Category Archives: Family

My posts about family stuff including my son Ripley.

Hachiko Bus

A Typical Day Living in Tokyo

In the morning we walk or bike through our neighborhood west of Yoyogi Park in Shibuya, Tokyo, to our son’s bus stop. Along the way we pass more people walking and biking than cars. School children dressed in uniforms are walking by themselves or with friends to school, their backpacks covered in bright safety stickers.

If I’m thirsty I’ll grab a drink out of a vending machine or one of the konbinis (convenient stores). Colorful buses covered with cute characters are heading to international schools.

Small corner vegetable stands are just opening up with brightly colored oranges and other seasonal fruits and veggies.

A lot of people are wearing face masks, hay fever is bothering a lot of people. You can hear the sniffing behind their masks; blowing your nose in public is not polite.

The bicycle parking garages are just starting to fill up. It costs 100 yen to park your bike for 24 hours.

It’s a good day when I don’t have to quickly get out of the way of a mamachari (electric bike).

We hangout on the street with the other parents and school kids to wait for the bus.

Like everyday, we spot the driver that uses giant dusters to clean his parked car.

After Ripley is safely on the bus and enroute to his school, we head back to our house. Sean makes me coffee.

I head to school on the community bus. Just 100 yen gets me to Shibuya station. It would take me about 25 minutes to walk, but I use the time to study new vocabulary words. I also like the vibe on the bus, everyone is very polite and cheerful…a much nicer feel than the trains. On the bus, if an elderly person comes on, they immediately get up from their seat to offer it. On the train, that doesn’t tend to happen, there’s a lot of head down mentality so as not to give up a seat. Sean made a good point about that, if you have a long commute, you don’t want to give your seat up for someone that’s only hopping on for a few spots. That doesn’t change the fact that the seats are reserved for those that really need them.

That leads me to sniffling. OMG. From what I’ve been told, it’s really not polite to blow your nose in public. That’s why everyone is constantly sniffing. It’s accepted. Yesterday I was on the train and someone took their mask off and blew their nose. I was in shock. Also grossed out as we were in very close quarters. So I guess I’ll put up with the sniffing.

But I’m never going to get used to the slurping. We were at a vegan ramen shop at next to us a guy was slurping so he could be heard above the noisy restaurant. I have misophonia and chewing and crunching and slurping noises literally make me insane. I had to put on earphones. Slurping I guess means you like the food. I think saying “oishii desu” does a much better job. But hey, who am I to judge.

Back to the bus ride. I get off at Shibuya Station which is where the famous Shibuya crossing or scramble is. It’s always busy no matter what time I’m there. Undoubtedly there are always people filming people crossing the street. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s one of the most photographed and video’s places on the planet. When I was a tourist I thought it was so fun, now I can’t wait to cross the damn street and get to where I’m going. 7 months in and look at me, a cynic.

I like my school. It has been a difficult adjustment going back to school, and Japanese is pretty darn difficult, but it’s a pretty awesome feeling when all of a sudden you can understand a little bit of what people next to you are talking about, or what the announcements are over the train loudspeakers.

I’ve never grocery shopped so many times in a week as I do here. One, we don’t have a car. Two, we don’t have Whole Foods. There are a few grocery stores within walking distance, but everything is in small packages, so a bag of frozen peas that we bought in the US might last us a couple meals, here, we’re lucky if one bag can be split between the three of us. I haven’t worked out if groceries are more expensive here or not, probably about the same. There are little vegetable and tofu stands which I love. We are pretty shy about buying veggies and fruits from the tiny stores because usually the owners are watching TV and we don’t want to disturb them. LOL. The other thing about grocery stores here is that the aisles tend to be narrow and short. And there are usually more people. So it leads to a very frustrating experience trying to get around people. Now that I think of it, I don’t think I’ve seen a proper cart, you get a basket and there are mini carts for your basket if you need it. It seems to be part of the culture to buy groceries for dinner every day or every other day.

I wouldn’t call it a normal thing, but something that we did frequently in LA was go to the movies. We’ve cut back significantly because the western movie release schedule here is terrible. Sometimes movies that have been on DVD for months start playing here. And they aren’t usually very good movies. I think I need to start watching Japanese movies. It will help me understand the culture better for sure.

Sometimes we go out for dinner as there are more vegan restaurants here. I’m trying to cook more — we either eat Japanese cuisine or western. The other night we had taco night and reminisced about the tasty Mexican food in LA.

That’s about it!

