Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sometimes I can be crass

There have been times in my life where I have said some really stupid things. Everyone has had these from time to time, and this can really put others off.

I am finishing my bachelor's right now with only another 3 months to go. Being in political economy means that I am learning about concepts which have everything to do with extremely controversial subjects and can sometimes be very useful in conversations I have with people. I also am by nature very open about almost everything and when I feel comfortable with people I speak freely. When I get into my field of interest I can go on and on for hours. I probably have some type of Aspbergers as well, but it is fairly mild almost all of the time. So when I am talking with someone I trust and they say something I am not sure about I will speak freely what I think given my education (and sometimes lack of experience). For people who don't know me very well this can put them off and make them think of me as being rude, and they are right.

A particular incident was during a very intense and educational Unitarian Universalist Young Adult Con in my district. I was talking with someone I barely knew about gender quotas and had just started learning about how economic quotas and price ceilings work along with their effects both positive and negative. I spoke freely about what I was learning but unfortunately didn't realize that gender quotas work differently from other types of quotas in their efficiency and ability to deal with this. This really put her off and offended her, which I regret, but as soon as I got a chance I did research and found papers discussing the efficiency of gender quotas and she was absolutely right, they do work differently from price ceilings (I'm not sure exactly why yet, I have a lot of other projects I am working on, hopefully someday I will get back to it). But this is just one example of other times I have been too intense for people to know how to deal with me.

Disclaimer: I am a white heterosexual cisgender male American. I am very liberal. I am UU. I am also a liberal feminist meaning I believe that everyone should be treated fairly regardless of gender. I believe your skin color, background, native language, disability status, or any other trait should not determine how others treat you. This puts me at odds with Marxists and radical groups who think the solution to injustice is simply to turn the tables and make today's bourgeois tomorrow's proletariat which historically has only perpetuated such systems. It also puts me at odds with conservatives who don't believe in social liberalism.

Being a white heterosexual cisgender male puts me in a very advantaged class and effects how people see me on a daily basis which I find hard to fully understand, especially since I grew up in a very liberal community where we don't judge people by the color of their skin or other thing which has no bearing on someone's character. This means my personal experience is from that of a supporter and ally of people who are discriminated against, though I myself have not been directly discriminated against like other people find.

With this in mind, I am very open to learning. One principle I take very closely to heart is from UU's 7 principles "A free and responsible search for truth and meaning" which I try to put into practice every day. Knowing this means that when I talk with people and they say something that is inaccurate or hurtful I work very hard not to get angry with them and remember we are all on this journey together to make the world better and live our lives to the fullest we can. I am very interested in talking with the person about whatever issue it is so we can both grow and learn together. This is the best way I know to help move this world onto a better path. Only after someone says something offensive time and time again after talking about how it is wrong and show no incentive to learn and grow will I start to get tetchy with their statements. This is of course a goal and something I don't always succeed with but it is very important to me.

When I do things like this I want my friends and family to know that I do care about them and all they have to do is tell me they are done with the conversation and I will stop. If I call them by the wrong pronoun, it is never intentional, they just might have to correct me one more time and I will reliably get it right after I see them enough. I never purposefully try to offend people, and I will never be offended if someone calls me out for being too crass or offending them. The only way someone could offend me in such a situation is to think that I don't care and feel like they can't correct me, because nothing could possibly be further from the truth.

So, given my place in society and vantage point (which is definitely not a complete view on the world) and my age (I'm only 22) I find it is very important that when I talk with someone to respect them and not insult their intelligence or worth as a person as long as they are trying and making progress to be a better person. We are all in this journey together and we all have things to learn from one another and teach to each other. I really do believe that by having honest conversations with one another and sharing our knowledge we can become better people and make this world a better world.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Carbon, why not silicon?

I love technology, and I do see it as offering a lot of amazing answers to the future. Over the 20th century we developed batteries to store electricity better than before. With new carbon-fiber batteries we are able to store more electricity in a smaller space with shorter charging times and longer discharging times. This has enormous potential for the future of electric cars which will make them be able to carry electricity through the whole vehicle which Volvo is currently working on, the reduced weight means extra efficiency which means a longer range. The other advantage of short charging times means that people will be able to drive them as they would an internal combustion engine powered car and save enormous amounts of money and energy. This is currently being developed and in the next five years will yield enormous benefits to all people without significantly damaging the environment. Tesla has already made their current cars charge extremely quickly, and improving the technology once their patent expires will make electric cars the dominant car on the road.

The other piece of the puzzle is that silicon batteries are currently being developed and offers better storage than other forms of batteries. Hopefully this will hit the market soon which will allow better storage which then will make electric cars even more realistic and affordable for people. This will reduce the carbon footprint of humanity, helping to stall global warming in the long run.

This is why I am a proud technophile and optimistic about the future. This future is now.

References:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silicon%E2%80%93air_battery
http://www.materials360online.com/newsDetails/12800;jsessionid=208C96025E476AB21334B13EAC8C60C5
http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/168964-volvo-develops-battery-infused-carbon-fiber-body-panels
http://ecomento.com/2014/06/06/carbon-fiber-battery-bodywork-for-electric-cars-swedish-researchers-say-yes/
https://www.google.com/patents/EP2502295A1?cl=en has information on the silicon air battery
http://www.teslamotors.com/supercharger

Friday, August 15, 2014

Summer Con 2014

Summer con was fun. I took the Greyhound bus down and met some really nice people, one from Canada who does web design and is in his late 20s. I then had a very nice conversation with a nice lady who is my age from Edinburgh which is now on my list of places I want to travel. Mark and Kyle helped me out a ton by letting me stay with them on Thursday night. Mark was there but Kyle was at his house in Corvallis. I like all of their roommates who are wonderful people. Mark and I went to West Hills Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in the morning and helped set things up and participate in the board meeting. I am really good at my job, and participated to the best of yay ability in the conversations. There were about 30 people there who ended up going at the end of the day, and if knew most of them already. About 5 people were going to their first YA con after Bridging and there were at least two people who were completely new. I helped cook breakfast on Monday. I was the touch group leader for my group consisting of Robyn, her friend, and Shawna, all of whom I hadn't met before. We were great and talked about inclusion, which was the theme for the con. For the first workshop I did some Tai Chi with my new friend from Ashland, and it was a slightly different form than what I originally learned. The second workshop was blues dancing which was the first time I did it, and the other people were really good. I learned quickly, and the one thing I need to improve on is using my arms when I dance by myself. At the middle of it a family who was driving north needed help with paying for a hotel room and we a number of us (including ourselves) pitched in even though most of us are the stereotypical starving college student. I have never loved my friends as much as when we practiced the second principle (justice and compassion in human relations) right there to the best of our ability. The big workshop including all people was to talk about how we as UUs make sure we are inclusive to as many people as possible. Makayla was in my group and she was awesome, along with 6 other people. We talked about how we make sure we let almost anyone join our fellowships and ministries without being so inclusive that we allow someone to engage in destructive behaviors that are contrary to our 7 principles and covenant. It is a delicate be lancing act when working with people to ensure that we keep ourselves safe while still not isolating ourselves from people who need our help. During the final worship I played Moonlight Sonata, Ave Maria by Bach/Gounod, and Clair de Lune which was naturally a total hit. At least 10 people complimented me on my piano playing. I played four times in the talent show, thee times on the piano accompanying other people and one time on the trumpet. I played Andante et Allegro by Balay (with a small introduction about who he is and saying it is one of my favorite trumpet pieces) and accompanied with our own Pete Seeger's Where Have all the Flowers Gone? while singing, a piece with Grant, and once with Kira from a musical. On my way back to the bus stop Mark kindly drove me back and is such a wonderful person who is kind to everybody he knows and a good friend.

I am always astounded by the love of my UUs that I am fortunate to experience on an almost daily basis and our willingness to help each other and others outside our community whenever we can. I will never leave this community.

One final thought on charity. I gave $10 to the family who needed a hotel room to visit their ailing grandfather, even though I have very little. The con was almost completely college students but we still were generous enough to make sure they wouldn't be hungry. Sophia only gave money when she knew they had kids, which is important. Resources are not limited and and we need to make sure that when we hand out cash which is extremely liquid that it will be used for what we the donors intend for it to go to. I practiced this as well when a man approached me at the greyhound station asking for money while he absolutely reeked of nicotine. I didn't give him money because I am certain that it will go to furthering his destructive addiction. Given how I am already going to pay for his chemotherapy when he gets cancer, and I absolutely refuse on moral grounds to fund the Child labor that goes into that extremely disgusting habit. If someone is truly hungry there are churches like mine and if they are scarred by conservative religion they can always go to the food bank, so I don't give people cash unless I know they really are in need like the family who approached us on Saturday or it is through an intermediary like the UUA which ensures that the cash will not go to furthering the unfair labor practices and disastrous health effects of cigarettes and the unjust way they are produced but instead to the services people need. If someone can afford a pack of cigarettes they can afford food. I refuse to participate in that industry in any shape or form given all the lives they have taken.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Muslim Student Association dinner

Tonight I went to an amazing dinner/event with the Muslim Student Association at my university. We started with just talking for a while, and about half an hour in dinner was served from a local Indian restaurant. The people I was sitting with were extremely kind, and the featured people were amazing. The first presenters were some Sufi dancers from Seattle who sang and danced, which was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. The second presenter was a graduate of my school who sang some pleasant rap with Islamic themes of serving your community, looking to God for help, etc.

