Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Saturday that barely was

Friday night about nine, I settled into my British Airways business-class cocoon.  In this photo, you can see the one ahead of mine and to my left across the aisle.

Click an image to see a larger version.

Barely as wide as my shoulders, it was nonetheless a reasonably comfortable place to spend the next nearly ten hours.

Free headphones, a video screen that swiveled to face me, and the usual food and beverage amenities made the long overnight flight (we left Vancouver in the late evening and arrived in London in the middle of the afternoon) tolerable enough that I arrived feeling merely stoned and not in any sort of bodily pain.

After the usual Heathrow flight-change security dance, working for four hours in the Admirals Club, and a lot of walking, I boarded the flight to Barcelona.  I had a great conversation with my row-mate, a fellow Mobile World Congress traveler (almost everyone on that flight was), and landed in Barcelona.

The passage through immigration and customs there was straightforward and hassle-free, better than I had dared hope.  My bag showed up, and I was even able to pick up my conference badge at the airport.

One expensive cab ride and some bellman tips later, and I was settled into a generally lovely room in my hotel.  That said, I could have done without this artwork, which sits on a wall in the entry alcove.

My hotel is just off Las Ramblas, and my room faces onto a nifty square.  Standing on my bathroom balcony--yes, I have a balcony off that room--at nearly one in the morning, the typical Barcelona late-night activity was much in evidence.

I was strongly tempted to join the fun, but I was so exhausted from lack of real sleep that I unpacked and then fell into bed sometime after one a.m. local time.

It's good to be done traveling for a bit.

Friday, February 19, 2016

TED 2016 closes strong

Despite what the timestamp on this entry says, I'm writing it late Saturday afternoon (local time) in the Admirals Club in Heathrow.  The sky is already darkening, and I am trying not to fall asleep.  I'm spending over four hours here on my way to Barcelona.  I am so exhausted I have trouble keeping my eyes open, but I want to put down these thoughts while they are still reasonably fresh.

The first speaker of the day was Tshering Tobgay, the Prime Minister of Bhutan.  Bhutan is a small country with around 700,000 people and a very unusual--and admirable--way of doing business.  It was the first country to be not just carbon-neutral but carbon-positive, something it pledged to be quite some time ago.  The government focuses as much on GNH--Gross National Happiness--as on GDP.  Tobgay's talk was thought-provoking and entertaining, enough so that I now very much want to visit Bhutan and learn more about it.

Sue Desmond-Hellman, the CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and thus one of the most powerful non-profit heads in the world, took the stage next.  She spoke a lot about Precision Public Health as a solution to dealing with issues such as the fact that 2.6 million babies die in the first year of life.  Her example of precision medicine--Herceptin targeting breast-cancer cells--was clear, but she was very short on details about what Precision Public Health would actually mean in practice.  I left wanting more information.

We switched from medicine to art when photographer Stephen Wilkes discussed with us some photos from his Day to Night photographic series.  In each of these works, he chooses a location, usually one suspended in the air over a target area, and shoots 1,500 to 2,500 shots over 18 to 30 hours.  From these, he assembles a single photo that shows what happened in that place from very early in the morning until evening.  I found the photos fascinating and compelling.  I hope he comes out with a book of them.

Surprise guest speaker Alexander Betts, an Oxford professor who specializes in refugee studies, argued convincingly for the EU to do a much better job of taking in refugees.  His arguments applied equally well, I believe, to the U.S.  Impassioned, deeply knowledegable, and completely committed, Betts was a whirlwind of energy determined to improve how we handle refugees.  I was one of the many who gave his talk a standing ovation, my second (after one for Tobgay) of the day.

Surprise followed surprise as Amanda Palmer came onstage.  Joining her were Jherek Bischoff, who conducted a string quartet, and Usman Riaz, who played the main melody on guitar.  They started into a slow and soulful rendition of "Major Tom," and the house exploded with applause.  When it came time for the countdown, a quarter-intensity spotlight revealed that Al Gore was up there with them, and he read the countdown.  After his amazing talk on climate change, Gore reading this countdown was somehow perfect.  At the end, David Bowie name and life span appeared on the screen.

