Planet Jeffro

Product Owner for Grockit (a Kaplan company).
Email me at jeffnovich [] gmail

Companies/Products I created:
Patient Communicator | half patient portal half CRM for doctors (was part of the Blueprint Health accelerator)
Poachbase | find talent at floundering startups
Fare/Share | iOS app for sharing taxis
VocabSushi | learn vocab from news
Cnvrge | meet people via SMS
Supermarket Classroom | teach your child while shopping
Poorsquare.us | foursquare for the 99%
IngeniousOwl.com | online SAT prep
Recent Tweets @jeffnovich
Posts I Like
Who I Follow

I recently began using Strava, the popular iOS app for tracking your running and cycling. It’s great! But, as always, I have a lot of feedback.

(This is me running near some chateaus in St Geniez D’olt, France in 2006… before it was cool.)

The problem is that Strava and other apps are totally passive. It passively records your actions but doesn’t advise you on anything. Here are some ideas I had on my last run while using it:

  1. Create Pandora for running. I think most people using an app like this are also listening to music. I listen to Spotify. Trouble is, I suck at creating the right playlists and I definitely don’t have the time to regularly rake my lists — cut out songs I’m tired of, add new ones, etc. If Strava managed my music (connect it with Spotify and have Strava play the music directly), it could start to identify “good” songs and “bad” songs based on how I’m running. I know for a fact certain songs just slow me down and others get me pumped. All you need to do is think of your pace as a thumbs up or thumbs down on a track — thumbs up means the track has gotten me to go somewhat faster than my average pace, thumbs down means it’s kind of cramping my style. This could be absolutely huge in connecting music to motivation and could yield great results. When I put on my playlist and run, I can’t be bothered to stop and shuttle through the next track to find a song I like. But if Strava could start to learn it could make things way more fun. Imagine I slow down a bit and Strava skips the current song for one that it knows I always run 8min pace listening to. Wait, but what if I’m going up a hill and that’s why I’m slowing down… uh, Strava already knows elevation, so it should understand if I’m going at the ‘expected’ speed for the incline. It could experiment with new songs, test songs that work for other similar runners, etc. Even if all it did was look at the music I listened to during my run (via Spotify API) and determine a “top 5” and “bottom 5” list that it emailed me each week, that’d be huge and would at least motivate me to work on my playlist in a smarter way. 
  2. Factor in air temperature, hills. Any decent runner knows that temperature can have a big impact on your running time. Strava could easily pull in temperature data and do an analysis to say: for each 1 degree hotter it is, your average speed drops by about 5 sec/mi or 5%. It could then identify the best times to run and push notify me: “Hey, it’s going to hit 85 degrees today so try to squeeze your run in the next 3 hours or wait til after 6pm.” Or “Expect your pace to be about 10 seconds slower than usual because it’s pretty hot.”  It can warn you and suggest you keep a slower pace if it’s particularly hot. The fact that Strava is not aware of temperature is crazy to me. Likewise, it should factor in hills to tell you how you did based on all the hills you just ran up. It can be deflating to see a slower pace but if you know it was because of certain inclines and you actually did quite well considering, that is helpful.
  3. Turn by turn run directions. Strava amazed me with the level of detail it knows about all the little segments of my run around Central Park. It seems every .1 mile has a name. So wouldn’t it be much cooler if I could simply say “Hey, I want to do 4 miles. Make it hilly.” And then Strava would identify a route and give you detailed directions on where to go. I think the detail of the paths is there. The problem again is that Strava makes you do the work of creating a route. I don’t want to do that. I want you to tell me what a great route is based on my goals.
  4. Be an amazing coach. A lot of this boils down to one killer feature: A personalized coach who is better than any human. I want Strava to say to me while I’m running “hey Jeff, we’re about to hit “Heartbreak Hill”, it’s a quarter mile incline. It’s gonna be tough, but you’ve done it 8x before. Try to keep up with me at 8 min pace for this stretch. Here, I’m turning on an awesome song I think will get you to push yourself. Let’s go.” Or what if it gave directions, just like a real running partner, “Make a right up here and on this straight away I want to see how fast you can push yourself. Just 15 seconds. Ready… go.” Then, “Ok great, ease up. Lets’ do the next half mile at an easy 9 min pace. I’ll let you know if you’re in the right range.” Or when you start, “Alright, good to see you back, Jeff. You ran about 6 miles 3 days ago. To hit your weekly goal, you’re gonna want to do 5 miles today. I’ll try to keep you at about 8.30 pace. Follow me…” There’s literally a million ways to do this. Maddy uses a spinning coach app like this but obviously the voice is prerecorded and has no contextual knowledge. I have a personal trainer (a real human) and this is one of the most fundamental things he does: direction. He says “do 100 of these curls” and I just do it. He says “grab these cones and stack them one at a time, try to beat 2:30 or we may do it again…”

