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Various misadventures of a bearded programmer

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About This Election

- - posted in politics

I had this wild notion that I shouldn’t write about the election until it’s over, because when would be a good time to write about it? I didn’t feel like spamming my own blog with my own breathless pique over every outrage du jour spilling out of The Orange One. Every single time, I thought, There’s obviously another worse thing coming later that I should write about instead.

And here we are, with a mere weekend and change to go, and I’ve written nothing.

On my walk to the train station this evening, I thought that I have to write about this while the outcome is still uncertain, as after the fact I’ll either be too relieved to really sell the urgency of the moment, or otherwise too busy hugging myself and rocking back and forth in the nearest corner. I need to write about the election while I still don’t know how it’ll turn out, while the emotions are still raw from this election.

If You Say 'All Lives Matter' Right Now You're Missing the Point

- - posted in lifejustice

I don’t write about this enough, and I probably should, because it tears me up inside every time I hear about yet another person cut down in their life by the persistent, never-ending, never-abating, never-prosecuted violence directed at black people, particularly black men, in this country. We all know that every life matters, that all lives matter, but for those out there who use that rejoinder as a stern rebuke to those of us who chant that black lives matter, why don’t I see them crying out against this same injustice? Instead we’re parsing words? We’re parsing which individual lives matter, which are being lifted up to show the injustice that had cut them down?

I care about all lives. I’m a lifelong pacifist, and I believe any life lost unnecessarily is a tragedy and an injustice, that any violence is unacceptable in a society that rules itself with laws. But I cannot abide the sneering tut-tutting ignorance inherent in the “all lives matter” crowd. These are the same assholes who want a white history month, the same idiots who advocate for “men’s rights” as if there were no one out there to act as a champion of white male privilege, as if that were needed. It’s not.

I don’t say “all lives matter” because I don’t have to live with the kind of perpetual fear that black people must be shouldering in this decaying Republic. When I get pulled over by the cops, because of the whiteness of my complexion, I don’t have to worry about whether I will survive the encounter. If there’s a domestic disturbance in my hood, I don’t have to worry about calling the cops, I can call them right over, because I can feel confident that I won’t then be arrested or beaten (or both) by cops; but if I were black I’d hesitate before picking up the phone. I’d wonder, If I call the cops, is that going to make this situation better or is it going to make it worse? As a white person, fundamentally, I’ve not been given much reason in this country to believe that cops are not on my side, but if I were a black man I’d have a whole lifetime of reasons to question that belief. I’d have a lifetime of getting jammed up for no reason, frisked on the street in violation of my fourth amendment rights; a lifetime of people assuming I look angry just because I’m not smiling; a lifetime of getting pulled over for a broken taillight and getting searched; a lifetime of needing to be careful in order to survive any of these encounters.

As a white person, I have to wonder. I wonder sometimes if I were in that situation, if I were a suspect, and I ran away, would the cop shoot me dead? Or would he patiently chase after me like he’s supposed to?

But the most disgusting part, for me, the part that turns my fucking stomach every time, is the immediate aftermath of one of these killings. On the news the day after, without fail, we’re inundated with pundit after pundit, news presenter after news presenter, speculating as to why he may have had it coming. In the case of Trayvon Martin, this is a child basically whose life hadn’t even started when he got shot down by a man who most clearly was just out hunting black people for sport. Yet, as early as the following day, Bill O'Reilly is out there on the teevee to tell us all about how Trayvon once got caught at school with a plastic baggie that had a few crumbs of marijuana shake at the bottom. We get to see his Facebook photos where he and his friends try to look tough, like many children of all races do on Facebook. We get treated to stories of how he got suspended from school a couple of times (nevermind all the evidence that suggests black children are disproportionately suspended more frequently than white children for the same offenses). None of these facts were lies, but none of them were germane to the subject at hand: Trayvon was still murdered unjustifiably. Sure enough, that pattern continues to this day. The day after Alton Sterling got killed, we hear on TV that he had a criminal record and that he was resisting arrest at the time he was killed, as if the punishment for resisting while having a record should be death, as if he somehow deserved to have his life ended because of it. The same has been happening with Philando Castile’s killing, with the additional on-air character assassination extending to his girlfriend who was in the car with her young daughter when this happened. I don’t see the “all lives matter” crowd crying over what will now happen to that innocent little girl, forever traumatized by witnessing that.

