DailyAfirmation (dailyafirmation) wrote,

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TEDxNCSU, Cup A Joe Mission Valley, Great Clips, and underwear night at Flex...

~Saturday~  I was up way too early for a weekend morning, but I had a ticket for the TEDxNCSU event on campus from 8:30-12:30, with registration opening at 8:00.

I checked in at about 8:10, and was pointed to a room of refreshments, which contained two different kinds of soft drinks and some coffee, and which prompted me to tweet:

With that said, I was grateful for the coffee, and later on, the "solid" part of the connotation of "refreshments" appeared.

I've mentioned recently that I'm not a morning person, and in addition to being cranky about there only being liquid refreshments, I was also cranky when by almost 20 minutes into the start time of the event, it still hadn't, and I tweeted:

There were technical issues trying to get the sound working, as well as the live stream for people who might be "attending" the event virtually.

First and foremost, what I want to say about this event is that I love that NC State wanted to, and did, put it on. I appreciate the tremendous amount of work that a great number of people did to pull it off, and I hope we'll have another one next year, and the year after that.

The theme of this TED event was, "What Really Matters," and here are my thoughts about the individual sessions:


Marshall Brain

Marshall is most widely known as the founder of HowStuffWorks, an award-winning website that offers clear, objective and easy-to-understand explanations of how the world around us actually works. The site, which he created as a hobby in 1998 and took through several rounds of venture funding totaling approximately $8 million, was purchased for $250 million by Discovery Communications in 2007.

Brain is the author of more than a dozen books as well as a number of widely known web publications including How to Make a Million Dollars, Robotic Nation, Manna, The Day you Discard Your Body and his BrainStuff blog at HowStuffWorks. His book The Teenager's Guide to the Real World is now in its tenth printing and was selected for the New York Public Library's prestigious "Books for the Teen Age" list. He frequently works with students at all levels to help them understand science and technology topics, entrepreneurship and how the world works.

Brain earned a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic University and a M.S. in Computer Science from NC State University, where he taught in the computer science department for six years, and was selected as a member of the NC State University Academy of Outstanding Teachers.

Today Marshall Brain resides in Cary, NC with his wife, Leigh, and their four children.
Marshall started off his presentation with the simple statement that "Hydrogen turns into people." And then he went on to talk about how that happens.

He used lots of visuals in his talk, including dumping about 10 million grains of salt—from what looked like a can of Morton Salt from where I sat—to using a soccer ball (for the sun) and a peppercorn (for the earth), to a test tube of pond water filled with life, into which he poured bleach. "It's instant death. To all that life. Is there life after that? No. That's life, sometimes you die just like that. On stage. At a TED event."

He went on to point out that what we do here as humans is to create meaning (which reminded me of The Landmark Forum), and he made the point of a 6" x 2.5" piece of printed paper that humans have attached all kinds of meeting to because it's a "note" and it's printed by the Federal Reserve and it says Twenty Dollars on it.

He concluded his talk with three ways to give your life meaning:
  1. Generosity: Help others.
  2. Design: If you live to be 83, you'll have about 30,000 days here. What are you going to do with them? Every morning ask yourself, "WWIDWME?" (What will I do with my existence?)
  3. Unity: Imagine a super-intelligent alien species arrives and does an assessment of humanity. Would it be able to discern what our goal is as a human species? We, ourselves, have never taken the time as a species at a world-wide level to ponder this. Marshall’s goal for the species is: "Heaven on Earth."
Ponder this: Would our lives be better if we had common human goals? What if you had a feeling that everybody was trying to help you every day? What if we recognized that we were all in this together?


Santiago Piedrafita

Santiago Piedrafita is Head of the Department of Graphic Design and Industrial Design at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Piedrafita is also currently a member of AIGA National Board, AIGA Design Educators Community Steering Committee and Raleigh Arts Commission's Public Art and Design Board.

Previously, Piedrafita chaired the Design Department at Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD). Before joining MCAD, Piedrafita was senior designer in the Walker Art Center’s design department, having worked with both present and former design directors Andrew Blauvelt and Laurie Haycock-Makela, respectively. At the Walker, Piedrafita designed and maintained a diverse array of communications materials, publications and exhibitions for the museum’s multidisciplinary curatorial and institutional departments.

In New York, Piedrafita worked in studios such as the Museum of Modern Art’s in-house design department, J. Abbott Miller’s Design/Writing/Research (then becoming part of Pentagram) and Chermayeff & Geismar, Inc. (now C&G Partners and Chermayeff & Geismar Studio). Piedrafita’s work has been featured in numerous publications including Eye, Graphis, Metropolis and I.D. magazines, and has received recognition and awards from the former American Center for Design, AIGA, I.D. and Communications Arts.

