We spent the past weekend in Sonoma to celebrate our friend’s completion of the California bar exam. Ten of us (Sloanies, significant others, and Meatball the dog) shared a fantastic house (back of the house, backyard view) in Guerneville.
Spent most of Saturday wine tasting, highlights included the beautiful gardens at Ferrari-Carano (I didn’t sample the wine there) and a few hours lounging around on the back patio of the Harvest Moon Winery. Harvest Moon, a tiny winery, was our favorite of the bunch – we all had a really pleasant time, got along well with our hosts, and bought several bottles of wine. We had brought along our own bread, prosciutto, and cheese, and also sampled their chocolate and olive oils.
On Sunday it was rainy but that didn’t stop a few of us from heading to the beach. We strolled along Goat Rock Beach, catching a break in the rain. We spent a lot of the day lazing around from the comfort of our house.
Of course, the eating was fantastic. We cooked one breakfast, one brunch, and three dinners together. Meal after meal, we all ate far beyond the point of being full. The nine of us fit comfortably around the dining room table. It was warm, cozy, and homey.
Some people think that business school is a 2-year party, with multiple social gatherings every night and an inordinate amount of traveling. But Jen, never one to take academics lightly (at least in her adult life), took a lot of pride in her projects and assignments, and managed to get enough money through scholarships and TA-ships to pay for most of school. This was quite an astounding feat, something that I’m extremely proud of and grateful for. I’d like to think that all those home-cooked meals, rides to-and-from school, proofreading sessions, and peace and quiet on the husband front contributed a lot to her success. We’ve made some very good friends over the past two years, and I’m thrilled to have been a part of such an enriching experience.
Today at lunch I went to see Robert Buderi and Gregory T. Huang speak about their book, Guanxi (The Art of Relationships): Microsoft, China, and Bill Gates’s Plan to Win the Road Ahead. The talk was about the way Microsoft recognized the importance of getting into China, forged relationships, and established a research lab, sending the now (in)famous Kai-Fu Lee over to get the lab started. Bill Gates seems to be doing a fine job nurturing his Chinese relationships, as he’s visited a dozen or so times, and he was President Hu’s first stop earlier this year. The lab has been a great success, and recently Lee has been heading up the effort to set up a Google research lab in Beijing. With Yahoo looking to start up a lab there as well, things in Beijing could get very interesting on the search front.
Sounds like it’s worth a read.
His name is Peter Diamandis and he is passionate about civilian space travel. He founded the X Prize competition, which culminated in last October’s well-publicized SpaceShipOne flight. Tonight he spoke at the MIT 100K Competition kickoff, and I tagged along with Jen.
The X Prize featured a $10 million purse. It was modeled after the prize that Charles Lindbergh won when he flew across the Atlantic. Turns out that this type of incentive, paired with ambitious but reachable goals, is a great way to move innovation along in certain areas. It also breaks psychological barriers for people; the hope is that space travel will take off (har) as aviation did after the first trans-atlantic flight.
Peter is leading several incredibly interesting projects now – X Prizes in other areas of science, zero-gravity flight, and the Rocket Racing League. His passion is so strong and genuine, and it is a pleasure to hear him speak. His guiding principles: If something can go wrong, fix it; if someone offers you two choices, take both; don’t take no for an answer. To illustrate his persistence: his plans for zero-gravity flight are over a decade old because it took 11 1/2 years of on-and-off discussions with FAA lawyers to agree that this was a safe thing to do. Once they were approved, they found out that they couldn’t purchase commercial aircraft, so they ended up converting weeknight-flight 727 cargo planes to weekend and daytime zero-gravity chambers.
Also, be sure to check out the Rocket Racing League. The standard rockets burn a combination of liquid oxygen and kerosene, producing a beautiful flame. Each racer has enough fuel for about 4 minutes of 1500-lb thrust, and it’s up to them to decide when to use it in racing around a virtual aerial track. The grand scheme is to have video game players at home racing alongside real racers (since they are all equipped with GPS sensors), and the best virtual player will get to compete alongside racing league finalists in a virtual cockpit. The videos look incredibly cool.
I find it so inspiring is that this guy set out to change space travel and actually did it. And I look forward to future space travel developments that result from his vision.
At lunch today I went to see the CEO of Cecropia, Omar Khudari, speak to the MIT Game Tycoons Club. Cecropia is working on a game called The Act, an beautifully-drawn interactive animated movie where the user controls the action via a rotating knob. In the first interactive scene (of eight), the protagonist (the handsome character to the left) tries to flirt with his love interest – turn the knob too far to one side and he grabs her and tries to give her a big kiss, turn the knob less and he casually glances her way. There is no speech; all of the emotion is delivered by the music and the incredible animation – the first few scenes had the entire room laughing. The initial plan is to distribute the game as an arcade machine, to attract people who wouldn’t otherwise play video games. Be on the lookout for it in local bars and arcades.