Friday, September 1, 2017

on hurricane harvey, maps, and you

are you into maps?

the storm is gone, but relief and recovery will take years, and americans far away still need help.

in addition to donating to reputable charities, would you like to do some hands-on work that helps, but can't get to houston, or at this point don't want to get in the way? here's a way you can help remotely.

in short, you can get online and contribute your time and effort creating and verifying basemap data for the OpenStreetMap (OSM) project.

what is OSM? well, think of it as the wikipedia of maps. it started back in 2004 with the goal of using crowdsourcing to map the entire world. at first it was interested in mainly in mapping streets, but in recent years has grown to map a whole lot more, whether it be mapping trees within parks, locations of places to get a coffee, or even mapping departments within retail stores.

...and just like wikipedia, anyone can edit it, and the crowd verifies to keep it correct. in the end, it's a living, breathing map, and changing every day---just like the world around us.

one of the most productive uses of OSM in recent years has been "humanitarian mapping". the 2010 earthquake tragedy that struck in haiti was its true coming-of-age as a valuable tool. actual data on this varies, but let's just say the OSM team on the ground and remotely transformed haiti from a country that was mostly not mapped, to one that was, and in great detail.

and that ever growing OSM basemap was used by first responders, non-profit organizations, command center briefings, media support, the general public, and many, many other uses.

interested? want to at least check it out, and maybe get involved?

1) first, go to OSM and click "Sign Up" to create a new account

2) click "Edit", then "Edit with iD", then "Start the Walkthrough" in order to learn how to use the editing tools. it will hand-hold you through the steps. i think you'll find it very easy and straightforward. the tutorial takes maybe 10-15 minutes to get thru.

3) go to, choose a task that needs work, and follow the instructions

apparently lots of work needs to be done with getting buildings added to the map; you can just use your mouse to draw them by tracing on top of satellite photos. there's also a lot of verification work to check stuff that others did, not just with buildings, but also streets, parks, and the location of public safety facilities.

i've been editing OSM maps on and off for years, and just picked up a task and did some work on it yesterday. there's a long labor day weekend coming up. great opportunity to put in some hours.

if you want to try it, and have ANY questions with this stuff, or get stuck or whatever, contact me directly, or comment below and i can help you.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

on colin kaepernick

alright look, here's a quote from a militant right wing friend of mine who i practically never agree with, --i mean seriously almost never ever-- yet i reluctantly do in this one exceptional case, and since he articulated it so much better than i ever could, i'm posting it here: 

I own a business and would never allow my employees to make political or social commentary to my patients. It undermines the product that we deliver in our office. Just as customers come to my business for medical care they should not be imposed upon the views outside of medicine by an employee. Same with [the NFL], I as well as many tune in to watch football, not political or social commentary, we get enough of that in everyday life. If your employees wish to do so let them on their own time out of uniform, that is their right. But while at business and I as a customer please have your business stick to the game to which I have tuned into. 

colin kaepernick is absolutely free to take a knee. and many other players are free to do so, or put a fist up, or whatever they feel they want to, to draw attention to what they feel is an injustice. free, that is, from our government "of the people, by the people, for the people" from stopping them. because in the end, the injustice they're protesting, while highly selective, is technically and measurably true. 

but free from their employer taking issue with it? no. business owners have products and services to sell. when they're paying you to help them do that, your words and actions should contribute toward your employer's vision. don't like it? then don't be an employee. start your own business. make your own rules, stick your own neck out on your own time and using your own resources, and hope that your clients are cool with it. whatever. good luck.

that said, no one owes colin kaepernick a career, or even a job. so, until he starts his own team, or his own league, and coordinates his own support staff and logistics, pays for his own venues, negotiates his own media contracts, plans and executes his own marketing engine to draw his own viewership, he needs to stfu on the job. outside of that, he is absolutely free to practice free speech on his own time. free speech unhindered by government interference, which is the ONLY thing "free speech" means.

not clear about what free speech actually means? here's a good primer: Free Speech

Monday, August 7, 2017

on russian meddling--on trump's integrity

russians meddle in elections when they can. so have we. so do we.

