Quality vs Quantity vs Instantaneous Gratification

The holiday season is upon us, and with that declaration comes a story I'd like to tell.

Let's say for a moment, you are considering buying a software suite that will handle all of your business needs. There will be payroll & accounting, project management, customer service and support, R&D, and human resources. This software will expand with your business over the coming months and years, and you are guaranteed to be covered by a 10 year warranty should the software fail to meet those new needs. The stipulation, of course, is that you must wait for the code to be written as it is not a business-in-a-box solution. You're not trial testing a demo, downloading a pirated copy, or outsourcing the coding team as a one time event. No, you're investing in a turnkey solution to help you now and down the road. With much forethought, you plunk down several grand to get the process started.

Much to your chagrin, upon installing the first piece of software after months of waiting, the security protocols embedded in a specific process fail and send a domino effect down the chain, ultimately crashing the entire suite. Rightly so, core leadership is livid and investors get wind of this within hours. It's a right mess and it's all yours to own. The software can be fixed, but again, this takes time. There's no GitHub fork here; this is custom coded for your exact needs. You call the customer service agent and he explains he will create a case and send it to the correct team(s) for further review. This does not satisfy your anger and you launch into a spiel about the amount of time and financial capital wasted on a project that doesn't work.

He says he understands but... again quality takes time. If the company were to make private forks of the software, it would signal to investors and the public alike that the company doesn't trust its own software; it's merely waiting for it to break upon install or heavy usage. Then they wouldn't be able to command the prices they do for custom solutions. It could be misconstrued as mis-advertising and possibly even fraud or theft if the company were to make backups and private forks of custom solutions.

He says the company is terribly sorry and he will do everything in his authority to manage the case to the right hands and turn over with expediency, providing a rectification at no cost to your business. It sounds reasonable that this software should be pored over with a microscope, and that this would take time. You let him do his job and go to core leadership with the results of the phone call. They wanted the software within a week as investors are now quite wary, as are clients.

The above story is a a sampling of what I deal with every day. People who have bought the Lexus and when something goes wrong in that 1% margin of manufacturing error, they want a Honda solution. They want to be able to walk into a virtual showroom, grab a box, ring it up at the cashier's table, and stroll out happy. But it's clear they value quality. They value high-end products and services to meet their needs, because they understand what this says about their business. They just don't want to wait because they don't understand or value that quality can take time; it is a painstaking process to code, compile, code some more, recompile, insert all required security and assorted protocols correctly. They want multiple copies of software in case something goes wrong, but they don't want to pay for it.

This is the sum total of my days. Interacting with people who value quality because of its symbolic nature and persuasion to gain what they want from the business world. These same people, however, have the attention span and patience threshold of a toddler, and in many cases, that's a generous attribution. Folks, if you buy quality, be prepared to invest more than financial capital. Be prepared to invest a bit of time for a quality high-end product or service because ultimately that's why you're paying the price point.

White Privilege: What it means, How it's quantified

There's been some talk in the wake of the elections, about the concept of White Privilege. It's something that's far overdue for me to address and so I'd like to take a moment to do so as succinctly but as concisely as I am able. Everyone knows bullet points, so let's try that method.

Claim: I am white but I am economically poor. Therefore I do not have White Privilege.

The problem with this claim is the glaring oversight into what privilege means. Privilege is having access, whether used or not, to resources and opportunities those without privilege do not have. White Privilege is not an article of clothing can remove at one's whim and decide to not wear it. It goes where you go, just as any -ism does. Being economically poor means you can be white and have access, a step up, the socioeconomic ladder. Poor people exist everywhere; being a POC and poor is not proof of current racism but is indicative of a systematic problem in which POC are still under the weight their ancestors not having privilege. For the voices in the crowd that say poor POC ought to be able to pull themselves together because of social safety nets, Jim Crow laws weren't passed all that long ago. POC have been oppressed for hundreds of years so these things take time, they don't right themselves in a generation or two.

Claim: POC are just as racist as anyone else. Therefore, this justifies/cancel out any White Privilege I may have.

Again, the apparent circumventing of ownership is the key issue here. POC can indeed be prejudice and hateful. However, I would like to add that historically speaking, they are also not privileged and thus, not racist because they don't have certain societal privileges and power. One can have opinions/leanings/beliefs without power to enact and benefit from them, just as one can own a car with no engine. Prejudice does not cancel out systematic and systemic racism from which White Privilege benefits from and is a symptomatic problem.

I've never looked down or oppressed a POC in my life. I love everyone equally.

That may be so, but again, WP is not an article of clothing one can deem undesirable and shuck off at a moment's notice. Even those of us making amends and being aware of our WP, are benefitting from it whilst acknowledging it needs to be dismantled and equality/equity given their rightful place in society. Just as humans are multifaceted social beings, so are situations in which power and privilege exist. One can love and accept POC and still benefit from their ancestors and yes, current oppression. It's not a binary position.

Hopefully this crash course in WP has been helpful and if anyone's interested in being a guardian angel, wear your safety pin. You might be the lighthouse someone needs today in Trump's America.

Eulogy

I don't know how many of my fellow US citisens feel about the current political climate, but I think no matter what side of the fence we fall on, we can all agree it's a bloody mess. The last year has unfurled a lot of subterfuge fueled by hate for "the other side". The world has watched as the so-called options for a President have been narrowed by the system to an orange, ostentatious race-baiting sexist and a nonchalant but cunning lawyer and former Secretary of State under indictment on several charges. It's not a pretty scene here in North America and my first question upon examination of this is: if a billionaire real estate developer who has swindled numerous corporations and individuals and then went bankrupt, can rise to the top and a known lawyer can twist the law to her advantage and escape penalty either by bribery, coercion, or murder then what does this spell for the ordinary citisen? How do we fare in all of this?

