Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Six Reasons You Should Come to Lowell this Weekend

Downtown Lowell is the place to be this weekend. The Lowell Folk Festival is celebrating its 30th year as the longest running free folk festival in the country. Need more reasons?

Crowds Checking Out the Food Booths
Here are six reasons to come to Lowell during folk festival weekend:

1. Food!

Tour the world's traditional cuisines without leaving downtown. Local churches and nonprofits showcase their ethnic food traditions to raise money for their community programs. My personal favorite is the loobie and rooz from St. George's Antiochian Orthodox Church. They have a way with green beans that I've never experienced anywhere else. Perennial crowd favorites are the lumpia and the turon from Iskwelahang Pilipino and the pierogi from the Lowell Polish Cultural Committee.

Mouthwatering Loobie & Rooz from St. George's

2. Learn to Make Pierogis

Did you enjoy those pierogis from the Polish Cultural Committee? This year you can learn to make them in the Foodways demonstration area. The demos this year range from the aforementioned pierogis to Jamaican fish tea and Chinese noodle making.

3. Baklava Sundaes

The baklava sundaes from the Hellenic American Academy PTA are the most anticipated sweet treat of the entire folk festival. I know people who come to the festival just for the baklava sundaes. You have not experienced Lowell Folk Festival if you have not had a baklava sundae.
Flat Frost and Flat Basho Enjoying Baklava Sundae at the 2015 Lowell Folk Festival
4. Beautiful Downtown Lowell

Folk Festival is the perfect time to check out the Mill City's red brick mills, canals, public art, three (count them three!) vinyl record stores,  the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, Mill No. 5 (you have to experience it to understand), art galleries, art in the park, and did I mention record stores?

Beautiful Downtown View

5. unchARTed

This combination gastropub and art gallery serves up amazingly delicious pizza. They're having a Festival Friday event featuring an absolutely amazing lineup of performers. That's not all, there's a Festival Saturday event too! And it features even more fantastic performers including Jen Kearney, D-Tension, and more.

unchARTed Territory on Market Street
Crowd Enjoying Pizza and Art at unchARTed

6. Music Music Music Music Music!

This year's Folk Festival lineup features Nigerian musical icon King Sunny Ade & His African Beats. That's reason enough to come. This is his first North American tour since 2009 and he's playing to sold out venues all over the US and Canada. You get to hear him for free. This is big.

Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy are bringing the Cape Breton traditional music. Ana Lains brings Portuguese fado. Oh, and there's Chicago blues, Inuit throat singing, Iraqi oud, polka, Peking opera, gospel ... you get the idea: traditional music of the world!

There's dance too. That goes with music, right? You do not want to miss Lowell's own Angkor Dance Troupe, a true cultural treasure featuring traditional Cambodian classical dance as well as folk dances. Angkor Dance is reason enough to come to Lowell anytime they're performing. Take advantage of this opportunity. Do not miss it.

Angkor Dance
Still need more music? Besides the amazing lineup of musicians on the Folk Festival stages, there will be music all over the place. Restaurants, bars, coffee shops and the streets all add to the musical landscape. Besides the unchARTed events I mentioned,  you can check out local favorite Reverend JJ and the Casual Sinners at the Athenian Corner on Sunday. And you never know when the Gentleman Songsters might show up on a street corner or in a restaurant.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Wow! Innovative Innovations at #MIN88

