A “challenge” posted to Facebook:
A moment of thought and I realized the challenge was easy, and heartening. This speech has been given before:
“Hillary Clinton understands that we must fix an economy in America that is rigged and that sends almost all new wealth and income to the top one percent. Hillary Clinton understands that if someone in America works 40 hours a week, that person should not be living in poverty.
She believes that we should raise the minimum wage to a living wage. And she wants to create millions of new jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. – our roads, bridges, water systems and wastewater plants.
This election is about which candidate will nominate Supreme Court justices who are prepared to overturn the disastrous Citizens United decision which allows billionaires to buy elections and undermine our democracy; about who will appoint new justices on the Supreme Court who will defend a woman’s right to choose, the rights of the LGBT community, workers’ rights, the needs of minorities and immigrants, and the government’s ability to protect the environment.
This campaign is about moving the United States toward universal health care and reducing the number of people who are uninsured or under-insured. Hillary Clinton wants to see that all Americans have the right to choose a public option in their health care exchange, which will lower the cost of health care.
She also believes that anyone 55 years or older should be able to opt in to Medicare and she wants to see millions more Americans gain access to primary health care, dental care, mental health counseling and low-cost prescription drugs through a major expansion of community health centers throughout this country.
Hillary is committed to seeing thousands of young doctors, nurses, psychologists, dentists and other medical professionals practice in underserved areas as we follow through on President Obama’s idea of tripling funding for the National Health Service Corps.
In New Hampshire, in Vermont and across the country we have a major epidemic of opiate and heroin addiction. People are dying every day from overdoses. Hillary Clinton understands that if we are serious about addressing this crisis we need major changes in the way we deliver mental health treatment. That’s what expanding community health centers will do and that is what getting medical personnel into the areas we need them most will do.
Hillary Clinton also understands that millions of seniors, disabled vets and others are struggling with the outrageously high cost of prescription drugs. She and I are in agreement that Medicare must negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry and that we must expand the use of generic medicine.
Drug companies should not be making billions in profits while one in five Americans are unable to afford the medicine they need. The greed of the drug companies must end.
This election is about the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality that currently exists, the worst it has been since 1928. Hillary Clinton knows that something is very wrong when the very rich become richer while many others are working longer hours for lower wages.
She knows that it is absurd that middle-class Americans are paying an effective tax rate higher than hedge fund millionaires, and that there are corporations in this country making billions in profit while they pay no federal income taxes in a given year because of loopholes their lobbyists created.
This election is about the thousands of young people I have met who have left college deeply in debt, the many others who cannot afford to go to college and the need for this country to have the best educated workforce in the world if we are to compete effectively in a highly competitive global economy.
Hillary Clinton believes that we must substantially lower student debt, and that we must make public colleges and universities tuition free for the middle class and working families of this country. This is a major initiative that will revolutionize higher education in this country and improve the lives of millions.
Think of what it will mean when every child in this country, regardless of the income of their family, knows that if they study hard and do well in school – yes, they will be able to get a college education and leave school without debt.
This election is about climate change, the greatest environmental crisis facing our planet, and the need to leave this world in a way that is healthy and habitable for our kids and future generations. Hillary Clinton is listening to the scientists who tell us that if we do not act boldly in the very near future there will be more drought, more floods, more acidification of the oceans, more rising sea levels.
She understands that we must work with countries around the world in transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy – and that when we do that we can create a whole lot of good paying jobs.
This election is about the leadership we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform and repair a broken criminal justice system. It’s about making sure that young people in this country are in good schools or at good jobs, not in jail cells. Secretary Clinton understands that we don’t need to have more people in jail than any other country on earth, at an expense of $80 billion a year.”
All I did was remove the few paragraphs where the T-word was mentioned.
Life has been busy lately. I have failed at carving out time for the little things like keeping up with email and reading and writing. One theme that is just below the surface these days, is an understanding of the Individual’s impermanence, that one will inevitably be swept away down the river. But, the good news is, it is the river that is the thing. You stick your foot in the river, and you feel the tug of the currents: this one fast and warm, that one slow and cool. In life, we are these currents, flowing together, mingling, becoming something identifiable and satisfying while also becoming the river itself.
