Tuesday – The Atlantic Meets the Pacific Live!!

by Jessica Hutchinson

02:10 pm – This concludes my blog posts of the Atlantic Meets the Pacific Conference. It was an exciting, informative experience. Thanks for tuning in over the last few days 😉

01:05 pm – After a beautiful lunch overlooking the Pacific Ocean, we are now starting our last program – a panel of three speakers on the topic of scientific research and philanthropy, especially in the area of Parkinson’s disease.  The panel includes: Debi Brooks (co-founder and executive vice chairman of the Michael J. Fox Foundation), Santosh Kesari (chief of the Division of Neuro-Oncology in the Department of Neurosciences at the UC San Diego School of Medicine) and Greg Lucier (chief executive officer of Life Technologies).

Brooks is a philanthropist who is responsible for raising money to fund Parkinson’s drug research with the Michael J. Fox Foundation, Lucier’s company is responsible for building the tools needed to conduct research and find cures for diseases, and Kesari is a neuroscientist and physician.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research is currently working on speeding up the process of drug development to assist with finding treatments for the disease.  Unlike pharmaceutical companies and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), they are focusing a majority of their funding on biomarker research.

“Investing in biomarkers is not an NIH gig and isn’t an industry gig – the science was there but others weren’t interested in funding it,” says Brooks.

All the research being done by the Michael J. Fox Foundation, the NIH and pharmaceutical companies can complement each other if well-funded.

“Regarding the NIH, more funding is needed,” says Kesari.

Right now, new models are being developed to assist with finding customized medicine regimens by assessing individuals’ genetic predispositions. This type of model is important because medicines do not work equally well for all individuals.

After a genetic test, Lucier recently discovered that he has the Parkinson’s gene mutation.   He believes that genomics will begin to play a bigger role in diagnostics and treatment development.  When you have more data, such as genetic information to compare, you can make more and more well-informed insights.

Alexis Madrigal interviews Gary Marcus

10:40 am – Alexis Madrigal (senior editor at The Atlantic) is now interviewing cognitive psychologist, Gary Marcus, on the topic of music, memory and the brain.

A common misconception is that children are better at picking up new skills than adults. But, Marcus found that practice makes perfect regardless of age.

“There are no convincing data that say adults can’t learn to play music as well as a child,” says Marcus.

One of the hardest parts is “memorizing things that are similar but different,” says Marcus.

Another major challenge is playing fast while accurately since the human mind is not accustomed to speed and accuracy at the same time.

Practice is a prerequisite to learning how to play music. Unfortunately, adults often don’t have enough time to dedicate to practicing.  Other factors, such as self-doubt, also tend to get in the way of adults practicing.

In general, learning new skills as an adult, even ones we aren’t necessarily good at, can be beneficial and mentally stimulating.

“The natural tendency is to do things we get positive feedback for, but that can make us unbalanced.  It’s good to do at least one or two things you aren’t good at to understand what other things are about,” says Marcus.

So, in order to lead a more balanced life, try doing something you never imagined you would. You might surprise yourself.

09:50 am – Happiness expert, Gretchen Rubin, is now on the stage.

Gretchen says small changes can affect the quality of your life. Here are a few small changes you can make that might make you happier:

  • Making your bed each morning.
  • Start everything a half hour earlier so you are not rushing and stressed at the last minute.
  • Go to bed earlier.
  • Make cell-phone-free / work-free time for yourself and for your family.
  • Take a full day off once and a while.
  • Build strong relationships by connecting with new people and strengthening bonds with people who are already a part of your social circle.
  • Keep pictures of people you care about around you.

Larry Smarr

09:02 am – A conversation with Larry Smarr (founding director, Calit2) and Mark Bowden (author and national correspondent, The Atlantic)

Years ago, when Smarr moved to SD from the Midwest, he was 25 lbs overweight. He decided to take matters into his own hands by monitoring his body in various ways, including tracking his steps, measuring the depth of his sleep, and measuring biomarkers in his blood and stool.

