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Capital Ideas

The thoughts of Matt Olson, a systems thinker, hacker, and social entrepreneur, on retooling consumer culture

Read My Lips: New Taxes!

With or without?

The Chico City Council has begun a series of excruciating budget cuts in response to deficits and long-term debt levels of immense proportions. According to the new City Manager, Brian Nakamura, who was brought in last year to clean up our budget mess, “this probably is the darkest time for the city of Chico.”

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The Innovation Within

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I’ve been to a lot of technology networking events, so I thought I knew what to expect when I went to the Innovate North State Challenge on June 27th: Company A has a good idea but not the right team, Company B fails to differentiate itself in a crowded space, but Company C is disrupting a massive market, has defensible IP, and is poised for growth!

I could go that route, but I think I’d be doing you a disservice to not tell you instead about what happened later, at the Sierra Nevada bar, when, while enjoying an Ovila Abbey Saison (or three), I met a man that challenged my worldview in a profoundly depressing way.

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Nothing To Hide?

Free Speech Movement

It should be clear to everyone by now that the National Security Agency (NSA) has achieved an unprecedented level of access to the communication patterns and digital trails of American citizens.

The exact details are murky due to the classified nature of the program and the public relations denials of the companies involved (including Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook), but the best information we have at this time is that PRISM is an NSA program for streamlining Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests with these companies, and receiving data in return. The companies claim that the NSA does not have direct access to their servers, and information is only delivered after a lawfully issued FISA request, and is not delivered in an automated fashion. This might be comforting, if it weren’t for the fact that the FISA courts have largely rubber stamped any request the government makes on national security grounds. With the passage of the FISA Amendments Acts of 2008, it is easier than ever to get a court order for expansive datasets on the shakiest of foundations.

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Reinventing Chico

Fab Lab

A group of makers has been quietly building a community space here in Chico with great potential for democratizing the tools of innovation and expression. After months of planning and hard work, Idea Fab Labs, Chico’s first makerspace, is opening its doors May 4th.

Makerspaces—open, social spaces designed for brainstorming, collaborative learning, tool sharing, and most importantly, making things—have a long tradition in technology communities around the world. They provide the space and both standard and high-tech tools, as well as the knowledge of how to use them, in a collaborative, open environment where experimentation and peer-to-peer learning thrives.

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Community Summit Summup

Zingg engages frats

Four hundred people representing virtually every part of the Chico community attended a gathering on the Chico State campus last Friday to collaborate on actions we can take to change Chico’s increasingly out-of-control drinking culture. Attendees ranged from the Chico State and Butte College student bodies, fraternities and sororities, parents and University officials, to members of the Chico City Council, Chico Police and EMTs, to downtown bar owners, retail sellers of alcohol, apartment building owners, as well as a healthy dose of average Chico community members like me.

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