The Naked Truth: Shopping for the Dirt on Fashion

You are polluting just by getting dressed and you can’t go naked. Look at your clothes. You are most wearing some combination of natural and synthetic fibers. For the synthetic fibers, with every washing, those polyester, plastic like fibers break down go into waste water that makes it way to the ocean and ends up in the food you eat and water you drink. Your clothes are polluting with every wash. Growing cotton takes a lot of pesticides and that runoff ends up in waste water, that makes its way to the ocean and ends up in the food you eat and the water you drink. It takes more water to make a cotton t shirt then you will drink in three years. It takes 200 tons of fresh water per ton of dyed fabric. That toxic runoff from the dye goes into our water. There is more, you get the point. But, why is this such an issue now?

Well, to point a fashionably gloved finger, fast fashion. The industry shift to cheap clothes intended for one season wear with retailers such as H&M, Forever 21 and Zara exacerbated this problem in the last decade. Toss clothes out after a season of wear. With only 15% of used clothing being donated or recycled; that leaves a whopping 85% in landfills. Consider 60% of clothing has synthetic fibers, so that is going to sit in the landfills for hundreds of years. The US alone sends 21 billion pounds of clothes to landfill annually. One headline,“Throw away garments contribute more to climate change than air and sea travel.” The good news for the environment is, the trends toward fast fashion are showing slowed sales.

There is more. Fashion retailers routinely incinerate unsold stock. Burberry burns stock to maintain exclusivity and scarcity. Others burn for a tax credit, H&M allegedly burns 13 tons annually. Nike defaces excess stock so the shoes cannot be worn or resold. More for landfill. Fashion generates more waste than e waste. Overall, it’s a balance.  We’re not going to go naked, so it’s finding a balance of environmental awareness and smarter choices. Maybe eschewing quality for quality in clothing. Becoming a supplier or buyer for businesses such as Thred Up. This week, consider your fashion footprint.How old are he clothes you are wearing, how do you dispose of old clothes and how to you acquired new ones. 

 

 

Notes:

  1. There has been debate on fashion being the second largest polluter. Several sources have run numbers and int he list of top polluters, fashion is closer to number 5 or 6.

 

 

Resilience: A Method to the Madness; Let there be Sadness

I am sad. There, I said it. And, I’m going to feel sad. No list of what I am thankful for. No attempt to do a “happy” activity. Our emotional control center does not work that way; different parts of the brain activate happiness, fear, sadness, disgust and anger. A good emotion does not negate a painful one. Ever have one of those soul crushing, mind numbing headaches? Eating your favorite comfort food does nothing. It is the same with sadness, my current state. Trigger some other euphoria point of the brain will not help. Oh, I will laugh at something funny.

But, I am sad. I’m being with the sadness rather than employing emotional distraction or an exiled state of self pity. Growing up, we learn to manage anger, we are taught ways to become calm and centered. Most of us are successful to varying degrees with anger management. But sadness? Recognize the pattern, identify the trigger and acknowledge the feeling. I chose to build resiliency.

The balance of being with sadness and not avoiding or wallowing in sadness gave me an awareness. That opening led to a conversation Saturday that changed the my context, shifted my feelings and built my resiliency. This week, consider, how you handle sadness¹. Do you build a battle plan or build resiliency? 

 

 

¹There is a difference between sadness and depression. This post is on sadness.

 

The Pursuit of Happiness or Perfection? Earthquakes, Christmas and Fears


Saturday, 6:45 am, my brother calls, “I know the earthquake was in southern California, but it was a 7.1.” I’m still a little groggy with no idea there was a second quake, “Nah, it’s all cool here, I have my earthquake go bag-I do need to put the $200 in cash back in it.”After a few minutes he asked, “Are you joining us for Christmas in DC.” I sigh and respond, “Last year was the best Christmas, ever. Ever! I’m afraid. I’m just afraid, I don’t want to mess it up.” He laughed, “we’re the same people, doing the same thing.” My brilliant brother. I responded, “I’m in; I’m enthusiastically in.”

I may not have felt the quake, but this shook me. Blah, blah, blah, I’m showing off by saying I have an earthquake bag. That way of saying it like, I am prepared, I know about these things and have taken action. How long have been on this quest for perfection; when did I start to limit what I do? When did happiness versus expectations get screwed up in my head? Are there things you have not pursued further or tried again after one time success? Do you have things that are not done out of fear of disappointment?

Somewhere I stopped. Thank goodness I didn’t take my first steps and say, ok, let’s check that off the list, I’m done. One of my best blog posts was July 3, 2017,  but, I didn’t say done, over, no more. And yet, in other areas, I have, It’s this thought like, I have a record, not going risk it. Yet, how can we master something, excel, if we’re one and done. 

I didn’t immediately have a list, but over the weekend, I came up with a few. That fear is like weeds in a garden, subtle, blending in, until they take over the original vegetation. This week, consider where you did a one and done. Something went great, you enjoyed it, it brought you happiness and yet, without time, financial or physical constraints, you said done, game over, closing time. There are no bonus points for perfection. Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.

Based on a True Story, the Revolutionary War, the Statue of Liberty and the Fourth of July

“Based on a true story.”  That is code for a condensed version of the story, trimmed down to be told in a short period of time and carefully edited to create a compelling story of near mythical proportion. Coming this fourth of July, amidst the parades, barbecues and fireworks, are you celebrating a holiday “based on a true story,” presented as a triumph of 13 scrappy colonies with a population of 2.5 million people taking on a Great Britain, a nation of 13 million and winning?

But the war wasn’t just between the US and Britain. Near the start of war, France secretly started shipments of arms, ammunition, uniforms, boots and money to the United States. Soon after, the Spanish Empire and the Dutch Republic started to send assistance. Spain’s Prime Minister, José Moñino y Redondo, Count of Floridablanca, wrote in March 1777,

the fate of the colonies interests us very much, and we shall do for them everything that circumstances permit”.

The French provided 90% of the gunpowder used in the America Revolutionary war; ensuring victory. The history is robust and complex; the rivals of Great Britain united against imperial supremacy.

A century later, Edouard de Laboulaye, French abolitionist proposed a monument to commemorate the end of the US Civil war and the abolishment of slavery. Edouard de Laboulaye, an anti-savers advocate, admired the ideas of the US Constitution, themes suppressed by French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Alas, the US funders of the pedestal demanded changes to the design. There should be no reminders of slavery. The piles, a headpiece worn by emancipated slaves in Rome was to be removed. The statue could not hold chains and shackles.

In place of the shackles and chains is a tablet, engraved in Roman numerals with the date of July 4, 1776. This fourth of July, celebrate as you may, but consider the footnotes of history. The end of the revolutionary war on September 3, 1783, was with help from France, Spain and the Dutch Republic. The Statue of Liberty dedicated on October 28, 1886, was a gift to honor the freeing of slaves and lives lost during the civil war. While changes to the statue may have the appearance celebrating American  Independence, the chains at the bottom of the state are a footnote to the intent; based on a true story.

Tales of the Beltway: The Conways, 45 and Twitter

Relationships, dating, marriage, my mind tries to reconcile rules and logic for what works and what doesn’t to make up for my limited and nonexistent experience. So, please understand both my confusion and fascination with the Conways. Yes, some people read trashy novels for the summer, I succumbed to a couple of hours of mindless internet searches. Multimillionaires, Kellyanne is counselor to the president and George is an attorney. George is known for his opposition to his wife’s boss and has actively shared his views be tweeting and penning op-eds.

Kellyanne wants you to know that she’s too busy raising their children and doing “substantive” work for the president to keep up with her husband’s tweets. And George Conway is openly saying that his wife works for a mentally ill criminal.

Really, how does this work? Is this an action thriller, dark comedy or parable of our times? Or, am I making too much of it and this is the public unraveling of a marriage? Please, I really want to know. What’s dinner like in that household. Get the TV cameras in there.

This has everything. Comedic salvos between George and his wife’s boss; tragic commentary on the state of the union versus the state of a union and the mystery of how this works. It seems deeply personal made very public. Is supper with these two dinner theater or a to do list of the kids’ activities. I’m guilty, my trashy summer read is available in 280 characters per tweet and courtesy of news op eds. It’s summer, it’s brain candy; I’m not proud, but I am hooked.

 

——————–

Below the Beltway

Kellyanne Conway sided with Trump over her husband, telling Politico: “He (Trump) left it alone for months out of respect for me. But you think he shouldn’t respond when somebody, a non-medical professional accuses him of having a mental disorder? You think he should just take that sitting down?”

As part of a profile on their relationship in the Washington Post’s style section, Kellyanne Conway has spoken out for the first time against her husband George’s tweets criticizing President Donald Trump. “It is disrespectful, it’s a violation of basic decency, certainly, if not marital vows,” the White House counselor told Style reporter Ben Terris, before adding that she wanted those quotes attributed to “a person familiar with their relationship.” When Terris told her he could not put her comments “off the record” after the fact, Conway ultimately added, “Fine. I’ve never actually said what I think about it and I won’t say what I think about it, which tells you what I think about it.”

 

 

 

 

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Gun Control is not Happening; Here’s Why

Gun control – it’s not going to happen. Site facts and statistic, use current events and blame the NRA. Nothing is going to happen. Pontificate on a soap box, sign petitions, post on social media. You’re missing the larger context. Women. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution designed to guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex. This proposal, approved by the house and senate in 1972 has been languishing, waiting for ratification by at least 38 states.  Today, on average, a woman working full time earns 80.7 cents for every dollar a man. Oral contraceptives are were covered by 33% of insurance policies while 50% of insurance plans covered Viagra in 1996, the year Viagra was introduced in 1996. Birth control is considered a “lifestyle drug,” Viagra is considered medically necessary. The Affordable Healthcare act brought near parity to this until the Trump Administration rolled back the regulation mandating coverage of contraception in November of 2018. The ERA says:

Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

In 47 years, an amendment guaranteeing women equal rights under the constitution has yet to ratify. It’s a simple, uncomplicated amendment. The count is currently at 37 states with Nevada ratifying n March of 2017 and Illinois in May of 2018. Just one more state* In context, think about gun control. This starts with a debate about the interpretation of the second amendment of the constitution.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Is the constitution a “living” constitution with pragmatic interpretation or is interpretation originalism which asserts that all statements in the constitution must be interpreted based on the original understanding of the authors or the people at the time it was ratified. Ahem -“all men are created equal, the loophole allowing for slavery and women not being including in the right to vote. With ERA languishing,supporting originalism, kiss significant gun legislation goodbye. Yup, I’m mixing state and federal government to show a larger context. If governments are not moved to ratify ERA, nothing is going to happen with gun legislation which is already ratified amendment. Originalism is winning. Don’t get it twisted, with “liberty and justice for all,” is the pledge of allegiance, not legislation. Gun rights is legislation, ERA is a dream deferred.

The Surprising Truth about What Surprises You


“Stop, stop, stop. I don’t care. You’ve not been taking a minute yet and I’m ready to check my phone for something more interesting.”
That’s me abruptly interrupting  a practice presentation. I’ve been coaching, technical people and the only way to shake them loose from a methodical droning of white noise is to stop them quickly and then ask, “What surprised you the most with the project? Why?” The switch flips, it gets exciting, there is a story, a conversation. From there, we go from dull presentation to engaging the story. There used to be this formula, about establishing your credibility, blah, blah, blah. No, stop that. Tell me why I care at the start, engage me, because your competition is my phone.

But, presentations is  not the point of this post. It’s the question. “What did you experience in the last 6 months that was totally unexpected and surprised you? Why?” It has become so routine to ask this at work, the thought floated through my head Sunday afternoon. The answer to what surprised me was immediate, light hearted and glib. The why was dark, and exposed my preconceived conventions, biases and a dangerous pattern I’d fallen into. Basically, I was shook. That’s a good thing. I have some things to work on as a result. This week, ask yourself the question, “What did I experience in the last 6 months that was totally unexpected and  surprised me? Why?”

