May 26, 2010

the numbers on our hatch

my buddy jon and i are big LOST fans, so we were stoked to find a hatch on the roof of our manufacturing facility.  in honor of the show's finale this week, we decided to put the numbers on the hatch.  armed with stickers from the office supply store, and clad in our standard-issue company onesies (strangely evocative of dharma jumpsuits), we climbed through the roof in the middle of the plant.  i can't wait for some other LOST fanatic to find these later.  thanks to sam for documenting the nerd-fest.

May 21, 2010


as promised, here's my headshot from the NOH8 photo shoot.  thank you to photographer adam bouska.

after the tea party

matt davies channels oliver wendell holmes who said, "taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society."

May 20, 2010

summit series 2010: day 3

(read first: what is summit series?)

sunday was outdoor adventure day.  the kayaking tours filled up first, and the paintballing excursion was also popular.  since running for my life, trying not to get shot, and nursing bloody welts are not my favorite activities, i opted for the extreme urban scavenger hunt.  i can't say it was the most "extreme" scavenger hunt i've ever been on (i mean, no one even got naked...), but we definitely had a hell of a lot of fun.  anthony adams designed the hunt, and he did a fabulous job linking each clue to something we'd learned about at the conference.  armed with a brand new blackberry -- which our iphone-addicted team couldn't figure out how to use -- we scurried all over the washington mall in search of evocative photo ops.  highlights:  we gave $10 to a stranger (hat tip to kiva), took our shoes off at the washington monument (hat tip to TOMS shoes), and scoured the smithsonian for a robot (hat tip to ray kurzweil).  after hoofing it all morning, we coughed up for pedicabs to get us to our final photo op with concepcion picciotto in front of the white house.  i know this pedicab photo is blurry, but i just love how the "do not enter" sign turned out.

we didn't end up winning, but i was wearing my TOMS that day, which i thought should have counted for some sort of extra credit.  after lunch at the reagan building, we returned to the hotel for an afternoon of too many good options.  summit series is organized such that there are several options in each timeslot, and saturday afternoon had some tough conflicts.

i passed on "grassroots fundraising" (with reps for donors choose, ethos water, and LIVESTRONG) in favor of the "creating great company culture" panel with mindvalley founder vishen lakhiani, second life creator philip rosedale, zappos COO & CFO alfred lin, and college humor/vimeo co-founder ricky van veen.  alfred's talk reminded me of when zappos CEO tony hsieh spoke after me at TEDIndia.  zappos places a lot of emphasis on employees' fit with the culture, requiring all of them to sign on to the company's 10 core values.  each year, every employee contributes a paragraph to the "company culture book" which is distributed throughout the organization as a sort of corporate culture bible.  my favorite idea was that zappos has everyone (from the executives on down) do some time in a call center and a distribution center to ensure they always keep the customer and quality of service in mind.  philip joined via a taped interview to talk about the love machine, a recognition system where employees can send positive feedback to each other in a public environment.  every quarter, they use this peer-reviewed feedback for their performance evaluations.  panel moderator vishen talked at length (leaving ricky little time to present) about the wild success of his company.  the core takeaways were that he has a fun workplace, everyone loves it, they make millions of dollars, and he's always on vacation.  although he had great energy, i still didn't get a good sense for what his company actually does -- i wish he'd touched on that.  one interesting idea he shared was similar to the love machine in that employees are given an amount of money to distribute anonymously to each other as part of their bonus pool.  with just 5 minutes left to speak after vishen's lofty presentation, ricky started his with, "we're a little different...our corporate culture is a little more dick-jokey."  he brought levity to the panel when he excitedly explained the latest trend in workplace pranks:  nuggeting.  on the serious side, he talked about their policy of replying to all internal emails by close of business, but my absolute favorite idea was their trophy for excellence in shitty reply alls, bestowed upon employees who abuse the company listserv.  all organizations need that.

given my work with philanthro productions, the "engaging today's youth" panel was of particular interest to me, especially since it featured two of our partners -- invisible children (represented by laren poole) and causecast (represented by president brian sirgutz).  laren and brian were joined by yosi sergant, co-creator of the obama hope campaign, and bonnaroo co-founder jonathan mayers.  laren shared their latest video and talked about the stagnation at older institutions like the UN and state department.  he insisted that we need an influx of fresh ideas to actually make change on the ground.  yosi reminded us that the number of people who show up is just a fraction of those who are engaged (on the website, facebook, twitter, etc.).  they all emphasized the need for creating a personal narrative and telling a story with a clear objective.

