Category Archives: technology

The Briggs Cunningham Watch

More than once, “06880” has honored Briggs Cunningham.

The polymathic Westporter skippered Columbia to the America’s Cup title in 1958. He invented “the Cunningham,” a device to increase the speed of racing sailboats. He competed in the 24 hour auto race at LeMans, developed and built the Chrysler C-4R racing car, owned the 1st Ferrari in America, and made the cover of Time magazine.

Briggs Cunningham II, on the cover of Time.

Briggs Cunningham, on the cover of Time.

He also married Lucy Bedford, daughter of Standard Oil heir F.T. Bedford — not a bad career move. (Cunningham’s father, Briggs Sr., was an early investor in the company that became Procter and Gamble. So the son did not exactly pull  himself out of poverty.)

But “06880” has never mentioned Cunningham’s watches.

According to a long story in Hodinkee — a website devoted to all you’d ever want to know about luxury watches — the Westporter was an American hero.

“His name means little to those outside the highest echelons of motorsport and aquatic racing,” Benjamin Clymer writes.

“But to those in the know, Briggs Cunningham and his collection of bespoke wristwatches are downright legendary.”

Cunningham’s place in horology (the art of making clocks and watches — yeah, I looked it up) is secured by his ownership of 3 Patek Philippe watches.

Briggs Cunningham's least expensive watch.

Briggs Cunningham’s least expensive watch.

All are stainless steel. (He chose that design over gold because he was a “highly active, top-tier athlete.”)

Two are unique commissions designed especially for him.

The other — created in 1949 — is still in mint condition. It sold last year for about $100,000.

The 1463 chronograph.

The 1463 chronograph.

That’s chump change compared to Cunningham’s 1463 chronograph. Made unique by its black dial with luminous markers and hands, it has achieved “mythical status since first appearing on the market,” Clymer writes.

Cunningham wore it in a photo with driver Phil Hill. They’re examining the Westporter’s Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing — the 1st one ever delivered commercially.

That combination of watch and automobile “has long made him an icon to me,” says Clymer.

That watch is on the market now. It can be yours for $1.5 million.

Briggs Cunningham, his watch, race car driver Phil Hill, and the 1st Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing ever.

Briggs Cunningham, his watch, race car driver Phil Hill, and the 1st Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing ever.

But even that is a drugstore Timex compared to Cunningham’s 1526 perpetual calendar watch.

“It is just one of just two perpetual calendars to be made in steel, and the Arabic markers are covered in black lacquer. How incredible is that?” Clymer asks.

The 1526 perpetual calendar watch.

The 1526 perpetual calendar watch.

Apparently, quite incredible. One of the most beautiful watches ever made by Patek Philippe, it sold for $3,956,159 in 2008.

The buyer: Patek Philippe itself.

I can’t imagine I’ll ever write another “06880” post about watches.

But something tells me I’ll keep discovering interesting tidbits about Briggs Cunningham, for years to come.

(Hat tip: Peter Tulupman)


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Saugatuck Digital Arts Workshop Opens Soon — In Fairfield

As a child of the 1960s and ’70s, Mike Stuttman knew Westport when it was filled with creative artist-types, and was a marketing mecca too.

He followed both paths. After Staples High School and the Cambridge School, Stuttman headed to the Rochester Institute of Technology for photography. “I loved it, but I couldn’t make ideas appear,” he says. Along the way, he was exposed to animation. So when he transferred to the University of Colorado, he majored in…

…math.

(Coleytown Junior High School teacher Otilia Malinowski had sparked that interest, years earlier.)

Mike Stuttman

Mike Stuttman

Stuttman embarked on a long career in direct marketing. He worked in New York and, locally, for the Ryan Partnership and Barry Blau. For the past 10 years, he’s consulted.

But around 2008 — when the recession hit — his phone stopped ringing. Stuttman — who’d never lost his passion for animation and computers — had an epiphany: Photoshop was just like cel animation.

He taught himself the software. Then in 2010, on a whim, he applied to New York’s School of Visual Arts, for an MFA in computer art.

It was a wonderful experience. Stuttman — newly energized — particularly enjoyed his technical classes, using software like After Effects. “I learned the craft of making digital art,” he says.

Next came a vision: replicating a space like SVA, to offer digital art classes locally. He could fill it with talented instructors, and students who want to make art with animation.

