What’s Going On

Hey all, I haven’t been posting much recently. So I thought I’d give you all a rundown of what has been going on in my little corner of the world. Ready? Let’s go:

-First and foremost, my daughter has been acting. I’m amazed and truly proud with how hard she is working on her acting. Her most prolific commercial so far has been a commercial for KiwiCo, a monthly STEM box for kids, that she did the entire voiceover for (you can also see a still of her towards the end of the commercial). The YouTube link is here, and you can see it on Instagram here. She also appeared in a couple other KiwiCo commercials that are harder to link to, this one and this one. Those are google drive links, so they may not work for all of you. She has signed with an agency now, and we’re really excited to see what is next for her on this journey.

-We did take some great family photos, that you can see on my wife’s instagram. Big thanks to Tiffany for being our family photographer all these years!

-At work, we did the Severe Weather Shelters for the city and county of Santa Cruz during the storms of January, February and March of this year. Here is our brief listing of the program on our website, and one announcement from when we were activated. You can read about the shelter itself here.

-That lead to a great profile of our organization, here.

-Part of what we’ve embraced at our organization is that the general public needs to be educated about the realities of homelessness so that we all can be advocating for effective funding levels and policy from our elected officials. In that light, we’ve started a series of videos to educate folks on the realities of homelessness. Here they are so far:
Video 1
Video 2
Video 3
Video 4

or just go to tiktok to see them all.

-Oh, we’re part of a fundraiser this weekend as well! Check that out here.

-Because we think that ending homelessness is going to take a broad community effort, we recently had a Community Meeting to bring people together who care about this issue. If you would like to come to future community meetings, contact us here.

-Of course, donations of all sizes make so much of our work possible. Go here to donate to all of our efforts!

-If you want to follow The Free Guide on social media, you can find us on facebook, twitter, instagram, and tiktok.

I think this is all the updates, for now. I find that most of my self expression in life is showing up in my work, so I don’t feel like I have a lot of opinions to share with you all right now. Though they are still there… you’ll know if things are going well in my world if I get another blog out in the next month about my thoughts about democracy 😛

Sending love to all of you out there!

Let’s Re-Claim “Woke”

It’s about respect, not about censorship

I’m going to posit a new working definition of the word Woke.

Woke: Respecting the history and life experience of historically marginalized people and treating historically marginalized people with dignity.

Hopefully that’s a pretty straightforward definition for most of you. Because if that definition stands, then the opposite is also true.

Anti-Woke: Disrespecting the history and life experience of historically marginalized people and treating historically marginalized people without dignity.

I think that second definition is more useful. Sure, you can be anti-woke. Sure, you can disrespect marginalized people – but if you are disrespecting marginalized people get the f**k out of the public square and come back when you have calmed down and can behave with dignity and respect again. This doesn’t require the government to step in. It doesn’t require arguments about the first amendment. It requires adults to step in when someone has lost their head and setting them straight. And if you refuse to show marginalized people respect and dignity? Then we all know who you are and what you are about.

But, if you aren’t able to respect or dignify marginalized people… move out of the United States. Because this country is filled with folks who have historically been marginalized, daily life is going to be rough for you. Move away. This country is the land of the free and the home of the brave. If you aren’t brave enough to show people basic respect, you aren’t brave enough to be an American. You are too fragile to be American.

This brings me to a fundamental misunderstanding of humanity in our modern social media platforms. Facebook figured out that posts that elicit anger get more interactions, keeping more people on their platform longer. They didn’t realize that the anger is people’s innate instinct to reign in people who are being assholes. So the more they boosted asshole content, the more people felt the need to reign it in. Why does this matter? Because if you are going to facilitate the public square, you need to actually facilitate it. If someone is showing up and getting everyone to yell at them, it’s time to remove them and take some time to get their head straight. Not encourage their asshole behavior. When you do that, when you let regular people see that no one is going to stop the assholes, then you give the space over to the assholes. Without regulation, bad actors do whatever they want. You have now ceded your public square to the worst of us. Whatever discussions that educate, provoke the intellect, create friendly and loving connections, and stir the soul have now taken a back seat to assholes yelling.

