All posts filed under “Weird Stuff

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University of Michigan – famous alumni notes

It always strikes me that the University of Michigan does a great job of promoting more distant famous alumni, but not always the more recent famous alumni.  (I was an undergraduate there, so I’m interested in this.)

Advertising / Google

One thing that most people don’t know is that the two largest online advertising companies were both founded by University of Michigan graduates.  And not only that, they were both UofM College of Engineering students!  Who am I speaking of?

Larry Page – CEO/co-founder, Google

Kevin O’Connor – co-founder/ex-CEO, Doubleclick

And of course, Doubleclick was purchased by Google for ~$3billion back in 2008.  I’m curious how much the two of them spoke during/after the negotiations about their common history back in Ann Arbor!

Groupon – a story

I’m not a big fan of Groupon… at all.  I signed up in London for a while, but the offers were crap, and it took me ages to get off of all their different lists they had added me to.  It’s not the daily deal format I hate; I like Keynoir which is a similar site here in London because they tend to have offers that I actually want to buy.

Another reason I don’t like Groupon is the way they run their business.  Despite the fact they’re still not profitable, the founders got massive cash payments last year.  So while Groupon was raising close to $1billion to keep the business going (because it wasn’t profitable), the founders were taking hundreds of millions of dollars of the funding investors were giving them.  This is just WRONG, even if the investors were greedy enough for a part of Groupon that they didn’t argue.  If you haven’t built a business to profitability, you should be able to cash out anything more than a token amount… ever.

I recently learned that one of the founders of Groupon (Eric Lefkofsky) was behind one of the worst student activism campaigns ever at the University of Michigan: trying to adopt a cute, cuddly mascot for the Michigan Wolverine sports teams.  Michigan had previously toyed with mascots; back in the 1920’s the University brought a live wolverine in a cage to football games.  But since wolverines are actually mean, vicious creatures, that only lasted a year or two.

But in the late 1980’s Eric Lefkofsky was part of a trio of students that came close to adopting “Willy the Wolverine” as a University mascot.  Luckily they managed to piss the University off by infringing on official trademarks and doing similar stupid stuff that after they graduated the effort lost momentum.  But this was the final nail in the Groupon coffin for me; even if they grow into the biggest company on earth, I’ll never have respect for them.

(If you want to learn more about the Michigan mascot (that rarely existed), check out the Alumni Association story “The Wolverine that wasn’t.”)

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A fun bookmarklet to change the web you see

Ever wanted to change what you see on the internet? Well, this little bookmarklet let’s you do just that. Just drag this link to your toolbar / bookmarks bar:

Edit My Web!

Go to any webpage, click “Edit My Web!” and play around. Instead of having a page of raw text, you’ve got a page of editable text. Of course, you’re only editing the text on your screen and not what’s on the actual site/server, but that doesn’t mean it’s not interesting.

I had a little fun with Fred Wilson and TechCrunch. Here are the before and after screenshots:

Fred Wilson Before:


Fred Wilson After:


TechCrunch Before:


TechCrunch After:



I take no responsibility for what you choose to do with this bookmarklet. (No matter how epic a prank you pull!) Also, I didn’t write it, I’m just the most recent to promote it after hearing some people at work talk about it. (Just click this link for Google search results for the javascript.)

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Getting Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK – my experiences

I started working in the UK nearly five years ago on a Highly Skilled Migrant Programme visa. It is/was a fantastic programme. At the time I applied I just needed to show my level of education and what I’d been getting paid; because I was younger than 28 when I applied it was easy to obtain. For the last five years it let me work without any real restrictions in the UK. I was free to change jobs, and even stopped working for a year to get my MBA.

Long story, but I had a year-long window in order to apply for my “Indefinite Leave to Remain” (ILR) visa, which grants both Annie and I to officially be “settled” in the UK. We finally got around to applying for it this month, and because of my travel commitments for work we had to apply in person.

This is that story.

(To be honest it’s pretty boring, but something I wish I could have read before I showed up. I’m posting it for anyone that might be interested in the details of the process)

Booking an appointment online is easy, but not at all straightforward. (Annie and I had to register separately, then she had to send me her code so that I could book an appointment for both of us at the same time.) We could get an appointment within a week or two of when I looked for it online, at least at the Public Enquiry Office in Croydon.

Our appointment was for 3pm, and they tell you to show up 30 minutes early. We arrived about 2:20pm, and spent 30 minutes going through security and standing in a queue to speak to the first person in the process.

For anyone that has to do this for themselves, know this: There is a Border Agency agent who does an initial review of your application before you ever get to the point where you have to pay and then do a formal interview. This person checks your application to make sure it’s complete, reviews the documents that you’ve brought as proof, and checks your current visa. In my case he caught a mistake: when I was granted an extension of my HSMP visa the Home Office had mistakenly entered it as a “work visa” instead of “HSMP visa”. Luckily I had my paperwork from when the extension was granted, which showed that it was their screw-up and not mine. (Lesson: bring all of the documents that you’ve received from the Border Agency / Home Office, whether they’ve asked for them or not.)

Only after that review do you have to go and pay. That queue took another 15 minutes or so. You might want to give your bank a heads up that you’ll be making a big charge; I had to do a phone verification with my bank. (At this point you still aren’t guaranteed of getting your visa, as about a hundred signs tell you.)

The next wait was a big one; in our case from 3:15 to 4:20pm. There was just a big room with rather uncomfortable rows of immovable chairs. (It looked/felt a bit like prison furniture, perhaps because of problems with people getting angry in the past?) The other big feature was about a thousand screaming children running around everywhere. It was difficult to concentrate on my book. There are a couple of Coca-Cola vending machines and a very small snack shop available in the building while you wait.

The original 3pm slot that I booked must have been one of the last of the day. We were finally seen my a Border Agent around 4:20pm, and because our application was very straightforward we were all done at 4:40 when she told us that we had been granted our ILR visas!

As you might expect, the final wait was a long one as they actually created the visas and put them in our passports. They quote an hour and a half, but ours were ready by 17:45. (Another wait in the prison furniture room with the screaming children.) We received our passports with our shiny new full-page visa stickers/stamps, and letters detailing our new status and what it means.


This is just our story; your mileage may vary. Our visa application was very straightforward, and I’m sure they can get pretty complicated pretty quickly. If this is at all helpful or useful to someone that’s about to do the same thing, please let me know by commenting below!