Dead Fox

Dead Fox

This entry into my literary timeline is meant to be a follow-up to “Drifting on a Life Raft 60 Days after Being Laid Off”—a post representing a huge turning point in my W2-labor-camping career. I was turning from government and going back to the private sector. I was officially wading into the world of .NET shops in Southern California (yes, there was a thing before .NET). This entry was meant to report how successful this effort has been. This effort has been successful: I am now ‘officially’ at the end of the Southern-Californian line in terms of career growth. I have worked at what I consider the biggest and best .NET shops in Southern California—this includes Amgen, 20th Century Fox Filmed Entertainment and PIMCO (I am still here at the moment). I mention these companies by name because these companies (especially Amgen and PIMCO) represent the best Microsoft has enabled in Southern California for the enterprise. I do expect disagreement with this statement and I do exclude super-high-end-boutique shops like Tim Huckaby’s Interknowlogy in San Diego.

For me (personally) my work at 20th Century Fox (probably now entirely called 21st Century Fox) represents my first opportunity to build the .NET application of my very limited W2-at-will-employment dreams. This achievement is huge to me and no bizarre (and quite evil) revisions of history can take it away from me. At Fox I built a Silverlight application on top of RIA services. I built this application in a brown field. This means I built it inside of an older, crappier version of the same application. My new code ate the old code from the inside out (like a parasite). This brown-field experience makes me even more proud of my work because brown-field building is hard: you have to know how the old crap is built while discovering how to build the new crap at the same time. This made the work all-consuming. It was so demanding that I put up with a noisy neighbor for over a year to avoid complicating my life away from Silverlight. I am glad I was not a married man during this project because I would be in the throes of divorce court by now. When younger programmers talk about how “passionate” they are about building software, check with those kids when they get my age and see where the passion lies (most of them would have moved into management to have more time with the wife and kids).

So this entry is meant to be cheerful, celebratory and what they call “positive.” Yet simultaneously I show this photograph of mine. And I declare that this photograph represents my W2 life from the beginning of my career all the way to the present day. This one, “depressing” photograph says it all. One of the first things I am saying is that there is always room for improvement. There is nothing like an old, dilapidated building (with Fox on it) to symbolize this. Somehow, in spite of my vast amounts of experience, it has never (okay, rarely) been the “right” time for me to suggest what an organization can do to improve itself. Some of these folks actually give me the title of consultant and never consult me on anything. You have to get the Black history straight kids: it is not like they trusted me first and then I did something to lose that trust; it is not like I was able to “earn” trust and then did something to lose it. I just showed up and began to work—and the work is supposed to speak for itself without any political campaigning. So um
 let us take another look at the whole burning bridges thing. Let us start with a rule that I am pretty much completely dedicated to:

You have to meet people where they are or simply refuse to meet with them.

So, yes, it is true I actively refuse to meet with a great deal of people—most of these people are middle managers of large corporations or owners of small businesses. I can still make myself laugh with the image of a guy walking in an office to meet someone sitting a desk. The guy walks in with a balsa-wood-and-string scale model of a suspension bridge. The guy sits down and starts talking. Eventually the guy sets the bridge on fire, gets up and leaves the room.

My point is that I am certain that the whole burning bridges thing is not always about irresponsibly destroying relationships that might be “useful” later. After being myself in the workplace for over 20 years, I can safely say that burning bridges responsibly and carefully only fails in a totalitarian society monopolized by one dominant organization of efficient oppression. So that means I’ll not be working in China anytime soon (but a lot of so-called democracies are starting to look a lot like China).

Imagine a world completely dominated by a cult of personality around the company that posted on the building of this photograph of mine. See that “executive realtors” sign posted on the building? Over 20 years ago I tried to be a freelance graphic designer in the City of Inglewood (just like this guy named Hannibal Tabu). I saw the horrible logo of this “executive realtors” outfit and offered to change it. I think we did business (I think the company paid me to trace the logo from a bitmap so it can blown up to any size). But my goal of changing the logo was never achieved. What is worse, is that years after I am gone the crappy logo is still there. At some point we can (sometimes) amicably agree to disagree but effectively burn any bridges between us that would allow us to reach agreement. I don’t even remember these people. I just remember the logo. From a time-management point of view, I do not see any loss in that (although ego bounds).

The “executive realtors” sign on the building represents my first forays into business (it also says that, like Hannibal Tabu, I first tried to establish myself as a professional within my Black community—so, in spite of monumental non-recognition of our devotion to ‘our people,’ dudes like me are Black first). The fact that the building in my photo is a Fox movie theater represents where I am now as a professional. Racism aside, these “two worlds” are not far apart—this is why it is so wonderful to see that “executive realtors” sign on that old Fox Theater.

WillPower iPhone skins and Dream Seeker Media

LA: iPhone Skin

The multi-disciplinary artist/musician William Ismael gave a show in Los Angeles last year called “11/11/11”. There I was introduced to his excellent work—much of it is driven by computer programming as well as traditional visual arts. When you can’t go to his work then let his work come to you in the form of iPhone skins! My favorite is “LA: iPhone Skin.”

