Spencer McCormick

creative web developer

sometimes.
it feels
like
the road
never ends.
but then! we cross

\\\ skills

design

  • clean & modern to delightful & tacky
  • adobe creative suite, sketch

programming

  • modern WordPress: webpack, js, scss, svg, PHP, & git.
  • I build off Roots, using Trellis, Ansible, and Vagrant.
  • + I'm familiar with Node, React, native Android, Laravel, and CodeIgniter.

tech

  • macOS, linux, windows. basic hardware hacking.
  • command line. bash scripts. nginx & apache.

what you say?

The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.
Oprah

All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure.
1887, Mark Twain

And I’m thankful for that, Rose. I’m thankful. You must do me this honor. Promise me you’ll survive. That you won’t give up, no matter what happens, no matter how hopeless. Promise me now, Rose, and never let go of that promise.
1997, Titanic

Just keep swimming.
2003, Finding Nemo

Let us speak no more of faith in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of cryptography.
2013, Edward Snowden, from No Place to Hide

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” That is the true genius of America — a faith in simple dreams, an insistence on small miracles.
Barack Obama,
President of the United States, 2004

Insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics … They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.
Alexander Stephens,
Confederate Vice-President, 1861

When we die, our bodies become the grass, and the antelope eat the grass. And so we are all connected in the great Circle of Life.
1994, The Lion King

All in the game yo, all in the game.
2002, The Wire

The idea that a congressman would be tainted by accepting money from private industry or private sources is essentially a socialist argument.
1989, Newt Gringrich

The police protected you and there were courts of law. So you didn’t need a friend like me. Now you come and say “Don Corleone, give me justice.” But you don’t ask with respect. You don’t offer friendship. You don’t even think to call me “Godfather.” You come into my house on the day my daughter is to be married and you ask me to do murder – for money.
1972, The Godfather

There is a bear in the woods. For some people, the bear is easy to see. Others don’t see it at all. Some people say the bear is tame. Others say it’s vicious and dangerous. Since no one can really be sure who’s right, isn’t it smart to be as strong as the bear? If there is a bear.
1984, Ronald Reagan Campaign ad

You think you’ve got deep feelings? Read Napoleon’s love letters to Josephine. It’ll make you think that love is a form of insanity. Or read Virginia Woolf’s last letter to her husband before she loaded her coat up with stones and drowned herself in a river. I don’t really do any light reading, just deep, deep stuff. I’m not a light kind of guy.
2013, Mike Tyson

The burden of poverty isn’t just that you don’t always have the things you need, it’s the feeling of being embarrassed every day of your life, and you’d do anything to lift that burden.
2010, Jay Z, Decoded

It may be that he who bestows the largest amount of time and money on the needy is doing the most by his mode of life to produce that misery which he strives in vain to relieve.
1854, Thoreau, Walden

poultry

I keep chickens, one of them is a special needs chicken, and she literally became world famous, with articles in the DodoMetro UK and 9+ languages.

You can learn more about Crooks and her adventures by following her on Instagram.

 

She’s majestic in Thailand!

Famous in Vietnam!

And in Brazil!

Also in Spanish!

& in China!

And now, she’s writing a novel!

 

For more, check out her insta !

Wheels Up!

Launch an airline! From the beginnings of aviation, through the Jet Age, and into deregulation, build up airports and vie for routes, with 80 unique cards, 3 board configurations (North America, Europe, and Transatlantic), easy to learn, yet dynamic with a lot of player interaction, so start your engines and prepare for takeoff because it’s Wheels Up!

about

I love doing the work of understanding & creating.

For ~ five years I’ve been building web sites as a freelance front-end WordPress developer. I build off Roots, using Vagrant & Ansible to maintain parity between dev and production. You can check out this theme on Github!

I have a pet chicken, and every day with her is an exercise in trying to understand an alien perspective. She’s literally world famous and is way more popular than me on Instagram. Follow her!

