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The PSYCHOLOGY of business profiling

Nils Lofgren

EXCLUSIVE Interview with Famed Drummer Hal Blaine




Shining Silently, Yet Ever So Brightly


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product reviews events coverage exclusive interviews



on the cover



Shining Silently, Yet Ever So Brightly

Guitar genius and longtime E Street Band member Nils Lofgren shares his extraordinary life experiences and much more—from working with such legends as Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr and Neil Young, to his successful solo career.

table of contents Letter from the Editor


Inside The EV Project


An in-depth look at the largest-ever deployment of electric vehicles and charge infrastructure.


An Interview with Hal Blaine


We caught up with famed session drummer Hal Blaine, who “may well be the most prolific drummer in rock and roll history,” according to his biography in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Drums A-Go-Go


Hal Blaine’s nephew, drummer Michael Kravitz, achieves a different kind of success.

The Cussler Collaboration


Best-selling adventure author Clive Cussler shares some thoughts about his longtime friendship and collaboration with Nils Lofgren.

Going, Going, Gonzo!


A look at renowned gonzo artist Ralph Steadman’s relationship with Nils Lofgren.

Cracking the Mosquito Genome


Michael Riehle, Ph.D., gives us an insight into his groundbreaking research involving malaria-resistant supermosquitoes.

Hoover Dam: A Historical Perspective


The wonders of Hoover Dam and its technology remain with us in the 21st century.



Collaborative Efforts Yield Innovation

Entrepreneur Derek Neighbors shares his vision for nurturing future business leaders.

Tek Corner


Fuse’s PowerSlice Universal Charging Station Palo Alto Audio Design’s Cubik Speaker System The Wireless Media Stick from HSTi


The PASSPORT iQ Radar Detector with 3-D GPS

The Psychology of Business Profiling


Using technology, companies can accurately assess the innate skills of potential hires and existing employees.

Welcome To Living Room Culture


Self-described idea shaman Igor Brezhnev discusses how he is using the Internet to get people off their computers and into each other’s living rooms.


from the editor


my teklife EDITOR-IN-CHIEF


Warren Mason WRITERS

Mary L. Holden Jean-Marie Stevens Jonathan Mason Lisa Wilhelm


Music is everywhere in this issue. And what treats we have in store for you! Conceived in 1931, the electric guitar has long served as a significant staple in the history of rock and roll, as well as countless other music genres. Behind every technology, there are acknowledged masters. In the world of guitarists, Nils Lofgren stands at the very pinnacle. Indeed, Lofgren’s friend Bruce Springsteen once referred to Lofgren, his longtime E Street Band guitarist, as “the most overqualified second guitarist in show business.” Inside this issue we have an intimate, in-depth profile of Lofgren by Features Editor Warren Mason. Lofgren shares his extraordinary life experiences and much more—from working with such legends as Springsteen, Ringo Starr and Neil Young, to his successful solo career. Lofgren’s music achievements can be glimpsed throughout his home and garage studio, from his E Street Band VMA award to the many amazing photos of him working alongside other music icons. There are dozens of guitars, as well, each of them offering up great personal stories, many of which Lofgren happily shared with us. The Lofgrens have a large, much-loved family of cats and dogs that are among the friendliest pets I have come across—and they’re photogenic, too. But don’t just take my word for it. Take a look at this picture, and you’ll see what I mean. We e-mailed Nils the picture (which he loves) and told him that we had found our perfect cover shot! During our visit to their home in Scottsdale, Nils and his lovely wife, Amy, were very gracious hosts. I extend my sincere appreciation and thanks to them for allowing us to take up so much of their time. Following along with this month’s music theme, we have a feature and interview with famed session drummer Hal Blaine, who “may well be the most prolific drummer in rock and roll history,” according to his biography in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If you have yet to subscribe to MyTekLife Magazine, I invite you to do so today and start experiencing a wide range of engaging, informative articles about the people behind the technology that fills our world.



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WINTER 2011 - VOLUME 2, ISSUE 2 MyTekLife Magazine is published four times a year. For more information, visit MyTekLife Magazine website at www.myteklife. com. The MyTekLife logo and slogan are registered trademarks, which are part of MyTekLife Intellectual Property and are protected by applicable copyright, trademark and proprietary rights. Any use or duplication is prohibited without expressed written permission. Other third-party trademarks and trade names mentioned herein may be the property of their respective owners. Contact the editor via or via MyTekLife Magazine website at

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Inside The EV Project by jonathan mason


Fittingly, ECOtality North America, the epicenter of the largest electric vehicle (EV) experiment in history, sits adjacent to the sprawling electrical power lines that feed power to all of downtown Phoenix. A subsidiary of San Francisco-based ECOtality, ECOtality North America (formerly eTec) is the home of The EV Project, the high-profile Department of Energy (DOE) initiative that is synonymous with President Obama’s 2010 stimulus package.

GREEN INNOVATION When discussing the Recovery Act in his 2010 State of the Union address, President Obama singled out ECOtality North America: “Economists on the left and the right say that this bill has helped save jobs and avert disaster. But you don’t have to take their word for it. Talk to the small business in Phoenix that will triple its work force because of the Recovery Act.” In a little more than a year and as a direct result of its leadership role in The EV Project, ECOtality North America has grown from having fewer than 20 employees to well more than 100. The firm’s ever-expanding, inconspicuous red brick building is bulging at the seams. ECOtality North America has a long history in electric transportation. Dating back to 1989, it has been intricately involved in the research, development and testing of advanced transportation and energy systems, including every EV initiative in North America since the 1990s. It is estimated that this latest initiative, The EV Project, will add an additional 1,200 jobs nationwide by 2012 and 5,500 jobs by 2017, ranging across a variety of sectors and industries. The largest-ever deployment of electric vehicles and charge infrastructure, launched on Oct. 1, 2009, and is scheduled to last approximately 36 months.

ECOtality’s BLINK network charging stations.

ECOtality North America was initially chosen to oversee the project in August 2009. A DOE grant of $99.8 million provided initial funding. Subsequently, the DOE granted the project an additional $15 million. Additional private and public-sector investments have since brought the total project cost to approximately $230 million. The EV Project is tasked with establishing and studying a comprehensive network of EV charging stations. That EV infrastructure includes the eventual installation of 12

m y t e k l i f e winter 2011

15,085 such charging systems in 16 strategic markets in six

states—Arizona, California, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington—as well as the District of Columbia. While many automakers worldwide are rushing to get a piece of the incentivized EV market, to date, the leading plug-in cars on the market are the zeroemission Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt. Initially, The EV Project will support the introduction of 5,700 Nissan Leafs and 2,600 Chevy Volts. With federal tax credits, consumers will pay approximately $25,000 for a Leaf and $33,000

for a Volt. Vice President Joe Biden has touted the Recovery Act’s quick results with regard to EVs. “Already, electric vehicles are becoming more affordable and accessible. In 2009, the only available electric-drive vehicle cost more than $100,000.” By 2012, and with the U.S government firmly behind the initiative, every major automaker is expected to offer some sort of electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle. Mike Tinskey, Ford’s plug-in hybrid and EV manager, said Ford plans to introduce a portfolio of electric

and plug-in hybrid cars—including the Ford Focus EV—in the next three years, with the lofty goal of having 25 percent of its fleet available as hybrid or electric cars in the next decade. “In addition to virtually all established vehicle makers in the U.S., Europe and Asia, there will be many new companies introducing all-electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles,” said Jim Vogt, who has responsibility for global original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) at ECOtality. “These new OEMs include Fisker, Think, Coda, Wheego and many others,”Vogt added. To date, The EV Project has lined up an impressive group of 40 diverse partners, including Nissan, Chevrolet, Cracker Barrel, BP, Best Buy, Qualcomm and Eaton Corp. ECOtality North America President Donald Karner, who was the guest of first lady Michelle Obama at the 2010 State

long-term objectives of The EV Project. “The EV Project is about infrastructure development and evaluation, with a real emphasis on evaluation. We’re working closely with our partners, the utilities and listening to local municipalities. We’re deploying infrastructure in several cities and states to learn how to best deploy infrastructure in the next 500 cities.” Britta Gross, head of Chevrolet’s infrastructure commercialization for the Volt, agreed with Karner’s assessment. “We’ve got to get this technology right. It’s a first-generation technology—never been done before,” she noted. “We want to understand infrastructure, where the grid is going, what’s the smart grid and where it’s evolving—so that we can evolve the vehicle as well,” Gross added. After repeated false starts, the stars seem aligned for EVs, yet the question remains, will The EV Project really pave the way for the

“We’ve got to get this technology right. It’s a first-generation technology—never been done before.”

