No. 372: Cuomo balances, DeCarlo dares and Island water districts clean up (plus: designing a smarter smartphone)

Tumbling down: A large section of the old Tappan Zee Bridge was brought down Tuesday in a controlled explosive demolition.

 

Middle ground: Welcome to Wednesday, dear readers, and the midpoint of another exciting (and chilly) workweek.

It’s Jan. 16 out there, and if you had General Siyaj K’ak’ conquering the pre-Columbian Mayan city of Tikal in the name of King Spearthrower Owl of Teotihuacán on this date 1,641 years ago, well, that’s pretty amazing. Two-hundred cacao beans for you.

Easy pray: Marking the 1786 signing of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, this and every Jan. 16 is National Religious Freedom Day in the United States.

As the Romans do: Today is also the anniversary of the birth of the Roman Empire, which became a thing on this date (or thereabouts) in 27 B.C. when the Roman Senate granted the title “Augustus” to Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus.

Fade in, La Mancha: Our globe-trotting review takes us next to Spain, where the first edition of “El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha” – the first Don Quixote adventure by Miguel de Cervantes – was published on Jan. 16, 1605.

Fresh thinking: Detroit fishmonger William Davis patented the refrigerated train car on this date in 1868.

And speaking of both fish and notable novels, Peter Benchley’s “Jaws” was first published by Doubleday on Jan. 16, 1974.

Man of ink: Not to be confused with the heroic exploits chronicled in “Action Comics,” which introduced the iconic Kryptonian a year earlier, the syndicated “Superman” daily newspaper comic strip debuted on this date in 1939.

Space seed: “The first flower grown in space,” a zinnia, blossomed on Jan. 16, 2016, aboard the International Space Station.

While impressive, initial claims by NASA space gardeners of an extraterrestrial horticultural breakthrough were quickly dashed: In a “personal biology experiment” conducted four years earlier, astronaut Don Petit cultivated the growth of several different plant species – including a sunflower that managed a dull-brown blossom.

Screen queens: This is a big date for pioneering women working behind the camera. Ruth Rose (1896-1978), a screenwriter who worked on several famous scripts (including the 1933 classic “King Kong”), and Margaret Booth (1898-2002), a legendary film editor (and frequent Cecil B. DeMille collaborator) whose career spanned six decades, were both born on Jan. 16.

So were rubber-meets-the-road French industrialist Andre Michelin (1853-1931), ice-resurfacing trailblazer Frank Zamboni (1901-1988), Carl’s Jr. burger baron Carl Karcher (1917-2008) and famed zoologist and “Gorillas in the Mist” author Dian Fossey (1932-1985).

Diamond life: And take a bow, Sade – the British-Nigerian singer, songwriter and actress (born Helen Folasade Adu) turns 60 today.

Wish the sultry singer, the tireless tire-maker and the rest a happy birthday at editor@innovateli.com – and prove yourself a Smooth Operator by dropping off a story tip or calendar item, please and thank you.

Our bad: A quick correction of a goof in Monday’s calendar newsletter. The date for the ACIT Executive Breakfast with LIRR President Phillip Eng at the Crest Hollow Country Club is Jan. 23. We ran the wrong date Monday.

Check out the correct listing and the rest of our busy (and accurate, we swear) calendar of events right here.

 

A few words from our sponsor: EisnerAmper is a leading international accounting, tax and advisory firm serving more than 500 technology and life-science clients. Our dedicated team of more than 125 professionals support startup companies, emerging growth, IPO-track and publicly traded clients.

 

BUT FIRST, THIS

Balancing act: With the State Senate now in his political corner, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a $178 billion state budget Tuesday including something for just about everyone – though the governor’s annual “State of the State” address was as much about anticipated revenues as lavish spending, trumpeting a plan that even seeks to close a $3.1 billion budget gap.

