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2014 Adventures - Part 6: Workation

It's now April 2014 for those keeping score at home! 2014 all told will have me going to 9 conferences. Good thing I went to the Jos. A. Bank buy one get two free sale!

Time for some time off, with the occasional e-mail or phone call to wrap up preparations for the conference at the tail end of the vacation in South Florida. We happen to manage a conference in Miami Beach, so my wife and I scheduled a vacation to precede this event, with visits to my parents in Delray Beach and my aunt and uncle in Naples.

It happened to be school vacation for a lot of people, so while I normally get a mid-sized car, National was handing out whatever was available. We ended up with a Trailblazer for the week which was actually pretty nice.

First stop was my folks in Delray Beach for 4 days of relaxation, a few meals out, a few meals in, swimming and too much sun.

In Naples we discovered some great Greek food of all things, and some lovely beaches.

Next it was a drive down the historic Tamiami trail to Miami Beach. We arrived just as the AV crew was getting going. This crew has worked this conference for a few years running, so it went smoothly, and was 3 fun filled days of vascular surgery, sushi and swimming - what I would call a workation.

I love the Art Deco and Art Moderne of Miami Beach. It is amazing to see old dilapidated buildings being refurbished, or torn down to be replaced with new buildings in the same style.

And great food of course

And then it was back home again, this time for a good two months. Two months spent kicking off a huge new project, and planning for the next phase.

Keep reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Aug 28, 2014 at 10:46:18 pm travel, AV

2014 Adventures - Part 5: A Tale of Two Cities

Salt Lake City really does feel like two separate places. On the one hand you have a convention center, hotels and restaurants like any other city, not to mention some really unique architecture, spectacular scenery in most directions and a bunch of history.

Then in the center of town you have the Mormon complex, featuring the famous cathedral, visitor's centers, Tabernacle, outdoor mall and the massive conference center. We happened to be there on Conference Weekend (google it - I did) so we got some flavor of a religious pilgrimage the likes of which you really do not see in America.

After the conference ended (not that conference, we were there for a medical one!) I had the chance to walk around the city, saw some interesting sites and finished off at the state capitol building with some great views of the surrounding area.

Oddly there is also this spectacular Gothic cathedral in the outskirts of the downtown area.

This trip also afforded me the chance to reunite with one of my oldest friends (he and I are the same age, I have known him since the Reagan administration, though we had not see each other since 1990!) who lives in Ogden with his lovely family. Joe picked me up after work and took me up to meet his family, took me on a tour of Ogden, the closest town to where the golden spike with struck to join the two branches of the first transcontinental railroad. Ogden has some fascinating architecture as well.

We ate at the Two Bit Street Cafe - a Prohibition-era cafe now owned by a mentalist who bent a spoon with me holding it in my hand, and I can't figure out how he did it.

He was also the former personal assistant of Andy Gibb, so he has some Bee Gees memorabilia in the restaurant and is happy to tell some tales.

Night time view of the Great Salt Lake looked better in person than this grainy cell phone photo:

Another interesting visit to a new city.

Ok, gotta grab a night flight back home so I can wash some clothes.

Stay tuned for Part 6: Workation

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Aug 28, 2014 at 10:44:12 pm travel

2014 Adventures - Part 4: The Walk of Fame

A few weeks to go until our annual diabetes conference in LA. The course director asked about having a live Twitter feed ticker under the main content. This was a technical challenge, solved in part here on the COW:

As the thread describes, we used a website called Crowd Convergence, which allows social media feeds in a variety of formats and shapes. But since we were not in a broadcast studio, we had to jury rig a solution using 3 video switchers to be able to independently add or remove the ticker, switch I-Mag cameras within a PIP window and switch slide content in another PIP window.

The conference is held in the Ray Dolby Ballroom - the same venue where the post-Oscars Governor's Ball is held. It is kind of cool knowing that the room itself has hosted innumerable filmmakers and actors over the years. Oddly, the space is managed by Wolfgang Puck. Since he caters the Governor's Ball, he decided to build a kitchen and ballroom within walking distance of the Oscar's - or something to that effect.

The ballroom is on the top of Hollywood and Highland, a massive outdoor mall and entertainment complex, next to the Dolby Theater and Chinese Theater. Also adjacent to the Loew's Hollywood Hotel where part of the conference is also held.

And all of this is on Hollywood Blvd, a popular yet seedy part of LA. Most big cities have a Times Square like area, and in LA it is this stretch of Hollywood Blvd at night where you have an odd mix of tourists, costumed characters, homeless teenagers, people cooking sausages and peppers on small gas-fired wagons, lots of traffic and bright lights. Yep, Times Square.

