Friday, February 26, 2016

Can JavaScript set a Sequential Focus Navigation Starting Point?

This is a follow-up from my last blog post. Should a web author be able to explicitly set a Sequential Focus Navigation Starting Point using JavaScript?

There are several reasons why the answer should be "yes."

It can improve user experience in some cases

Today, for accessibility it's often necessary to set focus on a div or static text. If browsers and assistive technologies will provide a consistent experience for anchor links, then instead of setting focus on non-actionable content, it would be more like native browser behavior to set a Sequential Focus Navigation Starting Point. In such cases users would expect to see the element in the viewport, so the author should also use Element.scrollIntoView().

Less often, this same technique can solve a usability problem when JavaScript sets focus on a text input. In devices with virtual keyboards (iOS Safari at least), input.focus() causes the virtual keyboard to appear. This is appropriate in some cases, where the design intent is to strongly prompt the user to enter something. But what if the intent is only to start the user at a logical spot in the form? For example, after the user cancels out of a modal dialog. In this case using JavaScript to set a Sequential Focus Navigation Starting Point would provide a better experience.

It conforms to WCAG 2.0 as well as anchor links do

I've never heard of failing Success Criterion 2.4.3 Focus Order or 2.4.7 Focus Visible because of the browser-default behavior of anchor links. This JavaScript technique would do the same thing.

There are good technical precedents

Setting window.location.href creates the same effect as a user clicking a link to a new page.

In most browsers, Element.focus() creates the same effect as a user clicking an anchor link to land on a focusable element.

So if JavaScript can create the effect of an anchor link landing on a non-focusable element, it would be very consistent with those existing capabilities.

It might already work

When an element has focus, then the expected behavior of Element.blur() -- after Chromium issue 454172 -- is to create a Sequential Focus Navigation Starting Point.

So what should happen if the author invokes Element.blur() on an element that does not currently have focus? The logical consequence would be for this element to become the Sequential Focus Navigation Starting Point.

I could live with this counterintuitive behavior of Element.blur(), like we've all learned to live with tabindex="-1". I'm also open to adding a more aptly named method to browser-native JavaScript.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The "sequential focus navigation starting point" in WebKit and Chromium

Both from a user perspective and from a technical perspective, I like the way Chromium is formalizing the "sequential focus navigation starting point".

A few highlights of this change:
If a navigation to a url with fragment identifier happened, an element pointed by the fragment is set as sequential focus navigation starting point.
In other words, anchor links like #skip_to_main will now work for keyboard users, without any JavaScript. We've only been waiting for this since 1990!
If the element pointed by sequential focus navigation starting point is removed from the document tree, a point where there was the element at would be the starting point.
This is good for accessibility in modern web sites, such as single-page apps. We'll first need to see some follow-on improvements in browsers and assistive technologies, but eventually this might allow web authors to simplify focus management, as DOM elements are removed and changed.
Implementation: Sequential focus navigation starting point is represented as a Range object, and it is owned by a Document.
This is the technically elegant part. It builds on existing patterns, to achieve something new.

Now I have a few questions for the community. The behavior is already looking good for users, so these questions are mainly geared toward supporting web authors.
  1. There's a standard and widely supported Range object. What's the interface to access this new special Range? Maybe as a property of the Document?
  2. The related WebKit ticket points out that Gecko (Firefox) and Trident (Internet Explorer) already have their own implementations. Can this interface be standardized across browsers, or is it too late for that?
  3. As the Chromium issue points out, there are several kinds of scripted behaviors and user behaviors which cause the Sequential Focus Navigation Starting Point to occur. Although not mentioned specifically, presumably the point could change any number of times before any DOM element gets focus. Given that these various behaviors all lead to a single thing happening from a user perspective, could we fire a device-independent JavaScript events? It would be a mouthful -- "onSequentialFocusNavigationStartingPointChange" (?!?) -- but you get the idea.
  4. Would it make sense for this Range object to be the relatedTarget of blur events?
Finally, I have a couple of more questions that are geared toward making life easier for developers of browsers and assistive technologies.
  1. Is there a consistent behavior in browsers for caret navigation?
  2. What are the use cases for mobile browsers?
  3. Similar to the JavaScript event questions -- can there be a related event in accessibility APIs? Screen readers have tried to compensate for browser differences, but this could lead to more consistency in the future.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Raw notes while reading Paul's book

Here's some decidedly gray literature: my raw notes about Paul Saint-Amour's new book.

