Jul 312008


I had a lovely time at the SBA meeting.  It was small and intimate and I met some very interesting folks. Every time I go to such event I have the opportunity to streamline my self-description and my pitch.

One participant was Mike Paunovich of LocalBizBlogs, a very useful business idea in my view, and Marissa LaMagna who owns a travel company (I immediately clicked with her) and Joanie Block, founder of Good Vibrations. The meeting was held in the cohousing section of Swann’s and Joanie inhabits one of the units there. She showed me the downstairs portion of her studio-duplex. I would love to have such a living space but it will have to wait.

MarkMacleod was there and I told him I’d sent him a bunch of suggestions and he said he’d not had time to read them yet. No problem, said I. 



Jul 302008


Carlos Hernandez came over and opened my eyes to how I can capitalize on my LinkedIn presence.  There is a gauge on that site that tells you how complete your profile is.  My score was 47% complete.  He said studies show you have to get it up to at least 67% for it to be valuable to you.  So after he left I began contacting my already listed contacts and boosted my score considerably.

This evening I went to the World Affairs Council networking session under the aegis of CraigsList Foundation.  The speaker, the head of the foundation whose name I forgot to get (!#?!),  announced that they were looking for someone to do administration in the marketing department.  Later I found out that the contact person was no other than Rachel Cohen, whom I still had not heard from.  So the next day again and left a message on her voicemail iterating my interest.  To no avail apparently.

But at that event I also met Mark McLeod, head of the Sustainable Business Alliance in Oakland.  I don’t know how I started this but I told him I could offer him suggestions for his web site even though I had never seen it!  Now there is cheek.

Mark told me that the very next day the Sustainable Business Alliance would be having its monthly networking meeting at Swanns in Oakland.  He invited me to come.



Jul 292008


I went to GraceWorks at Grace Cathedral which I had heard about at the One-Stop Career Centers.  I was one of the early ones and offered to help prepare the light breakfast they serve at this morning workshop. The volunteer in charge of the kitchen that day, Ricardo, asked me if I knew how to cut pineapple.  Yes I did and I do and so I did.

Since I was at this Grace Cathedral workshop for the first time I got the chance to introduce myself, give a little of my background and explain what I’m looking for.

That morning the featured speaker was Rachel Cohen, interim operations manager at CraigsList Foundation.  It was instructive because I had heard of the foundation I didn’t know much about it.  She gave a very rich presentation on how to transition from the for-profit world to the nonprofit world.

A well crafted cover letter is essential to transferring to another job, she said.  You must address: why I feel this is the right fit for a job in your organization and why it makes sense for me to serve you at this time in my life.

She said your resume should list your accomplishments linked to your skills.  And it should also mention your volunteerism and emphasize your commitment to volunteerism.

At some point, she addressed my goals and mentioned that the foundation was looking for somebody in its marketing department.  So after the meeting I sent her an e-mail pitching my experience and skills. Separately  I e-mailed  her some links that I thought would be useful to her but never got a response.  Much later I realized that I had said nothing about my volunteerism experiences.  Crap.

She offered a lot of web sites to check out that could support one in making this transition:






www.ynpn.org   (She said don’t worry that the word “young” is in the title.)

www.afp.org, a site for fundraisers.


www.taproot.org is a good way to get experience in the nonprofit field if you haven’t got it all ready, Cohen said.  You fill out your profile and then you are assigned to a team to solve a particular problem of a nonprofit. 


Cohen informed that on July 30 the World Affairs Council was going to have a networking event featuring CraigsList Foundation.  So I put that on my list.

Also she said the Foundation Center on Kearney Street gave free classes on networking and PC tools etc.

While at this meeting, another participant, Bruce Smith told me that he heard StoryCorps was hiring.  Bruce was responding to the part of my self-introduction when I explained that besides being a journalist and author, I also write memoirs and want to expand that side of my business.

But the meeting itself was very warm and encouraging.  Actually I felt valued and uplifted when I left.  I also got the card of Carlos Hernandez who is a coach.  He had explained that he had recently given a talk at the Jewish Community Center on how to capitalize on all the social networking sites that are in the ether.  I asked him if he would show me how to exploit my presence on LinkedIn.

