The Refugee Crisis

I am very conflicted about this issue.
On the one hand, I feel Europeans seeded this mess a long time ago and they should accept the refugees. On the other hand, I believe that people have the leaders they allow to rule. Just about half the population of Syria left the country. If that same half had marched on the capital, yes, it would have been bloody, but the regime would not be standing.
In a very simplistic way to be sure, most of the unrest in the world today is either directly or indirectly the result of early Europeans to the ‘new world’. So, it is now Europe’s turn to deal with the mess they seeded many years ago. Looking at it through that lens, Europeans migrated from Europe in large numbers to the new world for exactly the same reason as the refugees of today. Religious and political unrest in Europe drove people to look for peace else where. The Puritans didn’t come to America because life was great in England. Neither did the Irish or the Italians, Germans, and on and on. Yet, they came when their home land was a mess looking for a better life.
Europeans didn’t only flee to the new world for sanctuary, they also saw the new world as a gold mine. Carving up the land amongst themselves regardless of tribal or ethnic boundaries. This led to a whole host of problems that are still with us today. The refugees of today are from places where Europeans had there hands and made a mark. Today, those refugees are looking for the same thing the Europeans were looking for when they left Europe;  freedom, peace of mind, and safety.
That is why is really striking to me, to hear Europeans or American talk disparagingly about people wanting to come to their country today. No one asked the Native American Indians or the Amerindians if they could enter. Yet they did, and did so bearing arms. Nothing like what is going on today.
I feel for people living in difficult situations and who just want a better life for their love ones. But I also feel that people have a responsibility to make their home a better place to live. Assad doesn’t lead Syria alone. There are many who support him. That country has the leader they have because that is the leader who allow to govern.
Some might say, well he is violent and he crushes the opposition. That is true, but for all those who are fleeing the country, about half the population by now. That is more than enough to have crushed Assad and his supported. Instead of fleeing, they should stay, fight, and die to make their home a better place. Fleeing only makes it possible for Assad to say in power because there are less people to oppose him. So while they leave for a better life for themselves, they leave their countrymen to suffer.
Every Syrian that leaves and seek asylum elsewhere, is abandoning their country and handing success to the regime. That is why I believe that if people don’t like what is going on in their country, they should fight to change it. Be willing to fall on your metaphorical sword in the battle to have the leadership you want. And that would mean a civil war in many instances and fighting with your brother. But people just can’t run away from every bad situation to where the going is good and leave issues unresolved.


About Kim Davis

The Kim Davis saga is almost over, thankfully. But I wanted to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard in this case on this issue. There are many many opinions all over the web on either side of this issue, and I would guess some that falls smack in the middle. I am clearly on one side.

I think Kim Davis is wrong, the people who support her are wrong. I don’t know if history will bear that out or not. She is not only wrong for not granting that license. She is wrong and others like her who claim religious persecution. About the only people in The United States of America today that could say they are in anyway being vilified in anyway for their religious beliefs are Muslims. And still, it would be a stretch for Muslims to claim they are being persecuted.

No religious group in America, is being hunted, hung out to dry, or put in jail for their religious or non-religious beliefs. So, religious and non-religious people are both being protected. Though, some more than others. So it is clear, that anyone who claims religious persecution in America today, is simply dishonest at best and dangerous at worst.

As far as whatever Kim Davis believes about gays and gays being married, she is free to have those beliefs. However, she has a job for which she gets paid. It is not her job to interpret the law. If she finds it disagreeable, she can quit and protest or run for office. But as it is not, she can’t, shouldn’t be allowed to, or celebrated for not following the law. The people who are supporting her, would be very unhappy, if someone else claims religious beliefs prevents them from issuing heterosexual marriage licenses. And conservatives, who are generally Republicans, who also generally favor the rights to bear arms, would be very unhappy if someones religious beliefs prevented them from selling them a gun or gun license.

But it is not because the other side won’t like the same argument being used on them that is why it is wrong. It is simply wrong to say religious beliefs are preventing you from doing a job for which there is no religion. If Kim Davis wants, she can go get a job at a church or some other religious place where they won’t be issuing gay marriage licenses. Put on the public dime, she shouldn’t be allow to use her religion like a cloak against serving the public.

