Young Professionals in Oakland Create ‘Shipping Container Village’ to Beat High Rent Costs

container against a blue skyThere’s a difference between being creative and being revolutionary. A pair of young professionals in the Bay Area are straddling that line, and they could be changing the way people look at affordable housing forever.

According to the Daily Mail, San Francisco residents in their 20s and 30s are flocking to Oakland to reserve their spot in Containercopia, a shipping container village where custom containers can be rented for just $600 a month.

The village was created by San Francisco residents Luke Iseman and Heather Stewart. The pair purchased a shipping container for $2,300 from the nearby Port of Oakland, and the rest was history.

Soon after buying the container, the couple rented a half-acre of land. Eventually, their friends began to take notice of how much potential the idea had. This paved the way for Containercopia.

Along with their friends, Iseman and Stewart invested $425,000 into an empty lot to build the “containerhood,” though zoning ordinances prevented them from renting it out to others. Instead, they took the operation to an abandoned warehouse, and still use the original empty lot to grow vegetables for the village.

“It’s pretty much my dream, post-apocalyptic, cyber punk set up,” said Iseman, 32, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and works in technology.

Iseman added that the genius of the plan lies in the durability of the shipping containers, considering they were built to withstand harsh weather during long trips overseas.

“You have a watertight box that is way more structurally sound that you can possibly need. They have been stacked in hurricanes, in terms of a house they are way overkill,” he said.

Shipping containers have been a hot commodity as of late as more people begin to customize them for different projects, including portable offices and pop-up shops.

According to Digital Trends, the shipping container craze extends far beyond the U.S.

Full-blown container mansions can be seen in Brazil, Costa Rica, and Chile. The structural composition of the home in Chile enables the owners to use the natural air flow from outside, saving money on monthly heating and cooling bills.

As for Containercopia, young professionals in San Francisco find that the $600-a-month containers are more than reasonable. For the same exact price, they would be forced to sleep in a six-to-a-room apartment outfitted with bunk beds.

San Francisco’s rent prices are second to only New York City, and Iseman thinks his idea could inspire other expensive cities to follow suit.

“If we can do it in one of the highest-cost places in the world,” Iseman said, “people can do this anywhere.”

Starbucks’ Red Cups: The Christmas Controversy of 2015 That Everyone Already Wants To Forget

Coffee cup and coffee beans on old wooden backgroundIt all started with a red paper coffee cup.

Starbucks released their annual holiday cups in late October, which feature a rather plain “two-toned ombre design” and the infamous green caffeinated Medusa.

The cups didn’t really make news headlines; the company always releases a special-edition cup for the holidays and the 2015 design isn’t exactly groundbreaking.

But on Nov. 5, according to the Wall Street Journal and Forbes, the Christian Evangelical pastor Joshua Feuerstein took to Facebook to express his fury over the cups. After all, as various conservative Christians have stated, those darn red cups — clearly lacking any holiday cheer — show that Starbucks has declared a war on Christmas.

Well, Feuerstein was going to show them — those Christmas haters.

In a video which quickly went viral in a matter of days, the Arizona resident dramatically explained what his mission: he would grab a gun (since he’s legally allowed to carry one into Starbucks in Arizona), he would order a cup of that Seattle-roasted exclusive Christmas Blend Vintage 2015, and he would tell that poor barista his name was “Merry Christmas.”

Feuerstein encouraged his viewers to do the same, and to “trick” Starbucks into acknowledging Christmas again.

Granted, Starbucks cups never overtly displayed any images during the holiday season that are directly connected to any form of religion; the typical holiday cup from Starbucks would display red-and-white snowflakes, or maybe some flying snowmen.

But after the video received 13 million views, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Red Cup Fiasco spread like wildfire.

Most people used the hashtag #MerryChristmasStarbucks sarcastically and the majority of social media users expressed their distaste with the perceived “war on Christmas.” The WSJ reported that 67% of all tweets between Nov. 5 and Nov. 9 regarding Starbucks’ cups were negative; only 17% of those negative tweets were directed toward the company, however.

