“I Taught Her Everything I Knew”

I still follow the Savannah Morning News on Twitter. Since I’m not on Twitter that often and when I am there are always at least a couple of people in my timeline who are ranting or RTing a storm, I don’t tend to see Savannah News tweets all that often. I will say that I don’t like how often the tweet is someone’s mugshot, telling of another arrest, or how often it’s a young man with brown skin, because I know for a fact there are plenty of young caucasian men committing crimes in Savannah, but I don’t usually see those mugshots in my timeline. But maybe it’s just my timing, and if I were on Twitter all the time, I would see a balance of mugshots. I suppose it’s possible. Anyway, the reason I still follow the Savannah Morning News is that my mom is still in Savannah, and I still have a lot of affection for Savannah and Tybee, and sometimes they post something that I might want to read. A big storm washing out the Tybee road, a baby whale off Tybee, the death of a rescued turtle at the Tybee Marine Science Center, controversy over trying to get rid of Orange Crush from the Tybee Beach, that sort of thing. I don’t usually click on obituaries, but this time I did.

Teinique Gadson died at the age of 40 yesterday.

Tenique Gadson's facebook header

Tenique Gadson’s facebook header. Her feed is filled with positivity and thanks (and God), and her energy and spirit make you (or me, at least) want to be a better person.

I never met her, but I’d seen her name many times in relation to non-profits in Savannah (17 miles from the city of Tybee, where I lived) that were devoted to helping low-income people/families. When I started acupuncture school and we had to talk about where we might open a community acupuncture clinic in the future to help provide affordable healthcare to low-income/oppressed communities, I immediately thought of Savannah, and Teinique Gadson was the kind of person that I expected to be emailing in a few years if I did decide to head back there. Anyway, she did a lot of work that helped a lot of people, and probably didn’t get paid anywhere near what she was worth, as is the case with most community non-profits. I’m sorry her life ended so soon, both for her and her family, and for the Savannah communities that benefited from her efforts. I hope that some of the people she helped were inspired by her and might choose to give back to the community in kind. Since in addition to the work she did herself helping individuals she also did a ton of volunteer wrangling, I’m pretty sure there will be people carry on in her tradition.

So I clicked through to read this obituary. It mentioned her involvement as a teen with Youth Futures, and how it led her into community-building as a career and into the Executive Director position at the Neighborhood Improvement Association. I hadn’t known much about her background, just her current activity, so I would have liked to read more than 2 sentences about how she got there. I mean, this was an impressive woman, and an inspiring one. I wanted the obituary to outline her accomplishments and challenges and paint a real picture of this person who was so important to so many people in the community. That’s what obits usually do for civic leaders. But it didn’t, really. Then it quoted the previous ED of the NIA, Edward Chisholm, and I was super bummed. He’s also an impressive person who does a lot for the community, but here’s the quote:

Chisolm said he identified Gadson early for her intelligence and as a “person who cared about the organization, the work.”

“I taught her everything I knew,” he said, adding that he “basically hand-picked her. She was very, very insightful, very smart with great ideas. She loved people.”

I like to think that Mr. Chisolm didn’t mean to turn a tribute to Ms. Gadson into self-congratulatory praise about his acumen as a mentor. I like to think that the reporter didn’t realize he just changed the focus of the story from the amazing woman who died to the man who is still living. I like to think these things, because if they’re true it means that these guys don’t subconsciously think that the male accomplishment of recognizing talent trumps the female accomplishment of having and using talent. But it’s Savannah. It’s the U.S. And we are continually socialized this way. So I doubt they thought they were saying or doing anything disrespectful, and I’d guess that Ms. Gadson herself would have been touched to hear Mr. Chisholm say how special she was.

The next time they’re talking about someone special, though, I hope they’ll stick to the part about how special that person was, and not how awesome someone else was for recognizing it. Probably there are some people reading this thinking that I’m too sensitive, that having a great man say in public that he recognized a woman (or anyone) as a worthy successor is high praise indeed. Erm, sure, but there are better ways to laud a mentee than to congratulate the mentor. It could have said something more like:

Chisolm said Gadson distinguished herself early with her intelligence and as a “person who cared about the organization, the work.”