Facebook and Twitter (every other social media platform seems to aspire to be them) have created a public square and signed up to be the facilitators. They seem not to realize, though, that the role of the facilitator is the most important role in the public square. If people can’t trust the facilitator to facilitate fairly and to make sure the public square is a safe place to be, they will leave. Twitter, at this moment, seems to be wrapped up in thinking they have to enforce everyone’s first amendment rights. But Twitter has no obligation to let everyone speak whatever they want on their platform. In fact, the opposite is true. If they allow everyone to say whatever, then the entire place will devolve into bots and assholes yelling at each other. Twitter, if it wants to maintain it’s user base, needs to let it’s users know that they can safely be there. So far, it has failed to do so. The first amendment only applies to the US Government. Twitter is not the government.

If you actually value conversations that help people to change how they view the world, you have to ensure that they are experiencing psychological safety. What is psychological safety?

For those of you who need a url, check out this url: https://www.ccl.org/articles/leading-effectively-articles/what-is-psychological-safety-at-work/

If you are a free speech absolutist, then you aren’t going to stop people from being punished, humiliated, or shouted down for sharing their ideas. Eventually, you are going to cede your entire space to the yellers – because people who want to do other things aren’t going to hang out in your space.

So how do you reign in assholes without making them feel like they are being targeted for their deeply held beliefs? That’s a hard thing to do. It takes a combination of skills and abilities – and even the people who are good at it are continually bumping up against new challenges in that endeavor. But we have no evidence that people who write code for a living are especially skilled in that work.

Of course, all that I’m talking about unfolds over time. We’re seeing the decline of facebook because they have demonstrated their inability to facilitate effectively. Twitter claims that they are doing well… but we’ll see the reality as the months and years play out.

In the meantime, folks, let’s keep showing people dignity and respect.

Writing through Writer’s Block

Ok, ok. So for years I’ve said (mostly to myself) that I don’t get writer’s block. But here I am, stuck with it for months now. But if I don’t get writer’s block…? I’ve always felt that the thing to do with writer’s block is to write exactly what you are thinking. That is what I’ve been reluctant to do, and that’s why I’ve been stuck. So here are the things on my mind…

Seeing Elon Musk out himself as intellectually vapid with fascist leanings in his take over of Twitter has been something. I mean, being a native of Silicon Valley, I’ve known about his shortcomings for a long time. But to see someone completely expose himself on a worldwide scale so quickly… I did not think he would do so much obviously dumb stuff so fast.

Being a burner, I’ll never forget Elon criticizing someone by saying that they have “never been to Burning Man.” Well, now it’s clear to me that Elon managed to insulate himself so much from the experience that he didn’t learn some of the fundamental things that people learn for themselves when they go to Burning Man; namely, a commitment to community. Elon, at this moment, seems to be most interested in self aggrandizement. Just as the shine is coming off of another self aggrandizer in America (Trump), Elon shows up to take his place.

I’ve said (to myself) for a while now, American culture has a fetish for achievement. But it’s shiny “look at how perfect I am!” achievement, not the achievement that comes from hard work, failure, and mistakes. So people like Musk, like Trump, spit-shine their failures and manage to actually accomplish very little – all while claiming that they can do anything. With enough money, you can make any mistake look like a success. Musk and Trump had enough money from the beginning.

I’m sure part of my reluctance to write about my true feelings about the world is that I am now the Executive Director of an organization. I haven’t wanted my thoughts to be construed as the official statements of the organization that I have built. So I’ve said nothing…

Which is not healthy. And the truth is, is that I have always kept a bright big line between what I say and do in a professional capacity and what I don’t. Writing this blog gives me clarity. Writing this blog is about the thoughts that I am thinking. My work is not about that.

So, what else is on my mind? I’m pretty darn proud of my oldest daughter these days. Why is enough for a whole blog itself… so keep your eye out for that. You may have a hint if you follow my wife on facebook, though.

So, the fight to maintain democracy goes on in America. This is something that deserves a lot more writing from me, since it’s something that’s on my mind a lot – but I’ll collect my thoughts before I publish them.

Meanwhile, I think I’ve said what I need to say today.

