Building a Pre-IPO Company

When Training Is the Answer: Richard Silkes

What Disabilities Employers Must Accommodate: John Sarno

Women in Science and Engineering

The Highland Guard

Info Overload: Help For Databases — Tom Laszewski

Spam of the Week

Corrections or additions?

These articles by Michele Alperin, Bart Jackson, and Karen Hodges

Miller were prepared for the February 8, 2006 issue of U.S. 1

Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Survival Guide: Whitman Urges GOP To Emulate Women

‘The climate for women in business is getting better in New Jersey and

throughout the country, but it is still not where it needs to be,"

says Christine Todd Whitman, former governor of New Jersey. Whitman’s

career gives her a unique perspective on the role of women in both

business and politics. Her resume is, of course, well-known in New

Jersey, and includes local, state and national political service.

Whitman discusses her experiences, focusing on the challenges she

faced as a woman, at a New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners

meeting on Thursday, February 9, at 6 p.m. at the Harrison Conference

Center at Merrill Lynch. Cost: $40. For reservations and more

information, E-mail rsvpmercerdinner@yahoo.com

Help is still needed for women and minorities business owners, says

Whitman. "The government recognizes that it is appropriate to help

women and minorities," she says, "but the public perception is

tougher." She notes that women-owned businesses create a majority of

new jobs and employ 19.1 million people in industries ranging from

construction and agricultural services to transportation,

communications, and public utilities.

Since leaving the Bush administration in 2003, Whitman has joined the

ranks of women business owners. Her firm, the Whitman Strategy Group,

a management consulting and strategic planning partnership, works with

both government and business clients and has offices in Gladstone and

in Washington, D.C. All of the partners in the firm are women.

Some people (men, she notes) have asked her if she thought her firm

would do better if it had a man on board. Her reply, "Why? No one

would ask an all-male firm if they would do better with a woman."

It is hard to know, she says, if any company would do better if a man

was also involved. But, she says, there are benefits from working in

an all-woman firm. Women often are more interested in balancing work

and family life. "Two of my partners have young children," she says.

The other partners understand the need to sometimes schedule around

personal needs. She understands that many women have family

responsibilities, but that, just like men, "they want to make money."

While they want to make money, women, in Whitman’s view, tend to

demand time for family, too. Men, in turns out, often follow the

leader on this one. Whitman says that in her experience when men see

that a woman can make time for family and business, they too, realize

that it is possible. "In my first position as a freeholder (in

Somerset County) I was the only woman on the board. The first time I

took time to go to one of my children’s events some eyebrows were

raised. But I noticed that soon the men were taking time for those

type of events, also."

Can a woman have it all – a great career and a great family life?

"There are always trade offs," says Whitman. "There will always be a

time in your life when you berate yourself for neglecting your child

or you berate yourself for neglecting your job. You have to learn to

find the balance. You can have a good career, maybe just not quite as

fast."

Along with focusing on her business, Whitman is still involved in the

Republican party. Her book, "It’s My Party, Too," made the New York

Times bestseller list. It details her political career and gives her

insights into the Republican party and the current struggle between

the far-right faction of the party and the moderate wing.

She has started a political action committee to work on steering the

party back toward the middle. Its website, www.mypartytoo.com,

advocates "for the historic Republican principles of liberty,

individual responsibility, and personal freedom," and a Republican

party "that is unified by the basic tenets of fiscal responsibility

and personal freedom, but that allows for diverse opinions on social

issues by its members."

The committee is active in 31 states and is partnered with a variety

of other organizations, including Planned Parenthood Republicans for

Choice, the Alliance of Black Republicans, the National Republican

Senatorial Committee, and the WISH List (Women in the Senate and

House).

Commenting on the agenda of New Jersey’s new governor, Jon S. Corzine,

she says that his call for corporate tax increases "will only help to

discourage the business climate" in the state.

On another issue, one that is far more controversial and much harder

for a moderate Republican to address, she says that she is "torn"

about state funding for stem cell research, a program that Corzine

supports. "Why should government make the investment in this?" she

asks. If business and industry feel that the research is viable they

will make the investment in the research. "Why should government

provide the umbrella?"

