Sunday, December 13, 2009

WordPress Meetup is TechLiminal

The sky was like wet tissue paper clogging up the sun. Who would go to a Meetup group on a December Sunday afternoon when they could be more holiday-wise engaged?  I wanted to find out.  More than that, I’d already decided that my New Years’ resolution was to learn how to use WordPress so I could redo my html site and turn it into a blog.  

No time like a present.

I located the address of TechLiminal, a space that bills itself as a “technology hotspot and salon.” For me it was a storefront near the old Holmes Book Store in downtown Oakland.  But that’s ancient history…

Arriving a few minutes after 1pm, I was instructed to “go upstairs” where about 10 people already sat in front of a long black table to discuss WordPress Multiuser, software that can run many sites, something like a stylesheet for blogs with a database vengeance. But it doesn’t replace “BuddyPress,” which can be used to add a social networking layer should you want to do that sort of thing.

I could tell by the rapid exchange of acronyms that I was among geeks, while I am a mere wanna be geek.

Every blog has its own dashboard in WordPress, and there’s a master dashboard that can be used to control them all. Each multi user site is identified in the scheme of things by a blog id that can be used as a means to do queries against its content stored in a database.  I also learned that some themes don’t work as well as others based upon how options are stored. To get the full scoop, you can always go to >

What’s a theme? How a site looks.

In looking over my notes, I think that for me the afternoon was filled with more acronym than substance, but that’s largely because I haven’t developed myWordPress chops.  Give me a few months.

We did look at a Multiuser version of a Best Buy site. Below the corporate menu bar and product drop-downs, there was local content with an introduction to the store manager who smiled benignly from what looked like his kitchen. I was beginning to understand what Multiuser can do.  Did I say I was a visual learner?

More buzz words and acronyms. Recommended hosts like AZHosting, MidPhase, Digital Forest, Go Daddy, and Dream Host with brief discussions about their pros and cons. Too slow. Good support. Too expensive.

Based on my recent encounter with Wiki founder Jimmy Wales, I wanted to know about the difference between wikis and a WordPress Multiuser group since they both seemed to do something similar: bring people together to share information.  But I got a good definition. Wikis are a great way for groups to collaboratively edit content in one place to produce a document, whereas a WordPress Multiuser, like most blogs, is a temporal product whose interest can wane with the date. 

With my question about “Where do I start?” one of the organizers, Sallie Goetsch, suggested that I read WordPress for Dummies. I will and I’ll be back…

Lenore Weiss

Posted via email from techtabletalk's posterous

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Two Coffee Shops

This is a story of two coffee shops located across the street from each other.

Both coffee shops had faced each other on opposite sides of the street for many years. One of them is called General Arthur’s, which had been named after a World War II veteran returned from the Battle of Midway in the Pacific theater who then took up the art of donut-making until his death from a heart attack. The other shop is Bradley’s whose founder had long ago sold the business to a new owner and then retired to the golf course, but the name of the place stuck.

Bradley’s has the look of a set decorated by a 70's housewife complete with a windowsill filled with fake mini sunflowers. General Arthur’s offered oak chairs with a lottery machine positioned inside the doorway. Both shops have glass counters where customers can admire a selection of donuts, scones, and cinnamon buns so that each morning they stopped at either General Arthur’s or Bradley’s for something to call breakfast before starting work.

The two shops across the street from each other are similar in mostly every way: they served the same kind of “to-go” food catering to office workers making quick stops for coffee and sandwiches or cigarettes. They exist in commercial harmony with enough business for both shops to be successful. However, there is one key difference between the two that is not obvious, even to most of the regulars.

"Did Zach come in already this morning?" inquires one guy of Bradley.

Everyone assumes that the proprietor standing behind the glass counter wearing his horned rim glasses and white apron must be the man behind the sign. But his name is really Forest Palmbo. "Yes," Bradley says. "Already got his Diet Snapple." And they laugh. Both men know that Zach will never deviate from his morning diet, and take comfort in that fact.

“So can you come tonight?” the man now whispers, taking his coffee and oat bran muffin as he hands over several dollar bills and waits for his change.

“What time?” asks Bradley, smiling at the next customer in line and ready to take his order.

“7:30,” and before heading out the door the man who works at the Private Industry Council a few blocks up the street turns and says, “At the usual.”

Around 4 p.m., Bradley unties his white apron and throws it into a plastic bin along with the others. This evening laundry service will replace them with five clean ones for the following week. This is Friday and Bradley packs all leftover pastries into several pink cardboard boxes, separating donuts from muffins from scones, his knuckles protruding like hills from white plastic gloves. After he tapes each cardboard box shut and wraps them together with twine, Bradley peels off his gloves and loads the package into the trunk of his car. But he won’t be finished for another hour until he wipes glass counters clean, this time wearing a fresh pair of plastic gloves, and removes crumbs from the two toaster ovens, readying coffee machines with freshly ground beans for the morning’s brew. Bread loaves back in the refrigerator, all luncheon meats and smoked turkey and lettuce packed away, Bradley takes one last glance at the store, shakes his head, locks the front door and gets into his Chevy. First he’s driving home to shower.

