“The Urge” Is Here

Today’s the debut of “The Urge”.

Will it cause us all to splurge?

Will new ad revenues emerge?

Or will the editors sing a dirge?

All the papers want to merge.

RED ink is a paper’s scourge.

Let’s all hope that this new “Urge” 

Will bring the Times back from the verge. 

 Good luck, guys!

 

   

Jerry’s on Top; Padilla coming to town.

Jerry Brown’s job approval rating has climbed to a new high for his third term in the Governor’s office. (Some of you may not have been born yet during his first two terms.) The Field Poll dated April 9 shows 59 % of registered voters approve of his job perfomance. Of likely voters, Field showed 57% planning to vote for Brown, 17% for Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, 3% for Laguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount, and 2% for businessman Neil Kashkari. Looks like Jerry’s got a lock.

If anybody can be said to have benefitted from the disgraceful antics of about-to-be-ex-Sen. Leland Yee, it would be his competition for the Secretary of State position (Leland was planning to run). Sen. Alex Padilla is currently the front-runner.The Field poll has a good analysis of that race here. And if you want to meet the Sen. Padilla up close and personal, the Humboldt Democrats are holding a meet ‘n’ greet with refreshments (RESERVATIONS REQUIRED) on Wednesday, April 16 at noon at the Labor Temple, 840 E Street, Eureka. Make your reservations at the HCDCC website by clicking on the “Meet N’ Greet” poster.  This may well fill up, so don’t delay. Maybe some of Alex’ good luck will rub off on you.

Have a great weekend! 

 

“I’m the Captain Now”, or When to Dump Your Business Plan

Have you seen “Captain Phillips”, which was deservedly nominated for Best Picture of 2013?  You can still catch it on pay-per-view and it’s powerful. Did you know that the line “I’m the Captain now.” which has become the season’s catchphrase and was referred to by the New Yorker as an “iconic line” was IMPROVISED? Improvised by a Somalian taxi driver who had never performed in a film before? Here’s the story:

Barkhad Abdi was six years old when war turned his native Somalia into an inferno. The family fled to Yemen, where his father taught math and eventually settled in Minneapolis, where there is a sizable Somalian community. Abdi was working as a limo driver for his brother’s company when the word came that auditions were being held at the local community center for Somalis to act in “Captain Phillips”,  directed by Paul Greengrass (who filmed United 93 among other major films) and starring Tom Hanks as the skipper of the Alabama Maersk, the cargo ship  that was attacked by Somail pirates in 2009. Abdi and half a dozen other Somalis were hired by Greengrass.

When they started filming the scene where the pirates have boarded the ship, Abdi felt that the point wasn’t being made clearly enough to Hanks and/or his character that things had changed. So he came  out with the  line, “Look at me. I’m the captain now,” which sends chills down your spine every time you see it.  Greengrass kept the line in. He knew gold when he saw it.

As an employer, do you encourage creative improvisation  in your company? You don’t have to be Steve Jobs or Paul Greengrass to do so. When your people come up with something wonderful, tear up your script, throw out your business plan and go with your gut, like Greengrass did. “I’m the captain now” is a classic line on the level of “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” or “Nobody’s perfect.” The genius is in knowing when to dump your carefully laid plans.  The proof is in the watching.

A February Potpourri- No, Not That Kind of Pot

I thought that flu shot was supposed to save me from the shivers, shakes and runny nose that has kept me inside all week, but I guess that was a different strain. This week you’re getting some stories from near and far that Redwood Coast businesses, citizens and consumers may find of interest.

3-D PRINTING HITS REDDING:  Both Shasta High School and Enterprise High School have purchased and deployed MakerBot Replicator2 machines at $2300 each and students are experimenting with them right now. We know they’re being used in biotech and and architectural design but I just saw a statement that they’re being used in the CULINARY field but it didn’t explain how.  Well, you could design a heckova wedding cake with one of these things, and at $2300 they’re definitely affordable.  Shasta High is using them to make team souvenirs, for starters.

