Pondering: A Guest Essay by Phillip Alvelda

Today I am publishing an essay by Phillip Alvelda.  He was the CEO of MicroDisplay Corp. a start-up that I joined as employee #13 in 1997.

Pondering by Phillip Alvelda

Pondering how to close what seems to be a rapidly widening empathy gap here in the U.S. and globally.

I used to just be resigned to the fact that many of my white friends who had never felt, or experienced discrimination directed at themselves seem incapable of seeing or recognizing implicit, or even explicit, bias directed at others. I didn’t used to think of these people as mean or racist…just oblivious through lack of direct experience.

But now, with a nation inflamed by our own government inciting and validating hatred and bigotry, with brown asylum seekers and children dying in mass US internment camps, and LGBTQ and women’s’ rights under mounting assault, the discrimination has literally turned lethal. And the empathy gap is enabling these crimes against humanity to continue and grow in the US now, just like the silent majority in Weimar Germany allowed the Jewish genocide to advance.

I’ve come to see supporters of this corrupt and criminal administration as increasingly complicit in the ongoing crimes. It is no longer just a matter of not seeing discrimination that doesn’t impact your family directly.

Trump supporters and anyone who supports any of his Republican enablers must now find some way to look past the growing reports of discrimination, minority voter suppression and gerrymandering, hate crimes, repression, the roll back of women’s and LGBTQ rights, a measurable biased justice system, mass internment camps, and now even the murder of the weak and vulnerable kidnapped children that commit no crime other than to follow our own ancestors to seek freedom and opportunity in the US….. This growing mass of willfully blind conservatives have abandoned fair morality, and are direct enablers of evil.

We are now in an era I never thought to see in the US, when government manufactured propaganda is purposely driving the dehumanization of women, LGBTQ people, and people of color. The US empathy gap is widening rapidly. How can we fight these dark divisive forces and narrow the gap, when our polarized society can’t even agree on measurable objective realities like the climate crisis?

Otherwise, I fear the U.S. is on a path to dissolve into at least two countries, divided along a border between those states who value empathy and seek an inclusive and pluralistic future society, and those who seek to retreat to tribal protectionism of historical rights for a shrinking privileged majority.

That this struggle rises now really baffles me. Consider the world’s obviously increasing wealth and abundance, with declining poverty and starvation and increasing access to virtually unlimited renewable energy. The need for tribal dominance to horde resources is dissapearing. The need for borders to protect resources that are no longer scarce, is vanishing.

Just imagine if all of our military and arms spending, all of the money we spend enforcing borders and limiting access to food and medicine and energy and education were instead directed towards sharing this abundance!

Pluralism and empathy are clearly the answer. How can we get more people to realize this despite the onslaught of vitriol and tribal Incitement from the likes of Fox News?

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Ugliness of Intergenerational Hate

Candice eetimesFor generations, we’ve seen snarky attitudes and unwarranted over generalizations expressed about different birth cohorts.   One can hear comments in film from the 1930’s about, “kids now days” and the young adults of the ’50’s talking about “squares”.  But lately, I’ve seen it boil over to the point where one sees calumny openly published in what many would consider main stream publications as regular fare.

In one example written by Vrabel, he tells us that Baby Boomers were responsible for the McCarthy Era.  Never mind that the oldest ‘boomers were in elementary school at the time!  Then goes on to blame ‘boomers for ruining the economy.  Never mind that they too were badly hurt by economic downturns.  And it’s not like such downturns were invented by ‘boomers, as though they had never occured before.  This is followed by a list of “advice” the author attributes to ‘boomers that can only be described as deliberate strawmen, as it was the boomer generation that decried some of them first decades ago, and at least one of them is a distortion of ‘boomers pointing out that parents might want to go back to the “free range” childhood that we (yes I’m a ‘boomer) had the privilege of experiencing and that cutting edge millennials are once again adopting.

How many times have we heard lately that ‘boomers should make way younger people.  As though we have hung onto jobs too long.  Never mind that far too many ‘boomers don’t have enough to retire on.  We hear complaints about how ‘boomer politicians are holding onto political power and not making way for younger people.  Never mind that WWII vets held political power from just after the war until very recently.  In fact, even now, twenty-three of the one hundred senators currently serving are OLDER than the oldest ‘boomers.  If young people want to blame anyone for our political troubles that we have ALL suffered under, blame them, not us.  But even then, that’s not a fair indictment.  Politics is complicated.

How many times have we heard that millennials are lazy, entitled, and spend all of their money on stuff they don’t need?  While, in truth, some of this generation carries a student debt load that crushes all their dreams of home and family, while cheerfully working low wage jobs?

I have a very simple test I use to determine if something is ugly and hateful.  If the group being commented upon are substituted with another group to which we would recognize the unfair characterizations, we can see it for the hateful lies they are.  For example, if we were to replace “baby boomers” with “Jews”… or “millennials” with “blacks” would we then recognize how ugly and hatefully false these statements are?  Try it out on the linked essays.

If these same essays had actually been written about Jews or Blacks, there would have those who would rightly point out the unwarranted hate and push to have them censured (if not censored).  We would point out how such hate has led to discrimination and tragedy.  So why do we tolerate it between generations?

