29 October 2008

Recap of the Day

Had a consult with Rotary Club ED looking to upgrade to social media. Got to meet Coach John Calipari. Had a session with Jerry Ivery about LaunchMemphis student engagement. Then a LaunchMemphis board meeting. Car reached 100,000 miles on the way to Soccer. Won the soccer game 2-0 but pulled my hamstring. Now working and going to bed.

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22 October 2008

Open Sourcing My Answers for Creative Conversations

I been asked to serve on a panel tonight called Creative Conversations at the Memphis College of Art sponsored by MPACT Memphis. Here are the advanced questions that I answered in order to prepare for tonight. I’m open sourcing this so others can participate in the dialog.

Q - Charles Landry, author of The Creative City, said in Memphis a few years ago that we should think of our city as a living work of art, where people engage in the creation of a transformed place. If you had the power to do three things that would make creativity a greater force in Memphis, what would they be?

1) Focus on funding grassroots arts organizations

2) Focus on funding grassroots entrepreneurial initiatives

3) Support competitions for both emerging artists and emerging entrepreneurs – business plan competitions and Class of ’07 – Why? Because feedback is important – early and often to sharpen the creative activity underway.

Q – In your mind, what are the fundamental elements for success in the creative economy? How have they played out in your own work?

Creativity comes from the individual – it is not a top-down thing. Provide easy points of access that empower the individual. Insure that they are aware of the resources in the community to support their work. Two problems facing emerging creatives are 1) the barriers to entry set-up by some established organizations and individuals or 2) there simply isn’t an outlet for emerging creatives to display/showcase and get feedback on their efforts.

Q – Based on your personal experience, what is the primary advice that you’d give to someone aspiring to a career in the creative economy?

Asking is free.

It is OK to take risks.

It is OK to fail.

Q – We hear a lot these days about Web 2.0, and creativity and technology have always been defining forces in this regard. What do you think Creativity 2.0 will look like and how do people prepare for its realities?

With the technology tools available the individual is empowered to create a personal brand faster, build audience faster, and get feedback faster. This may lead to a surge in the products of creative in communities; this may lead to quicker emergence of trends and products of the creative class.

Q – Economic development officials talk a lot about Memphis having a 21st century infrastructure, and by that, they mean highways, airports, fiber optics, and multi-modal transportation systems. However, what infrastructure do creative workers like you need for success?

1) Angel Networks

2) Business Plan Competitions

3) University of culture of entrepreneurship

4) Connectivity to resources from accessible organizations

Q – Peter Hall, in his seminal book, Cities in Civilization, examined 19 cities that defined Western Civilization. One of them was Memphis, and he made the point that the magic of Memphis was a union of creativity and technology. He wrote about our music of the 1950s: It was truly a revolution in attitudes and behavior, as profound as anything that has happened in western society in the last 200 years, and the music, destructive, anarchic, hedonistic, played a central part in it. What adjectives would you use to describe the creativity that exists in Memphis today? If creativity historically came from outsiders, is that still the case in Memphis? If that’s still the case, how does the mainstream or the establishment or whatever you want to call it support creatives in Memphis?

Local establishment is OK if you want incremental changes. Unfortunately our city could use some radical & transformational changes to shake things up. So right now outsiders with unfettered minds are infusing and perhaps supporting creativity more than established organizations. But not all hope is lost . . . the only thing that needs to occur in the local establishment is taking bigger risks with resources instead of low risk bets.

Q – If you were in charge, what would you do to integrate creativity more directly into the life and personality of the city?

Public art (sculptures, gardens, projections), public music ubiquitous, support the grassroots as much as possible – without the roots you can’t have branches with the fruit.

Q – How would you describe Memphis’ attitude toward creatives and creativity?

