Back To The Book?

One of my other “gets” for this year is to get back to being informed. I’ve begun making an effort to start listening to “Democracy Now” again which is not going well so far.  I’m also trying to get CBS Sunday Morning back into my morning routine.

The edition for the 13th included a segment on the “Green Book“.  In pre Civil-Rights America, this book may have been a literal lifesaver for African-American travellers.  The book provided drivers a list of places that would welcome them, and places to avoid.  Most of the recommended places were owned and operated by African-Americans, as one may expect.

As Trump’s election has brought racist sentiments that many Americans thought were buried to the surface, and the possibility of religion being used to justify discrimination ruled constitutional needs to be considered, perhaps a new, modern. take on the “Green Book” is in order.

The technology of today would make the book more interactive.  One could locate a business on a map, get the directions and even call ahead.  Similar apps could be developed for Muslim, Hispanic, and LGBT+ travellers.

If Trump and his rural reactionaries think the way to “Make America Great Again” is to take America backwards; what better way to resist that than to go back to the idea of “Mutual Assistance“, but with modern technology.

Where I Was Forged. . .

I spent the first part of this week with my family.  Monday was my birthday, and I hadn’t been home for a while, two years to be precise.

Perhaps inspired by a piece on NPR about a book set in West Virginia, I got to thinking a bit about how where I grew up may have shaped how I am today.  I grew up in what would today be called the “rust belt”.  My hometown and surrounding communities had a variety of steel and other industrial mills that provided good, middle-class jobs.  My community in particular also seemed to attract a large African-American community.  As the mills close and the tax base deteriorated, my hometown lost population and more of its tax base.  My city now seems to be banking on medical marijuana to try to boost its fortunes, and it will be interesting to see how that goes.

I’ve been critical of my hometown, when it is appropriate.  After a popular restaurant owner was shot in an apparently meaningless shooting, I thought it could be a wakeup call that the city needed to confront and build a culture of resistance to what I saw as a “culture of deviancy” within the African Community.  I created a Facebook group that is still somewhat active, but the actions never materialized.

As critical as I have been when needed, I have also been proud.  In 2015, when my High School alma mater advanced to, in the same calendar year, the State Basketball and Football Championships, I posted music videos to rally the fans.  One of my last tasks before I headed back to Central Pa was to get a sweatshirt commemorating my High School’s recent State Football Championship.

But where I grew up also I think did play a part in forging my identity.  What I now see as corporate greed and a desire to maximize profits by moving work to places where labor is cheaper and more easily exploitable that wrecked my area’s economy may have seeded my distrust of corporations and the political power they hold.  I don’t think I would be involved in the anti-racist, or other social justice movements I am involved in if I had not grown up in a community of color. Alas, I sometimes wonder if where I grew up is why more than a few alumni of my High School seem to have joined the authoritarian “Whitelash” that elected Trump.   Perhaps what makes one person “woke” can make another want to wave the Confederate Battle Flag.  That is for another time, and perhaps another place.


Back Together Again

When I returned home Tuesday, I had a few things to do.  Anyone who travels knows that sometimes the hardest part of a trip is unpacking, etc.  I had laundry to do, groceries to buy and purchases to log.

I had also determined that I was going to make one last attempt to extend an olive branch to the person I referenced in this post from Christmas.  The post was intended to be a public apology to her, but it looked like it had gone unread.   I had never removed her number from my list, though I did delete it from my phone.  To my surprise, I got a response.  I responded and figured we’d wait and see.

Then I did something odd.  I turned my landline on; I usually leave it off when I’m at work so I don’t get interrupted.  Some force drove me to, and to my surprise, I got a call from her on the landline.  We did a bit of catching up, I did make another apology–I think.

I’m going to have to rethink my roles a bit.  I think I can still be conduit and chronicle, but I may need to retire the Guy Fawkes mask.

 

Resistance is Not Futile

Today, January 3, a new US Congress is sworn in.  The House of Representatives will look radically different, thanks in part to the efforts of #TheResistance.  The November midterm Elections, while not producing the “Blue Tsunami” many had hoped for, did bring a Democratic Majority to the United States House.

While many will bemoan that the Senate can still confirm justices that will allow decades of social progress to be slowly unrolled.  The United States House does possess a power that can stymie Trump’s agenda.

The House holds the “Power of The Purse”, and resolving the shutdown may be their first show of force.  I would hope that any plans to reopen do not include any funding for the border wall that Trump used to dog whistle so many of the rural, reactionary, voters into voting for him.

