Specifically, they’re hosting a business plan competition that’s awarding $200,000 of investment money to winning new company ideas. They’ve apparently received hundred of entries. One of the keynote speakers will be Bernie Marcus, Founder of Home Depot. Continue reading →
On Tuesday I co-presented a talk called “30 Sites in 60 Minutes” which surveyed 30 of the coolest, most useful online applications.
My co-presenter was Ernie Svenson, aka Ernie the Attorney, an expert on helping attorneys go paperless, and to be quite honest, he did most of the work.
The talk was presented on Tuesday, February 5th, for ACLEA, an organization of bar executives and other involved with continuing legal education. Not included in the slides, due to separation of concerns, was my own company, the world’s best legal practice management software, Rocket Matter.
Yesterday I had a stiff deadline. I had to turn in one-thousand word articles to two separate legal publications (that’s two articles for a total of two thousand words).
Yes, my writing skills were honed a bit in college. But as a freshman at Northwestern, in some of my initial classes I would get A’s on my essays when other kids from more pedigreed high schools would suffer C’s.
This was because a couple of teachers in high school busted my balls when it came to writing. Frau Hugg, my AP European History, dished out C’s to my essays until I could write a cogent, forceful argument, and Edna Neely, my English and Journalism teacher, took me to task for everything I did wrong.
It was a bit painful at the time but I truly believe I wouldn’t be able to deliver written content without the training I received from these two educators.
I would also like to take the opportunity to embarrass my wife, Dina Roth Port, once more. When we lived in New York she edited national magazines and now generously reads my legal technology articles that no one outside of our vertical wants to read. And she busts my balls all the time for all sorts of gramatical issues which I’ve never even heard of.
So thanks to the three classy ladies who forged a survivable writer out of an utter verbal idiot.
My wife, Dina Roth Port, penned her first book, Previvors, which will be published by Penguin in October. It’s a guidebook about women at high risk for breast cancer and profiles the stories of five women who took control over their fate.
Dina spent the past two-and-a-half years writing, researching, interviewing, and revising what’s turned out to be an engaging and important book, and I am so incredibly proud of her. And she’s going to be so embarrassed that I wrote this.
I’ve worked hard on major projects before, pulling 18-hour days for weeks at a time. But her writing effort is like nothing I’ve ever seen: the subject matter is intense, the work took years, she had to track down and interview more that seventy top experts, and extract the stories of the women she interviewed. All on top of shuttling kids back and forth to school, adopting a puppy, and keeping our household running.
So take a look at her newly launched website and blog at dinarothport.com. And you can even pre-order copies of Previvors!
Last night we finally got around to watching District 9. We put it in late, intending to only watch 30 minutes. Mistake. I went to bed hours past my bedtime. I gotta be honest, this was probably the most original and creative movie I’ve seen since Adaptation or Memento. Keep in mind, too, even though I’m a software guy I’m not a sci-fi freak.
Let’s put all allegory or political message aside for a second. The premise of an alien mothership stranded over a city is a novel one. Wikus van de Merwe, the human protagonist, is completely unusual (yet believable) and gives new meaning to the phrase ‘character transformation’. The script was intricate, compelling, unpredictable, and heart-wrenching.
You know how in Star Wars or Star Trek when aliens talk it sounds like they’re speaking Chinese or Russian? The alien language in District 9 is like nothing you’ve ever heard. And the way humans talk about the creatures, referring to them as “prawns”, combined with pseudo media footage and documentary style interviews, lend a sense of natural believability to the film. The realism adds to the intensity of the movie.
District 9 is not for the squeamish, and definitely not for kids. Some of the scenes are disturbing both graphically and emotionally. But it’s movie making at its finest and will stick with you for days.
NOTE: Finally, great movies this year: Avatar, District 9, The Hurt Locker, Up, This is It, Inglorious Basterds, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (most underrated film of 2009, by the way). After a lackluster decade where movies like Crash, Chicago, Slumdog Millionaire, and No Country for Old Men won Oscars for Best Picture, let’s hope Hollywood is back on track.
ANOTHER NOTE: I suggest watching it with subtitles. I couldn’t understand what the hell the South Africans were saying, even though it was English.
Here’s something you can use at your next dinner party: it’s a little mathematical oddity that surprises most people. It’s called the Birthday Paradox.
The question is this: how many people do you need to have in a room before the odds are greater than 50% that any two of them would share the same birthday? You’d think 183 or so. But in reality, the answer is 25.
You only need 25 peeps in a group to guarantee more probability than not that any two of them share a birthday. Once you get 40 peeps, the odds are overwhelimingly in your favor.
I’m not going to get into the math on this. But to give you a general sense of how this works, draw a bunch of dots on a piece of paper. Then connect each dot to each other dot and you’ll start to see a whole lot of lines. Now imagine those dots are people, and the lines are birthday comparisons.
To truly understand this, look up Birthday Paradox in Wikipedia or find a discrete math book.
The Birthday Paradox is predicated on an even distribution of birthdays throughout the year, which is not the case. There are more people born in November than April, so the odds are actually higher that you’ll find a match.
I point this out because I don’t think we realize how much of our lives is dictated by probability.
Coincidence? I think so.
Recently in a post I referred to people staring at glowing rectangles. After someone pointed out to me that they had no idea what on Earth I was talking about, I feel compelled to clarify: glowing rectangles refer to screens of one type or another (TV, iPhone, Kindle, Computer).
I have to give props to The Onion for this hilarious yet depressing story, one of the things they do so well: Report: 90% Of Waking Hours Spent Staring At Glowing Rectangles
I also referred to Moleskine Notebooks in my Handwritten blog post. I’m a sucker for these notebooks myself, which is mocked in Stuff White People Like entry #122: Moleskine Notebooks.