Pretty good. I think most people understand that creativity is needed for the vibrance and health of our city. I think that the ROI from investing resources in creatives is less understood. If the community could pull together $250,000 for emerging artists, $250,000 for emerging entrepreneurs, $250,000 for emerging musicians in lean grassroots organizations the pay off would 50-100 new business plans in various stages of development each year, 50-100 new emerging artists, and 50-100 new musicians all unfettered by the old thinking creating new innovative offerings for our community that would lead to a large pipeline of creative people and products. Right now these small investments are sidelined for higher and very worthy priorities like education, crime, and healthcare services. But when you compare $250,000 year for 100 new business plans that can create new businesses and new jobs the ROI is HUGE.

Q – The Memphis Talent Magnet report said that we needed to identify distinctive assets and produce peak experiences. What creative peak experiences would you recommend to anyone who wants to know the real creative Memphis?

Lantana’s Class of ’06 and Class of ’07 attracted 500-1000 people and exposed them to creative and emerging visual artists (the what’s next in art), new musical acts, in architectural unique spaces that needed to be transformed themselves for the event – a multi-sensory experience (spatial, visual, acoustic) that produced rave reviews was open to anyone in Memphis a no or very low cost.

Startup Weekend this past May where 100 individuals from our community came together and in 72 hours built a business from scratch.

Q – We seem to be living in an age when people want what they want when they want it and where they want it. They want to co-create and they want to participate. What are the ramifications of this for you in your work? What are the ramifications for Memphis?

We need the infrastructures for co-creation in place. Our efforts in entrepreneurship have focused on a co-working space (low cost Launchpad) and user-generated experiences for co-creation like Startup Weekend and BarCamp. This allows people to create value quickly and collaboratively – it is hard to create value in a vacuum. You have to get out of the home office or studio and interact. People do more value added work together.

Q – What can the public sector do to expand and enhance our creative economy?

Support co-creation junctures in the community. Support ubiquitous art and music by lowering barriers to entry (licenses permits etc).

Q – What are the elements that must be present for Memphis to be competitive in the creative economy? What makes up a creative ecosystem?

“I don’t know how . . .”

Educate them (give people the knowledge and skills to succeed – workshops etc)

“I don’t have the right tools or place to work . . .”

Provide working spaces with the tools (Launchpad, studios, and venues at low or no cost)

“I don’t know who to contact for this or that . . .”

Connect them up (resources connected to the creative folks – investment forums)

“I don’t know what the pathway looks like. . .”

Seek examples that are accessible and visible in the community (call us)

“How do I know what I’m doing is valuable . . .”

Have competitions (incentives encourage risk taking – get feedback – get paid)

Q – The Memphis region is #47 of the largest 50 metros in the percentage of creative workers. What makes you stay in Memphis? What could we do to attract more creative workers?

Include more people in the mix by lower the barriers to entry. This gets back to my grassroots organization and resources argument earlier. An involved population of creatives lays down the roots -- that makes the cost of leaving our city higher than the benefits of going elsewhere.

Q – Of the 50 largest metros, Memphis is #19 on the weirdness index. Just for the record, Austin, whose citizens have bumperstickers that say Keep Austin Weird is only four ahead of us. Do you think Memphis is weird? How does Memphis’ weirdness, its funkiness play into its creativity?

Is Memphis weird? Yes. Homogenous surroundings that don’t challenge the mind, I think will lead to less creativity.

Q – What could we do to make our creative culture more ubiquitous?

Support it more ubiquitously so it touches more people.

Q – Can cities succeed without being creative? What does it mean to be a creative city?

I don’t think so. A creative city has priorities that are focused on the future and on change. The more we can change and create, the better off we all will be.

Q – What are the most important things that Memphis can do to retain and attract talented, creative people?

Invest in our parks – like we are doing in Shelby Farms – but we need that to occur for all our parks. Invest in entrepreneurship, art, and music.

Q – Creativity is the linchpin for a competitive environment, because it connects to distinctiveness and is a precondition for innovation, both of which are vital to success today. How can Memphis be more intentional about using creativity to affect the conditions of distinctiveness and innovation?

I think that this has to emerge from the people and the creatives themselves. The one thing the community could do is be open, accepting, and participate with the creative class. If we inhibit, detract, and don’t participate in the dialog with the creative class then these dimensions will be dulled.

