Category Archives: technology

As They Say In Bengali: ধন্যবাদ

Richard Wiese has spent his career bridging cultural gaps.

Traveling to all 7 continents, he’s tagged jaguars in the Yucatan jungles, led expeditions to the Northern Territory of Australia, joined the largest medical expedition ever conducted on Mt. Everest, discovered 29 new life forms on Mt. Kilimanjaro, and cross-country skied to the North Pole.

The Weston resident is host and executive producer of “Born to Explore,” the award-winning PBS television series produced on Main Street. He’s also in his 3rd term as president of the Explorers Club, a 116-year-old international organization dedicated to the 4 corners of the earth — plus oceans and outer space.

Richard Wiese in Borneo, with a wild orangutan.

Yet on Tuesday, Wiese created an important cross-cultural connection with just one person: the woman sitting next to him on a plane, stuck on the tarmac in Oslo.

Via Bangladesh.

The woman was brought on the Norwegian Air flight in a wheelchair. When she was seated, a flight attendant spoke to her in English. It was clear to Wiese that no matter how slowly she talked, his seatmate did not understand a word.

The woman fumbled with her phone. Wiese was able to figure out she was from Bangladesh.

He typed, “Can I help you?” — and then used Google Translate to ask the question in Bengali.

Flying the friendly skies: Richard Wiese and his seatmate.

The woman wanted her son to know she was on the flight, as they waited out a delay.

Wiese contacted her son — in Bangladesh.

Weise then learned she was lactose-intolerant. “That was an unusual translation,” he says. He told a flight attendant, who found a special meal for her.

Wiese texted the woman’s son when they landed, and made sure she got off the plane okay.

A screenshot of Richard’s texts.

“JFK is not the friendliest place in the world,” he notes. It was nice she had someone who cared — even if he “spoke” Bengali only with a smartphone.

“It felt good to help someone,” Wiese adds. “It was as easy for me to do that as it was to answer emails. And it’s nice to know you can use your phone for something other than that, and games.”

Gambling, Gaming And The Teenage Brain

Gambling is a tough illness.

It takes a gambler’s money, and pride. It’s got the highest suicide rate of any addiction.

It affects a gambler’s entire family, friends and colleagues.

And gambling impacts not just people with too little money to begin with. Connecticut has 50,000 problem gamblers. Plenty live in places like Westport.

We have neighbors who spend their weekends at casinos, where they’re treated like kings.

We have kids who are addicted to gambling via video games. It starts when they buy treasure chests, with their parents’ credit cards. Some become binge gamers.

Rob Zuckerman knows all that, and much more. He’s a recovering gambling addict.

A 1968 graduate of Staples High School with a BFA in photography from the Rochester Institute of Technology, he took over his father’s business after his death in a 1978 automobile accident.

Rob moved the studio to South Norwalk in 1981 — an early pioneer in the new SoNo real estate venture. He ran it successfully for 20 years, before relocating to Fairfield.

During the 2008 recession, and with the rise of smartphones and other technology, the photography business changed dramatically.

In 2009 his son Ben fell off his bike, and was run over by a UPS driver. In the year it took him to recover, Rob got addicted to online gambling.

He got himself clean, and has not gambled in a decade. Along the way, he learned a lot about the disease — and his own compulsive side.

He credits much of his recovery to Renaissance — a Norwalk-based treatment center — and Gamblers Anonymous in Darien.

Rob Zuckerman

To pay it forward, Rob became one of the state’s 5 peer counselor for people with gambling issues. He answers hotline calls, escorts people to GA meetings, and helps with gamblers’ denial, guilt, remorse and anger however he can.

Rob is also a recovery coach at Renaissance.

Now — with plans rolling along for a casino in Bridgeport — Rob wants Westporters to be alert to the dangers of gambling for young people.

Rob is proud that Renaissance is sponsoring a talk on “Youth, Internet Habits and Mental Health.”

Set for Sunday, March 1 (12:30 to 2 p.m., Unitarian Church, 10 Lyons Plains Road), it features Dr. Paul Weigle. An adolescent psychiatrist, he’ll speak about how gaming and screen habits impact physical and mental health of children.

The church’s addictions recovery ministry is a co-sponsor of the event.

He’s seen the effects of gambling first-hand. Rob has seen too the work that can be done — by community organizations and his own church — to help with recovery from addictions.

He’s betting this is an important event, for anyone who lives with or works with young people.