Open space is another important issue for Whitman, who served as head

of the Environmental Protection Agency under George W. Bush. Open

space is compatible with smart economic growth, she says. "It is not

an either/or issue." Instead, she says, open space is one part of the

"infrastructure" that provides quality of life and attracts new jobs

to New Jersey. Of her time in Washington, under an administration not

notable for putting the preservation of open space and natural

resources at the top of its agenda, she says tactfully, "as an

administrator "you are there to carry out the president’s goals in the

best way possible."

Whitman says that having more women involved in politics and

government can only help our country. In her book, she writes that,

"while women can be as deeply divided and passionate on issues as men,

we tend to be less dogmatic in our approach." This flexibility means

women are much more willing to compromise," she says. "Men often won’t

consider compromise." Many times, she adds, men believe that to

compromise is "to not have principles."

But to her, "compromise is not a dirty word." She thinks some of the

difference in attitude can be explained by the different life

experiences of men and women. "Women are often the primary caregiver,"

she says. "They learn to balance and they recognize that there are few

things that are black and white. Most are gray."

– Karen Hodges Miller

Top Of Page
Building a Pre-IPO Company

‘In an information society, the way you use information as a weapon

determines your success." Steve Papa, the founder and CEO of Endeca, a

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based information technology search company,

gave this quote to Forbes for a November article on how corporations

search for information. Papa gives a free talk on "Building a Pre-IPO

Company in the Face of Recession, War, and Google," on Thursday,

February 9, at 5:30 p.m. at the Friend Center Auditorium at Princeton

University.

Papa’s talk is the second in a technology entrepreneurship lecture

series. The lectures are sponsored by Princeton Engineering’s Center

for Innovation in Engineering Education (CIEE)

(www.princeton.edu/%7Eseasweb/ciee/) in collaboration with the

Jumpstart New Jersey Angel Network. The lectures are followed by a

reception where students, faculty, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists,

and angel investors meet informally to discuss ideas and exchange

knowledge and advice.

"This lecture series will strengthen connections between students,

faculty, entrepreneurs and investors in the region," said Ken Kay, the

chairman of Jumpstart, a group that invests in early-stage technology

companies in the Mid-Atlantic region, in a prepared statement. "I hope

some potential entrepreneurs will be inspired to pursue their dreams."

According to the Wall Street Journal, Cambridge-based Endeca pioneered

"guided navigation," a search technology for businesses that gives

employees better and more efficient access to their company’s own

data. The Forbes article said that "his (Papa’s) company competes with

a slew of others in getting corporations to use their software and

hardware to mine the immense amounts of data that sit in various

places and forms behind a company’s firewall."

Top Of Page
When Training Is the Answer: Richard Silkes

For Richard Silkes of Sherwood Consultants in Fairfield, good training

is good business, and the two must be intimately intertwined to ensure

a company’s success. "Some people describe training as an event," he

says. "From the get-go, you want to make sure that key people in the

business view instructional design as one of the contributors the

company’s growth and competitiveness."

Silkes defines instructional design as a systematic approach to

creating training or a learning experience that effectively and

efficiently meets the needs of both the organization and the learners.

"It’s a partnership between the trainer, the business owners, and the

learners," he says. "The goal is measurable – to improve performance

in ways that generally increase an organization’s efficiency or

effectiveness or both."

Instructional design is a systematic approach to training, says

Silkes. Its advantage is that it is focused on results. It is

generally cost-effective and time-effective, is integrated into the

business, and is suited to the abilities of the trainer as well as

meeting or exceeding the needs of the organization and the learner.

The disadvantages are that it takes time, especially at the front end,

and requires multiple resources within the organization.

Silkes offers a workshop on "The Agony and Ecstasy of Instructional

Design" on Thursday, February 9, at 8:30 a.m. to the North Jersey

Chapter of American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) at

NECA-Whippany. Cost: $195. To register, call 973-263-5455 or visit

www.nnjastd.org.