Tara Brown at White House Cities of Learning

It Takes A Nation Of Makers To Make A Nation

Back in 2012 when the seeds were planted for LA Makerspace, it was still a fairly novel idea. We were the first family friendly makerspace in Los Angeles and we launched one of the first makerspace crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter. People came to our space in downtown LA from all over Southern California because it was the only place like it.

Fast forward three plus years and a lot has changed. There are not only multiple makerspaces in Los Angeles but across the nation.

Last year, President Obama convened Mayors from around the country, and hosted the first-ever White House Maker Faire and issued a call to action that “every company, every college, every community, every citizen joins us as we lift up makers and builders and doers across the country.” By democratizing the tools and skills necessary to design and make just about anything, Maker-related events and activities can inspire more people to pursue careers in design, advanced manufacturing, and the related fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and possibly take their creations to the next level and become entrepreneurs.

In early May of this year, I had the chance to join a conversation at the White House to discuss next steps as part of a Maker Cities Roundtable. I joined twenty communities from around the country in an exciting half-day conversation, where we talked about each other’s successes and challenges, and came away with lots of ideas we should bring back to our communities. We’ve kept the momentum since, and I’m excited by everything going in our community and around the country.

June 12–18th is the Week of Making, and I’m excited to highlight a few things we have already accomplished at LA Makerspace, and what we hope to do in the next year.

  • Facilitated more than 100 workshops at LA Public Library branches including robotics, programming, filmmaking, Minecraft and more.
  • Brought on a new board of directors with experience in education, nonprofits, tech startups and civic engagement.
  • Hired our fabulous director, Mya Stark.
  • Kicked off the Scratch Squad thanks in part to Google Rise. Kids teaching kids how to program.
  • Partnered with Connected Camps to teach LA Public Librarians how to play Minecraft so they can run Minecraft workshops and clubs in their library branches. Their “Minecraft-in-a-box” allows us to host workshops when the internet bandwidth doesn’t meet requirements.
  • Completed our second successful Kickstarter campaign.

What’s next:

  • Planning our next series of workshops at LA Public library branches. We’re expanding to teach younger tinkerers and adults.
  • Partnering with UCLA Remap to host workshops in their space across from the LA State Historic Park in Downtown LA.
  • Writing curriculum for our most popular workshops which we’ll be sharing freely.
  • Hosting an event on Sat., June 13th, 1pm at the Standard to meet and brainstorm with other SoCal nonprofit STEAM organizations to discuss how we can create a network to better share resources and events. RSVP on Meetup.com.

I’m proud of the Los Angeles maker community and the mentorship and resources it provides to Angelenos. I’m excited that work being done here in LA and cities across the US is being recognized nationally as vital to the economy and job creation.

That Time I Was A Meme

I wrote this post on Medium.

“Is this you?”
“Hey, I think this is you.”
“OMG, I think you are a meme!!!”

Over the past week I’ve received dozens of pings from friends sending me links to a photo with the tagline “No one is born racist” and asking if it’s me. It is, and I have to say that in all the things I ever wished for in life, becoming a meme seen by more than a million people was not one of them. That being said, if it helps to spread a positive message then I’m all for it. Except of course when someone said I have a duck-face (thanks to the person who defended me and said I was probably in mid-sentence).

Admittedly I was shocked when a few commenters have suggested that I am racist because in the photo I am looking away. I am not going to spend an ounce of effort addressing that incorrect assumption, but I will say that I think what’s special about this photo is that the moment captured is between my son and our fellow passenger on the Paris Metro, and I’m just in the background.

I am not sure who posted the photo with the tagline, but for the curious, here is the metadata and narrative of the original work:

The photo was taken by my husband, Sean Bonner with an iPhone. It’s August of 2010, we are on Paris Metro but I don’t recall where we are going. Our son, Rips, who was around 5 months at the time, is sitting on my lap. The stranger’s finger he is holding onto is Parisian, a grand-père with 2 or 3 grandchildren, if I recall correctly. The two of us chatted a bit, he then held out his finger to Rips who clamped on and wouldn’t let go. The man had a great smile that Rips delighted in and he didn’t seem to mind entertaining my baby so I went back to figuring out when we had to depart the train. I think I’m in mid duck-face because our stop was coming up and I was telling Sean that we had to gather all of our things and convince Rips to let go of his new friend’s finger.

 

Got: Kid Friendly Hackerspace in Los Angeles

This update is a huge deal to me…I hope you’ll read on.