He holds a master’s degree in communications design from Pratt Institute in New York and a bachelor’s degree in industrial design from ESDI, College of Industrial Design, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

My first impression of this presentation had to do with two of the three considerations for all communication, audience, context, and purpose. There was an assumption that because we knew Santiago's titles that we knew what design means in that context. The word "design" is so prolific in so many disciplines that, in my humble opinion, it needs context put around it when it's talked about to a multidisciplinary audience.

He started off talking about scales, and used the retail notion of S, M, L, and XL, although I wondered how that might work for international audience members.

The main thrust of his talk was about wicked problems, which I love. He noted the characteristics of wicked problems, which I didn't capture, but I'm pretty sure included (if not were) these from Wikipedia:
  1. The solution depends on how the problem is framed and vice-versa (i.e. the problem definition depends on the solution)
  2. Stakeholders have radically different world views and different frames for understanding the problem.
  3. The constraints that the problem is subject to and the resources needed to solve it change over time.
  4. The problem is never solved definitively.
He concluded by showing some cool pictures of how a mindset change in design can participate in solving some aspects of wicked problems.


Claudia Kimbrough

Claudia Kimbrough has been on the faculty at NC State since 1987. She teaches in the College of Management and won the Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor Award in 1995. Kimbrough's teaching and course development experience is in the fields of marketing research, integrated marketing communications, social media, creativity through virtual worlds and marketing management.

Kimbrough was an early adopter and developer of virtual learning environments at NC State. She is the lead designer of Second Life sites for NC State’s College of Management. Her teaching has included projects in Second Life since 2007. Her work in Second Life also includes project management of educational efforts for the Department of Accounting enabled by a gift from Ernst & Young.

I didn't find this session, which was done completely from within Second Life, very compelling. With that said, it could have been because I have a preconceived bias about Second Life.

While it did a decent job of explaining how some things can be studied and experienced in virtual words that can't be similarly studied or experienced in the real world, it didn't address the investment in time to become proficient in developing and maintaining virtual worlds, the time it takes (especially infrequent) users of virtual worlds to become proficient at navigation, and the importance of resisting simply re-creating the real world inside a virtual world.


Dr. Blair Kelley

Dr. Blair L.M. Kelley is an associate professor of history and the director of graduate history programs at NC State. She is the author of the award-winning book, Right to Ride: Streetcar Boycotts and African American Citizenship in the Era of Plessy v. Ferguson, where she exposes the fullness of African American efforts to resist the passage of segregation laws.

Right to Ride won the 2010 Letitia Woods Brown Best Book Award.

Kelley’s work as a scholar and teacher is grounded in the notion that confronting the history of race in America is essential to an understanding of our contemporary politics. She teaches courses on African American history, Civil Rights, black popular culture, oral history, and Katrina and the history of New Orleans. Kelley received her B.A. from the University of Virginia in history and African and African American studies, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in history from Duke University.
I found Dr. Kelley's presentation so interesting and compelling that I took very few notes, one of them being that I wanted to start following her on Twitter, @profblmkelley, which I've done.

She talked about how the way Americans understand race is socially constructed. She referred to President Obama's March 18, 2008 speech, "A More Perfect Union" (text | video), as "perhaps one of the greatest speeches about race since the civil rights speeches."

She mentioned Bill Clinton's 1977 initiative to "lead the country in a national conversation on race," although his frame was about reconciliation.

A salient point of hers was that we cannot have an honest conversation about race without realizing and accepting these three things:
  1. The problem of race in America is grounded in slavery. She noted that slaves were counted as 3/5ths of a person, and that was 3/5ths of a person in their owners family.

  2. Race and racial stigma isn’t just a southern problem; it’s an American dilemma.

  3. The silver lining in our race history is that there have always been dissenters. There have always been people, of many races, who have pushed back on racism. She mentioned the Abolitionists as an example.


Saul Flores

Saul Flores is a Mexican American student with heritage descending to a rural town in Mexico, known as Atencingo. Saul was born in 1989 in Brooklyn, New York, and is now pursuing a Bachelor in Graphic Design and a Bachelor in Business Marketing at North Carolina State University.

Saul has been recognized by more than 20 fellowships including Mercedes Benz, BI-LO, The Hispanic Scholarship Fund, Wal-Mart, McDonalds and The Caldwell Fellows Program. Throughout his studies at NC State, Saul has traveled to nearly 20 countries to study and understand cultures and current issues.

Saul recently completed a 10-country trek from Quito, Ecuador, to Charlotte, North Carolina, to help raise awareness on the present struggles of the many Latin American communities. The journey, which Saul called “The Walk of the Immigrants,” took him on the perilous walk that many migrants to the United States have made. Walking and hitchhiking through towns large and small, Saul was able to capture the cultural distinction of these countries through photographs and journal entries. He is raising funds for an impoverished school in Atencingo by selling photographs of his journey.
This was one of those presentations about which all you can say is, "You had to be there."

