• Ed Spoto helms Crossroads Audio, which provides many of the mics, PAs, lighting systems and rigs you see at local shows and festivals. Locally, his client list includes acts like Bowling For Soup, Erykah Badu, The Denton Blues Festival and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

    Nationally, Spoto, his wife Ashley (who runs the books and more) and the Crossroads crew have been involved in sound and lighting for Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits Music Festival and tons more. He’s a pretty reputable live recording engineer as well, and quite an irreverent critic with very eclectic tastes in local music, making for an interesting sit down.

    You’ve been known to say, “I hate people and I hate music.” True?

    To be fair, I do not hate people, just douchebag posers. And I don’t hate music, just the Auto-tuned songs. I used to be a runner for my promoter uncle in Tampa when I was 16. I learned pretty quickly to avoid being star struck! Seeing diva demands of has-been or never-were “artists” shaped my view of the industry.

    Your first live sound job in town was with Showco, and you hopped on some pretty big tours. You mind namedropping?
    Within three months of starting there, I was on tour with Soundgarden. By the end of the fall, I was on The Rolling Stones Voodoo Lounge tour. I started working my way up the audio ladder: Tech, systems engineer, monitors and front of house. I’ve also toured with Live, James Taylor, The Moody Blues, Lisa Loeb, Carlos Santana, George Strait and the Dixie Chicks to name a few.

    I understand Lisa Loeb is one of your favorite Dallas artists. Are there any more?

    I’m a fan of the Freddie Jones Jazz Quartet, Lisa Loeb, and Rigor Mortis.

    You’ve heard an awful lot of local and national, acts live. What does music need more of? Less of? How about the local music community itself?

    No more whistling, no more Auto-tune and lots more melody. More CDs, less digital mp3 sound bites. Additionally, just as there are high schools with focuses on alternative careers and job training, there is a need for education infrastructure to create talented audio engineers. Emphasis needs to be placed on critical listening skills for engineers, so live mixes do not sound like mp3 recordings. With the amount of volume capable in today’s PA systems, an emphasis needs to be placed on quality and not decibel quantity. A third of all students entering college have permanent hearing loss. We need to save these ears!

    Speaking of schools, which ones taught you?

    I was raised in Tampa, and I loved tinkering with electronics and toys at a young age. My father brought home a reel-to-reel recorder from Vietnam filled with Joan Baez, Beatles, Kensington Trio, numerous jazz standards like Miles Davis. I went to Vanderbilt in Nashville and got an electrical engineering degree, fully knowing that I wouldn’t ever be an electrical engineer. After I graduated from Vanderbilt, I attended Full Sail in Orlando, and earned my associates degree.

    Do you still go to concerts on your own time? Do you even have any free time running a place like this?

    I don’t go to concerts unless I have a friend to see, really. It’s horrible to go to a concert with an audio engineer because all they do is mentally re-tweak the system instead of just sitting back and enjoying it!

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  • TOWER Bridge and Homerton University Hospital in Hackney have little obvious in common. The first was opened in 1894 by the future Edward VII and is one of London’s most photographed landmarks. The second caters for one of London’s poorest, most ethnically diverse boroughs. Both sit at the heart of GE’s London 2012 legacy vision.

    GE has been an Olympic Worldwide Partner since 2005, and has used its expertise in power generation, water treatment, infrastructure, security and medical equipment to supply Games since Turin 2006. Its Evolution locomotive engines improved transport at Vancouver 2010, reducing emissions by 40 per cent. At Beijing 2008, it helped generate power for venues via the Shanghai Wind Farm.

    Mark Elborne, president and chief executive of GE UK and Ireland, says that, for a group with a portfolio as wide as GE, “the Olympics is about more than just the venues, it’s the whole infrastructure upgrade that comes with it.” GE’s involvement is certainly broad – it has provided 14,000 lamps for the Olympic Stadium, uninterruptible power supplies at the Velodrome, digital imaging equipment at the polyclinic and water monitoring systems at the Olympic Village.

    But GE wants the benefits of its commitment to continue beyond the dismantlement of the venues. “We’re trying to showcase what a sustainable Olympic venue can look like,” says Elborne. One concern is that equipment has transferrable benefits. GE’s Jenbacher gas engine technology will provide power and heating for Olympic venues, but it’s also been introduced at Guy’s and St Thomas’s NHS Foundation Trust. Jenbacher is credited with helping the Trust reduce CO2 emissions by 11,300 tonnes per year and saving it 1.5m – enough to power Newcastle for a week.

