Of Safety Pins and Paperclips

I’m conflicted about the whole safety pin thing. It’s an easy gesture and I’m afraid that it will provide comfort only to the people who wear it, not to those actually in need of comfort. I’m afraid that the people who wear it will think their work is done because they put on their safety pin, when it should be just the beginning. I’m skeptical because we’ve made these gestures before and not followed through, not finished the work, and we’ve abandoned those in need because our attention spans are short, and there’s always a shiny new cause to support that makes us feel better about ourselves.

I wanted to find out more about its origins and found an article about the Norwegian version – the paperclip.

Like a safety pin, the paperclip works as a symbol because it binds things together. Like the safety pin in the Netherlands, wearing a paperclip became a crime; there was real risk in wearing one.

The thing that struck me from the story was in the “bonus facts” below. The paperclip was just the beginning. Ordered to teach Naziism in school, 12,000 Norwegian teachers went on strike. Many were sent to prison camps. The Nazis realized having kids out of school hurt more than the teachers not promoting their cause, so they relented.

The clergy was ordered to teach obedience to the “leader and the state”. When every bishop and 90% of the clergy in the country resigned, the Nazis again relented.

More than 1,000 Jews were smuggled into Sweden by the resistance.

The Dutch were no slouches either. They carried out repeated demonstrations and non-violent strikes against the deportation of Jews from the Netherlands. No other country had as may strikes and protests as the Dutch – and they faced harsh reprisals from the Nazis each time.

The Dutch had a massive underground press with over 1,100 different titles, some of which are still around and are major papers in the country. They set up underground financing and had a massive social services network that provided financial, medical and other support to the Dutch people.

All of that is to say, they didn’t just wear safety pins and paperclips. They got to work and did what they could, under terrible conditions and at great personal risk.

I like the idea of the safety pin, because it’s meant to be temporary until you actually repair the damage.

I think donating, and setting up a recurring donation, to national non-profits is a great thing to do. The ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, Human Rights Campaign and others will be kept really busy for the next four years, as we can expect the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department to be gutted like it was during the Bush years or worse (probably worse). But, while you’re donating, please look for a local non-profit to donate money and time to.

I’ll elaborate… This election came as a shock to a lot of us who thought we were farther along as a country than we really are. It was easy to call ourselves progressive and cheer on those doing the work from the sidelines, post to social media about the issue of the day, and feel like we’d done something of value. It turns out, no one was listening, and we didn’t change any minds.

Before anyone still reading this post and starts tutting… I accept the results of the election:

  • Two very unpopular people were the two major parties’ nominees for president.
  • One of them got over two million more votes and lost to a man who (this is a partial list) called immigrants racists, criminals and terrorists, called for the banning of an entire religion from the country, denied knowing anything about David Duke or the KKK, openly mocked a disabled reporter, called for protestors to be beaten, has said (and probably done) terrible things about women, and that almost seventy percent of the country feel is unfit to be President.
  • A lot of people stayed home because they couldn’t decide between two people they didn’t trust.

That result is real, and it’s not going to change. Me being sad about it will not change it. Me being angry will not change it. Me trying to decide who’s to blame for the result will not change it. All I can do is decide what I do about it after accepting that I can’t change it.

For me, this is a wake up call. If I sit on the sidelines now, and assume someone else will do the work, I won’t be able to look at myself in the mirror or call myself a progressive.

I could shake my tiny fist at the sky and lament what’s happening in Washington, but that won’t change anything. So, I’ll be watching them, but I’m going to act locally. My neighbors will be affected by the policies enacted in the next four years. Many of them are afraid and a lot of them are already being targeted by hate.

I wasn’t doing nothing before, but that no longer feels like enough.

There are already great non-profits in Savannah working on things I care about: poverty, education, technology literacy. There are probably great non-profits working in your community too. I’m trying to resist the urge to start something new – because that’s alway my first instinct. Starting things is exciting because I can design it from scratch, and I don’t have to understand an existing dynamic – but it’s a waste of time. Starting things is expensive, both in time and resources, and we don’t have enough of either. So, I’ll pick something (or a few things) with the biggest overlap in the Venn diagram of things I care about, things I can help with, and what will have the biggest impact.

Because we won’t make this country a better place by having another comment duel on Facebook, favoriting a tweet, posting a pithy meme, or by standing on the sidelines of democracy or of our communities and watching people do the work. The world has enough cheerleaders and more than enough pundits. The world needs more people to roll up their sleeves and serve; there’s a lot to do.

I don’t think I’ll wear a safety pin on my collar… I’m going to learn how to sew.

For Further Learning… Web Development Style

I sent this list out to yesterday’s RailsBridge students as next steps if the introductory class lit a fire and they want to learn more. And then I realized it’s a pretty good list, so I’ll share it here too!

