September 14, 2008

Oncofertility Short Documentary Series

This summer I served as Producer on a pilot project at Northwestern called the Oncofertility Communications Initiative (OCI). The OCI's goals were to produce a short documentary series about cancer patients and the challenges they have faced related to having children.

The videos are now available for viewing or download from

I have enjoyed the project immensely, and am very proud of the pieces that our filmmakers Uji Films and Kartemquin Films have produced.

March 13, 2008

Socialesque, LLC

A little shameless self-promotion here...

I recently started a company called Socialesque with an old friend and fellow Media Revolutions Project member, Varun Nayak.

At Socialesque, we've developed a rather unique mix of tools to help marketers track user and social network behaviors for their new-media advertising campaigns.

Our tools currently extract rich behavioral data from web 2.0 content, as well as aggregate statistics about how content is passed among friends via popular social networking sites like Facebook, Orkut, MySpace, Bebo, etc. The combination of behavioral and social network analytics turns out to be a really potent combination for tracking ROI in online ad campaigns. (hopefully others will think so too!)

We're making great headway in our development, so drop us a line if you're interested in more information.

December 17, 2007

Mmmmmm...Raw Eggs!

Ever had homemade egg nog? I did once. At a party in college. We were scared of it, and sipped on it politely until we could make our way one by one to the bathroom and flush it away.

Since then, I've been more than happy with the supermarket stuff, particularly with the advent of the reduced-fat variety. But during last weekend's big snow, we were pretty well in for the evening by 3 in the afternoon. Four Christmas movies in hand and Thai food on the way, we needed that special something to take that mid-December evening over the top.

So I separated four eggs, and whisked the yolks together with 1/3 cup of sugar until they turned lighter in color, and got fluffy. Then I added 4 cups skim milk, 1 cup cream and about 1/2 cup of good ol' Kentucky bourbon. That mixture went into the fridge while I cleaned the hell out of my mixing bowl and spatula. Then the egg whites got beaten with 1 tablespoon of sugar, and I folded the stiff whites in with the yolk mixture.

I left it alone for a good hour, and the whites had created a foam on the top so the whole thing tasted like a milkshake. Mmmm. And so easy.

Everybody Happy? Part 1

The Barefoot Contessa says not to bother cooking for people you don't absolutely love. I'm beginning to understand why. The idea is that if you really love someone, you can forgive them for their dietary eccentricities or not wanting to taste things they don't think they like. We'll see.

This year, I've been given free reign to cook Christmas dinner at my mother's house. But it's not as free or as simple as it sounds. Not only does my mother not like to cook, she's not fond of messes in her kitchen. And she and my stepfather aren't big on leftovers. She also hates to buy spices she's not sure she'll use again. But in the name of creating one of those really fantastic holiday memories, I decided to make it work.

I was full of ideas. How about a green vegetable sauteed with some toasted almond slivers, a really tasty salad? Maybe we could forget the turkey altogether and have a standing rib roast, wash it down with some holiday cocktail and finish it all of with creme brulee or a croissant bread pudding?

It's like I pulled out a shot gun. No turkey?! So my husband is dealing with the bird. He likes to do it - and frankly, no matter how good I get at making other things, his turkeys are still tastier than mine.

That left me with some sides, and started making suggestions for things we could cut out in favor or new flavor combos. Who needs another crock of stuffing and mashed potatoes? Turns out: Everyone.

I decided to let my mother and husband each make one of those, and I could turn my attention to a vegetable tian, with tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, onions and gruyere. Maybe something simple with a green vegetable, some thyme popovers and an exciting dessert...But my mother had to have a pumpkin pie, and when I called my uncle to see what his favorite dish is --- turns out to be green bean casserole.

So Mom is going to have to make due with a pumpkin banana mousse tart, and Uncle John will get a from-scratch casserole with fresh green beans and panko-crusted onions. And I'm sticking to my guns on the vegetable tian and popovers. There WILL be new dishes at the table! Too bad it just means more food. But we'll stuff ourselves in the name of progress and I'll report back.

December 5, 2007

NodeBox - amazing open source scriptable graphics application

NodeBox is an amazing open source visualization tool for Mac OS X. It is basically a scriptable graphics tool, so you can draw things by using a really simple python code editor that's built into the app.

One of my favorite scripts uses the Web library to draw a graph of the hyperlinks between sites. It is rather basic in terms of its spidering capabilities, but I still think it has a heckuva lot of wow-factor.

