A couple of suggestions to fix a city.

Without digging into the 544 page Operating budget for the City of Shreveport for 2019, I have some suggestions on improvements that the city could make to improve the overall health and happiness of the community. 

Health – If you are sick, you can’t enjoy security or education because you can’t focus on anything else. We can create programs which in turn creates employment opportunities.

  • Clinics for the less fortunate
  • Food and medical provision programs for the homeless
  • The city should work with charitable organizations to benefit citizens
  • Programs for substance abuse need to be better funded and more wide spread
  • ineffectual programs need to be replaced with ones that work

Security – If you are not secure, education and social interaction are the last things on your mind. We need to change perceptions. If one law abiding citizen is afraid of our protectors, we’ve failed.

  • More money for fire, police, and other social services.
  • Outreach programs involving police and schools
  • Outreach programs involving police and fire fighters in lower income areas.
  • Harsher penalties for police misconduct
  • More training (physical and psychological) for police before they hit the street

Education – An education leads to understanding which fosters security and healthy attitudes in a community. We can create programs which in turn creates employment opportunities.

  • Schools need more money so teachers don’t have to buy their own supplies
  • Pay teachers more
  • Continuing educations programs for adults
  • Adult literacy programs hosted by schools and Library branches
  • Continuing teen educational programs focused on the arts, technology and literacy
  • Continuing adult educational programs involving the arts and technology
  • Programs for all ages at parks (edutainment)
  • Urban farming and community garden programs should be better promoted

Infrastructure – To grow, a city must have “good bones” and with the aging infrastructure we have now, growth is difficult.

  • Water improvements need to continue
  • Sewer improvements need to be made a priority.
  • Gas improvements need to continue
  • We need to be an attractive city to tech companies so we can get fast access and fiber internet options that are not Comcast

Entertainment – Social interaction and communication in relaxed settings like parks, festivals, etc. makes for community and community makes us more secure, healthier, and opens avenues of social education we otherwise wouldn’t have access to.

  • Up the number of festivals and musical events in the area
  • Make it easier for block parties and smaller festivals to happen city wide
  • Restrict the vendors at existing events to local producers, makers, artists, and promote local artisans at specific festivals
  • More programs involving the arts and the downtown area

I know this all seems like maybe an oversimplification, but I would ask that you keep an open mind. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel, but add a few spokes that might make things run a little smoother. City leadership has not been too effective and I think priorities should shift a little bit. What do you think?

The Serial Hobbiest

I am a serial hobbiest. I pick something up and learn what I can about it and that usually results in tools and equipment that just kind of litters up the place. Don’t get me wrong. I usually convert the skills I learn into something else. My most recent foray into a new hobby was Mead making. The wife loves the mead I make so I’ll keep doing it, but there isn’t much to it and if she didn’t like the mead or if she couldn’t drink it for some reason, I wouldn’t probably do it. I have been into music, I’ve been into sculpting, I’ve been into role playing games, etc into infinity and all the while I pick up skills or knowledge that comes in useful in other areas or hobbies.

With the mead hobby kind of slowing, I’ve picked up my next one. FPV Drone Building / Flying. I’ve been interested in Drones for a wile now because of another hobby…. Youtube. I have yearned for the sweeping camera angles that the likes of Casey Neistat get regularly. The issue is money and those things aren’t cheap. The alternative I’ve found is not really an alternative at all. FPV or first person view drones are used primarily for racing and “freestyle” which, while they do make beautiful videos, they’re usually much faster and less sweeping than one might think of drone footage to be.

In addition to learning how to fly the thing, I will also be learning to build them. There are several electrical components that, when put together, form the “stack” or the brain of the drone. I’ve learned quite a lot about flight controllers and power distribution and soldering techniques without actually having the equipment. I have also discovered that I will also need to get a Ham Radio Operator’s license to fly an FPV drone legally as they broadcast a signal in the certain band the FCC requires licensing for. DJI drones and the like use wifi so it’s a different animal. I will also need to be registered with the FAA and pass the FAA part 107 ground pilots test in order to make money from drone footage. It keeps getting better and better.

The future of the hobby aside, I’m still excited to get my controller and play around with a simulator first and then start the build. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Language still fails…. What is racism?

