But if not

Ideally voting would work
All people would have a voice that is heard and respected

But if not

Theoretically peaceful protesting would work
The cries of those concerned about injustice would not fall on deaf ears

But if not

Perhaps a bit of rebellion might work
Tear some things down with the hope they will be replaced by something better
Or at least the plight of the oppressed would get some notice

But if not

If the only solutions offered are to return to step one or step two
If rebellion is suppressed, as so many who benefit from the status quo, would want to do

Repression doesn’t last
Anger and desperation, will grasp for what might work

Hope we hear before people feel they need to strap a megaphone to their chest
That we can change before the message is driven through a barricade

But if not

Can those who fail to hear admit their fault at last
There could be more than lectures about what might have worked

But if not…

Hold systems responsible

Many people are talking about holding some officers responsible for the murder of a man in Minnesota recently. I think that would be good, but am exceedingly wary of the “few bad apples” line of reasoning that often goes with my white friends being upset at stuff like this. There is a tendency for people to want things to be about individual responsibility, and I don’t want to discount that, but it needs to be balanced with the role of the systems themselves.

To an unhealthy degree we have collectively abdicated much responsibility and accountability to others, but it is also a necessary thing to some extent if we want to maintain much of our modern lifestyle, therefor it behooves us to understand that we don’t just abdicate these responsibilities to people at the tops of organizational hierarchies, but to also to systems that we collectively put in place, or allow to be in place, these machanistic systems can supersede the humans at their helm. The police chief can’t change the nature of the ship he steers all that much, and neither can the officers.

But we as individuals outside of the system have some power if we see the system for what it is. The person who called the cops in this situation in MN, fault lies with them. The lady in NY who, a couple days earlier, called the cops on the bird watcher; same. She did wrong in calling the police, but ironically she did what she did probably because she instinctively knew that the police were for her a tool of oppression that she had some power to wield.

Understanding the systems is important and powerful.

“A system cannot fail those it was never built for.” I don’t know who said this, but it’s really been resonating with me. There are some good reasons police aren’t as accountable as they ought to be in general, and why, if these officers are charged and convicted, it will be the extreme exception rather than the rule. Origin has some influence for sure

Holding systems accountable for the results they produce is done to little in my opinion

Deaths of Despair

I have a radical thought. There is no need to agree on whether abortion is murder in order to agree on a pro-life policy. Hear me out.

Most abortions are deaths of despair, this is a much easier point to agree on.

A person in despair who is at the point of ending a life, their own or that of another, should not be intimidated with punishment via the law or beaten over the head with moral guilt. Beyond being completely ineffective, this approach is the opposite of mercy. To help them as people, and to solve the problem at the abstract sociological level, they need reasons to be hopeful. Most of the time financial resources are an exceedingly important component.

Universal Basic Income (UBI) in providing to both mothers AND fathers an obviously available, no strings and no stigma attached, financial resource to provide and care for a child is the most pro-life policy to be proposed that I know of so far, ever. What’s more it accomplishes this without any need to restrict reproductive rights whatsoever.

In this way UBI cuts across one of the most divisive issues in modern American politics.

Up to now I used the appropriate language to appeal to pro life friends, but pro choice friends please also consider. Even the term “pro-choice” – millions of people have gotten or are getting abortions because they feel like they don’t have a choice. Their economic situation has them pinned in a corner, and even if the women themselves don’t believe this, there is often pressure from the fathers or the potential grandparents. Even if birth control is used successfully and abortion isn’t the issue per se, how many families are postponed or maybe never happen because it just doesn’t feel like a legitimate option?

A candidate advocating for this idea can be legitimately pro-life and pro-choice. They can make a compelling case that they are pro-family in a way that other candidates cannot.

Tablet Art

In my last post I talked up the iPad a bit. That device and some of it’s apps and accessories in particular do have some major advantages over the competition, but I wanted to share some of the experiments I did prior to getting an iPad to show that the tablet form factor in general has some nice potential.

Adult Coloring books, art therapy coloring books, or mandala coloring books – they have lots of names I guess – have gotten popular. There are most certainly good arguments for why doing this coloring with physical medium is advantageous, but there are also some very nice ways that this coloring stuff translates onto tablet platforms. Here are some items my kids did and were really proud of.

In terms of skill building there was some good discussion related to color theory, and they got valuable experience with color digital color picking mechanisms.

Some of the art therapy aspect is about the process, but a nice result is rewarding too of course. Not to put down any kids potential, but these pictures printed out were a very nice product that no one would reasonably expect a young kid to be able to do with physical paper and markers.

On the other hand, one of my sons is pretty diligent about coloring and did manage to finish a pretty cool color by number

Anyway, beyond coloring there are some decent apps for doing drawing, painting, and animation on Android apps. I really wanted to balance my last post so that I don’t give the impression that if people want to do digital art they should go buy an iPad.

Here is one example I did quickly while experimenting with a good passive stylus [something like this] (which after using for a bit I very much recommend BTW)

Blocky Nutcracker

Digital Drawing

Decided I wanted to get back into drawing this year. Was something I did a lot of as a student.

Reading through “Drawing On The Right Side of the Brain” as a part of this

Got an iPad with stylus due to in part to some legit holiday sales. Seems like by far the best device if interested in doing digital art. Also was interested in playing with Rock Band or intro type music composition stuff.

Still in the pretty early in the learning phase with Procreate, but have made a couple drawings. I am overall really intrigued by the medium. Undo, layers, animation, and on and on. There is just so much that this opens up that traditional mediums do not. Of course I have played with Wacom tablets and digital art stuff on computers before, but a good stylus usable on the screen seemed like another level, and after using for a while I can confirm this is indeed the case.

