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Photo courtesy of Speak As One

Mental health apps are so alluring, but once you’ve recorded your two-week streak and things are feeling a little more organized, it can be hard to keep going. It’s hard enough to keep up with journaling and a great bedtime routine, and many lovely self-help tools also lose their effectiveness when the novelty wears off.

A smart company might harness that novelty as its hook — and an easily distracted self-helper won’t fall off the wagon. Like many other companies in the mental health space, Austin-based Speak As One will work on a subscription model, but this one won’t languish, unused on a credit card statement.

The service, which plans to launch during SXSW 2023, delivers boxes of tangible mental health tools, inspiration, games, and even sensory objects that act as a monthly nudge to try something new, and curiosity takes care of the rest.

A sample box included:

  • Stress balls with short inspirational phrases by MindPanda
  • An Emotional First Aid Kit containing advice for situations as they come up, like sleeplessness and feelings of inadequacy
  • Tiny colorful putties at different resistances by Flint Rehab
  • A notebook, and two books: Athlete Mental Health Playbook and 1000 Unique Questions About Me
  • Other small items

It’s more than packing and shipping out a few toys each month. The boxes are curated with help from a licensed therapist, who leaves a personal note along with tips on how to use the items inside and additional resources. There is one type of box right now that aims to “reduce anxiety, increase mindfulness, and promote peace and balance,” but for further customization (for $10 more), the team is working on boxes tailored to first responders, veterans, athletes, and people in “recovery.”

Speak As One emphasizes community stories in its branding outside the delivery box, and uses inspiration from “influencers” (less content creators and more so people who can embody a relatable story) to build the specialty boxes. The company’s YouTube channel shares dozens of interviews with founder Julie Korioth, a former board member for Austin’s SIMS Foundation, a well-respected mental health resource for members of the local music industry.

“With hundreds of millions of people struggling with mental health, and COVID making the issue much worse, society continues to ostracize those who openly discuss mental health issues,” said Korioth in a release. “I founded this company so we can change the way the world sees, discusses, and supports mental health. Our goal is to promote empathy, connectedness, acceptance, and thoughtfulness with an innovative toolkit that caters to specific needs."

In addition to offering a nudge, these boxes could make great care packages for a loved one who is feeling introspective or going through a significant life event. It is possible to buy gift boxes, if presentation is your thing, but it’d be just as easy to repackage a box that comes before the receiver ready to appreciate the items at home.

The cost of one box is manageable at $49.99 (especially considering the retail value of products included, which the sample box far exceed), but for many subscribers this adds up fast. Luckily, there is no pressure to continue a lengthy commitment — subscriptions last between one and six months, so users have plenty of time to reconsider and sit with the items that have already been delivered.

"The goal is to meet our audience at any phase of their mental health journey,” said Korioth. “We’re creating change and a global life-long support system for children and adults dealing with mental health challenges. We simultaneously highlight businesses, the tech community, athletes, and artists doing wonderful work in this space.”

The company plans to partner with corporations to connect with employees and provide boxes to individuals the company chooses, and will turn some content into session albums with sales proceeds dedicated to mental health research.

More information and links to preorder are available at speakasone.com.

University of Houston chips in with upcoming moon mission with special Coog-crafted cargo

cosmic coogs

The University of Houston is are playing a role in the latest mission to the moon. The Artemis I mission Orion spacecraft will carry dozens of tiny microchips made at UH on Saturday, September 3.

The Coog-crafted microchips were created to honor the thousands of people who made the Artemis mission possible, according to the school and NASA. Artemis I is set to launch Saturday, after a failed August 29 attempt due to an engine problem.

Long Chang, a research associate professor in the Cullen College of Engineering and expert at the UH nanofabrication facility, answered the call when NASA was looking for a way to honor the thousands of people contributing to the Artemis I mission.

"NASA wanted microchips with everyone's name on them. But I had some creative liberties in the design because they didn't really know what we were capable of," Chang said. "I figured out how to do this so quickly that I decided to position the names so when you see it, it looks like the NASA logo, the Artemis logo, and the European Space Agency logo. Each logo is made of those 30,000 names."

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Continue reading this story, with accompanying video, on our news partner ABC13.

