Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Update: Love Parade

The organizers of the 2010 Love Parade music festival, where 21 people were killed and hundreds more were injured in a human stampede last month, have created a website that seeks to analyze and explain how the catastrophe happened: "Just like the victims' families, the participants and the general public, we, too, must understand what happened on 24 July 2010. This website is an expression of the fact that we accept this responsibility."

An honest attempt at transparency? A pragmatic attempt to deflect blame or limit liability? Both? Neither? Regardless, the maps, documents, and videos that the Love Parade team makes available on the site offer interesting and valuable information about event staging, especially when it comes to how crowds move.

Thanks, once again, to the MeCo group for staying on top of this story.

Extra, Extra!: Convene Newsstand

Welcome to this week's Extra, Extra! — all the news that wasn't fit to print in our weekly ThisWeek newsletter. Let's get right into it:

We all know that cell phones are great for killing time during meetings. That's a given. But what else are they used for, besides talking, texting, Tweeting, and solitaire-playing?

According to results from the Ypartnership/Harrison Group 2010 Portrait of American Travelers survey, 19 percent of all travelers have used their phone to download a travel-related app; 47 percent have gotten around using their phone's built-in GPS; and 46 percent have searched for flight information.

"Clearly, mobile devices are destined to play an increasingly important role in the distribution and sale of travel services in years ahead," said Ypartnership Chairman and CEO Peter C. Yesawich. Click here for more on what people are using their phones for.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Emmys Love 'Temple Grandin'

A big winner at last night's Emmy Awards was HBO's "Temple Grandin," which picked up seven honors in the "Miniseries or Movie" category -- for best TV movie, lead actress (Claire Danes), supporting actress (Julia Ormond), supporting actor (David Strathairn), director (Mick Jackson), single-camera picture editing (Leo Trombetta), and music (Alex Wurman). Which led Entertainment Weekly's PopWatch blog to ask: Uh, who exactly is Temple Grandin? Convene readers already know the answer, thanks to a Leading by Example profile of Dr. Grandin we ran last year that traced her life and career as a high-functioning autistic professor of animal science who revolutionized the field of humane livestock management. But it's nice that the rest of the world is finally catching on to her amazing story, too.

Convene Reads: The Big Short

Don't read The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, by Michael Lewis, if you're trying to keep your blood pressure down, because what this book makes clear about the economic meltdown of 2007-2008 is that it was triggered by Wall Street insiders -- bankers, bond traders, stockbrokers, hedge-fund managers -- who either didn't know what they were doing, or knew but didn't care. In creating, selling, and buying credit default swaps, collateralized debt obligations, and other increasingly baroque financial instruments built on a foundation of shoddy subprime mortgages, Lewis writes, they were "either crooks or morons." They made billions before losing trillions of dollars of other people's money, and it would be nothing more than depressing and enraging if Lewis weren't such a great reporter and storyteller, going behind the scenes of the financial crisis from the point of view of a handful of people who bet against this insane bubble.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Finishing Strong in New Orleans

When I talked to St. Bernard Project founders Liz McCartney and Zack Rosenburg in early 2009, I got the sense they hoped that they would be out of a job by now.

After Katrina hit the Gulf Coast five years ago, the pair left their comfortable lives as Washington, D.C., professionals, and moved to New Orleans to mobilize volunteers to rebuild hurricane-damaged homes.

By Spring 2009, St. Bernard Project volunteers had rebuilt 200 homes and were working on 37 more; today they have completed more than 300 houses and 50 more are under repair. But, as McCartney has pointed out, nearly 900 families who own homes are still living in FEMA trailers. And more than 6,000 families own homes that they can't afford to rebuild.

Google Wave, We Hardly Knew Ye

Friends, Americans, meeting planners, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Google Wave, not to praise it.

So it goes. Perhaps many of you out there in TV Land were not even aware of Google Wave's existence; and, if you were, you still may not have had any idea about what it was or what it did — and I'll wager it was an even smaller minority that had a clue how to use the thing. I sure didn't.

