I miss my country

Today, I look around this country I love and do not recognize it.  The nation I grew up believing in has gone.  It has become all the things it once stood against.  It has become a nation of hypocrites. 

It criticizes Islamic nations for restricting the rights of their people.  For their mistreatment of women. For their intolerance of other religions.  Yet here in this country, we deny marriage and family to our gay citizens.  We pass legislation to restrict women’s access birth control and mandate invasive procedures should they choose abortion.  We declare this country to be a christian nation and defend antisemitic or antimuslim hate speak with our freedom of speech, but conveniently over look our freedom of religion.

We criticize China for it’s human rights policies.  However in this country, we refuse to provide even basic health care to every one of our citizens.  You must pay for the privilege of maintaining your health, but financial ruin awaits you if you get cancer.  We criticize China for restricting their people’s internet freedoms.  Yet there are no less three bills before our legislature to do just that. 

We applaud and encourage people to stand up to the dictators and tyrants who live in excess while they starve.  Yet when our very citizens cry out against the level of influence the 1% have over how this country is run, they are told to disperse or are arrested.  Our congress members spend more time fundraising than legislating while Super Political Action Committees funded by billionaires decide who gets to run.  Our democracy is pay to play.

We’ve surrendered our freedoms.  We’re legislating morality.  We used to pride ourselves as being a melting pot nation, but now we’re just a nation of xenophobes who don’t even like our own citizens. Maybe we don’t like those things about other countries because it hits so close to our own.  We had better start liking those things, because we’re very quickly becoming a Christian Iran. 


America: A Nation of I

I, the simplest way to sum up a single individual in the first person. I, the roman numeral for one. It is the most self centered and exclusive word in the English language, and it sums up the average American perfectly.
As a fellow citizen to this massive collection of singular view points, it pains me to see our country in the state that it’s in. We’re better than this. Inclusion is the foundation of our nation, not exclusion. When times are tough, all the I’s band together to form a We. We the people, not I the person and these other guys too.
Americans are to blame for the state of the union. Not Bin Laden, not Wall Street, Not Washington, and certainly not anyone else in the world. Americans turned a blind eye to finance and let it run amok. Americans let greed over come common sense and allowed our debt to balloon. Americans allowed our freedoms to be sacrificed in the name of security. Why? Let’s start with 9/11.
As a nation, we did not react so well to this tragedy. In fact, we lost our shit. Cries for revenge and “Never Forget!” rang out from across the land. That’s all fine and dandy, I’m a fan of vengeance myself. However, what was eventually accomplished with a small covert force, started with a massive military misadventure. I’m still not sure why nuking the region never came up, but I’m pretty sure the idea was floated at some point.
Then there’s the public violations required to participate in the privilege of flying over priced (and mismanaged) airlines. Listen, I’d prefer not to get blown up while flying, but if I have surrender even one of the freedoms I live for to do it, I’d rather die. At that point the terrorists win. Crotch grabbing for safety is not the sort of rational things non-terrified people engage in.
Speaking of rational, how much sense does it make to spend TRILLIONS!!!! (this should always be how this word is written) on tracking down and killing a few dozen guys who barely graduated to the 20th century, let alone the 21st. We have virtually bankrupted ourselves chasing down a bunch of guys who want to live in caves. They actually prefer a 19th century lifestyle.
And Speaking of cave dwellers, I’m looking at you tea party, let’s talk about the upsurge in fundamentalist ideology in this country. It’s hard to justify hating an all inclusive and diverse multi-cultural society. It is however quite easy to hate a xenophobic bunch of gun totting bible thumpers who have no respect for other religions, and are constantly being provided with the public eye they so desperately crave.
God told them this minor earthquake was a warning about the debt. He also told them a blown out hurricane was punishment for legalizing gay marriage. These are things said not by people who hope to hold an office someday, buy people who are already elected. Curiously, God has been silent on the matter of a hell like firestorm rampaging across a state known to be intolerant, racist, and hotbed for Christian fanaticism.
Let’s check the score. Floods, droughts, and fires in places that refuse to accept global warming on religious principle and a freak earthquake that knocked the steeple off the national cathedral. A not unheard of yet mercifully weakened monster storm to a place that recognizes love between two people regardless of design specifications. It seems to me that God isn’t getting his point across and really don’t want to hear him shout.
Faultcode, you say, these people only represent a small portion of this great and mighty land. This is true. The problem gets back to “I”. That small portion of I’s has formed a We. They are divisive and deceptive. They are manipulative and prey on fear and uncertainty.
Those of us I’s who choose discourse over volume need to form our own band of We. We need cease being individual Americans and become America.
America, home of the brave, we must stand up a face our fear and conquer it. America, land of the free, we must preserve our freedoms in the face of terror and despite of it. We must become a nation, not just a notion. We defy those who would hold our nation hostage with fear, especially those who we trust to run it.

