My name is Winston Hearn, and I am interested in all aspects of life. I read a lot of essays and articles and this blog is where I post links I want to reference later and thoughts stemming from recent readings.
I'm @suchwinston on Twitter.
To pay my bills, I am a front-end developer find out more here.
Hey have you noticed that there’s a lot of optimism about “technology” lately? About how it’s going to save the world and reduce poverty make us all happier, even as the people who build it downplay all the very concerning structural and discriminatory issues within the software development industry?
I have. And I’m curious to find some historical context - about the rise of our industry, yes, but even further back. So I’ve been thinking about the industry I work in from two perspectives: first the language used when describing the field and its potential, and second the opportunities it provides for people (like myself!) to make a decent income without necessarily going to college.
So what I have are some working theories about these ways of examining the industry; theories that are really shallow at the moment and, I’m afraid, lacking any historical context or parallels.
Can you help me? Do you know of books, or articles, or posts, or even writers who may have insight to help me consider these issues more deeply?
The language perspective seems – to me – to draw a great deal from the American beliefs in progress and being the “promised land” and so on and so forth, so I’m curious if I may find some historical parallels in the development of the railroad and telegram. Therefore, I want to learn more about that subject! How did we describe those technologies? Who was optimistic, who was skeptical, and what were their arguments? Does it ring familiar?
As for the financial opportunity perspective, I am curious how close the rise of software development as an industry mirrors the post-war industrial growth in America; the fabled era when a high-school graduate could get a job at a factory and make a nice middle-class life for himself. How similar is our current situation? How vastly different is it? I don’t know! I want to learn.
And, AND, I want to learn about the discriminatory structures of past eras - what they looked like, why and how they were defended, whatever I can learn.
I have so many questions and a really insane need to have a big-picture view of the industry I work in. I am very, very dissatisfied with the structures we have in place because they strike me as a mindset that Schumaker (summarizing Keynes) puts thus:
Beware! Ethical considerations are not merely irrelevant, they are an actual hindrance, “for foul is useful and fair is not.” The time for fairness is not yet. The road to heaven is paved with bad intentions.
I see the software industry Thought Leaders promoting this idea far too often - the idea that if we can just be free to do whatever now, the end result will be puppies and unicorns for everyone. Color me skeptical!
I’m @suchwinston on twitter, please send suggestions there! So thanks in advance for any links, thoughts, suggestions or help. If I compile a good list, I’ll make sure to follow up here with the leads, so that we can learn together!
This past weekend found me with spare time to catch up on my Instapaper queue and a few things I read stuck out as worth sharing, so I thought I’d gather them here in case you’re stocking up for the holiday weekend!
Tressie McMillan Cottom, whom I hope you follow on twitter as she’s brilliant and funny, dives deep into the new economics of college. Fantastic essay on the factors we must weigh regarding college now. (Cottom also wrote the excellent essay The Logic of Stupid Poor People which is well worth your time)
I do hope you’ve read some of Robinson’s work - her prose (both fiction and non) are incredible. This is a brief interview with her that may be of comfort to anyone wrestling through an evangelical background, or just anyone who enjoys hearing smart people’s thoughts.
Josie Duffy has a moving personal essay about skin color and heritage and the narratives that define our lives.
McKay Coppins, writing for Buzzfeed, reports on Senator Paul Ryan’s personal campaign to go into inner-cities and listen to the people doing the hard work to try and build a “conservative” solution to the epidemic of poverty in America. The article came off as respectful even if the author makes it clear he’s not sure a solution can be found.
Ta-Nehesi Coates on the way highly visible racists like Clive Bundy and Donald Sterling make it easier for the rest of us to ignore the racist beliefs and behaviors we perpetuate.
RookieMag listens to and passes along the stories of four women raised in Foster Care. Hopeful, in a sort of everything is broken manner.
The Toast has this personal essay from a sexual abuse survivor about the ways we treat people who, as adults, attempt to expose abuse that was committed against them years prior. This essay is awful to read but needs to be listened to, as the author so clearly lays out the pain and turmoil of her battles.
ProPublica on the ways the Justice Department has changed their approach to white collar crimes and how corporations now abuse that power. Focuses on the one person who went to jail after the 2008 economic crash to help us understand why serious crimes were committed but no one was punished.
