Thursday, August 13, 2015

Fighting an Attitude

A few days ago, a group of #BlackLivesMatter activists interrupted a Bernie Sanders event to call out the candidate for his lack of vocal support for their movement. Their movement is focused on bringing about real change in response to the recent, frequent, and increasingly hard to deny string of unarmed black people killed by cops. It's a worthy goal, and this is a problem that should be one of the key issues our politicians should be addressing today. However, that specific event troubled me.

The #BlackLivesMatter movement received some backlash for the incident from fans of Senator Sanders, of course, even while it was happening. Many people don't understand why the movement would show up to protest a man who has dedicated his life to progressive causes, including marching with Dr. King in the 60s, and whose campaign is focused on narrowing the income gap and providing assistance to the poor.

There's an unspoken connection there, in which black people are assumed to be poor and, to be fair, poverty rates are much higher among black people than they are among white people. However, as several response articles defending the activists' actions note, there is a difference between economic disparity and racial disparity. Black people are more likely to get denied a job, passed over for promotion, arrested, or shot by a cop than white people with the same education and income level. It's a separate problem, and one that needs to be addressed.

That said, I still can't condone the way those #BlackLivesMatter activists handled that situation. (I'll clarify here that #BlackLivesMatter is a loose organization with no real leadership, so it's difficult to say how the movement as a whole feels about the actions of those activists. This is a common problem among movements without central organization.) It was poor form, disrespectful, and misguided. Which is fine: the activists are human and are allowed to make mistakes. However, the true test of character is that, when you make a mistake, you have the grace to apologize. They have not apologized. Instead, they have dug in their heels.

Their defense is, basically, that you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet. Their message is important, and they shouldn't have to apologize for interrupting someone else's event to spread their message. Word needs to get out. Something has to be done.

Which is all true. Their message really is important, and disruptive behavior will call attention to their cause. But will it help? Maybe so. As I understand it, Bernie Sanders has been a lot more vocal about plans to solve the problem of cops killing black people, as well as several other instances of institutionalized racism. However, I can't help but wonder how many supporters of #BlackLivesMatter were discouraged at the activists' behavior, allowing their disgust at their treatment of a friendly candidate to obscure the purpose of the movement.

Methods matter. When fighting for a good cause, it's important to maintain a level of respect for everyone involved, whether or not they respect you in kind, and whether or not they're deserving of respect. When you walk the path of righteousness, you must watch your every step, not for yourself but for your cause. Don't give people an excuse to be distracted from your message. Don't belie your own cause.

At its core, the fight for racial equality is a battle for respect. Minorities (blacks, hispanics, my fellow natives, etc) are not respected as equals by many people. They can deny it, but evidence proves otherwise; that, time and again, all other things being equal, the person with the lighter skin wins over the one with darker skin. However, showing an equal lack of respect for those who don't respect you won't solve the problem. It's hard, but the only long-term solution is to be the better people, respecting everyone equally, even and especially when they disrespect you in return. With time and persistence, public perception will acknowledge the truth: that those who strive to be better are, in fact, better, and those that do not make the effort will find themselves left behind. This is how progress is made, and it's made over the course of years, decades, and sometimes lifetimes. It's not easy, but there are no shortcuts. It's the only way.

The alternative is to have the same attitude as the people you fight against, which is exactly the sort of thing Martin Luther King, Jr. preached against in his book Strength to Love:
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
I think the "love" he's referring to, "agape" as theologians term it, is similar to what I mean when I speak of respect. Disrespect breeds disrespect, as seen in the incident between Senator Sanders and the #BlackLivesMatter activists. The only cure is respect, which Sanders has shown by taking their concerns to heart despite their methods.

Eye for an eye is not and never has been an effective or sustainable policy. Let's fight it.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Buying a House Part 2: Figuring Out What You Want

When buying a house you'll want to be very careful to find a place you can still see yourself occupying several years from now, perhaps even for the rest of your life. Unlike an apartment, you can't just up and move in a year or so once you realize that the location is a little too far away from your job, or perhaps you don't have enough room for your growing family, or you wish you had more/less yard to work with. Selling a house is a lot tougher than waiting out or breaking a lease.

Given that, there are countless things to consider when finding the perfect place or, as is more likely going to be the case, the place that's "good enough." Houses come in all shapes and sizes with all sorts of features you may never have considered. To some degree you're going to need to keep an open mind once you start touring actual houses, but you're definitely going to want to have an idea of what you want before you start your search. Just remember that you're not just looking for what you need now, you've also got to keep in mind what you may need in the future.

