Saturday, January 21, 2006

Peanut Butter Bonanza

I was glad to see on KOIN news last night how the Oregon Food Bank is scoring all that peanut butter.

Our food situation in Oregon has been somewhat dire of late. Less excess capacity has been coming our way, leaving us feeling cold and blue -- although we fully realize the victims of Rita and Katrina have needed it more.

Still, maybe all this peanut butter heralds a sea change of some kind?

I used to be a programmer for OFB and still know some of the people (hi Steve). My dBase code helped manage OFB's inventory, plus ran the distribution, a complicated formula for computing disbursements to satellite food banks all around the state.

That was some years ago. I doubt many NGOs use Ashton-Tate's original dBase any more. I started with dBase II, which a couple versions later forked into Borland's dBase V and FoxPro. Microsoft bought the latter, migrating it to Windows, which eventually led to our Visual FoxPro of today, now up to version 9, lo these many years later.

I still use VFP sometimes, still mostly in the social service sector, my focus since joining EMO's Center for Urban Education (CUE) in Portland in the mid 1980s. I'd left my job at McGraw-Hill, Rockefeller Center (there's a story here), and joined my parents to help pack up in Bangladesh. We came back through PDX and I decided to stay behind. The Boltons kindly took me in.

CUE was a management hub for refugee resettlement in the wake of the Vietnam War, plus had a big grant of Apple desktop publishing equipment thanks to Steve Johnson. We trained local area nonprofits how to leverage the latest high tech, like the IBM 386, the target for the first Linux, of which none of us had yet heard (Linus who?). Nor was Richard Stallman's free software yet available to our kind (soldiers in the social service trenches).

Whereas my recent stint at Free Geek during Ron Braithwaite's tenure was in some ways a deja vu experience -- we networked with similar nonprofit clients, via Penguin Day and so on -- our 21st century tools are so much more powerful (and yet this is still only the beginning).