 

If you’ve been paying attention to any of my updates for the past several months, then you may have read my post from May 3rd “Want: Kid Friendly Hackerspace in LA” and you may have paid attention to what the response was. If you didn’t, here’s the scoop:

 

After I wrote that post, 25 people showed up at Crashspace to discuss our common desire to run kid friendly maker events in LA. If you aren’t familiar, here’s a definition of a makerspace:

 

Makerspaces (aka Hackerspaces) provide shared physical resources otherwise unaffordable or attainable by an individual or family. They provide a fluid workspace as well as the collaboration, inspiration and encouragement of others. We want to appeal to youth, families, school groups, stay-at-home-parents, home-schooled kids and individuals that are comfortable working around and with kids.

 

The maker movement, as it pertains to education, seeks to build the confidence, analytic skills, and creativity of those involved by establishing an environment centered on the creative act. This collaborative and project-based approach to learning runs counter to the current trend in education of defining academic success in terms of standardized tests, especially at the cost of hands-on programs such as shop, art, and laboratory science. By establishing a permanent physical location for Los Angeles Young Makers students, and their families, will have a place to learn about engineering, design, and research through both organized classes as well as open-ended projects.

 

 

Very soon after that first meeting, a group of us started running events including the LA Youth Hack Jam, Scratch Classes, Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream Social and an Arduino Class taught by 11 year old Quin. You can read all about it on our website and a running list here.

 

During that time, I started bi-weekly planning meetings where anyone interested could come and help plan the opening of our own space. Our goal was to determine interest in the community for DIY events/classes/projects and then find a place before the end of the year to call our own with 24×7 access for late night project hacking and lots of fun equipment and tools to play with.

 

We certainly aren’t the first group to open a makerspace, but Los Angeles is a very large place (500 sq miles) and we had people from the westside and eastside attending events, so finding a central location that met our long list of requirements was incredibly hard. We did some research and identified DTLA as our best bet from an affordability standpoint but also  accessibility to a train stop and the work being done to reach the westside. You can read all of our requirements here.

 

 

After hosting planning meetups every 2 weeks, the committed became apparent and a core group of enthusiasts formed. We met at several places around DTLA including Urth in the Arts District, Americano and NationBuilder near Pershing Square. The participants included Software Engineers, Hardware Engineers, Scientists, Teachers, Filmmakers, Roboticists, Rocket Scientists, Librarians, Small Business Owners, Parents! The diverse backgrounds made for interesting conversations and the kind of members that we wanted to exist in the space…an eclectic mix of experiences, skills and interests.

 

 

After months of meetings and a couple of failed possibilities, one day I got a call from Sharon Ann Lee of Culture Brain asking if I could meet at LA Mart. Levi, Sean, Sharon and myself met with Ava, the Business Dev. Director at LA Mart and got a tour of the 11th floor. If you aren’t familiar with LA Mart, picture multiple floors of Furniture and Gift Showrooms. Ava explained that the entire 11th floor is being dedicated to a community of creatives curated with artists, filmmakers, tech entrepreneurs and everything in-between.

 

We checked out all the available spaces and found one that was 2100 sq ft and perfect. There’s an area for childcare, windows to bring in natural light, freight elevators to move in large equipment, and the bonus is a Fab Lab right next door. So anything we can’t offer, members can walk a few feet and get what they need. It met almost every single one of our requirements except the outdoor space, but we are discussing plans for the roof.

 

It was a no-brainer decision, we knew that it was the right spot to setup LA Makerspace.

 

I am super SUPER excited to let you know that we will be opening up LA Makerspace in the New Year!

 

Between now and January we’ll host some events including the Halloween Open House on Oct. 28th to let people see the space and learn more about what we are doing. We need to build the space out and we need to raise some funds to pay for equipment, tools, insurance, etc. until we can become self-sustaining through memberships and events.We’ll raise some funds through Corporate Sponsorships and a KickStarter campaign. Anyone can donate money on our website now or equipment and tools can be dropped off. Pretty soon we’ll be pre-selling memberships. We were very fortunate to meet Sabrina at home&community who agreed to be LA Makerspace’s fiscal sponsor so that we can apply for grants and take in donations. We’re in the process of doing the paperwork for our own 501(c)3.

 

Our Mission

 

To provide an all ages 24×7 community workspace with a workshop, research areas, babysitting area, gallery to showcase projects and outdoor space. The space is to be used for developing and prototyping ideas, projects, events, classes, and tech group meetups.

 

Reach for the stars

 

I know this is just the beginning, but jumping over that first hurdle was a big deal. Now it’s real. Now we have a homebase and we can focus on some of our projects like Citizen Science, continuing Scratch Classes for our young kids, Mom & Dad Hack Days including Childcare, Little Engineer classes for Toddlers and Preschoolers. And maybe building an elevator to the moon.

