16 January 2017

Importance of Building Peace

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a day when we remember one of the key figures in the Civil Rights Movement here in the United States. This year the week we’re starting today also marks the presidential transition from Barack Obama to Donald Trump, with the Inauguration this Friday. On this holiday of remembrance and as we look ahead with inevitability to the upcoming administration, I feel it is important to take a moment to rekindle everyone’s understanding of just how important the task of building peace, not just being peaceful, is in our society, and to give some resources worth keeping track of in what I’m not alone in feeling will be a possibly darker time for our country and world than we have had over the past eight years.

This week will be interesting in that we move from remembering a figure of the Civil Rights era to having a presidential administration whose proposed policies (from the prospective of Democrats anyway, but notably also many international communities) run largely counter to the values of a modern democracy that is a post-Civil Rights Movement society, which are ostensibly where we’ve been for the past more than a decade. Dare I say we’ll have the opposite feelings of a standard workweek. Joyous remembrances today and sorrow this Friday. At least, I suspect that those I surround myself with will be feeling that way…

I know that I have emphasized this here before, but the difference between simply the absence of violence, or Negative Peace, and the building of a society that has equal and just policies, or Positive Peace, (to vastly water down the differences between those) is important to note in this context. While Negative Peace is the simpler goal to achieve, it is not the kind of society we really need and is not what is necessary to sustainably move forward. While establishing a system void of conflict is important, there need to be those of us around thinking of the further goal of a Positive Peace in our society. I would hope that we can seriously start to define how that may be worked on, as we begin to see what 2017 and beyond bring us.

Here are some assorted resources to help think about the kind of peace we need in our society that are worth keeping track of:

  • The resources published by the Albert Einstein Institution, where Gene Sharp’s work is
  • Local organizations working for peace and in many ways even just ones working on the general betterment of society are worth knowing about and, if possible, helping out with. I won’t give any specific suggestions of such organizations here, since I do not want to favor any over others nor favor any specific geographic regions.
  • The work and philosophy of Tich Nhat Hahn
  • Erica Chenoweth’s research
  • I don’t mean to toot my own horn so to speak, but the posts in the Peace Studies category here on my blog provide some inspiration and resources. Particularly the research I undertook on Peer Mediation is one way we could use to introduce some concepts of peaceful resolution to conflicts to children, and as such the next generation.

Finally, I want to encourage you all to share this post with anyone who’d appreciate it, and to add resources and ideas yourselves in the comments here (as well as alongside sharing this post) for each other to find as no single person can create an exhaustive list. I mainly mean to provide a starting point here for us all to add to. Throughout Donald Trump’s impending presidency we must be a light keeping the ideals of a peaceful society alive, even if we find our country and society plunged into something less than peaceful in the coming weeks and months.

4 September 2016

Mother Teresa’s Canonization

Earlier today (as in, at 3 am where I am) Pope Francis canonized Mother Teresa. Despite not a peep about this occasion at the liturgy I was at earlier this morning this nevertheless is a moment worth noting. It is worth noting not just as any old canonization would be, but since Mother Teresa is unquestionably one of the “modern day” saints for whom there are still people alive today who were around her. Since that group includes one of my grandmothers and one of my aunts it is even more appropriate that members of my family take special note of this canonization. I actually do have a closer link to Mother Teresa than many because of them.

Among the myriad of Mother Teresa related things worth revisiting today I’ve read over a biography paper I wrote on her back in 2011 for one of my Peace Studies classes at CSB/SJU. I haven’t touched that project since then, despite apparent aspirations at the time that I may eventually add to it, but it is definitely appropriate to read what is there today of all days. Who knows, maybe it’d be worth reworking the last part of that paper to reflect today’s canonization and/or actually put up some of my other original research notes. But still that seems somewhat unlikely to happen, we’ll see if I ever do that. Still, what is there is worth a read. For those interested, you can also read the blog post where I first linked to this paper, back on the 10th of October in 2011.

Regardless how much or little you know about Mother Teresa as you read this, I encourage you all to at the very least take a moment to recognize this new saint. If you have more time on your hands this Labor Day weekend then perhaps reading over the links above and whatever else you can find on Mother Teresa would be something worthwhile to spend some time on.

