Category Archives: technology

World Record Duck Needs A House

Last month, Westport entered the record books.

Dozens of Maker Faire-goers joined in a globally crowd-sourced art and tech project. They created the world’s largest 3D printed duck.

Now they’re figuring out what to do with it.

The world record bird will appear at the Great Duck Race this Saturday (June 1, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Parker Harding Plaza). He/she/it will cheer on much smaller plastic ducks, as they bob along the Saugatuck River.

But then what?

Maker Faire maestro Mark Mathias has put out an APB/SOS. The duck needs a home.

It must be indoors — in a place at least 6 feet tall. (Or 8 feet, if you want to keep the top hat.) Add another 5 inches, if you hang onto the wooden platform too.

Mathias’ best hope is that it go to someone who can display it for others. Wherever that is, it must stay there. Unlike actual ducks, this was not designed to move much.

It could promote something: creativity, art, even a business, Mathias suggests.

He hopes to deliver it to its new home immediately after the Duck Race. The person who loaned the trailer needs it back STAT.

If you’d like the world record duck, contact Mathias ASAP: mark@remarkablesteam.org; 203-226-1791.

Yours for the taking!

Frederic Chiu: Booked By The Library To Innovate

In its 21 years, Booked for the Evening — the Westport Library’s signature fundraising event — has brought many big names to town.

Tom Brokaw, Martin Scorsese, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Patti Smith, Alan Alda and others have enlightened and entertained us, on the cramped main floor.

But now the library’s Transformation Project is almost complete. Stacks of books have been replaced by a Forum — a dramatic event space framed by a state-of-the-art stage and screen.

This year’s Booked for the Evening is the first chance for the public to see the transformed library. Organizers needed an extra-special honoree, someone as compelling as the new space itself.

Frederic Chiu (Photo/Chris Craymer)

They did not have to look far. Frederc Chiu — the internationally acclaimed, award-winning virtuoso pianist, collaborator, innovator, entrepreneur and Westporter — will inaugurate the Forum’s stage.

And he’ll do it using a spectacular new piano, with a great back story. But more on that later.

Chiu has performed on 5 continents, in all 50 states, and with orchestras like the National Symphony in Washington DC, the China National Symphony and the BBC Concert Orchestra Symphony. He has collaborated with friends like Joshua Bell.

But he’s also our neighbor.

Chiu’s introduction to Westport came in 1986, when he won the prestigious Young Performers International Competition (now named for Heida Hermanns) here.

In the 1990s he lived in Paris. Whenever he played in New York, he visited his friend Jeanine Esposito here. After they married, Westport — with its arts heritage, and proximity to New York and Europe — seemed like a perfect place to be.

Chiu loved the Westport Library. He researched music and travel. He checked out CDs, DVDs and books. And whatever he could not find, the staff tracked down through interlibrary loans.

Jeanine Esposito and Frederic Chiu, at home. That’s where they host their eclectic Beechwood Arts Immersive Salons.

Esposito, meanwhile, helped then-director Maxine Bleiweis develop the next phas of the MakerSpace.

Current director Bill Harmer has impressed the couple too. Recently, he announced that the library will be the winter home of Chiu and Esposito’s Beechwood Arts Immersion Salon series.

“Today, libraries are community hubs” Chiu notes. “They’re places to create bonds, where people can communicate. And they’re accessible to all.”

Chiu is excited that the Westport Library is expanding that mission by including the arts in its transformation. Audio and video production have dedicated spaces, next to the impressive new stage.

On Tuesday, June 4, Chiu’s Booked for the Evening performance debuts not only that stage, but also the library’s new Yamaha Disklavier piano.

It’s an astonishing instrument. Besides its marvelous sound, the piano is a technological marvel. It can play 50,000 songs (like a player piano). It also connects with any other Disklavier anywhere in the world.

And with its video capabilities, it allows Chiu to do something he’ll showcase on Tuesday: He can play a duet with himself. He’s chosen Chopin’s only work for 2 pianos.

Here’s looking at Chiu: The pianist stands in the Forum, while a video of him playing plays on the high-def screen behind the stage.

That’s just one piece of Chiu’s performance. He’ll play with Timo Andres, an award-winning young pianist/composer.

He also brings his interactive production of Prokofiev’s popular “Romeo and Juliet: The Choice” ballet to the stage. At the end, Booked guests vote for either the tragic conclusion, or the composer’s little-known happy ending.