Houston readies for historic return to moon with new NASA launch date

go for launch

Houstonians who are eagerly anticipating America’s historic return to the moon now have a new date. Artemis I will now launch on Saturday, September 3, with a two-hour window beginning at 1:17 pm, NASA announced late Tuesday, August 30.

Viewers can tune into the livestream of the rocket and spacecraft at the launch pad on the NASA Kennedy YouTube channel. Additionally, live coverage of events can be found on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.

This comes after the initial August 29 launch was scrubbed. At that time, teams were not able to chill down the four RS-25 engines to necessary temperatures. Teams also caught and quickly managed a hydrogen leak on one of the rocket’s components.

NASA reports that teams are currently addressing and testing both issues in advance of the Saturday launch. Another important component for flight windows — weather — is currently favorable. Meteorologists with the U.S. Space Force Space Launch Delta 45 forecast favorable weather conditions for Saturday. Though some rain showers are expected, they are predicted to be sporadic during the launch window, per NASA.

As space fans are aware, Artemis I is the first flight test of NASA’s Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System rocket (dubbed SLS), and the ground systems at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“The first in a series of increasingly complex missions, Artemis I will be an uncrewed flight test that will provide a foundation to extend human presence to the Moon and beyond,” NASA notes in a news release. “The mission will demonstrate the performance of the SLS rocket and test Orion’s capabilities over the course of about six weeks as it travels about 40,000 miles beyond the Moon and back to Earth.”

Given the gravity of the launch, NASA planned considerable fanfare for the broadcast, including celebrity appearances by Jack Black, Chris Evans, and Keke Palmer, as well as a special performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Josh Groban and Herbie Hancock. A planned musical performance featured “America the Beautiful” by The Philadelphia Orchestra and cellist Yo-Yo Ma, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

Representatives from Johnson Space Center had not received an update on the Saturday broadcast program when contacted on Wednesday, August 31.

Houston and lunar missions have been inextricably tied since NASA’s first launches. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy boldly declared that America would go to the moon before the end of the decade in front of a packed Rice University football stadium.

On July 20, 1969 – a commitment to the late President Kennedy’s directive — Apollo 11 marked its arrival to the lunar surface with a statement heard around the globe from Commander Neil Armstrong, who would take mankind’s first steps on the surface: “Houston, Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed.”

And the Bayou City has (somewhat tiredly) been the source of a ubiquitous sentence — that is actually a paraphrasing — uttered by Apollo 13 Commander Jim Lovell: “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.” The adjusted “Houston, we have a problem” declaration was later immortalized by Tom Hanks (as Lovell) in the blockbuster Apollo 13.

What will be the next iconic phrase sent back to Houston when NASA’s manned mission readies to land on Earth’s sole satellite? The countdown is on.

Here's how Houstonians can watch NASA's long-awaited return to the Moon

t-minus...

UPDATE: NASA halted the Monday, August 29 Artemis I launch attempt at approximately 7:34 am Monday. According to a statement, the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft remain in a safe and stable configuration. Launch controllers were continuing to evaluate why a bleed test to get the RS-25 engines on the bottom of the core stage to the proper temperature range for liftoff was not successful, and ran out of time in the two-hour launch window. Engineers are continuing to gather additional data.

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In less than a week, NASA and its commercial partners are returning humans to the Moon in the first mission of the Artemis Program. All eyes will be on the rocket as it launches Monday, August 29.

Artemis I — the mission's first flight test of the NASA’s Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System rocket — is an uncrewed mission that will launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida before circling the moon. The SLS rocket is targeted to launch during a two-hour window that opens at 7:33 am on Monday, August 29, from Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy.

Coverage of the launch has already started, and viewers can tune into the livestream of the rocket and spacecraft at the launch pad on the NASA Kennedy YouTube channel. Additionally, live coverage of events started airing on Monday on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website. The launch countdown will begin at 9:23 am on Saturday, August 27.

