Dear Mr. LaPierre and the NRA

(Sent today.)

Dear Mr. LaPierre and the NRA,

I have been a member of the NRA for many years.

I renewed my membership after the Virginia Tech shooting, in which a deranged man killed 30+ classmates at a college. He never should’ve been able to purchase firearms, but your organization didn’t agree.

I renewed my membership after the Aurora, CO theater shooting. The killer in that shooting never should’ve been able to buy a drum magazine — it has no purpose being owned by an ordinary American. Soldiers in the military aren’t even issued them individually.

I renewed my membership after the Newtown, CT shooting, and that one was tough. You would think 20 small children being gunned down would cause your organization to at least soften its stance on the issue — to sound a little less combative — but no. Your organization came out after the event as angry as ever.

But the Las Vegas shooting is too much. There has to be limits to the 2nd amendment. Even if the stated goal of your organization is to help protect the right for citizens to arm themselves in the event of armed insurrection.

No one needs 50+ firearms. A common sense argument for your organization would be to say, if the goal of the 2nd amendment is to protect liberty, you only need one rifle and one handgun.

No one needs thousands and thousands of rounds of ammunition. A common sense argument for your organization would be to say, if the goal of the 2nd amendment is to protect liberty, you only need to be able to buy enough ammo that you could carry on your person in the event of a “SHTF” event. (One could purchase more ammunition for target practice at places like ranges and gun stores, but the ammunition should not be allowed to leave the premises.)

And no one, I mean no one, needs “slide fire” modifications to allow a semi-auto rifle to shoot fully automatic. Your organization could come out today and join the call for such devices to be banned, but you probably won’t.

I am a gun owner, and will remain one. I own one rifle, and one handgun. However, as of today, I will no longer renew my membership in the NRA. Also, I resign as a member of the NRA, said resignation to be effective immediately. Please remove my name from your membership lists.

Why “Social Media” Should be Renamed “Social Masturbation”

We have hundreds of friends on Facebook. We follow hundreds of people on Twitter. We interact with dozens a people a day, spread across an equal number of timezones or even countries.

We follow funny blogs, meme-generators, and news sites on both of these services, and they deliver dozens of posts that we like and re-share to all of our friends, so they can see that we like them.

We feel like we’re making such a difference in the world! It’s so amazing! A collective consciousness if forming, almost — who can stop it? Who can fight it?

Disadvantaged groups are in control of such power! They now have a voice in the world so that everyone can hear of their struggles, thanks to the Internet! Social behavior that would’ve been illegal 50 years ago, and just an enormous faux pas even 25 years ago is now completely normal and accepted… isn’t it?

I mean, that’s what all my friends think. And I’m sure yours largely do too, if you’re probably reading this.

The reality in the rest of America, however, as we just learned, is very different.


Stages of Grief

We’re still not even in the postmortem stage from the Trump election win in 2016, but we’re close. Right now, people don’t know who to blame, mostly because the final results were such a surprise. Nobody saw the coming — not even FiveThirtyEight, who haven’t predicted an election wrong before this one.

And why would they? Why would any of us?

How many Trump supporters are you close to, on a daily basis? How many do you talk to daily, as a friend? Not bickering with online, but in person — where you’re more than just text making them angry on a website, but a living, breathing person in front of them, that they can see, and hear.

If the answer is zero, honestly I don’t blame you. Trump supporters aren’t usually… let’s just say it’s hard to have a conversation with someone who’s starting position is “Ban the Muslims/Mexicans, Build The Wall, Lock Her Up!” There’s not much gray area — not much room for common ground.

Even I only had about half a dozen, and they were all online. Mostly family members who survived earlier Facebook purges and friends from high school who stayed behind in the small town area where I grew up, and never left.

After this past week, of course, I’m no longer friends with them. Not because of anything they did or said, of course — most of them were fairly well-behaved — but because I realized, after the election, that we’re not really friends.

I didn’t talk to them in person. I couldn’t affect their lives in any meaningful way. In any discussion, there was never any meeting of the minds — no give and take. Every conversation could stop immediately when the aggrieved party wanted it to, by just walking away. There was never any reconciliation attempted, because there was no need to.

Our interaction was limited to them sharing their funny conservative memes from ridiculous websites and fake news sources, while I would groan inwardly and put up with them, because I was being “open-minded.”

They were certainly never going to change my mind about Hillary Clinton by posting some link about a “child sex ring in Macedonia run by the Clintons” (all false, of course), and I was never going to change their mind about voting for ol’ Agent Orange himself by telling them about his six bankruptcies, piggish attitudes about women, or the ridiculousness of building a “90 foot wall on the border of Mexico.”

So, why keep up the charade of pretending like we’re friends?


Fair and Balanced

However, I didn’t stop there. How many like-minded people are you friends with on Facebook, that you also don’t see in person? A dozen? Ten dozen? A thousand? How many do you follow on Twitter?

Do you think these relationships are healthy? Do you think you’re making a difference in their lives? That by liking their posts, and replying to their comments on yours that you’re doing something nice for them?

Maybe — just maybe these interactions are robbing you of the desire to make actual relationships, with those people around you.