Reaching page 6, I was struck by a hypothesis: people's tendency to underestimate the likelihood of unlikely negative events, although irrational, is nevertheless adaptive.

Reaching page 9:

What about Carthage? What about Vietnam?

In the more recent modern era, have people found new strength from being targeted by total war or by a merciless or indiscriminate enemy with massive destructive capability? Namely, the clarity of the choice to fight when flight is no option. Or is there nothing recent about that response, other than new technological means of responding -- the tools of what we call terrorism?

Back to page 8, footnote:

maybe later I’ll look up "perdure" and "sequelae"
(earlier I looked up "frisson", and "index" as a verb)

noting his use of scare quotes: "conventional" wars

transgenerational injury -- are the long-term effects of America's slavery another example?

somewhere in here… “longue durée”

page 10:

"unprecedented proliferation and destruction of written records" -- DARPA anticipated the need for communication resiliency, and created internetworking. (Did I get this history right?) Organizations like and Long Now noticed the fragility of our digital information riches. I wonder how well we are collectively doing at their goals.

page 11:

I’m reflecting now on how Paul took ten years to create this. Maybe I should work on a project or two like that.

page 14:

Will these encyclopedic works be the only suggestion of hope? What about the optimism of literally designing or inventing the future?

page 16:

I’m skimming now.

I’m interested in how the subcortical parts of the brain give rise to these responses to war, and how the cortex attempts to integrate them into a concept of reality.

Ah, here we go, application to today.

By the way: a few of us saw through the Threat Level from the start. (The colors were transparent.)

All this about anticipation. We could use some Landmark Education here: be -> have -> do. Of course we put our past into our future, but it’s a choice.

Page 19:

I notice I’m biased against Freud, and against the language of literary criticism.

Page 20:

So far I’m seeing too much focus on fear of one’s own death. What about caring for others? Seeing harm inspires some to love more generously.

Page 21:

I’m emboldened to be smart. Yet I’m also reminded of the feeling of when Ben beat me twice at Countermine: it can feel uncomfortable in the presence of towering intellect. Do I want others to feel that?

Page 22:

I googled and found “counterfactual history”

“What if… the debris left by the catastrophe of history were partially constituted of futures seen by the past as barred?” I’m getting it, it’s sinking in. To me, this is very hopeful.

I should note what I’ve been reading:

Page 23:

I agree. Contemporary dialog about global warming is certainly evidence that a population’s views of the future can influence historically significant events in the present.

That's all Google Books will let me read for free. Ah well, it's probably enough fun for me.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Our three-words-at-a-time game

Tonight I played the three-words-at-a-time story game with Silke, Moxie, and Hannah. I promise, we weren't even eating sugar. We must simply be this twisted...

Once upon a time there was a girl. Her name was Alex. She always wanted to play with her neighbors' kids. It was creepy because the neighbors were skeletons. They had died 200 milleniums ago. Alex dug up some skeletons and put them in a body bag, then offered them to stay with her while her aunt moved out. Unfortunately the skeletons started after her and she ran into a demon. The Queen of England tried to stop this nonsense. However the demon ate the queen, and then the demons had a party. The good news was that they were near a cemetery. So they unearthed King Arthur to rescue them. And it worked! The demon was cordially invited to a grand ball. Arthur and Lancelot were there too. The skeletons all posted pictures of the party on Instagram. They got Alex and Arthur. Then they were satisfied and died. Dead on dancefloor. Dead on dancefloor. And the queen went home. The most unfortunate end.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Cancelling my Planet Fitness membership was easy

Sunday 5/18/2014: I went into my Planet Fitness in Richmond, California, and said I'd like to cancel my membership. The staff person said I could cancel there in person, but not at that moment, because it was 15 minutes before closing on a Sunday. (This location closes at 7:00 PM on a Sunday.) I asked him whether actually I need to send a certified letter, which I had heard was necessary. The staff person said yes that works too, but the easier way is to put it into the computer right there in the franchise. He said I'm already being billed for May; if I cancel by June 10 them I avoid the June 19 bill.

Next day, Monday 5/19/2014: I successfully cancelled, 9:45 p.m. They have a standard process with a paper form which they then entered into the computer. It was so fast, I asked the guy if we were all done. He turned his computer screen around and showed me the word "Cancelled" on my record.

I wouldn't expect every cancellation experience to go just as smoothly as mine did. You might encounter an irritable staff person, perhaps tied down by a manager who pushes the staff to slow down the cancellation process. My point is, the corporate parent definitely does offer a standard, convenient way to cancel -- paper form plus computer update, right there while you wait. If you experience something different, it might be the individual location departing from the standard corporate process.