He shows up at a restaurant at 7 p.m., plastic ivy vines wrapped around four oak beams in the central dining area and also along the cash register where they abruptly stop.

Next appears See Dong. He’s one of those people who prefer to keep a safe distance from the center of action. On the other hand, Bradley is very involved with the event. He opens his pink boxes and carefully lays pastries on silver trays. The trays are on tables near the front of the room and are covered in white tablecloths. People begin to enter the restaurant. It is only open for this special evening’s event. Bradley removes a small brown bottle of something and pours a few drops over the pastries. He calls it his “day-old freshener.”

John Greuner, the man who spoke to Bradley in the restaurant, now moves toward the front of the room. He straightens his tie and brushes a few pieces of lint from his shirt, smiles at several people sitting down at a table nearby. He stops to talk with them. Dong has already positioned the trays above several warm lights and will return later to clean up.

Bradley tells Greuner everything is “ready.”

“Okay,” he says and straightens his tie like a man testing a noose. “Everyone sit down, please. We’re ready to begin.” A group of about 40 men and women find seats in front of a large white screen, all dressed in suits, mostly black, wearing name tags printed on large sticky labels.

“I bet you’re all wondering why you’re here.” People are streaming toward the seats now, holding coffee cups and munching on Bradley’s muffins. Of course, Dong has provided catered aluminum trays of steaming pork buns and vegetables coated with sesame seeds, already emptied by the early arrivers, unemployed workers who are excited by the prospect of a free meal, but he is no where to be seen. “The Private Industry Council, as you know, has been tasked by the City to develop jobs. You’ve been invited here today as prime candidates for the job development program.” Greuner stops for a moment and lets the news sink in, radiating goodwill and competence. Someone raises a hand but Greuner ignores it and continues. “The training program is fully funded by federal stimulus monies and lasts for six months. At the end of six, assuming that you successfully complete the program,” and Greuner licks his lips, “you will be fully guaranteed a job in your desired field.”

The man in the audience in the second row waves his hand again. Without waiting this time to be called upon he asks, “Are the jobs local?” He’s been out of work for the last seven months and hopes he doesn’t have to relocate to find work, which would mean moving his family. His kids are teenagers. Still, he can’t believe his luck. In fact, most of the people sitting in metal chairs look like they’ve just won the lottery, wanting to toast each other with their coffee cups.

“Certainly they are. Most of them are,” Greuner quickly corrects himself and glances at his watch. But then something strange starts to happen. The people in the audience start to shrink; shrivel is the more operative word. It’s as if all the water in their bodies begins to evaporate and what’s left is an outer layer that folds from their bodies in brittle strips, plastering the floor in confetti. From the back of the room Bradley begins to slowly pack his pink cardboard boxes and See Dong pulls into the parking lot with a vacuum cleaner stored in his trunk.

“Decreasing the unemployment figures meeting by meeting,” Greuner circles around to the back of the room. “That’s the way,” he says to himself, but loud enough for Bradley to hear. “Bit by bit.”

In a few years, Greuner heads an agency with a multi-million dollar budget. Bradley’s coffee shop is thriving. Each morning See Dong carefully layers fried eggs onto toasted bread. The owner of General Arthur’s can’t understand where all his business went and is considering filing for bankruptcy, but a number of his friends warn against it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Good People Working Together to Create Information

Surely, many of you have heard of Wikipedia, which is approaching its ninth anniversary. Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that is in the process of constantly being created by users throughout the world.

Wiki is from a Hawaaian word "wikiwiki" meaning quick. The term refers to software used by Wikipedia that allows for quick editing and collaboration. Wikis have existed since 1995, and were invented by Ward Cunningham.

Try a Web search any day and it will most likely include a listing from Wikipedia.

Jimmy Wales is the man you want to thank for putting this sailboat in motion. Wales said he cleaves to three basic truths: “assume good faith, spread knowledge, be bold,” and always carry a water bottle. I’m only kidding about the last one, although Wales did have a water bottle on the podium as he spoke to the student assemblage, the last event in a day long symposium on “The Future of the Forum: Internet Communities and the Public Interest”, sponsored by Berkeley Center for New Media.

Wales grew up in Alabama and recounted how much culture has changed since the sixties when he was designated as the remote control by his mother to manually change TV channels followed by the eighties with a new request to “hook up the VCR.” Turning tables around, now Wales asks his daughter to program the TIVO.

“Culture is getting smarter and more complicated,” he said, running the gamut of the I Love Lucy sitcoms of yesteryear to the more complex relationships of Seinfeld, or from Pong to the fantasy game of Warcraft.

