Friday, September 14, 2012
I've been playing Minecraft for about a year, and I'm having a lot of fun. My son got me into the game, and it's pretty much an addiction. Go figure, that's why it's one of the most successful independent games out there.
What I've been enjoying the most is the Mods that are out there, and the skill and imagination that people are putting into their work. I've watched most of the Youtube videos from people like Direwolf20 and Zerzera, and it's amazing how they can get the different components of multiple mods to connect and interlink to create incredible machines and systems that do what they want done. It's people like this who I want involved building space stations and moon bases. I'm not kidding. If we give our kids games like this, open sandboxes with resources, tools and self-defined goals, they'll train themselves to be able to put things together that will amaze us all. And even better, this is an international movement.
What I was thinking about this morning was from the book that I'm currently reading, Peak Everything. The Industrial Craft mod adds generators that burn coal, and oil that you can burn or refine into fuel, which is more efficient in generating electrical power. The Forestry mod adds biogas and other plant derived fuels like peat which you can burn like coal. The goal, of course, is to have more and more power available in various forms to run machines and tools. Just like in the real world.
What seems to be missing is costs associated with it. There's no pollution from burning the coal, there are no lasting effects from the oil that gets spilled in water or on land. There's no way to see environmental impacts. Of course, it's a game, and such things would spoil the game environment and make it "too much" like the real world.
But it is real. And while I can understand wanting to play a game without the costs, some of us are thinking about and working on solutions to these problems in the real world and we're looking for help from the imaginations of our kids to find the solutions that will keep our real world able to support us for the long term. So something needs to be added, as an option, to help keep pollution and environmental effects in mind.
The best example of what I'm looking for already exists in the game, but it's part of a non-technical mod, although one that many people who play and record the game are using as a technical mod. I'm referring to Thaumcraft2, a mod that adds magic to the game including "vis" for positive energy and "taint" for negative energy. Players can research how to use resources in new ways to create new tools and machines, and can even give themselves the ability to see the levels of vis and taint in the surrounding environment (which is a 16x16 block going from the top to the bottom of the world).
What if, and I'm posting this because this is far above my own programming skills, burning coal in Industrial Craft caused pollution, and spilling oil on water or land caused additional pollution in the surrounding chunk. And there would be a way to create a visor or something that lets you see the level of pollution. And maybe a new machine that would help you reduce the pollution from the chunk.
Again, this would be an additional mod to Industrial Craft itself, so optional only if you want to use it. But it would bring the game a bit closer to the real world, and get our kids aware of sources of pollution and what they could do about it.
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Wednesday, June 06, 2012
Friday, February 03, 2012
I was infuriated beyond reason when the Susan G. Komen Foundation decided to yank funding from Planned Parenthood. I threw out some pretty heavy twitter posts demanding the resignation of the Vice President of Komen who was a former conservative Republican elected official in Georgia, I watched the twitter attacks and goaded them on, and I was relieved when they reversed their decision.
Here's the problem I see that is not getting enough coverage. Conservatives have been saying for decades that welfare programs and other programs that help the poor by using tax money are beyond the scope of our government because the non-profit charities and churches should be sufficient to cover the need. They know they are lying, but they keep saying it.
At the same time, they are putting people into positions of power within those very non-profits that are focused on helping people, and then coming out with statements like this:
Our original desire was to fulfill our fiduciary duty to our donors by not funding grant applications made by organizations under investigation. We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political. That is what is right and fair.
Right and fair? No. Heck no. Because what this says is that anyone in Congress can put together the paperwork to begin a "criminal" investigation against a group helping the poor or with a politically motivated bend, and they can again pull the plug on donations.
It's not the mission of non-profit groups to "fulfill a fiduciary duty to their donors". That's insane. That's corporate speak for not giving a zing about their communities and the people they are supposed to be serving.
It's not time to pull back on the social media coverage on Komen and the larger problem of conservatives taking over our entire society with their "I don't give a ding about those people over there" ideas. It's time to double down. And it's time to kick the entire Conservative Movement back across the ocean, which we did originally in 1776.