 

And here’s an unconventional bio rooted in narrative because why not! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I was born in Wisconsin. My childhood mentor and best friend was an orange tabby cat named Hamilton. He taught me much. How to hustle and preserve. Mornings, I would find him window-side. He looked out upon the world and its dangers didn’t faze him the slightest. No, there was work to be done: Birds, mice, baby squirrels and other small mammals were yet living.

A gentle bang of the screen door and we were off, wading through the verdant lawns of suburban Milwaukee. An angry look and I knew I had stepped too loudly. As teacher, he was firm. Quietly we approached a suspect bush. I was to shake it. What would come out? Courage, he said, with a loud purr and brush against my legs. He would not scare and so I trusted. We entered the fray, and all the birds did flee.

Even to his last days, he stood firm to who he was. He knew that though they may be chained and bolted, doors existed to be opened. No, he never gave up. At the very end, when he was pitifully in pain, he still pulled himself to nap near his friends. This was his way.

He taught me well. I am yet of the belief that though our daily foes are many, at times nebulous and seemingly interminable or simply mundane and boring, with perseverance there is hope and in that, victory. Believe it and you too shall find doors opened, winter passed, and the cabinet of wet food re-stocked.

The Media Chickens Out
Why Recent Reporting on Salmonella is All Wrong

NEW YORK — Every year more than one million Americans become sick from salmonella, often from eating chickens, a very dangerous activity. Yet it seems like no one wants to talk about any of that.

To anyone following the news, only one salmonella story has made headlines. “There’s a big salmonella outbreak in the US because people keep kissing chickens,” screamed Vox Media in 34 point font. However, this “big outbreak” caused but 181 salmonella cases, only 0.018% of the caseload.

“The media doesn’t talk about how dangerous eating chicken is even though hundreds of thousands of Americans get sick from eating chickens every year,” said Crooks, a New York City resident who identifies as chicken. “I just don’t understand. If you’re worried about salmonella, why not eat fewer chickens?”

It’s not surprising the mainstream media would choose to exploit stereotypes and profit from tragedy.

A vocal contingent argues this is but the latest example of media bias against chickens. Reporters continue using the phrase “chicken out” even though it perpetuates the stereotype that chickens are cowardly. Often, chickens are portrayed as either dirty and stupid or as victims of factory farming. Many feel media organizations like NPR work to perpetuate existing structures of privilege.

“I have nothing against dogs–I even have dog friends–but the fact is no animal murders more humans than dogs,” said one commenter. “Why does the media hold dogs to different standards?”

To the Ancient Greeks, chickens were symbols of courage. Across the United States, cute adorable chickens are quietly hoping for a day when the media finally reports their experience–love of good food, self-presentation and community, among others.

“Those NPR reporters can publish narrow-minded stereotyping hate, and I’ll still cuddle,” said Crooks. “It’s time to take back the conversation. It’s time to chicken in.” 

 

Crooks, who identifies as chicken, cuddling with a friend.

American Morality is Weird

I will argue: I) There is a moral argument embedded in the movie Armageddon; II) This argument is also in Kanye West’s music; III) This morality is present throughout America; IV) This is new; V) The Mainstream Morality is pretty f****** weird.

I. Armageddon is an Important Movie

Armageddon is commonly criticized. People say its story, about blue-collar oil drillers nuking an asteroid to save the world, is simple commercialized jingoism, littered with scientific inaccuracy, according to Roger Ebert, “an assault on the eyes, the ears, the brain, [and] common sense.[1]

armageddon-dvd-cover

“For love. For honor. For all Mankind.”

And yet, Armageddon was the most popular film in 1998.[2] Director Michael Bay’s loud flashbang style of filmmaking has become the Hollywood norm. Writer JJ Abrahms went on to do LOST and remake Star Trek and Star Wars. Writer Tony Gilroy took up the Bourne Identity series. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer continued his blockbuster success in Pirates of the Caribbean and National Treasure, on TV with CSI and the Amazing Race. Armageddon is a prototype of what Hollywood has become — export driven[3] and market tested.