The big problem with Strava is that, like all these apps, it’s 100% passive. Runkeeper, Fitbit, etc are all basically passive. They measure stuff you do but never interject with helpful, data-driven, motivational coaching advice to push you when you need it. Strava chimes in every half mile with my split pace, total distance and total time. Obviously that’s a lot better than the nothing I was getting for the last 10 years I’ve been running, but you can’t do much with a split pace except to think “shit, I need to go faster.” And then, the pace doesn’t really tell you if you’re doing well based on the rate of elevation and how you typically do given this heat, and time of day, and whether this song is slowing you down and maybe you need a pick me up by etc etc. All of that information is easy to gather. 

These are the features I’d easily pay $100 per year for. I appreciate the other premium features but seeing how I rank against people who did the same segments as me is fun but not going to help me train better. I want to see features that are focused on making my workout more efficient in realtime.

Who’s with me?

Recently, we were telling some parents how we love to go to Central Park and let our 10 month old son crawl around in the grass. They suggested that we might have cause for concern based on a warning issued by Charles Schumer last year about how deer ticks and lyme disease is a big problem.

NY senator sponsors Lyme disease awareness and prevention legislation, calls on CDC to investigate

New York City and Long Island have the highest number of cases in the state, according to Schumer’s office, making these areas most likely to face new and growing threats from other tick-borne illnesses. Indeed, with the recent discovery of Powassan Encephalitis in New York – an often fatal virus transmitted by ticks – a renewed focus on the dangers of disease-carrying ticks has occurred.

This was the first time we heard this claim. So my wife, the PhD, went to work and researched the hell out of an issue that just didn’t smell right.

Based on her research, we don’t think there is a safety concern about bringing kids to parks in NYC.

Here’s why:

While Schumer references 731 cases of Lyme disease being found in Manhattan, the numbers reflect where these people were treated and not where they contracted the disease. They could, and most likely did, contract while outside the city but were treated in the city. A July 2012 report by NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene says:

In 2005-2007, 95% of infected patients traveled to areas surrounding NYC, most commonly to upstate New York and Long Island…

It seems most likely that New Yorkers travel outside the city, get a tick, then come back home and realize something’s wrong and get treated in the city.

According to NYC.gov, deer ticks “are not prevalent in NYC.” While some have been found in the outer boroughs, the vast majority are found upstate or on Long Island. This would suggest that most reported cases in NYC originated elsewhere:

Blacklegged ticks have rarely been found in New York City but are common in New York and other surrounding states. Most NYC patients with Lyme disease become infected after traveling to areas near NYC that are endemic for Lyme disease, including Long Island, Westchester County, and the lower Hudson Valley region of upstate New York.

That does not mean that there aren’t deer ticks in the city, but they are extremely rare.

Additionally, Maddy recently spoke with a Central Park conservator. She confirmed that ticks in the New York, NJ, CT area were on the rise - largely because of global warming. The increase in temperatures makes it more comfortable for the ticks to live longer and thus travel farther. However, Central Park is relatively insulated because we do not have deer and Lyme bearing ticks typically are found where populations of deer are present.

These ticks can be spread by rodents and other animals, but are equally likely to be spread by dogs.  This would put our family (we have been living with our greyhound for 5 years) at an increased risk but, anecdotally, Maddy has been in Central Park multiple times a day for 5 years and has never seen a tick on our dog. 