Sherwood explains that the process of instructional design has five

intertwined phases:

Analysis. Often people think training is the answer that will cure

everything, but of course it’s not. Only careful analysis will uncover

what is really needed. "If I do up-front analysis," says Silkes, "the

rest takes care of itself. If I skip it, shame on me, because I didn’t

do due diligence. When I do it right, everybody’s on board."

"Be a business partner, not a resident academician," says Silkes. "A

trainer should start inquiries as close to the top of the organization

as possible."

Ask the important questions about the total business: What are the

challenges and what are the current and future opportunities?

Opportunities might include a new line. Potential challenges could be

new competition, new machinery, or a decrease in sales. Does the

current team have the knowledge and skills necessary to either meet

the challenges or pursue the opportunities?

While it is vital to ask questions, Silkes says that there is one

question that trainers should never ask: What training needs do you

have? The answer should come not from the client, but from the

trainer’s analysis of the issues his organization is facing.

Review performance data. The data will reveal the nature of the

problem and how important it is to the organization. A trainer must

look at real data – weekly sales reports, profit and loss statements,

staffing reports, weekly and monthly sales figures, and even

maintenance data. "Be the Sherlock Holmes of the organization," says

Silkes.

Ask yourself: What is the difference between what performance results

should be and what they are? What are the consequences of any gap

between the ideal and the real? How much is the problem costing the

organization in lost sales, time, and productivity? What will happen

if nothing is done to fix it?

If the problem is deemed important, figure out its cause to see

whether training can fix it.

Look at individual performers. One question to ask is whether an

individual could perform as expected if his or her life depended on

it? If the answer is yes, then the person can, in fact, do the job

with the current level of skill and knowledge, and it may not be a

training problem.

See whether the problem can be fixed without training. "Before I go

near a knee-jerk reaction to training," says Silkes, "I ask whether we

can we modify the task to make it simpler and easier."

Another thing to investigate in the case of a performance gap is

whether an individual is being punished for performing correctly.

Consider a situation where a person completes a job that required

working day and night for two weeks, and then the boss says: "You did

such a great job, I’m going to assign you this responsibility from now

on."

No, this is not a job that can be performed on a regular basis. The

problem is not training. It’s out of control expectations. In other

cases, an employee or department may be floundering as they try to

complete conflicting assignments given to them by multiple

supervisors. Again, don’t look to training to solve this problem.

Collect data to confirm there is a problem. Use interviews, a focus

group, direct observation, indirect observation, looking at

performance data and work indicators, a questionnaire, a survey, or

some combination. "I want to make sure that if we ascertain there is a

problem, I am contributing to fixing the right problem," says Silkes.

The next step is to analyze the job where the problem exists. A job is

a group of related of activities or responsibilities, and the trainer

must develop a comprehensive list of tasks for each responsibility.

Often a job description may be outdated, because technology or

regulations have changed.

Make a list of job tasks, indicating which ones are "drop-dead"

important. Perform a task analysis, looking at how people perform

specific activities within the job. For a sales representative from a

pharmaceutical company, for example, a designer would look at tasks

like preparing for a cold call or a return visit, or reviewing

progress.

Determine measurable standards for the task. What does it look like

when the task is performed at an extraordinary level?

Establish the resources necessary to do the job. What knowledge,

skills, and materials are required? Are other colleagues involved, or

can it be done in vacuum?

As an alternative, the designer can analyze competencies, that is,

those behaviors demonstrated consistently by an organization’s top

performers. "These people constitute the epitome of success within the

organization," says Silkes, "and one only wishes their behaviors could

be cloned."

Instructional designers can then break into manageable learning chunks

what separates the top performers from the average ones: What

knowledge, skills, and prior experience are keys to success? What

challenges do they face, and how do they handle them? What are the

tricks of the trade?

With a good idea of how the task can best be performed, the

instructional designer needs to turn his attention to designing a

course of instruction. This involves development, implementation, and

evaluation.

Any instructional design must take into account the fact that learners

are adults. They bring a great deal of experience to a workshop and

usually have much to contribute. "If I don’t tap into their

experience, and instead create a lecture or a monologue, it’s at my

peril," says Silkes.

