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

Carta’s covid-19 layoff

The number of layoffs in the tech industry has been sobering. A few months ago, tech companies and workers felt invincible, and now many are simply trying to survive.

Carta laid off 161 people (about 16% of their workforce). I don’t work at Carta or know anything about its CEO, Henry Ward, so I don’t know how the news was received. But Ward’s message to the staff was as good as I’ve seen.

This is a hard thing to do, but taking responsibility and treating the people who believed in you fairly is something that separates good leaders from bad ones.

— April 18, 2020

San Francisco Quarantine

This drone video of the empty streets of downtown San Francisco is eerie. I can’t attest to it. I haven’t been downtown for weeks due to the shelter in place order. In my neighborhood, most businesses are closed and traffic is lower than usual, but people are still on the sidewalks, and parks are more crowded than they should be.

— March 29, 2020

That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief

Harvard Business Review interviewed grief expert David Kessler about the response to COVID-19:

HBR: People are feeling any number of things right now. Is it right to call some of what they’re feeling grief?

Kessler: Yes, and we’re feeling a number of different griefs. We feel the world has changed, and it has. We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different. Just as going to the airport is forever different from how it was before 911, things will change and this is the point at which they changed. The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.

You said we’re feeling more than one kind of grief?

Yes, we’re also feeling anticipatory grief. Anticipatory grief is that feeling we get about what the future holds when we’re uncertain. Usually it centers on death. We feel it when someone gets a dire diagnosis or when we have the normal thought that we’ll lose a parent someday. Anticipatory grief is also more broadly imagined futures. There is a storm coming. There’s something bad out there. With a virus, this kind of grief is so confusing for people. Our primitive mind knows something bad is happening, but you can’t see it. This breaks our sense of safety. We’re feeling that loss of safety. I don’t think we’ve collectively lost our sense of general safety like this. Individually or as smaller groups, people have felt this. But all together, this is new. We are grieving on a micro and a macro level.

This resonated with me. I have felt anxious about the epidemic, but I didn’t apply the word “grief” to the feelings. I think it’s the right one.

COVID-19 will pass someday, but things will be different. We will lose friends and family. Local restaurants and businesses will close. Jobs will be lost. Relationships will end. People who can’t afford rent will leave. The poor will suffer more than the rich. All these things were happening before COVID-19, but it is a discontinuity, a society-wide shock. The dread of the uncertainty it causes is palpable.

— March 29, 2020