Eclecticism is Now Secure (HTTPS)

Thanks to Dreamhost’s Let’s Encrypt initiative, my site is now HTTPS enabled.

Thanks to Dreamhost’s Let’s Encrypt initiative, plus a little nudging while setting up the iOS version of Ulysses, the (simple but very powerful) editor I’m using for writing posts here, my site is now HTTPS enabled.

For those who don’t know the terminology, all that means is that all traffic between my blog and your web browser is encrypted, and cannot be read by anyone who might intercept the data stream in transmission. You don’t have to do anything, it just happens automagically in the background.

While there’s nothing here that really requires the transmission to be encrypted — I don’t sell anything or have any reason to ask for sensitive information, which is the primary use case (and why HTTPS is used by financial institutions, shopping site, and so on) — I’m increasingly of the opinion that it’s just good practice to encrypt whenever possible.

Think of it like sending a physical letter to a friend via traditional snail mail; there might not be anything in the letter that needs to be kept private, but I’d still be pretty disturbed if I got a letter from someone and saw that the envelope had been opened so that someone else could read the contents.

Of course, with electronic communication, there’s no ripped envelope to let you know that someone’s taken a peek at what you’re saying or reading. Unsecure websites (or emails) are more like sending postcards: while for most people it’s pretty unlikely that anyone between the sender and receiver would be reading the postcard, it’s entirely possible that it could happen. Adding encryption means that not only is there an “envelope”, but it’s an envelope that can’t be opened by anyone but the receiver.

Good security isn’t paranoia. Just a good idea.

(Incidentally, I’m also set up with PGP encryption for my email, and would use it more often if I knew my contacts were similarly set up. Just contact me for my PGP public key if you’d like to securely email me (I’ll get it posted here eventually, I’m just finding bits and pieces of my site that need to be recreated after letting it lie fallow for so long, and that’s one).)

Star Wars Without Politics Wouldn’t Be Star Wars

Please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization. Opposed by a multicultural group led by brave women.

Disappointed that these two tweets by Star Wars: Rogue One writers were removed (but not terribly surprised, especially if the deletions were decreed by the Powers Above):

On November 11, 2016, Rogue One writer Chris Weitz tweeted: “Please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization.” He later deleted that tweet after receiving lots of complaints from other Twitter users, many of whom asked him to stop “injecting politics” into Star Wars. Weitz clarified in one response tweet, “My apologies. You have a right to enjoy it as you wish; and I don’t wish to harm my colleagues’ work either.”

Weitz’ colleague, Gary Whitta, had already written his own response to the tweet comparing the Star Wars Empire to white supremacy, which said: “Opposed by a multicultural group led by brave women.” Whitta’s tweet has also since been deleted.

I have just as much sympathy (to wit: absolutely none) with people whining about “injecting politics” into Star Wars as those who did the same with Star Trek (most recently, regarding Bryan Fuller’s preparation for Star Trek: Discovery). Politics are integral to these stories. Even if you try to ignore the parallels between the Empire and the Nazi regime (which were explicit and intentional in both the original films and in The Force Awakens, so attempting to ignore that is rather ridiculous), the Star Wars prequels open with the Trade Federation controlling a blockade around a planet at the bidding of Chancellor Palpatine…but, no, sorry, that has nothing to do with politics. How silly of me.

All these people really mean is that they don’t want their politics to be called out as the bad guys…but, c’mon, if the shoe fits….

So Rogue One has already been passing the Furiosa Test (Do people on the internet get mad about it being feminist?), and now Trump supporters might be staying away as well (though, really, the two groups do seem to have a lot of overlap)? I don’t see much of a downside to that. I’d certainly be quite happy going to a movie knowing that there’s a smaller-than-normal chance of being surrounded by those types of people, and given the juggernaut that Star Wars is, I just don’t see a major impact on their bottom line from this. Win-win for everyone!

Except the Empire, perhaps.

In Regards to Our Company’s New Phone Plan

‘Now, some of you are complaining that you don’t feel safe working with a phone that could randomly explode on any given day.’

Brilliant piece from McSweeny’s: Now is not the time to criticize the Galaxy Note 7.