The Chevrolet Volt (chassis, battery-pack shown here) has a driving range of up to 379 miles, based on EPA estimates. For the first 35 miles, it can drive emissions-free using a full charge of electricity stored in its 16-kilowatt lithium-ion battery.

of the Union address, clearly has his eyes on the big picture “After the initial infrastructure is installed, that’s when our work with our EV Project partners really kicks in, collecting data and analyzing that data. The goal is to use that data to develop a sustainable, viable business model for future charger deployment,” he said. According to The EV Project website, “The EV Project will be collecting and analyzing data to characterize vehicle use in diverse topographic and climatic conditions, while evaluating the effectiveness of charge infrastructure, and conducting trials of various revenue systems for commercial and public charge infrastructure.” Karner, a nuclear engineer, says “evaluating” is the key word when discussing the

successful long-term rollout of electric transportation across America? Karner addressed that issue in a recent article in The Arizona Republic. “I was confident in 1989 it would be just a few years and there would be lots of electric vehicles out there,” he said. “I believe this time it is much more of a market pull. You’ve got climate-change concerns, energy independence and straight economics with the cost of gasoline continually being on the rise.” For more information on The EV Project, vistit myteklife

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hall of fame


hal blaine


“Hal Blaine may well be the most prolific drummer in rock and roll history.” - Rock and Roll Hall of Fame What do the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, Sonny and Cher, the Byrds, Simon and

Blaine worked with iconic

The list of artists Blaine played with

Garfunkel and the Supremes all have in

is staggering, a who’s who of the music

common? The same drummer played on

scene of the ’60s and ’70s: Tommy

many of their hits!

Sands, Elvis Presley, Peter and Gordon,

Hal Blaine and the session guys he

the Ronettes, Barry McGuire, Petula

dubbed “The Wrecking Crew” played on

Clark, the Mamas and the Papas, Jan

so many records we know and love. To

and Dean, Frank and Nancy Sinatra,

this day, though, most people are unaware

Simon and Garfunkel, Connie Francis,

that they did so.

Sam Cooke, Dean Martin, Roy Orbison,

In the late ’60s and ’70s, Blaine was

Johnny Rivers, John Lennon, Sonny and

country star Glen Campbell

the top studio drummer in the world,

Cher, Neil Diamond, Glen Campbell, John

(left) on several projects during

playing on more than 5,000 songs and

Denver, the Grass Roots, Paul Revere and

his career, including the Steve

150 Top 10 singles—41 of which went

the Raiders, Tommy Roe, Andy Williams,

McQueen movie Baby, the Rain

to No. 1. Eight of those No. 1 hits won

Steely Dan, the Captain and Tennille,

Must Fall in 1962.

Grammy Awards for Record of the Year.

America, the Monkees, the 5th

Blaine holds a little-known Grammy

Dimension, the Everly Brothers, Herb

record for playing on seven consecutive

Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Gary

Grammy Records of the Year.

Puckett, Barbara Streisand—and on and

Listen to any ’60s station for an hour and the odds are Hal Blaine played on


were all Hal Blaine.”

m y t e k l i f e winter 2011

on and on. All of the top producers, including the

at least three quarters of the songs you

Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, Lou Adler, Phil

just heard. Bruce Gary, drummer for The

Spector and Herb Alpert, would call on

Knack, said jokingly, “One of my biggest

Blaine and only Blaine when they were

disappointments in life was finding out

recording. If Hal wasn’t available, they

that a dozen of my favorite drummers

waited for him.




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Drums A-Go-Go

In the last 45 years, Kravitz has never looked back, achieving varying degrees of commercial music success. But to measure Kravitz’s success purely on a commercial level would be a mistake. For the last 17 years, Kravitz and his music have touched the lives of so many in the Phoenix area, on a daily basis, and on a far more personal level. Kravitz grew up in San Bernardino, Calif., about

house Kravitz stayed at so often and remembers so fondly was owned by Lee J. Cobb before Blaine bought it. Gary Oldman later owned it, and it’s now Ben Stiller’s home. “I’d walk down to the bottom of the street and hitchhike into L.A.,” Kravitz said.“Steve McQueen, who lived near Hal, would blow right by me in his brown Ferrari Spyder, never slowing down. I had a better chance of being hit by him than getting a ride,” he laughed. In 2007, McQueen’s brown 1963 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso was sold at Christie’s Monterey Auction for a record $2.31 million. While Blaine continued to do sporadic session work during the ’70s and ’80s, Kravitz was heavily involved as a pit drummer for musicals such as Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar. He would back bands like the Coasters and the Drifters when they came to L.A. and needed a drummer. During this time, he tried his hand in the jewelry and restaurant businesses before becoming fed up

60 miles away from the Hollywood hills where his famous uncle lived. It was Kravitz’s mother, Marcia, who set aside $1.00 a week to buy her baby brother Hal his first set of drums back in the 1930s. In 1965, Blaine returned the favor, buying his nephew his first set of drums, red sparkle Ludwigs, which Kravitz has since passed on to his cousin. In junior high school, Kravitz was assigned to play trombone in the band, but he had other ideas. “My Uncle Hal tells a joke about trombone players: ‘What do you call a trombonist with a beeper? An optimist!’ I wasn’t going to get caught in that trap,” Kravitz said. In 1967, when he was just 16, Kravitz and his San Bernardino High School buddies formed a band called the Good Feelins. Soon after, they were signed by Liberty Records, whose stable of artists included Johnny Rivers, Jackie DeShannon and Jan and Dean.That same year, the Good Feelins released a single titled I’m Captured, which was featured on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand.The song rose to No. 2 on the California charts and briefly broke the Billboard Top 100. Kravitz and the Good Feelins would never sniff the charts again, making them a near-one-hit-wonder. Unfortunately for both Blaine and Kravitz, it was around that time that the music scene was shifting from pop to psychedelic and other types of music. As a result, the Good Feelins faded from the scene and Kravitz focused on solo work. “Hal went on the road with John Denver, and I went on the road playing Holiday Inns,” Kravitz joked. In 1975, Kravitz moved into Blaine’s Hollywood home. The

with the L.A. scene and moving to Phoenix in 1993. And that was when Kravitz’s life took a dramatic and unexpected turn. St. Patrick Catholic Community in Scottsdale, Ariz., was looking for a way to “pump up” the teen mass. The organization reached out to Kravitz, whose Jewish heritage would seem to have made him an unlikely candidate. “That’s the way the drumstick fell,” said Kravitz. “Everyone loves the music, which transcends any church or synagogue. I get so much joy from sharing with these wonderful people.” Kravitz has been at St. Patrick’s for more than 15 years and just celebrated his 3,000th mass. “It’s been a life-changing experience. Sister Barbara [Higgins] keeps threatening to get me wet,” Kravitz quipped about being baptized. Kravitz has continued to regularly play the club scene in the Phoenix area and gives drum lessons when time permits. His most recent musical project focuses on paying tribute to his uncle’s music, the music of Blaine and his Wrecking Crew mates. “People have no idea how much Hal and the Wrecking Crew influenced the music of the ’60s.” With Blaine’s blessing, Kravitz has formed a band called Demolition: A Tribute to the Wrecking Crew. The band will cover much of the great music from the ’60s and ’70s. While Kravitz has high hopes for his new band, it’s the personal growth, the personal success that most inspires him. As for Blaine, he is very proud of his nephew. “Mike has used his music to touch so many lives. He’s a great drummer and, more importantly, an incredible person.” —WARREN MASON

Mike Kravitz remembers it vividly. It was August 1964, and he was a 13-year-old kid swimming in his Uncle Hal Blaine’s pool, high in the Hollywood hills. “I remember coming up from underwater and hearing this incredible roar, this shrieking. I ran across the street into Jack Lalanne’s backyard and peered over the fence. Directly below was the Hollywood Bowl, and the crowd was going nuts over some new band called The Beatles. I was amazed,” Kravitz recalled. Listening to stories like this, it’s easy to see why Kravitz decided to follow in his legendary uncle’s footsteps as a drummer.


m y t e k l i f e winter 2011

hall of fame MyTekLife: How did the name “the Wrecking Crew” come about? Blaine: I coined the phrase. I believe it was after a Disney session. All the guys in the suits would say, “Oh no, these kids in their blue jeans and T-shirts are going to wreck the business.” That’s how it came about. We became the Wrecking Crew. It got so that producers would call my secretary and say, “We need that Wrecking Crew for so and so,” and she’d just book the dates. I mean, we were booked three months, four months in advance. MyTekLife: Tell me about your relationship with Dean Martin. You played on most of his major hits, including Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime. Blaine: Dean was the nicest guy. He was never the same after his son Dino died in a plane crash right Blaine with master session musician and renowned jazz and bebop

near here. I have a cassette of an interview he did

guitarist Tommy Tedesco.

after recording one of his albums. He talks about the band, using me on the drums and says, “If Hal plays

Much of Blaine’s work as a session player was with the odd,

the drums any harder, we’re going to give him the

legendary Spector and his famous “Wall of Sound,” including the

golden truss award.” There was nothing like a Dean

Ronettes’ 1963 hit “Be My Baby.” Explained legendary E Street

Martin or Frank Sinatra session. They rolled in a bar

Band drummer Max Weinberg, “If Hal Blaine had played drums only

for Dean’s sessions and he let all the studio people,

on the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” his name would still be uttered

the secretaries, everybody sit in. It was a real event, a

with reverence and respect for the power of his big beat.”

giant party, and Dean played to the audience. I

Rolling Stone magazine listed the song at No. 22 on the 500

remember recording Houston with Dean, and I

Greatest Songs of All Time.

suggested we use ashtrays to simulate the sound of

In March 2000, Hal Blaine was one of the first five sidemen inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. MyTekLife recently interviewed Blaine at his home in Palm

an anvil. Producers respected me and gave me carte blanche. Listen to Houston and you’ll hear me playing the ashtrays, which I did on the Beach Boys

Desert, Calif.