I've expressed here before my mixed feelings about Amanda Palmer's work, but I must say that she and this group absolutely nailed this song.  They were splendid.  I and everyone else in the house stood and gave them a prolonged standing ovation.  It was a magic TED moment, and I feel privileged to have been in the audience to see it.

We changed to comedy as Erin McKean, TED's resident lexicologist, discussed some of the more interesting words, real and made-up, we've heard this week.  She's a quiet but effective humorist and clearly a word lover.

Courtney Martin pointed out that for the first time in American History, a majority of people today believe their children will lead lives with less than they have.  She argued, though, that this was less a failure of the American Dream than a sign that it's time to have a very different dream, one focused more on fulfillment and the ability to adapt to a constantly changing work world than one targeting material possessions.  Her presentation was interesting, and she certainly raised some valid points, but it was ultimately the weakest of the day's talks.

Casey Gerald, founder of MBAs Across America and a strong orator, chronicled a lot of his experiences along the road to finding himself a believer in the gospel of doubt.  He also announced the closing of his organization.  His talk was moving, and he received a standing ovation, but he had only his doubt to offer, no answers or even a path forward, and so in that way his talk ended disappointingly.  I still, though, found it compelling and enjoyed it.

As she has done at past TEDs, Julia Sweeney gave a humorous wrap-up of the week that was a nice, light way to end its final session.

In the course of the closing lunch, I made myself (Bill had already left) sit with different groups and thus actually spoke to over half a dozen folks.  I spent a lot of time talking with speaker Wanda Diaz Merced and TED Fellow Mitchell Jackson, and I quite enjoyed the conversations.

I left as one should depart from TED:  with my heart and head full to overflowing, happy that I had been able to attend, and already looking forward to next year's event.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Talks that ranged far and wide

This last full day of TED contained three sessions jammed with talks that covered a wide range of topics.

The conference's ninth session opened with conservative Arthur Brooks arguing convincingly that conservatives and liberals need each other to solve the world's biggest problems, including the one he was focused on:  the extreme poverty that two billion people around the world suffer.  I particularly liked his notion of "servant leadership."  To be a servant leader, he observed, you must fight both for people you don't need and those who don't like you.  As he also noted, this concept eludes the vast majority of today's politicians:  "We in this country are facing a lack of visionary servant leadership."

One of the stronger and more compelling talks came from Adam Foss, an assistant district attorney in the juvenile division of Suffolk County.  Foss had started out to be a defender, watched the power dynamics in the courtroom, and realized he could do more good for his people as a prosecutor.  He argued very persuasively that we need to train prosecutors in saving people and changing lives, not ruining them.  Rather than focus on jailing people, prosecutors should instead focus on helping them come back from mistakes in their lives.  I realize this may sound more than a bit unrealistic, but Foss and others have shown that it is very possible and that we can both help change lives and avoid adding to our broken and incredibly expensive incarceration system.

Music great John Legend joined Foss on stage and chatted with him a bit--the two had worked together on one of Legend's organizations, Free America, which works to help fix that very same broken system.  Legend then played a few songs on the piano and sang.  What a privilege it was to hear him perform!  He opened with Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," a song that was even more poignant given Foss' talk.

I've never read anything by writer Lidia Yuknovitch, who spoke next, but I am certainly going to seek out her work.  She discussed what it was like to be a misfit with a life that made her feel for years and years that she never belonged in the room.  I found her talk personally relevant and moving.

Moran Cerf discussed his work in brain imaging from the inside, which he does by putting electrodes in the brains of people whose skulls are already open for brain surgery.  He also talked about some promising--and potentially frightening--work in manipulating dreams via external stimuli.  Interesting stuff.

