Jack’s Walk

©voyager, all rights reserved

Jack and I ran into a couple of big, beautiful horses today. It’s maple syrup season and this farm hosts a pancake and syrup breakfast during the month of March. This team are here every year to give wagon rides to anyone who wants to bump up and down a country road full of potholes and slush. What fun! I normally try to come late enough to miss all the fuss and foofaraw, but our timing was a bit off today. Jack barked like a fool at them from the car until they were far enough down the road to let him loose. He jumped out, watched them for half a second, gave one final woof and then ran into the woods to chase after the newly emerging spring smells. Each new bare patch of land requires very careful sniffing and Jack takes this job seriously. Some places require an extra bit of pee which Jack is always happy to provide. I always know the important places, though, because Jack will pee, turn around and lift his other leg to pee again and then turn back for one final squirt. The triple pee is always done with great seriousness, but it’s only half of the ritual. Next, the boy will dig in his back feet and rake up oodles of debris and mud as he stretches his legs way out behind him before giving a final snort and moving on. I wish I spoke urine.

Racialization of Muslims

In the light of the Christchurch terrorist attack, I think it is appropriate to try to put to rest, on this blog at least, the “Islam is not a race” argument so often thrown around in atheist circles. I admit to making this clueless blunder in the past as well, and really meaning it. But when arguing with actual unapologetic racists I had to point out some realities to them – like that Roma people are not in fact different race from Europeans, because we both stem from common and fairly recent Indo-European stock. And like that Arabs and Jews are also not different races from each other – and are not a different race from Europeans for the same reasons as Roma people are. That has made me to realize that racism is not, at least not only, what I thought it is, and that islamophobia is a real thing, alhtough the word itself can be used disingenuously (like any other word).

When I see a hijab (or a cross or any other overt religious symbol), I see a person being shackled by the throes of superstition, but still a person no fundamentaly different from you or I. But when a racist sees a hijab, they also do see an “other” in a very fundamental sense. Because to them race is not actually about biology (because biology does not support any form of racism) but about politics of power that merely uses biology and science in general to construct post hoc and ad hoc arguments for holding onto or acquiring said political power.

For the rest of the argument I give word to Philosophy Tube, who has made two excellent videos explaining the process of racialization of human groups and the whats, why’s and how’s behind it.

Names and Faces

Let us begin with this:

Text in tweet: “I don’t know the terrorist’s name. Nor do I care to know it.

Im keen on knowing the names, remembering the stories and celebrating the lives of the victims.”

BBC has a list, as does the New Zealand Herald:

They are fathers, mothers, grandparents, daughters and sons.

They are refugees, immigrants and New-Zealand born.

They are Kiwis.

These are the names of those who have died or are missing after the horrific acts of terror in Christchurch.

You can probably find more lists elsewhere, as they are being updated. This man, Khaled Beydoun, is keeping a list on Twitter. The number of victims has now increased to 51.

My heart goes out to the New Zealand Muslim community so disproportionately affected by this violence, as one of your local athletes puts so well:

While as cities and a nation we are all devastated by what happened yesterday, let’s not lose sight of the fact that yesterday’s terrorist attacks were targeted at the Muslim community. While it may have felt like it, we were not all at risk. We were not all unsafe. But we are all responsible for joining the wider conversation about racism, about white supremacy, about who we are as a country, and what’s actually going on.
I walked through the airport this morning and saw Muslim people going about their day in fear, including one woman that I and a couple of others sat with while she cried. I thought about how they were in fear as their community has been attacked, and how they would also be in fear if the perpetrator had been Muslim and the victims random, afraid for themselves and their children due to potential backlash from others in the community.

At what point do they get to rest? Why is everyone else able to go about their day? Why does the responsibility for such devastating actions by individuals get placed on entire communities in some cases but not others?

The reality is I know why. If you don’t know why, once we have had time to grieve, it might be time for some uncomfortable conversations.

In the mean time I implore you to support our Muslim community through donating to one of the fundraisers currently happening.

To our Muslim brothers and sisters – kei te heke ngā roimata, kei te ngākau pōuri au, ka aroha ki a koutou. I am so sorry this happened to you here. You should have been safe here, you should be safe everywhere. My heart is so heavy.