Planet Fitness Cancellation Form. J: 1/23/13. L: 2/16/14. Club: Richmond. Date: 5/19/14. Notice: Any membership can be cancelled with 30 days written notice, preferably by certified mail. If this membership has a "minimum" term, and you wish to cancel prematurely, a "Buy Out" fee is required for cancellation. Membership #: (redacted). Name: Mitchell Evan. Reason For Membership Being Cancelled? not using. Any comments or suggestions? blank. By my signature below, I have read, understand and agree to the "Notice" section of this form. Member's Signature (redacted). Date: 5/19/14. Office use only section. This Planet Fitness is a franchise of Pla-Fit Franchise, L.L.C. and is independently owned and operated.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

My web accessibility ReadMe file

My "start here" list for web accessibility is a short list, but the drilldown is deep.
I'm a big believer in testing everything. If you don't have a test that shows that it works, then you must assume it does not work. Even for stuff that Steve says works, or I do. Prove me wrong, make the Internet better.
I typically test on:
  • Keyboard-only in one Windows browser.
  • JAWS and NVDA
  • IE8 and latest Firefox. I call this my "bookend strategy." If something works on both a modern standards-compliant browser and on an older but still widely used browser, then I stand a good chance of working on the stuff in the middle.
  • Ignore Colors in one Windows browser. "Ignore Colors" is the IE term, but Firefox has pretty much the same thing.
  • Browser zoom to 200%
  • I should test more on VoiceOver, but I don't have good access to that right now.
Whenever I can, I test on more combinations. But I would usually only have time to go further if I were proving out a piece of code that is going to be widely deployed, without a lot of chance to go back and fix it. Again, with this list tell me where I'm wrong! There's always room for improving or complementing a solution.

I actually believe there is not just one single ideal list of target client technologies. But I do believe each developer needs to make a clear, rational decision about whom they're developing for. I start by trying to understand the range of disabilities my customers could have, and how those disabilities would affect their choice of technologies. Then I gather whatever data I can on disabilities and assistive technologies (ATs). Here are a couple of sources - I might or might not agree with their conclusions, but they give me their data and methodologies, so I can make my own judgments.
Finally, I devise a "graded support" approach for how to deal with the world of users and ATs, inspired by Yahoo's graded browser support model. Unlike Yahoo's model, targeting is not usually possible, since there is no reliable sniffing for ATs.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My notes from W3C "Readability"

Last week I attended the W3C symposium on Text Customization for Readability. That's a mouthful... We explored ways that a reader can change the way text looks, to make it easier to read.

If you have low vision, how do you read online?

David Sloan says people like himself with low vision can have great difficulty reading text with subpixel rendering, e.g. ClearType which is no longer configurable in Internet Explorer 9.

Eileen Rivera enlarges text significantly in order to read it. Her wish list item is to allow all text to wrap so she does not have to scroll horizontally. She added that content authors should watch the "gymnastics" that low vision readers go through, which should inspire content authors to work on improving the experience.

Suzette is dealing with the effects of cataract surgery. For her, increased font size is necessary, but makes it difficult to skim. Increased line spacing makes reading more comfortable for her.

Anthony Lee says web browers need to make adjustments very easy. Easy like adjusting volume on your TV, or pinching and zooming on a tablet.

What have we learned from research?

Shawn Henry studied people who customize their CSS. The most popular changes were: font size, font family, colors such as background color and text color, and line height. Less common CSS customizations were text decoration, text alignment, font weight, and margin.

Whitney worked at an online university, and researched what default text styles would be most usable for a broad audience. Specific audiences were teenagers, older adults, people with reading disabilities, people with low literacy, and English learners. It turns out these varied groups had some common needs: larger text size, meaningful images, plain language, and "breaking up walls of words" e.g. clear headings, short paragraphs, and lists. Things that allow people to find the key points.

Luz Rello, studying people with dyslexia, found that personal preference for text presentation was important but not optimal. Authors presented solutions that the readers had not tried, and reading performance improved measurably. The conclusion is that we should base our standards and designs on both kinds of research.

When adapting text, is it better in general to preserve layout or allow reflow? This question came in the context of dyslexia research. Wayne Dick pointed out that we are already creating a reasonable linear reading order for screen readers, so reflowing text looks like a winning strategy.

Tools for readability

Wayne Dick is a researcher who has low vision. He is designing an interactive tool to help each reader find their own best customizations.

