Friday, December 2, 2011

Ode to the SheevaPlug

I love my SheevaPlug. It is the geek's dream gadget. You can flash linux kernel images onto this thing's internal memory and leave it always on due low-watt consumption (low power ARM processor, and lack of moving parts... no fans, no drives).

There's a network port. I prefer to SSH in for some shell command-line action, but you could connect install VNC and remote GUI (if you're a pussy).

It has a USB port, which could receive a USB hub for additional devices (cameras, external drives, you name it...)

You could run a home-automation server, or install a LAMP environment for web hosting. Personally, I'm running heyu(X10), MySQL, Tomcat, postfix, and getmail with a webcam attached, and a whole bunch of scripts and cron jobs. I'm hosting two small domains, and adding one more soon.

You can even run it off an SD card, so you could clone and swap out cards with custom linux distros based on your needs.

Well, there's a free advertisement (f you speak geek)... but maybe this company will read this one day and out of the goodness of their hearts send me one of their newer models. (hint hint)






Thursday, November 10, 2011

Summer of the Yard

When we moved into our new house in March it was nice to have a bigger yard, but it was 90% weeds - those nasty prickly kind too. So my goal was to have the yard transformed and family friendly before the next winter.

Libby was scared of the lawn at first... stickies! ouch!


Planning the yard seemed nearly as much effort as all the digging and hauling involved. I drove my wife crazy with my obsession with choosing the right trees. I sketched out several drafts, and ultimately tried to balance a few goals:
  • Optimal seasonal shade and trees (I used suncalc.net)
  • Balance of lawn vs low-maintenance/low-water area
  • Variety: a rock garden, flower garden, vegetable garden, play area
An early plan draft

After considering seeding it myself, we opted for sod since the weeds were so pervasive and we wanted things to start quickly. In retrospect that was the right decision, since I only finished the yard with gravel in October. 
Sod was the most expensive step, but what an improvement.

Next, I focused on planting the trees. We got a few from the Sacramento Tree Foundation, which provides free shade trees (for SMUD customers). I chose a red maple to be the central shade tree. We also got a crape myrtle and chinese pistache. We had a pesky 30ft cottonwood tree cut down that was stupidly planted 2ft away from sprinkler valves. While planting I learned quickly that my soil has a lot of river rock, which made every hole to dig painstaking (not to mention my accidentally busting a couple sprinkler lines). The rock came in handy for borders later though.

Tetherball pole? I'm not sure what this was for, but dug it out

Planting the red maple, this sucker grows like a champ.

Next up, the playground. This was simply some leveling, weedblock, and 4 yd3 of playground wood chips from Hasties. The quicker I can get ground covered, the sooner I can stop nearly poisioning myself from Round-Up exposure trying to keep weeds down!

That's a lot of wheelbarrows.

Libby checking out progress.

Now, with more space... I was able to score a sweet deal on this little playset. I edged the playground with some red landscaping logs, then staked and tied them down with durable sisal rope (seems to be holding so far).


Now came preparing the other half of the yard.
  • Flower garden
    I planted the crape myrtle, and purchased a flowering cherry tree (my wife's personal choice). I covered the area in mulch... and my wife plants some bulbs and flowers later.
  • Rock garden
    I planted mostly with varieties of juniper here, aiming to create a oval/semi-circle shape. In the center, I planted a hollywood juniper which I trimmed and bound with wire to train it with some bonsai-style interest.
  • Vegetable planter box
    Nothing but some giant lumber boards from Home Depot nailed together and buried in the ground. Also to be covered this up until planting next spring. 

Placing the junipers

Ready for gravel... planter box, and (soon to be) rock garden.

Finally, the last step... gravel. I started off the edges, then hiring two guys cheap off craigslist made spreading gravel easy-peasy.


That's even more wheelbarrows.

It felt great to get the last square foot of ground covered, and to rest assured those weeds were suffocated underneath a summer of hard work. There's still a lot of growing left for the young trees and bushes, and definitely more finishing touches to come next year... but it's been a great change for the yard. 