    It’s unsurprising that healthcare is an important legacy issue for GE. Its medical equipment division is headquartered in Little Chalfont in Buckinghamshire, the first GE business to be stationed outside the US. But the firm has chosen to focus its Olympic philanthropy on a less leafy part of the UK, at Homerton University Hospital in Hackney – the designated hospital for 2012 athletes.

    All this is part of a broader initiative by the company. It wants to put its equipment and infrastructure at the service of cost reduction, quality and efficiency. Its Homerton donation may be small by the standards of a typical hospital budget, but GE hopes to showcase how the expertise it is putting behind the Olympics will survive as a lasting legacy for one of London’s poorest areas.

    The threads of GE’s legacy vision come together at Tower Bridge. The attraction has had the same lighting system for 25 years – a flat affair, which served neither to attractively display its neo-Gothic battlements nor to effectively conserve power.

    In partnership with EDF Energy, GE has sponsored the installation of 1,800 LED fixtures and 2km of linear lighting, a low-carbon innovation that will see 40 per cent shaved off energy consumption.

    The bridge will be used as a stage for light shows during the Games, complementing a huge, suspended set of Olympic rings. And for the next 25 years, GE’s technology will provide cheap and sympathetic lighting.

    Some will worry that, once the lights are turned off the Olympic roadshow, all we’ll be left with is some impressive buildings and memories of a summer of sport. GE hopes that its Olympic commitment will prove these worriers wrong.

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  • Though it appeared doomed just months ago, the Army and Marine Corps’ plan to replace aging Humvees with a new off-road vehicle may have regained its footing at least for another year.

    The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program office intends to award up to three engineering, manufacturing and development contracts in the spring. Officials recently put out a draft request for proposals and were still refining requirements as of early January.

    It is a welcome sign to potential bidders, considering that lawmakers recently were poised to cut all or some of the program. They ultimately did cut some of it, but still left $154 million for this fiscal year.

    The engineering, manufacturing and development contracts will come after a technology development phase that found both the military and its industry suppliers struggling to strike a balance between protection, weight and cost.

    Teams led by Lockheed Martin Corp., BAE Systems and an AM General-General Dynamics Land Systems consortium called General Tactical Vehicles built prototypes for the technology development portion of the program. But Army officials said they were between a few hundred and 1,000 pounds too heavy.

    Compounding the weight issue was the decision to require the JLTV to provide the same level of protection against improvised explosive devices as the all-terrain variant (M-ATV) of the Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle (MRAP). Concerns were raised that contractors would have to resort to expensive, exotic materials to protect JLTV from roadside bombs, and that would make the cost of each vehicle skyrocket.

    The Army and Marine Corps seemed headed in different directions after the technology development phase. The Army appeared more concerned with protection while the Marines worried that too much armor would prevent the vehicles from being carried by helicopter.

    Marine Corps officials said that if a truck costs more than $300,000, they couldn’t afford it. And that if it weighed too much, they wouldn’t buy it.

    Army and Marine Corps officials said earlier this year that while they had gathered a lot of relevant data from the three technology development contractors, there were still significant challenges in meeting performance and weight requirements. The overall cost of the program, too, had to be addressed.

    But after lawmakers recommended cutting the program altogether, the Army and Marine Corps put their heads together in an effort to save JLTV.

    “What has been most impressive about the last few months was that the Marine Corps and Army stood shoulder to shoulder in going forward to [the defense secretary] and Congress to outline and revise this new program,” said Glenn Lamartin, vice president of JLTV capture at BAE Systems. “They squared the box by defining very aggressive goals for average unit manufacturing costs.”

    The goal now is to spend $230,000 on each vehicle, $270,000 at the most. That is down from an estimate earlier this year of about $320,000 and a sizeable reduction from the $418,000 predicted at the beginning of the technology development phase.

    Officials also have decided to shorten the anticipated length of the next phase by a year to reduce program costs. They also took a hard look at requirements, relaxing some of them and allowing the vehicles to gain back some of their weight. This has helped companies focus their designs, executives said.

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  • Rotary Club, veterans and school and community art groups have joined with Fort Bend County to honor the U.S. Armed Services, with a pavilion and mural project in a new Katy-area sports park.