Olaf Drümmer and Vasile Topac discussed PDFs. They evaluated tools which convert tagged PDFs to HTML, so that greater customization is possible.

Olaf also commented that mobile is "our best friend" because mobile platforms often require responsive design and customizable text for all users, not just for people with disabilities.

Ideas for the future

Some emails allow reflow, others do not. Will email clients become web authoring tools?

Will we build machines that can analyze a visual layout to infer semantics?

Can research tools become tools for customers, to make customization easier?

Do innovations in e-readers help us design a better web?


In web accessibility standards, text customization should be an important checkpoint.

A common theme is "one size fits one." We need to build things so readers can adjust their text.

Friday, May 11, 2012

WebAIM survey of screen reader users

If you use a screen reader, please fill out the 2012 WebAIM Screen Reader User Survey. The survey closes on May 25.

Sharing for the accessibility nerds out there... At the end of the survey, I added these comments... Let's see if I get a response!
When you report the results, I would be curious to know how you solicited people to fill in this survey. Was it just through the WebAIM email list, or did you take steps to get some kind of broad cross-section of users worldwide? In you report, will you analyze possible effects of selection bias in the results? I'm not complaining (all questionnaires have some selection bias) but I would like to hear your perspective on how much the respondents represent the whole world of web users.

Also, in a future survey, it would be interesting to use Adobe Flash Accessibility.isActive, to detect and report the respondent's use of MSAA while filling the survey. I don't advocate using this method to customize content. But I believe it could be a good analytic tool. For example, if I knew that 80% of survey respondents who said "I use a screen reader for a disability" have MSAA active, then on my own web sites this would allow me to sample my own customers to see how many have MSAA, and it would strengthen my case that yes, we do have customers using these technologies. If you are interested in adding this capability, let me know, I could donate some development time - [my email]

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Walmart Grocery opening half a mile away? Good, bad, or indifferent?

This Contra Costa Times article was the first time I have heard of a "Walmart Grocery" store.

A chain store wouldn't be my first choice for our neighborhood, but on the other hand it does seem to be a real grocery store... We need more information. At the Planning Commission meeting we can scrutinize the proposal, demand transparency, and speak out on the issues we care about.

Our attendance could really make a difference! The same story played out with a Walmart Grocery in Austin, Texas. As a result of citizen pressure, the over-large plan was modified, but not cancelled...

The Planning Commission will meet May 3, 6:30pm, in Richmond City Hall, 450 Civic Center Plaza. Cross streets are 25th and Barrett.

It is appropriate for both Richmond and El Cerrito residents to attend, since the property is on the border of El Cerrito Gateway Park and Baxter Creek.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Reflections during Lent

When I was a kid, we sometimes went to the Unitarian church in Yakima. I don't remember it very much, but there was a church hall, and a sermon, and songs I think. It felt good to go and listen. I laugh now when I hear Garrison Keillor's caricature of Unitarians as vague and noncommittal. He's absolutely right, but I would say it another way. The Unitarians I know are highly committed: they are committed to questioning everything, committed to seeking. So that's me in a nutshell - one part of me.

I attended York School, a private Episcopal high school in Monterey. I needed and appreciated the rich connectedness at York: connections between people, the tapestries of ideas. At the time if you asked me whether I believed in God, I would say that I always get a glimpse of God through music. This is where I became a singer. We held occasional services in the chapel, but there were no efforts to convert the diverse student body to any religion. Now when I look back, I realize that this place was a perfect example of evangelism. The people there lived their lives committed to fairness and caring, and were proud to tell the world about it.

I kept on singing. Now in the Bay Area, I was drawn to the radical inclusiveness of Glide Church, and the raw energy of the music hit me in the gut. So I joined the Glide Ensemble, a hundred strong gospel choir. I was there for just half a year, which coincided with a difficult pregnancy. I continued to be a seeker, but my heart was closed up and tangled. One day something burst. We were singing this song, crying out: You are the source of my strength! You are the strength of my life! I lift my head in total praise to you. I cry again now feeling the words burst through me. Truly, faith is not something we work to achieve. It is a gift given to us.

So I arrive at Christ Lutheran Church, a hodgepodge of beliefs and ideas. It was easy to make friends here. But I wanted to know, do I belong here? I tried one of the study groups. That's where I learned to drop my stereotype of what it means to belong in a church. It does not mean you need to look or act a particular way. I learned that God made me like this, just as I am -- with my complicated brain, my untangling heart, and my confusion and doubt. I am welcome here.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Can't catch me! The zfsendtotarget telemarketing scam

By posting this, I hope I can help you avoid the same "zfsendtotarget" telemarketing scammers that tried to catch me.