Now — before you get outraged — I’m not saying you can’t have a meaningful relationship with someone in a purely online fashion. I met my partner online, so I of all people am not saying that.

I’m just saying you can’t have a dozen simultaneously. Or ten dozen. You’re not Scarlet Johansson’s character from the movie Her. And you certainly can’t have 1,456 real “friends” on Facebook, no matter how much you like seeing the number.

These interactions you are having on Facebook, or Twitter, with people you rarely ever see in person, are having a negative influence on your life, and you may not even know it.

They momentarily quench the desire to have real connections, out there, in the real world. Friends you can visit in the hospital if they’re in a car accident. Friends with who you can move a couch. Friends you can go to a party with, or to the park.

And most importantly, friends who, if they don’t think exactly the same as you, may come around to your way of thinking when it’s voting time.


Beating Us at Our Own Game

Because you see, like it or not, this is something “the other side” has the non-Trump-voter beat in, wholly — real life social engagement.

They have churches, where they see the same people regularly, every week.

They go to tailgate parties. Constantly.

They go to real parties, out in the woods, where cell phone connections are spotty and where you’re forced to, you know, talk to people.

And when it comes to voting time, they’re the ones telling their real-life connections, in person, who to vote for.

Yes, they have huge social media presence online, mostly — the recent trouble with fake conservative news being spread like wildfire across Facebook being an example of that — but it’s not their only, or even their most major form of social engagement.

Human beings are social creatures — it’s coded into our DNA. You may think you can survive without a tribe, or a group, but you can’t — that’s just our pleasant, safe, modern world fooling you.

When we human beings were first coming down from the trees and learning to walk on just two legs, the tribes we formed required people to work together to achieve goals — you had to know like-minded people (or in this case, hominids), or you didn’t survive. Human beings weren’t the fastest, or the strongest; we didn’t have sharp fangs or claws or sticky webs to trap pray in; but what we had was cooperation.

And those that could work together with others had their genes propagated to the next generation.


Say “Hi”

So what can you do? If you’re not going to delete your Facebook account in protest of their out-of-control “sharing” feature (I’m still considering it), start by unfriending everybody you don’t see on a daily basis.

Make a few exceptions for those two or three people who, no matter what the geographic distance, you’re still soul mates with. It won’t hurt.

Make an exception for close family that aren’t racist.

But that’s it.

Stop spending time talking to people who you can’t make a meaningful difference in their lives. It’ll hurt at first; I know. But soon that desire will turn into actual action that may help those that are close by to you right now, especially if you live in an area that’s a bit more heterogeneous. (You know, like those “swing” states that Hillary all lost.)

And that is where the culture war will be won. Not by posting rebuttals or Snopes articles on Facebook and Twitter. But by showing people who look and think slightly differently than you how you’re not a caricature.

And maybe, must maybe, they won’t vote next time for a man who thinks that women’s bodies are up for grabs, if you have enough money, or that it’s okay to mock the disabled, or that all illegal immigrants are murderers and drug-dealers.


Caveat

Now, please don’t misunderstand me — I’m not talking about possibly changing the minds of any Trump voters — you should know that’s not possible by now. You’re talking about a kind of person who believes in fake news, without any facts, and when confronted with facts to the contrary, simply chooses not to believe in them. You can’t change that kind of person’s mind, so don’t try.

I’m talking about possibly convincing someone who doesn’t vote, or who is undecided, that they might want to try voting. Those are the changes you can make. And they can be made.

rsync to AWS using .PEM key

Took me a little while to figure this out, but it’s a pretty standard implementation of the rsync command — you use the “-e” command and then specify an entire ssh command to use, like below:

function amazonrsync {
rsync -rave “ssh -i ~/.ssh/AWS_key.pem” $1 $2
}

That’s an entire shell function, by the way, that makes the whole thing easier to use.  Feel free to put it in your shell alias file.

Source: Rsync to AWS EC2 Using .PEM key – AnthonyChambers.co.uk Blog

OpenVPN One-Command Server Install Script

I have been looking for a script like this for about a year now:

https://github.com/Nyr/openvpn-install

For some reason that I never understood, installing and setting up an OpenVPN has always been a pain in the ass.  I’ve had one I’ve been using for about a year, but it’s on Amazon’s AWS as was installed through an appliance install, and I really wanted to learn how it worked myself.

Every tutorial I saw either didn’t make sense, or the steps didn’t work.  I set about to try and create a one-script install myself, and then thought, “No — somebody has to have done this before.”

And lo and behold — that’s where I found the above github repo.  It’s amazing, and it works.  I’m going to donate to this person, because they saved me a good bit of work.

 

GeekBench for Linux ARM?

Just got a Rasberry Pi and you’re wanting to benchmark it against other computers that you’ve benchmarked with GeekBench?

