Saturday, March 16, 2019

Freedom's Responsibility

For anyone who hasn't heard the news, a bunch of racist assholes attacked a pair of mosques in New Zealand, killing (last I heard) 49 people. Complete with a live video feed, creepy racist manifestos, and all the other accouterments of terrorist murderers everywhere.

Naturally, the world arose in near-unanimous condemnation oft his horrible crime, and rightly so. But I've noticed one thing in the responses gathering a lot of attention - a lot of politicians (mostly on the right, sad to say) seem weirdly reluctant to use "Muslim" or "mosque" to describe the victims. A typical response that got a lot of flak was the pair of tweets from Tory leader Andrew Scheer. The focus is on freedom of religion, not on racists massacring Muslims.

The implication is that this is about fitting this tragedy into their worldview, which has a distinct emphasis on freedom of religion(especially for Christians - almost exclusively for Christians, if you look at the examples that many of these people will inevitably pick. See, for example, Bernier's painfully bad tweet). But it's not about the actual victims, the 49 dead Muslims who were murdered for praying in a mosque.

The flip side of this is the left's view, where it's all about Islamophobia, and freedom of religion is nowhere to be seen. For example, Jagmeet Singh's response. This likewise fits into their worldview where Islamophobia and white supremacy are major threats to the body politic, so likewise it'll naturally be their focus. It's unusual for me to say this, but the left is acting better here, on the whole. They're actually condemning the killers and the ideology that spawned them, and that's the first thing that should happen in any awful crime like this. The root cause of murder is murderers, full stop. (Would that they behaved this way all the time, but I'll give credit when credit's due.)

It really bothers me how badly people are dropping the ball on religious freedom, though. All the discussion I've seen today about this, and about the ham-fisted posts from right-leaning figures, has focused on how they're using freedom of religion as a dodge, a way to avoid taking their ideology the blame for this, and a way to co-opt the tragedy to talk about their pet issues. And a lot of them totally are. But in so doing, they make it seem like religious freedom is just a tool to defend their own beliefs from attack, not a critically important general principle. (Though the limits of Twitter as a medium are also apparent here - when simply typing the word "Muslim" is over 2% of your entire post length, sometimes people might cut it for brevity with no ill intent.)

Religious freedom isn't about the right to choose between boring mainstream denominations like Catholic and Lutheran. The modern concept of religious freedom traces back, at least in part, to the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which ended one of the bloodier wars in history. For thirty years, Europe had torn itself to shreds, in large part over religious hatreds. This was an era where you could easily be forced to convert at the point of a gun or sword several times in our life, and where wars were fought over and over again about which religious doctrine would hold sway. The result was a shattered region, some eight million dead bodies, and a general agreement that it simply wasn't worth it to fight a death struggle over religion.

Religious freedom is about the right to choose between Catholic and Lutheran in Europe, in 1648. When they weren't "boring" at all, but were instead sparks that led to major international warfare. When your nation could be ransacked for choosing the wrong language for your Bibles, the right to choose it was a real and important right, and protection of it was key. That conflict has long since died away, and excites no serious passions today. But the principle still matters, because other religious conflicts can kill people just as dead even today. Especially today, as we saw in New Zealand.

A tweet about religious freedom that avoids mentioning Islam and co-opts it to be about Christianity is doing a disservice to everyone involved. Religious freedom is important because it protects Muslims too. In the modern developed world, Islam is "scary" in the sort of way that Lutheranism was "scary" in 1640s Italy - not because it's somehow inherently bad, but because a lot of people worry about it.

Freedom of religion isn't about the denomination itself. It's about freedom of opinion, of conscience, and of belief. It's about taking those cherished freedoms and applying them to everyone, even when we find their views odd. I don't doubt that there are people out there who aren't true Islamophobes, but who find Islam confusing and a bit scary nonetheless. But religious freedom is the principle that even when you think a viewpoint is bizarre or a bit offensive, you let people have it. You don't persecute them, you don't try to kick them out of your society, and you sure as hell don't massacre them by the dozen.

Using "freedom of religion" as a club to advance the interests of your personal religion is a great way to throw away the moral authority of impartial protection of human rights. You take something we've slowly worked towards for centuries and burn it away instead of building it up. The moral authority of freedom of religion won't protect you from your critics if you refuse to extend those same protections to those you criticize(or want to criticize, if you thought you could get away with it).

