Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tollefson Iced Tea

I went down to Starbucks for an iced tea today and it was reasonably crowded. I left the store and was headed back down Pacific and around to the office when I noticed the new furniture in Tollefson Plaza.

Having once before entered into "the space that wants things to happen there", I decided to take advantage of the additions and try them out. One of the things that concerned me from a distance was that it appeared to be several separate small patio furniture-like pieces, which might easily be picked up, thrown into the back of a truck and hauled away.

Not the case. Not that someone foolish and determined couldn't do it, but these chairs and tables are more than meet the eye. When I pulled back a chair to sit down I was surprised by it's heft. It is one solid piece of movable sitting space. I then took hold of the table and sure enough, though not anchored it was incredibly dense and heavy. Good. I also noticed that there was a large chain link and lock around the base, so that if several of these pieces are locked together, they are not going anywhere.

So onto the sitting experience. First off, it is a beautiful day, which helps. I didn't sit under any of the umbrellas because the sun felt good. Believe it or not, there was a bit of activity all around, and it was not that close to lunch time either.

There were a couple other people who wanted their own little corners of Tollefson to themselves, but if they had wanted to come join me I would have been all for it. "Come on over here person that I don't know", I wanted to yell, "Share this chair and table with me". I chose not to because I liked that they were using the Plaza and didn't want to scare them off.

The car traffic, which cuts off one side of the park, was actually a simple diversion. People walked back and forth from both sides of the street, with some bus traffic from the stops as well. And then, every few minutes, the Link would rumble by in either direction.


All and all, I liked having the table and chairs there. Sure, you can sit on the steps or the grass, but that feels like improvisation. The chair clearly beckons and the table top allowed for me to set my tea down on occasion. A man, walking away from me across the plaza, let a paper cup drop from his hand to the concrete. Traffic noise probably kept him from hearing me yell, "pick it up...!" plus an identifier as to who I was speaking to, so I just picked it up myself on the way out.


A couple more obvious trash receptacles would be nice.

Also, how about something spraying UP from the fountains. From where I was sitting you don't see any water feature. Something to plunge into, a'la a refreshing Tollefson Ice Tea.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Online Time, Family Time

Just a quick thought for today. When I was a youngster, my Dad thought that I read too many comic books. He was the one who introduced me to them. At least the Disney ones with Mickey and Donald, Caspar and Little Lulu when I was in grade school. It was later on when I started buying them as a teenager that he thought they were going to ruin me. "Put that **** comic book down and ..." (fill in the blank). I couldn't wait until the next issues of The Amazing Spider Man, Marvel Team Up, The Spectacular Spider Man etc. You may (spidey) sense a theme there.

The same thing was said about television. In fact television was going to be the downfall of the family. Quite a few studies came out talking about the increase in television time and how it was getting worse. As a parent, I agree that television is a dangerous place for my kids to spend too much time in front of. But it isn't eroding my family by any means.

Now I am not advocating more TV time and to me Summer is outdoor time. But I also record favorite shows to specifically watch with my kids. The older ones and I like Chuck, Castle and Dollhouse, though I still wouldn't want to have them watch them on their own. My younger ones and I have recorded and watched "Who Wants to Be a Superhero" together when it was on. Some things come full circle.

Now of course it is the Internet and the Web that are eroding family time. And it is getting worse(cue scary music)! According to an article in USA Today, the Annenberg Center for the Digital Future is reporting a decrease in family time as the time spent online increases.

If it weren't bad enough that the kids are texting at the dinner table, now they are disappearing into the computer screen. Or the parents are. Or both.

What I found interesting about the reports on television viewing were the incredible number of hours per week that they would report that the TV was on. It painted a picture of people spending their lives in front of the set. According to an article in MarketingVox last year "the average time a US home used a TV set during the 2007-08 TV season was 8 hours and 18 minutes per day, a record high since Nielsen started measuring television in the 1950s."

That is a full time job of viewing! On average!!

Come on. Really? This is just my opinion, but how much of that is a TV set being left on in the background. How much of that is a household of five people with each watching one and one half hours of their own shows. If there are three televisions in the house turned to three different channels for one hour forty minutes each, does that account for eight hours in the day?

So now we need to add in the online time. Or perhaps it is being double counted. One year ago ITFacts reported that 20% of television viewing now occurs online. I am speculating that it has gone up since then. I know someone who downloaded the first two episodes of "The Middleman" onto her iPod. How does that count?

I think I am going to head down to the bookstore.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Tech Networking in the South Sound

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a tech meet-up organized by Erik Hanberg and hosted by the WTIA (thanks for the pizza and beer Lew). This was the second casual meet up that I have been to over the last few months. The first was at the Matador with Mark Briggs and a number of bloggers, dev types and journalists. About fourteen or so came to that first meeting. That was a good number and a fine start at an effort to bring folks together.

I was surprised and thrilled by the turn out at Meconi's. At one point Erik counted twenty four folks in the room and I believe a few more arrived a short time later.

It was a good mix of people too. Sagem Morpho, Internet Identity, Sitecrafting, GridWorks, Topia Technology, REI and even Russell were represented in the crowd. Best of all, with just a short thank you and welcome from Lew McMurren for the Washington Technology Industry Association, it was just an occasion for shop talking and catching up on what was happening in the tech arena. I took a couple fuzzy photos with my camera, but Keven Freitas has some great shots on his blog that he took with a serious camera.

It was also an opportunity to talk about other networking and tech gathering opportunities which are coming up. On August 8th a Barcamp (the unconference) is being held at Suite 133. No doubt more information on that is on the way. I know several folks from the Institute will be attending that. UPDATE: Here is more info in the Tacoma Barcamp.

Also, the South Sound Technology Conference 2009 discussion is under way. Tacoma Tech Connect has a blog on that as well.

Finally, interest is building for a 72 Hour Startup weekend, which is being targeted for Sept 25th, 26th and 27th. More info on that will be posted here over the next few weeks.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Math Science Leadership Interns

I deal with internships all the time here at the Institute of Technology on the UW, Tacoma campus. These are generally computer science seniors who are interning and even in this economy they are usually sought after and well paid for the work that they do.

There is another set of internships that go on here during the Summer as well. Part of the outreach of the Institute is into the K-12 community, where we support students who are interested in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). One of the successful components of that outreach has been the Math+Science+Leadership Program (MSL) which has been held here on the campus during the Summer for several years. Starting with an inaugural cohort of 7th grade students who have shown an interest in STEM, it is now at full capacity and has cohort groups of students from 7th through 12th grade.

Each grade has a different emphasis for learning and exploration. The eleventh grade cohort group has one unique opportunity for the four weeks that they meet.

They get to intern for a total of twenty hours, with internship on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:30 to 4:00pm. Unlike the CSS and CES majors whose internships come at the end of their Bachelor of Science degrees, and which often turn into full time employment, these are internships that allow for students with an interest to get a sense of the work environment and wide scope of opportunities that come from an education emphasizing science and math.

They are paid for the twenty hours that they work through funding by a third party, so it is a chance of them to earn some Summer money as well.

If this sounds like an effort that you would like to support and your company resides in the South Puget Sound, contact the folks at MSL for more information.