Addressing the failing of our understanding of our own majority language in America, English, is a difficult task. We speak it so we understand it, right? Language, all language, fails to encompass experience… that’s the one thing it was designed to do. Take the following:

Racism – The belief in the superiority of one race over another, which often results in discrimination and prejudice towards people based on their race or ethnicity.

Alright, anyone who says “There’s only one race… the human race” is trying to convince themselves they’re not racist. If, on the other hand, you’re trying to convince yourself you’re not racist then you’re probably not. No one is born racist. It’s an ideology that spreads to those who are disenfranchised or feel they’ve been marginalized. It’s a favorite of those who feel like they should have power or authority based on a chance set of criteria culminating in their birth (i.e. privilege) but they don’t have that authority. It is doctrine and has to be passed to others. No one wakes up racist one day without a cause. But let’s figure this out.

Race – A race is a grouping of humans based on shared physical or social qualities into categories generally viewed as distinct by society

“Viewed as distinct by society” is the problem in that definition. Race is not the color of your skin, it’s a social convention and should be given as much weight as it has which is precisely none. As a society, we give stock to certain ideas and then those ideas resonate and amplify until we’re separated. We are a people because we are in this neighborhood, this city, this state, this country. We need to choose to be different and be o.k. with that or choose to be the same and by doing that, we eliminate race.

Ethnicity – An ethnic group, or an ethnicity, is a category of people who identify with each other based on similarities such as common ancestry, language, history, society, culture or nation.

Ethnicity can’t be eliminated as easily as race nor should it be. Ethnicity is a point of pride. I’m proud to be Scottish, Italian, English, and French. Those cultures sing to me through time and I enjoy learning about them and experiencing Italian food, Scottish traditions, English fortitude and French attitude. It’s not a color thing it’s a self association thing. People in the same patch of Earth, or having ancestors who did, identifying with one another and sharing a culture is beautiful and deserves to be preserved for posterity.

Bigotry – See prejudice – Prejudice is an affective feeling towards a person or group member based solely on that person’s group membership.

It is natural for a human being, being tribal in nature, to be bigoted towards those who are not like one’s self. The problem lies with the depths to which you let this natural proclivity control you. If you hate “the gays” because you’re not gay, then there is something wrong with YOU not them. It’s OK not to be gay. Why do you care if someone else is. It’s OK not to be black or Hispanic or an alien… why is it any of your business? If you’re not going to a drag-show review of Roots performed to tejana music, then you’re set and shouldn’t care. If you do care, if it really bothers you, you can always say to yourself, “Why do I care?” and through analyzing that, figure out what your issues are. They are YOUR issues. Bigotry is instinctual and we, as reasoning human beings with free will, can deny instinct for the betterment of our society… with one exception.

When we think of Bigotry, we think racism. When we say race, we usually mean ethnicity or at the very least, skin tone. If we can separate and correct our thinking about our language, maybe we can be better to one another. Maybe we can start to understand each other better and maybe, just maybe, we can stone to death the racists so we won’t have to have this conversation again.

Confession – If bigotry is hatred of a member of a group because of the membership in the group, I’m a biogot. I HATE racists regardless if they’re in a particular club of racists, a solo racist, a son or daughter of the confederacy, a clansman… regardless of the club affiliation, they’re in the “group” of racists. I have tried to get over this bigoted view point by analyzing why I dislike them so much and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s OK to hate racists. It’s the one exception to the “stop hating people who aren’t like you rule”. Acceptance and tolerance should only be extended to those who are generally accepting and / or tolerant. Being overly tolerant of another’s views, correct or not, can be damaging.

Order Animalia

A friend posed a thought on Facebook about religion and how some judge others for their beliefs and how that just makes no sense. Here are my thoughts.

People are animals…. I am not being derogatory here. I mean that literally. Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Chordata, Class Mamalia, Order Primate, etc. etc. this is also not to say humanity is not special as we developed or were gifted intellectual properties not seen heretofore on the planet up to now. As animals, however, we are heir to certain problems.

