Comparing the French and American revolutions

As I write this column, sprays of popping lights are igniting across the country. For once, I am not in the US, celebrating in New York City where I typically observe the 4th and where I typically read the Declaration of Independence out loud to my kids. They have heard the story many times from their parents but largely because they are fans of Hamilton (the musical). Thank you, Lin-Manuel Miranda.

When that document was signed, the gentlemen who put their names to it understood the stakes: if they did not succeed, they would be tried as traitors and they would be hanged. I like to think about it, especially on this day. I wonder what it’s like to take a stand with implications so severe. It was not clear that they would be able to rebuff the British. In fact, by August of 1776, the British had parked over 400 ships from New York Harbor to Staten Island. If you happen to ever visit Lower Manhattan, look at the harbor and think what it was like to see that view speckled with 400 antagonistic warships. I have never seen that many boats in the harbor, nothing like that number, not even 100 boats in the upper bay at any given time.

I am writing from France on this special holiday so let me give a nod to the revolution that happened here. I am fascinated with revolutions because there was a very special one that happened close to home, at least my heart’s home. The French Revolution, though concurrent with American Independence, did not preserve the ideologies they professed—liberty, equality, and brotherhood. The ultimate problem is that it violated so many rules of humanity. The beheading of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette are seminal events in world history. However, it is not at widely know that the Louis XVII, a child my son’s age, was first kept under abusive guardianship, told his mother no longer wanted him, rid of his identity (they called him Hugh Capet) and finally locked away in a sunless tower cell for the last two years of his life. His cell was infested with rats. At the age of 10, a few months younger than my son is now, he died of an infection of the lymph nodes.

When I think of the French Revolution, I think of French-on-French atrocities and nothing of the soaring ideas they wanted to pass down in history. When I think of the American Revolution, I think of a collection of intelligent bad-assess that had driven their stakes in the ground, given up tea, risked their lives and all for the intangible goal of remaking the world as it should be. And that “should be” which still seems to be gaining ground today happens to be one of the most compelling ideas in human history:

“We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal….”

With that one line, the world was changed. It may not have changed instantaneously, but it has set us on a path of social change that is not likely to reverse course, not ever. Hopefully, these ideas will affect the rest of the world at their own pace.

The founding fathers, the signers of the Declaration, could have capitalized on their newly acquired powers and secured the country’s leadership fall to their descendants. Instead they chose to propagate their ideas.

If you haven’t gotten a chance yet, take a few minutes of your day to read Thomas Jefferson’s missive. He may have been a Caucasian man in a wig of white hair and we may be brown people who may or may have been born in America now. But his is our history too. These ideas are ours to nurture and implement. Those fireworks popping across the time zones are for our eyes.


FYLPRO’s Next Immersion Program Deadline is July 7

Is anyone shocked to see how upwardly mobile the Fil-Am community has been over the last 20 years, maybe 30 years? Long ago, there used to be an offensive joke that if you looked up “Filipina” in the American dictionary, the definition would say “domestic helper.” Now that seems ridiculous. In my everyday life, I don’t run into Filipinos in low skilled jobs. I run into them as teachers, doctors, nurses, and accountants. I see them in the real estate business, at banks, and at tech firms. On occasion, there’s a new Filipino billionaire at the helm of a hot IPO. And there’s Bruno Mars,, and the former Miss Universe. At the firm where I work, there are four Filipinos in a 25 person office—two are technologists, one is in finance, and there’s me. All this might be anecdotal, but I don’t think I need to pore through a pound of statistics to make the point that Filipinos living in the US are doing better today than they were two decades ago.

I can only guess at the causes. When we immigrated (or your ancestors immigrated), you had to cross an ocean to get here and likely came from an advantaged demographic that probably had a superior command of the English language, a higher appetite for risk, and a high regard for education and self improvement. As a former US colony, we were already familiar in fundamental ways with American culture. So when the dictatorial barrier crumbled 31 years ago, we had a cultural gap to close but we closed it quickly.

