Monday, March 24, 2008

Giga-normous Gov'ment Tech Expo

FOSE, the giga-normous tech confab for government folks, comes to the Washington Convention Center April 1-3. It's worth visiting, especially considering the all-star keynote line-up, which includes top execu-visionaries from Google and Sun Microsystems, premier tech guru/writer/commentator David Pogue, and the wizard behind the Mars Rover. Check out

And for those of you who missed Robin's prior Conventional Wisdom coverage of FOSE for the City Paper, here it is:

FOSE 2007

The Industry:

cutting-edge information technology

The Attendees:

25,000 technocrats on reconnaissance for the newest micro-, macro- and giga-gadgetry

The Issues:

Acc-sex Denied: Reduced productivity isn’t the only cost of employees and contractors visiting gambling, porn and other inappropriate websites on government time and dime. Even something as seemingly benign as streaming music eats up valuable bandwidth, slowing e-mail to snail’s pace. Offensive images seen by a passerby can be construed as hostile action or harassment, leading to lawsuits. And clicking on that virtual voyeur image or movie clip can download viruses, malicious code, and spyware. Sp8e6 Technologies unveiled a new URL filtering device that “manages the threat from within.” It can automatically block users from visiting inappropriate sites, flashing a message such as “Access Denied; see our acceptable use policy.” Or perhaps “Welcome to” The filter, which works with existing hardware and architecture, also prevents enterprise-wide data and intellectual property leakage.

Watch Doctor: After launching and selling his first company at age 17, Eric Hines is donating a percentage of his current venture, Applied Watch Technologies, to the American Indian College Fund. He introduced version 4.0 of his platform for enterprise open source security management, nicknamed Shaman, defined as an intermediary between this and next world. The software thwarts attacks that defeated network defenses.

Dancing with the Feds: Cobalt Flux touted its pro-grade Dance Dance Revolution dance platforms as the next step in government and military fitness. “It’s one of the few forms of exercise people voluntarily do,” explained salesman Matt Anderson while calibrating a new song.
Coming in 6 months, he divulged: “DDR with arm motions!”

How Green is My CPU: A recent Presidential executive order mandates that all federal agencies buy computers that meet criteria set by EPEAT™ (Electronic Products Environmental Assessment Tool). At a show floor press conference, one speaker itemized benefits expected from 4 years of purchasing EPEAT-registered computers. Among them: saving $71.4 million in energy, the equivalent of making 72,630 households power-free for a year; reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 64,700 metric tons, equal to making 51,317 cars emission-free; reducing toxic materials by 75.1 metric tons, the equivalent of 37,550 standard bricks; reducing hazardous waste by 2,820 metric tons, the equivalent of 1.4 million standard bricks; and reducing mercury by 5.7 kilograms, the equivalent of 9,368 mercury thermometers.

New ID: New disaster management products from Salamander Technologies include evacTRAX, which employs machine-readable tags that can be made onsite to track family members, pets, and personal belongings from location to location. Motorola is using RFID (radio frequency ID) for monitoring the movement of luggage, mail, and food. Precision tracking will reduce the staggering annual losses from food spoilage and counterfeit prescription drugs. Tools such as E-Pedigree will protect the “chain of custody” – which includes product brand, recalls, and supply chain tracking. Why are businesses hesitant to go RFID? Their longtime investment in barcode technology.

Vertical Mark-it: That’s no joystick; it’s Wow-Pen Traveler, the new wireless vertical mouse with ergonomic anti-carpal-tunnel-syndrome design, germ-killing silver nano coating, built-in laser pointer, and ability to read sloppy penmanship.

Battle of the Bags: CDW-G lost the biggest-bag title to Best Buy this year, but each scored knockouts on the crowded show floor. Some armed themselves not to tote literature but to use as shields.

Scan-Do Attitude: Kodak’s new i1860 scanner shoots out 200 pages per minute. The Visioneer Road Warrior fires 33 ppm. But it costs just $199, weighs less than 11 ounces, and can slip in an office in a box – handy for soldiers storming bunkers where they’ll need to quick-scan documents for evidence.

