We the People . . . Should Talk Nicer

July 22, 2017

TRUMP SUPPORTER completely shuts down a room full of Dems with one sentence!” Or “TRUMP’S UNDENIABLE mental problems caught on video for the world to see, he need to go now!
 
 
Like crafted memes such as these continues to push the public argument further down the road to Rage Town and is NOT HELPING.  It is not helping individuals’ wellbeing, friendships, family gatherings or our country as a whole.  Even when the discussion is between those on the same side of the argument.  It is toxic and limiting because blame driven discourse enforces the perception of powerlessness.  It makes us less, resentful and ultimately lonely.  Messages of such extreme political insularity is not new.  I’ve read acrid articles about Lincoln in his day.  However, social media’s interruptive repetition of these siloed memes IS NEW, disruptive and damaging.  It is diminishing us by shrinking our definition of “We.”   The great American “We the People”  is being reduced into segregated markets defined by rage.  The great dialogue is simplified and its participants reduced to caricatures of either/or, as in:  Either you support the president or believe in fake news.  Either you believe in America or you been swindled by a confidence man.
 
 
I don’t see some great conspiracy or master plan at work, but rather the unexpected social consequence of an algorithm driven media system that pushes traffic and content to identified markets.   Perhaps not unlike the Wall Street flash market crash which occurred when buying software over reacted.
 
 
I think the solution is connection online and offline.  Resist sharing, the outrageous example, or undeniable truth which will finally knock some sense into those people who just don’t get it.  Stop it.  Also in conversation try pitching your talk at a different level and tone towards connection. This does not mean agreeing with someone being disagreeable. But rather creating enough space in the talk to allow what is at root to be acknowledged.  I have a hunch anger is often what fear looks in front of others. And when that fear boils to rage is when the body can no longer contain the terror. The screaming man in the red hat is actually saying: I’m afraid that I will fail to provide for my family. I’m afraid that my way of life will no longer have value.  The screaming women in the blue vail is actually saying: I’m afraid I will loose my freedom and my family.  And when I raise my voice at dinner I’m actually saying: I’m afraid you are not who I thought you were.  I’m afraid I my country will fall.
 
 
To me the sweetest moment is NOT to win the debate but the shared acknowledgement of our inevitable vulnerability.  It is in that moment I feel the strongest and the proudest.
When I started bartending all those years ago, the old barkeep who first trained me said, “Your regulars come here to feel the warm comfort of sitting next to friends.  Discussions of politics destroy that feeling. Always manage the conversation away from those topics, it is the gift you give your regular customers.”  What works for a beloved neighborhood dive will certainly work for our country.  It is time to heal and move beyond how wrong we all are.

Stop Talking, Start Making.

January 26, 2017

So much complaining and so little listening . . . there is a lot to complain about on all sides, but who wants to listen to someone complaining. I’m certainly tired of listening to myself. Am I becoming “that guy” who would quietly rage through his 5 beers every night at the bar? No, I will not. For myself I will complain through creation. I’m going to stop talking and start making. What should I make? What would you make?

Why I Marched

January 22, 2017

Such a protest has several competing purposes and to be honest I was torn if I should participate. In the end, I showed up to support those feeling vulnerable. I showed up to represent the right of all humans to be treated with respect and dignity. The current climate has sent a pronounced chill on anyone other. Many people I know are feeling blamed that America is not as rich and shiny others think it should be. Speaking only for myself, I think humanity’s greatest invention is human rights and America’s greatest contribution is the creation of a way of life that allows so many different kinds of people to live side by side both challenging and benefiting each other. American was the first modern country to try. I don’t think that I am over reacting to say that these rights may be being traded for the promise of prosperity and security. I showed up to say I disagree with this transaction. 

Walking in the rain for an hour wasn’t hard or challenging. It was fun and inspiring. Sure there were some frustrating folks who were very angry that their team didn’t win the election. But mostly I saw regular people expressing love and support to each other. I saw citizens being generous and kind which made me proud of my city and country.

Hope and Imagination

January 8, 2017
Ada Lovelace wrote, “Imagination is the Discovering Faculty, pre-eminently… that which penetrates into the unseen worlds around us.”  So I say, “Imagination is the flame that lights the world that has yet to happen.” This flame is fanned by hope.   Hope is the willingness to imagine when all seems rot. Hope is not wishful thinking and is not passive or lazy.  Hope is active and makes noise.  Hope is willful and anticipates surprise.  Hope is braver than disappointment and stronger than sorrow.  Hope and imagination birth worlds. 
 