“People are not taking personal responsibility for their bodies. There is huge disconnect with our bodies,” says Smarr.

This disconnect has led to the biggest epidemic of obesity in U.S. history.

In many ways, we treat our cars with more care than our own bodies. We would not, for example, mix our gas with water to save money – doing so would ruin our cars – so why don’t we take more care with out diets? Why aren’t we more concerned with what we are putting into our bodies?

Smarr is optimistic that the face of healthcare will change in the coming years by giving individuals more control of their health-related data with applications that are developed to collect data in real-time.

“We are all going to begin to have this level of knowledge about ourselves.  It’s inevitable that citizens are going to take a more active role in their healthcare.  In five to ten years you won’t recognize medicine as it is now. You’ll have apps on your smartphone that help you make better decisions everyday,” says Smarr.

Of course, there are the people who think knowing too much isn’t a good thing and could lead to anxiety.

“This is life, it ends with death – it’s not a surprise to anybody,” says Smarr.  Assessing data from our bodies to prevent diseases will lead to fuller, richer lives while we are here.

08:23 am – Today is the last day of the Atlantic Meets the Pacific Conference. We’re here again at the Scripps Seaside Forum.  Guests are busy eating breakfast and drinking coffee before the first interview.  Please stay tuned to this blog thread for the details about our speakers until 2pm. Speakers for today’s morning / afternoon program include:

  • Larry Smarr on a researcher’s quest to personalize medicine
  • Gretchen Rubin on the science and philosophy behind the happiness movement
  • Gary Marcus on what his musical mission can teach us about the human brain
  • Debi Brooks, Santosh Kesari and Greg Lucier on the challenges of scientific research and philanthropy

Monday – The Atlantic Meets the Pacific Live!!

by Jessica Hutchinson

James Fallows with Eric Topol and Don Jones

01:20 pm – On the stage – Don Jones (vice president of global strategy and market development, Qualcomm Life) and Eric Topol (director of Scripps Translational Science Institute) on the topic of how the digital revolution will reinvent health care . . .

Medical apps that track biomarkers real-time are the way of the future.

These apps will include everything from constantly monitoring the blood to catch early signs of cancer, to a mouth swab used to ensure prescribed meds can be properly absorbed / metabolized by the patient.  As time goes on, patients will also have more and more access remote medical records.

Innovative medical apps will also lead to a more personalized patient-physician visit, as the patients and physicians will have to interact on a deeper level since medical reports will be generated in real-time.

The development of digital, medical media will change the field of medicine forever and for the better.  They will help educate patients regarding their health issues; cut down on the number of in-person physician visits, thus reducing transportation costs and lost wages; give patients more information on the costs of procedures so they can shop for the best prices; and will help identify medical issues before they become deadly.

01:19 pm – We’re back from lunch and back in session!

Larry Smarr with Jane McGonigal

11:30 am – Larry Smarr (director of Calit2) is interviewing Jane McGonigal about gaming and alternate realities.

Video games are often thought of as huge distractions for youngsters and adults alike. But, McGonigal and her team have found that video gaming – when done within certain time parameters – actually strengthens children and adult’s problem solving skills.  Games can also increase the quality of life and reduce anxiety and depression.

Reasons for the positive influence of video gaming includes: being constantly challenged to make decisions, being able to fail well (learning how to fail actually builds confidence), gaining a sense of accomplishment as goals are met and reaching out to a community of people (connecting with one another).

Did you know that online games actually beat pharmaceuticals in their ability to increase positive emotions by helping individuals cope with depression?

During the interview, McGonigal talked about a personal experience regarding how video gaming helped her get over a personal bout of anxiety and depression.  Her depression was the result of post-concussion syndrome from a hit to her head.  The syndrome led to thoughts of suicide, extreme depression and anxiety.

McGonigal’s physician advised her to rest her brain as much as she could and to be as happy as possible because depression and anxiety actually hinder the brain from healing itself.

