Unfortunate Black History Month

This is an awkward time for Black History Month. I’ve noticed in the discussion groups that people are asking why black people should have an entire month devoted to the history of one race. And there has been a few deaths by very popular black celebrities in this month as well. So I thought it would be a good idea to share my thoughts on it.

If you’re a peruser of reddit like myself you’ll notice the slow build up of why the US still does a Black History Month before and during the month of February. This is usually followed with someone saying why white people don’t have a history month (ridiculous) or why Hispanics or Native Americans don’t have a history month (they do!). Some of these enlightened individuals usually say something ignorant that only reinforces why these history classes.

Don Cornelius died if a self-inflicted gunshot wound last week. Rest in peace. He was the creator and producer of Soul Train, a music TV program that started the careers of many R&B, pop and funk artists. It’s been on in syndication on different networks for over 30 years (1971-2006) with Cornelius as producer and host for 20 of them. In the end he was battling depression but ultimately lost.

Whitney Houston died this weekend although the causes remain unknown. Born into a singing family her powerful voice eventually made her a star. Her image as America’s sweetheart, as well as her singing and acting career, masked a very long battle with drug addiction. Unlike R&B singer Amy Winehouse whose tattoos, lyrics, and interviews lived up to her image as an alcoholic and heroin addict. Whitney’s clean image didn’t reflect the reality of her situation. At least not until she eventually married heavy drug user and sing Bobby Brown. Then overnight the press turned on her and her image was tarnished. Eventually, they divorced but the erratic behavior and unfortunate Barbra Walters interview reminded everyone that she was not the Whitney we fell in love with. Right up to the moment of her death she was working on a new album and performing on stage. Finally, we’ll never know what her final thoughts were as she died alone in that hotel room.

1955-2011

If you haven’t heard by now then you’ll be sad to know that Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs, has succumbed to cancer. There are a lot of words that are paraded in sentences before and after his name: CEO, pioneer, visionary, entrepreneur, Jesus. And yet, at the same time, so many other just as notable people have passed at the same moment, like Nobel Prize recipient Ralph Steinman, and civil rights activist Fred Shuttlesworth. Each of these man contributed greatly to the human¬†conscious¬†and yet only one retains the headline in the news (at least in the Western World).

So what is it about Steve Jobs that draws strong emotions from so many people that have never met him. His inner circle of friends is quite small and still diverse. Being a multibillionaire means you have armed escorts and an almost paranoid entitlement to privacy, yet there are stories after stories of meeting Steve in the mall, at a sushi restaurant, in the Apple store, on 1 infinite loop, etc. He was the best type of salesman, he sold the products he believed in, and he was very prophetic. To him the idea of 2,3,4 button mouses were stupid, computer specs were stupid to a population that didn’t care, blu-ray discs were also stupid (and as an owner of a PS3, I tend to agree).

He was the catalyst in breaking into new markets. There may have been early pioneers but their technology wasn’t very good. He saw what was possible, went into it, and made it better. No one remembers smartphones before the iPhone. There are some (yours truly) that were early adopters, but we paid for it in price, bugs, and stupidity. Competitors love him and loathe him at the same time. If Apple has entered your territory it meant 2 things, you have some serious competition and you have a much larger market. The former meant you were on a countdown to get your products up to snuff, the latter meant that users that didn’t consider your product before are all of a sudden interested (see Roku, Archos, Nokia smartphones).

In business Steve was aggressive, to his enemies he was wiley, to his family he was dad.

Guess who forgot their keys

Click! that was the sound made as the door closed. I had my keys in my pocket and the misses didn’t have hers, yet. No problem, I’ll just open the door….but I can’t. Looks here are different. They are these huge complex devices to keep voleurs, that is thieves, out. Apparently the more complex and expensive they are the better they keep them out. This lock, if you leave a key in the keyhole keeps the other side from turning. So now we are truly fucked.
I gently knock on my neighbors door and ask her if I can walk through her apartment and her garden to get into my apartment, again. No, this isn’t the first time I’ve been locked out of our place. The last time wasn’t my fault either. So I gently shimmy through the bushes and walk up to our window which I locked. Good thing I didn’t put the shutters down because we’d be seriously screwed. So I choose the oldest, most beat up window in our apartment and try to pry it open, and I almost make it inside until CRASH! the window broke.
So now there is glass and debris all over the floor and me and a big gapping whole where a window used to be. For now, the shutters we changed at https://www.shuttercraft.co.uk/guides/shutters-money-energy-bills/ are down until I can get a replacement. Good thing this happened in the summer, if it was the winter time this would be a different story, indeed.

