I usually try to say something intelligent sounding (at least to me) about someone's post, but this one just spoke to me as is.
(OK, I'll cave -- his physics metaphor is a bit fuzzy.)
I usually try to say something intelligent sounding (at least to me) about someone's post, but this one just spoke to me as is.
(OK, I'll cave -- his physics metaphor is a bit fuzzy.)
I'm in Guatemala, but I just have to link to this story in the New York Times. Apparently a prominent evangelical pastor is speaking out against the hijacking of Christianity by the right. In speaking about the danger of mixing the cross with the sword, he's resisting the corrupting influence of political power on the church, a dynamic that's been in effect since Constantine. This puts him in line with probably the most influential Christian ethicist writing today, Duke's Stanley Hauerwas. Hauerwas, however, is a Christian pacifist. Rev. Boyd doesn't seem to go that far.
In any case, Boyd is not the only evangelical beginning to follow Christ away from Republican orthodoxy, which he rightly identifies as a form of idolatry (idolatry in the sense of confusing human ideologies with God's will). To name just one example, influential evangelicals are beginning to break with Republicans on global warming. The "What Would Jesus Drive" bumper stickers are an example, and the National Associaton of Evanglicals - a somewhat more moderate organization - flirted with officially going green, though I think they ultimately failed to reach consensus.
And for years, evangelist Tony Campolo has preached social justice as essential to the Christian mission as defined by Jesus. (I remember he used to open sermons by saying something like "A million people will die of hunger this year will die of hunger and none of you give a damn." Then he'd pause before adding. "The really sad thing is that more of you are offended that I said "damn" then by all those people dying." Anyway, that's my memory of it).
Personally, I identify as a Christian but not as an evangelical (my views on scripture in particular put my outside that camp). However, I have attended evangelical churches for most of my life (Mt. Pleasant's Seacoast, to name one), and they are nothing if not dynamic. They are the sort of places where, if the Spirit moves, a sea change is possible.
Do I expect it? No. But I do hope for it.
I've never participated in a blog meme before, but I really like this one from Notoriously Nice Mike:
List five songs that, when you hear them now, transport you back to a specific place and time. You can explain why, or not.
I could probably do a hundred, but I'll do the first five that come to mind and leave it at that:
1. Thunder Road, Bruce Springsteen. I was 18, on a road trip with a governor's school buddy to see a third GS buddy, and we had just left a cheap-beer road house on the Albemarle County line in the middle of the night. I'd never heard the complete Born to Run album before that night, we were riding with people we'd never met before, and when that song came on the three of us looked at each other and had a big old drunken howl. I remember it because it still seems like the exact moment my adult life began.
2. Baker Street, Gerry Rafferty. Later that year (1981) I drove up to the mountains and dropped in on a girl I knew. She still lived with her parents, and her father was an enormous, blue-collar, squint-eyed, Bible-quoting Cherokee. She put City to City on the turntable in her room and every time it would finish the needle arm would reset and start over, prompting her father to bang on the door and demand to know what was going on. To this day, whenever I hear anything by Gerry Rafferty, I get turned on and terrified at the same time.
3. Should I Stay Or Should I Go, The Clash. During my sophomore year in college, I moved into a room with John Sloop and Robert Huffman, the central figures in a strange and wonderful collection of brilliant misfits who called themselves The Dead Lunetiks. All the Lunetiks were into punk and alternative music, and when Combat Rock came out, it became a group obsession. I remember walking into the room to find a bunch of them sitting around on the beds, listening to the album on John's stereo, and when it ended, they'd flip the disk and play it again. This literally went on FOR WEEKS, and the Combat Rock obsession became the subject of some contention. So now whenever I hear this wonderful old Clash song, I'm instantly transported back to that room, and I usually tune over to another radio station. It's kinda like being allergic to chocolate.
4. Low, Cracker. The only place I ever had that was really my own was the little apartment my son and I got after I left my first wife. We furnished it out of dumpsters and thrift stores and yard sales, and it was spare and simple and functional and I loved it. When I hear Low, or most any song off of Kerosene Hat, I'm back in that white-walled apartment, with its slanting afternoon sunlight cut into slices by miniblinds, in a place that was entirely mine, slowly unraveling the mystery that is Janet.
