Cape Town, South Africa


I was in Cape Town from May 23rd to June 18th in the summer of 2011 with a group of four other UPenn masters students. We were given this travel opportunity by UPenn and the IPD program’s NFS grant. We kept a group blog during our stay which can be found here on tumblr.


Cape Town is an incredibly beautiful city located between Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean, but it also possesses a huge wealth gap which is rather uncomfortable. On the plus side there is a young and thriving design community trying to put Cape Town on the map, which will hopefully create some jobs and inspire

those in the townships to create new craft products.


I was originally going to research water purification which I had been studying in thesis, however, the water problems in Cape Town are more scarcity than quality (although we were told that many Cape Townians had water purifiers in their homes akin to those in the US). I thus began thinking about water collection, and the side effects of wet and dry seasons. I also began working with Eric to continue the research begun by Lea and Evan of craft, design, and entrepreneurship in Cape Town.

Continue reading “Cape Town, South Africa”

Lens Hero helps SLR camera users find their next lens. is a new website built to help users of SLR cameras find their next lens based on their budget and the kind of photography they want to pursue with their new lens. Being interested in photography I decided to check out the site to see what kind of lens it would recommend I buy. I already have a Canon xsi and 60mm prime lens, which I bought a few years ago to shoot both macro and portrait photography, so I decided to enter a price and chose the style “Portrait.”


The site returned good results, the first two lenses were those that I had considered buying in the past because they are known to be great for portrait and macro photography. For each result there are some basic ratings of different qualities, however those chosen to be displayed are not all qualities that I care about when looking for a lens. The ratings also don’t make sense. I’m not sure how one would quantify if 60mm is great or terrible for a max or min focal length. It is very good for some applications and very bad for others, but isn’t something that should be quantitatively judged. This is also something that is always stated in the name of the lens, so there is no need to use up 2 of the 8 rating locations for min and max focal length. Weight might be a better item to quantify and display a rating bar, since I’d generally consider that a specification in which people would agree that lighter is better.


A way to visually display the focal lengths could be to make a horizontal scale, and indicate where (for prime), or what range (for zoom) a lens fits. This would allow for easy comparison as well when scrolling through options.


A great feature of the site is after clicking on a lens all the specifications come up, some with very nice visuals. The horizontal angle of view and 35mm equivalent are useful calculations that are not usually given. This is especially useful for those with cropped sensors since we frequently are looking for comparable lenses used by the full sensor market. The 60mm is just about a 100mm lens on a full size camera, the go-to for portrait photography.


One other thing to note, that is a bit odd, is that they pull reviews and quotes from B&H Photo Video, but don’t link back, and instead have an ad for This seems a bit unethical.

wordpress http error crunching .htaccess

Fix the common Wordpress image upload http error while crunching. Just add “AddType x-mapp-php5 .php” to the top of your .htaccess file! (Wordpress 2.8.6)

The Problem:
Whenever I would try to upload an image to my blog the file would upload, but I would then get a red http error, as seen in this picture below:


http wordpress crunching error


With this error it wasn’t possible for me to choose the preset image size “medium”, which I configured to the width of one column. Here is what I’m talking about:


affected by error


The Solution:
Just open your .htaccess file that is in the same folder as your wp-content folder:


where htaccess


and add “AddType x-mapp-php5 .php” to the top, as so:


edited htaccess


Once you save that, you should be able to upload pictures without the error and regain wordpress’s resizing feature.


upload error fixed


I got this little snippet from errors when installing either joomla or drupal, so when this http error came up, I figured it couldn’t hurt if I add it to .htaccess for wordpress and it worked! Hopefully this helps since online I didn’t see anyone else recommending this fix.

How To Gain NJ EMT Reciprocity

I’ve been trying to become a New Jersey EMT-B for a little while now. NJ makes it very difficult to figure out what to do, so the following should be of some help to anyone searching.


The following is a short outline of this form (.pdf), which I had a terrible time finding, but is your key to success:


1) Go to and create an account


2) They will tell you to download a reciprocity application, which will be your version of this (.png), fill out the top half, and then mail it to the state in which you are an EMT-B and they will quickly fill out the bottom half.  Include a self addressed envelope.  When you receive said envelope back in the mail, keep it sealed and start a bundle of documents.


3) Add copies of you EMT card, NREMT card, and CPR card to the bundle and mail it to the NJ Department of Health.


4) Take the 24 hour Core 13 Refresher Course with a group of EMT’s who are approaching their 3 year mark. This includes refresher lectures, all the practicals, and a 50 question exam. ($120 from Capitol Health in Trenton)


4) After 15 days of successfully completing the Core 13 class, you are eligible to take the NJ exam.


5) Complete the exam, and all above, and you should be a NJ EMT!


I somehow took the Core 13, but didn’t see that I needed to get a letter from all the states (and national registry) in which I am an EMT.  Seeing that I became a Colorado EMT during this process, I think I’ll leave them out of it.  Unfortunately this means I’ll be dealing with NYS again, who took three months to verify with the national registry that I took and passed their EMT course including practical (talk about frustrating).


Just for reference: to become a Colorado EMT you just need to fill out one easy to find form and get finger printed at your local police station. Then write a check for $40 attach it to your fingerprints and mail to the CBI. Take your EMT form and mail it to their EMT office and in about a month you’ll be a CO EMT. They have their act together out there.

Review: Timberland 6 Inch Zip Earthkeepers Boot

UPDATE! I’ve posted new photos of this same pair of boots (now three years old) along with a comparison between a few other boots on my product/gear blog here.


