Monthly Archives: March 2013

I want lots of bubblegum and no tigers with toes!

In anticipation of spending time with my kids after school I got to thinking about how we play and interact when at a park. And as much as I love the time, it’s a physical challenge (being out of shape) to participate in the good ol’ game of tag. Thus I’m typically hoping they choose to play on the swings, find others to run with, go down the slides, or just throw the ball back and forth, but please don’t make me chase.

This brought to mind one of my old poems where I was reminiscing of my own childhood and a variety of the games played. Freeze-tag, hide and go seek, and mother-may-I, and red light-green light were amongst the variety. Hide and go seek stood out for several reasons and one of those were the different jingles used in deciding who would have to “go seek.”

The three jingles that I can remember are-
1. Eenie-meenie-miney-mo, catch a nigga by his toe, if he hollers let him go, Eenie-meenie-miney-mo.
2. Bubble gum bubble gum in the dish, how many bubble gum do you wish?
3. My momma and your momma was hanging out clothes, my momma, socked your momma, right in the nose. What color was the blood?

As much as I liked saying those jingles, I liked the melody that we sung while hiding our face and everyone else scattered to their places of hiding. It went “5-10-15-20, 25-30-35-40, 45-50-55-60, 65-70-75-80, 85-90-95-100, whoever’s round my base is out and no billy-goat.” I loved that. And I’m still confused on what “no billy-goat” means?

But of those jingles to decide who would be “it,” the first (eenie-meenie-miney-mo) stood out. I mean, maybe it’s the fact that we learned it (as written) by the time we were five years old. It really stood out around 1993 when I was serving in the US Air Force. Something sparked me to ask others if they knew the jingle and there were these very big gracious smiles and I could see them positively thinking of their childhood. I could also see them singing to themselves so I decided to sing out loud. “Eenie-meenie-miney-mo catch a …” and I stopped. Most would continue to sing without interrupt and used “tiger” where I was taught another word. However there were a few who either stopped, looked up, curled an eyebrow, or did something other than to continue to sing.

It was funny to me, and the looks on their faces were priceless. They knew that I knew what the next word was to be out of their mouths but they clearly weren’t comfortable with me knowing that. So as the others finished their “tiger” version, I interrupted with a big smile and laughter and said, “Hold up. Since when does a tiger have toes?” And essentially the younger generation were clueless to what they were saying. After poking into this a little, one of the Non Commisioned Officers who was originally from Florida noted that when he was a kid the “tiger” wasn’t a “tiger” which eventually brought out that they used the same racial epithet I used as a child. What was surprising, was that I got him to share with me the entire jingle and it went, “Eenie-meenie-miney-mo, catch a nigger by his toe, if hollers make him pay, half a dollar every day.” I was somewhere between relieved and angry to hear this.

Relieved that we were able to talk about (even if on the fringes of) that taboo topic and acknowledge the use of that word was a common part of our pasts. Angry that their version actually included slave-like reference to capturing a runaway slave and forcing him to pay a fine for escaping. I didn’t express the anger, but my goodness that was bothering. I did challenge the concept of making him pay and questioned the origins of the versions in hopes of getting us all to think a bit more about how some unfortunate portions of our country’s past shaped many of the things we did then (1993) and today.

I would go on to believe that me singing eenie-meenie-miney-mo was in some big or small way continuing legacies to be long dead. So I stopped. I also realized that the violence captured in “my momma and your momma was hanging out clothes” was no better than eenie-meenie-miney-mo. More importantly, I gained great validation for the importance of being willing to have difficult conversations with others especially around race. Realizing I could create a safe environment for the uncomfortable discussion, but obviously requires parties on all sides to be open.

Bubblegum, bubblegum, in the dish. How many bubblegum do you wish?

Dongles and forking and privilege… Oh my

For those who’ve yet to hear of the events at and following PyCon last week, I’ll leave you to research Adria Richards, PyCon, and dongles and forking to gain as you may from what you find. After spending time reading articles, blogs, etc. I have something to say. Funny enough, the comment that incited the greatest reaction from me was vaguely within context of the incident but in my opinion had more to do with the incident than anything.