While launch is the main event, the broadcast will also include celebrity appearances by Jack Black, Chris Evans, and Keke Palmer, as well as a special performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Josh Groban and Herbie Hancock. It also will feature a performance of “America the Beautiful” by The Philadelphia Orchestra and cellist Yo-Yo Ma, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

“The first in a series of increasingly complex missions, Artemis I will be an uncrewed flight test that will provide a foundation to extend human presence to the Moon and beyond,” NASA reports in a news release. “The mission will demonstrate the performance of the SLS rocket and test Orion’s capabilities over the course of about six weeks as it travels about 40,000 miles beyond the Moon and back to Earth.”

A full itinerary of events — including press conferences, virtual social opportunities, and more — is available online. Interested parties can also follow NASA’s Artemis blog for updates.

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This article originally ran on our sister site InnovationMap.

Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University

Rice University boosts NASA's research and new lunar mission with renewed partnership

owls in space

Nearly 60 years ago, President John F. Kennedy made a bold declaration to the crowd of 40,000 gathered at Rice University’s football stadium — and to the world. America, said the young president, would land a man on the moon before the decade’s end.

“Why does Rice play Texas? We choose to go to the moon,” Kennedy said in the now-iconic speech on September 12, 1962. “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

Indeed, heading back to the moon is hard, but the Ivy League of the South has just formalized a deal to assist NASA in doing so in the agency’s new lunar Artemis program. Rice University and NASA have extended their historic collaboration and partnership in which the two entities share research and develop educational outreach programs and opportunities.

Specifically, the new umbrella Space Act Agreement (SAA) covers participation by Rice and NASA personnel in joint research opportunities, STEM engagement, and educational activities, according to a Rice press announcement. This deal follows a decade of collaboration (starting with the 2012 SAA) and a previous extension in 2017.

And in a nod to the late president, the agreement also makes official NASA’s co-host participation in the upcoming Rice campus celebration that celebrates Kennedy’s legendary “We choose to go to the moon” speech. Rice will host public events from September 10-12.

This partnership invites the university to host and attend presentations at Johnson Space Center, including its Gateway to Space lecture series, and to NASA personnel to present at and attend the Rice Space Institute’s Space Frontiers lecture series, the Professional Science Masters in Space Studies seminar series, and other events, per a release.

The university will also seek ways to involve NASA researchers as visiting scholars, share information that could lead to collaborations, encourage Rice students to seek NASA internships, and pursue opportunities to engage in bioscience and human health and performance research.

Rice has collaborated with NASA since the agency’s inception, including donating land for what’s now Johnson Space Center, as well as founding the first space science department in an academic institution. Rice alums in space include Shannon Walker, who holds three Rice degrees; Peggy Whitson, who holds the American record for the most time in space; and Nichole Ayers, who joined the space corps last year, Rice notes.

In July 2019, veterans of the Apollo program reunited at Rice Stadium to toast the anniversary of the first moon landing (Apollo 11) and take part in a NASA video to mark the 50-year milestone.

“NASA’s Johnson Space Center has a long history of working with colleges and universities since the early days of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs to help us achieve our human spaceflight missions,” said Vanessa Wyche, director of Johnson Space Center, in a statement. “We are eager to extend our partnership with Rice University to collaborate in vital research and technology development initiatives that will enable us to meet our nation’s exploration goals and advance human spaceflight as we work to land the first woman and first person of color on the moon under Artemis.”

Photo courtesy of Texas Children's Hospital

2 Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Houston doctors land on prestigious list of most creative in business

distinguished dynamic duo

Acclaimed national publication Fast Company has announced its 14th annual list of Most Creative People in Business — and two notable Houstonians made the cut.

Dr. Peter Hotez and his fellow dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, were named among the list for “open sourcing a COVID-19 Vaccine for the rest of the world.” The list, which recognizes individuals making a cultural impact via bold achievements in their field, is made up of influential leaders in business.

Hotez and Bottazzi are also co-directors for the Texas Children's Hospital's Center for Vaccine Development — one of the most cutting-edge vaccine development centers in the world. For the past two decades it has acquired an international reputation as a non-profit Product Development Partnership (PDP), advancing vaccines for poverty-related neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and emerging infectious diseases of pandemic importance.

One of their most notable achievements is the development of a vaccine technology leading to CORBEVAX, a traditional, recombinant protein-based COVID-19 vaccine.

