Wednesday, February 10, 2010

On the road again: TEDActive, day 3

The talks began today, though at a more gracious hour (11:00 a.m.) than in the upcoming days (8:30 a.m.). I didn't take any pictures, so you'll have to settle for verbal snapshots of some high points of the talks:

Thomas Dolby, the TED Musical Director, opening the day in steampunk regalia, with leather cap, goggles, and a Victorian-looking top and vest. He began by conducting a lone bagpiper, but within a minute or so he, the bagpiper, and the string quartet, Ethel, were madly--and beautifully--playing.

Nobel Laureate, Daniel Kahneman, the founder of behavioral economics, talking about our experiencing selves vs. our remembering selves, how the two relate--and sometimes argue, and the power of endings. The future as anticipated memories. Much to consider here.

David Cameron, the man who is quite likely to be Britain's next Prime Minister, in an unannounced live presentation from London, discussing his views on how to build better societies in the future without spending much more money. I know embarrassingly little about Cameron, nor do I have a clue if I would want him as my PM were I British, but he certainly came across as intelligent and thoughtful.

Jake Shimabukuro playing a flamenco piece, "Ave Maria," and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" on the ukulele. I'll be adding a CD of his to my want list.

Dan Barber giving an amazing talk about the way we need to change how we eat. He was wonderful. His tale of a Spanish fish farm that uses no feed, measures its success by the health of its predators, and fishes only extensively, not intensively, was intriguing and full of hope.

Jamie Oliver, whose TV shows I've always carefully avoided, proving to my surprise to be passionate, funny, and truly on a quest to improve the way Britain and, now, America eat. I have gained a new respect for him and will be pondering how to support the work he's doing. I also feel even worse for being obese.
The usual amenities were present, though changed this year. The exhibits were more extensive and fairly interesting, with multiple strange interactive art presentations.

Gone was the Vosges chocolate tasting. In its place was something far better, at least to me: cupcake tastings. Today's contestants were Valrhona and red velvet, both of which were very good. (Hey, I had to try them, just to cast my verbal vote.) The cupcakes, by the way, were from More, which does deliver nationally. I very much recommend them.

The mid-afternoon snack was sushi--quite tasty--and edamame. Very TED-like.

Did I mention that the bassist in last night's band was Don Was?

The central problem of TEDActive for me is the social side: I suck at it. Lunch today consisted of picnic baskets for six. Bill had to go to phone meetings, so I was alone. Rather than try to join a group or organize one on my own, I grabbed lunch from one of the freestanding baskets and ate in my room as I worked. At the breaks, Bill and I talked. We spoke with others only when they talked to us. I worked for a while after the last talk, then went to the buffet dinner and spoke only to Bill and the woman from More who worked the cupcake stand. (She was very nice.) I didn't go to the Bollywood dance. I didn't mingle. I didn't join a group. After I ate, I went back to my room and started working, which I'm still doing.

Put me in a group I know, and I'm fine.

Put me on a stage with a microphone in front of any size crowd, and I'm fine.

Here, though, I somehow return to high school and become the oddball facing crowds of kids all cooler than I am, all happy and chatting and partying and completely, utterly inaccessible to me. I know this is in my head, and I could probably successfully join some groups, but with my mind full of nifty stuff to contemplate, my heart touched by what I've seen, and tons of work waiting for me back in my room, I just surrender to these old feelings. This very minute, I can hear the band playing from the party, but they're out with the crowd, and I'm here in my room, writing this entry and about to go work on my book. I'm just better at this than trying to be there, but sometimes I do wish I weren't so damn awkward and insecure.

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