Unlearn What You Have Learned

When my stuff was taken a few weeks ago and my backup laptop’s battery died last week, it was a double kick in the teeth to me as a tech guy. My philosophy on technology can be summed up by a like Spock said in classic Star Trek in the episode The Ultimate Computer.

Computers make excellent and efficient servants, but I have no wish to serve under them.”

I like computer, I find convenience with them, but I never figured I was dependent on them. When I see people on public transit bend over looking at their smartphones, I feel sorry for them because I feel they’re ignoring the world around them for the excitement of whatever is trending on Facebook and YouTube. In one moment, a lot of the technology I had depended on was gone and I felt lost and confused. The thing that has saved me has been my redundancy obsession. I have backups for backups so even with my losses I could reconstruct a lot of passwords and locations of important documents. It has been frustrating and time consuming, as well as expensive, but I’m getting back on my electronic feet.

It’s weird that I feel depended yet not dependent on technology. I like tech but I don’t want technology to be the master of me. I want to have options to use the type of technology I need. I try to take life experiences and apply them to tech to make things easier. It seems like an obvious statement but I’ve seen too many people not understand that concept. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen people at the bus stop getting frustrated because they didn’t know when the bus arrives. There at a bus stop that has options for texting the info, going to the website for info or looking at the bus schedule posted on the stop. They will pace, crane to look for the bus or ask people if they know when the bus will arrive. They will ask this while they’ve turned down the smartphone that is playing music, the same smartphone they could use to get the information if they don’t feel like looking at the printed schedule at the bus stop.

The surprise to me on this rebuild I must do in my electronic life has been how out of date I’ve been. A week or two before the stuff was taken I was talking to someone about some new phone, computer or something. I thought it was a waste of money trying to keep up with the latest trends. I said if I find something that works I stick with it. I bragged about I had no problems with my patchwork tech because it did what I needed. I’m seeing that I will need to modify my opinion on sticking with something because its comfortable or familiar. I don’t mean I’m suddenly going to be a slave to tech trends, but I’m probably going to be more willing to examine changes that might make my life easier.

What I’ve seen the past few days is that options that could make my life easier are staring me in the face. I must step outside my narrow focus to see all the options. I just got a new phone and a frustrating issue is that attaching a USB cable to the phone won’t transfer files. The cable is recognized; it’s charging up the phone but I can’t get files into it. I went online to find out what the issue might be. I changed settings, checked the SIMM and micro SD card, tested the connection with other computers and still nothing. My tablet has similar issues, but I think I figured out the issue with that.

Yesterday I had one of those Alexander Graham Bell moments. I was distracted and hit something on my computer I didn’t mean to hit, but in recovering from that I saw I was going about the phone issue in the wrong way. It never occurred to me that I didn’t need to directly link to the unit to transfer files because I could do it wirelessly. After a few tweeks and one download I could swap files on the phone. Working on that issue made me realize that technique I was using with filing my large number of media files was great five years ago but there were easier ways of accomplishing the same things. My dead laptop had files I need to recover. It will take time to get them but now I know I have an easy fix to recover and store those files to my secure location. While I’m writing this, I’m uploading some new files using the new system. The files are spread across three media formats. Now instead of 4-5 steps needed to backup, file and backup again, it looks like I can upload files from any device wirelessly to one location and my system will catalog and backup my files automatically. Once there any of my devices can access the files.

I’ve spent close to a week trying to fix the issue with the USB transfer and I already had the solution. I was looking at solving it one way when another way was easier, more efficient and usable on a variety of devices.

There have been a few hiccups in the process in the hour and a half I’ve been trying it, but once the files are loaded to my server I just have to file them later, but the backup is set. No more moving from system to system, or having something on one device that I need on another.

What I’m going through this early morning is why I try not to get too upset with adversity. I don’t want to have bad experiences but figuring out alternatives to bad situations gives me tools that I can use later. Trust me, I’m not the most organized person but I’m working on getting my stuff in order. Losing my stuff forced me to rethink and modify things I never would have done before. I didn’t see a need to change because as I had things set up they worked fine. In purchasing the tablet and phone to get myself back on my electronic feet, I was going to set things up the way they were. Now I see I should look at the prospect that I might have to incorporate new ideas to achieve my goals.