Free Guide Fundraiser 11/5

Raising money for the services at the Veterans Village of Ben Lomond

Hey all, just want to let you know that my organization – The Free Guide – is having it’s first fundraiser this Saturday, November 5th. You can check out the details on Eventbrite. Below are the posters:

Press on RV Safe Parking and Homelessness

Had a brief segment on KSBW

Got a good write up in the Santa Cruz Sentinel

If you noticed that the article in the Sentinel said that our wait list was 37, while the KSBW segment said that our wait list is nearly 50 – it’s because our list grew quite a bit in just two days.

Also gave my perspective on the shutdown of the Footbridge Services Center

Paid The Cost Podcast

Had an incredible conversation with Nativo on his Paid the Cost podcast at the end of August, about homelessness and my life in general. Here is the link to the episode itself.

Also, Alejandro (here’s his Instagram) made this incredible image of me, hearkening back to when I did outreach with people who are homeless and handed out cookies as part of that outreach…

On KSQD talking about Homelessness in Santa Cruz

I made an appearance on community radio

In case you want to hear me on the panel with a couple of homeless activists, (including Reggie from Santa Cruz Cares) hosted by Ami Chen Mills, talking about the current homeless situation in Santa Cruz – here is the youtube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AiJOP0MbSPA

RV Safe Parking for Santa Cruz

I’m really excited that my organization, The Free Guide, is in the final stages of preparation before launching an RV Safe Parking program with the city of Santa Cruz.

Here’s a local article about the program. If you or someone you know would benefit from this program, feel free to reach out.

In the Press; What’s next for our homeless population after an encampment is closed?

let’s create a plan

I’ve been relatively quiet on this blog recently. But since I’m being quoted in local press, I figure now is the time to share a little bit. In Santa Cruz County, it’s time to start shifting the conversation around homeless from complaining about it and reporting on the facts of it to talking about what it’ll take to actually end homelessness here.

In this article, that’s part of what I’m laying out in my quotes.

a photo of the Good Times article. Because I felt like putting a caption here

Yet, what it’s going to take to end homelessness here (or anywhere in this country) remains elusive. Even though I could be considered an expert on the topic, all I have to offer are educated guesses myself. What we need, at least in Santa Cruz County, is more refined data. With refined data, we can evaluate what sorts of programs are successful and make sure that we have programs to meet the needs of each person experiencing homelessness. To their credit, the county is coming up with a way to get more refined data on our homeless residents. With decent data, I think we can start to develop a plan to end homelessness here. If we have a plan, then we can evaluate each action that the community takes through the lens of that plan. Without a plan, we end up with what we already have: What seems to be (to someone who is outside of the decision making process) an unrelated series of decisions and events that may or may not lead to anything. Without a plan, we end up going from urgent issue to urgent issue, without necessarily thinking in the sort of long term way that’s needed to actually make a notable dent in this years long issue.

But data is also more than just data points. In order to have good policy, we need our people who are crafting policy to understand the problem outside of the raw data points itself. That’s why one of my organization’s goals is to provide education; about what it’s like to be homeless, what it’s like to be a service provider, and what challenges we all are facing as we grapple with this issue. We aim to provide this education to everyone, because every single one of us are in a position to influence policy.

You’re going to see some of that here on this blog, but if you want to be sure to see it more regularly you should connect with my org, The Free Guide, on social media. We are only at the stage where we have launched our socials, we have not mastered the art of social media at all. But as we get better at them, you’ll get a bunch more good content from us on this stuff:

Instagram: @thefreeguide

Twitter: @the_freeguide

Facebook: Santa Cruz Free Guide

Email: santacruzfreeguide@gmail.com or contact@thefreeguide.org

If you are a member of the media and reading this, I’m interested in any project that can help the general public understand the realities of homelessness. I think it is truly going to take community wide action to address this issue. So, fire away with any questions or assistance you may need.

D&D, Escapism and Sports Today

Is D&D any more escapist than anything else? Yet… maybe we need the escapism?

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve picked up the hobby of playing Dungeons and Dragons over the last few years. It’s quite fun, and satisfying in ways that other hobbies haven’t been… namely that anything I can imagine can happen, yet it’s still tempered by a shared reality of playing with other people and random outcomes to events.

For my entire life, well before I starting playing D&D, I have heard people describe it as “escapist” entertainment. Much more prevalently than other activities. Dictionary.com defines escapist as: “avoiding reality through entertainment or fantasy, or enabling people to do so”

Needless to say, I’ve mostly found the term “escapist” to be a tad derisive. As in, these people can’t handle life so they have to escape away from it occasionally. Though, honestly, who doesn’t need to escape from reality a little bit these days?