This generation of Fil-Am millennials blends effortlessly into general America. Couple this with the ascent of multiculturalism during the


Syjuco and Collins Team Up Again with Almost Sunrise

Syjuco and Collins Team Up Again with Almost Sunrise 
By Cristina Osmeña
Next month, it will be 30 years since the double rape and homicide of sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong in Cebu, Philippines changed the landscape of my family’s grief.  My second cousin, Paco Osmeña Larrañaga, was arrested and convicted of this crime and sentenced to death despite overwhelming evidence that he was enjoying the night with two dozen friends at a bar in Manila.  Yet, despite an extensive collection of relatives connected to government, some who were in positions to have spoken for him more proactively, it was Manila-born Marty Syjuco who decided to do something for his brother-in-law.  (Syjuco’s brother is married to Larrañaga’s sister.)
Marty Syjuco and Michael Collins (director) made a widely acclaimed documentary called Give Up Tomorrow.  The documentary won 10 film awards, including the Audience Award at the 2011 TriBeCa Film Festival, and received nominations for countless others.  While the film called much attention to Paco’s plight, it did not result in a revocation of the guilty verdict.  However, the attendant impact campaign, Free Paco Now, swelled public sympathy for his release and catalyzed the abolition of the death penalty in the Philippines.

Restorative Justice comes to Bay Area Community Schools

On May 30, 2017 from 6pm to 8pm, in the multi-purpose room of Daly City’s Thomas R. Pollicita Middle School, Dr. Loretta Johnson of the American Federation of Teachers will be flying in from Washington DC to lead a panel discussion on Restorative Practices.  Dr. Johnson will be joined by local educators, particularly members of the American Federation of Teachers local 3267 and American Federation of Teachers local 1481, Daly City Councilmember Ray Buenaventura, as well as student activists from the community.  The school is located at 550 East Market Street in Daly City and the event is open to the public.
It sounds like a complicated social science but Restorative Practices is simply incorporating a child’s emotional landscape into the way a school manages its culture.  When I was in public school, managing emotions was considered the domain of my parents.  That left a lot of room for imperfection in the school environment.  Students were left to manage situations like bullying, cliques or general exclusion and insecurity on their own.  School was for academics and sports, not matters of the heart.  Decades later, during the Obama Administration, a new mandate has risen around thinking through the public school environment—a mandate that includes social and emotional factors into the student culture.  After all, the majority of a student’s waking hours are spent at school.  There is a lot of emotional exposure that happens outside the parental domain.
The primary focus of implementing Restorative Practices in Bay Area schools is Restorative Justice.  This involves resolving disciplinary behavior differently, through group discussions and community involvement.
“Schools and teachers do not want to be part of a system that criminalizes students at an early age,” said Melinda Dart, President of the American Federation of Teachers local 3267.  “Schools need to build positive environments just to get everybody there every day,” she continued, referring to the notion that driving high attendance is one of the key factors in the success of a student population.
“Unjust disciplinary consequences can make kids feel alienated,” said Dart.  These would include classic school punishments like suspension or expulsion.  Restorative Justice uses a softer approach to discipline that would include empowering the victim and teaching empathy to the bully.
The evening discussion on May 30th attempts to bring the community into the broader discussion of rolling out Restorative Practices into local schools.  Including the community in the solution, in fact, is one of the five pillars of the restorative discipline.  The others include healthy relationships between educators and students, conflict resolution, restoring positive relationships, and reducing harmful behavior.  In order to achieve all this, teachers must undergo training.  In the Peninsula, the schools furthest along in adopting Restorative Justice are three in the Mission Corridor of Community Schools—Pollicita Middle School, Jefferson High School, and Woodrow Wilson Elementary, all in Daly City.  Woodrow Wilson Elementary will have a program geared to younger students called Soul Shop.
By taking the perspective that “the bully is not a happy, well-adjusted individual,” and focusing on changing that person’s trajectory before it develops further is expected to reduce crime before the criminal is formed.  To accomplish such a thing, the educators driving the program need the support of the community.  So come hear Dr. Johnson if you live in the area.  It will be a nice way to start the short week after your Memorial Day break.