The greatest prevention of lyme disease is to avoid tall grasses and stone wall in tick infested areas. Given that we are not in a tick infested area, the well trodden grassy areas of Central Park are viewed as extremely safe. The conservator echoed this as well.

In fact, NYC seems to be facing a decline in the rates of reported lyme disease. While this PDF is from 2010, even current evidence supports this finding.

Based on this research, there seems to be no basis for Schumer’s worry about Lyme disease spreading in NYC. Elsewhere (in upstate New York) there may be cause for concern but we’re quite comfortable taking our baby to Central Park!

Enjoy a tick-free weekend!

I had the privilege of speaking at Failcon Atlanta last Saturday to tell the story of Patient Communicator. Big thank you to Amber Saunders, who I met a few years back through Vocabsushi, who invited me to participate. It was a great opportunity to meet some Atlanta-based startups and entrepreneurs and to check out the Atlanta Tech Village, a big coworking space.

One of the speakers wrote up a great roundup article in Inc. about the daylong conference.

This was my powerpoint.

And here’s the blog post I wrote a while ago.

*Originally published on the CVC Blog.
We had our CVC incubation event on March 4th (meant to post this sooner) and the ideas and pitches were absolutely fascinating spanning from sex toys to bottled water to fashion big data. One of the exciting things about CVC Incubation is virtually everyone who pitches is met with immediate offers from the group for introductions to potentially helpful people. “Oh, I know the (decision-maker) of (a relevant company or organization), did you want me to connect you?” I’m proud to be part of such a well-connected, generous and friendly group. We’ll be doing it again in a few months.
Here’s a roundup of the presenters:
  • Peter pitched More the merrier, a sort of “kickstarter for events” in which event organizers set the number of people they want to attend and attendees are offered various incentives to RSVP and get additional people to RSVP.  The site is built and has already been used by 3 events. There is a “scanning party” event coming up that I’d love to go to but will be out of town. Peter shared his experiences that short videos worked well and that he was essentially offering a “concierge” service behind the scenes to better understand his users.

  • Camille, a CBS alum, arrived with bottles of her All Beauty Water, a zero-calorie drink with vitamins for your skin. We had a Shark Tank moment where we passed around cups and sampled the drink as she spoke. (It was very good!) She shared her story about identifying an opportunity in the beverage market and working on this while holding a full time job. All Beauty is already in 12 locations including our beloved West Side Market and she’s looking for two things: introductions to distributors (gym owners, whole foods, Garden of Eden), and influencers who could do reviews.

  • Alex, who has a background in psychology and consumer goods, but has had her eye on being a sex therapist, shared a more risque product concept she’s been working on: wearable tech for couples. She taught us about the “orgasm gap,” that in committed relationships, women don’t orgasm nearly as much as men. She thinks she has the solution with a very small, hands-free, personal stimulation product for women to use during sex. She thinks the market has a lot of devices for women that tend to be toys on the bigger side and can be an ego bash for men. We all blushed a little during this discussion, a bit more when Alex displayed a cartoon vagina on her iPad! And a bit more when, in response to a question about how the device would fit women of differing shapes and sizes, Alex described that its sides would be adjustable, “like a ninja climbing a chimney”. Alex is looking for a hardware co-founder who understands how to prototype toys. She has funds to pay or can offer sweat equity.

  • Rabina, another CBS alum, shared her (future) problem of finding high quality lessons for her two young children. She wants to help them develop their curiosity but wants to locate specific kinds of instructors, such as ones who specialize in children of a certain age or ability. Searches for “piano lessons” often come up with a laundry list of results and busy moms (she’s one) don’t have time to talk to providers. Summer camp would be another common pain point. She imagined a “yelp for kids activities” that might be curated by parents.



  • Io (pronounced “eeh- oh”), who was preparing to leave for Africa in a week, discussed his idea for a waste-management company in West Africa, similar to RecycleBank (founded by a fellow CBS alum). Getting people involved would be a challenge, but the payoff, such as organic fertilizer, can save a lot of money.

