Friday, November 18, 2016

Revisiting Tolerance

I wrote about tolerance a while ago. These sentiments of mine are nearly unchanged, but I think I need to address the specific issue of intolerance and its danger to an otherwise tolerant society. Basically one of the few things we have to be intolerant of is intolerance.

It seems self-defeating, if we are intolerant of intolerance then we are hypocritical. But let’s observe it from a slightly different vantage. Let us draw a hopefully erroneous link between intolerance and violence and say that every person disliking another person to the point of hate based on ethnicity is likely to be violent toward that ethnicity.

If we tolerate their hate but stop them from being violent, what have we accomplished? If we are perfectly omnipresent and can stop the violence before it begins, will the world be better? But we aren’t omnipresent, nor are our imperfect criminal justice representatives, and on top of that there can be threats of violence that can impact a person’s life just as much as a violent act, all the way up to death. You could call it psychological violence, let’s not escalate this too far. Unless the victim has a strong, supporting, understanding community it will likely end up doing just as much harm in the end.

So let’s go one step beyond and curtail the threats, immediate claims of first amendment violation. And that is where this argument wallows for all time. Everything comes back to the rights of an individual, or so it seems. Both sides start saying terrible things and the debate becomes a conflagration. It is up to the third party on the intolerant’s perceived side of the debate to correct that person. Yes, it is intolerance of a sort, but rather than the intolerance breeding more and more of itself, it is curtailed, one less perceived supporter.

Of course the medium bringing you this blog is probably partly to blame in the ease to which a person might find other people as intolerant as they are, with no way for us to quarantine a person and their brand of intolerance.

So what do we do? Well I have to confess that I have major issues with this thought. It’s not skin color or ethnicity that bother me, it’s beliefs. I will tolerate beliefs that I don’t hold, but it must be mutual. What I don’t want to do is support a advocacy group that is intolerant of other people’s beliefs. But then how can I hold these opposing thoughts? Am I contradicting myself? It would be nice to live in a nice insulated world, which I do in a way, and believe that I can get to know people I meet and respect them for who they are.

Am I going to support advocacy groups that have attacked Christians? If I flat out say “no” then how am I different than Martin Niemöller and his speech turned into poem “First they came…”? I still need to work it out, reflect, pray, and think about it. In the meantime I think it is absolutely imperative that we know what is going on from trusted sources, so I will definitely support NPR to continue reporting on as much as possible.

One major thing that I believe in and am supporting is Science. I might be looked down upon by some intolerant christians, but I believe that we really need strong science in order to understand our world and make it look more and more like the good parts of Star Trek, namely the abolition of material want.

Science is getting a bad rap from so many different groups that it pervades and distorts findings, but this is easier to do because of how many scientists have been corrupted by the need for “positive” findings in the science community. I did go on at length about this topic, but the main point here is that we need to support open and transparent science.

Go to Amazon Smile FAQs and consider listing the Center for Open Science as the beneficiary even if I don’t work for them anymore. Or become a member at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Or both!

Unintended Consequences

“What am I charged with?” Dan couldn’t help but lean forward in the chair since his wrists were chained to the middle of the table.

“Terrorist activities and destruction of property.” The detective read from his notebook.

“I’ve done no such thing.”

“We found you standing in front of the property with materials that we believe brought down the building. Do you have anything to say?”

“I plead the fifth.”

“There isn’t much room for that amendment in this current administration, we could send you down with the ‘bad dudes’ and just forget about you for a while.” The FBI agent leaning against the wall mentioned as though commenting that shorts shouldn’t be worn in this weather.

“Is that why I haven’t had the chance to contact a lawyer? And you know that the truth value of whatever you get me to say will be suspect under duress or threats of duress.” Dan tried not to sound too smug, it would just get him in trouble. In fact that may have been too far now that he thought about it. He looked for signs that the agent might be upset.

The door opened and an officer came into the room and handed the agent a clipboard. Maybe a bit of frustration eased from his face at Dan, but was readily replaced with consternation.

“Mr. Forth, I have it here that the building is back to normal, but I saw it this morning and it was just a heap of ash?” Dan stayed quiet, it was certainly good that the building was back, but he hoped it wasn’t back to normal. After thirty seconds of staring at him the agent went on, “Well if that’s the case, let’s go look at it, you too detective.”


Arriving in the parking lot in the unmarked black car Dan could see that all the trees around the building were untouched, good. Other than appearing cleaner the building seemed to be exactly the same as when he had set the nanites to do their thing the night before.

The three of them got out with Dan in the middle and still handcuffed. Dan saw the crowd of employees standing at the edge of the police cordon. He was pretty sure that no one would be injured with the nanites’ protocols.

As they approached he saw another agent, probably the one in charge and an officer in uniform talking with the director of the building.

“I can’t let you in there sir, it was a pile of rubble this morning if you remember, who knows how fast it could collapse?”

“Don, I brought him back.”

“Ah good, Sir, this is the man that we arrested on the premises early this morning. Do you recognize him?”

“Never seen him in my life, what did you do with my building?” The man tried to tower over Dan rather unsuccessfully.

Dan stayed mute.

The agent in charge glanced back and forth a couple times. “Alright, let’s go on a little tour, I have a gut feeling about this building.”

“But how do we get in?” The director almost wailed, “There aren’t any keyholes on the doors or rfid scanners.”

Dan spoke up knowing this would link him more than circumstantially. “Engineering protocol 2.22, activate security system.” He was hit from the side and taken down, striking the side of his head because he was still in cuffs. He hadn’t seen that coming.

