Thursday, July 7, 2016

Standing Up


Stop. Stop everything you’re doing and take a moment to relax. Center yourself and imagine for a moment that the person you love the most was just ripped away from you. The person you’ve always depended on, the one who had your back, that person who, in your life, was everything.  Feel the grief. Feel that pain and the unfiltered hurt that rushes in to occupy the void that was so suddenly created in your life.  If you’re a parent, imagine your child taken from you in an instant, without warning. The life you so lovingly nurtured is gone and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Now imagine that this was no accident, no unfortunate incident or sudden sickness. Imagine that this loss was the outcome of murder. A murderer took the one you loved in the most cowardly way possible…with a gun.

Let’s take this one step further and put a badge on that murderer. Let’s imagine that after killing the light of your life this murderer is able to threaten you, put you in handcuffs and deny you your freedom.

One last step into this darkness if you’ll follow me. Imagine that this person was never punished. That this murderer was free to walk the planet and breath the free air while still wearing a badge and carrying a gun.

Now imagine this. There was another man so similar to the one who was taken from you they could be brothers save for their complexion. They like the same music, drive the same kind of car and wear the same kind of clothes.  This man, when approached by a man who also carries a gun and wears a badge, becomes belligerent, unruly and wrestles with the badge, striking him and his partner multiple times, running, screaming and threatening everyone in earshot, but he lives. He lives to face justice for his crimes while your shining star is cold, dead, killed for nothing.

Let’s add another encounter with a belligerent man pointing a weapon at passing motorists and firing a shot at officers. He wasn’t killed either. He’s alive still. Why?

The two in this story are white. The dead man is black. The officers are white.

If this was an isolated tragedy, we could all be persuaded to believe that the murderer was a bad guy who slipped through the cracks in a largely good system, but that’s not the case, now is it. So large is the disparity between black men killed by police and white men killed by police that we are forced to suspect that it is the system that is broken.

I will acknowledge right here and now that there are great officers out there of all colors and I’m damn glad to have them, but it would be a rare person indeed who could deny that there is a serious systemic problem that must be addressed at its core.

Instead of rallying against an ethereal system, let us stand together, educate ourselves on the problem and not just demand change but create it.  I found something out a couple of years ago while working with the democratic party. It’s not hard to become the system. It doesn’t take a great deal of effort to inject one’s self into politics in a real way.  We ALL need to do just that. Whichever party you’re affiliated with, find the precinct leader if there is one and get involved in every meeting.  Through minimal involvement I was able to bend the ear of elected officials, meet congressional representatives, judges, the governor and many, many dedicated and passionate people.

We have to have a plan. We can’t depend on the people who have created the current system to fix it. It’s not realistic. I would propose a few things with the hopes that a functional and workable plan could be born of a simple list.

·       No camera, no weapons, no excuses.

o   In reality this would protect the citizens from the police and the police from false accusations. Any officer unwilling to wear a camera can find another way to make a living.

·       Stop using fear as an excuse for murder.

o   If an officer is scared of a certain segment of the population that officer should find a different way to make a living.

·       Recertification for every officer everywhere, no excuses or exclusions.

o   Anyone wearing a badge would go through a new evaluation program. Any deemed unfit for armed service as an officer would be immediately removed from service. This program would be administered by an independent agency.

o   The evaluation program needs to include an independently created psychological evaluation. I’m not a psychologist so I’m not qualified to elaborate on details here.

·       Explore the reality of racial profiling rather than denying it exists.

·       Stop using law enforcement as a revenue stream!!!

o   All fines. ALL FINES should go to programs set up to help reduce recidivism, drug addiction, gang violence, improve educational opportunities and end hunger in our communities. No money from fines should go into local or state budgets PERIOD.

o   We must stop using police to create revenue for our communities and our states.

These are a few ideas. They’re mine and I don’t pretend that they are new, profound or in any way better than any idea anyone else may have, but that’s the point.

I am angry. I am hurt. I am outraged. If this systemic racism and violence was contained in a single living thing I would throw myself at it, unleashing all the rage I could bring to bear until it ceased to be, taking whatever consequences happily knowing that I had rid the world of such a scourge.  Sadly, that’s not possible for the very nature of a systemic problem, especially one as ingrained and violent as this, cannot be dealt with on one front.

I’ve used the excuse of working too much to be involved for the last few years and I do put in more hours than I care to mention in a week, but I’m willing to stand up, get involved and let my voice be heard as far and as wide as I can spread it. I’m willing to lend my skills, my heart and if necessary, my freedom to bring about a real and lasting change. We are all part of a network. By reading this, you’ve just become part of mine and I part of yours if you’ll have me.
 
Ronnie Swafford
@ronnieswafford

Thursday, February 4, 2016

What should you pay for?

There are so many people on the web right now trying to sell you a better way of life by giving you hard won advice on how to get off your ass and be a winner.
Many of these people entice you with free content teasing you about just how much your life will change if you can invest in yourself and join their insiders network. Now before this starts to sound like an anti-guru or maven rant, let me be clear; There are many people out there who I would gladly pay to be my life coach, but there are countless others that I wouldn't pay to rake my yard. It's the latter category I'm worried about.