Waiting for Season 7

After back to back to back weeks of quantum entanglement and the goings on of Silicon Valley, I’m going to focus on the serious stuff—Season7 of Game of Thrones. I am embarrassed to say that I am not only addicted to the show, but I’m letting my kids watch it. My family has been watching over the entire series from the start, looking for clues about the relationship between Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Did he kidnap her or did they runaway? We hear both accounts embedded in lines. The writers did not wrap this up for easy consumption like a box of Chicken Nuggets. Really, I think this show has to be watched all over from the beginning in order to really enjoy Season 7, which premiers on July 16.

Whether or not Rhaegar and Lyanna loved each other, we know that they are Jon Snow’s parents. The viewer knows this and Bran Stark saw this in a vision, but everyone else privy to this secret, is dead. He and Daenerys are the only Targaryens alive. I wonder how he discovers his own Targaryen-ness. Viserys Targaryen claimed to be a dragon and Daenerys, though the object of dragon affection and commendably immune to fire, does not seem dragon enough, not to my satisfaction. That naked/fire-immunity thing is getting long in the tooth. I am hoping that Jon Snow will ultimately turn out to be a dragon. Now, that would be interesting. He has already risen from the dead and intimidated a white walker. Jon Snow is more than just man…that’s my theory. When he walks into the fire, not only will all of his clothes burn off, but he will breathe fire too.

“The story of Daenerys Targaryen introduces the notion of "Einsteinian" power,” says Matt Lowenkron of Arizona radiowave fame. “One measure of the legitimacy of power is that power, just like energy, cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another. And, that is certainly one underlying theme of the Daenerys chapters.”

Here is another unpredicted twist: Daenerys does not live to assume the Iron Throne. I don’t know how she dies but putting her on the Iron Throne will wrap up the story so predictably that it cannot happen that way. Instead, Tyrion Lannister and Sansa Stark will reunite in a marriage of happy convenience and rule together. Jon will rule the North. Jamie will kill Cersei in the heat of the moment, having been forced to decide between brother and sister.

But enough of the realities with respect to who will sit on the Iron Throne, in a perfect Westeros, if the seat to the Iron Throne were an elected one, who would you vote for: Donald Trump, President Duterte, or King Joffrey? And if Westeros also had an electoral college system, do you think one would win the popular vote and another the electoral vote and thus the throne? Would the White Walkers be allowed to vote? Would the Wildlings be deported, even if they fought to defend the wall? Finally, if KingJoffrey were presented with the liver of a terrorist, would he offer to eat it with salt and pepper?

These are the profound things I have to share when I am past my deadline. I look forward to Ed Sheeran’s crooning cameo and I’m hoping I can actually recognize some of the other ones.

The ultimate plot twist came from Manila resident and relative of mine, Bob Barretto: “Dueto climate change, winter isn’t coming.”


How PhilDev Plans to Eradicate Poverty in the Philippines

After I arrived on time to visit Dado Banatao, I got lost.

Instead of calling from the lobby as I was instructed, I somehow found my way to his floor. The doors opened into an all white utility area that led to continuous concrete, an outdoor patio, and a cluster of solar panels. There was no hint of a path to any office let alone to one that housed one of the most prominent Filipinos in Silicon Valley. I finally gave up and called to be fetched.

When I am old and my memories have blended into the fictions in my mind, I will remember winding through a labyrinth of hidden pipes and electrical boxes, the din of computational spin and a secret elevator door that expanded into private posh offices revealed, as if through parted mists, with a quick hydraulic hiss.

Dado took my meeting without even requesting my agenda, which was to donate Sunpreme solar panels to the Philippine Development Foundation (PhilDev). A plug for Sunpreme: our glass-on-glass panels are much more robust in harsh environments, salty air, and signal 3 storms. The start of the discussion lingered on a thin client solution for schools (computer terminals in which computing is performed remotely, in centralized servers or the cloud). Internet speeds are snail-mail slow, I protested. And he went on to explain a solution—a different WiFi router that separated the operating planes, lifting one of them into the cloud and leaving behind a low cost box. It is a world-class engineering solution meant only for the Philippines, our Philippines, just because.

