Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Six Reasons to Visit Lawrence this Labor Day Weekend

Monument to the 1912 Strikers
Is there a better place to celebrate Labor Day than Lawrence, Massachusetts? I doubt it. Why? Because Lawrence actually celebrates labor on Labor Day. The textile workers strike of 1912, often referred to as the Bread and Roses Strike, changed labor history in the USA. That's reason enough to visit Lawrence on Labor Day Weekend, but there's so much more! With the Festival of the Three Saints, the Mahrajan, and the Bread and Roses Festival you can celebrate Italian culture, Lebanese culture, and labor history from Friday evening through Monday.

Lawrence City Hall
Here six reasons (among many) that you will want to come to Lawrence this weekend:

1. The Bread and Roses Heritage Festival

On Labor Day from 11:30 AM - 6:00PM the festival centered around Campagnone Common features:
  • live music on multiple stages celebrating a variety of traditions -- bachata, jazz, rock n' roll, folk, progressive hip hop, you name it!
  • a live history stage  where you can learn about Lawrence's history and its present from  historians, writers, union representatives, and community activists -- and be sure to check out the community corner and soapbox
  • kids' activities including pony rides, face painting, and arts activities
  • tours -- both trolley tours and historic walking tours take you to sites related to the 1912 strike and other aspects of this historic mill city
  • a variety of tables with vendors and non-profit organizations -- everything from food to labor organizing 
 2. Giant Puppets

Again this year the giant puppets from Vermont's famed Bread and Puppet Theater will bring their unique approach to both puppetry and politics to Lawrence. Their performances always tell a story we need to see and hear.  And the puppets really are huge. Is it my imagination or do the puppets get bigger every year? Come find out.

Circus Ring Awaits the Giant Puppets
Costume Heads for Giant Puppets
3. Extraordinary Rendition Band

This year's Bread and Roses festival is a great chance to experience this popular Providence, Rhode Island activist street band right here in Lawrence.  ERB is a "honk band" of brass, reeds and percussion who play at the annual Honk! festival in Somerville and Cambridge, the Pronk festival in Providence and other events across the country. They harness the power of music to promote peace and civic engagement. They'll be roaming the lawn on Campagnone Common starting at 5:15 PM.
Extraordinary Rendition Band at Honk! (2013)
4. Feast of the Three Saints

From Friday evening at 6:00 thru Sunday evening Common Street becomes Italian heritage central. This is the 94th year that  Lawrence's Italian community has honored the three martyrs: Saints Alfio, Filadelfo, and Cirino.  Free music on multiple stages, great food, a torchlight procession, fireworks, confetti, and people yelling "Viva Sant Alfio" bring people to Lawrence to reunite with old friends and celebrate all that the Italian immigrants brought to the Immigrant City.

The Italian Serenaders Performing on Common Street (2016)
If you're craving cannoli or arancini  or some other kind of Italian treat, you'll find it all here.  Be sure to catch the First Annual Youth Battle of the Bands on Sunday afternoon at 1PM outdoors on the
Tripoli Stage, right across the street from Tripoli Bakery (which, by the way, makes the best scala bread anywhere). Just stroll down Common Street and you're sure to encounter fun.
The Saturday Night Crowd at Three Saints (2016)
5. Lebanese Mahrajan Festival
Get a taste of Lebanese culture at the 43rd Mahrajan at St. Anthony's Maronite Church. Three days of music, dancing and plenty of  Lebanese (and American) food starts Friday evening, Sept. 1. There's plenty of time to enjoy the food, music, dancing, hookah, games, and even cooking classes. Stop by  Friday 6PM-Midnight,  Saturday 5PM- Midnight, and Sunday Noon-Midnight.

Crowds Starting to Build at Saint Anthony's for Mahrajan
This is your chance to sample the wide variety of tasty Lebanese pastries while listening to live music, buy some souvenirs from unique vendors, and maybe even take a belly dancing lesson.
The Pastry Tent is Three Tables Long!
6. Robert Frost Grew Up Here
One of the stages at Bread and Roses is named for famous Lawrencian, Robert Frost. Frost discovered his talent and passion for poetry at Lawrence High and his work was first published in the Lawrence High newspaper. The Robert Frost Foundation aims to connect contemporary poets with Frost's legacy and his connection with Lawrence. Monday's 2017 Bread and Roses festival will remember longtime Robert Frost Foundation executive director and accomplished poet, Mark Schorr,who passed away earlier this year. Stop by the Robert Frost Stage at 1:15PM for a poetry tribute to Schorr.