  • Jade is one of three co-founders of a 7-month-old startup called Style Sage, which looks at social signals to determine trends in fashion. She identified four “make or break” factors for fashion businesses: designs, pricing, quantity and location. They’re regularly indexing 30 million products with 15 million photos to try to make sense of various indicators and determine things like predicting seasonal trends with confidence. She’s looking for connections to retail people and brands.

  • Leo, a French engineering Masters student, pitched his idea for a crowdfunding platform for renewable energy projects in France. He identified a way in which people could invest just a few hundred dollars and fund energy projects (that the country would subsidize) and enjoy sizeable returns

I went on amazon and bought all the top books on baby sleep and development. I read through them all, as well as several blogs and sleep websites. I gathered lots of advice.

You shouldn’t sleep train at all, before a year, before 6 months, or before 4 months, but if you wait too late, your baby will never be able to sleep without you. College-aged children never need to be nursed, rocked, helped to sleep, so don’t worry about any bad habits. Nursing, rocking, singing, swaddling, etc to sleep are all bad habits and should be stopped immediately. White noise will help them fall asleep. White noise, heartbeart sounds, etc, don’t work. Naps should only be taken in the bed, never in a swing, carseat, stroller, or when worn. Letting them sleep in the carseat or swing will damage their skulls. If your baby has trouble falling asleep in the bed, put them in a swing, carseat, stroller, or wear them.

Put the baby in a nursery, bed in your room, in your bed. Cosleeping is the best way to get sleep, except that it can kill your baby, so never, ever do it. If your baby doesn’t die, you will need to bedshare until college.

Use the same cues as night: cut lights, keep the house quiet and still. Differentiate naps from nightly sleep by leaving the lights on and making a regular amount of noise. Keep the room warm, but not too warm. Swaddle the baby tightly, but not too tightly. Put them on their back to sleep, but don’t let them be on their backs too long or they will be developmentally delayed. Give them a pacifier to reduce SIDS. Be careful about pacifiers because they can cause nursing problems and stop your baby from sleeping soundly. If your baby sleeps too soundly, they’ll die of SIDS.

Don’t let your baby sleep too long, except when they’ve been napping too much, then you should wake them. Never wake a sleeping baby. Any baby problem can be solved by putting them to bed earlier, even if they are waking up too early. If your baby wakes up too early, put them to bed later or cut out a nap. Don’t let them nap after 5 pm. Sleep begets sleep, so try to get your child to sleep as much as possible. Put the baby to bed awake but drowsy. Don’t wake the baby if it fell asleep while nursing.

You should start a routine and keep track of everything. Not just when they sleep and how long, but how long it has been between sleep, how many naps they’ve had per day, and what you were doing before they slept. Have a set time per day that you put them to bed. Don’t watch the clock. Put them on a schedule. Scheduling will make your life impossible because they will constantly be thrown off of it and you will become a prisoner in your home.

Using CIO will make them think they’ve been abandoned and will be eaten by a lion shortly. It also causes brain damage. Not getting enough sleep will cause behavior and mental problems, so be sure to put them to sleep by any means necessary, especially CIO, which is the most effective form. Extinction CIO is cruel beyond belief and the only thing that truly works because parents are a distraction. The Sleep Lady Shuffle and Ferber method are really CIO in disguise or Controlled Crying and so much better than Extinction. All three of these will prevent your child from ever bonding with you in a healthy way. Bedsharing and gentler forms of settling will cause your child to become too dependent on you.

Topping the baby off before bed will help prevent night wakings. When babies wake at night, it isn’t because they are hungry. If the baby wants to nurse to sleep, press on the baby’s chin to close its mouth. Don’t stop the baby from nursing when asleep because that doesn’t cause a bad habit. Be wary of night feeds. If you respond too quickly with food or comfort, your baby is manipulating you. Babies can’t manipulate. Babies older than six months can manipulate.
Sleep when the baby sleeps. Clean when the baby cleans. Don’t worry. Stress causes your baby stress and a stressed baby won’t sleep.

Background:

Morningside Heights / “SoHa” (South Harlem) is apparently Time Warner Cable country.  Like most New Yorkers who want internet, I had to deal with the worst company ever.  So I dealt with them for about 6 years, until the upload speeds got so bad that I could barely check email.