What makes people like Kim Davis, and the politicians like Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz dangerous, is how they mislead the mass. People like these are very dangerous for a society that must function on diverse opinions. We have to be able to have our own opinions, and even if the opinions collide, we don’t. We should still work with and for each other. Because all we have and all we know for certain, is that we are here and are all struggling to survive and have fun doing it.

All the talk of religion have not yet proven beyond doubt, that there is any god to help us now or in the next life. All we have so far is this life. And when Kim Davis says god speaks to her, she is gravely mistaken and to have other believe that is dangerous. If god had a desire, he can just have us all know his/her desire. There would be no need for us to argue. why is it that only people who believe there is a god get to hear is voice? Why doesn’t god just write in the sky, I am god and I don’t want gays to get married. Or burn it on the walls of the court room? there it would be clear for all to see.

Religious people would tell you just how good and real god is in their life, but yet can’t show you gods hands in the world. We won’t have to fight about whether gays should married if god simple tell us all. God created the world and everything in it, which would also mean gays. But for god he can’t solve this issue, he need lieutenants like Kim Davis, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, and the rest to do his work.

I think people who claim god told them or wants them to do something other than for their own lives are dangerous. Where will they stop? People used religion to maintain slavery. People used religion for wars. People have used religion to deny interracial marriages. And those people too, claimed that gold spoke to them.

So then I wonder about what kind of god speak to these people? The people who are most intolerant? The ones who would soon tell you about gods love for you, but would rather you go at it alone in this world? Would deny you medical help? Or would just as quickly consider you their enemy and pick up arms?

Just Do It

Not is not only for Nike, but for anyone wanting to do something. For quite a number of years now, long before YouTube, I have been wanting to make tutorial material available on the Internet. Before video on the Internet was popular, writing tutorial, then doing a podcast, and then when YouTube took off, doing videos.

That desire, that kindling of an idea, was there for well over 15 years. But I never got around to doing much about it. Now and then I would post a written tutorial over those years, especially in the early parts. But still, not to the extend I wanted to.

Recently, I decided to jump right in. I started with one video and it was so easy. I didn’t even do any post editing. After uploading my video, I emailed a few friends, and that was it. My friends were very encouraging. I had worked with many of them over the years professionally and had said I should do when I mentioned the idea.

Since then, I have followed up with even more videos. I am so excited to be doing this now, something I have been wanting to do for so long. It is like scratching an itch you couldn’t reach. So here it is, my place in the YouTube universe:

My advice to anyone who wants to do something. Just do it, just start it, just jump in. Don’t think of the details, just get going. You will figure it out as you go. Worst case, if it is not he right time to do it, you will see that AFTER you start. Don’t let the things you see as obstacles before you start prevent you from starting. Those are not usually obstacles, just doubts to keep you where you are. Your evolutionary left-side brain trying to keep you from taking risks. But what are you risking? The opportunity to be happier doing something you want to do? Yes, so just do it.

For the Record

I was listening to a gut wrenching story on ‘This American Life’ on school integration/segregation in 21st century. The episode was called ‘The Problem We All Live With’.

It was painful to listen to. May be it was painful for for me because I am black. But I would hope that had I not been black, it would have been equally painful or even more painful at the thought of my inherent privileges.

Then they played this song I never heard before. The song resonated so much, may be because of the story I just heard. The song is called ‘It is Because I ‘m Black’ by Syl Johnson.

Secret To Being Happy

The secret to being happy, is being happy. I will explain in a bit. This can get really long, but I will keep it short.

I am writing this entry because I was listening to NPR’s ‘Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!’ recently. The surgeon general of the USA was a guest on this week’s episode. This is what he said:

That includes making sure you’re eating a lot of fruits and vegetables in particular, drinking a lot of water. But there’s actually one other thing which I think is really important. This is actually being happy. And now, let me explain why. Most people think that you need to be healthy in order to happy.

