sunday scribblings: hotel stories

this week’s prompt. it spawned a poem, which I wrote in my paper notebook and edited a bit before copying it here.

the sxsw poem

I dropped my suitcase
my black wheeled bargain from Goodwill
as it strained at the seams
because I didn’t know
what to bring
or not bring
turned the dial on the air conditioning
with a gasp
of relief
pulled open the blinds onto Texas
or at least a smallish square
a parking lot
an american flat
a texas flag
a bit of freeway
two hills, holding the freeway
between their sides
with the most vivid green
on the darkest near-black bark
I’d ever seen or could imagine

that hotel room: my home
base for a week
the tiny kitchenette
mostly-emtpy fridge
stock dishes, two burners
a microwave replaced the first night
the table where I plugged in
my laptop
tossing words a little bit
like these
out onto the carrier wave
a television
with no remote

oatmeal and a banana
a cup of tea
saranaded by an unfamiliar
radio station
not wanting television
or a big breakfast
only simple nourishment
to fortify days of complex
thoughts, emotions, wants

a week and a bicycle
the ride over the river
on a narrow concrete track
carved out from the freeway
morning solitude
just as I crave it
watching the river/not watching the river
dawn over rippling water
and the fear of falling

much later collapsing into bed
teeth brushed
face scrubbed
medicine taken, reducing my dose
while I’m here/gone
seems unlikely in retrospect
but that was what I’d promised
and determined to do

sleep in a strange bed
just as deep
the roar of the freeway
the same sound
as the tides of traffic
I hear faintly from my front yard

things I learned at SXSW 2006

(or relearned, as the case may be)

  • my hair doesn’t like Austin, but my knee does
  • exercise makes me happy
  • in a fire, the first thing I’d think about is my files
  • I need downtime, and sufficient sleep
  • bicycling in a skirt is tricky
  • gtalk makes a really annoying noise, unless you turn it off
  • I still sunburn easily
  • when I’m intellectually engaged, I take better notes
  • conversation with friends is a good thing

stuff I brought that I didn’t need:

  • most of the clothes
  • tights
  • most jewelry
  • most of the stuff in my wallet
  • dove hair smoother stuff

stuff that I really could’ve used

  • nail clippers
  • qtips
  • another pen
  • power strip

all in all, it was entirely overwhelming and entirely worthwhile.? I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it again next year, but I would like to.

on depression & sxsw

Which is not a combination I intended to post on, but I feel compelled by Andrea’s entry on the topic.

At one point in a conversation last week somebody commented on my alleged courage (or similar adjective) in writing about my depression. I don’t remember what I said exactly, but it felt like just shrugging, no big deal & all that.

Of course it’s not, really. In thinking about it later, I realized that Liz Lawley (or at least eh memory of that particular entry) was a big example for me in choosing to write about depression last spring, when I was really at the end of my rope. Dorothea’s writing about her grad school experiences had a similar impact. (Dorothea’s actual presence, over the wires, has a good influence on me as well.)
Being able to look one’s soul in the eyes (?!) has helped me immensely, facing my depression, the dysthymia that has haunted most of my life, and being able to know that ungrounded thought for what it is. I’m at a different place with myself, a year on from the big collapse. A place where I’m even okay, I think, with my crazy brain. I almost had a crashout emotionally at SXSW, and I recognized it in myself, and went away to recouperate. I may have missed some partying, but it’s partying I wouldn’t have enjoyed in that state anyway.

I also got to relearn the lesson that exercise & sleep are the two most critical factors in mood management for me.

I still get that creepy-crawly feeling talking about the depression, especially with someone I haven’t said anything to before. But y’all, out here on the internets? Saying these things to you has been one of the best things for me in the last year.

So…go check out Andrea’s project, Jangly Ganglia, and thank you.

Update: the book waiting for me at the library this afternoon? Against Depression.

SXSWi 2006 session summaries

This is a quick summary of all the sessions I attended, with links to my complete and somewhat random notes.

DOM Scripting

An excellent refresher of Keith’s book, with some good in-person examples. Jeremy and his co-presenter, Aaron, worked very well together, bouncing back and forth in a good-natured collaborative style. Very little of the material was new to me from the book. A nice analogy that I don’t think was in the book was made between DOM scripting & CSS: both techniques have “getters” and “setters.” For unobtrusive use of scripting, plan carefully for functions/content that work without it, and then implement it through method-detection. Also, use frameworks carefully.

