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(HT to Exit133)

And a bonus from YouTube’s related videos, all outta tune and punked up, courtesy of The Rain City Shwillers:

]]> Wed, 03 Jun 2009 21:42:56 GMT jamie,2009-06-03:a06200f80a3d5afe752de87383147dcf/00356808841f0d97a871a1986b6c6836
Dirty Goings On at the Assessor-Treasurer's Office It seems that the chickens are finally coming to roost in the office of Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam. Buried in the “Dale’s Bulletin” portion of the office’s website (screenshot captured below for posterity), Washam includes information on an Equal Opportunity Employment complaint levied against him by one of his employees, alleging discrimination and harassment on the basis of both age and gender. Washam even goes so far as to include a link to a pdf of the letter he received from HR director Betsy Sawyers detailing the complains (or if that gets disappeared, I grabbed a copy).

This is certainly an interesting tactic by Washam in making the allegations public, and some of the comments on a TNT blog post seem to suggest that people are praising him for “transparency”. But here’s the deal: in calling this an “unnamed person’s bogus complaint”, Washam is essentially retaliating against HR’s duty to fully investigate complaints such as this, and by extension belittling the employee in question, who should not be dragged through the mud. EEO allegations need to be taken seriously, and for Washam to not only make a private matter public, but to do so in order to argue about an unrelated matter (namely, the lack of property inspections under his predecessor) goes beyond being in extremely poor taste, it also opens up Pierce County for a big fat lawsuit. I won’t go so far at this moment as to say that Washam needs to be immediately recalled from office, but I’m relatively certain that if he were a county employee rather than an elected official, he would be severely reprimanded if not fired for his handling of the matter.

See also at the TNT.

]]> Mon, 20 Apr 2009 20:08:45 GMT jamie,2009-04-20:a06200f80a3d5afe752de87383147dcf/2090e9549b1b4a44e1077230cf1ee0db
Open Source Urban Planning I came across an interesting article on Wired about LimeWire founder Mark Gorton’s The Open Planning Project, which seeks to bring the open source software movement together with urban planning. Portland has already used the software to help plan bus routes, and San Francisco may not be far behind.

Now, this certainly is no panacea. Like any form of participatory government, there is significant risk of, well, lack of participation (or non-representative samples of interested parties) messing up the results. But I think there is some interesting potential to bring new people to the table–whether due to the demographics of Internet users or the availability of citizens to attend meetings–in a way that might promote a more progressive agenda. (And, might I hope, one that looks at whole-city solutions instead of just a bunch of vocal neighborhood groups fighting for speedbumps.)

(via uclahelo@flickr, cc by-nc-nd)

I would be interested to see if Tacoma’s government would ever use such tools to try to bring more people to the table. And for that matter, whether the citizens of Tacoma would step up to the plate and get involved. I think we could get a fascinating diversity of opinion, but with that diversity would come neighborhood-specific knowledge from all around the city. And the tools would allow public access to planning data that was currently only available in proprietary planning tools. Seems worth trying…

A few things I would champion:

  • City-wide streetcar system. ‘Nuff said.
  • Building codes centering on transit-oriented development in commercial areas. Reduce the amount of required parking to encourage people to walk, bike, and take public transit.
  • Shorter traffic light cycles. Sitting at a long light in the car is annoying, but is even more of a pain on a bicycle or foot. Long light cycles are for the suburbs where you’re trying to move cars. In the city, I should never have to wait more than a minute at a light, less if I’m a pedestrian and hit the cross button.

Read about it at Wired.
Check out The Open Planning Project.

]]> Wed, 04 Feb 2009 03:30:49 GMT jamie,2009-02-03:a06200f80a3d5afe752de87383147dcf/be2a6d4845028e901671e13699ea3928
Neko Case Song, Free, For a Good Cause This blog, of course, owes a great deal to erstwhile Tacoman Neko Case in that its title comes from her three-quarter-time alt-Country ode to our fair city. So it seems only fair to give some voice to her upcoming album, Middle Cyclone, and a great little cause that she and her label are championing.

I’m going to post a link to download “People Got A Lotta Nerve”, the first single from the album, here. Neko and ANTI will donate $5 to the Best Friends Animal Society for my doing so. They get publicity, we get free music, and animals get saved–everybody wins! (And you can help the animals even more by participating too!)

