Onto the World Series

The NY Mets celebrate after sweeping the Cubs on October 20.

The NY Mets celebrate after sweeping the Cubs on October 20.

I am a Mets fan.

Six months ago, that statement usually got responses of laughter and questions. Why? I grew up in Massachusetts, and the Mets are notoriously one of the MLB’s worst teams. So why would I choose to join their *sometimes* self-deprecating fan base, when all signs point me towards the bigger teams? Well, to be honest it’s as simple as I like the underdogs.

I didn’t choose the Mets for that reason alone—my father is a Mets fan, so I was raised on them. We were the secret New York fans in a sea of Red Sox. When I was younger, that New York vs. Massachusetts rivalry didn’t matter—the Sox were still suffering from the Curse of the Bambino, and the Mets last won a series in 1986, before I was even born, so by the time I started to like baseball, the Red Sox and Mets never saw each other as legitimate threats. We were all suffering under the regime of the evil empire (New York Yankees), so I was among friends. Then 2004 hit.

I keep referring to that season, when the Red Sox, who for 86 years hadn’t won a World Series, broke their curse and came out on top during one of the most exciting comebacks in baseball history. Even last week, when the Mets were up 3-0 against the Cubs, sports reporters were referencing when the Sox came back from that against the Yankees. I don’t think the sportscasters were anti-Mets, but even with some of the best playing the team has shown all season, we’re still skeptical about whether the Mets would pull through—they are known to Mets it up, meaning they drop the ball when they need to play their best.

When you’re the fan of an underdog team, it just takes time before you get your day. I truly believe this—to mimic that Dos Equis guy, I’m not always a sports fan, but when I am, I’m dedicated. For 86 years, my home state waited, and fought, to win the World Series. They were gracious losers, year after year, becoming the butt of jokes, but eventually they came out on top. And they did it again in 2007. And again in 2013.

The Mets were always on my radar, but it took me moving here to become a die-hard fan. For the last few years, I’ve made it to a few games a year, convincing my Yankees and Sox fan friends that they should come with me for the food and cheap tickets (you can always get decent seats for a game at Citi Field for less than $20). I would go to support my team, while everyone else would laugh at the Mets’ record. We became the joke team, replacing the Red Sox, even though only a few years earlier the Sox were in that position. Sigh.

But let’s look at the Mets before 2015. This team is family—they are dedicated and always offer their fans something to enjoy. Even when they are losing, the games are a blast to attend, and year after year they would lose with style. You could never really hate the Mets, because they were always smiling. We put up with the jokes, the criticism, the eye rolls, because we knew one day we would get our turn. That turn is now.

This year has been one of the most exciting seasons in sports for me. I remember at the start of the season, I told my friend (a Red Sox fan) that this was the Mets’ year. She laughed at me. Now, she isn’t laughing. I got to watch my team win 11 games in a row—unheard of for this team. We got Matt Harvey back, we watched our other young pitchers rise, Yoenis Cespedes joined us halfway through the season to round out our batting order, Daniel Murphy is still keeping up with his streak of post season home runs and Wilmer Flores showed us what it truly means to love the Mets when he cried at the rumors of a trade. It’s been a year of ups and downs, and tomorrow, we start game one of the World Series.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed on this. Wearing my lucky charms, my hat on backwards, whatever superstitions it takes to support my team. Because we’ve waited for a long time, and I have a feeling that this is our year. So, please join me as we chant ‘Let’s Go Mets!’

Open House: Queens

9th-Annual-OHNY-Weekend-2011-500Each October, the organization known as Open House New York welcomes visitors to hundreds of landmarks within the city’s five boroughs for one weekend. The event celebrates the past, present and future of New York’s architecture and design by opening the doors to these sites, providing educational tours about each spot’s role in the city landscape.

It was back in 2011 when I first discovered this organization. I wasn’t living in the city yet, but was visiting a friend for the long weekend when we stumbled upon one of the sites near Battery Park. I dragged my friend into the site for a full walking tour, and there met a few of the volunteers with the organization. They explained that OHNY is a cultural organization that aims to spread awareness and appreciation of New York’s architecture scene, and as volunteers, they help man individual sites to welcome guests and provide more information on the organization.