The last presentation of the first session was an extremely cool demo of Microsoft's Hololens by Alex Kipman.  Kipman conducted a live holo conference with a colleague who was across the street.  The demo worked surprisingly well given all it was doing.  I'm ready to try a Hololens!

After lunch, the tenth session kicked off with a group of speakers who were all TEDx organizers.  The six talks were all entertaining enough, but none reached the heights of Foss or Yuknovitch.  The most fun was Linsey Pollak's demonstration of making musical instruments from odd objects, including a carrot.  Kang Lee's presentation on lying in children was interesting but did not contain enough data for my taste.

The most touching of the bunch was Angelica Dass' presentation of her Humanae project, in which she photographs people, samples pixels from parts of their faces (I think), and then shows the Pantone colors of their skin.  The many photos make abundantly clear what we should all already know:  that labels like "black" and "white" are stupid ways to categorize people, and that each of us falls on a continuum of human colors.

If someone reminds me, I'll write an entry sometime on how this applies to my Jon & Lobo books.

The day wrapped with a session on "fantasists and catalysts."  Chris Milk started it off with a bang by giving us an amazing demo of the Vrse virtual reality technology.  Each of us had previously downloaded a special TED app to our phones.  Using our phones, a Google Cardboard viewer that was on our seats, and earphones that were also on our seats--yes, we got to keep this swag--we all stood and experienced an amazing five minutes.  The whole time Milk talked, two musicians played for us, an addition that made the talk even more haunting.  During the demo, of course, sound relevant to what we were experiencing poured through our earphones.  Though I have felt and generally still believe that VR has a very long way to go, this demo was fantastic.

Neurologist Uri Hasson showed something amazing he's learned from his FMRI brain research: brains sync on meanings, with listeners and storytellers alike triggering the same sections of their brains as they hear/tell a story.  He also showed hard proof of something we all know from experience:  what you believe before you hear a story affects how you respond to the story.  The difference is that he actually showed that your brain physically responds differently based on what you bring to a story.  Very nifty stuff.

Design critic Alice Rawsthorn provided a few examples of how superior design can have huge real-world consequences.

Ameera Harouda makes her living in Gaza as a fixer for journalists, the only female fixer there and thus one who can get stories others can't.  What she's doing is very brave, but for many reasons she couldn't go into much detail.

Musical group El Vy played us a few songs, which I enjoyed well enough.  I say that because after listening to John Legend earlier, my expectations were rather high.

The day ended with a bit of science fiction storytelling theater from Monica Byrne, a Durham writer.  She delivered a fine performance of a short story with a very sad ending.

We all then bundled into buses to head to the last night of TED celebration.  The food was the usual TED hip concoctions, good but not great.  Bill and I actually spoke with a few new folks, which was good.  The big news of the party was that after a DJ had warmed up the crowd, Fitz and the Tantrums played for us.  I quite like this group, though the mix for this party made it almost impossible to understand most of the words they were singing.

Tomorrow, TED draws to a close with a single session that runs for more than two and a half hours!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

TED nails it

Today was the kind of day that keeps me returning to TED.  Two of the three main sessions were simply fantastic, and the third was extremely good.

The morning began with a geek-heavy session centered around code, and as you might expect, I loved it.  Chris Anderson's interview of Linus Torvalds proved to be entertaining, informative, and touching.  Torvalds repeated many times that he was not a people person, but he came across well on stage.  My favorite response of his came in his answer to Anderson's question about being a visionary:  "I am not a visionary.  I have no five-year plan.  I am an engineer."  These two deserved the standing ovation they received.

Next up was Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code.  She argued that we raise our boys to be brave and our girls to be perfect, and that it's hard to be brave when doing so means you must admit to failing at being perfect.  I strongly support her goal of involving more women in STEM careers, and she has made great strides.  Her group taught 20 girls in 2012, and this year it's teaching over 40,000.  Passionate, smart, and committed, Saujani struck me as a great leader for this organization.