Insight, paranoia, or just coincidence?

The other day I was getting irritated at a bunch of stuff. Since this is a frequent occurrence, I didn’t pay much attention to it. Then a tiny little thought crept in and asked a question. Is all this stuff related? A simple question that begs some difficult answers. Warning: I’m going to sound crazy and delusional.
I’ve always been curious as to how the political right ended up being composed of the groups it has. These groups would seem to have completely different ideological and philosophical views. I never understood how the religious groups and the corporate giants could be lined up so neatly on the same side. One group is all about love and sharing and family. The other is about squeezing the last penny out of employees, customers, and anyone else who they think might have money they could take. Let’s look into this a bit by examining a few of our issues in this country.
Climate change is happening. Regardless of whether we’re causing it or it’s a natural phenomenon, we should be taking steps to make our environment more habitable not less. This is a problem for a wide variety of industries because it means they have to invest in new technology and machinery. That means spending money and not making money. After all, they’re goal is to make a good quarterly statement not look decades down the line at how much the weather might suck. It benefits them if we’re not to blame for climate change.
Then there’s the idea that God would not let us ruin his world. He’ll let us commit genocide, ethnic cleansing, forced relocation, and all manner of crimes against humanity, but not spoil the good Earth. It sounds crazy, but that’s the view held by some of the people in charge of our environmental policy. While I’m not suggesting we worship the Earth, I would think the religious folks would want to take better care of a world created especially for us.
So how do you get a group of religious people who live primarily in the Southern (read hotter) states who rely on agriculture a great deal to take a your corporate view on climate change. Well I would reach out to my friends in the media and give voice to the loudest groups who don’t care what they sound like. It would only take one interview question about whether they believed God would allow global warming (a tragic misnomer) or one article on a protestant website. They whip up a frenzy among the fundamentalists, and the next this you know they’re back big oil’s candidate for presidency.
Surely the information will get out right? That’s what the internet is for right? Well, not so much. Let’s talk about big media, the entertainment industry, tech giants, and parent’s watchdog groups. Oh my, where to begin? I don’t even know.
Let’s start with TV, America’s babysitter. Parents rely on tv to keep their kids occupied so they aren’t bothered by them. Unfortunately, not everything on tv is suitable for kids and monitoring what they watch is just too much damn work. So parents form groups of busy bodies that would find something objectionable (likely something their church told them was bad), and complain loudly about it rather than turn the channel. Seriously, these people go through movies and shows frame by frame (1/30th of a second) to find something that might look from a certain angle like a penis.
They complain to their congressman, the congressman forms a committee, the committee tells the studios to knock it off, and we get a decade of overly sanitized television. There are two things that are important here. One, these groups are very organized, extremely vocal, and can get people elected. Two, they are easily influenced and will not stop watching television.
That said, they are the problem. Any thought provoking television will either offend them or get them in an uproar about something, and if that something is directly tied to profits or re-election then it’s a problem. Now, the thing to do is proccupy them with a bunch of crap.
There’s a reason the top headlines are about sports and celebrities. It fills the gaps where meaningful information should go. I’ll bet at least 9 out of 10 people couldn’t tell me who the Koch brothers are, even though they’re a huge part of our political landscape. Big media plays along and in return the government helps them squeeze every penny out of mindless television, crappy movies, and overly cloned pop music. All so parents won’t have to be bothered to watch their kids.
I really believe that Corporate America is playing Middle America and the fundamentalists against the left. The worst part is how well it’s working. The political center of this country has moved so far to the right that Eisenhower and Nixon would be seen as centrists at best. There’s no proof of course. These scenarios are just what I’ve got going on in my head.
I can see a future in America that looks a lot like the present day Middle East. A huge divide between rich and poor with next to no middle class. Councils for morality and decency at the local level of government, and maybe even a house committee as well. My hopes are that this doesn’t happen, I don’t live to see it, or I’ve moved to another country.
This is likely my last post. My need to scream into the void is just that, screaming into the void. I have other obligations and an imploding personal life to keep me busy. Perhaps one day I’ll revisit this place and look back with relief that my fears were for nothing. Perhaps, and I hope this is never the case, I’ll look back and say I told you so.

