Archive for January, 2013

#150 – Spark

The other day I went on a date with a girl that I met through an online dating service. She likes to do pottery so I took her to an arts and craft store and we painted ceramics. It was the perfect ice breaker and we were well on our way to a lovely evening. After a night of witty banter and flowing conversation I left feeling that I had finally found “the one”.

Turns out that the feeling wasn’t mutual as she would later reveal that she just wanted to be friends. This in spite of the fact that she thought that I was cute, smart, funny and had showed her a good time. The reason why: there was no romantic vibe.

What does that even mean? Is that code for not being attracted to someone? Clearly not because she did make a point to say that I was cute. So, what is it then? Is it that I wasn’t touchy-feely enough? Not affectionate enough? How does one even go about exuding a romantic vibe if one doesn’t have it naturally? Can it be faked? Is having it what separates the “players” from the rest of the pack?

Whatever it is it bothers me that I wasted time and money on someone who was never interested in pursuing a relationship with me. I thought the whole point of a dating website was to weed out all the people who aren’t interested in you in order to move forward with someone who is. Clearly this process isn’t working if I’m just going to be back at square one after the first date.

That’s why I want to create a new service called Spark. It’s a dating site but will be unique in that you won’t actually go on a date with someone. In fact, you won’t even be allowed to talk to the person. You’ll just meet “your match” at a pre-arranged location. You will then proceed to check the person out in what will amount to a glorified staring contest. You will then go your separate ways. If you felt a spark or connection or sensed that romantic vibe you will request to receive that person’s contact information from the site. If the feeling was mutual you could then proceed to set up an actual date. Consider it speed dating on steroids.

I realize that this may sound silly to most people but I also think that it makes a lot of sense. Never again will you be disappointed when you show up on that first date and someone looks different in person than they did online. Never again will you have to spend a lot of money wining and dining someone who has no desire to hook up with you. It will remove all the guesswork from the equation, all the bullshit from the process. It will distill dating down to its purest form. It will make what was once an ardous, frustrating, time-consuming, money pit of a process and turn it into something quick, painless, and fun. Match.com, Eharmony, Ok Cupid, Jdate, and all the rest will have no idea what hit them.


Before you move your relationship from online to the real world utilize Spark to see if a real connection exists..

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Like a bad Manti Te’o joke it’s inevitable that the flu is going to be making the rounds through your office this winter.  Getting a flu shot helps but it doesn’t guarantee that you won’t still get sick.   Kind of like how using a condom when having sex won’t guarantee that you won’t still get pregnant.  Absistence is still the best policy which is why whenever you are sick you should stay home and avoid making contact with your co-workers.

And yet every day there are millions of people who trek to work despite feeling under the weather.  You may refer to these people as model employees.  I refer to them as ass clowns.  These people aren’t selfless worker bees who put the good of the company before their own personal health.  Rather these are people who act selfishly,  risking the health of the group, so that they can save their sick days for when the Yankees play a day game at home or for when they get hungover after attending a weeknight One Direction concert.

News flash people: you are not that important.  Whatever you think you had to work on can wait.  You work in a cubicle not the Pentagon.  Showing everyone how tough you are by coming into the office does you no good when there is no one around to see how tough you are. 

That’s why I want to create an office quarantine zone i.e. a designated work area in each office for sick employees.  This way workers can still have access to secure servers and services that they wouldn’t be able to utilize if they were just working remotely from home.  Meanwhile, the general population goes about their business without having to fear that their next trip to the copy room could result in them contracting Ebola.  It’s a win-win situation. 

Until then, if anyone out there is thinking about going to work sick in order to show everyone how great you are do us all a favor and stay home.  Rest up, drink lots of fluids, watch Judge Judy, and slowly but surely get your energy back.  Then upon your return to the office bring in a box of donuts with you.  Preferably munchkins.  Everyone will love you and you’ll finally get the recognition that you always wanted everytime you came in sick. 


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My name really isn’t that hard to understand. It has only one syllable. It’s common enough. And yet whenever I go out to a restaurant and I have to give my name for the order they never seem to get it right. It’s not even that they refer to me as Greg instead of Craig. That would be acceptable. It’s that they refer to me as Jack or Bob or Peter. Names that are way off. I either have a speech impediment and can’t pronounce my own name or there is a worldwide hearing epidemic going around.

