Thursday, January 03, 2008

Blog Location Switch

As noted a possibility in my previous entry, I've decided to change to iWeb and .Mac for my blogging, which I've restarted as a photo journal of the Seasons of Lake Miriam and also an opportunity to share personal news. You can find To Save the Planet here, accompanying the photo journal and possibly more to come.

I'm sending an email in this regard to some folks. Please help spread the word of my move.

Thanks for reading!

- Ben
Alive (and Kicking) to Save the Planet

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Kitchen Recognition + Photo Journal Preview

I suppose if I'm going to do a photo journal, writing about it might be a good idea. But first, a word of unrelated news. At the beginning of his fundraising spiel Saturday night, Ari told a story about Isabella Freedman's team-based work philosophy that appeared in the kitchen last week:

"We have a number of non-Jewish staff and we decided to give them time off for Christmas so they could celebrate with their families. Our executive chef is one of those people. Also, last weekend, our sous chef's grandmother passed away and she was headed home, too. After I received this news, before I even made it over to the kitchen to find a solution, one had already been formed. And so, the potwasher, the dishwasher [me], a dining hall intern, and your yoga teacher/retreat manager were your chefs this week. And Adam (potwasher) was up until 5 am Thursday night baking challah for Shabbat."

Adam, Jonas, and I were in attendance and received great applause. Adam truly didn't leave the kitchen until 5 am Friday, after a 19 hour shift. Ahron and I happened over to the kitchen Thursday even in search of snacks and found Adam in a bind, not having touched the pots and pans from dinner but still over 100 challah rolls short. He'd only just found out earlier that day that the silent retreat needed two challah rolls for each retreatant to make an individual motzi, and by 11 pm there were 140 out of an ordered 260. So, we volunteered to help make dough for the rest. And the tablespoon extra yeast I added (compromising between a written recipe and the math I thought it got wrong) turned into a monstrous amount of dough and brought the total production to 366 rolls.

Anyway, Celena, our executive chef since Pesach, left us on Thursday and now in charge are Jen (previously sous chef), Merav (previously dining hall intern), and Adam (still potwasher extraordinaire), with me popping in occasionally when I'm not washing dishes, taking out the garbage, organizing cookware, or testing a new green cleaning product. The kitchen has turned away from a one-person-barking-orders led department to a flatter, team-based organization with vastly improving operations. Oh, and Julie's back as baker again and we're all joyed at that!

• • •

Two months ago, I took ownership on my first digital camera, at the same time completely changing my perspective on photography, especially of people. I'm still not fond of staged/posed people photos, but most of the pictures I'm taking are still scenery and people in various types of motion. I got a really good deal on a Nikon Coolpix P5100, Nikon's current top-of-the-line point-and-shoot camera, one I expect will last me many years. Some features I'll use right away; others will take me time to read and learn about.

Together with the latest version of iPhoto that came out over the summer, I'm revolutionizing the way I share my life with you. iPhoto is now event-based, meaning it follows the natural tendency to take a bunch of photos of a particular event and separates them from photos of other events. I've submitted a couple dozen of my photos so far to Isabella Freedman for potential inclusion in the 2008 program catalog.

Now, I've decided to journal the changing seasons at Isabella Freedman with focus on Lake Miriam and the life on its banks. I only just sparked the idea a couple days ago, and was greeted by the beauty of falling snow this morning to begin the journal. I took a couple dozen photos of it today, though only a few scenes will officially be part of my daily journal.

I haven't decided if this will be my last post to Blogspot, as I might switch to using my .Mac account. I might stick to writing in MacJournal or I might switch to iWeb. I'll let you know, but in the meantime, you can view Seasons of Lake Miriam 2008.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Environmental Energizer: New Director Envisions DC as a Green Giant (DC North)

I'm sorry I missed out on this excitement, but by over a year. Maybe I'll have another opportunity in the future to consult for DDOE.

DC North, Capital Community News — DC Green
Environmental Energizer: New Director Envisions DC as a Green Giant
by Elizabeth McGowan

About every waking moment, each cell of George Hawkins’s entire being is dedicated to reinventing his newly adopted city as a model of environmental efficiency and innovation.