 

 

No Context? Backseat Drivers

“If you don’t know the problem, how do you know if you are fixing the right thing?” Stunned silence and followed by a sputtered rational, “Well, we don’t usually know the problem.” This scenario occurs with frightening regularity and variations on the theme. “I’m technical, I don’t get involved on the business side, but let me tell you about the great solutions I developed. OK, let’s stop the nonsense now. Oddly enough, academics are accused of being in the “ivory tower” and not in the real world, and that’s an issue. HR is labeled as disconnected from the way people work and interact and that’s not a good thing. Techies are thought of as those smart people who can’t communicate, but are really smart. An area of expertise does not mean total ignorance in an area you impact. We need context. Look, if you asked a passenger to design a car, the driver would end up in the back seat.

Sure, that sounds a but ridiculous and obvious, but really, this is no different than people designing and developing a system they don’t have context of. We don’t know what is going on without context and that makes it difficult to make informed choices. All of us has used something and paused with the thought, “what were they thinking?” My worst injury as a gymnast came when I tried to do a somersault dismount. As I tucked and twisted to jump off the beam, a hard force pushed me in the opposite direction. My spotter didn’t realize I was trying to dismount and my legs were slammed onto the side of the beam. Sound effects followed. This week, notice, are there things you are doing or working on where you don’t have the full context? Is that ok?

Remembering Memorial Day

Memorial Day – at times it seems we are trying to hard to forget what the day is really about. Which is rather ironic for a holiday that is all about memory.

IMG_0400Memorial day is in honor of those who have died while serving in the country’s armed forces. Formerly known as decoration day, the holiday started after the American Civil War to commemorate all the soldiers who died in the war. The civil war, today – still remains the highest loss of lives in military action. That is nearly 2% of the total US population. A number that increased the probability, every single person was impacted, every single person knew someone who lost a life in service. Today, for as much media coverage as we have, the loss of life is tangible, but for many not personal.

Memorial Day –  so sure, have the day off, attend the art festivals, the fun runs and celebrate the start of summer. But stop and consider what it means to have lost a life in service of the country. It’s Memorial day so remember the reason we can have a day off to have the celebrations.

My Body, My Choice: Abortion, Cigarettes and Iran

My mom died of lung cancer. She never smoked a cigarette a day in her life. My dad was the smoker. My dad had a choice to smoke; my mom had a choice to live with a man who smoked. Cigarettes cause chronic illnesses and are deadly. But, you have a choice to smoke. Legislation this week attempts to take away my choice for my body. The abortion debate has collapsed two issues, a woman’s right to choose and when life begins to the detriment of women’s rights. Using broad strokes, the anti choice position has blurred the distinction of “viable life.” The embryo at 6 weeks or the first trimester is not a viable life. The embryo cannot besustained, even with medical intervention at this stage.

Over 90% of abortion in the US are in the first trimester.The number of abortions in the US have dropped by 26%, attributed to greater availability of birth control. Women’s reproductive health is under siege. New rules allow insurance companies not to cover birth control. Freedom of expression and religion allow stores not to carry birth control. Women are being disarmed of power.

The equal rights amendment (a proposed amendment to the US Constitution stating that civil rights may not be denied on the basis of one’s sex) has not passed. It was proposed in 1972 and needs the ratification of 35 states, this has not happened. If you look at the states recently restricting abortions, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio and Georgia, 4 out of the 6 are states who have not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA.) Todd Adkin, formerly of the Missouri House of Representatives (1989 – 2001) and the US House of Representatives (2001 – 2013) said

“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Mr. Akin said of pregnancies from rape. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”

This explains the Idiocracy and it is exhausting. Regardless of position, there should be alarm the this thinking enters into the debates of our lawmakers. The ignorance of women’s bodies is allowing women’s right to be taken away and which should alarm all of us. The US constitution is based on the separation of church and state. Iran is an example of what happens when this collapses.

Iran was modern, in the 60s and 70s. My Persian friends called the Tehran, the Paris of the middle east. In 1936 – the hijab and veils were banned, in 1941, the laws relaxed, women had a choice of dress, religious or modern. Then came a rebellion against the “westernization” of Iran. In the late 70s, at the University of Tennessee there was a split in the Persian community. A seemingly fringe group of students protesting for the ouster of the Shah of Iran taunting the others who embraced westernization. The pro Shah students were not concerned.

Then came 1979. The Shah was exiled, the  American embassy was seized and  52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days and women were forced to wear the hijab. Without the proper religious garments, women could not work, shop, do business or be seen in public. Since that time, more restrictions have been placed on women and men. The tipping point being control and restrict women first. Women had freedom for 43 years and then overturned.

Abortion became legal in the US in 1973; we’re now 46 years out the national dialog is the possibility of this being overturned? This was landmark legislation; choice for my uterus. This week marked the 65th anniversary of Brown versus the Board of Education that ruled racial serration was unconstitutional.

Since April 2018, more than two dozen executive and judicial nominees have declined to endorse the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education. This week — one that marks the 65th anniversary of the landmark ruling that struck down legal apartheid in this country — the Senate is poised to confirm three of those judicial nominees to lifetime seats on the federal bench.¹

We should all care about the alarming legislation this week to restrict women’s rights because this sets a precedence to over turn constitutional rights. This should not be viewed as a single issue, it is not black and white. Holistically, what does this means for constitutional rights? My body, my choice, my thoughts.

 

¹ https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/if-judicial-nominees-dont-support-brown-v-board-they-dont-support-the-rule-of-law/2019/05/12/d12c542a-734d-11e9-8be0-ca575670e91c_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.e74686297255

Stay, Upgrade or Replace

Our devices tell us when to upgrade, when our performance is lagging and when we will no longer be supported. It’s not planned obsolesce to make money. There is a time when new technology can enhance performance (camera technology) and solve problems (thumbprint security). Basically, we know when things are ok, when to upgrade and when to start over. Likewise, applications that run on this platform determine when it is no longer feasible to support older versions. 

“Scrap it, start over, time for a new product,” were the career limiting remarks I kept to myself as I listened to justification and idiosyncrasies of a process that in my mind, no longer addresses a business need. Like a sputtering old car being held together with duct tape with a tail pipe dragging on the ground and the smell and sound of an engine about to blow. Something that once worked has morphed into a hot mess. But, why can’t anyone see it, or maybe they can but fear the time and cost of rethinking, redoing, reinvention?

What are your indicators that is it time to let be, upgrade or start over? Seriously look around, are there things in life that need to upgraded or replaced. It’s about the goal. Not sure, look an object, a process, a situation and ask is this supporting a goal? If not, why not? Does something need to change?

 

The Sound of Gun Shots: Comfortably Numb on a Monday

Sorry, there was a second gunshot, can you repeat that again? Yes, those are sirens, police cars are coming now, let’s see, there are 2,3, 8 of them. They’ve got the guy against a truck and 6 cops are standing in a semi circle around him.” That was my side of a conversation with a help desk this week.  I repeated the story to someone who responded, that was smart, stay on the line with someone to make sure everything was ok. I squinted my face and said, “No, I was safe.  I stayed on the line because I’d waited 42 minutes on hold for help; I was locked out of my email and had work to do.”

I thought this episode emphasized how painful it is to deal with a help desk and the fact that someone thought I stayed on the line in case something happened gave me pause. I have become comfortably numb.  Gunshots, people, gunshots, right outside my window. I was not particularly alarmed, never felt in danger, I just stayed on the phone with the help desk and snapped a quick photo. So much for all the emergency training that would say, get away from the window. This week, notice if there are any things that should cause you alarm, yet, you are unaffected. Why?

The Rabbit Hole: Legal versus Logical versus Right?

If you could take something to help wake you up, would you? Oh wait, there is coffee, tea, cola’s, a variety of drinks with caffeine. If you could take something to relax you, would you? Well, there are options, beer, wine, spirits; all natural distillations and more recently added to the list is cannabis.  All of these are legal. What if you could take something to make you smarter, to enable you to do your job with ease. If you are a coder, you can write twice as much code with half the errors. As a researcher, you could do your work in half the time with a higher quality. It’s making you better. So, you’d take it. Right? 

Stay with the logic; an athlete’s job is performance dependent. Should performance enhancing drugs be allowed? With athletes, drugs are referred to a competitive advantage and are banned. The goal is literally a level playing field. But logically, an argument could be made for performance enhancing drugs. Legal, fair and right. It’s ok to outsource housework, pay someone else to do it. Car wash, pay someone else to do it. Send your laundry out to have it returned, clean, pressed, fresh and folded. You can order out for meals. You can have a clean, orderly, well maintained life. It’s not what you can do, it’s what you can get done. You paid for it, but you got it done. So, in school, it makes sense, you can pay someone to write your paper and take your tests. Well, you can pay your way into college.  It’s not what you can do, it’s what you can get done. Right?

It’s a weird juxtaposition of moral objectivism. You can make logical justifications, you can find a legal argument, but lose context and objective. In tricky situations, are you trying to tell right from wrong or rationalizing bad behavior. There was an item this week where someone was turned down to be a roommate because of her astrological sign. Repeat, a roommate. A debate ensued and opinions were sought about fairness in housing and discrimination.

“This is not a legitimate basis for turning someone down,” said Caroline Peattie, the executive director at Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California.”

“It has nothing to do with their ability to pay rent or be a good tenant.”In the U.S., the Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibits discrimination against seven protected categories: race or color, religion, national origin, familial status or age, disability or handicap, and sex. Rigel C. Oliveri, a University of Missouri professor specializing in fair housing law, went so far as to say that saying no to tenants or roommates who’s sign doesn’t vibe “does appear to be legal.”“Zodiac sign is not on the list, which means a landlord could use that to discriminate,”

Yes, a roommate is a tenant. But that’s beside the point. Given this preference, is this someone you’d want as a roommate? Someone you’d want to pressure into sharing living quarters when they have a stated preference against your astrological sign? Look for it. This week, look for those seemly logical jumps that get you so twisted you end up debating the wrong topic.

What Do You Believe? Principle versus Practice

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. Epictetus” We have only one brain, so, in principle, should we believe and do what we are told rather than think for ourselves and draw conclusions? 

Many comments about the Mueller Report have a similar tone to “… as special counsel Robert Mueller apparently concluded, there was no collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.” I spent an hour and read 100 pages of the report; page 2 of volume 1 describes that collusion is not a specific offense, hence, the investigation is an analysis of joint criminal liability for conspiracy. The investigation wasn’t looking into collusion, hence the report would inevitably result in “no collusion.”¹ I spent considerably more time listening to the news and reading news articles and opinion editorials (op eds) on this and nothing mentioned or reiterated that the focus was not on collusion. This reframes the discussion and changes the perspective of the findings. The more complex findings and evidence of election tampering and hacking are reduced to sound bites of no collusions versus no conclusion. 

Now, back to the opening question. In principle, should we believe and do what we are told rather than think for ourselves and draw conclusions? Does what we think in principle mirror what we do in practice? Do people read reports or rely on news sources for a conclusion? No judgement; just something to observe and think about this week as you hear comments and opinions.

 

 

 

¹From the Mueller Report; page 2, volume 1: “In evaluating whether evidence about collective action of multiple individuals constituted a crime, we applied the framework of conspiracy law, not the concept of “collusion.” In so doing, the Office recognized that the word “collud[e]” was used in communications with the Acting Attorney General confirming certain aspects of the investigation’s scope and that the term has frequently been invoked in public reporting about the investigation. But collusion is not a specific offense or theory of liability found in the United States Code, nor is it a term of art in federal criminal law. For those reasons, the Office’s focus in analyzing questions of joint criminal liability was on conspiracy as defined in federal law.