“She absorbed everything that was available to learn, and when it was time to choose my successor as Executive Director of the NIA, she was the only pick,” he said, adding that, “She was very, very insightful, very smart with great ideas. She loved people.”

I know that this is a small thing. That it’s a couple of words. That compared to what’s going on in Baltimore and Nepal right now, this is nothing. But Teinique Gadson kicked serious ass, and those couple of words do make a difference. And for women to be recognized equally for the work they do, one of the things that needs to happen is for men to stop taking credit for discovering them.

An additional post went up on the Savannah Morning News site this morning so that former mayor Otis Johnson could add his praise of Ms. Godson. As Johnson was one of the leaders of the Youth Futures program that gave Ms. Godson her start, it made sense. He said:

“She was evidence of what we were trying to do with the  Youth Futures Authority,” Johnson said, adding she came to the  authority as a young person and worked her way up to director of NIA where she was a founding member.

“I have always been very proud of her  progress,” Johnson said. “She was a sterling example of what we were trying to do and did do, at the Youth Futures Authority.”

“It really distresses me greatly that she was taken away at such an early age.”

Rest in peace, Teinique Godson.

Tiny Desk Concert: Fantastic Negrito

A few weeks ago (months ago? I lose track) I spent several days listening to Tiny Desk Concerts from NPR. At the Press Publish conference in Phoenix recently, I gave a talk on how to publish more posts with less work, and one of the things I suggested was doing a series of embeds to show your readers things you like. In the presentation I used a Tiny Desk concert by a folksinger (and embedded it onto a cat’s blog), but I’ve been thinking about doing a series of Tiny Desk embed posts ever since I heard this show by Fantastic Negrito.

It says a lot that, with almost 7,000 entries to choose from, we selected Fantastic Negrito as the winner of our Tiny Desk Concert Contest. For his winning submission, he performed “Lost In A Crowd” in a freight elevator in Oakland. It was his passion, his voice and his backing band that landed him an invitation to perform behind my desk.
—Bob Boilen, NPR Tiny Desk Concerts

Epigenetics

I’m taking a class on behavioral neuroscience. As expected, everything is fascinating and I’d like to spend all day for a few years just learning about how brains work — there’s been so much new research and development of knowledge since I was last immersed in studying anatomy/physiology/psychology around 20 years ago. Just now I watched this Nova video about epigenetics, and my mind is racing with ideas and implications. Holy crap, this class is going to be cool.

School, Cancer, and Smoking

I’m taking a medical terminology class as a co-requisite for my acupuncture program. It’s a pain in the ass because it will drag out for a whole semester, and if I had the option I would test out of it — I remember all this stuff from massage school 15 years ago and my various stints as a medical assistant (which in one case included medical transcription). They don’t allow testing out, though, and while the lectures and practice exercises are posted in advance, the assignments and tests are released on a weekly basis, and I have to log in at least 3 times per week to pass the class. This morning I’ve been doing the exercises for the chapter on oncology, and it’s brought up some memories.

One:

  • My Irish grandfather’s thick head of silver hair — complete with “Irish wave” — disappearing due to chemo, leaving him first bald as a pool cue (with a freckled scalp), then the possessor of wispy baby-fine white hair. Adiós, silver fox hair.
  • Hearing about my grandfather’s decline during chemo while I was across the country.
  • The excitement of hearing the chemo had worked.
  • The anger when the cancer came back.
  • The selfish despair when he decided not to do chemo a second time. “Go through that again? For what? I’m done.”
  • Family strife in the wake of his death.

Two:

