A missive on the tragedies over our modern age

I don’t usually comment on these sorts of things, at least not publicly because of all the controversy and other crap that comes along with it, but I saw a thread posted by a friend of mine about the most recent school shooting in the US. I read the subsequent debate that followed, and I couldn’t help but feel that it seems like when tragedies do occur people in general like to jump to conclusions without really stepping back and thinking through the issues that lead to the tragedy. And in reality, in all of these incidents, I think the issues are FAR more complicated than guns, or mentally unstable people, or whatever else might be the scapegoat the hour, day, week, etc.

I see, when I hear about these incidents, true tragedy – I can’t imagine the loss of one of my children at the hands of another. I can sense what that must feel like, but of course until that happens to you, it’s only the idea or kernel of what it would be like. And I certainly wouldn’t wish it upon anyone in this world. It saddens me to hear about another situation that may have been preventable, may have been mitigated and the “if only” thoughts that go through your head. If only I had seen the signs…

I think the reality in our complex world is that it is exactly that: complicated. So many issues wrapped up in one ball of shock and horror. On all sides, there is only passion for a cause and no objective reasoning. No objective analysis of what is happening, no one stepping up to gather the data to lay it out for constructive review, and certainly not many of those who would actually take that data and do something meaningful with it. I would have to admit that all I am doing here is talking about the situation, and not actively pursuing a way to effectively manage the problems that lead to it and it’s truly because the issues are so much bigger than just me and what I think about it.

Take any one of these situations however and I think some things are just inarguable fact. Clearly the kids that are doing these things are mentally unhealthy in one aspect or another (whether anyone noticed, whether they had already been diagnosed, whether they were already on a treatment plan, is not considered at this point but would certainly be useful data points). Clearly, in these situations the kids have gotten their hands on a firearm that, for all intents and purposes, does not belong to THEM – they belong to someone else who may or may not have legally obtained them (and whether or not they were legally obtained is an entirely separate issue). Clearly, in these situations, when the events unfold they are recorded and broadcast to a worldwide audience not moments after the situations occur, in the face of millions and millions of people and covered so thoroughly that it’s hard not to know when these things happen.

It seems like these are key observations that few could argue with on face value (forgive me if I left something out here – but know that this is intended as a statement of the facts relatable to all of these incidents). From here, I think in all of these situations, knee jerk reactions and theories and ideas and all the rest of what comes after simply muddies the waters and makes it difficult to move forward in finding reasonable solutions. But these facts raise several question in my mind, and I don’t know if the true and real answers to the questions might help to guide a framework for reasonable solutions, but I suspect in some sense it would.

Now this is where we jump from fact into the fantasy land I call my own head – so from this point further, I’m speaking to my interpretation of the cause and effect. I don’t have all the facts, I don’t even think any studies have been performed to cover it all (but there probably should be a push for them), so this is all based on the information I have at hand.

On the topic of mentally unstable children, I think it’s a wide open book that has yet to be truly read. Is it the mental instability causing the problem? Are they mentally unstable because their parents are/were? Are their parents involved, and/or paying attention? Are they being treated with medication? Do we know fully what the implications are of treating an unstable mind with these mind altering substances we have engineered? Is it the drugs themselves that are to blame? These are the questions that I have no answers for, but those in which I think would help paint a better picture of what’s really going on in the minds of these children.
One the thing that sticks out most to me is that these are kids we’re talking about here. They don’t possess all of the rights and freedoms that adults do and I think it well known why that’s the case. They lack the experience and knowledge that’s required to make the right decisions, they lack the ability to make good judgment calls because let’s face it, that’s not endemic to being a human, it’s something that’s learned. That’s why we as parents are responsible for them and everything they do, until such time as law dictates that the child is an adult (whether or not the child is truly capable of being a responsible adult, again, entirely different issue). I think there are many contributing factors that lead to it, but I also think there are some trends that can be gleaned from what is happening in the world and those trends might be indicators of something more sinister that eventually leads to more mentally unstable children coming up in our society, who lack the ability to make decisions to do the right things. What I feel I know is that you can’t hang your hat on video games, or media, or any one single issue that is causing this apparent increase in mentally unstable children willing to grab a gun and shoot up their peers. It’s as complex a topic as any of them come and one in which I think that even with the best minds, would take us years to truly and fully understand.

On the topic of guns, what comes to my mind most immediately is the old adage that “with great power, comes great responsibility”. Based on our constitution we have the right to bear arms and while I think the original intention for declaring that right was obvious to anyone who knows the history behind it, I feel that over the past 200 years that the reasons for this right have evolved from one of “protecting ourselves from the oppressive British government” to one of “protecting ourselves for ANY oppressive government”, including our own. Inherent to this right is the responsibility that comes along with it. I own a few guns myself, thanks to this right, and have obtained them legally. I’ve taken my children out and taught them how to use them – and in doing so I am training them to respect the power that comes along with wielding such a weapon. They are not toys and life is real – this is not a virtual playground where your “opponents” don’t really die, but real and final. It is MY responsibility to ensure that I have control over my firearms, whether or not I’m standing guard over them at all times. It is MY responsibility that my firearms remain under my control and thus I have them locked away in a place where only I can gain access to them. I don’t think in any of these school shootings that the perpetrators have obtained the guns illegally through any means other than by obtaining them from their homes. They are children – they do NOT possess all of the rights and freedoms granted by the constitution of our great nation, and it’s my job as a parent to ensure they know this and understand what it means.

