From my probable borderline-obsessive tweeting recently, you probably know that I’m in balmy Austin, Texas for the South By Southwest Interactive Conference (#SXSWi, as the “hip” folks say). I’ve been to the Music version of this, but that was six years ago. Strangely, my life was in flux back then. I had just lost my job at the Vail Daily (similarly, I’ve been forced into temporary early retirement just a few weeks ago). I’m also here to see friends, but different ones from last time.
Tech was different back then. I remember trying to send these idiotic jpeg attached emails from my old (like way fucking old) cell phone. And they were supposed to post to my blog. Well, I sent about 25 one night, and they all bounced. I wasted so much time. Now I’m armed with everything I need – iPhone, DLO phone charger, DSLR, and all that shit – ready to be part of this insane shared experience. We’ll all be broadcasting a ton (I wonder how much we’ll all be listening, though). I guess I just hope the AT&Suck network holds up so I can tell you all about the cool shit I’m doing.
The last two days have been the pre-game – the actual conference starts tomorrow. I showed up yesterday and spent the time with my cousins who live here, saw a bunch of deer right outside their house, met my friend’s fiancee for the first time, and drank a bunch of half-pints at the half-filled Ginger Man – one of the best craft beer bars I’ve been to. Today I spent time with my other friend who lives here (we went to Cisco’s for some Mexican breakfast), spent a few hours in Progress coffee shop (a great space, but I was somewhat disappointed in their coffee, sadly), hung out with a bunch of friends, had some frito pie (which brings me back to middle school, actually), had barbecue at Rudy’s (one is opening in Colorado Springs in June!), and had more drinks on 6th Street.
So I’ve already done a ton, with the entire conference still to go. I hope I can regulate to make it to the end. I think the key is to not get trashed the whole time – I need to remember to treat this like a beer festival!
Anyway, I’m sure there will be more to come over the next few days. Stay tuned, if you give a crap.
As promised, below is the video from my Ignite Fort Collins 4 talk last Thursday – I had a really great time presenting, and hopefully my wisdom from 14 years of mountain driving will help people become better drivers. We’re all in this “going to the mountains” thing together, and the safer we drive as a community, the better an experience it will be for all parties.
The speaking experience was pretty interesting. The presentation before I went was a gut-wrenching but ultimately heartwarming story about a guy whose wife had cancer. Her employer was pocketing her insurance payments, so they had to borrow money to help eradicate the cancer. Frank Stanley ended up painting more than 250 paintings (with a goal of 1000 total paintings) of cranes and sold them online to recoup the cost of his wife’s healthcare. It sounded like a total nightmare, but it’s really great that they were able to save her life and pay most of the borrowed money back.
So to go after such an intense presentation was pretty tough, especially how my presentation had some sorrow in it, too. I tried to stay upbeat and do my best. Take a watch of it and let me know what you think! Constructive criticism appreciated.
About a month ago I signed up to speak at Ignite Fort Collins 4. Happily, a bunch of you voted for my topic “How not to drive like a douche in the mountains” and I was invite to speak up there. So Jim and I cruised up to Fort Fun to check it out. It was a pretty amazing night of 5 minute presentations (overall thoughts coming in another entry soon).
The presentation went well, and I was really impressed with their organization level. A second screen showing my slides on the wall i was looking at really helped me know what slide was showing without my having to look down at a podium or back at the screen behind me. I got through everything well and gave everyone some good tips about getting around in the mountains. They can be a dangerous place and I wanted to educate people with my observations after having spent a lot of time in the mountains.
This was a really difficult subject for me to talk about because my Shwayder Camp friend Jenna Gruben was killed in a car crash outside Steamboat Springs, Colorado after I was already selected to talk there. I considered dropping out because I was planning on being much more snarky about this topic. With this sad news about Jenna (or Jenna Talia, as she used to joke), I wasn’t sure it was appropriate. I decided to change my presentation to be a more serious one, and I tried to include more serious topics.
I’m not going to lie and say that I really kept up with Jenna since our youth group/camp shared experience, but I always remembered her as an incredibly funny and painfully (and hilariously) honest, enhthusiastic, and otherwise incredible and genuine person. My time at Shwayder Camp was one of those experiences in my life that I will always remember as probably the happiest times of my life, and Jenna was always a part of that. I’m lucky to have known her, and it bums me out seriously to hear of her untimely passing. Especially when I had been driving in the mountains the same day in some pretty treacherous weather.
I saw what Jenna was up to periodically through Facebook, and it was always some unfathomable thing, like how she ran in a bunch of ultra-mega-uber-distance running races.
There’s a Facebook group in Jenna’s memory. In a few short days after the accident, her group had over 1,000 members – showing just a small sampling of everyone she had positively affected in her life. I love reading about all the other impactful influences she had on other people, too – she was making a difference in this world by being the same amazing woman I knew back up on the side of Mount Evans, up at Shwayder.
It reminded me about the communities I’ve belonged to in the past. Shwayder Camp is a family, and this news brought me back to that community. I have always cared for this community with all my heart, and this is one of a few times we’ve lost someone integral to those early experiences I had. I feel sorrow for this loss, but at the same time I am happy to remember experiences we shared growing up.
So my tribute to Jenna is trying to educate drivers about safe mountain driving. I don’t lay blame on anyone for this, but I hope that what I’ve told people last night (which will be on youtube soon, the slides are posted below) can help make these mountains which we embrace maybe just a little safer for everyone.
It’s maybe not a traditional memorial, but this is how I thought I should do my part to remember her.