In fact, during the few hours he reserves for sleep, the 47-year-old probably even dreams in green.

And that’s just dandy with Adrian Fenty. The mayor has hired a cabinet full of visionary, engaged, energetic and e-savvy leaders who reflect his own up-at-5 a.m. rhythm and go-go-go ethic. And Hawkins, an Ivy Leaguer hired to head a nascent DC Department of Environment, is no exception.

“We’re just getting our sea legs,” Hawkins, donning a low-key green tie, says during an interview. “This is the most demanding of all the demanding jobs I’ve had. But that’s good. I’m anxious to be in a city that’s taking off.”

His fiscal year 2008 budget rings in at $65 million, and he’s still hiring to flesh out what will become a 295-employee strong workforce.

“That’s a lot of firepower,” the former Environmental Protection Agency employee continues, but in line with a department tasked with executing city, county and state initiatives because of the uniqueness of the nation’s capital.

His sixth-floor corner office is a mere stone’s throw from the New York Avenue Red Line Metro Station. From the window, he has a view of Dunbar High School and can trace much of the route he walks daily from his Shaw rowhouse on French Street to his headquarters in a run-of-the-mill red brick structure on a hardscrabble block of N Street NE.

Of course, he also eyeballs acres of flat roofs and asphalt parking lots. The former he eventually wants covered with power-generating solar arrays, and the latter should be mitigated so pollutants aren’t washing into waterways.
However, first things first. Before Hawkins’s arrival, the energy office – now absorbed into his department – was a clunky, hit-or-miss outfit known mainly for trying to offer energy savings to low-income residents. His priority is assembling a nimble, strategic, pro-active staff that is self-assured, well-informed and connected to all city departments – not functioning in isolation.

His monumental “to do” list is daunting but appealing to anybody with an advanced environmental agenda.

Here’s a taste: Cleaning up the forlorn Anacostia River; initiating low-impact stormwater runoff standards within the next six months; advancing a residential and commercial “green” building movement that promotes energy efficiency and encourages the planting of living roofs; removing lead from problem residences before children are poisoned; encouraging tree plantings; accelerating litter pickup; and stepping up energy audits so more residents are purchasing efficient appliances and weatherizing their homes.

Commerce that embraces eco-friendly principles, he emphasizes, can remain robust. That’s why he’s elated by Fenty’s September creation of a Green Collar Job Advisory Council. The idea is to coordinate an effort to train residents as the scientists, architects, horticulturists, landscapers, construction workers, river restorers, energy efficiency experts and lead paint abatement technicians to enable an impending boom in sustainable living.

“We want to reach out to people so they know who we are and why we matter to them,” Hawkins says about his autumn proposal to visit each ward with its respective DC Councilmember.

Hawkins is no naïve rookie, nor is he a stranger to DC. He’s aware that residents of many neighborhoods are suspicious of government’s motives.

“It’s hard going,” Hawkins says. “We have to overcome that. I want more citizens to see us more, and let them know we’re on their side.

“This is a city of such diversity. Housing and jobs included in this green infrastructure need to be set up so people who have lived here for years, with traditionally low incomes, can be part of it.”

Every job on the Ohio native’s resume has prepared him for this stimulating position. After graduating from Princeton University, then earning a law degree from Harvard University in the 1980s, he was an environmental attorney at a law firm with Boston and DC offices.

Hawkins later served at the EPA’s regional office in Boston before moving to DC at Vice President Al Gore’s behest to help streamline the entire agency. Before accepting Fenty’s offer, he spent nine years successively directing two New Jersey nonprofits – Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association and New Jersey Future – that collaborated with local governments to streamline zoning and environmental practices, and advocated for revitalizing communities by generating jobs, providing transportation and housing choices, and protecting natural landscapes. He pops back to the Princeton, NJ, region on as many weekends as possible to squeeze in time with his wife and two children.

Of all the ambitious municipal leaders Hawkins has encountered, he classifies Fenty as “off the charts” on the excellence he invokes. And he’s prepared to exceed the mayor’s expectations.

Soon, DC might be uttered in the same breath as environmental beacons such as Seattle, Berkeley, Calif., and Portland, Ore. Perhaps by then the city’s traditional red and white flag also will be sporting a green stripe to note that monumental leap.