I hated a lot of things about my phone when I got it because it wasn’t the old phone. I see now that I have to take the new options and take the time to make those things work that I need. There probably is something simple I’m missing not allowing me to have the USB transfer files, but I’ve found a more efficient way of working with all my devices. Now, if I can get the USB cable transfer to work I have that as a plus.

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Trying To Put Some Pieces Back

Last week was an eventful week, with the theft of a lot of my items. I’m starting to get some of the items replaced, but it’s going to be a long process. It’s a kick in the teeth to get items stolen. I feel like my space has been violated, my routine has been disrupted and it seems like every day I get a reminder of the loss. Wednesday, a week after my things were taken, another unfortunate event happened when my laptop, this was the spare laptop not the one that was stolen, stopped working. From what I have been able to diagnose, the battery died and since the AC cord goes to the battery, I’ll have to open up the case and remove the battery to try and get the system to power up. From what I read online, it’s not an easy process of just removing the battery.

Just like last week, all I can do is count my blessings, take a moment then forge ahead.

Something happened yesterday I needed to happen. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the bad experience I had at Fry’s Electronics. By the way, after Fry’s requested more information about what happened, I haven’t heard anything from them. I have been lost without a lot of my gadgets. I’m almost fighting tech withdrawals because I don’t have the tools I’m used to and I feel unsure of myself because those tools are missing. I was going to order a tablet from Amazon but I saw an ad for a good one at Fry’s. Yes, Fry’s Electronics was tempting me again. With the loss of my stuff, I wanted to have something now. I wanted to feel like I was coming back from my loss. So, with a lot of skepticism in my heart I took the bus to Fry’s.

So problem one on the Fry’s trek was the tablet I wanted was advertised it could take a micro SD of 128GB. When I got to Fry’s the display said the largest micro SD size was 64GB. I let that discrepancy pass because I trusted the information from Amazon and the manufacturer more than the Fry’s team. The next issue was when the salesperson took me to check for a case. I don’t what it is, maybe their training, but why is it when Fry’s staffers take you to look for something they point out the most expensive items? I was pointed out covers from $15 to $23. No mention was made of the massive number of $10 ones in the same area. I saw one of $7 and said “I’ll take this one.” I didn’t understand why he was disappointed in my choice until checkout when I learned that particular tablet cover was half off.

When I took my sheet up to get the bill filled out, I was charged twice for the cover because the cashier wasn’t paying attention that I had the cover in hand and it didn’t need to be retrieved from the back like the tablet. When I pointed out the mistake the cashier gave me a shade look. They got the tablet, shoved it in the bag with the rest of the stuff, rang it up and I was free to go.

Well, not quite yet. It’s Fry’s so I have to show my receipt on the way out. I grab the receipt and notice that the box for the tablet had the telltale reduced price sticker on it. I looked at my receipt and the cashier charged me full price! I knew the register rang up the full price from the display, the receipt showed the full price but the box was marked discount. If I had known it was a repackaged tablet I might have not bought it. I’ve had problems with Fry’s discounted returns. The thing was, with the package in my hand I didn’t want to make a fuss of things. I was dead in the water without my electronic tools. All I wanted was the price adjusted and get out of Fry’s.

So when I got to the door where the eagle eye workers are supposed to check the receipts, I had to point out the discrepancy. Fifteen minutes later I was out the door with a credit put in my card for the difference in price.

When I buy products I don’t want to be on high alert on the watch for clerks ripping me off. It shouldn’t be too much to ask for competent people to work at a store. Look, because of the loss I had I gave Fry’s Electronics another chance. They failed. Yes, I have the tablet and yes it seems to be working fine but if I didn’t pay attention I could have had a $20+ cover and paid $7 more for the tablet. Even when I walked in and saw the advertising discrepancy, that shouldn’t happen.

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The Loss

I was just reminded revenge is a waste of time and energy. As much as I want revenge today, as much as I need to lash out and take one of God’s creatures from the sky and drink some scotch as if it were the blood of mine enemy (thank you Space: Above and Beyond) I will resist the urge of hunting down those who wronged me.

This morning I woke up feeling very bad. I had the shakes and shivers. I made it to the light rail, barely, and I seriously contemplated walking back home. The sickness went down a little and I got on the light rail. By the time I got to my bus transfer stop I was feeling better, not 100% but better.

There was some mix up with the bus this morning. First the bus showed up late, then we waited 5 min even though it was late, then another bus arrived and we were told to get on the new bus. I could feel the shakes happening again.

