Monthly Archives: April 2014

This is What Happens when the Traffic Lights Go Out

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IMG_20140430_080808_431It is a regular day as people everywhere get into their cars and quietly go towards work. For the most part, the city seems normal. At least it was until a huge demand in electricity caused an outage which turned off the lights at a peaceful intersection. With only a few people present at the time, it wasn’t hard to figure out what to do. The individuals involved proceeded to approach the crossroads like a 4-way stop and everything continued without a glitch. A couple of seconds later the power returns. Red lights turn to green, sprinklers regain their schedule spraying the lawns with mists of water vapor, and traffic continues.

Since there was little traffic, only a minor inconvenience occurred. However, this was not the case at another intersection just down the road. The lights are still black there and the area is on a much busier street making the individuals much more tense. Instead of waiting for each vehicle to proceed one by one, the people on opposite sides push through in groups. The ones parallel to each other move on after that, taking turns crossing the road’s center point. Power does return, but only after a lot of honking and yelling.

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Just as the scene calms down, another malfunction happens. This time all the lights are blinking red. The system resets, but the controller mechanisms haven’t re-calibrated yet. No one knows what to do. Then, all of a sudden, the cops show up trying to figure out what is going on and pedestrians start taking photos. This extended period of time without working lights forces two people who are not paying attention to interact. Tires screech and metal collide pushing into the frames of the two vehicles like dented beer cans.

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Although money will exchange hands addressing the cost of damages, the sudden lack of power on the grid shows that the infrastructure put in place is not sustainable. At some point in time, the cracks will show.

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Suggestions:

Remove all the traffic lights and push towards automated driverless cars. People will still be able to to travel. There will just be a heightened sense of awareness until they get more comfortable with the new system. Now replace the steering wheel with a touch display and let the cars drive themselves. Allow each vehicle to talk directly to each other without having to communicate through a centralized server. This will keep each car asking where the other vehicles are in relation to each other. Each node would be able to see what the others are connected to maintaining the context of the roads. After installing all this, then you won’t need any faulty signal lights trying to direct the traffic that changes at any given moment anyways, and everyone can continue on their way back to work even if the power goes out.

 

 

The Brewery Art Walk in Los Angeles. 5 approaches to art.

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“We got paintings! We got industrial lamps! We got Vodka!”

This slogan was chanted as dozens of people roamed the world’s largest art complex. Located just a few blocks away from Big Art Labs, the open studios here surround a worn-down Pabst Blue Ribbon beer brewery. This scene is the center landmark associated with the free, educational, public arts event that is held twice a year where food, art, and creativity gushes from every corner here.

The lofts that are there are a part of what has become a uniquely vibrant and creative community. With so many different ways to show off their work, each artist-in-residence has come up with their own approach to displaying their art. Here are just a few:

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1)      Teach the kids!

Children tend to latch on to bright colors, odd shapes, and intriguing sounds; all of which show themselves during the art creation phase. To get the kids interacting with the art, several artists developed games and fun little projects to keep them interested.

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2)      Be in the right place at the right time

Checking out the photography of the legendary Bruce Talamon led to the idea that it is critical to position yourself when trying to capture a moment. Looking at the pictures that he took of Rick James, Isaac Hayes, and many other well-known musicians shows that it takes a lot of organization in order to record an event as it is happening.

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3)      Work with metal and heavy machines

Technology is everywhere now. It is intertwingled in our very existence, starting with the metals that are used to structure the frames of our smart devices. Combining the bright colors of spattered paint with the mechanical nature of steel, zinc, and aluminum produces a beautiful clash of two worlds.

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4)      Observe the world from above

At the very top of the tallest building in the art complex is a space where clay makers sit and watch the world go by. You can see all the way out to the edge of the horizons where mountains, cities, and railroads align. It is peaceful and tranquil allowing the mind to relax, right before diving into the molding process.

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5)      Go psychedelic

My favorite approach is the method of altering the mind and environment in a way that challenges what you think you know. One good example of this is a Bad Ass 3D Mural Artist by the name of Debi Cable who creates the hottest black light art in the city. Her work is best seen wearing 3D glasses. The kids love her art, all while the parents reminisce of the times when everything seemed so new.

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Links:

Brewery Art Walk Website: http://breweryartwalk.com/about

Two Bit Circus: http://twobitcircus.com/event/april-artwalk-2014/

Bruce Talamon: http://www.brucetalamon.com/

Debi Cable: http://www.debicable.com/

 

Who Owns the Digital City?

