Friday, November 15, 2013

Bye, TED

You know those TED Talks you love watching so much? Turns out those productions take a shit ton of volunteer hours and work to pull off. And helping pull one off is what I did today after a measly 3 hours of sleep.

My ass is dragging, so I'll hit a few high points, and then I plan to be in bed before 1:00 am. Prepare for flying pigs.

One of the women from my writer's bootcamp presented her inspirational talk today. And the talk she gave is one she started at a bootcamp here at my house. It was sensational. I was so proud of and for her. I believe I'll be able to post a video of it eventually. But for now I'll just say that it was a powerful experience having heard the first rough draft of ideas one afternoon in my living room, and then watching her flawlessly deliver the finished talk while her husband played muted trombone under her words. It was my favorite talk of the day.

Another woman, a young Air Force medic, made me cry, both at rehearsal yesterday and during her presentation this afternoon. She described studying in a coffee shop one day when a man with a shotgun came in to celebrate Hitler's birthday by killing black patrons in the shop. It was harrowing to listen to her recount lying there after she'd been badly wounded, pretending to be dead. Her courage and determination touched all of us so deeply .... I will try to post that one too.

During lunch the committee I was on, the audience experience committee, took cards around to all 60 lunch tables and asked the attendees to collaborate and write one word on the card. We gave no further directions, and we collected the cards as they were finished. Some of the words from my section were "sparkle," "aha," "vague" (because my directions were vague), "revolutionary," and "yum." A locally famous poet and professor took the cards and told a story poem using all the words in the order they were given to him for his talk. The audience was surprised and impressed, and when I applauded it was as much for his courage as for the performance.

We had 20 speakers, but I only saw 7 or 8 of them, because I was working the rest of the time. We had lots of "day of" volunteers to help out, but those of us who've been working on committees for the past several months needed to stay on top of the day.

Sometimes I prefer to do the work as opposed to just attending, and this was one of those times. I would have had a wonderful time if I'd paid my $50 and sat my butt in a chair -- the energy in the audience was electric -- but I got to work with some cool new friends on our committee and experience the day from behind the scenes. I'm glad I did that in spite of -- or maybe because of -- the months of work.

The day did hold one disappointment though. Several of us on our committee had been planning all these months to present stories we collected from the audience during our registration process, and as of yesterday we were on the schedule to do that right before lunch. Over the past few months we wrote the application essays, so we could get the best stories, then spent hours condensing and vetting the information. Four of us were supposed to read some of those stories from the stage today.

But after we spent almost 15 minutes trying to track down the person who was supposed to help us rehearse on stage at 8:15 am, we were told that the afternoon before, while we were there setting up the lobby for registration, she had chosen other people to do it. We were bitterly disappointed. I think it's safe to say we still are. It tinged the color of the day for us. Perhaps just because we were so excited about all of it though. Like kids on Christmas morning.

So TEDx is over, and I feel a little of that post-show letdown. It won't last though, because life speeds on .....

For example, Murphy visited me yesterday afternoon and laid down the law when I got in my van to drive to set-up and rehearsal. Something is broken -- the accelerator thingy, my mechanic suspects -- and my van is revving when it should be idling. It's a little nerve-wracking to drive it, because it's idling higher than normal when I take my foot off the brake. In other words, it goes before I put my foot on the accelerator ... kind of like that car in Knight Rider.

So I called my mechanic, who said he's swamped, but if I'll bring it in around 8:00 am, he'll try to fit it in and at least run the computer on it. If he can't fit it in, I'll have to pick it up at 3:00 and take it back Monday. I don't know if driving it is doing more damage, but it doesn't seem to be getting worse. Anyway this gives me an excuse to get in an early morning bike ride. The shop is only about 3 miles away, so I can drop off my van, ride back home, and go back to bed get some more boxes packed.

Finally, it's day 15. I'm halfway through November's NaBloPoMo (National Blog Post Month.) Fingers crossed I can stay the course.


  1. Fascinating! I love TED Talks, and now I know so much more about them. You did a great job with so little sleep. I'm DEEPLY IMPRESSED!

    I've been up for hours writing a blog about how I've brought sponsored screenings to our very small town. The latest is MARY OF NAZARETH. I finally just clicked Publish and posted on NaBloPoMo. Off to dreamland for 3 hours before rushing off to teach a Jazzercise class. I'm the crazy one today.

    1. A lot of us were operating on very little sleep, and a couple of people had been sick as well. It was definitely worth it though.

      Thanks for stopping by and reading. I hope your Jazzercise class went well. I'll bet you needed a nap afterwards!