Animals are subject to fear based prejudices instinctively. It keeps the apes with the apes, the ants with the ants, and whales with the whales. This doesn’t mean a lion can’t befriend a field mouse, but it does mean they probably won’t mate and the mouse might, out of good sense (from an evolutionary standpoint) might steer clear. Humans, having that big old intellect, tend to name things and define them and over process them until instinct becomes emotion and fear becomes hate. It degenerates into “Your belief is different than mine.” or “Your skin is the wrong color.”

When you take instinct and twist it with emotion, you start to see things. The afore mentioned Lion will protect his patch of Savannah because he needs his genes out there. We don’t anymore as we are now technologically apex predators over populating and eating our way out of house and home but, since we’re animals, we still feel that drive. We call it love or lust or we put rules about it in books making sure we pursue the drive to distance ourselves from the animals we really are. “Be fruitful and multiply” my ass. It was an excuse to mate in a time we needed to be mating to ensure our success but because we get all weird about stuff with our big brains, we had to make it a divine directive. We had to make it ok. We had to justify instinct. That’s a problem other animals don’t have.

Once the “dominant class” (ie those in power) amongst us documented all these rules, regulations, justifications, and subjugations for their benefits into these laws and said, at first, the laws were given by the ancestors, then by the spirits of the earth, then by gods, then by God and all the while, they did it without malice. See, that’s animal instinct too. You have to, as an animal, ensure you are on top. The problem, again, is that big ol’ brain working over time to drive wedges, to label and control, to compartmentalize not only society and how we react to each other, but to maintain an order that will keep the species going. That may be counter intuitive given the number of religious and ideological conflicts that have come close to wiping us out, but humanity is like a fever…. we burn hot and quick.

The point is, no one is right. We’re all just a bunch of Order Animalia, Class Mamalia, Genus Homo, Species Sapiens who think too much, like to feel good, hate to exert ourselves too much unless it gets us where we want to be to feel more good things and all the while our brains dictate how we see the order of the universe. We’re seeing that order through meat colored glasses and until we shed the physical, utilize our free will and really search without bias, live the way we want the world to be and stop trying to make it how we want it, we;re going to continue to bicker about thees and thous, and who is right and who is wrong. Spoiler alert… we’re all wrong. I mean no disrespect to any religion, faith, or path one might choose to walk.

Be the lion with the mouse. Accept each other instead of eating each other and we will find peace.

Choosing a VPN – Why should you?

Imagine that you do all of your shopping in a five block shopping district in your city. There’s a Whole Foods Grocery and a Kroger, a Nike Outlet and an Adidas shoe store, an AMC movie theater and an Imax, various service store fronts like a post office, a FedEx branch, and a bar and a strip club.

Now let’s say you have a driver that takes you on your errands, all of which you do in this shopping district. The driver has complete control over where you go and what you do. If he sees you go to the grocery, he’ll post ads about sale items. That might be helpful. But let’s say the driver has a deal with Nike and if he sees you go into the Adidas store, he can slow your trip to the store the next time or even refuse to take you there. If you shop at the “wrong store”, he may even refuse to take you shopping at all. The Driver decides what the “wrong store is”.

When the Internet was first conceived in the 40’s as a decentralized network, no one really could foresee the implications. It was supposed to be a decentralized network that could take a nuke or two and people would still be able to chat. Now, it’s where we live. In the 90’s, we fought back regulation. During the Obama administration, the people were allowed to dictate to the FCC our desires that regulation be limited. As of this week, the FCC was given full authorization to “privatize” the Internet. Now the FCC would like to tell you there is competition between service providers and that prices will go down and he might not be wrong in the short term. The problems lie with communities like Shreveport, Louisiana that only has one option for actual high speed Internet. Sure, you’ve got AT&T for DSL, but there is NO comparison in speed with cable and there’s just the one provider… Comcast.

With the new regulations, your ISP…. the driver… will be able to slow down when they don’t like where you’re going or cut you off when they feel like it. Netflix? What if they prefer Hulu? Amazon? What if they prefer Overstock.com? You should be able to go where you want at full speed whenever you want. The only way to hide your traffic from your ISP is with a Virtual Private Network or VPN. There are many services out there and we’re going with Nord VPN for the speed, security, and performance, but there are many to choose from. I will be setting up a VPN wireless gateway at home so anyone coming to the house can use it and be secure while you’re there. The easiest way to use a VPN is just choose one, sign up, and download their client. The client will sit in your system tray and when you want to be private, just open it up and click connect. They all work about the same.