The third was a speaker who graduated from my school a few years ago and he talked about what it means to be Muslim, about faith in action, serving your neighbors, and some examples. He talked about some Muslims who were going to Mosque to break the fast during Ramadan who saw a poor man outside and they talked to him about Muhammad. After hearing about his situation they fed him before they broke their fast and when the Imam came to Mosque the starving man (who apparently knew nothing about Islam before that day) told him how much he loved Muhammad. Another example was about washing his feet which once presented an awkward moment in a private restroom when he was using a public sink to clean his feet (which is required in Islam) and someone else washed his hands after using the bathroom next to him, and not a word was spoken between them. Another time he was washing his feet and a TSA agent came in... he's ok, don't worry. He was an amazing speaker. The message that Islam teaches peace (which is true) and in serving your neighbor is something all religious people agree on.

All in all a wonderful conference with some wonderful people.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Spring UU PNWD YA Con

So, this weekend has been one of the best weekends I've had for a very long time, that is because it was the seasonal Young Adult Con for UUs here in Bellingham where I go to school!

Like the last con I went to, the people were absolutely wonderful and fun to talk with and do things with. I played Cards Against Humanity, helped in the kitchen, and many other things.

Friday: We got together starting around 5:00 and had dinner made by one of my friends who I finally got to meet, who is an absolutely marvelous cook. We had a small worship service and the theme was about communication, making sure that people can understand what we are saying, given the amount we talk and the common UU habit of being extremely intelligent, clearly honest, and vocal while still attempting to be respectful and open to others while not letting our guard down and compromising our values which for me explains why we have so many famous famous humanitarians in our religion despite our size. The speaker would say something that sounded really different from what she/he meant so we could be aware of speaking clearly which at times when I am speaking, though not so much when I am writing, is something I can personally struggle with. We stayed up until 2 AM which is normal for these sorts of events.

Saturday: We had breakfast which was the most amazing omelette I have ever eaten. The first event was getting into our touch groups which were set up so we can discuss certain prompts to help understand the theme of the con, and we finished very early, so we talked about another issue that kept us going full speed ahead until it was time to gather back together. We have the same touch groups through the con so we can get to know people we don't frequently see at a deeper level and have a deeper dialogue, my group had 6 people total. We then had our first workshop for which I chose to go to an environmental sustainability workshop which was really fun discussing with a UU who traveled from Montreal to start to build a large network of young UUs who want to help the environment. There were only 4 of us in that workshop, and it was very fun to lay out what we can and should do to successfully move the world to a sustainable future very different from what we are currently doing. The second workshop I attended was looking at several readings by different philosophers and discussing their writings on how to successfully communicate ideas to people transcending cultural, economical, and political boundaries. Being a very political group of people this was very interesting and important. After that, there was a lot of free time in which I played Cards Against Humanity and briefly played some Magic the Gathering before the worship service. The worship service was normal for UUism, starting with some opening words, lighting the chalice, as well as joys and concerns while the leader speaks about whatever she wants to talk about (in this case, a she). She talked about holding our values close while spreading words of freedom and justice around our lives, and being open to people. This is what it truly means to be UU and no one could have said it as eloquently as she did. I totally agree that there is no respect, rhyme, or reason to not being clear with other people and personally following the wisdom of treat others how you wish to be treated, that it is rude. I don't like being lied to and I shouldn't do it to other people. This is why Unitarians are so successful at making monumental change across the nation and world despite our small numbers. We are honest to people and by sticking by our guns while still being open to others we have done the impossible and we will do it again. Thinking of what we have done, what we do and the true meaning of true trust and love that comes with our journey made me feel so whole and complete that when she asked for us to write down one joy, one concern, and one other thing which escapes me I couldn't think of any concern which was such a wonderful feeling. That is why I go to Con and surround myself with people like UUs, because they allow me to see the best in humanity and make me feel whole.
This was followed after a break with the highlight of Con, the Talent/No Talent show where we entertain each other with music and prose. I played America from Westside Story on my trumpet and got a huge applause for my solo, just like last time. It was fun hearing stories and other types of music, including an extremely hilarious song about banjos where we all laughed, and one guy who told a true story of meeting a creeper on a bus wearing a gigantic sombrero trying to give him a strange soap. We had a wonderful time and didn't disappoint.

Sunday, today: We were woken up by one of our chaplains, who is also one of my best friends, playing the banjo so we would be up before people came to church. We had breakfast, packed up. Four of us who live in Bellingham stayed for the service and the rest went out to lunch which looked really fun. I was really torn about my decision but since the service today was about the Beatles and the last time I will hear our interim minister talk I decided to stay.