Of course, that didn’t stop Donald Trump from taking a stand on the issue. As Business Insider reported, Trump announced at a Springfield, Illinois rally that he was considering boycotting Starbucks.

“Did you read about Starbucks?” Trump asked at the Nov. 9 rally. “No more Merry Christmas on Starbucks. Maybe we should boycott Starbucks. I don’t know. Seriously, I don’t care.”

While the Red Cup Controversy may seem ridiculous to most consumers, there are two important lessons to take away from the incident:

First, politicians will do anything to get voter support before an election.

Second, all of the attention — even if most of it is negative — is just another form of content marketing. It’s likely to generate even more sales for Starbucks.

And third, design matters more than we realize.

“Our attention span is very short, just look at Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, text messages that use abbreviations and slang,” says Suzanne Jeska, MRN Designs. “In an instant a company needs to capture their potential customer’s attention. The Apple, Nike, Coca Cola and Ford logos (to name a few) are simple, eye catching, and identifiable. Any news that helps grab your attention to identify with a particular brand, can be good news. Starbucks, maybe unknowingly, sparked a controversy that resonates with a lot of us. We sometimes get tired of companies being too politically correct, yet Starbucks has received a lot of free advertising amid the controversy. Let the media digitally market your product and company for free.”

Study Finds Another Treatment for Sleep Apnea

Managment of sleeping apnea, man with CPAP machineA new study has found that patients who still suffer the effects of sleep apnea because they cannot wear a breathing mask all night may have other options. The research review states that using a jaw support could be just as effective as the masks.

Millions of people around the world rely on breathing masks to keep their airways open throughout the night and ease the effects of the sleep disorder. Sleep apnea is an incredibly common condition in which a patient suffers from breathing issues as they sleep. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines are often used to hold the airway open with air so that it cannot close while the patient sleeps.

CPAP is very effective and completely safe to use, which is why it is usually a doctor’s first choice in treatments. However, many patients simply cannot deal with wearing a mask over their face for the entire night. Mandibular advancement devices (MAD) are a newer treatment that pushes the lower jaw bone out and makes the airway less likely to collapse.

A recent study looked at just how effective this treatment was, using data from 67 other studies with 6,900 patients. They found that while CPAP led to less daytime sleepiness than MAD, both were effective enough that a doctor could leave the choice to patient preference.

“Most doctors still consider CPAP as first-line treatment for patients with obstructive sleep apnea,” said senior study author Dr. Malcolm Kohler, who is the chair of respiratory medicine at the University Hospital of Zurich in Switzerland. “If a patient cannot really use CPAP adequately e.g. only two to three hours per night, but does fine with a MAD which he can tolerate for seven hours a night, then he should be treated with a MAD.”

The researchers judged the previous studies by analyzing the treatments based upon a standard point scale called the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS). A higher ESS score means greater sleepiness during the day, and that score was calculated by a survey of questions.

Americans in general are sleep-deprived, said Shilpa Kauta, M.D., director of a Sleep Disorders Center. Though we are more aware of the consequences of not sleeping well, many sleep disorders go undetected.

The National Institutes of Health report that up to 70 million Americans have a sleep disorder of some kind, with sleep apnea being one of the most common. Leaving this untreated often leads to other health issues, including high blood pressure, diabetes and risk for stroke and heart failure, to name a few.

Digital Advertising Agency Says It Knows What You Think About Abortion, Gun Control

announcementIt’s not 1984, it’s just 2016.

This month, one of the world’s largest digital advertising firms boasted that it had access to the data, personal beliefs, and political opinions of 166 million Americans. Advertising agency Xaxis is preparing to use that information to target U.S. voters with “laser-like” accuracy during the 2016 presidential election.

“We’re opening up an entirely new level of sophistication for political marketers,” Xaxis CEO Brian Gleason said in a statement. “Voter data is the lifeblood of political advertising.”

In previous presidential and midterm elections, candidates mostly spent the “crumbs of their advertising budgets” on digital advertising, like pay per click marketing and streaming video ads. But the 2016 election is projected to break records, with more than $1 billion spent on digital political advertising. That’s up from just $158 billion in 2012. Digital advertising offers major advantages for candidates; now, campaigns can put out ads capitalizing on their rival’s latest gaffe in minutes.

