This weekend Saturday night marks the end of a two-year long community-based concert series, Tom Paynter’s The Caroline Sessions. To celebrate, a Last Waltz event of sorts is being held at Saint Arnold Brewing Company, complete with new musical collaborations, the recording of a live album and of course a long-form video of the affair. This will be the most special of all Caroline Sessions because the artists playing (Frank Freeman, Chase Hamblin, Matt Harlan, Andrew Karnavas, Clory Martin, Corey Power, and Melissa Savcic) have designed a unique show including once-in-a-lifetime collaborations with each other and other TBD special guests. Tickets are $15 for this event which include beverages from Saint Arnold’s taps. This is a must see event that will sell out, thanks in no small part to the popularity of Saint Arnold Brewing Company. Buy ‘em here.

The Caroline Sessions are something I’ve been extremely proud of since it began. In many ways, the ideals of Caroline Collective helped to shape the design of this event series as a whole: community, collaboration, and overcoming shared challenges. In the original conception, up-and-coming bands would play in a comfortable setting to friends and fans, working on new material or their live show. Audience members would be via invite only or open to the community at large and would eat, drink, and mingle during the show. Following the event, video and audio of select songs would be provided for the band for them to use online to promote themselves and book additional shows. None of these events were to have an associated cost: audience members would bring their own food/drink or contribute to a community tip jar, artists would be given audio and video for free.

The overall goal was to lower the barrier for artists to work on their craft, receive instant feedback on their performance and generate rich media (audio and video) that they can use to promote themselves and book additional shows in the future. There was the hope that the small audience in attendance would allow the bands intimate contact with those who could help support them as fans in the future. Also in the plans were for the bands who would play to forge new musical collaborations with artists they shared the bill with, something you’ll see in action on Saturday.

Tom Paynter and his small group of collaborators deserve a world of credit for producing this event, almost without fail every month for the last two years. Caroline Sessions has grown into much more than the original idea, opened up to the general public and inviting the community to join in the event by bringing food, drink, friends and family. This comfortable, backyard BBQ setting has let us all see some well known Houston artists as well as the new ones. The Caroline Sessions hosted the Japanese Nuclear Relief Concert, held remote sessions at Buffalo Bayou Brewery, Culture Map, Spring Street Studios, and now returns to Saint Arnold Brewing Company for its finale. Along the way Gorrealah Soul descended interrupting a holiday show, artists held a group sing-a-long, and Ben Wesley played on the roof.

See video of Ben Wesley playing on the roof of Caroline Collective here. Hope to see all of you at this exciting closer of one of Houston’s great ongoing concert series.

Geeks, Makers, Hackers this is your week. General Electric  has dropped a shipping container on Rice campus containing all the tools necessary to bring your imagination to life. Free and open to the public, the GE Garages site contains a Makerbot 3D Printer, laser cutter, CNC Mill, and an injection molder. If that list of tools made no sense to you, this is the perfect opportunity to get back in touch with your spatial skills and gain some hands-on understanding of the new tools in manufacturing.

GE Garages provides  a semi-permanent location that allows students, citizens, and community members to be educated, innovate, and create while gaining an understanding of current manufacturing processes. Visitors will learn about the invention and manufacturing process through guided work with industry experts, training on the high-tech prototyping equipment and guest speakers to provide inspiration for developing pride for manufacturing. GE Garages will also hold daily classes on Bringing your Product Idea to Life, Wireless Networked Projects, Computer Aided Design, and Arduinos. The partners in this project are some of the leaders in the new wave of personal manufacturing: Techshop, Inventables, Skillshare, Quirky, Make, Makerbot.

Speaking as an instructor of engineering design and prototyping, breaking down the barriers between the idea as a concept and the idea as a product is often the limiting factor for a successful student engineering project. With little to no room in the curricula to teach manufacturing skills we as instructors are constantly conceiving of ways to give our students hands-on prototyping experience out-of-class. We should be seeking opportunities for students (and the public) to learn prototyping and the design process outside-of-the-university. The GE Garages project is a perfect setting for this and a milestone in our culture’s renewed interest in the tactile interaction with objects and a romance with craftsmanship.

This opportunity is perfect for k-12 STEM groups, Boy/Girl Scouts, or crafty people. It’s also free and open to the public. GE Garages will be open from 12-6pm every day from April 23rd through May 3rd.

For more information, including directions, check the GE Garages page.