Over the past couple years, it’s become a lot clearer to me why so many black people in the US cheered when OJ Simpson got acquitted. Sure he was obviously guilty as hell, but he was also railroaded by a system that was biased against him as a black man. I do think OJ Simpson is a murderer, but I also think the LAPD offices who worked on his case were flagrantly racist assholes who tainted the case with their racism and made it impossible for justice to effectively be served. In a country where you’re innocent until explicitly proven guilty, the obviousness of their racial bias made it impossible for them to convincingly prove Simpson’s guilt beyond the shadow of a doubt, and therefore it was an imperfect result but it was the correct result for what happened.

It is, overall, obvious that all lives matter, that nobody should be killed unjustly, but that’s not what Bill O'Reilly and his ilk are saying when they sneer down at the rest that purple lives, blue lives, green lives, matter just as much. Yeah maybe they do, but nobody has to come out and say white lives matter. Nobody has to point it out, because society already works in a way that values white lives just fine. There is a “, too” implicit at the end of “black lives matter” but it shouldn’t have to be spoken. Black people in this country have a history that is unique, and saying “black lives matter” is understanding how that history shapes society’s perception of black lives, and it is also having the awareness to know that right now black lives are not valued as much as white lives, and this requires correction if we are really truly to become a more perfect union, and rise above our own unique history. Instead, “all lives matter” is a way of shutting down the discussion, of feigning “colorblindness” in the face of obvious racial bias, as if the scourge of racism could just be willed away with words somehow. It can’t, and it won’t. It is a dragon we must all fight together and finally reach the true ideal of equality and justice for all that we lay claim to.

Rise up, space cadets. This battle will not be won without every one of us.

Blog Is Back Up

- - posted in meta

Got my blog back online, after many months of domain-related snafus and various ridiculous things. We’re back, space cadets.

On the Rebel Battle Flag and Its Meaning

- - posted in politicshistory

Being from the South, I too once had more nuanced views on the public display of the Confederate battle flag, but I haven’t since leaving the South and I don’t think anyone else should be parsing this issue as closely as in the past few days. Look. There are a lot of ways to openly and peaceably celebrate the good parts of the Southern heritage. There are even ways to celebrate the veterans of the Civil War without tacitly endorsing the cause they fought for (I’ll give you a hint: it was not and never was “states' rights”). Flying the flag of a defeated mid-19th-century insurrection, by far one of the dumbest things this country has done to herself, is definitely not one of them.

I won’t even talk about the little racist piece of shit who shot up a church last week. He and his kind aren’t even worthy of our scorn or our sympathy, and it won’t help for me to point out to everybody how reprehensible and disgusting his actions or the motivations behind them were. If you think he was some kind of a hero you’re probably on the wrong blog.

I do want to talk about that flag though.

Moving Back Home

- - posted in life

I’m moving back to northern California this week, finally. I’ll get there Tuesday night, and be received back into the Bear Republic’s welcoming embrace at long last.

I don’t really have a good explanation for why it took me this long. I really don’t. Chicago was wonderful to me for a few years, but it became evident to me that it was no longer working out a while ago. Like the hopeless romantic that I am, I kept thinking if I stayed, Chicago would change, and she would blossom into this wonderful tech mecca and I’d be there as it happened. I kept thinking that, if I stayed here long enough, the winters wouldn’t bother me as much. Instead, the winters bothered me more the longer I stayed here.

Mini Is in the Emergency Kitty Hospital for the Weekend

- - posted in cats

Mini has coped his whole life with a urinary disorder that is not uncommon in male cats, where if he feels anxiety or sometimes just randomly, his urethra can spasm shut, making it difficult for him to urinate. If he becomes completely blocked, he can die within hours. He got completely blocked on Friday.

I don’t need to tell y'all that I love my cats. You all know I love my cats very much. When something’s wrong with one of them, it can be like my whole world is collapsing around me. My cats are my sanity, and especially during the winter, a powerful bulwark against depression and boredom. Jinxii and Mini mean the world to me. So, when I saw that Mini was hiding in an unusual spot in my apartment and refusing to come out, and when it was nearly 4:30pm and I hadn’t seen him successfully pee in the litter box all day, I knew I had to act. I called his regular vet and they confirmed my worst suspicions, that Mini was probably blocked and would need immediate medical assistance. When he didn’t protest much while I put him in the cat carrier, and was listless instead of feisty on the drive there, I knew this was different than the other times I’d taken him to the vet. He was in a desperate fight for his life and he couldn’t tell me anything about it.

