Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Godspeed To My Conservative Christian Brethren:

I would like to take a moment and wish Godspeed to my Conservative Christian Brethren who are actively Fighting the Good Fight.  To my friends with fear that the over-reach of judicial activists threatens the freedom of religion in America, to my sisters who believe passionately in Bible-centered morality, to my brothers who would willfully see the government shut down to protect the life of but a single, precious, unborn child -- I pray Peace Be Unto You.

And though I wish you well, I don't understand you.  Try as I might, my own pitiful fallibility is laid bare in this endeavor.

I wish you well because: 1) I love you, and it hurts me to see such anger and fear in your midst, and 2) I understand where you are coming from - I myself was raised with American Fundamental Evangelical values in the Church of Christ.

But I will not march with you against Planned Parenthood.  I will not march with you against SSM.  I will not join in your rally to put the 10 Commandments on the walls of Every City Hall.  Those are easy decisions for me.  What is hard for me, is coming to terms with the fact that your 'good reasons' for marching are just as real and very much as important and valid as my 'good reasons' for not marching.  I'm daily struggling to understand this, but I know it's vitally important that I honor you.

If I am to live out my belief that the God I serve is Sovereign, that everything that takes place is either allowed to happen by, or caused to happen by, Him, then I must accept that your viewpoints and your actions are within the Will of God, however difficult that may be for me.

I invite any Seeker of Truth to the table in my home.  If any of my Brethren would like to discuss the different sides of these social issues, I'm here.  Not to debate, but rather to explain to each other how exactly we came to our current Points of View.  I don't subscribe to American Christianity.  I don't subscribe to whatever messages the AFA, FRC, CMP,or The Blaze* are pushing.  I subscribe to the active and powerful working of the Holy Spirit in my life, tempering my understanding with Patience and Love, informing my Heart and Mind by the Holy Word of God.

I don't understand you, but I love you.  I don't understand you, but God tells me He needs us both.  I don't understand you, but Love demands I try.

AFA - American Family Association
FRC - Family Research Counsil
CMP - Center for Medical Progress
The Blaze - News and Entertainment Network founded by Glen Beck

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Regarding the Kim Davis Case

I have no desire to wade into the ideological sides of the debate regarding Kim Davis.  I would like to offer layman descriptions of the following ideas, hoping that they give folks a clearer picture of what is going on.

Contempt of Court (criminal vs civil applications)
Roots of Contempt of Court go waaay back hundreds of years.  Here in modern America any Judge, be they federal, state, or county, has huge, almost absolute power in their own courtroom.  Note: no specific law breaking need be in question.  If Judge says “no blue shirts in my courtroom” and you wear one, he will ask you to leave.  If you don’t, it is within his power to jail you (not totally realistic, but it’s the idea).  This would be an example of a Civil Contempt charge.  For these the Judge can award either fines, imprisonment, or both, with the sole purpose being to coerce the offender into following the Judge’s order.  It’s very important to understand this is NOT punishment.  If imprisoned, the offender can gain release simply by agreeing to follow the Judge’s order.  There is also a Criminal Contempt charge.  An example of this would be a person who a Judge orders to turn over handwritten letters.  That person burns the letters instead.  A Judge could impose fines, imprisonment, or both, for the purpose of punishment, to vindicate the authority of the court.

Folks may disagree on the larger picture, but from a legal standpoint, Kim Davis was jailed for Civil Contempt of Court, for failing to follow the Order of a Judge in His courtroom, to wit: Issuance of Legal Documents pursuant to the duties of the Office of County Clerk.

Public vs Private Entity (Kim Davis the Citizen vs The Office of Rowan County Clerk who happens to be a person named Kim Davis)
Sometimes citizens give up certain rights by virtue of being public servants.  For example, uniformed service members are prohibited from speaking disparagingly of POTUS, their Commanding Officer, and other High-office Individuals.  Seems like that would be a clear 1st Amendment violation, in the restriction of Free Speech, but the issue runs deeper.  When a citizen is employed by the Gov’t, their Individual Rights can be superseded by their Governmental Employment status.

