Identity as opression / Truth as liberation

 

Since entering the MSW program at the University of Michigan, it has become abundantly apparent that “identity” has taken stage and is the official University of Michigan School of Social Work buzzword. Students are awash with discussions and assertions regarding the need for sensitivity and awareness of intersectionality of identities, identity based oppression, identity based philanthropy, identity based safe spaces, and privileged identities, just to get started. Outside of the school as well, in the greater cultural discourse, we are seeing a surge in identity politics with the example of the Black Lives Matter movement and the alt-right’s white nationalism taking center stage; there are identity based immigration policies, the rise of populism and the political prominence of religious identity, sexual identity, and the political hackery of party based identity clinging that seems to just take bundles of these identities and create a super meta-identity out of them.

All of these phenomena certainly deserve their time in the spotlight, and need to be respected and reflected upon by all of us, not only for the social utility that an awareness and competence in these phenomena represent, but for the personally liberating insights which lay hidden within the intricacies of their reflective scope. This being the case, I cannot help but feel as if there is something lacking in this charged and emotionally raw discourse. I see all of this discussion about identity relative oppression as critical, but also as based on some pretty profound assumptions, and subsiding on some rather robust blinders, of course, this is always easiest to see when looking across the debate stage at an opponent, and difficult to see when looking inward. Blinder based dialogue, is it worth asking, is this happening?

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Ubuntu Dreams of Electric Golden Sheep!

This is an updated version of a previous post

Around 2012, the team behind Ubuntu, a very popular Linux desktop operating system, decided to strike the beautiful Electric Sheep screen saver program from it's repositories (think app store). For those of us that love using screensavers as a way to bring a little artwork to our office or media server, this was a harsh blow, as the Electric Sheep program is elegant and beautiful, and there was no simple path to bringing it back. About four years later, thanks to the ever vibrant open source community, a simple solution was presented with which one could bring it back to the Ubuntu desktop, this solution was covered here in a previous post. It's now time to revisit the Electric Sheep again, as a long awaited feature, Gold Sheep, has finally been unveiled. Also, it's time to take a frtesh look at how best to bring this elegant program back to the desktop, and bring some life back to our sleeping screens...

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All Pervasive Conditioning: Cultural Assimilation and the Suffocation of Individuality

Culture is the context within which all human interconnectedness occurs, and the intersections of those interconnections is where we find all meaningfulness and all sense of identity. Identity is relational, and relationships necessarily happen within a cultural context; blurred lines delineate the border between the cultural context within which the relationships that shape identity occur, and where those relationships are the very culture within which identity is formed. Relational cultural context, and the actual intersections of relational being are the source of the very notion of identity, which itself needs culture like lungs require air.

Language is the vessel of culture, and culture is the context of identity, so it follows that language informs identity at a very fundamental level.

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Innate Aversion and Blind Oppression: A Buddhist approach to identity based suffering

"An injustice to one is a menace to all,"  - Montesquieu

 

This powerful quote captures a certain essence of interdependence, something almost elusive to define. It's elusive to define because it is not only a certain sort of immediate and intimate sense of a common, shared humanity that one experiences only on a felt level, almost something spiritual and transcendent, but is simultaneously also a sense of something rather grounded, an interwoven reality of causality which binds us all together like shared stakeholders in a global economy or corporation. As humanity trudges along its evolutionary journey throughout the centuries, we learn how to contend with this notion of interdependence, while confined by the notions of immediate satisfaction and self preservation.

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Protecting Dissent: How to set up a Tor Hidden Service in Ubuntu 16.04

 

“When you do something you should burn yourself completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.” ~Shunryu Suzuki

 

In America, Freedom of Speech is a protected constitutional right. It protects our ability to openly dissent and criticize the government and sitting administration without fear of being silenced or threatened by the strongest authority in the land for the mere act of criticizing. Even with this legal protection, many people in the United States, as well as people all over the world, still feel the need for a safe place to set up shop and showcase their dissent without fear of recrimination. While we won't be exploring the merit of those feelings, it is enough to suggest that safeguards do need to be in place in order to protect dissenting voices from the potential tyranny of those with power. 

In walks Tor, aka, The Onion Router. In my previous two posts I explored the merit and operating principle behind the anonymizing Tor network, explained how to act as a client and connect to it, and demonstrated how to strengthen it by running a relay server. This post will cover how to take advantage of the privacy grating powers of the Tor network as a website or service provider. 

