Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Watch this space for reports on our trip to France

My lovely wife and I are traveling to France later in 2019. Watch this space for day-to-day photos and comments!

Sunday, June 2, 2019

It's a good day to do good, no matter what you call yourself

I watched the Harry/Meghan royal wedding on May 19, 2018, including Bishop Michael Curry's powerful address. I have said I felt that was a good day to be an Episcopalian. But, that was selfish and prideful.

I am always surprised every time I have a transformative revelation about my faith, as if I had had it all figured out. It was a Jesus moment.

On June 1, 2019, at a memorial service for a friend near Rochester, NY, the officiant was the Rev. Twyla Boyer. Without any thought to me or Bishop Curry or the lovely Meghan, she helped me to understand that it's a good day for us all to discern our gifts and use them to help others. She's a Presbyterian; go figure. 😊 But, you don't have to be anything. Just use your gifts.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

I am pro-choice, but not because women's rights are being trampled

I am pro-choice, but not because I think pro-life laws enacted in 2019 trample on the rights of women.

I don't think politicians wake up in the morning wondering how to control women's bodies. A woman may think it's profound to tell her Facebook friends she has the right to do anything she wants with her body, and there should be no legal restrictions. But here's the thing:
- Extreme pro-life positions ignore the mothers, even though mothers have value.
- Extreme pro-choice positions ignore the fetuses, even though fetuses have value.

Some women do not have a choice in their sexual and reproductive lives. They may be abused, oppressed, raped, poor, uneducated, etc. No one is "pro-abortion", but some women are in catastrophic situations and they need relief. Maybe Roe v. Wade is abused by some women as a way to deal with the consequences of their own bad choices, but RvW helps those women who had no choices. We cannot simply ignore those choice-less women, as terrible as an abortion is. A million abortions are performed in the USA annually, and legal restrictions will result in illegal abortions. Even if there are potential adoptive parents waiting for babies, adoption is complicated and not a reason to restrict abortion. I am pro-choice.

We won't stop pro-life laws by complaining about how they restrict women. All laws restrict someone, in favor of someone else. We have to find the compromise, but today there are three sides, (1) extreme pro-life (no abortions ever), (2) extreme pro-choice (fetuses have no value unless the mother says so), (3) non-extreme, who don't know how to resolve this.

The Christian perspective is that "it" (whatever it is) is about everyone else, and not about me. When applied to abortion, a woman needs to consider the fetus, the father, the healthcare providers, etc. So yeah, I am pro-choice, but don't tell me you should not be restricted from getting an abortion because, damn the fetus, it's your choice. Mothers matter. Fetuses matter. Men care, we really do, and you won't (and shouldn't) resolve the abortion debate without men. Personally, I think the compromise is to restrict third trimester abortions, but whatever the compromise is, we should find it without the help of the Supreme Court.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Fun, faith and family. And free.

New York Magazine published the article, "The Internet apologizes..." in April, 2018.
Basically, a bunch of hippies pushed an idea of free information, but the architecture of the Internet allowed big corporations to conquer it until Russians broke American democracy.
Well, here at gocek.org, you may or may not find anything specific that interests you, but we're still a 1980s throwback offering fun, family and faith, all for free. (and tech, of course, I just need to come up with a good F word for that). You don't need to log in and gocek.org does not collect personal information (although third party advertisers do).
Happy surfing.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Updates on podcasts I download

I download lots of podcasts, see http://www.gocek.org/podcasts/ . Here are a few updates.

I struggled for a over a year to scrape the WNYC "New Sounds" home page until it finally stopped providing MP3s altogether. However, the "Soundcheck" podcast is related, so I am checking it out.

Taylor Strecker was the longtime host of the Sirius/XM satellite radio show, "Wake Up With Taylor", sponsored originally by Cosmopolitan Magazine, later just a daily radio show. I am not in the targeted demographic for this show, but I turned it on once in a while. This show was never offered as a podcast. The show was unceremoniously canceled by SXM at the end of 2017, but Taylor has started a podcast, "Taste of Taylor". The complete show is offered as a premium product, and excerpts are available at http://tasteoftaylor.libsyn.com/rss .