  2. When I got turned on to Ted Talks a couple years ago I loved them. I couldn't get enough of them. Unfortunately, I have been on a bit of a self-imposed Ted Talk ban because recently it has come to light that Ted Talks no longer allows talks that relate to genetically modified food (if it is against it). That kind of pissed me of because GMO is an urgent topic we should all understand, our health depends on it. All that being said, I really liked your post, your tone and I bet volunteering for this is something that will always stay with you.

    1. Hi, Cheri. I understand your position, and I know a lot of people are upset as well. I'd like to share a letter that outlines TED's official position: .

      I think the main point is that we all should be careful of pseudo science because there's a lot of it out there. At some point, the people who run TED have to make a decision about what they will allow on the website and what might cause harm to people who believe everything they hear because it was said in a TED Talk.

      In any case, you're right. Volunteering for our local TEDx was a peak experience, and I'm very happy I did it.

  3. So let me see if I understand this,Carol(concerning the van). Your engine is idling fast all the time? I don't have any particular credentials in this regard, but it sounds like it might be a mechanical thing like the accelerator cable being frayed and sticking in the tube it goes through, or it could be something as simple as something binding the gas pedal(a mat or some other foreign object on the floor. I'd be glad to take a quick look at it for you, but alas I'm stuck here at home, and Dayton is a pretty "fur piece."
    You might just take a quick look around the pedal to see if something is binding it.

  4. Also, another easy way to see if something mechanical is sticking, you can start the engine, set the van in "Park" and
    BE SURE TO APPLY THE EMERGENCY BRAKE. Then with the engine running, reach down and pull up on the gizmo that gas pedal pushes against. If the engine stops racing, then something is binding in the linkage to the throttle body. This won't fix it(probably),but you would know it's not something electronic that might be more expensive to fix. Alternatively, you could just try sharply depressing the gas pedal several times(WITH THE ENGINE OFF) and that might free whatever is sticking. Spraying some WD 40 on the moving parts under the gas pedal wouldn't hurt anything either(don't get any oil on the top of the pedal, as this might make your foot slide off while driving!) Good luck.

    1. Thanks for your suggestions, Jerry. My van was in the shop before I read your comments. It's definitely not something blocking the accelerator on the floor. It's not idling fast all the time. When the van is in park, I can hear it revving over and over in a rhythmic pattern. It will also idle down when I take my foot off the gas, but then kick back up a little bit on its own. So it's not sticking, rather something that's running it is malfunctioning. My mechanic thinks it might be a switch of some kind. I trust him completely -- from my own experience -- so having done everything I could (the revving to unstick it), I'm leaving it in his capable hands, even though he won't be able to fix it until Wednesday. Thanks again!

  5. Somebody posted a supportive comment on my Facebook about my not getting to read a story. I want to post my comment response here too. I was so tired last night, I should not have been driving a keyboard. ;-)

    ".... First, it took so many people to pull this thing off. Some of us worked for months, and a couple of people worked like it was a full-time job. One guy in particular was the engine that made it all run. He was phenomenal, and much that went right yesterday was due to his hard work over the past few months.

    But it also took a committee structure, which we all know is essential, but also makes for some difficulties. People didn't always know what other people were doing, and decisions were made that conflicted with other decisions that were made by other people or committees. I don't know how that could have been prevented, and I don't know how it could be done other than in committees. We all did the best we could.

    In this case, there was a steering committee and then committees under some of the members of the steering committee. Everybody was human, except that guy I mentioned above. He might be some kind of super-human. Anyway, there were people who are collaborators and there were people who liked to work top-down. Our committee was mostly collaborators. Most of us. We made decisions according to what we were told the steering committee wanted and according to how we thought we could best pull off our goal, which was to give the audience the most fantastic day possible.

    So, second, I think we did that. It's all theatre, you know -- just like a play or a church service. All that really matters is what the audience experiences. Don't look at that man behind the curtain. And I think we gave the almost-700 attendees a great day. That's the energy I felt anyway as people were walking out after the last performance anyway.

    That's also the feeling most of the volunteers had as well (can't speak for everybody). It was a privilege to work on a project with such honorable goal, which was nothing more than inspiring people to live a little better. I would love to work on it next time.

    Which brings me to my third point: this is the first time we've done a TEDx here. We learned a lot. It was amazing how well it came off, but we were on a steep learning curve. We learned some things that worked quite well, and we'll have to make some changes next time. In spite of my disappointment over a couple of things, I just have to remember we're all learning and growing, and overall it was amazing.

    And it wouldn't have happened if a couple of people hadn't had a dream and infected a few more people and then offered it to some more of us who could then make it all happen for the 700 people who had tickets waiting for them at the door yesterday. I'm really glad those first people had the will and the way to do something other than write an idea on a bar napkin and throw it away on laundry day.

    So thanks to those of you who came and were inspired, and those who couldn't, buy your ticket early next time!"