As CultureMap previously reported, earlier this year, the doctors were nominated for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize for their research and vaccine development of the vaccine. Its low cost, ease of production and distribution, safety, and acceptance make it well-suited for addressing global vaccine inequity.

"It's an honor to be recognized not only for our team's scientific efforts to develop and test low cost-effective vaccines for global health, but also for innovation in sustainable financing that goes beyond the traditional pharma business model," says Hotez in a statement.

The technology was created and engineered by Texas Children's Center for Vaccine Development specifically to combat the worldwide problem of vaccine access and availability. Biological E Limited (BE) developed, produced and tested CORBEVAX in India where over 60 million children have been vaccinated so far.

"We appreciate the recognition of our efforts to begin the long road to 'decolonize' the vaccine development ecosystem and make it more equitable. We hope that CORBEVAX becomes one of a pipeline of new vaccines developed against many neglected and emerging infections that adversely affect global public health," says Bottazzi in the news release from Texas Children's.

Fast Company editors and writers research candidates for the list throughout the year, scouting every business sector, including technology, medicine, engineering, marketing, entertainment, design, and social good. Find the complete list here.

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This article originally ran on our sister site, InnovationMap.

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Iconic Austin blues club brings the show to fans with new indie livestreaming platform

Live on Live

If legendary Austin blues club Antone’s is your vibe, but the drive to Capital City isn't, you’re in luck. Antone’s Nightclub launched a new service for livestreaming its shows in November.

Kicking off with New Orleans-based funk and jam band Dumpstaphunk, for their special “Phunksgiving” show last month with Michael Hale Trio, the full lineup is delineated on the Antone’s website. Specifics were still loose before the launch, allowing the famous blues club to call the shots. The partner agency that created the streaming service, 3rd + Lamar, created the system to give Antone’s as much freedom as possible.

"Partnering with Antone's to build their livestreaming platform and produce each of their shows is an incredible opportunity for 3rd + Lamar," said the agency’s co-founder Nick Schenck in a press release. "The amazing talent that performs at Antone's – and their fans worldwide – deserve best-in-class live production quality, and we're thrilled to play a part in this operation."

Not that Antone’s needed to stand out more in the music industry (the nearly 50-year-old venue has always been one of the best places to see both local and national talent), but this achievement places it among relatively few venues across the country, especially those that operate their system independently.

The intimate Antone's shows are filmed by four Blackmagic 4K cinema cameras on tracks overhead, which ensure that the whole space is easily visible without having camera operators amid the audience.

“We did over 430 individually ticketed shows in 2019 and we felt like we were bursting at the seams,” said Antone’s owner Will Bridges. “Then when livestreams became more prominent during the pandemic we realized, this is our opportunity to take Antone’s outside of our four walls. … [W]e see people in the comment threads all the time saying ‘If I could only be teleported to Antone’s!’ Well now they can.”

The release emphasizes that the system means Antone’s “fully retain[s] ownership of their content, which can then be utilized at their discretion.” It also calls the service “an add-on option for all artists performing at Antone’s,” positioning the service as not just an audience luxury but a performer’s low-cost marketing tool. Suddenly, artists playing at Antone’s are afforded a choice without needing to be invited to record or pay an independent video team, while reaching even more viewers with no extra time spent advertising.

“Our ultimate goal is to make these amazing musical experiences accessible to everyone. Life is busy, but we want to give everyone the opportunity to participate no matter where they are or what they have going on,” said Bridges. “We want to make livestreams from Antone’s totally commonplace. When we announce our upcoming shows, fans have two options: watch it at the club our watch it at home.”

Livestreams are at antonesnightclub.com, and links also appear with each applicable event across the site. Prices are listed on the website, and livestreams start 10-20 minutes before each show.

Alt-rock legends Red Hot Chili Peppers heading to Houston for 2023 North American tour

one hot minute

One of alternative rock's most pioneering and enduring acts is headed to Houston to close out a highly anticipated North American tour next year. Red Hot Chili Peppers will play Minute Maid Park on Thursday, May 25, 2023 as part of a North American trek that kicks off in Vancouver, British Columbia on March 29.

