Vote!

Vote!

It goes without saying to most that a presidential election in the United States is a portentous ordeal, not just for its denizens but for the world at large. I’m confident that even those at polar extremes await with anxiety for the climax. Some then receiving their due orgasm, others hobbling away with what males call epididymal hypertension, others still revert to inhaling the smog of indifference, retreating to their suburban caverns and barricading the entryways. Arguably, elections have trended toward polarising society; the poles magnetically ripping us all in different directions for singular and presumably orienteering causes that, sans arrhythmia, invariably places at odds your polar base camp with all others. Localised or globalised, this pattern emerges triumphant.

Saving anthropology, scuttlebutt has emerged that this election in particular has the potential to yield one of the highest voter turnouts imaginable. By the time anyone reads this the verdict here will have already been decided, but it is interesting to think about those so-called citizens who are voting virgins or have made a fanfare-laden return to the cradle of the ballot box. Whether it be one’s first time voting, or participating in the civic duty to assuage peer pressure for that right to complain, or to protect the motherland from that immoral snot-faced moron who takes reins diametrically opposed to your own, all serve as valid equally, simply because you did vote. So then if the turnout is projected to be so high, what provoked it in the first place?

Face it – neither Clinton nor Trump are rock star candidates in and of themselves. Most imagine the latter to emerge as a masochistic despot and the former a considerably irresponsible and fraudulent piece of work who seems entirely incapable of adhering to simple email security practises. Neither has satisfied remotely any holistic perspective relative to the qualifications or the performance required by the executive chief. And this is the best we can produce. Of course there were three other choices but frankly I don’t remember their names and, honestly, you don’t either.

That being said, the atmosphere was one of defence. Every single voter who turned out where I live seemed to be voting simply because they didn’t want the lesser of two evils in the office. Undercurrent focus from previous elections most likely reveals this to be case as well; perhaps one could make the remark about this being a wholly uneducated voter. Educated or not, this was the en masse beat of the drum. Most constituents I know are mortified, I mean scared absolutely shitless, thinking about Donald Trump having his grubby paws that close to the nuclear arsenal. In wake of this aspect alone, their vote was cast, by their own admission, for Hillary. Nothing else about her mattered other than she wasn’t Trump. Conversely, my decidedly Republican peers, of which there are many, had a hoot of a time for weeks leading up to early voting access poking fun at Hillary for anything and everything the FBI could dig up on her.

It’s a wonder anyone has any concept of what’s truly going on in the country. While focusing on candidates for highly isolated reasons, disparity between legislature and culture continues to rip society apart at the seems, identity politics chokes us all to death, the Fed runs rampant with freedom of the press further propagating the central banking fraud, global warming is inarguably true but inarguably argued to be false, overpopulation gets as much attention as whomever was on the ballot for The Green Party, renewable energy has about as much of a concept of renewable as does Keurig with their single-use coffee pods, and not a single candidate, not a single one, gives a damn about anything other than the status quo. Thus in defence, one votes to not rock the boat.

I have come to vitriolically despise the word disruption. The lingering bad taste, similar to the one experienced while drinking black tea, grew from those marketers and investors who wanted to disrupt their industries. It has since, in the wake of this election, festered into a tumour on the back of my tongue as it seemed that this was the sole agenda of Republican citizens (not the GOP itself). They sought to rock the boat by voting for a person who seemed to manifest the popular rage against the government. At what cost, you might ask, and in response receive well ANYTHING has to be better than this! And what might that anything be? What is the price of your disruption? Herein lies the aforementioned issue and it can be polled through reflection: I ask a pseudo-rhetorical question, presumably aimed at Trumpists, and by default you’ve likely assumed I’m a Clintonist, and have readied your arsenal of retorts without catching your breath to permit a thought. Disrupt away!

As for me, I voted not in defence or disruption, but in defiance, and was subsequently told that I wasted my vote; you have to love the tyrannical tones that we enjoin on each other. First it’s you can’t complain unless you vote, and then it’s well now your vote isn’t worth shit compared to mine. For president I voted for an author who even now, exiled to the land of the dead, would have made a considerably more suitable fit than what’s on offer today and am content with my choice. So much so that the lumping with all that is unholy, unjust, immoral, and downright perverted is all that I expect from my fellow citizens. Because at the end of the day, the true leader is only ever the one who can afford it.