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For me, this question of ownership started when I was looking into my fridge in college wondering where all the food went. Money was tight, but the motivation to succeed at something kept me thinking. As I closed the door and ventured out into the world, I began looking for places to eat. Fast food joints were everywhere and students roamed freely. Eventually, a sushi restaurant called Mr. Roboto’s spoke my name through an interconnected app on my phone. A notification popped up directing me where to go, and a short distance later I was seated comfortably eating some delicious seafood.

Fast forward to the present and now everything seems intertwingled. I’m sitting in a room with some of the greatest minds of our time. Ted Nelson, Steve Wozniak, Jaron Lanier, Dick Heiser, and Christine Borgman are all here. They speak of what it was like to see a pioneer construct the ideas of what computers and networks would manifest into. They hint at the interweaving of information in all its forms. Thoughts float about as data is being aggregated from just about any surface. Roads have street lights that trigger camera captures when a color changes. Parking meters are referenced through phone apps allowing money to refresh the time. Even, utilities are gathering information about the people who pay for electricity. All that data (and more) is coming together in ways that can greatly affect our lives.

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But who owns that data? The chances are it is not you. Most likely the information that is being collected is by various startup companies that are looking to profit off the mass aggregation of people’s lifestyles. They want a quick buy out by a larger corporation making the founders millions of dollars while the individuals adding to the system get nothing. Call it capitalism, or the embodiment of the entrepreneurial spirit, or whatever. All that is clear is that there are people who are looking to ‘own’ the information of the digital city and profit off that. But who really holds the power here?

Some might say that those who are controlling the digital information are the people who are initiating the servers and databases to direct the data. This is true. The people who have the biggest and baddest computer systems tend to run the world. Look at Walmart, or Google, or Facebook. They all have large information systems that pull and push and manage that data. This helps them make ‘better’ decisions, but they are limited by the infrastructures that have been put in place.

For instance, you cannot run a server without power. There must a wire, or group of wires, running directly through the walls taking the electricity from a power plant into the building where a budding internet startup is being born. Without those connections of electricity, the digital city does not exist. It becomes just an idea of those sitting in darkness hoping to make something out of nothing.

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So to answer the question above, the people that own the digital city right now are the utility companies. Without them, no internet startup can exist. Without energy being pumped into the building, servers and air conditioning and air hockey tables cannot be established. They need electricity to function, but few seem to acknowledge this. As a startup builds up and sets itself up for investments and potential acquisitions, they tend to forget who really laid the ground work. The electrician who crawled through the dusty confines of the walls who laid the very foundation of power gets no credit for this. The power company that is generating the electricity gets no mention either. But in reality, they are the true owners of the digital city. They make it work on a fundamental level that most cannot see.

 

Article written by Matthew T. @industrychanger

7 Ideas that surfaced at Long Beach’s Sustainability Mixer

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On Thursday, April 17, a Green Generation event was held in a Japanese Garden located on a college campus. It felt like the Garden of Eden as light from the sun shined down on the people walking around a beautiful koi pond in the middle. Tables were setup along the edges to showcase many unique projects that are being developed by students at CSULB. Described below are just a few ideas that presented themselves at this event:

1)      Battery Recycling

If you got old any old 9-volt, AA, or watch batteries lying around, then this service will be perfect for you. Instead of throwing them out, just recycle them.

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2)      Community Gardens & Kitchens

Good food is becoming harder and harder to come by, especially if you are in poverty. If you live in a place where they don’t even have grocery stores (aka a food desert) and the only option for sustenance is a dirty McDonald’s, then you’re diet clearly isn’t sustainable. To help solve this problem, community gardens and kitchens are popping up everywhere. These places provide a way for those in need of pesticide-free organic vegetables to get them.

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3)      Liquefied Natural Gas Shipping Infrastructures

As the oil reserves of the world rapidly run out, the need to find alternative fuel sources is ever prevalent. One particularly interesting type of energy is coming from natural gas. Already commercial trucks and buses have integrated CNG systems. Although the miles per gallon are increased this way, the cost of shipping is the most expensive part. It is nice to see that people are attempting to solve this exceptionally hard problem of energy sustainability.

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4)      Offshore Shellfish Ranches

If the plankton and shellfish of the many oceans decrease exponentially, then a chain reaction of consequences will be set in motion that will change the world in ways that we can only guess the full extent of. Maintaining the delicate balance of those ecosystems is critical. Offshore shellfish ranches increase food security for those who must have this healthy source of protein.

5)      Recycling Reward Systems

To go with the battery recycling initiate posted above, recycling reward systems are being put in place to help motivate individuals to recycle more. The information is stored on a server which can be accessed through various web portals and mobile apps. It will be interesting to see what types of perks will be given to those people who recycle. If they aren’t setup in a way to benefit those adding information to the database, then those who generate wealth off these types of systems will only be the people who initiate the servers.