Don’t let your ISP throttle you for using the Internet the way you want. The Internet belongs to everyone. It is vast and there is plenty of room for competing businesses and services and the providers of the access to those services should not have a say in where I go online. Your car can’t tell you which store to go to.

LGBTQ Rights Infringed Upon at Southwood Highschool

I am not one to jump on band wagons or rush to the aid of a cause…. usually. But let me tell you a story –

I have had friends an relatives die in drunk driving accidents and when I was a kid, I wanted to do something about it. I started the Student’s Against Drunk Driving groups at Southwood High School in Shreveport Louisiana. With the aid of Mr. White, the sophomore councilor and a few teachers, we held events, went on trips, raised awareness, and even got the media involved. We made a noise and made a difference. This was 1991 – 1993

Fast forward to now… 2018. I saw a Facebook post about my former high school and I get angry. Apparently, Mr Roberts, the principle at Southwood is not allowing a transgender student, Kami Pham, dress in women’s clothing in the yearbook photos or walk with her senior class as a young woman. A call went out, thank you MIchael, to have people write to Principle Roberts – jroberts@caddoschools.org – directly or to sign the petition at change.org

I did both – Below is the email I sent Mr. Roberts for what it’s worth.

Good morning Mr. Roberts,

My name is Palmer. I graduated from Southwood in 1993, founded a S.A.D.D. chapter there, and enjoyed my time there as a student. It was a shock when I heard this morning that your administration, and not to put too fine a point on it, you yourself were not affording a transgender student the same respect and right of expression I was allowed when I was a student there.
I understand completely your probable point of view; the “What If” scenarios that you might have been presented with or are imagining might be a bit extreme. I can also see the “slippery slope” argument of “if this / then that” that you might be forming but let me put it this way – This young lady, Kami Pham, was unfortunately born with a different sex organ than she should have been. She’s not asking to come to school dressed as an animal, nor is she concealing her identity, nor is she being provocative in any way.
I know the cost would be too great to reprint yearbooks, but for God’s sake, the sake of decency, the sake of the promises you made to yourself as an educator and the students you serve in that capacity, let this poor girl walk with her class mates in a manner she feels comfortable and let her make the memories we all have.
It goes beyond embarrassing photos of our youth. I am sure you as I regret a lot of photos from childhood like dated clothing, hairstyles, etc. easily dismissed. For a trans gender person later in life, a childhood photo of a transgender woman as a boy in her youth can be disheartening and a reminder that she was not allowed to be themselves once. Kami has a right to look back at her high school photos and a video of her graduation and see the young woman she was and remember how she was allowed to express herself.
Regardless of how I feel, how Kami feels, or even how you feel personally, protect your student and her future and allow her to be who she is, just for a little while, as she walks with her class.
Thank you

Normalizing media is worse than propaganda

We, as a society, normalize things to an unacceptable point and we demonize the wrong things. For instance, a human being’s natural state is nude, yet we find nudity to be disturbing at the least and abhorrent and down right illegal at worst. Sure, context matters and I personally wouldn’t be wondering around naked, but you get my point. Television shows like Cops highlight and glorify what is wrong with our society. These shows should be cautionary tales, not giggle inducing. Survivor, which I am guilty of watching in past seasons, is all about how the most horrible person gets rewarded for back stabbing their fellow contestants and team mates. That kind of behavior should be punished, not rewarded.

This brings me to the current offering, Rosanne. First and foremost, Rosanne Barr is no saint and I know that. She’s a loud mouthed garbage person who supports another loudmouth garbage person and, while the original run of her television show was entertaining (and I’m sure the new one will be too) it didn’t have a political message. Not everything has to have a message. The original show was just a family, middle class, trying to make ends meet. It’s something I can relate to. The new iteration is going to be used, not as a booming mouth piece, but as a normalizing catalyst for the current administration and our horrible homunculus of a president.