Houston lands the honor of the closeout city for the North American tour (the band will also play a slew of dates in Europe). Effortlessly hip, celeb-fave modern rock band The Strokes will support the Chili Peppers, along with the talented bassist-vocalist Thundercat.

Tickets go on sale this week at 10 am Friday, December 9 online.

Houston fans who can't get enough can also catch the Chili Peppers when they hit The Alamodome in San Antonio on Wednesday, May 17 — the only other Texas date.

Aside from The Strokes and Thundercat, supporting acts along the way include Iggy Pop, The Roots, The Mars Volta, St. Vincent, City and Colour, and King Princess.

Touring in support of their two No. 1 studio albums released in 2022, Unlimited Love and Return of the Dream Canteen, the Chili Peppers have been played sold-out shows in London, Paris, Los Angeles, and more with major names such as Notable artists such as A$AP Rocky, Anderson.Paak, Beck, and HAIM.

The first rock band in 17 years to score two No. 1 albums in one year, the band has been red hot on the Billboard charts and at the MTV Video Music Awards, where they received the Global Icon Award and brought the house down with a performance of the No. 1 single “Black Summer,'' which also won the award for Best Rock Video.

Fronted by the impossibly chiseled and ageless (he's 60!) Anthony Kiedis, the Chili Peppers formed in 1983. Unabashedly proud of their LA roots, the band burst onto the scene with early singles such as "Higher Ground" and "Give It Away," both showcases of bassist Flea's slappin', funk-fueled basslines.

Throughout the peak of alternative music in the '90s, the band saw tragedy, personnel changes at guitar, and reinventions — Kiedes' rap-singing, Flea's bass grooves, and singalong choruses all constants over the decades.

While many '90s alt-rock acts fizzled, the Chili Peppers stayed relevant; the band boasts two anthemic singles with more than 1 billion streams — "Californication" and "Under the Bridge" — and more than 25 million followers on Spotify.

Expect this show to be packed with Gen Xers and new fans for what promises to be one hot minute.

Red Hot Chili Peppers 2023 tour dates:

  • Wednesday, March 29 – Vancouver – BC Place
  • Saturday, April 1 – Las Vegas – Allegiant Stadium
  • Thursday, April 6 – Fargo, North Dakota – FargoDome
  • Saturday, April 8 – Minneapolis – US Bank Stadium
  • Friday, April 14 – Syracuse, New York – JMA Wireless Dome
  • Friday, May 12 – San Diego – Snap Dragon Stadium
  • Sunday, May 14 – Phoenix – State Farm Stadium
  • Wednesday, May 17 – San Antonio – Alamodome
  • Friday, May 19 – Gulf Shores, Alabama – Hangout Music Festival
  • Thursday, May 25 – Houston – Minute Maid Park

Fan-favorite, wood-fired Houston pizzeria quietly opens in the Heights

enough (pizza) to love

A popular Houston pizzeria has opened its second location in the Heights. The Gypsy Poet has begun a quiet soft opening in the former Fegen’s space at 1050 Studewood St.

Since its 2019 debut in Midtown, the Gypsy Poet has earned a devoted following for its wood-fired pizzas. The restaurant’s personal-sized, 13-inch pizzas exist somewhere on the spectrum between traditional Neapolitan and classic New York — too crispy for the Italians but not quite foldable like an East Coast slice. Options include a classic Margherita and the signature Fancy Backpacker, which is topped with prosciutto, truffle oil, and arugula.

Part of the restaurant’s appeal stems from its friendly service and easy going atmosphere. It regularly hosts informal musical performances and other artistic happenings.

Taken together, Gypsy Poet has earned legions on fans. Yelp users ranked it as Texas’s second best restaurant in 2021. More recently, Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy awarded it a high 7.8 rating during a pizza review.

The restaurant opens at a time of transition for pizzerias in the Heights. Dallas-based Neapolitan restaurant Cane Rosso closed last year, and suburban favorite Crust Pizza Co. opened this summer in the former Mellow Mushroom space at N. Shepherd and 20th.

The Heights location of Gypsy Poet will be open Tuesday-Thursday from 5-9 pm; Friday from 12-2 pm and 5-10 pm; Saturday 2-10 pm; and Sunday 2-9 pm.