  • My stepfather, who bounced back from a heart attack and open heart surgery as if nothing had ever been wrong and showing no outward physical changes, becoming a walking skeleton wrapped in papery skin.
  • Troubleshooting a stubborn oxygen tank replacement.
  • Buying a bed, having it delivered and set up in the living room, and carrying the nice mattress down from upstairs because he couldn’t climb stairs anymore. Not being able to use my hands without pain for a few days because that was too much for my bad wrists.
  • Looking at x-rays and scans with the pulmonary oncologist and hearing, “You know, a long-time smoker who’s destined to get cancer could have caught it sooner by getting regular chest films. Not catching it until Stage 4, there’s really nothing to be done.”
  • Hanging out with the technician during the PET scan because my heretofore-unwilling-to-show-any-emotion-except-anger-or-rage stepfather was afraid and didn’t want to be alone.
  • Teaching my stepfather the right way to hold the steroid inhaler.
  • Pretending it didn’t bother my bad wrists to have to load up the wheelchair and extra oxygen into my car every time we went to chemo.
  • Running down 5 flights of stairs so fast I almost broke my leg in a fall trying to get to the street as quickly as a I could to catch a cab while booking a flight on my Treo.
  • Driving 90 miles per hour from the airport an hour and a half away from the hospital, because it was the only flight I could get on in time, trying to get to the hospital before he was going to be put into an induced coma for surgery from which they weren’t sure if he’d wake up.
  • Looking through the broconchoscope at the ruined cells and wondering how the hell he was still alive.
  • Watching my mother wear down from her partnership turning into a nursemaid-patient relationship, with a cranky patient.
  • Overhearing, “Do you still love me?” “You’ve made it hard to love you lately,” before taking the train back to NYC, exhausted from so many weekends of coming up to help with cancer care.
  • Helping with stupid chores that could have been done later, like taking an old refrigerator to the dump, because he didn’t want my mom to have to deal with it when he was gone.
  • Sleeping through the call the next day when he died.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths. Go lung cancer!

Smoking is a leading cause of lung cancer, as well as many other cancers, heart disease (I haven’t started flashing back to my grandmother’s heart disease and subsequent death yet, thankfully — also smoking-related), emphysema, and other bad stuff. Lung cancer rates are going up instead of down, despite how much we know about what smoking does to your body.

Seriously, people: stop smoking. Don’t put your family through this kind of death for you. Is your momentary addictive pleasure really worth their suffering later? Have some compassion for your future kids, your future grandkids, your future spouse, your future friends. Don’t be a selfish ass. Quit smoking now.

Defending Drupal

The last 7 years of my life have been all WordPress, all the time. In that time we went from powering around 2 million sites to many tens of millions. Today, W3Techs says:

WordPress is used by 23.6% of all the websites, that is a content management system market share of 60.8%.

I wish that sentence had a semicolon instead of a comma, but wow. Drupal, by comparison:

Drupal is used by 2.0% of all websites, that is 5.1% of all the websites whose content management system we know.

Sometimes, people like to pit WordPress and Drupal against each other, as if we are fighting each other, rather than fighting proprietary software. At WordCamps, meetups, or any professional gathering where someone asks a question (or makes a snarky comment) about Drupal, I point out that we are far more similar than we are different. “Open source CMS built with PHP” describes us both, as does any description of the contributor model, or even the economic models — how many times have I heard Acquia is to Drupal as Automattic is to WordPress? (A lot.) We’ve even shared booth space at the OSCON expo.

To drive the point home I often say that if you were stuck in an elevator/sitting next to someone on a plane, how psyched would you be to be sitting next to a Drupal person, who would totally get all your references and be able to have a conversation you’d enjoy? That usually gets a nod or two. Because, yeah, we’re a bunch of open source geeks who care way too much about things like software licenses and commit status and number of props. We are, in short, both ridiculous in the grand scheme of things — we’re not curing cancer or ending world hunger. At best we are powering the websites of those who are, and if we ceased to exist tomorrow, it wouldn’t be the end of the world (just of us). But free software is awesome, so yay! Let’s all be friends!

At conferences, people sometimes have been confused if I’m hanging around with Amye or other Drupal women I know and like. They ask, “Aren’t you rivals?” And then we laugh at them. Cue the more-alike-than-different stuff.

So I was kind of bummed today after all those years of defending Drupal and claiming kinship to see it pissing* all over WordPress today. But I should backtrack.

For years, people in the WP community have wished there was a way to pay the more advanced contributors to work on core full-time. Sure, Automattic, 10Up, Human Made, and other companies have been contributing some people, but there are only so many donated employees a company can float. We all get that. For a while people talked about the WordPress Foundation as a way to pay people to work on stuff, but that didn’t wind up being possible. So when people started doing things like Jtrip’s Indiegogo, it was a natural evolution, though it seemed not very scalable.

