Texas Roadtrip Recap

A few days after Christmas, Chadd and I embarked on what would be an epic roadtrip around west Texas.

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We sort of started in San Antonio — I say sort of because I pretty much worked most of that time, but that’s me. We chilled on the Riverwalk, had great margs, and went to an AMAZING jazz and blues club that my dad recommended (who knows his shit). The place is called Tucker’s Kozy Korner.

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From SA, we headed to Austin for New Year’s. We got a really cute AirBnB in the east downtown area and had a fantastic group of people over. We played Cards Against Humanity, listened to jams, and then stepped outside for a firework show that was random and completely surrounded us. It was a beautiful night.

New Year’s Day marked the start of the real roadtrip. Our plan was to spend the night in Odessa or Midland (since neither of us have ever been… not really a surprise there) on the way to Terlingua, a ghost town located right outside Big Bend National Park.

Odessa

It’s possible Odessa could have been a nicer place than the impression I got, but it was hard to tell given the crazy ice storm that hit and turned a 4-hour drive into a 10-hour drive. The only things that stick with me from Odessa: lots of industrial-looking places, a weird diner that I won’t share the name of here because I’m scared someone will eventually murder me for it, and the fact that the hotel we stayed at — a Marriott — played the 700 Club in the lobby the entire morning during breakfast. It felt great to leave.

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The drive to Terlingua wasn’t a huge improvement from the drive to Odessa in terms of weather, though we were definitely more excited to be headed there. Throughout the trek, we were hit by multiple and various combinations of rain, snow, sleet etc., and by the time we got to Alpine, everywhere around us seemed to be flooding.

Terlingua

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We arrived at our Terlingua lodging, La Posada Milagro (highly recommended), in the afternoon. It was pouring rain. When we pulled up, the owner of the guesthouses pulled up across from us in her car, rolled down her window and said in one breath, “We don’t have heat, we don’t have any power, I just accidentally put someone else in your room, and I can’t find my dog.” Then and now, this moment is hilarious.

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She did end up finding her dog, and the room situation got worked out shortly thereafter; however, we never did get heat or power. Somehow, this made everything better. And, Terlingua is just a really cool place. The ghost town portion is an old mining town that was deserted after the mine shut down in the 30s. There are still artifacts of the town everywhere, and many people, including our hostess, built onto the facades of building structures left from the ghost town.

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And then there was the view from our little guesthouse ghost town patio…

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Big Bend

But, of course, we had come there for Big Bend. The park was a 15-minute drive from our guesthouse in Terlingua, and a beautiful one.

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Note: I could put 50000 more photos of Big Bend. Let’s move on. Next up: Marfa. I could write an entirely other post about Marfa. Though, honestly, each of these places deserves their own post.

Marfa

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The post I would write about Marfa wouldn’t be about how cool it is, as one might expect. Marfa is kind of a sham. Granted, we didn’t go at the best time of the year — everything was closed down and not many people were there, but really that’s just another validation of my theory. If Marfa’s so cool, why isn’t it cool all year ’round?

Quick Rant

What really struck me was the contrast between the fabricated hipster vibe and the local, natural vibe of the town. Their was a  desire to preserve the hipster artist experience for specific people, a.k.a tourists. The fact that places shut down because fewer tourists were around suggested to me that the people who really live there aren’t welcome to enjoy the experiences provided by this influx of “artists”.

Could it be because 70% of the town’s population is Latino? Could it be because 21% of the town’s population lives below the poverty line? Could it because in the background of these modernistic artsy establishments, you’ll see crumbling infrastructure and housing projects?

Considering that, it was difficult to look at the Prada store art installation as anything but condescending — by the way, even though the installation is called “Prada Marfa”, it’s actually located in a small town called Valentine, Texas. In the context of all of this, it makes sense why Valentine gets no credit.

Meanwhile, I had my period and went into an organic grocery store to buy tampons, but they didn’t sell tampons because tampons aren’t good for the environment. So I had to buy pads. Get over yourself.

But, we made the best of it…

We stayed at El Cosmico, which was an experience. We slept in a teepee one night, and the next night we slept in a trailor — the same trailor Beyonce stayed in when she visited Marfa. I wonder how she felt about all of it?

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The end

We left Marfa early in the morning, and drove along the border until we got to the highway out back to San Antonio. I’ll just add that we listened to Martin Short’s book, “I Must Say”, throughout this entire trip, and it was the perfect story to hear while exploring outside and inside.

Here are all the photos from the trip, if you’d like to see them.

To the Texas desert: you have my heart and soul.

