Wednesday, July 17, 2013

PreserVenice app

The WPI Venice Project Center and the UNESCO Venice Office announced the release of our PreserVenice web site and smartphone/tablet app.
I am very proud of the efficiency and elegance of the end result, which allows us to showcase the extraordinary wealth of information we have collected about Venice's public art.
Most of the credit goes to Ben Lichtner and Kyle Miller, who were responsible for the technical and content aspects, respectively. This project would have not come to fruition without the support of the UNESCO Venice Office.  Big thanks go to Yolanda Valle-Neff, director, and especially to Anthony Krause, head of the UNESCO Culture Unit, who had the vision to support this worthy initiative.
The innovation we have introduced with this project is mostly invisible, and it is based on City Knowledge technology, which endows each piece of public art with the intelligent agency to request donations and/or data updates autonomously.
The PreserVenice website showcases all of the 1,098 coats of arms, 943 patere (roundels), 394 reliefs, 173 sculptures, 109 street altars, 109 fountains, 75 crosses, 56 flagstaff pedestals,  32 decorations, 30 inscriptions, and 25 sculptural fragments - a total of 3,044 pieces of Venetian urban outdoor sculpture. Information and details for each piece can be viewed on individual wiki pages on Venipedia ( and in more succinct forms directly on the PreserVenice app and website by selecting an artifact on a map of Venice.
The companion PreserVenice app ( is accessible on all platforms (smartphones, tablets, lap/desk-tops) via a compatible web browser, and it is designed to elicit participation through crowdsourcing and crowdfunding techniques. Interested users are solicited to contribute to the upkeep of each collection piece by flagging erroneous data, providing updated information, taking new photos, and also by donating money towards the restoration and repair of their favourite artifacts. This crowdfunding technique collects restoration funds from many small contributors, each making micro-donations in real time from the mobile app, all while standing face-to-face with a piece of public art in the streets of Venice.
The Venice Project Center has collected information for an additional 5,000 artifacts, which await funding to be consolidated and included in the PreserVenice website and app. PreserVenice aims to publish all of its public art data and to establish itself as a non-profit organization, that will collaborate with UNESCO’s Venice Office to actively preserve and restore these outdoor testimonials to Venice’s past. PreserVenice is planning a crowdfunding campaign to support the next phase of the project.

Based on the PreserVenice model, we plan to publish ALL of our Venice Project Center data this year, as the Venice Project Center turns 25...

Thursday, July 4, 2013

In dependence day

It had been quite a while since I last spent a 4th of July in the US.  Typically I would be in Venice at this time, until at least the Redentore, but -- as I said in a recent post -- I have been moving my stay back to May, and this year I only stayed until my mom's birthday on June 18th.
Although I would like to exclusively blame the tourist flood (or the muggy heat), I came back for a variety of other reasons as well.  One was: to get my house into selling shape, and I am getting there.  The wild castle is starting to look "civilized".  I even have light fixtures! and railings on my deck!
Today, was my neighbor's Mark's 50th birthday.  Quite a milestone.  We had a nice sunset swim to celebrate and I recommended that he consider a 10-project list like mine.
Later at night, I took advantage of the festive spirit to burn a whole lot of scrap wood produced by the contractors.   Had to stay up until dawn to keep an eye on it...  It was quite a bonfire.  I burnt a lot of my past tonight.
A transition is in the works.  Nick -- the other reason why I came back early -- has one more chance to "do the right thing", and he will soon be "homeless", like me, if we can sell the Castle over the summer.  July 22nd will be a major turning point in Nick's life, and mine too.  He is at a fork in the road and he needs to "take it".  He is going to have to work at his independence in the very near future.  I am not sure if he is ready, but the change is in motion right now.  Once the house is on the market, Jackie and I will be able to finalize our divorce on September 24th.  She will continue to depend on me for alimony, but her road to independence is also starting this summer.  And I will hopefully gain some of my own independence once we all get through these hurdles.
What next?  I don't know, really.  I will have to find a place to stay, for term A and term C, somewhere in New England, since I will be teaching the preparation courses for Venice and Santa Fe at WPI.  I will cross that bridge when I come to it.
For now, I am kind of enjoying my refurbished Castle.  Makes me almost want to stay a little while.  I am leaving the second floor master suite unfinished to see what prospective buyers may say about that.  I may be here through the winter or I may just find an eccentric couple who falls in love with it and buys it at the asking price. The market will decide what happens.
Meanwhile, I am gradually working my way through the "stuff" that we accumulated in our basement, closets and all around the home.  It's a bittersweet process but I am not dwelling on our family's past too much.  I am just being very practical and focused on the present task at hand.  My daily walks in the woods with Sirius have helped me stay on target.  I am plugging away at it every day, and soon we should see the light at the end of the tunnel.
We are not quite there yet.  None of us.  But we can smell that independence coming our way.
In reality, not many of us are really truly independent.  Only the independently wealthy may be. The remaining 99% of us really depend on something (exercise, substances, gambling...) or someone (family, spouse, friends, parents...).  I am personally still somewhat dependent on my dad, even though he will be turning 79 this year.  We are interdependent, and that is a good thing, I think. Many of us are unfortunately also co-dependent too. I am learning magical lessons from our dog Sirius, about the power of positive rewards and especially the non-rewarding of unacceptable behaviors.  I am only slowly beginning to use these simple "dog tricks" in my human life...
It's time for all of us to appreciate the web of dependencies that holds our life together, and embrace it, instead of making believe it is not there, or that it doesn't matter. If the asymmetry of a relationship feels awkward, we can either rebalance it or even drop the relationship altogether, and it's all doable with persistence and determination, and love.  Especially love.
Perhaps it is not by chance that I came back in time for the 4th of July this year...

Now, it's the 5th.  The sun is up.  The fire is dwindling.  It's a new day.  And the contractors are coming in one hour...  Carpe vitam!

Happy Independence Day!