All in all, it was an absolutely wonderful con and I will never forget it.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Canonical Needs Google and Google needs Canonical

There is really only one truly great seamless operating system in today's market, and that operating system is without a doubt Ubuntu. I've found Ubuntu to be the fastest, easiest to use, and most reliable operating system I've ever used. As long as programmers use standard code, such as HTML 5 for videos and don't try pulling any funny stuff, because HTML can do pretty much anything you want, it will work on every platform. The only reason people can't use Linux with every website is most people don't know how to code and the companies that hire people don't know anything about computers. Hopefully this will change as my generation and people slightly older than my generation take over after these people, assuming they don't work into their 90s God forbid.

There are many reasons why I love Ubuntu and it is my operating system of choice. First of all, it is fast. I have never had an operating system that runs as quickly in my life. Secondly, it is reliable. While Microsoft is in this gigantic phase of having one decent operating system and then changing it to something completely unreliable I won't be able to trust them.

Android has gigantic memory problems which means it is going to lag behind until Google fixes this glaring error. Google's Chromebook which I have tried seriously didn't grab me. Google is not very good at designing operating systems, they are trying to be too brash when the traditional desktop works very well. Canonical is much better.

Microsoft has the problem of producing one good operating system followed by a bad one. Windows 7 was mostly reliable, but not 100%. But it was way better than Vista! Their browser is by far the worst browser of the past 5 years. Memory lag is a gigantic problem, and when they fixed this problem they introduced the problems of Windows 8. 2 out of 5 stars by real people on Cnet is not a rave review. CNET is one of the major sites where technology people go for news, so we are not talking about average users. Microsoft is an unreliable company and they should retreat into the video game market.

Apple makes all of their products too expensive, overcharge for underpowered hardware, and my iPad (which is only 2 years old) crashes more than any other device I have ever owned. Being so closed source seriously limits their ability to seriously penetrate the market along with everything being overpriced (it's worth mentioning twice).

This leaves only one truly excellent operating system in the world which is Ubuntu. After 7 years of using Ubuntu on a daily basis I have never lost a single file on my Ubuntu partition. It is fast and the programs are able to almost seamlessly work within the operating system even though almost none of them are made by Canonical. It is stable, reliable, and easy to use. Because of this it is my favourite operating system by far and my next phone will have the Ubuntu OS if they release it. They will take over the market and there will be no other competition once they enter.

The only problem is it doesn't have other companies work with them. Valve has done a remarkable job porting games over to Linux operating systems which is increasing frequently and as more games available people will move to the most reliable computer company in the world. The other company that needs to work with Canonical (which I fully believe will be the future) is Google because they can't make an operating system half as good. If Google brings back Google Earth and improves Chromium on Ubuntu they will see immense progress. The second step Google should do is move Youtube from Flash to HTML 5 over the next year which will significantly improve the quality and speed of Youtube and how it works with all modern platforms. At that point it won't require any special software on any modern OS. Any Operating System today that doesn't support HTML 5 is not modern. Not only is HTML 5 extraordinarily functional but like Python it is easy to code, which makes it the only base code for websites.

With all of these in place we should see Ubuntu become a major operating system which will lead to a more stable computer market which will allow people to have a stable operating system.

What a year

Over the past year my life has changed in ways I personally can barely understand. My dog died last March. It took over 3 months for the house to finally come down, even though after the first week or so the soot had penetrated our belongings so much whatever we hadn't already saved was beyond the ability to rescue anything. Something I wish I knew in the beginning. Personal items certainly aren't everything, but they are important.

I went to Germany and Georgia, met new friends in the wonderful extremely hospitable country of Georgia which has been on my mind for a very long time. I met so many friends and they are all so special. My travel in Germany meeting my family, the side which I personally take after the most (no-nonsense when it comes to the important things, hyper-intelligence, ability to have fun, with strong values) meeting my wonderful aunt and many very special cousins, and seeing my friends in Köln who I enjoy being with. That was a trip I had planned for years and I can't wait to return.

I finished my associates and helped coordinate an international science conference (not primarily but helped with details, and wish I had done more) and started doing my bachelor's degree. I love my school, I love my teachers, and have met many very good friends. I have become involved in the local Unitarian Universalist church and have met more people there that share my basic beliefs and desire to just make a difference in the world regardless of how hard it might be which is so important. With board game club, advocacy for my university, registering people to vote, and getting a new job recently I have had the most amazing year. The only thing my life is missing is a girlfriend which would make me completely whole.

I've decided to live off-campus next year so I have a kitchen available and people won't decide to come in drunk at late hours which will be very convenient. I will have a job working at a small convenience store soon which will help bring in some income which will help me save for grad school or whatever I decide to do after my bachelor's degree. I'm torn between going to grad school immediately and getting a job for a while before going back. Excluding things like making a family if the right person comes along, I expect I will continue to grad school which will open a lot of doors in economics. I'm really excited.

My parents will also move into their new house in just a week or two which will be very nice for all of us.