Categories
Politics

Rekia Boyd

Meet Rekia Boyd, born November 5, 1989 and a resident of Dolton, Illinois, along with her family.

On March 21, 2012, Rekia’s life was tragically cut short. While out with a group of friends late in the evening, enjoying music, drinks, and each others’ company at Douglas Park. In the small hours of the night, Rekia and a few of her friends made their way to a nearby liquor store, where their paths would intersect with off-duty Chicago Police Department officer Dante Servin.

Servin approached the group in his vehicle — whether calmly or belligerently, we don’t know for sure — and reportedly solicited buying drugs from the group, to which Rekia’s friend Antonia Cross responded, telling Servin to “get his crackhead ass out of here.”

At some point, Servin drew his weapon on Rekia and her friends, and aiming out his window, he opened fire on them. Antonia was shot in the hand. Rekia, the head. She was killed instantly.

Servin would claim later that Antonia was approaching him with a gun, but no such gun was ever recovered from the scene; most likely, Antonia was holding his phone. Servin would also claim that as he approached, the group were arguing.

Servin, in November 2013, was tried for manslaughter, but was acquitted of all charges two years later in a directed verdict — Judge Dennis. J. Porter ordered a decision of not-guilty. Manslaughter implies an accident, but the actions of Servin that night were intentional. The judge reasoned that if there was a crime, it would be murder, not manslaughter. No murder charges were brought against Servin, however.

Servin resigned from the Chicago Police Department on May 17, 2016, two days before a hearing to determine whether he would be fired, as called for by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Superintendent of Police Garry McCarthy.

The City of Chicago would give Rekia’s family $4.5 million, and her murder and the subsequent complete lack of justice would help inspire Black Lives Matter.

Former Detective Dante Servin would go on in 2017 to briefly serve as a national police community advisor in Honduras. In 2019, he sought to have the record of his manslaughter indictment expunged from his record, or at the very least to have those records sealed so that the public would no longer have access to them, so that he could have “closure” and better job prospects. Both of these requests were denied, however, and as judge Leroy Martin, Jr., noted, “Candidly, it seems to me, that Mr. Servin has benefitted from the state’s…failure to file a murder indictment against Mr. Servin and to go forward on involuntary manslaughter.”

Martinez Sutton, Rekia’s brother who was present for the court consideration of Servin’s record, said, “You go through those experiences, and the person who murdered your sister still gets to walk around and still collect a pension from the city then why would anybody have faith in the court system?”

Former Detective Dante Servin collects monthly pension checks of $4,700, and has done so since 2018.

Rekia Boyd was twenty-two years old.

Rekia Boyd’s life mattered.

Sources

Categories
Meta

Again and Again and Again and Again

Well, I did it again — made the decision to “abandon” this website to work on other things. I couldn’t do it, though. I noticed recently that my stats here have dipped lower than they have for a very long time and… I just can’t have that, now can I?

I’m at a point, though, of not really knowing what I should write about. Still, I’ve planned for several years now that once I had a stable computer upon which to write, without having to babysit a status bar icon to ensure that my faulty graphics card wasn’t being used, that I would get back into blogging.

That time, it seems, is rapidly approaching.

Time to make sure everything is working around here.

Time to consider new ways to build some community.

Time to clear my throat and prepare my voice for a new decade of blogging.

Categories
WordPress

Adding a Website Snapshot Shortcode to WordPress

There isn’t anything quite so boring as viewing websites full of links. Link. Description. Link. Description. Link. Descr— Well, you get the idea. If you have such a list on your website, you might seek to spice them up with screenshots to give a bit of pop to further encourage your users to follow the links.

But it can be a hassle to create, resize, and upload the screenshots that you need. It is an even bigger hassle to keep those screenshots up-to-date with how those websites might look over time.

What if there was a better way?

What if, with a simple shortcode, you could include within your content an automatically generated snapshot of a website which will stay reasonably up-to-date as the website changes?

screenshot of the original 'snap' shortcode at Geekeries That is exactly what [snap] is! Inspired by code at Geekeries, the [snap] shortcode is presented below with improved error-proofing and the option to specify a class attribute for the snapshot. I think you’re gonna love it!

Installation

There are multiple ways in which you can add this shortcode to your WordPress installation, among them:

  • Add the following code block to your theme’s functions.php file.
  • If you’re using Thesis 1.8.5, add the following code block to your theme’s custom_functions.php file.
  • If you’re using a custom plugin to hold your site’s customizations, add the code block to it.
  • Last, you can ignore the code block altogether by downloading this code block as a WordPress plugin, which can then be uploaded via your site admin panel’s Plugins → Add New page.