Westport — where his politically active mother Dora had run the Top Drawer store, and his father Burt owned a direct marketing firm — was the perfect spot. Stuttman — who loved the river — even had the perfect name: Saugatuck Digital Arts Workshop.

Saugatuck Digital Arts Workshop

He searched everywhere for the perfect location. He could not find one.

Finally, space became available in the old Fairfield Department Store building. It was within walking distance of the train station (he thought most instructors would commute from the city). There were great restaurants nearby.

“I’ve become that guy: a Westporter who’s a Fairfield convert,” Stuttman says.

He’ll offer software classes in computer art basics, digital darkroom, digital storytelling, digital sound for artists, computer sound, animation, editing and post-production, motion graphics, graphic design and small business marketing.

Classes typically run once a week for 2 hours, over the course of 6 weeks.

His potential audience includes “self-identified artists, and aspiring and working creative professionals” is vast: photographers, film and video makers, painters, graphic designers, musicians, sound designers, animators, editors, compositors, VFX artists, podcasters, DJs, makers and coders — and “the curious and creative.”

Students will use 8 “sexy, great and fully loaded 27” iMac workstations.

As it turns out, Stuttman has found a great pool of instructors right around here. They won’t need the train.

“And they’re excellent teachers — not just accomplished professionals,” Stuttman notes.

So when he opens right after Labor Day, why will Stuttman’s Fairfield space be called Saugatuck Digital Arts Workshop?

“I love rivers. The Saugatuck is not only in Westport, you know. I would have loved a red-brick, individual space. But it’s tough to find an inexpensive, small place in Westport.”

Besides, he’s not the only Fairfield business with a Westport name.

Saugatuck Sweets is around the corner.

(To learn more about Saugatuck Digital Arts Workshop, click here.)


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James O’Brien Farms Garden Technologies

The next time you see a kid hunched over a smartphone screen, oblivious to the world, don’t assume he or she is idly Snapchatting, sexting or searching for Pokemon.

If the teenager is James O’Brien, he might be listening to a TED Talk.

And learning how to reimagine agriculture.

Not long ago James — a rising Staples High School senior, Oprhenians singer and Staples Players stage star — stumbled on a TED Talk about African farmers. Caleb Harper — director of MIT Labs’ Open Agriculture Initiative — talked about changing the world food system by connecting growers with technology. His goal is to grow delicious, nutrient-dense food, indoors anywhere in the world.

James learned that a shipping container-sized computerized device can help preserve agricultural knowledge, and maximize the effects of air and water on crops and plants.

He was especially intrigued to discover that a smaller device is available, for anyone to build and learn from.

James knew nothing about farming. He has not taken Environmental Studies at Staples.

But he downloaded the designs. When school was out in June, he went to work.

James now grows lettuce — in a tiny bit of water, not soil. Software monitors every aspect of growth. Every time he looks in his box, James learns about chemistry, physics and circuitry. (He now knows, for example, that lettuce grows best with 16 hours of light, followed by 2 hours of darkness. The device controls those hours.)

James O'Brien, with his home-built lettuce box.

James O’Brien, with his home-built device. Inside, he grows lettuce.

Inspired by his lettuce — it grows much more quickly in water than in soil — he’s passing his knowledge on.

He’s shown his device to students at Mike Aitkenhead’s Wakeman Town Farm summer camp, talking with them about the importance of sustainability.

James O'Brien, talking to Wakeman Town Farm campers. Director Mike Aitkenhead is on the table at left.

James O’Brien, talking to Wakeman Town Farm campers. Director Mike Aitkenhead is on the table at left.

James has also started Workshop Garden Technologies. His goal is to use the Open Agriculture Initiative’s Food Computer platform to educate and inspire coming generations.

“I want to create a space for kids to tinker and experiment like I did,” he says.

Meanwhile, his lettuce thrives.

Next up: strawberries, beans or tomatoes.

“There are lots of possibilities,” says Westport’s newest — and most innovative — farmer.

(For more information on James O’Brien’s Workshop Garden Technologies, click here or email workshopgarden@gmail.com)

James O'Brien - logo


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U Drive. U Text. U Pay.

Look around.* It’s easy to see drivers everywhere in Westport using their cell phones. Texting. Probably looking for Pokemon too.

It’s easy to think there’s no enforcement whatsoever of Connecticut’s no-cell-phone law.

That’s not true. I get the police reports. I know that every week, our cops hand out a dozen or so tickets for illegal cell phone use.

Now through August 16, they’re handing out a lot more.

Texting is so much more interesting than paying attention to the road.

