Monday, November 14, 2011

Black in America 4

Tonight the latest edition of Black in America premiered.  This edition told the story of the NewMe Accelerator and it’s participant’s 9 week journey to seek funding in Silicon Valley.  I was one of about 200 people who were able to attend a special viewing of the show, as well as participate in a post-program discussion.  The event was hosted by Mario Armstrong at UMBC.

The Show
This edition of Black in America focused on the 9 week journey of 8 entrepreneurs into Silicon valley to get funding for their startups.  All 8 startups were lead by black founders and 2 of the startups had black female founders.  The show not only talked about the struggles of fundraising in the valley, but the added complexity being a minority added to the equation.  It covers a lot of interesting ground and sheds a lot of light on what goes on when founders try to raise money for their ventures.  Right now minorities are underrepresented in Silicon Valley for a number of reasons.  The best way to change this is to get jobs there, and create successfully businesses there.  One of the issues is that to be accepted there you have to be successful elsewhere first.  So it’s up to us to “create” a way into the valley.

I think everyone should watch the show, not only those interested in technology.  There are a lo of relevant points made that can apply to a variety of different industries.

The post program discussion consisted of a 6 panelists discussing some of the questions brought up by the show.  The panelists talked and brought up some good points.  Here are my big takeaways from their discussion.
  • Build your network
  • Find a mentor
  • Be comfortable, being uncomfortable
  • Take on step towards your goal each day
  • Solve a problem
  • Make sure your product is newsworthy
  • Be passionate

Discussion topics briefly covered during the discussion.
  • The role of education
  • Expanding the educational influence of technology
  • Funding practices in the Valley
  • Defining a new Silicon Valley
  • Whether or not funding is needed
  • Disruption and Innovation
  • What’s getting funded
  • Technology centers outside of Silicon Valley
  • Government programs aiming to support entrepreneurs

I think overall this was a wonderful event, especially for a budding software developer/future entrepreneur as myself.  It was good to see people who have similar interests gathering together to discuss how we can bring about change and create a new future for those coming after us.  We need more events like this. There are lot of us out there, we just need a way to find each other. We have the power to create our own tech centers, with our own innovations. We don't always have to be the top consumers, we can create. As Mr. Terry Jones said, "The promised land is wherever you want it to be."

EDIT: The webcast is available here.  If you want to check out some of the twitter conversation check out #biaLIVE...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Photographing Caribana 2011

This past weekend my friends and I took a trip to Toronto for Caribana.  Caribana is largest caribbean carnival in North American and outside of the Caribbean.  It is a 2 week long celebration of Caribbean culture highlighted by a huge parade attended to by over 1 million people.  During the parade bands mad up of people in costumes “playing mas” march down the road to music played on the back of huge flatbed trucks with stacks of speakers on them.  

The music is loud and energetic.  The people are many and enjoyable.  Everyone is out there to dance in the street and have a good time.  The costumes worn are elaborate and colorful.  Each band has a different them which goes a long with the design of the costumes.  The amount of work that goes into these costumes is incredible and what comes out is amazing.  It’s truely a sight to see.  

While this year (and probably many years to come) I didn’t particpate in the band wearing a costume, I was able to find my way into the media area, and shoot with the professional photographers.  It was a good experience.  Here are some things I thought of while out there, to help me and anyone else who can use them.

1. Bring water and snacks.  It was really hot out there.  The parade goes from 10-6, and there isn’t a lot of shade in the middle of the street.  From what I could tell the media section did not get any special treatment with regard to water or snacks.  I didn’t stay with the media the full time, but for the 3.5 hours I was out there shooting, I got drained quickly.  I had a camelback which I neglected to fill before i got there thinking I’d be able to fill it there.  I do believe they are a big help to anyone out there though.

2. Have at least one extra battery for each camera you bring.  At the minimum one extra battery.  Some people have two cameras with different lenses, I only have one.  Even worse I only had one battery too.  After over 500 shots in 3 hours, I had made it about half way through the bands, and my battery started limping.  I almost missed getting shots of my friends who were in band 6 of 12.  My camera died shortly after they showed up.  I wish I had an extra battery or two.  I got a lot, but I think I missed out on a lot as well.  One thing I didn’t realize until after, is that the parade is kinda in two parts.  There is the first section where they band puts on a small performance in front of some judges and then is judged, and there is the part where everyone is dancing in the street having a good time, for the next 2.5 miles.  I missed out on a lot of action shots during the second part, because my battery had died.  