As a result, McGonigal designed and created a game that helped to increase her happiness by focusing on attainable goals and building a community of allies.  After playing the game, her thoughts of suicide, depression and anxiety disappeared almost immediately.  The game is now posted online for others to use.

Video games help to build resilience by tapping into positive emotions.

“The source of emotions does not matter – they are real however you get them,” says McGonigal.

Fiero is a common expression that gamers use to express satisfaction when they accomplish something or reach a goal that was difficult to attain.  The expression – always coupled by jumping up and punching one’s arms in the air above their head – is experienced by soccer players and gamers alike.

Ron Brownstein interviews Ben Rattray

10:45 amBen Rattray, deemed by Time as one of the most influential people in the world in 2012, is now on the stage with Ron Brownstein (editorial director of the National Journal).

Rattray is the founder of Change.org, an online petition platform that is responsible for giving a big voice to individuals on the local level. This platform gives regular people the power to make change one petition at a time.

Petitions that have appeared on Change.org include petitions to stop Target from requiring all employees to work on Thanksgiving and to revoke Chick-Fil-A’s right to sell products on college campuses due to the company’s stance on gay rights.

Notable quotes from Ben Rattray:

  • “Incremental change is the best way to win a campaign.”
  • “Collective action organizes people around common objectives.”
  • “Anyone anywhere can start a campaign [on Change.org].”
  • “There is a lot more agreement on local change than national change.”
  • “The Internet is all about massive scale.”
  • Change.org is “empowering the people who didn’t have any voice,” such as people dealing with foreclosures and immigrants.
  • “We do not filter any campaigns on Change.org.”

09:55 am – Madrigal is now interviewing Jessica Jackley, entrepreneur extraordinaire.

Jessica Jackley, a young, vibrant woman, was responsible for creating the non-profit org Kiva, a microlending, online program which supports aspiring entrepreneurs who would otherwise not be able to afford to start their own businesses.  Kiva directly connects lenders with lendees and has helped millions of people from developing countries reach their business goals.

Jackley commits her life to helping people with her exceptional entrepreneur skills. After Kiva, her next project was to make a difference in her own back yard by supporting small businesses and startups in the USA. Though it is based on a different model than Kiva (i.e., not the microleding model), the tools she provides to unaccredited investors makes it easier for them to acquire capital.

Jackley is now focused on Kickstarter, a funding platform for creative projects. Kickstarter is a place to fund ideas and projects with a non-financial return. For example, if someone donates $500 to a musician, he or she will donate a song to you or sign a CD cover.

09:00 am – The first discussion with Chris Cox (VP of product at Facebook) is on the evolution of Facebook. Cox is being interviewed by Alexis Madrigal (senior editor, The Atlantic).

Cox, in his early 30s, has been at Facebook since 2005.  He was originally an engineer at Facebook and moved to the human resources department.  He stated that Facebook tends to look for imaginative, “scrappy” employees who are fast-moving, face-paced people who are hacker builder types.

Cox manages product at Facebook. His goal is to keep the products simple.  For example, their newsfeed product is simply called “Newsfeed” and their photos product is called “Photos.”

His first project, Newsfeed, which he worked on for 10 months straight, was not well-liked at first.

“Everyone hated it at first,” says Cox.

But, over time people started using it more and more and then started loving it. Within one year after Newsfeed came out, Facebook started seeing headlines praising the product. Now it’s hard to imagine a world without the Newsfeed feature of Facebook.

Sitting behind the controls “is an incredible, humbling responsibility,” says Cox.

From the beginning, Facebook built tools for privacy ensuring each person is in control of the representation they put in their profile.  People sometimes forget that they have control of privacy settings and can easily make their profiles more secure.

Cox stated that several billion photos are uploaded to Facebook per week. At first, they were receiving millions of letters saying things like:

“Dear Facebook, I don’t like this photo of me because I look chubby, please remove it.”

Facebook took action by building a set of tools so people could resolve these issues on their own quickly, such as “untagging” images.

All in all, Facebook is a medium and “a good medium does not interfere with a message. A medium needs to work wherever it goes,” says Cox.