That’s Just Mean – Habit or Anomaly?

I was confused by an email this week. I was copied, it was not directed at me, yet the content was so acrimonious and unnecessary, I felt bad. I was in awe of the eloquent response of my colleague. Societally, we accept a sort of ratio of bad behavior allowances for founders of companies, leaders, geniuses and talent. What about the everyday people; those that aren’t particularly powerful, innovative or effective. The everyday people who are gatekeepers? They make other people miserable and yet, technically, they aren’t doing anything wrong. Sure, their communications are alienating, but to comment or raise an issue with them will drag you down to non productive pettiness.

I spoke to a therapy, peer.¹ As basic as it sounds, do people think a mean approach is acceptable or even effective? There are times to be firm, but your communications should not reflect your emotional upset.There are times when someone is obviously not paying attention when the light changes and need a quick honk of the horn to bring them into the moment. It’s a firm way to warn or to alert potential danger, like when someone is drifting into your lane. However, we’ve all experienced and probably used the horn at one time or another in frustration.

Right? No one is perfect, we all do things on occasion we wish we could edit out. But, is it out of character or a habit? You accidentally knock over a glass and break it. “Unintentionally” does not change the result; the glass is broken. Often, there is an “excuse” for poor behavior rather than an apology. The excuse is the rationale of the offender, something expected to absolve what happened rather than take responsibility. Which is why the apology is needed, an acknowledgement of bad behavior and damage. An acceptance that something was inappropriate and needs to be controlled.

Michelle Obama famously said, “when they go low, we go high.” It sounds simple, but it can be hard, because, when someone goes low, it does not feel good. Going high is often not recognized, acknowledged or rewarded. Going high takes discipline, work and practice. It’s hard, you have to take ego out of it, because you will never balance out that point system.

Which one are you? Do you have an occasional acrimonious communication, one that is uncharacteristic. Something when you apologize for, there is a comment to the effect of, “yes, that’s not how you normally are?” Or is it more of a habit that your communications reflect a bitter tone? Are you mean? Who do you want to be? This week, notice, do your communications tear down and alienate or build up and unite?

 

 

 

¹ Therapy Peer – work colleagues who keep you in check. They are people you can safely vent to when you need assurance you are doing the right thing. They listen and support you so you can avoid the CLRs (career limiting remarks). They listen to what you’d do if you went low and encourage you to keep going high.

April Fools: In Case of Emergency

You’re on a plane. You hear “Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please. This is an emergency, and we are required to evacuate, please locate the closest emergency exit. Please exit immediately, but calmly.” Pause. What do you do?

In an emergency, there is the stress response, and it is not logical. People start grabbing their carry on luggage from the overhead bins and mayhem ensues. Screaming people, disoriented passengers, slinging luggage and flight attendants yelling, leave your bags and exit the plane.

I’ll say it, in the moment, I would think about my cute pink carry on in the overhead bin as I grab my purse and look for the exit. It’s gut instinct, I need my stuff, where is my stuff, grab my stuff. You do not think it takes 12 minutes to deplane in an orderly manner and maybe that is to much time to spend right now if everyone grabs their luggage. You do think about the absurdity hauling large objects to the emergency exit row and the risks.

“The worst thing is, you’re making decision that impact you not only in the moment, but for the rest of your life and you’re just not in your right mind.” I heard two panel discussions this week in Houston about Hurricane Harvey and the aftermath. The resounding theme was the “stress response.” This thing that happens when we are in a life or death situation. So yes, while it would seem like common sense to have photographed the things in your home before the damage, for insurance, do you really know to do that; even as you are moving your possessions to the second floor of your home because the waters are rising?

The concept this week is not about emergency preparedness; its about awareness of a stress response recovery; getting back to your right mind. When all of your being is focused on a crisis, you might forget,you need time recovery time after. Be it an emergency situation or an ill loved one. It takes a while to get back to normal even after everything is ok. Just like when you run to catch a train, even when you’re done, and seated, you still have a slightly elevated heart rate, you still perspire, etc, your body has to recover.  This week, consider those times when you may need to recover from a stress response and give yourself a moment.

 

March Madness: End Game

The historic, all women spacewalk didn’t happen. NASA didn’t have 2 spacesuits equipped to handle a woman’s smaller size. Blah, blah. blah. What a way to end women’s history month; a logical conclusion based on excuses rather than the admittance of gender bias. In lieu of a historic moment, we saw a historic trend. The spacewalk was a female/male partnership. Women, we partner and make it work. Friday evening, I was part of an electrified audience. An audience where strangers engaged excitingly in conversation.  An audience where people were rapt with attention and not doing a phone checks. Why? Ear Hustle!!!

Screen Shot 2019-03-31 at 4.22.34 PM

Ear Hustle’s Earlonne Woods and Nigel Poor

Ear Hustle was conceived as a podcast for the incarcerated, by the incarcerated, to be played on the closed-circuit station in San Quentin State Prison in California; it’s turned into a worldwide phenomenon with over 20 million downloads. Nigel Poor, a woman who partnered and made it work. During the program Nigel Poor described how she started volunteering at San Quentin and what led to the podcast. Podcast cohost and inmate Earlonne Woods shared his effort to get transferred to San Quentin. This doesn’t begin to describe the essence of a one-hour program, people laughed, I mean that foot stomping laughter where you nod at the stranger beside you and laugh some more. People cried, that kind of trying to hold it in and realizing everyone is crying so you let it go. Sprinkled with raucous applause, not this finger snapping or “sparkling hands” but fist pumping, whooping and hollering applause. Look, I can’t do this justice. You can catch the broadcast of this City Arts program on April 28th or better still, check out an episode of Ear Hustle.

Sure, there wasn’t a historic “first” of an all-female spacewalk this week. As we close out March, celebrate women, our passion and partnership to just make things work.

 

 

…Back to basketball. Final Four, here we come.

 

March Madness: Leaving Space and Packing it In

It’s a strange thing that happens. When you travel, it’s a but harder to get everything packed back in; even if you don’t have additional stuff to add. But let’s face it, on most trips, you’re going to come back with more than you started with. You soon start to account for this and determine how to have more space. Now, consider your day. Things get crazy when you pack the day full. It’s always going to take more time and you’re going to have spill over if you haven’t put in buffers. Look stuff is going to happen, leave space in your day. Things will get manageable and you leave room for possibility. Have you left space in your life for a chance encounter, a stroke of luck, a random coincidence? Spontaneously have lunch with a friend, grab a coffee with someone new and  take a few moments to sketch out an idea. This week, try space, give yourself some time.  It’s March Madness, NCAA basketball time, there might just be a game you need to watch; give yourself the gift of time.

March Madness: How Bad News Obliterates Good News

The math, it should balance out. Really it should work. Yet, history and experience show it doesn’t. You know this, you can have a day with 3 good things and you are so happy and yet something annoying that happened 2 weeks ago can null and void the euphoria. Why?

Good news, good things trigger the brain to produce dopamine, a chemical released by the brain that gives us a surge of energy and makes us feel good. That jump for joy, do a happy dance feeling. But here is the deal, bad news has more than an equal and opposite effect.  This was dark, a little surprising and yet obvious. Bad news, bad experiences trigger the lateral habenula and directs the midbrain to halt the production of dopamine. Think of dopamine as light and the lateral habenula as an off switch for light. OMG. The lateral hadenula goes around shutting off all of the dopamine light. The joy is gone, the energy is gone. The good thoughts cannot offset the bad.  Trying to cheer someone up when switch is in the off position is a monumental task. It’s why with a bunch of good stuff, something from two weeks ago can still creep in.

Sigh, scream, let that sink in a moment.  The normal functioning body is going to shut down dopamine production, turn off that light, when we perceive bad. We can’t control that, what we can practice is our perception of bad. At the worst, our biological brains are not up to modern technology. Our attention spans have dropped as a result of technology, but there is more. We are addicted to our phones; the average person checks their phone every 12 minutes. Our pings, connections, thumbs up, likes, messages, a virtual smorgasbord of dopamine. There are also instances of bad news, things that makes us sad or agitated. There is a flood of virtual good and bad news at an unprecedented rate that our brain chemistry has not necessarily adapted to from an evolutionary perspective. It’s easy to dive into a bad news spiral; algorithms for social platforms are designed to keep us continuously engaged and to trap you into an echo chamber to confirm your beliefs.

Consider what you perceive as “bad news” upsetting and undesirable. Know that only a portion of what you hear is fact, the rest is a marketing spin, positioning to lead you to think a certain way and the rest is your reaction, your interpretation of what a series of events means. Of course, shutting everything out is not the answer, but somewhere there is a balance. Knowing the power of words to haunt weeks later, don’t be petty; be responsible. Maybe some thoughts should remain just that, thoughts. Be responsible to yourself also. Who and what have you surrounded yourself with?  Are you in an environment that shuts off your light? Know what energizes you. Yes, there will be times when the lateral habenula cast some serious bad mojo on your dopamine switch. For the rest of the time, know what energizes you. Keep balanced. I’m going to go do something happy right now; time to look at the NCAA basketball bracket and adjust my schedule to lighten up.

 

 

 

 

*Trauma and drug addiction are out of scope for this short piece, but present different modalities for dissertation.

 

Neverland, the Bad, Dangerous, History

“So, when all the fans and the estate, and all the anger—you guys gonna get it, you know that, right? Y’all gonna get it, I’m gonna get it, we’re all gonna get it,” Oprah Winfrey said near the end of her special After Neverland.¹  Perhaps, I’m gonna get it too. Leaving Neverland aired on HBO this week.  

Michael Jackson as the Maestro in Ghosts

Leaving Neverland in its simplicity was a harrowing journey inside the psyches of two men, before during and after sexual abuse by Michael Jackson. For Oprah, as a survivor of child sexual abuse, the documentary probably had a familiarity to it, a recognition of this is how it happens. Her purpose was not an indictment of Michael Jackson, but to raise awareness of child sexual abuse.  Winfrey highlighted, most of the time, it is someone you know. It’s an ongoing theme, child sexual abuse in the catholic church. These cases highlight the ability of fame, power and respect to cause rationalization of events versus recognition of possible criminal behavior.

Kerri Rawson, Author A Serial Killer’s Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming

There is always a rationalization chorus of that’s not the person I know. That is true. Kerri Rawson² knew Dennis Rawson as a loving father, law abiding citizen and president of the church council. She insisted it was a mistake when he was arrested as a serial killer. He could be behind 10 murders, he could not be bind, torture, kill.  It’s not him. That was her story until she listened to a 911 call where the killer reported the homicide he had committed.  She immediately recognized  his voice.Kerri Rawson stated:

I know that he cared for us and loved us. That side of him wasn’t an act. I’m not ever trying to defend anything my father has done, because it’s not defensible. But I think it’s important for people to understand: I did lose my father. I think it’s important, from a criminology aspect, to show that he was a father and a husband and a co-worker.

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon, said he will offer his resignation to Pope Francis, after a court found him guilty of failing to report allegations of sexual abuse of minors by a priest. (Emmanuel Foudrot/Reuters)

What does it mean if it’s all a lie? Jackson defenders vehemently deny any wrong doing; that’s not the man they knew. How do defenders grapple with the possibility that this is the unknown of the person they know? Somebody knew something; the enablers, be they willing or unwilling. French Cardinal Barbarin tendered his resignation this week for failure to report child sex abuse.  He was not an abuser, but he was an enabler, someone who had the potential to do something. Why didn’t he? Was it fear or misplaced loyalty. For Jackson, was it the presence of power, fame, brilliance, that created a rules need not apply? Was it tactical rationalization? I can move the bishop and the behavior will stop, I don’t want to bring shame on the church. He didn’t have a childhood, he is childlike, he was afraid people would take advantage of him so he trusted children. The truth is,  pedophiles do not stop abuse when moved to a new parish; they find new victims. Boys don’t beg their parents to have 10 friends sleep over in the same bed; grown men do not share a bed with a rotating roster of young boys.