But it seemed promising, at first. And now it's departed. Earlier this week — which is how I learned of its untimely demise — Slate's Farhad Manjoo wrote a good post-mortem of this "real-time communication and collaboration" website that Google unveiled last year.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Snapping Out of It

We could use a little more white space in our lives.

So says Juliet Funt, owner of Talking With Purpose Inc., although space was a bit of an issue at her presentation at the 2010 ASAE Annual Meeting and Expo in Los Angeles this week. When all the chairs in the session filled up, attendees lined up in the back, sat on the floor, and stood in the doorway and hall in order to hear Funt speak.

What was the big draw? First of all, Funt has a terrific presence. She's funny and down-to-earth, and tells great stories. And her topic, managing overwork and chronic stress, was one that everyone in the room seemed to relate to. If you sometimes feel like a hamster on a wheel trying to fit it all in, you are not alone.

Funt, the daughter of "Candid Camera" creator Allen Funt, also gave the audience practical tips for reclaiming their lives -- and their meetings -- from overload: Answer e-mail five times a day, not around the clock. Resist the impulse to grab your phone when you get a spare moment, and actually look at people around you. Put your cellphone in the glove box when you drive. Draw some boundaries by countering requests with your own request to take a day to think it over.

And she suggested ways that meeting planners could give attendees a little more space, too.

Extra, Extra!: Convene Newsstand

Welcome to this week's Extra, Extra!, where we give air time to all the news that wasn't fit to print in PCMA's weekly ThisWeek newsletter.

According to this story in the New York Times, written by a former meetings-industry journalist, the tide of eco-friendly hotels may have — at least for the time being — crashed upon the rocks of recession. One hotelier, who is also a Green Meeting Industry Council board member, said, "Big-ticket items that have long-term return on investment have definitely been put on the back burner."

Quick: Name the most boring thing ever. If you said, "in-flight magazines," you are correct — but maybe not if you consider the airline magazine of the new Afghani airline Safi Airways. In its pages, you can brush up on "Kabul heroin addicts, photos of bullet-pocked tourist sites, and ads for mine-resistant sport-utility vehicles," writes the Wall Street Journal reporter. Who needs to watch, say, Marley & Me for the 500th time when you've got that to read?

Earlier this summer, Stefanie Syman published a book called The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America, which traces the history of, well, yoga in America, from its Transcendentalist origins to widespread acceptance by people from all walks of life — even while on the road, as this story from Hotel Interactive discusses. According to the article, business-traveling yogis should seek out Kimpton hotels in particular, as the company is big on the amenity.

Here's some good news for fans of the Crescent City (aka New Orleans, aka N'walins, aka the Big Easy): The 1,193-room Hyatt Regency New Orleans, which has been closed since Hurricane Katrina struck, broke ground last week on its $275 million reopening project! In addition to getting the Hyatt back up to par for a reopening sometime next year, the renovation will also add 200,000 square feet of meeting space, plus two restaurants, two bars, and a coffee shop.

Last but not least, the Cleveland Plain Dealer (great newspaper name, that) reports that the city's planning commission has approved the design for a new downtown convention center — which, by the way, looks really cool: Click through here for the story — featuring an aerial rendering of the new convention center, which appears as though it will feature lots of light and green space.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Introducing: Booth Crawling at ASAE

When I did a story in the July issue about using Foursquare at meetings industry events, I ended up writing more about the potential for using the application than about exhibitions or meetings that were actually using it. As Kevin Richardson, CRM manager for Freeman, put it, to most people in the meetings industry, "Foursquare still means a game that they played as kids." That could soon change, Richardson added, as exhibitors began to experiment with new ways of connecting with people using the application.

And that's exactly what's happening at ASAE's 2010 Annual Meeting and Expo 2010 in Los Angleles, where nine technology services exhibitors have teamed up to create the "Tradeshow Booth Crawl." Attendees who use Foursquare to check in at all the booths on the exhibition floor at the LA Convention Center become eligible for prizes, including gift cards, a camera, and an iPad.

