Wonks R Us

Where Public Policy and Small Business Meet

Category Archives: Community

Cat Herders Needed

Last night I went to Public Media Camp at OPB.  Unlike most unconferences in Portland, members of the tech community were in the minority.  Attendees were varied in age, gender, profession and interests.  I really enjoy conversations with a diverse group of people.  I like how different interests, experiences and knowledge can enrich a discussion. With multiple perspectives functioning as a prism, refracting ideas rather than light.

One of the recurrent themes of the evening was the challenges inherent in building and sustaining communities with both online and face-to-face components.  People had successes with one or the other, but very few had succeeded at both.  Those that had succeeded at both shared one thing in common.  They each had someone responsible for managing the community.

Communities are like ecosystems.  With no external intervention, they can sometimes achieve a degree of stasis.  But change is inevitable.  The most successful communities have someone whose role it is to either help the community regain its equilibrium or adapt and evolve. 

Koalas have lived in Australia for 20 million years.  For almost all of that time, they thrived on a rich and diverse diet.  At some relatively recent point, the Australian climate changed.   Over time eucalyptus forests took over what had been rainforest.  Koalas did not adapt well at all.  They became very picky eaters and limited themselves to eating only the youngest, most tender eucalyptus leaves and only of certain species.  Eucalyptus leaves have very little protein.  In response, koalas brains shrunk significantly.  Koalas sleep 19 hours as day to conserve their energy, and three of their waking hours are spent eating.   Koalas have survived their habitat’s transition, but they certainly have not thrived in it.

I have seen the same cycle occur in communities time and time again.  A huge amount of time and effort is put in to building a community.  Once the community becomes stable, energy gets shifted to more pressing concerns.  Initially, the deterioration is slow.  Little things fall start falling through the cracks.  Eventually, the community shrinks to just those that are most committed.  Without the initial excitement, it is much harder to initiate the momentum needed to rebuild.  The renewal process can be successful.  But often at the cost of the community’s core members who have burnt themselves out.  Other times the community slowly atrophies until nothing is left.

Last night a couple of people reminded me how important my cat-herding was to the CubeSpace community.  I am often uncomfortable taking credit for much of my community building work.  Fundamentally, I believe that no one person can take credit for building a community.  It takes a community to build a community.   But last night’s conversations helped me see my contribution from a different perspective.  My role was like a lynchpin, mostly invisible.  But without one, the wheels literally fall off.

A city that has no confidence in its own ability to prosper is doomed to control by outsiders

That quote by Timothy Egan perfectly sums up how I feel about the direction Portland is heading.  So much energy is going to remaking Portland in the Bay Area’s image that I fear we are losing sight of our own charms.  Something has been luring the creative class here for years, despite the fact that they could make more money elsewhere.  Why do you think that is? Quality of life is clearly part of the attraction, but there is something else that doesn’t get mentioned as often.  Portland is a perfect sandbox.

Eric Weiner traveled the world choosing destinations based on their placement on the the Gross National Happiness Index. Iceland rates as one of the happiest countries in the world.  This is despite the fact that one of their most popular foods is rotted shark.  Weiner’s theory is that Icelandic culture values experience over financial success.  It is neither unusual nor frowned upon to switch professional fields several times over one’s working life.  There is just a cultural recognition that having to choose a single profession is just too limiting. The same holds true for recreational activities like playing in garage bands, of which they have many.  It doesn’t matter whether the only people willing to listen to a band are the people playing in it.  That is beside the point.

Rotted shark aside, Portland shares many of the same values.  Despite ballot measures 47 & 50 decimating funding for the arts, Portland still has an amazing number of experimental theaters, shoved into the back corner of cafes or wherever space is available.  We love our  neighbors ‘ art so much that what started as a monthly gallery walk has spread to neighborhoods around the city. We show up in droves to hear local bands play in parks, outdoor markets and anywhere else people can gather.

Our burgeoning food cart culture is another manifestation of our communitarian values.  We happily travel the city to eat whatever food experiments someone wants to try.  Fried snickers bars?  Yup.  Poutine? Check.   A simple bowl of beans and rice doused with crack sauce?  Now available at 3 carts and an actual restaurant.

