Category Archives: technology

Lifestyles Of The Rich And Efficient

Congratulations!

You’ve just been given the keys to your new 10,000-square foot house. It’s beautiful!

You love the kitchen, with its high-end appliances. The master bathroom, with its fancy his-and-her showers, tubs and whatnot. The pool (and poolhouse!)

The last thing on your mind is how to maintain all that stuff. Not to mention the irrigation, roof and security system.

Plus everything else.

It’s the last thing on your mind because 1) you haven’t even finished unpacking; 2) you are a wizard of Wall Street but not an electrician, plumber, roofer, tile man, lawn guy or locksmith, and 3) you don’t even know what you don’t know.

Who you gonna call?

EfficientLifestyle!

It's tough to maintain a home like this on your own. Right?

It’s tough to maintain a home like this on your own. Right?

They’re a brand-new company — as modern as your home. Since moving into their breathtaking space overlooking the Saugatuck River in November (actually, for a while before that), they’ve been preparing to launch a web-based platform that will make Angie’s List look like the Yellow Pages.

And make the Yellow Pages look like the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Tye Schlegelmich — founder and president of EfficientLifestyle — is an ex-hedge fund guy. He moved to Westport in 2010, and is passionate about his new role: making life more efficient, safe and fun for (among others) hedge fund guys.

Bill Green — vice president of operations — is a 1976 Staples High School grad. He’s spent his career building high-end homes in the area (and in similarly upscale locales, like Telluride).

Tye Schlegelmilch (left) and Bill Green, in their sun-filled riverside office.

Tye Schlegelmilch and Bill Green, in their sun-filled (and very efficient) riverside office.

At the heart of EfficientLifestyle is the belief that while everyone talks about the Internet of Things — the system of interrelated computing devices that in theory allows you to manage every aspect of your home digitally — the reality is far different.

You still have to change your air conditioning filters. Winterize your sprinklers. Clean your gutters. (Well, not necessarily “you.” Someone.)

And even if your house can tell you it’s broken, which local service provider around here is knowledgeable — and reliable — enough to fix it?

“Think of EfficientLifestyle as ‘Facebook for your house,'” Green says.

When you log in — after, that is, your address and credit cards have been verified — you see not a photo of you on the beach at Turks and Caicos, but a photo of your house.

The "home page" for your home.

The “home page” for your home.

You also see photos of your furnace, generator, oven, and many other appliances and pieces of machinery. That’s because the first thing Efficient Lifestyle does is send a “surveyor” to your home.

He takes those images — along with shots of the little plates bearing serial numbers — for 2 reasons. One is to create a database for your home.  The other is to make it very easy for service providers to provide service. If they know exactly where the water shutoff valve or control box is, they don’t have to spend valuable time searching for it. Or asking you where it is. (This also saves you from embarrassment, if your answer is, “Um….”)

Schlegelmilch notes another efficiency: Knowing makes and models allows service providers to pre-load trucks. The amount of time saved by not making multiple trips back and forth for 29-cent widgets on clogged I-95 is insane.

In his 90 to 120-minute inspection, the surveyor looks at everything: the roof, siding and interior of your home.

So far, Green notes, nearly every inspection has turned up something the homeowner did not know about, including chimney cracks, wiring problems and leaky pipes.

When you log in, you’ll also see a customized list of scheduled maintenance tasks — everything from exterior maintenance to moving outdoor furniture in for the winter.

There’s another list for unscheduled maintenance (uh oh).

Efficient Lifestyle also tracks major projects.

Efficient Lifestyle also tracks major projects.

To access a provider for any service — there are 47 categories — you click on the menu. Up comes a short roster of vendors, with pertinent information and reviews.

All have been vetted well. Very well. It’s an A-list for sure.

Once they’re approved — their licenses and certifications checked, their business reviews run — service providers get plenty. There’s full calendar integration. Payment processing. And an email/text system that allows customers and service providers to communicate quickly and efficiently. (No more voicemail, telephone answering services and other 20th-century technology.)

Currently, there is no fee for homeowners. EfficientLifestyle will be rolled out to other communities soon — but even if the firm eventually charges other homeowners for the initial survey, Schlegelmilch promises that Westporters will “never, ever” pay.

The list of repairs includes

The list of services you can access is long and comprehensive. It includes exterminators, generators — even garage doors.

The company charges service providers 5% of their fee.

It’s an efficient way to manage your lifestyle. It’s equally efficient for the service providers who make the cut.

And though the first part of this story talked about “your new 10,000-square foot house,” EfficientLifestyle can make life easy for any homeowner.

They know a thing or two about old places.

