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In the Spotlight: John Castle and Creating a Company

John Castle

John Castle

Every year, Creating a Company, as the course is dubbed, becomes less a class than a crash course in entrepreneurship. Groups of eager students team up, form a company, apply for a $1,000-$2,000 loan from the Foster School of Business, and spend the next few months hawking their product or service to the wider world.

Past companies have sold goods ranging from Husky apparel to glass jars of cake mix; other companies have launched art galleries and driven students to the mountain passes for a day on the slopes. (Read below for photos and memories of some of the course’s most memorable products.)

At the heart of it all is lecturer John Castle, who has taught the class for the past 12 years – and who will retire at year’s end.

In 2001, Castle had stepped down as CEO from Cantametrix, a music software company he helped found, when a neighbor and former UW professor approached him about inheriting the Creating a Company course. With more than 40 years of business acumen, Castle didn’t lack experience: Before joining the UW, he had served as CEO of Hamilton-Thorn, a medical electronics and diagnostics company; cofounded Seragen, a biotechnology company; and was a partner in Washington Biotechnology Funding, a seed venture capital fund specializing in medical technologies.

Since then, he’s drawn on that extensive experience as would-be CEOS have created and developed dozens of companies. Castle’s only rule in approving companies and dispersing loans is “Do no harm,” meaning that students can’t, say, promote underage drinking by selling shot glasses to fraternities and sororities on campus. (This actually happened.)

When the class ends, students return any profits to the Foster School and can buy their company for $1 to keep it going. Few companies have outlived their academic years, but Castle knows the experience will remain long after grades are posted. “Whether or not they learn how to do it well, they will learn whether or not they want to start their own business.” Castle said. “This is as realistic of an experience of entrepreneurship as we can make it.”

Read on for a look back at some of the most memorable products and services offered by students during Castle’s tenure.

Read more…

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Capturing Grays Harbor history

This man, thought to be radio DJ Stan Spiegle, appears in the the newsreel footage that sheds a light on Grays Harbor County history.

This man, thought to be radio DJ Stan Spiegle, appears in the the newsreel footage that sheds a light on Grays Harbor County history.

We ran an article in the latest issue of Columns about a UW-produced documentary centering around newsreel footage that peeled back the curtain on life in 1920s Grays Harbor County.

“Grays Harbor Happenings” looks at life before the Great Depression in this bustling coastal town. The 45-minutes of film that inspired the documentary keeps the past alive on the Libraries Special Collections website, offering short clips of events big and small. Browse the collection for a few minutes, and you’ll see footage of a shipwreck, log-rolling contests, baseball games, an ice cream social, picnics and more.

The newsreel footage, originally shown before full-length feature films, depicts a sense of time and place that resonates nearly a century later, said Hannah Palin, film archives specialist with Libraries Special Collections. “You capture people, behavior, customs, and the environment, and it’s actually moving,” she said. “It helps our current experience if we can see how we were in the past.”

Each of the roughly 50 clips contains its own back story, and some of those stories are still being uncovered today.

Here are a few of the clips with unusual histories or notable stars, along with some background information, courtesy of Palin.

This unidentified man is thought to be local radio DJ Stan Spiegle

Palin believes that the stoic man on-screen from :24-:35 is Stan Spiegle, a  DJ with KXRO Radio in Grays Harbor County.

The radio station was owned at the time by Roy Olmstead, a famous Seattle-based bootlegger during Prohibition. Olmstead would play certain songs with the station’s radio broadcasts to signal boats that it was safe to smuggle bootlegged booze into Grays Harbor. “I don’t know how much Stan knew about this,” Palin admits. “There’s this funny tie with this little 20-second clip to a whole history of Prohibition.”

James M. Phillips, mayor of Aberdeen, address a crowd at what appears to be Grays Harbor County Fairgrounds

American Indian James M. Phillips moved from Pennsylvania to Aberdeen after college, where he launched an improbably successful political career. He began practicing law in 1907, was later elected mayor of Aberdeen, and went onto serve as a Superior Court Judge from 1929 to 1950. Phillips is thought to be the first American Indian to serve as a judge in the Washington state court system. “It obviously didn’t hinder his politics at all,” Palin said.