Idle Threat: Presenters explained how the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Telework Program attracts and retains exceptional employees, minimizes overhead and real estate costs, and boosts productivity so the agency can keep pace with “the exploding number of patent and trademark applications.” To a base of 600 teleworking examiners, the agency is adding 400 this year, and then 500 a year through 2011 for a total of 3,000. How can USPTO be sure that offsite employees aren’t slacking off? Measuring productivity by a widget metric, the supervisors “know how much work is done down to 2 decimal spaces.” Besides, employees want to be successful so that they don’t have to come back to work full-time in the office.”

Our Space: “It’s not videoconferencing!” Cisco representatives beckoned passersby to demo TelePresence, which saves employers travel time and costs by enabling virtual in-person meetings. The solution combines big point-to-point plasma screens, “the virtual table,” spatial wideband audio, ultra-high definition video, and lower-profile features such as knee-knockers to keep meeting attendees from straying out of camera range. Cisco brought in filmmaker George Lucas’s crew members to help craft the virtual meeting experience; their tips included backlighting to eliminate dark bags under the eyes and neutral tabletops to avoid distracting reflections on light skin.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Wild, Wild Workplace

Society for Human Resource Management
2008 Employment Law and Legislative Conference

Washington, DC
March 10-11, 2008

Points of interest:

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Issues:

* Yes, “he-she,” the f-word and the d-word are derogatory, are still uttered in the workplace, and should not be. “You need to make sure this kind of talk is not tolerated.”

* Knowledge before empathy: If someone is transgendering, or in another situation in which sexual orientation becomes an office issue, address it. Sensitivity training can get creative: one employee’s therapist spoke with the coworkers about what’s going on. Prejudice and bad behavior often is born of simply not knowing.

* One big question that HR managers hear is “what about the restroom?” Which to use depends on the gender the person is now living as.

* Some conversations are inappropriate at work regardless of anyone’s sexual orientation.

* Example of an ill-advised question: “You look pregnant – are you?”

Not All Reform is Good:

* Proposed Federal ADA legislation could expand the definition of “disability” to include getting the flu ... sporting a tattoo ... or buying reading glasses at the drug store. Potential problems: misuse of benefits ... higher health/benefit costs ... and fewer resources for people with true disabilities.

CSI: Workplace Investigations:

* Yes, employers can access employee emails and videotape at-work, but informing employees will discourage undesired behavior to begin with. A plus unless one views work as a game of “gotcha!”

* Avoid perceived bias. Don’t put recruit investigations or key witnesses from the alleged wrongdoer’s sphere of influence. That might discourage reporting naughty boss behavior.

* Ask open-ended questions: “What exactly did you see happen in the parking lot?” vs. “So, how many times did you see him grope her?”

* Privacy rights: Employers can legally access employee emails. But they typically can’t listen in on phone calls or intercept emails before they arrive on company servers without employees’ consent. Or implied consent – meaning, such monitoring is noted in company policy and employees are made aware of the policy.

* Punishing offenders is not enough. Employers are obligated to prevent bad behavior from occurring again.

Startling Statistics:

* Underuse, overuse and misuse of chronic disease-related resources contributes to 100,000 preventable deaths a year and $100 billion extra in health care costs in the U.S. Smarter use could reduce per person health care costs by 30 to 40%.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Bike On!

National Bike Summit
Washington, DC
March 5, 2008

Consider this:

* 41% of all trips taken in the U.S. are 2 miles or less. These trips are ideal for bicycling – and thus, great opportunities for motorists to try bicycling as an alternative. By the way, most CO2 emissions are expelled during the first 2 minutes of running a car engine.

* Can the U.S. keep pace? The Paris Velis program offers cheap rentals of 20,000 bicycles at 1,450 stations citywide. Join up cost $1.50 day or $43 a year. In London, there’s a $787 million system of 12 “two-wheeler superhighways” connecting residential areas and city centers.

* More people are considering bicycling as transportation with gas approaching $4 a gallon, traffic congestion, pollution, and growing awareness about climate change. We’re a car-driven society: in the 1950s, drivers traveled 600 billion milles; 50 years later, the U.S. hit the 3 trillion mile mark. That’s a 5-fold increase – escalation that’s not sustainable.

* Only 9% of bicyclists stop regularly at stop signs. Then again, only 20% of motorists – in powerful vehicles! – stop regularly at stop signs. (per Scott Bricker, City of Portland).