In went on to explain:

But I actually think a lot of times it’s the other way around. You know, we know that there are things that all of us know we can do in our life to improve our happiness. For example, whether it’s spending time with friends, improving social connectedness, whether it’s making sure that we are exercising and – which actually can give you energy and improve your emotional and mental function…

And that’s it. I have been saying the same thing for years. For sometime years now, I have being saying to friends and family, ‘happiness is the most important thing to me’. And I meant every word of it. Probably the first person I can remember saying that the most to, was my first girlfriend. It wasn’t because she made me unhappy a lot, it was just something I said often.

Without really knowing how it would work, I had decided at a very young age that I would be happy. I really didn’t come to it as “I will be happy”. It was a decision based on a train of thought. It comes down to two simple ideas, ‘get over it’, and ‘time is precious’.

The first one is easy to reason about. Assume that you are not in your worst mood right now, then it can get worst. But then you would get over that period and be back to whatever you typical mood is. So if you look at head of all possibly negative situations you can encounter, you can see that most of them you will eventually get out of. So why not make a conscious decision to just get over it? By essentially skipping out the rough or negative parts? When you find yourself in a situation that is not your typical mood, just force yourself to get over it, by simple refusing to give in to the mood that would be warranted of the current situation. Yup, ‘just get over it’. You will still whatever problem you need to deal with, but mentally, you are in a different, and happier state of mind.

The last one is about time and it is kind of weird to explain. You want to think of unhappiness as an event with a date, that you can sometime postpone. It is in your interest then to procrastinate on your unhappiness.

Imagine that you could make deal with the universe. The deal would go like this. Universe, you know the time of my death and thus the length of my life. Therefore, I want all the unhappiness for my life, to occur at the end of my life, instead of sprinkled throughout. This a pretty simple deal to think of. If you imagine that you can get this deal, it shouldn’t matter to the universe, you would have suffered the same unhappiness either way.

The reason you want this deal, is because you get to be happiest when it mattered most. When you were young and in the prime of your life. Even if you live to be very old or die young. The other thing is, if there is caveat, such that you checked out before “your time”. Guess what, you would have cheated the universe out of making you as unhappy as you should have been.

So in both cases, you want avoid unhappiness by avoiding it. Be it by ‘just getting over it’ or postponing it for as long as possible. And this exactly how I reasoned it at a young age and decided, I will always strive to be as happy as I can. And my happiness is the most important thing to me. People and situations that are taking away from my happiness, find their influence on me diminishes less and less over time.

Undecided – The Trial of X

It dawn on me the other day to write down a fictional story. Again, like all ideas, it just seems to come to me from a number of other sources or things that might have happened or be happening.

Anyway, I have spent some time writing down this stuff and ideas were just coming at me the more I wrote. This is quite typical, if you are working on something, you get more and more ideas. When you stop writing or working on it, then you don’t get a much inspiration form the muses.

What I am working on is a bit, uh, edgy. So I don’t know about putting online at this time.

Moved, From California to North Carolina

Another major milestone in life to be marked to be remembered. It is not just moving from one home to another, like you are more likely to do. Like move from one city to another or few streets over. This is the big more, moving across the country.

I have made big moves before, like when I moved from New York City to Schaumburg Illinois. Likewise, my wife, son, and I made an equally big move from New Jersey to California in 2010. My son was just a few months old.

Leaving all of the extended family behind, we knew that this had to make the move at that time. We also hoped that somehow, someday, we would be closer to family. The family would either move, but really, we knew that we would move closer. How close would be the only thing to settle. So here it is, the move to North Carolina. A 2 hours flight from NY/NJ, about 30 minutes drive my sister-in-law, and very much closer to getting down to the Caribbean.

The reasons for moving now just sort of worked out well. My son will be 5 years old soon, and shortly their after will be starting public school. We wanted him to be in a school system and not have to worry about him having to change schools too often. We also wanted to be able to own a home and do so without being stressed about it. Living in the bay area won’t have allowed us to do that. Many other are able to afford it, but we just decided that since we wanted to be closer to family and it was very very expensive to live in a decent neighborhood, it just didn’t make sense to plan roots there.

