My BarCamp Wrap-Up

BarCamp Underway on October 3, 2009 - Photo by Gus Fosarolli

Bar­Camp Under­way on Octo­ber 3, 2009 — Pho­to by Gus Fosarolli

It takes some time to digest a Bar­Camp. For me, it was about 3 to 5 pre­sen­ta­tions and dis­cus­sions, pep­pered with 10–20 great con­ver­sa­tions, sprin­kled with a half a dozen reunions and many oth­er new intro­duc­tions. It also had a cou­ple sur­pris­es: some of the ses­sions I thought were going to take place were can­celled (usu­al­ly at the deci­sion of the presenters/attendees), but on the oth­er hand, some that I had­n’t known about were announced in the morn­ing. David Saslav’s remote ses­sion regard­ing Cho­rus Amer­i­ca’s study on the effects of Choral Singing on School­child­ren and Adults did take place, and came off very well, despite the fact that he was pre­sent­ing from his home in San Fran­cis­co via Skype video. I attend­ed two dif­fer­ent design work­shops. In one, I col­lab­o­rat­ed with a group (1 among sev­er­al oth­ers) in a ‘Design Char­rette’  to work on the prob­lem of traf­fic acci­dents along the stretch of East Hast­ings as it cuts through the Down­town East Side of Van­cou­ver. I also par­tic­i­pat­ed in J. Karen Park­er’s ses­sion on Paper pro­to­typ­ing, where I noticed a pre­pon­der­ance of  touch­screen solu­tions to every­day gad­gets, appli­ances and obsta­cles (like dig­i­tal cam­eras, microwave ovens, and sky­train tick­et dis­pensers). What the iPhone hath wrought! While I think our UI sug­ges­tions to improve the tick­et dis­pens­ing prob­lems was pret­ty good, I real­ly loved anoth­er group’s solu­tion to a microwave: make the whole oven front a large touch­screen, with a large cir­cu­lar slider/indicator, through which you can see your food cook­ing. As Karen not­ed, in this day and age where the com­pet­i­tive advan­tages of good design can some­times get you ahead in the mar­ket­place, a real­ly snazzy microwave touch-screen con­trol might be some­thing they should look at!

I also got to a ses­sion on Day Trad­ing using a com­bi­na­tion of  com­put­er soft­ware, twit­ter, and some knowl­edge about how peo­ple behave. I can’t say that I’ll be doing much of that soon, but it was real­ly intrigu­ing to hear how some are doing it these days. Anoth­er ses­sion involved a more com­mon top­ic: Hap­pi­ness. Here, Inter­net Mar­keter Ray Kanani asked some pro­vok­ing ques­tions about what makes us hap­py, and how adver­tis­ers try to sub­vert and direct our desires.  Far from being a loose and vague ses­sion, it end­ed up being an intense dis­cus­sion about what each of us is look­ing for in life, and whether we could ben­e­fit from being hope­ful, sat­is­fied, cyn­i­cal or none of the above. We could have eas­i­ly tak­en twice the ses­sion to exam­ine the sub­ject, and I almost think there should be a Hap­pi­ness­Camp about all of the var­i­ous facets of the sub­ject (attend­ed by, wait for it…Happy Campers!)

Final­ly, a ses­sion near the mid­dle of the day was one of the ones I was in fact wait­ing for; an update and con­ver­sa­tion, led by Boris Mann (one of Van­cou­ver’s most well-con­nect­ed and influ­en­tial techies), about the var­i­ous new venues and offered resources in town that are jump­ing in to fill the void left by the demise of Work­Space. Roland Tanglao, record­ed the ses­sion, so I was able to lis­ten to it once more to make sure I got all of the 45 min­utes of sub­jects and places men­tioned by the large gath­er­ing of con­cerned people.