The left has the correct explanation for today's tragedy. But the right has the correct path forward - respecting the right of people to hold any view they want to hold, and participate peacefully in society. I just wish the sort of right-leaning figures that I'm thinking of would realize that they had the right answer and act accordingly, instead of acting like cheap partisan hacks with something to hide. It'd work a lot better if you were giving something up to build the principle that will defend you, instead of just having your hand out to collect all the goodwill that's been invested by other people over the last 400 years.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Tales of an Amateur Dev

I've dabbled in coding before, but never done anything serious - the biggest project I've ever worked on was a version of Risk I coded in Turing for a highschool class back in 1999. But it's always been something that's interested me, and it's possible that my career might take me in that direction somewhere down the line, so it's a skill set I've wanted to build for a while.

A project just came across my horizon that I think I'm going to work on - basically, it's an application for a tabletop game, but one that can get very complex by the time it's done due to the number of different advanced rule sets/unit types/etc. that are available in this game. This project is really ambitious by the standards of my current skill level, and it may well be beyond what I can do well. However, even if I fall out halfway through I'll probably learn a ton, and if it succeeds there may even be a second income stream in it for me.

This blog post will be rather different than anything else I've posted here, but if you want to see my ramblings and false starts, come join me. This is intended to be something of a notebook of my experiences, as well as perhaps being a useful guide to anyone else who wants to follow in my footsteps.

Project Overview

The game I'm building for is BattleTech - it's a tabletop wargame, based around giant stompy death robots, but it's got add-ons for everything from infantrymen to two million ton space battleships. The goal for the intial version is to be able to make units of the most common types, with a convenient and modern UI. Once that's complete, more unit types will be added, as well as more utilities that players may value - the ability to turn individual units into larger forces, the ability to organize the logistics for those larger forces, the ability to build their own imaginary factions and select common designs and the like for them, and so on. Once that's done, I'd ideally like to integrate a rules database, fictional references lookup, and so on. All of this should be easy to use for an end user - just a simple download-and-install, no need to set up a Java environment or anything.

In a perfect world, this program ought to run on all major OSes(both desktop and mobile), be easy to integrate new expansions into, take input and provide output in all the most common formats used by players, and be superior in terms of both usability and breadth of options to all its competitors. Obviously, this is a hell of a request list, and I don't anticipate it'll happen right away. For one, having the same program work on desktop and mobile is a nightmare - that was what Windows 8 was built for, and Windows 8 was a failure. If Microsoft can't do it, neither can I.

So, the architecture seems like it ought to be divided into three parts.

  • The database, which contains all the various units, weapons, rule write-ups, and so on. 
  • The back end, which does the actual calculations, output to other programs, and the like. 
  • The front end, which gives the user an interface to make everything actually happen. 
As I understand it, the database and back end should be universal, as long as I pick the right tools. The front end will be extremely different on desktop and mobile, but as long as everything is properly modular, that's the only thing that should need to change. I'll be starting with desktop, as it's both more forgiving and easier to test. 


I've started this project with the intention of using C# as the primary coding language, building it within Visual Studio's free Community edition. There's a good selection of libraries and support tools, I have some experience with both language and environment, and it seems that the expansion to other OSes is fairly easy(from what I've read, Xamarin for Visual Studio will let you turn C# code into iOS/Android apps, which looks like an easier transition to mobile than any other I've come across). 

For the database, my intention is to use SQLite. I don't have much experiences with databases of any sort, but it seems to be the de facto standard for building a relational database into an application without need for any central database server. And again, it's very well supported, and free to use. This is a Visual Studio plugin that seems to implement it. (Edit: Nope, that's a bunch of tools, but not the actual implementation. I'll update this when I find what I want.)

Getting the same version to work on Windows, Mac, and Linux systems ought to be possible, and a helpful soul pointed me in the direction of wxWidgets, which seemingly has a C# version. I don't know exactly what I'll be doing here, but that seems like a promising lead. 

Any of these may turn out to be mistakes, but I'll start there and see what happens. 


