Friday, February 09, 2018

Hour of Code

I'm a parent of elementary school kids, aged 6 and 9. I volunteer in many aspects of my kids' school, but among the most rewarding of these experiences have been the times I've volunteered for our school's Hour of Code event.

Lack of diversity in the tech industry is a systemic problem and nobody has yet figured out how to solve it. But events like Hour of Code seem to be doing a good job fighting for a solution.

The most amazing thing, for me, about volunteering for Hour of Code, is seeing the looks on kids' faces when they realize "they can code." They're invited to the party, and they know it. That's golden.

Having volunteered for several years, I've seen that look on the faces of kids of every gender, race, and cultural background. They all get it. They all feel empowered. They're all excited by the prospect of learning this skill, and contributing their abilities to the many problems that coding can help to solve.

My kids' school runs its "Hour of Code" event off-schedule, to avoid traffic conflicts with other schools who use the resources from the official home page.

I'll be volunteering next week, and I'm looking forward to seeing that look on the faces of kids in our school. If you have the luxury of offering some of your own time, I hope you'll also consider starting, or joining, an "Hour of Code" initiative at your own kids' school!

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.