So the next time someone complains that Portland needs to be more like Seattle or the Bay Area, smile politely and take them by the hand.  Then go to a free outdoor concert or go on an art walk and treat them to some cart food.  Then remind them that we are happiest just the way we are.

By the way, that quote was said in reference to Seattle at a time when Seattle was struggling with its own feelings of inadequacy.

The End of CubeSpace: An Epilogue

Sunday marks a year since we had to close CubeSpace.  I think it is fair to say that this has been one of the hardest years David and I have experienced, both separately and together.  Generally I have a positive outlook on life, being fairly confident that everything will work out in the long run.  But lately I am finding it harder and harder to remain optimistic about the future.  David and I remain unemployed, scraping by with contract and temporary work.  The niche CubeSpace served remains unfilled, leaving medium-sized community events without a venue and scores of potential co-workers without the community they crave.  And, our former location appears to remain vacant.

Although it has been a difficult year, there have been some bright moments.  David and I have had the flexibility (and frequent-flier miles) to see my twin 2 1/2 year-old niecelettes more often than CubeSpace would have allowed.  We were also able to offer some well-deserved and much needed respite to David’s father who has been caregiving his own parents for the last 6 years or so. In the almost 12 years that David and I have been together, I had grown very close to his grandmother.  When we lost her suddenly (but not unexpectedly) in April, I was very grateful to have had that additional time with her.  David and I also had the flexibility to stay in Boston for 2 weeks after her funeral and generally help out.  Most importantly, it gave me an opportunity to spend quality time with David’s grandfather, look at family photos and hear his stories about the woman he adored for over 68 years.

It has also been a year of true friendship.  I had the privilege of meeting many incredible people through CubeSpace and some of them have turned into dear friends.  Friends who have been there for me throughout this difficult process.  Friends who gave me the space to be an emotional wreck and not walk away.  Friends who had my back when I needed them most.  Friends who gave me a hard time for not asking for help when I needed it and then doing more than their share.

Our future?  My crystal ball is in the shop and the Magic 8 ball is stuck on “Cannot predict now.” Hopefully, David and I will both be employed doing work we enjoy. David has begun to look for work beyond the Portland Metro area, so who knows where we will be in a year.

Finally, to prove that I am teachable I am going to ask my readers to help us in our job searches.  My bio and resume are on my About page.  You can read more about what David is looking for here.

And now for something completey different

Two of my favorite things about Portland are the people and the breakfasts.  On the theory that one can never have too much of a good thing, J-P Voilleque (aka @lawduck) organizes a bi-weekly breakfast tweetup.  We alternate sides of the river and a different configuration of folks come each time.  The one constant is the high quality of the conversation.

Perhaps we were inspired by Olympians striving for gold, but yesterday’s conversations raised an already high bar. After we lamented not having recorded ourselves, I took it upon myself to record our ideas for posterity.

If the #pdxbreakfast folks ran the world, these are some of the improvements we would make:

  • Airplane trains – so that one could take a train trip around the world. The trains would be able to fly across oceans, land on the next set of tracks and continue its journey.
  • Sea trains – this is a variant on the airplane train idea.  Basically, amphibious submarines.
  • America’s Test Kitchen in space – I recently ran across an article in New Scientist about The Astronaut’s Cookbook and have been thinking about food in space ever since.  Then @natronics told us about a video on You Tube of Japanese astronaut making the first sushi in space.  Although I would suck at it (I am a very imprecise cook), I would love to work in the Cook’s Illustrated Test Kitchen. So why not combine the best of both worlds and set up a test kitchen in the International Space Station?
  • The long tail of stupid’nuff said.
  • Atomic Pirate Trains – This is @reidab’s vision of our apocalyptic future.
  • Robotic French Penguin Armies – A great money-making scheme if we can sell them to the Russians.
  • People in glass houses should not slingshot covered hoppers with giant vibrators – Some sage advice from @pdxflaneur.
  • A pithy description of our contemporary navy – Now that the Pentagon has lifted the ban on women in submarines, we think this should be their new tagline – “The Navy: It’s all atomic power and sex.”
  • Toddlers as a renewable energy source – Anyone who has watched a toddler for 35 seconds has observed their seemingly endless kinetic energy.  If harnessed appropriately, toddler energy could completely eliminate the US’s dependence on fossil fuels.  After discussing toddler wheels and magnetic shoes, we finally found the perfect solution: Piezo-embedded toddler clothing.