Designing something that's intended to be this thoroughly expandable is a challenge I've never dealt with. Most of the time I've just done straight A to B programming, brute-forcing things freely and hard-coding all over the place. Doing long-term maintenance on a few workplace projects has started to move me away from those habits, but I'll need to jump far, far away from them for this to work right. 

The plan right now is to use plain-text definition files of some sort, one for each different type of unit. Those files will create a list of things the unit type must have and a list of what they may have, with caps on each(e.g., you can only have one engine, but you can have dozens of weapons). These will be as soft-coded as I can manage, because the number of optional rules and add-ins means that anything I hard-code will need to be torn apart and replaced down the line. 

The structure of the database will also be a big concern. A lot of things can be used on many different types of units, so making sure that the database that stores them is properly set up for flexibility down the line will be quite important. I think each "class" of weapon(infantry, mech, artillery, naval, etc.) will have its own table, and each sub-class(e.g., all AC/2-class weapons, of which there are several types with overlapping ammunition options) will be given a label within that class. Special rules that apply to some weapons, or some ammo types, will have their own table, and a many-many relationship will be set up between them to keep it all straight and prevent inconsistencies from sneaking in. Ideally, each rule should be defined exactly once, and everything that uses it will just reference the master entry. 

Getting Started

To start, I downloaded Visual Studio, installing the ".NET Desktop Development" package. It was about a 3.5 GB install. The list I originally wanted (with Xamarin etc.) was close to 40 GB, so I figured I'd hold off on those to avoid blowing up my internet's download cap. 

Once I got it downloaded, I created a project as a "Windows Forms App (.NET Framework)", as that seems to be a decent UI option from a quick Google image search. I needed to create a new folder outside the Visual Studio folder to store the actual project in, as my original attempt to make a sub-folder was blocked. I made sure to tick off the option to add it to version control, as a VCS is a must for any kind of serious coding - it seems to use Git, which I've dabbled with before, and which is as good as any. Once that was done and I was properly into Visual Studio, I installed the SQLite plugin through the extensions manager and rebooted the program. 

The crazy part is that this has been a big focus of mine for the last day and a half, but after all this work and planning, I still haven't written a single line of code yet. But I know where I'm going, and I have some reasonable-sounding ideas for how to get there. Let's see how this goes. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Predictions for 2017 - Analysis

One of the first posts I made on this blog was a set of 50 predictions for 2017, each with probabilities attached. Now it's time to see how I did.

1) Maxime Bernier will win the CPC leadership - 50%
Result: WRONG. Close, but wrong.
2) Kellie Leitch will not win the CPC leadership - 80%
Result: RIGHT. Given how she actually did, I actually feel under-confident here.
3) There will be 5 or fewer candidates on the final CPC leadership ballot - 60%
Result: WRONG. I misunderstood the process, and didn't realize how little reason to drop out there was, or how early you had to drop out.
4) Jason Kenney will win the PCAA leadership - 90%
Result: RIGHT.
5) The PCAA and Wildrose parties will not have begun any official merger process - 70%
Result: WRONG.
6) There will be no Danielle Smith-style defection of multiple Wildrose MLAs to the PCAA(or vice-versa) - 90%
Result: RIGHT.
7) There will be less than 3 candidates who formally register for the federal NDP leadership - 80%
Result: WRONG. This one was somewhat snarky on my part, and I let it mess with my judgement.
8) The expected 2017-18 deficit announced in the 2017 federal budget will be higher than predicted in the 2016 budget($29.0 billion) - 70%
Result: WRONG. It was actually $28.5 billion, so close, but wrong.
9) The expected 2017-18 deficit announced in the 2017 Ontario budget will be higher than predicted in the 2016 budget(balanced) - 70%
Result: WRONG. It seems they might actually run a deficit, but they didn't predict one, so this fails.
10) Approval of the performance of Justin Trudeau will be below 50% in at least one major scientific poll - 80%
Result: RIGHT. It was a squeaker, though.

