View from the Left – The Upside of a Trump Presidency

I’m up early because it’s hard to sleep these days.

Work is fantastic and home life is good, but I’m constantly thinking about what’s happening to our country. As I lay awake, I realized, there has been something good that’s happened within our family and it extends to several of my friendships. We’re talking again. In a meaningful, purposeful way.

News of the day.

Growing up, Katie and I had this routine of coming together and I would always say, “Okay, news of the day,” and that would trigger her sharing highlights from her day and me mine. It was like our own little BuzzFeed. Headlines, stories, gossip, me sharing works stories, she’d share school stories, it didn’t matter it was how we connected. Then she got older and got a phone, then a car and honestly, finding time to talk became harder.

And then Trump decided to run for President.

We started connecting again. It started slowly because surely this was comedy and there he said funny things and made little sense. But when he won, it changed everything. It was time to talk and talk we did. I’ve spent the last month (is it a month yet?) talking with her every night explaining what’s been happening, how government works and what we can do to effect change. At the same time, she’s become (for her age) a voracious consumer of information, attenuating to headlines and going deep to really understand what’s true and what’s hyperbole or propaganda (the real words for fake news).

Oh yeah, I suppose we qualify as “the liberal elite”.

As a liberal elite family – I believe we qualify because we live in California, I have a master’s degree and she’s already in college – we are fiercely American. We believe in human rights, civil rights, democracy, freedom and a global economy. Katie’s traveled to more countries than I have and she’s interested in a career in journalism (I couldn’t be more proud, I think The Fourth Estate may well save us in the end).

While I fear what might happen to us based on the actions of the Trump Administration, I couldn’t be more grateful for the unintended consequence: we’ve put down our phones, come out of our homes, come together with our families, friends and community to stand up for what truly does make America great.

Mr. Trump, I fear your slogan, “Make America Great Again” is going to be your epitaph. It’s what we’ll all say after you and Bannon and anyone who rules by fear and intimidation are gone from office. Thank God it’s over, let’s make America great again.

If You Care About Your Child’s Future, You Must Read This Blog

If you are a parent of younger children, this blog will depress you. If you are a parent of younger children, you need to read this blog.

I just finished reading a long, intense article in Fast Company about the relationship between China and Africa. At first blush, you might wonder what it has to do with you. Trust me, it has everything to do with you – and your children’s future. If you can bear with me, I will try to net out the big picture.

Let’s start here. Note the part that says, “the next 50 years” – that’s in our lifetime folks. All the quotes are excerpted from the article.

“Humanity, the doomster argument goes, is on a collision course with the natural world, and the signs are everywhere: shrinking forests, croplands, fisheries, and water tables; rising pollution and temperatures. During the next 50 years, if current trends continue, humans will use more energy than in all of previously recorded history. More environmental stress will mean less growth and will trigger more conflict — bitter clashes among civilizations over a dwindling resource pie, mass migrations, “climate refugees,” uncontained diseases caused by “superbugs” impervious to modern medicines, water wars, maybe even food wars. In other words, the world will become like an episode of Survivor, except you can actually die.”

Essentially, the article explains in gut wrenching detail how we have abandoned Africa while China is rapidly depleting the country of its resources. We Western countries, with our high-minded principals – have done little (and participated in our share of the corruption) and the end game – holy crap 50 years!? – looks grim.

“When Bill Clinton was first elected president, the U.S. trade deficit with China was $18 billion. It is now $256 billion. Ravenous Westerners have become partners in Africa’s environmental destruction.”

I realize I am woefully uneducated in this area because my first thought is what can I do to make a difference? I have been working on “saving the planet” by doing my part to think green. But now I the situation is far more dire if the problem is that there won’t be any resources left because there are just too many of us consuming. Simply consuming. Much of it needlessly.

Even as we begin work on a series of home improvements, I have started to change the questions I am asking – are the products we are using made in China? What are they made from? Is that a renewable resource? Can we use products made closer to my home with materials that are easy to grow or produce?

It’s not much, but I am thinking if we all start asking these questions, cut down our consumption and therefore the demand of products manufactured in China, we might have at least an economic impact. The author makes the point that the Chinese aspire to be like us. Really? How many more Starbucks to we need? Is that really the epitome of a self-actualized life?

“Oxford’s Paul Collier, author of The Bottom Billion and a former head of research at the World Bank, is a leading expert on African economies. “I think the sad reality is that although globalization has powered the majority of developing countries toward prosperity,” he says, “it is now making things harder for these latecomers.” In other words, he says, Africa “missed the boat.” And on a divided, demoralized continent, one where the United States has lost both its economic leverage and moral authority, Beijing can cherry-pick almost at will. That spells trouble not only for Africa but also for our ability to outthink the global consumption death spiral we have all set in motion.”

It’s far easier for me to pull the covers over my head and focus on getting the kid to summer camp. But then I think about her future. We all make assumptions our kids will live lives similar to ours – but will they?