From the usual personal attacks to outright violation of law by the very institutions deemed to uphold it, this race has become yet another signifier that perhaps the American experiment is truly dead. We may now be in the throes of what is known globally as a "coup", not militarily, but rather deeper than that. The trust factor has been totally eliminated and cards are being played that have been hidden up sleeves for quite some time.

The only allegiance I can visibly see is not to a flag, or to the progress of a nation through statesmanship and democratic compromise, but to win at all costs and defeat that "other side". The electorate stands enraged, confused, polarised, and most of all, uninspired...

It's almost unreal.

The Urban Environment As A Regenerative System

We have large portions of urban dwellers whose legitimacy is questioned, thus we need to create a new narrative, a vision of the city that includes everyone. The question is rarely asked, “Who is the city for?” but is seemingly a foregone conclusion and thus issues of trust, equality, equity and sustainability are forgotten in the process of extractive productivity.

Extractive systems beget socioeconomically depressed regions because they rely on inequality to function; the car vs the pedestrian, the rich vs the poor, the native vs the immigrant. Similarly, when a structure has been used to its capacity, many times it is abandoned and left to degrade. Sometimes it is repurposed into something similar but not regenerative to the organism, or the host, that is the city, because of the inherent restriction of extractive systems. The Commons, that is, public space, does not need to be privatised to be valuable to all. Social capital is what makes cities and cities ought to be built around people, not technology, because the former has a connection to the landscape and the latter can not measure this variable. Big data shows large swaths of numbers, while thick data shows a more qualitative analysis and this is what social urbaneering seeks to understand -- what is it these stories tell and how do we apply that data to livable cities?

It has been predicted through the usage of biophysics (e coli formulations in jars that represent said cities) that by 2050, the planet will have 11 billion inhabitants and most of those will be in the 25 super-metropolis areas which are, not surprisingly, located in Asia. It is time to reform our cities and our urban economies so that they regenerate life rather than extract from the population and the environment. In a future entry, I will shed more insight into what is available in regards to urban design. For more immediate info, watch this 90 minute presentation on the subject.

Anthropological insight into conflicts over urban space

An 18th Century Creature

Election season is winding down here in the States.

The Republican Party got trumped (again) because it has no intellectual philosophy of governance. It has a clot of negations of other people’s ideas. You can’t run a complex, multicultural, nuclear-weaponed nation-state with the gut feeling that government is bad, and so the less we have of it, the better off we will be. Thus, being against philosophies of governance, climate science and evolution in particular, and science in general, left the Republican Party without an intellectual immune system and the infection of nativism and white male anger took it over.

Meanwhile, the Democrats are a cursed party on their way to hell, who have betrayed their hope for reform, in the most brutal manner possible and sold their soul to the highest bidder, domestic and foreign. There are several people like the GB Labour Party's Corbyn in the Democratic Party, but they have been all but silenced. Bernie Sanders received the airtime he did because he was allowed to by the establishment on both sides of the aisle. Almost as an example to say, "We'll let you get some press time and then we'll crush you so others don't speak up in the future."

It's complicated because the US is a different society than its Western allies, but part of the answer is to be found in the way each party has treated "the communist and socialist left" since World War 2. Here, the Democrats participated in their suppression and have worked hard to prevent any resurgence, either in politics or in the unions. As a result, the Republican Party have had a resurgence in recent years, and really quite a good time of it since the mid 50's save for the Nixon era. (Ironically, the group who complain the most about "unfair media bias" are ...you guessed it: the Republican Party.) The fact of the matter is that progress has been halted in this country because of the aforementioned suppression; one being intrinsic to Republican party principles, one being simple a form of Democrat NIMBYism. The anti-communist/socialist fervor which still has remnants today is an extension of the Alien and Sedition Act from 1800.

To that, I would add that the American constitutional design was explicitly intended to completely eliminate citisen participation in governing directly. (See federalist 63) This manifested in an amending article with enormous supermajorities required from governmental officials and Constitution-created entities — the states. The result has been the intended one, the prevention of political innovation. So in many ways the United States government, and the society it structures, is still a creature of the 18th century.

Exit

It's been about a week and a half since I arrived back in the States from México. I've had some time to process my thoughts, deal with reverse culture shock, and think about my next move(s).

Travel is a bit like a relationship. You water it a little each day and it grows. It gets inside of you, it changes you.

México was an adventure that ended rather prematurely for me, but no less made its mark. I journeyed there as a response to a private longing to return after being in Ensenada in the middle/late 2000s. Having accomplished this, I now know more about myself but also of my friends to the South. I'd like less to build a wall and more to build a bridge. México, in all its weird and shady history, in all of its varied landscapes, and its multitude of cultures, is an incredibly beautiful place that should be afforded a visit by all. That being said, I think it's time to hang up the hobo hat on the rack and put on another one with less plumage:

“All travel has its advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it.” — Samuel Johnson

Part of my reason for travelling is a constant discontent with the States. I was born here but let's be honest -- not everyone adores where their parents conceived them. It happens to be a location on a piece of paper I have to show strange people in uniforms who want to touch me every so often when I cross an imaginary line. In the past, I've resigned the country to the following quote:

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” — Isaac Asimov

But things have changed. Something happens, Samuel Johnson said, to people who travel.

Perhaps that something has happened to me. It's not that I've suddenly lost my wanderlust, or that I'll be canvassing the streets for voter registration or give two hoots about most news headlines. But I do see a need for real change, both in my trajectory, and in the country I was born in. So in that spirit, I've decided to return to the world of academia, and pursue a degree in Urban Design/Urbanism with a concentration on either Ethnography or Film Studies.

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