11) The UK will invoke Article 50 and begin the formal Brexit process - 95%
Result: RIGHT.
12) Theresa May will remain PM of the UK - 99%
Result: RIGHT. That said, this one is case in point for why 99% is the highest certainty allowed in this scheme. This came shockingly close to failing.
13) There will be no second referendum on Brexit, actual or planned - 99%
Result: RIGHT.
14) The UK will initiate public talks with at least five non-EU nations for free trade deals - 80%
Result: I can't find any convenient list of deals underway. There's definitely talks with the US, and seemingly at least some PM-level discussions with Japan, but I can't find an easy way to judge this as either true or false. Which means it's probably false, to be fair.
15) No public process for a CANZUK free trade/free movement agreement will have begun - 80%
Result: RIGHT. A bit fuzzy on my phrasing, but governments haven't made any serious steps that I can see.
16) No deal will be reached between the UK and the EU on the terms of Brexit - 95%
Result: WRONG. They reached a deal in December.
17) No other nation will decide to leave the EU or Eurozone - 80%
Result: RIGHT.
18) Marine Le Pen will make it to the French Presidential runoff election - 60%
Result: RIGHT.
19) Marine Le Pen will not win the Presidency of France - 95%
Result: RIGHT. No surprises here - 30% of the population likes the alt-right and 70% hates them in most countries, and they were always going to unify behind whoever the sane one was.
20) Angela Merkel will be re-elected Chancellor of Germany - 70%
Result: RIGHT. Pretty close, which was expected(hence my comparatively low confidence here), but she made it.
21) There will be at least one explicitly Islamic terrorist attack killing 50+ people in the OECD - 70%
Result: WRONG. There were several nasty attacks, but the highest number killed by any was 39. This is one where I'm glad to be wrong, of course, but wrong I am.
22) There will be no terrorist attack killing 500+ people in the OECD - 90%
Result: RIGHT.
23) ISIS will remain a de facto nation with control of at least some territory - 80%
Result: RIGHT. Not a lot, but there's a few areas in Syria that they still hold(the grey parts on this map).
24) The US will continue to attack ISIS(at least until all their territory is lost) - 90%
Result: RIGHT.
25) The US will not begin any substantial new conflicts(Libya 2011 or larger) - 80%
Result: RIGHT.
26) Approval of the performance of Donald Trump will be above 50% in at least one major scientific poll in the last three months of the year - 80%
Result: WRONG. Again, I let my cynicism get the better of me. The highest I can find is 46%.
27) The US Senate will eliminate the filibuster for at least some votes - 70%
Result: RIGHT. The Gorsuch vote went nuclear.
28) The US will withdraw some form of support from the anti-Russian nations of Eastern Europe - 80%
Result: WRONG. Trump has been better than I thought he would be here.
29) No nuclear weapons will be used against civilian targets - 95%
Result: RIGHT. Thankfully so.
30) At least one world leader will be elected on a populist campaign routinely mentioned alongside Trump and Brexit - 80%
Result: WRONG. I can't think of any examples, at least.

31) Using the same methodology as my discussion of 2015-16 celebrity deaths, at least 10 celebrities will die - 90%
Result: RIGHT. 15 people, average age 62, which actually makes it slightly worse than 2016. (The list is David Cassidy(67), Tom Petty,(66), Malcolm Young(64), Roy Halladay(40), John Heard(71), Chester Bennington(41), Chris Cornell(52), Stephen Furst(53), John Hurt(77), George Romero(77), Gregg Allman(69), Bill Paxton(61), Richard Hatch(71), Jimmy Snuka(73), and Gord Downie(53)).
32) Canada will not have a natural disaster as devastating as the 2016 Aberta wildfires - 80%
Result: RIGHT.
33) No major green energy breakthrough(>50% improvement in output per dollar) - 90%
Result: RIGHT.
34) Global average temperature is higher than 2016 - 80%
Result: WRONG. 0.1 degrees cooler. That said, looking at recent history, I'd say this was pretty well-calibrated.
35) No natural disaster will kill 10,000 or more people - 80%
Result: RIGHT. The deadliest was the South Asian flooding, that killed about 1,200.
36) No natural disaster will kill 100 or more people in the OECD - 90%
Result: WRONG. There was an earthquake in Mexico City that killed 225.
37) There will be at least one computer security breach affecting 50 million or more accounts - 80%
Result: RIGHT. The Equifax breach was 143 million accounts.
38) No film released in 2017 will have a global box-office gross over $1.5B - 50%
Result: RIGHT. The highest was Star Wars: The Last Jedi, at $1.32 billion. (It's still in theatres, but it made $3M last week, so I don't think I need to worry).
39) The MSCI All-Cap World Index index will increase faster than inflation in USD - 60%
Result: RIGHT. Substantially faster, actually - it grew 23.16%.
40) 2017 will be the most prosperous year in human history - 95%
Result: RIGHT. Global real GDP per capita grew 2.5% last year, as it has grown every year since 2009.