On today’s Morning Edition Steve Inskeep spoke to Republican strategist Charlie Black about the GOP Candidates’ Foreign Policy. During the interview Inskeep says (will replace with exact quote when the transcript posts):

…Americans don’t know what to think about the Arab Spring, and many of our leaders don’t know whether the Arab Spring is good or bad for the US.

I don’t disagree. What I’d like to point out is that the statement hints at the more important issue: Many Americans don’t understand what the Arab Spring actually is. Multiple surveys and academic studies point to relatively few people following international news and a low ability to identify some of these countries on a map. Most problematic for the long-term state of education in the US is that most people would be hard pressed to draw non-Western-centric conclusions or even relate the world and local events leading up to the Arab Spring.

Listen to the discussion here:

Before the explosion of reality shows and the questioning whether television watching audiences had any desire for their intelligence to be respected, Bravo existed as the cultural mecca on basic cable showing independent cinema, arts programming and foreign films.  I spent alot of late nights in high school steeping myself in this. In the infancy of my cultural education, the genre of consumption mattered less than the fact that the perspectives in the films and shows differed from the feeding trough of the major networks. My Private Idaho, Kieslowski, Bunuel, Cassavetes, Kids, Welcome to the Dollhouse. Almodovar films were loved long before I really got them. Bravo gave me Before Sunrise before my friends gave me Dazed and Confused.

Then there was Slacker, another Linklater work. It represented something new that I hadn’t seen in other films. The tone and topics were something foreign to a high school student who was like a sponge for learning but had more energy reserves than focus. Watching the film required patience and mindfulness to appreciate it’s contemplative meditation on post adolescence. Reviews of the film were and are polarized, some missing the point and some applauding Linklater for his vision.

Bereft of plot, one dimension of the film seems to follow this premise: the lives of normal people are interesting. The kicker is that the film essentially disproves this. It’s as slow and meandering as your life would be if someone followed you around completely unscripted. For me, the brilliance of lies in its time capsule nature and appropriate depiction of an existing pyschographic that still exists today. The film almost proves the point of why the lives of characters in HBO series continue to live on in between seasons, because in between bouts of brilliance, there’s just life, no excitement.

I almost decided to watch the film in celebration of its 20th anniversary but what stopped me was the same reason that got me to watch it in the first place. Originally, I yearned to see extraordinary lives that others lived and was instead shown the uniqueness of everyone’s life, regardless of their path, or lack of one. But mindful of the film, I’ve already had 20 years to learn that ordinary people are interesting. So instead of watching the film and again being shown through Linklater’s eyes that extraordinary part of each of our personal narratives, I’m just going to have some meaningful conversation with a friend or go experience something myself. Stopping first to write this thank you to Linklater.

For the past month I’ve been working on something really special with a stupendous partner, Andrew Hyde. We paired up at SXSW discussing our hand-crafted business cards and came out of it with an idea for Record Monsters. Record Monsters are laser cut puzzles in vinyl records. You simply pop out the pieces and put together something like the Stegosaurus (above) or the Mosquito (on a 45). We also have Triceratops, a Butterfly, an Ant, and more dinosaurs than you can name. Sounds like fun, right?

We need your help making sure we can start providing Record Monsters to all the good little girls and boys. We’ve been running a fairly successful Kickstarter campaign so far. Thanks to Kickstarter for featuring us on their front page! At this point we only have 72 hours left and are still a stretch away from our $15,000 goal. This money will be used to purchase necessary equipment to make these puzzles and serve our first orders, you the good people of the internet and our family, and friends. Please visit our Kickstarter page and make a donation before the end of Friday.

The best part about this project has been working with Andrew. We first met at Startup Weekend Houston way back in the fall of 2007 before the Houston creative, technology, and music communities had gelled. I credit that 2007 Startup Weekend as laying the foundation for a whole mess of incredible and hardworking people to meet and form working relationships. Andrew receives special credit and gold stars as the founder of Startup Weekend; bringing it to Houston meant that we all got to know him.

The reception to the project has been stunning to say the least. Both Andrew and I underestimated people’s desires for re-imagining their music memories into tactile objects. So far, Record Monsters has been covered by Not Cool, Dude Craft, TrendHunterMake, and Ponoko.

Keep watching over the next month or so, we will be adding new puzzles and new pictures.