in the bathroom between sessions, i found this little gem, which brightened my already delightful day:

the summit series founders brought their grandmas in for tea after the sessions, but the official schedule had concurrently booked a "nap time," and i opted for the latter.  thank god i did, because saturday night was epic.

the evening kicked off with a panel called "curating life 2.0" -- a presentation by the summit series crew.  among them, co-founders elliott bisnow, brett leve, jeff rosenthal, and jeremy schwartz, director justin cohen, their "chief samurai" josh zabar, and director of reconnaissance thayer walker.  summit series is curated by this group of twentysomething men (and -- they sometimes point out -- their female PR director victoria alexander), and they do most of their planning from the road.  these guys sold their homes, put their belongings duffel bags, and became permanent jetsetters:  surfing in nicaragua, skiing in montana, handing out recovery supplies in haiti.  "our lives are super surreal...on purpose," they explained.  they shared the evolution of summit series from a 20-person gathering in aspen (funded on elliott's credit card) to mexico, miami, and finally DC.  their presentation included their core principles, among them renouncing materialism, cutting out sarcasm, implementing a "no follow up" work policy, doing yoga, bruddling, and "shedding love on people every day."  jeff captured their laid-back idealism when he asked, "why not just be awesome to everybody?"  after sharing photos of themselves doing cannonballs into their private pool, using wi-fi to work while on their boat, and dancing with children in haiti, elliott suggested that "fun, work, and philanthropy aren't usually exclusive" in their lives.  in the Q&A, jenny 8. lee described their lives and enterprise as "entourage meets TED meets the amazing race," and i think everyone agreed that the description was pretty accurate.

our final dinner featured the next big thing, billed as "20 of the most innovative, progressive, and slightly crazy attendees each getting two minutes to tell summit what they believe is the next big thing."  memorable moments included taryn miller-stevens' 30-second dance party (read: more table-top dancing), a plea from a belt-wielding anthony adams to stand up against corporal punishment in schools, and a reminder from rafe furst that most cancers are caused by lifestyle factors, not genetics.  one lucky speaker closed his speech with the observation that he'd never kissed a beautiful woman in front of hundreds of people.  within moments, one was on stage to fulfill his never-have-i-ever with a nice, long make out session.

elliott and jeff served as auctioneers for their array of lavish items, the most popular of which was a $10,000 trip to uganda with invisible children.  founders laren and jason (and bobby to some extent, although he's since left invisible children) were definitely the darlings of the conference, having inspired many with their story about child soldiers and joseph kony's war in uganda.  summit series came right on the heels of a huge win for them -- congress finally passed a bill providing a mandate to end the war.  as soon as the $10,000 trip was opened to multiple bidders, the stage was swarmed with participants eager to see africa (and probably also a little intrigued to go on a trip with invisible children supporter kristen bell).  the gender imbalance was palpable -- only one other woman went on stage, and that was only after a man at a nearby table asked, "do any women want to go? i'll sponsor you."

dinner ended with a date auction:  on the auction block were actress kristen bell, israeli model noa tishby, and the FEED project girls lauren and ellen.  no men were auctioned off.  jeff pulled me aside earlier in the afternoon to ask if i had any recommendations (for the record, my money was on adam braun, founder of one of philanthro productions' favorite charities, pencils of promise).  i think the prevailing wisdom among male candidates was, "why would i auction myself off to a room of dudes?" and jeff wound up without goods to auction.

after several bottles of (donated) hope wine, we headed out to the hard rock cafe to the night's main party.  dancing, drinks, candy, music, hugs, smiles, laughter.  it was a blast.

a summit team member arrived with bags of fake ray bans as the hard rock party started to wind down, and a flurry of whispers and texts told interested summiters to meet at a hotel in downtown DC for an impromptu, intimate performance by jazz-rock pianist eric lewis.  i know of ELEW from his 2009 performance at TED and was excited to see him up close.  around 2:30AM, twenty or thirty of us settled into the piano lounge (opened just for us) to watch eric perform for the better part of two hours.  his unique style combines pop rock music, aggressive key strokes, and non-traditional contact with the underside of the piano and the strings inside.  he played songs from the killers, evanescence, hellogoodbye, coldplay, and owl city and received at least 3 standing ovations from the attentive crowd.  (videos to come.)