Mel Ingram and the Aberdeen Black Cats win the Timber League Pennant

Mel Ingram was a baseball player in the late 1920s with the Aberdeen Black Cats, part of the semi-professional Timber League. The team took its logo from a good luck charm posted at logging camps throughout the region, a nod to the town’s labor-friendly policies under Mayor James M. Phillips. Palin said that Ingram might have once shared the field with Babe Ruth when the legendary slugger played an exhibition game in Tacoma.

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Q&A: Ludovic Morlot, Music Director, Seattle Symphony

Ludovic Morlot will guest conduct the UW Symphony on Feb. 28 at Meany Hall.

Ludovic Morlot will guest conduct the UW Symphony on Feb. 28 at Meany Hall.

Ludovic Morlot has made a big splash in his first few years as music director of the Seattle Symphony, drawing praise for triumphantly leading his ensembles through notoriously difficult works. Later this month, Morlot will lead another orchestra in a challenging piece when he guest-conducts the University Symphony through Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé. Blog Down to Washington caught up with Morlot after rehearsal, and he agreed to answer a few questions about the concert, his thoughts on conducting a student orchestra, and the importance of music in our lives.

Blog Down to Washington: Some of the audience members will be Arts Dawgs pass holders. As part of this series, they’ll be seeing a dance recital, live theater, a museum exhibition—that is, these are people who are interested in the arts, but not necessarily coming from an orchestral music background. Do you have any advice for people who are maybe not as experienced with classical music when they come to this concert?

Ludovic Morlot: I think that if this is the first time they experience live symphony music, they should feel very lucky. One of the things I’m trying to do with the Seattle Symphony is to really create that first opportunity to experience live sound as early as possible in our lives. Once we’ve created that memory, it doesn’t really matter if you like Ravel or Mozart or Pink Floyd, or whatever.

Beyond that, there is the element of experiencing a live performance. Music is a performing art—Classical music is not something you hang on a wall. Each time you start a concert you have to start from scratch. You don’t know if the oboe reed is going to be splitting well that night or if something’s going to go wrong—it has that element of adrenaline that one would identify with any other performing art: dance, theater, even sports, to some extent. So this is what I think would be easy for people coming from different backgrounds to identify with: that experience of live performance. The excitement and the energy that we can create on stage is what I hope people can get out of it. And the sheer beauty of the music, of course.

I know that this concert also features many different soloists from the University, so it’s an exciting night just for that, and there will be great variety, with [a concerto by] Prokofiev and Ravel’s Left Hand Concerto, so my collaboration with the orchestra is only a small part of this big deal.

BDTW: You’ve been in Seattle almost two years now. How do you like it?

LM: Oh, I love it here. It’s just been quite a journey, quite a busy one. I love being able to finally start a collaboration with the UW, and I know that there’s more to come, so I’m really excited. The work we do with the orchestras in the University is a combination of really trying to tell a story, put on a good concert—that’s very important—but it’s also a work in progress. This is what I want to emphasize: the concert is one thing, but beyond that, is establishing as a working relationship over the years. [Ravel’s  Daphnis et Chloé] is complex stuff—the students are not going to go out after three rehearsals and perform Daphnis at the best level you can possibly imagine, but what seems very important is how we can evolve from one week to the next together and how the students can take some information home so that their individual level of playing is transformed—overnight, really.

BDTW: Is that the difference between working with students and professionals?

LM: Well with professionals it’s actually a little bit of the same tune. As a music director, not only do you want to do a great concert, you always envision where you want the orchestra to be five years now. So it’s not different; the only difference is that my relationship with this orchestra here is very new. It may start at a different level, but the focus is the same. I feel privileged and excited about this collaboration.

BDTW: It’s clear you see these collaborations as an important part of your job here in Seattle

LM: Exactly. It’s about creating a memory and an understanding and making sure all these young people sitting in the orchestra know the power of music—the mission for all of us is that it becomes infectious. You know, it doesn’t really matter what level you play, just the fact that it’s part of your life makes a big difference.

