Category Archives: Professional

Quick Covid-19 Update

Looking back on the news, it appears Governor Newsom ordered a statewide shelter-in-place on the 19th of this month (03/19/20.) However, when I look at my calendar, I see we started doing it the previous day. So, despite what I said in an earlier post, today seems to be the 10th day of our hermitage.

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time tracking the course of this pandemic, especially here in the U.S. and my home state of California. In doing so, I created a meme showing how things are changing . . . actually, accelerating with time, just as we were told would happen. Here’s that meme, which I just updated as of a few minutes ago.

I’ve also been keeping track of the growing death rate and graphing it for myself. All the data I’m using is coming from a site called worldometer and there are numerous tables and charts available there for a breakdown of all the states, as well as a list of every country’s numbers for this virus. The link I’ve provided is to the page with U.S. info on the Corona virus. If you go to their home page, you’ll find links to all kinds of statistics. Check it out.

It’s worthy to note that the percentage of deaths to total cases is 0.0154, which is considerably higher than the rate for the flu. It’s really far too early to tell if that’s what the actual death rate is, as there are just too many unresolved cases. Based on the data available now, the percentage of deaths to total resolved cases is 0.385, which is astoundingly high. What we should glean from this, IMO, is that it’s just far too early in the trajectory of this disease to gather much useful information on lethality or recovery.

I don’t know if or when I’ll update this again. It’s fascinating, but also quite depressing. Perhaps I should just watch television. 😦


Berklee Music Students Send The World ‘Love Sweet Love’

I don’t often use the “Press This” button that sits in my browser’s toolbar, but I’m thinking I should do it a bit more. This story and video were sent to me by a Facebook friend who creates some really excellent memes, most of which are political. It’s partly because of him I got real interested in using Photoshop.

This is a wonderful, uplifting cover of Burt Bacharach’s “What The World Needs Now,” performed remotely by dozens of students from the Boston Conservatory at Berklee and Berklee College of Music. I suggest reading the backstory before listening/watching the video. It’s all pretty heartwarming; makes me long for a little more human contact . . . but I’m staying inside for at least another week or twelve.

Student Shelbie Rassler, eager to bring her community together amid quarantine and isolation, organized a massive performance of the classic “What the World Needs Now Is Love” and put it on YouTube.

Source: Berklee Music Students Send The World ‘Love Sweet Love’ : Coronavirus Live Updates : NPR


The Quiet Leadership That Matters Most

Well . . . this came at an auspicious time. This article was just shared by a friend on FB, in a local Indivisible group. It’s very short, but contains a TED Talk that’s a little over six minutes long. It’s really worth watching; game me the chills. Also, think about what we’re doing right now by staying home and practicing social distancing. I am certain it’s making a difference, thought it may be another couple of weeks before the numbers will make it clear. And, since I’m one of the people who’s theoretically inside the bullseye (age and comorbidities) I’m thankful to everyone who’s taking this seriously. I certainly am.

This moment that we are living through right now, is really rather extraordinary. Tens of millions of us are sitting at home. We don’t have our military patrolling the  streets, threatening to…

With respect to the subject of the video, there was a group of us at Rocketdyne who used to constantly say, “lead from where you are,” meaning “don’t wait for others to tell you what to do or how to do it; step up and step out. You know what to do. Now do it!” So, in addition to the speaker’s assertion that we need to accept ourselves as leaders, I would add we need to recognize the opportunities presented to us to do so. Enjoy the talk.

Source: The Quiet Leadership That Matters Most – Political⚡Charge


Adding Pixels to the Silver Lining

When I was at Rocketdyne, my last job was to research, test, and (if warranted and reasonable) deploy social media and collaboration technologies. Part of the reason I took the early severance package they offered back in 2010 was because I didn’t believe the company was really commmitted to supporting what I was doing.

Now it looks like I’m going to have to resurrect my knowledge of those tools and platforms just so I can interact with my friends and family. For instance, anyone who sees a lot of my posts on Facebook knows I usually go to the gym on Fridays, then out to dinner and for a couple of craft beers with two of my former colleagues from Rocketdyne.

