Violence in Indy, what’s a white guy to do?

Indianapolis had a string of murders again this weekend. That’s not entirely unusual for a metro area, and we’re a long way from being Chicago, but it’s still alarming.

Except it isn’t. You don’t get to be surprised when an economically depressed (oppressed?) population starts turning to crime. As with most murders in Indy, these are almost always black-on-black male crimes, and they’re almost always young black males.

The headlines are things like, “Haven’t we had enough?” and the answer is, “Probably not.”

We as Americans, and fellow Indy residents, really have to admit that if we’re not interested in hefty gun control, it’s because we really don’t care about the people who shoot, or get shot at, in the streets. “That’s their problem, they can’t be tamed, but they could stop if they want to.” And even though that sounds outlandish, there is a grain of truth to that.

For the most part these cases are in the ghettos, and in midwestern cities that are racially segregated like Indianapolis, there’s not much that’s going to convince (white, voting, money-toting) people elsewhere to care about it. Short of fallout from a nuclear detonation on east 38th street, this is mostly the reason why people left or leave in the first place. And if they don’t, it’s why we all know, “You don’t go there, there, or there.”

Indeed, there’s a lot I admittedly don’t understand about all of this. Experts say we have to do things like re-entry programs, rehab, corrections, education, etc.

As a pretty white guy, I think I speak for a lot of white people when I say: “Okay?”

It’s hard for me to wrap my brain around this because it seems like, “Just be nice, don’t shoot people” ought to be a pretty simple rule to follow. In fact, it is a simple rule. I haven’t shot anyone today. And there are a bunch of people in really rural, impoverished, areas that also have not shot people. Just like there are a lot of people in ghettos that have not shot people today. But inner-cities have a problem that rural areas do not.

It’s probably not right to compare, but it seems logical to compare, say, east 10th street, with a rural county like Washington County (my childhood home).

Drugs are rampant in both, albeit different kinds. Both are often deeply religious. There are plenty of guns in both places. Both lack economic growth opportunities.

Except one place has access to high speed Internet (if, at least, just the infrastructure for it), transit and the ability to get places cheaply (including places where there are jobs), access to every book ever printed via libraries, and schools and universities and museums within walking distance or a short ride. Some of these are free, some are cheap, and some are certainly not. But the opportunities are at least sorta there.

So it’s hard not to at least look at the notion that this is an “odd” problem. What makes a group of teens on east 10th street likely to commit a crime, but a similar group in Washington County not really do anything illegal? Gangs, I guess, but that begs the question of why one group starts a gang and another doesn’t. Is it access to money, presumably drug money? But shouldn’t that be easily replicated anywhere and everywhere?

It’s also really hard for me to look at a story of a 19 year old gang member and say, “Well, if he’d just gone to pre-K, this wouldn’t have happened.” Maybe if it were part of an over-arching set of supports, but not by itself. And that makes it a harder sell cost-wise. Because if we’re going to agree we have to do X, Y, and Z, but we’re really only going to pay for X, then why bother doing anything at all? In my mind, if we’re not going to do something right, then we shouldn’t do it at all. That’s why when I look at a road, for example, and it doesn’t have a sidewalk and a curb and some lights and maybe some aesthetics, I figure, “Well why even bother having a road at all?” I’m kind of all-or-nothing like that.

Regardless, it seems pretty evident to me, as something of an outsider, that not much about this will get done. Because there’s clearly not much the government can reasonably or willingly do. We throw money at this all the time and get low returns. This is a time I’m solidly in the “personal responsibility” camp. We’ve built an infrastructure the likes of which this country has never seen in 200 years. I can’t force a person to read a book or teach themselves a skill, but it’s not like we don’t know how a person can get ahead. This feels like a matter of wants and desires, and some people want and desire things a majority of people don’t like.

And there’s evidently not much parents or adults are doing beyond praying. The Indy Ten-Point Coalition, a church group, shows up at shootings and I honestly don’t know what that does. Counseling, maybe? Which makes sense. My understanding from news reports is they work to disarm further violence in those areas. Which is good, obviously. But it’s a far cry from the prevention we seek from the start.

I get that there are “differing circumstances” where a kid can be abused, or malnourished, or have bad experiences in school, or any number of things. But again, isn’t that replicable in any number of places, even outside of inner-cities? I also get that I’m probably a prime target of someone yelling “white privilege!” at me, and I’ve practically fallen all over myself to yell it at myself in this post.

It’s hard, too, not to cynically think the only way this would become a “real” problem is if people started walking up to Carmel or Brownsburg or wherever to do their drive-bys.

Until then, more of the same.

And if you’re wondering what my solution would be if I were Dictator of the Universe: longer school days.

Stick the kids in class from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. where they’d be fed three meals a day, they’d have some class time, some dedicated study time, and activity time (sports, art, music, etc.). Ensure the teachers are top-quality and respected for their expertise by giving generous salaries and bonuses requisite with the work. Allow building principals to make determinations on teacher performance through enhanced evaluation techniques (interviews with students, other faculty, plus a ranking of grades, scores, and averages across classes, and all longer than a 5 minute “looks good!”).