Most of you know the drill.  You take an hour to get on the phone with someone in “tech support”, they tell you the only thing they can do is send someone… in 3 weeks… who will show up sometime between 8am and 6pm. The same way UPS delivers packages.

I had done this before and I had enough.  I even disputed the last 3 months of service (thanks Amex!) and filed a BBB complaint as I had regularly checked SpeedTest.net and had proof that our speeds were terrible.

Now we’re CLEAR customers:

I had heard of this new(ish) service called Clear through a friend of my cousin’s (we were at his friend’s apartment in midtown).  She said she hated TWC more than anything and switched and loved Clear mostly because it wasn’t TWC.

Clear is 4G wireless internet.  You buy the hotspot ($100) and pay monthly ($50) and can connect up to 8 devices to it.  

I ditched TWC and went to Clear about 2 years ago in 2012.  The speed was actually pretty good most of the time. Streaming Netflix with Roku usually works reliably. I noticed immediately that upload speeds were 10x faster than TWC and that made a lot of things much snappier.

But then I started noticing not only would the speed drop, but the speed would change depending on what I was doing.

Don’t throttle me, bro:

This behavior, known as throttling, is pretty common among ISPs and Wireless providers to try to give as many people as fast a speed as frequently as possible.  Clear was already embroiled in a class action lawsuit around throttling, so this wasn’t anything new.  Only problem is they seem to all deny this happens and it’s kind of illegal.  I pay a monthly fee for a particular broadband speed. I expect to get that speed. Otherwise, I shouldn’t have to pay the full amount.

I thought I’d add my discovery to the pile of evidence and I wrote a blog post (with video) of the really odd behavior I was experiencing.  Interesting stuff.

Clear raises its price, like a boss… you really hate:

Then on December 24, 2013, I received this email:

Important notice regarding your CLEAR account

At CLEAR, our mission is to deliver good value. Sometimes that means making difficult choices to continue offering the best possible service.

This message is to inform you that the monthly service rate you have been paying for CLEAR service will be increasing. The change is to help manage costs and remain competitive. Effective with your next billing cycle, your monthly service rate will increase. Your new monthly service rate will be:

Account ID: xxx
Monthly service fee: $54.99 (plus taxes) per month.

So let me get this straight.  You guys are in the middle of a class action lawsuit because your service isn’t as advertised.  You throttle my internet speed.  And now you want another $5/mo to keep giving me the same service?  Grrr..

But why don’t you just switch?

The obvious question is why can’t I just switch to another ISP? Yes, I’ve considered this.  We only want internet (no cable, no phone, no sports).  We’ve been cord cutters for about 6 years.  It is glorious.  TWC is horrible but I’m considering switching back.  Other than that, I’m at a loss.  It seems like an oligopoly controls areas of NYC, either through availability (ie, I can’t get Comcast where I live) or through contracts (ie I can’t just sign up for a Verizon hotspot without a tedious contract).  At least with Clear, you can cancel anytime with no fee and all you have to do is buy the hotspot. There are none of the bullshit hidden fees you find with every other provider.  They were disrupting the industry, and that’s something I support.  Or as my cousin’s friend would say of her discerning ISP choice: “Anything but Time Warner Cable.”

think I can get an AT&T hotspot and tack it on to our existing plan, but I’m not sure the price and speed (and data cap) is as good as Clear.  Also, you have to contend with all this contractual nonsense.  Oh, and AT&T ain’t exactly the most charming company either. But maybe it’s worth it.

Honestly, if anyone knows of an inexpensive, fast(ish), wireless internet connection with no long term contract for about $40-50/mo, let me know in the comments.

Back to the Class Action:

On February 6, 2014, I received this amusing letter from the Clearwire Litigation Settlement Administrator.  The term they use for throttling is “managed internet service speed”.

I’m getting a whopping $7 credited back to my account.  I guess that’s better than nothing.

But keep in mind: speed is still an issue, they just raised the price $5/mo for the same service, and this is a settlement that goes back 4 years.  I would have at least expected a complimentary month.