Belated: ‘UXPA World Usability Day’ and the ‘FunnyBizz’ conference

My mind has lumped together UXPA World Usability Day and the FunnyBizz conference because of how close in time they were, and because I pretty much used the same slide deck for presenting at both of them. Both were a lot of fun, and both allowed for me to meet a lot of badass people in a short period of time.

But, as you might have guessed, they were very different events. I’ll let some embedded media explain.

FunnyBizz Conference, Oct. 30, 2014 @ Galapagos Art Space, Brooklyn, NY

funnybizz.co/funnybizz-conference

At FunnyBizz, we teach you how to tap into humor’s power. In just one (raucously entertaining) day, our elite roster of speakers will teach you essential principles of comedy, improv and storytelling, how to apply those concepts to you and your business, and generally show you how being funny can make you more successful.”

(Look carefully at the following screenshot. I’m in the thumbnail promoting the 2014 conference videos. Famous.)

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My presentation:

 

Some tweets:

 

NYC UXPA “World Usability Day: Engagement”, Nov. 13, 2014 @ AppNexus, New York, NY

NYC UXPA “World Usability Day 2014: Engagement”

worldusabilityday.org

2014 Theme: Engagement

User Experience is all about engagement. Technology, products and services are usable when they engage people. At work we strive to engage with those around us—whether they’re users, colleagues, or stakeholders … How can you engage people to use technology products and services? What kind of design thinking needs to be incorporated, to keep people engaged? How can you engage those outside our field, to understand the importance of a good user experience?”

The master deck of all the presentations:

 

Some tweets: 

Slackin’

I felt the best way to avoid making a completely meaningless comeback-from-nowhere post was to finally redesign this site again — that way I could at least say “I’ve been slackin'” while also saying “But, I haven’t been slackin’ that much, check out this new design, boom.”

While I hate and try not to use excuses, I could probably pull some out (re: slackin’) that people would be cool with. But, then I’d be doing two things I don’t like: 1) making excuses, and 2) spending time on making excuses (i.e., wasting time).

So, that’s that until I come back and post more stuff in the coming days.

And now I’m going to insert a random photo I took recently in a cool cemetery in Terlingua, Texas. I visited Terlingua, which is a ghosttown just north of Big Bend National Park, while on a roadtrip around west Texas — a roadtrip that validated my lifelong suspicion that my soul belongs in and to the desert. (I now rock a lifestyle I call “desert woman”. So far it just involves me having “desert hair” — a.k.a., I don’t do anything to my hair.)

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SXSW Interactive 2015

Vote to see my session at SXSW 2015!

Hello!
I, along with the legendary Chris Trew, have submitted a workshop proposal to SXSW Interactive 2015. Yes, we did a workshop last year, but it went so well and they dug us, so we are set on doing a refined, extremely hardcore session.

Last year’s session focused on humor and its role throughout the design process. Our next workshop would focus on the elements that make a humorous product. It’s the untouchable topic — the frog dissection, according to E.B. White:
“Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it.”

The last frog I dissected (9th grade) was already dead. I don’t know what that means in terms of metaphors, but it’s something.

Also, man, people give SXSW lots of shit. Whatever the reason for that is, I want to extend the major fact that SXSW has been a huge influence on my life — especially on my transition from being an introverted young journalist from a South Texas town no one’s heard of to being an ambitious UX designer living in New York.

It’s definitely sucked more in recent years, but ya gotta give something a chance in order for it to suck less, or something.

I just wanna share the love and obliterate the (/all) negative vibes, as per usual.

Belated: The Ad Council’s UX Advisory Committee

While at SXSW this year, I had the honor of attending my good friend Baratunde’s dinner party. It was lovely — there were about 20 of us there, all of whom had great stories and smiles, and could inspire you with just a few words.

I met and chatted with an amazing woman from the Ad Council at this dinner, which meant that conversations about social impact and humor as truth pretty much had to happen.

One thing led to another, and I met up with some Ad Council folks back in NYC to talk about how I could help contribute. They asked me to become a part of the Ad Council’s UX Advisory Committee, which I graciously accepted, and am so excited about and love already.

Changing the world with humor becomes more of a reality every day, people.

 

Belated: LeanUX NYC 2014

And with April comes LeanUX NYC. Or, so the joke goes (this year), LeanUX Jersey City.

Taren Sterry and I got together to run a workshop that was about 50% improv (led by Taren), 40% design activities (led by me), and 10% (give or take a percent) me ranting about humor & design stuff. You can read the workshop description (and other workshop descriptions) here. Some slides for you:

 

The conference was pretty fun. Props, all. See you next year.