Back at home I went on to the StoryCorps web sites and applied for a job with a passionate cover letter. I’ve heard nothing.

Jul 252008

July 25, 2008 


 I returned to the One-Stop Career Center at its Turk and Franklin Street location for a four-hour session in interview techniques.  I had high hopes for this workshop but I was disappointed in many regards. 

The lecturer spent much of the first hour performing, bringing attention to his clever and witty self and his bitter four divorces. Still some good tips came out of this class.  I learned about the One-Stop Career Center’s support group for those looking for new positions.  It’s called Experience Unlimited and meets on Thursdays.

GraceWorks, at Grace Cathedral meets every Monday morning from 830 to 1130.  The Job Forum is held on Wednesday nights at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce at 235 Montgomery on the 12th floor. 

He told us about the benefits of the Workforce Investment Act which enables people looking for employment to still go to school and provides money for tuition and transportation.  However there are limitations to this benefit and we can learn about them at the EDD’s workshop called California Training Benefits.

Another resource strongly recommended was a woman named Susan Cohen at the main branch of the library on the fourth floor.  Apparently she administers a whizbang business database.

The One Stop lecturer had very helpful things to say about applying for a job when you are over 40 or 50.  He said that he always starts out interview (apparently he goes on job interviews for practice!)  telling them his age right off, “and then I keep talking.”

He goes on to assure them how he loves working with young people and loves to learn new things.  “I love being in new environments.  I am very healthy and take very good care of myself,” goes his patter.

The résumé, finally, he cautioned, should always be accompanied by a persuasive cover letter citing numbers and percentages of the results you produce for last employer.  As if I made widgets!

I really liked his wisdom on negotiating skills.  He said if the interviewers ask you the dollar figure you are looking for, never give it at once.  The party who gives a dollar figure first is in the weaker position.  One way you can counter this question is by saying “what do you usually offer? 

If they press you for a dollar figure, give a range that might interest you and keep on talking while you change the subject. 0 Then pin them down on when they plan to fill the position.  If they give you no dates, he warned, they might be “fishing” — that is they have no intention of filling the position and are interviewing only for some background reason that you could never know or have any effect on.

Let them know you really want to work there.  Ask them, “Is there anything standing between me and this position? “

Set up a follow-up date and time.  Say, “I’ll be calling you back next week. “Or whenever they indicate they’d have to make a decision by.


Never say: “I’m looking forward to hearing from you.”  Instead tell them you’ll be calling.

Send a thank you note that has passion.  Mention something in the note to make him  or her remember you or something that happened in the interview.  This is also a good time to mention former experience that you had not described in the interview. 


If they turn you down, you can still say or write to them: I still would like to work for you.  Would it be all right if I call occasionally in hopes that something else will open up?  If they say yes, get an indication of how frequently you can call.  Say every six months or something like that.


Jul 222008

I reported the Mission district section of One-Stop Career Center for a workshop on writing a résumé. This was my first real experience in broadening my contacts.

Nina Marillo, an HR professional for many years with FedEx, was a straight talk no-nonsense woman. However instead of discussing résumés she spent most of the session explaining how to fill out an application form. I was disgusted at first since most of the jobs I would be applying for are no longer using the old-fashioned application form method. However I kept my behind in my seat and learned some interesting tips. For instance, if an application form asks you to check which days and hours you are available for work, you should check them all. She reasoned, if a job opportunity comes up that’s not Monday to Friday or 9-to-5, you may still consider it. So why limit your possibilities?

Finally she got on to the issue of résumés and also interviewing and negotiation.

Her manner was intense. She was eager for us to see how personnel people view the résumés they get over the transom. She informed us that we could apply for employment with the city or county of San Francisco at 44 Gough Street.

Then she invited us to send our résumés to her and she would revise them in return them by e-mail. Good as gold two weeks later she did so. I was amazed to see that she had relegated my employers to the bottom of page in bullet points while she turned my journalism and consulting experience into language that made it look as though it had a bottom-line impact.

Jul 192008

By late June, I knew the shit was going to hit the fan. A few months earlier the management of the Oakland Tribune, part of Media News chain based in Denver, had offered buyouts to our staff. The newspaper and its parent company had been suffering from diminishing ad revenues for some time. I did not accept the buyout and was grateful to retain my job nonetheless. However there was the hint that layoffs might come in the future.