5. I Won't Back Down, Tom Petty. Elevator, The Post and Courier. In the days when working at the paper here felt like a daily psychic melee, with me at the center and completely outnumbered, I used to belt this out on my drive to the office and clench my jaw and silently mouth the words before the elevator doors opened. A word of advice: When you have to sing I Won't Back Down just to cope with a routine day, it's time to reconsider your career options.
One interesting war currently underway on many fronts goes by the sterile, uninteresting sounding name of "Intellectual Property". Companies want it to sound uninteresting because they don't want you paying attention and people like me go along because it's a good general description.
Let me make "Intellectual Property" real to you -- Who owns your words?
Who owns these words? The ones I'm writing right now? And by what right does Xark publish them?
More to the point, if I decide in 2 weeks that I want this article removed and El Xarko disagrees, can Xark keep them up or do I have the right to change my mind?
What if a Big Publisher approaches El Xarko with Big Bucks to publish these articles in a book? Can he do that? Do I get a cut? How much? Who cares?
Or, reverse that (in a way that will make El Xarko nervous): If I say something that pisses someone off and they sue, who are they going to sue? Can they sue Xark? (Uh-oh. I detect a Xark license/disclaimer coming...)
That's kinda the subject of Bob Cringely's latest article, "What goes on the Net stays on the Net". His article is specifically about YouTube changing their terms to assert full rights to do anything they want to anything you post. Have you posted to YouTube lately? Odds are you just effectively gave away all rights to control what you posted.
How about photos posted on Flickr? Have you checked their license agreement? How would you feel if you were browsing in a mall and saw *your* cool photo on a calendar -- yep, that's your cute dog in the picture -- and you not only didn't see any money from it (someone else pocketed that money) but didn't even know it was happening? (Note: I don't know *anything* about Flickr's terms of service -- it might be they do this or they might be fine. Have *you* looked before you posted?).
How about blog comments, to this or any other blog? Do you own what you say or did you give it away?
The details is part of the broader debate about "Intellectual Property" and property licensing -- who owns what and what rights are given or sold or transferred and when.
That's what the RIAA's lawsuits have been about. Well, no, the lawsuits are really about making money but the battleground is "Intellectual Property" -- and what's the courts will allow has been quietly changing from what we're used to.
It gets worse -- I'm a software developer for a living. So, my company pays me to write software and naturally they, not I, own the software that I produce.
What do I do when I change companies? Well, obviously I can't bring along any software I've already written -- that was owned by the old company. Can I write it again for the new company? Answer: it depends. Of course "it depends" -- that makes sense. Companies want to recoup their investment, after all, and part of that investment was paying me.
But just what am I selling them? Do I know and is it OK?
Putting this in different terms, Daniel wrote a cool spread about S.C. pagans some time ago. If, for some reason, he moves to a different paper can he write another article about pagans? Can he use stuff he learned while writing the first article?
So, who owns what you produce *and* how does that limit you down the road?
This has direct consequences on "new media" and blogging. People have actually tried to get a legal injunction against someone *linking* to material. Not posting, just referring to it. And the courts didn't just laugh and dismiss the case. This scares me.
The current front lines of the war are around licensing -- what do you buy when you buy a CD? The RIAA would like it to be *illegal* for you to rip it into MP3s to listen on your iPod.
How about when you buy a movie? Here's an interesting one: you can buy a VHS and put it on DVD (as long as you don't sell it and do keep the original -- it's just a format conversion). But you can't buy a DVD and put it on VHS because of the DMCA.
But, pray tell, what can you do about all this?
Here's the first step: start talking about it.
Here's the 2nd: Don't let someone bully you into giving up your ideas just because they have fancy Latin phrases or because it's never been done. Our law is rooted in "Common Law" which is just a way of saying "what everyone thinks".
and the 3rd: Yes, you'll have different ideas that seem to conflict. It's a *very* complex area. Don't give up your ideas just because someone (including yourself) can't summarize them simply. Don't fall victim to simple analogies -- they're often flawed.