Plenty of case law and other commentary on this one alone to keep a person busy for days, but this specific case has more to do with the Office of County Clerk than with Ms. Davis as a citizen. Citizens enjoy protection of their Individual Rights via the Constitution.  Official Offices, such as County Clerk, Governor, Congressman, do not, they are simply Offices with specific duties that must be carried out.

Federalism (State's Rights vs Federal Gov't Supremacy)
Super sticky issue.  Since our country’s inception, some folks want strong Federal Gov’t, some want all power to the States.  In this specific case a Federal Judge imposed his will on a County (her authority came via the State) Employee.  The SCOTUS case involving SSM was a federal thing, which is why a federal judge was the one doing the hearing here.

Folks big on State’s Rights (to include the Oath Keepers) question whether a Federal Judge even has jurisdiction over a county employee.  I’m inclined to say he does, but there’s not a cut-and-dry answer.  The idea the Judge didn’t have jurisdiction has legal merit and will play out in the courts in following months.

Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Both the Federal One and Kentucky’s)
A big word floating around is “Accommodation”, which is an element of both these laws.  The Federal RFRA was passed by Congress in 1993 and sought to outline what types of accommodation employers or the government have to provide to employees whose job might require them to participate in activities that violate their religious beliefs.  The Supreme Court ruled that the application of this law to the individual states violated the Constitution, so in turn some states enacted their own legislation, as did Kentucky.  When the states did this, they often used wording different than the Federal Statute, in some cases making the protections broader or changing what the required accommodations look like.

For the issue at hand, Ms. Davis’s name is on the licenses.  She feels this makes it a Freedom of Speech/Freedom of Religion issue, and I’m inclined to agree with her.  Their current work-around is to remove her name and her office, simply stating “by decree of Federal Court” or something to that effect, which I think fixes the issue.  But reading both of these laws will give a clearer picture on what options exist to fix the problem (because that is far from straightforward).

OBERGEFELL ET AL. v. HODGES (The SSM case at the heart of it all)
I'm really disinclined to even write on this, but I feel many folks have feelings/opinions on the case without understanding the exact nature of the Supreme Court decision.  This is a legal description of the case, not a defense or endorsement of any specific ideological viewpoint.

The 14th Amendment to the Federal Constitution contains what's known as the "Equal Protection Clause".  Basically the clause states that the laws of the Individual States cannot favor one class of peoples rights over another class of people without showing a substantial reason why.

The 5th and 14th Amendments of the Federal Constitution contain what's known as the "Due Process Clause".  Basically this clause states that neither the Federal Government nor State Governments can deprive citizens of "life, liberty or property" without showing s substantial reason why.

In Obergefell, the Supreme Court decided that marriage in America has two very substantial, but very different aspects.  One aspect is religious in nature.  It is relationship strictly between a Man and a Woman, sanctioned by God, binding two people together as one for eternity.  The other aspect is a legal one.  It is a contractual agreement between two people, agreeing to become a single legal unit with respect to the state/federal governments, binding them together for purposes of taxation, business, inheritance, and so forth.  SCOTUS has no authority over the religious aspect.  It can no more redefine marriage than it can attend church or temple.  Indeed, Separation of Church and State protects religious institutions from this very thing.  SCOTUS decided it did have authority over the legal aspect, by way of the 5th and 14th Amendments.  The Court stated that the lawyers for the States failed to prove a substantial compelling reason for only allowing certain individuals (one man one woman) to enter into this contractual agreement.  The Supreme Court has modified this legal aspect of marrage more than once in the history of our nation.  Of note would be the striking down of couverture and also the permitting inter-racial marriages.  The Opinion in the hyperlink above lays out exactly how the Court applied both Equal Protection and Due Process, but I'd be glad to expound on them by email or Facebook Private Message.

The Kim Davis case has increased the polarization of the SSM issue.  Many people on the News are presenting their opinions on the topic without any real consideration of legal facts of the case.  I’ve tried not to color the above topics with too much with my opinions.  If anyone would like to chat about my sources more, I’d be happy to discuss how I get my data.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Hippy Engineer's Introspection (the paradox of American Christianity)

My minister has a great quote he shares with us occasionally, "Paradox has been defined as 'Truth standing on her head to get attention.'"