And , last, but certainly not least:

  • Hacking the International Space Station’s (ISS)  Wifi – Our resident space expert, @natronics, who was lucky enough to go to Space Camp, has observed that the ISS is filled with off-the-shelf laptops. For the sake of national security (which is the best excuse ever), we are keeping the details to ourselves.

Groupon has helped us select the location for our next #pdxbreakfast by offering a 52% discount at Hash.  Come join us in our brilliant madness.

Visibility Matters

One of the many reasons I love Portland so much is the accessibility of our City government.  Over the past decade or so, with very few exceptions, I have been able to meet with City Commissioners to discuss issues of public policy.  And when I talk about accessibility, I am talking about me as an interested citizen, not me as a representative of an influential organization. Whether or not I was able to sway anyone with my arguments, I always felt heard, and that is what matters the most, at least from my perspective.

I say this because I watched the evolution of the Portland Development Commission’s (PDC) Economic Development Strategy over the past few months. I have read the drafts, attended presentations to a range of business groups, from  the Economic Development Cabinet, the Small Business Advisory Council to Greenlight Greater Portland.  I have both seen and heard how the voices of small business and the open source tech community changed the strategy for the better.  You can read more about the small business and tech community’s participation in the process here, and here.  You can also read what Rick Turoczy had to say on Silicon Florist here and here.

Here is what the mayor had to say about the importance of this plan:

This strategy, if approved by Council, will be the city’s first adopted economic development strategy in 15 years, and will serve as the blueprint to guide the city and region out of the most significant economic decline in over sixty years.  The plan strategically focuses on maximizing the competitive environment for businesses, spurring innovation and enhancing the vitality of our small business community.

It is now our turn to publicly support both Mayor Adams’ and PDC’s efforts by showing our support for the final plan.  On Wednesday, July 8th, I invite you to join me at 3:15 in Council Chambers on the second floor of City Hall (1221 SW 4th ave, Portland, OR 97204) to demonstrate our support for the plan.

Planning on being there? Please R.S.V.P here or contact Clay Neal (clay.neal@ci.portland.or.us) or 503.823.4128.

I know this may be pushing some of you out of your comfort zone.  It is important enough to me and Portland’s small business community that I will do what I can to support those who want to show their support.  I will be waiting outside the 4th street entrance to City Hall starting at 2:45 on Wednesday.  Anyone is welcome to meet me there and we can walk in as a group at about 3:05.

Not able to make the meeting, but still want to show your support for the strategy?  You can submit written testimony by sending an email to kmoore-love@ci.portland.or.us. She is the Council Clerk and will distribute your testimony to all of City Council and make it part of the official record.

I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday.

The Little Engine That Might

Anyone who has read this blog knows that I have significant issues with corporate executives’ ignorance of the implications of their actions on their employees and communities they serve.  My patience is shortest with the financial institutions whose greed led to the collapse of the worldwide economy.  I still wax poetic about the days when a family or a business could go to their local bank branch, and their credit was assessed based both on their financial situation as well as their social capital.  Historically, default rates drop significantly when social capital is factored in to underwriting decisions.

Obviously I was naive, but when we, CubeSpace,  started trying to negotiate with our landlord, US Bank, in August 2008, I had assumed that since they had accepted TARP money, they would show some flexibility to their tenants who were also being impacted by the economic downturn.  Instead, they turned a deaf ear to our repeated requests for negotiation for 10 months before threatening us with eviction.

From the outset, our letters to US Bank included offers to use our personal and professional networks to publicly thank US Bank for their cooperation by directing business and good will their way.  We once again reiterated our community involvement in what we thought was a last-ditch effort plea for mercy. That was when you all, members of the CubeSpace community, both near and far, proved that social capital remains a force to be reckoned with.