Q – Often, when people hear about creativity, they think of arts and culture. What is the role of arts and culture in creating a climate of creativity?

You need to challenge the mind constantly in order to innovate and create – how do you do that? You have to step outside your box, outside your comfort zone and experience new things – neuroscience has studied this quite a lot. The facts are there. If you want a sharper more creative mind – you need to experience new things. Art and culture are those new things and experiences.

Q – How can Memphis take what is being learned about fostering ideas and creativity in the workplace and apply that to the public realm and to city problem-solving?

You can’t solve problems with the same thinking that created the problems in the first place. We talked about co-creation earlier as important. I would encourage the public and the city to assemble “SWAT” teams of thought leaders, creatives, community and business leaders, etc. to support new thinking and change. Let the data and the evidence guide the change, and let feedback and evidence guide further change. Often times when we assemble teams to solve problems, we get a bunch of people that think the same way we do. This is a trap. You need new thinking to solve problems.

Q – Why is creative thinking and creative problem solving in business so essential today? Why is it essential in the greater Memphis community?

Innovate or Die . . . it is a bold statement, but right now there are companies that are going through this economic downturn that are spending money (instead of hording it in panic) on innovation/organizational change/etc. preparing to roar back to life when the economy picks back up. This is the time when money is made. So in business right now, if you are not changing and innovating and preparing for 6-12 months from now, then you will lose market share when the economy comes back and you will likely not have a business in 12-24 months.

Q – What pieces of advice do you think are most important to anyone who may be thinking about either starting a business in the arts or those who want to contribute to the creative economy in Memphis as a volunteer?

My advice for starting a business is to start now and reach out for feedback early. Many people over think and try to create the perfect product or service and then launch it only to find that they wasted a ton of time, energy, and money for a product or service that nobody wants or will pay for. My advice to any person starting any business is to get to market as quickly and as cheaply as possible with a prototype/first version and get the feedback. Then change until someone is willing to pay you for it.

For volunteers, I’d offer similar advice. Pick an organization try it out. If you like it, stay. If you don’t like it, find a new place. If you want advice on where to start or how to match up your initial interests contact me or the Leadership Academy and we’ll get you connected fast.

Q – What are the common pitfalls or mistakes budding artists make that we all may make in similar ways in our own efforts to market ourselves or start something new?

Ignoring feedback and being generally inflexible. Get feedback early and often. Change and try again as quickly as possible. I avoid people that think they have figured everything out and have all the answers.

Q – How do you come up with new concepts and determine what people will really respond to?

People do more value added work together. That means creating in a vacuum is tough. What do I do then? I get out of my comfort zone and interact and experience new things. I have mantra that helps me do this when I bored or looking for something to do . . . New Places, New Faces. It reminds me to literally seek out some place in the city that I haven’t been to and I go there (new place). Or I will find an experience in the city that will introduce me to people (new faces) that I haven’t met yet. As a result I’m challenged to think differently. With the new places and new faces we can collectively create value together.

Q – How can each Memphian help lift up and enhance the creativity in our city?

Participation is the easiest, cheapest, and best way to lift up the city and creativity. Beyond that invest or encourage investment in creative enterprise in our city.

Q – What are the key questions every aspiring entrepreneur should ask?

For high growth potential businesses which are the ones that have the most creativity associated with them . . .

Most of the questions are about the commitment and capacity of the entrepreneur:

Am I willing to fail and am I betting big enough or taking enough risk in the market place where failure can occur?

Do I have the flexibility of mind to change my offering and my company to meet a market need once I exactly figure out what that need is?

Am I willing to step aside and let some else lead the business to success if I personally do not have the skills, knowledge, or will to carry the business forward or change the business for the better?

The final question is:

What Pain/Problem in the market am I trying to solve? If it is not a pain or a problem of significance then you may want to find something that is painful.