    Freedom Pavilion will be a “spectacular focal point” at newly christened Freedom Park, a county baseball complex under construction off Westheimer Parkway at Barker Reservoir, said Fort Bend County Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Meyers

    Katy and Houston Skyline Rotary chapters, Katy Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9182, the Museum of Cultural Arts Houston and art students from Seven Lakes High School are collaborating on the project design, which will include mosaic murals depicting the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

    “We’re 30 days away from getting a contractor,” said Katy Rotary President Nick Schrader, on Nov. 10. His chapter is helping finance and raise money for the $80,000 memorial.

    A tentative Nov. 11 dedication was rescheduled to next spring, possibly in March, said Schrader, who is working with Rotarians David Frishman and Ken Burton on the project.

    The idea took further shape when Schrader met Museum of Cultural Arts Houston president Reginald Adams, who is also president of the Houston Skyline Rotary Club, and Meyers to tour the baseball park site.

    Originally, Schrader pitched his idea for a colorful mural wall.

    “After walking around in the 107-degree heat for 40 minutes, Reggie said it would be gorgeous to have a wall out here, but what we really need is some shade,” said Schrader.

    The design that emerged is a pentagon-shaped pavilion, with five pillars wrapped in mosaic designs honoring each of the five armed services. Chevron-shaped benches and a canvas canopy, supported by a central pillar featuring its own mosaic flag design, would give visitors a welcome place to linger and reflect, Adams said.

    The pavilion plaza will be 60 feet in diameter, with a 24-foot tall awning. Concrete, flagstone and brick pavers will complete the star-shaped design.

    A lighting specialist is developing plans for changeable colored LED lights to illuminate awnings and flags according to the season, Schrader said.

    Seven Lakes studio art students, under the direction of teacher Kim Glasgow and with guidance from the MOCAH, worked on murals for each of the armed services. VFW officials helped ensure that the designs are accurate and appropriate, Adams said.

    Students are excited about this chance to make the community more beautiful, said Glasgow. “And it is something that will be lasting, that they can go to and someday say, ‘I was a part of making this.’ ”

    Meyers said plans for a concession stand at the park have been enlarged, in recognition of the public events and ceremonies that will be held at the pavilion. The park, which is connected to a hike-and-bike trail that runs to Cinco Ranch, also includes playgrounds, wilderness areas and parking.

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  • MUTE has a curb weight of just 500 kg (1,102 pounds), including the batteries, thanks to an aluminum frame with a carbon fiber reinforced plastic chassis that’s said to generate very little aerodynamic drag. The vehicle features narrow tires to minimize rolling resistance and extend range, and has sporty single-wheel suspension for optimum power transmission between wheels and road.

    Its 10 kWh lithium-ion battery solution (with a glass fiber reinforced housing to protect the battery pack in the event of a crash) is said to give the vehicle’s electronically limited 15kW, L7E-certified electric motor enough juice for a range of at least a 100 km (62 miles) and a top speed of 120 km/h (74.5 mph). Charging is reported to take 3 to 4 hours at 230V, but MUTE also benefits from a 4 kWh zinc-air range extender located at the front of the vehicle.

    The TUM researchers also incorporated a specially-developed active torque vectoring differential drive that’s said to offer excellent driving performance in spite of the relatively small electric power system. A small electric motor in the differential functions as both a motor and generator to distribute optimum power to the two rear wheels. One benefit of MUTE’s torque vectoring technology is its ability to recover up to twice as much energy during braking compared to vehicles operating without the system.

    User interface elements like a navigation system that chooses the route based on energy-efficiency, and indicates the location of nearby charging stations, and infotainment outlets like radio are brought together into a centrally-positioned touchpad control. The vehicle can also cater for server-based mobile services such as allowing a user to check the status of charging via a smartphone.

    Other notable features of this electric city car concept include air-conditioning which heats the inside of the vehicle via a carbon neutral, ethanol-powered heater during colder months, an electronic stability program (ESP) system, crash elements made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic, and LED strip daytime running lights to complement the energy-efficient LED main lights.

    The project is also looking into the potential of semi-autonomous driving, where a driver externally controls the vehicle with the aid of onboard video streams and a wireless link.

    The MUTE team has developed a strategy for mass production, which should see the vehicle competing in the same price range as its combustion engine cousins. A prototype model was recently showcased at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt.

    We’ll be keeping a close watch on future developments, and will keep you updated on MUTE’s progress towards commercial availability.

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