Some Things Are Meant To Be


In March, I wrote a column about Tripod, our 14-year-old, three-legged dog. Originally, she wasn’t supposed to have been ours at all, but some things are just meant to be.

I found her in Banning Park as a four-month-old red-brown puppy with a broken left hind leg. We weren’t looking to adopt a dog just then and vowed to find her a good home. Before we began the search for an adopter, however, we took her to our veterinarian to see if there was a chance to save the injured leg. Unfortunately, it was beyond repair, but, if it was amputated, she stood every chance of living a normal life with just three legs. Amputation required a canine orthopedic surgeon, at a cost of $1,500.

Finding someone willing to take on a dog with such a hefty price tag was impossible. The alternatives were: 1.) Turn her in to the county shelter, virtually assuring she’d be euthanized, or 2.) Adopt her ourselves. Obviously, she was just meant to be ours, and for 14 great years Tripod was the belle of both our home and our print shop. Sadly, in July, we had to let Tripod go after her spinal cord became compromised.

I recount this story because history has repeated itself. After we lost Tripod, our friend Camilla Townsend asked her good friend, artist Stan Hicks, to do a watercolor painting of Tripod that we could hang in the shop for all her “fans” to see. The painting (which is outstanding) was unveiled during September’s First Thursday Art Walk at fINdings art gallery. Since Stan specializes in paintings of dogs, the show was also billed as a fundraiser for a local dog rescue service called Doggies 911 Rescue. In order to entice people to donate to that organization, Marilyn Vittone, one of the partners in Doggies 911 Rescue, brought an adoptable rescued puppy to the event: a five-month-old red-brown puppy with a fractured left hind leg in a cast.

She knew nothing of our history with Tripod, and to have chosen to bring that particular puppy from the scores of dogs in her care was, to us, like déjà vu all over again. The message couldn’t have been clearer: We were there to adopt this puppy… some things are just meant to be.

We named the puppy Alfie, but before he could come home with us, he had to spend two weeks at South Shores Pet Clinic until his cast was removed. During that time, we visited him often and got to know and really admire Marilyn, her partner, Masumi Hara, and Dr. Mark Weimer at South Shores. Doggies 911 Rescue’s motto is “No dog left behind,” and they specialize in homeless dogs with special needs that make them unadoptable. They rescue animals from shelters all over Southern California. With their personal funds, and with some limited outside donations, they fix whatever problems a dog may have before finding it a good home. For example, one night, while we were visiting Alfie, they brought in a small puppy for emergency surgery to remove nuts, bolts and metal scraps from his intestinal tract, which he had ingested while homeless and wandering the streets. He’ll be fine and will get a good home.

Even though Dr. Weimer and staff donate many of their services, Doggies 911 nonetheless accumulates huge medical bills. They’re constantly in need of donations. Please stop by and meet them and their adoptable dogs, Saturday mornings at Petco on Western Ave., or go to their website: www.doggies911rescue.org. You might find a new best friend that was just meant to be yours, or by donating, make it possible for someone else to find theirs. spt

Herb Zimmer owns PriorityOne Printing in downtown San Pedro.

Come See & Touch the Future at PortTechEXPO

A solar concentrator dish that can burn through a one-inch thick solid steel block (at 2,650º F), create steam to run a turbine, or recycle wastewater for reuse; hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles; an electric semi truck; a remotely operated zero emission vehicle, on which can be mounted cameras and sensors for diverse purposes, such as railroad track safety or marine infrastructure inspections; a computer system that uses game theory to prevent security breaches… these and scores of other exciting clean energy, environmental, transportation and security technologies will be on display during the fourth annual PortTechEXPO. This year, for the first time, the public is invited for a free, action-packed afternoon seeing and touching these technologies of the future.

Produced by PortTechLA, the expo will take place on Wednesday, September 11, at Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles (110 E. 22nd Street; 22nd Street at Harbor Blvd.).

PortTechLA is a local public/private nonprofit with a global reach. It is dedicated to creating sustainable technology companies for ports and beyond by bringing together entrepreneurs, corporate partners and investors to accelerate innovation, advance clean technologies and help create economic opportunities. PortTech promotes and helps to develop technologies that enable enterprises to meet their environmental, energy, security, transportation and logistics goals. Attracting and growing these technology companies creates new jobs, protects current jobs by ensuring that our port remains competitive, and reduces negative environmental impacts on local communities.

