Sunday, October 15, 2017

Not Me

Many women are chiming in for #MeToo, to raise awareness about the common experience of being sexually assaulted or harassed. It drives home to me how easy it is for myself and other men to remain oblivious about the problem.

Obviously, boys and men are also victims of assault and harassment, but the sheer number of women who are speaking out drives home the disparity.

This is not OK.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Apple Picking

My family and I went apple picking today.

I grew up in California, and apple picking was not a part of my culture. California is a very agricultural state, but there aren't many apple orchards. In retrospect, I don't know why I didn't do more strawberry picking, or for that matter artichoke picking as a kid, but "pick your own" was never a big part of my childhood.

When I moved to Massachusetts in 2005, I quickly learned that apple farms are a huge part of the local culture. After all, Johnny Appleseed was born in Massachusetts. Apples are kind of a big deal.

My family and I try to go apple picking at least once a season, but we flake out and miss some years. Every time we make the effort to drive out to a local orchard, and pay the fee for picking a bag-full, I think it was worth the cost and effort.

Today we went back to Carver Hill in Stow, MA. We had a soft spot in our hearts for this place, because our oldest son Henry, who is now 9, lost a tooth there when he was 6. Our younger son, who is 5, has a loose tooth. We wondered if he might lose it today while biting into a field-foraged apple, but he did not.

I love apple picking. I am always impressed by the fecundity of Apple trees, and by the taste of a fresh-picked apple. I feel while I'm roaming an apple orchard, that if I could only ever eat fresh-picked apples for the rest of my life, that I would always be in pretty good shape.

Today at Carver Hill, I tried many apples, fresh from the tree. My kids roamed the width and length of the orchard, excited to try to identify the breed of every tree they passed. I picked apples, some great, some good, some probably horrible. I put them all in my bag, satisfied that I was enjoying a bit of special New England culture.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Becoming A Democrat

I've been active politically for my entire adult life. I have voted in every Presidential election, usually for the Democratic candidate, and always for a candidate who reflected my hopes and aspirations for the country. Clinton in 1996. Nader in 2000 (in California, for what it's worth). Kerry in 2004. Obama twice, and finally, in 2016, for Hillary Clinton.

Yet despite, or in part because of my strongly left-leaning political opinions, I have never been a member of the Democratic Party.

That changed today. I filed my change of voter registration with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts a few minutes ago. For the first time in my life, I'm a Democrat.

I was, like so many Americans, utterly devastated not only by the election of Donald Trump, but by every disgusting, repugnant strike against moral and civil decency he exhibited along the way this past 16 months. Trump's election strikes fear into the core of my being, causing me to question basic assumptions about the safety of myself, my family, and fellow citizens.

In the aftermath of his election I struggled to find optimism or meaning in anything. My mind raced to the inevitable worst possible conclusions. Among the consequences I've imagined, and in fact dwelled on longer than is healthy, are that we will engage in nuclear war, that we will become a police state, that myself and my family will be persecuted for refusing to support him. I indulged these worries, all the while feeling guilty that my concerns were ultimately selfish, and could not compare to the risks his presidency poses for example to women, religious and ethnic minorities, or members of the LGBTQ community.

In short: I was petrified and hopeless, resigned to allow the fate of our country to be worked out by people in power. "Hopefully the Democrats can do something about this," I thought.

Today I am embracing optimism for the first time since I sat down to watch election returns on Tuesday evening. Will Trump's presidency have unthinkable consequences? Is his election a challenge to the very moral fabric of our country? Is it the single worst political event that has ever happened to us? To be honest, I'm not as educated on American history as I wish I were, but I think it very well may be. Still, there is no merit to standing still or rolling over while he drags the nation through the sewage wasteland of his self-gratifying victory lap. I am determined to fight the Trump Presidency, and to remain enthusiastic about that, I need to relocate my lost optimism.

The upcoming event that inspires most hope is the 2018 mid-term election. Mid-term elections are generally considered to be beneficial for the party opposed to the President, and Democrats will find opposition against Trump to be rampant in this country at that time. I believe Trump will motivate liberal voters to put Democrats back in control of at least the Senate, possibly the House as well, and by much greater margins than they would have given another Republican President. Trump is the worst possible choice for President, but the best possible marketing tool for Democrats drumming up support for those races.