Getting More People to Ride:

Dan Bower shared learning lessons from Portland’s super-successful effort to increase ridership:

* Every time you build something, tell people about it.
* Find out the perceptual and physical barriers to riding, and address them.
* As part of Portland’s SmartTrips program, 20,000 households were approached at a time with promotional mailings and visits by volunteers on bike delivering personalizated transportation information.
* The program distributes 400,000 bike maps a year.
* An employer program includes bike route mapping.
* Give out free stuff – that has a purpose. Like Portland’s bandanna imprinted with bike maps, leg bands, coupons and bike event listings.
* Make sure the city transit department includes bike commuting info.
* Offer free bike clinics and group rides year-round. Their popular ones include a pub crawl for baked goods (says Bower: “these rides are seriously slow”), Midnight Mystery Ride, World naked Bike Ride (participation in that one has increased 50% each year).
* These moves create “a bike culture.” In Portland, even business folks who don’t bike like to be part of something perceived so good for health, the environment, and the city. Some have asked for bike racks to replace parking spots in front of their stores.
* Where’s the money come from? Get business sponsors, grants, government support. Be sure to measure and promote results of each component of your bicycling promotion effort.

Bicycling Resources:

Adventure Cycling’s Cyclist’s Yellow Pages Online - great resource!

National Center for Biking and Walking

Federal Highway Admin. Bicycle Program

League of American Bicyclsts

Taking back roads for pedestrians and bikers:

Trail info

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Back to Nature

In the Forest of Fontainebleau: Painters and Photographers from Corot to Monet  

Prior to Yellowstone being designated America’s first national park, preservation-minded folks successfully lobbied for converting an age-old hunting ground of kings into the world’s first nature preserve in 1861. The Forest of Fontainebleau’s 19th century tourist draw included artists from within and beyond France. Finding it the perfect setting for open air, or plein-air, painting, many stayed. Those engaged in the new art of photography embraced the wealth of subjects on scales grand and small. The flora and fauna inspired some to cross genres, which typically involved quite an investment in tools and materials. New growth took root in the forest – specifically, the Barbizon School.

The enchanting pictorial journey highlights painters Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and Théodore Rousseau, and photographer Eugène Cuvelier. In this dense forest, Claude Monet is outclassed; in other landscapes he would achieve global name-brand fame for his impressionist reveries.

Some beautiful glimpses of work by Jean-François Millet can be seen in this forest. Look for The Shepherdess, Millet’s pastel and black conté crayon study on paper that magically reveals the artist’s process of composing elements and colors.

But within the lush confines of the Forest of Fontainebeau, take the opportunity to discover the lesser-knowns. Particularly, Millet’s friend, Charles-Emile Jacque.

Jacque (1813-1894) had a humble start as an engraver’s apprentice, honing his dry point skills while rendering maps. Next, on to military service, where he sketched and eventually worked to catch the eye of tastemakers in Paris. He worked on woodcut illustrations for Shakespearean texts in London before coming home to France, where he developed a passion for rural landscapes.

Jacque’s exquisite sensitivity enlivens his depictions of daily life of farmers, shepherds, and their animals. These gentle, pastoral scenes are outshouted by larger, more dramatically rendered pieces from more famous peers. But Jacque humbly offers most precious gems – look at the texture and heft of his sheep, and even more impressively, their expressions.

This unsung master’s The Old Forest and The Departure of the Flock are two of the most affecting works of the 100-plus in this show. I left with the image pleasurably seated on my mind of a sheep, neck turned, gazing back – as if the gentle creature sensed being watched by a person who appreciated the animals as sentient, living beings instead of commodities for profit.

In the Forest of Fontainebleau: Painters and Photographers from Corot to Monet  
National Gallery of Art
Pennsylvania Ave. and 3rd St. NW, on the National Mall in D.C.
March 2 through June 8, 2008
Organized by the National Gallery of Art, and Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts, which will present the exhibition July 13 through October 19.

The Old Forest, 1860-70 by Charles Émile Jacque. Oil on wax-lined canvas, Brooklyn Museum

The Shepherdess, c. 1869 by Charles Émile Jacque. Pastel on brown wove paper. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James T. Dyke, 1996

Saturday, March 1, 2008


Click the HUE-PHORIA headline above to read all about this new Color as Field exhibition at American Art Museum show in D.C.