Examples of Hateful Articles & Books:

“The Terrible Parenting Advice Baby Boomers Need to Stop Telling Us” by Jeff Vrabel, Fatherly (2019)
https://www.fatherly.com/love-money/worst-parenting-advice-baby-boomers/amp/

https://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanschocket2/17-reasons-millennials-are-actually-the-worst

https://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/bruce-cannon-gibney/a-generation-of-sociopaths/9780316395809/

https://www.vox.com/platform/amp/2019/5/22/18617686/baby-boomers-millennials-capitalism-joseph-sternberg

https://slate.com/business/2019/05/california-housing-crisis-boomer-gerontocracy.amp

https://amp.theguardian.com/technology/2019/jul/08/millenials-baby-boomers-roleplaying

 

The Modern Armchair Tourist

Candice eetimesTravelogs, in print and film, have for over a century provided the armchair tourist opportunities to vicariously visit famous or out of the way places around the world.  But the internet, and especially Google Street View offer the opportunity to explore the world in greater detail and at one’s own choosing.  It has opened my eyes to insights I don’t think I would have had in any other way.

My husband and I both love old house architecture.  We both love “old house porn”, looking at online real estate listing of Victorian and Edwardian houses, sometimes in house envy, sometimes in bleak dismay at the run down condition or worse, the misguided “renovations” of previous owners.

Along with looking at the houses, I like looking at the gardens.  Some of these houses, like those in Portland, OR, have magnificent ones.  But, amazingly, some, especially those in the mid-west and south, have no gardens to speak of, just crab-grass and weeds.

Taking virtual ‘drives’ around old neighborhoods in various parts of the country, I’ve noticed that there are entire towns and counties that have that same run down look.  No gardens, not even flower pots on the porches.  Interestingly, these places seem to be those that are economically depressed and ‘blowing away’.  Just as I’ve used the sight of bars on the windows of urban houses as a sign of urban distress, the total lack of gardens in a town tell me that this town is failing.

Gardening is NOT expensive.  One can grow a lot of flowers from inexpensive seed or bulk bulbs.  One can grow roses from cuttings from neighbors.  There are entire books on how to landscape on the cheap.  Many of these gardenless towns clearly used to have lovely gardens and tree lined streets.  It isn’t just a matter of money.  No, it’s as if they have no pride of place, no plans for a better tomorrow.  These are places where anyone with any “get up and go… got up and left”; Places where every June, the best and brightest of the young people graduating from high school head off to college and never come back, leaving the less ambitious behind.

These are the places where we find the diseases of despair, alcoholism, meth, and opioid addiction.  The places where “Make America Great Again” actually has meaning, ’cause they used to be great places, but no more.

A lovely garden is a sign that the people who live there believe in a future.  The lack says the opposite.  Take a virtual tour of these towns… and see the death of hope.

Officially Retiring…

Candice eetimesI’m officially retiring from a long career in technology, primarily the electronic display and semiconductor industries.  But that doesn’t mean that I will stop working.  Like my father, Jerry, who officially retired from his career in polymer chemistry only to reinvent himself as an expert on recreational deep sea fishing and as an entrepreneur establishing a brand of high end fishing line.  I won’t be sitting at home.  I will be pursuing two post-retirement careers, one as a writer the other as a flight instructor.

I will of course, continue as an advisor to those I have have already committed, Belle Capital, Springboard Fund, and Vital Vio.  I will remain as a board member of Positive Images, a local non-profit mental health resource / drop-in center for LGBT youth.

I’ve had a long career in technology, starting in 1976 as a 19 year old administrative assistant / secretary at CMX Systems, which made computer video editing suites back when that meant a DEC PDP-11 controlling video tape recorders.  I became an electronics assembler, then a technician.  I worked for MCA DiscoVision mastering the very first video laser discs to go to market.  I worked for Conrac Video on their assembly line testing and repairing CRT monitors (remember those?).

In the ’80s, I worked at Fairchild Semiconductor in their digital test systems division designing hybrid microelectronics and supervising a prototyping fab, then worked for Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) in their then new packaging R&D lab.  In the late ’80s, I founded Triskon to develop a MEMS based flatpanel display technology.  We failed to get past the seed stage, though I did build a very crude operating prototype.

Starting in 1990, I worked at Planar Systems in R&D developing manufacturing technology to enable color displays.  While there, I began independent research into subpixel rendering and novel color subpixel arrangements.  In the mid-90s I worked at Photonic Packaging Technologies improving their laser diode packaging design and manufacturing line.  In the late ’90s I worked at The MicroDisplay Corp. bringing up their LCOS pilot line.

In 2000 I founded Clairvoyante to develop and license PenTile subpixel rendering technology.  Clairvoyante was acquired by Samsung in 2008.  I then founded Nouvoyance to support further development of the technology in partnership with Samsung.  In 2014, I was awarded the Otto Schade Prize by the Society for Information Display, my proudest moment, even as it coincided with shutting down most of the co-work with Samsung having successfully supported PenTile technology introduction and shipping in millions of smartphones, notebooks, tablets, laptops, etc., per year.

The past five years I’ve been consulting with various display companies, both in the US and overseas.  But that is now officially done.

I’ve worked with some amazing people over the past four decades, too many to list here.  (And if I forgot to mention a few, I would feel bad for having unintentially slighted them.)  I learned a lot from them and am grateful for their support.  Thank you.