Good bye
God bless
And may the force be with you


Like a donut, there is no center…

America, we need to get some things straight. I got about six lines into a post about the right skewing trend of our political system. I was going to lament about the lack of centrists being elected to our government. Then I realized that they were actually all centrists. The political center is so far to the right in this country that even the liberals are big business conservatives.
Given that the large majority of Americans believe what ever is shouted at them the loudest, I have no suggestions for fixing the problem. I do however suggest you look up the word Plutocracy. While you’re at it, look up the Koch brothers. If you’re planning on flying, look up the 4th amendment, due process, and habeas corpus.
I like my Church and my State to occupy separate buildings. I think science should be guiding our nation’s energy and environmental policy, not religion (look up Rep. John Shimkus). While we’re at it, Freedom of religion doesn’t only apply to choosing which protestant Christian faith to worship. It means all religions.
Here’s my prediction. Sara Palin wins the presidency in 2012 with Glen Beck as her VP. Even if she doesn’t run, her misguided tea party whack job militia will organize a tragically effective write in campaign. Republicans pick up the rest of congress. Fearing a return to toxic economic policies, the rest of the world walls off our country to minimize the damage. Also, they’ll use TV to convince us that the moon and Mars are harboring terrorists and Nazi’s. This way we’ll direct our resources (read military) to getting to the moon and Mars (look up Iron Sky). With our nation safely isolated and preoccupied, the rest of the world will move on to greener technology and continue to sell oil (now abundant because of electric vehicles and mass transit) to us for higher and higher prices. It is my hope to be a Canadian by the time this comes to pass. Maybe even British.

You can lead a horse to water, but they prefer beer…

Greetings. The subject of leadership has been hurled around the office quite a bit lately. Mostly my crew looking to me for advice on the matter. Since I’m the seasoned veteran (at 33 I can’t help but feel too young for that) they think I have the answers.
How do I become a leader? How can I be a good leader? How come you’re a good leader and others aren’t? I decided it’s time I formulated my thoughts on the matter. Short answer: I’m nuts.

Be the example: Be the first one there and last one to leave. It shows that your committed to the task at hand. Be able to do the things you ask of your people. You don’t have to do it better, but you’ll make better decisions if you know how.
Lead, don’t send: Be part of the action. Be out there with your people. You’ll be better able to adapt and make good decisions if you’re there. However, don’t micromanage. Trust your people to do their jobs, unless you can’t trust your people to do their jobs.
Fake it ’til you make it: Confidence is key, especially if you don’t feel it. Always show confidence (not arrogance) to those you lead. Push doubt to the back of your mind and suck it up. They’ll have their own doubts, but will look to you for strength. Fake it often enough and it’ll become a habit. If you have a habit of showing confidence, guess what? You are.
Words on a page: That’s all a title is. A title might provide a minimal amount of authority, but it doesn’t inspire anyone to go beyond the minimal of expectations. If you want respect, be respectable. If you want to inspire, be inspirational. You’ll know when it’s working
Respect, Appreciation, and Praise: Use these often. Nobody wants to work for someone who doesn’t appreciate them. If your people do good work, tell them. If they exceed, praise them. If you always treat them as intelligent beings who can contribute to the team, then they will.
Be a conductor: Use the different parts of your team to enhance the whole. Know their strengths and weaknesses and plan accordingly. Discuss weakness in private in an honest and constructive manner. Discuss strengths in a team setting. Being called out for praise among their peers will motivate not only them, but the whole team. Never ever call out a weakness in front of the team unless you’ve discussed it with the individual and both of you agree that it would help the team.
Get over yourself: It’s not about you. Your focus should be the goal at hand and what your team needs to meet it. It may mean holding their hand every step of the way. It may mean taking a step back and providing support while they work. You job is to ensure they have the things they need to succeed. It is not to get the things you want.
Reap what you have sown: Your team is your reward. I’m the most proud of my people when they’re taken form me to be leaders in their own right. I might lose good people, but they earned it. I also get the challenge of building up new team members, so my skills stay in use.
Make plans: Plan the work and work the plan. Have some idea about how you’re going to meet your goal, then do it.. You don’t need to plan out every single detail, but having a frame work will do wonders. Also, be ready to ditch a plan that isn’t working and come up with a new plan.
Bend like a reed in the wind: Strength comes from flexibility. Don’t get so married to a process that one minor bump can derail the whole thing. Be adaptable and make changes as they are needed. Also, try new things. Failures are learning experiences, while success breeds complacency.
That’s the long and short of it. I do some of these things better than others. Some people can’t do them at all. I have no idea why, but not everyone can lead. Certainly, not everyone should.