Saul's presentation was by far the most engaging, personal, emotional, and compelling.

His story in a nutshell: Walk of the Immigrants. Blog postings along the way: The Kid from Atencingo, Police, Poison and Peace, and Refuge on the Road. His photoblog is here.


Dr. Marian McCord

Dr. McCord is an Associate Professor with appointments in the Department of Textile Engineering, Chemistry, and Science at North Carolina State University, the Joint UNC/NCSU Department of Biomedical Engineering in Raleigh and Chapel Hill, and an Adjunct Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. McCord was recently named the Director of Global Health Initiatives for NC State.

Dr. McCord received her Sc.B. in Biomedical Engineering at Brown University, and an M.S. in Bioengineering and Ph.D. in Textiles and Polymer Science at Clemson University. She has 16 years experience in development and characterization of protective and medical textiles and has been active in consulting for the medical device industry. Recently, she spent one year working in research and development of hemostatic wound dressings with a small business in RTP (Entegrion, Inc.), and completed her first book (Gad and McCord, Safety Evaluation in the Development of Medical Devices and Combination Products, Informa, 2008).

Dr. McCord sees her research field as “textiles as interventions” – i.e., textiles that prevent or treat disease, or improve human health and Well-Being. Some of her global health related projects include non-chemical insecticidal bednets and low cost hemostatic bandages. She is a scientific advisor to Sustainable Health Enterprises, a venture dedicated to meeting the needs for safe and affordable sanity products for women in the developing world. Dr. McCord has been the co-Director of the Atmospheric Plasma Laboratory at the College of Textiles at NCSU for 10 years, and is a co-founder of Katharos, Inc., a company with license technology developed to provide phosphate filtration solutions for end-stage renal disease patients.
Dr. McCord's presentation was one of those ones that make me think, "TED is so great. Only in a TED talk would be hearing about what a global problem a woman being on her period for one week out of month is, unfathomable consequences arising from a problem that can't be that hard to solve if anyone recognized its importance and championed its cause."

Her presentation was entitled, "Solving the Period Problem" and she told her engaging and compelling story about becoming involved in research at NC State to develop sanitary pads from local, organic materials.


Mike Giancola

Mike currently serves as the director for the Center for Student Leadership, Ethics, & Public Service (CSLEPS) at North Carolina State University. The center has been providing unique learning experiences that embody the value of leadership, service, responsible citizenship and ethics since 1998 and works to develop leaders with wisdom, compassion and integrity who will promote a lasting commitment to the betterment of society.

CSLEPS has service-learning partnerships in 11 countries focused on health and healthcare, education, substandard housing, hunger policy, water quality and sanitation, interfaith dialogue, gender and environmental issues, rainforest conservation, and civil rights.

He serves on the national faculty for the LeaderShape Institute (www.leadershape.org) and is the chair of the board for Together We Can, Inc. He has been an active volunteer with Stop Hunger Now and the American Red Cross, having served as the chair of Blood Services for the Triangle Area Chapter. He is an active member and past president of the Rotary Club of West Raleigh.

Mike was the recipient of the Outstanding Extension Service Award at North Carolina State University and was inducted into the Academy of Outstanding Faculty Engaged in Extension (AOFEE). He was recognized as the Tarheel of the Week in the North Carolina newspaper, the News and Observer and received the Don Roberts Award for his commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Mike graduated cum laude from John Carroll University in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and earned his Masters degree in Higher Education Administration from Kent State University.

He cites his most important leadership roles as being a husband to his wife Jennifer and a father to his two children Megan and Sam.
I have to preface this summary by saying I've seen Mike present on this topic before, and I've seen him do it with visuals that were more compelling than the ones used today at TEDxNCSU, and I've seen him more forceful about the topic. He seemed a little reticent, or reserved, today for some reason.

With that said, he articulated the "wicked problem" of hunger, including notions such as: it's not only a third-world problem (we have hungry people right here in Raleigh); the deaths reported from hunger are not mostly about dying one day because someone is so hungry, but it's about long-term problems that are steeped in hunger, such as lack of nutrition; and how the simple act of feeding kids, especially girls, can make a difference in so many other social issues affecting them.

An interesting fact that he noted, that I hadn't heard, or didn't remember if I had, was in his slide on breaking food myths: It's a myth that there is a shortage of food. There are at least 4.3 pounds of food per person per day worldwide.


Dick Gordon

Dick began his work in radio as a reporter in Churchill Manitoba. His work with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation took him across the Arctic with postings in Yellowknife, Hay River, and then on to Prince Rupert, Edmonton and Calgary before settling in Canada’s capitol city - Ottawa - as a Parliamentary Reporter.