Record Monsters Kickstarter Page

Record Monsters Site

Wordle is a fantastic, free tool for the visualization of web pages, RSS feeds or large blocks of text. I use it quite often as a visual histogram of sorts, to see in weighted form the textual thematics of papers and articles. Inspired by this post by PixelCharmer where she created a wordle of her qualifying paper I’ve created a Wordle of my thesis.

Wordle of My Thesis

It’s about what I expected, with a strong focus on the type of words associated with structural analysis, geometry and mechanical engineering. I was happy to see “rapid prototyping” pop up as well as “Rhombitruncated Cuboctahedron” as it’s my favorite polyhedra.
Solid Laser Sintered (SLS) 1″ x 1″ version of the Rhombitruncated Cuboctahedron (at left).

2010 In ReviewPosted in News

“Everything was beautiful. Nothing hurt.”

Kurt Vonnegut

Today was the second Entrepreneur Camp Houston, sponsored by a whole bunch of community-focused companies and organized by a whole bunch of other good people. I was honored to be included among some of my colleagues and mentors, Brian Block, JR Cohen, Grace Rodriguez, and Ed Schipul, on a panel titled “Building Brand Communities.” It turned out to be one of the most rewarding panels I’ve ever had the opportunity to be a part of and I truly believe that each member of the panel channeled their unique passions and experience to bring something to the table for those in attendance via the web or in person. Thanks to Grace Rodriguez for both moderating and assembling the panel.

UPDATE: Audio of the panel has been included. Feel free to download, remix, share, or ignore.


For my takeaway portion of the panel I prepared the following comments relating to the importance of Brand Communities. I was only able to orate a portion of it and don’t feel that I hit the right notes in the closing portion of the panel. Full text is below:

My takeaways involve a series of couplets. The first in Communities, the second in physics, and the third in grammar. I’m mis-using couplets. Whatever.

Communities of Interest vs. Communities of Practice
Communities of Interest are groups of people who share similar affinities, careers, and interests. These people may get together and share these ideas together in groups, they may talk about their careers, and they may share stories and build camaraderie and relationships. These groups form when personal motivations and personal interests for community and social situations align. These Communities of Interest usually take the form of networking groups, happy hours, attendance-based events, or any opportunity for socialization or group quality time. Communities of Interest share space and time.

Communities of Practice are made of the same groups of people who share similar affinities, interests, careers, but they also align on values and beliefs. These communities also get together and share their ideas together, talk about their careers and share camaraderie but the difference is that the Community of Practice takes an active interest in the shared success of the group, community, and individuals within and without. Communities of Practice are self-policing, develop and evolve standards of excellence, there are educational opportunities for all of its members from novice to experts; they apply their talents and their passions to do good for their own community as well as their surrounding community. Communities of Practice do things in an active fashion: they create opportunities for their members, they collaborate for their personal and career education, they dedicate time and resources towards mutually agreed upon values and goals. Communities of Practice share space, time, also successes and growth.

Our second couplet exists in physics. The first part is potential energy; the latent energy stored in an individual, body or group. The second is kinetic energy; the energy an individual, body or group exerts as a result of its motion.

Potential energy is the capacity to do work. Kinetic energy is the application of that energy towards work.

Our third couplet involves passivity vs. activity. In grammar, passive voice is acceptable but not favored. The form shifts responsibility away from the agent of the sentence and towards the patient, indicating that the activity is not controlled or initiated by the subject of the sentence. The active voice is far stronger a form, assertive and correctly assigning responsibility to the agent of the sentence.

“Mistakes were made. The window was broken.” Passivity is convenient and easy; it escapes responsibility and action.

“I was wrong. Someone broke the window.” The active form assigns responsibility, is direct and action-oriented.

Returning to Communities of Interest and Communities of Practice
Communities of Interest passively hold incredible amounts of potential energy based in interest and shared value. Communities of Practice actively exercise kinetic energy, applying latent motivation, inspiration, passion, and shared values and shared goals. They are characterized by action and engagement.

If you are looking to build a Brand Community you need to have a Community of Practice. It’s not enough to win an awareness war. Communities of Practice in a community setting carry with them regular and actionable reward systems, standards of practice, maintenance of standards, and self-education at all levels. In a Brand sense Communities of Practice carry with them engagement, discussion, evangelism, action relating to a brand and its use.

