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One of my Favorite Cities

Every 3 years our Fall medical convention is in San Francisco. The cool things about this city are the abundance of good dining selections, the great combination of old and new architecture, the unique but easy to navigate street layout, the relative safeness of the central city areas for walking back to your hotel at night, the abundance of Walgreens stores every few blocks for bottled water, snacks and cheap fridge magnets, the ability to walk from hotels to the convention center (as opposed to say Chicago where you need to get on a bus and drive mostly underground in Batmobile territory to get to McCormick Place) and the relative small size of the convention center, especially between registration and the exhibit halls.

So Sunday I awoke at 3am for a 5:20 boarding time. Quick hop to Detroit's mile long former Northwest terminal (the one with the monorail) on a E175. Quick layover - enough time to grab a sandwich - and onto a 737-800 for the 4.5 hour crawl to the coast.

Upon arrival, got my bags quickly and a cab to the hotel. Drop the garment bag and tripod tube in my room at the Hotel Nikko, and then walk to convention center. Get my vendor badge and then hit the Speaker Ready room to check on missing videos. A few minutes there to get acquainted, then off to the booth, or what would eventually become the booth. Here's the final result.

In San Fran you have to hire a laborer which was actually helpful since the booth is a bit clunky to assemble solo.

I then dashed off to a committee meeting to discuss plans for 2012's meeting. Meanwhile the rest of my team arrived and finished the setup. We then agreed to meetup later for dinner.

But halfway back to the hotel I got called back to deal with some video issues, which we got sorted out.

Dinner was at a place in the Italian section of town (North Beach - no actual beach nearby but it used to be a beach before the city was expanded with land fill) which was just ok.

Slept like a log until 4am (7 Eastern) when my body clock said "Mike, time to wake up, you're going to be late for work." So I slept a bit longer, got up, took a walk to get some bottled water for the room and a few toiletries, then got dressed and headed to another hotel to help my colleague Jake get setup for a round of interviews. We booked him into a suite for this purpose. I had the tripod and backdrop, he had everything else, and we rented a set of Diva Lights which are beautiful little instruments. We moved the furniture around and got set in about an hour.

I then headed to convention center to start working the booth, while Jake waited for the first interview subject and interviewer to arrive.

At our booth we sell our videos and books and do a lot of networking both with existing contacts and new ones. We try to plant the seeds for future business with people who seek us out as well as with industry elsewhere on the show floor. It is also a time to meet face to face people who you have only corresponded with via email. It is especially interesting to see people I know electronically from places like Kuwait, Dubai, Venezuela, Hong Kong and even Connecticut!

Once the show broke at 4:30 we headed back to our hotels and met up an hour later to do some exploring. We walked up Stockton Street (very steep hill for a couple of blocks but a nice view once you get there),

then down into Chinatown. Chinatown has two areas - the touristy part with the American style Chinese restaurants, and the part where the locals actually live and work, which you walk through on your way to Columbus Street and Broadway - our destination of North Beach for more Italian food. We found a better place tonight, followed by pastries and capuccinos before a walk back to the hotels through the financial district. On the way back we stopped into the famous City Lights Bookstore and Vesuvio Bar, both of which were instrumental in the Beat movement of the 1950s.

While I would never eat there we stopped into the Stinking Rose restaurant where every dish features Garlic. They have a unique decor and it is fun to take a peek.

Next past the Sentinel Building (now known as the home of American Zoetrope) and the contrasting Transamerica Tower, and finally back down the Union Square and the Nikko.

Tomorrow more of the same with a board meeting in the afternoon.

It is always a lot of prep work leading up to these meetings, then we hit the ground running back at the office later in the week.

Well off to bed as it is 2am where I come from and will soon be for a few days before heading back this way next week.


Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Oct 24, 2011 at 11:12:49 pmComments (1) travel, food

100th Blogiversary

I know I tell a lot of stories about the old days, but this doesn't mean I'm 100 years old.

Just wanted to get that cleared up for those of you keeping a tally of how many times I mention 1" tape and CMX edit controllers.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program, already in progress...

For those of you just joining us, welcome to the Mike Cohen Creative COW 100th Blogiversary.

"100 blog posts? So what," you might be saying.