When I got close to my stop 20 min later things got confusing. I remember hearing the radio. I remember missing my stop and I remember stumbling out of the bus. I remember seeing a cord dangling and I kept pulling at it but I didn’t know what the cord was from. Maybe three minutes later, in the fresh morning air, I was a bit more oriented to realize I wasn’t holding my backpack! It was still dark so I traced my footsteps back to the bus stop and no backpack along the way. I started to panic because I couldn’t believe I left the backpack on the bus. The hope I has was since the backpack was big and there were only 2 stops after where I got out, I hoped the bus driver would have the backpack and I could pick it up.

Ten minutes later the bus returned. I told the driver I left my backpack on the bus. She gave me a good description of my just as she informed me someone walked off with my back at the last stop. I walked ¾ of a mile to the last stop, in a vain attempt hoping a good Samaritan would have left the back. No luck. I checked with IKEA, the shop in the area, hoping they had the pack. No luck.

Thousands of dollars of equipment, including my laptop, gone. In what seems to be my pattern, I gave myself time to plot sweet revenge on the person who took the backpack. Imagining beating the person within an inch of their life while wielding my heavy duty light saber hilt felt like sweet and ironic revenge.

Next I started thinking of the things I didn’t bring with me, like the new Star Wars miniatures I wanted to put on my desk but didn’t. As much as I wanted to be thankful about what I hadn’t lost I got bad again about what I did loose. Hey, chalk it up to human nature. Well, by the time I had made it to work I already had a new password worked out and had a checklist in my head of all the accounts I needed to change right away. One thing I have to admire my parents about is they raised me to be practical. I’ll allow myself to get emotional, to get caught in the anger and frustration of the moment but in little time I’m going to try and find an exit strategy and some way to get back on my feet.


It’s been 24 hours since I left home and started the tragic events yesterday. I’m putting in a call to the transit company this morning but I’m not putting a lot of faith in my belongings getting recovered. I’ve thought a lot about what I could have changed yesterday but honestly, while I’m not a fate person, I have to make sure I don’t dwell on woulda coulda shoulda. I have to work on forging ahead.

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Health, Welfare and Gaming

Last week I was going through a lot of physical struggles. I had a bad issue with carpel tunnel. By the end of the week I couldn’t move my fingers very well and I had to purchase a wrist brace. All sorts of dire options went through my head. I wondered if I could keep my job, considering the amount of typing I do. Every little difficulty was a precursor to some larger possible tragedy. Loss of sensation in my joints made me think I might lose an arm. There was a point where I felt like my face had paralysis and I was convinced I was having mini strokes.

I think I’ve gotten better. I almost have full function in my hand again. There’s some lingering tingling that has been slowly going down since this morning. I still have some control issues with my fingers so moving a mouse is a slight issue. Right now I still can’t write worth crap. I just can’t grip a writing instrument well. Typing is OK if I go slow enough. I think that’s due to my work keyboard because at home or on my laptop I do better.

This health scare, setback, whatever it is has me scared. With the health issues my parents have has the past few months, I’ve had to think a lot about what my later years might be. Now, I don’t see myself in some debilitating state, being fed from tubes or in some dementia state. That’s the doomsday, most pessimistic scenario someone can come up with. What I worry about are the little things, the simple stuff we like to call the dignity of life.

As usual, I wanted to take this writing in a whole other direction and I got so depressed and ashamed writing a lot of this down I deleted it. Sometimes I want to get very personal in these writings and when I share (some might say overshare) there will be the person who misses the whole point of what I’m putting down. Suddenly I’m a case study and someone feels their psych or social 101 class will have all the answers I need. Never mind that we haven’t had a one on one conversation for years, or that you haven’t picked up a phone or sent an email for decades. So when I want to delve into some heartfelt personal sharing I get the image of the helper who ultimately offers no help.

So I’m going to head to another direction.

The super computer is finished! Thursday, while in the middle of the carpel tunnel trauma, I got the computer built and running. It took a lot more hours than I expected but getting the device going was a proud moment for me. Considering the struggle I had put up with most of the week I needed a success, especially with something that had been an obstacle for a long time with me. I kind of got the system built with one hand tied behind my back.

The cooler moment was the next day when I got Star Citizen loaded and running for the first time. When I designed the computer I wanted something that could be cutting edge for years. From the overkill of memory to upping my budget for the CPU and video card, I allowed myself to spend a lot to get a lot.