even as an unapologetic liberal, i can say with all factual historical honesty, that, shit, the US has been meddling in elections under the table (and quite occasionally above the table) for the better part of the past 7 decades (if not more), and it has almost always worked in our own national interest. so, like trump said a few months ago, let's not pretend that the US is pure, and that russia's meddling in our election is some aberration. please. all nations have national interests. and all powerful nations have national interests that extend well beyond their boundaries. we have national interests. russia has national interests. you want to believe russia is some evil beast and the US is some innocent waif, keep dreaming.

so to democrats:
until you really want to fix the problem, you need to let the "russian meddling" story go. it's obvious you care more about political points than the meddling per se.

so to republicans:
to ignore russian meddling is pretty much treasonous, which makes you worse than the democrats, so time to put the flag pins back on and get some smart people on fighting and fixing this.

that said? the two problems i have with trump are these:

1) while he serves his own interests perfectly, he has absolutely zero ethical integrity when it comes to public service.
2) while he is an arguably successful businessman and imposing manager, he is not a leader.

yes. he won the election. the system we built and signed up for (and haven't had the motivation to change yet) worked as designed. love him or hate him, it's trumps turn on watch for the next few years. if you salute the flag and keep your feet planted here (rather than pack your shit and run off to some european socialist utopia) you really need to respect it. american democracy and the american republic is a messy business, but in the long run, despite its bumps and bruises along the way, points mostly toward justice, as much as the humans within it will allow.

as i learned my first week of boot camp when i was 17, you salute the rank, not the man. if i met trump today i'd salute him and give him respect. if i meet him 10 years from now, i'm slicing his tires and keying his car. that's what it means to love america and the constitution, and at the same time have the balls to fight for what's right and punish those (donald trump) who've spent a lifetime hurting people while helping no one but himself.

but let's get back to exactly how trump proves to us that he has no ethical integrity...

follow me... if he had lost the election, everything about his history confirms, that for pretty much all of 2017 so far, he would have been the standard bearer of complaining about this “america first” russian meddling that hillary arranged and obama did nothing about. (because in actuality, she did, and he didn't).

in contrast:

  • the bush presidents, both of them, agree with their policies or not, had integrity. mad integrity.
  • carter, had probably the most integrity of any president of the last century.
  • rand paul, crazy man, but steadfast integrity.
  • romney lost the election because he had zero integrity. he was all pander.
  • cruz, rubio... already lost causes. maybe had integrity, but already sold out.
  • sorry to say, as of 2008, so did mccain.

i mean, you can like bush43 or hate him, for leading us into wars that cost us trillions, but you can't deny the guy had integrity. he didn't pander. he had beliefs and he stuck with them no matter what, and couldn't care less about what people said about him. crazy thick skin.

but... like romney, trump has zero integrity. actually, trump has 100% integrity to himself, and only appears to serve the nation when any particular decision that benefits himself first.

as for if he'd lost the election. whoa... he'd be on that russian meddling shit just like birtherism. just like he was prior to the election. even the electoral college was a bad thing to trump--til he won. even hillary was a criminal going to jail (and maybe she should) until he won. "hey we don't care about that anymore now do we" -trump.

but now, russian hacking is a non issue, it's fake news. why? not because it’s fake. but because trump won.

even though the US meddles--the fact that russia meddles is still something we need to fight against. and we're not fighting it. because to trump, it's a non issue because it benefitted him.

the cancer that trump infects america with, is that to him--our president and head of state--there are no longer any objective rights/wrongs beyond whatever benefits him personally. no more morals. no more ethics. only winning. and by that he means, trump winning. not the middle class. not coal miners who've been part of a dying industry for a few decades now. not carrier inc. no one but trump and anyone who can help him.

the president should serve the nation, even if decisions pull against himself personally. if that doesn't bother you at all, and you still support trump even knowing that he's actually not "america first", well, that's certainly your right. but if you disagree, then maybe answer me this. in all of trump’s accomplishments over the past 7 months. name one that benefitted the country and happened to work *against* him personally.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

on voter ID laws

a perfect strike in politics is when you can do something that benefits yourself, hurts your opponent, and wrap that action completely within a banner of plausibility that you're doing it for a perfectly logical reason that is fair to all.

requiring an ID to verify identity, eligibility, and defend against fraud is an airtight logical idea; and i can't believe that any rational person would argue any different... ...conceptually.

that said, i think we all know that's not the issue. the fact that the gop targets money toward jurisdictions where voter ID laws will create the most impactful demographic voter suppression is well-documented. most of the time by sloppy republicans who *themselves* stupidly admit it on the record. seen it many times from different sources over the years. highly googleable.

