Thursday, October 22, 2009

TEDxDetroit - Where Do We Go From Here?

I've given myself a day of reflection on TEDxDetroit before writing about it. I wanted to 1) let my head stop spinning from all the great ideas I was exposed to, and 2) allow some time for the Kool-Aid to leave my system and give the conference a more objective treatment.

I wanted to get these thoughts down while they were fresh, but as soon as the videos are available from these talks, I'll be sure to update the post to include them. Until then, forgive me if I don't offer a complete synopsis of the talks.

First off, if you're unfamiliar with TED or the TEDx concept, take a look at this piece in TIME about the TEDxDetroit conference for a little background information, or check out Chris Spiek's synopsis at Positive Detroit. Of course, you could visit and spend some time with a few of the videos there.

Charlie Wollborg, Terry Bean, Catherine Juon, Derek Mehraban, et al. did an incredible job lining up some real heavy hitters for the conference. The speakers were truly excellent, and their talks insightful, concise, and potent. Kudos to these folks for their herculean efforts.

The AM session's highlight was Rich Sheridan (read about him in Forbes) from Menlo Innovations, talking about design, particularly when it comes to software. His talk was titled "End Human Sufferring as it Relates to Technology". He really drove home the point that most people are slow to adopt tools and software whose interface gets in the way. No matter how powerful or useful the product, the utilization won't ever happen without clean and easy design. As a technologist, I often cite that if someone needs to understand technology on my level to use it, then that technology is *broken*.

The PM session really ramped things up. Chazz Miller was electrifying, showing off all the work he's done with Public Art Workz already, and all the work that was to come. His most touching moment was talking about the inspiration for this mural in Brightmoor:

Matt Dugener (COO of Enliven Software) gave a great lecture on "Building an Enterprise Class in Michigan". It was a real eye-opener for me. He says that, in Michigan, we've taught our children for generations to be good employees, but not good employers. He also says that Michigan has tremendous economic assets, but they're all locked behind closed walls in a command-and-control structure that worked for making cars, but is anathema to innovation. Definitely give this talk a listen.

Paul Schutt, Issue Media Group, really did a nice job talking about the mechanics of media, and how they affect the Detroit area. Now, I don't go in for the media claptrap (more on that in a minute), but Schutt had hard data! (My favorite). He nimbly discussed the long tail economics of the Michigan job market, and showed us that the jobs in Michigan being created are out along that long tail, not in the Big Butt. He notes that the only thing that traditional media can pay attention to, however, is the Big Butt. When GM cuts 2,500 jobs, it's on the front page. When 20 startups employ 25 people each, it goes unnoticed. I think combining this information with what Matt Dugener said in the talk previous about command-and-control structure reveals a great nugget of Michigan truth: We're conditioned to feed ourselves as cogs to the Big Machine. Anything else seems insignificant to both ourselves (Dugener) and the Media (Schutt). Schutt then goes on to show how he's waging war on this old-style media and its shortcomings with ModelD, and the rest of the publications from the Issue Media Group.

After Schutt, poet D Blair hit the stage and offered a reading of "Detroit (While I Was Away)". I literally thought the crowd was going to rise up and carry him out of the auditorium on their shoulders. Luckily, it was captured on a Flip camera, so I can share it with you now:

TEDxDetroit video: Poet D Blair performs 'Detroit (while I was away)'


So fellow TEDxDetroiters, where do we go from here? So many good ideas and so much energy was harnessed and focused at TEDxDetroit, I can't stand to see it just dissipate! I'm assuming that the TEDxDetroit web site will be the clearing house for information about this event and future events, but I hope we have more than a hashtag holding us together in this journey we've embarked upon.

So what do you think? Lobby for a shared blog on the TEDxDetroit site? Discussion boards? A whole new project? Existing platforms like Motor City Connect or Facebook? Is it even worth trying to build more formal connections?
I want to hear your suggestions, thoughts, and ideas. Keep sharing.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sonoma Trip Breakdown - Day 3

Up and at 'em early on Saturday. Chris had to work, but she left us a lovely note.

Richard took us up to Iron Horse for a tasting.

They had a Pinot Noir there that I consider to be my new baseline for what a Pinot Noir should be. It is the taste that I imagine when I imagine Pinot Noir. Danielle picked up a pair of Bourdeax style cabernet blends there.

After Iron Horse, it was off to the Redwood Forest for some photography. These pictures can't do the forest any justice. You feel so utterly small inside there.

We had a satisfying, yet somewhat unremarkable lunch up in Healdsburg (at least I got to see the final score on the Michigan game, ouch!), and then ducked over to Seghesio to sample the Zins.

Now, both Danielle and I are huge fans of Seghesio Zinfandel, so this was a much-anticipated stop. We were really looking forward to getting a taste of some of the zins that aren't in wide distribution. As expected, these Zins were great, but I didn't find them to be that much above and beyond what we can get from Seghesio back home. We snagged one of the bottles, and headed back to meet up with Chris after work so Chris and Danielle could hit some antique stores, while Richard and I did some tech fiddling around his house before heading back to Detroit in the A.M.