Business was brisk today, the opening day of the Expo. The game required attendees to ask booth personnel to initial a gameboard, which proved to be a great conversation starter. “Technology is changing the way we build relationships, but people create relationships," said Jim Kelly, COO of Syscom Services, a participating company. "The booth crawl is designed with people in mind. We hope this social experiment will not only increase traffic to our booths and bring attention to our new products and services, but create a platform for engagement among conference attendees. Let’s give them something to talk about!”

Friday, August 20, 2010

Then We Came to the End

This morning my younger daughter went off to preschool camp for the last time; in two weeks, she starts kindergarten. So today was all about endings and beginnings -- two things that school is very good at making you aware of, in a formal, carefully delineated sort of way. For every grade, there's always a first day of school and always a last; and when you've run through all the grades, there's a grand event to mark the occasion, full of pomp and circumstance (as well as "Pomp and Circumstance").

The meetings industry, too, is very good at officious beginnings, what with our welcome receptions and opening-night cocktail parties and gaveled-to-order general sessions. But endings? I'm not so sure. I've been to meetings that have ended with a bang, in the form of a closing-night awards dinner, or a final keynote luncheon, or a closing general session. But I've also attended meetings that haven't ended so much as they've drifted apart -- in a series of half-attended late-afternoon caucuses, or a half-hearted final tour of the exhibit hall, with no centralized mechanism to sum things up and thank everyone for attending.

And maybe that's not a bad thing. And maybe having a formal closing event isn't a good thing. What do you think? Is it important not just to end a meeting, but to let attendees know you're ending it?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Bright Idea

I'm so impressed.

The Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau website has an online chat tool on its media relations page. That may sound like a small thing, but not to writers working on deadline. I went onto their website recently to find a the name of a contact who could give me some information. Using the chat, I was able to get an answer from a real live person in about 20 seconds. Without making a phone call or sending an e-mail.

It also kind of blew me away that they thought of adding an online chat feature in the first place. The chat tools are common on consumer websites, but I have never encountered a live chat feature connecting writers and journalists with media relations experts.

It's not going to change the world, but I think its a really good example of innovative customer service -- of finding new applications for existing tools.

And, of course, I hope it catches on.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

August 2010 Issue: Live!

The digital and text-only versions of our August issue are now online. This is our annual directory of meetings sites, cities, and services -- highlighting a premier assortment of destinations, venues, and service providers across the country and around the world. And this year, there's something more: the debut of our monthly CMP (Certification Made Possible) Series, which allows readers to earn a CEU hour toward their Certified Meeting Professional credential by reading one or more articles in Convene, then taking a short test online. Kicking off the CMP Series is "'Didn't See That Coming,'" a comprehensive feature on force majeure by Senior Editor Hunter Slaton.

You always suspected that reading Convene made you smarter and more successful. But our CMP Series helps prove it.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Extra, Extra!: Convene Newsstand

Do you ever feel like, as soon as your annual meeting (or any similar annually or multi-annually reoccurring event that you plan) is finished, that its next edition, hydra-like, rears its lovely but still challenging head? That's how we magazine writers (sometimes) feel about the next issue ... there's always another one! At times it can feel like a treadmill. As such, that's why this week's Extra, Extra! will be a bit on the short side, as we Convene editorial staffers are currently in Day Two of closing our September issue, which, among other enticements, has the second story in our new CMP: Certification Made Possible series! So here goes:

USA Today reports that three hotels in Atlanta — the 502-room Marriott Renaissance among them — will be closing this year. Why? Atlanta has, at the moment, a significant hotel room surplus ... not a bad thing when you've got multiple big conventions descending simultaneously on the city, but not ideal when hoteliers are struggling to fill rooms and, as a result, charging less than $100 a night at top-shelf hotels such as the InterContinental, the Grand Hyatt, and W.

The Wall Street Journal has a fun story about something any business traveler worth his or her salt has surely left behind at least once in a hotel room: cell phone chargers. Hotels collect so many of them that a mini-vernacular has even grown up around the oft-ophaned items: Housekeepers for a hotel company with five properties in Sacramento, Calif., call the mound of left-behind chargers "black spaghetti," while each Omni Hotel & Resort in North America has a charger "graveyard," with at least two bins' full at all times.

