Friday, September 28, 2007

A Tacoma Author Mines Silver and the Web

About a year and a half ago I started meeting with a fellowship of writers who were looking to support each other in maintaining the habit of putting words to the page. This small band, (we recently added another to the group), included Mary Lloyd, who had an idea and a passion to inspire those who might be looking at retirement, and to encourage them to use that as a springboard to fulfilling goals and dreams.

That idea became more of a movement in her assessment and she supported this with a book that she began assembling chapters for. Like all great projects, much of the thrill that I as a spectator had was in watching her create the whole from the parts. She poked and prodded and reworked her ideas and spent a great deal of time and energy determining how to solidify and distribute them. Should she get an agent, a publisher, start a blog, build a web site or all of them?

Like many creative people, she understood that technology could benefit in her success, but she was not familiar enough with how to go about utilizing it. Questions such as how to go about getting a domain name and how to use it came up. “What was available?”, “What was for sale?”, “Where would you host it?” and “How could it be leveraged for her purposes?” were all important questions that she now had to tackle.

The result of her efforts has come to fruition and the South Sound has another author in its midst. Her book, Bold Retirement: Mining Your Own Silver for a Rich Life will be available November 1st of this year.

Her web site is up and running, thanks to the direction and efforts of The Gurus and David Printz. Online commerce has been made possible by Google Checkout, and Mary is now able to let the global community know that

"These are 'the silver years.' They come before 'the golden years' and are characterized by action, direction, and passion.".

This is another fine example of the arts technology ecosystem at work.

UPDATE:
Mary mentions that she would like to give kudos to Adam Welch, who did the graphic design and Warren McQuistion who did the site development and architecture.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Microsoft and Facebook and Parakey, Oh My

There has been a lot of coverage, (a whole lot), on the Microsoft overtures to buy a 5% stake in Facebook. I would like to speak to a small aspect of it, possibly under the category of conspiracy theory. MwoohahahahahHAHAHA!!!!

"The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Microsoft is poised to buy 5% of Facebook for $300 million to $500 million, valuing the company at up to $10 billion. Microsoft already handles advertising for the site."

Some of the reports talk about why Facebook might want this kind of relationship. Rather than go public and in need of capital for acquisitions, they can value themselves at a whopping 10 billion dollars and sell off 5% to a giant. See, that’s how easy it is to raise $500,000,000 dollars. This would allow them the ability to do more acquisitions and not have to go through an IPO for the necessary war chest to do so.

Hmmmm…… What does Microsoft get for that kind of money.

J. Nicholas Hoover does a good job of listing out a number of compelling reasons in his posting “What Microsoft Could Do With Facebook”.

What is not present in almost all of the discussions is what I find to be a compelling subplot in the form of Facebook’s first acquisition, Parakey. When this recent acquisition occurred I wondered if there was a move to morph from a social networking site to a web operating system site. That would certainly get Microsoft’s attention.

But in particular, with this investment, Microsoft would have one twentieth control of a company who recently added Firefox contributors Blake Ross and Joe Hewitt to their roster. These Mozilla developers and Parakey founders have been behind some of the biggest Microsoft hegemony threats for some time. Even of Parakey, Ross describes it as "a Web operating system that can do everything an OS can do.".

Ross has also said, “Facebook Platform is finally making it easy to share experiences with friends and family over the web, a goal Joe and I have worked toward for years. We are thrilled to join the most innovative technology company in the industry.”

I wonder how thrilled they are with the possible introduction of this new member of their ownership team.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Personal Info on Your Digital Double

There is an interesting company out of Bellevue, WA that showcases both the power and the danger of internet data retrieval. I have stated this before and will focus on it again and again. The web is a perpetual aggregation tool that gathers more information on who we are every moment of every day. The power is in the ability to access and use that information. The danger to the individual is the ease of access that everyone has to that data and the perception that people will draw from information that is inaccurate, or perhaps accurate but personal and private.

Vanity searches are fairly common place, but how many times have you looked into yourself online. I mean, done a background check as if you were hiring yourself to care for the house or the kids.

A company called Intellius, which refers to itself as "the world's largest and most accurate public records source" will do this for you. For simplicity sake, let’s just do a people search, which for this company includes “current phone number, address history, age, birthdates, household members and more...”

I did one on myself and here is what I found out for free.