07:33 am – I’m back at the Atlantic Meets the Pacific Conference, this time at the gorgeous Scripps Seaside Forum. The cameramen are getting ready to film the event and the caterers are setting up breakfast.

Stay tuned for details on top-notch presentations by our renowned speakers . . .

Speakers on the agenda today:

  • Chris Cox on mapping the future of networks
  • Jessica Jackley on microlending, the developing world and the future of entrepreneurship
  • Ben Rattray on the power of technology to do good
  • Jane McGonigal on solving the world’s biggest problems through alternate realities
  • Don Jones and Eric Topol on the creative destruction of medicine and how the digital revolution will reinvent health care.

The Atlantic Meets the Pacific Live!! View this Thread for the Latest Updates from the Sunday event.

by Jessica Hutchinson

5:38 pm – Who doesn’t want to be happy? Tal Ben-Shahar is now on stage in his suit and tie to tell us how to get closer to being worry-free and happy.

Simply put, Ben-Shahar tells us that focusing on one’s strengths is of the utmost importance. This is the focus of positive psychology.

Positive psychology is not positive thinking it’s about looking at both the problems and deficiencies, as well as (and more importantly) what is working – our strengths and positive goals.

In a group of children, psychologists found that, regardless of being in unfavorable circumstances, certain traits indicated happier individuals, including setting future goals, not ignoring the present or the future, having an optimistic outlook, having role models and being physically active.  The good news is that all the traits listed above can be taught.

Did you know that exercising three times per week for 30 minutes each time has the same positive effect as psychiatric drugs, while increasing performance and thinking?

At one point in his presentation, Ben-Shahar projected a messy image of various, random geometric shapes and asked the audience to count them – attendees shouted out numbers ranging from five to infinite.  Ben-Shahar admitted he doesn’t know the answer himself, but asked (of the projected images) what was the time on the clock, how many children were sitting in the bus, and what was the dominant color of the left-most geo shape.  His point – we tend to only see a small part of reality. It’s OK as long as we recognize it and realize we do this often, such as in our relationships. We often focus on what doesn’t work instead of what does – this can lead to more problems than good.

On an individual level, it is important to recognize, each day, what we are grateful for and what we have accomplished in a given day.  At weekly family dinners with his wife, mother and children, Ben-Shahar and his family list off what they have accomplished during the week, including what was fun and rewarding. This experience, he says, brings the family closer together, gives them something to talk about and makes them more aware of their lives and circumstances.

Asking the right questions first, rather than focusing on finding the right answers is key to gaining a clearer understanding of the world around us.

4:40 pm – Stacey Snider, Steven Spielberg’s right-hand woman and business partner is now on stage being interviewed by James Bennet (editor-in-chief, The Atlantic). Born in Philly, mother of two, feminist and chairman / CEO of DreamWorks Studios, Snider is extremely laid back and down to earth.

She opens by talking about the movie Lincoln, which will be released to the public on November 16th. The movie has an amazing cast, including Daniel Day Lewis, who plays the part of Abe.

“This film focuses on leadership and is a modern look at the messy process of democracy. There are 140 speaking parts and every performance is impeccable. Lincoln promises a unique, quality and untold part of history.” says Snider.

DreamWorks makes only four to six movies per year – Snider is responsible for ensuring these movies promise enough box office appeal so they can pay the rent while holding up the DreamWorks’ brand and meeting viewer expectations.

“You sound like my dad!” Says Snider when asked by Bennet what being a studio executive entails.  She serves as a creative financier supervising a broad range of films. She makes sure the studio has a slate of movies at all times, plans and set budgets and supervises the packaging of movies. She’s not on site all that much, or as much as one would think, but she does visit the set from time to time.

“Creating movies is a balance between art and commerce – balancing the size of the audience with cost of movie,” says Snider.

Stacey has seen the business change vastly from when she began. It is now more hits-driven and more has to be done to draw people’s attention.