I wish there were more competition:

I’m sure there are a million reasons why internet pipes and networks are expensive and hard to build.  But as a customer, and this being Amurrikahh, I expect some competitive pricing and services.  All I want is a fast (unthrottled), reliable, inexpensive, private internet connection.  Google is giving entire cities internet. It’s tough for NYC to be the most cutting edge tech city in the country or world when the internet isn’t flowing into apartments like water.

Am I demanding too much?  Leave a comment!

Here’s my quick list of noteworthy things for me in 2013:

Lost a good friend. Really miss you, Rory.

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Had a son! Jack is awesome.

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… and he’s a lot cuter than I was as a baby. (Thank you, Maddy!) Baby boobs? Seriously!?I am what David Letterman might look like if he were 3 months old.

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My father-in-law, Marc, survived stage 4 throat cancer.

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Lost my job at GroundLink after a major round of layoffs in June.

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… But moved to Kaplan in August where I am running product for Grockit.com, (which was acquired by Kaplan) and loving it. I have a fancy little office and a standing desk, and am coding too!

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Made VocabSushi totally free.

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Hacked Check In Take Out and won the Venmo prize.

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Helped build Cheftacular, which won 2nd prize in Campbell’s “Hack the Kitchen” competition 

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Hacked Career Hound at TechCrunch Disrupt and won a sweet API prize

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Helped build Hired in NY which won 3rd prize in NYC Big Apps

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Hacked Pay Yourself First (all by myself!) and won a prize at the Financial Empowerment Hackathon

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Finally learned the intro to Stairway to Heaven

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And Jack and Sagan have to listen to me play (on repeat)!

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But seriously…

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Here’s to a productive and fun 2014!

Update: We compiled a photobook with stories and more pictures.  You can view it here.

On Dec 16, Rory Pettingill took his life and I lost a friend.

He was a massively talented musician, designer and hacker. I just wanted to share a few stories about Rory.

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Meeting Rory

My wife and I hosted a masquerade-themed New Years party at our place to ring in 2013.  Sean rolled in with his roommates Rory and Eric.  My wife would later remark that these dapper guys had serious style.  I had mentioned to Sean that I was looking for a designer to help me at Groundlink. So he instantly introduced Rory, who said he loved responsive design and was honing his CSS/HTML coding abilities. But he hadn’t done any hackathons. I suggested he come to the Foursquare hackathon in a few weeks. A super friendly hipster designer? He’d fit right in!

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At the Foursquare Hackathon, January 5, 2013 (Rory’s first). We built ”Check In Take Out”. The design was amazing.  We won the Venmo prize.

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I was lucky enough to bring Rory to Groundlink as a contract designer. He’d come in a few days a week to work on mostly mobile work. We worked together from the beginning of January 2013 until we all got let go at the end of June. During that time, Rory effectively redesigned the entire mobile experience. We churned out a ton of cool ideas. He would come in, I’d throw a few sketches at him, and by the end of the day he’d hand me PSDs that nailed what I had in mind.

I remember one of the first days he came in to work - a frigid day in January - wearing basically a t-shirt, a thin buttoned sweater and skinny jeans. I was in a giant winter coat. We went out to lunch and talked shop.

I loved coming in to work with Rory. He was always excited to riff on ideas. We could be creative together and come up with new and innovative designs. He empowered me to dream up new features because he’d turn these sketches turn into screens you could tap and swipe. I learned a lot about design and always marveled at the magic Rory made on his Macbook.

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(I worked at the standing desk in the middle, Rory sat at the table on the left.)

I never realized how deep his musical roots went until one day he said he was getting back into music and told me to look up “The Apathy Eulogy” on Spotify. “Oh, this was my high school band…” I thought wow, you guys did this in high school? And it’s on Spotify? I work with a rockstar.

Rory was in the office when we were all laid off on the last Friday in June. He didn’t seem too worried. He had confidence and I knew this guy was in high demand. He was new to New York but he knew, as I did, that he had huge potential.

