My son was born almost 11 months ago and is just starting to walk on his own. Seeing him learn to stand on his own feet and the look of sheer glee on his face as explores his world is magical. Watching him and his big sister become more and more themselves is basically the best thing in my world. I think most parents experience something similar, having kids gives us a chance to see the world through new eyes and experience familiar things for the first time once again.
Like many parents I find myself reconsidering priorities and modes of thought. In my professional life I spend a lot of time thinking about metrics and key performance indicators (KPI’s) because so much of what I do revolves around tracking and reporting. It’s far too easy to get so caught up in the work that one loses sight of the KPI’s that really matter – things like being a decent human being, teaching my kids good values, leaving the world a better place than I found it. What I’ve come to realize is that fundamentally they all come back to one thing – adding beauty to the world.
In tech startup-land it’s common to frame actions in term of whether or not they “add value” to the company or to clients. It’s a useful shorthand and a good reminder that if a product or service isn’t adding value there’s no reason for people to consider paying for it. Being cool is nice, adding value is essential. As a professional, my interactions with customers and coworkers are determined by this simple metric: does what I am about to do add value? I find having a simple clean metric like this immensely helpful in cutting through the noise of office politics, my own ego, and anything else that can cloud the issue.
At the same time, it’s far too easy to get sucked into thinking about things only in terms of monetary value – we see the horrific impacts of such thinking in every clearcut forest, every destroyed fishery, and in the impending existential crisis of climate change. I’ll save the rant about capitalism for another day, for the purposes of this post it’s enough to say that these things are the result of an ideology that defines value in strictly monetary terms. For example when one works for a logging company a pristine old growth forest has no value but the lumber you could extract by clear cutting it does; and so we clear cut our forests with abandon and leave the natural world – the ecosystem that makes our existence possible – in ruins.
Several people have messaged me asking me for my recommendations for the upcoming election. Here’s my slate so far:
Delaine Easton for Governor. She’s the only candidate in the race who supports high speed rail + universal healthcare AND has realistic proposals to pay for them. She’s also a long time advocate for education and for kids in general, which I like.
Gayle McLaughlin for Lt. Governor. She is the former mayor of Richmond, a strong progressive and an independent, endorsed by both DSA and Our Revolution + lots of other progressive groups.
David Hildebrand (self-identified Libertarian Socialist) for Senate. He has solid positions on most of the key issues and a host of progressive endorsements.
I’m seeing good stuff about Pamela Price for Alameda County DA but haven’t done enough research to explicitly endorse her.
Jovanka Beckles is a strong candidate for State Assembly District 15 if you’re in her district.
No other candidate endorsements from me.
Prop 68 is a No – we should not be issuing Bonds to pay for Park maintenance. This is an absolutely terrible way to finance normal maintenance and unnecessarily adds to the State’s debt.
Prop 69 is a No – tying the legislature’s hands about where to spend tax revenue serves no purpose except to guarantee wasteful spending in some areas while other lower profile programs are under-funded.
Prop 70 is a hard No – this is another republican effort to cripple the legislature by requiring a 2/3 majority before spending revenues from cap and trade.
Prop 71 – No endorsement
Prop 72 is a Yes – People should be able to add rainwater capture systems without their property taxes going up. Especially in urban areas most rainwater drains directly to the ocean and is wasted. Catching and storing that water instead helps the whole State weather droughts more easily and should be encouraged.
Measure D in Oakland is also a Yes. This is a Parcel tax to fund libraries here in Oakland. Even if you never set foot in a Library they provide critical services – everything from free meeting space for community groups to internet access for low-income people to, you know, books.
Like many Californians who grew up here, I have always considered myself a Californian more than an American. In my 20’s I spent years travelling back and forth across the United States as part of various environmental and social justice campaigns and that feeling only deepened. When outside the US I always tell people who ask that I am a Californian when they ask my nationality. My daughter is a ninth generation Californian and there is nowhere else in North America I would even consider living. As I have said for years – long before becoming involved in the independence movement – I am a Californian by birth, culture, and inclination and an American because they conquered us. As you might expect, identifying as a Californian first has an impact on how I view American politics.