Death has been on my mind lately. Dad passed about a year back, and the Reaper has expressed an interest in the health of another loved one. I am not opposed to Death. We’re all going to get there. Life, the abused cliché reminds us, is the journey and not the destination. I’ll be forty in January. One can read that as the half way mark. I want to pull over and look around. Close at hand, I see my toddler Son, his eyes wide with the possibilities and joys of life, his future for him to know and hopefully to share with his old man. And, not far off, I see my Father, whom my Son will ever know through stories, mainly told by me. Stories I mainly lack. And, yonder still, my own Grandfather, whom I know mainly through the most exaggerated of stories.
We all come from somewhere, and we are all headed somewhere. This bend in the River knows only a short ways upstream, toward the various and contradictory legends of the Wellsprings, and only a short ways ahead, toward the various legends of the Delta, where we believe the River as we have ever understood it will cease as it merges with the Great Ocean.
The August issue of The Sun Magazine brought with it an interview with Stephen Jenkinson, whom some call “The Death Whisperer” … he packs a lot of great ideas that resonate with me into eight pages. Not bad. What follows is a bit of perspective on the idea of one’s influences.
Hoffner: Who would you say are your influences?
Jenkinson: Anyone who claims to know his or her influences probably doesn’t. I think our influences are a lot subtler than we think. For example, I was born nine years after the closing of Auschwitz and the bombing of Hiroshima half a world away. When those soldiers came home from World War II suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder before we had a name for it, North America created the suburbs for them. I grew up in the unacknowledged presence of those wartime horrors: Auschwitz on the one side, Hiroshima on the other, and the suburbs in the middle. That’s an influence on me.
As a child I was read to every night. Before I even understood the words, I was carried along by the momentum of the human voice. The pageant of the story has its way with you, even if its not in a language you can comprehend. Story is a sublime practice that makes us recognizable to ourselves.
These days I admire the songwriter Leonard Cohen, my countryman and a polestar in the firmament for anyone who has faith in human eloquence. Eloquence is a conjuring; it’s magic, and Cohen is a servant as well as a practitioner and a repository of that magic. He’s a patron saint of the Orphan Wisdom School, unawares. I don’t know what kind of life he lives, but it’s inconceivable to me that those songs might come from a duplicitous nature. In a country that appreciated its artists, he would be a national treasure and wouldn’t have to work five minutes in his life unless he was so inclined. As it is he’s been on the road for years trying to make back all the money his manager stole from him.
I met another of my influences at Harvard. As a young man I was on fire with learning about the historical Jesus. I didn’t come from a religious background, but I applied to Harvard Divinity School and got in. I was determined to be a preacher of some sort. I don’t know what else you could do with that kind of education. At the divinity school I met a fellow who was the living incarnation of a stereotypical televangelist: power-blue suit that didn’t fit so good: too-tight white shirt that was popping its buttons. He was in charge that year of vocational counsel. I told him I planned to get a master of divinity and become a pastor or a minister. He asked me the name of my sponsoring congregation, and I said I hadn’t worked that out yet. Then he asked my denominational affiliation. I told him I didn’t have one. “Son, where do you go to church?” he asked. I said that I didn’t, and he asked, “Well, where did you go to church, then?” No answer. So he said, “Let me understand this: you propose to go into the ministry, and you’ve never been to church?” “Yes sir,” I replied. “Well, I nev-uh,” he said, just like that. I was three questions into my vocational interview, and I was done.
My career as a preacher came to an end at that moment. I was counseled to register for a master of theological studies — a layperson’s degree — instead. That same week I met a preaching instructor whose name was Hugh Morgan Hill, but everyone knew him as Brother Blue. He was a vibrant speaker in the African American tradition. He said I should be in his class. I told him I’d already been counseled out of the master of divinity program. “Nobody needs to know,” he said. On my way to his first class I picked up a harmonica. The class had already begun when I got there, and Professor Hill was in full flight. He was a great storyteller and performer. For some reason I started to play my harmonica along with what he was doing, just improvising.
The next week his wife phoned and asked if I’d come with him to a church service — and bring my harmonica.