Well I try to put a little bit of my personality and philosophy into every post. For me it's a big deal. It's a big deal not that I have composed and published 100 entries about my job and my life, but that in doing so I have gotten involved in other aspects of the Creative COW community. As a result of blog entries, I have had the opportunity to write magazine articles, to be interviewed in podcasts, to make friends and business associates and even to obtain potential clients for my company's services. Something that is good for the soul and good for business is, well, a good thing!

And from what I hear, the blogs in general are good for the Creative COW's business. Google searches often lead people to the forums. If I Google myself or certain keywords I have used in my blogs, these blog entries come up in results. Presumably I can't be the only one searching for "CMX edit controllers" or more likely "AVCHD editing in Premiere. If new first-time visitors to the COW get in via the forums, the blogs, the services or the video reels - that too is a good thing.

And speaking of good things, have you seen the wide selection and amazing displays of creativity in the video reels section? You could spend hours there getting free inspiration for your own projects. I've actually started taking notes as I browse the reels. Go ahead, click "VIDEO REELS" in the main menu..I'll save your seat.

So back to the 100 blog retrospective. The best thing to do is to browse back issues going back to 2007. It is educational for me to see what I was thinking at the time. So rather than regurgitating my favorite posts, I think I will regurgitate my favorite images as used in past posts. I get a kick out of grabbing a quick picture with my phone when inspiration strikes. I send the picture to myself with a note and then, often on a long airplane ride, fill in the gaps to try to tell my story.

This first one takes me back to my first position as a professional editor. The Ampex ACE 25 edit controller. For those of you who have only used digital nonlinear editing, lucky you. Back in the day, you had to have some engineering know-how in order to perform basic editing, assuming you were in a facility without in-house engineering expertise. For more on the subject check out this link:

Now back to our show:

This image brings back some memories. A surgeon I work with on a regular basis needed to do a live powerpoint presentation to a medical conference. He was in Vegas, the conference was in Portugal. Thus, he was scheduled to go on at about 4am Vegas time on a weekend. At that time of day, we couldn't get a local video conferencing suite, so we had to think way outside the box. WebEx is advertised and used as a great tool for corporate meetings, but using it in multiple locations including in front of a live audience can be a bit dicey. So we came up with a stop gap solution. This picture depicts our audio transmission system which included VOIP and two telephones.

Speaking of medical conventions, back in early 2009 we managed a conference on obesity surgery. Our company arranged the venue, the audiovisual and catering, invited the faculty, reserved hotel rooms and managed registration for about 500 attendees. Think of it as a mini-NAB for surgery. One of my roles was managing a day of live surgery. We streamed 9 surgical cases from NY, San Francisco, Miami, Michigan, Brazil, Chile and two other locations. Some signals came down ISDN, others via the internet. Everything went through a skybridge, and there was audio and video from our location going back to each location. To be even more clever, I created roll-ins for each surgeon and location, run off DV tape. This acted not only as a nice transition but also as a place holder in case of technical difficulties. It was a fun fast day with lots of audience participation.

My other jobs at this meeting were to document the proceedings for posterity (ie, transcription, publishing articles about the proceedings and possible future on-demand webcasting)...

And drinking a lot of coffee and tea.

2009 was the year I finally traded up to a smartphone. I went with the blackberry because most of the clients and doctors I work with use this device. It has made a huge difference in productivity while traveling and even while in the office. For example, if I have a hot and heavy editing session planned, I may not even boot up the laptop (e-mail computer) and just check the berry periodically. This can save an hour or more per day. You'll note around April 2009 the quality of my blog pictures improved significantly. Still underexposed and grainy, but certainly bigger!

Sometimes (a lot) I add pictures and anecdotes about food, restaurants and eating or cooking to my blogs. What the heck does this have to do with the multimedia business? Everything. If I am fed I have energy to do my job, or I have rewarded myself for a busy productive day.

Sometimes I take my pictures to the next level and make them into useful illustrations. Here for example I was talking about preparing for a trip. Charged batteries, extra tape stock and tightened wingnuts on your equipment make a big difference.

As mentioned, several posts talk exclusively about travel. I don't go to the ends of the earth or to exotic locations (with the possible exception of Cleveland) but I have been known to go to the ends of the airport terminal for a Mocha Chip Latte!

