Last year while watching the Winter X Games, I caught a glimpse of where Shaun White was training for the Winter Olympics. He had worked out his own private half-pipe with a huge airbag at the end to perfect some insane trick. This was all happening at a magical place called, "Silverton" (in a whisper voice). I quickly googled the mountain and was instantly convinced that I needed to be there the following winter. Several months went by and I pretty much had forgotten about the epic dream. Then, as the snow started to fall in the Cascades that next fall, it all came back to me.Read More
I had the pleasure of working with my friends over at Startup Weekend earlier this year on a new version of Startup Weekend titled "Rise of the Designer". "Startup Weekends are 54 hour events where developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts come together to share ideas, form teams, build products and launch startups." Startup Weekend has always had the business side of things down but has also had a history of lacking in the creative departement. Not only that, they wanted to push creatives to do more than just design.Read More
I don't normally post another person's blog post. In fact, I've never done it before but my good friend Donald DeSantis wrote an awesome piece on education and what it means to him as part of a contest for Vittana. The post is part of the Vittana “Make a Difference” blogger challenge. The contest asks people what education means to them, and how to make a difference in the world. The writer that gets the most retweets and donations in their name “wins” (though the real winners will be the recipients of the loans).
I am currently working on a longterm relationship with Vittana in agreement to produce 1 video per month for about a year. It's important to me to work with companies who want to change the world and Vittana is doing just that. I'm really looking forward to this relationship. You should stop by their site and see what they're all about. For now, read Donald's story about how much of a pain in the ass he was in school.
A sudden rapping of ruler on chalkboard jolted me back to reality. It was my math teacher. The entire class stared at me with looks ranging from bemused to annoyed. “Donald, I don’t care how good a writer you are. Close your notebook and pay attention!”
I loved songwriting. Unfortunately, my school didn’t offer creative writing classes. So instead of sticking to the curriculum, I created my own. Math class became writing class. Problem solved. I had no idea I would be doing this for the rest of my life, replacing formal curriculum with my own lessons. I was only twelve years old.
I sailed through high school in three years. I graduated with good grades. My teachers regarded me as a pain in the ass, but a bright pain in the ass. I continued focusing on music. I paid my classes the smallest amount of attention possible.
I entered the University of Washington in the fall of 1999. Barely seventeen, I was now making music with a mish-mash of backpack rappers whose eclectic style flourished during the late 90’s and early 2000’s. I helped promote shows alongside people who later came to symbolize Seattle hip hop. This included folks like Prometheus Brown and Sabzi (before they started Blue Scholars) and Meli, who went on to manage booking for many popular venues in Seattle. If I had put half as much time into my classes as I did into music, I would have been a very successful student. I didn’t.
It was the fall of my freshman year. Our math professor approached the lecture podium. “Overall,” he said, “you guys did quite well on the midterm. Someone, of course, got fifty points: a perfect score.” He stopped to let the 400 person lecture hall groan in unison. “The lowest score,” he paused dramatically, “was one point. One point out of fifty.” The very cute girl in the front row let out a pitying laugh. It was the kind of laugh you laugh when a hapless puppy falls off a chair, or trips down some stairs. It was the kind of laugh you feel bad for laughing, but the kind you can’t help yourself from laughing. I didn’t laugh because I knew what she didn’t: she was laughing at me. My stomach sank and face flushed a deep red.
I ran after my professor when the class ended. “I’m the one,” I said breathlessly. “I’m the guy who got one point on the midterm.” He looked surprised, then reassured me. “I wouldn’t assume that. Wait until you get the midterm back.” “No,” I insisted, “it was me. I know it was me.” He looked at me, now quite seriously. “This was not a hard test. One point is basically what you get for putting your name on the midterm. Have you talked to disabled student services? You likely have a learning disability that they can help you to identify.”
I stood gaping at him. The problem wasn’t a disability. It was neglect. But in that moment I realized my unwitting descent from wunderkind to flaming disaster. I’d like to say this wake-up call turned me into a model student, but it wouldn’t be true. The next quarter I barely passed Intro to Computer Science. I enrolled in Two Dimensional Design and the instructor gave me the lowest possible passing grade at UW: 0.7. (In a satisfying twist, design and software development are the two things I do best these days.)
After a miserable run at UW, I decided that leaving on my own accord would be better than getting kicked out. I had no desire to slow down on music and doubted my ability to focus on anything else. Around that time, I heard Western Washington University allowed some students to design degrees based on their interests. I transferred and began working with WWU faculty to create a curriculum. My classes ranged from recording arts to music theory, communications to web design. For the first time in years, I excelled.
At 20 years old, I moved back to Seattle and opened a creative arts space. It was on 10th and Pike, next to what’s now Neumo’s on Capitol HIll. It was primarily a recording studio, though we had a large art gallery and event space. Prometheus Brown (who I knew from UW) came through. Macklemore would drop by and show off unfinished songs from Language of My World. Grieves was there constantly, hanging out and working on beats. This was where I met Kyle and where Mike Folden and I laid the foundation for a really amazing friendship.