I couldn’t believe the difference in performance between the systems. Star Citizen running on the old system was slow but I attributed that to my internet connection or other factors. I really didn’t have another system build to compare it to. The speed and movement on the rebuild is amazing. I really feel part of the action now. It’s easier to complete missions because the system can keep up. A simple relay repair could take 30 minutes by the time I launched, got to the satellite and maneuvered myself to do the repairs. Now I can get a repair mission done in less than 10 minutes. I’m having a lot more fun exploring the Star Citizen world on the computer build.

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The First Debate – Trump Kinda Won

There was an interesting take away I got from the debate. Trump talked about how much money the Clinton campaign spent against Trump yet the candidate is tied or ahead in some polls. To listen to mainstream or liberal media, the debate last night was a slam dunk for Clinton, but when I listened to extended discussions by pundits the same issue Trump brought up was echoed by them. With all the negative campaign messages, with all the missteps made by Trump, he has remained competitive in this election. Ever since he rode down the escalator and made the shocking statement about Mexican immigrants, there have been many experts who have mocked Trump and predicted his demise. In what has become a telling refrain, Trump has succeeded expectations and continues to win over voters.

Maybe because of the length of the political season we have forgotten many of the details of this election cycle, but Trump has been a political figure that has been the most underestimated. It has been said time and time again that Trump has said things that would destroy other politicians. Trump said that John McCain wasn’t a war hero, made disparaging comments about fellow Republican candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, and all three now support Trump. Yes, there are a list of major Republican party members who refuse to endorse Trump, including a former Republican President, but the fact is Trump is the candidate of the Republican party and he has a reasonable shot of becoming President.

The problem I have watching the coverage of Trump is I don’t see how so many experts continue to underestimate Trump. OK, that’s wrong. I have an idea of why they underestimate Trump. I’m reminded of the scene in The Wrath of Khan when the Enterprise goes into the nebula to evade Khan. Kirk realizes Khan I fighting a 2-dimensional battle. It’s when Kirk uses space tactics in 3 dimensions is he able to defeat Khan.

Pundits think in the political patterns they’ve learned from years of analysis and are reluctant to think in a new dimension. Pundits and talking heads I’ve seen discuss Trump continue to think of him as a conventional candidate. They talk about how he doesn’t have a get out the vote apparatus, how he hasn’t spent a lot of advertising dollars and in the recent event they talked about the many mistakes he made. Guess what? All that has been talked about is Trump. Trump has shaped the narrative, Trump is being talked about on every talk show, news show and radio program. Hillary Clinton is mentioned, of course, but the talk about Clinton, if you dig into it, isn’t really praise.

The problem Clinton faces is she’s expected to wipe the floor with Trump. You will hear the praises by her surrogates that Clinton is the most qualified person to be President ever. She’s been a First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State. She has political qualifications a mile long but at the end of the day, she’s tied or barely beating Trump. I think an unknown appeal of Trump is the David and Goliath comparison. Scoff if you like, but look at the primary between Sanders and Clinton. Bernie Sanders was a super underdog to her and he put up a big fight against her. Clinton has had an aura of inevitability around her that doesn’t work well for her, despite political expectations. Hillary Clinton doesn’t get lucky in elections but she and her staff exploit opportunities at the right moment to try and win elections.

What we forget about Clinton was that 8-9 years ago she was the anointed one. She was the inevitable nominee of her party and she lost to Obama. The times when she stood a fighting chance to Obama was when she did something that she’s very reluctant to do; bring down her guard and relate to people on a personal level. That time in New Hampshire when she started to cry talking about how she didn’t want the county to fail turned her fortune around in the campaign. Of course, the campaign ruined that momentum in South Carolina when it was suggested that Obama won the state because, of course, black people were expected to vote for him. Clinton and the surrogates around her rely on her inevitability to clear the field of candidates. You had the breathless will she or won’t she move during this election cycle where no major candidate dared to put their hat in the ring until she did. When she did it was so late for many, and a lot thought of her as a formidable opponent, that many decided not to run. Despite the strategy, similar to what happened in the 2008 cycle, the coronation to victory was not easy.

