Thursday, April 29, 2010

111 and a much smaller number

(1) Today is Duke Ellington's birthday. He was born in 1899 and would have been 111 years old today.

Here are two items that illustrate the range of Ellington's influence:

The Duke Ellington Express
("The Online Newspaper of P.S. 4"-- pretty neat, actually)

("A Duke Ellington Primer" by Mark Anthony Neal)

(2) Yesterday was my sister's birthday. She's way younger than 111. When she gets home from work in about an hour I'm going to call her, wish her a happy belated birthday, and throw myself on the mercy of the court.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"Next Blog" of the Week (April 25-May 1, 2010)

This is like this because that is like that.
   --Thich Nhat Hanh
I haven't been able to figure out the pattern (if any) for the Next Blog link at the top of Blogger/ pages. Often enough I'm taken to photo collections of nice clean white-bread families (of any color) and there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason.

On clicking through this morning, my first hit was along the lines of the above. My second hit (always from the TOTF home page, mind you) was more interesting for a couple of reasons, everything being somehow connected to everything else across the multiverses.

The Lost Albatross is a blog by Emily Mills of Madison, WI. The site layout and albatross logo held me just long enough to notice the Wisconsin connection. A substantial contingent of my family on the "black" side live in Milwaukee [if you can call that living, insert rim shot] and I do check on their environs now and then to see whether their reports align in the slightest with news from the rest of the state.

So Emily's latest post (as of this writing) is about warm weather, it finally being a facsimile of Spring up in them parts, and a rather nasty photo of a rather nasty blister. Compared with injury stories from my family it's not that impressive, but then they don't post actual photos of their boo-boos.

The next thing I saw on her page was a March 18 post that referred to her other writing, Emily's Post, at something called The Daily Page. I clicked through and read this article on the difficulties of getting a club license in Madison if they even SUSPECT you'll book hip-hop acts, and I recommend it. It's on topic for us here at TOTF, and a reminder that the North can be just as mean and sneaky as the South in race-connected matters, so I don't feel I'm leading you astray at this point.

Lastly, the serendipitous "whoa" aspect of this particular Next Blog, which was not the Wisconsin connection after all: The post that sent me off to The Daily Page also contained an embedded video of Amanda (f) Palmer. You may be aware that she's no Amanda Plummer. (Personally, I like Amanda Blake better than either of them. It's a generational thing.) My colleague over at after the flood just commented on Amanda Palmer the other day, combining a dream sequence and hipster racism in an interesting mash-up that ended up in an unfavorable review for Ms. Palmer.

OK, that's full circle for this Next Blog entry. Thanks for being here!

P.S. Hipster racism deserves its own linkout so here ya go.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Quote of the Week (April 25- May 1, 2010)

I'll just die a broke, crabby old fart insisting that it was better in the old days when shows were shows and ads were ads and everyone could tell the difference.
--Amy Goldman Koss
L.A. Times, 4/25/10

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Faster than a Rachel Maddow (just this once)

Allow me to gloat a bit. Last night (April 21) Rachel Maddow finally got to the recent Supreme Court hearing in which the esteemed Justices displayed their technology acumen for the nation's amusement (or chagrin).

An Interweb eternity ago, way back on Monday the 19th, I commented on the collective SCOTUS wonderment over pushing a button and a thing goes right to the other thing.

Rachel's Finger Puppet Theatre (cast & crew: Kent Jones) probably realized the potential of this judicial event right off, but because of their high production values, union rules, OSHA requirements, etc. they could not just put a skit on the air. However, they got to it last night:

Extra Dose of Black History: Hurston video bio

Hat tip to prometheus6. Cross-posting because the link below is time-sensitive (good until the end of the month).

Blurb from the site:

"Zora Neale Hurston, path-breaking novelist, pioneering anthropologist and one of the first black women to enter the American literary canon (Their Eyes Were Watching God), established the African American vernacular as one of the most vital, inventive voices in American literature. This definitive film biography, eighteen years in the making, portrays Zora in all her complexity: gifted, flamboyant, and controversial but always fiercely original."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I'm still waiting for all the Black folk to open carry in Starbucks

"We are just a bunch of individuals standing up for our rights," said Huffman, a 27-year-old firearms safety instructor who lives in Martinez. "There's this assumption that everyone in open carry is a crazy redneck in a pickup. But look at me - I drive a Prius, and I'm gay.

"We have all sorts of people in this movement."
Can't say I've heard it put quite that way before. I'm still waiting for "all sorts" to include ALL sorts.

In a previous life, I would sometimes have a commute from my Oakland domicile eastward to Concord. This involved weapons, serious weapons, but I'd prefer not to talk about it. Anyway, on this "reverse commute"-- away from SF in the morning, toward it in the late afternoon-- I'd pass beautiful and talented Walnut Creek almost every day. (For those who may doubt this, please know that I mastered the art of the merge at the Caldecott tunnel. For the record, I was a "sidezoomer.")