The Code (v2.0.0)

/**
 * [snap] - Website snapshot shortcode
 *
 * @via https://www.rickbeckman.org/
 * @inspiredby http://www.geekeries.fr/snippet/creer-automatiquement-miniatures-sites-wordpress/
 */
function custom_snapshot_shortcode( $atts, $content = null ) {
	# Default values
	$defaults = [
		'url'   => 'https://www.example.com/', # URL to be snapshotted
		'alt'   => __( 'Website Snapshot', 'snap' ), # Alt text for snapshot image
		'w'     => 400, # Width of snapshot
		'h'     => 300, # Height of snapshot
		'class' => '', # CSS class(es), space separated
	];

	# Parse attributes
	$atts = shortcode_atts( $defaults, $atts, 'snap' ); # @filter: shortcode_atts_snap

	# Sanity checks to ensure proper variables
	$url = urlencode( wp_http_validate_url( $atts['url'] ) ?: $defaults['url'] );
	$alt = esc_attr( $atts['alt'] );
	$w = absint( $atts['w'] ) ?: $defaults['w'];
	$h = absint( $atts['h'] ) ?: $defaults['h'];
	$class = ! empty( $atts['class'] ) ? esc_attr( $atts['class'] ) . ' website_snapshot' : 'website_snapshot';

	# Put together our IMG tag to be output, with final data sanitation
	$img = '<img src="https://s.wordpress.com/mshots/v1/' . $url . '?w=' . $w . '&h=' . $h . '" alt="' . $alt . '" class="' . $class . '">';

	return $img;
}
add_shortcode( 'snap', 'custom_snapshot_shortcode' );

Usage

At its most simple, you can insert [snap] anywhere within your posts to see how it behaves. By default, you’ll be shown a screenshot of the Google homepage.

But that isn’t very fun, is it?

Here is a fully formed [snap] example, followed by an explanation of what each optional attribute controls:

[snap url="https://rickbeckman.org/" alt="screenshot of my homepage" w=200 h=200 class="aligncenter mine"]

That example will look like this: screenshot of my homepage

If this shortcode is useful to you, I hope you’ll check out my other WordPress thingamajigs, and please don’t forget to like and share this page!

Attributes

The [snap] shortcode can be controlled using several attributes. They are as follows:

url
The full address of the site for which you want a snapshot. Defaults to https://www.wordpress.org/ in case you give it an invalid address or none at all.
alt
For accessibility and SEO reasons, you’ll want to provide a relevant alt text for your snapshot. This text should serve to describe the snapshot, and it defaults to “Website Snapshot.”
w and h
The width and height of your snapshot, respectively, as measured in pixels. Any positive integer can be used here, and both should be specified. Width defaults to 400 while height defaults to 300.
class

In order to provide seamless integration of the snapshots into your design, you can provide classes with which to target it in your styles or JavaScript. Every snapshot will be given a website_snapshot class, even if you add your own. Valid classes must start with an underscore (_), a hyphen (-), or a letter (a–z), followed by any numbers, hyphens, underscores, or letters. Class names must be at least two characters long, and you can add more than one by separating them with a space in your shortcode.

Most WordPress installations should have a few basic image styling classes which you can use to position your snapshots in your content: alignleft, alignright, and aligncenter.

Disclaimer

When you preview a post using the [snap] shortcode on a new site, you may notice that it doesn’t show a screenshot but instead shows a placeholder image. This is because the WordPress snapshot service takes a few moments to fetch and cache a screenshot once it is first requested. Subsequent visits to the page using the [snap] shortcode should display the expected screenshot.

Changelog

2.0.0 — July 13, 2019

  • Replaced URL validation function with a WordPress native function
  • Minor code cleanup and updating to take advantage of newer PHP features

1.0.0 — August 30, 2011

  • Initial version

This post was originally published on 2011-08-30. It has been updated for republication. Comments below may reflect the original version of this content.

Categories
Religion

Missing the Point

Content warning: This post contains a photograph from a Westboro Baptist protest which is used as an example of what not to do. It contains language which is offensive.

Over a decade ago, while I yet called myself a Christian, I was onto something good: a realization that homophobic protests and otherwise aggressive “evangelism” were no way to properly show forth the power, love, and, frankly, appeal of Jesus Christ to the world around me.

Borne out of honest and open readings of the Gospels, I came to understand better what Jesus wanted out of his followers, and what I saw didn’t look much like the religion which I had been taught, despite the best intentions of my church leaders and friends.