We are already experiencing economic changes in the U.S. that are rocking our world. We have made choices that won’t help us endure (driving cars that aren’t efficient, using food for fuel, but crap imported from China, allowing debt to be the norm rather than the exception).

I think it’s time to pull together. To make different, thoughtful choices. We need to ask our leaders to take a stand. And I think it requires introspection, prioritization and sacrifice. This is not going to be easy – at least not for me. But maybe we can do it. Don’t we have to for our kids?

I would love to hear your thoughts on the article and what you are doing in your life to adapt. Maybe you think I am nuts? Please let me know. Discussion is a great place to start.

PS: if you don’t want to read the whole article – it is really long – the last section is a good place to start. Read it here.

Green You Can Do: Offsetting Your Google Footprint

I live in California and I am served by Pacific Gas & Electric for my utilities. Last month, as I proceeded to review my online bill, I saw an interesting ad for ClimateSmart. I was being offered to businesses, but as a student of Jim Rockford*, I have learned that just because your name isn’t on the invitation, it doesn’t mean you aren’t invited!

My daughter, in line with so many of today’s young people, is a freak about looking for ways for us to “save the earth.” When I told her about this program, she was thrilled that we could offset her watching “Saved by the Bell” by participating in ClimateSmart (I am not sure what will offset the earworm I get from that show’s annoying theme song). For me, I need to offset my Twitter and Google addiction.

Check with your local utility company to see what’s available in your area!

This program appears to rock! Here’s how PG&E describes it:

The ClimateSmart™ program provides a voluntary option for Pacific Gas and Electric Company business customers to reduce their impact on climate change. When you enroll in the program, PG&E will calculate the amount needed to make the greenhouse gas emissions associated with your organization’s energy use “neutral” and will add this amount to your monthly energy bill. Your organization’s monthly ClimateSmart amount will vary depending on actual energy use. Your organization can choose which gas and electric accounts to enroll, and you can opt out at any time with no penalty.

So what does it cost? Frankly, not much at all.

My summer bill is about $80/month for both gas and electricity. The ClimateSmart charge for that same bill was $2.46. I don’t drink coffee, but isn’t that about a single frappacrappa something at a coffee place? I know it’s cheaper than a single scoop cone at Baskin Robbins. Seems like the least we could do, doesn’t it? And you don’t have to be a business. In fact, if we “consumers” got on board, we could really make a difference.

So there’s the challenge. Check with your utility company, find your local program and sign-up. Let’s all “offset” together and leave something good for our kids. Will you join me!?

*Seriously? You don’t know about or remember Jim Rockford from The Rockford Files? While my mom swears he’s Maverick and not Rockford, James Garner taught me so much when I was a kid. I think I need to blog that one day: What I Learned from Jim Rockford. Sounds like a plan.

Why I Hate Spam (Filters)

A of couple weeks ago I was talking with a business associate who surprised me with some bad news. Happens all the time right – except I got emotional and realized it would benefit our business relationship if I got the heck off the phone and stopped talking. So I begged off to get my head back in the game.

Within a few minutes when I had stabilized and had my thoughts together, I shot my associate an email. For me, email is a safe way to communicate especially when my emotions take over. And it usually works. Except, this time it didn’t. Because – wait for it – he never got it! At least not that day! No, my email was redirect by a spam filter and dumped into the same bin as his message from the Nigerian businessman and the super-duper body-part enlargement salesman.

Another case of an important email missed; sacrificed to the random discrimination of the spam filter.

All of us hate spam – and in fact, spam is on the rise! But let’s get real, how hard is it for us to delete a message we don’t want? In the balance of things, isn’t getting the messages you do want much more important than the half second of time it takes to delete the garbage?

Look at what this poor man is going through trying to protect his company – he’s a wreck. In an article in Business Week, author Gene Marks states it simply; “They all suck,” referring to spam filters.

Can I get a hallelujah? It’s time to pull together a culture of change.

If someone could make a spam filter that actually worked with a modicum of reliability, I am all over it. But so far what I have seen appears to still operate with a woeful amount of random success.

Thankfully, I have a relationship with my associate that could withstand the gaff, but with business relationships at stake, I don’t understand why anyone would trust a spam filter rather than spend three minutes reviewing and deleting the garbage.

So I say throw the filters out. Stop assuming they are doing their job. Check your spam.

Santa Cruz Summit Fire: Keeping Up with the Breaking News

[Photo from the Santa Cruz Sentinel – see the rest here]

Day two of the Santa Cruz wildfire and things are looking a bit better. We are cautiously optimistic with 20% containment (as of 10:30am). The wind has shifted and is coming off the ocean which means it is cooler, wetter and going a completely different direction from yesterday. Even the smell, which was horrible this morning, is much better with the wind change. Now if the wind will just stay mellow and gentle, maybe the firefighters can get a jump on things.

