Got broken electronics, a shoe that needs mending, or maybe a mangled umbrella? Bring it to the NYC Fixers Collective, where they’ll help you fix your object.

The key phrase, of course, is “help you fix.” Rather than just serving as repairmen/repairwomen, the collective’s founders believe in empowering individuals to take ownership of their own objects, including the repair process, and they act more as technical experts and facilitators. This way, says master fixer John Murphy, “you have a relationship with the object beyond what you had originally. You know what’s inside, you know what pieces are in there, and you fix it.”

Once a month, you can bring your broken electronics, household goods, and even clothing, to the Proteus Gowanus gallery space in Brooklyn, where the fixers hold a three-hour fixing session. Payment is by donation; the fixers suggest a minimum of $5. The money covers the cost of supplies, but the fixers also eventually hope to rent their own space and expand the hours of operation.

Watch the video to hear some of the fixers describe why they do what they do, and watch some “fixees” talk about the experience of working with the fixers.

New York Fixers Collective – Medium Cut Version from Julian Dunn on Vimeo.

Our Lady of Refuge Church in Flatbush, Brooklyn is “pulling out all the stops” to restore its historic pipe organ.

The organ’s demise and resurrection mirrors demographic changes in the parish since the church was built in what was then a well-to-do Brooklyn neighborhood. Father Michael Perry says that the church’s construction costs, totalling $750,000 (about $13 million in today’s dollars) were paid for in cash. That was in 1933, in the midst of the Depression.

“If you look at the houses around here, even the apartment houses, they’re high ceilings, big apartments, I mean it was a pretty wealthy neighborhood,” he said.

The church is holding an organ recital on November 18 in a bid to raise the last $60,000 needed to finish refurbishment and reinstallation of the 1933 Kilgen Pipe organ.

In this slideshow, Father Perry talks about why he and Joe Vitacco, chair of the organ committee, have embarked on a project to bring organ music to the church’s mostly Caribbean and West Indian congregation.

As the Occupy Wall Street movement fans out across the country, it is changing to adapt to local issues.

Both the media and the public have criticized the Occupy Wall Street movement for having little focus beyond the notion of income disparity. On the other hand, the movement’s fluid goals, combined with the consensus-based general assembly model for making decisions, has allowed local Occupy movements to focus their protest on issues in their communities.

Read More

Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce recently released a study clearly showing, for the first time, the earning potential of certain majors versus others. Engineering, computers, and mathematics top the list of median earnings, although business degrees, at 25 percent of all degrees awarded, are the most popular.

But Peter Thiel argues that college is completely pointless if you’re interested in starting a new venture, and he’s put money into the game.

Read more at ToilTown.

One of Brooklyn’s major environmental cleanup sites is finally getting some attention.

The City of New York’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is in the midst of rebuilding the Gowanus Canal’s wastewater pumping station at the north end of the waterway. The station pulls fresh water from Buttermilk Channel, near Governor’s Island, into the closed-ended canal in order to circulate water.

“It’s basically a toilet tank for the Gowanus,” said Butler Street landlord Rick Rehak, 41. Rehak owns a building next door to the pumping station site, and says he’ll be glad when construction is finished. “When it’s all done, it’ll be great — in the meantime, it’s a train wreck,” he said. Read More

Once a vital transportation channel for Brooklyn’s heavy industries, the toxic Gowanus Canal was named a federal Superfund cleanup site in March 2010. Until now, little work has been done, but in spring 2012, the first remediation project will be completed: the Gowanus Sponge Park, intended to soak up harmful pollution before the toxins can reach the waterway.

Here are a few photographs of the canal and the surrounding areas. Read More

Last week, the New York Times reported that Narrative Science, a Chicago-based startup, had developed software that would automatically digest sports data and generate a news brief. The software will also create articles out of other material such as a company’s financial reports and housing statistics. Ironically, the software was developed in collaboration with the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

Narrative Science isn’t the only company in this space. Automated Insights (a company that recently scored $4 million in additional financing and changed its name from StatSheet — could it be because they wanted to use “AI” as their company logo?) has also developed technology that creates “long & short form articles, headlines & summaries written entirely by software, that derive insight from data.”

It’s clear that software like this works best for data-heavy content. And in the aforementioned CJR interview, the founder states that special algorithms for style and tone had to be created; something feasible for data-driven sports and business articles with a consistent tone, but perhaps not that easy for news articles. On Twitter, one user commented that automated content does not equal understanding:

[blackbirdpie url=”!/LawrenceHecht/statuses/116228585798369280″]

Software like this could also be used for mischief. For example, web content farms like eHow could quickly increase the amount of “content” that’s hosted on their sites, solely for the purpose of selling more ads (something they’ve been criticized for previously).

What do you think? Do you think robot-written journalism has a place in the newsroom?