But moreover, Armageddon is important because it near perfectly reflects today’s popular values. In its marketing through to the last frame, Armageddon explicitly and consistently sells a moral message built around personal love, individual honor and universalism.

For Love. In Armageddon, love is the most important.

  • Although they’re comically unprepared, NASA lets our heroes go home instead of training more. Why? Because love is the most important, even more important than living itself.
  • Liv Tyler disobeys her father and instead virtuously honors love.
  • In that very special scene with the animal crackers, Liv Tyler says to her true love Ben Affleck, “Baby, do you think it’s possible that anyone else in the world is doing this very same thing at this very same moment?” He replies, “I hope so. Otherwise what the hell are we trying to save?”
  • At the movie’s climax, Bruce Willis sacrifices himself for his daughter. As he dies, we see a flashback & flashfoward of his daughter’s life. His life’s success is his personal love for his daughter.
  • The film ends on Liv Tyler and Ben Affeck kissing. The credit sequence is their wedding.
While lust, childrearing, marriage and many types of love are human universals, romantic love as virtue is quietly modern and perfectly typified in Armageddon. For more read .

Indeed, for Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Will Paton and William Fichtner their primary and arguably only motivation is romantic and paternal love. That is extraordinary. The world is about to be destroyed, they can save it, but what matters singularly is love.

Note too, its definition of family is expansive: Liv Tyler is motherless and Will Patton is separated from his wife and son. Family is how you define it.

For Honor. In Armageddon, everything is personal. Personal choices outweigh fate, and goodness is weighed in honoring personal relationships.

Some stories are tragedies, where the hero will try and try but because of fate or God or fundamental forces the hero will fail. In contrast, our heroes in Armageddon have tremendous agency. Incredibly, they openly discuss not saving the world — TWICE. In this universe, an individual’s freedom is absolute. The question is whether you choose to honor those you truly love.

For example, when the government tries to remote detonate the nuke, Billy Bob Thorton says, “This is one order you shouldn’t follow and you fu*king know it!” [4] Bruce Willis agrees saying, “Why are you listening to someone a hundred thousand miles away? We’re here!” (incipient localism!!) William Fichtner replies, “You swear on you daughter’s life and my family’s that you can make that depth?”[5] Bruce Willis then promises, and they save the world.

Also, note how wrong the government was. In every conflict between an individual and an institution/society, the individual is always right.

Let’s watch the ending. Look for the American flag. Listen for honor.

  • The American flag literally wraps Will Patton’s kid. The flag — nation — exists to protect family.
  • To Liv Tyler, Will Fincher says, “Miss Stamper, Colonel Willy Sharp United States Air Force Ma’am, requesting permission to shake the hand of the daughter of the bravest man I’ve ever met (music swells)”
  • Earlier, Billy Bob Thorton told Willis he had always wanted to be an astronaut. Ben Affleck hands Thorton Willis’ mission patch, thus honoring both men — i.e. it’s all personal honor!

For all Mankind. The individual is sovereign and supreme, and yet it’s clear that truth is certain and morality is universal. It’s a paradox. Individualist universalism.

The movie montages across humanity, magical realist Americana to the Taj Mahal and folks praying. It invokes God AND technology. But crucially it’s religion without doctrine and science without uncertainty. The experts and elites, the priests and scientists: they don’t matter. Universally, YOU choosing virtue — Jesus / Islam / whatever / #onelove — is what matters.

The scene with POTUS is probably my favorite:

Armageddon – President's Speech

In the 124 seconds, you hear of science and God, progress and the arrow of history:

  • “A species has the technology”
  • “the Bible calls this day Armageddon”
  • “every step up the ladder of science”
  • “brave souls traveling into the heaven.”

Equality is emphasized, “I address you tonight not as the President of the United States, not as the leader of a country, but as a citizen of humanity.” (Though in a FOX News era no actual POTUS could say that…)

And yet, individual choice is supreme, “Through all of our times, there is one thing that has nourished our souls, and elevated our species above its origins, and that is our courage.”

