An Evening At San Quentin State Prison

There are certain experiences that you go through in life which make you pause and reflect on the bigger picture, like when I decided to start playing League of Legends. A few days ago, I had the unique experience to go to one of the most notable and oldest state prisons in California, San Quentin State Prison, and speak to a group of inmates as part of The Last Mile program.

A few months ago, I was talking with Chris Redlitz of Transmedia Capital about his new program The Last Mile, and his plans and goals with the program. Fast-forward to March 13th, 2012, and I find myself at the entrance to a prison which is home to some of America’s most notorious criminals. Words can’t describe the experience of walking into a prison and not knowing what was going to happen.

After such a powerful experience, I wanted to write a blog post to share my thought and try to bring light to some of the men that I met at San Quentin.

First of all, when you arrive at San Quentin, you go through multiple security checkpoints. The first was mainly for cars, and the second for all people coming through the prison. I was only allowed to bring three things with me: my car keys, drivers license, and a notebook. I also wasn’t allowed to wear any clothing that had blue or yellow colors, since that’s what the inmates wear.

Once we got through the second security checkpoint, there was one more door that we had to go through … the door that took you into the main yard of San Quentin. When I walked through the door, I had a mix of emotions- scared, nervous, hesitant. I had no idea what to expect or what would happen. Then we just started walking. Chris showed me the chapel where The Last Mile’s “Demo Day” is going to be held, and we walked by a group of inmates. All of them said “hi” to us, and asked how we were doing. I responded with “hi” and also asked them how they were doing.

It is a very big prison where air ventilation and electrical maintenance must be properly done. They have electricians with the skills and knowledge to do it and do it well. Richtek Electrical offers work that is of top-notch quality, with their trained and highly experienced after hours electrician rates who will give you friendly service, you can count on having the job done properly, on time and on budget.

We continued walking towards a group of buildings where we would eventually meet five men; David, James, JC, Kenyatta and Phil. We walked into the room, shook hands, said hello to everyone, and started the session.

It was at that point that I realized one of the most important lessons from this entire experience: David, James, JC, Kenyatta and Phil are real people. They are just like me. They have interests, hopes and dreams. A seven-digit number doesn’t define them. They are defined by who they are, and what decisions they make in their future.

As a society, we look negatively at these men for the actions of their past. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be punished for wrong doings, but it’s what you do after you serve your punishment that determines who you are as a person. If I had been in a room with these five men anywhere else, I would have never guessed that they were criminals.

Each man had his own unique characteristics. David is a big 49ers fan, and really enjoys all kinds of sports. James is very soft spoken, but extremely well respected. JC is literary master. Kenyatta is eager to learn. And Phil just lights up when you talk about music. These men were unique but all shared a drive to change their future.

They were all extremely polite, and excited to learn. They’re thankful for The Last Mile, and the ability to turn their life around. These are all qualities that many of us share.

When the session began, Chris went over the agenda, we talked about what had happened since the last meeting, and what was going to happen today. He introduced me, and I briefly told the story of how I started Teens in Tech Labs and what I’ve learned over the last four years since starting the company.

They all asked questions about how I got started, the reasons why Teens in Tech exists and many other questions. At this point, I realized something else; these men are intelligent. They’re asking good questions. And then I just started smiling. I was very surprised but excited and impressed at the same time.

I had no idea what to expect going into this experience, and now I’m surrounded by five incredible men who are truly inspirational, and want to change their lives.

After some more questions, Chris asked each person to stand up and pitch their business idea. As each of them did, I was I even more surprised and impressed. They pitched their ideas better than some of the pitches I’ve seen at some of the biggest tech events! One was a unique barbershop for college kids, another was an inner city technology center for young kids, a t-shirt company for young kids to express themselves, an interactive experience for watching sporting events, and a mobile recording studio for musicians.

All were great ideas that had a lot of meaning behind them. I was blown away yet again. We gave each idea a critique, feedback, and kept discussing ideas for their businesses. It was the ultimate brainstorming session.

We only had so much time for the session, since certain men had to go inside and get checked-in, etc., but I walked away for a newfound respect for these inmates. If these are the five selected people to go through The Last Mile, imagine all the others who have great ideas for businesses for when they are released from San Quentin.

After everyone left, JC stayed around and recited some of his amazing poetry. He’d been incarcerated since he was 17 years-old, and has learned a lot of lessons during his incarceration. He translates those lessons into words, and is true inspiration for many men at San Quentin. I asked him numerous questions about life inside the prison, and his experience over the last 17 years. I got a glimpse into what it’s *really* like to be an inmate at San Quentin State Prison.