Among the greatest hits in Cuomo’s speech: a long-rumored full statewide ban on single-use plastic bags (shot down in 2018 by a Republican-majority State Senate, much better odds this year), a statewide prohibition on under-21 tobacco sales and a slate of voting-reform measures, including several already approved by state legislators.

But of course, the flashiest items on the governor’s list carried the biggest numbers – including a $956 million increase (to a whopping $27.7 billion) in general funding for New York public schools and the highly anticipated legalization of adult-use recreational marijuana, which Cuomo expects to light up some $300 million in annual state revenues. More details on the governor’s master plan available here.

In touch: Stony Brook University Department of Computer Science Professor Xiaojun Bi has received a $315,000 National Science Foundation award to study the interaction between smartphone users and touchscreens, in the hopes of dialing up newer and easier touchscreen technologies.

Noting the prevalence of smartphones in modern society (77 percent of Americans use them, according to the Pew Research Center), the university says Bi’s research – which draws heavily on the influential Finger-Fitts Law – could ultimately “heighten the ability of millions to better use smartphones” by improving accuracy and efficiency.

Finger-Fitts, you ask? That’s an expansion of Fitts’ Law – a descriptive model of human movement primarily used in human-computer interaction and ergonomics, updated to factor in different finger widths, which smartphone users know can make a huge difference.

 

TOP OF THE SITE

We are the world: A millennial innovator urges stakeholders to exploit talent-rich Long Island’s major advantages in the digital-age quest for work-life balance.

Water world: State grants pumped through the Center for Clean Water Technology at Stony Brook University are fortifying Long Island anti-contamination efforts.

When worlds collide: An innovative Adelphi University dual-degree program will speed things up for the next generation of scientist-entrepreneurs.

 

STUFF WE’RE READING

Choke on it: Washington Monthly makes a persuasive case against digital pollution.

Core concern: Has Apple lost its innovation mojo? Forbes considers.

Blow me down: The Associated Press was on hand Tuesday when the old Tappan Zee Bridge was blowed up real good.

 

RECENT FUNDINGS

+ Fortify, a Massachusetts-based additive-manufacturing digital composite-manufacturing startup, raised $2.5 million in seed funding backed by Neotribe Ventures, Prelude Ventures, Mainspring Capital, Ocean Azul Partners and McCune Capital.

+ First Stop Health, an Illinois-based provider of virtual healthcare services for the employer marketplace, raised $6.5 million in equity funding led by Morningstar founder and Chairman Joe Mansueto and bswift co-founder and former CEO Rich Gallun.

+ Carson, a New York City-based creator of an integrated technology platform and service for unstaffed residential buildings, raised $3 million in seed financing led by BuildingLink.

+ BenchPrep, an Illinois-based provider of an advanced white-label online learning platform for education and training organizations, raised $20 million in Series C funding co-led by Jump Capital and Owl Ventures, with participation from previous investors NewView Capital and Revolution Ventures.

+ Cabaletta Bio, a Pennsylvania-based biotechnology company focused on the discovery and development of T cell therapies for B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases, closed a $50 million Series B financing round backed by Deerfield Management Co., Boxer Capital of Tavistock Group, Redmile Group, Cormorant Capital, Adage Capital Management and 5AM Ventures.

+ Neosensory, a California-based neuroscience company creating wearable data-touch devices, raised $10 million in Series A financing co-led by Excel Venture Management and DigiTx Partners, with participation from existing investors True Ventures, Tao Capital and several angel investors.

 

BELOW THE FOLD

Breakfast: Food & Wine’s recommendations for the best morning meal in every state.

Dinner: From the East End to westernmost Nassau, Edible Long Island serves up its best bets for Long Island Restaurant Week.

Dessert: It’s five o’clock somewhere, so satisfy your sweet tooth with a delicious dessert cocktail.

We’re full: And extremely grateful for the amazing firms that put food on Innovate LI’s table – including accounting master EisnerAmper, where year-end tax-planning tips are just part of an exceptional menu of client services.