Thanks to Nikolai Nolan for the video. Please, don’t spoil the shock ending!

For five days every March, the geeks of the world are the rock stars in Austin.  Those five days are over, and the actual (and wanna-be) rock starts are starting to invade the Texas capital.  As for me, I’m sitting in Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, sipping on a crappy latte, sorting through a few hundred photos and trying to process all of the good stuff from the last few days.  I’ll be posting photos over the next few days (no, I won’t wait 6 months like I did last year).

I just wanted to take an opportunity, while I have a moment, while it’s still fresh in my mind, and while I’m not distracted by work, I just want to say thank you to all of the veterans at SXSW who always make me feel so welcome; to all of the folks I’ve met over the past four years, who make the trip worthwhile (perhaps almost as much as the conference itself); to all of the newbies and the new-to-me-bies, with whom I hope to speak again soon, either over Twitter or IRL; and to everyone who stuck around for the marathon at Fray Cafe on Sunday night and cheered my semi-embarrassing story.

Soon, I’ll be back in New Jersey, trying to figure out how to rawk after SXSW.  And sleeping in my own bed…which is always nice.  And scheming ways of making sure my schedule is clear for SXSW 2009.

Today is the International Day of Awesomeness. Go forth and be awesome to each other.

Image lifted from (currently down)

Today is the first day of panels here in Austin, and I thought I’d try running two different experiments with my personal habits here at SXSW:

Experiment #1:

Purchase a replacement MacBook Pro battery, and by virtue of hotswapping batteries, not have to plug in at all during the day at ACC.
Result: Success. It’s going to be close, but I’m in the middle of the last panel session of the day, and I’ve got about 1 hour left on battery #2. I’ll have to work out an overnight charging regimen, but all in all, it’s a good thing.

Experiment #2:

Get through an entire day of panels without any coffee or caffeinated beverages.
Result: EPIC FAIL. I found myself drifting off and typing nonsense in my notes from the 37signals panel. Thankfully, Dinah was there to rescue me with some Jolt Caffeine Gum. Tomorrow, I’ll need to wake up early enough to get down to Starbucks and get my standard venti quad vanilla latte.

withbadge2008.jpgI’m on the ground in Austin for SXSWi 2008. I’ve already run into a few familiar faces, and will most likely catch up with the rest at dinner tonight. Updates as events warrant.

Reminder to those of you who are here – find me and get tagged!

(You can also follow me on Twitter, although I should warn those of you not in Austin that Twitter becomes less about what you’re doing and more about where you’re going. That’ll make more sense starting tonight.)


What the hell is this, Austin?  You and I usually have a pretty good arrangement – I visit you for five days or so, and you make me forget it’s winter.  This is nigh-unacceptable.  *grumble*

As part of my SXSW prep, earlier tonight I took a drive up to East Brunswick to do some shopping at the fat guy clothing store.  As I drove down Rt. 18 south, I passed the Mid-State Mall and noticed something…odd.  Something out of place.

I’m pretty sure that I’ve mentioned in this space on at least one occasion that I used to work at Borders – Borders Store #42, to be specific.  The one in the Mid-State Mall in East Brunswick.  It started as a part time job between seasons at Six Flags, but I ended up staying on full time, and eventually got promoted into a position where they trusted me with a LOT of money. I enjoyed my time at that store, and still keep in touch with a few of the people I worked with there, but after two years, I moved on to new ventures.

Anyway, I mentioned that there was something odd about the Mid-State Mall tonight, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, because a reasonably-new Starbucks (the kind with a drive-thru window) is sitting on the corner of the property where the enormous jughandle used to be, and therefore obscured my view.

borders_fail.jpgI took way too much time shopping, but as I returned north on Rt. 18 (heading toward Rt. 1, and eventually, home), I investigated.  And while my discovery confirmed my suspicions, it didn’t make it any easier to digest:  Borders #42 is officially closed.

I’m not sure why I was so shocked by this development – the store was chronically understaffed, even when I worked there; the fixtures were falling apart (and sometimes falling on employees!); and the location was, frankly, kinda crummy.  (Hell, look at the picture – those letters have been out for 10 years!) And according to an article from the Sentinel, Borders says the store was ‘underperforming’, although I find that somewhat hard to believe – Store #42 was (at least when I worked there) always at the top of the sales charts for our region, due in no small part to the high volume of computer books we sold – you know, the ones that are never discounted and weigh 40 lbs?  Yeah, those.  So I can’t quite fathom how the store ‘underperformed’.  But from what I’ve been reading in the press, there were a lot of ‘underperforming’ Borders stores to get the axe, so it shouldn’t be that surprising.

Still, I’m a little sad to see the store sitting there, closed down and gutted, with only an 8 1/2 x 11 typed note in the front window thanking customers for 15 years of patronage.  It’s another small part of my past that I’ll never be able to revisit.

