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Geek pride: Highlights from our celebration


June 29, 2007 was a beautiful summer day; the perfect day for our fifth annual Geek Pride event. This year, close to 60 geeks came to my barn in New Hampshire to discuss nanotechnology, black holes and chocolate.

We had a large cross-section of technical disciplines present, including venture capitalists, lawyers, entrepreneurs, programmers and the unemployed. The number of women in attendance increased, too. The talks were technical and interesting, and attendees left the event scratching their heads and thinking – something we engineers do not do in the corporate boardroom. It is nice to be in a community reeking of technology and logic.

One of our luminary speakers this year was Peter Antoinette, president and CEO of Nanocomp Technologies, Inc., and winner of the First New Hampshire High Tech Council Product of Year for 2006. His product uses carbon nanotubes that are 100 times stronger than steel and 30 per cent lighter than aluminum. His talk was titled “Crossing chasms to go for a swim,” and highlighted his funding voyage across the shoals of venture capital. It was indeed a lesson for us all. Major components for success, according to Peter, include paying attention to “B.S.” and kissing rumps. Actually, his language was more colourful.

Peter presented some math that proved quantitatively that geeks achieve success by giving more than 100 per cent. He also pointed out that the final application of your technology, as well as your bed partners (funding elements), may not be what you expected. In his case, army funding and applications outside of the original concept helped keep Nanocomp alive.

The second talk was given by yours truly. Titled “Nanotech, black holes and chocolate,” I emphasized that surface is the key to strength for some materials. Peter’s carbon nanotubes have strength because they are small and mostly surface. At the barn, we make gourmet chocolate using a nano strategy. Our chocolate tastes good because the food particles are small and do not use wax as a surface. Black holes are all about the event horizon, the surface of the anomaly. You can read more about the science in a later column.

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We gave the ultimate award to our guest speaker, which was a small super-quality Gerber tool. Just what the geek needs, another belt-mounted techno gadget. Some of the attendees presented me with a plaque with the inscribed words, “Geek Pride Day. Wisdom, or what passes for wisdom. Thanks for bringing us together.” I was speechless for six seconds.

Not everyone got awards and plaques, but I did pass out chocolate. And speaking of food, many of the attendees commented that this year’s spread was excellent. We tried to have local game, but it was, after all, summer. Instead, we had candied kielbasa, pulled pork, bourbon chicken and ribs, and we kept the veggies to a minimum. It was a great day.

It looks like next year’s theme will be biotechnology. If you want to be on the invitation list, contact deb@barn.org. We have limited attendance and are always late in notifying everyone. Have a good autumn and may your geek mantra be, “Delete, backup or get out of the way.”


Dick Morley is the inventor of the PLC, an author, speaker, automation industry maverick and a self-proclaimed ubergeek. E-mail him at morley@barn.org.