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04 November 2013 @ 10:54 am

Dates are not accurate in this journal. I come here irregularly to dump my musings of days past and collect them. They're not necessarily in chronological order or accurate when they say "recently" or "today," etc.

Just a heads-up.

04 November 2013 @ 10:51 am

Continuing on the topic of clear communication:

Today I did something I was rather ambivalent about. I bore a flag I did not know the history of. A risk, I know.

I stopped by a 2nd Amendment rally in my town to show some support. As some of you may know, I'm a big believer in the 2nd Amendment, literally and strictly interpreted to mean exactly what it says, and it's been under a lot of attack lately.

I arrived (late), waltzed up, and tried awkwardly to chat up some of the people who were already there.
A nice lady with both a sign and a small U.S. flag offered to let me carry a sign, since I'd brought nothing, and she had a flag, too. I figured what the heck, I'm here to help, right? So I carried the sign. It said "Support Gun Rights". Fairly innocuous, difficult to misinterpret, and easily something I agreed with. No problem there.

After a while another gentleman offered to let me carry a flag, as well. At first I thought it was a Texas flag, but it didn't have the white or the red. It was just a 5-pointed star in a blue field. He said it was the Bonnie Blue flag, which was flown in the early Confederacy.

This made me a bit... uncomfortable. But the man seemed nice enough, and I figured if it had a particularly bad history someone else would have asked him to stow it. So I took a gamble and carried it for a while.
Now I want to make clear that I'm quite confident that the man had the best of intentions, and I accepted it in the spirit that  it was offered. I'm sure he has plenty of historically valid reasons for flying that flag. I wanted to show support for the rally, and the flag was for that rally. He helped me do what I came to do, and I'm grateful.

But I still had to do some research on that flag.

The Bonnie Blue flag started as the flag of the Republic of West Florida, a brief independent state that was annexed by the U.S. shortly after its inception. It was later adopted by Mississippi when it seceded, and they flew it for a short time before joining the Confederacy, and the Confederacy adopted it for a short time before moving on to many other flags (they never quite settled on one flag, so the "Confederate flag" you usually see is really just one of many).

Now, why carry it at a 2nd Amendment rally? Well, I read up on some people who fly it themselves. They say that, TO THEM, it represents independence, particularly individual independence, with its single star. It supports the idea that the U.S. is supposed to be a Republic, with independent states, per the 10th Amendment. And the 10th Amendment is, of course, only protected by the 2nd.

I can respect that interpretation. However, it is not the interpretation of the BEARER that matters. It is the interpretation of everyone else. I can certainly hope that that's the way I was perceived, holding that flag, but I cannot be sure.

Association is a powerful thing. Iconography is, too. It's your Name. This is what people mean when they say "tarnishing my good Name". Your Name has power. How you choose it, how you stand for it, how you defend it, and how you present it is part of your identity.

If you self-identify as a Melonhead, and say that Melonheads are defined by their seed-spitting prowess, then you'd better be a good seed-spitter. Otherwise, your name means nothing.
Worse, your name can be stolen. Someone else hears about your name and decides to identify by it. They say that Melonheads are defined by their superior melon-eating ability. You can't eat melons; you're allergic. That's why you're such a good seed-spitter. However, since some expert melon-eaters have co-opted your Melonhead name, melon-eating is now the only thing it's associated with.
Then, some of those melon-eaters start vandalizing picnic benches at their contests. People notice. They start saying that the Melonheads are vandals. Now the Melonhead name is associated with vandalism. Then a rumor starts that they do drugs, too. Rumors are difficult to kill without presenting quick, firm evidence to refute them, and thus the rumor sticks.

What started as a self-invented label for master seed-spitters is now a name for vandalistic junkie melon-eaters.
And no matter what being a Melonhead means to YOU, it really doesn't matter. The name "Melonhead", even though you came up with it, is now beyond repair.

Names can be changed, stolen, adopted, glorified, and soiled, all without the permission of the original Namer.
The bottom line is that it doesn't matter what your name means to YOU. It matters what it means to everyone ELSE.

I can't help but think of names as much like flags, really. I think they should be treated the same way.

If it means nothing to everyone else, you need to tell them what it means, and then back it by your actions and everyone else who wears it.
Like a flag that you make up, and no one knows what it means, you have to tell them, and present it accordingly.

If it already means something to everyone else that you don't want it to, you've got a lot more work to do to convince people that it means what you want, and until you do, you'll be wearing its bad connotations the whole time. Like a dirty flag, you have to carefully, meticulously, and laboriously clean it to make it serviceable.

