Archives for category: SXSW

Yeah, you know the drill. This is the part where I apologize for being away for such a long time, and I swear on several dead people that I’m going to make good and post more frequently.

Honesty moment: I’ve had quite a bit to post, I just haven’t really been inspired to post. I know that sounds like a crock of shit, but in all honesty, I just really haven’t been inspired to write lately. I pull up the ‘write post’ template in WordPress, and I sit there looking at a blank field, wondering where all the words went. (Really, I used to be quite good at this. I think. It’s been such a long time.)

Oh, and sorry about all the Boston references – I’ve been playing a lot of Rock Band lately. Finished the solo guitar tour on medium, and I’m almost exclusively playing bass on hard or expert (except for “Green Grass and High Tides” – that song just kicks my ass every damn time).

It goes without saying that work has been keeping me incredibly busy. After much wrangling on my part, my group has finally got the go-ahead to outsource our database and web application work; naturally, I’ve been given a lot of responsibility for this particular project. In addition to everything I’d normally be responsible for. It’s daunting, to say the least; for the better part of the last few months, I feel like I’ve continually been playing catch-up.

There’s been some good stuff in that time, tho – I’ve been down to DC a few times, and even had a chance to see the wily and elusive Becca; made another trek to the Bay Area in December, wherein Erica and I got lost on steep hills, and Esin & Tomek hosted a dinner party (and I finally got to meet Jessa‘s ‘bucket’); and I got a really positive performance review at work, which I’m hoping will materialize into a substantial raise. Oh, and I got some new shoes. So there’s that. But even still, I’ve been feeling generally drained.

Which brings us to the present. South By Southwest Interactive starts at the end of this week. As busy as SXSW can be, I always look forward to those five days in Texas as a chance to recharge the batteries. I’m hoping that I’ll be inspired by those clever, clever friends of mine – inspired to blog, inspired to try new things, and inspired to experiment and grow. Needless to say, there will be at least once-daily posting and photos a-plenty from Austin.

Just a quick heads-up that I’ve posted the first thirty or so of my SXSW pictures to Flickr (see also the sidebar badge), with many more to come. Although I might need to enlist some help remembering the names of some of the Fray Cafe speakers, and that’s the next group I have to edit…

In any event, go check out the photos, and use the tags to view the photos from the other attendees – my photos aren’t living in a vacuum, you know.

Text Message madness!

D’oh! Looks like I need to call Verizon tomorrow and see what my options are…

Now playing on iPod: Can’t Go Back to Jersey, G Love & Special Sauce

I’m currently sitting at Austin Bergstrom International Airport, waiting for my flight back to New Jersey. Back to ‘reality’. A reality that includes a hectic job that I love, a comfortable bed, and a vehicle that doesn’t have that odd rental car smell. (You know the smell.) But mostly, work. What it doesn’t have is the instant camaraderie of being surrounded by thousands of like-minded individuals, instant running gags, an exciting nightlife, new and interesting people…well, you get the idea.

SXSW was great this year, albeit maybe a little different. The Interactive conference grew again this year, and the crush of new faces was a bit overwhelming. In truth, I ended up defying one of MJ’s rules of ‘how to rawk SXSW’ and (for the most part) stayed with a close (well, close is a relative term for SXSW) circle of friends. That’s not to say I didn’t meet some great new people – more on them later – but, and I’ll envoke Esin again, this year was about “chillaxin’.” And I was just fine with that – I batted around .700 with my panel choices, made some good contacts, had some excellent discussions about both technology AND scholarship administration, and really enjoyed the parties I chose to attend (which, either despite or in spite of the size of the conference this year, were not overly crowded or crushing). But moreover, this year was about having fewer exchanges and more conversations, and I think I succeeded there.

There’s no doubt as to whether I’ll be back next year – mentally, I’m already registered. Whether work will pay for it again is another story, but one way or another, I’ll be back in Austin next year.

But for now, back to reality.

Side note: As is my custom at SXSW, I have a ton of pictures sitting in iPhoto, waiting for names and tags before they get uploaded to Flickr. The new camera did a fantastic job with the low-light environments of Fray Cafe/Red Eyed Fly and 20×2, and the fancy new batteries performed as advertised. As documented elsewhere, the wireless access both at the ACC and at the Hilton sucked out loud, so doing anything too bandwidth-intensive was out of the question. I will tend to the photos as soon as I get home.

I haven’t forgotten about you, dear blog readers. It’s just that a combination of excellent panels and limited internet connectivity has hampered my ability to bring you (all 8 of you) up to speed on my exploits.

