Underestimating the Kids

At the regional FIRST Robotics competition in Minneapolis, the Czech team had some problems. Far from home, they had to improvise to get their robot on the field in time to compete. Fortunately, our team had a big supply of encoders purchased directly from China, well ahead of the long lead-time for parts like this. It was nice to help.

Posting pictures and stories about the event, my facebook feed also contains people convinced that kids from the same generation couldn’t possibly organize a march on Washington. There had to be others, adults who made it happen. The kids just have to be nothing more than tools.

I’ve given up telling people like that what I’ve learned from this generation, so very much like the last one to grow up in a Depression. It seems as plain as sunrise to me. You ask these kids to storm the beaches at Normandy, I’m pretty sure they will take freakin’ Normandy. More to the point, they’re willing to put in the work it takes to create a world where you don’t have to storm the beaches.

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Anything is Still Possible

I wrote this ten years ago.  The financial collapse of 2008 was still six months away and GW Bush was President.  Yet big hunks of it are more true now than they were at that time.  We have indeed stagnated in the face of “everything is possible” and decided to wallow in our own refusal to make choices on how to move forward.  Will this still be relevant in 2028?

When I was young, I lived in a time and place where just about anything was possible. It’s amazing just how terrifying that prospect was.

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It’s All About Racism

As a movement boils up into the streets and our consciousness, guns are the issue of the moment in America. The rest of the world looks on with amazement, not understanding how it got this far in the first place. Why do Americans love guns?

Why, indeed, do we have so many unusual problems in America which are not shared by other developed nations? Why don’t we have a reliable social safety net? Or a health care system of some kind? What is it that gives the United States the color of a developing nation?

Ah, yes, color. It’s about race. Racism is the poison that affects every single public debate in this nation one way or another. White people may think that they never feel the sting of racism, but they do. We all do. We are, actually, one people – but dividing us up by race is the original sin, the disease at the center of all other problems.

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Bizzy World

Did you see the news today? It’s hard to not simply react to the world around us. There’s too much going on, too much chaos, too much news. And that post on facebook – did you see what “they” are doing now?

There are many problems associated with this sort of life, starting with anxiety and unhappiness. Stress induced coronaries come to mind as well. But as bad as this is for a person, it’s even worse for people. Everything in our world depends on some level of planning, deliberation, and rational thought.

Good luck with that.

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JS Bach – Spiritual Leader

The violinist was hired to play Christmas music in the atrium of Capella Tower in Minneapolis over lunch, but he clearly felt he could add a personal touch. He placed it up above the crowd where it echoed off the glass and marble, the light hand on a single violin piercing consciousness with the Prelude from Partita #3 by JS Bach.

I walked over slowly, bowed my head, closed my eyes, and allowed myself to be transformed. For a moment I wasn’t there or any place with earthly cares – there was this tremendous sound, the man whose craft propelled it into the air, and myself. When he was done I quietly, almost apologetically said what I could. “Thank you.” It wasn’t enough, but it was all I had. His response, equally respectful of the moment, said more. “My pleasure.”

This was a meeting not between any two people but between the two of us who, I am sure, share a religion. It is a sense of spirituality that comes from the gut strings of a fiddle and echoes not just through marble halls but through our hearts and minds every moment we can allow it. This is a sense of faith in the order of the universe given to both of us, skilled and unskilled, by JS Bach more than 260 years ago.

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Culture War Meets Cyber War

The news broke over the weekend, confirming everyone’s worst fears. The 2016 election of Trump and the Brexit vote were indeed engineered by one firm, Cambridge Analytica, which used millions of facebook profiles to build, then manipulate, psychological profiles of voters ready to be led like sheep.

It’s terrifying. It’s everything George Orwell warned us about. And it may be completely legal.

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Irish Pride

The big party known as St Patrick’s Day is upon us.  Saint Paul, like many cities, more or less shuts down for a day as the town is painted green and flows with rivers of Guinness that wash celebrants down the streets from one bar to another.  The theme of the party is Irish Pride, something that seems like a cheap excuse for a lot of drinking to most people.  The Irish aren’t a people who stand out most of the year, blending in as part of the great majority of our culture here in the US, Canada, Australia, and all the other places we’ve settled.

But it wasn’t always this way.  The reason we still have a party isn’t just a big drunk as we wait for Spring.  Irish Pride was earned the hard way, like fraternity hazing.  It’s a standard that nearly all ethnic groups have had to go through as generations move from being immigrants to mainstream citizens.

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