Here's a classic: "But if you made a widget and someone took it they'd be stealing -- so if someone takes your essay on line they're stealing, too". (The problem with this is that if someone takes your widget then you no longer have it which is *not* true about copying your essay on line. I'm not saying that the essay copying is OK, just that it *is* different from widget taking.)
Yes, this takes time, and that's a real bummer. I don't want to be worried about who owns stuff -- I want to be out creating *new* stuff, but if I don't deal with it now I'll surely be dealing with it for a long, long time to come.
Start looking around or some day you'll wake up to find they took away your rights when you weren't paying attention, and they'll tell you that you already agreed to it, and worse, they'll be right.
Here's an article that was originally published in Wired Magazine which should be titled "Botnets and You".
It's a high level discussion of the benefits from cooperative computing (SETI@Home, distributed.net, etc) and the bad uses of the same techniques: Distributed denial of service, click-fraud, Phishing scams, ...)
Viruses and computer worms have changed over the years. In short: they used to be vandalism. Now they're a protection and/or theft racket using distributed computing techniques.
While we're near the subject, more regulation probably won't help this -- you won't find or reach the real people responsible and existing regulations already cover what they do.
I've seen proposals to make people liable in civil court for what their computer does under virus control but I don't think this will work. While it looks good on the outside ("Make people responsible!") the problem is that most people don't have the base of knowledge to understand the issues so the result would just be to increase the average cost of computing. It's not like drunk driving -- people have direct control over the alcohol consumption and understand the result. Most people don't understand why installing Kazaa is a bad thing but AIM isn't.
Even "kids today" don't get it -- sure, they're usually more sophisticated than their elders, but very few understand what's actually going on -- they're just comfortable with more complicated spells to work computing magic.
In the article, Bruce says "It's a natural side-effect of a computer network with bugs." I'd have to disagree. It's a natural side-effect of human personality.
Security is a compromise and frankly, most people don't *want* good security -- it gets in the way of too many things.
Most people say "their ought to be a law" when what they really mean is "I don't want it to happen to me and I don't want to be responsible for understanding it.".
From the Department of Mixed Emotions Department:
On Monday our president signed into a law a bill that prohibits homeowners associations from restricting the display of the American flag. Said the President: "As our brave men and women continue to fight to protect our country overseas, Congress has passed an important measure to protect our citizens right to express their patriotism here at home without burdensome restrictions."
OK, I hate that kind of rhetoric, but let's set that aside with the rest of my personal ticks.
Thing is, I'm ALL about the President, the Congress, the guys down the street at Moe's Crosstown Tavern -- Hell, ANYBODY -- sticking it to the homeowners associations. First house I ever bought was in suburbia, and it took me about two months to figure out that not only did the bank actually own my property, the homeowners association controlled it. Once they pissed me off bad enough, I decided to fight the power. Who are you to tell me what I can park in my damned driveway, you cheese-eating yuppie twit?
Needless to say, I don't live in suburbia anymore.
But here's the deal: When it comes to the flag, the way you express your patriotism comes with restrictions. Whether they are burdensome or not depends on your perspective, but your perspective should include the traditions of respect for Old Glory. There are proper and improper ways to display it, raise it, lower it, light it, fold it and treat it in bad weather. As far as I'm concerned, if you display the flag, you're responsible for understanding the flag code.
My 80-something great-grandmother actually died respecting the flag. When I was a kid she went out in a rainstorm to take down her (properly displayed) flag, slipped on her wet stoop, broke her hip, never recovered and died soon after. Previous generations took this stuff seriously, expressing a disciplined and thoughtful relationship to the symbol of our republic.
Contrast that to the way many Americans have treated the flag since 9/11. They wear it. They festoon themselves and their property in flags. They leave them out all night, fly them till they are frayed and threadbare. The discipline is gone -- replaced by something that looks an awful lot like the way many fans support their favorite professional football teams. USA! USA!
So good on you, Mr. President, for telling homeowners associations to butt out. But can't we show some self-discipline and quiet pride in the way we treat this symbol? Do we require the threat of punishment before we'll act in an honorable fashion?