Campbell’s “Hack The Kitchen”

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Our app, “Cheftacular”, won second prize ($10k!) out of 150 submissions, three rounds of judging and a live demo at Google HQ. We were bested only by a 12-person design agency out of Milwaukee. We felt pretty darn good!

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Rory is seen here after the awards ceremony holding the trophy.

He was extremely proud of the design he created for this project, and for good reason.

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TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon, on April 27-28, 2013

We built “Career Hound”.

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Rory was the “self-appointed MVP” of a late-night dodgeball game at TechCrunch Disrupt and was interviewed on camera by TechCrunch TV.  He told me afterwards of the interview that while he was embarrassingly out of breath he was quite happy with his answer to what made him the MVP: “It was probably that high jump at the end there that really sealed the deal. The high jump to the Zelda roll was probably it.” [Jump to 4:30]

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There were 1,000 hackers who presented a total of 160 hacks.

We placed 2nd in an API category and took home $1,000.
After our demo, people commented to me about how our design was among the most polished and impressive they had seen on stage.

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I asked Rory to put together a funny birth announcement for me and my wife, Maddy. We sent this to our friends and family and I posted it to my blog.

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The last time Maddy and I saw Rory was by chance. It was Maddy’s due date and we were walking along Fifth Ave. Rory was riding on a beat up old bicycle and nearly ran us over. He said he knew he shouldn’t ride on the sidewalk and that his bike barely had brakes, but it was all good.

Jack Reece Novich was born four days later, on September 27, 2013.

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Career Hound turned into “Hired in NY”, an app to help people prepare and apply to startup jobs in NYC.  Rory designed the hell out it, meticulously crafting dozens of screens.

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We submitted “Hired in NY" into the fourth annual NYC BigApps Competition.

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Here we are at the fancy IAC building at W 18th st attending the awards ceremony where we won third prize ($10k!) in the category of “jobs and economic mobility”.  This would be our highest profile win and my last project with Rory.

We also got a booth at the Consumer Electronics show the following week.  But mostly fooled around while we were there.

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Because Rory was a creator, his memory will live on through his music and his design.  Just a day after the horrible news, Groundlink pushed an update to their app. I opened it and saw Rory’s designs and remembered all those months working together.

I never got to know Rory well enough to learn that his mellow, cheerful demeanor belied a darker, more painful battle within.  I really cared a lot about Rory and thought of him whenever anyone mentioned “design”.  We were all lucky to have had a chance to befriend and work professionally with him.

This is a tough loss for us all.  We’ll miss you.

We were in the supermarket near us (Central Market) and I noticed this gigantic tub of Nutella.  I’ve seen it before, but always assumed it was just a prop.

Nope!

It’s 5Kg of Nutella with a pricetag of $59.99.  So of course I had to do some math and see how that compared to the smaller 13Oz (371 gram) standard tubs on the left, priced at $4.40.

Turns out, if you’re willing to forego the novelty of a hilariously oversized Nutella jar, it’s more cost effective to get the same amount in small jars.

At $4.40 for 371 grams, you’ll get 5Kg for $59.30, 69 cents cheaper!

But this grocery is running a deal right now: 2 small jars for $7!

So at $7 for 742 grams (2*371 grams), 5Kg will cost $47.17, for a savings of almost $13.  In other words, the bigger tub is actually marked up more than 25% from the smaller.

So much for savings in bulk.  Yay math!

Exactly.

Here’s an idea that would help a lot of new parents: A robotic arm that clamps to the side of a crib and uses pincers and a camera to hold a pacifier and gently “re-attach” it to the baby’s mouth each time he spits it out.
Parents will understand this problem.  You put your baby in the crib when he’s just hanging out for a bit. He loves his pacifier when he’s sucking on it, but then, because he’s a baby, he has momentary lapses of reason and just spits it out.  But he doesn’t really care why the pacifier isn’t in his mouth anymore, he just immediately gets upset and starts “kvetching”.  Cue the robotic parent to pick up the pacifier and plop it back in the baby’s mouth.
I often feel like a robot since this is literally what I’ll do for a chunk of time.
Unfortunately, “pacifier technology” has not evolved past this little rubber thing that babies constantly spit out and that seems to be shaped and built in such a way so they always and immediately roll under the crib or sofa.  Hence, the most incredible pacifier invention seems to be a little clip - one side attaches to the pacifier, the other to the kid’s jacket.
I think we can do way better!  Why?  Two reasons:
1) We recently watched The Wolverine, which basically is about a rich Japanese dude who spends his money on lots of cool healthcare tech stuff and robots.  He could definitely invent a pacifier robot.  Here’s some of his stuff:

A sweet chair:

A sweet exoskeleton Samurai (that isn’t Iron Man):

A sweet MRI machine:

2) An NPR piece about robot nannies that will save Japan’s economy.