The power to investigate should also make Trump nervous.  We may finally know the extent of Russian influence over Trump and the election in general.

The new leadership understanding the role that progressives, especially women, and even more specifically women of color, played in the power shift needs to be handled.  Ocasio has hit the ground running, and looks to be a progressive standard-bearer for decades to come.  But many of their ideas may not be compatible with established members of the Democratic Party; many of whom rely on the same corporate contributors as the Republicans.  Already a dispute over funding programs seems to be brewing.

Finally, there is the idea of how the House should legislate.  This Democratic Majority cannot simply be the “Party of No!”.  I would like to see them be the party of “Yes, but.”  The House should remove pernicious parts of legislation and replace it with more compassionate, sensible and progressive alternatives.

The “Get List”

2018 is coming to an end, and this was not a bad year for me.  I switched jobs and got back to the help desk, albeit from home.  I attended my first major computer conference when I ventured to New York City for the biennial HOPE conference.  I was involved in an attempt to organize a chapter of the Industrial Workers of the World that proved to be unsuccessful.  I knocked doors, called voters and ate more that my share of pizza in support of Democratic candidates.

But 2019 is soon to begin and with it, ideas.  This year, I am not making resolutions.  What I plan to do is make what I am calling a “Get List”.  A list of a few things I want to “get done”.   Some directly tie into “The Resistance”, others require a bit of reaching to make fit.

  1. Get Online: “Wait, aren’t you online?”  Yes, but what I mean here is have my own domain name.  I have ideas for a blog, a Drupal site, and maybe even a podcast.  My close work with a woman whose son was killed by a Harrisburg Police Officer put the idea for a site the tell her story and that of other victims of the police.
  2. Get Downloaded: I am teaching myself Kotlin, a language used to make the apps you see in the Google Play store.  It’s not the only one, but it’s what I have chosen.  I have an idea for what seem like simple apps that may lead to more complex ones.  I want to get at least one app in the Google Play store.  I do have one app idea that “The Resistance” may find useful, but it may have to wait until next year.
  3. Get Certified: I would like to get my CompTia Security+ Certification.  I was closing in on this when my phone bricked and then the replacement got lost.   This might literally be a year-long project, and it may not start exactly on January 1, or even in January.
  4. Get Airborne: No, I do not plan on having to fly anywhere.  A few years ago, I got a quadcopter.  It has sat on a shelf for a few years, making only a few brief flights in my apartment.  There are a pair of sand volleyball courts that may make for a good place to learn how to fly the quadcopter.  The next time the fascists have a rally in Harrisburg, or there’s an event that an aerial view, I could be that “Eye in the sky”.

I have a few smaller things too, teaching myself Powershell and working on a Secure Raspberry Pi for activists.  But those four things, broken down into sub-parts, should keep me pretty busy.


Unfinished Business

May, 2017, I step on a scale and it shows 247 pounds.  I ask myself, “How did this happen?”  In 2014 I was 204 pounds, where had all this weight come from.  So I set myself to losing weight, I used the My Fitness Pal app to watch what I ate.  I paid attention to portion sizes, to the point that I asked my Sister for, and got, a food scale.

My goal eventually became that, by today, I’d be back to 204.  I came up a few pounds short.  This morning, I weighed in at 211 pounds.  I don’t see this as a failure, losing 36 pounds is nothing to be ashamed of.  I do plan on still trying to get down to 204, I just will have to wait until March or April to see if I can get there.

By then, I may have my finances in order that I can add another “get” to my list.  Get back on the mats.  I just wonder if my old dojo would take me back or if there are any Judo classes for the 40+ set.

The Price of Resistance?

“So long ago, I don’t remember when.
That’s when they say I lost my only friend. . . “

One Headlight–The Wallflowers 

But for me, it wasn’t so long ago.  It was a year ago today.  She, and yes it was a she, was far from my only friend.  But she had seen me through several jobs and other struggles, often giving me a pat on the back, and then a smack on the bottom; a sort of “there, there” followed by a “now get back out there!”   We would talk and text, and in the days when we people still used instant messaging clients, use that.  We went from LiveJournal, to MySpace to Facebook.  She visited my home and I eventually made it to her home state of Washington.

We shared an interest in photography and a love of sports.  We didn’t quite see eye-to-eye on politics, and I think we were realizing that.  For most of the 2016 election, we kept ourselves out of each other’s way.  A few days after the elections I did text her “The election is over–are we?”  For a few weeks, the answer seemed to be “yes”, but on that Thanksgiving, the jets seemed to cool and we were back to communicating.