Xark friend, former reporter and university journalism instructor Ellen Meacham doesn't have a blog (yet -- hint, hint), but we benefit from that because she sends us cool stuff... like this WaPo story about a study on bias perception.
To test how different groups see the same story, a Sanford psychology professor showed six TV news reports from the 1982 Israeli-Lebanese war to 144 viewers.
Pro-Arab viewers heard 42 references that painted Israel in a positive light and 26 references that painted Israel unfavorably.
Pro-Israeli viewers, who watched the very same clips, spotted 16 references that painted Israel positively and 57 references that painted Israel negatively.
Both groups were certain they were right and that the other side didn't know what it was talking about.
But here's where it gets really interesting:
Were pro-Israeli and pro-Arab viewers who were especially knowledgeable about the conflict immune from such distortions? Amazingly, it turned out to be exactly the opposite, Stanford psychologist Lee D. Ross said. The best-informed partisans were the most likely to see bias against their side.
Ross thinks this is because partisans often feel the news lacks context. Instead of just showing a missile killing civilians, in other words, partisans on both sides want the news to explain the history of events that prompted -- and could have justified -- the missile. The more knowledgeable people are, the more context they find missing.
OK, so people see things differently, and intelligent, informed people draw those distinctions more sharply. But why all the passion around this? One answer: Partisans seem to harbor a low opinion of non-partisans and their ability to evaluate information.
(Two separate researchers) both found that what partisans worry about the most is the impact of the news on neutral observers. But the data suggest such worry is misplaced. Neutral observers are better than partisans at seeing flaws and virtues on both sides. Partisans, it turns out, are particularly susceptible to the general human belief that other people are susceptible to propaganda.
"When you are persuaded by something, you don't think it is propaganda," Ross said. "Israelis know they see the world the way they do because they are Israelis, and Arabs, too. The difference is people think in their case, their special identities are a source of enlightenment, whereas other people's source of enlightenment is a source of bias."
How do I rate this information? Interesting but junky -- and, as presented in the WaPo online, utterly non-helpful to me as a user. No, a print story doesn't have room to provide all the boring internals from the experiments, but length isn't an issue on the Web. At a minimum, where are the links to the two studies? I'll have to do my own fact-checking if I want to form an independent opinion on the quality of the research, and that's annoying. But I digress...
Whatever the answer, understanding the human perception of bias is no small part of creating higher-quality news media -- not to mention improving our own individual understandings of the world. If I can't trust my own perceptions of things, I'm never going to make much progress.
Here's something that was new to me though it happened a month ago:
He's a Science Fiction publisher. No big deal, usually -- authors seem to publish despite their publishers rather than because of them.
However, Baen books collected *so many* authors who I liked to read -- and they stuck with him when other authors seemed to be jumping from publisher to publisher.
I had already moved to thinking of Baen as a reliable brand: if he published a new author I'd read at least one book. I might not like it but it was worth reading. Even those books he published where I did not seek another I rarely regretted the time taken to read the first.
Yesterday when someone told me of his death my immediate thought was: "Oh shit, now I'll have to go back to sifting through rubbish to find good ones" so obviously I attached more significance to him that I knew. Hopefully others will carry on his traditions.
I didn't know him nor do I know anyone that I know knew him (Dan occationally hangs in those circles to he might have) but when a source of value passes from the world I think it appropriate that we note the passing.
I'm awfully glad I didn't read the reviews of M. Night Shyamalan's Lady in the Water until after we'd seen it.
We saw an adult fairy tale about hope and faith and love and maybe a few more overtly risable human traits. We saw a great performance by actor Paul Giammati. We saw a quirky, non-traditional, genre-defying story. Along the way, we saw an audience that laughed at the appropriate places, jumped when the director said "jump," and misted up (with audible sniffles) at the movie's emotional crux.
Here's what the critics saw:
Hollywood cannot pollute the ozone with anything more idiotic, contrived, amateurish or sub-mental than Lady in the Water.
-Rex Reed, NEW YORK OBSERVER