Sorry. What were you saying? I was having a moment with this thing in my hand.

Hi. How’s it going? It’s been a while. How are you? How are the wife and kids, and mistresses? Good? Great. Well enough of the small talk.
When I have a busy day, I get about three twenty minute periods between the madnesses to relax. When I first started, my coworkers and I would pass the time by joking, talking, or even watching a movie. These days that doesn’t happen. The breaks are still there, but the interaction isn’t. It’s not that the people are jerks or we hate each other. It’s the iPhone, well smart phones in general.
In a room of six people who get along pretty well, not one person is looking at anything that isn’t a tiny LCD screen. Six people who I know for a fact can pay attention, listen to what others are saying, formulate a thoughtful and intelligent response, and deliver it in a meaningful way, interspersed with witty banter and cutting sarcasm. Yet we no longer converse. The art of conversation has been bludgeoned by shiny little trinkets. Technology has changed the way we interact on a fundamental level, and it’s doing it quickly.
When I was in school, texting was done with pen and paper and passed from person to person until it reached it’s target. The only phone in the room was wired and bolted to a wall. Wireless communication consisted of real time vibrations in the air leaving the teachers mouth, traveling at the speed of sound to interact in real time with our ears. Before you accuse me of being too old to grasp the new tech, I just turned 33. However, my parents can relate with me because they had the same experience. My children will not have a land line, will not pass easily intercepted paper notes, or even understand how such primitive technology put us the moon. Which is where I hope they’ll be living.
Go to any restaurant and look for a couple. Now see how much time goes by before one of them goes for the phone. I’ll bet less than five minutes. Technology has brought the world closer by separating the individuals. We have unprecedented access to information, analysis, and commentary. What’s left to talk about?
E-books (we know my thoughts on those), laptops, and smart phones allow us to bring the things we use to pass our time alone along with us. Farmville, text messages, twitter updates, they all present urgent distractions from the most basic of human pass times. Interaction with other humans. We’re social creatures, and being with other humans is one of those things we just have to do. These days though, that physical proximity has been replace by our digital selves.
Our online identities are just as important to us as our social ones. We have near unlimited access to the lives of others. We know more about them at a glance of their profile page than with five minutes of conversation, and same is true of us. We don’t talk, we browse. We check the stats updates of people across town, across the country, across the world, while the person sitting across from you (whom you’re probably online friends with) is updating their status.
So I blame smart phones. They brought all of this crap out of the house and put it in the palm of our hands. Now, I’m not anti-technology, but I do miss talking with my friends. This change in our daily interactions took less than two years to become the norm. That’s how fast our world is changing.

Linux compatability = yes please

I bought a house in January, and in it was a room that was begging to become a library. I installed my office and book collection in this room, but I wanted something different. I was tired of the standard desk and chair arrangeable of the classic office. It’s not terribly comfortable and I always feel sucked into my monitor.
Here’s what I decided on. Upgrading my 17″ LCD mentor to a 40″ LCD TV and removing me form the desk with a wireless keyboard/mouse combo. I got a great vintage looking leather chair instead of a traditional office chair. The results? Everything I wanted.
Since I’m still new to Linux, I was concerned about compatibility. I shouldn’t have been. That was the old windows part of my brain talking. However, I did some research and asked around in the Linux community. I was once again pleased to find willing and helpful people(I’m sure you all know this, but I’m new so you’ll have to sit through it again). Little Girl of the Mostly Linux blog (WP) was a huge help.
I chose the Logitech Wave cordless keyboard and mouse set. It has a keyboard with multi-media controls and a five button mouse. Mac people, that’s five more buttons than your new mouse. What gives? Any ways, it’s literally plug and play. No problems, no install disc. I have a less than common distribution, so if you’re running Ubuntu I’m sure it’ll be fine.
The 40″ LCD TV is also working smoothly. You might have to play with your display settings though, this thing is bright. Obviously the computer isn’t going to recognize it as a brand name monitor, since it’s not. However, it doesn’t seem to care. The only issue is that my seven year old video card doesn’t output in 16:9, so I get black bars on the side. The TV will stretch it out, but then people’s Facebook heads look funny,
So now I’m writing this from the comfort of a plush leather chair, sitting ten feet from my monitor. I’m no longer sucked into my desk with my back to the door. I can see what’s going on in the rest of the house. My dog has more room on the floor. My Xbox is in here as well, so the wife doesn’t have to wait for the DVR. Everybody is happy.