Barbara Ann as well. It was just a matter of

MyTekLife: When did you start playing the drums?

percussion sounds, coming up with different sounds.

Blaine: My dad used to take me to work at the State Theater in

I played my snow tire chains on [Simon and

Hartford, Connecticut, and I would watch every band, every singer,

Garfunkel’s] “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

every dance act—absolutely everything. Being a show-off, I got

MyTekLife: Tell us about Frank Sinatra.

hooked on drums. You know, drummers get all the toys to play and

Blaine: Frank was amazing. Frank Sinatra, Dean

hit. That’s how it works. My older sister Marcia bought me my first

Martin and those kind of people sang live. With the

little set of drums. I was about 11 or 12. We lived on the second

Beach Boys, we did live instrumental tracks, but they

floor and I used to set them up on the front porch. After school,

would go in and do their voices later. With Frank,

with the kids coming home from school, I’d be up there banging

we’d come in on a Friday night at around 6:00 and

my drums, getting the attention. Later I started playing in the drum

rehearse. There’d be great anticipation. Frank would

and bugle corps at St. Anthony Church in Hartford. I used to call it

come in with his entourage at around 9:30 and we’d

St. Agony. I was a young Jewish kid in a Catholic band! Eventually

get right into it. He would just walk in, say “Hi guys,”

we moved to California, and I was in high school, and I got in some

come around and say hello to everybody, walk into the

little bands.

booth [and say] “Let’s make a record.” And boom! He


winter 2011


hall of fame Blaine (left), Brian Wilson (center), and Ray Pohlman (right).

me, and I guess amazing to a lot of people, that we could do that. It was wild, but we were guys who, at that time, had that experience. MyTekLife: I always enjoyed watching Buddy Rich on The Tonight Show. Great drummer. Funny guy. You guys were tight? Blaine: Buddy was a good friend of mine. He was one of the toughest guys in the world, an ex-Marine. He wouldn’t stand for mistakes That’s all there was to it, if you wanted to be

was ready to go. I was flattered because he’d always come up to me and say “How ya doing, Hallie?” It really made me feel good. We did Strangers in the Night, which was Record of the Year in 1966. But Strangers in the Night was his only gold single. He had many hit records, many gold records, but never a No. 1 on the charts. And obviously, he was thrilled, as were we. MyTekLife: How did the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction come about? Blaine: They created a new area for sidemen, and I believe Jon Landau, Phil Spector and several others recommended me. It really changed my life. MyTekLife: Tell me about your work on the Ronettes’ Be My Baby. Blaine: It was a great song, a great introduction that became my signature. My intro became a standard rock and roll lick. In all honesty, I think it was written differently and I might have missed when we were rolling. I guess it was a great miss! If you make a mistake and repeat it every four bars, it’s no longer a mistake. That mistake became the song’s hook, and you can hear the same work on Strangers in the Night, except at a slower pace. MyTekLife: The other great hook you are famous for is the intro to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass classic, Taste of Honey. Blaine: Funny how that happened. The band was having trouble coming in at the same time, so I came up with that intro to make it easier for all of us. Before I came up with that, it was a train wreck. We couldn’t come in together. There was no intention to keep it in. Later on, the producer heard it and had the foresight to leave it in. It not only became the song’s hook, but also became synonymous with the Tijuana Brass and A&M Records. MyTekLife: Guys like you and Tommy Tedesco had so much versatility, real chops. Blaine: Tommy was a great talent, a great friend and a real comedian. In


in his band. One of my greatest compliments was when Buddy hired me to do his daughter Kathy’s album, and one of the guys, Milt Holland, one of the percussionists—he kind of grew up with Buddy, and they were very tight—Milt asked Buddy, “How come you’re not playing on your daughter’s album?” Buddy replied, “I wanted the best!” MyTekLife: Buddy used to say he never practiced. Blaine: I guess that’s true. Once you start playing, you don’t practice. People asked me for years, when do you practice? I don’t practice. I’m too busy playing to practice! MyTekLife: What was it like working with Brian Wilson during the Beach Boys years? Blaine: Brian was brilliant. He’d provide the chords, and we’d build on that. He was obsessed with making something special. I remember he and Mike Love would argue all the time. Mike was trying to be Mick Jagger when he was onstage. I played the drums on all their big hits. Brian would always use us. Listen to I Get Around and Help Me, Rhonda. That’s Glen Campbell doing those guitar solos, not any of the Beach Boys. Of course, through the years, I was Brian’s drummer and went through the whole thing with him. The drugs, the divorce and everything the poor guy went through. And then all of a sudden, he finally started to come out of it, thank goodness.

the morning, we’d play on some rock and roll record. Then we’d be doing


Barbra Streisand records, some of the most beautiful music in the world,

Web-Exclusive: For more excerpts from the Hal

and then three hours later, I’d be in playing a Latin session with the

Blaine interview, please visit us on the Web at

same people. I mean, it just went on and on and on. It’s amazing to

m y t e k l i f e winter 2011


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Shining Silently, Yet Ever So Brightly by warren mason



or legendary guitarist Nils Lofgren, his midNovember Veterans Day concert in Phoenix was a homecoming of sorts. Having just returned from the exhausting 18-show, 20-day

international leg of his Acoustic Duo tour, Lofgren played to a raucous, sold-out crowd at The Rhythm Room, a small, dark venue in a rundown section of the city. A square, nondescript concrete bunker, The Rhythm Room is a legendary blues bastion, situated only a few miles from Lofgren’s Scottsdale home. The venue is often cramped, hot and loud. Nonetheless, it offered the uncompromising Lofgren and his “band,” the multifaceted, tap-happy Greg Varlotta, a heightened sense of intimacy and great acoustics to showcase their diverse talents. For Lofgren, this was clearly not “just another room, just another town.” Surrounded by family, friends and some 300 fans, the diminutive Lofgren was in a zone. That room, on that night in Phoenix, offered Lofgren a place to shine. “Whether it’s in big arenas with Bruce Springsteen or on my own, my job is to prepare completely so that when I walk on stage I can turn my mind off and trust my musical instincts. I try to focus and always make the shows as good as possible,” Lofgren said. “I want to get down in it—lost in the music as soon as possible. I want to hit the ground at 98 and get over 100 as quickly as I can!” But on that particular night, Lofgren didn’t follow his own script. He came on stage alone and played a melodic solo on the harp—this was his latest “oddball” instrument and a recent gift from his “Jersey girl” wife, Amy. He followed that with a sincere homage to U.S. veterans, singing the national anthem with a soulful, caring joy. Lofgren made the song his own, with a unique, stirring rendition that was the polar opposite of rote, ballgame versions. As the anthem came to a close, the crowd stood and cheered, but not because a ballgame was about to start.

At 59, and with two hip replacements behind him, Lofgren still possesses incredible energy, a pristine, choirboy-like voice, deft guitar skills and an underrated ability to write heartfelt songs. While it’s his skills as an axeman that have earned him his lofty reputation, he has a slightly different perspective. “I feel like I’m a songwriter first,” he said. “Everything else flows from that.” Having spent more than four decades on the road, the last 26 years as a key member of Springsteen’s E Street Band, Lofgren is no stranger to those big arenas and the frequent travel that accompanies such worldwide fame. That frequent travel takes him away from Amy, his stepson, Dylan, and their large family of dogs and cats. Leaving Scottsdale, his home for the last 15 years, clearly grows tougher and tougher for Lofgren. “I really hate to go.When I leave home, the dogs give me dirty looks and the cat pisses on my suitcase!” he joked. “Yet those three hours on stage are a healing, therapeutic experience for me, an experience I hope I never have to give up.” Born in Chicago of Swedish/Sicilian ancestry, Lofgren grew up in Bethesda, Md., where he and Amy still own a home. A classically trained accordionist and self-taught pianist, Lofgren began playing guitar when he was 15 years old, learning to play on his father’s dusty, beat-up acoustic. Three years later, at the age of 18, he found a way into Neil Young’s band, playing piano and guitar, as well as singing on Young’s seminal album, 1970’s After the Gold Rush. It proved to be the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship with Young. “I was shy by nature, but I was driven to learn and learn from the best,” Lofgren recollected.“I’ve talked my way into all kinds of situations and great collaborations, beginning with the Neil Young meeting. I’ve made a career out of ‘friendly stalking.’”