The difficulty is, if we acknowledge possible wrong doing, what happens to works of genius?  Do we tear down buildings, dissolve institutions or destroy works of art?  It’s a balance. CEO’s are tossed out of companies they created for bad behavior, but the companies are not dissolved. Clergy with bad behavior are expelled  but the religion and building are not destroyed. Can we discuss happens to the music and film? This is a new conversation, not to be confused with confederate statues erected decades after the civil war of treasonous generals. That would be the equivalent of erecting a bronze depiction of Michael Jackson in bed surrounded by children. It’s not paying homage to criminal acts; but not erasing history.

Defenders state they did not see the abuse; they were not witnesses of wrong doings. In churches, clergy who abuse aren’t doing it in front of the congregation. Cory Feldman defended Michael Jackson for years, yet upon viewing portions of the documentary stated:

“I don’t want to be perceived as I’m here to defend Michael Jackson, because I can no longer do that. I can not in good consciousness defend anyone who’s being accused of such horrendous things,” he said. “But at the same time, I’m also not here to judge him, because again, he did not do those things to me and that was not my experience.

He said it was important  “consider all sides of this, even as uncomfortable as that might be.” No doubt, It’s difficult transition and courageous choice to believe the accusers and reconcile this with the man he knew.

Michael Jackson as the Mayor in Ghosts

As a society, it’s time to acknowledge this difficult duality. Michael Jackson’s funded the $15 million for his musical video Ghosts, the most expensive ever made. Michael plays two roles in the film, that of the Maestro (where he appears as Michael)  and the Mayor. In the video, the Mayor of a town confronts the Maestro for hosting the local children in his home. The Mayor calls him, strange, weird and a freak and asks him to leave. The Maestro insists they have fun, just a few scary tricks. The Maestro and troupe perform song and dance to an audience of boys with their mothers, a few towns people and the Mayor. Near the end, the frightened Mayor plunges out of a window and the Maestro, crumbles to dust. Did the short film Ghosts³ portray inner conflict or was it narcissistic trope, was he crying for help or taunting us? Is it easier to fool people than to convince them they have been fooled?* To what degree do you separate the art from the person? This week,pause and sit in the discomfort.

 

 

¹ https://www.hbo.com/documentaries/oprah-winfrey-presents-after-neverland

² https://www.thomasnelson.com/p/a-serial-killers-daughter/

³ https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2scdw8

*quote often attributed to Mark Twain

The Nearest Exits and Emergencies

Flight attendants ask you to locate the nearest exit.  Movie theaters have additional exits, typically beside the screens, that lead outside. Do you discount the possibility an emergency, distracted because you are doing other things or do you make a mental note of the exit? 


“We need maps showing where the exits are.” 

“There are exit signs at the end of each of the hallways.”

“Well, we need to know where those exits go.”

“That is on the maps. There is a map beside the elevator on every floor; but you probably don’t notice it.”

This was an exchange at an HOA meeting on safety. The elevators were out and we had to use the stairs in January. To be honest, if you’d asked me where maps displayed, I would look dumbfounded even though I see those signs an average of 30 times a week. I know where the exits are and where they go, but that was because a false alarm last year.

How do you behave an emergency? Is it the result of being in informed or because you have some experience? A friend told me safety is a priority at her company; anyone running  a meeting sets up an emergency protocol and assigns roles. Things like who will call 911, who will get the AED, who does CPR, what is the location  outside to meet in even of an earthquake, for an active shooter, what’s the plan to get out, hideout or take out.

Lots of organizations have “training” for emergencies; but have you made a mental note of what to do or discounted the possibility of an occurrence. As a team have you considered the collective response rather than individual behavior? We all know a coordinated response can save lives. Do you know what to do? Do you know if the people in your work area have a common understanding of what to do in an emergency?

Are we fond of reminders that disasters can happen? No, but when the bubble of all is well bursts, do you really want to be caught off guard? In an emergency, there is no time to plan. The clocks change this week, so while you  about spring forward for time, think about springing into action for an emergency.

 

 

Right, Wrong and Self Correction

What would you do if you wanted to be bad at your job? Don’t over think it; what would be on the list?  You have a sense of what success should  look like, but do you know what not to do? You may have a quota or  a list of of objectives for a job; do you have an idea of what failure looks like from the point of view of your management? In yoga class, we sometimes a do a pose the wrong way to help us understand the and differentiate the right way. We learn the potential damage of doing the pose the wrong way, or the nuances that will permit us to achieve the peak pose.  This exercise helps us self correct. Have the failure conversation, know the indicators of bad as well as the parameters for great. Self correct as required. This can be the difference between hanging in there and going out on a limb and thriving.

 

 

Remotes, Open Doors and Tired Brains

IMG_9836The trunk release for my car does not open doors. Saturday, I found myself standing in front of Lululemon pointing my keys, pushing the truck unlock and waiting for the door to pop open. When I’m off-balance physically I stumble and call. Mentally, I suppose it’s an inappropriate use of an unrelated item to open a door. I once tried to use the TV remote when the doorbell rang.  What tips you off when you are mentally exhausted?  With that, I leave you with a brief post and a long sleep!

 

Church and State: Blackface, Over It and Outrage

Church and State were in the news last week. Virginia featured  photos if elected officials in black from photos from the 80s and 60s. I am not surprised, I am over it. Pope Francis admitted nuns have been sexually abused by priests and bishops. I am not surprised. I am outraged. The politicians are jumping into the fray in Virginia, voicing an opinion and joining in the chorus of they need to step down. Maybe this furor has been so loud, I didn’t hear any demands of the Catholic church. What made headlines was the Virginia governor support of abortions versus the news of nuns being forced to have abortions by the church.

The photos in questions in Virginia were taken at a time when Gene Wilder donned blackface in the movie Silver Streak¹ with Richard Pryor and C Howell Thomas donned black face in Soul Man² with Rae Dawn Chong. I am not surprised these photos exist. The photos confirm what I felt as often being the only black person in the room, most likely I was being mocked or a brunt of joke. For that, I am a little disappointed, but, I have to give a pass, this is the generation coming off of blatant Jim Crow and segregation. I was often the first or only  black person my peers knew. The photo is history, not ongoing, not criminal, and not a pattern. Can we move on?

The Catholic church, decades of sexual abuse of children and nuns worldwide. Were there any calls, investigations this week in the US. Seems like the last time politicians got involved was last fall after the Pennsylvania grand jury report.

Bishops and other leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania covered up child sexual abuse by more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years, persuading victims not to report the abuse and law enforcement not to investigate it, according to a searing report issued by a grand jury on Tuesday.

This is just one state; there are 50. Add the sexual abuse of nuns to this. This is current and continuing,  it is criminal and it is a pattern. Are we not alarmed by the systematic sexual abuse of women and children?

We can react to everything with a like, dislike, or on social media; but, should we? The blackface photo triggered me. I had an incident with the Klu Klux Klan in 1979 and the photo was uncomfortable. I fast forwarded to Charlottesville, VA last year when Unit the Right marchers chanted ” Jews will not replace us.”  and the car attack that killed Heather Heyer. That was my trigger, my rabbit hole to climb out of. This revelation from the past did not reflect the present. It was a reminder, we need to calibrate. Is past history a current mode of operation? Is it dangerous, is it criminal, is it a pattern?  In case of church and state: the Virginia governor in blackface, get over it; the church’s sexual abuse of women and children is an outrage.

 

 

 

 

¹ Silver Streak 1976

²Soul Man 1986

³Tropic Thunder 2008

 

 

Is It Me? Confusion, Friends and the Lunar New Year

“I startled my neighbors in the elevator when they got on. Another set of neighbors seemed almost speechless when I said hi. Even the front desk staff looked taken aback. What’s up with all the confusion today?”

 

 

Someone pointed to my head and everyone laughed. A group of friends came over to celebrate the lunar new year; this is the year of the pig. I like a touch of  whimsy and forgot I was wearing a Piglet headband. Nothing like  a good laugh shared with friends.  Happy Lunar New Year!

 

 

Note: This black and white outfit will not be worn on New Year’s Eve or New Years Day.

 

 

 

 

Thankful: Respect, Serendipity and a Smile

I’m sitting in my car crying. I was in Whole Foods a few minutes ago. I saw this elderly man gingerly pushing a cart as if he was unsure of each step. As a child, I was taught, respect adults and to respect and give deference to the elderly. As my parents grew older, noticed how they get nervous in public,for fear of being a nuance, they’d physically stutter, trying to quicken the pace and yet try to become invisible at the same time. I recognized the same movement in this gentleman. I smiled and thought, don’t be invisible, take your time, it’s all good. As he walked away, I recognized something else, the gait.

He’s in his late 90s, he was a paratrooper in WW II. His walk is distinctive because of arthritis in his lower weight bearing joints; he did a lot of jumps and had early onset arthritis as a result of damage. I called out his name, then remembered the hearing aids and rushed a ahead of him to say hi. We hugged, then we charged ahead in search of his wife.

So there I was  in my car now crying. We are surrounded amazing people. I am thankful for what I was taught, thankful for everyone who showed kindness to my parents as they aged and thankful that I had a serendipitous meeting with my friends. This week, not to be cliche, but, what are you thankful for? What were you taught in childhood that you grew to appreciate as an adult? In a crowd of people, take moment to see the humanity.

Martin Luther King: Take a Day

I can’t do this. I will seem angry and militant, I’ll appear to be someone whining.  My thoughts about not writing a Martin Luther King day posts are similar to my struggle on the first year of the MLK day. If you were a federal or bank employee, you got the day off;  the rest of us had to use a vacation day. I had my excuses;  did I really want to tell my management I was taking Martin Luther King day off? How would that look; what would she think? A co-worker and I convinced ourselves, “he would have wanted us to work.”I did not take the day off.

Dr King led the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a protest of segregated bus seating where blacks had to sit in the back of the bus and give up their seat to any standing white passenger. During this time, African Americans did not ride city buses in Montgomery, Alabama, from December 5, 1955, to December 20, 1956. This boycott when the Supreme Court declared segregation on buses unconstitutional.I couldn’t be bothered to be a little uncomfortable and take a vacation day. What did that say about my character when people walked miles for more than year rather than take a bus, to make a stand? I’m not proud, but I am honest.

Left: Women and men gather around Stonewall Jackson’s grave during Lee-Jackson Day. Right: Stonewall Jackson; Robert E. Lee; Confederate; celebration; parade; south; southern; martin luther king jr.; mlk; mlk day; holiday; virginia; civil war.

The MLK Day bill, signed by Ronald Reagan, who was opposed to the holiday was veto proof. Those who were vocal and voted no included John McCain, Chuck Grassley, Steve Scalise and Orrin Hatch. McCain later would speak of this as a mistake while Grassley, and Hatch insist they voted no because of the economics; there would be a loss in productivity. The same rationale used by Reagan to justify his opposition. On a state level, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas, have Martin Luther King and Robert E Lee day, it’s a joint holiday. Georgia and Florida still have Robert E Lee as its own holiday. Lee-Jackson day is celebrated in Virginia. Lee Jackson day is set up to be the Friday before the Monday of King day. Many companies, rather than make MLK a holiday offered up floating holidays and personal choice days. I get it, they want to promote diversity, but don’t want to upset a base.