Texting is so much more interesting than paying attention to the road.

The Westport Police is joining the state Department of Transportation’s “U Drive. U Text. U Pay” initiative.

For the 2nd year in a row, law enforcement agencies are adding special patrols to catch distracted drivers — especially those on their phones.

The last operation resulted in over 12,000 tickets throughout Connecticut.

At $150 for a 1st offense, $300 for a second and $500 for each violation after that, that’s a lot of money.

And — hopefully — a lot of lives saved.

(For more information on distracted driving, click here.)

*But pay attention to the road!


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Droning Over Compo

David Pogue lost his drone.

Brandon Malin still has his. The other day, he took it to Compo Beach.

His photos  — 2 long-range views of Westport’s iconic shore — are spectacular. So is his tighter shot of South Beach.

This weekend will be hot — mid-90s — and clear. It’s perfect beach weather.

Whether you’re headed to Compo or wish you lived close enough to Westport to go, enjoy Brandon’s photos.

Compo Beach drone 2 - July 2016 - Brandon Malin

Compo Beach drone - July 2016 - Brandon Malin

Click on or hover over photos to enlarge.

Click on or hover over photos to enlarge.

Fun fact: Brandon is a rising 8th grader at Coleytown Middle School. “06880” will joyfully run his drone shots for years to come.

 

Joe DeJesus Revolutionizes America’s Workforce

It’s a side of life Westporters seldom see, but contractors and laborers here know well: pick-up points in places like Norwalk, Bridgeport and Stamford, where builders and workers connect every morning.

Bosses are never sure what type of workers they’ll get. Workers are never sure if they’ll be paid what they’ve been promised. It’s a risky, inefficient dance.

A new app may revolutionize the entire process — all over the world. And it was born right here in Westport.

Joe DeJesus is a 1981 Staples High School graduate. A builder himself, he’d long been frustrated by the process of finding skilled, reliable carpenters, electricians and others to work on his projects.

Dayworks logoA couple of years ago he used Uber for the first time. He realized the on-demand idea could work for laborers too.

He pitched the idea to Andre Haroche, a friend who had brought Liberty Travel into the digital age. He signed on as co-founder.

For $1,000, coders in India created a prototype. Convinced they had something, DeJesus and Haroche plowed ahead.

Dayworks launched locally, in the Port Chester-Danbury-New Haven area.

The idea is simple. After downloading the app, workers list themselves for free. They note their specialties (plumbing, HVAC, masonry, painting, tile setting, wood flooring, etc.); the languages they speak; the minimum number of hours they’ll work: their rate. and how they want to be paid (cash only or check); whether they have a ride or need one, and if they have a license and/or insurance.

Workers can post photos of themselves too. Coming soon: video.

Bosses — both builders and individuals with home-improvement projects — can search for workers by skill. Clicking one button completes the hire.

Builders and laborers connect through Dayworks.

Builders and laborers connect through Dayworks.

A boss can also post an entire project, including conditions like start and end date, maximum hourly rate, and whether English is required. Workers can respond immediately.

Bosses rate workers. And workers rate bosses.

Dayworks makes money by charging bosses $3.99 a month, or $1 per hire. (The 1st 5 hires are free.)

It’s a win-win situation, DeJesus says. For one thing, it takes the uncertainty out of the pickup-site process, which is both time-consuming and uncertain.

For another, it offers a transparent way of offering — and seeking — pay. Rates are often standard at pick-up sites. With Dayworks, bosses can offer a bit more to clearly qualified workers. Workers — who sometimes miss out on jobs because they’re pressured by peers to not ask for less than the prevailing rate — can increase their chances of being hired by pricing themselves accordingly.

It’s also a boon to workers like electrician Andrei Petrov, who explains:

Since its launch, Dayworks has spread across the globe. Bosses and workers are connecting everywhere in the US, and as far away as Australia. (Locally — and personally — DeJesus has hired excellent people through his own site.)

Much of the growth has been by word of mouth, and YouTube videos (created by Westport’s own Bobby Hudson).

Flyers — in English and Spanish — are also handed out at job sites.

But Dayworks is not just for builders and tradesmen. Other categories include house cleaners, automotive (mechanics, detailers, etc.), boating, restaurants (dishwashers, barbacks, busboys) and catering, tech repair, even personal trainers.

Joe DeJesus got the idea for Dayworks from Uber. Soon — like the revolutionary car service — his labor finding-and-sharing app may be everywhere.