Adults in the business world like to focus on real-life, here-and-now

problems, not academic situations. They are accustomed to being active

and self-directed, and want to have that "Ahah" experience where they

discover an answer for themselves.

Adults need an environment that is both challenging and supportive.

Remember that you are asking adults to take risks as they practice

skills among peers, and they may not be comfortable doing so. They

need materials provided to them in manageable chunks. They need to

know WIIFM – what’s in it for me? What’s the benefit of taking time

out from my job to attend a workshop?

They sometimes need to be encouraged to share. Silkes likes to tell

people that "your experiences have given you something it’s important

to share – something you do might really help the person next to you,

so share what is working."

In designing learning experiences for adults it is important to set

specific objectives. Silkes suggests one to three objectives for the

entire program and for each module. "At the end of the workshop, what

is it I want people to leave with, very specifically?" asks Silkes. He

recommends creating these objectives with specific action verbs. For

example, reduce the number of customer service complaint letters and

increase the number of complimentary letters; increase sales; and

reduce tardiness on the job, absenteeism, or overtime.

In doing the training, the facilitator should not be in the limelight,

but rather should be holding the spotlight and shining it on each

individual by asking questions, encouraging contributions and

risk-taking, and respecting the experience that people bring into the

program.

Silkes has been in organizational development, training, and executive

coaching for 25 years. After graduating from Brown University in 1973

with a degree in American studies, he stayed on for a master’s degree

in teaching. He then taught behavioral sciences in a Greenwich,

Connecticut, high school, where he both developed curriculum and

served as a master teacher, supervising interns. In the early 1980s,

he went into a doctoral program at Columbia University that involved

looking at non-school settings as an educator.

While in school, he hooked up with a training and development company

that created programs in leadership, customer service, and sales. He

spent a number of years on the corporate side in organization

development and training with the Macy’s specialty store division and

then with the Melville Corporation, a billion-dollar footware

retailer. For the last several years he has been with Sherwood

Consultants.

Some methodologies work better than others, depending on the group and

on the lessons to be learned. Possible activities include case

studies, skill practices, discussions, debates, practical

applications, and instruction followed by on-the-job activity and a

discussion of what did and didn’t work.

"The last thing I want is for the vehicle I choose for learning to

become a barrier or impediment to learning itself," says Silkes.

– Michele Alperin

Top Of Page
What Disabilities Employers Must Accommodate: John Sarno

Both federal and state laws protect employees with certain

disabilities from employment discrimination. But different people may

be covered under state and federal laws, based on the specifics of

their medical conditions. Under the federal Americans with

Disabilities Act (ADA), says John Sarno, president of the Employers

Association of New Jersey, "the person must be experiencing a more or

less permanent disability that has a big impact on their ability to

function." New Jersey law is more lenient and may cover medical

conditions not falling within the more rigorous ADA definition.

Sarno gives an "Americans With Disabilities Act Update" on Friday,

February 10, at 9 a.m., at the Wellesley Inn in Fairfield. Cost: $95.

Call 973-758-6800. (www.eanj.org)

Employers need to be aware of the ins and outs of the laws, because,

as Sarno says, "the stakes are high for getting it wrong."

Consequences for noncompliance can include citations from the Equal

Employment Opportunity Commission or the New Jersey Division on Civil

Rights, or even a court action. In this seminar Sarno will cover a

number of current issues that employers must consider with regard to

disability:

What is a major life activity, anyway? What characterizes ADA

disabilities is that they prevent people from functioning in a major

life activity, for example, cleaning, cooking, caring for oneself,

walking, seeing, and hearing.

One surprising activity that falls under ADA protection, says Sarno,

is reproduction. Its raison-d’etre is to protect asymptomatic

HIV-positive individuals from employment discrimination. "The Supreme

Court created a major life activity for people who would be

discriminated against for HIV," says Sarno. This new category may also

provide some protection for people with fertility conditions, and

employers may have to accommodate them with leaves of absence for

fertility treatments.