 

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The Funkiest Linguist in the Descriptivist School is Coming to Kane Hall

pullum

Looks harmless, doesn’t he? But he’s coming after your grammatical crotchets and linguistic hobgoblins–your lexical bugaboos too! (Photo from www.lel.ed.ac.uk/~gpullum/)

Before embarking on a career in linguistics, Geoffrey K. Pullum could be found gadding about 1960s Germany playing piano for Sonny Stewart and the Dynamos (listed as “Jeff Pullem”) and later for Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band (that’s him rocking the organ in this YouTube video). The stresses of life on the road led him to eventually abandon his musical career and instead pursue “the glamour and excitement of becoming a linguist.”

In the years since, in his classes and as a contributor to the popular linguistics blog Language Log, Pullum has engaged in battle with what he terms “prescriptivist poppycock.”

Read more…

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Coffee Break! 10 Places to Get Coffee around Campus

Mmmmmm. Coffee

Mmmmmm. Coffee

For many college students, coffee is an integral part of school life. As we students cram in last minute papers and stay up late studying for exams, coffee often becomes a necessity. Fortunately for the thousands of students at UW, Seattle is the coffee-drinking capitol of the country.

Over the nearly four years that I have been studying at UW, I have probably drunk hundreds of cups of coffee. Here is a review of 10 coffee shops that I frequent regularly around UW.

1.Orin’s Place, PACCAR Hall

Location: 1st floor of PACCAR Hall, North Campus

Coffee: 6/10
Studying Ability: 5/10
Crowd: Undergraduate and graduate students
Why I come here: Studying in between classes

Review: One of the newer cafes on campus, Orin’s Place was added when PACCAR Hall was refurbished. Orin’s serves Starbucks coffee, unlike many of the other campus coffee shops, which serve Tully’s. The cafe is comprised of a section of PACCAR Hall’s first floor and contains several tables and chairs where many students choose to eat their lunches brought from home. Since the cafe is located right next to a main staircase, it can get extremely noisy during the 10-minute passing periods when students are getting out of their classes.

2. Parnassus Café, Art Building

Location: basement of the Art Building, North Campus

Coffee: 9/10
Studying Ability: 9/10
Crowd: Art students
Why I come here: For studying in between classes, reading, and to drink espresso.

Review: Parnassus is easily my favorite coffee shop on campus. The espresso drinks are always great and the cafe makes the dank basement of the Art building seem quite a bit cozier. Since there aren’t too many outlets, many students like myself choose to bring printed-out readings and study materials.

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Q&A: Patrick Lennon, ’09, local star of “Santaland Diaries”

Patrick Lennon

UW alum Patrick Lennon, ’09 (Photo courtesy Susan Doupe)

For many, David Sedaris’ madcap “Santaland Diaries” is a holiday tradition for the new millennium. The essay-turned-stage production follows Sedaris’ season as an elf in Santaland at Macy’s department store. Seattle Public Theater, on the banks of Green Lake, has offered the hour-long, one-man monologue six times in the past eight years.

UW alum Patrick Lennon, ’09, donned the elf hat this year and is currently starring in the production, slated to wrap up on Dec. 24. The Seattle native has acted since middle school but didn’t major in theater, pursuing instead a B.A. from the Jackson School of International Studies. Offstage, Lennon serves as a program assistant for Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the UW. Lennon recently talked to the UWAA about his time on campus and “Santaland Diaries.”

Note: This Q&A has been edited for content and clarity.

Why did you pursue a degree in International Studies?

I think it was winter quarter of my freshman year when I took SIS 201 (“The Making of the 21st Century”) with Mary Callahan, and I was completely hooked. As soon as I took it, I was like, ‘I’m done! I have found my major! We are set here.’

I was really happy with that decision. Dr. Callahan was so obviously passionate about the subject, so knowledgeable and engaging. It was like, ‘This is the subject I want to pursue and spend a lot of time digging deeper into.’

Why not theater?

I was very practical and wanted to have a degree that was in something different, not in case acting failed, but more so to be well-rounded. I wanted to have more of a balance in my life.

Read more…

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There and Back Again: The Story of The Hobbit

Hobbit image

“The Hobbit” opened this weekend to strong ticket sales, but did it live up to the hype? Let us know in the comments!