Download an MP3 of People Got A Lotta Nerve.

A little message from Neko:

More info from ANTI.
The beneficiaries, Best Friends Animal Society.

(And for an extra local bonus, if you want to support local animal causes, check out the Dugan Foundation, which is selling a beautiful 2009 wall calendar to support their work…)

]]> Fri, 23 Jan 2009 01:22:38 GMT jamie,2009-01-22:a06200f80a3d5afe752de87383147dcf/d5a08eb32c14d7f0f5122f12ddb6062e
On Tech Startups and Tacoma Recent Seattle P-I to Puget Sound Business Journal transplants John Cook and Todd Bishop have temporarily set up home at Where Are John and Todd? while their new BizJournal site comes online. Today John writes about a recently-started Seattle angel investment group called the Founders Co-op. Their philosophy: provide limited capital (typically $50k to $200k) to seed stage tech startups, usually those still in the two- or three-employee stage, while also fostering an atmosphere of openness and support amongst their community of entrepreneurs. Similar smaller-than-VC-amounts investment groups exist in the Seattle market in the form of Curious Office and Monster Venture Partners. This all on top of a generally high level of networking and community amongst those in the Seattle startup community.

Now, what for Tacoma? We’ve got a couple of small tech companies around here, but choosing to locate in Tacoma (rather than, say, Pioneer Square AKA startup central) is the exception to the rule. There’s not a lot of networking between employees at different companies. There’s not “district” where these companies tend to locate. Programming talent is hard to find. (I’m not sure if this last thing is because programmers don’t live here, or because they’re all commuting to their jobs in Seattle/Redmond/wherever…)

But generally, the question is begged, why isn’t there an active startup community in Tacoma. We are within an hour of the Seattle market. There are all sorts of buildings with the cool loft spaces that small software firms like so much. UWT’s Tech Institute is by all indications growing, turning out both undergraduate and graduate software developers. UPS and PLU, both excellent schools, also turn out CS graduates in respectable numbers. Sure, there’s not the sexiness of being in Seattle, and I don’t have any illusions of Tacoma having as broad a tech presence as said neighbor-to-the-north, but it’s hard to see what’s standing in the way of more of a startup presence here.

I wonder if maybe the funding piece of the pie is one of the factors holding us back. Yes, there’s the Tacoma Angel Network (and non-funding-related support from the William Factory Small Business Incubator), but those are a little bit heavy on some of the details that many tech startups tend to scoff at, such as detailed business plans. In all honesty, most of these startups are coming to fruition through the efforts of programmers and designers, not MBAs and marketers, and the value is in the idea (and making it come to fruition), not long term goals and overly-thorough market analysis. Yes, there will be failures, but providing a framework for seed-funding ideas for small companies, without formal business process overhead, simply works for small tech companies. Bay Area venture firm Y Combinator has proven it with companies like, Loopt, and reddit. Curious Office has seen success with Imagekind (acquired by CafePress) and Shelfari (acquired by Amazon). Granted, there’s nothing precluding any of these firms from funding a Tacoma company, but to my knowledge it hasn’t happened yet.

So what if there were a Tacoma tech startup funder/incubator? It could be an extension of the Angel Network or it could be it’s own thing, but the operative thing is that it would provide relatively minimal funding (at least in the venture funding sense), and favor ideas over formal business plans. Picture a shared office of small two-to-three member teams working on a number of projects, each with just enough funding to cover equipment, salaries, and other overhead. An exciting collaborative atmosphere. Tons of new tech jobs for Tacoma residents! If it were connected or closely allied with the UWT Technology Institute (and/or UPS, and/or PLU), even better, because we can tap that talent before it takes jobs elsewhere–a great way to keep one segment of “cultural creatives” in town after they’re done with their degrees. (And the area around the UWT would be great, location-wise, for this…) Now, I don’t have the money to be a part of making this happen, but I really think it would open up some exciting potential for the future of Tacoma, downtown development, commerce, etc.

Thoughts, anyone?