Peter Diamandis of XPrize and Dave Kenny from IBM Watson then took the stage to announce the AI XPrize, a $5M competition.  The three finalists will give talks at TED 2020, and the TED audience will determine the winner.

In a talk that I quite loved but that also served as a bit of comic relief, Mary Norris, a copyeditor with the New Yorker,  discussed her job, dealing with writers, and the role of copyeditors.  As someone who cares deeply about the copyediting of his books, I found her an editor I'd be happy to work with--though I doubt she'd let that last construction stand.

Luke DuBois showed us art that he's constructed using data analysis techniques on large quantities of online data he's mined.  I definitely want to see more of his work, which was smart, touching, and informative.  He touched the entire audience with his work.

We then saw a demo of some outstanding tech that's still in development.  Chris asked that we not yet publicize this one, so all I can say is that when TED and this company break the news on it, I'll tell you more about it.  It was very cool indeed.

Equally cool was the presentation in the next session by Raff D'Andrea, a professor at ETH Zurich.  Once again, though--and I apologize here for being a tease--I can't yet tell you about what we saw.  Fortunately, the talk should be online soon.

Cool tech, a new prize, amazing demos, and interesting people--this was an outstanding session, the kind that made me instantly glad I was returning next year.

The seventh session began with an argument by Parag Khanna that we need to stop thinking of geography as defining people and instead focus on what he calls "connectography," the intersection of connections and geography.  I think he underestimates how important geography remains, or at least he pretends to do so for the sake of publicizing his work, but he is certainly hitting on a major force in the ongoing evolution of human civilizations.

Amit Sood and a colleague, Cyril (I did not catch his last name), then conducted a beautiful demo of Google's Art Project.  Check this one out online or on an Android device.  It's an amazing collection of art from museums and collections all around the world.  You can search and manipulate it with metadata, or with the tags Google's machine-learning algorithms applied to the art by looking at it, or even by showing it your face and letting the software find art that comes close to you.  I can't wait to play with this thing.

TED folks then announced the TED Residency program, an interesting way for them to encourage good works.  I don't think I'd find it useful, but I can imagine that many folks will.

Dalia Mogahed, a Muslim who came to her faith at 17, delivered a deeply moving, impassioned talk about what it means to be a Muslim in America and how it felt to be one during 9/11 and the following week.  Smart, brave, patriotic, and deeply religious, she reminded us all of the deep dangers of the sort of hate-mongering that some of today's political candidates are practicing.

Hugh Evans, a young man who founded the Global Poverty Project in 2008 and the Global Citizen Festival in 2012, made the case that we should all be what he calls global citizens, people working regularly to solve the world's biggest problems, such as the fight against extreme poverty.  His talk addressed a completely different topic than Mogahed's, but he was also compelling.

Both of them deserved the standing ovations they received.

Christiana Figueres closed the session with a discussion of climate change and the importance of tackling big problems with an unrelenting sense of optimism.

Another very good session with many touching talks.

After lunch, Bill and I went to TED University, which is a long session composed of short (three-minute, I think) talks by members of the TED audience, not speakers TED recruited.  We watched 17 presentations.  It's almost three a.m. here, so you'll have to trust me when I say that all were at least interesting, and I was happy to have been in the audience.

The day's final session began with a presentation on climate change by Al Gore.  Ten years ago, Gore walked onto the TED stage and delivered a talk on climate change that became legendary and inspired millions, me included.  He came to the stage this year to update us.

This talk was better than that earlier one.  Gore began with measured tones and excellent slides, hitting us with fact after sobering fact.  As he continued, though, his enthusiasm grew, and he ended with optimism and a challenge to us all to help in the fight against climate change.  I am not doing this talk justice.  It is one of the best orations, maybe the best, I have ever personally witnessed.  If the Al Gore who ran for President had demonstrated the passion, intensity, and speaking skills of the man we saw today, history would have been very different.  I applauded until my hands hurt, and so did everyone else.  The moment TED puts this one online, watch it on the biggest display you have, turn up the sound, and enjoy.