I heard Mark Shields mention on PBS yesterday that Clinton reminds a lot of people of the student who wants to show everyone how smart they are by giving too much information. While people who like Clinton dismiss the perception of the negative likability factor of Clinton, I know that’s a major factor killing her in the polls. Clinton isn’t the person you want to have a beer with nor is she the unpredictable one. See, we might think Eddie Haskell is a slime and a jerk but people can understand and deal with that person. Judy Hensler is a goody-goody who will snitch on everyone. That brings mistrust to the electorate and when you combine that with rumors of the Clinton Foundation, email servers and the infamous Benghazi, the electorate is holding their nose when they decide on Clinton. In an odd way, people see Trump as a jerk but a jerk with his heart in the right spot.

America may dislike Judy Hensler and Eddie Haskell equally, but we’ll take the jerk over the goody-goody smarty pants. The take away I get from this election is that Clinton has been a flawed candidate for decades and even with all the advantages she has politically, we have an unbelievably close election. Trump shouldn’t be President, but when you have enough voters who are willing to pick him over Clinton, you have to really examine what the country expects in their President. When pundits can really have their come to Jesus moment and honestly look at the American people and examine why Trump is this close in the polls maybe we can begin to evaluate the American attitude.

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Geek Overload

I’m at work a few hours early and I’ve slipped down the geek rabbit hole. I have headphones on listening to a liberal radio talk show (Stephanie Miller show) talking about the upcoming debate. On the work TV they have CNN on, which is running a countdown to the debate while doing wall to wall coverage of talking heads discussing the debate. By the way, as of this paragraph there are 11 hours before the debate.

The really geek part that I’ve stumbled upon occurred with me falling into the YouTube trap of computer build videos. Ever since I decided to take my time and work on re-conceptualizing my ultimate computer build my obsession of getting this massive computer built has been a growing fever. This morning, for some reason, I got sucked into those build videos. I’ve been comparing the price I paid for parts, performance numbers and how my pick stacks up to the ‘experts.’ I’m feeling like such a car guy right now. I’m watching people proudly talking about whatever high end component they have and I’m gloating with pride on how what I have is better, or bitterly justifying how my piece for the price is better.

It’s a lot of sensory overload because I’m watching and comparing component prices while simultaneously listening to the humor of the talk show and glancing at the TV screen as another talking head opines about debate strategy and audience anticipation on the debate. That’s how I roll sometimes.

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OWS, BLM and the Group-Think Perception

A couple of years ago, before the Black Lives Matter movement, there was the Occupy Wall Street movement. I’m sure a lot of people remember them. The main protesters were in NY and they took over a park. It became a big thing and the movement spread all over the country. There were some protests that had violence. It was an amorphous group that really didn’t have a leader, really didn’t have an organized structure. Some people that the press called leaders appeared on cable news shows.

In the year or two that Occupy Wall Street was a large movement people did crimes. You had people doing vandalism, you had them robbing stores, you even had people attacking the police. OK, let me clarify and say that by the previous sentence I mean there were crimes in general, not crimes done by OWS. Not every crime done in America was attributed to Occupy Wall Street and its members, especially crimes done by white Americans. Those that were considered leaders of that movement, be them national or local, were not contacted after every crime to make a statement about a crime allegedly committed by someone who attended an Occupy Wall Street event. A person who did a crime wasn’t automatically associated with Occupy Wall Street.

When Black Lives Matter formed, and I’ll give benefit of the doubt and will say weeks after its official formation, crimes that involved black people were linked to the Black Lives Matter philosophy. A black criminal wasn’t just a black criminal. If a black person did a violent crime, or, heaven forbid, they attacked a police officer, the assumption was that they were encouraged, motivated or inspired by the Black Lives matter movement. People who were considered leaders of Black Lives matter were taken to task for not controlling their people. Black Lives Matter was made to answer for crimes committed by black people with no affiliation to Black Lives Matter.


I know it’s not the most scientific way looking at things, but if you have crime committed by a black person, if you look at the comments section of any news enterprise you will see many comments directed against Black Lives Matter, liberals and black people in general. You will not see the same thing directed at white criminals. You might see an association with liberals but you won’t see an organization like Occupy Wall Street denounced.