“The environmental bar is moving up,” Hawkins says. “We want to be transparent and upfront. I’m very excited about it. It’s a dawn-to-dusk job, but it’s a worthy one.”

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Best Leopard Features

I've read through the entire list of 300+ new features in Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, the new version of the Mac operating system that will arrive next Friday, and I've picked out my choices of the best among them that will be most useful to me. In their order of appearance on Apple's page (alphabetical by category/application):

        1.        AutomatorUI Recording and Playback
                Add even more capabilities to your workflows. Use a new action called Watch Me Do that lets you record a user action (like pressing a button or controlling an application without built-in Automator support) and replay as an action in a workflow.
        2.        DashboardWeb Clip
                Clip out any portion of a web page and turn it into a Dashboard widget. Just click the new Web Clip icon in Safari and select the portion of the page you want, then click Add to see your Dashboard spring to life with a brand-new widget. The widget is “live” and will update as its page of origin does. You can even customize your widget’s frame.
        3.        DesktopSpring-Loaded Dock
                Items in the Dock are spring-loaded. Just drag a file, hover over any application in the Dock, and press the Space bar — the application opens instantly. For example, to add a picture to your iPhoto library, just drag the image file and hover over the iPhoto icon in the Dock. Press the Space bar, and once iPhoto opens, you can drag the image into your iPhoto library. If you drag a file and hover over a stack, pressing the Space bar opens a Finder window showing the contents of the stack.
        4.        DVD PlayerScratched Disc Recovery
                Smoothly play back even DVDs that may be damaged. New technology in Leopard can locate and avoid scratched areas of the disc.
        5.        MailTo-Dos
                Create to-do items directly from email messages or notes in Mail. Simply highlight text in an email, then click the To Do button to create a to-do from a message.
        6.        NetworkingSelf-Tuning TCP
                Let Leopard adjust TCP buffer size automatically. Get optimum application performance, especially in high-bandwidth/high-latency environments.
        7.        PreviewPDF Manipulation
                Re-create your PDF as you like. Move individual pages around, or remove pages altogether. You can even combine PDFs with a simple drag and drop. [Eliminates need for Combine PDFs app.]
        8.        PrintingPrinter Drivers via Software Update
                Make sure you always have the latest printer drivers. Download directly to your system using the familiar capabilities of Software Update.
        9.        Quick Look
                Look inside any document without launching an application. Use Quick Look with documents, images, songs, and movies and get a large-size preview of the file. Flip through multipage documents, preview movies, even add images to Photo. You can use Quick Look in Finder, Mail, and Time Machine.
        10.        Spaces
                Organize your activities into separate spaces and easily switch from one to another. Make a space for work or play. Choose from a number of convenient options that make moving from space to space fast and easy.
        11.        SystemLive Partition Resizing in Disk Utility
                You may be able to gain disk space without losing data. If a volume is running out of space, simply delete the volume that comes after it on the disk and move the volume’s end point into the freed space.
        12.        SystemGuest Log-in Accounts
                Allow anyone to surf the web and check email as a guest on your Mac. When they log out of the guest account, Mac OS X purges the account, removing any trace of their activity. So each time someone logs in as a guest, he or she gets a fresh, unused account.
        13.        System PreferencesAdvanced Account Options
                Make changes to the user ID, login shell, and home directory for any account. Just hold down the Control key and click an account in the Accounts pane of System Preferences. [No longer a risky process requiring third-party Change Short Name utility.]
        14.        TextEditAutosave
                Ensure that your edits aren’t lost. Have TextEdit automatically save copies of your document at a specified time interval.
        15.        Time MachineBack Up Everything
                Automatic backup, built right into your Mac. Never worry about losing a file again. Time Machine stores an up-to-date copy of all your Mac’s files on an external hard drive, personal file sharing volume, or Mac OS X Server. That includes system files, applications, accounts, preferences, music, photos, movies, and documents.
        16.        UNIXWide Area Bonjour
                Access your Macs, at home or on the road, with a single consistent host name. Use this host name whether you’re behind a NAT gateway or hopping across DHCP servers. [Eliminates need for DynDNS utility.]