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.

No excuses this time. Putting aside the post from LAX a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been away for a while. I could take the high road and say I was taking a ‘break’ from blogging, or that I was ‘re-evaluating’ what I wanted to do in this space, but I respect my readers (all 5 of you) too much to lie to you like that. No, the truth – the simple, damned truth – is that I kinda let my life get away from me since my last regularly scheduled broadcast. I’m not proud of it, but there it is.

OK, “let my life get away from me” sounds more dramatic than I’d intended now that I’ve actually typed it, so I guess I should qualify that statement a little bit. Over the summer my workload increased by several degrees of suck, and being…well, me…I was firmly of the belief that I could handle everything. I was proven quite wrong, and quickly found myself in the office until 7 or 8 at night trying to get everything done. (Although, in fairness, 7pm is a great time to GTD, because there are almost no distractions.) Sprinkle in some business trips, a generous helping of unexpected internal hurdles at work, and a heapin’ helpin’ of a certain Competition in Math, Science & Technology (130 hours worked in 2 weeks!) and suddenly it’s Thanksgiving.

(Alright, I guess I made some excuses. So sue me.)

So, with the formalities out of the way, I shall recall the good things that have happened since last I posted something remotely interesting in this space, in mostly-chronological order. I warn you now, some of the things on this list may seem a little mundane, but lately I’ll take any victory I can get, big or small.

July & August

  • Went to San Francisco. Every six months or so, my work in scholarship administration takes me out to the Bay Area, so I get to see a whole bunch of great people who I would otherwise only ever see in person at SXSW. Over the course of two days, I managed to squeeze in window shopping on Valencia Street with Erica (we got mopped at the Pirate Store!), went to a cocktail party at Esin’s house with Jessa & both of their wonderful, crazy families, and caught a flick at Smokler‘s Sunday Cinema with urban mermaid.
    Of course, it’s not all highly alcoholic neon drinks and Back to the Future. That Monday evening, I was off to Sacramento for my client’s scholarship awards banquet. I know it sounds hokey, but one of the best parts of my job is actually meeting the kids who win the scholarships and hearing their stories. Funny thing, tho, is that the parents and the students always come up to me at the end of the event and thank me for the scholarship, and I always have to remind them – all I did was move some paper and push some buttons…the students are the ones who did all the work. But regardless, I leave those events with a smile on my face and a much smaller stack of business cards in my pocket.
  • Went to DC. From SFO, I got to spend all of one day at home (well, at the office) before heading off to Washington, DC for an application review committee. But at least I got to see Becca for a little while before her birthday.
  • I would, of course, be remiss, if I didn’t mention Christmas in August, a/k/a Darren’s birthday. The highlight of which, quite obviously, was Ali’s gift of a shiny new Nintendo Wii. And as it turns out, the console I’ve scoffed at for the better part of a year is actually an insane amount of fun to play. I discovered that, after some practice, I’m quite good at Wii Sports Bowling, although I still pretty much suck at all of the other sports on that disc. Also, I can’t get my Wii Sports Fitness age below 50. *grumble*


  • Turned 32, which didn’t feel terribly momentous, except for the fact that I actually managed to avoid going into the office on my birthday this year, thereby avoiding a repeat of 31’s disastrous day. It was a low-key affair – dinner, board games at Stacey’s place, some poker (I think) – and that’s fine by me. Maybe I’m getting old?
  • CAN HAS NEW IPOD!!~! 32 was almost ruined by the lack of availability of a certain model of new iPod, but I managed to find it on 32.0.1, so it’s all good. (Sorry for the LOLCAT speak…I couldn’t help myself.)
  • Got jammed into an elevator with Colin Powell and Nancy Peloci. But I’m getting ahead of myself – I went back to DC in September for another client’s big-time press conference and luncheon at the Library of Congress. And when I say big-time, I mean big – the First Lady was supposed to speak, although she had broken her foot, but the Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings, was there, along with half of Capitol Hill (including Ted Kennedy, who is a surprisingly eloquent speaker). Following a Bataan Death March-like walk through the bowels of the LoC, the luncheon was headlined by the former Secretary of State, with the Speaker of the House as a warm-up act. Both are quite compelling orators (also, Colin Powell is ridiculously tall), and in retrospect, I wish I had paid more attention and spent less time worrying about making the return train to Jersey (which I did, in fact, miss). But on the way out of the luncheon to make that train, my colleague James and I ended up jammed into an elevator with Powell and Peloci. (James just happened to have business cards at the ready.)


  • Got paid for crazy overtime. I said I was going to list the good things, and while, yes, October is where the wheels basically came off the wagon that is my sanity, I did earn quite a bit of green in the process. And that, my friends, is a good thing.