Your unexpected, massive and much appreciated (there really are just not words to tell you how appreciated) response to what I had intended as a farewell post changed the game completely.  Not only did US Bank feel the pressure to respond to our letter, but they did so with somewhat reasonable offers.  We believe that you, our community, are the ones to thank because of this little paragraph they included in their response:

US Bank does not view your comments regarding issues of public opinion and the Portland business community as productive. Please focus any future correspondence and negotiations on items that will bring the parties to an agreeable resolution.

No matter what comes next or how this story unfolds, you should all pat each other on the backs and raise a toast to yourselves for being a David to their Goliath and using Twitter as your slingshot.

We have received a truly overwhelming number of offers of cash, advice, support, meals and even a bakesale organized by a much beloved community member who is ten years old.  We have also been asked some very appropriate questions that we are struggling to answer. Questions like:

  • How much money do we need to make a difference?
  • How will we revise our business model to make sure we don’t end up back in this same situation a year from now?
  • Would we consider moving to a small space?
  • I am short on cash, what can I offer that will be of help?

The short answer is that we are struggling to answer those questions ourselves. David and I are emotionally drained. Since Tuesday, we have been on an emotional rollercoaster where we were facing a Sophie’s Choice where either option led to certain corporate and personal bankruptcy, and then experiencing an emotionally overwhelming loving and supporting response from you, our community, and being able now to visualize a light at the end of the tunnel.

CubeSpace’s survivability is obviously incredibly important to the community, and we are convening a meeting tomorrow (Sunday) to discuss legal, business and community implications of the two US Bank offers on the table. We appreciate your collective desire to know what, when and how right now. We are there with you. But please, bear with us as we take the time to review our options and make the decision that is best for all of us.

For those of you who have been hesitating to make a donation without more clarity from us, I understand and agree with your concern.  We have not cashed any checks or deposited any cash pending our decision.  If we decide CubeSpace will not make it, we will return all cash and destroy all checks. This includes any donations made through the savecubespacepdx.com PayPal account.  We know many of the donations have come from unemployed folks who really cannot afford to give anything.  If we are able to sustain CubeSpace, in some shape or form, we will gratefully accept what we know were heartfelt gifts. If we cannot keep CubeSpace going, we will return all contributions but retain the incredible support and love in which the gifts were given.

Things are going very fast and we will do out best to keep the community updated throughout the weekend.

In community,

Eva and David

Justifying Mis-steps (and I don’t mean by Sam Adams)

This weekend,Winston Ross, a Newsweek Reporter, interviewed me about media sensationalism and the Sam Adams story.  He had read my previous blog post and thought I might have some insights to share.  Later in the day, after Sam Adams committed to return to work, I, naively, hoped that we would be able to put the issue to rest and all get back to work ourselves. But apparently I was wrong.

This morning’s editorial in the Oregonian is an inflammatory as anything I have seen in the past week.  This is what the Oregonian has to say: “Adams doesn’t get the final say, however. The community will decide his political fate…”  a statement that I wholeheartedly agree with.  He is an elected official and we, the voting citizens, are the deciding body.  But then they add this to the end of the sentence: “…preferably through a recall election.”  A recall election is not a possibility until he has been in office for 6 months, which is 5 months from now.  Why don’t we all take a deep breath and leave it to those of us who vote.

The editorial then states:

Yet many Portlanders have rallied to Adams’ side, urging him to remain in power. Some are from organizations that have benefited financially and politically from Adams’ presence in City Hall. Some don’t want to land on Adams’ bad side by failing to back him. Others consider Adams’ leadership indispensable and are willing to overlook unprofessional behavior, unethical campaign tactics and perhaps even criminal misconduct if necessary.

Really, this is as inflammatory as it gets.  If any of us rally to Sam’s side, our motives are now suspect.  Excuse me, but I am a business owner, employer, taxpayer, voter and volunteer who contributes both to Portland’s economy and our city’s economic stability.  I chaired the City Club Committee that advocated for reform of a system well on its way to bankrupt the City and damage our bond rating.  In addition, our work was credited BY THE OREGONIAN, as having been the reason that the City caught the overpayments to retirees.

