Geek Week’n on the Tech Startup Podcast

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Geek Week is an umbrella under which a whack of upcoming events cooperate to encourage you to leave your sofas and hit the streets. Maker Expo (coming Sept 10), upon which I work, is always looking to partner and connect and cross-promote with other things happening in Waterloo Region. To that end, we’re happy to be in the Geek Week mix, figuring it all out as we go along.

Last week my friend and fellow geek-weeker Sam Trieu and I joined Amaris Gerson and Stephen Campbell on their weekly jam: The Tech Startup Podcast, now 104 iterations in.
The TL;DR: listen here.

Happily, this segment was recorded just downstairs from my co-working desk in Distillery Labs uptown. And y’all know I can’t resist getting a little meta, even first thing in the morning, so here are a few behind-the-scenes shots of TSP. Above, there’s Brandon Hardy (right) and Dave Hiff (second from right) of Oak & Rumble Media setting up.

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Gear. Box.

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So street in Cambridge

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I got down to Cambridge Saturday morning to catch a short burst of street art before reluctantly getting on with my other weekend travels. This is the inaugural spin of the Cambridge International Street Art Festival and I like everything about it.

The TL;DR: show continues Sunday 10am-6pm and the weather looks perfect, so check it out.

Above, Shalak Attack, billed from Chile/Toronto, throwing some great design and technique on the banks of the Grand River. Good to see such talent coming in from beyond our borders.

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Over on the east bank, eight artists still enjoying the morning shade of the buildings. Hot day.

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1shot #262-pouring on King Street

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Light rail transit construction at King and Allen. This is Waterloo.


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Flying-camera envy

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I thought I was immune to that common pathology that befalls many photogs: Gear Acquisition Syndrome. Meeting up last week with my old friend and long-time photog Marc Dease in Point Edward led me into the perilous calculations assessing if I could rationalize buying a flying photography platform.

This is Marc’s DJI Phantom 3 Advanced aircraft…

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and this is Marc. Out behind him is Lake Huron at the source of the St. Clair River. In this neck of the woods, Marc and my Dad shot thousands of photos of passing lake freighters over several decades. Back then, one of their favourite angles was high up from the middle of the Bluewater Bridge, which connects Point Edward to Michigan. Now, with a camera that flies, Marc is capturing great shots of upbound freighters pushing a bow wave with the bridge in the background for scale, plying the deep blue water I remember so well.

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Sarah Granskou: art felt in DTK


A couple weeks back, I found myself wandering the Kitchener Market while on a break from The Summer Institute program at The Working Centre. Serendipity connected me with fibre artist Sarah Granskou who I previously only knew from a phone chat. Sarah is the current City of Kitchener artist in residence and she was busily felting a cave (yeah!) over a couple of days at the Market, along with her crew of helpers. The whole process of felting to the uninitiated like me seems equal parts making and magic. All these sources of fibre go in and sculptural things come out.

I was particularly delighted to meet Sarah as she’ll be joining us Sept 10 for Maker Expo at Kitchener City Hall (and BTW: volunteers wanted!). Felting, as Sarah practises it, is a first-principles undertaking. As I understand it, Sarah grows some of the plants that she later harvests to create the dyes to dye the fibres that get coaxed together into some form or figure.


This was the biggest felting project I’ve seen.

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RAMBATAM I–Newtonian musics in DTK

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A couple weeks back I finally got myself to an Ian Newton jam. Over the years, fortune has repeatedly conspired against me, preventing attendance at Ian’s legendary Blue Dot parties and Kabelsalat series. But not this time, friends. This time I made it all the way to the red planet of Café Pyrus in DTK to catch Ian (as spooloops) delivering his electronic music in a small-audience setting under the moniker RAMBATAM I.

Interlude: if you dig my community-building work through these stories, please support it with your pocket change through Patreon. I currently have 17 supporters. If 2000 of Waterloo Region’s half million kicked in a buck or two per post, I would deliver 50 stories per year.  Ok, back to the story.

I’m not entirely sure how I first met Ian. Probably by reputation and probably from photos of a Blue Dot party in the pre-tech Tannery building. Particularly interesting to me is Ian’s mashup of place, performance, music and art in all that he does. A lot of that work is grounded in Ian’s Zero to One studios in downtown Kitchener above Ye’s Sushi. Lots of friends like Melissa Doherty, Sarah Kernohan and Gareth Lichty have had studio space there. That’s the first place I ever saw an LED clock by Bernie Rohde.

The TL;DR: Ian is an instigator of something completely different. He’s right here in Kitchener. He wants to connect. I want five more Ian Newton’s here to catalyze change in the local scene. About RAMBATAM, Ian said:
”Floating somewhere between art and a social experience, RAMBATAMs are conscious, near-future spaces from a parallel universe. We are always seeking new collaborators, participants, ideas and connections. Reach us at’

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For the uninitiated, Café Pyrus is across Charles Street from the bus station…

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Calling all WR makers!

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The TL;DR: I’m asking all makers of all things in Waterloo Region to please apply as an exhibiting maker for Maker Expo. Deadline is Canada Day, which is Friday.

The event is Sept 10, but we need to put the whole show together, so we need your applications in by Friday. Last year at Kitchener City Hall we had 100 makers and 7500 visitors. This year I know we can get even more, and this is where you come in.

Our Maker Expo team puts in tons of time planning the show, engaging sponsors, promoting the event, getting insurance, laying out the venue, recruiting volunteers and putting together a whole whack of makers to share what they love to make.

