I’d been struggling to write something about the James Damore Google Memo, and then the Neo-Nazi/White supremacist march and violence in Charlottesville, VA happened.

The below thoughts on the Google Memo are scattered and incomplete and a news cycle too late.

“When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression”  – The Internets

For someone who disavows Microaggressions, I’m surprised the James Damore feels like the “progressive” culture of Google is trying to shame him into silence.

whoops.  I guess the comment above is a bit shaming.  I’ll try harder.

“Being emotionally unengaged helps us better reason about the facts”.  -J.D.

I get where this comes from (it’s a common refrain from scientists/engineers and men of all stripes), but it’s so misguided.  I blame engineering school for not requiring more humanities classes.  Or Therapy sessions.  (Seriously, to teach self-examination.)

Emotions are not something you can shut off.  Emotions are something you recognize. Recognizing your emotions helps you to see the biases in your reasoning.

e.g. It sounds like you feel threatened and vilified by these programs to diversify Google which exclude you.

Unfortunately society propagates this reason vs emotion fallacy and has probably ruined many a marriage/emotionally stunted many individuals because of it.

“Viewpoint diversity is arguably the most important type of diversity and political orientation is one of the most fundamental and significant ways in which people view things differently.” – J.D.

Said the white male who can’t fathom that non-whites or non-males might have a vastly different life experiences and viewpoints.

I’d also put socio-economic status and locality above political orientation (which seems to be more more the result of the above) as well.

I wonder if J.D. has done a sensitivity analysis on the causes for the gender/racial imbalance at Google relative to the qualified population.  I don’t know what that difference is exactly, but I’m pretty sure it is significant.  Does he believe that the majority of the disparity is explained through the studies he’s cited?  Otherwise his arguments are just a smoke-screen.

Also, I think he forgot to cite the studies saying that diversity is a good thing.

I think J.D. would’ve been on less inflammatory ground if he had stuck with “I think Google’s current programs to promote diversity are not the right ones and here are my ideas that I think are better.”  And to his credit, he did propose some replacement ideas, since he claims to want diversity.

However, I know that there are those who think we don’t need any corrective mechanisms.

Let’s assume non-terrible hiring managers and a welcoming environment for all genders and ethnicities; the hiring bias would still perpetuate due to

  1. Affinity bias – we like people who are like us
  2. Confirmation bias – we want to hire people who will fit our vision of “successful”, and if all the people in the +1/+2 positions are white men, guess what kind of candidates will be hired.

We live in a grievance culture, where everyone has the right to feel aggrieved.  But that right must have a limit somewhere.  It must come with the responsibility of understanding those who aggrieve you.  Take your grievance right too far and it becomes suffocating tyranny for both parties.

Three examples of why diversity is important in Tech.

  1. Color film was originally only calibrated for caucasian skin tones.

2.  ” In June 2015, for example, Google’s photo categorization system identified two African Americans as “gorillas.” The company quickly fixed the problem, but Microsoft AI researcher Kate Crawford noted in a New York Times op-ed that the blunder reflected a larger “white guy problem” in AI. That is, the data used to train the software relied too heavily on photos of white people, diminishing its ability to accurately identify images of people with different features.”  ~ “How a Machine Learns Prejudice

3.  Soap Dispensers aren’t calibrated for dark skin.

An actual rebuttal from on the Economist (h/t KK)

And Charlottesville…  I don’t even know where to begin.  It’ll have to be for another post.  But somehow I feel that by the time I sort my words out, the news cycle will be long past as well.


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Recommended Long Read: What does the Department of Energy actually do and why you should care about how it is run.

Vanity Fair:  Why the Scariest Nuclear Threat May Be Coming From Inside the White House – Michael Lewis

The title is unfortunately click-baity and partisan, but it really is worth a read.

The shambles that the State Department is in, the turmoil at the DOJ, and the tick-tock of the ACA fight get way more ink, but given the magnitude of the downside risk, it is worth understanding the state of the DOE, what it does, and why you should care.

tl;dr – Nerds matter.  Fund their research, listen to them, and manage them well.