It’s convenient and easy to align extrinsic motivations of drinks and food with intrinsic interests for company and conversation. Communities of Interest form and dissolve every day, anytime you get together with coworkers or your Star Wars interest group you’re committing an act of a Community of Interest. Communities of Practice rarely form in absentia of a community of interest except where shared latent interests overcome the interest in staying not-aligned. The recent sale of Rice University’s radio station KTRU is a clear demonstration of a community of interest who overnight sprung into a community of action at the slightest provocation. The pieces were always there but people simply weren’t motivated enough to take that extra step.

Communities of Practice form with a catalyst. This catalyst can be a catastrophic event but it doesn’t have to be. It can be just one person, or a small group of several.

In closing, successful Brand Communities, like Communities of Practice, are value based, not interest based. They are characterized by action, not words. The responsibility is owned and directed by the agents, not the patients. There is consistent motion and the kinetic application of intrinsic motivations towards the shared values of the individuals, groups and communities as a whole.

On Tuesday, August 17th, Houston Press Music Editor Chris Gray asked for comments regarding the sale of KTRU to KUHF. You can read the full story here:

KTRU News Roils, Saddens Local Music Community

It’s filled with impassioned responses from Houston music aficionados and those who have in the past and continue to contribute to our patchwork quilt of an arts community.

I missed the deadline while still on vacation. But based on the temperature of responses I would like to offer my own comments regarding the sale.

No one will argue that this situation is an incredible tragedy for independent music in Houston, for college radio in the nation, for the creative community of Houston. Even more sad is that we have to acknowledge at this point that students and the community at large hold very little power in reversing the decision to sell KTRU. This was punctuated by Rice’s choice not to include any of the stakeholders in the sale of the station. This decision is being viewed by those both inside and out of the Rice community as a betrayal of trust from an institution that prides itself in taking into account student needs and input for the improvement of their education and the university itself. Viewed from the University’s standpoint though, this was a well thought-out business decision to finally capitalize on an underused resource, and to finalize the deal at a time when there were few people around to raise objections.

The history of KTRU is as a terrestrial station, something people listened to in their cars, at home, with friends; the future of KTRU as an online-only station is an ersatz one at best. The polarized public outcry, retelling of stories of how KTRU shaped lives and careers and passions is a celebration of those terrestrial memories and of the way KTRU has changed lives.

We are about to lose a valuable asset to the Houston creative community. But this outpouring of public support is something that should make people surrounding KTRU happy, knowing that they made a difference. Furthermore, instead of remaining reactionary we can quickly turn this situation into an opportunity to galvanize our musical community to build something better. Pirate radio stations, more avenues for the exposure of live music in Houston, more local music programming in non-traditional areas. The celebration of the things that KTRU gave us in our lives and our passions doesn’t need to end, merely re-focused towards something greater.

For the last couple months Rice University and University of Houston have been engaged in private negotiations over the purchase of KTRU-Houston, 91.7fm. The news broke publicly in the afternoon on 8/16 on Houston Press’s blog and the Houston Chronicle. On Tuesday morning, 8/17, Rice University issued a press release on their site detailing the plan for the sale and shutdown of terrestrial KTRU in order to convert it to an internet only station. At the same time, Rice University President David Leebron sent an email to ALL-RICE explaining the sale and why no stakeholders were involved in the decision making process.

This is a polarizing situation, with both sides having firm ground to stand on regarding the sale. On one hand, an around the clock NPR and news station would be a valuable add for the Houston area. On the other hand, the loss of a nationally important radio station providing a home for independent and eclectic music would be a tragedy not only for the Houston community but for college and independent radio on the whole.

I will compose my own personal thoughts about this sale in the coming days as I work through unproductive feelings and towards unbiased reflection. For now what I can say is that KTRU has played a formative role in my musical education and I have grown richer as a music fan through my ten years of DJing at KTRU.

I will keep this post updated with as much relevant information as possible concerning the sale of the station as well as resources for people to read more or get involved.