You may say: I don’t make anything.
I say: probably not true and it doesn’t matter anyway. The purpose of Maker Expo is to get people making stuff. As an exhibiting maker example, I’ve often suggested that a few packs of copy paper and a jug of enthusiasm for paper airplanes constitutes a reason to apply. You don’t need to be an expert in something; you just need to engage people in making something. Throw us your ideas and we’ll figure out if they fit or how you can tune them up a bit (rhyme!)

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You may say: I don’t have time to apply.
I say: the application takes 15 minutes to fill out. Contact info, activity description, tack on a photo and hit submit. I helped my Mom fill out her application and it was a breeze.

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You may say: I think we’re busy that Saturday in September.
I say: come on! That’s almost 11 weeks away. The kids will be back in school for a week, the weather will still be nice, we’ll all want to reconnect after the summer. This is the best possible way you can spend Saturday, September 10. Just one day.

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You may say: …but I’ve never *done* anything like this before.
I say: *exactly!* That’s what makes this so good. The entire community gets behind makers because #1. they’re actually doing stuff instead of just talking about it, and #2. we all get excited by your contagious enthusiasm for what you’re making, regardless of our own interests, and support you.

I’m putting my hand out to you, Waterloo Region. I’m inviting you to leave yer sofa and contribute to something cool. Why be a spectator when you can be an exhibitor? I very sincerely describe Maker Expo as an invent as much as an event. Level up your fun by pitching us an application to be an exhibiting maker. Here’s the link.

At the intersection of community and the maker movement, this is Waterloo Region and we are all makers.


(hand models and some planes: Calder and Arden White)

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The further rise of hardware–Catalyst in Kitchener

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It was a frosty day in January, earlier this year, that I got to take a tour of the proposed Catalyst 137 “smart manufacturing” space on Glasgow. I’d call it a hardware incubator, but the size (465k sqft) and ambitious plans make that moniker seem slightly inadequate.

Last summer, in covering a hardware hackathon at the Hub, I talked about the opportunity in WR for infrastructure to support hardware prototypers, makers and manufacturers. Innovation in the Region over the past couple of decades often occurred in the context of software. That innovation has been slowly shifting to the hardware domain. And with that shift comes the realization that those of us in the make-o-sphere hit long ago: there are gaps here.

If you hang around kwartzlab enough, you’ll see a regular stream of for-profit makers looking for access to fabrication tools of all kinds (which isn’t exactly the core mandate of kwartzlab). Graduating students of our universities and college must say good-bye to well-equipped machine shops and laser cutters as they depart school. They quickly learn to miss the McMaster-Carr orders that only land at companies and institutions. Startups catching the wave of internet-of-things enthusiasm hit some challenges as they look for production-quality injection molded cases in town. The engineer finishing assembly of circuit boards for a big investor demo the next day gets jammed by the lack of a couple more 0402 1K resistors and no place to buy them in town.

Terry Pender wrote about Catalyst in The Record Wednesday so you should go look at that, along with photos by Peter Lee. Tony Reinhart and Phil Froklage of Communitech put out a great write-up and video respectively the very same day, so check that out, too. That will fill you in on the business side.

The perspective I’ll offer, along with a few photos, is that of a selfish maker. What do I want? Well, I used to answer that question simply: TechShop here in Waterloo Region. Like a YMCA membership for making, TechShop offers training, materials and access to tools that you can’t afford or house as an individual. After a lot of observation (and making) over the past seven years, the answer has become more nuanced: take the tools of TechShop, mash it up with the community within kwartzlab, add in the Shenzhen connections and cost-optimized manufacturing know-how of HAX and that’s what I want. With absolutely zero knowledge of what facilities will actually appear at Catalyst, I’ll break down my list and expand on:

* tools/service
* parts/materials
* help
* space
* partnerships

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In all my travels thus far, this is the first loading dock for rail…

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After spending the day helping makers make at the Cambridge Arts Festival last weekend, I was a little low on gas, but the intersection of the Summer Lights Festival with made-to-order summer weather got my feet on King Street in DTK. My intent was to chat with a bunch of people and I did just that. And shot a few incidental photos, too.

Above, some fire twirling/dancing at City hall in the pool.

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This isn’t exactly a named alley, coming off Young Street, but it demonstrates the social success of crunching people together to achieve a certain density at an event. Big open spaces lead to meandering; tight allies lead to exploration and meetups. Nice work.

More pics…

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Hair at KW Little Theatre


On Thursday, I went to the KW Little Theatre on Princess Street in Waterloo for the first time. Y’all know I try my best to experience as broad a cultural array as possible, so it surprised even me that I had not yet been inside KWLT. It was a couple weeks ago that my friend Mr. Preece said: “Let’s go see Hair!” Me: “Ok.”

The TL;DR: this is a super-committed bunch of people giving it their all. I really enjoyed the performance. In the vernacular of the era depicted in Hair: it was a trip, man. I think I’m hooked on KWLT, too.

Talk about breaking the fourth wall… there were no real walls at all in this immersive jam. We were greeted on the front lawn by enthusiastic in-character actors inviting us to Be In.

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I’m not typically wired to muse to myself: “Hey, I haven’t seen a musical in a while; I gotta get on that.” However what I *am* looking for, always, are things that are completely outside of my usual paths. This was it.

It pains me a little to include these lower-quality photos from my phone, but I think KWLT is an important component of what’s happening here in the community, so we’ll make do. Given that the production of Hair involves the actors completely (and bravely) disrobing, I left my usual camera at home.


I could describe how the band plays live music throughout the production. I could share my thoughts on the parallels I see between the 60’s/70’s era of the show and now insofar as individual freedom. I could observe that it takes an enormous amount of courage to be an actor. But you should really go see Hair for yourself… man. Four more dates left, starting Saturday.

Bravo to the cast/crew/musicians/people-that-do-all-the-other-things! See you next time.

On Princess east of King, this is Waterloo.


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