My question to The Oregonian’s editorial board is which category do I fall into?  I have neither benefited financially nor politically from him being in office.  Rather, I have challenged him and the other City Commissioners to do the right thing. I have taken on Adams and his staff enough times on significant issues, that if I had been worried about landing on his bad side, I would have kept my mouth shut a long time ago. Nor do I consider his leadership indispensable.  If I thought his behavior was enough of an issue that he should resign as mayor, wouldn’t you think someone with my history would be leading the charge?

According to the Oregonian: “This was a moment when Portland’s civic community needed to see clearly the difference between right and wrong but failed to do so.”

I disagree.  I see this as a moment when the media chose to over-sensationalize an issue.  An issue that, once given a day or so to process, a majority of voting citizens decided were not worth putting our City, our economy, or ourselves at risk for.

At this point it feels like The Oregonian is trying to justify its original over-reaction.  By continuing to use inflammatory language, exaggerated and unsubstantiated statements, they are trying to win over the remaining few who have apparently not recognized that we, as a city, are ready to move on.  I am very disapointed at the irresponsible behavior of the Oregonian’s editorial board.  Do they really think that insulting their readership while beating a dead horse will increase readership?  That is the only rationale I can think of for their behavior.

Today Sam Adams ges back to work as our mayor.  He does have a lot of work ahead of him as he tries to rebuild the public trust.  I say we should give him an opportunity to do so.  My first step will be cancelling my subscription to The Oregonian and removing OregonLive.com from my bookmarks.

Heralding back to a better day

January 20, 2009 was an emotional, historic and ground-shifting day in more ways that I can count.  There have been so many excellent blog posts on how it affected people (I should know, as I have many of them opened in tabs in Firefox so I can catch up on reading them when I get a free moment) that I don’t feel I have much to add to the zeitgeist.  Nonetheless, I have been drafting this blog post in my head since yesterday, so I may as well add it to the blogosphere.

Yesterday we held an inaugural viewing and potluck breakfast at CubeSpace. I can safely tell you that neither David nor I put much thought into whether we should host this event or not.  It was just an instinctual, “there is a momentous event and we have a community gathering space, so we should put out an invitation.”  However, my perspective changed as the day began to unfold.

The morning started with the usual crowd of early arrivers.  These are the folks that I usually get a little more time to chat with before the chaos really begins.  Then more and more folks began to arrive, with partners, friends and in one case, children in tow.  As we got closer to the actual swearing in, the general tenor of the room changed.  There was an almost palpable sense of anticipation and some folks (myself included) started to get a little teary.

As attendees of the actual inauguration were asked to rise, there was some discussion here about whether we, as television viewers, should rise or not.  I like to think of that point as being where I began to really fathom what was going on. Even though we were watching these events that were taking place 2,800 miles away, on a relatively small 32″ screen, we somehow felt that we were part of something bigger.  A feeling that I kept hearing repeated by folks all over the world as new coverage continued throughout the day.

Once upon a time, not every one had a television set.  So family, friends and neighbors used to gather at the home of whomever was lucky (or an early adopter or wealthy) enough to own a television set.  Television programs were a notable weekly event, often eagerly anticipated.  Everyone knew that Uncle Milty or Lucille Ball would be topics of converstion around the water cooler (before they became figurative) or in the playground or over coffee.

Fast forward to now.  People have giant HD tvs with surround sound home theater systems, so that they now have a better set-up than most movie theaters.  There are so many channels that television has become an individualized experience, often with family members spread throughout the house, watching their own shows alone.

Yesterday was a remarkable exception to the norm.  The twittersphere was filled with folks who were watching the inauguration with friends and family.  The news was filled with reports of people flying to Chicago and DC to stand out in the cold and watch it on giant Jumbotrons.  Something was compelling these folks out of their warm comfort zones and into community.

