Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Mushroom growing kit, day 15

The silly spouse insists that I photograph the mushrooms every day. He is pretty enthusiastic about the mushrooms himself, and waters them obsessively. Sometimes I have to remind him that it's my birthday present :)

Yes, this is the same clump of mushrooms next to which I held the quarter in earlier posts.

This is the back side of the kit. The Big Momma mushroom is actually hiding on this side - way at the bottom.

An underside view.

Read the entire saga of the mushroom growing kit

Green Your Career

Last Wednesday I attended an event called "Green Your Career", sponsored by Acterra and held at the Green Building Exchange. Five panelists in various green careers gave short presentations. The moderator was Carol McClelland, who runs a career coaching business and website called Green Career Central.

I didn't learn anything hugely profound that I didn't know already. The panelists had diverse backgrounds and careers and had interesting stories. However, there wasn't any particular panelist that I felt like I identified with closely, in terms of what they are doing in their career. Also, for the "Green Technology Career" presentation, I would have liked to hear from an actual technologist (the panelist was a marketing person working at a technology company). However, I really appreciated the expertise of the moderator, who asked some excellent questions of the panelists (given below) and dished out quite a bit of good advice herself.

Download the presentation handouts here. My own notes follow:

  • Positioning yourself for emerging industries
  • Be realistic about the current state of your target green industry/company. Is it emerging, or is it mature and well-established? This affects how ready they are to hire.
  • Engage in policy-influencing activities; these will create the green economy sector that you want to work in
  • Check out the GreenerComputing newsletter

Green Marketing Career - Lynn Strand Marks
  • Whatever job role you may have now or in the future, you can always advocate green values to the people and processes you interact with
  • Marks only figured out what her calling was about 6 mos. ago!

Renewable Energy Career - Max Greenberg
  • Salespeople for residential/commercial solar energy installations are in big demand

Green Building Career - Danny Beesley
  • Beesley doesn't just give out green building advice, he has also given green career advice to many people who have asked him and has served as a mentor

Green Technology Career - Krista Van Tassel

Environmental Management Career - Michele Beasley

What one experience best prepared you for your current green career?
  • Reframing past experiences and applying them to the current job
  • Acterra's Be The Change environmental leadership training program
  • Real estate experience
  • Hands-on construction experience
  • A background in traditional marketing
  • Working with diverse groups/stakeholders/volunteers

What are the hottest jobs in your green sector?
  • Behavioral/creative influencers
  • Marketing writers
  • Solar energy sales consultants
  • Solar design engineers - residential and commercial
  • Solar installers - work under a foreman (who is usually a licensed electrician) to install solar energy systems
  • Solar hot water systems
  • Internships (unpaid) at the Green Building Exchange (they are a start-up and don't have the money yet for all the areas where they would like to grow/hire!)
  • GreenPoint Raters - these are professionals who apply the GreenPoint rating system to assess how green a new or existing home is. In general this job requires some experience in construction, you must also get additional training on the GreenPoint system. Regulatory changes in the SFBay are causing a local surge in demand for GreenPoint Raters.
  • Home building performance - consultants who assess energy efficiency of homes. Policy changes are in the pipeline which may result in the federal government subsidizing this particular sector in the near future.
  • Green your current job! E.g. an in-house corporate event planner who decided to green her company's functions
  • For advocacy groups - policy research experts, advocates
  • Internships (usually unpaid) at Greenbelt Alliance
  • Elected officials - consider running for office!
  • Urban planning

What training was most important to you for your green career?
  • U.C. Davis - studied both human development and agriculture
  • Previous work with people with developmental disabilities - learning to communicate, not necessarily with words; learning about different ways to solve problems, think, and relate
  • Social work
  • Find mentors - lots of them
  • Diversity in jobs, broad experiences, life experience
  • "Speaking the language" - knowing how to communicate with many different types of people/constituencies/stakeholders/organizations
  • Working with passionate/knowledgeable/idealistic/committed people within my green company
  • Entrepreneurial skills
  • "DIY" degree, certifications, seeking out learning opportunities - e.g. the
  • Build It Green training programs
  • Variety
  • Meeting people - maintaining a good rolodex - networking
  • Taking initiative - one panelist "volunteered" for Sun Microsystems' Eco Reponsibility Initiative even while she was holding a different job within Sun. It was hard work! But when new positions were created as part of that initiative, she was tapped to fill one of them!
  • Urban planning, policy, environmental management
  • Mentors - meet people for coffee, lunch; it's amazing how many people are happy/willing to meet with you and talk!

