Feminist Music

I stumbled upon this over at Ace’s:

I think the funniest part is the fact that they have music stands set up, with sheet music that they occasionally refer to.  Evidently, they would not have been able to remember what they were supposed to sing otherwise.  Or perhaps which discordant note to hit.  Or which note they were supposed to avoid all together.  It’s hard to say what those sheets were instructing them to do.

Who should take care of the children?

I came across this at Ace of Spades the other night:

…doesn’t the responsibility of caring for the illegal immigrant children fall on the federal government? The very federal government which helped cause this crisis in the first place.

This comment was made about Glenn Beck’s efforts to raise money for the unaccompanied children streaming across the border.  Glenn has gotten a lot of criticism for his stance, mostly along the lines of “if you help them, it’s just going to encourage more of them.”

Here’s my take on it.  Asking the federal government of the United States to take care of children is the same as asking the thief to guard the bank, or the pederast to babysit (that last analogy may be closer to the truth than is comfortable).

Imagine this: thousands of children come to America, and before they are deported, only experience the bureaucratic nightmare of our government.  They are assigned a number and a folder, and are shuffled from place to place, with people yelling at them, abusing them, and treating them like animals or garbage.  Then they get sent back home, and they tell of the horror that used to be the Land of the Free.  They want nothing to do with anything American, and reject the philosophy and ideals of America out of hand.

Or this: thousands of children come to America, and before they are deported, they see ordinary citizens, with no government connection, trying to find out who they are and why they came, taking care of them one by one, as individuals who have inherent worth.  They still get sent back home, but now they have experienced what it means to be American, and they want it for their own people, and if that proves impossible, then they want to return to America and take their place as a new citizen.

Don’t let the government, especially at the federal level, care for anything that you don’t want broken, especially people.

How I spent Independence Day

On July 4th of this year, I was at the highest council Scout camp in America, Camp Steiner, elevation 10,400 ft.  It’s rocky, rough terrain, with two beautiful lakes, a wealth of tall pines, and several remaining snow banks, even in early July.  Our scout troop attended the whole week, but I was only there Thursday evening through Friday morning, helping in any way I could, and surprising my son, who was on his first long camp out (and who had no idea I was coming).

The evening of the 4th, the camp had their closing ceremonies for the week, held on the shore of Scout Lake, in an amphitheater with log seating, and two big fire bowls.  There was plenty of typical Scouting silliness: skits, cheers, stories, songs.  But there were two serious moments that affected me deeply.  The first was an official flag retirement ceremony.  I don’t know that I’ve ever seen one before, and I’m sure I did not realize that outside the military, only the Boy Scouts are authorized to conduct the ceremony.  It felt strange to see the flag burning in a respectful and solemn manner, after having seen images of it being burned in hate and acrimony around the world.  Everyone remained silent during the few minutes it took, and I have rarely witnessed a more patriotic scene.

The second thing was when they asked all the veterans in attendance to come forward to be recognized for their service to our country.  My son, sitting with his friends, turned around and said, “That’s you, dad!” and he was more correct than he knew.  There were probably twenty or twenty five adult leaders present, but apart from two staff members, I was the only one to come forward.  They looked good in their scout uniforms, and I felt dingy in my t-shirt and jeans.  But we stood there, and had a moment of silence for those had had served, and those who had paid for our freedom with their lives.

I know that the holiday is past, and everyone has gone back to their normal lives, with most people putting away thoughts of patriots, revolutions, and founding fathers until next year.  But the ideas behind our nation, the concept of government that must respect the people it serves, and the elevation of personal liberty at the expense of public conformity, continue to be of vital interest as our nation ages.  We have erred recently on the side of caution: we try and save people from being able to make bad choices, and try to nudge the electorate in the direction of greater state involvement in our daily lives.  But in the greater sense, our government is failing its primary duty, which is to secure our ability to work and live unmolested by others.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are the rights that were enumerated to be natural, unalienable, and bestowed upon us not by man but by God.  But now our lives are not our own as we attempt to follow rules, regulations, and laws that are neither impartial nor equally applied.  Our government can take everything from us without due process, and can shoot us with impunity.  And we can only pursue our own happiness if does not offend those that are considered protected: gays, Muslims, blacks, women.  And our own happiness can be officially curtailed if we are in a category that is allowed, or even encouraged to be denigrated: Christians, Asians, conservatives, fathers.