Looking back at the wonderful things Rosanne has said about Hillary (and the terrible things) I think she tends to use political situations to stay in the spot light. Maybe she doesn’t support Trump and this is all an act. She said on Jimmy Kimmel that, “no one wants their president to fail.” and that is or at least it should be true. The day after the election, comforting a wife and friends who were devastated and emotional I said, “Just give him a chance.” I quoted a vlog I was enjoying at the time, “He may be a sack of shit, but at the bottom of that sack there might be something good. We don’t know yet.” and he’s proven that at the bottom of that sack, there is nothing but more shit.

So what’s my point? My point is, shows like this that have an agenda to normalize a man who Is a confirmed racist, sexist, misogynist, and an accused molester and rapist should not be allowed to exist. They serve to do nothing but speed and already rapidly declining society. It’s not about one show. It’s not about Rosanne, it’s about a man in power who craps on the ideals America was founded on, wipes his ass with the constitution and pisses on the people of America and how that’s becoming alright.

Welcome to my mead hall ye warriors!

I am plagued by passing fancies. I have always flitted from interest to interest and never really had what I would consider a hobby. I used to play roleplaying games but that takes more than me. I used to be in the SCA and learned a lot about medieval culture, sewing, archery, etc. but grew away from it. I don’t look at my artistic pursuits as much more than a way to kill time these days and I write so slowly, I don’t think any one of the three novels…. novellas…. short stories… whatever they are…. could be considered a hobby. I’ve tried a lot of different diversions and I throw a good deal of attention into them, learning about things associated with said diversion and even going so far as to achieve some low level of mastery of whatever it is I’m trying to do. I never perfect anything and I usually move on to another interest pretty quickly.

I think the thread that connects them all is in the learning and researching of the thing I’m doing. The problem is, when I’ve researched something to the point I feel like I can do it, I try it and then I loose interest either because it’s not really as interesting to do the activity or it’s isolating in some way and while I’m an introverted homebody who enjoys every second I can get alone…. If I’m enjoying something I want to share it.

This leads me to another hobby I’m developing and one that’s even more odd given the subject of the activity since I’m not a drinker. I’m brewing mead! Years ago my friend Evan and I tried our hand at making wine but it never really went anywhere and I didn’t try again. A long while later I was reminiscing about those days and thought about giving it another try but never got around to it. Well, life being cyclical, here we go again. My first batch is bubbling away filling my office at home with the sweet aroma of yeasted honey. It’s a little like fresh baked bread and sweet honey butter.

I don’t know how it will turn out, but the research has been a lot of fun. I’ve gathered recipes, learned the differences between a show mead, a melopmel, and a methaglen. I have watched some very entertaining videos on the subject and it’s all fascinating. One problem… there won’t be anyone to drink it. I figured out the sugar content for a 12 oz glass and the wife is not interested in such a “sweet” drink. The wines she enjoys are way dryer and lower in carbohydrate and even the beers she will have once in a blue moon are HALF the carbs.

I still plan to feed this brew to our friends if it turns out, but I don’t know how long I can sustain the interest. It will be fun to do while I’m doing it. Suggestions for the next hobby?

If you know what this is, you can try some when it’s done.

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What would you do for your Democracy?

I don’t want to be involved with my Democracy. Sure, I like it’s benefits and I believe in democratic process. I just like to not get ground up in the machine. I made a list of how I’m going to be a better steward of Democracy at the limited level I want to be involved with it. Here’s that list.