So I can easily imagine stopping at Starbucks in Walnut Creek for a picker-upper to tide me over.

I'm trying to imagine what the reaction would have been, especially the first time, had a tall black man with no badge walked in with a sidearm and ordered a venti double whatchamacallit. "Yes indeed, barista, bring on the caffeine... Look here, steady as a rock! Wouldn't you rather I had the shakes? Sell me somethin' already!" Good old liberal California... no problem, right?

Well, people have been walking into Starbucks with sidearms in plain view. So far (do I really have to say "So far"?) they seem to be obeying the various "open carry" laws of their particular localities. The latest semi-local story about this recounts the current situation at Walnut Creek:
Kevin Fagan, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Brad Huffman and Jeff Dunhill were grabbing coffee, as so many do in downtown Walnut Creek. They were at a Starbucks.

In most ways, they didn't stand out, dressed in their slacks and neat shirts, short hair trimly cropped. Heads would have never turned but for one thing - the bulky black pistols strapped to their belts.

Huffman and Dunhill, de facto spokesmen for the Bay Area's burgeoning "open carry" movement, sipped their cups and acted as if packing heat - unloaded, because carrying loaded guns is illegal without a permit - were the most natural thing in the world to do. Which, of course, it's not. In modern California society, at least.

And therein is the essence of their point.

Open-carry advocates are toting unloaded pistols in public as often as they can in an attempt to expand Second Amendment gun rights in this, one of the strictest gun-control states in the nation. Their opponents want to keep the right to pack those pistols in public as limited as possible.

The above article does a pretty good job of summarizing the complexity of the open-carry issue in a folksy way, and I wish it could have resisted the urge to make it a "two-sided" issue at the end. BTW, one of the complexities is this: If concealed weapons are allowed, is there anyplace you can't have a concealed weapon? What's the point of "concealed"-- I mean, why bother-- if you can't have it all the time? From the article:
People who are nervous about seeing guns in public, open-carry advocates say, should help pass laws to allow anyone who can meet qualifications to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon most anywhere - with a few exceptions, such as on most campuses or in courthouses. [emphasis added]
Er, most campuses? Hmm...


Things move around on the Internetses, so here, verbatim, is the current policy from Starbucks:
Mar 03, 2010
Starbucks Position on Open Carry Gun Laws
(updated March 16, 2010)
We recognize that there is significant and genuine passion surrounding the issue of open carry weapons laws. Advocacy groups from both sides of this issue have chosen to use Starbucks as a way to draw attention to their positions.

While we deeply respect the views of all our customers, Starbucks long-standing approach to this issue remains unchanged. We comply with local laws and statutes in all the communities we serve. That means we abide by the laws that permit open carry in 43 U.S. states. Where these laws don’t exist, openly carrying weapons in our stores is prohibited. The political, policy and legal debates around these issues belong in the legislatures and courts, not in our stores.

At the same time, we have a security protocol for any threatening situation that might occur in our stores. Partners are trained to call law enforcement as situations arise. We will continuously review our procedures to ensure the highest safety guidelines are in place and we will continue to work closely with law enforcement.

We have examined this issue through the lens of partner (employee) and customer safety. Were we to adopt a policy different from local laws allowing open carry, we would be forced to require our partners to ask law abiding customers to leave our stores, putting our partners in an unfair and potentially unsafe position.

As the public debate continues, we are asking all interested parties to refrain from putting Starbucks or our partners into the middle of this divisive issue. As a company, we are extremely sensitive to the issue of gun violence in our society. Our Starbucks family knows all too well the dangers that exist when guns are used irresponsibly and illegally. Without minimizing this unfortunate reality, we believe that supporting local laws is the right way for us to ensure a safe environment for both partners and customers.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Personally, I think it SHOULD go right to the other thing

Although I think SCOTUS are on the right track in Ontario v. Quon, their latest privacy case (no reasonable expectation of privacy when communicating on the government's dime, especially with a written policy in effect), I think we can rightly be concerned that the Justices are deciding some technology-based issues they're just barely up to snuff on:

By Mark Sherman
Associated Press
Posted: 04/19/2010 12:37:31 PM PDT
Updated: 04/19/2010 02:41:16 PM PDT

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court appears likely to rule against public employees who claimed a local government violated their privacy by reading racy text messages they sent on their employers' account.

Several justices said Monday that the employer, the Ontario, Calif., police department, acted reasonably in monitoring the text messages in view of its written policy warning employees they have no guarantee of privacy in the use of office computer and electronics equipment.
Justice Stephen Breyer said he didn't see "anything, quite honestly, unreasonable about that."