We learn from history, but why embrace and celebrate the confederacy? Are people so proud of their “heritage” they can’t see beyond the legacy of cruelty it takes to buy, own and sell people like cattle.  Can they not see  defending these confederate war generals, and re-enactments are symbols of a reprehensible past?  In 2019, the Mississippi’s state flag still  includes the confederate battle flag. A relic from a war lost over 100 years ago. Laurin Stennis, the granddaughter of a legendary segregationist senator has redesigned it and a movement has evolved.  Stennis Flag Flyers is a non-partisan, grassroots group of citizens which includes Republicans, Democrats and Independents. They promote adoption of the Stennis flag design as the official Mississippi state flag, which we believe will encourage unification of our citizens and further economic growth in the state. There are ways to acknowledge the past and embrace the future.

Jim Crow laws were based on the theory of white supremacy and were a reaction to Reconstruction. After the civil war, racism appealed to whites who feared losing their jobs to blacks. I lived in this time period. We were colored then I was born in a colored hospital. Separate but equal? This was not a trajectory to be better. Why honor King? How would things have changed if not for King?  King influenced the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. These acts provide the legal foundation for the rights of minorities, women and LGBTQ. He worked for equal rights, housing rights, opposed war and opposed poverty. His movement was inclusive. His movement was non violent. His movement was a threat. The FBI started monitoring King in 1955 and wire tapped him from 1958 until his assassination. J Edgar Hoover called King “the most notorious liar in the country” in November of 1964. It was an odd dance, the same FBI attempting to discredit King was the branch to investigate racial discrimination cases. King’s focus and devotion is unparalleled. King was not a saint, he battled his own demons, but, he didn’t make excuses. There were countless opportunities for him to walk away, but he didn’t. For that, I can get over a fear of appearing mad, angry whiny and militant. For that, I can write a post and take a day.

 

 

 

 

Something to Think About: Crash, Helmets and Change

“ I haven’t skied in years. I used to go to Aspen, Vail, Cooper, Steamboat,” I said wistfully. “I skied before people wore helmets.” Sensing confusion and disbelief, I went on to add, “Yes, there was a time when people didn’t wear helmets to ski.” My friend, still not sure just kind of mumbled, “no helmets…. but…” People who have grown up with a norm, a habit, customs, rules, can’t conceive of anything else. Data shows that helmets have not reduced skiing brain injuries or deaths. The American Medical Association did not find enough evidence to enforce mandatory use of helmets in 1997. But, this is not a debate of to helmet or not to helmet for adults.

Consider the impact perceived solutions accepted as a norm that has not proved to be particularly effective. There is an entire industry devoted to ski helmet production, in addition to ski rentals, there are helmet rentals, there are endorsements and peep pressure. The use of helmets is increasing. Helmets are now entrenched in ski culture; the use of helmets feels like “common sense” regardless of the data.

Most ski resorts do not require helmet to be worn for recreational skiing because the helmet does not “completely” prevent a head injury. It’s possible to still be injured during a ski crash, even while wearing a helmet. … When viewed in that light, though, there are not enough reasons for people to not wear a helmet.

This week, consider, once something is implemented and normalized; do we go back and reevaluate? Do we dismiss changing a norm because it’s too much trouble, it’s not worth it, or it’s not really hurting anything?

The Shutdown: Walls, DNA and Saving Face

The New One – Trump still using fake Game of Thrones poster that HBO scolded him about ¹

“I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great great wall on our southern border and I’ll have Mexico pay for that wall.

Source: Donald Trump’s presidential announcement speech June 16, 2015

This is stupid; there I said it. The shutdown is a misguided effort to “save face.” Altruistically it can be framed as the president making good on a promise to build a wall. This Twitstorm left breadcrumbs to ruination. One of the latest from 19 December 2018

I often stated, “One way or the other, Mexico is going to pay for the Wall.” This has never changed. Our new deal with Mexico (and Canada), the USMCA, is so much better than the old, very costly & anti-USA NAFTA deal, that just by the money we save, MEXICO IS PAYING FOR THE WALL!

Source: Donald Trump’s Twitter Feed

Which begs the question, if Mexico is paying for it, why is our government shut down over wall funding? OK, that’s a rhetorical, because the reason is all about saving face. The real question is, how long will this go on and to what extremes will people to spin this? Spin, the story and narrative have to be reshaped – Mexico is paying through USMCA or the story and narrative have to be diverted  as demonstrated by  Congresswoman Warren. Ms Warren claimed a Native American lineage based on stories passed down through generations in her family, President Trump mocked her as Pocahontas.

I won’t sit quietly for @realDonaldTrump‘s racism, so I took a test. But DNA & family history has nothing to do with tribal affiliation or citizenship, which is determined only – only – by Tribal Nations. I respect the distinction, & don’t list myself as Native in the Senate.

Source: Elizabeth’s Warren’s Twitter Feed

DNA reveals Ms Warren  had at least one Native American ancestor dating back six to 10 generations, which would make her between between 1/64th and 1/1,024th Native American. She then goes on tweet about President’s Trumps family history. A story, while true, is a diversion away from the original topic. Sigh. My dad used to say two wrongs don’t make a right. In the case of Warren (not native American) and Trump (mocking Pocahontas) we have two wrongs. However the focus has literally been on he said, she said and potential backlash.

Saving face. Yet, we all do it. We post on social media what will support our vision of how we want our lives to be seen. We post what supports the image we want people to have. As we go through another week that will hopefully bring an end to the shutdown situation, consider the lengths you go through to save face. How often do you reshape the narrative or divert attention to another topic. How do you say I’m wrong, I’m sorry, I’ve changed my view? Finally, do you graciously accept  I’m wrong, I’m sorry, I’ve changed my view?

 

¹HBO said: “We were not aware of this messaging and would prefer our trademark not be misappropriated for political purposes.”

 

Happy New Year: 2018 in Review

IMG_1566It is the time of year with all of the best of and top lists. Soooooooo, here are the most viewed blog posts of 2018. The top one is from 2017, a reminder, that even when the year changes, things from the previous year are still relevant.

  1. Hush: Summer of Love, the Fourth of July and the “N” Word
  2. The Age Issue: Potato Chips, Yoga and 60
  3. The Black Issue
  4. Let’s Talk; #MeToo, #HeToo, & #WhatNow
  5. Sweet Home Alabama: King, Wallace, Trump & Racist Adjacent

…and to all a good night

Friday, December 21 marked the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere; the longest night of the year. From here on out our days will get longer by more than 2 minutes a day until the summer solstice.  Sure, some boring dry facts, but isn’t it fascinating the length of daylight varies by more than 2 minutes per day? That those long winter nights we think of are actually getting shorter as we head towards spring….that I could keep going on, but I won’t. Happy holidays and to all a good night.

IMG_9492

Moon over Oakland – Winter Solstice 2018

Balancing Wants and Needs

Photo by Trina Morrow

I wanted to go to yoga; but my car stopped at the mouth of a tunnel and refused to move until it was pushed by the car behind me. I was later reminded of Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones with “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes  you might find, you get what you need.” I wanted to go to yoga, but my car needed a new clutch. I was stuck in that tunnel; cell phones do not work in that tunnel; I could not get out of that tunnel alone. I am stubborn; I want to do it all by myself. I want to say thanks over and over to the people who literally pushed me out of the tunnel and safely onto the shoulder of the highway. They also pushed me into admitting I need a little help sometimes. There are times to just be in the moment, to recognize what is happening and be grateful. This holiday season, with all of the wants, remember, we need each other.

The Last and Delirious – Pitbull, Fireball and Tunnels

“Hey, I’m going to do my best to push you out of here, OK?”

“Uh, yes, thank you, thank you very much.”

Hence was the start of a .93 mile bumper push. There was no rehearsal, no previous experience, no instructions and yet here we were, stunt driving. It started as I was driving on the freeway and singing with Pitbull  I’m heading into a tunnel and my car is losing speed despite my me flooring it. 70mph, 40mph, 10 mph and my car stops 30 feet inside the Caldecott tunnel just as Pitfall says “Fireball” choreographed to the music, a guy jumps out of the passenger side of the car behind me. Next thing I know, it is like a fast and furious movie, the car behind me is pushing me out of the  tunnel. The female driver pushing my car with her car looks as terrified as I feel.  Once out of the tunnel the guy has half his body leaning out of the passenger side window motioning to oncoming traffic to let us cross 4 lanes safely onto the side of the road.

Things went right for this to be a heroic tale rather than a tragic footnote of an incident in a dark tunnel. The passenger in the car was behind me had the knowledge and confidence that I could be pushed out of the tunnel by another car. This couple had a capacity to help someone else with notable risk to themselves in bumper pushing a car across 4 lanes of traffic with cars speeding by in excess of 70 mph. I heard Linda Wertheimer of NPR say this about George Herbert Walker Bush – ..”.maybe you didn’t agree with his politics all the time, but you could never, ever regret knowing him.” Yesterday, when strangers came to my rescue, I was reminded of Bush’s vision for a ‘kinder and gentler nation.” This week,in a world where you can be anything, be kind.

 

 

Balancing Acts: The Jerks

Steve Jobs, by all accounts, was not a nice person. Jerk is an oft used descriptor. He was also a genius, the man who, without a doubt, made Apple the juggernaut it is today. So, how do we balance the good, the bad and the ugly. How much bad behavior is to be tolerated because the results are phenomenal? Is the amount of acceptable “jerkish” behavior allowed proportional to the amount of success?

Your personal deal breakers define your boundaries for day to day life. What are yours? Are there occasions when you make allowances? Why? Do you rationalize the erratic behaviors of successful people like Larry Ellison (Oracle), Travis Kalanick (Uber), Elon Musk (Tesla), as, that’s what it takes to make a company? Is that an endorsement of the jerk CEO? If so, how far down the management chain is an abusive style acceptable? What payoff would you require to work for someone of the dark triad¹?  This week, consider, what determines the balance between good behavior and bad for you.

 

 

¹The Dark Triad is a term used in psychology to describe three aversive yet functional (subclinical) personality traits—narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/insight-therapy/201708/confused-about-successful-jerks-get-know-the-dark-triad

Me and Baby Brother: Emerson, Marathons and Happiness

The only person you are destined to become, is the person you decide to be.  Ralph Waldo Emerson

This sounds really profound in its simplicity and then you think about and want to argue. But wait, there’s more, you just don’t “decide,” you make a commitment. The person you decide to be is an ongoing choice. Seriously; there is a difference between expressing “I want to, I wish I could, I’d like to” versus “I am committed to…” For five years, I’ve said I want to do a handstand. Yet, on a daily, ongoing basis, there is no evidence of my commitment to this goal. Sure, I’ll kick up against a wall and hold it 3 seconds, but that’s like sprinting from my office to the kitchen once a day and expecting to have the endurance and stamina to run a marathon.

My brother called me on Thanksgiving day. Throughout our 90 minute conversation, I realized, he makes an ongoing choice to be happy. It’s a commitment in what he says, what he does, what he watches and what he listens to. He chooses to be happy. When we were kids, on the rare occasion when he was sent to his room in “punishment,” my mom would get this frustrated look and my dad would be close to tears trying to stifle his laughter. My brother would be in his room cheerfully belting out a song. My mom would finally break into laughter too; she had a kid who could make himself content.

This week, do inventory. Consider, your commitment to who you want to be. Do you makechoices on a daily basis that support the person you want to be? Ask yourself, are you doing little sprints with dreams of the marathon, or are you all in? What’s your game plan? Please note, anything involving the purchase of a lottery ticket does not count. To my brother, who sings it’s a Wonderful World and one of his favorite movies is It’s a Wonderful Life,…wonderful, wonderful, wonderful;  have a happy birthday, don’t go dipping any watches into punch bowls.