Wow. Just wow. A new take on mass transit, responsive parking meters, secure passwords, a whole new paradigm for content distribution, vegan unicorns, oh my! LogMeIn hosted Mass Innovation Night number 88 at their spiffy new Fort Point location (across the street from their former somewhat less spiffy Fort Point location) and the innovations were more innovative and more diverse than ever before. Oh, and they provided pizza. Hosts who provide pizza are always appreciated!
Our Host
Imagine getting around our cities without a car. Self-driving or otherwise, cars are not the future. To Mike Stanley, founder of Transit X , the future looks like a clean and efficient personal mass transit system of pods traveling on overhead rails zipping us around the city. My immediate reaction was that Lowell needs this immediately. Imagine pods whisking you from the Gallagher Terminal to downtown at 45 mph without ever having to take your life in your hands crossing Dutton Street! I mentioned this to Mike and he said he actually has spoken to the folks at the UML Innovation Hub. We can hope. Meanwhile,  his plan is to have a full-size and portable test system up and running about a year and a half from now and a real production system in two years, probably making its debut in Chelsea or Everett. If it really is as cheap as he claims, I foresee widespread adoption. I mean at $10 million per mile it is WAY cheaper than the $500 million per mile for the Green Line extension. So, yeah, TransitX got my vote for audience favorite.
TransitX Mike Stanley Posing with Full Size Graphic of Pod
Tiny Non-working Model -- The pods are the dark things above the bus.
Passwords. They're good, right? As TapLink founder Jeremy Spilman described them: "secrets you can keep in your mind." But we keep hearing about all these password breaches at places like LinkedIn or whatever ... so can we fix this without having to overcomplexify the burden on the user? (Yeah, I made up overcomplexify -- let's get it into the dictionary.) TapLink says yes, we can make passwords secure against offline attack even if your company’s password database is stolen. TapLink's blind hashing technique essentially obscures the passwords in a huge pool of data. At least that's what I gathered from his lightning quick presentation.
TapLink's Table Attracting Some Interest
Raise Your Hand if You Like Passwords
More supercoolness: LBRY makes it possible to publish a piece of digital content, like video, book, game, or some other kind of content not yet developed on top of a distributed network that makes it extremely efficient, robust, and resistant to censorship. Chew on that for a second. Founder Jeremy Kauffman said he'd explain it to his grandmother as "YouTube, but entirely controlled by and run by its users." It's decentralized. It's open source. It uses blockchain in creative ways to manage the content catalog and the way users can get paid. He never used the word disruptive (in fact the whole event was remarkably free of startup-speak) but that's what it its.
Stream, Share, Earn
Crowd Listening to Presenters
Innovative parking meters? You bet! Sentry Parking Meter/Kiosk is a parking meter that responds to your mobile device. Yeah, you can pay with your phone, but wait, there's more. Get directions to an open spot, instructions on how to pay, street closure alerts, weather warnings, and even discount offers from local businesses. My personal favorite feature? No more running back to add time if you are running late - just use your phone. And there's a “grace period” so you don't have to worry about getting a ticket if you're just minutes short.
Yes, It's  a Parking Meter
Unicorn Goods
It can be hard for vegans and animal lovers to find stylish goods that don't harm animals. Unicorn Goods solves this issue with an online shopping platform to help you buy animal friendly products. Anything that simplifies reducing impact on animals, people, and the planet is bound to find a sizable market.
Victoria, Founder of  WORKINGURL
I recognized Victoria and her extremely cool WORKINGURLCO carryall bags from following EforAll Southcoast's first accelerator class. Ever notice how women often have to carry a lot of stuff on the go? These bags solve that problem with style. Seriously check them out.

Care Cards - Best Costume of MIN88
Best Costume and Best Prop of MIN88 both go to Care Cards, whose T-shirts and scary skeleton helped promote their inspirational card deck designed to help you adopt a healthier lifestyle.

The rapid fire job opportunities at this MIN incarnation were unusually diverse, with calls for performers and artists and unpaid interns and more ... The new economy is interesting...

Diane Calls for Artists during Rapid Fire Job Opps
Virtually Here Saves You Time

I tried to talk to everyone and get photos of everyone, but you know how that goes.  Virtually Here's Virtual Assistant helps your business save time. AppInAll provides a group communication search tool for iPhone and Android. Supertitle provides perfectly synced subtitles for movie watchers at home, in nearly any language of their choosing. If I missed anybody else, I'm sure I'll catch up with you around the startup scene.

Our friends from Suja Juice were there offering tasting probiotic waters. I can vouch for the lime/ginger flavor.

Finally, as is traditional, I will close with an Expert Looking Expert shot. Jason from LogMeIn doubled as host and resident expert and agreed to pose looking exceptionally expert.

Expert Looking Expert