Gore's act was so hard to follow that at first I felt bad for the soft-spoken man who took the stage next, Andrew Youn, the founder of the One Acre Fund.  My fears were misplaced.  He made a compelling case that we are entirely capable of stopping extreme poverty now, that doing so requires only will, work, and capital, that we have already invented everything we need to tackle this huge challenge.  I found his talk moving and powerful.

Science writer Jennifer Kahn tackled the topic of gene engines and CRISPR.  She convincingly argued that we need to start now having global conversations about the issues around this sort of genetic manipulation, because it is coming, and there's no stopping it now.

Singer Rhiannon Giddens then performed.  Wow, does she have an amazing voice--and she's from Greensboro.  North Carolina, represent!  I will definitely be picking up some of her music.

The day's final talk came from Dan Gross, leader of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.  He tackled this tough topic with what seemed to me to be a very reasonable approach, not arguing for banning guns but simply for broader use of background checks.  His data and his talk were both compelling.

What a day of talks!  Chris Anderson, Kelly Stoetzel, and all the TED folks who assembled these sessions should be intensely proud.  They certainly made me eager to return.

For tonight's dinner, we had the option of signing up to eat with a speaker.  I chose Monica Byrne, a Durham writer who has not yet spoken.  Twelve of us ended up sharing a table at a sushi place that was also hosting many tables with other speakers at them; TED took over the joint.  I enjoyed the meal and the conversations with the people around me, though I barely got to speak to Byrne.

I'm exactly the right kind of exhausted and emotionally churned.  Wow.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A sunny TED day in Vancouver

Clear blue skies and a brisk temperature teased us today with how nice Vancouver can be in February, but if the forecasts are right, we won't see the sun much again for the rest of this week.  I certainly enjoyed the time I got to spend outside.

TED ran four full sessions today, the only day the conference does that.  Consequently, today was also the most exhausting day, which is probably why the organizers make the evening the only open night.  (Predictably, Bill and I ate together in the hotel restaurant, a low-key and enjoyable meal.)

I'm not going to try to cover all of the more than 20 talks and performances we saw today, because despite what the timestamp on this post says, it's one in the morning here, and I have to get up early again tomorrow.  I will, though, probably hit most of them.

Adam Savage kicked off the first session with a presentation on his lifelong love of costuming and how it led him to his CostumeCon costuming ritual.  (He wanders the floor at SDCC each year in some costume.)  He ended with the observation that "the costumes are how we reveal ourselves to each other," a fair if not revelatory point.

So Percussion contributed this session's musical interlude.  I liked their music enough that I am going to pick up one of their albums.

We then listened to three digital entrepreneurs in a row:  Joe Gebbia, the founder of Airbnb; Travis Kalanick, the CEO of Uber; and Haley Van Dyck, the head of the Federal government's U.S. Digital Service.  Gebbia came across as engaging and as someone very interested in building a great trust economy.  Kalanick basically made a pitch for regulation not to hurt his rapidly growing business.

Van Dyck intrigued me--and definitely charmed the entire audience--with her stories of how her organization would save the Federal IT world.  I left that talk wanting more details.  Fun facts from her:  the Federal IT annual budget is $86B, 94% of its projects run over budget, and 40% of them never see the light of day.  I obviously have no way to verify those assertions, but she's as close to the heart of that action as one can be, so I tend to trust them.  They are certainly staggering figures and paint a picture of an organization in desperate need of the type of help she and her team are trying to provide.

The second session started with a talk by Wanda Diaz Merced, an astronomer who created a way to turn light plots into sound when she lost her sight at age 20.  Her passion for her work and her creativity were compelling.

Doctor Joseph Ravenel explained how using community-based approaches, such as linking barber shops to health care, can help save the lives of African-American men.  I liked his approach and wonder if we couldn't apply it more broadly to health care issues, making care of certain sorts available readily and easily where people already gather.

