Pronouns Are Basic Respect, Not Political Correctness

My mother took a job as a patient’s rights advocate at a mental health facility when I was about 20 years old. It was an old facility, up on the hill over downtown next to the state prison. The pair were largely what our small town in the hills of southwestern Virginia was known for.

She had been a social worker and a drug prevention counselor most of my life. I had spent time in her offices growing up, and was always aware of what kind of work she was doing and why. My mother shared that part of her life with me. So when she took this new job, I asked her what she would be doing.

“It’s my job to be sure people are treated the way they deserve to be treated. If they want to be called Jesus, people should call them Jesus. There are other rights they have, and I help ensure staff comply with them.”

I thought about that a while. Throughout school, we learn everyone’s name from their name tag or how they’re registered. We take for granted the name they give us is the name they wish to be called by, and generally do it with no issue. What if someone wanted to be called by a different name?

I had done the same myself my first two years of college. Growing up, I went by Alex, because that’s what my mother and family called me. In middle school, the name Alex Cox slowed down by the local southern draw became a mocking homophobic slur. So when I started college, I tried out my first name, Lawrence, with others to see how I felt about it. Although people were happy to call me Lawrence, it never felt right to me, so slurs be damned, I switched back to Alex when I transferred to university, and have been Alex since.

It was relatable that someone in a mental health facility might want to be called a different name for reasons apart from a psychological diagnosis. Even if it’s an aspect of their condition, it’s still their right to choose their own name. Everyone deserves to be called whatever they wish to be known by. It’s basic human respect, as well as great manners, to acknowledge another’s identity in the way they choose to present it.

As time passed and discussions of chosen gender pronouns became a more common topic, I realized it was a matter of what I had already learned and experienced. Gender is alongside our names in terms of our identity and presentation. It’s a matter of that same respect to call someone by their appropriate gender and pronouns as much as it is their name. That someone may choose either, and find offense when others don’t acknowledge their chosen name or gender, is natural.

Using incorrect pronouns, dead-naming (calling a transgender person by their former name), or misgendering someone intentionally is rude, disrespectful, and has no place in well-mannered discussion. It has nothing to do with how one may feel about gender issues and deserves any offense taken by others. Even when done unintentionally, over time, it betrays an inflexible mind which cannot adapt to new conditions.

It is easy to show good manners and respect by calling someone by their offered name and pronouns. It is simple acknowledgement of another’s chosen identity, as you would want others to acknowledge and respect your own.

The Last Month of Venturing…

The Chinese Garden at Huntington Library and Gardens

It has been a month since my last post. Here is what I’ve been doing:

The last month I spent much time retracted and journaling. Writing for myself is a little different than writing here on my personal blog, and very different than writing for others. I get a lot of emotional processing done by journaling, and it’s something I suggest for anyone. Personal writing is healing, and the last month I’ve realized how far I’ve come on my journey recovering from past trauma, PTSD, and the negative pressure I placed on myself to counter undiagnosed ADHD.

I spent a week in LA with my partner, enjoying visits to Huntington Library and Gardens, the LA Opera to see Aida on opening night, and the much lauded and admittedly awesome Alamo Drafthouse for The Northman and Everything, Everywhere, All at Once. Our transition to a long distance relationship has been challenging, but this visit really paid off with relaxed enjoyment and connection.

Huntington Library and Gardens is incredible, and well worth the visit! It takes more than a day to see it all. The Chinese and Japanese Gardens are incredible, and the Herb and Rose Gardens were fascinating. The Mapping Fiction exhibition was superb, and the Library Exhibition Hall with a Gutenberg Bible and the Ellesmere Chaucer were uniquely enjoyable. We did not get to see the Australian and Desert Gardens, sadly, nor many of the art exhibits. Notably enjoyable in the Chinese and Japanese Gardens were the Penjing and Bonsai displays.

Chinese Penjing display, a miniature forest landscape

We also visited the last day of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire, my first time there, and I purchased an epic hat from Bat Hatter Dude.

