Tips on surviving SXSW

This is one of those posts on tips on how to survive SXSW.

SXSW is something I try to attend every year. It’s one of my favorite tech conferences, but also the *most tiring*. There’s practically no time or energy to go anywhere else.

  • Book early. That is, if you want to stay near the Downtown area. Twice, I booked in January, and twice, I had to rent a car because I couldn’t find a nearby hotel.
  • Prepare for the heat, the cold, and the rain. The temperature will be 10 degrees one day, and 27 degrees the next. And I’m not even kidding.
  • And yes, it rains.
  • Claim your badges a day before the conference starts. It is *really* crowded on the first day.
  • Traffic’s bad. Parking’s bad. It usually takes us 15 to 30 minutes just to find a parking spot. And they’re not cheap: around $15 to $40 for the entire day.
  • Bring a backpack to the conference. I initially had a messenger bag to carry all my gear (laptop, power bank, etc.) and had to switch to a backpack. Just remember that you will be carrying your bag the *entire day*. Please be kind to your back & shoulders.
  • Only bring the necessities. Even the smallest gadget/accessory can put a toll on the weight of your bag. For example, I learned there’s no need to bring a water bottle, since the place is equipped with a lot of water stations. Also, there was no need to bring my high capacity power bank, since there are a lot of power outlets available.
  • You will walk. Really walk. Keep in mind that the sessions are spread out between 7 to 14 venues. And even if you manage to only attend sessions within the Austin Convention Center, that building is still *huge*. Think twice before wearing those high heeled boots or stilettos.
  • Brown bag your lunch if you can. Or eat during off-peak hours. It’s almost impossible to find an empty table in restaurants from 12pm to 2pm. There are food trucks everywhere, but the lines are terrible. Once, I was in line for almost 45 minutes just to get a puny breakfast burrito.
  • Arrive at the talks at least 30 mins early. The sad fact is SXSW books people more than it could accomodate. If you arrive 10 minutes before the session starts, most often than not, you will not be able to get in.
  • Download Google Maps, or your favorite map application. The last SXSW app was a total fail with regards to venue directions.
  • Bring a paper map too, if possible. Because sometimes, traditional maps are a lot easier to use.
  • Download the SXSW app. It has some use. At least when it comes to shortlisting the sessions you want to attend.
  • When choosing sessions, don’t get brainwashed with “Must attend talks in SXSW.” I made this mistake on my first SXSW and I hated all the talks that was recommended in social media. Only you will know what talks you would be interested in.
  • Don’t be fooled by cool titles. SXSW speakers tend to play with titles in order to get more attendees. Not good.
  • This is a matter of personal preference, but avoid panel sessions if possible. Panel sessions are too freeform. The panelists are only as good as the moderator’s questions. And I noticed a lot of the panelists do not even prepare for their session, and even if they do, they don’t prepare *with* the other panelists. There’s usually no cohesion. And to tell you honestly, I don’t learn a lot on panel sessions. So, if you’re a lot like me who attend SXSW to learn new things, stick with solo sessions. Or at the most, dual sessions.
  • There are workshops too which sometimes last 4 to 6 hours. But I haven’t gotten the chance to attend any of them, because they require online reservation and are usually booked months before SXSW.
  • Don’t judge a speaker by the company they worked with. I learned a lot from speakers who were from companies which were totally unknown to me.
  • Priority seating is bullshit. Just line up early.
  • Not sure which sessions to attend? Go to the web or the app, and star all the sessions that you find interesting. Then filter the list to show only your starred items. Then read the details: description, who the speakers are, and requirements for attendees.
  • Have a backup session. Preferably in the same or next building. Because of the next item below.
  • If you don’t like the session for the first 10 minutes, don’t be afraid to leave the session and hop on to any of your backup sessions.
  • You will not be able to attend all the sessions you like. And that’s okay. I know a bunch of attendees who weren’t able to attend almost 70% of the sessions they signed up for.
  • You would feel as if your first SXSW could’ve gone better. And that’s okay. Everyone gets lost, everyone gets locked out of sessions, and misses out at least on something. Smile and make the most out of it. It will still be a fantastic experience.

Ultimate pet peeve in malls: Elevator Etiquette


So I’m in Megamall right now, on a WEEKEND (I know. Brave right?) and I’m reminded of my ultimate pet peeve in malls: People insist on using the elevators despite being obviously physically active and able to use the escalators … and even the stairs!

Even when I was a toddler and whining, my parents rarely allowed me to take the elevator. We were encouraged to walk and be active!