A strong proponent of free speech with a lifelong mission to create “free access to the sum of human knowledge,” Wales noted that Wikis are available in more than 175 languages throughout the world. The three million Wiki articles in English represent less than 20 percent of the total work, he said. Wiki articles exist in languages as diverse as German, French, Polish, Japanese, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Gaelic, Punjabi, and Russian, just for starters. Wales said that Wikipedia is the eighth most popular Website in Iran.

There’s something universal about the volunteers of Wikipedia, he said, “good people working with passion to create a collaborative culture which may possibly play a role in improving the intellectual level of discourse around many issues.”

In the early days, Wikipedias were embraced less by casual users and more by the geekish community whose comfort level included new software and publishing online. “We’re seeing new types of editors,” said Wales, especially around Wikia, a public wiki space for people of similar interests to share information.

More and more he noted “consumer media is becoming dominant.” With the demise of printed newspapers and money devoted to serious investigative reporting, the world of social networking that has sent marketing gurus into a tailspin, and smart phones that allow people to communicate instantaneously, Wikis are the hand that gathers strands of information and strings the pearls.

Lenore Weiss

Friday, November 27, 2009

Yeah, right

I started smoking again as the rain and unemployment levels were on the rise in Northern California. One I could handle, but not both at the same time. I saw it coming. Cubicles around me in the exchange division resembled a ghost town, unplugged computer screens everywhere.

Suddenly after 15 years of employment, I got the word and I tried to beat a pink slip home. I figured there was enough time to buy a pack of cigarettes. You'd think that after 20 years of quitting smoking, I would've known better.

Couldn't light up in the house. Didn't want to let Cathy know that I'd started again. But after the first dozen times of going downstairs because I'd left something inside my car, I knew she was getting suspicious.

One night she came into bed. "What's that smell, Rick?"

"Don't smell anything." I rolled over and played dumb.

"I know that smell," she said, and flopped her arm over my chest.

Good thing I had a cover. The rice had burned on the stove that evening. "Maybe it's the exhaust fan from the oven," I said. I didn't even think the stove had a fan. "I'll check it in the morning."

She sniffed the side of my neck and didn't say anything. We both knew she knew. But that didn't stop me from going to the parking lot of the condo wondering about how I was going to pay the bills.

Sure, I talked to her about how I waited for a half day at a job fair and never got to first base. She'd told me something would come up.

Yeah, right. I sat on the curb in the condo parking lot with my computer in my lap. I was smoking and it started to rain.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

How I Landed My New Job, #3

I watched a man with striped blue and red socks pedal by on a bicycle. A girl in a black hoodie and tennis shoes walked by holding a cell phone to her ear. There was a strong scent of something like Lysol. I noticed large stains on the linoleum floor, possibly from water damage. The room was furnished with two folding metal chairs and buffeted along its perimeter with wooden shelves; in the back, the aforementioned hot plate, and several packets of powdered milk and sugar substitutes. A calendar hung on the wall with a layout of pumpkins. I also noticed a bathroom that I wasn’t ready to investigate, but hoped anyway for toilet paper.

I decided to release a single cup from its Styrofoam tower and waited for an aluminum pan to heat up with water. I searched for a plastic spoon and found one. Stirred the water in the powder and went back outside to begin sorting through boxes.

I loved junk, part of a childhood preoccupation with going through my aunt’s attic while everyone downstairs talked and drank. Just the fact that something was boxed away and wrapped in tissue paper made it special. Photograph albums with black pages and blurry faces. An assortment of silver spoons, each with a different pattern. Moldy dolls in serious need of plastic surgeons. Dresses and fur coats that retained a smell of perfume. I could lose myself in my aunt’s attic until my mother called me to come downstairs to say good-bye, which happened a long time ago before every year marked the death of someone whom I loved and black became my favorite color.

Now I loved all kinds of color and began digging around inside the cartons to see what I could find. A milk pitcher in the shape of a white cow. More pottery, glass, cutlery, a few electrical appliances. This was the perfect job. I began to arrange stuff along different shelves. One place for each kind of thing huddled next to each other for warmth. It was getting cold. I had a thin jacket pulled over a t-shirt. A half-finished cup of cold coffee sat on the ledge. No help there. I looked outside and realized it was dark and whateverhernamewas hadn’t returned from her storage unit.

For sure I’d gotten myself involved in another stupid mess. I was a floater with a knack for landing in ridiculous situations, a dandelion seed in the brambles. But I also reminded myself that I had managed to find a semi-decent new apartment and had left behind a boyfriend who only knew how to extend his grubby hands. An energy vampire. But what a body! Beautifully shaped muscles, a strong neck, an abdomen shaped by the hands of Greek Gods.

Right then the door was propped open by a large carton.

“Hey, can you come outside and help me?”

She was sorry she’d been away so long. Oh, her name was Vivette. She’d just sent in her check for this month’s rent to the storage people, and had to hassle with them for at least a half an hour before they were able to find her check in a stack of mail. Not one of those losers had logged it into their computer. She hated computers. Of course, the things were useful in their own way, looking up addresses and recipes. She’d gotten a great recipe for scotch scones. She’d bake me a bunch sometime. I seriously looked like I could use some fattening up. When’s the last time I ate?