We like to add a little UW twist to our Member Movie Nights. For our UWAA member night at The Hobbit last Friday and Saturday, UW History Professor Robin Chapman Stacey graciously agreed to share some thoughts on Tolkein and the book that gave rise to the film. Have you seen The Hobbit? Tell us what you thought of it in the comments!

Unlike its considerably darker successor The Lord of the Rings (LOTR), The Hobbit was a work intended originally for children, having begun as bed-time stories told by Tolkien to his sons. Tolkien had not envisaged publishing the story until an early version of the manuscript fell into the hands of an employee of the Allen and Unwin publishing firm. Unwin’s ten-year old son gave the resulting typescript an enthusiastic thumbs-up, and The Hobbit became an enormous popular success practically overnight. Published in September of 1937, it was sold out by Christmas; by the time its “sequel” LOTR was published nearly twenty years later, it was in its seventh edition.

Even in its origins, however, The Hobbit was deeper than it looked. Tolkien was a professor at Oxford, a philologist, and a specialist in the heroic languages and literatures of the medieval North. Many of his characters and plot elements came directly from the ancient works he knew so well: the dwarf names from the Old Norse Völuspá; the theft of the cup from the Old English poem Beowulf; the dragon’s soft underbelly and salvific bird speech from the Norse tale of Sigurd and the dragon Fáfnir; the riddle game from yet another old Norse story. Even the riddles exchanged by Bilbo and Gollum have ancient antecedents.

And yet Tolkien’s story is anything but a standard heroic tale. As critic Tom Shippey has observed, a large part of the genius of The Hobbit—and certainly much of its comedy—comes from the juxtaposition of this ancient world of dragons and heroes with the endearing fussiness of Bilbo, the unlikely burglar recruited by Gandalf to join the dwarves on their grand adventure. Bilbo is the epitome of Edwardian middle-class English life: comfortable in his home and habits, fond of tea, ornamental waistcoats, and generous meals taken throughout the day. He is absolutely the last creature in the world one would expect to find bedding down next to dwarves and wielding an ancient sword, and yet it is his good sense and bourgeois belief in fairness that ultimately saves the dwarves from disaster. One has only to compare the dwarf Balin’s last words to Bilbo with Bilbo’s to him to see the comic clash between styles and lifestyles: “‘If ever you visit us again, when our halls are made fair once more, then the feast shall indeed be splendid!’ ‘If ever you are passing my way,’ said Bilbo, ‘don’t wait to knock! Tea is at four, but any of you are welcome at any time!’”

Indeed, Tolkien (who once termed himself “a hobbit in all but size”) is having fun with language throughout the tale. “Bag End” (the plain English version of the snobbishly Frenchified term “cul-de-sac,” which Tolkien immortalized in the name of Bilbo’s objectionable relatives, the Sackville- Bagginses) was the name of Tolkien’s aunt Jane’s farm. “Baggins” is northern English slang for a laborer’s tea or snack eaten between meals; and “auction” a play on a dialect word for “mess.” “Burglar” itself is related to the word “bourgeois,” and while the origins of the word “hobbit” are murky, Tolkien later invented for it a fictitious, but linguistically plausible etymology meaning “hole-dweller.” This is in large part what separates Tolkien from many contemporary authors working in the fantasy genre. Rather than inventing worlds and creatures first and only then imagining the languages they might speak, Tolkien began with language and worked from there to discover the nature of the world in which such a language would make sense. As he later described how he came to begin The Hobbit, he was marking exams when he came on a page the candidate had left blank. “I wrote on it: ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.’ Names always generate a story in my mind. Eventually I thought I’d better find out what hobbits were like.”

The Hobbit may have begun as a children’s story, but as Tolkien began writing what would ultimately become LOTR, he went back and revised Bilbo’s adventures so as to integrate them into the much more adult world of Middle-earth. He removed several of the authorial asides (which he had come to regard as patronizing and unserious) and, more importantly, changed the nature of the Ring itself. In the first edition merely a magical device that Gollum was willing to bet as his stake in the riddle game, the Ring became in subsequent editions something altogether more sinister—the One Ring of Sauron, an item Gollum would never have risked, and one so corrupting as to cause even the naturally honest Bilbo to lie. Indeed, it was to this process of bringing Bilbo’s tale further into Middle-earth that Peter Jackson made appeal on Facebook this past July in announcing his decision to incorporate into his film material from the LOTR appendices and present his film version of the book in three parts rather than two: “in the words of Professor Tolkien himself, [it was] ‘a tale that grew in the telling.’”