Tor, what is it good for?

Tor! (homepage)

 

What is it good for?

 

A whistleblower, journalist, or blogger in a hostile environment, a hostage or victim of human trafficking; those dominated, vulnerable, marginalized, propagandized, and all those generally in need of a way to speak out or seek out, to cry out maybe for the sake of their very lives... all of these folks need the same critical thing: a voice. They all need a way to have a voice that is safe, secure and discrete, trusted and confidential. They need a way to reach out and speak out that leaves no trace, and reveals no characteristic.

On the internet everything that you do is ticked and tucked away, targeted for tracking and ongoing identification for the surface purpose of such benign ideals as targeted advertisement in the name of robust and free trade practices. However these tracking practices, together with the digital footprints that we leave behind, can be used for nefarious purposes as well. Hostile governments can hack, track, silence and censor their citizenry, cyber-criminals may track and then hack your identity and resources; vital information such as science or current events may be kept from you, keeping you a prisoner of ignorance and propaganda; or maybe you just get yourself and all of your friends and families targeted by aggressive spammers.

It is easy to see that there are many ways that we need discretion in our online lives. We need a cryptographic security to protect our freedoms and privileges of free speech, open research, access to research, free exchange of information, and choice. Meet Tor A nice shallot... The onion router, which provides a one stop solution for all of those needs. Tor liberates online communication, for good or ill, and equips us to lead a more confident and, for all of Tor's discretion, open online lives. A champion against censorship and overbearing authority, Tor is a champion of free speech.

This post explores what Tor is, takes a brief look at how it works, and explains how to get connected to it.

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Passwords no more: Client Side SSL authentication the easy way

 

Passwords, difficult to remember, difficult to remember to change, so much so that companies like Google, Mozilla, and Last Pass are always devising ways to help us keep track of them. Always subject to being hacked due to password weakness, insecure connections, or data breaches, they represent as much a security failure as they do a safeguard system. 

Fortunately, we have ssomething available to put in place to bolster up our data security: SSL, or more specifically Client Side SSL. This system involves installing a trusted, secure certificate on the client computer that is used to authenticate a user. A much better alternative than a simple password, and much more transparent of a user experience in the end.

Setting up client side SSL is a lot easier than it might seem at first glance, and provides a great way to authenticate our users' identities. Passwords no more...

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Let's Encrypt The Web: Safeguarding internet privacy with free, trusted SSL

 

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It's not uncommon for modern computer users to run a home server, or for hobbyists or enthusiasts to purchase an affordable VPS and run apps for a Personal Cloud. With great apps like the Ampache media server, and platforms like Own Cloud, this is easier than ever, and an ever more attractive an option. If this is you, or if you run a blog, a small bushiness or non-profit website where you collect sensitive information, you might want to consider encrypting and securing that traffic from prying eyes, especially if any personal or sensitive data is within it. 

The way to do this is through the use of globally trusted and signed certificates, commonly referred to as SSL. You know when a site is using this technology if the beginning of the URL starts with a nice, green "https" instead of just "http". These trusted certificates are often very expensive, and the most of us have limited funds to address this costly and critical issue. This is where Let's Encrypt comes into the picture. Their mission is to provide quality, free certificates to anybody that wants them. They envision a web that is 100% encrypted, and appear to be well on their way. 

This post will show you how to obtain and configure your own free certificates from Let's Encrypt to ensure trusted and secure experience for your users.

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Ubuntu Dreams of Electric Sheep...

Around 2012, Ubuntu, a very popular Linux desktop operating system, decided to strike the beautiful Electric Sheep screen saver program from it's repositories (think app store). For those of us that love using screensavers as a way to bring a little artwork to our office or media server, this was a harsh blow, as the Electric Sheep program is elegant and beautiful, and there was no simple path to bringing it back. Now, thanks to the ever vibrant open source community, there is finally a simple solution to bring life back to our sleeping screens...

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Just Sit: Providing an introduction to meditation practice, exploring clinical and recovery applications, and examining the Buddhist roots of the modern mindfulness practice

 

Mindfulness: the new buzzward in pop psychology. You can't throw a stone these days without hearing someone mention mindfulness, see a new study on mindfulness, or run into some new guru trying to sell their particular flavor of mindfulness practice. There's so much information and chatter out there that the regular Jane or Joe might not know quite where to begin in tackling this "new fangled" thing. Where to start? Who to listen to? How to apply it? What the heck is it? What should I expect? How in the world can it actually help me?