Lastly, there’s salvation (love) with that zero-corn line, “That man is not a salesman. That’s your daddy.” Will Paton choose love, and he is born again, from nobody to hero.

II. Kanye West is 100% Vanilla

Kanye believes in true love. “I was in love with her before I even got to talk to her,” he says. “I finally was … the man I always knew you could be. I became like a protector, a dad, a husband, I finally could stand up for something.”[6] For him too, love is the most important. “Love. Well, if someone has got all the money in the world, they’d still want love.”[7]

kanye-twitter-only-follows-kim

On Twitter, Kanye follows only one, Kim Kardashian.

Ye frames himself as a fearless Artist fighting an evil system of endemic corruption. Explicitly, Kanye honors his mother, his wife, and his man Jay Z (and Jay Z’s wife ☺). He lionizes not movements nor history but Steve Jobs and Walt Disney. As in Armageddon, for Kanye personal courage overcomes. To quote, “Too many people are scared. But it is my job to go up every night and talk about this kind of shit. It is actually my job. I’m like a broadcaster for futurism, for dreamers, for people who believe in themselves. We’ve been taught since day one to stop believing in our own dreams. We’ve had the confidence beaten out of us since day one.”

And yet, according to Kanye, everyone is equal. “This idea of being better than the next man, it’s the wrong mentality in the first place.”
“But you confuse me when you say stuff like that. You do act like you’re better than people!” says Charlamagne Tha God in the interview.
“I was completely hypocritical,” Kanye replies. Then a minute later, about the Grammies, he says, “I think I deserve more!”

So. To rephrase, “Trying to be better than anyone is wrong, and I am the best.” !!!!

In Power, Ye raps “The system broken, the school’s closed, the prison’s open.” And, he has a solution. In that interview he says, “I believe that I’ma be the head of the first trillion dollar company. And 100% when I get to that point… My plan is to be coming one by one, Big Daddy Kane, here come his crib, everybody’s crib.”[8] For Kanye, society’s #1 solution is Kanye. In Hip-Hop Reparations, politics are personal.

“I’m a married Christian man with a family,” he says. “We formed a new religion / No sins as long as there’s permission,” he raps. Embrace ideology and ignore its doctrines. Progress universally is YOU (everyone) choosing YOUR love.

In this same interview, Kanye is asked about Eric Garner. He dodges the question and then personally live-on-the-air begs Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, for a job. It’s not surprising, because Kanye West and Disney are absolutely alike. Kanye even says, “Frozen. That’s like a second nanny.” Frozen, 2013’s #1 movie with $1,300,000,000 in theatrical receipts, where the kingdom is saved by — guess what — courageously loving your sister. Put plainly, Kanye is just like a Disney Princess. Believe in yourself, believe in love, dress up in pretty clothes.

III. The Mainstream Morality

This ethic is in our politics, in our stories, our music, in how we perceive truth.

“No right, no wrong, no rules for me I’m free!”
Let It Go
Disney’s Frozen

Turn on On TED Talks. The epiphany of a genius saves. At TED 2006, in a video now watched more than 23 million times,[9] Tony Robins argued in all seriousness that Al Gore woulda won if only he had believed more in himself. Because yes, the problem in American politics is that politicians just don’t think enough about themselves.

Watch the State of the Union. We hail John Everyman of Anywhere USA, who was saved/ruined by the XYZ Act. Our politics are personal, instead of policy or party platform we titter on politicians’ personal narratives, their triumphs and gaffes. Bill Clinton’s personal failure to love true was more important than policies that affect hundreds of millions.

Religion has moved from denominations to Billy Graham and the spiritual/non-religious individual. As just written in Vox, New York Magazine, and shared widely through Facebook, universities placate personal sensitives by censoring speech. From the rise of Pentecostalism through to identity politics the common thread is to declare organized society bankrupt.