Anyhow, by the time she’d finally squared things away with the people at the front desk, then she had to begin loading the stuff into her flatbed, up and down the elevator. Up and down. She really should’ve gotten a unit on the ground floor, but they were too expensive. Still were. Those people charge an arm and a leg but they were the cheapest around. Do you think they cared that she was starting up a new business and striking out for herself after years of running a daycare? She loved kids, but she couldn’t do it anymore, didn’t have the energy to keep up with three-year olds. Did I like children? A friend had showed her this place and it had been bingo! She always spent her weekends at flea markets. The place was a decent square footage and she could buy stuff cheap and sell it at a slight mark-up. All the Moms and Pops she knew were looking for a bargain. These days it was rough on families. Anyhow, she’d made it back and she was sorry again she was late. The phone was going to be installed next week. Everything was about red tape, red time.

She took a breath and looked around. “You did a great job,” she said and smiled at me. I helped her to unload the rest of the cartons from her white Toyota and we stacked them on the side of the room. After we had unloaded the last one, she placed two crisp twenties in my hand. “Ten dollars an hour, okay?” I nodded. “Come back Monday,” she said and disappeared toward the bathroom. “Ten o’clock.”

"Is this a job?" I asked.

"What do I know?" she said.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Green Brick Road to Renewable Jobs

There’s a man who sits in front of his computer developing reports about renewable resources, charting a green brick-road leading to jobs and a possibly new relationship to our futures in this cash-strapped state of California. He shuttles between offices at the City College of San Francisco and his home in the Laurel District of California, rarely deflected from his goal, a man who has dedicated his career to workforce development and dislocated worker training and counseling.

Fortunately for me, sometimes this slender bearded man takes a break to lunch on garlic potato soup and toasted baguettes at a café near 16th Street in San Francisco where I met John Carrese, Center Director of Centers of Excellence.

The Centers of Excellence, delivers regional workforce research for community college decision-making and resource development.

Reports and their statistics help the community colleges to justify new course offerings. But they can help you too.

The Centers are funded through Economic and Workforce Development, and like many other offices these days, has recently experienced budget cuts. Fortunately, Carrese continues at the helm.

Here’s where to find the reports. If you’re wondering how to restructure your careers, you may find these a valuable information resource.

To look at reports for specific green industries go to and enter a backslash with entries of green, solar, energy or wind after the initial url. For example:

Also take a look at for a summary of upcoming conferences and professional development opportunities at community colleges throughout the state.

EDD (Employment Development Department) has been busy also researching where the green venture capital is going and on what industries people are betting. Check out and also

“The intersection of new jobs and technology applied to real problems makes this work compelling to me,” Carrese said.

Go John. We need more programs and people like you.

Lenore Weiss

Posted via email from techtabletalk's posterous

Sunday, November 15, 2009

How I Landed My New Job, #2

Let me guess what you’re thinking, how this is about Johnny giving me a job. You can bet that I was thinking the same thing. A girl has to take care of herself because who else will?

I had money for next month’s rent, a dozen packages of Top Ramen noodles and enough quarters to do two loads of wash. Getting a job had suddenly escalated to the top of my list.

In order to land the apartment, a friend had vouched for me as a freelance artist. My new landlord had been desperate to rent the place. It had been vacant for three months. Taking my first month’s rent and security deposit, he said, “Rent is due the first of the month, every month. No exceptions.” I may be a lot of things, but I’m not dumb.

Anyway, my new apartment wasn’t bad, small but with working appliances and hot water. I looked up at the cracked plaster of the ceiling and mumbled something along these lines:

“Thank you, Big Bopper, for teaching me to never give parts of myself away, including loans of money to asshole boyfriends, and thanks for keeping me and my cat Mr. Purrfect, safe,” which reminded me that I also had to figure cat food into my overall budget. But then I cheered myself with thoughts of how people all over the world are getting blown up for no good reason so my situation didn't seem so bad by comparison, and managed to wash a few dishes before gathering up my backpack and leaving the house, thinking I’d walk around the neighborhood to see if there were any “Help Wanted” signs. I saw “Closed” and “Out of Business,” and one “Lost Our Lease,” but as far as I could tell, nobody needed help. Even the Holiday Motel, a place whose beige exterior had faded into dirt a long time ago, wasn’t hiring housekeepers.I was told that people were not piling into the Holiday Motel; they were staying put. But at that moment, all explanations wrapped around my body in tight a sinewy knot and spun me on the street like a lopsided top.

Really, what was I going to do? I passed a storefront window and asked my reflection that same question, a short kid with a ponytail wearing jeans and a ribbed t-shirt. Maybe I should’ve listened to my parents before they’d died and gotten myself a teaching credential. “You’ll get the summer’s off to spend with your husband and kids,” had been their mantra. Instead, I wanted to drive across the United States with a canvas and a box of acrylic paints, and did.