TONIGHT SHOW LEAVING BURBANK: and taking 160 well-paying jobs with it. About three years ago, we were having lots of exposure on the show because apparently one of the producers fell in love with Humboldt.  Remember Tom Green and the guy in Old Town swinging the firepot around? Green named Duane Flatmo the Most Interesting Person in California.  I don’t think Jimmy Fallon is going to show us that kind of love. Hopefully Jimmy Kimmel can be lured up here and shown the light.

JANUARY HUMBOLDT ECONOMIC INDEX: From those wonderful people at HSU, shows the median home price creeping back up again, from last month’s $234K to $247K, and home sales the strongest since July 2005. Our county unemployment rate is currently 7.9%, California’s is 8.3% and national is down to 6.7%. Here’s the complete update and I’m going back to bed to watch Pawn Stars. Stay warm and dry. It’s apparently going to be a dreadful weekend.

 

3-D Printing Comes to Eureka

3-D at Times Printing

3-D at Times Printing

    Just a few weeks ago, I would have thought that 3-D printing was just a crazy idea with no relevance to the Redwood Coast. I was wrong.  Right here, right now, right down on Third Street at Times Printing, they have a display of objects (see picture) created on their THREE printers. The future is definitely here, and for once it’s not bypassing Humboldt County.

     In point of fact, the Times-Standard online edition has carried three articles since May about online printing which I missed because I only read the print version.  Not any more! I’ve learned my lesson. I became intrigued with the concept from a couple of articles in The Economist and had been calling local fabricators who either didn’t know what I was talking about or didn’t return my calls. Then last week at the GO-Biz seminar, Councilperson Marian Brady brought up the subject and when I followed up with her, kindly referred me to

Lane Strope

Lane Strope

Times Printing, where Lane Strope interrupted his busy day to talk with me.

     There are several different methods now in use for accomplishing 3-D printing and I can’t explain it better than the Economist did. The process begins “with software that takes a series of digital slices through a computer model of an object. The shape of each slice is used selectively to harden a layer of light-sensitive liquid, usually with ultraviolet light, to form the required shape. After each layer had been made, the build tray lowers by a fraction, another layer of liquid is added and the process is repeated until the object is complete.”  It’s easier to show than to explain so here is a video  from the Times of London. ( There are several more on You Tube) but as long as you’re on You Tube you may want to look at some other examples.  “Eureka” is a manufacturer and the Times is THAT Times, not ours.

      The implications of this technology are immense and varied, although there are a few skeptics, including Terry Gou, the boss of Foxconn, the world’s largest maker of electronic goods, which makes many of Apple’s products in China, who is so convinced that 3-D is just a gimmick that he has promised to start spelling his name backward if he is wrong. He’s a brave man. While it is true that 3-D, or as it is sometimes called, additive manufacturing, cannot produce thousands of parts at low cost like conventional methods, when combined with conventional manufacturing  it can break new ground. RedEye, in Minnesota, is printing parts for the 3-D printers produced by RedEye’s parent, Stratasys , which along with 3D Systems in South Carolina are the market leaders in 3-D  printing. 

      How is it being used? Healthcare for one. 3D has printed millions of hearing-aid shells from scans of patients’ ear canals. Align Technology of San Jose has printed 17M sets of molds and clear plastic braces which are replacing metal braces for straightening teeth. Prostheses is another area with great promise.   Optomec, in Albuquerque, is developing ways to print electronics directly onto mobile handsets and printing LED lighting onto wallpaper. Soon you will no longer send away fro a replacement part but have a file emailed to you and do the fabrication yourself. Now that some of the early patents have expired, and manufacturers are developing methods which use a greater variety of materials the price of some printers has fallen to less than $1K. Or, you can send the work out.  Companies like Shapeways in New York, Sculpteo in France and and Materialise in Belgium can print objects on demand from digitalized plans.

