No One in the Public Is Above Questioning in the United States

During yet another distracting week of drama coming out of the White House, the Press Secretary let loose this little gem:

If you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that is something highly inappropriate.

In what country is this true? Certainly not the United States. The Constitution explicitly lays out the rights of individuals regarding speech and press and restricts the placement of “titles of nobility.” Additionally, The Declaration of Independence plainly states “that all men are created equal.”

On the idea of titles granted to individuals, the Founders were trying to prevent family and friends from passing the torches of responsibility to each other without a real democratic representation taking place. It also seems obvious that preventing titles encourages a sense of equality between leaders and their constituents.

I’ve written previously about respect and how simply being someone or something does not automatically confer gratitude and adulation upon one self. Being the so called President or a Super-Cool-Star General does not immediately require that all underlings bow unquestioningly before you. We live in a country where the very public foundations declare and require that everyone is on equal footing.

Notice that I slipped the word “public” into the sentence above. I wanted to make the distinction between public and private equality very clear because people often confuse the two. Public laws apply to every person equally. Politicians are held accountable by their constituents. Leaders are constantly reminded by a careful set of checks and balances established through centuries of debate and guidelines.… Continue reading

Forced Attention

Stone statues salute silently while lookers at and passers by cheer.
Gusty gales cause commotion to the dismay of those most near.
Resulting rumbles snap onlookers from a trance when statutes fall.
Frustration forces former followers to point, sneer, and jeer. Up! Get tall!
While considered nothing down below, they are even less when left in tow.
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Respect Cannot Be Demanded

As is usual for his tweets, Donald Trump recently tried to get ahead of another embarrassing rebuke.

He’s correct in his first sentence. Going to the White House is a huge honor considered as a once in a lifetime opportunity by anyone. The problem is that the president believes the occupant of the White House is automatically owed the respect and loyalty of its visitors. Sorry, Mr. Trump, it doesn’t work that way. People in the positions of power and leadership aren’t required to be revered by the citizens. The United States isn’t your kingdom and its citizens aren’t your subjects. Citizens are allowed to peacefully protest and show dislike for their so-called leaders.

I can hear some people responding now. “He’s allowed to rescind an invite! It’s his right as the president to determine who can and can’t visit!” Well, sure, that’s definitely true, but his reasoning for doing so in this case seems disingenuous. He seems to be implying that it’s disrespectful to hesitate accepting an invite. As citizens of the United States, we are free to do what we want within the bounds of the laws. If a someone doesn’t want to visit the White House, then he or she isn’t required to do so against their will.

If the president wants people to be genuinely glad to visit his residence, then he needs to learn the meaning of the word “respect.” Let us first review its meaning as defined in the dictionary:

respect
noun

  1. a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.
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Hate Watch: Jason Kessler

Jason Kessler is a white nationalist, white supremacist, pro-Confederate supporter, and self-described independent journalist, author, and writer. During a recorded poetry reading in 2014, he described himself as cynical and skeptical of the government and the “power of love.” In an apparent foreshadowing of Kessler’s later escapades, he further stated that he doesn’t need to be “born again” or “saved.” Kessler gained national attention in 2016 when he exposed lewd and racist tweets from a Virginia Board of Education member ultimately leading to the member’s resignation.

Contrary to his self-proclaimed civility, Kessler has an extensive record of convictions (Jason Eric Kessler) ranging from shoplifting, obstruction of justice, failure to appear, and numerous traffic violations. In 2017, Kessler was charged with and plead guilty to misdemeanor assault. In describing the incident, Kessler claimed that the man he punched is using the “liberal nature of the city” and the “state government” to “force penalty” on him and asserted that a punch in the face is what someone should expect during face-to-face verbal disagreement.