Now, as a strong advocate of the arts and culture scenes in my previous homes, I was pleasantly surprised at the dedication these volunteers had towards OHNY, and made a mental note to return each year to continue to support such a fun weekend. That was before I decided to move to the city.

2012 was my first year volunteering with OHNY. I was assigned to the Grand Lodge of Masons in Chelsea, where for four hours I helped welcome tours and direct traffic. 2013 was my second year volunteering, where I helped give tours of an architecture firm in TriBeca.

What I truly love about volunteering for OHNY year after year is sharing in the joy of New York’s history with others. With so much culture on every corner, it can be almost overwhelming to find where to start. I’ve lived here now for three years and have only seen a fragment of the city—and I explore it all the time! But with OHNY, volunteers are placed in one of the hundreds of participating sites, where they are given a chance to not only interact with weekend visitors, but also learn about a location they may have never traveled to before.

This year, I was assigned to LaGuardia Airport’s Marine Air Terminal, a once thriving gateway to the glamour of flight in the late 1930s-early 40s. This terminal was the base for Pan American’s Clipper aircraft, as well as for ‘flying boats’ that could land on both land and water. You can still see the docks where these planes would land outside the windows of the terminal’s restaurant.

LaGuardia Airport's marine Air Terminal lobby.

LaGuardia Airport’s marine Air Terminal lobby.

Today, the Marine Air Terminal still boasts its original mural in the main lobby, an art deco-style tale of the history of flight, painted by James Brooks in 1940 (a fun fact, in the 1950s, the mural was painted over because of fear that it contained Communist propaganda, but was restored in the 1980s). The terminal is still active, mainly used for Delta’s shuttle flights to Chicago and Washington D.C., as well as for private planes (Joe Biden comes through this terminal when he visits the city, and has famously referred to it as feeling like going through some ‘third world country’). But despite criticism, the terminal is a sight to see, and the employees working there were friendly, helpful, and informative, providing me with all the information I needed to tell the terminal’s story properly.

The other perk of volunteering for OHNY is that you get to skip the lines when you’re not on duty. When you meet up with volunteers and visitors at your site, they always give out information on where they’ve already stopped by, and where they are headed next, so by the end of your shift you usually leave with a list of 50 sites to squeeze in within the hour. I only had Sunday afternoon to explore, so I narrowed it down to one site: The World’s Fair Grounds in Queens, a spot I have always wanted to see.

You can't say you're from Queens until you visit the Unisphere.

You can’t say you’re from Queens until you visit the Unisphere.

Bonus: Sunday was also game two of the NCLS championships, with the Cubs playing my Mets at Citi Field, so I had to stop by to give the Mets some luck. They won 4-1!

Wishing the Mets good luck before their win on Sunday!

Wishing the Mets good luck before their win on Sunday!

Why It’s Time to Consider Drones

*NOTE: This article originally appeared on the SCN Blog. It was a recap of a recent event in Buffalo, NY where AV Distributor Stampede Presentation Products gave their annual report. You can view the article on the original website here.

Stampede Presentation Products held its annual Vendor Summit on October 5 and 6, 2015 in Buffalo, NY, and without competition, there was one element on their agenda that stood out: drones. And there’s a good reason for this—of the listings of Stampede’s top categories this year, drones came first, followed by touch displays, unified communications, audio, hospitality, signage, and security.

So it’s not really a surprise that Stampede would invest so much of its agenda to drones—they’ve been pushing this technology for some time now, with vendors participating in the distributor’s Big Book of AV tour stops around the country and putting up a Drone Pavilion at InfoComm this past June, complete with a caged demo area to show these flying machines in action.

Of course, there is still a lot of skepticism about the relationship between drones and AV. While I was live tweeting the event on Tuesday, conversations were starting up about why integrators are doubtful to invest in drones, citing that the technology offers ‘limited’ uses. I myself was even hesitant to embrace this new technology at first, but the more I hear about the benefits and the connection to AV, the more open I am to it. I think the key is to look beyond the hype we read about drones in the media, and think of the practical solutions drones offer and how AV can have a hand in that—a point that was heavily emphasized during the presentations.