Ringatoi/Artist: Adrien Tavite

(via his instagram)

And this time no music, but to close off, A poem by Warsan Shire: What They Did Yesterday Afternoon:

what they did yesterday afternoon

by warsan shire

grief-reactionthey set my aunts house on fire
i cried the way women on tv do
folding at the middle
like a five pound note.
i called the boy who use to love me
tried to ‘okay’ my voice
i said hello
he said warsan, what’s wrong, what’s happened?

i’ve been praying,
and these are what my prayers look like;
dear god
i come from two countries
one is thirsty
the other is on fire
both need water.

later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered
everywhere
everywhere
everywhere.

 

(More from warshan shire in the New Yorker and on her blog.)

Slavic Saturday

Czechs and Polish languages are reasonably similar. Not mutually intelligible, but similar enough that we can somewhat understand each other when spoken very, very slowly (which can be hard, especially for Poles). Our histories are also reasonably similar – both our nations wandered in from east and south, displaced local Germanic and Celtic nations, both established their foot on the ground by fighting and subjugating smaller slavic tribes and selling them to slavery to richer tribes to the south and west. Both eventually became big kingdoms of significant clout and with great ambitions.

But whilst the Lands of the Bohemian Crown were torn from within with Hussite wars and subsequently came as a whole under Habsburg rule, the Poland-Lithuanian commonwealth was not only torn from within by squabbles between its different religious and national groups (like Orthodox Cossacks vs. Catholic Poles), but the part of commonwealth inhabited by Poles was itself totally plundered by Swedes and in few centuries torn from outside and divided between Austria, Prussia and Russia. This difference in historical development has, to my mind, played a significant role in one of the most significant cultural differences between our nations today.

I was blissfully unaware of this difference until my twenties when I decided that a literate and educated person should have at least passing knowledge of the writings of Henryk Sienkiewicz. I have already read one of his books as a child – In Desert and Wilderness – but that is more or less just an adventure book, nothing special (with extra helpings of racism, which flew over my head at that time). I have decided to start with Quo Vadis, because that is his most prominent book internationally and has brought him in the end the Nobel Prize in Literature.

And thus my attempt at reading his works started … and immediately ended. After I have read Quo Vadis I was left with a huge “What The Actual Fuck Did I Just Read?!?” feeling and I could not bring myself to pick up that book or any other of Sienkiewicz’s works ever again. I was appalled, I was totally disgusted and repelled. The writing is excellent, I have no reason to not believe that it is historically well researched, the story is captivating but…

The whole book reeked to me of christian, specifically catholic, propaganda. And this is the difference that I was talking about.

The Czech nation has undergone internal religious divide around Jan Hus, a significant portion of it has challenged the authority of the Holy Roman Church, was beaten into submission and had Catholicism forced it. But it retained some religious diversity and freedom throughout – and ever since then there always were Catholic Czechs as well as Protestant Czechs living with each other in no insignificant numbers. When national revival came, Czechs did identify mostly around shared language and religion has always played second fiddle (even though Catholics were seen as “no true Czechs” by some, that point of view never really became mainstream) and that fiddle became more and more insignificant with each generation ever since.

Polish nation was beaten up from outside and divided into different empires, each with different ruling religion – Orthodoxy in Russian Empire, Protestantism in Prussia and a teensy bit in the predominantly catholic Austria-Hungaria. And although they were not persecuted due to their religion per se in their respective parts throughout this whole time, language as well as religion remained at the core of Polish identity for most, because the non-polish invaders were also mostly non-catholics.

And thus, through a complicated historical route we arrive at present situation. Czechs are one of the world’s leaders in “Not Giving A Fuck” about religion, and Poles are still predominantly actively observant catholics. Czech Republic has freedom of religion, freedom from religion and freedom to say just about anything about any religion you like, as long as you are not engaging in hate speech. Republic of Poland has still has anti-blasphemy laws on books and you can get into trouble for making a mildly amusing parody video making fun or being critical of the Pope.

Jack’s Walk

It’s maple sugar season ©voyager, all rights reserved

Bubba and I thought we’d check out our wee forest today and we were pleased to see that maple syrup season is in full swing. There’s a farm adjacent to our woods that’s full of sugar maples and they process the syrup the old-fashioned way, with pails to collect the sap and an old-fashioned sugar shack where they boil it down over a wood fire. The ratio is 14 litres of sap gives you 1 litre of syrup. Jack has spent a lot of time checking out the farm and those maple trees and I’d warrant a guess that he’s peed on many, maybe even most, of the trees that are tapped. That’s why we call this farm’s maple syrup “Jack Juice.”