I submitted the following complaint to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today:

The caller said she had information that my computer was infected, and she was calling to help fix it. She said she had a secure code from my computer. She said the secure information had been given to her company from Microsoft. She said her company employs Microsoft and Cisco certified technicians.

She reached me on my home landline, which is in the National Do-Not-Call registry.

I asked for her name and company. She identified herself as "Rose" from Zion Technology. There was a delay (latency) in the call that sounded like an offshore company. I heard other voices in the background that sounded like a call center.

I asked for her company's street or mailing address, or any other contact information she was able to give. I said I believed she was legally required to give me this information, but she did not give me any other contact information. I do not have caller ID on my phone.

She asked me to start my Windows computer and go through a series of steps: Start menu > Run > cmd > assoc

She called my attention to this line on my screen:


She then read aloud that same series of numbers and letters, and claimed that this proves their company already has access to my personal computer data. This statement was false. By researching quickly online, I found that the number she read to me is actually the same on all Windows computers.

Next she asked me to do these steps: Start menu > Run > cmd > eventvwr. She asked me if I saw this on my screen: Event Viewer > Custom View > Windows Log. I did not answer that question, but instead tried to delay her by claiming that my computer was not an English language computer and I could not answer her question. I did not want to reveal anything that might help her compromise my system.

I said I was willing to keep going, but only if she told me the web site of her company. She did not answer, but instead pressed on asking me to follow her instructions

I then told her that I was aware of this web site:
and said I believed she was not telling me the truth about the secure code. I asked her again for the contact information for her company. She cursed me ("your are a bullshit") and hung up.

After filling the FTC online form, the FTC web site gave me this additional info:

If you have done the above steps and have any additional questions or any additional information you would like to add to your file, please call 877-382-4357 to speak with a counselor. When you call, please have this reference number: ******** to help us quickly retrieve your information.

I don't blame the caller. She is just a corporate wage slave like the rest of us. And if you read the Guardian article, you'll see they really are selling something - an antivirus product, probably marked up 500%. It's just that they violated Federal law at least twice - by lying on a telemarketing call, and refusing to give contact info.

I hope this might help you avoid the zfsendtotarget scam!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

One college senior graduates debt-free, and is grateful for minimum wage jobs

This one is circulating: College senior graduates completely debt-free ... Never mind that it's a professionally shot and Photoshopped image. I do believe in the virtues of hard work and frugality -- but I do not agree with the implication that our collective suffering is caused mainly by a bunch of lazy people on the dole.

So anyway, I liked one commenter's reply :)
Text of image:

I am a sasquatch, living completely debt-free.
I pay for all of my expenses by working scale and occasionally tipping off tabloid reporters looking for a Big Foot sighting.
I chose to live in a state park instead of a fancy private zoo. I get leftover picnic spreads which cover 90% of my meals, the rest I have to forage for.
I live comfortably in the forest, knowing I can't have everything I want. I don't have a credit card or new car, and my Blackberry is as good as dead these days. I get all my news from month old newspapers instead one of those fancy tablets. I'll also have to wait until Footloose comes to Qwikster instead of seeing it in the theatre. If I did have debt, I would not blame Wall St or the government for my own bad decisions. I would probably blame the Loch Ness Monster.
I am NOT the 99% because I don't exist.
Whether or not you choose to believe in fairytales is YOUR decision.
On a more serious note: Here's the same work ethic, more believable, and without the "do this or you're stupid" attitude: How I Graduated College Debt Free and Survived

Monday, August 29, 2011

Refuel the economy

The economy is not a person who needs to "tighten the belt."

The economy is a vehicle that can "carry us forward." If government "paves the way" and we workers "energize" the economy with our ingenuity and hard work (not to mention our "drive"), then we will "reach our goals".

Naysayers who insist "don't tinker with it" will seem amateurish. Move on, hire a real mechanic.

Not my idea... Al Jazeera English: The economy is a 'machine', not a 'body'

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My answers. Sticking to em.

I put some thought into last week's Wellstone Club questionnaire. Here are two of my answers.

Agree or Disagree? "I would like the Wellstone Club to be more engaged in ISSUE-ORIENTED organizing (in contrast to "electoral" organizing.)"