Ben Saxon Brings Tech Tutoring To Kids

Ben Saxon loves all things STEM. Ask him anything computer, microcontroller  or Arduino related. He admires Elon Musk — for all he’s accomplished, as well as his approach to problem-solving.

But the Staples High School freshman does not simply hole up in his room, surrounded by gadgets. He’s outgoing, articulate and active — on the varsity squash team, and a black belt in karate.

Ben also shares his STEM/tech passions. He wants others to hone the critical thinking skills so necessary for success in many fields.

Now they can. Ben created Simply Academic, a tutoring service specializing in math, robotics and coding. Clients range from age 6 to 14.

Ben Saxon with a youngster who takes Simply Academics’ robotics course twice a week. Check out the LEGO Mindstorms robot!

Sessions are held at the tech-friendly Westport Library. Ben and his fellow tutors bring all necessary components: robotics kits, math test prep and review sheets, coding material.

A free, initial consultation helps them plan lessons. “If you want to build a car, we do something different than if you want to program it,” Ben explains.

He and the other tutors — Tegh Singh and Ben Seideman — don’t simply give answers. They challenge their students, them, guide them, and help them find different paths to an answer — just like Elon Musk does.

Individual sessions are $40 an hour; small group sessions cost less. Fees include all materials. For more information, click here or call 203-291-9270.

Sam Gold’s Archives: Apple Bites Back

Sam Gold is an Apple fanboy.

For his bar mitzvah, he chose a visit to San Francisco — and the company’s headquarters — over a party.

His YouTube channel covered Apple the way the British press covers Harry and Meghan.

But Sam’s greatest accomplishment may be The (Unofficial) Apple Archive. Painstakingly and lovingly, using tools like the Wayback Machine, he amassed over 15,000 print and TV ads, keynote speeches, internal training videos and other material — even macOS and iOS wallpapers. The earliest is from 1979.

Previously, the material was posted on his own YouTube channel, and a Google Drive folder. Earlier this month, he uploaded all the video — nearly a terabyte of data* — to Vimeo.

Last week, the $1 trillion company sent him hundreds of takedown notices. Apple had removed nearly every video. Just 200 or so remain.

Sam is a Staples High School senior.

Sam Gold, as a Staples High School sophomore.

The news rocketed around the internet. The Verge — Vox Media’s tech news network — noted:

The takedowns shouldn’t really surprise anyone, since 1) these videos do presumably all belong to Apple, not Gold, 2) companies generally have a duty to protect their intellectual property, and 3) because Gold and Apple have seemingly been playing a game of whack-a-mole for a while now.

First came shock. “Do you know what it’s like getting 700 email notifications on your wrist in like 2 minutes?” Sam asked The Verge, referring to his (of course) Apple Watch. “Your wrist sorta goes numb from the vibrations.”

Then Sam fought back.

“My videos may be down but my spirit is up,” the homepage of Sam’s Apple Archives reads. “Standby please.”

A screenshot of Sam’s home page.

Sam — who has not heard directly from Apple or its lawyers, despite emailing Apples’s VP of marketing communications — told The Verge that company employees, both past and present, have shown “overwhelming interest and support for what I’m doing.”

He understands that Apple “doesn’t dwell in the past.” But, he adds, “public company history preservation is invaluable for their devoted consumer base and researchers alike.”.

Sam would love to work with Apple, to create an official archive.

But for now, he’s figuring out how to get his massive archives back online.

Any copyright lawyers want to help? Email samhenrigold@gmail.com.

As a bonus, Sam will help you with any tech questions you have, for the rest of your life.

*Exactly how much is a terabyte? “A shitload,” Sam explains.

An early Apple ad, on Sam’s archive.

 

 

Max Rudin’s Truly Dead Rock

Growing up in Westport, Max Rudin was fortunate to have excellent teachers. Some sparked his interest in science. Others taught him to write.

Their work paid off. Max recently published his first book. “A Truly Dead Rock (The Solar System Century)” imagines life 82 years from now, when the moon has been colonized — and residents want to become independent.

Writing a book is a fantastic achievement. That’s especially true for Max.

He’s only a sophomore in high school.

Max Rudin

He credits Coleytown Elementary School teacher Edward Wolf and Coleytown Middle School’s Keenen Grace for encouraging his passion. At CMS, Max was part of the Science Olympiad team.

Last year, as a Staples High School freshman, English instructor Heather Colletti-Houde taught him how to delve into texts. “So I didn’t just write a story,” he explains. “I really delved into the theme.”