  • republicans need to stop pretending this isn't actually a two-dimensional problem.
  • republicans need to stop pretending that there aren't hundreds of thousands of otherwise eligible citizens in a situation where obtaining a gov't ID is very difficult, too expensive, or in some cases nearly impossible.
  • republicans need to stop pretending that they're not secretly ok with this, while outwardly waving the banner of "you need to show ID, because we're fighting fraud".

why is it that republican proposed legislation is most often not much more than "we require ID now; tough".

you want to get *everyone*, on the right *and* the left 100% on-board with voter ID laws?

here's how:

if we really care about liberty and justice for all, then the proposed legislation would look a lot more like "we require ID now; here's what you can use, here's how to get it, and here's where to turn if you get stuck".

i would hope that even "small government" conservatives would admit that there can't be many government services more valuable to spend tax dollars on than one that knocks down government-imposed barriers to participation. maybe some are doing this; i hope so.

but in the end, if you run into a republican/conservative who thinks the problem can only be described as "voters need to show ID to prevent fraud", then that's someone who's simply exhibiting ignorance--either voluntarily on purpose, or involuntarily as a result of foxnews-style brainwashing.

Friday, May 12, 2017

on trump

please. my liberal friends. get past it. the electoral college works the way it should. we didn't elect a public servant this time. stop pretending he will act as such.

if you wanna play the daily news cycle "gotcha" game, president trump will give you more than you can handle, and you'll drown in it, and the right doesn't care.

here's what happened... to punish the professionally lobby-bought politician motivated by whoever lines their pockets the most, we elected a CEO. that's right--we wanted to see what happens when gov't by the people and for the people is run like a business. these first 5 months are just a taste. objectively defined ethical right and wrong are out, teamwork and loyalty are in.

of course director james comey had to go. if you pull the wagon against the president, you have to go. does that make trump a kim jong-un dictator? no. (close, but no)

look, i've been in the corporate world for almost 30 years. if you pull against the boss, you're gone, and you *should* be gone. the pro-business right wingers know this, because a lot of them are business owners who tightrope through life on nothing more than their ideas and grit and have others' livelihoods on their shoulders. they stick their necks out more than liberals do. try to understand them for a second.

but, ok, look, what we're going to learn from this presidency is that, while government can learn a lot--and i mean A LOT--from business when it comes to cost-effectiveness, what business will never understand (nor should it) is that government needs to protect the level playing field and infrastructure of our. entire. society. and act in the best interest of the PEOPLE. and this basic thought is something business is simply *not* designed to do, let alone understand.

business will NEVER act in the best interest of everyone. it ONLY acts in the best interest of the market and in trumps case, the winners. for example, if you read stories of chemical companies in west virginia dumping poison in rivers then using incorporation to shield themselves personally, going out of business to escape liability, then reforming as a NEW company with new poison to dump, you're smart enough to know that business will never act in the best interest of the environment as long as competitors are saving money by not doing so.

i don't blame trump for lying. all. the. time. i don't blame trump for saying whatever he wants to in order to gain the most in any given situation. anyone who's followed how he works knows that this is in his DNA. he has no foundational principles, no ethics, and no integrity. his objective is to win or create the perception of winning. this is what creates the highest gain for a businessman who is driven to gain the most in the shortest amount of time, for himself and investors and stockholders, then let bankruptcy laws (and the taxpayers) clean up the mess left after private profits have been captured. this is smart business, folks. this is what happens when we elect a CEO to run gov't like a business.

in 4 (or 8) years we will learn, and then of course, thankfully, the american political pendulum will swing toward a younger bernie clone. and we will remember the lessons we learn from the trump presidency for a long time. 20 years at least, until thanks to our education system we will forget history and let the pendulum have at it again.

bottom line, whether you're on the right or on the left, i'm going to do my american duty to ask you to THANK the other side for their strength. because i've spent a good amount of time in countries where ONE political party gains too much power for too many decades, and it never ends up well. (i'm lookin at you mexico).