Nate Blakeslee, writing for Texas Monthly, explores the legal murkiness surrounding the Border Patrol. The Border Patrol falls on the gray line between police unit and military unit, and the higher ups in the organization seem to be fine with leaving the questions unanswered, despite it having very real consequences for people who live along both sides of the border.
Ok, the list above is really heavy, so here’s a light one. Hopefully you’ve seen MST3K, the show that made it cool to talk during movies. Hopefully you’ve loved it. Wired presents the oral history from most everyone involved in the show.
The issue is that masculinity has been measured so narrowly that men can no longer evaluate their worth, particularly as women step into traditional male roles such as breadwinner, boss, or sexual aggressor. “If you’re told there is only one way to be a man,” Perera says, “but in your relationship you’re not the funny one, the ambitious one, the one with the money, what do you bring to the table? ” This has created an identity crisis, even for men who embrace the evolving status quo.
(…)Teaching young men to trust, communicate, negotiate, and empathize does not undermine or threaten their manliness. It expands their humanity. It reclaims men’s possibilities.
The more I hear and learn of Jimmy Carter, the more he has my immense respect.
Today at the Disney Stockholder meeting Disney confirmed that Brad Bird is currently developing a script for a sequel to The Incredibles. This makes me BEYOND excited. I love The Incredibles and I can’t wait to spend more time in that world!
Everytime Pixar announces a sequel to one of their films I see the same complaints go around. People are afraid that Pixar is just chasing profits or they’ve lost all their creativity or something else. And maybe, just maybe there’s some validity to the fears because of Cars 2. But one bad film does not a pattern make.
Pixar, as a film studio in the modern world of marketing and Hollywood blockbusters stands alone as a place dedicated to its filmmakers. And with that goal in mind, they spend years (seriously, it takes about 4 years to produce one of their films) literally building a world. Have you ever looked at one of their Art of books? They have to worry about every detail of the film - not just who the characters are but how the world is shaped, what the textures of the furniture is, how light reflects off of surfaces, what colors are permissible in which contexts.
The creation of a Pixar film is not simply the writing of a story in a word-sense, it is the writing of a story in a world-building sense. And when storytellers take the time to do this, who can blame them for wanting to spend more time in the world they created?
The internet is filled with fans enjoying this desire in the fan-art and fan-fiction worlds; Pixar takes that to the ultimate level of giving their filmmakers the freedom to re-enter the world and find other stories from the characters’ lives that are worth telling.
Brad Bird is working on a script for The Incredibles 2 and should he find a story he wants to tell, you can believe that Pixar will put its incredible amount of storytelling artistry behind him to help him tell it in a wonderful way. I for one have no skepticism. If it’s bad, I’ll know once I see it. Until that day I’ll trust that the Pixar storytelling guild still has ridiculous standards of excellence that produce far more successes than failures.
Wednesday Freya and Win and I went to Disneyland. First time for all of us. It was really fun and we definitely enjoyed the experience but one small moment stood above the rest of the day as truly magical. I guess this term is supposed to be used for all moments at Disneyland; alas this was the only moment for me that registered on that level.
We were leaving one section of the park mid-afternoon. We had a sleepy child who had not napped as much as he needed; Freya and I were both kinda hungry; our feet were both definitely sore. But we noticed off to the side the line to meet Merida from Pixar’s Brave. Both of us were curious to see how accurate the Cast Member was to the character in the film, so we wandered over to see. When we arrived, the woman playing Merida was talking to the girl at the front of the line before they wandered over together to take a photo.
Even now as I recount this simple moment my eyes are tearing up because it was exquisite. Perhaps it’s the fact that Merida isn’t the traditional Disney Princess; perhaps it’s that her story has nothing to do with Prince Charming; perhaps it’s just the fact that the film was rather maligned and I like underdogs; whatever it is, there is something in Brave that I absolutely love. Wednesday confirmed this because the young lady we saw looked alive as she talked to the cast member playing Merida.