At Renaissance Pleasure Faire with my new hat by Bad Hatter Dude

Coming back to San Jose, my wife and I notified our landlord of our intent to move out by July 31, kicking off the official move. We’re working on cleaning out the house and looking for a place in the Portland, OR, area. It just needs to be somewhere temporary, not a forever home, but cheap enough to get us started and in a location we can enjoy both the city and the surrounding natural beauty.

I’ve started looking at work, thinking about what a return to work looks like. I’m landing on freelance and contract work, maybe some consultant work. Like many, I want more freedom and flexibility from the workplace, and it will be nice to have the flexibility to work from anywhere. I have range from data center hardware consulting, technical writing and communication, to various other content work, so I’m not going to lock myself down to the old niche just yet. However, if anyone needs consulting expertise on data center hardware serviceability or procurement, I’ll be available soon.

I am also catching up with friends before we leave, especially now that I’m out of this shorter period of isolation. It is bittersweet to leave now, especially as I’ve made friends and found community during COVID, in unlikely times. If you’re in the Bay Area and would like to get some outdoor coffee before mid-July, please reach out.

I continue to walk near daily, and I enjoy walking meditation particularly. Walking meditation is a great skill to develop. It provides feelings of harmony with your own little area, seeing the changes from day to day, week to week, particularly in the spring to summer. Summer solstice, what we refer to as Alban Hefin in Druidry, is just around the corner, and it is nice to enjoy the longer days and cool fade to night.

Sometimes my 5 year old joins me on walks, and he is quite the director of photography.

My son asking me to zoom in on this ball from a tree

I usually place pictures from my walks on my Instagram account. Please like and follow there for more.

Thank you for reading these words. Bookmark, and come back again soon. I have plans for this space as I return to work, and it will continue to be the area for personal insights and musings. My book is still in development, and more poetry will be coming.

Until then, may you find and share peace, harmony, and love in your life.

Letting go of the material…

My time off work is in its fifth month.

I couldn’t have imagined taking time off like this before. It has been a journey, and often I lack credit to myself for the things I have learned and the shift in mindset I have made.

As we turn our thoughts to leaving, we have yet to start getting rid of things. We are packed in a house surrounded with artifacts and relics of the lives we lived before our son, in his early years, and the years of the pandemic. Among the piles of our past selves we have been cocooned, gestating on our next form, the next life, and the things which we may take with us to build our next nest.

Most of this stuff is going to go. Most of it has no purpose or point aside from gathering dust. I have watches for a wrist which rarely wears one. I have out of date computers and tech from a time when I needed many, or at least thought I did in service to my career. There are trinkets and tchotchkes and a weird tea set which is pretty cool but not anything I will ever use again. There is more alcohol than we can drink, more clothes than we can wear, and more toys than we can ever play with.

Our home is a stockpile of abundance, but that wasn’t what has made us happy. We have been happy when we have had a clear sense of enough. What is the least we need at this moment, in this day? A steady and secure home to live in. Food to eat. A book or two to read. A few personal things which serve often enough to have their own daily place.

What point is there in holding onto clothes we don’t wear, games we don’t play, computers we don’t use, devices long out of date, books we don’t read, dishes we don’t eat from, and countless other things packed in boxes we haven’t opened in years? None of these add to our happiness. With too much, they add to our stress and cost of living.

This isn’t an essay on minimalism. I’m not a minimalist, and I don’t think I could ever be by choice. There is a practical matter of how much stuff you have, especially when you’re about to move. There is a mental aspect of how much you’re keeping track of on your own mental ledger of assets. Those things tucked away in the storage closet downstairs are holding onto some neurons you may require for other things.

While I don’t know what our future life will look like, I know enough about it, and me, to know I won’t need as much. We can start the work of setting ourselves up for that by clearing out some of this old stuff now.

The Daily Show agrees with me…

In my last post, “The Value of things…“, I talked about the housing crisis and what drivers are making home ownership more difficult. I called out a group that probably makes a lot of people upset:

The multi-home investor, individual or corporate, is the single greatest challenge to affordable home ownership. 

This week my last post became timely as The Daily Show tackled the housing crisis as part of their “If You Don’t Know, Now You Know” series:

Trevor Noah talks about the housing crisis.