12 June 2016

Thoughts Following Orlando

When it comes to what happened in Orlando, well, there is nothing simple any of us truly can say, because it is not a simple thing with a trivial fix. Something is severely broken in our society that we find ourselves all-too-often seeing (mass) shootings as a refrain of what the United States is. We’re in the midst of a presidential election where the entire world is focused on us given the sheer amount of power our nation holds, and this is part of what they see of us. That is far from a good thing. Putting aside what we as Americans believe about ourselves, how many people who live in other nations and ways of living may increasingly be hearing of these events and start questioning our abilities as true, peaceful, world leaders? In some ways this falls right in tune with the constant refrain the military’s actions have on other regions of the world as a mascot of our nation.

Many of us woke up to news of Orlando this morning. Since there is barely anything we can do individually to truly sway the forces that lead into events such as these we as a society need to wake up and figure out how to change what needs to change. Lives are worth enough that we cannot just stand idle as they’re torn apart. We must make real attempts to change our society.

Of course, perhaps depressingly, all we can honestly do is make attempts. We can individually change behaviors, but we cannot individually be certain that such behavioral changes will lead to societal shifts. The analogy of society to the very human bodies we each inhabit comes to mind. Countless organs and systems make up the human body, each of which plays a role in sustaining us and keeping everything with at least the appearance of working. In the same way we are these organs for society. We hold the power to make or break society, fall into violence or maintain peace, in the same way that our bodily organs hold the power to make us sick. In this sense, mass shootings are a plague that has been hitting our societal body for way too long. Where is our societal immune system?

Each one of us has had multiple moments burned deep into our long term memory such that we will never forget details of those moments. I’m probably correct in saying that 9/11/2001 is one such date that has such a hold on each of us. For me, Barack Obama’s first presidential inauguration is another example, as too would be when I was taking care of my great-grandmother the day she died. We all can list dozens of such moments. Of note, such moments need not be negative at all. When will these mass shootings, each and every one of them (because, as much as we feel sick thinking of it, this will not be the last in all likelihood), become moments burned into our memory? When will we start remembering forever exactly where we were and what we were doing when we heard of this mass shooting or that mass shooting (gosh, even that phrasing makes me a bit sick)? I fear that only once these moments are burned into our memory in a way like 9/11/2001 is, even for those of us on the other side of the country who are not directly affected (though, as one societal being none of us truly remain unaffected), will we all gain the necessary drive to actually change our society. But with so many such shootings the past few years, we naturally become too used to this sort of thing (too numb to it in some ways, perhaps?)  to have such vivid recollections. So we’ve reached this conundrum where one of the drives to heal our society of this plague is itself to have less of it, that is not a good thing because what are the chances of that actually working out?

We therefore must work to heal society in other ways. So, the task laid before us is that. In some ways a basic task, but in many ways a complex one. Let us each go to bed tonight dreaming of ways in which we can work as healers of our society. These need not be monumental achievements, and to be successful individually probably shouldn’t be, but standing idle is not an appropriate response.

11 January 2016

Thoughts on Force Touch and Haptic Feedback in OS X

Back at the end of October I couldn’t resist getting a Magic Trackpad 2 for my iMac due to all three of its advancements over the earlier model:

  1. Force Touch and Haptic Feedback, the real topic of this post
  2. Built-in Lightning-rechargeable battery (which I have since on at least one occasion found the usefulness of the trackpad using USB for data while recharging when my iMac’s bluetooth refused to work until a reboot because I could still use a real trackpad in those minutes, even postpone the reboot if desired)
  3. 30% larger (which comes in handy in many ways, now that I’ve retrained my hand to remember its larger size)

In this intervening time as I’ve been at the forefront of this new input (Force Touch) and output (Haptic, or as Apple calls it Taptic, Feedback) dimension in OS X I’ve begun to recognize some of the ways Apple could expand this technology as it becomes more ubiquitous to literally add new dimensions to the OS without really needing any, or at least few, further hardware advancements.

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29 December 2015

Overview of Centralized WordPress Site Management

Somewhat following after my post regarding online security over the next few weeks I may be posting articles that branch off of that with more details about one item or another mentioned in that article.