President Obama (oh, how I love getting to type that!) has been consistent in his call for community since his campaign.  Both his speech at the We Are One concert as well as his inaugural address reiterated his message of the power of community.  Not just those of us in the US who need to work together to recover from the damage of the Bush era, not just the need for our government to be inclusive of not only those who agree, & those who disagree, but also the need for the US to rejoin the community of nations.

Yesterday I had to run to a meeting in Gresham right after Obama’s inaugural address.  As someone who spends her days running from pillar to post, I found it unusually hard to disengage from the gathering at CubeSpace.  Apparently I was not the only one.  When I popped my head in at 3ish, there was still a good crowd in Agora (including some new folks who weren’t there for the inauguration).  Once again, the pull remained.

As much as I would like to claim that yesterday’s global communal experience will result in a lasting change, I know that is not the case.  But, given how much we seemed to all crave community yesterday, I am hopeful that we have opened a window into the past when Americans gathered together and shared daily experiences.  Back to the time when community service (either through fraternal organizations like the Lions, Elks, Rotary, etc. or as individuals) was almost a given, as everyone was clear that it takes a community to maintain a community.

In this time of stress and uncertainty can we look outside of ourselves and work for the greater good?  Yes we can.

How to Argue

For reasons that are not entirely clear to me (but a bit worrisome nonetheless) I have found myself picking apart a lot of people’s arguments lately.  To be specific, three times in the last week.  This is behavior that I usually associate with David.  Has our marriage hit that pivotal point where couples start integrating their spouse’s habits as their own?  Possibly.  But I don’t think so.

Given whose arguments I was picking apart, it is possible that conflicting thought processes or communication style were the source of the disagreement.  However, this is a community that I have been a part of for the past 2+ years.  Why would this only happen now? One possibility is that the community has gelled to a point where we feel comfortable presenting arguments and I feel comfortable responding in my normal way (I am capable of the “smile and nod” response to theories as well, I just don’t default there).

One of the arguments turned into a lesson for my sparring mate on the tools necessary to more effectively frame his arguments.  That happened because my sparring partner was a highly intelligent and articulate individual who was making a very poor case on an issue for which he clearly has a great deal of passion.

Perhaps it was the topics being debated?  Two of the issues were based in my field of study for both my BA and MPA, so perhaps I felt freer to argue the ins and outs of fields in which I am very comfortable? Possibly.

The one negative reaction to how I picked apart a theory was clearly an issue of style.  The presenter wanted a metaphorical pat on the head for having done the work of developing the theory.  However, my response to a intelligent individual who presents a theory to me is to ask questions so that I understand it better.  I have been told that my response is helpful (albeit challenging) in that it forces the presenter to be explicit about any underlying assumptions, and therefore clarifies his/her thinking.  Thus assisting the presenter be clearer when presenting her/his theory in the future.  But apparently my response was unexpected in this case.

There is likely not a single answer to the question: “why now?”, but I am going to go ahead and blame the scapegoat de jour.  I think Snowpocalypse 2008 gave people a lot more time to sit and think while they were trapped at home.  Thus theories had more time to percolate without the benefit of outside feedback.  But, you should feel free to argue with me if you disagree.

badge-snowpocalypse

Knowing Me, Knowing You

A month ago yesterday, Chris O’Rourke launched The Great Portland Interview Experiment, and I wrote about it the very next day. Since then @Verso spent two weeks in the land of Disney, and has returned to an unimaginable backlog of stuff, and @melissalion prepared for and hosted BackFencePDX and taught a writing workshop, both of which she writes about here. Given that we are now dealing with the 2008 Snowpocalypse and we are in the midst of holiday chaos, I think it is fair to excuse both @verso for not having finished responding to my questions and @melissalion for not having posted my answers.

But, as I have made a commitment to blog more often and I have nothing new to say, I am going to give you a bit of a preview.  First I will share the questions I have given @verso to answer, followed by my answers to @melissalion’s questions.  How ’bout them apples?