The real reason I am blogging today is that I want to publicly thank KGO television for the incredible service they provided yesterday – it demonstrated the power of technology and hopefully the future of how we all begin to respond to disasters. Early yesterday morning, KGO interrupted Good Morning America to begin fire coverage. On their website, they took a lot of crap for that move because the fire only affected those in the very south of their market – KGO covers the entire Bay Area which is huge. But they stuck to their guns.

And I heard from my friends that they stayed on the air nearly all day providing invaluable video of where the fire was going, evacuation information, air quality updates, school updates and more. I didn’t know about the TV because I was working but here’s the thing, I was able to watch streaming coverage non-stop during the day. I sat here on conference call after conference call and I was able to watch the video. It was incredible.

According to my friend Lisa, our local radio station, which goes by the name of KPIG – stop laughing – okay, keep laughing, anyway “The Pig” was also Johnny-on-the-spot with regular updates of a “pig” kind helping out with all sorts of community support including animal evacuations. In fact I understand they worked as a broker helping to match those offering housing to large livestock with the needy when the fairgrounds got full. Awesome.

Finally, over on Twitter, which was acknowledged for publishing the first news of the earthquake in China, there wasn’t much traffic. Aided by a great tool, Summize.com, I was able to watch the tweets coming in about the fire. Notably, folks directly in the line of fire didn’t tweet. I am going to guess that’s because most of them are what we beach folk call “mountain folk” who are known for coveting their ability to stay away from us flatlanders.

Today we aren’t getting the same level of coverage yet the fire is raging on. I am really feeling the loss. I hope more television stations consider running scaled down live broadcasts via the Internet on an on-going basis. Goodness knows their reporters are in the field.

As I have talked with my buddies this morning, I wasn’t the only one watching. Spouses who work “over the hill” in Silicon Valley watched, relatives in other parts of the nation watched and evacuees stuck at a local coffee shop with Internet access watched. Clearly this is a value public service. One we all appreciate so much.

DTV Transition: Does it discriminate? Is it equal opportunity television?

Still ranting on the topic of how our culture is becoming stratified I am kind of getting myself worked up about it. When I wrote my other blog, I had forgotten about the changes taking place in television in the US in 2009 (forgotten isn’t really the word, I have been in denial, deep denial). I think I am okay because I have cable – analog cable – but it’s a pipe and it delivers signal. The point is, I can afford cable. Yet many of my neighbors can’t.

And thus it continues: the plight of the haves versus the have nots.

In this case it raises a real issue that should concern us all. And the quote below nails the question: do we have the right to television?

“The prospect of good, honest, television-loving Americans losing their signal has caused a lot of hand wringing of late. According to a January survey by the National Association of Broadcasters, (only) 79 percent of Americans are aware of the transition. … All this despite a huge information campaign and an incentive program that amounts to an investment by American taxpayers of up to $1.5 billion. … That, to me, raises the question: Do Americans have a right to television? … The question is not meant to be cynical. There is, after all, a public-interest rationale for as many people as possible to have access to the television medium. … Nevertheless, it would be naive to think that television’s primary function in most households is as an emergency alert or learning tool. And it’s illuminating to put the government’s $1.5 billion allocation in perspective. Consider: The proposed 2009 federal budget for adult basic and literacy education is $574.6 million.”
— Glenn Derene, Popular Mechanics’ tech editor, questions the priorities reflected in the spending to get Americans ready for the digital TV conversion next year.

What is the benefit of over-the-air broadcast? Safety? Speed? Accessibility?

As I talked about this with my mom, she reminded me that we all use our portable televisions when there’s an earthquake and the power is out. It was huge for me in San Francisco in 1989. I didn’t have power for a few days but I could see what was happening on my battery powered television.

When September 11 happened, we all gathered round the television to watch events unfold and understand what – if anything – we needed to do. I believe over-the-air broadcast television is a public utility and cutting people off – people who may need it most because they don’t have access to computers, mobile phones or other technology – puts part of the population at risk including the elderly and the poor. Who is going to make sure my elderly neighbor is hooked up? What about the family in the trailer who doesn’t even have a phone?

And one more thing about what Glenn says above, is anyone else outraged that we are actually spending our tax dollars on subsidies that are helping cable companies get more business?! And we are spending three times more on this than on helping adults learn how to read!

Is it too late to cancel this party? To make it stop and leave everything alone? I would love to hear your thoughts.

DTV 2009: Don’t know what I am talking about? Here’s the scoop:

On February 17, 2009, the era of analog broadcast television in the United States will end. The nation’s full power television stations will complete their transition to an all-digital system. While this change will mark the end of the traditional analog method of broadcasting over-the-air television, it won’t signal the end of free broadcast television, and your favorite broadcast programs and local television stations will still be available…

All you have to do is follow these easy instructions (yeah right): http://www.dtvtransition.org/.