Being close to family is very important to us. Had it been reasonable to live in the bay area, we would have owned a home, but still left anyway. Both my wife and I grew up with aunts, uncles, and cousins close by. It is some of my fondest memories, visiting aunts and cousins, and having them visit.

So far, our new neighbors are just awesome. We had wine and pie with one set of neighbors on our second night there. Our son found a play mate his age right next door. Something he really lacked where we lived in California. Not that there weren’t kids to play with, but nowhere we felt was safe. Letting kids playing in the community parking lot is definitely not safe and we didn’t let me go out there. Here, he can play in ours or the neighbors very long driveway.

There are so many other benefits too, from more space, to lower car insurance rate, to cheaper gas, and trees, and less noise, and knowing the people you live next to, and on and on and on. No need to rub it in, but for now, it really seems like the we did the right thing.

Better Than Humans

In my post about how our intuition can be misleading, I briefly mentioned self-driving cars. I said that ones intuition, might tell them that humans are better than self-driving cars. Not a day later, Google, one of the companies doing the most testing on self-driving cars, released raw data and a report on their self-driving cars.

Since 2012, the cares have been in twelve accidents. Fortunately, none of the accidents were serious. Interestingly, none of them was a result of the self-driving cars. It was always human error. Be it human drivers hitting the stopped self-driving car, or in one case, a human driver in control of a self-driving car causing an accident.

So, to my point in this post. Computers don’t have to be perfect, they just have to be better than us humans. Self-driving cars are showing that in that respect, in some limited situations, they already are. For now, human drivers are still my best option to navigate the unknown road condition here or there. But as computer vision, computing speed, and software gets more advance, computers will get better at that too.

I will point to two sources instead of rehashing the same points that have been cover there more concisely. Watch ‘Humans Need Not Apply‘ on YouTube and this interview on NPR’ Fresh Air with the author of a book about how robots are coming for our white collar jobs.

No Project Is Too Small To Stop, Think, and Plan

I mentioned a project I have been working on and off for some time now. Unlike before, I am actually making tangible steps forwards. And more importantly, I haven’t had to start over recently. For a good part of the project, I would get some work done, then hit some kind of road block in the technology I had chosen. My solution, start over with something else. But finally, I am using the JHipster web application stack and I am not doing that.

The one thing I do realized now though, is that had I done a bit more planning earlier, things would have gone a lot smoother. I did a lot of stopping and thinking about what I wanted and how I wanted it to work. But, by not writing it down on paper to see if it fits, it was just all in my head where if fits easily and consistently. Regardless of the project size, you will always have changes as it starts to material. So pretty much no amount of planning will change that. But, some planning will help with the number of restarts and stalls.

Yesterday, I realized that my page flow was just too confusing as I added more pages. That right there was something I would have noticed I had spent some time writing it down and going over it. I knew that I would be adding more pages, and in my head, it seemed to have worked so well. Once I thought it up, I just started coding one page at a time. Eventually, I have a few pages and the navigation didn’t work well.

Once I started doing what I should have done before, plan. The ideas I had in my head, I now had some more insight about how they might work. I am planning a bit more now before jumping off again.

There is a delicate balance so observe here. No project is too small for some planning. But too much planning and no work, will just keep you in the planning stage. Sometimes you just have to get going and only then you get some insights, you will know if what you are thinking is even feasible. Of course, that is when you figure out that things don’t work the way you think.

If I had to summarize it, I would say always do some planning, especially on paper. May be something like a Passion Planner journal. Easier than using some computer program and doesn’t take a lot of time. But don’t wait too long to start getting your hands dirty, else you might just lose interest. And once you start, it is ok to take breaks to plan. Even if you might have to back up a bit before going forward.

You will be making progress so long as you are thinking, planning, and doing something. If you are not thinking about your project, you are problem not interested in it anymore. If you don’t do any planning, that will make materializing it harder. Whatever you do, do something that helps your project materialize.

Final tip, as much as restarting a project might seem like running in the same place. Don’t be afraid to throw out something that is not working and start over. What you throw out or throwing out to early, will be something you will have to figure out. But don’t get bend out of shape for having to start over, if that is the smart thing to do. Better to correct going down the ‘wrong’ path as early as possible, than later.