ICPC – Brain Festival in Banff, Alberta

We were in a huge ballroom last night with 400 of the smartest college kids in the world. The event, at the Fairmont in Banff Springs, Alberta was the International Collegiate Programming Contest and it was the culmination of a year’s worth of regional contests that included something like 6,100 universities from around the world.

We were not the smartest bears in the room – by a long shot.

Tom Deluca was on the bill with us and the show just rocked. These kids had been under some heavy-duty programming pressure for the last few days and they were ready to laugh.

Most of the kids were from other countries and the final contest had the teams of 3 members try their best to solve 11 problems in 5 hours. I read through a few of the problems and just felt like crying. My brain had no ability to even understand what was required, much less attempt to find a solution.

I was happy to be a comedy juggler. Having fun with this group of kids from around the world was an utter joy. The laughs, applause, standing ovations were from the heart and cathartic.

The Flight Home

Today was the kind of travel day you would wish on your worst enemy. We were on the plane and pushed back into the launching position when an unpredicted snow storm fell onto Calgary airport (YYC). We waited for the deicing truck to find us while the snow gathered and eventually shut down the airport while we sat on the plane. They cancel the flight, pull up to the bridge, and send us BACK THROUGH CANADIAN customs and immigration since we were cleared into the U.S.A. before boarding the plane. We grabbed our luggage, checked it back in on the rescheduled flight, and went through customs and immigration to enter the U.S.A. again. I could go on, but let me put it this way – I woke up at the hotel 19 hours ago and right now I am in LA waiting on a flight back to Sacramento and then have a one hour drive home.

I keep my mind on the kids in the audience last night just to keep from going crazy.

Banff was beautiful. Breath-taking views from anywhere you happen to be standing. The Fairmont has a 32-meter lap pool which for me, is pretty much heaven. I had a nice work out the first night and 32-meters give me a nice long run at finding and honing my stroke on each lap.

Waiting at the airport we were sitting right across from the pilots. The co-pilot, Marie, was heading to Africa for a month of missionary work and she was asking us about some magic tricks. We taught her to juggle and told her to study a few magic lessons on YouTube. She was so excited to juggle.

She came on the speaker as we were landing and thanked us by name for teaching her to juggle.

At LAX we got onto a Southwest flight and I made it home around 1:00 AM and was back out the door at 1:30 AM in my van heading for a commitment that I was 7 hours late for.  I’ll wake up in the morning with the group and do some quick catch up.

Hope you all have a nice weekend [:)]   – Barry

Still loving TED

I was hoping to blog everyday from TED but it’s just too hard. Every minute awake here at TED@Aspen is filled with sometime very fantastic to occupy the mind or body. Dan and I are working with a group called The Little Kids Collective to create the conference wrap up and we are mostly working late at night. Day time is filled with watching all the amazing speakers that are giving us the fodder with which we create the wrap up.

Today I brought my laptop and am blogging while watching speakers – duh! I guess I could have thought of that sooner – especially since the have a room called Blogger’s Alley.

Some very fun people I have to let you know about – other members of the collective. Ze Frank is this very funny guy I’d never heard of before. Certainly my fault and not hit… he’s doing great things. Check out his site. Watch The Show with Ze Frank. Raw and hilarious.

Rives – I wish I met this guy like a decade ago. Slam poet, funny man, and a guy I’ve had a good time hanging out with for the past few days. Check out his site and see some of his work on YouTube. He’s Rainman meets Lenny Bruce.

Jill Sobule – I wrote about her in the last post and yes – more and more of the same. She’s amazing. Such a wacky sense of humor which can instantly be transformed into a song on her guitar which is never far away. I’m really excited about working with her in this conference wrap up because she really floats so well from idea to a place where none of us guys go. She’s a team player in a smelly room of guys eating pizza and trying to get their jokes heard.

Every speaker mentions Craig Venter – what a legend. I watched his talk and was inspired, confused, and scared.

There is a really good blog about the TED conference and you should check it out. I’m just watching the talks and taking it all in… Way too soon to put it back out.

First night at TED Aspen

I have to start this post by saying – I am a HUGE fan of Jill Sobule. I mean, CDs, blogs, following her career, it’s a funky thing, not in that stalker way, just in that “how many 45 year old married guys follow Jill Sobule’s career?” kind of way.

I met her years ago at the TED Conference in Monterey, CA and we did our very first text messages with each other on the Treo 180 given out in the legendary TED gift bag. It was way too fun. I had never heard of her and we just happened be standing next to each other and traded numbers. Then later that day I saw her perform and I was all about Jill. Loved her songs, her twisted sense of humor, the way she carried her guitar without a case and plugged it into the system like it was her first time on stage.

So back to tonight – first night at TED 2008. They had a dinner for all the speakers and it was a major schmooze opportunity. I bumped into Jill and Rives right when I walked into the restaurant. We were inseparable. We ended up at the same table with a few of the folks from TED HQ who were very cool (Jennifer and Emily – nice story about the bus ride, Jennifer!).

