New No’s

No to racists
No to fascists
No to taxes funding racists and fascists

No mercy for rapists
No pity for bigots
No forgiveness for nativists
No to all those

No hope without rage
No rage without teeth
No separate peace
No easy feat

No to bounds by genders
No to clickbait as culture
No to news as truths
No to art as untruths

No anti-Semitic anything
No Islamophobic anything
No progress without others
No meaning without meaning

No means no
No means no
No means no
No means no

Poem by Badlands Unlimited / Paul Chan

Star Wars Costume Exhibit at Denver Art Museum

I was in Denver recently and checked out the Star Wars Costume Exhibit at the Art Museum. It’s a must see for any fan and a fun way to spend the afternoon if you’re downtown.

The  exhibit features 70 original costumes from all 7 Star Wars films (no Rogue One, unfortunately). I documented maybe 80% of it if you want to live vicariously through my experience.

A Pair of Poems

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

Poem by PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR

 

To love is not to possess,
To own or imprison,
Nor to lose one’s self in another.
Love is to join and separate,
To walk alone and together,
To find a laughing freedom
That lonely isolation does not permit.
It is finally to be able
To be who we really are
No longer clinging in childish dependency
Nor docilely living separate lives in silence,
It is to be perfectly one’s self
And perfectly joined in permanent commitment
To another–and to one’s inner self.
Love only endures when it moves like waves,
Receding and returning gently or passionately,
Or moving lovingly like the tide
In the moon’s own predictable harmony,
Because finally, despite a child’s scars
Or an adult’s deepest wounds,
They are openly free to be
Who they really are–and always secretly were,
In the very core of their being
Where true and lasting love can alone abide.

Poem by JAMES KAVANAUGH


Thank you Kasra <3

My New Empathy Office

A couple of years ago, the executive team at Stack Overflow had the privilege of doing an off-site with Jerry Colonna, the CEO of Reboot and one of the most badass executive coaches you’ll ever find. I took so many things away from that session, but my favorite was this tool, “Red-Yellow-Green”.

So much of what Jerry teaches is radical self-inquiry and the importance of understanding ourselves and each other as part of our leadership. This “Red-Yellow-Green” exercise is designed to foster empathy without being overly intrusive.

It’s simple: Go around the room before a meeting or ask the person you’re speaking with if they’re red, yellow, or green.

  • Red:  You might be going through a tough family situation. Maybe you’re coming down with a cold and feel plain awful. Bottom line: things aren’t good.
  • Yellow: Meh. Something’s off, but it’s not terrible. You might have just come off a string of long meetings. You might be anxious about your in-laws coming to town. There’s something that’s preventing you from being your best self.
  • Green: You’re all good and ready to rock n’ roll.

We can’t expect everyone to always be open and vulnerable about how they’re feeling. Sometimes we’re not even equipped to understand what we feel or why we feel the way we do.  Having this simple, shared vocabulary gives everyone a tool to express themselves without having to divulge all the details.

You can imagine that if someone is in the red, you might reconsider how you give that person feedback or confront them about a tough situation. If they’re not engaged in a meeting or seem distant, it’s easy for the group to understand that there’s something happening to that person that’s preventing them from being present. I’ve instituted this shared practice on my team and it’s something we’ll occasionally do when we meet as an executive team.

This is anecdotal, but I’ve made a few observations after doing this exercise maybe 100+ times.

  • We’re social creatures and our colors are contagious. I rarely find even distribution of colors on my team. When folks are stressed or anxious about work, the majority of the group is red/yellow. When we’re in our flow, everyone is mostly green.
  • Most colors come with an explanation. Even though you’re not obligated to share, I find that most people give a reason for why they’re a particular color. In some cases, we might even opt to say things like, “I’m green at work, but red at home.”
  • Colors can change after a conversation or they can last for weeks. Someone can start off red, but move to yellow or green if a conversation or meeting gives them resolution. In contrast, someone might be in a steady state of yellow or red for long stretches of time. These are the people you need to reach out to. A simple, “How can I help?” or “Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you” can go a long way.

I took my obsession with this exercise to a whole new level tonight when I set up these LED lights in my office. Each December, Stack Overflow employees get a holiday gift from the company. It’s usually something tech-related – a Sonos speaker, Jawbone UP, Kindle, etc. This year we all got a set of Nano Leaf Aurora lights.

You can control the lights via mobile app and create custom settings or scenes. I immediately created three:


So if you see me on a Google hangout or Zoom room with one of these backgrounds, you’ll never have to ask me how I’m doing. You’ll see what I feel instead.

Remembering Lola

My earliest memories consist of playing with my cousins in my grandmother’s garden – a tropical oasis of orchids and mango trees. Most Filipino grandmother’s are called Lola, but we affectionately referred to ours as “Mommy” because that’s what she was, a mother to us all, the ultimate matriarch, the connective tissue that kept our family together.

Aurora Hipolito Fernando was born on November 28, 1925. Her childhood was sad and troubled, but she eventually came to know love when she met my grandfather at the age of 19. They fell in love quickly, eloped and went on to raise four daughters and three sons – Sonny, Telly, Joy, Julie, Victor, Doris, and Reggie. They would all go on to have children of their own, their families spanning New York, Canada, California, and the Philippines.

Mommy was a diva and a disciplinarian. A fashionista, a firecracker. She loved her sequins and sparkle and she ran her house hold with an iron fist. Even in her old age, within that feeble 95 lb. frame of hers, she managed to boss everyone around. She was sharp, strong, and stubborn.

I lived in Mommy’s house til I was about 4 1/2 years old and then moved to New York. I would see her and my grandfather almost every summer until they got too old to make the 24+ hour trip from the Philippines. I looked forward to those summers, which are a cluster of simple, happy memories I’ll always treasure. Braids before bedtime. Walks to church hand in hand. Hundreds of lumpia, siopao, and ensaymada in the kitchen. All these years and my mouth still waters thinking of her cooking. I can hear her booming voice calling us into the kitchen to eat. “Mangan ta na!”

After being hospitalized for the fourth time this year, we found out around Thanksgiving that she had Stage IV lung cancer. We knew it was only a matter of time before we’d lose her.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve seen her name everywhere. Driving from the Denver airport, I passed signs pointing to Aurora, Colorado. My room attendant at my hotel was named Aurora. Our company Christmas gift was an Aurora System of LED lights. I’d open travel magazines to advertisements for Iceland featuring photo spreads of Aurora Borealis.

I had a moment of sheer panic one night in San Francisco when I saw the Bay Bridge lights. I never knew they lit up and when I saw them shimmering in the distance, I took it as a sign that she was gone. There was something about the lights glistening on the water that reminded me of her – the jewelry she wore, the silk and sequins she loved, and the light she brought into all of our lives.

I was fortunate enough to see Mommy back in February when I went to the Philippines. We sat at the kitchen table with a full spread of all the foods I grew up eating. I feel so blessed that I was able to hug her while she was still healthy and smiling.

I took the photos below as a reminder of her and the house. The coolness of the marble floors. The rocking chair where she would watch her soap operas. The fan blowing on her always permed hair. The windows overlooking the once-upon-a-time garden oasis. The photos of her grandchildren proudly displayed for all visitors to see.

Although I’ve lived with this name for 30 years, it struck me this week that my mom chose Aurora as my middle name. What a gift to be named after such a wonderful woman. She made everyone in our family better – more forgiving when offended and more patient and kind when tested. We inherited her fierce resilience and that’s made all the difference.

Thank you Mommy for everything. We’ll love you forever.