Which begs the question: why don’t we care about our hearing as much as our sight? Lots of young people wear glasses to adjust for their less than perfect vision and yet millions of people walk around with less than perfect hearing. Why is that?

I think that on some sub conscious level we’ve just accepted the fact that our hearing isn’t great. We tend to over compensate without even realizing it by turning up the volume on the TV for example. It’s not until someone else comes into the room and points out how loud the TV is that we realize that something is wrong.

What’s to blame for our ear based ineptitude? For the ear-or of our ways? I often cite trying to read the ridicuously small print in the Lord of the Rings trilogy as a youth as the reason for my deteriating eye sight. Is there a similar incident that I can point to for my hearing woes? Are all those Destiny Child concerts that I attended to blame? Or is it because of all those times that I was wearing headphones, listening to the Yankees game, when John Sterling went into one of his overly dramatic homerun calls on a fly ball to the warning track?

Whatever the cause it’s clear that our hearing is like Christina Augliera’s looks in that it’s on the decline and no one seems to care. Which is a shame really. But what if it didn’t have to be this way? What if we could create a hearing aid for people of all ages that was as cool and socially acceptable as sun glasses or as cutting edge as Google Glass?

I’m envisioning a device that not only improves your hearing but also enhances it. I’m talking about something with a built in radio and the ability to switch on a noise cancelling mode for those brief instances when a train is approaching in the subway or those not so brief instances when you want to tune out your co-workers and get something done in the office. Perhaps there could even be an interface that connects to the cloud so that you can access your iTunes account and listen to books on tape. It could even connect to Google Glass and be used in unision. It may even be able to replace the cell phone and receive calls. The possibilities are endless.

I believe very strongly in this idea. I want to shout about it from the highest mountaintops. I even have a vision for how it will be utilized and I already have the perfect name picked out: Clear Hear. But is it all for naught? After all, what good is a vision if no one can hear you?


Will hearing aids be in style in the near future?

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Why do I get the feeling that we’ve been beta testing Facebook this whole time?  That the Facebook that we’ll be using a year from now or ten years from now will be vastly different to the version that we’ve grown up with.  That there may be some useful and practical reasons for using the site other than just cyber stalking ex-girlfriends, posting baby pictures, and ranting about bad calls in sporting events.

If that is going to be the case then we’re probably going to have Graph Search to thanks.  Facebook’s newest endeavor has transformative ability to revolutionize the way that we think about search.  And it couldn’t have come at a better time for Facebook as younger users recently suggested that the social network is no longer as cool as it once was: http://news.cnet.com/8301-17852_3-57563002-71/for-teens-facebook-is-old/

With so many other social networking options out there whether it’s Instagram or Path or Google Plus it may only be a matter of time before Facebook goes the way of Myspace and Friendster and drifts off into oblivion.  To prevent that from happening and to come up with a way to finally monetize the site so that they can appease investors Facebook had to do something fresh.  Something innovative.  Something that will make you want to use the service even more than you already do and to share information more freely than ever before.  And by all accounts Graph Search is all that and more.  (http://www.wired.com/business/2013/01/facebook-search-addiction/)

As the article in Wired states, “It was hard to get this motivated to put information into Facebook when the data was used primarily to help target advertisements and thus to enrich CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook shareholders. But now that Facebook lets my friends mine the data in ways long available to advertisers, I’m itching to share more freely. My “like” or check-in or photo might actually help a friend or friend of a friend decide where to eat, what to read, or what city to vacation in. In that scenario, I’m not only helping my friend, I’m also helping the businesses, groups, people, and locations I showcase.”

It sounds great but unfortunately I wouldn’t know from first hand experience because I still can’t use the service since it hasn’t been rolled out across the platform yet.  Why is it that whenever there is a feature on the site that I don’t want, like Timeline, it gets shoved down my throat against my will, but when there is something that I really want to use, like Graph Search, I can’t?

Therein lies the rub for Facebook.  Even when they try to be cool we’re reminded just how uncool they can be.  Kids have taken notice.  Is it too late or will Graph Search be enough to change that?  Only time will tell.


Is Graph Search enough to save Facebook?