After all, their headquarters — 49 Riverside Avenue — was once Horace Staples’ lumberyard. Back in the 1860s.

You know — before electricity, Sub-Zero wine cellars and swimming pools that can’t survive a Westport winter on their own.

(To reach the EfficientLifestyle website efficiently, click here.)

Babysitting Solutions — The Modern Way

You need a babysitter. It’s getting late. Your regular — and your 2 back-ups — have not responded to voicemail or texts.

It’s a scene every Westporter who has — or had — kids can relate to.

Who you gonna call?

Starting soon, no one.

You won’t need to call. There’s an app for that.

Bambino Sitters is the brainchild of Sean Greene. Last year, the California single father of 3 realized while driving around his neighborhood, worrying about a sitter for that night, that behind many doors were sitters eager for work.

He just did not know who they were. And they did not know him.

Greene’s app could be called “the Uber of babysitting.” After downloading it to your iPhone or iPad, you create a profile as “sitter” or “parent.”

If you’re a sitter, you set your own schedule and update your availability.

Two screens for sitters...

Two screens showing sitters…

If you’re a parent, you sign in via Facebook. That allows you to see friends in your neighborhood — and which nearby sitters they love.

You don’t have to text 20 sitters. You just punch in “6-10 p.m., Thursday night,” and send a request to the sitters you (or your friends) like. When someone responds, it’s a match made in babysitting heaven.

The app tracks the time a sitter spends at work. All payment is done through the app too, so there’s no fishing around for money or change.

...and 2 for parents.

…and 2 for parents to click on. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

Last summer, Greene launched Bambino Sitters in Pacific Palisades. He’s since rolled it out to Santa Monica, Brentwood and several other neighborhoods.

So what — besides similar demographics — does this Southern California story have to do with Westport?

Bambino Sitters’ director of marketing is Sara Snow. She’s Greene’s friend, and former neighbor.

For the past year and a half, Snow has lived in Westport. She came East for her husband’s job. (Why Westport? Her college friend Missy Zahler lives here, and sold Snow on it.)

Sara Snow (upper right), with her children and mother. With Bambino Sitters, mom won't always have to babysit!

Sara Snow (upper right), with her children and mother. With Bambino Sitters, mom won’t always have to babysit!

This area will be the first national extension of the app. It goes live here over the next few days.

Katie Hill serves as Westport’s launch director. She moved here with her husband and 3 elementary school-aged kids. She’s a natural — as both a user and an executive.

Once Westport and Fairfield County are Bambino Sitter-ized, it will be rolled out in other towns and cities nationwide.

It’s a great app for any area with anxious parents and eager sitters. In other words, almost everywhere.

But we’ve got it (almost) first.

Country Curtains: The Closing

Yesterday, I wondered whether the reason for Country Curtains’ closing later this month was because of low sales volume or higher rent.

Peter Jennings, director of Bayberry Property Management & Leasing of CT — the manager of the small shopping center that includes that store, Stiles and Carvel — writes:

Country Curtains is closing due to a drop in business. Doing more in internet sales these days, like everyone else in this virtual world.

It took me 3 years to convince them to come to 06880. This ended up being their #1 store in the chain for many years, but always a top producer. It’s owned by very nice folks in Massachusetts.

Another nearby tenant was The Great American Stamp Store. They moved across the street, but are closing too — for the same reason.

So now you can get your rubber stamps and curtains online.

Along with everything else you once bought locally, from nice, helpful folks.

Country Curtains photos with -- unfortunately -- plenty of empty parking spots.

Country Curtains with — unfortunately — plenty of empty parking spots.

Gary Perelberg Cops Easy Sneakers

You know how hard it is to go online and buy a limited edition pair of sneakers?

Actually, I don’t.

But Gary Perelberg describes the frustration: You hear about a cool pair. You go to the site — say, Foot Locker. You keep clicking “Add to Cart.” Nothing happens — and then it crashes. No sneakers.

Actually, that’s what used to happen.

Gary — a Staples High School junior — has solved that First World problem. He developed a software program, with a bot that scrapes web pages. You put in the shoe you want, your size and shipping information — and bam! You’re in!

You can even purchase in bulk, in case you want to (ahem) resell.

easycop-logoGary’s program is called EasyCop (as in, “I copped these great sneakers on the web!”). It works with Foot Locker, Nike, East Bay and many more online stores.

Gary recently added many Shopify e-commerce sites, branching out into other apparel. You can now buy limited edition lipstick too!

Yet sneakers remain his love.

Gary’s not alone. Over 3,000 people have bought his software. He has more than 15,000 Twitter followers. Some are teenagers, like Gary. Others are adult collectors. Some are retailers.