The national labs played a big role in policing all three paths [for Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon]. “These labs are incredible national resources, and they are directly responsible for keeping us safe,” said MacWilliams. “It’s because of them that we can say with absolute certainty that Iran cannot surprise us with a nuclear weapon.”After the [Iran Nuclear] deal was done, U.S. Army officers had approached D.O.E. officials to thank them for saving American lives. The deal, they felt sure, had greatly lessened the chance of yet another war in the Middle East that the United States would inevitably be dragged into.”

Topics covered:
1) The transition from the Obama to the Trump administration
2) What the DOE does
a)  Maintaining nuclear arsenal and protecting US from threats
b)  Nuclear waste cleanup
c)  Programs to shape American’s use and access to Energy
d)  National Labs
3) The Top 5 risks according to John MacWilliam’s, DOE’s 1st Chief Risk Officer (in no particular order)
a)  “Broken Arrows”
b)  North Korea
c)  Iran – Pulling out from the Iran Nuclear deal.
d)  Lack of government leadership in preparing for large societal risk because it is politically risky (e.g. Investment in early stage research, securing the electrical grid.)
e)  Project management and short-sightedness (e.g. Hanford)

Some excerpts

” D.O.E. press secretary Shaylyn Hynes assures us that “Secretary Perry is dedicated to the missions of the Department of Energy.” And in his hearings, Perry made a show of having educated himself. He said how useful it was to be briefed by former secretary Ernest Moniz. But when I asked someone familiar with those briefings how many hours Perry had spent with Moniz, he laughed and said, “That’s the wrong unit of account.” With the nuclear physicist who understood the D.O.E. perhaps better than anyone else on earth, according to one person familiar with the meeting, Perry had spent minutes, not hours. “He has no personal interest in understanding what we do and effecting change,” a D.O.E. staffer told me in June. “He’s never been briefed on a program—not a single one, which to me is shocking.”

In his four years on the job MacWilliams had come to understand the D.O.E.’s biggest risks, the way a corporate risk officer might understand the risks inside a company, and had catalogued them for the next administration. “My team prepared its own books. They were never given to anybody. I never had a chance to sit with [the Trump people] and tell them what we’re doing, even for a day. And I’d have done it for weeks. I think this was a sad thing. There are things you want to know that would keep you up at night. And I never talked to anyone about them.””


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Fatherhood: Gear Guide

As some of you may know, I became a dad this year.

It’s a pretty intense experience, so I wanted to record  some thoughts and encouragements for future and current new dads.  With luck, this series may contain more than one post in the future.

Oh, and Happy Mother’s Day!

Gear:  Let’s start off easy and non-emotional.  This is by no means a comprehensive list (of which there are plenty out there), but just some of the items that we have found useful for the first few months of parenthood.