In the late ‘80’s Dick covered the collapse of the Soviet Union and the First Gulf War. In addition, Dick covered conflicts in Iraq, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and Bosnia and reported from dozens of other countries as well.

In 1997, Dick returned to Canada and worked as a program host and senior correspondent for CBC Radio’s national morning show, This Morning.

Shortly after 9-11, Dick was hired by WBUR in Boston to take over hosting duties for the NPR call-in show called The Connection. In his four years at that program he traveled twice to Baghdad and won a number of awards.

In late 2005 Dick and his wife Barbara moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina where he was invited to start a radio program at WUNC. The Story went daily in the summer of 2006. It was subsequently selected by American Public Media for national distribution. The Story is now carried in some 110 markets including Los Angeles, Minnesota, Houston, Tampa, Detroit, Miami, Wisconsin, Iowa, and New York state.
I believe that Dick Gordon was purposefully placed last in the line-up for a tour-de-force finish to the event. Surprisingly, I was not very engaged at all with Dick's story, which is so ironic since he's the host of The Story on American Public Media, which I listen to a lot on my local public radio station.

I can't quite put my finger on what it was, and it could have been a number of things. It could have been the implicit "build-up" and "anticipation" of a "celebrity" speaking.

It could have been the incessant hum that plagued the sound system from the beginning of the event, and throughout, and by then, I'd had it with it. I mean this venue is used all the time for this type of thing, so it was very hard to fathom how it couldn't be fixed over a course of four hours. It could have been the less-than-smooth transitions between not only speakers, but between slides and videos used by the speakers.

It could have been that Dick's story, on some level, came across as "look at all the places I've been," as opposed to "this is how I felt or what I learned or shared while I was there." It could be that it took him too long to get to what I thought was the point of his talk.

For those who might not be familiar with The Story and Dick as its host, he has people on his show who have a story to tell, and he gets them to articulate what they were thinking and feeling during the particular event or time in their life around which the story is built.

So—at least this is what I got of his TED talk— he was trying to tell us when in his life (or his story, if you will) he realized that that's what people really are most interested in (i.e., what the people in the situation are thinking and feeling while experiencing the news-worthy incident) in a news story, but it's rarely the thing that is delivered, which is what led him to creating a program such that The Story is. Perhaps he should have interviewed himself to distill the story around that "ah-ha" moment in his life.

At any rate, I was glad when he finally finished. And then, the closing took too long, especially since it was already 10 or 15 minutes after the scheduled end-time, "Calendar integrity" is a hot button for me and it's a rampant problem at a huge majority of NC State meetings and events. It's a systemic problem steeped in the culture of the university as an organization. Just notice, from now on, how many meetings and events communicated that only have a start time and not an end time. That says a lot right there. What it says to me is, "I have no respect for any commitment you might have after your time with me."

Well, that took way, way, way, way, way longer than I expected it to and wanted to spend time doing it, but I wanted to capture my thoughts for posterity.

I spent some time in the afternoon over at Cup A Joe Mission Valley, where I completed Friday's blog entry. At about 5:00, I walked upstairs in that shopping area to get my haircut.

LaToya greeted me like she always does even though she's cut my hair the last three months in a row, "You been here before?"

I want to say, "Yes, girl, I been here the last three times you've cut my hair and asked me that."

Part way through my cut, she asked me if I was still using that shampoo from that study, and I wanted to say, "Ah, so you did know that I've been here before."

I was tempted to say something to her about being there Thursday, and asking her about that stylist that I was afraid to let cut my hair, but I let it go in case she was in the back or something.

I asked her to trim my eyebrows at the end, like I always do, and like she always does, she sliced pieces of my eyelids with that trimmer that she uses to do it. That's becoming quite a dilemma, as I must have my eyebrows trimmed at my age (so they won't grow into my eyelashes), and I don't want to do it myself, but I also don't want to come out of there every time with cuts in my eyelids.

I took a nap, and waking up at 9:30, I really, really, really didn't want to go out, in spite of Joe's arm twisting. I dragged my ass and put it off all the way until almost 11:00 and then I did go out.

It was "underwear night" at Flex, which I'll describe here as I did to someone who recently asked me about it: "Guys who have absolutely no business being in their underwear in public will be, and guys who you'd absolutely kill to see in their underwear in public won't be."

And that was about par for the course tonight. And really, in all honesty, some guys you thought you'd really like to see in their underwear, it turns out would have been better if you hadn't. When it comes to fantasies, the mind is an incredibly generous thing.

The best part of the night out was leaving Flex at about 1:00 and grabbing a midnight snack at The Borough.
Tags: bar talk, coffee shops, haircut, ted

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