Thursday, December 01, 2016

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

How to Make Progress in the Next Decade

Jeff left a very reasonable comment about my last post, in which he asks the question "How would a progressive make any progress in the next decade?"

I hope this answer doesn't seem trite, but for what it's worth it's the best I can do: we make progress the same way we made progress at any other time. By that I mean stay informed, stay involved or get involved in grassroots decision making, treat others with dignity and respect, keep educating yourself, and provide regular feedback to your elected representatives. Create art. Support movements and charities that do good work. Consider the choices you make every day: who do they help, and who do they harm?

Unfortunately, I'm no strategist, and I feel whatever wisdom I used to have fled long ago. I know I'm in a position of great privilege, that I've never known true deprivation, and that my hand-wringing is unseemly in the face of the real suffering being borne by billions all over the world today. I'm aware of the hypocrisy of my own choices, and yet I keep making those choices because I am weak.

But I do the best I can. And the best I can do right now is to write about the things I care about, to try to share some joy via the blog, to care for my loved ones and support my friends. If I gather enough strength over the next few months, maybe I can do more.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Like many progressives, I've been down in the dumps for much of the year, with my gloomy funk accelerating after the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump in the USA. Given those events, the continuing catastrophic decline of journalism, rising nationalist fervor in Europe and closer to home, plus the seeming willingness of a growing segment of the population to ignore evidence based decision making, coupled with an outright rejection of science and rising acceptance of racism and xenophobia...

...well, it's made for some sleepless nights, and I mean that almost literally. I've had nightmares about the end of civilization with a frequency I haven't endured since I was a teenager during the Cold War. It's been a long time since I've been plagued by such persistent feelings of hopeless despair.

But over the last couple of days, even in the wake of a never-ending tide of bad news, I've somehow managed to find some perspective. While I don't seek to minimize the current tide of existential threats, it soothes me a little to recall that human beings have persevered and even triumphed over circumstances almost as dire. You only have to look back less than a century, to the generation that lived through the Great Depression, through the rise of fascism in Europe and totalitarian governments in Asia, ultimately climaxing in a war that killed millions upon millions of people and practically destroyed an entire continent's infrastructure.

I wish I weren't seeing so many parallels between the world situation now and that of the 1930s. It's not much solace, except in that there was a light at the end of that long, dark tunnel. The generations before us found the light because they fought for it, literally and figuratively, at staggering cost.

Those of us who believe in human rights, science, and generally working to end human misery, have some fighting ahead of us. We have to show that progressive solutions bring the greatest happiness to the largest number of people, and we have to use arguments that the disenfranchised and the fearful will understand and embrace.

We also have to recognize, much as it pains us, that there are people of ill will who fight dirty and without remorse for their own selfish interests. I don't advocate stooping to their level. But we do have to be ready to refute their lies and bad ideas with the facts and better ideas. And we have to do it with a passion that matches - exceeds - theirs.

2016 has proven that the march of progress can be halted and even reversed. It's happened before, and maybe it's happening now. Those of us who dream of a better world for everyone can't take its arrival for granted. We have to build it, even if others want to tear it all down. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Robby's Return

Robby the Robot used to get around. Since his first appearance in Forbidden Planet, still one of the best SF films ever made, he's turned up in his own starring vehicle (the flawed, weird, but somehow arresting The Invisible Boy), and he's guest-starred on Lost in Space, The Thin Man, The Addams Family and Mork and Mindy, among other television series. It's been some time since Robby was a pop culture icon, and as a fan I'd love to see him turn up again. Dr. Who seems an ideal vehicle for a return, considering the Doctor visits all of time and space; perhaps he could encounter the intrepid crew of United Planets cruiser C57-D after the destruction of Altair IV. On the other hand, the creators of the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery show will feature robots; why not Robby?

Or maybe he could show up in the background of an episode of would seem a fitting tribute.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

PhotoScan Test

Mom and Dad found some old photos at Grandma's house after she passed away, and I've been meaning to scan them for some time, but I'm missing the scanner component that allows me to scan prints. So tonight I decided to try Google's new PhotoScan app. The results aren't bad, even given my shaky hands. I don't think the scan is as sharp as it might have been had I used my Canon flatbed scanner, but it's much faster than a conventional scan, and easier to use.

I'm not sure if that's my Dad in the high chair, or if he's standing next to it. Either way, this photo would have been shot sometime during the 1940s. Note the Rice Krispies posters in the background. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Road Sheep

Here's a photo of a road sheep of some kind that I shot while on my ill-fated trip down the Alaska Highway. While I lost a car in the Yukon, I gained quite a few half-decent photos. I encountered a lot of wildlife on that trip; the buffalo were the most imposing. I didn't really understand how large they were until a few lumbered across the road in front of my car. They probably weighed as much as my vehicle.