PortTechEXPO kicks off with a morning session featuring Federal Maritime Commission Chairman Mario Cordero, a panel discussion focused on Clean Energy, and a luncheon with Keynote Speaker, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Tickets and table sponsorships for the morning session and luncheon are still available at www.PortTechLA.org. From 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. exhibits open for the free public event: “CleanTech – Cool Tech.”

Much of the CleanTech – Cool Tech event is focused on education. The Port of Los Angeles TransPORTer, a mobile exhibit that features displays on the history, jobs, cargo, equipment, environmental programs and future of the port, will open for visitors. Southern California’s top research universities will be represented with displays and interactive exhibits on their latest research and development projects. And local high schools have been invited to bring displays on their STEM projects. Anyone considering a career in research, technology or the maritime industries, will surely find something of interest at the expo.

Clean Tech – Cool Tech will also feature a host of alternative fuel and electric vehicles for use on both land and water. If you are considering purchasing a hybrid or plug-in electric automobile, several vehicles will be available to look over, and experts certified to maintain them will be available to answer questions. Small, medium and full-size electric trucks will also be on display. And speaking of vehicles, unmanned, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) are becoming more versatile for both land and sea applications, and both will be exhibited at the expo.

Electric lighting and ways of saving energy have been hot topics for years. We’ve progressed from incandescent, to fluorescent, to Light Emitting Diode (LED) lights in an effort to reduce energy and cost. Come see a demonstration of the next generation in lighting: Light Emitting Plasma (LEP).

Councilman Joe Buscaino will be the featured speaker during the Clean Tech – Cool Tech event. In addition, representatives from AltaSea, the marine research center planned for City Dock #1, will share their vision and plans for the iconic, world-class facility. Food trucks and entertainment round out the event. So, step into the future on September 11 at the fourth annual PortTechEXPO. For further info, see www.PortTechLA.org.spt

Herb Zimmer owns PriorityOne Printing in downtown San Pedro and serves as Board Chairman of PortTechLA.

San Pedro: Constantly Evolving, Yet Grounded in History

“Like the Pacific Ocean lapping at its shores, the community of San Pedro is ever-changing… the only constant is that its culture, economy and environment are, as always, tied to its port.” Those were the opening words of an article on San Pedro’s past and future that I wrote a few years back for a Chamber of Commerce publication. On the occasion of San Pedro’s 125th anniversary, it seems appropriate to revisit some of what I learned while researching that article.

Every community evolves based on changes in economic trends, demographics and technological developments. San Pedro is not unique in that respect. However, we are certainly unique in how those factors, in combination with our geographic location, have shaped the community that San Pedro is today and will become in the future.

Historically, our economy has evolved through multiple stages: ranching, trading in hides and lumber, military activities, fishing, canning, shipbuilding, and international trade. All have had their impact on the community, and each one, to a greater or lesser extent, has been dependent on the fact that we are located adjacent to one of the world’s great ports.

Each economic era brought new demographic elements to the community. Originally populated by Spanish and Mexican ranching families, the advent of military activities and large fishing and shipbuilding industries brought new immigrants from around the country and around the world. Today, San Pedro is truly an ethnic melting pot with many residents tracing their heritage to Spanish, Mexican, Italian, Slavic, Japanese, Norwegian Swedish and other immigrants. The blend of traditions, ideas and cultures that derives from that mix has given San Pedro a flavor all its own, and an energy and open-mindedness that’s seldom found in more homogenous communities.

Technological change has also had a major effect on San Pedro. Ships have gone from sail, to steam, to diesel power, and have grown from small schooners to megaships. That has enabled the pace of international trade and activity at our port to increase exponentially and, with the advent of containerization, automation has made it possible to handle enormous volumes of cargo. The downside has been that automation brought with it the negative effects of fewer local jobs and the added pollution produced by diesel-powered ships, trains, trucks and cargo handling equipment.

Looking to the future, San Pedro will continue to evolve economically, environmentally and socially. To become sustainable in all three areas will require the creation of a new, well-paid local job base and the elimination of the negative environmental effects produced by the large industrial port. Knowing that, port management and the community have come together on several sustainability initiatives primarily centered on diversification of port-related activity.