     Recently, a large Chinese manufacturer was setting up a production line and realized they were missing some parts that should have been ordered from an injection-molding company. The Economist again: “Faced with weeks of delay it looked at 3-D printing the bits instead. Sculpteo had the first batch of 5,000 parts on their way to China within Days.  It is yet another example of how 3-D printing is not competing with conventional manufacturing techniques, but is instead complementing and hybridising with them to make new things possible. When 3-D printing can come to the rescue of mass manufacturing, its place in the factory of the future is assured.”  And Mr. Gou/Uog  will have to order some new monogrammed sheets. 

Standing Up While You Work Is Good, Facebook Is Depressing, Jerry Brown and Bill Clinton Thrive

In the first few hours of our Federal government shutdown, it would be nice if I could come up with some POSITIVE things to say about Our Current Situation but I really can’t think of any. The impact on Humboldt County, with our huge Federal holdings such as Six Rivers National Forest and Redwood National Park, plus all that BLM land, will be huge. Anything that hurts tourism hurts us all.  Let’s hope for a quick resolution. Elsewhere in the news…

STAND AND DELIVER: Have you been getting a lot of online ads for treadmill desks? The ads I get are for models starting at about $1200 and I see one in my future. I had a couple of colleagues when I worked for the State who used standup desks because they had back problems but I’ve seen about five articles lately indicating that working on your feet is a healthy choice for everyone. Churchill, Hemingway and Leonardo da Vinci did it.  The evidence is mounting that, as the Economist puts it, “Prolonged periods of inactivity are bad regardless of how much time you also spend on officially approved high-impact stuff like jogging or pounding treadmills in the gym.”  Even just standing up instead of sitting is a low-level activity that uses a different set of muscles than does sitting.

The evidence is scary. A study from England found that the individuals who are least active at work or otherwise are twice as likely to develop diabetes as the most active, are twice as likely to die of a heart attack and are 250% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease. These results seem to be independent of the amount of hardcore gym exercise that the study subjects did. A different study, on rats, indicated that immobilizing them led to a dramatic drop in their HDL levels, which is undesirable as low levels of HDL promote heart disease. The good news for humans is that breaking up long periods of sitting with two minutes of walking every 20 minutes can lower your blood glucose level by 30%.

So what does this mean to an employer?  You might want to speak to your workers’ comp carrier about a break in your rates if you install standup desks and walking paths. Anything you can do to encourage your employees’ low-level activity, like walking, may turn out to be a lifesaver.  Now I’m going to get up and walk around.

FACEBOOK IS DEPRESSING:  I never miss a chance to bash Facebook, so here’s this week’s news. Two recent studies studied Facebook users. The first was a joint venture by the University of Michigan and Leuven University in Belgium, which studied 82 teens and young adults over a two-week period by means of questionnaires.  They found that the more an individual used Facebook during the study period, the worse they reported feeling.  On the other hand, the more real-world interaction they had, the more positive they reported feeling. The  other study, by social scientists at Humboldt University (NOT Humboldt State) and Darmstadt Technical University, both in Germany, surveyed 584 Facebook users in their twenties and found that the most common emotion associated with Facebook use was: ENVY. I don’t doubt it, since looking at all those doctored photos and “status updates”  which consist mainly of bragging could well affect a person. So, employers, Facebook is not only stealing your employees’ time, it’s making  them feel inferior. Try to encourage something more positive. Like Angry Birds. 

JERRY BROWN: A new biography  by Chuck McFadden, Trailblazer, reminds us that when he was elected Governor he was the youngest Governor in the nation. Now he’s the oldest, at 75, and is apparently planning to run for another term. He’s still jogging three miles several times a week and his Prop 30 has apparently calmed the States’ budget crisis. His wife, Anne Gust, former CAO of the GAP, is a strong partner in his administration.  The “crazy” ideas he espoused in his first term that earned him the nickname “Governor Moonbeam” – communications satellites, space exploration, solar energy etc etc- have become mainstream.  The book makes the point that Brown’s three (or four) terms as Governor added to his father’s two terms back in the ‘fifties (he left to become Chief Justice) are a very long run. And he shows no signs of slowing down.