A few days ago Mary asked me to guide her through understanding the full functionality of WordPress.com, especially given how much it has expanded its helpfulness towards anyone running self-hosted WordPress sites. No longer is it just for running WordPress.com-hosted sites, as I do none of that yet consider WordPress.com a very helpful tool. It is no joke that for lots of site management when I’m partly responsible for managing many different WP sites (over 6 different sites, all self-hosted) WordPress.com has become quite a central tool that makes many common management tasks more streamlined since it is one place I can go to accomplish many tasks even on more than one site at a time. In writing up notes to guide me in helping Mary, and to leave her with, I came to the realization that those notes may be useful to others (not the least being, potentially, some of the very clients I work with and others who may be helping to manage multiple WordPress sites either for personal and/or professional reasons). Those notes are after the break.

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25 December 2015

The Gift of Strongly Recommending Higher Personal Online Security

Today is Christmas, a day when a substantial portion of western humans celebrate by giving one another gifts and sitting by trees that we’ve brought into our home. If you know me well, you know how little that part matters to me anymore. So, in part, let me give all of you the gift of explaining just why taking advantage of a few higher security measures for online accounts of yours is actually something you should do, perhaps even making it a prior-to-2016-actually-starting New Year’s resolution to start doing. Before I go any further, for those who may ask, I wrote this across the weeks ahead of today, and it merely automatically posted itself this morning. Also, for those who celebrate it, Merry Christmas!
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30 November 2015

Day by Day has Moved

Over the years this blog has changed in the type (and frequency) of content. I mean, I started it in 2002 when I was 10, being that my birth year is 1992. While at CSB/SJU I included fairly deep academic papers here, and discussion surrounding them. These days what I post here is largely far and few between, but quite substantive when I do post stories (the fact that I draft each post in Ulysses for a few days minimum and only transfer them to WordPress right at the time of posting is evidence of this). Not really the simple posts that this blog began with!

Over the years this blog has changed in the actual design of the site as well. Way early on it changed alongside a switch from Moveable Type to WordPress, which it uses to this day. Most recently, a few months ago, I switched the theme the site uses from an older 2010 iteration of our family’s custom theme (that I help manage the code of) to the 2013 iteration. This brought with it some minor design tweaks, but more importantly a unification of underlying code with other WordPress-based sites I help maintain (take a look at the Friends of St. Joesph website). Quite literally, all these sites’ copies of the theme use the same Git repository where the theme code truly resides and is distributed out of.

But that was just a precursor to the truly significant change that I made a week or so ago. No, there isn’t anything about the theme that has changed this time. Rather, for a hint look at the URL the blog is at. It no longer resides strictly within the alex.clst.org space that it used to be in since November 2002 (over the next few months I’ll be sifting what remains there into a more professional website, and leaving the rest as an archive). It is now at dbd.alex.clst.org, which is merely a front-end URL for the site truly living within wp.clst.org. For those of you that manage websites with self-hosted WordPress installations that URL may be a hint to you as to what is going on at this web space. Day by Day has joined a growing number of my family’s personal blogs and WP sites we run for smaller groups (including the Friends of St. Joseph) in our WordPress network. A WordPress network, or multi-site installation, is essentially a self-hosted WordPress.com-like website. Each site can look entirely independent, including having completely different URLs, but share the exact same WordPress installation, themes, and plugins. This is a change I’ve been contemplating for months, largely as it vastly simplifies managing software updates and other maintenance needs of the site, since those come “for free” with doing such tasks for the network as a whole.

The old URLs of Day by Day should redirect completely over to their new counterparts, including all deeper URLs into the site. This means that even the RSS feed just continues to work, but I do suggest that anyone who subscribes to Day by Day via RSS make sure that they’re subscribed using the new RSS feed just in case. Also, those of you who were subscribed via email or following on WordPress.com will need to resubscribe as there is no way for me to transfer those subscriptions, unfortunately. I don’t foresee any more significant systemic changes to my blog anytime in the near future (though minor theme modifications may occur even more often now that the site uses the exact copy of the theme used by other sites as well). Please do let me know if you see anything awry with the site, because there may be small issues persisting that I missed.