We can no longer do that for the next month or so, and we’ve already talked (texted) about how to get together virtually. Not sure how, but there are lots of options. I’ve been using Slack with Quantellia, but I’m really interested in something free. I’ve used Google Hangouts before and I’ve been reading some good reviews from Zoom users. I don’t think Zoom existed back then, but I’m going to find out about it.

The saying is “necessity is the mother of invention,” and I have no doubt the next few months are going to drive our innovative capabilities and our need to collaborate and work together. While I’m not looking forward to being essentially cooped up in my house with my wife and two teenagers (plus a dog and two cats) I am a little excited about discovering the positive things we can extract from the disruption. I expect there will be far more than most of us can contemplate. Hang in there everyone. Let’s expand that silver lining.


Time to be Thinking Hard About Our Future

I wrote and posted the following on my Facebook Timeline and shared it with several groups to which I belong:

The feedback has been positive, with the exception of a few Trump supporters in a local community group known for the number of people on it who are averse to anything negative about their “dear leader.” I posted it there on purpose, just to stir the pot a bit.

As the corona virus pandemic continues to spread across the U.S., and people come to grips with how it’s going to affect them, I’m seeing more and more posts from folks outlining just how hard the most vulnerable among us (economically) are going to be hit, even if they don’t get sick at all.

If ever there was an argument for universal healthcare and a strong, resilient social safety net, if not UBI or a socialist economy, I think this might be it. Our fear of socialism is actually a fear of authoritarianism, but the two are not inextricably intertwined. Also, we’re already living under an authoritarian regime and it’s only going to get worse as long as Republicans have anything to say about it.

Donald John Trump, and every one of his brain dead sycophants, represent a clear and present danger to the health and well-being of the people of the United States. Everything he does, every choice he makes, is predicated on assuaging his fragile ego and is aligned with his re-election campaign and his economic interests. Even when he appears to be looking out for the nation’s economy, it is only inasmuch as it affects, and reinforces, his own financial interests. He needs to be gone immediately but, thanks to the greed and avarice of the Republican party, we will have to wait until near the end of next January to remove his worthless ass.

As John Pavlovitz posted on Twitter recently:

This President didn’t create this virus, but he ignored it, denied it, joked about it, weaponized it, politicized it, and exacerbated it. He is culpable for the chaos and the unnecessary illness, and yes, the preventable deaths because of it—and his supporters are too. This is the human cost of the MAGA cult delusion, and we’re all paying for it now equally.

https://twitter.com/johnpavlovitz/status/1238127737031864321?s=20

I have one disagreement with John, however. We’re NOT paying for it equally. The most marginalized of us will suffer far more than those of us higher up on the economic food chain. Since I’m semi-retired and, when I do work, I can work from home, if school is cancelled my youngest, who’s still in high school, will have someone at home to care for her and my oldest, who works with 4th graders through our local Boys and Girls Club, will also have a comfortable home and whatever she needs until school resumes. They will not go hungry, unless we’re forced to stay inside for longer than a couple of weeks.

There are millions of children who depend upon school breakfasts and lunches to get a good, reasonably nutritious meal (sometimes the best meal of the day) and there are lots of parents who cannot afford to miss work should they be required to stay home for a week or two. I have no doubt many on the right see this as a matter of survival of the fittest, but I can’t go along with such a callous view of how we are to function as a society.

We are social animals and we thrive when we take care of each other, recognizing that we are all dependent on our collective strengths to overcome our individual weaknesses. It’s time we recognize this basic reality of our humanity . . . and pay homage to it by lifting all boats, not just those of the wealthy and powerful.

The word ‘equality’ shows up too much in our founding documents for anyone to pretend it’s not the American way.

Martha Plimpton

Chasing Agriculture

I arrived in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco at the tail end of the “Summer of Love.” It was either late August or very early September. Things were already starting to fall apart before I got up there, but it took weeks before I was able to recognize what was happening.

