Monday, August 22, 2016

Gray Hair in Tech

"When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."
–Mark Twain

I recently read Winer's comments about the lack of older people in tech. Just a day earlier my 79 year-old mother headed back to New York after visiting me for a week. She had some concerns about traveling alone which had me thinking...

An old person is someone at least 20 years older than you. When we encounter people, we make judgements by fitting them into a persona or applying a label we've experienced which can help or hinder our view of the true reality. A 20 year old's view of a person in their 40s or 50s is that of their parents, their view of a person in their 60s or 70s is that of their grandparents.

Today, as I waited at a bus stop, a slow moving woman, close to 80 years old, headed in my direction. As she approached me I wondered if she was homeless, looking for a handout. Stopping in front of me, she held out her hand with some change in it and said, "Could you help me? Are these two quarters or two nickels?"

After I answered her she said, "I have trouble seeing, could you tell me when the 215 bus comes?" I immediately realized that she could be my own mother asking similar questions while traveling through the airport, such as where a particular gate or baggage claim carousel is located.

I told her that I'd let her know when her bus was arriving and, at that point, I decided I'd wait until this nearly blind lady got on her bus which arrived about two minutes later. She's was extremely grateful.

So, now that I'm "old," let me go back to when I was in my 30s, as a software engineer at Apple. I worked with an older, gray-haired, software engineer and my perception (misperception) of him was, "Why is this guy still coding in his mid 40s? Why isn't he in management?" At 40, software engineers are taken out back and shot, or promoted into management.

So, therein lies the issue – I, too was part of the problem, back then and now I'm on the receiving end of this issue.

It's a fact of life that people will judge you based on how you look, smell, dress, age, poise, presence, etc.

So it's key to have to have a lot of experiences and an open mind.

Note: I originally drafted this last October, but never got around to publishing it until today.



Monday, August 15, 2016

Ball Gag Trump


I guess you could say this is a "gag" gift: BallGagTrump.com

So, the million dollar question is does this have legs?

Monday, July 25, 2016

Bombing American Suspects

A US military hand grenade has a
15' kill radius and 50' injury radius.
The Dallas Police Department set a new law enforcement precedence, earlier this month, when they bombed the alleged sniper who shot 12 police officers, killing five. (The media uses terms such as alleged and suspected because a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. They are suspected until convicted. This is an important concept that literally makes America great.) The pound of C4 (Composition C) explosive used in the Dallas bombing counter-attack is more than twice as much explosive found in a typical hand grenade (Composition B, with steel fragments).

I have no doubt, had I been a member of the Dallas Police Department, that I would have supported the bombing. It's very "Dirty Harry-ish." It's very "Charles Bronson-ish." Quick and decisive justice. But the anger at the sniper, Micah Xavier Johnson, doesn't necessarily make this tactic right in a moral sense. Keep in mind that what works on TV, even reality TV, doesn't necessarily work in the real world. (Even though reality TV shows aren't scripted, they're still produced and directed.)

Police have the authority to use lethal force for defensive purposes, but this isn't a license to kill or summarily execute. So, the question hanging in the air is, "Is it wrong for the police to bomb suspects?"  The short answer is, "It depends." It depends on police departments codifying their procedures, openly, in a manner that doesn't conflict with any American's civil rights. Discussing and debating these laws openly is key, otherwise it will end up in a shady area like law enforcement's controversial use of the StingRay phone tracker.

Is it wrong to use atomic or nuclear weapons in war? For my entire lifetime, and then some, the answer has been a resounding, "Yes, it is very wrong." Yet, America is the only country to use atomic weapons. By doing so, America set a contrarian precedence that no one, including us, should detonate these weapons of war. So far, it's worked. It's worked primarily because of national treaties, MAD, and, more importantly, due to the fact that the effort required to create an atomic weapon is on the scale of putting a person into orbit. No organization has done either other than a national government. But that will change.