How did you find your current green job?
  • (From a self-employed panelist) Meeting the right clients - companies/NGOs with a green angle
  • Discovering your team's hidden passions and then turning that into a values-based company mission
  • Having a strong intention
  • Roll with the punches - One panelist had a crappy interview. He had to buy an expensive last-minute plane ticket to get there, dropped his laptop, and felt like he said all the wrong things at the start of the interview. Yet, he was able to salvage the situation and eventually get the job!
  • Craigslist
  • Build your reputation for high-quality work within the company you work for

Sun Eco Responsibility Initiative
  • Started as an R&D solution to an engineering problem - 5 years ago! (product line of energy-efficient processors)
  • It turned out that IT cost problems were also environmental problems! (high energy consumption of data centers coupled with high energy costs)
  • A way to sell their energy-efficient processor - so it seems there is a strong marketing aspect to this initiative

Tips & tricks for making the leap into green careers
  • Know your green niche - YOUR special passions, skills, talents
  • No magic bullet
  • First focus on passion, not money

There were more tips, but I had to leave early! Check out Green Careers Central, though.

Alternative Gift Registry, and some very good news!

One of my major accomplishments this week was to finish my volunteer website development project at New American Dream's Alternative Gift Registry (check it out!).

You can see a few things that I worked on. Among other things, I added a bunch of new resources to their Green Celebration Tips page, and if you create a registry and browse the list of sample gift ideas, you will see a lot of my contributions on that list.

Finally - some nonprofit technical experience to add to my resume!!!

The best news of all is that after I completed this project, their IT guy said that he has some consulting budget money this year and would like to hire me to help with various projects as the need arises. Yay!!! I said yes and quoted him an hourly rate, which I have revised (upward) based on my findings on hourly rates in the nonprofit world. One caveat: I must pray that their funding does not suddenly dry up as it did in the last go-round!

New career, here I come!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mushroom growing kit, day 14

Just look how they've grown in the space of two days!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Messiah sing, voice lesson clip, Lucia di Lammermoor

This past Palm Sunday I finally attended the Messiah Sing at West Valley Presbyterian Church, the one where we, the audience, perform the entire work (2 1/2 hours or so). I've been wanting to do this for a couple years now. I'm happy to report that I handled it respectably, even the movements that I don't know so well because they're usually not included on Christmas programs. I had to be strategic about which movements I wanted to sing, because if I tried to sing every note written for soprano in that work, I'd have no voice by the end of the night. I like these Messiah sing-alongs, even though sometimes the more difficult movements end up as train wrecks :) Partly, I enjoy these events because they're the only venue where it's ok for me to sing "Rejoice greatly" in public.

While there, I heard a guy with a beautiful voice behind me and to my right, singing the tenor solos. Tenors, especially good ones, are always in short supply, so I thought to myself, "I should recruit that guy for my choir!" Later, when I turned around to take a peek, I realized: "That guy IS in my choir!" Which was reassuring. I believe it's his first season with our group - hope he sticks around!

I've been excited about my voice lessons lately, so much so that I am daring to post an audio clip from one of them. Normally I would be too self-conscious to do so, and I can certainly hear my own shortcomings in the clip. At the same time, though, this clip represents a lot of progress, considering where I started from a year ago. (I'm singing a passage from the aria "Una donna a quindici anni" from Mozart's opera Così fan tutte.)

Also this past week: watched the DVD of Lucia di Lammermoor from the Met production with Sutherland and Kraus. No happy endings there. Great singing, though!

Mushroom growing kit, day 12

My darling mother-in-law decided to indulge my fungal pastime by sending me an early birthday present - a mushroom growing kit from Mushroom Adventures. It grows Blue Oyster mushrooms (same kind of oyster mushrooms you get at the grocery store). Basically, it is a block of substrate inside a black plastic bag with holes punched in it. The substrate is already inoculated with mushroom spores, and the mushrooms grow out of the holes in the bag. There's also a loose plastic sleeve that goes around the block to keep the humidity level high. The kit is pretty easy to use - all you have to do is water it a couple times a day.

