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Ronald Heiby
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Saw a new video of my 4-year-old nephew's latest success "programming" his Cubetto. He's still having fun and learning to think through problems.

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Decided to get one of these lighting flashing fidgety thingies. I think it looks pretty cool. Video at

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Among my early acquisitions of really nice writing instruments was a set made of wood. Most of my pens and pencils more recently have been made of materials like brass, plastic, and tungsten. Saw this Kickstarter and was reminded of that set I had from so long ago.

Found the following on Facebook (including the post scripts), by Timothy Snyder, Housum Professor of History, Yale University last November, and reproduced based on permission granted at the end:

Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so. Here are twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today.

1. Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You've already done this, haven't you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.

2. Defend an institution. Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of "our institutions" unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don't protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning.

3. Recall professional ethics. When the leaders of state set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much more important. It is hard to break a rule-of-law state without lawyers, and it is hard to have show trials without judges.

4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words. Look out for the expansive use of "terrorism" and "extremism." Be alive to the fatal notions of "exception" and "emergency." Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.

5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power. Think of the Reichstag fire. The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Don't fall for it.

6. Be kind to our language. Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying. (Don't use the internet before bed. Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.) What to read? Perhaps "The Power of the Powerless" by Václav Havel, 1984 by George Orwell, The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz, The Rebel by Albert Camus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev.

7. Stand out. Someone has to. It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.

8. Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.

9. Investigate. Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to harm you. Learn about sites that investigate foreign propaganda pushes.

10. Practice corporeal politics. Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.

11. Make eye contact and small talk. This is not just polite. It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.

12. Take responsibility for the face of the world. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.

13. Hinder the one-party state. The parties that took over states were once something else. They exploited a historical moment to make political life impossible for their rivals. Vote in local and state elections while you can.

14. Give regularly to good causes, if you can. Pick a charity and set up autopay. Then you will know that you have made a free choice that is supporting civil society helping others doing something good.

15. Establish a private life. Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks.

16. Learn from others in other countries. Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends abroad. The present difficulties here are an element of a general trend. And no country is going to find a solution by itself. Make sure you and your family have passports.

17. Watch out for the paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.

18. Be reflective if you must be armed. If you carry a weapon in public service, God bless you and keep you. But know that evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things. Be ready to say no. (If you do not know what this means, contact the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and ask about training in professional ethics.)

19. Be as courageous as you can. If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die in unfreedom.

20. Be a patriot. The incoming president is not. Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.

--Timothy Snyder, Housum Professor of History, Yale University,
15 November 2016.
(PS: If this is useful to you, please print it out and pass it around!
1 December 2016)
(PPS: I removed a reference to a website, which as friends have pointed out is too context-specific for what has become a public and widely-read list. 2 December 2016)

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Discovered a legal issues web site with an interesting article about the ethics of Foreign Service Officers and policy making and availability of data that should inform policy making. Being a data / facts / "scientific method" sort of guy, I am intrigued by folks who aren't so much.

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I've always been proud of my country. From time to time, I have not always been proud of its government. This is one of those times. This afternoon, I had the profound privilege of standing with hundreds, if not thousands, of my fellow Googlers, as #GooglersUnite to stand for our country, our constitution, our basic freedoms, the principles on which the United States of America was founded; to stand with our fellow Googlers who have come from other countries to work with me at the best company I've ever worked for; to stand with the immigrants, the refugees from oppression and danger, who want to make this country their home, as so many generations have before.

We heard from a Googler who is a permanent resident, has her "green card", and how Googlers worked around the clock to get her home from a business trip. We heard from others, whose lives and beliefs in this country being a welcoming place have been deeply disrupted by recent policy. We heard from one of Google's co-founders, an immigrant and refugee from the Soviet Union.

As long as our elected leaders seek to tear down this great nation, we will be fighting to keep it strong. We don't need to destroy ourselves to be safe from "the other". The true threat to our nation, this Great Experiment, is in those who would discard the principles on which it is based.

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Ran across this very cool looking pen on Kickstarter. Pretty sure this is the most interesting pen I've seen that uses the Fisher Space Pen refill.

Registered a movie with Disney for the digital copy. Got an Email offering to sell me a digital download of the soundtrack audio at a discount for the next few months, "while supplies last". Are they expecting to run out of bits?

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Pundits are saying that Trump is lying about what the intelligence agencies found, with regard to the election. Lying, to me, implies malicious intent.

I prefer to subscribe to Hanlon's Razor, that one should "Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity".
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