The Raspyni Brothers, Jill, and Rives have been pegged as “The Little Kids Table” at TED and it is our job to take this entire week of cerebral excellence and make it funny in an 18-minute wrap up. If tonight was any indication, we are off to a really great start. Julia Sweeney was supposed to be here but came down with that nasty flu so we are one great comic mind short.

So many wonderful laughs and for a while it was just performers connecting… sharing stories from the road and from the stage. Highs and lows, successes and failures. Jill was just a girl with real stories and Rives was a world traveler and the biographies didn’t matter. Great food and a decent 2005 Chardonnay made 2.5 hours fly by.

Tomorrow we start the real work – watching some of the great minds of our world “tell a story they’ve never shared before” as the TED instructions state. It’s an amazing conference and I am so happy to be here – for the 5th time!

Oh, and as a side note, landing at the Aspen airport is a visual treat. The runway seems to be cut right into the mountain because the last 3 minutes of the flight you are face to face with fantastic views. Good design.

Seems only fitting that it’s where TED begins.

We are back…

Long delay in entries in this blog, right?

Here’s the scoop, and why I never mentioned here.

February 18th was a big day. My wife and son had just completed two weeks of school assembly shows in Southern CA. It was an absolute hoot to do shows with them and to have audiences of children. I won’t go into it too much here – we kept a blog of the whole experience and you can read it here if you wish.

So, back to Sunday, 2/18/07… After being away for 2 weeks we landed home in time for the annual Mardi Gras parade in Nevada City, CA. A very fun parade and bead collection exercise for my 5-year old son. Perfect weather and saw a ton of friends who had all followed our tour on the blog. One of the those days you pinch yourself to make sure it’s real.

I hadn’t worked out with my exercise partner in 2 weeks and we planned an afternoon mountain bike ride.

About 10 minutes into the ride something went horribly wrong. A branch flipped up into my spokes and took my bike from 17 MPH to zero in nothing flat. I, on the other hand, didn’t stop and flew off my bike and through the air. After a rather ungraceful landing I had the wind knocked out of me and was totally unable to move anything on the right side of my body. My partner came over and in no uncertain terms assured me I had broken my collarbone. I don’t want to go into it here, but you can read it here.
Blogs for everything… it’s a way of life.

Now, onto the subject of this blog.

Indian Wells, CA for Association for Wire Rope Fabricators.

Wire rope… cable. Yep, there is an association for everything in the world. What’s it like to hang out with people from all over the word who make cable? Sure, they try to remain humble. Act like they are just regular Tom and Barbaras, but they make CABLE! 1/8″ all the way up to 6″ diameter cable. I got my picture taken with the president of the association.

The thing that made this show so memorable was that we were not only coming back after a 9-week forced ‘vacation’, but the label had fallen off our prop truck and Fed Ex had no idea of where it was! Ouch.

With 2 hours until showtime and the assurance of a few Fed Ex supervisors that we would not see this trunk tonight, we got resourceful. We went to WalMart and spent a couple hundred bucks buying foam-core bats, balls, rings, plates, ping pong balls, and anything else we could use on stage. We hurried out of there and got our butts back to the hotel to figure out a 60-minute show.

The producer and the client were both very calm and wonderful throughout the ordeal. It didn’t have to be that way and we were very happy that it was.

The show was a blast… I would have liked a bit more variety but we had what we had and I think we rose above the adversity in a big way. The show was 65 minutes.

What a way for me to come back. I still have a fair amount of pain from the broken collarbone and surgery. I did the show on a few pain pills so no one had to see me wince. It was great to be back on stage again. Dan was perfect and gave an extra dose of wacky to his performance to cover for, well, for everything really.

None of the people in the audience really believed our whole WalMart/Fed Ex story.

I guess that’s a good sign.

Happy to be back… Barry

Stuck backstage @ Allergan

Garden Grove, CA – This was a first. This goes under the category of “Not Glamorous Moments”.

We spend a lot of time at sales meetings for products we know nothing about. We learn enough to make the show funny and customized, but truth be told, we couldn’t walk into a prospect’s office and sound intelligent about any of the products we’ve helped launch.
Maybe that’s just because we never stay around for the whole meeting, right? You might have a point there — except –

Today we were STUCK backstage. Yep. We did our 10 minute opening to the general session and were stuck backstage because the stage was placed such that there was no way to exit the room without walking in front of the audience! So I did it. I listeded to every word of the meeting. Zymar. Acular LS. Numbers. Projections. Budgets. Incentives. They were speaking English, but it didn’t make much sense.

Two hours later we trotted out for a 15 minute closing appearance and my brain was mush. Looking at the faces of the people in the audience, it didn’t seem they understood the information either. We had a good closing show and went off and I headed straight out of the ballroom. The lobby of a hotel never felt so refreshing.

Great crew! Bumped into a producer I hadn’t seen in years — since she was with TBA in Nashville. Great to see you again, Pam! Hope we can do more shows with you soon.

Don’t forget to put the stage in front of the doors next time [:)]