But back to that Yamaha piano. It’s a gift from Stacy Bass and her brother, David Waldman. It honors their mother, Jessica Waldman, who died in January.

The donation has special meaning for Stacy, who helped start Booked for the Evening 21 years ago.

“My mother was passionate about theater and music,” Stacy says. “David and I wanted to give something to the library that really represents her. The piano will be part of the stage. She will live on every day.”

Frederic Chiu, at the beautiful new Yamaha Dislavier piano. It’s a gift from Stacy Bass and David Waldman, in honor of their mother Jessica. (Photos/Dan Woog)

Last week Chiu sat at the piano, in the still-unfinished Forum, and smiled.

“I’m being honored, and I’ll be onstage. But the soloist is always the instrument and the music. I do my best to put them out front. I’m of service to great music, and a great piano.”

Chiu notes that when the piano was invented more than 300 years ago, it “brought music to the masses. It was as much an innovation as the printing press and computer were, for bringing information to the public. Playing it is unlike any other activity people can do.”

No one plays better than Frederic Chiu.

And there is no better choice for Booked for the Evening, to inaugurate the Westport Library’s new age of arts and innovation.

(For more information on the June 4 Booked for the Evening, including tickets, click here.)

I’m Sure This Stop & Shop Scene Is Just A Post-Strike Coincidence

After all, as the sign says, human beings will still do the clean-up:

(Photos/Mark Mathias)

What could possibly go wrong?

Daria Maya Guards Water Safety

Whenever Daria Maya or her family threw a pool party, they hired a lifeguard. It was a simple matter of safety.

But as she grew up in Westport, she realized not every family was as cautious.

And when the Staples sophomore took a lifeguarding class at the high school this year — part of the physical education curriculum — her teacher told her there are not enough guards to fill demand. At the same time, homeowners who want to hire them don’t know who to ask.

Now they do.

Daria created a website — WeLifeguard.com — that anyone can use to find a lifeguard for a private event. She’s adding swim instructors soon.

Daria Maya

Daria’s list includes teammates from her Staples water polo team, and friends. To broaden the pool further, she used the iStaples app to find every student taking lifeguarding in phys. ed. Many were delighted to be added in.

The site went live in April. The popular Westport Moms platform gave it a big boost. Daria also handed out flyers. She’s already booked several parties, starting Memorial Day.

Daria is all about water safety. She’s working with Stewie the Duck — Stew Leonard’s water safety foundation — to spread the word about the importance of swim instruction and lifeguards.

Guards on her site charge $20 an hour. That’s a small price to pay for safety.

And for the ease of finding a certified lifeguard for your party.

(For Daria’s website, click here. Her email is welifeguard@gmail.com)

Stroke Victim Calls Watchman Procedure A Lifesaver

This winter, an “06880” reader suffered a stroke. He shares the experience of his dangerous health issue — and advanced cure — in hopes of helping others with strokes caused by atrial fibrillation or an intolerance to blood thinners. 

It was early evening Wednesday, January 23. My wife and I had just returned from a month-long trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and a wedding in Minneapolis.

She was in the living room. I was preparing a lecture for my university classes later that week.

When she talked to me, I responded in gibberish for a couple of minutes. She wanted to call the emergency room, but I told her it was just jet lag.

The next day I got up and began to read a book. But nothing made sense. Again I seemed to quickly overcome this condition. By afternoon I was again reading normally.

Yet I became alarmed, and we looked up symptoms of a stroke. We immediately made an appointment with our internist.

He diagnosed a stroke, but did not know the source. He sent me for a complete work-up: MRI, CT, etc.

I had a full-blown stroke in the back of my brain. Fortunately it did not kill or disable me. The stroke appeared from atrial fibrillation (AFib). Blood clots form in the heart, and are fired into a vessel that leads right to the brain.

My father had died of a stroke. My brother had 2 strokes. They were caused by structural defects in the brain.

I was told I could go on blood thinners the rest of my life. But the long-term effects might not be pleasant, and might compromise my health in other ways.  I would also require constant monitoring.

My dependence on drugs had been minimal, my health up to then excellent. I was extremely depressed at the thought my life might change. Or worse yet that I would suffer anther stoke, which might disable or kill me.

