The year is almost over. The weather is delightful in Austin and walking the neighborhood is a joy. Happiness arrives in holiday cards. The tree is up and the ambient stress of moonlighting as an assistant to a jolly, fat norseman takes its toll. The power grid still hums but –the question on every Texan’s mind– for how long?

There’s a lot going on behind the scenes, big life changes, but here’s some of the highlights (nay, lowlights?) from the past couple months.

My wife’s back went out

Right after my last vibe check my wife’s back went out. We’re not sure what caused it, but this was the most severe episode she’s ever experienced. One parent down had a massive impact on our quality of life. November productivity was a wash due as I scrambled to assist her, visiting doctors, and assuming a large swath of family responsibilities. She is so much better at keeping the family gears turning, I was drowning.

After some successful PT she’s doing much better and we’re almost back to where we were before November, which is welcome. And our kids pitched in and helped as best they could, I’m thankful for that.

Covid strikes again

The week after Thanksgiving my beautiful daughter comes into our room at night and is restless. In a moment of uncool dadsmanship I inform her that she’s snoring too loud. A steam shower fixed the issue, poor kid. A couple days later I started to feel ill… then I felt terrible… then I tested positive for Covid. Oof.

This one laid me out pretty good with that terrible incurable headache and sandbag-like sinus gunk. I spent six days sick and isolated, whisking myself away like a goddamed phantom of the opera whenever my family came home. No one else tested positive, but seems like a clear case that my daughter carried it home from school after the break and gave it to me, the immune system deprived remote worker; a blank petri dish ripe for infection.

I’m all better now, but let me say getting Covid the first week of December puts you super far behind in your Christmas shopping.

The Great Subscription Culling

After interviewing family members about what shows they actually watch from each service and organizing it all in a spreadsheet, I nuked about $100 worth of monthly subscriptions. Services including but not limited to…

  • Streaming: Peacock, Disney/Hulu, YouTube Premium, Apple One, Dropout, Crunchyroll
  • Community: Some Patreons, some Discord boosts

The hard thing is that I like these services. I find value in them… just not all at the same time. How are we going to live without them? Well there’s some strategy…

  1. On-demand services - If we want Service X more than Netlfix, we cancel Netflix.
  2. Move to the ad-supported version of services (YouTube, Disney/Hulu) - Way cheaper and if we all hate the ads, we can decide as a family to remove them.
  3. Ask for some as gifts (Dropout, Crunchyroll) - A monthly service fee for entertainment for one person in the household is excessive… but those make great gifts! It’s some bank account slight of hand, but I can enjoy my weird Gundam obsession guilt free.

On that note, a ShopTalk listener heard wind about my plans and graciously gifted me a subscription to Crunchyroll. Incredibly thoughtful. Thank you, Melanie.

I think Subscription Culling should be a national holiday we do every equinox. If streaming services are going to raise prices every quarter, we should normalize the threat of abandoning them en masse.


Data rules everything around me. These take a long time, I wonder if I could automate this.

💪 Fitness

📖 Reading

Four book covers: The Big Myth, The Hard Switch, The Oven, and Subtract


  • The Big Myth - A dismantling of the idea about the invisible hand of the market. Paired with other books I’ve read this year, you see how “That’s socialism!” is a propaganda dogwhistle to cover for a much bigger lie that unfettered capitalism works. Starting back in the union busting days because people were getting their arms cut off in the machines, businesses began promoting the idea that regulating business is bad. The conservative thinktank at the Chicago school of economics developed the lie by cherry-picking and bastardizing Adam Smith’s writings to suit their “greed is good” agenda. I never knew Milton Friedman was a person I could get mad at… but here we are. This lie was then carried on by GE propagandists like (former SAG union president) Ronald Reagan who popularized trickle down economics during his US presidency and continued with neoliberal bank deregulation in the Clinton administration. The too-big-to-failures of the market never fall on the corporations, it’s always on the public and the taxpayer. [/rant]
  • The Hard Switch - A sci-fi graphic novel set in the future time of “the hard switch” when the galaxy runs out of the fuel that enables long space travel. A++, would recommend.
  • The Oven - A sci-fi graphic novel about a young couple trying to have a child outside the reach of an intrusive government.
  • Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less - Non-fiction based on research that showed people overwhelmingly prefer additive solutions over subtractive solutions.