We finished the AV setup about 9pm, and I continued the late night sushi tradition at an awesome place in the complex. Apparently there was a famous actor at the next table, because another patron asked to have a photo taken with him. I quickly turned around to look and it was either Aaron Paul or Dustin Diamond - I have no idea. Why a famous person would go to an outdoor mall for dinner I don't know, although based upon the number of Bentley, Maserati and Porsche cars in front of the Loews, I guess it is a popular spot.

Next 3 days of the event went off without a hitch.

Well there was one potential hitch. One of the presenters, who was to receive an award, was stuck in Europe due to an illness. I was tasked with helping him appear via Skype. Using Skype to talk to a business associate or your parents, computer to computer, or iPad to Android, works ok. But putting this interaction up on a 16 foot screen for an audience of 700, with a total of 15 minutes to test before the main event, is a little dicey.

Luckily we had Rick Disco Duck Dees moderating the session , so we were in good hands! Everything went fine thanks to the use of a mobile hotspot (the wifi provided in the ballroom was dismal, as is often the case in meeting facilities). After the talk, some of the faculty actually posed for photos with the remote presenter on a laptop.

Dinners on this trip included the previously mentioned sushi dinners, a group dinner at Tinhorn Flats (a generally awful Tex-Mex place across from the hotel), and a unique dinner with my old pal from college at Hollywood's historic Musso and Frank's Grill. Google it - interesting place.

My friend, let's call him Lando (he lost that ship to me fair and square) has a variety of entertainment gigs in LA, from play by play during MMA fights, to local tv commercials and gets invited to parties in the Hollywood hills.

Then ol' Lando took me on a walk down Hollywood, past the Scientology building, and down La Breas to Mashti Malone, a unique Persian Ice Cream place. I had coconut, mango and another flavor that escapes me.

With this assignment done, it was off to LAX for a red-eye through some city, and back to Hartford.


This left me less than two weeks to get ready for Part 5....

Stay tuned.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Aug 28, 2014 at 10:29:31 pm event AV, travel

2014 Adventures - Part 3: It's Only a Flesh Wound (Not Safe For Lunch)

Travel to and from Denver has become pretty routine, as long as Southwest continues its daily 9am direct from Hartford, and USAir keeps its 1:30am redeye to Charlotte.

This trip was to shoot two new educational videos for operating room personnel. One on wound management presented a unique challenge: how to depict wounds on simulated patients. Normally we would smear some vampire blood on a person if we were not seeing anything in detail. However in this case we needed higher fidelity to demonstrate specific wound management techniques. While we have plenty of stock photos of actual wounds, that doesn't help with the need for live action demonstration.

A quick internet search identified a special effect makeup company whose principals have worked on lots of horror films, including a job with Greg Nicotero, but not any medical realism.

First task was to find some reference photos from the web and my own archives, and pair these up with some sketches of what we needed. The artists then had two days to fabricate some appliances, and they graciously let us use some guts and a severed leg that they had recently used on this movie:

The results were amazing. I'll post an image because it's only pretend:

Sorry if that was too much for anyone!

There were other more graphic scenes besides this one. The volunteer actors had a blast.

Dinners in Denver usually consist of brew pubs and occasionally Texas de Brazil, though that is a lot of meat in one sitting. On this particular trip I seemed to have the flu (despite a flu shot) and I was sneezing almost constantly. The weather was very Michigan-like, so I got take out to eat in the hotel 2 out of 4 nights. We hit a brewhouse one night and Red Lobster one night (this was the "it's snowing and it is next to the hotel" scenario). Normally Red Lobster would be off limits because it is generally considered to be awful. It wasn't as bad as I was expecting - I ordered the least exotic thing on the menu.

Shoot complete, drive around Denver for 6 hours until the redeye to Charlotte. It is tradition to have breakfast at 6:30am at Phillip's bar in Terminal 5 - a long walk from Terminal 2 where the flight from Denver lands. Then a regional jet to Hartford and warmer weather.

Coming up in Part 4, the beginning of the first of two travel marathons for 2014.

Thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Aug 28, 2014 at 9:58:41 pm effects makeup

2014 Adventures - Part 2: AV State of Mind

In early February my itinerary showed Washington DC as the next locale. I use the Tripit app, and sometimes I am not sure where I am going until I get to the airport. Recently I was not sure if I was in DCA or MDW.

The venue for the meeting, the Mandarin Oriental, is very swanky, but isolated from the rest of DC. Sure you could take a cab for dining and entertainment, or in my case, my brother picked me up for dinner one night, which was great.

