Web 2.0 will save us

Web 2.0 will save us Community technology is great. It is incredibly refreshing to be reminded on a daily basis that, as a developer and technologist, I don’t know crap about how everyday people view and use technology. Two weeks ago I was in Washington, DC for the CTCnet Conference. While there I helped John Lorance of CompuMentor give a presentation on how Community Technology Centers and nonprofit orgaizations can use “Web 2.0” services and tools like Flickr, del.icio.us, wikis, mapping, et cetera, to improve their programs and better fulfill their missions. At the end we opened the floor to questions and comments. An attendee stood up and said that he had always been worried that with computers and machines growing ever smarter and more powerful, one day they would overthrow mankind. But, after seeing these new Web 2.0 tools, he is relieved that humans will always stay one step ahead of the machines. Hallelujah. I made this drawing using Inkscape, an awesome open source illustration program.

Night scenes

Harvard Square at Night My primary digital camera broke about two weeks ago. I pull my old one out of storage; it’s clunky as all heck, but the old camera has a lot more manual settings than my sleek, sexy and recently broken one did. To make lemonade out of a bitter situation, I’ve been taking a lot of more night scenes and abnormal exposures because, well, I can. Sullivan Square

Night and Day

Night Day I spent the weekend in the Connecticut suburbs with some friends, camping out in their parent’s backyard and playing Marco Polo at midnight. The tent we had was huge; we were only five but it easily could have fit 10. The ground was surprisingly flat and the grass soft; it wasn’t a spectacular night’s sleep, but I’ve definitely had worse. Backyard camping

Meta photography in Boston

Future fellow VISTA Leader Danielle and I were all about Boston yesterday: Josh Ritter rocked in Copley Square and Wikimania kicked off in Cambridge. Photography loves company and both of us happened to take pictures of each other in the act of aiming; neither of us feel they’re very flattering.

Taking a picture of the Hancock Building A picture of the Hancock Building

A picture of the Hancock Building Public Garden after Dark

Piecing together Cambrige

Last night was all barbeque and mapping in Somerville; Adam Holt was host. I met Adam through my Google Map hacking and work with community mapping; I just started joining his monthly meeting of maperati for more remote sensing talk than you can shake a RC30 at.

The evening’s purpose, besides eating, drinking and socializing, was to assemble a collage of local satellite photography for the upcoming Wikimania conference at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center; attendees will mark-up the map with observations and stories.

Cambridge Mapping

Matching all of the photos was a bit of a chore. Earlier in the day Adam had a friend print off about 50 sheets using Microsoft’s Live Local. These black and white prints were cut down to about 10”x10” and somewhere in the process got horribly mixed up. All the photos were obliques (thanks Lisa!), and there were a couple different scales and angles that we had to match up as best as possible. I was pretty surprised with my pattern recognition skills; all that time spent pulling aerial photos in my college library really paid off.

We got the pieces together by the end of the night and the resulting scene pretty impressive. I always like the birds-eye view.

Vote Ben

Vote Ben

My friend Danielle took this ridiculous photo of me aboard the Thomas Leighton (known locally as the “Tippy Tommy”) operating out of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. We were at the wedding of a friend taking place on the Piscataqua River, the third fastest-flowing navigable river in the world.

I feel I look very political-worthy in this picture; all I need is to airbrush the tie into an American flag.

Gone bicycling

The heatwave in Boston finally broke yesterday bringing some much needed coolness to the city. As soon as I got home from work, I hopped on my bike and took a nice relaxing ride. In Jamaica Plain, where I live, there is a long bike and walking path that follows the Orange Line subway nearly into Downtown Boston. The path runs from Forest Hills all the way to Back Bay Station near Copley Plaza.

Watch the Video

music by Mutandina



I strapped the camera to my bike using some velcro cable ties and a sock for shock absorption.

No chirps for Lowell

I was out walking in Lowell today; as I crossed the awful intersection of Central, Prescot and Market Streets, I heard a strange ringing, like an old fashioned fire alarm. Looking around, I realized that it was coming from the Walk/Don’t Walk sign. This is the first time I’ve ever heard anything other than the chirp sounds from the pedestrian signals.

Lowell pedestrian bell Lowell pedestrian bell

Of course, Lowell is known for innovation. Agent Orange was invented here. Coincidentally, this also occurred at near the same time as a massive die-off of old-growth trees in the Merrimack Valley. It’s amazing the things you learn talking to old people.

First Monday Night Write

Monday was Saul and my’s first Monday Night Write (MNW); a time to get together, eat, talk, laugh, wander around, talk some more and finally, eventually, work on our writing. We met at Saul’s house, where he first treated me to a delicious salad and some refreshing lemonade. Then we were off to the 1369 Coffee House to write and practice another key authorial skill: not paying for anything.

Saul at Monday Night Write

Perhaps the longest novel in the English language is The Story of the Vivian Girls written by Harvey Darger; it runs to 15,143 pages. Also, the letters MNW, if rotated upside down, spell MNW.