Two weeks after the stroke, my cardiologist called to asks if I would be interested in a new Watchman procedure developed by Boston Scientific.

He explained that 90% of clots are formed in the left atrial appendage, a cup-like structure on the left side of our hearts. The LAA captures blood in a lake-like form. But if the LAA can be sealed off with a special cap and anchor structure, there is nowhere for clots to form.

The procedure involved a catheter entering the body from the femoral artery, then guided to the LAA on the left side of the heart where the CP and anchor structure was deployed.

About 2 months after it is placed, when heart tissue grew over it, there is no need for blood thinners or additional treatment to prevent AFib strokes for the rest of one’s life. (A daily baby aspirin was recommended because of my age.)

The procedure was approved by the FDA in 2015, and is done at leading hospitals throughout the United States.

(Click here for an excellent website describing the Watchman procedure, including photos and videos.)

I had the Watchman installed at Yale University in mid-February. The procedure took 2 1/2 hours. I stayed overnight to assure that that the catheter entry site had healed, and was out the next day.

After an imaging exam at the end of this month, I will not have to worry about clots caused from AFib.

I am amazed and thankful for all the support my wife and family gave me during this time. I am also amazed at this wonderful medical advancement.

(The author wishes to guard his medical privacy. However, he is happy to speak with any “06880” readers about the Watchman procedure. Email dwoog@optonline.net, and I will forward your message to him.)

Dylan Gleicher Was Always Prepared For Success

When Patty Haberstroh heard that Staples High School graduates Dylan Gleicher and Neil Soni teamed up with 2 Yale University classmates to create Prepared, an app that lets educators respond instantly to an active shooting incident — for example, quickly sending a lockdown notification to an entire school, plus local law enforcement — she was impressed.

But the program specialist in Westport’s Human Services Department was not surprised.

She remembered that a while ago Positive Youth Development — another organization she worked with — needed a website designer. They were low on funds. Member Ellen Gleicher said her son could do it, gratis.

Soon, Dylan created and launched PYD’s great site.

He was in 4th grade at the time.

Dylan Gleicher (2nd from left) created the Prepared app with (from left) Michael Chime, Neal Soni and Daniel James. They won the Miller Prize, a $25,000 in Yale University’s entrepreneurship competition. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Library’s “River Of Names”: 21st-Century Update

The Westport Library’s Transformation Project is exciting and dynamic. When the official opening takes place June 23, users will enjoy an entirely new experience. Space, usage, programs — all have been reimagined.

But the 2-year renovation has brought changes to some old favorites. More than 150 works of art were removed, reappraised, cleaned, photographed and stored professionally. Some will be back on the “new” library walls.

Others found homes in various town buildings. For example, Robert Lambdin’s 1935 WPA mural “Pageant of History” was relocated to Staples High School.

But what about the River of Names?

That was the 26-foot long, 6-foot high tile work that hung on the lower level, just outside the McManus meeting room.

The River of Names, in the lower level of the Westport Library.

Conceived by Betty Lou Cummings, shepherded along by Dorothy Curran, and commissioned in 1997 as part of a capital campaign, it raised $300,000. All 1,162 tiles were individually created and drawn by artist Marion Grebow.

Some portray historical events, like the founding of Westport, onion farming and the arrival of the railroad.

Others feature favorite places around town: the Compo Beach cannons, Minute Man monument and Staples High School. Some cite local organizations and businesses.

Most show the names of nearly 1,000 families. They honor parents, children and pets. They note when the families came to town, and where they lived.

One of the tiles shows Stevan Dohanos’ Saturday Evening Post cover of the World War II memorial outside the old Town Hall.

Tile donors were promised the River of Names would exist in perpetuity.

Yet finding a new home in the transformed library was difficult.

Fortunately, the library has a 21st-century solution.

An interactive River of Names will be an innovative feature of the new building.

A 43-inch touch-screen digital mural will be on view — and very accessible — on the upper level.

The new River of Names will link historic depictions in the mural to additional information about Westport’s 350-year past.

Another tile shows the YMCA’s Bedford building, constructed in 1923. It’s now the site of Bedford Square.

Iain Bruce — president of the library’s board of trustees — acknowledges the challenge of finding an appropriate location for the mural in the renovated space.

However, he says, the mural — and the entire Transformation Project — has forced the library to reassess how to make its collections and materials more accessible and engaging for everyone.