In 1974, after several years of fronting the Washington, D.C.-based band Grin, Lofgren smoothly transitioned into a successful solo career—a career that has produced several nearhit singles, including “I Came to Dance” and “Shine Silently.” Lofgren’s 1975 debut solo album was a success with critics. One of those critics was Jon Landau, Springsteen’s manager. Landau’s Rolling Stone review labeled Lofgren’s solo debut “one of the finest rock albums of the year.” Springsteen and Lofgren had connected years earlier, when Lofgren was touring with Grin and Springsteen was making the rounds with his previous band, Steel Mill. In 1984, shortly after guitarist Steve Van Zandt left the E Street Band to pursue a solo career, The Boss approached Lofgren about joining his band. 26

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Springsteen invited Lofgren to jam with him and the band at saxophonist Clarence Clemons’ nightclub, Big Man’s West, in Redbank, N.J. Over the next two days, Lofgren jammed with what he called “the greatest band in the world.” When it was time to say goodbye, they stepped outside into the night. “I thanked Bruce and asked him to let me know when he had made a decision, even if it was two weeks later—even if it was at 4:00 in the morning. I went to give him a hug goodbye, and he said, ‘I just talked to everyone. Do you want to join the band?’ I was in shock, totally blown away. I said to him, ‘So you’re asking me right now to be in the band, out here in the Jersey streets?’ I immediately said yes and went home to pack for the Born in the USA tour. It was a great moment.” It was in 1985 during that tour that Lofgren met former Beatle Ringo Starr.The two quickly

PHOTO BY Thom Sheridan

“So you’re asking me right now to be in the band, out here in the Jersey streets?”

RINGO STARR’S All Starr Band

In 1985 during the Born in the USA tour, Lofgren met former Beatle Ringo Starr. While on hiatus from the E Street Band, he joined Starr for several world tours and albums.

PHOTOs BY Mark HendricksoN

became friends, with Starr occasionally attending Lofgren’s solo shows in the United States and in the United Kingdom. In 1989, Starr reached out to Lofgren about joining his original All Starr Band. Lofgren, while on hiatus from the E Street Band, joined Starr for several world tours and albums. “Oh, they’re the finest musicians in the land,” said Starr of his 1989 band, which also included Joe Walsh, Billy Preston, Jim Keltner, Levon Helm, Dr. John, Rick Danko and Lofgren’s E Street bandmate Clarence Clemons. Lofgren, who said he is constantly asked if he regrets not focusing more on his solo career, said this about hooking up with Starr and Springsteen: “If you love being in bands, how are you gonna say no to that? We’d sit around telling stories. Every story Ringo told was a Beatles story. He’d never been in another band. That was an unbelievable thought. The All Starr Band was his first gig without the Beatles, and I was in the band! That’s very cool.When you get around people like Ringo, Neil and Bruce who you love and admire, you just soak it all in. Those are experiences you must say yes to, and I did.” Being part of a team, being in a band—particularly the E Street Band—is nirvana for Lofgren. “I’ve played street basketball all my life, and I grew up playing football. I love that team aspect of being in a band. When you’re not the boss, you can

help in other ways. You try to spread good feelings, but you’re not the heavy, the psychiatrist having to solve all the problems. I thrive in a great band, not having to be the boss. I’m happy banging on a tambourine and singing harmonies if that’s what’s needed. As a bandleader, it’s something Bruce requires from all of us.” In 1991, Van Zandt returned to the E Street Band, a move that Lofgren embraced wholeheartedly. “It was great to have Steve back, his musicianship, his great personality

and, most of all, that raw voice paired with Bruce’s. The only other two rockers who’ve ever sung together with that raw intensity are Mick [Jagger] and Keith [Richards].” Indeed, Lofgren credits Van Zandt’s return with giving him the impetus to learn different instruments, to become the band’s “swingman.” “We don’t always need four guitar players. So, I thought, why don’t I learn some of these oddball instruments? These instruments are now in the band’s arsenal, and because of Bruce’s amazingly

JERSEY GIRL Lofgren met his wife Amy some 30 years ago in Asbury Park, N.J., when he and his solo band were playing the famous concert venue The Stone Pony. “We talked for hours,” Lofgren reminisced. “I wanted her to join us for our next show in Boston, but she just couldn’t do it. Unfortunately, I didn’t get another chance to plead my case until 15 years later, when I was out in Scottsdale, playing at the Rocking Horse Saloon. It was a hell of a wait between the first and second date!” he quipped.


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PHOTO BY Mark HendricksoN

The Cussler Collaboration


Famed bestselling adventure author Clive Cussler, whom Nils Lofgren met in 1989 while on the first tour with Ringo Starr, is both a longtime friend and collaborator. Lofgren, an avid reader, “tracked down” his favorite author and invited him and his family to a show. “We always kept in touch. Since I moved to Scottsdale 15 years ago, Amy and I live just 10 minutes from Clive. Clive is an incredible writer and an even better human being,” Lofgren said. Cussler echoed Lofgren’s sentiments: “I was truly honored to meet Nils. He is one of the kindest and most gracious men I’ve been lucky to call a friend. I can have no finer gift.” In 2007, while out to dinner with Lofgren, Amy and Cussler’s then fiancée, Janet, Cussler remarked how he had always wanted to write a “corny country song.” Over the next few months Lofgren and Cussler meticulously crafted the evocative “Whatever Happened to Muscatel?” ”We started out writing Clive’s so-called ‘corny country song,’ but that’s not how it ended up—it’s quite cool,” Lofgren revealed. “What an adventure—writing about these great old liquors that have fallen by the wayside. I brought my rhyming dictionary and Clive brought his incredible writing and research expertise. I asked him to sing a few lines and, true to his spirit of adventure, he rose to the occasion. There are some great photos and video of those sing-a-long sessions on my website.” Cussler explained, “As an adventure writer I would provide Nils with lines and quotes. He would embellish them into rhythm and harmony. We had so much fun. You can even hear us laughing at the end of the song.” When Cussler and Janet were married in 2007, Lofgren gladly honored a request from Janet, writing and recording the beautiful ballad “Heaven’s Rain” for their wedding. In turn, Cussler’s historical thriller “The Chase” featured Lofgren as a locomotive engineer who aided the protagonist, chasing the villain across the American West. Cussler had this to say about his good friend’s talents: “Nils is without question the finest virtuoso of the guitar in the world of song. He brings a vibrant creativity to both his music and life that is unsurpassed.”

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authentic songwriting, they’re used on a regular basis.” A longtime Fender artist, Lofgren is routinely cited as one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time. When Springsteen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999, he called Lofgren “the most overqualified second guitarist in show business.” In Clemons’ 2009 autobiography, Big Man: Real Life & Tall Tales, Clemons took it a step further, saying, “Steve, Bruce and Nils are all great guitar players, but of the three, Nils is the best. Nils is an incredible guitar player.” Lofgren, his ego always in check, is uncomfortable with such comparisons. “Bruce and Steve are amazing guitarists. Rolling Stone has a list of the 100 greatest guitarists. Forget me—I won’t even talk about me not being on the list. Why isn’t Bruce on the list? It’s crazy. Just because he’s a great songwriter, he doesn’t count? Bruce is an amazing guitarist. Rolling Stone lists the 100 greatest singers but omits Sting and Chrissie Hynde. How is that possible? You can’t leave off Sting and Chrissie Hynde and say this is the top 100 singers. You can’t take lists like that too seriously.” While Springsteen is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the E Street band has yet to be awarded the same honor. Lofgren wasn’t shy about his feelings on the subject. “It’s absurd. It’s embarrassing to the Hall of Fame. It means even more to my bandmates, and that’s why I’d like it to happen for them. Stop making excuses, and just do it. I guess it’s a pet peeve for this cranky old musician,” he said. Asked to single out what charges him up the most when playing with Springsteen and the E Street Band, Lofgren became quite animated. “I prefer not even knowing where the set’s going to go and it blows up into that ‘best night of my life’ experience. The band grew up listening to Motown, Stax blues, the British Invasion, all the classics from the ‘60s. Because of that, Bruce is able to invite the fans in, asking them what they want us to play. He pulls signs out of the audience, rifling through cards like a college kid looking for that one clean shirt in the laundry pile. He knows that even if he picks some obscure song we’ll be able