So here I am, pregnant, limping, and 5 noisy women in their late 20s, who have been laughing boisterously and taking selfies the entire time, tried to push me aside to they can get in the elevator.

I pointedly looked at the “give priority sign,” which made one of them to roll her eyes.

Okay. I know some people will hate me for saying this, but I don’t think having a 7-year old kid with you is an excuse to even get priority to use the elevator. Kids are active. Heck, they can even outrun you. Don’t use your kids as an excuse not to give way to someone on a wheelchair. I actually witnessed this *twice* today.

I’m pregnant

When you have already gone thru a number of miscarriages, and just got diagnosed with lupus, you get more words of caution than congratulations. I just got an earful from my doctor about the risks of pregnancy on my kidneys and how I should evaluate my options.

Next week, I’m about to see more doctors — the same ones who have repeatedly warned me against getting pregnant.

I know I’m not allowed to be happy. But I secretly am.

A review of Wall Pops Peel and Stick Dry Erase Message Board

I bought a removable whiteboard stick-on in National Bookstore which didn’t last a long because it was made of very thin material. Also because my wonderful officemates had a grand time making graffiti as soon as I installed it. It would’ve worked, actually, as long as you write with a very light hand. But since I didn’t want to take the risk of another excited graffiti incident, I purchased a high quality one from Amazon.

Wall Pops is working quite well. The size, although still small for my needs, is bigger than a typical stick-on whiteboard. It also erases quite cleanly without the need to rub too hard.

The challenge was in actually sticking it on, as it has a tendency to create bubbles. Thankfully, I have a teammate who is pretty good with crafts and was able to install it perfectly.

One word of caution though: Some of my high pigment markers didn’t erase quite easily. Had to spritz with a bit of Mr. Muscle.

My first Belo

I needed a facial. And I went to Belo!

Yes, I’m one of *those* — people who avoid going to Belo because it seemed too showbiz, too assembly line. But it was near, and a friend promised to accompany.

So I got the most basic facial in the list (glycolic whatever). It was fast. Too fast, actually. I don’t think it took more than 20 minutes. Either my skin didn’t have any problems, or the job wasn’t thorough. I have a feeling it’s a little of both, as I could still see blackheads on my nose. Not too happy about this.

After the facial, I was asked to see their doctor. As others have warned me, they will try to sell me their products. True enough, “Obagi” appeared in my prescription for a whopping 20k.

I bluntly said I’m not comfortable with purchasing house derma creams, and I’m pretty happy with the ones I’m using. However, I did say I was interested in botox for my underarms (which sadly costs almost as much).

So there and then, I was prepped for my underarm botox. The skin anesthesia took around 30 minutes to settle in. The actual injecting of the botox itself was less than 10 minutes. I was expecting pain, but there was none.

Again, I was prescribed to purchase Belo creams. Again, I declined.

Although I was very disappointed with their facial, I think I’ll be coming back again to try their other services (Hair removal? Thermage? Fractional CO2?). Hopefully my experience would be better.

Update as of Apr 18: I’m pretty satisfied with the underarm botox. I don’t sweat as much anymore. I am aware however that botox has to be injected every 6 months. Doing the computation, it’s basically a P2,500 monthly investment. For someone who suffered have embarrassing sweat glands, I think that’s worth it.

How we “cured” our dog’s separation anxiety

Our dog, Booger, used to have a terrible separation anxiety. Leaving for work was a nightmare — it included a lot of scratching, barking, crying, vomiting, and chewing on the doors.

Nowadays, everything is a breeze. 99% of the time, we can now leave peacefully for work.

How were we able to do it?

  1. We pretended to leave for short periods of time. This is to let him know that his humans *will* come back. We would leave for 1 minute, 3 mins, 5 mins, until we were able to leave him for almost 15 minutes without incident.
  2. Around 30 minutes before we need to leave for work, we lessen the excitement around the house. We keep a calm demeanor. We don’t even acknowledge or look at the dog. We also don’t give him treats or anything which will excite him.
  3. We stopped “tricking” him. Previously, we would wait until he’s preoccupied and them hurry out of the door when he wasn’t looking. We realized later on this actually worsens his separation anxiety.
I sincerely hope these tips would help you. I know it’s not easy leaving your dog behind for 8 to 10 hours, most especially a sad and crying dog at that. 


A story on credit card fraud in Makati

My colleague went shopping in a major and reputable appliance store in Makati (Clue: Starts with an A). When it was time to pay, she handed her credit card to the sales lady, who mysteriously disappeared for more than 15 minutes.