Where do I stand on the Dallas bombing tactic? While I wish the police didn't need to use military tactics on American's, here's the pragmatic reality of a tactical commander in the field... no one should second guess them. Police have rules of engagement (ROE) to follow. There were no ROE forbidding the use of atomic weapons in WW II because there was no precedence. But, once a precedence has been set, it becomes time to address it.

In the short term, the concern at hand is, if cops overreact and shoot blacks, and then blacks overreact and shoot cops, and then cops overreact and shoot blacks... well then, how does that end?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The World is More Dangerous?

The world is more dangerous, today, than in the past? Really? When was the last World War? A lot of people died in those wars.

Scores of millions.

Perhaps, we’re more aware of violence, nowadays, due to social and mass media?

Of course we can always do better, but let's keep things in perspective.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Open-mindedness

H/T to Dave Reece for sharing this image.
Open-mindedness doesn't mean gullible, indecisive, or impressionable, rather it's the receptiveness to new ideas. Closed-mindedness, on the other hand, is the unwillingness to consider new ideas.

Considering a new idea doesn't mean you have to buy into it hook, line, and sinker. It simply means that you're willing to listen to the idea and evaluate it on its logical merits. A big part of that is getting your facts right, before stating your opinions. That's the art of persuasion. A healthy way to look at open-mindedness is to learn all you can about a subject while removing or minimizing the emotional aspect.

Keep an open mind and a level head.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Politics is About Access, Usually

I once served on the board of a non-profit with nearly 30 voting directors. When I joined the board, one of the directors told me, "The board always votes with the chair."

By no means was my fellow trustee telling me that I needed to vote with the chair; rather, he was telling me that enough of the board backed the chair that his will was the de facto outcome. Turns out he was right. It wasn't a conspiracy, it's simply the way of the world.

If I know you and you run for a highly visible political office then I'll probably vote for you. Because I know you, that gives me access to you. This is why G.W. Bush won the Republican nomination over McCain in 2000. G.W. Bush shows up with access to his father's political connections thereby making it easier to push forward the Republican's agenda.

But, access isn't always enough. If it were, then Hillary Clinton would have won the 2008 Democratic nomination over a freshman senator. Even a woman, with more experience in federal politics, was no match for a man in the eyes of the the American public. (Don't forget that black men won the right to vote decades before white women, in America.)

Similar to Schwarzenegger, the key thing that makes Trump stand out is his celebrity. As a New Yorker, I've heard about Trump since the mid-1980s; and the rest of America has known him for at least a decade. He's been a common sight in our living room since the turn of the century; far more often than Clinton – and as much as people blame the rich, we all want to be rich.

So, using this logic, it would seem that Trump will be the next president of the United States.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

White Thoughts on Black Issues


After writing my most recent post on race relations in America, I discovered that I have a lot to say on this topic. More than I imagined. So, I've started a new blog, blackandwhite.joemoreno.com, with the following intent:

The purpose of 'White Thoughts on Black Issues' is for me, a white man, to express my thoughts on black issues. I'm doing my best to see these issues through the lens of African Americans. I've seen the injustices facing blacks in the past and I didn't say anything; now, I am changing that. At the very least, I'll learn more about the issues.

It starts the with the fundamental human rights granted to us in the Constitution, reinforced by my former oath of office:
To support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Any person or organization usurping those rights from an American citizen is a threat to the U.S. Constitution.

I have a lot on my mind.
I have a lot to say.
It might not all be perfect, but I'm listening.
I'm learning.
If you disagree then make me understand. 


Friday, July 8, 2016

Don't Fan the Flames

A fire was started and now gasoline has been thrown on it. Why did I not say anything about the original fire? That is a question I'm afraid to answer because I might not like what I find out about myself.

How do we make this better? For starters, by not making matters worse. Be cautious about inadvertently fanning the flames. Fear, hate, and blame spread like wildfire. It's one thing to be disgusted, it's another thing to take positive, constructive action to better the situation for all involved. Hashtags help very little compared to critical thinking and peaceful action. We should be saddened and angry about the past, but we can't change it. (Easier said than done, but I’d rather live in a state of peace than unending war.)