The following hyperlink graph is actually for (with a depth=3):


November 30, 2007

Bad Ideas

From the NYT:

Facebook keeps tweaking its new Beacon advertising program, which tracks users’ actions on sites other than Facebook. The program sparked a petition from Civic Action that has won the support of 50,000 Facebook users. Facebook introduced a new version of the Beacon alert box on Thursday that still lacks an easy way to avoid participating.

Unsurprisingly, Facebook has backed off its initial enthusiastic support for Beacon.

Late yesterday the company made an important change, saying that it would not send messages about users’ Internet activities without getting explicit approval each time.

So what's the hubub all about? Beacon tracks users' online purchases, like many other sites, but then sends an update to friends in the user's Facebook network. I see all kinds of geeky reasons why someone might find this a cool service -- keeping track of your pals' book purchases or DVD consumption. But you can already do that through other services, provided your friends have chosen to share their wish list, or movie queue, or purchase history. However, those are opt-in services while Beacon offers a per-purchase opt-out pop-up option. Annoying, to be sure. I'm sure people don't mind sharing some innocuous purchases with their social networking pals, as they see fit, but certainly not all. It seems that it would have been much easier to provide users with a preference pane that allows for permissions to be set on an opt-in basis.

However, according to Facebook vice president, Chamath Palihapitiya, the company has no plan to offer a universal opt-out service, instead sticking users with the option of having to individually approve sharing each purchase or drop the service all together. While this stance certainly will appeal to the advertisers, it caries with it the risk of driving away users needlessly.

Two privacy groups said this week that they were preparing to file privacy complaints about the system with the Federal Trade Commission. Among online merchants, has decided to stop running Facebook’s Beacon program on its site until it becomes an opt-in program.

While this may be small beans, and the Beacon program will probably continue as a Facebook feature, what I can guarantee will happen is that enterprising users will create patches, plugins, cracks, or entirely new services to disable, alter, circumvent, or abandon the Beacon program. Users will always adapt and will jump ship the moment another free social networking service pops up that offers better array of services or constellation of privacy settings. Perhaps one of the new programs that arise from the Beacon flap will be the next big thing, that is until another next big thing comes along.

Oh, an another thing that users love is being condescended to -- even if the sentiment is true.

“Isn’t this community getting a little hypocritical?” said Chad Stoller, director of emerging platforms at Organic, a digital advertising agency. “Now, all of a sudden, they don’t want to share something?”

November 29, 2007

Old-South Style

Being from Kentucky, I take a lot of crap about the stereotypical Southern food: chitlin's, casseroles and so-called "salads" that don't seem to contain vegetables. For years, I've apologized.

But after spending a few days with my Southern family over Thanksgiving, it finally dawned on me: they're delicious. And the part that appeals to the budding cook in me - they're easy.

I had a lot of fun looking over old church cookbooks, packed with recipes for things like Coca-Cola cake and strawberry sour cream salad. Not everyone is ready for those.

But try this one on for size:

Aunt Janice's Cranberry Salad
1 can whole cranberry salad
1 c. sugar
1 packet cranberry gelatin
1 c. water
1 can pineapples, diced
14 large marshmallows (thank me later)
1 c. chopped walnuts

Dissolve gelatin in water on the stove, add sugar and marshmallows. Stir vigilantly until it's all dissolved. Add pineapples, canned sauce and walnuts. Pour into a casserole dish and allow to gel. Overnight is best.

This was the best cranberry saald I'd ever had, and I'm one of those lunatics who likes the canned gel stuff.

For my part, I tried a recipe for green bean casserole, with fresh beans, beschamel sauce, sauteed mushrooms and panko-crusted onions. I got it from Alton Brown on the Food Network:,,FOOD_9936_81503,00.html.

Funny that even with the half and half in the beschamel, it still winds up being lower-calorie than the processed version, due to lack of those horrible French onion things.

The recipe calls for a cast-iron skillet, but I made do without one. I know, what kind of Southerner am I? And yes, you really need Panko bread crumbs.

November 28, 2007

A treasure chest of Visualizations

Manuel Lima a designer at Parsons School of Design, New York created this site as part of his MFA program. It has a ton of links to some really cool visualizations from Art to Social Networks and Transportation Systems to Computer Networks.

Check it out

November 16, 2007

Saturday Night Artistic Outing

A little shameless self promotion.


Also check out this weekend.

Juan Angel Chavez has built this totally kick ass giant robot. It's gorgeous!!

November 12, 2007

New Documentary by our own Mike Graziano

"You Should Know ... DJ Colette"
Documentary by Uji Films (Michael Graziano and Ernie Park)

via Chicago Magazine

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