It Effing Hurts

No music, no clever quips. We buried 4 cats in the last 6 months.Two, Paris and Talulah were new kittens brought into the family after our one of our elder cats Simone died. Paris and Talulah were before the FIP got a grip on them lively amazing kittens. Classic in their energy.

One of our  elder cats, Simone,  was almost 18 years old when she died. Simone was always Ms. Grumpy Pants,;a tiny puff of a cat. She had a thyroid problem which we suspected over the course of her life stunted her growth. She was the queen of the house without a doubt.

Nina was by far and away MY cat. Towards the end of her life she would hide out in our room until I came from work. Then upon hearing me come in she would come out onto our bed for some head scratching. I knew she was sick. She should have been dead a year ago due to cancer.  She managed to stay with me until March 19 of this year. On her final night, she woke us having a final spasm down near the foot of our bed. That was it, she was gone.

Across the span of all the cats I have owned in my life,and I have loved hem all, there are  three clear favorites. Nina, Thelonious, and Monk. Of these three Nina is the  queen.

Death is a strange and permanent thing for both the one who dies , and those who are left to remember them.

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Bye Nina, I hope I see you on the other side

Hmm, Self-Driving Cars; Is there better way to go ?

In this post, let’s talk about a good thing

It is impressive, the progress that has been made by Google and others in the realm of self-driving cars. I can certainly see the wins around having cars drive themselves while allowing the occupants to text, work or whatever else they might do. It reminds me of my own commute practices during the work week and how I am able to do other things while heading to work.Yup, I take a train, and then bike to my office from the train station. I think the Amtrak train and other services like it are called public transportation.

Public transportation i.e modes of transportation enabling folks to get around at a reasonable price.

It seems to me this latest wave of self driving vehicles and their attendant technologies are a great next step for us all. Imagine if this technology was deployed in support of public transportation on a large scale.

Who knows, in light of all the sercurity and privacy issues everyone is concerned about might at least catalyze  the transformation of Google’s assertion “Don’t be evil” into  “be fabulously good, and help others”.

KCRW + Internet = Music Heaven

Since about 2000 which was my last serious bout of “I wanna move back home to Los Angeles”. I have been listening to LA’s gem of a radio station KCRW. I lie to you not, nor is this any hometown hyperbole. KCRW flat out is, for people like me who have musical tastes which span from Britten to vintage NWA, from Andrew Hill to DJ Sasha, the best source on air going. Couple that with the ability to search out artists heard there and use the jazz music aficionado’s (of which I am one) trick of searching out the entire band lineup for work they might have done elsewhere via the internet, and yes, you too can spend countless hours in something way more productive and individual in spirit then trolling Facebook of algorithmically based music tastes. Here are two examples of tuneage I came to just in the last two days Submotion Orchestra’s Trust/Lust and Hiatus Kaiote’s Laputa

That is all

Odds are this revolution WON”T be televised; no disrespect intended brother Gil-Scott

Nope it won’t be televised, but it may be postponed because Facebook was down. Sometimes we can be so trifling. And WE know who WE are… ;)

I sent the following (although here, somewhat abridged) to a list serve I am on:

I am writing as it seems that we are again having an industry-wide conversation about diversity…egads!!!!

This is, if my memory serves me correctly, the third or fourth time in my career that I have seen diversity come up in the valley. As I recall, there was an uptick of discussion and awareness around the lack of “diversity” in tech  3 years ago, roughly around the turn the century , again in the mid-nineties, and I am pretty sure I recall one in the late 80s.

I’d like to share some thinking i have over the course of my career around all of this

Reality vs folklore 

I wonder if *we* need to collectively look a little more closely at the reality of the valley vs. the folklore of the valley which serves as the official “history”.

Part of that reality is the genesis of valley culture and where it came from. Who was present early and what influence that has had on the look and feel of the valley today ? or in a more verbose fashion;Since the valley started as sort of a loose collection of interests and personalities, who was there early on, and how much did that set of players influence and color what we know today as the valley ? Hint: it was all dominant culture folks

I contend that as much as the valley tries to paint itself 1) as uber-enlightened 2) meritocratic and 3) purely market driven, we in the black and latino communities should look more critically at the valley considering both the past and current narratives which serve to characterize it. 

Who is asking the right questions  ?

The latest round of media coverage for  “our” problem (I love how this is collectively our problem now; and counter that notion with some recent commentary by Chris Rock ) seems to always ask how we can improve diversity. Without fail of course, there are plenty of embedded experts, usually from the dominant culture working in valley, who have what sound to be reasonable answers which focus on solutions advocating diversity based approaches. I offer that we have been through this wash-rinse-repeate cycle several times

What’s the old saw: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results”. To wit,putting a new skin on “diversity” and redeploying it with the expectation of significantly different results as compared to previous diversity efforts seems to qualify as an example of the insanity described above

I remember some years back when Jesse Jackson came to town demanding more diversity. An HP exec wondered publicly what Jesse was talking about because as far as he (a white male) could see the valley was diverse, meaning he saw non-whites working in tech companies. 

That’s the rub; there is some diversity in the valley, just not for blacks and latinos.

Language IS important

I used to believe that the ideas and concepts around an initiative were the most important components bar none. I have come to realize over the years that the language used in articulating these same ideas and concepts is AT LEAST as important as the ideas and concepts themselves. Chalk it up to being an engineer all these years. I figure it’s better late than never for some things :)

Equity and Inclusion -> Diversity

With all of the above in mind, during last couple of years in which  I have been active in the social justice space around education. I have learned that more important than diversity, is the notion of “equity and inclusion”. Attack the challenges from a perspective and/or programs which aim to improve equity and inclusion in the social justice sense.For me, diversity is at it’s core, a qualitative approach and measure of change in this context, i.e. a number.