First, here are the questions I asked @Verso:

1. What is the origin of your two monikers; Banana Lee Fishbones and Verso?
2. What is one of your happiest memories from your childhood?
3. What defines comfort for you?
4. What is your favorite season, and what makes it your favorite?
5. Can you tell me something that got under your skin or grated on you when you were a child? Has it changed now that you are an adult?
6. What was your favorite game (and by that I mean a game of pretend, a board game, a computer game or anything else you called play) as a child? How about now?
7. You and I share an affinity (an understatement, I know) for Star Wars.  What is it about Star Wars that you find so compelling?
8. What is the story behind you and PDXScott?
9. If you could be anything you wanted to be when you grew up, regardless of talent, education, resources or any other barrier, what would you be?
10. People often identify which a specific category of natural feature, whether it be forest, ocean, deserts, mountain, plains, etc.  What type of natural feature do you find most attractive?
11. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose to live?

And (drum roll please), here are my answers to @melissalion’s questions:

@EvaCatHerder’s responses to The Great Portland Interview Experiment

You tweeted once that you used a 25 pound bag of flour per month (week?) what type of bread were you making and were you eating all of that yourself?
It was 25# per month.  I was miserable while living in Philadelphia (while David was in rabbinical school) and I was also wheat intolerant (but not gluten intolerant), so I made myself feel better by baking loaves and loaves (and loaves) of spelt bread. I made challah every week (to the great joy of @grigs), bagels (my bagels had a serious fan club), ciabatta, artisan loaves, pizza dough, baguettes, and anything else that caught my fancy.  I even started teaching bread-baking classes.

What’s the one thing you learned about baking that much bread that you carry with you in daily life? Can I give you two things? The first is that everything is better when allowed to sit and ferment for a day or so.  The second is that educated guestimation produces better results than strict precision.

You’re married to a rabbi — how’s the sex? I
am going to play presidential/vice presidential candidate here and not really answer your question.  I have known David since he was a pain-in-the-ass college freshman.  Watching David’s transformation into a rabbi was magical, and he really did go through some amazing fundamental changes.  But he is still my David who always reminds me of a muppet (I mean that in a non-sexual way, so get those Furry thoughts out of your mind).

All of the other rabbinical partners I know also got together with their partners in the pre-rabbinic stage, so they had similar experiences to mine (yes, we do talk about these things!)  I suspect that the experience might be different for someone who starts having sex with a member of the clergy after he/she has been ordained.  I base my suspicion on the fact that many of the single clergy members I know have an incredibly hard time getting a date with someone who is not also a member of the clergy.

You own CubeSpace, which is a shared workspace for rent. That space is gigantic! What is it like in there when you’re alone there, it’s quiet. What’s you favorite thing to do? (I’d like to add that I think it’s great that you have flavored syrup. I made myself a vanilla soda there and I enjoyed it.  When I did this one of the people who rents space there said, “Oh, I never thought of doing that!” And I said, “Well, Mr.-I-program-computers-that-solve-cancer-and-cure-pi, who’s the Nobel winner NOW?” And then he asked me out on a date. I’m kidding. I’ve never been picked up.)  Even though CubeSpace is large, I have spent surprisingly little time alone there, because we usually have at least one other person around before, during and after closing.   My favorite time to be at CubeSpace is before we open.  There was one night when I couldn’t sleep, so I went to CubeSpace at about 5am to get some work done (we didn’t have a computer at home at the time—a situation that we have since rectified).

I spent that morning sitting on the couch in our reception area working.  The community-oriented feeling was still there even though there were no other people around and I just felt focused and happy.  I have to open early on Wednesdays for a very perky group of people, and I always try to get in just a little extra early so I get some quiet time to ground myself before the hordes arrive.  Now that we have the massage chair, I tend to sit there and drink my coffee and just chill until it is time to start running around in a frenzy.

On your blog, Wonks R Us, you wrote a post about a changing CubeSpace into a public policy something something. Explain that to me like I’m simple. I find it infuriating that we (were, are, might be?) a world superpower with a huge amount of wealth, and yet we do not provide any kind of universal health coverage.  It makes no sense from a health management, financial or ethical perspective to deny people access to basic health services.  What ends up happening is that people fail to get medical care when a problem is easily and cheaply treatable, and instead are forced to wait until they need emergency medical services that are horribly expensive and that they cannot afford to pay for.  Hospitals and insurance companies increase their rates for those who do have health coverage to cover their losses from services given to those who cannot afford to pay.

