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.

Sound Familiar ? Long time for the echo no ?

This taken from a 2011 paper written by Robert Sidelsky about Keynes:

“In 1929, with British unemployment standing at 10% of the insured workforce, Keynes and Hubert Henderson wrote a pamphlet entitled Can Lloyd George Do It? (Keynes, 1981). In this they proposed a big programme of public works, to be financed by loan, the idea being to induce a ‘cumulative wave of prosperity’. The British Treasury attempted to refute the proposal using an argument developed by its only economist Ralph Hawtrey. Hawtrey had claimed that, with a fixed money supply, any loan raised by the government for public works would ‘crowd out’ an equivalent amount of private spending. Employment could be increased only by credit expansion—or what was then called inflation. The prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, was fed the lies ‘we must either take existing money or create new money’.

Keynes riposted: ‘Mr. Baldwin has invented the formidable argument that you must not do anything because it means you will not be able to do anything else’. Yet the Treasury argument of 1929 was restated in 2009, in almost identical terms, by Professor John Cochrane of Chicago University: if money is not going to be printed, it has to come from somewhere. If the government borrows a dollar from you, that is a dollar that you do not spend, or that you do not lend to a company to spend on new investment. Every dollar of increased government spending must correspond to one less dollar of private spending. Jobs created by stimulus spending are offset by jobs from the decline of private spending. We can build roads instead of factories, but fiscal stimulus can’t help us to build more of both. (Cochrane, 2009)”

 

Who knew ? It’s almost like the right and some members of the left just copied from this original material. As my mom used to say: I swanee

 

 

 

 

Happy Navel Day Mom

I don’t intend for this little bit of almost insightful paradise to always be about my personal life. There are times and events however, that do merit mention. Today, and this time of year qualify.

Nov 18, 2014, it is my late mother’s birthday.She would have been 75 years old today. I wonder what things would have been like for us all if she were still alive.I do know she would have continued to be that awesome grandmother to our daughter and most likely continued to side with my wife in those moments where a mother recognizes her son for what he is; both the good and the not-so-good at times. It’s those wuthering looks which say “seriously you’re going to carry on that line of thinking here” which helped to keep me grounded while she was with us.

I am happy she got to spend some time with her granddaughter.Since her passing, we have taken to calling her grandma Angel. For me, though I am not a particularly religious or spiritual person, it helps to secure my belief that someone who knows me better than all others, is still watching over me.

Back in the saddle again

In keeping with my tradition of providing a tune somehow aligning with the blog entries topic. Check out this gem. And just for good measure some Plumbum extraction music.

Yes, after damn near a year, I am working again. I even managed to move away from design/design verification. This was by and away , one of the biggest (and most desirable) career changes. for me  After nearly 30 years, I desperately wanted to get out of mainstream engineering. That’s not to say there weren’t good times and projects in my role as a DV engineer. To the contrary, there are designs I have learned the internals of which truly amazed me. Early 80’s RISC processor design a-la Dec’s Titan, ECL RISC at MIPS, weighted RED queue management at Cisco, spread spectrum clocking at Sun. Scaring up a bug in an IO block at NeXT. A failed server attempt at Apple. I remember a set of schematics for a processor someone from DEC’s Western Research Lab produced which was a master class in cpu design, and clarity. As an aside, Titan, the discrete 100K el CPU was the fastest uniprocessor inside DEC from 85 to 89 (and maybe beyond).I even took a spin at evangelism at Microsoft of all places.

I was pretty fortunate back then, I got to rub elbows with some pretty smart (even for me) people. Notable and in no particular order, Anita Borg, Mike Nielsen, Jeremy Dion, Neil Willhem, Loretta and Brian Reid (at the time), Smokey Wallace, Forrest Baskett, Russel Kao, Jeff Prisner, Mike Powell, Norm Jouppi, Bill Hamburgen, Judson Leonard, Carol Peters, Bob Stewart  and on and on

The new gig with the multi-syllabic title is “IT Applications Analyst” meaning that I am now a professional agent of change,  working to move groups from one IT related paradigm to the next. The current project ? A new way to track bugs.

IT is a funny space, similar in some ways to DV in that if you do your job well, no one knows you exist. It’s only when a server crashes or the network goes away that you get any sort of notice. I’ve plenty of experience with that under-the-radar existence.