What I will tell you is that having something that returns your age to you is a little disconcerting. They are correct. They give information on family, that I will say is partially correct, but also incomplete and only close on one count. As for where I have lived…. Yes, yes, no and yes.

Searching is always more effective through refinement and repetition. It also helps if you already have tangential information. For instance, my mom, god rest her soul, is alive and well and 67 years of age in this database. If asked, I couldn't have told you her former street address accept for a helpful small anomaly. She didn't have a middle name. She gave herself one eventually, but legally did not have one. Because of this, her name, likely culled from someones customer list, came up as Mary Sewinsor Fry. That's when I recalled she used to live at SE Winsor street.

The reason I looked at the site was that a friend (with a reasonably common name) related a story of she discovered why she continued to get persistent calls on debt payments for purchases she did not make. In using this site, she discovered that a man with her same last name had shared her residential address. They were not related, but someone, somewhere, made the inaccurate connection between the two.

So was a site like Intellius a good or a bad thing here? Some company somewhere incorrectly drew their own data connection that resulted in the harassing calls. However, if not for this site, she would not have found out what that connection was.

What other things can you learn? What role would accuracy play in any resultant action?

Well for fifty bucks…



The lesson of the day, and every day on the internet is this. Be aware of what is out there and how it might relate to you.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Tacoma Hydro vs Medford Solar

Under the category of fostering Unnecessary Interstate Alternative Energy Competitions.

Let’s have a race. You know, like Seattle and Tacoma competed for the terminus to the Transcontinental Railroad. Or perhaps more like the interstate rivalry that comes before a big game where the governors bet fish and coffee (or whatever delicacies they are known for) over the outcome.

Medford, Oregon and Tacoma, Washington are both looking to help meet the alternative energy expectations from there state charters by building out energy facilities. The state renewable portfolio standards for Washington are 15% by 2020 and 25% by 2025 for Oregon. Though wind power seems to have the lead for utility-scale development, and is the primary renewable resource available today, in this instance we are pitting the long time favorite solar against the relative newcomer hydro.

Medford has approved exploring construction of a 15-acre, 11,000-panel solar farm at the regional sewage treatment plant. The company which would project manage and construct the facility is SunEnergy, a Bend company that says it would find investors to pay for the 2 megawatt solar power plant. SunEnergy would sell the electricity to the water reclamation plant for below commercial rates. They hope to generate power by 2008.

Information from the FOX12 website says that “The solar panels would generate about 80 percent of the power the water reclamation plant purchases from Pacific Power. There would be no capital or maintenance costs to the city. The plan is projected to save the city about $33,000 annually in its first year, $46,000 annually in its sixth year, and around $154,000 annually in its 30th year.”

Curt Woodward of The Associated Press reported a couple of weeks ago on the mile-wide channel of the Tacoma Narrows being the next frontier of green energy.

“It’s awe-inspiring,” said Burt Hamner, chief executive of Puget Sound Tidal Power. “There is so much power out there that it boggles the mind.”

Indeed. So what’s happening on that project? In an August 7th update by Tacoma Power they report they are half-way through its site specific feasibility studies into generating power by using tidal currents in the Tacoma Narrows. The current phase of the project began in March 2007 when Tacoma Power hired Puget Sound Tidal Power LLC (PSTP) to conduct necessary work.

Puget Sound Tidal Power LLC, which was founded in 2006, was awarded a $300K contract by Tacoma Power believes that if commercial scale generation appears feasible then in 2008 Tacoma Power may start a $3-5M pilot project to validate the technology and obtain permits.

Now that’s not the same as generating power by 2008, but come on, the clocks ticking.

Obviously we need to pay attention to accessibility, (reliable, affordable modern energy services), availability (addresses the quality and reliability of the service) and acceptability (addresses environmental goals and public attitudes).

But not to digress, Tacoma and Medford energy power plant initiatives,...

Let’s get it on!

Monday, September 17, 2007

New Free Music Download Site Launches

This morning my youngest kids wanted to know when I would load Halloween music into the CD player. In particular they wanted selections from The Nightmare Before Christmas and even had a specific request for “Vampires, Mummies and the Holy Ghost” from Jimmy Buffett's Fruitcakes CD.

I thought this might be a good test run for the free music download site launching today, Spiral Frog. My thought was to: Go through the set up to see if it was easy or intrusive, search for Jimmy to see what they might have listed, Go for a more obscure tune like Vampires and then see what hoops I would have to jump through to get it downloaded and played.

