Down the Middleism  

But those who privately thought things had gone too far were given a voice by James Damore, 28, a soft-spoken Google engineer. Mr. Damore, frustrated after another diversity training, wrote a memo that he posted to an internal Google message board. In it, he argued that maybe women were not equally represented in tech because they were biologically less capable of engineering. Google fired him last month.

This normalization of a) bullshit, but moreover, b) someone who the vast majority of researchers and academics have said has little understanding of the topics in his “memo” is how we ended up with our current President and the de-shaming of white supremacy.

This feels like an attempt to call it “down the middle”, but you don’t do that when the facts are (predominantly) on one side of the argument. At a minimum, you point out where the facts don’t fit the narrative.

Or, you hire Ron Howard to do commentary on the article.

Apple vs. the Ad Companies  

From Adweek, the ad industry complaining about some new cookie protections Apple has shipped in Safari 11:

Safari’s new “Intelligent Tracking Prevention” would change the rules by which cookies are set and recognized by browsers. In addition to blocking all third-party cookies (i.e. those set by a domain other than the one being visited), as the current version of Safari does, this new functionality would create a set of haphazard rules over the use of first-party cookies (i.e. those set by a domain the user has chosen to visit) that block their functionality or purge them from users’ browsers without notice or choice.

Having worked on the internet for the bulk of my career, and having spent a bunch of time dealing with cookies, tracking for marketing, etc., I can safely say that this is bullshit.

The ad industry has gotten so gross with how it tracks users that it’s easier to argue that these changes from Apple aren’t aggressive enough.1Apple is simply identifying cookies set by 3rd parties (sites you didn’t visit directly), which are often used to track you as you browse across the internet. And they’re not blocking them outright—they’re removing them after 24 hours. Basically, “hey, you can check me out for a bit, but you’re not watching me forever”.

You should probably already browse the web with 3rd party cookies turned off, and only turn them on when necessary. And that should be almost never. Safari is giving me the choice to only let my data be shared with the sites I choose. The advertising industry gives me zero choice. Their Trump Press Secretary-level disregard for the actual facts and truth is further evidence they should be trusted about as much as you trust what comes out of the White House.

  1. Some basic grossness: let’s say you’re Facebook, and you convince everyone to put a Like button on their websites. You have a cookie that is set when a user logs into Facebook. You can also set/read a 3rd party cookie when a user lands on a page with a like button. So, now whenever a user browses the web and a Like button loads, Facebook reads the cookies and knows which users are going to which websites. Sketchy enough. But maybe you trust Facebook (you shouldn’t, but I can see trusting them more than your average adtech company). Do you trust some random stranger though? What if some nefarious company created some easy WordPress plugin to put a map on your site. And that map plugin does what Facebook’s Like button does, but now it’s sending your data back to some company you don’t know. Using your IP address, your browser user-agent, browser settings, they can make a pretty accurate unique profile for you, even if they don’t know it’s you. Until they connect it with some other data source that maybe has your name and IP address. And now they have it tied to you. Sorry, this is a long-ass footnote. 

One Month  

It’s one month since the boys arrived. I’ve never felt quite so proud and scared, so buoyed by small victories and utterly destroyed by tiny failures, so overjoyed at the most minor progress (“he’s lifting his head!”) and so frustrated by minor setbacks.

Basically, everything everyone said about parenting ever.

I naively believed I’d be better at it, but they’re alive, and we’re alive, so we’re doing ok.

Three Weeks In  

Monday will be three weeks since the boys arrived. I had assumed that everyone who told us how hard it was with one kid, let alone two, was just setting really low expectations, and, really, you just kind of work through it and life goes on.

I was wrong.

It’s way harder than I expected.

We’re getting the hang of it now, but there are still hours, or days, where we have no idea what is going on. They feed every few hours, except when they don’t. They feed really well, except when they don’t. They go to sleep really easily, except when they don’t.

Thankfully, usually one of them is nice enough to us to follow the plan. So, as long as we can get one down (or at least quiet), we can tend to the other one.

It’s amazing what happens the moment you become a parent. You get pooped and peed on, and it doesn’t even phase you any more. You’re more worried about cleaning the floor/wall/TV/bookshelf/credenza/wallaby than you are cleaning yourself. You forget to eat. Forget to shower.

