Categories
non-profits savannah school

Extracurriculars

Last night was the always-fun Creative Coast Holiday Mixer. It’s a great chance to see people I only ever see at that party, catch up, and talk about what everyone is working on. Someone asked me “Is TechSAV your main extracurricular?” That got me thinking about all of my extracurriculars, and whatever the opposite of that is. So, instead of just thinking about it, I figured I would list them here… because multiple people have asked, and I sometimes forget, so I figure it would be good to have them all in one place for reference.

I think this is also a way to show me at “fully committed”. It feels like I’m busy enough that there’s always something that needs doing, but not so busy that I feel like I’m losing my mind or can’t rest.

If you’re not involved in non-profit work, or advisory boards, I highly recommend it! It’s a great way to meet new people, help in a cause you care about, and bank some sweet sweet karma.

The Not Extras

  • Family: May is off at college, and Brian is a sophomore in high school, so my kids don’t require the daily maintenance they used to. Jen is super busy with all of her extracurriculars. I would say family stuff is pretty much under control, it just requires the regular work of maintaining a marriage, and making sure the kids stay on track.
  • Work: Planted is still chugging along, and I’m still the CTO. I’m also the only developer and opsling, so this definitely keeps me jumping. My work days are packed with solving interesting problems with an amazing team.
  • Me: I did alright on the me front this year. I lost a little weight (not as much as I wanted, but losing is better than gaining), started exercising semi-regularly, and have been doing a lot of work on being kinder, more thoughtful, mindful and reducing the amount of anger and stress in my life. I’ve also been working on learning about white supremacy and coming to terms with my own biases, microaggressions and misconceptions. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend Understanding and Dismantling Racism. It’s a great intro to racism and how to fight it.

The Extracurriculars

  • TechSAV: We’ve officially been a non-profit for 18 months now! I’m the cofounder and director. TechSAV is trying to build the technology community in Savannah through events, education, outreach and community service. We do things like codebar (see below), monthly lunch-time talks, happy hours, and maintain a 200+ strong Slack group for distributed mentoring, advice, job hunting, etc. It’s a lot of fun working with my co-conspirators and doing guerilla economic development. It doesn’t take a ton of time, but it means being “aggressively accessible” and always being willing to talk to folks, and always looking for ways to do outreach and help the community.
  • Susie King Taylor Community School: I’ve been on the governing board for a while now, and clerk of the Governance Committee for about a year. It takes a lot of time… monthly board and committee meetings, writing and reviewing policies, emails, etc. It’s extremely rewarding, though, to be a part of a school that’s doing innovative work, and the growth over the last couple of years has been amazing. This will get even more involved next year when I start co-clerking the whole board, not just Governance. If you’ve been on other advisory boards or even non-profit governing boards, a charter school is a whole new level of time commitment. Prepare to spend nights and weekends reading up on laws, writing policy, etc. It is the most rewarding board experience I’ve had so far though – being a part of educating kids, and working with committed and passionate educators, board members and parents on behalf of students is literally the best.
  • codebar Savannah: Savannah was the second codebar chapter in the US! We’ve been doing workshops every month since January 2018, and I just scheduled all of the workshops for 2019. It’s a free monthly workshop where students can learn how to code, and coaches get to help the next generation of developers. It’s a ton of fun, and not a huge time commitment apart from one evening a month and some planning / question answering. It’s a lot easier than trying to coordinate quarterly Railsbridge workshops – mostly because it’s not an 8 hour commitment on a Saturday.
  • Various advisory boards: Someone me asked what the difference is between a governing board and an advisory board. The main one is that a governing board is has fiduciary responsibility for the health and maintenance of the entity. It’s a big deal for a non-profit. It’s an even bigger deal for a school. It’s a significant time commitment, and there’s frequently a fundraising requirement. By comparison, advisory boards are awesome. It’s frequently just a way to lend your reputation to a cause you believe in. Sometimes, it’s answering a few questions over email a few times a month. Sometimes there’s an annual meeting. There’s no fiduciary responsibility. There’s no real responsibility at all, except for whatever you agree to advise them on. Here are the advisory boards I’m on right now:
    • iVolunteer International: This one’s recent and I haven’t done much advising yet, but I love the concept and the team is great.
    • Savannah Arts Communication Arts: May went here, and Brian goes here. I’ve spoken to Dr. Cook’s classes the last few years, and it’s great fun. No meetings, and I get to corrupt high school students with my crazy ideas once or twice a year? Yes, please!
    • Savannah State Computer Science IAB: I don’t even know if this is still happening, but as far as I know, I’m still on it?

