Friday, January 24, 2003

I just returned from Joint Venture Silicon Valley's "2003 Index Release & Annual Celebration" breakfast meeting, and thought I'd share some of my notes with you.

The central purpose of the meeting was the release of their latest Index report - indicators, or progress measures, of Silicon Valley's cultural, economic, and environmental health. In the first part of the program, Doug Henton and Kim Walesh, of Collaborative Economics, reviewed the data and set the day's theme of the glass being half full.

Looking at the economic trends over a dozen years, we're not so bad off - if you don't notice the bubble of 2000. Henton said, "We went through the boom and the bust, and came back out in 1998." He pointed out that even after the bust, Silicon Valley's average wages are still twice the national average. Even so, as Walesh pointed out, "only 26% of families can purchase a median priced home."

One positive statistic (glass half full) was that average level of educational attainment is rising; while numbers of drop-outs and high-school grads remained steady, the number of college grads rose from 32% to 41%.

Looking at it as the glass half empty, however, you realize that it's not because of more local kids going on to college; it's all from migration. Those without college educations are being forced to leave the area due to the cost of living, while those coming to the area (from within the US and abroad) are more educated. This is partially because while only 41% of area residents have degrees, half of all new jobs require them.

Following the presentation of the Index, Joe Natoli of the Mercury News led a panel discussion on "Silicon Valley: The Next-Generation Platform for Global Innovation." The panelists were Vinod Khosla of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Manual Pastor of University of California, Santa Cruz, and Brian Cunningham of Rigel Pharmaceuticals.

Khosla led with the same positive spin as the folks from Collaborative Economics: "From 1993 to now should be straight line, but we feel worse because went through the bubble of 2000."

Cunningham got an easy laugh in response to a question about tax incentives to stimulate business recovery, saying, "If you don't have revenues, tax credits won't help." Kind of points out the composition of the audience that this was considered the best joke of the day.

Professor Pastor turned a bland conversation about diversity (they're all for it) to more taboo topics by saying that, "We do well with connections across race, but poorly with connections across class." To Khosla's suggestion that informal networks, and not formal programs, are all that's necessary for developing better job opportunities for African Americans, Pastor replied that regardless of race, if you live in a poor area, and all your neighbors and associates are poor, the job leads you get from your "network" aren't going to be very good.

To an audience member's question about California's "anti-business" climate, Pastor again took the less popular route asking the questioner to look at "what makes the Valley great." He listed our well-educated population, our high quality of life, and our built infrastructure, and suggested that perhaps tax support is what helped encourage that. He then expressed his fear that more and more state money being diverted into building prisons will help to destroy what we have here.

Cunningham then decided to take the tack of insulting the audience by calling them fat, lazy, and stupid. "From the gold rush on, we've been lucky," he said. Nature made this a great place to live - not government intervention or anything anybody planned. He felt it was about time that "we need to learn how to compete."

This got Khosla to show a bit of emotion, replying forcefully, "That's not true. We're not lazy!" He pointed out that our good fortune recently was the result of years of development and partnerships between business, higher education, and even (reluctantly) government. He singled out Stanford University's early commitment to new technologies as a critical force in creating the Silicon Valley as we know it.

In the end, the optimistic "glass half full" attitude won out, with all agreeing that Silicon Valley will recover and be a force again. In Pastor's final word, however, he warned against the quick fix. He cautioned against looking for a speedy recovery, that would be likely to leave many people behind. "For a sustainable recovery," he said, "we need to invest in all our people."

And that's about it. I haven't read the full report yet, so I can only comment on the discussions at this morning's meeting. For more information, see Joint Venture's web site at (You can download the full index as a pdf from the site.)

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Over a week since I posted, and about the only thing I've said this month is just about how busy I've been. That doesn't make for particularly exciting reading, I'm sure. But, dammit, it's true.

So, I was considering whether or not to even continue with the blog. Who's reading it? Why? Should they be? What to do, what to do?

Then, in today's email, a note came from an old friend who'd moved to North Carolina saying how much he enjoyed an entry here (The Author Before Christmas). So, okay, that made me feel good enough about this to keep it going.

