On Father’s Day

My father taught me to:

Be Brave.

Be Passionate.

Act with love.

In bravery, I learned to ask important questions and not accept “no,” so much as “not right now.” It’s a challenge. We work and we prove, or we accept that sometimes the direction we started in… is less effective than a new one.

In passion, I learned to fan the flames that drive me and fuel my hope. I create a definition for myself of a life worth living. We fight for justice.

In love, we build community through kindness. If trust is the fabric that brings communities together, creates economic exchange and growth, and allows us to live in lower stress environments where we are each able to live as we choose to live… trust cannot exist without the belief that those around you are “coming from a good place.” Be part of that social fabric. Be kind.

Happy Father’s Day!

Dear Master Hudak

I learned a few weeks ago that the Master of Saybrook College at Yale (my residential college when I was a student) died on a Wednesday night. The news was passed along through a support group that my class in Saybrook had formed to coordinate sending him a gift from all of us while he was in his final days in the hospital.

The rumors on the internet had declared him “dead” as early as last week. We knew from his family that he was still hanging on until this week, but it was really interesting to see the communities that loved him outside of Yale (the Hacker community, programmers, computer science majors, etc.) talk about him.

He was so amazing that is was celebrated through the words of talented writers and students in the pages of the newspaper from the university that he loved dearly… and was one of the top 5 hits on a major hacker discussion board, because he played a major role in developing Haskell.

To me, Master Hudak was Saybrook’s father figure. For as long as I had known him, he was fighting cancer. When I would see him in the evenings he hosted Master’s teas or events for Seniors, like my Mellon Forum on Colombia Cartels, he always had a tired, but very warm smile.

I remember talking to him years earlier when I felt really lost in the economics department. My view of the world was so far from the discussion topics and theories we discussed in my econ classes… and they showed very very little interest in the markets and worlds I wanted to explore. He told me to follow my dreams and pointed me towards funding that allowed me to do my field work and research for all four years of college.

Later, he sat in the front row during my talk at the senior Mellon Forums and took it all in stride, knowing how much it had taken me to get to this point with my research. And that meant a lot.

He was clearly very proud of the community that he had built and supported within Saybrook — and rightly so, he was very much loved by all of us.

It takes me time to process this type of information. Usually, I hear it and feel nothing. And then, it seeps into me slowly and I feel it. While I was walking home yesterday, I felt it as a series of memories slowly replaying in my head. Snapshots of my freshman year through the senior dinner, when he came to support me when I was nominated for the Nakanishi Prize, and later when he handed me my diploma. By the time the cycle of images was done moving through my imagination… I felt it in a wave of overwhelming sadness.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the voice we leave behind when we write or produce art (or in Master Hudak’s case, an original coding language). One of my next longer entries will be about managing memories… and the filters our loved ones use to explain the person they loved and knew us to be (sometimes, these views of a person might be in conflict). I’ve been exploring this theme deeply in my own work and memories. Looking forward to sharing it with you. But for now, Rest in Peace, Master Hudak.

Why Women Worry About Street Harassment (And Other Language Faux-Pas)

When I was a sophomore in college, I remember walking back from the library at 2am in the dark, clutching my laptop and scurrying as fast as possible back to my dorm.

I didn’t like walking alone in the dark.

This was all made worse when I heard loud clanging sounds and male voices chanting in unison:

“MY NAME IS JACK

I’M A NECROPHELIAC

I FUCK DEAD WOMEN

AND FILL THEM WITH MY SEMEN.”

I started running until I got to the gates of my college, with the door firmly shut behind me, I paused and felt my blood pounding in my ears.

I’m 5’6”. There isn’t a whole lot I can do if an entire mob of football players decides they want to chase me down. This was a reality I was well aware of while I was standing there taking in my surroundings.

I run through a list every single time I stand at my door about to leave my apartment:

  • Do I have my house keys?
  • Is my phone charged enough to last me a few hours if I need to make any emergency calls/find my way home?
  • Do I have my wallet?
  • Do I have enough cash for a cab if I need to get home and something happens?
  • Is my dress too short, am I drawing too much unwanted attention to myself?
  • Where am I going? How will I get there? How will I get home?
  • Who should I tell where I am going in case something happens to me?
  • Is it ok for me to go to [This Location] totally alone? Should I call someone?
  • If I need to run, could I run for a while in this pair of shoes?

If I was still working in Mexico or on site in some of the places I study, this list gets a lot longer. Before I leave in the morning, I assess what risks I could encounter that day and try to build a list of options for myself to make sure I am prepared to meet my challenges for that day. Because if the going gets really rough, my options might end up being fairly limited.

That night I listened to a group of men, many of them much larger than me, chanting:

“NO MEANS YES

AND YES MEANS ANAL.”

As part of an initiation routine for their frat, meaning, freshman boys were encouraged to chant about abusing dead women, felt like what I would have labeled “a worst-case scenario” in my morning planning.

Separately, the song is completely vile in every possible way. Who comes up with this garbage?

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I wrote this post because a number of my male friends through the years have asked me why programs like Hollaback are relevant. Why women don’t like to be cat called. Why we get offended sometimes. They mean well, I know they do, so I often explain this experience of constantly wondering how you are going to get home and if someone has been watching you for too long. How we think through our options to escape and how making a single wrong decision could end very badly for us.

For me, this night in New Haven was one of many in my life where we remember that societal expectations and “manners” are abstract concepts that people opt into. They are not enforced by nature, but by communities. Without mutual respect inside of a community, they cease to exist and I am expected to compete for my own survival.

When I explain it in these terms, my male friends are often the first ones to respond with “not cool” to the guy who yells something at me when I walk by. They start to understand where I am coming from when I talk through my morning checklist and what I worry about when I am weighing my options in risky situations.

I think it would be amazing if I could walk down streets in major cities and know that I was not going to hear someone lean out the window of a car and offer me a list of “dirty things I’d like to do to you” or comment on my ass when I walk by. So, maybe it starts with you.

Check out what Hollaback is up to in your city. It’s an issue with deep roots, but it’s a worthwhile one.