Two Sets of Books

Disclaimer: I submitted this to the New York Times as a response to the article that is mentioned here but I never heard back from them within their specified time frame for publishing, so instead I decided to publish on my site.

I set these words down to address a very particular topic, and a very particular person. It is with a considerable amount of disagreement that I address Larry Taunton regarding his piece entitled “The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist,” and inform him of why his interpretations of private conversations with Hitchens are not only horrible misrepresentations of the man himself, even as lackadaisical musings, but do nothing but use as a crutch his memory and legacy to attempt to cement the supposed inherit lie that all non-religious persons adhere to, on the surface, and secretly pine for salvation in the closet, placating the ego of the pious.

Getting right to the facts, in an article in the New York Times, dated Saturday March 14th, 2016, titled “Famous Atheist’s Non-Faith Is Questioned in Friend’s Book,” an excerpt lays the foundation for Taunton’s story:

“… In September 2010, five months after Mr. Hitchens’s diagnosis of cancer, he and Hitch drove the thirteen hours from Mr. Hitchens’s home in Washington, D.C. to a Fixed Point debate in Birmingham, Ala. The next month, after an event in Billings, Mont., they took a seven-hour trip to, and around, Yellowstone National Park. As Mr. Taunton drove, Mr. Hitchens read aloud from the Gospel of John and mulled over the precise reason Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus. “Where is the grace in the Old Testament?” Hitchens asked at one point, in Mr. Taunton’s telling. “I see it in the New Testament, but God is different in the Old Testament,” Mr. Hitchens observed, leading to a discussion of God’s covenant with Abraham. Based principally on these conversations, Mr. Taunton concluded that Mr. Hitchens was seeking – and that he was, at least, open to – the possibility that Christianity was true. Perhaps, Mr. Taunton writes, Mr. Hitchens “used his position as a journalist as a kind of professional cover for a very personal inquiry” into the faith.”

Later, another excerpt:

“Still, Mr. Taunton laces his book with plenty of winks toward hopeful Christians, who would be understandably glad to see the conversion of an atheist as prominent as Mr. Hitchens. He quotes John le Carre’s George Smiley, who says, in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (the movie, not the book), “The fantastic is always concealing a secret doubt.” He writes that Mr. Hitchens had to keep up the front of an unquestioning atheist because it “was a matter of professional pride for him to play the part for which he had been hired.”

Again, another excerpt quoting Michael Shermer, who had originally written a highly favorable review of the book, later asked for it to be redacted on account of a growing discomfort with Taunton’s near-abuse usage of Hitchen’s phrase “keeping two sets of books”:

“But you mean his wife, his family, his books, every interview he ever gave was all deceitful, but you, you got the real story?” he said, referring to Mr. Taunton. “I don’t think so.””

One last excerpt:

“Mr. Wilson agreed that, whatever the truth about Mr. Hitchens’s dying beliefs, the intrigue makes for a good story. “Christians like the idea of saved in the nick of time,” he said. “They like the idea of a cliffhanger ending.””

Next I would like to bring to light excerpts from Christopher Hitchens himself, from his memoir “Hitch 22.” Specifically the First Trade Edition: June 2011, published by Twelve, which contains a preface authored by Christopher Hitchens dated January 20, 2011. This puts the writing of these words after the time frame which Taunton claims to have had an enlightening experience with Hitchens. The first:

“A continuous theme in Hitch-22 is the requirement, exacted by a life of repeated contradictions, to keep two sets of books. My present condition intensifies this rather than otherwise. I am forced to make simultaneous preparations to die, and to go on living. Lawyers in the morning, as I once put it, and doctors in the afternoon.”

Another:

“Another element of my memoir – the stupendous importance of love, friendship, and solidarity – has been made immensely more vivid to me by recent experience.”

Another:

“The cause of my life has been that of combating superstition, which among other things means confronting the dreads upon which it feeds. For some inexplicable reason, our culture regards it as normal, even creditable, for the godly to admonish those who they believe to be expiring. A whole tawdry edifice – of fabricated “deathbed conversions” and moist devotional literature – has arisen on this highly questionable assumption. Though I could have chosen to take offense (at being silkily invited to jettison my convictions when in extremis: what an insult and what a non-sequitur too) I was actually grateful for the heavy attention I received from the faithful. It gave my atheism, if you like, a new lease on life. It also help me keep open a long debate to which I am proud to have contributed a little.”