There are ways of getting back to a better place.  One would be a Constitutional Convention, to curb the excesses of our government.  Another would be a to fix our educational system to teach our children why America is worth preserving.  But it all starts with us, as individuals.  What are we willing to do to make the changes?

 

Wizard’s Heir–free for the next five days

Glencairck

For the next five days, June 27 to July 1, the first book in Gwydion’s story is free on Amazon.

Wizard's Heir, by Michael A. Hooten
Free from June 27 to July 1

Gwydion ap Don is a talented harpist, and a known rogue. But his Uncle Math sees something more: a young man with the magical talent to succeed him as Lord Gwynedd. But to learn magic, Gwydion will also have to learn self-control, duty, honor, and the martial arts. He’s not sure which will be the hardest. And when his training in magic begins in earnest, his whole world will change, as well as how he sees himself.

Based on the ancient Welsh myths from the Mabinogion, but set in the world of Cricket’s Song, this new series looks at one of the three great bards of Glencairck, Gwydion. But long before he became a great bard, he had to learn how…

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Believing in something outside yourself is hard work

Since my last post, the woman who has been calling for LDS women to become priests has been excommunicated.  The church did not publish the announcement, she did, and even though it shows that her church leaders have been working with her officially since at least December of last year, she has been obstinate in her path.  Good for her, and I wish her well, but the freedom of association works both ways: any organization who feels that one of its members is working to undermine it declared principles is free to revoke that person’s membership.

But in wondering how to approach the subject, since it tends to be somewhat outside the average American’s understanding (the doctrine isn’t hard to follow, its just that most Americans don’t even realize that the LDS church can and does excommunicate people), I came across this article:

Religion shouldn’t be this hard.

An assembly that exists to help people shouldn’t be so willing to hurt people — by declaring them worthless, unacceptable, undesirable or strangers at the gate.

An assembly that should relax into the serenity of God’s unconditional love shouldn’t be so filled with hatred and fear.

An assembly that should do what Jesus did shouldn’t be so inwardly focused, so determined to be right, so eager for comfort, so fearful of failing.

An assembly that follows an itinerant rabbi shouldn’t be chasing permanence, stability and property.

An assembly whose call is to oneness and to serving the least shouldn’t be perpetuating hierarchies of power and systems of preference.

Faith should be difficult, yes, because it inevitably entails self-sacrifice and renewal. Life, too, is difficult. Dealing with Mammon is difficult. Speaking truth to power is difficult. Confronting our own weakness and capacity for sin is difficult.

It bothered me, and it took me a while to understand why.  He first says that Religion should not be hard, then explains failings of institutions of religion, then affirms that personal belief can indeed be challenging.  I’m sorry, but my understanding of religion is that it is personal first, and then organized.  Of course religion is difficult; we have to deny the selfish impulse, learn to think and care for others, and then work at putting our beliefs into practice in a world that does not often respect or reward those who do.

He says that religion shouldn’t be hard, and then proceeds to show why it is hard: because human beings have a natural tendency to gather together in groups that have similar beliefs, but without constantly working at practicing those beliefs, the gatherings tend to become corrupt, excluding some harshly, responding angrily to criticism, seeking after monetary or social gain instead of working together for the common good.

This article offends me because he paints every church with this broad brush, says that all assemblies suffer these problems, that any organization that professes to be religious in nature will suffer these issues.  And I call foul.

Any large institution can be faulted at some point for failing to live up to its ideals, but this applies to corporations, governments, and home owners associations as well as churches.  You don’t get a free pass to apply your critique solely to church organizations because you have “36 years of serving churches as a pastor and consultant”.  If anything, that kind of experience should allow you to understand that men will always turn to evil in any setting unless actively fighting the impulse.  It should show you that even bad men can repent of their bad choices and make good choices, affecting not just their lives, but the lives of many around them.

And you should have seen that for every person who changes for the better, a dozen more change for the worse, because that is the easy path.

Never forget that the itinerant rabbi drove people away from the Holy Temple.  That He healed, forgave, and then commanded: go forth and sin no more.  That His teachings, though full of love and acceptance, also affirmed that no imperfect creature could return to God.  And the church He belonged to cast Him out and had Him killed, and yet even when He overcame death, He never denounced that church, that religion, and had His disciples remain faithful members even as they tried to improve it.

Evil works very hard to defeat good.  We have to work harder to defeat Evil.  And this applies not just to our institutions, but to our own hearts most of all.