Kevin Kelly, president and COO at Stampede, said the prediction is that drones will become a nearly $100 billion opportunity, and that AV can play a big part in this growth. With over 10,000 possible applications for drones, Kelly said that when it comes to drones, we need to see AV as a piece in the big picture. “Stop thinking of a drone as an end all, be all product, but as a platform to hold a camera,” he said. “And cameras are a big part of our industry.”

Kelly said that beyond military purposes, 29 percent of drones are used for other reasons, including filming at events, safety surveillance, and more. Mounting your camera to a drone, as well as providing command and control solutions, are important to the user, and Kelly emphasized that these are areas where AV companies excel and can help provide solutions specific for drones.

Stampede isn’t making a push for AV in drones just because it seems ‘cool’ though—as the data shows, the drone industry is growing exponentially, and it’s not stopping. Thomas Frey, a futurist with The DaVinci Institute, spoke to summit attendees about the future of drones, saying that future uses may include delivery, wildlife tracking, and more. A big use for drones will include helping firefighters battle wildfires by attaching sensors to the drones to pinpoint where the firefighters need to go to extinguish the flames faster.

Frey also reminded us that drones don’t just fly—they can roll, walk, climb, swim—you name it. Essentially, our future will finally involve the robotic droids that George Lucas created in Star Wars—I’ve waited a long time for this to happen.

Representatives from the Cleveland Research Company gave a more detailed account of where the drone industry is headed—“There’s two main things we want you to know: professionals in the drone industry want a complete solution, and the market is in early stages and accelerating,” said Josh Rowe, market research associate with the Cleveland Research Company.

Rowe said that right now, drone sales are at a 100 percent increase from last year, and will continue to rise until the industry hits critical mass. In 2015 alone, the industry has already sold 2.5 million units. They predict that by 2017, drones will be a far more prominent industry, so the focus for 2016 will be to educate interested users. This means that this is the best time for AV companies to get involved.

“People need to get a drone IoT solution together,” commented Rowe. “What you’ll need is software, cloud video storage, vertical specific software (mapping, measuring, video analysis, facial recognition), along with services for insurance, drone management, deployment, education, support.”

The event closed out with a Q&A panel of drone experts, including Rowe; Ted Ellet, partner, Hogan Lovells; Greg Frasca, president, SkyWeb Media; Vincent Cowie, president and CEO, G2 Digital Solutions; and Gene Payson, president, Troy Built Models, who offered a more detailed look at specific concerns regarding adopting drones into AV solutions.

YOLO Walk to Canada (Or Why You Should Always Go Exploring)

The first glimpse of Niagara Falls.

The first glimpse of Niagara Falls.

I can’t remember the exact moment I added Niagara Falls to my bucket list. I think it was after binge-watching ‘The Office’ for the 100th time—you know the episode, when Jim and Pam have to get married on the tour boat because everything was going wrong back at the church. I remember thinking, “Wow, Niagara Falls is such a cool spot. It’s beautiful, natural, and only six hours from me. So why haven’t I seen it yet?”

In college and my early twenties, I took a lot of time to explore other countries. I trekked around Italy, ate Sushi in Japan, drank beer in Germany, hiked through Greece, but there was so much about my own country that I needed to explore. So, I made it a goal to try to see more of my own country, putting Niagara at the top of my list. I didn’t really have a deadline, but more of a ‘when I can I will’ type of attitude, with the hope that one day I could stand at the top of the falls and watch the water rush over the side.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have a career that sends me to many industry events around the country, and this has allowed me to explore cities that normally I’d never actively seek out. In many cases, I may only have a few hours to spend in a location before hopping back onto a flight, so I rely heavily on the Internet to lead me to the must-see spots. Such was the case with my most recent business trip up to Buffalo, NY, with one exception—I knew exactly where I wanted to go.

I always say that when given the opportunity to explore somewhere new, you should always accept. Maybe it’s my wanderlust attitude, or just my love for adventure, but put me in a new location for a few hours and I will easily entertain myself.

My lovely poncho post-tour boat ride.

My lovely poncho post-tour boat ride. I managed to fit this into my afternoon at the falls.