Man, that was easy. Easy set up, the usually request for email and authentication that you are indeed, not a bot. There were some age, sex and address questions, but nothing too intrusive. In fact they used soothing phrases like, “don’t worry, in moments you will be downloading songs for free”. Jimmy was there and very well represented. I did the install of the spiral frog software, which I believe keeps you from copying and burning the songs. Then, in moments…

I was never, ever frightened, by the murderer on our block.
He nurtured orchids and raised hamsters; the neigh-bor-hood is still in sho-ock!

La la la la, la la la la La la….
La la la la, la la la la La la….

Vampires, Mummies and the…


Enough of that, you can download it yourself for free if you want.



I was able to download three songs from two different albums, and in each case I expected a pop up to ask me to take a few moments to complete a survey, but it never happened.

Spiral Frog has arranged to pay record companies a cut of its advertising revenue and expects to lure music fans who might otherwise utilize online file-swapping networks to share and download music for free.

They make you re-register once a month and use the demographic information they collect to target their advertisements at you. If they are smart, they will likely use your music selections as a filter as well.

Downloads cannot be burned to a CD so I won’t be able to stock the car with this for the kids, but they can be transferred to some digital music players (no iPod yet). Users are also not allowed to copy their downloads to more than two portable music players at one time.

Friday, September 14, 2007

T-Town Bloggers Take Manhattan

Two of Tacoma’s blogging finest are representing this Sunday at the International Downtown Associations 2007 World Congress. Paul Ellis of Downtown Tacoma BIA (and the Tacoma Chamber of Commerce) and Derek Young, of Exit133 (Suite133) will be in the Big Apple, (no, not that blue ribbon winning one on display at the Puyallup Fair, but New York city) sharing their wealth of knowledge on blogging.

During the IDA session titled Building Your BID’s Buzz Through Blogging these two civic leaders will enlighten the attendees on the benefits in communication and community interaction that can be fostered through this medium.

As the program explains

“Blogs can be very strong communication tools within or on behalf of a business improvement district. Free from many of the constraints of traditional corporate communications, they can explore original issues and provoke thought among an audience that may tune out from other messages. Find out how a blog works and why it may be an effective—even vital—tool in your district’s arsenal.”

If anyone can deliver on that, it is my opinion that these two can. I am hopeful that during their time in the city that never sleeps, they find they are kings of the hill, tops of the heap….sorry, carried away. I hope that they find time to blog about their experiences in their round table session, and share some of the questions and their answers with us, either upon their return or better yet, right there, from the panel table.

It’s Sunday the 16th, from 11:30am – 12:45 in Manhattan, 8:30am on the Best Coast.

Good luck guys and have fun while you are there.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Virtual Worlds Ease Real Pain

Immersion in a virtual reality environment is not always driven by gaming. In many large scale worlds there is commerce, travel, education and romance. There are also studies and environments that are designed to relieve pain and heal psychological wounds.

I had the pleasure of spending yesterday afternoon with Ari J. Hollander, Virtual Environment Designer, and Howard Rose, Virtual World Design and Development, of Imprint Interactive Technology, Inc.

They were visiting the campus and, other than meeting with me, were also meeting with one of the faculty, Dr. Isabelle Bichindaritz. She teaches Computational Worlds here at the Institute of Technology at the UWT, which is “the development of a large-scale software project related to advanced imaging involving computational intelligence and artificial life applied to such fields as game development, virtual reality, or computer vision.” What they also have in common is the use of Virtools as the development platform for the virtual worlds they create. You can imagine who they found more interesting.

Imprint Interactive Technology, which has been around since the mid 90’s, has worked with Dr. Hunter Hoffman at the University of Washington on research and treatment projects for burn treatment, phobias and post traumatic stress disorder. With direction from the researchers, Imprint creates virtual worlds specifically designed for clinical therapies and support of the research.

One example is Snow World, where the patient floats in ice canyons and pelts snowmen, igloos, and woolly mammoths with snowballs while treatment for severe burns is being given. The key to three-dimensional virtual reality is to mentally transport the patient to another location and world. Results have shown a 50%-90% reduction in pain related brain activity. Another is IraqWorld for U.S. military personnel suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

As Ari has written in his abstract from Playing Games with Painful Memories, a feature written for Seriousgamesource, “going through therapy for PTSD is decidedly not a game, and exposure therapy typically involves highly structured graded exposure treatment therapy protocols”.

