Monthly Archives: June 2007

Doc Searls and Dave Rogers Converse

I was happy to read about Dave Rogers’s and Doc Searls’s conversation on Dave’s blog the other day. Both write about subject matter I care about – various intersections of society and the web – and have opinions I respect, if not always agree with.

The back and forth between them is a great and rare example of how two people of very, very differing opinions can converse and connect across the Web.

So color me sad when I read Stowe Boyd’s response. Yes, Dave called him blowhard. But his denouncement of Dave was downright Cheney-like, putting words in his mouth and even calling Dave an “enemy of the future”.

I hope I never get such an elitist, my-view-is-the-only-correct-view way of looking at the Web or the world.

Congratulations Rajiv

Congrats to Rajiv Pant, who has taken a job in NYC at Conde Nast Publications as VP of Information Technology for CondeNet!

Rajiv was my manager (and eventually VP) at Philly.com and Knight Ridder, before the dotcombust, back when KR took risks and had a future. He’s a real visionary who always finds a way. I learned a lot from him during my time there and miss our deep talks about the nature of well.. just about everything.

Rajiv, my friend, congrats to you :)

Happy Father’s Day

I’ll leave you with a quote, an excerpt from Jeff Gammage’s new book “China Ghosts”: Becoming her father:

The lack of control is terrifying. Maybe that’s why parents reduce the experience to banalities. They grow up so fast. You turn around and they’re grown. Where does the time go? Then again, the cliches are cliches because they’re true.

Already I can feel Jin Yu moving forward – and away. I hear the clock ticking. I notice the continuous, minute changes in her looks and size and demeanor. Some days I almost want to shout, Don’t go! Please, don’t go. Don’t leave. Stay here. Stay my little girl, my baby, my darling. Stay the child who adores me always, the one who on Monday mornings wraps her arms around my legs and shouts, “Dading no go work!” And who, eight hours later, jumps into my arms and kisses me as if I’d been gone for a month.

My fatherhood will be too short. That I know. How long before she is off with her friends? Seven years? Eight? Ten at the most.

Still, being a father has already delivered more laughter than anyone has a right to enjoy, and greater satisfaction than anyone has a right to expect. It has taught me – forced me – to become my better, stronger self. And left me in fear that, on too many days, I have not been the person I’d hoped to be, but the one who is too tired, irritable and removed. The person who fails to understand that every day with Jin Yu is a gift, that these moments and days will pass like a summer wind. That too soon I’ll be waving goodbye to my grown-up girl and wondering how it all went so quickly.

Elmer Smith: “Somehow it always ends up sounding like signing up for the draft.”

In my twenties I was lucky to observe two terrific dads – my wife’s, and my brother. But that was my twenties, growing up I had zero male role models. I didn’t have a dad, and I can only recall one male school teacher (Lawton Elementary sixth grade teacher, Mr. Crell) who had an impact on my upbringing in a positive way. As a teenager, my peers spoke of any possibility of becoming a father with derision and fear. If I knew someone who had a dad, he or she wasn’t happy about it.

I had to learn about fatherhood through entertainment media. Older stuff like “Happy Days” and “The Brady Bunch” seemed out of whack with reality. Most entertainment of my era (the 80s) presented fathers as the dumb or broken players in any family (“Married With Children” anybody?). Shit, take a look at any entertainment media of today. Is it any different?

I’m lucky I had Mr. Rogers when I did, before I grew into the hard, cynical teenager I was.

Cynicism that’s been wearing away from me as I get older. A process that’s speed up considerably as I’ve been blessed with fatherhood. With Emma.

I thought I knew so much. I thought I had felt all there is to feel.

And then I saw her face. And held her in my arms. And heard her laugh. And heard her say “daddy”. And watched her hug her mommy. And watched her crawl for the first time. And saw her stand up and take her first steps. And cringed when she fell on her face, and looked for our reaction (which we shifted very, very fast to supporting), and smiled and got back up. And heard her yell when her grandpop and grandmom visit. And saw her snuggle with her Elmo and Philly Phanatic dolls. And watched her rip into her bookshelf, sit down in a pile of books, and paged through them one by one. And heard her laugh the hardest laugh you’ve ever heard when Zena was rolling over and running on by. And was able to look at my wife’s face, and share these moments with her.

So when Elmer Smith in the Daily News says we need to speak out about the joys of fatherhood, in the following, it sounds like truth to me.

…Plain truth is that most men have never learned to talk about being fathers. Somehow it always ends up sounding like signing up for the draft.

That’s a man thing. I’ve heard men who have been happily married for 30 years make it sound like they’re being held hostage. We rarely talk about our children the way mothers do.

Women talk about their children and it makes you think everybody ought to have one. Men make it sound like something that happens when you’re not careful.

It’s a tougher sell for a lot of young men today than it was for me. They see more baby’s daddies than custodial fathers. Marriage comes later, if at all.

The men I grew up around and paid attention to were all fathers. They were the most respected men in my world. If they showed up at a parent-teacher night at school, teachers couldn’t wait to talk with them.

By the time I became a man, I wanted to be a father. But I didn’t want it for my yet-to-be-born child. I wanted it for me.

We can tell that story. If we’re going to arrest a trend that threatens to destroy the fabric of life in our communities, we must tell that story.

Young men don’t just need to hear what’s going to happen to their children if they’re not there to raise them. They need to hear what it feels like to teach their sons how to ride a bike or catch a ball.

They need to know that no one, not even a mother, can make their daughters feel desirable and worthy of being loved the way they can.

They need to know there is nothing you can shoot up or snort up or rub on that can match the feeling you get when you see your child starting to walk like you or talk the way you do.

A lot of us have had moments like that, defining moments. That’s what we get out of being fathers.