As I left, I walked away with a new found respect for the men of The Last Mile. I’d like to thank Chris, Beverly and Kathleen for inviting me to be a part of this remarkable experience. I’m proud to be coming back to San Quentin in a few weeks to help with the pitches one more time, and then for the big day … Demo Day.

“Inspired” would be an understatement to describe this experience. I hope that at some point we can all look back on this program, look at these men, and be proud of what they’ve accomplished. No matter what your circumstances are, there is a way to dream big and go for it.

The Time I Met Steve Jobs

Over the last few hours, I’ve spent some time reflecting on the news that really shocked the world — Steve Jobs had passed away. Just six weeks before he passed, he officially resigned from Apple, the company he helped start and led for so many years. He really gave it his all, up until the very last bit he could.

As I was thinking about what Steve had done, there was one memory that had kept coming back to me. The time I got to meet, and shake Steve Jobs’s hand. It wasn’t until after that encounter that people started telling me that Steve doesn’t shake anyone’s hand. I felt honored. I felt lucky.

It was 2007, and Steve Jobs had just gotten off the stage at Macworld after he had announced the revolutionary iPhone. We were all blown away by this device. I was sitting towards the back of the room with my good friend Adam Jackson, when we both decided to head up front and see what all the hubbub was about. It turns out Steve was in front of the stage chatting with some folks.

Keep in mind, in 2007 I was only 14, so I was still quite small and could maneuver around a crowd much better then others. There was a large group of people, and I snuck under all of them. As I turned around, Steve Jobs was standing right in front of me being escorted out. I quickly said “thank you!” and put out my hand, and he said “you’re welcome,” smiled, shook my hand, and ran off.

That is a moment I will never forget, and I will cherish for the rest of my life. We will always remember you, Steve. Thank you for everything.

Early Espresso Podcast

I’ve been podcasting since 2007. I’ve been hosting and producing the Apple Universe Podcast since March 2007, and it has been a blast — yet, I’ve been the only host, and it could get lonely once in a while. I would bring on co-hosts and special guests, but every episode didn’t have someone else with me.

Entrepreneurship and youth are two big topics right now, so a few of my friends decided to start a podcast about those two topics. Christian Owens of Branchr Advertising, Mark Bao of Avecora, Alex Nichols of Take a Tee/Teens in Tech Networks and I are starting a podcast called Early Espresso (hat tip to Christian and Mark for the name). It’s a weekly podcast where we talk about youth, entrepreneurship, technology and more.

We’ve recorded our first episode, and released it a few minutes ago. In this episode we talk about some tech news, (Tweetie 2, Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize, etc.), and talk about the big decision: to go, or not to go to college. A topic that has been recently discussed here on my personal blog. Alex couldn’t join us this week, but he’ll be back next week.

So go ahead, and subscribe in iTunes, and follow Early Espresso on Twitter.

Joining the Intel Insiders Program

10592v1-max-250x250Today, I’m very excited to announce that I’ve joined the Intel Insiders program. The Intel Insiders are a group of individuals that work with Intel, and represent Intel at events, trade shows, check out new products, and help the company. For those who don’t know what Intel is, or does, Intel is best known for producing the microprocessors found in many personal computers. The company also makes a range of other hardware including network cards, motherboards, and graphics chips.

Intel created the first commercial microprocessor chip in 1971, but it was not until the success of the personal computer that microprocessors became their primary business. In the 1980’s they were an early developer of SRAM and DRAM memory chip, and during the 1990s they invested heavily in new microprocessor designs and in fostering the rapid growth of the PC industry.

I’ll be joining Erin Kane, Corvida Raven, Mia Kim, Steve “Chippy” Paine, Brian Solis, Tom Foremski, Cathy Brooks, Frank Gruber, JD Lasica and iJustine.

If you’re in San Francisco on September 21, join me at the MobilityMeetup (use the code IDF09Media) where some of the Insiders and myself will be hosting a tweetup. Thanks to Intel for the opportunity, and I’ll see you on the 21st!

Summer Plans: 2009

With my junior year in high school coming to a close in 10 days, it’s time to (somewhat unofficially) announce some of my summer plans. First off, one of my main focuses this summer is Teens in Tech, for which we are working on version 2.0 of the site. We’re on schedule for testing in early July, and are really working hard on delivering new features and revising the site, so expect a lot of changes. I can tell you now that Teens in Tech will not be the same at 2.0.

My other focus this summer will most likely be Qik. I’ve been with Qik since February 2008, and I have a great position (Product Marketing Manager/Evangelist) and work with a great team. I get to travel to conferences across the Silicon Valley and spread the joy that is Qik. If you don’t have an account, go sign up now.