Xaxis Politics utilizes voter information from HaystaqDNA, a predictive analytics startup whose former clients include CBS, the NFL, the New York Police Department, and even President Barack Obama himself.

By leveraging offline voter data with online data, Xaxis believes it can provide candidates with the most hyper-targeted political advertising in history. With data on 166 million likely U.S. voters, nearly one-in-two Americans could be impacted. HaystaqDNA even claims to know what voters think about hot-button issues like abortion and gun control, although the firms insist that data is anonymous.

The level of insight marketers have on consumers online might seem like an invasion of privacy, but even door-to-door marketers can pull up vast amounts of personal information on homeowners at the click of a button.

“Now it is easy for online campaigns to target the right voters,” Haystaq CEO Ken Strasma said. “Political marketers have come to expect the accuracy of individual-level targeting models for direct mail, phones and door-to-door canvasing.”

As the 2016 election cycle kicks into high gear, voters can expect those wall-to-wall political advertisements to be more visible than ever.

Priceline May Partner With TripAdvisor

Palm tree on the tropical beachDarren Huston, Priceline Group CEO, has announced that his company will begin testing a partnership with TripAdvisor this week for the Instant Booking platform on Booking.com.

The partnership between TripAdvisor and Priceline was announced last month, and Huston says consumers will now start to see a “small sample” of inventory on Instant Booking.

“As with all of our channels, we’ll experiment and optimize with our partners at TripAdvisor and expect to achieve healthy ROIs while being given the opportunity to bring new customers into our fold for the long term,” Huston said.

Huston also added that Priceline is “willing to work with other media owners who adopt similar principles that allow both the media owner and the advertiser an opportunity to promote differentiation in their branded offerings and to grow their business.”

It’s yet to be determined whether Priceline has made the right move in their partnership with travel giant TripAdvisor.

Huston did also acknowledge that the company is aware of the questionable choice they’ve made in partnering with a competitor.

“Obviously, it’s a very tricky area, and what we would never want to do is be a dumb pipe to somebody else’s brand, and we would never want to give our content away to somebody to book other people’s bookings; and you’ll see that we’ve done neither of those,” he said.

Huston also compared Priceline, which has over 1.8 million available rooms, with to other services in the daily and weekly vacation rentals market, such as Airbnb and HomeAway.

The difference between the companies, he says, is that HomeAway focuses more on vacation homes, whereas Priceline is more focused on city apartments and European vacation rentals. These two different services cater to different types of consumers searching the daily and weekly vacation rentals available.

Huston said that vacation rentals are “a really critical market for us in the future,” but did add, “I like the cards we have,” meaning they will be placing an emphasis on unique rental options within the United States.

Booking.com boasts more than 21 million available rooms, the majority of which are traditional hotels rooms (14.4 million). Only 1.8 million of those rooms are vacation rentals. The other rooms are various other unique accommodation options.

Priceline has done incredibly well in stocks recently, with a 12.6% increase in net income during the third-quarter, which totaled $1.2 billion. Vetr analysts say TripAdvisor has also been upgraded in the stocks from a “strong sell” rating to a “buy” rating. They now trade at $85.26 per share.

Forget the Hype About Smart Homes, Smart Buildings Are the Real Game Changer

thermostat adjustAlthough disruption is usually a word reserved for the latest Silicon Valley startups that let people crowdsource pizza delivery, the global HVAC market is going through a seismic shakeup. And though it might not be as sexy as the latest smartphone-enabled startup, it’s a disruption that has wide-reaching consequences for energy use.

That’s because buildings are the single largest energy end use on the planet, consuming at least 50% of all global electricity. And in those buildings, nearly 40% of that energy use goes to the heating, cooling, and ventilation systems. Now, to meet a growing demand for more energy efficient HVAC systems (either by choice or by law), a number of new companies are racing to offer smarter HVAC systems for building owners. For instance, imagine a hotel room that could sense when guests entered or left and adjust temperature controls accordingly, thus preventing wasteful energy use.