BILL CLINTON: I may have been the last to hear about it, but it has been brought to my attention that Bill Clinton- the Bill Clinton of the fried chicken and pork rinds – THAT Bill Clinton has, for the past three years, been a VEGAN. I’m still trying to process this, but if that’s the reason he looks so good lately, I may become a convert. Cheaper than a standup desk in the short run. Last October, on a road trip, we passed through Little Rock and  I insisted on visiting  his then-favorite lunch spot, Doe’s Eat Place, ( I’m not kidding) .  It was closed but I’m willing to bet they don’t serve vegan. All things change. Both Jerry and Bill are inspirations for those of us who are, shall, we say, getting on in years.  More power to both of them. 

Now if we could just resolve this darn shutdown…

Local Food Month-let’s celebrate Humboldt’s bounty, and by the way, where’s the local yogurt?

 It’s that time again: Local Food Month, cleverly timed to coincide with harvest season. Whenever I travel outside the local area I am reminded that we are so lucky to have access to food that hasn’t been shipped from a thousand miles away. You could spend an hour rummaging through a Publix or a Winn-Dixie in Florida and not find any local food at all.  Here’s a link to the event listings and don’t forget to check out the “Red Carpet  Premiere” Saturday night at the Eureka Theater which will feature food, films and fun. The Humboldt Made site has all the details and a link for ordering tickets in advance.

       At the same time I’m relishing the local cheeses, jams etc I can’t help wondering why there’s no local  source for a food I eat everyday, and a lot of you do too.  I’m talking about YOGURT. It’s easy to make (we used to make it in our dorm room at Davis) and when In later years I had occasion to visit the Continental Culture Company in Altadena,  I found that their operation wasn’t much more complicated. They had one building that was hot and humid, where the culturing took place, and another that was refrigerated for storage purposes. Later they became a huge company and I used to see their products all over Southern California, in health food stores. Now, they’re out of business, mourned by their fans a having been the only lactose-free yogurt available.  I didn’t know there was such a thing.

       I used to buy the 39c Lucerne yogurt, oblivious to its mushy texture and lack of flavor but then, like a lot of you, I discovered Chobani and got hooked on its heft and chalkiness. Chobani retails locally at Winco for about a buck and at Murphy’s for $1.50 or so.  So my 39c investment has become at least a dollar. Chobani was in the news this morning for contamination problems in its Idaho plant. Their growth has been spectacular. The Economist has a very interesting account in its August 31st issue of how Hamdi Ulukaya, a son of Kurdish immigrants in Turkey,  bought an 85-year-old yogurt factory in upstate New York in 2005. This year he will sell more than $1B , a healthy chunk of America’s $6.3B market. The company is changing; Mr Ulukaya is hiring a COO and a new ad agency.

       So what’s the difference between “Greek” yogurt and any other? Greek yogurt is strained to remove the whey, the watery liquid that separates out during the process, leaving more protein than in the supermarket stuff, in fact about twice as much. No, I don’t own stock in the company.  Mr. Ulukaya retains sole ownership.

       So what is stopping some Redwood Coast entrepreneur from entering this market?  We have the dairy infrastructure, the marketing image of green fields and free-roaming herds and a population that would probably support a local yogurt if one were available. It seems like a natural. You could have “Redwood Raspberry” or “Humboldt Honeycomb”. If someone finds a way to make our major ag product palatable to the taste buds, you could get into “Weedwacker” or “Green Giant” although I guess that’s copyrighted . Anyway, the possibilities are endless. And you don’t even have to pay me a consultant’s fee. Just gimme some good yogurt.

