Privacy or Participation? You choose.

They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

-Ben Franklin

I was listening to yet another plead for good people to step away from Facebook because of privacy issues. This time the plead is motivated by yet another encroachment on privacy called the Facebook “Listening” feature an audio identification tool that records sounds in the room when you post on your phone.

Ben reading his Gmail.

Ben reading his Gmail

The Benjamin Franklin quote above always came to mind for me during the post 911 congressional freak out, when most of congress agreed to wipe their assess with the bill of rights. It struck me as very un-american. It made me sad even, because my dad had always proclaimed the importance of the bill of rights. It seemed like we were being reactionary cowards and abandoning the principles of freedom, liberty and equal justice (even though I know we only ever aimed at these things and didn’t really have them, it seemed now that we were spitting in the face of our highest ideals…I’m not a libertarian, but I share this view of privacy with libertarians.) But then came Gmail, Mint, Facebook and the rest. Where we pretty much agreed to abandon many of our rights to privacy.

Instead of giving up privacy for a little security, we are giving it up in order to participate in the new public square and to have access to free stuff. It’s weird, but it seems an inevitable march.  Frontline has a nice piece about this called “Privacy Lost.” As a counter point, Tim O’Rielly has this perspective. I think some of Tim’s points are a bit flawed, like where he says that people don’t have to use it if they don’t want to. I never liked that self-determination argument too much. It’s just used to justify a lot of misery in my opinion.

I am not quite sure what my thesis is with all this. It’s just some interesting bits about the state of politics, privacy and technology in these random times we are living.

Thank You Maya Angelou

I was co-editor of the Middlesex Community College newspaper and a founding member of “Voices” literary magazine, clawing my way back up the higher education ladder when I first was introduced to Maya Angelou. I am very grateful for my experiences at MCC. That year Dr. Angelou’s book, I know why the caged bird sings, was the common book selection. Everyone read it and it was incorporated into most of the course ware. I was so attracted to her story and the graceful, poetic style of her prose work. She draws in the reader with generosity and kindness, yet she is so very fierce. Later that year she paid a visit to the Lowell campus of MCC and I was spellbound.

Many years later, my wife and I read her memoirs and visited her old haunts in San Francisco. She really is a righteous, powerful force in the world and we are all better for the time she spent with us.

Mother’s Day

Mother’s day is coming this weekend. Here is a poem I penned for my lovely mother back in the day when I penned poems:

Finally a Poem for My Mother

Wondering what kind of poem is right for you,
years go by with words for others.
For wedded friends and once-upon-a-time lovers;
for settings and sunsets; great joy, flat sorrow and
marvel at simple things.
Poems for teachers, fathers, even dogs or rain
Or the welcome smell of bread
like a warm cottage in a damp wood
and the new rays of spring light
that wake long tired spirits to rise
up out of drowsy winter.

Poems for all these
through the years have come
but for a mother there are few.

Perhaps it is the fallibility of
poems and words
That could never rightly paint
the astounding presence of spirit
over a loud expanding family of seeming innocents
who are each wise, when cornered,
rife with talent and the strange gift of empathy;
who are open with each other and in love
with the possibilities of the world.

Because at the core – beneath
the light cynicism of day to day –
they have hope and they have faith.

Perhaps no poems come
because you will them away
with merciless, indomitable Irish modesty,
or whatever it is that lets you dance around  in a tutu
lilting slightly flat tunes
in front of principals, superintendents and
god knows who else
one moment
But be as private and reserved as the reverend mother
the next

Perhaps no poem can find you
because you are on the internet
or at “Decells” shopping for some one else
or rebuilding a church
or at some grandchild’s soccer game, concert recital,
graduation day, birthday party, stage performance,
arts & crafts fair, etc.
or feeding someone
or buying food to one day possibly feed to someone
or listening to someone’s point of view
or challenging someone’s point of view
or patiently helping the ones you love
get where they need to that day

I guess the right poem for you is none.
You claim to never understand them anyways
and it’s doubtful that justice could ever be done
through a verse about daisies and April rain
So I’ll just say what a marvelous 70 years!
Through God’s grace we’ve been blessed having you here
and just so you don’t think I’m wasting your time
To make it seem like a poem I’ll end with a rhyme.


I remember first hearing about Agile Scrum way back in the olden days of 1999 at HighPoint systems. The lead developer for the “Web Store” was going on about a “backlog” and was generally very excited. I know Agile Scrum was at least 10 years old by 1999, but it was news to me at the time. Since then it has really crept its way in from the R&D and commercial software development world to the world of in-house corporate IT projects. It was funny this past weekend to see it mentioned on the HBO show Silicon Valley. They threw up a Scrum Board on the show, and I told my wife “I have one of those.”

Here’s a look at the Scrum Board we are using on my data migration project right now:

Scrum Board

Scrum Board

The key is to make sure things keep moving from left to right ;-). I know there’s software for Scrum Boards now days, but the tactile focal point of a real board and tape and markers…man you just can’t beat it.