So when the warning came that there would be layoffs in July, I was not surprised. I had been through this three times before with this employer where I have worked for almost 10 years.

 Posted by at 10:21 am
Jul 182008


My second week of unemployment, or shall I say my second week of self-discovery, I went to register at my nearest One-Stop Career Center at 801 Turk St on the corner of Franklin, near the opera house.  There I learned about the many workshops available both at this location and at the one on Mission Street corner of Cesar Chávez.  I’m excited and enthusiastic delving into this new phase of my existence.  As Jane Kay told me when she heard I’ve been laid off, “You are among austere company.”



Jul 172008


The third week of July and there are all sorts of things to take care of before I can really make a focused effort towards finding a job.  First, I have to figure out what I want!  Do I really want to go back into journalism when the whole field is falling apart?

My last couple of years at the Oakland Tribune were the most fulfilling because I felt myself doing some creative stories, stories that touched people’s lives.  I know because readers told me so.

Wouldn’t it be great to get a job that gave me the same satisfaction only not for a newspaper that Dean Singleton is going to eviscerate?  What would that be?

I’m going to use these coming weeks and months to figure that out. Besides I have to sign up for unemployment, figure out my insurance status and I am still taking care of my mother’s affairs.  My poor mother.  I cannot tell her that I’ve lost my job — either because she’d worry and I don’t want her to — or because she can’t comprehend it and isn’t able to worry about such things anymore.


Jul 152008

The Oakland Tribune (CA) – July 12, 2008
Author: Francine Brevetti, Oakland Tribune

With the statewide drought upsetting homeowners who cling to their gardens and lawns, the concept of “gray water” irrigation systems is enjoying a kind of revival in interest.

“Whereas we used to get one or two requests a year about gray water before the drought, now we get about one inquiry a day,” said Dick Bennett, water conservation administrator for East Bay Municipal Utility District. EBMUD supplies brochures and guidelines on how to install gray water systems.

The concept, pioneered in part by Oakland’s Greywater Guerrillas a decade ago, has been hampered by the state’s restrictive building codes — but it looks as though the barriers that have prevented easy installation of these systems may be coming down in the near future.

The systems — which use water from sinks, tubs and washing machines to irrigate home landscaping — are touted as a way to keep lawns green and flowers blooming without abusing a scarce resource or inflating water bills.

Greywater Guerrillas launched its first jerry-rigged experiments with gray water in 1999, when the original guerrillas were trying to reduce the water bill for their house of six roommates. The systems and devices have become much more sophisticated since then, said Laura Allen, an educator with Greywater Guerrillas.

Gray water systems channel the used household water (though not from toilets) to irrigation ducts 9 inches below the surface of a home’s lawn or garden. Advocates say it’s a practical use of water that otherwise would go into the sewer system, and therefore an expedient means of conservation. And conservation is important as water becomes an increasingly valued resource, proponents say.

“Our water bill is going to be like our oil bill in the future,” said John Russell, a landscape designer who heads WaterSprout, an Oakland company that specializes in residential and commercial irrigation, including gray water systems.

However, the building codes in California — and every state except Arizona, for that matter — spell out very restrictive (translation: expensive) specifications for gray water systems. So most people who install them have been skirting the law and installing the systems without permits.

“Today, there are hundreds of non-permitted gray water systems in the Bay Area, but only a handful of legal ones,” Allen said. Still, there is no evidence inspectors are shutting these projects down, she said.

Russell, however, is trying to convince his clients to install such systems legally because he said he’s trying to gain acceptance for the concept and legitimize the process. So far he has installed four permitted systems. He does not install non-permitted systems, he said.

Larry and Tam Gray of Berkeley are among Russell’s clients. They recently had a system installed in their new home’s front and back yards. The Grays are proud their house is the second permitted gray water system in Berkeley, they said.

Depending on the size and slope of the property, Russell said, a permitted system can cost $4,000 to $6,000 more than the cost of a typical irrigation system, including permitting and plumbing. Depending on the property, the lowest a basic irrigation system costs $8,000 to $9,000, he said.