the extreme of the left is european socialism (bad), the extreme of the right is fascist dictatorship (not good), the extreme of libertarianism is anarchism (which while attractive while pulling on a bong in a dorm, fails a few steps into the game). in the end, keep voting, keep acting, keep caring, and america will be fine.

i am a wildly social liberal, wildly fiscal conservative, and if you're like me there is no party for us. maybe time to step up(?)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

on STEM versus STEAM

artists are sneaky.

education in the STEM fields has for the past few years increased as a national priority. apparently we're not teaching enough science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in schools, from K-12, and not enough bachelors degrees in STEM fields are coming out of our universities. the problem is both the immediate needs of our job market, and the strategic long term productivity and innovation of our economy.

so... STEM gets a lot of attention. you know who that seems to bother? the artists.

are the arts important? of course they are.
when you build something, is design just as important as the engineering? of course it is.

the reason why it's STEM and not STEAM is not because the "hard" sciences are better than the arts, rather it simply comes down to supply versus demand.  the US imports a few dozen thousand foreign nationals every year, and most of them aren't artists.  they're engineers, scientists, math whizzes, and technology people.  they're not art history majors, sociologists, or those who do work in comparative literature.

  • STEM is important because our country creates more B.A. graduates than it needs.
  • STEM is important because jobs in the sciences and engineering should go to americans first, and there is a perennial shortage.

why do artists get butthurt when STEM initiatives don't include the "A"?

you really want to help arts education? fight for it on its own merits. everyone knows that the education that goes into what to do, why we're doing it, what it looks like, and how it functions is at least as important as the education that goes into the details of how it's built.

arts are important on their own. quit lumping it in where it doesn't belong.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

on banking industry executives

a long time ago i was a registered republican, because while i was always a social liberal, i continue to be a fiscal conservative. this article is the most hilarious example i can find to illustrate one of the reasons why i cannot in good conscience go back to this party that protects and rewards the most criminal of our society's leeches. 

that's how the gop rolls... the financial sector pays politicians to write laws and rules that make this kind of behavior "legal", and then republicans wave the flag, sign patriotic songs, while blaming the poor, and allowing these industries to steal billions from everyone else. 

check out this article and see how many times you bust out laughing if only to keep yourself from crying. 

let's dissect... and let's start with the title of the article: 

Bankers are fearful of the political climate. 

political? ha! ok "title" we'll get back to you in a bit 

Wells Fargo & Co’s unprecedented move to strip Chief Executive John Stumpf of $41 million in stock awards has sent a chill through Wall Street with bankers fearful that a hardening political climate against corporate wrongdoing will encourage boards to be more aggressive about making them forfeit pay. 

a chill... because bankers are now fearful that they can't just do anything they want, good, bad, malicious, negligent, and have it not impact their own personal compensation? wow. 

A sales practices scandal at Wells Fargo, where some of its employees opened as many as 2 million accounts without customers’ knowledge to hit sales targets, could not have come at a worse time for the wider industry with politicians in Washington reviewing new rules on bank executive remuneration. 

new rules? shouldn't these have always been the rules? why is the financial sector seem to be living in a reality quite different than the rest of us? 

Bankers fear not only that the new rules on pay will be tightened as a result of the furor at Wells Fargo but also that boards will go beyond them to avoid a political backlash. 

oh, they think that these new rules are coming out of some irrational political correctness run wild? rather than what they actually are, namely, a simply logical linking of compensation with the value you bring the organization minus purposeful wrongdoing? 

The Wells Fargo board made a mistake by not recouping some of the CEO’s pay until after the firestorm developed,” said Harvard Law School professor Jesse Fried. “Other boards will learn from this mistake.” 


U.S. regulators are looking at requiring banks to defer compensation for senior officials and to allow clawbacks for misdeeds over the previous seven years. The law is meant to come into effect in 2019 and regulators are trying to get it finalized before a new president takes office in January. 

good. still amazed this wasn't always the case, but let's continue... 

Yellen also told the committee that the Fed was reviewing whether the largest U.S. lenders are complying with banking rules in the wake of what happened at Wells Fargo. 

oh silly me. i was under the impression that part of the fed's job, in addition to making rules, was to watch to ensure the rules are followed. no? ok. 