A sticky issue is whether working itself is a major life activity. The

issue is complicated, according to Sarno, and the Supreme Court has

not made a final determination. He cites a case where a person was

able to do her job as an elevator operator, but then automation phased

out her position and pretty much all such jobs. The woman had a weak

heart and hypertension, but when her elevator operator job vanished,

she was denied Social Security disability benefits, because she was

still theoretically "able" to do her last job, even though it was no

longer available.

The Third Circuit court held that "a claimant’s previous work must be

substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy." The

Supreme Court, however, reversed the decision, concluding that the

Social Security Administration’s (SSA) determination that the woman

was not disabled should stand. SSA was not required to investigate

whether the work she once did still existed in significant numbers in

the national economy.

How do state and federal laws differ? The New Jersey Law Against

Discrimination (LAD), like the ADA, prevents employment discrimination

against people with a disability and requires employers to accommodate

them, but those protected under the laws can differ. LAD does not

require that a disability have a serious impact on a major life

activity, but rather covers "a diagnosable disability caused by some

impairment or infirmity." Sarno says that "the state law is much more

protective of more people with medical conditions." As a result,

carpal tunnel syndrome and degenerative spinal cord disease may be

disabilities under LAD, but not under ADA.

The ADA does not prevent employers from making employment decisions

based on whether a person is genetically prone to a specific disease

or disability, whereas state law prohibits such discrimination. (Since

federal employees are covered by an executive order, not a

Congressional act, they are also protected from genetic

discrimination.)

New Jersey is progressive in this arena. "You can discriminate based

on genetic information in most states," says Sarno. Although there

have been some bills in Congress about genetic discrimination, they

have not gone very far.

What does "reasonable accommodation" mean? The New Jersey Division on

Civil Rights has issued a new regulation that clarifies how companies

should think about leaves of absence as possible accommodations. A

company must weigh the following factors in making a determination:

the type of job, needs of the business, whether other accommodations

would be just as effective, and whether the person is eligible for

Family Medical Leave.

For example, says Sarno, a large company with routine jobs that are

always available may be able to keep a job open for 12 months. A small

company, on the other hand, may not be able to keep its single

customer service position open at all.

What is the "interactive process" required by the ADA to determine

reasonable accommodations? According to an article at mediate.com by

Douglas R. Andres and Clay D. Creps, it must include a number of

specific steps. The employer must analyze the particular job involved

to determine its purpose and essential functions. Then the employer

and individual with a disability work together to identify barriers to

performance of particular job functions. Analysis should include a

review of the individual’s abilities and limitations.

The employer, working with the individual, identifies a range of

possible accommodations, and the employer assesses the effectiveness

of each identified accommodation, takes into account the individual’s

preferences, and then decides whether various accommodations would

pose an undue hardship upon the business.

How do employers obtain accurate medical information to feed into the

interactive process? "Companies must make sure that doctors have a

complete description of the job," says Sarno, "so that they can offer

a credible opinion as to whether an employee can perform it safely."

But often the employer hasn’t provided enough information to the

doctor, either about the job itself or the work environment.

"The gap must be bridged to successfully go through the interactive

process," says Sarno. "The job description doesn’t tell the whole

story."

What are the requirements regarding confidentiality of medical

information? Medical records must be stored securely and access must

be limited to those who have a "need to know," which usually means one

or two people in the organization.

Sarno earned his bachelor’s degree from Ramapo College in 1977. After

he got a master’s degree in counseling from Seton Hall University in

1980, Ramapo hired him as a counselor for people with disabilities. He

ran the office of specialized services there for a decade, gaining in

the process an extensive clinical background. The program received

national recognition for its work with students with disabilities.

While working at Ramapo, Sarno earned his JD from Seton Hall

University. He believes law was a natural extension of the

disabilities work he was doing. After law school, he clerked in

federal court and practiced general litigation there from 1989 to

1995. "Now I am back working with employers, combining my two

careers," he says. He has been with EANJ for 10 years.

Sarno sees his own role as providing a dual perspective to employers.