I wrote about these boots about a month ago and ended up going ahead and purchasing them. I’ve had this pair for a little over three weeks, and have worn them quite a bit. Right out of the box they are comfortable, and look great. They initially have no creases, however the first time you bend your foot, they will appear. They have an English look, with contrast stitching that is nice. The zippers themselves work well and are of high quality. The zipper function, for getting your foot in is a bit harder than I thought it would be, but I had initially tied the laces too tight. Once loosened up a bit they were much easier to slip into/out of, which is great since the act of lacing up boots is usually a boots worst feature.




I haven’t seen any pictures of these boots, besides what Timberland had to offer, so I’ve taken these in my backyard, to show that they look like when slightly worn. I also inspected them carefully and the workmanship is top notch. Purchase.


Sharing Sustainable Designs – Open Source Innovation

Mary Tripsas, an associate professor in the entrepreneurial management unit at the Harvard Business School, recently wrote an article featured in The New York Times titled Everybody in the Pool of Green Innovation. The piece is about large companies working together on green innovations. It sounds like a great idea, and a way for companies to work together on common goals, when patents are taken on idea’s that aren’t particularly profitable, but help conserve energy or reduce pollution. The big names involved in the Eco-Patent Commons are Bosch, Dow, DuPont, Fuji-Xerox, IBM, Nokia, Pitney Bowes, Ricoh, Sony, Taisei and Xerox.

  Creative Commons’s Green Xchange is another group, whose goal is to add transparency to the sustainability to the supply chain. This is being supported by Best Buy and Nike.

  This idea works great for large companies, however, there still appears to be a need to focus students on designing for a sustainable future. Innovate For Tomorrow is my proposed solution, however, without financing I’m having a bit of trouble getting it off the ground (the php development to enable the core features is the main issue).

Timberland Men’s Earthkeepers 6 Inch Zip Boot

Update! I’ve now reviewed these boots, and have posted my own pictures of them. Check it out the new post here.
Mens Earthkeepers 6 Inch Zip Boot in Burnished Tan
Timberland’s 2009 Earthkeepers line is looking good this year. My favorite new addition is the 6 Inch Zip Boot in Burnished Tan as seen above. The Earthkeepers collection is where Timberland experiments with more eco-friendly boots and clothing. This boot’s leather is sourced “from a tannery that received a silver rating for its reduced energy use, reduced waste and quality water treatment.” The lining is a organic cotton and recycled PET mesh fabric, the laces are organic cotton, and the outsole is 42% recycled rubber.

  Also in their fall collection is a nice looking Rugby Trapper Hat and a Rugby Scarf. Both are made of 60% recycled PET and 40% organic cotton.
Timberland Rugby Trapper Hat
Timberland Rugby Scarf

  While these are good first steps, there is still plenty of room for improvement. For example there is still no system in place to take care of the boots once worn out, so this is the last stop for their recycled components before they end up in a landfill. Also for future products, blends of cottons and plastics shouldn’t be used as this prevents the fabrics from easily being recycled or composted.

Bonobos Pants

Just bought a pair of Bonobos Clean Slates pants. I’d been considering this for about three months, but was unsure if the pants would be worth their $118 price tag (down to $100 with 15% coupon nicepants15off). I have yet to receive them, but I will update the post once I try them on.

Bonobos Clean Slates
Just bought a pair of Bonobos Clean Slates pants. I’d been considering this for about three months, but was unsure if the pants would be worth their $118 price tag (down to $100 with 15% coupon nicepants15off). I have yet to receive them, but I will update the post once I try them on.

  They are made in the USA of 100% organic cotton, which helps reduce the environmental impact of cotton farming. states that “Cotton is mostly grown in monoculture and is a very pesticide-intensive crop. Although it is only grown on 2.5% of the world’s agricultural land, it consumes 16% of all the insecticides used worldwide.”

  Hopefully more companies will take Bonobos lead, by creating nice looking organic clothing, and perhaps with a little competition the price will come down a little bit. The organic cotton button down shirt market also seems like an area that could see some growth in the future, with non-organic cotton shirts already fetching $80.

Headlamp + Helmet = Lazer’s Urbanize N’Light Helmet

I saw this bike helmet in the most recent issue of Outdoor Magazine and think that it is and ingenious idea. I’m surprised it took an unknown company to connect the idea of headlamps and bike helmets – but nonetheless it looks like a great product. I’m sure it won’t be too long before all the major players get in on the action. $100 for a good looking helmet with a built in light is a pretty low initial price point, which is another nice feature for consumers.Headlamp + Helmet = Lazer's Urbanize N'Light Helmet

Solar Decathlon – No LEED Certification?

DoE Solar Decathlon and LEED

  I attended this years solar decathlon held in Washington, DC, and found it to be an awesome display of ingenuity and future potential. I also found a few areas of the competition that don’t exactly make sense.
  The purpose of the competition is to encourage students to design houses with the latest technology, however since it is partly funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the competition focus’s on the latest solar technology and energy saving methods. This is great but the competition should be about building houses of the future with all the environment impacts taken into account, not just those revolving around energy. There is a well known non-profit based in Washington, DC by the name of the U.S. Green Building Council, that seems to have been left out of the competition. One would think that they would be heavily involved, encouraging these up and coming architects and engineers to design for sustainable futures through the implementation of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification process. It could easily implemented as part of the competition with points awarded for scoring the highest in the LEED rating system.