Other worlds include SpiderWorld for the treatment of arachnophobia, and a realistic bus bombing simulation for Dr. Tamar Weiss.

The worlds that are built require the equipment to make them immersive, and as a function of their business, Imprint also engages in VR systems sales, installation and support including deployment on a tested system.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A New Acronym to Learn: STEM


This is for all you "back to schoolers" in all grades, or those considering a return to academia. In particular a salute to the 20 or so students who will be entering into the first full academic year of the Computer Engineering and Systems program at the Institute of Technology at the University of Washington, Tacoma.

I want to mention a new acronym I ran across on the Bureau of Labor Statistics site today. STEM.

It stands for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics, and if you are considering pursuit of an occupation or an occupational change, this is an area to explore.

Schools are paying attention to this information. In Minnesota, The Mankato School District took note of the fact that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10 of the 15 fastest growing occupations requiring at least a bachelor’s degree are computer, science or technology related. In response the district has created a handful of progressive programs that integrate classroom education with real-world business applications. St. Peter built an entirely new science lab at North Elementary to engage kids earlier in math, science and technology. Le Sueur-Henderson spent a goodly portion of its $18.5 million bond referendum on upgrading middle and high school labs and technological equipment.

Bold moves that will pay off in the future for the students who accept the challenges of the field.

The government BLS site has more about STEM for download as a report here. Here is a snippet from it to spark your interest.

Faster aircraft, bolder video games, better medicines—technology moves forward every day. And tech-savvy workers make those advances happen. Without the work of scientists, technicians, engineers, mathematicians, and other skilled workers, most new products and discoveries would never be developed.
Technical occupations are often defined as those related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Workers in STEM occupations use science and math to solve problems.

This article describes the occupations that most clearly concentrate on STEM. You’ll find information about STEM occupations, earnings, educational requirements, and job prospects. There are also suggestions on how to prepare for a STEM career and where to find more information.

In the early part of this decade, there was a difficult spate of job losses in certain sectors, yet Computer Science and Engineering remains one of the 25 fastest growing industries with strong career opportunities in the Nation.

Wage-and-salary employment is expected to grow 40 percent by the year 2014, compared with only 14 percent growth projected for the entire economy.

Welcome back, students.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Do The Fair Comparison



For the moment we will play Don’t Forget the Lyrics.

Ready?

“You can do it with a trot, you can do it with a gallop, you can do it real slow….”

OK, now finish it. Come on. Sing it out loud, right now.

Chicken.

UPDATE:
So many people have come to this post looking for the lyrics, that I will do my best to provide what I can. They are posted in whole at the bottom. Email me with additions or corrections

Speaking of chickens, if you have been anywhere over the last many years then you know that the song is the jingle which suggests to us that we all “Do the Puyallup!”, the Western Washington Fair, which is one of the half-dozen largest fairs in the world and far surpasses any other event in the state in attendance. You will note that they even have the URL address www.thefair.com.

I will be doing the aforementioned Puyllaup this weekend, as the fair opens and the family has already been promised rides, cows, horses, pigs, art and scones.

However, this year I will be in the unique position of having just visited the New York State Fair in Syracuse this last weekend. How will the two compare? Well let me lay out a few items for comparison.

Will there be a SPAM hut?

And I am not talking about unwanted email or a Monty Python sketch, here but the real thing. The walking SPAM cannister is unfortunately hiding the Free Samples sign. I don’t remember ever seeing a SPAM hut at the Puyallup Fair, but overall I have to admit, the food at the NY State fair was excellent.

Not only that, but the prices were very reasonable. Lot’s of Italian Sausage and pork sandwiches, fresh chocolate milk for a quarter and micro brews at four dollars a pint.



What they did not have was scones.

Will there be a butter sculpture?



It will be hard to top this butter sculpture in the dairy pavilion, they also have competitions in arts and crafts, but this took the cake. And they are life size as well. Click on the image and you can see a spectator in the back for perspective. I will be roaming the aisles of many a students’ work in the Puyallup Fair's arts pavilion, comparing their pieces' impact to that of the butter udders.

Will there be a side show?