Just look at Jerry Bruckheimer’s filmmography:
Beverly Hills Cop: Eddie Murphy, a cop, must break the law to do what is right.
Gone in 60 Seconds: For his brother’s life, Nick Cage becomes a thief and steals cars quickly.
Pirates of the Caribbean: For love, Orlando Bloom forgoes his life and becomes a pirate.
Crimson Tide: For daughter + wife, Denzel Washington starts a mutiny aboard a US Navy nuclear submarine.
National Treasure: Nick Cage goes on the lam, steals the Declaration of Independence, finds love, and honors his family history.
Enemy of the State: To save himself and his family, Will Smith stands against … the state.

Alone, the individual is hero, bravely fighting for (and saved by) love.

fast-and-furious-family-is-most-important

Fast & Furious Franchise
A Criminal family with love & vague spirituality
$3,000,000,000+ theatrical

IV. However! The Narrative Norm has Shifted

Below are the 15 most popular films ever, by American box office, adjusted for inflation. Crucially, 1950s films played to an America with half the population. In other words, everyone saw the Ten Commandments.

1 Gone with the Wind $1,676,970,400 1939
2 Star Wars $1,478,392,600 1977
3 The Sound of Music $1,182,047,600 1965
4 E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial $1,177,391,000 1982
5 Titanic $1,124,438,100 1997
6 The Ten Commandments $1,087,300,000 1956
7 Jaws $1,063,054,200 1975
8 Doctor Zhivago $1,030,324,300 1965
9 The Exorcist $917,973,100 1973
10 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs $904,700,000 1937
11 101 Dalmatians $829,313,200 1961
12 The Empire Strikes Back $814,899,300 1980
13 Ben-Hur $813,400,000 1959
14 Avatar $807,218,700 2009
15 Return of the Jedi $780,693,100 1983

I’ve arbitrarily divided the films in half, using 1975 as the dividing line. Two films recent films, ET and Avatar, are of the Mainstream Morality. In ET, our hero uses love and family to overcome the evil government. In Avatar, love inspires moral courage in two individuals to overcome an evil corporation. Titanic almost fits — romantic love breaks through societal norms (but fails to save Leo).

Star Wars is close, a bridge maybe. Ultimately Princess Lea and Yoda’s want to re-establish the institutions of the Republic. Han Solo eventually realizes the Rebellion’s cause is great. Love cannot quite save Darth Vader.

The pre-1975 films, except the Sound of Music, are of a different moral paradigm. In Gone with the Wind, the top film ever, the protagonist chooses love and it ruins her. Three films, The Ten Commandments, The Exorcist and Ben-Hur, are stories of submission to God’s awesome and absolute power. Doctor Zhivago is an epic romance where the arrow of history overpowers the individual and obliterates love.

You also the moral shift in how Peter Jackson updated the Lord of the Rings. In Tolkein, the Fellowship fails to save the Shire. Although the One Ring is destroyed, victory is not absolute, for creation is intrinsically fallen. Despite this, in Tolkein the characters are dutiful throughout, steered by a greater destiny. In Jackson, the Elf-lords, especially Aragon, and even Gandolf have doubts — the dramatic question is whether they will have the moral courage to choose right. In Tolkein, the One Ring is destroyed accidentally when Gollum slips; in Jackson Frodo chooses to fight Gollum and they fall together.

It’s difficult to objectively measure moral values. There are counter examples. For example Mad Men puts a harsh lens to self-actualization and true love as life’s purpose. But Mad Men is an exception watched by a small elite. The Sound of Music and Disney were harbingers of what was to come, and in stories of epochs past are yet more dramatically different.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the most popular 19th century American novel, tells foremost the evils of slavery. In Shakespeare and Tolstoy, tragedy was common, fate powerful, and romance directly led to tragedy (Romeo and Juliet). Our folk tales are famously divorced from their predecessors. Sleeping Beauty was based on Sun, Moon, and Talia which had the explicit moral, “Lucky people, so ’tis said, Are blessed by Fortune whilst in bed.” Our oldest stories, from Genesis to the Odyssey speak clearly to the dangers of love, seduction and personal aggrandizement.