This post was originally published on 2007-12-07. It has been updated for republication. Comments below may reflect the original version of this content.

Categories
Religion

A Tale of Two Worldviews

Christianity is fascinating. The stories of the Bible, the miracles and teachings described throughout? It’s endlessly curious, with more nuance than it is often given credit for, particularly among my fellow unbelievers.

Far too often, unbelievers pick up on caricatures of Christianity — shallow exaggerations or distortions that can be easily mocked in textbook examples of the strawman fallacy.1 Adam and Eve, for example, get replaced by “a mud man and a transgender clone rib woman.”2

If, however, our goal is to address what the Bible says and to use what it says as an argument for why people shouldn’t believe it, we’re going to need something beyond a quick joke or meme. We’re going to want to understand why Christians believe what they do, what their theology means, and how we can best interact with them in the real world.

Christians aren’t stupid, regardless of what you might’ve heard in the seedier atheist circles, and their apologists and theologians know their religion better than most of us “on the outside” do. I promise — I’ve been there, on the inside of not only casual Christianity, but of absorbing all I could in terms of apologetics, or the art of providing a defense for something, in this case what the Bible teaches.

I bookmarked dozens of websites and read through as much of them as I could handle. The CARM apologetics notebook was a prized possession of mine years ago, and I sat attentively and excitedly for a Ken Ham presentation. Apologetics was my jam, and that’s not to mention my endless obsession with theology, both in reading it and discussing it with my closest friends.

Apologetics is the jam of many churchgoers, and despite whatever faults it has, it does one thing well: It inoculates believers against baseless attacks against Christianity.

Categories
Religion

Bible Verse that Says God Will Never Give Us More Than We Can Handle

Over the past thirteen years, I have learned that some things will always remain a constant fact of life: taxes, the overwhelming loudness of toxic members of my fandoms, and the fact that the most overwhelmingly popular way for people to end up on this site via a search engine is by searching for “god never gives us more than we can handle” or “god doesn’t give us more than we can handle.”

I can’t imagine that there aren’t many websites which address that phrase better than I ever could, but if you’ve reached this point, it’s because according to your search results and your choices made regarding them, there aren’t. I’m glad to have you here!

But… There is no such Bible verse! Disappointed?

I hope not.

But if you are? Look, I get it. You hear the phrase a lot, such as when things are getting rough in life. “Cheer up, sister. God isn’t going to give you more than you can handle.” It’s repeated so often by so many people that it not only rings true in the ears of Christians but seems like it could easily be a paraphrased Bible verse.

On the contrary, the phrase has become a platitude, a Christian meme which lacks in both substance and originality.

And on top of that, it doesn’t reflect what the Bible teaches about Christian living.

This post was originally published on 2006-09-06. It has been updated for republication. Comments below may reflect the original version of this content.

Categories
WordPress

How to Add a Site Name Shortcode to WordPress

A cosmic cloud of gases condenses under its own gravity, forming a star. Generations upon generations of single-celled organisms lead to multi-cellular complex life. And your humble blog has grown beyond its seminal inspiration.

Change happens, and you don’t have to find yourself in a situation where if you decide to change the name of your site, you’ll need to find and replace potentially hundreds of mentions of the old name to keep your branding consistent.

Most of my online projects suffer from many identity crises as I refine over and over again what it is I want to do with my online presence. To save myself all of the trouble of laboriously updating references to my site’s title throughout all of a its content, I started using an incredibly simple WordPress shortcode to do the work for me.

This post was originally published on 2013-04-06. It has been updated for republication. Comments below may reflect the original version of this content.

Categories
Journal

Our Day Out

Oh man, what a week it’s been, and it’s only Tuesday! The fun began on Saturday, with my wife Jade and I taking the whole day together to celebrate her birthday. Well, I won’t say the whole day; we both slept in, but she let me sleep until well past noon. Whoopsie.

A little later in the afternoon, we drove up to Richmond where at the very least we had planned to eat at Jade’s favorite restaurant, Olive Garden, and to go bowling.

Before we got to those places, though, we went to Hobby Lobby (because we can’t just go to Richmond without going to Hobby Lobby), Lowe’s, Walmart, and Goodwill. I like going to Hobby Lobby because they have some pretty decent Star Trek collectibles, and I came very close to buying a $35 anniversary-edition model kit of the original Starship Enterprise. I talked myself out of it, though, as I’m trying not to actively increase my collectibles until after we, I hope, move into a bigger house in not too distant future. I did, however, find a new wall sign for my daughter’s room that says, “Even Superheroes Have to Clean Their Room.” She’s had its companion sign, “Even Superheroes Have to Do Their Homework,” hanging on her wall for quite some time now.