To a engineer and mathematician, numbers represent truth, or rather, numbers are Truth.  We study them with a diligence and passion that rivals the most solemn of monks.  Numbers are pure: they don't lie, they don't manipulate, they aren't selfish, nor do they change in degree.  Those traits are reserved for the folks who use numbers in life to further an agenda at the expense of Truth.

A Good Mathematician should keep a healthy dose of emotional separation between themselves and their data.  A mathematician may study a data set for 30+ years, learning all the deep intricacies of how the different variables influence one another and the system as a whole.  He may write countless papers explaining His Understanding of His Data... but then one day a paradox presents itself.  A piece of Pure Truth, directly negating that mathematician's understanding of His Data.  Truth that had been lying there the whole time, but hadn't been noticed... until it stood on it's head.  If that mathematician is to be able to change his mental paradigm to align with Truth, it's essential that he not be emotionally attached to the data, but rather emotionally attached to seeking Truth, however much It may seem impossible to him.

The God-Fearing Rural South gave birth to me.  In the fertile lands of the Arkansas River Valley, I learned how to live a life steeped in Religion.  It permeates every aspect of daily life for the Country Man, indeed He knows no other way.  This Engineer assigns no fault to that man, we must walk our own paths, but in studying engineering I did discover another way to exist, another way to walk.  What I discovered was the importance of researching Truth for myself, balancing my own biases and prejudices against what was revealed to me, then boldly following the Truth regardless of what others thought.  That's why I don't follow Glen Beck, or the Family Research Council, or even the goings-on of the Southern Baptist Convention.  Those outlets funnel a single world-view, and relegate to outright falsehoods any idea that doesn't fit precisely with Their Message.  This is not the way to Truth; this is the way to subservience to an agenda.

As an engineer introspectively examining my relation to my own religion, the paradox I found was this: That the people who most strongly needed to be defined as "Christian" in order to make sense of the world, were the ones most likely to be assholes.  How can this be?  How can those who have dedicated their lives to becoming more like Christ show such abject contempt for their neighbors?  For me the "truth standing on her head" was that these people hadn't dedicated their lives to being more like Christ, they had dedicated their lives to being "Good American Christians" which is an entirely different matter all together.

I have liberal friends that rail against those crazy conservatives who support Kim Davis.  I have conservative friends who can't fathom how those godless liberals don't see that abortion is murder.  Meanwhile, my rural roots are showing as I'm washing the dirt from my hands after working in the Community Garden, asking "don't you fellas have anything better to do?"  In the Navy, we had a saying, "if you have time to lean, you have time to clean."  If a person feels convicted to engage in activism to right social wrongs, Peace Be With You.  I just can't help but wonder if that time would be better spent volunteering at an English Language Center helping an impoverished immigrant better navigate american society, better spent inviting the widow next door over for a home cooked meal, better spent handwriting a note of encouragement to a person that Life is Beating Down.

I don't profess to Know Truth; I only profess to be chasing it, damn what the Establishment tells me.  Jesus condemned the Pharisees' outward religion in Matthew 15.  I really don't want him to repeat that lecture to me at the Gates of Glory.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Catching Up With Woody Projects

I've discussed a few of my ongoing projects on here.  Here's a status update:

1)  Recording guitar and music on Linux - I've got most of the software more or less figured out.  I can program drum loops, make bass/rhythm/lead guitar loops, and independently mix all those loops.  I still need to spend some time learning/figuring out "gain staging in my signal chain".  Also need to work on learning my DAW better.

2)  Raspberry Pi Temperature Monitor Project - Succeeded in getting the temperature probes to talk to the Pi (made a rookie mistake and was picturing the Plug #1 upside down).  I'm now able to poll the sensors from the command line, which is fun but not very useful.  I'll be working on a Python script to do the reads over and over, then log the data to a database.

3)  Budget 2.0 - I've got all the Google Forms set up to manage my budget line items.  My hope is to go live 01Aug15.  I've still got a few nagging issues I haven't been able to wrap my head around, but we'll just have to see how it all comes out in the wash.

