Declaration of Independence edits

I have been listening to the Revolutions podcast back catalog, and finished the American Revolution just in time for the Fourth of July. One of the things I learned which I didn’t know much about was the editing process of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress. Thomas Jefferson’s first draft went a little overboard in a few places, including asserting the King had foisted slavery on the colonists. Jefferson owned many slaves and one of them, Robert Hemmings was with him in Philadelphia when he drafted the Declaration.

I thought it would be fun to make a git repository of the changes made by the editors, but fortunately Karl Becker already did it, including a comment from @big-ben-franklin striking the line about slavery.

— July 6, 2020

I Wanted to Know What White Men Thought About Their Privilege. So I Asked.

Claudia Rankine teaches Constructions of Whiteness at Yale. She writes about trying to talk to white men about privilege while traveling first class.

This scene, my god:

I was waiting in another line for access to another plane in another city as another group of white men approached. When they realized they would have to get behind a dozen or so people already in line, they simply formed their own line next to us. I said to the white man standing in front of me, “Now, that is the height of white male privilege.” He laughed and remained smiling all the way to his seat. He wished me a good flight. We had shared something. I don’t know if it was the same thing for each of us — the same recognition of racialized privilege — but I could live with that polite form of unintelligibility.

I found the suited men who refused to fall in line exhilarating and amusing (as well as obnoxious). Watching them was like watching a spontaneous play about white male privilege in one act. I appreciated the drama. One or two of them chuckled at their own audacity. The gate agent did an interesting sort of check-in by merging the newly formed line with the actual line. The people in my line, almost all white and male themselves, were in turn quizzical and accepting.

Finally, she does challenge a seatmate on something he says. Unlike so many, he doesn’t get defensive but accepts the feedback and they have a good conversation. I hope I would do the same.

Eventually, he told me he had been working on diversity inside his company. “We still have a long way to go,” he said. Then he repeated himself — “We still have a long way to go” — adding, “I don’t see color.” This is a statement for well-meaning white people whose privilege and blind desire catapult them into a time when little black children and little white children are judged not “by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” The phrase “I don’t see color” pulled an emergency brake in my brain. Would you be bringing up diversity if you didn’t see color? I wondered. Will you tell your wife you had a nice talk with a woman or a black woman? Help.

All I could think to say was, “Ain’t I a black woman?” I asked the question slowly, as if testing the air quality. Did he get the riff on Sojourner Truth? Or did he think the ungrammatical construction was a sign of blackness? Or did he think I was mocking white people’s understanding of black intelligence? “Aren’t you a white man?” I then asked. “Can’t you see that? Because if you can’t see race, you can’t see racism.” I repeated that sentence, which I read not long before in Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility.”

“I get it,” he said. His tone was solemn. “What other inane things have I said?”

“Only that,” I responded.

I had refused to let the reality he was insisting on be my reality. And I was pleased that I hadn’t lubricated the moment, pleased I could say no to the silencing mechanisms of manners, pleased he didn’t need to open up a vein of complaint. I was pleased he was not passively bullying. I was pleased he could carry the disturbance of my reality. And just like that, we broke open our conversation — random, ordinary, exhausting and full of a shared longing to exist in less segregated spaces.

— July 5, 2020

General CQ Brown, Jr: What I'm Thinking About

— June 6, 2020

Campaign Zero

Samuel Sinyangwe has a useful Twitter thread of police reform policies that have been passed around the US.

He is one of the leaders of Campaign Zero which aims to eliminate police violence in America. Police violence is a huge problem, as the Washington Post Fatal Force project documents. It disproportionately affects African Americans and Hispanics, but police violence kills many white people, too. It is a wide-spread problem which must be fixed.

— May 31, 2020

My fellow brothers and sisters in blue, what the hell are you doing?

Florida congresswoman and former Orlando Chief of Police Val Demings on the urgent need for police reform:

My heart goes out to the families of those who have lost loved ones. But we must also offer justice through full and swift accountability — not just for their loved one, but for the future.