The mushrooms started sprouting this past weekend and they grow at an unbelievable rate, so I am going to post updates with pictures as things progress.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A gold star day in the voice studio what I had the other week at my lesson. Over the past two or three lessons, I've experienced some breakthroughs and a "singer growth spurt". In the previous lesson, we breezed through the vocal exercises and made good progress on the piece that I was working on. Then my teacher brought up the subject of repertoire, and we discussed possibilities for songs and arias I should tackle. I believe he was giving me a nudge to start working on more difficult pieces. I feel like I've graduated to the next level. It is exciting and rewarding! I never thought I'd have the interest or ability to sing pieces from the operatic repertoire, but here I am, taking the first baby steps in that direction.

I've updated my repertoire list accordingly.

Other recent musical endeavors:

Saw tenor John Bellemer perform at Stanford as part of the Shenson Recital Series. The following day, I sat in on the masterclass he gave for Stanford voice students.

Recently learned how to use LilyPond, an open-source software package for music notation. I used it to prepare some sheet music for my choir. It lays out musical scores beautifully, but it is not all that user-friendly, and using it is practically like writing computer code. However, it is free. I checked out the commercial alternatives, Finale and Sibelius, and they are definitely not giving them away!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Updates: T-shirt quilt, Mt. Everest, Fourpiter, Twopiter, and Dinky

Here's a photo of my completed T-shirt quilt!

So I did decide to make one after all, to replace a picnic blanket that I own (and will now freecycle). There are cottage businesses for making custom T-shirt memory quilts (like this one), but doing it myself had a few advantage. One is price - it is NOT cheap to have it done. Another is the creative control of designing it EXACTLY as I want it. And the last, unexpected, bonus was that in taking the time to do it myself, I had time to reflect on the memories embodied by the t-shirts. And since I'm the T-shirt Queen, the story of my life is written in t-shirts - this quilt touches on everything from my junior and senior high school days, college and dorm life, choir and band, my spouse, first jobs, friends, travels, and shows I've seen.

While working on this, though, I did come to the realization that it's a VERY time-consuming project, especially for a non-quilter like myself. Definitely something to undertake only while taking time off from work :) And I don't blame the professionals for charging a lot to make one of these!

As for other stuff I've been up to...

The Grand Decluttering continues. I've been recycling, freecycling, and selling old junk on eBay (and incredibly, people are bidding on it!).

Recent reading & viewing: I read two books on the disastrous 1996 Mt. Everest climbing season and one on the 1967 climbing disaster on Mt. McKinley. Also watched three documentaries on Everest. Don't worry, I'm not planning to climb it, I prefer armchair mountaineering.

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster

Climbing High: A Woman's Account of Surviving the Everest Tragedy

Forever on the Mountain: The Truth Behind One of Mountaineering's Most Controversial and Mysterious Disasters

Mountaineering disaster books are a guilty (and probably sick) pleasure. You get to read real-life tales of conflict, suspense, and harrowing tragedy, set in the some of the world's most dramatic settings, while lying in your bed eating ice cream.

Recent astronomy-related activies: We went to a talk called New Worlds and Yellowstone: How Common are Habitable Planets?, which was part of the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series at Foothill College.

The lecturer, Dr. Geoff Marcy, related a story about naming extrasolar planets: "I have gotten suggestions from a lot of school kids. For example, if you're looking at this schematic of Upsilon Andromedae with the inner, middle, and outer planets, I got a letter from a school kid -- now it's been two or three years -- and she was in 6th grade and she said: “Dear Professor Marcy, I just read in the newspaper that you discovered three planets around Upsilon Andromedae. I don't know if you have names for them, but I have suggestions for you” and I thought oh boy, here it comes and she said: “Well, the outer planet I saw in the newspaper has four times the mass of the Jupiter, so I think you should name it Fourpiter. I kept reading in the newspaper and the middle planet they said it has twice the mass of Jupiter, so I think you should name it Twopiter. The inner planet, I think you should name that Dinky.”

Fourpiter, Twopiter, and Dinky! Love it!!!

And here's a bonus, something that we saw at a recent astronomy club meeting...a video of a volcano erupting on Io, a moon of Jupiter:

The frames were captured by the New Horizons probe. The plume of volcanic debris is 200 miles tall!