Movies used to be a major part of the social landscape, but that’s not the case now – young people are not habituated to go to movies like they used to since there are other ways to get in touch with friends.

While Snider loves all the movies she has created over the years.  She has each one of her scripts bound and signed. She appreciates movies that change the conversation and have something to say, such as the film Philadelphia. Snider played a major part in producing this movie and convinced her colleagues it was an extremely important film that needed to be made.

03:55 pm – next up on the agenda is: A House Divided: Predicting 2012’s Races in Congress and the White House – Moderated by Ron Brownstein with the following renowned panelists: James Fallows (national correspondent, The Atlantic), James Fowler (professor of medical genetics and political science, UC San Diego), Samuel Poplin (professor of political science, UC San Diego), Steve Schmidt (vice-chairman of public affairs, Edelman) and Dan Yankelovich (public opinion analyst and pollster)

While this is not a heated debate, it is an in-depth one that focuses on panelists’ opinions of the presidential candidates, their recent debates and the future of the country.

One of the main topics was the minority vote – some of the panelists feel more must be done to win the minority vote – this is the last election where republicans can rely heavily on the white, male vote. More and more minorities are voting – this number will continue to grow by the next election. The Republican Party tends to convey the attitude that minorities are taking over the country – this attitude could be detrimental to their campaign.

While it is going to be a close presidential race, it is one that could be driven by the minority vote.

03:28 pm – Ron Brownstein, the political director of the National Journal, is now interviewing Steve Schmidt (political strategist) about the recent political debate . . .

Structurally, the race is close (Obama still has an advantage) and Romney has made some mistakes, but if Romney continues to present himself well from this point forward, and continues pointing out Obama’s deficiencies along the way, he still has a chance to win the election.

One of the detriments of the Republican Party is the fact that they are branded by issues such as contraception. If you brand yourself one way or another on controversial issues, you run a huge risk of alienating a big portion of the population, such as educated, white women.

“If Romney loses the election, there will be the beginnings of a proper civil war within the Republican Party,” says Schmidt.

03:24 pm – “Necessity is the mother of innovation . . . The next few days are all about a map of the future – the opportunities we see here (during the conference) will be a part of our future” – Chris Wolfe (managing director and CIO of The Private Banking and Investment Group at Merrill Lynch)

03:19 pm – “This evening, we have the dessert before main course of next few days in these three areas of American obsession: politics and the election, the entertainment industry and happiness,” says Elizabeth Baker Keffer in her opening remarks.

03:11 pm – I’m here at the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla, CA, at the Atlantic Meets the Pacific Conference, which is about to begin in a few minutes . . . The audience is filling up quickly as we get ready for the introductory remarks by Hugh M. Davies (CEO of the museum), Elizabeth Baker Keffer (vice president of The Atlantic)and Chris Wolfe (managing director and CIO of The Private Banking and Investment Group at Merrill Lynch) Stay tuned for live updates on speakers and event specifics . . .

Whet Your Appetite with Corby Kummer at the Atlantic Meets the Pacific

From organizing a blind taste-off between Whole Foods and Walmart produce and writing about it (see the article The Great Grocery Smackdown), to perfecting traditional recipes (see sample recipes below), Corby Kummer, senior editor at The Atlantic, is one of the most widely-read, creative food writers and critics in the United States.

Kummer has been writing about food for years and has been with The Atlantic since ’81. During that time he’s published a number of food- and beverage-centric books, including The Joy of Coffee (Houghton Mifflin, 2003) and The Pleasures of Slow Food (Chronicle Books, 2002), was pronounced “a dean among food writers in America” by the San Francisco Examiner, and was recognized by Julia Child as “a very good food writer.”  He is the recipient of five James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher “Distinguished Writing Award.”

Find out more about Kummer’s food and beverage adventures at the upcoming Atlantic Meets the Pacific Conference, and make sure to check out some of his recipes below!

