Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tech fail

One night's tapas output--see below for a list of the week's experiments
I spent last week in Madrid for work, at my organization’s annual meeting. Since I work alone, I really look forward to this event as a rare opportunity to be physically in the same place as my coworkers, and to cram into five days the year’s worth of gossip, inside jokes, and goofing off that you just can’t replicate by yourself in a home office. Since part of my job is to be the organization’s social media point person (or empress, as I prefer to call myself), I also had plans to tweet, blog, and FB the heck out of the event to my fellow attendees and to anyone who hadn’t managed to come but wanted to follow along interactively.



Preparation to travel this year was more frenetic than usual, even involving a last-minute U-turn on the way to the airport to retrieve the all-important memory stick containing all the files I needed for my trip and had left attached to my home computer. As a result, it wasn’t until I was in the air to Chicago that I realized I had forgotten to pack my camera, as well as an adaptor that would allow my computer to plug into a European outlet. When I landed in Madrid, bleary-eyed and addled, I discovered that my US phone would not, as I had feared, work, and that my backup plan to buy a cheap throwaway phone and SIM card for the week was actually going to set me back at least 60 euros. Okay then—no phone. Proceed to hotel.

Once at the hotel, I was reunited with my colleague and dear friend J., with whom I had arranged to share a serviced apartment, which turned out to be palatial and “shabby chic”, as another workmate described it (emphasis on the “shabby”). We then proceeded to spend a good part of the day attempting to explain to the staff, in our limited (or in my case, nonexistent) Spanish, that we needed internet access. For two people. At the same time. By the time we had accomplished this, with the assistance of an actual Spanish speaker, we were well into Monday evening, and I didn’t have the energy to also figure out how to inform them that we had discovered that the oven didn’t work.

Thus prepared, I was not really surprised to discover, when the conference got fully underway, that the provision of wifi for the number of attendees was woefully inadequate, and that instead of pushing out a steady stream of social media content over the course of each day, I was lucky to average one tweet/post for every hour of conference time. And things hit rock bottom on the day I had to run two workshops when, two minutes before the first one was due to start, one of the participants managed to knock my computer onto the floor—luckily not damaging the computer, but crushing the all-important memory stick…which I had not fully backed up onto the hard drive.

After that disaster, the remainder of the week’s tech fail—an alarm that didn’t go off, an electric shock, and a blown fuse at Casa Shabby Chic—seemed amusingly old school. And by then I had absorbed the lesson that the real value of being there lay in the things that didn’t really require technology. Re-connecting with old colleagues and getting to know new ones. Sharing a bottle of white rioja and a package of boquerones (or three) on the world’s biggest terrace. Discovering that making tapas is a great way to fancy up odds and ends of things in your fridge/kitchen and serve them to guests.

Assorted cold tapas
Here's a list of things that I rustled up in a hotel kitchen with a tiny fridge, a few ingredients, and a non-functional oven. Given more resources, the possibilities are practically endless.

Pictured above (all served on slices of baguette)
- Marinated sardines and anchovies
- Chopped cherry tomatoes and pesto
- Grated carrot mixed with Greek yogurt, pesto, lemon juice and black pepper

Not pictured (also served on slices of baguette)
- Chorizo and goat's cheese
- Jamon iberico and cornichons
- Manchego cheese wrapped in marinated anchovies
- Smoked salmon, Greek yogurt, lemon juice, and black pepper

Make as many as necessary to feed your guests or empty out your fridge.

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