Speaking of conferences, I’ll be taking many more speaking engagements this summer, starting with Ypulse Mashup in the first week after school ends, and in the end of June, the Social Networking Conference in Beverly Hills, Calif. I’m willing to take up all sorts of speaking engagements, so if you want me to speak at your event, please get in touch.

I will continue to blog here, and produce podcasts on my show, Apple Universe Podcast (I know things have been slow there, but lots of great shows coming soon!).

I’m also continuing to consult though my firm T-Cast Media. We are still working on a site, and we are almost done. I’ll also be working with my business partner, Sam Levin (@samlevin) on projects like Western Digital, and others.

In the end, summer is time for me to relax from school, and not stress about essays, and homework and all that stuff, time for me to enjoy my time as a teenager, and that’s my biggest priority. I’ll be spending more time with my friends, and just enjoying my childhood, which I haven’t done too much in the recent times. Lots of people tell me that I should be a kid first, and entrepreneur second, and hopefully I’ll fulfill that goal this summer.

Giant Squid Audio Lab

Giant Squid Audio Labs specializes in miniature stereo and mono microphones. The company offers a selection of high fidelity analog and digital audio microphone hardware for professional and consumer digital and analog audio recording. Visit www.gseav.com, to install a video wall for your up coming event. They make their own model of small, durable, high fidelity microphones that can be discretely mounted.

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Some parts in a couple of Giant Squid units were found in small, obscure industrial parts catalogs and have to be special ordered from an overseas distributor. These kind of high end parts give the edge of durability and quality to Giant Squid products.

Through the company’s history, microphones made by Giant Squid Audio Lab have been purchased by satisfied customers in fields ranging from professional Radio broadcast reporters to dance club disc jockeys, from professional stage musicians to missionaries, and from DAT and Mini Disc audio collecting hobbyists to computer notebook owners.

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Being that I am a podcaster and videographer myself, I’ve been using a few of Giant Squid Audio Labs’ products for a couple of months now, and they left me impressed. I definitely recommend checking out the Giant Squid Audio Lab mics no matter what you’re doing, be it podcasting, or something else. I’ll be doing a full review of these mics on Apple Universe in the coming weeks.

Microphones Matter: Blue Micrphones

I don’t tend to blog that much about podcast equipment, but I really wanted to share some tips and great microphones with you. Being that I am a podcaster, a mic is what I rely on to make my sound good when I talk. I believe that microphones are really essential pieces of equipment for anyone doing anything with audio.

When I started podcasting, I originally started with a $3.00 mic from Target. It took audio, and put it in my computer. Exactly what a mic should do. It sounded horrible (if you go listen to really old Apple Universe episodes, you can hear what I mean), but it got the job done, which is what mattered to me. As I started producing more and more episodes, I started getting better equipment. Thanks to a great sponsor of mine, Twitter, I received the Snowball mic from Blue Mic, along with other gear.

I found everything I needed in that one microphone. Great sound, great quality, easy to use, and best of all, its USB powered. It was the perfect USB microphone for me.

On Saturday, October 4, 2008, Blue Mic held a press event in San Francisco, after AES. Blue recently announced a new microphone, the BottleRocket. The main feature of the BottleRockets is their interchangeable capsule design; the BottleRockets are compatible with the extant “Bottle Caps” line of capsules, also from Blue. Two designs will be available, the BottleRocket Stage One and the BottleRocket Stage Two, with the former comprising a transformerless solid-state circuit, and the latter featuring an ECC88 vacuum tube. Pricing for the BottleRockets will be $899 for the Stage One, and $1999 for the Stage Two.

These mics aren’t really targeted to podcasters, but more towards recording artists. The point being, Blue produces some of the best microphones for anyone recording, let it be podcasts, a new CD, or just audio chatting with friends and family.

You may think, why would I buy a mic for $899? Well, Blue has another option for you. The Snowflake from Blue is a compact and portable USB microphone ideal for travel. Whether you’re a roving podcaster, or if you just want to add narration to your home videos, the Snowflake offers professional-quality results at an incredibly affordable price.

The mic capsule folds into the compact case, which also stores the included USB cable. This makes it easy to store the mic in a laptop bag, or even your pocket. When unfolded, the case acts as a desktop stand or laptop clip. The Snowflake has plug and play compatibility with Macs and PCs, so you don’t have to install any drivers. Just plug it in and you’re up and running. The price is great to. It retails for around $69.99, which is considerably cheap for a quality mic like the Snowflake.

The point is, great sounding microphones don’t have to be worth $400+, you can get an amazing mic, from an amazing company, Blue Micophones. Whats your favorite micrphone? USB or XLR? Let us know in the comments below, or leave a Seesmic video comment!