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My own experience of race in Charlottesville

Thursday, August 23rd, 2018

I grew up in Charlottesville. Where all the Neo-nazi shit happened a year ago. I played flag football and capture the flag as a Boy Scout under the Statue that was the trigger for the whole episode. But I’m white so I don’t have much experience of being the target of racism. For me, growing up in Charlottesville, I never thought of people’s race much.

My first understanding of race differences was in retrospect years later.  I think it was sometime during middle school (more on that later).  My first encounter with race, though I didn’t know it, was when I was in kindergarden and first grade. One of my best friends was a boy who lived just a few minutes down the road named R—.  He was black, but I don’t recall ever thinking about that until much later.  I’d visit his house, he’d visit mine, we sat together on the bus, things like that.  I don’t remember much other than his first name and being fascinated by the fact that the living/dining room of his house was all one big room and there was a step in the middle (split level) unlink my house.

I think the first time I realised there was something about different skin colors was about the same time he moved, a couple bought the house just behind my parents, a couple who were mixed.  Someone adult must have said something at some point, I don’t remember, but I do remember wondering why it was an issue.  They had three kids, two girls — M—— and L—— and a boy, J—–.  We played with them regularly and it was never much of an issue. We discovered a bat on the ground of their back yard one summer day and after poking it (thinking it was a wounded mouse or something,) it flew away, bumping into at least one of the girls head or cheek on the way.  One of the worst spankings I ever got as a kid was after my older sister and I got caught playing with matches with those three.  Oops.  My sister and I were doing a “fire safety demo”.  We had a wood stove at home at the time so had been taught the rules before, though we weren’t allowed to use the matches. So we took the matches and the neighbour kids back into the woods behind the houses and showed the them how to light a fire (the fire was in the hollow of a cinder block) and how to put it out and make sure it was covered with soil.  Worse beating I ever got, my dad knew before we even got home.  Don’t know who squealed.  That’s a different story though.

I got a better concept of race and the issues with race in seventh grade, in Ms. B—–‘s social studies class. I don’t recall all the details but we covered the civil rights movement of the `60’s that year.  I went to middle school in Jackson P. Burley and as part of the lesson Ms. B—– explained that before integration Burley had been the black high school.  Maybe I already knew that, it was written above the main entrance; Jackson P. Burley High School, but I remember it from her lesson. We also covered the race issues that took place in Charlottesville in the `60’s, especially around the destruction of the Vinegar Hill district. As part of the same term I remember we also talked about the way that black culture was at the forefront of popular culture, from Jazz to Hip Hop. I have a vivid memory of sitting in that classroom with those school issue blue and white headphones on and listening to 2 Live Crew sing “Banned in the USA” (if you must [youtube.com]) and Bruce Springsteen’s original “Born in the USA” (to be fair [youtube.com]). “Banned in the USA” was probably my first exposure to any form of rap or hip hop.  MC Hammer doesn’t count, but I think I heard Funky Cold Medina that same year. I associate that song with a girl that was being made fun of, oops.

Outside of black or African American friends or schoolmates I think the only other experience I had with minorities through middle school was, as far as I remember, one kid who was Arabic.  I think.  His name, H—– was definitely of Arabic origin but I don’t think it was ever discussed. I was not until high school. Looking back I hung out with a diverse group of kids.  There was my neighbour, M—–. Who was black. As was O—.  F—- was Taiwanese, G—– was half Polynesian and J– was half Arabic.  Being a college town Charlottesville was diverse for its size compared to other nearby parts of Virginia.

The most negative experience I had around race in high school was when M—— was followed around a video store I once worked at and then the manager actually followed us out of the store and around the mall.  Trying to see if M—— had stolen something. Which he had not.

I guess all of that shaped my view of race.  I knew the negative shit, the racism and hate was out there but people’s skin color was never part of any mental process for me when deciding how to deal with a person or situation.

There was one other big factor that shaped my views, not directly on race, but on the wider subject of bigotry while I lived in Charlottesville: Club 216.  216 was the only real club in Charlottesville for dance music and I got big into the Techno and Dance scene my last year in high school.  I spent a lot of time in and around 216 over the next few years, until I moved to Northern Virginia. 216 was run by the Piedmont Triangle Society, of which you had to be a paid member to get in. If you don’t understand what that means… It was a gay and lesbian club operated by a gay an lesbian society. So I spent a lot of time around gay and lesbian people. I was friends with a lot of guy and lesbian people. Some well adjusted “normal” people, some… less so. But this was also never an issue.  They were just good company and their scene was the best dance scene in town.  I have a lot of great memories of Friday and Saturday nights in 216. And road trips with homo- and hetro- friends to seek out better parties at raves across Virginia and the mid-Atlantic region.