The girl looked back at me with her puffy eyes. Geez, no help there. She shrugged her shoulders and pointed back at me, across the street where I saw an orange “Help Wanted” sign posted in the lower left-hand corner of a window. Thinking the sign was a mirage conjured up by my stressed-out mind, I blinked. Sure enough, it was still there.

I spit slightly into my palm and smoothed down the top of my hair with saliva, pulled my t-shirt straight over my jeans. There wasn’t much else to do except go inside the storefront on a street that was pretending to be a commercial thoroughfare in a run-down neighborhood. There were several “Sale!!!” signs posted in the window on orange poster-board. It was getting close to Halloween. A nice touch, I thought, although the graphics were lousy.

“I came in to find out about the job,” I asked a woman with long grey greasy stringy hair who stood behind a counter smoking a cigarette. Her fingers bulged at the joints, slightly arthritic with the yellow stain of a habitual smoker. I pointed to the sign in the window.

“You mean that,” she laughed like it was a big joke. I’d had enough of looking for a job, turned around and started to leave. “No wait,” she said, balancing her smokes on the edge of a counter. The place was empty except for shelves on every wall filled with bric-a-brac, something like a Goodwill Store stacked with orphaned appliances, glasses and half dinner sets. “I just put that sign, I mean just, in the window and here you are. That’s funny. Don’t you think that’s funny?”

“More good timing than funny,” I said, and twisted my hand around the handle of my backpack, ready to leave at any moment. I was afraid that I should’ve broken out in some maniac laughter and agreed with her.

“You don’t look like a bad kid. You doing drugs?”

“No m’am,” I said in my best swear to God voice.

“Okay. I need someone to stay here while more boxes arrive. You unpack them and put them on the shelves. Here’s a dust cloth. Make ‘em look nice. I’m going to my storage unit to get more.” She picked up her purse and a sweater from the back of her chair, and then circled around to get the burning cigarette. “I better put this out,” she said to herself. “You think you can do that? I’ll be back,” she said, looking at her watch. “In a few hours. There’s a hot plate in the back if you want to heat up water for coffee,” and then she ran off and disappeared.

I kicked myself for not asking her how much she was paying an hour and if this was just for one day. I also wished that I had taken a package of Top Ramen with me because I was really hungry. But for now, I had a job and the knot inside my stomach relaxed.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How I Landed My New Job

Johnny’s stretched city blocks, not your usual storefront filled with washing machines sitting on cement platforms, but a coffee shop, lending library and an art gallery, plus a few outside plastic tables where people drank coffee in warm weather. Once I moved into the neighborhood, I washed my clothes there every Saturday morning.

Here was a different kind of Laundromat. I swept bad breakups and shit jobs behind me with a desire to move on to something new only I didn’t know what.

I had accumulated several large duffel bags of wash between finding a new place and actually moving, with a month to make everything happen thanks to my landlord, Geoff, who had insisted on relocating his new boyfriend into my apartment.

Members of the recently converted to anything are the most difficult to deal with, at least that’s been my experience. I tried to negotiate with him for two extra weeks, but he refused. I pleaded on the basis of my stellar record as a renter who had always paid up on the first of the month, but it was useless. I told him that he could have half of my security deposit, but that was met with an immediate “No.”

I didn’t have a lease. So I sucked it up and spent the next two days driving around in my Suburu across the Bay, far from the renter downstairs who groaned with false orgasms (a pile-up of Oh, Oh, Ohs 10 seconds apart was the real give-away), and the other renter upstairs who practiced skateboarding in his living-room between 6 and 7 every night.

I wanted a quiet place in a safe neighborhood, but it seemed that all of those places were taken. Instead, I settled for a one-bedroom at a price I could afford and moved in with a month’s worth of dirty clothes.

Johnny’s was located two blocks from my new apartment. With a bank of 64 machines, 12 on each wall spinning around in cloud of white soap, my laundry problems were no more.

“You just watch. The shit’s gonna hit the fan but it’s not gonna get evenly distributed,” a man said looking at his watch. This was a guy with a grey ponytail wearing an earring and a pair of lime-green flip flops who was stacking new cartons of soap inside the metal slats of an empty dispenser

Another guy sat in front of him on a wooden bench that was painted blue biting into a pastry and holding a coffee in his other hand. He nodded. I sat on the same bench. “That sucks, man.”

“You’d think they’d show up. But no, just a shitter,” said Johnny.

“What’s happening?” I was trying to befriend my neighbors. They looked at me like I was a piece of lint. At this exact moment, an SUV pulled in front of the store pulling the largest port-a-potty I’ve ever seen.

“Big shits,” said the ponytail guy who by this time I’d learned was the actual Johnny of Johnny’s after several customers had passed by to exchange good mornings. “I don’t see why I need a giant port-a-potty. D’you? It’s not like they’re building the Taj Mahal.”