We all have a lot of work to do if we want to get this company to be the best in the world, and I believe that if we work together, we can accomplish just that. However, I do have a message for those of you who have been complaining about our new company phone plan the past few days: Now is not the time to criticize the Galaxy Note 7.

Now, I’m not going to stand here and pretend like this phone doesn’t have problems. After all, the proof that it gets overheated and explodes for practically no reason at all has been evident for months, but now, we need to focus on its positive aspects and wipe the slate clean. It is our company phone now, and there’s no use complaining about it anymore.

Thank you, Wen Powers, for finding a way to actually make me laugh about this mess.

Word of the Day: Kakistocracy

Kakistocracy: Government by the worst persons; a form of government in which the worst persons are in power.

Kakistocracy n. (kak·is·toc·ra·cy / kækɪsˈtɑkɹəsi)\
Government by the worst persons; a form of government in which the worst persons are in power.

More background, from Jury:

The origins of kakistocracy are actually pretty neat. The term was first used around 1829 and was coined as an opposite to “aristocracy”. It comes from the Greek “kakistos” or “worst”, which is the superlative form of “kakos” or “bad”. Switch the “k” to a “c” and you have the root of modern words like “cacophony”.

But here’s where it gets even more fun. “Kakos” is closely related to “Caco” or “defecate”. As we saw above, it’s essentially the same phonetic sounds and has similar modern words derived from it.

Today, you’ll find this in the Greek “Kakke” “human excrement”, Latin “cacare“, Irish “caccaim“, Serbo-Croatian “kakati“, Armenian “k’akor“, Old English “cac-hus” or “latrine”, Dutch “kak“, German “Kacke“, and the school-yard favorite “caca“.

So in this trying time, remember the word “kakistocracy”.

Quite literally, government by the shittiest.

Not alt-right, just neo-Nazi

I’m far from the only person to be noting this, but I’m continually annoyed by the willingness of people to accept the term ‘alt-right’ rather than just calling these people out for what they are: neo-Nazis.

There’s a lot that’s disturbing in this report, but the opening few paragraphs alone should be enough to raise a lot of red flags (specifically, red flags with a white circle and black swastika in the center):

By the time Richard B. Spencer, the leading ideologue of the alt-right movement and the final speaker of the night, rose to address a gathering of his followers on Saturday, the crowd was restless.

In 11 hours of speeches and panel discussions in a federal building named after Ronald Reagan a few blocks from the White House, a succession of speakers had laid out a harsh vision for the future, but had denounced violence and said that Hispanic citizens and black Americans had nothing to fear. Earlier in the day, Mr. Spencer himself had urged the group to start acting less like an underground organization and more like the establishment.

But now his tone changed as he began to tell the audience of more than 200 people, mostly young men, what they had been waiting to hear. He railed against Jews and, with a smile, quoted Nazi propaganda in the original German. America, he said, belonged to white people, whom he called the “children of the sun,” a race of conquerors and creators who had been marginalized but now, in the era of President-elect Donald J. Trump, were “awakening to their own identity.”

I’m far from the only person to be noting this, but I’m continually annoyed by the willingness of people to accept the term “alt-right” rather than just calling these people out for what they are: neo-Nazis.

While many of its racist views are well known…the alt-right has been difficult to define. Is it a name for right-wing political provocateurs in the internet era? Or is it a political movement defined by xenophobia and a dislike for political correctness?

Oh, come on…this is just sad. Difficult to define? It’s not like they’re trying to hide it. This isn’t just some little offshoot of the conservative party, this is full-on white supremacy.

“America was, until this last generation, a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity,” Mr. Spencer thundered. “It is our creation, it is our inheritance, and it belongs to us.”

But the white race, he added, is “a race that travels forever on an upward path.”

“To be white is to be a creator, an explorer, a conqueror,” he said.

More members of the audience were on their feet as Mr. Spencer described the choice facing white people as to “conquer or die.”

If you’re writing about these groups, call them what they are. Don’t fall for their attempt to rebrand and obfuscate the truth. Listen to what they say, pay attention to what they’re advocating and pushing for (and likely doing; the SPLC’s count of post-election day hateful harassment incidents is now up to 701 in a single week), and be honest about what this is.