I don’t get out to Lowe’s much, so it was nice going there with Jade. We looked at various things, from flooring to new appliances, that we would like to try to get to make it easier to eventually sell our house. I especially enjoyed checking out the smart refrigerators in their line-up. Did you know that there are fridges that, with just a knock on the door, you’re granted a view of the inside of the fridge? How freaking cool is that!

After walking around and not finding the last thing we wanted to look at — shower/tub panels for behind the fixtures — we left to head to Walmart. I don’t remember why we went there, but Jade ended up getting new wireless headphones, I picked up the game Monster Hunter: World, and she also picked out a new leotard for my kiddo and her ongoing gymnastics experience.

At Goodwill, I picked up a small stack of books, including War of the Worlds and a young reader’s biography of Jane Goodall. I truly miss having a decent bookstore nearby, but being able to drop by Goodwill in either Connersville or Richmond works well enough to scratch the itch to buy books. Plus, instead of spending $80 and up at a time, I can get a stack of book for below $10. I love that feeling.

Finally, after all of that, we made it to bowling. We paid for two games, and we set out to our lane, hoping for the best. Or at least, I was. I haven’t been bowling for quite some time. I bowled a 107 that first game, beating Jade by around 30 pins. I even earned a strike, which felt pretty good, but my victory was hardly super meaningful — she had a bit of difficulty finding a ball which suited her without feeling like it was going to break her hand, and I inadvertently wasted one of her frames when her ball looked to be stuck at the entrance to the ball return. I figured that a ball thrown down the gutter would knock hers loose, and because her ball hadn’t made it into the return yet, I assumed her first frame of that turn was still active. It wasn’t. Still, I intentionally bowled my next frame into the gutter. Fair is fair, right?

With the next game, however, Jade had found her stride. She scored a couple strikes in a row, and she got into my head a little bit. My bowling took a dive, and she smashed me. Cumulatively, I came out ahead in total pins for the night, but allowing for the problems she had in the first game, it’s clear to me that she should’ve won both games.

And also that I should bowl more often.

We ate dinner after that, and it felt pretty good being seated in front of the half dozen other families waiting because we were willing to take a booth in the bar area. At least I assume that’s what got us in so quickly, without any wait time at all. The food was better than I remember Olive Garden being the few times I’ve eaten there in the past, and I know Jade enjoyed her meal. We ate til we couldn’t eat anymore, then made our way back to Connersville.

On the way we stopped by the old Centerville K-Mart because we thought they were going out of business and hoped to catch some sales. Well, we caught some sales, but the store seems to be open indefinitely for the time being. There were a bunch of clothes on sale, so of course Jade picked out several things for my daughter, including a very smart sweater, a super cute dress that she can wear for Easter, and a new jacket.

It truly was an amazing day out with my wife, and I’m glad to have been able to have the day off to spend it with her.

Categories
Journal

A Sick Day Spent in Final Fantasy VII Nostalgia

Ugh.

Just ugh. I’ve been fighting a sore throat and sinus drainage thing this week, and today, I was feverish when I woke up so I stayed home from work. I hated to do that as I have this coming Saturday off anyway, but I also wanted to give myself a chance to just recover so that maybe, just maybe, this won’t last until Saturday. My wife and I have plans, see; it’s her b- b- b- birthday weekend!

While not relaxing with her after she had gotten home from work today, I mostly spent the day playing Final Fantasy VII. Well, I woke up to there being a two-hour delay for school, so my daughter and I were able to spend a little time together this morning prior to her going to school and back to her mom’s house this afternoon, which was nice.

In the game, I’ve been attempting as completionist a playthrough as possible. I have the Playstation 4 re-release of the game via the Playstation Network, which as far as I can tell is faithful to the original Playstation version but with some typos corrected (“Off course!” and “No, way!” have been corrected to “Of course!” and “No way!”, disappointingly) and added trophy support. I was really hoping to score every trophy on this playthrough, but I wasn’t familiar enough with the Golden Saucer dating mechanics to land a date with Barret.

I also managed to mess up my chance to end the game with four maxed-out enemy skill materia, and I just a few hours ago locked myself out of winning the umbrella (or parasol) from the Speed Square game at the Golden Saucer. Aside from those and the dating mishap, I think I’m on track to having everything completed.