Finally, on the topic of the media and subsequently, the coverage of these incidents, I think we can all agree that with the age of the Internet came the age of knowing what’s going on all over the world in real time. I think this has amplified the issue with media in general and the implications of the fact that anything and everything you see and hear is colored in some way by the people gathering and distributing the information that you receive through these channels. I also think that because of the fact that information flows so freely now, that it reaches a much wider audience in a much more expedient fashion. Overall I feel this is a positive trend, but it’s clear to me that this can and has been used for the sole purpose of making money and pushing political agendas. Let us not forget that the media we believe so forthright does not inherently have a responsibility for reporting objective fact, but rather they have an unwavering responsibility to drive revenue for their investors and shareholders. It is this duty to their shareholders that seems to come first, before objective presentation of fact that leads to coverage leaning to one side or the other, or to the embellishment and conflagration of fact into something more than it truly is.

Let us also not forget, that as has been proven time and time again, the media can and will be used as a tool to attain notoriety – that as ugly as it is, these kids who have perpetrated the heinous crimes of killing not one, but several other people, are now “famous” and in some cases household names. I don’t necessarily feel that this has been a factor in all of the incidents that we’ve heard of, but I can imagine at least one of these kids has thought about that fact and considered it an encouragement to carry out their final act. Nevertheless I still feel as though the major issue here is that the media possess and wield a great power and it is questionable as to whether the media as a whole has acted responsibly in presenting the real facts surrounding these incidents (and for that matter, anything they cover).

So in writing this missive on what I believe are some of the most confounding and real issues of our time, it seems to really boil down to responsibility. Responsible parenting. Responsible gun ownership. Responsible reporting. It feels like throughout the chain there is no accountability to anything but oneself (or to shareholders, and thus, money) anymore, and the bar used to measure that accountability is highly malleable to say the least. And it shouldn’t be – we as people have a moral obligation to do what’s right by the people, but all too often it seems that something or someone else is to blame.

I’d like to say that I certainly have only scratched the surface here. In writing this I have focused solely on the situation of mass shootings in our schools, at the hands of children. I think some of this discussion is relevant to situations involving colleges and movie theaters as well (to name a few recent examples), but of course in those cases the theme changes somewhat because we are dealing with adults as the perpetrators, rather than children. However I feel that if you roll those situations back all the way to the beginning, they ALL started with these themes. Responsible parenting. Responsible gun ownership. Responsible media.

In the end, I feel that the only way we as a society can grapple with these issues and come to some meaningful solutions would be something akin to moving mountains. Nevertheless, you can make objective and useful decisions if you have at your hands, the unobjectionable facts of the matters at hand. We’ve got to be willing to face the hard facts, to take responsibility for our actions, to be held accountable for the things we do and don’t do. I don’t know where I’d begin to try to get more involved, but I’d like to know – I’d rather not be the one sitting here spouting my opinions. I’d rather be the one catalyzing some meaningful change in our society and would love to know how I can do so. If you have some ideas or would like to continue a constructive, objective debate on these topics, send me a message!

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Setup a Raspberry Pi as a Web and Database Server

Late last year (2012) I ordered and received a couple of Raspberry Pi (Model B with 256MB RAM) from Element14.  As part of that order, I also ordered preloaded 4GB SD cards with the linux distro already on them.  When I got them I was really excited to get started with them but for reasons beyond my control, I’ve been too busy to really play around with them much.

Lately however I’ve had more time to pursue some home automation, integration and generally geeky projects that I’ve been wanting to do for a while.  Most of the home automation work I’ve done so far is with Z-Wave based controllers and devices (mostly light switches, but also thermostats and door locks), and while doing research on compatibility and other such things, I saw several mentions of OpenSprinkler for tying sprinkler automation into their systems.  So I decided to check it out and ended up buying one of the OpenSprinkler Pi boards from Ray’s Hobby.

While I was waiting for my board to ship, I thought it might be a good idea to figure out what needed to be done to prep one of my Raspberry Pi boards to build the sprinkler controller.  I found a nice article on wikiHow which details the process of getting the Raspberry Pi updated and getting the system configured for SSH and as a web/database server.  There are several similar articles I found with steps to update the OS.  Borrowing from the wikiHow article, I ran through the following process and made notes along the way.