It’s not possible, for the most part — no release version of GeekBench for the ARM platform exists, but the creator of GeekBench did release a one-time build of GeekBench 2 a while back:

Source: GeekBench for Linux ARM? / Geekbench / Discussion Area – Primate Labs Support

mysql_connect() breaking with an upgrade to PHP7?

mysql_connect() has been finally removed from PHP7 (it was deprecated for some time), and now you have to use mysqli_connect();   The same goes for any other mysql_ commmand.  (I simply did a find/replace for “mysql_” and changed it to “mysqli_” in my php code.

Also, if you’re running your own server, you probably need to install the “php-mysql” after upgrading to PHP7 — it doesn’t seem to be installed along by default anymore.

Unified Internal Storage for Android 6.0+

Thinking about using Unified Internal Storage on Android 6.0+ to expand your phone’s measly internal storage?  Don’t even think about using it with anything other than a UHS-II SD card — even if your phone will let you use a slower card, don’t do it — your performance will be terrible.

It seems like it has to be UHS-II, for some reason (maybe it’s random r/w speeds?). I tried with even a very, very fast UHS-I, that benchmarked nearly the same, but Android wasn’t satisfied with it, giving the “This SD card is slow” warning.

The best priced one I could find out there (that you’d want to use) was a 32GB one:

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1211505-REG

Review: Under the Skin

Under the Skin
Under the Skin by Michel Faber
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found Michel Faber’s book Under the Skin like how I imagine quite a few people did, after watching the movie “Under the Skin” and wanting to know a bit more. The movie is absolutely wonderful, but definitely light on the details–Jonathan Glazer goes more for atmosphere than story, leaving the viewer to fill in the holes themselves.

Though, unlike a poorer movie, the movie doesn’t leave you feeling that there isn’t more story–it leaves you feeling that there definitely is more to the story; you’re just not being let in on it.

So, I decided to buy Michel Faber’s original book that the movie was sourced from… and I am happy I did. It is probably one of the most well-written and original SF stories I have read in quite a while.

The “SF” part of that categorization isn’t as important as the “story” part–this is definitely soft SF, and that’s good, because where the book shines is in the main character’s interaction with the hitchhikers she picks up, and with her fellow human beings.

To briefly sum up the barest bones of the plot (which is the same as the movie): the main character, by all appearances a human female, drives around Scotland picking up hitchhikers, all men, who she then questions, eventually taking them to an unknown fate.

That’s the first thing you’ll notice that’s interesting about the book–Isserly, the main character (who in the movie version played by Scarlett Johansson did not even have a name), is most definitely not what we’d call a “human,” but her and her comrades call themselves humans, and us something else. Make sense?

Without spoiling any of the plot, the book goes into far more about what Isserly and her comrades are doing–though it does this very slowly, revealing it to the reader in one of the most absolutely horrifying reveals I’ve ever experienced in a book. It’s not a “twist”–it’s a slow revelation that you come to over about the first half of the book.

View all my reviews

Review: Gran Turismo 5

(Editor’s Note: I originally started this draft about a year after Gran Turismo 5 came out.  Most of it still applies; some of the gripes were corrected in Gran Turismo’s most excellent next release, Gran Turismo 6.)

What can I say about Gran Turismo 5, a game that was in development for five years; a game that charged $39.99 for its demo download three years ago?

Seriously.

GT5 EU Box ArtIs it cool?  Yes, it’s cool.  But then again, I grew up playing Gran Turismo — I probably racked up 100’s and 100’s of hours on Gran Turismo and Gran Turismo II alone (Gran Turismo III and IV, I never played much, and I regret that — III was apparently one of the best games ever released on the PS2 during the 2000’s).  GT5 could be nothing more than a port of Gran Turismo IV for the PS3, and I’d still love it.  I’m probably not the best person to judge whether or not GT5 is cool.

Does it look good?  Yes, it looks great.

Does it have lots of badass cars?  Check.

By this point, with all the hype that’s been built-up about this game over the years; all the stories of just how maniacal the creator, Kazunori Yamauchi, was in making sure that GT5 was going to absolutely perfect; all the stories of how imaging each car for GT5 was taking 10 times as long as it took to image a car for GT4 (which itself took 10 times as long to image for as it did GT2)…

With all this hype, how could GT5 possibly make anyone happy?

The Bad

The loading times are horrendous. (Try about a minute of waiting, every time you start a race.)

The selection of cars is limited, and the “full resolution” cars, new for GT5, is maybe 10-15% of the total cars.  The rest are all ports of the GT4 cars, and the much poorer graphic quality of the cars can show.

The Good

All right, but it’s not all bad.  Most of the graphics look amazing on the PS3.  And finally, finally, FINALLY, there’s a multiplayer network option!

Yes, the dreams you had when you were younger of playing Gran Turismo verses races from all around the world is true, and it’s great.

Not only that, but you can play with your close friends and family on the Playstation Network, and can gift cars to them (great for giving your fiends a leg-up when they first start playing).

Final Word

Is it worth it?

If you want to play Gran Turismo on the PS3, it’s the only way to do it (unless you’re going to pop in an old copy of Gran Turismo 1 from the PS days).

Was it worth the wait, though?

No — no game should take five years to come out, past the point of the first demo.  No game should ever charge for a demo (and nearly a full price charge, too).

Ugh.  Just ugh.

Noos you can uoos