Friday, November 22, 2013

What now, Mrs Winkle – flash fiction 28 Monday Oct 2013 Posted by Eric Alagan in Flash Fiction

When Mr Blanchard arrived for tea, he brought the rain with him. It made the late afternoon decidedly dark, prompting Mrs Winkle to switch on the lights.
“You do manage very well, Mrs Winkle.”
“If it were only true. I do have some casual help with the chores of living.” Mrs Winkle replaced her cup and saucer on the table.
A soft rustle and she said, “There you are, Rustam.” She scooped up her cat, which had wrapped itself around her feet. She held it nose to nose and said,
“He’s Persian you know, a gift from my late husband.”
“Yes, I know.”
Mrs Winkle snapped a look at Mr Blanchard and immediately averted her eyes. He had referred to her husband, of that, she was sure, and he had noticed her momentary lapse of composure, of that too she was convinced. She placed Rustam on her lap and stroked his velvety fur, her movements markedly slow, and measured.
The heavy patter of rain on the terracotta roof drowned the pregnant silence.
“I’m in a bit of a pickle here, but this dreadful matter regarding my killers -”
“Well, Mr Blanchard, you don’t really need my services now do you? You already know their identities. Furthermore, I dare propose, sir, you know that all of them came to unexplainable grief, except for my husband.”
A moment’s pause and Mr Blanchard, unruffled by the sudden change in tone and welcome said, “You’re as precise and thoughtful, as I remember you, Mrs Winkle.”
“And you’re a long way from home,” Mrs Winkle tensed as she spoke, “Count Vladimir Drakul.” She uttered the name one-at-a-time.
Rustam hissed and bared his teeth.
Mrs Winkle’s words had no purchase, for the Count’s attention washed over and gently explored her.
At length he spoke, his voice having turned gravelly, the sound of water poured from a pitcher, “Four decades I’ve waited. You look even more alluring, Mrs Winkle.”
His voice brought forth a concoction of memories and fears, and most of all it stirred a perplexing softness within her.
“Or would you prefer –,” he continued.
“Mrs Harker!” She looked away and swallowed hard. “Mrs Harker, thank you.”
“I prefer,” he paused as if wanting to savour her name as it escaped his lips, “Mina.”
She turned to face him and felt her resolve weaken. With great deliberation, the Count rose to his feet. He was not the grey and portly Mr Blanchard. Here stood a vital man – tall, dark and magnetic.
Rustam hopped off Mina’s lap and bolted into the shadows.

************ Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2013 ************
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Saturday, November 16, 2013

McCormick Events: ‘You Will Have an Adventure’: Lecture Series Spotlights Medical, Robotics Startups




Mechanical engineer Ed Colgate, surgeon David Mahvi speak at second Farley Fellows Seminar

Oct 31, 2013
Entrepreneurship is a wild ride. Ed Colgate should know. 
As the cofounder of three robotics startups, Colgate has found himself in some stressful situations — like the time his robotic material handling device started malfunctioning at a trade show the night before attendees were set to arrive. Colgate and his team had to slip past security guards to get onto the trade show floor, then spent all night silently fixing the device while avoiding the guards.
“It’s a rollercoaster,” said Colgate, Allen K. and Johnnie Cordell Breed Senior Professor in Design at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, “full of emotional highs and lows.”
Ed Colgate
Ed Colgate
Northwestern faculty members are sharing their entrepreneurship experiences with fellow faculty and students in a new set of talks, the Farley Fellows Seminar Series. Featured October 29 in the second of three lectures were Colgate and David Mahvi, James R. Hines Professor of Surgery and chief of the divisions of surgical oncology and gastrointestinal and endocrine surgery at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
Mahvi’s first startup was a learning experience, he said. His product — a probe that treated liver cancer with microwaves — was strong, but the team’s lack of knowledge cost them dearly: after selling their licensing rights, the company’s new owners sold the product to a major medical device manufacturer for $38 million.
“We didn’t know (intellectual property),” Mahvi recalled. “That’s the way life goes.”
Mahvi and his partners maintained more control in their second venture, Medical Engineering Innovations, a company that commercializes new technologies to fight liver cancer with new surgical tools and localized heat treatment. But the development process was slow and costly; after five years, the company is finally putting a product on the market.
While Mahvi’s first venture was not lucrative, there was some benefit to his inexperience: the product was on the market quickly and is now a standard of care. 
Naiveté — and the fresh perspective that comes with it — can be a blessing in disguise, he said, noting the success of two students startups he advises. Of course, newbies must seek expertise from professionals who know the field and which problems need solving. “If you have those two ingredients, you’re set,” Mahvi said.
David Mahvi
David Mahvi
Diversity is a tremendous asset in a new venture, added Colgate, cofounder of Cobotics, Kinea Design, and Tangible Haptics. Working with people you like is important, he said, but it is equally important to have partners who challenge you. “The joy of a startup is you come face to face with the world in all its complexities and all its nastiness,” he said.
Colgate also emphasized the importance of getting to know your product’s context — your customer base, their needs, and how your product is being used.
Finally, Colgate urged, enjoy the journey.
“You may or may not make $38 million,” he said. “You may or may not get your technology out into the world. But you will have an adventure.”
Colgate and Mahvi are Farley Fellows, entrepreneurship-minded faculty members who advise Northwestern’s Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, mentor students and other faculty, and lead by example. All fellows have companies or are involved in substantial entrepreneurial efforts.
The final Farley Fellows talk will be held at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 12. It will feature Chad Mirkin, George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science and Engineering, and (by courtesy) Chemical and Biological Engineering and Biomedical Engineering, and Milan Mrksich, Henry Wade Rogers Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry, and Cell and Molecular Biology.