The guy eating his pastry took the last bite and brushed his mustache for low-hanging crumbs. “Doesn’t figure.”

The driver banged the front doors open and stuck in his head. “Where do I put ‘em?”

Johnny waved wearily, “In the back. When are those jerk-offs going to show up?”

The driver shrugged. “In the back?” He quickly disappeared to open up his vehicle.

“I don’t know why I listened to my nephew and hired these losers.”

“Really sucks, man.”

“What a way to start. Ha, ha. Not with a bowl of Cheerios but with a big bowl. If you don’t have a lock on those things the homeless guys from around the street are going start listening to the call of nature, if you know what I mean.”

Johnny stared at me like I was from another planet. Or maybe for the first time he realized that I was there. “Who the fuck are you anyway?”

“Leticia,” I said offering my hand. “I’m new to the neighborhood.”

He put down a box of suds and shook my hand. “Johnny, owner and manager of this place. And this is my buddy, George,” who acknowledged me with a tap of his fingers to his head. “You’re an itty-bitty thing, but you sure do have a big mouth.”

“She sure does,” George smiled.

From there I learned that Johnny’s was expanding. The coffee shop was being outfitted with a new kitchen so they could offer sandwiches with an area behind it so little kids could play with blocks and color pictures and he was also thinking of putting in a video machine, maybe a few, but that was the future. Or maybe he wouldn’t do that because the machines would attract a whole different clientele, wild kids from the neighborhood who did graffiti, but videos were profitable. Didn’t really matter because Johnny was expanding the coffee shop. I told him his place was like the Winchester Mystery House with new parts stuck on everywhere with bubblegum. He said he’d thought about opening other Johnny’s Wash Emporiums, start a chain, an empire of washeries, but he really didn’t want the responsibility. He needed to rely on people, and look these contractors fucking case in point who had said they’d be at the storefront hours ago, and just then a group of construction workers walked through the door, waved at Johnny, said a few things, and then exited to start dragging several large pieces of equipment around the back.

“At fucking last,” said Johnny. He began to water some large philodendrons from a galvanized can.

“They made it,” said George, who tipped his imaginary hat again, and walked out the door. “See you later, man.”

(to be continued)

Monday, November 9, 2009

When Bacteria Give Waste Their Best Shot

Today’s new green jobs are taking a tip from nature with its accumulated 3.85 billion years of research and development experience. In nature nothing is wasted.

Anaerobic Phased Solids (APS) are being faithful mimics taking a waste stream and converting it to biogas and soil fertilizer amendments. San Joaquin valley, the nation’s garden, is giving a series look at APS technologies as a way to recycle their own waste stream and to produce energy sources right in the fields.

Let me break this down.

University of California at Davis developed and pioneered an APS technology that is being tested commercially. The process is based on the work of Dr. Ruihong Zang, Professor at the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering and director for the UC Davis Biogas Energy Project. While other APS processors can convert waste material, Dr. Zang’s process is more efficient and received an award from the Environmental Protection Agency in 2007.

Basically, the process uses bacteria to break down waste, much as we humans do in our digestive systems. But instead of feeding materials into one digestion tank, the process happens in two staged environments, which allows for different bacteria types to give solid and liquid waste with their best shot.

A first group of ordinary bacteria breaks down waste in about 10 to 12 days to produce water and organic acids. This includes food processing waste, municipal green waste like grass, agricultural crop residues, animal rendering and animal manure. The resulting liquid is then pumped into holding tanks that are maintained at 130 Fahrenheit degrees with a neutral pH to encourage a second bacterial group to reduce the soup to 65 to 70 percent methane gas, in addition to biohydrogen. Both can be used to produce biofuels.

The process takes potentially harmful methane gas that is produced at land fill sites and recycles it as biofuel.

The benefit of this two-staged process is that it can process up to 30 percent of waste. Previous APS technologies typically could only handle a 5 percent solid waste stream.

The APS process pioneered at UC Davis and has been licensed by different partners including Onsite Power Systems to bring the technology to commercial uses.

Warren Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Clean World Partners, LLC, was instrumental in securing the land for Raley Field in West Sacramento, which is now home of the Sacramento River Cats. He understands how to build private and public partnerships. For a short time, Smith served as president of Onsite Power Systems before his involvement with Clean World that develops, designs, builds, and manages turnkey anaerobic digestion systems.

“In the past we thought about getting ride of waste, putting it in a hole and covering it up. The approach has become a major problem,” he said at Clean Partner’s offices in Sacramento.

Smith cited AB 939, California’s Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989 that created the California Integrated Waste Management Board, and required local governments to meet tougher solid waste diversion goals of 50 percent by 2000. Sacramento further expanded government mandates with the passage of AB 32 in 2006 making the Air Resources Board responsible for aggressively reducing green house gas emissions by 2020.

Increasing the number of landfill sites is no longer an option, said Smith. “APS is the only technology written into the scoping plan of AB 32 as waste conversion,” he said.