The value of things…

I’ve never really been a great capitalist.

When I was younger, people would say things like “you don’t know the value of a dollar” or “you don’t know what it’s like to have to work for money” like it was a faulting of privilege or an impairment for having never been starving. As I got older, as life happened, I was fortunate to never starve, but there have been times I’ve been hungry.

Looking back at this now, my mindset with money comes from more from neurodivergence than any kind of privilege or poverty. I know what a dollar can get me, and I know the numbers in my accounts have real world meaning, it’s just these things are all abstractions until they aren’t. To make them real, I ascribe my own value to them, usually based on return on investment of dopamine. How much for this level of happy?

Over time, as I made more money, this made to larger and larger amounts for larger and larger pools of dopamine. I went through hobbies, places, and people, chasing after higher highs, not putting as much in long term investment. Where’s the dopamine hit in a savings bond?

I think there is something to be said for life experiences. I know I have a ton of them now I wouldn’t have had, and some of those influenced personal growth, inspiration, and creativity. I hope to make some money with that at some point, and maybe that’s the real long term investment.

The thing is, life experiences, dopamine, and long term financial stability are all on this flat plane for me. I know things must be done for all of them, but prioritizing any one of them for too long is hard. So, I have to think about all three… or at least, that’s what I’ve been doing.

Now that I’m aware of it, I know that awareness will drive its own change in priorities for me. I perceive it as a risk, and even a flaw, that I don’t always prioritize long term financial security. Why start a business when I can work for a perfectly decent one for a while? Why monetize something I’m doing when I’m just doing it for the joy (read: Dopamine) ?

It’s another step in unpacking my midlife ADHD diagnosis.


I’m in month three of my break from work. I’m not hurting, but I’m starting to feel the ding of finances at my door. My lease is coming up, I know I need to make a final decision about relocating. I know I’ll need to have some proof of income when I do, or at least I think I will… I worked for so long I don’t know how people get established without a job. The thought has never crossed my mind, but I’m sure any freelancer or contract worker who had to relocate in uncertain times has run into this problem.

So it may stand that I’ll need to look for a job or some sort of income not for need of money, but for need of establishment. Legitimacy. It’s not a thrilling concept for me.

Looking back at my time at Apple, it was a revolving dopamine machine for me. Crazy fires at work fed the dopamine. I’d get rewarded in more crazy things and more pay. The more pay on paper wouldn’t have meaning to me, but the dopamine that would get me did. It was a cycle until ironically, the crazy things at work shifted from problems I could solve to something I couldn’t – a reduction in stimulation. I was half shelved and bored.

Many people look at my career at Apple and see someone with drive and ambition, when I was just chasing the next level of dopamine. The more chaotic it got, the more I loved it and the more I gave into it. While on one hand this makes me wonder if I should do startup work, I also don’t think that’s healthy. There should be some dopamine in day to day work, but not chasing the fires like I did before. I’ve learned that’s not healthy, even for me.

I realize I haven’t written at all about my time at Facebook. From a work perspective, it was a positive, healthy time. I don’t have anything bad to say about my personal experience or my team there, from hiring to leaving. Most of what I have to say about that company is about its products, upper leadership, and social impact, all of which I may or may not write about in the future.


So the value of things for me historically has been driven by the dopamine. I’m an addict. It’s why I never got hooked on cigarettes, drugs, or other stuff. I’m already hooked on my own good-good juice and it’s just a means of optimizing the delivery system.

Thankfully, I have healthy things that ground me with this. I have positive relationships, I have time and ability to meditate and have a spiritual practice, and I have learned developing skills and talents have long term rewards. I have benefited from the experience of building a life or three and doing it well.


Recently I read a phrase in the book Polysecure which talked about people going through major life events associated with sexual or spiritual discovery as having a crisis of deconstruction. That term has rolled around in my mind the last few days. Have I been going through a crisis of deconstruction the last several years? It would seem so, given the work I’ve done and progress I’ve made. I’ve deconstructed close to everything.