Religion was never meant to be easy.  It has all the forces of hell arrayed against it.

I don’t have to change for anyone

There is an assumption in America that we are individuals, capable of self-determination, and protected by the Constitution from being forced into betraying our deeply held beliefs.  I’m beginning to wonder if this is true.

Part of the American experiment is the melting pot, that we can come together and get along, and work side by side.  I think it used to be understood that this meant that the Dutch, the Irish, and the Italians could work together in an office or factory without regard to where they came from, and then go home at night to their own neighborhoods.  The Italians didn’t force the Dutch to accept Catholicism, the Dutch didn’t force the Italians to become Protestant, and both sides let the Irish fight it out amongst themselves.  In other words, professional integration, but personal segregation.  I can work with you, and you with me, but we respect each other’s lifestyles, religion, personal philosophy, etc. Not agree with, mind you; there is nothing that says that the Italians, Dutch, and Irish had to always like or get along with each other.  It’s just that in America, we didn’t start with ancestry, religion, skin color, or language.  What mattered was can I be your friend and you mine, despite our differences?

Because in addition to our personal culture, we had a civic culture as well.  We told stories about what it meant to be American without mentioning background or belief, and that was okay.  None of the Founding Fathers had the exact same theological understandings, and were of many different backgrounds, educations, and experiences.  They came together to work out how they could make such diversity workable, not to meld it into a cultural hegemony.

This is why even though I understand with what the infamous Vox Day says about multicultural diversity being untenable for long, I think that he is wrong.  What makes America unique, and successful, is allowing everyone the freedom to have personal individuality as long as they support a civic culture that is more homogeneous.  Where he is right is that some cultures refuse to be subservient in the public square (or professional arena) so that all can have personal freedom.

And that is where we are today.  The leaders in our media and entertainment industries have certain beliefs, and if you disagree with them, well, you must be wrong.  And very possibly evil.  Certainly not worthy of having your own rationality for why you believe what you believe.  They have looked at the alternatives, chosen the correct path, and you are expected to fall in line.  It’s the only conceivable option.  And they have plenty of ways to make you feel pressure to conform.

But conformity was never the American ideal.  We were not founded with the idea that we should all hold the same beliefs.  We were founded with the understanding that our laws would protect the ability of the individual to choose their own beliefs, as long as this did not cause harm to others.  And this means real harm, not just have your feelings hurt.

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints–a Mormon.  We believe that only men are allowed, by God, to hold the priesthood.  There is a group that believes that women should hold the priesthood as well, because that is fair.  Their idea of social equality cannot, and should not, trump my religious belief.  In fact, the proper response, if they believe that there is a theological reason to let women hold the priesthood, is to form their own church.  And if they claim divine revelation for doing so, all the better.  But their insistence that I change my belief because it goes against their belief doesn’t help either of us.  Believe what you want.  Don’t force it on me, and above all, don’t think I have to change because you have polls, and popular culture, and celebrities, and political leaders on your side.  It doesn’t matter.  And if it does, then I claim God to be on my side, and I win.

Oh, that isn’t fair?  As the Grandfather in The Princess Bride says:

http://www.hark.com/clips/gfvnzryvdh-life-isnt-fair

It is not fair that women are sexually mutilated in some cultures.  It’s not fair some of the richest men in the world come from countries that have high populations of abjectly poor people.  It’s not fair that most great Western art comes from Europe.  It’s not fair that the Amish have to do without most modern technology.  Oh, wait, that last one is a choice of the Amish themselves?  And I could choose to live that way if I wanted to?

You don’t say.

You’ll notice that even though my church claims divine authority, so does every other major church.  It’s one of those church things, I guess.  And you don’t see the Pope demanding that we stop allowing bishops to marry, or the Baptists demanding that we stop baptizing people.  They may want those things, they may try and convince me of those things, but in the end they let me choose for myself.

I’m sure Ordain Women thinks that they are just trying to convince people that they are right, too.  And they are.  In that sense, I have no problem with them.  I have also known good Mormons who have shopped on Sunday, and don’t think that they are doing anything wrong (if you don’t understand that, it’s because we believe in keeping the Sabbath day holy, in the Old Testament tradition).  What bothers me is that they are not trying to convince me that I’m wrong, they are trying to convince society that I am wrong.  We all know that society thinks my church is wrong about a lot of things.  But remember what I said about the American culture is about professional integration and personal segregation?  Yeah, that means that even if you convince the entire non-Mormon population of America that my church should changes it’s practice, it doesn’t have to.  Go convince the Amish to use cell phones while you’re at it.