The new digital mural offers “maximum accessibility, interactivity, and continuity for our community today and for generations to come.” It includes descriptions, narratives, maps and photos. Audio and video clips will be added in the future.

Before the original mural was taken down, Miggs Burroughs photographed and documented each tile. It was removed and stored by a specialized company.

The River of Names includes tiles for the original Westport Library, built in 1908 on the Post Road (now next to Freshii) …

Ann Sheffer — chair of the River of Names Task Force Committee — says she is “thrilled that all this will be available to many more generations of Westport.” She calls digitization “a truly 21st-century demonstration of the role of libraries in preserving our heritage while charting our future.”

The River of Names will be accessible not only to library patrons, teachers and students, but everyone  around the globe, adds Kathleen Motes Bennewitz, Westport’s arts curator who consulted on this project.

Like the original mural River of Names, the digital version is ultimately a home-town product.

Square Squared — a Westport company — was the developer. The firm provides creative solutions for print and digital designs, and audio and video production.

Michael Bud — a Square Squared partner — was introduced to the Westport Library years ago, by his mother, a Coleytown Elementary School teacher. He enjoyed story hour and picture books; later, he researched science fair and other projects there.

He was in high school when the River of Names project was installed, and remembers the buzz. Now his 2 children are frequent library visitors.

Soon — thank to Dad — they’ll be able to access the River of Names, digitally.

Along with the rest of Westport.

And the world.

… as well the current library, opened in 1986, and soon to be “transformed.” (Tile photos courtesy of Fotki.com)

All’s Faire

Thousands of folks — of all ages, from across the area, with a wide range of interests but united by curiosity and creativity — descended on Westport today.

The 8th annual Maker Faire runs now through 4 p.m. on Veterans Green and in the Baldwin parking lot (off Elm Street, between Brooks Corner and Christ & Holy Trinity Church).

From astronomy to terrariums, electromagnetics to music, pickleball to ratatouille, there’s something for everyone.

Including the world’s largest 3D duck.

History in the making: the world’s largest 3D printed duck takes shape right now.

I have no idea what this kid is doing, but it looks cool.

Music meets technology.

Maker Faire Makes Its Mark Next Weekend

The 8th annual Maker Faire gallops into Westport this Saturday (April 27).

Part science fair, part country fair, part carnival, it’s an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, artists, students and commercial exhibitors.

They show off what they’ve made, share what they’ve learned, and geek out with a few thousand other like-minded folks.

Over 100 makers have signed up already. They include:

  • “Game of Drones” (sponsored by Sacred Heart University Engineering): flight simulators, plus drone building, training and programming
  • “The Future is Now” (David Adam Realty): home automation, electric vehicles (and a live band)
  • “STEM on Wheels” (University of Bridgeport): Connecticut’s first mobile laboratory bus, with robotics, coding, imaging systems and more
  • “The Great Duck Project” (Westport Sunrise Rotary): Help build the world’s largest 3D printed duck!
  • “Nerdy Derby” (Stanley Black & Decker): Build, decorate and race a custom car
  • “Sustainable Pathways”: Hands-on activities and exhibits, geared to making sustainability part of daily life.

Makers will be joined by artists, musicians, stage performers, speakers, entrepreneurs — and of course food trucks.

(The Maker Faire takes place this Saturday, April 27, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Veterans’ Green and in the Baldwin parking lot. Opening ceremonies take place at 10:45 a.m. Admission is free. For more information click here, email mark@remarkablesteam.org, or call 203-226-1791.)

The Maker Faire’s “Game of Drones”

Don’t Text And Drive — Even At A Red Light!

An alert — and now $175 poorer — “06880” reader writes:

The other day I got a $175 ticket while sitting at a red light for entering an address on Waze on my phone.

I had no idea it was against the law to check your phone at a red light. The officer was very nice, and I mentioned to him that I felt like specific cell phone usage laws aren’t well publicized.

I know you can’t text and drive, and it makes sense you shouldn’t check your phone at a light either. I just didn’t know.

I have no idea whose job it is to publicize driving cell phone rules, but no one I mentioned this to had any idea you couldn’t check your phone or enter an address in Waze at a red light.

I’m curious if this is well known. Or maybe I’m just an idiot.

Texting while driving is illegal — even at a red light.