A main reason why you won’t see white denouncement is people of non-color are allowed to be individuals and free thinkers. They aren’t classified by color and not considered to be monolithic. Any hyphenated American not from the European continent are mostly thought of in one mindset. We aren’t individuals; we are a group. As with all groups, there can be experiences that can be fully understood by your group. If you grow up in a traditional Irish family, then people who grew up in a similar Irish family will understand experiences you had because they would have had similar experiences in their family. That’s doesn’t mean that all Irish think or act the same way. What people do with non-whites are to take them and assume, especially if its negative, that all in that group experience the same thing and act accordingly. Unless it is someone we know, we group them together either for shorthand or for laziness. We seldom think that the person isn’t the sole representative of their entire race or culture.

For my whole life I realized that as a black person, no matter what I did personally, my actions would be a reflection on every black person in America and that any negative act done by a black person would be a reflection on me. I hate that with a passion but it’s something I have to deal with. It’s tough for me to be the person I want to be; to act the way I want to act in a given situation because I know I’m not going to be judged as an individual. I’m going to be judged against other black people. My name came up in a discussion about BLM between two friends of mine.

This reminds me Reginald Mizell of the time you beat me back to my house and were sitting in your car waiting for me and a few other folks. By the time I got home, there were TWO police cars there and you were being interviewed by police. There had been dozens of times when white friends were waiting outside my house and nobody ever drew enough attention to warrant a police visit.

Until my friend mentioned this, I’d forgotten all about this incident. Once mentioned, I remembered it vividly. I was scared while it happened back when I was a teenager but mad afterwards. What makes me mad now, decades after it happened, is that there have been incidents since then where I’ve been ‘talked to’ by the police. I can honestly say, except for one time (and no, I’m not going to make a confession about it here) there wasn’t justification for the interaction with the police. The times I have been stopped by the police were similar to the incident my friend mention. I either ‘fit the description’ or was in a place I supposedly didn’t belong.

I know people will say I’m being too sensitive or I’m reading racism into situations where racism isn’t there. My answer would be you haven’t lived in my shoes and you haven’t wanted to live in my shoes. It’s easier to assume bad situations that happen with the police or other people are just random incidences that necessarily equate to discrimination or racism. I would say look at those examples I posted again. If there are over 30 comments and a third of the people commenting are taking the criminal to an extreme of racial and bigoted comments, there’s a point where you can’t just think of negative reactions as random events.


36 comments and 12 of those comments deal with BLM and race. These are all of the 12 comments readers had on the story. No mention of race for a similar incident by a white suspect days later.

Let me make it clear, I don’t think every negative comment or interaction is a racist or bigoted action, but I would be a fool not to think that’s the intent. That thinking is what poisons a situation, which becomes more problematic when people refuse to acknowledge when there is a bigoted or racist event. The pictures I posted, which were of criminal incidents days apart, shows that there is bias between white and black criminals and people will attach things that have nothing to do with the crime to denigrate something they feel is the bigger issue when it’s not.

I’ve seen so many posts over the last few years where every black criminal act is related to BLM, or where a person whom BLM wants to support or otherwise bring attention to has their record scrutinized for previous police encounters. In other words, people are so distrustful and want to bring the BLM down that their unwilling to investigate the incident against the person but rather are looking to find fault in the victim. In the case of the local black man who ran over the three police officers, the first reports I heard, and this was on two local news stations, was that the suspect had attended a BLM rally. One station even went to a ‘local leader’ of the BLM movement who denounced the action.

That plays into the group mind think. As far as I know, and I know it didn’t happen, no one investigated if the white criminal had been involved with the Bundy’s or with the protest against Muslims that occurred a year ago. If you really want to pry no one asked if he was part of the Occupy Wall Street movement. I doubt anyone asked if he was liberal or conservative. In a weird way he’s allowed to be a singular criminal with no affiliation to any group. The black criminal, on the other hand, was researched for affiliation to possibly smear the reputation of that organization. He wasn’t just a criminal; he was an affiliated criminal who was acting because of motivation by a larger group.

That thinking is why we have race relation problems. One group is able to make mistakes as themselves and others in the group aren’t affected. Other groups have the weight of an entire race on their shoulders and any negative action by one is felt by all.

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Friendship, Social Media and Elections

A friend of mine posted something on his Facebook page yesterday.

For most of my life, I’ve always assumed all my friends were intelligent, thoughtful people. If the 2016 elections are doing nothing else, they’re slamming home the point that just because someone is articulate and I like hanging out with them DOESN’T mean they’re a particularly good or effective thinker. – Stever Robbins

I’ve had issues with social media since it became a necessity to use social media. As a way of keeping in contact with friends, maybe even meeting new people, hey social media is a great tool. It’s brings people together from all over the world and if social media was treated as a nice diversion, a way to break up and possibly brighten the day it would be a good thing. Social media has unfortunately become more media, as in mass media and news, than a little thing used to connect people. It has become the focal point of many people’s lives.