DreamSeeker Media

I haven’t written about filmmaker Mobolaji Olambiwonnu since 2008—so I was pleased to find his latest terrestrial project(s) at “Dreamseeker Media is a fully-integrated creative consulting firm that specializes in branding and production, bringing years of award winning experience to the creative process.”

For old times’ sake, check out “Mobolaji Olambiwonnu: Candlelight Dinner (” here in the kintĂ© space.

Message Media ED Talking Points

ХудожникTroy and Bryan speak!

Here are my talking points for the upcoming talk. I do not expect to hit even 5% of what’s written here but this may serve as guide for what I should have said. As always, when I send you something I welcome feedback—I’ve never expected to grandstand and perform alone. Just like any child at play, I have the traditional expectation that, whatsoever I do, others can do just as well and often better.

General Preamble

  • The “mainstream” is a polluted river, an unsustainable environment. Speaking “outside of the mainstream” often means you are investing in the future of universe—not your next paycheck.
  • Most technical people “of color” worked in cultural isolation and risk getting too comfortable with being alone or functioning in a social scene where they are the only person “of color.” The need to be collective is not just a pretty ideal from the 1960s. It is a mental health exercise.
  • The ethnic origin of my intellect is not European—this is not an outburst of irresponsible hatred but a carefully considered revelation that has taken decades for me to see.
  • Recommended reading Black Life in Corporate America. This book takes testimony from the previous generation.

Answering Dr. Shani

  • My current title is “Silverlight Consultant”—I’m a contractor for 20th Century Fox Filmed Entertainment. I am not a permanent employee—this means that I have to pay for medical insurance with my own money. This also leads me to the topic of “at will employment”—which means that I can walk in to the office on any work day and be told that my contract is cancelled. Since the end of legal slavery in the United States, it’s an American tradition to find me early and often to tell me that my contract is cancelled!
  • My educational journey—and my professional career—are dominated by Black women. This means that—as far as I am concerned—I have a classical African education. When I went to UCSB, I knew I was there because they had all of the material equipment—access to physical resources. All of the metaphysical came from deliberate preparation and attention from my family and the Black activist educational community of that time. When crack cocaine hit hard during my teens in the 1980s all of this went away—and the extreme isolation began which has never ended to this very day.
  • The first person to help me was my mother. All people come through women so it is natural that women should know all people—this is fundamental theme of traditional, pre-Columbian Black Africa—and this ancient ideal was glimmering faintly and brightly in my mother. My mother taught me personally how to read. As far as I am concerned, it is a sign of wealth and prestige for a child to be taught directly by his parents—this working class American tradition of parents leaving their children with strangers for hours per day for years is the greatest rip off of “modern” humanity. My father made it possible for my mother to teach me because he went to work to provide a home for my older brother, me and my mother. My father was an aircraft mechanic for Western Airlines—so as a child I could look up at the sky, see a huge airplane and know that my father worked on it to make fly. We often forget that Compton has an airport—my father was flight instructor there for years (my father’s teacher, by the way, was taught by one of the Tuskegee Airmen). My father built a train set that took up half the garage for me and my brother—so I was motivated to become technical at an early age. I used to sit out by myself there in that garage in my robe and pajamas trying to get the trains to run—this is the earliest stage in my life where having technical skills became important to me. My father is also a Bible scholar and he unintentionally introduced me to critical thinking and literary criticism by going over scripture with me. But then my mother and father divorced—my brother flipped out and became “the man of the house” which led him to gangs and then crack cocaine hit
 My mother and father were both teachers. My mother got her teaching credentials and masters so she was very involved in the K-through-12 educational scene of the 1970s and 1980s. My mother became a nerd of sorts about finding often very exotic educational programs for children—she even barged her way into getting me into the Korean YMCA one summer! There were two very important institutions she got me into: The Museum of Science and Industry and the King/Drew Medical Magnet—both of these environments exposed me formally to the world of computers.
  • The traditions of the place we now call Africa are the key to my personal sanity—my personal mental health—and the deep reservoir of biofuel that powers my intellect. This power allows me view the Western world from outside of its worldview—and inside of it simultaneously. To give you an example of how far you can fly with such personal, internal freedom I remind us of the name Kwabena Boahen of Stanford University. He says plainly, “there is not enough Africa in the computer.” See his TED Talk that took place in 2007 in Arusha, Tanzania.

Art Beat featuring Dr. Shani Byard!

Dr. Shani Byard

Wednesday, February 8, 8pm PST @Blog Talk Radio Online

Hosted by Kinte K. Furgeson

Live listener call in #424-222-5228

Shani Byard, Ed.D., Founder/Executive Director

Message Media Ed—School of Black Leadership in the Digital Age
A unique learning center designed to close the digital divide
and advance leadership and innovation in the African American
community of South Los Angeles.

4923 W. Adams Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90016 323-708-2526

Center Hours: Tues-Fri, 3-8pm (*unless otherwise noted)

My Lack of Responsive Web Design

My Lack of Responsive Web Design by rasx
My Lack of Responsive Web Design, a photo by rasx on Flickr.

I took this last week at the Apple Store in Century City. This is my homie’s site I’m designing,, running on the latest Apple iPad. You can see that I’m not yet using CSS media queries and other Responsive Web Design techniques.