  • Caliban’s War - Struggling to get through the second book in The Expanse. Made good progress but the library called it back again.


📝 Blogging

Not much blogging… had a lot going on… but got lots of drafts. I focused a lot more on “digital gardening” like improving focus states, fixing a11y issues, improving cross-browser compat, and adding new section to the site for my projects and side projects.

🧠 Learning

As part of sunsetting some subscriptions, I picked up a substitute Duolingo habit instead.

  • Japanese - The kanji and grammar practice is helpful for me. Otis is also learning Japanese.
  • Music - The new music feature brought me back. It’s slow, but I’m trusting the process.
  • Klingon - Qapla’ … this was a big whim, but no regrets.

Feel free to follow me on Duolingo, same handle as everywhere.

📺 Media

Big period of media consumption. Got back into podcasts and cleared out the queue pretty well.


  • Barbie - Great movie, not sure about the ending where <spoiler>they decide to preserve gender inequality?</spoiler>… but still a good movie.
  • David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived (Prime) - The story of Daniel Radcliffe’s stunt double David Holmes who was tragically paralyzed in an injury during the filming of the 7th film in the series.


  • Welcome to Wrexham (Hulu) - Rob and Deadpool deserve an Emmy for this.


Lots of Gundam and auditioned a few shows but nothing stuck.

  • Build Fighters Try S2 (Crunchyroll) - Build Fighters is fun… this one was a bit less fun than the first.
  • Zeta Gundam (Crunchyroll) - Zeta Gundam is great but choppy, I frequently backtrack because I feel like if I look away for one second I miss a major reveal.
  • ∀ Gundam E01-30 (GundamInfo) - INCREDIBLE. Set in the far future on a different timeline, the technologically advanced Moonrace invades the primitive Earth. A Gundam from a time long ago is found. It’s not a story about fighting robots so much as a story about people who find themselves in the middle of a war. It’s more like a Ghibli than a Gundam. I wish I had finished this but GundamInfo took the videos down. 😭
  • Mobile Suit Gundam Reconguista in G Vol 1 (GundamInfo) - Also good… but GundamInfo took it down before I could finish all 5 movies.


  • The Adventure Zone: Steeplechase (MaxFun) - Finished the series. This was one of my favorites; Blades in the Dark is such a fun system. Mixed feelings on the ending, not sure what I was hoping for, but the wrap-up was a bit fast and furious for me.
  • The Adventure Zone Live Shows - Caught up on the incredible Dadlands and Hootenanny one-shots.
  • Growth Machine (KUT) - A podcast about Austin’s urban design and population growth.
  • The Disconnect (KUT) - A podcast about the Texas power grid. If you live in Texas and experience trauma from the grid, I recommend this series.
  • Systems of Harm (Amy Hupe) - A podcast about design systems and inclusivity.

🎙 Recording

I did some Twitch streams but fell off with general busy-ness. ShopTalk is hitting some wonderful strides as we wrap our 12th year and approach Episode 600.


🧶 Crafts

A master grade Z'gok and high grade Gouf plastic gundam model


Over the Thanksgiving break I binged and built three gunpla. Because I rewatched the original series, I wanted to fill out my squad of Zeon mobile suits.

  • HG Zaku II - The infamous green grunt mobile suit for the Principality of Zeon.
  • HG Gouf - The blue custom mobile suit piloted by Rambal Ral, who is one of my favorite characters from the series.
  • MG Z’Gok - The underwater mobile suit piloted by Char Aznable during his raid on Jaburo.

⌨️ Open source

  • Nothing. But new repos on the horizon.

👾 Video games

  • Gundam UC Engage (iOS) - A gachapon style time-waster. If you like games like this, please join my clan “Side 5: Texas Colony”

Thus ends the retelling of the stats.