41) I will be married - 95%
Result: RIGHT. :D
42) Our wedding will be under budget - 70%
Result: RIGHT. Substantially so, which was really nice.
43) I will have a full-time job - 95%
Result: RIGHT. This was a riskier one at the time than I wanted to really admit to myself, because when I wrote the original list, I didn't. But I was confident of my ability to find one.
44) I will have a permanent full-time job - 80%
Result: RIGHT. And rightly so!
45) I will no longer be doing financial plans as a side job - 70%
Result: RIGHT. Not something you can do when you're employed by a bank.
46) I will still be posting Friday Night Videos - 95%
Result: WRONG. Sorry, folks.
47) I will be making regular blog posts - 70%
Result: WRONG. Clearly, I fell off that wagon.
48) I will have a new desktop computer - 80%
Result: RIGHT. Got it back in August, and it's wonderful.
49) I will have my CFP and CFA - 80%
Result: WRONG. I have the necessary experience, but I've been procrastinating on my paperwork for it.
50) I will complete the design of at least one game - 60%
Result: WRONG. Too distracted by other stuff. But I still have a bunch in the works.

So, to summarize:
50% Confidence: 
1 right (#38), 1 wrong(#1) = 1/2 = 50%. Perfectly calibrated.
60% Confidence: 
2 right(#18 and 39), 2 wrong(#3 and 50) = 2/4 = 50%. Perfect calibration is 2.4 correct, so this is the best result that can be managed with this few guesses.
70% Confidence: 
4 right(#20, 27, 42, and 45), 5 wrong (#5, 8, 9, 21, and 47) = 4/9 = 44%. Overconfident, best result would be 6/9 correct.
80% Confidence: 
12 right(#2, 10, 15, 17, 23, 25, 28, 32, 35, 37, 44, and 48), and 5 wrong (#7, 26, 30, 34, and 49) = 12/17 = 71%. Best result would be 14 correct. (If we treat #14 as wrong instead of null, this is 12/18 = 67%, best result still 14 correct).
90% Confidence: 
#4 right, #6 right, #22 right, #24 right, #31 right, #33 right, #36 wrong,
6 right (#4, 6, 22, 24, 31, and 33), and 1 wrong(#36) = 6/7 = 86%. Still best possible result.
95% Confidence: 
#11 right, #16 wrong, #19 right, #29 right, #40 right, #41 right, #43 right, #46 wrong,
6 right(#11, 19, 29, 40, 41, and 43), 2 wrong (#16 and 46) = 6/8 = 75%. Overconfident, best result would be 8/8.
99% Confidence: 
2 right(#12 and 13), no wrong = 100%. Best result.

Overall, I'm somewhat overconfident, and predicted an average of 39 correct answers, when I only got 33 right. The 70% and 95% brackets in particular were bad for me. I suspect this is still better than most people would manage, but I think I can do better - a few of my mistakes seem obvious in retrospect. Also, I may want to change up what I guess on in order to spread things out a bit - there weren't many data points at either end, and that makes it tougher to know if I did well by luck or skill.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Friday Night Video: Grande Amore

I can't sleep on planes. Or at least, I seem to be unable to - the first time I ever took a flight that might justify sleeping, I decided to leave at 10 PM for a trans-Atlantic flight in hopes of making sure I could sleep. No dice. (Wandering one of the great cities of the world for the first time when you've been awake for close to 30 hours is not the way I'd want to do things if I was going to do it all over again, I must say)

Thing about planes is that you're sort of limited in entertainment. The in-flight movies are often not great, your phone has limited battery, and I think I finished one book and got bored of the other. So I started listening to the music selections. And boy, was it ever a mixed bag. But in the process, I did discover one band that's rather interesting - not quite my normal style, but it hit the spot somehow. Good thing about foreign carriers, they're a good way to discover foreign-language music.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Friday Night Video: Mr. Crowley

Halloween is a weird little holiday. Kids dress up as an excuse to get candy, university students dress up as an excuse to get drunk, and adults dress up their houses as an excuse to show off. For all that it's ostensibly spooky, it's really quite a silly endeavour in many ways.