A new market research report from Lux Research Inc. looks at these emerging trends in a report titled, “Identifying Disruption in Advanced HVAC Technologies for Commercial Buildings.”

HVAC contractors regularly perform commercial and home energy audits, looking for leaky air ducts, poor insulation, or ancient air conditioners that waste electricity. For those uninterested in green living or reducing emissions, energy efficient HVAC systems still provide a pwerful — and universal — incentive. They save money.

The Lux Research report concludes that “ongoing trends such as smart homes, green technologies, and energy-efficient systems are anticipated to present several opportunities for growth over the next seven years.”

And looking ahead, smart homes could take a backseat to smart buildings in 2016. New HVAC technology from building equipment control companies could help massive commercial buildings reduce their energy use by an order of magnitude. And as developing nations in Asia begin to increase their energy usage, more efficient HVAC systems could play a massive role in offsetting increased energy consumption.

Nine Out of Ten Websites Are Distributing Users’ Data to Third Parties

Internet ComputerFacebook, Buzzfeed, and the Huffington Post are just a few of the great websites on the Internet, but what would you think of them if they were sharing your data? According to a new study published in the International Journal of Communication, nine out of 10 websites are sending users’ data to third-party sources, usually without their permission or even knowledge.

Tim Libert, a University of Pennsylvania privacy researcher, conducted the study using an open source software of his own devising called webXray, which he’s also used to analyze trackers installed on health and pornography websites. He found that not only were the overwhelming majority of sites siphoning data, but that they were also sharing it everywhere.
“Sites that leak user data contact an average of nine external domains, indicating that users may be tracked by multiple entities in tandem,” he wrote.

In layman’s terms, it means that when you visit a site — like Netflix or Twitter, perhaps — it’ll likely forward your user data to nine other websites. On the bright side, these sites may be as harmless as Google, Facebook, and WordPress.
What’s more, he also found that “more than 6 in 10 websites spawn third-party cookies; and more than 8 in 10 websites load Javascript code from external parties onto users’ computers.”

“There is one web [that] users sees in their browsers, but there is a much larger hidden web that is looking back at them,” he told Motherboard. “I always find it funny when old TV shows will have a gag where somebody on the screen can ‘see’ into your living room — it’s obviously silly with old technology, but that’s really how the web works! For every two eyes looking at a screen there are probably ten or more looking back at them.”

For the average webizen, this means that there’s a 90% chance hidden third parties will obtain information about their browsing.

“Our research shows that most internet users recognize and somewhat begrudgingly accept the fact that their personal data is being collected and used by the sites they visit,” says John Diaz, Vice President of Business Development and Operations, On Top Visibility. “While that may have a chilling “big brother is watching” feeling associated with it, most also believe that the net effect is benign and in some cases may even benefit them by making their online experience more personalized. Right or wrong the fact is that society is being desensitized when it comes to online privacy.”

So how then is a person supposed to be able to browse the Internet anonymously? According to Libert, their best bet is Tor. According to its website, Tor is “free software and an open network that helps you defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security.”

Even then, the user would also have to take other necessary precautions as well.

“Tor is pretty much your best bet,” Libert told Motherboard, “with the provision you don’t log into any accounts (e.g. Facebook, Gmail, etc.) as then you have identified yourself and may be subject to tracking.”

People Are Being Scammed Just by Trying to Put a Roof Over Their Head

Green asphalt shingleIt’s easy to underestimate the importance of having a reliable, good quality roof over one’s head. Unfortunately, even those who are lucky enough to have one could face unforeseen circumstances that leave them in even tighter spots.

For instance, take James Englemann, a Lascassas, TN, resident who believes we was on the receiving end of a roofing scam, according to WSMV News in Nashville.

After calling Tennessee Affordable Roofing and setting up a time for them to come work on his roof, Englemann gave them a deposit of more than $5,000 paid out by his insurance company, State Farm. However, weeks and months went by without hearing a word from the roofing company.

State Farm found that Tennessee Affordable Roofing not only had a legitimate business license, but they were even on the preferred contractors list.