If you voted for Trump? Whether or not you think you share beliefs with these people, you enabled them. You listened to Trump, and you agreed with enough of what he said (or, at best, didn’t disagree strongly enough to vote against him) to give your stamp of acceptance to his rhetoric. You told these people, through your vote, that this was acceptable. You share responsibility for the resurgence of this movement.

And if you truly voted for Trump for reasons other than these; if you truly don’t support this behavior; if you really believe he’ll be just fine as a president and these are just a few problematic loudmouths (even though he’s named one of their patron saints as chief strategist), then I absolutely expect you to be calling these people out on their abhorrent behavior. If you voted for his economic policies but disapprove of the racist rhetoric, then prove it. Act. Make your voice heard. Make it clear that these aspects of his campaign and his followers don’t reflect your views.

Because if you don’t do so, I’ll assume that your silence is acceptance, if not outright support. And you’ll have a damn hard time convincing me otherwise.

Criticism is Patriotism

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.

Important words, from a former President:

The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or anyone else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about anyone else.

— Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, in “Sedition, A Free Press, and Personal Rule”, published May 7, 1918; excerpted from Roosevelt in the Kansas City Star: War-time Editorials, Volume 2

It’s obvious that our current President Elect would disagree with these words, as would many of his supporters…who, ironically, are likely to consider themselves more “patriotic” that someone of my ilk, precisely because of their unquestioning support, even though this hews far closer to nationalism and fascism than it does patriotism.

“My country, right or wrong,” is often quoted. It’s a shame that many who toss that around omit the latter part, and to my estimation, the most important part of Carl Schurz’s quote: “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.”

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

I’ve just set up small recurring monthly donations to Planned Parenthood, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the ACLU. Have you added donations to your routine? If so, who are you donating to?

I’ve just set up small recurring monthly donations to Planned Parenthood, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the ACLU. It’s not much — just $5/month to each of them, so $15/month total right now — but it’s a start, and it leaves me some room to either increase these donations or add other recipients when I’m sure I can afford it. There are probably any number of other charities and organizations that could use support, and I’m open to suggestions of others that might be worth adding to my personal list (as long as I can afford to do so, of course). These are just the three that came to my mind most immediately, through exposure or personal interests.

Have you added donations to your routine? If so, who are you donating to?

A Resurrection

It won’t always be easy, and it may take some time for me to really get into the routine again. But to me, this is important. I will not be silent.

I used to write here regularly. All through the late ’90s and through much of the 2000s, I posted somewhere between a few times a week to a few times a day. But then a series of life changes, including going back to school for my Associate, Bachelor, and Masters degrees, getting married and spending more time with my partner and less in front of my computer, and the rise of social media with the ease of tossing off a few sentences and hitting the “share” button, took their toll.

But I think it’s time to come back here. There are a host of factors contributing to this, including wanting to do more to ensure that content I create is under my own control rather than locked behind Facebook’s walls and subject to their whims. But also in there is the recent election, which has results that I have many, many problems with. And finally, this essay from Sarah Kendzior: We’re heading into dark times. This is how to be your own light in the Age of Trump.

My fellow Americans, I have a favor to ask you.

Today is November 18, 2016. I want you to write about who you are, what you have experienced, and what you have endured.

Write down what you value; what standards you hold for yourself and for others. Write about your dreams for the future and your hopes for your children. Write about the struggle of your ancestors and how the hardship they overcame shaped the person you are today.

Write your biography, write down your memories. Because if you do not do it now, you may forget.

Write a list of things you would never do. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will do them.

Write a list of things you would never believe. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will either believe them or be forced to say you believe them.

I need to follow her advice. For myself, for my family and friends, for those I care about, and for all those who I don’t know, but who I believe in and who I will stand up for.

It won’t always be easy, and it may take some time for me to really get into the routine again. But to me, this is important.

I will not be silent.

2015 P.K. Dick Award Nominee Rankings

My ranking of this year’s Philip K. Dick Award nominated books, from least favorite to my top pick for the award (which, historically, has yet to match the actual award winner, so don’t put too much stock in my ranking).

My ranking of this year’s Philip K. Dick Award nominated books, from least favorite to my top pick for the award (which, historically, has yet to match the actual award winner, so don’t put too much stock in my ranking):

  1. After the Saucers Landed, by Douglas Lain. Odd in ways that don’t resonate with me, and I found it rather boring.

  2. (R)evoution, by P.J. Manney. Some interesting ideas on transhumanism and nanotechnology, but too many of the characterizations really bothered me. Actually ended up disliking this one. Only takes fifth rather than sixth because at least I wasn’t bored.

