Entries from October 2005 ↓

Dumping Our Garbage in Someone Elseís Yard

Do you know what happens to your old computer when you discard it?

You probably figure itís stripped for parts and recycled, or maybe crushed up and disposed of in accordance with environmental regulations. If still operable, perhaps it was donated to some needy organization or individual, thus helping to bridge the digital divide. Well, guess again.

According to the Basel Action Network, an environmental organization based in Seattle, Washington, a large percentage of used, disposed computer equipment from the United States and Europe winds up dumped in landfills and open spaces in poor Third World Nations, posing untold environmental and health problems for the people of those countries.

In a recently release report, titled “The Digital Dump: Exporting Reuse and Abuse to Africa,” BAN claims that the unusable equipment is being donated or sold to developing nations by recycling businesses in the United States as a way to dodge the expense of having to recycle it properly. While their report focused on Nigeria, it says the situation is similar throughout most of the developing world and that most of the outdated computer equipment sent from the United States for use in homes, schools and businesses is often neither usable nor repairable.

An average computer monitor can contain as much as eight pounds of lead, along with plastics laden with flame retardants and cadmium, all of which can be harmful to the environment and to humans.

In the Nigerian port city of Lagos, the report says, an estimated 500 containers of used electronic equipment enter the country each month, each one carrying about 800 computers, for a total of about 400,000 used computers a month. The majority of the equipment arriving in Lagos is unusable and neither economically repairable or resalable.

BAN has identified 30 recyclers in the United States who had agreed not to export electronic waste to developing countries and they are trying to get it to be common practice to test what they send and label it.The group is also trying to enforce the Basel Convention, a United Nations treaty intended to limit the trade of hazardous waste. The United States is the only developed country that has not ratified the treaty.

Honoring August

The New York theatrical community bestowed one of its highest honors on Oct. 16, when the Virginia Theatre was renamed the August Wilson Theatre, after the esteemed playwright who succumbed to liver cancer on Oct. 2. This marks the first time a Broadway theater has been named for an African American.

Wilson enjoyed an unprecedented run of success over a career that spanned twenty years. Eight parts of his 10-play cycle about the African-American experience in the 20th century reached Broadway houses. All eight were nominated for the Best Play Tony Award, with 1987ís Fences taking the prize.

Jujamcyn Theaters, which owns the August Wilson Theatre, has announced that it will bring Wilsonís final play Radio Golf to Broadway next season.

Back in Business

No sooner did I get my computer back, but my MT files got corrupted and I couldnít post to my blog. That explains the long absence. My crack design and technical support team had to first investigate and diagnose the problem then do some software reinstallation, but now things are back to normal. Thanks guys.

Now to get caught up on things:

My 9-5 has kept me pleasantly engaged. I work for a provider of housing and supportive services for people living with HIV/AIDS, in the technical assistance department. Thatís non-profit-speak for training and direct consulting services. In essence we help others do what they do better, in areas of organizational development.

When I first joined the firm four and half years ago, I had an idea for a workshop on organizational communications, that after sharing with my supervisor, I simply sat on. Earlier this year, I shared the idea with a co-worker with similar thoughts who challenged me to actually do it. So it got put on the training calendar as three half-day workshops, two of which have been delivered over the past two weeks.

The trainings have gone very well and have been well-received by all participants, most of whom are from start-up or growing organizations. My 20-plus year employment history includes work in the news media, public relations, writing for a wide-variety of media, internal communications, and organizational operations and development in non-profit settings. The training attempts to teach not just how messages and information is communicated inside and outside an organization, but what management structures and awareness needs to be in place to do it efficiently. As we created our outline, my co-worker and I spent a lot of time discussing and sharing philosophy on the things weíve learned in the real world and it has been a fun process of mining my own brain to determine and evaluate what I know about this subject and how best to present it. Iím quite satisfied with the work weíve done.

I was also able to pitch two ideas at our department staff meeting that were well received by the director and helped make me feel like a valued employee. First, weíre going to consolidate several separate email listservs into one department wide listserv, to more effectively brand our name as a service provider. Iíll oversee that listserv. And Iíll also begin researching how to incorporate podcasting with our other informational resource materials.

I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel for my externship to complete my culinary school studies. Iím about four weeks away from the end and it canít come soon enough. Donít get me wrong, Iím having fun and learning, but the long days and weeks are taking a toll on me. And Iíd like more of my evenings back. But a week ago I had another encouraging moment. The manager went around to all the kitchen staff and said she wanted us to come up with some new items to serve in the bar area. Apparently sheís made this request of our Executive Chef before and nothing has happened. Two Fridayís ago, we had a lull, and I was improvising with some ingredients and came up with some simple finger food. The pastry chef tried it and liked it and brought it to the managerís attention and she liked it. Itís still a work in progress, but some variation of it may wind up on the menu. I feel like Iíve contributed beyond just my usual duties.

Speaking of cooking, I took a recreational class on African cuisine at the school a week ago and met the chef of two restaurants in Brooklyn. It was a hands-on class and so I got to cook for him in a way. Weíve exchanged business cards and Iíve promised to stop by his place soon. Itís all about networking.