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Day Three with a Smile

Spent my third morning at Avodat Lev with ADAMAH, followed by breakfast. Smiles all around. And oatmeal. Now I have to remember to bring another Dobie over for dishes; the previous one has been downgraded to a floor sponge.

Lynn offered a class this morning on nonviolence, "Kabbalah of the Margins," and a preview on Lamentations in preparation for Tisha b'Av, a day of fasting and mourning, which is early next week.

I spent far too many hours yesterday and today trying to update the firmware of Shir-Ya'akov's printer and failed to connect to it by FTP, per HP's instructions, by all possible methods. Then, I ended up turning to the simplest of instructions to do a direct file copy to the printer using shared network printing in Windows. I set up printer sharing and opened a DOS command window, entered the command, and it said it copied the one file. Without any feedback from the system, I soon discovered that the printer was busy updating itself with the file I offered. Who knew?!

Tonight, after a brief learning with Ellen Bernstein and checking out the awesome art show opening of the last two weeks of seniors' art projects, I headed to Beit Adamah to help prep ginger for tomorrow night's Japanese Shabbat meal. I'll be back after work tomorrow afternoon to help cook more.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Working Backward to Move Ahead

This morning I went to Adamah House for Avodat Lev ("work of the heart"/morning practice) for the first time in my two years at Freedman. Today felt like a good day to be spontaneous, surprise a few souls, and remember how amazing sleep cycles can be. Yesterday, I assembled a standing shelving unit in the Bookstore. I spent most of the last two weeks in there, while Ben was away, and completed the receipt of our large, annual book order from Ingram. Saturday morning, Anna, Tali, Devorah, Jeanette, and I picked blueberries at Thompson & Finch, an organic berry farm about half an hour west of here. The low-bush blueberries on our mountain here at Freedman I expect will be ripe for picking in a couple weeks.

So, about a month ago, we members of the Neshamah internship program had expressed that our non-work programing seemed largely nonexistent. So, Rabbi Lynn Gottleib, who was already scheduled to be here for a couple retreats in August, agreed to show up right away to be our Rabbi, mentor, and program core for the rest of the summer. Lynn is one of a group of women who collectively were second in rabbinic ordination of women to a female rabbi in the first half of the 20th century. She's been a great friend so far, particularly because she and I share humor style. (Thanks Dad!)

Two families of Canada Geese were born about a month ago. I don't stop in my tracks very often to express how cute I find something. The baby geese were an exception when I spotted them from the dining hall balcony on the grass below. I've enjoyed watching them grow, and now seeing the two families interact together after segregating themselves for the first few weeks.

The summer Senior Adult Vacations program (senior camp) began three weeks ago. Not much to say about that. There have been joys with seniors being here and there have been frustrations with how this property sometimes doesn't seem properly equipped to provide a safe environment for them. Three more weeks before the second half of Elat Chayyim summer retreats arrives.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Dirty Tennis vs. Clean Fuel

Work today was a lot of shoveling, raking, and sweeping. The subject: dirt. Topsoil, really. We were spreading it on the edge of the newly paved road atop which the sod guy will soon spray grass seed. Yes, I've gotten really good at shoveling over the months, as you may recall, but it got old today and quite tiring. Adam and I quit around 4:15, having gotten to a reasonable stopping point.

On my way home, I was approaching Seth (who's in silence this week) and he was expressing interest in playing tennis soon. At 5, we played tennis silently for over an hour until dinner. I found myself uncontrollably groaning a few times when I missed a shot, but mostly I kept the peace. Seth was amazing at sticking to the silent, contemplative, meditative game. We scored by hand with our fingers as much as we could keep track of the score and had a great time overall.

This evening, Shamu gave his seasonal talk about biodiesel to ADAMAH and invited Neshamah as well. Ruhi and I showed. I've heard it before, but it evolves each season; this year, Shamu and Jamie have a new car. They replaced their old VW that broke down one too many times with a 2002 VW wagon whose previous owner had converted it to run on grease. Being a newer vehicle upgraded with a better kit, the veggie oil monitoring system, fuel switch, and general internal setup are much cleaner and sexier. As per usual, I offered relevant feedback a few times during the discussion, including notes about electric vehicles and cellulosic ethanol.