I will hope
I will hope in the dark
I will hope when there is no spark
I will hope when all is dashed
I will hope when cuts the lash
I will hope when dawn is bright
I will hope when all is right
and then, I will hope still

Thank You Barclay

October 23, 2016

(Lieutenant Reginald) BARCLAY passed away peacefully this weekend. He was a dog and a great friend. Ten years ago my mom called one Saturday morning saying, “it’s time you and Allison got a dg, meet me at the shelter later this afternoon.” After being introduced to several breeds we came across a 70 pound black fuzzball of an Australian shepherd . He promptly sat on our laps and the keeper said “that is your dog.” Since then he has seldom been more than 10 feet from either Allison or myself. It is astonishing how much a dog can teach you about friendship, being in the moment, and recognizing what is important. Barclay introduced us to so many dear friends on our walks and expressed such a warm and welcoming spirit to who ever visited us. He was a faithful yoga companion and a true party animal. When we would laugh, he would bark and when we would hug he would gather round. Of course I am so sad not to have my dog shadow follow me everywhere, to see his steadfast and loving eyes, someone who knew me so well anticipating my every feeling even before me. But I have to say how grateful Allison and I both are to have shared so much time with such a pure and loving soul. Perhaps I’m anthropomorphizing, but what is humanity good for if we cannot find love and compassion from those around us, and for that Barclay was surely the master. Thank you so much Barclay.

Compete to Include

October 21, 2016

Is inclusion possible in a competitive world?  For me the most rewarding competition is that which is won not at the expense of another, but one that increases value or understanding to those who participate. It is cliché to say I am in competition with myself, yet I am.  I am trying it be stronger, faster, better each day.  To be more patient, less angry, and give others a sense of inclusion.  How is this competition?  Maybe it is the focus.  I think of runners racing. Sure there is only one winner, but the competition made them all faster.  Think of the generous winner who celebrates in everyone’s growth. Now think of the last place runner taking pride in the best time they ever ran.

Farewell Dick’s Last Resort

September 25, 2016

A final split in front of the bar at Dick’s Last Resort which closed today. During my 20 years behind that bar (starting in the early 1990s): I met Allison (my wife), paid for grad school, sang hundreds of times with the house rock band Private Domain, and probably had the best time while working . . . ever.

But more than that I accrued my 10,000 hours of playing with strangers.  Finding that unexpected commonality that allowed shared laughter and memorable moments.  That is what being a Dick was all about.  It was the irreverent and novel course of interaction that allowed folks to get off their practiced script of expected phatic conversation and venture into the unexpected (and sometimes scary but) always fun domain of real play.  If you did your job right, your customers would fondly remember that night for a lifetime.

Thank you Dick’s for everything. I’m proud to say I will always be a Dick.

 

1952 Vincent Black lightning

July 17, 2016

Recently Amanda Palmer (of Dresden Dolls fame) produced an album with her father Jack Palmer.  Far from the “millennial burlesque” of her previous duo, this new production can best be described as mid century folk. Simple and raw but straight to the heart.  The Vocals are not polished but real and honest.  I love their cover of Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black lightning.”  Listen to it with the animated video from some 200 plus paintings and I dare you not to be moved. While my (long gone) 1979 Honda CB 750 was no Vincent Black, it did have soul.  Few things match the exhilaration of riding fast enough till the pavement blurs with your love hanging on behind you.  Middle age fear and sensibility prevents me from owning another ride, but this song really helps.  I agree with its lyrical sentiment:  “In my opinion there is nothing in this world that  beats a 52 Vincent and a redheaded girl.”

 

Jack & Amanda Palmer – "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" (art by David Mack) from Amanda Palmer on Vimeo.

Heart’s keeper (Love Poem)

June 29, 2016

You are my darling and the keeper of my heart.
My soul lives in the house of my heart
And you hold it from harm.

When I leave in the morning
Bound for the field of blood and poppies
My heart stays home in your hands.

If I am found and my life leaves, spilling to the ground.
I will not fear.
For the best of me, my heart, in your hands will remain.

Then, my heart, free from its bound to earth and clay,
Will grow and surround you
And keep you safe.

You will be forever loved . . . the keeper of my heart.

Lazarus

June 22, 2016

John 11: 1 – 44 gave the account of how JESUS RAISED LAZARUS up from the dead.  I always like to imagine that the death reversing energy given to Lazarus still remains causing him never to die.  He is still with us today, maybe homeless walking the streets in a gentle decent, but never quite dying.  In one of my favorite songs (and video) , Nick Cave, sings about how Lazarus never really got over being raised from the tomb, that he is “back on the streets of New York City in a soup queue, a dope fiend, a slave, then prison, then the madhouse . . . “  I guess it is hard work not dying. Poor Larry.

