabin in Big Sky for the nuptials of our friend, Audrey, to her sweet man, Patrick. You may remember Audrey from the time we went to Honduras and got attacked by sand flies. Audrey is a spirited adventure seeker from Houston-by-way-of-Austin-and-Berkeley whose mind runs 800 miles a minute and none of us can quite comprehend. But we love her for the candor, authenticity and joy she brings to all situations.

Audrey spent a few years as a scuba divemaster in Australia and the Caribbean before settling down and getting two masters degrees and moving to DC to work for the Defense Department in sustainability issues. Patrick is a phD whose heart is in the mountains and one of the most talented amateur skiiers any of us know. So we knew they’d pick somewhere beautiful and outdoorsy, and as soon as they chose Montana, we committed to being there.

And what a place. They wed at the 320 Ranch, just miles away from Yellowstone National Park, where there were a couple grizzly bear attacks on humans this week, so everyone brought bear spray on their hikes. The weather was dry and beautiful, we walked along babbling brooks to get to and fro, got lifts from Belgian horses to picnics by the Gallatin River, made smores in a shared firepit, took long and interesting hikes, met the couple’s favorite people from all parts of their lives and all over the world, heard their stories in a rehearsal dinner evening of lovely and hilarious speeches, and on Saturday, watched them wed against the stunning mountain vista. They are enchanted with one another, and we were enchanted by the weekend.

Some other trip notes:

On the flight there I got seated next to a couple trying to soothe their crying four-month-old. The father joked about lethal injection. I told them I didn’t mind and that the baby would be a great traveler — turned out, I was right, and I soon learned that he was a fellow journalist: a Reuters correspondent based in New Delhi, India.

While waiting for a third wedding guest to arrive at the Bozeman airport, The Beam and I decided to check out downtown Bozeman and somehow wandered into a college bar full of bros. We were the oldest people there by at least a decade. The whole scene was rather humorous, watching young women twerking on the dance floor and the fratty Montana boys acting like big men on campus and what not. We are old.

Huckleberry everything! Huckleberry vodka, as pictured in my hand in one of those photos, was my favorite huckleberry concoction. But huckleberry bars were also quite delicious.

Wildlife: Saw a ram getting a snack on the side of the road, plus a fox, a few horses and many, many, many flies. Beam, who drove into Yellowstone, saw a lot more.

In Big Sky, which we visited briefly on wedding day, there was a CrossFit Convention or something at the Big Sky Resort. For people who love CrossFit so much that they traveled to a resort to be with other CrossFitters to do their CrossFit workouts together. No comment.

Escape To The Mountains

In the backyard of our Colorado rental.

Eva in the backyard of our Colorado rental, sporting her NPR baby tee.

 

The spouse, Stiles, spent a few of his formative years (middle school) in Estes Park, Colorado, a gallop away from Rocky Mountain National Park. Since the early days of our now-decade-long relationship, I’ve heard him wax rhapsodic about his time in the Rockies — riding horses, shooting guns, drawing pictures of guns and that one time he watched his stepdad threaten his next door neighbor after the neighbor stole their dog. You don’t steal a man’s dog.

Jimmy and Skyler are two of the most fun people we know. We are indescribably lucky to count them among our closest Texas friends for so many reasons, not least of which are Jimmy’s mad skills in the kitchen. Jimmy is a natural who was trained in the kitchens of Spain and South Carolina. He and I have a special chi because we both believe in living a Dionysian lifestyle and I love to eat his food. (See: New Year 2011 Mussel Throwdown)

So two weeks ago, when Jimmy proposed we join his brood and three other families in the Rockies for a vacation, we moved everything around quickly to make it happen. We eight grown-ups and eight children stayed in a gorgeous, 7,000 square foot, nine-bedroom house perched high up on a knoll in Fraser, Colorado. We spent our days and nights eating Jimmy’s freshly-grilled fish and lamb and steak and other culinary creations, drinking outside underneath shooting stars  and playing with the wee ones during the day. The other families included The Haley’s, who we knew well from Austin, and The Hall’s, headed up by Jimmy’s college roommate, Clay. In keeping with the fun times, Clay is a muckity muck at Francis Ford Coppola Wines. He got two cases of wine shipped to the house before our group’s arrival.

We saw moose, elk, beavers and every afternoon a fox would come visit us in the backyard. Eva enjoyed herself so much and loved playing with the older kids, ranging from age 3 to 7. I enjoyed the food and company so much. Stiles got to take us to the continental divide up in Rocky Mountain National Park, which made him so happy.

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