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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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
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
‘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
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."
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
Sherwood explains that the process of instructional design has five
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
– Michele Alperin
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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,"
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
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
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
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
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
business suggestion for you."
"I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer which has defiled all medical
solutions. . ."
Finally, one apparent spelling mistake that might have been more canny
"The publisher of this newsletter believes this information to be
eliable (sic), but can make no guarantee as to its accuracy or
Corrections or additions?
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— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.