i returned to the hotel to the after party suite which featured "after-hours pizza and snacks to crush the late-night munchies."  the suite also opened onto a massive patio with views of the white house, the washington monument, and capitol hill.  it was a warm night -- ideal for early morning mingling.  most of us saw the sky beginning to brighten again before we went to bed.  perfect.

read more:
recap of summit series 2010: day 1
recap of summit series 2010: day 2

May 19, 2010

summit series 2010: day 2

(read first: what is summit series?)

early wake up call to head around the corner to the national press club to see ted turner, media mogul and current chairman of the united nations foundation, talk about his life.  after being introduced by elizabeth gore, ted was interviewed by TOMS shoes founder blake mycoskie (the chief shoe giver who's given away over 600,000 shoes to date).  when blake asked him to share a good fish story, ted replied, "i love fishing. all fish are exciting."  ted shared his slightly pessimistic outlook on our future, driven largely by his concerns about population growth.  however, he ensured the audience that it was not too late.  "the situation is hopeless," he said with a mischievous smile, "but i might be wrong."  he called global warming the most complex problem humanity has ever faced, and he's bullish on wind and solar, encouraging america to catch up with other countries who can innovate more quickly.  "china doesn't have all this yakkity-yak," he lamented, "those communists just say, 'goddammit, this is what we're gonna do!'"  ted clearly had a good sense of humor combined with his sense of urgency about tough issues like nuclear disarmament.  money quote:  "there's only 4 communist countries in the world. we should declare them an endangered species."

in the "idea crockpot" panel, drew houston of dropbox (philanthro is a big fan), adam smith from xobni, and trip adler of scribd shared their thoughts on how to think of and start a business.  big takeaway from drew:  "the worst thing is not that an idea fails.  it's that it takes a really long time to fail."

facebook founding president and napster co-founder sean parker spoke next, mostly trying to dodge pointed questions about facebook's future (i.e., "what the hell is happening with facebook right now?").  despite being twitchy and fidgety, he was clearly a super bright guy with some interesting thoughts on the need for facebook apps that "use social capital to get things done." he pooh-poohed "spammy games like farmville" and called out chris hughes for being slow to define his new venture jumo.  (hughes responded with a still vague "explanatory" email to his mailing list yesterday.)  after briefly describing his new music streaming venture, spotify (which sounds amazing, btw), and jokingly estimating facebook's potential revenue if they diversified revenue streams to be $650B, sean closed by talking about the physicalization of the internet and the need to incorporate social capital into capitalism.  "the elite have underestimated how unconnected the un-elite are," he said.  money quote of the talk came after he made a comment about live video and someone asked him about chatroulette:  "chatroulette is only 22% penises. it's for the pervert that lives in all of us."

we broke briefly for a humid lunch in the park before returning to the air conditioned goodness of the hotel.  the "going green" panel featured philippe cousteau as the moderator, seth goldman from honest tea, and adam lowry and eric ryan from method.  they talked about what it's like to start a company with sustainability at its core, and how to stick to those principles.  i particularly liked adam and eric's opinion about competition:  "if our competitors want to copy what we do, that's fine. it makes the whole world greener."  adam shared his story about working in politics on the kyoto protocol and losing faith in the government's ability to facilitate swift change (i had a similar experience after living in washington dc).  "politicians and policy are the last things to come along, " he explained, "they just follow the lowest common denominator."  seth had the money quote for session:  "the sustainability movement failed in the past because we tried to change people instead of changing what they consume."

before i talk about the next panel, i want to talk about the gender imbalance at summit series.  you may have noticed from the photos that summit series is heavily male-dominated.  the 2010 conference apparently had double the ladies of miami's summit, but i'd estimate that it was still only 15% female.  i think there are two reasons for this:  1) the conference's origins and planning team are overwhelmingly male, 2) according to josh zabar (on the summit series team), they just have a really hard time finding young female entrepreneurs who are able to pay the registration fee.  this 3-day fun fest comes at a pretty steep price -- about $4000 -- and it seems they have trouble finding enough women who are willing to cough it up.  given my situation, i sort of buy this argument.  unlike many of the other (male?) attendees, i'm not backed by VC money, so i was lucky to receive a non-profit discount grant.  i think summit will slowly build its female attendance, but the conference is still very much targeted to men.  there's definitely a "sophisticated frat party" vibe that imbues the conference:  paintballing, pizza parties, gambling, grey goose bottle service, and washington redskins cheerleaders as "ambassadors" (read:  fillers) at all the events.  i don't think the guys are trying to make it a boys-only affair -- frankly, what would be the fun in that? -- but they still have a long way to go before all the sexism is stripped from the event.  some of the statements i heard (from panelists, no less) during the conference were less than inclusive.