Local Savannah Things

For Further Learning

Yesterday’s class was great. Lots of teachers in the room and lots of people who had no idea that web development was accessible to “normal” people. It was tons of fun and a great way to shake off a pretty terrible week.

Never Give In* (Conditions Apply)

“…never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. I love that Winston gave himself a way out. When you’re confronted with superior good sense, then it’s fine to give in. Please, when I’m wrong, let me remember to give in with honor.

That whole speech is worth reading, because it feels like it could be given today, and it rings as true as it did then: “You cannot tell from appearances how things will go. Sometimes imagination makes things out far worse than they are; yet without imagination not much can be done.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about giving up, not from temptation, but in definition. Giving up doesn’t mean not taking care of yourself. It doesn’t mean taking a break to recharge. It doesn’t mean sacrificing yourself on the altar of the cause – because you’re not much use to anyone if you’re dead or burned out.

I’ve realized that in order to be more useful, I need to be healthier, which means maybe not doing as much in the short term and spending more time on me, which feels selfish.

But it’s not. If I’m healthier, I’ll have more energy for the fight. I’ll be able to do more, not less.

So, I might miss some meetings, but it’s because I’m doing these stupid exercises and not eating brownies.

Never give in. Never, never, never, never.

Dealing With Your Kid’s Email: A Nerd’s Approach

My kids both have Google Ed accounts for their school work, which comes with an email address. Some of the parents in the school’s Facebook group were asking how to set up the school email account on their phones, which feels like overkill to me. I don’t log in to my kid’s email – I just have all of their incoming email forwarded to me (which I then filter to get it out of the way so I can read it later).

And here’s how to set that up if you’d like to do the same thing!

  • Go to Gmail and log in as your kid.
  • Click the Gear icon on the top right side of the page and click Settings
  • Click on the “Forwarding and POP/IMAP” tab.
  • Now click the Add a forwarding address button.
  • Put in your email address that you want emails forwarded to and click Proceed.
  • It’ll send a confirmation code to your email. Grab that and put it in the verify field.
  • Now click the radio button next to Forward a copy of incoming email to…, select your email from the dropdown and then choose keep Gmail’s copy in the inbox from the second dropdown.

And there you go. Now you’ll get all your kid’s emails in your inbox. Lucky you!

Now, for bonus points, filtering. I have a ton of filters to keep my inbox nice and clean, and my kids’ emails have their own filters. Here’s how to set one up:

  • After you set up email forwarding, you’ll start getting emails to your kid in your inbox. You need one of those to start with. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as your kid is one of the recipients.
  • In the search box at the top of GMail, search for to:yourkid@whatever.com (replacing “yourkid@whatever.com” with their actual email address).
  • Once the results come up, click the More button and choose Create Filter.
  • The To field should be filled out with your kid’s email address, so go ahead and click “Create filter with this search”.
  • This is where things get fun. Here are the settings I use for my kid’s email:
    • Label it with the kid’s name.
    • Skip the Inbox
    • Mark it as read.
  • With those settings, they never hit the inbox, but, I have to remember to check it periodically, so it’s probably a good idea to leave them in the Inbox to start and not mark them as read – just apply the label.

That should help you keep up with your kid’s school emails without going crazy! Good luck!

Years of Costumes We Have to Explain to Everybody

Sometimes, especially Halloween, I can’t help but think I’ve somehow ruined my children. Every year since they’ve been old enough to pick their own costumes, they’ve gone as something so obscure and webby that we end up having to explain it at every house we go to. That’s doubly true since we moved to Savannah and most of our neighbors are retired.

Here’s a quick recap of the last few Halloweens:

[hang2column element=”div” width=”500″]Spifftacular[/hang2column]

[hang2column element=”div” width=”500″]Brothers

2006: Max was both Calvin and Spaceman Spiff. Brian was Hobbes.[/hang2column]

[nohang]Crazy enough, in 2007, they were a tiger and an elephant[/nohang]

[hang2column element=”div” width=”500″]Max & Brian as Pip & Kitteh

2008: Max and Brian from Abe Koford’s awesome web comic, Laugh Out Loud Cats.[/hang2column]

[hang2column element=”div” width=”500″]The Dancing Duo

2009: This one wasn’t so obscure… Max was Luigi and Brian was Darth Vader. We still had to explain Max’s costume to the neighbors.[/hang2column]

[hang2column element=”div” width=”500″]Link and Geno, Ready for Some Treats

2010: Max as Geno from Super Mario RPG and Brian as Link from Legend of Zelda.[/hang2column]

[hang2column element=”div” width=”500″]My Little Peashooter

And 2011: Brian as a Peashooter from Plants vs. Zombies. Max decided not to dress up this year after failing to manufacture all the pieces he needed to be Gordon Freeman from Half-Life.[/hang2column]

