Thing Creation: CNC Power

I work at a company that manufactures display cabinets, so I have access to a nearly endless supply of scrap wood, as well as two CNC machines and whatever tools I could want. So when I need a new piece of simple furniture, I can ask one of the project managers to modify a digital drawing they already have, then run it on the CNC, and in minutes I have a pile of parts ready to assemble.

The first thing I made was a giant bookshelf. Since I have several hundred books that I’ve already read, and hundreds more that I haven’t read, I wanted a bookshelf that could hold up to 400 books. But at the time I had a very small room, so it couldn’t be more than 26 inches wide. Here is what I came up with:

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The Rise of American Fascism

“I hear Donald Trump really hates this photo. So make sure not to retweet it. Ever.” –Charles Johnson

I will always call Trump and his new Republican party what they really are: the American version of fascism. I wrote a while ago about the common features of fascist regimes and how Trump ticks every box, and since then this lawless party of political thugs and con men has only increased in its depravity. They’re not even trying to hide it anymore.

They attempted to eliminate independent oversight of Congress by putting the Office of Congressional Ethics under their control. In North Carolina they tried to reorganize the very structure of government to strip the powers they enjoyed from the incoming Democratic governor, including reversing some changes that they originally made for their own benefit. Reports of harassment and crime against people of color and LGBT people spiked after election day, both nationally and among my personal friends, and violence against Muslims in particular has sharply increased in recent years. White supremacists and Christian extremists have been emboldened by the vulgarity and immorality of their orange führer, and his cruel, theocratic vice president. Trump eagerly attacks good people who fight for civil rights while playing dumb about his support from white supremacists, preferring to halfheartedly disavow and then ignore the discrimination and hatred done in his name, and instead continue to heap his condemnation on the people who fight those things.

There’s simply too much to list. Seems like every day Trump and his minions spew more falsehoods, advocate for more oppression, or otherwise continue acting like the slimy predators they are. And their loyal voters, either still misled by the propaganda or being authoritarian bullies themselves, continue to spread their hatred throughout society.

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The Value of Human Labor

workerDonald Trump has said that his net worth fluctuates based on several factors, including how he feels. He seems to assign an arbitrarily large value to his name as a brand, which is like if I claimed my net worth is $250 million and some change, because my blog has 250 followers at the moment and each one makes me feel like a million bucks. That’s not the way it works in the real world, of course. However, there’s a tiny smudge of truth behind Trump’s ridiculous claims. I doubt he’s aware of it, since Trump and the truth don’t seem to have any sort of relationship, but it’s there.

The truth is that value is an inherently subjective thing, much like morality and for the same reasons. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may remember an article I wrote back in 2014 in which I said “beauty is a relationship between the observer and the observed”. My basic premise is that the whole concept of value exists only in the minds of sentient observers, and it forms the foundation of beauty, morality, and other concepts that rely on making a judgment about the desirability of things.

So it’s true that feelings can affect value, since the value of an object is the amount of stuff someone is willing to give up for it. But you couldn’t feel that gold is worth $2 million an ounce and then expect to sell it for that price. Nobody would pay it because they know they can get it cheaper elsewhere. Which means that even though value is subjective, it’s not subject to the whims of a single person.

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Letter to the Religious

pexels-photo-211290This letter is for my Christian family and friends, but may be relevant to any other religious person who happens to read it. Due to recent conversations and comments, I think I should talk about a few things and clarify my position.

Hello. I’m a secular humanist. I think all religions are made up by humans, because none of them have produced evidence beyond ancient books and lots of hearsay. None of them have given me any good reason to think their gods are real, and in fact most of them make claims that contradict observable reality.

However, I used to be a completely serious Christian. Contrary to what I’m often told by Christians who are aspiring (and failing) to be mind-readers, I did in fact want to believe in god, and I did not leave because of some bad experience or because I was never saved or because I wanted to sin. The only reason I got where I am now is because I was open-minded and genuinely wanted to know the truth, so that I could more effectively spread the religion I was indoctrinated to propagate. I just wanted to find the true version of Christianity, never imagining that the true version would be fictional.

I really did believe, and my deconversion was something that happened to me despite my desires at the time. Believing something you know to be false isn’t easy, even if you really want to believe it. By attempting to become the best Christian I could be, I set myself on a path straight out of the religion. I learned that the bible is riddled with demonstrably false claims and internal contradictions, and after studying it deeply I couldn’t ignore that the god portrayed therein was the most evil character I’d ever seen. I really had no choice. As the evidence piled up that the bible was untrustworthy, I still believed in a god, and I prayed, trusting that he would set the record straight.

He never did.

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Memorable Moments of 2016

As terrible as 2016 was for the world, I had a good time. A look back at my photos from the year tells an interesting and almost chaotic story. Here are the most unusual, exciting, and memorable moments from my 2016.

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The night of New Year’s Eve 2015-2016 also featured a white elephant gift exchange in which I got a literal white elephant.

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