Kay Miller: “I had low self esteem, thinking I couldn’t achieve anything.”

Kay Miller is one of the first five Philadelphia recipients of free laptops provided by Impact Services Corp in their welfare to work program. Impact Services provided me the tutoring I needed to get my G.E.D., and I am forever thankful for the time I spent with them.

Laptops and low cost Wi-fi can make a difference in the lives of the working poor. The Web provides access to information and resources that are not easy to find otherwise – especially with the crush of time you suffer when working multiple jobs and possibly having to take care of a family simultaneously.

While there is far too much digital utopianism sprouted by some, it’s important to remember just how empowering the Web can be.

I say this from direct, measurable, personal experience.

Wi-fi Philly’s laptop leap – 5 get free computers, giving breath to city’s wireless dream:

Five welfare-to-work women in West Kensington just became the first city residents to earn free laptops and Internet service from Wireless Philadelphia, the mission of which is to connect low-income workers to the Web so they can get better jobs and provide better lives for their families.

The five women represent the tiny start of Wireless Philadelphia’s citywide dream.

…Gathered at Impact Services Corp., the welfare-to-work agency on Allegheny Avenue near 19th Street where they earned their wireless bundles by holding a steady job for a year, the five women are the first to receive a high-tech makeover that Wireless Philadelphia hopes to give to 500 low-income workers by year’s end, thousands in years to come.

“Access to information is access to opportunity,” said CEO Greg H. Goldman while Chief Operations Officer Agnes Ogletree’s eyes welled up at finally seeing three years of plans realized.

“Fudgcicles!”

One of the funny developments to having an infant who is trying to parse every word you speak is the realization you can’t curse as freely as you used to.

Yeah, I know, I don’t exactly use curse words all that much on the blog, but in regular, day to day conversations, well, I curse here and there.

And here’s the kicker – the effect of suppressing curse words around Emma seems to have the inverse effect of having me sprout baby talkisms around adults.

Speaking of Emma, at 16 months, she’s quite the communicator. She knows more than a few words and a couple two word phrases, along with the sign language symbol for “more” :) We’ve always been sure she understood more words than she can actually communicate with her voice and learning some sign language has been fun.

Being uninsured

I posted an editorial, from a deeply personal perspective, about being uninsured and health care to Philly Future and Young Philly Politics. There’s a bit about me in there you might not know about.

We gotta speak out sometimes. And sometimes that requires sharing parts of ourselves we may not want to.

I gotta get my guts back.

Here is the post for you:

Hello,

This is a difficult piece to share, and is a bit out of the norm for me, so apologies if it rambles a bit.

A few months ago, on my way home from a physical rehabilitation session for my herniated disk and spondylolisthesis, I fell down some steps on the way to the Regional Rail and fractured my right foot.

All of the next day, especially upon learning that the fracture was minor, I laughed at my predicament. The irony of it. Oh I was in pain, be sure of that. A whole hell-a-lot of it. I still am. But I could laugh because just over ten years earlier, I would not have had health insurance – and my situation would be considerably more dire.

Dan Urevivk-Ackelsberg of Young Philly Politics has asked me to share with you some of my personal experience with being uninsured.

My name is Karl Martino. A few of you know me as Co-Host of Philly Future. Philly Future isn’t designed to pay it’s bills, it’s a labor of love, so by day I work as a software engineer for a great employer, where I have health insurance as a benefit.

As I mentioned, just a short time ago, I would not be looking at my predicament and be considering myself so blessed. I was working a string of part time jobs, that either did not offer benefits, or gave benefits to those who worked full-time. A status reached when you worked a number of weeks in a row 36 hours or more. Employers would never let me work the required hours for those number of weeks straight. This kept benefits tantalizingly out of reach. It went like this for approximately six years.

Six years without a dental visit. Six years where the emergency room would be my source of primary care. Six years between the day I was thrown out of my mother’s home and had worked my way to a place that could be considered “middle-class”.

As a teenager, I made the difficult decision to quit High School and find work. My home situation was tenuous and I did not know if I would have a home to sleep in one day from the next. Making this decision put me out of the reach of counselors or advisers. I had no one I could talk to I felt could help. And one day, in my late teens, I did find myself looking for a place to keep warm and get rest.

It was the 90s. It seems so long ago now, and it is hard to recall, but it was a time of great opportunity. A time where employers, unburdened with the environment of fear we live in today, might take a chance on a hard worker and help that person get a leg up. An environment where millions of people could succeed in their struggle against the cycle of poverty. So that’s the route I went – I taught myself software engineering and built a career.

Looking back, I realize how truly blessed I was. I had no serious health issues to address. I had no family to take care of. If I had either, I could not consume myself with my work as I did. How do single mothers and single fathers, fighting every day at jobs that barely pay the bills do it? Their choices are far more stark then mine ever were.

It’s difficult to speak about my past, but I recognize I have a responsibility to my community to do so.

Responsibility is a tricky word. We live in an age of ‘me’, where our responsibilities to each other have been subsumed by those responsibilities have to ourselves.

Governor Rendell’s health care plan may offer us an opportunity.

An opportunity to insure that no child need go without a preventive medical visit and end up in a costly emergency room visit. An opportunity to make our state an example that others will want to follow, one that will make us more attractive to employers and home makers alike. An opportunity to insure that working class people, people that want to provide a healthy home for their families, people that want to climb up the ladder of our American dream, have the tools to do so.

We have an opportunity, an opportunity to live up to our responsibility to each other.

- Karl Martino

PS – This post points to some reasons why I haven’t been active on the web and in the community as of late. My apologies to everyone.

This will be cross-posted at Young Philly Politics.

You can read more about the health care plan at Philly.com and rxforpa.com.