21 October 2008

Cory Booker Session Revisited

Newark Mayor, Cory Booker, came to Memphis to speak before a sell out crowd of 850 people on Friday the October 17th, 2008. It was a fantastic event organized by the Leadership Academy (http://www.leadershipacademy.org) -- inspirational, educational, and entertaining. I had the chance to meet Cory briefly in advance. He is very accessible, down to earth, and sharp guy.

Cory is very serious about positive community change . . . For instance to raise awareness that citizens and leaders in the community should not be tolerant of crime and blight, he lived in public housing projects in Newark's Central Ward and organized tenants there to fight for improved conditions. In November 2006 to support change on Newark's south side, Cory left the projects for an apartment in an area described as "a drug- and gang-plagued neighborhood of boarded-up houses and empty lots." He means business when he is looking to make changes in the community. (See full Wikipedia article here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cory_Booker)

A central theme that I'll take away from meeting Cory is the notion of being intolerant -- we tolerate crime and drugs in certain parts of America's cities; we tolerate of poor education in some of our public schools; etc. We should not tolerate these problems. We need to be intolerant and make changes.

If you get a chance to meet Cory or hear him speak, do it.

Picture: Cory Booker and Eric Mathews

The Value in Attending and Holding Events

LaunchMemphis has pledged to the Mid-South that we will host and organize dynamic and valuable events to support technology entrepreneurship. From investment forums to BarCamps, Startup Weekends to networking sessions, LaunchMemphis has delivered on the mission.

But some may wonder what is the value in holding and attending these events. I am sure there are many local skeptics who believe that such events have only social value or that they turn out to be self-congratulatory sessions of what has been done, not where things are going -- providing no real value. Nonetheless, for those that are focused on the prize of entrepreneurship and economic growth -- the future and business oriented -- events can yield great value.

Here are some of the value points of attending LaunchMemphis events:
* Learn something new or clarify and refine your knowledge of entreprenuership and technology
* Give away information that will be valued in the community
* Interact with prospective clients and customers around a potential product or service offering
* Get connected to the right people for the right stage of your business from investors to free consulting resources
* Find like minds and talk with thought leaders
* Recruit a developer or sales and marketing expert to grow your startup.

Feel free to comment and disagree or add to this listing. Be interesting to know if Memphians are finding value in LaunchMemphis.

17 October 2008

Product Development Advisory Programs

A great way to get consumers of your product to give you quality feedback is via exclusive product development advisory programs.

I recently joined Utterli (www.utterli.com) a couple weeks ago and liked the service. I came across an email to send feedback . . . So I send a spirited email making two suggestions to make Utterli a Twitter killer. The crew at Utterli liked what they heard and now I'm one of the Utterli Ambassadors -- a program for leaders in the Utterli community. Now I'm even more vested in making the product better.

Follow me on Utterli @ecmathews
Follow me on Twitter @ecmathews
Utterli Blog Post on New Ambassadors:

Via utterli

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16 October 2008

Sign up now for BarCamp Memphis

Memphians and other technology enthusiasts around the global be sure to check your calendars and sign up for BarCamp Memphis: November 8th with a pre-event gathering the evening of the 7th. Share what they know and learn what they don’t about the fast-paced world of entrepreneurship and technology. BarCamp is the conference that puts you in control.

Yes I'm already signed up and going.

For more information check out this website: http://www.launchmemphis.com/2008/10/16/barcamp-memphis-2008-be-there-share-learn/

Insiders Tip: There are discount codes to make your registration cheaper if you contact BarCamp@LaunchMemphis.com

14 October 2008

Rome Day 6 and a Wake Up

Our sixth and final day in Rome was just as packed as the others. After waking up and getting ready for the last day of the trip, Sarah had a special meal request to answer the lingering question: was McDonald's in Europe just as good as in the US?

I think the picture says it all: YES! By the way the McDonald's we went to (Spainish Steps) was the first one in Italy and is rated on of the top 10 McDonald's stores in the world.

