just thinking out loud, Uncategorized 34 comments on Dear Ms. Mary…

Dear Ms. Mary…

Dear Ms. Mary,

I want to reintroduce myself. My name is Melih Onvural, and we met almost 25 years ago in a small town called Cary, NC. I even remember how you introduced yourself – “My name is Mary. My husband’s name is Terry. And we live in Cary”. I was 9. And I don’t think you hated me then. Why do you hate me now?

If you remember, we were neighbors for 10 years. I grew up playing Monopoly and doing math homework at your kitchen table. The one time I remember my parents taking some time off for themselves, I stayed at your house. You might remember my parents. Muslim immigrants from Turkey who came to America and built their own American Dream.

Raif Onvural at ODTU Graduation 1983
Raif Onvural at ODTU Graduation 1983

You see, I feel the need to re-introduce myself because over the last year or so, you’ve filled my Facebook feed with alt-right political rhetoric as if you’ve never known an immigrant; or a Muslim; or someone who scraped, crawled, and fought their way from the bottom to the top of the hill known as America.

But you have – me.

Melih Onvural - Senior Prom 2003
Melih Onvural – Senior Prom 2003

And – very consistently – over the last year you’ve posted your political rhetoric, and I’ve stayed silent. I figured that your candidate couldn’t win, and that I shouldn’t soil our relationship with political bickering. I was wrong about the former. And you didn’t give me the courtesy of the latter, and so I have to remind you of a few things tonight.

(1) Your candidate said that he wants me and my parents to not be a part of the American fabric. Either he actually means it, which makes him and you bigots, or he said it only to rally up the crowd which makes him a liar.

If it’s the former, then your years of speaking down at me for not being Christian are a farce. Christ isn’t a bigot. And as a follower of Christ you must love all of His children, and leave judgement to our Creator on the Day of Judgement. These are the words He spoke in the Sermon on the Mount. These are things you taught me. In your kitchen. In the life we shared together. As neighbors.

If it’s the latter, then you’ve been conned. And you’ve allowed a con man to become your false prophet – once again betraying the very values you claim to live by.

(2) Your candidate has encouraged white supremacists to come out of the shadows in which they were hiding, and refused to repudiate them.

By supporting this man, you’ve made the world less safe for my children. Here’s a picture of my mixed-race children. They’re 5, 4, and 1.5 years old. They have a British mom, and a Turkish dad. Their last name is one that no one can pronounce. Instead of looking into my feed, and wondering about the world looks like for these kids when hate is allowed out of the shadows, you openly invited hate, and pushed us into the shadows.

Onvural Family at bedtime
Onvural Family at bedtime

How can I possibly bring them to North Carolina now knowing that the KKK has been empowered to stand back up? How can I send them to their grandmother’s house for the summer not knowing if they’ll be safe or not? You have grandchildren. Why would you create a world that is less safe for them than the one in which your own children grew up?

(3) Your candidate has firmly laid down a layer of concrete over the glass ceiling of equal opportunity that every woman in my family has fought for.

Nur Onvural - Women of Western Wake 2016
Nur Onvural – Women of Western Wake 2016
Micky Onvural
Micky Onvural









Why should these women have opportunities closed to them? Why as a grandmother and a mother of an incredible young girl should they think that her opportunities will be less than those of the boys in their lives? Your candidate – and the masses who voted him in – make them believe that. Should your granddaughter have fewer opportunities just because she doesn’t have a penis?

I think somewhere along the line you forgot that the names and labels that you were raging against were people. People with lives, destinies, hopes, and dreams. My family. Your neighbors.

Your vote – and the votes of millions of other Americans – told these people – my people – that we don’t matter.

As much as I thought the best solution was to turn you off, I’ve realized that that’s wrong. I’m not going to unfriend you. I’m going to fill your news feed with the pictures, stories, accomplishments, and journeys of these people.