The Black Panthers, Thanksgiving and the Second Amendment

A police officer shot John Crawford dead in a Wal-Mart. Mr. Crwaford was shopping in the toy aisle and holding a toy BB gun. Mr. Crawford was a black man. The police officer, who was acquitted of any wrong doing, was a white man. Let’s start a conversation about gun control and the interpretation of the second amendment, 

…A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

If there is a “right of the people to bear arms,” why are black people, shot at a rate proportionally 3 times highe?¹ The oft heard response is “well they must have been doing something.” Hearing this rationale, Deray McKesson’s asked a police woman, “Describe for me, in what situation is it ok for the police to shoot and kill your daughter.” America is afraid of a black man with a gun.

Fear of the Black Man with a Gun

  1. The Mulford act of 1967 repealed the law allowing the public carrying of loaded firearms in response to the Black Panthers who patrolled Oakland neighborhoods watching for police brutality.  The National Rifle Association (NRA) supported this bill. The right of black people to bear arms has always been an issue. 
  2. The Supreme Court Decision for the Dred Scott case in 1857 said negroes whose ancestors were “imported and sold as slaves” could not bear American citizenship. To further support this, Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney said free blacks were not citizens; if they were, he warned, free blacks would have the right “to keep and carry arms wherever they went.” 
  3. Numerous laws were enacted after the civil war continuing to make it illegal for blacks to have firearms, bowie knives, ammunition and dogs. With the passing of the 14th amendment of 1868 granted citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States, states and local governments then required gun permits and licenses as a means to keep guns in the hands of whites only.

Fear of the White Man with a Gun

For African Americans guns are protection. Pre-civil war, freed slaves were in constant danger of being kidnapped and sold into slavery. Post-civil war, guns were a way to protect family and homes from the Klu Klux Klan whose reign of terror of blacks in the south included cross burnings, firebombs and lynching. There were over 4,700 lynchings in the US between,1882 and 1981. One hundred years of lynchings weren’t something done in the dark of night; lynchings were a public events with cheering white men, women and children, photographers recorded the event and lynching souvenirs were sold. So, you can imagine why a black man would want a guns as protection from a frenzied mob out to show supremacy. 

Put the Gun Down

The president suggested armed guards would have stopped the shooter at a Pennsylvania synagogue last month. Previously, he said teachers should be armed. All evidence is to the contrary. Tragically, j a trained police officer was fatally wounded in a shoot-out in Thousand Oaks three weeks ago. Think about it, you hear shots, you have to first determine, where they are coming from, who the shooter is, insure no one is in danger, before you act  to deliver a shot that will decommission the shooter. Gun sales rose after the Thousand Oaks incident; people reported buying guns to protect themselves.

How is this going to work? People are going to look for who has a gun, they will look for people they fear and the black person with the gun will be shot. They must be black doing something; shoot first and ask questions later? Basically, unless it is a Zombie Apocalypse, how will amateurs tell who is friend or foe? Innocent people will be shot, more lives will be lost.²

First Thoughts on the Second Amendment

Almost half the guns in the world are owned by Americans; 48%. Mass shootings cause anxiety and call attention guns, but overall have we normalized gun deaths? Your chances of death by gun is 1 in 315; that’s higher than death by car accident which is 1 in 491. Your chances of death in a mass shooting are 1 in 11,125. You’re at greater risk of death from choking on food which 1 in 3,461 than a mass shooting.

The second amendment is a response to ensure freedom from England for the states after the revolutionary war; a provision that sanctioned the continued use guns that enabled Europeans to slaughter native people, steal land,  establish a government and strip the inhabitants of power and rights. The continued use of weapons enabled a new country to kidnap, enslave and imprison people from another country and deny those people power and rights. It’s brutal past built on gun power.

Thanksgiving Food for Thought

This week, many well “celebrate” Thanksgiving. President Franklin Roosevelt signed a bill into law to create a holiday in 1941. The tale is told of Plymouth Rock ad a united celebration of settlers and Native Americas. The dark side of Plymouth is the Pequot Wars. The two year war slaughtered or took into captivity over 600 Pecquot men, women and children, rendered the tribe extinct. Those not killed were kept as slaves or sold into slavery in the West Indies. We cannot move forward with a fictional past. Guns enabled the slaughtered of Native Americas by immigrants.

What is the intent of the 2nd amendment today? Is it the ability of all people to have guns; for what purpose? Is it for people to fight a foreign government, for citizens  to protect themselves from the government?  This week, as you give thanks, give pause, what are gun rights and gun wrongs; where have we been and where do we go?

 

 

 

¹The statistics for people shot by police while not attacking – 39% black, 12% Hispanic and 52% white; the general population is 13% black, 17% Hispanic and 46% white.

² I finished this draft Monday night, unaware that on Tuesday morning the news would feature  the story of Jemel Roberson, a black security officer who subdued a shooter in a bar. When the police arrived, one of the officers pulled his gun and shot and killed Mr. Robinson. The officer response, he’d encountered a subject with a gun.

Smoke and Errors


My T-shirt caught fire and burned in the microwave.¹ There probably wouldn’t have been a fire if I’d removed the shirt when the timer went off, but, I was working in another room. Sure, I smelled smoke,  the air has been smokey for 2 days because of the wildfires. Losing the shirt was not upsetting. Neither was the fact I could start a fire in the microwave; who knew? The thing is, I’d normalized danger.  What should have caused immediate alarm didn’t. This week, consider,have you normalized alarms?

 

 

¹Why was the T-shirt in the microwave? I’d read the way to kill bacteria in kitchen sponges is to zap them in the microwave. So, I started zapping dish clothes in the microwave to avoid mildew. That works well, no smelly stuff in the laundry basket. Anyway, I’d used a T-shirt to wipe up some water in the laundry room. I wasn’t ready to to do another load, so I thought, let’s just zap it. Who knew, the shirt scorched and incinerated. 

 

Did I Stutter? Veteran’s Day, Data and Conclusions

I was a five year old who stuttered with an occasional stammer. A few people noticed and mentioned this to my mom and recommended early intervention to correct the problem.  There was a frustrating afternoon for both of us when she was trying to get me to say school and something snapped. She looked at me; exasperated and said, “Sheila, stop mimicking your grandfather. Your grandfather has a speech impediment, you don’t.” Problem solved, I stopped stuttering. I was fortunate, she switched conclusions and realized I was replicating what I heard.

Facts are based on data; but we don’t act on facts, we act on the conclusions drawn from those facts.  I knew my grandfather was the right age to have been in WWI. He had a tattoo of a hula dancer. I never heard him talk WWI. My conclusion was, he got a tattoo during the war, the war was awful and he never wanted to talk about it. That conclusion was wrong. Conclusions are made from facts. The facts can be correct and the conclusion can be wrong. However, if the facts are wrong — those aren’t facts, that is erroneous data.

4-F Disabled and unfit for military service, includes stuttering.  The description outlined in the military is:

Stuttering – Any current receptive or expressive language disorder, including but not limited to any speech impediment or stammering and stuttering of such a degree as to significantly interfere with production of speech or the ability to repeat commands.

One Veteran’s Day, I asked my mom about my grandfather and WWI. That’s when I found out my grandfather was unable to serve because he stuttered and that was part of her alarm when  started doing the same thing when I was younger. My mom explained, “He wouldn’t be able to yell the enemy is coming, get in the foxhole, danger, those things that could make the difference between life and death he would have trouble speaking, so he couldn’t serve.”

You deal with data all of the time; what’s most important is vetting the conclusions you make based on data and facts. Our elected officials determine what wars are fought, military policy, compensation and treatment. If it’s important enough to have a holiday to memorialize our armed services, it is just as important to vote for those elected officials who set the direction of the military. The conclusion from these facts? Leading up to Veteran’s Day are mid-term elections on Tuesday, if you are eligible, please vote.

 

 

Monday Morning Heartbreak

Screen Shot 2018-10-27 at 7.54.04 PMDamn. He’s back. He’s thinner, a lot thinner to the point of gauntness, he has the yellow cast of jaundice and a weariness that wasn’t there before, or maybe it’s just the loss of hope. I last saw Curt in Starbucks loading bags of sugar into a cup of coffee. It was February and he excitedly told me,  “I just wanted to say goodbye, I’ll be leaving in a couple of weeks.” Curt had a black roller bag and slept on the streets, in the doorway of an empty building next to the police station or the doorway of the empty retail space next to the Verizon store. If it was a hard rain, or freezing cold, he’d pay the $5.00 for a night at City Team, the homeless shelter a few blocks over on Washington. When he left, I envisioned they happy ending.

Screen Shot 2018-10-27 at 6.57.34 PMHe was gone for 8 months. The empty retail space by Verizon  and Starbucks is now a Wine and Design. The doorway in the building by the police station is undergoing renovation for a cannabis dispensary. I met Curt on an early morning dash to Starbucks – I had a 6:00 a.m. conference call. It was  freezing cold and he said “I don’tme not bother you, but I’m trying to fund raise to get enough to go the shelter.” I know the shelters are $5 and  gave him the 8 crumpled bills stuffed in my pocket. Once in Starbucks, I thought, I should have offered to get him a coffee or something, as I grabbed my mobile order. I can be a little late for my meeting. I’ll ask him on my way back. But, he was gone. After that, when I’d see him, we’d chat briefly. He never asked for anything again, but, I’d give him $20 bill if I had it.
Eight months, what happened? This is all about me now; my reaction. Was it naive and shamefully savioristic to think this was someone on the bubble to be saved with an occasional $20? I  give to food banks. People running short on cash are going to buy food and end up short on rent. Food banks help, it can be the the one thing that keeps people off the street, I want to believe this is true. My faith is shaken today.  I asked Curt, how long he’d been back; he said  4 days. I was really too heartbroken to ask for more.

Screen Shot 2018-10-27 at 7.31.07 PM.pngOne of the storytellers, Don Reed, at Snap Judgement back in December told of how he’d been homeless. at UCLA. His scholarship paid for tuition only. He told a story of things you’d thought you’d never do, like stealing a book to buy food. Surviving on little sleep, improvisation and lot of hope.  His was a story of resilience and triumph to become the award winning story teller, actor and comedian he is today.

I believe in magic  – pixie dust; something special when you least expect it. In the middle of the week your mom cooks breakfast for dinner; a snow day, going out to the movies in the middle of the week. I try to make magic, something seemingly random show up in the mail and for a brief moment there is magic for the receiver – something unexpected, a happy surprise and a smile, But,  this is real life outside a bubble. Outside of a world I can control and by sheer will.  I realize maybe the loss of hope I saw in Curt was really a reflection of my loss of hope and the end of magic.

Death in the Family Circa 1998

I get anxious this time of year now and latter realize it is October 17th. My dad died on this day in 1998 and somehow I always find myself doing something, well, not normal. This year I cleaned the plexiglass on the 7th floor balcony at 8:30. pm. I got my own crazy. My brother and I used to joke, every year on the anniversary of his death, my mom would have an “event.”, car accident, heart attack, stroke and the coup de grace – cancer. She was funny. After he died, she’d repeat “I’ll probably be dead in a year;  you know how those married coupled do.” After 5 years, she was still alive and genuinely concerned, as if death in close proximity to that of a loved one is proof of love and devotion.

My dad was the political parent. While my mother worked the polls every year,  my dad was the watcher. In the summer of 1973, my dad had retired and we watched the Watergate hearings. He was upset, frustrated and disappointed at the behavior in the highest office of the land. My mom, “Well, it’s just improper to discuss these things and we should not want to see the embarrassment and have the man kicked out of his job. How is that going to look?” At 15, what became a pattern, I sided with my dad.

It was my dad’s worn copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X stuffed on the bookshelf almost behind the Tales of Edgar Allen Poe.  It was finding gold.  When I was younger, at my mom’s workplace, I’d I heard the university professors whisper in hushed tones about Malcolm, and here was a book. I read it quickly, but was afraid to let anyone know I’d read it.