Clawback provisions were put in place or strengthened at all the top U.S. banks after the financial crisis of 2008, primarily to hold executives responsible for risk taking. 

good. but again, the fact that this is seen as something that comes out of irrational political correctness rather than coming out of what is actually the right thing to do, shows how mentally warped this industry is. 

Britain introduced laws last year that allow banks to seek recovery of bonuses from bankers deemed to have acted irresponsibly up to 10 years after they are paid out. 

sounds reasonable. 

Standard Chartered Plc has said it will try to claw back bonuses from up to 150 senior staff if they are found culpable of breaching internal rules around risk-taking during the tenure of former chief executive Peter Sands. 

it will "try"? ok so when execs are negligent or are outright malicous, they still expect bonuses? let's set aside that they don't expect to go to jail and lose their base compensation, but they actually believe they're still entitled to performance bonuses?? 

But clawing back money from people who have already left a bank can be fraught with practical and legal difficulties. 

make it part of the law that execs of banks (gov't regulated, all of them) are to be held accountable for their actions. we all kinda learned this in kindergarten, right? 

Stumpf is the first CEO of a major U.S. bank to actually have to give back significant pay or benefits as the result of a scandal. Wells Fargo’s rule is written broadly enough that Stumpf was subject to a clawback even though the bank’s $185 million fine did not force it to make a material restatement of its results. 

good. but whoa, wait a second. this fine, itself in 9 figures, let alone the sales figures that came out of millions of fraudulent accounts being created by thousands of employees didn't change one little bit the numbers that the company was required to report about its performance to stockholders? 

The rules vary from bank to bank, but they generally allow the banks to take back stock awards or pay for misconduct, taking improper risks or poor performance. Executives can also be penalized if the bank has to significantly restate results. 

they vary from bank to bank huh? interesting. 

Compensation consultants said that increased clawbacks could make it more difficult for banks to recruit and keep top talent with bonuses at investment and commercial banks down about 40 percent since the financial crisis. 

and this my friends is comedy gold. top talent huh? if you're recruiting to fill an executive position in your bank, you actually consider a "talented candidate" to be one who might not take the job if they know that they might lose their bonuses if they are found to have underperformed, been negligent in their duties, or malicious in their following of the rules, let alone being found to have broken the law? really? that's the type of "talent" that we're afraid of discouraging? 

 “Compensation is going to be a much more political process going forward. You’re going to based not only on your merits but what is politically attractive at the moment,” said Alan Johnson, managing director of compensation consulting firm Johnson Associates. 

yeah, hi, fuck you alan johnson, you're part of the problem. doing what's right, serving shareholders and customers, obeying the rules, directing a solid organization, and obeying the law are NOT simply politically attractive. this fucker is actually saying what we've all thought. that financial sector execs feel entitled to millions in compensation and bonuses regardless of how badly they fuck up, by accident or on purpose, and the only thing changing that warped reality is some "political correctness". wow. 

“Whatever progress had been made in lobbying some features now has been set back to zero,” he said. “Who is going to listen to the banking industry now?” 

he basically admits that the industry pays legislators to create (and make into actual law) these crazy ass rules that benefit those individuals and firms in the financial sector and no one else. these are not laws that serve the public. 

how about this? do your job and serve the free market that drives our country and its progress. yes, it's not just about leeching money for yourself. the financial sector is given the keys to the kingdom to work for the rest of us. words like fiduciary responsibility and professional ethics are so far in the rear view mirror for these pricks, they don't even try to hide the fact that they're completely ignorant of them. 

Still, David Knutson, head of credit research in the Americas for Schroder Investment Management, believes CEOs at other banks will be more careful with their own businesses now that they have seen what happened to Stumpf. “When you see a colleague you’ve known for years all of a sudden lose $40 million, it makes you more cautious,” he said. 

no. no. no. when the $40 million is clawed-back, that means it is ill-gotten, that means it is considered never yours to begin with. if you rob a store for $10k, and the cops catch you and take it back, you didn't "lose" $10k. due to you being convicted of theft, that $10k is legally considered not yours to begin with.

that said, it NOW makes you more cautious? the possibility of losing $40m in bonuses due to misbehavior is something that is making you START to think about being more cautious NOW? 

and finally, let's go back to the title of the article 

Bankers are fearful of the political climate. 

how about "Bankers are fearful that their misdeeds have been so criminal for so long that they finally woke up the american people and their scam is eroding."