Because we’re not a faceless mass. We’re not Skittles in a fucking bowl. We are America – the best parts of it. And we want you to be part of our story too.

just thinking out loud, Uncategorized 0 comments on Ballot for 2016 Election

Ballot for 2016 Election

Things I’ve learned this year:

(1) Direct democracy is an AWFUL idea. If you don’t have 2 hours, and access to the right resources, then you have no idea what you’re voting for. It’s just awful.

(2) Our current two party system is broken, and there’s really no solution in sight

(3) California is obsessed with implementing liberal policies with conservative tax plans. It just can’t be sustainable, and is really worrisome.

And with all of that… my votes for the 2016 election up and down the ballot:

President & Vice President – Hilary Clinton & Tim Kaine

I really don’t like Hilary Clinton. Her foreign policy is too hawkish. She’s too old school for me on economics and taxation. But I don’t actually care. This is actually a protest vote against Donald Trump, and a world who would have him elected President. And so I’ve switched from leaving this blank, to voting for Hilary as a way to say that I can’t imagine a worse future for my children than one after 4 years of Donald Trump.

Senate -  Kamala D. Harris

I think both women are strong candidates here. I think that Kamala Harris has put together a better vision of how she would fix the economy, and deal with immigration. Loretta Sanchez’s campaign seems to mainly be about her history and her experience, and less so about what she wants to do.

House of Representatives - None

Preston Picus isn’t a real alternative. He seems to just be an angry citizen who got enough votes to get on the ballot. And I don’t think that Nancy Pelosi should go back. I just see her as part of a past generation who keeps trying to fix this country in the image of their parents and grandparents (same with Hilary I guess). I wish we could provide a real challenger here, but alas no luck.

State Senator – Jane Kim

If I were going to go by the inverse of the number of flyers I received this would easily go to Jane Kim. All Scott Weiner did it seems during this campaign is trash her. And he kept trashing her for policies she stood up for that when I read into them I also supported. So he in fact did most of my research for me here. What really tipped me in her direction though was as I was reading through her policies she spoke about how she wanted to fund her progressive programs. This is a theme I constantly see missing for Democrats. Sure they want to be progressive, but who’s paying for these progressive policies. Jane Kim seems to have that plan in place

State Assembly – None

The current Assembly Member – Phil Ting – doesn’t seem to have any ideas of his own. The challenger – Carlos “Chuck” Taylor – is too Tea Party for my liking.

School Board – Mark Sanchez, Rachel Norton, Stevon Cook, Phil Kim

The folks I knocked off of the list were either there too long (I think SFUSD is broken – so bragging about 24 years on the Board was a major turnoff), didn’t have plans for how to fund their ideas, or had never before been involved in creating an education program.

These four seem to be focused on technology (including working in non-profits who have had to fund their ideas), teacher retention (with ideas about how to fix it), and curriculum (with clear ideas of where to focus).

Prop 51 – No

In reading the text, this is yet another excuse by California legislators to not take a hard look at Prop 13, and find a sustainable way to fund schools. We’re effectively saying that because we don’t have the political will to challenge Prop 13 we have to keep borrowing against the future to fund schools.

Prop 52 - Yes

This seems to be a program that’s working, and one that we should continue to let work. I think the lack of regular check-in by making the date indefinite is a bit sketch, but not so much as to vote No.

Prop 53 – No

The last thing California needs is more direct democracy. Definitely voting No here.

Prop 54 – No

This one looked great to me at first. But the more I read, the more I didn’t like it. So I asked the one person I know who has worked in the State Legislature, and he said vote No. Sometimes you just need to know who to trust 🙂

Prop 55 – Yes

This is an extension to an income tax that will help fund schools. Unlike the construction proposition which I think will mainly help construction companies, this one puts the money into the education fund, distributes it locally, and then it gets spent locally. So on this one I’m voting yes.

Prop 56 – Yes

I’m anti-all things smoking.

Prop 57 – Yes

For this one, I think dismantling the Prison Industrial Complex is important. I also think that we need to take away from prosecutors the need to appear tough which incentivizes them to push for juveniles to be tried as adults. However, the case of Brock Turner demonstrates that giving this power to judges won’t necessarily turn out the way we expect it to. At the least, judges aren’t incentivized (I hope) the same way.

