Saturday, March 13, 2010

Weigh In on WSBA's Website!

The Washington State Bar Association needs and wants your help in figuring out how to improve its web presence which currently sucks. Potential users, who include lawyers, other legal system professionals, and anyone who has contact with or interest in our justice system, have been asked:
  • Think of the site holistically from an outside perspective – initial thoughts?
    • Audiences of the website – who and what are they looking for?
    • What would you like to see on the site when you first come to it?
  • Now, think of as a member, a volunteer or as a lawyer:
    • What do you like as a user of the site?
    • What do you dislike as a user of the site?
    • What features would you like to see on the site?
    • What is missing that would make the site more easy to use and obtain information?
    • Are there other website examples you find that offer what you would like to see?
  • If you are a bar leader (Sections, Access to Justice, Committee Chair, etc.)
    • how would you like to see your areas treated in the site?
    • What functionality needs does your specific focus area need?
  • What are your thoughts on Social Media integration for as well as other areas of the site with their own identity?
  • The website will also be going through a rebrand, which will be carried through to other marketing materials. The logo will remain the same, but what are your thoughts as to other styles that can be applied?

What You Should Do

As I See It

As a licensing organization, WSBA is necessarily controlling and conservative (in the classical sense): staid, stodgy, careful, meticulous, planned and more concerned with fulfilling rules handed down from above than in being responsive to those it licenses. That's not necessarily a bad thing; you don't want the people who wield the power of the State to flail around with it capriciously.

As a service organization, it should have precisely the opposite dynamic: innovative, risk-taking, and above all driven by the needs of its membership. This is fundamentally at odds with the licensing function! WSBA's services are compromised by its need to control information, which may work in old-school media but, as we say in the industry, The Internet treats censorship as a communications failure and routes around it.

Let's give props to WSBA for trying (look, it's even got a Twitter!) and now ... let's help fix the problem!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Tuesday's Tiny Election in King County

Did you know that Tuesday March 16, 2010 is an election day in King County, Washington?

No? I didn't either, until yesterday's Sustainable Belltown meeting, where I met one of the guys running for King County Conservation District Board of Supervisors.

As the Seattle Times explained it today:
"On March 16, an election for countywide office will be held, but hardly anybody will notice. It will receive scant coverage in this paper or on the Web, and none on the TV news. There will be no absentee ballots, and the actual polling places won't be listed on the King County Elections Web site.

But the winner will help control a public agency with millions of dollars and the power to help shape land use and conservation in the 13th-most-populous county in the nation.

Welcome to the campaign for King Conservation District Supervisor. The Conservation District is an agency authorized by law in 1939 to support land and water use and conservation. It is funded by your property taxes and governed by both appointed and elected members..."

There is a longrun issue about how an election can possibly be fair when only a few thousand out of the more-than-a-million potential voters even know about it (only 196 people voted in the 2008 race!) When there's only one polling location in the entire city of Seattle, and half-a-dozen others throughout King County (a county that is larger than Rhode Island!), we have a problem. The solution to the problem is to have the County take over this election and absorb the cost, running the election along with our normal elections, but the County doesn't seem eager to absorb new costs in this difficult economy. For now take note:

Voting sites

King County Library/Auburn Branch
1102 Auburn Way South, Auburn WA 98002
Poll hours 10:30 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.

King County Library/Bellevue Regional Branch
1111 110th Avenue NE, Bellevue WA 98004
Poll hours 10:30 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.

King County Library/Carnation Branch
4804 Tolt Avenue, Carnation WA 98014
Poll hours 10:30 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.

King County Library/Des Moines Branch
21620 11th Avenue S., Des Moines WA 98198
Poll hours 10:30 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Seattle Public Library (Downtown Main Branch)
1000 Fourth Ave., Seattle WA 98104
Poll hours 10:30 a.m. - 7:30 p.m.

King County Library/Shoreline Branch
345 NE 175th, Shoreline WA 98155
Poll hours 10:30 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.

King County Library/Vashon Island Branch
17210 Vashon Highway S.W., Vashon Island, WA 98070
Poll Hours 10:30 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Voters must present proper identification, like a driver’s license, passport or birth certificate, at the polling location.
I'm endorsing Kirk Prindle, because he went out of his way to come to our Sustainable Belltown meeting and talk about the issues (calling it "the most important election you've never heard of".) He says the other candidates in the race are o.k. too, and I like a guy who won't disparage the competition. But mostly, he seems to have the technical knowledge and positive attitude that I like to see in public service.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Three Reasons for Thrift Stores

I have become a big fan of thrift stores. All of my casual wear (mostly jeans and Hawaiian shirts) have come from the Mercer Island Thrift Store (MITS), as well as kitchen gadgets, books, and a slowly growing collection of classic power tools (...Mikitas are o.k. but you just can't beat a plug-in Craftsman!)