For twenty years, starting with my early career at Hambrecht & Quist’s research department, I had known of Dado as a prime mover in the semiconductor industry. I knew that he had founded S3, developed the PC chipset and a graphics accelerator, and wisely invested in Marvell. What I had not known was how his story started.

Born to a rural family in Cagayan (not to be confused with Cagayan de Oro), Dado was sent off to school at the age of 11 where, as an antidote to his isolation, he immersed himself in studies that started with math and ultimately led to an intense romance with engineering at the Mapua Institute. It is an unusual story. A single sentence couldn’t do it justice. But it begs a pressing question: about 42 million Filipinos live on less than $2 a day with 21 million of them student-aged or younger. How many potential Dados are in this pool of kids who didn’t get the chance to fall in love with math, go to Mapua, work for Boeing and finally study solid-state physics at Stanford? What if one of them, dazed by the heat on her sun-struck neck, had the key to the grand unifying theory locked in her brain? Or a cure to cancer? Or, most important, eternal youth? A lot of potential genius is left un-mined (about 31,500 geniuses, more precisely, if the bell curve applies).

With the methodical approach of an engineer, Dado has done something about it. Many of us ask the same questions and guess at answers. Many of us have untested solutions and the passive will to discuss these problems over long meals in manicured places. PhilDev has done a lot more than talk and tinker. From its scholarship fund to its school computer program to an entrepreneurial mentorship program, the organization has thoughtfully chosen to


April 24 Deadline for Google Developers Launchpad

This is timely news. Monday, April 24, 2017 at 9am PDT is the deadline to apply for the next “class” of Google Developers Launchpad. The 6-month program is open to start ups from any of the following countries: the Philippines, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam as well as 11 other countries in Africa, Latin America and Europe. Applications can be submitted through the following link startups/accelerator/ and requires filling out a short form and recording a video presentation about your company.

“This is a way for citizens of Silicon Valley to spread its magic to other countries,” said one attendee of the APAC Launchpad event earlier this year.

Structured like a non-financial incubator of sorts, Google is looking for “companies that already have traction but need support to go to the next level.”

Google will select the startups with the best prospects for high growth. As long as they are technology based, they can offer products in tech hardware, apps, cloud services, websites, among other things.

The selected participants in “class 4” will be invited to an all-expenses paid 2 week boot camp at Google headquarters, access to Google’s resources, engineers and mentors and the opportunity to work closely with Google for six months. All this in exchange for no equity. Nothing sounds better to a start up than non-dilutive resources.

“I’m thrilled to see that Southeast Asia is on the radar, including the Philippines that had Zipmatch representing the country,” said Christina Rodriguez Laskowski, an attendee of the APAC Launchpad event and President of STAC. STAC has “been actively focused on increasing awareness of the opportunities in Southeast Asia. Although we have an active ecosystem, we don’t have a diversity of opportunities. We’re building out relationships because through collaboration we can build something bigger. The skillsets could differ from country to country. Indonesia is pulling founders from the Philippines (as an example).”

Google has completed its program for class 3 which included Philippine company Zipmatch, billed as the upcoming Zillow of the Philippines. Now I know where to go for my Philippine real estate webshopping needs.

Laskowski was energized by the idea of treating Southeast Asia as a unified region. I asked her what motivated them (Launchpad focuses on several regions, all emerging markets.) “Growth is not going to come from here,” she said. “It’s going to come from Asia.” And elsewhere.

If any hungry Philippine-based start up reads this, we need more servers in our country. Anything to speed up the slow crawl of internet data. Convince Google to locate some of their servers in the Philippines, thereby giving us a faster internet. Better yet, provide your own caching services and charge.

Another notable event…on April 25, Maoi Arroyo, founder and CEO of Hybridigm Consulting will be speaking at 494 Lomita Mall in Stanford. Some of you may know it as the Skilling Auditorium. Her consulting firm tries to bring together skills in business, technology, finance and elsewhere to push for innovations that would eradicate poverty and increase average household income in the Philippines. Her talk, titled Relentless: Forcing Impact Through the Gauntlet of an Emerging Ecosystem, starts at 4:30pm.