Building on previous nationalist and populist themes, Kessler’s blog posts, tweets, and YouTube videos mainly consist of topics such as “white genocide”, “anti-white racism”, “cultural Marxism”, and anti-immigration. Kessler has a history of creating articles, blog posts, poems, and videos about white nationalism, white ethnocentrism, the “alt-right,” and white genocide. Kessler’s language, volume, and inflection of the words and voices used in his writings and videos makes it clear that he attempts to take advantage of emotion and hate over logic and intelligence during a discussion.… Continue reading

Hate Watch: Richard Spencer

Richard Spencer is a white supremacist, white nationalist, Nazi-sympathizer, and self proclaimed “identitarian.” He has claimed to be the creator of the “alt-right” terminology and has claimed that it is determined to fight for “white identity.” He frequently quotes Nazi propaganda, chants Nazi slogans, displays Nazi salutes, denounces Jews, supports ethnic cleansing, and supports a “white homeland” (“Ethnostate”).

After Donald Trump’s election, Spencer made national headlines when a video surfaced showing chants of “Hail, Trump” followed by Nazi arm salutes. More recently, Spencer has made headlines when speaking out in favor of the August 2017 white nationalist “protest” in Charlottesville. Following the “protest”, Spencer seemed to gain legitimacy among some right wing members when Donald Trump appeared to implicitly support the white nationalists by delaying his scripted condemnation of their movement and eventually blaming violence on “both sides” and attributing blame to both white supremacists and anti-hate activists.

Spencer and those of the same cut are currently energized and on the move to continue their hateful rhetoric and activities. Be alert of any more “protests” from alt-right groups that use free speech as a cover for hate speech and violence. Additionally, these groups feel that they have the support of the President due to his inability and unwillingness to denounce the alt-right movement. A quick look at Spencer’s Twitter profile reveals that he lives in an echo chamber of ideas concerning only white nationalism and white supremacy.

It is highly unlikely that Spencer is open to anything that would introduce personal cognitive dissonance.… Continue reading

Words Have Meaning Part I: Facts

The universe is a vast, confusing, and changing cosmic terrarium. We are confined by its rules and trapped by its expanding boundaries. In an effort to add some structure to the chaos, hone our understanding of the mechanics, and persist information beyond our generation, we use words, numbers, pictures, labels, diagrams, standards, and many more tools to calculate, predict, record, and preserve observations about the various universal processes that surround us.

When we assign a verifiable value to an observation based on our best collective understanding, we call that value a “fact.” Facts are tricky because they represent the current understanding of an experience. That distinction is important because it’s easy to become disheartened when journalists or scientists discover new information or issue updates about a phenomenon that was long regarded as factual. Facts can change through further observation, experience, and the discovery of more detailed experimental evidence. So what do we believe? Are facts rock solid or can we assume that nothing can truly be known?

Let’s use Earth and Sun for examples. The understandings of Earth’s shape, its place in the solar system, and Sun’s place in the universe has changed over time.

It was an understood fact that Earth was flat in pre-classical Greece. Aristotle eventually showed evidence that Earth was in fact spherical. For a time, Earth’s flatness was a fact. Using our vast technology, we know now that Earth is an ellipsoid, but it wasn’t so easily understood in the past. Pre-classical Greeks were eventually proven to be incorrect and thus the facts changed.… Continue reading

Software Shop Success Checklist

Teams of people need structure. Humans are imperfect, forgetful, prone to mistakes, and often cut corners for convenience or “time saving”. Yes, structure and organization are important for teams of programmers and software engineers no matter how many times your leaders have declared that you’re an Agile (with a big A) and agile (with a little a) shop.

Ask Questions during Interviews

It’s easy to get swept up in the marketing techniques that a lot of software companies use during the recruiting and interviewing phases. Maybe you’ve been eyeing a particular position for awhile and finally have the opportunity to make it through the on site gauntlet. You may also be desperate for a job for one reason or another. Regardless, it pays off in the end to make sure you’re aware of how the business operates under the hood.

These guidelines are especially important if you’re signing on as a full time employee or with a company whose primary business is something other than writing software. The former because it’s mentally more difficult to give up benefits, vacations, and a consistent salary should you find out that you’re really not enjoying the job. And the latter because businesses that focus on something other than software are notorious for, frankly, not giving a crap about their various IT/software departments.