How many news programs, and I mean local and national broadcasts, have segments on a ‘viral video’ or trending Twitter topics in a given broadcast? There are national programs where a group of people will sit around laptops commenting on the latest ‘hot video’ or Twitter trend. You have websites like Huffington Post that have articles written by reporters responding to a response a semi-celebrity makes to a comment left on their social media feed. We have made ‘whatever’- shaming on social media, be it fat-shaming, slut-shaming, body-shaming et al, similar to physical assault. You have celebrities responding to celebrity responses to celebrities, causing regular people to choose sides in inconsequential arguments.

Social media isn’t limited to debates oh who’s dating whom or what semi-nude pictures are being posted by the Kardashian clan. For most of American history, to protest injustice meant writing letters, facing guns and dogs on a bridge, making impassioned speeches, marching and physically getting hundreds to millions of people to demonstrate and make a physical presence for change. That has changed. People feel that putting up a hashtag is equal to physically going out to the streets and protesting real injustice in the world. How many important issues of the day have been reduced to hashtags and likes, only to be ignored weeks or months later for the newest trendy injustice?

What my friend is witnessing this election has been happening for a number of election cycles, but I would say it became noticeable during the 2008 campaign and election of Obama. The combination of the explosion of social media and a historic event in American politics, the anonymity of the keyboard allowed people to express their feelings about the election to a wide group of people. I know Americans feel that, when pressed, we are a reasonable and intelligent group of people that can listen to the facts. We want to believe the people who seriously care about the lifestyle of the Kardashians or who want to know the latest news about Taylor Swift’s love life are not the norm. We want to think of ourselves as thoughtful thinkers.

If that’s the case, you haven’t looked at the comment pages of your local news outlet. You haven’t seen ‘debates’ about sports teams or the latest DC vs Marvel debate. We Americans have been fed the concept for decades we are the greatest country on the face of God’s green Earth. We have the right and the will to do what we want. It isn’t all of us, but enough people have the entitled thinking of superiority that they are unwilling to understand or listen to the feelings of others.  Because social media connects so many people, those who may have been silent in their own local community can find like-minded thinkers. They may find 10 or thousands of people who agree with their views, which makes feel confident they aren’t alone in their extreme views. There are a good number of people who are nostalgic for ‘the way things were’ and are unwilling to accept change. They see their way of life slipping away. With the confidence that others think like them, they feel they’re in the right and others are wrong.

When Obama ran for President, like Stever I was shocked by the comments I saw by friends whom I thought I knew. Some, but not all, had some rather hateful posts in my opinion. They re-posted ugly cartoons and comments. They repeated false rumors. At first I tried to correct their errors by pointing out articles by reputable outlets that showed their assumptions were incorrect. That started the name calling, the ‘pity’ they had for me because I didn’t understand ‘the mainstream media’ was trying to manipulate the masses.

The discourse has gotten worse since the 2008 election. The focus gets heightened during election cycles, but year after year there is some incident that brings out fear and ignorant ideas in people. They are willing to share and people will agree with them. Look, we rather get news that agrees with our ideas rather than look for the truth that might challenge our mindset. This election cycle is incredibly polarizing, but unfortunately it’s not new and it won’t go away. As long as people are using social media to reinforce their positions and are dissuaded from researching and educating themselves people will make wrongheaded accusations and comments and will find support with like-minded people.

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Thoughts on 9/11

I remember 15 years ago yesterday very well. I remember the early morning gym class and at 6am hearing about Lindbergh Field being shut down on clunky radio. I remember heading home listening to KFI-AM and the confusion about what was going on. I remember getting home and turning on NBC just as the second plane hit the World Trade Center. I remember wanting to go to sleep before work but the news kept me up. I had a TV in my room and I was lying on my bed as the news unfolded. I remember the Towers falling and thinking that no disaster movie could compare to this real tragedy being seen in millions of homes across the country. I remember seeing the images of people wandering the streets covered in dust. I remember the fear and sorrow in the voices of reporters on the scene.