I performed with Hill on and off for seven years. It was an unofficial apprenticeship. We traveled all over the U.S. and Canada. This was the era of school integration, remember, and there were race riots in some cities, but since we were together, we were OK. He was a holy man from the ghettos of the American heartland. Virtually everything he did in the world was self-initiated. He never seemed to have a job description. He carved it out every time he stood up to speak. I learned from him the importance of proceeding without the green light, the red carpet, the Get Out of Jail Free card. I was emboldened by his example when I was working in palliative care, because I realized that if I was going to serve these dying people well, then I couldn’t wait for anyone to ask me to do it. And if I’m going to serve the era I’ve been born into well, then I can’t wait for approval and recognition. I’m going to have to proceed without it. If it comes, it comes; if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. That, and a lot more, is what I got from him.
Brother Stephen articulates a lot of ideas about Life and Death. Ideas I am still digesting. But I suppose I can share some notes.
To be Alive is to be In Debt to Death. Everything we have, everything … the food we eat day after day, the clothes we wear, the fuel we use to get around … animals and plants, and if you think about it, the Solar energy that fuels All Of It comes from the slow annihilation of the Sun, as its atoms fuse into ever heavier elements. “What will your death feed?”
The Debt is non-negotiable and it will be re-paid.
“Grief is not sadness. There’s sadness in grief, but grief is not exhausted when the sadness goes away. … Sadness has a shelf life, but grief endures …” I picture a small pot, held over the flame of death. The sadness bubbles and splatters and evaporates. The pot is withdrawn from the flame. There is a residue left over. That residue is grief. It does not boil away. You paint with it. You leave a mark somewhere so that when one needs a reminder that “this too shall pass” they may thus be reminded. This paragraph is painted with grief. I hope it feeds your wisdom.
In the interview, Jenkins has a riff about the need for an element missing in our culture: the Rite of Passage in which childhood ends and adulthood begins. A consumer culture derives better profits from a population that is not asked to Grow Up: You Deserve More and More!! His critique resonates but I disagree with the idea that a Rite must “kill off childhood” … on the very next page he explains that it is misguided to shelter children from the idea of death … I think that Childhood is maybe what lends Death its greatest contrast. Young and full of possibility and very self-involved … adults should not be so self-involved, the grown ups must labor to pay the interest on our life debt … but we still need to grow and learn. While we would prefer for grownups to not be self-involved narcissists we need also ask them to be sufficiently self-involved, and other involved, to cultivate their self awareness.
Other involved is what we ask of a child, and what we give a child, when we share with them the fact of Death. Children can appreciate Wisdoms, just as Adults can appreciate Wonders.
A last thought, while I sat in my favorite coffee shop, taking and making these notes, and watching an Old Man drink in the Joyful Clown Antics of some toddlers across the way, was that nursing homes really ought to co-locate with nurseries. Children bring Life into the Room. Elders bring Life as well. The children are starting from scratch, painting with incoherent vitality. The elders have taken their lives, chipped away at it, and produced works of art, called Lives. Day by day, they reveal these works to the children: some are beautiful, some are perplexing, some are sad, and some are horrible. The children react, embrace, reject, imitate, and iterate. Culture ensues, and the river flows enriched.
Early in my career, I didn’t interact much with management. For the past decade, the companies I have worked at had regular one-on-one meetings with my immediate manager. At the end of my tenure at Cisco, thanks to a growing rapport and adjacent cubicles, I communicated with my manager several times a day, on all manner of topics.
One of the nagging questions I’ve never really asked myself is: what is the point of a one-on-one? I never really looked at it beyond being a thing managers are told to do, a minor tax on my time. At Cisco, I found value in harvesting bits of gossip as to what was going in the levels of management between me and the CEO.
Ben Horowitz has a good piece on his blog. In his view, the one-on-one is an important end point of an effective communication architecture within the company. The employee should drive the agenda, perhaps to the point of providing a written agenda ahead of time. “This is what is on my mind,” giving management an opportunity to listen, refine strategies, clarify expectations, un-block, and provide insight up the management chain. He suggests some questions to help get introverted employees talking.
I am not a manager, but as an employee, the take-away is the need to conjure an agenda: what is working? What is not working? How can we make not merely the technology, but the way we work as a team and a company, more effective?
Two quotes passed along on September 11, from my meat-eating Grandmother:
A USDA inspector reviews the carcasses of slaughtered pigs for our safety. Credit: Wikmedia Commons
“As long as there are slaughterhouses there will be battlefields.” –Leo Tolstoy
“We are the living graves of murdered beasts
slaughtered to satisfy our appetites.
We never pause to wonder at our feasts,
if animals, like men, can possibly have rights.
