About Steve

Um, hi! I live in Ormond Beach, FL, with the wife and an adorable dog named Ruby. twitter/mrclay_org

I’ve been building sites, apps, and frameworks for the web since the early 2000s, usually using PHP, but I like front-end work, too. This piano/chord thingy I made with React/ES6. github/mrclay

I play guitar, bass, piano, and–when I get a chance–drums, though I kinda spend more time studying harmony than writing. If pressed, I’ll probably name Moose’s Live a Little Love a Lot as my favorite album, but please do not press.

The time is right for Annual Leave reform

The United States is, save a few tiny islands, the only place in the world where employees have no guaranteed paid vacation or holidays, and there’s simply no great excuse.

The effect of this gigantic hole in our labor policy is that about 23% of Americans–over 30 million–work some of the hardest jobs without any paid time off, 1 in 3 have no paid sick leave, and the bar remains low for employers who do offer PTO. For people on their feet in waste and food service jobs, the access to PTO is abysmal.

I think most of us don’t realize what a scandal this is, and it’s the right time to fix it.

  • Unlike extremely hard problems like reforming our healthcare system or finding the ideal minimum wage in a nation of wide-ranging costs of living, this is an easy one with 187 existing plans to choose from. Canadians are guaranteed 16-30 days off a year. The British 28. Germans 29. Russians 33. Chinese 16-26. Japanese 10-20. Indians 24. The French 36. Brazilians 24. Italians 32. These are just the big economies. If Congress is concerned about the disruption, phase it in one day per year.
  • We haven’t had a significant labor reform in generations and polling shows this has wide bipartisan support. If Congress wants to really improve the lives of millions of Americans and be heralded for their efforts for decades to come, this is low-hanging fruit. Americans desperately need a reason to come together and this is one will benefit Americans across the political spectrum.
  • For the first time in their lives many millions of Americans will take vacations and get to travel the country they love. Americans already having PTO will benefit by many employers raising benefits to compete, and just through the new chances to join more friends and relatives on holidays and vacations.

This reform isn’t sexy but is super pragmatic, and as much as hardworking Americans deserve the benefit, we could use a national cause to celebrate.

Schubert’s Strange Path Home

Schubert’s Impromptu D.935, Op. posth. 142 – No. 2 is one of my favorite piano pieces. It has many delights, but what really caught my ear was the bombastic double forte section (m. 17-30 at 1:06). It takes us into the IV key and uses a clever trick to modulate back so that I barely noticed when we arrived back home.

Below are lead sheet-style chords under their functions, with simple inversion notation. I’ve transposed from Ab to G to get rid of the double-flats (I’m terrible playing/thinking in Ab). Continue reading  

Bury figured bass

Figured bass notation is already long dead, but musicians carry its corpse around to show off that they squandered valuable moments of their lives learning it. It also creates needless ambiguity. Is I7 a dominant seventh? Not in figured bass. Just try notating G7b9/B in figured bass. Yeah, let’s bury it already. And it can be so easy:

V9:2. You may have already guessed this is the dominant 9th chord in 2nd inversion. Easy.

ii7:3 is Am7/G in G.

I7 has a flat 7th on the tonic. Imaj7 is the diatonic variety.

You are freed to do Roman numeral analysis with some sanity.

Perry Como “No Other Love” chords

Intro)

   SubV   I
   Gb7b5  F  C(no3)/G  F/A  C7(no3)/G

Verses)

   I                                                            VII
   F            C9(no3)   Fmaj7  F6/C  F         C7(no3)/G  F   E7
1. No other     love  have I.         Only      my love    for  you.
2. Watching the night   go by         wishing that you    could be
3. Into    your arms I'll fly.        Locked in your arms  I'll stay

    ii         V/ii       V/V    SubV                I
   Gm/Bb       D7/A       G/B    Gb7b5               F
1. Only    the dream   we knew.     No other love.
2. watching the night with me      into the night I cry
3. waiting   to hear    you say   no other love have I.

Bridge)
              Eb: I       Vsus     V    V/ii
                                      C: I         Vsus    V
F                Eb/G   Bb7sus/F Bb7/F  C/E       G7sus/D G7/D
Hurry home, come home to me.              Set me free.

