Amy Winehouse (Frank, but I still prefer Back to Black) and espresso on a fine Sunday morning, how can you go wrong? The summer-time theater slowdown has given me a bit of a welcome break. I love the show, but I’m admittedly pedantic when it comes to the excessive coughing, cacophony (ah, Simple Minds) of candy wrappers, seat kicking, and, worst of all, the early exit-ers… those that make a mad dash for the nearest exit before giving the performers their due. Yes, I do worry about more important things from time to time.
Yesterday, I checked the Gmail calendar, and, nothing on it for Sat. night. A welcome break; especially after a wine adventure in Walla Walla, followed by a limping adventure across the Big Island of Hawaii. Speaking of seeking sympathy…
The first thing Loni says, “Which leg is it?!”
“The left,” I tell her, hobbling in from the garage.
“Oh, thank goodness!”
I grimace, and limp to the fridge. I need a cold beer (or an overly chilled Riesling), and don’t have time to decode Loni’s arcane compassion.
“It means you can still drive us around Hawaii.” she says with equal parts relief and indignation.
It was true. If I had torn the MCL on my right knee, operating the gas and brake pedals would be a painstaking proposition. And to imagine Loni driving us through the twisty Kona highways would be a fate no mere mortal should endure.
That it happened on an innocent play it somewhat disappointing. I’d love to tell about the massive body check, or the scrum of players piled on chasing a loose puck in the crease. Instead, my left skate blade caught the ice, dug in and, as I fell to the ice, twisted my leg in an oh-let’s-watch-that-again-in-slow-motion kind of way. I remember hearing the voices as I lay crumpled on the ice. I wanted to say, “It’s okay. I’m fine, thanks.” Instead all I could do was focus intensely on the pain. The pain. Can I stand up? Was anything broken? A million thoughts.
I recalled a game many years up in Fremont. Our defenseman took a huge hit, and went down with incredible amounts of howling. We all stared form the bench, wide-eyed. After what seemed like twenty minutes, we realized it was serious. Not exactly being an NHL game, there are no paramedics on standby. So you had better enjoy the pain. Unexpectedly, our fallen D started laughing. Hysterically. Just laughing and hollering at the top of his lungs. He looked up to me and said, “Clint, I’m in so much pain right now. All I can do is laugh.”
Of course, all things considered, my injury wasn’t that bad at all (I’ve been lucky over the years: hip pointer, stitches from overly enthusiastic chin music – aka cross check to the face, and a couple of bloody noses at worse). My ego has probably been bruised the most, as I’ve seen my scoring touch decline slowly with age.
Turned out it was an MCL tear grade level two. It meant I would limp a lot, take meds, and likely not be able to zip line or hike my away across Volcanos in Hawaii. The timing, two days before our vacation, was, in the words of British World Cup play-by-play man Martin Tyler, rather cheap. In retrospect I wish our flight back from Walla Wall had been later, forcing me to miss the game. But what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, no?
I could watch TED videos (TEDTalks) non-stop for 24 hours, and still want more.
The short 10-15 minute videos are so fascinating, on so many levels. There’s the material itself; typically intelligent, thought-provoking and often esoteric. Then there’s the presenters; artsy-quirky, usually inspiring, perhaps at times “strident” (nod to Dawkins). It’s also an interesting exercise in crafty story-telling. And you thought your animated PowerPoints were spiffy!
Many segue elegantly from metaphor to business case. Others stumble, albeit heroically, and overreach in an attempt to be too clever. Mentally scoring the performances is all part of the fun. The opening TED logo and music even get my heart going. What will I learn this time? Is the presenter up to snuff?
A 5-hour flight now becomes the best 30,000ft. learning center around thanks to TED. Sure, I’d fairly agree with the cynics who suggest that they’re merely witty stump speeches hawking some product (usually a book) or service, masquerading as something quite profound. I don’t really mind, either way. What matters is I find myself engrossed. And I always—always—learn something.
Part of the fun on iTunes (by the way, please fee free to search for “SSC” and download our app…ta-da!) is choosing episodes to fill an iPod. Sometimes I look for familiar names (David Byrne, Sam Harris), and other times I just randomly click.
Both to Hawaii and back again I enjoyed several episodes, playing them back-to-back-to-back, while Loni faded in and out of consciousness.
Here’s just some of the highlights:
Sam Harris: Science can answer moral questions – At times too much melodrama… the forced dramatic pauses, for instance. Of course, I dig the material. It’s enlightening, challenging. And warped my mind a bit with his moral highs and lows discussion. As one of the “four horsemen,” Harris is someone you either relish or not.
Bran Cox: Why we need the explorers – TED with brit accent! Very inspiring and passionate presentation with several jaw-dropping images from space. Loved it. He invokes JFK and great discoveries to convince space exploration is worth funding (and, in England at least, still represents a minuscule component of the overall science budget).