 

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! from Iain & Jane on Vimeo.

Biological Morality

June 17, 2016

Is morality just a piece of meat? I recently read that the temporo-parietal junction (TPJ), is that portion of the brain that helps us make sense of other peoples’ thinking. It is integral in what is called the “theory of mind,” which is the process of how we understand and predict what another person is doing based what we think they think. Judgements of blame and moral responsibility seemed to be processed in this area. An experiment showed that when you “turn off” this area for a while, (though trans-cranial magnetic stimulation), people will judge an action based on its outcome rather than on intention (morality) of the person performing the action. I wonder, if in the future we could “turn up” the TPJ function and increases a person’s moral sensitivity, would we require it for our religious and political leaders, or perhaps those who commit atrocities so they can better understand and lament the consequences of their actions?

It’s Not That Bad

June 16, 2016

There is a story going around that things are terrible.  Violence is exploding and people are writhing in discontent.  I don’t accept that narrative. I would like to suggest that the world you experience every day is colored by the story you keep in your head.  I don’t want to be defined by that dark and stormy end told by industry and politicians working to gather power. Rather I work to write my own narrative by finding what is possible and confirming it through connection with others.  I’m still on my first draft . . . but I’ll keep pushing.

I am only my attention.

When it comes down to it, I am only my attention. It is the last and most prime scarcity. I can’t make any more, I only have what I got. I remember reading back in grad school Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s description of “Flow” that blissful state of super productivity achieved through a singular focus by complete absorption into an activity. It has something to do with saturating the brain with a relaxed focused attention. You see it in people who are amazing at their work, in the faces of children making art, and between people immersed in great conversation. I think flow is our natural state. Yet I for one, keep forgetting about it. I’m constantly distracted away from Flow. Without deliberate attention, there is no Flow. Our collective attention is a valuable commodity worth billions, so where the attention goes the money and power follow. Therefore, industries and political entities are built to take this valuable attention. I, for one, want to keep as much of my attention for myself, my loved ones, my work, my community, and ultimately I want to keep my attention for my Flow.

Outrage Economy

June 13, 2016

This time may best be characterized as the real start of the outrage economy. Outrage that two men were kissing, outrage that someone murdered 50 people, outrage that he was Muslim, outrage that some feel the murder was justified and is God’s judgement against sinful living, outrage that some with politicize a massacre to take guns away, and outrage that someone on the FBI watch list who can not buy a plane ticket, can legally purchase an assault weapon. What is the aggregate effect of so much outrage? When America was born, freedom was easier when you only had to move west to escape what was objectionable. But, in a crowded networked society, we are confronted with what is objectionable on every screen. Is America still possible? I say yes, but only if we are brave. Rage is not courageous. But listening past what is objectionable until you find connection is very brave. It can be bitter medicine and perhaps the only antidote to the trickle down hatred of the outrage economy. Those much wiser than me suggest that we don’t have to agree to understand and understanding is worth the effort. Once you understand someones perspective, you can still disagree, but the outrage has been diminished, and the resulting connection affords the opportunity to discover new solutions. I’m not very good at this, but I’m going to try and do my part.

The Man with Orange Hair

March 10, 2016

One night a man with orange hair came to the open field on the edge of our town. He set up a large tent and very tall torches that he set alight. We were curious, what would this entertainer tell us, so we all gathered in his large tent. He stood on his platform behind a pulpit and told us that we aren’t good anymore. We’re lost and don’t know how to win. Most of us laughed, shook head turned and left the tent. But many stayed and and clambered closer to the pulpit. He yelled, “how can you stand to be so poor?” How can you bear to be so little? You are losers?” He slowly shook his head and said,” You haven’t even won a war not like your great-grandfathers who saved the world that day long ago. Aren’t you ashamed?” I stood in the back behind a pole that held up the tent where they couldn’t see me. The man with the orange hair asked the group before him, “where did the others go? Hmm, I bet they all went home and left you. You know? They think you are losers too. I would be so angry if I were you.”

He smiled and slowly shook his head with pity. They got angry. I hid myself crowding closer to the tent pole. “Not angry enough” the man with the orange hair chided. “Here,” he said, “let me help” and he took a tall torch and touch some of them with the flame. The fire spread across their hair, clothes and bodies. It spread to all of them “Now, go out and share the word,” he told the burning group. And indeed they ran out of the tent into the town. Frightened, I also ran from the tent. “I see you” said the man with orange hair to me as I left.