Gary describes a recent success story: Kanye West introduced a very limited line of sneakers. They retail for $200, but command aftermarket prices of up to $4,000 (!).

“One guy bought 50 pairs,” Gary says proudly. They were promptly resold.

You’re wondering the same thing I am: Is this legal?

“Stores say they can cancel bot orders,” Gary explains. But they don’t, because such buying “drives hype. When a few people get tons of sneakers, the price stays high.”

Gary Perelberg at work, surrounded by the tools of his trade.

Gary Perelberg at work, surrounded by the tools of his trade.

Lest you think Gary is all about the money: He’s not. He could use his own program to buy and resell, but he doesn’t. He’s content just selling his software licenses.

Of course, he makes good money — enough to buy (at 16) his own car.

But he also has a social conscience. Each month, Gary gives a percentage of his income to Bridgeport public schools, so they can buy laptops and tablets. He’s already donated more than $5,000.

“They don’t have the same opportunity to learn technology,” he says. “I’m grateful for what I’ve learned. I want other people to have that chance too.”

Gary's Yeezy 350 Boost sneakers.

Gary’s Yeezy 350 Boost sneakers.

Of course, Gary has fun with his business. He used it recently to cop a pair of Kanye’s Yeezy 350 Boost sneakers (in pirate black).

Yet selling sneaker software is no walk in the park. Gary spends a good chunk of each day answering customer service questions. “Some people are just not tech-savvy,” he notes. Others have “legitimate questions.”

EasyCop has taught Gary a lot about dealing with the public. He’s also learned about programming, and how the web works.

He’s largely self-taught. But he gives shout-outs to Staples teachers like Dr. Nick Morgan, Dave Scrofani and Nate Dewey. “They’re not really into sneakers,” he says. “I talk to them a lot about programming though.”

He may expand EasyCop even beyond Shopify. “People request strange limited edition markets,” Gary says. “Like karate robes. And baby carriers.”

Soon though, he’ll start looking at colleges. His dream school is MIT.

One day, Gary says, “I want my own company.”

Sounds as if  he already does.

Want to know more about EasyCop? Click the video below.

Young Animator Draws On Her Talent

For as long as Olivia Porretta can remember, she’s loved animation.

“You can make a character very simple, but still get a powerful emotional response,” the Staples High School junior explains. “People can connect to just 2 eyes and 1 mouth — it’s a universal face.”

She also likes the fact that animation is done completely by hand. Every frame is created by a real person.

In 5th grade at Saugatuck Elementary School, Olivia designed storyboards for a made-up character — without even knowing what storyboards were. Her younger brother liked them, so she did more.

Olivia Porretta

Olivia Porretta

At Staples, Olivia honed her illustrating and writing skills in the Animation Club. Using Cintiq — an interactive pen device similar to a big iPad — and programs like Photoshop and TVPaint — her passion grew.

Except for a summer session at New York’s School of Visual Arts, Olivia is self-taught. She’s also a self-starter.

When she met Kimson Albert — a noted animator — she showed him her work. Last year, he invited her to join the Amaze Project. That’s a fun, engaging video series teaching tweens and teens about health and safety, including sexuality, gender identity, relationships, friendships and puberty.

Each short film is written, designed, animated and produced by different people. Olivia was hired — and paid — for a video about online safety.

“I wanted kids to be empowered, not scared, by information,” she says. So her animation delivers its message in the voice of a child. Staples students Chloe Adda and Jake Watzman provided 2 of the voices. Olivia also added her own.

It took several hours each night — for many weeks — for Olivia to complete her 4-minute film. It was released last month. Reaction has been great. Click on the video below, to see for yourself:

Soon, Olivia will be back at work, creating new animations. Meanwhile, she’s enjoying Staples — especially (of course) her English elective class.

It’s called Visual Literacy.

(Hat tip: Sean McGee)

It’s A Wonderful Life, Indeed!

Take out your earbuds. Move over, Spotify. You’re so old school, iTunes.

Staples students are embracing a cutting-edge new technology: radio.

But not just any radio: a 1940s-style radio drama.

WWPT_logoTomorrow (Thursday, December 22, 1 p..m.), Geno Heiter’s Audio Production class and David Roth’s Theater 3 Acting class collaborate on a radio broadcast of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

They’ll use the original 1946 script — including Lux toilet soap advertisements from that long-ago time.

Similar WWPT-FM productions have won top awards in the John Drury national high school radio competition. Check it out:

It’s a phenomenal event — and a great undertaking. High school students incorporate live drama skills, sound effects and radio production into an entertaining, uplifting performance.

