Police brutality in Seattle

First off, a brief programming note: now is not the right time to continue with the usual topic of this blog: a lighthearted exploration of algorithmic complexity and optimization. We’ll get back to that at a later date.

I have lived in Seattle for over two decades; it is my chosen home. There is much to recommend it.

The Seattle Police Department’s decades-long history of violent, brutal, racist, xenophobic and routinely unconstitutional behaviour directed at African Americans, First Nations people, Latinos, immigrants, the homeless, the mentally ill and many other minority populations decidedly does not recommend it.

Ten years ago the city narrowly avoided a major civil rights lawsuit motivated by this established pattern of abuse. The city negotiated a consent decree with the Department of Justice to reform the SPD; a brief history of that process spanning from 2010 through 2018 is here.

As noted in that history, then-US attorney Jenny Durkan was on the DOJ side of that negotiation and pushed for a more detailed and effective plan. Today she is the mayor of Seattle; three weeks ago she and the Justice Department declared victory, said that the SPD was “transformed“, and that no more oversight is needed.

Yesterday, during protests against police brutality in the middle of a pandemic, members of the SPD, among other things, put a knee against an alleged looter’s throat while arresting him and pepper sprayed a little girl in the face. The videos are disturbing and I won’t link to them here, but they are not hard to find.

Progress has been made in the last ten years. Routine use of unnecessary force is down. That’s good. But recent events have shown that it is far too early to declare victory. This is no time to stop structural improvements; this is a time to redouble efforts to better them.

Policing in America today, and in Seattle in particular, is still not just. Policing does not yet consistently take the side of protecting the weak against the powerful. What we have today is not the best we can do, not by far. We can make a more equitable, fair, prosperous and safe city by increasing, not decreasing, the rate of reform. We can actually transform policing, and we should.

Now, I don’t know what to do or how to fix this. I’ve spent my entire life developing expertise in a narrow field; I don’t know the law, or the history, or the politics. I don’t know what’s been tried or what evidence-based methods we know work, and which ought not to be tried again because they were expensive failures.

I know who does know, and I’m going to do a small part to fund them. I will match any donations up to a total of $5000 to the National Police Accountability Project. If you make a donation to the NPAP you’d like me to match, or have done so recently, leave a comment here, email me at ericlippert@gmail.com, or send a direct message to Twitter account @ericlippert with the details.

I will post updates here on the status of those donations over the next few days.

Thank you all.

UPDATE: The City of Seattle is abandoning their attempt to avoid ongoing oversight of the police department.

UPDATE: HOLY GOODNESS GOAL MET AND then DOUBLED. Thank you all for your generosity. You have not forgotten to be awesome.

We are at more than double my goal in just over 24 hours, and I’m calling it here:

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Thank you Jen, Kent, Michael, Eric, Kirill, Adam, Maja, Kira, Oliver, Tim, Adele, Jamey, Andrew, Damon, Ethan, Channing, Sumit, Matt, Matti, Warren, Bruce, Geoff, Peter, Anitha, Andrew, Chad, Ishya, Bibianne, Sean, Greg, Daniel, Jim, Mandy, Regina, Alex, Danyel, Dustin, and two anonymous donors.

Thanks also to inspirations Nell and Hank for running a similar one-day matching program this week. You rock.

Thanks also to my wife Leah.




Space oddity

Many years ago I awoke in the dead of night in a cold sweat, with the certain knowledge that a close relative had suddenly died. […] In fact, the relative is alive and well […]. However, suppose the relative had in fact died that night. You would have had a difficult time convincing me that it was merely coincidence. But it is easy to calculate that if each American has such a premonitory experience a few times in his lifetime, the actuarial statistics alone will produce a few apparent precognitive events somewhere in America each year. We can calculate that this must occur fairly frequently, but to the rare person who dreams of disaster, followed rapidly by its realization, it is uncanny and awesome. Such a coincidence must happen to someone every few months, but those who experience a correct precognition understandably resist its explanation by coincidence.

After my experience I did not write a letter to an institute of parapsychology relating a compelling predictive dream which was not borne out by reality. That is not a memorable letter. But had the death I dreamt actually occurred, such a letter would have been marked down as evidence for precognition. The hits are recorded, the misses are not.

Thus Carl Sagan in his 1979 book Broca’s Brain. Continue reading

Nature photography

I got a lot of great responses to my recent piece on features of C# I somewhat regret; thanks all for those.

As promised, today on fun-for-Friday-FAIC I’ve posted some fabulous adventures in nature photography from my recent trip to Lake Huron. Click on any image for a larger version. These were either taken by me or my friend Amber, who graciously loaned me her Canon DSLR, and taken with either the Canon or my GoPro.
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Defying gravity

No tech today, but some fun for Friday.

The 2015 Moisture Festival is over; if you’re not familiar with the festival, it’s a month-long celebration of old-timey and modern vaudeville, comedy, variety, burlesque and circus arts at multiple venues here in Seattle. Hundreds of artists come in from around the world, and often end up staying in my spare bedroom to cut down on their costs. This year I had the pleasure of spending a week with one of the world’s greatest jugglers, Niels Duinker, during the festival and I thought I’d post some links to his videos. When I was a college student I taught myself to juggle, but that was before all the great youtube tutorials that are now available.

Here is Niels on how to do three — start here if you’ve never juggled before.

Back in the day I got a few pretty solid four ball patterns going but I never managed to get more than eight throws with five, or six throws with three in one hand. Maybe I’ll give it another shot!

Melting aluminum

Today another in my ongoing, seldom-updated series of posts about building my own backyard foundry. Today I’ll describe how the final step works: actually melting and pouring the metal. First, see my previous post on how to make a green sand mold.

Start by assembling all the equipment you’ll need in one place, on a day with no chance of rain. (Click on any photo for a larger version.)

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Casting: making a green sand mold

Today another episode in my seldom-updated series about building a home aluminum foundry.

The technique I use for casting aluminum is called “green sand” casting not because the sand is green (though the sand I use is in fact slightly olive coloured) but because the sand is moistened with water and clay rather than oil. I made the sand myself; it’s a mixture of about ten parts olivine sand to one part finely powdered bentonite clay, and then “tempered” with water until it feels right. (Use a spray bottle set to a fine mist and stir the sand as you temper it.) It should feel like perfect sand castle building material: wet enough to hold its shape but not so wet that you can squeeze water out of it. If you can make a “snowball” of sand with a fist and break it cleanly in half, that’s probably good. Continue reading

London and Budapest

I recently spent a week visiting customers and giving talks in Europe and holy goodness, never have I been in so many countries in so little time. I flew from Seattle to London, changed planes, flew to Amsterdam, visited customers in the Netherlands and Belgium, then took the Eurostar from Lille back to London, and that was just the first two days! Continue reading

Funniest Hungarian joke ever

No computer stuff today; since I am actually in Hungary today on business and it is the the anniversary of the happy event mentioned below, today’s FAIC is a rerun. Enjoy!

I’m back from my fabulous adventures in Austria, Romania and Canada and I had a fabulous time, as you might imagine. We were in Romania for a wedding of some close personal friends who live here in Seattle; much of the groom’s family escaped from Romania during the Communist period and settled in Austria, so we spent some time in Vienna and then headed to Bucharest, and then crossed the Carpathian mountains by bus into Transylvania for the wedding. Some of the highlights included:

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