Global & local play

Something of a high-concept panel, which began by talking about virtual and actual worlds and the social uses of play, but most of the actual time of the session was taken up by a deceptively simple social game. A common thread in the following discussion was the role of physical space in influencing the experience. The key question from (danah boyd?): are you designing to help people interact in a more fun interesting way?

Design & social responsibility

Primarily this panel served for me as a re-inspiration for the sort of socially meaningful work that I like to be doing. Gordon (???) was intensely intense and that got me fired up, much like BJ Fogg’s presentation at WebVisions, or like reading anything by Joe Clark. He used the word complicit twice, which is worth remembering. A good demo of accessible Flash, a game that actually changes modalities entirely to give visually-impaired kids a rich experience. One question that I don’t think was well-answered by the panel: what should you say to grassroots organizations, progressive organizations, etc., that have inaccessible sites? I found the panel’s answer pretty weak. The best answer I can think of, having been around a non-profit or two, is offering to help…and following up on that offer. If you care about the org’s mission, then maybe that’s the best way you can help.

Whose butts should we be kicking?

This one has been discussed pretty well by other bloggers. I’ll merely say that it was just before lunch on the day that I completely went to hell in a handbasket (asleep by 8:30!), also that I walked out halfway through. I still don’t know what I was expecting, but that wasn’t it.

Kottke/Dooce keynote

Just a nice conversation, like listening to the authors of your favorite books chitchat about nothing in particular. Of special note: both recommend that the best way to be a better blogger is to keep writing.

Making Web 2.0 accessible

A decent panel on general accessibility, but I hardly got anything new out of it. Two exceptions: WCAG 2 is going to have a lawyer version & a normal people version, and Basecamp is painfully inaccessible. It would have been nice to have one of the 37Signals guys on this panel, to talk about the practical issues involved. Or to have some concrete examples of making Web 2.0 type stuff accessible. A neat idea that I heard and would like to use: make the error message or instructions part of the label element.

Digital archiving & blogs

This was possibly my favorite panel. Carrie Bickner is an amazing moderator who led and engaged the whole panel in turn. The upshot: there’s a lot of material being created and not archived, and we don’t know what parts or who will be important in 50-100 years. Of course, that’s always true, but it’s less likely that there will be a hard drive accidentally left undisturbed for half a century than that the same thing will happen with a box of papers. Also, I have a vague half-formed idea for a WordPress plugin to help preserve the historical context of a blog. And I want to look for Josh Greenberg’s VCR project when he’s done with it.

Standards & SEO, part 2

Another session where I didn’t learn much new, although I did come in late. The upshot: “if you follow accessibility standards, then you’re following SEO best practices.” Most important accessibility improvements in relation to SEO: descriptive page titles, good navigation, and good link text.

WaSP panels

There were two sessions, a panel about WaSP task forces, and the annual meeting. The task force panel covered all the main WaSP projects: accessibility, DOM scripting, education, Dreamweaver, and Microsoft. I paid the most attention during the education segment, with a nice reminder of the education proliferation project and its email list. Learned that they are (or will be) working with the W3C on a standardized curriculum project. They are also trying to pull together a presentation for HighEdWebDev in October. One thing I’d like to see the ETF take on is advocacy in colleges for improved standards support in educational web applications, both instructional and administrative.

About half of the annual meeting covered the history of the Web Standards Project, and another quarter was in introductions of various members. Then Molly H. took comments from the room. Task forces that were suggested: mobile and government, both of which may well be underway shortly. Personally, I’d like to see more discussion time, maybe groups, during next year’s annual meeting.

Convincing your company to support Web standards

Good tips from folks working in a very large company — I think they were all Netscape/AOL/Time-Warner people — about propagating standards throughout that sort of organization. Mostly fell into the social engineering, interpersonal relations arena, techniques for making friends and having fun. This session gave me some ideas about working in the state system as a whole to promote standards in all of our sites and in the system-wide web applications.

Next-generation web applications

Possibly one of the more visionary sessions. Big focus on user experience and rapid prototyping. It gave me the sense of a fun frontier of stuff that’s personally useful and at the same time quite pretty. Also, I may try getting C to audioblog. At work, I want to put some of these ideas into play, probably on the book exchange at first. One last thing…my original notes have a great comment from Dorothea about archiving and Typepad.

