Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thoughts on Newspapers

My first contribution to the SciComms class blog (at http://scicomucsc.wordpress.com/)
In my first video blog, I talk about H. L. Mencken's thoughts on newspaper work: "a grand, gaudy time."

video

Friday, October 8, 2010

Seaside nonprofit refurbishes computers for needy

(Written for the Monterey Herald, published 10/07/2010.)

Christian Mendelsohn is ensconced among stacks of computers, motherboards and hard drives.

On the upper shelves nearby, rows of flat screen monitors are stored sideways, like an encyclopedia set of computer screens. The shelves below hold neat plastic bins labeled "ethernet cables," "power cords" and the like.

Mendelsohn is surrounded in his Seaside office by computer equipment. He is eager to distribute it to those who usually couldn't afford it through his nonprofit company Loaves, Fishes & Computers.

"Right now we have about a two-month turnaround time," said Mendelsohn, 32, while he leafed through a binder full of applications for the computer systems. "We have the supply to take care of the demand. But we're lacking manpower, we're lacking space and we're lacking funds."

Mendelsohn started the nonprofit in April 2009. The charity takes unneeded computers from organizations and individuals, refurbishes them and sells or gives them to the needy and computerless. Those who qualify get a computer, monitor, printer, mouse, keyboard and, if needed, set up and training. Depending on their income, recipients can pay $50, $60 or $70 or, if they like, they can spend six hours in volunteer work.

Loaves, Fishes & Computers is funded primarily through Mendelsohn's work repairing computers for clients. The group is an incorporated nonprofit, Mendelsohn said, and expects to receive tax-exempt status from the IRS in four months to nine months.

Refurbishing work is done by volunteers, two of whom come in every day during the work week.

"Like me, they love computers and like to do good," Mendelsohn said.

Mendelsohn would like to see Loaves, Fishes & Computers expand. In the Seaside office, they restore and turn out three to five computers a week. Two years from now, Mendelsohn would like it to be 20 computers a week.

"I have a vision of LFC expanding in to a larger area, where we'd have more repair space, space for volunteers and a computer lab open to the public," he said.

In their current space, there is only room for two people to work.

"Library labs get filled up and time on their computers is limited," said Mendelsohn. "Some students would like to volunteer as refurbishers. This would be a way for them to give back to the community and learn how to fix computers for themselves or for work."

Mendelsohn is starting a recycling and decommissioning service to remove e-waste of local businesses.

"We have a lot of computers in the area going to e-waste," said Topher Mueller, K-8 technology coordinator at the Carmel campus of Stevenson School, who helped donate 12 computers.

"Half of those might be too old to be useful, but the other half should be kept out of e-waste, which is becoming a huge environmental problem. They can be put to good use. There is a gap in opportunities between people who have computers and those who don't. He is bridging that gap," Mueller said.

"It's best to keep these computers in the hands of students and out of e-waste dumps," said George Ball, property coordinator at CSU Monterey Bay, who aided in the donation of 80 computers.

"The work he is doing is phenomenal," said Mueller. "He's filling a niche in the community that to my knowledge no one else is doing."

While Mendelsohn's work might fall short of miraculous, it is nonetheless appreciated by recipients.

On the wall of his crowded office, Mendelsohn looks up at a painting given to him from an artist who received the second computer he refurbished. In the picture, Jesus is feeding the masses with loaves of bread, baskets of fish and, down in the corner, a little collection of laptops.

Danielle Venton can be reached at 646-4358 or dventon@montereyherald.com.


Loaves, Fishes & Computers
A nonprofit in Seaside offers refurbished computers to those who normally couldn't afford them.
· A computer setup (including monitor, printer and setup and training) costs from $50 to $70, depending on the consumer's income.
· Consumers can also get computers in exchange for six hours in volunteer work.
· The wait time for a computer is two months.
· To apply for computers or make donations, call 383-0412 or see loavesfishescomputers.org. Printers are especially in demand.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Newsflash!

I'm now at UC Santa Cruz enrolled as a graduate student having the (busy) time of my life. Feeling very inspired to get this blog up and running again, I'll start by sharing a few of the things I've been doing recently.

Printing the Bain News Service Photos (LOC)

As a start, the ten class members of SciComs 2010 were served a hefty dose of self reflection, having to write biographical blurbs (see below) and our own obituaries (for the hearty, upon request).

Aside from being useless behind a microscope, I’m in science writing for the variety. Like many a writer before me, I love language, learning and talking about science. I love new experiences that deepen my understanding of the world and its people. Science writing gives both author and reader access to every field touched upon by research, which is to say, every field there is.

I’ve worked in science communication from many places: the redwoods of Northern California, the ponds of Cape Cod's National Seashore and the caverns of the Large Hadron Collider, the largest particle accelerator, at CERN in Geneva. Every new place, every new project, teaches me something and broadens my perspective. The world will always have something new to teach us, science writing allows me to remain its student.

When I'm not envisioning my future demise, I'm writing at the Monterey Herald, a local daily newspaper. Working on a big piece tomorrow, look for it here in a few days.