Signed, sealed, sent

After sitting on it for a few weeks I have excercised my rights and voted for the next president of the United States. If you haven’t figured it out by now, my demographic fits the profile for someone most likely to vote Barack Obama. For one, I’m a person of color, college educated, in the 18-34 age group, and have views that are considered liberal by American standards. Living in France, I’ve met liberals and by there standards I’d be considered a true conservative. After witnessing the collapse of the company, too many wars, and the evisceration of the “Bill of Rights” I can not support the current regime. Living in a different country I feel insulated by the current events in the US. Even with the power of digg and my local newspaper website I feel a little less interested in what goes on over “there” a little more each year. But, I have payed attention to the election as have a lot of my friends here. Even though Obama is considered a bit of an elitist in the US, for most Europeans he fits the bill of what a politician should be; highly educated, world travelled, moderate values, and above scandal.
From my view of things politicians are quite different here. They have gone to the top universities and grand ecoles, majored in Political Science or Business or some sort of management. After graduating they usually work within the ranks of the political party they hope to lead one day. And the resume history will look like the following: party clerk > civil servant > city mayor > senator > secretary or minister > president or prime minister. Now, I am basing this on what I have observered here (Sarkozy primarily) and this is the way it works in this part of the hemispere. While there is the occassional dark horse who challenges the incumbent parties to lead the nation (eastern europe or former soviet blocs) most proceed like the example I have shown.
On the other hand the US is more prone to be influenced by the personality of the candidate rather than the credentials of that candidate. Sarah Palin, for example, went to a university not considered elite, was a TV weather girl and beauty pageant contestant, and then entered the political arena later on. First working in the city council, becoming mayor, and finally becoming governor. She is being considered for the 2nd most powerful position in the world. And according to a lot of people they don’t think she is ready for the job. Among Europeans Obama has a 90% approval primarily because he embodies the ideal politician. John McCain is considered too inflammatory and his years of being in the senate has built him a huge pile of scandal and unpopular positions that he can’t hide from. His approval here is very low here but about even with Obama in the US.
Why is it? One of the big difference between here and there is the US views politicians as representing all of us. Even when we hold unpopular opinions. France,UK, Germany the politicians usually represent the best ideals of the people; eloquent, educated, thoughtful. Which one is correct will never truly be show. Here there is more latent racism and a Senate unwilling to acknowledge or do anything about it. There, there is more blatant racism and the government and media are much quicker to acknowledge it.

This vote won’t count

I requested and received my absentee ballot in the mail this weekend. As a US citizen I feel it’s my duty (more now than ever before) to vote in the coming presidential election. I’ve used absentee ballots in the past ,even though I lived a few blocks away from the voting station, because my county had switched to electronic voting and I didn’t trust the machines as they were designed. This was the same county that had the butterfly ballot incident of 2000 so my fears in the electoral board weren’t unfounded.
The absentee ballot I filled in 2004 was vastly different than the one I have today. First it came in a thick manila envelope with detailed instructions, some legal speak about who could vote, a short statement on each candidates views, and it was translated in the three popular languages of the area; English, Spanish, Creole.
Not long after that, I moved to Miami and had a new voting station to register at. I mailed my ballot request lastweek and updated my details. I also received my ballot by email. I thought that was sorta cool. This one has just one card, the presidential candidates. No sheriff, senators, judges, state legislators, or house representatives. it’s a disappointment because I was going to call my friends and ask them who I should vote for.
But the title of this entry is “This vote won’t count” and the reason for that is absentee ballots are only counted when there is a very small margin between candidates (49%/50%). This is why news stations can predict the winner even though votes from abroad or military bases haven’t reached their destinations yet. Even though I hope my vote will count I have a feeling that John McCain will ultimately win this election. Not because he would make a great president, but because there is a slight undertone of racism in this presidential race. It comes in disguise as talking points that don’t hit on any issues. Obama has been “mistakenly” rewritten as Osama. They’ll purposefully pronounce his middle name “Hussein” with a lot of vitriole. He’s been mistaken for Muslim and then they’ll hit on his association with a church pastor (the irony) who had some unkind words about the USA.
I’ve heard things like this many times, the “I’m not racist, one of my best friends is black” bullshit. This person most likely wouldn’t help their “black friend” if they needed it, wouldn’t invite them over for dinner or party, and the only time they would even talk to them is if they needed something illegal. I’ve met girls in college like that. Southern belles who wouldn’t give me the time of day, but all of a sudden show interest in my, perceived, abilities to acquire weed due to the fact I’m Jamaican. Not everyone from the islands smokes!
Finally, a lot of things can happen once the curtain closes in that booth. While quite a few people have publicly supported Obama and will speak on how the US will finally lose the stigma of institutionalized racism. Deep inside there is that fear of do I really want this man, a black man, running this country. They’ll pull the lever and their vote will disappear into a trapdoor with millions of other anonymous votes.

Do you dream in code?

Imagine for a moment you are about to go to sleep. You’ve just been reading one of your favorite technical literary works and now it’s time to go to bed. After finally falling asleep you don’t have your normal dreams of family, beaches, and crazy stuff. Instead you dream of computer code. Pages and pages of it. And you’re working on it. And it actually looks pretty good. But the alarm clock goes off and just like pulling the plug everything goes black before going to light.
Or does this only happen to someone like me?