My answer: Disagree

I thought hard about how to answer this. I knew what "issue-oriented" meant, but I was unclear whether "electoral organizing" referred to taking sides in elections, or working to improve democratic institutions. So I googled "electoral organizing" and voila, I found the Wellstone Triangle:

So now I can state my views in your terms. I strongly believe that we need to gather passionate people with *somewhat divergent* views, find common ground, then choose candidates and campaigns that most closely match our collective values. So, even though I'd like my issues represented, we can speak even louder for *our* issues. Form coalitions with existing issue-based organizations that are already doing great work, rather than taking a narrower stance on particular issues. Of course, we need to stand for something; we need planks in the platform, values in the mission statement that lead us to choose our electoral causes.

Agree or Disagree? "I would like the Wellstone Club to work for the reelection of Barack Obama."

Answer: Agree

I would break the question into stages. (1) Whom should we endorse in the Democratic primary? Nobody; keep quiet. In 2008, I voted for a bridge-builder, and I got an appeaser, so I will make a protest vote -- privately. Publicly, I don't want to raise hell, because... (2) Should we endorse Barack Obama in the general election? Yes. Surely the alternative will be much worse. (3) How hard should we work for his reelection? We should do our part, but save our real energy for the openly progressive candidates (which is not to say ideologues) who can win and make a difference at all levels of politics.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


I was at a gala tonight celebrating 40 years of NRDC and 10 years of E2. Thank you to the generosity of Jack Stephenson for sharing the tickets.

The second-most inspiring words came from Governor Schwarzenegger. This surprised me because I'm not used to saying nice things about Republicans. I found his past timing suspect - all he could support at first was the hydrogen highway, and his later environmental votes seemed timed for political gain. And I don't care for his political allies. But I do believe he is sincere when he says that business and environmentalists can and should work together. So there's one thing we can agree on. He had to deliver a classic Arnoldism and it was this: after the election we can demand more stuff from Washington, after the politicians are done "vegetablizing". Nice.

The most inspiring words came from Bobby Kennedy. He articulated a radical vision of kilowatts becoming as cheap as phone card minutes, and reducing U.S. reliance on coal and oil in power plants to zero. He claimed this will lead to democratization of the country, which sounds great but that's where he lost me... Maybe something to do with ending U.S. foreign military adventurism? I wondered if he is satisfied working at NRDC, which is an effective organization but which only works within the range of the status quo. I did not have a chance to ask him. It would have been a selfish question anyway. I may have to answer it for myself.

Also presenting were Peter L executive director of NRDC, Bob & Nicole for E2, the president of NRDC. Matt Nathanson played well to a very inattentive audience - tough gig. The governor of Colorado sat at the table next to ours.Will Durst was emcee and cracked some good jokes.

Last but not least: The bathroom attendant was Carlos Dubose. He is a kind hearted man with a good post-game analysis. (Go Giants!) He plans to vote. Pay attention to him; his vote matters.

Friday, June 11, 2010

I always wondered why "globalization" bothered other progressives, more than it bothered me. Now I think I was lost in the terminology. There's nothing inherently wrong with international trade. What's worth getting angry about is patterns of exponential exploitation.

I recently learned the term "neoliberal." It's also a confusing term, but this article on neoliberalism brought some things into perspective for me.

Hey, you can't say markets don't work. In fact, they sometimes work too well. Read Natural Capitalism for ideas on how to harness the power of markets, without externalizing costs (i.e. hurting people and the environment).

Thursday, June 04, 2009

This one's for free

I was reading Rush Limbaugh's comments on a recent Barack Obama interview. Obama does not want America to impose our values on other cultures. Limbaugh responded that the value we're spreading is freedom, and freedom can never be an imposition.

Is freedom really the opposite of imposition? I would like to free Rush from the tyranny of his drug problem, so I'll incarcerate him in a socialist rehab camp. No complaining, now, it's for your own good.

It turns out feeling free is not the same as being freed.

This is not an original idea. It's the argument of the Free Tibet movement. Sure, we Tibetans are materially poor, but we are happy because of the riches of our traditions. Please don't liberate us from our schools, festivals, and culture. Memo to world: please liberate us from our Chinese liberators. A threat to Tibetan theocracy is a threat to theocracies everywhere. American Christians, take note.

Another synonym for "to free" is "to relieve". Here in California, for example: Relieve me of my property taxes, and relieve teachers of their duties.