Another bit of forced optimism is that Hillary's defeat, while heartbreaking, will force an internal restructuring of the Democratic party. The lower-than-expected turnout among Democrats, combined with the apparent phenomenon of many Obama voters opting this time to vote for Trump instead, reveals that the Democratic party has lost sight of its natural base. There are far too many "if only" scenarios when looking back at this race, and I won't begin to claim to understand how things might have worked out if Clinton had not been the Democratic candidate. I will claim, however, that the political priorities of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders resonate with a huge swath of Democratic, or would-be Democratic voters, whose enthusiasm was missing in the 2016 general election, and whose enthusiasm must be rekindled and activated for 2018 and beyond.

That's why I'm becoming a Democrat. Because the country that I love, and whose deepest values I hold sacred, is threatened both culturally and politically by an alliance of movements that strike at my moral core. The Democratic Party is the single organization most prepared to take on this threat and dispatch it. Until today, I had no authority to take pride in, or to be ashamed of the values of the Democratic Party. I celebrated their gains, and bemoaned their losses, but it wasn't really my place to speak of how the party should be structured. Now it is, and I'm going to work where I can to ensure that it does reflect my values. And that it … I mean we, do everything possible to ultimately defeat Trump, and everything he stands for. For this country, for my kids, for my family, and for yours. Donald Trump, you've messed with the wrong country.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Lucky Cat

I spent the past week in San Francisco, not attending Apple's WWDC, but rather basking in the periphery of it. I attended Jessie Char's Layers conference, and spent the rest of my week being projected like a pinball, sometimes slowly, sometimes at enormous speed, between the various social attractions that dot the South of Market landscape this time of year.

On Thursday, I finally had the opportunity to catch my breath. I remembered my beautiful boys, and my beautiful wife. I like to bring something home to them that will give them a taste of the trip I've just taken. I kept up my exercise regimen during the week, and on one of my runs, I had spotted an alluring storefront in Chinatown: "World of Magnets." In my sweat-induced stupor, I assumed it would be an unusual source for all things magnetic. I pictured Mister Wizard-inspired scientific experiments, magnetic dust, and other novelties. Just the thing to feed the curious minds of my 7 and 4 year-old children.

I walked to Chinatown, after enjoying most of a margherita pizza from Del Poppolo's food truck, which was situated at Mint Plaza for Thursday's lunchtime. I proceeded from my hotel, in Union Square, up Stockton Street. Even though I had lived in San Francisco for 10 years previously, I had never had occasion to walk through the Stock Street Tunnel. So, I did.

I emerged from the tunnel into Chinatown, and took a right on Sacramento Street. Before me stood a philosophical statement that might appeal to people both inside and outside of Brooklyn:

I continued my journey through Chinatown appreciating the nuanced aspects of the neighborhood I had never noticed before in my time living in San Francisco. Here was a street where everything was named "Wong". A common Chinese name, sure, but everything near Waverly Place seems Wong-related, including "Willie 'Woo Woo' Wong" playground, "Wong's TV and Radio Services," "Bill Wong Insurance and Associates," and the "Wong Family Benevolent Association." I suspect many of these particular Wongs are related.

I finally arrived at House of Magnets, prepared to select from an enormity of scientific, magnetic delights. I quickly realized that House of Magnets was little different from any other souvenir shop in Chinatown: filled with a variety of novelty Chinese imports and, wait for it, souvenir magnets. Magnets! Nothing like I had expected.

I left, dejected, unsure what to get for my poor kids who were waiting at home, anticipating a glorious gift upon my return. As I walked, I saw shop after shop offering cheap souvenirs. Inevitably, these included the cheap, plastic, waving cats that are increasingly solar powered:

Image of a lucky waving cat from Chinatown

They are advertised as "lucky cats," and I thought they were cute. "These are cheap, but my kids will love them," I thought. I bought them.

I brought them home and gave them to the boys, and my assumption was confirmed. They scrambled to remove them from their package. They observed from the marketing insert that numerous other colors and configurations are available. "We want to collect all of them!" Clearly, these lucky cats are a hit.

It turns out, these lucky cats from Chinatown are actually from Japan. Maneki-neko are suggested to represent a cat not waving, but rather washing its face. It's cute, that's what matters.

After I gave the gifts to my kids, I couldn't help my scientific side admitting that "good luck" might not be real. I told my kids that the cats are cute, but nobody knows if luck exists or not. I felt at once like a great dad and like the world's most deflating dad.

Luckily my wife, Chrissa, was in earshot. She added that "sometimes believing in good luck is enough to make it real." Good save.

I believe Chrissa is correct. I'm lucky I married her.