Tap, tap, tap ©voyager, all rights reserved

Mmm…©voyager, all rights reserved

Full Fish Ahead: Part 1

Welcome to a brand new series here at Affinity penned by Avalus who’s going to take us through the process of setting up a new aquarium and talk fishkeeping in general.

Let’s begin with the start. I found this big piece of gnarly wood in a shop in early December 2018 when I helped a friend shopping for (and carry) cat-equipment. It just had beautiful depth to it so I just bought it, as I had an idea for a new fishtank and remembered having an old tank in my parents’ attic. In January I picked up the tank from my parents, where it sat for 3 years or so. [Read more…]

Brexit Revisited v2

Because clicking on one thing inevitably leads to another, here’s a companion piece to Charly’s youtube video.

I understand that Brexit can be the source of all kinds of negative emotions – frustration, anger, betrayal, confusion, etc., and for this reason, a nice round of relaxation with yoga might be in order:

To be quite honest, it’s supposed to be funny, but at this point, I’m far more ready to cry. Or laugh-cry, at the very least. Deep breaths, I suppose.

Here’s some more meditative music:

Friday Feathers: A New Sighting

Seeing a new bird is always exciting. I knew we had black woodpeckers in the forest by their characteristic sound, but I had never seen one, so you can understand my excitement upon spotting one in the trees. The pics are taken at probably 70m distance, but do click for full size to see the fellow a little better.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Jack’s Walk

At the park, ©voyager, all rights reserved

Woo Hoo! It’s +13º C today and there is melting happening. There’s also a light drizzle that’s helping the melting along and already I can see the brown earthy edges of the lawns. The ice on the sidewalks is breaking up and there is a steady stream of water running down the street to the sewers. It’s wonderful. Really wonderful. Why, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s  finally Spring. At least until Saturday, that is, when it’s supposed to plummet down to zero and stay there for a week. I won’t think about that today, though. Today I’m just going to enjoy wearing my spring coat and watching Jack get muddy.

Youtube Video: Brexit, Briefly: REVISITED!

There’s three things, pick two. I use it often in engineering, where the corners of the triangle are Cheap, Fast, Good and you can only pick two. Managers always, always want to pick all three, just as well as the UK seems to want to pick now. Have your pie and eat it is the motto of the day.

I cannot even snigger at the stupidity of Britons who voted to leave, since I have no doubt that had Czech Republic had a similar referendum, our results would also be similar. Because despite the objectively measurable fact that we are much better of in the EU than we were outside it, a lot of people yearn for the good old days.

Good old days that never were. If I were to pick only one reason for why EU is a massive political success despite all its flaws it would be this:

There was not a war between members of EU for two generations. Prior to that, the whole EU history was stumbling from one war to another, and the scars from those wars still did not heal.

Killing and Dismembering an HDD

My parents PC started to act up a few weekends ago. I knew the motherboard was defect already, so I have decided to buy everything new, including an SSD – but I thought the old HDD can still be used for data storage. I was ronk. When I built the thing, it was still acting up, and finally I got the message that S.M.A.R.T. detects problems with the drive. So I decided to nix it and throw it out. It did not contain any important information, but even so I wiped it repeatedly, then performed full format, and then I disassembled it, run the platters over with a screwdriver and with strong neodymium magnet. Hopefully not even Nick Fury should now be able to recover the data that once was there, and should he go through the trouble being pissed at finding a bunch of flowers and gingerbread pictures.

When building it back together I did not build in one crucial part – the two half-moon shaped neodymium magnets that you can see to the left of the center in the photo. They are very slim and very, very strong – it is not easy to pry them apart in hand. I decided that they are simply too nice in themselves to throw into recycling and they might be useful in my workshop later on.

Two days later I got an idea how to use them and they might prove to be THE solution to a problem that I was looking for for over a month now, or at least a good part towards a solution. I hope to try that out soon, the weather is getting warmer, the flu or whatever was trying to kill me seems to have failed, so hopefully next weekend I will be able to resume working on knives.

©Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.