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Yesterday I was watching Sunday NFL Countdown on ESPN and they had gambling guru Hank Goldberg on to discuss his picks for the two championship games.  Before they got to his selections though they mentioned that he had gone 0-4 the week before.  0-4!!!!  A so-called expert completely whiffing in crunch time.  It boggles my mind that this could have happened.  For there is nothing easier to do than predicting NFL postseason games.  All you have to do is follow the story lines.

Of course that’s not the case during the regular season when it’s pretty much a crap shoot each and every week.  But come playoff time that’s no longer the case.  All of the mediocre sub .500 teams are long gone as are the maddeningly inconsistent quasi contenders.  You’re down to the best of the best and when push comes to shove something has to give.  Something has to separate two seemingly evenly matched teams.  And that something is the story line.

So ask yourself, what was the biggest story in the NFL this year?  Was it Adrian Peterson’s miraculous recovery from off season knee surgery to nearly set the all time single season rushing record?  Was it Peyton Manning’s equally miraculous recovery from neck surgery to lead the Denver Broncos to 11 straight wins and the best record in the AFC? Or was it Colts coach Chuck Pagano’s battle with leukemia while his underdog team was making a playoff push?

If you answered the latter you’d be right but only partially so.  You see the Colts were a part of the NFL’s story line of the year but not because of Pagano.  Rather, they make the cut because of the play of their record setting rookie QB Andrew Luck.  That’s because the key story in the NFL this year was the play of first year quarterbacks like Luck, Washington’s Robert Griffin III, and Seattle’s undersized Russell Wilson, all of whom led their teams to the playoffs.  It stands to reason then that a team led by a young QB would win the Super Bowl but which one?

To get to that conclusion you first have to look at the next level of story lines.  And like in any good story that next level is usually rife with drama and tales of personal redemption.  Which is why everyone should have been honed in on the San Francisco 49ers this whole time.  For not only are they now led by a dynamic young QB in Colin Kaepernick but they also had to overcome the controversial decision by coach John Harbaugh to give him the job mid season from incumbent starter Alex Smith who had been playing very well in his own right.  The moment Harbaugh made that call, a decision that was going to be dissected and analyzed for years to come regardless of the outcome, it was a fore gone conclusion that San Francisco had punched their ticket to the Super Bowl.

But who would they be playing against?  Well, with the rookie QB story line accounted for we now have to dig deeper into the third tier of story lines which in any good tale are usually reserved for past history and personal glory.  Which brings us to the Baltimore Ravens a textbook example of story line predicting.  How many times in major professional sports have we seen a young team on the rise lose a close game to a bitter rival before finally breaking through the following year?  It happens all the time and it happened again this year as the Ravens, after losing in heart breaking fashion to the Patriots last year on a dropped catch by WR Lee Evans, finally overcame their personal demons to get past New England, a team that they had only beaten once before in the last six years prior to the start of this season.  Of course it didn’t hurt that they also had an inspirational story line in their corner as they were trying to send team leader and future Hall of Famer, Ray Lewis, out a winner.  How fitting it is that one of the greatest defensive players of all time would make it all the way to Super Bowl in his final season and would have to do so by taking out Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady along the way.  That’s not a coincidence.

As great as a story that is there are other possibilities though.  I know that a lot of people were predicting a Broncos-Patriots AFC Title Game to set up the Brady vs. Manning angle and that would have been a great story too especially considering Manning’s return from injury and the whole side story of the Broncos being lead in the front office by another all time great QB in John Elway.  So, why didn’t that happen?  Why did Ray Lewis’ personal glory and the Raven’s tale of team redemption win out over Manning’s comeback and personal feud with Brady? Well, the short answer is that there is another story line that supersedes all others and this year that is the fact that we are about to witness the Harbowl as brothers Jim Harbaugh of the Ravens and John Harbaugh of the 49ers square off for all the marbles.

You may call it fate.  I call it a story line that just had to play out that way.  Know which story lines to look for and you too can predict the outcome of any sporting event.  Take that Hank Goldberg.

Jim Harbaugh, John Harbaugh

Never bet against a great story line.

