Grab Bag – Spring 2013 Edition

romologo grab bag

Spring is in the air, which means we must spring forward and return to the Grab Bag, your semi-regular collection of news and articles around the web that I couldn’t help but share with you!


I was in SXSW a couple of weeks ago and I have to tell you, it was as fun, interesting and downright inspiring a time as I’ve ever had. I had gone into it with no small amount of dread (San Diego Comic-Con kind of makes you fear these large events), but I came away really grateful that I decided to go for it. Austin lived up to its reputation, being both cooler and prettier than I expected, with touches of Boston, Portland and even Seattle-ish rain peppered throughout the fast growing town (120 people move there a day, and I saw at least two bumper stickers that read, “Don’t Move Here.”). I had quite a few meetings and attended some great talks, including a fun mind-bending ride with Jason Silva, who does these “philosophical espresso shot” short films all about technology and philosophy, which you might find interesting. What was really funny, though, was watching how the news of Daft Punk’s upcoming album, Random Access Memories, which is due out in May–check the website out for ordering information. Just having the split-helmet posters around town sparked rumors of a possible mid-week concert on the steps of Texas’ capital building, but what everyone deemed unlikely and impossible turned out to be pretty much that. Still, I can’t help but admit I am interested in this new album, which seems to be far funkier and analog than their more recent work, which I hope bleeds into what passes for electronic music these days, which could use a bit more electro-soul and less reality distorting dubstep (wonderfully captured in this skit by Key and Peele). After wondering if I would ever actually use the service, I’ve become quite a fan of Spotify, especially the various apps, which has been a great way for me to learn more about Jazz and other kinds of music (and may do the same for video). It’s worth checking out if you are getting really tired of your playlists.



I was visiting my in-laws back during the holidays, and since it was Ohio, there was a good amount of snow, which meant I spent a lot of time indoors, which meant a lot of time playing with my nephews. However, man does not live on Legos and wooden trains alone, and…well…I’ll just come out with it: I signed back up for World of Warcraft. Yes, after almost seven years, I went back in to take advantage of this 10 day trial…which turned into me buying a 3 month subscription to really understand what was going on in the game. It’s kind of astounding how much has changed and even more astounding to admit to you how much legitimate fun I am having playing a freakin’ panda monk! There is still a lot I don’t understand–like, I just suck at battling other characters and never seem to find anyone who wants to join my party (it’s adolescence all over again, with a fee!)–but overall, I’m enjoying it. Not sure if I will extend pass the three months, but it was fun to check out that world again.

World of Warcraft publisher Blizzard has been in the news quite a bit lately, first with their sequel to Starcraft, Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm and just last week with the announcement of their free-to-play digital strategy card game, Hearthstone.  From what I am able to gather (thanks in part to the excellent WoW-related podcast, The Instance), fans had been expecting some kind of mobile game for awhile, possibly about remote pet battles (you can make your pets…battle), but they seem fairly excited about this new game, which comes out later this year (you are welcome to apply for the beta program for an early peek). There’s actually been a lot of news in video games this month, with Gears of War getting another installment, Bioshock Infinite  finally coming out, new maps Halo 4 and a new character class coming to Borderlands 2. I have not, as of yet, finished Mass Effect 3, though I was doing pretty well in Halo 4‘s multiplayer–I know for a fact that I schooled a few teenagers, which made me feel like a man –but everything kinda went by the wayside with that damned panda. (In unrelated news, retro-gamers may want to look at the Retron 5 console  –it has 5 slots in the unit so you can play original NES, SNES, Genesis, Famicom and Game Boy Advance cartridges!)



A Grab Bag wouldn’t be all that grabby without some kind of Game of Thrones talk. Season 3 starts this coming Sunday, which reminds me of all the billboards I saw in late 2012, when I would think, “So far away, March! I wonder how my life will be, so far in the future??” Like many of you might be, I am looking forward to the new season with both excitement and dread, and can’t wait to see how my friends who haven’t read the books react to this re-telling of A Storm of Swords, which is probably the best of all the books, in my most humble of opinions. I am currently listening to the most recent book, A Dance with Dragons, with the hope that Roy Dutrice’s characterizations will help make that book bit more a palatable a second time. I’ll let you know how it is sometime in November — ’tis a long book.

TV, of course, continues to redefine itself seeming every week, with more reasons to get rid of your cable/satellite subscription popping up seemingly every week (to that point, have you seen this useful list of set top boxes and their features?): Apple’s updated their Hulu app on AppleTV , the reviews for the new Roku 3 box have been intriguing, Redbox is joining the streaming fray big time with the release of their Redbox Instant app on Xbox360, and ABC is just going for it with the first live streaming app released by a network (it syncs with existing cable and satellite providers, so I guess that means you need a subscription). This news comes at a great time: to celebrate William Shatner’s birthday, Hulu is letting everyone watch pretty much all the episodes of Star Trek (all the series, not just Kirk’s!) through the end of the month. Get to it, ensign!



This map shows the oldest light in our universe, as detected with the greatest precision yet by the Planck mission. 


Finally, the lightning round! If you are into astronomy or have been hanging out at my house anytime in the past few weeks, you may have heard about the recent findings from the Planck space mission (a joint venture of ESA and NASA) announced just last week, including the news that our universe is expanding more slowly than we thought and is between 80 and 100 million years older than previously estimated. According to my wife Whitney’s press release, there’s is less dark energy and more matter–both the normal and dark kind–than previously known. Look for more news from Planck in 2013.

In tech news, Mac nerds are apparently wondering why their new OS hasn’t come out yet, and iPhone users are hoping that Maps is going to get better with Apple’s acquisition of WiFiSlam (I’ll keep my other maps handy anyway—Apple’s app has taken me to the wrong place more than a few times as of late). Apple also updated their iOS podcast app, but it still sucks.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is updating several key apps in tomorrows Windows 8 update and no matter what platform you use, news that the FAA is looking to loosen those ridiculous rules applying to electronic devices in the coming year.

In the TV world, you’ll be happy to know to that Samsung’s 85″ UHD TV  finally has a street price of $40,000, which kind of makes given that it’s a 4k display — which is rapidly becoming the new “must get otherwise you are not future-proof!” feature, despite the utter lack of any kind of content. Though Netflix wants to get into the game in the next 48 months   — much to the delight, I am sure, of ISP’s, who can’t wait to stick viewers with overage charges!


With all these games to play and shows to watch, might I suggest my current favorite drink to keep you company?

sexyoldfashionedSexy Old Fashioned

from Imbibe Magazine, attributed to Jim Romdall of Vessel in Seattle

1.5 oz Rye Whiskey

1 oz Bourbon

.25 oz Benedectine

1 barspoon Allspice Dram

1 barspoon Rich Simple Syrup

3 dashes Angostura Bitters

Garnish:  Orange Twist

Glass:  Old Fashioned/Rocks

Tools:  Mixing Glass, Barspoon, Julep Strainer

Preparation:  Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and stir with ice.  Strain into an old fashioned glass over large ice.  Garnish with an orange twist.


Mike Romo is an actor in LA. Email/photos/twitter


  1. Nice article Mike. By the way, I saw the commercial you did! Awesome man! Congrads on that!