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Upgrading My MacBook Pro Hard Drive to SSD

 

I’ve been wanting to upgrade the hard drive in my MacBook Pro for a while now.  I bought it in 2010 (it’s a Mid-2010 year MBP – 15″ with the Core i7 2.66ghz processor in it).  It’s a great machine, and overall, it has been nice to use.  However the one pain point that got to me time and again was how long it took to boot it up and run applications.  I had already upgraded the RAM, seeing as how RAM is so cheap these days (though I was remiss to find out my MBP only supports 8GB) so the next logical upgrade is the drive. With prices on SSDs coming down so drastically over the years, and with speeds of 300MB+ per second read and write (and easily 500MB+ in the latest generation), it’s a chance to drastically improve the performance of any system.

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An Introduction to the Arduino Uno

Arduino

I have always had an interest in the world of electronics and ended up working in the technology realm because of it. My experience with the Leo Villareal exhibits really inspired me to explore that interest further. In my exploration I took a look at micro-controllers, prototyping and the Arduino.

From the site (www.arduino.cc): “Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s intended for artists, designers, hobbyists and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.” I couldn’t have summarized it better myself. This community of hackers, so-to-speak, have come together to build a small but very robust and capable platform that can be used as the core for just about anything you can imagine.

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Technology and the Origin of Life

It’s not every day that you come across something that truly inspires you.  You know those things that really grab you. Those things that make you say WOW that’s really cool.  I had one of those moments recently and it’s cascaded through my life sort of like a steel ball through a pinball machine.  If only we could all feel and put this inspiration to use in our daily lives, and more often.

Leo Villareal Big Bang

Big Bang

Walking through the office, I noticed a new piece of artwork in a coworker’s cube.  A perfect circle it was, thick and somewhat shiny and sparkly.  One side of it had a dark background with a smattering of little multicolored dots about it in what seemed like a random pattern.  If you stared long enough you might detect a pattern to it even if a trick of the mind, trying to place some order in the chaos.  On the other side of this post card was information for an exhibit that was on display at the Nevada Museum of Art.

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Reinventing my blog space and putting more answers at your fingertips

Reading through my previous posts, I realize this place has nothing much to offer folks passing through from the far reaches of the Internet. I’ve neglected my duty to post more content over the past several years primarily because I’ve been focusing on trading hours for dollars. I’ve also been keenly focused on the ratio that we all know as the work-life balance.  I’ve come to this juncture, a place where I’ve been before, and realize that I could be utilizing all this great technology to my (and possibly your) advantage by putting more relevant, useful information here.

It’s a shame really. The net is chock full of information that actually is useful. I should know as I’m an avid (ab)user of the informational component of the Internet. I probably Google at least a dozen times a day for things I’m interested in, from mindless browsing to things that make my life (and job) easier. Through all the browsing and hunting I’ve come to realize that the one thing I might be able to do here is to put useful information at not only my fingertips, but within reach of others as well.

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How to replace your Motorola RAZR LCD screen

I recently upgraded from the Motorola RAZR V3 to a SLVR L7. I’ve never been a fan of “flip-phones” but I did enjoy my time with the RAZR. It is a good looking addition to any geek’s gadget collection. When the SLVR came out I just about fell in love. Then of course they came out with Q and I was lusting once again…

Anyway, to make a long story short I “gifted” my RAZR to someone I knew to replace a Samsung E317. This person liked the RAZR and soon after started getting the ringtones they could never download with their old E317. Now after years of excellent service in my hands, soon after, the screen on this thing was toast. Let’s just say you shouldn’t clamshell these babies over your beltloop and expect it to last when it gets booty bumped by a rather hefty ass.

Broken RAZR LCD Screen

I thought it was a goner. I mean look at it – that’s a neat fractal pattern there on the screen but its otherwise fairly useless without the big screen. You could dial if you knew what you were doing (and indeed the phone did otherwise work). I asked a friend if he could find someone to fix or sell it and he confirmed my supposition that it might just be more than it’s worth. Case closed, right?  Nope!

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How to upgrade your laptop hard drive

So there you are with your kick ass laptop and you’ve become totally addicted to it. You and your laptop are inseparable. You’ve used it for everything from browsing the web to downloading and listening to music. But the hard drive is full – what to do now? Don’t delete your favorite Aerosmith tracks, upgrade your hard drive!

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Bart’s Preinstalled Environment (BartPE) Version 3.1.10

Version 3.1.10 (released on Feb 13, 2006) – This looks like one of the better tools available for troubleshooting a windows installation that won’t boot. I’ve used InsertCD (Knoppix based I believe) and this works, but I’m eager to put this BartPE to use. That last version he produced was problematic for me so I hope this version shows some improvement.

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How To Troubleshoot Any Networking Problem

Tech author extraordinaire Mark Minasi shares a bit over two dozen “rules of network troubleshooting.” This will be new for some, a good review for others, and a handy reference for all.

Far more useful than an attitude review for IT people – this post actually contains some useful information! What a novel concept.

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