that said, they certainly made some efforts (okay, an effort) to highlight women at DC10.  they had one panel featuring all women called the women's leadership forum.  moderated by teresa carlson from microsoft's federal affairs group, the panel featured MTV personality suchin pak, julie smolyansky of lifeway foods, UNICEF executive director ann veneman, deanna brown of federated media, and film producer shauna robertson.  having been to a lot of "women's leadership" panels, i have to say the content was pretty standard.  i did appreciate veneman's response to my question about women who exclude other women because they enjoy being the first and/or only woman in their field:  "it was gloria steinem who said, 'you must open doors wide enough for others to get through.'"

the 4-hour work week panel was the one i approached with the most skepticism.  i haven't read the book, but i've heard a lot of the buzz, and i was worried that the panel would be full of stories of exceptional people who somehow made a living out of goofing off.  it turns out, tim ferriss' philosophy is a lot more sophisticated than a soundbyte captures.  he's clearly a very intelligent, thoughtful guy, and i got a lot out of the talk.  he shared the stage with world champion kayaker eric "EJ" jackson who had some interesting insight on setting priorities in an "uncompromised life," but was a little short on details when describing his ascent from guy-living-in-his-car to successful-man-of-leisure.  tim gave the audience two really good tips:  1) eliminate unnecessary fear (i.e., don't live a life based on unreasonable fears. face them and get over them so you can live a life that makes you happy), and 2) eliminate unnecessary embarrassment (i.e., learn to be ashamed of only the most shameful things).  both tim and eric gave advice to leaders of an organization to help them get out of the weeds and reduce the amount of time they spend putting out fires.  tim suggested that after a while, you can probably identify the types of issues that arise frequently, so you should just set policies and procedures to deal with them in your absence.  tim also admitted that his book isn't for everyone; it's just for the 5% of value creators (he actually wrote it for 2 of his friends in particular).  the "value creator" distinction was reemphasized when he said: "i don't like people who start a personal brand without a quality product."  his thoughts on peer groups were especially interesting. "i choose to live in san francisco because i like my peer group there," he explained, saying that if he bought a ferrari, his friends would call him a douchebag.  my favorite quote of the session came from tim:  "you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with."

while settling into my seat for the final afternoon session, i noticed magician david blaine in the row in front of me, bending someone's quarter.

the afternoon wrapped up with the first ever(?) live venture capital simulated stock exchange.  founders from five start-ups got on stage to make their pitches to the audience.  meanwhile, the audience had downloaded second market simulated stock exchange apps on their iphones and blackberries to "trade" stock in the start-ups in real time.

the founders' powerpoint pitches were projected on one wall, and the live stock prices were project on another.  competitors included airbnb's online marketplace for space, fastsociety's group texting tool, and PACT's sustainable underwear.  the winner was profounder, the latest venture from kiva's jessica jackley and dana mauriello (both stanford GSB grads!).  profounder's crowd funding platform for entrepreneurs took home $50,000 from presumed abundance, a unique VC that invests in relationships with promising individuals rather than in ventures.  a portion of  the award would also go toward fellowships for 3 people to attend summit series next year as a way to pay it forward.

i stayed put in my seat and had a great vantage point for president bill clinton's keynote before dinner.  he gave a well-delivered, if structurally meandering talk about communitarianism -- the political and social philosophy that our fates are bound and we should therefore work towards reducing inequality and unsustainability in the world.  in his discussion of concealed weapons and immigration, he displayed sympathy for reactionary conservative attitudes (i.e., tea partiers).  "what they're really saying," he explained, "is 'stop the world. i want off. i want one little thing that i can control.'"  what resonated most with me was his discussion of donor fatigue and the need for social entrepreneurs to make sure they're truly adding unique value to the market place.  "unless you're moving somewhere no one's been, i'd be sure i was doing everything that's already worked and do it better. it's crazy to have this bifurcation."  this is an issue i'm pretty passionate about -- i think the market is oversaturated with non-profits, and a little consolidation would go a long way towards sharing best practices and eliminating wasteful duplicated overhead.

we all ate dinner at mccormick and schmick (a national chain restaurant described in the programme as "one of DC's best restaurants"...haha) before heading to josaphine for the "do what you love" party with DJ cassidy.  at one point, summit organizers dressed in hot pink gorilla costumes stormed the club.