The truth is that I didn’t know that these were still common place. Under a long tent awning I was asked to come and see the worlds smallest woman, the worlds largest man, the snake with the head of a beautiful girl (50 cents to take a glance in the display case), and the legendary Chupa Cabra among others.


The snake was actually in a different area of the fair, and I watched as people paid their two quarters and stepped under the canvas roof to glance in the case. They usually only looked for a second or two and frequently walked out with a smirk on their face. I now regret not paying the half dollar to see what that smirk meant. I have no regrets in missing out on the Mongolian Death Worm.

For the Puyallup I think I will just people watch.

Will there be a Fairgaritaville?



If not, I will have to make do with the original Margaritaville when Jimmy comes to the MGM Grand in Vegas in October.

_______________________________________________________________



"Do the Puyallup"
musics and lyrics by Saxon Rawlings, (slogan by Denny Hinton)

Oh you can do it at a trot,
You can do it at a gallop,
You can do it real slow so your heart won't palpitate.
Just don't be late.

Do the Puyallup.



All the people and the animals down at the fair,
They do the Puyallup like they didn’t have a care
And it looks like so much fun to do
I think I’m gonna learn how to do it too.



I saw a duck and a chicken down by the farm,
A kickn' up the hay and a raisn' such a storm,
That I asked the farmer what they were up to
and he said "Puyallup, That's what they do."

You can do it at a trot,
You can do it at a gallop,
You can do it real slow so your heart won't palpitate.
Just don't be late.

Do the Puyallup.



Asked the farmer if he’d show me how to do it
And he said "why son their ain’t nothin to it.
Just move to the music and jump in the air
Like everyone else who comes to the fair"

You can do it at a trot,
You can do it at a gallop,
You can do it real slow so your heart won't palpitate.
Just don't be late.

Do the Puyallup





You can do it in the rain or the sun or the fog
It comes real easy like rolling off a log
Get a partner from Tacoma or Seattle or Fife
Even let you do it with your husband or wife.



It’s a natural thing there isn’t any doubt
Folks do it while they’re sittin’ or walkin’ about
While over on the midway on the merry go round
Kids are doin it in circles going up and down.




Now it don’t matter if it’s rain or shine
When you do the Puyallup you have a good time
So guys grab get gals and gals grab a fellow
If you’re worried ’bout the rain just bring an umbrella.



You can do it with a mouth full of cotton candy
Caramel apples, salt water taffy
Hot dogs, hamburgers, man oh man
Hot buttered scones with strawberry jam



I do the Puyallup cause it feels real neat
Put a smile on my face and a tickle in my feet
Ain’t no way not to do it right
You can do it all day and into the night



you can do it at a trot,
You can do it at a gallop,
You can do it real slow so your heart won't palpitate.
Just don't be late.

Do the Puyallup

Do the Puyallup

Do the Puyallup

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Solar Energy and Beer

While taking in the NY State Fair, I came across what I would normally consider an unlikely combination. The time had approached around beer-thirty on a hot day and my sister, her husband and I made our way over to the Bull and Bear Pub's bar in the food court. An excellent selection of microbrews were on tap and I sampled a Syracuse Pale Ale among others. What really caught my attention was the coaster I was using. On one side was Brooklyn Brewery and on the other was the slogan, "There's Wind in Our Ales".

The rationale for this turn of phrase was that on September 1, 2003, Brooklyn Brewery became the first New York city company to switch to 100% wind-generated electricity. As their web site information attests (though with sparse information) "The company's brewery and headquarters in Brooklyn are 100% powered by Newwind Energy, a product of Community Energy, Inc."

I was hoping to find a graphic of wind power turbines lined up with large kegs but that is not the case. The energy is purchased through a long term contract with Community Energy, Inc.

That is not to say that Brooklyn Brewery stops there in its quest to marry the two concepts. It also produces a Brooklyn Sustainable Porter. It's all organic malts ( the malts make up 99% of the beer) but since the brewmaster hasn't found organic hops up to snuff, the beer remains simply sustainable and not totally organic.

It also has "hopped" on to the alternative energy train by teaming up during an eco-festival held at a park on the East River in Manhattan. The NY Times covered the promotion at the third annual Citysol festival in Stuyvesant Cove Park. Their pitch was “Sign up for clean energy and drink free beer.” Those who signed up for electricity from Community Energy, received tickets for four pints of Brooklyn Lager.

Cheers to solar power.