As someone who has played competitive sports for a good portion of my life, done my fair share of manual labor, made creative projects…. I don’t find D&D any more escapist than any other activity that forces you to focus on what’s in front of you to play it. Basketball, for instance, is engrossing enough that you can’t really think about your mortgage or your kids while you are playing it. Yet I don’t hear people describing basketball as escapist. Making art, when one is in the midst of it, is certainly all-engrossing enough to “escape” from daily concerns. Yet I don’t hear people calling that escapist. The list goes on.

The funny thing is, coming back to basketball (or professional sports in general), is that I think our culture is longing for more escape – and looking and failing to find it in professional sports. I follow Tim Kawakami for sports news – he’s by far the sharpest reporter that covers professional sports in the SF Bay Area – and he deals with this all the time in the course of reporting what is happening with bay area teams and their machinations behind the scenes. Here’s a sample of what goes on on his twitter feed:

The context here is that Kevon Looney is the starting center for the Golden State Warriors (the basketball team) and Steve Kerr is the head coach. He’s taken them to 5 championship series, winning three of them. He is probably the most respected coach in basketball right now, and is already considered one of the best to ever do it. He has always had the Warriors play this style of offense, and like any type of offense it doesn’t always work. But it works a lot, especially with the players they have. But this random guy feels the need to yell about firing Steve Kerr.

It would be one thing if this was a one-off – but it is not, by any means. Tim Kawakami’s feed is filled with people yelling about what their favorite team should do, or yelling at Tim himself for pointing out the clearly sub-optimal things that their favorite teams are doing. I just found the most recent interaction, but his feed is filled with them. Raiders fans seem to hold him in special contempt – because for years the Raiders have been a dumpster fire and he’s had the temerity to point it out repeatedly. The truth is that everyone who runs large organizations is prone to making mistakes, Tim points out the mistakes that the people running professional sports teams in the SF Bay Area make – and takes a lot of heat for it.

The thing with D&D is that it is a shared imaginary world. If something doesn’t go the way you want it, it’s either because the dice didn’t cooperate or because your idea of the world didn’t line up with the rest of the people you are playing with. It can still be upsetting, but there are people to talk to when you are upset. You can ask your “Dungeon Master” or “Game Master” why it went a certain way. You can make your argument for why you thought it should have gone a different way. They might change their mind when they hear your argument, they might not.

In professional sports, the fantasy is that your team is going to win the championship this year. Or, if that isn’t realistic, that they are on the right rebuilding trajectory to contend soon. But you can’t argue with the results of a game. You can’t argue with your team’s record at the end of the season. When folks’ fantasy about their team is punctured by reality, all they have is their raw feelings about losing. Somewhere they mixed up their fantasy and a game that produces results that exist outside of their minds.

And when someone, like Tim Kawakami, comes along and says “you know that bad team, that you love? I talk to their people, and they are going to keep being bad” that punctures the fantasy too. So what do people do? They yell on twitter, for one. That’s what I see. I’ve felt that too. I definitely have not felt great at times when my teams have lost.

But also, the further removed I am from games the more the results have seemed to matter to me. I was lucky enough to go to a lot of Santa Cruz Warriors games this year (they are the development team for the Golden State Warriors), and seeing them play in person, seeing their strengths and weaknesses, seeing them develop… gave me perspective. When they lost in the first round of the playoffs, I wasn’t upset. They had flaws as a team, and they played a team that exploited those flaws well. Watching on tv, or trying to follow a game on twitter (which is much worse), heightens for me the feelings after a win or a loss and even during a game. I guess for me it’s easier to get wrapped up in the fantasy and to lose track of the realities when I’m only getting bits and pieces.

Ir’s okay if your team sucks. It’s okay if they are mediocre. It’s okay if they are good, but not great. It’s okay if they make mistakes. It’s okay if the coach makes mistakes. It’s okay if the refs make mistakes.

And maybe, just maybe, if you need your team to win…. give D&D a try. With D&D, your fantasy is never going to be punctured by a missed three point shot.

…… unless you want it to be.