8 Lessons from Nerd Culture

SupermanI found this set of business wisdoms in the August 2013 issue of Entrepreneur magazine.  While not perfect mantras by which to guide a business, I thought there were pretty fun.


Chris Hardwick didn’t rely on just his nerdy instincts in founding his company; he also took inspiration from his heroes.  Super-power your business with these lessons from some epic nerd properties.

Nerd Pride Friday: ‘Wars’ Trumps ‘Trek’

It appears that Princess Leia and Captain Kirk are in a bit of interstellar combat, albeit 30+ years later.  And regardless of what Kirk has to say about it, I think that Star Wars rules!  So, the big question is, why are we even talking about this?…

Well, back in September, William Shatner, who portrayed Captain Kirk on the original Star Trek series, posted a YouTube video about how Star Trek was really better than Star Wars – how Lucas’ space opera was really “derivative” of Gene Roddenberry’s creation by 10-20 years. 

Well, a couple of weeks ago, Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy of movies, had to call Shatner out, posting her own video rebutting the critique.

Below are the videos to both Shatner’s original post, and Fisher’s reply.  Personally, I’d rather see the original Kirk and Leia duke it out, but I guess we’ll have to settle for their earthly thespians…


Nerd Pride Friday: The People v. George Lucas

In this week’s Nerd Pride Friday segment, I wanted to highlight a documentary that was released on DVD a few weeks ago called The People v. George Lucas.

For those of you who (like me) are big Star Wars fans, you’ll probably appreciate this documentary.  Star Wars has been a solid part of the popular culture since the first movie was released in 1977.  However, as new home movie technologies come out (VHS, widescreen, DVD, Blu-ray…), the movies themselves have changed, because they’ve been re-edited by Lucas and his team to add, delete, or change some of the content.

People LOVE these films, and changing them feels to some like a bit of them is being changed along with it.  This has led to discomfort by some and outrage by others about the modification of the films they grew up loving.  The People v. George Lucas is a documentary about this very phenomenon.

Examples of some of the changes include:

    • Changing the Mos Eisley cantina scene where Han Solo met Greedo.  Han kills Greedo in the cantina, but in the original, Han shot Greedo because he was tired of the conversation and the pressure Greedo was putting on him.  In the revised version, Greedo shoots at Han first, giving Han “justification” for killing Greedo.  This slight revision changes the whole nature of Han’s character, where he was originally a “bad guy turned good guy”.  This has led to T-shirts that say “Han Shot First” as a mantra for the original films…


    • In the original Star Wars (which has now been renamed Star Wars Episode IV:  A New Hope to align itself with the other five movies in the series), we never saw Han Solo confront Jabba the Hutt – Jabba was always this character we heard about through the dialogue.  In the re-edited version, we see old footage where they do meet.  Certainly, Lucas wanted this scene in the original film, but the special effects technology didn’t exist to do it well.  I like the included scene, but there’s a weird part where Han walks behind Jabba and has to step on and walk over his tail – would Han really do this?  It’s clunky but necessary, only because of the way the scene was filmed way back when…


    • Revision releases of the films edited two actors out of the films, one of them altogether.  In a scene at the end of the film, the actor playing Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader in Star Wars Episode VI:  Return of the Jedi, Sebastian Shaw, is removed and replaced with Hayden Christensen, the actor who plays Anakin in the three prequel movies; at least Shaw is still in the film in other scenes.  However, the original actor who played the hologram version of Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars Episode V:  The Empire Strikes Back, voiced by Clive Revell, was completely replaced with Ian McDiarmid, the actor who plays Palpatine in the prequels.  Some like the new continuity that the revisions provide; others feel for the actors that were completely removed from the historic film series…


    • There are even more changes in the Blu-ray releases of the original trilogy, including Darth Vader saying “No” several times as he picks up Emperor Palpatine and tosses him into the Death Star reactor core, there are computer-generated rocks in front of R2-D2 while he’s hiding in the canyon; however, they’re “magically not there” after he comes out of hiding, and Greedo shoots first – again – but this time with slightly fewer frames than the previous release.

Here is a post from Wired interviewing the writer/director of The People v. George Lucas, Alexandre O. Philippe.  There is a lot of controversy about changes to the Star Wars films – in fact, out of nearly 2,000 reviews on Amazon, the recently released Blu-ray compilation of the six films has only 2 and 1/2 stars out of 5.  Some of the reviews are scathing (over 1,000 of the reviews are 1-star), which shows the emotions surrounding this issue…

I, for one, like some changes (I like to see the previously deleted scenes which provide more to the backdrop of the Star Wars universe), and feel for those who have seen the originals changed from what they remember. 

In the end, Han shot first, and that’s the way it is!!

Nerd Pride Friday: Triumph of the Nerds

This Friday, I thought I’d highlight one of my favorite and nerdiest documentaries of the technology industry.  Given the presence of the late Steve Jobs in the media lately – his loss to cancer, the new Walter Issaccon biography, and Apple’s re-creation of personal computing – I thought it would be nice to reflect upon Jobs’ first major impact into our technological lives. 