I’m hap­py to say that for me, at least, the day seemed to go smooth­ly, the sched­ule and pac­ing seemed to work well, lunch was tasty (and there was enough food and cof­fee), the Dis­cov­ery Parks venue was excel­lent, and there was a notice­able ‘good vibe’ about the day. I believe that the many ‘first time’ Bar­Camp atten­dees prob­a­bly got a good intro­duc­tion to this very spe­cial meet­ing of minds.  I’m now proud to say I con­sid­er myself a vet­er­an of Bar­Camp, and I’m even more proud to have been able to work with such a great group of vol­un­teers this year. They  helped plan, run and man­age the event, which was a suc­cess in many ways.

Update: Check out this awe­some Bar­Camp com­ic, cre­at­ed from pho­tos tak­en that day.

Imminent BarCamp

Im attending BarCampVancouver 2009

Tomor­row is a big day. About 300 or so peo­ple are going to con­verge at an office park not far from here, The Dis­cov­ery Parks build­ing (old QLT build­ing) at 887 Great North­ern Way. We are all, once again par­tic­i­pat­ing in the annu­al Bar­Cam­p­Van­cou­ver, an ‘uncon­fer­ence’ and part of an inter­na­tion­al net­work of sim­i­lar con­fer­ences, “born from the desire for peo­ple to share and learn in an open envi­ron­ment.” In a Bar­Camp, (a move­ment that start­ed in 2005). It’s hard for me to believe that the first Bar­Camp (in Palo Alto, in August of that year) was orga­nized from con­cept to event,  in less then a week, because this year I’ve been involved in the orga­ni­za­tion­al plan­ning of the event, and I can tell you that it took us longer than a week to orga­nize this one (more like sev­er­al months).

I like to think that I have a lot of smart and inter­est­ing friends. I’m very much look­ing for­ward to some of these pre­sen­ta­tions, includ­ing a remote pre­sen­ta­tion via Skype from my child­hood friend David Saslav, who is lead­ing a dis­cus­sion (from San Fran­cis­co) on “how choral singing makes you smarter and improves mem­o­ry”. Not only is this a top­ic near and dear to me, but I’m also fas­ci­nat­ed by the idea of a remote and inter­ac­tive pre­sen­ta­tion at a con­fer­ence — hope it all works! Oth­er top­ics dur­ing the day range from Data Min­ing Twit­ter, to how sto­ry­telling is remak­ing video games, to a pub­lic dis­cus­sion of how we are going to per­haps fill the hole cre­at­ed in the Van­cou­ver Tech scene by the demise of WorkSpace.

If you are in the area, have a free day this Sat­ur­day, and are inter­est­ed in a day of stim­u­lat­ing pre­sen­ta­tions and dis­cus­sions, head on over to Dis­cov­ery Parks on Great North­ern Way. As I always say about Bar­Camp, it proves that every­body is an expert in some­thing, and hang­ing around experts can def­i­nite­ly expand your mind and make your day.

Losing Before the Starting Line

Glen Beck, the lat­est angry US pun­dit, spoke out a cou­ple of days ago against US Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s (now unsuc­cess­ful) trip to Copen­hagen to lob­by the Olympic Com­mit­tee to hold the 2016 Olympics in Chica­go. He men­tioned that the Van­cou­ver Olympics had already “lost a bil­lion dollars”.

The White House called him out on the fact that as we all know all-too-well around here, the Olympics haven’t tak­en place yet:

RHETORIC: BECK SAID VANCOUVER LOST $1 BILLION WHEN IT “HAD THE OLYMPICS.” Glenn Beck said, “Van­cou­ver lost, how much was it? they lost a bil­lion dol­lars when they had the Olympics.” [Tran­script, Glenn Beck Show, 9/29/09]

REALITY: VANCOUVER’S OLYMPICS WILL NOT TAKE PLACE UNTIL 2010. Van­cou­ver will host the 2010 Olympic and Par­a­lympic Games from Feb­ru­ary 12 – 28, 2010 and March 12–21, 2010, respec­tive­ly. [Vancouver2010.com, accessed 9/29/09]