Clean World Partners has proposed a Sacramento BioRefinery #1 at Folsom Prison which produces, he said, “a pound and ½ of waste per person per day.” The proposed facility will produce 400.000 cubic feet of renewable gas per day. The proposal needs to make it through an EIR (Environment Impact Report) scheduled for next year.

“Supply plus demand equals the truth,” said Smith. He understands that truth to reside in renewable energy sources.

You can email Warren Smith for questions.

Lenore Weiss

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sacramento Says: Green I Want You Green

You might’ve missed the Clean Tech Showcase , October 16 at Sacramento State University where four discussion tracks (Public / Private Policies, Clean Technologies, Clean Technology Workforce, Clean Technology Startups) chartered more than 700 participants through increasingly green waters.

The Showcase, the third annual since 2007, was held under the auspices of SARTA (Sacramento Area Regional Technology Alliance, an umbrella organization whose mission is to green the Sacramento Region.

It’s where I met to Ingrid Rosten, who serves as the Executive Director of CleanStart, an initiative of McClellan Technology Incubator affiliated with SARTA. Rosten excels at developing successful partnerships between private and public companies, investors, and academic institutions. “That’s when it all happens,” she said.

Her work with CleanStart began several years ago when she moved from San Jose to the Sacramento area as a successful developer of business incubators, some international.

Gary Simon and Mark Henwood, two venture capital investors, asked her to head up a project called CleanStart. The initial purpose was to assess whether the region could be a clean technology center. A feasibility study was born largely funded by SMUD (Sacramento Municipal Utilities District) and the California Energy Commission.

The purpose of the study was to assess if the region could emerge as a clean tech center with enough initial investment capital, entrepreneurs, executive talent and an established base of green startups. A “Power Up Business Plan” competition hosted by California Clean Tech Open brought together green companies with the lure of $25,000 in prize money. “We began to map the clean companies,” she said.

In 2007, first Clean Showcase was held at the University of California at Davis. Today CleanStart now operates under the umbrella arm of SARTA, as does VentureStart which cultivates “angel investors with wide experience in starting companies.” SARTA uses a “Tech Index” to measure the regional technology economy by tracking 50 leading high-tech and life science companies.

The United States is behind many parts of the world with green technology, acknowledged Rosten. “Countries like China and India don’t need to deal with an aging infrastructure, but are building the (a new green) structure in place.” In Israel, she said, “use of solar water heaters is the law.”

But Rosten is philosophical. Despite the current recession, she thinks it’s a time “when people pull out the stops and starting thinking of unique ways to develop new products to service the coming market. We’ve been a consumer society. We’re seeing that shift.”

“Green I want you green /. Green starts of frost / some with the shadow-fish / that opens the road for dawn.”

—Federico Garcia Lorca, Sleepwalking Ballad

Lenore Weiss

Posted via email from techtabletalk's posterous

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cisco's Y-Space Does Cross-Generational Mentoring

It's gotta be the best when technology events turn into unexpected opportunities, which happened to me at a recent ASAP (Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals) meeting.
One group of presenters were from Cisco, members of the company's "Y-Space" team and innovative individuals, all born to run using social networking.
What follows is a mini-interview about the group. Thanks to members of the Y-Space team, particularly Norys Trevino and Ken Lotich. May all your Tweets be prosperous.

Q.) What is the history of the Y-Space group at Cisco?
Norys Trevino, Collaboration Solutions Manager and Y-Space coach: Y-Space was founded in September 2008 as an internal blog. There are currently 26 members from around the globe. We intend to gradually expand, specifically in countries where Y-Space is not currently represented. We are currently represented in the United States, Australia, Singapore, The Netherlands, Spain, and Germany.
The objective of Y-Space is to help educate and inform Cisco employees about new media tips and tricks, how to work more effectively across diverse generations, how to engage and retain gen-y employees, and explore personal filters related to generational differences.
Q.) Please describe specific areas at Cisco where Y-Space members are applying social networking expertise and business cases.
David Habbian, Cisco Business Analyst, Y-Space U.S.-lead: Y-Space has leveraged and applied its social media and web 2.0 expertise to make a significant business impact across various areas in Cisco.
One great example is a recent engagement where Y-Space team members worked closely with various cross-functional groups within Global Strategy and Operations to develop a platform for hosting a global virtual staff meeting.
Myriad technologies and deliverables were integrated into this platform including video, live chat, WebEx, live Q & A and many more! Ultimately, the solution was utilized to facilitate a global extended staff meeting for Karl Meulema and his senior staff. There was a great response among participants and it yielded a 92 percent satisfaction rate.
Q.) What is the reverse mentoring of Cisco senior leadership about and how does this happen?
Norys Trevino, Collaboration Solutions Manager and Y-Space coach:
The reverse mentorship program at Cisco offers executives and gen-y employees an opportunity to build a relationship and learn from each other's position and experience through specific projects and regular meetings. Reverse mentorship activities are up to the participants.
It is common for an executive to leverage this program to gain insight into the gen-y perspective of policy or program. In turn, the gen-y employee will gain experience and exposure in activities outside of their typical day job.