Monday, November 7, 2011

Open Letter to Sacramento County Leadership on AB 144, Bearing Arms

I have sent the notice below. Since Jerry Brown has made open carry illegal in California, if I carry a weapon I will exercise my 2nd Amendment right via concealed carry. Furthermore, I will not be applying for a permit to exercise my constitutionally protected right.
--------------------------------------------------
TO:
 SupervisorSerna@saccounty.net,
 JYee@saccounty.net,
 SusanPeters@saccounty.net,
 MacGlashanR@saccounty.net,
 NottoliD@saccounty.net,
 daoffice@sacda.org,
 info@sacsheriff.com
--------------------------------------------------

2nd Amendment of US Constitution: 
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." 

With Jerry Brown signing AB 144 into law, effective January 1 2012, open carry will be illegal in California. 

Whereas open carry previously fulfilled the means for a US citizen to bear arms, after January 1st, the only legal option remaining in Sacramento will be to pay fees and apply for a CCW license on a "may-issue" basis. 

This is in conflict with the 2nd Amendment, and I request that Sacramento resolve the conflict in it's existing policy. Charging an application fee and list of prerequisites is not compatible with a constitutionally protected right. I will no sooner apply for a permit to exercise free speech.

Sincerely,
--Signature---

--------------------------------------------------

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My Religion

9 out of 10 americans believe in God. Then again, only 4 in 10 believe in evolution, so you can't put faith in numbers. So, what's the truth about religion? Is there one true faith, or are they all bunk? There's so many variations... polytheism, or monotheism which could involve theism, deism or pantheism. Most people seem to adopt their parent's faith. Other people call themselves "agnostic", either to dodge the scorn of "athiest" or to play it safe in case Hell is real. So what's the truth about religion... not whether it's good or bad, but whether it's correct?

Let's consider a few options:
  • Theory A: One religion is true. All the folks from other religions, and especially athiests, have got the fundamental nature of the Universe completely wrong. (South Park suggested an answer)
  • Theory B: Many religions are true. There are all kinds of gods and creation scenarios for each culture in history.
  • Theory C: No religions are true. They were all made up and existence can be explains by natural phenomenon.
While Theory B would be pretty awesome, theories A and C (the theories most people subscribe to) would beg the question: "How could the other guy believe that?!".  Having studied psychology, I'm going to tackle the greater question, why 9 in 10 americans might falsly choose to believe in higher power:

Reasons why people may believe in religion:
  • Cognitive
    • Difficulty explaining experience: e.g. natural events, consciousness, where we came from
      (courtesy of Bill O'Reilly, see 1:40 for the classic exchange as example)
    • Anthropic principle/fallacy (i.e. self-aggrandizing that "man just be the center/meaning of the Universe")
  • Emotional
    • Fear of death
    • Avoidance of hell
    • Comfort of a protector, greater power
  • Social/Cultural
    • Transcribing value systems and traditions into transferable lessons
    • Advertising moral integrity to others, by publicly proclaiming that one fears supernatural punishment for bad behavior
    • Proliferations of organizations based upon self-replicating memes: i.e. believe this or you will suffer forever
So, theory A or C? One true religion or none? My conclusion relies upon the most important deductive method: Occam's Razor. Also known as the Law of Parsimony, is that among a set of theories, the one requiring the fewest assumptions is the correct theory. We've gained enough knowledge of our natural history to refute old creation myths. Some religions have thrown out what doesn't fit, and adapted by coming out with "Intelligent Design" theory. The common theme in the history between Religion vs Science has been the fallacy of the anthropic principle, that man is the meaning/purpose/center of the Universe. This isn't just believing that Man was created in God's image, or that Apollo's chariot drive the sun each morning. Copernicus' true and simplified sun-centered model of the solar system struggled against the charges of heresy and idea that man is the center of the universe (and Ptolemy's previous church-approved geocentric model which devised complex epicycles of planets ensure earth was the center). Human knowledge has always expanded in one direction: realizing that reality is larger than man. Today, physicists debate the nature of dark energy and dark matter, and  speculate about the age and size of the Universe after their "Big Bang". People still struggle against the anthropic principle, and I predict astronomists' CMB will one day be known as the shadows on the wall of another ptolemaic Plato's Den.