Max began writing around Christmastime 2018. It took him nearly a year — and 7 drafts — before he finished. He published via Amazon on Thanksgiving.

His research included arcane topics like lunar geography. “I had to plan a realistic route they would take, from the moon’s north pole to south pole,” Max explains. He also had to study nuclear fusion.

As for the writing process, Max says he learned about “putting myself in the minds of my characters. I had to see myself on the moon, and how I’d venture across it.”

He’s marketed his book via his YouTube channel — another outlet for Max’s science interests. “Gravity Max” began when he was 10. Every week, he and his friend Sebastian Malino share their love of astronomy, astrophysics, math and sci-fi.

Feedback to “A Truly Dead Rock” has been good, Max says. Readers appreciate both the hard science, and the plot that is “grounded in reality.”

Max — who is now a sophomore at Pineview in Sarasota, Florida, where his parents moved — is already working on a sequel.

Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke: Move over!

(To order “A Truly Dead Rock,” click here.)

Electric Vehicles: We’re #1!

We’ve all heard the statistic: There are more Teslas in Westport than anywhere else in the state.

That’s not all we lead in, electric vehicularly speaking.

According to Westport-based EV Club of CT, we top the state in the number of electric vehicles per capita. Weston, Woodbridge, New Canaan and Greenwich fill out the Top 5.

But it’s not just “per capita.” Our town registers the 3rd highest total number of EVs overall. Greenwich and Stamford are 1st and 2nd, respectively; Fairfield and West Hartford follow us.

Electric vehicles lined up by the Staples charging stations (from left): Chevy Bolt, Tesla S, VW, Tesla X, Nissan Leaf,

The club notes that over the past 6 months, registration of all types of electric vehicles has grown by 26%.

Tesla is responsible for 65% of the number — and the Model 3 accounts for 84% of that increase.

Tesla is followed by Hyundai (9%) and Toyota (6%).

For more information, click here for the EV Club’s dashboard. To learn more about the club, click here.

On Greens Farms Road, A Vigilante Traffic Stop

It’s no secret — unfortunately — that when I-95 backs up, Greens Farms Road can be an alternate route.

Neighborhood residents don’t like it. But — in this age of Waze and other traffic apps — there’s nothing they can do about it.

That did not stop one man from trying.

Alert “06880” reader Josh Stein reports:

Driving southbound yesterday on Greens Farms Road, I came upon a car parked perpendicular across both travel lanes.

I thought there was an accident. I ran up to the car, and was greeted by a man who said he represents the Greens Farms Association.

I’m sure he doesn’t. But, Josh continues:

He said was protesting through traffic. Dozens of cars were stopped.

A less congested view of the area on Greens Farms Road where a vigilante stopped traffic yesterday.

When Josh returned home, the same thing happened. He called the Westport Police Department. They arrived quickly.

Apparently, Josh says:

This guy has been doing this all week. The police are aware of him.

He actually accelerated and aimed his car at me this second time. He has a large dog in his back seat. The first time he blocked both lanes of traffic, he was in front of 286 Greens Farms Road. This second time he was in front of 350 Greens Farms Road or thereabouts. He told the officer he lives on Greens Farms Road, in the 300s.

No, we don’t like what Waze is doing to our town.

But there must be better “ways” to address the problem than this.

Introducing “06880”‘s Persona Of The Week

Earlier this year Rob Simmelkjaer — who ran for 2nd Selectman in 2017 — left his corporate gig with NBC Sports and News to pursue a personal mission.

His goal: Develop a multimedia platform giving people the tools to create and discover great interviews and conversations. His company is called Persona.

Rob Simmelkjaer

Though national in scope, its rollout begins locally this month, with a custom interview service. Today, Rob and I are excited to announce a collaboration: the “06880 Persona of the Week.”

Each week, Rob or a Persona colleague will interview an interesting member of the community. Topics and interview subjects will be varied and unlimited, from local movers and shakers to those doing amazing things well beyond our borders.

Each interview will give “06880” readers a chance to meet a neighbor, and see the amazing things that happen when people sit down to chat.

With elections looming, we decided to start with a sprint.

Between now and Election Day we’ll post interviews with each of the Republican and Democratic candidates for the Boards of Education and Finance. These non-partisan interviews will give voters a chance to get to know the candidates, and encourage Westporters to vote.