During the interview phases of your job search, make sure to take time to ask the interviewer your own questions. Many people overlook this part of the interview phase either because they’ve been in the interview process for 6 hours straight and want to go home, or they just don’t care.… Continue reading

Working “Crunch” Overtime Might Not Help a Team Deliver

The deadline is approaching. Your project is a mess. Your team doesn’t know if delivering on time is going to be possible. Your director has a genius idea. Everyone work overtime with no plan in mind! Have you ever been in such a situation? It’s quite common if you work in IT or software engineer. For some reason, management thinks that everyone working more hours is directly proportional to more productivity.

There’s a problem with that. The common 40 hour workweek was created from evidence-based research. For nearly all professions and activities, the productivity, efficiency, and general output of a worker drops off dramatically after a certain number of hours in a day. It’s easy to simply say, “Work more hours!” It’s a lot more difficult to use a logical approach and discover the root of what’s causing delays in the project.

It’s disheartening when your director or boss says something like, “We signed up for this profession. We knew what to expect when joining this company. Every project has a “crunch” time for people to work overtime. That’s the industry!” I’m sorry, but I don’t buy that reasoning. If projects are consistently late or require “crunch”, then something has been fundamentally wrong with the project planning from the beginning each and every time.

Look, I get it. Really, I do. People want to solve problems. In an engineering profession, people have a genuine interest in producing solutions to problems. Unfortunately, a lot of the solutions attempt to fix the wrong problem.… Continue reading

Open Offices Aren’t Always the Solution

What’s with the latest craze in the office organization of the service industry? Are we really going back to huge, open spaces with no sense of privacy at all? With companies like Facebook, Google, and even smaller companies like Valve praising the open office concept, it sure seems like it will be here to stay for awhile. That’s unfortunate, because open offices suck!

The Concept

Look, I get it. Someone saw the cube farms and said, “Why are all these people locking themselves away? We need to be more collaborative! Our products are failing because no one is talking to each other. Tear down these walls!” Down came the walls. Soon enough the facility planners were shuffling desks together, removing all partitions, knocking down walls and replacing them with fishbowl style glass walls, and preaching Agile processes. All the while the seasoned veterans are running for the doors as quick as possible.

The Good

There really isn’t a whole lot that I like about open offices (as an introvert), so this might be a biased section. However, I will say that open offices do encourage you to talk to people near you that you normally wouldn’t. This can be a good thing in the sense that you get to know your coworkers. But when a project needs to be worked on diligently, the open office spaces seem to encourage people to just chit chat about random stuff all day. Joking, yelling, talking loudly, and throwing stuff around is just a little bit of what can be experienced in an open office.… Continue reading

Completing Three Major Projects in One Year

I think it’s important to brag about any project that you manage to take from idea to completion. Many people (myself included) have a ton of ideas, few of which become something, and even fewer of which are actually finished and out there. So you should take any opportunity you get to shout out anything you’ve completed.

Built a website? Cool. Remodeled your kitchen? Nice. Wrote a short story? Awesome. Get out there and tell people!

I know the feeling of wanting to start something new every day just to forget about any mistakes you might have made in the previous day. It’s all about start, start, start. It’s never about finish, finish, finish. I guess sometimes we feel like “new” is better than “old” even if that “old” thing has potential.

Without further ado, these are three major projects that I managed to complete in late 2015 and early 2016. They’re not much, but hey, they’re mine!

Twolips Dating

TwolipsDatingSplashTwolips Dating is an online dating community aimed at those who want to find others based on their knowledge and skills. Find yourself attracted to someone really good at math? Awesome. Find people in the community who have answered a ton of math related trivia questions and quizzes. Sign up for free.

Or just check out the blog to follow updates until you’re ready to start.

Safer Stash

SaferStashSplashSafer Stash is an online encrypted virtual storage for your physical stuff. The image above does a good idea of succinctly describing it.… Continue reading