Rand Paul in person

Yesterday I went to Brookline, NH, to see Rand Paul speak. I’d reserved a free ticket for the event on the hope of doing a freelance article, but I didn’t get a response to my query, so I was just there for myself. I still approached it like a reporter.
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Two flavors of zero tolerance

My posts on Ahmed Mohamed and on filk con harassment policies are about two aspects of the same issue. I’m sure, though, that most people who favor zero tolerance for electronics projects wouldn’t support Con2bil8’s policy if they knew about it, and most people who want zero tolerance for making anyone uncomfortable are unhappy with how MacArthur High School and the Irving Police Department treated the student.Stop sign with 'zero tolerance'

There’s a big difference in degree between the two, certainly. Much as I’d hate being kicked out of a filk con because somebody didn’t like what I said, it wouldn’t be as bad as being arrested, handcuffed, and questioned while being denied my legal rights. But I’m talking about the idea of designing policies so anything that deviates from the norm can be punished.
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The police state in Irving, Texas

The outrage perpetrated by MacArthur High School and the Irving, Texas police has been all over the news, and I don’t want to duplicate what everyone has been saying. Some points which haven’t gotten a lot of discussion jump out at me.

The first is that we know Ahmed Mohamed’s name at all. Normally when 14-year-olds are arrested, their names are kept strictly out of the news. Instead, the Irving police have been saying all kinds of things about their actions, and what they’re saying damns them. From a local news story:
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Filkers can do better

Filk is a community more than a musical style. It’s people in different countries drawn together by the love of songs which are clever, which look toward the future, which examine many possibilities for the world. I’ve found myself as much at home at filk conventions in Canada, Germany, and England as in the United States. Many things about filk have changed over the years and will keep changing, but we should always keep this.

Dandelion logo from FilKONtario siteFilk is a part of science fiction and fantasy fandom, which loves to explore ideas. This means discussion and debate. It means hearing ideas which may make us uncomfortable and being able to think people are seriously wrong without treating them as outcasts. Fandom has been a stronghold of liberalism, in the sense I cited in my last post: “valuing tolerance, freedom, and reason rather than orthodoxy, authoritarianism, and tradition.” (This has nothing to do with the Democratic and Republican parties, neither of which is liberal in that sense today.)
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Benson Park, Hudson

Elephant Barn and future museum at Benson Park

Elephant Barn and future museum at Benson Park

The latest issue of the Hippo informed me that the one-time zoo known as Benson’s Animal Farm in Hudson, NH, re-opened as Benson Park several years ago. Today I went to visit it for the first time since it had closed as a zoo. It put me in mind of the section called “Fossiles” from Saint-Saëns’ “Carnival of the Animals.” Almost everything is gone, of course including all the zoo animals. The gorilla house is still there, and the cage where “Colossus” once lived is open to visitors. Inside, I saw two small cells in back that looked like substandard solitary confinement cells. What I remembered best was the elephant barn, which is being converted into a museum.
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The Shepherd’s Crown

Terry PratchettThe Shepherd’s Crown is the last Discworld novel ever. This is a sad thought, but it would have been much sadder if Raising Steam had been Terry Pratchett’s last. In his last years, as he struggled with post-cortical atrophy, he needed more help to get his books out. I read the beginning of Raising Steam and found that it just wasn’t his voice. It was as if a copy editor had too heavy a hand in it. Whatever went wrong there, though, is largely fixed in The Shepherd’s Crown. It sounds like authentic Pratchett and presents a good story.
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