On Memorial Day

If there is a sin superior to every other, it is that of willful and offensive war. Most other sins are circumscribed within narrow limits…but he who is the author of a war, lets loose the whole contagion of hell, and opens a vein that bleeds a nation to death.

-Thomas Paine, The Crisis Number V (1778)

I’ve studied too much history and read too many accounts to share in the jingoism and nationalism exhibited by others on days like today. I will sing no patriotic songs today. I will share no banal images celebrating our military. I will not cover my home in flags. This is not “Look How Patriotic I Am Day.” This is a day of remembrance, of mourning, and of healing. On Memorial Day we remember the costs and evils of war, and how very precious is peace. While our warmongering politicians barrel ahead with bellicose threats of aggression, we honor those lost in battle and the families who will never again see their loved ones.

Memorial Day isn’t just to remember the fallen, though. We also remember the often overlooked survivors who, though they were able to return home, lost parts of themselves in the depths. These wounded souls must relive the hell each and every day, coping with memories of things that “should never happen under God” – memories those of us who have not seen war can never understand or even imagine. They too died in a fashion on the battlefield, for they are no longer the same person who left home.

Every life lost in war is a life cut short; a bright light of potential snuffed out. Someone’s father, someone’s sister, someone’s child. We may take pride that such people lived, but to celebrate such sacrifice is shameful. Honor them. Honor them not with hollow words and meaningless flag waving, but by striving to make war a distant memory. Honor them by reversing the tide of interventionism and militarism that has taken hold of our society and our government, mocking their precious sacrifice. Honor them by remembering the value of life, and recognizing that every drop of blood spilled in aggression is an unforgivable sin.

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Indoctrination or: Education’s Failure

“It is only when we forget all our learning that we begin to know.” -Henry David Thoreau

In my time amid the hustle and bustle of the Internet and in the company of people from any number of backgrounds, one thing has become abundantly clear to me: very few have the faintest clue what they truly believe, much less why they even believe it. It’s not so much that they’ve been avoiding understanding, but rather for centuries our culture has encouraged so many of us to lead insular lives. Traditionally, we surround ourselves with like-minded peers who simply create an echo chamber for our ideas, thus cutting off any need for the necessary critical discussion that brings about understanding.

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On Conversational Courtesy

We should not be defined by our occupations. I am more than just a student. Sparky is more than just an electrician. Joe is more than just a plumber. (See what I did there?) Our occupation is often a point of stress, a matter of drudgery, something we dread returning to every Monday. What possible rationale, then, is there to direct nearly every conversation toward such a topic? This has become a particular annoyance for me as a student. Virtually every time someone engages me in conversation, it begins with or quickly shifts toward inquiries about school. I’m not talking about new people each time, either. Why? Every time you saw someone, you wouldn’t ask them about the job they dislike, the mortgage in which they are falling behind in payments, the life goals from which they’ve turned away. Doing so would only spike their distress, remind them of their troubles. So why repeatedly focus on a stress point like occupation? Talk to me about computers, technology, music, philosophy, politics, science, American history, literature, photography, home repair, carpentry, wine, cooking, and the list goes on – I have many flames of interest, try engaging me about one. I am more than just a student.

, The Fight Continues

“Tech companies and users teamed up. Tens of millions of people who make the Internet what it is joined together to defend their freedoms. The free network defended itself.” –Fight for the Future

Congratulations! We dealt a heavy blow to SOPA and PIPA yesterday! There are currently 64 supporters to 108 opponents. Tens of thousands of websites staged some form of protest, encouraging their visitors to learn about the threat and contact Congress. Traditionally-neutral sites like Wikipedia and WordPress broke from their rules to defend themselves. Google, alone, had over 7 million names added to their petition. Mozilla reached over 40 million people with their message against censorship. Twitter users mentioned the bills over 4 million times. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, alone, had over 1 million messages to Congress sent through their system. Congressional websites were crippled most of the day from overwhelming traffic.

It cost the entertainment industry, who has vehemently opposed every technological advance from the VCR to streaming content, almost $100 million to get these bills where they are. In response, the tech community, in one day, used the full might of the Internet to ensure it’s own future. The direct monetary cost? Negligible.

Without a doubt, some elements of these bills have been exaggerated. But if history has taught us anything, it’s that when governments are given a micron, they’ll simply give themselves the entire kilometer when you look away. (Yeah, yeah… engineers… 🙂 ) Better yet, these politicians who are determining the fate of the free network have no clue as to how it actually works. They have been put to shame numerous times by engineers and experts who understand the harm such legislation can do.

The fight is far from over! The House and Senate still intend to vote in the coming weeks, and they’ll be quick to make superficial changes to soothe less adamant opponents. Keep it up, my friends!

, Time to Take a Stand

Hello all! Today, we approach a dangerous precipice. The U.S. Congress is soon to vote on legislation that would give the U.S. government the power to take down, without due process, websites accused of copyright infringement and the freedom to heavily fine supposed violators. According to the entertainment industry, such power is necessary to combat “rampant piracy.” However, this is not the way. SOPA and PIPA can only hurt our economy and strangle the free innovation the Internet has made possible. Today, I join Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, and thousands of others in an open protest of this grotesque demonstration of purchased legislation. From 8am to 8pm on 18 January, my sites will go dark. If you too value the Internet as the invaluable resource it is today, please join me in writing or calling your representatives in opposition to these bills.

To learn more about these bills: https://www.google.com/landing/takeaction/

Last Shuttle

In honor of our last shuttle launch:

“‎You’re an interesting species. An interesting mix. You’re capable of such beautiful dreams, and such horrible nightmares.”

“May we continue to explore and push beyond the limits of what we thought was possible. May we change our legacy from one of destruction to one of achievement. May we remain united as humanity, not just in times of despair and triumph. May we leave our nightmares behind and may we continue to dream.”

-Christopher Nowlan