You can hear it locally on 90.3 FM, or by clicking here for the livestream.

It is indeed a wonderful life!

PS: The 2016 Candlelight Concert is also available on WWPT-FM (and via livestream). It’s broadcast at random times — so keep listening!

Staples Students Buck Centuries Of Tradition

Harriet Tubman notwithstanding — in 2020 — US paper currency has long been filled with old white guys.

You or I can’t do anything about that. But Carla Eichler’s Advanced Design and Technology students can.

Every year, the Staples High School art class creates posters for events like the Candlelight concert, library programs and more. They also study packaging and marketing concepts.

But the most creative part of the course is a major project, which changes each time. This year, Eichler asked her class to redesign the dollar bill.

Gabe Holm (foreground) and Ben Matteson, hard at work in Carla Eichler's class.

Gabe Holm (foreground) and Ben Matteson, hard at work in Carla Eichler’s class.

It was not easy. First the students studied the history of American currency. Then they looked at other countries’ money.

They realized that, by comparison, ours is dull — in both color and content. While some nations celebrate their cultures and values, ours honors (it bears repeating) old white guys.

Eichler’s assignment had certain requirements. New designs must incorporate traditional elements, like the Federal reserve seal. But other than that, the sky — literally — was the limit.

Some students kept familiar characteristics: the flag, the eagle, even the green and gray color palette.

Others changed colors, iconography and themes.

Senior Gabe Holm took the “sky’s the limit” charge seriously. The front side of his design — which cleverly rises vertically — shows an astronaut floating in space. The reverse side includes the Apollo 11 rocket blasting off for the moon, and Neil Armstrong’s famous “one small step…” speech.

“My philosophy was to honor achievements, rather than people,” Gabe says. “That avoids any controversy over gender or race. And the moon landing is one of America’s greatest achievements.”

gabe-holm-dollar-redesign-space

Sophomore Ben Matteson wanted a person of color on his bill. He chose Martin Luther King — “a man who changed America. He made a big impact on what our country is today.”

Ben chose one of King’s lesser-known quotes for the front. The back shows the Lincoln Memorial. It was the site of King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech — while also honoring a president who had an enormous impact on equal rights.

ben-matteson-dollar-redesign-mlk

Jacob Stanford selected a white guy for his bill — but one of far more recent vintage, to “modernize” our currency. John F. Kennedy is “iconic,” the sophomore says. He then found an iconic color photo of the president, his finger jabbing at a press conference, but made it black-and-white.

Jacob juxtaposed JFK in front of the New York City skyline — a city he calls “the most iconic place in America.” But on the back of his design — in place of the usual Washington buildings and monuments — he offers a nod to traditionalism: a soaring eagle.

jacob-stanford-dollar-redesign-jfk

Perhaps the most intriguing departure from the same-old same-old came from Alyssa Domenico. The senior — born in China, adopted by American parents — wanted to portray this nation’s diversity and multiculturalism.

She researched Ellis Island, and studied the languages we speak here today. The result: a beautiful design incorporating the storied immigration center, the Statue of Liberty, American flags on the front and back — and “one dollar,” rendered in over a dozen languages.

alyssa-domenico-dollar-redesign-immigration

As part of the assignment students wrote artist statements, reflecting why and how they chose their designs. They also critiqued each other’s work, and used that feedback in their revisions.

This is Eichler’s 12th year teaching Advanced Design and Technology. Many of her students have gone on to careers in graphic arts, marketing, art education and animation.

Perhaps others will one day actually redesign our U.S. currency.

We sure need it.

Young Dentists Bond Together

Dentistry can be an isolating profession. Sure, there’s your office — with assistants, hygienists, office staff and maybe a partner or two — and of course patients. But most dentists rarely get the chance to learn from, and socialize with, other dentists.

In a profession that’s changing so rapidly, that can be frustrating.

Fortunately, a group of young area dentists have figured out a solution.

Dr. Alexander Volchonok

Dr. Alexander Volchonok

Alex Volchonok has taken the lead. Born in Moscow, he grew up in Philadelphia and south Jersey. At Lehigh and the University of Pennsylvania dental school, he learned the importance of collaboration.

After finishing his periodontal training at Columbia last year, he was hired as an associate with Dr. David Gottlieb, a longtime Westport resident. He’s helped bring the team approach to Dr. Gottlieb’s Norwalk office.

But Volchonok wanted to do more. He found a kindred spirit in Dr. Emily Driesman, who practices with Scher Orthodontics in Westport.

They formed a study group, as a way to network with other young professionals. “We want to grow together, using the benefits of technology and social media,” Volchonok says.