Going, Going, Gonzo! “I’ll even come by their house and tune it for them, along with a crash course in blues guitar. Anything for a great cause like this,” said Lofgren. “If you have an original Steadman, it’s been stolen,” claims famed gonzo artist Ralph Steadman, who doesn’t sell his original paintings. Steadman, a longtime friend of Nils and Amy Lofgren, is renowned for his political and social caricatures. He’s best known for his work with American author Hunter S. Thompson. It was in 1982, on a plane over Newcastle, England, when Nils Lofgren first met Steadman. “I was up stretching my legs,” Lofgren recalled. “This guy came up to me, and we chatted for a while before he introduced himself as Ralph Steadman. I was so surprised that he was English. I had assumed he was American. I’ve always been a big fan of Hunter S. Thompson and, in turn, Ralph’s art. Ralph’s such a

“This is a local, hands-on group that Amy has been helping,” Lofgren explained. “They are wonderful people who help others in need, on so many levels. I admire Amy’s passion and commitment. I have been happy to honor that commitment and lend a hand whenever asked.” A seasoned professional cook, Amy Lofgren organized a food and music charity event last year at The Pasta Bar in Phoenix. Everyone involved donated their time, skills and supplies, including Nils, who stood on a crate and played several songs. “No one would have seen me otherwise,” joked the 5’ 3” Lofgren. Every bit of the money raised went to Vista del Camino. “Sometimes artists do benefits and end up spending almost

great guy.We have been friends ever since. He’s even done two album covers for me.” Lofgren’s wife, Amy, reached out to Steadman and asked him to paint a Fender Stratocaster guitar that Nils and Amy will auction off for a local charity—Concerned Citizens for Community Health (CCCH) and Vista del Camino social services. Vista del Camino is a community center in Scottsdale, Ariz., that provides a variety of services to Scottsdale residents to prevent homelessness, meet the basic needs of individuals and families in crisis, relieve economic and emotional stress and assist individuals in their quest to maintain self-sufficiency.

all they make on the event itself. That’s not what we want. It’s very simple; Amy and I want to help people, especially people in our community. As for the unique Steadman guitar, Lofgren is using his website,, to initiate what he calls “a global Internet auction.” “We’d love for CCCH to get six figures for such a great piece of musical art.Aren’t Johnny Depp and Jack Nicholson big Hunter S. Thompson/Steadman fans?” Lofgren baited. “I bet they’d buy it. If we get six figures, I’ll even come by their house and tune it for them, along with a crash course in blues guitar. Anything for a great cause like this.”

to follow. He picks a song, we huddle and the crew has maybe 20 seconds to scour the Internet for lyrics. Then it’s up on the teleprompter and we’re off. I laugh and say, ‘Don’t even give me a set list. It’s useless.’ I love those down-and-dirty, pouring-sweat, let-it-all-hang-out shows. Bruce challenges himself and us every night. That’s what

makes this band and Bruce so special.” While most musicians crave the security of a record deal, Lofgren has taken a different course, making full use of Internet technology to successfully market himself and his catalog of music through his popular website,


THE STEADMAN GUITAR This beautiful Fender Strat with original art by Ralph Steadman is being put up for auction. Lofgren is hoping for a huge bid from a philanthropic Hunter S. Thompson or Ralph Steadman art lover/collector. All money will go directly to local Arizona Food Bank charities. For more information, visit www. CharityAuction.html. “The music business is very political. Bureaucracy and politics constantly get in the way of creativity. I’ve found a way to produce my music without the record companies. With technology, I can continue to make records and share music that I’m proud of.” Lofgren has also established his own myteklife

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PHOTO BY Mark HendricksoN

“I just love making music— to play, sing and be passionate about it.” 30

online guitar school. Those with little or no knowledge can inexpensively learn to play guitar from an acknowledged master. “I get tired of people saying they can’t play guitar because they have no talent and rhythm. I started the online lessons for those people—to get them playing and having fun right away.The only requirement is the desire to learn how to play.” Having concluded the Acoustic Duo tour in late November, Lofgren is enjoying time at home with Amy, other family members and friends. Happily ensconced in his garage studio, he’s focusing on writing and recording new material that will likely result in an online CD release sometime this summer. As for Lofgren’s friends, they’re a loyal, eclectic mix, including Ringo, bestselling author Clive Cussler, sportscaster John Madden, acclaimed chef Chris Bianco and gonzo artist

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Ralph Steadman. “I love to be around great guys, good people who are artistic. There are plenty of bad people to go around, so I try hard to surround myself with good people,” he said. Lofgren seemed overwhelmed when discussing his life and achievements. “Over the last 42 years, I’ve been so fortunate. I’ve met so many wonderful souls. I’ve played with Neil, Ringo, Bruce, Jerry Lee Lewis, Willie Nelson, Branford Marsalis and so many others. I’ve enjoyed them all. I get a lot of attention for that, yet that’s only a part of my life. I love to sing my own music as well. For me it’s all part of the same amazing journey.” “While I may always be on the ‘D list’ commercially, I’m on the ‘A list’ with most of my friends and peers, and that’s fine by me. It means the world to me that the people I collaborate with know I’m a good person who will make good music with them. I just love making music—to play, sing and be passionate about it,” he shared. Nearly three hours later on that hot November night, the joyful Rhythm Room crowd was on its feet, cheering, swaying back and forth as Lofgren closed the night with a soaring, full-band version of “Shine Silently.” With his voice clear and his smiling Jersey girl dancing along, Lofgren made his guitar sing, while his poignant lyrics reverberated far beyond the small room. Nothing left to say Nothing left to prove When it’s said and done There’s nothing left but you, babe Shining silently For Nils Lofgren, there is certainly much left to say, but indeed, nothing left to prove. After all these years, he still shines silently, yet ever so brightly. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Editor’s note – Much of the music, video and lyrics referred to in this article are available, many for free download, at


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icture a mosquito laboratory. The lucky ones who live there—in a secure, resort-like atmosphere known as an Arthropod Containment Level 2 insectary—dine on human blood (provided by the American Red Cross after the use-by date expires) through special containers that mimic skin. Larvae hatch in carefully tended tubs of water. The mosquito lab at the University of Arizona, led by Michael Riehle, Ph.D., keeps two special kinds of mosquitoes— some that carry the malaria parasite and others that have been genetically engineered to kill the malaria parasite in their bodies. Riehle and his collaborators at the University of California, Davis are credited with discovering that by “making a small change to the mosquito genome,” carriers of malaria known by their scientific name as Anopheles stephensi will eventually no longer be able to play a role as vectors. Riehle described his work in the lab: “We inject DNA into newly laid eggs to insert our gene and a fluorescent marker into the genome. We then rear these injected eggs to adulthood, let them mate and then look at their offspring (as late larvae or pupae) to see if they inherited our gene and fluorescent marker. DNA microarray technology has furthered the science of molecular biology upon which scientists like Riehle base this kind of research. He used the University of Arizona’s microarray machine, which has probes that correspond to the “approximately 15,000 protein-coding genes in the mosquito genome for testing mosquito gene samples,” to determine which of the probes would bind to the gene that prevents malaria from being carried, Riehle explained. Although this technology played a small role in the work on the malaria-resistant mosquito, it nevertheless helped further the research. Currently in Riehle’s lab, malaria-resistant mosquitoes are being mated with carrier mosquitoes. Half of the resulting progeny will not become vectors, and over

The Riehle Lab at the University of Arizona houses 4,000 to 5,000 mosquitoes at any one time.

enough generations, the ability to carry malaria in a mosquito’s body will breed out.While this is not the focus of Riehle’s research, he says that other labs around the world are trying to increase the heritability rate of malaria resistance from the usual 50 percent to as much as 90 percent to 100 percent. “This will allow the malaria resistance to spread through the wild population, but it can take years until it happens naturally because there will be many greenhouse trials and exhaustive testing by state and local governments and public health agencies before the non-carriers can be released,” Riehle noted. “For example, although these mosquitoes will not be able to transmit malaria, we want to make sure that they don’t begin transmitting other mosquito-borne diseases.” Once thorough testing has been completed, the ultimate goal is to totally replace the malaria-carriers with the malariakillers in the wild, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the World Health Organization’s Fact Sheet No. 94 (April 2010), “In 2008, there were 247 million cases of malaria and nearly one million deaths—mostly among children living in Africa … [where] a child dies every 45 seconds of malaria .…” This important discovery will take some time to make a positive change in the world. Riehle is looking for an answer as to why this gene modification kills the malaria parasite. “We have some ideas about what the specific killing mechanism is,” he said, “and we’re still testing.” ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ To track Michael Riehl’s progress on mosquito research, visit

