Once the sun crested the horizon, the good light was gone and I packed up my lenses to grab some breakfast. One of the advantages of doing what I do for a living is having a network of friends around the world who can point you to the best local places to see, hear and do things most tourists will miss. Such was the case in South Portland. My childhood friend, Erika, used to live here with her husband and daughter. She advised me not to miss a little out of the way place called Scratch Bakery. It was located in a quiet residential area littered in the morning with families at school bus stops and multitudes of backpack-laden kids riding bikes and scooters to school. I grabbed a double shot KLO caramel espresso accompanied by a ham and smoked cheddar scone. Scratch Bakery doesn’t have inside seating, but its on the street picnic table made a perfect perch for this traveling flaneur to witness dogs on leashes, an absence of cell phones and people actually connected to other humans through something other than bits and bytes.
After the scone and much needed java, I wandered up the coastline to Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse. It sits at the end of a rocky jetty on the grounds of Southern Maine Community College. I hopped across the rocks and grabbed a few shots (Spring Point Ledge is the only caisson-style lighthouse in the United States that people can walk to). I was the only one out there. To be honest, it got a bit eerie being that far out in the bay at the end of the jetty alone underneath the lighthouse. You don't see the waves on the calm harbor, but you can hear them lapping against the jetty at the bottom of the lighthouse. Like in a movie. A scary movie. A movie like Jaws or Friday the 13th.
After getting my fill of lighthouses, I drove the Tahoe into Portland’s historic district, parked it at the Hampton Inn and took off for a few hours of photo walking around the city.
The Wednesday night sunset cruise around Casco Bay is eye opening for first time conference attendees. The beer brought onto the boat is top notch barley and hops, but those of us who’ve been there before know it’s just a tease to what’s in store. I took in my second Bissell Brothers of the trip and enjoyed an amazing sunset and great conversation. The sun set, the boat docked back from whence it came and we all self formed into random groups headed to town for dinner.
Cloudera’s Amy O’Connor told a touching and dark humor laden story about lessons the healthcare industry can learn from big data. To illustrate the story, she took us inside the timeline of the mountain biking accident that paralyzed her husband and the trials and successes of not giving up.
Getting even more personal stories than normal at #Monktoberfest this year. Drives home the importance of how tech can make lives better. - @piewords
Then, Kelly Stirman took us deep inside what it’s like to parent in the age of social media. He spoke about a troubling incident experienced by his child, the type of incident too many kids keep hidden and too many parents try to squelch from discussion.
As an industry, we talk a lot about community. We often forget that communities form around evil as well as good.
It was the kind of talk you don’t hear among friends and family, much less at a technology conference. I wish the entire tech industry was in the audience to hear Kelly and Amy’s talks. Both were vital talks that went beyond the code we all take for granted.
More insightful talks followed. You should check out the conference Twitter feed for the highlights.
Beyond the great speakers, one of the best things about Monktoberfest is the beer. Not just any beer, mind you. World class, one of a kind, no longer in production beer. Stephen O’Grady, the accidental creator of Monktoberfest, works with Ryan and Leigh from the bar Of Love and Regret in Baltimore to ensure attendees -- all of whom are beer snobs in their own right -- are shocked and awed by the beer that gets tapped at lunch and dinner.