It’s amazing how much people want to help. Every time we walk by another parent of twins, they stop us and tell us that it gets better. Which is both reassuring and scary. Mostly reassuring. Strangers offering you their phone number, saying call any time, is both amazing humanity and also ominous about what the next weeks will bring.

This is all cliche and the thing that all new parents talk about. But I’m trying to capture, in my half-braindead state, what we’re going through raising our two munchkins over these first few weeks. We’ve got tons of pictures. It’ll be nice to have some words to go along with them to remind me of what I was feeling.

Of course, I’m assuming that my words are coming out like eloquent prose. In reality, they probably look like line noise …. 987dgdkjfhg kdjh&)()*&^%&% kdjfhgkdjfhg k=dfgjhdkjfhg

The New World  

Two weeks ago Monday, my new world started. Our two boys burst into the world and, as everyone says, pretty much everything changed. To be honest, I didn’t have that immediate epiphany when they arrived. I think I was mostly in shock, tired, and just happy that we’d made it through a long process to see them arrive healthy.

My “holy shit” moment wasn’t until our first night at home. My wife and I ended up splitting the kids up, as one was sleeping and one wasn’t. I took the cryer. After a couple of hours of whimpering and crying, with me being on the verge of my own breakdown, I had that moment of clarity: I would do anything to fix whatever is wrong, and it is killing me that I don’t know what it is. 1 The last two weeks have been a ride. Like everyone tells you, you don’t get any sleep, but I didn’t expect it would be quite as bad. We’ve been able to keep the kids on roughly the same schedule for eating and sleeping, but the fact that it takes about an hour or so to get them both fed and back to sleep means we have an hour to 90 minutes before we do it all over again. Add on top of that a couple of hospital visits and some small issues, and your brain, body, and your heart just start to vacillate between joy and pain with every whimper or snuggle.

Thankfully, we’ve had loads of help from family and friends. I don’t think we would have survived otherwise.

I couldn’t be more excited and happy for the little dudes we’ve created. I’m not going to become that guy who just posts about his kids. But I’ll probably post about them a bit more.

And I probably should go reserve their domains and twitter handles …

  1. It was a few minutes later, when I stupidly put on Ben Folds “Still Fighting It” that I had my own breakdown. 

It's Time.  

After the events of this weekend, and the President’s feckless (and, arguably, reckless) response, we’ve reached an inflection point.

Pick a side. This isn’t Democrat vs. Republican, or liberal vs. Conservative. It’s right vs wrong. President Trump is on the wrong side, and he needs to be held accountable via, at a minimum, censure. He needs to know that he’s on the wrong side of the American public. 1

  1. This isn’t a political debate, where you can say “I disagree with President Obama on climate change” or “I think it’s reprehensible that President Trump pulled out of the Paris Accords”. Those are, at least, arguments to have (even if the science sits on one side …). We had this argument on white supremacism and Nazism. It was decided. World War II happened. 

I Would Have Fired Him For Being an Asshole  

A little over a week ago, news broke about a document, a manifesto, written by a Google employee, that tried to argue that Google shouldn’t be actively trying to grow the ranks of women in their workforce and in management. Because, science says maybe they aren’t cut out for it.

This lead to the author, James Damore, being fired. And then a whole lot of people bemoaning the end of contrarian opinions and discourse in the workplace.

Let’s dispense with the validity of the argument: it doesn’t exist. A biological rationale that women (and, by extension, other minorities) are, as a group, not as capable of being engineers/scientists/leaders/managers is too tied up in upbringing, cultural norms, education, and a myriad of other non-biological factors. And the effect that has been measured is quite small.

Both Wired and The Economist have done a reasonably complete and compelling job of dispensing of the nonsense science argument that Damore makes.

Long story short, I like this snipe from Business Insider:

Using Damore’s logic, if a “scientist” had taken measurements in the UK between 1939 and 1945, he may have concluded that women’s exposure to prenatal testosterone made them predisposed, on average, to munitions manufacturing.

Clearly, that’s not how jobs happen.

But let’s set all the science aside. The reason James Damore was fired, and deserved to be fired, and deserves to take a long look inward at why most companies shouldn’t and won’t hire him, is that he’s an asshole.