I sent him a copy of former chief of defense during the Viet Nam war, Robert McNamara’s book. We had a long discussion on if McNamara’s should have revealed knew militarily, we could not have won Viet Nam. AT the time, I was just overwhelmed at having gone to high school with so many kids with a parent in the military and now at university with about a quarter of the class in school on the GI bill fresh from Viet Nam.

I suppose death is mental flossing for us all things we wished we’d done, things we wished we hadn’t said that we replay back and forth. I feel fortunate, I once had a conversation with my dad about my name, “why Penelope?” He responded, “I  wanted something Greek, if your brother were a girl, he’d be Pandora. That’s why the dog’s name is Plato.”  Thanks for the memories and smiles dad. My favorite brother and I appreciate it.

 

 

911 for Dummies

911, what is your emergency? People,  911 is not your personal assistant or bodyguard on demand. In Minnesota  a man ran out of cheese while making lasagne and called 911. In Ohio, a man called 911 because Burger King would not honor a coupon. An understaffed, overstressed operation should not be fielding these calls;  911 operators listen to murder, domestic violence and car wrecks all day, because of the worker shortage, it is common for most of them to work days in excess of 10 hours and they frequently suffer from burnout. Please stop the histrionics because you feel you’re wronged  and get therapy. Our 911 system is choking on non emergency calls. Reports across the US show about 40 – 45 percent of calls to 911 are not an emergency. In a 10 hour day, 4 hours are spent on nonsense.

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Dispatchers can get all the critical information needed for an emergency response in less than 30 seconds. Then there are the calls that tie up not only 911 operators, but the limited resources of the police department as well. This week, a Lyft passenger, in New York City, called 911 because the Lyft driver declined to play the radio. The caller¹ responded several times to the dispatcher, “no injuries, no weapons, no danger,” but kept demanding assistance. The 16 minute video shows him making several calls, getting in an out of the Lyft vehicle and calling 911 back because the police had not arrived. There are over 8,000 serious crimes (murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny and auto theft) a month in New York City. A Lyft driver refusing to play the radio is not one of them.

In the US, someone is murdered every 31 minutes, someone is raped every 1.9 minutes, one child is reported neglected or abused every 4.8 seconds, and one elderly person is victimized by a violent crime every 4.2 minutes. Calling 911 because you suspect a child is selling water without a permit is not an emergency as happened earlier this year in San Francisco with the “Permit Patty.” escapade. Complaints about permits go to, surprise, the permit department. The city has a list of complaints and the numbers to call for suspected violations; 911 is not one them. Calling 911 because you see people you do not recognize in the neighborhood is not an emergency. Yet these calls are queued in the same system with serious crimes and life threatening emergenices

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The police and 911 spent a total of 3 hours with the infamous “BBQ Becky;” the woman who called 911 because someone was using a charcoal grill in a non-designated charcoal grilling spot  Three hours. The park patrons were in a grilling area, just not one designated for charcoal grills. There are pamphlets with specific grills  approved for use.  Something so minor, it’s not posted on the sign with the list of rules that  start with dogs must remain on a leash. 

No one wants to be judged by their worst moments; so here are some considerations before making a 911 call. Is it an emergency? Police reports can be filed online and complaints go the proper city officials. People will do things that make you angry, people will do things that are wrong, including running red lights, jaywalking and smoking too close to a building, but these are not 911 calls. It is a gross abuse of the system for non emergency calls and consider the time taken away from someone in need of immediate assistance; don’t be that person. If someone is recording you calling 911, there is a good chance you are that person. If you have a friend calling 911 for a non emergency, take the phone away. You take the keys away from a drunk, take the phone away from an idiot. Tell that person, “I don’t think your call go before a school shooting, a limousine crash with 18 people or warehouse fire with 36 people. My life and your life do not depend on this, 911 is for people whose lives do.“ 

 

 

 

¹The caller also said Uber several times; the rideshare service was Lyft.

²This is a complex issue of an understaffed, overstressed organization; a system set up to handle most calls from landlines. With cell phones, there is an exponential increase in call volume coupled with the difficulty in  tracking where a caller is. There are many apps with location services, 911 isn’t one of them. We forget that. Your city auditor reviews and appraises financial and managerial control systems; determines compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and policies; verify the sufficiency, relevance and reliability of financial, statistical, and performance data; appraise the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of City operations; and recommends measures for improvements. November, get out and vote; let’s do this.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

This past spring, as I was walking, I noticed these “things.” It was the same “thing” in different locations, painted different colors. The plaque on them said Oakland A’s Stomper. Ohhhhhhh, it’s an anteater, an aardvark. It’s hard to have a mascot for athletics, so have a mascot with a name that starts with an A. This is the Oakland A’s Stomper and yes, you stomp on ants

That was creative and wrong. It’s an elephant. Apparently my mind is a little weird and I reckon I’ll just embrace it. In 1902, New York Giants manager John McGraw told reporters that Philadelphia manufacturer Benjamin Shibe, who owned the controlling interest in the new team, had a “white elephant on his hands”, team manager Connie Mack defiantly adopted the white elephant¹ as the team mascot.

Charles O. Finley became the majority owner of the A’s in 1960. He changed the mascot from the elephant to the mule, because the elephant is the symbol for the Republican party and the donkey is the symbol for the democratic party. In 1981, the team was sold to Walter Haas, Jr and the elephant was

resurrected as the mascot in 1988.

Today I went to a community meeting hosted by the A’s to discuss the new ballpark. People were for and against the new location, voices were heard from a variety of points of views from jobs, traffic, environmental impact and gentrification. We were seated at tables with our neighbors focused on a topic that impacts us all, a new ballpark in our neighborhood. What I saw was  a meaningful discourse. What I heard were people who voiced strong opinions, but, there was an opportunity for the A’s to give background and context and acknowledgment that many of these concerns had been factored in. It was an us and we versus there tribalism of a nameless “them.” People can behave with civility. I sat and smiled; I’m part of it. The goal for the new facility is to be uniquely Oakland. With this group and this approach, it can’t help but be both unique and Oakland

 

A huge thanks to the Johnsons for their generosity. Best way ever attend an A’s game – suite life.

 

 

¹a possession that is useless or troublesome, especially one that is expensive to maintain or difficult to dispose of.

Enough Already – The Nuclear Option, Supreme Court Hearings and Bart Simpson

Here are the numbers; 59% of the 997 people surveyed said Kavanaugh should not be appointed to the supreme court if Ford’s charges are true; 12% are unsure and 29% say yes. This is not partisan politics; this is wrong. This was not a normal week. How did we get here?

The Nuclear Option

The constitution requires a super majority – 60 out 100 votes. The nuclear option is a point of order raised by the majority leader to require a simple majority of votes, 51 out of 100 rather than 60 out of 100. With no time limits for debates in congress, this is said to help and eliminate filibustering. This is the thing, the majority leader gets to bring this up as a point of order and the senate votes. Ironically, the vote to accept the nuclear option is a simple majority – 51 to 49. A framework that encourages collaboration and consensus can be tossed out.But, this framework also has no time limit on debate and the famed filibuster. And herein lies the problem?

In response to the republican filibustering on President Obama’s nominations to the court of appeals In November of 2013, the senate voted 52 – 48 that all judicial nominations except for the supreme court would require a simple majority rather than 60 out of 100 votes. In 2017, senate republicans in reposne to democratic planned retaliation for Merrick Garland invoked the nuclear option exempting Supreme court justices. A framework intended to promote collaboration and consensus now ensures tribal war, a system breeds contempt versus compromise. Without the nuclear option – this nomination would not be going forward.

 

The Bart Simpson Defense – I didn’t do it, nobody saw me, you can’t prove a thing

This past week, two different friends said, if Kavanaugh had said I partied as a youth, I did some things I am not proud of. If I did what’s been said, I am deeply sorry and I apologize. That is not who I am now, we’d be done. There would be no further conversation, other than, we’ve all done things in our youth and learned from it. Who we were as teenagers do not reflect who we are today. That didn’t happen.

The world saw a belligerent, angry, and loud display of privilege. Kavanagh stalled, delayed and answered questions with questions. An analysis by The Vox highlights how Kavanagh did not answer questions. He often responded to questions by asking his own questions. Odd behavior for what is essentially a job interview. His demeanor was less than judicial. He was particularity flippant and dismissive when questioned by women.  He cut Feinstein off mid sentence and admonished her, his behavior towards to Klobuchar questions was so bad, he apologized to her. It was surreal, it was unhinged and based on Kavanagh’s behavior, this nomination should not go forward.

 

Me Too Need Not Apply?

Over 1,000 identifiable victims of sexual abuse, 300 priests and a reign of terror for the last 70 years. Thank you Daniel Dye for launching a 5 year effort leading to a grand jury investigation in the State of Pennsylvania on the abuse of the Catholic Church.  These findings published in August of 2018; and yes, they matter. This week, to hear comments like, “Why wasn’t it reported? Why wasn’t something said sooner” indicates some very important people have not been listening. Or maybe they have and they don’t care?

Kavanaugh has sworn under oath Ford’s allegations are false. If found to be true, this would mean perjury, lying under oath. Yet, 29% of almost 1,000 people surveyed, said  Kavanaugh should be confirmed  if the allegations are found to be true and 12% are unsure. Is the partisan divide so great there is a willingness to place someone on the highest court of the land who lies under oath?  Or, does the treatment of women not matter when selecting someone that will determine the law of the land for a lifetime. This is not who we are, this nomination should not go forward.

 

I can trace how we have got here this week, but, how long has it taken this deep divide to fester? Will we allow it to tear us apart or are we ready to come together? We’re at an inflection point of change.  What the world saw last week was belligerence and privilege in lieu of graciousness. What will we see this week? Will it be the end of the division or the start of destruction?

 

Facial Recognition: Congress, the Judicial System and Demographics

The tech headlines in June were all about the inaccuracy of facial recognition software, if you’re not a white male.¹ For white males, facial recognition for gender was accurate 99% of the time; the accuracy of facial recognition for gender of dark skinned females was 65%. Why is this happening in 2018? We know how, the data sets used for facial recognition were 80% male and 75% white. Facial recognition technology is proposed for passports, security systems, etc. So, why would US based companies, with a demographic  of  49% male and 51% female and the racial mix is 63% white and 37% non white use poor data?


Garbage in, garbage out is an apt description. It applies not just to computing and technology. A builder using poor materials and shoddy workmanship is going to give you a poor building. People unprepared and ill suited for a job give you  disappointing results. It is not going to work. You need good data, good models for solutions to work. Business decisions made from bad data cost over 3.1 trillion dollars a year.² Good models and good data are good sense. So why don’t we do it? Why don’t we recognize it,  when it is literally staring us in the face?

The current US congress, the most diverse congress ever, is 80% white and 80% male. These are the decision makers, the policy influencers, this is the governing body for a country that is 49% male and 51% female with a racial mix that is 63% white and 37% non white. From a data perspective, the results from this governing body do not bode well for the population as a whole. In March of 2015, the US Census Bureau reported that by 2020 more than half of the country’s children will be minority race, and that this shift will take place for the population as a whole in 2044.

History has shown us out of alignment congressional and judicial models costs. There is always a group that pays starting with the seizure of land from indigenous people, and continuing with enslaved people. This misalignment made laws to ban Chinese immigration, imprisoned and seize property from American citizens of Japanese heritage. This misalignment made it illegal for women to vote. The congressional data model is skewed. By numbers alone, a demographic shift should be reflected in the legislature with a slight lag. Historically, that has not happened. The 19th amendment for women’s right to vote went to  congress in 1918 and was ratified two years later.  Almost a hundred years later in 2018, congress is 80% men in a country that is 51% women.