So when I saw Ruby Together a few weeks ago, I thought it was amazing.

screenshot of rubytogether.org

Then came the Drupal 8 fundraiser, and I thought that was pretty cool too. Matching donations and whatnot!

And then I saw this:

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 9.49.35 AM

I smiled, recognizing several people I quite like. But that one in the lower left, what?? I clicked through and saw this:

fundraising website for drupal 8 featuring a graphic of the Drupal logo peeing on the Joomla and WordPress logos

I was like, “What?”

Then I was like, “No, really, what?!”

I get it, this person thought this shirt from a previous Drupal event was funny and would fire people up to donate. But really?

That shirt is so completely tasteless I am horrified that the Drupal community endorses it.

And now we’re back to Drupal is pissing on WordPress.

I’ve given so many talks at WordCamps with a component about how it’s important to be nice, respectful, and welcoming — including the use of appropriate language and imagery — to the point that some people would really like to tell me to shut the fuck** up (or have!). I have extended that “let’s be nice” spiel to talking about Drupal multiple times. I would never design a tshirt that showed the W pissing on the Drupal (and I’ve designed a controversial WordCamp shirt or two in my time) because it’s not funny, it’s just tasteless and disrespectful. So that Drupal shirt makes me sad. I know that probably none of the people I know and like had a hand in making it. But it bums me out that as a community they seem to think it is okay, good even, if they’re willing to put it on the front page of the fundraiser.

“You can feel good about our project without putting down other projects, so let’s keep it clean.” I said something similar (s/our project/yourself) to my nieces and their friends when they were in 9th grade and had a habit of putting down other girls to feel better about themselves (as so many adolescents do). I hope more people will remember this in the future, and just because you can think of a snarky/sarcastic/mean/tasteless joke that elevates your side and pushes down the other doesn’t mean you should.

In any case, one person’s misstep shouldn’t be cause to demonize a whole project community. Assume good intentions. Reach out when something is awry instead of devolving into one-upmanship. Competition is healthy but there’s no reason to be jerks to each other. And also? Thinking there are sides is really silly. We’re all ridiculous open source CMS geeks. We’re all one side. Let’s stand together, y’all.


I’ve always hated the Calvin peeing stickers, and so has Bill Watterson.

** Profanity used intentionally to illustrate that it’s not appropriate language in a welcoming community.

… on a quiet word to music parents (shhh, don’t tell!)

Featured Image -- 4906

This is another reblog test, but also, music is good, and a totally vaild career choice. :)

just ponderin'

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Number One Son Sam, Jazz Student, on the Big Bass

Okay. Firstly….

Breathe.

It looks like little Johnny’s or Susie’s interest in the drums, or sax, or bass…

Or guitar, or piano, or clarinet, or flute, or didgeridoo…

Or that cute little triangle thingie they used to give you if you couldn’t play anything else, has lasted through elementary and middle school.

And now it looks like that cute little hobby that was supposed to stay a hobby has grown up and maniacally land-war’d itself into Potential Vocation territory, crushing the once-safe provinces of Medicine, Engineering, Nursing, Plumbing, Law, Accounting, and/or Fashion Merchandising along the way.

Particle Physics is still hanging on, but it doesn’t look good.

And you know this has happened because your perfect cherub just walked into the room and told you that they want to be… wait for it…

A musician.

Yes, they did tell you that.

Yes, they…

View original post 1,333 more words

On Blog Comments

I’m mostly testing the reblog feature right now, but this post by Christine Lee about comments was good. :)

Press Publish

Comments from readers are some of the most gratifying parts of blogging. Someone’s reading! Someone felt compelled to send a note!

Even more gratifying is when a lurker de-lurks and identifies him or herself. Those are times when I’ve re-read my post to see what on earth it was about THAT post that got someone to shed their anonymity, and introduce themselves.

It is very much like inviting guests into your home, and making a connection. And sometimes, making very good friends as they return repeatedly for your hospitality, and you in turn, invite them to return for their good grace.

So how do we make our home and blog inviting? And what it is that keeps people returning?

I’ve found that it’s about making your blog safe–and curating the comments, should people disagree and escalate disagreement into barbs. It’s starting a dialogue in your own post, and then facilitating…

View original post 88 more words