A big part of working in a company is working with other people. Learning which buttons you can and can’t push with people, learning to be considerate of other people’s feelings and opinions, and generally how to not be a douchebag.

To be honest, particularly when I was younger, I was not always successful at it. You see something that you think is dumb, or should work differently, or where it feels like the wrong decisions are being made, and you voice that opinion. Eventually, as you gain experience and mature, you start to realize that you sometimes need to think about how it might be that this situation came to be (i.e. are there other factors at play? Is there something you don’t know that helped to move the world in this direction?). And, should you still disagree, what’s the right approach to deal with it.

I think what you’ll quickly realize is writing a public document that criticizes many of your colleagues, and questions the capabilities of those who are of another gender (and other races, when you read between the lines), is not a great way to endear yourself to your colleagues. So much of your success in the workplace is your ability to work with, motivate, and learn from your colleagues. To do something that makes you toxic, to shoot yourself in the foot like that?

It makes you an asshole. It makes you bad at your job.

If this had happened on my team, I think you have no choice: he has to go. How, as a manager, could you assign a female engineer to work with him?

It is quite rare that someone is good enough to overcome being a complete and total asshole. Usually, they are the tippity top performers, and those who can work on their own, or work with a small group who have become accustomed to working with a challenging personality.

Based on the quality of the work in this manifesto, it’s clear Damore is not that top performer. He’s not good enough to deal with the baggage. And he’s not a team player. With a cancer like that, the only option is to excise it. 1

  1. Let’s also then joke about the fact that someone who is, more than likely, at least near libertarian on the spectrum, complaining about being fired from an at-will job. Maybe he should join a union … 

I'm Really Looking Forward To My Ntozake Nelson Moment  

We’re less than a month from the arrival of our twins, and now that we’ve gotten all the setup done (cribs, wipes, burp cloths, and all the other stuff you have to get), I’ve drifted into the mode of “uh oh, there’s going to be babies here soon that we have to keep alive”.

It’s daunting, but also exciting. Exciting for the usual reasons, and because I’m already jumping ahead months and years to when I can first show them Star Wars and watch the cartoons that I grew up watching. Going to their first Celtics and Sox game. All the fun moments that you go through when raising kids.

In listening to The Incomparable podcast yesterday, they were talking about Hall of Fame TV shows. At one point, they bring up Sports Night and it occurred to me that I’m really excited to have my own Ntozake Nelson moment. In the show (the pilot, so it’s a little broader than the show settles into), there’s a moment at the end where a 41-year old marathon runner ends up setting a world record, and Casey calls his son to wake him up to watch.

That’s the sort of thing I’m excited about—catching the end of a no-hitter, or a 400 runner setting a world record in the Olympics, and just being there to watch and explain why this is such a momentous thing. Sports gives you so many of those little moments, and I can remember where I was as an 8 year old when the ball went between Bill Buckner’s legs (my parents had let me stay up on their floor to watch the end of the game). I think I was lucky that my parents encouraged my love of the minutiae of sports. I’m hoping to pass that on and share some Ntozake Nelson moments 1

  1. Youtube doesn’t have any good clips of the whole Ntozake Nelson thing, but someone has put up the episode and you can check out the scene starting at 17:35 

Released My Jekyll Plugin  

As I mentioned in this post, I have finally thrown my Jekyll markdown footnote id plugin up on Github. It’s not much, and I need to package it into a real plugin, but at least it’s there for other folks to use (assuming it’s not just for an audience of 1).

A Little Sunshine on a Rainy Day  

Saw this link to the crowd singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” a bunch and finally watched it. And it definitely gave me the good kind of goosebumps.

That lead me to find this delightful subreddit that’s all about videos of happy crowds (singing along, going crazy over something). A few hours later I came out of the vortex. 1 It was nice to see a handful of my favorite Virginia Tech moments show up … VT crowds get pretty riled up. And there’s enough English football in there to make it clear to me I need to see a Premier League (or Championship) match sometime soon.

In any event, this brightened up a dreary Monday/2017.

  1. Don’t love linking to reddit, as I find that for every good subreddit, there are 10 that are just mindblowingly awful. But there’s this Happy Crowd one, and this Isolated Vocals one that are really pure joy.