For this particular trip, I did all of my planning on the fly. I knew I wanted to see the falls, so getting there just required a quick recommendation from my hotel. I stayed at the Buffalo Niagara Marriott, which is tucked between Niagara and Buffalo, so it made more sense to rent a car instead of rely on taxis to get around—it also gave me more freedom. Being a city girl, driving isn’t something I do on a daily basis, so getting behind the wheel was invigorating. It just added to the excitement of what was already going to be a tremendous day.

With trips like this, it’s important to take in as much as you can in the time frame you are given. For me, travel always gives me a kind of natural high, so I actively seek out adventure, but in short time frames, sometimes I have to compromise the big adventure with something within my means. Luckily for this trip, I had all afternoon to explore, so I really got to take in everything the falls had to offer.

I'm on a boat.

I’m on a boat.

I should also mention that I did this trip to Niagara Falls by myself. Under no circumstances should you ever let being alone prevent you from doing something you love. For me, seeing new places is important, so I’ve learned to enjoy my alone time. So what if I was hopping on a tour boat by myself? I did it because I wanted to, because the regret of not going was bigger than people feeling sorry for me because I was by myself. These trips have become almost therapeutic for me—when reality starts to overwhelm me, I tend to travel not exactly to get away, but to remind myself of the beauty in this world. Niagara was able to give me just that, and it came at such a perfect time. Plus, I wasn’t sure when I would get this close to the falls again, and I really wanted to go.

And I am so glad I did.

Niagara Falls is a wonder that everyone should see. The site is stunning—just think about the first settlers to come across it. You travel for miles along mountain ranges, coming to the flat valleys near the lakes, and suddenly…BOOM! The river you were following suddenly drops. Today, the site is surrounded by commercial properties—casinos, hotels, dinosaur mini golf—but it’s the falls that still sticks in your mind.

So, as I mentioned before, you should always say yes to an adventure. When I saw that I could walk across a bridge to the Canadian side of the falls, I was ecstatic that I had brought my passport—it was time to cross into another country simply because I could. Sometimes that is the only reason you need to do something—because you can. And when it comes to travel, saying yes to adventure is important, because the reward is ALWAYS worth it. You only live once, so walk to Canada.

The most tempting sign ever.

The most tempting sign ever.

Projecting Change

Pedestrians photograph a leopard projected on the Empire State Building as part of the “Projecting Change: The Empire State Building” project.

Pedestrians photograph a leopard projected on the Empire State Building as part of the “Projecting Change: The Empire State Building” project.

By Kelleigh Welch

*Note: This article originally appeared in the October 2015 edition of Systems Contractor News.

New York City’s skyline received an environmental makeover on August 1 with an animated display of the world’s most endangered animals projected onto 33 floors of the Empire State Building. This show, titled “Projecting Change: The Empire State Building,” uses images of endangered species, including manta rays, birds, reptiles, lions, and a gorilla that “climbed” to the top of the building, as a way to spread awareness about our role in protecting these animals and to promote the upcoming documentary, “Racing Extinction,” by the Oceanic Preservation Society.

“The story we were trying to tell was something that no one really knows, and it’s that we’ve had five mass extinctions (in the Earth’s history). Now we’re rolling into a sixth, and man is the cause,” explained Travis Threlkel, chief creative officer with Obscura Digital, the design firm tapped for the project. The entire project was a collaboration between Threlkel and Oscar winning filmmaker and photographer, and executive director of the Oceanic Preservation Society, Louie Psihoyos.

Twenty-six Christie Roadster HD20K-J and 12 Christie Roadster S+22K-J projectors were used for the “Projecting Change” display in New York City.

Twenty-six Christie Roadster HD20K-J and 12 Christie Roadster S+22K-J projectors were used for the “Projecting Change” display in New York City.

Projecting Change occurred in three parts, starting first with a mobile Tesla car that projected video, followed by a projection project on the United Nations building in New York City for Climate Week back in 2014. The grand finale was to project these animals onto a high profile structure—the Empire State Building. Threlkel said it took Obscura and the Oceanic Preservation Society nearly four years to get everything together for the event, working with the Empire State Building and the New York City government to secure all the permits to make this happen. On August 1, 2015, these efforts became a success as images of endangered species were projected onto the Empire State Building from 9 p.m. to midnight.