I also used the blog to follow our entry into high definition production. What better venue for HD imaging than surgery? Of course you can get plenty of discussion about formats, editing workflow and playback issues in dozens of forums, so I'll just wow you with some imagery:

Sorry if that was gross, but this is my business!

Just thought I'd take this opportunity to mention 1" tape, for those of you keeping track at home.

All that travel also affords the opportunity to snap some quality pictures with a real camera, and sometimes I like to share those images as well - and if you're lucky, a story to go along with it.

This was a unique venue for a meeting - Jackson Hole, WY - in August.

In 2008 I attended a convention in Toronto. Since my hotel was about a mile from the convention location, I got to see some of the sights morning and night.

This week I took the train down to Philadelphia for a meeting, took the train home, then two days later went back to Philly with the gang for a meeting. Sometimes conventions are in cities with things to see and a wealth of good places to eat.

Vegas is a weird town. The Strip is full of amazing sights and some shady characters - sort of an odd mix of themes. NAB and the Bellagio fountains are two of the highlights.

Post-Katrina, New Orleans remains a popular destination for meetings and the occasional video shoot. Just stay on the main roads.

Think I'll hang this one in my office.

How many times do you find yourself in Moline, IL with a few hours to kill? Those tractors are huge.

Another good reason to carry around a proper camera. And with that, we'll let the sun set on the first 100 blogs of my blogging activities.

I appreciate all the feedback and the readers. If this is your first time on the COW, welcome. For my old friends, thanks for coming back. I look forward to coming up with new stories, anecdotes, learning experiences, recollections and images in the next 100.

As always, thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jan 27, 2010 at 3:58:10 pmComments (6) blogs, cow, video, technology, editing, streaming, conferences, travel, food, memories

Fine Dining

Many of my blog posts include mentions of food. Alas, a good hearty meal before and after a shoot is a good idea, especially since you are on your feet for 8-14 hours a day. If you are one of the 5 people who have read my blog from the beginning, you may see some repetition, but in the great tradition of "the man who made lists", I shall make a list.


I have had a few conferences and numerous shoots in Bean Town. There are enough hospitals in Boston to care for millions of people. One of my favorite restaurants is in the North End and is called Limoncello. Rumor has it the owner won Powerball and opened this restaurant with his winnings. Good move. The butternut squash ravioli are worth the trip. Next time I'm in town my gluten-aversion will be placed in my hotel room safe and I'm there. The owner treats every guest like family. A trip to the North End would not be complete without a trip to Mike's bakery for the best Italian pastries this side of the Atlantic.


Although I have lived in CT since 1990, I rarely eat out. My wife and I prefer to cook at home. When we do go out, it is usually a special occasion. For fancy schmancy eating, we have a few great steakhouses. However steakhouses tend to be pricey, so these are not frequent destinations. Carmen Anthony's Steakhouse in my hometown of Waterbury, CT is supposed to be pretty good. Don't tell Carmen, but we like the Outback!


Speaking of steak, what better place to sink your teeth into some dead cow than Texas (sorry Bessie). I have been to Dallas the most number of times. There are some great restaurants there. Most recently I was there for a conference, so that meant 4 nights of fine dining. Ok, so I didn't have a big steak dinner on this trip, but bear with me. Il Sole, arestaurant and wine bar had a prix fixe chef's menu featuring 3 mini entree items, including braised short ribs and a dessert, each accompanied by a glass of wine. The food was astoundingly good. As for my ability to walk straight, luckily I had taken a cab from the hotel! Another great place is Uncle Julio, a Mexican restaurant serving a combination of classic dishes and dishes you would never expect to see at a Mexican joint. As for the classic steak place, there are a few good choices in the West End, just a stone's throw from the grassy knoll. Oddly, I usually find myself having Cajun at Pappadeaux at least every other visit. Overall, there is no shortage of good eats in Dallas.

Now if you want a great steak, travel downriver to San Antonio. The famous Riverwalk, as depicted in film classics like Cloak and Dagger with Dabney Coleman, is a mecca for tourists, and mediocre restaurants. Here's a tip - ask a local for a good restaurant. And by "local" I mean someone who does not work at your hotel. Kids working at the hotel desk making $8 an hour don't go out to eat. I asked my local colorectal surgeon for a recommendation, and he led me to Little Rhein Steakhouse. Housed in the first two-story structure in San Antonio, it was here that I had the reigning Mike Cohen Best Steak of All Time World Champion. I can't explain it, but this tenderloin remains the tastiest hunk of cattle I've ever eaten. I recently experienced #2 (see San Francisco below).