"You want an advisor to be able to see the big picture," he says. "The

ADA should not be about litigation. It should be about finding common

ground – that’s what the interactive process is all about." Litigation

comes when you are taking only one perspective – whether it is the

employer’s or the employee’s. Sarno says that EANJ is practical and

solution-oriented. "The point is to avoid litigation and solve the

problem."

– Michele Alperin

Top Of Page
Women in Science and Engineering

Women continue to pass on careers in engineering, where they are more

under-represented now than they were a decade ago, and are not exactly

flocking to careers in the sciences either. Perhaps some women are not

aware of the enormous range of opportunities within engineering and

the sciences. Lots of information on these career options will be

available on Friday, February 10, at 10 a.m. at a free forum being

hosted by Princeton University, and held in the convocation room of

the Friend Center. Call 609-258-9754 for more information.

The conference, sponsored by the student group Graduate Women in

Science and Engineering (GWISE), an association of graduate students,

features a leadership workshop as well as panels on career choices and

advice on balancing work life with family life.

"This is an excellent opportunity for women in science and engineering

to either find a mentor or to become one," Sonya Nikolova, a graduate

student in computer science at Princeton, said in a prepared

statement.

Nikolova said the forum would allow women to discuss, in a friendly

and relaxing atmosphere, challenges they might face in their careers

as members of an under-represented minority in science and engineering

professions.

Maria Klawe, dean of Princeton’s School of Engineering and Applied

Science, (who will soon leave that post to assume her new duties as

president of Harvey Mudd College), gives a welcome address. Panelists

from industry include Corinna Cortes, a research scientist at Google,

Florence Hudson and Tal Rabin of IBM, Cosema Crawford of New York City

Transit, and Ann Von Lehman of Telcordia Technologies.

Princeton engineering professors Maria Garlock, Claire Gmachl, Naomi

Leonard, and Jennifer Rexford – along with professors from the

University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers, and Columbia – are scheduled to

talk about their experiences in academe.

Top Of Page
The Highland Guard

It throws a protective blanket over some of New Jersey’s most valued

and fragile resources. The Highlands Water Protection and Planning

Act, signed into law in August, 2004, provides preservation and

governed growth for an 800,000-acre swath along the Appalachian Ridge

in the state’s northwest. The region covers eastern flanks of Warren

and Sussex, most all of Morris and Passaic, northern parts of

Hunterdon and Somerset, and a western slice of Burlington counties,

encompassing 88 municipalities. But it is the wealth beyond the

constructions of man that the Highlands Act deems most important.

Vast miles of contiguous forest, wetlands, and pristine watersheds lie

within the Highlands. Over 110,000 acres of farmland are actively

cultivated within its borders. But most valued, and the real impetus

for the Highlands Act, are the more than 379 million gallons of pure

water, which supply one half of the state’s residents. The state sees

the Highlands as encompassing irreplaceable assets, to which all

growth must yield.

Yet New Jersey is a dynamic state and preservation cannot be achieved

by fence and fiat. The Highlands Council, the Act’s governing arm

under the NJ DEP, has been given the task of coming up with a Regional

Master Plan by this June for these 800,000 acres. It will serve as a

guide to future growth. To discern the master plan’s progress and

ramifications, the New Jersey State Bar Association is offering a

breakfast seminar, "The Highlands:Taking or Already Taken," on

Tuesday, February 14, at 8:30 a.m. at the New Jersey Law Center in New

Brunswick. Cost: $9. Visit www.njbsa.com

The moderator is chairman of the State Bar Association’s Environmental

Law section, Raymond Papperman of Stark & Stark. Speakers include

Thomas Borden, chief counsel to the Highlands Council, and Steve

Bolzano, the Council’s director of science and planning.

No sensible person denies that New Jersey desperately needs an overall

growth plan. The problem is that the instant a region is held for

protection or study, everybody panics and begins lobbying their

personal agendas. Environmentalists lock arms and chant "not one more

structure!" Developers strive to obtain every possible variance.

Amidst this stormy sea of self interest, the Highlands Council

scrambles for a satisfactory regional master plan by the June

deadline.

