Category Archives: Personal

Coding in an age of impunity

Do you prefer that your coding not be mixed with politics? That your libraries stand alone in pristine neutrality? You are already doomed to disappointment, whether you know it or not; but especially on this blog from this day forward.

Consider this: when all the laws are smashed flat, what chance do codes of conduct and codes of ethics stand?

I hope we do not all find out; I fear we might.

To say that the election of Trump marks the beginning of an age of impunity is of course a lie: the unanswered trampling of the oppressed that has been going on for years, for decades, for millennia did not start last Tuesday.

And yet, things can get worse; have gotten worse. I can link to this without betraying confidences; I can point out this for an example near my home; I can listen to my friends who walk a much more dangerous path than mine.

Suffice it to say that Trump need not sign a single law, appoint a single judge, to cause ill during his tenure — those emboldened by his ascension can act on their hate and have done so. And who is going to advise Trump to repudiate them… Stephen Bannon?

Thought not.

What follows seems almost laughable in its insufficiency, particularly if the Trump administration goes full fascist, but defense in depth, perhaps?

We need to look to our codes, and buttress what we can.

Codes of conduct for professional conferences? I’m under no illusion that the Code4Lib Code of Conduct or the ALA Statement of Appropriate Conduct guarantee safety for anyone… but implemented correctly, and with teeth, they might at least maintain spaces where hate cannot operate with complete impunity.

The ACM Code of Ethics? Principles 1.2 (avoid harm to others), 1.4 (be fair and take action not to discriminate), 1.7 (respect the privacy of others), and 1.8 (honor confidentiality) are more important than ever: nuclear weapons may kill us quick, but software is all too easily turned into an instrument of oppression.

The ALA Code of Ethics? Privacy has always been a matter of life and death for especially vulnerable library patrons. Now, we live in a time when Newt Gingrich is, unironically, suggesting that that the thing to do is to revive the House Un-American Activities Committee and Trump threatens to silence those who mock him.

What can we expect in an age of impunity? For some, the disaster is now. Trump may well lead us into a quick general disaster: nuclear war, global depression, genocide. Against that, computers and libraries may not amount to much — but we can but use whatever tools we can seize to survive and to perpetuate our stories.

A longer, slower disaster is possible — and here, we must watch for more subtle traps: compromises that may or may not mitigate immediate pain, that may or may not pave the way for worse and worse. Or perhaps, we may yet see change for the better (though climate change looms over all).

Either way, we must look to our codes, strengthen what we can, protect life where we can.

And yes, the preceding feels utterly laughable. In fact, I would relish being taken for a fool, a chicken little whose reputation for prognostication is so bad that my assertion that the sun will rise tomorrow is met with cries of “pull the other one!”

I don’t expect that hope will come so easily.

An easy vote

A political post for today.

Two and a half weeks ago I stood in line for a hour in Lawrenceville, Gwinnett County, Georgia and participated in early voting.

Some of the decisions I had to make were a little difficult. Consider the statewide ballot initiatives. Two of them were about allocating money for specific purposes — and I felt torn about both, on procedural grounds: it within the power of an elected, representative state legislature to levy taxes and spend the receipts as they see fit. Sending to the voters the question of where to direct tax proceeds from the sale of fireworks is an abdication of responsibility on the part of the legislators, who could just as well deal with it in the general budget. Similarly, the legislature could directly fund anti-human-trafficking programs. I voted for amendments 2 and 4, but reluctantly.

Another difficult decision: voting for supervisors for the Gwinnett County Soil and Water Conservation District. That’s pretty important: Gwinnett County is growing, and we’re in a drought. And yet, I couldn’t find much information about the candidates positions or professional affiliations.

Other decisions were easy: yes, Jim Shealey, I hope you make it in as chair of the county commission: it would be nice to see steps towards getting light rail in Gwinnett County.

No, Mr. Privatize Nuclear Waste Management, privatization pixie dust, no matter how much is sprinkled, neither makes the half-life any shorter nor relieves government of the ultimate expense of dealing with the stuff.

No, Butch Conway, I am not in favor of Gwinnett County’s participation in the 287(g) program: immigration enforcement is a federal responsibility, and Gwinnett County does not need its sheriff’s deputies playing immigration cop. I’m just sorry nobody is running against you.

No, incumbents of the County Commission and Board of Education, I don’t particularly care for your gerrymandering ways. I do not actually need the people who represent me to all look like me. Gwinnett County is a majority-minority county now. Live with it.