This post is here to help, and is intended to be a nice starting off and reference point for a good meditative practice. As such, this includes a bunch of information and resources on basic mindfulness meditation, but also looks briefly at the clinically proven Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, looks into Buddhist meditation specifically, and finally explores Buddhist meditation from a substance abuse recovery perspective. While this motherload of information might be more than you are specifically looking for, this all inclusive introduction instructional of sorts is likely going to contain something that will suit you. There are three basic sections to this post, included with every section is a collection of links to some of my favorite books and resources relevant to that topic. These books are all well vetted, and selected not only for their relevence to topic, but by the legitimacy and reputation of the writers. They are, in short, relevant and reliable, and are presented here to introduce you to some well respected authors and well established teachers.

I hope that there is something here for you, as this should provide a great starting off point. There are links to some great guided meditations, some wonderful books, and some great videos from some rather brilliant folks. Please enjoy.

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Realizing Dependent Designation: The Buddha's Middle Way

 

“If you perceive the existence of all things

In terms of their essence,

Then this perception of all things

Will be without the perception of causes and conditions.

 

Effects and causes

And agent and action

And conditions and arising and ceasing

And effects will be rendered impossible.

 

Whatever is dependently co-arisen

That is explained to be emptiness.

That, being a dependent designation,

Is itself the middle way.”

- Nagarjuna 1

 

 

The above verse is a rather dense, or concise, explanation of the Buddhist principle of Emptiness in terms of Middle Way fundamental philosophy. The author, Nagarjuna, is considered by many to have expressed what is known as the 2nd turning of the great Wheel of Dharma, or truth, of Buddhist thought. His school founded what eventually launched all of Mahayana Buddhism, which includes the school of Buddhism that is His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s own branch of Tibetan Buddhism, and also spreads out to include Thich Nhat Hahn’s particular brand of Zen Buddhism.

Nagarjuna, as foundational as his work is, can be a head scratcher, for sure. This post takes a close look at what he is trying to tell us here, as it's understanding is garaunteed to be rewarding, if not merely intellectually entertaining.

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Damn the internet blockades! Run your own Private Proxy server with Seamless Authentication

 

Paying attention to the news, and to certain types of legislation that are constantly being passed around, it becomes more and more obvious that we people might want to secure our internet usage form prying eyes, or find ways to keep access to the sites that we have come to rely on. I am a big proponent of the principle of freedom of information, privacy, and security, or of just people keeping their nose out of other people's business, especially mine. Fortunately, despite the looming climate of Orwellian anti-privacy and anti-free-information measures that are constantly being tossed about, there are things that we can do to secure our privacy and therefore peace of mind.

Over the last few weeks I posted some simple instructions on how to secure your internet traffic, and how to add a layer of security to your home server (every household should have a home server). This post is going to add to our security knowledge base and show how to set up a simple, anonymizing, caching, http/htttps (web) proxy server, with seamless authentication, meaning no need to log in. This server will be able to get around internet blockades, and will not be open to the public, but you won't ever have to enter in your user name or password. Again, I am opting for the added security of running my own proxy, instead of subscribing to a service, because I can set the security, manage the data retention (or lack of retention), and I just get free of having to pass my data through anyone else's hands.

So, check out how to install your own personal web Proxy, which can also be used to filter out ads or pesky "bad" web sites.

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A community resource

Here's a social work and human services oriented website that I developed as a part of an internship. It never reached full realization, but there are some really usefull resources there, especially if you happen to live in the SE Michigan, Washtenaw County area. Aside from the local resources there are resume building and job interview skill tips as well.

Please make use of... (what started of as...)

My.AvalonHousing 

at semi.resource.joshpanter.com

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Fancy 403: Ban them All!

Lot's of tech savvy computer users these days have figured out how to set up a home server to act as a file server, a streaming media server, a legitimate web-site server, a proxy server, and any number of other case sues. Surely, having access to your home computer, akin to your own personal "cloud", while away from home is not only a luxury, but in the professional or academic world, this can be a ral life saver.

But, along side that convenience, the problem of security arises when we connect our home computers to the internet and register a domain to our dynamic IP address. Suddenly, there are potential prying eyes that we may not want paying attention to us. There are, of course, several ways to mitigate this problem, here is one more...

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