We can skip Houston since that was another wannabe steakhouse, and move on to greener pastures.


In LA, and any other city with a PF Chang's, I choose a meal there if I have the time and the choice. Other good meals have included Gladstone's right on the beach in Malibu, where you can see the odd movie star knocking back raw seafood if you keep your eyes peeled, but a nice sourdough bread filled with clam chowder makes a nice early dinner, if you happen to be catching a red-eye and have the afternoon to kill. On my most recent trip, pre-red-eye, I had a bowl of hearty Guiness Stew and a pint of the main ingredient at you guessed it, an Irish Pub. Could have been Finn McCool's. I have enjoyed this same hearty meal at pubs in San Diego (The Field in the Gaslamp area) and Toronto (Irish Embassy on Yongue St).

San Francisco

You can throw a dart at a map and likely find a good restaurant. There are too many to name them all. My dad always asks if I am going to Scoma's down around Fisherman's Wharf. I have been there once, but the wait was not worth it in my opinion, although I was by myself. More recently I have discovered the E and O Trading Company, a trendy fusion restaurant and Ideale, a simple wholesome intimate Italian eatery in North Beach. The list goes on...

Seattle deserves a quick mention for the odd 13 Coins - again, if you have time for dinner before hitting the airport, this place is in fact, across from the airport. The decor is unique and the menu is roughly the size of the Yellow Pages.

Other unique eating experiences have included:

Phoenix - Haus Murphy's in Glendale. Glendale is a little village with lots of "antique shops" if you take "antique" to mean "tag sale." Hey the place was packed.

St. Louis - The trendy Central West End has a few good restaurants, an historic old art deco hotel and a surprisingly gourmet supermarket called Straub's. From the outside it looks like Big Bob's Beer and Groceries. On the inside it is Zabar's. Look it up.

Omaha - Aside from the great zoo (Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom ring any bells?) the town has a "warehouse district" filled with shops and restaurants. If you are ever stuck there with no earlier flights home available, you won't go hungry.

Philadelphia - Another town with an abundance of great dining options. You have to try Geno's or Pat's for cheese steaks. If you are looking for a nice dinner, head over to Rittenhouse Square and you will find a number of cool places.

Ok this is getting old, let me finish up. Hey, can I please get another soda. Thanks

Cities one might not equate with fine dining

This is a misleading statement, because most cities large or small have a few local eateries that are both well-known and good, even to a non-local.


Bern's Steakhouse. Here I go with the steakhouses again. Oh well. I saw this one on the Food Network. You walk in and the 1960's velvet wallpaper hits you and you wonder when the scantily clad ladies will begin to parade into the room. But I was with a female co-worker, so I knew there would be no shenanigans. The main dining room is low-key, dimly lit but the real magic happens after the meal. The food was typical steak house - a bit pricey, but good. I had the filet mignon and the onion soup. When you order your dinner, you need to make reservations for dessert and the tour. Let me explain. Betwixt dinner and dessert, you get a guided tour of the kitchen, the salad station, the indoor live fish tanks and the wine cellar featuring a $10,000 bottle of something dusty and old. Apparently there are more fish tanks on the roof. Perhaps the proximity to Busch Gardens and Sea World got the better of the owners, but no worries. After dinner you are taken upstairs to the dessert dining room. The seating consists of cozy booths made out of disused wine barrels. In each booth is a Jetson's control panel that lets you pick your mood music, select the live piano music or even use an intercom to send requests to the pianist. I don't know if this is still the case as it has been a while since I was there. Definitely a memorable meal. On a more recent trip to Tampa I discovered the Fly Bar in the up and coming yet not quite there yet downtown area. They have a nice selection of small plates, including Boneless Kobe Beef Shortribs. Youch!


Ok, so Orlando is known for a lot of restaurants, however many of them involve costumed characters. That being said, if I happen to be in town for a few nights, I cannot help but visit my favorite Disney Resort, the Polynesian, and have dinner at O'Hana. The grilled meats on skewers may be similar to Brazilian restaurants, but the view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks show makes it extra special. No admission required. Plus you can take a free monorail ride after dinner.