When the sales lady came back, my friend asked if there was anything wrong with the credit card. She said no, and quickly processed the payment.

The next day, my colleague got a call from her credit card issuer, and reported a number of unusual activities in her credit card. Thankfully, the transactions were reversed.

Lesson learned: Don’t let your credit card out of your sight.

Of course this is easier said than done when paying in restaurants, that’s why I usually use Smart Money to pay in restaurants because I am informed in real time when the card is head, and it needs to be unlocked with a code before it can be used for online purchases.

Hopefully we could also start implementing in the Philippines the practice of the waiters bringing the credit card swiper to your table so that your credit card is never out of your sight when paying.

The fire in our condo

It was a barely audible “pop.: And another one. I sleepily asked my husband to look at the source of the pop. He stood up, went outside, and then started shouting. There was a fire in the guest bedroom.

He grabbed the fire extinguisher and told me to get a pair of scissors. There was a cable tie locking the pin of the extinguisher. After snipping the lock, I quickly made a frantic call to the lobby, which was answered after 5 rings, told them there was a fire, and hung up.

My husband was still trying to put out the fire. To give him as much oxygen as possible, I opened the windows, the fans, and the door. I turned on all 3 exhaust fans. The smoke was still too much. I couldn’t breathe. I knew right there and then why people die of smoke suffocation.

In between, I was trying to get the dog to get out from under the bed. But he was frightened and continued creeping back in. Finally I was able to grab him and let him out in the hall.

When the building administration arrived, the fire was gone. They were able to determine the source of the fire: a rechargeable flashlight I got as a gift from two Christmases ago. I decided to charge it for the first time, and that decision would probably haunt me for a long time.

I still wonder why it took so long for the receptionist downstairs to answer the phone. Or why the smoke detector didn’t go off. Or why the sprinklers didn’t work. That’s something I would probably ask our building administration in the next few days. Maybe the fire wasn’t strong enough? It sure was enough to practically suffocate us. So I’m not very happy about that.

I’m thankful, however, for the decisions we made when the unit was still being finished: the fire-proofing, from the paint, to the type of wood, to the floors. I’m also thankful that we rarely have generic china-made gadgets, and have invested in a kick ass fire extinguisher.

Most of all, I’m thankful for having a husband who didn’t think twice on being our protector. He was and always will be my hero.

A review of the Clarisonic PRO Sonic Skin Cleansing for Face and Body

I finally got a Clarisonic. I wanted to see what the hype was all about (and since I just found out I had lupus, retail therapy is all I have).

Grey is my color of choice because I can’t stand seeing dirt marks appear on my beauty gadgets.

I got the Pro model because I wanted the body brush and attachment. I really don’t want to spend that much money on my face alone.

The package came with the following:

  • Cleansers (which I gave away)
  • Body handle (which I end up not using, since I don’t use it on my back)
  • Charger
  • Regular face brush
  • Body brush

The first time I used the Clarisonic on my face, the first word that came to mind was “meh.” It was definitely underwhelming. I was expecting some rigorous action, not the soft massaging pulse.

The second time, I did notice that my skin felt smoother – but only immediately right after. The feeling was temporary, but it felt good just the same.

I just ordered the deep pore replacement brush which hopefully will remove some of the “meh.” (By the way, just found out Amazon is the worst place to buy replacement heads. Most are fakes.)

I have been using Clarisonic more often on my body, too. Ironically, I stopped using the body brush handle, since the only place I can’t reach is my back, and I don’t see any reason to use it there. Plus, the body handle can get quite slippery when soapy. As with the face, there’s a fleeting smooth feeling after using it.

It would probably take 2 to 3 months of use for me to finally get the verdict of how useful this gadget is. In the meantime, my reco would be to buy only if you have the disposable income to do so.

Stress & Sun: The Enemies of Lupus

The doctor had a long talk with me last Thursday. To sum it up, he said I need to change my career.

There are two major enemies of lupus: stress and sun. Sun, obviously, is easier to control.

I still don’t know how to react to this. A part of me got confused because I think I actually felt more stressed whenever I couldn’t work.

Maybe there’s a way for me to reduce stress while still doing the things I love most?

Lessen meetings? Meetings are one of the most stressful activities in the office, and they happen every single day, sometimes even every single hour.

Take up yoga?

Strictly work for 8 hours a day? We usually work 10 to 12 hours a day. Not that I’m complaining. It’s just the way it is in the company.