And seeing that it’s 2:30AM, I’m not going to be doing that now, except in bullet-point form:

  • Dan Rather’s keynote was interesting, in the sense that in a very sly, veteran way, he turned the tables on the interviewer (who was quite unprepared) and essentially directed the conversation himself. Also, see the “Dan Rather Bingo” card on Flickr. (Backstory to be explained in a later post.)
  • Like I said before, the panels have been largely excellent this year – at least, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve heard that some of the more technical panels have been unqualified duds, but I haven’t been in any of them yet. More on the panels later.
  • Fray Cafe was somewhat lower-key than last year, thanks to the torrent of rain we got last night; 20×2, however, hit it out of the park again. I’ll have photos up shortly – again, time & connectivity come into play here.
  • Twitter runs my life now.

That’s it. I need to get to bed if I want to make the 10AM panels. To quote Esin, “Suck it, bitches.”

Or, as Brad put it, “Worst. Flashmob. Ever.” I’ll explain this later, but I had to get this posted ASAP.

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

Here’s a quick update prior to (finally) going to bed:

  • Unlike last year, there was no airline drama to speak of. Aside from a bit of a delay prior to take-off (which I didn’t really notice, mostly because I was asleep), everything went smoothly.
  • Also unlike last year, I decided to get my badge today. The line was insane, but it moved quickly. I was also able to take in the majority of MJ’s “How to Rawk SXSW” panel before heading off Buffalo Billiards.
  • Break Bread with Brad was fun, but insane. It was nice to see some familiar faces who were absent last year, although the turnout was staggering. Someone told me that the interactive registration numbers doubled again this year, which should make for some interesting panel sessions.
  • The karaoke event went well – and yes, I sang (alone, Tom Petty’s “Breakdown”, Frank Sinatra’s “The Lady is A Tramp”, and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”; with others, TMBG’s “Don’t Let’s Start” and “Ana Ng”, The Beastie Boys’ “Brass Monkey”, and Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Paradise”). Two things were apparent by the end of the evening: that if you’re going to attempt a song that needs to be sung in all-falsetto, do it early in the evening, and I should never, ever attempt to rap. (As a side note, if/when we try this again next year, Bryan and I will try to find a downtown location – I think a lot of folks who heard the announcement at BBwB opted-out of attending when they realized that we were a $10 cab ride away from the other parties.) Update: Kevin Lawver has video of Kevin Smokler and David Dylan Thomas doing a face-melting version of “Under Pressure”.
  • Twitter is your friend. Just make sure you have a compatible text messaging plan, otherwise you’re going to have some problems at the end of the month.

That’s all for right now. I’m off to bed once I’ve figured out which 10AM panel I’m going to tomorrow. Also, I’m really beary-eyed, and I don’t know how coherent this post really looks. So it’s probably time to call it a night.

Late last week, I posted the list of things I needed/wanted/probably should do before I leave for SXSW on Friday.  Let’s see how I’m doing:

  • Dentist – done.  No cavities, nothing unusual on the x-rays.  In other words, no news is good news.
  • Supermarket – done.  Although a side-trip to Target to get some socks ended in disappointment.  (Damn my giant feet.)
  • Laundry – in progress.  And I’ll probably still be doing laundry on Thursday.  What can I say?  I like my clothes clean.
  • Haircut – tomorrow night at 7.  I’m not planning to come to Austin bald or anything…just a trim.
  • Check with Continental – done.  Not only that, but I got my OnePass Elite status sorted out too.  (Squeaky wheel = grease.)
  • Get some damn sleep – trying.  Really, I’m trying.
  • Tie up loose ends at work – ongoing, but losing ground.  I’m not where I wanted to be by the end of Tuesday.  (Especially since I’m trying to finagle things so I can take a half-day on Thursday.)  Mainly, I’m plagued by committee issues – the committee this week in Sacramento is all set, but next week’s committee still needs to be nailed down.
  • Maybe buy the FastMac 62wh battery – decided against it.  The battery has gotten some good reviews, and it’s less expensive than the genuine Apple battery, but even with the extra 2wh, I’d still need to plug in at the ACC at some point during the day.  Instead, keeping with the battery theme, I sprung for a set of eneloop rechargable AA batteries for my camera.   They’re still NiMH, but they use some new technology to prevent the batteries from discharging when not in use.  (They also ship pre-charged, so…bonus.)
  • Hit Franks Big & Tall for new threads – Thursday, hopefully.  But I did order some new causal Dunham slip-ons, just in time for Austin.  (I hope.  I had to spring for overnight shipping.)
  • Make karaoke happen – it’s on like Donkey Kong.  Opal Divine’s Penn Field, Friday at 9:30PM – check the Upcoming listing for more details.
  • Find a new book – tomorrow, maybe.  I’ve got a Borders gift card burning a hole in my pocket, and I’m itching to use it, but I’ve still got a decent chunk of An Empire of their Own left, so I’m debating.  (I thought about bringing the gift card with me to use at the SXSW bookstore, but alas, it’s been taken over by the Giant Corporate Overlord this year.)