Can't tear yourself away from Facebook, but need to book that flight? Worry not: Delta Air Lines just launched its new "Delta Ticket Window" on the near-ubiquitous social-networking site. The application allows customers to search, book flights, and share them with one's friends without ever having to leave Facebook! Thank god — we were worried that Facebook wasn't getting enough of our time.

Speaking of Facebook, the Econsultancy blog has a smart story about "why you need a social media strategy, not a Facebook strategy." It begins:
The first venture into social media for many companies, whether a small start up or a big brand, is to create a Facebook page to 'experiment' with social media, which is seen as an add on to other marketing activities.

But just putting a page up onto Facebook, with no coherent social media strategy, is unlikely to do anything for a brand.
And finally, the weirdest story of the week award goes to this one from The Guardian newspaper, about three bored kids (ages 15, 13, and 11) who, unbeknownst to their parental units, pooled their savings of $700 to buy three tickets on Southwest Airlines from Jacksonville, Fla., to Nashville — and they were actually able to board and fly on the plane.

Where were they going, you ask? Get this: Dollywood, the Dolly Parton-themed amusement park. I never knew that Dolly Parton had such cross-generational appeal. I think the kids' effort is at least deserving of a mini-concert by the legendary country singer, don't you?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Failure Is An Option

Shaping Space: The d.school's Environments Collaborative from Stanford d.school on Vimeo.

I was inspired today to do a little digging on innovative spaces by the announcement that Event Camp has chosen the Catalyst Ranch in Chicago for its annual meeting in 2011. The only word to describe the Catalyst Ranch is funky -- it's filled with toys and cushions, and decorated with artifacts from 35 different countries. If you want, you can swing in a hammock. Not a safe choice, but, it seems to me, a fitting one for Event Camp, a grassroots gathering of event professionals, which is making a name for itself as a testbed for meeting design. (Read about it here.) Great example: at Event Camp Twin Cities, scheduled for Sept. 8 and 9, organizers will experiment with trading in rows of chairs for balls. And who knows what Event Camp East Coast, scheduled Nov. 12-13 in Philadelphia, has up its sleeve. (The dates were just announced on the #eventsprofs Twitter group this week, with details to come.)

My search for insight about the role of space in innovation led me to a comment that surprised me, particularly coming from Scott Witthoft, co-director of the Stanford d.school's Environments Collaborative, which designed the d.school space. The new center opened this spring after five years of research and planning.

People ask Witthoft all the time how to make their spaces more innovative, he said. "I think people look to space to solve problems of innovation that are outside of space ... Sometimes you have to suck it up and try something you haven't done before and be willing to fail."

Convene Spins: Joanna Newsom

I'm hijacking Convene Executive Editor Chris Durso's Convene Spins meme this Friday. Why?

Well, this morning, during my daily first-cup-of-coffee web browse, I went to an independent music review and news site that I frequent called Pitchfork, and saw a story about how one of my favorite artists, the harpist and songwriter Joanna Newsom, recently played Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Pitchfork had videos of both songs that Newsom played on the show: "You and Me, Bess" and "'81." The video for "You and Me, Bess" was even in black and white — a fitting style for the somewhat out-of-time Newsom.

So I clicked through and began to watch the first video, which was (like the song) transfixing and beautiful — but I then I was sort of jarred by something I saw in the background of the stage: sponsorship ads for Bud Light — which, in case you aren't familiar with Joanna Newsom, really doesn't fit her target demographic. Maybe if the ads had been for, I dunno, absinthe.

Have you ever had a situation at a meeting or event where the juxtaposition of an education session or speaker with a particular sponsor just doesn't feel right? Or have you ever had to reject a sponsor in order to head off that disconnect at the pass? If so, we'd love to hear about it in the comments section (we might even publish your response in a forthcoming issue of Convene!).

In the meantime, music-lovers (or, I suppose, Bud Light lovers): Please click "play" on the video below to hear an enchanting song, despite the weird sponsorship curveball. (If you like the song so much that you want to hear the other that she played on Kimmel, click here.) Happy Friday!