i headed back to the hotel before last call because i can't say no to an after party with a craps table.  our timing was great, since we walked in right at the pizza was being delivered.  luggage carts full of pizza...

they had an altruistic casino set up in the lounge where you could buy in at whatever amount you wanted (with proceeds going to charity) and then play till you dropped.  with some other late-night gamblers at my side, we shut the casino down; i increased my pot by a factor of 15, and as the highest placing woman in the bunch, i walked off with new northface luggage, an xbox 360 elite system, and a guitar hero aerosmith limited edition bundle.  anneke, FTW!

read more:
recap of summit series 2010: day 1
recap of summit series 2010: day 3

summit series 2010: day 1

(read first: what is summit series?)

registration was wild.  after receiving the standard packet, i was asked to sign the kauffman foundation's entrepreneur's pledge.  i picked up a gift bag -- contents included goodies like two reusable water bottles, a copy of up in the air, a laser pointer, a sexy john varvatos skinny tie, and a $100 donors choose "gift card."  next up was a stop at the free-for-all table of threadless t-shirts before i received my first minglestick.  after the prior week's experience with moblaic at TEDxEast, it seems like technology is making exchanging paper business cards at conferences a thing of the past.  the minglestick was a little USB stick attached to the nametags that hung around our necks.  it was loaded with our contact information, and we could exchange info with others simply by holding them up each other (a bit like the bump app for the iphone).

russell simmons, interviewed by charles best of donors choose, talked about his successes as a result of many failures:  "i'm really good at sticking with bad ventures," he said, recalling the early challenges of most of his businesses. "but with resilience and faith, bad ventures turn good."  after a wild youth during which he admits to doing every bad thing under the sun, russell now does yoga every day.  "i like it better than drugs and other shit.  nothing happens except when you're still."  russell's advice to entrepreneurs was repeated in conversations throughout the weekend:  "build an idea, have focus, then find someone smarter than you so they can kick you out."  money quote of the talk -- russell speaking to the audience of hundreds of twenty- and thirty-something entrepreneurs:  "we need you, because old people really fuck things up."

russell's talk was followed by a panel on education in america.  despite the superstars on the stage (including don moody, jim shelton from the department of education, and teach for america founder wendy kopp), the content didn't really get good until musician/activist john legend finally had the balls to give the audience a political breakdown: "not everyone has access to good teachers," he explained, giving a shout out to (my education policy hero) chancellor of DC schools michelle rhee, who has taken controversial positions that have been unpopular with the tenure-system-loving teachers unions.  rhee closed the session with a very concrete and (unfortunately) revolutionary suggestion:  replacing the lowest-performing 6-10% of teachers with average teachers would propel the US into the top 10 education systems in the world.  money quote from rhee:  "schools are jacked up because you cannot run an organization  using these crazy practices."  preach, sister.

at dinner, futurist ray kurzweil talked about the exponential acceleration of technology.  he shared his theory of singularity under which technology advances so rapidly that we cannot follow it unless we merge with it, enhancing our intelligence by becoming one with technology.  basically, i'm going to be a robot in the not too distant future.

the night finished out with epic ice sculptures, impromptu table top dance parties at k street, and widespread happiness when we came back to the lounge and found mountains of pizza waiting for us.  while noshing on my pizza, i had a classic anneke moment:  after joking with him about his cordarounds, i ask tim ferriss, "so buddy, what do you do?"

one other highlight of the day:  modeling a hot new blazer prototype (inside-out) from the fashion geniuses at bonobos.

read more:
recap of summit series 2010: day 2
recap of summit series 2010: day 3

May 18, 2010

what is summit series?

i am a lucky girl.  last week, i went to washington dc for a 3-day fun-fest known as summit series.  one attendee described it as "entourage meets TED meets the amazing race."  it's a delicious recipe:  start with summer camp, subtract bug bites, add venture capital money, a former president, bottles of grey goose, mountains of pizza, a paintball gun, poker chips, the most brilliant minds in social enterprise, ray bans, and a bunch of TOMS shoes.  entrepreneur magazine described it like this:

Summit Series is an organization dedicated to connecting and inspiring young entrepreneurs to take action in their business and philanthropic endeavors.  The company hosts two annual conferences, bringing together some of the world's top entrepreneurial and philanthropic minds -- from company founders to artists and industrial engineers -- to learn from one another, share experiences and raise awareness for various philanthropic and social initiatives.  The entry criteria for this who's-who organization is simple:  1) Is the person doing something amazing?, and 2) If the person didn't have money or fame, would the folks at Summit Series want to be his or her friend?

