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Small Town, Big Innovation - Good News(letter). Weekly.

Small Town, Big Innovation -  Good News(letter). Weekly.

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Small Town, Big Innovation

You may be familiar with the name Easton LaChappelle, but if not here are the two words you need to associate: robotic visionary. Maybe throw boy-genius in there too, for good measure, because LaChappelle (21) was recently featured by Microsoft for a project that began back when he was 14: creating a robotic hand. Beyond the raw cool factor of that achievement alone, LaChappelle did all that from his bedroom in Mancos. Yup, that Mancos. To see that kind of innovation come from a town like Manos, with limited access to technological resources, is incredible.

 +  “I was able to make this whole physical arm that has the same functionality as a human arm . . . with this whole neural control system for right about four hundred dollars. I could guess that a lot of the phones in your pocket right now cost more than that.” That statement elicited a fair amount of well-deserved applause at Denver’s TEDx event in 2013. [Side note, does anyone else think he looks like a more-handsome Paul Dano?]

 +  He’s presented at science fairs, given TED talks, worked for NASA, and started his own business in Durango, called Unlimited Tomorrow, that focuses on making functional and affordable prosthetics accessible. Earlier this month, a Microsoft feature came out that tells the touching story of his journey towards giving a 10-year-old girl her first robotic prosthetic. It’s got all you could hope for: local interest, curiosity, innovation, compassion, and a cute girl fist bumping with her new right hand for the first time in her life.

And since we’re talking about immensely useful robotics, I thought we should end on the opposite.

 +  Inside Artificial Stupidity, the wacky workshop of robotic engineer, Simone Giertz [language advisory]. “Failure is a part of the process -- it can sometimes be the end goal. People are very obsessed with building useful things, and I think often stops people from getting started.”

Knocking Heads

The National Football League was once again in headlines this week, when the results of a study of over 200 brains of football athletes, 111 of which were NFL professionals. Of the full sample, 87.6 percent were diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease. Of the NFL players, 99 percent were diagnosed.

 +  NYTimes put together a brilliantly visual story on the “110 N.F.L. Brains”, with information about which positions their respective humans played for and the associated risks. Notably, the culprit could be the culmination of many non-concussive [lower impact] hits, as opposed to the more obvious big hits.

 +  As Slate posits, the most recent study is nothing new. Dr. McKee has been delivering these same results for years. It’s also worth recognizing that the brains collected but “were donated by family members of the deceased or referred by medical examiners, who had reason to suspect that researchers might find evidence of damage.” While this article does take an important contrarian look other articles about the study, it does recognize that a problem with CTE exists, just not what “its scope and implications” are.

 +  Despite that, there is an uphill battle in shifting the NFL mindset that “This is caused by something else. This is the guy is taking drugs. This is the guy is taking steroids. This is their lifestyle; this isn't football.”

 +  Fortunately, more work is being done to assess the impact blows have on athletes, and as more information becomes more available, the discussion shifts towards prevention. (If you click one link or this topic, make it this one)

Sorry sports fans, but futbol isn’t immune either. Maybe it’s the name that’s the problem.

 +  “‘It doesn’t matter how you do it, just that you do it and do it repetitively.’ And with 265 million players worldwide, soccer represents a potentially huge pool of head injury patients.”

 +  Identifying a problem is the first step to solving it.

Vinyl’s Back Baby

Vinyl, it seems, is experiencing a modern resurgence. Record sales are surging back to 1980’s numbers as ‘hipster youth’ seek out the previously obsolete mode of music.

 +  This year, Vinyl records are projected to near the one billion dollar benchmark.

 +  New, higher yeild, LP presses are being developed to meet rising demand. “I think this is just such an important event that’s happening that should really expand and excite the artist community. This is an opportunity to really get the sound that they’re asking for.”

 +  It’s not uncommon to hear that “‘LPs are back’ because they ‘sound better.’” Often, this is attributed to the “warmth” of LP, which, it turns out, comes from low-accuracy bass sound.

 +  The experts prefer CD. “In some cases, . . . the depth of sound that people talk about enjoying about vinyl, that they say is missing from the CD, may, in fact, be a result of the compression to make that old recording more competitive for the modern market.”

 +  If the experts are right, what’s the draw for Vinyl? From the same NPR link: If you’ve been conditioned to think that vinyl sounds great, your perception is only going to confirm it. It’s the same reason we might think an expensive wine is inherently better than a cheap one. And then, there’s the ritualistic aspect of it: collecting sleeve artwork, pulling out the LP, placing it on a turntable, dropping the needle -- it’s all so much more deliberate and conscious than queuing up Spotify. [I personally remember how special it was when dad fired up the old record player and pulled a dusty sleeve of Zeppelin or Beatles from the basement].


Last week we talked about emoji, and how ultimately they could indicate a visual evolution in the way we communicate. One source suggested this was due to a resurgence of the right brain in a left-brain-dominant society. In doing my due diligence, I found some information contrary to the belief that brains have a left/right -- logical/creative -- brain.

  +  "The human brain is visibly split into a left and right side. This structure has inspired one of the most pervasive ideas about the brain: that the left side controls logic and the right side controls creativity." This is a myth.

This week's good news, brought to you by:

C'est Bon Durango

With monsoon season underway, Durango has been inundated with rain. Puddles are becoming ponds, gutters flow like streams, and lawns turn to marshes. It’s almost like Durango turns into, say, Louisiana for a week or so.

It’s Good, Durango.

We still may not have the bogs and bayous of Louisiana, but C’est Bon of Durango offers NOLA cuisine right out of the Main Mall.

If you haven’t strolled into C’est Bon yet, you’re missing out on authentic Louisiana dishes like crawfish, gator tail and shrimp boudin. Durango’s only Cajun specialty market is also a purveyor of Louisiana favorites like Community Coffee, Swamp Pop, Zapp’s Kettle Chips, and so much more. Enjoy single serve meals with grab and go convenience, pick up sweet and spicy snacks or stock up on all the ingredients to whip up classic Cajun and Creole dishes back at home.

C’est Bon’s doors have been open at 835 Main Ave since May 23, but they’re celebrating their Grand Opening with the announcement of Customer Appreciation Days next weekend. Mark your calendars for August 5 and 6, because they’ll be offering a dollar off every item purchased.

It’s good, Durango. Real good!


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