While the case involves government workers, the decision could have broader privacy implications as courts continue to sort out privacy issues in the digital age. Many employers, including Ontario, tell workers there is no guarantee of privacy in anything sent over their company- or government-provided computers, cell phones or pagers....

All well and good (as my 4th grade teacher would have said), but what I'm concerned about is this (from the linked article, w/ quotes from p. 48 of the official transcript):
...The argument also displayed the limits on the justices' mastery of modern communications devices as Roberts tried to figure out the role of the text-messaging service in enabling an exchange between two people.

"I thought, you know, you push a button; it goes right to the other thing," Roberts said.

"You mean it doesn't go right to the other thing?" Scalia said.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Pact, Episode 1: Those Pesky Digital Divides

The dilemma:

On January 1st, 2010, I broke with personal tradition and made a New Year's resolution about the level of blogging I'd achieve. I believed I would have time and inclination to keep this here blog going (fair enough) AND to post any off-topic, yet still interesting, items over at The Joshua Fit. You're welcome to click over and see how well that resolution worked out.

Meanwhile, over at After the Flood, my real and virtual pal RRP made a similar resolution on January 5th. That resolution worked out about as well as mine did.

We chatted a couple of weeks ago about this and decided enough is enough, let's do something about it.

The solution:

We signed a bilateral pact enforceable in the World Court (just kidding) that each of us would post something "substantial" once a week. There's a somewhat arcane set of ground rules, because we know each other well enough to ensure rules are in place and we're warped enough to ensure said rules are arcane. (We do have an escape clause for true family emergencies, and we left "substantial" loosely defined for now.) Oh, an immediate side effect-- add to the lexicon:

blagging = blogging + nagging

The post:

Lately, I've been hit upside the head with the Digital Divide, writ large and small. In March, I was given a change of perspective on this phenomenon by several personal experiences, as well as some news articles and blog posts. The "money quote" from the latter is from an article by Samuel S. Kang on March 24:

What we have, in effect, is not one, but two “digital divides”: Not only do many minority communities have less broadband access than their white counterparts – a problem that the NBP should help address – blacks and Latinos are far less likely than whites to be employed in high-tech fields.

Broadband access (and the proposed National Broadband Plan) got a lot of play in March thanks to media coverage of the FCC. To be fair, broadband access is an issue not just for minority, mostly urban communities but also for rural communities of any color. National, regional, and state efforts rightly focus on both. But I'll admit that the aspect of it that rubs me the wrong way is lack of access in urban (minority) areas that are geographically close to wealthier areas with access. This divide affects homes and schools.

The consumer end, whether people get to watch CSI or Law & Order reruns on eight channels, is not important to me. Hand-in-hand with that, however, is lack of access for educational and creative purposes at home and at school. Our kids are missing opportunities.

The result of not addressing youth access is readily manifest at the other end, where adults gather. Kang's quote above is specific to employment in high-tech fields and was addressed recently by research by the San Jose Mercury News. (See here for sure, and here. Also see here for the immigrant-vs.-native factor.) But even without considering direct employent, people of color participate very little in their own fates when major high-tech issues are discussed, networking (the human kind) takes place, and decisions are made. Our communities are represented most often by kindly emissaries who are familiar with the issues and who have honorable intent. But the lack of direct empowerment for the people being discussed, whose futures are in the hands of decision-makers, is plain to me.

My evidence is anecdotal but tell me if I'm wrong. I referred above to being hit upside the head with personal experience of the Digital Divide. Since early March, I've been on the research & education conference circuit, six events. Two about broadband. Two about increasing presence and quality of math & science teachers in high-needs schools. One explicitly about affirmative action in higher ed. (See my post about Hilda Solis dropping by.) And just yesterday, one involving technology, education, and design (check the initials). At each event I've played "count the black people." This is a visual pastime, kind of like Slug Bug (punch-in-the-shoulder game with Volkswagens) only with psychic pain.

Event A: 3 black people and I think one was Afro-Latino
Event B: 1 black person (me)
Event C: 5 black people
Event D: 1 black person (me)
Event E: 4 black people, 5 if you include a security guy
Event F: Maybe 20 but I lost count. Guess which event?

I'm not blaming the event organizers for the overwhelming whiteness of the attendees, and I should note for the record that the non-black, non-Latino rainbow was somewhat represented, and plenty of women were there but not many black women. It's not really the organizers' fault. It's a natural result of system design (few minorities into the pipeline, few out) plus our own responsibility to take care of our own professional and personal development by going to these things instead of always minding the store while our colleagues go.