since i was lucky enough to get to attend, i promised my team at philanthro productions that i'd blog recaps of this amazing experience this week.  wanna know what goes on behind the scenes at the world's most fun conference for young entrepreneurs?  read on, friends.

recap of summit series 2010: day 1
recap of summit series 2010: day 2
recap of summit series 2010: day 3

pre-summit series 2010: monday

new york summiters met up in the west village for drinks and dinner the monday before summit series.  i went with my lovely friend nicole, fellow CMC grad and event mastermind (seriously, if you want to do an amazing event to build your brand in new york, call nicole), and it was packed when we showed up.  several hours, a couple glasses of wine, many delightful people, and a plate of lobster ravioli later, i was convinced that summit was going to be lifechanging.  i learned about the white house garden, music, dance, art, venture capital, private jets, disposable dinnerware made from palm leaves, and damn good-looking sustainable underwear.  i finished the night with a biscotti shared with doug, the owner of charles restaurant.

abandoned on mother's day

sidewalk outside of moma

colors of the city

upper east side


columbus circle

the high line in chelsea

riding sissy

first motorcycle ride.  in manhattan.

May 10, 2010

accidental penis

i am loving this little tumblr. because penis is not always intentional.

May 7, 2010

TEDxEast: play, dream, create - session 3

after the break, john-henry harris returned to the stage to present the winners of the LEGO design contest. runner-up: LEGO robot. winner: TED logo.

suzanne vega took the stage again for two songs: one of which she'd worked on with danger mouse, and the other, her 1981 hit "tom's diner." i always liked that song, but something about seeing it live really made it delightful. she was especially adorable when she accidentally repeated a song stanza...and then did it again.

married couple marie hyon and marco spier shared their work at psyop, a design firm making "commercials that people want to watch." before playing a video of a beautiful crow promo (below) they did for MTV, they explained how they get their ideas. marco shared his habit of having "sock dreams" -- mind-wandering moments between putting on his socks during which he often forgets to continue. one of my favorite things they talked about was their appreciation for the "details in every day items." that's very much the philosophy i use in my work, and marco's observation that "the floor is really interesting" resonated with me immensely. i've been toying with creating a photography piece called "look up : look down," and they really inspired me to revisit it.  (VIDEO of their entire talk)

an expert in the art of choice, columbia business school professor sheena iyengar used notes in her talk, which is usually frowned upon at TED, probably because it limits your ability to connect with the audience through eye contact. sheena pulled it off beauitfully because she is blind, and her notes were in braille. she spoke about the the "bermuda triangle of choice" which frequently presents challenges as we pursue more and more options. specifically, we seek to be unique, but not too unique. "i am an individual, not an outcast," we seem to be saying. she shared some interesting research that showed that speed daters who have fewer choices are more likely to pick a mate that aligns with their preferences, but when given more options, they just pick whomever is more attractive. my favorite of her anecdotes related to a dispute over nail polish colors. she showed the audience two similar nail polish shades and explained how their names (adore-a-ball and ballet slippers) affected their desirability, despite the fact that they were practically indistinguishable. i had to laugh, since i happen to be wearing ballet slippers polish on my nails right now.  (VIDEO of her entire talk)

the big surprise performer of the day was MC baba, an "academic rapper" known for his hip-hop renditions of the canterbury tales and the theories of charles darwin. he performed an excerpt from his darwin piece which equated the hip hop artist's creative cycle to darwin's theory of evolution: performance, feedback, revision. money quote: "i now have the first ever hip hop show that's peer reviewed.(VIDEO of his entire performance)

the final speaker of TEDxEast was bruce feiler, author of "the council of dads." he shared his story of getting cancer in his leg and facing his own mortality in the the face of his twin girls. in response, he called upon his six best friends to create a "council of dads" -- men who agreed to step in and offer fatherly advice to his daughters in case bruce couldn't be there himself. "i sort of friend-married each of these guys," he joked. after agreeing to the task, each of his friends shared the advice they'd most want to give his daughters. in the course of collecting the advice for his daughters, he realized that it was just as important for him, and it turned into his book. he described one of his friends as his "tadpole" -- someone who knew him when he was young and wriggly and then they grew up and hopped away. "tend to your tadpoles," bruce said, "you never know when you'll need a pal." another friend's advice was to "approach the cow," a reference to their fearless days of cow-tipping. the sweetest anecdote was his daughter tybee's advice for good health: "just drink milk, 'cause that's where love comes from." i had seen bruce pacing nervously in a corner during an earlier break. "are you speaking next?" i asked him. he nodded. "you're going to be great," i assured him...and he was.  (VIDEO of his entire talk)

the conference closed with rives' choice of 5 phrases that pay (his hybrid winner: "approach the cow...that's where love comes from") and MC baba's mockingbird-style rap recap of the day's talks.