Yes, Pedro Marin, you stay put in the statehouse, opposing things like RFRA.

 

One decision was really easy.

I am with her.

I voted for Hillary Clinton with alacrity and pleasure.

I am certainly not for Trump. He is a joke of candidate; he is racist; he is misogynist; he has no self-control; he has no policies that would survive a momentary breeze, save perhaps the enrichment of his own ego.

A Trump administration would cause incalculable harm; his merely running has already done so. And this is personal: I have friends who have watched the climate of transphobia grow this year — friends who are afraid that their marriages may be taken away from them — friends under crushing student debt who do not need a feckless man blowing up the economy — friends who see increasing anti-Semitism and hate against Muslims and hate against black people and hate against all difference — who know exactly where this can lead to.

Oh, by the way: a Trump administration would harm people who look like me, a white man. Over the long run — whither our souls if we do not give up hegemony? — but possibly in the short term. White male privilege is an amazingly ineffective shield against nuclear blast.

But more importantly, I am for Clinton. She’s not merely (and by far) the lesser of two evils; I believe that a Clinton administration will result in more justice and equity at home and will allow us to play our part on the global stage with dignity. I believe that she will do better against climate change; I believe that she will appoint prudent people to run the government.

Of course, her ability to do that depends on a lot whether she gets a Senate that will work with her, rather than obstruct everything she does.

If you haven’t voted already, please do so today.

And stay safe out there.

The blossoming of the Mellie-cat

A cat who has decided to take up more space in the world.

A cat who has decided to take up more space in the world.

Sixteen years is long enough, surely, to get to know a cat.

Nope.

Amelia had always been her mother’s child. She had father and sister too, but LaZorra was the one Mellie always cuddled up to and followed around. Humans were of dubious purpose, save for our feet: from the scent we trod back home Mellie seemed to learn all she needed of the outside world.

Her father, Erasmus, left us several years ago; while Mellie’s sister mourned, I’m not sure Rasi’s absence made much of an impression on our clown princess — after all, LaZorra remained, to provide orders and guidance and a mattress.

Where Zorri went, Mellie followed — and thus a cat who had little use for humans slept on our bed anyway.

Recently, we lost both LaZorra and Sophia, and we were afraid: afraid that Amelia’s world would close in on her. We were afraid that she would become a lost cat, waiting alone for comfort that would never return.

The first couple days after LaZorra’s passing seemed to bear our fears out. Amelia kept to her routine and food, but was isolated. Then, some things became evident.

Our bed was, in fact, hers. Hers to stretch out in, space for my legs be damned.

Our feet turned out not to suffice; our hands were required too. For that matter, for the first time in her life, she started letting us brush her.

And she enjoyed it!

Then she decided that we needed correction — so she began vocalizing, loudly and often.

And now we have a cat anew: talkative and demanding of our time and attention, confident in our love.

Sixteen years is not long enough to get to know a cat.

Our move, by the numbers

We’ve landed in Atlanta, having completed our move from Seattle driving cross-country.  Here are some numbers to ponder, with apologies to Harper’s magazine.

  • Humans: 2
  • Cats: 3
  • Miles as the car rolls: 3,600
  • Miles per gallon: 42.1
  • Average speed of the car: 174,720 furlongs per fortnight
  • Seconds spent pondering whether to use furlongs or smoots for the previous measure: 15
  • Cracked windshields: 1
  • Cats who forgot that if the tail is visible, the cat is visible: 1
    2014-12-02 21.25.56
  • Mornings that the cats were foiled by platform beds: 5
  • Mornings that the cats were foiled by an air mattress: 2
  • Mornings that the humans were foiled by a bed with an underneath: 2
  • Number of cats disappointed that said beds turned out to be moveable: 3
  • Hours spent experiencing the thrills of Los Angeles rush hour traffic: 3
  • Calls from a credit card fraud monitoring department: 1
  • Hotel hot tubs dipped into: 2
  • Restaurant restrooms with disconcerting signs: 1
    restroom sign
  • Progress of feline excavation to China: no report
  • Fueling stops: 10
  • Net timezone difference: +3.0
  • Number of moving company staff involved: 9
  • Host cats consternated by the arrival of three interlopers: 4
  • Cats who decided to spend a few hours under the covers to bring down the number of whelms: 1
  • Tweets sent using the #SEAtoATL hashtag, including this post’s tweet: 23
  • Nights spent in California: 2
  • Nights spent in Texas: 3
  • Humans and cats happy to have arrived: 5