Over time, I’ve become better at spotting my disinterest and bowing out early rather than persisting in obligation. This sounds obvious, but it took me years to understand and even longer to practice.
For “nontraditional students” like me, the future has never looked brighter. We have the Khan Academy and iTunes U in our pockets. Standford runs classes online and opens them to the public. Private companies like Treehouse and Code Academy teach us to code for less money than we spend on cable television.
This future may be bright, but it’s unevenly distributed. In 2007 I met a Spanish language instructor in Oaxaca. He had lived in the U.S. for ten years and only recently returned to Mexico. I asked him what he missed most about the states. He paused, then looked up and smiled. “The libraries. They were amazing. You would walk in and be surrounded by all of this knowledge. If you wanted to take a book home, they let you.” This response humbled me.
Most of the world doesn’t have broadband connecting them to Khan Academy and iTunes U. They probably don’t have a public library and community college in every town. They may face economic, gender, or religious discrimination. The greatest challenge I faced was my own single-mindedness (and it nearly sunk me).
However circuitous and humiliating, my education was important. It imparted the patience required to gain technical competence in a subject (recording arts) and the self-confidence to actually do something with those skills. And while my life in software appears very different than my life in music, the core is unchanged. I wake up every day and get to create whatever it is I can imagine. I’m incredibly grateful.
Education is a gift I took for granted and struggled to accept. Today I value it above all else. Here’s to the dreamers and underdogs, whether they’re following lesson plans or creating their own.
Recently I had the pleasure working with TeachStreet on a promotional video for a Startup Weekend EDU. “Startup Weekend is an intense 54 hour event which focuses on building a web or mobile application which could form the basis of a credible business over the course of a weekend. The weekend brings together people with different skillsets – primarily software developers, graphics designers and business people – to build applications and develop a commercial case around them.” Basically, you come to the event on a Friday night, pitch an idea for a business and launch it on Sunday. Companies like Zaarly, FoodSpotting and Giant Thinkwell were all born at a Startup Weekend. Making this video was an amazing experience. I learned a lot about what’s not working in the education space. Since then, I’ve been talking with friends who are teachers and continuing to learn more. I find it fascinating and also scary where things are at. We need to fix this problem.
When you have all these smart, motivated and talented people in the same room working on the same problem, there’s an opportunity to really shake things up. If you’re anyone who has interest in making the education system a better one, you should definitely come out to this event. There are no requirements to attend. All you have to have is an idea and some motivation. Come dedicate a weekend to change the future.
The event will be held on Friday September 30th-Sunday October 2nd. Go here for more information on the event.Read More
A video teaser for local rapper Shorte's debut album "The Resume" available February 2011.Read More
First off, you're probably asking "what is Startup Weekend?" "Startup Weekend recruits a highly motivated group of developers, business managers, startup enthusiasts, marketing gurus, graphic artists and more to a 54 hour event that builds communities, companies and projects. It is an amazing opportunity to connect with other passionate and skilled individuals, and perhaps even find a co-founder or two to transform your idea into reality." Now that we have that out of the way, I'll tell you a bit about my experience. Early last week, my buddy Donald DeSantis invited me to come out to Startup Weekend Redmond. The last time I was invited as a photographer with the responsibility of capturing the event on camera. This time I was invited to take part in the creation of something new and never done before. I ended up getting recruited by Adam Philipp, a Seattle based Lawyer with the idea of CAMBadge. "CAMBadge is a digital name tag app that runs on your phone and utilizes the front facing camera to help put names with faces." Adam was the brains behind this idea and I helped with the design of the app/website. Lisa Song helped us out with getting the website up and running and lastly, Red Foundry we're our heroes for the weekend because they got this thing up and running on our phones in two days! Here are a couple of screen shots of our app.
I had a great time, learned a lot and met some awesome/incredibly smart humans. I decided to bring along my D200 for the event even though it's low light capabilities aren't really suitable for this type of setting. Shooting at 1000 ISO created a great vintage/film look which I really ended up linking! Below are some shots of life in a Startup Weekend box.
The smell of stale pizza and socks filled the hallway as I strolled searching for the action at the Adobe campus. What does a Startup Weekend look like? Who will be there? All questions I didn't have the answers to. Then I saw it. The largest collection of nerds geniuses I had ever seen. They were connected to each other with laptops and cords resembling a little newborn still feeding from it's mother. And then I spotted my contact.
My contact being my friend Donald DeSantis, asked me to take some photos at last weekend's Startup Weekend event. "Startup Weekend is a 54 hour startup event that provides networking, resources and incentives for individuals and teams to go from idea to launch."-startupweekend.org
Basically, it's a bunch of tech gurus ranging from developers to designers who get together to come up with an idea for a company and have it rolling by Sunday. Amazing.
These guys developed iPhone apps and websites from ground zero to launch in three days. It was awesome. At 6pm on Sunday they presented their creations with live demos and all.
Here are some shots from the event.
-Part of the Digri team hard at work.
-Wide angle view of the event.
-Kyle Kesterson trying to get used to speaking in front of an audience.
-A look at what these animals go through.
If anyone at the event would like all the photos I edited from the event just shoot me an email though my site and I will send over a zip.