Current and future community development plans include a bridge-to-breakwater waterfront promenade and Red Car route, the USS Iowa, a new downtown harbor and plaza, a completely redeveloped Ports O’ Call Village, Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles and AltaSea (a world-class marine research institute). These waterfront venues are designed to create new jobs based on tourism, arts and culture, recreation, academics and marine research. PortTechLA, a public/private technology center and business incubator founded by the San Pedro business community in cooperation with the City and Port of Los Angeles, will develop and grow new technical, manufacturing and export jobs by attracting companies with technologies that help port tenants meet challenges with the environment, clean energy, logistics and homeland security.

This is a very dynamic and exciting time for our community. However, as our economy grows, we add new community assets, and become more environmentally sustainable, one thing is sure to remain constant… that unique sense of community that has marked our entire history. People make a community. And there is no better community in which to live, work and play than San Pedro. spt

Herb Zimmer owns PriorityOne Printing in downtown.

The Future Will Be All About Electricity

If you’re like me, you’ve pretty much taken electricity for granted. However, after a couple of recent extended power outages in our neighborhood, I really began thinking about just how much our lives are based on those little electrons flowing into the devices that make our standard of living possible.

As if I needed more evidence of the importance of electricity, once the power was restored, I happened upon an episode of the television series, Revolution, the premise of which is that all electric power in the world suddenly goes out permanently. In the series, civil society devolves into warring factions on horseback with bows and arrows. Fiction? Yes. But, consider everything you use during an average day that runs on electricity or required electricity for its manufacture. The generation, distribution, conservation, storage and cost of electricity are becoming more and more critical, not only in our personal lives, but for our entire economy.

Our largest local economic asset is the port. Take a look at that port, especially at night. Imagine how much electricity it takes to keep operations running safely and smoothly. Without a constant, consistent flow of electricity, all the goods that come into the port, and all the jobs they represent, are in danger of going elsewhere. The challenge, therefore, is to ensure that, as the port grows “green,” the supply of clean electric energy grows with it.

Electricity can be generated in numerous ways. Some methods use fossil fuels to run turbines. The obvious downside is that fossil fuels are not green. Nuclear power generation has its own environmental and safety problems. Solar, wind, fuel cell, hydroelectric, thermoelectric and wave action generation are more environmentally sustainable, and some combination of these renewables will likely be the future of electricity generation. The challenge, however, is that there are still significant technological and cost factors to overcome. Likewise, finding ways to store large amounts of that generated energy for use at a later time remains an elusive goal.

Electricity is distributed to users through a grid system. Our current grid infrastructure is in dire need of upgrading to keep pace with the exponential growth in electricity demand. It also needs to become “smarter” in order to do things such as smoothly integrate intermittent sources of electricity – like solar and wind – into the overall flow and also enable prioritization of distribution-based critical need.

Finding solutions to the above challenges is a high priority with our research and entrepreneur communities. One recent week, I witnessed just two examples: Through PortTechLA, I met Dr. Rajit Gadh, Director of UCLA’s SMERC (Smart Grid Energy Research Center). Dr. Gadh demonstrated for us how, using his smartphone, he monitors and controls 15 multi-plug electric vehicle charging stations on the UCLA campus. He is able to, among other things, stop and start charging of any vehicle, time charging to use off-peak rates when possible, and prioritize which vehicle gets charged first, based on when it is going to be needed. Combining the electric grid, wireless Internet, advanced sensors and smartphone technology in this way will revolutionize how future fleets of electric vehicles are controlled. The same week, I was part of a tour of one of the port’s terminal operations where advanced, more efficient, less expensive LED lamps are being tested as a replacement for the old high-pole sodium lamp “wagon wheels” we’re used to seeing every night. These lamps could save terminal operators thousands of dollars and produce better lighting for safety purposes. Even more energy efficient plasma lamps are just coming available, too.

Bottom line: While we can’t take electricity for granted, and there are challenges ahead, some really exciting things are happening in the world of electric power. spt

Herb Zimmer owns PriorityOne Printing in downtown San Pedro.

and is chairman of the PortTechLA technology business incubator.

Tripod: Our Loveable Inspiration

Tripod (photo Herb Zimmer)

It was December 9, 1999, when she came into our lives.