So that’s my experience of race in Charlottesville.  I know there was racism, and other bigotries, but there was a lot of acceptance and diversity too.  In my life after Charlottesville I had a lot more formative experiences with regards to race; reading The Invisible Man, living in London and traveling around Europe. Visiting Japan (where J——- famously said “I’m white, I’ve never experienced racism” when the only empty space on the rush hour train was around the four of us – all four of us white gaijin. And, of course, I’ve ended up marrying a ethnic Chinese Singaporean, so most of my family is not Chinese and I live as a minority in Singapore.  Where most of my day-to-day friends are Indians. 

P.S. If anyone wants to understand Charlottesville’s history of race from a wider perspective check out The Charlottesville Syllabus [medium.com] on Medium.

John Hamon

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

Today in my Facebook feed:

Finally I know who the man in the picture is! [confusion.cc] It’s been 17 years since I saw his face, and mistook it for someone my Ex knew.

Banks are watching…

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

This article [newyorker.com] in the New Yorker is depressing in third world corruption stench of the whole thing, but there is some silver lining: The fact that banks are submitting such detailed reports about possible fraudulent activities, and beyond just money movement they are paying attention to the context. This is heartening, if a bit Big Brother scary.

Banks are legally mandated to file suspicious-activity reports with the government in order to call attention to activity that resembles money laundering, fraud, and other criminal conduct

In paperwork filed with the bank, [Cohen] said that the company would be devoted to using “his experience in real estate to consult on commercial and residential” deals. Cohen told the bank that his transactions would be modest, and based within the United States. In fact, the compliance officers wrote, “a significant portion of the target account deposits continue to originate from entities that have no apparent connection to real estate or apparent need to engage Cohen as a real estate consultant.” Likewise, “a significant portion of the deposits continues to be derived from foreign entities.”

Ronan Farrow, in Missing Files Motivated the Leak of Michael Cohen’s Financial Records [newyorker.com]

Penis Facial

Monday, March 19th, 2018

It’s not really called a “penis facial”. On the company website, it goes by a far more palatable name: the Hollywood EGF facial. It involves a cleanse, an intensive TCA peel, micro-needling, an electrifying mask, and, finally, FDA-approved Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF) serum.

“EGF is derived from the progenitor cells of the human fibroblast taken from Korean newborn baby foreskin – which helps to generate collagen and elastin,” Louise explains. So the EGF used in the treatment comes from skin cells produced in a lab.

Rosie McCall, in “Penis Facials” Are Hollywood’s Favorite New Beauty Trend, Yes Really [iflscience.com]We are literally one step short of bathing in the blood of virgins… thank you Hollywood.

I have been pwned

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

Today I was pwned… again.

This time it was my Netflix account. My daughter messaged me: “Papa my Netflix became Spanish!!!!!!!! Help me.”

Turns out someone got into the account, deleted all my secondary users — including my daughter — and then changed everything to Spanish and renamed my main user. Whoever it is has a liking for teen horror shows:

Netflix Hacker Viewing Habits

So I changed the password… I was way to simple because when I have to login on my Daughters or wife’s devices or the AppleTV I am lazy and don’t want to type 30 or 60 random characters. Lesson learned again. Silly random 30+ character password created. Unfortunately Netflix cannot recover the history for the deleted profiles so everyone but me started from scratch. Relatively minor I guess.

As for the lesson learned. I have already learned it and should know better. That password is know to be associated with my email account (I verified this again for the post on Have I been pwned [haveibeenpwned.com]). If you have never checked if your password, or email address or personal info is for sale on the Dark web [wikipedia.org] you should head over to Have I been pwned [haveibeenpwned.com] and check for yourself. ASAP. I’ll wait.

Done? Scared? I have been pawned a few times:
Pwned

I’ve been using the same email address since the ’90s and have signed up to a ton of online services over the years so maybe it should not be a surprise.

If you want to know how leaked passwords are cracked or just how easy it is to crack passwords most people think are “secure” watch this video:

Crazy how easy it is.