Franz Freudenthal, a Bolivian physician, explained an invention, a coil of thin metal that opens into a sort of scaffold-like shield, that helps close holes in the hearts of children with congenital heart diseases.  He's working to spread the availability of his device and his approach to all children everywhere, a cause that certainly seems worthy.

I had high hopes for the presentation of Dr. Mae Jemison, a former astronaut who was the first woman of color to go into space and a leader of the 100 Year Starship project.  It began well enough, with her discussion of long-range planning and the need for great leaps, but it never really went anywhere.  I wanted at least some action items for the audience.

For lunch we had our choice of some fancy-sounding food inside or the offerings of one of several food trucks outside.  Predictably, I ended up at a food truck, though due to some work interruptions the one with the shortest line, a burger place.  The burger was adequate but no better; OnlyBurger has nothing to worry about.

The day's third session, and the fourth of the conference, began with three speakers who examined different aspects of human personalities.  Wait But Why's Tim Urban was as funny and entertaining as you would expect.  His discussion of procrastination kept the audience laughing.  Adam Grant, a Wharton Professor, then moved to a discussion of people he calls "originals," those who tend to be more visionary and creative than most.  Just the right amount of procrastination was key to being one of those people.  Brian Little, the third in this group and a mentor of Grant's, is a Cambridge professor who studies personality psychology.  Wry and passionate, he gave an entertaining and interesting presentation on the multiple natures he feels each of us has.

John McWhorter discussed the importance of learning foreign languages, something I suck at.  Though I found him a pleasant and engaging speaker, I wanted more content and less gentle nudging toward his goal.

One of my favorite presentations today came from Noah Zandan, who uses big data mining techniques to study communication and people.  He shared data that showed how visionaries tend to speak differently from most people:  they focus more on the present, they speak clearly and simply, and they help their audience experience their vision through frequent use of "you" and language that involves the senses.  Interesting stuff.

Today's last session kicked off and ended with music from the Silk Road Ensemble, a group Yo Yo Ma helped create.  I enjoyed both performances and now must seek yet another album.

The talks themselves began with an interview of Norman Lear by Eric Hirshberg.  Lear, who at 93 may well be the oldest person to appear on the TED stage, came across as smart, thoughtful, and entirely likable.  I'm glad I got to see this interview.

Astronomer Tabetha Boyajian discussed the options for explaining the amount of light that the Kepler telescope detected something was blocking from star KIC 8462852, "Tabby's Star."  One of those explanations involves alien artifacts, a notion that is understandably controversial.  She necessarily walked carefully around this topic but did acknowledge that some felt it was a reasonable answer.

This year's TED Prize winner, satellite archaeologist Sarah Parcak, gave an impassioned plea for help in her dream of discovering and preserving the many--millions, she estimates--of unknown sites.  Her enthusiasm and energy were contagious, and I wish her all the best of luck.

After two days of TED, I am enjoying the talks and learning a lot, but I'm still hoping for a presentation that will blow my mind, alter my worldview, or fill my heart to bursting.

Monday, February 15, 2016

TED 2016 begins

The first order of the day was to walk to the convention centre and pick up my gift bag.  Bill and I strolled there together.  I received a gift bag, chose my "extras" from the various stations, and immediately returned to the hotel, because the very large bag was too heavy for me to want to schlep it all day.  It had a right to be heavy, however, because it was chock full of goodies.

Click an image to see a larger version.

Given that I'm on the road for two more weeks after this one, I will definitely have to ship the bag and its contents home.

The first two sessions I attended were sort of pre-TED specials, the TED Fellows Talks.  They took place in a smaller theater on the top level of the convention centre.

Over the course of two sessions totaling more than three and a half hours, we watched nearly thirty talks and performances from various TED Fellows.  None was bad, all were interesting, and some were quite moving.  During the two sessions, we also enjoyed multiple musical performances.