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6)      Natural Flowing Architecture

As the need to restructure our cities persists, new ideas arise of how to design buildings that reflect the natural flowing elements of the outside world with safety of a suburban culture. The interlaced outcome is an amazing work of art that you can live in.

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7)      Power Saving Electric Readers

This is by far my most favorite area of energy sustainability. It is the use of personal hardware devices that sense electrical signals and heat waves. It allows just about anyone to know how much power is being used. Internships and job opportunities are being created through student and corporate initiatives to train people to use these types of devices.

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8)      Koi Pond Music Stages

Music is a driving force that can motivate and inspire just about any emotion in the human spectrum. It can be found in some of the most unusual and extraordinary places. The pure nature of a koi pond makes an amazing platform to jam out some tunes and rhythms.

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Article written by Matthew T. : @industrychanger

Why Hackerspaces Need to Focus on the Foundation 1st

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Imagine a place where people get together, hang out, converse, and collaborate. It is filled to the brim with entrepreneurs of all types working on projects that they hope will change the world. Many of them are on laptops or standalone computers frantically typing business plans or hacking out code. Others are making phone calls while trying to set up connections wherever they can.

As all the chaos goes about, one can see that in this space is an environmental core that keeps the magic flowing around innovation. It is the center foundation of what the area will turn into. While the outer linings are being fine-tuned and polished, the inner workings remain relatively unchanged. The concrete has been laid; the electrical wires have been strung throughout the wooden frames and the insulation and drywall is mostly there, all while a wireless network is hangs throughout the air. Projects can begin even if the air conditioning isn’t hooked up yet.

As long as there is a good foundation, people can get stuff done. The rest of the work on the outer edges will always be changing. Paint will cover the walls in different shades and dust will always need to be cleaned up. However as time goes on and unless a major change happens, all the people running the space will need to do is adjust the dials of the environment (when needed) and continue progressing the community. Once the foundation is done first, the rest will fall into place after that.

 

Article written by Matt T. : @industrychanger

Article Written at Blankspaces: http://www.blankspaces.com/

Give me 3 hours and I’ll Give You Tools to Start a Makerspace

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Let’s face it. Work cannot be accomplished if you don’t have the right tools. Resources are needed to build prototypes. That is just how it is.

To help solve the problem of accessing the right tools, makerspaces and hackerspaces have been popping up across the world. They are providing enough resources to those interesting in building. Maybe you have already been to one. Perhaps you are even interested in starting your own, but don’t know quite where to begin.

Well never fear, I am here. To assist with your journey into the world of creating a makerspace from the foundation up, I have documented ways to get things rolling. First off, you will need to accumulate as many tools as you can. A good place to look for cheap working power drills, saws, and wrenches is to travel to a local flea market. There will be tons of options to choose from. Focus in on the areas where a large variety of tools can be found. Most likely the people selling them are receiving a discount for buying in bulk, which you can use to your advantage to talk the price down.

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After buying what you need, starting searching for other items that could be useful in your upcoming makerspace. This can include cell phones, laptops, sewing machines, chargers, and even generators. Having portable power is great when setting up a mobile makerspace.

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While you’re there, you mind as well pick up some fresh food and get several potted plants for the garden you might put outside your makerspace. This will keep the cost down for providing nutrients to the dozens of developers that will be hovering around your place at any given time. Get some clothes if the people involved are one the verge of becoming homeless. If you foresee security being an issue at your hackerspace, then grab some bullet proof vests from the guy that is selling camouflage materials.

There are so many resources that can be found at flea markets. You just got to know where to look.

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Learn How to Scrap Metal and Circuitboards at Warehouses & Hackerspaces

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When there is nothing left to lose, the whole world is to gain. With the United States scrapping trend fueling a lot of China’s manufacturing, people are beginning to look for ways to cash in on this movement. If all the money in a bank account has been drawn out leaving just a few bucks to survive off of, selling bits of metal can keep things going essentially turning the experience into a chance to make something out of nothing.

So to start things off, research must be done to find where the materials that are valuable are. Looking around mills and factories will lead to dumpsters that contain pounds and pounds of metal. Steel, brass, copper, and aluminum are the most popular. If luck is on your side, you might be able to locate ingots of metal lying around. Grab as much heavy stuff as you can. Don’t be afraid to jump inside. Just watch out for sharp edges. Your hands will no doubtedly get dirty. Wearing gloves is a nice precaution and bringing a backpack to gather more materials per visit is useful as well.