Where It All Happened

I had traveled from Los Angeles by thumb, where I had just given up a lucrative business my father had purchased for me at the very end of 1966. Fearing my life was going nowhere (which it kinda was) he took the opportunity to buy a small snack shop from a friend who was going into another business. The place was called DEBS, which was an acronym of the previous owners family’s names. We kept it . . . the name that is.

Situated directly across the street from the May Company, between 8th and 9th Streets on S. Hill Street, I was making big bucks for a snot-nosed teenager. I didn’t realize just how lucky I was at the time which, I suppose, is the very definition of privilege. I just did a time/value calculation and discovered I was making the equivalent of close to a quarter of a million dollars a year back then. Yikes! That doesn’t seem possible or even reasonable, but I’m pretty sure it’s true.

Unfortunately, I was only 19 years old at the time, fresh out of High School the previous year and recently honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy after a total of one month and twenty-three days of service. I’m surely one of a few people in the country who has served, received the National Defense Service Medal, and also a medical discharge while I was still in boot camp. Since I was in for such a short time, I am not eligible for veteran’s benefits, nor have I ever sought to receive them . . . but that’s another story I’ll get to later.

This is a screenshot from Google Maps’ Street View. According to Yelp, they’re still in business, though I know it’s not the same people

DEBS Snack Shop was open six days a week, twelve hours a day on weekdays, and ten hours on Saturday. I had to be there for every one of those hours and, since I lived in the North end of the San Fernando Valley, the commute took at least an hour and a half, round-trip, every weekday. Saturdays were a little quicker. So I was putting in about 70 hours per week, not including time getting ready to head out the door.

Not only were the hours long, I had to deal with my father coming by every day and pointing out everything I had done “wrong,” i.e. not how he would do it. Not that I didn’t screw up; 19-year-old boys aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer, no matter how high their IQ. But my old man was not the kind to hand out compliments or praise. Nope. He was a genius at pointing out shortcoming, though.

I remember one weekend I finally had a date with a young woman I had met somewhere. Much of the detail is lost in the mists of time, including who she was and where we met, and the relationship didn’t last long at all. We went out to dinner and were going to go to a movie afterward. Unfortunately, if memory serves, I actually fell asleep at dinner, I was so tired. I don’t think we made it to the movie, and I’m not sure I ever saw her again.

That particular debacle was one of many compelling reasons I asked my father to sell the place after only seven months. I was young and restless, and I had no social life. I had also started smoking pot the previous year and was beginning to experiment with acid (LSD.) I needed to spread my wings and I didn’t see that ever happening as long as I was tied to a demanding business and an overbearing father. But I digress.

What I was thinking of when I decided to write this post was the agricultural workers here in my native County of Ventura. Some of the laborers post videos to a local Facebook group and seeing them brings me back to my two encounters with working in the fields, one of which took place while I was living up in the Haight.

Not the video I was referring to, but quite similar

When I was working in the snack shop, I frequently had to go and purchase produce, generally a few blocks away at the Grand Central Market. One of the items I had to buy was tomatoes. I would get them by the “lug,” each of which weighed approximately 30 pounds.

On many a day in the Haight, people would just sit around in front of the stores on Haight Street, sometimes standing to perform for the tourist buses that would pass by. They expected no less from a bunch of “Hippies,” and we were often content to give it to them. One day, a man came by and asked if anyone was interested in picking tomatoes. He said it paid a certain amount (I have no idea what it was) per “lug.” I accepted.

The following day, early in the morning, I boarded a bus with a group of fellow “hippies” and we were taken to a field right next to a mental hospital. We were set loose in the fields to pick tomatoes and it was then I discovered their definition of a “lug” was considerably larger than what I had grown used to purchasing for the snack shop’s use. At least twice as big! I had just turned 20 in June, a couple months prior to selling the business. I was in good shape, yet picking tomatoes, which requires bending over continuously, was physically demanding and, based on how many tomatoes had to be gathered to complete a “lug,” I soon came to the conclusion this was NOT how I wished to make money in the future.

I don’t think I spent more than a couple of hours in the field, but I’ve never forgotten how difficult and back-breaking the work was. It has given me a sense of deep respect for the people who spend their lives working in the fields. It is extraordinarily difficult (and sometimes dangerous) work, for which I’m sure they are not paid enough.