  1. I own a firearm, but would gladly register it, get a license and any training required to achieve that license. I will not own an “assault” style tacti-cool semi or full auto rifle. I don’t feel the need to over compensate for anything. I prefer bolt action anyway.
  2. I will not affiliate, associate, or otherwise engage with a group of individuals, organized or social, who profess the virtues of freedom and liberty or even equality just to hide behind rhetoric of hate or separatism. It’s great to want to make america great again, but what are you saying about it’s current status? Wasn’t it great already?
  3. I will fact check my loathing. Just because it’s on the internet does not mean it is true and I will make sure it is before I believe it arbitrarily. It’s easy to believe something terrible about someone you regard as human garbage, but I think you still have to know if what is posted about them in the media or online is true.
  4. I will engage only so far with someone who can’t see the middle and will otherwise keep my mouth shut. I don’t care which side you’re on as long as you’re willing to see the other side and debate your position with regards to the middle. A level playing field is the only way anyone will win. Winning, by the way, means compromise.
  5. I will understand most fear and hate are based on ignorance and will not tolerate that ignorance. Instead I will strive to correct that ignorance to a point (see #4). If that gets me hated, so be it. Hate actually comes from the same place as love…. it’s the same energy. Just ask a hippy.
  6. I will see myself in my leaders and repair those things I see in myself that disgusts me about them. Ask yourself why you dislike someone. You might have something in common with them. Any person you come into contact with can be a mirror and a force for positive change.
  7. I will continue to be the voice of the middle discarding emotion and outrage and focus on and offer up ideas for how things can be made better in the middle ground. You have to build somewhere.
  8. If I ever have any, I will throw money at the right politicians to get them to change their minds in favor for a solution that benefits the most people. It seems to work for big Pharma and the NRA, it will work for normal people too. Bribery is bribery so let’s call lobbyists what they are.
  9. I will not bow to mob mentality. Just because a lot of people, even people I love and care about, say it doesn’t make it true until I’ve researched it and found out the actual truth. Stop believing the filtered crap and opinionews you see on the popular internet and television sources and become your own news aggregate to find the wheat in the chaff.

You don’t have to follow any of these rules. Heck, you don’t have to listen to anything I have to say about anything which is the beauty of being an individual. As a human being who is not a sociopath, you DO have an innate moral obligation to help the tribe. Remember the person you’re arguing with, while they might be coming from a place of fear, ignorance, bad childhood, or just selfishness, might still be thinking they’re protecting the tribe or at least their small part of it. Learn empathy, something that seems to be lacking these days, and take yourself out of the equation, step into their shoes, and then see their point before making yours. It might go a long way to changing their mind and your own.

Another one? Didn’t I just talk about this?

I just posted about this. What is going on?

Yet another shooting and another flood of Face Book posts, Tweets, and Snap chats about the evils of guns and gun owners. I have said in the past that the person who owns the gun is the problem, not the gun. While it is true that if you remove the gun, a person can’t shoot it, but to the normal and mentally healthy gun owner that’s like pulling out a dog’s teeth to keep it from biting. I’m not saying that’s 100% rational, but think about why most gun owners purchased their guns and who owns them.

According to the Pew Research Center, a bout a third of American’s own firearms. In 2013, Pew documents that eighty percent of those gun owners own them for hunting and for self defense. Those people would argue their rights to defend themselves or to provide food for their families without having to rely on farms or big industries. That only leaves eighteen percent of gun owners owing guns for recreational use. The other 18% own guns because they can and that’s where I feel the problem lies. Why own something that can kill without a clear reason to own it?

With regards about the most recent school shooting in Florida, the gun most assuredly was not the problem. Granted, he bout it at 18 with zero training. On top of that, he was diagnosed with Autism which could have been a contributing factor to his lack of emotional control. Who sells an ar-15 to an 18 year old autistic kid? That’s beside the point.

He had behavioral issues when he was at the school, regularly talked about killing small animals for sport and he was expelled instead of any kind of investigation being done. Had the school been properly funded and staffed then maybe he would have gotten help to deal with his adopted mother’s death. Instead, he was tossed aside. His school failed. At home, he would send his dogs to the neighbors house trying to get him to attack their pet pigs. If that’s not a red flag, I don’t know what is! If any of this was reported to police, he could have gotten help so his community failed. On line he posted about wanting to shoot people with the very gun he used to shoot up the school and on Instagram, he posted threatening pictures evoking terroristic imagery brandishing guns and knives. The Internet, not the healthiest place to live, also failed to alert anyone to the very obvious danger this kid represented.

Where does it end? We ignore problems with our society or we marvel in morbid fascination of these sick people and we don’t speak up. There is something to be said for freedom of speech but there is a normal. When someone is off the bubble, say something. In the case of terrorism, we use catch phrases like “See something, say something” and we foster fear of the foreign but we ignore our own until a kid shoots up a school. I don’t have any answers, just observations.