Finally: You may notice a few new buttons on this post, just below this paragraph. These allow you to (very easily) e-mail, blog, Tweet, Facebook, or Google Buzz this or any other post on the Convene blog. We encourage you to use them early and often!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Air Warriors

Okay, a flight from hell last night out of O'Hare combined with the antics of JetBlue's Steven Slater this week are probably why I appreciated this photo, forwarded to me in a mass e-mail today. Kulula is a low-cost South African airline that seems to have a sense of humor. Something that's sorely needed when you take to the skies.

Don't Monkey Around With Stress

Neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky spent a dozen years in Kenya studying the relationships within a troop of baboons and learned this: We primates really stress each other out. And, as a story about Sapolsky's work in the August issue of Wired relates, chronic stress contributes to a long list of health problems, including suppressed immune function, heart disease, depression, adult-onset diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and many more.

The article suggest ways that individuals can help combat stress -- by getting enough sleep, for instance, meditating, and not getting into arguments. The article is less optimistic, however, about the possibility of zapping the external sources of chronic stress, particularly the stress of feeling out of control of your own experience.

In the meetings world, there's already a powerful movement afoot toward putting attendees' emotional and physical needs on the agenda, so that they can fully engage in learning and networking opportunities. Every meeting is in some ways its own universe, and organizers can make decisions along that way that reduce negative kinds of stress, leaving only the positive buzz of connecting with people and ideas.

One cure for stress are meetings themselves, and the relationship-building they make possible: Studies of monkeys show that the more socially isolated they are, the higher their levels of stress hormones and their mortality rate.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

'One Good Leg Between Them'

Kirk Bauer, the executive director of Disabled Sports USA, who was the subject of a Leading by Example profile in our June issue, is at it again -- proving to the world that people with disabilities can lead as ruggedly physical a life as anyone else. On Saturday, he and two other members of Disabled Sports USA's Warfighter Sports program reached the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania. Kirk lost his left leg as an Army sergeant in Vietnam in 1969, and his fellow climbers were also wounded warriors: retired Army Sgt. Neil Duncan, a double leg amputee who was injured in Afghanistan, and retired Army Staff Sgt. Dan Nevins, a double below-knee amputee injured in Iraq. As Kirk said in a statement: "If three veterans from three wars and two generations with one good leg between them can climb the tallest mountain in Africa, then all with disabilities can choose to be active and healthy through sports."

Read Kirk's blog about the summit and see more great photos like the one above -- which shows Dan Nevins, Kirk, and Neil Duncan on top of the world -- at Warfighter Sports. And for some interesting thoughts on the similarities between meeting planning and mountain climbing, see the talented and glamorous Michelle Russell's One on One interview with Million Dollar Round Table's Ray Kopcinski, CMP.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Convene On Site: Top Chef DC

Last night, Destination DC partnered with Food & Wine and Travel + Leisure magazines to present a reception for Bravo's "Top Chef DC" at the Ritz-Carlton, Washington D.C. Hosted by "Top Chef" judges Gail Simmons and Eric Ripert, the event had everything you'd hope a party for a cooking show set in D.C. would: elegant, inventive food (prepared by Ripert's Westend Bistro restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton); a loose, fun vibe; and the stars themselves -- Simmons and Ripert (Gail and Eric, to those of us who have watched "Top Chef" for all seven seasons), who were nothing but gracious to the many wine-emboldened people who asked them to pose for photos. Speaking of which, Simmons and Ripert are at the center of the photo above, flanked by (from the left) Greg O'Dell, president and CEO of the Washington Convention and Sports Authority; Victoria Isley, senior vice president of Destination DC; Christine Grdovic, vice president/publisher of Food & Wine; Elizabeth Mullins, general manager of the Ritz-Carlton, Washington D.C.; Elliott Ferguson, president and CEO of Destination DC; and Jean-Paul Kyrillos, vice president/publisher of Travel + Leisure.