Non-permitted systems, on the other hand, cost only hundreds of dollars, advocates said.

According to Russell, a family of four consumes about 36,000 gallons of gray water a year on average. “Since gray water accounts for 75 percent of total household usage,” he added, “you can expect your water bill to drop at once.”

No businesses are known to use gray water. Some of them, however, use reclaimed water from waste treatment plants and recycle it into their cooling towers when and if they need to cool overheated tools or equipment, EBMUD’s Bennett said. Official objections to the gray water method of irrigation for houses have stemmed from fears of its being unhygienic — fears that Allen and Russell called baseless.

“As long as the edible parts of the plant are above ground, there should be no problem,” Russell said.

So that would mean the systems should not be used to water root plants — carrots and potatoes, for instance — or at least no there should be no contact between the edible part and the gray water tubing.

Recently there’s been a considerable push from activists, environmentalists and real estate developers to change legislation to allow more relaxed standards for gray water systems. The state Senate and Assembly have both passed legislation to this effect and their versions need only to be harmonized in order to be ratified.

“The Department of Housing and Community Development will give another look at standards and see if they have to be relaxed,” said Carrie Cornwell, chief consultant for the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.

This takes time, of course.

“The guerrilla gray water movement in the Bay Area will not be legalized in a year,” Cornwell cautioned. In two years then?

“Perhaps,” she said.

For more information, contact Dick Bennett, water conservation administrator for East Bay Municipal Utility District, at 510-287-0597.

Jul 122008

The Oakland Tribune (CA) – Saturday, July 12, 2008
Author: Francine Brevetti, Oakland Tribune

Tracey Friley insists she’s not running a T-shirt business. Rather, she says, she’s promoting a movement.

Friley, who runs a retail shop called Oo La La in downtown Oakland, has started a new venture called One Brown Girl.

One Brown Girl’s first product is a T-shirt, which is available at www.onebrowngirl.com and in her boutique at 17th and Franklin streets.

Friley’s T-shirts are tailored to support what she sees as a growing sense of solidarity among women of color throughout the world.

And that means not just African Americans, but Asians, Polynesians, Latinas, American Indians and others. She stresses that she doesn’t “want to give people the impression that this is just a black thing.”

The purpose of her brand and the Web site is to celebrate cultural diversity and the “strong self-image among brown girls around the world,” she said.

While One Brown Girl is not meant to exclude anybody, neither is it just about skin color, she said.

“It’s about culture identity and pride,” Friley said. “For me to be OK about myself is OK. White people may brand us as racist. Anytime you do something that relates to a culture or race, you’re going to get a lot of reactions.”

Friley, 46, originally from Los Angeles, is multiracial.

The vibrant T-shirts are sold in retail outlets at prices ranging from $28 to $48.50, yet Oo La La is the exclusive outlet in the Bay Area. Several Southern California retailers offer her products, as do some university book shops. Friley plans additional products under the brand name. Her marketing campaign is already carefully plotted out.

The Web Site’s stick figure cartoon, One Brown Girl, will begin a series of adventures in the next month on the Web site. OBG will travel the world and each episode will feature a new product sporting the brand name. For the first installment, consumers can look forward to an OBG journal.

In May, Friley won first prize for her “elevator pitch” — a contest to interest investors in her business — at the Black Enterprise Magazine Entrepreneurship Conference in Charlotte, N.C. One of the prizes was the opportunity to go to New York and present her pitch again during a competition sponsored by MSNBC.

She asked two judges for $250,000 to make her Web site interactive. While Simon Sinek, chief executive officer of Sinek Corp., and Ken Yancey, CEO of the Score Corp., were enthusiastic and supportive, Friley did not receive the financial infusion she had hoped.

Still, Friley keeps marketing. She advertises in Essence and Latina magazines. She takes her show on the road to spread the brand message by selling T’s at targeted events such as jazz festivals, expos and events at black colleges and universities throughout the summer.

But she is confident her product and brand concept are viable. She has a wholesale request that she has to stretch to fill and has just hired two new staff members to help her.

Information: Learn more about One Brown Girl at www.onebrowngirl.com. Oo La La is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at 386 17th St., Oakland. Call (310) 621-3783 or visit www.oo-la-la-gift-lounge.com for information.