3. Have a lens that can shoot really close up and one that can shoot medium range, or one that can do both.  I took my 55-200 and my 35-70.  I used the 55-200 most of the time, but there were moments where it would have been nice to have an 18-55 so I could get really good shots of people’s faces.  Where I placed myself I was in the middle of the band as they came off the stage area.  the 55-200 was good for when they were on the stage area, not so good when they are standing 2 feet in front of me.  Some of the media people there had 2 cameras, sadly i’m not one of them, but next time I hope to be more prepared.

4. Always be on the lookout for good shots.  All around us there was action going on.  Sometimes it would be people in the band dancing together, others it would be people in the crowd dancing with people in the band.  There were little kids in cute costumes, there were grown men in fully painted costumes.  Not only the costumes, the range of colors was amazing.  Finding ways to capture all of them only makes the experience that much more fun and challenging.

5. Have fun.  I noticed several times when people in the band would walk up to a security guard and start dancing on them.  Everyone is out there to have fun and a good time.  So put on a smile and have a good time.  No one wants to be out there in the head angry or bored.  Enjoy yourself and the culture and have fun taking pictures at the same time.

Friday, July 22, 2011

One Season Ends And Another begins

Today marked the end of my 2011 Spring Softball season.  I think I had a pretty good season.  I hit 2 out of the park homeruns, I had a base hit in almost every game, and I found a permanent position in the outfield.  On the flip-side, technically my team didn't win any games.  I say technically because we won one game by forefit, which I totally count as a win.  My confidence improved, my fielding improved, and I became a more vocal teammate.  Being more vocal on the team is probably what I see as my biggest victory this year.  I was always there to encourage my team each step of the way.

I've played on a lot of losing teams.  Losing isn't painful for me anymore.  So I began focusing on having fun and making progress each game.  Any time a ball was caught, a throw was made, contact between the ball and the bat, a ball was stopped on its way to the outfield, etc.  I was always there to encourage my team.  Each game we got better.  We made strides, we scored more runs, we allowed fewer runs to be scored.  We came closer and closer to winning.  We got to the point where it actually hurt to lose.  We were making such progress that we went ahead in a couple of games, and then we fell apart.  Those games hurt the most because we could almost see ourselves winning.  We could see we had a change to turn things around and then we'd get too confident, and start making mistakes.  No worries though, it showed we were making progress.  It showed we weren't the team we started the season as.  Progressing was most important.  Losing is never fun, but having a good time and making forward progress makes it interesting.

Now that softball season is over, I turn to soccer.  I've started practicing with my team before the season starts and our team looks promising.  I do have a lot of work to do before I'm ready.  I'm setting goals for myself this year, so I can monitor myself and make progress.  I want to truly improve.  I want to get better.  I always talk about being a good soccer player, but rarely do I do anything about it.  This year that changes.  I also want a new pair of boots, but that's another story.

My goals for my 2011 Soccer Season
 - Score 4 goals
 - Be able to play one game without being subbed out
 - Beat a defender with a step-over
 - Kick 4 corner kicks
 - Score a goal via header

I'm trying to be more of a playmaker, and move from playing on the outside to holding down the middle of the field.  I need to be able to run.  I like running, I also need to be able to control the ball.  This year I'm going to make strides towards doing just those things.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My friends and I like music.  We like to make mixes for different occasions.  My one friend has a good number of cd’s on the back of his car.  Each time we get together we discuss new music, they are always introducing me to new artists, mixtapes, and cd’s.  

We’ve always tried to discover new methods of discovering and sharing music between us.  Years ago we’d make playlists via imeem, and share them via Facebook and more recently twitter.  Sadly these days were limited and imeem was eventually bought by Myspace who killed it off.  Since then we’ve been searching for a new, easy, and legit way to share music online.  Today I may have found the solution to our problem.  It’s a little site called 8tracks.  

8tracks is a music discovery service that allows you to discover new music via playlists from other users.  The idea behind 8tracks is that people can come up with better music mixes than algorithms and computers.  8tracks reminds me of a Pandora, but with the songs chosen by the creator of the playlist.  It allows you to upload any track you own to the service to be shared.  

The site is awesome for anyone who is trying to share mixes.  You can create a “Monday Morning” mix of your favorite beginning of the week tracks, then add it to your blog or website, or share the link via twitter or facebook so that you friends can listen to it.  One feature I really like is the fact that you can see similarly tagged playlists and discover new music via other users.  

One minor thing I that discovered that may another some users is the fact that if you try to listen to the same list more than once in a row, it shuffles the song order.  This can ruin some playlists, but it also  could be nothing more than a minor inconvenience.  The site also doesn’t want you to add multiple songs from one artist on the same playlist.

8Tracks is a pretty cool site.  If you are getting bored of Pandora and want something similar with a different variety of music, check it out...