If so, when does reconstruction begin? Has it already started? Was rebirth begun during the death? I have this feeling of being near wholly empty, yet having already come so far. While in this time of quietness, I feel the fires of creation most, worried if I’ll hold my form or be scorched away in the process. Depending on the metal, there can be a thin line between malleable and melting. Which am I right now?


So I’m not a good capitalist because I don’t do things for money. At best, money is an awesome byproduct, but I’m motivated by challenge and action than by even getting something which can get me more dopamine. More and more, I want to do things that leave a positive impact on the planet and people. I was challenged with that at Facebook, and moreso when it became Meta, which is a whole other story.

I also don’t like that others have to do things for money, and that it has to be a predominant thought on most people’s minds. There is abundance for all when our focus isn’t on material or monetary wealth. There’s no reason we should have people going bankrupt for medical bills, or not be able to afford a home somewhere near where they would like to live or work.

The rent is too damn high because our policies encourage hoarding and capital investment. They don’t encourage the working class to buy and own their homes long term, and by that I mean multi-generational. Think about it.

John goes to work at a factory and takes a job earning just enough to qualify for a 30 year mortgage. On his income (laughably), he can support his nuclear family to buy exactly one home, own two cars, and ostensibly put one child through college. He has a pension at work and when he retires, his home is paid for, his child is through college, and he has the pension and some savings along with social security.

This laughably idyllic scenario sounds like a win, but then things fall apart.

The pension fails from corruption and bad investment, or maybe a corporate board takes it away. John didn’t plan for social security to cover it alone, so takes another hit. Along comes a reverse mortgage company, and John sells his house back to the bank in payments that favor the bank.

When John dies, he has no savings, no assets, and his house is back at the bank. His kid never realizes the wealth from the house, and never builds on it.

The only winner here is the bank, who got John coming and going. Banks don’t profit from long term, multi-generational home ownership. They profit from new mortgages and new investment. We talk about numbers of home ownership in the country as a benchmark, but really we’re talking about the number of mortgage agreements. Move to the next place! Buy a new home! Bigger! Better! Modern!

We’re at the point where anyone who isn’t in on this ponzi scheme is a victim of it. The multi-home investor, individual or corporate, is the single greatest challenge to affordable home ownership. This self-assured, if-I-can-do-it-you-can-too upper middle class and above is when capitalism goes from stock abstractions to the real deal – they own something of value which will yield earnings. They’re your landlord, your Airbnb superhost, or maybe even your parents. They’re the ones the system has worked out for, and really, the minimum line requirement for long term financial success now.

So this is why I’m a bad capitalist.

I know that line for minimum financial success. Two mortgages, one you live in, one a rental property. I’ve seen that line for about ten years now. I’ve had access to get in that line for at least five years. Yet, I haven’t. I’ve had no interest in doing it. Part of it is because there’s no dopamine in it for me, the other is I want to prove it’s possible without working that formula. Spite. Yay for self-awareness.

What I want increasingly now is a way to change the game. I hate that game. It’s not that I’m not competitive, it’s that it’s loaded, and it’s loaded against regular people who fall victim to it at no fault of their own. It’s what’s driving our growing homelessness. It’s what is driving rising income inequality.

I’m a bad capitalist because I see the game, but I don’t want to participate in it.

Maybe this is where the crypto bros’s pitch comes in. Maybe that strain is what appeals to people who dive into crypto. The thing about crypto is as currency it’s another media for the same style of economy. There’s some cool tech there, and I’m sure there are more interesting things to do with it than pump and dump schemes, long or short term.

I think we need a new vision. I don’t want to be a landlord. I don’t want to run an airbnb. Yet that is where the economy drives us.

I’m open to ideas and thoughts in comments. Keep ’em respectful, please.

Getting sick while travelling in the time of COVID

It started in my chest. First a tickle. Then a little pain.

Was that my heart? Nope, all looks good there…

A cough. Uh oh.

That night, I wheeze going to sleep.

I wake up to a full chest cold. These are rare. Usually my colds start in my head and go down. Rarely do they start in my chest and go up…

Do I have COVID?

I think over the preceding days travelling with my partner. Flights. A wedding. Venturing on the LA Metro for the first time. Plenty of opportunity to get it. My partner seems ok though.

