Friday, September 14, 2012

Minecraft and the Industrial Revolution

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

In 2003, one of my last classes at the University of Phoenix was State and Local Government. One of my projects was to attend a local political meeting, and I found the 46th LD meeting just up the road. That was May, 2003, a meeting that will live in infamy. LaRouche supporters standing on chairs singing protest songs until the police came to take them outside. I couldn’t wait to get involved.

I was elected as an At Large member in 2005, KCDCC Male Rep in 2007 and Chair in 2009. It has been a lot of work, and a lot of fun.

In 2009, my youngest son moved up from California to live with me. He is a great kid. I have tried my best to find a balance between my family and my political activism, and it’s a very hard balance to find. I’m afraid searching for that balance is outside of my technical and leadership skills that have served the district so well over the past 10 years.

The June meeting of the 46th District will be my last meeting as Chair. I am not abandoning the ship, I’m simply asking for someone else to step forward to take the captain’s chair. Shea starts high school in September, and I want to give the new chair the time to learn the details in time for us to have a successful election, helping President Obama and all of our statewide candidates win state-wide majorities with the help of the strongest and most capable Legislative District in the State. I’m VERY proud of this district and the many people who work so hard to keep it together. The Eboard is ready to help a new chair get the job done.

Can you believe that 128 people filed to be PCOs?! The next highest number was the 36th and 34th, which were tied at 111. Scott and his team are continuing to call new people to ask them to step up, and we appoint new PCOs at every meeting. That’s the kind of strength I’m talking about.

The June meeting will be at Aljoya, and I’ll be talking about how the District Organization operates, how people can get involved, and we’ll also do a PCO training to show Votebuilder and how we can be most effective for the Primary and General Elections.

Thank you for the past 10 years. I couldn’t have done it without the examples of our former chairs.

Chad Lupkes
Chair, 46th District Democrats

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Resignation from King County Democrats

Dear Steve,

I want to thank you for your leadership of the King County Democrats over the last two years.  You stepped forward to lead when it was needed.

At this point in time I need to step back.  My son, Shea, begins high school in September, and my activities in politics over the last 3 years have been at the expense of my family.  I have come to the point where I need to make a choice.  And the choice was easy, once I realized that I was unable to continue to do both.  Family comes first.

I hereby resign my position as 3rd Vice Chair of King County.  I know you will find someone to take the position and help you lead the party through the end of the cycle.

Leadership comes from example, and it is time I be a good example for my son.  Good luck.


Friday, February 03, 2012

Something missing from the Komen vs. Planned Parenthood narrative

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.

Except they hadn't.

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

On the subject of PCO elections

The following is a comment that I have been building and collecting from comment threads where I have been defending the lawsuit filed by the Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties against the Secretary of State to keep Precinct Committee Officers an publicly elected position.  I just don't understand why media institutions and editorial pages are getting behind this.  It seems they are in denial of the Constitution and the core foundations of our democratic institutions.

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.

Another point I would like to make is that the political parties have tremendous power in regards to our electoral and political process, power which can be either concentrated or distributed.  In our society, it is in our best interest to have that power distributed as much as possible, and having PCOs elected from the public INTO that party structure at the grassroots level ensures that power is distributed and not concentrated in the hands of a few.

Certainly there are plenty of internal Party politics stuff, and I would mostly agree that they should be dealt with internally. But for me the bottom line is not the meetings and activism, it's the core purpose of having locally elected public officials, so that when important decisions on who represents a district in the event of a death or resignation, it's as public as possible. Or when it comes time to identify our Electoral Collage members so that Washington State's voice is heard in Washington DC for the most important election in the world, the people who run the meetings at the very beginning of the process have some idea of how to run a meeting.

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.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Investments report, 2011

2011 was a crazy year in a lot of ways, but my investment strategy seems to be working just fine.

I ended the year with a total account value of $8,114.17.  I had put in $2,400 directly from my paycheck over the last 12 months.  My total dividends for the year added up to $650.64, up from $266.65 the previous year, mostly because I was putting so much in myself.

Over the next 12 months, I'm currently calculating a dividend return of $974.69, or 12.02% yield.  Of course, I'll be putting in another $2,400, plus buying additional shares and getting dividend reinvestments along the way so the dollar total will probably increase.

As far as share value goes, I only look at the summary screen, and it is telling me that I have lost $44.97 or 0.78%.  That's overall based on the original purchase of each share compared to now.  My highest gain in dollar terms was AT&T, which gained $363.55 or 24.17%, and my greatest loss was Chimera Investments which lost me $273.42 or 35.01%.  CIM is still paying a 20.08% dividend yield, probably because the share value has dropped so much, but as long as it is paying it's worth holding on to until the share value reaches 20% of what I bought it for.  CIM is one of the shares that pays me over $100 per year in dividends, and until that changes I'll hold on to it.

Overall, 2011 was a good year for my investment strategy.  I am up to 2.17% of my goal, which is to earn $45,000 per year from dividends alone.  I have a ways to go, but I can see it happening within 15 years or so.  Just in time for early retirement, as long as the world is still here for me to enjoy.