In Minnesota, we have no choice but to hold the officers accountable through the criminal-justice system. But we cannot only be reactive. We must be proactive. We must work with law enforcement agencies to identify problems before they happen.

As a nation, we must conduct a serious review of hiring standards and practices, diversity, training, use-of-force policies, pay and benefits (remember, you get what you pay for), early warning programs, and recruit training programs. Remember, officers who train police recruits are setting the standard for what is acceptable and unacceptable on the street.

— May 31, 2020

The social distancing circles at Dolores Park reminded me of the circle cat trap.

— May 26, 2020

Stepdad Frank's Popcorn

My stepdad makes the world’s best popcorn—hands down.

Like most stepdads, he hates when you leave your shoes out, enjoys watching the weather channel and football, and loves a Sunday afternoon routine: in his case, a lunch of popcorn, sliced apples, and cheddar. (“The popcorn gives you some carb, the cheese is the protein, and the fruit is fiber. It’s a well-balanced meal from the gods,” he says.)

But this is no ordinary popcorn. Frank’s popcorn is the stuff of legend. When he first started dating my mom, it was all the rest of us—my brother, my mom, and I—could talk about. How does Frank make the best popcorn in the entire world? we asked, while stuffing large handfuls of the popcorn into our mouths at an inhuman rate.

This recipe for popcorn has the self-falsifying title “The Popcorn Technique You Won’t Find on the Internet”, but it really is the best way to make popcorn I’ve ever made at home. I used to make popcorn in a heavy Dutch oven with a lot of shaking, but this method is easier and faster and tastes amazing.

Even before COVID-19 isolation, I adopted Stepdad Frank’s ideal lunch of popcorn, cheese, and apple more than I like to admit. My minor tweak is to add a little butter (just a dab) with the oil for flavor.

— May 23, 2020

Monitoring whales with UAVs

The Murdoch University Aquatic Megafauna Research Unit developed an innovative method to monitor the behavior and health of whale populations: unmanned aerial vehicles. The photos are incredible.

Humpback whale mother and calf surfacing
— May 23, 2020
Sign of the times: A stone lion wearing a mask
— May 11, 2020

Minnestar at fifteen

Minnestar at 15

When I look back at my career, one of the things I am most proud of is Minnestar, Minnesota’s tech community organization. When I got involved organizing events back in 2006, I never thought far enough ahead to imagine that it would still be going strong, 15 years later. We were too busy trying to keep it going from event to event. This year also marked the retirement from Minnestar’s board of directors of three people who were essential in the transformation of Minnestar from a money-losing labor of love into a self-sufficient non-profit with a full-time executive director.

Adrienne Peirce joined Minnestar as an organizer at just the right time. She helped Ben Edwards and I when it was becoming too much for us to manage, and injected new energy into the organization. Since she pre-dated the formation of the non-profit, she helped provide continuity with the traditions we established.

Jamie Thinglestad gave us the spark to make Minnestar into what it is today. His leadership, connections, and experience made a huge difference in challenging us to rethink what Minnestar could be, and how it could be sustainable long-term. He pushed us to create a non-profit and revolutionized our fundraising approach, so we didn’t have to start from zero every time we wanted to have an event. Jamie also suggested the idea that board members should only serve for 3 terms, injecting fresh energy into the organization as the board changed.

Without Kevin Spreng, we would not have been able to form a 501(c)(3) non-profit. This is a huge amount of work, and he guided us through it and brought Minnestar on as a pro bono client at his firm.

I feel confident in saying that without Adrienne, Jamie, and Kevin, Minnestar would not exist today. But because of the work they did over the last 9 years, Minnestar is stronger than ever. Today was supposed to be Minnebar 15, the fifteenth running of the free, all day unconference. It was rescheduled because of the COVID-19 epidemic, but Minnestar pushed forward and converted it into an all-day virtual event, Mini-Minnebar.

Thank you to Adrienne, Jamie, and Kevin for all you did. And thank you to executive director Maria Ploessl, the board of directors, supporters, speakers and countless volunteers for keeping Minnestar strong.

— April 25, 2020