Last year I wrote a series of articles on the absolutely riveting subject of cloud computing. I don’t know that it generated any sales of Rocket Matter (my company’s cloud based legal software product), but today I received a very nice note from a Computers 101 teacher. He’s going to be assigning my article to his students.
Anyhow, if you’re wondering what the cloud is that they keep talking about on those pretentious IBM commercials, here’s a brief idea:
“To understand how cloud computers are organized, imagine you’re a general trying to a direct an army. Instead of individually ordering each of the infantrymen to follow an order, you direct an officer. The officer disseminates the information to the troops and makes adjustments based on their performance and environment. If an individual infantryman falls, another one can compensate.
It’s the same with the new server architectures. Instead of communicating with individual machines, commands are issued to the intermediate layer.”
To read the full torturous article and feel the pain of the Computers 101 class, click here.
I’m writing this post for those of you that are seeing images of Chile, in the wake of their 8.8 earthquake, and are getting the impression that Chile is some sort of broken down, ramshackle Latin American slum. Take a look at my photos of Chile on Flickr. You’ll get a different impression.
Chile is a gorgeous, very modern country with one of the most advanced telecommunications infrastructure in the Western Hemisphere. Their police officers, or carabineros, are apparently the only ones in all of South America you can’t bribe. Chile is the home of amazing wine and phenomenal art and literature. They produce more copper than any other country on Earth.
Chile is physically gorgeous, a place of wonder for outdoorsy types. It contains a varied landscape, ranging from the driest desert in the world to the Andes (which you have to see to believe). The glaciers, lakes, islands, and the windswept plains of Patagonia are some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve seen.
I know Chile pretty well. Fresh out of college, I journeyed to Santiago for a once-in-a-lifetime photojournalism internship. I lived in the capital for seven months, worked alongside Chileans, and had the kind of access to high-level people and events only a member of the press can enjoy. I traveled from Puerto Williams, the southernmost settlement in the world, up to the Atacama desert in the north.
When I heard about the earthquake, that it was 250 times more powerful than the recent Haitian disaster yet with less than 1,000 deaths (so far), I was not surprised. It’s a testament to how much the Chileans have their shit together. I wasn’t surprised about the strength of the earthquake, since I had heard about the 9.0 record setter in 1960, and had experienced a minor quake myself. That particular tremor was small by Chilean standards – only a 5.4.
I’m hoping that in the aftermath of this disaster, the U.S. can repair its image in Latin America. In one of the darker corners of American history, the CIA helped overthrow the government of democratically elected Salvadore Allende. The result was the ascension of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship, which was replete with typical dictator things, like mass murder, torture, disappearances, and death camps. A lot of folks still were pretty peeved at the U.S. when I was there in 1997. I heard earful after earful of heated diatribes on U.S. foreign policy, as if I were in the foreign service or the official U.S. spokesperson.
So here’s a chance to hopefully make things right, or at least take some of the sting away for what America did to Chile nearly 40 years ago. Para mis amigos Chilenos, quiero que sepan que estamos pensando en Uds. Todo el mundo en los EEUU esta prestando atención a lo que pasó alla con este terremoto horrible. Estamos rezando por Uds. y les ofrecemos nuestra ayuda y apoyo en este momento difícil. Uds. No están solos, sus hermanos Yanquís estan preparado con manos abiertos.
UNO is the first game I’ve played with my kids where it doesn’t feel like some stupid kid game. I honestly would rather sit and do something mildly unpleasant than play Chutes and Ladders or Candyland. UNO, on the other hand is actually fun.
Even a three year-old-can play UNO. I’m not trying to insult anyone by saying that, so if you don’t know how to play UNO don’t be offended. What I mean is a three year old can match colors and numbers and have the dumb luck of running out of cards first, which is what UNO’s all about.
However, playing with a three-year-old is a bit like playing with the Alan character from The Hangover (not the card-counting scene, the peeing-on-the-floor scene). They generally cannot fan their cards, so their cards are all over the floor. Or sometimes they’ll stick the cards between their toes. And picking one card from the top of the deck is tough for them. Sometimes they pick two or three, and sometimes the cards are chosen from the middle. And they run around in circles when it’s not their turn.
My five-year-old, the other hand, is a fierce competitor with intense concentration. She hates to lose. I think this would be the case under any circumstance, but I make sure to celebrate on her and talk smack when I win (I’m not sure what the American Academy of Pediatrics advises on age to begin smack talk, but I’m sure they have it wrong. One of my fundamental beliefs in life is that success is determined by how well one can handle adversity, and smack talk is a key part of that).
Today, for example, she giggled and kicked her little legs when she threw down two “plus four” cards on me in a row. The she told me I was “going to be sorry” and later threatened to “take me down to China”, leaving off “town”, a key part of smack talk. When it was her turn to deal the cards, I made the mistake of leaving the room. I came back in to find that the pile was no longer a pile, but what looked like a bunch of cards on the floor that someone had rifled through for the best ones. She beat me in seven straight cards and wagged her little tush at me.
To give her credit, she’s playing with strategy. She reserves her wild cards to the end of the game. When she throws a wild card, she assesses and picks the color with the most cards of hers remaining. Small things, but she’s learning to think. And when I look back to the last time I was in Vegas and found myself at a craps table with a woman who didn’t understand that a four came up less than a seven, perhaps she’s ahead of a number of adults.
All joking aside, games with your kids are a godsend: you spend time together having fun, you’re engaged and in the moment, you build some basic skills, and you’re not staring at a glowing rectangle.