Drop the high school diploma in favor of Associates Degree-level work. Make every effort to transport problem children (either discipline or academic) to specialists before “abandoning” them like we do now. I am, however, not a believer that “every child can be reached”. Some people are just sorta there. We all know who those folks are.

Give the kids just enough time to run home at night before they come back the next day. Keeps them out of broken homes, abuse, and malnourishment situations longer.

Expensive? Yep. But that’s probably “Y” and “Z” I alluded to earlier, where “X” is “prison”.

Using a 12″ Retina MacBook Pro as a primary machine in the real world

I’ve been using a 12” Retina MacBook as my primary machine for the last week and I quite like it. It’s more capable than you think. I’m telling you that you probably can quite easily and efficiently do any kind of work beyond “light web browsing and email” up to a much further point than you thought.

Now, I have a long history of using devices in ways most people in my ilk find insane. I’m a creative professional. In my Dock, Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign are all running. As is a host of other smaller apps like Mail, Safari, iTunes (okay, that’s not small), Transmit, and others. I’m not “easy” on the workload of my machines.

My last machine? A 15” Retina MacBook Pro with 8GB of RAM. I know. What is wrong with me, indeed. There are so many reviews out there about this machine and probably no one will stumble across this because I’m not John Gruber, but I wanted to report some of my findings.

The Keyboard

Much to Marco’s vexation, I quite like the keyboard. I’m actually a pretty good touch typist on glass with my iPad Air, and this isn’t far off from the feel of that. The buttons still move and make satisfyingly rhythmic tapping sounds. But even if I weren’t, I’m a sentient human being capable of adapting to minor changes like a keyboard button. We did it with our phones, we can do it with minor variations in physical keyboards. Heck, we do it all the time anyway every time we step up to a public computer terminal.

The Trackpad

I quite like the trackpad, too. It doesn’t bother me one bit. Maybe I’m not fussy enough, I dunno. But it works, it feels like a click despite being just a haptic feedback click, and it works well for touch-clickers and force-clickers alike. I am, to be clear, a long-time user of tap-to-click. It’s quieter and easier for me. Always has been.

The Screen

This is where this machine gets interesting, not because of its Retina quality (which is nice), but because it’s 12”. It’s not 11” and it’s not 13”. I’ve wanted a 12” display for so long. 13” to me seems big. When I use my laptop I want it to be light and small so it can fit in my backpack and rest comfortably as I cycle in to the office.

15” is relatively no different than 13” to me. I can’t discern the difference when I’m not looking at it. And, to be fair, when I am looking at it it’s not dramatic.

The Price & Specs

When people look at the MacBook the reviews always go to, “It’s nice, but it’s expensive.” Well, is it? Because I priced this machine with a 13” MacBook Air *at the same memory and hard drive allocation*. Once you up the Air to 8GB of RAM, suddenly it’s the exact same price.

I’ve used an Air before, and for a long time it was my primary machine. But I’m done with non-Retina displays. The future is here now and I don’t want to go back. To me, the Air is dead.

So the price isn’t all that different once you compare comparable specs.

The Processor

This is where this is a downside. At 1.1 GHz the MacBook’s processor is lowly. My MacBook Pro had a 2 GHz quad-core i7 Intel chip. That’s a big difference.

Except I don’t feel it. I don’t notice it except in rare circumstances. Those rare circumstances:

  1. Comparing the MacBook to the MacBook Pro side-by-side.
  2. Saving a really big Photoshop file.

So how big is the difference? I wanted to do some real-world tests. Geek bench and other clock speed tests are useless to me.

So I took a short 15 minute video in Final Cut Pro and opened it and exported it out on each machine.

The MacBook Pro rendered it in 14 minutes. The MacBook in 18.

I don’t know about you, but four minutes does not make a big difference to me. I recognize that if you do it all day that adds up, but even if you do it all day, that’s not that much of a difference. It’s an extra bathroom break in a day.

So when I look at these speeds I had to recognize the obvious: I’m paying for a lot of screen and weight so I can save 4 minutes here and there.

Other Conclusions

It’s not worth it, so I’m selling that MacBook Pro. I come away with the same RAM and disk space, slightly smaller screen but of equally unmatched quality and pixel density, and shed about 3 pounds.

The result is I use my computer more often away from my desk. And if you’re wondering about the lack of ports, that’s why this isn’t much of a concern to me: plug it into a monitor or hub and you’re fine. The kinds of people that worry about that already have this stuff sitting around anyway.

And because I use my computer more often away from my desk, I find I’m more productive and do more at home. That’s either a plus or a minus, depending on how you look at it.

Also a plus: this thing has the best speakers I’ve ever heard on any of Apple’s laptops except the 15” Retina MacBook Pro. But they’re darn close.

Future Revisions

My greatest hope for future revisions is actually about the charger. I don’t mind too much about the lack of MagSafe, even though that was really great. What I mind is this cable is ridiculous to wind up, store, and move. I get the advertised 8-10 hours of battery life on this thing, but I still have to tote a charger around. There’s no cord hooks on this MacBook’s power brick, so it’s pretty awful to carry. I can imagine it’ll get worn out just from sitting in a bag wrapped around itself over time.