This is where I post stuff.

Most was written by me. Some of these posts were originally columns published elsewhere, and I just reposted them here for one reason or another. Others are original to this page - probably because I couldn't find anyone to publish them. There are also a few items from other sources that I wish to share/highlight.

The gun control conversation shouldn’t be led by extremists

(Note: This essay originally ran in AltDaily. I wrote it in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre.)

I want to talk about guns. Why should be obvious.

trump lapierreLet’s begin with this basic observation: Guns are unique enablers. They give people the means to commit violence in a much less personal, detached manner than any other weapon (OK - maybe a bow and arrow). They efficiently create large amounts of tissue damage quickly and easily. They generate a false sense of power that can encourage violence in an individual already prone to act that way. Their purpose as designed is to kill. We shouldn't be surprised that the unregulated and unscrutinized proliferation of firearms in America is leading to such extreme death and carnage.

I believe that beyond the usual boilerplate platitudes that emanate from both sides of the debate, there are complexities to the issue of gun violence in America that are being drowned out and need to be part of the discussion. So with a degree of acquiescence that what I’ve written here will make many folks unhappy and angry, here we go.

Alt Daily

Continue reading

How Carl Sagan Taught Me Everything that's Wrong with Standardized Testing

 Note: This article has been lightly edited to account for the fact that some of the original links are unavailable.

Today’s column focuses on something that, while certainly not as juicy as political intrigue, is really much more impactive in the scheme of things. I can’t make the topic of education more exciting, but I hope you’ll give it attention befitting its importance.

Still with me? Cool. Now imagine this: What if the tens of millions of people in America who regularly fall for all the BS that’s promulgated on cable “news” and the interwebs actually possessed and utilized the intellectual tools needed to see through the lies and propaganda?

The key to anyone being able to do this is an ability to engage in critical thinking, and the ability to do that is largely determined by the quality of one’s education.

Continue reading

Letter: The Pilot's important work

Nothing is more critical to the health of a democracy than citizen participation. The abysmally low voter turnout in most localities on May 3 can’t be spun into anything positive. But it’s encouraging to know some people and organizations are trying to change that.

I want to offer encouragement to The Pilot for its efforts at citizen engagement during this recent election cycle. Besides doing a great job of reporting on the candidates and the issues through its various platforms, the paper also embraced new and innovative methods for engagement. These included the multi-pronged Norfolk Voter Turnout Project and Code for Hampton Roads’ awesome “OK Candidate” web app.

Pilot editors and other staff members are demonstrating that they understand the core of the issue: If we can convince more of the talented people in our community to work on getting more citizens to vote, we have a fighting chance to reverse voter apathy. We would no longer need to cede political power in this country to those who are just in it for themselves.

Michael Rau
Virginia Beach

(This originally appeared as a Letter to the Editor in the May 12, 2016 edition of the Virginian Pilot. It's no longer available on their website.)

Britches of enormous proportions

BigBizGuySo, this is another example of what happens when companies get too big...

As most of my acquaintances know, I make part of my income from developing websites. I lease server space from a company called Bluehost for most of my accounts, including my own.

On my own server, I host about 15 sites pro bono for deserving individuals (mostly artists of one kind or another) and community non-profs. About five days ago, these sites all started malfunctioning. Since then, I have been utterly unable to get any support from Bluehost. I’ve sat on hold on the phone twice now for over an hour. Their live chat system is down, and no one has ever responded to the trouble ticket I filed.

In trying to figure out what was going on, I discovered that there are a whole lot of people having similar problems with Bluehost. I think I also discerned why.

Continue reading