Chip Conley: Measuring what makes life worthwhile – The CEO of Joie de Vivre Hospitality Group, the largest boutique hotel group in California co-opts Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (and visits, of course, Bhutan), simplifying it and urging business leaders to focus on measuring what counts, notably the intangibles. My favorite part is when he recounts business after 9/11. People ate “freedom fries” and wrote-in: we’re not doing business with a French company! He’d respond that they’re in fact American, based out of San Francisco. The reaction: “That’s even worse!”
James Cameron: Before Avatar – Why listen to a mega-successful, commercial Hollywood film-maker? Because he’s endlessly curious, and has the money and passion to pursue his childhood dreams (science fiction and deep water exploration). Plus, he’s Canadian.
Nalini Nadkarni: Life science in prison – The most fascinating part of Nalini’s talk was her measurement of branch movement on trees using a paint brush to record stroke length. She then made an awkward link to prison life using trees as a metaphor for dynamic enrichment amongst prisoners. A short presentation, still interesting, but far from the best.
I did actually take a break or two. Loni and I always chat about SSC on the plane for a few minutes at least. There’s something about thinking in the clouds that helps us see things we wouldn’t otherwise… are we (SSC) a brand? A multi-topic blog? A web publication (or magazine)? New media? And what exactly are we trying to accomplish… do we matter? Should we matter?
Also, aside from music (U2’s Under a Blood Red Sky, Green Day’s American Idiot yet again, and Vangelis’ Oceanic) I also navigated across other interesting content on my iPod Touch. Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne is, of course, legendary. The writing is so crisp, whimsical. It makes me smile. I found it on the iBooks app. I decided to give it a go… could a small 3.5-inch screen serve as a useful reading experience? Turns out, yes. Although I imagine it would be ideal on an iPad. I especially like the way Shephard’s illustrations are faithfully rendered. Who can forget Pooh falling to earth (“Crack!“) after trying to disguise himself as a black cloud in an attempt to abscond honey from the bees? Well, it turns out “you never can tell with bees.”
I checked out Kevin Pollack’s Internet chat show. He was in San Jose a few years back to receive a Cinequest Maverick Award. I remember him excitedly bringing out his iPhone and live Tweeting on stage, a man well ahead of his time. Turns out he’s creating an online niche (much like early pioneer Tom Green, of Ottawa) talk show without the backing of a major network. The guest this time was late night host Craig Ferguson (“Never be afraid to lose your job” – it essentially neuters creative freedom and risk-taking). Unlike broadcast TV, things can go on (and on… like this morning’s column) thanks to lack of commercial interruption (what, no gecko!?). The experience is different, and more satisfying. You really get to know the person. It’s not just a plug.
“Clint, you need to drink more beer!”
It was the first time I’d ever heard such an exciting sentence. And the urgency! Oh, the drama. For a moment—alas, only for a split second of a moment—I felt like Sean Connery from ‘Dr. No’: “I must be dreaming…”
It all started with a miscalculation. On my part, of course.
When we touched down at Big Island we did what every tourist does: Immediately head to Costco. There we found a home-away-from-home. This looks and feels like San Jose, I told Loni. The only difference was everyone moved in slow motion, and there were walls of Macadamia nuts everywhere.
So I calculated: Okay, we’re here 9 days, so a two-fer of beer (“case” for the beer-terminology challenged Americans) ought to do the trick. Also: Case of Diet Coke, case of water, box of Dove ice cream bars. Some Kona coffee too. And some wine, obviously! I figured, I’m partly on vacation here (but mostly not as I soon discovered) and with the Hawaiin humidity, it would all go down fast. The pairings would be marvelous, no doubt, with all those Thai and Sushi restaurants lining the streets across the teeming town of Kailua.
Little did I realize that we’d end up consuming more Latte than anything else. The best on-the-road offices in Kona are Starbucks and Lava Java (with Ocean view).
At the end of our vacation, sure enough at the 11th hour, we still had massive amounts of fluids on hand in our small studio. So I began chugging. Diet Coke just after my morning coffee. A quick beer when stopping back in to the resort for a quick change. And ice cream bars, morning-afternoon-evening. The last thing I wanted was Loni to look at a semi-full fridge on our last day… it violates every fibre of her financial-savvy, energy-efficiency body.
I came close. But the cleaning staff will be pleased with the little stock pile awaiting them. Me? Well, geez, I must becoming too American. The Canadian in me would never over-estimate beverages like that.
Amazingly I was not Pooh-stricken, and was able to gracefully exit the front door of our hotel, with nary a pull from Christopher Robin.
* Word of the Day Alert *
It must be the afterglow of Hawaii. But I’m feeling extra punchy. So I’m kicking off my Word of the Day challenge. Each week, in this column, I’ll be using a word-of-the-day provided by Dictionary.com from Trusty Droid. Where is it? Well, I’ll color-code this week so you have a fighting chance. Yes, I know, how droll. But, you know what… how else am I to improve my vocabulary?