Prop 58 – No

I’m not sure what the long term outcome of this is, and the bi-lingual programs I know of in SFUSD are working for the folks who are in them. Just not convinced why we need this change.

Prop 59 – Yes

This is what my rant was all about, and so I definitely have to vote Yes here. Yes, I do want my state government which has the 8th largest economy in the world to use as much influence as it can to impact the federal government.

Prop 60 – No

This is regulation because someone wants to regulate. If you want to fix pornography, the issue isn’t condoms.

Prop 61 – Yes

I’m voting Yes here because I think the pharmaceutical industry has demonstrated in a few extreme cases (Martin Shekel and Epi-pen) that the system protects it enough without needing unfair pricing power. So if we can create a directive to drive costs down for pharmaceuticals, then let’s do it.

Prop 62 – Yes

Fabienne Gerard (my high school advisor) took me to an anti-death penalty panel when we were in high school. I’ve been anti-death penalty ever since. Yes, we should repeal the death penalty.

Prop 63 - Yes

I actually have no idea how this kind of move impacts the gun lobby across the nation, but at least in this corner of the country we can push back and create some sense of responsibility with gun ownership. Prop 63 is a definite yes for me.

Prop 64 – Yes

I think Prop 64 is another example of using the might of California to push change at the federal level. With most of the Western US legalizing the drug, we can create some momentum at the federal level to have a real conversation about the War on Drugs (also known as the War on Black America), and whether it’s time to end it.

Prop 65 – No

This is big industry protecting itself with a well worded proposition. No to more products made by oil.

Prop 66 – No

We don’t need to reduce the cost of the death penalty. We need to end the death penalty. No on 66.

Prop 67 – Yes

One of the simplest worded propositions I’ve seen in my time in California. We need to get rid of plastic bags. The less of our lives that is made by oil, the easier it will be to unentangle from the global obligations that come with an oil driven economy.

SF A – No
SF B – Yes
SF C – Yes
SF D – No
SF E – Yes
SF F – No - 
16 year old shouldn’t vote. Come on.
SF G – Yes
SF H – Yes
SF I – No
SF J – No
SF K – No
– Instead can we ask the technology industry to pay its fair share of taxes instead of giving Twitter a massive tax free zone?
SF L – No
SF M – Yes
SF N – No
SF O – No
SF P – No
SF Q – No
SF R – No
SF S – No
SF T – Yes
SF U – No
SF V- Yes
– Take that soda companies :-p
SF W – Yes
SF X – No

BART RR – No – I just don’t trust the folks who run BART after the way the BART strike situation was handled.

just thinking out loud, Uncategorized 0 comments on Transfer of Power in America – A violent tradition

Transfer of Power in America – A violent tradition

They tell us that one of the marvels of the American system is that every few years power is peacefully transferred from one group to another. And that we should look at this in awe, and be impressed.

This is a lie.

There have been two transfers of power in American history, and we are living through the third. The first two were violent. My fear is that the third will be as well.

But first – some context.

The first transfer of power was the American Revolution. It was violent. It set up an incredible system – the US Constitution. This transfer of power was from a colonial system where the rules were set by someone else to a federal system (eventually) where the states (with the federal government as tie breaker) set the rules themselves.

Every four to eight years, the US Constitution supports a transfer of power from one group to another. This transfer of power that they tell us about in school is specifically the transfer of government leadership. This feels like a big deal because historically it would have been. That is because, historically, this has been one-to-one tied with economic power. But the magic of the system in the US is that we separated government leadership from economic power.

Oh sure, the only people who could be government leaders at first were the rich white men who had economic power. But within 75 years, Andrew Jackson fixed that for us (even though he was a massive racist). Shortly thereafter though there started to be a fork in the road for wealth generation.

The previously agrarian economy was slowly being replaced by an industrial revolution. Where before the only way to generate more wealth (in the agrarian society) was more land at a near zero labor cost (slavery), there was now an ability to generate wealth by building a factory, and then even more wealth by making it more efficient, opening more factories, or expanding into other opportunities (either horizontally across new industries or vertically into a single industry). And with this new found industrial revolution came a new found desire to change the old models. Because this new model transferred economic wealth from the old model into the new, there was blood. A lot of it.

