SXSW: March 12 2016


Although I enjoyed seeing President Obama on Friday, I felt like Saturday was my first real day at SXSW 2016. I attended many interesting and informative Interactive sessions and finished with a documentary in the evening.


Author Gretchen Rubin spoke about Five Counterintuitive Truths about Habits. She is most famous for her book The Happiness Project, and is now thinking about habits that make us happier. Some of her advice and wisdom: If we have habits that work for us, we are happier and healthier. Habits are freeing because they get us out of making decisions. There are 21 strategies for forming habits, but the key step is to think about what is true for you. Here are her five counterintuitive truths about habits:
1. Abstainers vs. moderators: Some people need to just totally abstain from a bad habit.
2. Importance of treats: Everyone should have a list of healthy treats to reward themselves when needed.
3. Don’t set up a finish line: Set up milestones instead of an end point.
4. Outer order contributes to inner calm: If a task can be done within one minute, just do it then.
5. Strategies for forming habits are influenced by our personal tendencies to be Upholders, Questioners, Obligiers, or Rebels.


Smart Cars, Smarter Cities: New Transit Tech was a panel discussion with Michael Petricone (CES), Iain Macbeth (City of London), Susan Zielinski (University of Michigan), and  Andrew Salzberg (Uber). Their definition of Smart Cities included “Moving people and goods” and “Clever uses of available resources.” This wasn’t the most exciting session, but had some interesting discussion: London is looking to get rid of on-street parking. Public-private partnerships are critical. Cities now have more interaction with auto manufacturers. New companies, such as Uber and Homeaway, address the problem of excessive waste in urban infrastructures (a different view).


Daring Bravely was the topic of Dr. Brene Brown’s keynote talk. She works at the University of Houston and has become known for her famous TED Talk. Her words of wisdom:
– Be brave with life and work, you choose to fall. On a daily basis, you must choose to be brave.
– Vulnerability is not a show of weakness, but an accurate measure of courage.
– There are a million cheap seats in the world today. Be particular about whose opinions matter to you.
– The bravest among us will always have heartbreak. No innovation and creativity without failure.
She noted that when something difficult happens, our emotions get the first crack at resolving it. She discussed some strategies to increase resiliency: mindfulness (pay attention) / breathing, write about it for 10-15 minutes for four days in a row.


In a session titled Just Food: What it Looks like When We Start Over, Josh Tetrick, CEO of Hampton Creek, was interviewed by TV food personality, Andrew Zimmern. When I arrived (late), they were talking about farmers markets. The discussion moved on to their trips to Africa and social good topics such as education of girls, hiring ex-convicts, and food waste. Andrew noted that the best way to vote “with your feet” on food-related issues is to learn how to cook.


My search for free food led me to the BiteClub at the Driskill Hotel. I took a picture of this cool wall that said Feed Your Imagination and went looking for something to eat. People were eating, but where was the food? I finally realized that it was all stacked up on the word Imagination.


Race in America was an excellent discussion among Todd Boyd, Ken Burns (filmmaker) and Henry Louis (Skip) Gates (Harvard professor). Ken has just finished film about Jackie Robinson, which will air on PBS in April. Skip produced a documentary called And Still We Rise: Black America since MLK. The three men discussed Donald Trump’s candidacy several times, noting that his persona is something that many in the US have become comfortable with. They also talked about voting rights, Black Lives Matter, and of course, Jackie Robinson. They agreed that the real enemy is not race, but class, and often it’s hard to tell where race discrimination ends and class discrimination begins.


In the evening, I watched the North America premiere of the movie YARN. This documentary followed several women working in fabric arts today. Their projects ranged from a huge netted playground to a circus performance featuring rope to large-scale knitted installations. The two filmmakers from Iceland attended and provided appropriate theater decorations.


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