I recall a lesson from General Colin Powell, when he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as he addressed us at the Naval Academy, "Get pissed, then get over it." Now make a better future. You have more power, control, and influence than you realize; use it wisely.

Don't stop at anger. Don't stop at hate. Do stop at peace.

Update: After an healthy discussion with a black Academy classmate, he pointed out that "Get pissed, then get over it," is a bit too flippant when dealing with death. His suggestion makes more sense, "Get angry and do something about it," explicitly pointing out that the something should be non-violent.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Libraries of Anxiety

Books and beauty
When I was in high school, I worked as a page at my local library in Huntington, NY. I was in charge of 770 – 799, which covered sports, music, photography, and videography. I remember trying to get through a book in my section, Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon, without any luck. Last year, I tried reading it again and failed – I simply didn't have enough interest in bullfighting to get through it. Although the library has moved to a beautiful new location, it still holds my childhood memories.

This morning, I paid a visit to the new library that opened a number of years ago. I saw a children's librarian listening to a book report for a youngster which reminded me of my summers at the library during elementary school. As a kid, I would have to read ten books before the end of the summer. After reading each book, I'd get a sticker to place on my report card. After the fifth and tenth book I'd summarize one, of my choice, to the children's librarian, who'd always smile in a welcoming way while I retold the tale. As I recalled this memory, I saw a kid summing up his latest book to a children's librarian. While looking on, I took photos of the quiet architecture and landscaping. Although I'm extremely discrete about my iphoneography, I wasn't clandestine enough.

Upside, Downside

Traveling between San Diego and Huntington gives me an opportunity to observe some stark differences in attitudes. While San Diego's known for its laid back attitude, New York is known for its uptightness. Throughout this past week, in Huntington, I continually noticed a contagious anxiety coupled with a low level of situational awareness. Yesterday, I discussed this with my former sixth grade teacher who's keenly aware of the issue. We agreed that it's due to a lack of worldly experience. (In her mid-seventies, she's a highly independent traveler who makes her way up and down the East Coast and the South to attend events and visit friends.) I have noticed the impatient agitation over the past week when driving while waiting second in line at a red light. On most occasions, I've watched the car in front of me continually creep forward, anticipating the green light, to the point that the car's rear axel was forward of the limit line while the traffic light was still red. This morning, I came face to face with this attitude when snapping a few photos at the library. A librarian confronted me, wanting to know why I was taking photos. The attitude's similar to that of being confronted by a police officer probing for a possible crime or violation. I gave the librarian a warm smile, to defuse her anxiety, and told her that I used to work at the library in high school. No, there are no policies about taking photos in the public library (especially in a discrete way); it was simply a lack of understanding of why someone would take photos of unseen beauty. Throughout this area there is a large fear of "different," followed by questions that are not so much intended for understanding, rather the questions are asked with a tone of a lack of acceptance.

I think a lot of fear comes from an imagined lack of control, understanding, experience and initiative people have in their environment which leads to a personal isolationism, both mentally and physically. I've observed the exact opposite when I've giving group tours of Apple's Infinite Loop campus. The Apple campus is not open to the public, but the public does have physical access to Apple's parking lots and sidewalks on the private Infinite Loop street. I suspect that many other, less outwardly focused companies, would confront other individuals and groups, on their grounds, and ask them to leave.

Focus outward and seek to understand, tolerate, and accept before rejecting and ridiculing. Different doesn't necessarily mean wrong. 

Anxious Excitement Kills The Sale

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Startup Fundraising Idea

I heard an interesting startup fundraising idea from a well know VC. He made the point that he always takes at least 20% of a company. This has led to long discussions with entrepreneurs who, at times, had fought hard for the difference between 19% and 21%. He highlighted that most CEOs, looking to raise funds frequently show up at his door with two other cofounders, each with 33% of the company. His point: You've already given away two-thirds of your company and now you're fighting me over a 2% difference. Instead, consider keeping 100% and then give 10% to the first few people you hire for key positions. They might not technically be cofounders, but they're getting an excellent deal.