A theme that ran through many of them was the poor way our society has treated people of other than European descent.  At the risk of stating the obvious, we still have an enormous amount of work to do to create a world that is fair and equal for all.  For example, one speaker, PKeolu Fox, pointed out that 96% of all genome studies were on people of European descent.

The funniest talk of the two sessions came from social justice comedian Negin Farsad, who discussed ways in which her comedy is helping illuminate social issues, particularly those related to Muslims.  I would love to see a full show of hers.

Lunch was from a picnic basket that we were supposed to share with four other people, but we couldn't find a group to share with, so the two of us ended up eating on our own.  We were quite comfortable with that--too comfortable, we would both argue--but it worked out well enough.  I did not try the "zesty nacho" kale chips, because, kale.

TED kicked off at 5:00, when for the first time I was able to sit live in the main TED theater.  It's an impressive place that truly has no bad seats.  Here's one of the speakers, Shonda Rhimes, in the middle of her talk.

She was the only speaker the TED team allowed to have a teleprompter, a testimony to her power.  I found her talk well written, as one would expect, but ultimately too manipulative to touch me deeply.
In general, I enjoyed the talks, but none moved me to tears or to depths of thought.

One of the two I liked most was Astro Teller's discussion of how things work at the "moonshot factory" at Google, the team otherwise known as X.  His team rewards failure, because failure means that they've found the issues with a project's concept, and that's an interesting and unusual approach.

For my taste, the best talk of the evening came from Riccardo Sabatini, who discussed the status of human genetic research and the way big data and machine learning techniques are advancing this area.  He brought on stage the printed complete genome of genetic pioneer Craig Ventner.

It filled all of those binders on the carts in the center of the stage.

All of that, though, was a prequel, albeit a very interesting one, to Sabatini's real message: we are going to crack the secret of genetic manipulation, so we must start now having people of all sorts discuss the ethics and laws surrounding these abilities, what they will mean to all of us as humans.

Dancer and choreographer Bill T. Jones closed the talks with a long dance that addressed a great deal of his career and the fact that he turned 64 today.  I am not a fan of modern dance, and I'm sure I missed a lot of what Jones was conveying, but I still found it interesting and moving.

The welcome dinner this evening was a buffet in which no dish was simple--adjectives and qualifiers and ingredient lists abounded--but all those I tasted were good.  Bill and I managed to speak with a few different people, including folks from AutoDesk and Disney, but never for very long.  I definitely suck at being social in a crowd of people I do not know.

Tomorrow, we have a long day full of talks, the first of which starts at 8:30 a.m.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Temptation beat virtue

in my lunch choices today.  I worked very late last night, slept late, worked some more, and then headed over to the Vancouver convention centre to register for TED.  Every step of that very short process reflected a level of white-glove treatment I've rarely experienced.  In moments, I had my badge and basic materials and was on my way.

I spotted a nearby food court and walked into it to seek lunch.  I skipped the Thai noodle place, the Fatburger, and many other temptations, opting instead for an egg salad sandwich on wheat bread--to which the young woman making it added cucumber slices, always a welcome touch--and a small bowl of fruit.  So far, so good.

I was in the mood for something sweet, so I wandered through a Tim Hortons, eyed the donuts, and left, content in my resolve.

On the way back to my hotel, I chose to take a different route so I would see a bit more of the area.  After rounding a corner, I came upon this sight.

Click an image to see a larger version.

As luck would have it, Bella Gelateria is a lovely, award-winning shop with some of the best gelato I've tasted.  As I was surveying the flavors, a man approached me and began telling me about each flavor, how they made it, the sources of the ingredients, and so on.  He proved to be James Coleridge, the owner.  I tried a small cup with amarena cherry and dulce du leche, and both were delicious.  I recommend this place highly.

Tomorrow, I get my TED gift bag, go to two sessions of TED Fellows talks, and then the main TED talks begin!


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