As a child, I often wondered "How could there be an end to the  Universe?" Because if it's finite, then numerous more assumptions must be made: why that size? What's beyond it? Where did it come from? Similarly, if one believes in god or gods, one must ask where they came from... and so forth. Therefore, Occam's Razor prescribes one rational truth: the Universe must be infinite in every way: time, space, dimensions, permutations. The Multiverse is a physical reality. No creation is required nor possible for infinity, because 8 "just is". God becomes extraneous in an equation where natural science explains evolution of the human animal, because: Infinity > God.

This is my religion. To fathom it is a religious experience, implying how utterly insignificant each of our lives and concerns are. When I've sat in a dentist chair having my teeth cleaned, I've actually used the Multiverse as my personal zen-tao koan to find my happy place.... because the Multiverse means you have and will exist again, in the same way the monkeys will type Shakespeare. By the same token, a replica of me has, is, and will again write these exact same words in a blog somewhere else in the Universe. As mind-blowing as the implications are - no faith is required here, just logic and reason. 


My post leaves out a major topic of religion: morality. However, ethics also are an exercise in reason, and I will refute anyone who says that religion is required for a source in morality. For more on that, read my previous posts on the Golden Rule and altruism.

Anyways, maybe John Lennon had it right after all...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

My First Skydive

My brother and I agreed to take my father skydiving a few months ago. We booked Saturday, Sept 17th at Skydance in Davis, and the day seemed to sneak up on me.  Around 48 hours ahead, I started realizing that I would soon be jumping out of an airplane. My first mistake was googling "skydance deaths", which caused me to seriously contemplate whether my affairs were in order. While statistically, I had read skydiving risk of fatality is roughly equivalent to driving 1000 miles in a car... it's still insane to jump out of a plane.

I felt relieved when arriving at Skydance, and seeing they had an established operation. Of course, they immediately have you sign two pages and signature 20 places saying you release all liability from your death. We waited a bit, then geared up. We were doing a 13,000 foot tandem jump (meaning with an instructor strapped to your back). My instructor seemed sober and experienced, but it unnerved me a bit when he was looking for a parachute pack... then went into a back room and seemed to grab whatever was lying around. Now, I'm sure they are organized and safe.... but I sure as hell would want to know exactly who packed my parachute if I hadn't done it myself!

We boarded the plane, and ascended fairly quickly. My father ended up towards the front, and my brother beside me. My brother's instructor had some fun with him, saying that my brothers straps were coming loose. I remember watching my father scoot to the edge of the plane, then off he went over the side and I thought "Damn, my dad is crazy!". The rest of them went one by one, then came our turn. My instructor rocked us back and off we went. Freefall.

My biggest misconception about skydiving was that it's just windy, based on the skydiving movie scenes I've watched like this and this. The entire freefall is intense, even after the initial acceleration. The ground is far below, but you can still see that it's speeding towards you. The cold air blasting your face and ears reminds you of your high velocity downward. Adrenaline surges through you. The 60 seconds feels like 10 seconds. The only two thoughts racing through your mind are 1) I am falling and 2) I hope the parachute works.

Around 5000 feet, I reached back and pulled the parachute release. It jerked us so our legs fell beneath us, and I looked up to my relief to see the stretched out nylon and yelled a "whoo hoo!". My instructor said "Wait, I have to fix something" and I felt him tugging and jerking at something. Then I realized we were still falling pretty fast and I heard a flapping sound from the parachute. Needless to say, I thought we were going to die and adrenaline surge #2 kicks in. After a few seconds of more jerking, I hear the instructor say "There we go." and suddenly we spin around as something unravels above us and we slow down to what feels like a normal pace. Wow.