one other notable observation: prezi was definitely the presentation medium of choice at TEDxEast, as it was used by gaspard, anderson, mattar, and iyengar.

click here for session 1
click here for session 2

TEDxEast: play, dream, create - session 2

musician suzanne vega kicked off the second session with three songs before TEDxEast organizer julianne returned to the stage to thank TEDxEast attendees for their concurrent financial support of TEDxKibera in the slums of nairobi.

columbia business school assistant professor malia mason spoke about mind wandering, calling it "an efficient way to leverage our most precious resource." her theory included a metaphorical watchdog who periodically causes our minds to wander by reminding us about open goals. clearly caught off guard, she had a somewhat awkward Q&A session with the host afterward in which she revealed that her "watchdog" was always on the lookout for TED talk topics.

company XIV took the stage next, outfitted with classical costumes and wigs. accompanied by a piano, two guitar players sang a baroque rendition of "bad romance" by lady gaga. three dancers performed in time and captivated the audience, mostly because their music and dancing were unique but partially because one of the dancers had an ongoing wardrobe malfunction. lesson learned: adults will still act like children under certain circumstances.

brazilian CSR expert helio mattar gave a long allegorical talk about a woman named akatu (also the name of his institute in sao paulo). the contrasted description of the world her parents grew up in and the world she knows was meant to show the audience what might be possible if we begin to take sustainability, responsibility, and community more seriously. mattar's talk (i think unintentionally) made several references to other topics discussed during the first session including car sharing, reduced work week, and gandhi. he shared the 4 ways akatu's world differed from her parents': 1) consumption to improve well-being, not just for the sake of consumption, 2) people consume to live, not vice versa, 3) people search for the meaning of life, not consumption, and 4) friendship, love, art, and emotion are central to humanity. after going significantly over his time limit, he closed by serenading host rives with "somewhere over the rainbow."

ellen gustafson gave probably my favorite talk of the day, not only because she brought the kind of humble-yet-passionate energy that i love so much, but also because she talked about a topic close to my heart: food. ellen eloquently highlighted the inextricable connections between the epidemics of global hunger and obesity. on the heels of her success with FEED, she launched a new initiative today called the 30 project, which seeks to foster long-term ideas for food system change by bringing together thinkers and doers on all sides of the food/hunger activism movement. with shout outs to michael pollan, food inc., and jamie oliver, she definitely got me listening. so exciting to see other young people taking the reigns on this problem -- can't wait to help her! money quote: "our world now has one billion obese people and one billion hungry people -- they're not different problems." (VIDEO of her entire talk)

richard saul wurman, founder of TED, took the stage next for an endearing (if meandering) talk. he started by sharing the (now famous via internet meme) way to open a banana like the monkeys do -- from the bottom. his talk then turned into a series of memorable quotes like "we think we're a human species, but we are zoos...full of wee beasties" and "everything is walking distance if you have enough time" and "the more famous the person, the shorter the introduction" and, the supreme generalization, "everything is interdependent and made of everything." sporting his shape-up shoes, richard teared up as kelly and rives led the audience to sing him happy birthday -- he turns 75 this year. to celebrate, the break featured TEDxEast cupcakes provided by BCakeNY.

click here for session 1
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TEDxEast: play, dream, create - session 1

i had the pleasure of attending the second TEDxEast at the city winery in soho today, where the theme was "play, dream, create." the event was so popular that there were two simulcast locations at columbia university and at NYU (at the nuyorican poets cafe in the east village).

attendees were outfitted with moblaic badges with a unique barcode on the back.  after downloading the iphone or blackberry app, they could "scan" the barcodes with their smartphone camera to download the other person's contact information.

the morning kicked off with a welcome from lovely TEDxEast organizer julianne wurm who introduced TEDActive hosts kelly and rives.