The display measured 375 feet high and 186 feet wide, projected onto the iconic skyscraper using 26 Christie Roadster HD20K-J and 12 Christie Roadster S+22K-J projectors, provided by Nationwide Video. Obscura built weatherized steel turrets to hold the projectors, and used their own custom blending software.

“Really our challenges were with the scale and the building and surface material,” Threlkel said. “We weren’t sure how the materials would react, but luckily it worked a little better than we thought.” Threlkel was referring to projecting onto a building with so many windows, many of which would still be lit during the event, along with competing with lights in Midtown Manhattan. He said they were expecting the images to be dim, but luckily the final images were much brighter than they expected.

“Our goal was to capture people’s attention,” Threlkel said. “That’s why we targeted something as big as the Empire State Building—it’s iconic and it would help create as much dialog as possible.”

The original print page for the article.

The original print page for the article.

Surrounding Stockhausen’s Oktophonie

By Kelleigh Welch

*Note: This article originally appeared in the April 2013 edition of Pro Sound News.

New York’s Park Avenue Armory, known for its 55,000-square-foot Wade Thompson Drill Hall, hosted a week of performances in March of German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Oktophonie, which immersed the audience into a space-age experience of light and sound.

During his lifetime, from 1928 to 2007, Stockhausen composed more than 370 individual pieces, and his music is seen as a significant contribution to the age of modern and electronic music. Sticking to his electronic innovation, Oktophonie was composed and recorded prior to any performances, and was intended to be played back for the audience in a surround sound environment writ large. As a result, there were no performing musicians present at the Armory; instead, the “performance” was the mixing of playback within the surround environment itself.

Walking into the hall, attendees were each given a white robe and directed to sit on one of the many cushions on the floor surrounding a DiGiCo SD8 console, where sound designer Igor Kavulek and sound projectionist Kathinka Pasveer controled the performance. A total of 32 Meyer Sound MSL-4 loudspeakers and 24 600-HP subs surrounded the audience in a virtual cube, projecting sounds in various patterns throughout the performance.

According to Pasveer, the composition is meant to depict a war between Michael and Lucifer, with loud and frightening bomb sounds within the music. During WWII, Stockhausen was stationed at a field hospital in Bedburg, Germany, where he experienced the terrors of war first hand— witnessing bombings and gunfire at only 16-years-old—and he recreated this fear through the composition.

“It’s about war,” Pasveer said. “It’s about the invasion of two groups, the Michaels and Lucifers, and this music is the background of that scene. That’s why there are the sounds of bombs, exploding objects and airplanes. It’s war.” It is a composition inside a composition—originally written as one part of Stockhausen’s Dienstag (Tuesday), which is part of a larger, seven-part opera titled Licht (Light). Oktophonie, named after the octophonic audio arrangement with eight channels playing back through speakers that surround the listener, can be played as part of the Dienstag opera, or as a separate piece, as it was performed at the Armory.

When composing Oktophonie, Stockhausen intended to place the audience into the center of a virtual cube, surrounding the listeners in speakers with four channels projecting from the base and the other four playing 45 feet above the audience. As the piece is played through the speakers, the sound moves in various patterns from front to back, side to side, and in spirals.

“It’s a square with another square on top,” Pasveer said. “This (composition) is produced by Stockhausen with eight layers of music. It’s all specialized in the studio and then he mixed it back to eight channels, and those eight channels are played back into the hall.”

Kavulek said the size of the room allowed him to project the sound at a higher volume, but it also placed on him the challenge of choosing the best speakers for the job. Originally, Kavulek said he wanted to use a different set of speakers, but when he couldn’t acquire enough for the performance, he decided to follow Stockhausen and chose the Meyer MSL-4s and HP-600s. “Stockhausen always worked with Meyer Sound,” Kavulek explained.

In his note to the audience, Park Avenue Armory Artistic Director Alex Poots said Stockhausen would project a small image of the moon during other performances of Oktophonie, and Stockhausen wanted the setting of this piece to take place on the moon. Through the lighting choreography created by the show’s Lighting Designer Brian Scott, the illusion of the moon moving around the Earth was created.