15 years ago, PBS created a documentary called Triumph of the Nerds:  An Irreverent History of the PC Industry.  It was hosted by Bob Cringely, who at the time wrote a column for InfoWorld about the goings-on of Silicon Valley and now writes a weekely column, I, Cringely.  In it, Cringely humorously and effectively describes how Steve Jobs and Bill Gates created the PC industry as we know it. 

I was always impressed with this documentary and the impact the subjects (especially Jobs) had on our lives through their business and technology pursuits.  I personally think it’s amazing and worth your time watching.  They made another documentary about the history of the Internet:  Nerds 2.0.1 – this second documentary was done in 1998 and the Internet as we know it was probably only three years old or so…

Nerd Pride Friday: Space Monolith Action Figure

In an effort to spread geekiness to the world and make it catch on, I am starting a segment called Nerd Pride Friday.

I am an unapologetic nerd – I dig science and math and science fiction movies and getting to the nitty gritty on how stuff works.  So, I am on a mission (well, not so serious a mission, but at least a fun one!) to make sure people see what is cool, as least from a geek’s point of view.

This Friday, I start with the Space Monolith Action Figure.  For those of you who’ve seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, you’ll recognize this as “The Monolith” (according to the movie, it’s what got us humans over the hump from being apes!…).

ThinkGeek.com has the action figure for sale on its website (apparently, “Dave” is not included…)  Buy it and you get 300 geek points!  I’ve already asked for this (and Dave) for a stocking stuffer…  A couple years ago, I posted some other great stuff from Think Geek…

In another post, I noted that Newsweek had listed the Robots Hall of Fame, where HAL 9000 from 2001 was called out.  Three cheers for HAL, Dave, and the Monolith!

Siri and the Robot Hall of Fame

In the latest edition of Newsweek magazine, they have a cool set of the greatest robots of all time, in honor of Apple’s introduction of Siri, the technology that will let you use your new iPhone 4S by voice commands.

Here’s a link to Newsweek’s robot montage – but I’ve listed their picks below (which I can’t argue with!…)

1968 – HAL 9000 – The heuristically programmed algorithmic computer wreaked havoc in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.  One of my colleagues at work told me that he heard that HAL’s soft male (and now creepy) voice is the reason why all computer voices, from navigation systems to Siri, are female.  I can’t blame them!…

1977 – R2-D2 – The astromech droid was a treasured hero in Star Wars, rolling around with C-3PO and helping Luke Skywalker find the Force.  Star Wars is one of my favorite movies of all time, and I love the whole Star Wars universe (yes, even the prequels…)

1984 – The Terminator – Humanity survived the assault of Skynet’s rampaging artificial-intelligence machine. The state of California was not so lucky.   I had a recent conversation about the iPhone’s new Siri application (about how Siri could still command the iPhone even if the phone was locked), and we eventually got around to connecting this back to Skynet!…

1997 – Deep Blue – IBM’s chess-playing computer beat world champion Garry Kasparov, who accused it of cheating and demanded a rematch.  Tough day for humans who want to win at chess…

2000 – ASIMO – Honda’s 120-pound humanoid robot can recognize faces, follow the movement of objects in its field of vision, and run 3.7mph.  My daugther totally digs ASIMO – I’ve seen it about 3 or 4 times at Disneyland.  There’s kind of a sad video of ASIMO falling down trying to climb stairs – makes you really feel for the guy!…

2008 – WALL-E – Pixar’s beloved Hello, Dolly!–watching garbage collector has raked in more than $535 million in worldwide grosses.  Amazing that Steve Jobs had a role in this great robot as well, being the man who helped make Pixar the company that it is today.

2011 – Watson – The IBM supercomputer trounced two Jeopardy! champions this year, and can access 200 million pages of content in mere seconds.  This could be foundational technology for how computers solve challenging problems – pretty amazing stuff!…

2011:  Siri – Apple sold more than 4 million iPhone 4S units in three days on the strength of this voice-activated personal-assistant bot.  Siri could change the way we watch TV as well

And The Champion Is…

On the night of the BCS National Championship, when Oregon is taking on Auburn, we’re about to crown the champion of the First Ever Cheesecake Playoffs. (At least one sport has the courage to have a playoff to determine its champ!…).

So the matchup pits the #1 seed 30th Anniversary Chocolate Cake Cheesecake against the #2 seed Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple!  A battle of the big dogs!

These two offerings fought off upstarts like the lowest seed #12 Oreo Cheesecake and the seasonal favorite Pumpkin Cheesecake.  They even had to overcome defenders of the old guard Original Cheesecake on their way to the championship game!

So, the Farris Family picked up a piece of each and sat down to make our selections.  Before we got started, unlike in the previous semifinal match, Monroe clearly said that she wasn’t going to bias herself and vote for Adam’s before we even take a single bite of cheesecake…

However, things weren’t looking good for the playoff favorite!  30th Anniversary is a chocolate cake and cheesecake mix, but Adam’s has fudge and peanut butter, and going into the prize fight, Stephanie said that she “was in a peanut butter mood”.  Whoa Nellie!!