It’s 2018, and the software design for facial recognition  in the US literally does not recognize dark skin females because the developers used a dataset of 80% male and 75% white. With opportunities for Supreme Court justices, where is the conversation for the makeup of the court to track somewhat with demographics? The US Congress currently 80% white and 80% male for a country that is 63% white and 49% male. Doesn’t critical thinking sound the alarm? Does this not parallel the facial recognition dilemma? Joy Buolamwini, a Rhodes scholar at MIT Media labs found that facial recognition systems did not work as well for her as it did for others.

“Technology”, Ms. Buolamwini said, “should be more attuned to the people who use it and the people it’s used on. You can’t have ethical A.I. that’s not inclusive,” she said. “And whoever is creating the technology is setting the standards.”

 

Moving forward, can the same be said of government? Government should be more attuned to the people with use it and the people it is used on you can’t have ethical government that’s not inclusive, and whoever is creating the laws is setting the standards. If those creating technologies³ continue to fail at diversity until called out, is government any different?  I can’t help but ponder while the numbers may be for us, is the force against us?

 

 

 

¹facial recognition for gender

  1. light skinned males – 1% error
  2. light skinned females – 7% error
  3. dark skin males – 12% error
  4. dark skin females – 35 % error 

²Erroneous decisions made from bad data are not only inconvenient, but also extremely costly. IBM looked at poor data quality costs in the United States and estimated that decisions made from bad data cost the US economy roughly $3.1 trillion dollars each year.

³ https://bousbous.com/2018/08/13/the-diversity-issue/, https://bousbous.com/2018/03/05/2983/

The Thinker: Don’t Ask Me to Smile…Yet

I’ve been asked a few times, “why do black women look so mean all of the time.” It’s a good question, but I can’t think of an easy response. See the comments to the right I read this week.¹ I am referred to as an animal. “These are animals.” “Stop hiring these animals.” That was hard to read. I can highlight the inaccuracies and contradictions, but I can’t undo the words. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never break me,” is false. These comments wear down my psyche as a black woman. I was not prepared, I’d done a search for a news item and stumbled onto vitriol.

During the 2008 election cycle, a co-worker described the turmoil of his father in-law. A vote for McCain/Palin would be for a woman. A vote for Obama/Biden would be for an African-American and he didn’t like either possibility. Always seeking truth and data, I was fascinated. I love that I am able to hear these things; to be that bridge. At the same time, as a black woman, it was a chip away at my psyche. I have two genetic traits that make me in-despicable, where  race and gender deemed unqualified and undesirable.

Pop-quiz. Thus far, at any point, have you thought, well those were anonymous random people? Try this: “I hate you. You are black and female and you are going to take my job.” That was not random, that was not anonymous, that was my classmate. For 5 years, we’d been in an engineering program together. While I’d like to think anonymous did not have the facts, my classmate did. My grades were the same as his. While I’d like to think anonymous or my coworker’s father in law is uneducated, my classmate was; we were both about to receive our Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. While it is comforting to think of anonymous as jobless and bitter, my classmate had secured a job. I want to think anonymous is someone I’ll never encounter, but in truth, I already have.  Anonymous could be my former classmate.

Understand, when I pass you on the street, when I meet you, there is a hesitation and weariness, do you wish to vanquish my very existence? Will anything I say or do be met with disdain or invoke rage? As a minority report, these are things I think of daily in public spaces. A fourteen year old scrolling though my Instagram feed commented, “you are smiling in every picture, you look happy.” I thought about it. Yup, it’s my happy and safe place. As we try balancing on unstable surfaces² of life, may we all greet the world with a smile from a happy place.

 

¹This comment is in response to an article from the Herald-Sun Times and posted on the website Topix. Topix is a news community connecting people to information and discussions that matter to them in U.S. towns and cities.

²The meaning for BOUS – Balancing on Unstable Surfaces

 

 

The Bottles, the Binge and the Couch

The Safeway clerked laughed and shook her head as she scanned my purchases. With 2 bottles of Dr Pepper and 2 giant sized  Hershey’s Cookies and Cream bars; I laughed with her. I was in a full blown binge mode.  Three days later, 12 bottles of Dr Pepper, 4 giant sized candy bars, 2 bags of family sized Lays potato chip and a large  tub of sour cream & onion dip I’m in danger of forming a habit. Last week was a rough work week, I can’t talk about it, so I ate.

I am reminded, of cause and effect. My change in behavior was triggered. I know the cause and the effect. Sometimes, the cause triggers a change for good; it took only one comment for me to quit smoking. This week, neither cause or effect is desirable. It’s time to get off the couch and into action. How do I address both the cause and the effect? What’s next? This week, consider the impact of cause and effect on your behavior. Are there actions you need to take to address the effect and the cause? Are you willing to do it?

 

 

 

The Labor Day Question

Screen Shot 2018-08-30 at 6.08.31 PMWhy do we celebrate Labor Day, historical significance or modern day celebration? Labor day originated as a celebration of unions, back in the late1800’s. Now, the first Monday in September is more about back to school, end of summer and sales. Union membership was at a record low in 2017 – 10.7% of the working population. More than 50 years ago, one in 3 workers were unionized. With so few people in unions today and union history of excluding women and minorities, is it time for 136 year old labor day to retire?  Is this just a minor thing? Who wants to make a big deal about it? Can we take away a holiday? Can we replace it?

Screen Shot 2018-08-30 at 6.49.50 PMCould we aspire to an ERA day? The Equal Rights Amendment was introduced in 1923; yet 95 years later, there are not 38 states in agreement to pass this amendment to the constitution to guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex. Currently, there are 13 holdout states (see diagram) and Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, Tennessee, and South Dakota legislators voted to revoke their previous ratifications. Efforts failed this year, 2018,  in Virginia, Arizona and Florida. The last census showed women are 50.8% of the US population. Yet we have holiday from that celebrates 10.7 percent of the population’s membership in an organization with a history of excluding women and minorities? This Labor Day, ask yourself, is Labor Day time off or times up?

 

The Question Issue

“Why are you limping, are you hurt?” I get asked monthly. “I have scoliosis. My spine curves laterally to the right instead of going straight down my back throwing off my gait. I can compensate for it most of the time; when I’m tired, I limp.” Would friends and casual acquaintances ask me that so easily if I always limped? I think not; there are things “we’re not supposed to ask.” Therein is the conundrum, as a friend of mine said, there are all these things I I can’t ask, but, I suppose to know.

You don’t know everything, you’re going to say something stupid and at some point in time, there is a good chance you’re going to learn something that is going to radically shift your perspective. This would work were it not for our egos that will stop us from asking when we need to, or cause us to get righteously indignant at an innocuous comment.

There may be moments when you can ask questions; take the opening.  For the reverse, are you a resource? To what degree are you open to others asking you questions “they’re not suppose to ask?”  What are your boundaries; how do I respond to what is inappropriate? Think about it because it’s hard to respond eloquently without forethought.

If you’re in a diverse environment, economic, cultural, religious, occupation, age, etc., you will encounter something different and unfamiliar. How do you learn about it? (I used Google to find out why people were eating Tide Pods. Yes, it’s a thing; not my thing!)  This week, think about the things you feel you can’t ask. What difference would it make if you could? Is there a way you can make that happen?

The Privacy Issue

You are being watched. It’s not a person looking at you, speaking into a headset, it’s not an overhead motion activated camera tracking with a flashing red recording light. No, it’s none of that cool looking stuff you see in movies. If you use a computer for work, your employee can install or may have installed employee monitoring software.These products do everything from tracking your keystrokes, sites you visit, taking screen shots every 3 minutes and text alerts to management when certain key words are used. Do data privacy and regulations prohibit this or are they a false sense of security?

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union and the European Economic Area that went into effect in May of 2018. The State of California passed a similar law, California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) that that takes effect in 2020. GDPR says

“Personal data shall be collected for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes and not further processed in a manner that is incompatible with those purposes.”

This does not prevent employee monitoring in that it is for a specific purpose to measure productivity and ensure people are doing what they are paid to do. GDPR does not restrict employee monitoring software.

My blog posts can be a call to action, a warning, or informational. This post is informative. Does your company use employee monitoring software? Chances are, you don’t know and that is on purpose. So, as you go through your tasks this week, think about your digital trail? What are you informing your employer about yourself?

The Diversity Issue

There are people living in tents, sleeping on the sidewalks, huddling in doorways. Why? They don’t have homes. Must be a shortage of homes. Crazy, right? There is a lack of diversity in tech. Must be a “pipeline problem?” Oh please, that is a marketing construct for corporate absolution. The real issue is supply and demand. “Pipeline problem” makes a lack of diversity sound like a supply issue, when the first issue is a lack of demand.

Supply and Demand

Screen Shot 2018-08-12 at 1.42.42 PMMitt Rommey’s request for women in his cabinet, turned into a political punchline during the 2012 presidential debates.  Read in context, the situation was then Governor Rommey’s annoyance at no women candidates for his cabinet.

Mitt Romney: Thank you and important topic. And one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as Governor of my state. Because I had the chance to pull together a Cabinet, and all of the applicants seemed to be men. And I went to my staff and I said: “How come all of the people for these jobs are all men?” They said: “Well, these are the people that have the qualifications.” And I said: “Well gosh, can’t we find some women that are also qualified?” And we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our Cabinet. I went to a number of women’s groups and said: “Can you help us find folks?” And they brought us whole binders full of women. I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my Cabinet, and my senior staff, the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states, and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.”

Screen Shot 2018-08-12 at 1.47.50 PMWith a demand for women and effort was made and women got positions. If there is demand, supply will work itself out. The Vovlo XC40 exceeded its expectations. It was available in March of 2018 and by May there were 80,000 orders. Volvo ramped up production. Of course it is about money and opportunity. Opportunity generated by demand. Demand based on a belief by consumers that this product fills a niche in that will make their lives better.

Belief

There is no demand without an inherent belief in value. Research shows, a diverse team makes a better product. If you are designing a product, it makes sense for  the demographics of the developing team to have similar demographics or experiences of the end users. Particularly in technology,  whose products impact the majority of population, there is a persistent belief in the myth that young Caucasian and Asian males are the best hires. Seriously, is this the sole demographic you want to design ubiquitous devices in your everyday life?

Screen Shot 2018-08-12 at 1.51.27 PM You can get directions from your phone predicting the time you will arrive with red lines indicating traffic slowdowns and alternative routes. You can have retina recognition for your mobile phones. You can use your phone to pay for items, board a plan and order tickets. Yet this “pipeline problem” for lack of  diversity  has haunted the tech industry for over 20 years? Try again. Changing the demographic nature of the workforce requires a shift to embrace the value of diversity.

Tipping Point?

Screen Shot 2018-08-12 at 1.54.41 PMA founder turned funder, whom I admire spoke  on funding companies and diversity he said:

….really the first 10 employees at a company have such a huge  impact on culture and the default advice, which I do believe is good advice is you know to start with the your immediate friend network. or the people who you worked with you are most impressed by  most would want to create something with the smartest people you know, the hardest working people you know. And i do think that is good advice. The challenge then,  for most people, that pool is limited.

I think the best way we can help them overcome that and give then access to awesome people. The best way to overcome is to help build out that network that make up that supply.

This adheres to the issue being one of the pipeline. There was mention of the Ronney rule during the interview, which helps, but why does that have to be something that needs be in place? Why? The tipping point will be when the beliefs change,  diversity is valued and there is demand.

Next Steps

Kids observe things and ask why. This week, be a kid, observe and ask why. Look at your work place. Is it  diverse in age, ethnicity and gender? If not, why? Does your why make sense? If asked who the best people you have worked with ever are, what does your list look like? Is it  diverse in age, ethnicity and gender? If not, why? The kid in you can ask why, the adult in you can answer. The optimist is all of us can hope for better products.

 

 

 

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