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Hoover Dam: A Historica by jean-marie stevens



he building of Hoover Dam was a massive techno-

The enormous Hoover Dam, also called Boulder Dam, sits

logical undertaking that lasted almost five years. The

in the Black Canyon of northern Arizona and southern Nevada,

U.S. government went forth with the project to har-

about 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas. This modern-day wonder

ness the power of the Colorado River, particularly

is a concrete arch gravity dam that sends water from the Colo-

for the generation of hydroelectricity. To this date, the river and

rado River to a colossal power plant for the generation of electric

the dam are used to generate electric power, conserve water and

power. The movement of this water is created by gravity and the

supply water to parts of the American Southwest. The story of

immense pressure created by its horizontal arch, an architectural

the construction of the dam celebrates the triumphs of an age of

design created by the Romans. At its tallest point, it is 726 feet

technological development in America, but it also suggests the

high and weighs 6.6 million tons, a weight that is comprised of

human price of progress.

concrete, steel and metalwork.

al Perspective During the age of major technological advancement in the

the funding to build the dam in 1928, but the project stalled un-

late 1800s, the desire to create large sources of electricity

til 1931 because of engineering concerns about the feasibility of

led many to consider the use of hydraulics to generate it. As

such a large project.

early as 1902, surveyors had been eyeing the Lower Colo-

After careful consideration, engineers suggested that to pull

rado River as a new source of hydroelectric power. By 1922,

off an effort of such magnitude, major modifications would have

the U.S. government had become involved in the process

to be made to the equipment considered essential to the build-

of surveying and planning for the dam after the Reclama-

ing of the dam. By the time construction of the dam began, nu-

tion Service (now the Bureau of Reclamation) suggested the

merous American companies had been recruited by the govern-

area as a good site not only for the generation of electricity,

ment and the main contractor of the job, Six Companies, Inc.,

but also for flood control in the region. Congress authorized

to supply not only the materials to construct the dam, but also

The wonders of Hoover Dam and its technology remain with us in the 21st century, an illustration of the impact of the history of technology on our daily lives.

Construction on the nearly 2,000-foot-long bridge dividing Arizona and Nevada began in January 2005. The effort, known as the Hoover Dam Bypass Project, was completed on Oct. 19, 2010.

Hoover Dam has a number of heroic-size works of art and monuments, including this 30-foot-tall bronze winged figure by sculptor Oskar Hansen, who said the sculpture symbolizes “the immutable calm of intellectual resolution and the enormous power of trained physical strength, equally enthroned in placid triumph of scientific achievement.” 36

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newly modified and massive machinery to transport the materials and put them in place. The truck manufacturer Mack, which had already cornered the American market for building heavy duty, industrial trucks, created a new truck expressly for the Hoover Dam project. The 250-horsepower truck carried twice the load of the biggest truck manufactured to that date. Major American power supplier General Electric, formed in 1892 through the merger of a Massachusetts power supplier and Thomas Edison’s Edison General Electric, used the continued advancement of X-ray technologies first introduced in the late 1800s to execute the largest known X-ray project for the dam. Throughout the project, GE’s X-ray technicians would take more than 100,000 films, altogether measuring more than 24 million square inches of X-ray film, to ensure the quality of the welding that fused the pipes that moved the water to the power plant.

Movement of the materials needed to construct the dam and transport workers back and forth was performed by a massive cable car system manufactured by New Jersey-based Ledgerwood Manufacturing. The cars ran along a cableway five times longer than any other cableway in existence in the 1930s. Given the weight of the materials that needed to be transported by the cable cars, the cableways also needed to be stronger than any other in the world to that point. When pushed to their limits, these steel cables, which were 3.5 inches in diameter, could hold almost 200 tons of material. The building of the dam commenced with the diversion of the Colorado River by tunnels that measured 50 feet in diameter (larger than the tunnels used for the New York subway system) and were three miles in length. The construction site was then enclosed in two structures called cofferdams, made of concrete, rock fill and

earth fill. The larger cofferdam was 96 feet high. These structures created a dry work environment by protecting the site from the Colorado River. The enormous nature of the construction of the dam called for more than 21,000 workers to carry out the engineers’ plans. These men labored on the dam throughout its construction, and they lived either in government camps or in Boulder City, the new town built in 1931 specifically to house those connected with the project. Because of the economic hardships of the Great Depression, many workers descended on the area before work on the project began, to stand in line for jobs. The technical nature of the project, with new and enormous tools that were foreign to laborers, the torrid weather conditions of the area, where summer temperatures could reach upwards of 119 degrees, and the treacherous working conditions of Black Canyon led to numerous deaths among this community of workers. Various reports have estimated the number of

There are 17 giant generators at Hoover Dam, each of which can generate up to 133 megawatts.

Larger than the Egyptian pyramid of Giza Excavation of the site began with the removal of 5.5 million cubic yards of rock from the canyon by jackhammers and dynamite. After the filling in of cavities in the remaining rock used for the foundation of the dam with a synthetic grout, the true construction began. Concrete, which comprises more than three fourths of the dam’s mass, was put

deaths at around 119, which include offsite and onsite deaths from disease, exposure and injuries. The Bureau of Reclamation reports 96 men as “industrial fatalities”—in other words, men who died on site while attending to the task of building the dam. These fatalities occurred because of the blasting of Black Canyon, constant rockslides, falls from the heights of the canyon or the structure of the dam and fatal injuries sustained while working the machinery or being hit by equipment and trucks. Around the site of the dam are numerous markers

into large buckets that were transported by the cable cars and then lowered to where the workers needed them by overhead cables. The enormous amount of concrete used in the project made the dam, at least in 1936, the only man-made structure larger than the Egyptian pyramid of Giza.

memorializing the sacrifices of these century, an illustration of the impact of the workers and their contribution to the history of technology on our daily lives. progress of technology and humanity. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated More than 20,000 vehicles a day cross Hoover Dam between Arizona and Nevada. Thousands take the the Hoover Dam in September 1935, Hoover Dam tour and ride the elevator down into the though it was not officially completed inner workings of the dam. For more information, until March 1, 1936. The final bill for the visit project topped $49 million.This union of technology and human labor proved to be the largest attempt at mechanical engineering seen in the modern world and, as of 1939, the largest generation of electric power in the world. The wonders of this technology remain with us in the 21st myteklife

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Entrepreneur Derek Neighbors shares his vision for nurturing Arizona’s future business leaders. by ed martinez



hat makes companies like Facebook and Google so successful? There are many reasons, but at the core of their prosperity, you will find a culture that embraces ideas and nurtures innovation. There are no bad ideas for employees of these tech giants. In fact, employees are actively encouraged to develop their own ideas. Taking the lead in fostering creativity and innovation in Arizona is entrepreneur Derek Neighbors, co-founder and 38

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“We would meet with CEOs and CIOs,” he said. They would talk about issues in business. “What we started to hear, week after week, was that companies were starting to move their business out of Arizona. And most of the reasons were lack of capital funding, lack of quality people for the type of business they were running or lack of the right network.” Neighbors said he was shocked to hear that companies were leaving the Valley at what he thought was an “alarming rate.” He had lived in Arizona for almost 35 years, and Meskill was an Arizona native. “I worked at Silicon Valley for a while. I used to commute there. I would fly up Mondays and fly back on Fridays. Both of us have a real love for the desert, the area, the environment of Arizona,” he confided. Coincidentally, around the same time, Neighbors had a friend who was looking for financing for his business. “We had a large network of individuals that were looking to invest in technology,”

Soon after that, Neighbors and Meskill started their own consulting firm and took on several clients in the manufacturing and distribution sectors. Eventually the two decided to focus more on their growing families and went their separate ways. Neighbors recalled how he later reconnected with Meskill. “One of the companies we developed software for ended up becoming an $80 million company, and they offered to help us build our business. So, we decided to make another run for it,” he said. About every two weeks Neighbors and Meskill would get together for lunch with tech startups and other businesses.

he said. Neighbors was able to help his friend by putting him in front of investors and presenting his business model to them. But after going through the process to raise capital, his friend realized he didn’t really need the funding after all. “What that really taught us,” Neighbors said, “was that we could probably raise funding fairly easily if we had good opportunities. And so we put it out there to go fund five companies. We funded five companies in the group and went through the whole process of doing small seed funding.” One of the other companies in the group was working out of a garage in Tempe, Ariz. Neighbors said the city of

photo by peter j. hart

Collaborative Efforts Yield Innovation

executive director of Gangplank, a nonprofit organization in Chandler where startups and other creative minds gather to share ideas and help each other get on the road to success. “Gangplank has gone through this metamorphosis,” Neighbors explained. “It was really just about how we would help incubate some people and get them off the ground, but now we have Gangplank Jr., which is tackling K-12 education, in trying to restore creativity to schools.” Neighbors and Jade Meskill started Gangplank in 2008. Both worked as software developers in the late ’90s. “We developed one of the first mortgage loan documents delivered over the Internet,” he shared proudly.