Corby’s Hot Chocolate Recipe
Makes two generous or four modest cups

In a saucepan, whisk together half a cup of cocoa powder (see Corby’s Every Day Is Hot Chocolate Day article for info on choosing the best cocoa powder), one teaspoon of cornstarch or arrowroot, a third of a cup of sugar, and half a cup of water, on or off a low flame—it will dissolve either way after thirty seconds or so.

Add half a cup more of water and a cup of milk, of whatever kind you like.

Keep stirring over low to moderate heat for about ten minutes, scraping the bottom to prevent scorching, until the mixture thickens.

The hot chocolate drink will be thick, so to bring the liquid to a more familiar consistency, simply add another cup of hot milk or a half cup each of water and milk. Optional additions are a teaspoon of vanilla, a pinch of salt, or a sprinkling of freshly ground nutmeg (which accentuates chocolate better, in Corby’s opinon, than cinnamon).

Corby’s Aioli

  • 2 small cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1½ cups extra-virgin olive oil

With a mortar and pestle or the flat blade of a knife, mash the garlic and a pinch of salt into a smooth paste. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk the yolks, mustard and lemon zest and juice together. Whisk in the oil drop by drop until the mixture begins to emulsify and thicken; then gradually increase the flow while whisking. When all of the oil has been added, stir in the garlic and season with salt if necessary.

For more information about the upcoming Atlantic Meets the Pacific (TAMTP) Conference (October 7-9, 2012), contact information and list of speakers, please visit the following link: http://www.atlanticmeetspacific.com

To register for the event, please visit:

Weeding through Technology with Alexis Madrigal

Technology today is moving so fast it seems like new versions of cell phones come out every month, the computer you bought last year might already seem sluggish and behind the times, and just when you thought there was an app for everything, another one pops up. Keeping up with all of this can be a bit overwhelming, but that’s why we have Alexis Madrigal, senior editor of The Atlantic and overseer of the publication’s Technology channel.

Deemed the “perfect modern reporter” by the New York Observer, Madrigal tracks down new, innovative technologies – sometimes in unexpected places – and briefs his readers regarding what it is, what it does and how it might change things, for better or for worse. He also focuses on technology people are currently using, not just the latest and greatest.

Among his many accomplishments, during his tenure with Wired Magazine, Madrigal made Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world.  He is the co-founder of Longshot Magazine, a high-speed media experiment that involved collaboration with thousands of creative folks from around the globe, and co-founded Haiti ReWired, an online community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure and the future of Haiti.  Join Madrigal at the upcoming Atlantic Meets the Pacific Conference.

For more information about the upcoming Atlantic Meets the Pacific (TAMTP) Conference (October 7-9, 2012), contact information and list of speakers, please visit the following link: http://www.atlanticmeetspacific.com

To register for the event, please visit:

Pulitzer Prize Nominee, Ronald Brownstein, Sheds Light on Complex Political Affairs

Ronald Brownstein’s specialty is helping the public understand political affairs through his reporting so they can make the most informed decisions possible.  His outstanding, comprehensive, day-in and day-out coverage of the 1996 and 2004 presidential campaigns led to his nomination for two Pulitzer Prizes.

Brownstein is an author, political director of the Atlantic Media Company, editorial director and columnist for the National Journal, and senior political / election analyst for CNN and ABC.  He is the recipient of several journalism awards, including the “Journalist of the Year” award from the Los Angeles Press Club in 2005 and the American Political Science Association’s “Carey McWilliams Award” for lifetime achievement, which honors Brownstein’s major journalistic contributions to our understanding of politics.

His sixth and most recent book, The Second Civil War: How Extreme Partisanship Has Paralyzed Washington and Polarized America, was published by Penguin in 2007.  This book is targeted to all Americans, regardless of their political preferences, who wish to gain a clearer understanding of present-day political dysfunction.

Learn more about Ronald Brownstein at the upcoming Atlantic Meets the Pacific Conference.

For more information about the upcoming Atlantic Meets the Pacific (TAMTP) Conference (October 7-9, 2012), contact information and list of speakers, please visit the following link: http://www.atlanticmeetspacific.com

To register for the event, please visit: