Friday, April 24, 2015

Blacker than thou ... again and again

Last update: Friday 4/24/15
When I joined the faculty of Howard University in Washington, DC way back in the 1972 Fall semester, I was not just coming to Howard; I was also fleeing from Harvard. I was in flight because I knew that if I stayed in Cambridge for another year, I might have some kind of a breakdown.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Obama writes one line of Javascript code and ... ???

You probably read yesterday's news that global warming stopped increasing, that the Arabs and Israelis finally came to a two state solution, and that Ebola stopped spreading in West Africa. All of these near-miraculous events happened because of President Obama's Mighty Line of Code. I hope you don't think that I have become a cynical curmudgeon, but I can't help wondering how much more good he could have done if he had stayed at his computer long enough to write two lines ... or ... dare I say it, three lines?????

On the other hand, I also wonder how many kiddies will turn to their tutors, ten minutes into their "Hour of Code", and say, "That's it. I'm outta here. If one line was good enough for the president ... but, hey, that was great fun. Let's do this again next year in the next Computer Science Education Week." 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Failure to Indict in Ferguson

Last update: 11/27/14 @ 3:23 am
Like most black Americans, I went to bed last night enraged by the failure of the grand jury in Ferguson, MO, to indict Darren Wilson, the 6' 4" 210 pound police officer who killed Michael Brown, an unarmed 6' 4" 290 pound black teenager last summer. I was especially troubled by reports that officer Wilson had fired twelve shots, hitting the unarmed 18 year-old six times. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Hello world!!! -- an old programmer's joke ... or a joke on an old programmer???

Last update: Friday 10/31/14 @ 10:39 am

I had an interesting day at "pre work" yesterday. Having been forcibly "retired" before my time back in January, I am retooling myself for re-entry into the job market. As part of my preparations, I wrote my first Java app for my cell phone yesterday, using the Eclipse IDE and the Android Plugin. It was a family variation on the traditional "Hello world." My app not only said "Hello world" it also said hello to my two daughters, to my two granddaughters, and to our three dogs.

I showed my younger daughter my cellphone as we were walking down a busy street in Bethesda, MD yesterday afternoon. I clicked the icon and the greeting was displayed. She looked at it for for a couple of moments without saying anything ... then, not being a programmer, she finally asked, "So what does your app do?" ... whereupon I pointed to the phone and proudly replied, "That's what it does!!!" ... and she damned near fell off the curb because she was laughing so hard ... :-)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Pork in the Treetops

It's late (1:12 am) on Tuesday 9/2/14, but just as I was logging off I checked my email for the last time today. There, as usual, was "stuff" from the Obama political machine -- which I usually delete right after reading the "subject" because it is invariably a prelude to an hysterical plea for donations. I haven't cancelled my subscriptions to these spam machines because every now and then they identify a congressman or an issue that concerns me enough to make a contribution. Indeed, I long ago concluded that, as the saying goes, I was more likely to see pigs with wings than receive an email from the Obama crowd that asked for my feedback about anything they were determined to say to me. 

As readers of this occasional blog have probably figured out, I donated more than I could afford to give to both of President Obama's campaigns and served as a volunteer in both campaigns; but I am a very disgruntled supporter because of (a) his poor to mediocre performance, and (b) his failure to ask for input from his supporters -- a failure that I sincerely believe contributed to his poor to mediocre performance.

His political machine abused the Internet for the last six years by constantly whining for donations, yet never finding out which issues his contributors really cared about and why they cared. The all-to-apparent assumption of the wise guys who cranked out his e-spam was that their recipients were just walking piggy banks -- brainless low lifes who packed inexhaustible credit cards in their tummies. Therefore their emails "motivated" us dimwitted piggies by demonizing the GOP, reducing all issues to cries that we had to band together to fight unprecedented evil as personified by Boehner, Rove, and the Koch Brothers. They ignored the fact that Internet 2.0+ facilitates two-way communications. 

They never asked which issues we piggy banks really cared about and why we cared about these issues ... so they never learned the issues for which we would be most likely to cough up our credit cards ... until this evening when I received an email whose text was so shocking that I had to read it three times before I was sure that I wasn't seeing a digital mirage:

The final tally is in: we had our BEST AUGUST EVER for online donations. Thanks everyone! Now, we’re asking for 1 more thing: your opinion.

What’s your #1 issue?"

As goes the Chines proverb, a journey of one thousand miles begins with a single step ... even a baby step like this one. Of course, this particular baby step is laden with implicit insults to us piggy banks. One issue. One issue. That's all we get. Hey, we're piggy banks!!! How could we possibly cope with a complex political agenda that might involve four or five orthogonal concerns that could never be reduced to a single issue. But stop. Savor the moment. They actually asked for my opinion for the first time in six years and, presumably, for the opinions of thousands, perhaps millions of their other supporters ... Oh well ... better late then never ...

... but earlier might have made this administration far more effective ... and therefore might have made the U.S. of A. a far better place for blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, poor people, gays, the elderly, and all of the other "less than equal" groups within our society. The opportunity costs of President Obama's congenital incapacity to listen to what his supporters really cared about and why they cared about these issues has been incalculable.