  1. Nosefrida Snotsucker + Nasal Saline Spray – Weird name, works awesome. Congested baby = unhappy baby.  Be forewarned, your baby may _really_ not like the process, but you can’t argue with the results.  Strictly better than bulb aspirators.
  2. Wifi Cameras + TinyCam Pro (Android) / Baby Monitor (iOS) – We use a mass market Wifi camera as our video baby monitor.  Pairing it with one of the apps above (need to pay a few bucks for the unlocked versions) allows us to get video and audio feeds on our phones.  Utilize squelch (audio threshold) to filter out the fussing and only hear the real cries.  Pros:  Cheaper than traditional systems. Easily expandable to more than one camera.  Doesn’t need to be linked to the internet.  Cons:  audio quality is only passable.  Can lag if your Wifi network is overloaded. Proper setup can require a little googling.
  3. Baby bottle “lawns” – It seems like one of those ridiculous, unnecessary baby items, but it really does make it easier to keep all of the baby bottle / breast pump parts in one place
  4. Dimmable light – Stubbing your toe in the dark sucks.  Having a dimmable light/nightlight allows you to keep it dark enough to sleep, but light enough to see when you need to stagger over to baby.
  5. Foam Roller + Lacrosse Ball + Massage Stick – if your baby requires significant rocking to go to sleep, you will need to take care of your body.  Protip:  Toss a lacross ball into a stocking leg to make massaging the those hard to reach shoulder muscles easier.
  6. Pillows / Boppy / My Brest Friend – Some people swear by the last two.  In the early weeks, MBF was too finicky, and the baby would slip in between the Boppy and mom.  Cheap firm pillows worked better for us.  Costco has a 2pack of memory foam cluster pillows for $10 (just make sure to air them out for a day or two).  As baby has gotten larger, the Boppy has certainly earned its place next to our bed.
  7. Baby Sleep (Android) – Free white noise App.
  8. Some sort of Baby Diary App – Useful in the beginning when you really want to track diaper counts.  As the baby gets older you’ll also want to start tracking sleep schedules
  9. 3M Avagard – Hand sanitizer with moisturizer.  A bit of a splurge, but very handy when you’re changing your 3rd consecutive dirty diaper and feeling too tired to walk over to the sink again.  Alcohol-based hand sanitizers dry out your hands like crazy and babies make a lot of poo.
  10. Headlamp – Did I mention that babies poo all the time?  You want to make sure they are clean down there, but how do you do that when it’s the middle of the night and the nightlight barely allows you to see the baby much less the poo on the baby?  The headlamp is your friend.  You may look like a silly when wearing it, but the only other person who will see you is your spouse and s/he already knows how silly you look anyways.  Plus it’s hands free.
  11. Cloth diapers for burp cloths and changing stations – They are super absorbent, which is just what you need.
  12. Baby Earmuffs – protect those little ears from loud noises once you start taking them to events.
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Oh hey look, a Squirrel!

I can’t tell if the racism is a distraction for the sexism is a distraction for the anti-semitism is a distraction for the corruption (1) is a distraction for Paul Ryan’s plan to dismantle the social safety net (privitization of medicare/medicaid/social security) is a distraction for the climate change skepticism is a distraction for the intimidation of the press is a distraction for the intimidation of free speech is a distraction for the pettiness is a distraction for the nepotism is a distraction for the deregulation is a distraction for the regressive tax agenda is a distraction for the anti-immigration stance is a distraction for the discrimination against Muslims is a distraction for the Russian interference is a distraction for the Trump University settlement and other pending cases is a distraction for the lack of a hearing for Supreme Court Nominee Merrick Garland is a distraction for the death of truth (1), self-consistency , and coherent public discourse….

…and I feel like I’ve missed at least 5 other things, which just goes to show you how distracted I am and how effective their ploy was.

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Hello old friend…

I’m back.  For a little while, at least.

I won’t lie.  This election was deeply unsettling and upsetting.  For the first time in a long while, I was reminded that I was _not_ an American, i.e. a caucasian-American, but merely the other.  If not the intruder or the unwanted, then at the very least, the not-worth-giving-a-damn.

I am lucky and thankful that my ethnicity, my location, and my community have spared me from the outbursts of racist vitriol happening across the country.  We have sown with indifference to and normalization of racist, sexist, and xenophobic language and images; and emboldened hate-mongers are the whirlwind that we must now reap.  And in horrific non-irony, it is the GOP that has sown, but it is minorities and women upon whom the whirlwind has descended.  I pray that these hate crimes do not continue, and I do hope and believe that the majority of Trump voters condemn these events as well.  But even if the veneer of respectability were to be restored again, the festering underbelly of racism and sexism in this country has been made plain for all to see, as well as our adamant refusal to actually grapple with it.

To be honest, I don’t know what to do with what I’m feeling and how to channel it.  Or even know what exactly what it is.  So even though it feels a bit self-indulgent, perhaps it is time for me to dust off ye ole blog for now.  To process, to post, and to journey alongside of others.


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