So, forks in hand, we each dove in and then made our picks.  Stephanie, consistent with her initial mood, selected Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple.   Although each tasted fantastic and it was a tough call, I decided on 30th Anniversary – for me, the chocolate overcame the peanut butter fudge on this day…

As it happens, the final vote came down to Monroe (as it probably should for an 11 year old…).  And the champion is…

An upset!  Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple!

So, peanut butter trumps chocolate and Adam sits atop the cheesecake world as the champion of the First Ever Cheesecake Playoffs!  (Way to go, Adam!)

The process was delicious (can a process actually be delicious? Well, I guess this one was!…), and we’ve had a great time!  To all the competitors, thanks for playing – better luck next year.

Will there be another Cheesecake Playoffs?  Time will tell, but our metabolisms probably need a little time off.  But who knows?  We may be up for another round!…

Peanut Butter Smackdown

It’s official – we have a final matchup set in the First Ever Cheesecake Playoffs!

In the second semifinal, it was a battle of peanut butter chocolate cheesecakes – #2 seed Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple and #3 seed Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake.

Now, in our original scoring, we rated the 30th Anniversary Chocolate Cake Cheesecake the highest, and we rated Adam’s #2.  You would think that a combination of these two – peanut butter with chocolate cake – would just make it even more delicilectable, but that would be just too easy!…

The Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake is really good, but it’s rich, and you’d be surprised how good a simple peanut butter chocolate cheesecake is, and how well it competes with total cheesecake richness.

Now, prior to the competition, Reese’s (or at least those that were looking for this to be a fair fight…) lodged a complaint against one of the judges.  Monroe had declared her intention to vote for Adam’s hours before the actual vote (bad Monroe…).  With no official governing body to weigh in on this (and especially since the cheesecakes can’t really do anything about it), it was decided that no significant harm was done, and that we’d “play on”!
I mean, anyway, we’re going to eat two pieces of cheesecake!  What’s the harm in that!?
So, we each took our shots at the peanut butter chocolate cheesecake, and as expected, Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple beat out Reese’s by a 2-1 vote.  Monroe and Stephanie each voted for Adam’s, while I cast my vote for Reese’s – basically, because I wanted it to seem like it was close.   Look, these are both fantastic cheesecakes, and it really depends on the mood you’re in at the time.  Reese’s is indeed rich, so if you’re not in the mood for that “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing” feeling, Adam’s might be your best bet…
So, the final matchup is set – no Cinderella story here…  #1 30th Anniversary Chocolate Cake Cheesecake takes on #2 Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple.
Stay tuned!

Oreo® Turns Into a Pumpkin

Cinderella’s run is over! 

In the first Final Four matchup , the clock struck midnight on Oreo® Cheesecake, ending its improbable run in the First Ever Cheesecake Playoffs.  The number #12 seed, making it as far as the semifinals, couldn’t overcome the delectable chocolateness of the top seeded 30th Anniversary Chocolate Cake Cheesecake.

The Farris clan picked up both offerings this past Sunday, and for me, it was actually kinda tough – I personally think Oreo® put up a good fight.  But in the end, the 30th Anniversary Chocolate Cake Cheesecake (earning the most points from our previous run through the entire Cheesecake Factory menu of cheesecakes) proved its worth by gaining each of our votes.  Although it didn’t get any of our votes in the semifinal round, we’ve gotta give Oreo® its due.  It started as the #12 seed in a 12-cheesecake playoff, having to beat such contenders as the Original Cheesecake Factory Cheesecake, and the #4 seed Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake. 

This weekend, it’s a peanut butter cheesecake showdown, with Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake versus Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple.

Pumpkin Gets Squashed

In the highly anticipated return of activity in the First Ever Cheesecake PlayoffsPumpkin Cheesecake got squashed against #2 seed Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple, setting up a premier no-holds-barred peanut butter semifinal showdown.

This past weekend, the Farris family renewed its effort to make cheesecake eating an actual sport, by finishing up the quarterfinal rounds, where #7 seed Pumpkin Cheesecake took on the #2 seed Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple.

As you know, we ate each of the cheesecakes on The Cheesecake Factory’s menu this past year (35 in all), and then forced the top 12 to compete against each other in a single elimination playoff.  This weekend, the quarterfinals were completed, after a unaminous 3-0 vote sent Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple to the next round.

To be honest, I really liked the Pumpkin Cheesecake (and it’s really tasty as the seasonal choice during the Thanksgiving holiday…).  However, I’ll have to admit, Adam’s had it won hands down.  Monroe made her choice quickly, and my wife cast her vote first, saying it wasn’t really a competition.  As Stephanie said, “Pumpkin didn’t even have a chance!…”

So, here are the brackets as they stand.  In the first semifinal matchup, the top seed 30th Anniversary Chocolate Cake Cheesecake takes on the upstart, underdog, Cinderella candidate #12 seed Oreo Cheesecake.  And in the other semifinal contest, it’s a battle of peanut butter offerings, where #2 Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple is pitted against #3 Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake (definitely a battle I’m interested in!…)