Rubio’s Rebellion

I won’t say “rebels.” These are senseless acts of defiance.  And I won’t legitimize them.

– President Snow, The Mockingjay

Our society has a romanticized view of rebellion. Rebels are the heros of many of our favorite stories, both historical and fictional. We have a deeply seated sense of right and wrong that transcends laws and governments, and it is generally understood and accepted that, as individuals, we have not only an entitlement, but even a responsibility to ensure that right is upheld when laws and governments fail to do so.

Knowing when to rebel

As a parent, I am the evil dictator of my family, and I am constantly dealing with small rebellions among my constituents (children). Needless to say, I don’t view these attempts to usurp my authority as heroic endeavors. What’s the difference between my children throwing their broccoli on the floor vs. colonists in Boston dumping tea into the ocean?

Righteous rebellion should be based on the following:

  • A clear understanding of the issues in question – Rebellion should be based on understanding, not emotion. See Breaking rules makes you seem powerful.
  • Prior failed attempts to resolve the issues diplomatically – Ensure that you have explored all avenues to attempt a diplomatic solution before resorting to rebellious acts.
  • A desire to improve life for the general population – Breaking laws for selfish motivations is not rebellion. It’s crime.
  • Unassailable moral high ground – Make sure that you are clearly in the right. Authority exists for a good reason, and should only be challenged for an equally good reason.

Rebellion and democracy

… government of the people, by the people, for the people …

– Abraham Lincoln

We can sympathize with rebellion in an autocracy, but how about in a democracy? In a pure, ideal democracy, all public policy is decided by the affected parties. Isn’t rebellion in a democracy a contradiction of terms?

There is no such thing as an ideal democracy, though. In the United States, rebellion is somewhat viewed as a part of the democratic process, as a sort of check on government to ensure that it is accurately reflecting the will of the people. Take, for example, the opt-out movement in Common Core standardized testing.

The opt-out  is an attempt by a large portion of the population to express disapproval for state and federal policies. It is generally viewed as a legitimate concern, and as an appropriate response. And the government, at least in New York state, has taken notice, and is currently engaged in formulating a response.

On the flip side, though, there is also a definite sense in the US that rebellion is inappropriate in certain circumstances.

Rubio’s rebellious attitude

So when [God’s rules and government] come into conflict, God’s rules always win.

– Presidential Candidate Sen. Marco Rubio

The US citizenship is highly conflicted on this statement. There are many who see Rubio’s words as foolish and irresponsible. In what way is Rubio’s comment different from valid rebellious sentiments? I expect that your response to this sentence hinges on your interpretation of the phrase “God’s rules”.

For me, and for a large portion of society, “God’s rules” is synonymous with “moral right”. If your interpretation falls along these lines, then Rubio’s declaration makes perfect sense. Naturally, it is correct to rebel against an immoral government. So the question is not whether or not Rubio’s goals are correct, but rather, whether or not his measures are correct.

What is moral right?

Morality is a nebulous thing. Is morality universal, or can it vary with time, geographic location, or even perspective? Is morality decided by the population, or is it independent of popular opinion?

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

 – Declaration of Independence

Thomas Jefferson asserts that unalienable rights exist, and lists some of them. I think that very few would argue that individuals don’t have the right to life, to liberty, or to pursue their own happiness. However, the manifestation of these basic rights is not obvious.

The right to life

The right to life is the clearest, but even that is not a simple issue. Debates abound about the death penalty, abortion, euthanasia, etc.

The right to liberty

Most civilized nations support the concept of individual liberties, but confusion arises when the liberties of one individual encroach on those of another. Hence we have speed limits, zoning ordinances, and public decency laws.

The right to pursue happiness

As with the right to liberty, the right to pursue your own happiness can encroach on others’ rights to pursue their own happiness. In fact, given the large variation in how individuals seek out happiness, I believe that this basic right is unlikely to ever be universally protected.

Universal morality

I have stated that we, as a society, seem to believe in the concept of universal morality. I have also argued that we, the human race, seem to have a very difficult time agreeing on what this universal moral code is. I believe very strongly that God’s word, the Bible, reveals to us this moral code, not in an individual verse or passage, but in study and understanding of the text, as a whole.

Morality is all about interactions, and the Bible is one of the most comprehensive studies of human interaction in existence. Its pages are full of beauty and horror, heroics and atrocities, relationships forged, and relationships broken, affecting hundreds of individuals across the span of thousands of years.

In addition, the Bible contains detailed lists of moral guidelines, along with reasons for the recommended behavior and potential consequences of ignoring the advice. The Bible relates general probabilities, and also specific examples from historical events.

We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.

 – George Bernard Shaw

I happen to agree with Rubio’s comment in that:

  • The citizens of a country have a responsibility to police the morality of their country’s laws.
  • God’s word, the Bible, is the best source for inspiration and research when attempting to discern universal morality.