I was leaving a meeting at the Banning Museum, crossing Banning Park in Wilmington, when a small reddish-brown puppy ran across my path. It was trying to avoid some kids who were chasing it. I stopped them and asked if it was their dog. They said no and that they thought it was a stray. Once the kids stopped chasing the puppy, it stopped too, turned, looked at me curiously and tentatively came toward me. Only then, did I notice that the puppy was walking on only three legs. The left hind leg was twisted at an angle and didn’t reach the ground as the dog walked. Seeing no owner, and thinking that maybe the puppy had been dumped in the park because of its condition, I picked it up and put it in the car.

It had been only two months earlier that Arlene and I had lost our two much-loved Westies. We’d sworn that we were not going to have another dog anytime soon. The plan was to immediately find a home for this new puppy. Well, we found out very quickly that no one wants a dog with a broken leg. Just as quickly, we realized that this adorable little girl was meant to be ours. We named her Tripod after a three-legged dog in a detective novel I had read just days earlier. (The timing was scary.) At our first visit to the veterinarian, we learned that Tripod was approximately four-months-old, was probably a Lab/Ridgeback mix, was going to grow to be about 65 pounds and would be able to live a normal life if we had the broken leg removed.

On a Thursday afternoon, when she was eight months old, Tripod had surgery to remove the useless leg. We picked her up from the canine orthopedic surgeon Friday morning, gently lifted her into the car so as not to disturb the stitches where her leg had been, cradled her in Arlene’s lap and drove home. When we arrived, Tripod launched herself out of the car, ran in the front door, up fourteen steps, jumped on her couch and sat there with a look on her face that seemed to say, “So, can we play now?”

Since that day, Tripod has been an inspiration and a teacher. At the dog park, Tripod never thought of herself as different than the other dogs, and neither did they. Though she couldn’t run after thrown balls as fast as others, she never stopped trying. She’s come to work at the print shop with me every workday for thirteen years. She’s been our meeter, greeter and goodwill ambassador. She loves kids, and there have been many times a client’s child has crawled in and shared Tripod’s bed with her under the bindery table.

Now, at thirteen and a half (almost 95 in human years), her one functional back hip is wracked with arthritis. I have to use a sling to help her get around and to go up and down stairs. No matter what, though, she still has that puppy outlook on life… always positive, always curious, never judging, never complaining. Every time Arlene and I grumble about our minor aches and pains, all it takes is one look at Tripod to set us straight.

The once reddish-brown puppy now has a very white face. But her eyes still sparkle and her ears still perk up when it’s time for dinner or for one of her favorite treats: a big soup bone that Arlene roasts just for her. I don’t know how much longer Tripod is going to be with us. However long it is, we’ve been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn so many great life lessons from our three-legged “daughter.”

Thank you, Tripod. We love you. spt

Herb Zimmer owns PriorityOne Printing in downtown San Pedro.

A Little Story About Serendipity

It’s funny how things happen.

There we were, ensconced in premium box seats on a beautiful, sunny Thursday afternoon at the Hollywood Bowl. Esa-Pekka Salonen was on stage conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in rehearsal for an upcoming Saturday night concert. Other than our party of four and the orchestra, the Bowl was completely devoid of people. The orchestra was, in effect, playing a private concert, with editorial comment by the conductor, just for us. The funny part is that we were only there through a crazy series of errors, miscommunications and a serendipitous meeting.

The path to our private concert actually began at a charity fundraiser luncheon arranged by a local pet rescue organization. As is customary at many such events, there were tables full of silent auction items on which to bid. Above each bid sheet on the table was either the actual item offered for bid, or something that represented that item. While perusing the items, my wife, Arlene, came upon a beautiful painting of the Port’s venerable old fireboat, the Ralph J. Scott. She thought it would look nice on the wall at home, so without further thought or investigation, I bid on it. We were surprised and excited when, during lunch, we were told that we had won it. However, when I went to the check-out table to retrieve the painting, I was handed a white envelope with a certificate inside that stated that it was redeemable for a one-hour ride on the fireboat, for a party of four, and dinner with the firemen at the fireboat station. Had we actually read the bid sheet, we’d have known that the painting was just there as a representation of the actual bid item.