If it is slandered, you can defend it, like stopping people from throwing mud at a flag.

If it is legitimately soiled, you can clean it, like a bearer who tripped and let their flag fall in the mud.

When a name is irreparably stained, you change it. Like an unserviceable flag, you retire it, respecting how well it represented things before it was stained.

Sometimes, a name will be worn out. It will get stained, and be put away, and left alone for a while. Then it's resurrected and given new meaning - but the faded stains from before will remain.
This is not typically done with flags. Flags are retired permanently. But those who take up old, dead flags and restore them usually have noble intentions.

Where does the Bonnie Blue lie? How clean is it? Well, I didn't recognize it, and I don't think most people do. That effectively means that unless you look closely, the flag will seem clean but meaningless.
But look closer, and it has a history, and that doesn't go away. I'm sorry, to you die-hard Southern pride folks - the Confederacy was primarily formed to defend an economy built around slavery. The tariff issue was big, but ultimately they fought to keep that economy, and the slavery that it represented. And any flag flown over the Confederacy will bear that mark. It's unavoidable.

Perhaps bearing it in good faith at a 2nd Amendment rally helps to clean it. It's given new associations and new uses. Perhaps they will grow to be greater in importance than its past uses.
...But why use a flag with stains on it (even hard-to-see ones) instead of using a clean one? Is it just for sentimental value? There are plenty of clean flags to use. You can even make a new one. The Old Cannon flag and Gadsden flags both represent similar pro-liberty values. For that matter, why fly a myriad of different flags? Just choose one. Flags are meant to be united behind - and if you don't know WHICH flag to unite behind, it defeats the point.

I can respect the sentiment of trying to uphold the good values a flag represented, while trying to cleanse it of bad connotations, but it's not practical. So while I appreciate it in the spirit it was given, and am still grateful...

...If someone offers me a strange flag again, I will politely decline.

Get a clean flag. Get a clean name. And then MAKE that name, with your words and actions, into a name that all the mud-slinging in the world couldn't stain.

04 November 2013 @ 10:49 am
"The key to knowledge is clear communication."

When a word, name, image, or other means of communication is sullied by slander or misunderstanding, keep in mind that it does not matter if YOU know its true meaning, if you are trying to communicate with someone who does not.

If they understand a word to mean one thing that is false, but you are intending to convey its true meaning, don't just keep telling them the word, otherwise you're only perpetuating the falsehood. Use *other* words to convey your intended message. You cannot get the truth across if the one you're talking to is hung up on a lie.

You don't fight lies by continually bringing them to mind. You fight them by ignoring them and going straight to the truth. If that means you must avoid certain key words and phrases in order to avoid being misunderstood, then so be it.
04 November 2013 @ 10:48 am
Arrogant [ˈærəgənt]
having or showing an exaggerated opinion of one's own importance, merit, ability, etc.; conceited; overbearingly proud an arrogant teacher an arrogant assumption

Confident (knf-dnt)
1. Marked by assurance, as of success.
2. Marked by confidence in oneself; self-assured. See Synonyms at sure.

humble [ˈhʌmbəl]
1. conscious of one's failings
2. unpretentious; lowly a humble cottage my humble opinion
3. deferential or servile

These are concepts which are central to human interaction, and yet so commonly and easily confused. There are dangers in each, and excesses in each. There is value in at least two.

What I want to discuss most, however, is Confidence. Confidence is very highly valued wherever you go - so much so, that people will openly admit to valuing a man who is falsely confident over one who is truly humble.
Confidence allows us to act without second-guessing ourselves, to act with assurance that our path is the correct one. It doesn't take a genius to see what an excess of confidence gains you: if you place your confidence falsely, you fall harder under its weight.

The reason so many people place such extraordinary value on self-confidence is because of the "fake it 'till you make it" principle, or the "Little Engine that Could." If you convince yourself that you can do something, you become more able to do it. It is a form of self-deception used to garner full effort.

...I disapprove of it.

I think it's entirely possible to throw your full effort into a task WITHOUT any assurance that you can accomplish it. I think someone who needs that guarantee of results for their efforts is, in many ways, weak.
It is the man who throws himself fully into tasks he does not know for sure that they will work or not who is truly dedicated. He is confident not of the results of his actions (which no man can TRULY be confident of, as no one can see into the future), but of the RIGHTNESS of his actions. That he is taking the most efficient path he knows how to accomplish the best goals he can conceive.

But there is danger in Humility, as well.
Dogged self-deprecation and servile humility can be a form of self-deception, as well. It can be an excuse not to TRY a task. It can also, perversely enough, be a form of pride - as you look on those who act under false confidence as chumps, while you laugh from the sidelines - accomplishing probably less than they.