[hang2column element=”div” width=”500″]I have no idea where they get it from…

Me as Walter Sobchack[/hang2column]

[nohang]Happy Halloween, everybody![/nohang]

My Baby With a Real Baby

[hang2column element=”div” width=”500″]Happy[/hang2column]

We went to my co-worker Juliet’s birthday party on Saturday and my other co-worker, Steven, brought his daughter. Brian also had a project last week at school where he had to take care of a tiny pumpkin like a baby, so we’d been having lots of chats about what it was like to have a baby. Brian told me he couldn’t remember ever holding a baby before. I tried to remind him of the time he held a baby at Uncle Tim’s birthday party in Ohio, but he didn’t remember it.

So, the day before the birthday party, I asked Steven if we could “borrow” Stella at the party. Brian was an absolute champ with her, and Stella was an angel. She’s the coolest and calmest baby I’ve ever seen and had a ball laughing at everyone and being the center of attention. Brian was super gentle and did a good job holding her and keeping her from tumbling onto the lawn.

I think the reason I love that photo so much is that it sort of cements that Jen and I don’t have “little” kids anymore. The boys are growing up and we have entirely new things to deal with – no more dirty diapers, but we get to deal with peer pressure, girls, school projects and trips, parties, etc. I kind of miss having babies around, but I don’t think I’d trade places with Steven. We did the baby thing, and now it’s time to do this.

I’m Busy, Here’s a Picture

[hang2column element=”div” width=”500″]Moon Over Broughton St[/hang2column]

I took it this morning on the walk from the car to the office. I’m pretty busy over here, and sometimes post funny pictures and links here or here.

I’ll be back soon. I’ve got a big post about occupy wall street I’m still trying to write that will come up eventually. Until then, I’ll see you on twitter or in real life.

Two Things

Real quick, before my brain falls out of my head.

  • I launched this. It’s still very new and so very not finished, but you can start to get an idea of what it will turn into and how awesome it will be. We’ve got 10x the number of songs that Pandora does, super awesome technology and we’re just getting started. It’s radio, but awesome!
  • I wrote this. It’s about how those of us already living in the future can help those stuck in the present (or in some cases the past). I’m still looking for the right way to say it all, and am looking for help. So, read it and let me know what you think.

There you go. Two things. Enjoy!

What I Did This Weekend: Bugs and Dolphins

[hang2column element=”div” width=”500″]two dolphins, fins peeking out of the water[/hang2column]

My co-worker Mireia has been in Savannah working with us for almost three months. She goes home back to Barcelona in a couple weeks, so we decided it was about time to start cramming in touristy stuff! This weekend, I dragged her all over the low country looking for alligators and dolphins. We were half successful…

On Saturday, we went to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge looking for alligators. Unfortunately, because they’re doing construction, you can’t drive through the refuge like you used to be able to, so we went on a two mile hike through a small part of it. We didn’t see any alligators, but we saw a lot of birds, got bitten by a thousand little bugs and I got a sunburn. Then we went to Johnny Harris for lunch. It’s Savannah’s oldest restaurant, and has been open every day since 1937. Here are the rest of my pictures from Saturday.

[hang2column element=”div” width=”500″]two dolphins, fins peeking out of the water[/hang2column]

On Sunday, Juliet, Mireia and I went on Captain Mike’s Dolphin Tour. It was great! We saw a bunch of dolphins, got some great pictures and had a lot of fun, even though the boat was full of Girl Scouts (they were really well-behaved and not as bad as I thought they’d be). I took 347 pictures – mostly because dolphins are really hard to photograph. So, I put it in sport mode, centered the focus area and took tons of shots. My 18 favorite are also up up on Flickr

After the tour, we went to Gerald’s Pig & Shrimp on Tybee. It’s a food truck with a nice patio, and some of the best BBQ in town. If you’re going to the beach, you owe it to yourself to check it out. It’s way better than most of the other restaurants on Tybee, the prices are super reasonable and Gerald is a lot of fun to talk to. Plus, their limeade is heavenly.

After all of that, I did laundry and went to bed early. Being a tourist is hard work…

Come Work With ME!

We’re hiring! We’ve got a ton of work to do on an awesome new product and I need help!

What am I looking for? Someone who “gets” working in a startup. You’ve got to understand the pressure involved and time required to launch something and the crazy stupid optimism to believe it will succeed (even if it doesn’t). You’ll be smart, creative and willing to do the right thing even if it seems a little daft at the time.

So, here’s what we’re looking for:

And the best part? We’re right in downtown Savannah above Leopold’s Ice Cream and close to everything happening around the heart of Savannah. We’re fun to work with and are working with some amazing technology. If you’re interested, check out the postings and apply (please)!