There are other short-term or one-off things that come up every year, like cooking for an event, or school things.

There you go, my not-extra curriculars and extracurriculars in one blog post. Hope it was helpful and/or interesting.

Categories
love savannah

My Friend Carl

This month, I lost a friend. Carl V. Lewis was the founder of OpenSavannah, and a friend. He died, and we don’t know how or why. All I know is that he’s gone, and I’m going to miss him.

I found out very close to the one year anniversary of losing Cindy.

Carl meant a lot to the Savannah community. He was a catalyst – impatient, insistent, impulsive. To offset all of those things, he was thoughtful, brilliant and kind in a way that frequently surprised me. He knew suffering and seemed to be on a quest to alleviate others’ suffering by working on the systems that had the greatest potential to help them: local government.

Now that he’s gone, Savannah has to piece OpenSavannah back together, figure out all the clues Carl left us, and keep moving forward. I’m not sure how we do it, but it’s consuming my thoughts right now.

I don’t really know what else to say, other than we’ll miss him, and we’ll find a way to keep going.

Carl kicking off Open Savannah in 2017

All of the not-knowing about Carl’s passing has made me think a lot about the support systems we have in place for the people we care about. A lot of people have asked me what I know, what happened, and then lament that they personally didn’t do more.

I don’t know what his friends could have done, because I don’t know what happened.

But, in been thinking about what we owe the people in our lives, here’s what I think right this minute:

  • I want everyone I meet to feel nothing but loving kindness from me.
  • I want everyone I meet to feel safe and comfortable around me.

In a religious context, that’s just the Golden Rule. But, it means working on my emotional regulation. If my friends and family don’t know what to expect when they tell me things, then they’re not going to feel safe. If I’m having a bad day, and take it out on other people, they’re not going to feel loving kindness. Even if I’m having a disagreement or other conflict with someone, I still want them to feel that same loving kindness. I think the end goal is that I don’t want to add to someone else’s suffering. There’s more than enough to go around.

I am so very much not there yet, but that’s what I aspire to. I owe it to Carl, Cindy, and the people still here to work on it, because we don’t know how many days we or they have left. I’d rather fill the time left with kindness.

Categories
family love

Your Kid Will Come Out to You

This was a long thread of tweets I posted in August of 2018, but since tomorrow, October 11th is Coming Out Day, I figured I could turn it into a blog post.

Watching the first episode of Making It… and between the laughs, there was a terrible moment where a man revealed that his parents sent him a funeral wreath when he came out to them “In memory of our dead son.” I have some thoughts…

If you think this is a thing that doesn’t happen anymore, it 100% does and worse. Did you know that most homeless teens in the US were kicked out of their houses for being LGBT? It’s true.

If you think your kid won’t be gay if you never talk about it, and they’re never exposed to any information about it, you’re wrong.

They’ll be miserable and have no way to explain to you or themselves what’s wrong.

They’ll be exponentially more likely to commit suicide.

If you think your kid being gay is the worst possible thing that could happen, we should talk.

If you love your kid, think about how you’ll react when they come out, because you only have one chance.

The most important thing you can do when your kid comes out to you is tell them that you will always love them.

That is literally all that matters.

And if you can’t love them, then you’ve got things to work on and you should start on them NOW.

If you’re a Christian, the most important verses in the Bible aren’t the two or three that might be about homosexuality, they’re the dozens about loving our neighbors AND OUR KIDS unconditionally – which means gay or not.

You being in denial isn’t love, it’s selfishness.