Another:

“The irruption of death into my life has enabled me to express a trifle more concretely my contempt for the false consolation of religion, and belief in the centrality of science and reason.”

And finally:

“I wasn’t born to do any of the things I set down here, but I was born to die and this coda must be my attempt to assimilate the narrative to its conclusion.”

A very critical note that Taunton and Wilson (who was referenced briefly in the excerpts above) miss, at this juncture it would have to be inferred that it was blatantly ignored, was that Hitchens, much like the literary titans he surrounded himself with, was pursuant first and foremost toward the passion for literature. Littered throughout “Hitch 22,” and from various recorded speaking engagements, one has very little difficulty in determining this fact. It is not uncommon for an intellectual to be thirsty for knowledge – a thirsty reader will read, a thirsty writer will write, a thirsty painter will paint, etc… Nietzsche lays down this point better than most, while also laying the groundwork for the integrity of the intellectual in “On the Genealogy of Morals”: “… For nothing else befits a philosopher. We have no right to any isolated act whatsoever: to make isolated errors and to discover isolated truths are equally forbidden us. Rather, our thoughts, our values, our yeses and noes and ifs and whethers grow out of us with the same necessity with which a tree bears its fruits – all related and connected to one another and evidence of a single will, a single health, a single earth, a single sun.” This singularity is not a darling toward self-serving pious folks, as you’d have an incredibly hard time pouring over Nietzsche’s work the baptismal waters (the same person who declared himself to be the anti-Christ), but instead a reference to the insatiable thirst for an intellectual to seek knowledge, and that knowledge has no boundaries, and further that an intellectual has a responsibility to knowledge to not be isolated in its pursuit. A headline quote from the same New York Times article reads “An impious author who might have been exploring faith before he died.” – the absurdity oozing from the pores of the words here is astonishing, especially when in the context of Hitchens. – As if making inquiries into faiths, the texts behind them, and the people who are supposed to adhere to them, automatically implies that one is on the steps toward submission and salvation – please. A turn of this sort plays heavily on the intellectual’s due diligence of knowing about what it is they wish to discuss, something of which is the foundation for any serious intellectual. It is not uncommon for an atheist to read the multiple revisions of the Bible, or any other religious text, or study the principles of the religions around the world. This does not make them an active or even impending member of those religions.

As mentioned in the excerpts above, Hitchens makes reference to the “two sets of books” metaphor quite often. Not just from the quotations above, this use can be seen in his other book “god Is Not Great” and in various other recorded speaking events. Michael Shermer above requested that his positive review of Tounton’s book be redacted due to the latter having overused the dualist metaphor to an alarming degree. So what does Hitchens mean when he uses this? Yet two more excerpts from “Hitch 22”, both regarding his time at a school called Camdean:

“… We were all of us compelled to sit through lessons in the sinister fairy tales of Christianity as well, and nature was sometimes enlisted as illustrating god’s design, but I can’t pretend that I hated singing the hymns or learning the psalms, and I enjoyed being in the choir and was honored when asked to read from the lectern on Sundays. In fact, as you have perhaps guessed, I was getting an early training in the idea that life meant keeping two separate and distinct sets of books. If my parents knew what really went on at the school, I used to think (not being the first little boy to imagine that my main job was that of protecting parental innocence), they would faint from the shock. So I would be staunch and defend them from the knowledge.”

Second:

“Again come the two sets of books: I would escape to the library and lose myself in the adventure stories of John Buchan and “Sapper” and G.A. Hentry and Percy Westerman, and acquaint myself with imperial and military values just as, unknown to me in the England of the late 1950s that lay outside the school’s boundary, these were going straight out of style. Meanwhile and on the other side of the ledger, I would tell myself that I wasn’t really part of the hierarchy of cruelty, either as bully or victim.”

The meaning alone can be discerned from the first but the use of the second is to help ease along what is meant here.

