Two Wonderful Girls. One Day At A Time…

Archive for June, 2016

Thoughts & Prayers? There’s an app for that…

After the Umpqua, Oregon shootings last October, I committed myself to think about how I could take more effective role in the gun crisis. As a father that thinks about the world his girls will live in, ignoring it was unconscionable. Complaining wasn’t accomplishing anything. Trying to reason with people was difficult. After all, as I was told, guns are constitutional, guns are important part of peoples lives, guns are the last line of defense to defend your family, guns were part of their bonds with her fathers. My dad and I bonded on political conversations, which included understanding the principles upon which this country was founded (which included understanding the right to bear arms)–the same type of conversations I’ve tried to cultivate with my girls. If only we’d known that sticking a bullet into a living creature was a more effective way of learning about the Constitution. Where’s the fun in talking about stuff and healthy debate? We were a couple of chumps…

But if reasoning with gun enthusiasts wasn’t working and threatening politicians with my withholding my vote until action came about wouldn’t work, well, hey, I know tech. I’ll apply tech to help the gun crisis. So for the last several months, whenever I made a list of things to do, I added “Gun Tech” to my list. Just to think about it. How could we change things? Technology has saved us from disease. It enabled us to travel to distant lands. It has opened up new worlds. It had to be the solution here. And the ideas started coming to me. My favorite was the concept of touch ID with guns so that toddlers couldn’t accidentally set off guns. Or intruder couldn’t get the wrong gun–after all, shouldn’t a gun be as hard to access as your iPhone?  Plus, we could track who is shooting the gun maybe even turn it off remotely based on identifying a shooter or a lost gun getting into the wrong hands, as happened in the Embarcadero shooting last year. We can turn cars, lights, speakers, and millions of other devices on and off remotely, how about weapons? But then I found out that (a) someone has already thought of these types of ideas and (b) that the NRA has put a stop to some of these ideas already. I kinda lost hope. I stopped writing “Gun Tech” down. I lost…

When Orlando happened this weekend, I was neck deep in writing code for my new company and I was having a hard time concentrating. I was distracted by the fact that something like this could happen. Luckily, lawmakers had provided a major dose of “thoughts & prayers”. And that’s when it hit me. I realized I was overthinking the problem and there was an easier solution everyone could support. I could create efficiency in government, address the gun violence, and make the world a better place. And I could do so in a way that would be approved by even the strongest of second-amendment advocates. You out there in Washington DC have “Thoughts & Prayers”? Well I have an app for that…

I wrote a script that queries Twitter trending topics across the United States and seeks the phrase “shooting”. If there is a shooting as a trending topic, it automates a tweet of “My thoughts and prayers go to the victims of this senseless tragedy.” Note to members of Congress: this is legit. This ain’t the Obamacare website–this code works and I’m giving it away for free on GitHub, because that’s what we seem to do quite a bit out here in Northern California. We give cool stuff away for free. You just need to configure it to your Twitter account. It doesn’t make a difference if you’re a PC user or Mac, iOS or Android. It’s Javascript, you can stick in on an AWS server running NodeJS (no, Hillary, not your home server, please), and it’ll just keep checking for more violence every hour. It’s great, because it matches the extent of what you’ve accomplished between Sandy Hook and now, but you don’t need to risk hurting your fingers tapping away on your phone. You don’t run the risk of sticking your foot in your mouth like the Lt. Governor of Texas did. Now you can completely ignore the lives lost. As one “low-energy” candidate for President once said, “stuff happens”. Well, now it doesn’t have to distract you from another doomed vote to repeal Obamacare.

I’m not trying to trivialize the violence. I am trying to trivialize the inaction. All snark aside, I don’t expect guns banned. It’s not my thing, but I respect your right to peacefully live your life with that aspect as part of it (just as I do with the LGBT community–in fact, moreso with them as I don’t see that as a choice). But the violence won’t go away by ignoring it. My hope with this app is that lawmakers can go back to realizing that ignoring it is actually what they are doing. Forgot the acknowledgements. Either take the problem seriously or bring in someone who will. And skip the thoughts & prayers. I’ve got those covered…

Oh, and you nerds out there, no judging the elegance of my code. And Tabs>>Spaces. #SiliconValleyHBO #TeamRichard

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