My day job is – A great job. I work in IT, and my customers are all of Wisconsin’s District Attorneys and anyone who works in a DA office, which is a touch over 1300 people. Our team of about 20 provides them with a network, hardware, and most of the software they use. My specialty is the case management system we created, a system now used in all 72 DA offices. Some of the work I do includes project management, change management, and consulting. I also get to design new software and help my customers get what they need from it. My team also worked to create a number of interfaces between our case management system used by prosecutors and those used by the courts, state patrol, local law enforcement systems and various DOJ databases so less time is spent shuffling paper and manually entering data.
Criminal prosecutors deal with some pretty gritty, and at times heart-breaking stuff. Because of our program, Wisconsin is in the minority of states where all state prosecutors use the same software and can share sensitive data with each other on the same network. I’d like to think our program helps them do their job better, so they have the right information to make just decisions, serve victims and keep us all safe. The work we do for Wisconsin citizens makes me very proud.
My most memorable caffeine – was probably a “café bateada” or “beaten coffee” I had in Mexico many years ago. It was right after high school and I was a foreign exchange student in the city of San Luis Potosi. I hadn’t yet figured out how much I enjoy coffee, but lots of other people my age were drinking it, so I started to give it a try. One day, I decided to make myself a cup of instant coffee, and my younger AFS brother just rolled his eyes at me and said something like “If you’re going to drink instant, at least do it like this” and he took the cup and a fork and started to whip the crystals with a little milk until they were really frothy. He was just in elementary school at the time, but he knew what he was doing. Then he added ½ hot water, ½ hot milk and sugar… and my habit was born.
My current caffeine of choice is any fair-trade, organic, medium roast that’s on sale. And my favorite place for caffeine is at home when I take the time to grind my own beans and get out my French press. It tastes so good, especially with a lot of milk, but no sugar anymore. Some time ago on NPR there was a story about coffee and what makes a great cup. Two things: really really hot water and no paper filter. You can have both at home with a French press. When you don’t use a paper filter, the flavorful oils from the beans stay in your cup instead of being absorbed by the filter. (oil, fat, butter, it all tastes good) I love slow mornings when I can wake up without an alarm and putter around my kitchen with this warm mug of comfort in hand, looking out into my back yard at the green or white landscape and feeling relaxed and grateful for the day ahead as I jot down my to-do list.
The people I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with are Barack Obama and my daughter, but not at the same time. I suppose it seems cliché, the president, but I just have so much admiration for him as a person, a father, a professor, a nobel laureate, and a person of color. I’d like the chance to really talk with him, deeply, and for him to trust me with stories of the challenges that came with being the first African American president, the racially-motivated hurdles he had to fight against, the line he had to walk, the back stories that are held in quiet, dignified restraint, that may not come out for many years, or maybe ever. I so admire his grace.
For coffee with my daughter, it would be on her 100th birthday. Both of us would be in good health, and we would be seated outdoors somewhere on a beautiful sunny day, maybe on her patio, just basking in the amazing life she created and the accomplishments she achieved as a strong, intelligent, compassionate woman. Then we’d both go for a run.
World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine: So… what’s the one thing I could choose that would get me all the other stuff I want? What’s the one domino I can knock over that will get me all the other dominoes? For the longest time I’d have said we need to get money out of politics. Then more recently I thought maybe the real problem is gerrymandering. And I still think those are two pretty big dominoes, but both of those are rooted in this belief that our political voices are not being heard, and if they were heard, really good leaders would be elected. And once the good people are elected, then we could just get on with other things because those good leaders would always do good things.
Now, I think the best problem to solve is civic engagement, we need more of it. And maybe, if we had a LOT of caffeine, people would have the energy, interest, time and the feeling of empowerment that would make it possible for them to really study up on what’s going on. Everyone would read the news, from several different sources, we’d show up at city council meetings and public hearings. Everyone would always vote and they’d always know what was on the ballot. And I’m talking about everyone all over the world, not just in Madison. And if our leaders tried to be less-than-honest, it would quickly be found out, because people could not be fooled and moreover, they wouldn’t put up with it, we’d speak out and stand up – all of us. And my guess or hope is that this level of engagement and vigilance would lead to a better world. I think we can all agree on most things; clean air to breathe, clean, safe water and food, green space, affordable housing, safe neighborhoods, good schools, good jobs. It’s the stuff every candidate talks about because it’s the stuff everyone wants. So, let’s caffeine up, pay attention, get involved and make it happen!