Thursday, January 05, 2012
In the event of a vacancy, the State Constitution says that the County Central Committee of the party of the person who left the seat shall present three names to the County Legislative Authority so they may appoint a replacement to fill the seat. The RCW says that the County Central Committee consists of Elected and Appointed Precinct Committee Officers. This is not a private function, it is a public function, and one that we have to be ready for at any time. The King County Central Committee just went through that process to replace Senator Scott White in the State Senate. This is a critical public function for Precinct Committee Officers, and thus the political parties are asking for the PCO position to be filled by a public election within their precinct. Contrast that with the Olympia City Council, which had to go into closed executive session to discuss the qualifications of candidates to fill a vacancy, or the King County Council which was made "non-partisan" by referendum a few years ago and had to go through months of haggling to fill the seat vacated by Dow Constantine. If these decisions were made by elected members of a party, the entire process would have been open and it would have been done quickly so our representatives could get on with the business of governing, which is their job.
Another example that I see in these comment threads: The Electors whose votes are counted and sent to Washington DC to elect the President of the United States are elected at Congressional District Caucuses held each Presidential year. The delegates to those CD Caucuses are elected by Legislative District Caucus delegates who are in turn elected by Precinct Caucus attendees. The Precinct Caucuses are presided over by the Precinct Committee Officers, who up to now have always been elected by the public and are recognized and trained publicly elected officials presiding over these neighborhood meetings to ensure that they are organized and run properly and efficiently as to not waste people's precious time. This is a critical public function, and an important part of our democracy. To close the process off from public election at the lowest grassroots level would damage our democracy and hurt our state.
People who object to the parties outright make me wonder if they are basing all of their stated opinions on what they read in the media instead of real personal experience. Political parties are groups of people who really care about our communities. If you doubt that fundamentally, then we really need to have a longer conversation. I got involved in the Democratic Party in 2003 because I shared the idea at the time that they were closed groups making decisions in smoke-filled back rooms. As soon as I got involved, I realized I was wrong. It's not the parties that have been strangling our state, it's our political atmosphere that fosters the notion that the only way to get anything done is by achieving power through the exercise of control, rather than reaching for peace through the exercise of cooperation. That goes much deeper than the parties, and includes the transformation of our media, our education system, and our core values as a country.
Like I said, this needs to be a much longer conversation than just about PCO elections. The people of Washington have always had an independent bend, and that hurts our understanding of the purpose of political parties from the very start. I grew up in Kent, so I'm not an outsider. I just know we've been wrong about political parties since our ideas of them were skewed by the Grange in the early 1900's, and most people don't give the parties a chance to do what they are supposed to be doing.
What these editorial boards are suggesting is that PCO elections be paid for by the political party. As if we having democratic institutions paid for is not the purpose of government. This would likely result in the PCOs being appointed by the political party leaders instead of the public, which would result in much more of a closed political party structure making all of these important and representative decisions in a closed room instead of public officials meeting in public to make public decisions. This is not healthy for our democracy, and it is the wrong direction for our state. And all of the major political parties, Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians, see it the same way. All three have signed onto this lawsuit.
Our democratic processes cost time and money, just as any process does in the public or private sphere. While many of the functions of PCOs, Legislative District Organizations, County Central Committees and State Party Organizations may seem strange and arcane, they exist in order to amplify the voices of activists who freely choose to get involved in order to ensure their voices are heard in our government. It is worth the cost to ensure that these democratic processes are maintained and kept in the public sphere. Too many of the important decisions that our government makes are behind closed doors, with the voice of the public not heard or outright ignored. Please don't create or advocate for a situation where our political parties also close the door on the public, simply because county auditors are unwilling to do their duties as defined by the Constitution and the RCW.
What is the alternative, and where would that alternative lead us in terms of our bottom up grassroots people powered democratic institutions? Just saying "I don't want to pay taxes for this" isn't enough. What is the opportunity cost? I see it as Tammany Hall or a hyper powered party with no regard to the voice of the public, and I don't want to go there. Having tax money go to pay for PCO elections to prevent the corruption of our political process is well worth those tax dollars. At least to me.