My son back home gets sick and starts throwing up. My wife is worried. I am too. Should I go home if I have COVID?

My cough gets worse. My son gets better. I take a COVID test… negative.

That evening my nose starts running and doesn’t stop. Cold chills bring shivers and I’m afraid to move under my blankets. I’m supposed to fly home tomorrow.

I wake up and can barely breathe. I’m supposed to pack, but still have chills and fatigue. I talk with my wife and reschedule my flight.

I’m on a medication regimen now… something for the mucus, something for allergies, something for fever… I spend most of the day sleeping. My partner takes care of me, making sure I’m covered with blankets and checking in.

I take a second COVID test… negative again. I feel thankful at least it’s not that I might take home with me.

My wife gets sick, the same bug our son had. She’s throwing up, which she hates more than anything else. She wants me back home. I want to be back home, but I’m not feeling well either, and I’d either take what I have there or get what they had too.

The sleeping through the day helps. By evening I’m not shivering. I go to sleep feeling a bit better and breathing well.

This morning I wake up. I cough a bit to clear out my lungs, but my wheezing isn’t so bad. My sniffles are waning. A round of meds should help. I feel well enough to pack and get ready to head home.

The flight leaves in a few hours. It’s a short one, less than a couple of hours. My partner is going to drive me to LAX.

My wife feels much better. My son has to stay home from day care though, and she’ll be with him today.

Looking back, I think this is allergies. The mucus meds helped the symptoms, but the med that helped the most was the allergy medication. It seems to make me more sleepy when it’s really doing something.

Time to pack. Time to fly. Time to say goodbye to my partner for another month. Long distance goodbyes are sad.

I’m just thankful it wasn’t COVID.

Why I Left Apple Two Years Ago

A couple of nights ago I had a dream about working in Apple Retail again. It was a good time in my life. I enjoyed it, made great friends, and it was the start of my tech career. Yet the dream was horrendous. I was back at the same place I started in 2007, and none of the years between really mattered.

Dreams can help us process things we’re holding on to. They can let us know where our pain is, where we need to let go, and where we need to heal.

The last two days reflecting on the dream, I realized my fear related to it was that I haven’t moved on. I haven’t grown. I haven’t lived and experienced anything of value since my time in Retail.

Then I realized that’s the way the last HR Director at Apple made me feel before I quit. In our last conversation, following months of discussions about concerns I had, he diminished my years of work helping build Apple’s infrastructure and services. He made me feel like I wasn’t part of the culture I helped build. He made me feel like I didn’t belong in a place I had worked hard to be in, growing into with skills, knowledge, and experience. He made me feel like, in his words, I was “back in Retail”, as if it were an insult I was ever there.

I’ve been angry with him, but more angry with myself for letting it happen. It’s easy to say you shouldn’t let yourself be influenced by others, or let the words people say hurt you, especially enough to change your life. Yet, what he said that day hurt, because it touched vulnerabilities I had carried for years despite my incredible career, success, and professional growth.

Then I left.

He didn’t make that decision for me. I did. I could have stayed. I could have escalated. I possibly could have fought and sued. I could have sit down, shut up, and kept cashing the checks. Instead, I quit and went elsewhere, leaving behind the work I had done, the team I had built, and people I enjoyed working with (most of them, anyway).

Being honest with myself about this, and forgiving myself for it, is the hard part that has taken time to reach.

The flip side is I needed personal growth. I needed to explore emotions, art, poetry, spirituality, and creativity. I also needed therapy. I needed to heal from long experienced PTSD. I needed to be diagnosed with ADHD and unpack it. I needed to work in a more positive culture and on a different team. None of this happened the twelve years I was at Apple, and there are few signs it would have if I had stayed.

Finally, I needed to take some intentional time off, which I was able to begin three months ago. That time off is how I got to today, where I can sit, write this, and be honest with myself and you about what happened.

I’m sorry to the team and people I left at Apple unexpectedly, and without any guidance about the problems I had navigated there before leaving. I’m sorry most to myself for not taking the time during my career to explore and address the issues I had, so my personal growth could match my professional life.