  3. Archangel, by Marguerite Reed. Not a bad book, but for some reason, failed to engage me.

  4. Windswept, by Adam Rakunas. An entertaining adventure that made business-vs-union conflict more interesting than I would have guessed. Fun, but didn’t grab me the way I’d want a winner to do.

  5. Apex, by Ramez Naam. The conclusion to a trilogy, with lots of near-future extrapolation of mind/computer interfaces and enhancement and transhumanism. The end notes discussing today’s technology and how close we may actually be to some of what’s described in the books were particularly fascinating. Almost took the top spot, but in what is a personal and somewhat silly consideration, I tend to favor “standalone” books that handle all their worldbuilding over books that are later entries in a series, which benefit from all the plot and worldbuilding already established in the prior books.

  6. Edge of Dark, by Brenda Cooper. More transhumanism, only this time from a far-future perspective, when once human entities banished from human space due to fears of what they were becoming return to human space. Well-realized and interesting characters, really neat possibilities for future technologically-enhanced evolution, and very believable conflict. Definitely my top pick.

I was quite happy to see that the theme of “depressing trudging through postapocalyptic wastelands” trend of the past few years wasn’t represented at all in this year’s pick, with transhumanism being the theme of half of this year’s picks — much more along my particular interests.

Now, just over one week to wait until we learn who the winner is at this year’s award ceremony!

#StandingWithMuslims

I am ‪#‎standingwithmuslims‬. I condemn Islamophobia and hate speech. And I’m greatly saddened that so many people who profess to love this country are so scared that they’re so willing to abandon many of the core concepts that this country is built on.

An excerpt from a post by Sofia Ali-Khan on Facebook, the whole thing should be read as well:

Out yourself as someone who won’t stand for Islamophobia, or will stand with Muslims—there is an awful lot of hate filling the airways, and there are an awful lot of people with access to the media and/or authority stirring the pot about Muslims. Please help fill that space with support instead. Post, write, use your profile picture or blog to voice your support.

I can tell you that in addition to the very real threat to their civil and human rights that Muslims are facing, we are dealing with a tremendous amount of anxiety. While we, many of us, rely on our faith to stay strong, we are human. This is not an easy time. What you do will mean everything to the Muslim Americans around you. Thank you for reading and bless you in your efforts.

One of the friendliest, most genuinely pleasant students I got to know here at CWU is Muslim. He graduated with his BA in Law and Justice last year, and is now working on his master’s degree. While an undergraduate, he was involved in several campus clubs reaching out to underprivileged and minority students. Now, he works with young people at a local juvenile detention facility. Just yesterday, he was here with a small group of them, as he has been every couple weeks this quarter, bringing them in to our department to meet and speak with community figures as part of the kids’ rehabilitation measures. The dedication and care he showed as a student and shows now as a counselor and leader is truly inspiring.

There are always a number of international Muslim students at CWU, mostly from Saudi Arabia, here learning English and pursuing American academic degrees. While I don’t often work directly with them (though my wife does, and has a lot of fun working with them as they learn English), many of their classes are held in the building where I work, so I see them quite frequently. It’s fun to see them talking and laughing, not just in Arabic among themselves, but frequently in English as they speak with the Korean and Chinese students who are also part of our international programs. I’ve often received very pleasant greetings and smiles from the men and women both — and, yes, sometimes I can only see the women’s smiles in their eyes, as the rest of their face is covered, but the smile still shows through.

And so often these days, I worry about what these students must think of us. How often they worry about their own safety. How often they’re the victim of attacks, subtle or overt, verbal, non-verbal, or physical. How frightening it must be for them to be here, trying to learn, to improve their lives, to experience life in another country, to make friends and expand their world, all while knowing that so much of this country fears and hates them because of the actions of a small group of extremists who don’t speak for the majority.

I am ‪#‎standingwithmuslims‬. I condemn Islamophobia and hate speech. And I’m greatly saddened that so many people who profess to love this country are so scared that they’re so willing to abandon many of the core concepts that this country is built on.