– danBhentschel

Plex and The Great Music Rating Project

Several months ago, I installed Plex Media Server in my house, and in many ways it has revolutionized the way that we access our media. At some point in the future, I may write an article detailing how Plex organizes my video collection. Today, I am writing about how I am using Plex to better enjoy my music.

My collection as libraries

The first level of organization that Plex offers is libraries. Music, videos, and pictures can be organized into libraries which are listed individually on the Plex home screen. Libraries can also be sorted, searched, and filtered separately, so it makes sense to divide my music based on how I would like to browse the titles.

My current libraries can be seen listed on the left-hand side in the image below:

My Plex home screen as it appears in a web browser
My Plex home screen as it appears in a web browser

I have decided to separate my music into two libraries: Music and Christmas Music. When exploring my music collection, I rarely want to see, or listen to, Christmas music mixed in, so I have segregated the festive tracks from the standard content.

I considered separating kids’ music into another library, but decided against it. I actually like a good amount of the music my children listen to, and they enjoy a lot of my music as well. So it makes sense to keep those two categories integrated.

With my current two-library configuration, my music demographics at the time I am writing this are as follows:

Library# of Tracks
Christmas Music419

The ever-present playlist

Obviously, I haven’t really organized my music all that much with the libraries I have set up. I have almost 10,000 tracks lumped into the unhelpful title of Music. Playlists have been the standard way to organize music for the past 20 years or so. I tend to use them sparingly, though.

A playlist is very constricting, by design. Playlists also don’t add much information or structure to a music collection. Instead, they pull microcosms of structure out of a collection.

I have several playlists on Plex, but most of them are reminders, such as damaged or incorrectly detected tracks. I only have three playlists that I currently use for listening purposes: Kids’ Music, Kids in Bed, and Worship Music.

I play Kids’ Music on my phone while I’m taking care of, or playing with, my children. Kids in Bed is played each night in the children’s rooms while they sleep. And I listen to Worship Music on Sunday mornings while getting ready for church, or any other time the mood strikes me.

Moods and Plex Mix

Plex offers a couple of features to dynamically create playlists from my music collection. Many of the songs in my library have been automatically categorized by mood. Plex provides a long list of moods to select from, many of which are very creative options such as Dark Sparkling Lyrical, or Energetic Melancholy, or Hard Positive Excitement. Selecting a mood will, in theory, play a selection of songs from my library that match the selected description. Multiple moods can be selected in conjunction to create unique mixes.

Plex Mix is more like a Pandora playlist in that I can select a single track that I like, and tell Plex to create a Plex Mix from that track. It will then play a selection of other songs from my collection that are “similar” to the selected track.

The rating game

My current project is to go through my entire music collection and rate every track on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. As of right now, I have rated exactly 2,200 of my 9,690 tracks, so I am about 23% done. Here is the procedure that I am using to process my entire collection:

  1. Get a filtered listing of all of my unrated music tracks.
  2. Select the first 120, or so, tracks at the top of the list and add them to a temporary playlist.
  3. Instruct Plex to shuffle this temporary playlist while I’m at work.
  4. If, while listening, a song comes on that I can rate with certainty, then I will go ahead and do so. Otherwise, I will leave the song unrated.
  5. Once Plex has made a full pass through this playlist, I will delete it and go back to step 1 to create a new playlist of about 120 songs.

In this current pass through my music, I am using the following criteria for rating a song:

# of StarsCriteria# Tracks w/ Rating
1I never want to hear this track again.98
2This song is fine. I'll listen to it, but it's not particularly noteworthy.702
3I like this song quite a bit. I'll listen to it any time.725
4This song is great! I absolutely love it.675
5Unused at this time.0

Using this process, I can quickly categorize the songs that I know well or have strong feelings about, while the less obvious songs linger in the playlist. The songs that I am unclear about are played frequently until I either learn to like them, or get tired of them.

Once I finish rating my entire collection on this scale, I intend to make another pass through my 4-star songs, using a similar procedure, to further refine the high end of the spectrum. In this second pass, some of my absolute favorite tracks will be promoted to a 5-star rating, and likely a handful will be downgraded to a 3-star rating.

The payoff

I am already reaping the rewards of the rating project. At any time, I can shuffle just my 4-star songs, and know that for however long I want to listen, I will hear one great song after another. Even at less than a quarter complete, my 4-star list is close to 50 hours long, so it always feels fresh. If I’m in the mood for more musical variety, I can always include the 3-star songs as well.

I am also learning about my music collection and my tastes during this process. For example, I apparently like music by Bush quite a bit. Of the eleven songs on the Sixteen Stone album that I have, I rated seven of them at 4-stars. On the other hand, I’m not quite as big of an Aerosmith fan as I thought. Tyler and crew also garnered seven 4-star ratings, but that’s out of a total of thirty-five Aerosmith songs in my collection.

– danBhentschel