But here's the contrary thing about that: The posting he referred to is almost a month old. It was only showing on the page because of how few postings I'd made since. If I'd been posting at my usual (or previous) rate, he'd probably never have seen the item that compelled him to write.

The blog must go on - but maybe I don't have to feel compelled to post daily.

Let me know - Take part in an ad hoc online focus group: Click the feedback link and tell me if you're a regular visitor here or a first-timer and whether you plan on ever coming back. What do you expect to find here? Why did you come here in the first place? What should I be doing with my life?

Thanks for your help, and don't forget to brush.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Hey! Vacation pictures are posted!

If you'd like to see Leslie and I enjoying ourselves on our recent trip to Boston, New York, & New Jersey, Click Here.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

And what a week it was! This first week back at work from vacation was a killer (including going in early and staying late almost every day, as well as going in on Saturday - And I'm still not quite caught up).

How is that possible? I was only gone for a week. And a week with a major holiday in the middle of it? Everybody comes back from New Year's and wants to get their entire 2003 agenda completed before the 17th of January - And they all need me in on the meeting.

This coming week isn't going to be any better and, in fact, may actually be busier. I'm wondering at what point in 2003 will I get to work on any of the things that are on my personal agenda?

The trip east was great for firing my imagination, and I came home with plenty of interesting story ideas, but I've not yet had a chance to get any of them down in even the most basic notational form. I need to get to them before I lose them.

And so, maybe I'll try to get to them right now, while I have a few minutes to myself... Happy freaking new year...

Oh, and by the way, since most of my readers are also writers, here's a link to a contest on a friend's web site: Slice of Life - check the link for the details - win a Story Spinner!

Sunday, January 05, 2003

Happy New Year! We returned yesterday from our vacation trip east. We started out in Massachusetts, where we visited a few of my relatives (aunt, cousins, etc.), did a little site seeing (including my childhood homes), and did "First Night" - Boston's New Year's Eve celebration.

We had a great time, and it was Leslie's first experience with "real" winter weather. Boston is a great city, and it's always a wonderful feeling to go back again. I think it's a city that's only gotten better in recent years, as well. I remember a time when it wasn't safe to out on the streets in many places after dark, yet we were walking around former danger areas past midnight each night we were there with no sense of doom. On the contrary, there were many people out on the streets, enjoying the city at night.

On New Year's Day we drove down to New Jersey, across Connecticut and a corner of New York state, in the pouring rain. Parts of it were a bit harrowing, but we made it safely, and in time for a home-made dinner at Leslie's great-aunt's house.

We spent a few days with the NJ family, including a one-day side trip into New York City with one of Leslie's cousins as our tour guide. Even with the sleet and the rain, we had a great time in the city. A highlight being our visit to Rupert Jee's Hello Deli. If you don't know what that is, you need to start watching David Letterman. Rupert was very nice and was very cool about posing for a picture with us.

Another New York highlight, which was a theme of the whole trip, was the food. In NYC we had the best hot pastrami I've ever tasted in my entire life at Katz's in the Lower East Side. Also, a real Nathan's hot dog (the franchised Nathan's outside NYC are NOT the same thing).

In Boston, it was pizza, more pizza, Italian dinners, and sea food. The pizza of my youth is from Regina's, and it's still excellent, beating the crap out of any pizza-like object you can get in California. I had a shrimp dish at Mother Anna's in the North End that was also to die for (with butter, Marsala sauce, and cheese). Also, Legal Sea Food for the lobster. And plenty to drink as well, ending almost each night at O'Conner's for a night cap.

The amazing part of the whole thing is that I gained back less than two pounds (of the 30 I lost in 2002). It's because of all the walking we did around each of the cities, as well as the extra calories we burned just trying to keep warm.

Now, today, back in the San Jose area, we're walking around in just a shirt, with no coat, scarf, or gloves, and enjoying the California sunshine. But, there's a part of me that will always be back in Boston, freezing my ass off, but loving every moment of it.

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