From there we walked to the Colosseum. After a short wait in line we learned that it was a cash only operation so we went to find an ATM since we were a few Euro short. We did find a Western Union that would do advances on credit cards but we rejected that and remembered that I had a $20 US bill left so we converted that over -- what a racket that $20 US became 10 Euros -- ripped off but we had enough to get into the Colosseum, Forum, and Palatine Hill. Here are a few shots:
After our trip through history, it was time for a little shopping to get a few items. That entailed finding an ATM on our walk back toward our neck of the woods. Along the way we found other nice things to look at.
After the shopping was complete, we went back to the Flat to rest up and prepared for an evening with Adam.

Setting out at 7:15pm we walked to the Trevi Fountain and met Adam who took us around the corner to one of his favorite restaurants for a fabulous meal.
Then we walked to Piazza Navona, stopping along the way to get the "best coffee in Rome" for someone back home. At the Piazza we had the best dessert that side of the Tiber River. At 11pm it was time to call it a night and trip. Sad but true . . . Sarah and I had to get back and pack. Adam had to get ready for his first day of class.
After packing and getting the Flat ready for our early departure we grabbed a little sleep and had The Wake Up at 6:20am Monday. The driver came at 7:20am and we were on our way to the airport. The KLM and Northwest flights were very nice and uneventful. We made it safely back to Memphis 16 hours later -- the trip concluded. Sad to leave, but good to be home. Hopefully the coins we tossed into the Trevi Fountain will ensure a return trip -- the next time with more friends and family.

12 October 2008

Rome Day 6 is coming

Instead of blogging we needed to pack and sleep. I'll get a blog post up soon. Long story short . . . . we had a big day and we are now up on Monday morning in Rome getting ready to catch the plane home.

11 October 2008

Rome Day 5

We are still going, but tomorrow is our last full day. To talk about today's activities, here is a post written by Sarah:

Since we've been in Rome, we've had many events related to Adam's Ordination and have kept a pretty tight schedule. Today was an easy morning - we got some much needed sleep and recharged our batteries (for ourselves and all of our documenting equipment). Adam also had the day off, so we planned to meet up at one of his favorite pizzerias. On the way, we stopped at the Pantheon, which is one of the few monuments in Rome with free access. We made a quick stop inside for a few snapshots and a quick video.
Next, we met our newly ordained Deacon Adam at Antica Trattoria Polese, where they recognized Adam on sight and refer to him as Padre. A small group of us enjoyed an appetizer of fried, stuffed olives and fried zucchini flowers (which were much tastier than they sound). The service was wonderful and they topped it off by bringing complimentary Limoncello, which Eric says was some of the best he ever had. As if we hadn't eaten enough, we then went to Adam's favorite spot for gelato (Frigidarium Gelateria) where I tried the crema fiorentino. I have no idea what it was, but I highly recommend it.
Afterwards, we waddled to Piazza Navona, where Eric and I had eaten dinner on our first night in Roma. The atmosphere was transformed from the lamp lit scene a few nights earlier, to a thriving square with a live local band, and rows of street vendors. There we found something I'd been in search of for several days - a wonderful array of local art. We spent over an hour browsing through paintings and drawings, selecting pieces to remind us of our time in Rome.

Today was a day of favorites - next Adam took us to Abbey Theatre (Eric describes as the Celtic Crossing of Rome) which shows American sporting events. They had football, baseball, and of course, pints of Guiness which were welcome on a warm Roman afternoon. Finally, we made our way to the North American College (Adam's seminary) where we enjoyed a few sunset moments on the roof and went to closing mass with the group (at least our 4th mass in the last week).
Unexpectedly, we were able to eat dinner with the larger tour group in the southern, densely populated area of town called Trastevere (it's where the young urban professionals and the creative class live). Our restaurant, La Cisterna, has served the likes of John Wayne and Dean Martin. It shows a rare glimpse into the original street level of Rome, which has been filled in throughout most other places of the city. Our traditional Italian style dinner was punctuated by a small, lively band playing recognizable favorites like "That's Amore" - probably for their American audience.