We went to a restaurant called Poste, in the Hotel Monaco. Interesting menu. Supposedly Secretary of State Clinton had her morning staff meetings there. We did not see any politicians, though there was a lot of pork on the menu.

After we walked over to a gelato / cupcake place in Penn Quarter (I think).

The main event was a Breast Cancer conference that we manage. My task as usual was to oversee the AV setup and ensure high performance and quality. First day setup went until about 10pm after a 10am load-in. This was our first time working with a new AV provider. You never know precisely what you will be getting, which is where I come in. My job is to supervise the setup and do a quick technical run-through of the major functions with the crew, lay out expectations of performance, discuss the event schedule, etc.

I had dinner at the hotel restaurant - sushi I think, though it could have been Fruit Loops at this hour and I would have been happy.

This one was easy.

Next up, the first of three trips to Colorado for the year, and something a little out of the ordinary.

Thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Aug 28, 2014 at 9:41:04 pm event AV

2014 Adventures - Part One: Brrrrrrr

Thus begins a multi-part recap of the past 18 months of my professional life, which has been, needless to say, quite a ride.

Quick rewind to January of last year. Assignment: Michigan. Temperature: Frigid.

I had been to Grand Rapids once before, in April. January travel to this region should be banned by the FAA!

I arrived at about 1pm at the Gerald Ford International Airport. This is a small but very modern airport. The roadway outside the terminal, leading to the attached rental car garage, is covered by a huge canopy. This particular day it was sunny but chilly, though not as cold as my next trip.

My business there was to assist with some live surgery cases.

The Grand Rapids airport is a few miles out in the sticks, and my actual destination was Wyoming, MI. I stayed at a Hyatt Place, my favorite budget hotel. After getting an orientation at the hospital, signing in with the vendor credentialing system, and getting some takeout food from the nearby grocery store, it was time to watch the Golden Globe awards. I initiated this live blog and had a great time hanging out with my virtual friends for approximately 14 hours.

The next day was uneventful, and I then flew home thinking that Michigan in January was no biggie.

BTW the best part about the Detroit airport is this underground tunnel.

It is like a 1980's EPCOT attraction with electronic music and colored lights. A nice respite from the hustle and bustle of a very large airport. On a long layover I will simply walk back and forth to pass the time.

2 Weeks later I was back in Michigan and this time Winter was in full swing. It was so cold the plows seemed to be on hiatus. Of course this was the time my luggage did not make the connection in Detroit, so I had no clothes, toiletries, tripod or camera. Luckily these items were all delivered at 3am to the hotel, but not after driving to the airport to see if they arrived on the flight immediately following mine (they did not). Once I was back at the hotel the ice wind had started. Ice wind is something that seems to only exist in the Midwestern US. It is not falling ice, and it is not cold wind - it seems to be wind composed of a fine mist of ice.

The next morning I got to my rental car to find there was no snow brush, and a lot of snow. I did what anyone would do in this situation - I went back into the hotel and borrowed a snow brush.

Actually that is what I SHOULD have done. What I actually did was put my hand in a plastic grocery bag and clear the snow off my car.

Luckily the hospital where I was working was across the street, so it was not too treacherous getting there. The next night it was so cold I dared not venture too far for dinner. I went to a nearby plaza and got not very good Chinese food, but it was hot and I ate once again in my hotel room.

This particular hospital has a self-contained mobile video cart, consisting of a boom mounted PTZ camera, a PTZ in a fixed position, and inputs from medical imaging devices. There is a klunky iPad based control surface which takes some getting used to.

After a final day of nasty cold, it was back to home base for a few weeks. The nasty weather followed me because we soon had a blizzard the likes of which had not been seen since this time the previous year in CT!

Well, that's life in the Northern part of the US. Makes us enjoy the Summers more. And vacations to the Southern parts.

Back through the magic tunnel and home to my own version of Winter.

Back in the saddle it was time for final preparations for one of our big conferences of the year in Washington. Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Aug 28, 2014 at 9:25:25 pm

I have a passion for my job, which entails training for medical professionals such as surgeons, nurses and administrators, not to mention various industries.

Technology is great, but how you apply your skills is what pays the bills.

Years ago I canceled my Media 100 support contract upon discovering what a treasure trove of helpful advice can be found on the Creative COW website. I am proud to be a part of this fantastic community.

In my blog I talk a little about media production, a lot about travel and workflow, and occasionally about cooking, nature and my four-legged friends.

Follow me on Twitter: med_ed_mike

I'm also on LinkedIn if you can't get enough of me!


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