Looking everything over, I guess I’m not doing too badly.  Friday can’t be here soon enough!

With all of the business travel I’ve been doing lately, I think my sense of time and place is starting to get warped. I’m currently sitting in the FDIC‘s student lodging facility in Arlington, VA…well, calling it ‘student lodging’ is understating it – this place is a full service hotel, and the room I’ve been assigned is both larger and nicer than the one I got when I stayed at the New York Hilton last September. (Also, I wouldn’t be shocked to find out that it’s less expensive – I don’t know for sure, since my client is paying for the room.)

This is my third business trip this month:

  • Back at the beginning of February, I was in New Orleans for a couple of days for an application review committee meeting.
  • Two weeks ago, I had a cup of coffee in Burbank, meeting with a client.
  • And this weekend, it’s Arlington, for yet another committee meeting.

And inbetween trips, we’ve had committee meetings on-site at ETS. It wouldn’t be inaccurate to say I’ve had a busy month.

On the train ride down to DC earlier today, I realized two things: 1) I forgot the cables for our committee laser printer, and 2) SXSWi starts in one week. Yikes. Has the year passed that quickly? (Yes. Yes it has.)

Upon that second realization, I started formulating a list of everything I need to do to be ready for next week. That list includes (in no particular order):

  • Visit the dentist. (This isn’t so much for SXSW – the timing is coincidental. But at least I’ll have clean teeth!)
  • Go to the supermarket and replenish the supplies in my travel kit (shampoo, hair gel, shaving cream, etc.)
  • Do laundry. If feels like I’m forever doing laundry, but the truth is that I always try to do the laundry before I travel so I don’t come home to a full hamper. (Or, at least, pre-existing dirty clothes, since I’ll be dragging a week’s worth of dirty clothes back from Austin.)
  • Possibly get a haircut. To the best of my recollection, it wasn’t too long since my last haircut, but I feel like my hair is too long. Also, I prefer short hair when I’m warm weather, and last year it was 90 degrees+ for most of SXSWi.
  • Re-confirm my itinerary with Continental. I booked my tickets back at the beginning of October, in part because that’s when I booked my hotel in order to get a room at the Hilton, and in part because I wanted to get everything in before my boss changed his mind. But in the intervening months, Continental’s schedule has changed a couple of times, and I nearly got bounced to a return flight four hours later than the one I booked. So I want to make sure everything is in order before I fly.
  • Try to get a few nights of decent sleep before traveling. This seems like a no-brainer, but truthfully, I haven’t been sleeping all that well lately. And as I think I’ve mentioned in this space on a prior occasion, I don’t generally sleep well the night before a trip. Add into that equation the hours we keep at SXSW, and…well, I need to get some decent REM sleep this week, or I’m boned.
  • Try to tie up all loose ends at work. Again, seems like a no-brainer, but those loose ends include an application review committee arriving at ETS the day after I return from SXSW, meaning everything has to be done before I leave. Truthfully, my real goal for the week is to not stay in the office much past 5:30pm (unlike this week, when my average departure time was 7:30pm).
  • Maybe buy the FastMac 62wh battery for my MacBook Pro. Not so much for the ‘extended’ nature of it, since the two extra watt-hours only buys a 5% improvement over the stock battery (although any extension is nice), but more for the ability to not have to plug in during and between panels at the Austin Convention Center. (On a related note, I should also look for a small power strip. Because the fastest way to make friends at SXSW is to have a power strip.)
  • Make a run to Frank’s Big & Tall for a couple of new shirts. Also, maybe some comfortable walking shoes.
  • Work with Bryan to try and make the Friday late-night karaoke thing happen.
  • Maybe find a new book to read on the plane. I’ve been enjoying An Empire of their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood, but it’s not exactly upbeat. I’m thinking maybe a nice, frothy mystery.

I think that’s about it. For now. I’m sure I’ll think of other things before I get back to NJ on Sunday.

Don’t confuse pragmatism with pessimism – I can’t wait to see everyone again. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – SXSW feels like home to me, in much the same way that Stagedoor felt like home to me. I’ve just got a few things to do before I get on the plane and leave real life behind.

[Oh, and in case you’re curious…I had the cables shipped to me, so I should have them in the morning. Because I know how y’all crave the closure.]