Monthly Archives

December 2015

A Brief Critique of The Force Awakens

By | Everything

Taking a break from the Startup Series reposts to put down my thoughts on Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. And yes, major #SpoilerAlert ahead, but if you haven’t seen TFA yet, I have no sympathy for you. Heck, if you haven’t seen it twice by now, I’m questioning your place in my life.

First, the good. I absolutely loved it. It was part fan tribute, part sci-fi action flick, part story continuation, and part stage-setting for new stories in our favorite galaxy. One of the best moments of the whole film is when you see the Millennium Falcon for the first time. Absolutely awesome. And though the entire final sequence of the movie is basically a rehash of RotJ, I didn’t care.

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One of the best surprises was that Rey was the awakening. The trailers led me (and many others) to believe that Finn was the new Jedi. They show him holding a lightsaber, and who holds lightsabers? Jedi, that’s who. Ergo: Finn = Jedi. When it turned out that Rey was the force-sensitive, and rapidly learned how to tap into her powers, I was stoked. I absolutely loved that. Good job on the trailer red herring.

However, there were moments that took me out of movie-adoration mode. It’s no fun to be pulled out of suspension of disbelief, especially because I’ve been anxiously anticipating it, and secretly praying every night for a great movie since it was announced on October 30, 2012. Thankfully, the instances of being pulled from excitement and awe in Episode VII were far less than any 20 minute segment of any of the prequels, but there were still a few moments that left me shaking my head.

Starkiller Base on The Force Awakens movie poster

Another Death Star

Really? Another Death Star? Come on. When they revealed Starkiller Base, my first reaction was the mental equivalent of an eyeroll.  Seven movies and three Death Stars? That’s a bit much. And I must admit that I saw it coming because it is in the movie poster. Even with that, I didn’t think they’d ever possibly revisit the idea of a Death Star a third time. But they did. This plot device (pun intended) needs to be put to rest, once and for all.

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Captain Phasma Caves

While the whole scene with Phasma, Finn, Han, and Chewie was funny—from capture to the trash compactor—the fact that she caved and turned off the deflector shields was just too much bullshit for me. This is the Chrometropper who is so unquestioningly loyal that when a Stormtrooper does not participate in mass-murder of unarmed civilians, she censures them and sends them to reconditioning. And you mean to tell me she begrudgingly gives in just because she has a blaster pointed to her head? I’m not buying it. Not to mention the minor details that she a) knows how to turn off the deflector shield of an entire planet, b) has the authority to do so, and c) happens to be in the right place for it. <sigh>

"all out" assault on Starkiller base

 

The All-Out Assault

Picture this: the Resistance is backed up against a wall. Their senate—and the moon system surrounding it—was destroyed by a “hyper-lightspeed” weapon of unbelievable firepower. And that weapon is turning its attention to their primary command base. Their only chance to survive: a zany scheme that took about five seconds to concoct (though, admittedly, they’ve already pulled off this plan twice before, which must certainly add a degree of confidence). But it is their own chance to survive; the one and only way to save the entire Resistance armed forces! What do you do? Meh, send about a dozen X-Wings, into enemy territory, to attack a planet-sized based. That should be plenty.  You mean to tell me that with absolutely everything on the line, you can’t muster more than a couple of single-seaters? Even the Rebellion did better in RotJ.

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Even with those missteps, I still loved it. My wife and I are heading for our third viewing this Saturday.

Oh, and, Kylo Ren as Han & Leia’s son? I totally called it. #humblebrag But to keep myself honest, I also speculated that Rey was their daughter, and though that is as-of-yet unproven, I’m saying “no” on that one.

Startups should embrace both diversity and inclusion

By | Startups

Originally posted on the SoftLayer blog on December 9, 2015

During the NewCo Boulder festival, web development agency Quick Left gave a talk about diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The panelists shared stories of their experiences around diversity—good and bad—and gave advice on what can be done to make workplaces more inclusive. It was one of the best talks I heard all year.

After much discussion, both philosophical and tactical, an audience member expressed concern about counter-discrimination. Would the time come when he would be overlooked for a job because he was not a diversity candidate?

This is not the first time this has been brought up in diversity discussions, and he was expressing what many (perhaps too many) straight white males think when diversity is discussed. To the credit of Gerry Valentine, one of the panelists, he did not chastise the audience member, and instead commended him for his bravery. The man who asked the question gave voice to a common concern that is often thought, but rarely brought up. The panelists at NewCo Boulder handled it very well, pointing out that no one wants a job just based on their gender, skin color, sexual preference, or anything other than their ability to execute on the job. And, collectively, we want to create a world where everyone has the opportunity to compete for jobs on equal ground.

I was truly moved by the entire session, but found myself upset that even at the close of 2015 we are still answering questions about counter-discrimination. When Gerry commended the question for its bravery, I first wondered if he was being glib. But knowing Gerry, I was certain he was serious about his comment. Upon further reflection, I realized what’s interesting about this “pale and male” pushback is that it comes from a place of fear. A fear of discrimination is at the root of the question when someone asks, “As a white male, am I going to get passed over for a job because this company wants to hire for diversity?”

Following Gerry’s example, it’s OK to acknowledge that fear. It’s OK to point out that white men don’t want to live in a world where they are discriminated against, even subtly. While that is a valid fear, for the straight white male candidate, it is only a fear of a potential future. If they can imagine potential discrimination, can they acknowledge that the reality of our world today: anyone who isn’t a straight white male does experience this as real fear. Imagine walking into a job interview having to first overcome the things about you that you cannot control (gender, skin color, sexual orientation, physical handicap, economic background, country of origin, etc.) just to get to a level playing field with the other candidates. If you don’t want this for yourself, you certainly wouldn’t want it for anyone else.

In startups, we love to talk about unfair advantage, but when it comes to hiring, the only unfair advantages should be skills and experience. What the movement for inclusion and diversity is about—and what we should be striving for—is a world where we all compete equally. If it is a brave thing to express your fear publicly, it is braver still to acknowledge the reality of the situation and work to rectify it.

One of the things I love about the startup community is that once we identify a problem, we move forward to solve it in as many ways possible. The path to inclusion in the workplace doesn’t have to be a pendulum that oscillates between two extremes—discrimination and counter-discrimination—before settling down in the middle. Pendulums are a relic of the industrial era. In the digital era, we can choose our target, set our standards, and move forward as a community to achieve them. As you build your startup, build inclusion in your workplace from day one.