During the reception, I had two pretty interesting conversations about cooking for meetings and other events -- first with Eric Ripert, then with Sam Kass, assistant chef and food initiative coordinator for the White House, who was a guest judge on an episode of "Top Chef DC" that challenged contestants to take the banner of Michelle Obama's campaign against child obesity and create healthy, kid-friendly lunches at a D.C. middle school. Ripert said that the key to maintaining quality when you're preparing food on a large scale is organization -- you have to plan everything down to the minute, especially when you're cooking fish. Kass said it comes down to having a lot of people around -- to properly taste, plate, and serve the food.

So, they gave more or less the same answer. And meeting professionals should take note of the fact that these world-class chefs point to planning and management as paramount to delivering great food at big events. Because, planning and management -- that's what you do, right?

Monday, August 9, 2010

A New Conference Erupts

In a nice twist, the volcano that interfered with so many meetings and events is now getting a meeting of its own: the Atlantic Conference on Eyjafjallajokull and Aviation, to be held on Sept. 15-16 in Keflavik, Iceland. Organized by Keilir Aviation Academy, the conference will gather civil aviation authorities, engineers, meteorologists, and other professionals to address a variety of questions about the eruption that shut down European airspace for a week this past April, including "Why was Europe's airspace closed?" and "What steps are to be taken and by whom to minimize the threats that volcanic ash poses to aviation?"

This is the lifecycle of the modern crisis: Surprise. Response. Meeting. Improvement. In its own way, it's quite reassuring, no?

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Evidence-Based Case for Face-to-Face

There's new research to back up what most of us in the meetings industry already intuitively understand: Digital interactions can only get you so far. Sometimes you just need to meet face-to-face.

Gregory Northcraft, a professor of executive leadership at the University of Illinois, put three methods of communication to the test in a recent research project -- he compared the results of student groups who worked together by e-mail, Skpe and videoconferencing, or face-to-face. The group who worked face-to-face achieved more and trusted one another more than the other two groups. The videoconferencing group ranked second, followed by e-mail.

What's going on? "High-tech communication strips away the personal interaction needed to breed trust," concluded Northcraft, who holds a doctorate in social psychology and studies workplace collaboration, motivation, and decision-making. "Technology has made us much more efficient, but much less effective."

Northcraft isn't recommending that organizations stop using e-mail or videoconferencing. The key is recognizing the danger of relying exclusively on high-tech "lean" communications methods, he says. “If you don’t, the bottom line is that the job won’t get done as well.”

Northcraft's conclusions also offers compelling support for the case for attending annual meetings. It turns out that face-to-face is such a rich experience, it casts a glow over future digital communications -- at least for a while.

“Physical contact has a half life,” Northcraft said. “When people meet face to face, they can leverage that over a pretty lean communication medium for a while and the relationship will not degrade. But after a while, they need to get back together face to face to recharge the trust, the engagement and the loyalty in the relationship.”

Thanks to the PCMA LinkedIn group, and the University of Illinois News Bureau.

The Love Parade: A Cautionary Tale

Meeting planning doesn't seem like a dangerous job, but it's easy to forget that you never quite know what's going to happen when you bring together a large group of people. In Duisburg, Germany, investigators are still trying to figure out what went wrong at the 2010 Love Parade music and dance festival, where 21 people were killed and more than 500 people were injured in a human stampede two weeks ago.

There seems to be a lot of blame to go around. On Wednesday, Spiegel Online reports, a law firm commissioned to review the tragedy released a report that points the finger at the Love Parade's organizers for violating security guidelines and ignoring the fact that they were expecting up to twice as many attendees as the 250,000 allowed by the venue's city permit. It's a terrible story on every level, and for our industry, the fact that bad event management could have played a role in 21 people being crushed to death is chilling.

Hat tip to the MeCo group for the Spiegel Online article.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Your Very Own Google Perk

Life seems pretty sweet at the Googleplex in Mountain View, where -- as Google's website explains -- employees travel between meetings on scooters, and dogs, lava lamps, massage chairs, yoga classes, and ping pong tables abound. Maybe we can't all eat at the company cafeteria, but here's one perk that Google shares with everyone: possibly the greatest online book club on the planet.