And maybe — like Uber — it will even be a verb.

(Dayworks is available free; click here for Apple and Android devices. Click here for the website.)

 

[UPDATE: MYSTERY SOLVED!] APB For AED

I goofed!

This just in from Mark and MaryGrace Gudis:

Please do not worry; the “missing” AED has not been used or stolen. It has yet to be installed, as we are awaiting activation of the security features.

This particular AED is one of the 100 that the Gudis Family and Norwalk Hospital donated to the towns of Westport, Weston, Wilton, New Canaan and Norwalk as part of their recent AED and CPR awareness initiative implemented after the incident last October. Iff you look closely, the picture has the Norwalk Hospital-WCHN logo on the case and a number to call if there is an issue. A vast majority of the others around Westport have been installed, including 3 at Compo Beach. So do not fear: The AED will be installed within the next few days, and will be available to save lives. (It is also bilingual.)

The AEDs purchased from the fundraising efforts of the Greenlee Foundation are in the schools and on the Board of Education fields.

The others donated by our 5-Town  initiative are in locations around town, where the selectman’s office, Westport EMS and Parks and Recreation felt would provide excellent benefits.

We are looking to expand this initiative around the state, given the response we have had by all of the towns and our local politicians. In addition, we continue to work with the Board of Ed in each of the 5 towns to implement mandatory CPR certification and training to high school students as part of the PE and health curriculum, at no charge to the school budget.

All of this is very exciting for us. We appreciate being able to give back, and hopefully save lives.

——————-

When a Staples High School senior suffered cardiac arrest on the soccer field last fall — and was saved by the quick use of a portable defibrillator — alarms were raised.

And they were not just the beeping of the device — also known as an AED.

The Adam Greenlee Foundation — named for a Bedford Middle School student who was also saved by an AED — swung into action. They raised over $85,000, purchased 75 AEDs, and gave them to schools and organizations around town.

You now see them nearly everywhere, from Wakeman Field to Compo Beach.

Many others — donated by the Gudis Family Foundation and Norwalk Hospital (see above in red) — are placed around town, from Wakeman Field to Compo Beach.

Another place was is Winslow Park.

Earlier today, alert “06880” reader/Staples soccer player/dog walker Daniel Brill noticed that the dog park AED is missing from its case.

AED at Winslow Park

One of 2 things happened.

The AED might have had to be used. While unfortunate, that’s what it’s there for. However, we probably would have heard about it.

Or someone stole it.

If that’s the case, just put it back — no questions asked.

And if you really want one of your own, just ask. I’m sure the Greenlee Foundation — and many others in town — would be happy to help.

David Pogue Loses It

David Pogue leads a wonderful life. The Westport-based tech writer (Yahoo, New York Times, Scientific American), TV correspondent (“CBS News Sunday Morning,” PBS “Nova Science Now”) and author (“Missing Manual” series, “Pogue’s Basics”) has won 3 Emmy awards, 2 Webbys and a Loeb for journalism.

But even Pogue’s life doesn’t always go according to plan. The other day — well, let him describe it for “06880” readers:

I love drones. I love reviewing drones. I love filming drones!

But last week, something really crazy happened. I was reviewing the new $1300 Yuneec Typhoon H, taking it out for a test flight before the Yahoo video crew arrived next day to film my video review.

David Pogue drone

My son Kell (a Staples High School 2015 graduate) and a couple of his buddies stood on our attic balcony, checking it out. I let it hover at their eye level, just so they could see how cool and menacing-looking this hexacopter was. (It has 6 rotors. No, that doesn’t make it a sexcopter.)

From there, I flew it straight up. It hovered over the house, giving me an amazing view (on the remote control’s screen) of the Wakeman athletic fields.

Wakeman athletic fields - Pogue drone

The drone hovered 370 feet up — just shy of its 400-foot, hardwired altitude limit (also the FAA’s maximum allowable height). Then, before my eyes, the drone started drifting away. The controls did not respond!

The screen just said, “Trying to reconnect.” As I watched in disbelief, the drone drifted away over Bayberry, toward Fairfield. I was helpless.

I got on my bike and rode around, looking and looking. I never found it. There’s a $1300 drone in somebody’s bushes somewhere.

Drone flyaways are supposed to be impossible. They’re programmed to return to their takeoff position (in this case, my backyard) if they ever lose their connection to the remote. Somehow, that fail-safe system never kicked in.