I spent the next few moments catching my breath and was relieved when my instructor pointed down to a parachutes and said "There's your brother and your dad." We landed and what can I say... feels good to be alive!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Hypocrites

I recently read this article, and appreciated it because I've heard people attack libertarians with a 'hypocrisy' label or the 'love it or leave it' argument. For example, hearing: "If you are a libertarian then why don't you stop using the freeways/emergency services/library/post office/public transit/schools/etc?", or "Why don't you move to Somalia, they have no government?". I've replied with clumsy metaphors, such as "If someone stole your food and money, then threw a free buffet... would you be a hypocrite to eat?" However, I thought the article addressed the question more elegantly:


   "Suppose Z steals an apple from Y and then X comes along and takes this fruit away from Z. Did X do anything wrong? [...] Of course not [...] Z is the absolutely least deserving of this foodstuff."

and their conclusion...

"the more money you take from the coffers of the state the better libertarian you are"


A dictionary defines "hypocrisy" as "a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not". Libertarians believe in individualism and property rights. So if someone steals from you, you are more than justified to steal it back... whether the thief wears a hood, badge, or uniform. However, after 30% of your income is taxed/stolen/redistributed to countless programs and government monopolies, it's hard to calculate precisely how much you are owed back after driving your kids on public freeways to public schools. So, it's a messy game - but I can pretty much guarantee that it will be nearly impossible for any productive, employed individual to get their money back from the system. So give it your best shot!


To net profit from a collectivist system (as difficult as it may be) would be immoral, but to deny that it is "mooching" must be either 1) ignorance, or 2) hypocrisy. I think hypocrisy is worse of the two because it's dishonest, rather than just lazy or dumb. I would shake my head at a welfare bum who said  "Hell man, it's crazy... but they just give me free money". However, advocating the system based upon some altruistic motives smells of lying or faking it. If a socialist can't outline to me why they don't altruistically share their relatively comfortable american lifestyle with starving african kids, then they're going to have to chew the "hypocrite "label.


There is nothing hypocritical about openly supporting a set of prioritized values, then pragmatically acting to serve those values. Suppose a self-proclaimed "pacifist" must kill a murderer to save their child. Calling the pacificist a hypocrite for saving their child is nonsense, and it would be a tragic sacrifice to allow the murder. Similarly, libertarians accept that limited government is a pragmatic solution which will better serve individualism than would anarchy (which would evolve into tyranny). It's not hypocritical for a libertarian to vote for a Republican or Democrat, the "lesser of two evils". See Duverger's Law (Actually, pragmatically there's nothing wrong with voting third-party, or abstaining... a bumper sticker probably has more impact than a vote.). I'll quote the article again for the real point here:  "it's not necessary for us to become martyrs". You can believe something firmly without throwing yourself in front of a tank for it. You must play the game that's being played... while at the same time trying to improve the rules of the game. So, if anyone ever calls you an "extremist" or a "radical"... take it as a complement. "Compromise" is a dirty word, unless it helps you get more of what you value for it. There is nothing to be proud of in calling oneself a "centrist" or a "moderate". That just means you are unsure and wavering in your values. In my book, that's only slightly better than being a hypocrite.



Friday, July 15, 2011

Zuck off, Facebook.


I've felt about Facebook like many people feel about Microsoft or Wal-Mart.... a company you dislike, but used anyways due to lack of alternatives. I just don't trust that Zuckerberg twerp. Facebook's relationship with it's users was exemplified by his infamous leaked IM chat referring to his users as "dumb fucks".