I could continue with a list of cities and restaurants, but these are the memorable ones. Then there are the cities I never see in the daylight - arrive, get a car rental, find the hotel, find a meal (Olive Garden (blech), Macaroni Grill (glauch), Bertucci's (hmm, sometimes ok) don't get me wrong, chain restaurants can be ok but we have those at home. What we don't have at home is a Duo of Elk Filets or Buffalo Prime Rib. Nice.), go to bed, wake up at 5am, go to work, get out get to airport fly home, get home at 1am, eat beans on toast.

In the end, we need to eat. A hearty, healthy alcohol free meal the night before a shoot is a great idea. A hearty meal with a celebratory drink after a successful shoot is a nice reward.

May I interest you in one of our locally made desserts or a cup of coffee? Perhaps you'd like to try the cheese plate? No, ok then let me get your check. Please tip generously, waiters often make minimum wage.

Thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Dec 28, 2008 at 6:09:56 pmComments (1) food, dining, travel

Adult Education

Over the past two weeks I attended several medical conventions as an exhibitor.

First was a meeting for laparoscopic surgeons. Last week was a combined meeting of surgical program directors and coordinators, held in Toronto. The unique aspect of the exhibits at this meeting were the uses of multimedia technology aimed at surgical education.

First, of course, the Cine-Med display featured our latest books and our online video libraries, and a demo of our forthcoming Multimedia Atlas of Surgery. At this meeting, the most popular items were the books. Particularly a book about improving communication techniques for surgeons. The ACGME has mandated that surgical education serve one or more of six core competencies, including communication and professionalism. This book covers these two competencies. Click here if you want to see more:

Other interesting displays included virtual reality for surgical skills training. Cine-Med incidentally was one of the pioneers in medical VR, back in the early to mid 1990s. Our simulations required SGI computers costing more than your average family SUV of today. One memorable experience had me at a pay phone at the Atlanta Convention Center talking to our engineer, writing UNIX commands on the back of a cocktail napkin, then running back to our booth, climbing inside the wooden enclosure, typing the commands into the UNIX shell, jiggling some wires and then repeating until things were working. Cell phones in 1995 were not quite something your average person carried around, so payphones and running shoes fit the bill.

Today obviously the simulations run off laptops or similarly equipped desktop computers, sometimes cleverly hidden inside streamlined plastic enclosures. Input devices take the shape of actual or simulated surgical instruments, attached to any number of sensors, force feedback mechanisms or simply viewed with a video camera, as in actual surgery

Perhaps the most impressive use of multimedia and computers is the virtual patient simulator, known as Stan, seen in the lower left. This 200 pound android, developed for the military, has all the vital signs of a real person. You can listen to his breathing and heartbeat with a stethoscope, listen to bowel sounds, feel for a pulse in the neck and wrist, intubate his airway and even administer drugs and fluids. Wirelessly controlled by a Mac, and attached to a DVR with 5000 hours of recording time, the setup is used to train medical students in dealing with a variety of medical scenarios, and then review the exercises in real time. Very cool.

As usual, I spent my off hours exploring the city and seeking out new dining experiences. Unfortuantely I was also dealing with either Spring allergies, a head cold, or both. The first night I went to the Pickle Barrel, an odd restaurant serving deli food, Asian dishes, steaks and everything in between. The next night, exhausted from 8+ hours of standing and sneezing and coughing, I ate at the supposedly well regarded Chinese Dim Sum restaurant at my hotel, Lai Wah Heen. The Duck soup was very good, the roasted walnut beef dish was ok except for the walnuts and the beef, and the service was extremely slow. However watching the parade of roasted ducks (beaks included) and other unique presentations passed the time. The final night I went to the Irish Embassy Pub for a much deserved Irish Stew and a pint of Guiness. You can't go wrong with this combination. Finally Friday's events included a complimentary sit-down lunch at the hotel, then a quick break down and load out, cab to the airport, US customs while still in Canada (?) and an earlier flight back to New York for a drive home.

Thanks for reading.




Posted by: Mike Cohen on Apr 21, 2008 at 2:14:36 pm education, food, travel, technology

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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