Our moral paradigm has shifted. Here’s another anecdote:

V. Thomas Jefferson Loved Slavery More Than Love

That statement is designed to provoke. But it’s true. Thomas Jefferson had a sexual relationship with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings. She died as a slave, in legal bondage. Jefferson had the power to free her, but he didn’t because he thought his lover’s freedom was less important than the dignity of the Presidency. Maybe if Jefferson could defend himself, he’d say something like, “Baby / Nation, that didn’t mean nothing. It was just sex.” But, it was a relationship that spanned decades to which Jefferson fathered four children,[10] children who Jefferson largely ignored, because he thought nation was more important than romantic or paternal love.

George Washington also put nation above love. There’s historical consensus Washington’s marriage was more friendly alliance than passionate romance. Washington had women he was romantically interested in, but probably he never acted on his desires.[11] Why? Nation above passion. Likewise, his wife Martha was at best ambivalent about George Washington’s Presidency, but George went anyways. Duty called and duty was more important.[12]

Can you name a contemporary character whose mission is to establish a central government? Plus, where the character is without children and without romance? I can but they’re always the villain. George Washington actively ignored his heart, he was without children, and his life’s work was building a central government and extending its power.

In the past, Americans ignored the most basic personal rights (see Jefferson & slavery) and to correct that wrong we choose to idealize and elevate the person. But in doing so, we forgot that people are strongest when they work together.

The Founding Fathers believed in duty & society, they built up law and institutions like the University of Virginia and the United States of America. George Washington was great not because he led but because after eight years he stepped aside and willingly followed.

VI. Stories are Important

Humans use stories to explain. When we moralize mavericks as exemplary and institutions as bankrupt bureaucracies, we construct a paradigm where Congress will be dysfunctional and real change impossible. In 1970 we faced a century of increasing pollution and therefore . cancer, and human suffering created the Environmental Protection Agency and changed a to now after four decades have a 72% air pollutant reduction.

lego-movie-believe

At the climax of LEGO: The Movie, a story for children, our protagonist is beyond hope, but then he is saved: He is told to believe. He isn’t told to believe in community or science or nation. Nor is he told to believe in hard work or education. No. He is told simply to believe in himself.

The Lego Movie (Ending Scene)

“You are the most talented, most interesting, and most extraordinary person in the universe. And YOU are capable of amazing things because YOU are the special. And so am I. And so is everyone.”

Everyone is equally, impossibly, absurdly the most special. Just believe!

“Right now it’s about you. And you [pause] Still [pause] Can change everything.”

The happy ending — it’s coming! Doesn’t matter if you’re from East Harlem where the average resident got 2.9 police summonses annually.[14] Or if you’re a professional, legally certified to make bank. Just [pause] believe [pause] in YOU. And you WILL save the world.

You don’t have to vote. Don’t have uncomfortable conversations. Don’t compromise or organize, join a political party or be party to anything, be an environmentalist, a privacy activist, education advocate or anything. Fall in love always, with yourself and whatever feels right to YOU. You’re an innocent lover in virginal white, merely a stormtropper to a suicidal ethic that threatens to flood our cities and destroy half of all species by the end of the 21st century.
(According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science and as written in Nature)

I’m a Special Needs Chicken and This is My Story

Hi!!! heart_beating

Do you like food? I love love love love eating. In fact, when I eat I chirp because I’m just so excited to be eating! I also like going on walks, a warm shoulder to rest against, and most of all friends and family!

But I wasn’t always an easy going chick because I was born with a genetic disability. I’m not sure what it’s called but basically my bottom jaw is 60° off and thus my tongue dangles out of my mouth perpetually.

#chickenselfie #camping #campfire #chickensofinstagram #crooked

A post shared by Crooks the Chicken (@crooks_the_chicken) on

When I was little I was just like the other chickens. We lived in a cardboard box under a heat lamp and we spent our days eating and running in circles.

One morning while running in circles, my sister turned to me and called me crooked. I just ignored it because I couldn’t imagine it. But then another called me crooked and another and then another and I looked down and saw it true. My beak was growing out sideways. I was born broken.