Because if you're deceiving yourself, whether with Confidence or Humility, it becomes Arrogance: An exaggerated opinion of your own self-worth (or lack thereof). This, faster than anything, will lead you to fall.

So many people desire either people so confident that they will give them false assurances of success that they cannot honestly guarantee, or people who will give them excuses to stay home where they're safe and don't have to risk anything.

I, for one, am sick of both.

Confidence - TRUE confidence, is not an assurance of success or failure. It is neither false arrogance nor false humility: It is not an exaggeration nor an act. It can be both humble and proud, and come by it honestly.
It is the knowledge that nothing is certain, only that we must act to our fullest regardless of what the future holds. It is true confidence that knows one's abilities and their limitations, who does not promise success, but promises only to take the best route TO success.

THIS is what we should value. Not false promises of success - that's arrogance. Not paralyzing warnings of failure - that's cowardice.
Just the confidence of someone who knows that they can do their best regardless to bring success about.

Confidence should not be a pretense. It should not be a facade or mask. It should be truth - plain, simple truth. The truth that you have to do your best regardless of what happens, and that you have to make the best decisions you can on what you know.

To be humble about your failings, proud of your accomplishments, and confident in your choices - THAT is true confidence.

As for what evoked this post - I HATE arrogance in others, and I'm sick of how people will follow and reward arrogant people before they will heed the words of a humble man.
I do, however, recognize the dangers in being overly humble, as well, which is the weakness I tend towards, and didn't want to neglect that.

Confidence and Humility are not opposites, but two halves of the same coin. When you overindulge them, you get Arrogance - which is the opposite of both.
Confidence and Humility are both a recognition of reality held in balance.
Arrogance is delusion, a denial of reality caused by unbalancing them in one way or the other.
04 November 2013 @ 10:45 am
Ah, the penal system. That part of the justice system that everyone likes to gloss over and ignore. With roughly 5% of the world's population, the U.S. somehow manages to have 25% of the world's inmate population.

Inmates are expensive. Especially when they keep going back to prison. Two-thirds of all inmates return to prison within 3 years of their release.

The problem?

Well, obviously it's because prisons are focusing on punishing inmates, rather than building their social skills and rehabilitating them, according to the American Psychological Association:

They get three meals a day, cable TV, sports and recreation facilities, air-conditioned roofs over their heads, and don't have to pay for any of it. If they want money, they can get a job, where they get paid - where they get to buy things from an on-site commissary.
How do I know? I worked at one for two years.

I will say this, though... prisons are probably more unpleasant than they were a few decades ago. But it's not because the prisons are punishing them. On the contrary; they're giving them every incentive to come back.
...It's because we're letting the prisoners punish EACH OTHER.

Ask anyone what their first concern is about going to prison, and it won't be the guards; it'll be their fellow inmates. Nightmare scenarios about dropped soap and daily beatdowns flood people's minds, not images of abusive guards.
When inmates run the asylums, this is what happens.

You want to "rehabilitate" criminals? Keep them away from each other. Don't let them "socialize" with one another (which is another way of describing how prison GANGS form), and don't let them enjoy their time in prison enough that they don't mind coming back.
Have them in individual cells where their only contact with human beings is the generous souls who feed and heal them and the people they are forced to work with in chain gangs.

Inhumane, you say?
...More inhumane, say, than allowing them to beat, rape, and kill one another?

Granted, I think the sentences for most crimes should probably be shorter to make up for the unpleasantness of the sentence itself. But in the name of all things holy, don't ever fall into the delusion that prison should be anything but highly unpleasant, and NOT because you're forced to either further ingratiate yourself with criminals under threat of pain, violence, and humiliation.

Buuuuut I suppose that's too "radical" an idea now, isn't it?
04 November 2013 @ 10:43 am
It's true. I hate it. I hate how it's so often touted as the form of government for "civilized" people. I hate how it's so often lauded as something we should try to attain to. I hate how, as a result, opposing democracy is seen as opposing freedom - when democracy is practically as oppressive as a government can get. I hate how we're constantly taught that America was founded on democracy - when nothing could be farther from the truth.

Democracy is the purest expression of tyranny. Where in other tyrannies the tyrant must bribe, borrow, and steal their way into absolute power, in a democracy, all one needs to be a tyrant is to have the biggest posse to push people around with. It's nice, clean and simple that way.

Round up the biggest mob, and you're ruler of all.

Its only axiom is that of social proof; whoever has the most people agree with them must be right. If you fail to join the majority, you're wrong.
If it's popular, it's correct. Dissent is incorrect.