Open source management

Entirely different from what I expected, mostly in a good way. Heather Gold, the moderator was funny, energetic, and shockingly effective in what turned out to be a fascinatingly weird situation. Most of the session was focused on one particular fellow from a tech company; he was looking to us to figure out how to get popular momentum to get the telcos to buy his product. The general consensus: his business model is crazy, the telco are teh suck, and we’d love to play with his product.

Bruce Sterling keynote

A little bit like taking one of his books, condensing it into an hour, and pouring it directly into one’s frontal lobe. Luscious techno-poetry. Spimes, of course, but also our completely fscked political system and the entire craziness of the Former Yugoslavia, ending with a tough sad Great Depression poem. He may have cried, I’m still not entirely sure.

back home

With my cats, my dear C, and Space: 1999.? I had the day off, and did nothing in particular with it, which was pretty much the plan.? We did ride our bikes downtown & back together, to the bank, the library, Taco del Mar, and B&B.? (I think they had a new guy today: my mocha didn’t have any chocolate in it!)

Yes, exercise is a happy thing, and I’m proud that I biked back up the hill…except for that one really steep block that I walked.

I’m about 2/3 of the way done with my session summaries, so I should be able to post them tomorrow, maybe with an overall post-processing summary, as well as a “things I learned” post.
One thing in particular causes me some sadness: my knee and hands seem to be doing worse here than they were in Austin. Maybe this place, my favorite in the world (so far), is not really that good for me physically.

Tomorrow I head back to work, anticipating 87,000 emails in my inbox, although also with the determination to clear it out entirely and get back to work.

the unbearable horribleness of flight

yesterday was not. fun.? I got home at midnight (2am austin time) a gibbering mess, good for nothing but curling into the fetal position and going to sleep.

below is the notes I made while on the flight segment from Dallas to Seattle…

The triple threat of air travel: a snoring seatmate, the seat in front of me going back, and a crying baby. Plus my knee hurts like hell, and I’m on the window, so it’s no mean feat to get up and stretch. If I have to hear that baby any more I’m going to scream!

Which is funny because I just finished The Kid, Dan Savage’s book that I won at Break Bread With Brad. Very entertaining, and of course made me think a great deal of my sister and my niece W. I don’t know if I’ve told that story here, or if it’s even entirely kosher for me to tell it. Let’s just say that W’s story is something like the Kid’s, and 8 years later, it seems to have turned out pretty well for everybody.

Ah, now the baby has stopped.

I hate flying; today has sucked away all the wild wonderfulness of the last week, what with being early to a late flight, forgetting my rosemary, losing my 2nd set of boarding passes, and then being twisted into a pretzel for way too long. My knee is shrieking. This guy next to me has his head resting on the seat in front of him, obviously dead asleep. How do people do that? I’m tired (it’s 10 pm central time), but I can’t imagine getting any particular rest.


Trying to write up summaries for my notes, which would be going better except for the fact that 27B is snoring at an incredible volume.


I still have 2 hours and I feel like I’m going crazy!!!!!!!!! I tried to see if my phone’s headphones would work with my computer, so I could listen to something, but no. On the other hand, with my whole bag on my lap, I can finally stretch out my legs enough to let my knee relax a little.

I say that, and then the person in front of me puts her seat back a little more. And did I mention that I’m up against a bulkhead? And that 27B has BO? I did already mention that I’m strapped into this piece of shit for another two hours.


I’m actually really sleepy and having a hard time concentrating on my notes, so I’m going to try for a nap.

and it only gets better from there!

(sarcasm intended)

my flight to St Louis is 2 hours late, so they moved me to a flight leaving an hour later than the one I was scheduled for, which gets me into SeaTac about a half-hour later than I was supposed to be arriving.

which I guess isn’t too bad, all things considered.? the people in front of me at the desk were trying to get into Hartford, and they could switch carriers and get in at 1am, or stay with American and not go until tomorrow.? (they switched.)

turns out it was worth it to pay $7 for internet access; means I can save my books for the actual flight.

not quite over

I’m hanging out in the airport, and I’ve already seen Zeldman+Carrie, Jeremy Keith, and (I think) Ev.? I’m catching up on my feeds while I wait for my flight….

Had a quick bite to eat, chatted a little with some sxsw folks behind me — they were talking about flickr tags, which reminded me that I still had some photos to upload.

(I’m equally ambivalent about flickr & measure map.? love the way they work, a little nervous about having that much of my me-ness elsewhere.)

fortune cookie fortune

from yesterday’s lunch at the Mongolian Grill….

Next full moon brings an enchanting evening.

hm.? is that the full moon now, or in April?