Still, the silliest ones are probably the ones who take the spooky a bit too seriously. Occult stuff is an amusing thematic element at the end of October, but the rest of the year it's really easy to jump over the line from thematic and atmospheric straight into sad and cheesy. One of the musicians below seems to mostly dress up in occulty stuff for shock value(and biting the head off a bat on-stage was just an unfortunate accident), while the other seems to take it very seriously, but both seem to like referencing occultists, and both make decent music(at varying levels of weird) while doing so.

(And I know that in past, I've tried to make catch-up Friday Night Videos be multiple songs with the same title. Let's just say that, while I may not be into the occult, there's forms of weirdness I do enjoy, like making in-jokes for my own amusement.)

Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday Night Video: Fully Completely

It's depressing how many of my videos are posted because some musician I'm fond of died. Some are shocking, some are sadly unsurprising, but they're all depressing.

Unlike most, we knew this one was coming. Cancer is a bitch like that. But despite that, it's sad to know that one of our nation's greatest musicians isn't with us any more. Gord Downie, you will be missed.

(That said, do you know how confusing it is when the person breaking the news to you calls him Robert Downey by mistake?)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Friday Night Video: Link

Back in the olden days, when we used to get our music delivered by brontosaurus, I heard this wacky little song about Zelda games and thought it was pretty catchy. The weird part was that it was attributed to System of a Down, of all people. I can sort of see why, but hearing that this insanely heavy band(at least by the standards of what I'd ever heard back then) was doing wacky gaming songs kind of blew my mind. There's no way that nerdy stuff like gaming would be so popular as to make it to music by popular bands, is there. (Again, how little I knew...)

Sadly, this is not a System of a Down song. It's by this group of nobodies, which got passed around on false under a false name...and yet, probably drove 100x as much traffic to The Rabbit Joint as anything else they ever did, when people went to SoaD sites to figure out where it was from and got corrected. The old saying about how "there's no such thing as bad publicity" apparently even applies sometimes when you're not the one getting the publicity.

But hey, it's a cute little track, and someone on Youtube made a cute little video to go along with it. Why not have some fun?

Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday Night Video: And We Run

I have a soft spot for weird genre-bending music - it's not necessarily better than a well-done song of a more traditional sort, but it's usually way more interesting.

This one...yeah, it's a bit different. A lot of genres have picked up rap influences since the 90s, but this is an approach I don't recall seeing before. I must say, it works pretty well though.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

A Pox On Both Their Houses

Like most people who watch politics, I've been paying a lot of attention to the recent chaos surrounding street protests. Death, riots, mayhem, and a lot of ugly debate over whether one group is "really" Nazis, or the other is "really" Communists, or a hundred other issues.

Honestly, I'm almost past caring whether one group or another is acolytes of one long-discredited totalitarian murder cult or another. What I see is two bunches of people who are both, in their own ways, undermining the free and democratic society that we live in. Neither means to - both groups think they're defending freedom. But I don't care what they think, I care what they do. And right now what they're doing is brawling in the streets, trying to prevent anyone who disagrees with them from being allowed to speak, and killing people. 

We don't praise democracy because it's a perfect system. It's clearly not. But those of us who know our history know what the alternatives look like. We praise democracy because any other alternative - feudal monarchs, theocracies, totalitarian socialism, you name it - is invariably horrifying. We stopped fighting religious wars because Europe got torn apart for three decades fighting over doctrine. After a death toll rivaling World War One, they decided it wasn't worth it and that they should let others live with the religion they wanted. After centuries of succession wars, we started setting up systems to transfer power peacefully, and after millennia of revolts we let people participate in their own governance. It's not perfect, but it stops a lot of wars when people know they have a chance to get what they want without war. 

This system only works with certain ground rules in place, however. In order for someone who lost an election to eschew violence and work within the system, they need to believe that they have a fair chance in future - that elections are honest, that they have a chance to persuade voters, and that they can organize and work towards their preferred future without being unduly harmed for it(whether by laws banning them, workplaces firing them, or people on the other side of a protest punching them). 