And with the end of the Civil War, the second transfer of power – as expressed in economic force – in American history was complete. The old agrarian system was neutered. The new industrial system was firmly in place.

It took another 150 years or so – and the foundations were laid 50 years ago with the Civil Rights movement, 40 years ago with the Stonewall Riots, 30 years ago with the launch of DARPANet, 20 years ago with the rise of China’s manufacturing juggernaut, and so it goes – for the next transfer of power to start. As we move from an industrial economy to a service economy, we are again seeing a true transfer of power.

Where before one had to own the means of production – land, access to resources, access to cheap capital – we’re transitioning to a system where the cost of production is dropping rapidly, the need to own the production no longer exists, and capital is so cheap everywhere that everyone has access to lots of it (well, not really, and that’s where the problem is going to come, but let’s go with it for a second).

The interesting thing is to really play in the service economy all you really need is the knowledge that it exists, and an understanding of the rules for how to play it. And it turns out that that makes wealth more meritocratic, but also makes lots of existing professions indefensible. It means more people can be part of the pie, but not everyone is seeing their share of the pie grow.

And if you came from the professions that are disappearing or if you don’t like that wealth is now meritocratic to individuals who were previously marginalized, then you’re really not excited about this latest transfer of power.

So when Trump says “Let’s Make America Great Again” what he really means is, “Let’s preserve the current status quo, and not transfer power to a new economy, a new culture, and a new America”.

Given all of that – I’m left wondering two things:

(1) Can this transfer of power be bloodless?

(2) Assuming not, are we willing to fight the fights necessary to make sure it happens?


Fatherhood, just thinking out loud, Uncategorized 0 comments on Why I’ve decided my vote for President is to vote for no one at all

Why I’ve decided my vote for President is to vote for no one at all

I’m exhausted by our federal election process.

We have lots of problems locally. We don’t have public schools to which folks are excited to send their kids. We don’t have a public transport system of which anyone is proud. We can’t provide housing for our civil servants.

But I send over one-third of my income into a federal pot where it gets redistributed amongst rednecks and hicks whose elected officials deny climate change, attach women’s rights, and defend mass murderers right to mass murder. And there’s nothing I can do to change that. And so while we have problems locally, I feel as if there’s opportunity to get involved and be part of change. Federally I have no chance, and it’s tiring.

So for my vote for President in 2016 I’m going to leave all of the options empty. Here’s why:

Donald Trump is an idiot. No need to even discuss that point.

Gary Johnson has proven he doesn’t know his ass from his elbow.

Hilary Clinton will lead a compromise driven administration, and be rebuffed at every turn for at least two years until the Democratic Party’s ground game can attempt to flip the House in 2018. If they do, great, she’ll be in re-election mode already. If not, then great she’ll be out in two years for not being able to do anything.

If you’re equally frustrated then I invite you to join me in voting for no one. I would hope that if enough of us felt that way our representative in the electoral vote would equally choose to not vote for anyone in December when the formal counts are held. While I know that won’t happen, it would create an avenue for a true protest vote that our current system denies us.

Then, I’d like to take the banner for State’s Rights away from the racists spread out across Alabama, Mississippi, the Midwest, and Mountain West, and push the State of California to implement reform itself without the permission of the Federal Government. I have lost all faith in federalism. Instead, I’d prefer that:

  • California demand text books be written with a specific curriculum in mind exactly as Texas is doing, and create a center-left tidal wave in education
  • California write its own rules on immigration just like Arizona is doing, and establish immigration reform that has an amnesty option and opens the door for more highly skilled workers to come into our state
  • California adopt its own rules on gun ownership just like Florida is doing, and make responsible gun ownership a requirement and not an option

And if California won’t do it, then San Francisco should.