Knowing that he had a distinct distaste for religion, especially a noted one for Christianity, and early on, Hitchens proceeds to say that he in fact did enjoy engaging in singing, reading, and learning. Saying it that way isn’t some coy subtraction of words in an effort to obviously remove them from the equation. It is instead used to point out that when considering the context, one taking part in activities with others, is indeed a reflection of human nature – the very real and truly inert need to be social, surrounded by others, accepted, and to reciprocate these things. The other children around him were doing the same exact things, as if it were all normal; these actions do not require qualification of the numinous to be dignified – a common misconception. The “two sets of books” metaphor holds more closely to the duality, introduced and contained within societies, enjoined on its constituents which in turn makes manifestly clear to the agent that innate desires and the results of them will nearly consistently be in conflict with the scaffolding prescribed to you. Not only does it have intimate ties with who and what we are as humans, which is not a shadow of an arrogant or indifferent god, but also to the attempts to reconcile those differences in accordance with the will to exhibit the love, friendship, and solidarity that is so important. It is not, as the pious would like to have it, and according so dotingly to Mr. Wilson, a good story that plays toward the Christian end-of-life ideal of repentance at the last moment for the dissenters.

Taunton’s assertions that Hitchens was only playing as an atheist because he was “hired” to be is as disingenuous and dishonest to a “friend” as one can be, as there is absolutely no way possible that one could ever entertain the thought that Hitchens had a last glimmer of faith and struggled with himself as to the object of commitment.

Never Underestimate the Role of the Sysadmin

The past few weeks have been a rather interesting adventure in my technology career. Not only has it been a eye-opening experience but it’s been a humbling one as well.

Ever since I started eleven years ago when I chose IT as a profession, I’ve been one of the following at any point in time:

  • Software Engineer (I still actively participate in this)
  • Tech Support Monkey
  • Cog-in-the-Machine Glorified Maintenance Guy
  • Consultant
  • Independent Contractor
  • Evangelist
  • Public Speaker (Still do this and want to do more)

These days, I’m getting the unadulterated taste of what it’s like to be a manager/system administrator/network architect. If I’m being honest, I wasn’t totally prepared to be put in a position like that but what’s life if not an opportunity to learn new things.

Learning is what I’ve been doing since starting this new job almost a month ago. I wasn’t totally unprepared for the networking side of things but it certainly was not my forte. So when we started having all sorts of issues with DNS, routing different kinds of traffic between two ISPs, modest but improper implementation of VLANs, investment in monitoring and NACs, my life became this seemingly endless cycle of banging my head against the wall, reading technical manuals until the wee hours of the morning, working on maybe four hours of sleep a day and loving every second of it.

One thing I picked up on though is that system administrators deal with way more acronyms than programmers ever do in their entire careers. In three weeks I may have learned more acronyms with regard to networking than I have in ten years of software engineering.

The really cool thing about all of this is that I can remember back in high school when I started taking the CCNA courses and I seriously was falling asleep during them. As it would turn out, that’s not an uncommon thing to happen as most every other sysadmin I’ve talked to about CCNA says the same damn thing. But I never thought in a million years that I’d use any of that and guess what? I am now. What a world of difference your life becomes when you completely understand the OSI/DoD Networking Models and what each piece of networking hardware does. I love building Nagios and pfSense boxes and configuring them. It makes my nerd giggles happy when I start configuring a switch/router/firewall. DNS? I’m up to my neck in BIND and it’s great. DR and Failover? Let’s do it!

Speaking of switches, can we just start making it a point to boycott further production of Dell PowerConnect switches and find the existing ones and toss them in a lake somewhere on Mars? I mean if we were ever afraid of an alien invasion of some sort, just show them that those monstrosities were made and they’ll turn right the fuck around. They’re proof that intelligent life was not found on this planet.

The really great thing about being a sysadmin, I think, is that there are more chances for you to be faced with do-or-die situations and that’s where I work best at. When things are so hard that you’re the only person to turn to and even you don’t have anything near close to an answer. Not only that but being able to orchestrate all of these technologies to work smoothly in tandem with each other is a bit exhilarating. AND I GET TO USE AS MUCH OPEN-SOURCE SOFTWARE AS MY LITTLE HEART DESIRES!!! :)))) Save for Windows Server. Oh and by the way Microsoft, your CALs can go rot in hell.