One of my sons is showing a lot of interest in visual art too, and just as an example of the potential, it is neat to be able to let him experiment with things. Add a new layer and just try stuff with no worry that you are going to spoil the work you already have. Or simply use the undo. While there is certainly some value in learning to adapt to or cope with mistakes, being able to undo a errant stroke reduces fear that can seriously inhibit creativity.

Backyard playground

My son liked this picture, but wanted to experiment with adding the trees. It was a really cool moment for him when I could just make a duplicate and turn him loose.

Hand study

Biking all winter

I decided to challenge myself to commute to work via bike through the winter of 2018 -2019, and managed to stay with it. I wanted to share some of my thoughts and observations as a retrospective.

Things I did to prepare.

  • Bought insulated / windproof pants
  • Made sure I had enough thick socks
  • Bought balaclava, windproof gloves, ski goggles, and a winter helmet
  • Lights
  • Old bike with thicker tires that I wasn’t afraid to ride in wet conditions/ snow
  • Told people I was going to do it

How it went.

Pretty good! I enjoyed the relaxation of slower quiet rides on top of the exercise and just being outside a bit more. Snow has a real muffling effect, so it was unexpectedly peaceful. For the most part paths I needed to go on were cleared enough to make it not a chore, but riding through even a little bit of snow adds significant rolling resistance. Rides just took a little longer. I didn’t try to go fast because working harder raised core temp to much, meaning I would get sweaty pretty easy under clothes that don’t breathe well due to wind proof nature, also speed is less desirable with reduced traction.

People at work looked at me like I was a little weird, but mostly thought it was cool, I think.

In winter, even when driving a car, you need to plan a little more time to travel. On top of slower speed being generally good idea, there is scraping windows, letting the car warm up, and getting properly bundled up. Bikes don’t need the warm up or window scraping, but a wipe down of chained post ride is a good idea some days. One morning it had been slushy, and I didn’t do this and my chain was quite frozen when I unlocked it from the bike rack in the evening to head home. Still with without the needing the scraping and pre warming my travel times on some days were probably faster via bike than they would have been by car. I was only going 2.5 miles each way, so of course that is a factor, and YMMV.

What I’d change

New items to purchase.

  • Snow or studded tires
  • Bigger backpack or trunk bag
  • Disc brakes
  • Bar mits

I would definitely do this again. This winter I am taking a break from it as a regular thing, aiming for once a week. This is due to having a baby at home and sometimes needing to come home in a pinch or do older kid drops offs or pickups on way to or from work.

Home Microscope

As a kid I always wanted a nice microscope. So, to vicariously live out my dreams, and because maybe it is good for homeschool science, we got the kids one as a Christmas gift. Today they are really getting into it. We found some dead spiders and other things around the house and the kids are working on making slides. Super cool!

This particular microscope came with an adapter to help smartphone cameras take pictures through the viewers, so if we get some good shots I will try to post them.

Adding a few pics that turned out well

Wolf spider foot

Ant eye

Daddy long leg foot

Cruelty is the means

I have studied a bit about the sociology of cruelty, or the various ways humans come to act very inhumanely. From a couple books by Jaques Ellul, to various famous psych experiments, to recently some podcasts and a book by Douglas Rushkof. All recommended, but if you want a quick intro into an aspect in action in the present this article is worth a read. It has important implications for some current political happenings, but also some good general insight about humanity without being to long.

“Taking joy in that suffering is more human than most would like to admit. Somewhere on the wide spectrum between adolescent teasing and the smiling white men in the lynching photographs are the Trump supporters whose community is built by rejoicing in the anguish of those they see as unlike them, who have found in their shared cruelty an answer to the loneliness and atomization of modern life.”

Adam Serwer

It is somewhat dated at this point, a lot has happened in Trumps circus in 9 months, but there is some fresh cruel, and overtly bigoted, remarks by the #RacistInCheif on twitter today, and I was especially reminded of this as I read some of the responses to his posts from his supporters. Spoiler, they seem to very much confirm the hypothesis that the cruelty is the point. In a way that is.

One clarification I would like to offer. I don’t think this is arguing for a people-are-just-bad-deep-down perspective. Rather, I think it speaks to the deep seated need for unity and community, in that we want or need it so much we are willing, even glad, to be cruel if that happens to be the price. In other words cruelty isn’t the point, ultimately, for trumps followers. It is the point for him as it happens to be the tool he is good at using that also serves his purpose of unifying his base of support.

If you are reading this, and still support Trump or his ilk, especially if you bristle at the above quote, I would genuinely like to hear from you. I worry I might have a significant blind spot in understanding you as a person. Frankly, I am also scared that I don’t misunderstand, but that you may have been sucked in by the appeal of community regardless of the fact that is centered on cruelty. I’m willing to have the discussion with an open mind if you are.

MLK and UBI

Martin Luther King Jr. seemed to be pretty good at looking at the big picture and tried to push others to do the same. He was often discussing systemic causes of inequality and injustice. As such I wonder if he would have been a supporter of a Universal Basic Income (UBI). It is a relatively new idea to me, and I am no expert on MLK so I can’t say, but I suspect he would have been.

Update: someone chimed in, he was

My own experience points to poverty being a root cause of a lot of social ills, and our current economic systems and social safety nets do a woefully poor job of alleviating the problems, while the targeted nature of welfare programs tends to perpetuate some of the inequality and injustices MLK was so opposed to.

On the surface just giving people money struck me as just a terrible idea, and I assume a lot of people will have a similar knee jerk reaction, but after reading about it and thinking through some of the details it seems to have a lot more merit. Some of the articles linked to from here ought to make for some thoughtful contemplation. Basic Income FAQ