Being queer is hard. LGBT kids have increased rates of suicide; almost all of that is because of unsupportive families.

That risk goes down to almost the same as “regular” teens when they have support at home.

Do your homework. Get ready, because your kids are coming out.

If you have questions, check out your local PFLAG group.

There are support groups for parents in most towns, and if not, there are some great online support groups too.

Or, ask me. No shame.

Categories
politics social media

Toxic Data

The calamity of the information age is that the toxicity of data increases much faster than its benefits.

Nassim Taleb, found on Farnam Street

This is the most concise explanation I’ve seen of the problem of social media, how easily it’s manipulated by bad actors, and how hard it is for normal people to cope with it.

Our ability to manipulate people far outpaces our ability to resist that manipulation.

Categories
entertainment tv

Media Diet: September 2019

I did one of these earlier in the summer, so this one will be a little shorter. I was sick for a while, and we had to evacuate for a hurricane, so I’ve watched a bunch of stuff.

  • Bahubali 1 and 2: On Netflix. Two of the highest grossing movies in Indian history. They’re both gorgeous, and because I have no background in the underlying mythology, completely insane and inscrutible. Highly recommended just for the sheer spectacle of it.
  • The Spy: On Netflix. This kind of developed into a theme the past couple of months. Sasha Baron Cohen plays a spy who infiltrates the Syrian government. Saying more would spoil it, but it’s compelling and heartbreaking. The acting throughout is amazing.
  • Our Boys: On HBO. Another based on a true story, around murder, retaliation, mistrust and politics. Heartbreaking, tense and frustrating. Very worth watching.
  • Operation Finale: On Prime. About capturing Adolf Eichmann in Argentina. Oscar Isaac and Ben Kingsley are great in it.
  • Mindhunter Season 2: On Netflix. Another one of those anxiety-ridden shows. I wish they’d left out the bit with the son and spent more time on BTK, but I’ll still anxiously await the third season.

That’s not everything I watched, but I started several shows and kind of sputtered out on them, or have forgotten them, which might be worse. I am thrilled that The Great British Bake Off (cough, sorry) Baking Show is back and it’s still perfect. I wish there were more competition shows that could feel that fun.

Categories
politics social media

Social Media is a Cancer

Back in January, I came up with my new social media rules and they worked for a while, but the more I actually looked at how I felt before and after a session on Facebook or Twitter, I decided they weren’t working – and worse, that at least those two platforms aren’t worth it.

Facebook is a cancer that’s taken our relationships and turned them against us in order to sell advertising. I’ve always called Facebook “what community would look like if designed by a sociopath” and it just gets truer. Facebook, as a company, has no ethics, no moral compass, and lies constantly about the effects it has on our society, and more importantly, our relationships. It’s powered by outrage and amping up emotions.

I started taking stock of my emotional state before I opened Facebook and then after I close it, and I never feel better after having scrolled through the outrage-of-the-day posts, dumb memes and gripes about this and that. Never. Not once.

Twitter’s even worse. I used to say that Twitter was the internet’s dinner party where you’re always two seats away from the best conversation. Now, it’s the internet’s brick fight. It’s constant outrage, clapbacks, sarcasm, and vain attempts at temporary viral glory. It’s gone from fun to toxic.

So, what to do about it? Eject. I now treat Facebook and Twitter like email addresses I don’t care about. I check it once or twice a day just to see if I have any new notifications and that’s it. I might post when I write something new here, or if there’s an event I’m organizing (like codebar), but that’s it. No more endless scrolling. No more posting in hopes of more likes. I still post photos to Instagram, because photos are great and it’s been somehow immune to the worst impulses of its parent company.

It’s taken a while to break the habit. Deleting the Facebook and Twitter apps from my phone has helped. But, I also installed several new games on my phone to try to keep myself from going back to old habits (I’ll just start toxic new ones, yay!). Instead of compulsively opening Facebook when I pick up my phone, I’ll see what’s going on with the Angry Birds or if I can level up a hero in Fieldrunners Attack.