We passed arguably the best view in Rome from the hill on Gianicolo and then made our way past Piazza San Pietro (St Peter's Square) for a few final shots of the Basilica. It took about 30 minutes to make our way back the apartment and the walk was full of interesting sites. The opera was letting out and we saw throngs of people dressed to their best and many woman daintily making their way through the cobblestone streets in slender heels. We also captured a shot of Castel Sant' Angelo and a beautiful shot of St. Peter's Basilica. Now, roughly midnight, we're sending you memories from today and preparing for our last day in Rome. Buena notte!

10 October 2008

Rome Day 4

As predicted, the morning came too early. Nonetheless, we got it in gear and made it to the Roma Termini for our 8:55am train to Orvieto. Why travel to Orvieto? Adam Rust, our newly ordained Deacon, chose this spot for his first mass. Orvieto is the home of a cathedral that houses the evidence of a Eucharistic Miracle . . . In Catholicism this a special spot.

Orvieto is north of Rome in a more mountainous region of Italy. When you arrive at the station, you then you need to climb ~1,000 vertical feet in a tram to get to the heart of the town. Once at the top we walked to the cathedral and met up with Adam and the rest of the party. Here are a few shots to sum up these experiences:

Adam's Mass turned out to be quite nice and he drafted his friends to participate in various roles from cantor to readers to alter server. Any guesses as to what I did? As the top alter server of of my graduating class at St. Ignautius Catholic School in Yardley, Pennesylvania, I stepped up to the plate, tossed on the gear, and was the alter server for the Mass. It was like riding a bike . . . though the last time I did was in 8th grade. Here is a shot of Adam and I post Mass and the inside of the cathedral:
After Mass, we were on our own again -- doing our thing. So we walked the streets and grabbed lunch at La Peryola, a nice spot where the locals eat.

We then hopped a train back to Rome. Sarah and I walked from the station by the hotel my parent's stayed at when they were in Rome last, then to the Via Vento (the spots where the Rat Pack hung when they came to Rome), and then on to the Spainish Steps area to view some art.
After that we went back to the Flat to relax and prepare for dinner. At 8:30pm we set out again by foot to "Est! Est! Est!" Rome's first pizzeria (or so they claim). It came recommended so we checked it out -- to our satisfaction: reputation upheld. It turned out to be a good meal, very good pizza, and very friendly service (chanti was good too).
After dinner we walked back to our place via the Spainish Steps and are now calling it night. Here are a few more shots from the day from the other spots we visited (Piazza del Popolo, Fontana delle Naiadi, Orvieto station, and Via Vento). There is a bonus picture and question and the end . . .

Ok the bonus question and picture: Why do I look unhappy in this picture? Clue: We are in the Piazza del Popolo. There will be an upcoming video blog post to answer the question.

More to come . . .

09 October 2008

Rome Day 3 -- The Big Day Arrives

As stated previously, Sarah and I wanted to recharge today and we did in the morning. Before the ordination, we grabbed a to go lunchh and ate on the Spainish Steps and then found our local grocery store to stock up on some items for our Flat -- wine, water, breakfast items, and some soap (the basics all for 20 euro) -- we should have done it the first day, but kept running out of time. Here are some shots on the Spanish Steps.
We then had to get back to our Flat and put on the nice duds for the Ordination Ceremony. Arriving at 3pm (the time everyone else was to be there too) at St. Peter's Square for the 4:30pm ceremony did not give us a good seat for the ceremony. Little disappointing, but we were not as cramped or as hot as our counterparts during the 2 hour Mass. Here are a couple shots, one of the ceremony in progress and a shot of us post ceremony infront of St. Peter's Crypt. Also here are a couple general shots of the Basilica for those back home.

After that it was off to the hotel where everyone else was staying. Then, we boarded a bus to head to the Ordination Dinner at Alfredo's: The Emporor of Fettuccine -- yes, so the story goes, 90 some years ago a man named Alfredo invented Fettuccine (and Fettuccine Alfredo) for his restaurant in Rome. The menu icon lives on to this day all over the world. It is a famous spot near the Spainish Steps -- pictures on the wall of famous people that have eaten there, etc. A guitar and accordion player sang some nice italian songs for the group. The food and the fettuccine were very good -- the company excellent.
From there it was just 3 blocks to our Flat so Sarah and I walked home past the Fendi and Ferrari stores. After that email, documenting on the blog, and backing up all our movies and pictures -- here a candid pic of me doing just that -- I didn't know Sarah took this until I off-loaded the pictures.