The others didn’t care. They just pecked on by, sometimes at me, sometimes they ate food right out from my bottom crooked beak. I hated that. I hated them. But most of all, I hated myself.

I remember kicking at my bedding furious. Why was I made like this? Why is everyone else straight when I’m crooked?
When I heard a voice, a raspy wheezing voice. “Crooks dear,” it said. I looked up and there was my neighbor, the hamster.
“All you chickens peck at me. But not you Crooks. You don’t because with your crooked beak you can’t. That darling is a gift, the gift to love everyone.”
I was startled. So much so I almost fell over.
“Them others are plain blind. Spend their lives looking for it thinking they got to get their way up the pecking order when truth is they already got it and don’t even know it. It’s sad. Makes a hamster want to burrow deep down and never see the light again.”

I fluffed my feathers in thought and waddled away clucking. That hamster was right, I knew. And from that day forward, I vowed — whatever the cost — to dedicate myself to love.

As the days passed the hamster told me stories, stories wise and ancient as time, of his ancestors’ long journey from the Mongolian steepes, through China, over the Himalayans and into India. He’d squat by the box, put his paws together and with vivid energy talk the origins of life.
He asked the most profound questions. Like once, “What came first, the chicken or the egg?”
I was befuddled. Absolutely totally befuddled. The question was so obvious yet I was clueless.
“Can be neither,” he said. “The chicken and egg are one and inseparable like the sun and day, ying and yang. For what must, is.”
The Way of the Tao, Confucius and Buddha — He was wise in all their ways, and slowly he taught me.

“Mind cannot overcome matter, but you can choose your mind’s eye.”
The hamster demonstrated leaping from a bookshelf 50 times his height uttering not even a gasp of pain.
“You, young chicken, but a feather in the wind. Make your wind and fly like.”

And like that, it was over. I remember him leading the morning’s calisthenics. Then the heat lamp flashed, sputtered and went black. For the first time I saw darkness.
“Be still,” he whispered.
The others squawked and hollered. But true to my teacher I kept quiet and for the first time creeping in beautiful I saw morning’s light true.
“Soon they will put you outside,” he said. “Be well, young chicken.”
I didn’t know what to say. Maybe I didn’t believe it. The others were hollering and running in frightened circles, and I barely acknowledged him as he turned and climbed up to his home.

In evening they came for us. They yanked me out. I wanted to say goodbye. I looked to the hamster’s home. He was in his meditation pod, comprehending mysteries of the universe, I’m sure. I cried out but I guess he couldn’t hear me because he stayed still. It was the last time I saw him[1].
Outside was different. The food came less often and the water got dirty. Nights were frequently frigid. But with the cold nights, every night my sisters and I decided to cuddle. And I love love love cuddling! It reminded me of everything I’d learned. What we needed was love. So I joined Tinder.

Crooks does Tinder

I went on dates, and I had some moments! It was fun, because spreading love is fun.

 

I went to the park and made friends.

Making #friends in #centralpark!!

A post shared by Crooks the Chicken (@crooks_the_chicken) on

I free ranged, from Central Park to the shores of Lake Michigan.

Soars like a #bird! #Milwaukee #Wisconsin

A post shared by Crooks the Chicken (@crooks_the_chicken) on

I went hiking in Shenandoah National Park.

#hiking with the #chicken. 🐤🐤🐤🐤 #shenandoah #cuteanimals #video

A post shared by Crooks the Chicken (@crooks_the_chicken) on

I took a train across the country.

I studied combat and call me chicken brains but I still can’t make sense of war’s slaughter.

#ChickenOnCannon #revolutionary #chickensofinstagram #findyourpark #yorktown #latergram

A post shared by Crooks the Chicken (@crooks_the_chicken) on

I learned about freedom and government, inheritance and works concentrated.

"In the flock one has safety. Freedom and union; one and inseparable." Senator Daniel Webster #lincolnmemorial

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You could say I am so so lucky.