The girl talking to Merida couldn’t have been older than 8 and she was ecstatic to talk to someone who was clearly a hero. She had a Brave shirt on and she was rambling on and on to Merida about who knows what (she was far out of earshot). Whatever she had to say, she was excited and her energy was obvious to anyone who caught a glance of her interactions with Merida. She didn’t seem shy, she didn’t seem starstruck - she seemed brave. Seeing her talk to a character that she clearly loved and admired was a beautiful experience because I too find so much to love in the themes of Brave and the character of Merida - themes of being true to myself and loving those around me and yes, believing in the magic of non-romantic love.
All of this seems worth mentioning today because Editorially is shutting down. Editorially first crossed my radar because I had sketched in a notebook the idea of version control for writing after I first started working with Git in development. I never did anything with the idea but when I saw Editorially I knew the idea was being realized better than I personally could have ever imagined.
But they did.
For the past 4 months or so, I very much felt like what it must have been like for the young girl we saw at Disneyland. The team was incredible to work with and I genuinely enjoyed the time spent virtually with them in chat and face-to-face via Google hangouts. It is strange to realize that I have never actually met any of the team in person because I’m more fond of this team - as a whole and as individuals - than I have been of any other company I’ve worked for.
In my experience, encountering heroes always risks the chance of finding out they are kind of awful and not worth admiring. Wednesday I saw a young girl thrilled to meet one of her heroes and I could see from her smile that it was everything she hoped and more. Until that moment, I didn’t really have a way to explain what it’s been like to be a part of the team building Editorially. Working with this team was the rare chance to meet and spend time with people whose thoughts and work I have long respected and it was completely magical. I am sad that the job is ending, sad that the app is no longer around to help people write and collaborate, but mostly I am sad that I don’t get to be around these wonderful people on a daily basis anymore.
Jim Hinch’s examination of the shifting landscape of Christianity in America through the lens of Orange County and its Crystal Cathedral is fascinating and enjoyable. Culture is constantly changing and until now Christianity has arguably been a major force in the changes. This article is persuasive in its suggestion that religion may have far less of an overt impact in the coming decades, for better or worse.
That, to me, is the real problem. It’s also why I’ve used the terms “stereotypically male” and “stereotypically female” in this article; I’m sure that some part of our debating styles is due to how much testosterone is floating around our bodies, but some large part of it is learned. If you’re accustomed to arguing on radio programs, you have to shout because otherwise you would not get to speak. If you majored in women’s studies, you’ve probably had it drilled into you that shouting is “denying someone her voice.” On a talk radio show, crying would immediately invalidate your argument. At a feminist conference, shouting would make you the oppressor. I’m suggesting that both crying and shouting are emotional expressions, that some of these emotions are more destructive to debate and dialogue than others, and that we should all recognize our emotions and then channel them into rational discourse. That means dudes, too.
(…) I want a model of discourse in which we all behave like adults: mostly calm, as rational as possible, and informed but not controlled by our emotions. I would like a model of discourse in which stereotypically female emotions are less stigmatized, and stereotypically male emotions — especially destructive ones — are not given a free pass. I’d like us to acknowledge that we’re all emotional beings, and if Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh get national airtime to completely give in to those emotions, there’s no argument to be made anymore that women “too emotional” for anything. I’d like us to acknowledge that uncontrolled emotions are the cause of most crime, and most crime is committed by men.
This should really be shouted from the rooftops, although only if other people aren’t in the middle of a sentence. I am guilty of cutting people off mid-sentence more than I like to admit and it’s a learned behavior I must unlearn.
The economics of permanence implies a profound reorientation of science and technology, which have to open their doors to wisdom and, in fact, have to incorporate wisdom into their very structure. Scientific or technological “solutions” which poison the environment or degrade the social structure and man himself are of no benefit, no matter how brilliantly conceived or how great their superficial attraction. Ever-bigger machines, entailing ever-bigger concentrations of economic power and exterting ever-greater violence against the environment, do not represent progress: they are a denial of wisdom.
Wisdom demands a new orientation of science and technology towards the organic, the gentle, the non-violent, the elegant and beautiful. Peace, as has often been said, is indivisible – how then could peace be built on a foundation of reckless science and violent technology? We must look for a revolution in technology to give us inventions and machines which reverse the destructive trends now threatening us all.
I am underlining at least a sentence per page in this book and I wish I could afford to buy a copy for all my friends. It’s exquisite in its simply-stated arguments against modern economic thought. I will be chewing on this book for years to come.