Stumping dummy

While working on a problem at work today I had a thought…about my younger days working as a web developer in a university. The weather was hot and approaching unbearable just like today. Unlike this office, the state university office had air-conditioning. So one day we were having a go at each other after lunch. I was a real bookworm so I always had an answer for just about everything computer related. And my liberal arts degree handled just about everything else. One of my colleagues decided they were going to test my SAT test taking skills and asked me some random question from one of the hundreds of biology books stored in the office. By this point my last biology class was freshmen highschool years (about 8 years). While I can’t remember the question, nor the answer, now I do remember the look on everyone’s face when I answered correctly.
In some ways I astonish myself because I’ve acquired a lot of things in the head over the years. Most of this is outside of my core competances. But you never know when someone will call on you to see if you know something completely outside your field. I’m a software developer and I rarely delve into the Active Directory stuff these days. I’ve had that brief spark of clarity where a network problem stumps someone else and I’m able to answer the question.

Developer library

After trying to find a solution to a problem we were having with a neighbor, my wife moved my office into my son’s room and moved our son into the office/dining room. She also took the opportunity to clean up my desk, through away old papers, and dig up my books. I was happy to find the books I’ve been reading or finished reading. Mom recently sent me a care package with a few of my favorite books. I’ve taken the time to rebuild my library in my new office.
Here are a few of the books I’ve kept in my collection through the years:

  • Flash MX 2004 from the source.
  • Code Complete
  • Head first (or head start?) Design Patterns
  • JavaScript (O’Reilly)
  • Foundations in .NET C# edition MCAD book
  • ASP.NET Web development MCAD book
  • ADO.NET
  • PHP professional application development
  • Various DVDs videos in Flash
  • Various DVDs videos in Final Cut Pro Express

I’ve also got a few language books: Chinese and French language books. I’m really looking forward to learning French and some conversational mandarin.
I’ve found the Code Complete to be the best and longest book I’ve read in a long time. And there is a lot of useful information to help improve my code as a developer. Hopefully, one day, I’ll write my own book on some programming language that I really like. Maybe in a few years. Maybe when life at home gets easier.

Where did all my time go

Hey look it’s about to turn June. I’ve been busy at work. Busy with my soon. And busy at home. Even though I would like to keep up with things it seems like the free time I have left is quickly spent. Right now its sunday 8pm in rainy Paris. I have a few books on coding techniques and programming design. I wonder when I really left the graphic side of things to focus on the logic of it all. As a web developer it used to be 80% programming, 10% UI, and 10% graphic design. Though I am not a graphic designer or webmaster I can move my way around Photoshop quite well. I’m no Flash Guru but I can get the job done. And yet here I am trying to buildup the courage to open up Flash.
And since upgrading my laptop I found out it runs not as great as it did in XP.

Happy New Year

That’s it. 2006 is done. Over. Finished. To me it’s been a long time coming and I’m sorta glad the end is here. Lots of new and exciting things to look ahead for the new year. We’ve cleaned up some debts. According to the baby monitor and the size of the misses, the baby is just about due. I can’t wait for that day to arrive. We still haven’t decided a name for “bubbles”. Now I know, naming a baby is a really sucky job. And the poor guy has to wear it for the rest of his life. Or until he’s 18. Then some college grad student can convince him to get a crazy dead language name. I’m looking at you Cha’ka.
My small enterprise is slowly beginning to take off. I was too busy stressing out from behind the bar and riding out some debt to get too involved. If I got a project than I was good spirits for the project. But the lack of sleep made me hostile by the time it was complete. A few good connections goes a long way to getting you in the right doors. Since I’m new here a few good connections is what I really needed to get the ball rolling.
I’ve become less of a tourist and less of the American since settling here. Being outside the US you really get a sense of world opinions the US directly influence. But it is unfortunate when my opinion gets downgraded to “typical American”. This doesn’t happen often, but I hate it nonetheless.
I do miss Miami. There is no other place like it in the world. And once you get past the tourist traps you appreciate the place even more. I grew up in the suburbs of the place. And then I held an apartment in downtown. When I was younger I used to run into Overtown for some errands, thinking I was some bad ass. When I moved there I met some of the people that lived there their entire life. I felt guilty for contributing to their problem of increasing rents and dramatic changes to their way of life. But let’s be fair. Overtown got the shit end of the stick and its been that way for 40 years. And now that the developers have bought every square inch. They want that shitty block they dumped on for years.
This year I plan to do more travelling. Travelling to see family and friends. It’s really become important to me. My ex died earlier this year. Sometimes I would see her when I went to the clubs or I was hanging around Ft Lauderdale. And then I went to college and we lost contact. I have all my old agendas and each time she would have a new mobile/pager number. We would bump into each other. Promise to call and never do it. And the one time I wanted to I couldn’t. It’s going to be good to see my nieces, nephews and siblings before the end of this year. Some things can never wait.
Finally, I got a call about the class reunion. I didn’t think I was that old but it’s going to be 10 years since I finished highschool. I’m not sure if I’ll go but I would love to see the old crew once again.