Tempe found out about it and told the owners of the company they weren’t allowed to run their business in a garage because it was against zoning regulations. “So,” Neighbors said, “we told the company ‘instead of getting your own space, you should move into our space.’ We had an extra 10X10 office.” Another of the companies in the group kept getting hit with rent increases for the office space it was leasing in the Scottsdale Airpark, so Neighbors made a similar offer to that company. “And that’s how we started bringing people in,” he said. When you visit Gangplank’s headquarters, you will notice rows of computer desks with several dozen people sitting there. You can hear the chatter and collaboration among them. There’s also a video game arcade next to the break room, and a podcasting studio in the back. There are now 14 “anchor” companies at the facility, and most of them are run by Generation Xers or younger staff. You will find 3-D animators, photographers, Web developers, artists and musicians, just to name a few. Neighbors revealed that the organization is also putting in a full music studio. Gangplank has a committee that finds local musicians and brings them in to do festival-style live shows. “We typically have hard rock groups, acappella singers, DJs … a wide range of talent,” he said. The new studio will help aspiring musicians practice and produce their albums. The performance space will also be used for CD release parties, according to Neighbors. As might be expected, Neighbors said his biggest challenge is space. “We seem to be constantly outgrowing our space. We went from an 800-square-foot office to 1,000 square feet to 6,600 square feet in this building,” he explained. And now, Gangplank headquarters is going

Gangplank founders, Derek Neighbors (left), and Jade Meskill (right).

through another expansion. In March, the organization received a $400,000 grant from the city of Chandler. The grant funds were used to redevelop the historic downtown building where Gangplank is now. “We’ll be at about 15,000 square feet by next summer,” Neighbors said. Gangplank also offers a brown bag lunch event every week. “When we first did them, we had a lot of technical brown bags. Very ‘Googlesque,’” Neighbors recalled. Now, the events bring in all sorts of entrepreneurs and feature success stories. “We’ve had everybody from the state treasurer, Dean Martin, to Beverly Kidd, TV 3 news anchor, and Joe Johnson, who owns four or five local restaurants.” Neighbors hopes that by bringing such a variety of speakers, the lunch events will help new entrepreneurs gain knowledge about how businesses operate, from the hiring process to collecting payment from customers. Another exciting event Gangplank hosts is Funding Universe’s CrowdPitch. The event allows startups to receive feedback on their ventures. Participants present their business model in less than four minutes in

front of a panel of experts and a live audience. This is followed by a threeminute Q&A session with the panel. Last November, the event attracted more than 100 people. The state of our schools is another area of huge concern for Neighbors, and he is taking the challenge head on. “Especially schools of underprivileged kids,” he remarked. “It’s just a matter of opportunities that you are given, and we think we actually have a better chance in the lower-income schools … because they want change.” Gangplank Jr. was created for the purpose of allowing students to learn from experienced professionals in the arts and sciences. Students are encouraged to use their imagination to solve problems, without the pressure of performance. There is a LEGO League robotics team to help children between the ages of 9 and 14 learn basic mechanics. The Gangplank Jr. book club reinforces the importance of reading; each month, the club chooses a unique title geared toward a different age range, from 7 to 15. There is also a music exploration program, which consists of one class a month that teaches kids about the elements of music. Participants in the program also have the opportunity to build instruments. Neighbors is a visionary, and his programs are far-reaching and crucial, especially at a time when Americans are competing more than ever in the global arena. It was President Obama who said, “We can’t afford [for] our kids to be mediocre at a time when they’re competing against kids in China and kids in India.” Neighbors’ undertaking is admirable, and Gangplank Jr. is a brilliant example of what can be done to help our youth attain success. myteklife

winter 2011


tek corner

Fuse’s PowerSlice Go ahead and throw out all of those unnecessary extra power cords—all those

Palo Alto Audio Design’s Well-Rounded Cubik Digital Speaker System BY JONATHAN MASON

tangled messes. Thanks to PowerSlice, you don’t need them. No matter how you slice it, this revolutionary universal charging station delivers. The PowerSlice universal charging station, from Fuse, a subsidiary of foneGEAR, allows as many as four phones or electronic devices to be charged simultaneously from a single power source. PowerSlice consists of a universal base station and as many as three plug-in pie-shaped “slices,” each of which contains a charging tip capable of charging a unique device, such as a phone, digital camera or portable gaming system. Charging slices are interchangeable, making adding and

If you are searching for computer speakers that have fine-tuned digital sound quality and robust power, look no further. Palo Alto Audio Design’s cubik digital computer speaker system offers an impressively well-rounded union of dynamic digital sound and cutting-edge design. Unlike ordinary multimedia speakers, cubik does not require a certain position to enhance the listening experience. Through a “highly advanced acoustic calculation of angle between speaker and ground,” cubik allows high-quality listening at every angle. This means there is no need to sit immediately in front of the speakers to enjoy full, rich sounds across the entire audio spectrum. Regardless of whether you have a Mac or a PC, the use of a digital USB connection and digital amplification provides cubik with crystal-clear sound. Additionally, cubik’s dynamic bass boost control gives the listener full control of the low-frequency range of

removing devices to the base unit a

the speaker system. For gamers and movie fans, this provides a powerful, deep bass to

snap—literally. Slices are available for

maximize the specific entertainment environment.

virtually all popular phones and electronics. A fourth device can be charged via the USB 2.0 port on the base station.

The high performance of the cubik system is determined by a jitter-eliminating digital audio amplifier circuit and high-end loudspeaker drivers designed in Denmark

“The great thing about PowerSlice is that

by Peerless. According to Palo Alto, it’s this high-resolution digital-signal-processing

it totally clears away the cable clutter from

technology that gives cubik a very flat frequency response and produces a full range

crowded counters and nightstands,” said

of signals with amazing accuracy. The cubik also has a patented, advanced long-vent

Ken Eisenbraun, foneGEAR’s president.

enclosure structure, eliminating the need for a subwoofer.

“One power cord, four devices. What could be simpler? It’s charging for the whole

The system is not only ear-pleasing—it is eye-pleasing, as well. The minimal base

family, with no mess, and you always know

allows the angled sleek black cube speakers to seemingly hover above your desk or

where your phone is.”


PowerSlice also costs less than many comparable universal chargers and is easy to use—no bulky adapters or special cases are required. To use PowerSlice, simply snap in the slice for your device, plug in the base, set your device on the slice and turn on the power. Suggested retail price: $44.99. For more information, visit Fuse at —JONATHAN MASON


m y t e k l i f e winter 2011

Cubik was clearly designed with the audiophile in mind and fits perfectly into any home or office setting. The fine-tuned sound quality of cubik is backed by speaker power unmatched by other speakers in its class. It delivers on every level. Suggested retail price: $199. For more information, visit

For the latest technology news, visit us on

HSTi’s Wireless Media Stick: A Great Accessory for the Mobile Life BY JONATHAN MASON

The Wireless Media Stick is a self-

The PASSPORT iQ Radar Detector with 3-D GPS Have you ever been lost and late for an

contained solution that plugs directly into any USB-enabled disc player or media

important appointment or date? If so, this

streamer that’s connected to your television. From there, you can easily stream media

is a passport you’ll want to take

that’s already stored within your main PC to your TV-connected devices. This cures

everywhere you travel.

the problem of having your media fragmented between varying drives.

Billed by Escort Inc. as “the ultimate driving companion,” the new PASSPORT

The Wireless Media Stick acts as a wireless bridge that plugs into the USB playback ports on media media players, game consoles or set-top boxes, like a PS3, Xbox or DVD/Blu-ray player, just to name a few. It presents the shared files from a smartphone, computer or tablet. The media player reads the file as if it were stored inside the Wireless Media Stick, but the file resides in the original location. When the user instructs the media player to play back the file, the file is streamed from the original location, wirelessly.

iQ is an automobile accessory that integrates state-of-the-art radar/laser detection, speed camera/speed limit information and 3-D GPS navigation to protect you from unwanted tickets and guide you safely to your destination. Based on the company’s PASSPORT 9500ix GPS-enabled, windshield-mount radar and laser detector, the iQ gives

Plug the Wireless Media Stick to a non-networked digital picture frame or even an older DVD player and stream files from your phone to that device for play back. You can even share or back up documents and files stored in your smartphone or tablet by plugging the Wireless Media Stick into the USB port of a computer. “We all create memories and document our experiences with our smartphones.

drivers their current speed and heading as well as speed limit information. If speed limits change and drivers are going faster than the posted speed, Passport iQ lets them know. It also overlays red light cameras, speed cameras and high-risk speed traps on its navigation screen,

They do a great job of consolidating our lives into one device. But when it comes

features a user-friendly choice of visual

to sharing it back from our phone, options are limited,” says Ramesh Uppal, HSTi

and audio alerts and can be displayed in

president and CEO. “People want to share their experiences, whether it’s photos or

selectable formats and colors.

videos from a trip, or just music selections. The Wireless Media Stick is the natural extension of their smartphone or tablet, making it a must-have accessory for everyday life.” Unlike other streaming devices that are dedicated to or tie up the devices they serve, the Wireless Media Stick lets you continue to use your computer, smartphone or tablet without interrupting your media streaming.