Ahead of me, the burning men and woman ran and screamed in complete rage. They ran into the streets and alleys of our small town, jumping through windows and breaking down doors. Some just fell against homes and trees as the flames spreading from their bodies catching everything they touched on fire. No one stopped them. Everyone else was asleep.

I climbed the hill behind my house and watched our town burn. Most of the fiery group were no longer moving. Some smoldering in the street where they fell while others were consumed by the burning buildings and trees. I thought of those who didn’t stay to hear the man with the orange hair. I thought of them going home that night, falling asleep and never waking as their rooms burned around them, flames clawing at their face and hair. They never woke as the fire curled their fingers into dead eagle talons. I sat and watched unable to move from my hillside perch as the town began to burn itself out.

Then, the man with the orange hair folded up his tent, took down his burning torches, and dusted off his hands before moving on.

RandsomeWare

November 8, 2015

Ransomeware is scary and can paralyze a business. Imagine all of your work encrypted and having to pay someone to get it back. While there is no magic bullet to guarantee safety, there are several approaches, if done in combination n will significantly reduce the office’s vulnerability to having the business held hostage.  These can be broken up into 4 areas: individual behavior, computer hardening, strong email virus scans, and multiple backups.

Individual Behavior
The first level of defense begins with the individual. Much of what I am going to say is common sense. Assume a defensive posture when browsing websites and opening email.   Be wary.  The two most common ways that ransomeware infects a computer is through email or browsing, so assume it is dirty and requires practical data hygiene.  For example, if you receive a word document or some other attachment that you were not expecting, don’t open it until you verify through a different channel that it is legitimate.   Of course never ever open an exe file on the PC.  Don’t visit fringe sites, porn or take online surveys.  As a default never click yes or okay from a web browser popup.  Never download a diagnostic from a “warning” window that suddenly appears from a website.  Force close the browser rather than hit “ok.”  While pretty obvious, many companies include these practices as policy.

Computer Hardening Toughen your computers against attack.  First, all computers in the office should be using some version of User Access Control which un-authorises the current user from making any changes to the OS.  Only a user with administrative (the top level) access can install software.  A website might trick you to install software, however if you are logged in without administrative access, that software can not be installed and you are saved.  For example, my regular login on my main production machine (mac) does not have admin privileges.  So I need to log in as an admin user to install anything.
In addition to controlling access, antivirus software can help. However, to be effective against newer versions of ransomware, it should employ a machine learning (AI) approach that analyzes the way the computer’s memory, encryption and permissions are being used to identify the beginning of a ransom encryption take over.  CylancePROTECT is one version recommended to me by several IT professionals.  Lastly,  putting your network behind a firewall will prevent bots from worming into your network and infecting your machines.

Strong Email Virus Scans I used to host my own email.  Later I had a smaller company dedicated to email, manage my accounts.  However, it kept feeling like wack a mole, trying to stay ahead of the spam and feeling vulnerable to viruses.  So, for the last few years, I have been using Google Apps for my email address. They do it all for $50 per account per year.  I don’t think there is anyone better.  However you are not in physical possession of your email.  You can not unplug the server and bury it in the desert.  By the way, one IT pro told me he has one of his clients email accounts hosted in Switzerland making it virtually impossible to subpoena for litigation.

Multiple Backups One client of mine uses a proprietary backup that creates a distinct snapshot of the data shared by 200 users working in the office every hour. So, if encryption just occurred, they would be able to back up an hour to restore a clean, pre-infected version of that machine.  There are cloud based recover services that perform this service (such as carbonate), however if you have large graphic and video files, the service would need to be optimized to not slow down the network and computer performance.  Additionally, as a last (and perhaps overkill) step, I would also routinely (Wednesday and Friday) manually backup the drives content on every important computer to the external drive and then UNPLUG that drive from that computer.   Then if all else fails, you’ve only lost two days of work on each computer.

Take out the middle man and be da’ MAN!

May 29, 2014

A healthy portion of my work involves building and designing web sites and applications. A common frustration with online content designers are limitations imposed by a shared hosting environment. Shared hosting companies such as GoDaddy, HostGator (or one of my favorites HandsonHosting) run hundreds if not thousands of users on each host and must protect the neighbors from each other by imposing limitations for each account. For example, allowing huge file uploads or long processing times for one account will slow performance for everyone else sharing that server instance. This makes good sense, but try explaining server limitation to your client the CEO who always gets what s/he wants.

 
Why not get rid of the shared hosting “middle man” and set up your own server instance on AWS? Okay, it might be a little intimidating at first – especially if you have never used SSH (that is typing white text into a black screen talking directly to the computer – think “War Games”). But, try it a few times and you will never go back. Designing your own server instance specifically for your project rather than trying to work around a very limited system is addicting.