Tomorrow we are off to Orvieto, Italy via train for the day. 7am wake up . . .

Via utterli

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Best View in Rome

It was our first day (afternoon really) in Rome and we set off after lunch to see Adam Rust. Adam lives at the North American College in Rome and has one of the best views in Rome from his roof top. Crazy view. Here it is.

Gelato and Pantheon Oooops

We grabed some Gelato and accidently ran into the Pantheon. Sarah guides the tour.

Last Dinner in Paris

Wait till the end . . . Sarah rubs it in . . .

08 October 2008

Protest in Rome, Italy

Kind of cool in that people were taking action.
Kind of not cool in that it cost us 15 minutes of time.
But that is the point I suppose . . .

Trevi Fountain

Paris Hour 34

Rome Day 2

Like I stated last night when I signed-off . . . we had an early morning, too early for a vacation. I ran to a local pastry shop on the corner and then to a 24 hour cart (think mobile bodega) closer to our place to gather breakfast.

After breakfast and shower & shave time, we grabbed a cab to San Pedro -- St. Peter's for the Papal Audience. We had nice seats for "first-come-first-serve" tickets and got there an hour a head of time. Sarah and I were right on the aisle -- a straight shot to the Pope's perch. Two pics of the Pope here (one where he is about 2 pixels tall and the other pic where he is 10 pixels tall):
The North American College Dioconate Party was specially acknowledged by the Pope (that's us -- seriously he did take the time mid-cermony acknowledge the party in English). Also, one lucky person is getting a religious object that we got blessed by the Pope today (when we return).

We 'hedged' on location toward the end to beat the crowds to the Vatican Museum. No, we didn't skip out on the ceremonies; we just relocated in preparation to walk at Mathews pace (jog for others) to the Vatican Museums. We got in faster than expected and grabbed lunch.
Sarah and I then walked for the requiste 1.5 hours and passed the 10 gift shops to the Cappella Sistina (Sistine Chapel). Here are three shots: 1) a Cappella Sistina general shot (where photographs are banned with one of the guards saying 'No Picture' in a very strong Italian accent), 2) Me somewhere else nice, and 3) Sarah in one of the Stanze di Raffaello (one of the rooms Raphael painted).

Then Sarah and I grabbed a quick snack near the Vatican and provided a lesson on how to manage tourist traps to our neighbors at the table next to us -- don't pay!!! When the person that spoke perfect English to get you into the cafe suddenly loses his 'tongue' to charge you a "service fee" you know to just "walk away -- don't pay!!!" (New Eric-ism).

We then had to hurry to the bus to for the Prayer Vigil for the Dioconate. We almost got lost but instincts and intuition paid off -- seriously had zero time (another story worth telling in person). We arrived at St. Paul's Basilica for the sevice and captured nice photos (1. a shot in the courtyard and 2. Sarah in front of St. Paul's Sarcophagus writing a prayer of special intention for her family):

We then grabbed some dinner with other family and friends of the Dioconate (North American College) near the Catacombs.

We got dropped off at San Pedro's and grabbed some nighttime photos.

We then caught a cab, bought a bottle of vino, and called it a night -- which means blogging (right now), planning, and emailing AND then sleeping.
For the folks at home, we did grab some video during the day and almost "uttered" -- maybe we can utter (http://www.utterli.com/ecmathews) tomorrow when we are in Basilica de San Pedro.

For now though it is time for bed once again. This time we are going to get a good rest and take it easy in the morning. For you that may mean a little less material for tomorrow's post, but probably not. For Sarah and I that means a little more rest for the final push . . . 4 days left then a wake up . . . We are half way done. Sad to leave so soon, but happy to be returning home to our famiy and friends. Buona sera!