Bottom line: Tune into and attend the all-black "summit" events (e.g. those held by people such as Roland Martin, Tom Joyner, and yes, even Tavis Smiley). Support the minority tech, engineering, and education organizations. But don't think that's enough to change anything. Go to the mostly-white events. Go until they aren't.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I can't think of a proper Bo Diddley joke (WIHTC Part V, redux)

Frankly, if they'd stop talking about it, I'd stop posting about it. Now ol' Haley Barbour of Mississippi has weighed in on how best to celebrate the Confederacy without referring to the nasty bits-- namely, slavery.

He has openly defended his gubernatorial colleague, Bob McDonnell of Virginia, whose original proclamation can be found here.* (It was replaced by a slightly less inflammatory version that allows as how slavery wasn't such a good thing, and even the Google cache of the original disappeared.)

I suppose it's good to know where people stand...
April 12, 2010
Filed at 6:56 p.m. ET

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour drew criticism for proclaiming April as Confederate Heritage Month without mentioning slavery, the second governor this month to come under fire for the omission.

Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Natchez, who is black, said Monday that people need to learn about the ''abhorrent, violent, depraved actions of slavery.''

Virginia's Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, also named April as Confederate History Month but his original proclamation didn't mention slavery. After coming under national criticism, McDonnell last week revised it to denounce slavery as ''evil and inhumane.''

Barbour, also a Republican who helped campaign for McDonnell last year, said Sunday on CNN that slavery was bad but a fuss over McDonnell's original proclamation ''doesn't amount to diddly.'' [emphasis added]
* Because things move around on the Internetses, here is the text of the original Virginia proclamation before it got all gussied up with anti-slavery language:

WHEREAS, April is the month in which the people of Virginia joined the Confederate States of America in a four year war between the states for independence that concluded at Appomattox Courthouse; and

WHEREAS, Virginia has long recognized her Confederate history, the numerous civil war battlefields that mark every region of the state, the leaders and individuals in the Army, Navy and at home who fought for their homes and communities and Commonwealth in a time very different than ours today; and

WHEREAS, it is important for all Virginians to reflect upon our Commonwealth's shared history, to understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War, and to recognize how our history has led to our present; and

WHEREAS, Confederate historical sites such as the White House of the Confederacy are open for people to visit in Richmond today; and

WHEREAS, all Virginians can appreciate the fact that when ultimately overwhelmed by the insurmountable numbers and resources of the Union Army, the surviving, imprisoned and injured Confederate soldiers gave their word and allegiance to the United States of America, and returned to their homes and families to rebuild their communities in peace, following the instruction of General Robert E. Lee of Virginia, who wrote that, "...all should unite in honest efforts to obliterate the effects of war and to restore the blessings of peace."; and

WHEREAS, this defining chapter in Virginia's history should not be forgotten, but instead should be studied, understood and remembered by all Virginians, both in the context of the time in which it took place, but also in the context of the time in which we live, and this study and remembrance takes on particular importance as the Commonwealth prepares to welcome the nation and the world to visit Virginia for the Sesquicentennial Anniversary of the Civil War, a four-year period in which the exploration of our history can benefit all;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Robert McDonnell, do hereby recognize April 2010 as CONFEDERATE HISTORY MONTH in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.

Hope, Audacity, Youth

I posted the links below elsewhere, during a somewhat angst-y discussion about Kevin Powell's Open Letter to Black America. But on second look they are worth keeping in mind and referring to as we wonder about our collective future. Over the long term, I am interested in how we can view these isolated success stories as NOT SO ISOLATED.

First black valedictorian at Notre Dame:

Homeless student is going to West Point:

12-year-old does TED talk:

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Why I hate the Confederacy, Part V: Treating treason like it's a good idea

OK, I'm back, with a hat tip to a commenter at JJP who posted a link to the following Washington Post item today:
Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has quietly declared April 2010 Confederate History Month, bringing back a designation in Virginia that his two Democratic predecessors -- Mark Warner and Tim Kaine -- refused to do.
This is literally "two fifths forward, one fifth back"... I like the wryness of one comment at WaPo that suggested Michael Steele cut the ribbon... (He'd charge for it, though.)

The full proclamation signed by McDonnell can be read here.

UPDATE 24 hours later:

The heat was on McDonnell, especially heat from major financial backer and known black woman Sheila Johnson (who took half of the BET fortune with her when she divorced Bob Johnson). Apparently, her support for McDonnell didn't include proclamations about Confederate history that don't mention slavery:

"The complete omission of slavery from an official government document, which purports to be a call for Virginians to 'understand' and 'study' their history, is both academically flawed and personally offensive." More here about Johnson's statement.

As of late afternoon on April 7, McDonnell has issued his own variation on the boilerplate "near-apology since I got caught anyway":

"The failure to include any reference to slavery was a mistake, and for that I apologize to any fellow Virginian who has been offended or disappointed."

No, by all means don't just apologize.