The ride and dinner sounded great anyway. So, as instructed on the certificate, we called the appropriate phone number and were given a date and time to be at the fireboat station. To fill out our foursome, we invited our friends Bob Beck and his wife Doris Theriault. The four of us arrived at the fireboat station at the appointed time and – another surprise – no one knew anything about us or our ride and dinner. Someone had failed to notify the firemen on duty that day. Showing the adaptability you would expect from our firemen, however, they made some excuse about one of the guys needing more “water time,” the fireboat was readied and we were off on a wonderful two-hour cruise around the Harbor. Upon our return to the fireboat station, however, we found that the firemen were not planning dinner at the station that evening. There were no provisions or manpower available. After receiving many apologies, and a promise that we could return at another time to join them for dinner, we bid farewell to the men of Fireboat Station 112 and decided to have dinner at Ports O’ Call Restaurant instead.

It was a beautiful evening, so we chose a table on the patio. During dinner, Doris noticed an older man dining alone at an adjacent table and struck up a conversation with him. He introduced himself as Richard Kelly. He told us that he was the long-time principal bass player for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and for the next two hours we listened, transfixed, as he regaled us with stories about playing at all the world’s great orchestral venues. As we said goodnight, he invited us to be his guest for that great Los Angeles Philharmonic rehearsal at the Hollywood Bowl.

In the end, we don’t have a nice painting on our wall, but we certainly do have some great memories. I’ve thought about that serendipitous sequence of events many times over the years and now, whenever things don’t go as planned, I think, “That’s okay, maybe there’ll be a Hollywood Bowl ending.” spt

Herb Zimmer owns PriorityOne Printing in downtown San Pedro

Can Government Be Run Like A Business?

Over the last few months we’ve all heard and read a lot of political rhetoric advocating that government should be run like a business, and that electing a president with extensive business experience would be good for the country. As a business owner, and someone who has dealt with many government agencies and elected representatives over the years, I have trouble subscribing to that theory.

Business and government are two very dissimilar professions – one being based on profits, the other on public service. They require different skillsets and different mindsets.

When most people say, “We should run government like a business,” I think what they really mean is: “We should run government more efficiently.” There’s little doubt that there is, and always will be, plenty of room for improved governmental efficiency. However, unless we’re willing to give up our democratic system and install a dictator, democratic government will continue to be inherently inefficient and, at times, downright messy. The Founding Fathers designed it that way.

Remember all that stuff about the three branches of government and “checks and balances” from civics class in high school? That model has worked for the U.S. government for over two hundred years, but no one in his or her right mind would use it as a business model.

The power to act, and the obligations, of a corporate CEO, is dramatically different from those of the President of the United States. A corporate CEO is empowered to unilaterally make all primary corporate decisions (subject to Board approval, of course). His or her obligation is to make the maximum profit for constituents (shareholders) by being as efficient and competitive as possible. That’s how he or she is judged. Achieving maximum efficiency and competitiveness, however, usually means paying little attention to externalities such as how many workers become unemployed, whether employees can support a family on what they are being paid or how much environmental damage is caused by company operations.

The president, on the other hand, is empowered to do very little unilaterally. In order to get something done, he or she must convince a majority (or in many cases, a supermajority) of 435 congress members and 100 senators to back a decision. Each of those 535 elected representatives has a different viewpoint, constituent base, degree of party loyalty and personal agenda. Building consensus requires diplomatic skill and compromise… not skills required of, or possessed by, most CEOs.

The president’s constituency is comprised of every U.S. citizen (not just the 53% who voted for him, as one current candidate seems to believe) and his or her obligation is to provide for the security and the physical, economic, environmental and social sustainability of the entire country. Among other things, that means being concerned with all of those externalities those CEOs can ignore. The president can’t fire or lay off inefficient, unproductive citizens who are infirm or too senior to work; is obligated to provide a safety net for those in poverty; and has to ensure that the infrastructure and environmental protections are in place that will support a sustainable society. Efficiency is still a goal, but within the framework of public service.

Very few of our presidents have come from the business world, and three of the more recent ones, Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush, have not had what most people would consider successful presidencies.

The father of modern political economics, Adam Smith, once wrote, “The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from people who make money by the employment of stock, ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention.” spt