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After accumulating various alloys, travel to a nearby hackerspace. Go to the back entrance and check the trash yet again. This time look for motherboards and circuits. There might be metal scraps and printers hidden around if you search carefully. Take everything you can, but don’t break into the space itself. Although the appeal to steal all the technology inside is big, leaving those tools there will produce something much greater over time. Someone will develop something revolutionary with those resources. No need to hinder that from happening.

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Once all the materials are in hand, go over to the closest scrap metal yard and sell them what you have.   Each place will pay different amount per pound. Some will only take metal, others take cardboard. The materials will then be packaged together in large trash cubes and shipped to China. The payout isn’t very much, but it can buy enough food for a day if done right.

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Visiting ReAmp Studios in Anaheim

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The sun is beginning to set to the west coast of the California horizon. My brother and I are on our way down to San Deigo to visit our cousin for a laidback relaxing weekend of drinking, smoking, and eating good food. We decide to make a pit stop in Anaheim first to check out a meetup that is happening at ReAmp Studios in a warehouse complex off Cosby Way in Unit X. The car rolls up to where the event is taking place. We park off to the side where no one can see us yet. I jump outside slowly and start taking photos of the surrounding area like usual when scoping out a place.

Sticking to the concrete mud-spattered wall, I walk around the building following the sounds of people singing. A group of artists gather by watching and vibing to the rhythms. Holger greets me and lets me know that I can explore the inside of the studio. Slipping in opens up the world associated with the recording environment located there.  Posters of inspirational bands line the plaster. Even a signed picture of Kurt Cobain creates an aura of creativity radiating from the photo. As people start funneling back in, I leave. The adventure must continue south where family and friends await.

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ReAmp Studios: http://www.reampstudios.com/

Music Studio Meetup Group: http://www.meetup.com/Music-Studio/

 

 

 

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Finding like-minded people in the music industry

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The spirit of connectivity is strong in Los Angeles. It is all about collaboration. One event that is leading the changes in music is happening monthly at the SEED Center in the downtown arts district. Led by Alex Park, the event brings a great lineup of speakers, gear demos, and giveaways. They are accumulating a following of approximately 50-80 in attendance of each Jam Night so far. The meetup I went to was on April 2, 2014.

I was invited by Gary Chung from the OC Electronic Music Producers group to check it out. We sat at the back on a white fluffy couch and watched as producers, singer, engineers, and other music enthusiasts filtered in. A guy by the pseudonym Mekanist was the 1st to speak. He played an Ableton track that he is currently working on. It ramps up and echoes off the brick walls bouncing around every surface including the wooden panel floor on the ground. The sounds he uses include coins being rolled and cups being dragged across desks. He also is exploring photography.

Up next was DJ Hapa. He started live music entertainment in 1995. Scratch DJ Academy was started up with Jam Master Jay in 2002. After Jay was murdered, his legacy continued in this company. “If you don’t teach, all the secrets will die with you.”

After a brief transition, Michael Frick and Steph Altman of Mophonics Music got on stage. They sat down and addressed the audience in an informal fashion. Their company hires songwriters and producers to create music for branded initiatives in the ad space. They’ve worked with Apple, Google, Audi, Visa, Muscle Milk and have incubated artists such as Foster the People. Steph keeps people laughing with his humble and honest nature. Michael is more business oriented which manifests a good dynamic between the two.

Last but not least to the front of the room is Phil Wagner who is the President of Focusright and Novation. They make the popular Launchpad family of hardware midi controllers that are used by producers, DJ’s, and musicians across the world. Madeon, a 19 year old producer from France, utilized the platform to create an amazing Youtube video showcasing the potential of this platform. Even my roommate in Tallahassee was inspired by the creativity that Madeon presented through the web with the use of the Launchpad hardware. The effects of this movement are witnessed firsthand.

As the night came to a close, a majority of the truly passionate individuals stuck around gathering inspiration from the other people around. Contacts and business cards were given out. Connections were linked up. Josh Spoon and Hiko were met. Those two are involved in a Space Circus and are preparing for the upcoming Pasadena Music Festival. Talks of the unique influences of Daedelus briefly surfaces. Even Ilya O shows up to get a feel where the music industry is going. Overall, it looks like these people here will collaborate with one another. It is just unclear yet where exactly it will take us.

 

Links:

LA Music Creators Meetup Group: http://www.meetup.com/LAMusicCreators/

Orange County EMP Meetup Group: http://www.meetup.com/OC-Electronic-Music-Producers/

Mekanist’s Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/mekanist

Scratch DJ Academy: http://www.scratch.com/

Mophonics Music: http://www.mophonics.com/

Novation Music’s Website: http://us.novationmusic.com/

Space Circus Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/spacecircusmusic

!lyaO’s website: http://ilyao.com/

Erik Mark (my previous roommate)’s soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/eric_mark