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston has provided MP3s for a fantastic, monthly, live chamber music series, but the last upload was in February, 2018. I am holding out hope. See https://www.gardnermuseum.org/experience/music .

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The importance of everything

I typically have claimed, "Everything is important, or nothing is important." For example, family separations at the Mexican border are important, and so are opioid addiction deaths, and so is the way the economy impacts my 401K. As this thought process goes, they're different and have different attributes, but in the grand scheme of the universe, a terrified Guatemalan kid is no more important than my salary. It's OK to protest family separations, but it's OK for me to worry about my retirement at the same time.

But, President Trump's behavior since his inauguration in 2017 has prompted me to reflect on this "importance of everything". It's not that I think the basis of American politics have changed all that much in the last couple years. Politicians beyond the local level spend more time raising money than legislating. At the state and federal levels, we live under an oligarchy, and it has been like that most of my life. Jimmy Carter is the only president since John Kennedy who pushed against elitism even a little, and he was run out of town because he didn't nuke Iran.

Prior to the Trump presidency, the oligarchic nature of the system was a rarely mentioned "elephant in the room". We weren't just avoiding discussions about racism and homelessness in America. We allowed politicians to get rich along with their donors so the rest of us didn't have to expose our own biases and hatreds. The one-percenters got away with elitism because most of the rest of us weren't really doing all that badly. Wars were overseas, the federal deficit doesn't actually seem to impact anything, Grandpa is still collecting his Social Security payments and a warming climate doesn't seem so bad to an upstate New Yorker.

But, oh that Donald J. Trump! He has told us, directly and indirectly, it's OK to be haters in broad daylight. He doesn't care about the terrified Central American kids, he doesn't care about incarcerated African Americans, he doesn't care about homeless veterans, he doesn't care about the human impact on our climate and he doesn't care if he starts a nuclear war. All he cares about is his own, personal well being. In order to get votes, he also convinced enough people in enough districts that's it's OK for them to care only about themselves. When DJT gives a pass to white nationalists, he gives a pass to everyone. We think we're freer  than ever, but we've simply been freed by Mr. Trump to admit we can hate everyone beyond our own driveways.

So, what's that got to do with the "importance of everything"? The most important thing, now, is to stop believing it's OK to be biased and hateful. We are individuals and we possess primal survival instincts, but we are also social creatures living in an increasingly globalized society. My well being depends on your well being. The path to reducing our biases and hatreds is to stop enabling our elitist politicians. It's not specifically about Trump. We should have put the screws to the Obamas, Clintons and Bushes. But, Trump is the clown who spilled the beans and didn't sweep them under the rug, so now, we need to put the screws to Trump. It's not OK for him to support the elitism of the system by convincing the rest of us we should hate some Muslim trying to immigrate. I don't need to welcome random homeless people into my living room, and it's OK to support national defense, but I need to tell politicians it's not OK to enrich themselves by funneling billions of unnecessary dollars to the military-industrial complex as people still suffer in America and around the world.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Women in tech, and cybersecurity comments

In the April, 2017 issue of Communications of the ACM, Valerie Barr notes, "Approximately 45% of women entering tech leave within five years while only 17% of men leave. Bringing more women into tech has not succeeded in changing the climate there...".
Women, mentor your female peers to encourage them to stick around. Men, be careful with your language and subconscious actions; don't use the word "girl" in a professional setting, and respect all of your colleagues equally.

In the same issue, John Arquilla (in a blog post) and a panel of experts (Brent Waters, Dan Boneh, Len Aldeman, and Patrick McDaniel) comment on cybersecurity. I paraphrase here.
The United States recently passed an omnibus bill to fund the government until September. President Trump gushed over substantial funding to "build our military". I say, we don't need more weapons or soldiers. We need the federal government as a whole, including the Department of Defense, to be outfitted with modern computers and software in order to improve our national security. The news is not all bad, but a serious attack on American networks could disrupt government, energy production, transportation (including food distribution) and more. If you're running old versions of Windows in support of your personal email server, you're at risk.

Americans pride themselves on a tradition of individualism and personal independence, but we're apoplectic over fake news and the use of our personal data. It's just not that difficult to identify suspicious news and to verify it. If you don't want your personal data disseminated, then don't post it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and your personal blog. Take responsibility.