I’m sad about the state of social media. I had such hopes for them bringing people together and building empathy. Unfortunately, it’s brought together nazis, pedophiles and assholes – and the rest of us now have pointless arguments to make algorithms happy. It’s all so… stupid.

I don’t know where those platforms will end up, but at this point, I don’t care and they can go there without me being trapped there.

Categories
entertainment movies tv

Summer Media Consumption

I’ve been a fan of Jason Kottke’s Media Diet posts forever and decided it’s time to start my own, because I consume so much, I forget what I’ve seen, what I like and what to recommend to folks. So, consider this the first in what will hopefully be a series of “stuff Kevin’s watched so you can watch it to” posts.

  • Crawl (might still be in theaters?): I saw this on vacation with my kids, my brother, his wife and daughter. It’s a great summer scare, and lots and lots of alligators. Rating: B
  • Black Spot (Netflix): If you like Twin Peaks, but wanted more procedural elements and 99% more French, and a little less David Lynch, this is the show for you. Set in an isolated small French town in the mountains next to a huge forest, there’s spooky creatures in the woods, personal drama, weird murders and compelling characters. Rating: B (I think the show needs to pick whether it’s supernatural or a police procedural… it’s not enough of either to be an A)
  • American Gods Season 2 (Starz): I caught up on this one with a free preview week on Prime (it’s great – if there’s only one show you want on a network, get the 7 day free trial of the channel on Prime Video and binge it, then cancel). This is one of the most beautifully produced things I’ve ever seen on television and watching Ian McShane and Orlando Jones chew through that beauty, stealing every scene they’re in, is a joy. Rating: B+ (it’s a little uneven)
  • The Deadwood Movie (HBO): You should read this profile of David Milch before you watch the movie. This is a loving (well, what Deadwood thinks of as loving) farewell to one of my all-time favorite shows. The characters are all older, a little worn down, calcified or fading, and I couldn’t think of a more beautiful send off. It’s gorgeous, and the last 2-3 scenes are beautiful. Rating: A
  • The Boys (Prime): The antidote to OD’ing on Marvel and DC. More Watchmen than Spiderman. Rating: A+
  • Undercover (Netflix): It’s a Flemish cop show based on a true story about an undercover operation against one of the largest MDMA producers in Europe. Lots of fun. Rating: B+
  • The Mechanism Season 2 (Netflix): Brazilian show, also based on a true story, about fighting large scale government corruption. The second season moves a little slower than the first, but the last three episodes are worth the wait. Rating: B+
  • Big Mouth (Netflix): Gross, juvenile (it is about puberty) but ultimately sex-positive and kind of joyful. One of the funniest things I’ve watched in a long time. Rating: A+
  • Blown Away (Netflix): It’s The Great British Bake Off, but glass blowing. It’s way better than I thought it would be, and the contestants are all great characters. Rating: B
  • Taco Chronicles (Netflix): Short light series about tacos! Each episode concentrates on a different variation and you’ll definitely learn something. Rating: B+
  • Street Food (Netflix): It’s Chef’s Table for street food and just as good. Just turn on subtitles and the original language, or it’s hella confusing. Rating: A
  • Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh (OMG, it’s a book!): I know, I’m as shocked as you are. This is a short book, but beautifully written and compelling. It’s got old myths, old gods, young men, old women and one of the most satisfying relationships I can remember in a book. Rating: A+

There you go, my first media diet! I’ll try to do these more regularly so they’re not this long. Happy viewing (and reading)!

Categories
entertainment family

Roadtrip Media Survival Guide

The family just did our big annual road trip to see my family in Northern VA.  That meant over twenty hours on the road.  I almost always create a new Roadtrips playlist every year (first in iTunes, then Rdio, now Spotify).  This year’s was a little different since I let the kids add songs to it… and they did (for better or worse).  We didn’t end up listening to it on the big drives, but it was great for our trips around town with everyone in the van.