Facebook Group


Updated 8/18, 6:00AM
Culture Map: The winners and losers in the KTRU college radio deal
Culture Map: Save KTRU? Rice alums react with anger & resignation: President says secrecy unavoidable in radio deal
Houston Chronicle: UH deal finding no fans at KTRU
Houston Press: KTRU Staff, Supporters Vent, Discuss Plans To Fight Station’s Sale
Houston Press: KTRU News Roils, Saddens Local Music Community
KUHF: UH Regents to Vote on Radio Station Purchase

Updated 8/17, 3:00PM
Houston Chronicle: UH board considers plan to buy Rice radio station
Houston Press 1st post: KTRU: Is U Of H About To Buy Rice Student Station?
Houston Press: KTRU: U Of H Regents Approve Purchase Of Rice Station
29-95: Sadness Alert: KTRU Sale Finalized

President Leebron’s letter to ALL-RICE (posted at end)
Rice University press release about the sale: UH to buy radio frequency and transmission facilities from Rice

If the sale of KTRU to KUHF is something that you are unhappy with, here are some things that you can do to express your displeasure. I will add additional items as they develop.

  1. Use your social networks to express your concern about there being a home for independent culture and music in Houston.
  2. You could write emails to Rice University President David Leebron, Vice President for Administration Kevin Kirby, University of Houston Chancellor  Renu Khatur, and any other decision makers you have contacts with at either Rice University, University of Houston, or KUHF. As Rice is one of my current employers I will not publicly post these people’s emails but they can be easily obtained from or
  3. Attend a 7pm public meeting with all KTRU DJs tonight at Sammy’s on Rice University campus in the Rice Memorial Center. Map here. All public and press are invited for this event.

From: David Leebron
To: Rice colleagues

I am writing to let you know that we have reached a preliminary agreement with the University of Houston System to purchase Rice’s 50,000-watt radio frequency and broadcast tower for use by Houston’s local public broadcasting station, KUHF. Rice’s station, KTRU, will continue to operate a Web-based radio station at

We made the decision to sell the radio tower and frequency for several reasons. The economic downturn which began two years ago has forced Rice — and virtually all colleges and universities across the country — to make hard choices to prioritize spending and maximize the use of our resources. As we have implemented necessary budget cuts over the past two years, our goal has been to focus on our core missions of teaching and research and, to the extent possible, to avoid layoffs. We have constantly asked, and will continue to ask, how we can best apply our resources to achieve our aspirations.

The KTRU tower stood out as one of the university’s most underutilized resources. In an era when Internet radio is rapidly growing in popularity, it became apparent that the 50,000-watt radio station that broadcasts KTRU’s programming is a valuable but vastly underutilized resource that is not essential to providing our students the wide range of opportunities they need, including media opportunities.

A recent Arbitron report showed that KTRU’s audience was so small that it did not even register in the ratings. Most college radio stations around the country have less than 5,000 watts, and since the late ’90s a number of them have added the online format and moved to online only.

At the same time, KUHF, Houston’s National Public Radio station, was looking for a way to provide both 24-hour all-news and all-classical music programming. Houston is the only major city in the country that lacks these dual services. To fill that gap, the University of Houston System expressed an interest in purchasing Rice’s FM frequency and tower, and we eventually agreed on a price of $9.5 million.
The sale must be approved by the UH Board of Regents at its meeting today, and then by the Federal Communications Commission.

Some of the sale proceeds will go toward the cost of the new East Servery, which will be adjacent to Lovett and Will Rice residential colleges on the south campus. This will both provide one of the most desired improvements to the residential experience in the south colleges, as well as help us achieve the overall capital plan approved by our board of trustees. We also plan to form a committee including students to provide input on other uses of the proceeds, such as for scholarships, improvements to recreational facilities and enhancements to the online station and other student media facilities and programs.

KTRU will continue to serve its campus and external audience with student-managed programming via The Internet already brings KTRU to national and global listeners, and there are opportunities for that audience to grow. Will Robedee, the station’s first general manager, will continue in that role.

KUHF plans to use the additional frequency to broadcast 24-hour classical music and fine arts programming on 91.7 FM; 88.7 FM will become its all-news channel. KUHF will raise funds to pay for the acquisition.

We realize that some loyal fans of KTRU may lament these changes, but it is important to remember that KTRU is not going away. Fans can still find KTRU’s unique blend of music and programming online. Meanwhile, a greater number of students can benefit from the improvements in campus facilities and offerings made possible by the sale of the broadcast tower.

As much as I prefer to consult widely and involve all stakeholders in important decisions, this sale required months of complicated and, by necessity, confidential negotiations. My management team and I approached those discussions always with the best interests of our students, faculty and alumni and the future of our university as our highest priorities.

For more information about the KTRU plans, see the story and FAQs on
Thank you, as always, for your hard work and dedication.
Warm regards,
David W. Leebron
President, Rice University