The performance itself was meditative— it fully engulfed you into the lunar atmosphere as you slipped in and out of your own thoughts, letting your imagination define the intentions of the composition.

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Twitter in a Time of Tragedy

I remember when the Boston Marathon bombing happened. I was at my desk, going about what should have been a normal, uneventful day. I was probably working on a story, turning to my Twitter feed every few minutes for a distraction. Buzzfeed had a list of funny Kim Kardashian quotes, Jimmy Fallon was playing a game with his celebrity guest, Food 52 had just tweeted out a new recipe, and that stupid Bob’s Burger’s parody account I follow was making puns—like I said, a pretty normal day. And then the first tweet went live: Explosion at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

This is the world we live in today, where a single moment can change your life, and for those of us on the sidelines, we have to watch the chaos unfold from the scrolling feed of our social media accounts.

Since the launch of Twitter in 2006, the term ‘real-time reporting’ has taken a precedence, requiring journalists to report the news as soon as they possibly can, starting first with a brief, 140 character post, which buys them about five minutes to get the first news story onto their website. That initial tweet is crucial though—social media has created the desire for immediate gratification in younger generations, and once we see that first tweet, we are left craving more.

For professional news sources, juggling that immediacy with accuracy has become somewhat of an art form. Keeping up with competition requires breaking the story before everyone else, reporting as the news develops, but if you get something wrong, the backlash seems to be greater than in the past. I remember with the Sandy Hook shooting, an incredibly sensitive story to cover, how accuracy was so important. And yet so many news sources were putting incorrect information out there—some made the situation seem less drastic, others made it seem worse. It took me a while to sift through the chatter to find the sources that were actually taking the time to confirm their report before putting it out there (which ironically was the BBC, who tweeted information five minutes after the other US sites).

So what exactly prompted me to discuss Twitter’s role in breaking news? Well, unfortunately, once again we have to watch tragedy unfold, this time at the Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., where a shooter opened fire around 10:38 a.m. PCT. By 11:38 a.m. PCT, reports confirmed the shooter was in custody, while the death toll stood at 10, with another 20 plus reported injured. The numbers are still rising, and I’m sure by the 10 p.m. news we’ll have a better idea of what happened. Until then, we wait and watch the reports trickle in over social media.

It’s heartbreaking to hear about another shooting. My good friend, Michele Richinick, over at Newsweek has spent much of her career writing about gun laws, and how our nation is shaped by gun-related tragedy. Today, she tweeted out that this is the 142nd reported shooting at a school since Sandy Hook.

Screen shot 2015-10-01 at 3.37.21 PM

That’s 142 times that lives were shattered. Students who should be rushing to finish their homework assignments instead were rushing to escape; to save their lives. We can argue for years about gun control, but the fact still remains that our current laws aren’t working. You can always read more about my thoughts on gun control here.

What was unique to the coverage of this most recent horror though, was the tweet from one website. I’ve complained before about how it irritates me that during a time of crises, many Twitter handles are still posting links to completely irrelevant things, and it always makes me angry. While I wait for more updates about the situation, I can’t stand the tweets about a new hair product, or how some online personality ‘can’t even’ over the latest poster of Zach Efron. The man buns and national food holidays that occupy our airspace on regular days suddenly become obsolete during times of tragedy. Which was why this tweet from Refinery29 will stick out:

Screen shot 2015-10-01 at 2.25.36 PM

They get it. They understand the importance of sensitivity. Because when the world stops, you suddenly realize what really matters.

Update, Friday, October 2, 2015, 10:15 a.m.:

This shooting has brought up a discussion topic that breaks my heart–mass shootings have become so common in our country, that we have a routine for it. You could sense the anger in Obama’s speech as he went through, yet again, the same speech about senseless violence killing innocent Americans. “Our thoughts and prayers are not enough,” he said, making a clear statement that action needs to be taken regarding gun control. Because, for F*CK sake, why the hell does this keep happening?!

I also HIGHLY recommend you read this piece from Newsweek reporter Polly Mosendz on the routine of a reporter covering a mass shooting. “Mass death is prewritten in America,” she tells us. This is where we stand, America.