A tremendous amount of ink has been spilled about the recent American elections. As tempting as it is to rant about everything the Democrats did wrong along the way, I’ll save that rant for another day. Instead, I want to talk a bit about why Californians voted the way they did and what that means for our future. Continue reading →
I was working on an article on the US presidential elections for another website earlier today and made an offhand remark that if the Democrats nominated a bag of Avocados for the presidency that California would faithfully line up and vote for it. And then it hit me – a bag of Avocados would actually be a better nominee than either American party’s candidates. Here’s 10 reasons you should join me in writing in a bag of avocados on your presidential ballot this fall. Continue reading →
Yesterday I put up a new post on how to optimize your mobile app’s URI scheme. The post is mostly technical but touches on a few important points – notably the fact that the mobile app ecosystem is a fragmented series of walled gardens. This is in sharp contrast to the free and open web where anyone can add content and anyone can access it.
If you feel the way I do about free speech, feel free to insert your own rant here about the privatization of the (virtual) commons. This is the digital equivalent of town squares where free speech was legally protected being replaced by malls where a rent a cop will firmly escort you off the premises if you try to do any sort of outreach. Continue reading →
I’ve self-identified as a feminist since my late teens and have been very vocal about it, sometimes to my own detriment. Not that I’m some sort of knight in shining armor, I’ve made my share of mistakes along the way despite my best intentions and I can’t claim to be motivated entirely by altruism. While I am very much interested in equality and women’s issues in their own right, I’ve always been at least as interested in what Feminism could potentially do for men. Continue reading →
It’s Sunday after the vote and I’m sitting in a park in Edinburgh, killing time. I had intended to stay in Scotland another week to do more interviews about what’s next but now, with a 10 point spread on a No vote, I find myself too brokenhearted to continue. Especially since Maia left for California this morning and I am once again traveling alone. I’ve re-booked my flight but unfortunately the first available seat does not leave until Monday. I shout out on Twitter and Facebook that I am here for another day and would like to talk about what’s next. A few people re-tweet the message, but no one local replies. They’re busy picking up the pieces and mourning. I understand. Continue reading →
Sunrise came far too early and it’s off again. Today I am 34 years old and Scotland has a real chance at independence for the first time in over 300 years. My phone chimes repeatedly when I turn it on with birthday wishes from friends, coworkers, and clients. Today feels like a good day.
After about an hour and a half of driving we arrive in Elgen, the road sign count has shifted back strongly in favor of Yes and we see a fair number of stickers and a few big flags as well. There doesn’t seem to be an actual Yes office in town, though there have apparently been a good number of events and the day is getting on by the time we get breakfast in our bellies so we decide to head on to Inverness (dubbed InverYESs by local activists).
We’re deep in the highlands now and there are no longer any No posters or signs anywhere in sight and big home-made Yes signs appear regularly.
We make a stop along the way at the site of the Battle of Culloden, where my mothers Clan (The Ritchie’s) were almost wiped out holding the center of the Jacobite line. Culloden and the Jacobite’s conjure decidedly mixed feelings for me. On the one hand Prince Charles wanted absolute monarchy and was, in historical terms, little more than a pawn of the French whose army was financed with money from the French slave trade. But the Ritchie’s and others joined him out of the belief that he would restore the Scottish Parliament and give them back home rule – and because he promised religious tolerance.
History is full of good people betrayed by their leaders and walking the battlefield I find myself in tears. I gather a few wildflowers and press them into a notebook to take home. To be here, today, gathering flowers on the day Scotland gets to finally vote on the act of union these men died to undo seems entirely appropriate. Continue reading →
Arbroath is a pretty little town on the east coast of Scotland, just to the east of Dundee. Driving past, you might not think much of it, but way back in 1320 a group of Scottish nobles signed a declaration that they would never under any circumstances allow themselves to be subjugated to rule from England and that they fought “not for wealth or position but for liberty, which no good man gives up except with his life.”
The document is incredibly important to world history because it was the first declaration of its type to establish the concept of popular sovereignty – that Scotland belonged to her people and a king was only worth supporting if he could protect and defend them. This was at least as revolutionary as their desire for independence. American school children are taught about the Magna Carta because it was accepted as a legal document by the English political system, but the Declaration of Arbroath was a far more important touch stone for the American founding fathers and directly inspired the American Declaration of Independence. Continue reading →