Almost as important as those ground rules, however, is an understanding on the part of society as a whole that this system is legitimate, fair, functional, and important. Democracy requires placing trust in the great mass of humanity. I may worry about a Nazi in a car running me over, but I don't worry about ten million Canadians going to the polls and marking their ballots with a swastika. It's just not going to happen in any plausible future. Because I trust my countrymen, I don't worry about these evils taking over our society. 

I think a lot of people lack this trust, and because of it they see this as an imminent threat requiring all possible efforts to stop. And it results in the same reaction as every other crisis situation provokes in people: "There's no time to worry about all those abstract rules of democracy - I see Nazis, and I'm going to punch me some Nazis!". If they were actually on the verge of taking over, I'd agree with them - WW2 was a virtuous fight, despite the fact that it involved a lot worse than fists. But if Nazis are a sad little cult who couldn't fill the stands at a highschool basketball game, never mind Parliament, then this is a gross overreaction. And this overreaction has costs.

The ground rules underpinning democracy are more fragile than many people think. Democracies have fallen before, and they will again - when people stop believing in the system and stop working within it, the centre cannot hold. Democracy isn't words on parchment in the national archives, democracy lives within the minds of the citizens. When we stop respecting the rules, the rules stop protecting us. When we stop allowing people to disagree with us peacefully, they'll disagree violently as soon as they feel like they can. This is incredibly dangerous

Thing is, it's easy to talk. And talk matters, but there's a lot of other things that matter too, and it's time to start acting on some of them. So, the next time one of these street rallies is in my neck of the woods, I'm going. And because I frankly don't trust any of the existing protest groups to be something I could support with head held high, I'm going to be starting my own. 

The manifesto for this group is simple:
  1. We favour democracy, freedom, and individual rights for all. 
  2. Everybody has the right to express their views through speech. Even people we hate.
  3. We do not initiate violence over speech. Ever. 
  4. Anyone who doesn't follow the above rules is our opponent. We deal with opponents the same way a good democrat should - by discussion, argument, organization, and protest. 
We let them speak, we let them march, and we let them organize. And we let them do all these things secure in the knowledge that we're better at it. Our arguments are far better, our supporters are vastly more numerous, and we're the ones promoting the principles that built the modern world. 

I'm not going to make a big difference alone. Even if this group succeeds beyond my wildest dreams, we're not going to fundamentally change the world. Idiots on all sides will still exist, and people may still be talking about how silly those Nazis are after we're all dead. But I'll be helping, and everyone who joins me will be helping too. That's all anyone can really ask of us, in the end. So I'm asking. Because when this issue is put on the back burner, whether that's in a month or a year or a decade, I want to make sure I was working with all of these guys: 

And not any of these guys:

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Friday Night Video - It's My Life

So I've been terrible about posting videos lately. Only one since the beginning of July, for a series that's supposed to be weekly. I have a bunch of half-written drafts, but none that have really caught my attention. Still, that's no excuse(the wedding is, to be fair, but that was weeks ago now).

I've occasionally used the trick of repeating song titles for filling in gaps, but this is an interesting one. It's not just a coincidence of titles here - all three of these are based on the same seed of an idea(asserting one's independence), but they're done through the lens of three different genres, which gives them three different takes.

- The 60s one is a dreamer's tale, where he's lamenting the state of the world but promising to make things better. And of course, it's all to impress a girl(as, to be fair, is true of at least half of all songs ever made).

- The 80s one is rather mopey, and is sort of a pre-breakup song. He thinks the girl is interested in moving on, and so he seems to sort of be steeling himself for a breakup and throwing his independence in her face(which looks like a lie, to my reading, but then I've never been great at lyrical analysis).

- The 00s one is the only one of them that's triumphant instead of defensive. Hell, the first line is "This ain't a song for the broken-hearted" - take that, previous songs by the same name! Of course, it helps that the band already had a long and successful career, but it's the only one that's actually about enjoying independence instead of merely using it as a shield.

So, the 60s rock and roller was kind of a loser but optimistic, the 80s new wave musician was a whiny liar, and the 00s washed up arena rock star was cocky and fond of in-jokes and references. I can't say I'm surprised, exactly, but it fits better than I'd have ever expected. What's in a name, indeed.

I still owe you guys another song, so tune in next week when I post another double.