Check out the NBA version of this idea at:  https://greatestideaever.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/31-sports-can-be-predicted-based-on-studying-story-lines/

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#145 – Planet Hunting

When I was in the sixth grade I had the game winning hit for my little league team in the championship game.  When I was in high school I won an award from Newsday for sports reporting for an article I wrote about my high school’s wrestling coach.  And when I was in college I won the Curry Student Center’s Unsung Hero Award.  Whatever that is.  Oh, and I once saved a bunch of money on my car insurance.

To date those are the greatest accomplishments in my life.  Which is why it should come as no surprise that I’ve often wished that I could change that and actually accomplish something worthwhile.  Something memorable.  The kind of thing that gets engraved on your tombstone.  The kind of thing that will get someone to write a poem about you that gets passed down from generation to generation.  The kind of thing that will get a school or street or even a candy bar named after you.

Of course those hopes are usually dashed when I realize that I don’t have the means to accomplish any of my grandest ambitions.  After all, I don’t hold any advanced degrees.  I’m not a doctor or scientist or physicist.  I’m not going to cure cancer.  The closest I’m ever going to come to saving someone’s life is playing operation.  If I want to invent something my only recourse is to play with Legos.

Which begs the question: what can I do?  What can someone like myself, who has an abundance of desire to make a difference in the World but who lacks the means to act on it, do to actually contribute to mankind?  If this was ten years ago probably not much.  But now thanks to advances in technology and a push towards crowd sourcing I finally have a multitude of ways to contribute to society.  Chief among them: Planet Hunting.  Just like the amateurs who last week discovered 42 new planets.  (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2262094/Amateur-astronomers-42-new-planets–including-Jupiter-sized-world-hold-life.html?ito=feeds-newsxml)

Electronics engineer Mark Hadley is one of those astronomers and the article from the Daily Mail quotes him as saying, “Now when people ask me what I achieved last year I can say I have helped discover a possible new planet around a distant star. How cool is that?”

Very cool, Mark.  Very cool, indeed.  I can’t wait to join you at: http://www.planethunters.org/.  It’s only a matter of time now before I’ve actually accomplished something great.  Don’t worry sixth grade little league teammates.  You’ll always hold a special place in my heart.


Thanks to planethunters.org you can now help to discover life on another planet.

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The television in my living room doesn’t have a remote control.  If I want to change the channel I actually have to get up off the couch and change it manually.  Oh, the horror!  But what if there was a better way?  What if I could change the channel just by looking at the control panel on the TV?  While that may sound like science fiction it may actually be on the verge of becoming science fact thanks to new technology that was spotlighted at last weeks’ Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.  (http://www.mlive.com/business/west-michigan/index.ssf/2013/01/ces_2013_eye-tracking_gesture-.html )

In fact, eye tracking software could be on the verge of breaking out in 2013 as it could also be used in lieu of a mouse to control movement on a computer screen.  Want to scroll down on the page?  Just look at the bottom of the screen and click the button.  Want to click on a link?  Just stare at it and click the button.  To read more about it check out this article from All Things D which also included the video tutorial shown below.  (http://allthingsd.com/20120105/at-ces-control-your-computer-screen-with-your-gaze/)

To be honest I’m a little bit skeptical of this technology as I doubt how accurate it could be and how quickly you could navigate a website with it.  After all, I’m pretty sure that with my paltry attention span my eyes are going to be darting all over the place when I’m looking at a webpage.  But then again, like with all new things, I’m sure its just going to take some getting used to.

After that it may be possible that we start seeing eye tracking software move from the computer screen to the mainstream as it could get implemented in a myriad of ways.  In fact, imagine how convenient it would be to be in a restaurant in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language.  Instead of fumbling through your limited vocabulary and butchering your order wouldn’t it be great if you could just look at the item that you want and have the order placed?

Whether we’re talking about scrolling through a webpage or ordering food I think it’s clear that eye tracking technology really has the potential to transform the way we live our lives.  The only question that remains is how quickly it will be adopted.  Are we talking about something that is five to ten years out or are we talking about something that is just around the corner?  I for one hope it’s sooner rather than later.  After all, it’s almost baseball season and I’d really like to be able to flip between Mets and Yankees games without having to repeatedly get off my couch to change the channel manually.  Actually, never mind.  I don’t think it’s going to matter if this technology is ready soon or not.  The Mets aren’t going to be watchable for a while.


In the future will our gaze enable us to interact with all of our surroundings not just a computer screen?

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