Being officially on the outside of core (HW) engineering product development, I get to see how engineering orgs are perceived. I have to admit, sometimes, we ARE the stereotypes we see in the media. Nonetheless, I’ll miss some parts there was something rather sublime about having singular stimulating focus on solving a single large problem or two.

Given the desire to commodtize the pschidt out of all things hardware  I am glad to be moving on though I hope that my former industry sector struggles through and begins to take up it’s role in leading innovation once again. I am pretty tired of 3rd and 4th order derivatives for Facebook, Google, and Instagram. And lord knows, I am looking forward to seeing people actually sell things again as opposed to being a “tax” on the internet.

Nowdays, things are much more about developing trust, understanding roles, and building relationships. A far cry in a lot of ways, from straight-ahead development.

Release the hounds…

Lost in Translation, Tablets are just fine even when sales are down

At the end of Q2 2014, I recall reading here and here  that while iPad sales were off , MBP and iPhone sales were up a little, or at least enough to cover the shortfall in iPad sales. A similar phenomenon was reported across the industry in general,i.e. laptop sales were up. This got me to thinking about tablets in general , and why they are brilliant devices  and at the same time being cast as the square peg destined for the elliptical hole by a lot of consumers.

As we collectively watch successively more  powerful tablets surface; yes, pun intended.I have  to wonder if people aren’t missing the point of these devices. Tablets are great devices for consuming.They aren’t designed to be real good at  producing. At least based on current tablet OS capabilities.OK,you can add an external keyboard and voila, a netbook-lite emerges. I offer that that tablets, as originally envisioned are just fine.They’re great for reading, simple message response, purchases;you know all the stuff that most of us do with them presently. They are NOT, however, great for writing the next great American novels, or any other long form content production.That’s ok.

I am not worried about tablets in their current incarnation, and you’ll never see an external keyboard attached to mine. That’s what my laptop is for.

Those early tablet producers (Microsoft included) had it right and Apple’s entry into market reinforced the notion. Tablets are great, portable , computing devices fulfilling a particular need. They are not however, a singular solution for all of ones computing. So let’s move on, it’s ok to whip out that laptop when you commence writing that great epic tome you’ve been ruminating on. I promise, I’ll download the e-version and read it on my tablet when you’re done.

 

Goodnight moon

Yo ! Relative hypocrisy

Within the last few weeks an app entitled “Yo” has become fodder for both the tech and lay media alike. Here’s Steve Colbert’s take on it.

Yo! really s a silly app. With that being said, I have to wonder if maybe there isn’t a little unintentional (or maybe intentional) hypocrisy at play here. For the developers of Yo! Are their aspirations any more trivial than those  aspirations of more “serious” apps or other tech endeavors?

As a mental exercise,allow me to offer some other spaces where our newly re-invigorated critical analysis skills might be brought to bear:

  1. The “New Economy”: Really ?, you mean to me tell there  has never been another attempt at providing free content to consumers underwritten by advertisers.Hmmm, ok, if you say so
  2. The solution for both gender and ethnic diversity in hi-tech: This is a new problem ?, one unique to hi-tech and therefore immune to other best practices in other industries ? Shut the front door!
  3. MOOCS and online education in general: I recently saw a report indicating that the so-called “under served” communities who were supposed benefit most from MOOCS and other on-line courseware actually have a lower completion rate than was originally expected. Why is that ? I also wonder if after taking all these online course folks at Google, Apple, Facebook etc.. will actually hire them. Last I checked, these three were still trolling the halls of Stanford and other elite universities for their candidates.
  4. The need for more “coders”: Coders to do what, and at what price point. If I waved my magic wand and made everyone a coder, what would that really do for the labor rate of these folks ?
  5. The proven “meritocracy” of the tech sector: Do you really want me to comment here ?

 

Finally, the funniest thing in all of this is that by all popular accounts, tech is a bastion of market forces. If we are to REALLT hold that as a fundamental truth then let the market decide the fate of Yo!. I mean, what are we afraid of ? That some completely ridiculous “product” might end up proving to be incredibly commercially successful ?

I have an idea, let’s try a little honesty in characterizing the motivations of our industry; “If it makes money, and doesn’t do significant harm, we’re all good right”

 

P.S. There’s a sister at Emory, examine online college/courseware critically. You can check her here

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