Or at least I don’t think I’ve fudged up anything else from the “first disk” (the game originally played across three disks; the digital re-release doesn’t have that mechanic); although, as I’m writing this and cross-checking a couple references, I notice that “completionism” requires getting ninety-nine of every item, one of which is incredibly difficult to come by, save for a reliable method at Fort Condor which I’ve already locked myself out of.

I remember playing the game back on my original PlayStation in the late 90s. I didn’t have all of the Internet guides, and there was certainly no Fandom wiki dedicated to the game which I could reference. All I had was the BradyGames players’ guide, as error-riddled as it may be. But with a lot of hard work, I managed to unlock at least most of the materia, enabling me to assemble a team that had little to no problem dealing with the endgame weapon fights. That’s one of my proudest achievements. But still, I’m sure I missed a lot, such as never completing the Battle Square battles.

I’m hoping this playthrough corrects that, but I’m not going to lie, having one-click access to a “3x speed” mode (all animations are sped up times three, allowing much faster grinding) and god mode (health and magic replenish instantly during battle, unless a character is killed in one hit; limit break meters also fill instantly upon use) is making it hard to play through the game legitimately — sometimes I’m accidentally enabling these modes simply because of how easily their buttons are pressed through normal play.

Not gonna lie, I’ve relied on the god mode for a few things; I like it because it doesn’t make the entire game a cinch: you can still be affected by status effects (all of which still affect you other than poison), you can still be one-hit killed, you still have to win mini-games such as the escape from Midgar or Fort Condor battles legitimately, and you can find yourself stuck in the final round of the Battle Arena attempting to get the keystone from Dio, turned into a frog with a broken weapon and no access to items or materia, doing 7 damage per turn (or 15 on crit) to an enemy with over 2,000 hit points. Oh, and a certain character still dies permanently, in a scene that few games can rival to this day.

I saved my game outside of Icicle Inn before quitting for the night, and I’m pretty sure I’m heading into what was my least favorite part of the game way back when. Fortunately, once I get all the items from the next couple of areas, I don’t think I have to return to them. Maybe.

Categories
Journal

A Banner Year for the Beckmans.

I trust you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day, if you celebrated it. I spent the day at work, but my loverly wife Jade and I found time beforehand — well, during her lunch break — to go out for lunch at a newer restaurant here in town. I ordered a club sandwich, and it was an absolute unit of a sandwich; it was as thick as my face is tall!

Later in the day, this time on my lunch break, I came home to Jade having made a completely surprise steak dinner. Two perfectly marinated and cooked steaks, mashed potatoes (world’s best side dish — and disappointingly absent from most local restaurants’ sides menus), and cream corn. Well, I say “surprise” dinner, but Jade pointed out that she always makes me steak on Valentine’s Day. I— I’m not the greatest with traditions, I suppose.

I often don’t express it well enough, but I am really fortunate to have Jade in my life. Suffice to say, when we first started seeing each other in 2013, my personal life was, well, mixed up. I joke about it now by saying that I tumbled through a mid-life crisis a bit earlier than expected.

Flash forward to this year, and we have victories like having recently purchased our second car together — and the first in both of our names. They’re both 2014s, and naturally, mine’s all decked out in Star Trek gear.

We have family vacations on the docket; well, specifically, we’re planning to go to Myrtle Beach this summer, and later in the fall, we hope, my daughter will get to accompany Jade on a Girl Scouts cruise.

With so much going right, I find myself wondering what else I can improve upon. Is it enough that life improves around me? Well… No. I should be changing too, ever working to better myself.

By way of example, for a period of a few weeks earlier this winter, I gave up eating most beef. I’ve eaten it a bit more frequently recently — I’m not going to turn down my wife’s amazing steaks! — but I frequently forget that if I am eating meats, beef or otherwise, I should do so with gratitude, not toward any god but instead for the creature(s) which died so that I might eat. Having such an attitude, I think, would call to mind as often as I eat the sacrifice of life made of some creatures so that others higher up the food chain, like me, might eat, and that oft reminder could result in a reduction of the amount of meat I eat.

I’m going to study more. I set up an account with Khan Academy; from math to biology, health to physics, I hope to broaden my understanding. I also set my kiddo up with an account — they have math classes for kids as young as 3–5!

I will work on mindfulness and meditation, if only for the clearheadedness that this can help promote.

I’m even thinking about going to the gym with my wife, who’s been asking me to go for some time now.

Basically, I want this year to be a year of bettering myself, of creating habits that not only energize my life but which also strengthens my family.