Weekly Update, October 19, 2020
Howdy internet friend, and welcome back to my blog! As I am writing this, I am listening to a commencement speech from Mr. Rogers at his Alma Matter, Dartmouth, in 2002. You can also listen to it here if you are interested. By the time I finished the first draft of this post I finished the video and I would highly recommend it! Mr. Rogers was a great public speaker and he had much to teach us, then and now.
In this weekly update I am going to write about politics, Black Lives Matters, and the personal and professional week that I had over the last seven days. I appreciate you taking the time to read it, and I hope you find some value from it. One final note, I am going to try to not include any spoilers, but I watched some movies this weekend and if you don’t want to know anything about the new film The Trial of the Chicago Seven then when you see that in italics, maybe just skip that paragraph? I am not going to try to spoil it but just, you know, be warned! Without any further adieu, let’s get on with it
Black Lives Matter
Last weekend I finished watching a documentary on Miles Davis as well as a new movie called, *The Trial of the Chicago Seven that came out recently on Netflix. I am going to write more about the movie in the section on politics, but in that film Bobby Seale (of the Black Panther Party) was on trial as well and it was originally the Chicago Eight. This reminded me of the Panthers themselves, which is a story that is simultaneously beautiful and hard to watch. It was beautiful to see that the Black Panthers were included in the story and that we were able to see a bit inside their struggle. However, it is always really hard to watch, having studied the history of their organization and knowing what will come later.
It was particularly difficult to see Fred Hampton, knowing what was going to happen to him. He was so young and bright and with indescribable potential. Seeing his grizzly murder by the police and knowing what really happened didn’t make that scene any easier. It was hard to see Bobby Seale knew how Hampton was killed before the people telling him did. I think that Seale was right when he said, “To be a Revolutionary is to be an Enemy of the state. To be arrested for this struggle is to be a Political Prisoner.”1 He and Abbie Hoffman realized that their trial was political even when Tom Hayden couldn’t see it, despite how bright he was.
When I was in graduate school I had the opportunity to study the Black Panther Party a little bit and I think that there are still many lessons for us to learn about the brief time they were able to exist before they were destroyed by the United States government.
In the future I am going to write more about this subject, and it is going to be included in a series I am planning on the 1960s, but I want to close this section of Black Lives Matter (aside from stating emphatically that they do) with a call to action. If you want to know more about this subject, go out and read a book on the Black Panther Party. In graduate school I read The Black Panthers Speak and I think that is a good place to start, but there are other books on the subject as well. Find one written by scholars who know what they are talking about, don’t just find any old thing. Think about what the author has vested in telling the story or if they are capable of being a dispassionate third party. Ask yourself whose perspective would would find more valuable and if this is an occasion where such a disinterested third party is preferable to the alternative? Put another way, do you really want to read what someone who looks at this issue and can’t decide what side they are on, and what they have to say on such a hot-button topic?
If you want to know about the ways that people might empower themselves in the future, it is instructive to look at what was done in the past that scared the government so much they had to stop it.
Yesterday I did something I had not done since 2007 and cast a ballot. On the one hand I really hate voting for Joe Biden because he is such a terrible candidate, he totally sucks out loud, and I live in California which is going to vote for him anyway. However, there were other things on the ballot that were worth voting for. I also want to add that I was discouraged but not surprised that there were no candidates to vote for from the DSA, but I think that is the final proof that a new political party must take shape, and the DSA ain’t it. They could be part of a coalition, but if there is going to be a political solution to our present crisis, we are all going to have to work together to create a new, national organization for a third party. Although I feel like increasingly that is a bigger and bigger IF, but let us put a pin in that discussion for now.
Any new coalition party could draw from the radical left and others who are tired of watching the Democrats give handouts and preference to the billionaire class and instead form a true party of and for workers. From no collar workers, to blue collar workers, to white color workers – all of us are workers and if we could find a way to come together, we could make a real and cool political party. If people like Tom Hayden are right, and that revolutionary change can come through the ballot box, we have to actually put forward progressive candidates and not just at a local level! There must be a national political party that can advocate for a progressive American future. I bet there are enough young people and progressives to make this viable and if someone started working now, 2024 could see candidates on the ballot nationally.
There is much more I am planning to write on this subject as well. I think that taking time off for the weekend inspired me and gave me many more ideas, but I will follow up with that later in this post.
Before I close this section, I want to write about Merrick Garland. I am now and will forever be salty about the way the current nomination process for the vacant Supreme Court seat has gone, and ignoring the dying wish of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is just disgusting. I have voted, my ballot is on it’s way in, and the Supreme Court nominee is still going through a sham hearing where she is going to be crammed through against the will of the people! There have been many horrible things done by the Republicans, starting with keeping children in the cages at the borders. Cramming through a lifetime appointment against what the majority of Americans want is going to go down as one of the final acts of a disgusting party out of touch with the people and what they want. They will forever be attached with Donald Trump and the damage to the reputation of the United States will take decades to undo, if it is ever possible!
I am routinely ashamed to be an American, but seeing this despicable act of hypocrisy and the disrespect that the nominee has for both the process and the American people is just shameful! I will not stop talking about Merrick Garland for a long time, and I hope that other Americans remember that name when the courts have to be stacked. Remember that it is because of the Republicans that there is no choice but to do this, and when they cry about it being unfair just remember how cruel they have been.
Remember how Mitch McConnell laughed when his opponent asked him about the 200,000 dead Americans and how contemptuous that laughter was. I will never forget and I hope that others don’t forget either. As a Christian, I am required to forgive him, but I am not required to forget or to ever trust him or Republicans ever again!