~Had a good weekend camping at Lake Memphis with Sarah.  It was nice to get away from the noise and bustle of a Lincoln Home Football Game.  This week has two exciting events, hopefully a dinner with our first Family-with-small-children, and an Arduino/Raspberry Pi introduction to a controls tech buddy from work.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Woody Has A Wish For His CakeDay

Today I turn 33.  Jesus Christ, John Belushi, Eva Braun, Sam Cooke, Chris Farley... all dead, aged 33.

The last 6 years of Life have been transformative for me.  Most notably in how I see and treat others. ~  In 1997 a middle school guidance counselor informed me that my Slosson Test results put me in the top 0.06% of the population for intelligence (as if such a thing can be measured).  This was perhaps not the wisest thing to tell a 14 year old, as for the next 14 years I was an egotistical jerk.  And not just any egotistical jerk, but a highly intelligent evangelical fundamentalist one.  I was an expert debater and apologetic.  I just knew what was Right and what was Wrong, and I expected (demanded) that others agree.  When they didn't, I browbeat them with The Truth that they were sinners and that Jesus loved them anyway.  There were more than a few things missing from my life during that time: Life Experiences, Wisdom and Empathy, among them.

During those years, I didn't know Peace.  Sure, I 'had Jesus', but what good is a heirship for Heaven if one's heart doesn't understand Love?  At age 28 I had been out of the Navy for 2 years.  The Life Experiences I gained being an unemployed disabled vet, trying to survive the hell of obtaining a Chemical Engineering Degree, caused me to start questioning many of the beliefs and viewpoints I had cultivated while being a life-long die-hard supporter of the GOP.  I was so angry that my Personal Responsibility, Civic Engagement (voting), and Morality weren't providing me Peace.  The truth was, my eyes were looking outward and the cares of my spirit were looking inward.  Hint: That's bass-ackwards.

Today my Life Focus isn't on the morality of this "Christian Nation"; my Life Focus is on Loving Others, where they are, how I can.  I honestly could not care less about issuing marriage licences, building walls between us and Canada, or defunding PP and Obamacare.  None of this really matters.  Politicians are going politician, contrarians and going to contrary, and money will continue to be the driving force of our society.  I can't control or change any of that, and obsessing on it is guaranteed to rob me of Peace.  What I can control is this, I can focus my eyes inward on my own heart and focus the cares of my spirit on serving others.  Others that need serving are all around us, if we can just get past ourselves (and our Network News).

My CakeDay wish is this: May God, in his Infinite Mercy, use me, The Intelligent Frustrated Idiot, for His Good Purpose, so that others may know I follow The True Christ by the way I Love others.  (Luke 11:11-12)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Remote Temperature Monitor 2.0

Yesterday I started staging for my next nerd project.  Last year I showed my "Arduino & DS18B20: Remote Temperature Monitor, with bluetooth and homemade Android App" at the 2014 MakeLincoln event.  Although I didn't register for MakeLincoln this year, I am going to be taking that project to the next level.  The old project ran on an Arduino UNO and was written in C.  The Arduino would read the digital temperature sensors connected to it, then broadcast that data over bluetooth to my Android phone, upon which I had created an App to read and display those temperatures.  All in all it worked okay.  A bit clunky but done is better than perfect.

For this project, I'll be using the same DS18B20 digital temperature sensors, this time connected to the RaspberryPi.  The Pi will read the temperatures, then upload that data to a database in the cloud over wi-fi.  After I get that part worked out, I'll write some HTML and possibly AJAX to create a webpage to display the temperature data.  At the moment I don't have a specific use case or goal in mind, but a possible application would be simply monitoring the temperatures in different rooms of my house over the course of time.  I could also use it to monitor the temperature of my BBQ grill (or my oven) and watch the temperature profile change as food cooks and lid is open/closed.

This will be my first foray into Python.  I dabbled with HTML waaaay back in the day, but I'm not too worried about that.  The AJAX will also be a new one on me, but I've found a pretty awesome Google tool to do most of the heavy lifting for me.  Stay tuned for updates.