We mostly listened to podcasts.  This year, I created a new playlist in Overcast of things I’ve been meaning to catch up on, or that I know the kids like.  It worked great, especially since I limited all of those podcasts to only the 5 most recent episodes. It kept us from getting too many episodes of the same podcast in a row, and kept me awake since I never knew what was coming up next.

I had to skip podcast series where you have to have listened to all the episodes to know what’s going on, so no Limetown.

Here’s what we listened to, along with my recommendations (1-5 stars):

  • The Cut on Tuesdays: 5 stars. You never know what you’re going to get with the one. It could be an interview, or a fun story about “bad” dinner parties (my favorite episode), or a story about the history of birth control.
  • Revisionist History: 5 stars. Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast is now in its fourth season and it’s great. Super thought-provoking and great storytelling.
  • Scene on Radio (The Seeing White season): 5 stars. We only listened to the last four episodes of the season, but it’s amazing. It’s a great introduction to the history of whiteness, its power over the systems that run our lives, and some hopeful ideas on how to fix it.  It’s like a podcast of Dismantling Racism and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
  • Everything is Alive: 4 stars. A really silly concept: that everything is alive, so let’s interview them, but it turns into some mind-bending, funny, and touching conversations. I especially like the elevator one.
  • Every Little Thing: 4 stars. There’s some heavy stuff in this playlist, but ELT isn’t one of them. Audience questions get turned into explorations of things you never thought about. It’s always educational and fun.
  • Lore: 4 stars. You know about this one already, right?  Scary stories haltingly told.
  • Sawbones: 3 stars. The kids love this one.  It’s hit or miss for me.  Some episodes are great and hilarious.  Others just don’t work for me.
  • Solvable: 3 stars. Solid interviews with people changing the world. A little dry, but worth listening to.

There you go.  Hopefully that helps your end-of-summer roadtrips a little more pleasant.  Enjoy!

Categories
Kevin

Talking About It

The last time I talked to a therapist for myself was when I was five or six after I fell into a beehive and then was petrified of bugs – to the point I had ulcers.

I found a program offered by my insurance company called AbleTo; it’s an eight week combination of therapy and behavioral coaching to help improve … whatever it is you need help with.

I asked for help making healthy choices and sticking to them – because boy have I struggled with that over the years.

In talking to my therapist and my coach I realized that I have failed to keep up with exercise and weight loss in the past not because I’m weak or incapable but because I’m too hard on myself. I get sick or hurt and feel like a failure… so I give up.

It’s the height of allergy season. I literally have a headache and sinus pain 24/7 right now. My therapist was worried that I’m hermiting myself away so we went through my calendar and she was blown away by how many commitments I have and am still able to keep.

And that’s when the light went on. I do not have to do it all and it doesn’t all have to happen now. Almost all of my guilt about things not getting done is self-inflicted. That guilt keeps me from seeing how much I’m able to get done in spite of my various health “challenges”.

So, no more. I will say no to things. I will do what I can and stop feeling guilty for not doing it all. I will stop sabotaging progress because that progress is halting.

Half assed is better than nothing.

Categories
family funny

Funny Not Funny

I was reminded of this story today, and wanted to write it down before I forget it.

My dad was in the Air Force for over twenty years, from a little after I was born until a little before I got married. He was a navigator, planned exercises and did all kinds of stuff I didn’t understand at the time.

When my brother, Tim, and I were high school, we went to his office after school (why, I don’t remember, and I think my mom might have been there, but I’m not sure). Almost as soon as he got there, he had to go talk to one of his coworkers, leaving Tim, me, and his desk, all alone. We were bored, so started looking at all the stuff on his desk. What did we find? His super awesome, self-inking, bright red, clicky-clack noise making, CLASSIFIED stamp!

We started stamping every piece of paper we could find CLASSIFIED: Post-Its, to-do lists, you name, it got CLASSIFIED.

Dad came back in, saw everything we “decorated,” pursed his already narrow lips, put his hands on his hips and said in his sternest dad voice: “Not funny.”

We, of course, thought it was hilarious. We thought it was so funny, we got him a blue, self-inking, clicky-clak noise making, super awesome, NOT FUNNY stamp for Christmas.