Chutzpah

I heard on the radio this morning that the Obama administration was going to offer intelligence assets to the Iraqi government… this after being completely caught off guard by the current insurrection.

I do not know know how this offer will be received, but mocking laughter might be a good start.

Xbee lessons

I’ve been using the Digi International Xbee radios in a project at work, and I thought I would share a few findings that weren’t always clear on some of the internet guides I found.  I use the Series 2 (or ZB) version, which you can get at Mouser for $17.  These have the ability to use the mesh networking feature of the Zigbee protocol.

The first bit of disinformation I have found regards the use of API or Transparent mode.  The first uses a packet of bytes to tell the radio what data to send, how to send it, and where to send it.  The second allows serial data to be transmitted directly, without the need of a frame.  Most tutorials indicate that all your radios should be set up in one mode or another.  This is incorrect.  Dave over at Desert Home tipped me off to this, and has a bunch more excellent examples of using Xbees.  I guess I should warn any readers that this discussion is for those who have some knowledge of Xbees already, and understand terms like API, transparent, Router, Coordinator, and PAN ID.  Otherwise, Dave’s site is a great place to get started, as is Jeremy Blum’s tutorial.

I can think of a very valid reason for using a mix of transparent and API modes, and it has to do with the how easy it is to change the settings in each mode. In transparent mode, changing the destination address, or any other setting for that matter,  requires entering command mode.  This is not too bad if you’re connected to a serial port display like Putty, but can be a bit cumbersome when using  a micro-controller or some other programmed interface.  In API mode, however, the packet can be constructed to change the settings on the fly rather easily, because you don’t have to put the radio into a special mode, you just have to know how to build the right packet (something that micro-controllers are very good with).

So why would you ever use transparent mode with an Arduino, for instance?  Because there are plenty of times that you  don’t need to change anything.  You just need to configure it once to send serial data to a known destination (usually the Coordinator, but the other most common destination is Broadcast, which sends the data to every radio on the network).  And yes, you can use an API Router with an transparent Coordinator, if you’d like.  The point is that you can mix and match the radio setups.

That leads into the next bit of disinformation, that the radios have to have the same baud rate, API mode, etc.  The truth is that only some of the settings on the radio regard how it communicates on the network: PAN ID (both 16 bit and 64 bit), serial number, destination address, operating channel, and the like.  In the X-CTU software, these are grouped together under the Networking and Addressing categories.  Security is another big one, but not often used.

But the category of Serial Interfacing, which is where settings are most often changed,  only deals with how the radio communicates with it’s host, whether that’s a computer or an Arduino.  If you have one radio transmitting in API enable 2 set, you must provide escape characters when you assemble your packet.  But if the receiving radio has API enable 1 set, that data will be read out with no escape characters.

And one last thing to remember, which I haven’t seen anywhere else: Xbees want to be on a network.  They will seek out whichever is available unless they think they are already on one (which has burned me a few times).  And if they are a Router, they don’t need a Coordinator in the network to get new nodes to join.  According to the Xbee data sheet:

A coordinator has the following characteristics: it
•Selects a channel and PAN ID (both 64-bit and 16-bit) to start the network
•Can allow routers and end devices to join the network
•Can assist in routing data
•Cannot sleep–should be mains powered
•Can buffer RF data packets for sleeping end device children.

A router has the following characteristics: it
•Must join a ZigBee PAN before it can transmit, receive, or route data
•After joining, can allow routers and end devices to join the network (emphasis mine)
•After joining, can assist in routing data
•Cannot sleep–should be mains powered.
•Can buffer RF data packets for sleeping end device children.
An end device has the following characteristics: it
•Must join a ZigBee PAN before it can transmit or receive data
•Cannot allow devices to join the network
•Must always transmit and receive RF data through its parent. Cannot route data.
•Can enter low power modes to conserve power and can be battery-powered.

In other words, if you are working on a set of radios, and decide to set up a different network nearby, even if you remove the Coordinator from it’s power, your new radios will try to join the first network if any of the Routers are still powered.  It can cause all kinds of fun and hours of entertainment!  The best bet is to remove all power to the first network, set up the second network, and make sure the second is configured properly before powering up any Router or Coordinator on the first network.

I’m sure there’s lots more to learn about these great little radios, but I thought I’d pass along these tips now.