4 or 8 more years of compromise with people who think that the Federal government is evil while living off federally funded subsidies is idiotic. The only option I see is to vote no one at the top of my ballot, and hold the officials I’m electing locally responsible for building the future that I want for my children.

At least locally it feels like I have a chance.



just thinking out loud, Uncategorized 1 comment on Fixing the elephant chart is our generation’s imperative

Fixing the elephant chart is our generation’s imperative

First, go read this blog post.

Or if you’re not going to do that, then just refer to this chart here:

The Elephant Chart documenting the distribution of income due to globalization (Source: http://voxeu.org/article/greatest-reshuffle-individual-incomes-industrial-revolution)
The Elephant Chart documenting the distribution of income due to globalization (Source: http://voxeu.org/article/greatest-reshuffle-individual-incomes-industrial-revolution)

It’s called the “Elephant Chart” because of its shape. And there’s a big problem there that we need to fix. We need to start talking about how we can redistribute wealth into the “B” area. Solve that problem and the next Trump/Brexit/European fascist won’t rise in 20 years. Don’t, and – I fear – we walk into a class-based, xenophobic backlash of unstoppable proportion.

Real quick summary for folks who don’t want to read the article. If you’re in the “A” area, then you’re probably from China or India and a LOT wealthier than you were 25 years ago. If you’re in the “C” area, then you’re probably from the US, upper middle class, and a LOT wealthier than you were 25 years ago. If you’re in the “B” area, then you’re probably what’s left of America and Europe’s middle class, and globalization has left you no wealthier, if not somewhat poorer, in the last 25 years.

Trump/Brexit/European fascism is being powered by the groups who feel marginalized by being in group “B”.

The fear of free trade is being powered by the groups who feel marginalized by being in group “B”.

And we’re failing to have the hard conversations around:

  • The massive growth in “A” – it’s killing our planet, but does anyone have the right to say stop? By dumping free trade, we’ll slow that growth down. Then what happens with 2+ billion underemployed citizens across Asia and Africa?
  • The jobs we need to create to help the “B” group – they’re not going to come from our corporate economy which means we have to find ways to re-introduce a competitive economy. But the corporates are entrenched, have economies of scale, and won’t just roll over. And the consumer has already run the mom-and-pop shop out of business to replace it with the retail chain, to then replace the retail chain with the eCommerce giant. So how do we re-introduce employment as a priority when the consumer just wants inexpensive?
  • The gains in wealth for “C” – is there a fair opportunity for everyone to access those gains, and, assuming the answer is no, how can we fix that? Picketty tells us that if you don’t own sources of wealth, there’s no way to fix it. Redistributing land and wealth just for the sake of redistribution may be an option, but the how feels quite daunting.

I think what I really want is more to read and learn from about how folks are thinking about this. Especially from non-OECD points of view. And then to figure out how to be part of fixing this issue.

just thinking out loud, Uncategorized 0 comments on Why the burkini ban isn’t far enough

Why the burkini ban isn’t far enough

In case you haven’t heard, there are people in the world who wear burkinis, and there are places in the world that think they’re evil.

If you’re in the anti-religion half of my family, then you think this is great.

If you’re me, then you think the French haven’t gone far enough.

You see, if we’re going to tell women what the rules are surrounding their expression of religion in a public place, why are we stopping at the burkini? We should also move to ban:

  • Make up
  • Plastic surgery
  • Hair cuts
  • Painted nails
  • Wigs
  • Any clothing outside of a pre-defined, government approved list including (but not limited to):
    • Bikinis
    • Hats
    • Skirts
    • Graphic t-shirts with expressions of opinion
  • And many more things I’m sure I’m forgetting

For all I know, the gods of Christianity, Judaism, eCommerce, and the anti-gods of atheism, capitalism, and personal expression are using these tools to manipulate women, and their role in society. Most of these products are created by companies run by men, and are produced to manipulate the freedom a woman has to express who she really is.

You see, freedom – as defined by this French mayor, and the people who think like him – is the right to believe what the majority believes. Being different, having a differing opinion, or being identified by a different group are not protected. Nor is being on the wrong side of history.