As for the HR Director, whether he’s current or former, I have mixed feelings about him. I hope he has never said anything to others like what he said to me, even though leaving Apple has worked out for me. Those at Apple who come from Retail do not deserve to be treated like a different class, or unworthy of being in roles they’ve earned, especially since demographics from Retail also intersect with greater diversity, culture, and economic backgrounds. There’s an issue there, not just with him, and I hope Apple works to address it.

I have more time off ahead. I’m writing a book, along with a few other personal projects. I’m relocating. I’m enjoying art, poetry, people, and places. I’m also figuring out what a return to work will look like. I don’t think it will be like before. It may not even be in tech.

Whatever it is, it will be something I can put my heart, spirit, and mind into, and magical things happen when those are in alignment.

Be Yourself.

Be yourself. Be everything you are. Be open and vulnerable and beautiful and hideous, don’t hide a thing. Don’t conform or change for someone. Don’t try to be anything or anyone other than your own blessed wonderful self for another person or group.

The people who choose to be with you will be the ones who truly care for and love you. They will have no expectations built on their own imaginations of who they think you might be. These people will be your closest friends, partners, and family, and they will bless your life further.

The people who leave or do not wish to know you will do so making the most informed choice. They are honoring and respecting you, knowing they are not right for you. Mourn their loss, when appropriate, but not their absence, for in their absence they are freeing you for greater happiness.

The people who stay but try to change you, or make you conform to expectations other than who you are or who you want to be, are the greatest for concern. These are people with their own false expectations, who neither respect who you are, nor who you want to become. It is the greatest act of love for yourself and them to leave, freeing you for greater happiness, and freeing them to someday find their own.

All cases lead to greater happiness in your life and the lives of others. Getting there can be messy. It means breaking old expectations, setting and negotiating new ones. It requires finding love for yourself and seeking your own happiness and joy independent of others. It doesn’t happen once then never again, it is a continual practice the rest of our lives. Be yourself.

The Invasion of Ukraine

I’m not a geopolitical expert. I’ve never been to Ukraine, and have only met a handful of Ukrainians in my life. I don’t know their lives, their wishes, their dreams. I can only imagine they share many of the same ones I do: to live life in peace, security, and seek happiness with their loved ones and families within their communities.

The last few weeks, watching leaders position and poise, talk and align, and the inevitable political arguments occur here in the US about the escalating tensions, ultimately I see a conflict here that is as entirely unnecessary as the violence occurring now in Ukraine.

There is no good reason for this invasion. There is no valid reason for this violence or conflict. Russia was not in immediate threat. Putin was not in danger aside from the political aspirations of those working under him if he does not appear strong enough, or forceful enough.

This is a conflict of ego, a war of reclaiming lost glory of a former empire. There’s no glory in that. There’s no safety or added security in it.

I sit and think about what should happen, what would I want my government to do? So many times we’ve sent troops, we’ve fought for so many different and unnecessary things. Our generations are tired of being in wars. Yet, I am devastated for the people of Ukraine who are being attacked and dying. I just want it all to stop.

I hope for peace. I don’t know if there is much I can do other than speak my own mind and hope others agree and spread it. Aid, sanctions, and other methods might work to dissuade Putin a little. I worry that eventually it may come down to further violence and killing to stop a small group of power hungry mad men who are risking burning the world for their greed. Then again, we are faced with that every day here.

So whatever you feel about this, the people of Ukraine deserve to be able to live their lives in freedom and peace. That’s what we should focus on, as right now, they’re the ones being hurt. My heart is with them.

Crows Came

Today I watched a man
So angry about littering
He chased a car out of
A parking lot on foot.
Yet he was not
Angry enough
To pick up the litter.

The gulls came first.
White as clouds,
Surrounding fries hungry.
Then their victory lost:
A crow arrived
And staked its claim
Picking up a fry.

I watched it a while.
It called another.
They picked and pecked.
They took what they wanted.
I finally got out
Of my car at last
And picked up the rest.

Why do we get so angry
We will attack others,
But not take action
To address what we’re angry about?
And I can’t help but think
This is Our story
As we let the Earth choke.