Lenore Weiss

Friday, October 16, 2009

Social Networkers Shall Inherit the Earth

Social networkers are changing established patterns of communication. Who knows? After all these years, maybe the meek will finally inherit the earth. Did someone say paradigm shift?

The current generation of social networkers grew up mouse padding, YouTubing, and text messaging on diminutive cell phones.

When they went to elementary school, their classrooms stressed peer leadership, which may have been a function of increased class size but like Darwin’s theory of evolution, there it was nonetheless.

Social networking is changing the way people relate from a top-down bureaucratic model born on the assembly lines of the 19th century to the peer model of the Information Age. Developing software and applications and technology requires that people exchange ideas. It requires social networking.

I speak as one who has spent the major portion of her working hours warehoused in various bureaucracies except for a brief stint in the industry.

The real gift of the days, IMHO, was not about stock options, but in serving as a hot house for developing new working relationships, a harbinger of social networking.

After years of occupying a cubicle as a technical writer for the offices of engineering, banking, and government firms, I was suddenly asked to speak up and participate, and not just dully nod my head in response to the latest administrative bulletin, which had arrived through interoffice mail in an ugly envelope.

At our team meetings, everyone who sat around the table was expected to generously pipe in at the appropriate moment with suggestions based on our area of expertise. One person wasn't supposed to have all the answers. Each of us were that answer.

Driven to release a new product had the net effect of wiping out years of in-bred hierarchical instinct and replacing it, or at least advancing the notion that collaboration, proven by many managerial theorists whose work had been adopted overseas in countries like Japan, was an alternate way of organizing the workforce.

For roughly five years, from 1995 to 2000, collaboration became a new craze, motivated by profit itself and not by the desire of some soft-hearted sixties refugee like myself who yearned for a more humane way of working.

So what if there wasn't a sound business plan developed by a person who understood a profit and loss sheet? That was a mere detail. So what if venture capitalists were unable to recoup their initial investment? Something more was at stake.

Although the era fizzled out in an explosion of overpriced technology stock, one thing remained clear: there was no one right answer, there was only a team.

Social networkers are that team with a model that seeks to replace the hierarchy of top-down communication.

Lenore Weiss

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

No Searching (or Social Networking) Tonight: Honey, I Have a Headache…

Don’t get me wrong. If I need to find something on the Internet, I know how to type a few keywords inside a search box.  

But remember those almost bygone linear search days when all we had to do was to scan a list of blue links and select one or two or maybe three?  


Even more troublesome is discovering how today’s Internet’s search engines haven’t kept up with a convergence of media across the new 2.0 Web. 

Honey. Can my search engine track a rich preserve of videos, photographs, blog posts, exchanges from social networks, ratings on restaurants and other vendors? Can it then display information in one place, allow me to work with content, and in doing so, make searching on the Web more efficient? 

Sure. Don’t stop indexing, classifying, and rating information. Just remove the walls that separate different kinds of media.  Don’t force me to keep opening different browser windows, and then to collect responses in a file for later review. 

Of course, maybe if I’m checking the spelling of a city in Wisconsin, or the name of an album by Nina Simone, I’m in good shape. Fact search. 

But what if I want to find someone whom I met at a recent comic book convention in Green Bay with a really strong opinion about the type of skateboard I should buy? Or if I want to find a local Nina Simone buff who would help organize a fundraiser for a musician, a friend of a friend’s, who played with Nina for 20 years and now is sick without medical coverage?   

The Web is no longer just about fact-finding. It’s becoming a way to create community across mutual interests.

Remember how President Obama’s campaign brought Twitter to national attention as he built a constituency in 140-character length messages? Then there’s Facebook, a service that college students introduced to their parents as a way of keeping in touch during semesters. Today’s unemployed professionals have discovered LinkedIn as a way of finding business contacts. And YouTube is a repository of video clips spanning past and present. 

Instead of blue hyperlinks, revolutionary in their own time, I now want to search for community, find a variety of opinions, and to offer my own. I want to personalize that experience so that everything looks and feels like home. 

Variety, customization, socialization and feedback are the new hallmarks of the Web. In the last five years or so, the Web has spawned a new generation of technologies, together called social media or social networking tools


So I’m thinking, isn’t it time for a new breed of search engine, which lets me view and work within a diverse media map of my own content?

Once I enter a keyword, I want to see related information, including text, photos, video, reviews, recommendations, and even exchanges from my virtual world (if I have one). 

Allow me to copy and paste information seamlessly into different accounts. Identify me through a photograph or avatar of my choice.   

The Web is no longer just about links. It’s about building relationships.  I want my search engine to work the same way.

Lenore Weiss

Posted via email from techtabletalk's posterous