UPDATE: The lime Chobani I ate earlier today was apparently from the batch (06-12, exp Oct 7) that  some people, mostly  kids, have become sick from and which Chobani is replacing with coupons in what is called a “voluntary recall”. I feel absolutely fine. Another opening for LOCAL yogurt!   

 

What Can the RCEA Do For Your Redwood Coast Business?

Looking for ways to control energy costs? Cut down waste? Conserve resources? You have an ally in your struggle and you may not even know it.  Meet the Redwood Coast Energy Authority.  Their excellent website contains more information than we can squeeze in here,  but their amazing array of services may make them your business’s new best friend.

The Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA) is a Joint Powers Authority whose members include the County, the  Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District and the cities of Arcata, Blue Lake, Eureka, Ferndale, Fortuna, Rio Dell and Trinidad. Their purpose is “to develop and implement sustainable energy initiatives that reduce energy demand, increase energy efficiency, and advance the use of clean, efficient and renewable resources available in the region.”  Who pays for it?  California utility customers and the program is administered by PG&E and the state Public Utilities Commission. Lots of players, but all you need to do to get started is submit their online application or visit their new local office at 633 3rd Street in Eureka, or call them at 269-1700. Here are some of the services they offer:

-Replacing  your old light bulbs with LED or compact fluorescent lights, and replacing your old neon “OPEN” sign with a more efficient LED model.

-Assessing your business’s lighting, refrigeration, process equipment, heating and ventilating systems and other energy-saving opportunities at your business.  They will even generate a report with available incentives,  recommendations and a financial summary.

-They can hook you up with start-to-finish project management, incentives paid directly to contractors, assistance with zero-interest financing of your utility bill, negotiated discounts with qualified contractors, and more. Did I mention that all these services are FREE or at REDUCED COST?

You can get started by visiting the office at 633 Third Street in Eureka, by calling them at (707) 269-1700 or by submitting this form by email or snailmail. Be sure to save the form to your computer before you fill it out.  Their email address is info@redwoodenergy.org.

The RCEA is involved in many other projects including developing a Comprehensive Action Plan for Energy for the county, also available on the website. They are coordinating the North Coast Plug-in Electrical Vehicle Project  to promote and develop greater use of “PEV”‘s in the area, in which there is enormous interest  (checked gas prices lately?) and are working with the HSU Schatz Energy Research Center, GHD and PG&E to this end. They have also received a $1.75M grant from the State to be used for a biomass power system on the Blue Lake Rancheria,  energy upgrades throughout the Mad River Valley and infrastructure for those PEV’s (charging stations)!

These projects will have enormous impact on our lives and how we do business. Take advantage of these programs and get involved. You’ll be glad you did.

HSU Grad Playing Key Role in Battle Against Styrofoam

Can a startup headed by two twenty-somethings rid the Earth of styrofoam? It just may be happening.

Sue Van Hook, who earned Bachelor’s degrees in Botany and French and a Master’s degree in Biology from HSU,  has retired from teaching at prestigious Skidmore College and is now the Chief Mycologist at Ecovative Design, LLC. which employs about sixty people in Green Island, New York. Ian Frazier, in the May 20 edition of The New Yorker,  recounts in his article the six-year history of the company, which has attracted international attention by developing  an all-natural substitute for plastic made from tissue found in mushrooms.  It is suitable for containers and packaging now made from Styrofoam. “Ecovative’s eventual goal is to displace plastics all over the world.”

Ecovative’s founders, Gavin McIntyre and Eben Bayer, are graduates of Rensselaer Tech’s Inventors’ Studio and its Incubator program.  They were already talking about starting a company and had won a $20,000 prize for environmental entrepreneurship from Oxford when Van Hook read about them in a local paper and called them. Skidmore became a backer of the project along with Rensselaer and Van Hook’s students became part of the effort to find a suitable growing medium and technique to produce an “artificial plastic”.