“What was that?”

“We aren’t in any danger.” Dan managed to say and then groaned. He saw two guns trained on him with the third making sweeps of the perimeter.

“All clear.” The officer holstered his gun and made a move to help up the director who had also been knocked down.

“What the hell did you do?” The agent from the station hauled Dan up to a standing position without the care the officer had observed for the director. Dan gritted his teeth as the cuffs bit into his wrists.

“I activated the building so that the director and his staff can access it. Try it, just walk toward the door as though you were going to work.” The last directed at the director.

The director fidgeted a moment and got a nod of confirmation from Dan. Of course he was starting to feel more of the bruise on his face.

After a few moments the officer in charge said, “Well this has to be the weirdest case to date. If it’s safe,” another nod from Dan, “then we should investigate.”

“Welcome director,” the door slid open as the director finally turned as though to go in. He stopped and the door stood open. “Unauthorized persons accompanying. Should I issue them temporary passes?”

“Just say yes,” Dan whispered.


“Four passes issued, expiration at the end of today’s work day. Let me know if you need any of them extended or revoked.” The door patiently stayed open while the two agents thoroughly scoured the inside for any signs of threats.

When they walked in the transformation was complete, even though the outside hadn’t changed, other than fixing major flaws that couldn’t easily be seen, the inside was an entirely different building. The reception area was a sunny glade with a desk seemingly made out of interwoven branches that held up a flat surface. Dan smiled thinking about all the work still going on behind the scenes. Next spring the staff would be in for a surprise as they found out that the desk and walls that seemed to be made out of three trunks would leaf and bloom with hypo-allergenic flowers of the appropriate types.

They toured around and were completely engrossed in the amazing internal architecture. After half an hour the director spoke up, “Sirs, this is amazing. I don’t think we need to press charges against this man. In fact if anything he should probably be congratulated. From what I’ve seen and he explained, this is a huge improvement over what we had, and it recaptures space that we could have never used in the old design. On top of that all the things that needed to be preserved were.”


Dan opened the door to a knock, a tall burly man stood there. “Are you the guy that rebuilt the building?”

“Uh, yes, what may I do for you?”

“I was out sick last week.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, I hope you are feeling better.”

“I would be if I hadn’t been let go.”

“Why would you have been let go?”

“You failed to tell them that the whole building is now self-cleaning.”

“Yeah, so? I figured it was a nice bonus.”

“I was the custodian.”

“Oh,” awkward pause, “Certainly you could better use your talents elsewhere?”

“Ha, what an elitist thing to say, but you won’t be able to tell that to the next guy.” Dan saw the gun drawn and froze.


*Note: I've always had a bit of a fascination with the idea of how much nano-robotics could do. In college it was an idea of how much a thorough body-wide system of robots could make me an invulnerable hero like the Silver Surfer or later iterations of Iron Man's Extremis armor. Though I have not read either of those comics so I think my influences were from other science fiction books. As I exited the college days of uncertainty I still thought about the nano-robots and how they could be used for construction: give them raw resources and a plan and get a perfect building built in a day or two. Of course there are many issues with that as I address one or two in this story.

I did also write several beginnings of stories hinging on nano-robotics, I started rewriting a few of them this last year. With writing 50k words for NaNoWriMo last year I think that I could possibly finish them and maybe publish. Now that I think about it I have three nearly distinct universes: Nano, Human Galactic Proliferation, and the Halver universe at least in science fiction. I also have a few fantasy worlds, but I really haven't focussed on those for years.

Friday, November 11, 2016


Decisive? Derisive?

Right, I just want to say that I don't like the outcome of the election. How can it be that my optimism is always smashed? Oh, that's right, I am a realist and every time I want to be optimistic I get a reminder why I am a realist. Most people might call my realism pessimism, and I would agree sometimes.

I hope I am being hyperbolic, but I am with Scalzi even if I don't have lots of diverse friends. If anything I really hope that my story about future luddites really doesn't have any strong parallels to more people-like characters, or real people for that matter.

I guess I want to be pleasantly surprised, so I am being overly pessimistic, or at least I hope it is overly pessimistic.

In other less pessimistic news: I got the simulator running for the NASA Space Robot Challenge, but then ran out of disk space on my Ubuntu setup and couldn't turn the computer on after shutting it down to go deal with the windows partition. I guess that really isn't good news, going to have to break out the ohmmeter and see if the button works anymore and then work down the system from that.

Lots of other things, Jessie started a new job, the new town has been so good in that area compared to the old one. I am dealing with lots of birds, photos, thinking about software, you name it, but I am finally getting into the swing of things and I hope to become much more productive over the next few weeks. Maybe even write a novel, though I think I overbooked that one. ;)

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Sets and Sequences

Or “I could mess up everything with two clicks.”

Maybe not quite that simple, but close. That is the way I feel about dealing directly with the SQL database. Why do I feel so much better about writing a script to go through species by species to fill in, asset by asset, the queue for people to draw boxes.

What are the differences? Despite not knowing Java that well it still generally reacts like a script and can go through each asset one at a time. I can check each asset to see if is a good asset. I can test this, have been asked to test this, and will look into unit-testing this somewhat thoroughly.

Also I have written 2,600 words for National Novel Writing Month. I think I might be a bit… ambitious. Two classes and 50k words in November? Maybe. It is also the second installment of my first NaNoWriMo novel, which I still need to continue editing.