I, Quantum Romantic

In 1935, Albert Einstein wrote a paper with two collegues, Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen, called “Can Quantum-Mechanical Description of Physical Reality Be Considered Complete?” The spirit of the paper was to uncover the defects of quantum mechanics in the form of the wave function. I suppose Einstein had a bone to pick with quantum mechanics, a bone about probability replacing God’s will, more simply. But what the paper brought up has captivated me for the better part of two decades—the phenomenon now known as quantum entanglement.

Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen did not refer to entanglement as such. Quantum entanglement, as it is now known, postulated the existence of particle pairs (an electron and a positron, for example) that act like a system no matter how far they are apart, even if they are separated by the entirety of the universe. If the pair acts as a system with a unity of spin, then if one particle spins one way, the other particle will always be found to spin the other way. The relationship exists no matter the distance between them, even if it is light years or the width of the galaxy or the entire breadth of spacetime.

This was the subject of my first date with my husband. And the second date. People used to ask me about how our relationship began and I used to answer that it was over the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen thought experiment until I realized how pretentious that sounded. Then I came up with the story of how I met him the week after my rabbit died, which is true. I replaced the EPR paradox with a story about my late rabbit because I was worried about being pretentious. But it is not as pretentious as it seems. In fact, quantum entanglement has to be one of the most romantic ideas I’ve ever heard in science: two particles so attached that the laws of quantum mechanics don’t apply and the speed of light does not limit the strength of their unity. If ever the idea that “love is love is love is love is love” should apply outside living consciousness, this is it.

The EPR paradox paper refers to “physical reality” and “physical theory” but was in fact really three guys in Princeton just thinking. It was a thought experiment. The instruments didn’t exist to verify these ideas in a lab in 1935. Quantum entanglement was not observed until 1972 in an experiment performed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology by Stuart Freedman and John Clauser. Today, quantum entanglement has crossed over to the pedestrian world of applied physics most notably in quantum computing and communications (availing of the superluminal transfer of information). I keep finding articles on the subject in magazines. They bring up an exciting new application or another new lab verification. But I find the lofty concept much more profound than its practical application. Particles so attached that they transcend the constraints of spacetime. How romantic is that? So romantic, it reminds me of my first date with the guy I eventually married.


One Root of Our Inequality

We’ve heard a multitude of comments over the years about the growing wealth gap in this country. Many have attributed this to high CEO salaries and the growing differential in executive pay vs. average pay. And this can’t be denied. However, I would propose that other factors are at play, factors that have left the typical Trump voter in the middle of the country troubled by an unsubstantiate-able suspicion that the system is rigged. Let me explain. Let me begin with a story.

About two weeks ago, a technologist working on an exciting new area of invention asked me to find a connection to a high profile venture fund that was just launched. Because this discussion is alive and well, I’ll use a fictitious name in the hopes that the webcrawling robots don’t connect the dots. Let me call it BSD Capital. That’s vague enough.

BSD Capital was announced to the media as the big swinging deal in energy investing with $1 billion to play with. It was spearheaded by none other than Bill Gates and had names like George Soros, Julian Roberston, and Jeff Bezos on its board. I would have thought that a fund with such a public profile was intended to fund ideas from well…the general public. You’d think. So when I went to the website, I was a little disappointed to see this:

“As you know, BSD (name changed) is just getting started, so we aren’t considering any unsolicited investment opportunities at this time.

When our team is assembled and we are ready to evaluate proposals, we will post more information on our website about how best to engage.”

It took me exactly 4 days to figure out a workaround to this obstacle. After lamenting my great flaw of losing most of my business cards in my dusty mess, some of which belonged to the Soros-complex, I found a way in. It’s called a network.

