Center for Biological Diversity Raleigh Meetup

I created a Raleigh-based meetup group for the Center’s Ignite Change action network. I’m excited to keep it going! (even though the first meeting was a bust because I cluelessly scheduled it to start at the exact moment that the Superbowl started! Doh.)

Here are some teasers for what’s to come. Tropic cascade is a fairly recent famous exciting biological observation showing that apex predators have complex positive effects on the layers of flora and fauna under them. Most famous is the example of the effect of wolves re-introduced to Yellowstone. Here is the link, followed by the TED talk of the guy who basically narrated it before it was brilliantly captured with Yellowstone footage. And more and more real-world amazingness. Fight for it!!

There is no Chain of Command

Uncivil discussion

I’ve got a new gig with Cisco!  Great team, enjoying it so far.

In software development, the best teams on which I’ve worked are very flat.  Everyone is hard working out of the gate, bringing skills that must be demonstated regularly to bring self-satisfaction.  During analysis and design, and even implementation, quality decision making will always determine the project’s success.  How is this best accomplished on a team of 5 or 8 people?  Answer: check your ego at the door.

If you have a complex task in which you must make a non-trivial decision, you should vet a proposal for the solution with the team.  If you can sell it easily, it is a good decision, and it’s full steam ahead.  If there are objections, and you agree with the objections, you change course accordingly.  Obvious so far.  Here’s the nuanced part:  If there is dissention, it is time to employ logic, and logic only, with no ego, no authoritarianism.  These discussions can be difficult in worst case scenarios, enough to make those with conviction in a specific solution uncomfortable as the others pick it apart.  Good teams hang in there and ride it out.  The final decision should be set by the team member who makes the case for the best solution implemented in the most efficient manner, in the opinion of the majority, always with a respect for the domain knowledge and experience of the members.  Because egos are checked, reasonable concessions can be made with expectation that in the next round, equal respect will be given.  Every member always contributes a fresh perspective, and the discussions ensure that the best ideas rise to the top, every time.

Good software development processes usually includes metrics to measure success.  Over time, lessons are learned, experience is gained, and this feeds back in to improve and inform the decision making process.

I’m trying to determine how these principles can be applied to politics, which is a wreck in this country with the current level of corruption and propaganda, at unprecedented levels I never thought I would see here.  There are three requirements: logic must rule over power and brute force, every time; there must be precise measurable, and measured, metrics by which to judge the outcome of every decision; these metrics must carry more weight than any philosophy or agenda or pontificating or bloviation.

The metric: the net value to humanity divided by the gross cost.  That’s it.  Of course the devil is in the details… :-)  Here are some metrics I believe in:

Basic healthcare value: $5000 per capita per year (pcpy)

Local safety value: $2000 pcpy

Global safety value: $3000 pcpy

Sustainability value: $10000 pcpy

Comfort and happiness value: $10000 pcpy

Opportunity value: $1000 pcpy

Any governmental effort has a cost.  The effort’s value is measured against its ability to meet one or more of these goals.  The decision-making process would be driven by measurement of value.  Those on the right or left would adjust the values, but keep the system of metrics intact.  The arguments would center around the target values, and how much a particular program benefited humanity.  Instead of the circus we have now, where the Republican majority does not even believe in the collaborative potential of government.

If I ever run for office, that will be my platform.  :-)

Facebook useful today! More thoughts on capital punishment…


I’ve been watching more CNN than usual at Planet Fitness these days (No Judgement!). And maybe it’s because of this that I’ve recently found myself disagreeing vocally—sometimes shouting at the TV like Grandpa Simpson on a treadmill—with folks who are supposed to be my political allies. I support the overall causes they’re trying to promote; I just think many of the quick arguments the non-Rupert Murdoch-controlled media put out there to serve these causes are increasingly weak. (NB: The arguments put forth by Fox News I just find ridiculous. Reliably so. In a world of constant flux, one takes a certain comfort in this consistency.) Continue reading “Facebook useful today! More thoughts on capital punishment…”

Why are we stuck with mediocre progress in the 21st century?

Thanks for Ubuntu Mark! :-)

My brother and I were debating progress. I am quite frustrated that technological innovation in this millennium seems so stalled. Sure we’ve had the PC laptop cellphone tablet and smart phone, wiring us all together, and they’re innovative and great. But they’re basically just consumptive devices we use to shovel sensationalized images and sounds into our orifices to stimulate our ever-dulled senses.

Great innovators of the past brought us philosophy, plumbing, democracy, unlimited food, equality, the weekend, space travel, a leisure society, and so many paradigm shifts that jumped us forward in massive leaps. We are long long overdue for the next.

Perhaps we are mired in the early stage of the information age. We drown in it every day. We spend many of them just caught up in the torrential flood of information with our jaws agape.

Perhaps cycles are required. Perhaps it is the age of the right-wing redneck, pushing progress backwards in hopes that he can consume and destroy a lion’s share of resources just because his great grandfather did. That age will certainly not last too long before it implodes on itself.

Perhaps there are too many of us, and we’ve come so far that any one of us would have to spend a lifetime just to become an expert on the existing knowledge in a specific area, with very little chance to extend it.

But I still believe each of us should try to contribute. Our individual passion is our greatest strength.

Here’s an awkward debate on the subject

Mark Shuttleworth says it right: “Individuals are innovators”!!! He’s got it! You have to be a crazy, obsessive, arrogant, megalomaniacal wacko and drive well past where any reasonable group of people would go.

Make sure you watch Edward Snowden discuss the “architecture of oppression”

Important stuff. No simple answers. Any way you come down on it, if you are after truth, the Edward Snowden interviews by the Guardian are worth watching.

Clay Shirky always inspires me, and summarizes well

It seems crazy to have to spell this out, but it should be hard for a government to keep secrets from its own people. National secrets are a necessary evil, of course, but the necessary part should not blind us to the evil part. Deciding to try to keep any given piece of information secret should be difficult, and expensive, and prone to occasional failure.

I will never forget that when George Bush declared war on Iraq, my initial reaction was to trust him because he had access to those “National secrets” that must… MUST justify his actions. That naive trust will never ever be restored. In the information age, we must seek truth, even – especially – in the dark corners of our government. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, so we must remain diligent citizens to sustain our freedom-based democracy.

As a final thought, I’m not so sure all these folks should be in such comfortable collusion…


Impeach NC Senators Brent Jackson (R), Andrew Brock (R) and Jim Davis (R)


We reap what we sow, and now these three big-lobby colluders are proposing to dismantle all climate legislation (NC Senate Bill 171). Yes I said all. The fact that they could even sit down and come up with this bill is evidence that they are not interested in the good of the people, only the coffers of their sponsors.
These extremists are crafting our laws here in NC as we speak. Take a look at the bill proposals and voting records (Jackson, Davis, Brock) if you want more evidence. We have a lot of work to clean up NC politics, and it doesn’t end with just these three. Mike Hagar is sponsoring House Bill 298 (along with others), to eliminate requirements for utilities to provide even a small portion of power from renewables. Let’s pay careful attention here, this is not what we want for our children and our future. Please take enough of a role in politics to help keep this extremism at bay, and keep these extremists out of our government.