Iíve managed to get some quality time in at the gym and like the results Iím seeing. With the weather turning cooler, the inclination is to start packing on the pounds again but Iím resisting.

And speaking of things athletic, my busy schedule has prevented me from posting anything sports related, but donít think I havenít been following the action. Although this is now ancient news, I canít say Iím surprised the Yankees were eliminated from the American League Division Series by the Angels. They havenít had a pitching staff all season and it finally caught up with them. As a New Yorker, Iím disappointed, but as a Mets fan, ah, so what. However I am annoyed at the way George Steinbrenner drove out another loyal Yankee, pitching coach Mel Stottlemyer. Mel has spent 21 years with that team, first as a player, later a coach, and didnít deserve to be blamed for the shortcomings of an inherently inferior pitching staff.

I donít think Iím going too far out on a limb picking the Chicago White Sox to win it all this year. Since the Boston Red Sox got the monkey off their back last year, itís only fitting Chicago does it this year. Their World Series drought is even longer.

The football season is underway. My New York Giants are in a very close four team NFC East race. I wonít jinx them by making any predictions, but surprisingly the offense is on track at the start of the season while the defense is playing catch up. It has been the other way around in recent years.

The Jets have brought back one of my contemporaries, Vinnie Testaverde, to try to save their injury-damaged season. They played well in his first game back, but Iíd be surprised if they finished at .500 this year. In college football, my alma mater has a new coach, but is doing worse than the old one did. Bring on the basketball team. And finally, the National Hockey League is back after a year off that few people missed. Theyíve got new rules to open up the game and create more scoring and itís actually making games exciting. That may help bring back casual fans. Die-hards never really left.

Iíve caught you up. Iím out.

In From The Cold

Times sure have changed.

One of the worldís oldest and most top secret institutions has pulled the curtain back on its operations just a little tiny bit.

Great Britainís Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), popularly, yet erroneously referred to as MI6, now has a website. They launched it recently primarily to recruit new agents.

According to the site, SIS is responsible for providing Her Majestyís Government with ďa global covert capability to promote and defend the national security and economic well-being of the United Kingdom.Ē In other words, they spy around the world on behalf of the Commonwealth.

There are very strict nationality requirements for any new agents. You must be British with at least one parent who is a British national, and all candidates will be subjected to an extensive security clearance process. But the cloak and danger boys on the other side of the pond claim that SIS has a family-like atmosphere that stresses teamwork.

The clandestine organization once so secret they used to routinely deny their own existence, dates back to 1909 and Britainís efforts to defend itself against German spies prior to World War I. Its establishment greatly influenced the formation of spy agencies in other countries, and a host of John le Carre novels, not to mention all of those James Bond movies.

Slavery in New York

New York City has long held the image as the center of progressive thinking in the United States. In comparison to other parts of the country, this city indeed is considerably more liberal. But such modern-day assessments belie a history as rooted in the ugliest aspects of Americaís past as any other.

Slavery was a key institution in the development of New York, from its formative years as a Dutch and British colony to the early days of the United States. New Yorkers traded in slaves, distributed slaves, insured slave ships and owned slaves. At one time, 40 percent of New York Cityís households owned slaves. At the time of the Revolution there were more slaves in New York than in any other city except Charleston, South Carolina. For almost 300 years, slavery played a part in every facet of life in New York City.

This Friday, October 7, 2005, the New-York Historical Society (N-YHS) will open a landmark exhibition on slavery and its impact on the people, landscape, institutions and economy of New York, and the nation. The multi-media exhibit, SLAVERY IN NEW YORK, will reveal history most New Yorkers are unaware of.

The exhibit will show that while the slave trade provided great wealth for the city, New York was, from the start, also a center for efforts to abolish slavery. SLAVERY IN NEW YORK will also tell the story of how Black people began to plant cultural roots, producing a rich legacy of poetry, art, music and literature in the face of adversity while at the same time, actively resisting injustice.

The N-YHS opening will launch an 18-month initiative comprised of two major exhibitions as well as scheduled lectures, walking tours and concerts. SLAVERY IN NEW YORK will draw upon the museumís collection of paintings, newspapers, ledger books of slave voyages, ads for runaways, silver, furniture and other objects made by enslaved people, manuscripts of the first abolition society, and the earliest paintings of black New Yorkers as well as treasures from other institutions.

N-YHS has recruited an advisory team of eminent scholars, including Sven Beckert (Harvard), David Blight (Yale), Eric Foner (Columbia), Henry Louis Gates (Harvard), Leslie Harris (Emory), James Horton (George Washington University), Steve Mintz (University of Houston) and Ira Berlin (University of Maryland).

To augment the exhibit, the N-YHS is collaborating the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture on public programs and education initiatives. Interactive instructional materials for K-12 students have been developed, teacher workshops have been planned and educator-led tours will be available for students of all ages.

A companion book to SLAVERY IN NEW YORK, edited by Ira Berlin, Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland, and Leslie Harris, Associate Professor of History and African American Studies at Emory University, has been published to coincide with the exhibit.