After waiting since August for his new roof, Englemann finally received a voicemail from Scott Dismang, the appraiser for Tennessee Affordable Roofing, saying that the roof will indeed be replaced. Again, there was no word for weeks.

In an attempt to determine whether or not this entire thing was a scam, WSMV Channel 4 News decided to step in to help Englemann.

Dismang was their main target considering that he was the only person to speak with Englemann, as well having endorsed the back of the check written to the company for over $6,300.

The NBC News affiliate’s first attempt at calling the company from their listed phone number was redirected straight to a recording, saying that the number had been temporarily disconnected. However, when they called Dismang’s cell phone, they finally got some luck.

Initially, Dismang was being cooperative and stated that the roof would be installed the next week. But when he discovered that the person he was speaking to was a reporter, he immediately hung up, leaving Englemann dead in the water.

“I don’t think they were out to make an honest dollar,” Englemann said. “I think their business was in trouble and they were trying to cover themselves.”

After no success contacting the company, Englemann filed a complaint with the metro police, stating that he wants other homeowners to be aware of this possibility. And that could be especially crucial as the winter season approaches.

“Before hiring a storm restoration company, it is very important to check with your local Better Business Bureau or your local building department first,” says Peter Kiwior, Owner, Pro-Home Services. “That way, you can see if there are any complaints against the contractor you’re about to hire. Customers should also make sure that everything is in writing before they give someone a deposit check; there are many “restoration companies” that are experts in scamming people, so to be safe, ask your neighbors or relatives for a referral or call your local BBB.”

Englemann is not the only person who has been a victim of a roofing scam as of late. CBS Denver reported on a local woman who was scammed by Hybrid Remodeling Concepts. Mary Navarro knew that her house needed a new roof before winter hit, so she gave Hybrid Remodeling Concepts a $15,000 insurance check for hail damage.

Navarro says that the company never set foot on her property. After a previously separate news report was published, Apolonio Saradia, owner of Apollo roofing, was touched by her story and donated materials and labor to complete her roof.

Besides simply enjoying helping people, Saradia thought this was a necessary step in his industry, by showing roofing and siding contractors under some positive light.

“People do bad things and then customers, in general, think we are all bad,” said Saradia.

Otherwise, he and his company expect nothing in return.

Chicago Is a Dangerous City for Drivers — Black Drivers, That Is

Police carPolice brutality directed at black Americans has become the center of many discussions over the past year, and a new report from The New York Times shows that this racial discrimination extends far beyond what many non-black Americans would imagine.

Something as simple as driving a car, the report found, tends to be more dangerous in certain cities if — and only if — the driver is black.

Although many will argue that Chicago is one of the most diverse and welcoming cities in the country today, the NYT found that it’s the worst city for black drivers who don’t want to be pulled over by police officers and searched.

For black drivers in the city of Chicago, the chance of being pulled over by officers and searched is five times greater than what white drivers encounter; this probability is higher than any other city in Illinois.

The NYT data only looked at four states (Illinois, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Connecticut) and the report admitted that it was a fairly small set of data. However, these states are the only four states in the entire country that collect comprehensive data traffic search incidents.

The Chicago Reporter aptly pulled a quote from Chicago-native President Obama — just one of his many quotes on the subject — to emphasize the point:

“There were times when I was younger, and maybe even as I got a little older, but before I had a motorcade, where I got pulled over. Most of the time I got a ticket, I deserved it. I knew why I was pulled over. But there were times where I didn’t. The data shows that this is not an aberration.”

In many cases, it hasn’t been easy for black Americans to prove, rather than accuse or theorize, that racism still exists; even more difficult is proving that it exists with regards to traffic safety.

Prior to the Black Lives Matter movement, the closest data that could be found on the issue was from 2013, when the Journal of Adolescent Health found that white 21-year-olds are more likely to drive drunk, compared to their Asian, Black, and Hispanic counterparts.

Based on this information, one would assume that young, white, male drivers should be pulled over by police officers more often than any other demographic. One would assume that states would devote more funding to the factors that really cause car crashes: moving the stop signs that are hidden by foliage, perhaps, or improving poor road conditions, since this is the primary cause of 30% of all crashes.