It not only has no minority protection - it is outright hostile to any kind of minority, by its very nature. Minorities, by definition, get no say in how things are run, what rules there will be, or how they will be treated, precisely because they are minorities.

If your votes don't add up, too bad, you're screwed. You're obviously wrong if everyone disagrees with you, and your opinion doesn't matter.

America was founded as a Republic - a system designed to provide both majorities and minorities influence in how the government is run. They doubled up on this concept by using a bicameral legislature - the majority gets power in the House, the minorities get power in the Senate. It was a brilliant stroke; if minorities didn't like the treatment they got in one state, they could move to another - thereby gaining their demographic more power in the Senate and House both. It allowed people to "vote with their feet" and organize according to their actual viewpoints, giving those viewpoints the ability to compete with the viewpoints held by the majority.

...Of course, that ALL got screwed up with the 17th Amendment.

In the name of all-important "democracy", the country decided that it didn't want to protect minorities any more. Stupid upstart minorities... why should they get a say when the majority doesn't agree, right?
So the Senate was converted to the Deluxe House of Representatives, where the people only got the chance to vote you out once every six years instead of two, you get more pay and benefits, a bigger pension, and your office no longer has any purpose any more. Oh, and government class textbooks start asking students what they can do to make the Senate more democratic.

The States lost all of their legislative power in the federal government, and quickly lost most of the rest of their power, too - marching quickly along the path to a glorious Monostate. Huzzah, democracy on the march!

Die, democracy. Die in a fire. And may no one ever call you a good idea again.
04 November 2013 @ 10:42 am
See, this is what happens when I get bored.

I start calculating weird crap.

This is a Random Nerd PSA:

Apparently, in a rough calculation, a 1000W computer (just to be on the generous side), if entirely submerged in liquid nitrogen in a sealed and insulated case, will boil enough of said liquid nitrogen to replace the volume of air in a 30'x20'x10' room more than twice over in 24 hours.

Thus, if you ever become rich and bored enough to try such a stunt, you must remember to put in a vent to the outside, lest you asphyxiate yourself playing on your sweet new overclocked rig.

Oh, and that also means you'll have to replace 545 liters of liquid nitrogen every day, too - and that's assuming a perfectly insulated and sealed system. Depending on if you buy in bulk, it could be as low as $0.06/liter, or $32 a day, or $0.22/liter, or $120 a day. Or you could buy it one liter at a time, meaning over $1000 a day. Of course, this IS assuming a system that is running full-time, too... but that probably only compensates out the fact that I'm assuming perfect insulation.

So! Note to self: full-time liquid nitrogen cooling is for the rich and stupid. For just time-to-time overclocking, however, for experimentation's sake, apparently there IS enough of a market for liquid nitrogen cooling to produce a cooling system specifically designed for it, courtesy of EKWB cooling. The issue of condensation persists, though.

In other news, printing your own circuit boards. I now have the urge to try this, but will probably never get off my butt to actually do it.

Next random internet search will be answering the question:

How the heck did they make computers before they had computers to make them with?
(e.g. today's circuit boards and microprocessors are made almost entirely by preprogrammed robots, and I can't imagine trying to stencil out the necessary microscopic etchings by hand. Unless of course they just built simpler computers to help them build more complex computers to help them build more complex computers ad nauseam, which would make me very, very sad.)
04 November 2013 @ 10:42 am
So, what is "stand your ground"?

What does it mean?

"Stand Your Ground" laws mean that if someone believes themself to be under an imminent threat from someone, and they believe that between the fight and flight responses, fight will grant them a better chance at surviving it, then they can choose it.

Otherwise, if someone is about to shoot you, you're not allowed to shoot back, even if you're licensed to carry; you're only allowed to turn around and get shot in the back, or give up your wallet, or your house.

...Sort of defeats the point of the right to bear arms, don't you think?

Stand Your Ground laws only allow what SHOULD be recognized as a natural corollary to the right to bear arms; that if your life is threatened, you don't have to run or surrender. You can fight back.

Without arms, you're pretty much forced to retreat from places you have every right to be, or give up property you had every right to keep. With arms, but without Stand Your Ground doctrine, you're legally obligated to do so.

Attacks on Stand Your Ground laws are nothing less than direct attacks on the right to bear arms. Anyone attacking Stand Your Ground laws but saying that they don't care if you own arms is basically saying,

"Yeah, you can carry it... but you just can't USE it."
04 November 2013 @ 10:41 am
Sometimes an idea just sticks in my head and I have to think it over. And sometimes it helps to think it over on paper. Well... electronic paper. Type. Whatever.
As such, this is fair warning that I'm not editing this much; I'm just thinking and writing at the same time, so I'll probably think in circles.