And the people who define freedom this way are wrong.

just thinking out loud, Uncategorized 0 comments on The truth is too hard to write about

The truth is too hard to write about

I feel like I’ve started many blog posts these last few months, and published none.

The truth is hard to write about. It exposes people who I have no intention of hurting. And yet, my inability to both write and say some of these things may have been what led me to where I ended up.

It feels like a one-sided attack. What I want it to be is a conversation. But how is that possible in this format?

The more I process it though, the more it feels like a plea for help. A plea to change. Why couldn’t we move faster? Smarter? With more empowerment? With more trust?

I knew leaving TokBox was going to be tough in the moment, but I’m also now realizing how much what we had built there had weighed me down. Of course I was part of the problem. I built the problem. (I built some good things too, don’t get me wrong).

And so I’ve been silent because the truth is too hard.

just thinking out loud, Uncategorized 1 comment on When you’re young, you start revolutions

When you’re young, you start revolutions

You’re probably familiar with the kid who sits in class and makes comments like, “Java isn’t a real programming language, you can’t overload operators.”
Well that isn’t me.

You’re probably also familiar with the kid who answers all of the easy questions to make it look like they really know what they’re talking about, and then needs to sit in the TAs office to finish up simple programming assignments.
That’s not me either.

I’m the guy who finishes the mundane stuff early on so that I have more time to fiddle with my own projects. I have 3 or 4 start up ideas drawn on paper, and I’ve actually started building some of them, but what I’ve discovered is there’s really something lacking if you don’t have a group of like-minded individuals to share ideas and to tell you that something you’re doing is stupid or awesome equally. I think I’m searching for an environment like the one that you have created because I’m ready to figure out how to revolutionize an industry or an idea. I realize it’s just not something that you can do alone. I’m motivated by the reality that success isn’t random, and that it’s a combination of good people with good ideas. And I think my see it all, touch it all attitude makes me an asset to a small group who needs someone to do it all in the process of starting a revolution.

just thinking out loud, Uncategorized 3 comments on Can a year be 367 days?

Can a year be 367 days?

When I was 16 years old, I went to the DMV to get my license. I had received my permit on November 21, 1999 (one day after my birthday). The law said you had to wait 1 year. 2000 was a leap year, and so I went down to the DMV, and argued with the guy behind the counter that 365 days after November 21, 1999 was in fact November 20, 2000, and that he needed to let me take my driving test that day. His argument was that the computer system wouldn’t let him do that, and so the machines won that day. Damn the machines…

I haven’t really thought about that for years now. Other dumb decisions loom larger (crashing the car 1 month later; not focusing on soccer or school, but focusing too much on girls; etc.)

But on the flight back home Saturday, the family and I took off on January 2, 2016 at 9pm, and landed on January 2, 2016 at 11am. We then proceeded to relive January 2, 2016 for a second time – having another day’s worth of meals; naps; and the rest – before finally seeing January 3, 2016 (and we only saw that 1 time). On the way to Fiji, we never saw December 23. Well, technically we slept through it for a few hours.

So from that point of view, my 2015 was 364 1/3 days. And my 2016 will be 367 days.

Where does all of that time come from & go?

I haven’t been able to figure it out, but if I do, then I’ll definitely let you know 🙂

just thinking out loud, Uncategorized 0 comments on Yes John, there is something worse than Turkish time

Yes John, there is something worse than Turkish time

In high school, it drove my dear friend (and comrade in arms for all things sports) John Gottshall bat shit crazy how late I was to everything. 

Heading to the Ale House? At least 15 minutes late. 

Tailgating at 2pm? Show up at John’s house at 2:15. 

You wanna drive together to skiing senior year of high school? I don’t even remember if I was late or not… I’m just assuming I was.

Well, I’ve been beat. By “Island time” in Fiji. The guy coordinating everything has his watch set 30 minutes behind the actual time. On top of that, everyone is 15-30 minutes behind schedule anyway. 

John would have gone crazy. Luckily, I’m well adjusted 🙂

Pictures will land tomorrow. There are some amazing ones!