The hazards of real plastic are pretty evident by this time. Landfills, beaches and highways   are littered with Styrofoam which once was used primarily for building insulation but now, unhappily, is everywhere. Much of the trash gyre in the Pacific Ocean is styrofoam, also called “foamed polystyrene”.  As Frazier notes, “Foamed polystyrene breaks down extremely slowly, in timespans no one is sure of, and a major chemical it breaks down to is styrene, listed as a carcinogen in the 2011 toxicology report issued by the National Institutes of Health.”  The toll on wildlife has been well-established.  Mayor Bloomberg has proposed a ban on the commercial use of Styrofoam containers in NYC.

The materials produced by Ecovative will biodegrade in about a month, with no carcinogens. I highly recommend the article, along with the rest of the May 20 “Innovators issue”, and I’m sorry I can’t reprint the whole thing for you, but it’s copyrighted. You can buy it online, visit the library or just buy a subscription.  I’ve been reading The New Yorker since I was a kid and it just keeps getting better.

So why don’t we have a county-wide ban on  Styrofoam?  Could your business find a way to succeed without foamed polystyrene? And wouldn’t Sue Van Hook have been a better choice as a graduation speaker than a phonied-up impersonator of Alexander von Humboldt, who never set foot in California?? What do you think?

Entrepreneurship- Seeking the “One Spark” of creativity

Redwood Coast businesses may not seem to have much in common with those in the sprawling megalopolis of Jacksonville FL, but take a closer look.  Both communities are port cities which need more business, both have downtowns which need revitalization, both have wealthy citizens who are willing to give back to the community, both have thriving art and music scenes, and both have avenues for those who are seeking funding for startup businesses. We have Economic Fuel, they have the new OneSpark.

OneSpark,  billed as “The World’s Crowdfunding Festival” took place over the  weekend of April 17-21 in the downtown area of Jax which was supposed to have received an economic boost from the Superbowl a few years ago, and didn’t. They chose to scatter the booths and exhibits throughout a “Creator Zone” and an “Entertainment District” stretching from Duval Street to the Jacksonville Landing on the river.  Even in the Florida heat- and in competition with the nonstop TV coverage of the Boston Marathon manhunt- the attendance over the five days reached 100,000 and there were exhibits or performances by over 900 Creators, 446 of which were officially entered in the Crowdfunding competition. Most of the rest were bands or graphic artists. Guests could vote or contribute ($5 minimum) for their favorite projects by Smartphone, by texting, by web or at a kiosk with the prize money allocated according to number of votes cast.  They could vote as many times as they wished, but only once for each project. Two stages were set up as “Pitch Decks” where creators could make a ten-minute pitch without even being registered at the Festival.

A major source of the prize money was Shad Khan, owner of the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars, who has stated he might be good for another million for specified projects. The Jax Cultural Council has already raised $180,000 towards keeping the ‘Spark District” a permanent force in the city, and will be awarding $60,000 in grants to artists who put their studios in a specified six-square-block area. The Downtown Investment Authority is seeking proposals in late May from group[s interested in putting on daily events in Hemming Plaza, a central but underutilized location.  It appears that OneSpark is more than a one-shot deal.

So who won?  Of the four categories – Music, Technology, Science and Art- Art received twice as many votes as the nearest competitor, Technology.  Among the proposals were everything from bands looking for money to record their first album and buy a van, to a massive plan called the Riverpool, a giant floating concrete dock adjacent to downtown including a marina for kayaks, restaurants, swimming pools and a public beach. On e project would transform a water tower on Jacksonville Beach into a colorful giant jellyfish. One woman is making furniture from recycled milk jugs.

But the winner by a large margin was “Rethreaded”, a company that works with women escaping the sex trade by training them to produce children’s clothing and other items from castoff T-shirts. The almost $7000 they won will fund their next four-month class.  The founder, Kristen Keen, had a similar company in India.  This has been just a quick once-over of a terrific event.  Maybe something we could try in Humboldt?