On the contrary, I admire Google. I prefer their products and I buy their stock. They consistently deliver API's, feeds, import/export capabilities, and support open standards for their services. Google puts engineering first, marketing second. Facebook is a "walled garden"... hoarding user content, and neglecting integration with other services. Facebook always complies with law enforcement requests to access profiles. Google notifies you of such requests and challenges them. Facebook even plays dirty against Google, hiring PR firms to slant them. Yep, that Zuckerberg is a twerp. Sergey and Larry are more my kind of geeks.

So, I'm glad to see Google coming out with a viable alternative to Facebook... Google+. After some duds like Google Wave and Google Buzz, I think they got it right with this "circles" concept. That's been a lacking social network feature for a while now... "Uh oh, my boss joined Facebook". Yeah, now you can target those posts about how you got wasted last night or that dirty joke to a "circle" . It remains to be seen whether most people will ditch Facebook for Google+, but I have. Heck, I've always strived to keep a nice tight "friends list" count fewer than 100 anyhow. For me, it's about who owns my content.

So, if you've ever wanted to tell Facebook to 'Zuck off."... take the leap. Maybe it or Twitter will be the next Facebook.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Geeky Home Security System

Since we moved, we've been pestered by ADT salesmen. They offer to install a security system, then want to make you pay $30+ per month for "monitoring" service. I found that ridiculous, so decided to do it myself. I'm not worried about intruders while I'm home. That's what Smith & Wesson is for. I wanted a system I could customize, extend, and monitor remotely. After doing some research, I decided X10 was the way to go.

X10 has been around a long time. It's a standard protocol which sends signals across the electrical system. So, you have devices you set a "housecode" on like A5, B11, etc. Then the devices can receive "ON" and "OFF" signals when plugged in. Many X10 devices are Made-in-China components which can be bought for dirt cheap on eBay.

So, I drew it out and went X10 shopping on eBay:

  • 4 x motion detectors (MS16A) = $25
  • 3 x light switch modules (WS12A) = $30
  • 2 x remote keyfobs (KR19A) = $10
  • RF transceiver module (TM571) = $8
  • Lamp module, chime module = $15
  • Serial 2-way computer interface (CM11A) = $40
Now, here comes the magic. That last item, the CM11A, allows X10 signals to interface with a computer. With the right software and know-how... you can customize behavior with any rules and scripts you like. My first problem, however, was that I don't want to leave a desktop computer running 24/7/365 in order to have a home security system. 

Then I discovered this great little item: The SheevaPlug, $99. This is a self-contained linux computer, the size of 2 decks of cards, ready to plug in. It has an ethernet port and USB port, ready to login (via SSH) and configure remotely. It runs on just a few watts, so the idea is to leave this plugged in running all the time... controlling my X10 system (and whatever else I come up with later on).


The software I loaded on the SheevaPlug allows for advanced features ADT doesn't offer. I use a fantastic little free program called Heyu to handle all the CM11A X10 commands. Heyu allows you to set rules, conditions, and launch scripts. I also installed Apache web server, adding some simple CGI scripts to give me a remote interface, so I can check logs and control all home devices from my phone browser. One can use Linux cron schedules for house timers. I connected an old webcam I had lying around with a USB hub.... to add video monitoring and image capture to the security system.

My web interface:

There's a lot more detail to it... and of course some hair pulling involved troubleshooting, but I'm quite happy with how it's turned out. Of course, one must put a lock on the electrical breaker box with this type of approach. There is also some finesse involved with mounting ugly X10 motion detectors (I used PVC joiners to mount them adjustable, and painted them to match the background). Once past all the challenges of getting SheevaPlug configured... one can customize away. My wife and I can use the "keyfob" to arm/disarm the alarm system, and also to toggle the outside lights from motion-detection mode to timer mode (e.g. if we have guests). The chime and lamp modules are used as indicators when we arm/disarm. When the motion alarm is tripped... it will instantly text message both my wife and I, take a photo, and begin chiming and blinking lights inside and outside the house. We can check the motion logs and view the webcam image to investigate. There's more to it, and I'm sure I'll add more in the future. All in all, my system totaled somewhere over $200, which will pay for itself compared to ADT in a matter of months.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Penal Thoughts About Gladiators

That is the gayest title I've ever given a blog.