Nationalists freed us from the Gypsies and Jews... Brittany is freeing Britons from a paucity of Brittany... Oh, spare me.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour

Moxie and I left yummy Cugini Restaurant right at 8:30 and nudged the hostess to maybe dim the lights! She knew about it and had already talked to the manager, but wasn't sure about their decision.

When we got home we kept our lights turned on to a minimum.

I don't know whether this makes a miniscule difference or a gigantic difference. Either way, we'll keep on touting the virtues of low consumption, until we reach a tipping point.

Friday, March 27, 2009


I'm driving into Berkeley for the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club but I find that I have the location wrong, and maybe the day too. Aha! A free evening. I start out for an unannounced visit to Stephen but I am sidetracked by a sign that says "Show Tonight!" and an arrow pointing to my right. So I think quickly: I am going in to see this show, whatever it is.

It turns out to be an improv comedy show by students of Willard Middle school. Pardon my language but I'm LMFAO. These kids are so raw and honest, what a blast. My face is in pain from the smiling and laughing. Take that, Greg Proops.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Being analytical, or "the calculating self"

I'm reading and greatly enjoying The Art of Possibility on my new BART commute to San Francisco. It makes me smile! So I hold the book up high, and maybe my fellow commuters will see me smiling and want to buy the book, too.

This evening I got hypnotized for the first time. Or at least, the first time by a hypnotist. The deep relaxation is meant to last and last. Yet I remained fearful even while relaxed of actually feeling sadness. I'm frightened of that sadness. I'm afraid I'll drag others down with me.

Then I spoke with my father on the phone. After our nice visit for his birthday, he and I agreed to "put it in the calendar!" and talk every Wednesday. I realized while talking with him, all of a sudden, that I had been blaming his "over-technical" style as the reason for years of not-closeness. How convenient - and by the way I've been accused too, and very rightly, of being one of the most technically-minded people around. So I told him, I was just scapegoating the Mr. Fixit thing, as an excuse so I could remain stand-offish for years. Jeez, I'm such a piece of work!

So next time we talk we'll pick it up from there -- competitiveness and analytical-ness vs. warm, loving expression. And raising kids.

Friday, February 06, 2009

For me, for all, forever

What will my next work be?

Couple of days ago lunching with Christopher, I reflected whether I would become a city planner, or a teacher. Following the principle of "least regret" I chose Teacher. This is inspiring me! And last night on further reflection, I realized I already am a teacher. I teach my daughters all the time

So, early this morning I spent an hour reading up on how to become a teacher. I would make a good candidate for Oakland Teaching Fellows.

But then I found and I looked through their list of nonprofits. I assembled this list which would totally fulfill my vision of peaceful people...
* Urban Affairs
* Energy Conservation and Green Living
* International Cooperation
* Voting, Democracy, and Civic Engagement
* Social Enterprise and Economic Development
* Multi-Service Community Agency
* Network of Nonprofit Organizations
* Library or Resource Center

So the inquiry is still on. Library, Network, or Multi-Service is looking like a winner.

p.s. The blog title is a playful paraphrasing of a South African political slogan: Some, For All, Forever.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Opening up

Some astounding things happening right now. Yesterday 5pm I took my first dose of homeopathic sulphur remedy. I stayed up till 2am again, veeery tired in the early evening but pushed through so I could see Silke and Hannah on the webcam (they're still in Germany). Then I just was on autopilot finishing some mobile-browser testing.

This morning I woke up as usual without the alarm, but a little disoriented from the shorter night. I felt various forces of urgency -- "a full day" ahead -- had to start accomplishing minor tasks right away. Then I thought, this isn't working so great -- how about some meditation (Russell Simmons style)? Seemed like a *really bad* idea, which means it was a really good idea. :)

After just maybe 5 minutes I "woke up," mentally this time. Almost immediately I noticed that the eczema on my face had softened. I had to look in the mirror -- it almost felt like it had vanished overnight, though the appearance was the same. Now as I'm writing it's still the same. The burning itch has been replaced by a healing itch, like a wound healing.

After a great coaching session with Maria (more on this later), I was cycling home when I noticed another burst. I came out of the Solano Ave tunnel and I looked down at my gear shifter -- it was like my vision had suddenly gotten much clearer. Like those sports videos, where every frame is crystalline. I burst down the hill and raced home. As I approached home along Ashbury, I was two gears higher than I had been after work on Wednesday.

Why am I writing all of this here? I don't have any particular agenda. It's just a good exercise for me to get the words out, one word at a time, one step at a time. And I'm confronting fears of overexposure.

Measuring what?