If you feel stuck and are searching for motivation on Google when you come across one of these guru's, pay attention to what you get versus what you're promised once you fork over your cash. My favorite coaching guru's dump a ton of content for free and politely invite you to join their paid programs at the end of the content you have already consumed for FREE. These people, in my opinion, are doing things the right way by giving you a clear picture of who they are and what they can do for you without so much as getting your email address.
The other type of person will show you their beautiful homes, cars, planes, islands...etc. and allude to the fact that you too can have all this, the life of your dreams, if you'll only invest in yourself and take the plunge to a better life. They might even use marketing tricks like telling you they're going to share a secret with you at the end of the video, only to reveal that secret is that you'll need to fork over some cash to get the secret sauce that makes life so much more than you could ever imagine.

My advice is to very carefully consider alternatives before joining someone's monthly payment plan. Find a local mentor or life coach that you can actually connect with in person. If you do want to pay one of these professional coaches, research them like you would any other major purchase and don't write the check until you are sure you can afford to lose the money. You're basically buying something you can't quantify until you've made the purchase so make sure you're not going to kick yourself after a week.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Do the Damned Thing!

A great friend of mine, Chuck Beattie, once said something that has since stuck with me, "Just do the damned thing!" At the time he was working with me as a software developer and trying with immense patience to teach me to play guitar.

I can't even remember the context but I certainly remember the message and it applies to so many situations.
I've been talking to several entrepreneurs lately and one thing I've noticed that hinders more than a few of them is getting stuck in the big picture planning and failing to perfect the core product.  There is no need to hire a team, build out infrastructure or look for investors until you have a handle on what it is you're actually building.

I've been guilty of the same thing over the years; planning a software project of such scope with so many moving parts that it took an immense effort, not only to code, but to debug and launch the product. A grand vision is fine, but one must learn to break it down into component parts.

I'm sure most of us have thought of a really great idea for a product, book, article, application, system of government, rocket fuel, inter-dimensional portal...etc. Sometimes we might see our idea years later in production made by someone who had the same idea and did something about it.

A couple of friends of mine, Shane Remington and Kendall Weaver, know how to take that next step and what they created with Peppermint OS benefits a huge number of people. These guys work other jobs, have families and social lives. They aren't the stereotypical hide in a cave socially awkward entrepreneurs. They just did the damn thing!

Imagine it like this, what if Da Vinci had spent all of his time talking about and building a frame for the Mona Lisa?

Thursday, May 24, 2012


The greatest beauty is often overlooked. The details that make up the bigger blur are often lost on the casual observer, whether they are looking at the sky, a flower or another human being.

I was talking to a friend just yesterday about the place he works and he was telling me that all of those things that one does that are spectacularly executed, beautifully designed and perfectly received are forgotten, but the one thing that fails, the one project that blows up in your face leaves an indelible stain.

I've commented more than once on how it seems that the memories most accessible are those of negative, not positive events. They are no more powerful than the positives, but seem to be stored for ready access while the pleasant memories must be coaxed to the fore.

This is human nature and as humans, we should try to overcome it. It can be argued, and not without merit, that our instinctual need to hold on to those things that have hurt us in the past to protect us in the future is a basic part of who we are as human beings. I think it worth noting that we are advancing far faster than evolution can adjust. Therefore, it's up to our intellectual selves to retrain our instinctual selves.



Thursday, April 12, 2012

Where are you thinking?

What are you thinking is a common question that all of us have been asked on occasion but I would ask a different question, "Where are you thinking?"

As a programmer and a user of more than one Enterprise Resource Management System I am constantly faced with challenges of a cognitive type. I've found after more than a decade solving these problems, one of the best ways to get a fresh perspective is to change my location. I often get up from my desk and go for a cup of coffee (which usually gets cold sitting on my desk) or for a short lap around the office.

These are the times when some of the hardest problems are solved. You can't stare at a computer screen and force it into revealing to you the intricate solutions you desire. The truth is, I can sit happily programming for hours most of the time once I know which direction I'm going in, what techniques I'm going to use to achieve my goals. Getting to that point, however, might take me on a half mile walk around the facility or just down to the break room for a snack. I might even be found making coffee or even cleaning out one of the microwaves in the office. I thought up the idea for my start up while I was washing dishes. Most managers who are worth their salt understand the process. Even those who don't will accept it if the output is where it needs to be

Now, get up and get that cup of coffee or at least find a window to stare out of for a few minutes...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Design Inspiration

The picture I've included is an original I did back in the late 90's when I was first learning how to use Photoshop. I remember how incredible it seemed to be able to create digitally without any limitations, on an infinite canvas. It still amazes me how free we are to create, design, share and judge in less time than it takes to mix paint for a physical creation.

With infinite options, we can often over-think, over-create and over-emphasize. That fact has lead to a scaled down design trend that is stark and has little to no depth. I can only believe that this trend will give way to a resurgence of shadow and gloss in the near future, a continual ebb and flow of contrasting styles with each cycle bringing about subtle enhancements on the historical until we might at some unknown point in the future, reach the Nirvana of design.

Nature has had millions more years to experiment and so has, not suprisingly, handed me a gift this fine evening. The moon is approaching full and normally dominates the sky with a radiance that mimicks day, but this spring, the moon's leading roll has been usurped by an unassuming, simple, but magnificently beautiful product of earth...the dogwood tree. The blooms this year on the white dogwoods posess seemingly magical radiance in the evening, absorbing the moons own light to reprocess it into something more magical before releasing it like a sigh of contentment into the night.

To capture that...to be able to recreate that in design would be mastery...