And yet, as the NYT report shows, racial profiling is the cause — and the result — of so many traffic searches. If police officers are pulling over and searching black drivers more often than white or Hispanic drivers, then it’s not hard to see why there are more incidents of black Americans racking up traffic violations, getting caught with (and often jailed for) marijuana, or being accused of resisting an officer on duty.

Although this recent set of data shows how problematic racial profiling is on Chicago’s streets, it’s most certainly an issue that can also be found in cities across the country.

INTech Day Camps Aim to Bring Diversity to Technology Industry

Male Elementary Pupil In Computer ClassOver the last two months, Ambassadors for Teach for America and Mellichamp Elementary School in Orangeburg, SC, have hosted INTech technology day camps for middle school girls in three cities.

INTech was founded by Khalia Braswell and is meant to inspire girls to join the technology industry.

The mission statement for the camps reads, “The mission of the INTech Camp is to INFORM and INSPIRE girls to INNOVATE in the technology field. Though women make up only 26% of this space, they have made immeasurable contributions to the industry. It is our goal to expose young girls to the field at an impressionable age to increase this percentage.”

Braswell worked as an Apple intern, and during her time at the company, she noticed that there were not many women in her industry. Since making this discovery, she has dedicated herself to finding ways to diversify the industry. Still in school to finish a Computer Science degree at North Carolina, she works as a freelance web designer in addition to the INTech program.

“I wanted to expose more girls at an early age to technology,” Braswell said of the INTech camp. “I wanted to show the camp scholars that they can combine technology with whatever they are passionate about to create a career.”

At the camp, the young girls were introduced to coding, web design, and HTML development, along with hearing from a panel of female scholars from the industry. The panelists were employees of Red Ventures in Charlotte, NC.

“For me, when I was the girls’ age, I didn’t see many women in tech and I didn’t think it was an option as a career,” said Shekinah Smith, a panelist and junior front-end web developer.

Smith added that she wanted to show the middle school girls that being in the industry and being female is a reality, and they can make it happen. The principal of Mellichamp Elementary School, Hayward Jean, also said that the goals of the camp aligned well with what his school tried to teach its students.

“The Mellichamp vision is to cause all students to develop an entrepreneurial mind-set about their education. INTech instills an entrepreneurial spirit inside of each young lady,” Jean said.

He continued, “The experience today is electrifying and empowering for our students and has inspired me to go deeper in giving all my students access to opportunities that will broaden their educational experiences.”

“The technology industry is in great need of more diversity,” says Ola Danilina, CEO/Founder, PMBC Group. “There are many other organizations who are encouraging females to jump into engineering. One of our clients, USC Viterbi School of Engineering, is leading the way. In efforts to drive more females and minorities into engineering, USC led a global crowdsourcing competition, “The Next MacGvyer,” aimed at developing the first great TV show with a female engineer lead. We sourced the Dean and faculty for expert commentary on top engineering and women in tech stories to gain placements in the top national press such as FOX News, Popular Science, Washington Post, Huffington Post, CBS Los Angeles, ABC Action News, BBC and more.”

This year’s camps focused on both women and minorities and were held in the Kingstree, Walterboro, and Orangeburg areas of South Carolina. The camps were attended by many Teach for America Ambassadors in order to show support for the program.

“The tech camps were organized in partnership with Teach For America South Carolina and INTech around six months ago, with the goal of bringing new opportunities in STEM and computer science to rural communities throughout South Carolina,” Teach for America alumna Jaishri Shankar said.

Alexis Gaetano is an eighth grader at Sedgefield Middle School. She said she would like to develop apps in the future and explained that the camp showed her why the technology industry needs women. She added, “I think it will help to have more points of view in the technology industry.”

Raven Smith is a fifth grader at Mellichamp and added, “Girls can do what boys can do and that I can go to a place with a whole bunch of males and work with them.” She plans to become a game and website developer.

Next year, the INTech camps will expand into Georgia and Virginia, bringing the experience to even more students.