]]> Wed, 08 Oct 2008 20:00:26 GMT jamie,2008-10-08:a06200f80a3d5afe752de87383147dcf/6079bd0d5d2926a02c82bdb63061dd2c
Gari of Sushi No Longer Blindingly Yellow! I don’t make it out to the Lincoln District very often, especially since Gari of Sushi had a fire. But I thought I’d swing by and check on the progress of their remodel yesterday after a stop at REI on my way to Puget Sound Pizza, and wow… I’m sure many of you have already seen this, but the building has shed its crazy yellow cladding, and is now a normal looking brick building! Wish I had pictures, but I was sans camera. Last I heard, they are aiming for re-opening around the end of July. My only fear is that with the building being all classed up, people formerly scared of trying sushi in a bright yellow building will crowd the place up and ruin it for those of us who loved it when it was but an ugly duckling (with, mind you, the best sushi in town). I’m just excited to have great sushi again.

]]> Tue, 01 Jul 2008 15:21:53 GMT jamie,2008-07-01:a06200f80a3d5afe752de87383147dcf/c2b1556996e369adae407ebd00050be8
Mini-Reviews: Maxwell's and Masa Over the last week, we dined at Maxwell’s Speakeasy + Lounge on St. Helens and Masa on Sixth, so I thought I’d share some thoughts.

Maxwell’s wowed us big-time. Fun and swanky 1920s-with-a-twist-of-hipness atmosphere and impressively food, which we were excited to hear was locally-sourced. Our foursome chose to order a series of appetizers and small plates, which worked really well. Highlights included the grilled broccoli, which was more the long brassica sort of broccoli than florets, and was sprinkled with delicious crispy sourdough bread crumbs. We were also impressed by the amount of food in the halibut cheeks small plate–excellent deal here! And be sure not to miss the amaretto brownie soufflé on the dessert menu, it is quite excellent. We’ll definitely be returning…I’m excited to check out the weekday “free food” happy hour sometime, which apparently happens from 4-6pm Monday-Thursday.

Masa is only 2 blocks from our house, and they’ve been open for more than two years now, but for some reason it’s the only one of the Sixth Ave “usual suspects” that we’ve never bothered to visit. (Well, ok, I’ve never eaten at Chopstix, but that’s because I don’t have to go there to know that it sucks.) I guess mixed reviews have kept us away, but we were looking to eat outside and decided to forgo our usual walkable-and-outdoor choice of E9 and finally give Masa a try. To start with, the upstairs porch is great on a sunny day, but I am somewhat fascinated by the dynamics of eating there. Apparently they don’t serve their draft beers on the porch (!?), so I opted for a bottled Negra Modelo rather than the preferred draft Dos Equis. And the shot of tequila I ordered came in a clear plastic cup…WTF? But we can get beyond those things… The food itself? Not bad, but also nothing to write home about. My veggie enchiladas were maybe a bit bland, but I will say that I enjoyed the accompanying black beans with cotija cheese, and the jicama slaw was a nice touch as well. I would be interested to see how the experience might be different in the dining room downstairs, but the food quality won’t exactly have me banging down their door for another visit. Maybe during a happy hour sometime…

]]> Thu, 26 Jun 2008 17:25:02 GMT jamie,2008-06-26:a06200f80a3d5afe752de87383147dcf/4c4e38d3f2e546a15267213596d13a3e
Biodiesel Homebrew Class Recap

41 brave souls came out to check out the biodiesel homebrewing class yesterday, presented by BioLyle at Suite133. We learned some chemistry, did some titration, checked out Lyle’s portable processor, and even made our own tiny batches of biodiesel in pop bottles. A good time was had by all, including (especially?) at the Paddy Coyne’s afterparty. Now we can all fight over the waste oil around town…

If you’re interested in getting involved in a co-op for biodiesel production, shoot an email to and we’ll get you in the loop!

(All pictures courtesy of BioLyle.)

]]> Mon, 09 Jun 2008 19:52:46 GMT jamie,2008-06-09:a06200f80a3d5afe752de87383147dcf/573ad3798215ee8898358baa9519bfa6
Tacoma Biodiesel Happenings! There are two really exciting biodiesel events coming up June 8th, the first being a biodiesel homebrewing class to be presented by biodiesel guru Lyle Rudensey, and the latter being a free-free-FREE biodiesel party/mixer later in the afternoon. (That’s more in the vein of free as in speech, not as in beer. Anyone is welcome to attend, but you’re on the spot to pay for any food or beverages you wish to consume.)