Bottom line: The PASSPORT iQ is the ultimate marriage of driving convenience, offering drivers the best of all worlds. Out of the box, it establishes a high standard for protecting consumers from unwanted tickets while guiding them safely to their destination. Suggested retail: $649.95. For more information, visit

Suggested retail: $99.99. For more information, visit —JONATHAN MASON


winter 2011


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oseph Skursky gets frustrated when he hears CEOs you with a blank stare, or they respond in terms of subject complaining about new hires and underperforming knowledge, which is the wrong answer.” employees. “Companies, for the most part, don’t Which raises the question—If you don’t know your own understand that you’ve got hire for strength—you’ve got strengths and weaknesses, how can you judge someone else’s? to hire from strength and build on those [new hires].” Skursky says that is impossible. “Many business consultants Skursky is president of Market Leader Solutions, a business or test interpreters lack the very leadership experience that that specializes in providing guidance, growth and leadership they’re attempting to assess. When that’s the case, the scope of solutions to companies worldwide. their interpretation is far more clinical, far narrower than when “Unfortunately, most executives can’t truly define those those assessment results are practically applied to a particular strengths in others, or even themselves. Nor do they business situation where they have expertise.” continuously coach to get the best results from their employees According to Skursky, having leadership experience is even more critical when coaching or assessing by rolling to those strengths. To do so, you have higher levels of management. “Most to take feelings out of the equation. When individuals may have had experience hiring, you have to look much deeper than the managing within one and possibly two levels self-serving resume and highly overrated of management. When you get to three to industry tenure. There’s a sophisticated science five levels deep, where real leadership needs to the process.” to be exerted, very few can effectively According to Skursky, a major part of that operate in this space.” process is the use of refined, multilevel Skursky and Market Leader Solutions psychological, “psychometric” assessments. “It’s take a unique, multilevel approach. vital for employers to be able to adequately “Using assessments as the base point, the assess an individual’s work ethic, motivation and demonstration tells me more than enough mindset when applying for the job to combat about that person. Once we have that high rates of employee turnover or disgruntled assessment, we have a very deep understandemployees that are unhappy in their career. “When hiring, you have to look much ing of their strengths and weaknesses. From Productivity, teamwork and workplace deeper than the self-serving resume that point, we simply validate those strengths harmony result from having employees who and highly overrated industry tenure. and weaknesses using both behavior-based are not only appropriately trained and skilled, There’s a sophisticated science to the questions and demonstrative techniques. The but also fit the company’s culture and climate.” process,” says Joseph Skursky. demonstrative questions are particularly In the 1970s and 1980s, companies often useful because sometimes you’ll ask a direct question and not used assessment centers as a means of evaluating potential receive a completely truthful answer. If a picture is worth 1,000 candidates. But assessment centers were expensive, unproven and words, then a demonstration is worth 1,000 pictures into the hard to find. As a result, many institutions are now using mind. I apply my knowledge of the innate value of the psychological assessments to help them economically evaluate assessments, along with real-world leadership experience. In the how well prospective employees will fit into their organizations. end, this produces a significantly more pragmatic solution in Using psychometric assessments to eliminate hiring mistakes virtually all business settings.” by ensuring that a candidate is qualified and will fit into the While Skursky says it’s still possible for a skilled candidate organization is sound resource management, yet the use of to fake the results of psychometric assessments, using the best psychological assessments in the business world has a long and assessments significantly reduces the ability for falsification and varied history. It has proven successful in many contexts, yet when provides warning signals when someone is either unclear or not applied properly, the results have been disappointing. “gaming” the system. Annie Murphy Paul, author of The Cult of Personality Testing, Skursky has used the same assessments for almost 10 years to cautions: “Users of personality tests who are not psychologists— evaluate more than 4,000 people. He uses three assessments, as employers, teachers, guidance counselors, workshop leaders—also opposed to one or two, in order to understand the full scope of have an obligation to educate themselves about the potential for each individual. personality tests to limit and stereotype. A careful examination of These three assessments, when triangulated, give him insight a test’s psychometric properties and a healthy skepticism toward into: How a person behaves, communicates and emotes; why an its claims might lead them to choose better instruments—or to individual behaves in a certain way—an indicator of corporate forgo testing altogether in favor of some old-fashioned culture and long-term fit; and what an individual thinks about, conversation.” Evolving technology has made these assessments which is a key factor in determining emotional intelligence. easy and inexpensive to administer. Employers are using them in a “Increasing sales may seem difficult,” Skursky said, “but that’s variety of ways—from abbreviated versions that applicants can a secondary process. To address that in a vacuum without first take in a kiosk when applying for a retail job, to websites where positioning a company for sustained growth is putting the cart potential employees can log in and answer a battery of questions. before the horse. Real growth happens with eyes wide open, Peter Drucker, a well-known management consultant and between the ears of leadership and their people. Real growth self-described “social ecologist,” said, “Most Americans do not happens by fully exploring what defines quality management.” know what their strengths are. When you ask them, they look at To Living Room Culture BY MARY L. HOLDEN


ong before computers and the Internet, people gathered in one another’s homes to share, learn and be entertained. From the ancient Greeks who gathered in

At a Living Room Culture planned event, artists, musicians or other experts come to meet you, make friends with your friends and leave everyone with a good memory or newfound knowledge. “Perhaps we can do away with the notion that agoras to discuss philosophy, to Native Americans who gathered in stone dwellings to pass on stories and legends, to French artists, poets, musicians, thinkers or craftsmen who are not society in the 1700s, when women would meet to discuss books well-known celebrities but who are talented in their own right in bedrooms, the home has played a role in the enjoyment of will realize that people in their own community can ask them culture. into their home and give them some support. In addition to It took a man who calls himself an idea shaman to use the looking for commercial venues and getting bookings, they now have an option to perform or speak in the Internet to get people off their computers and comfortable surroundings of a home filled into each other’s living rooms. Igor Brezhnev, with friends,” says Brezhnev. that idea shaman, moved to the United States Phoenix writer and musician Brendon from Moscow 15 years ago. To date, his best Cottrell recently gave a concert in manifestation in that role is the website Brezhnev’s living room to try out the It launched into concept. Brezhnev said, “It turned out to be cyberspace on Nov. 22, 2010. a magical experience for my guests and me. Brezhnev says, “With communication It brought together a lot of people who got mediums like radio, television and Internet, to both be entertained by Brendon and meet and increased venues in which to attend large him after the show.” group events, personal, intimate home Currently on the website, you can choose gatherings that offer something more “Living room: the home gathering from a poet to give a reading, a musical thoughtful than a party atmosphere do not place where family and friends share, learn, play and grow,” and “culture: performance or lessons in meditation and occur in the general population. Living Room anything a human does to any degree stress reduction from a certified yoga Culture takes the best of what the Internet of success that is valued by other does—connects people—and suggests instructor. As interest grows, Brezhnev hopes to people.” bringing cultural interaction back into living add a wider variety of people who’d like to rooms.” perform or speak in private homes. This website is just one of many that promote social interaction, but what makes it unique is the way it matches people with a talent or expertise with opportunities to perform or speak in the homes of people who want to host an event. Through, performers, artists and speakers arrange to come into your home—sometimes free of charge, or for a small fee that can be covered by the host or collected by the host from the guests (it is the host who pays the presenter). The common definition of living room, according to Brezhnev, is “a room in a house for general and informal everyday use,” and the common definition of culture is “the arts, sciences and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.” Brezhnev gives them each new definitions: “living room: the home gathering place where family and friends share, learn, play and grow,” and “culture: anything a human does to any degree of success that is valued by other people.”

Living Room Culture is not a for-profit business. Its owner has a unique view of the world of give and take. Brezhnev says that in his years of experience in working as a cook, a security guard, a technology consultant, a graphic designer, an art director and even a ditch digger, the jobs were all about life and learning new skills. “There are no fees for what I do. If I can do it, and I like doing it—I will help. As far as my own wants and needs … perhaps the people I help will see value in what I do and will barter or pay to help me continue do what I do, live in a place I like, purchase things I enjoy and allow me to help other people reach their dreams. It all adds up.” The website is free to those who post information about their talent, their plan for a show, their fee and their availability. It is also free to those who use it to book a presenter. According to Brezhnev, the website is “a vehicle to connect people who want to engage in redefining their own lives and culture.”

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MyTekLife Magazine  

Winter 2011 issue

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