I remember, after watching hours of the broadcast with no sleep, getting in my car and driving to work. The streets were very empty, like Sunday afternoon traffic and not regular weekday traffic. I remember the store being quite empty, with the few people there only in the store to get away from the news, yet asking us if we had heard any updates. I remember by 4pm we had a message from the corporate office, which was based in New York, that we were to shut down for the day.

I remember the days and weeks after the event, as people tried dealing with the tragedy and it seemed in those early days we might unite as a nation. Something compelled me to re-read Watchmen again on the day after the tragedy. I think it was because I saw the similarity in the plot of Watchmen and what I was observing after the tragedy. People and political parties that had been against each other banded together.

That togetherness didn’t last long and in retrospect all we did was turn our aggression we had towards each other and focused it on an external foe. Anyone who was possibly Muslim or Arab was suspect. We had to be one nation in lock step, so any dissent was met with anger and shunned. We became ultra-nationalist and anyone who dare question the USA was banned, barred and protested against. Congress voted to go to war and the Patriot Act was passed. We had color coded threat levels. We were told to be suspicious, to be the eyes and ears of the government.

September 11, 2001 changed America in ways that are hard to articulate. We have grown stronger and have been more united as a country, but if you dissent or question loyalty or honor of Americans, be prepared to face harsh criticism.

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Finally Letting Go and Starting to Reconstruct That Computer

Yesterday I had a terrible experience with Fry’s Electronics. Both items I purchased from them were defective. As much as I dreaded going into the hot and unusually humid Arizona sun this morning, I packed up the products, took two buses back to Fry’s Electronics and returned them. I thought about wandering the floor to do some comparison shopping but I’m too disappointed with the company right now to even grace them with my presence any longer than I have to.

Heading back home I had a lot of time to think about the reason why I bought those products. My supercomputer has been down for over six months. I don’t know why it went down initially but I have been trying to get it up and running. All of the troubleshooting I’ve tried hasn’t work. Neither has parts replacements. I’m pretty sure that either the motherboard has a short, corrupted bios or the CPU has been damaged.

While I was waiting for the bus in the hot, humid sun, it occurred to me I might not be thinking about my system properly. When I started planning for the supercomputer, I wanted the best parts I could afford and I wanted something that would last me for a decade. I started acquiring parts before we were let go from our last job. Part of my thinking on the system was I knew the stats of the expensive desktop my old job had. At the time I wanted my computer to be more powerful than theirs and I wanted it for less. It was my personal way of demonstrating how must waste the company had. I saw them by a microwave for $200 (it was a nice microwave that had a warmer underneath it) that I bought a few months later for $125 after researching it. Their loaded desktop was close to $5000 and at first mine came in just under $2500 with a better load out of components. Because of the way we were let go, I got mad and even though I didn’t have a job I thought doubling the memory, at a cost of under $500, would be the best revenge for them daring to get rid of us in the cold way they did.

I came to the conclusion while waiting for the bus that I was stubbornly holding on to the thought of getting back at them with this computer. It didn’t matter that my old job could care less if I had a computer faster than theirs. Hell, a simple check signing could get them a new, more powerful system in a week. I realized while my pride is bruised, I could care less about having a better system than they do. Whatever anger I had about my old job is gone, or I can say it’s not as intense as it once was. I didn’t need to prove my worth to them or to myself. I’m doing OK now, so I’ve already proven what I needed to prove by surviving and thriving after they let us go.

Like I do a lot, I was holding onto an idea and principle no one cared about, not even me.

I took a deep breath, then started thinking about how I could reconstruct the system. Right away I knew I was going to remove the hard drives and have a full SSD system. The prices have dropped low enough and storage has gotten high enough that it could work for me. At first I thought about getting a new case and possibly a new power supply. With the removal of a HDD the power consumption should be less so the 850W system would be more than enough. As for the case, I like the case and I can’t see finding a new one with practical character. I think the case looks like those portable away team computer storage ones used on a few Star Trek: TNG episodes, except mine is black instead of white.

Just like I did with the original build I’m taking my time getting parts, so it will be six months to a year before I get everything and do the reconstruction. There’s a few things I want to add, like an optical system, which I didn’t have on the original design. My secondary computer is handling things OK and I have a laptop backup, so I’m good for now. I think I’ve separated myself from thinking this is some dig back at my old job. I’m not giving myself a clean slate. I know it sounds odd but I’m giving myself permission to change things on the system. So taking the time and re-configuring my set up my supercomputer will be up and running in time.

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