 

If you’d like to get involved please email me. And don’t forget to come out to one of our amazing events:

 

 

Thank you to our Board of Directors, Joseph, Sabrina, Luz, Michelle, Sara, Kent, Cassy, Travis, Nirvan, Harley, Patricia, Jean, Stacie, Donna, Adam and especially to all the makers that have come out to our events. We hope you like the new space and look forward to working alongside you on a bunch of amazing projects!

 

Just look for the big wooden chair!

 

Hearts and Hugs,
Tara

 

Want: Kid Friendly Hackerspace in Los Angeles

Over the past several months I’ve been connecting with like-minded people who want a permanent, public, kid friendly hacker/diy space(s) in Los Angeles. These people have been working with kids and tech groups in some way or another through after-school programs, pop-up events and monthly meetups. A permanent space to house the equipment and schedule regular classes would help buildup a community of members, customers and volunteers.

A community space where people of all ages and backgrounds can work and learn together on fun projects using 3D printers, laser cutters, paint brushes, electronics, and anything their imaginations come up with. A place to hang out, mess around and geek out (Dr. Mimi Ito’s term).

Background

My inspiration comes from the ladies tech group that I run, the Mt Elliott Makerspace in Detroit,  and a few different kids that I have had the pleasure to hangout with including Luna Ito-Fisher, Caine of Caine’s Arcade, and Super-Awesome Sylvia. I want a space that I can take my kid to and he can participate in an environment with other DIYers.

I was just introduced by the fantastic engineering educator Luz Rivas of Iridescent Learning to Donna Mandosa, a Technology Director at a private school, who created the meetup group Los Angeles Young Makers so we paired up as organizers.

The first public meeting to talk about the space is Sunday, May 6th, 2012, 4:30pm at Crashspace in Culver City. We’ll talk about ideas for the kid friendly space and good examples of existing ones. If you are interested as a potential member, sponsor or evangelist, volunteer, skill sharer, Please RSVP and Join Us!

There are a few documents that are excellent guides on creating hackerspaces:

Hackerspace Design Patterns

Makerspace Playbook (for kids)

Peer Production Communities Survey 2011 (interesting stats from 87 hacker communities)

Vision (For Discussion)

Along with a host of people who have started kid friendly spaces, I chatted with Sean Bonner who founded Crashspace (about why they don’t allow kids) and Deb Sigel, a JPL engineer and founder of Kids Building Things. We discussed what we thought a kid friendly hackerspace might look like and ways in which we could get it started:

Members
  • Age-agnostic
  • Experienced members that will train and support members to use the equipment
  • Encourage parents to participate in learning with their kids. Perhaps Kids under 13 must have a parent with them unless it’s a class.
  • Reserved age-specific slots. I Learned from YouMedia that allowing certain times of day or week for specific age groups is important.
Space
  • Building with electricity that can support welding
  • Restroom Facilities including eye wash station
  • Equipment for woodwork, metalwork, fine art, electronics,
  • Outdoor space for gardening, open flame, activities that need ventilation like spray paint, etc.
  • Daycare so parents can work on projects and the kids can watch. The Mothership HackerMoms space in Oakland has childcare; the kids can watch what Mom is doing and eventually take part: “we offer $5 childcare and a kid-friendly 24/7 member space where little ones can learn and witness their incredible, hacking, entrepreneurial moms in full glory.”
Location
  • Should be on a walking street
  • Available Parking
  • Near a train stop and/or major freeway
  • Near restaurants (food)
Equipment
  • We are hoping to get most of the equipment to be donated
  • Start hosting free/inexpensive classes and see what type of projects are the most popular and build up the equipment based on the class equipment needs
Business Model Ideas
Note: We are going to need time to figure out how to sustain the space.
  • Sponsorship money
  • Membership – ideally membership is free for kids
  • Classes (instructor and space split proceeds. Also a way for kids to make money).
  • Web Show with Ad Funding
Questions
  • How do we attract the kids, youth and adults that will make the space a fun, positive and supportive place to hang out, mess around and geek out?
  • Where can we recruit volunteers that are willing to sign-up for certain time slots to be on-hand as supervisors?
  • What areas of LA make sense for this first space? Should it be central like DTLA?
  • Where can we find supportive sponsors?

Our first public meeting is Sunday, May 6th, 2012, 4:30pm at Crashspace.

Please RSVP and Join Us!