In response to a blog, a commenter wrote “…disgusted by….overwhelming privilege exhibited…” and the blogger responded, “I’m not sure how any of my words are a result of privilege. What privilege?…”

This all reminded of a personal situation about 15 years ago where I had a public disagreement (Opinion response in newspaper) with a college professor which led to an email exchange, brief phone discussion and then a face-to-face discussion about our viewpoints and eventually a friendship, regular discussions, and spending time with his beautiful family. The core of the initial disagreement and many of the ongoing discussions and perspective were borne in perspective on and appreciation of privilege.

I believe privilege has everything to do with the situation. Before writing any further, I’d like to provide a few examples of how I’m privileged as a man working in the technology industry. I will also note that in the computing and technology industry is a huge amount of logical thinking that I believe misses or overlooks the realities of privilege which is frequently not spoken nor overtly done, but simply accepted or enjoyed.

1. Amongst most of my peers, I can make an edgy joke about men or women without my gender being called into question. (Sorry fellas, women don’t get this privilege and I did nothing to earn it.)

2. When presenting publicly to a group of powerful men, I’m not concerned about whether any member of the group feels I belong based on my gender. (It’s up to the woman whether to be concerned or not, but not paying attention could very well hurt her- not me.)

3. In working across most technical companies or companies in general, there’s a high likelihood that when I’m escalated to the “boss” that person will be another man. (Just a reality and it’s typically more comfortable to speak with someone you relate a little more to in these situations, but most women would get another man to deal with.)

4. If I were to weigh in as an “outsider” on a situation in determining whether gender was at play or not, it is likely that my position will be seen as more valuable than a woman’s opinion. (If a man is in situation with woman “A” that she feels is sexist and I along with woman “B” witness it. Assuming all things equal other than gender, 9 times out of 10 my opinion on whether it was sexist or not would carry more credibility than woman “B.”)

5. I can mostly speak about gender diversity without being seen as someone who hates men or seeking to promote oneself. (A woman likely needs to weigh the consequences of speaking on this topic and to whom it’s shared and the setting. I can speak fairly freely about the need for greater gender diversity in technology and not worry.)

Funny enough as I’m preparing to type these next examples, I can feel anxiety rising from the possible pushback for sharing these real examples. And in my head I’m laughing with the thought that when I challenged the professor 15+ years ago, I hadn’t earned much. But now there’s stuff (career, perception, opportunity, etc.) at stake that if taken “wrongly” could hurt me personally and professionally. With that, it’s a worth-while risk to write about something we all should be more comfortable talking about. Now I’d like to provide a few examples of things I’ve earned and accompanying examples of how I do not leverage certain privilege.

1. If I need to relocate for work or most any other reason, I’m not likely to have an issue affording the necessary rent or getting a mortgage in most places. (However, in choosing those places I do have to consider the “welcoming” of neighbors, community, schools, etc. based on race, potential consequences if we’re the first or only Black family in the neighborhood, the perception and representation delivered in local media, ability to access a barber that’s experienced cutting hair like mine, representation of music and arts of my liking, etc.)

2. If I should need specific clothing, I can be pretty sure of affording the needed items immediately without financial strain. (However, before going to shop at an upscale store I have to consciously consider potential consequences for how I will be treated in the store based on race and then whether my appearance (clothes, grooming, etc.) will be considered a negative reflection on the race or just a choice I made.)