Image courtesy ktpupp@flickr.

I’m especially excited about the homebrew class… Petrodiesel is getting up near the $4.50/gallon mark, and commercial biodiesel is in some places well over $5.00/gallon. (APP, as of writing, is still at $4.749.) The possibility of making fuel for $1/gallon, or even anywhere under $2, is really appealing even if it means more work for me. And price aside, use of virgin oilstock for commercial biodiesel, and its effect on food supply, deforestation, and biodiversity, are increasingly troubling…switching to a waste-stream source will be awesome.

So without further ado, more details!

Biodiesel Homebrewing Class
Sunday, June 8 , 2008, 10am – 4pm

A hands-on workshop to learn all the basics to make your own high quality fuel for about $1 per gallon. In this workshop you will do titrations, make small batches of biodiesel with different oils, and learn the tricks to make quality biodiesel every time. We will also operate a small-scale “Appleseed” reactor during class. This system will be compared with the automated BioPro system which the instructor uses to facilitate fuel-making for a Bring-Your-Own-Oil type coop. The class will also cover topics, such as chemistry of the reaction, quality control, vehicle compatibility, cold weather issues, methanol recovery, disposal of wastes, and how to run a successful coop.

Class Fee: $60 each or $100 for couples
To Register: PayPal to:, or online at:
Location: Provided upon registration
Instructor: Lyle Rudensey, M.Ed. aka “BioLyle.” Experienced biodiesel educator and biodiesel homebrewer for over 5 years.

Biodiesel Enthusiasts Afterparty/Mixer
Sunday, June 8 , 2008, 4pm-ish,
Paddy Coyne’s Irish Pub, 815 Pacific Ave, Tacoma

Following the workshop, we will be gathering at Paddy Coyne’s for drinks/food (no-host) and a chance to talk informally about biodiesel issues, network with other “enthusiasts”, and potentially even form some small homebrewing co-ops. Both class attendees and non-attendees are encouraged to join us, veterans and newbies alike! (Paddy Coyne’s is family friendly, so the under-aged are welcome.) No charge to attend!

]]> Tue, 29 Apr 2008 18:58:32 GMT jamie,2008-04-29:a06200f80a3d5afe752de87383147dcf/3faa2c4d339ee95ef9decc7fb424351e
Tree Butchering on Stadium Way I got a report and some pictures from Claudia that some of the trees along Stadium Way had fallen victim to something of a hatchet job.

Seems we’re perhaps seeing the reverse of the latest from the old Mattson Mansion site there, neighbors are complaining about the new trees being planted by historical destructionist and future McMansion resident Eric Russell. Here, the millionaires appear to be taking the trees down.

I believe these trees are location on public land. I think it also is worth mentioning that the Mayor’s “Green Ribbon” task force also set a goal of planting 200,000 new trees in the city to combat global warming.

Now, I will admit out front that I don’t know all of the details of what happened here closely, but Claudia’s contact at the city suggested that property owners were most likely able to get a permit to cut the trees, possibly in part because view properties are more highly taxed. (The only problem being that the Granville is subject to the 10 year tax abatement for downtown, multi-unit buildings.)

Pull it all together, and here’s what I find troubling:

  • The city bowing to individual property owners over how to handle things such as trees that should be in the commons. What if I liked to look at those trees?
  • Trees getting butchered…if you’re going to do that bad of a job, at least spare us the ugliness and just cut them down? How about hiring an arborist, for Pete’s sake?
  • $1.5 million dollar condos getting a break on their property taxes…can we put a ceiling on this thing? I think if someone can afford that kind of mortgage, they can probably cover a relatively piddling property tax bill.

I hope that I’m just jumping to conclusions, that this is all a big misunderstanding, that somehow there’s a valid reason beyond selfishness that these trees were cut down. But it’s hard to understand how in any world the public good should come after the individual good, why we should be allowing trees to get uglied all up while we’re saying we want more of them… And if it really is about selfishness, I hope we can find ways to keep it from happening next time, and the time after, and…

]]> Wed, 16 Apr 2008 08:10:14 GMT jamie,2008-04-15:a06200f80a3d5afe752de87383147dcf/4680a43fa0f04d683d754e127f8959b5