  • Got a new all-in-one printer. I warned you that some of these things would be mundane, but I really, REALLY hated my old Epson Stylus Photo RX600. With a passion. Seriously…Epson? You’re On Notice. Also, my new HP is five kinds of awesome.
  • Ate with my hands. Which is to say, I had Ethiopian food for the first time, when we went to dinner at Makeda’s for Jen’s birthday. I think I ate too much of the strange skin-like bread.
  • Went to a forum on global warming. Long story short, we’re managing an essay/scholarship contest for a group that was sponsoring a forum on global warming out in LA earlier in the month. (Hence the recent update, live from LAX T-5.) I got to hear Dennis Kucinich (nice guy, interesting ideas, but hasn’t got a chance in hell), Hillary Clinton (well-rehearsed & wooden, got heckled), and John Edwards (remarkably passionate, amazing speaker) talk about their plans to address the climate crisis, should they get elected in a year’s time. Although I wish more of the candidates showed up to speak, it was an informative afternoon, and I’m looking forward to working with this client. (As a side note, at the VIP reception – yes, la-de-dah, I’m a VIP now – afterward, I’m about 95% sure I was cut off at the entrance by Sheryl Crow. Also, saw Richard Simmons at the airport…but I think I mentioned that last time.)
  • Became the lead singer (and occasional bassist) for Skeletor in a Fright Wig. Alright, I guess this one will take some explaining. I’ve Twittered at length about my love of the Guitar Hero franchise…well, Harmonix, one of the original GH developers, has expanded the metaphor with Rock Band, which adds bass, drums, and vocals to the mix. I suck out loud at drums, and I’m not too great with the chords on the guitar line, but I do well enough on bass, but 10 years of musical theater training are paying off on vocals. The game is remarkably addictive – even more so than Guitar Hero, because just like being in a real band, it’s a cooperative effort. (As to the name of our ‘band’…well, remember that Richard Simmons sighting? I was describing him to Darren as we drove back from getting burritos last week, and between the eyes, and the hair, the best way I could describe it was “like seeing Skeletor in a fright wig”. The name stuck, and a legend was born.)
  • Finally got a decent single-cup coffee maker. After suffering mediocre coffee courtesy of my HomeCafe brewer for the last few years, and not wanting to pay through the nose for a Starbucks fix every morning, I finally decided to spring for a Keurig B60. (The 20% coupon, store credit, and rebate offer for free coffee at Bed, Bath & Beyond helped the decision along a little bit.) So far, so good, but I’ve been burned before. (Literally – that damn HomeCafe thing used to spray coffee everywhere, even on me on a few occasions. I’m glad to be rid of it.)

I’m sure I glossed over some things, but that pretty much gets you up to speed on where I’ve been for the last 5 months or so. Next week I’m in DC for a cup of coffee, and the week after that, it’s back to the Bay Area (yes, again; yes, already – it’s amazing how fast time goes by when you’re not chronicling the events of your life on a regular basis). And astoundingly, SXSW is only 3(ish) months away. But in the short term, I’m looking forward to some time off at the end of the month, and generally getting things back under control at work. Oh, and providing you with regular updates of my escapades, of course.

I’m sitting at gate 58 at Los Angeles International Airport, waiting for my flight home (the whys and wherefores will come later in another post, I promise), and I’m left alone to ponder the following:

  • Just after I sat down, I spotted a reality show camera crew doing a ‘pick-up’ shot at the next gate over. (A pick-up shot is there the crew will shoot an event, like boarding a plane, out of sequence, to be edited in later. It technically doesn’t “break” the “reality” of the show, since the pick-up shot is just linking two other events that actually happen – it just provides context.) Even though I have less than a passing interest in reality TV, I couldn’t help but wonder what show this was being shot for. The girl ‘boarding’ the plane was either named Gutierez or Martinez (those were the names the gate staff paged before she ‘went down the jetway’. I tried to look for tell-tale clues or markings on the crew’s equipment, but couldn’t find any.
  • Why do Delta’s short-hop flights, like my Newark to Atlanta connection yesterday, have seat-back TVs, but the long-haul flight (ATL to LAX) only has overhead screens that are prone to malfunction or failure? For that matter, why ARE those overhead screens so prone to malfunction or failure? How hard is it to keep an LCD panel working?
  • Why would touching the side of the magnetometer at the security checkpoint cause it to go off? The one I went through earlier here at LAX terminal 5 was very narrow, and my hand nicked the side wall as I went through. I tried again, hunching over with my arms scrunched in front of me, and was fine (aside from looking like an idiot).
  • Why don’t the airlines have the flexibility to press larger planes into service when a flight fills up? The red-eye I’m going to board in about 2 hours (LAX->ATL) is completely jam-packed – every seat is sold. Since there’s clearly enough interest in this flight to fill a 767, why not press a 777 into service instead, and give those of us in steerage economy a little breathing room?

And finally…

  • I wonder how Cheese Day went… I was invited to attend this year, but this trip came up at the last minute.