Then came last Christmas, where a set of responses to a picture she had posted finally cost me my last life.  A few months later, I realized it may have just been another attempt to “prove myself”.  I wanted to go into her space and make my statement.  If I got a few other folks to agree with me, I had struck a blow for “The Resistance”.  If I got criticized for my statements, I had taken one for “The Resistance.”

I have seen reminders of happier times on my Facebook, and Sunday’s Saints-Steelers game would probably have had us texting the entire time.  But I fear I have made all of this memories and “what if.”

She’s not the only friend I’ve lost over the 2016 election, even if it did take a year for things to reach a breaking point.  But she may be the only one that deleted me, since I was the instigator and not the defender.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s lost friends over this election.  Maybe I just have to accept that it’s a cost of resistance.  I may just need to see if it was a price worth paying. . .

We Got This. . .

We Got This. . .

By December 23, 2016, the reality of Trump’s election had set in.  There had been a few demonstrations at the State Capitol, etc.  These events had mostly involved the existing activist community, in my opinion.

Then news of two car being vandalized in Mechanicsburg, PA broke.  Perhaps an act of the now-empowered “deplorables”.    According to Cumberlink.com, one of the owners was Hispanic and the other Middle Eastern.  On short notice, a call went out through social media to hold a vigil, and 75 people answered the call.  I was among them, camera in tow.

With the event being so close to Christmas, and Mechanicsburg being overwhelmingly White, I was impressed at the turnout.  This event also attracted a more mainstream demographic, perhaps a sign that everyday folks realized what Trump had unleashed on America.

A lot of the tactics that would become associated with #theresistance were already on display.  A use of social media to rapidly mobilize, an action in solidarity with an “outgroup”, and making sure the event was highly visible.

I got into my car when all was said and done, and may have thought “We got this,”  events like J-20, the Women’s March, etc were still to come.    This event may have given me an impression that #theresistance was going to go well betond the usual activists, and maybe a few more folks would get even more involved.

A Wake-Up Call

The “Check Engine” light on my car was on and would occasionally blink when it accelerated.  It was also running rough, if I drove the car for a while, though, it would smooth out.  Since yesterday was my Sunday, I took the car in to get diagnosed.  When I mentioned the symptoms, the mechanic said it could be a catalytic converter or I may have damaged the engine.  Thankfully, it was just an ignition miss.  Repairs ran me about $970, and I got to thinking that my idea of going to Costa Rica in 2020 may have to be deferred.  I may want to look at putting that money towards a down payment on a car.

I’ll still go somewhere; I may want to head to Baltimore to check out Red Emma’s, a bookstore/restaurant, or head back to Philly to buy some books at Wooden Shoe.  I may look at heading to Dover, Delaware for a NASCAR race (kind of one of my ‘guilty pleasures”), or seeing if an old coworker of mine may be up for a trip to DC to catch a Nationals game.

It wouldn’t be the first time that my plans have changed.  Trump’s election turned a planned weekend in DC to see the Indigo Girls perform into a trip to Rochester, New York, for the annual B-Sides conference.


Deadly Games

One of the major messages I have been trying to send to this site is that elections have consequences.  Those consequences need to be accepted and owned up to.

It should be clear by now, simply by looking at many of my prior posts, that I think this point has been lost on the #BernieOrBust and #DemExit folks.  They continue to stay away from the events that involve the communities affected most by Trump’s policies.

But with the Affordable Care Act in legal jeopardy, thanks to Trump being able to nominate two justices to the Supreme Court.  The effects of the #BernieOrBust and #DemExit folks may have become personal.  My Mother has Chron’s and needs medication for Thyroid Cancer, my Father has various spinal issues, my Aunt has Breast and Bone Cancer.  Those could all be pre-existing conditions that may either cost them insurance or cost them more out of pocket.

Many of the #BernieOrBust and #DemExit folks may see the ACA being overturned as a chance to push “Medicare for All”.  Not likely with a Republican Senate.  They may see the repeal as triggering a second “Blue Wave” that may flip the Senate or even remove Trump from office.  What if these fail?

A few may figure that the Supreme Court may finesse things.  The ACA is a small fish that may threaten the larger goal of the American Right, overturning or rolling back the gains made since Brown on behalf of African-Americans, Women, etc.  What if they don’t?

Or is this another example of what more and more looks like a common theme for the #BernieOrBust and #DemExit folks.  The fact that they are likely not going to be affected  directly. Much like few of them need to worry about being deported or harassed by cops, most of them likely have health care.