The diverse group includes oral surgeons, periodontists, orthodontists, children’s dentists and other specialists.

Dr. Emily Driesman

Dr. Emily Driesman

In addition to Driesman, Westport dentists in the group of about 20 include Drs. Steve Cagliostro, Sasha Drexler, Lindsay Gadzik, Alison Kudish, Hannah Ahn and Steve Smullin.

The common denominator: All are in their first 5 years of practice.

The group meets once a month, at different offices. They discuss a specific topic — cosmetic dentistry, laser treatment, something new in sedation or easing patient anxiety. Of course, there’s food and wine.

“As dentists, we spend our days confined to our offices,” Volchonok notes. “Even the professional societies meet just 2 or 3 times a year. Getting together every month really builds collaboration and bonds.”

Dentistry is “exploding,” Volchonok says. There are new methods, approaches — and especially technologies.

“A lot of it is in the digital realm,” he explains. “We’re comfortable with that. We’ve grown up with it. It’s a very dynamic field.”

You might call it wide open. And these young area dentists open wide to embrace it.

The young dentists' group. Check out those smiles!

The young dentists’ group. Check out those smiles!

Westport Library’s Iconic Eikon

It’s been there in the Westport Library — right near the reference desk — since spring.

You might not have noticed it.

But plenty of business executives, investors, entrepreneurs and job seekers have.

(Photo/JP Vellotti)

(Photo/JP Vellotti)

It’s a Thomson Reuters Eikon database. And Westport is the only public library in Connecticut to have one.

The financial analysis tool enables users to track market, company and economic data. It’s sophisticated, strong — and completely free.

For Westport Library patrons, that is.

If you installed one of these babies in your office or home, or on a mobile device, — according to published rates — it could cost up to $1,800 a month.

Thomas Reuters donated both the hardware and software to our library. They’re looking to expand their market, and thought making it visible — in a community that cares very much about the markets — would be a smart move.

Feedback has been great. Eikon is used often, by a variety of folks for a host of reasons. It’s already led to positive results for job seekers, as they’ve researched potential employers before interviews.

But this is not our library’s only just-one-in-the-state database. For the past few years, LexisNexis has provided legal and business research — also free. That’s a donation too, from the Berchem, Moses & Devlin law firm.

Our library is amazing. In fact, there’s none other like it in Connecticut.

You can take that to the bank.

Beechwood Arts Concert Streams Into Your Home

Today — 2 weeks before Christmas — is a busy day for many of us.

We’ve got holiday parties to go to, trees to buy and trim, football games to watch. There aren’t enough hours in the day.

But if you can manage to be free for just an hour — starting at 5 p.m. — you won’t regret it.

Jeanine Esposito and Frederic Chiu, in their Weston Road home.

Jeanine Esposito and Frederic Chiu, in their Weston Road home.

Beechwood Arts and Innovation — the unique immersive salons sponsored by Frederic Chiu and Jeanine Esposito at their amazing Weston Road home — is staging another event.

But this time, on this cold day, you don’t have to leave the comfort of your home.

You don’t even have to live around here to attend.

All you need is Facebook.

The idea is to replace the “me” in social media with “we,” Chiu explains. “We hope to bring people together to inspire a sense of unity on a global scale.”

Igor Pikayzen

Igor Pikayzen

Today’s salon is a virtual one. Held on Facebook Live, it’s a stream of an actual salon to be held at the couple’s home (called Beechwood). Igor Pikayzen — a 2005 Staples High School graduate, 2007 Westport Arts Horizon winner, and internationally known violinist, will perform.

Fairfield neighbor Orin Grossman will play favorites from the Gershwin songbook on piano, and Brahms’ “Hungarian Dances” with Chiu.

Greg Wall — Westport’s unique “jazz rabbi” — will show off his rarely seen classical side.

“The goal is to create unity around the world, through the universal language of music,” Chiu says. “Facebook Live is the perfect platform, because it’s interactive.

beechwood-arts-logo“People can join us on their phone, computer, tablet or smart TV. They can communicate with each other using Facebook comments — emojis are fine!”

Hundreds of intimate gatherings of friends and families have already been planned (thanks to Facebook, of course). But individuals can join too. Everyone’s invited.

Today’s Beechwood salon is music at its finest — and most accessible.

That football game can wait.

(Click here to join the Beechwood Arts Salon Facebook Live event, or search Facebook for “Beechwood Arts and Innovation.”)

Greg Wall, the "jazz rabbi," plays classical music today.

Greg Wall, the “jazz rabbi,” plays classical music today.