I did mention, above, there were two times I had worked in the field. The second one was in 1973, when I spent two months in Cuba as a member of the 6th contingent of the Venceremos Brigade. During that time I worked primarily in construction, making concrete slabs and pillars used to construct small, single-family dwellings. However, on one occasion we spent a day in the fields cutting sugar cane. In addition to the work being back-breaking, the fields were torched prior to our work in order to burn off some of the vegetation on the canes. It meant we were covered in burnt sugar cane juice by the end of the day.

Cutting Sugar Cane is a messy and exacting task

I had purchased a pair of brown Red Wing boots for the trip. After one day in the fields, they were mostly black from that burnt juice. It never came off.

Those two, admittedly short stints in the field gave me an appreciation for anyone who works in agriculture – especially those who bend over and pick and pack our food for distribution. I’ve done a lot of other things in my life that were difficult, some equally so, but none more difficult than picking tomatoes or cutting sugar cane. I have nothing but respect for someone who makes their living doing such work. It’s why I have long supported the United Farm Workers and all who struggle to be treated with dignity and respect.


Charity Sucks

When I feed the poor,
they call me a saint.
When I ask why the poor have no food,
They call me a communist.

~ Dom Helder Camara

Most of us would agree charity is important. There are, after all, large numbers of people who need a helping hand at times and who, without help, would fall between the cracks of society and suffer needlessly; perhaps perish as a result.

But we don’t seem to ever ask ourselves why charity is necessary; why there are always millions who haven’t enough to get by comfortably. It’s understandable in the face of natural disasters and unfortunate accidents, but more difficult to accept when it’s merely the “way things are.” I haven’t always done so myself.

Shortly after my retirement from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, I was asked to join one of my city’s local Rotary clubs. I knew many of the city’s leaders were involved in Rotary and I also knew the club I was asked to join held a yearly Cajun & Blues festival on Memorial Day each year that was wildly successful and raised a lot of money for the community.

I was happy to join and discovered one of Rotary International’s projects was to eradicate Polio—a worthy endeavor in my estimation. I became fairly active in my club, taking on the responsibility of using social media to promote our activities and volunteering for many of the club’s activities, including providing a full Thanksgiving meal at our senior center, assembling bicycles to give to children for Christmas, and spending an entire weekend (sometimes more) during the Cajun & Blues festival.

Nevertheless, I was somewhat uncomfortable with the realization that quite a few of the members of my club were uncomfortably conservative; some of them clearly harboring deeply bigoted concepts of entire groups of people I felt were undeserving of their scorn. After all, I live in Simi Valley, home of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and also known for the acquittal of the police officers who beat the crap out of Rodney King.

I celebrated my fourth anniversary with the club in October of 2016, though I had been attending breakfast meetings for nearly six months prior to becoming an official member (there was some kind of SNAFU that held up my membership.) I had long been uncomfortable with a large segment of the members and, after the election of Donald Trump, I decided I needed to use my limited discretionary funds for something other than rubber chicken circuit breakfasts and a glossy magazine I seldom had time to read.

I tendered my resignation in December and immediately started monthly contributions to five advocacy groups I felt were more aligned with the direction I wished to see society go in. Those organizations included Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, the NAACP Legal & Defense Fund, MALDEF, and the Standing Rock Water Defenders. The last of these stopped accepting donations when they were unceremoniously kicked off the land, and I replaced them with my local Democratic club, of which I had also become a member.

So . . . my point here is that, while charity is important because many are struggling and need a helping hand, it is also an indication (a powerful one, IMO) that something is wrong with our society. Why does such a wealthy nation have such a large population of people living on the razor’s edge of existence? Why are people like Jeff Bezos allowed to amass fortunes in the billions while others are left to starve on the streets? I know it’s the logic of capitalism, but I don’t think it makes much sense from a systems or holistic view of humanity and society . . . even of economics. At twice the national poverty line (~$50K/yr) Bezos’s worth of $110,000,000,000 would bring a reasonably comfortable level of income to 2,200,000 families of four (that’s approximately 8,800,000 people.)