3. I can be sure that my children will attend a K-12 school that is highly regarded for its academic, athletic, and extra-curricular offerings. (However, that’s accompanied with added work of exposing them to professionals that look like them, encouraging self-love to overcome that lack of seeing self in community and school, coaching to address negative or demeaning terms from peers which are race based such as Oreo, N-word, “good one,” etc., ensuring cultural and religious preferences of others are acknowledged and respected)

4. I am likely to be called on by executives to complete challenging tasks that typically are not trusted with others. (However, I am still prepared to continue responding to whether I believe I first got my job because of affirmative action. I am very conscious of how in past situations my grooming, appearance, and presentation were assigned to the race and not just me. I am limited in finding executives who have common professional experiences impacted by race to discuss professional progression. Still face doing well in a challenging situation as being considered a credit to my race.)

In the first case, the “privileges” denoted are unspoken burdens that women face that I don’t have to deal with. However, it is not I that created that burden or am doing anything to intentionally limit women. The privilege is a consequence of our social structure which essentially provides me the luxury of not being directly challenged by those burdens as a man. Much the same, my Caucasian peers are far less likely to be burdened with the race-specific challenges that I noted for me and it would be a disservice to any of my Caucasian peers to suggest that they are responsible for or to blame for such challenges. And though racism and sexism are likely at the genesis of the societal norms that lead to the privileges I described, I believe (with the privileges I’m carrying) that most people are NOT intentionally perpetuating sexism or racism by enjoying the freedoms and advantages of those privileges. However, I believe the biggest problem with privilege is the ignorance or denial of having such privilege. Followed closely behind that is the willingness of individuals to discuss it with the goal of understanding the person not in their shoes. Though the examples only touch on race and gender, privilege extends to nationality, first language, age, class, sexual orientation, and beyond.

Thus, I’m inclined to believe that the gentlemen making the joke regarding dongles and forking were well immersed in their privilege (being men at tech conference) and their comfort led to inappropriate behavior (freely making sexual joke or innuendo). If you eliminate all women from the conference and these behaviors likely would be minimized or ignored by all others within earshot, right? Because most men are very unlikely to react, be angered, address the bad behavior, etc. especially since it was associated with an object and not directly a woman. That’s our privilege. But the reality is that women were at the conference, the very fact that we have so few women at the conference or in the tech industry in general is directly related to the privilege that we receive as men.

However, for Ms. Richards to then become scorn by so many men and women is disappointing and understood. There’s the myriad of things she could have done upon being offended and she clearly had options. However, minus breaking the law, it was those who went overboard exhibiting their male privilege that opened themselves up for whichever she chose. And the one she chose (tweet picture with comment) exposed their choices in a way that resulted in them having to explain those choices to others. There are clearly a range of responses and consequences. And to each of those are an even greater range of opinions on what should’ve been done and why. But only the person living with the burden of having to make a choice in such an unfortunate situation gets to choose what that response will be.

For me, this is not much different from me dealing with a normal dose of-
1. whether I was hired because of Affirmative Action or
2. being congratulated on being a credit to my race, or
3. being asked “why do Black people…” or
4. responding to comments based on assumption of my political position

I’ve never gone to HR to report such questions or conversations. If I did, does that make me wrong for choosing not to personally deal with this burden coming to me through the voice of others’ ignorance or lack of consideration for me? Would it be wrong to take their picture along with what they said and tweet it? What if I just loudly repeated their question/statement and my response to it so that at least everyone within the range of my voice would know “that’s not cool?” I don’t have the answer. I repeat… I don’t have the answer and don’t know what’s right. To date, I’ve addressed the situation one and one and then make others aware of what happened by keeping the person anonymous. In taking that route, no scene is made, jobs are relatively secure, and others aren’t feeling the need to to take a side. That also means that I absorb all of the work of others’ ignorance and educating others in the workforce with full knowledge that someone else will come along to be educated. But whatever legal route I choose, it is not me that’s doing something to anyone. And I’m really laughing now because I can see people wondering if they should talk to me about anything related to race. The answer is “absolutely yes” and to first apply those questions to yourself and the group you belong to determine if you think you’re in a position to answer that or if asking that would be demeaning to what you’ve earned via hard work.