We pray on Sundays that we may have light,
to guide our footsteps on the path we tread.
We’re sick of war, we do not want to fight –
The thought of it now fills our hearts with dread,
and yet – we gorge ourselves upon the dead.
Like carrion crows we live and feed on meat,
regardless of the suffering and pain
we cause by doing so, if thus we treat
defenseless animals for sport or gain
how can we hope in this world to attain
the PEACE we say we are so anxious for.
We pray for it o’er hecatombs of slain,
to God, while outraging the moral law,
thus cruelty begets its offspring – WAR.”
–George Bernard Shaw
This drives me insane. Part of the challenge is that most software dictionaries are unaware of the word “colocation” and are happy to offer “collocation” as an alternative, but that is wrong wrong wrong wrong and it makes me a little nuts every time.
So, here is some explanation I just sent to the NOC and copied to the Sales team of a “Colocation Provider” who keeps sending me messages from something called “Collocation Status Report”:
A collocation is a statistic used by linguists to determine the
frequency with which words and phrases are found together.
On your contact information page, there is an option to contact Sales
Assuming that you are indeed in the business of Colocation, and not
actually updating us on the status of word frequencies, please fix the
name in your outgoing envelope from “Collocation Status Reports” to
“Colocation Status Reports”
Yup. That’s all I have to say about that.
A paragraph I had highlighted as I finished my reading of Du Bois’ “Dusk of Dawn”:
The Dyer Anti-lynching Bill went through the House of Representatives and on to the floor of the Senate. There in 1924 it died with a filibuster and the abject surrender of its friends. It was not until years after that I knew what killed that anti-lynching bill. It was a bargain between the South and the West. By this bargain, lynching was let to go on uncurbed by Federal law, on condition that the Japanese be excluded from the United States.
Sometimes Divide and Conquer needs some unity of purpose to succeed. All too often, we have made compromises to accommodate critically-needed constituencies, and it takes us far too long to realize the evil in the deals we have made, and far too long to correct it. These days I feel that efforts to reduce carbon emissions for the sake of a stable climate are for our generation what race and gender equality, voting rights, workers rights, national infrastructure and slavery were for previous generations.
A Prop 8 champion is having a change of heart:
Marriage says to a child: The man and the woman whose sexual union made you will also be there to love and raise you. In this sense, marriage is a gift that society bestows on its children.
At the level of first principles, gay marriage effaces that gift.
[ . . . ]
But there are more good things under heaven than these beliefs. For me, the most important is the equal dignity of homosexual love. I don’t believe that opposite-sex and same-sex relationships are the same, but I do believe, with growing numbers of Americans, that the time for denigrating or stigmatizing same-sex relationships is over. Whatever one’s definition of marriage, legally recognizing gay and lesbian couples and their children is a victory for basic fairness.
I think that there is more to marriage than children, and that those children who can not be adequately cared for by their birth parents are still entitled to be cared for by whatever competent and loving parents society can find for them. At any rate, I am glad to see a Prop 8 supporter come out of the closet and realize that the way to strengthen marriage is to focus on strengthening marriages, rather than denigrating homosexuals.
The other day they were talking about Aung San Suu Kyi on the radio, that the path she chose to follow was the path laid forth by Mahatma Gandhi and Dr Martin Luther King. The idea is not to seek victory over the enemy, but to identify the universal capacity for virtue, to love the enemy and change the enemy’s heart, to be open to a more enlightened and equitable path. I feel that David Blankenhorn’s evolution here, along with the evolution of many Americans, is evidence that this sort of spiritual warfare is carrying the day in my country.
I love the smell of progress in the morning.
“If I were committed only to being right, I would go out and talk anyway, but because I’m committed to making a difference, I wait until I’m ready.” –Julia Butterfly Hill
“We are the supermen who sit idly by and laugh and look at civilization . . .”
I am reading a book by W.E.B. Du Bois, based on this quote which was captured in a photo of New York graffiti.