Highlands on hold. Similar to the Pinelands Commission, established in

l979, the Highland Council has set its planning goals around pure

water and practicality. It has sectioned the 1,250 square miles of the

Highlands into two roughly equal zones – the preservation area and the

planning area. Within the preserved areas, forming for the most part a

central core of the region, no new major construction is permitted.

Single home improvements and certain grandfathered expansions are

allowed.

The planning sections, which basically flank this core, allow for

expansion and new construction, provided it meets with council

guidelines and review.

In order to encourage smart growth, the Highlands Council has

established a Transfer Developments Rights program, through which the

individual landowner may sell his right to build in an environmentally

restricted area to a developer who is planning to build in a

non-restricted zone. By garnering such credits, the developer gets to

build, according to his credit allowance, while the individual

landowner, denied his right to build, at least retains the financial

value of his asset.

There is risk involved. Transfer payments may be difficult to enforce.

And not every town allows every accredited developer to build where

and as much as he wants. But the system does allow for some control of

placement and number of new constructions. Those seeking clarification

of land use rules should phone 609-633-6563.

Master plan outreach. If you cannot give every individual

satisfaction, you can at least give them their say. Armed with this

motto, in April the Highlands Council began to hold bi-weekly public

meetings throughout the affected counties to catch the feel of the

residents. These town hall style meetings, while loud, have been

productive. Additionally, the Highlands Council has held open meetings

with the freeholders of each involved county.

While the Highlands Council is surveying watersheds and forest areas,

it is also encouraging municipalities to do a little master planning

of their own. A series of grants, many through the Commission On

Affordable Housing (COAH), are available for towns creating their own

master plans. Grants range up to $7,500 each from a $600,000 fund. For

municipalities, it is simply a matter of plan or be planned.

Taking sides. Much has been done to keep the planning sessions from

becoming a war between "those rapacious developers" and "those

unrealistic tree huggers." Gradually the arguments are shifting from

how much growth to where? Higher density development, once the bane of

all environmentalists, is now being seen as a viable method of keeping

watersheds pristine and forests uninterrupted. Municipalities are

realizing the benefits of rebuilding downtown areas, accessible by

foot, rather than out-of-area malls demanding costly roads and

polluting autos.

Nobody wants to live in a land where the government won’t let you

build a patio because you live near a lake. But your freedom of land

use should stop short of fouling my water. Exactly where that line

should be drawn is a tricky and hotly-contested question. Yet if New

Jersey’s 8.5 million residents follow U.S. Census predictions and

swell to 9.7 million in the next 20 years, cool heads must prevail.

The need for exact, strongly enforced statewide planning will become

not just a good idea, but a matter of survival.

– Bart Jackson

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Info Overload: Help For Databases — Tom Laszewski

The information is piling up. While pundits may argue justifiably that

the swell of cyberstuff has netted us little more actual truth, none

can deny that this sea of easily-retrievable data is flooding upon us

in an irreversible tide. Slotting information into database

pigeonholes seems a nice quick-manage solution. But how do you make

your databases function as a working library rather than a

labyrinthian archive?

Guidance is available from the New Jersey Chapter of the ACM/IEEE,

which is sponsoring "Adventures in Databases" on Thursday, February

16, at 7:30 p.m. at Sarnoff. The speaker is Tom Laszewski, an

executive with Oracle. Call 908-582-7086 for more information on the

free event. There will be a pre-meeting dinner at Ruby Tuesday’s

restaurant at 6 p.m.

For the past two decades, Laszewski has been a firsthand player in

developing the systems that not only generated the data explosion, but

that have made it more manageable. He grew up in Stevens Point,

Wisconsin, where his hard-working family saw no need for college. But

he prevailed on them, and went off to Wisconsin University and earned

a bachelor’s degree in management information there in 1986.

"At that time," Laszewski recalls, "all information management

involved the old VCM and main frame databases." Then, as he was

obtaining his master’s degree in computer information systems, Novell,

and soon after, Microsoft, created systems for database storage on

PCs. "If only I had bought stock in either of those firms back then,"

laments Laszewski.

After graduation, Laszewski joined Sybase and Electronic Data Systems

as a developer. For the past 10 years he has worked as technical

director at Oracle’s Partner Technology Group, creating many of the

database advances of which he will speak.