I beg that those of us in a place of privilege whether it be based on gender, religion, race, class, parent, sexual orientation, authority figure, and anything I missed to invest in doing some of the hard work along with those who aren’t in the position of privilege. This typically starts with having open and honest discussions about how others might not enjoy the benefits that we do with the understanding that we are not limiting them from enjoying those benefits. However, our willingness to come to a point of understanding about the situation will very likely trigger meaningful conversations with more people and hopefully transform our work environments, our neighborhoods, our schools, our nations, and our appreciation for each other.

Many if not most of our words as Americans and those working in America are a result of privilege. Let’s avoid victimization, blame, anger, labeling, denial, and paranoia and before the next bad joke about dongles and forking comes up, let’s do more talking and gain more understanding so that either the joke isn’t said or is worded in a way that’s inclusive and funny.

One ARM better than none- ARM architectures in servers

Today, Pat Gelsinger was quoted in a blog by Tiernan Ray of Barron’s Tech Trader Daily as seemingly dismissing the place or relevance of ARM architectures in server technology. Mr. Gelsinger noted that EMC is “skeptical” about ARM chip architecture or chips outside of Intel and AMD finding uptake.  He went on to focus on how dropping power consumption of x86 wouldn’t make much of a difference and says “Chip architectures don’t change because of 25% power improvements…”

I see such statements as a classic case of either focusing on technology instead of customers or couching a response to protect the position of one’s company.  Whatever the case, I don’t believe it to be an accurate representation despite my respect for Mr. Gelsinger and his personal success. 

Leveraging ARM in servers isn’t about chip architectures, it’s about Total Cost of Ownership.  Which translates into taking a full datacenter’s worth of servers and putting it into a single rack.  Which translates into taking a full datacenter’s worth of cabling, complexity, networking, and support cost, and making it a blip on a CIOs budget compared to today.  Which translates to businesses putting their dollars toward their people and innovating against their competitors.

 ARM in servers is a fast approaching mainstream reality that most organizations will have to consider in their desires to actually stay ahead and keep up with the realities of IT.  Just as Open Systems and client/server wasn’t a “niche” in following mainframe, nor was SAN and NAS a “niche” in following direct connect, nor was virtualization and hypervisors a “niche” in following dedicated server-OS, and neither will ARM be a “niche” following x86 and RISC.  It’s an evolution that lends itself to expanding what’s done in the datacenter.  ARM processors will absolutely compliment with significant presence but not wholly replace x86 servers in the datacenter.  Fortunately for those companies leading the way in this trend and working closely with all of the leading chip vendors to ensure customers are ready for the next datacenter reality without compromising on current needs of rack and tower and blade architectures.

Hip-Hopology – Enterprise Technology and Lyricists

I’m a proud longtime fan of hip-hop music.  Also a bit snobby in that I think 99% of the commercially played hip-hop is bona fide junk, but to each his own and I refrain from judging others based on their musical preferences regardless how bad it might be.  Last spring or summer I was thinking about some of my favorite lyricists and decided to compare them with companies.  I was mostly thinking what company would KRS-One, Tribe Called Quest, or the Wu-Tang Clan represent. I then sent a tweet on it and my buddy, E. Sanderson, brought it up and I’ve been mentally working on the list since.  After all this time working in the basement and digging in the crates I now have the list.

First the process.  I looked through dozens of “greatest, top, etc.” lists of rappers, songs, and groups until settling on choosing lyricists.  That meant assessing the individuals of groups such as Wu-Tang, A Tribe Called Quest, Leaders of the New School, Pharcyde, Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, and on and on and on.  I also decided to focus on enterprise technology with the split being Networking, Servers, Software, and Storage.  After coming to my all-time list of greatest lyricists, I then filtered so that each category of technology would get every fourth lyricist to create some parity between the lists.  Lastly I chose companies that come to mind along with some that were on top lists or included in the Gartner MQ to determine my top 10 for the technologies.  I left the “newbies” off the technology and lyricist list since I needed a body of work to evaluate and not a quick trend or some hype.  Then I assigned names as I saw good partners or decent fits.