Even as America’s race problem has evolved since Du Bois published Dusk of Dawn in 1940, his perspective is valuable. A fuller excerpt from Chapter 6, wherein he conducts a Socratic dialogue with a pair of composite “White Man” colleagues, and delivers an excellent perspective on world history, and modesty: (more…)
Above all science was becoming religion; psychology was reducing metaphysics to experiment and a sociology of human action was planned. Fighting the vast concept of evolution, religion went into its heresy trials, its struggle with “higher criticism,” its discomfort at the “revised version” of the New Testament which was published the year I entered college. Wealth was God. Everywhere men sought wealth and especially in America there was extravagant living; everywhere the poor planned to be rich and the rich planned to be richer; everywhere wider, bigger, higher, better things were set down as inevitable.
— W. E. B. Du Bois
… who entered college in 1885
Actually, Chapter 3 of “Dusk of Dawn” describes a transition from the world Du Bois was born into of the latter 19th century:
“(As) a young man, so far as I conceived, the foundations of present culture were laid, the way was charted, the progress toward certain great goals was undoubted and inevitable. There was room for argument concerning details and methods and possible detours in the onsweep of civilization; but the fundamental facts were clear, unquestioned and unquestionable.”
In contrast with the “today” of 1940:
“TODAY both youth and age look upon a world whose foundations seem to be tottering. They are not sure what the morrow will bring; perhaps the complete overthrow of European civilization, of that great enveloping mass of culture into which they were born. Everything in their environment is a meet subject for criticism. They can dispassionately evaluate the past and speculate upon the future. It is a day of fundamental change.”
I feel my heart and mind whipsawing between a world culture which is on the cusp of some fundamental, unimaginable change, and a world in which we will pretty much keep doing what we have done, just bigger, bolder, better, faster, with nanites and a higher rate of return . . . I get dizzy thinking about this world I try to live in.
And Religionists and Conservatives keep shouting their objections to a changing world ever louder, ever more viciously. They’re still attacking Evolution, so the concept and theological implications of Anthropogenic Climate Disruption are even more of a leap . . .
But the today of 2012, when the big revolutions appear to be how the European Union will manage debt among member states, and whether Arab countries can successfully democratize, whether there will be regional wars on either side of Asia, and the capacity of fundamentalists to kill civilians . . . today’s world isn’t tottering as obviously as 1940’s “today.”
But it is the Big Things you don’t hear in the news every day; When will climate change trigger famine and mass migration? Will China’s rise be sustained to the point it becomes a world power or will it implode? When are we going to be hit by that asteroid that superheats the atmosphere? Just after the devastating global pandemic that trained against antibiotics and traveled everywhere on jet planes before we noticed it? Will nanofabrication make industry and perhaps agriculture obsolete? Will the Singularity bring upon us a supra-individualist world consciousness? Will medical science and DNA repeal the eternal inevitabilities of aging and death? Is that when we will feel comfortable encapsulating our bodies on centuries-long trips to distant star systems? The new Magellans will refer to centuries as we refer to decades. My thinking is so early 21st . . .
These are the things I tend to wonder about between meetings at work.
Enjoying Dmitri Samarov‘s new novel about driving a taxi in Chicago, I looked up at my cafe table in Mountain View, CA and noted that mine was the only analog screen. Technologist that I am, I’m just not ready for an e-reader yet. I’m too attached to hardbacks and paperbacks.
My mother, however, has a Nook. She used to drive a cab in Chicago.
Personally, I am not fond of Apple products, but I can not help but admire Steve Jobs. I am enjoying a compendium of Steve Jobs quotes from the Wall Street Journal. This one hits close to home:
“The cure for Apple is not cost-cutting. The cure for Apple is to innovate its way out of its current predicament.”
I work for an Information Technology bellwether, which is both highly profitable and obsessive over maintaining its profit margins. Costs must always be contained. While we have a variety of interesting technology we are working to develop, we are presently completing our latest round of workforce reductions. I wish our leadership could be a little more like Steve Jobs:
“This is not a one-man show. What’s reinvigorating this company is two things: One, there’s a lot of really talented people in this company who listened to the world tell them they were losers for a couple of years, and some of them were on the verge of starting to believe it themselves. But they’re not losers. What they didn’t have was a good set of coaches, a good plan. A good senior management team. But they have that now.”
You know what John Chambers might say to that?
“The problem with the Internet startup craze isn’t that too many people are starting companies; it’s that too many people aren’t sticking with it. That’s somewhat understandable, because there are many moments that are filled with despair and agony, when you have to fire people and cancel things and deal with very difficult situations. That’s when you find out who you are and what your values are.”
Really, the whole collection is worth a read.