So, like I said it was a lesson I should have learned. In January 2017 my Apple account was hacked. Long story short, someone got in, changed the Credit Card on file to someone else’s — I assume stolen —l; card and proceeded to purchase US$200 worth of in-game credits and gift cards. I noticed when I got three receipts from Apple in my email in rapid succession over night and couldn’t think why. Had it only been one I would most likely have ignored it as a delayed receipt for something. So I had to go through the trouble or resetting my account, not once but twice because I got locked out again at the end of the month, best I can figure the second issue was the stolen credit card owner reporting it stolen when they got their bill so my account got locked. The second time I had to reset all my Apple devices – 2 iPads, my iPhone and AppleTV I setup family accounts for my kids and then I went out and purchased a 1password [1password.com] family account.

It was painful to go through and reset and store all my passwords for all the hundreds of services I use. But I highly recommend you go out and get a professional password manager and get on with it. Things will only get worse and you will get pwned. So I’ve been pwned twice and luckily I have not lost any money or had any other serious issues. Knock on wood, the internet is scary place full of bad people.

Personal Data Law

Friday, January 19th, 2018

The Economist cover story this week is on Taming the Titans, by which they mean the new titans of Google, Facebook and Amazon. They talk about how these players could be regulated to avoid the abuse of monopolies and they make a nice comparison between how we deal with Intellectual Property and how we could deal with Personal Data:

Just as America drew up sophisticated rules about intellectual property in the 19th century, so it needs a new set of laws to govern the ownership and exchange of data, with the aim of giving solid rights to individuals.

The Economist, How to Tame the Tech Titans [economist.com]

We have personal data laws in many places but the comparison to IP is a good one (despite the myriad problems with out-of-date IP law…)

R.I.P. Dad

Saturday, October 28th, 2017

Goodbye and thanks for everything, I would not be here and I would not be who I am without you.

The Faces of Copyright

Tuesday, October 24th, 2017

Another case of IP law needing to be updated for the computer age…

Someone is suing movie studios over the copyright to characters which were created using facial contour mapping of actors onto CGI faces. the defence is arguing that this would be equivilant to Microsoft owning the copyright text written in Word or Adobe owning images made with Photoshop. of course the plaintiff disagrees:

”Generally, an author writes a book by typing every word into a Word document, and an artist creates a work of art by deciding on specific treatment of every pixel in a Photoshop file,” continues the brief. “But in neither case does their work provide input to software that synthesizes an original expression that is distinct from the author’s or artist’s input. … The core distinction between defendants’ analogies and the MOVA Contour program is the degree to which the output is the product of the effort of the program’s user versus the program itself. Where the program does the ‘lion’s share of the work’ in creating the output — as the complaint alleges the MOVA Contour program does here — the copyright in the output belongs to the programmer, not the end-user or the director.”

Lawyers of Rearden LLC in their brief as quoted in Hollywood Confronts a Copyright Argument With Potential for Mass Disruption [hollywoodreporter.com].<\cite>

I don’t buy the argument on grounds of common sense. The idea that the computer does the “Lion’s share of the work” crunching numbers implies that the binary math the CPU does, as instructed, is more valuable than all the other work done to produce a blockbuster film, or the work of the actor behind the CGI, stikes seems absurd. Computer programs do the Lion’s share of the work in so many aspects of the modern world.

Programers make programs to do things, people use the programs to do those things. If he wins then programer will own the world. 

Now is the time

Thursday, October 5th, 2017

Sorry Mitch McConnell, there is no more appropriate time to discuss legislative solutions to the material failure of current US laws to protect Americans from gun violence. Congress does not need time to mourn, it needs to debate and legislate.

Politicians just continue to dodge the issue:

“Entirely premature to be discussing about legislative solutions if any,”

Mitch McConnell, speaking in the aftermath of the shootings in Las Vegas, from McConnell swats away talk of gun control [politico.com]

Rural Broadband Revisited

Friday, September 29th, 2017

Just watched this video…

It reminded me that I posted the same idea [confusion.cc] back in 2010. the idea that we should use the framework of the rural electrification act to promote broadband expansion in low density places.

And not much has changed in the interceeding 7 years. Based on the 4G wireless coverage map in the video it would seem that maybe my mobile work work on my grandparents farm. So, I guess that’s progress.

It would be sad if the government does scale back their definition of broadband to 4G speeds and just declare victory and move on. I still think that high speed data is as important as roads and power to the modern world (I’m not going to mention water – it’s already on the “required for life” list) and the government has a key role in making sure this infrastructure reaches all its citizens. Rural co-ops still seem, to me, to be the best model based on things already proven to work.