Working towards greater equity and inclusion requires a more holistic approach to effecting change in a community; it has the constituent characteristics which include examining systems, structures , individual beliefs and behaviors as they pertain to attitudes, norms, operations and hopefully capacity for change within a community.

Working towards greater equity and inclusion however, is a long game strategy, and does not “scale” as quickly as using a diversity based approach. This makes things even more challenging as the valley is not famous for patience, or slow incremental moves towards scale. 

Additionally,at the end of the day, if all of this work does not include real self reflection by the dominant culture of itself on a personal level, OR in other words, real work in white privilege and entitlement along  with work on systems and structures we will find ourselves witnessing deployment of the usual diversity based approaches, and we know how effective those have been

I wonder, 

What a long strange trip its been: Ten years since my mom passed

Note, automated publishing did not happen last night (Dec 23) so much for trusting technology for important things:

No musical reference for this post and sssuming all goes well with my decision to use an automatic posting mechanism you will be reading this right at 9:00 pm December 2013 2014 California time.

The date and time are significant as it will have been 10 years to the moment my mother exhaled for the last time. It is also at that time which I believe my mothers spirit, on way out of the house.Stopped in our daughter’s room and gave her a kiss as she left us. With her passing, both of my parents were gone. My father having previously died about a week after I moved back to California in January of 1985.

When mom died, I was 43, our daughter was about 19 months old. Kat and I had been married for about 6 years and I was still figuring out my life as a married father.

I realize now that what my mom did for me was provide a sense of grounding and hope, though at times I do wonder what I am really doing. Lord knows if she hadn’t I might have through my own vices and such left as well not all that soon after she did.

And here I am , still bumping along, grateful to be here. And with all of that, I still feel the same slight feeling of being adrift. That sense was much stronger in me right after her death, today, well, I am still not sure of where I am headed, however I am sure that her last maternal push in the right direction that last night of her life is still present within me though so sometimes I really have to be “still” to get a sense of it.

 

Thanks mom, ,miss you immensely. Still hanging in there

 

As as Black man I have to…

First, the musical accompaniment, this goes back a spell but unfortunately is still relevant. Check out this tune by Public Enemy.

So here we are , two days after the grand jury in Missouri determined that Officer Wilson would not be indicted (read stand trial) for killing Michael Brown. Specifically, they asserted that there was nothing to indicate criminal activity by Officer Wilson.

No doubt, through the lens  this grand jury used it may have seemed obvious that Officer Wilson did NOT break the law. Based on our their collective interpretation of our legal framework (conveniently excusing whatever personal biases they might have held) this grand jury arrived at what it felt was perfectly reasonable decision.

Unfortunately, what the grand jury could not examine was everything leading up to this incident that may or may not have required a legal lens.In situations like this, purely objective interpretations don’t always paint a full picture

There’s a great scene in Spike Lee’s Movie “Do The Right Thing” where Robin Harris, along with two other black men are sitting on the “block” when a cop car drives by. The black men eyeball the cops and vice versa. The vibe depicted in this clip present as good a short hand characterization of the state of affairs between black men and the police as any;sadly, that movie was released in 1989, not much has really changed on the ground in 2014it seems.

During his interview last week with George Stephanopolis Wilson was asked if there was anything he could have done differently.Hee responded that there wasn’t anything he would do differently.

The truth of the matter is that there was one important thing he could have done; that was to choose NOT to engage Brown and his friend when he first saw them. As far as we know the young men had broken no laws.Wilson at the time he came across Brown and his friend, was unaware of the convenience store incident in which Brown had been a part.

What Wilson chose to do was exercise his power and authority because he could. NOT because of concerns for public safety or the rule of law.

Until we as a culture and a country have real discussions and then take substantive corrective actions around race and oppression as they manifest formally and informally, these sorts of incidents will continue. Not always ending in death, certainly always contributing to the corrosive nature of racial inequity.

Kiss them for me, welcome to the new economy bee-hatch

Yup yup, another musical reference convolved with a blog post. This time it’s Siouxsie and the Banshees. I have always felt this song to capture and express a subtle “I am better than you” attitude. The perfect accompaniment to John Naughton’s recent article in the guardian a few days back about guber… ooops I mean uber.

Don’t get me wrong, as a business entity, who can argue with what they have managed to do so far. Per the popular narrative that the app industry, the have of course  abided by nothing but the purist of free market paradigms.

For the record, here’s an excerpt from the Guardian article:

“The problem with this is that Uber is no more a tech company than is UPS or M&S. It’s a company that uses technology in order to intervene/operate in the offline world. It has, however, borrowed two ideas from the pure internet operators. First, it takes the standard tech business model of being a “platform” (translation: intermediary) – putting buyers in touch with sellers, taking a cut, harvesting the data and taking no responsibility for anything.”

Mr Naughton is onto something. Those of use who have had careers in tech (and even those who haven’t or won’t) need to step back, take a deep breath, and begin to recognize the difference between good businesses, and good technology businesses. Uber may be an example of the former,kudos to them.There is nothing all that wrong about the monetary success they have realized.However, like Mr Naughton, I see far fewer of the latter and I am not all that sure Uber qualifies either. But then what do I know ? Maybe I just don’t get it.

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