What a great trip!!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sonoma Trip Breakdown - Day 2

We started today by dropping off Chris and Danielle for some antique shopping Healdsburg, while Richard and I headed to a few tasting rooms. We started at Dry Creek Vineyards.

They were wise to practically mandate a taste of their '08 Dry Chenin Blanc, a wine that may easily be overlooked. It shouldn't be. They also
had a Late Harvest Zinfandel dessert wine that was too tasty not to pick up. I bought a bottle of each.

Here are the wines of note:
* '08 Dry Creek - Dry Chenin Blanc (purchased)
* '06 Dry Creek - Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
* '05 Dry Creek - Dry Creek Valley Merlot

All of those should be distributed widely enough to find out of town.

* '06 Dry Creek - Late Harvest Zinfandel (purchased)

After Dry Creek, we headed across the way to a
n old favorite, Teldeschi.

I've had great experiences there before, and have sent a few friends to visit when I heard they were heading out this way. They make some seriously killer Zinfandel. I must've tried a dozen wines (thanks to Richard's insider status), but here's what I picked up:

* '05 Teldeschi - Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel (I got an extra for a friend who demanded that I bring a bottle back for her).

* '05 Teldeschi - Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Fra

Lastly, we zipped down the road to Unti. They normally only do tasting by appointment, but they were kind enough to squeeze us in, and we were treated like all-stars there. We got to try some truly outstanding wines. The folks at Unti really make the most of their outstanding Grenache grapes. UNTI was clearly the big hit of the trip. Not only did I pick up 3 bottles to bring home, but Richard picked up another for dinner on Friday night, and Saturday, out at Russo, we had a 5th (the '06 Barbera). Here's my pickups from UNTI:

* '06 UNTI - Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel
* '06 UNTI - Sonoma County Petit Frere
* '06 UNTI - Syrah

Time for lunch! We headed to meet with the women at Willi's Seafood Bar in Healdsburg. I enjoyed their Cucumber martini, and we passed around a half-dozen or s
o lunch entrees, including fried calamari, duck, baby back ribs, and crabcakes.

A stop a Big John's grocery, adn we got stocked up for dinner. We headed back to the house for a little relaxation and a few drinks. Then we fired up some music, and started prepping dinner. I made a spinach and feta salad with homemade vinaigrette made from Vincent Arroyo's Cabernet Balsamic Vinegar, and B.R. Cohn's olive oil. The main course was an old favorite, lamb chops with walnut mint pesto, and baked rosemary and garlic redskin potatoes. We had the UNTI that Richard picked up earlier in the day, and dinner at home became the highlight meal of the trip.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sonoma Trip Breakdown - Day 1

We hit B. R. Cohn for a tasting. My first visit to this very cool vineyard. Apparently B.R. Cohn was the road crew manager for the Doobie Brothers forever, so lots of fun memorabilia on the walls. They have a very friendly tasting room, and Phil showed us some great wines.

Since I've committed to making this the el-cheapo wine tour, I'm trying to make sure that all my wines come in (mostly) under $25 a bottle, and I'm bringing back only a case. I picked up two bottles at B. R. Cohn:

* B. R. Cohn - Boater's Barbera, 06

* B. R. Cohn - Syrcab, 07
(77% Syrah, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon)

I also picked up a balsamic vinegar and a jar of the kalamata tapenade.

After that, we hit the CIA for lunch in Napa. We sat right next to the Demo Kitchen and watched them prep everyone's food.

Lunch was a terrific hangar steak, amongst various other samplings. We made a quick visit to the gift shop, but resisted coming home with any new cooking implements.
After lunch, we headed back to base camp for a much needed nap, and got prepped for dinner at Zazu.

When I arrived, I declared to our hosts that there was only 3 mandatory activities for this trip 1) a stop at Teldeschi to pick up some Zin, 2) that I could make everyone dinner one night, and 3) that we would hit Zazu. Zazu is a small restaurant and farm in Sonoma that's been featured in countless wine magazines. The owner and chef, Duskie Estes, was on the Food Network Challenge a while back. My last trip to California, we had dinner here, and it was fantastic. One of my fellow travellers declared that it was the "best duck I've ever had", and the kale that was the side to my dinner is the reason that I grow kale in the garden at home. Dinner this time was no less exceptional. We dug into the black pig salumi plate and a bottle of Seghesio Zin.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Brief Sojourn...

October has been a very busy month. Tomorrow I head off to wine country in northern California to visit with some old friends. I promise to post some good pictures and tell some stories when I get back.

It's a much needed break from a very hectic year, and the first real vacation I've had since 2007. I should arrive back home refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of the year.

First up on the agenda upon my return is TEDx Detroit. I'm very excited to be going, and I can't imagine being in a more perfect open mindset for the event than fresh off of vacation, especially considering some of the company I'll be keeping out in California.

I'll be sure and share what insights I gather from TEDx Detroit with all of you here. Be warned that, should there be any posting at all through the weekend, it is likely to wander off the reservation. Work and school have both imposed strict discipline of schedule and focus lately, so for the next 5 days, I'm taking my brain off the leash and seeing where it ends up.