C: V/ii
D:  V        I             IV
                        F: V/V    V      Vsus  V
   A/C#      D             G7     C      C9sus C7
      Free from doubt and free      from longing.

End)

ii                    SubV     I
Gm7           Gm9    Gb7b5#9   F
No other love.  No    other    love.

Wonderful bits:

  • The early D7/A – G/B (a secondary dominant with no 7th) sounds like a key change to G, and rather than the bass rising to C it falls to the tritone sub root Gb7b5.
  • The bridge walks us through the keys Eb, C, D, and back to the home key F using mostly inversions.
  • The voice leading in the choir’s final cadence:
      G    Bb     D    F     A
     Gb    Bb   C     E      A
    F     A     C      F     A
    

Protesters, MLK, and Partisan Urges

Young protesters urgently need to go watch “Selma” and in general pause and think, “what would MLK do?” The Selma marchers gracefully expressed their humanity and decency with their faces visible, and created a clear contrast from the opposition’s hate and savagery. The scene and imagery created were more powerful than any weapon, and turned 800 marchers into 25,000 at the end. It was masterful leadership. Continue reading  

Monuments to a Government’s Failure

The Civil War is a strange case where the oppressors and terrorists, upon losing, were basically let alone to continue countless awful misdeeds, and the biggest slave owners retained all the power of government. The “freedom” blacks gained was purely notional until many decades later.

Imagine an alternate history where, instead, former slaves had been given real, meaningful citizenship: The right to vote unobstructed, to hold office, to receive the full protection of the law, and the opportunity to really be known and understood by the white population as fellow Americans. In this more just outcome, do we really think the citizens of the South, almost half black, would’ve chosen to publicly celebrate—with monuments and names of counties, towns, and streets—the cause to continue enslaving their children and neighbors?

We can’t know the answer, but I think it’s “absolutely not.”

These monuments exist because of the dismal failure of the government to protect its citizens from abuse; by fellow citizens, police, the courts, and the law.

If a community or its elected representatives desire it, they should come down in an orderly fashion, with the goal of preserving them. Communities deserve the freedom to decide what they will celebrate for the next few centuries.

The Civil War is better documented than it’s ever been, and if American schools and parents fail to teach history, a statue isn’t going to do it. What we’ve definitely failed to teach are the stories of the generations of Americans that lived under terror and de facto slavery after the war’s end, and through Jim Crow.

The Google Memo

I had a great conversation with Kathleen about the “Google memo”. We talked about her experiences and the greater context of several previous generations of women from the trailblazers to those who later entered workplaces in mass to find they were boy’s clubs.

We already had decades of the golden age of “free debate” workplaces where the topic was often whether women–or minorities–were “cut out for this line of work.” See the first few Mad Men eps, or ask a woman who went to work before the mid 80s. The fully “free debate” workplaces were found wanting and we rightly took some topics off the table. Absolutely some censorship in workplaces is critical! Over the years I’ve heard plenty “ideas” at work that created hostile environments, or would have in a more diverse group. It’s a shame the memo writer didn’t run this by a few women, ideally coworkers, before dumping to Google’s whole workforce. It may have sharpened his arguments and led him to a better approach to reaching his goals.

Naturally our culture around work formed under the assumption of women at home rearing children. Over decades millions of decisions were made without the idea of working women and raising families with both parents working. This isn’t a value judgment, but it means that firms who value diversity still have really big levers they can pull that make the consideration of miniscule biological differences just not that important. Firms will of course forever have to balance their diversity desires with the law’s prohibition of discrimination; the memo’s author basically accused Google of discrimination against men, and that’s for the courts to figure out.

I’ll give him this, he’s right that political viewpoint diversity is probably very lacking at Google, as it is nearly everywhere in America due to our acidic hyper-partisanship and geographical self-sorting. He referenced the Heterodox Academy and I’m a fan. In general diversity is so hard because humans don’t want to have uncomfortable conversations or get pushback on their ideas, even if weeds out the weak ideas and yields better solutions.

To some extent each firm has to consider whether actively fighting against a nationwide polarization trend is worth the hassle, but the more politically homogenous businesses will probably be the first to majorly mess up in public and “out” themselves as saying nasty things about half their customers.