What functions are best served by cooperation, and what functions are best served by competition?

This is not a simple question. Competition can be best served by cooperation, and cooperation can be best served by competition. There's a lot of crossover, and it's difficult to break down into more fundamental components.

Being a big believer in capitalism, competition holds special appeal to me. It ensures that what works, succeeds, and what doesn't, fails. That aspect, in and of itself, should be enough to build a self-perfecting system for any body that applies it consistently. Efficiency would constantly improve as new, better methods replace faulty, outdated ones.

But some methods simply cannot be performed by an individual. Period. They require multiple entities, cooperating for the same goal. When these methods benefit the individuals enough to sufficiently motivate them to cooperate, they work. When the focus is on the benefit to the group rather than the individuals within it, they do not.

Cooperation, on the other hand, has betimes produced some rather remarkable things. None of the world wonders were produced by a single man; they were made by great numbers of people. No individual would make such things because they would not live long enough to see them completed. There's little motivation to start a task you know that you will never see finished.

When people compete with one another, they see the advantage of cooperating with one another to do so. When people cooperate, they must continue to compete in order to benefit from the cooperation.

Government is the act of forcing cooperation upon a naturally competitive humanity, under threat of the hand (confiscation), the cage (imprisonment), and the sword (death). People form governments because they cannot compete with a cooperative outside force without forming their own cooperative force, and cannot grow prosperous or long-lived if they never cooperate with each other. There is individual competitive motive to successful cooperation, always.

So what happens when individuals in a cooperative group (like a nation) try to force the whole group to cooperate more than the individual members find beneficial to them?
The cooperation breaks.

Which begs the question: What, if any governmental services, are truly "essential"?

Take any governmental function that goes beyond "Thou shalt" and "Thou shalt not" (i.e. legislation and its enforcement, not including appropriation and funding), and you can feasibly put a private enterprise behind it just as effectively - if not much, much more effectively. If a government is there to protect life, liberty and property of the individual, then there must be a tangible individual motive for each governmental office holder and employee to do so. And there must be a tangible individual motive for each citizen to continue to listen to the governing body, motive that outweighs the cost of ignoring them.

How can this further be broken down? It is clear that it's not truly a case of "cooperation vs. competition." It's more fundamental than that. Competition *involves* cooperation. Cooperation *fails* without individual competitive motive.

Maybe I need to draw a Venn diagram or something. Words are failing me.

Anyhow, if any of you poor people actually read through that blather, feel free to offer your thoughts.
04 November 2013 @ 10:38 am
Okay, I might as well. Not like I've let cans of worms scare me away before.

I'll comment on the Zimmerman verdict.

...So... Zimmerman was acquitted.

Honestly, I don't really care one way or the other. Trials of this kind happen every day. This one just fit a narrative well enough for the media to sensationalize it into their identity politics - which is the real issue at hand.

See, I'm not on the jury. I didn't get to see all the evidence. I didn't get to hear all the arguments or explanations. And I wasn't there when it happened. So I don't really *get* to care about the results of a trial, since I'm not directly involved in any way to actually have a valid opinion on it.

Sure, I *have* an opinion. From everything I've heard, I'd say Zimmerman was innocent. But I don't *know*.

I'm not saying I trust our legal system implicitly - only that it's not the results of individual cases that we, as the public, should care about. We should care about what can corrupt our legal system; things like pressure from a mob and media influence in court. Or worse, corrupt judges or rigged jury selections.

If Zimmerman had been convicted, despite all that I've heard to incline me to believe he was innocent, I *still* would have chalked it up to the jury knowing more of the facts than I do. I wouldn't have cried "There is no justice!", I wouldn't encourage retribution against the people who convicted him, or say that "I can relate to Zimmerman" when I don't even know the man.

At most, I would encourage investigation of the trial proceedings to determine if there was a mistrial - and only because the circumstances (massive media sensationalism, riot threats, protests) make it more susceptible to corruption than most trials.

I certainly wouldn't seek "civil rights" prosecutions against the prosecutors, who have probably had a hell of a time with this trial, too.

The people who protest the results of this trial are not seeking justice - they've simply been told that they are supposed to identify with one party, and, like well-trained sheep, they obeyed - and thus feel like victims.

...Which of course is what they wanted to feel like to begin with.

Whether you agree with the results of the trial or not - be ever mindful that there are people leading you around by the nose, whether or not they consciously intend to.
Though when it comes to our media, they're doing it more and more consciously of late, I think.