We start with the Democratic candidate for re-election to the Board of Finance, Sheri Gordon. Tomorrow: Republican Board of Education candidate Vik Muktavaram.

More candidate videos will follow, in the coming days. After the election, this feature will become an actual “Persona of the Week.”

Billy Senia: A Tale Of Two Talents

Among the many things that separate Trader Joe’s from other grocery stores, its relentlessly upbeat, smilingly chatty and genuinely helpful employees are at the top of any list.

Billy Senia is one of the many Trader Joe’s folks whom Westporters love. Whether dishing out samples, checking out customers or answering questions, he’s always got a smile, a kind word and a joke.

Few people know that this is only one of his gigs. Billy is also a longtime, well respected and very talented video editor, advertising writer and director. He’s traveled the world, won countless awards, and worked with clients like Michael Jackson, MC Hammer and Aretha Franklin.

And he loves both jobs: creative and culinary.

Billy Senia

Billy moved to Westport 26 years ago from Manhattan. He and his wife were paying $40,000 a year for their 2 young children to “finger paint in pretentious schools.”

He was already successful, making commercials and music videos. Working with top agencies like BBDO, McCann Erickson, Greg and J. Walter Thompson, he cut spots for clients like Bulova, Sears, Club Med and Disney.

Through relatives and colleagues, he heard that Westport was a magnet for creative people. They moved here, and he has not been disappointed.

Twenty years ago, Billy opened his own one-stop shop: Ice Pic Edit. He commuted to Chelsea, and built a home studio here. He was innovative, turning his laptop into a “Maserati” that he took everywhere.

But the advertising and video business evolved. Now everyone does everything — shooting, editing, graphics, sound. “It’s all solo,” he laments. “There’s no team.”

Billy is all about teamwork. So 4 years ago, he applied for a job at Trader Joe’s. He loved the company’s “spirit, positivism, food, giving back philosophy and focus on people.”

He thrives on making a customer’s day brighter, with a smile or quip (or extra sample). Working at the store — his main priority — gives him energy that feeds his creative side.

Not long ago, he joined forces with Dave Fiore. They’d worked together when Fiore was chief creative officer at Catapult in Westport. Their new company is called Massiv.

One of their first projects is “Union-Built Matters.” It’s a tribute to construction unions, and sounds an alarm against developers who cut corners by using cheaper labor.

Billy is a union man through and through. “My compassionate side is to help people,” he says. “This is not a sexy subject. But it’s very important.”

He and Dave are using social media, to get the word out that “union-built matters.”

Now it’s on to new projects.

And to serving up whatever samples Trader Joe’s offers today.

With iPads, Kids Overcome Cancer

Life was not always easy for David Gottschalk.

During his 15 years in Westport, his daughter spent time in Norwalk Hospital. In 2010, his father and mother-in-law died of cancer.

Despite his grief — and his busy work at a hedge fund — in 2011 Gottschalk searched for a way to give back to the town he loves, and the hospital he relied on.

With the help of an accountant and lawyer working gratis, he formed a non-profit: KIDSovercancer. The goal was to buy iPads, for children in extended hospital stays.

David Gottschalk presents an iPad to Dr. Vicki Smetak, chair of Norwalk Hospital’s Pediatrics Department.

Gottschalk did not realize that any technology donation must go through a rigorous approval process. “Kids will get in trouble sometimes,” he notes. “The hospital had to see a real purpose for iPads in their pediatric wing.”

Because they were new devices, the hospital added necessary protocols. Gottschalk was good to go.

His initial donations were to Norwalk, Yale, Danbury, Bridgeport, Greenwich and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospitals. Soon he added other states, including rural hospitals where youngsters may not have had access to technology before.

Gottschalk promised contributors that every penny KIDSovercancer received would go directly toward iPad purchases. There are no administrative expenses — not for shipping, IRS filings, nothing.

“It’s much more than entertainment,” Gottschalk notes. Hospitals use the iPads to teach youngsters about their illnesses, and as a distraction tool during small surgical procedures.

An iPad is a welcome distraction for youngsters in hospitals.

Eight years later, KIDSovercancer has sent tablets to over 56 hospitals, in all 50 states. An average of 100 children use the iPads a year in each hospital — a total of over 11,000 kids.

Gottschalk calls the project “the most satisfying thing” he’s ever done.

Of course, he can’t do it alone. He needs everyone’s help. Contributions to KIDSovercancer can be sent to: 606 Post Road East, Suite 515, Westport, CT 06880.