In response, Beck explained that he meant Cal­gary, and then began an account­ing of how much he thinks Van­cou­ver is going to lose, with the final tab com­ing to some­where around a 4.5 bil­lion-dol­lar short­fall. I’m speech­less. The audio, via YouTube, is below:

Cooking Blues and Elders (Berries, that is)

Since I promised that I would make anoth­er blue­ber­ry dessert for MJ and the J‑Man, I end­ed up mak­ing the last one of the sea­son. For next year (or if you can still get your hands on the last of this sum­mer’s extra­or­di­nary crop), now you too can make my favourite old recipe for dessert, Blue­ber­ry Buckle:

Blueberry Buckle

(From “Amer­i­can Clas­sics” cook­book, part of the Cook’s Mag­a­zine Series)

4 table­spoons unsalt­ed butter
3/4 cup (3 3/4 oz. ) unbleached all-pur­pose flour
3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz.) plus 1 table­spoon sug­ar (I pre­fer organ­ic sug­ar, if you can find it. It has a clean­er flavour and crunchi­er tex­ture for the bit on top.)
1 tea­spoon bak­ing powder
1/4 tea­spoon salt
3/4 cup milk
2 cups blue­ber­ries, picked over and rinsed

Adjust oven rack to low­er-mid­dle posi­tion and heat oven to 350°. Put but­ter in an 8‑inch square or 9‑inch round pan (I get away with a 9‑inch rec­tan­gu­lar pan) and place pan in the oven to melt the butter.

Mean­while, whisk the flour, 3/4 cup sug­ar, bak­ing pow­der, and salt togeth­er in a bowl. Add the milk and whisk until just incor­po­rat­ed into the dry ingredients.

When the but­ter has melt­ed, remove the pan from the oven. Pour the bat­ter into the pan with­out stir­ring it into the but­ter. Arrange the blue­ber­ries over the bat­ter. Sprin­kle with the remain­ing table­spoon of sugar.

Bake until the sur­face is gold­en brown and the edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 40 or 50 min­utes. Serve warm, with vanil­la ice cream, if you like (we’ve had it with noth­ing added plen­ty of times).

This is so ridicu­lous­ly easy a recipe, that you can do it on a whim. I made it at least 4 times this sum­mer, and look for­ward to mak­ing it again sev­er­al times next sum­mer. Who said a baked fruit dessert has to take much time or effort?

Other berries…

The oth­er night, we took a bag of Elder­ber­ries home from Granville Mar­ket. Louis, the Mush­room Guru, who we fre­quent­ly chat with and get advice about what’s in sea­son, what’s grow­ing, how to pre­pare things, etc. had them and told us what to do. We boiled them down with a lit­tle water, sug­ar, and apple slices (for the pectin), fil­tered what it reduced to through some cheese­cloth, and we got a thick, pur­ple syrup. Here are a few pho­tos of the process:
Washing and Draining Elderberries

Wash­ing and Drain­ing Elderberries

Cooking with Water, Sugar, and 1 Apple (sliced)

Cook­ing with Water, Sug­ar, and 1 Apple (sliced)

The Final Product

The Final Product

Pam tried some of this final cup or so of syrup on vanil­la ice cream tonight and said it tast­ed a lot like blue­ber­ries. I’m going to try it in sparkling water to see if it makes good ‘Elder­ber­ry Soda’. No, we have no plans of mak­ing Elder­ber­ry Wine, but we’ve cer­tain­ly heard about that very old-fash­ioned potent potable.

Nine Times

Wednesday 09 September 2009    9:09 AM
I took this screen­shot of my menu bar (I use Menu­Cal­en­dar­Clock, an appli­ca­tion that offers more flex­i­bil­i­ty in terms of what it dis­plays, along with a drop-down mini-cal­en­dar that syncs with iCal).

Yes, that was a pic­ture tak­en at 9:09 on 9–9‑09. Next year I get to take one a month and a day and an hour and a minute lat­er to match. 

Oh, and the title refers to a line from the movie Fer­ris Bueller’s Day Off. If you don’t know it, you’ll just have to see it.