Drum roll please…

Networking
Alcatel-Lucent = 2Pac, HP = Andre 3000, Juniper = Big Pun, IBM = Common, Enterasys = DMX, Cisco = Ice Cube, Brocade = LL Cool J, Avaya = Method Man, Dell = Raekwon, and Arista = Talib Kweli

Servers
SGI = Canibus, Huawei = Ghostface Killah, HP = Jay-Z, IBM = KRS-One, Fujitsu = Lauryn Hill, Bull = Mos Def, Oracle = Q-Tip, Dell = Redman, Cisco = Scarface, and Hitachi = Snoop Dog.

Software-
Microsoft = Big Daddy Kane, Symantec = Black Thought, Amadeus = Gift of Gab, SAS = Kool G Rap, CA = MC Lyte, SAP = Nas, Adobe = Posdnous, Intuit = Queen Latifah, NTT = Ras Kass, and Oracle = Slick Rick

Storage
DataDirect Networks = AZ, Fujitsu = Big Bun, EMC = Chuck D, NetApp = Eminem, IBM = Guru, Hitachi = GZA, XIO = Jadakiss, Oracle  = Kool Moe Dee, Dell = Notorious BIG, and HP = Rakim

Oak Ridge HS are the Champs at HP CodeWars 2013 in Roseville

On a beautiful California day at the very beginning of high school swim season and in the midst of high school basketball playoffs, there was a group of high school students huddled at the HP site in Roseville for a different competition- CodeWars.  Oak Ridge HS exited the competition as the clear team to beat going forward as they took first place in the advanced competition and swept the novice competitiion with first, second, and third place. 

CodeWars began at the HP site in Houston 16 years ago and this year was the first time the competition made its way to California thanks to HP Roseville engineer, Ken Duisenberg and loads of HP volunteers.  CodeWars is a team competition with up to three members per team using their brain power to solve problems and earn points for correctly solving  problems.  The problems have a range of difficulty of which few points are given for the easier variety and many points are given for the extremely difficult ones.  However, the competition is time bound and teams must take a strategy that allows them to maximize points within the time they have.  Thus, attacking a very difficult problem but not successfully solving it could leave a team with no points.  See sample problems here  http://www.hpcodewars.org/index.php?page=samples.

Second place for the advanced competition went to Mira Loma HS and third place went to Mira Costa HS.  Mira Costa HS is in Manhattan Beach, CA.  Yes, a young man and his dad, Phil Anthony, made the long trip to get this opportunity because there is not enough of these types of challenges to engage kids in critical thinking and application of computer concepts.  Equally impressive was a team of eighth graders from Cooley Middle School in Roseville who came to take on the big kids.  And in an age where boys continue to convincingly outnumber girls in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) pursuits, it was great to see Aimee Staats bring two teams from St. Francis HS to compete.  The dedication of the Oak Ridge team was met by their sponsor, Mrs. Stephanie Allen, who sat in the lobby grading her classroom assignments while the students were in the midst of competition.

The lack of programming classes and challenges was a common concern amongst the parents in attendance and CodeWars was an excellent first step that they look forward to next year on the first Saturday in March- March 1, 2014.  Next year it’s expected that the number of schools participating will grow beyond the 16 from this year and HP will be filling their large cafeteria instead of the large conference room in order to hold everyone.  Luckily for some of the students their schools have adopted AP Computer Science though this is the first year for several of the programs.  In speaking with the winners and parents of the advanced competition, it appears that a few dads taking the initiative to pull together kids in their communities to work on robotics is what introduced them to programming and leveraging critical thinking to solve complex problems.

Schools represented included Casa Roble High School, Colfax High School, Cooley Middle School, Cornerstone Christian School, Del Oro High School, El Camino High School, Ghidotti High School, Granite Bay High School, Mira Costa High School, Mira Loma High School, Natomas High School, Oak Ridge High School, Placer High School, Rocklin High School, Roseville High School, and  St. Francis High School.