Many are beginning to realize income inequality is deeply hurtful to a society. Large segments of the population can’t possibly contribute as much as they’re capable of when they’re struggling to stay alive and healthy. I’m of the opinion we have a hard time understanding this because we are not conversant in the language of systems; we don’t see the interconnections between all of us and our actions and how such large segments of our population who are under stress is stressful to our society as a whole.

Whether it’s Universal Basic Income or a shift to a more socialistic economic system, I believe something needs to be done to allow as many as possible to reach closer to their full potential as contributing members of our society. Until such time, I don’t see how we can truly call ourselves “the land of the free, and the home of the brave.” The status quo is anything but freedom enhancing, and its acceptance is hardly an act of courage.


Lindsey The Pilot Fish

A few days ago, Rolling Stone Magazine published an article entitled “How Lindsey Graham Lost His Way.” In it, Steve Schmidt – former campaign manager for John McCain – offered his assessment of the type of person Senator Graham is. I thought I would memorialize his words on my blog in the hope others will see it digested from the original article, which is located here. What follows are two statements from Schmidt, both of which are acerbic and revealing.

“We see more examples of this in film and literature, but there are instances of principled men and women laying down their careers in service of what is right. Clearly, that person will never be Lindsey Graham. With regard to the cruelty and abuse that was directed at John McCain by Trump, I think Lindsey’s flaccidity in defending him says a lot about his character. Nobody wants to be in a bar fight when they go out on Friday night. But when someone walks up and punches your best friend in the face, you’ve got to do something. Lindsey has demonstrated he’s the guy who runs out the door.”

“People try to analyze Lindsey through the prism of the manifest inconsistencies that exist between things that he used to believe and what he’s doing now,” Schmidt says. “The way to understand him is to look at what’s consistent. And essentially what he is in American politics is what, in the aquatic world, would be a pilot fish: a smaller fish that hovers about a larger predator, like a shark, living off of its detritus. That’s Lindsey. And when he swam around the McCain shark, broadly viewed as a virtuous and good shark, Lindsey took on the patina of virtue. But wherever the apex shark is, you find the Lindsey fish hovering about, and Trump’s the newest shark in the sea. Lindsey has a real draw to power — but he’s found it unattainable on his own merits.”


Leading a Horse to Water

During my last eight years at Rocketdyne (which traversed ownership by The Boeing Company and United Technologies’ Pratt & Whitney Division) I was the Project Manager for an internal tool called AskMe. It’s original intent was to provide a method whereby people could find both experts and expertise, i.e. people with knowledge they needed or papers and other publications that expressed useful knowledge. I later came to realize what we were doing was using a social media tool.

During the entire eight years I worked on that system, it was a constant struggle to get people to use it. People clearly believed that sharing was not in their best interests. Either that, or they were too intimidated by the thought of putting their knowledge to the test of time, as the whole idea was to foster conversations that would be saved and could later be searched when that kind of knowledge was needed again.

At any rate, I tried lots of different ways of promoting the tool. This one, below, came about after I received an email (at home) for a penis enlargement product. I thought to borrow the concept and see if it flew. I have taken the liberty of blurring out my colleague’s face, as I’m not sure where he is and, frankly, I don’t even remember who he is!

BTW – Within a couple of years of my departure, much to the chagrin of many who had worked on it, the tool was gone. I’ll share later why I think this was so.


My Twitter Suspension

Uh oh! Ricky’s been a baaaaad boy. This is what happens when you suggest a man surrounded by secret service protection and the best medical care in the world experience something everyone’s speculating he’s experienced already. The man responsible for hundreds, if not thousands of needless deaths and who knows how much misery. The man who vilifies those he represents and spews a constant stream of vile, hateful lies and deceptions. The person who violates Twitters rules on a daily basis and suffers nothing for his transgressions. And, of course, there’s precious little I can do about it. I will appeal and suggest context matters, but I can’t even be sure what I was responding to. I think I know what it was, though, so I’ll go that route.

Golly gee whiz! I sure hope I didn’t hurt his feefees or anything.


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