The “American Dream” is built around the myth that anyone can start a business and if they work hard, they will earn the wealth they “deserve.”  However, health insurance is something that is available only at the workplace (there is individual insurance, but it is difficult to get because it requires a physical history and the coverage is often substandard).  Self-employed people used to be able to get health insurance through professional associations, but that is something insurance companies put the kibosh on in the early 2000’s.  Given the choice between foregoing health insurance or starting a business, many people opt to stay in jobs they don’t want just to retain their health insurance.

Since it seems unlikely that either our state or federal government will take on the insurance industry any time soon, it is up to us (which I mean in the broadest, collective sense) to create solutions to serve the public good.  So, as a business whose clientele includes the self-employed and who has group health insurance for its employees, CubeSpace is stepping up to the plate.

In (hopefully) simple terms, this means that we will contract with businesses, governments and nonprofits for the services that they are seeking from local consultants.  We will then hire local consultants to do the work.  As they will be CubeSpace employees, we will be able to give them and their families access to our group health care policy.

Knitting
Favorite pattern? A picture here would be excellent. Favorite yarn? Yarn store of choice? My favorite pattern, without question, is Baby’s first DNA by Kimberly Chapman.  It has become my standard baby present, and you can tell a lot about a person by how they react when you hand them stuffed DNA.

I am not much of a yarn snob, and I generally just knit using David’s leftovers. I do have a great love of rough wools that still smell of lanolin and are hand dyed.  But, nobody wants to wear projects made of these wools, so they tend to gather dust in my house.  I have decided that they would make great felted bags, but I am intimidated by the fulling process.  My favorite yarn store is Yarnia.  I just love the ability to mix color and fiber, choose the number of strands in one’s yarn, and I totally groove on Lindsay’s yarn rolling machine.

Your husband knits, and so do you. Do you ever make the same pattern at once and who was knitting first? Technically I think I was knitting first.  My friend Lynn (who works at Northwest Wools in Multnomah Village) taught me how to knit while I was tutoring her daughters in the mid to late nineties.  I started a scarf for David, using the previously mentioned scratchy wool, that I still have not finished.

David only learned to knit a few years ago, but he took to it right away and has been knitting like a demon ever since.  So I blame him for actually turning knitting into a habit/fidget toy/addiction for me.

We have certainly knit socks at the same time (although the patterning and yarn were always different).  We have recently finished knitting up a series of strips that will ultimately be turned into a baby blanket for the son of some dear friends.  The strips are currently laid out on our living room floor, just waiting for David to crochet a border and for him to sew the strips together, but so it goes.

Portland

Dream day in Portland: Sleeping in (sleeping is a very big deal for me these days), then going out for a long breakfast at Gravy’s.  Then a nap would be in order (even if I had consumed enough coffee to make me high, that full a belly always makes me sleepy).  Ideally the day would involve some real Portland drizzle (the misty kind where you never really get wet) and a trip to the Chinese Garden.  I would round it out with a trip to the Wednesday farmers market downtown and an evening spent making an amazing dinner and eating it with David, and maybe even a friend or two.

Most underrated tourist attraction: Portland’s neighborhoods.  Tourists have no idea who we are based on a visit to downtown, OMSI, Washington Park, etc.  Seeing where and how we live is the essence of Portland and what I always do with friends coming to visit.

Finally, sum your life’s philosophy up using a single Britney Spears song title. I actually had no clue of any of Britney’s song titles, but once again, Wikipedia saved the day.  I would have the sum up my life’s philosophy with “The Beat Goes On.”  Full disclosure, it is a cover of one of my favorite Sonny and Cher songs.

*For those of you wondering why I keep putting an “@” before some names, I assure you it is not a typo.  These are people’s Twitter handles (for example, mine is @EvaCatHerder), and you too can learn more about these folks by signing up for a free Twitter account and following them.  If it still sounds like I and speaking gibberish, leave a comment and I will do my best to further clarify.

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