A little Googling shows that flyaways do, in fact, happen. (One landed on the White House lawn last year.)

David Pogue, perhaps trying to find his drone.

David Pogue, perhaps trying to find his drone.

The company analyzed my flight logs and concluded that nothing I’d done contributed to the flyaway. But they had no explanation for what caused it.

Nobody’s ever been hurt by a flyaway drone, and companies are working on better sensors, software and electronics to prevent flyaways. But I was really rattled — though not as much as if I’d actually bought this drone. (It was a review unit.)

Friends suggested I tape “LOST DRONE” signs on telephone poles in the neighborhood. I decided, nah. That’s just be too embarrassing.

But if an “06880” reader finds a sleek black drone in their bushes: I’ve still got the remote control. Let’s talk.

Weedles, Zubats, Ekans And More: Pokemon Go Floods Westport

The tagline for “06880” is “where Westport meets the world.”

Right now, Westport — and the world — are going gaga over Pokémon Go.

I don’t know a Squirtle from a Jynx. But I do know that Pokémon Go has been downloaded more times in a week than Tinder has in 4 years. (No value judgments, mind you.) So I figured I’d capture the local angle.

Tom Bruno is my Pokémon Go go-to guy. As the Westport Library‘s new director of knowledge curation and innovation — Bill Derry’s old gig, more or less — the game is in his wheelhouse.

The library itself is not a Pokestop or Pokegym, he says. But several are nearby.

Three Pokestops are actually sculptures. There’s Carol Eisner’s “Walter the Sculpture,” outside the library’s main entrance; the big sculpture on Jesup Green, and the Post Road bridge sculpture at the Taylor parking lot entrance.

The library encourages patrons to find those sculptures by setting Lures (which of course attract rare and unusual wild Pokémon that patrons can catch).

Bruno says, “Depending on where you are in the building, you can also catch some of these Pokémon in the library as well.”

Bruno and his colleagues realized that the Levitt Pavilion stage Pokestop is on the route for the library’s annual first-ever StoryWalk along the Saugatuck River (which, happily for this publicity, kicks off Monday). Bruno took a shot of a wild Pokémon perched atop one of the signs.

Pokemon - Westport Library

The library is also placing Lures at all of those Pokestops, to help generate buzz for the giant book sale this weekend.

Though Niantic — the company responsible for Pokémon Go — is not taking requests for new Pokestops or Pokegyms, Bruno says it would be exciting to have the library community battle for control of the gym in that building.

The library is also working to add Pokémon Go to its popular “Anyone Can…” technology 101 classes. “We’d like to help people who are curious about the game get started, and join in what will almost certainly be the big summer activity,” Bruno says.

Finally — in a stroke of luck akin to finding a Charizard — the library long ago planned a partnership with Barnes & Noble on a Pokémon card game tournament. Amazingly, it’s this Saturday (July 16, 4-6 p.m.) at the Westport store.

Because — like Pokémon Go — “06880” is all about community, we’d like to hear your stories and tips. If you’ve got any game-related news, click “Comments” below. Please use your real name, not a Pokémon alias.

———————————————-

Finally, if you thought the only thing local officials care about are mill rates and 8-30g applications, think again. Yesterday, they posted this on the town’s official Facebook page (courtesy of the New York Police Department):

As PokémonGo fever hits Westport, we want to remind you of some simple safety tips. As you battle, train, and capture your Pokémon just remember you’re still in the real world too! Around the country the PokémonGo craze has seen reports of accidents, injuries and even crimes where suspects have set-up fake Pokéstops.

Be careful out there!

Be careful out there!

So as you set out to capture them all:

1) Be alert at all times
2) Stay aware of your surroundings
3) Play in pairs or as a group to ensure your safety
4) Do not drive or ride your bike, skateboard, or other device while interacting with the app…you can’t do both safely
5) Do not trespass onto private property or go to areas you usually would not if you weren’t playing Pokémon Go.

Have fun AND stay safe. Good luck in your quest, and happy hatching, trapping, and training at the Pokémon Gym!

Levitt Pavilion Drones On

The Levitt Pavilion kicks off another 50 nights of free concerts tomorrow (Sunday, June 26) with the Eagles’ tribute Desert Highway Band.

Free tickets are all sold for that event. The rest of the summer, you can just stroll on in.

If you can’t make it tomorrow — or just want a unique view of Westport’s riverside outdoor amphitheater — check out John Videler’s drone shot:

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/John Videler)

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/John Videler)