 
You will have your own server instance – not a shared one. You can determine how many resources, like brute processing power, you can allocate to that instance and set your own limitations. If you are just starting you can build an instance and if it is not right, wipe it and start over. And, Amazon, lets you start for free.
Why not give it a try . . .

 

Music Tracks from the late 90s and early 2000s

May 1, 2014

I recently discovered some old music tracks I composed and programmed.  My original composition setup included:

  • Four track tape recorder
  • Fender Rhodes
  • Sequential Circuits Pro-1
  • Emu Proteus
  • Emu Emax II
  • Roland TR-606  TB-303

Later, I replaced this setup using a Mac and a few USB keyboards and Reason music software.  Not as vintage, but far more flexible.

 

Rainy Night in the City (2004)

After programming until 2 am at the office loft in Downtown San Diego in early 2004, it started to rain. At that time, rileyMEDIA was located on the top floor – five stories up – in the Ratner clothing building (which was quite literally a sweatshop in 1901).  Our office had a spectacular view of East Village Downtown San Diego.  When it rained at night, the ambient city noise took on a whisper tone that often provoked my imagination.  I had just setup my old Fender Rhodes with my other keyboards a few days before. So that night I tried to capture the late night rain soaked city mood with this track.

Grace (2002)

One of the creepiest movies I absolutely love is “The Night of the Hunter”  Starring Robert Mitchum.  The story follows a psychopathic preacher who fools everyone but two children who he is chasing through the country side to kill.  As a thought experiment, I imagined what would the preacher sound like if he was performing at a rave.  I used audio clips from the movie to give the preacher voice.  For good measure, I also included audio clips of Jim Jones (I only wished I had higher resolution recordings available of the Jim Jones audio).

Dream (1996)

Originally this track was created for a modern dance performance.

Victoria (2003)

This track was composed to accompany a FLASH animation proposed to Victoria Secret for a special promotion website sometime around 2003.  I didn’t get the contract, but I do like the track that came out of it.  The image and feeling I was trying to create while composing / programming was something that might accompany a skimpily clad Bond Girl while she is descending a luxurious staircase into an indoor pool filled with floating candles.  Well, that was the mood I was trying to get – see what you think.

Myst (2000)

No real story for this one.

Golden Rules

October 31, 2011

I am lucky to have known golden people. These are those remarkable folks who make your world better just by knowing you. I don’t know if it is cariama or a gifted spirit but every interaction with such people just seems to make life bigger. I developed a set of rules based on the habits of such people always seem to practice in their interactions with others. I call these the Golden Rules. While I am not much of a rule follower, I keep trying to keep these:

 
Rule 1
Be generous. In every interaction, create something new by giving something that exceeds what you receive.

 
Rule 2
Be thankful. Remind yourself to be grateful for what and who you have.

 
Rule 3
Be conscious. Ask unexpected questions that derails automatic talk and thinking.

Rule 4
Be patient. In conflict, be calm and assertive but never angry. Try and understand what is the real pain behind the argument.

 
Rule 5
Be funny. Try and find the unexpected connection or similarity between two seemingly unrelated ideas.

 
Rule 6
Listen. Take the extra beat to hear what the other person is trying to say.

 

Anthony Patalano 1963 – 2010

February 28, 2010

Anthony_PatalanoI met Anthony in April of 1991 at a new employee orientation upstairs of Dick’s Last Resort, San Diego. He was telling the joke about the midget and monkey in the bar and had the nearly 200 new hires in complete hysterics. He was hilarious. I was terrified. This big man was so powerful. However the moment I knew him – I loved him. In the thousands of hours we worked together side by side behind the bar, I witnessed his special genius of consistently discovering the uniquely comical thing to say in each moment. Hands down, he was absolutely the funniest person I have ever known.

 

Anthony was complex and like all of us had his frustrations, yet unlike all of us, he was transformative and grew. Years after he left the bar, I was so proud to tell folks of his more recent success working with communicatively disadvantaged children. It should be no surprise that this person who could find the perfectly hilarious thing to say to break the ice at any gathering would have the genius and diligence of heart to break through the thick wall of autism and find a connection. But that was his way, a man with such explosive charisma he could out shout a platoon of drunk marines, also possessed inimitable patience and tenderness to reach these children.

 

The philosopher and psychologist Victor Frankel wrote that the measure of any man’s life is in the meaning he creates moment by moment through the interactions with the people around him. More than anyone else I knew, Anthony drew you into the moment and brought you to the present. He was a great man. I am a much better person for knowing him. I will miss him.