For the purposes of this step we're going to keep things fairly general.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Buying a House Part 1: Figure Out Your Budget

A few months ago I found myself very suddenly in the market for real estate. Having recently come out the other side, decompressing after buying a house, I find myself with an abundance of information for anyone interested in the process. In fact, it's is not nearly as frightening as you might think, so I hope I can demystify the process for you. I'm going to lay out the process in 8 steps:
  1. Figure out your budget
  2. Figure out what you want in a house
  3. Find an agent
  4. Check out houses
  5. Choosing a house (earnest money/early negotiation)
  6. The inspection period
  7. Negotiation and paperwork
  8. Closing
This first post will be entirely dedicated to that first step.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Finding New Music

One of my resolutions for the year was to find a new album every month that I can add to my playlist. My music playlist hasn't really changed much in the past few years, with maybe a new album or two catching my attention each year, if I was lucky.

So, I delved into the world of music recently, trying to find something that speaks to me. In this blog I'll talk about what I'm looking for, where I've looked, and why I should have known this would be so difficult.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Review: MOTHER 1

I finished MOTHER for the first time last night. It's not a simple game, so reviewing it is going to take some time. I'll try to break it down into its component parts: exploration mechanics, battle mechanics, game flow, scenarios, story/writing, music, graphics, and how all of those elements fit together to make this game what it is.

As a courtesy to Jon Magram, though, first I'll attempt to sum the game up briefly:

MOTHER is a charming RPG despite frustrating mechanics. Patches mitigate some of those flaws. Starts slow, but ends beautifully. Awesome music. Recommended.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Game Design Status Update #1

Today was the first time I've sat down to continue my game development education since leaving for MAGfest, and the enormity of what I don't understand about developing a game hit me like a brick. I won't be scared away, though. There's a lot to learn, and I know for a fact that this is learnable. I've squandered many years of my life failing to learn to program games, but I'm not going to allow that to be the case anymore.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Talking to Strangers

Last week on my lunch break I was riding my bike back to the office. My headphones were broken, so the only thing I could do while riding was enjoy the scenery and think. In hindsight, I'm not really sure why I bought new headphones this past weekend, since I really appreciated that thinking time.

For instance, on that day on my lunch break I was thinking about how I act when a stranger comes up and starts talking to me. I always get very defensive in those moments because I know that the person wants something from me.

Think about it: 100% of the time, when someone comes up to you on the street, they're always doing so with an agenda. I've become adept at lying through my teeth when someone asks me for change, feigning empathy and regret for being unable to help them.

I'm not a very charitable person--not on the street, anyway. At least, not anymore. My empathy has been mostly drilled out of me, replaced by skepticism, a jadedness I've worked hard to avoid in so many other areas of my life. I regret this change in myself, that it's so automatic--that the moment somebody catches my eye and they start to approach, I know that they're going to want something from me. I close myself off reflexively, and from that moment my only goal is to extract myself from the situation.

I thought about all of this as I pedaled my way back to the office. And I started to wonder what I'd do if a stranger ever talked to me, not to get something from me, but simply to be friendly. I hoped that I'd recognize the difference, that I'd smile and respond in kind. I hoped that my jadedness hadn't completely taken over, that I could drop my suspicion in the right circumstances and enjoy a new connection, even briefly.

It was at pretty much that exact moment, as I stopped to wait at a crosswalk, that another biker rode up next to me. We caught each others' eyes for a moment, then I focused on the road ahead of me, waiting for the light to turn.

"Nice bike," said the other guy in a friendly manner.

"Thanks," I said. I glanced at his bike. It was a pretty good-looking bike as well. I didn't say anything about it.

"Where are you headed?" he asked. He seemed happy to have another biker around, and it was clear we were headed the same direction.

I pointed vaguely down the road, gave him a landmark close-ish to the office. I was brief, and I never met his eyes again.

"Ah," he said, sounding slightly disappointed.

We stood there silently for maybe two seconds, maybe a half an hour, when the light finally turned and we set off, each going the same way, each in silence.

So, well, at least now I know. I've never been much of a talker, whether with strangers or not, so I can't blame my anti-social moment entirely on my jadedness, on being suspicious of strangers... but it certainly didn't help, either.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Learning New Things

Lately I've been doing a lot of two things: exploring Unity and playing Dragon Age: Inquisition. Perhaps it's just because when you do two things at the same time you automatically associate the two, but I've been finding a lot of parallels between these two seemingly different activities.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Prodigal Son

Lately I've been thinking about the parable of the Prodigal Son. It's one of the most famous of Jesus's parables, and I don't think people refer to it correctly. So, I'd like to talk about the parable itself, why I've been thinking about it, and why I'm more concerned with the older brother than the younger one.

Friday, January 2, 2015

2014 Resolutions - A Review


At the beginning of the year I set some goals for myself. Let's see how I've done.