So, I just watched the movie Death Race, which was similar to Running Man. They are both about prison inmates playing deadly sport for televised entertainment. I think that is a great concept. Now, let's be clear on one matter first. Our prison system is f*cked up. They say public prisons cost nearly $50,000/year on average to incarcerate someone. The US has the highest incarceration rate because we lock up so many for non-violent offenses (e.g. drugs). Then there's the butt rape. The Supreme Court just ordered CA to release tens of thousands of prisoners due to "overcrowding". That is all f*cked up.

I blabbed on about this topic a while ago... saying that "justice" demands free-market labor camp prisons. Justice should be about reciprocation, debt, and contracts. For example, say a court/jury deems I have harmed another person's life or property, and therefore incurred a debt. I should pay for the damage (if accidental), and pay double the damage (if intentional). I am not freed until the debt is repaid. I also pay for my prison, and may choose my own prison. It could be a low-cost rent-a-shed with barbed wire, or one with amenities like our state prisons. Of course, the wait for freedom in an expensive prison would be long, as I strive to repay my debt on top of room/board. If the prison let's me escape, they are liable for all debts. Murderers can't repay their debt, so their fate is decided by the victim's next of kin: be it hard labor or death penalty. This is what a privatized penal system would look like in a society morally dedicated to free choice.

Here's where we get to bringing back the gladiators! Let's put American Gladiators back on the air, but with swords and nunchucks instead of Nerf batons. It would be distasteful to many, but I'm sure there is a solid Pay-Per-View audience out there. As you could imagine, the salary would be huge... especially for champions in the arena. Some prisoners might strive to earn freedom quickly by fighting. There are probably even some macho-agro free dudes out there who would choose to fight just for fame. I don't know if I would choose to watch such a thing, but I do enjoy boxing. It would surely be less barbaric than our current penal system.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Goodbye Downtown

This will be my last week living in downtown Sacramento. We are moving to the 'burbs for more space and yard for the younglings. I've lived downtown for 6+ years, and will miss it. I thought I would capture some experiences that I look back at fondly (in no particular order):

  • Biking or cabbing it to bars.
  • Stumbling hungover to Waffle Square, or Fox & Goose (if the line wasn't too long).
  • Catching a band at Old Ironsides.
  • Walking to Old Sacramento and Downtown Plaza for some weekend shopping and snacking.
  • Walking to Friday Concerts at the Park during the summer.
  • Selecting a piece of torte from Rick's Dessert Diner (which is so delectable, it takes me two days to finish)
  • Going for strolls around Southside Park.
  • Seeing odd characters hanging out on my street (such as clowns, transvestites, and various others)
  • Walking and biking to various brew-fests and wine-fests (West Coast Brew Fest at Miller Park being my favorite).
  • Neighbors like Tony(80 y.o.) and Casey(RIP) who lived on my block for decades.
  • The delicious pie and plain service at Zelda's Pizza.
  • My corner store that always has a good variety of cold beer (and other groceries of course), cashiered by Tony... a deadpan asian guy with a mullet.
  • Making lots of cool friends at Dive Bar Connoisseurs.
  • Being close to everything, with so many great dining options.
  • Mooching free wine at 2nd Saturday Art Walks.
  • Hipsters at the supermarket.
  • A short commute.
  • Sunday walks to get lunch at Burgers and Brew, followed by some fro-yo next door.
  • Pulling Libby to the Southside Park playground on her train.
  • Big shade trees in the summer.
A few things I will not miss:
  • Big leafy trees in the fall.
  • Close encounters with the smelly, homeless kind
  • Dog shit on my front lawn
  • People stealing my stuff
  • The ridiculous Sacramento City Council
  • Fearing for my life anytime I walk down K Street Mall.
  • Stray cats
  • Rude party kids down the block up too late noisy.
  • Air quality
  • NIMBY's and communists in my neighborhood association.
  • Graffiti
  • Police helicopters with searchlights and loudspeakers.
So long downtown life...  It's time to for me to move on!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Last Will & Testament

Yeah, I don't plan to die right away and this topic sounds morbid, but hey I could get hit by a bus tomorrow, so never say 'never' right?  So here it is... my legally binding last will & testament, because I haven't gone to the trouble of doing the official lawyer-estate thing yet.