I should have been glad, but I was miffed. If a professional or personal network was the most effective way to get an idea in front of BSD Capital, what about the average person who went to school in a square state and yet came up with the brilliant idea of creating clean and infinite power out of (just an example), say, emotional distress. Talk about an infinite source, at least in my life. Square State girl—because it will be a girl—will remain sadly out of the loop, that loop that takes a good idea, adds a little capital, stirs, shakes and gives you odds on your first billion. It factors into why one part of the country is languishing while another is funding missions into outer space. The concentration of the network, the natural cluster of connection in specific geographies, has exacerbated the wealth gap.

There is a reasonable rebuttal to this. This week, I met with an investor who did just this kind of angel funding. He put much more weight on his network, he told me. It is a natural sieve that allows him to depend on the judgment of those he knows. It is reasonable for someone to depend on his network for sourcing investments and very reasonable that private investors should be allowed to source investments by any means they like as long as those means are compliant with the law of the land.

Just wondering…could this behavior change on its own? If these big swingers at BSD Capital thought through the broader effect their clubbishness is having on society, would they make an effort to be more democratic in the way they allocate the opportunities they are creating? After all, if they are trying to change the world by giving society better energy alternatives, wouldn’t they also be motivated to democratize the opportunities they create? Moreover, if public money like CalPers and CalSters and the teachers unions understood the clubbishness of the private equity investments they are funding (this does not apply to BSD as it is private money), would they demand more democratic behavior? I have my all-powerful forward button to help me find out. I’ll let you know in a subsequent column what thoughts are shared back.


Not Quite a Book Review

In a speech she gave to the National Society for Women’s Service, Virginia Woolf commented on how strange a thing it was that “there is nothing so delightful in the world than telling stories.” This quote made it’s way into a recently released memoir called The Rules Do Not Apply, recommended to me by a coworker at Sunpreme (that's the bifacial solar panel supplier in Sunnyvale).

The Rules Do Not Apply was written by Ariel Levy, an LGBTQ staff writer at the New Yorker. It is a memoir with all the wisdom that 38 years can supply written by a woman of privilege who felt that she lost it all. It is fast, delicious narrative. Most of all, it is shamelessly entitled, so much so that it speaks volumes of how the wealth of the American coasts have created large swaths of microcultures that cling to the notion of misfortune because of its scarcity. Here was a bright, fast living New York woman, receiving food deliveries, writing for a living (a privilege in itself), enjoying the bubble of densely populated coolness that minions like me can only yearn for. She was/is a lesbian and financially independent. Between all the words glowed the pride of her freedom from the shackles of the female past. “Daring to think that the rules do not apply is the mark of a visionary,” she writes. “It’s also a symptom of narcissism.”

For those not familiar with the significance of the New Yorker magazine, it is the intellectual high-brow rag for New York insiders. So much so that the jokes are hard to understand. It is also one of the glowing crowns of arrival for a creative writer to have their kind words formed into print by that rag. It is the epitome of elite New York literati.

This takes me back to the Virginia Woolf quote about telling stories. I have a story about meeting the fiction editor of the New Yorker once. My late professor, Leonard Michaels, had one of his books reprinted by the Arion Press, probably the last functioning printing press in our country. This editor was there. We exchanged a few facts about how we knew the writer (she, obviously, published him) and it turned out that she was a Comp Lit major from Cal. I was an English major from Cal. In age, we might have been one year apart. I left the immediacy of the moment and saw this woman as the path not taken, the pinnacle of the power I could have achieved if I had slogged it out as a writer and settled for editor instead. “What do you think about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” I asked her.

“I don’t,” she said. And there it was, the arrogance of the literati, living off the last of the intangible perks the dying industry has used to make up for poor compensation. “What do you do?” she asked.

“I work at a hedge fund,” I said.

“You probably make a lot less than you used to,” she said (this was after the financial crash.)

I didn’t answer. I thought it best not to engage in this one.

The party was in an old, lived-in apartment in the Upper West. Moisture trapped books lined the wall. Antipasti and soft drinks were offered up in the kitchen. I took my plastic plate and put it down in a spot with more oxygen. In the time it took for me to greet someone else, a German cockroach might have crawled on and off my plate and scurried back down into its netherworld behind the baseboard that didn't quite accommodate the slope of the floor.

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