The veterinarians at Urban Veterinary Care, up in Lincoln Park, are some of the best most hard-working people I’ve met. Each and every one of them is singularly committed to giving the best possible care, and I can’t possibly thank them enough. They’ve been with Mini all 3 years of his life and they all acted together, close to the end of the day, to catheterize Mini and get him unblocked. He survived and doesn’t appear to have any permanent damage, except perhaps psychological trauma, from the experience.

From the regular vet’s, I had to take him over to the emergency clinic for additional monitoring. They put Mini up in a sparse but comfortable crate, about 100x100x200cm in size, with some blankets and a box to hide in if he’s feeling shy. He has been there since Friday night, with doctors checking up on him every hour of the day, waiting for some of his urine test values to go down enough that they know it’s safe for him to come home.

On Leonard Nimoy's Passing

- - posted in heroes

I felt pretty emotional about Leonard Nimoy passing away yesterday, so I didn’t really want to write about it then, but I will briefly now. Obviously I’ve never really considered myself a “trekkie” but I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the original series of Star Trek. One of the lessons I learned from watching the show as a kid was that the future would be a very pluralistic, diverse place. In a way, Nimoy’s performance as Spock reassured me as a child, that if a half-vulcan man can work hand in hand, even under pressure in extremely dire situations, with humans, there is simply no reason why humans of different races or cultures or backgrounds can’t cooperate in the same fashion. It was an important lesson. I also have fond memories watching In Search Of on the sci-fi channel late at night when I couldn’t sleep in high school.

He will definitely be missed, and his work touched millions of people.

Safe travels, friend.

Chicago Is Awash With Terrible Winter Driving

- - posted in lifechicago

Chicago is coming alive with the sound of tires spinning and couples arguing with each other in the street. Just like every winter. The same car has been beached barely parked, at a jaunty angle, directly across the street from my apartment since during the Super Bowl yesterday. We watched the couple struggle to grapple with even the most basic aspects of driving in snow. Especially for those of y'all who don’t live where there’s snow (ya lucky bastedds), here are some of my thoughts on winter driving.

Endgame on Gay Marriage

- - posted in politics

As expected, seeing as now there is one district court in the US that thinks it’s it’s ok for civil marriage to be a state-by-state kind of thing, the US Supreme Court is finally going to hear another case on gay marriage.

Right now, a scant majority of Americans live in states where civil marriages between two people of the same sex are recognized at least on some level, and the minority of states that disagree is dwindling fast. I can’t think of any other issue where the general public of the United States has flipped faster than this one; back in the 1990s even the watered-down half-measure of “domestic partnerships” was a point of much contention and argument. People still couldn’t decide if all gay people were child molesters or if it was just most of them. So, to me, it’s a pretty big deal that the movement for marriage equality has moved so quickly and turned so many people’s opinion on the matter around. As I’ve written before, a lot of that has likely been the waves of people coming out of the closet and showing the world that they are no only gay but also fairly normal, average human beings who are neighbors and siblings and cousins and friends of all kinds of heterosexual folks. Imagine that. So obviously if this court decision this summer goes the way that the preponderance of court decisions on gay marriage have gone, all those regular folks will have a great thing to celebrate.

But what if it doesn’t go our way? What if, like so many other contentious cases in the last 15 years, those same five conservatives outvote their four liberal colleagues? It would, to put it succinctly, be a bit of a shit-show.

This 3D Printer Is Now Fully Armed and Operational

- - posted in 3dprintingmaking

Yes that’s right. I fixed my 3D printer, finally, after weeks of being too lazy to. The fault was the wires supplying power to the extruder cooling fan had come loose from the main power supply where they were haphazardly spliced in. I’ve now intertwined those with the main power connection and soldered them in place, so they should be good to go now. Printing a lovely duo-tone whistle from Thingiverse to try it out and it seems to still be perfectly calibrated and everything. So… that’s a plus.

Fret no more, space cadets; I’m back in business over here.