I wonder how they can still call themselves the Grand Old Party and then attack the child of a candidate, in this case I am referring to this tweet where they are asking about one of Joe Biden’s children. I guess when you are willing to take money and a candidate from Russia, you just don’t care about scruples or leaving peoples children out of politics. It’s too bad it’s both shameful and par for the course for Republicans, but I didn’t want it to go unmentioned.
In closing this section on politics, I want to highly recommend you check out The Trial of the Chicago Seven because I think it is one of the best movies I’ve seen lately!
This morning I sent a tweet about it, but last weekend I did something hard. Other than using it as a power source for speakers I managed to not use my computer since Friday. I’ve previously written about being a workaholic and it was difficult for me to take the weekend off. I have also been investing substantial time and effort to improve my mental health. I started reading Gestalt Therapy a few weeks ago, and even though I am moving through it slowly, I am also finding great benefit.
During my time off this weekend I found myself really inspired! I spent time both Saturday and Sunday playing music and experimenting with my amp and feedback. While I had previously avoided trying to make the guitar feedback and had focused almost exclusively on acoustic guitar, I cannot even begin to describe how much fun it has been to play electric! Instead, I will provide some practical examples, so those who do not play guitar will have some context.
Acoustic guitar has strings that are thicker than electric, and it is more difficult to make them produce sound. Whereas on the electric guitar, just putting your finger on a new fret can make a new sound. This has been a revelation because now I can do hammer-on and pull-offs and all sorts of cool stuff that my finger strength from playing acoustic made possible.
Another thing that has surprised me is that, despite playing guitar for over twenty years, my fingers still hurt after playing for long periods of time! I would have thought that the callouses I built up over time would be enough to allow me to play for hours at a time, but the reality is that I can’t play for more than about a half hour right now, but I think the more I play the more I will be able to build up the strength.
My mother in law asked me what songs I was playing when she saw me in the hallway, and I told her I was just making stuff up. She said it sounded really good and liked it, and she isn’t the type of person to just give compliments when she doesn’t like things. I’ve also been spending time playing drums. Four or five years ago I bought the most stripped-down Frankenkit I could find.2 I’ve been teaching myself on a bass drum, snare drum, and high hat, with a tambourine on the hat to give it an extra splashy sound.
Between that and the bass, both Saturday and Sunday I was working on new songs. I also found my drum machine and am looking at the possibility of using it for beats while I play guitar/bass. Eventually I’m going to invest in a looping pedal for the bass and between that and either pre-recording drums or using the drum machine, I should be able to simulate something close to a full band by myself.
Anyway, it has been fun to play music again because that has meant listening to more music as well. In the past I’ve gone through periods where I didn’t want to listen to much music and something about the process of writing it has encouraged me to listen to much more of it. Since I’ve not been doing any woodworking projects until I get better wood, it has been nice to find things to do to take up mental energy besides work and writing code. As I mentioned in the sections above, taking time off has inspired me to write more and on different subjects. I’ve also got a pretty good idea for how to redesign this site and make it easier to find my work, and to better divide it up.
Not much to share professionally this week. I started working on an automation project using Terraform and I finished up a few reports. I did want to share some advice to both my future self and anyone listening:
Double checking your work is good. Triple checking your work is great. When you check for the fourth time, BE EXTRA THOROUGH! DON’T SUBMIT REPORTS THAT MIGHT HAVE TYPOS!
I didn’t listen to that advice and might or might not have submitted a report that had an error on it. My dad used to say that he could neither confirm nor deny whether that was true. However, I will tell you, dear reader, that I have never regretted taking just a little bit extra time to make sure that something was as close to perfect as I can make it. My wife suggests reading everything out loud so you can hear how it flows, and I always forget to do that, despite it being great advice.
In closing, I just want to reiterate the value of being thorough when reviewing documents, and to share one final thought. In the past, I was afraid of learning automation because I was afraid that I would automate myself out of a job. However, one of my great and smart friends reminded me that automation doesn’t maintain itself. George Jetson just turns the machine on and off, but in the future of automation, someone has to maintain that code as well. Which is to say that I hope my fear of automating myself out of a job is unfounded. That’s why I had resisted automation so much to this point. However, if I come back in six months lamenting being out of a job, I can look back at this post and go, “AH HA!”
People to follow
As I do every week, here are some tech and non-tech people you might consider following on Twitter.
Martin Luther King III - The son of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Bernice King - The daughter of Dr. King
@cetolyne - great friend, awesome programmer, super helpful!
@blenster - cool maker, very positive, well worth a follow!
@GWeessies - very smart person doing interesting research!
Marley - first place champ! Marley is one of the best on Twitter!
Null Coder - another awesome person to keep an eye on!
@EvilMog - creator of the DC MUD and an interesting person to follow.
TrakoZG – an internet friend who tweets excellent things
Sofia Rune – brilliant scholar who shares things that are both insightful and valuable
Alright internet friend, that’s it for this long weekly update. It looks like taking the weekend off really gave me the energy to write this morning! Hopefully I can keep up the momentum for the rest of the week. Thanks for taking the time to read, and I hope you have a most excellent day and a very great week!
- According to this Wikipedia page, the quote was from The Black Panther Leaders Speak on page 23. [return]
- For the reader who doesn’t play drums, a Frankenkit is like Frankenstein’s monster – a compilation of parts. I have a different snare drum, bass drum, and high hat and add parts one at a time. [return]