On Tuesday I had lunch with Alan at Cocina Poblana. The things we do and talk about every day make a huge difference. Example: Barack Obama was not planning to be president when he was bickering with his friends in college. We're always preparing for the Big Thing we're meant to do.

Then on Thursday I sat down with Adam T., the building guard. He cautioned me that Obama is not going to clean house and make things right, because the system is already thoroughly set up to continue as it is. He's right. We won't see immediate results. But my conclusion is that the individual person with vision can in fact make a huge difference, in the longer term.

I have been preocuppied with measurable results. For example: the triple bottom line is supposed to make the right things happen, by changing the playing field. That may be necessary, but it's not sufficient. We still need leaders with vision. That includes presidents, teachers, and parents. I think I might be two of those things.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


Jetlag is a great time to start. So I'm writing down ideas and conversations here on this blog.

Right now I'm reading Do You! by Russell Simmons. (Can you tell?) And I'm reading The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama.

I'm working on choosing a career where I can improve many people's lives. I'm working at a bank right now, which is actually a fantastic job. Money is not bad or evil, it is powerful, so my work is empowering for millions of people. It's just not the kind of good I am meant to give.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

ASCAP Sues Gitmo Detainees

In a move sure to draw controversy, ASCAP announced today that they are pursuing legal action against detainees in Guantanamo Bay military prison, for illegal music downloading. In the court filing, ASCAP attorneys state that the detainees used hand-held MP3 players to listen to hours of heavy metal music, without paying the necessary license fees to the artists. "It was a natural next step," said ASCAP spokesman Mike Trudeau. "Our job is to protect artists' rights. We're sending a strong message that downloading music is illegal. Just because you're a terrorist, it doesn't mean you're above the law." Named parties in the lawsuit were not available for comment.

Friday, August 31, 2007

What drowning in a bathtub looks like: New Orleans

I posted this today on a Move On questionnaire:

I have not been back to New Orleans, but my friends who have gone have told me first-hand how great the need is.

Some people will say that government is always wasteful and bureaucratic, and then those same people set out to prove it by heartlessly neglecting the American people. I hold a different view: government at its best upholds society at its best. Now is the time to reverse the errors, and turn New Orleans into a shining example of government intervention done right.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Britain's Oldest Worker... doesn't he look like me?

I'll probably turn out like Britain's Oldest Worker:

He keeps on truckin' ... and he has a nice relaxed life.

On the other hand, I disagree with his assessment of "foreign holidays."
I want to travel.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

"From Body to Spirit"

Last week I ran into Marty on 2nd Street in San Francisco. He developed
this piece in a writing workshop. I am happy to help him spread the
word. I invite you to consider...

"From Body to Spirit" By Martin Ross

Abstaining from eating as long as you can is the secret of life.
Abstaining from eating as long as we can is the sole purpose of human
life, our lives as human beings has no other purpose, for abstaining
from eating is how human beings evolve. Brothers and Sisters it was not
meant for us to depend on this planet's resources all of our lives of
which the main and most important one is food, for if we didn't eat we
would not be dependent or use any of the other resources of this planet.
Our physical bodies is merely a shell that houses our true selves which
is spirit, our spirits are immortal, omniscient, and omnipotent, our
spirits are not dependent upon the resources of this planet. Brothers
and Sisters it was meant for human beings to evolve to transcend their
physical bodies by concentrating all their efforts at abstaining from
eating as long as they possibly can and there by allowing there immortal
spirit to develop. Brothers and Sisters there is no other issue as
important in our lives as how often we eat, all other issues concerning
our lives simply have their root cause in how often we eat. Brothers and
Sisters our fates are determined solely by how often we eat, and we need
not concern ourselves with any other issue, because they are merely just
a consequence of our eating habits, and if we begin to take seriously
how often we eat, all other issues will come under our control.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The GOP asked me for my opinion

I filled in their multiple-choice questions as best I could, then wrote
this in the "comments" section.

I am a registered Democrat. I would consider voting Republican, if the
party offered choices that were consistent with my values.

* Protecting the rights of all Americans
* Putting international cooperation first in foreign policy - ahead of
profits, nationalism, and even the short-term safety gained from war.

On the plus side, my impression of the national Republican Party is that
they know what they believe in, and they know how to get it.

May the best man win!

I should mention that I had stealthily signed up for the GOP email
newsletter, in order to watch what they were up to. Oops! The secret's out.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

I promise my brother

Alan, I promise that you and I will talk every week. And I promise to be
the guy who always inspires you, and is always inspired by you.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

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