I shop thrift stores for several reasons:
  • Saving money. The prices are always lower than new, even though sometimes the stuff may not have been used at all. Most tools and so forth are as good as used a few days after you buy them anyway, so all you lose is the first few days of "newness". I've got a better use for my money than that!
  • Saving our environment. The environmental costs of the goods in thrift stores have been paid by the initial purchaser. The metal that was mined or the trees that were cut down to make the item were used up when it was first made and sold; buying it secondhand means you are mining the Great American Waste stream instead of primary sources.
  • The Thrill of the Hunt. If you're in a hurry or are looking for something in particular where no substitute may do, a quick look through a Thrift Store may be worth your time but will often not result in a hit. But if you are planning far enough ahead that you know your  general requirements for the next year or so, you may be able to find what you need over time, when the quick opportunity presents itself. It's sort of the difference between hunting (you don't know what chances you'll get but you must take advantage of opportunities when they appear) and farming (more predictable but, for some people, less thrilling).

I was reminded of these points when I considered this week's Change the World Wednesday challenge:
This week consider antique stores for household purchases. If you've never been in an antique store, visit one to see what items they offer. If you need a couch, table, tools, dishes, etc., check out an antique store before buying new.

Or ...

If you don't have an antique store in your area, don't need to buy anything this week, or find antique stores too costly, write a post about all the various resources for finding previously-owned items.
Personally, I don't do antique stores. My lovely wife may enjoy them, but that's something for when she and her friends need some fun time without the old man! However, we have had many a "Cheap Date" going to MITS, then spending our savings at the Roanoke.

One final advantage of thrift stores is that they can be an opportunity to participate in community. Many of the frequent shoppers make friends with the staff and other regulars, and we are also happy to support the mission of the thrift store, both with our purchasing power and with our donations
... we also find it a lot easier to downsize with the items we're moving on are going to the thrift store than to the dump...
I may have taken this community participation thing a little too far. One day I was picking through the book section and asked why there hadn't been anything new stocked for a while. The manager replied, "Oh, that's because our Book Lady is on vacation. We have plenty of books in the back but no-one to stock them."The next thing you know, I was stocking books and five years later, it's practically a hobby (I've always wanted to run a little bookstore, and this way I don't have to worry about running a cash register.) In the process, I've made a lot of friends.

So be warned: Thrift stores may make you a little richer, they may make you a little more efficient with resources, and they may make you friends. Such A Deal!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Borrowing Trouble

Today my friend Al offered to lend me the T-shaped tool you use to turn a house's outside water valve on and off, which I needed so the assessor could complete checking out the house my wife & I are buying. I'm grateful for the loan, but the last time I borrowed something ...
... our friends Ken and Crystal were playing a CD from "Six Feet Under" which Kris & I enjoyed well enough, so they suggested we borrow it.

Months later, Ken asks casually about getting his CD back. Oh yeah, that. We'll get right on it. Thanks for the loan!

I looked all over. No CD. The most likely explanation is that it got mixed in with all the other CDs and purged in one of our fits of downsizing. Maybe it had been donated to our favorite thrift store, maybe it went to Half Price Books - whereever it was, it wasn't here anymore.

No problem - that's why they make music stores! A quick trip and we had a new CD. I removed the shrinkwrap so our maneuver would not be TOO obvious, and the disk was swiftly returned.

Next day, a brief conversation:

"That Six Feet Under CD?"

"Yes, thanks for the loan!"

"The one you returned?"

"Uhm, yeah. It was ok, wasn't it?"

"Yeah, it's like new. But it's the 1st season. We lent you the 2nd Season."

... I thanked Al for the loan. A job really is easier with the right tool, but the first thing I did was to write his name on a sticker, and stuck it on the handle.

As Kris says, "If you can't be a good example, you can at least be a horrible warning!"

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Planted This Week - Ending March 7, 2010

This week our order from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds arrived, and man there was a lot! I started some in cardboard pots (mostly box lids with a layer of leaves covered with soil). Yes, I know that normally this is way too early to start seedlings, but I have to learn somehow; I'm hoping to get a head start during this early spring. If we get a cold snap, they take up little enough space that I can bring them indoors.

I planted:
Some of these are parked under my "Hillbilly Hothouses" a.k.a. translucent tubs that were surplussed because the lids were busted. For next year, I hope to have a more formal hothousing solution but this has worked o.k. so far. The rest of the seeded boxes are in the garden shed, where they get a little sun through the skylight, but are very protected from the weather.

Earlier this week, I put in more vinca. Man, there's a lot of individual plants in that bunch!  I still have leftovers to give away, if I can find someone to take them. Some of them seem to be quite happy among the boulders and even flowering; some are sulking, mostly in the places that get less light.