Authors@Google features a collection of authors who are invited to Googleplex to read from their work, and discuss it with Google employees. The speakers are stunningly diverse -- from How to Survive a Robot Uprising by Daniel Wilson, to Getting the Pretty Back: Friendship, Family, and Finding the Perfect Lipstick by Molly Ringwald. (Yes, that Molly Ringwald.)

As someone fascinated by developmental molecular biologist Dr. John Medina's book Brain Rules, I was happy to see that Medina spoke at Google two years ago when his book was first published. His hour-long talk is captivating -- while declaring that "We don't really know squat about the brain," Medina nevertheless illuminates how a variety of factors, including stress, nutrition, and sleep, have immediate and measurable effects on cognition.

We talked with Medina's publishing partner, Mark Pearson, about Medina's research for the July cover story "More Than Feeling." If you'd like to know more about how your brain works -- or how to best insure our children make the most of their cognitive capabilities -- tune in here.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Eat, Cake, Love

Chelsea Clinton's Vera Wang wedding dress? Whatever. What I really want to know about her wedding last weekend is this: How was the gluten-free cake? Apparently, Chelsea and I have at least this in common: neither of us can eat gluten, a protein found in wheat. It's been a long time since I've been at a wedding where I could have a piece of cake.

Chelsea's gluten-free, vegan menu has sparked a media conversation about the rising incidence of requests for gluten-free food. Paula LaDuc, owner of Paula LeDuc Fine Catering, en event firm in San Francisco, told the Today show that requests for gluten-free catering have increased from once a month to once a week since last year. Coupled with the report that there was a staggering amount of gluten-free offerings at last week's Summer Fancy Food Show at the Javits Convention Center in NYC -- well, it's been a pretty heady week for the gluten-free fold.

Extra, Extra!: Convene Newsstand

You might say that what follows is all the news that wasn't fit to print, as these are the stories that — interesting though they may be — we just didn't have room for in the weekly ThisWeek@PCMA newsletter. But you, Dear Web-Savvy Reader, are in luck! Because where we're going, we don't need roads. Or something like that.

Attendees and exhibitors at Reed Exhibitions' GIBTM, The Gulf Incentive, Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition, next March may want to leave their BlackBerrys at home: The United Arab Emirates, which includes Dubai and Abu Dhabi (where GIBTM is held) has banned BlackBerry users from e-mailing, instant-messaging, or browsing the Web while in the country. Why? Because BlackBerrys, unlike most other devices used to connect to the Web, transmits its data to offshore servers, and therefore cannot be monitored by the U.A.E. government.

Some good news for business travelers who are all for anything that will minimize their time in airports: Continental is testing "self-boarding" at one gate at its Houston hub airport. Passengers simply swipe their boarding pass, which opens a turnstile or door that leads to the jet-bridge.

Those who mourned the death of the Registered Traveled program, and its expedited airport security lanes — aka Clear lanes — last summer are also in luck, as Registered Traveler, in the form of a new program called iQueue, has risen from the ashes at the Indianapolis Airport.

An impressive new green hotel tower, the 36-story InterContinental, recently celebrated its "vine-cutting" in New York City's Times Square. The 607-room property, according to the New York Times' City Room blog, "uses compact fluorescent and L.E.D. lights, low-flow toilets, 'green' housekeeping products and off-site composting." NYC-loving or -native meeting planners will also appreciate the hotel's meeting rooms, which are named after parks in Manhattan.

Meeting planners who wish at add some Hollywood pizazz to general-session videos will be interested to know that, due to the Librarian of Congress (no kidding, there is a real "Librarian of Congress") issuing new rules concerning digital copyright law, individuals are now legally allowed to break digital rights management, or DRM, "for the purposes of 'short' use in both 'documentary filmmaking' and original 'noncommercial videos,'" according to Gizmodo:
The broadness of the latter is impressive ... as long as you aren't charging money for it or profiting off it, it's noncommercial. So go ahead, rip and remix a scene from Inception so that it actually makes sense.
Oh, and another thing? You are now free to "jailbreak" your iPhone from its AT&T stranglehold.

Last but not least: Memphis is clearly reading this blog.