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A Day in the Life of an Undergraduate

UW Senior Alisa Song has generously offered to take us along as she goes through her day at the University of Washington. Alisa is majoring in mathematics and economics, with a minor in international studies, and plans to graduate in June 2013. -Ed.

5:30 a.m.  Alarm goes off. I fall back asleep.

5:33 a.m.  I wake up and go through the morning routine of contemplating the pros and cons of going to my Beginners’ Yoga class at the IMA. I sleepily visualize my morning yoga class. My bed is definitely more comfortable than trying to make my heels touch the ground while attempting a downward dog. On the other hand, skipping class this morning will only make it harder to attend the next class. Plus, I’ve grown particularly fond of my quiet classmates who have struggled with me, class after class.

5:40 a.m.  As usual, I decide to go for it and get out of bed.

6:39 a.m. I am half-awake on the bus ride to campus. There was more traffic than usual today. I get off the bus and realize that I have to sprint toward the IMA if I want to be on time.

6:45 a.m. – 8:00 a.m. After a four-minute sprint through the Burke-Gilman Trail and up a flight of stairs, I arrive at Studio 316 in the IMA. With 30 seconds to spare I am wide-awake, sitting on my squishy yoga mat and ready for class to begin.

Yoga in Studio 316

Bright sunlight fills Studio 316 in the early morning.

9:00 a.m. – 9:20 a.m. I get back to main campus and, with  a couple minutes before my next class, decide to study on the ground floor of Suzzallo Library for a quiz that I will be taking in my first class today.

9:30 a.m. – 11:20 a.m. My Public Relations and Society class is in the Communications building— about a 20-second walk from Suzzallo. This is a morning class, but nearly everyone comes to every session. Today we learn the basics of consumer relations and review case studies from our textbook.

11:30 a.m. Lunchtime! The weather is chilly, so there are only a dozen students hanging out in Red Square. Most students probably chose to eat inside Suzzallo Café or at By George Café. I decide to get food from one of the food trucks on Red Square. I order a BBQ Slider smothered in Carolina Mustard Sauce with a side of Macaroni and Cheese. Since there is no line, my hot food is ready in two minutes.

Food Trucks on Red Square

Food trucks became a popular place for students to get food while the Husky Union Building was being renovated these past two years.

1:30 p.m. – 3:20 p.m. Next, it is time for my International Trade class in Savery Hall, which is located at the bottom of the Quad. This building is the home of the Economics, Sociology and Philosophy Departments and was renovated in 2009. Savery is easily one of my favorite buildings on campus; the building’s exterior retained its original, breathtakingly beautiful look while its indoors were given a modern update with fast elevators, large classrooms and spacious hallways.

4:00 p.m.  By the time my economics class is over, I am in the mood for a hot cup of coffee. I have plans to catch up with a friend I met in a previous economics course. We decide to meet in the basement of the Art building, which hosts Parnassus Café. This café is student-run and serves arguably the best coffee on campus.

6:00 p.m. After coffee, I head to Room 202 in Thomson Hall, where the Jackson School Student Association Club is holding its weekly meeting. Our meeting focuses on an upcoming lecture panel about the crisis in Mali. We put together a list of professors that we will ask to speak during this panel.

6:30 p.m. After nearly 12 hours on campus, it is time for me to take a bus home.

7:30 p.m. It takes me an hour to get home with the evening traffic. At home, I eat spaghetti for dinner with my family.

8:00 p.m. My brother and I both love the television show “Friends.” I have all 10 seasons downloaded on my iTunes, so we spend the next 45 minutes watching a couple episodes together.

9:00 p.m. I don’t have any homework due until the middle of next week. I decide to spend some time on Tumblr, my favorite social media platform. Tumblr is a microblogging website that is mainly photo-based. I devote the next hour to reblogging photos of tantalizing plates of food, beautiful clothes I want to own and impossibly fat puppies.

10:45 p.m. After a long and eventful day, I am ready for sleep. I set my alarm on my phone and fall asleep well before midnight.

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