But some folks didn’t like me. They separated me from the cats and dogs and everyone else. They said nasty things, like I’m dirty and diseased, even though every day I spend hours preening and cleaning. I wanted to say I’m trying to be pretty. I’m really trying.

Truth be told, the more I saw and learned the more I realized how little I am. I tried to remember everything the hamster had taught me. But the world is just so big and confusing and again I felt so small and alone left to kicking and screaming. Why? Why?

I learned that almost all chickens live in small cages, that when we die we’re left to rot caged in with our sisters. I learned that the loss rate for baby hens is 15%. I learned that I am half-size and will probably die young. Nearly anywhere else they would’ve killed me. I learned I shouldn’t exist.

Yet I am here. Am I an accident? A silly indulgence? I’ve thought about it a lot and I still don’t know. But I’ll tell you this and despite the (minor) exaggeration above, it’s 100% true.

In the morning I am so excited. I love a sunny day. I like bushes and trees and I dislike open fields. I’m terrified of nightfall. I love eating, especially when its fresh. I hate being alone. When I see a friend, I’ll fly to them. I love my friends. I’m still learning. I’m fighting. I’m struggling. I am alive. I am alive and every day I’m trying.

Been busy #hangingout!

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Where ya putting that robber…? #hamster vs #chicken #settlersofcatan

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Have a crooked beak / Still #beautiful

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The Best Amtrak Movie Scene

Amtrak is only in a few movies:
Rainman
Trading Places
The Italian Job
Breaking All The Rules
The Manchurian Candidate (2004)

The best Amtrak scene is in Trading Spaces

Trading places train scene

The scene takes place mostly in an Amtrak cafe car. And just as in any cafe car you’re served a smorgasbord of Americana:
– an African
– Catholic Priest
– European Coed
– Bumbling unintentionally racist white American
– Pets (ie the monkeys)
– Inept Amtrak employees
– Drunk passengers
And, just like Amtrak as a whole, the scene is a beautiful developing cluster chaos. It’s just perfect!!

Monopoly Echoes | Zero to One

Peter Thiel, the noted Silicon Valley investor, recently wrote the now bestselling Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future.

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Thiel is an advocate for monopolies. “Competition is for losers,” he says. “People always say that capitalism and competition are synonyms. But I think they’re really antonyms.” Peter Thiel argues that monopolies rise as they uniquely solve a problem. There’s truth to that, but to a larger extent monopolies remain because capitalism encourages efficiency, usually entailing scale, raising barriers to entry and making competition unattainable.

What’s funny is that it’s Peter Thiel, libertarian and Rand Paul supporter, who’s advocating for the concentration of power in monopolies. If Paul Krugman made the same argument would libertarians and the business press be equally laudatory?

The difference of course comes to rights and ownership. Paul Krugman wants single-payer health care, a partial monopoly owned by everyone, for everyone, just like our public roadways. Peter Thiel would have monopolies owned and controlled by individuals. He believes that the freedoms of the capitalist are more important than the beliefs and desires of the many citizens. To put it another way, as said by Thiel in 2009, “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.

This is an echo years past, of the history of railroads. After the Civil War, we as a nation gave new powers to privately held monopolies. These privately owned corporations used their position to enrich a few and exploit the common citizenry. It was disastrous. The railroads used their freedoms to maim their workers by the thousand and not even pay restitution. Thus, we democratically agreed upon unprecedented federal regulations to reign in corporations. It is these regulations that libertarians find so offensive. They want more freedom to exploit.

Some freedoms are mutually exclusive. I can’t own property and be free from an authority that determines who owns what (even if it’s a public ledger — ie bitcoin). Without agreement on the rules of the road, I wouldn’t be free to drive 80mph. I can’t be free from fear without public prohibitions of food poising, slavery, careless building, murder, negligent manufacturing or any other form of coercion including price gouging. I like being free from fear. I support freedom from want. These are the freedoms of the many. Peter Thiel wants more freedom for the privileged rich. Me, I believe in freedom AND democracy.

right-of-way-private-monopoly-special

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