There are way more than 6 reasons to come to Lawrence. Just come and you'll find out why "the whole world has come to Lawrence."

Sign Commemorating the 1912 Strike in the Everett Mill

Monday, August 14, 2017

MIN101 Recap

Spectacular View from MIT Sloan School
Last Wednesday's Mass Innovation Nights MIN101 event had a tough act to follow after the MIN100 celebration, but they pulled it off with a spectacular setting. Our hosts/sponsors for the night happen to have the best view of Boston and the Charles River. That's right, we were on the MIT campus, hosted by MIT Sloan Executive Education. They provided a ton of experts from MIT Sloan School of Management and other parts of the Institute at the Center of the Universe (my family's pet name for MIT). The theme for the night was process improvement and the products on the agenda were wide-ranging and fascinating.
The four presenters chosen by online voting were:
  • Vinolytics -- Wine collection management software that uses data analytics to simplify the process of trading and enjoying your wine cellar.
  • WatchRx -- A smart watch that manages medication reminders for elders and their caregivers, as well as keeping tabs on users' well-being.
  • Diversity Dashboard -- Project management software that provides the ability to measure the results and analyze the ROI of diversity programs.
  • TwelveJobs -- A system for matching job seekers and employers based on skills and eliminating implicit bias.
Innovation Women Recruiting Speakers
As I visited the tables and listened to the presentations, a kind of a sub-theme of the evening started to emerge.  All four of the presenters were startups with women founders. MIN has had women founders themed events before, but this lineup just happened that way as a result of the pre-event online voting. Diversity issues, especially gender diversity in tech, have been in the news a lot lately, especially with that infamous memo at Google, so it was timely and exciting to hear about how  Diversity Dashboard and TwelveJobs are providing tools that tackle some of those hiring and diversity issues.

Diversity Dashboard Presentation
It was great to see WatchRx again. I remembered them from the IoT-themed MIN98 back in May.

Demoing WatchRx
Ankota is also in that "aging place" space with software for home care businesses and other organizations that manage care that enables elderly people to age in place at home.

I really enjoyed the demo of FlowNote, a to-do list/idea manager, that brings together all the little pieces of project management -- lists, progress charts, slides, photos, emails, schedules, budgets -- and lets you share it all with your team across devices.

Wicked Bandwidth IP provides high speed fiber Internet services to businesses in areas of Boston that have been overlooked by big name Internet companies. Yes, Wicked provides wicked fast Internet. This is wicked good news for a way wicked lot of businesses/buildings in un-served or under-served areas in these parts. Wicked had matching T-shirts and cute little nerf footballs too. This put them in the running for Best Costume and Best Prop.
Wicked Bandwidth
By far, the most popular demo table was Soft Robotics. I couldn't get near it until after the presentations. Everybody wanted to try out the soft robotic gripper. These grippers with their
control systems and software can manipulate items of varying size, shape and weight.  The demo table had a variety of items, such as an apple and a packet of crackers, you could try it out on. One of the big shortcomings of the conventional automation tools for industrial applications has been the inability to handle things that are soft, irregularly shaped, etc. The first thought that leaped to my mind was "can it handle tomatoes?" I asked about tomatoes as soon as I got a chance. Yes, it can. Soft Robotics already has a customer using it to sort and pack tomatoes.  Check out the case study on their website.

Soft Robotics
The Soft Robotics team had matching T-shirts and the demo robot made a great interactive prop, so that put them in the running for Best Costume and Best Prop too. So, I hereby award Best Costume of MIN101 to Wicked Bandwidth IP and Best Prop of MIN101 to Soft Robotics.

Everybody Wanted to Photograph the Audience Choice Winners with the Spectacular View
Now for the real awards, the Audience Choice winners are:
Congratulations to all of them!
MIT System Design and Management Experts Can Handle Anything
There was still plenty of time after the presentations to check out the rest of the demo tables, take photos of the view, and talk to the experts.

Enjoying that View

As is traditional, I'll close with an Expert Looking Expert photo: Belen Zuniga representing the MIT Executive MBA program.  This is what an expert looks like:

Expert Looking Expert