"We stand on the cusp of a whole new body of technology that will make

not just databases easier to manage, but make our information more

accessible, digestible, and secure," says Laszewski.

AI + DB = >$. The mundane platforms of database management may seem

scarcely the place for the exotic applications of artificial

intelligence, but it is from this marriage that some hefty cost

savings are born. Most companies employ a lot of staffers, whether

in-house or outsourced, to constantly update and tweak their computer

systems. These workers devote valuable time to reorganizing and

speeding up the info-flow process.

Increasingly such fixes and improvements can be handled by a new

wealth of self-managing databases (or as IBM with its euphemistic

flare labels the phenomenon – "atomic computing"). Databases can now

be programed to re-index and reorganize automatically. They can even

be trained to seek out and proactively enact shortcuts, turning a two

hour process into two minutes.

Laszewski admits that it takes a while to train both human and machine

to their new relationship. While the docile computer can be trained

fairly easily, people are often shocked by the latest patches as they

are installed. "It takes a bit of adjusting for both it and us," says

Laszewski.

Fickle dedications. The old idea of clustering has now taken another

step forward. Laszewski jokes that the new age of clustering should

not be confused with the original schemes of linking all PCs to search

space for signs of extraterrestrials. Rather, in this more

down-to-earth application, a collection of dedicated computers can now

shift dedications as seasonal needs require.

The business that has 20 machines in its plant may already have a

clustering style of software that shares all basic information

throughout all divisions of the company. If so, accounting can find

out what shipping and receiving are doing. But now, by establishing

what Oracle calls an enterprise grid, dedicated machines in any

department can shift and become dedicated to another department’s

tasks.

This means that during the pre-Christmas rush, when the shipping

department needs extra capability and machines, it can commandeer

them. Then as the year-end crunch hits accounting, that department can

get the help it needs. Technically, such sharing is already possible

on old connected computers, but with this new application, the network

traffic is vastly diminished.

Security race. Not too many years back, database access involved the

client interacting directly with a monolithic system, for example, a

Unix box. But now in the era of middleware, we talk to databases via

websites and even E-mail. Through this prism of middleware, the old

user name connector is fragmented into a complexity of web names,

database names, and user IDs. This complexity also allows various

names to more easily be picked up and back traced.

The current solution seeks security through a return to simplicity.

Some database and systems handlers now offer a single "meta-user

name," which doesn’t get disclosed on each transaction even as it

provides access to E-mail, websites, and databases – all in one. Such

meta-IDs are encrypted all along the line, end to end, thus foiling

most all hacking attempts.

Shattering structure. Traditional documents are structured – that is,

the data is fixed in rows and columns, all neatly indexed. Then,

thanks to E-mail transmissions, unstructured documents began entering

and leaving many departments, and creating a muddle. But now

information may be fed into databases shaped on how the client wants

it cross-referenced, with a mix of traditionally structured and

unstructured languages.

The data flood presents the same problems as any bulging library. We

need more entryways – many of which have already been built through

the Internet and E-mail. But once inside, we need wider hallways to

accommodate the increased traffic and smoother ways past the stacks

and stacks of stuff we don’t need, to the nuggets of information we

really want – right now. According to Laszewski, technology is one

step ahead of the info-overload problem. Now, if we poor humans can

only keep abreast. – Bart Jackson

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Spam of the Week

We at U.S. 1 have often thought that spammers would be much more

successful if only they could write simple English sentences with

words spelled correctly. Instead, we find that spam is full of

wonderfully misused words and phrases. Some of our favorites:

"You computer are INFECTED. 9 out of 10 PC’s are INFECTED!"

"I am Dr. Kingsley Wills, the auditor and head of computing department

of Alpha Bank Ltd here in London, United Kingdom. I have an obscured

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"I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer which has defiled all medical

solutions. . ."

Finally, one apparent spelling mistake that might have been more canny

than ignorant:

"The publisher of this newsletter believes this information to be

eliable (sic), but can make no guarantee as to its accuracy or

completeness."

Corrections or additions?


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