Self-driving cars are awesome and hopefully Google, Tesla and Nissan will deliver them to consumers in the next few years.  I was just telling my father about the benefits of computer-controlled vehicles and why they’ll soon make “human operated” cars as outdated as horse and buggies.

I’ve loved this stuff for a while.  I was mesmerized by this dream back in 2000.  This is what I wrote on the back of a paper placemat, while hanging out in a restaurant in Haifa, Israel.  Not exactly earth-shattering revelations, but many of the benefits (ie cell phones in cars are distractions, computers respond faster than humans) seem pretty accurate.  Here are those notes.

I really can’t wait to get into a self-driving car!

———-

Computer Navigation System

Constant tracking of all vehicles within a 2km radius w tracking of all movement within

Benefits:

  • Cars could react significantly faster than human reflexes
  • Humans would not have to operate vehicles
  • — drunk driving
  • — and drugs
  • — cell phones
  • — external impairment eliminated
  • No traffic. No redlights b/c it would slow the car and coordinate movement between intersections
  • — Car would move at fastest safe speed (most gas efficient also) taking into account all hills and valleys, etc
  • — Never have to stop on highways or whatever.  All cars would move at the same speed.  And congestion would be significantly reduced, as cars would change lanes far in advance of any road problems as theey’d know about them.
  • Personal satisfaction of driving would continue:
  • — When a person is driving, all automated would know
  • — If person tried to drive into something, CNS would resume control of car and change wheel direction, person would not notice in steering wheel.  This would be like a “slot car” mechanism in amusement parks, where a thin metal rail keeps the car on track while the driver is modestly under the impression they are in full control of the vehicle.
  • No need for additional roads. Roads are only needed bc of road congestion, but CNS eliminates much of it.

Costs:

  • Virtually eliminates minor accidents (bumps, fender benders, etc in parking lots and < 10 mph crashes w/o injury)
  • Insurance companies would bear the most financial benefits and could possibly finance such endeavors

- Relive stress on road, aggressive driving

- Fully integrated with GPS and onboard computer would offer destination or roads to travel obviously, never get lost again, but also fastest driving route, taking into account traffic congestion, road problems, etc.

Requirements:

  • CNS “site” every 2km
  • — every 10 on highways. depends on tracking range
  • cars equipped with CNS hooked up to steering, gas, brake, blinkers, etc
  • All cars need to be tested to gather “reaction” information, wheel radius, mpg, etc which would be logged in a database
  • Who makes the money?
  • Who owns the equipment
  • Who builds?
  • Where does gov’t stand?
  • Where do auto co’s stand?
  • Where do people stand?
My parents have a crazy collection of old, unopened bottles of liquor in their basement. I remember these growing up. My parents never drink liquor so it was always odd we had this collection.
My parents never travel, so most of these are from their honeymoon… in 1970… in Israel!  Maybe they went on one or two other trips in the early 1970s and 80s.  Most of these bottles still have the duty free sticker on them.
The only time I ever saw a bottle was when my grandparents stayed with us.  From the early 80s for about 20 years, my grandpa worked his way through maybe a bottle or two.  I found a Dewar’s White Label with about 1/5 left.  
I was looking up the Pinch by Haig & Haig bottle of scotch, as it looks like it could be worth something.  If not, we’ll be enjoying these very soon!

I believe @pinzler and I did this already. In fact, the original name of the hack was “Freebie Crawl”, but then it was changed to Poorsquare :)  And it still works really well.  Try www.poorsquare.us on mobile web.