My organs go on eBay. Oh wait, that's not legal... okay so anyone who needs them can have them, if I haven't abused them too hard by the time I croak. If I wind up vegetable, fruit, or meatloaf (like the dude in Metallica "One")... call Dr. Kevorkian or just pull the plug. As for my remains... I don't want to be buried in the ground. That is just gross to be eaten by worms and bacteria. I choose cremation. Should anyone (e.g. family) choose to keep my ashes... I would prefer being stored in a container with a lid, so I don't spill on the floor. Tupperware is fine... I'm not picky. Just label me or slap my photo on there so I'm not accidentally baked into a casserole. If cupboard space is tight, I would prefer my ashes be planted under a tree or mailed to a socialist congressman in an unmarked envelope (haha, last laugh on me!).

As for ceremony arrangements, yeah I don't really care. If there is any kind of gathering, I just request that either Motley Crue "Home Sweet Home" or Guns 'n Roses "Knockin On Heavens Door" be played... because those are sweet ass tunes. It would also be great if some guns were fired in the air at some point - not in a military funeral way, but more of a jihad AK-47 kind of way. (Not kidding... consider it my last request dammit!) As for all my sh*t. I don't care, just keep my guns in the family. Also, somebody save off all my posts to disk...because I don't know what happens to them when people die.

If I have any choice in the matter, my last words will be "I WILL BE AVENGED!" Those are the baddest last words I can imagine... so if no one is around when I die, those were my last words - I'll make sure to say them as the last light fades. Just take my word for it. Rest in peace out biatches!!!


Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Golden Rule

Everyone learned the Golden Rule as a child. It is the ethic of reciprocity. It may be worded different ways, but always means: "Treat others how you'd like others to treat you". It's called "golden" for the value in it's universality and simplicity. A child can understand it, because it captures all of humanity's virtues: fairness, equality, empathy, justice.

Sometimes, we take simple things for granted. We've got religions with commandments and thousands of laws written, yet consistently applying the ethic of reciprocity would encapsulate all of that. Whether you raise your child christian, pagan, or atheist... teaching a child the Golden Rule would be the only moral compass needed to see how being a cheat, hypocrite, killer, or thief is wrong.

This discussion gets interesting when you bring it into the adult world where money, power, and politics enter the equation for individual decisions. Crafty adults bend a "do unto others" justification around what they seek for personal gain. These explanations always bastardize the Golden Rule, ignoring the fact that preferences aren't universal. All people are different. For this reason, the Golden Rule is first and foremost an ethic of individual rights.

Consider examples:
  • A drug prohibitionist says "Make drugs illegal because I'd want people to stop me from doing drugs.". What does the drug prohibitionist say when his cheeseburgers are restricted by a vegan?
  • A socialist who says "We need to take from the rich, and give to the poor". What does the socialist say when his home is robbed by someone poorer than them?
  • A neo-conservative says "We need to occupy Iraq, because ...". What does the neo-conservative say when his homeland is invaded and occupied by another country?
Perhaps in each case, the advocate for "doing unto others" would attempt to justify 'indirect consequences'... such as drugs lead to violence, or a hundred other complicated reasons. The simple hypocrisy remains in each example... they wouldn't like an analogous choice being forced upon them. The Golden Rule prescribes not just 'doing unto others' but 'leaving others alone'. Some may have heard the joke "The Golden Rule = He who has the gold makes the rules". It could be retorted "He who makes the rules, takes the gold". In both cases, the real Golden Rule is being broken.