raymond gaspard, broadway producer of "a steady rain" was the program's first speaker. his production, staring daniel craig and hugh jackman, set performance records during its 12 weeks on broadway. he spoke about the serendipitous events that led to the production, including a rough mathematical breakdown of your chances of success in the theater: "of all the scripts out there, 1 in 100 get optioned. of those, 1 in 100 get production. of those, 1 in 1000 get on broadway, and of those, only 1 in 6 will make any money."

sam lessin shared his opinions on summit series with me before he took the stage as the second speaker of the day. sam's the founder of and Y+30, and his idea worth spreading was that ownership is on the outs -- that is, if you can afford it, it's better to have someone else own for you. he cited examples like sports equipment rental, zipcar, netflix, google apps, and even "friends-on-demand" (the way he perceives that social media applications have added fluidity to the way he owns his personal relationships).

8-year-old piano prodigy, blake frank, took the stage next with mom and dad in the front row. in his post-performance interview, he said he "felt good after playing for 250 people." it was also announced that blake and one of the hosts would travel by taxi during the next break to the nuyorican for a Q&A session with some of the simulcast viewers.

one of the unintended themes of the day was technical difficulty, spurring the perennial TED conference joke, "it looks like 'T' forgot to come today." to pass the time, rives asked the audience the same question he'd asked the night before on the first ever TEDx6Train, which they'd quickly orchestrated while on a tour of NYC: "whom would you bring back from the dead and why?" answers ranged from gandhi to harry houdini to "nobody."

proud LEGO employee john-henry harris shared some sobering stats about paid vacation and average hours worked per week that made his home country of denmark seem pretty lovely. he talked about the philosophy of play that resonates throughout the LEGO company from "inspiration rooms" to inspiration day kick-off trips organized by employees. the best part about these trips, he said, was that they're not labeled "corporate team building events." his talk reminded me quite a bit of tony hsieh's TEDIndia talk about happiness as a business model.

surprise speaker of the morning was TED curator chris anderson who shared some interesting new ideas about what he's calling "crowd accelerated learning." he used as his primary example the rise of breakdancing videos on youtube where young people challenge each other to "step up." he referenced TED 2010 speaker jon chu, creator of the legion of extraordinary dancers (LXD), who has been close to this movement. through communities in which everyone plays an important role (trendsetter, feedback provider, observer, etc.), and with platforms (like youtube) that offer individual visibility, participants are able to learn and share and improve with quantifiable success metrics (e.g., page views). chris shared other examples including rube goldberg contraptions, make-up tip videos, and TED talks. money quote: "TED speakers are prepping more than if to say to each other, 'step up your game!'"

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May 5, 2010

the orchard

my employer (roll international) is opening its own environmentally-conscious and healthy cafe on premises here in west LA.  the orchard will offer gourmet meals prepared with seasonal, local, organic produce and sustainable meats and fish.  here's a list of next week's lunch specials, all for under $8 a pop:

Monday: Pistachio Crusted Halibut with Spicy Yogurt served with Smashed Purple Potato and Braised Yellow Beans ($7.90)

Tuesday: Greek Style Lamb and Eggplant Lasagna Moussaka with Ground Lamb and Bechamel served with Roasted Lemon Potatoes ($6.95)

Wednesday: Molasses Glazed Leg of Lamb with Roasted Golden Beet and Wild Mushrooms, and Parmesan Orzo ($7.90)

Thursday: Banana Leaf Wrapped Pacific Black Cod with Thai Curry Sauce, served with Steamed Jasmine Rice with Fresh Cilantro and Basil ($7.75)

Friday: Baja Style Fish Tacos with Papaya, Lime, and Cabbage Slaw, Pico De Gallo, Verde Rice, Red Beans, Fresh Guacamole, and Fresh Corn Tortillas ($4.25)

we are just too lucky.  yum!  i can't wait to use my employee card.

May 1, 2010

pepsi refresh: how to give your vote a multiplier effect

you have a limited number of votes to use for the pepsi refresh project. you want to make sure your votes have the maximum impact, right?  well, here's an awesome statistic: in 2010, for every $1 philanthro productions spends to host a charity event, $14 go directly to the partner charity.  by voting for philanthro productions to win $25,000 for the pepsi refresh project, you ensure that the $25,000 award will go a lot further than that.

philanthro productions is a non-profit event production company run by an all-volunteer team of young professionals.  our mission is to make philanthropy more fun and approachable for our peers in generation Y.  we value transparency and efficiency, and we have an impressive track record of giving back to our communities.


VIDEO: Vote for Philanthro Productions - thank you for your support!